Monday, December 30, 2013

Coming of Age

Director: Penny Marshall
Cast: Tom Hanks, Robert Loggia, Elizabeth Perkins, Mercedes Ruehl, John Heard
Released: June 3, 1988

Oscar nominations:
Best Actor - Tom Hanks (lost to Dustin Hoffman for Rain Man)
Best Original Screenplay - Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg (lost to Ronald Bass and Gary Morrow for Rain Man)

13 Going on 30
Director: Gary Winick
Cast: Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis
Released: April 23, 2004
Viewed in theaters: April 30, 2004

Big is about a thirteen-year-old named Josh Baskin (David Moscow) who wishes he were older and wakes up as a thirty-year old (Tom Hanks). 13 Going on 30 is about a thirteen-year-old named Jenna Rink (Christa B. Allen) who wishes she were older and wakes up as a thirty-year-old (Jennifer Garner). Despite having the same premise and similar themes, these movies are quite different (which was a smart move for 13 so it wouldn't look like a total copy cat!) 

Young Charlotte Grayson
The set up for both movies kinda follows the same pattern. Both of them take place in the '80s (I'll get back to that) and neither Josh or Jenna are very popular, although they wished they were, especially Jenna who longs to be part of a group of popular girls called the Six Chicks, even though they only take advantage of her by making her do their homework, led by a girl named Tom-Tom (and after seeing this movie 3 or 4 times, I still have no idea why she was called that because we later learn her real name is Lucy). Fun trivia fact: one of the Six Chicks was played by Ashley Benson aka Hannah Marin from Pretty Little Liars. Jenna's best friend and next-door-neighbor, Matty, smartly points out to her that she can't be a Six Chick because they already have their allotted number of girls in their clique. Another fun fact: young Jenna is played by Christa B. Allen who plays Charlotte on Revenge, a show I stopped watching in the middle of its second season because it just got so ridiculous and I just didn't care anymore. I recognized her name in the credits and kept looking for her, thinking she was one of the Six Chicks; it never occurred to me that she was playing the younger version of the main character! Obviously I didn't recognize her at all! I probably didn't because she was eight years younger and had this horrible '80s hair style and has a completely different wardrobe from Charlotte's. For her 13th birthday, Jenna invites Matty and all the popular kids from her school only to find herself being ditched by them and she blames Matty for this.

In Big, Josh has a crush on an older girl (I'm assuming she was older...she was at least a foot taller than he was!) and his best friend and next-door-neighbor (hmm, sound familiar?), Billy, confirms with him that she broke up with her boyfriend and is therefore available. While at a carnival with his parents, Josh sees his crush with a guy (obviously on a date) and tries to impress her by saying he's ridden the roller coaster they're in line for many times, only to find out that he is too short to go on it. Ouch. 

Now we're to the part where Josh and Jenna make their wishes. I think it was more effective in Big, but was more accurate in 13. Let me explain: In Big, while at the carnival, Josh sees a fortune teller machine, similar to an arcade machine, and it has the creepiest head in it. The fortune teller's name is Zoltar and when you put a quarter in it, it tells you to make a wish, then spits out a card saying, "Your wish has been granted." With the grotesque puppet head and ominous mood made already by a thunderstorm, the scene is made even more creepy when Josh looks down and sees that the machine has been unplugged all along! When Josh makes his wish, he says, "I wish I were big." Now, if I were Zoltar, I would assume he meant that he wished he had more physical mass, not older, but I guess the movie wouldn't sound as good if it were called "Older", but that's just a little nit-pick. In 13, Matty has made Jenna her own "dream house" (he totally loves her) and has included a packet of fairy wishing dust which seemed very contrived, but at least when she made her wish, she was very precise, saying, "I wish I were 30, flirty, and thriving." 

