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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

If you’ve ever been or still are chronically prudent in your demeanor, taking quite some time to spread your wings and take the chances you thought were wrong or questionable for so many reasons, this movie is a must see for you. You’ll find yourself exploring the many facets of being a “wallflower” and of course all the perks of being one, realizing that these rare species of people are who they are for so many reasons and really could be the standouts of the party even if they weren’t really trying. All it takes is one dip into the pond, but the ripples you make may be felt far and wide by others and even yourself.

Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a social recluse and outcast wherever life takes him and he’s  just about to start high school, hoping with all his heart that everything will be different after the loss of his best friend, who took his own life over a year ago and left Charlie all alone. Charlie seems to have a healthy, happy relationship with his family but he seems to have and odd attachment to his deceased Aunt Helen (Melanie Lynskey) who he considers to be his favorite person in the world. He has recurring flashbacks about the day she died which have haunted him ever since her death but he doesn’t understand why these flashbacks are popping up in his head and what detail of their relationship he either can’t discern or chooses not to. On his first day of high school, the only friend Charlie manages to make is his English teacher, Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd) who subsequently gives him some of his personal favorite books to read and write essays about. Charlie finds Mr. Anderson’s actions incredibly endearing and really takes a liking to completing essays and learning something new about life from the literature he devours. Lucky for him, he won’t be lonely for too long and on a day like any other while at his high school’s football game, Charlie meets Sam (Emma Watson) and her step-brother Patrick (Ezra Miller) who invite him to sit with them and happen to be the first to not scold him for being a freshman or any of his other attributes despite being seniors themselves. Soon enough, Charlie finds himself taking part in the experiences of any other high-schooler and really gets to experience the world outside his bedroom window and take in all the quintessential elements of a clique, from the drama and adrenaline to the relationships and heartaches. However, as each precious day passes, Charlie becomes more and more aware that the days he spends with his new-found friends are numbered, especially after the incessant conversations between the seniors about their plans for college as well as past it. It starts to grow on him that this isn’t an everlasting friendship and after their departure, he’ll just be the same introverted kid who no one seems to notice. But as the flashbacks come back time and time again, we are left wondering what is the secret Charlie harbors deep down inside and if it will ultimately destroy him or serve as yet another revelation to be learned from and taken into account for the future; for there’s no way to turn back time but a definite need to peel away the layers which taint your soul and inhibit you from liberating yourself and showing the world the wonder that you are.

Never was a movie set in high school so sincerely produced and exposed to the naked eye. Wildly entertaining and profound, the movie was moving along at a comfortable pace and I never found myself shifting my focus from the screen. As a big fan of the book, I thought that the movie was very much near perfect in adaptation and staunch in the overall purpose and effect it chose to achieve on the screen. I did think that the scene between Charlie and Sam near the end probably should’ve been extended to match the revelatory status and conviction that it served in the novel, but I do understand that it’s impossible to adapt all the details and events of a novel into a film and Stephen Chbosky did a great job in preserving the substance and gist of the story to the maximum extent.

Compelling in every way, from the story to the characters, I thought the starring cast could not have been any better and every single thespian was mind-blowing in their respective roles and dramatic performances. The stand-out role was without a doubt played by the incandescent and wonderfully audacious Ezra Miller; his interpretation of Patrick was dead-on and I found his character to be an uplifting presence in a film which is so emotionally profound and haunting underneath it all. It is a coming-of-age story with a distinct twist to it which has probably never been shown from this particular angle, and each and every character including the central focus, Charlie, can be relatable on many different levels even if neither of us had to go through what Charlie experienced in his short life.

I was overly impressed by the shooting techniques used for the production in order to induce a vividly nostalgic feel to the film, such as the lighting technique which could be described as a candle lit effect given to each and every frame, which in turn gives an impression of an aged film strip or photograph like one you might find in your parents’ old photo albums. Beautiful, reminiscent and slightly melancholic in taste is exactly the kind of flavor this picture needed to accomplish its goal of appeal to the adolescents of today and yesterday. A touch of haziness was also present in the party scenes and the scenes where the bunch would all get together for whatever adventure they took on, and I thought that to be a necessity and a warm touch overall, considering the sensations we have all felt at any party or event in our youth, reflecting quite closely the realistic quality of an experience as perceived by a young individual who is looking for that rush of adrenaline and a sense of rebellion and self-expression whether it is caused by peer pressure or free will.

Taking into account that this story is immensely jarring on an emotional level and stirs up a cauldron of emotion deep in your heart, it does have many morals and lessons to be learned from and no, taking drugs doesn’t have to be the solution to loosening up in a social setting and becoming accepted. Just be yourself… there’s your first piece of wisdom. From the very first moment of Charlie’s inclusion in Sam and Patrick’s group of friends, he has always conformed to the rules and did what was expected of him and as Sam pointed out to him just before she left for college, this was his biggest mistake during the entire time she’s known him. Charlie had a tendency to overthink situations and did what he thought was right instead of being unforgiving for once and actually doing something he has longed to do for a very long time which was asking Sam out on a date. He wasn’t being himself and as a result, Sam didn’t think he was the guy for her because he wasn’t showing his true colors or the different quirks and qualities that made him who he is today. She on the other hand is an open book and isn’t afraid to speak her mind despite the many problems and regrets she has from her freshman year which could have defined her for the rest of her high school career if she didn’t step up and change her life around. Be in charge of yourself and what you want and need, but try not to be a stuck up snob while you’re at it and turn all your friends away just because their thought processes are miles apart from yours. That is what makes each of us so unique and captivating to our peers. We mustn’t be afraid to confide our troubles or fears in others because that is how we grow closer and develop a long-lasting friendship. We must be not only be able, but determined to accept others for who they are without further judgment and try to learn from their mistakes, reaching out a helping hand to the people who we love the most if they are in need of our help and support at a critical point in their lives. Your actions will be returned to you later on if those you help are truly your friends, which makes this an effective and brilliant way to weed out those who aren’t worthy of your company or effort; which moves us on to the next point: the vulnerability of the growing mind.

This film is a great reminder of the volatile nature of an adolescent mind where mood swings, peer pressure and reckless behavior is at its peak psychologically, not to mention if the individual has had a difficult childhood and not but one friend who left them in the most horrific of circumstances. A mind like that is bound to have thoughts which might seem incomprehensible to adults and as a result do not get addressed properly, pushing those kids to the edge of their sanity and left wondering if anyone will ever understand them or offer them some helpful advice or support during a miserable or stressful period in their life. And no adult ever explains to their pre-teens or teenagers what self harm means and how to avoid this before it gets out of hand and tragedy strikes. During this stage in a human’s development, the mind can’t really weigh all of the consequences of a certain action and the negative influence of peers also may prompt that individual into making the wrong choices which lead to regret in the near future. Of course every one of us makes mistakes but the best way to protect ourselves from harm’s way and prevent others from going down the same road is to educate people about the issues and incidents which happen around us, from the cause to the cure, and really push forward the notion that it is alright to tell an adult if something is bothering you because in so many cases it just leads to suffering and even demise.

Overall, it’s a magical film of self-discovery, self-revelation and liberation, which no doubt will have relevancy for many more generations and could be considered a timeless classic upon its release. I loved it from the first moment to the last and I hope you will too. Life is a rollercoaster but if we prepare ourselves for it, we will have one hell of a time while it lasts. Stay infinite everyone and remember that it’s never too late to enjoy life and cherish every moment of your existence and those who you love and who love you in return.

