Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Originally from Hawaii. Have been living in Los Angeles for the last 22 years.
Aikido instructor with 4th degree black belt. Toastmasters Competent Communicator.
The One Right There Beside You
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" is less smart ass than the original and all heart. "Guardians 2" is all about family. "Vol. 2" is the movie raritythe sequel greater than the original. "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" retains its whimsical irreverence and funnier than thou swag with stunning visuals. From the opening sequence the Guardians hilariously thrash and get thrashed by a galactic serpent on some distant planet. Their mission is to recover some invaluable unpronounceable energy batteries for the elitist Sovereign race. Director and Writer James Gunn establishes the veiled narrative thread, and the movie is warp speed ahead.
Incredible action and wisecracks aside what creates "Guardians 2" as special is family. I was moved and inspired as Chris Pratt's Peter confesses, "Sometimes, the thing you've been looking for your whole life is right there beside you all along." From the first "Guardians" we recall the deadly rivalry of the sisters Gamora, played by strong nurturing Zoe Saldana, and Nebula, played by suffering and poignant Karen Gillan. After fighting nearly to the death, Nebula cries to her sister, "You're the one who wanted to win! I wanted a sister!" Saldana and Gillan are amazing. "Guardians 2" fiercely dares to touch your heart.
Chris Pratt impressively chiseled his body to play Peter Quill. He admirably helms the action star mantle. He makes "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" greater as a whole. He does charming smart ass whether he is clumsily romancing beautiful Saldana's Gamora or delivering throwaway on-liners. Pratt's humanity distinguishes him as a true star. Peter discovers his father Ego, played by charismatic Kurt Russell. Ego is the Celestial-- literally a god, who left Peter's dying Mother. Peter asks his Father if she was the love of his life, why he left her. Peter says, "I had to watch her die!"
Michael Rooker's Ravager thief Yondu was the one who raised Peter in Ego's absence. All is not what it seems. Rooker's nobility and compassion resonates the profound conflict of Peter's Fathers. Ego tells Peter that he loves him, having finally found him after all these years. He wants to share his legacy and power with his son. James Gunn brilliantly orchestrates the interstellar action, wisecracks, and tragedy. He fearlessly evokes his version of Shakespeare in this comic book tale. "Guardians 2" is wildly entertaining with the great soul.
Hysterical mercenary Rocket, the cybernetic raccoon voiced by sarcastic Bradley Cooper, steals some of the Sovereign batteries as lovely parting gifts from the arrogant golden skinned jerks. Humorless Queen Ayesha, played by wonderfully zealous Elizabeth Debicki, sends her 'gamer' operated space fleet upon the Guardians in retaliation. Fortunately, Ego and his companion Mantis, played by whimsical beauty Pom Klementieff, save our heroes from destruction.
Ego tells Peter that he is his father. Peter, Gamora, and Drax, played by brutishly funny Dave Bautista, agree to accompany his Father to his home planet Egothe planet he created. The visual images of Ego are idyllic and serene. Russell's Ego is both omnipotent and the great enigma. Mantis is the gifted empath, who helps him sleep and protects his secrets. Ego welcomes his son home, revealing his destiny. Ego doesn't necessarily add up. Is this what Peter wished for?
Director Gunn's "Guardians 2" invents the narrative spectrum of David Hasselhoff jokes, cool retro '70s rock, kick ass martial arts, galactic ship battles, and quirky charming relationships. With Gunn's direction all his stars give their best. Bautista's hulking tatted blue warrior Drax is crude, brave, and soulful. Klementieff's Mantis is mesmerizing charm. She is genuinely kind, crushing on Big Drax. Saldana is awesome. She has a commanding and calming screen presence. Gunn could have leveraged more romance in Gamora and Peter's love story. Throughout Pratt and Saldana generate authentic chemistry. The narrative focus is on Peter's bond with his fathers, and Gamora's reconcile with estranged sister Nebula. Saldana is radiant and noble with Gillan's surprising Nebula. Gillan's humanity emerges as we empathize for her desire to be loved.
I think "Guardians 2" becomes the story of the Fathers and their son of love and destiny. All is not what it appears. Russell and Rooker are eloquently polarizing forces. Pratt embodies courage and fearless vulnerability as Peter boldly defines the man he wants to be. "Guardians 2" is touchingly, tearfully about unconditional love and choice. Considering the grand design of the movie that is the wondrous surprise. Simple and sweet. I loved "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2".
Gifted and Whole
In "Gifted" after her taxing first day of main stream school, 7 year- old mathematics prodigy Mary, played by amazing Mckenna Grace, sits on her guardian Uncle Frank, played by gentle Chris Evans, on their beach day near their Florida home. Frank asks Mary about making friends at school. Mary says that she can't make friends with "idiots". The older and wiser Frank tells her, "Your Mother would have wanted you to have compassion." Mary's Mother Diane was the brilliant mathematician, who tragically committed suicide after Mary was born.
