Wish I Was Here (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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There is no denying it: Zach Braff is a phenomenal filmmaker. Continuing on from his Scrubs fame, and the massive success of Garden State, comes Braff’s newest film. After failing to find a distributor, Braff turned to the crowdfunding website Kickstarter. By allowing the general public to essentially purchase merchandise and experiences, the film was fully funded within 48 hours. For those that have not see it, make sure you add it to your list.

Wish I Was Here is about Aidan Bloom (Braff). He is a man in his thirties who is still struggling to combine what he wants from his life, with the life that he has. Aidan is not the only one suffering, with his breadwinner wife being harrassed at work but unable to quit, and his sick father unable to continue paying for their kids to attend private school, meaning Aidan must now homeschool his children. Through teaching his kids, Aidan must find a way to learn about the world, and himself.

Like I said before, this film is amazing, and that is for many reasons.

If you just want a film to make you laugh or for car chases, then this isn’t the film for you. The film is full of emotion. One moment you will be wanting to cry, and the next you’ll be chuckling.

We know that Braff is a brilliant actor who can probably play any character he ever wants. His adult co-stars – Kate HudsonMandy Patinkin, Donald Faison, and Jim Parsons, to name a few – were all great. The length of their roles varied, but each one brought something more to the story. The kids – who both have quite extensive film resumes – make you feel bad about yourself, because you weren’t as talented as they are at such young ages.

Music is an element of film that is vital, yet often overlooked. Braff’s grasp of music is amazing. Like with his previous film, his music choices and placement furthered the story, and heightened the emotions.

Being an ‘arty’ film, it may not be for everyone, but there are sure to be a lot of people that will love the film. At times I have seen independent films like this, and felt they were trying too hard to be edgy and they only end up failing miserably. You can be sure this is not the case with Wish I Was Here.

Unfortunately, reviews haven’t been overly positive. While there are those that do see it for the brilliant film that it is, others have commented that it is too simplified and generic.

This may sound like a gush-fest…and that’s because it is. There are so many films that have earned millions of dollars that are nowhere near as fantastic as this one is, and are only popular because supposed ‘A-Listers’ are in them. When you can shout your support for a meaningful film like this, you pretty much have to.

4 out of 5 stars

The Best of Me (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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Only rarely do I like a film like this, and then I usually only watch them late at night when no one is there to catch me. The Best of Me is the film adaptation of the novel by Nicholas Sparks. I don’t have a lot of experience with works by Sparks, but I do know that he has a lot of devoted fans. It’s a good story that – without giving away too much – shows that Sparks is interested in improving his writing. Worth the watch and sure to give you two hours of entertainment.

The Best of Me begins with young Romeo-and-Juliet-esque lovers. Amanda and Dawson are from different backgrounds, with Amanda’s family making it more than clear that she is too good for him. It isn’t until Dawson finds himself on the wrong side of the law and in prison that he knows that isn’t the right life for Amanda, and he tells her goodbye. But as the saying goes, it’s a small world. Twenty years pass and Dawson and Amanda reunite. Amanda – unhappily married and with a family – is torn between the life she always wanted, the life she has, and the life she still desires. To make matters even worse, trouble once again comes looking for Dawson. Will Dawson and Amanda finally be able to let go of the past, or has their story only just begun?

This film definitely has its good and bad aspects.

Firstly, without going into specifics, the film is not as straight-forward and generic as you would think. The story elements that Sparks has expanded and improved, really do make the film different from his others – and his books – and you feel surprisingly content with it as a whole.

The acting was the right level of melodrama for a Sparks film, however it is also one of the biggest letdowns of the film. There are so many actors out there, that you would think finding two that looked even slightly similar wouldn’t be impossible. Young Amanda and Dawson look absolutely, one hundred percent, nothing like Older Amanda and Dawson. This is mostly evident for Luke Bracey and James Marsden. Not only are aspects like their hair and eyes so different, but their entire body structure is. It’s also been said that the first-choice of casting for Older Dawson was actually Paul Walker, but this had to be changed after his unfortunate death. However, even Bracey and Walker don’t have enough in common to try and be the same person.

Back to good: the emotion is something that Sparks does well. He knows how to make you feel what he wants you to feel.

The soundtrack was also good and is sure to sell a lot of copies.