5 stars

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Looper (2012)

Looper

Time stands still for a while and everything that you’ve ever feared is put in front of your very eyes and challenges you to defy your urge for self-gratification and complacency in your life and society as a whole. Looper is one of those rare delicacies in the action category of films which does incite our inner seed of sympathy and sentimentality, forcing us to realize what deserves and demands our attention most of all.

The year is 2044 and our hero’s story takes place in a city in the state of Kansas where violence, murder, drugs and sex are abundantly distributed and somewhat of a necessity. There exists a latent organization of assassins who are hired to kill those who have been sent back from the future, in order to rid the earth of them but nobody ever questions what their purpose is in this scheme; they just do what they’re told and receive their daily fee for their dirty work. In thirty years time, time travel will have been invented and immediately outlawed by a man called the “Rainmaker” who runs the mob of the future and severs the present day assassins contract by sending their future selves to their death at the hands of their younger selves. They receive their final paycheck in the form of gold bars and are given thirty years of life as a form of retirement until their imminent death. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one of the youngest assassins on the squad and is living the “good” life but at the same time is indistinguishable from anyone else in the city because of his conformity to the standards of society and his lust for a good time at the club and constant intake of drugs. Everyday is as sordid and squalid as the next, with his only form of redemption lying in his dedication to learning the French language. One by one, Joe watches his colleagues being discharged from their services but is somewhat dreading the day when he will have to pull the trigger on himself. One night, unlike any other, Joe gets a visit from his closest friend and colleague Seth (Paul Dano), who is absolutely agitated and daunted by what the mob will do to him for his inability to kill his older self and letting him escape in the process. Joe reluctantly agrees to harbor Seth until his trace has gone cold but he’s immediately targeted and brought to Abe (Jeff Daniels), the head of the mob who was sent back from the future to run the operation. After a short conference with Abe, Joe agrees to give up Seth for a reasonable amount of money but little does he know that his contract will be concluded in the coming days. After arriving for his next killing at an empty field, his next target is late by a few minutes causing Joe to become unsettled at the thought of what is to come. He recognizes his next victim but doesn’t pull the trigger, letting his older self (Bruce Willis) get the upper hand and escape death. Knowing what will be his fate after learning of Seth’s demise, Joe is on the run to find himself and convince the mob to keep their cool and let him deal with the situation he has dealt for himself. His older self, however, is on an entirely different mission and lets Joe know of his personal vendetta against the mob who gave him a purpose, yet who’ve taken away the one person who he has truly loved. Joe has to hustle to put the pieces together but gets caught up in the lives of a single mother Sara (Emily Blunt) and her unconventionally intelligent son, who might have something to do with the impending storm of trouble the world is heading towards. Will Joe get to the bottom of this conspiracy before it’s too late?

On an opening note I think the concept and overall production of this film despite its B-movie status were superb and astounding to say the least. I enjoyed it from the first moment to the last and its message was immensely meaningful and pertinent to our generation and the direction this country could be heading in. Extremely suspenseful and gripping, each moment of the film sustains its ability to evoke emotion and a keen sense of understanding of each of the character’s motives and inner turmoil behind their each and every action. Although the story is set in the future, its futuristic visuals aren’t as lurid and tawdry as you might expect probably because of how desolate and barren our country has become, but it does add to our greedy nature and neglectful attitude towards our surroundings which is amplified and taken to a whole new level in this film. The film does have an air of confidence and a strong sense of conviction concerning what goal it chooses to achieve and how it comes across to the audience. And despite the glum and hopeless atmosphere which was filmed to the peak of perfection, there is a ray of hope and a positive outlook on the future in the end. It truly is an ingenious piece of motion art which was expertly written and easy to follow despite the slightly elaborate chain of events which transpired and the choice of narrative which kept our brain cells on their toes as we were made to separate memories and fate from reality in order to keep up. I praise the writing abilities of Rian Johnson as well as his directing skills and spirit to present us with one of the most sincere sci-fi thrillers of all time in my opinion.

It was very ambitious and clever, I admit, to transform Joseph Gordon-Levitt into the younger version of Willis and it worked wonders without a doubt. As was stated by him in a recent interview, Gordon-Levitt did spend some time with Willis in order to study his mannerisms and physiognomy in order to catch and convey similar expressions and vocal patterns of his co-star on the screen. It was a necessary measure to make the actors look more alike for the sake of the story but then it’s the actor’s job to really sell it to us and keep us intrigued in their characters because they are playing one and the same person. Without a shadow of a doubt, both actors did a phenomenal job balancing their roles with one another while also having to tell their own individual stories through their characters. I was a little flustered and distracted at the beginning of the film seeing Gordon-Levitt look like a completely different person — although you could expect anything from a sci-fi film — but as I kept watching, all my concentration and focus shifted seamlessly onto the story and its symbolic significance in our world, emphasizing our human propensity for self-gratification at the expense of others and our will to find any means necessary to sustain our acquisition of objects or experiences which give us pleasure or indulgence in return.

One theme which did startle me and stay with me for a while, was our constant tendency to do what we think is right according to our views on life and what we want out of it, without thinking how it would affect those around us and if our actions will lead to a series of events which might devastate our entire existence and the surrounding environment. We’ve seen it all before in the history pages of our school books and how world leaders, past and present, with their actions have spurred some of the most horrific events that rattle our world till this day. Don’t be afraid to think something over before you act on it because any task which is carried out with a minimum amount of thought, planning or research behind it will lead to regret and anguish on your part or colossal dismay on the part of those surrounding you, whether it be your friends and relatives or your entire community. The more I think of it, the more I realize that this world consists of nothing but choices being made and the ramification that follow. Just a massive chain reaction which affects all our lives whether we like it or not. Frightening as it may sound, you should still enjoy the simple things in life, but when making decisions which could be life altering, use caution at all time and never give in to an arbitrary state of mind which seems to still get the better of us and exposes our primitive nature despite how far we’ve come in terms of knowledge and technological advancements. Social decay and desensitization isn’t far off on our society’s to-do list so what are you gonna do about it?

Another shocker which is relevant in its entirety for American society is gun use. In the film there are many instances where guns are used brazenly even if a person did so much as step close to someone’s personal property without their approval of it. People who are living out on the streets shoot anyone who they see steal their belongings without even calling the police, using their apparent right of self-appointed vigilantism to carry out their self-righteous deeds for justice. In a way it mirrors how our country’s laws protect those who shoot others just on the basis of their life being threatened. It really puts into perspective what these laws could lead to and how these murders can become the norm and there would be nothing which could protect us from our inevitable deaths. This film serves as a warning of what this country could become one day and urges us to voice our disagreements to our government and rally in unity solidarity for our voices to be heard when it comes to our protection. Imagine how terse and tense our discussions would be with each other if everyone could carry a weapon in this country. Do you see a brighter future?

Overall, this has got to be a re-defining moment for the genre of sci-fi and the direction it can take in the future. With a relatively small budget, this film speaks volumes and in context is larger in magnitude than you ever could’ve imagined. I admire Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s initiative and determination to make this story into a film for all to revere and marvel at on the big screen, and more importantly in their own home, with his contribution to the project as an executive producer. I hope everyone in the production staff is proud of their finished product and knows of the effect it will have on the public and their perception of the world and its inhabitants. Well done.

5 stars

Morning Glory (2010)

Morning Glory

If you’re an early bird, there’s a substantial chance that you will find a place in your heart for this movie and all its complexities. It doesn’t seem that complicated but it sure does do us a favor by incorporating realistic values and goals, which I would like to think all working professionals and those who strive for a brighter and better future, do prioritize and envision for themselves.

Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) is strenuously pushing the envelope for her big break in the world of television news. A hopeful producer for a New Jersey news station, she is willing to sacrifice her personal life for the chance to realize her dream of working for the Today show someday — a longstanding dream of hers since her childhood years. Getting up early in the morning every day to show her commitment and devotion to her art, Becky wants appreciation and recognition to finally come her way after all those years of exertion and expansion of her professional abilities in preparation for her big debut on the scene of nationally syndicated news.  Her mother’s patience and support for her daughter’s dream, however, is waning after watching her daughter’s aspirations grow into fruitless ambitions from her youth and she tries to tell her that maybe it wasn’t meant to be. After assuming that she will be getting a promotion, Becky is let go from her job as producer at the news station and is forced to look for a new job. Desperate and willing to take on any producing job out there, she stumbles into a producing job which requires an ample amount of wit and creativity because Becky has now acquired the responsibility of reviving a morning news show which seems to be circling the drain and on the brink of cancellation. Trying to rework the whole structure of the show, she decides to hire an illustrious veteran TV journalist, Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), who after being fired from an evening news host position, is exuding nothing but smugness and a cantankerous disposition. Mike regards the show as just a tacky slot on television with no real news value, and his efforts of bringing serious news material to the table with his nationally renown reputation as the only thing keeping the show afloat. As Becky struggles to maintain a clear direction with her show’s content while concurrently trying to keep both her hosts and co-workers happy, she finds it impossible to keep her personal life in check and savor the company of her new partner, Adam (Patrick Wilson), who has had quite a scarring working relationship with Mike in the past. Stressed and in a state of dismay, will Becky be able to conquer her position in this highly competitive and rowdy work environment while making her relationship with Adam last? And will this job be the catalyst she’s been waiting for in her strenuous journey to realize her lifelong dream?

This film, in my opinion, was absolutely charming in tone as well as content. The casting choice was absolutely spot on and I couldn’t imagine anyone other than these three showstoppers to portray these quirky, intelligent and genuinely funny characters. Rachel McAdams was spot on in the lead and carried this production to the upper echelons of the genre with her sheer likability and adorable nature while also appealing to the audience by playing a professional who is sweet, yet precise and diligent during business hours. This balance of sternness and loveliness does her a big favor and shows off her abilities in conveying a diverse variety of emotions which her character requires. Although her character may seem naive, she definitely possesses an ample amount of confidence when it comes to what she does best and McAdams can play those kind of roles to perfection as seen in her previous performance in Sherlock Holmes and her tasteful mainstream debut in Mean Girls.

Harrison Ford surprised me in his role as a grumpy yet endearing news host who just never gets tired of hurling insults at others. Here I thought, Harrison was only able to master the action genre with a bit of drama on the side and a few jokes here and there, but he clearly proved in this role that he is a one man show and is tremendous at the art of comedy. His character was by far the most entertaining of the bunch and his delivery of every note of sarcasm and humor was superb. Appeasing to say the least, Harrison has broadened his talents in the acting world and I would absolutely love it if he would accept another role of this caliber because he is just so good at it.

Diane Keaton was also a great addition to the ensemble, adding a lot of fun and perky dialogue with her presence, but I thought that the movie would have slightly benefited from her receiving a lot more screen time despite the film’s central focus on the lead and her precarious relationship with her difficult host. Still, her chemistry with Ford was dynamic and tremendously exhilarating to watch, with a great amount of laughs arising from their little quarrels during the taping of the shows. This is what you’d call veteran actors at their best, pushing each other’s momentum from one to the other each and every moment. Electrifying.

Propelled by the objective of maintaining a formidable story and at the same time allowing some warmth and positive energy to be part of the equation, I thought that the drive of the production was quite tremendous and this is actually a very inspiring story to tell in the format of a romantic comedy. The character of Becky embodies all of our wants and needs in life for having an enjoyable career filled with success and notable milestones while also enjoying a healthy relationship with someone who loves and understands you for who you are. Some of us do get worked up about achieving all our childhood dreams, hustling every day to make it into the big leagues and forgetting the importance of having someone to lean on during difficult situations or just for the sake of feeling needed. But Becky’s story is a perfect reminder for all of us to live life while we’re still bold and able because you never know when it’s your time to go and there’s only so much time until you eventually will. Live while you’re young because there’s always a way to juggle both your professional and personal life but there’s never a way to turn back time. Be daring and show the world what you’ve got, proving to yourself that you can do what you dream, but never compromise your happiness for a bigger paycheck or something which would turn away all those people whom you care about and have grown fond of. Choose what you will from this amazingly heartfelt and intriguing story but I bet you that there’s something in it for everyone to cherish and take note of for the sake of preserving your sanity and a lust for life which devours everything else. Never give up in your quest for fulfillment and accomplishment but also try to give yourself a chance to savor the experiences which will define your life in the eyes of others as well as yourself.

The story is profound; the scenery is serene; the work is fast-paced; the possibilities are endless. Morning Glory shines on all levels and  is indeed a glorious picture which strikes a chord within us all I would assume, but you’d need to see it to believe it. Luminous and full of life, it’s a keeper in my opinion so please don’t shun it for what it’s worth.

4 and a half stars

Yours, Mine and Ours (2005)

Yours, Mine and Ours

I might not be able to offer a thorough comparison for this movie and the original because of my lack of actually seeing the original, but I’m going to be merciful to the makers of this film while at the same time pointing out the various details which weren’t as enjoyable or original for a family film. Yours, Mine and Ours may not be the most memorable film in its genre, but I had a smidgen of sympathy for the plot only because of how it relates to my life and because I looked past all the slapstick and paint splattering silliness which was aimed solely at the target demographic, and looked at the story from a mature perspective which gives more insight into the ways of a modern family and how it can be managed.

Frank Beardsley (Dennis Quaid) is a General for the National Coast Guard; a family man at heart with a stern attitude towards raising his kids and keeping everything scrupulously clean and orderly. The catch is that he has eight kids ranging from the tender age of four to the near adult age of seventeen. Frank has been a widow for quite some time after the death of his wife, moving at least a dozen times with his kids from place to place without ever having a place to really call home. After taking a new position teaching at the Coast Guard Academy in the town of New London, Connecticut where he was raised, Frank decides to go to his high school reunion where he meets Helen North (Rene Russo), who was his high school sweetheart and former fiancée. Helen is actually and up and coming purse designer, who has a chance to expand her line of creations to a larger commercial platform, but when it comes to their compatibility, she and Frank are the exact opposites of one another. Laid back and unrestrained when it come to how she runs her life and her family, Helen resorts to spontaneity and an eccentric way of living which works for her and her kids, letting them express themselves creatively and have the chance to explore their passions in life without anything to hold them back. Much to Frank’s relief, Helen reveals that she has ten kids, with most of them being adopted, and so they reignite their romance that evening and marry on a whim, much to the shock and dismay of their kids. Flabbergasted and anxious about their future, the kids have no choice but to start a new life with their new parents and siblings at a spacious house located by the sea, which also houses a tower serving as a lighthouse. The house is in need of serious repair and renovation which gives the newly formed family a chance to bond and get to know one another, exchanging their talents and abilities for the benefit of helping others. Frank meanwhile is unhappy with the behavior which Helen deems acceptable for younger children and makes up a schedule for everyone now that there are eighteen kids in the house. With everything from the bathroom time to the time allotted for breakfast being compromised, the North kids have decided to put a stop to this nonsense and put everything back to normal. They devise a plan with the Beardsley kids to do everything possible to make their parents break-up, but soon find themselves enjoying each others company and wondering whether this is what they really want. But have their antics put their parents at odds with each other for good or will their faith and love for each other prevail in the end?

