A film student's recommendations, reviews and essays on motion pictures new and old
Captain America, is one of the most likable super heroes to ever hit the big screen. I mean, he respects women, stands up to bullies, and puts others before himself. What more could you ask for? But, before Captain America was defending the rest of the world from the terror and violence of German forces in WWII, he was known only as Steve Rodgers, a shrimpy kid from Brooklyn who’d never ever give up.
The year is 1942, and Steve Rodgers desperately wants to enlist in the U.S. Army. The only problem is, he’s failed the Army’s medical inspection for the fifth time and recruiting officers have no doubt that Steve is too short, too skinny, and too much of a liability to be a soldier.
But, one night, as Steve and his best friend are enjoying a night out on the town with some girls, an Army recruiting sign catches his eye. He decides to give it one more shot. While undergoing his medical inspection, Dr. Abraham Erskine discovers that Steve has already failed the recruiting process five times. Taking note of his persistence, he decides that Steve is the perfect candidate for a military experiment that will transform him into an enhanced super soldier. When Steve asks, “Why me?” Dr. Erskine responds, “Why someone weak? A weak man knows the value of strength. Knows the value of power.” It turns out that Steve’s mission is to stop a mad man by the name of Johann Schmidt, a powerful Nazi who claims he’s harnessed the power of the God’s. The U.S. government believes that the power Schmidt possesses is a new super-weapon capable of annihilating all of Europe.
At first, the new and improved Steve Rodgers is used only as a propaganda tool, traveling around the United States doing shows as “Captain America”, demonstrating feats of strength and advertising war bonds with a patriotic sales pitch. But, when Steve travels overseas to perform for the troops, he soon becomes fed up with being a showman. When he overhears that a large number of U.S. troops have been taken prisoner in enemy territory, he decides to take the role of Captain America seriously and sets out to save his fellow troops and halt the advancement of Johann Schmidt’s army.
The action/ fight scenes in Captain America aren’t as crisp and realistic as one might expect. Instead, they have a retro feel to them, similar to a comic book drawing. From the way the action sequences were made, you almost expect “BOOM!” to appear on screen when Captain America punches an enemy. But, I didn’t mind the old-school special effects; they compliment the overall feel of the film.
The thing that makes Captain America worth seeing is the pleasantness of its title character, and the movie’s refreshing sense of patriotism. Here’s a hero without the cockiness of Tony Stark, the vengefulness of Bruce Wayne, or the tortured soul of Peter Parker. When Steve Rodgers becomes Captain America, he stays true to himself and even though he’s a hero, in his own words, he’s still just a kid from Brooklyn.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the biggest surprise of the year for me. Judging from it’s advertising campaign, which consisted of chaotic scenes of destruction by a seemingly infinite number of Apes, I dismissed it as a one dimensional special effects film. I was very mistaken; it’s one of the best films of the year thus far.
James Franco stars as Will Rodman, a scientist at a medical research center whose ambition is to develop a drug that will cure Alzheimer’s. The center’s test subjects are Apes. The scientists treat the animals with the drugs they develop, and then test their mental abilities through various puzzles and/or logic tests. The general idea is the scientists believe that if they can develop a drug that increases brain function in apes, then said drug will repair damaged brain tissue in humans.
In order to avoid spoilers, I will proceed both cautiously and vaguely. Will Rodman develops a man’s best friend type of relationship with one of the apes, whom he names Caesar. They live together for three years until Caesar is forced to move into an animal shelter for reasons I will not discuss. From there, the movie makes the leap from heartfelt, very human, drama… to high paced action flick. The film’s biggest strength by far is its special effects. Simply put, they’re flawless. In fact, some of the close ups on the animals are so realistic that if you walked into the theater unaware of what you were seeing, you’d think it was some type of documentary on primate life.
The movie’s only flaw, I would say, are a few scenes where Caesar’s level of intelligence is taken too far. I’m not saying this part of the movie is horrible, and in retrospect, I realize that it’s necessary for the continuation of the franchise. And yes, the movie is obviously not a showcase of realism, but it still took me by surprise when Caesar actually growled out a few words in English. It almost seemed…. corny? Ahh, I didn’t want to say that word but I have to be true to my first impression.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a good summer movie that I wouldn’t recommend judging by its his previews, which almost make you feel the story is way too “out there,” to be enjoyable. It’s actually well worth your time and I recommend you go see it with a group of friends this week at The Blue Fox Drive-In. Bring blankets!
