A Walk in the Woods Movie Review

I felt drawn to having a quiet evening at home, watching a movie. I enjoy using my Amazon Video app on my phone to select a film by way of Amazon Prime. Tonight the movie that caught my eye was A Walk in the Woods, based on the 1998 book by travel writer Bill Bryson. 


A Walk in the Woods stars Robert Redford, Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson. This comedy/adventure/biography was directed by Ken Kwapis and has a run time of 1 hour and 44 minutes. The film is rated R for language and some sexual references. 

Bill Bryson (Redford) appears to have an ideal life. He’s a popular travelogue writer who has traveled the world, and returned to live in the US. He has a long-lasting marriage to his beautiful wife, Catherine (Thompson), and healthy children and grandchildren. He lives comfortably in New Hampshire. And he feels stifled. In the past four and a half years, he’s only written forewords for other people’s books. 

Restless after attending a friend’s funeral, Bill goes for a walk and comes across the Appalachian Trail near his home. An idea is born. In spite of his age, and lack of hiking experience, Bill decides to walk the 2,200 mile trail that  stretches from Georgia to Maine. 


Although his wife and family try to persuade him of the folly of such a trip, Bill persists in his plans. He at last agrees to take a hiking companion. His old friend Stephen Katz (Nolte) begs to go. A recovering alcoholic, Stephen has a couple of warrants out on him and he hopes to lay low for a while, avoiding arrest. Overweight, with bad knees, Stephen makes an unlikely hiker. Nevertheless, the two fly to Georgia in April to begin their adventure. 

Getting off to a slow start, the hike is full of mishaps and bad weather and strange encounters. But Bill and Stephen rebuild their friendship, share funny memories and stumble upon amazing and beautiful vistas. Along the way, they discover that the trail represents life. They have no idea what’s ahead or where they will end up or who they will meet…but they will give the experience their best efforts. 


I was drawn to this movie because of the creative book I’m working through, Walking in This World. There is much correlation to be found between walking adventurously on trails and walking through life. This film captures that parallel well. The relationship between the two old friends was humorous, although at times I cringed over Stephen’s vocalized low opinion of women. As their shared journey continued, Nolte’s character settled down, opened up, and got beneath the wise cracks and generalizing. 

Bill walked through his restlessness and his feelings of being boxed in. Being exposed to nature and the many twists and turns, literally, along the trail, reconnected him with himself…and his creativity and his desire to write. He saw himself differently, and from that position, he was able to see others differently as well. 

I like the John Muir quote that Bill shared: 

“Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence.”

Sometimes, we have to break free from that which constrains us and go on an adventure. 

Surrender 138: Movie Review – Captain America Civil War

I had the opportunity to see this recent release tonight, with my sister Linda. Civil War continues the Avengers saga, with a return of familiar characters and the introduction of a couple of new ones. This film has a long run time. We settled in to enjoy the action packed story. 


Captain America: Civil War stars Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle,  Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland, Daniel Brühl, William Hurt and John Kani. This action/adventure/sci-fi was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo and has a run time of 2 hours and 27 minutes. It is rated PG-13, for extended scenes of violence and intense action. 

After another altercation between the Avengers and a former nemesis results in the death of civilians, Secretary of State Ross (Hurt) informs the team that regulations must be put into place. The proposed Sovokia Accords, ratified by 117 countries, states that the Avengers will be under the supervision of a panel, acting only when the panel finds it necessary. Each member of the Avengers is asked to sign the document, or retire. The Accords will go into affect in three days. 


The Avengers immediately divide over their decisions to sign the Accords, or not. Tony Stark (Downey Jr), aka Ironman, agrees that the group of superheroes needs to be overseen. The deaths of innocent civilians is weighing heavily on him. Siding with him are Natasha/Black Widow (Johansson), Vision (Bettany), and Lt. James Rhodes/War Macine (Cheadle). 


Opposing the Accords, on the grounds that the world might need the Avengers’ help and they will not be allowed to go, are Steve Rogers/Captain America (Evans), Sam Wilson/Falcon (Mackie), and Wanda/Scarlet Witch (Olsen). 

As dissent is dividing the Avengers, an explosion in Vienna halts the proceedings concerning the Accords, while killing King T’Chaka (Kani) of  Wakanda. His father’s death enrages the son, Prince T’Challa (Boseman), who vows to kill the man responsible for the bombing. That man appears to be Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Stan), friend of Captain American. Cap realizes he needs to get to Bucky before T’Challa does, and goes rogue, violating the Accords. Ironman and his team arrive to apprehend Cap and Bucky, saving them from newly introduced Black Panther, who unmasked, is revealed to be Prince T’Challa. 

Into this volatile situation, Col Zemo (Brühl) infiltrates the compound where Bucky is being held prisoner, using a spoken code to activate the Winter Soldier’s aggressive programming. Zemo appears to have a mysterious agenda of his own. Captain Ametican escapes with his old friend, reminding him that he is Bucky Barnes, and believing that he was not responsible for the explosion in Vienna. Ironman and his team are sent to bring Captain America and his group in. 


