Return to Hogwarts (2022)

I got an HBO subscription just so I could watch this special. I have been a fan of Harry Potter for as long as I can remember. I got the books as birthday presents when I was younger, went to see the movies in the theaters when they came out, and had Potter-themed birthday parties many, many times. You could say that I am among the key demographic for this special.

When specials/reunions come out, I am usually hesitant to watch them because I do not know if I will be let down and some of my love for the film/tv show will be diminished. But after much thought, I decided to give this special a chance because I love the characters, actors, and world so much that I felt it in my gut that I would not be let down. I was right.

from HBO Max on YouTube

The special is broken down into “Chapters” that cover different movies and different times of the characters lives. As the movies progress, Harry, Ron and Hermione start as children, become teenagers, and then adults. The special follows this timeline and moves in order through the movies.

There are many emotional reunions of the most beloved characters, reminiscing of those who are not around any more, and talk about the future of the characters and all that they bring to the lives of the audience. One of my favorite reunions was that of Malfoy (Tom Felton) and his father (Jason Isaacs). Jason spoke about terrorizing young Tom on set while in character, and Tom spoke about feeling intimidated by him. It gave me a new perspective to know that even though Malfoy seemed fearless, behind-the-scenes Tom was truly scared of his ‘father’. It gave me a new soft spot for Malfoy that I didn’t know was possible.

Another reunion I loved was of Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) and Hermione (Emma Watson). The bond between them was visceral and the experiences they shared seemed to come to life in their eyes as they spoke about them. I also enjoyed seeing Sirius (Gary Oldman) and Bellatrix (Helena Bonham Carter) reunite, but of course my favorite reunion was that of Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione.

So much time and life has passed since they had last been able to get together, but their bond has not weakened, it is very clear and present. They are similar to their characters and have a friendship that cannot be broken by time or distance. You just have to see if for yourself to know what I am talking about.

I could talk about Harry Potter all day, so I think I am going to cut myself off here. This special made me cry, laugh and feel so many emotions that I do not even have words for. (And that is saying a lot coming from a writer who uses writing to convey my emotions.) Most important of all, it made me come to terms with the deep reason I love these movies. Watching misfits band together, face obstacles, and overcome them by trusting and leaning each other is something I want to believe in. I bet a lot of other viewers want to believe in it too.

If you love the movies, do yourself a favor and watch this special. Even if it does not seem possible, it may further deepen your love for the movies after you see how much love the cast and crew have for each other even this many years after filming.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

9.5/10

Where is Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall), Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Julie Walters (Mrs. Weasley), David Thewlis (Remus Lupin), Branagh (Lockhart), Harry Telling (Dudley), David Bradley (Filch), and Katie Leung (Cho)? I know, I know they could not include everyone from the films, but I would have gladly watched a 5-hour-reunion, just saying.

Now that I think of it, Harry Potter has so many good characters that may have only have a few minutes of dialogue, but were so powerful and instrumental to the whole series. That is incredibly amazing.

It’s A New Year

Something inside me rumbles when I hear someone say, “New Year, New Me.” I think it’s because I don’t think it should take a date on a calendar to make you change your habits that you know are not serving you. We have the power to change, to grow, to work towards our best selves every day, not just when a new year starts. So we should seize the day, every day.

That being said, I think it’s great to look back at the past year and note the ups and downs. Celebrate the wins and what we can work on better next year. To encourage you to do this for yourself, I will be open and honest in this post, inserting gifs along the way to make it more fun (mostly Nick Miller, my spirit animal).

*Let’s start off happy and start with some wins.

  1. I completed an internship where I met incredible people, learned a lot, and felt like I had a supportive community that wanted me to succeed. This is a great accomplishment because in the industry it can be easy to feel like you are not enough when you keep hearing “no.” But this internship experience reminded me that there are kind people out there, you just need to find them and hold onto them when you do. Celebrate them.

2. I got published in my college’s literary magazine. I go to college online and did not know the people who were in charge of choosing the works of writing that were selected for the magazine. I was proud I was able to get in without having an “in” with the people in the Publishing Club.

3. I got third place in a 9/11 Writing Competition at my college. I won $250, which was pretty great and enabled me to buy a new iPad so I could explore my love for graphic design. At first I remember being so upset with myself that I got 3rd place, not 1st, but over time I realized I was being too hard on myself. It let me get a new iPad which enabled me to explore so much more creatively! So it was a win for me! All we can ever do is try our best.

