The Therapeutic Power of Film: Movie Review of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Sundance 2015 winner: Grand Jury Prize – Dramatic and Audience Award


Expected: 4 reels out of 5

My actual rating: 5 reels out of 5

Me and Earl has a view of high school that is very relatable to anyone, especially if you’ve been in high school in the last 20 years or so. The social aspect of high school can be a daunting experience. There’s a bunch of cliques and you try to associate yourself with others who have the same likes and interests. What if you don’t really fit in anywhere? The “me” part of the movie title is Greg (Thomas Mann). Greg thinks he has the terrains of high school figured out. He makes enough contact with each and every group, enough to gain passage and not really be bothered. It’s a superficial way to live a social life but why should one try to force themselves to fit in a group just to be liked. Greg’s life is not completely superficial. His closest friend is Earl (RJ Cyler), who shares a love of cinema with him. Greg’s life gets turned upside down as he befriends “the dying girl,” Rachel (Olivia Cooke). It’s a friendship that forces Greg to examine his outlook on life and his shortcomings as a person.

Thomas Mann plays Greg to perfection. I can relate to Greg in a few ways: having a similar outlook on life when I younger and a lover of cinema. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who can relate. Earl is the perfect complement to Greg: loves film, confident in himself, and doesn’t choose to conform to any one group. They share a bond of watching and making movies together. Despite knowing each other since kindergarten, Greg refers to Earl as a coworker because Greg has some issues. I can relate to this because I have a friend who I’ve worked with on some videos and movies as an editor, and he used to introduce to me to someone as “his editor.” I suppose it bothered me because it implies that I’m his and his only and although I’ve put together videos, I wouldn’t necessarily even call myself an editor. So relating to Earl’s perspective, I can see why having your friend call you a coworker can be annoying. And relating to Greg, I didn’t think highly of the videos and movies I made either.

Despite Greg’s shortcomings, Greg and the dying girl, Rachel, still manage to become friends. Even after he is forced to hang out with her because of Greg’s mom (Connie Britton). Olivia Cooke is able to give off the complexities of her character. The struggles of treatment and dealing with her own mortality. Greg tries to help her cope with it the best way he can. When a fellow classmate suggests that Greg and Earl make a video for Rachel, Greg reluctantly accepts.

One of the few things I chose to remember from classes in college was something a film teacher told us in class once. To paraphrase, he said that one of the reasons one would get into film was because it is a form of self-therapy. That there was something inside that needed to be told. Making the horrible (but awesome) movie parodies is probably not therapeutic for Greg. It ends up being a little therapeutic for Rachel as she watches his movies, as a way to help cope with being sick. A way to pass the time. Making a film for Rachel is the best expression of himself that Greg can give to Rachel even though he thinks it will be complete crap. This is the story of Greg’s senior year in high school and how it will destroy his life.

I’m a sucker for coming of age movies and this one is one of the best I’ve seen. I’m probably a little bias because I can relate to it on so many levels: sharing life views, a character I can highly relate to, a love of cinema, and it even has a song in it from one of my favorite bands. It was a therapeutic movie for me. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is an emotionally touching coming of age drama. Bolstered by some big names like Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal, and Connie Britton, but it’s all about the performances of Mann, Cyler, and Cooke. It can appeal to anyone, especially to the lovers of film. It’s a movie that holds up to multiple viewings and something that will stick with you long after you’ve watched it.

Quick Hit Reviews: Summer Movies


Expected: 3 reels out of 5

My actual rating: 3 reels out of 5

Ted 2, good for a few laughs and some memorable lines (“fresh cakes”), whether you want to remember them or not. It has the best cameo of the summer of a certain action star buying a kids cereal, that alone made it worth it for me. If you enjoyed the first Ted, you’ll enjoy this one.


Expected: 3 1/2 reels out of 5

My actual rating: 3 reels out of 5

Funny and entertaining but the biggest flaw of Dope comes down to the writing. Episodic and a bit scattered. Something that’s worth checking out but you can wait.


Expected 3 reels out of 5

My actual rating: 2 and 1/2 reels out of 5

Biggest mistake was the marketing campaign for this movie, revealing that John Connor…*gasp*…is a new terminator. Maybe it could’ve saved this movie to have it come as a surprise but the terminator story feels so tired and reused, it probably wouldn’t have mattered. The timeline is so messed up now, I’m surprised they haven’t torn a hole in the universe yet. Starts off well but starts to taper off halfway. Check it out if you want explosions and Arnie one-liners, otherwise find something else to watch.


Expected: 3 1/2 reels out of 5

My actual rating: 4 reels out of 5

All of the stuff that made the first one good, minus all the dramatic stuff. Add humor and you have a movie that exceeds its predecessor.

