“LITTLE BOY” – PREMIERE REVIEW (2015) Open Road Films


little boy

“Little Boy” is one of those ‘feel good’ films in which deals with the story of a 8-year-old boy trying to bring World War II to an end so that he can see his father again.
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It follows the story of “Pepper Flynt Busbee” (Jakob Salvanti) having a crisis of life that children can have, after his father, “James” (Michael Rapaport), is drafted to war after his brother “London” (David Henrie) is deemed unfit for being flat-footed. While his mother “Emma” (Emily Watson) can only stand by as the local priest “Father Oliver” (Tom Wilkinson) gets the unusually small boy, who is given the nickname “Little Boy” by all the townspeople of O’Hare, which is one of those picturesque little towns that you only see in postcards, to think that he can actually ‘will’ his father back home if he follows a list of good deeds to do.

While the film does capture the magic-obsessed boy trying in trying to navigate the fine line between the reality of his life with the delusion of his fantasies because of his love for his father, it’s also very predictable and a bit dangerous in stating that all the boy has to do is wish it, and it will happen. Add in our country’s anti-Japanese resentment during the war, depicted in a bit too cartoonish strokes at times, as once Pepper befriends the only Japanese man in town, “Hashimoto” (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), in part as its one of the things on said list, and of course changing the way he thinks about the prejudices of the times. The little town is full of racists, including his own brother, who so readily buying into the delusion as Little Boy is part of a magic trick that really sends his imagination, and theirs over the top. In one scene, at the precise moment the boy’s attempt to ‘move a mountain’ coincides with an earthquake striking the area with the towns newspaper then reporting the boy has done it.

All in all, I think it might be trying to be a well-meaning film but is quite manipulative on a very misguided scale. In this case, Little Boy is the rare faith-based type film that many viewers may find legitimately offensive because of what it suggests is just too much. By telling kids to just ‘wish’ for something to make it happen by doing a few good deeds, is truly not a good thing. They should’ve stuck to just doing good things for all the right reasons, not the one depicted here.
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David Henrie

David Henrie

On a side note, I did enjoy meeting the cast and director of the film. All very nice people and of all the oddities of this premiere I sat next to Tara Reid and the Jedward Twins, whom I had no idea who they were until I got home and researched Irish twins. ha! They were sweet and nice as anything, told me I would cry during the film, I didn’t. And Tara for all her bad press, was so nice and fun. Kind of went in tone for the film for me, Don’t always believe everything you see or read.

Premiere: Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 at Regal Cinemas DTLA – Film is now playing nationwide
Grade: ‘D’

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“SELMA” (2014) Q & A w/Ava DuVernay,Common, Carmen Ejojo



Yes, I should have done this review ages ago as it’s been a month since I attended an Oscar screening of this film along with an after-screening Q & A with Director: Ava DuVernay; Cast members Common, Carmen Ejojo, and Henry G. Sanders. Not even sure why I waited so long, but I will say I’ve thought some about it since then. Maybe it’s because the movie, while I’m not even going to pretend it isn’t a strong, powerful film, just missed a few things for me. And historical inaccuracies aside, as let’s be real, many prestigious movies take dramatic license with historical events and pretty much all bio-pics have them, I think I’ve just been trying to put my finger on what it was. Could be the slower pace of it or the fact that, some needlessly added small odd scenes, at times I thought I was watching a MLK biopic instead of a Selma one, or for me the too strong religious aspect of it. Yes I am fully aware and know MLK was REVEREND Martin Luther King..I am aware of the fact he was a religious man, but since they are taking liberties with some things, including re-writing the “I Have a Dream” speech, this would have been what I would have chosen to tone down some as some of it comes off unnecessary in parts. But whatever it was, I think a lot of it has to do with everything going on from Ferguson to New York to Paris, maybe I’ve been trying to come to terms with man’s atrocities against each other in every way and this film started that for me as it couldn’t have come at a more relevant time. Selma 1

As the opening of the film opens with a heart-wrenching explosion we move along quickly to the man “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” (David Oyelowo), pulling off a performance that seems true to the man without being a caricature or overly reverent. The film acknowledges that King was a man, with faults like any other, but in a way that makes him affecting. Oyelowo doesn’t look especially like King, but he does capture a good rendition of the heart & soul of the man. However, he’s only a piece of the puzzle, with this being a true ensemble film with at least a dozen good roles, from Carmen Ejogo as King’s wife Coretta, to pros like Wendell Pierce as “Rev. Hosea Williams”, musician/actor Common “James Bevel” and Martin Sheen “Frank Minis Johnson” as some of the allies King encountered along the way.
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The film does a great job portraying just how much the people in the march, from all walks of life, were risking their lives by participating, against a southern resistance ranging from ignorant yokels to devious politicians, to definitely more than a few sadists, who were so keen to inflict harm to the peaceful marchers that at times it’s painful to watch. There are scenes of people riding horses and brandishing whips, covering wood clubs with spoke-like wire to inflict as much damage as possible on the marchers. While some might think it’s puzzling as to where this hate comes from, but even more so in that the film tries to keep an even hand in showing both sides. Tim Roth as “Gov. George Wallace” could have easily played him as demonic, but he tries and somewhat succeeds to humanize him as much as he can, which is not easy when you’re playing one of history’s truly great evil bastards. Tom Wilkinson is very effective as “Lyndon Johnson“, who’s not above playing the good ol’boy card with Wallace, but also sympathizes with King, even if he’s reluctant to stir up trouble and makes a few horrible decisions along the way.
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In a cast of ‘names’ many of which I have been a fan of for a long long time, yes I’m looking at you Lorraine Toussaint “Amelia Boynton”, Tom Wilkinson, Giovanni Ribisi “Lee White”, Wendall Pierce, Tim Roth and yes, even Oprah Winfry as I wasn’t an ‘talkshow’ Oprah fan, but I am an ‘actress’ Oprah fan. My three standouts of this film that made me sit up and take notice are Stephen James as “John Lewis”, Trai Byers as “James Forman”, and lastly Alessandro Nivola as “John Doar”.

Hopefully the best thing about “Selma” that we can take away from it is that it’s not a movie about blame or hate. Rather, it’s hopeful in that it shows how people can come together and change things for the better in a non-violent manner ~ a message that should always be kept in mind when things get out of hand as they often do. Even with it’s faults,“Selma” is a strong film that sends a clear message to a new generation about what standing up against intimidation in any form is all about. It is a passionate work about a towering figure who left an enduring legacy, but one that, as recent events might indicate, is still short of completion. selma common 1

Additional note: I love Q & A’s after films with directors/producers/cast etc. They really give you insight sometimes into things about how the film got made or a fun antidote or two.. This Oscar screening was on Thursday, December 18th,2014 at The Landmark Theater with Dir. Ava DuVernay giving insight into that this project was really made because of David Oyelowo who took it and ran with it (which explains the large Brit casting also! 🙂 ) getting Oprah & her team including Brad Pitt & others involved, including picking her as the director, even though she didn’t have much experience and convincing everyone to get onboard. Also, reasoning behind not using the actual “I Have a Dream” speech..the rights to it are held by someone else who has never used them and they could not get them for this film so she ended up re-writing it herself. As for something I completely did not know, at the end of the film we see a shot of a bridge ~ it’s the “Edmund Pettus Bridge” ~ as DuVernay noted was named after the leader of the Klan back then..it’s name remains today.
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Grade: B-