'Puzzle' is Well Made, but a Few Pieces are Missing

Based on the film Rompecabezas, Puzzle is one of those little-known independent films that sneaks into theaters with little to no fanfare, although the fact that it is being promoted “from the producer of Little Miss Sunshine” should help it get noticed somewhat. Puzzle is a quiet, little film about a woman who discovers that jigsaw puzzles are the key to changing her life. While the subject matter doesn’t sound all that exciting, the film really isn’t about puzzles but instead about one finding their voice, or so it appears. It’s also a message film that has its own agenda expecting the audience to agree with the choices of the main character and applaud her “brave” behavior. Frankly, it just feels manipulative.

Directed by Marc Turtletaub, Puzzle’s most impactful scene comes within the first few minutes. We see Agnes (Kelly MacDonald) cleaning up the house and they decorating it for a birthday party. Then we see her serving appetizers while being ignored by the guests. …

Vanessa Hudgens is Unrecognizable in ‘Gimme Shelter’


Gimmer Shelter, the new film written, directed and produced by Ronald Krauss is full of surprises. For one, it’s a faith-based movie that doesn’t feel one. It’s a lot more gritty than what you would expect from one, It’s not a true story but it is a story full of true events and it stars Vanessa - High School Musical - Hudgens in her first real dramatic role.

The beautiful Rosario Dawson and Hudgens, both unrecognizable here, play mother and daughter in this gripping story that is at times hard to watch. Agnes “Apple” Bailey is an abused 16-year-old girl who sees that her life is going nowhere, so she makes a run for something better. Unfortunately, given her background, she doesn’t know what “better” looks like. Her mother only wants her to stay to help her receive more government money so she looks up her biological father (Brendan Fraser), a wealthy business man whom she has never met before. Fraser is especially good as a man who regrets the mistakes of his past but is at a loss for how to make amends and Agnes doesn’t fit in with his perfect family setting either. Apple is befriended by a saintly, yet realistic pastor (James Earl Jones) but she doesn’t know how to express her gratitude.

Agnes is so burned out on life that it takes almost three-fourths of the movie before we see sort of change in her appearance and attitude. Hudgens does an incredible job of someone who is just looking for someone to love her but when she finds them, she treats them poorly as she’s been treated by others. Where other movies would like to tie up the story with a big red bow, Gimme Shelter is a lot more realistic. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t have a hopeful ending, it does, but it takes a long time to get there. She finally winds up in the arms of Kathy DiFiore, a woman running a young women’s shelter and for once is given hope, taught responsibility and respect for herself and others. DiFiore is lovingly played by Ann Dowd who is full of love but she is no pushover.

This all might sound like a cheesy “afterschool special,” but it isn’t. Scenes in the shelter were shot at the actual shelter that DiFiore runs in real life. Some of the girls living in that shelter are featured in this film and many of their stories are shared here as well. Hudgens lived with actual residents for weeks before shooting the film so that she could get a really good idea of what it’s like to be young mother living on the streets. In the end, it’s a story of survival, redemption and hope.


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