K-PAX may be just a little out of this world

K-PAX was released in 2001

I’m guessing that when K-Pax was released in 2001 you took a pass. I know I did. At the time, I wasn’t surprised that Rotten Tomatoes gave Pax a 41% rating.

K-Pax is about Port, a guy who says he’s from the planet K-Pax and that lands him in a psych ward. What I apparently ignored were who the 2 great actors starring. Jeff Bridges plays the doctor at Belleview and Kevin Spacey is the patient from K-Pax!  Dynamic duo.

 

 

My husband found interest in the film particularly when Roswell, New Mexico was mentioned. We visited the UFO Museum in Roswell in January and I have to admit, it made me a believer!

While Port is in the psych ward, he befriends the patients by offering to take one of them to K-Pax when he leaves. His popularity causes quite a stir and consideration of what these folks suffer. Port also has an impact on his doctor. I found it rich to have Bridges and Spacey in a film together—even better to be in a film that touches both heart and soul.

Case for Christ will get you talking!

The Case for Christ movie may send some disciples of Richard Dawkins whirling. Not because they fear an epiphany may lead to conversion but because for the first time in living color and surround sound believers witness first hand why non-believers must remove God from the daily mix.

Lee Strobel (Mike Vogel) is a reporter and happily married man until he accepts the challenge to debunk “Jesus,” the new devotee of his wife. Three years of research reveals Strobel’s frustration with being unable to refute Christianity and dispel the death and resurrection of Jesus. “Do you want to know the truth?” a fellow reporter asks, “or is your mind already made up?”

 

Case for Christ is so well edited and acted that you may feel at times you want to jump in with your own comments. You can do that in the car on the way home. What’s really at the crux of this faith-based film is what its audience on either side does with the revelation that yes, the death and resurrection did happen.

In his quest for the truth, Strobel got what he asked for and more. His 1998 book by the same title has sold millions of copies.

Beauty and the Beast——— delightful in 3D

Don’t miss Beauty and the Beast in 3D. My husband and I loved the cast and, of course, the Oscar-winning musical score by lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken.


We ignored the hype about diversity and the Beast not apologizing. We were glad they also went with the Disney version and ignored the original with Belle’s jealous sisters. Oh, my gosh, you know the story and this delightful musical romantic fantasy will have you singing or humming along with Celine Dion or “the servants.” According to Wiki, the film’s budget was $160 million and box office to date is $874.9 million.

Rich in history even more in inspiration: Hidden Figures

 

Hidden Figures is a based on the true story of three brilliant women of integrity who were held back and basically ignored in the fields of math and science because they were women, black women. Such bizarre and ludicrous behavior undoubtedly stalled, possibly even damaged projects at NASA.

I cringed watching Katherine Johnson, played by Taraji P. Henson, a young widow with three daughters, required to do mile-long runs to relieve herself because “there’s no colored bathrooms in this building.” Real life Katherine Johnson is 98 years old, known for calculating the trajectories for many NASA missions. In 2015 Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Mary Jackson, played by Janell Monae, shows what happens when brains and determination meet bigotry and pigheadedness. Jackson’s role will undoubtedly serve to motivate others experiencing discrimination.

 

My favorite of the three is Dorothy Vaughan, played by Octavia Spencer (The Help), whose wit, wisdom and intestinal fortitude eventually knocked down the doors of impossible. Vaughan becomes the first employee supervisor of color in the space program. Oh that audiences everywhere watching Vaughan would strive to emulate those qualities at home and in the workplace.

My favorite is Dorothy Vaughan played by Octavia Spencer. Vaughan has chutzpah! Photo:  wsws.org

The film is adapted from Margot Lee Shetterly’s book by the same name. She grew up with many of these brilliant mathematicians around her. Shetterly’s thoughtfully and thoroughly researched book is a read for everyone to be inspired and even more for the revelation of our history that has been as the title says, one of “hidden figures.”

 

 

Patriots’ Day is a story of courage and resilience–always remember

Patriots’ Day director Peter Berg with actor Mark Wahlberg

Patriots’ Day is a 5 Star film from it’s opening scenes to the credit roll, Director Peter Berg delivers a perfectly paced thriller about April 19, 2013, the day of the Boston Marathon when 2 terrorists set off bombs on the crowded streets, murdering, mutilating and wounding its people. Berg outperforms Lonesome Survivor (2013) and Deepwater Horizon (2016) drawing deeper emotions for those whose courage saved lives and showed strength in unity. At times I didn’t know whether to cheer or cry as I watched first responders challenged by human emotions of sorrow, pain and the call to action.

Character development goes a long way in this violent type of film. Unlike Titanic, where I didn’t really care who fell off the boat, Berg has me believing I’m somehow related to these officers and bystanders. Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K Simmons) bringing his wife a blueberry muffin for breakfast, a young couple whose love is blossoming, or a nurse who saves lives everyday, I’m with them all the way.

