Tag Archives: Film

La La Land

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128 minutes

Director: Damien Chazelle

5/5

Have you ever wanted something so bad you’d do anything for it? That’s how Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) feel. To follow her dream, Mia moves to L.A from a small town and gets a job as a coffee barista to support herself. She goes to awful parties with her friends who hope they can meet someone that can help them become actresses. To follow his dream,  Sebastian hops from gig to gig as a pianist playing music he doesn’t like, hoping to scrounge up enough money to open up his dream jazz club. In this stunning Academy Award-nominated musical, we see what dreams are worth sacrificing for.

This movie is so amazing I don’t know where to begin. This film has been nominated for a total of 14 including best motion picture, best original screenplay, best original music score, best director and best motion picture.The original score is fantastic, the cinematography is great, the chemistry between actors is beautiful, the impromptu dance numbers are marvelous and the story is heart-wrenching. In my mind, this film deserves each and every one of its nominations.

First off I’d like to talk about how good it was as a musical. This film was in the style of an old Hollywood musical, like the kind with a singing and dancing Gene Kelly with Kathryn Grayson or Debbie Reynolds. It did a perfect homage to that genre. We don’t see many films like this anymore and the fact that Damien Chazelle took this risk and made this film is astounding. That he executed it perfectly makes it even better. I’ll never forget the feeling I had when the opening number started and they’re singing and dancing along the freeway. That scene alone got my attention for the whole film.

la-la-land2Plus, the soundtrack was fantastic! Every single song from this movie is unbelievable. With the opening number they’re singing on the freeway and at the end of that song, they cadence with car horns! My inner music nerd rejoices every time I hear that part. Since seeing this film I have bought the soundtrack and now know all the words to every song. “City of Stars” has been nominated for best original song, as it should be, but all the songs from the soundtrack are wonderful. My favourite is “Lovely Night”. It beautifully describes how both Mia and Sebastian are feeling while they sing that song. Mia is complaining about how much her heels are hurting her feet and so she takes some dance emergency shoes out of her bag! You know it’s going to be a good musical when there’s dance emergency shoes.

Another thing that was so good about this film was the focus on the protagonist’s dreams. I think the message that nothing is worth giving up your dream for is wonderful. I feel like this message especially will ring true for arts students (like myself), seeing as Mia and Sebastian are supposed to be people on the younger side looking to start their careers in the arts. We see Mia paying all the money she has to put on a one-woman show for a few people to watch. We see Sebastian playing the song “I Ran” in a 1980s jumpsuit, just to get some money to put towards his future club. Sometimes these characters get discouraged or distracted, but with the help of each other they both work to achieve their dreams. One of the songs that Mia sings alone perfectly portrays what the movie is trying to say when it comes to people’s goals. It’s called “The Fools Who Dream”. It talks about how you might be foolish for dreaming and how it might not be easy, but the world needs fools who dream. 

To conclude; I really enjoyed this film. From the score, to the old Hollywood vibe, to the nice message to the general public (but especially arts students). It had me at the edge of my seat from the beginning number to the last shot. I loved every minute of the whole film. I think that this film really deserves it’s many academy awards and I wish it the best of luck at the Oscars.

Hidden Figures

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127 minutes

4.75/5

Director: Theodore Melfi

 

Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer)  are three African American scientists who helped put men into space while struggling for equality in 1960s Virginia. Based on true events, Hidden Figures follows Mary fighting for the right to go to an all white school to get an advanced engineering degree, while Dorothy works to keep her job in the face of technological advancements and Katherine is determined to receive the respect she deserves as one of the biggest brains in all of NASA. This is the compelling story of these three brilliant minds, who happen to be African American women and because of that, are not treated as equals.