Both groups beef up their teams. Ironman recruits Black Panther and brings in the teen from Queens with unique abilities, Spider-Man (Holland). Captain America adds Hawkeye (Renner) and Ant-Man (Rudd) to his team. The line is drawn. It’s Civil War. 

This was a fun, action-packed film. As superhero movies go, this one has to rank near the top, with a great cast and an interesting storyline. There were humorous moments interspersed throughout the movie, to break up the intensity of the action. 

I was struck with the thought that although they were divided by opinions and beliefs, neither side was entirely right…or entirely wrong. Both teams operated out of the knowledge that they had, which was incomplete for all. And although they disagreed over outcomes and courses of action, each person lived from a code of behavior that was larger than the individual. They each knew there was a bigger story going on, and an enemy outside of themselves, which enabled them to still respect each other in spite of the very physical battles that they engaged in. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this latest chapter in the Avengers. This obviously was not the end of the story, and I’m very glad about that. I’m not ready to say goodbye to this group of superheroes. 

Surrender 123: Movie Review: The Big Short

Tonight I watched Best Picture nominated movie number seven of eight, The Big Short, leaving the winner in this Academy Awards category for my final film next week. I deliberately saved tonight’s movie until almost last. Of all the Oscar contenders, I was least interested in this one. I’m a realtor. I’m familiar with the housing market crash of 2008, having experienced the crazy boon before and then seeing the aftermath. I didn’t think I’d enjoy watching a movie that told the bigger story. I was wrong. 


The Big Short stars Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, John Magaro, and Finn Wittrock. This biographical dark comedy, based on the book by Michael Lewis, was directed by Adam McKay. Rated R for pervasive strong language and brief nudity, the movie has a run time of 2 hours and 20 minutes. 

The Big Short was nominated in five categories including Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Bale, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, for which it won an Oscar. 


Michael Burry (Bale), an eccentric former physician, is socially awkward. However as a Scion Capital hedge fund manager, he has a keen ability to see what others can’t. His scrutiny of thousands of mortgage loans reveals a housing bubble that is about to burst. Burry bets against the continued success of the housing market, meeting with the biggest banks and mortgage holders in the US. The banks are happy to accept his proposal, confident the housing market will never fail. After all, who doesn’t pay their mortgages? 


Jared Vennett (Gosling), with Deutsche Bank, hears of Burry’s plan and shares his beliefs. An errant phone call to the wrong institution connects him with a group of investment partners headed up by Mark Baum (Carell). Baum, who is an idealist disillusioned with the whole financial institution, agrees to join with Vennett. Their combined research further uncovers that most mortgages are overrated by bond agencies, with banks collating subprime loans into AAA packages. 


And lastly, a pair of startup investors working out of their garage reviews a prospectus of Vennett’s and want in on the action. Charlie (Magaro) and Jamie (Wittrock) aren’t big enough players on their own, so they enlist the financial perspective and aid of former investment banker Ben Rickert (Pitt). 

These three groups of investors work from the premise that the big banks are stupid and don’t see the impending collapse of the housing market. As the impossible begins to happen and the market shifts, these men discover how deep mortgage deception goes and how large the negative impact will be. Not only will millions lose jobs and homes when the housing bubble bursts, the economy of the world will be affected.


This was a fascinating movie to watch. I thought I wouldn’t like it because being a realtor I know what the crash of the housing market did. However, precisely because I’m in real estate, this true story had a great impact on me. I found myself exclaiming to the tv screen, as new information was revealed, as the depths of fraud and greed and deceit were uncovered. I can’t lie. Watching this movie made my heart race, in an agonizing way. 


The film was extremely well done, with outstanding performances, especially by Bale and Carell. The tone was quirky, and so were the characters based on real people. I liked how the technical jargon and concepts were humorously explained using well known celebrities who taught by way of concrete examples.

The Big Short amazed me, making me laugh, grimace, cheer and even tear up. I’d like to watch the movie again, to gain an even deeper  understanding of what happened in 2006-2008 in the housing industry. 

There’s a quote that appears on the screen that says, “The truth is like poetry. And most people f…ing hate poetry.”  The Big Short holds up the light of truth and uncovers the mess that deception tried to hide. At the end of the movie, more truths appear as words scroll across the screen. Recent truths. I’m carefully pondering those words, very much impacted by this great film. 

Surrender 117: Movie Review – The Revenant 

Tonight was movie night, with Best Picture nominated film number six of eight, The Revenant. I’ve heard excellent remarks about this movie. And yet, I wondered if the level of violence would be so high that I wouldn’t enjoy this story that many have called the “manliest” film of the year. Or would DiCaprio’s stellar performance win me over? I’d soon find out. 


The Revenant stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson and Forrest Goodluck. The action drama, based on true events, was directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu. The movie is rated R for violence, strong language and intense sequences and has a run time of 2 hours and 36 minutes. 

The Revenant was nominated for 12 academy awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for DiCaprio and Best Supporting Actor for Hardy. It won three Oscars…for DiCaprio, for Inarritu for directing, and for Best Cinematography. 