Frivolous and quirky in spirit, the film has good intentions and a valuable lesson for all, if that is the way you choose to look at it. I know the premise may be a bit of a cliché and mundane to say the least with the sudden marriage of the couple and the seemingly fairy tale ending, but you have to take into consideration the age group this film is aimed at and the kind of message you wish to send to younger children. I had a little bit of a problem with the focus of the film shifting endlessly between the parents and their kids; at first the focus seems to be put on the newlyweds and their ambitions and struggles with bringing their disparate families closer together, but their relationship struggles to come through with the constant diversion of the kids’ silly antics which result in Dennis Quaid always getting something on his face. If dealing with such a mature matter, the writers should have kept the screenplay as far away from absurdity as possible, with the exception of a little kid friendly mischief, otherwise it all becomes a big joke all too fast without giving the gist of the story a chance to come through and draw you in.

The film loses its flavor and ability to take itself seriously because of the paint-splattering, food-throwing madness which could have brought the house down (literally) eventually if it was taken any further. I also thought that the script was rather weak, especially when it came to the interaction between the older kids. I mean the things that came out of their mouths was at times inappropriate and at others completely predictable, which never gave the film any substance or a real understanding of each character because we weren’t able to explore their personalities and values in depth. Ludicrous and mischievous as a whole, the only thing that kept the movie safe and meaningful was the main message and how it pertains to a modern family with all its nuances and deviations.

I admit that I did enjoy and respect this film more than others of this type because of its relevancy not only in my life, but also the many other families of this generation. Idiosyncrasy when it comes to family is a very common theme in the States today. Divorces happen, kids are stranded in the middle of them and most of the time their parents find new life partners to share their lives with but forget how difficult it is to adjust and adapt to a normal life once yours has been ravaged to such an extent. New house, new school, new rules, new relationships; it’s never an easy balance to maintain and I admire that this film made it the focal point no matter how outlandish or unconventional this particular family is. As parents, I think we strive and make it a priority to keep our children’s lives as smooth and happy as possible, and it’s not exactly a piece of cake when you have step kids who are used to a different type of lifestyle and upbringing. As a parent, step or not, you still try to mold your kids into well-rounded individuals by imposing your own rules and giving advice which in turn may not be as enticing or valuable to your new kids because they are so unfamiliar and dubious as to your intentions, when in reality they are benign. But the most difficult thing to establish with people who you are newly acquainted with is trust. That is the thing which brings us closer together. If we can establish a sense of trust with our new family, we can move on to building a bond which reciprocates our love for each other and solidifies our union as a whole. If only it were that easy, but don’t get frustrated with yourself and don’t give up, because the sooner you find a solution to communicating with those who you are now obligated to share your life with, the sooner your memories will become happier and your stress a thing of the past.

Because of its pertinence to my life story and the challenges of other families around the country, the essence of this film is incredibly uplifting and inspiring in my eyes. Once you take a look at the family in this film and how hectic their household is, you’ll find that bringing your family together will come much easier than you think. It’s all a matter of determination and our ability to push differences aside, finding a strength greater than ourselves which pushes us to make it work in order to secure our chance for bliss in the near future.

3 stars

Killers (2010)

Killers

With my expectations set at a minimum for what I thought was going to be a mediocre romantic comedy featuring a prominent face on the rom-com scene and the guy with smoking hot looks but who’s never been given credit for his acting abilities, I was definitely surprised with my reaction to it, but not in the way that I had hoped. Awkwardness is taken to a whole new level, and so is the absurdity of the plot and the overall thought process behind character development. Let’s just say this film is a killer, but an amateur one with no real ambitions.

After recently breaking up with her boyfriend, Jen Kornfeldt (Katherine Heigl) has reluctantly decided to go on a vacation with her parents to the town of Nice, France. Trying to forget her break-up, Jen is keeping her hopes up about finding a new man for herself in the midst of traveling with her somewhat embarrassing parents. Coincidentally, she meets Spencer Aimes; an undercover assassin for the CIA who was sent to Nice on a mission. Unaware of Spencer’s true profession, Jen falls head over heels in love with Spencer and they continue their romance back in the States. Before going back, Spencer meets with his boss and tells him of his retirement from the agency without any hesitation, despite his boss’s assertions that there’s no way out. With an opportunity to have a normal life and the woman of his dreams on the line, Spencer doesn’t want to miss it and goes ahead with his original decision for retirement. Back in the States, Spencer asks Jen’s father (Tom Selleck) for her hand in marriage and everything goes according to plan. Three years later, Spencer has assumed a job for a construction company and lives the perfect life with Jen in a decent house residing in a friendly community. Friends with practically all their neighbors and having a solid, loving relationship, the couple wonders if there’s something more which would be a good addition to their household. Struggling to hold on to each other with their plans and feelings getting muddled, Spencer receives a message from his old boss to meet him once again. Uneasy about the situation, Spencer doesn’t reveal this development of events to Jen and she starts to think that he’s been acting a little vague lately. After trying to reignite their fire at Spencer’s birthday party, Jen leaves the house for a meeting only to come back and witness a fight between Spencer and one of their good neighbors who also works for Spencer. Agitated and unable to believe her eyes what she has just seen and experienced after the attacker is finally subdued, Jen wants answers. Spencer explains that if he reveals his previous profession to her, she will be in clear danger and he’s not willing to take that risk but Jen finally figures it out after some clues and comments from Spencer. Shocked and unable to trust Spencer any longer they find that Jen is pregnant, but is she willing to continue sharing a life with a man who has lied to her all these years and who could be a threat to her and her baby? After finding that many of the other neighbors, colleagues and friends are out to get Spencer, the couple decide to reunite and save each other from their somewhat imminent death in order to salvage the family they will be a part of in the future. The question is, who is behind all this deception and what is their purpose in the disposition of Spencer?

From the beginning of the film you’d think that the premise of Ashton Kutcher playing an assassin will be a smooth transition for him into a role which is a tad more demanding and in need of his acting abilities, and it’s true, the film starts out with them vacationing in France and the stage is set for him to strut his moves with some promising character development in store for the couple. But no doubt nearly every conversation they have is full of awkwardness and you’re wondering if there’s ever a chance of seeing an intelligent conversation between these two. The chemistry also starts to drift away from them and all we see are shots of them enjoying each other’s company in the supposedly beautiful town of Nice before they cut to their return to the States and the eerily immaculate neighborhood they base their lives in.

You’d think that maybe the plot and screenplay would take them on a wild goose chase to other exotic cities in Europe or Asia for that matter, but the rest of the film takes place in the neighborhood this couple decides to call home. The perfect word to describe the rest of the movie is “suffocating”; with no further development in trying to amaze the audience or bringing out some worthy comedic material, the film just drags on until they eventually wipe out all their enemies. At least if you’re committed or limited to keeping the story confined to one location, try compensating for it by including cutting edge dialogue and a sense of real fear for the characters so there’s at least some way the audience will want to root for them to make it out alive.

What made it empathetic in regards to the audience would be the plot element of Jen’s pregnancy but otherwise I had no wish for them to make it out alive — although I knew they would — because their characters were so shallow in speech and in background while the circumstances they were in were even more bland and uninteresting. I don’t even know why they had to go through with it if  it was only for the suspense, which even then was lacking. Yeah, we didn’t know who could they trust and who they could turn to, but what have they really discovered about each other during the journey? They were already deeply in love and all that this series of events did was made them stagger, as opposed to fall and regain their devotion and respect for one another, which would have been a little more satiable and substantial in regards to the type of movie this is. With no real expectations or pressure being placed on the story as opposed to how the dialogue and wit of the characters could make up for it, the writers didn’t do enough with the concept they had on the cutting board and in turn didn’t show us their grit and dedication for getting it right even if there are a limited amount of ideas on that board.

