Toast for Change

I first watched Freedom Writers when I was in the 8th grade. My social studies teacher showed it to us as part of a lesson. I can’t recall the reason, but there was one scene in particular he showed us. I think he was teaching us about race relations or something. I didn’t see the full movie until a year or two later in a different school year. I always thought Freedom Writers was much older than 2007. It feels like an early 2000’s movie. But enough about that. How does Freedom Writers hold up? I think it’s the perfect movie to teach in the classroom. Based on a true story, Freedom Writers tells the story of a white teacher who inspires her multicultural students to express themselves. The write things down in a diary and learn about the Holocaust. When it comes to movies about race, I prefer movies like this. That are straight forward, easy to watch, and make you feel good.

Ms. G (background) inspires her students

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Vampire Strippers

From Dusk Till Dawn wasn’t at all what I was expecting. By this point everyone knows that there are vampires in the movie. What you probably didn’t know is that the vampires don’t show up until halfway through the movie. Before then, there isn’t even a sign of the supernatural. From Dusk Till Dawn starts out like a genuine crime thriller. There’s a hostage situation and characters that would be considered bad guys. I haven’t seen many R rated Robert Rodriguez, but if they’re anything like this, I’ll have a hard time sitting through them. It didn’t really get good for me until the vampires showed up. And when they do show up, its completely out of nowhere. Which makes me think they should have tried to keep it a secret in the marketing for the film. If you like this sort of Quentin Tarantino/ Robert Rodriguez style movie, then I guess I’ll recommend it. I probably won’t be seeing it again though.

Santanico Pandemonium draped in a snake

Fight for the Future

I’ve never been to Disneyland, but when I do go I’ll be sure to check out Tomorrowland. Anything has to be better than whatever the movie Tomorrowland was trying to accomplish. I’ve said before that Disney is just not good a huge blockbusters unless its Marvel or Star Wars. Pirates of the Caribbean was based on a theme park attraction, but lightning can’t always strike twice. Tomorrowland has the same problems that plague most movies like this. It’s 2 hours too long, has too many dead spots, and tries to be deep and philosophical, but ends up being dull. This is a Brad Bird movie. So it was even more of a let down considering his track record. The only good thing about the movie is the actress playing the robot girl. It was a strong performance actually. Like most bad movies, I believe it could have been better. They should have trimmed down the run time, actually shown Tomorrowland in all its glory, cut out all the forced depth, and made the action more fun and creative. That might have saved Tomorrowland from being such a mess.

Frank flies through Tomorrowland

Brangelina Begins

Mr. & Mrs. Smith is the perfect example of a movie having a more interesting off screen story then on screen story. We all know that this is the movie where Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie met. It was the perfect set up. Have “the sexiest man in the world” and “the sexiest woman in the world” star in a movie together. Little did they know they’d become a real life couple. Leading to controversy, a forced love triangle, and eventually divorce. I said that the off screen story was more interesting. The movie might have been forgotten if not for everything that happened. Mr. & Mrs. Smith has no affiliation with the Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same name. It follows a husband and wife who unknowingly lead double lives. There both assassins working for rival agencies. Honestly, the movie is sort of forgettable and story is a bit cliche. The best thing about the movie is the chemistry between the two stars. The “slap slap kiss” scene in the house is easily the craziest most creative action scene in the movie. Mr. & Mrs. Smith may not be perfect, but it is worth watching.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith draw guns

Little Clay Friend

Gumby: The Movie was my first introduction to Gumby. Arguably the most iconic claymation character ever created. Along with his faithful companion Pokey of course. Gumby: The Movie is very old fashioned. It was released in the 90’s, but it looks like it was made in the 50’s. Part of me has a hard time believing it was released in theaters, let alone four months after I was born. I saw the movie later on in my early childhood (on VHS of course). I became an instant fan and I watched the movie several times after. The dialogue may be a little clunky, but it makes up for it in creative claymation. The only real complaint I have isn’t for the movie itself. My complaint is that the DVD cuts out several scenes from the VHS version. To the point where I couldn’t even enjoy watching it. And since video tapes are all but extinct, there’s really no way of seeing the movie in its prime. Oh well, at least I have my memories.

“Take Me Away!”

