Friday, May 1, 2009


   Gomorra is an Italian mob drama that takes an inside look at five Italian civilians whose lives are influenced by the all-powerful Comorra mafia. You’re either with the Comorra or you’re their enemy, and we get a glimpse of both sides and what their daily lives consist of. Gomorra is an eye-opening film that exposes the unfortunate truths hiding in America’s closet.
    One of the plot lines tells the story of Pasquale (Salvatore Cantalupo) who is a tailor working at a factory controlled by the Comorra. When the mafia finds out Pasquale has taken a night job teaching Chinese competitors how to sew, they attempt an attack on his life and he is forced to flee. Pasquale’s talents go to waste, as he becomes a truck driver in order to escape death. By the end of the film, many intriguing themes have surfaced, but none as so interesting as the one that is a startling wake up call for Americans.
    This controversial theme that has put the life of director Matteo Garrone in danger surfaces as waste manager Franco (Toni Servillo) calls to a colleague who decides the unethical business going on isn’t for him. Franco yells to him as he’s walking away, “Don’t think you’re any better than me.” He implies that just because Americans aren’t the ones calling the shots doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoying the benefits that result from the distress and suffering of others. 
    These horrible crimes being conducted in Italy are all at the hand of the Comorra mafia, who are ironically enough invested in the rebuilding of the Twin Towers here in America. They control the factories that make beautiful dresses for our movie stars to wear. They control the outsourcing firms that make our food, our most cherished possessions, our cars, and everything we use on a daily basis without considering whose blood was shed for our happiness. 
    Translating from one language to another doesn’t come without its misfortunes. At times the English subtitles were unfortunately funnier than they were meant to be because definitions differ in every language and finding a word with identical meaning can be difficult. The five plot lines became confusing to follow as the non-Italian speaking American was forced to read subtitles and differentiate between stories all at the same time.
    Despite its technical difficulties, the documentary type style of this film makes the stories and acting appear indisputably real and fascinating. A film like this one could start a reformation—If not a war.


With their intense visual appeal, television police dramas usually transition well to the big screen, evidenced by films such as “S.W.A.T.” and “Mission: Impossible.” But director Kevin Macdonald’s “State of Play” is just as disappointing as “Miami Vice” in its attempt to capitalize on an existing audience.
      The film is a suspenseful mystery-thriller based on an award-winning U.K. television series of the same name. Filmmakers should have split the television material into a series of films rather than suffocating viewers with too many plot twists and attempting to fit them all into one movie. Despite its all-star cast and intriguing themes of corruption, “State of Play” fails as a film because its intricate plot leaves no room for character development.
       The protagonist Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) is a valued journalist for the Washington Globe newspaper who goes beyond the limits of a reporter in investigating stories. To get the truth, he abuses his friendships with cops, autopsy specialists, computer hackers and even government workers.
       When the death of Sonia Baker (Maria Thayer) is linked to Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck), Cal struggles to put his friendship with Stephen aside. In an effort to shift the investigation’s focus off Stephen, Cal and rookie reporter Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) search desperately for clues to connect Sonia’s death to a corporate cover-up. The Washington Globe takes matters into its own hands as the story turns into a political murder investigation. Cal and Della conduct their own investigation, keeping vital evidence from police officials. This poses numerous ethical questions for audiences to ponder.
       The film spotlights the severity to which the media controls the lives of all characters involved in the case. In his relentless pursuit of the story, Cal gives public officials an ultimatum — either help the newspaper get the facts or risk having their reputations ruined through headlines. But the story itself isn’t nearly as interesting as the dilemmas it raises about the media’s powerful role in society.
       Writers Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy and Billy Ray should have spent more time on character development and less time trying to include every plot-changing twist from the television series. “State of Play” worked as a television show because it was an abundance of material delivered in a six-hour television miniseries rather than a two-hour film. A story about reputation, ethics and betrayal should encourage the audience to take a sincere interest in the characters’ lives.
       The absence of that focus in “State of Play” was detrimental to its success. The audience doesn’t see the characters’ flaws but only hears about them in scenes where the characters sit around a table and talk about the past, preventing viewers from connecting with the characters. News of Cal’s recent affair with his college roommate’s wife, Anne Collins (Robin Wright Penn), comes through conversation rather than actions. Getting to know these complex characters through word vomit feels unnatural and cheap. The plot isn’t character driven, but it should have been. The climax of the film could have felt enormously more life-shattering to viewers if they had the opportunity to feel invested in the story.  
