Category Archives: Movie Review

The M0vie Blog’s Review of “The X-Files: I Want to Believe”

The M0vie Blog has probably a lot on their plate and just like other bloggers **coughsmecoughs*, hasn’t yet had the time to review the new season of The X-Files.  But thankfully there is still a review for, oh, every single other episode of the show AND both movies, so I think I’ll be OK for some time yet.

You see the thing is that the reviews featured on this site are so extensive and thorough that I would 1) much rather wait for a great six reviews of the new episodes, and 2) be more than happy to delve back into the other reviews.  And realising that may of the feelings, emotions, and reactions to Season 10 paralleled those inspired by the second feature film based on the show, it made sense to feature the following review today.

The M0vie Blog’s Review of The X-Files: I Want to Believe

The plan was always to transition The X-Files from television to film, but fans change.

Following the success of The X-Files: Fight the Future, there had been some mumblings about the possibility of releasing a film in the summer of 2000. Given that The X-Files was a cultural property rooted in the nineties, it seemed like a big screen adventure would have been the perfect way to bring Mulder and Scully into the twenty-first century. After all, the original plan was that the show would retire in its seventh season. (The network even had a bespoke successor selected in Chris Carter’s Harsh Realm.)

Gotta have faith...

Gotta have faith…

However, this was not to be. It turned out that Fight the Future represented the cultural peak of The X-Files, the moment of maximum pop culture saturation. Almost immediately upon the production team’s move to California at the start of the sixth season, the show’s rating began their slow (and then not so slow) decline. The seventh season was itself hampered by behind-the-scenes drama, with David Duchovny suing Chris Carter and Fox over syndication. At the same time, Fox’s “worst season ever” meant that the broadcast could not afford to cancel The X-Files.

So, understandably, the sequel to Fight the Future was postponed and put on the long-finger. As the show came to an end in its ninth season, the subject of a second X-Files feature film arose again. Still, there was a debate to be had about whether the world really wanted a second X-Files film. While the sixth and seventh seasons had slowly eroded the show’s popularity and appeal, the ninth completely collapsed it; through the combination of bad storytelling decisions and the broader shift in the political mood, The X-Files felt like a spent cultural force.

"Platonic", eh?

“Platonic”, eh?

Ultimately, that was not to be either. The production history of The X-Files: I Want to Believe often recalls the mythology at the heart of The X-Files, with the project constantly shifting and changing as outside forces intervene. I Want to Believe arrived in cinemas in July 2008, a full decade after Fight the Future and more than six years after the broadcast of The Truth. The finished product is radically different from what anybody might have imagined in the immediate aftermath of Fight the Future, its design often surreal and awkward.

If I Want to Believe would have been a strange choice for an X-Files film release in July 2000, it seemed downright perverse in July 2008.

The truth is out there. Way out there.

The truth is out there. Way out there.

There are a lot of reasons why I Want to Believe arrived so late. Initially, Carter was simply enjoying a break. Factoring in the development of The X-Files before the first season was even broadcast, Carter had devoted a year of his his life to the project. As such, the cancellation represented a certain amount of freedom for the writer. Asked about the possible development of a second X-Files film in 2004, actor Dean Haglund remarked that Carter was “off surfing and climbing the mountains of the world.”

In fact, Carter openly acknowledges that he greatly enjoyed the free time afforded by the end of a hit network television series. Explaining what he did with all of that time off, Carter confessed, “I took three years of drum lessons.  I have a kit set up right now. I love jazz and funk, because it’s hard. If it’s not hard, it’s not worth doing.” Carter had certainly earned some time off; overseeing more than two hundred episodes of a weekly television series is exhausting. (And this discounts the work Carter did on other projects overlapping.)

A close shave...

A close shave…

At the same time, the show’s creative team had split up to work on a variety of different projects. The influence of The X-Files would be keenly felt on an entire generation of television, as the landscape was shaped and moulded by writers and directors who had honed their skill on the popular nineties supernatural drama. In particular, Carter’s regular mythology collaborator Frank Spotnitz had moved to work on shows like Robbery Homicide Division and Night Stalker.

As a result, it took a little time to get all the pieces moving. It was late 2004 before the plans were made public, with Fox acknowledging their interest in taking Mulder and Scully to the big screen again. Already, it appeared to be something of a logistical nightmare. “So now it’s just a matter of making sure everybody can get together at the same time and do it,” reflected David Duchovny of the planned sequel in 2004. However, other obstacles to the movie’s development would soon emerge.

Snow escape...