We next have our scene where the characters wake up the next day and discover what has happened to them. This scene is done much better in Big. In 13, it felt like they were trying not to totally copy Big for this scene, but they still kinda do. It's funnier in Big as he's trying to put on his own clothes only to find he can't fit in them and when his mom (Mercedes Ruehl) asks him a question from downstairs he replies with a deeper voice. They try to make it funny in 13, but it goes on a little too long as she sees a guy only wearing a towel coming out of her bathroom and freaks out when she hears a cell phone. 

The biggest difference in these movies is the time setting. For Josh, it's still the same year as it was when he was a kid, 1988, and everyone around him is still the same age. He has literally skipped from being 13 to 30. For Jenna, it is 2004 and everyone else has grown up around her and she already has an established job at Poise magazine and has an apartment in New York. She already has lived her life (and discovers that she was popular in high school and became friends with the Six Chicks and now works with Lucy (the girl called Tom-Tom (Judy Greer)). She just doesn't remember any of it and soon finds out she's not a very nice person, having done terrible things, including pushing Matty out of her life because she got too cool for him. This scenario is a little less freaky in 13 as nobody is surprised that Jenna is older, but they do wonder why she's acting all weird. Plus, she already has a job and apartment she doesn't have to worry about. It's a little more scary for Josh in Big. When he tries to tell his mom what happened, she gets freaked out that a strange man is in her home and is talking about her son and thinks Josh has been kidnapped. The only person who knows the truth about Josh's identity is Billy who is skeptical only until Josh starts singing a song they always sing together. He helps Josh by acquiring his dad's clothes for him, breaking into his family's emergency cash stack for Josh to stay at a crappy hotel in New York. Josh doesn't have the luxury of having a doorman or a walk-in closet full of designer dresses, shoes, and purses like Jenna has. Instead he has screaming neighbors, gunshots outside his window, and a crappy room. Big definitely explores a darker side. There's a bit of a dark side in 13 when Jenna realizes she was a major bitch in her blocked-out years and someone who turned on her friends and family and sold out her own place of employment by helping out the competition, Sparkle magazine. That said, Jenna never has to fear for her life or safety like Josh, plus her parents aren't out there worrying about their daughter and what's happened to her. I never understood why the Baskins just didn't call the police and say that their son was missing. Unless they did and I just totally missed that. Josh tries to ease their minds by calling them and saying their son was okay and writing them letters saying he was being treated well and it was just like summer camp. Even though they put a missing child photo of him on the side of a milk carton (oh, how '80s!), it still didn't feel like they were doing enough to find him. And he was gone for at least a month...that's a long time for your kid to go missing! In this regard, I think 13 had more free reign to not have to worry about stuff like that and maybe their method made more sense, but it was much more interesting in Big. It's one thing to want to be a certain age, but skip ahead (or back) to the year when you will be (or were) that age, but it's another to be a totally different age in the present year. Or at least, I can only imagine! 

I mentioned earlier that I would discuss the setting of the '80s. Obviously Big is set there throughout the whole movie as well as was filmed in the '80s, however, 13 Going on 30 seems to have a lot more fun with the decade...even when it is set in 2004. They go through all the great '80s songs: "Thriller", "Jessie's Girl", "Burning Down the House", Madonna's "Crazy For You", "Love is a Battlefield", "Everybody Have Fun Tonight", and "I Wanna Dance With Somebody." That annoying Liz Phair song, that played everywhere in '04 was the only current song they had. There's not that many big '80s hits in Big and one of the songs sounded a lot like the song Will Smith wrote for Men in Black...and then I learned that he sampled from a song called "Forget Me Nots" and that's the song that plays when Tom Hanks and Elizabeth Perkins are jumping on the trampoline. Seeing that as I recognized it as the Will Smith song and not the '80s song should probably provide a clue that it wasn't a huge '80s hit...not in the way the songs in 13 are. That movie also has fun with the fashion: they dress young Jenna and the Six Chicks in some of the most ridiculous, but most amazing '80s fashions. Josh's crush wears a very '80s outfit and is decked out in denim, crimped hair, and big plastic earrings. And they weren't even trying to be cute and clever like they were in 13; it's so awesome. Seeing as Big was filmed in the '80s, it was just the current decade for them and they didn't have the fun with it as they did with 13 Going on 30. They had yet to realize what an awesome decade for fashion and music they were dealing with!