Director Marc Webb's "Gifted" is predictable, contrived, and could have been better. I loved that scene with Frank and Mary at the beach which defines the movie. "Gifted" is about compassion, love, and seeing people as whole beyond just their gifts. I liked "Gifted" a lot. Evans and Grace are touching and beautiful together. They compel and shine within the movie's frailties.
Writer Tom Flynn has best intentions; however, some of the plot lines and characters falter. Frank's Mother Evelyn played by dominating Lindsay Duncan is too cold and singular without heart. I don't think she is supposed to be the villain, but she is in the movie. Frank and Mary's kind sage landlord Roberta, played by wonderful Octavia Spencer, is not so much a breathing character, rather a paternal narrative device. This wastes the talents of Spencer. Jenny Slate plays Mary's understanding First Grade Teacher Bonnie, who predictably falls in love with Frank. This creates conflict for Mary and Frank which does not have an entirely authentic feel. However, Evans and Slate's chemistry make this work; because we believe Mary's life is in both of their hearts.
Bonnie discovers Mary's genius in math class. She informs Frank, of which he is already aware. Frank was the former Philosophy Professor at Boston University, before leaving to care for his late sister's daughter. Frank works odd jobs repairing boats. He home schooled Mary as much as possible. While the kids in Mary's class are doing simple arithmetic, she is schooling herself in partial differential equations.
A bully trips Mary's friend on the bus, destroying his school project. Mary responds punching out the bully. Meeting with the school principal, Frank agrees that what she did was wrong. However, he is very proud that she took a stand for someone weaker. The principal reminds Frank that Mary is gifted and would be better suited at the private school for kids like her. Frank says no. He says that Mary's Mother would have wanted her grow up as a kid, and that she would have "wanted her to be happy". He promised Diane. He confesses, "I would rather you dumb her down, if that makes her a good person." "Gifted" is eloquently about choice.
Frank's estranged Mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) visits from her home in London. She wants charge of Mary to foster her amazing gifts at Harvard. Evelyn is also the former math prodigy, like her daughter Diane and now Mary. The family is gifted. She despises Frank for wasting Mary's gift. Mary's Mom Diane was the brilliant mathematician on the verge of solving the unsolvable Navier-Stokes Expressions. Apparently, Diane's gift was a curse that consumed her, and her driven Mother Evelyn didn't allow young Diane to live lifeor fall in love. Frank knows this all too well.
In the tragically disheartening scene, Frank and Evelyn have lunch at the beach. Evelyn tells Frank the reason why Mary committed suicide: "She was weak!" Sadly Evelyn only saw her daughter's gift and not the whole Diane. She intends to sue Frank for custody of Mary. This is the dramatic family conflict of "Gifted".
"Gifted" intimately embodies love and compassion. At the narrative arc, Frank must forsake Mary. As Frank tearfully leaves Mary screams, "Don't go Frank!" Frank profoundly discovers what he has with Mary in the loss. Evans and Grace are moving and authentic in their partnership.
In the wondrous sunset scene on their beach day, Mary literally climbs on Frank. She asks "Is there a God?" Frank answers, "I don't know
" Mary asks, "What about Jesus?" Frank answers, "Love that guy
One way or another we all end up together in the end." In "Gifted" we are all together in the end. In the closing scenes we watch Grace smiling and being a little girl with her Girl Scout friends in the park. The choices matter. Kids should be allowed to be kidsit's only right. In the end, "Gifted" brings us all together.
The Fate of the Furious (2017)
Big, loud, stupid fun, and worthwhile...
"The Fate of the Furious" is big, loud, stupid fun, and thrilling. Yeah, the movie is the glossy dinosaur. Yet "The Fate of the Furious" is sublimely about family. Charlize Theron is awesome. She plays the beautiful blonde dread locked Cipher, the most compelling and charismatic villain of this franchise. Unexpectedly in "Furious 8" Dom played by Vin Diesel apparently turns rogue on his team, on his family. Theron's Cipher holds the dramatic source of his betrayal.
In the telling scene Cipher and Dom explosively attack the base of the secret Federal Agency and his friends to obtain the omniscient surveillance program "God's Eye" as part of Cipher's grand scheme. Shockingly, Cipher kisses Dom and turns with a knowing glance. Dom's wife Letty, played by Michelle Rodriguez, says "Dom, are you going to turn your back on family?" Cipher leverages a secret over Dom. He tells her that he did what was necessary. She tells him, "Nothing is necessary. Everything is choice..."
In stark contrast with this tragic exchange, "Furious 8" climaxes in the Siberian tundra where Luke Hobbs, played by Dwayne Johnson, diverts a speeding submarine missile over the ice with his sinuous arm. This is just stupid fun-- in a good way. The distinct charm of "The Fate of the Furious" is that it is big and loud, yet its heart is about family. This is the corny dichotomy that works.