Enormously disappointed by the entire production, I found it very difficult to even contrive any sort of meaning that this film holds. Devastating as it may sound, this film may be one of the few which still hold me hostage when it comes to finding a suitable message in the sickening concoction of pointlessness which was created for our apparent enjoyment.

Basically, if you’re that much of a masochist, go see this movie ’cause it caused me nothing but a severe headache. However, I do have an odd thought about how their neighborhood turned out after their near death experience, especially if they took out nearly everyone there. Sickening. Also if my father would have the guts to attempt to murder my husband, I don’t think I would be as calm and collected as Jen would be. It’s a little sensitive but so is the entire movie. Flustered would be your initial reaction but if you find even a speck of meaning in this film, I urge you to spill the beans since I’m as dumbfounded as I’ve ever been. Ouch, there’s my headache again!

half star

Schindler’s List (1993)

Schindler's List

A human’s identity and heritage can never be changed, so why must we be judgmental towards others when they are the way they are? Steven Spielberg brings us one of the most emotive and stunning pieces of historical cinema ever filmed while never wishing to put his status or accomplishments in Hollywood above the story portrayed on the screen; grateful to all those who kept this story alive until it was acknowledged and dispersed among the global population. This act of humility and courtesy exceeds all other achievements and material possessions Steven Spielberg has acquired in his career, making him a revered and respected figure throughout the world; reflecting the sentimentality and fragility of the director in the somberness and dire recreations of the events which will be engraved in our world’s history for the rest of time.

The film commences in 1939, when Hitler has assumed his place in office and has signed into policy a plan to eradicate all those who are Jewish and living in Europe. Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is a German businessman looking to make a lot of money in the city of Krakow where the Germans have conquered the city and taken all the Jewish residents as prisoners. With the war being an enormous advantage for him in building his business, Oskar wants to employ the very people who are despised by his people in an effort to save money. He sees the Jewish population not as worthless vermin, but as equals and is willing to negotiate with them in an ordinary fashion, without any degrading language or malicious intent. Bribing many of the SS officials to let him hire the Jews they wish to take into concentration camps, Oskar’s business is a colossal success and he has enough money to last him a lifetime. Content and proud, Oskar has everything he could ever dream of, but one day while riding his horse, he witnesses the massacre and imprisonment of the many Jewish folks who have been an essential part of his business and living a stable life in Krakow, Poland. Experiencing a change of heart toward the Nazi Party, Oscar conspires to illicitly employ as many of the Jews who were imprisoned into his workforce by bribing the ruthless head of the local camp, Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes). At first, Amon sees this as nothing more than a business transaction, but soon starts to develop second thoughts about Schindler’s relationship with his workers after he witnesses him perform a kind deed of giving the prisoners water while boarding a train and being stuffed like sardines in a can. Schindler also finds out from his trusty accountant Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), that Amon kills for the joy of it and doesn’t hold back when handed an opportunity to stain his hands with Jewish blood, treating all those under his command like animals. Oskar then tries to talk sense into Amon about the true meaning of power while also reassuring his Jewish maid Helen Hirsch (Embeth Davidtz), that she will make it through her miserable stay at the Goeth household despite her knowing that she will be dead very soon. Oskar soon starts to dedicate his fortune to bribing more of the Nazi officials in order to get more and more Jews working in his new factory located in his hometown. On the surface, he presents his factory as a weapons manufacturer, but on the inside, it’s a safe haven for the ostracized race to live in until the end of Hitler’s tyrannical reign, allowing all the Jews to resume their traditions and former lives without any disruption or discrimination on his part or the guards’. The question is, will Goeth and the higher command take notice of his plan to foil theirs, or will Schindler achieve one of the most honorable deeds a human being has ever sought out to do, in the hopes of preserving the many generations which have been rooted out because of who they are?

The film is an absolute masterpiece and delivers a jarring blow to our conscience by exposing us to the horrors of the Holocaust like we’ve never seen before. Approximately three hours in length, this epic story uses each frame to its fullest potential and never loosens the grip on our souls as we relive the grueling days of those lives who were threatened and taken during the extermination of the Jewish population in Europe. Sincere in its intent, the movie is a tale of hope and survival like I’ve never seen it before and very possibly could be the best portrayal of the Holocaust in recent years.

Making the film in black and white was one of the wisest decisions made by the production team on this particular film because it makes it that much more believable and tactile for the audience in the sense that we are reliving those events by the use of simplifying the technological abilities of the equipment used for filming. In black and white, the film looks almost like a documentary and we might as well be looking at archived footage shot by witnesses who were there on the scene at each momentous event that these rescued Jews have experienced, from the raid of their community in the Polish town of Krakow, to their granted sanctuary at Schindler’s factory. Striking in appearance with an impressive artistic direction, the picture had no need for color because of its dismal subject matter and its sole dependence on human emotion and plot to move the audience in whatever way they were able to be moved.

Poetically speaking, the score of the film is one of the most beautiful compositions ever produced, elevating the film to new heights and anchoring all the emotions that arise as a result of hearing the tender and searing violin solo of Itzhak Perlman during the ghetto massacre and the last moments of the film. I don’t think the film served to bring out any emotions within us with a forceful intent, but it does evoke an innate pain and sympathy we have for those victims of violence and humiliation who have fallen or survived, thanks to the delicately composed theme music which was performed solely for this film.

The acting was brilliantly executed by all the cast members, with neither of them taking the lead, but rather splitting the scene’s energy and distributing it evenly among each other to produce the right amount of tension and level out the playing field which at times may seem a bit crowded because of how rich and profound these characters are. Although none of us will ever truly know the personalities of each individual, we have to learn to trust the writers and the actors in their portrayal of such historical magnitude in order to perceive it as the truth. Liam Neeson as Schindler was a luminescent beacon of hope, guiding us with his charisma and kindness towards a brighter world that just didn’t exist when the Nazis invaded most of Western Europe in the early 40’s. He was a perfect match to play Schindler because of his gentle glare and his formidable stature which inspired comfort rather than fear. His character is the epitome of generosity and tolerance which inspires us all till this day. Ralph Fiennes on the other hand exuded an insidious monstrosity which overshadowed his handsome nature, making him a perfect match to play the menacing villain, Amon Goeth. All the other actors were a great support for these two frenemies, making me shudder and wanting to take them away from the hell which they were confined to for the time being.

Full of hidden meaning, this film has a marvelous moral for all of us to learn and stick to in our everyday lives. First of all, we mustn’t mock or scorn those who are different from ourselves. No matter how many times it’s been said, it seems the world has something in their ears or they are just too stubborn to take it into account. We as civilized creatures on this earth should, after so many years, have learned to treat all the people of this earth as equals. It doesn’t matter if they’re black, white, yellow, red or green; why should we waste our time and energy criticizing those who we find threatening? Fear of the unknown or the knowledge of something you haven’t witnessed, causes us to assume the worst and carry out barbaric methods of dealing with those who we are either threatened by or don’t understand. We are animals with instincts, but let’s not categorize ourselves into that class of species. By utilizing our intelligence and attempting to gain an understanding of our surroundings, we are a supreme race, united by our ability to obtain truth and lead a discussion with one another in order to strengthen our bond and understanding of each other. But by the examples of the existing conflicts in the Middle East and other parts of the world, we still haven’t conquered our animal instincts and still aren’t capable of suppressing our inner beasts in order to differ ourselves from our animal counterparts. It amazes me how Hitler was able to lead such an evil agenda in the hopes of uniting a nation, and the nation had followed his lead. For the purpose of creating an ideal race, they were willing to weed out their fellow men; men and women who have lived with them side by side, peacefully, without any serious complaints to their well-being were able to be obliterated under the rule of one man who wanted nothing but power at any cost. I guess power is what moves us and is our main incentive. Whether it be at work, in our family or on a larger scale like race, we are somehow captivated and mesmerized by the opportunity of holding power. Although there’s nothing wrong with power, it’s how we choose to distribute it and act upon it that we show our true colors as human beings and just how little we have improved in our intelligence levels. Self-indulgence is still our strongest suit and we stand tall and proud basking in our own decadence. We are still animals but thank goodness there are people like Oskar in this world, who are able to put a stop to the madness and do the right thing for the sake of humanity, looking past the differences which divide us till this day. Coexist and you will find peace, but I don’t think we are capable of suppressing our primitive urges to produce effective results just yet.