Snow escape…

Shortly after committing to the sequel, Carter became embroiled in a legal battle with Fox concerning the financial management of The X-Files. Ever diplomatic, Carter was keen to stress that the engagement was never hostile on either side, although it did affect the scheduling of the film:

Fox approached us in 2003 and said, ‘Let’s go.’ We were ready to go, but then there followed what I would call a contractual thing over the series’ profit, and what started out as a negotiation had to turn into a lawsuit – it’s complicated – in order for me to protect my right to negotiate. It took years to settle, and at that point I didn’t think there could ever be a second movie. Then, after everything was resolved, Fox called and said, ‘Remember that movie you had in mind? You’d better get ready to do it now or never, because there’s a Writers Guild strike looming.’ So it was years of stasis, and then a mad rush.

Somewhat ironically, Carter would be represented in this legal matter by Stanton L. Stein, who had represented Duchovny during his seventh season lawsuit against Carter. I Want to Believe already had a storied history before it even entered production.

Joe knows...

Joe knows…

The production of I Want to Believe was not entirely smooth. Although it seemed like the film had slowly lurched into production, the movie suddenly found itself in a mad dash towards the finish line. Although Carter and Spotnitz were allowed to develop the film, Fox imposed a number of serious constraints upon the team:

Five years out of sight is a long time even for a popular franchise, and when Fox gave the go-ahead to Mr. Carter and his co-writer and co-producer, Frank Spotnitz, the green light came with a low budget of $30 million, a strong expression of preference for a user-friendly PG-13 rating and a now-or-never timetable predicated on finishing the script before the writers’ strike last winter.

In many ways, I Want to Believe was fighting an up-hill battle even before those constraints were imposed upon it: a minuscule budget smaller than that of Fight the Future; a tight deadline on scripting, with no capacity for rewriting or reworking when that deadline elapsed; a preference for a rating that would undercut the movie’s ability to do horror.

For Peet's sake...

For Peet’s sake…

Carter has acknowledged these factors as limitations upon the finished product. In many respects, I Want to Believe was tailored to the restrictions imposed upon the production team:

It’s funny, but on the series, we prided ourselves each week with making a little movie. Then, when it came time to do the second X-Files movie, we were given the money and the opportunity to make, literally, a little movie. That’s what we did. We realized we had no money for big special effects. We had to come up with a story that didn’t rely on those special effects, and hence wasn’t a summer blockbuster kind of movie.

There are certainly some respects in which these restrictions are obvious. Fight the Future opened with the demolition of a government building and built to a massive alien ship buried in the Arctic. The biggest set piece in I Want to Believe is a footchase through Vancouver.

Growing the beard...

Growing the beard…

At the same time, even allowing for the limitations imposed upon the film, some of the choices made by the production team were curious. The most obvious of these decisions was to structure I Want to Believe as a “monster of the week” story rather than a mythology adventure. Whereas Fight the Future was tied into the show’s tangled web of government conspiracies and alien visitation, I Want to Believe is a smaller story about psychic visions and body-swapping experiments.

To be fair, it had always been the plan for the second X-Files film to stand on its own. Chris Carter explained, “When we finished the first movie, we said the next movie we do will be a story that stands alone, what some people call a ‘monster of the week’ story. We wanted to do a story that didn’t require you to have any knowledge of that ongoing story arc.” It makes a certain amount of sense, particularly in the context of the show’s final years.It was easy to understand why Carter and Spotnitz thought that fans might want a “monster of the week.”

Surgical precision...

Surgical precision…

The mythology had been a huge draw in the show’s early years. Episodes like Colony and End Game had seen the show push the limits of what was possible on television, while the twist and turns kept audiences hooked as Mulder and Scully gradually unearthed a massive conspiracy against the American people. However, time took a lot of the luster off the mythology, as it became increasingly clear that the mythology was not going to offer viewers the answers that they wanted in the way that they wanted.

The final season had seen the mythology become an albatross around the show’s neck as it became bogged down in prophecy and “super soldiers.” Indeed, the show’s fixation upon its own mythology – and the desperate need to prove that the mythology all made sense – turning the two-hour season finalé into a slog. The Truth was less of an ending and more of a clip show. In many ways, it felt like the show was making a desperate attempt to salvage its legacy by arguing that the mythology did make sense.

A cold reception...

A cold reception…

(In a way, perhaps, this speaks to the gap between what fandom wanted from the show and what they thought they wanted. By and larger, the mythology of The X-Files does make a certain amount of sense; there are a few loose threads and narrative cul de sacs, but the show explains the “why” and the “how” quite clearly. However, the show’s mythology is not satisfying in any material sense, because none of these resolutions lead to fulfilling resolutions. The problem was never that the mythology didn’t make sense; the problem was it ceased to be told well.)

Read the rest of this review here.

Sahar’s Blog Presents: Maeve’s Monthly Movie Review

It’s wedding season!  We have been lucky enough to be invited to a few again this year for which I am incredibly grateful.  I love weddings!  They mark the beginning of a marriage, of another family being created and, hopefully, contributing to making the community stronger than without it.