Theron's legendary villainous cyber hacker Cipher is much like her Evil Queen from "Snow White and the Huntsman"powerful and soulless. Here she is threatening without raising her voice. "Furious 8" has its gratifying heroes in Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, and Jason Statham, who is now the good guy. Ultimately, Chris Morgan's story works as Director F. Gary Gray expertly balances the silly, along with the stunning action, and plot twists.
As the movie opens Dom and Letty are on their honeymoon in Havana, Cuba. Dom defends his cousin's honor in an insane car race, racing a car he literally supped up in minutes. Of course, Dom wins the race before the car explodes over the ocean. Cipher dismantles Dom's bliss. She exploits Dom's secret coercing him to go rogue. They are now dueling partners. Cipher is the genius nuclear weapons nihilist with global destruction on her mind.
Meanwhile back in D.C., Hobbs coaches his daughter's soccer team. If they lose the consequences could be direTayTay concerts will be in Hobbs's future. A secret operative gives Hobbs the mission to retrieve an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) device which renders all electronics inactive. Hobbs calls on a favor with Dom, and assembles his team for the mission. Tragically, Dom betrays his "family" nearly killing Hobbs, and steals the EMP for Cipher. The hero now becomes the villain? Consequently, Hobbs goes to prison, because of his mission failure. He finds his arch nemesis Deckard Shaw, played by smart and bad ass Jason Statham, in the same prison. In one of the amazing narrative curves, Shaw becomes the good guy.
This sets the stage for Director Gray's physics defying action, and astounding visuals. More entertaining are the relationship of Dom and Cipher, and the colorful bromance of Hobbs and Shaw. The story gets wacky at times, and there are distractions from minor screen characters. Diesel, Theron, Johnson, and Statham bring their A- games. So even amidst mounting movie disbelief, they make it worth watching. Their polarizing personas resonate with the theme of family.
Director Gray provides wildly entertaining action sequences. Through bizarre Internet access Cipher commands cars crashing and plummeting out of parking structures in New York City. Statham as Shaw executes martial arts grace and power as he kills assassins on board Cipher's stealth jet. At the highlight: Cipher says, "You're out of bullets." Shaw says "I don't need them for you " "The Fate of the Furious" is non-stop action, humor, and never takes itself seriously.
With all the mind-blowing action, I really appreciated the conflict of Cipher and Dom. Theron's Cipher is quiet ruthlessness. In one scene Cipher does the unspeakable act to remind Dom of his promise to her. Dom points his gun at her, and says "I got no choice!" Diesel satisfyingly displays more of his vulnerability and humanity in "The Fate of the Furious" than in the other movies. He and Theron have amazing chemistry throughout. This is the movie's strength.
The inconsequential characters often detract the movie; mostly they are there for continuity. Tyrese Gibson and Ludadris suffer in their roles. Too bad the movie wastes the talents of Michelle Rodriguez. Her Letty could have been a more compelling presence. Even Helen Mirren has a decent cameo.
Family is the powerful narrative that binds "The Fate of the Furious". The story concludes with the touching homage to the late Paul Walker. The movie reminds that family and love are what really count in life. "The Fate of the Furious" is entertaining fun, and gets it right.
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
Discovering the Soul
It's what you do and your soul that defines you in "Ghost in the Shell". Scarlett Johansson is heroic compassion as the human and mostly machine Major in Director Rupert Sanders's "Ghost in the Shell". "Ghost in the Shell" is the wonderful surprise that is both visually provocative action and the compelling existential exploration of humanity. Set in near futuristic Japan, cybernetic or robotic enhancements of humans are common place in the world. In this global incarnation Hanka Corporation is the technology leader seeking to change the world. Whether this change is for good is the real question?
In the enthralling visual opening narrative scientists implant the residual human brain in the robotic 'shell' that becomes Johansson's Major. Composed of electronics and metal alloy, the beautiful Major emerges from the laboratory liquid pool of flesh and hairnearly human. Johansson is awesome. She has this mesmerizing stillness even in the gate of her walk. She disposes villains with explosive martial arts excellence. Sanders wisely leverages close ups of Johansson, whose face in both the spoken and unspoken eloquently expresses courage and vulnerability. Johansson commands "Ghost in the Shell" as her own.
Scarlett powerfully captures the emblematic paradox; her Major is more machine, than human in her search for her very humanityher soul. She inspires as the hero discovering and defining herself. Her creators create and design her as the perfect soldier to combat the global terrorist threat. She confesses to her beloved creator caretaker Dr. Ouelet, played by poignant and strong Juliette Binoche, "What I have is not real." She speaks of her memories and her past.