Inside Out

What’s going on inside that head of yours…


My expectations: 3 and a half reels

My actual rating: 5 reels out of 5

We are all guided by our emotions. Happiness, when you making a game winning shot. Sadness, when you miss an opportunity. Fear, of trying something new. Disgust, of doing something you dislike. Anger, when someone or a situation aggravates you. You can find all of these kinds of emotions in every single person. Inside Out is a movie that takes a look at what makes a human tick in an amusing and highly creative way. It examines the complexity of emotion and how there is a place for all of them. It’s a movie about emotions that plays with your emotions.

We follow the emotions of Riley, an 11-year-old girl from Minnesota. After she and her family move to San Francisco, her emotions try to keep things in balance as she tries to adjust to her new life. It’s one of the best times to examine one’s emotions because when we’re younger, our emotions seem to be all over the place sometimes. Especially when you’ve been moved to unfamiliar territory. Although, change can be tough at any age.

From the headquarters of Riley’s head, it’s fun to see how things operate. Seeing where memories come from, how they’re used, and where they go. Why some memories fade away and why some keep coming back when you don’t expect them to. And we see how memories can shape our personalities. At the head of this are our five emotions: joy, sadness, disgust, anger, and fear. We’re not always stuck in Riley’s head, sometimes we see what’s going on in others such as her parents. The emotions of adults seem to be a little bit more in control compared to the ones in our young protagonist’s head. Perfect depiction since “most” adults appear to have their emotions in check compared to kids and teenagers.

While it would be nice to be happy all the time, there is a need for balance in one’s life. Too much of one thing can be bad for one’s health, even if it’s happiness. The emotions of Riley have trouble with this concept. The other 4 emotions tend to look to Joy for some leadership but ultimately they can’t help themselves and let their natural instincts take over. In Riley’s head, her emotions are out of control. When we jump into her parents’ heads, we see their emotions have learned to worked together. Emotions are a reflection of our lives. As we grow older, they grow older too. They learn to control themselves and in reflection, we are in more control of ourselves. One character proclaims, “emotions can’t quit.” Whether we like them or not, emotions have a place in everyone and they’re not going anywhere.

Inside Out is headed by an all-star cast including Amy Poehler, Richard Kind, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith, and many more. While not exactly original, there was a TV show in the 90s called Herman’s Head with the same concept, it takes a very creative approach on how we think. It opens up the imagination to the possibility that your emotions are working hard up in your head. It’s a movie with lots of humor and heart. And like most other Pixar films, it’s not afraid to tug at your heart-strings. With a movie about emotions, you need to expect that it will reach you emotionally.

Expectations: I went into this one almost blind. Didn’t see much many commercials or trailers for them. Knowing only the basic premise of the movie. So went in with regular expectations that were easily exceeded. Pixar has done it again!

Appeal: General audiences. I was attracted to this movie because of the concept of human personalities and emotions. Definitely a movie that any can enjoy.

Re-watch Value: A movie that can easily be enjoyed over and over.

Memorable: Something that will be stored in long-term memory for a long time.

Jurassic World

Welcome to Jurassic World


Expected: 3 and a half reels out of 5

My rating: 3 and a half reels out of 5

To visit a theme park that features dinosaurs would be a very exciting experience. The people in the Jurassic Park universe are very lucky to have such a park available to them. Over 20 years since the events of Jurassic Park, John Hammond’s dream has come to full realization. It’s a fickle business though. Seeing dinosaurs isn’t enough, somehow people aren’t thrilled, at least in the eyes of park operators and investors. It has become all about the bottom line. For whatever reason, attendance has declined a little. The people who run the park solve this by introducing new attractions. To really up the wow factor, they asked the lab to create a new dinosaur with no questions asked about details. Some of the problems in the park could be solved if some of the characters ask themselves, “Should I do this?” When trying to solve the problems that have arisen, some of the characters should ask themselves, “Is there a better way I could handle this?” Not asking themselves this question only exacerbates the situation. Nevertheless, watching people screw up makes for an entertaining movie. Jurassic World is formulaic and a little predictable, but it has thrills and a touch of humor. It’s not a movie that will blow you away but it can leave you satisfied.