Set in the 1820s, Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) and his son Hawk (Goodluck) are members of a hunting party led by Captain Ashley (Gleeson). As the large group of wilderness men are preparing their bales of hides for shipment back to Camp Kiowa, they are ambushed by the Arikara tribe. Only ten men survive the attack. Stashing the hides for later retrieval, the survivors’ priority becomes making the long trek back to camp, without horses and in harsh wintry conditions. 


Dissension among the men threatens the bedraggled party as much as the weather. John Fitzgerald (Hardy), wild eyed and traumatized by a previous tribal attack, strongly opposes every decision Captain Ashley makes. He especially resents Glass, who because of his keen tracking abilities, naturally assumes leadership of the group. 

When a brutal bear attack leaves Glass severely wounded, Fitzgerald seizes the opportunity to rid the group of the man’s expertise. Ashley commissions Fitzgerald and the young Bridger (Poulter) to remain behind with Glass and his son while the rest of the party pushes onward. No one believes that Glass will survive for long, so grave are his injuries. Bridger and Fitzgerald are charged with giving the man a proper burial and then catching up with the group, bringing Hawk with them. 


Further tragedy results in Glass being abandoned, left for dead, suffering from his severe wounds. He is without food, water or weapons, unable to walk because of a broken leg. Camp Kiowa is 200 miles away, over rugged terrain, in the middle of a relentless winter. 

But the desire for retribution drives Glass to undertake a journey that is fueled by fierce determination and memories of a woman he once loved and lost. During his lowest moments, he hears her voice softly urging him onward, reminding him that as long as he draws breath, he must fight for life. 


I was right that this would be a difficult movie for me to watch. At times I chose to look away, from bloody woundings or battle scenes that were very graphic. These were brief, thankfully. Overall, The Revenant was a powerful film depicting a man who fights against all odds for survival. 

Warring tribes, French hunters competing for hides, animals, the terrain, his own men and the frigid cold and ever swirling snow all sought to destroy Glass. His life became as fragile as the wisps of breath that wheezed through his parched lips. And yet, this man refused to accept defeat, surviving by way of knowledge accumulated from years of living in the wilderness. 


While Hardy gave a remarkable performance as the crazed betrayer, this film belonged to DiCaprio. I physically hurt, watching his struggles. I groaned with him when yet another challenge threatened to end his journey. I looked up the film’s title word. 

rev·e·nant

ˈrevəˌnäN,-nənt/

noun

a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead.

The word perfectly describes DiCaprio’s character. Not dead. Not defeated.  Not finished with his mission or his life. This is a man who has returned from the dead and has nothing to lose, much to the dread of his enemy. 

Intense and starkly beautiful, look away from some scenes if you must, as I did, but experience this incredible film that honors the human spirit and the ability to endure for the sake of justice. Watch The Revenant, and Leonardo’s role of a lifetime.

Surrender 109: Movie Review: Brooklyn

At last, I got to watch the Best Picture Nominated film, Brooklyn. I’ve attempted to rent the DVD multiple times, yet it was never available and I would go home with another movie from my Best Picture list. Checking on availability when I returned Bridge of Spies, I was told once again that all copies of Brooklyn were checked out. But, Richard at Crown Video, my favorite DVD rental store, offered to hold the next copy that came in and call me. He did as promised. On this rainy afternoon, I had the joy of settling in to watch this much anticipated movie. 

 

Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Fiona Glascott, Jane Brennan and Julie Walters. The romantic drama, based on a novel by Colm Toibin, was directed by John Crowley. The movie is rated PG-13, for brief strong language and one scene containing sexuality, and has a run time of 1 hour and 55 minutes. 

Brooklyn was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Actress, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. It didn’t win in any category. 

Eilis Lacey (Ronan) is a young Irish woman with no future in Ireland of the 1950s. Her older sister, Rose (Glascott), makes arrangements through a priest in America, securing a place for Eilis in Brooklyn. With no prospects for marriage or a full time job, and knowing that Rose will care for their aging mother (Brennan), Eilis makes the heart wrenching decision to leave her homeland and immigrate to the US. 

  
  

With Father Flood’s (Broadbent) help, Eilis takes up residence in a boarding home run by the firm but kind Mrs. Kehoe (Walters). She is also hired as a clerk at the Brooklyn department store, Bartocci’s, and enrolls in night classes at the local college, to learn bookkeeping. 

Yet in spite of all the good that is present in this fresh start in the land of opportunity, Eilis is extremely homesick, missing her family. Her life feels as empty and cold as her first New York winter. Until she meets Tony (Cohen) at one of Father Flood’s Irish dances. 

 

 
Tony, who comes from a large Italian family, brings joy and love into Eilis’ life. He is kind and sweet natured, attentive and fun. Tony takes Eilis to restaurants and movies, to Coney Island to swim in the ocean, and home to meet his parents and brothers. He encourages Eilis to continue her studies, which she is excelling in.  For the first time since she arrived in America, Eilis feels happy and content. 