Crazy, Stupid, Love is my favorite love story to hit the big screen since Marc Webb’s 500 Days of Summer. I believe audiences will find it appealing because compared to many recent romantic comedies, the humor isn’t overly raunchy, there’s minimal amounts of cynicism, and it appeals to a broad range of viewers.
There’s some praise to be given to Crazy, Stupid, Love for its ability to make us laugh when we need to laugh and cry when we need to cry. Okay, maybe not cry, but it does know how to evoke a sense of seriousness when it’s necessary. For example, during the film’s opening scene, we’re introduced to Cal (Steve Carrel) and Emily Weaver (Julliane Weaver). Before they even have a chance to order their food, Emily informs Cal that she wants a divorce. Then, during the ride home, Emily ruthlessly bludgeons Cal’s heart with all the reasons why she wants out of the marriage. Nobody’s laughing at this point, which I thought was a bold first step for a film pinned as a romantic comedy. Then, due to a well-written script, and also because of the comedic talents of Steve Carrel, the film seamlessly transitions from heavy heartache to some pretty funny material.
After the Weaver’s divorce, Cal starts to spend his nights out on the town, frequently visiting a night club and spilling out stories of his miserable situation to everyone around him. The fly-lookin’ babe magnet magnet, Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), overhears Cal moping in the bar and approaches him. Jacob points out how pathetic Cal’s routine is and pledges to help him get his game back. Carrel’s typical, clueless, nerdy behavior is abundant in the movie, and his attempts to go from “lame” to “game” are quite humorous. Ryan Gosling’s performance in a comedic role is also a pleasant surprise. He plays the womanizer role in a way that avoids being overly cocky/annoying, and instead, comes off as rather amusing and original.
The “love triangle” is common in novels, cinema, and even in life. Well, I would describe Crazy, Stupid, Love as a love… polygon? Let’s see, the Weaver’s son is in love with the babysitter, the babysitter is in love with Mr. Weaver, Hannah (Emma Stone’s character) is in love with Jacob… and there’s still more. All of these love interests can account for the “Crazy,” portion of the film’s title.
Crazy, Stupid, Love suggests a belief in an old fashioned type of love. A love where you have to fight for what is lost, pronounce your love for someone when they may not return it, take leaps of faith… etc. The movie also realistically portrays the pain of seeing a loved one rebound into the arms of someone else and still manages to effectively instill a comic spin on the material. Crazy, Stupid, Love doesn’t guarantee it’s good old fashioned, “fight for love” methods to be effective, but instead leaves the choice up to the audience. Either way, it’s well worth the price of the admission ticket. No matter your relationship status, Crazy, Stupid, Love has something hopeful to offer you.
Recently, after finishing up a morning bike ride, I made my way down to the local Blockbuster to pick up The Lincoln Lawyer and any other movies that I may have missed in theaters. I arrived early, and was waiting for the doors to open. When 10:00am came, I made my way into the store and picked up The Lincoln Lawyer and continued to browse the store for any other titles that might’ve caught my eye.
Soon, the picture you see above caught my attention. I paused for a minute and looked at the cover of the French film, Welcome. I noticed that the movie had won a few awards at select festivals and the simplicity of the cover art appealed to me. In fact, when I took note of the stark differences between the cover of Welcome, and the cover of The Lincoln Lawyer, I admittedly felt a bit guilty for conforming to the sometimes, overly stylish ways of mainstream Hollywood movies.
So, after reading the back of the case and seeing that the story interested me, I decided to get it.
Welcome was inspired by the actual illegal immigration issues concerning the rising number of Kurdish refugees in France. The film is about a young Iraqi refugee, Bilal (Firat Ayverdi), who is trying to cross the English Channel to reunite with his girlfriend, Mîna, who emigrated to the UK. After unsuccessfully attempting to board a cargo ship by hiding in the back of a semi truck, he decides that there is no other way to cross the channel. Desperate, he decides that he will swim across. Bilal goes to the local swimming pool and attracts the attention of swim coach Simon Calmat (Vincent Lindon), who is in a struggle of his own. Simon is mentally and physically drained from the resulting grief of his recent divorce.