Josh gets a job at a toy company and when the president (Robert Loggia) sees how knowledgeable he his about toys, he is quickly promoted to Vice President, much to the chagrin of the other employees. His salary raises significantly and he is able to afford his own loft complete with a bunch of toys. Both movies have a musical number they're both known for: the playing of "Heart and Soul" on a floor piano in FAO Schwarz in Big and the "Thriller" dance scene in 13 when Jenna is trying to revive a dying party to impress her boss (Andy Serkis) which turns into a flash mob. Both scenes are the highlights of their movies.

Movies like these would not be complete with a romance. In Big, fellow co-worker, Susan (Elizabeth Perkins), takes a liking to Josh even though she finds him a bit odd when he shows up to a party wearing a ridiculous white suit and eats the baby corn like regular corn. Even when he takes her back to his apartment filled with toys, she is only a little taken aback, but still, ironically, finds him more of an adult than her ex (John Heard). In her new world, Jenna already has a boyfriend, a good-looking hockey player who's also really dumb. She meets back up with Matty (Mark Ruffalo) who tells her they haven't spoken since high school and she finds out about her past from him. They rekindle their friendship and Jenna is crushed to learn that he is getting engaged to another woman and is moving to Chicago.

A big difference between these two movies (there are more than one!) is how they deal with sex. Jenna never has sex when she is in her adult body, but Josh does (and is quite chipper the next day). This is a little bit disturbing because while Jenna still thinks of herself as a 13-year-old, she has already lived her entire life up to 30 (even though she doesn't remember it) and has already had experience with guys and sex seeing as she has a boyfriend and found out she had an affair with a married man (even though she doesn't remember any of it). Josh is just a 13-year-old in an adult body and has had no experience so it's a little creepy to think Susan had sex with a 13-year-old, even though he looked like an adult.

Both movies remind us that these adults are really still kids. Josh still hangs with Billy and they get pizza, ice cream sundaes, spray each other with Silly String, and snicker when people think Billy is Josh's son. And let's not forget all the toys he gets to play with! There's a hilarious scene in 13 Going on 30 when Lucy tells Jenna that a hot guy in a restaurant is checking her out and she decides to talk to him. She goes past the attractive guy Lucy was talking about only to stop in front of a 13 year old boy and starts talking to him and asks for his number. She also makes friends with a 13-year-old girl who lives in her apartment and invites her and her friends over for a sleepover and proclaims the reason she looks good in her new dress is because of her "amazing boobs!"

In Big, at the beginning of his transformation, Josh wants nothing more than to go back to his old self, but finds out that it will take a month before he gets back any information on where the carnival with the fortune teller is. (It left town the next day). But he likes his life as an adult and isn't sure he wants to go back to a kid until Billy puts some perspective into him. In 30, Jenna is resigned that this is where she now is in her life and will have to deal with the repercussions of being who she was and losing Matty. Of course both movies both end up with them going back to their 13-year-old selves.

I highly recommend both movies; Big is more of a classic, but I think 13 Going on 30 is very cute and Jennifer Garner is very charming as Jenna. It's a very un-Sydney Bristow-like role, but some of the outfits reminded of clothes Sydney would wear for her undercover jobs! Especially when she had her hair up in pigtails with these long chopsticks...those would make great weapons for Syd!  Oh, and if you love the '80s, you should definitely check out both movies! 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Classic

Miracle on 34th Street
Director: George Seaton
Cast: Maureen O'Hara, Natalie Wood, Edmund Gwenn, John Payne
Released: May 2, 1947

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to Gentleman's Agreement)
Best Supporting Actor - Edmund Gween (won)
Best Original Story - Valentine Davies (won)
Best Screenplay - George Seaton (won - okay, isn't that the same as "original story"?)