This film is absolutely wonderful and deserving of it’s many academy award nominations, including best motion picture. I love how it shows just how hard these women’s lives were, and just how much discrimination they faced. They were three highly intelligent women who were treated like garbage because of their gender and the colour of their skin. Katherine had to walk half a mile because there were no “coloured” washrooms anywhere near her desk. Mary had to persuade a judge to get a court order for her to be allowed into school – for night classes! Dorothy was doing all the work of a supervisor, but because she was African American, did not receive the pay or title. On top of that, all three women were moms! Each one of them had at least two children! After watching this film it really reminds you how far respect and nondiscrimination has come.

e154021_t05Another thing that was amazing about this film is that they talk about all the science that was happening during that time in NASA. Due to the race to space between the USA and Russia, the 1960’s were an exciting time for science and technology. This film shows a lot of the cool math and science and technological advancements (like the development of computers) from that decade. What’s even cooler is that they barely dumb it down for the audience! We get to see everyone’s calculations and hear about fortran, the language of the computers, and even technical things like the problems with the heat shield. I really appreciated being able to learn a little bit while watching the film.

I also particularly enjoyed how not every single black person was nice, and not every single white person was mean. There was Mr. Harrison (Kevin Costner); who was the leader of NASA and didn’t care that Katherine a women or that she was African American, he just wanted her to do her work. If there was something impeding her, he would get rid of it, like giving her complete clearance of information or getting rid of all the “coloured” washrooms and just making them “washrooms” so that she could take less time in the bathroom (because she wouldn’t have to run half a mile in heels). Then there was Colonel Jimmy Johnson (Mahershala Ali) who said something pretty sexist the first time he met Katherine. “They let women in the science program?” Ya. He said that, as if he was trying to woo her. Not the best pick up line. This film wasn’t just black and white (for lack of a better metaphor) when it came to good and bad characters. Everyone was their own person with their own opinions.

One thing that was subtle and yet still absolutely wonderful was the soundtrack. It wasn’t loud or what you were meant to focus on, like in a film such as “La La Land” (another Academy Award nominee) and yet it was just as good. It supported the scenes very well, you didn’t focus on it and yet it filled the spaces where there was no dialogue so you could concentrate on the scenery or the intense math sessions. It was very versatile, from the songs that are playing on the radio, to the songs sung in the church scenes, to the scenes that are supposed to be ‘silent’, but you want something to fill that noise gap so it isn’t jarring. This film did all this perfectly and made it sound effortless.

One thing that I didn’t like about this film, is that they kind of glossed over Mary Jackson’s story. We see that she is smart enough to be an engineer but doesn’t have the credentials due to her lack of an advanced engineering degree. What we never see is what she works on at NASA. We see her home life and her hanging out with Dorothy and Katherine, but we rarely get a chance to see just what she normally does at NASA. I for one, would have loved to see what she did because she worked on the more scientific and less mathematical stuff for NASA and that’s something we don’t really see in the film. I think if we got more insight into Mary’s life we would be able to see the cool science things NASA was doing at the time along with the cool math they were doing.

All in all, this movie was near perfect. It had a wonderful story line, was based on true events, had moments of comedy even though it was a very serious film, and even had an amazing original score. I hope the Oscars treat Hidden Figures very well, because this film deserves each and every award it has been nominated for.

 

Chokeslam

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Director: Robert Cuffley

Screenwriters: Jason Long and Robert Cuffley

4/5

Chokeslam was the closing gala film for the Calgary International Film Festival 2016. Here’s what I thought about it.

Corey (Chris Marquette) is a sad, almost thirty year old, still living with his mom and working at a deli people only come to if they want to rob it. When Corey’s pro-wrestler friend from high school, Sheena, arrives back in town and announces her retirement, Corey hatches a plan to get her to do her retirement match in their small town.

Sheena’s manager though, has different plans. He wants Sheena’s match in some high profile place like Chicago or Tokyo. But motivated by his love for Sheena, Corey will stop at nothing to get Sheena to stay in town for a couple more days.  

I am not like Corey.  

My life is very busy. I have every minute of everyday planned out. I certainly don’t have time to put my life on hold and wait for some person to come back, just so I can be with them. I don’t have to sit around and eat fruit loops in my pajama’s while watching hockey. Part of what made Corey such a great character was how he was so different than me and yet I understood his motivations, he just wanted one thing. To be with Sheena. He was willing to do pretty much anything just to be with Sheena. I think we all have something in our lives that we would be willing to do almost everything for.  While Corey was so different then me and most people, everyone could relate to him and understand how he felt.


