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Review: Movie – The Beaver

10 Sep

Now, before we start off of this whole journey, let’s get one thing straight. As a person, I don’t like Mel Gibson. He’s made it pretty clear that he’s anti-Semitic, racist against blacks, and violent towards women. A lot of people use this as justification to NOT support his films and other endeavours. That being said, I don’t give a shit about who Mel Gibson is personally when it comes to his career. He is and has always been a very talented actor. I first saw him in the World War One film Gallipoli, and even then I thought he was amazing.

I try to keep my professional opinions and my personal opinions as far apart as I can. Professionally, Mel Gibson is very good at his job. Personally, I would not be his friend.

Moving on.

I’ve been wanting to see The Beaver for a very long time. As most of you know, I’m very, very into film. I’ve known about the screenplay for quite some time. It was listed among some of the best screenplays that had yet to be made into films as of 2009. When I heard that it had finally been picked up by Jodie Foster and her production company, I was excited. When I heard that Mel Gibson had finally been cast, I was disappointed, hoping that the original choice, Jim Carrey would get the spot.

But now, having finally watched it, I don’t know if anyone could portray the character “Walter Black” with as much dignity and as much genuine emotion as Gibson.

The Beaver appears to take place in a smallish New England town, and most of the major characters form the Black family – a dysfunctional, but generally loving tribe who are coping with the mental illness of their figurehead: Walter Black. Walter is very obviously suffering from a pretty debilitating case of depression. His family suffers through this for years until finally, his wife (Jodie Foster), pushed to the brink, decides it’s best if they live apart, for the betterment of their children. The couple has two sons, a younger son, Henry, who is tortured at school by bullies and wishes himself invisible, and an older son, Porter, who seems to have lost all patience in regards to his father.

Soon after being kicked out, Walter, finding a discarded beaver puppet, rents out a hotel room and attempts suicide, twice. What stops him from being successful the second time is a voice that sounds remarkably like a cockney version of Gibson’s true Aussie accent. The voice calls out “Hey!” and Walter falls back in a drunken stupor, knocking himself unconscious. The Beaver is then introduced as Walter’s inner confidence and acts as a liaison between Walter and the rest of his family, trying hard to make amends through an unlikely channel.

This film takes a very interesting look at mental illness/depression. Early on after the beaver is introduced to the Black family, we learn that Walter’s father also had depression, and ended up committing suicide because of it. It’s interesting to note that depression can sometimes be inherited, and can often times represent itself in mid-life, particularly in men. Slowly his family softens to the idea of Walter reaching out, the hardest one to reach being his eldest son, Porter.

I don’t want to give away too much, but this film is worth watching. Sometimes it’s so easy to disregard people because of their actions without giving pause to consider what emotions are making them act the way they are. I can empathize with Walter’s character. Since my mother passed, I know sometimes I’ve been acting strangely, maybe even a bit more reserved, generally doing or saying things that are not in my character. People sometimes don’t realize that mental illness, depression, a sudden loss of confidence, takes many forms and has many, many faces. Using compassion and understanding in these cases can serve to make you more human than just protecting yourself from these people for what you believe may be your own good.

This is a four star movie, folks. Please take the time to rent, or download it. Either way, if you know and care about someone with depression, you’ll be glad you did.

Addendum: Upon an additional viewing of the ending, I think I should add that this film is not JUST about depression. It’s a SEVERE case of depression, and includes suggestions of mania, self-harm, attempts of suicide and delusional psychosis. The end gets pretty extreme, but really doesn’t surprise me. If you are sensitive to these subjects then I may suggest that you do not watch this film. If you suffer from or believe you may suffer from depression, please contact a psychiatric professional.

Review: Super 8 – Monster Movie Magic at its Finest

12 Jun

Before I get into this, I just want everyone to know that I’ll be keeping my movie reviews as spoiler free as humanly possible.

Now, I’ll just state right here that some people are confused by the meaning of the title, and sit in hopes that it’ll get explained in the film. Well it won’t, so allow me to clarify. Super 8 is a both a style of film and camera that became popular toward the end of the 1970’s due to its compact size and relative durability. The kids in the movie are shooting a short film using a Super 8, and the leading conflict in the film is accidentally caught on said camera, hence the name of the film.

Before this film even begins, you should know that it’s a collaborative effort between Amblin Entertainment (Spielberg) and Bad Robot Productions (Abrams). Spielberg of course having given us some amazing monster movies in the past, known for making excellent casting choices and portraying children with the depth and perception I think is deserved. Abrams is known for his attention to detail, and amazing development of suspense. These two were a winning combo from the get go, particularly for this genre of movie.

I saw the film the day after it had come out, and already was getting people’s perceptions of the film. Many were saying that it reminded them of the feeling they got when they watched E.T. for the first time. I could definitely sense that here. There’s the feel of small town America, and the impact of a closely knit community, even within the first minute of the film. Also, there are children, but not just any children. These are child stars in the rough. If you’re worried about the fact that there are children in this movie, don’t be. These are some of the most talented kids I’ve ever seen in film. There was not a cheesy, bad acting moment to be had here. Each character carried their own weight regardless of age or amount of screen time they were given.

In addition, the film is beautifully shot, and although the professional cameras used were pretty industry standard (Panavision), the additions post production are both believable and add just a touch of surrealism to the film. First noted is Abrams telltale trademark, the lens flare. Those of us who saw the recent Star Trek reboot will know exactly what I’m talking about. Some hate it, I on the other hand, absolutely love it. Granted, the lens flare was not used as often in this film as in Star Trek, but they can be found expertly dotted around action scenes as the cameras pan over an extreme long shot, or in between the faces of the dumbstruck children.

Another interesting thing to point out, is that regardless of the age of the starring characters, there is an immense amount of terror to be felt in this film. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by telling you that there’s a scene including a vicious train wreck. With a whole bunch of children running around, it’s easy to see how everything could go terribly wrong at this point, but you’re relieved when everyone seems to have made it out alright.

Then, of course, there’s the monster. As with Abrams last monster movie, Cloverfield, there was much speculation over what this new creature would look like. It seemed like every other week there was a new hoax coming out, some towering menace of a creature that would rip and tear through anything that got it it’s way. That’s just not so in this case… But hey, I don’t want to spoil too much about the thing either. What I will say is that yes, it’s terrifying, but it’s not what you’d expect, which is something I’ve come to appreciate about both Spielberg and Abrams. They keep you guessing, and that’s half their appeal as movie makers.

There were most certainly moments in this film where I was trembling on the edge of my seat. There were also moments when I cried, seeing as some of the more personal subject matter was a little close to my heart, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide. If you’re interested, or you’ve liked any of Spielberg’s or Abrams’ previous works, them go check this out. It’s definitely a wild ride.