       The film’s inability to connect to its audience was no fault of the actors. Crowe never fails to deliver an admirable performance and does so yet again in the role of an arrogant, rebellious journalist. McAdams fits in comfortably as the inexperienced but ambitious political blogger for the Washington Globe. The duo’s on-screen relationship progresses naturally as the two are forced to rely on and confide in each other. What begins as strictly business develops into a flirtatious friendship. Affleck fits the part of the young and influential public official but sometimes appears overdramatic and slightly rehearsed in his portrayal of Stephen’s grief.
       The surprise ending feels more like a trick because the most important clue to the mystery isn’t the least bit obvious for the viewer to catch. This failed film serves as an example of one police television show that just doesn’t translate to the big screen. A series of films would have been better able to do justice to such a large amount of story.
“State of Play” was written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy and Billy Ray, and directed by Kevin Macdonald.


Director Alex Proyas’ Knowing crosses the distinct line between science and religion and explores the relationship of the highly controversial debate of our existence. This film is not a typical science fiction movie filled with disfigured space creatures and green globs, instead brings light to a deeper concept most would rather not delve into. Despite its over-the-top special effects and awkward dialog, Knowing pulls viewers to the edge of their seats and invites them to tag along on yet another Nicolas Cage mystery adventure.
 By now “Nicolas Cage Mystery Adventure” should be its own genre. With all the National Treasure films and the talk of two more, Knowing would fit perfectly in this future box set. Cage (ridiculed for his recent roles in cheap films) plays John Koestler, a MIT astrophysics professor and an overprotective father. John spends most of his time drinking away the memory of his wife’s death and forbidding his 10-year-old son, Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), from leaving his sight.
The real story begins at the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Caleb’s school being open. A time capsule is dug up from 1959 when the school celebrated it’s opening, which was seen in the beginning of the film. The capsule’s contents are distributed to Caleb and his classmates. All the children receive pictures of the 1959 class’ predictions of the future. Everyone’s envelope contains a colored picture of things like rocket ships and astronauts, everyone’s but Caleb’s. He opens his envelope from Lucinda Embry (Lara Robinson) and sees that the front and back of the paper is completely filled with numbers. Caleb examines the paper and then looks up and sees a black mysterious figure standing in the woods.
These figures appear time and time again as the plot unravels. When seen, a whispering sound occurs, but the whispers overlap each other so much that it’s impossible to understand. Caleb takes the picture home with him, but doesn’t mention to his father the mysterious man he saw in the woods. John discovers his son has stolen the picture from the school and sends him to bed. After accidentally staining the picture of numbers, John takes a closer look at it and tries to find meaning. What he does find will change the world and virtually everything in it.
Through his investigation, John tracks down Diana Wayland (Rose Byrne) who is the daughter of Lucinda Embry—the woman who wrote the list of numbers. Byrne completely misses her role as an independent woman looking to escape her past and rather blurts out her entire life story through expository dialogue. Her acting in Knowing is incredibly beneath her true abilities seen in films like Troy and Sunshine. But Byrne isn’t the only one responsible for this disastrous film.
What happened to Nicolas Cage and his good days of acting seen in films like Face/Off and Con Air? With any more suspenseful mystery films, audiences can expect to see the unchanged “jolly old clever Nick.” He’s playing the same character that comes up with genius ways to solve virtually any problem he could ever face in any situation. He always plays the smart guy with all the answers and his tone of voice during these great reveals is becoming more of a laugh track as audiences are catching on. He’s beginning to sound a lot like Velma from Scooby Doo and her classic “Jinkies!” phrase.
“Jinkies” would have only been an improvement to this lackluster script. Screenwriter Ryne Douglas Pearson and husband and wife team Stiles White and Juliet Snowden brings us this disappointing screenplay full of forced dialogue and underdeveloped characters. It’s pretty bad when it takes three writers to make a crappy script. Lines like “The caves won’t save us!”  and “This is not a crank call,” are just the beginning of the awkward dialogue viewers have no other choice but to laugh at. The viewer only gets to know character backgrounds through their episodes of puking dialogue. When necessary characters suddenly tell us everything we need to know in order for the present plot point to make sense.
If the filmmakers could have just edited out Knowing’s ridiculous –not so special- effects and replaced the National Treasure Hunter with a clean face, the unique themes and thought provoking questions may have kept it in theaters a bit longer. Knowing is suspenseful to the point that the characters are running around shouting and you do want to know how things will end, but for many this ending will seem very cheap. This film is definitely not for the typical Sci-fi audience, but provides a new view of what’s to come of our world.
