General, Movie/TV Reviews

What Would You Do if the Whole World Turned Into Zombies?

I’m finishing up season three of “The Walking Dead.”

I admit, I wasn’t sure if I could stomach this series. A gal I work with first told me about the series and I thought, “sure, I’ll watch the pilot and go from there.”

I watched the pilot and just sat in stunned silence. I turned the TV off and just stared at a black screen.

What the HELL did I just watch? It was bloody and super gory and what was I doing wasting my time on something so … dark and disturbing?

I had no intention of watching any more episodes. It was just too much, it disturbed me and though it didn’t exactly give me nightmares, I confess, it took me a while to fall asleep that night.

I went back to work the next day and looked at the girl who advised me to watch it with new eyes. Had I misjudged her? Because honestly, what sort of person LIKES that sort of thing?? But I kept my mouth shut; I like to think I give people the benefit of the doubt. I made a deal with myself – I’d watch one more episode, see if it was any less gory, and see how I felt after that.

I became … curious. I can’t say I liked it any better and after almost three seasons, I still can’t say I like it any better, but it intrigued me. The whole premise intrigues me. Because the story is about so much more than a world that is suddenly overrun with flesh-eating zombies, it’s about human behavior and the extent people will go to in order to survive. When people are faced with life and death situations, the survival instinct takes over and people evolve (or devolve??) into a completely different personality. They turn into people they would normally associate with cold-blooded killers – but if it meant closing the door on personal morals in order to protect those I loved, I’m not sure I wouldn’t start toting a gun and routinely shooting zombies in the head, either.

I’ve always been fascinated by that story line – not about a world overrun with zombies, but a world where people have to make really hard and uncomfortable choices. How far would you go in order to survive? I’d like to think I would end up being a bad ass – someone who thinks quick on her feet and was a valuable member of my little society, but I don’t know – maybe not. Maybe I would end up being one of the whiny, sniffling cry babies that I get so impatient with on the show.

I confess, I don’t dig this sort of show, and after a while, you sort of become desensitized to the blood and gore and pay more attention to the characters’ struggles. Many fight their inner demons and make surprising choices – some characters completely lose their minds.

But who wouldn’t in a world full of zombies?

I’m hoping that season four is more about what exactly happened to the world. How did the virus, or zombie sickness get started? Is there a cure? Is there any way to stop the process and how many “humans” are actually left? Though the story has been really interesting so far, and has thrown quite a few plot twists in there, so many, in fact, that I’m actually surprised and compelled to keep watching to see what main character dies next, it’s almost becoming boring – it’s the same thing episode after episode – conflict, they kill lots of zombies, we watch zombies snack on other humans, tears are shed, more killing, decisions are agonized over, more zombie fights/killings … *yawn*

I’m almost relieved the season is over. Because I’m ready to move on to something a lot less dark and a lot more “human.”

The Walking Dead, saison 1

Movie/TV Reviews

Movie Review: Alice in Wonderland

Believe it can be done. When you believe something can be done, really believe, your mind will find the ways to do it. Believing a solution paves the way to solution. David Joseph Schwartz

And that, in essence, is the message behind this adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland.”

A 19-year-old Alice journeys through Underland, where she experiences strange ordeals and encounters peculiar characters, including the vaporous Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and the sadistic Red Queen.

I admit it, the only reason I wanted to watch this movie was because it had Johnny Depp in it. And one of the biggest reasons Kevin DIDN’T want to watch it was because Johnny Depp was in it.

He’s not a big Johnny Depp fan, (nor a Robert Downy Junior fan). Why, you ask? Because he feels like both of these actors make their money on acting and looking “grungy.” He says they look dirty and unkempt and since we’re being honest here (when am I not, really), I’d have to say that that unkempt, “dirty” appearance is sort of what attracts me to them.

Not that I want Kevin to adopt that look, per se, but it IS sort of sexy – as long as I don’t have to live with it. Ha!