14433124_1173234829381649_5367326240430201465_nMy favourite character was Michael Eklund’s character Luke, Corey’s best (and only) friend. He was hilarious. From the fact that Eklund was way too old to play someone going to his 10 year High School reunion, to Luke’s insane love of food and the fact that he thinks he’s the best person ever. Luke was such a great character and made a great duo with Corey. There’s this one scene where the two of them are eating fruit loops wearing matching pajamas and that scene alone made my day. The way that Luke imitates Corey is great.

When asked about his character, this is what Michael Eklund said:

“I auditioned for this movie in 2006, when I was old enough to go to my high school reunion and the movie almost got made, but then as movies do, sometimes they fall apart and then me and Robert made two other films after that audition, Walk All Over Me and then Ferocious and then we finally made Chokeslam which is where I met him, in the audition room. Ten years ago. It’s insane. I’m way too old to play Luke and he still gave me the role. I do remember that first time when I met Robert in the audition room, and I just had a feeling that we would someday make this movie, and we did.”

This film was very, very funny. There were simple comic moments, like when Luke gets hit with a chair, or when Tab pops out of nowhere behind Corey. But there was also some elaborate funny bits, like an entire scene where Corey gets a big piece of wood stuck in his butt. I enjoyed all the humour and for once, this adult film had tons of jokes that I laughed at and actually understood!

This film had tons of wrestling in it. There were lots of references and a couple of fights. Before seeing this film my only knowledge of wrestling was what I learned in gym class and the movie Nacho Libre, so I can’t say if they were very true to the sport, but the audience seemed to really like it and I thought it looked really cool. To work on the wrestling matches the crew of Chokeslam got help from pro wrestlers Harry Smith and Lance Storm.

 

After the film was over I got a chance to talk to screenwriter Jason Long. Here’s what he had to say about the film!

Q: What was the initial inspiration for this film?

A: The director Robert Cuffley had the original inspiration and it actually came from a dark story about after his high school reunion, there was a person he barely knew in high school but he had heard they had committed suicide. Which was part of the original  script for a long time and then it’s funny because when we switched to wrestling, we kind of went away from it but it’s funny because the theme of that kind of darkness and depression kind of came back which was very interesting that it came full circle. But that was the inspiration, in that he looked up the guy in the yearbook and he tried to remember his picture, and he couldn’t remember who he was. That was the first memory of Chokeslam, which was called Yearbook.

Q: How did you become involved in this project?

A: Well, Robert and I had written a movie called Turning Page together and it had just been shot, so they were editing it, and he thought, we should do another film, because sometimes people do more than one film. And I was like how about that?! That’s great! So Robert was like, well, I don’t know any other writers, or they’re all busy, Jason would you do another one, and I said yes. Because we’re friends. So he had the idea, he just brought it to me and i immediately said yes because by that time we were like, pretty tight.

This film was wonderful. It was thought provoking, comedic, well paced, all wrapped up in a movie about wrestling. I highly recommend this film to anyone who likes good laughs, body slams and flying elbows.

Sonita

  sonitahush                                                                                  Sonita

                                                                             90 Minutes

                                                                                    4/5

Sonita is an Afghan immigrant living in Tehran, Iran and just wants to be a rapper. She doesn’t want to have to work as a teenager, she doesn’t want to have to take care of her family and she definitely doesn’t want to have to get married. Her family has some very different opinions. They want to follow Afghan tradition and sell Sonita as a bride so they can get enough money to pay for Sonita’s brother’s bride. This documentary follows Sonita through her journey in becoming a rapper.

name_dateThe community sponsor for this film was the Femme Wave Festival. I think that is super awesome. The fact that an all women’s music festival sponsored a film about a seventeen-year-old girl trying to make music about meaningful subjects is great! The two couldn’t go better together. Be sure to see tonnes of local Calgary women and girls perform at this year’s Femme Wave, Nov. 17-20 (including me).

This film was never boring. Sometimes documentaries can get a little boring, but this one was very well paced and the audience was always captivated. Something was always happening and you could hear the laughter, gasps, or sniffles from the other people in the theater.

sonita-studioI thought it was really cool how much of Sonita’s life they shared. They talked about how her family wanted to use her for money and the fact her family doesn’t really care about what she wants to do. They also talked about the tradition in Afghanistan of selling daughters to be brides and about how you need permission from the government to record songs that talk about controversial subjects. It really brought awareness to how hard Sonita and people like Sonita’s lives really are.