Perhaps Proyas should stick to directing films starring Will Smith and robots taking over the world. From now on, any film involving Cage breaking codes should be avoided or better yet prohibited from public viewing. 


Though “Superbad” fans have been looking forward to a film in the same vein as the raunchy 2007 comedy, director Greg Mottola’s newest flick, “Adventureland,” is more of a “When Harry Met Sally.”
      Mottola brings back big hair and rubber bracelets in his beautifully shot and brilliantly crafted coming-of-age comedy that comes closer to a true representation of life than most films in theaters today. Mismarketed as “Superbad II,” the film is nothing like its vulgar, sex-driven trailer. Instead, “Adventureland” is a trip back to the ’80s that reminds audiences what was so great about that decade of electric sounds and retro trends.
      The film is set in 1987, and recent college graduate James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) plans to spend the summer backpacking through Europe. But after his father (Jack Gilpin) receives a pay cut at work, James is forced to look for a job to pay for graduate school. After exhausting all other options, including a job as an asphalt mixer, he calls his childhood friend Tommy Frigo (Matt Bush), who sets him up with an interview at Adventureland, a local amusement park. After meeting the park’s schizophrenic manager, James begins to learn the ropes with Joel Schiffman (Martin Starr), a nerdy, monotone, Russian-Literature philosopher working a job beneath his intelligence. Joel then introduces James to the world of carnies and rigged games.
      The subplot that holds the film together begins when James meets Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart), a charming, nonconformist co-worker who succumbs to the simple work only to escape her wicked stepmother. Stewart and Eisenberg bring a youthful innocence to the film. Their on-screen relationship is highly believable and exciting as it develops during a summer full of puking children, stale corn dogs and stuffed pandas.
But that’s not the only underlying story. Each of the film’s misfit characters has a pathetic excuse for working a soulless job that cheats children out of penny prizes. The park’s mechanic, Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds), tells everyone he once jammed with Lou Reed, and the park manager’s wife, Paulette (Kristen Wiig), faithfully follows her husband around the park, never questioning his outrageous and unethical modes of management. Though the film’s plethora of side stories slows its pace, it still contributes to the film’s overall success.
      Cinematographer Terry Stacey enhances the film with expressive shots of carnival rides, fireworks and New York City skyscrapers. “Adventureland” was shot in a run-down amusement park, which helped the film attain its vintage look. The masterfully crafted bumper car scene uses handheld shots that place the viewer on the ride. Stacey captures the essence of that weird transformation from teenage years into adulthood through his shots where innocence and reality collide.
      The characters relate to one another through the stimulating sounds and emotional lyrics of dreamy indie music that plays during the majority of the film’s close-ups. The song lyrics speak for the characters, representing their internal thoughts. “Adventureland” pays tribute to the big names of ’80s rock such as The Replacements and Falco, whose nostalgic tracks play an enormous part in “Adventureland’s” ability to captivate its audience.
      The film’s humorous yet sincere tone is comparable to that of 1996’s “The Daytrippers,” which Mottola also wrote and directed. He incorporates the right mix of wit and ridiculousness into the script. The screenplay has so many jokes that seeing it more than once is a must just to catch them all.
      “Adventureland” reminds audiences of the good old times and the feel of rock ‘n’ roll — by the end of this blast from the past, everyone will be wishing it was 1987 again. The nonstop smart and witty jokes and the thrilling, diverse and captivating cinematography allow Mottola’s film to appeal to a wide range of moviegoers. 
“Adventureland” was written and directed by Greg Mottola.


                 Writer and director of Along Came Polly, John Hamburg brings us another romantic comedy, but this time it’s a relationship between two men or a bromance. Surprisingly, the title was initially something far less creative than I Love You, Man.  Let’s Make Friends was the screenplay’s original brainless title, which if kept would have dropped my expectations immediately. I Love You, Man has its moments, but doesn’t come close to being a smart screenplay.
       I Love You, Man stars Paul Rudd as Peter Klaven, a real estate agent who just asked his girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones) to marry him. After the engagement, preparations for the wedding begin, and Peter realizes he’s never really had a group of guy friends or even a best friend. In the past, he always dedicated his time to girlfriends and never really needed a man in his life until now. In hopes of finding a best friend and filling up his side of the wedding party, Peter goes to his gay brother, Robbie (SNL’s Andy Samberg), for help.