After awhile, Simon starts to notice Bilal’s frequent visits to the swimming pool and finds about his plan to cross the channel. Seizing an opportunity to gain the approval and affection of his ex-wife (who is an immigration activist), Simon decides to help Bilal train for the swim. But, what starts out as a relationship of self interest for Simon soon changes into an unexpected friendship.
The movie is at times, very bleak. In fact, many of the plot elements in the story are comparable to Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms. For example, the protagonists in both stories are trying to reunite with the woman they love, both have to cross a channel of water, and both feel unwelcome in a country different than their own. If you’ve read the novel, you should know what I mean when I say “bleak.”
The good parts of the movie: Well, for one, Bilal is a likable lead, and he manages to hold our attention throughout the movie. He’s kind, thankful, positive, and his unwavering dedication to his girlfriend Mîna is pretty awesome too. The movie will also provide a few tear jerker moments for some viewers, which I guess could also be considered positive. Hey, some people like movies that make them cry.
Now for the not so good parts of the movie: Simon, the swim coach, is in a very depressing predicament. He’s a man stuck in that limbo type of lifestyle where you love someone who doesn’t love you back. Much of Simon’s screen time involves him either sitting on the couch, waiting for his wife to call, drinking beer, or looking at the things his ex-wife left behind… the painful reminders of her absence.
Welcome, it’s a good enough film. It’s inspiring, socially and politically relevant, and free of a typical Hollywood-ish formulaic plot. I’d even go so far as to recommend Welcome as a date night movie, but not a “first date” movie, or even a “second date” movie for that matter. Welcome will appeal to anyone who would enjoy a simple story of courage, friendship, and dedication to a loved one.
Blue Fox is finally complete! Yes, after weeks of balancing my time with college priorities, job obligations, and just regular everyday life, I can now officially say that I’ve broken free of the post production phase. Yeah!
In order to comply with YouTube’s fifteen minute limit on uploaded films, I was forced to cut a lot of footage and didn’t have room to include formal credits. Therefore, I would like to give a HUGE thanks to the following people:
The Bratt Family
Thank you for letting me walk around your theater and do whatever I needed to finish this project. More importantly, thank you for your dedication to keeping the Blue Fox alive and bringing countless people so many great memories. All your efforts are greatly appreciated!
Thank you for contributing your great stories about the Drive-in! I enjoyed talking with you about Mark Twain and about memories of Oak Harbor High School.
Thank you for the work you do; your paintings represent special memories to the people of the Puget Sound. Also, thanks for showing me around your studio and telling me about the life of an artist.
I hope you all enjoy The ReelScope’s first short film. Feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you think!
“It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Luke 17:2
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18:16
Children occupy a special place in the hearts of our people. In fact, as is evident by the two verses listed above (religious views aside), it’s clear that things weren’t so different 2000 years ago, when Jesus Christ lived. Indeed, the belief that children are the world’s most precious beings has long been instilled in our hearts and in the hearts of past generations. Unfortunately, the world we live in today is far from perfect, and there are those corrupt people, devoid and destitute of a sense of right and wrong, who bring harm to our society’s most blameless souls.
Turn on the news today, and you’re guaranteed to hear something about the infamous Casey Anthony murder trial. Debates amongst celebrities, news anchors, and/or average American citizens over the not guilty verdict seem to dominate the airwaves. Responses to the verdict range from pure outrage and hatred for the defendant Casey Anthony, to more reserved, neutral statements about the nature of the American justice system.
It’s difficult to wrap one’s mind around all the unanswered questions that arose from Caylee’s death. I mean, just consider for a moment Caylee’s future: the goals she would’ve reached, the lives she would’ve touched. The answers to these questions will forever remain unknown, and when we consider this truth, we yearn for retribution. But, let’s face it, it’s probably fair to say that we will never know what happened to little Caylee Anthony, and that sentiment doesn’t feel right in our hearts. So what do we do? We channel our frustrations into the form of hate for Caylee’s mother. Pain makes us feel powerless. Anger makes us feel powerful. We need answers. We want someone to point a finger at. But is all the backlash at the trial’s verdict really fair to the memory of Caylee?