Time will tell, but it’s up to us to prove that we are better than this. I hope that this epic film will be exhibited as a glimmer of hope to all generations, present and future, who in turn will learn from history’s mistakes and believe in themselves and others enough in order to change our perspective of the world and make the right choice when it comes to informing others about the identities we should and shouldn’t assume in public.

5 stars

Two Weeks Notice (2002)

Two Weeks Notice

What happens when opposites attract in an office setting? Romance blooms, hearts are broken and then of course, someone has to make it into a cheesy rom-com featuring the queen of romantic comedies and a British actor who is oh-so-perfect in the role of an arbitrary yet whimsical billionaire. This is a winning catch if you’re feeling lonely or catching a flick together with your girlfriends; filled with the humor and charm that has made Sandra Bullock a reliable fixture in any romantic comedy, and the accent and dorkiness that makes Hugh Grant so adorable and irresistible to any woman over thirty.

Lucy Kelson (Sandra Bullock) is a liberal lawyer living in New York City. Specializing in environmental law, she is determined to prevent the demolition of the Coney Island community center, which was and still is an eternal part of her life. Remembering all the memories and experiences the center has given her, Lucy persists in accomplishing her goal by persuading a rather young and attractive real estate tycoon, George Wade (Hugh Grant), to help keep the community center out of harm’s way. It just so happens that George is also in need of a lawyer for his divorce case, and without further thought, he hires Lucy for the job. He also gives her a job at his office for being such a strong presence in the proceedings of the case as well as during their first encounter. Intrigued by her dedication for the cause she believes in, George makes her a promise that if she helps him in the legal department of his business transactions, he will help prevent the imminent destruction of the center Lucy has loved for so long. Despite being aware of George’s playboy habits and capricious behavior, Lucy has no idea what she’s in for during her employment at Wade Corporations. Juvenile, inconsiderate and eccentric in his requests and overall state of mind, George has taken the last straw of Lucy’s patience, and after less than a year of employment she opts to quit the job despite how well she gets paid and the benefits that George is willing to give her. Realizing that maybe this was all a waste of time and that the center may not survive much longer based on George’s fickle temperament, Lucy is in a state of despair and doesn’t know what to do about her current situation. With a two-week notice issued, George asks if she can just help train a young woman named June (Alicia Witt) to fill her position. Lucy agrees, but during her last two weeks, she starts to develop a genuine understanding of George and his past even if he comes off as a smug, pretentious, and utterly unbearable pest. She also learns that this venture to take over his father’s company, is an enormous amount of pressure for George and all he needed was a little advice from someone he can trust in order to make the right impression not only among his clients, but his co-workers as well. Feelings of sympathy and love arise from Lucy’s side but has George eventually taken an interest in his new assistant and forgotten about Lucy altogether? Watch out for the tug of war which ensues as a result of this growing love triangle.

Although this light-hearted comedy feels like an unambitious attempt at producing yet another addition to the genre, I still can’t but love how human and touching the main characters are, based on their backgrounds and goals that although are different in intent, still flow into one compound which binds them together until the end. The story seems a bit unrealistic in terms of the pairing of a  billionaire and an unconventional, yet effective lawyer if you really think about it. I don’t think an important person like that would ever chase after an average person with integral values that do not include material possessions or marrying a rich man. It’s all part of the formulaic structure of the romantic comedy which makes women swoon and envision a more desirable future for themselves where love and financial stability are profuse and everything takes care of itself. Wake up people! It’s a figment of someone’s imagination that gives women hope about the possibility of meeting that one person who appreciates their flaws and everything they have to offer in a relationship, and not a true to life story which takes into account every nuance and facet of a person’s life which contributes to their fate.

The color scheme and cinematography for the film was relatively meaningful in the context of the story. Different shades of grey and other washed out or pale colors were mostly used in the detailing of the sets and wardrobe to convey Lucy’s desolate lifestyle and cynical attitude towards others. It’s somewhat of a complex outer presentation of Lucy’s mindset which is reflected and translated on the people who contribute and surround her in her every day life. However, it seems as though the wardrobe choices for the characters Lucy chooses to focus most of her energy upon — George and June — is composed of colors which are much more striking in appearance as opposed to their encompassing space; even if they are rather bland and still fit into the primary spectrum of the production.

I do approve of the bigger picture that this picture chooses to portray in a modern, capitalist world where people choose to embrace the amount someone’s wallet holds in contrast to that person’s personal views, overall personality and work ethic while dedicating their life to something bigger than themselves. Humility and integrity is what Lucy brings to the table not only as a lawyer, but a human being, and now it’s up to George to learn from her and exhibit his true colors and intentions if he wants to stay true to himself and prove to Lucy that he’s not just a suit with a mind for instant gratification at the expense of other. Lucy is the one who pops his bubble of thought and direction after so many years of being groomed to take over a job which requires nothing but the skill to earn a profit for himself and his well-endowed family; is George ready to do what’s right even if it means to lose the trust of the family which has given him everything he ever wanted, except for the much needed guidance, love, and attentiveness which makes him so incomplete as an adult?

On an ending note, this film does have its upsides and a message which could be measured more deeply, but I won’t forget to state that this is a comedy and all that is required of you is to enjoy the comical situations and wry humor as opposed to figuring out what’s really behind the facade of characters who comprise this particular story. Wait a minute… that’s my job! That being said, most will find this enjoyable and refreshing to watch while others will complain about the banality of it all; I say take your chances.

3 stars

Mission: Impossible 3

Armed with a plot containing enigmatic essence and all the things that have made the franchise such an enormous success: eye-opening action, heart-pounding thrills and shuddering chills; this worthy contender cannot be ignored without admiring the overall execution of film, from the unique lighting to the impressive ensemble of actors who managed to level out the playing field by balancing their dramatic abilities with their physically demanding roles. It’s definitely no easy task to attain an ample amount of both elements in an action film, yet it was a risk they would have to take in order to establish the film as a valuable entry not only in the entire franchise, but the upper echelons of the action genre as well.