But I digress …

Have you noticed that a lot of “blockbuster” movies nowadays are all about the CG and/or the special effects? It seems like the message behind the movie (IF there is one), gets buried behind all of the other gunk that is going on within the “story.”

Not so with this movie. In fact, even though 85% of this movie IS CG, it somehow takes a back seat to the message: It’s okay to think outside the box.

Too many times, people stifle their creativity, or are afraid to go against “the norm,” (which really, what does that even mean nowadays??). The message in this movie is telling us, it’s okay to be weird, odd, or “different”, sometimes the weird, odd or different people are the best people.

They’re certainly the most entertaining, that’s for sure.

I think this message, especially, is important nowadays. It seems like more and more people are so willing to accept what is told them, or to go along with everyone else and no one stops to ask questions.

I’m all about asking questions – remember the “old” saying? “Question authority?” Yeah well, that’s me in a nutshell.

The message in this movie is “it’s okay to believe in something because sometimes believing in something is what makes something happen.”

Can you imagine going through life and NOT believing in anything? What a sad way to live one’s life.

I really appreciated how the people in the Red Queen’s court all took it upon themselves to exaggerate some portion of themselves. They did this in order to make the Red Queen feel better about her over-sized head. They changed some part of themselves in order to “belong” or not to stand out too much. Again with the conformity. Why are people so afraid to be different? Especially nowadays when “diversity” is seemingly “acceptable?”

I mean, if people were truly more willing to embrace diversity then why are so many people so determined NOT to be diverse?

This movie was also about not being afraid to find oneself. I think too many times, people get in a hurry to belong to or conform to society’s expectations. Whether that’s to a group, an organization, or even to another person. I thought it was refreshing when Alice turned down the marriage proposal so that she would have the time and means to follow her own path. She refused to conform to other people’s expectations for what she “ought” or “should” do with her life. Life is short – take advantage of the time you have and EXPLORE who/what you are or are capable of becoming.

Alice showed true strength and ultimately didn’t care what people thought of her; I think that’s a lesson that a lot of us can learn from.

Rating: A-

*Interesting side note: We were watching the special features (by the way, did you know that a growing number of Netflix DVD’s do not have the special features? That’s because the movie production companies are trying to get you to buy, as opposed to rent, the DVD’s. Which, I GET, but still – BOO), and Johnny Depp was talking a bit about the history of “Mad Hatters,” they really existed. The ladies who made hats, back in the day, would use a glue high in Mercury. After a while, the mercury would start to poison the minds of the “hatters” and they would go insane from the poisoning.

I love how there is almost always an element of truth in fiction.

Movie/TV Reviews

Movie Review: The Invention of Lying

There is always a way to be honest without being brutal. ~Arthur Dobrin

I don’t write about movies very often – they’re just not that interesting to write about, quite frankly.

However, I watched one last night that I thought had some pretty interesting, and insulting, messages that deserve some attention.

First off, I dig Indie and Independent films. (Not saying that this film was an Indie/Independent, but I like movies that are a bit off the radar, so to speak). They’re not all hits, but there are more hits than you might think. Blockbusters are usually pretty standard: love triangle, saving the world, lots of explosions, someone dies … blahblahblah, but Indie/Independent films delve a little more into character and circumstances than on blowing things up. Which is probably why I enjoy them.

Anyway, the movie I watched last night was: The Invention of Lying

It’s a world where everyone tells the truth – and just about anything they’re thinking. Mark Bellison is a screenwriter, about to be fired. He’s short and chunky with a flat nose – a genetic pool that means he won’t get to first base with Anna, the woman he loves. At a bank, on the spur of the moment he blurts out a fib, with eye-popping results. Then, when his mother’s on her deathbed, frightened of the eternal void awaiting her, Mark invents fiction. The hospital staff overhear his description of Heaven, believe every word, and tell others. Soon Mark is a prophet, his first inventive screenplay makes him rich, and he’s basically a good guy. But will that be enough for Anna?

