Movie Review: Rampage

My sister Linda and I made use of our Movie Pass cards to take in the new release Rampage this afternoon. This action flick, loosely based on an arcade game by the same name, promised fun entertainment on a cold spring day. We were not disappointed.

Movie Review Rampage

Rampage stars Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffery Dean Morgan, Malin Ackerman and Jake Lacy. Directed by Brad Peyton, this sci-fi adventure is rated PG-13 for intense action sequences, violence, mild language and a few crude hand gestures…by a giant gorilla! The film has a run time of 1 hour and 46 minutes.

Davis Okoye (Johnson) is a primatologist working with primates in an animal park. He feels a much deeper connection to animals than he does to humans, preferring to spend his time with an albino gorilla named George (body work done by Jason Liles), that he rescued from poachers. Davis raised George. They learned to communicate by way of sign language.

When an illegal gene editing experiment goes wrong in space, the orbiting lab and escape pod explodes, sending canisters crashing to the earth like meteorites. One lands in the primate habitat. The pathogens within the canister escape, contaminating George, causing his body to grow rapidly. He also shows strong aggression and has the ability to heal injuries quickly.

Movie Review Rampage

George is not the only animal affected. In Montana a wolf grows to 30 feet in length, while in the Florida Everglades an alligator is transformed as well.

These mutations are the result of the secretive genetic work of brother and sister team Claire (Ackerman) and Brett Wyden (Lacy). With their test results destroyed in space, they need info collected from the monstrous animals. They beam out a signal that irritates the beasts, drawing them to their city of Chicago.

As the animals move toward that city, Davis teams up with research geneticist Dr. Kate Caldwell (Harris), a former employee of the Wydens. She doesn’t know how to stop the creatures but she was working on an antidote in the lab in Chicago, before she was fired.

The pair is aided by a government agent, Harvey Russell (Morgan), whose original assignment was to “put out this fire”. He quickly realizes standard procedures won’t work and frees Davis and Dr. Caldwell to fly to Chicago in a military chopper to stop the rampage.Movie Review Rampage

And a rampage it has become. The three beasts converge on the city, driven to rage by the radio signal audible only to them. As they lay waste to downtown Chicago, Davis must make difficult decisions about his primate friend, George.

This monster movie was a wild romp. There weren’t any deeper messages or ahas during the film, although the underlying themes were friendship and loyalty. However, it was a fun action packed movie to watch and enjoy. There were funny scenes and even a few touching scenes. But there was no mistaking the intent of this video game made into a movie. It was all about nature running amok and destroying everything in its path.

The muscular Dwayne Johnson excels in the disaster genre and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is always a joy to watch. The real star of Rampage, though, is George. The CGI work keeps getting better and better in the film industry. I ended up caring about that big gorilla who was an innocent victim of unlawful and unnatural experiments.

My intention was to preview this film for my grandkids, who have expressed an interest in seeing it. For the most part, the violent scenes cut away just before blood and gore are shown. And strong language gets muffled out somewhat. My grandkids would laugh in all the right places and fall in love with George. They would find his occasional rude hand gestures hilarious.

I enjoyed this movie. It reminded me of the many many monster movies I watched as a kid…Godzilla and Mothra and King Kong, swamp monsters and werewolves and a plethora of gigantic creatures. These stories are so far beyond what is possible that they can be appreciated for what they are…entertainment. And I was entertained.

Movie Review Rampage

I’ll See You at the Movies

This is a short story with a sweet little twist to it. I just posted last night about the upcoming Academy Awards and how each year, I watch all of the Best Picture nominated films. I typically watch those movies after the award show airs.

I expressed this hope in yesterday’s post: “My desire this year was to view all of the films before the award show, which airs March 4. Although my local theater brought in the majority of the nominated films, for one or two weeks, it was unfortunately during icy weather. I made it to see The Shape of Water.”

This morning I realized I wasn’t ready to give up on seeing all nine movies before March 4. Doing so would not only be fun for me, it would be a first. I’ve never accomplished such a feat before. I began to search nearby cities, to see which movies were playing where and map out a plan.

A theater in Bella Vista, Arkansas was looking promising, when suddenly the word “Joplin” caught my eye. With a little thrill of excitement I saw that the film Darkest Hour was scheduled to play at my local theater Saturday afternoon. This film had a brief run in Joplin and then disappeared before I could see it. If it was returning…were the others as well?

I pulled up my theater on the Fandango app on my phone and began searching ahead, day by day. All of the Best Picture nominated movies are playing next week, on a rotating schedule. All. Of. Them. Even Dunkirk, that I rented via Amazon last night, is back in the theater.