Gone Baby Gone is a film that explores the lengths people will go to bring justice to the violated innocence of children. Though it may not be an easy film to watch, and I suspect that to be true now more than ever, it’s a very important film. The movie has much in common with current events in America: a missing child, unanswered questions, a neglectful mother, and a city full of pain and outrage.
The story is told through the point of view of a young private detective, Patrick Kenzie, and his girlfriend/partner, Angie. We watch as their sense of right and wrong, their relationship, and their faith in humanity, are all brutally tested through their quest to bring justice to a missing little girl. Patrick is a rough talking, hardheaded young man; a good detective, dedicated to the straight and narrow. For the most part, he’s what we would call a “good guy”. In his personal life, he cares for his girlfriend and stands to defend her honor. In his professional life, he strives to make the right decisions, contemplating the line between choosing proper justice, and taking justice into his own hands. He wants to find this little girl and when people stand in the way of that, he’s quick to let the four letter words fly and use any level of violence necessary to accomplish his goals.
For some, obscene language and violence are avoided at the movies. But, in Gone Baby Gone, certain viewers will find their emotions and frustrations vicariously played out on screen through Patrick’s methods. Though we may not want to admit it, we find that we don’t mind as much when he pistol-whips drug dealers or go’s on swearing sprees because we tell ourselves it’s all for the sake of finding a missing child.
There is one scene in Gone Baby Gone that I believe sums up the theme of the whole movie. Do two rights make a wrong? Can we really count on the American justice system to do its job? We already know what needs to be done. The scene also eerily reflects the feelings and questions that the Casey Anthony trial gave life to. In the following excerpt (which is censored by the way), Patrick is talking with fellow detective, Remmy Bressant (Ed Harris), about the hard choices and thin boundaries that exist with the work their involved in.
Taken from: Gone Baby Gone
Detective Remmy Bressant: I go in the back room. Now, this place was a s-hole, mind you? Rats, roaches, all over the place. But the kid’s room, in the back, was spotless. No, I mean, he swept it, mopped it; it was immaculate. The little boy’s sitting on the bed, holding onto his playstation for dear life. There’s no expression on his face, tears streaming down. He wants to tell me he just learned his multiplication tables.
Detective Remmy Bressant: I mean, the father’s got him in this crack den, subsisting on twinkies and whippings, and this little boy just wants someone to tell him that he’s doing a good job…. I mean, kids forgive. Kids don’t judge. Kids turn the other cheek. What do they get for it? You gotta’ take a side. You molest a child, you beat a child, you’re not on my side. If you see me coming, you better run, because I am gonna lay you down! Easy.
Patrick: It don’t feel easy.
It may not feel right and it may not be easy, but let’s take our attention away from the granted freedom of the accused perpetrator. Instead, let’s focus our attention on what truly gives life to our anger; the pain of losing a beautiful little girl. After all, little Caylee wouldn’t know such resentment and hate. Let us honor her life by letting go of the anger we have for her mother, and choosing instead to forgive, like a child would.
Gone Baby Gone: Rated R for pervasive language, drug content, and violence.
He’s given us The Dark Knight and Inception. Okay, so that alone should be enough to love this guy right? Maybe so, but in all seriousness, Christopher Nolan is one of Hollywood’s most promising directors and there are lots of other reasons to pay attention to him. His ability to combine intelligence, dark subject material, and crafty story telling in cinema engages the audience in a truly distinct manner. In fact, it’s very likely that a few of your favorite movies stem from his handiwork. So here, in no particular order, are five reasons to be a fan of Christopher Nolan.
Chris made his first independent film, Following, on a micro budget of $6,000.00. The film is about a young writer suffering from writers block. Searching for inspiration, he takes to the streets, following random citizens. When his following turns into an obsession, the young man finds himself in dark places.
Following should make Christopher Nolan a hero amongst all amateur filmmakers. For one, it is arguable that the most common question aspiring filmmakers ask those who have “made it” is, “Where did you get the money?”. Well, Nolan is very relatable to the average starving artist in this respect because during the production of Following, he worked a full time job and shot only on the weekends. He also rehearsed scenes numerous times to preserve precious film stock and saved cash by using the homes of friends and family for shooting locations. Although the film took a whole year to shoot, Nolan’s persistence paid off, and the movie was selected to premier at the 1999 San Francisco Film Festival.