For the second time this year (the first was Deepwater Horizon) Mark Wahlberg shines in crisis mode. As officer/detective Tommy Saunders (a combination of Boston’s finest), Wahlberg delivers the lines of why Boston folks are strong, watch out for each other, and work together. His lines are heartfelt. After all, he went to school just 250 yards from the marathon finish line. Wahlberg is a master of crisis as Berg is with explosions—I hope they both keep them coming.

The film’s resolve includes several of those who lived to tell their story, stories of innocent people who gathered for a healthy, outdoor event turned tragedy. My thoughts were ranging from “God, I love the people of Boston” to “shoot the _______!” I realized that Patriots Day touched me in a reflective way. I questioned whether I would be as resilient as those who lost their leg(s) or a loved one? If I had the good fortune to escape the explosives, would I turn back to help those in need? Thankfully there were those who were unyielding in their determination to heal and to track down the bombers.

La La Land delivers in romance and chutzpah!

Waiting on a 4-hour car repair, husband Mike and I shuttled to see La La Land. From the opening traffic jam (reminiscent of Two Weeks Notice) drivers burst from their cars into song and dance. The film immediately had my attention. What? A real musical starring Emma Stone as Mia and Ryan Gosling as Sebastian made me lean back, take a deep breath and know that I was on a virtual romantic romp.

 

Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) showed that he has more guts than a Christmas turkey this time directing an original musical with Gosling singing and dancing! Mike couldn’t get past it and I loved it. Thanks to catching a Kevin McCarthy TV review of the film I knew that Gosling also did his own piano scenes. Yup, that’s his voice, his legs and those are his hands on the keys.

 

The romance between Mia and Sebastian was believable. Tenacity becomes a virtue that begs support from a mom, friend, or most of all, a sweetheart. They understood their passions and the risks that call for courage. I felt the spark and the tension between them as they sang and danced their way through setbacks and mistakes.

 

I can’t wait to see La La Land again. Chazelle deserves an award for engaging audiences everywhere to an estranged genre. I anticipate the Academy will reward this film accordingly.

“Please Lord, help me get one more.”

Hacksaw Ridge: Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss in the Battle of Okinawa

Hacksaw Ridge: Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss in the Battle of Okinawa

 

 

 

Not since Olympic runner Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire refused to run on Sunday, has there been a film of such extraordinary conviction as Hacksaw Ridge. Mel Gibson powerfully directs the true story of U.S. Army Corporal Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a conscientious objector who saved 75 men in Okinawa. Des’s father is an alcoholic WWI veteran who beats his wife and sons and doesn’t want them going off to war after Pearl Harbor. In spite of his father’s objection, Des decides to enlist with no intention of bearing arms.

Saving a man’s life brings him to a hospital and the beginning of a romance with a beautiful

Teresa Palmer as Dorothy Schutte marries Desmond Doss.

Teresa Palmer as Dorothy Schutte marries Desmond Doss.

nurse, Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer), reminiscent of the young lovers in “Notebook.” Des learns about medicine from her work and decides to serve as a medic. While at Fort Jackson, his wedding plans are deterred by Des’s arrest for insubordination for refusing to compromise his beliefs as a Seventh-day Adventist, neither to carry a rifle nor to train on Saturdays. Surprisingly, his father intervenes, the charges are dropped, and he and Dorothy are married.

vince-vaughn-hacksaw-ridge-618x375Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) and the soldiers torment Des because of his religious beliefs. Yet no amount of suffering succeeds in deterring the young soldier from serving as a medic on the front lines. The harassing continues even in the Battle of Okinawa while taking on the Japanese forces stationed there. Vaughn and his troops were convincing in their roles as jerks.

As the battle ensues, Howell and others from Des’s squad are injured and abandoned on the battlefield. Des spends day and night carrying wounded soldiers to the cliff face of the Maeda Escarpment (Hacksaw Ridge). By rappelling them down on a rope, he is able to rescue over 75 soldiers. His prayer was a simple one: “Please, Lord, help me get one more.”

Gibson did not hold back showing the gruesomeness of the battlefield. The footage was not spared of men with their legs or heads blown off. Truly this is not a film for the faint-of-heart. The battle is won and Des’s courage noted. He was the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

President Harry S. Truman awards Desmond Doss the Medal of Honor.

President Harry S. Truman awards Desmond Doss the Medal of Honor.

Before the credits roll, Desmond Doss appears in an interview before his death in 2006 saying that what kept him going was prayer. Who knows that Gibson’s delivery of this story may just change the course of some who are tempted to abandon their convictions?

Deepwater Horizon is a rig–it’s also where 11 men lost their lives

imgres

Deepwater Horizon, like Captain Phillips, is a film about a real disaster that has its audience captivated by the action, nail-biting at the near-death and death scenes, and above all knowing that neither was a natural disaster. Deepwater’s casting is led by Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell and applause to John Malkovich—so believable I wanted to pull his hair out (heh!).