I know, I know. This is not big news to most people. To me, it is incredible. I don’t recall that my local theater has done this before…re-released all of the Oscar potentials right before the ceremony. And truthfully, I’ve never attempted to see all of them ahead of the show before. This year, my desire aligned with the theater’s intention.

And that…that makes my heart and soul expand. These kinds of seemingly insignificant occurrences show me that nothing is unimportant or impossible. It all matters. Even our smallest desires can be met with fulfillment, often with a little flourish that comes with a “ta da!” These gifts are a delight to me, and reveal the love and playfulness of the Divine. “Oh…you want to see all of the films before the Oscars? You really thought you missed your chance? Well….here you go. Enjoy yourself.”

See, the Divine knows me. The Divine not only gets the strong connection that I have with films, and understands how I receive deeper messages from within the story, El-le designed me this way. I am simply being me. And I didn’t give up. This desire to catch the films on the big screen before March 4 came from somewhere. I don’t understand all the significances of that desire, yet. But when it appeared the opportunity had passed me by, I looked to other options, without getting hung up by it. Open to everything, attached to nothing. I think that’s when the Divine likes to surprise me the most, when I’m in that fluid space of being open, without making demands.

Beginning Sunday, I will be watching a film a day, for the next seven days. I will be not a movie critic, but a movie reviewer, looking for and sharing the messages and ahas in the films. In another amazing synchronicity, I recently joined Movie Pass and just received my card. I can watch up to 30 movies a month at the theater, for a monthly fee of $9.95. Without a hint of guilt, I can go to the theater every day next week, without it costing me extra. You can find out about Movie Pass HERE. They currently have a special running.

I am ridiculously excited about watching these movies, in the theater, as they were intended to be viewed. I may even watch Dunkirk again, on the big screen this time. I am humbled once more to know that no sincere desire of mine is too large…or too small.

I’ll see you at the movies!

75th Golden Globe Awards

Tonight was the airing of the first of two award shows that I watch each year. The Golden Globes, which honors both film and television, presented its 75th ceremony. Seth Meyers hosted the live event in Beverly Hills, California.

Hollywood has experienced a huge shake up in recent months, as victims of sexual harassment and abuse, both female and male, have found their voices and come forth, breaking their silences. People in positions of power…directors, actors, television personalities and politicians…have toppled, losing jobs and careers, and facing charges and future convictions.

I love the story-telling medium of film, and good television. Movies, especially, have long spoken to me, teaching me deep truths about the world and myself. However, it was time for this shakedown…long past, rather. I stand wholeheartedly in support with those who have suffered abuse and harassment and have found the courage to speak up.

I wasn’t sure how tonight’s Golden Globes would go, as the industry emerges from a dark time into the light of change. I was not disappointed with how the Globes’ host, presenters and those being honored rose to shine.

Differences in tonight’s show were immediately apparent. The majority of the attendees wore black, not to be dull, but to stand in solidarity. There is mourning in Hollywood over wrongs that have been covered up for too long. Black was a very appropriate color to signify unity among a group of women and men who are saying “no more”.

They are saying, in fact, #TimesUp. This hash tag was used throughout the evening as a bold statement to say, Times up on sexual harassment, homophobia, gender inequality and racism.

I was very proud of the film industry tonight. I applauded, as I usually do, over the winners. I laughed, and teared up, over the acceptance speeches. I noted which movies and television series I’d most like to view. My heart was moved, however, by the devotion to change that I saw tonight. In Hollywood, in the world, things will only change when people change. I didn’t hear blame cast tonight on the “other” people. Instead, actors, actresses, directors, song writers, and a multitude of others shouldered responsibility and vowed to make a difference.

I cheered with the audience when host Seth Meyers addressed the women in the room with great sincerity and said, “I look forward to you leading us to whatever comes next…”

I nodded in agreement with Elizabeth Moss, Best Actress – Television Drama winner for The Handmaid’s Tale, who shared, “We are writing these stories now ourselves…”

I applauded Oprah Winfrey’s moving speech as she accepted this year’s Cecil B DeMille award. She promised, “A new day is on the horizon…”

And I squealed when This is Me won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song. I’m not scared to be seen, I make no apologies, this is me.

These women and men, these actresses and actors, and writers and directors, are agents of change. I witnessed the shifting of the tide tonight, amid recognition and happy acceptance speeches. I saw respect for one another, and fierce determination to bring about that change.

I have a list of award winning films and tv shows to watch. And an even longer list of beautiful life changers and shifters to watch and grow with. A new day is dawning, indeed.