Dr. Ouelet tells her hero that it is not the memories you hold, "It's what you do that defines you " The screenplay by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, and Ehren Kruger is based on the classic Manga by Masamune Shirow. This movie is also the reinvention of the 1995 Amine feature film. The 'ghost' is the remnant of soul implanted in the robotic or cybernetic 'shell'. Does the soul exist? One's design doesn't determine your purpose. Does the Major deserve to find love? I was happy that the search for the soul infused in this narrative, and that Johansson embodies the existential hero's purposediscovering who she is.
With brazen visual style the Major battles evil villains in literal pseudo-nakedness. Johansson is sexy, haunting, and isolated. This kind of symbolizes the stark lone nature of her very quest. As in the original Anime, the Major dramatically disrobes from her overcoat, then like the Dark Knight descends upon her evil prey. In a conflict arc the naked Major pummels the fleeing criminal in the rain filled pond, nearly killing. Her hulking fellow cyborg Batou, played by sarcastic but nurturing Pilou Asbaek, mercifully prevents her. The Major fights with calculated precision, and consumed rage. Since 'high-jacking' the program of a terrorist robot, the Major has bizarre images perhaps from her past. Is her dormant humanity emerging?
This makes "Ghost in the Shell" compelling. Sanders's future Japan has the layered holographic feel of "Blade Runner" and the austere heroic night imagery of "The Dark Knight". The collective cyber- consciousness and virtual 'plug-ins' remind of "The Matrix". The Major discovering her inherent soul is amazing. Sanders falters a bit in the story arc when Johansson's Major talks with someone dear from her passed life. He is too restrained; he could have risked bringing us to tears. Poetically, he resolves this later in the Major's hero journey.
After creating the Major, Machiavellian Hanka CEO Cutter, played by ruthlessly good Peter Ferdinado, transfers her to Section 9the Government's elite anti-terrorist group. Section 9 is headed by the old and wise Aramaki, played with gravitas by Takeshi Kitnao. Batou becomes the Major's protector and friend, who may also be in love with her. Cutter distinguishes the Major as the revolutionary first of her kind. But is she the first? There are so many lies, including those surrounding the Major.
The possible villain arises in cyber-enhanced Kuze, played by charismatic Michael Pitt. Section 9 and the Major investigates Kuze's murder of all those associated with 'Project 2571'cloaked in secrecy. Perhaps, the Major was not the first? And the stories of her origins may be lies as well. The Major and Kuze's present and past may be tragically bound.
I thoroughly enjoyed "Ghost in the Shell" for its visual style, thought provoking story, and entirely for Scarlett Johansson's performance. Her movie star presence transcends the character and the movie. I read and heard about the "whitewashing" in casting Scarlett instead of a Japanese actress as the Major. Johansson is amazing. The character of the Major is more machine, than human. "The Ghost in the Shell" is about the nature of the soul. Perhaps, the shape of your eyes has little to do with the quality of your soul. I say this as a Japanese American movie fan. The touching epilogue of "Ghost in the Shell" makes this perfectly clear. "Ghost in the Shell" is surprising and very gratifying.
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Still the tale as old as time and true...
Emma Watson is a star. "Beauty and the Beast" may be flawed in its excess, and is more touching and human than the animated original. Emma Watson is radiant, beautiful, and inspired. This live action reinvention of "Beauty and the Beast" remains the "tale as old as time".
Watson's Belle is rescued from killer wolves by the brave Beast played by the tormented and noble Dan Stevens, but he is wounded and bleeding from the attack. He fights with great strength and rage. The Beast unexpectedly sacrifices for Belle, and lies on the ground of the wintry forest. Belle turns about to leave and escape her imprisonment. Gentleness melts her visage as she turns back to rescue him in return. "Beauty and the Beast" enrolled me then.
The wondrous souls of Watson and Stevens reinvent "Beauty and the Beast". Through astounding make-up and CGI effects, Steven's Beast is the towering horned majestic lion. His Beast embodies both joy and suffering in his gentle blue eyes. Stevens accomplishes the nearly impossible. He is a handsome man, and his Beast becomes beautiful as he allows us to see his soul and forsaken dreams. Watson is natural beauty with freckles on her nose. Her Belle's innocence discovers the truth in others, be it the Beast or the ghastly Gaston. Watson and Stevens are beautifully sublime.
With the largely familiar story-line and great songs by Alan Menken and Hal Ashman of the original 1991 animated movie, Director Bill Condon's recreation is about loss, destiny, and falling in love. His spectacular vision creates the haunting images of the wintry forest and the Beast's austere castle. This is a musical, and Condon wonderfully orchestrates the song and dance. He does homage to "The Sound of Music" with Belle singing on the hills of her village.
Watson and Stevens make us believe in Belle and Beast's love story. There may be one too many dance numbers or introspective character musical solos. Fortunately, they are not too distracting. Screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos invent the poignant back stories of Belle's and the Beast's deceased Mothers humanizing this fairy tale. This is timeless tale of true love and forgiveness.