It comes as no surprise then that I easily get annoyed at perceptions of relationships and marriage that are not conducive to such unions.  I don’t get the drama, the putting down, the manipulation that seem to be the norm in some kinds of media.  This is why I watch rom-coms with a serious dose of mega-caution, and also why I was curious to know what Maeve thought about them–which is why I decided to feature this following review of hers.

Maeve’s Review of He’s Just Not That Into You

Starring Gennifer Goodwin, Justin Long, Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Bradley Cooper, Kevin Connolly, and Scarlett Johansson.

Synopsis (from the movie’s official website):

Based on the wildly popular bestseller from Sex and the City scribes Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, He’s Just Not That Into You tells the stories of a group of interconnected, Baltimore-based twenty- and thirtysomethings as they navigate their various relationships from the shallow end of the dating pool through the deep, murky waters of married life, trying to read the signs of the opposite sex… and hoping to be the exceptions to the “no-exceptions” rule.Gigi just wants a man who says he’ll call–and does–while Alex advises her to stop sitting by the phone. Beth wonders if she should call it off after years of committed singlehood with her boyfriend, Neil, but he doesn’t think there’s a single thing wrong with their unmarried life. Janine’s not sure if she can trust her husband, Ben, who can’t quite trust himself around Anna. Anna can’t decide between the sexy married guy, or her straightforward, no-sparks standby, Conor, who can’t get over the fact that he can’t have her. And Mary, who’s found an entire network of loving, supportive men, just needs to find one who’s straight.

If you’ve ever sat by the phone wondering why he said he would call, but didn’t, or if you can’t figure out why she doesn’t want to sleep with you anymore, or why your relationship just isn’t going to the next level… he (or she) is just not that into you.

My Thoughts:

I am very glad this movie was made, and that the book it was based on was written.  While I may not agree with every point of view shared in it, I think it opens up a dialog that America needs to start having.  After all, our divorce rate is over 50% meaning that something is just not clicking when it comes to forming healthy, stable relationships.  So many of our romantic comedies fuel this notion of “the spark” and do not really address compatibility beyond a superficial level.  While this movie too has it’s trivialities, there are parts of it that head towards that conversation, of how we can improve relationships.

One of the first things addressed in the film is the fact that we all lie to each other. In my last review I talked about the importance of truthfulness and how it is the foundation of all human virtue, and this film also wrestles with this theme.  The film uses examples like “If he treats you badly it means he likes you!”  While these are “white lies” in reality they are not harmless.  They set up up for pursuing or maintaining abusive relationships.  We mean to console and to encourage, but instead we set each other up for bigger romantic disappointment, as well as cause us to spend more time and energy pursuing people that are not right for us.

That being said, we are all beautiful, wonderful people trying hard to live in this world of struggle, and handling rejection is tough.  But there needs to be a way we can encourage each other without lying to one another.  Someone can be smart and beautiful and a good person, and a guy or girl might not be attracted to them and that’s ok.  By saying “You intimidate them [the object of affection” it gives false hope.

The film also does recognize the importance of patience and persistence.  Sometimes you can meet the right person at the wrong time and it is difficult to navigate those waters.  This is why it is all the more important to have friends who are honest with you, that you can consult and learn with, who can balance kindness with honesty.

What I also like about this romantic comedy is that it addresses various stages of a relationship, from the pursuit of one and it’s fragile beginnings, to a long term relationship, to a crumbling marriage.  So many movies of this genre  just focus on the beginning, “the magic spark” and leave out all the other parts.  One married couple has to deal with the pain deception and adultry can bring.  There is a reason why adultry is condemned in pretty much every religion, as well as in secular legal codes, and this film shows the pain it can cause to *all* parties involved, not just the innocent spouse.

It also addresses getting married for the wrong reasons.  Bradley Cooper’s character felt like he had to get married because “If you date a girl too long and don’t marry her you are a jerk”.  Instead he decided to be even more of a jerk by lying and cheating.  His wife clearly did not know how he felt about the marriage or she probably would not have married him.  Sometimes we want a relationship so much we do not even realize that we are settling, or that its foundation is not firm, and that it is doomed for failure.  It is good to see this relationship in contrast with Gennifer Goodwin who is single and wants to find love.  You can see how even if you manage to “trap” one of the guys who are “Just not that into you”, it’s really no good for you in the long run.

The rest of the review is available here.

Have a movie in mind you would like to hear Maeve’s
thoughts on?  Comment below and
I’ll see what I can do 😉

Sahar’s Blog Presents: Maeve’s Monthly Movie Review

There are a lot of movies I haven’t seen (and some I never plan to see) about which I have read A LOT about.  Slumdog Milionaire is one of them.  If you are a long-time Sahar’s Blog reader, you are probably not surprised since there was a lot of debate going around the central concepts of the movie that reflect my personal concerns and questions.

So of course I was curious to see what Maeve had to say about this movie.