Movie Review: The Greatest Showman

I have looked forward to seeing this movie since viewing a trailer for it this past summer. The Greatest Showman, based on the extraordinary and imaginative life of P.T. Barnum, is a musical. The 11 featured songs were written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the Academy Award winning lyricists of one of my favorite films from last year, La La Land. With such musical talent on board, I knew before the opening number that I was going to love this movie.

Daughter Elissa and grandson Dayan met me tonight at the theater, braving cold temps in order to be entertained. And entertained, we were.

The Greatest Showman stars Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Austyn Johnson, Cameron Seely, Keala Settle and Sam Humphrey. This musical drama, directed by Michael Gracey, carries a PG rating and has a run time of 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Phineas Barnum (Jackman) comes from a poor family. As a young adult, having struggled to survive, much less thrive, he marries his childhood sweetheart, Charity (Williams). Phin doesn’t have much materially, but he has big dreams. He doesn’t just want to find his place in the world, he wants to create his own world.

When he loses his job, Phin comes up with a creative plan, fresh from his imagination. With the support and encouragement of his wife and two young daughters, Caroline (Johnson) and Helen (Seely), Barnum secures a loan to purchase a somewhat seedy museum of curiosities and oddities.

Ticket sales are not what the dreamer had envisioned, or needs to pay his bills, until he begins to put together a troupe of real life curiosities. His cast of performers includes the bearded woman, Lettie (Settle), who has a beautiful voice and a just as beautiful heart, Tom Thumb (Humphrey), the little General who is 25 inches tall, and the amazing trapeze artist, Anne (Zendaya).

Phin’s show, dubbed a circus by New York’s top journalist, becomes a success as people flock to see these unusual performers. Far from being ridiculed, or disdained, the members of the diverse group find themselves being applauded, cheered, and appreciated, for the first time in their lives.

Encouraged by his growing fame, Barnum hires an apprentice, Phillip Carlyle (Efron). A playwright from a wealthy family, Carlyle has connections to New York’s elite. Barnum hopes to attract a higher paying audience.

Barnum perhaps takes his plans to create the Greatest Show on Earth too far when he brings Jenny Lind (Ferguson) to the US. Touted as the Swedish Nightingale, Jenny is considered the greatest singer Europe has known. Barnum convinces her to join him on a tour across the United States, bringing both of them greater fame and riches.

But at what cost do all of P.T. Barnum’s dreams come true? As he becomes the Greatest Showman, what affect does that have on his personal life, his family and his dedicated group of unique performers, left under the direction of Carlyle?

This was a fun film, with an exceptional musical score. The choreography was amazing as well. I smiled at the opening song and dance, and that smile remained on my face throughout the musical.

The movie was inspired by P.T. Barnum’s incredible imagination, and isn’t considered historical, although many of the characters represent actual people associated with the showman. The music is contemporary and uplifting, intended to convey how ahead of his time Barnum was.

A photo of the real P.T. Barnum and one of his performers, Tom Thumb.

What I loved about this film, beyond the songs and the dance routines, was the underlying message that all humanity matters. Barnum created a family when he brought together his diverse troupe. He showcased the best about people, not just their peculiarities, celebrating their unique qualities.

We enjoyed The Greatest Showman. Elissa turned to Dayan and me as the credits rolled and wondered why I didn’t make her take singing and dancing lessons, as a child. I could relate! I left the theater happy and feeling like I could dance my way across the parking lot. I didn’t. But oh, I wanted to! Perhaps it’s not too late for any of us to incorporate more singing, more dancing, more creating out of our imaginations, into our lives.

Movie Review: Carrie Pilby

I became aware of this Independant film via Twitter. I am a fan of Colin O’Donoghue, best known for portraying Captain Hook on the tv series Once Upon a Time. He plays Professor Harrison in the movie.

Last night I had the opportunity to watch this charming movie on Netflix.

Carrie Pilby stars Bel Powley, Nathan Lane, Gabriel Byrne, Colin O’Donoghue, Jason Ritter, William Moseley, Desmin Borges and Vanessa Bayer. Susan Johnson directed this comedy drama based on the novel written by Caren Lissner. The movie has a run time of 1 hour and 38 minutes.

Carrie Pilby (Powley) is a 19 year old Harvard graduate living on her own in New York City. Although she possesses a genius level intelligence, or perhaps because of it, life is challenging for her. She is unemployed, supported by her father (Byrne), who resides in London. Carrie spends her days isolated in her apartment, reading her beloved books. She prefers her own company, finding people to be immoral and preoccupied with relationships.