  

She shares her happiness with her sister back in Ireland, through long letters detailing her new life. Eilis anticipates introducing Tony to her Irish family, but that hope is destroyed. Father Flood brings sad news that Rose has passed away, unexpectedly. Devastated, Eilis desires to return to Ireland for a short stay. Before she leaves, Tony persuades her to marry him, in a simple and secret ceremony at city hall. 

  
Back in Ireland, everything has changed. Rose is buried and Mammy has aged and feels alone. Eilis, who is now perceived as glamorous and successful, is offered a temporary job that could become permanent. And reconnecting with her former friends, she meets Jim (Gleeson), a handsome young man from a prominent family in her hometown. 

 

 
Confused, and wishing circumstances would have been as promising before she left Ireland, Eilis enters back into life in her home country, a life that strangely echoes her existence in Brooklyn. In Ireland she now has the promise of a future that includes a good job, a man who loves her, and family and friends who want her to stay. Her life, her heart, is torn between two countries, and two men. What will she choose?

  

Oh, this was a great film to watch, full of depth and challenges and growth. I had never heard of Saoirse Ronan, but she gave a wonderfully rich performance, and well deserved her nomination for Best Actress. 

I teared up many times, over Eilis’ parting from her family and the emotional pain of her homesickness. One of my favorite scenes, that evoked the greatest stirring of my heart, was during the Christmas dinner served to poor Irish men of New York City. These men who had once worked hard, building the infrastructure of the great city, were now destitute, and weary of life. As the meal concluded, one man stood and sang softly in Gaelic, as a thank you. Eilis’ eyes filled with tears, as did every man’s eyes in the room. As did mine. I couldn’t even understand the words. But I didn’t need to. That beautiful song called deeply to my Celtic roots. My soul recognized the meaning, even if my brain couldn’t. 

Listen to Frankie’s Song HERE

 

Brooklyn was gorgeous to watch, with wonderful 1950s clothing and the depiction of simpler lifestyles. However, the story was not simple. 

Brooklyn showcases the decision Eilis must make, of choosing a comfortable past or an unknown future. The past holds tradition and familiarity, predictability and patterns. It can also limit and stifle and become too routine. The future is fresh and exciting, full of promise and opportunity. It is also unpredictable and risky and can create fear. 

The broad decision that Eilis faces is one that I have faced before and will face again. Indeed, each of us at some point in our lives will stand at such a crossroads. Cling to the past or look to the future? The old country or the new? There are things to love about both, things that nourish our souls and call to our hearts. It’s always our choice. What will I choose? What do you choose? 

  
  
  

Surrender 105: Bridge of Spies

This evening was movie night, as I watched the 4th of 8 Best Picture Nominated Films. I once again hoped to watched Brooklyn, holding Bridge of Spies in reserve as my second choice. I came home with the latter. 

  
Bridge of Spies stars Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Alan Alda, Amy Ryan, Austin Stowell and Will Rogers. This historical drama, based on true events, was directed by Steven Spielberg. The movie is rated PG-13 for some violence and brief strong language, and has a run time of 2 hours and 22 minutes. 

Bridge of Spies was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Writing – Original Screenplay, Best Musical Score and in a couple of technical categories. Mark Rylance won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. 

 

In 1957, at the height of the Cold War, a Russian man, Rudolf Abel (Rylance) is arrested and charged as a Soviet spy. In a highly publicized show of receiving a fair trial, Abel is represented in court by Brooklyn attorney Jim Donovan (Hanks). Although the trial goes as expected, with Abel found guilty on all counts, Donovan takes his responsibility very seriously, desiring that his client truly receive a fair trial. 

Donovan’s honesty, and growing respect and compassion for Abel, draws judgment and anger from the across the United States. Even his senior law firm partner Watters (Alda) and his wife Mary (Ryan) don’t understand or support Jim’s desire to see Abel treated fairly. 

 

Although Donovan can’t prevent a guilty verdict, he does convince the judge to sentence his client to prison rather than give him the death penalty. Jim feels that Abel may serve a future purpose, should the need arise to exchange prisoners of war.  

And indeed, the need arises. For while Russians are spying in the US, Americans are doing the same over Russia. U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers (Stowell) is shot down while on a covert mission and captured. The United States Government asks Jim Donovan to act as a non-government representative to negotiate the exchange of Abel for Powers. 

 

Donovan finds himself in Berlin, as the dividing wall is being built, negotiating with the Russians for the release of Powers, and with the newly formed East Germany government for the release of American college student Frederic Pryor (Rogers). The CIA doesn’t care about obtaining Pryor at that time, only Powers, as he knows critical information. But Donovan refuses to make the exchange unless both Americans are released. 

The lives of three men and the relationships between three countries all rest on the negotiating abilities of one very honest, and honorable, man. If he is successful, the exchange of Abel for Powers will take place across the Glienicke Bridge, more commonly referred to as the Bridge of Spies. 

  
This was a very good movie. I confess that I tend to lean toward James Bond type movies,  when watching films with the Cold War as the subject, full of action and cool gadgets and humor. I wasn’t excited about this Best Picture Nominated movie at all. I’m grateful for my tradition of watching all of the films. I would miss great stories and performances otherwise. 

