Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Unfortunate Disappointments: Movie Review: Endless Love

Title: Endless Love
Genre: romance, drama, family, loss
My Rating: -** (yes, that's a negative two stars)
Official Rating: PG-13
Age Group: 18+ (if you really must watch it. but overall, it should be left unwatched)

Summary: David has been in love with Jade all through high school. He only has one problem: Jade doesn't know that, because he's never, ever, spoken with her. It might have something to do with her being rather reserved and very focused on her studies, especially after her older brother died and left her with very loving but overbearing parents.
Or it might just be that David's a chicken. For all his talk of true love, he might just not have it in him to go get it.
At least, that's what Jade's dad says. Because when Jade and David finally do start a relationship,a rather awkward and slightly misinterpreted scene causes Jade's father to strongly dislike David. That and the fact that David is getting in the way of Jade's future career as a doctor.
But Jade is happy, and David is too. Aside from all the family problems he just became a very big part of when he chose to date Jade.
Can the two of them survive the mess and get their happily ever after?

Word of Warning
  •  Jade's brother died sophomore year of high school. We don't get many details, aside from the fact that it was a car crash and his father was there, but we do know it hurt the family deeply. They can't let go of him. His father sleeps in his room and won't let anyone touch the boy's things. He takes it a step further, no longer devoting time and love to his family but becoming determined that they be as good as his now perfect (but dead) son.
  • David has been watching Jade for years and hasn't talked to her. This is made to sound sweet in the movie, but since he really has no relation to her at all (other than going to the same school) it borders on being creepy.
  • A man is rude to the valets who take his car. They take his car for a joy ride (out of revenge) and drag an innocent girl into the mess. The valets are fired, but not before a yelling match and a punch to the face.
  • David glances at Jade's legs as her skirt flies up in the wind. She quickly shoves her skirt down but gives him a mischievous glance.
  • A man remarks, "It's gonna take a lot more than stealing my car to get her to spread her legs" for which he is punched in the face.
  • Girls wear short dresses with slightly low tops, strapless dresses, and bikinis.
  • David prank calls the police to put an end to someone's party for a personal reason and, in addition to many other complaints, says, "Someone is pissing on my mini-cooper!" While this is comical, he is causing an apparent innocent's party canceled for a personal gain and making a joke of it, all while getting the police involved.
  • We see Jade in her underwear more than once. Sometimes unintentionally (like when she spins and her dress flies up), sometimes very intentionally (like when she pulls the side of her dress up so David can see the edge of them).
  • Catcalls are made when Jade and David step out of a closet. Nothing happened in the closet. They intended to kiss but were interrupted.
  • Jade's father is clearly upset about what he assumes happened in the closet, but instead of speaking to either teen involved, he just separates them and doesn't tell them what he is angry about (though they would have to be stupid not to be able to guess).
  • Jade's father shows a lack of communication throughout the entire movie. If he speaks to his family, it's because he dislikes something one of them is doing or because he is giving an order.
  • Multiple passionate kisses.
  • Jade and David meet behind their parents' backs. Later, they do the same when David has a restraining order on him.
  • When Jade clearly intends to have sex, David tells her, "You don't have to do this. As much as I want to, I can wait" but she refuses him and says she wants to "feel this with you" as if that's all it is. The two remove their clothes (we see them in their underwear) and have sex.
  • A couple is shown in a bathtub from the shoulders up. It's presumed neither has any sort of clothing on.
  • The entire first half of the movie and its passionate romance happens in about three days. It's almost as bad as Romeo and Juliet.
  • A girl throws away her internship to be with her new boyfriend she met just a few days before.
  • A father tries to run his daughter's life/future/college plans and yells at her for not doing as he had planned.
  • Father takes his family to the lake house to spite his daughter's decision and to separate her from her boyfriend.
  • Daughter disobeys and talks back to her father.
  • A husband is having an affair with someone's wife.
  • David finds out about the affair and hides it from Jade to protect her. Jade's father threatens David about not revealing the truth, but David assures him he won't because it would hurt Jade.
  • The father figure pressures his living son to be like his older brother (who is now dead) and the son is clearly hurt by this and feels like he will never be good enough for anyone or anything.
  • The father lies and digs up criminal records on David.
  • Jade suggests she and the others be "young and dumb, just for tonight" to which David agrees without hesitation. She then pressures him into doing something which he knows shouldn't be done. He ends up being arrested after fleeing the police.
  • The mother desperately wants to have her romance with her husband back and comes right out and requests this. He ignores her and turns her down.
  • A jealous ex-girlfriend turns her ex-boyfriend and others in to the police.
  • Jade's father bails David out of jail after Jade promises to stay away from David. The father then leads David to believe Jade doesn't love him.
  • The father verbally abuses David, eventually telling him that he's not good enough, that Jade will get bored of him, just like David's mother became bored of his father.
  • We learn that David discovered his mom having an affair and beat the man.
  • David punches two people in the face.
  • A teen defends something that was stupid and wrong because "it was fun" until it went wrong. The implication is that if it hadn't gone wrong, there would have been nothing wrong with doing it. A father figure, as well as a mother figure, also seem to hold the view that a little fun (reckless and stupid as it might be) isn't really a big deal and is just something kids will do.
  • David states, "I know I'm not good enough for you, but I'm not gonna spend my entire life proving that I am."
  • Jade is t-boned and breaks her wrist. She has multiple minor cuts and bruises on her face.
  • The father has a restraining order put on David.
  • David believes in a policy where there is only one girl he is meant to be with and he is afraid of missing that chance.
  • The words d*** and a**hole.
  • The father sabotages David's chances at a future by getting him in legal trouble and not mailing his wife's letter of recommendation--all out of spite.
  • Jade cheats on David because they have not officially broken up and she starts dating another guy. Then, she cheats on that guy by kissing David when she hasn't broken up with the new guy.
  • A wife and son walk out on the father because he is so angry and controlling. It is implied the mother is going to get a divorce but that's seen as ok and everyone is fine with that. The son elopes with his girlfriend.
  • The father chases David with a baseball bat and almost hits him.
  • David and the father are caught in a house fire. A window explodes at David. The two almost die.
  • The father is obsessed with his dead son and won't let go.
  • The movie promotes a strange view of love that proposes there is only one person with whom you are "meant to be" and with whom you can truly be happy. While it also promotes the idea of love that never ends, it sees this more as a feeling and less as an ideal that both people have to work at to achieve. The movie leads the audience to believe that this "meant to be" yet all-feeling love is the only true kind of love and it is attainable.
My Thoughts
Honestly? I think the list above said it all. Aside from my frustration with the trailer making this movie look semi-decent, I still can't get beyond the dysfunctional family (which is making no effort to heal itself) and the sparkly and unrealistic view of love this movie promotes.
But let me take a moment to find goodness in the movie. Because there is goodness in everything, since evil is only goodness used for a selfish purpose.
David's attempts to reconcile his relationship with Jade's father is the goodness I find here. He honestly tries his best to get on her father's good side.
Other than that, the movie was a disappointment. The plot was poorly done, kids running around having fun in reckless ways was seen as acceptable, and the dysfunctional family knew it was not right but made no effort to fix itself.
It was sad, really. There probably is a good way to tell this story (or one similar). The actors were fantastic. It just didn't come together right.
It didn't really come together at all.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Book Review: Ghostscape