Mr. Pilby arranges a night time job for his daughter, proof reading legal documents, and sessions with his therapist friend, Dr. Petrov (Lane). In an attempt to get Carrie out of her apartment and more engaged with life, Dr. Petrov creates a to-do list for her. The list has six tasks:

• Make a friend

• Go on a date

• Get a pet

• Do something that she enjoyed as a child

• Spend New Year’s Eve with someone

• Read her favorite book again

Carrie reluctantly agrees to the list. She does get out of her apartment more, but with mixed, and often humorous, results. Her two co-workers, Tara (Bayer) and Douglas (Borges), become her friends. She arranges a date, through a personal ad, with Matt (Ritter), who turns out to be a young man wanting one last fling before getting married. And she finds being a gold fish owner to be more difficult than she imagined.

Doing something from her childhood reconnects her to a favorite drink. Her new friends invite her to hang out with them at a New Year’s Eve party. That just leaves reading her favorite book again. The problem with that item on the list is that she no longer has her favorite book in her possession. She loaned it to Professor Harrison (O’Donoghue), one of her instructors at Harvard. In a series of flashbacks, the relationship between the two, and its ultimate failure, is revealed.

The list is a challenge for Carrie. However, as she marks each task off, she uncovers the source of pain and isolation within herself. In this place of tender new awareness, she opens up to her musically gifted neighbor, Cy (Moseley). Carrie discovers that as flawed as people are, there is goodness within them too.

I loved this film that was equal parts quirky and funny and touching. It was fun to see Colin O’Donoghue in a different role. And Nathan Lane has such great timing and delivery of his lines. Bel Powley is new to me, and she portrayed Carrie brilliantly. With my tendency to seek out solitude, I could understand her character’s desire to isolate herself, as well as recognize the dangers of disconnection.

I was intrigued by the list Carrie’s therapist created for her to work through, to move her beyond her comfort zone. And I realized with a laugh that I do the same thing, in the form of games that I make up for myself. I am playing one this month with my 31 Inspiration Starters that challenge me. Perhaps we would all benefit from an occasional to-do list that pulls us out of the ruts we create through our habits.

Carrie Pilby is definitely a coming of age movie. But more than that, it reminded me to not get too comfortable with where I am in life. Toward the end of the movie, Carrie tells her father that at age 19, it is okay if she’s not all sorted out yet. I agree. Maybe even at age 29 or 39 or even 59, it is okay to still be figuring things out. I hope so. I’m not all sorted out either yet.

Movie Review: Justice League

My sister Linda and I enjoyed an afternoon movie yesterday. The new release, Justice League, has been on our list of movies to see for a couple of weeks. I’m so glad we had the opportunity to take in this fun film from the DC Comic universe.

Justice League features Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Henry Cavill, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, and Ciarán Hinds. This action adventure film was directed by Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon. The movie has a PG-13 rating, for intense action and violence, and has a run time of 2 hours.

Shortly after the death of Superman (Cavill), alias Clark Kent, the world tips into shadow. For Lois Lane (Adams) and Clark’s mother, Martha (Lane), it is a time of grieving for the man both loved. For Bruce Wayne (Affleck), Batman’s alter ego, there is remorse and regret, and a recognition of the sacrifice Superman made. He is also acutely aware of how desperately the world needs the man from Krypton.

Because a powerful enemy has returned to Earth, to claim the mother boxes denied to him eons ago. These three cubes, which emit a destructive energy, were separated after Steppenwolf (voiced by Hinds) was driven from the earth by a unified force of heroes…Amazons, Aquarians, men and legends of old. Two of the boxes have been guarded for thousands of years by the Amazons and the Aquarians. The men of that time buried the third box to protect it, and it has only recently been discovered again. The current generation has no knowledge or remembrance of what the box is.

Batman and Wonder Woman, also called Diana (Gadot), agree that they need help to combat this new threat. The boxes have awakened since Superman’s death, and they have called Steppenwolf back to Earth. He has transformed humans into a legion of demon like creatures. His intention is to destroy the planet.

Bruce and Diana separate to recruit three meta humans that they are aware of: Aquaman (Momoa), also called Arthur, who is an Aquarian living in the sea, a young man named Barry (Miller) who is called The Flash because of his ability to move extremely quickly, and another young man named Victor (Fisher), who is struggling to adjust after a horrific accident. His scientist father used the energy from one of the cubes, in an attempt to save his life. Victor was spared, but he is forever changed, more machine, or Cyborg, than flesh.

The five form an uneasy alliance. Each has something to overcome, a darkness within to purge before they can trust each other and save humanity from a greater darkness without. In the end, will they be enough? Is it possible that the same energy that saved Victor’s life, even while transforming him, might bring back the one hero they most need right now?

