Friday, July 29, 2016

“The Shallows”

   I am an ardent fan of the cinematic arts. Although I have certain genre preferences, I don’t let that stifle my curiosity and close myself to different flavors of entertainment. That said...I am a huge fan of science fiction, super hero and action movies! Please visit my other blog The Boxed Office for reviews, exclusively, on these types of movies.

The Cast:

   I enjoyed Blake Lively’s performance in her first top billed film, “Age of Adeline” and think she did very well in this film also even though the role called for her to be much more physical and display a different emotional range due to the context of the action.

   Here she plays a woman named Nancy that has come to a secluded beach, once frequented by her late mother, to surf and enjoy some alone time as she gathers herself to determine what direction she wants to take her life.

   Lively does an excellent job of conveying her need to experience this secluded beach and what it means to her to finally be where her late mother once was. Throughout the film, Lively’s performance is enthralling which speaks volumes of her ability to perform her craft as she is effectively the only character in the film with any real substance.

The Plot:

   As stated above, Nancy has come to a secluded beach (the name is never revealed as if there is some mystery that needs to be solved) to unwind the only way she knows how to…by surfing. With her mother having passed, the beach is all the more significant to her since her mother also surfed the waves in this secret spot.

   From the beginning Nancy is not alone as there are a pair of surfers already surfing there that seem to frequent the area daily. Nancy is a bit cautious at first but soon realizes that if there is some sort of threat, these local surfers are not it.

   After the locals leave for the day and Nancy opts to stay out in the water for more surfing, things begin to take a turn for the worst. Nancy notices something strange in the water and decides to investigate. That investigation reveals a dead whale…but more importantly the predator that killed the whale is still in the area and has it’s sights set on Nancy as the next meal.

   What follows next is not just a reiteration of a simple “Jaws-type” film, but a battle for survival that happens so close to shore that hope is never abandoned, but so fierce that tragedy is the only outcome that makes any sense…all happening on the edge of your seat!

The Verdict: 

   This film was better than I expected it to be as I thought it was only going to be some cheap remake of “Jaws.” However, the simple dynamic of this one woman versus this one shark in the shallows of a secluded cove made the film more personal and gave this small encounter a huge impact.

   The shark in the film looks completely real and raises the hairs on the back of your neck as it terrorizes Nancy with it’s simplistic need to feed and the instinct to do whatever it has to do to get that done. Kudos to the special effects crew here as the shark is all CGI and at no time does it feel like we are dealing with a fake shark.

   I like how the direction of the film keeps ramping p the suspense as the situation seems to keep deteriorating with no visible resolution in sight. Every temporary solution to the situation is made more temporary as the antagonist (shark) is absolutely relentless in it’s goal of making Nancy the cherry topping to his whale cake.

   That said….I’m not an expert on shark behavior, but it did seem to me that the shark was more single-minded than is believable possible (seeing as it had a whole whale to feed on just a few yards from Nancy), but it was easy to look past this for the thrill of the hunt, and fight for survival.

   This film was better than expected and kept me on the edge of my seat to easily soak three (3), out of five, cinnamon sticks in my cup of tea.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

“Viva Vermont”

   Planning a vacation can be stressful and expensive. Every year I probe my brain to figure out where to go that will be fun and relaxing, but not force me to mortgage my home to do it. You might be surprised to know (I was) that you need not travel around the world or cruise the ocean to find wonderful places you have never really been, or do exciting things you have never done before. Sometimes adventure and relaxation is right around the corner…or in your backyard, figuratively speaking.

   Living in Massachusetts, Vermont is my “backyard.” Now some of you reading this might have a certain impression of that state (as my daughter admitted to after we got back...that her impression was way off), but trust me when I say there might be a lot more to it than just mountains and woods (although the mountains and woods are absolutely majestic at times).

   I started off my vacation with a trip to an amusement park (yes, Vermont actually has one, sort of). Bromley hosts Vermont’s Summer Adventure and it’s what happens when you turn a mountain for skiing into a fun park in the summer. Without going into all the details I’ll just say it’s fun to go down the mountain on a sled gingerly married to a track (although I left quite a bit if skin on said track), and I retained my crown in mini-golf.