Tom Hanks was superb in the role of the conscientious attorney, who was ruled by his heart and his sense of honor, rather than being swayed by popular public opinion. I enjoy movies based on true events. Jim Donovan later successfully negotiated on behalf of thousands of captive men, women and children. 

 

It was Rylance’s performance as Abel that was most riveting. He well deserved his Oscar. Artistic, thoughtful, an honorable man himself, Abel did what he was supposed to do, and was willing to accept the consequences. He maintained a peaceful demeanor, never expressing fear or worry. I smiled every time Jim asked him, “Don’t you ever worry?” and Abel replied calmly, “Would it help?” The friendship that grew between the two men, from radically different worlds, was heart warming. Abel affectionately called Donovan “the standing man” in his Russian language, recognizing the values that he stood for. 

I loved the messages contained within Bridge of Spies. The Cold War is over. The Berlin Wall has come down. And yet people are still divided and so ready to judge the differences they perceive in each other.  I choose to have compassion. I want to be honest, and honorable, in my dealings with all people…those who are similar to me, and those who are very different. I willingly offer up any prejudices held captive within me, in exchange for the freedom to love and care deeply for others. 

Being me, fully, I can let others be who they are, fully. We can build a bridge, step by step, toward each other…and meet there, in the middle. 

  

Surrender 95: Room

Tonight I had the opportunity to watch the third of eight Best Picture Nominated Films. Although I had intended to select Brooklyn for movie night, it wasn’t available. So I came home with Room. I admit I was a bit apprehensive about watching this movie, being familiar with the premise. But I didn’t want to back down from watching any of this year’s nominated films. I’m glad I surrendered to the moment, and to the movie. 

 

Room stars Brie Latson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers, Joan Allen, Tom McCamus and William H Macy. This drama, based on the best selling novel Room by Emma Donoghue, was directed by Lenny Abrahamson. It is rated R for language and has a run time of 1 hour and 58 minutes. 

Room was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actress, for Brie Larson. She won in that category. 

  

Joy (Larson) is Ma to her five year old son, Jack (Tremblay). She does her best to protect him, nourish him, and educate him, reading him stories and playing games with him. They watch tv together, and sleep cuddled together at night. Jack and Ma exercise daily, cook together and observe a schedule. 

Jack is a bright and imaginative boy, articulate and curious. Their lives are familiar, in many ways. Except that life unfolds, daily, in an 11×11 foot room. 

Joy was kidnapped when she was 17 years old, by a man she calls Old Nick (Bridgers). She has been held captive for seven years, calling the shed that she lives in Room. She tells Jack often that he saved her, by being born. She does her best to create an environment that Jack can thrive in. 

But Jack is getting older, and the blurred lines between pretend and reality are creating confusion for him and desperation in Ma. 

  
Ma plans a daring escape, dependent on a boy who has never seen beyond the skylight in the ceiling and can’t imagine that anything exists outside the walls of Room. The plans works, and Ma is reunited with her mom (Allen) and dad (Macy), bringing her little son home at last. 

But the world has changed, while Brie was confined. Her parents are no longer married. Joy finds a new man named Leo (McCamus) in her mother’s life and home. And Joy’s father can’t bear to look at Jack.

For Jack, Outside is a confusing place, full of noise and bright light and Other People. His mother isn’t happy. She’s angry and sad and has Gone Days. Everyone is in a hurry and there’s not enough time. He misses Room and the safety of the familiar schedule that he and Ma followed. 

For Ma and Jack, their greatest difficulty may not have been escaping from Room. It may be living in the real world. 

  
This was a beautifully done film. I feared it would be heart wrenching to watch. But the difficult part wasn’t the life lived in Room. As horrible as that situation was, Ma created a haven there for Jack. She guarded his life, and his heart and mind. Of course, as a viewer, I wanted them to escape and I was relieved when they did. 

For me, the hardest scenes to watch were those depicting the struggles that Joy had coming back into a world that had moved on without her. She grieved for the life she lost. She became angry at her family for teaching her to “be nice”, feeling that led to her kidnapping. And she felt guilt, for keeping her young son with her in Room, rather than attempting to convince Old Nick to take him to a hospital after birth. Brie Larson well deserved her Oscar for a role full of protectiveness and imagination, angst and self doubt. 

It is little Jack, whom Jacob Tremblay portrays brilliantly, who is the heart of this story. I love how he inhabits his world completely, not realizing the smallness of it. His inventive language and his daily rituals are charming and heart touching. He misses his old life, while gingerly feeling his way into a much bigger reality. And in the end, he saves his mother a second time. 

  
The deeper message is evident in this film. We all have a Room, a safe place we have created to inhabit, in the midst of the challenges we have been given. We don’t notice the smallness at first, how limiting that space is, how confining. But once we choose to leave that space, leave the Room we’ve so carefully arranged, the world opens up to receive us. 

It can be scary, leaving Smallness and living  in Bigness. But there is no going back, as Ma and Jack so poignantly discover at the end of the movie. What once seemed enough and safe, becomes too small to live in, fully. Like Jack, we will know when it’s time to say goodbye to Room, and hello to a world of new experiences. 