After School isn’t so Special

St. Elmo’s Fire is one of the lesser know “Brat Pack” movies. Even though it has three of the five Breakfast Club actors in it. Like I’ve said in my Pretty in Pink review, the movies that are directed by John Hughes are the best. St. Elmo’s Fire isn’t directed by Hughes. So it’s not that great. The main characters are kind of unlikable. They all have problems that they bring upon themselves. The whole movie sort of reads like a soap opera. Not to say there aren’t any good attributes about the movie. The song “St. Elmo’s Fire” is very catchy and memorable. Plus the concept of the movie is an important topic. While the 80’s mostly consisted of teen high school movies, St. Elmo’s Fire focused on what happens after high school. Sometimes your dreams don’t come true. It’s a harsh lesson, but a necessary one. It makes St. Elmo’s Fire at least worthy of a recommendation.

The gang gathered at St. Elmo’s Fire

Girls’ Night Out

Bridesmaids proved that women can be just as raunchy as men. I don’t usually watch modern R rated comedies. Mostly because I have a hard time finding the humor in something so vulgar. Eventually I realized that I couldn’t avoid watching the movie, so I did. I was pleasantly surprised by how much it made me laugh. Sometimes I watch a female led comedy and I have a hard time relating to the humor. That’s not the case with Bridesmaids. The jokes are diverse enough for anyone to find it funny. Bridesmaids follows a maid of honor who tries to stay close to her best friend who is getting married. Kristen Wiig should be the lead in more comedies she’s so funny. However, the clear standout performance here is Melissa McCarthy. She steals every scene she’s in and actually managed to get an Oscar nomination (which is extremely rare for a comedy performance). If you’re looking a good comedy of the last decade, look no further than Bridesmaids.

The Bride and her Bridesmaids

Mini Avatar

FernGully: The Last Rainforest, an environmentalist’s dream movie. I have said on previous occasions that I know a Disney movie when I see it. FernGully is definitely not Disney. Even if it is a musical with fairies and magic. The movie has a very clear environmental message. A message that’s just gotten more relevant over time. The animation is pretty to look at and the voice acting is also pretty good. So what’s the problem? I liked FernGully: The Last Rainforest, but I didn’t love it. It’s not really all that funny, the songs aren’t catchy, and the message can feel a little preachy. Those aren’t major issues, but I don’t see myself re-watching it. So see FernGully if you want something different to watch. That’s my best reason for recommending it.

Crysta (top) and Zak (bottom) in Ferngully

Highs and Clowes

Ghost World is one of a few movies based on a comic book that isn’t about a superhero. The title is a metaphor. Ghost World actually centers on two offbeat best friends who are fresh out of high school. Most of the conflict comes from what they decide to do with their lives. Before I watch it, I did something I never did before. I actually read the comic (graphic novel) on the same day that I saw the movie. That way I could have an easier time remembering how the comic is different or similar to the movie. The movie is actually written by the Daniel Clowes, the same guy who wrote the graphic novel. It’s interesting to see what changes he made to his own story (it was actually nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay). Ghost World the movie is different, but still good. It’s funny in a weirdly relatable sort of way. Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson star as Enid and Rebecca respectively. It’s a classic case of a star who was big at the time (Birch) getting top billing over a star who would go on to be hugely successful (Johansson). Whether you love comics or love Daria style humor, Ghost World is worth watching.

Enid (right) and her best friend Rebecca (left)

Clooney’s Odyssey

I am a man of constant sorrow! O Brother, Where Art Thou? is the third Coen brothers movie that I saw. I knew pretty much nothing about it, but my mom said it was good so I checked it.ย O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a lot like a contemporary retelling of Homer’s Odyssey. If you’re at all familiar with mythology, then you’ll catch all the references to it. The movie itself follows a trio of convicts who escape from prison. Encountering many obstacles along they way.ย O Brother, Where Art Thou? isn’t the greatest Coen brothers movie ever made, but it does benefit from a funny script and talented actors (especially George Clooney). The best thing about the movie however, has got to be the soundtrack. A must for anyone who loves country bluegrass style music.ย O Brother, Where Art Thou? is one of the early 2000’s best comedies.

“I am a man of constant sorrow”