There were three underlining themes in the movie:

1. Telling the truth, though admirable and forthright, is depressing.

2. Don’t believe everything you hear or are told.

3. People need to believe in something.

Telling the truth, though admirable and forthright, is depressing

This movie is all about telling the truth – no one is capable of telling a lie – even a white lie. Everything everyone feels, or is thinking, is all on the table, the good and the bad. The people of this world are physically incapable of telling a lie. Though there are some pretty funny moments in the film as a result of people not being able to lie and just blurt what’s on their mind, regardless of the situation or if it’s even appropriate at the time, a lot of times, these revelations are brash, crude, rude and make you squirm in your chair with discomfort. People are unknowingly cruel to one another with their honesty and this produces a lot of unhappy and depressed people.

In fact, a lot of people don’t even exercise self-control, they just blurt out what they’re thinking/feeling whenever it happens. For example, Mark is out to dinner with Anna and their waiter looks at Anna, then looks at Mark, and boldly says, “She’s out of your league.” Another example is when Anna accepts a call from her mother, while at the dinner table, and tells her that she’s not physically attracted to Mark and that there is no way she would consider sleeping with him.

People have to endure a lot of rejection in this movie. Which , in some ways, is good because there are no false illusions, there are no misunderstandings, and some people just don’t get it unless you’re open and honest with them about a given situation, but to constantly be told that you’re ugly, or fat, or stupid wears on a person’s self-esteem and after a while, people lose hope.

Which brings me to my second theme …

Don’t believe everything you hear or are told

The people in this world do not have hope. They don’t understand how comforting it is to hope in something, to believe that things will get better, to anticipate the unknown and to appreciate the magic of fate. Everything is cut and dried, out in the open and there are very few surprises in this world.

And because faith is based on hope, and because so much faith is based on the unknown, the people in this world do not have any religious beliefs because no one can say, with certainty, that it exists. No one can declare that they know God, have met God, or that He even exists. So … there is nothing to anticipate. There is nothing to look forward to. There is nothing to comfort them when they get scared or lonely.

When Mark’s mother is on the verge of dying, she starts to panic. She doesn’t want to cross the threshold into nothingness. It’s bleak and depressing and the thought causes her to hyperventilate and become quite distressed. Since Mark has stumbled onto lying, he is now capable of telling his mother a lie in order to comfort her as she’s dying. He tells her about Heaven, making it up as he goes along and that soothes her. She calms down and she dies in peace. Though Mark feels bad about lying to his mother, it also makes him feel good that he was able to give her that peace.

It was a lie of love.

However, the doctor and nurses overhear his description of this wondrous place and suddenly, they have hope – hope for something more after they die. They get so excited about this new “truth” that they spread the word. The entire town camps out in Mark’s front lawn, TV crews are set up and before long the entire world is waiting with bated breath to hear more about this Heaven that Mark speaks of.

Feeling the pressure of maintaining his lie and also enjoying the attention, Mark stays up all night trying to think of how he can explain Heaven to everyone. He comes up with “commandments” that he writes out and pastes on the back of two pizza boxes (imitating Moses’ Ten Commandments) and he comes out the next morning and delivers these commandments to the people. Only, the people have many questions and before long, Mark is frustrated and is making up the details as he goes along. The details are loosely based on the Ten Commandments as well.

He talks about “the man in the sky” and how the man in the sky is a puppet master and is responsible for everything that happens on Earth and to people. He pulls the strings and people jump and dance to his every whim.

THAT IS NOT TRUE.

My blood pressure spiked at this point and I nearly stopped watching. They were clearly poking fun at Christianity and I didn’t think it was funny. In essence, Hollywood was saying that Christianity was made up by a man and people who believed the “stories” were clearly naive and stupid.

How could any rational person believe in God and everything related to God? Hollywood is asking. But then again, I took it with a grain of salt because after all, Hollywood is fully of Godless wimps so … there you go.

But it was interesting in that people were so HUNGRY to believe what Mark was telling them. They CRAVED the knowledge that when they died, it wasn’t over, but was just beginning. They were DESPERATE to believe in something they didn’t fully understand because it gave them hope and offered them comfort.