Slumdog Millionaire — Love Overcomes Adversity

Film:

Slumdog Millionaire, 2008

Starring Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor, and Frieda Pinto

Synopsis

(from Fox Searchlight Pictures):

The story of Jamal Malik (Patel), an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, who is about to experience the biggest day of his life. With the whole nation watching, he is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India’s “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” But when the show breaks for the night, police arrest him on suspicion of cheating; how could a street kid know so much? Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal tells the story of his life in the slum where he and his brother grew up, of their adventures together on the road, of vicious encounters with local gangs, and of Latika (Pinto), the girl he loved and lost. Each chapter of his story reveals the key to the answer to one of the game show’s questions. Each chapter of Jamal’s increasingly layered story reveals where he learned the answers to the show’s seemingly impossible quizzes. But one question remains a mystery: what is this young man with no apparent desire for riches really doing on the game show? When the new day dawns and Jamal returns to answer the final question, the Inspector and sixty million viewers are about to find out. At the heart of its exuberant storytelling lies the intriguing question of how anyone comes to know the things they know about life and love.

My Thoughts (SPOILERS!):

My first thought is this- if you haven’t seen this movie, do it, now.  It is worth driving an hour to the nearest big city and going to an art-house theater, trust me.  Also if you haven’t seen this movie, I warn you, this post may have spoilers.  That being said if you want to continue reading I would be thrilled.

Now, onto the film.  There are many spiritual themes in the movie, including love, destiny, and the need for the elimnation of poverty.  The film focuses on the life of Jamal, a Muslim who grew up in the slums of Mumbai (may the city be in our thoughts and prayers due to the recent terrorism there).  We learn of his story through his participation in a game show, and how the answers to the questions relate to periods throughout his life.  Early on the film sets up the two major characters in Jamal’s life – his brother Salim, and his love Latika.

It is clear that he and his brother are tied together, two side of the same coin.  Their teacher refers to them as “Athos” and “Porthos”, two of the three musketeers, that is how close they are.  But, for how close they are they have radically different characters.  Jamal is younger, more idealistic, hopeful, as well as pure, whereas Salim is older, an inherent schemer and survivor.

Early on we see their characters diverge when Salim locks Jamal in the outhouse for taking too long and costing Salim a customer.  The biggest moviestar in India was landing in his private helicopter and Jamal is determined to see him, so he plunges through the hole to the vile muck below in order to escape.  Covered in human waste he rushes to the crowd and his commitment is rewarded with an autograph.  Jamal is ecstatic, but only briefly because Salim ends up stealing the prized signed photo and selling it for a buck. Devastated Jamal pleads to his mother, but there is nothing that can be done except to forgive his brother.

“Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself.”  ~Bahá’u’lláh

Their dependence on one another is solidified when acts of violence erupt in their slum as radical Hindus attack them for being Muslims and their mother is killed in the fray. This moment is incredibly sad, and more so when one thinks of all the unnecessary strife between people of different faiths when each religion holds similar principles such as the sanctity of human life and the golden rule.  So often in the United States, especially post-9/11 we are shown the violence caused by radical Muslims, but I think this scene is incredibly important in showing that Muslims too can be victims of violence and persecution.  If only we could all take to heart that:

“The purpose of religion as revealed from the heaven of God’s holy Will is to establish unity and concord amongst the peoples of the world; make it not the cause of dissension and strife.” ~Bahá’u’lláh

Sahar’s Blog Presents: Maeve’s Monthly Movie Review

Home Alone is just one of those movies that most, if not all North Americans at least know of.  I myself have watched it numerous times with my family–it has become, for a while, a tradition of sorts to watch it at some point during wintertime.  I never thought about it as a particularly profound movie; the only concept I would have thought worth of mentioning is the fact that we tend to underestimate children.

So when I saw that Maeve had reviewed Home ALone, well, I just couldn’t resist featuring it, all the more that the ground is still covered with a thick, white blanket of snow.

Home Alone — Christmas and Family

Film:

Home Alone, 1990

Starring Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O’Hara, John Heard, and John Candy.

Synopsis (From Netflix):

Families suck. That’s the opinion of 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin), whose family unwittingly leaves him behind when they go on vacation. In no time, Kevin makes the most of the situation, watching forbidden flicks and pigging out on junk food. But when a pair of bungling burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) set their sights on Kevin’s house, the plucky kid stands ready to defend his territory — by planting booby traps galore!

My Thoughts:

When my sister suggested we watch a Christmas movie last night we mulled over which to choose.  Did we want some holiday romance with Love Actually, or a Christmas class like Miracle on 34th Street?  Should we watch our annual favorite A Christmas Story?  Instead we dug out an old VHS of Home alone, a movie neither of us had seen in a good 15 years.  I had remembered it being hilarious as a child, with all the booby trapping, but what I had forgot was the poignant messages hidden within this glitzy comedy.  This film not only entertained but spoke to the importance of family, of forgiveness, and of not listening to rumors but seeking out the truth for oneself.