The story opens as the narcissist Prince, played by believable Stevens, callously dismisses the gifted rose from an old woman visiting his castle. This was his test. The old woman reveals herself as the Enchantress, played by stunning Hattie Morahan. She casts a spell upon the Prince transforming him into the Beast and his servants into living furniture. He shall remain the Beast until he can fall in love with someone, who loves him back. The Prince must do so before all the petals on the rose fall; otherwise, the curse is forever.
Belle's opening song expresses her uniqueness. She is the independent spirit, who loves books, and has great dreams. They do not include braggart Gaston played by talented Luke Evans, who wants to marry Belle. She tells him, "I will never marry you." Belle cares for her watchmaker Father Maurice played by kind Kevin Kline. Belle's Mother died years ago and she was Maurice's love story. He tells Belle of her Mom, "Your Mother was fearless." Belle is like her.
One night Maurice becomes lost and trespasses the Beast's castle. Beast imprisons him until Belle bravely takes her Father's place. Beast's servants wonder if Belle is the one, who will break the wicked spell?
As enemies Belle and the Beast aren't so different. They both love Shakespeare. The Beast reads "Guinevere and Lancelot", which Belle labels, "Still a romance." He too, is a dreamer who loves books. He shares his vast library with Belle.
Belle discovers the servants' loyalty to the Beast. The young prince was very much like his loving Mother. After she died, his Father's cruelty hardened his extraordinary spirit. Belle begins to see his noble wounded heart. The Beast doubts she will end his curse, telling his servants, "Look at me!" I know that resolve. He too is falling in love with Belle.
Condon's ballroom dance with the Beast and Belle in golden gown is nostalgic, new, and touching. Emma Thompson as the teapot Mrs. Potts beautifully sings the theme, "Beauty and the Beast". Beast frees Belle when tragedy arises. She promises to come back. Candelabra Lumiere, voiced by Ewan McGregor, asks Beast about the spell and Belle. He says, "I let her go." Mr. Potts says, "Because he loves her."
The miscalculation of the movie is villain Gaston. He is the arrogant stupid narcissist without nuance. We cheer for Belle and Beast against Gaston, often because nothing redeems him. Belle and Beast emerge as heroes in this conflict. Hearing Beast say to Belle "You came back." is so touching.
"Beauty and the Beast" has a wonderful human quality and spirit. It reminds of the old and recreates as new. Emma Watson is amazing in this "tale as old as time". Take a chance on "Beauty and the Beast".
The Hero's Purpose
"Logan" is the fierce and touching elegy of the hero's redemption. "Logan" is amazing. The movie is bloody, inspired, and sublime. Hugh Jackman is powerful and nuanced. As the aging and fading Logan, Jackman remains the sinuous beast, but with boldly reinvented vulnerability. Newcomer Dafne Keen with her innocent wide eyes possesses the child's truth. She is a star. Director and writer James Mangold's hero's journey moves us, and will make you cry. I read an interview with Hugh about his last incarnation as Logan after being him for 17 years. He said that he will miss Logan as a best part of himself. Jackman is transcendent in "Logan".
"Logan" is set in 2029. Mutants like Logan are no longerpossibly having been exterminated in this future. Logan is aging and grayed; his powers are fading. He heals much slowerthe bullets and his retracting Adamantium claws are bloody and hurt. He is no longer the hero he once was. He is a limo driver, who drinks way too much. Logan is dying, and faces his own mortality.
He and his beloved mentor Charles, played by powerful Patrick Stewart, are among the remaining Mutants. 90-old Charles was the most powerful telepath is a hallowed shell, now bed ridden suffering mind altering seizures and dementia. Logan along with Mutant albino Caliban, played by compassionate Stephen Merchant, care for Charles. Perhaps, there is another Mutant still out there?
Charles tells Logan that he is "A disappointment..." Logan has lost his purpose. Logan struggles with who he has becomesomething I can empathize.
"Logan" opens in stark tone. Thugs wake sleeping Logan while stealing the rims from his limousine. The thieves dismiss his warnings. Though riddled with bullets, Logan slashes and maims with skilled savage rage. "Logan" has the feel of "The Road Warrior" or "Unforgiven". Mangold even does homage to "Shane". Those stories were about the redemption of the nihilist or anti-hero; however, Mangold's Logan profoundly fights for love. After having a beautiful dinner with a family they helped, Charles tells Logan, "This is what life looks like "
The hauntingly calm Pierce with eerie mechanical hand played by charismatic strong Boyd Holbrook, tracks down Logan in El Paso asking him for information about some 'missing property'. Pierce is an agent for Transigen Corporation that does unspeakable experimentation with Mutants. Logan has no idea, until she finds him.