That, my friends, is the very essence of religion nowadays and in the real world. There are so many people, SO MANY PEOPLE, who are desperate to know God. They are desperate to find the peace they are consciously, or subconsciously seeking. And it was this depiction that kept me watching the movie.

It was both sad and fascinating at the same time. It made me incredibly sad that there are so many people out there that are seeking God’s truth. And so many people out there that refuse to believe something so wonderful even when they know, deep in their hearts, that it’s the truth – that it makes sense. That there is scientific evidence backing it up.

It was also fascinating to watch how gullible people were. They believed everything that Mark said because they were convinced he was telling the truth. They believed him because they WANTED to believe him. Even though there was no physical proof of his claims, it didn’t matter – they found hope. What they heard comforted them and they WANTED to believe him.

THAT is faith.

It was also a good lesson, as well. That just because someone says something, or claims that something is true, it’s okay, even NECESSARY to ask questions. Seeking truth or knowledge is never a bad thing and in fact preferred. Simply taking the word of one man, a group or even a government, is dangerous and foolhardy. Ask questions – find out for yourself if something is true or not. NEVER take something you hear, read or are told at face value, at least, when it comes to something as important as faith.

It was alarming to watch so many people blindly take what Mark said as gospel truth. It was a perfect parallel to today’s world and how easy it is to manipulate people into thinking a certain way. How many people actually stop to question whether what they’re being told is real, or makes sense, or is morally correct?

Exactly. It’s scary.

People need to believe in something

And that, in essence, is the message behind the movie. Well, that and telling white lies is not always a bad thing if it protects people.

But people NEED something to believe in. They need direction, they need to know that there is so much more than this mortal life.

Another aspect of this I found interesting was after everyone heard about Mark’s version of Heaven and found out that everyone would receive a mansion and they would live happily ever after and be surrounded by their friends and family, they gave up on real life. The attitude was, “I’m going to get my mansion and live like a King in Heaven so why should I exert myself now? Why should I be a good person now (as long as I don’t break the commandments – which in Mark’s version there were only three) if I’m going to go to Heaven anyway?”

Sadly, that is the same attitude a lot of Christians have nowadays. Christians don’t value life as much as they should because the afterlife is going to be so much better than what we have now. That was NEVER God’s intention. Yes. Paradise will be wonderful (notice I didn’t say Heaven – Christians will never see Heaven – we will reclaim Earth after Christ comes back and defeats evil, then we shall live in Paradise on Earth, not in the sky), but it’s no excuse not to be the best Christian that God could want for us while we live in our mortal bodies.

You see this attitude in the movie; you see this attitude in modern-day Christianity, too. So even after everyone believes in Heaven, they are disillusioned into believing that human life is somehow less valuable. (For example: there was one suicidal guy in the movie who wasn’t interested in committing suicide anymore after he learned about Mark’s Heaven. His new goal was to lay around and watch TV and drink beer all day thereby slowing killing himself with drink and enjoying the journey until it happened).

Even though this movie was mediocre at best and in fact, pretty much ticked me off, there were a lot of interesting messages – messages that I don’t think even Hollywood intended but need to be pointed out and discussed, especially in today’s world.

Rating: C

The most dangerous untruths are truths moderately distorted. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Movie/TV Reviews

Movie Review: Henry Poole Is Here

Grade: C+

Last night, Kevin and I watched “Henry Poole Is Here.”

Here’s the trailer:

HENRY POOLE is HERE is a comedic drama about a disillusioned man who goes hiding in placid suburbia only to discover he cannot escape the forces of hope. Returning to the middle class neighborhood where he grew up, Henry chooses to live in indulgent isolation. Real life, however, refuses to cooperate with his plans. Nosy neighbors interrupt him with curious visits and prying questions. Then the situation escalates as a stain on Henry’s stucco wall is seen to have miraculous powers. His last-ditch hideout becomes a shrine; his backyard turns into an arena for passionate debate about faith and destiny. Seeking anonymous oblivion, cynical Henry Poole instead finds himself right at the center of the human comedy. A modern-day fable investigates the unexpected wonders of the everyday. A faithless man finds hope. A hopeless man finds love. Whether backyard miracles are real or triggered by hope and belief, their personal effects are permanent.