“You just went and created a new dinosaur? Probably a not a good idea,” says Owen (Chris Pratt), one of the few people in Jurassic World that thinks logically but is still prone to dumb mistakes. He questions the park’s intentions of a new attraction of  a modified hybrid dinosaur and with justification. It’s deadly, intelligent, and it wants out of its cage. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the operations manager of the park, a highly organized workaholic. She may tend to overreact, only creating bigger problems. The cast does a decent job in their roles, not a lot of depth to their characters. In real life, Chris Pratt seems like lovable fun going person. Hard to hate him but some of his line deliveries come off borderline cheesy but an enjoyable, easy to like character. Bryce Dallas Howard tends to get put in roles where there is some aspect of her personality you have to hate. Not sure if it’s intentional but she does it well. Other characters include park owner, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Kahn) and Hoskins (Vincent D’onofrio). Simon a is caring owner concerned not only for the happiness of the people attending the park but the animals who live there. He is a bit careless as far as how the park is run, sparing no expense. His carelessness could prove costly. Not entirely sure how to define the role of Hoskins as far as what his title is. Knowing he is played by D’onofrio, you can expect some trouble. He is good at playing an antagonist. The first call back to the original film is having two kids brought in that are related to another character in the film. Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson), nephews of Claire, that are prone to dumb mistakes as well. They have some smarts though and can actually take care of themselves. Some other throwbacks to the original film include: seeing remnants of the original park, John Hammond being mentioned in passing, and if you have a trained eye, you can spot a certain mathematician on the back cover of a book.

If you’re familiar with movies, you can probably easily see how the story is going to unfold. Dangerous new creature introduced, it gets loose, and you deal with the consequences. Nevertheless, the movie is an entertaining ride. Has all the stuff you need for a summer blockbuster: action, thrills, and humor. Goosebumps to the sampling of  John Williams’ score as we see the park for the first time. The thrill of a dinosaur hunting our main characters. Humor added to diffuse what is actually a scary situation. No one expects to go to Disneyland to get eaten. The movie by no means is perfect. Hard to ask for perfection when your predecessor set the bar high. When it comes to summer blockbusters, all you need is to be entertained (“Is that not why you are here?”). Just like operations of Jurassic World, the studio hopes the new attraction will bring the people in.

Expectations: Was cautiously optimistic about this one, considering how Jurassic Park II and III were. Glad it turned out all right.

Appeal: It’s a movie aimed for general audiences, parental discretion advised, of course.

Re-watch value: Actually watched this one twice. Once in 2D, and once in IMAX-3D. Held up well the second time, 3D wasn’t that great though. So it’s definitely one that be revisited multiple times.

Memorable: Some good memorable moments and one rather troubling moment, haha.


Oh yeah!!


Expected: 3 and a half reels out of 5

My rating: 3 and a half reels out of 5

Many years ago, when I was a poor college student who couldn’t afford HBO and all that was available through Netflix were DVDs (does anyone still do the DVDs still?), my roommate had some discs from season 3 of Entourage. I popped in a disc out of boredom and curiosity, and thus, I was introduced to Entourage (oh yeah!). With my own Netflix account, I queued up the DVDs and started from the beginning. When I got caught up to where the show was at that point, I stopped watching because of no HBO and I needed to stop procrastinating on school. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, I started watching from the beginning and two weeks later, went through all the episodes. It’s a good thing I took some time to go through all the episodes because the movie picks up right where the show ended.

Entourage is a tale of movie superstar Vinny Chase, his trusty agent, and his close friends as they navigate the dog eat dog world that is Hollywood. A show where everyone is casted well. Adrian Grenier is believable as womanizing actor Vincent Chase, his charming looks makes every woman in Hollywood want him. Managing Chase’s career is his best friend Eric Murphy (Kevin Connolly), nicknamed E. Thrown into the deep end of the pool as he learns the pitfalls of being a famous actor’s manager. Chase’s other friend, Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), acts as Vinny’s driver. And one of the best parts of the show is character, Johnny Chase (Kevin Dillon), nicknamed Drama. Brother of Vinny Chase, Vinny’s personal chef, and also a struggling actor. The other factor that makes Entourage a great show is agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven). Fast talking, back-talking, a bit of a sexist and racist but loads of fun to listen to.

Entourage is what you expect Hollywood to be like. Drugs, money, sex, and partying. There is probably some truth to what is presented to us but I assume just like everything that comes out of the movie world, it is going to be exaggerated a little bit. Nevertheless, it’s entertaining and funny. There are some TV shows that made a successful transition to the big screen, The Simpsons and South Park, for example. When those movies hit the big screen, they felt like big movies as far a grand scale goes for story telling. With Entourage hitting the big screen, it falls short on grand for me. The biggest thing on scale for Entourage is the amount of cameos in the movie. It felt like one season condensed into an hour and 50 minute episode. Each character has their own story going on and we experience the lows and highs of them all. The movie is new but felt familiar like it was repeating similar story lines that happened in previous seasons.

It’s hard to gauge whether anyone experiencing Entourage for the first time through the movie will enjoy it. If you are not familiar with the show, they do try to catch you up to speed as the boys watch a documentary of themselves being made. From their humble beginnings in Queens, New York to the big time directing debut of Vinny Chase. The movie is fun, mindless, entertainment  that will make you laugh out loud. To truly appreciate the movie, you have to watch the show from beginning to end, especially if you want to appreciate the role of Johnny Drama. Give the movie a shot and may even make you a fan of the show. If you loved the show, you’ll enjoy it. If not, you can always hug it out, bitch.

