Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Smurfs

Unless you were born in the late 1990s, there is a chance that you are familiar with the little blue characters known as Smurfs. But even if you are familiar with the Smurfs, you have never seen them like The Smurfs film.

When I learned that this classic cartoon series was turning into a film, I was not sure what to think of it and said that if I saw it, it would be in the local dollar theater. But then I received an e-mail invitation for an advanced screening. Free.

It does have a 3D version available, but as I always say, save the money and just watch the 2D.

There is enough action and storyline in this film that you do not need the extra visual effects of the 3D to be into the film. The screening was packed!

This film has a lot to offer: endearing comedy, heartbreaking moments, engagement with the characters, greater messages and morals.

What basically happens is that Clumsy Smurf accidentally leads Gargamel and Azrael to the Smurf Village. They then have to flee and Clumsy ends up down the wrong path and in a cave where he ends up sucked into a portal that has opened up due to the blue moon. Papa, Smurfette, Gutsy, Grouchy and Brainy also get sucked into the portal as they try to rescue Clumsy and escape Gargamel at the same time. Then Azrael gets tossed into the portal and Gargamel follows. They all end up in Central Park in the middle of New York City.

In their effort to escape, Clumsy falls into a box and the others end up on top of the cab that the man, Patrick, climbs into to go home to his apartment and pregnant wife and dog.

The others find the apartment and end up in the box that Clumsy already escaped from and ended up running from the dog and trapped in the toilet of the bathroom. The wife finds Clumsy in a wad of wet toilet paper while Patrick finds the other Smurfs in the box. Chaos ensues.

As the few days pass and Papa Smurf diligently seeks a way to get his Smurfs back home and stay safe from Gargamel, the Smurfs and the couple become close. Papa even provides wise advice and encouragement to Patrick about his work and his ability to be a good father. Patrick learns to be who he is and not worry about what others think. And Clumsy learns that he can be a hero while the other Smurfs learn to accept him for who he is.

As to Gargamel, he finds life in New York City to be much different than what he is accustomed to. And he does make a mess out of things because of his awkwardness and lack of social adeptness.

In the end, the Smurfs do return home safe from Gargamel and Azrael with both the Smurfs and the couple having learned things from each other as well as having made new friends.

There are a lot of comical places and endearing moments with good moral lessons.

Overall, I would even say that I actually would not mind seeing this film again. With a PG rating, it is one of the few films currently in theaters that the whole family can enjoy.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cyberbully Brings to Light a Relevant Topic for Today's Young Adults

ABC Family Channel film Cyberbully aired twice Sunday, July 17, 2011 and then again Wednesday, July 20, 2011. The film, which was released in partnership with [Delete] Digital Drama and Seventeen magazine, shed light on a very relevant topic for today's young adults. The hope is that parents watched along with their young people as it touched on the issue of cyberbullying.

First question. What is cyberbullying?  has a lot of answers as to what is considered to be cyberbullying. In summary, it is any kind of behavior ranging from harassing communications and assaults on an individual. Just as bullying can involve disability, age, race, religion, etc., cyberbullying often targets the same kind of areas.

In this film, Emily Osment plays a high school girl named Taylor who receives a computer for her birthday. She ends up signing up for a social networking site similar to the ever popular Facebook at the encouragement of a couple of her friends. From the start, another classmate, Lindsay, becomes a problem for Taylor.

Taylor's brother ends up hacking into her profile and changing her status, but by the time Taylor learns of it, her reputation is already faltering as everyone in her class sees the status and starts making very harassing inappropriate comments on the status. Taylor's mom encourages her to remove the profile, but Taylor hangs on.

To address one area of concern, it is not a simple matter of blocking the bullies. The bullies are often smarter than their victims and end up creating fake profiles and go right back after their victims. Taylor's friend Samantha does this when she creates a fake profile pretending to be a guy that ends up turning around and misusing personal conversations from chats with Taylor and begins posting falsehoods about her.

Turning the computer off does not help deter cyberbullying as the audience that sees the comments about what is going on can carry over into school, work and social life. This is what happens to Taylor in the film. It gets so bad that some students end up posting a spoof video related to the falsehoods which send Taylor over the edge.

Taylor is from a broken family. This factor alone adds fuel to the situation as Taylor hardly ever hears from her father. So by the time the spoof video is posted on Taylor's profile, she is so depressed by the situation that she posts a video that her friend Samantha sees and becomes concerned over. Samantha does the right thing when she calls Taylor's mom for help and rushes over to Taylor's house. Taylor is found having locked herself in the bathroom and trying to open a bottle of pills.