After a few high-profile missions which included nothing but turmoil and peril, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has chosen to retire from the IMF and marry the woman of his life, Julia (Michelle Monaghan). Very much in love and happy with his current situation, Ethan has nothing to worry about anymore and hopes to put his past as an agent behind him, choosing to focus on his future with Julia and the start of a new chapter in his own life. However, just as his new life has begun to sink in, the past has suddenly crawled back into his lap and is just as tormenting and vehement as it ever was, threatening both his life as well as Julia’s now that they are together. Apprehensive of the dangers which await him back on the field, Ethan has chosen to take on the mission of rescuing his most commended pupil, Lindsey Farris (Kerri Russell), after she was captured by the world’s most dangerous and elusive criminal, Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who uses a sadistic approach when dealing with his adversaries and pursuers. The mission isn’t exactly a piece of cake, so Ethan is assigned a new team with an old friend who’s been there from the very beginning. Now, with the team’s diverse expertise in technology, strategy and combat, they are ready to not only rescue Lindsey, but also infiltrate Davian’s agenda to find out what exactly his plans are involving an object which could possibly be utilized to perform mass destruction in the form of an atom bomb, only more severe. Upon conclusion, the mission turns out to be a debacle and there is very little hope that the agency will be able to recover any fresh clues about Davian’s malicious plans. Ethan also starts to doubt whether risking his and his girlfriend’s life is even remotely worth the strain put on him by the agency, but chooses to go with his gut and continue investigating and ultimately devising a plan to kidnap Davian in order to set things straight. The question is, can he follow through on this mission and keep his identity a secret from Davian in order to avoid anymore harm inflicted on someone who he cares deeply about?

I would have to say that this is a phenomenally shot film and a wonderful addition to the action genre which no doubt surpasses its predecessors by a million miles in terms of technological advancements and the elaborate scheming and manipulation of the plotline. Filled with so many intense twists and turns that keep you at the edge of your seat, I’m sincere when I say that the editing and special effects of the film were above average and absolutely mind-blowing to witness. The photography and diversity of the various locations was absolutely stunning, while pairing it with the exotic vibe of the intricately choreographed action sequences and beautifully made sets makes it an undeniable pleasure to see on-screen. The cinematography was absolutely top-notch; achieved to the peak of perfection for each and every scene whether it be cutting edge, mysterious, macabre or serene, each emotion was seamlessly conveyed through the use of lighting and distinct camera angles implemented during each particular scene of the film. I really appreciate how much careful consideration was put into the palette choices of each scene, transferring effortlessly to the screen without a single thought about it being calculated or contrived. It’s a strenuous task to accomplish while trying not to make the film look overly stylized or lurid, but this crew clearly knows how to perform such duties with a finesse which upholds the theory of yin and yang.

Now, because there is a more serious relationship taking presence in this film between Ethan and Julia it was really heart-warming and unexpected to see not only the stunning chemistry between Cruise and Monaghan, but also how the lighting was executed during those emotional moments between the couple. There is one scene on the roof between the couple when there is nothing but darkness around them, yet only a tender light is shining on their faces which reflects the dynamic of their bond and how delicate and unconditional their love really is towards each other. Conveyed with such fragility and purity, it was enough to make even the coldest hearts melt with empathy. Of all action films, its hard to come by one which values humanity and relationships over mindless and explosive action performances as much as this one does.

Also, when it comes to having an ensemble cast, it’s very important to establish a discernible bond between each character even though they may be from very different backgrounds. I would say the script and screenplay made this aspect a success in the viewers’ eyes because of the interaction between all the characters, no matter how small. It’s just those little moments in time that create a firm connection between characters and maintain that unity for the rest of the story; this also makes the characters more relatable and prone to sympathy from the viewers, which is a major success for any film because by luring us in and exploiting our feelings, it brings out the best in us and forces us to put ourselves in the shoes of these agents, who risk their lives in the hopes of protecting so many others.

The lesson to be learned from this film is most obviously the struggles of juggling a career and family. Although Ethan’s career involves so much risk not only on his part, especially now that he has fallen in love, he depends solely on his training and pragmatic nature as opposed to how his feelings have evolved with Julia by his side. It’s a tough stew to cook without it boiling over and giving you a burn, but it looks like anything is possible when Ethan Hunt has lived through it. His character can be interpreted as a real life superman despite his tendency to make mistakes, like all human tend to do, but it’s admiring to see that a man like him can go through life with the coolness and attitude to make it work. Let’s see you try keeping all of his burdens in your head without having a mental breakdown, when one wrong move on a mission can cost you your livelihood as well as your team’s. Don’t forget to add the pressure of protecting innocent civilians from the malice and sordid behavior of the world’s top criminals and you’ll see why Agent Hunt is such a reliable asset for the IMF. Can you imagine the level of composure you’d have to master to be at the top of your game in such physically and mentally competitive field? This counts towards your journey in life as well as your professional progression through the years, but take from it what you will when I say that Ethan Hunt is a man for all seasons.

Overall, mission accomplished. What more could an action junkie want from a film with such vibrant and memorable events and revelations that increase in shock value as the movie unfolds. Plus, you have the added benefit of bringing along others who enjoy movies that lean towards sentimentality and dramatic performances. This movie has managed to fit it all in for your convenience and viewing pleasure no matter what kind of genre fits your fancy, and I strongly recommend you see it if you haven’t already.

5 stars

The Forger (2012)

The Forger

After developing an interest in the acting abilities of Josh Hutcherson, following his performance in the blockbuster hit The Hunger Games, I stumbled upon this film and thought it might be of some worth because of the supporting cast and premise of the film. As it turns out, you can’t win them all, and no matter how promising it seemed, this film is a vapidly senseless product which only spawns interest because of its featured cast and nothing more.

The story takes place in the historically artistic town of Carmel, California where a fifteen year-old boy named Josh (Josh Hutcherson) has been abandoned by his mother and forced to fend for himself in these harsh and heartless times. Josh, however, happens to possess a rare talent which is his ability to project what he has seen and experienced in life onto a canvas. Art is what keeps him sane and his ability to recreate and complete unfinished artwork is astounding at the least. With nowhere to go and only memories and hope to hold on to, Josh stumbles into a mansion on the cliff overlooking the ocean and finds an art studio in the basement with an unfinished painting displayed on the stand. Josh decides to finish the painting which is modeled on another but as soon as the owner finds the completed product, he is absolutely dumbfounded by the attention to detail and how Josh has captured the essence of the original and maybe even enhanced the effect to some extent. The owner of the mansion happens to be an art dealer called Everly (Alfred Molina), who produces forgeries of famous works and sells them to high-profile figures for an ample amount of money, while simultaneously bringing more exposure to his gallery. He decides to take Josh under his wing and teach him the process of forging a painting from the initial stroke to the aging technique, promising him a future filled with anything he would ever need and much more if he proceeds to take on this profession. Meanwhile Josh has met a girl by the name of Amber (Hayden Panettiere), who is a resident of Carmel and the one person who attempts to understand Josh’s predicament and teach him about behaving himself and learning the town’s history and culture. He falls for her but she sees how immature he is and is more inclined to be his friend while he sorts out his inner turmoil, rather than develop a romance. Josh however is haunted by his past, using it as inspiration for his artwork and constantly enveloping his thoughts with memories of the dark days which cannot be erased. Concerned about Josh’s well-being, his acquaintances in Carmel try everything to take his mind off his miserable past, but will Josh be able to overcome the truth that he tries so hard to avoid and eventually realize his potential to be happy and successful in life?

Eager to see which other projects Josh Hutcherson has proudly graced this year, this has got to be a major pitfall although it is a dramatic piece and is supposed to evoke sympathy towards its characters. Despite its genre, the film seemed overworked and a scrambled mess from the confusing screenplay to the overly dramatic score which didn’t contribute any more emotion than it already had. The storyline felt edited to the point of exhaustion in order to fit the time frame of the film, eventually cutting the ending to a simple solution without contemplating and elaborating about what happened to Josh’s mother and the connection between Anne-Marie — played by the legendary Lauren Bacall — and the business of art forgery. Instead, the film takes a severe turn into the clichéd happy ending where the leading actor ends up with the girl who caught his attention from the beginning. I don’t hold anything against an ending like that, but the filmmakers should at least make an effort to put together the rest of the puzzle for their audience and present a well-rounded story with a minimum amount of plot holes before concluding their story. Contrived and made to look like a cheap television movie, The Forger fails to make a connection with the viewer and loses its essence midway through the film with its lack of chemistry between actors, and shaky production values.