This was another exciting, action packed, super hero movie. Like its counterparts in the Marvel universe, the Justice League film was liberally laced with humor. The millennial Flash, with his many phobias, provides the most comic relief. However, all of the heroes got to reveal their comedic side. And dear Alfred (Irons), Batman’s faithful butler, father figure and longtime friend, anchors everyone while feeding them vital information.

There were moments when tears filled my eyes as well. These are flawed heroes, after all, learning as they journey. Batman is aging, and as as the only hero without a superpower, other than his ability to afford high end technology, he wonders how much longer he can keep up. Most have lost someone, or lost part of themselves. This movie is as much about the personal transformations of the members of the League, as it is about figuring out how to unite as a cohesive team.

For that reason, I enjoyed this film immensely. The new team members…Aquaman, Cyborg and Flash were welcomed additions and I look forward to their solo movies that will reveal more of their stories.

I have always been a Superman fan. As a child, the Man of Steel, with his pure heart, was my absolute favorite. I am glad to see him back. Batman has truly transitioned into the Dark Knight, but with a stronger desire to defend the helpless. He has become a more complex, and therefore, more interesting character. And this new Wonder Woman has at last captured my appreciation for her character. She is a Warrior with strong leadership qualities. I look forward to her further development.

Lois Lane delivers a great epilogue at the end of the film. “The truest darkness is not absence of light…but the belief that the light will never return. But the light always returns. Hope is real.” That’s the power of the Justice League, and of all good stories. The light wins. Hope is restored.

United, these guardians are so much stronger than they could be as individuals. The group hero pose toward the end of the movie was ever so satisfying…and promising. I await the next movie with anticipation.

Movie Review: Murder on the Orient Express

I am two for two today…two movies, in two days. This afternoon I met my daughter Elissa, son-in-law Josh, and grandson Dayan for lunch and a viewing of the newest remake of Murder on the Orient Express. I have been excited about seeing this star studded film since first seeing the trailer. This Agatha Christie mystery is one of Dayan’s favorite stories. How serendipitous that it released at the theater while he is home on Thanksgiving break.

Murder on the Orient Express stars Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Josh Gad, Olivia Colman, Penelope Cruz, Marwan Kenzari, Sergei Polunin, Manuel Garcia-Ruflo, Lucy Boynton, Tom Bateman, Leslie Odom Jr., and Willem Dafoe. Kenneth Branagh also directed this film, based on the Agatha Christie novel by the same name. The crime drama carries a PG-13 rating, for violence and mature themes, and has a run time of 1 hour and 54 minutes.

Aboard the luxurious Orient Express, bound for France, a shocking murder takes place. Hercules Poirot (Branagh), self proclaimed as the greatest detective in the world, is called upon by the train owner Bouc (Bateman) to solve the crime. Still two days away from their destination, an avalanche in the mountains halts the train, delaying them further.

Inspector Poirot makes a shrewd observation…if there has been a murder on board, then there is also a murderer on board. And everyone is a suspect.

Gangster turned art dealer Edward Ratchett (Depp) lies in his cold sleeping quarters, dead from multiple stab wounds. Poirot begins the arduous task of interviewing each suspect and collecting clues.

The possibilities are many, and all have secrets to uncover. There is the governess, Mary Debenham (Ridley), who seems to be more than an acquaintance of Dr. Arbuthnot (Odom Jr.). There are the two men employed by the shady art dealer, his valet Edward (Jacobi) and secretary Hector McQueen (Gad).

The others include the Austrian professor, Gerhard Hardman (Defoe), Italian car salesman Beniamino Marquez (Garcia-Rulfo), American socialite and husband hunter, Mrs. Hubbard (Pfeiffer), elderly Princess Dragomiroff (Dench) and her assistant Hildegarde (Colman), a sad missionary named Pilar (Cruz), the train conductor Pierre Michel (Kenzari), and the young Count and Countess Andrenyi (Polunin and Boynton).

With so many suspects, Poirot finds his analytical mind and his deduction skills challenged as he puts together the pieces of this mystery. Meanwhile time is ticking away, the train is derailed, and a murderer hides among the travelers. Help is on the way, to right the train. Will Poirot solve the crime in time?

This was a fun who dun it to watch. I read the novel years ago, so I knew the general story, but it was still enjoyable to watch the great detective, whose keen observation of people and crime scenes rivals Sherlock Holmes. Kenneth Branagh made a fine Inspector Poirot, complete with the distinctive mustache.