   I ended my vacation with trips to a couple of cheese and maple farms that had more varieties of cheese and maple syrup than I ever imagined were possible. Seriously….some of the combinations were so far off the wall they hadn't even made it to the floor. That said, most of them tasted absolutely fantastic, with a few that either gave you the stank face, or were so hot and spicy that they turned all the soft tissue in your mouth to ash.

   In between the beginning and the end of vacation was a plethora of trips to the local wineries and brewing companies. Let me tell you….wine tastings are one of the best kept secrets in the world. For a few bucks you get to sample some really good wines, and when I say “good,” I mean great when it comes to alcohol percentage by volume! The beer was the same, although there are less breweries than wineries, I particularly recommend Magic Hat Brewery. The free guided tour ends with samples of their beers…and it should go without saying how that ends (wink).

   Vermont being big on their local food and drinks, has many places to get some excellent food…native to the region, that you really can’t get anywhere else. Even the Cabot Cheese factory has flavors of cheeses that don’t seem to make it across the border, and they are a big company.

   I am no stranger to Bennington VT, having been there numerous times throughout the years, but I must say traversing the rest of the state and exploring all the beauty and hospitality (seriously, the people are some of the nicest anywhere) was one of the best vacations I have ever taken.

   Now….not everyone reading this will go to Vermont (although I expect some to actually trust me on this and make the trip), but the larger point I am making is that no matter where you are, perhaps a great time of fun and relaxation is just the next state over and with some meticulous planning and a few hours of driving, you can have one of the best times of your life.

Thursday, June 30, 2016


   I am an ardent fan of the cinematic arts. Although I have certain genre preferences, I don’t let that stifle my curiosity and close myself to different flavors of entertainment. That said...I am a huge fan of science fiction, super hero and action movies! Even though this film falls within the sci-fi genre, please visit my other blog The Boxed Office for reviews, exclusively, on these types of movies.

The Cast: 

   I am a fan of Travis Fimmel as I am an avid watcher of the show “Vikings” on television. Watching him in this film was fun, although for me I kept seeing elements of his other character and had to wonder if it was just “him” coming through in both roles. That said, he did a great job as Anduin Lothar (one of the greatest warriors in Warcraft lore) and proved he can carry a film as well as a television series.

   Paula Patton was Garona, a half-orc character torn between her Orc roots and her human sympathies. She did a great job in the role and wasn’t unpleasant to look at despite having some characteristics of Orcs. The chemistry between her and Lothar was evident and played well as a subplot.

   Toby Kebbell was the main Orc lead in the film, Durotan, and although it was motion capture and voice acting, made a lasting impression with the role. Although the Orcs are the “bad guys” in the film, I never got that sense from this character, indeed, Kebbell made a valid connection when I began to actually care about his character.

The Plot: 
   The Orc Horde has destroyed all their enemies and now have to flee their dying world in search of a new home. That new home is the realm of men known as Azeroth, a place of peace and beauty. Led by the machinations of an Orc shaman named Gul’dan, a portal is opened connecting the two realms allowing the Orcs to invade.

   After the Orcs arrive and begin their rampage of death and destruction, and effort to stop them is made and requires the help of the Last Guardian, Medivh, (played by Ben Foster) a human shaman dabbling with powers beyond his control, unbeknownst to anyone.

   As the humans and Orcs clash, a young wizard named Khadgar (played by Ben Schnetzer) starts to put some pieces together about how and why the Orcs were allowed entry into the realm Azeroth and possibly how to stop them. What follows is a story of love, tragedy, and sacrifice set in the middle of spectacular effects and action, and delivered on the end of a blade.