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!  ~ Charles Dickens

I think we have all been where Kevin has at one point in our lives.  We let the annoying habits of our loved ones blind us to how much we actually love and appreciate them.  We also can be blinded by prejudice, like Kevin was with his neighbor due to rumors about him being a serial killer.  Instead the neighbor turned out to be a kind old man who was looking to reconnect with his family but didn’t know how.

I think this is something we can all work on, patience and forgiveness.  These two virtues are things that if Kevin and his family had had for one another at the beginning of the film then perhaps he wouldn’t have been home alone.  But patience and forgiveness are tough.  They involve letting go of the ego, and becoming humble, as well as putting others’ needs before our own.

It is also lucky that Kevin was home alone, since burglars had decided to target his house.  One of the great things about this comedy was how responsible Kevin had become when home alone.  After initially partying and going hog-wild, he got bored of that, and instead he went grocery shopping, cleaned the house, put up decorations, did laundry, and practiced hygiene all without adult supervision.  Pretty impressive for an eight-year-old.

Read the rest of Maeve’s review here.

Sahar’s Reviews Presents: Maeve’s Monthly Movie Review

When I saw that Maeve had a movie review of Girl, Interrupted on her blog, I couldn’t resist picking it as a feature of this year’s first edition of Maeve’s Monthly Movie Review.  I watched this movie a couple of times over the years and was always left with so many questions about the meaning of reality (which, as those of you who have read my reviews of Fringe already know, is definitely part of the top 25 topics I like thinking about.)  I felt like I got so many of the points raised by Maeve that I hope we get the opportunity to watch the movie together someday–although that day would probably turn into 2-3 days of discussions, so perhaps for both of our sakes, it’s better we don’t live in the same city…

Girl, Interrupted — Reality, Insanity, and The Prison of Self

Film: Girl, Interrupted 1999

Starring Winona Rider, Angelina Jolie, Clea DuVall, Brittany Murphy, Jared Leto, Vanessa Redgrave, and Whoopi Goldberg.

Synopsis (from IMDB):

Susanna is rushed to the hospital. Afterwards she discusses this with a psychiatrist. She had been having some delusions. She had also been having an affair with the husband of her parents’ friend. The doctor suggests that combining a bottle of aspirin and a bottle of vodka was a suicide attempt. This she denies. He recommends a short period of rest at Claymoore. Claymoore is a private mental hospital full of noisy, crazy people. Georgina is a pathological liar. Polly has been badly scarred by fire. Daisy won’t eat in the presence of other people. Lisa is a sociopath, the biggest exasperation for the staff – like Nurse Valerie – and the biggest influence on the other girls in the hospital. Lisa has a history of escapes, so gaining access to personal medical files is not a problem… Susanna’s boyfriend Toby is concerned that she seems too comfortable living with her institutionalized friends… Written by David Woodfield

My Thoughts:

There is so much I could potentially write about this film, a film that tackles the nature of reality, of what is insanity, and of how we perceive difference, so I am going to scale back a bit and focus on two conversations in the film that I thought were particularly interesting and which could lead to fruitful discussion.

The first is a conversation Susanna (the main character, played by Winona Ryder) has with her therapist Dr. Wycke (played by Vanessa Redgrave) about half way through the film.  The conversation begins when Susanna, off-handedly says that “ambivalent” is her word of the moment.  Dr. Wycke picks up on this and asks her if she knows what it means.  Susanna replied “I don’t know” and when Dr. Wycke comments that its odd that she doesn’t know the meaning of her word of the moment, Susanna says that was the definition, clearly confusing ambivalence with apathy. Dr. Wycke corrects her by defining the word.  The conversation continues thus:

Dr. Wycke: The word suggests that you are torn between two opposing courses of action…”
Susanna (filling in the blanks): Will I stay or will I go?
Dr. Wycke: Am I sane or am I crazy?
Susanna: Those aren’t courses of action
Dr. Wycke: They can be dear… for some

Here Dr. Wycke points out the importance of action.  We can conceive insanity as a state of being, or something someone is, but here Dr. Wycke challenges us to think of it as something someone does.  If you are “sane” you act a certain way, you follow society’s norms and morays.  If you are “crazy” your actions are different, erratic.  Others judge you by your actions.  Because in reality, your thoughts could be all over the place.  You could think whatever you wanted, the “craziest” thoughts, thoughts inexplicable, indescribable, or even scary but if these thoughts didn’t effect your actions nobody would know.  This sentiment is echoed later in the film when Susanna has a conversation with a male friend.  He explains that he knew someone who saw purple people and was institutionalized.

Random guy: Time went by and he told them he didn’t see purple people no more.
Susanna: He got better.
Random guy: No, he still sees them.