I also really liked how humbling this film was. The longer the film went on, the more and more I was grateful for the life I have. I can say what I want. I can go to school for however long I want. I don’t have to work if I don’t want to. It really makes you think about how great our lives are here in Canada compared to Afghanistan and Iran.

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On the left is Sonita Alezadeh and on the right is Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami.

My favourite part of the film was when it was just the director, Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, and Sonita sitting in Sonita’s bedroom. As they’re talking, Sonita asks if she can use Ghaemmaghami’s camera. Sonita is pretty mystified with the camera at first, but then starts getting the hang of it and begins asking Rokhsareh some pretty meaningful questions. This is one of the first scenes you see that you can tell Sonita is not some ordinary girl and she has the potential of going places in life.

I’ll admit this movie left me pretty speechless. I came out of the theater completely dumbfounded and without words. I thought this film was amazing and I definitely recommend this movie. If you’d like to go see it, it is playing at Eau Claire On October 2nd at 7:30 pm!

Cheer Up – CIFF 2016

cheer-up-jpg-size-custom-crop-1086x612Cheer Up

86 minutes

4.75

This documentary is about the Arctic Circle Spirit Cheerleaders, also known as the Ice Queens, and their competitive journey in Finland. At the beginning of the film we see that they have always finished in last place. Through the stories of cheerleaders Patu and Aino, and their coach Miia, we discover just how hard it is to be a cheerleader.

I have to say, I had some really low expectations for this film. First of all, it’s about cheerleading. Second of all, it’s a documentary about cheerleading. Lastly, it’s a documentary about cheerleading in Finland! It sounded so strange that I had to see it. I assumed it would be a Finnish version of Bring it On – I was wrong.

I loved how this film didn’t just focus on cheerleading, but also on the lives of the cheerleaders and how tough a sport it is to do competitively. You can tell how much they want to be the best! By the end, the whole team is  gritting their teeth because they can almost taste the championship. The one who wants it the most is the coach Miia; you feel for her because you can see that she knows her team isn’t very good, but she loves them anyways, she makes them work so hard so that they can win.

This documentary is really relateable. It shows the cheerleading team working hard (they practiced everyday for two hours) trying to get better. Their hard work is rewarded with eyelashes falling out and broken noses. Still, they never give up through all of the curveballs life throws at this team, they keep practicing. I think that is so inspirational. They love what they’re doing so they are working so incredibly hard at it, in the sheer hopes of getting better.  

The only thing that I didn’t really like was that the beginning was a little slow. Nothing really happened until 20-30 minutes into the film. During the Q & A that happened after the screening, Christy Garland (the director) talked about how the cheerleaders were very shy around her for the first bit of shooting. I can only assume that’s why things heated up only after the first bit. That is such a minor thing though, so I can barely fault the film for it.

I brought my friend Satchi to the screening because she is in competitive violin with me and we both could relate so much to the emotions they all felt. We understood how they felt when they got last place, how they felt when they practiced everyday for two hours, when they hurt their bodies from practicing so hard. We understood it all.

All in all, this movie was great. It was engaging, it was captivating and it wasn’t just any movie about cheerleading. I really recommend this film and it’s playing again on Saturday October 1st at 11:15am at Eau Claire for CIFF 2016. I highly suggest everyone go and see it.

The Adventure Club at CIFF 2016

55The Adventure Club

Director: Geoff Anderson

3/5

Ricky, the leader of the Adventure Club really just wants to go on an adventure, just like his grandfather did before he died. One night, while Ricky is going through his late grandfather’s things, he finds a mysterious key in his grandfather’s office. Ricky then summons an emergency meeting of the Adventure Club, to go and solve all the secrets this key might unlock.

I enjoyed the way this film was  shot. Each scene seemed well planned. Perhaps the cinematographers could have taken more risks, but for a family audience it was comfortable. Everyone in the audience really liked this one scene in particular which was in the museum. The Adventure Club gang had to hide from the security guard in the museum and every time the security guard walked through the scene the kids were cleverly hiding in plain sight!