       Robbie is a personal trainer at a local gym. Considering his gay status, he has no problem picking up men, even straight ones. Robbie hooks Peter up with a few of his trainees from the gym, promising them free sessions if they go on a man-date with Peter. The dates go horribly wrong and even confuse some guys into thinking Peter is gay. When all hope appears to be lost, Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) shows up at one of Peter’s open houses. Sydney is a carefree, opinionated investor who admits he only came for the free food and to pick up some divorcees. Peter and Sydney end up hitting it off and exchange business cards. A guy’s night of beer, fish tacos, and good conversation sets the two up for future male bonding, and Peter with a potential best man.
       Director John Hamburg is known for his writing in the genre of comedy as he also wrote Meet the Parents and Zoolander. And his co-writer of I Love You, Man, Larry Levin, has written numerous episodes for Seinfeld, as well as Doctor Dolittle 1 &2. With that kind of talent working together, you would expect a hilarious and smart screenplay. Unfortunately, I found myself checking my watch and thinking of ways this film could have been better.
       Some scenes seemed to go on way too long, and would have been funnier if cut short or edited out. The jokes often went into overkill and made the story drag rather than moving it forward and keeping pace. More conflict and a clear subplot would have kept the viewers interest a lot more than senseless scenes with annoying characters such as Zooey’s girlfriends, Hailey and Denise. Peter’s father, Oswald (J.K. Simmons), is one of the story’s most entertaining characters, but Hamburg and Levin barely use him. A subplot with his father would have been appropriate considering Oswald’s strong relationship with his other son and lack of one with Peter. The opportunity for this storyline was introduced but never expanded on.
       The comedy’s failure to deliver laughs was not due to poor acting. Paul Rudd and Jason Segel’s acting is the glue to this puzzle with missing pieces. Their onscreen bromance is highly believable and the chemistry for a great relationship is there. But, their characters are underdeveloped and incomplete as they just room around Los Angeles like talking heads with weird jokes that appear forced and out of place.
       Jason Segel is funny even when he’s not saying anything. His awkward physical build and facial features always seem to emphasize the characters the plays. Despite Segel’s natural talent, Sydney Fife hasn’t strayed far from the character Segel played in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Fife lacks conflict and we don’t even learn what he does for a living until the last 5 minutes of the movie.
      The film’s best moments come from Rudd’s acting. It wasn’t what he was saying, but rather his performance that was entertaining. When he’s introducing Zooey to the song “Tom Sawyer” by Rush, he plays the air guitar too high and keeps repeating “I slap some base.” -which doesn’t sound like it would be funny, but is my point exactly. If anything, Rudd’s performance is what saves this film.
            The writers rely too heavily on the premise and funny nature of the actors. They fail to expand on numerous presented themes such as father son relationship, male identity, male friendships with women, and even true friendship, which is suppose to be the core of the film. Editor William Kerr should be fired. I Love You, Man is full of deleted scenes never deleted. I might have to buy the DVD to see if the actual deleted scenes -“Special Features”- can get any worse.


“I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you,” Bryan Mills threatens the unknown kidnapper on the other line of his daughter’s cellphone. 
Taken unravels a heartbreaking plot of an ex-CIA specialist, Bryan Mills, who’s daughter has been taken while on vacation in a foreign country. A father’s love lies at the core of this fast pace action thriller. No one will stand in the way of this father from finding his daughter, and punishing those responsible for taking her. French Director Pierre Morel’s Taken unleashes a fearless protagonist with nothing to lose and exploding rage that kills to entertain.
    Liam Neeson plays Bryan Mills, a divorced, retired spy with a set of rare skills. He left his job to live closer to his daughter and make up for lost time. But his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) isn’t as forgiving as her seventeen-year-old daughter. Her snippy attitude towards Bryan shows she’s still angry about his absence, and is just pretending to be happy in her mansion with her new, rich husband and house full of servants. Just when Bryan thinks his relationship with his daughter is getting better, he realizes she only asked him to lunch to get his signature/permission to spend the summer in France. Knowing the real dangers of the world, Bryan denies his daughter’s request and she runs out in anger. Bryan later shows up at his ex-wife’s house with the signed permission slip, and a list of his own conditions to make sure of her safety.
     Everything seems perfect as the girls dance and scream in their new summer home but, Taken takes a turn for the worst when Kim sees kidnapers taking her friend, Amanda (Katie Cassidy) in the room across from her. The happy screams turn into helpless desperation. On the phone with her father, Kim (Maggie Grace) panics at what she is witnessing and tells her father they are coming for her. Bryan tries to calm his daughter and lets her know he will come for her. And when he does all hell breaks loose.