For my traditional Christmas movie review, I was going to do a double review of this movie and the 1994 remake, but I could not get my hands on the '94 one. (You'd think this one would be the harder one to find!) The only time I saw it at my local video store was when I rented this one, but I didn't want to get that one too because I would look stupid renting two of the same movie. (They're not the same, but you know what I mean!) And even though it was my #1 on my Netflix queue, they kept sending me the discs for season 4 of Modern Family which were listed after that one. So no double feature this year. It would have been interesting to compare the two movies. Maybe I will do the '94 remake next year as a holiday bonus movie. If I can find it, that is!

This is the first time I've seen the original. I had seen the remake when it came out and then again on home video, but it's been awhile since I've seen that, though I certainly remembered elements from that one while watching this one. I'm pretty sure the remake is an exact replica of the original although I'm sure they changed a few things. I just can't tell you what those might be! Apparently there's also been two made-for-TV remakes that came out in 1959 and 1973 which I didn't even know had existed! It's been almost twenty years since the theatrical remake...I think it's about time for another rendition of this Christmas classic!

When I first saw the '94 version, my first introduction to this movie, I was old enough to know (spoiler alert!) Santa isn't real. (Please, I had figured that out when I saw a price tag from Toys R Us on one of my toys!) But I could totally suspend my imagination and believe that Santa could be real in movies like he is in Elf, Ernest Saves Christmas, and many others. So when I watched Miracle on 34th Street ('94), I just believed that he was the real Santa and didn't even think about it. But watching Miracle on 34th Street ('47), I wasn't so sure. Is he really Santa or is he just a kind-hearted man, but a bit loony and really believes he is a fictional character? I can't remember if they gave him any sort of magical powers in the '94 version that would make it no doubt he really was Santa or if it's just because I'm a little older and a little wiser and psycho-analyze things too much. This is why it would have been nice to re-watch the remake! In Elf, Santa lives in the North Pole with his toy-making elves (and Buddy!) and flies a sleigh pulled by his eight reindeer. Neither Santa does that in the Miracle movies, but there are other signs that he could be Santa Claus, although everything can be explained. You certainly can't explain how you can ride in a sleigh by flying reindeer!

The film starts out in New York at the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade where Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn), as he calls himself, fills in for the drunk man who was supposed to play Santa. He seems to know what he's doing with the reins, but he could just be an excellent horseback rider. Before that, he tells a shop owner that his miniature reindeer are in the wrong spot. (How can you even tell Prancer from Cupid, Comet, etc.?) He could have just been pulling that out of his butt and telling the show owner some gibberish to make it sound like he knew what he was talking about. When he gets a job as a department store Santa at Macy's, instead of trying to sell the extra stock they have at the store like he was told, he tells the parents where they can find a toy if Macy's doesn't carry it. He could have just done his homework. Although this was before the Internet existed, so it probably took more time, but he could have visited every store and took inventory of their stock. By the way, I didn't know Gimbles was a real store. My first instruction to it was in Elf and I just thought it was a made up department store for that movie. Too bad Buddy the Elf wasn't around back then to decorate their department store for them.

When Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara), who hired Kringle at Macy's, asks to see his contact information, she is given a card with an address from the North Pole. It could be that he is homeless and just wrote the first thing he thought of! And since he really does believe he is Santa Claus (perhaps it's the beard?), he is taken to court to question his sanity. There is that scene where his lawyer (and Mrs. Walker's love interest), Fred Gailey (John Payne), shows evidence that he is the real Santa because all these bags of letters addressed to "Santa" have been delivered to the courthouse. Since all those letters were delivered to this man who says he is Santa at this address where he's being held, that must mean he really is Santa! Well, not exactly. There's a scene at the post office where they are trying to get rid of all the letters addressed to Santa they've accumulated throughout the years (what do they do with those anyway?), so they decide to send them to the courthouse because they've read about Kris Kringle in the paper and they just want to get rid of all those letters! I don't think that scene really proved he is Santa. And then you have the last scene (which I remember in the remake too) where it's Christmas day and Doris's daughter, Susan (Natalie Wood) is upset because she didn't get what she asked Santa for....which was a house, duh, of course it's not going to fit under your tree! She goes for a drive with her mom and Fred and makes them stop the car when she sees the house she showed a picture of to Kris with a "for sale" sign the yard. She yelps and jumps around the house, happy and pleased that Santa remembered her gift. I rolled my eyes when Fred says, "Well, now we have to buy it for her." Nice gift, "Santa", you're making the adults pay for it!