A Word About 4D:

   So…I saw this film in 4D. Nadine not familiar with 4D needs to now it incorporates 3D, then adds in tactile and sensory effects for a full immersion experience into the film. I like the medium, although truthfully, had I known to the extent I was going to be immersed into this film, I might have chosen another for the 4D experience. I can tell you that Orcs smell really, really, really bad. I must have been sprayed at least ten times (really, every time someone got their head caved in, there was splatter all over me). The chairs rumbled, poked, elevated, and descended along with the film. It was truly a fun time. That said…there was a woman sitting next to me that absolutely hated the experience and next to her was a man with his young child (about 6 years old) that had to leave halfway through the film. So, 4D isn’t for everyone and I suggest you wrap your brain around what 4D is all about before you decide to venture into this new territory.

The Verdict: 

   This film was a lot of fun. I think even without the 4D experience, this would still have been a great film as it had an interesting story that was presented from two opposing points of view to give the viewer a balanced perspective.

   The good guys were to all good and the bad guys were not all bad, and that kinda is  how it is in real life since people are flawed (and apparently some Orcs are honorable). I think it was an excellent idea to push this point in the film as it created a connection between the audience and key characters, regardless of their race.

   The special effects were awesome. Just as a regular film, the CGI and cinematography was excellent. Add in 3D and the effects are brought to another level. Add in 4D and the experience is unparalleled. I felt like the Orcs were real. They looked real, they acted and reacted like real living and intelligent beings. They even smelled unique. This film kept up the special effects standard I’ve me to expect from current film technology…then raised the bar.

   Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better…I heard the unmistakable voice of one of my favorite actors playing the key role of Blackhand, the Orc Warchief of the Horde. of course…I’m talking about none other than Clancy Brown!

   This film was fun and engaging and was easily a 3.5 on my scale, but honesty….when you take in the whole 4D experience, despite the foul smell of the Orcs and constant splattering of brains, it bumped itself to four (4) cinnamon sticks in my cup of tea (which I would not be drinking during this film).

Rating 4 / 5

Monday, June 27, 2016

Isn’t There Enough Pizza?

   If you’re like me you love to eat good food. If you’re like me, you also like to eat some bad food every now and then…heh. Now without causing a debate on wether pizza is good or bad (it can be either depending on the pizza), if you’re like me…you absolutely love pizza! That said, I think there is an overabundance of pizza places and despite my love for it, have to ask…isn’t there enough pizza?

   I was thinking the other day about all the great places I have eaten at in the past and realize many of them are no longer around. worse than that, some of them have been replaced by pizza places. Obviously I have no objection to eating pizza, however when a great place that made great food is replaced with…pizza, I think there is something fundamentally wrong with the universe.

   I used to go to Bennington VT. every year for a weekend to get away from the grind city life makes you engage in, and in that quaint little town there used to be a place called Alldays and Onions. It was at the restaurant that I was introduced to pan-seared trout. It was one of the absolute best dishes I have ever had, so much so that I began to make it at home. You can imagine my disappointment upon a return to Bennington years later to find out that I would not be having pan-seared trout, but instead could order a…pizza.

   I travel to the Cape (Cape Cod for those not in the know) often now, especially in the summer to go fishing. Before I fancied myself a Gorton’s fisherman, my travels to the area were sporadic at best….until I discovered a place called KK Codders in Falmouth MA. The fish was so good, I would make trips all the way there just to get a bucket of fried fish. Can you imagine taking a drive for nearly an hour with your mouth watering for the food that awaits you at the end of your journey? So…you can imagine my disappointment one day when I called down there to get the operating hours (it would suck to drive all that way and they weren’t even open) and the person that answered the phone told me that the restaurant is now a….pizza place.


   Ok…I know some fabulous places to get pizza and in the defense of Bennington, it’s a small town and probably didn’t have a pizza place…and in defense of the Cape, it’s on the water and there are a LOT of places that sell seafood so somebody probably thought it was genius to stop competing in that arena and go the pizza route, but man…I miss that pan-seared trout and bucket of fried fish!

Monday, May 30, 2016

“The 5th Wave”

   I am an ardent fan of the cinematic arts. Although I have certain genre preferences, I don’t let that stifle my curiosity and close myself to different flavors of entertainment. That said...I am a huge fan of science fiction, super hero and action movies! Even though this film falls within the sci-fi genre, please visit my other blog The Boxed Office for reviews, exclusively, on these types of movies.

