Friday, January 20, 2017

Movie Review Madness - Passengers

Futuristic film Passengers – over 5000 souls are on board the Avalon as it heads on a 120 year journey to Homestead 2 a new planet for colonization. As they sleep in hibernation chambers, the ship hurtles deeper into space. At the thirty year mark, there is a collision with large debris. Warning. Warning. As the ship recovers and continue on its trajectory, one chamber opens. Jim (Chris Pratt) is greeted by a programmed cruise director. He’s given his bracelet key, sent to his room, and has time to get acquainted with his new neighbors. Alas, there is no one else awake. One android bartender (Michael Sheen) provides whiskey and some chat.

As a mechanic, Jim explores the ship and tries everything to figure out what when wrong. After a year, he’s lonely, bored, and contemplating suicide…unless….. (spoiler alert that you can figure out pretty quickly )  …what if…he wakes up someone else….and that someone is, of course, the lovely smart Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence)?  Ahh, now we have a story – two pretty people in space. The perfect couple. And it goes so good until it can go bad. So much for secrets.


Passengers is entertaining and has some new twists to a familiar plot until the last thirty minutes. Then it’s a bit hurried and clich├ęd. Chris and Jennifer have good chemistry. The ship is very cool. It’s a pleasant film and you’ll enjoy it when you stream it at home. No need to rush to the theater. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Movie Review Madness - Hidden Figures

Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson. Those are names we should know and revere. Instead we know the women who play them in Hidden Figures – Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae (acting kudos to all). This is a must-see film about African American women living in 1961 segregated Virginia – not just any women,  but women with amazing mathematical and engineering minds who helped NASA get John Glenn to the moon.

This is a dazzling film that yes, presents history, portrays the reality of segregation – i.e. there were no colored women bathrooms on the east side of the NASA campus. Katherine had to hoof it in heels  over a mile to use the “proper” facility. Her boss Jim finally asks, “Where are you for forty minutes at a time?” When she explains, it’s like a light bulb goes on. Mary has to petition a court for the right to attend engineering master classes at the “all white” high school – a very smart judge approves it. Dorothy sees the future and gets a book on Fortran programming from the “white’s only” section of the library. So many small things could impede these women. But they persevered in their jobs, knowing they were right

Yes, the story is about roadblocks and obstacles and challenges. The Russians beat America to space. Now it was a race against time and numbers are key. A roomful of white guys in white shirts don’t know the analytical geometry necessary to head for the stars. In comes Katherine, requisitioned from the colored computing group.  As she writes out formulas on the blackboard it is clear – numbers matter, not her color, not her gender. The math is key and John Glenn trusts her numbers over the newfangled IBM computer.

This film has spirit. It soars and the spirit of effort and brains is contagious. Hidden Figures is SO good on so many levels and it’s awesome that this story is being told, these women are being honored,  and that you have a film a whole family can see and appreciate. Math can be exciting, and yes nowadays computers are necessary, but you still have a human brain daring to dream.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Monday Moments

Date night - Saturday January 7. I bought Ray tickets as a Christmas treat to see Michael Carbonaro Live. Ray enjoyed watching Michael on his show The Carbonaro Effect, and would call me into the room, "You've gotta see this.".  I admit the young man was talented and clever, but I had not idea how the show would translate to a live theater - Dallas' Winspear.

We ended up with awesome box seats one level up from the orchestra center stage. The opening comic was quite funny, and then Michael came on and proceeded to enthrall us. Simple stage, a few props, quick timing, excellent patter, and many "how did he do that segments?" Plenty of audience participation and some of the kids he brought up on stage added to the hilarity. It was a clean family show.

My Monday moment of reflection - hearing Ray laugh, hearing everybody laugh at a clever bit - united as one. Everyone out in public to be entertained, enjoying a community of laughter.

Priceless....

Friday, January 13, 2017

Movie Review Madness - Manchester By the Sea

Casey Affleck hosted SNL and he questioned why? Indeed he had his new movie, Manchester By the Sea.   But as he said, “It’s really sad.”  And then he said, “It has some humor. It has family. But it’s really SO sad.”  Indeed – this movie is heartbreaking, but so so good.  Get in the right frame of mind and bring tissues. I really liked this film, and yes, I sniffled throughout. Casey Affleck should win the Oscar for Best Male Performance. He puts his whole being into this role and is so dang good.

