It was the beginning to our rite of passage. The years up to this point for the average student was a life of following the rules. Stand in single file, no talking, sit in alphabetical order; these were the things we heard in the early years. As we now entered into 6th grade some of us started flexing our independence. For me it was leaving my bicycle at home and letting public transportation take me and my friends further down into the city. Our allowances would give us this new found freedom. Taking the bus or train, eating out at a fast food restaurant; we were finally adults–at least in our minds. Back in the classroom the students who had aggressive tendencies started flexing their ability to dominate other students. In my class there was a student who was repeating the year over. Though this person did not bully us, we still were cautious whenever we were around them. I remember how surprised I was that for being 1 year older this person had incredible strength. In PE class everyone wanted this student on their team. The aggressive students were not the only ones who asserted themselves; the class clowns from elementary school were now constantly testing their teachers to see how far they could be pushed. These two groups were heroes to some of us because they blatantly did not follow the rules. Sure they were sent to the principal’s office numerous times but it just seemed like they did not care. In fact, when they would come back to the classroom they were treated like demigods. I am embarrassed for what I am about to tell you; my way of being rebellious was to quietly shoot spitballs at students. But I did not use bits of wet rolled up paper, I used lip balm. Taking one end of an empty pen I would twirl it into the balm then aim for the back of a person’s head. When the student put their hand back to feel what hit them in the head they would smear the balm further in their hair. I was surprised no one in this dramatic comedy did not think of it. STARTING at a new school Rafe, played by Griffin Gluck (Just Go With It, Red Band Society-TV), could not believe all the rules students had to follow. One rule in particular would push him over the edge. With Lauren Graham (Bad Story, Gilmore Girls-TV) as Jules and Andrew Daly (She’s Out of My League, What Happens in Vegas) as Principal Dwight; I could not tell if the acting was meant to be more cartoonish to suit this story. I liked the animated scenes and felt I understood what the students were trying to achieve. However these students did not come across as real students for me. Part of this had to do with the script, but I think the directing also had a hand in it. For a good portion of this film I was simply bored. I believe this film would only be a hit with those who are presently attending middle school.
1 3/4 stars
I used to think there were some dogs that were just bad, but I came to my senses. It turned out it really was the dog owners that were bad. My original train of thought was due to a loose dog in the neighborhood where I grew up, that tried biting me as I rode my bicycle down the street near its house. Luckily as I grew up there was a relative of mine that adopted a black poodle that changed my views about dogs. This poodle really showed my what it was like to have a dog be a member of the family. In my adult life I encountered many dogs that were the children of friends and family. I realized like children dogs were not born bad, they had to be trained or not be trained to act in a non-appropriate way. There was one dog in particular that touched me in a special way that cemented my feelings about dogs. This mixed breed dog was not only a loving creature, but was able to express empathy. I will never forget the time when its owner was lying on their bed crying and the dog quietly jumped up and lied down next to them, putting its front paw across their back. I was nearly speechless as I witnessed this sympathetic act. Now when I hear a story like I did last week from a member in my class about walking their dog when the neighbors 2 dogs ran out to attack her dog, I know it says more about the owner instead of their dogs. I believe this even more now that I have seen this heartwarming film. UNABLE to be handled by anyone else after his handler Kyle Wincott, played by Robbie Amell (The DUFF, The Hunters-TV movie), was killed in the line of duty; the military had only one option left to avoid putting down Max, the bomb sniffing dog. They hoped Kyle’s parents Pamela and Ray Wincott, played by Lauren Graham (Evan Almighty, Bad Santa) and Thomas Haden Church (Easy A, Sideways), would take Max in and make him part of their family. Would they and their remaining son Justin, played by relative newcomer Josh Wiggins, want to have this dog in their house, reminding them of their tragic loss? This adventure family film won me over simply by having Max star in it. I was unfamiliar with this breed of dog, thinking Max was a German Shepherd mix. The script would have been stronger if it remained on the main story instead of going off with Kyle’s buddy. Also, I was quite aware I was being manipulated but still teared up because at the end of the day there is nothing like seeing a heroic dog.
2 3/4 stars
From a mundane object a great idea was born. Based on the true story about Dr. Bob Kearns, played by Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine, Ghost Town), who had a great idea that would affect everyone who drove a car in the rain. He invented the intermittent windshield wiper. With the support of his wife Phyllis, played by Lauren Graham (Bad Santa, Evan Almighty), and children; Dr. Kearns created a prototype that he planned on selling to the Detroit auto makers. However, his dreams did not come true the way he had expected. This heartfelt movie told the story of the courage, determination, some say insanity of the Kearns family taking on the deep pocketed car manufacturers to protect Bob’s invention. I get fired up from a movie that roots for the underdog and this excellent movie had the perfect set-up for a battle between the every day man against corporate big business. Mr Kinnear was perfect in this role; giving a solid, believable performance to his character who had everything to lose, including his mental state. Also, Alan Alda (Tower Heist, The Aviator) gave an excellent performance as the lawyer who was willing to take on Detroit’s auto makers. One has to wonder how often this type of behind the back shenanigans takes place in the business world. A terrific movie that was about a great idea and so much more.
3 1/4 stars — DVD