     Liam Neeson’s acting as Bryan Mills is sincere yet emotionally exhausting. Who could ask for a better father? He stops at nothing and goes on a violent rampage, destroying everything in his way. He commits shocking crimes that seem out of his ethical and law-abiding character. His on-screen father-daughter relationship with Kim, played by Maggie Grace, is highly believable with an obvious sincere connection. Maggie Grace plays his daughter Kim, a spoiled, naive 17-year-old, who is quickly introduced to the many evils that exists in the world. 26-year-old Grace takes on the challenging role of a much younger character and demonstrates strength in her ability to look like and convincingly portray the mindset of a very young and inexperienced teenage.
Taken is only the second film Pierre Morel has directed, as he was previously known for his work as a cinematographer in action/thriller films such as Unleashed and War. Morel’s work seems to concentrate strictly around the action/thriller genre, as the first film he directed was District 13, a French action film also about crime and kidnapping –the similar premise of Taken. With the success of these films, he has grow tremendously in popularity; his next film From Paris With Love stars John Travolta  and is set to premier in 2010. In case your wondering, From Paris With Love is yet again another action/thriller crime movie, but this time he has co-written the script with Luc Besson, who has written all his films thus far. Morel turned out to be an exceptional director because he understands filmmaking from every angle. From cameraman to cinematographer, to direct, to writer –we can expect much more from this promising young filmmaker.
     Writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, give this otherwise predictable tale, chilling dialogue that places its audience directly in the action, and unstable mindset of the characters. The protagonist is unpredictable not only in his actions, but also in his threatening dialogue, that becomes more entertaining with every kill. “I believe you, but that’s not going to save you,” Mills informs his unfortunate victim.
    Taken ranks right in between The Brave One and Death Sentence –other revenge films that follow a grief stricken family member avenging the taking of a loved one. In comparison, Taken has a much faster pace and introduces a complex, foreign world never before explored in such a unique fashion. Through this skillfully written drama, we experience a father-daughter relationship transforming in an extremely unfortunate (for them), but intriguing (for us) situation.
    Prepare for war, because Bryan Mills only has 96 hours before he has no chance of ever seeing his daughter again.


“You don’t have to be a genius to know the answers,” Jamal tells the Police Inspector (Irrfan Khan) who is questioning him for cheating on India’s version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” Co-directors Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan (of India) bring us the 2008 British drama, Slumdog Millionaire. The film won eight Oscars out of ten nominations at the 2009 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adaptation, Best Cinematography, and Best Original Music. Delusional cults, greedy gangs, intelligent humor, and a romance destined to be, makes this film attractive to all audiences.
       Slumdog Millionaire is a rags-to-riches story starring Dev Patel, an 18 year-old British film and television actor, who plays Jamal Malik, an uneducated Mumbai orphan who is accused of cheating after winning 10 million rupees on the India version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” This film is told seamlessly, but its complexity is what makes it deserving of Best Picture of the year.
      The structure of Slumdog Millionaire is fascinating to dissect. There are two present storylines, and then the flashback storyline of Jamal’s life, which are all being told simultaneously. We start off with Jamal being questioned and tortured by police; he’s accused of cheating on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” The Police Inspector sits him down and questions him about how he knew each answer. The sergeant turns on the tape of Jamal playing “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” and this is how the two present storylines transition into one another.  Jamal’s asked a question by the game show’s host, Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor); when Jamal sits back to think of the answer, the third storyline of flashbacks from Jamal’s life comes in. Then, we go back to the Police Station for commentary and prompt into how he knew the next question. This cycle continues throughout the film as all three storylines are intertwined, and in the end, they eventually fit together like an impossible puzzle, magically crafted.
      Salim Malik, played by young Indian actor Madhur Mittal, is Jamal’s older brother, who while in search for riches, loses himself in crime and ultimately a bloody tub of money. Freida Pinto plays the part of Latika, the young orphan Jamal grows to love and destines to be with. The 3 musketeers—Jamal, Salim, and Latika—find each other after their slum is violently raided and destroyed by Ramallah. The 3 orphans stick together until Latika misses the train. Jamal spends much of the rest of the film searching for his childhood love. The 2 brothers then set out on their own adventure to find food and money. Through their journey, we are enlightened by this virtual experience of India.
      Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle is responsible for the amazingly crafted shots of India that allow the audience to explore the depths of this society and its colorful culture. Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy wrote the adaptation of Vikas Swarup’s prize-winning debut novel, Q&A. The dialogue flows so naturally between characters, it’s hard to believe it was all staged. “Money and women. The reasons for most mistakes in life. Looks like you’ve mixed up both,” the Police Inspector informs Jamal. The intelligent, complex storylines are masterly intertwined in this screenplay. 
The unique structure of this film is where its excellence lies. The film could have been simply told sequentially beginning when Jamal was a child and telling his life story, then to him becoming a contestant on the game show, then to the station being accused of cheating, and finally back to the game show. But instead, the writers chose to throw the audience in the middle and make everyone’s job harder, including their own jobs, but  the end result makes the film more suspenseful. The audience would piece things together on their own, but the writers had the extremely difficult job of thinking of flawless transitions that would make storylines flow perfectly together and not confuse the viewer.
       A.R. Rahman wrote the music for the Oscar-winning song, “Jai Ho”—the musical number in the end that brings the entire cast together to sing and dance. The traditional, upbeat, Indian song continues into and is entwined with the elaborate credit sequence. This last performance invites the viewer to keep watching and reflect on their overall experience of this mind-blowing film. The credit sequence, along with the cultural dance, shows video stills of the characters from highlighted moments in the film, which adds a finishing touch to the film that reminds the audience of its greatness and provided enjoyment. The “Jai Ho” dance (choreographed by Longinus Fernandes) is sure to be the next big trend hitting American’s pop culture. 
      Those who didn’t have the pleasure of seeing this extraordinary film on the big screen won’t have to wait long, as Slumdog Millionaire comes to video March 31.


Clint Eastwood directs, produces, and stars in his own award-winning film Gran Torino. The trailer prepares its audience for a violent crime-fighting adventure; however, Walt Kowalski’s rifle is the only resemblance of the action-thriller films Eastwood typically stars in. This contemporary drama dares to explore many controversial themes including racism, religion and cultural differences.
      Gran Torino tells the tale of a recently widowed Korean War veteran whose Michigan neighborhood is slowly being taken over by a flood of Hmong immigrants and gang members. Walt ignores his family’s wishes for him to move, and instead holds his ground like a commander and displays his American Flag proudly. By yelling at a few gang members for his own selfish purposes, Walt incidentally gains the respect of his Hmong neighbors. Members of the Hmong community begin to treat the bitter old man with the respect of a king and bring him gifts of thanks including plants, food and abstract statues. Regardless of his old ways, Walt begins to look out for his two young neighbors Thoa and Sue Lor, and a fatherly relationship forms.
Gran Torino stars two young newcomers, Bee Vang and Ahney Her. Bee Vang plays Thoa, a young Hmong boy trying to find himself in a neighborhood where he’s certain to a life of crime. Ahney Her also stars in her first cinematic feature as Sue, his bright older sister, whose sarcasm and wit provoke trouble with a local gang. Sharing the screen with Clint Eastwood would make it appear impossible to stand out; however, these two young actors convincingly prove their on-screen cinematic abilities. Vang and Her’s relationship with Eastwood is dramatically believable, as one is emotionally touched by the end of the film.
      “Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while that you shouldn’t have fucked with? That’s me,” says Walt Kowalski to a couple of young gangsters. Eastwood is remarkable in his role of the very cold and unpleasant Walt Kowalski. He is disgusted with the lack of respect shown by younger generations. Since the death of his wife, he confides only in his dog, Daisy. After the Hmong family forces their way into his life, he sees the trouble keeping these teens from reaching success and decides to take action.
      At the request of Kowalski’s deceased wife, Father Janovich (Christopher Carley) follows Walt in and out of every door, begging for a chance to talk.  These two share thought-provoking conversations about life and death, forgiveness and other highly disputed Catholic beliefs. Kowalski dares to corner a Catholic priest and asks the questions we would never for fear of going straight to hell. Walt doesn’t care to listen to the wisdom of a 27 year-old virgin priest who has only experienced the stories of the bible from a comfortable chair.This insight brings such raw truth to the screen that its difficult to believe it was scripted. From dusty confessions to cold-blooded murder, this film delves into many contemporary issues and asks the audience to question their own beliefs and actions.
       Screenwriter Nick Schenk brings surprising humor to this serious drama. “I’ve been called a lot of things, but never funny,” Walt responds to a young Hmong girl. The story and dialogue delights as it flows naturally between characters. Gran Torino leaves us with many lessons learned and a message to all who find themselves new to cultural diversity. By the end of this film, the Gran Torino isn’t the only thing respected by everyone in this widely diverse community.