If you aren’t certain which space you are currently living in, watch Room. 

  

Journey 293: San Andreas

Movie night was very special to me this evening. I watched the recently released San Andreas, at the recommendation of my granddaughter. Aubrey, who will be seven years old at the end of the month, is already an avid movie buff. She began watching animated films at a very early age and quickly accumulated a vast collection of DVDs. I share this love of the movies, and we have been going to the theater and watching DVDs together since she was a toddler.

Aubrey the photographer

This is the first time that this bright girl has recommended a movie to me. I spent time with Aubrey Sunday evening and as soon as she hopped into my car, she gushed about the disaster movie, San Andreas. Without giving away spoilers, she shared some of her favorite scenes and the general storyline. She was so insistent that I watch this movie, that we stopped at my favorite rental store on the way to Joey’s football game and picked up the DVD. “Watch it and write your comments”, she implored me, referring to my blog. And so, delighted by her request and intrigued by her enthusiasm, I watched the movie, and here are my comments!

San Andreas stars Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffudd, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson, Archie Panjabi and Paul Giamatti. The action adventure film was directed by Brad Peyton and carries a PG-13 rating for intense sequences (lots of them) and mild language. It has a run time of 2 hours and 54 minutes.

San Andreas Fault movie poster

We are introduced, at the beginning of the film, to LA Fire & Rescue pilot Ray Gaines (Johnson) as he carries out a daring rescue, north of Los Angeles. Mission safely accomplished, Ray intends to spend the next day with his daughter, Blake (Daddario), driving her back to college and spending time with her. His family is splitting apart, as his estranged wife Emma (Gugino) is filing for divorce and preparing to move in with her new boyfriend, Daniel (Gruffudd). Ray’s plans are changed when a series of minor earthquakes in Nevada escalate to a major quake that destroys Hoover Dam.

Seismologist Lawrence Hayes (Giamatti) from CalTech was on site with his colleague testing equipment that can predict an earthquake based on magnetic pulses that spike right before a quake. After the disaster, Lawrence returns to CalTech to study readings with his team. A reporter, Selena (Panjabi), arrives for an interview, and becomes an impromptu colleague as readings show strong spikes in the magnetic pulses, all along the San Andreas Fault that runs the length of California. Lawrence knows that a record breaking earthquake is about to happen. With Selena’s help, he uses broadcast tv to warn the residents of California.

Ray leaves to fly his rescue helicopter to Nevada, while Daniel agrees to take Blake with him to San Francisco for a meeting and then escort her from there to school. While Daniel is in his meeting, Blake meets brothers Ben (Johnstone-Burt) and Ollie (Parkinson) from England, who are visiting San Francisco. Ben is applying for a job in Daniel’s architecture company and he is quite struck by the beauty of Blake. Ollie is not shy about asking for Blake’s phone number, to help his older brother out.

San Andreas Fault movie still

And Emma is having an uncomfortable lunch with Daniel’s sister in a posh, high rise building with a restaurant on top, back in Los Angeles. She is on the phone with Ray when the building begins to shake. The first high magnitude earthquake strikes, setting off a domino effect of powerful earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault. Ray diverts from his flight plan to Nevada to rescue Emma from the top of the crumbling building. In San Francisco, the first quake there is bringing down buildings, including the one that Daniel, Blake, Ben and Ollie are in. Daniel panics, leaving Blake trapped in the car in the underground garage. The brothers come to her rescue and the group heads toward high ground. Blake trusts that her dad will find her….they just have to survive long enough for him to arrive.

Ray and Emma are desperate to get their daughter, by any means possible: helicopter, car, airplane, boat. They lost another daughter, who drowned while on a rafting trip with her dad, and they are not going to lose another child. As they fight their way to San Francisco, while earthquakes continue to devastate the area, the couple finds their way back into a relationship with each other.

Scene from movie 'San Andreas'

This was an intense film! I had one of my coloring books with me and my pencils near by, thinking I might color as I watched the movie. I never opened the book. I couldn’t take my eyes off the devastation and the action. This is definitely a disaster movie, and very well done with amazing special effects and long action sequences that kept me on edge. At the core of the movie, as buildings collapsed and a tsunami washed away every thing in its path, was a story about relationships, and overcoming a devastation of another kind, the loss of a child. The impact that loss had on the family was difficult and touching as each surviving family member handled it in a different way. And the secondary story involved a relationship as well, the budding romance between Ben and Blake.

I enjoyed the movie, and marveled that Aubrey loved it so much, due to the intensity. It did not seem to scare her.  It did me! I found myself thinking, “I don’t ever want to live in California.” I’ve heard of the San Andreas Fault all of my life, and heard as well the predictions that someday, California will fall into the ocean due to a horrific earthquake along the fault. Watching the movie was like watching those predictions come true, even if it was a fictional account. Why would anyone live in that seemingly doomed state? And then I remembered May 22, 2011. Massive destruction. Unbelievable loss. Tornado Alley. I’ve been asked the same question: Why do you live in an area that is frequently hit by severe storms? Because this is home. I love my city. My family is here.