“Comedic drama” is exactly what this film is. It’s a drama with funny bits; a comedy steeped in drama. In short, it’s about life.

I confess, there was a moment when I nearly fell asleep. This film is slow moving. It’s sobering. And actually, downright depressing. Luke Wilson spends most of the movie either frowning or being quietly pathetic.

But considering the news his character receives? It’s to be expected.

It’s rare to find a movie that depicts faith fairly – most of the time, I think films that have a faith-based theme distort, or depict faith as something to mock, or shun. And though Wilson’s character does just that, the majority of the characters in this film are supporting strong faith and the power of CHOOSING to believe in a divine being or power.

I found that incredibly refreshing.

The fact that miracles happen to a few characters in this movie solidifies, in my mind, the importance of placing our faith in God. Faith is hope and often times, it’s ALL a person has. Without hope, life becomes meaningless, depressing, and pointless. Because Wilson’s character doesn’t believe in hope, in miracles, his life devolves into an empty shell so that he’s reduced to waiting for the inevitable.

Granted, I felt a little uncomfortable with the notion that people were coming to worship a “stain” on Henry Poole’s wall, the meaning behind the misplaced hope was apparent. And who’s to say that that stain WASN’T a message from God? I suppose hope can take any form, as long as we’re not worshiping that manifestation.

Overall, I think the film did a pretty good job juggling a sensitive subject. The overall message of the movie was the importance of recognizing hope – that faith does indeed perform miracles, if one is willing to embrace it.

I’m really beginning to like these “real-life” movies lately. And by “real-life” movies, I mean the movies that do a pretty good job at depicting real-life issues. There are no spectacular special effects, or outrageous plot twists in these types of movies, but instead, they are movies that are designed to make you think and to appreciate life on many multi-faceted levels.

Movie/TV Reviews

Movie Review: Duplicity

I watched this one with Kevin. Which was a mistake to begin with — he’s not exactly the biggest Julia Roberts fan. In fact, he thinks the woman can not only NOT act, she’s homely looking.

Which, ordinarily, I would disagree with him. But in this movie? Well, she DID look a bit homely. And come to think of it? All of her characters ARE the same. Hhmm …

At any rate, he fell asleep about 30 minutes into the movie. And when the movie woke him up later? He walked his sleepy butt into bed and had no interest in watching the rest of it with me.

I should have followed him.

Duplicity

duplicity In essence, this movie is about trust.

And by that I mean, there isn’t any trust. In fact, these characters build a relationship on the fact that they can’t trust each other. It’s both fascinating and disturbing to watch.

Why disturbing? Because it makes me wonder just how many real-life couples out there are in a similar situation.

Julia Roberts’ character, Claire, and Clive Owens’ character, Ray, are CIA agents. They are both highly trained in the art of fooling people – including each other.

The movie’s time line is a bit disjointed. We begin in the present, then jump back a few years, then move forward to the present, then jump back 18 months and so on. At first, I didn’t care for the format, but after a while, I got used to it and looking at the big picture after the fact, I think this yo-yo story-telling method might have been the only way to tell this particular story.

At any rate, I’ve filed it away for future reference for my own stories.

After many years in the spy business, Claire has had enough. She wants to retire and and live the good life on her own terms. Together, her and Ray begin looking for that last “big” job — a job big enough to allow them to retire together.

Together, and yet separately, they find a possible situation. But by the time Ray finds out what Claire is up to, Claire is already knee deep in her undercover role and can’t back out – Ray is forced to wait until Claire can incorporate him into the overall scheme.

And she does, only Ray is on the opposing team. Claire works for one marketing company, Ray works for a competing marketing company and both company’s CEO’s hate each other so much they would love nothing more than to put the other out of business.