Another fact about Following that makes Chris Nolan highly relatable too amongst amateur filmmakers: when he submitted his film to the Slamdance film festival in 1998, they rejected it. However, a year later, he resubmitted the film and it made the cut. Persistence!
2: He’s Never Made a Bad Movie
Okay, so maybe this is a bit subjective, and obviously there will be those who disagree. But, for the most part, critics and average movie goers agree that any movie with Chris’s name on it is well above average. In case you don’t already know, Chris has made seven feature films in his career: Following, Memento, Insomnia, The Prestige, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and Inception. According to the website Rotten Tomatoes, which collectively gathers the ratings of critics across the country, Nolan hasn’t made a single bad movie. The site allows critics to assign movies a rating of either “fresh” or “rotten”. The amount of critics who rate a movie as “fresh” is then reported as the film’s collective score. Christopher Nolan’s films have an average score of 86%!
3: He Brought Back Batman
Before Batman Begins (2005), the last Batman film to be met with praise from audiences was Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989 and then Batman Returns in 1992.
Burton’s Batman was well received, I believe, for a few reasons. First, I’ll give credit where it’s due; Tim Burton is a gifted filmmaker and his Batman is one that is unique and reflective of that Tim Burton-ish style.Those who are fans of his work know what I’m talking about. However, there’s also another reason why I believe his films were successful. At the time Batman was released, the character had this freshness about him. In fact, before the 1989 film, audiences hadn’t experienced the super hero on screen since the televised Batman TV series aired in the 1960′s.
Tim Burton’s Batman movies were so well received that the studios decided to crank out two more Batman movies in the 90′s. They were both flops.
Flash forward to the year 2005. Audiences in theaters around the country have just seen the trailer for another Batman movie. Movie goers are excited, but hesitant. For the most part, all of the previous Batman movies have been all over the place, with little connection between each one. What could this one possible be about? Luckily, Christopher Nolan erased the white board and started from scratch with Batman Begins. The movie was a huge success and three years later, he hit another home run with The Dark Knight.
4: He’s Only Forty Years Old
Nolan’s directorial career officially began when Following premiered at the 1998 San Francisco Film Festival. Since then, he has released six films, all of which have been both critical and audience hits. At only forty years old, his movies combine for a total of 21 academy award nominations and over 2.4 billion dollars in worldwide gross earnings; an impressive résumé for such a young movie maker. For the most part, Nolan’s films can be categorized as science fiction or psychological thrillers. Many are asking, with so much success in so little time, will he step out of his comfort zone and begin to embark on more dramatic material?
5: Balanced Style
Christopher Nolan is a filmmaker who knows how to draw you into the characters of the movies he makes. What makes this ability of his even more impressive is the fact that he can pull it off in the superhero and the science fiction film genre.
So many movies these days rely on recycled perks and/or gimmicks to make the audience feel a certain way. You know, like how graphic violence can make us feel afraid or repulsed, or how unrealistic, stylized sex scenes are used to make us feel like love supposedly exists on screen. These types of movie tactics are almost like violating that golden rule of writing, “show don’t tell”. Only, in the movies, it should be called, “develop, don’t show”. You see, when a film is trying to evoke a sense of passion in a relationship, or maybe expose the horrors of war, or whatever it is that the story is about, subtlety and character development is most important. Nobody will feel attached to the characters of a romance film because of a sex scene and nobody will be able to completely sympathize with a soldier because we’re shown a close up of a gaping wound. We need to understand, sympathize, and feel genuinely attached to the characters on screen before we care what happens to them.
Nolan is a master at this. His films have the ability to affect you on deeper levels by not only showing you what you should be feeling, but by developing his characters and tap dancing on heavy material in such a way that leaves a lot to your imagination. It’s his ability to compliment gripping visuals with a great script, making sure one never overshadows the other, that makes Christopher Nolan such a great movie maker.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Mark your calendars! Christopher Nolan’s next film, the final installment in his Batman trilogy, is scheduled for release next year.
Transformers: Dark of The Moon is a picture that will be mostly hated by critics and mostly loved by the average moviegoer. Directed by Michael Bay, the third and final installment of the Transformers series is the biggest, possibly the longest, and undoubtedly the most visually impressive film of all the previous Transformers films. It’s great fun to watch, and I’ll admit, there were a few times when the sheer exhilaration of some of the action scenes gave me goose bumps. But, before I give the movie too much praise, I’ll say right now that it’s far from perfect. Very far.
