I DO NOT KNOW WHY, BUT adventure thrills are always better when they get shared with someone. Isn’t it true? There is something about experiencing a new thrill that resonates stronger when you have someone come along for the ride. I remember when a group of us went to a new amusement park that had a water ride mimicking white water rafting. We all piled into this circular, inflated yellow raft with a type of steering apparatus in the center. When the park attendant pushed us out of the holding dock, we started out on calm waters. However, it changed rather quickly when we went down an embankment and into this pool of churning water that swept us quickly down the course a/k/a churning river. All of us held onto the steering wheel as we hooted and hollered with all the jostling and bumping the raft was enduring. Sprays of water doused us periodically, keeping us cool in the hot summer sun. As we neared the end of the ride there was a steeper “waterfall” we had to endure. It was a bit tense at first as the water under the raft picked up speed then dropped us into the waterfall, which was an adrenalin rush for me. At the bottom of the falls, the raft quietly floated over to a receiving dock area where park attendants were helping people get out of their rafts. It was one of the best water rides I experienced, and I was glad I did it with my friends. DESPITE HAVING TAKEN MANY LONG WEEKEND trips alone, when I go with friends and family members, there always seems to be an adventure we wind up sharing. Recently in San Diego a couple of us rented a pedal boat to take out into San Diego Bay. We were fine while in the marina because it was smooth and calm as we leisurely pedaled up and down rows of piers and docks. However, when we got out into the bay the water turned choppy with a stronger current underneath. We had to pedal faster as the boat bobbed up and down. Our time out there did not last long as we looked at each other at the same time and said we made it out and now it is time to go back where things are calmer. Once out of the bay we laughed about it since we had these grand plans to go down the coast to see the sights. It still was a great experience that I was glad to be sharing with someone close. I felt the main characters in this fantasy film were experiencing a similar situation to mine, which I enjoyed watching. HER FATHER BELIEVED IT WAS TRUE; so, Dr. Lily Houghton, played by Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place franchise, Mary Poppins Returns), was determined to find this special plant reported only to be found deep in the Amazon jungle. With Dwayne Johnson (Red Notice, Skyscraper) as Frank Wolff, Edgar Ramirez (Deliver Us from Evil, Point Break) as Aguirre, Jack Whitehall (Mother’s Day, Clifford the Big Red Dog) as MacGregor Houghton and Jessie Plemons (The Irishman, The Power of the Dog) as Prince Joachim; this action, adventure comedy was saved by the performances of Dwayne and Emily. I would not put them in the same category as Abbott & Costello or Burns and Allen, but they certainly were a fun couple to watch on the big screen. The script was rather generic as it pulled in ideas from a variety of movie stories such as The Mummy, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Pirates of the Caribbean among others. This was simply a fluffy fantasy film that was easy to view without a lot of thought to it. I am sure if the movie studio made money on this picture, they will then try to do a sequel. If they do, I just hope they get a better story line and script, besides having Emily and Dwayne starring in it.
2 ½ stars
PEOPLE were lined up since 4 am. The line snaked around the museum’s front lawn. Some individuals had camping gear with them, which led me to believe they had been there since the day before. Everyone in line was upbeat and excited about the new exhibit that had opened at the history museum. From ancient Egypt the advertisements for this show stated the artifacts were nothing like anything on display before; they were in pristine condition, only discovered recently from a king’s tomb. The local newspapers showed photos of the long lines which is why we decided to get to the museum so early; at least we thought it was an early time, but there were a lot of people who thought the same thing. We finally entered the exhibit at 11 am and our agonizing wait quickly faded from our minds because the artifacts were all glowing in their temperature controlled glass cases. The craftsmanship was incredible, with such fine details; you would have thought they were recent copies loaned from the souvenir shop. THOUGH that exhibit was a long time ago, I still can see many of those objects clearly in my mind. It is fascinating to me how a society from centuries ago can create such incredible objects. Some people may consider ancient civilizations primitive; but I feel one has to take into consideration what was available at the time. These days we have 3D printers making things for us, but back then what did they have, a chisel and hammer? There have been times where I noticed an underlying prejudice of a person or group solely based on their ethnicity from someone who believes they are enlightened. They do not overtly show it but you can see or hear it in the way they communicate; there is a disdain or dismissive quality to their tone. If I am not making much sense then please watch this lush film based on a true story to see what I mean. DISCOVERING what he believed to be proof of an unknown ancient society deep in the Amazon Percy Fawcett, played by Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim, Sons of Anarchy-TV), set out to convince the naysayers back home in England. This film festival winner also starred a nearly unrecognizable Robert Pattinson (Water for Elephants, The Twilight Saga franchise) as Henry Costin, Sienna Miller (Burnt, Foxcatcher) as Nina Fawcett and Tom Holland (Locke, The Impossible) as Jack Fawcett. Set in the 1920s this movie had richness similar to director Werner Herzog’s (Fitzcarraldo; Aguirre, the Wrath of God) movies. The story unfolded in a quiet deliberate pace, almost to the point of boredom early on; however, the more the actors moved deeper into the story the more interesting it became. I thought Charlie and Robert stood out in their roles. On one level I sat in my seat in a bewildered state trying to understand how Percy could undertake such a challenging task. It felt like I was being propelled back in time; the directing and cinematography lent itself to this feeling. Another aspect I admired was the sense of respect presented in the script; something that I feel is lacking in these present times. This was like watching one of those old fashioned flicks, letting the setting contribute to the narrative. Though I felt this picture could have used a touch more editing, I walked away with a new respect for the men and women who sacrificed to bring to light the accomplishments of mankind.