I'm not trying to be a total Scrooge, but I'm just pointing out that this so-called Santa could just be a demented, albeit kind, old man who does think he is really Santa. They never give you any concrete evidence that he is a character who travels around the world in one night to deliver toys to all the children. I think they want you to believe he is Santa, but leave it up to interpretation. Or maybe I'm just a total downer!

Let's talk about Susan. Let's just forget the fact that it was totally ridiculous that her mom and Mr. Gailey decide just to buy a new house because she asked Santa for one. That whole thing aside, I'm sorry, but this little girl has a stick up her butt. She is just so...unfun and acts more like an adult than a kid. I can't remember if Mara Wilson's Susan was like this too. Susan is probably no more than eight and doesn't believe in Santa. (I blame that on her mom who also seems to be really uptight). There's a scene where she's telling Kris that her schoolmates were pretending to be animals and they wanted her to be a bear and she indignantly tells him, "I'm not a bear! I'm a girl!" Oh my God, it's called having an imagination! Kids like that are the worst! She does learn to be more like a kid, so she gets a little better but she totally looses me again at the end with her ridiculous present from "Santa".

This movie came out in May, which today is unheard of for a Christmas movie not to come out in November or December. (The '94 one came out in November). The reason it came out nearly six months before Christmas was because more people back then went to movies during the summer rather than the winter and they wanted to be sure they made money. They didn't market the movie as a Christmas movie and instead of showing scenes from the movie when they were promoting it, they did an advertisement where they said this movie was "romantic", "thrilling", "funny", and any other adjective you could think of to make people see it. It seemed to work because it became a big hit for its time and was nominated for a few Oscars (and won most of them).  It's a nice movie, but to me, it really doesn't feel like a Christmas movie. It just seems to be lacking that extra spark.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Collage

Here is a Christmas video I made and I hope you check it out and enjoy it. I mostly used stock photos of Christmas images, but to tie it in to movies, there are some stills from Christmas movies and I did use music that is used in Christmas movies as well. 

In keeping with my holiday tradition, I will do a Christmas movie review this year. I have plans for a double feature, but I am having problems with getting my hands on one of the movies. It's always gone at my local video store and even though I have it as #1 on my Netflix queue, they keep sending me my second choice even though it doesn't say it's a long wait. So if I can't get this movie, I will just have to do another one. It's not like my choices are limited for Christmas movies!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

White House Has Fallen

 White House Down
Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Richard Jenkins, Jason Clarke, Joey King, James Wood
Released: June 28, 2013

Olympus Has Fallen
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Gerald Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett,  Melissa Leo, Rick Yune, Dylan McDermott, Finley Jacobsen
Released: March 22, 2013

Remember in 1998 when both Armageddon and Deep Impact, both about asteroids destroying the earth, were released within months of each other? And wasn't there two movies about volcanoes erupting within the same year too? White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen are both about the White House being taken over by terrorists and one man (Channing Tatum for WHD and Gerald Butler for OHF) must stop them. Both movies came out earlier this year only separated by a few months. There are only two main differences that I can find in both movies. One is that OHF takes itself much more seriously than WHD. It has a very somber mood while WHD goes for the more blockbuster summer popcorn thrill ride. It even makes a meta joke when a guide is giving a tour of the White House and tells the group where they are standing is where the aliens blew up the White House in Independence Day. Apparently that line was not in the script, so good for Roland Emmerich for having a sense of humor to keep it in. (Just in case my mom is reading this, he directed Independence Day!) Also, the marketing! I saw trailers, commercials, and posters for WHD everywhere while I had no idea that OHF even existed until I saw it on DVD and heard somebody talk about it on a podcast when they were reviewing these two movies. I thought it was one of the straight to DVD releases!