There’s something to be said of the Transformers’ series director, Michael Bay. For those who don’t know, hes’ somewhat of a notorious figure in Hollywood, famous for his love of excessive explosions and special effects in his movies. More often than not, his love for visual dazzle is so obsessive that he seems to forget the need to implement those impressive visuals into a sensible story. This will be the main complaint from critics. Messy plot, bad story, and bad dialogue… whatever you want to call it, statements like these will litter the critics’ reviews of Dark of The Moon. However, regular movie watchers who love to see Bumblebee transform from Camaro to Decepticon smashing hero will not be disappointed.
The plot revolves around an incident during the 1960’s that sparked a supposed cover up by the United States. In the beginning of the movie, a discovery by NASA seems to indicate that a type of alien aircraft has crashed on the dark side of the moon. President Kennedy orders a manned mission to investigate. American astronauts discover a huge alien aircraft with a large robot “dead” inside.
In the present day, we’re reintroduced to the series’ hero, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and his new love interest, Carly (Rosie Huntington Whiteley). Sam is finished with college and searching for a job. He eventually lands a desk job pushing paperwork. There, he meets a man named Jerry, who informs him about a theory he has about the 1960’s space race. He tells Sam about a crashed alien spacecraft on the Dark Side of The Moon. After hearing about Jerry’s delusions, Sam wants to know the truth and this is how he becomes reconnected with the Autobots.
Meanwhile, Optimus Prime has discovered a piece of alien technology that was being hidden and studied by the humans. He identifies the piece of technology as an engine piece from the Ark (the ship that crashed on the moon). Optimus and the rest of the Autobots go to the moon in search for the rest of the ship. When they arrive, they resurrect the captain of the Ark, Sentintel Prime. Sentinel used to be leader of the Autobots before Optimus. Soon, Optimus and the rest of the Autobots discover that Sentinel might not be who he once was. From here, the plot begins to set up for the insanely long special effects spectacle that is the movie’s finale.
Some time ago, while I was browsing the internet, I watched some behind the scenes footage of the first Transformers film. I remember specifically one of the head special effects artists saying, on the subject of the final battle scene, “We needed to do something big”. After the effects guys brainstormed for a while, what resulted was the scene where the Decepticon smashes the bus on the freeway. It was one of the more memorable scenes in the whole movie, and it was pretty much awesome.
In Dark of the Moon, it’s like the special effects guys tried to make ten or twenty of those “big scenes.” Out of those attempts, I think there were three or four great action sequences that really leave you taken aback. The others? Well, they unfortunately sum up to repeated clanking metal that goes on for way too long. I imagine all of the animators in the editing room, looking at all of these beautifully rendered scenes that took so much time and effort to create. Unfortunately, it seems they loved them all too much to separate the good from the great, and just threw them all in.
Most won’t be surprised to hear that the film’s biggest strengths are its visuals. The whole movie is like a two hour and forty minute long showcase for the future of digital filmmaking and animation. One of the most impressive sequences is when a fleet of V-22 Ospreys crash and the soldiers inside leap out of the flying aircraft. A lot of the footage is done in long continuous takes and in first person view. It’s really incredible to see. But, it’s still not enough to make up for the silly dialogue of the robots, or the close up shots of Rosie Huntington Whitely sexily staring off at nothing, or the improbable story, or… okay I’ll stop, I think you get the picture.
The shooting stage of Blue Fox is about 90% complete. I’m really excited about what the end product is shaping up to look like! Let me say that yes, I remember saying this project would most likely be completed by the end of June, and yeah, today is July 2. However, I don’t consider this as “being behind schedule,” for a few reasons. Let’s just say that they all work for the better of the story, but also required more time to include in the film.
During the making of this project, I’ve had the chance to meet some wonderful people with really interesting stories and memories of the drive-in to contribute. As mentioned earlier, I met with Dean Dickson, whose parents first created the Blue Fox Drive-In. When I asked if he had any photos he’d be willing to contribute to the movie, he informed me that the last time he went digging for photos of the drive-in, it was for a report his children were doing in elementary school. He then told me that to his knowledge, most of the old pictures of the drive-in’s early years are still in their possession. However, during Dickson’s searching, he was able to come across one photo. It was taken in the early fifties and it shows the original screen being put up.