The “insane” purple people seeing guy learned to not let his thoughts (his view of reality which conflicted with society’s) effect his actions any longer and so the institution deemed him insane.  Sanity and insanity, after all, are relative terms.  They are dependent on one another for their existence, and throughout the film Susanna struggles with figuring out what insanity is, and if she is insane.  This may be why she was classified “borderline”.  She was able to choose what actions to take, she was on the border and could choose which path to go down.

And she is not the only one.  We are all on the border every day.  Maybe not between sanity and insanity, but definitely between right and wrong, between action and inaction.  We have to choose to get out of bed, we have to choose to do the right thing, we have to choose to step up.

Read the rest of Maeve’s review here.

Sahar’s Reviews Presents: Maeve’s Monthly Movie Review

Even if we know that the life that awaits a loved one when they pass from this plane of existence is a good one, death still remains difficult for the ones that are left behind. This seems to be the most difficult for a spouse who has lost their significant other. The premise behind the movie P.S. I Love You always felt so precious to me—that a spouse who knew he was going to die made sure to leave behind the tools that would help his significant other be able to live in this world without him despite the pain of separation—which is the reason why it’s featured in this edition of Maeve’s Monthly Movie Review. As Maeve mentions in her review below, there is something about this depth of attention given past death that rings true to the concept of marriage and life after death as I understand them.

P.S. I Love You — Life, Death, and Marriage

Starring Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler, Lisa Kudrow, Gina Gershon, James Marsters, Kathy Bates, Harry Connick Jr., Nellie McKay, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

Synopsis (From IMDB):

PS I Love You Review on Sahar's BlogHolly Kennedy is beautiful, smart and married to the love of her life – a passionate, funny, and impetuous Irishman named Gerry. So when Gerry’s life is taken by an illness, it takes the life out of Holly. The only one who can help her is the person who is no longer there. Nobody knows Holly better than Gerry. So it’s a good thing he planned ahead. Before he died, Gerry wrote Holly a series of letters that will guide her, not only through her grief, but in rediscovering herself. The first message arrives on Holly’s 30th birthday in the form of a cake, and to her utter shock, a tape recording from Gerry, who proceeds to tell her to get out and “celebrate herself”. In the weeks and months that follow, more letters from Gerry are delivered in surprising ways, each sending her on a new adventure and each signing off in the same way; P.S. I Love You. Holly’s mother and best friends begin to worry that Gerry’s letters are keeping Holly tied to the past, but in fact, each letter is pushing her further into a new future. With Gerry’s words as her guide, Holly embarks on a journey of rediscovery in a story about marriage, friendship and how a love so strong can turn the finality of death into a new beginning for life.

My Thoughts:

So often in film weddings we hear the lines echoed “until death do us part” but in both P.S. I Love You as well as in the Baha’i concept of marriage this is not the case. A true marriage is more than a physical union but is also a spiritual union. If a marriage is not a spiritual union then it is bound to end, which I discussed in my last post. But what if it is a true union? It lasts for eternity, beyond death.

In Holly and Gerry’s case he made sure to love her and guide her beyond death through preparation of recordings, letters, and gifts throughout Holly’s year of mourning. Throughout the film in the beginning Holly feels is presence as if he is still there, then gradually that fades to memories, until finally Gerry is no longer seen. This could be because Gerry’s soul must move on…

“Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God” ~ Bahá’u’lláh

However, how valid is Holly’s experience? She felt that in addition to the explicit signs Gerry had prepared to be sent to her via intermediaries, there were other signs more subtle that were from beyond. We have all heard tales or perhaps experienced ourselves whether dreaming or waking the presence of loved ones who have passed on.

Read the rest of Maeve’s Review here.

Sahar’s Reviews Presents: Maeve’s Monthly Movie Review

Alarms sound almost daily now about what we are doing to the planet. We are told that we are destroying the fabric our societies are built in, that our economic system will collapse, that our environment will not be able to survive the abuse we are heaping on it. The movie WALL-E has always felt to me like a lessons wrapped in a cautionary tale; the virtues displayed by WALL-E and EVE are in a way the ones that, should we have had more of, would have kept us out of this mess. Maeve’s review of this movie is quite insightful in this regard and is the focus of this month’s Maeve’s Monthly Movie Review feature.

WALL-E — Honoring our environment and ourselves

Synopsis (from NetFlix):

Wall-E Review on Sahar's BlogIn a futuristic world, human beings have destroyed Earth and evacuated the planet, leaving the cleanup to an army of robots they’ve programmed to do their dirty work. Due to a mishap, the dutiful WALL-E is the only one left. But with the arrival of a female probe named EVE, the monotony of WALL-E’s existence is broken — and he experiences love for the first time. Andrew Stanton directs this Golden Globe-winning Pixar tale with a sci-fi twist.