Claire’s company discovers a product so big that once it’s marketed and mass produced, it will turn the world upside down and make people desperate to buy it. Nearly half of the movie both teams are scrambling just to find out what the product is. And once the product has been discovered, the other half of the movie they are scrambling trying to keep the product secret on one end, and trying to steal it on the other end.

And in the middle of this series of complicated espionage moves, Claire and Ray are trying to steal it for themselves without letting their companies know what’s going on.

Throughout this entire movie, Claire doesn’t trust Ray and Ray doesn’t trust Claire. And even though you know the relationship shouldn’t work, somehow, it does: they are perfect for each other. And this annoys me, because the characters annoy me and is this movie over yet?

Yes. I confess. I nearly fell asleep. The confusing tricks and secret spy stuff felt watered down and not quite … real. Which sounds stupid considering it was a movie, but I simply couldn’t get into it. I think Claire was too smart and too strong for Ray and I got quite impatient with Ray and his always one step behind Claire antics. I like strong females, as long as they have a bone of humility and that bone? Was not in Claire’s character. I think she came off too brash and uppity.

The ending was unexpected and thoroughly dissatisfying. It was one of those endings where you just blink and say, “That’s it?! They went through all of that for … ?”

I’d give the movie a C- … maybe a C.

Maybe.

If you watched Duplicity, what did you think of it?

Movie/TV Reviews

Movie Review: Sunshine Cleaning

As some of you know, I don’t watch TV. In fact, I RARELY watch TV (though I have gotten into the habit of watching “The O’Reilly Factor” every night. WAIT! Come back! Don’t judge me on the fact that I like Fox News!).

But I do watch a lot of DVD’s.

On the treadmill.

Because I figure, hey, why not throw in a little exercise with my brainless activity?

I watch a lot of movies this way and without Kevin. My husband doesn’t have a lot of patience for most movies and prefers documentaries which … *YAWN*. So, watching movies on the treadmill works great for me.

I’d like to start keeping track of some of these movies. Mainly because I forget what I’ve watched and tend to rent them again (why yes, I AM that lame). But also because a lot of times, there was an aspect of the movie that struck a chord with me and I’d like to remember it for future reference.

You know, in case I ever get the urge to write a story based on that premise. (Said with some sarcasm because *snort* like that ever happens).

Sunshine Cleaning

sunshine-cleaning The biggest reason this movie appealed to me was because Amy Adams was in it. I loved her in “Enchanted” and just think she’s the cutest little actress.

And though I wasn’t expecting her to BE that character from “Enchanted,” I was still shocked – this was definitely a vastly different role for her.

I rarely agree with what critics say – and I mean rarely, but there was one observation that I thought summed the movie up perfectly, “Funny and gently heartbreaking.” Says Vanity Fair.

And that’s exactly what it was.

The premise behind the movie is Amy’s character, Rose, is a single mom trying to make ends meet. She works as a maid and though it doesn’t make her a lot of money and she doesn’t exactly enjoy it, she’s good at it.

The father of her son, an old high-school flame, is a cop and suggests she get into the cleaning up after a crime scene business. He convinces her she could make a lot more money doing it and it’s not much different than what she’s currently doing. Not to mention, not a lot of people have the stomach for it, so she could probably always find work.

So, Rose talks her sister, Norah, into starting the business with her. The girls are pretty amusing when they first start out because they have no idea what they’re doing and they walk into some pretty grisly scenes. But after a while, they get the hang of it and Rose discovers that she actually likes doing it. Not because of WHAT she does, but for what she CONTRIBUTES to the situation — She helps people physically move past their personal tragedies.

In addition to the job, Rose is forced to deal with her past — with the father of her child, with her father, with her emotionally-messed up sister, and with her old high school “friends.” She’s a woman who is stuck between wanting to live her life and not being able to let go of her past.

I think the biggest message behind this movie was the fact that though it’s important to address the past, it’s equally important not to LIVE in the past. And that it’s okay to like off-the-wall people and things because life is not about trying to assimilate and blend in, but to embrace the differences.

I’d give it a C+.

If you’ve seen “Sunshine Cleaning,” what did you think about of it?