Overall, not a totally unwatchable film. The end makes up for some of the earlier downfalls, but it’s not a film that will break any records or win a bunch of awards.

3 out of 5 stars

5 Facts About Christianity

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*Not suitable for children*

It seems like everyday I come across another misunderstanding on the internet about our Dear Lord Jesus. I thought I would address some of these today.

If you have any questions, ask in the comments below.

1. Jesus wasn’t a tall, white man with long hair.

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The New Testament gives no description of Jesus. We can only figure out what Jesus would have looked like by looking at the time and place in which he lived.

Isaiah 53:2b says: “he [Jesus] had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.”

Common Jewish traditions meant men had beards – and were humiliated to have a shaven face.

His hair would not have been that long. Not only does Paul says many did not like it that way, but, as a carpenter, it would have gotten in the way.

He probably had a lot of muscles, as working with the wood and stones would have been very laborious.

His family were not rich, so his robe would have looked like all others.

As we read in numerous verses, Jesus looked much like all other Jewish males of the time, and we need to remember that looks have nothing to do with the power and majesty that is our Lord Jesus Christ.

Is this so bad? Personally, while I think it’s important to know the truth and understand his appearance doesn’t mean anything, we can also view it as

2. Magi, Wise Men, or Kings?

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Almost every Christmas carol mentions either three Magi, three Wise Men, or Three Kings. But who were they?

We don’t know how many there were. It is commonly thought to be three because they gave gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but it could have been two, or numerous.

They were not Kings. They would have been scholars who were fluent in the Old Testament and knew the signs to look for. They came from the East (the orient), which was possibly Persia or Babylon, etc.

3. The Wise Men were not at Jesus’ birth.

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In Matthew 2:1-12 we read that the Wise Men came looking for Jesus after he was born. They approached King Herod, who then proceeded to call together all of his “chief priests and teachers of the law”. From here, the Wise Men went all the way to where Jesus was. This could have been back in Nazareth since time had passed, although it was probably in Bethlehem because when Herod had the babies killed, it was the cry out of Ramah.

Herod’s order decreed the death of the children under two years old, so time must have passed.

4. They counted the days differently.

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If Jesus was crucified on Friday, and rose again on Sunday, how could he have been dead for three days? The answer lies in how the days were counted back then.

We can read more in-depth about it HERE, but there are two ways to calculate Jesus’ death and resurrection as three days.

1.

DAY 1 DAY2 DAY 3
THU
starts at
sundown on Wed.
THU
ends at sundown
FRI
starts at sundown on Thu . . .
FRI
ends at
sundown
SAT
starts at sundown on Fri.
SAT
ends at sundown
SUN
starts at sundown on Sat.
SUN
ends at sundown
Night Day Night Day Night Day Night Day
Crucifixion Sabbath He rose

“The solution is simple when we learn that according to Jewish custom any part of a day, however small, is included as part of a full day. “Since the Jews reckoned part of a day as a full day, the ‘three days and three nights’ could permit a Friday crucifixion.””

2. 

“The verses above tell us that the Passover occurred on the 14th day of the first month of the Jewish Calendar year. This corresponds to our months of March-April. It is possible, then, that this Passover could have occurred during the week with the Saturday Sabbath following. Since Lev. 23:5-7 tells the people to rest on the first day (not the last day Saturday), this is a type of Sabbath occurrence. Therefore, perhaps the following chart could represent a Thursday crucifixion and a subsequent set of three “night and days” before the Sunday resurrection.”

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
13th of Nisan 14th of Nisan 15th of Nisan 16th of Nisan
THU
starts at
sundown on Wed.
THU
ends at sundown
FRI
starts at sundown on Thu . . .
FRI
ends at
sundown
SAT
starts at sundown on Fri.
SAT
ends at sundown
SUN
starts at sundown on Sat.
SUN
ends at sundown
Night Day Night Day Night Day Night Day
Passover/Crucifixion Sabbath He rose

“Something worth mentioning concerning this is that in the Greek in Matthew. 28:1, it says “Now after the Sabbaths [PLURAL], as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.” It is possible that there may have been two “sabbaths” during that week. The first may have been the Passover related “Sabbath” and the second may have been the Saturday Sabbath.”

5. Jesus had brothers and sisters.

You’ve probably heard about Jesus, human-father Joseph, and the Virgin Mary. But did you know Jesus had brothers and sisters born after him? In numerous places in the New Testament, we read about Jesus’ siblings. These would have been his half-siblings, as Joseph was not his father (God was).