Why don't we compare how similar they are? In the first time in Cinematic Sara history, I created this nifty table from my iMac's Pages:

White House Down

Olympus Has Fallen
POTUS: James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) Even though Foxx isn’t as young as I thought he was, I could never believe him as the President of the United States. He was just never authoritative to me in a way, say, someone like Denzel Washington would be able to pull off. The First Lady is in Paris when the chaos happens.

POTUS: Ben Asher (Aaron Eckhart) Asher is a widower with a young son. His wife died in a car accident a year prior when their car slid into an icy bridge and she plummeted to her death. There was only time to save Asher. 
The hero: John Cale (Channing Tatum) First of all, I could watch Channing Tatum in anything. He is very nice to look at! Cale is a bodyguard assigned to the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He gets involved with helping Sawyer when he is in the White House on a tour with his daughter when the mayhem begins. 

The hero: Mike Banning (Gerald Bulter) Banning used to be head of the security team for the POTUS, but he was pulled from the team because he was the one who saved the POTUS and couldn’t save the FLOTUS so it brings back bad memories for the President. When Banning sees something is wrong at the White House, he goes into Jack Bauer mode. 

The (main) bad guy: Emil (Jason Clark, the guy from Zero Dark Thirty). With the help from the inside, he leads his men inside and they start taking hostages. The bad guys sneak into the WH acting like janitors. 

The (main) bad guy: North Korean terrorist, Kang (Rick Yune) who is posing as the South Korean’s Prime Minister’s assistant. That way he is invited into the White House when Asher has a meeting with the PM. After the WH is surrounded by Kang’s men and the security guys have all been taken out, Kang takes the POTUS and others (including the Secretary of Defense (Melissa Leo)). Kang wants Asher to pull troops from his country where there’s a civil war going on and he wants the codes for the missiles he plans to launch and the only people who know them are the POUTS and two other officials in the room.
Inside Man: Martin Walker, retired head of the Presidential Detail (James Wood) He is the one who is behind the overthrow of the White House because his son was killed in war and he wants revenge. He also wants codes that will launch a missile.  

Inside Man: ex-Secret Service agent-turned-traitor Dave Forbes (Dylan McDermott). I don’t remember why he was working with the North Koreans, but Banning doesn’t know his old pal is one of the bad guys until Forbes says Kang’sname and Banning asks him how he knew his name. He tells Forbes to be on the good side for once and radio Kang to tell him he has Banning captured and after he does that, Banning kills him. Dude, pick a side and stay with it! 
The veteran: Speaker of the House, Eli Ralpheson (Richard Jenkins). He is the one Cale works for and he is also behind the whole plot as well. He is promised if he goes along with it, he will be the next POTUS because they launch a missile at Air Force One which has the VP in it. (What’s this an epihour of 24?) But what he and Walker failed to realize is that they didn’t succeed at killing the President and their plans are thwarted.  

The veteran: Speaker of the House, Allan Trumball (Morgan Freeman). See, even the veteran actors are playing the same roles! Unlike Ralpheson, Trumball is a good guy and has to take over as POTUS for five minutes when it is feared that Asher is dead. 
The kid: Emily (Joey King) Cale’s daughter who has an unusual fascination with politics for a girl her age. Her flag waving skills helps save her dad and POTUS at the end of the day (don’t ask). She has a YouTube channel and takes videos of the terrorists as she’s hiding. She is captured and brought into a room with the other hostages, but not before she uploads the videos to her channel and they go viral and soon it’s all over the news. The journalists say her name and post her picture. Now I  shouldn’t compare this ridiculous event to a real, horrifying one, but I remember when Columbine happened live (as this was happening live too), students would call news channels from inside the school to tell them what’s going on, but the journalists would be very careful to say DO NOT TELL ME WHERE YOU ARE so they wouldn’t be found and shot in case there were any TVs on. Why are these journalists saying her name and posting picture of her when her hostages could be watching it on TV? That was just stupid and that would never happen. 