Title: Ghostscape
Author: Joe Layburn
Genre: historical fiction, children's fiction
My Rating: **
Official Rating: children's fiction
Age Group: 8+

Summary: Aisha is having a hard time adjusting to life in England after fleeing Somalia. The girls at her new school are mean to her, her mother doesn't understand her, and she can't seem to get beyond watching her father die. It's no surprise that she starts seeing things.
Only, is she actually seeing things? Aisha meets a boy, Richard, and realizes the two of them have somehow managed to time travel. As she gets to know him better, Aisha learns how to deal with the bullies at her school. She hopes to save Richard's life but has a hard time finding out what happened to him during the Blitz. The she discovers a story in an old newspaper that details a horrible tragedy. Can she save Richard before it's too late?

Word of Warning
  • Aisha and a girl named Chevon fight more than once, with Chevon saying mean things to Aisha and gets her in trouble for saying things she never did. They get into a cat fight.
  • Aisha faints. She is also clipped by a side mirror and knocked unconscious.
  • There is mention of Aisha's father being shot by a young man wearing a baseball cap backward. She remembers how her father was just one of many casualties.
  • In Richard's time, Germany is bombing England. Aisha discovers that hundreds of people die when a bomb is dropped on a school but other than calling it a tragedy and mentioning that the search for survivors was abandoned and no one knew how many people died, there were no details.
  • People grumble about others (like a snoring old man or someone singing quietly to calm his nerves).
  • Richard uses the word h*** as an exclamation. Many people in England (mostly Richard's time) use the word "bloody" which can be considered swearing.
  • Aisha's mother is very harsh with her. Frustrated, Aisha finally loses it and yells at her mother that she has met a boy and she likes him a lot and he's not Muslim. Just to bother her mom (it's not true).
  • Richard is invisible to people in Aisha's time. They play tricks on Chevon, throwing things at her (never hitting her) and causing her to think Aisha is a witch.
  • The solution to Aisha's problem with Chevon is the scene where Richard throws things at her and leaves Chevon to believe Aisha is a witch. This isn't exactly the ideal solution to a problem.
My Thoughts
It was a good simple book. I grabbed off a pile of books my sister is going to sell and read it in about an hour. There weren't too many problems with it and it gave a brief glance into the lives of those living in the past, and also those displaced by war today.
In all honesty, my biggest problem with the book was the time line. There is a bit of a mix-up with Aisha changing something in the past, but the change already existing before she does the change. I can't give more details because that would spoil the book, but suffice it to say that for some strange reason it irritated me very much.
Overall: a decent book. I wouldn't buy it and wouldn't read it again, but I don't feel like I wasted an hour of my life either.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Movie Review: The Ultimate Life