*Next, I want to move onto things that are not necessarily visible wins, but they can be felt.

4. Even after contracting COVID (for the second time) and dealing with Long COVID (which SUCKS!!!), I did not get derailed from my goals. I kept learning in any way I could and kept networking online through the pandemic.

5. I met more film friends which has allowed me to realize that the nervousness I feel about sharing my new work with others is not central to me. Every creative person feels that!

*Finally, I want to mention what I want to work on for next year.

6. I need to learn to relax, know when to take a break, and that I deserve time to chill out and reset. I keep feeling burnt out and not motivated because I push myself until I have nothing left. That is not sustainable.

7. I need to trust myself and not spend time worrying if people like me or not. All I can be is nice, helpful and provide a laugh here and there. If someone does not like me, it does not do me well to dwell on it because that will not change anything. Not everyone will like you, that is something I have to accept.

8. I used to be great at this, but the pandemic has clouded my mind. I need to get better at saying, “No” when something or someone is not a good fit. Being isolated for so long has led me to saying, “Yes” when I normally would not. I do not want to miss out on any opportunity so I keep saying, “Yes” and then I get overwhelmed. Then, when I get asked to do something that I really want to do, I say, “No” because I cannot take anything else on my plate.

*I want to end with saying what I am grateful for.

9. I am grateful for the family and friends that are there for me and believe in me even when I do not believe in myself.

10. I am grateful for my courage and humility that allow me to keep learning and growing even when it is scary and all I want to do is hide. I don’t let that stop me. I used to think I was in Ravenclaw, but I am beginning to accept that I am in Gryffindor.

That’s all folks!!! I wish you a great year ahead! I hope you create goals, new memories, meet new people (safely), and share laughs and smiles. To 2022!

The Bling Ring (2013)

Up until a few weeks ago I was one of the few people who had never watched The Godfather. I had always heard how great it was despite all of the violence and how I had to watch it, especially because I am Italian. I always shrugged it off and it stayed on my watch later list until one day I decided to prepare myself and watch it. I watched all three movies in three consecutive days. That led me to watching this film because it is directed by Sofia Coppola.

Going into the film, I did not have set expectations. I had seen this movie pop up in my recommended before, but it is not the kind of movie that I typically watch so I skipped past it. However, once I learned it was directed by Sofia, I decided I should give it a try and have an open mind.

from A24 on YouTube

After watching the film, I am pleasantly surprised. The directing was incredible. Each shot was well thought out and added to the plot of the story. The story and characters progressed seamlessly and I was always wondering when things would turn for the worst. I liked how the story was told with flashbacks, or flashes of the future, while also living in the present. The timeline kept me intrigued. Additionally, all of the actors truly brought the characters to life.

While I do not know much about the real story and real people that the movie is based on, I think Sofia did a great job at adapting it into a movie. Along with directing the film, she wrote the script. The casting was solid and while this is not meant to be a comedy, many of the scenes had humor laced into them. Sometimes I felt like just bursting out laughing because of how ridiculous the characters were acting or how I could not relate to them at all but still sympathized with them in a way. I felt like I knew the characters. I felt interweaved in the story. That is when I know the director and writer have done a good job.

Overall, toward the end of the movie, I started to zone out more. I felt like I knew what was going to happen. Out of the entire movie, the ending was my least favorite. But then again, from the beginning of the movie it can be assumed that Rebecca and her crew will get caught eventually and I was still entertained for the majority of the film. If you gave this movie a watch, what do you think about the ending? Did it leave you wanting more? Did it drag on too long or not long enough?

Rating: 8 out of 10.

8/10

*Disclaimer: Making a movie is hard. Sometimes you have an idea and it is not interpreted how you intended it to be. All directors, producers, writers, and everyone on set should be proud at what they created and I do not want to diminish that. I just want to share my opinions so we can learn from movies and see what works and what didn’t.

Miss Americana

This documentary on Taylor Swift came out almost two years ago. I just watched it for the first time on Netflix yesterday. I decided to give it a chance because I have heard a lot of people saying that they were not a fan of Swift and the documentary changed that because it humanized her. After watching the film, I understand that conclusion completely.

When someone is famous, it can be easy to see them as just that, a famous person, and along the way it can be forgotten how they experience all of the emotions and ups and downs of that “normal” people do. The film shows the behind-the-scenes moments and what Taylor has endured over the years with the press, an assault case, and struggles with an eating disorder that went on for years.