The rest of the cast worked well in their roles. I always like seeing these big ensembles of well known performers together. And the scenery was gorgeous, the falling snow and rugged mountains adding to the chilling mystery within the train.

As one who is exploring the world more, watching the train chug to its destination and seeing the lush accommodations created a desire to travel to an exotic location by rail. The gypsy spirit within me stirred and answered the siren call to wander with a heartfelt yes.

I just hope there aren’t any mysteries to solve, should I travel by train. If so, may there be a clever detective aboard to sort it all out.

Movie Review: Loving Vincent

A cold kept me from seeing a one time showing of the independent film Loving Vincent Tuesday evening in the Joplin area. I was very disappointed, as I have long appreciated this amazing and often misunderstood artist. I checked to see what nearby cities might be showing this unique movie. Springfield, Missouri, a little more than an hour away, had a 3:30 showing today, at a arthouse theater in the historic downtown area. Feeling much better, and armed with natural elderberry and zinc cough drops, I had the privilege of watching this beautiful film this afternoon, in a very cool setting. I am grateful to Greg for encouraging me to go and for accompanying me on this adventure.

Loving Vincent, while not a live action movie, used actors to portray the characters and supply the voices. The filmed scenes provided the artists who created the movie with foundational material. Actors include Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Robert Gulaczyk, Helen McCrory, Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, Chris O’Dowd, Saoirse Ronan, and Cezary Lucaszewicz. This biographical animation was written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman. It carries a PG-13 rating, for mature themes, and has a run time of 1 hour and 34 minutes.

What makes Loving Vincent so unique is that it is the first story depicted entirely in oil painting animation. Over a six year span, more than 100 artists created the paintings, in Van Gogh’s artistic style, that became the 65,000 frames of the movie. Van Gogh’s landscapes and buildings come to life, and his portraits become the characters who are telling Vincent’s story.

A year after the death of Vincent Van Gogh (Gulaczyk), a young man named Armand (Booth) travels to the artist’s last hometown, at the request of his father (O’Dowd), who is a postman. He carries a letter that Vincent wrote to his now deceased brother, Theo (Lucaszewicz), in hopes of delivering it to a close friend of Vincent’s, Dr. Gachet (Flynn).

The doctor is away, allowing Armand time to explore Auvers-sur-Oise, and talk to the people who knew Vincent. He meets Adeline (Tomlinson), the honest barmaid who became Vincent’s friend, and the not so honest Louise (McCrory), housekeeper for Dr. Gachet. The Boatman (Turner) shares stories about Vincent and strong drink, while the doctor’s daughter Marguerite (Ronan) prefers to keep her stories to herself.

As Armand listens to the villagers’ tales, his curiosity turns to a realization that Vincent was more than a crazy or sick man. He recognizes the artist’s genius and his complexities. By the time he meets Dr. Gachet, Armand questions whether Vincent’s death was a suicide, or an accident, or even murder.

What an extraordinary film about a creative and enigmatic man. Visually stunning, Loving Vincent is a work of art, literally, and also a work of the heart. It was thrilling to see familiar Van Gogh paintings come to life through animation.

As the story unfolded, the present was depicted in color while Vincent’s backstory was presented in black and white images. I learned about Vincent’s unhappy childhood. And I felt his loneliness as an adult as he struggled first to belong somewhere and second to be appreciated for his art.

A prolific artist, Vincent created more than 800 painting in eight years. Although he gave away many paintings, and sent most of his completed pieces to his brother, he only sold one painting in his lifetime. He died unrecognized as an artist, not knowing the value of work.

And that has always broken my heart. I love the colors and energy in Vincent’s paintings. His words inspire me. For he was not only a prolific painter, he wrote hundreds of letters to Theo, detailing his life and his thoughts and his torments.

I did not realize, until I saw this movie, that there were suspicions around Vincent’s death. There is no proving any of them, then or now. But is comforts me, thinking that perhaps this talented, earthy and sometimes unsettled man didn’t take his own life.

The Moxie Cinema, in downtown Springfield, was the perfect venue for this film. Known as an arthouse theater, The Moxie has two intimate theater rooms, occupancy 88 people each, that feel more like home theater rooms. The seats are ultra comfortable, and the ticket prices and concessions are very reasonably priced. They offer healthy snack options, such as bottled water and almonds, or you can even sip on a glass of wine during the movie.

The Moxie showcases independent, artsy, classical and documentary films. I am thrilled to discover them and appreciate what they have to offer. I am grateful as well that locally, Route 66 Theater in Webb City is bringing in more independent films. Loving Vincent played there Tuesday evening. I look forward to seeing what they present next.