Title: The Ultimate Life
Author: based on the book by Jim Stovall
Genre: drama, family
My Rating: ***
Official Rating: PG
Age Group: 12+

Summary: Jason Stevens went through an awful lot of trouble to gain his grandfather's fortune. He also learned an awful lot of life lessons and met his girlfriend along the way. But when running a charity foundation consumes all his time and he neglects those around him who need him most, he is brought back to realty by a hard punch to the gut.
Shaken and confused, he turns to his grandfather's oldest living friend and adviser for help. Mr. Hamilton hands young Stevens his grandfather's journal and shuffles off to bed, muttering something about how Red Stevens wrote the life lessons he'd learned in there and they might help Jason with his problem.
Jason kicks back to read, and we go back in time to meet a young fifteen year old Red Stevens. Long before he was a billionaire, he was a poor ice boy....

Word of Warning:
All things considered, this movie was pretty acceptable. The PG rating was quite accurate. The biggest problem younger viewers might have is the war scene (more details below) but overall language and all other elements were kept well within the PG zone. It was refreshing to see such a good movie manage to stay within its boundary of PG and still turn out so well.
  • A gentle but slightly long chaste kiss between two adults.
  • A man walks out on a woman he just half-proposed to to deal with business matters.
  • A family is constantly bickering, even taking each other to court over money they do not need.
  • Young Red says quite often in the first part of the movie with great determination, "I swear to heaven."
  • The light bullying of the ice boy by "rich snobs."
  • A family cannot afford medicine so the mother remains sick with a terrible hacking cough, tucked away in bed.
  • A father is very hard on his son, not supportive, and quite gruff.
  • A boy runs away from home so his family can afford more food and hopefully medicine for his mother.
  • A man is pulled from a rail car and beaten with a police stick off screen (we here a few grunts).
  • Red and another man freighthop. The other man seems to do it on a regular basis, and Red gives no indication that he sees it as wrong.
  • A teen remarks, "Girls call me stud" but this is somewhere in the 1930s or 1940s.
  • A bank foreclosed on a family ranch, forcing one of the boys to go out and find work away from his family.
  • The slow apparently passionate (it's clear they meant it to be scandalous, but it's not even close to most movie kisses) kiss of a young couple at a dance.
  • One teen says to the other, good-naturedly, "You're like toe fungus."
  • A quick hesitant kiss between teens. They kiss again later but it isn't very long.
  • A war zone scene shows explosions and gunfire. A mine sends shrapnel into Red. A guy runs out to save Red and is almost shot. We see Red with blood on his mouth and stomach and get a brief glance of his bloody wound before Gus covers it and applies pressure. Red screams and the scene ends.
  • A dad is too busy to spend time with his son. After a good talking-to from his wife, he realizes his mistake and, exhausted from working all day and preoccupied, he trudges back outside to play catch with his son.
  • Someone uses the word crap. Someone else states, "Everything's about money" and he lives his life by that philosophy. In the end, he does learn his lesson.
  • A man is careless to others' wants and desires, taking what he wants with money and considering nothing but company profit.
  • On the road to becoming rich, the man continually slips into neglecting his family.
  • A car crash victim is shown in the hospital. We are told he will probably die and he has lost both his kidneys.
  • A married couple kisses.
My Thoughts
This is the sequel to The Ultimate Gift in that it tells the continuation of Jason's story, but the prequel in that it tells Red's story.
It was a great movie but really a one-timer. I saw it twice and the second time wasn't nearly as good as the first.
Still, it has it's moments. We see Red struggling through life alone, trying to figure out how to become rich, being taught lessons by those he meets along the way. It is these lessons that he wanted to pass on to whomever would take charge of the family business one day. These are the lessons which prompted the different tasks Jason had to complete in the first movie.
Perhaps the scene that sums everything up is the one where we see Jason making his "golden list." A list of ten things he is grateful for--just from that day. Because "everybody has got at least ten."