Expectations: Pretty much what I expected out of this show.

Appeal: What HBO did for women with Sex and the City, Entourage is what they did for men.

Re-watch value: Can watch again but no rush to. Something that I would put on as background noise and come back to when something is about to happen.

Memorable: A couple good memorable moments.

A Classic Turns 30



If for some reason, you’ve never seen this movie, you should not continue. If you haven’t seen it, you should check it out at least once.

Who would not want to be a goonie? You have a close group of friends that is like family and you go on adventures. The classic movie turns 30 years old and it is still as fun of a movie today as it was back then, a timeless classic. I find it’s pretty rare when a childhood movie is still as good when you’re older. This usually happens when you make a movie that can appeal to all demographics. It’s a movie with humor, excitement, and grand sense of adventure. A story filled with great characters and memorable movie moments. A classic movie that will hopefully be enjoyed for another 30 years.

Goonies assemble! Mikey, an idealistic leader. Mouth, intelligent and uses his mouth to troll others, sometimes for a laugh or to help solve a problem. Data, intelligent and a specialist in gadgets. Chunk, a bit of a klutz and an appetite to match, who tends to exaggerate stories that are hard to believe most of the time but a loyal friend with a big heart. Brand, older brother of Mikey, likes to think he’s in control but is not. Andy, love interest of Brand, she’s not Liberace. Stef, friend and who is possibly harboring some feelings for Mouth. Even the villains, The Fratellis, are quite the characters. The crime family that is intimidating enough to make a young boy confess all his sins. The most interesting of the Fratellis is Sloth, a deformed man who is abused and kept under lockdown by his mother and brothers.

Sloth is at the center of a few memorable moments in movie history. Can’t forget him coming to the rescue as he yells, “HEY YOU GUYS!” Then later rips open his shirt revealing the iconic superman symbol. Mikey’s inspiration speech in the well as everyone is about to turn back. The heart of which says this is our moment and we need seize it because we may never get this opportunity again. “Goonies never say die!” And you can never forget Chunk being forced to do the truffle shuffle.

A movie I enjoyed when I was younger, a movie I still enjoy now, and one I’m sure I’ll enjoy for years to come. The best thing about timeless movies is that there will always be people who get to experience for the first time and fall in love with it like so many have. I leave you with the The Goonies Oath:

I will never betray my Goon Dock friends.
We will stick together until the whole World ends.
Through Heaven and Hell and nuclear war.
Good pals like us will stick like tar.
In the city or the country or the forest or the boonies,
I am proudly declared one of the Goonies.

Mad Max: Fury Road

What a lovely movie.


My rating: 5 reels out of 5

I only remember bits and pieces of the old Mad Max films starring Mel Gibson. They would come on tv in the middle of the afternoon and I would have no idea what is actually going on. It’s been so long that if I sat down and watched them now, my now “adult” brain and my so-called movie knowledge would perceive the movies differently now. It never occurred to me that the director of those films, George Miller, actually directed this one too. George Miller flies under the radar and apparently is a versatile director, having also directed the animated movies, Happy Feet and Happy Feet Two. George Miller is quite the genius as he brings us an action packed film and creates a vibrant world that is Mad Max: Fury Road.

The world is now a wasteland and everyone is out of their minds. Max (Tom Hardy) is a former officer trying to survive in that world. After being captured by a tyrannical leader’s army, Max is thrusted into a middle of a conflict when the leader has his property stolen from him.

Fury Road is highly detailed from the environment, down to the smallest role in the film. The great thing about the details of the film is that it helps paint a picture of the world without stating it with words. What people are willing or unwilling to put with in order to survive. It’s the little details that give life to every character in the movie. The way they behave and what is governing their actions. An army worshipping their leader and having a warrior’s death to secure their place in the afterlife. Filmmakers took some care in the little things and it shows.

From beginning to end, the film is a non-stop adrenaline rush. Well maybe not non-stop, we do get moments where things calm down so we can catch our breath. Never a dull moment and we are provided with a variety of action sequences. You also have to appreciate the filmmaker’s using as little special effects as possible. Makes the action sequences even more amazing.

Guaranteed I know who George Miller is now. After watching this movie, makes me want to watch all the previous Mad Max films now. Fury Road is easily one of the best action movies that has come out this year, if not the best.

My expectations: 4 reels out of 5, expectations exceeded.

Appeal: Target audience is most likely adult men but with strong female leads and characters, it’s a film that could potentially translate to many.

Re-watch value: Can easily watch this movie again.

Memorable: Definitely

Formats: 2D, 3D, Dolby Atmos (where available), D-Box (where available).