Casey (Lee) works as a building maintenance guy in Boston. He’s a wounded soul with barely a bed and some clothes. One phone call – his brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies from a heart attack – brings Lee back to Manchester and he has to face his past. Joe appointed him guardian for his teenage nephew, Patrick, (played by a wonderful Lucas Hedges). Why?? Lee can’t believe this. He’s not prepared for this. He can’t deal with this. He’s forced to face his past in Manchester. In flashback we see happier times with Joe, Patrick, ex-wife (a heartbreaking Michelle Williams), and then the total destruction of Lee’s life.  The movie builds, goes back in time, and we keep getting more pieces to the puzzle.

The reason for Lee’s sorrow, for his life is absolutely devastating. His reason to live and perk up is the nephew, Patrick. Lucas Hedges is a new, excellent actor. He brings a vibrancy to the role as he deals with his dad’s death and yet tries to soldier on. Typical teen – he’s full of bravado until he breaks down.

Manchester by the Sea is full of depth. It’s quite a tale and worthy of Oscar nominations.  And yes, it’s SAD….holy crap….it’s sad, and then has a spark of hope. Lee and Patrick are going to make it. They are going to thrive. Join them in the journey. Trust me on this one……wow


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Movie Review Madness - La La Land

Musical.  Step away if you do not want actors breaking into song. 

Are you still with me?  La La Land is absolutely delightful. It’s light, frothy, fun, and just joyous.  It’s a golden salute to Los Angeles, Hollywood, the film industry, jazz, and joy. Am I gushing?  Yes, I am.
Emma Stone (Mia) and Ryan Gosling (Sebastian) are not necessarily strong singers or dancers, but they are on key and have rhythm and they bring youth and exuberance to their roles.  From the time they meet to how they keep bumping into each other to how they bond and to how they move upward in the world of creativity…oh it’s fun.

From the opening number – cars stopped on the freeway, everyone getting out, singing, and dancing – to auditions, to jazz bars, to soulful glances – this movie has it all. It’s fun to root for Mia and Sebastian to “make it” – get chosen, be successful, work hard and sweat for the applause. And this is a duo you want to be in love, to be successful , to make it all work out.  I won’t give anything further away. Go watch these crazy kids and bask in their youth, their optimism, their hard work, and sacrifice. This is a good movie about the arts – there are no overnight success stories. It’s a lot of sweat and tears and gumption.

Fun song and dance numbers, fun palm tree backdrops, and you just can’t go wrong with time spent with Emma and Ryan. They are excellent at their craft and give it their all.  La La Land represents the soul of Hollywood. I predict happiness on Oscar night. We’ll see.


Monday, January 9, 2017

Monday Moments

 I have decided to start a new blog segment - Monday Moments.  The idea is that each week I will have taken some pictures or not, observed a moment or two, and truly relished what occurred. We all blast through our days, half listening to people natter, as we scroll our phones, or await our next meal. Step back, step outside of oneself, and just observe.

We have penguins guarding our front door. It's a good thing because a winter blast whooshed down from Oklahoma and the Northern Plains to do a Mr. Freeze act on Friday.
 Saturday we awoke to 14 degrees F and managed to make it to 30 something by afternoon
 Here's my moment. I hustled outside to fetch the paper and noticed how pretty the snow dusting looked.
Cool shadow and pattern.

What moment did you have this past week or weekend?

Stay warm, folks!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Movie Review Madness - Rogue One

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was the BIG end of year movie and it lived up to hype and expectations.  I’ll be honest. I am not a Star Wars fanatic and cannot discuss every piece of minutiae about the movies. I don’t even know the proper order to watch everything. However, sources tell me this is an early iteration to prep you for early episodes. Does that help?

We first meet a family who’s been hiding out, off the radar until the storm troopers crash their pad. They want the key scientist to come work on the Death Star. We know this is trouble, but at least the little girl escapes. Flash forward to Felicity Jones, Jyn Erso, who’s a grown up rebel. She’s used by Diego Luna (Cassian) to make contact with Forest Whitaker (Saw Gerrara) who raised her. Altogether the goal is to thwart Ben Mendelsohn (Orson) and the General from making the Death Star (i.e. the planet killer).  My synopsis is weak because it’s all rather convoluted as to who is who and why the why.

BUT, the film is quite amazing. The worlds created are fantastic. The effects are stunning. The John Williams score soars. And Felicity is stellar. We love a good heroine and she sets a great example. Basic plot summation – rebels are awesome. Leaders are evil and bad.  There’s humor, drama, worry, sorrow – every human emotion possible amidst a lot of techno gibberish.  And yes, we get a hologram effect of early Princess Leia (the late Carrie Fisher) – rather poignant as she discusses HOPE.

The Star Wars series is like no other – it truly explores the human spirit and the glory of filmmaking. It’s not too late to see Rogue One on the big screen. I highly recommend you go…now. C’mon, it’s winter, it’s cold, you aren’t doing anything…go support your local theater. Trust me.