My Thoughts:

This film transcends its medium. It speaks to us on multiple levels, from plot, to social commentary, from personal transformation, to collective responsibility. There are several themes which are quite profound and that people struggle with (or struggle to ignore) daily.

One theme is of hope, and specifically how it can overcome even the greatest obstacles. We see this exhibited through WALL-E himself. He is the last of his kind, alone attempting to accomplish an impossible task. Yet instead of giving up hope he works diligently, gleaning what good he can from the mess that is left of earth. When EVE comes, he is so happy, and patient with her initially cold (robotic? :) ) reaction to him.

“Just as the earth bears those who dig into her, it is best to bear with those who despise us.” ~TiruVuluvar (the Jain saint)

The theme of hope is also exhibited in the greater society as they send forth the EVE droids in search of a habitable planet. While it has been 700 years or more, they still go out searching for plant life. Hope has been a large component of 2008, the year this film came out, and even more so I would say in 2009 as the world embraces the new US President Barack Obama and his message. Over the last year the world has seen the largest economic collapse since the great depression, with countries like Iceland going bankrupt. We have seen wars and conflict, from the most recent installment of Israel/Palestine, to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the horrible act of terrorism in Mumbai. This film is part of the greater conversation of hope, a way to help both children and families engage in this conversation in a more uplifting way than the nightly news might. If we can keep this conversation going, then maybe we can transform the words into deeds and come up with the small, daily solutions that together can build toward peace

“Release yourselves, O nightingales of God, from the thorns and brambles of wretchedness and misery, and wing your flight to the rose-garden of unfading splendor.” ~Bahá’u’lláh

WALL-E did not worry about the insurmountable task at hand, cleaning up the entire world, a mess that he did not create but that was his mission to fix. He just went out each day and did what he could, bit by bit, and while it may have seemed like emptying the ocean one teaspoon at a time, it had an effect. I think that is a lesson for all of us.

Read the rest of Maeve’s Review here.

Sahar’s Reviews Presents: Maeve’s Monthly Movie Review

However painful the cliché, it must be said: The Blind Side blind-sighted me. It is such a touching story (and features one of my favourite actresses) that I haven’t yet been able to watch it without crying. I completely randomly thought about it just as I was about to start working on this post and wondered if Maeve had seen it and if so, what she had to say about it. The answer: yes she has seen it, and what she had to say about it is the focus of this month’s Maeve’s Monthly Movie Review feature.

The Blind Side — Love & Charity

Film:

The Blind Side, 2009

Starring Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Kathy Bates, and Quinton Aaron.

Synopsis:

The story of Michael Oher, an homeless and traumatized boy who became an All American football player and first round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family.

My Thoughts:

Sandra Bullock The Blind Side on Sahar's ReviewsWhat makes this movie so amazing is that it is based on a true story. It is a story of what happens when people actually choose to live out their religious beliefs, when they take action. So often we see news of religious conflict, but it is really comforting to see when religion can be a source of inspiration for people to commit amazing acts of kindness and love beyond expectations.

This story began when a Christian private school was counseled to live up to the name Christian and help the struggling, homeless Michael Oher to attend.

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. ~ James 2:14-17

Leigh Ann Touhy and her family took it to the next level when they took Michael Oher in, fed him, clothed him, and helped him to succeed. And in doing so they learned to better appreciate the luxury they had taken for granted, as well as time with each other as a family, which prior to meeting Michael they had not.

O SON OF MY HANDMAID! Guidance hath ever been given by words, and now it is given by deeds. Every one must show forth deeds that are pure and holy, for words are the property of all alike, whereas such deeds as these belong only to Our loved ones. Strive then with heart and soul to distinguish yourselves by your deeds. In this wise We counsel you in this holy and resplendent tablet. ~ Bahá’u’lláh

What Michael went through many more people in society go through then we would care to admit. But unlike Michael often these people do not receive a helping hand. Instead those in healthy, wealthy communities isolate themselves. How can we as a society work to eradicate poverty, to provide opportunities for all? How can we overcome our fears? Especially when they are legitimate, like living in a place of violence.

Read the rest of Maeve’s Review here.

Sahar’s Reviews Presents: Maeve’s Monthly Movie Review

I have been working on a short story collection with, amongst others, Maeve. The topic is the real meaning of heroism, so no wonder that her recent review of the Netflix documentary “Virunga” captured my attention and made the cut for this month’s Maeve’s Monthly Movie Review feature.

Virunga — Nobility and heroism in the struggle for peace and justice

Film: Virunga, 2014

Synopsis (from the official website):

VIRUNGA IS THE INCREDIBLE TRUE STORY OF A GROUP OF BRAVE PEOPLE RISKING THEIR LIVES TO BUILD A BETTER FUTURE IN A PART OF AFRICA THE WORLD’S FORGOTTEN AND A GRIPPING EXPOSE OF THE REALITIES OF LIFE IN THE CONGO.