The only part of the film which was pleasant to watch would have to be the breathtaking scenery of Carmel which somehow felt refreshing and diverting — to my relief — from the disastrous storyline that just dragged on and on. Of course you could see and experience the same beauty by visiting the town itself or just flicking through photos or documentaries about it, but at least that way there’s no need to sit through the mediocrity of this film for about an hour and a half when you could be watching something so much better.

I also don’t understand why such high-profile actors would take part in this indie flick. Possibly, they might’ve considered this project as an opportunity to exhibit the history of Carmel while playing characters that seemed to have a depth to them, but on-screen it didn’t quite pan out. I then found out that this film was actually shot in 2009 and was only distributed and publicized this year possibly due to the other blockbusters that Josh Hutcherson has taken part in. I admit that it’s a clever way to market your film, but it’s also a noticeable weakness on the part of the whole crew since it sheds light on the three-year gap that put the film on hold, presumably because of how little substance and value it possesses among the wide variety of indie films which want to claim their publicity based on the meaning of their story and the strength of their overall production, despite their small budget. It’s incredibly sad to see that a film like this could be put into the spotlight due to Hutcherson’s recent success in other mainstream films, when there are so many other films which are way more satisfactory and entertaining for both the mind and spirit.

On account of these numerous flaws, it was rather difficult to find a worthy message in the jumbled mess of relationships, unrealistic emotion, and overall plot. There was a splinter of a message about the struggles of belonging and our lifelong journey to find a place which makes us feel comfortable and safe despite all the outside chaos and calamity which shake up our world. Carmel is a picturesque example of serenity, but even in paradise you’ll find the presence of peaks and valleys in the land as well as its inhabitants. It can also be said that the environment and community we choose to inhabit, can also determine and give character to our personalities and treatment of others, as well as our appreciation and attention to details and the things we possess and hold so dear.

The Forger may be considered as a worthy resort on its initial preview, but I warn you that the title is extremely fitting in this film’s case. An absolute ruse in the presence of other genuinely heartfelt and though out pictures, it not only robs us blind, but also sabotages the reputation of the leading actors and actresses who no doubt can perform roles that are so much more challenging and fueled by a cause greater than themselves. Revealing its true colors, The Forger is one big fraud that is unforgivable without a shadow of a doubt because of its arrogance and pretentious nature; if it were an exhibit, I’d want my money back.

1 star

Ice Age: Continental Drift

Our favorite herd of incongruous species are back yet again for another wild adventure; this time the tides are changing and the land is shifting to form into a more modern version of planet Earth. Putting the prehistoric animals in danger, they have to race and outrun their limited time constraint in order to survive, but will their adventure be as fresh and exciting as the previous sequels and leave us wanting more? A wisp of doubt is starting to nibble at my heels about the future of the Ice Age franchise and the studio’s lack of ability to produce a screenplay and script that can compete with the bigger and more reliable studios like Pixar and Dreamworks.

After the events of the previous installment, this film is set quite a few years later with Manny (voiced by Ray Romano) and Ellie’s (voiced by Queen Latifah) daughter Peaches (voiced by Keke Palmer), who is now a teenager, looking to find a possible boyfriend for herself, but at the same time nervous about what her father will think of their relationship. Furtively sneaking out to hang out with other mammoths her age, she immediately falls for a mammoth named Ethan (voiced by Drake) and is willing to do anything to fit in with the others so he would take notice of her. Once her father finds out about her sneaky plans, he does what any father would do: intervene. Embarrassed about her father barging in on their party like that, Peaches condemns her father and wishes that he wasn’t her dad. Obviously hurt by Peaches’ remarks, Manny gets a small briefing from Ellie that Peaches is not a little girl anymore and she now has the right to experience things on her own and find out what is right and what is wrong if she is to become as wise and smart as her parents. Ellie also tells Manny that Peaches doesn’t actually mean what she said and that it’s all impulse and in-the-heat-of-the-moment. Just then, the Earth starts to shift quite drastically, forcing the herd to move fast if they are to get to safety before their land is crushed and covered by the approaching cliffs. During the mass hysteria taking place among the herd, Manny, Diego (voiced by Denis Leary), and Sid (voiced by John Leguizamo) are stranded on a fractured iceberg and have slowly floated out to sea but Manny is determined to get back to his family no matter what they have to do, and starts to scheme together a plan to make that happen. Just then, a band of pirates have caught up with them and taken them prisoner but Manny refuses to join their crew provoking the wicked Captain Gutt (voiced by Peter Dinklage) to take measures into his own hands and go after the ones who mean the most to him. After crippling and ultimately destroying the pirate ship, the trio and Sid’s grandma (voiced by Wanda Sykes)  have to move quickly and swiftly if they want to get back in time and save their loved ones from an even greater force which threatens to wipe out the animals and the habitat which they have grown accustomed to.

At first, I really had hoped that this movie would be as energetic and entertaining as I expect this series to be, but after about halfway through the movie, it dawned on me that the plot is so banal and mundane that you realize just how doomed this series has become over the years. The subplot of Scrat the prehistoric squirrel was more exciting to watch than the continuing journey of the unconventional friendship which we have fallen in love with from the first film, and I can see why they had to bring in a few notable singers such as Jennifer Lopez, Nicki Minaj and other new characters to spice things up a little and deliver some surprisingly funny lines as a diversion from the jaded characters who made the series what it is in their previous adventures. There is a tenuous importance about the story and its message but otherwise it was just all over the place and didn’t have enough of a punch to be a memorable addition to the series which only redeems itself because of the first film which was so simple in animation and screenplay yet spoke volumes because it was so heartfelt and poignant in the intent and emotional journey of the characters. If they do indeed wish to continue making further development in the realms of this series, I hope they take a look back at how this story began and pull something from it to produce another great and pungent film which will make the people forgive and forget about the past mistakes of their previous sequels. Highly unlikely, I know, but at least we can still hope and voice our opinions about it.

Like the previous films in the series, it doesn’t depart from the formulaic consensus that centers around keeping family and friends as your first priority. Despite the group’s goal to help rescue the family that are stranded back home, they do make room for other animals like Shira the Smilodon, not only because Diego takes a liking to her, but because of empathy from the entire group and the ability to accept and welcome outsiders who don’t mean any harm and are trying to do the right thing even if they’ve been loyal to some of the most despicable creatures out there. The makers also manage to half-handedly present a breach in communication and the culminating reconciliation of the father-daughter relationship between Manny and Peaches which seems like it’s been under-dramatized to a certain extent and presented in a very benign and simple manner. It was as if Peaches realized her fault in pushing her father away, so quickly, that the film didn’t even take us through the journey of her mental transformation and maturity, but rather shifting the focus to her realizing that it isn’t necessary to change yourself in order to fit in with your peers, because all those that really matter are the ones that have been there for her throughout her entire life, during the peaks and valleys. A little childish in delivery, I admit, but still rather easy to follow for the children in the audience, and you can’t forget that this is in fact aimed at children, for the most.

Definitely not as good as the first film, but which of the sequels are? Implementing the use of more colors and layers in its animation while cunningly diverting our attention from the central focus of the film for a more enjoyable viewing experience, the highlights of the film are in no way associated with the three main characters, and that speaks volumes about the direction of the series and where its heart lies from now on. Drifting further and further from the characters who we’ve fallen in love with from the very beginning, you are left wondering why the spotlight and the charisma has fallen on the shoulders of the supporting and newly introduced ones.

2 and a half stars