And what did Joplin do, after such devastation? We rebuilt. And thus the final sentences in the movie made perfect sense to me. They apparently made sense to Aubrey too, a child who watched her community survive the worst storm imaginable and rebuild, stronger and better. I think the movie appealed to Aubrey also because the main character is a hero, a public servant, like her daddy is. He will do anything to protect his family, just like her daddy. And Blake, the daughter, has pretty blue eyes, just like Aubrey, who told me that fact herself. Aubrey loved this movie so much, after watching a rented DVD, that she purchased it for herself, using birthday money she received early. I believe this is the first time she has bought a movie using her own money, and she selected San Andreas. That’s my girl. I look forward to watching this movie with her, and observing her reactions to various scenes, learning from her. Thank you, dear girl, for sharing your enthusiasm with me and recommending a film that touched you. I am honored.

San Andreas pic

Journey 284: Home

After working yesterday and today, showing property, I decided a movie night was the perfect end to the weekend. Movies often choose me, rather than the other way around. A couple of days ago, as I was waiting for Aubrey to get changed so we could head to Annabelle’s Fun Farm, I watched a few minutes of the animated film, Home, which happened to be playing on her home TV. I was intrigued and made a mental note to watch the entire movie soon. Soon arrived this evening, as I picked up the DVD from my favorite rental store.

Home movie poster

Home, a DreamWorks Animation, stars the voice talents of Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin and Jennifer Lopez. The comedy adventure was directed by Tim Johnson.  The screenplay was written by Tom J Astle and Matt Ember, based on the book “The True Meaning of Smekday” by Adam Rex. The movie has a PG rating, for mild action and mildly rude humor, and has a run time of 1 hour and 34 minutes.

Oh (Parsons) is a Boov, a loveable alien from another planet, who doesn’t quite fit in with his own people. The Boov, led by Captain Smek (Martin) are known for doing one thing really well….running away. When trouble shows up, and it usually does in the form of the nemesis Gorg, the Boov flee, “borrowing” planets to occupy until they must run again. Earth is the Boov’s newest home, which they take for their own.

Home Oh and Pig

The Boov don’t see what they do as wrong. They relocate the humans to new homes in various locations on Earth and then move into their vacated dwellings. Oh, so named because whenever he shows up, the other Boov groan, “Ohhh”, is different. He is friendlier, more free thinking, ready to try new things. When he throws a “warming of the house” party to celebrate their new home, no one shows up. His party e-vite went much further than he intended for it to….the whole galaxy is invited…and that means the Gorg will soon find their new home. Captain Smek has run out of patience with Oh. He has made too many mistakes. The Boov want to take Oh into custody, so he can be erased.

As Oh is fleeing from his own kind, he discovers a human girl named Tip (Rihanna), who is on a quest of her own. When the Boov took control of the planet, Tip’s mother, Lucy (Lopez), was relocated, while Tip was left behind with her pet cat, Pig. Oh and Tip form a team when the squishy purple alien promises to help her locate her mom, whom he mistakenly calls Mimom. As the pair travel to Australia, with Pig, they learn about each other and that making mistakes and being different is part of being human. Ultimately, Oh uncovers darker secrets about the Boov and the truth behind Gorg’s pursuit of his people.

Home family

This film was perfect for tonight. Jim Parsons, best known as Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, is wonderful as Oh. Using an endearing mish mash of English, and changing colors to show his emotions, Oh is the most honest and curious of the Boov, even though he is considered a misfit. There are the usual comedy situations around an alien learning earth customs, such as what’s edible and what’s not….he cautions Tip not to eat the blue mints in the bathroom…and typical bathroom humor….Boovs make number 1 and number 2 and once a year, number 3. They need a day off after that!

What I found touching about Oh was that he questioned his beliefs. The Boov run away from perceived danger, which would appear to be a good thing. But by always running, they never face challenges, they never learn to grow. They consider the Gorg to be a taker, but Oh begins to wonder if it is the Boov who are the takers, not the Gorg. Oh dances for the first time, a hilarious scene which was played often in movie trailers, and learns not to lie, which is another form of running away. Tip, the bright and brave human girl who befriends Oh, is the perfect companion on this adventure. I love that her friends call her Tip, while her formal name is Gratuity. Cute! Tip misses her mother and refuses to give up looking for her. Faced with a problem, she chooses NOT to run away, or play the victim, but to take action. From observing her, and learning to keep his promises to his new friend, Oh learns that sometimes, it is necessary to run toward danger.

This was a great film, and I didn’t mind at all that I watched an animated film, sans kids. Often, movies geared toward children contain deep truths. Home is one of those. I am so glad I watched it tonight.

Home hands in the air quote

Journey 275: Cinderella

I purchased the DVD of this latest version of Cinderella when it released 10 days ago. My little granddaughter Aubrey and I were going to have tea and watch it together. The day I picked her up from school, the gorgeous weather lured us outside and we ended up at a park, instead. After I arrived home late this evening, after a full day, I debated on what part of my journey to blog about. All afternoon, I had been thinking about this movie. For reasons unknown, it was calling to me. With apologies to Aubrey, I watched it this evening, and loved it.