The Cast: 

   ChloĆ« Grace Moretz is absolutely fabulous in a film that lets her showcase her athletic ability (Kick-Ass) and although she hasn’t broken through as a heavyweight dramatic actress, she is very young and has plenty of time to develop. Unfortunately, films like these can only serve to be learning experiences for her as the script didn’t even begin to further her craft.

   Nick Robinson hasn’t done much, although he did well in Jurassic World, this film really gave him nothing to work with and his character’s nickname (Zombie) was aptly named given the delivery of whatever it was he was doing.

   To be very fair, neither one of these actors is “bad” but it’s very hard to discern that when they are thrust into a film were “bad” is the kindest thing you can say about it.

The Plot: 
   Aliens come to Earth and begin to wipe out the population in a succession of “waves” of various types of destruction (earthquakes, plagues, etc) culminating in the fifth one which is supposed to be the nail in the coffin.

   Cassie Sullivan (Moretz) is a survivor of the previous four waves and seeks to keep her little brother safe after her father is killed by the military. Of course her brother is captured and she sets out on a journey to liberate him.

   Ben Parish aka Zombie (Robinson) is one of the children captured by the military and put through an indoctrination program. Of course he begins to question everything and eventually rebels against his “programming.” 

   In her quest to free her brother, Sullivan comes across Evan Walker (Alex Roe) who isn’t all he appears to be, and eventually get his help. What follows is one of the most disjointed, senseless plots I have ever seen on the silver screen.…making it a task to even watch.

The Verdict: 

   This film had so many plot holes and ridiculous moments, I don’t even know where to begin with this. I found myself yelling at the screen over simple stuff like turning off helmet lights that give away your position when you are hunting people in the dark, to pondering what the point of all the “waves” were when the aliens were obviously advanced enough to conquer the planet in much easier fashion.

   Speaking of the waves… the fifth one was the most anticlimactic and stupid one I could ever imagine even though I figured it out well before they revealed it. Chalk that up to a flimsy script with a transparent and cliche plot.

   The only profound thing to be found in this film was the eerie parallel of how the aliens were going about the extermination of humanity to the way the First Nation was dealt with by foreign settlers. Was there a secret message imbedded here? Did the makers want to make that point? I don’t know…but I can say with confidence that most people probably missed this during the two hours of torture watching this film was.

   Not even inserting Liev Schreiber as the dubious Colonel Vosch made this film worthwhile, although it’s always good to watch him…especially when he’s the bad guy. 

   This film was very hard to watch and actually saddened me because I very much wanted to like it, but there was very little about it that could be liked. In a situation like this, you really can;t blame the actors as a debacle like this stars with the script…which was the genesis for only soaking two (2) cinnamon sticks in my cup of tea.

Rating 2 / 5

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Understanding the Industry

   So…I was in a recent discussion about vaccinations ( a touchy subject with polarizing points of view) and realized that some people still do not understand the medical industry. It further occurred to me that the idea of “industry” in general is simply not being grasped regardless of the subject that industry addresses. I figured it might be a good idea to discuss industry to clarify what is really going on.

   I’ll start with the medical industry since I’ve written about it so much and was the catalyst of this post. Now, while your doctor may genuinely care about your health and the well being of all their patients, the directives that have to be followed are handed down by those making a killing in profits from the sickness of people. Understand the pharmaceutical machine makes billions upon billions of dollars and holds sway and influence in all areas of the medical field. The eye opener for me was when my children got ringworm, and by law, the doctor could not tell me to use garlic, but had to prescribe a drug that carried the risk of liver failure. Think about that.

   Every corporation in any industry is a profit driven entity. It’s what corporations do….make money. It’s that simple. So if you’re thinking that your interests are paramount to a company over their profit margin, you are sadly mistaken…and might even be severely hurt with this erroneous outlook.