There is a great website, HERE, that explains it perfectly. Excerpts include:

“Jesus’ brothers are mentioned in several Bible
verses. Matthew 12:46Luke 8:19, and Mark 3:31 say
that Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see Him. The
Bible tells us that Jesus had four brothers: James,
Joseph, Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:55). The Bible also
tells us that Jesus had sisters, but they are not named
or numbered (Matthew 13:56).”

So, hopefully you’ve learned a bit about Christianity. I will be adding more Facts About Christianity, so make sure to subscribe and check back.

Grace of Monaco (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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Yes I am Australian, but no, I’m not much of a fan of Nicole Kidman. Unlike what some may believe, it is not a requirement of citizenship. The film has definitely had a rough go by the critics, and despite the locations and costumes being beautiful, the film as a whole just isn’t up to the standards set by others.

Grace of Monaco is obviously a story about Grace Kelly – a former Hollywood star. She is constantly surrounded by adoring fans, protective guards, wanting producers, and desperate photographers. She is married to Prince Rainier III (Tim Roth), and becomes what many little girls dream of being. However, there are issues with France’s Charles De Gaulle and a looming French invasion, the royal’s marriage is struggling, and Kelly desires a return to Hollywood.

There are aspects of this film that were done well. You do feel like you are back in the glamorous days of Hollywood, with flowing gowns, men in suits with slicked hair, and big personalities. The costumes were true to the time and the props made you feel nostalgic – even though I wasn’t born for another 30 years.

The locations and sweeping landscape shots were perfect, and echoed the magnificence of the lives of most Hollywood starlets.

Now, about the acting. Not all of the performances were spot-on. As I said before, I’m not much of a fan of Nicole Kidman, but she wasn’t ‘too’ bad. It’s a very difficult job to play a real person, and even more so when the person was loved so much. Most people have also probably heard of a lot of the cast, and they have shown they have acting chops.

The part of the film that lets the rest of it down is the issue of authenticity. Though, Kidman has said that the film is neither a documentary nor a biopic, and is instead more about Grace Kelly’s “vulnerability and humanity”. Grace Kelly’s children have also been very vocal about their dislike for the film, requesting changes and condemning it for its over-dramatics and lack of facts. There have also been fights between the French parties and the American parties over what to include, which does not make the finished product sound very promising.

The film has received very negative reviews – mostly online. As an aspiring film-writer, I shudder to think that the months (if not longer) that everyone spent on this, comes down to such bad words. For the most part, however, the critics seem to just be overly protective of Kelly, and so they might be more inclined to find fault.

These kinds of films are not particularly my favourite, but this one was not completely unlikable. I don’t know exactly where the film deviated from the factual events, but you will never get something like this that is perfect. Overall, not a bad movie, and I think it might be more well-received by the general audience than by the vocal critics.

3 out of 5 stars

WolfCop (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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Let me begin by saying that Teen Wolf is one of my favourite television shows, and comes from one of the best movies the 80s has to offer. As per the natural reaction, when hearing the name WolfCop, immediate thoughts do not go to ‘award winning’ and ‘influential’, but that does not mean you will not enjoy yourself. This film is a perfect mix of comedy and horror, and is the next in line of popular B-Grade films.

The film follows Lou, an alcoholic policeman who has a habit of making a mess of things. While he is used to waking up in unfamiliar places, when he begins to become hirsute, even he knows there is something strange happening. With turning into a werewolf just part of a bigger, scarier, story, Lou will need to figure out how to save the day, and hopefully become a better man.

The story is interesting, but has trouble working as a full-length feature. Lowell Dean (the director) had won a trailer contest that gave him $1 million USD to make the film, but it probably would have been better as a slightly-longer short film. Parts of the story were fleshed-out, while others were only granted a short screen-time before we were moved along.

B-Grade films have been rising in popularity over the last couple of years – including Sharknado and Piranha – and WolfCop is definitely set to be one of them. It does not try to be anything more than what it is, and allows the audience to escape their lives for two hours and have some entertainment.

The actors are not A-listers, but they play the characters well. When it comes to films, personally, I like it better when I am not seeing the same actors over and over again. Even though this film is far from realistic, not knowing the actors makes it more believable.