She is wide eyed and silent little girl Laurathe other Mutant. Logan and Charles must take Laura to North Dakota so that she can find sanctuary with other young Mutants across the border in Canada. Charles tells Logan, "She's like you she's very much like you." Pierce and his mercenaries are relentless and find Logan, Charles, and Laura at their refuge. Laura announces her presence unleashing her merciless fury upon her enemies. She has great agility and strength, also possessing Logan's Adamantium claws and warrior skills. Keen and Jackman are spectacular battling together against their underestimating opponents. Initially, Charles and Logan suspect Laura may be a clone of Logan.
In an eloquent touch Logan discovers Laura is a fan of the "X-Men" comics and Wolverine. He dismisses telling her most of the stories are "bullsh**". Meanwhile, a figure from the past Dr. Rice played by the reserved evil Richard E. Grant as the head of Transigen is about to unleash his most ferocious creation.
Logan becomes Laura's protector; she is like family, like blood. She needs him to be her hero. Charles reminds Logan of what we already knew. His fading powers and claws aside, what makes Logan the hero, is the man he is. He just needs to remember that, and reclaim himself. This fight is different now: Logan fights for love.
In "Logan" the battles are fierce, vicious and costly. Before the climactic battle, Laura and Logan share. Logan says that everyone he ever loved gets hurt. He has hurt people. Laura says, "I hurt people, too Bad people." Logan confides, "You are going to have to live with that, too."
Jackman and Keen are the beating hearts of "Logan". Jackman's Logan tragically weeps over his loss; Keen's Laura holds his bloody hand with her own. Keen's closing moments as little Laura speaks to our very humanity. Jackman as Logan poignantly says, "So this is what it feels like "
The hero deserves to find his own measure of peace and love at the end of his journey. We honor this as well, because we deserve the same. "Logan" is the hero story of amazing grace and power. It is one of the best. Thank you, Hugh Jackman for being our hero.
John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
A few days ago I was talking with one of my friends at the YMCA. I told him over the weekend that I saw "John Wick: Chapter 2", again. He said," You really must like it." I said, "Yes." I told him that I thought "John Wick: Chapter 2" was the best action movie of the last 10 years. Keanu Reeves is awesome. The movie has this "strange love story" that makes it very clear what John fights for.
I liked "John Wick" a lot. His tale of bloody vengeance about his dead dog and missing vintage sports car reveals in the end as the metaphor for his late wife Helen, played by Bridget Moynahanthe love of his life. John's lost love story.
In "John Wick: Chapter 2" what John fights for is completely transparent. Keanu Reeves's John is the retired master assassin, forced back into "the game". John's friend Winston, played by Ian McShane, tells Santino, played by Riccardo Scamarcio that he called back John on the marker which allowed him to have a life with Helen, and he betrayed John as well. Winston warns Santino that John will 'kill him', because "He came back for love." I got the movie then. "John Wick 2" is the great B-action movie that becomes the powerful story about John's lost love story. Derek Kolstad's screenplay is minimalist clarity.
Reeves is awesome in the brutal and spectacular martial arts and gun displays. As John he is eloquently understated, wounded, and full of focused rage. The fighting sequence where John takes out assassins in the subway is electrifying and immaculate. Reeves creates John as the tragic hero, who fights for honor and the love of his departed soul mate.
As one of John's intended victims lays in a bathing pool, she asks him, "John, do you fear damnation?" John sits next to her and says, "Yes." Without Helen, he feels sentenced to hell. In the opening scene John steals his mustang back from his enemy. John is relentless. In the scene in the garage, he dispatches literally dozens of trained killers with Muay Thai, Jujitsu, Aikido, and boxing. The fight choreography is clean and devastating. Reeves has mastered his arts. He retrieves his car and spares his enemy. We discover that the car was not important to himrather what was in it.
John wants normalcy and calm. He even has a new dogwithout a name. However, Satino calls upon the blood marker that had set John free. The marker bounds John to do whatever Santino requests. Santino wants John to murder his sister Gianna, played by beautiful and dark Claudi Gerini. Gianna has ascended to the seat on in the international crime circle. The seat that Santino felt is rightfully his. John refuses: "I'm not that guy anymore." Santino and his men wreak havoc upon John and his home.
John and his dog find sanctuary in the Continental Hotel run by his friend Winston. The Continental is sanctuary for all assassins. However, by its code all markers must be honored. Therefore, John must kill Gianna. If he refuses, he dies. If he kills her, he dies. That is John's mortal curse.
Director Chad Stahelski has an authentic feel for the hero and the villain. He possesses instinct for action. Bruce Lee might have said his action is "like water"it flows with impact. The martial arts with and without guns is brutally exquisite. Cinematographer Dan Laustsen captures the continuous flow whether in the dark tunnels of Italy or the all white lit subway. Stahelski has great homage to "Enter the Dragon" in the climatic fight in mirrored rooms.