My favorite part about the film is the way it was directed (Lana Wilson). Some of the shots are out of focus, the editing is not always smooth, but this adds to the realness of the story. Instead of removing a shot because it was out of focus or choppy, it was still included in the film. In a way, it makes Taylor’s story more relatable and digestible. It could be interpreted as a metaphor for how her life might seem very glamorous from afar, and while that is part of the job, underneath it all she has many of the same struggles that her fans do. She struggles with self esteem, trying to better herself, impress people and one up her previous work.

Before watching this film, I was not a huge fan of Taylor’s. I was not a hater, but I just wasn’t a huge fan. I listened to her music and appreciated her talent and writing skills, but I did not connect to her music enough for me to be a big fan of hers. However, now I have an even deeper appreciation for her work, her determination and persistence that the press loves to overlook. Hopefully that continues to change and she continues to succeed in the years to come.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

7/10

*Disclaimer: Making a movie is hard. Sometimes you have an idea and it is not interpreted how you intended it to be. All directors, producers, writers, and everyone on set should be proud at what they created and I do not want to diminish that. I just want to share my opinions so we can learn from movies and see what works and what didn’t.

Don’t Look Up

I was looking forward to watching this movie since it was announced around a year ago. The cast alone is intriguing, but the concept and satire promised from the trailers and the promotional videos got me even more excited.

However, I was severely let down by its execution. While it clearly makes a very necessary point about climate change and people’s lack of recognition of it until it is likely too late, the rest of the movie fell flat for me. Very flat.

Without spoilers, my favorite moments of the film were the ending and scenes with Timothee Chalamet. The ending was touching, made a solid point, and jarring in the right ways. It was emotional and well-executed. Chalamet’s character also played a major role in the final scene and often added more dimension through the movie when the jokes fell flat. The post credits scene is also one for the books. Not entirely necessary but I would say it completes the semi-cliffhanger.

Overall, I did not laugh out loud once. The humor did not make me want to laugh and the pacing was rough. At times the plot felt like it leaped forward and at other times it felt like it was at a stand still. The incorporation of big stars in this movie was not enough to make me recommend it to family or friends. I want to emphasize how I really wanted to love this movie but it let me down. I enjoy other films by this director (Adam McKay) so I was hoping that this movie would end the year with a bang, but unfortunately that is not what happened.

Lastly, while Jonah Hill’s character, as well as most of the other characters, had the opportunity to be powerfully funny and satirical, they did not feel three dimensional and I could not find myself relating to them. I think this is the reason for my lack of enjoyment of this movie. The characters were not well-developed and left me feeling “on the outside” and not attached in any way.

If you have a few free hours, give this movie a watch if you’re ok with being let down, or if you want to see a few “meme-able moments” that are funnier out of context than in the film. But other than that, I would not say that this film is one that you need to watch. You can skip this one and not miss out on anything. Unless you don’t believe in climate change, then maybe give this one a watch and rethink your reasoning.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

5/10

*Disclaimer: Making a movie is hard. Sometimes you have an idea and it is not interpreted how you intended it to be. All directors, producers, writers, and everyone on set should be proud at what they created and I do not want to diminish that. I just want to share my opinions so we can learn from movies and see what works and what didn’t. 🙂

Running With Wolves short film

Xenja practicing for her performance.

It has been a while since I posted. 3 whole months! If you want to keep up with my professional work, feel free to follow me on my other website here. On there I post what I am working on currently, from working with film festivals to film internships.

But today I have an exciting announcement! I am working with Xenja and her team to produce a short music film titled, Running With Wolves.

The film will be filmed in a black box theatre and tells a story through circus arts and movement. The performance will comment on the question, “Who are we before the world tell us who to be?”

Here is what Xenja has to say about the film,

We will tell the story of a lone wolf finding herself by breaking free of the external noise of society to allow her inner light to be her guide. The story is one that many of us can relate to: Who are we without makeup, lights, filters? Who are we without the external pressures telling us who to be and what to do?

Xenja
Xenja on YouTube

The film’s message is close to my heart because recently I have come to realize that many of my habits consist of tasks that I think I need to do, not tasks that make me happy, fulfilled or bring me closer to my goals. When outside voices and opinions penetrate our minds, they can easily make us lose direction and sight of what we are working towards.

While working through the popular Artist’s Way book, I have learned a lot about myself. Thus, when the opportunity presented itself to be an Associate Producer on Xenja’s film, I was excited because the message aligns with my thoughts and my aim to positively affect the community.