Cinderella movie poster

Cinderella stars Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter, Derek Jacobi, Nonso Anozie, Stellan Skarsgard, Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger, Ben Chaplin and Hayley Atwell. This Disney film was directed by Kenneth Branagh. It is rated PG for mild adult themes and  has a run time of 1 hour and 45 minutes.

This fairy tale was my favorite, when I was a little girl. I grew up with two versions of the classic story: Disney’s 1950 animated cartoon and the 1965 musical from Rodgers and Hammerstein, which appeared annually on TV for many years. Of the two, I was more drawn to the Rodgers and Hammerstein live action, partly because of the song, “In My Own Little Corner”. I identified with the main character, not because of my circumstances…I was not orphaned, had a kind stepmother, no stepsisters, and definitely, no singing mice or birds that helped me to clean. I thought our names were similar…Cindy….Cinderella…and I liked her way of perceiving life. I liked her imagination, her willingness to believe in magic, her perpetual hope.

I’ve seen many variations of the Cinderella story, and valued aspects of them all. Ever After with Drew Barrymore was particularly good. After enjoying Disney’s live action version of Sleeping Beauty, called Maleficent, I looked forward to this re-telling of Ella, the girl with a good and kind heart who becomes a servant girl to her stepmother and stepsisters after her father dies.

And this was a beautifully done movie. The story opens with a voice over by the fairy godmother, (Carter) saying that Ella (James) “…saw the world not only as it was, but as perhaps it could be, with just a little bit of magic.” I was captivated immediately. This version offered a glimpse into Ella’s early childhood, while her mother (Atwell) still lived. Much of her attitude and her enchanted views of the world and life came from Cinderella’s beautiful mother. She gave her young daughter a sentence to live by, “Have courage, and be kind” and those words shaped the rest of her life as she often whispered them to herself. It was a very touching scene as the little girl’s mother told her she must go soon and asked for forgiveness, which Ella immediately gave.

Cinderella and stepmother and stepsisters

When Ella’s lonely father (Chaplin) married again, the peace and joy she had known her entire life was invaded. Cate Blanchett played the role of the stepmother well, bringing a certain beauty and grace to the character, with a hard edge of grief and desperate need. “It was said of her that she too had known grief, but she wore it wonderfully well.” I could find sympathy for this woman, who told her story to Ella, sharing that she married the first time for love, and lost that love to death. She married the second time for her daughters’ securities, and lost that as well. The stepsisters Anastasia (Grainger) and Drisella (McShera) were not ugly to behold. It was their souls that were broken and they became seeking, grasping women, very jealous of the radiance that Ella exuded. They called her Cinderella to hurt her, and their words carried power and began to change Ella’s perceptions of herself.

The rest of the cast was rounded out with a very handsome young prince (Madden) who was charming indeed, especially when his emotions were so evident in his eyes. His father the king was strikingly portrayed by Derek Jacobi, a wonderful classical actor, and Skarsgard made a rather shady Grand Duke, whose actions contradicted his words. The captain of the guard was delightfully fleshed out by Nonso Anozie. Another very touching scene, for me, which mirrored Ella’s loss of her mother, was when the king lay dying and his grown son curled up against him,as he sobbed, his head on his chest, much as a small child would do.

CINDERELLA

I was not expecting talking mice but the mice were present, albeit silent, significant characters in this version as well. The animals, Ella humming snatches of tunes from the animated film, the bumbling fairy godmother and the words “bibbidi bobbibi boo” brought nostalgic familiarity, as did two songs from the original movie, performed during the credits.

The strength of this movie lay in the quotes that bookended the action. Have courage, and be kind. And, as Ella goes to meet the prince, to try on the glass slipper left behind at the end of the ball, words that struck my heart: “Would who she was, who she really was, be enough? There was no magic to help her this time. This is perhaps the greatest risk that any of us will take, to be seen as we truly are.” What amazing words. I replayed that scene several times, it was so powerful, so poignant. To be seen for who I truly am…is that enough? Am I enough? Hasn’t that always been my question as well? Ultimately, I have discovered that only I can answer those questions.

Ella faced the prince, before trying on the shoe, and makes no apology for who she is. She asked, bluntly, “Will you accept me as I am?” Isn’t that the question we all ask, with or without words? It is my question. He answered in kind, “Yes. Will you accept me as I am?” Again, I have answered my own question. Will I accept myself as I am? Yes. Live as the person that I am? In process. In one of the final scenes, as Ella leaves on the prince’s arm, she faced her stepmother and said, simply, “I forgive you.” Another mirroring of Ella’s final moments with her mother.

I look forward to watching this movie again, with Aubrey. Now that I have seen it, and it is even now playing again as I type, I will watch Aubrey’s little face, interpret the emotions that flicker across her face and flare up in her blue eyes. I can’t wait to tell her, “Who you really are, is enough.” And for all of my grandchildren, I have new words to share, “Have courage, and be kind.” They are all enough. They are all accepted, as they are.

Cinderella Have Courage and Be Kind