Monday, April 02, 2007

Just Like the Son to Screen in Newport Beach Film Festival April 25th!

Hope all our SoCal friends can join Morgan and Mark Webber at the West Coast screening of "Just Like the Son" on Wednesday April 25th at 3:00 PM at the Edwards Island Theater in Newport Beach. Tickets are on sale now at website.

Here is a new review of Morgan's new film.
Barb and I will be there and we hope you can come and join us.
Morgan and Mark will hold Q&A session following the screening and then we'll head off for Pizza or something else fun in the area- more later.


by debbie lynn elias

Currently screening at the Method Fest Film Festival in Calabasas, California is one of the most endearing and touching films I have seen in some time. For whatever reason, it seems that creative independent filmmakers like Morgan J. Freeman have a knack for turning out films that, for the most part, speak to the heart, the conscience, the average Joe. This is JUST LIKE THE SON.

Daniel Carter is a hapless 20-year old. With no direction or purpose in life, he spends his time hanging with his friend living a life of ³fun-filled² crimes like shoplifting and pickpocketing, making for excellent Resume references. His father, struggling to instill some value and sense of accountability and responsibility into Daniel, keeps bailing him out of jail and his misdemeanor crimes, but fears the day is fast approaching when he won¹t be able to help his son. Nevertheless, he keeps intoning, ³Keep your side of the street clean,² with Daniel being the street and the message being, straighten up and fly right. Also concerned with Daniel¹s welfare is a kind hearted Judge who believes, as she reminds Daniel at his latest appearance before her, that he should be locked away to keep from committing crimes and that she holds the key to do so. But, believing that there is more to Daniel than meets the eye, she surprises Daniel and gives him one last chance and instead of jail orders him to 240 hours of community service - at an elementary school.

Under the watchful eye of Principal Ponders, who¹s mantra is how many misdemeanors does it take make one a felon (which is how she views Daniel), Daniel serves as graffiti remover and janitor working off his 240 hours of time - that is until Mrs. Ponders has to step away from a classroom and asks Daniel to watch the door. Returning to the class, she finds Daniel in the classroom actually having reprimanded this class of 6 years olds who were acting like little hellions and even more surprisingly, finding that the kids listened. Like the Judge, she too suspects there is more than meets the eye to Daniel and decides to give him a little more responsibility by having him read to the class.

Thanks to his own childlike demeanor and attitude, Daniel connects with all of the kids, but none moreso than with a little boy named Boone. Smart as a whip, cute as a button and according to Mrs. Ponders, a boy with a more than vivid imagination, Boone is alone but for a mother who Boone says is ³sick² and if she doesn¹t get well and has to be hospitalized he will be sent away to ³The Red House², and a sister that has long ago moved and according to Boone¹s mother ³doesn¹t exist.² But something about Boone touches a chord within Daniel and it¹s not long before he soon finds himself feeling more than a friend towards the boy.

Things take an interesting turn, however, when Boone doesn¹t show up in school. Despite Mrs. Ponder¹s emphatic argument that Boone ³tells tales² and Daniel shouldn¹t believe what Boone tells him, Daniel knows in his heart that Boone was telling him the truth about his mother, his sister and ³The Red House.² Making probably the first proactive decision in his life, Daniel determines to get Boone and reunite him with his sister, thus leading the two on the kind of road trip adventure every boy and every father and son dream of.

Mark Webber leads the cast as the aimless and misguided Daniel. With the tousle hair high-school look, board shorts and laid back lackadaisical attitude, Webber is perfect in the role. Where he particularly shines is in character development. He progresses with the character, developing an understated maturity with adult stature and attitude that is balanced with his youthful connection to Boone. It is a joy to watch him throughout the film. The scene stealer, however, is Antonio Ortiz as Boone. Impish, precocious and adorably cute, he is a talent beyond his years. Only his second career role, I expect to see Antonio become a frequent face for the next several years. He has a charismatic natural unpretentious flow that is delightfully fresh. Rosie Perez steps away from her comedic persona in films like ³It Could Happen to You² and fills the shoes of Principal Ponders admirably. Tough on the outside, but clearly a teacher with a heart, she provides some of the initial impetus for Daniel¹s emotional growth.

Written and directed by Morgan J. Freeman, the script is straightforward with a cut-right-to-the-heart sensibility. The dialogue is more than believable and the storyline touches the heart from get-go. Most impressive is the character growth. So often in a film such as this, the characters stagnate, but not here. Freeman feeds you enough that you hope the story will play one way, but keeps you guessing until the actions finally speak for themselves. Adding immeasurably to the thematic feel is Yaron Orbach¹s cinematography which is particularly effective and embraceable in some of the open country scenes. I am particularly impressed with the fact the Orbach shot in Super 16mm and achieved such scenic lushness.

What should prove to be a festival award winner, JUST LIKE THE SON, is as embraceable as the hug between a father and son.

Daniel Carter: Mark Webber
Boone: Antonio Ortiz
Mrs. Ponders: Rosie Perez

Written and directed by Morgan J. Freeman. (86 min)
* * * * * *
Emily Froelich


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