If you want to help contribute to the film, the whole team would appreciate your support on Kickstarter. If you share the link or decide to contribute yourself, thank you so much!

**Click here if you want to learn more. 🙂

P.S. Let me know if you contribute so we can shout you out on social media! Sharing the Kickstarter link also helps so much. Thank you in advance!

Disclaimer: This website contains Amazon Associate Links that I earn commission from if you purchase a product using my link. This is at no extra charge to you!

The Letter Room (2020)

Photo by Brett Garwood on Unsplash

This film stars Oscar Isaac’s mustache. I’m kidding. No, but really. His stache really shines, it’s a character in itself. Moving on…

I got the chance to watch this Oscar-nominated short at the San Diego International ShortsFest. I am always intrigued when I see a “big movie star” appear in a short film. It’s usually because their character is interesting and unique, which is likely what drew them to play the part. This film is no exception. The specific storyline drew me in right away, but again, the stache definitely helped.

Salaud Morisset on YouTube

The film’s themes are connection and corruption. How faces and numbers have stories behind them, especially if you are willing to take the time and look a little closer.

After being assigned the job of reading the letters sent to prisoners before delivering them to their rightful recipients, Richard starts to develop a close connection to the inmates and their family members. He starts to understand their life stories, and their lives outside of prison.

At one point in the film, Richard nervously folds a napkin at a restaurant while waiting for Rosita, a prisoner’s partner to arrive. Richard went to Rosita’s house to make sure she was ok after he read a threatening message she sent to her partner on death row. He went to her house on his own will, not because it was the prison’s policy, but because he genuinely wanted to make sure she was ok.

With this short run time, I recommend you give this film a watch. It challenges your idea of empathy and provides a new perspective on a situation that I have not seen explored before in a short. While Richard is not a prisoner in the prison, it can be inferred that he also leads a lonely life, spending much time alone and not feeling connected to others. Thus, it makes sense that he would feel a natural draw to reading the letters because it would make him feel a part of a family and friendships that he does not have in his own life.

Read more about the film here on IMDb.

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A

Cherry (2021)

Photo by T. Q. on Unsplash

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo. Ahem, Avengers.

There is so much hate towards this movie and honestly, I disagree with most of it. Maybe I was hypnotized by seeing Tom Holland in a role that was very unlike Spiderman, or maybe I just don’t watch many films like this one. Either way, I would not say this film was terrible in any respect. Unlike most people, I liked the structure of the film and the way it followed the characters as the story developed.

The plot twists and turns, the characters ebb and flow as their relationships and reality changes. At the base of this film is the realization that one decision, one split moment choice has the ability to change a person’s life for the better or for the worse.

Cherry (Tom Holland) is a troubled dude. He has been through a lot, losses and gains, and eventually those life choices lead to him spiraling out of control and taking all that he loves with him. His girlfriend Emily (Ciara Bravo) is his rock, she sticks beside him even when it would likely be better for her to leave and live her own life without him.

One of the aspects of this story that stood out to me is how young Cherry and Emily, yet they are dealing with so much. I am not sure how old the characters are supposed to be, but both Holland and Bravo look very young for their age, and that definitely effected how I perceived the story and their characters.

Conclusion

Honestly, I do not think that I would have watched this film if it was not directed by the Russo Brothers and it was not starring Tom Holland. This is not the genre I tend to gravitate towards and enjoy watching, but I learned a lot from watching this film. The story’s structure led me to think deeper about the screenplays I am writing and how I can change the structure to add meaning to the story and make it more impactful.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Overall, I feel undecided about this film. If I had to rate it, I would give it a 7/10. I don’t think it is Oscar worthy, but I also do not think that it is horrible and should never be watched again. Some of the reviews were so ruthless and it really surprised me how passionately some people hate this film.

*One thing that I have to note is how I do not have extensive knowledge and perspective on being overseas and dealing with the hardship of battle. In this respect, I cannot comment on the film. If people who have had these experiences say that this film does not do those experiences justice, then I think the directors and writer should have done more research before portraying the characters and story. That is their responsibility. But at the end of the day, no film is perfect (except maybe Dirty Dancing).

Read more about the film on IMDb. This film is available on Apple TV+.

Thanks for reading this review. I enjoyed this film and then I read all the bad reviews, so I felt like I had to get my thoughts out here. Let me know if you agree or disagree with my opinions. There is no right or wrong here.

A

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