This film was also comedic. There were moments in the movie where the kids in the audience laughed, and others when it was the parents chuckling. That is super important when it comes to making a family film, there should be something for everyone. The fact that the cast includes members of the cast of the TV show Corner Gas and  Billy Zane definitely helped make the adults laugh, and the Adventure Club’s adult friend (played by Canadian acting legend Kim Coates!) was so crazy that the kids couldn’t help but laugh at his ridiculousness. 

Most of the time the adult actors were big scene stealers (because most of them were comedians) and sometimes it seemed like they were trying to out funny each other! Sometimes the fact that they were trying so hard took the spotlight away from the main characters of the film; the kids!

On the down side, older kids may find this film predictable. You have your typical trio of kids (the leader boy, the smart girl and the goofball boy) who find this magical item that some bad guys are looking for. With the help of a kooky adult they must stop the evil guys from acquiring the magical item. It was nice to see the great acting job done by young lead actor Sam Ashe Arnold as Ricky. Ricky learned some valuable lessons and brought his club closer together.  

Sam Ashe Arnold who plays Ricky decided drop by for the screening and I asked him a couple questions:

Q: Do plan on becoming an actor as a full time career?

A: Ya, I’ve already done around nine other films and short films. I really love acting, it’s what I want to do for life.

Q: What is your favourite part about acting?

A: I’ve always loved storytelling, so that’s my favourite part for sure.

Q: Do you have any upcoming films?

A: Ya, I have a film called High Rise Rescue which is going to be on Super Channel!

To conclude, this film was entertaining for many of the young kids in the audience and the parents that they brought along.

Parents, take your kids to the festival on Saturday October 1st at 2:15 at Eau Claire if you’d like to go see a movie that’s actually kid friendly! 

Hello Destroyer

hellodestroyer_04

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Destroyer

Director: Kevan Funk

Tyson Burr: Jared Abrahamson

3/5

Hello Destroyer was the first movie that I saw the Calgary International Film Festival.

Tyson Burr (Abrahamson) is a rookie member of the Prince George Warriors hockey team, but one day he gets into a terrible hockey fight that escalates quickly and ends in someone getting hospitalized. Tyson’s career ends abruptly when he is found responsible for the hockey players injuries and falls into a pit of despair and depression.

This movie caught the whole audience off guard and everyone was at the edge of their seat. We were all incredibly invested in Tyson and wanted to help him or at least give him a hug. I found it pretty hard not to yell at the screen and offer words of encouragement. This film definitely makes you feel uncomfortable that a lot of films don’t have the courage to make you feel and it’s all because of how invested you become with the characters.

I thought that it took too long for the plot to really get started. It was all about the fight that Tyson gets into, except that doesn’t happen until the middle of the film. There’s a lot of character development that is almost unnecessary for example; Tyson’s relationship with the mother of the family he’s living with? Do they need to have some love tension? She’s not a single mom.

At close to two hours, this film  goes on longer than it probably needed to, there’s quite a few unnecessary scenes or repetitive scenes, like when Tyson’s working in the slaughter house, you can show him  few times at the slaughterhouse, but how many times do you need to get your point across? Also, some scenes went on for too long, like some of the scenes where you see Tyson working out, we get it, he’s a hockey player and needs to keep in shape, do we need to see him jump rope for five minutes? Maybe not.

I don’t recommend this film for kids, it had tons of profanity and some nudity, I only looked at the synopsis of the film in the festival program and that didn’t mention any nudity or colourful language. I thought it would be about a young adult getting punishment for getting into a fight at hockey, but the kind of punishment one of my friends would get. Not getting banned from the league and getting kicked out their house.

This film was very quiet and inner-directed. I really liked the lack of dialogue. Since this was all about Tyson’s state of mind, there was a lot of close up shots no soundtrack and little dialogue. I enjoyed that. I really felt like I was feeling what Tyson was feeling and could understand what he was going through. It also got the point across that he was being alienated very well.

I brought my dad to this film because he used to play hockey and I thought he might like it. He said that this scene (below), when the coach was yelling at his players, brought back a lot of memories!

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At the end of the film there was a Q and A with director/screenwriter Kevan Funk and actor Jared Abrahamson (who plays Tyson Burr). Here are some of the questions and answers!