Stahelski's John is focused and empathetic, because of his cause. There is strange satisfaction watching John take out trained assassins, who think they are tough, when John is just being that. John gets beat up badly, as well, but he never stops. His flashbacks to John's Helen sustain an ironic poignancy. Common's Cassian, who is Gianna's protector, is John's arch rival, who has code and honor. On the other hand, Scamarcio's Santino occurs as a prissy coward hiding behind his army of warriors. Reeves is made to play John. His controlled impassiveness expresses his deep rage and loss.
We are all for John. There must be justice in the worldor at least in the world of movies. "John Wick: Chapter 2" is bloody and singular, and John fights for his lost love story. Somehow that makes a difference. See "John Wick: Chapter 2". It's a great movie.
A Monster Calls (2016)
The Simplest Truth Will Set You Free
"A Monster Calls" surrenders to our truths. When we do so, we set ourselves free. Liam Neeson as the Monster tells Lewis MacDougall's young Conor, "Speak the simplest truth." Hold on tight to those you love, while letting go. MacDougall and Neeson are amazing grace in Director J.A. Bayona's "A Monster Calls". "A Monster Calls" is about the serenity of acceptance. At a telling point in the story, Conor confesses to the Monster, "I'm afraid." He says, "You should be " It is all right to be afraid. It is all right to just be. That is the beauty of "A Monster Calls".
In the opening scene Conor awakes from a recurrent nightmare as he loses grasp of his Mum's hands and she falls into the dark abyss. Set in England, 12 year-old Conor (MacDougall) selflessly cares for himself and his Mum (Felicity Jones), who seems to suffer from terminal cancer. He is terrified of what's next. He endures physical and verbal abuses from school bully Harry (a good James Melville). Conor's only escape derives from his drawings and watercolor paintings. One night, a behemoth Monster (voiced by Neeson) arises from the yew tree on the hill. The Monster will tell Conor three stories. Then Conor must tell the fourth story his own truth.
Patrick Ness wrote the screenplay based on his novel. Renowned children's author Siobhan Dowd originated the idea that inspired his novel. Bayona and Ness miraculously weave their story with gorgeous tapestries of animation, watercolor, and live action. The Monster narrates the story of: "A boy too old to be a kid. Too young to be a man." MacDougall breaks our hearts as Conor, a boy who has lost his smile. The Monster is the austere rooted sinuous beast towering over Conor. Neeson voices him with fierce benevolence and ruthless compassion. He tells Conor that there are no good guys; there are no bad guys. Maybe we are all somewhere between. Neeson and MacDougall's profound partnership in "A Monster Calls" poignantly resonates.
Felicity Jones as Conor's Mom Lizzy appears gaunt and frail, but she embodies her bold spirit. Lizzy's last recourse is an experimental treatment at the hospital. Grandma (seemingly rigid Sigourney Weaver) must care for Conor at her home. He would rather not. His Dad (compassionate Toby Kebbell), who lives in Los Angeles with his new family, visits Conor and his Mum. There is a singular smile when Conor sees him. The reason of his visit is direr. He tells Conor that he needs to be brave. School bullies constantly plague Conor. Now what does the Monster want of him? And what is Conor's own story?
Director Bayona creates the eloquently stunning imagery of the Monster's stories. Neeson's voice punctuates the gravitas and paradox of the tales. The movie is a visual masterpiece. The heart of the story comes from the powerful performances. Felicity Jones as Mum is unconditional love. She tells Conor, "I wish I could give you a 100 years." I was in tears, and often throughout the movie. Kebbell is valiant as Conor's estranged Dad, vulnerable and doing his very best. Sigourney Weaver is a surprise. Her Grandma is not what she seems. Her humanity touches.
MacDougall and Neeson are amazing and inspired. MacDougall evokes this radiant soul in sadness, pain, and anger. When he hugs his Mum you know what is in his heart. Neeson voices the Monster as both ominous and gently compassionate. He tells Conor that he'll be with him, and the world is safe. Everything will be all right.
Bayona beautifully ties together his story. In the end everything makes sense, as if it were our own truth as well. "A Monster Calls" will make you cry and smile from your soul. It is an awesome movie. It may make you think about your own truth. "A Monster Calls" is about your simplest truth setting you free.
La La Land (2016)
Dreams Give Life
Emma Stone angelically sings, "Here's to the ones who dream..." in a showcase moment in "La La Land". Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are enchanting. Director and Writer Damien Chazelle's musical is an ode to the dreamers and to passionately pursuing your dreams. I love "La La Land". "La La Land" is an amazing love story-- bitter sweet and resoundingly poignant. It made me happy. "La La Land" touched my heart.