When BP management made a reckless decision—to ignore needed repairs of their rig minneapolis_bridge_01and more, I couldn’t help but think of our own Minnesota bridge collapse in 2007. (Lives were lost on the 35W bridge. Yet, to this day MN legislators choose to put Light Rail before bridge and road repair—the ONLY means of travel for fire, police, and EMT.) The employees are at their mercy.

Mark Wahlberg as Mike Williams who jumped 10 stories into the Gulf.

Mark Wahlberg as Mike Williams who jumped 10 stories into the Gulf.When the Deepwater explosion

 

When the Deepwater explosion occurred in 2010, my own recollection is what the media reported as the worst oil spill in American History. Clearly it was a disaster. Deepwater’s story differs from news reports by focusing on the loss of life, the loss of loved ones.

Deepwater Horizon is the third movie we’ve seen in the last few weeks – Sully and The Magnificent 7 – that portray in a thoughtful and meaningful way, the value of human life and the necessity of those in positions of power to have respect for that value and life itself. Deepwater reminds us of that value and its importance.

Candidates and Cameos

Home_Alone_2_Trump

Not since Ronald Reagan has a presidential candidate appeared in a movie as often as nominee Donald J. Trump. Best remembered was Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992). Trump gives directions to a lost Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) in the New York Plaza Hotel (owned by Trump at the time). Another favorite was Two Weeks Notice (2002) when Trump advises George Wade (Hugh Grant) at a cocktail party. Altogether candidate Trump has appeared in over 18 film and TV cameo appearances.images
Brian Raferty reported in WIRED director Oliver Stone’s experience with Trump: The 69-year-old filmmaker noted that he filmed a cameo featuring Trump for the 2010 film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and it sounds like it was kind of a huge ordeal. “I swear to God this is true—and I love the man, in a weird way—but after every take, he jumped up and said, ‘Wasn’t that great?’” Stone recalled. “I said, “Honestly? No!’ [His] confidence is unbelievable—that’s what’s allowing him to run. I’d say, ‘Donald, I think it’s great, but I think we can just do a little better here, or do this.’ And we tried like nine takes.”
For the record, the scene was cut from the final film.

images-2
Other presidential cameos of interest include Bill Clinton in Contact (1997). While in Bangkok giving a climate change speech, Clinton was considered for a cameo in Hangover Part II (2011); however, it was speculated at the time it wouldn’t be used.
According to The Telegraph, “Senator John McCain, the Vietnam war hero and one-time critic of Hollywood’s excesses, is trying to laugh off accusations of hypocrisy after coming under fire for a cameo appearance in the bawdy film Wedding Crashers (2005).
Mr. McCain’s role lasts just 10 seconds as he plays himself at a political wedding reception alongside fellow guest star James Carville, an outspoken Democrat strategist.”
For as meaningful roles as Ronald Reagan played in Kings Row (1942) and Knute Rockne, All American (1949), it was his role as Professor Peter Boyd in Bedtime for Bonzo (1951) that is best remembered, in fact, as his least favorite, Reagan claims he never watched it.
Film aficionados stay tuned. The 2016 campaign may produce even more candidate cameo appearances!

 

Miss The Big Short & you’ve missed out

images-1

The Big Short:  We left the theater saying “I want to see it again.”  Everything about this film deserves an award. The only bad thing is, it’s a true story. And, it’s a story that cost hard-working, freedom-loving folks their hard-earned dollars.  Did anybody care?  These guys did.

images-2

Do not miss THE BIG SHORT: When I called my friend Michelle Rifenberg, another movie aficionado,  to recommend seeing this film, she was out the door and back with what I thought were best recommendations: •”The Big Short” is a film that should be mandatory viewing for those who have shuffled through life in a fog of cluelessness about what is happening. It’s time to put down 50 shades of trash, turn off faux reality TV, and stop the idle distractions and PAY ATTENTION! Some are waking up which may partly explain the Trump, Cruz, and Bernie revolts. This story was not an isolated, one-time event. It can and will happen again. “Big” is never good and these events are not just about “those rich people.” They are about all of us too. Think about that when you buy more mortgage, second mortgage, student loan, or credit card debt than you can afford; or vote for all that “free stuff” that you feel entitled. Greed is not good and no income level is immune from the seduction of avarice.

Michelle is right. There were those who tried to warn about the housing bubble but no one would listen. Why? Ego and greed.  If you are interested in other similar stories read No One Would Listen by Harry Markopolos,  or watch for this miniseries about Bernie MadoffThe Wizard of Lies stars Robert DeNiro to air on HBO.  Madoff ABC miniseries February 3&4 stars Richard Dreyfuss. My husband Mike recommends Too Big to Fail, also about the financial meltdown of 2008.  When ego and greed are the driving force of those in charge, it’s no wonder the American people lose.