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American Reunion (2012)
A well rounded conclusion consistent in sentimentality and humour
'Reunion' is a perfectly fitting ending to a series which has matured and developed into something far greater than your typical teen sex comedy. Now lets hope they can leave it as it is and not revisit the series with a fifth sequel.
The fourth (series proper) installment of the American Pie series explores the evolution of our five main protagonists from the original three films and their journeys into the next stage of their lives. Within the near two-hour runtime, we see the characters we have come to know and love try to rekindle their high-school spirit and return to East Great Falls as the infamous class of '99 to party hard one more time, only to find themselves at a crossroads in their collective and individual lives.
The first act of the film does an effective job of reintroducing us to each of the characters and informs the audience what they have been doing since the wedding of Jim and Michelle. Unfortunately many of the jokes and scenes from the these opening minutes form a large portion of the films trailer, which leaves many of the jokes falling flat.
The character of Stifler has been appropriately reigned in by a solid performance from William Scott, whose depiction was manic in the wedding, we now see perhaps the biggest maturing arc in the film. This Stifler is the most at odds with his high school self, finding himself in a lowly assistant position at his work underneath a geeky and demanding boss, he longs for the days of crazy party's, drunk girls and insane adventures.
Throughout the film, we see our group come to grips with the fact they are no longer the party generation they once were, and now have responsibilites which may not be as glamorous or exciting as they wished they were. However, the film moves them to appreciate the value in their lives, with each finding contentment - with a particluarly funny ending for Stiflers character.
The film does well at paying equal attention to each of its protagonists, and each storyline receives adequate time to develop. Particularly well-done are the cameo appearances by some original characters including Sherman, Nadia and Jessica. Their places in the film are really well done for the small parts they each play, which provides a well-rounded ending to nearly all the characters from the films. The only missing player which perhaps deserved mention was Cadence from American Wedding, who seemed to develop a relationship with Stifler at the end of the 3rd film. We are left to wonder what may have happened between the two, however, a simple mention would have been a nice additio; much in the same way Oz makes mention to Jim about missing his wedding.
Perhaps the strongest element to the film is the overarching analogy of Stifler and his boss to the characters and their lives. Stiflers boss is a small, geeky, demanding and power-obsessed character. A person who Stifler now finds himself working underneath. As the film comes its final stages, we see the final showdown between Stifler and his boss, where Stifler confronts him about his position, his stature and the sheer fact that his life is made of fake relationships and pretend power. At his most prophetic, Stifler shows that it is true friendship that truly matters in life, not status or power or reputation.
After an entertaining house party for all the wrong reasons (hint; Jim's Dad at Stiflers party) it is very nice to see Jim, Oz, Kevin and Finch finally accept Stifler into their group as one.
While the film is consitent in its humour, which never feels forced or rushed or out of place or taste, much of the film speaks to the generation for who it has evoloved with. The film is very sentimental and focuses much more on the characters finding happiness in their lives as they are, not as they were. People new to the series, or those who did not grow up with the Pie franchise may find the film slow or perhaps even tame by todays comedy standards. But for those who the film is intended, there is much to like and appreciate with this fitting ending. Heres to next time!
The Finland Phenomenon (2011)
Effective overview lacking in depth
I found this documentary to be a good overview of some of the basic points of difference between 'western' education systems and the Finish system.
The film is laced throughout with interesting quotes and statistics, but it often feels like those statistics are not followed up within the actual film, but serve rather as another area which requires exploration in greater depth. And this is my main disappointment with the film.
The statistics are thought provoking and mostly forgotten in the film; there is a very insular tone to the film, possibly due to the lack in variety of schools visited, people interviewed and issues addressed feeling limited. Each time they spoke to the vocational area of Higher Education they only ever showed the electronics area. They never mentioned how their national curriculum is constructed and what it contains. They introduced two girls in year 8 who were going to illustrate the extra-curricula lives of Finish students, however, showed them playing piano and mentioning they do little homework. What about a greater student sample? This would have been more representative of this area.
The film is effective in discussing the training Student teachers must undertake and the level of trust gifted to teachers, however this is offset by the fact they fail to really explore all levels of schooling from preschool, the comprehensive schooling, high school and further education.
A good introduction to Finish education and teacher training which leaves you wanting more detail and breadth in its examination.