I did not expect this from an old school movie musical. Director Chazelle lyrically outs this with the opening number as performers sing and dance atop their cars stranded in traffic on a Los Angeles freeway. In cosmic synchronicity lovers, Sebastian (Gosling) and Mia (Stone), meet when one flips the other 'the bird'. Yes, only in La La Land Los Angeles. In the days of Astaire and Rogers, musicals used to cast gifted singers and dancers, who could act. "La La Land" has gifted actors Stone and Gosling, who can sing and dance.
This resonates for "La La Land", because it is eloquently about the choices we make in life and the possibilities. As Stone smiles on a bench at the Griffith Park observatory, she is sublimeboth joyous and sad. Gosling speaks with such soulful conviction to Stone about jazz being "always new". Even by narrative design as they burst into song or dance, Stone and Gosling ground with touching authenticity the compromises they sacrifice for their dreams. I read that Stone and Gosling both trained rigorously for months for their roles. Gosling also displays mastery at the piano. Their performances are among the year's best. So is "La La Land".
Stone is Mia, an aspiring actress and full-time barista at a coffee shop on a Hollywood Studio lot. Gosling is Sebastian, a jazz pianist working at restaurant and jazz bar, who dreams of one day opening his own club. They meet a couple times before they get the universe's message. They share their dreams. Mia is frustrated with audition failures, and is at heart a writer and wonderful storyteller. Sebastian yearns to make jazz vital and alive for people. Sebastian is estranged from successful band-mate Keith (very cool John Legend). Love arises for Mia and Sebastian in the movie theater in Rialto. Director Chazelle literally transforms gently holding hands into a dazzling dance amidst the stars.
The dancing and music in "La La Land" are astonishing. The dancing is particularly moving with Stone and Gosling. They have that magical chemistry. The songs by composer Justin Hurwitz and lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are catchy with a few that are memorable. Although, Hurwitz's final musical composition is wondrous.
Life happens for Mia and Sebastian filled with joy and heartbreak, and through it all is love. Mia says, "I'm always gonna love you." Emma Stone allows us to see her soul through her eyes. Her performance is amazing. Stone is beautiful and is luminescent on screen. Gosling is so classically handsome, and he disarms with his fearless vulnerability. Stone and Gosling are such soulful actors and are the heart of "La La Land". Dreams give life. With them, we surrender to love and what happens will be so. "La La Land" made me happy. "La La Land" touches and inspires.
Rogue One (2016)
Felicity Jones is The Force
"Rogue One" is exciting fun. Felicity Jones as hero Jyn Erso is a star. Director Gareth Edwards's movie is visually spectacular and action driven. Screenwriters Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy tell the timeless story of courage and family. Edwards's "Rogue One" is a standalone movie occurring in the timeline before "Star Wars: Episode IV". As engaging as the movie is, what is the purpose of "Rogue One"? In the story Jyn along with renegade Rebellion members seek the plans of the Death Star weapon in "Star Wars". Jyn is drawn to the mission to rescue her beloved father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen). Galen was the scientist, who created the Death Star. Darth Vader voiced by James Earl Jones makes an ominous kick ass presence. Jones and Donnie Yen as blind warrior monk Chirrut Imwe are charismatic and bold.
"Rogue One" enlightens the coming events of "Star Wars". After watching the movie, I thought it missed the possible character evolution in terms of the Star Wars mythos. Jones, Yen, and Mikkelsen are captivating. I saw the movie in a Dolby Theater, and the battle with X-Wing and Tie-Wing fighters was amazing. In the end "Rogue One" leaves us wanting more to the story. It does not seem as consequential in the bigger picture.
"Rogue One" opens as Imperial Director Krennic (cold Ben Mendelson) apprehends Galen (Mikkelsen) to complete his work on the Death Star. Galen schemed for this inevitability. However, tragedy consumes. Krennic murders his wife. His daughter Jyn escapes and is raised by friend, Saw Gerrera (solid Forest Whitaker). Saw is an Imperial soldier turned Rebel. Jyn (Jones) grows into a powerful warrior.
The Resistance Rebels and Cassian (Diego Luna) recruit Jyn as part of a larger conspiracy. Galen sent a message to Jyn about the designed flaw in the Death Star. Jyn heads to planet Jeda in hopes of discovering the whereabouts of her Father. There she meets Chirrut (Yen), and others. Is Jyn is a savior or pawn in the conspiracy?
Felicity Jones is the force in "Rogue One". She is spunky and beautiful. She humanely embodies bravery and sadness as the hero in search of her father. Her relationship with Mikkelson's Galen is the touching core of the movie. World class martial artist Donnie Yen lends gravitas as Chirrut, who is a believer of The Force, but not a Jedi. Mendelson is good, but his Krennic is relatively evil light. That is punctuated with the appearance of Darth Vader himself.
Director Edwards seamlessly ties his story forward to the Star Wars saga. He does so with perhaps a few too many characters. Jones makes this the great hero story. "Rogue One" is amazing entertainment. Yet with the encompassing conclusion, you may be left wanting more.