Virunga on Sahar's ReviewsIn the forested depths of eastern Congo lies Virunga National Park, one of the most bio-diverse places on Earth and home to the planet’s last remaining mountain gorillas. In this wild, but enchanted environment, a small and embattled team of park rangers – including an ex-child soldier turned ranger, a caretaker of orphan gorillas and a dedicated conservationist – protect this UNESCO world heritage site from armed militia, poachers and the dark forces struggling to control Congo’s rich natural resources. When the newly formed M23 rebel group declares war, a new conflict threatens the lives and stability of everyone and everything they’ve worked so hard to protect, with the filmmakers and the film’s participants caught in the crossfire.

A powerful combination of investigative journalism and nature documentary, VIRUNGA is the incredible true story of a group of courageous people risking their lives to build a better future in a part of Africa the world’s forgotten, and a gripping exposé of the realities of life in the Congo.

From director Orlando von Einsiedel and executive producer Leonardo DiCaprio.

My Thoughts:

My first thought is if you have not seen this film, please go watch it. It is a beautiful documentary that combines investigative journalism with stunning imagery and deserves every award it has won. I am very thankful to a friend for recommending it to me.

The thing that really struck me about this film was how it was able to show the nobility of the Virunga Park Rangers in both large and small moments. These people face incredible adversity and over 100 have died in their struggle to protect this park, which is a beacon of hope in a violent and corrupt region with a complex history. They face bribes, death threats, and ambushes on a daily basis from all sides, even from supposed allies, and yet continue to do their job to enforce the law and protect this World Heritage Site. They put not just themselves but their families at risk in the effort to resist corruption and maintain order.

The entire time I was watching I kept thinking about the Hidden Words, and how the rangers/journalists and the rebels/business interests seemed to exemplify to two opposite poles of the nobility we should strive for and the abasement we bring upon ourselves:

O SON OF SPIRIT!

I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.

Read the rest of Maeve’s Review here.

Sahar’s Reviews Presents: Maeve’s Monthly Movie Review Number 3

Yet again, Maeve grabbed your attention last month in her review of the quintessential mean girl movie of the same title as the phenomena, Mean Girls, starring Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, and Tina Fay.  Readers have been adamant, and it’s confirmed: Maeve’s Monthly Movie Review feature on Sahar’s Reviews is here to stay.  And for those of you who want more, you should check out her book reviews on Goodreads.

You’re welcome.

The fact that May launches wedding season made it easy to choose a review to spotlight this month: “The Wedding Dress” starring Neil Patrick Harris.  Yet again, Maeve shared her deep insights in an easy to read movie reviews, which as previously explained I feel is due to a combination of the clarity with which she expresses herself but also because she doesn’t feel the urge to write using big words and complicated sentence structures.

The Wedding Dress (TV) — Hope and Expectations, by Maeve

Film:

The Wedding Dress (TV), 2001

Starring Neil Patrick Harris, Tyne Daly, Margaret Collin, and Kathryne Dora Brown.

Synopsis (From NetFlix):

A beautiful wedding dress moves throughout the six degrees of separation when it ends up in the hands of six different brides-to-be and changes their lives forever in ways they could never have expected. Tyne Daly and Neil Patrick Harris (television’s “Doogie Howser”) star in a romantic drama that’s perfect for Valentine’s Day … or any day.

My Thoughts (The first half is spoiler free and I give fair warning when it changes):

The Wedding Dress DVD CoverThe first thing I would like to talk about is prejudice and expectations.  When I got this movie off Amazon as a gag gift for my sister (who loves Neil Patrick Harris) I did not expect to actually like it.   It’s a made-for-TV movie after all!  And a schmalzy looking one at that!  But I was wrong.  This movie is amazing, and wonderful, and touching, and fully deserving of a second viewing.  I highly recommend it and luckily it is available through NetFlix (or my sister if you know her and she’s willing to lend it to you).

I may sound tongue in cheek, but this actually is a big lesson for me.  Prejudice can be destructive and I could have easily never watched this beautiful film because of mine.  We often speak of the big prejudices like racism and sexism and xenophobism, but I think the little prejudices can creep up on us all and keep us from both fully enjoying life and from creating a more perfect and unified world.  Prejudice can keep us from thinking we have something to learn.

“For a period of six thousand years history informs us about the world of humanity. During these six thousand years the world of humanity has not been free from war, strife, murder and bloodthirstiness. In every period war has been waged in one country or another, and that war was due to either religious prejudice, racial prejudice, political prejudice or patriotic prejudice. It has, therefore, been ascertained and proved that all prejudices are destructive of the human edifice.”   ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Ok, so that quote was about the big prejudices, but the last line says “all prejudices are destructive”.  I rest my case, now onto the actual movie.

Read the rest of the review here.