   Look at the music industry. It’s well documented how short the end of the stick is that artists get when entering the business. Prince spoke openly about the need of the artist to maintain the rights to their own master recordings to not be a slave to the industry. Add to that the willful and deliberate push of certain types of music and it’s clear the music industry has no interest it uplifting you are taking care of the artist, but is very focused on their generated income.

   Look at the food industry. You think GMO’s are to make your life better and you healthier? Is that the mandate of the corporations involved…or is it their goal to make more money this quarter than they did last quarter? Do you think introducing arctic fish DNA into oranges is to make the orange healthier for you? How much more profit is gained from being able to grow oranges in cold climates from this mad science? It’s just mind boggling when I come across a person that argues for the industry based on their own self interest, totally missing the point that said industry doesn’t care about them…beyond how much money can be made off them.

   Money itself isn’t evil and this post isn’t a rallying call against everyone that is seeking to make a buck. The love of money, however, is the root of all evil, and when a company’s sole purpose to exist is to make money, we all need to understand what that means for us, particularly in the areas of our health and well being. 

   The next time a company claims to genuinely care about you, tell them to prove it…and not charge you for their service or product (be careful though not to end up a medical guinea pig). When you really understand “the industry” life is a bit more scary, but operating in truth is worth the rush.

Friday, April 29, 2016

“The Revenant”

   I am an ardent fan of the cinematic arts. Although I have certain genre preferences, I don’t let that stifle my curiosity and close myself to different flavors of entertainment. That said...I am a huge fan of science fiction, super hero and action movies! Please visit my other blog The Boxed Office for reviews, exclusively, on these types of movies.

The Cast: 

   What I can say about Leonardo DiCaprio that hasn't already been said? He has been nominated for and won nearly every award there is…because he is among the best at what he does. This film is new ground for him as it is his first role where the bulk of it is done without speaking. The fact that Leo has won Best Actor for a role he hardly spoke in, speaks volumes about his ability to convey emotion and connect with the audience with his craft.

   I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Tom Hardy is an excellent actor that always delivers great performance. This holds true in this film as Hardy is excellent as John Fitzgerald, a trapper that kills the son of Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) and is generally a guy hardened by a hard life…that gets harder with each bad decision he makes.

The Plot: 
   Set in the 1800’s, the American frontier is a dangerous place to be. Beset by Native Americans, the harsh terrain, and wild animals, being a trapper is not a profession for the weak.

   Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) is certainly not weak and is the expert guide for an expedition to bring furs back for trade. Having raised his half Native American son by himself after his wife is killed, Glass is no stranger to hardship and loss.

   Things take a turn for the worst when, after being attacked by Arikara warriors and on the run, Glass is mauled by a bear. Thinking he will not survive the trip home Captain Andrew Henry (Domhall Gleeson…from one of my all-time favorite films) asks for volunteers to stay with Glass and give him a proper burial after he passes. 

   Fitzgerald is one of those willing to stay but during the course of the agreed upon task, Fitzgerald decides to speed the process up for Glass, but is interrupted by his son Hawk. In the ensuing argument….Hawk is killed, and what happens next can only be described as one of the most incredible stories ever told.

The Verdict: 

   From the very beginning this film is incredible as it sets a tone of unrelenting danger and never ceases the assault.

   Even though the film takes some rather large liberties as it departs from the facts of the true events it is based on, the story is still an incredible one and the delivery by the cast coupled with the cinematography and special effects kept me glued to the screen.  

   Everyone talks about the bear scene, and with good reason. I will just say that I’m a person that can stomach a lot of gore, but the realness of the scene and the knowledge I have about what a bear can really do to a person, had me cringing at the thought that Hugh Glass really endured such a thing. 

   I was very impressed with the decision to use First Nation people in this film. Too many times it seems ethnic people are passed over for roles depicting their ethnicity. Kudos to Duane Howard and Melaw Nakehk’o on their introduction to film and delivering great performances. 

   This film deserved all the awards and accolades it has gotten…and will now get one more as it was certainly my cup of tea, easily enduring four out of five cinnamon sticks.

Rating 4/ 5