As a result, Taylor ends up on a sedative for a few days and is restricted from accessing her profile. But she starts attending group therapy sessions with other young people who have also been victims of cyberbullying. The group delves into things they can do to stop being victims and to help others. Who can you tell if you are a victim? What can you do?

While all of this is going on, Taylor's mother starts trying to find the individual responsible for the fake profile that nearly ruined Taylor's life. In the process, she runs into the father of Lindsay, the main harasser, who retorts that he is an attorney and that his daughter has rights under the First Amendment. This is another cause of concern when it comes to cyberbullying. How far does the First Amendment extend when it comes to harassing and threatening communication? Is it really protected speech?

One of the things that comes to light for Taylor is when Samantha reveals that she is the one who created the fake profile and is now a victim of cyberbullying herself. The two of them both agree to speak with the media which then helps them to make sure laws get passed in their state to protect people against cyberbullies.

The film reveals a startling statistic: Only 34 of the 50 states have laws against cyberbullying. Even more startling for Alabama residents, Alabama has no law.

Young people have actually become suicide statistics over something that has been said on social networks about them.

Facebook has rules in place that prohibit such behavior, but it still occurs. When Facebook actually had an e-mail address for victims of cyberbullying to send information to, it was a little easier to put a stop to. For example, it is against Facebook rules to establish a hate group against any people group on Facebook. But there was a hate group that had basically stated that people with peanut allergies would be better off dead because people without peanut allergies feel inconvenienced when schools go peanut free. There was a young lady who was in a peanut allergy support group that had stated that seeing some of the things the hate group was saying made her want to hurt herself. I ended up reporting the group as a result, sending an e-mail with copies of the statements. The group did get shut down.

Today, there is a report/block button, but who knows what happens from there? Does Facebook even do anything?

Overall, I personally feel that this film shed light on an area of extreme relevance for today's young people (35 and under) and their parents, youth workers, teachers, etc. It served as a sort of call to attention and call for action.

What will it take for the cyberbullying laws to go nationwide? More victims becoming statistics? I hope not.

Other resources:

Conversation Starter

Q&A with Emily Osment

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cars 2 and Redemption

I am not that big a fan of the Cars films, but since I had won a couple of vouchers that got both my mother and I into the Cars 2 film for free, I figured what the heck?

I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

So as not to give any spoilers, I won't reveal too much of the story line, but this film focused on the friendship between Lightning McQueen and Mater. McQueen had tried to get Mater to conform to being more sophisticated while they traveled the globe for races, but in the end, he learned that friendship is more important than conformity.

I particularly loved the quotes regarding friendship in this film! And of course, one line: "Mater! I'm sticking by you the way you always stick by me."

On a cost-saving note, the film has enough action packed into the 2D version, so save the money and skip the 3D version unless you want to get really dizzy!

Friday, July 1, 2011

ABC Family Offers an Excellent Program Bridging Two Cultures

I was super excited when I first started seeing previews of some of the summer programs for ABC Family. Of particular interest to me is the show "Switched at Birth."

"Switched at Birth" showcases the challenges of the Deaf culture and integration in the hearing community through the merger of two families brought together by the fact that their teenage daughters were switched at birth. Daphne and Bay. Daphne (Katie Leclerc) had meningitis which led to a hearing loss. She reads lips and uses sign language when she communicates. Bay (Vanessa Marano) is a "goth" girl similar to Ashley Jergens from "The Secret Life of an American Teenager."

The show brings both girls together as Bay had decided that she wanted to know why she was so different than the family she grew up with and DNA showed that she was not who she thought she was because she had been switched at birth.

The show also highlights the challenges that the Deaf can face as they try to live in a world of hearing people through the story of Emmett (Sean Berdy). As Bay and Daphne adjust to the fact that they come from completely different backgrounds that have now become interwoven, both girls and both families, as well as their many friends from their different schools, find themselves having to learn about a culture that is completely different than they are used to. The family Bay grew up with is well-off and athletic. The family Daphne grew up with is broken, not as well-off and artistic. Bay attends a hearing school that is a prestigious magnet school. Daphne attends a school for the Deaf.

The show does an excellent job of incorporating sign language and captions as well for those who are interested in the whole experience of it.

I honestly hope that it proves to be successful as I would love to see this concept play out even further on more channels. This is truly a unique approach to an area that often has little exposure in the mass media.