I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting another Oak Harbor local with a special connection to the Blue Fox. His name is Perry Woodfin. Most will recognize him as the man who sells fabulous watercolor portraits at the island’s farmers’ markets. The works of Woodfin that are most loved by locals, perhaps, are his incredibly detailed paintings of cherished local landmarks. Landmarks like: Deception Pass, The Shrimp Shack, Washington State Ferries, Fort Casey, and The Blue Fox Drive-In.
I sought out Mr. Woodfin and spoke with him about his life as an artist, what inspired him to paint the drive-in, and why he thinks it’s a special place to our small town. He is a great man with a lot of knowledge and I’m very grateful for the time he spent sharing his stories with me. His contribution to this short film provides a unique perspective that I immensely enjoyed. I believe that others will too! Stay tuned for more updates on The ReelScope’s first online digital short film, Blue Fox.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a film advertised as a quirky family comedy. But, there’s a problem. It’s not funny enough, and it presents a twisted view on the words “family friendly”. It’s a movie where laughs are few and far between and awkward moments abound. Popper’s Penguins is based on a book of the same title, which was named a Newberry Honor book in the 1930’s. I’ve never read, and until recently have never heard of, the book from which the movie is “based on”. But, from the research I’ve done, the book seems to have very little resemblance to this newly replicated version of the story.
The film’s hero is Tom Popper (Jim Carrey). As a child, Tom’s hero was his father, who was some kind of explorer. Rarely home and always out exploring the corners of the world, Tom’s father would communicate with him via an old school two-way radio. The two would converse about Tom’s father’s incredible discoveries and Tom would sit, listening in wonder. But, all he really wanted as a child was his dad to be home with him.
Years later, Tom works for a high profile real estate company in New York City. He’s the golden man of the company and almost always lands the sale. But, Tom’s not so successful in his personal life. He’s divorced and his relationship with his children is strained. Tom and his ex-wife Amanda seem to be on the verge of reconciliation, however. When she drops the kids off at his place, they’re kind to each other and when they’re alone, they converse about nostalgic memories of their past.
One day, Tom receives the bad news that his father has passed away. But, his father’s death isn’t too difficult for him to bear because he hardly ever knew him. In fact, the only memories Tom has of his father are the various gifts he would send from his expeditions. One morning, Popper is surprised when he leaves for work and finds a large wooden crate at his doorstep. It’s his father’s last gift to him. He drags the large wooden box into his living room and busts it open. Tom Popper is dumbfounded at the site before him: an arctic Penguin squawking loudly in the middle of his studio apartment. A few days go by, and more penguins arrive. Soon, his home is at the mercy of these destructive, exotic birds.
Popper, living in the middle of New York City, and reacting as any normal human would, is very resistant to these creatures living with him. But, Tom’s quandary is escalated when his children discover the birds and develop an attachment to them. He decides to seize an opportunity to be the dad that follows through for once. He tells his son that the penguins are a birthday gift and the kids are thrilled at the news. Somehow, his ex-wife is too.
What follows is Tom’s descent into what most would consider complete madness. This isn’t all bad. I mean, on a positive note, it is pleasant (in a strange way) how Popper goes to such extreme measures to redeem himself. Before the penguins, he was distant and relatively un-involved with his children. The film wants us to sympathize with him, and at times I guess there were times when I almost cared about what happened to the film’s characters. But, I for one couldn’t get over the absurdity of it all. The pleasantness of Tom’s efforts at reconciliation is drowned out by the strangeness of the whole plot. The film wants us to believe that through Popper’s slow descent into… well, borderline severe psychosis; he will earn back his children’s and his ex wife’s love and appreciation.
Divorce is difficult, and kids who’ve been through it know that. Kids are also smart, and I think most of the older ones will recognize the foolishness of Popper’s Penguins. The movie takes on heavy issues and ineffectively uses them as comedic plot devices. To his credit, Jim Carrey does the best he can with a bland script that stoops to low levels for laughs. Fart jokes, childlike behavior from adults, and many other worn versions of “kid humor” slowly chip away at our interest in the movie. If you’re looking for a really good movie that both adults and children will enjoy, wait until Kung Fu Panda 2 comes out on DVD.