The kid: Connor (Finley Jacobsen) He has nothing to do except be saved. After he is safe, Banning continues on with getting the POTUS and defeating Kang. This category is the only one where there’s a major difference between the two movies. It’s the only one where the characters are played by opposite genders. And while Connor is barely in the movie, Emily plays a very big role in hers.
The (main) female: Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhall). She works as an assistant for the POTUS and is not in the White House when it’s taken over. She’s working on the outside to help Cale and Sawyer escape.

The (main) female: Director of the Secret Service, Lynne Jacobs (Angela Basset). She fully and completely trusts Banning with her life and with the life of the President. She knows if anybody is going to save Asher, it’s going to be Banning! She’s also on the outside helping Banning.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Music is All Around

August Rush
Director: Kirsten Sheridan
Cast: Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Robin Williams, Terrance Howard
Released: November 21, 2007
Viewed in theaters: November 24, 2007

Oscar nominations:
Best Song - "Raise It Up" by Jamal Joseph and Charles Mack (lost to "Falling Slowly" from Once)

This movie is one big live-action fairy tale because the premise is absolutely ridiculous and non-believable at all. It starts with Julliard-trained cellist Lyla Novacek (played by Keri Russell - remember that time she cut her hair and everybody was in uproar about it? Well, I don't blame them. You don't cut hair like hers that short! Luckily it grew back!) and rock band singer and guitarist Louis Connelly (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers). After Lyla plays at Lincoln Center and Louis plays at a club, they somehow end up at the same party and meet each other on the roof where, being the only ones up there, they have time to talk and fall in love and have a one night stand. Slight spoiler alert: they won't see each other for eleven more years, but yet they believe they are destined to be "soul mates". I know they are going for a romantic notion, but the whole idea that two people could fall in love only knowing each other for one night and still feel that way eleven years later is so ridiculous. Though they are both very attractive, I will give them that.

Lyla becomes pregnant but her dad disapproves of this (and the guy, I suppose, though he never met him) and near the end of her pregnancy she is hit by a car where she is told by her father that she lost the baby, but he forged her signature on adoption papers so he doesn't have to worry about the baby interfering with her music career. Now I don't know how the adoption process works, but wouldn't the hospital administration be suspicion to see Lyla's signature on an important document that has to do with her own child on a date when she was in a coma? And you have to know they have THAT in the records. Unless the paper was forged at an earlier date and her father told them this is what they wanted? I don't know. This all happens really fast so I didn't really have time to think about this until now. When Lyla wakes up (and I don't think she was even in a coma; she was just out while they operated on her), her dad tells her she lost the baby and she starts crying.

Eleven years pass. Lyla has moved to Chicago where she teaches  music to young children, but hasn't picked up an instrument in years. Sidenote: her redheaded friend, Lizzy, is played by Bonnie McKee, the singer of "American Girl" and writer of all those pop songs she wrote for Katy Perry and others. Louis is now living in San Francisco and has a girlfriend, but Lyla is still in his heart and when his girlfriend finds out he still has feelings for another girl, she leaves him. Their son (who neither knows exists), Evan, has grown up in an all boys' orphanage outside of New York City. Evan is played by the adorable Freddie Highmore who I was shocked to find out is now 21! Holy crap, when did he get so old! It won't be long before he will need a walker and dentures! Freddie in his prime time kid actor status is what I would call a PLEM. This is an acronym I made up myself and one I'm quite proud of. PLEM stands for Precious Little English Muffin. To be a PLEM, there's only three requirements: you must be British (DUH...otherwise it would defeat the whole purpose), you must be younger than 16 (at the ancient age of 21, Freddie is no longer eligible to be a PLEM), and most importantly, you must be adorably cute like he is in this movie. (And all his others).