Greg and I arrived an hour early. We were joined later by more movie goers, of all ages.

Loving Vincent…worth the drive and the time invested. Because I do love this artist, and his authentic heart and work. I had tears in my eyes as the film concluded, with one of my favorite Vincent quotes:

“I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say, ‘he feels deeply’, ‘he feels tenderly’.

You have, Vincent. I say, you did feel deeply and tenderly and you saw the world in fresh ways. I hope, oh I hope, that you know how much you have touched people with your art and your life. And you fit in, you belong and have a place, in the hearts of so many who appreciate your contributions to the world.

We are…I am…loving Vincent.

Movie Review: Thor Ragnarok

I grew up reading Marvel comics. The heroics of Spiderman, Thor, Ironman, Hulk and Captain America inspired daydreams of adventure and confirmed that good always prevailed. As an adult, I have loved seeing these characters of the Marvel universe (and the DC universe as well) brought to life on the big screen.

Call me a nerd, but in both comic franchises, I have seen every movie that adds to the collective stories of the Justice League and the Avengers. This afternoon my sister Linda and I joined a theater packed with movie goers to see the latest installment in the Avengers series…Thor Ragnarok.

Thor Ragnarok stars Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Mark Ruffalo, Tessa Thompson, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Anthony Hopkins, Karl Urban, Benedict Cumberbatch and Taika Waititi. This action adventure was directed by Taika Waititi. The film carries a PG-13 rating, for intense action sequences and violence, and has a run time of 2 hours and 10 minutes.

Before he dies, Odin (Hopkins) king of Asgard, reveals a secret to his sons, Thor (Hemsworth) and Loki (Hiddleston). He tells them that they have an older sister, Odin’s first born, Hela (Blanchett). Hela was an ambitious warrior princess whose lust for war and destruction turned her to darkness. She has become the Goddess of Death.

Shortly after Odin passes into legend, Hela arrives, intent on claiming the throne of Asgard as the rightful heir. Asgard now faces two threats: Hela, who brings her wrath against the inhabitants, and the prophecy of Ragnarok which foresees Asgard destroyed in flames.

Thor calls on Heimdall (Elba) on Asgard to retrieve him and his brother through the Bifrost. However, the three siblings all travel together toward their home world. Hela knocks her brothers out of the stream. She travels on to Asgard, intent to rule, and immediately engages the help of Skurge (Urban), to serve as her executioner.

Meanwhile, Thor and Loki both end up on the junk scrap world of Sakaar, governed by an eccentric man known as the Grandmaster (Goldblum). The Grandmaster thrives on cast off treasures of all kinds, and gladiator style battles between his champion and new comers. Thor is captured by a woman (Thompson) bearing a tattoo that identifies her as an Asgardian, a member of a group of elite warrior women known as the Valkyrie. She sells Thor to the Grandmaster.

Thor, long hair cut off before his gladiator fight and his mighty hammer destroyed by his sister, faces the champion in the ring. To his surprise, the Grandmaster’s prize fighter is the Hulk (Ruffalo), who has been missing from the Avengers for two years. Living in a rage as the Hulk during this time, Banner is deeply submerged in his alter ego. When he finally emerges, to escape the planet with Thor, Loki and Valkyrie, he is fearful that if he becomes Hulk again, he will never be able to transform back into his human form.

The four become the “Revengers”, with the mission of returning to Asgard to save the people, and the planet, from the fiery prophecy and the destructive Hela.

This was an incredibly fun movie, full of action and humor. Although the film could stand alone, much more is gleaned from the story if all the other movies in the Avengers series have been seen. The theater was full, which created high energy for the movie, resulting in frequent cheers, shared laughter and applause.

I loved seeing Thor reunited with his trickster brother, Loki. Much of the movie’s humor is centered around this love/hate relationship. Although he plays a “bad boy”, and plays the role well, Loki is important to his brother. Watching Thor and Loki accept their differences and acknowledge their affection for each other is a huge part of this movie’s charm.

Although he only has a small part in this film, Doctor Strange (Cumberbatch) makes a delightful appearance. There are countless references to the other members of the Avengers, which is fun and ties this film firmly into the overarching story. Matt Damon has a hilarious cameo. And one of the new characters, a rock man named Korg, is voiced by the director, Waititi. I sincerely hope Korg shows up in the next Avenger movie. He is made of rock, but he has a sensitive and endearing heart.

I am positive I will see Valkryie in the next film. Thompson brings a freshness to the series and she definitely has the warrior skills. These heroes all discovered truths about themselves, as they journeyed toward home, including what, or who, Asgard truly is. As with all the Marvel films, it is worth while to sit through the credits for additional scenes.