Creating a mix of genres is where a lot of films fail. WolfCop was not too bad. Its horror was more gory than scary, but some lines can get a chuckle.

The filming style/technique of WolfCop is also notable. While other feature films are spending millions of dollars on computer-generated imagery, Dean instead used practical effects. This not only let them work on a much-lower budget, but also allowed the team to have greater control over the production.

The reviews have been quite mixed. There are always going to be those that do not appreciate a B-Grade movie for what it is, and mock it for its style. But for those that see these types of movies for what they are, they will understand how brilliant it is.

Obviously this is not a film suitable for kids, and there are many out there that do not like horror and gore. Me, I am in the latter category, but for everyone else, this is sure to be a mindless and enjoyable film.

2 out of 5 stars

Manny (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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Floyd Mayweather Jr., Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier. We have all heard of these world-renowned boxers. But there is one name that is quickly growing in fame and popularity, and that name is Manny PacquiaoManny is one of the better feel-good and inspirational sports films that has been released of late, and is one that can be watched by everyone in the family.

The film Manny follows the life of Manny Pacquiao. This – for some time relatively unknown – Filipino boxer has his story translated by Hollywood alum, telling the tale of his rise from impoverished teen who began his boxing journey just to feed his family, to a thirty-five year old eight-division world champion. We follow him as he becomes known by the world, and furthers his career, entering politics and film. The film deals with the ups and downs that go with becoming a professional athlete, and the more personal side of it.

Even from just watching the two-minute trailer, you can feel the way the film gathers you and inspires you. It does more than make you want to watch the film, but also to get out and make something more happen for yourself. If Manny can do it, you can do it.

This film has some Hollywood bigwigs behind it, powering it out of the plain ‘documentary’ world, and onto the stage with other feature films. The famous faces help us to connect with the rising figure that many probably haven’t heard of before. These stars include Liam NeesonMark WahlbergJeremy Piven and Jimmy Kimmel, who aid us in relating to a film that is in another language. Manny also featured original music by Lorne Balfe, whose name is on Inception, The Dark Knight, and Iron Man – to name a few. To have this kind of power backing you, Manny Pacquiao must be a big thing.

The colour and cinematography of the film also raise it to another level. It feels like a feature film with the odd-angles and slow-motion sequences, and it makes the experience all the more entertaining and enjoyable.

One thing people need to remember before taking their young children to see this film, is that it definitely involves violence and blood. For some, it is inappropriate, and for others, it just isn’t their cup of tea. However, there are also those that will only care about the boxing and not about Manny’s political, etc., successes and aspirations.

There is a lot of anticipation and expectation around this film, which comes to me as a surprise. I was surprised by the attention, by the A-lister stars, and then by the story. Manny has what it takes to be a hit. The film points out how successful Manny Pacquiao has been in boxing, politics, and as the representation of the low-income people of the Philippines, and it wouldn’t be too much of a leap for Manny to gain a healthy film following too.

3 out of 5 stars

What’s Happening December 25th?

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There’s something special coming up, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Oh yeah…CHRISTMAS!!

I was looking on Facebook when I noticed the news trending bar on the side showed the image above. If it hasn’t loaded, it says: ‘Christmas: Dec. 25 Marks Holiday Celebrating Birth of Jesus Christ’.

A few thoughts went through my mind.

  1. Why would anyone need to be reminded of such an obvious event/holiday? Is this revelation really news? I’m more surprised we’re still allowed to mention the J.C. name.
  2. Are there people out there who actually haven’t heard about Jesus? Of course there are, and this makes me feel so sad. I consider Jesus to be not only my God, but my best friend. He is the only one who is always there for me, and always championing me on to do my best. AND lastly,
  3. I love the wording. One of the ridiculous comments Christians usually get around Christmas time is: “You know Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th right?” Like that’s something we’ve never heard before! Of course he wasn’t. With the shepherds out watching over their flock, that time of year wouldn’t make sense. And yes, it does fall on/near a Pagan holiday, but that was pretty much only to give Christians something to do and focus on while they were doing their thing (better explanations are available). What I love about the wording is that it shows that December 25th is a date set aside to celebrate Jesus. Personally, I try to celebrate Jesus everyday; but this is one day of the year where we all focus on the fact that our Powerful Lord Saviour came down to us as a vulnerable babe, lying in a trough.

What does December 25th mean for you?

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