Being born to musically-gifted parents, Evan is a musical prodigy...which doesn't make any sense. Children can obtain their parents' physical and personality traits, but I've never heard of children acquiring their parents' talents. But let's remind ourselves once more that this is just a modern-day fairy tale. Evan is convinced that his parents will be able to find him if they can just "follow the music" he is playing for them (even though he has no idea who his parents are, let alone that they are both in the music industry). He talks to a social worker (Terrance Howard) about finding his parents and decides to go into the city himself to see if he can find them. There he meets a boy about his age, Arthur, who lives with a bunch of other misfit children in a big abandoned broken-down theater and they all perform around the city and give their earnings to their father figure, a man they call Wizard (Robin Williams). Wizard recruits Evan to join them when he sees how much talent he has, but decides Evan needs a better name and comes up with "August Rush" when he sees a van with "August Rush to the Beach" printed on it. I will admit, August Rush has a nice ring to it and it's a lot better than Rachel Marron. I know, you are asking, who the hell was that? That was Whitney Houston's character's name in The Bodyguard...the woman who was a huge pop star AND Oscar-winning actress. It still kills me how they gave her the most vanilla name ever.

Meanwhile, Lyla's father is dying and on his deathbed he reveals that her son is still alive and she is determined to find him and with the help of the social worker discovers a photo of a boy who has the same birth date as her son. Around this time, the theater August had been residing in has been raided by the police and he runs away to an inner-city church where he walks in to see a gospel choir singing. Most of the singers are in their 20s and 30s, but their is one girl that stands out because she is no more than ten and it's funny to hear her little voice (though she is a strong singer for somebody her age and size) among all these mature adult voices. She reminds me or Rudy from The Cosby Show when they sang that Ray Charles song and she just belts her part out. The girl's name is Hope and she and August become friends and when Hope's father, the pastor of the church, discovers Augusts' musical capability, he is enrolled into Julliard. Just like that. I'm pretty sure you have to audition to get into Julliard and it probably still takes awhile to get in, but whatever. Remember: we are watching a highly improbable fairy tale. Eleven-year-old August is taking classes with college-age students and they all want him to help them with their compositions. He's like the Doogie Howser of Julliard!

Mini Mozart
August is given the unprecedented pleasure of being the first first-year student to conduct his own piece (called "August's Rhapsody") at a concert in Central Park where - what a coincidence - his mother will be a cellist. (I don't remember when she returned to her musical roots, but apparently she did).

Okay. So I totally CRIED during this scene even though it is so ridiculous and the ending does not pay off, like, AT ALL. August is conducting his piece (and it's a song I really love: I downloaded it from iTunes after I saw the movie and if an 11-year-old really did write it, I would be very impressed!) Lyla, who is done with her set, is walking out of the crowd, but something about the music catches her attention and makes her turn around. Then you have Louis, who is also in NYC on a mission to find Lyla but is headed to the airport when his attempts fail. On the way to the airport, they drive past Central Park and he sees a sign about the concert that has Lyla's name and shouts at them to stop the car and frantically shouts, "Let me out! Let me out!" Even though I was crying, this made me laugh. Lyla and Louis "follow the music" until they reach each other and smile and hold hands. It seems natural for them to do those things even though they haven't seen each other in eleven years. They look up and see August grinning at them and smile back. Movie ends. Uh.........what, really movie? No big tearful family reunion? No nice family hug? It was very much a big letdown that they don't pay off their reunion in a big way. We did get a nice moment between August and his dad when just by happenstance Louis runs into August performing on the street and they trade guitar tips , but we never saw Felicity interact with him. I know this is because she knows what her son looks like, so thematically that couldn't have worked, but we could at least gotten a hug at the end!

Here is "August's Rhapsody" that is played at the end of the movie. They took out all the audio so you can't hear Jonathan Rhys Meyer's hilarious utterance of "Let me out, let me out!" But the music is very effective as is what is being shown, so can you blame me for crying? I didn't think so!

One thing I really liked about this movie was that is embraces music WITHOUT being a musical.