Thor Ragnarok was an amazing movie, and an important installment in the ongoing story. I am ready for Avengers: Infinity War, due out next year. It is going to be awesome!

Movie Review: Wings of Desire

I appreciate when an interesting film is suggested, especially when the person mentions that the movie had a great impact. Heather, one of my Instagram connections, made such a mention several days ago. She included a still from the movie Wings of Desire and posted that she saw this film as a teen and it altered her life.

I was intrigued, and inspired. Those words created a powerful draw for me. This afternoon, as I allowed my knee to continue to recover by resting it, a movie seemed to be the perfect quiet activity. I rented this 1987 release online, via Amazon Video, and watched it on my iPhone.

Wings of Desire is a German film, with English subtitles, starring Bruno Ganz, Otto Sander, Solveig Dommartin, Curt Bois and Peter Falk. This fantasy drama was written and directed by Wim Wenders and carries a PG-13 rating. The film has a run time of 2 hours and 8 minutes.

In Berlin, angels Damiel (Ganz) and Cassiel (Sander) wander about the city, watching the residents as they live their lives. Invisible to all except for children and other angels, these beings are more than guardians, they are witnesses. They can hear the thoughts of humans, like thousands of radio programs playing at once. And although they cannot interfere with humans, or be heard if they speak, the angels often have a calming or encouraging effect on the troubled or depressed.

Cassiel is following an older man named Homer (Bois), who longs for peace. He is a storyteller. If he stops telling his stories, who will tell them, he wonders? When he stumbles, or feels winded, Cassiel steadies him and calms him with a light touch on the shoulder or back. Not every human responds to the help offered. Atop a building, Cassiel crouches near a suicidal man, laying his head on the man’s shoulder, willing him to stay. The man jumps anyway. Cassiel cries out in agony.

Damiel seems particularly fond of children, smiling at them as he walks the streets or perches high above the city. He stops to soothe a man hit by a car, and brings hope and a surge of courage to a despondent man riding the bus. Cassiel and Damiel meet daily to share stories from their journals. They communicate without speaking.

Peter Falk, as himself, arrives in Berlin to play a detective in a new film. Damiel is fascinated by the actor, as Peter senses the angel’s presence and speaks to him.

At a nearby, seedy circus a young trapeze artist, Marion (Dommartin) works to bring joy to customers through her art. The circus is shutting down early in the season though, the owners unable to pay their bills. There is only one performance left. Although she lives a life of creativity and freedom, Marion’s thoughts take her into fear about her future.

Damiel is most drawn to this young woman. He attends her performances, an invisible spectator in the crowd. In her trailer, he listens to her thoughts, hears her fearful questions, feels her determination to be who she wants to be. Marion’s grappling with life, and her journey of joys and sorrows, creates a longing in Damiel to be human, and to experience all that they do, including mortality.

This movie, filmed primarily in black and white, was achingly beautiful. The only time color was introduced was when we saw from a human’s perspective. As most of the story is told through Damiel, most of the movie is in black and white. I liked that cinematic decision. The angels spoke very little, although their thoughts were shared. Much was told by way of facial expressions and body language, and through the incessant thoughts of the humans around them. The lack of color played well in creating a starkness and sense of isolation among the humans.

And the humans were very isolated from each other. It was brilliant, hearing their thoughts. Although many of the people had carefully blank faces, their thoughts were a swirl of fears, anxieties, complaints and hopelessness. Sadly, how true this depiction is. How controlled by our thoughts we humans are. How fearful we are.

There is help, a world behind this world. I believe this with all my soul. I know it to be true. This powerful film not only reveals the extreme isolation that most people live with, it beautifully depicts that we are not actually alone. Unseen may be the witnesses to our lives, unless we have the believing hearts of children, but they are there, whispering hope in our ears, laying comforting hands on our shoulders. Our intuition alerts us that they are there. We get goosebumps. We feel a tingle of energy across our scalps. We feel courage.

There were so many things to love about this unusual movie. And if it seems familiar, the US film, City of Angels, was based on Wings of Desire. Watch this earlier one for the truths embedded in it.

“Time heals all, but what if time itself is the disease? Damiel

Watch it to feel compassion for humanity’s frailties and sufferings, and to feel hope for peace. Watch it to be encouraged that even when we appear to be struggling, alone and unseen, the Divine is surrounding us with witnesses who walk alongside, whether they are acknowledged, or not, thanked or not, believed in…or not.

Wings of Desire. I am grateful that this thought provoking movie came into my awareness.