 

Q: Was the film completely scripted or did you guys work on the mood and lines together?

A: J: Kevan wrote a good script, it was solid from beginning to end, but we did blend in a little improv, ad libbing within it. But mostly you have to give Kevan props, he’s a great writer and a great director he put this thing together. For four years he’s been working on this bad boy. With our improv’s, it was nothing without the blueprint.

 

Q: How did you become your character?

 

A: J: For me it was a mix between playing the hockey player and playing the man, you know, I grew up in a town where everybody played hockey so for me it was about finding the balance between being the guy on the team and the guy not on the team, and that’s what Tyson is. [For the record, Jared Abrahamson grew up in Flin Flon, Manitoba, hometown of famed, hard-nosed Philadelphia Flyer Bobby Clarke]

 

When asked about the resemblance to Fort Mcmurray, this is what Kevan Funk and Jared Abrahamson said.

 

K: I have a deep appreciation for this part of the country which I think is super under represented in the media. In the last five years of my work I’ve been interested in the shorts and the features, in actually looking in Canadian identity because I have an issue with especially English Canadian film that is almost terrified to embrace our identity and I think that leads to a lot of the problems when we talk about our inability to really articulate Canadian identity. I think it’s because we don’t spend very much time actually exploring it. So it’s a core interest in terms of the work I make.

J: This film is for Fort Mcmurray, it’s for Flin Flon, it’s for Thomson, it’s for Prince George, for Fort St. John. This is for all of rural Canada. We represent the part of Canada that doesn’t get shown on film often. Usually you see Toronto, you see Vancouver, this is for everybody that comes from places that don’t get a lot of attention. We’re trying to capture that for all you guys.

 

Q: What inspired you to make a film based on this topic?

 

A: K: The initial inspiration was actually this Errol Morris documentary called Standard Operating Procedure that is about the prison guards who tortured prisoners and it’s a fascinating film that you start looking at these people like they’re these awful human beings for the things that they did and it holds them responsible morally for the actions that they took part in, but it also shows how much they are a victim of the systemic violence and that was what was super interesting to me. It is looking at these systemic issues of violence in our culture and looking at the cultivation of the bad guy, or the evil particularly around violence. I think that us looking at a sense of cultural culpability is really important and the only reason it really ended up being hockey is not to due with the violence in hockey per say, it was more that hockey just happens to be our largest cultural institution in this country. I mean if I made this film in the U.S. it would probably be about the military or football.

 

Q: What other films influenced you?

 

A: Formally; there’s this film by Todd Haynes which is probably my favourite film of all time called Safe which is astoundingly good and criminally under seen, I rip off Safe all the time in this movie in terms of sound design. I’m very interested in a movie like that that also has a pretty quiet introspective character and is using the formal qualities that exists in the medium to sort of shape it.

 

Q: You used a lot of close up and obstructed shots during the movie, what inspired that?

K: I mean I work with an incredibly talented cinematographer who I’ve worked with for a long time and he’s an incredible creative partner, it goes back to what I was talking about with sound design. When you have a character and I give Jared a ton of credit for such a difficult role to play, because you don’t have a lot language to use other than physical language and then as a filmmaker on top of that you then have to articulate a lot of ideas that you can’t do through dialogue so a big part of this sort claustrophobic shooting style with the way we approach looking at Jared is to kind of create this weight that there is this sort of physicality to the image that you feel is on top of him throughout a lot of the film.  If he’s not going to sit down and say “oh I’m so sad, I’m so depressed, everything’s wrong in my life” you need to be able to communicate that and that is the sort of balance that you find in making something like this where the real sort of personal tragedy of this character is his inability to communicate and he is really only able to express himself tough violence. That’s what he’s learned and so then you have a responsibility as a filmmaker to still make sure that you’re communicating the ideas even if your character is not doing anything in such a deliberate way. I think Jared’s performance tells you so much of that through a lot these smaller moments but that’s why you need to shoot it in a way that you can catch the nuance of a performance because otherwise I think a lot of that emotion and story telling is lost.

 

All in all, even if this film wasn’t made for my age group or personality, this film left me with a lot to think about, and a good film always does.