It felt like I was taking a walk through history. They were giving me a tour of their home, pointing out numerous artifacts. I say artifacts because there was pottery, paintings, tapestries, along with dinnerware items such as bowls and spoons. All of it quite old and displayed everywhere. It was fascinating to me because I knew this person was able to trace their family back to the time of the Spanish Inquisition which started around the late 1400s. Think about that for a second; this homeowner knew about their family members for the past half a dozen centuries; it literally boggled my mind. My tour of the house was almost done but the best was being saved for last. We walked into a room that appeared to be part library, part den. Two walls of the room had rows of bookcases lined across, each filled with hardcover books. At the juncture where the two sides would have met there was an opening or let me say a small alcove. It wasn’t big enough for someone to freely walk into; however, it had enough space for this ornately carved wooden pedestal. As I was directed to it I was told it contained the family’s most precious item. Sealed in a glass box was an extremely old book. It was his great, great, great (I don’t remember how many times they said great) grandfather’s prayer book. This small plain looking book had been handed down from generation to generation. I stared at it imagining how many relatives must have held this book before it was sealed up. As they were telling me about the book’s history there was a twinge of sadness to their voice. I soon found out they were the last of their family; there was no one left to take possession of this treasured item at their death. SOMEWHERE deep in the Amazon was a sacred plant with healing powers. Two scientists would devote their lives to find this elusive miracle. It possibly could take their life. Starring newcomer Nilbio Torres as young Karamakate, newcomer Antonio Bolivar as old Karamakate, Jan Bijvoet (The Broken Circle Breakdown, Borgman) as Theo and Brionne Davis (Avenged, Gentleman Explorers) as Evan; this Oscar nominated and film festival winning adventure biography had a lush, beautiful look that was shot in black and white. For those familiar with the works of Werner Herzog, this film had a similar vibe to it. The original story took me a short time to understand due to the two separate story lines; but afterwards, I enjoyed the way the parallel stories created the world these characters lived in. You could tell the camera work was carefully thought out because there were shots that lingered for the perfect amount of time to convey the feelings. Even some of the camera angles were so well placed to add an extra sense of curiosity for the viewer that I almost wished English was spoken so I would not have to read any subtitles. But I want to say the subtitles in this drama were easy to read and I did not feel like I missed anything. I only hope this will not be the director’s last film. Spanish, Portuguese, Aboriginal and German were spoken with English subtitles.
3 ½ stars — DVD
There are certain obligations that require us to be there. The working lunch business meeting would be one such function, though I strongly dislike this one. I do not want to sit at a table across from someone who talks with their mouth full; besides, I prefer my lunch (my biggest meal of the day) to be a relaxed and enjoyable time. How often do you hear people say their business lunch meeting was enjoyable? Another obligation, though I really would not say obligation, is accompanying someone to the doctor’s office to hear the results of their medical test. No one wants to hear “bad” news, but if a loved one asks you, you need to be there to support and comfort them no matter what the doctor says to them. Now that I think about it, even if someone were to ask me to join them for some type of function because they do not want to go alone, I would more than likely go with them. I remember going to a friend’s company holiday party where I did not know a soul except for them. Eating and drinking late into the evening is not my version of fun, along with the majority of the conversation revolving around the company’s business; I was bored most of the evening, but I went because a friend asked me. Now when it is about going to the movies, there are some I know are not going to be great works of art; but I feel I have to see them if for nothing else to warn you. If it was just for me I would not spend a cent on some of the things I have sat through since starting this review site. This horror film would be an example. STUDENT activists travel to the Amazon forest to protest a company’s construction site. It would have helped them if they had studied up on the area beforehand. This film festival nominated adventure movie was brutal to sit through and watch. Horror without suspense is not horror to me; it is just gross disgusting acts of violence and this picture excelled at it. Starring Lorenza Izzo (Knock Knock, Aftershock) as Justine, Ariel Levy (Best Worst Friends, Aftershock) as Alejandro and Aaron Burns (Grindhouse, Planet Terror) as Jonah; I thought the acting was dull. Granted the script did not help anyone because some of the lines and scenes were ridiculous. I did not find anything that was exciting or compelling; it seemed as if the writers used one particular act to be the cornerstone of the story. I understood it but to see this act over and over did not produce anything valuable to me; it simply bored me. There were two things that happened that I liked about the film and one of them was found in the credits. Let me tell you this was a tough obligation to fulfill. Intense scenes with blood and violence.
1 1/4 stars
Stories that get handed down from generation to generation sometimes take on a life of their own. I grew up in an area where the land was as flat as a piece of paper except for one hill. Growing up I heard a story about how the hill was formed from a glacier during the ice ages. Evidently a glacier was creeping down from the north and by the time it got to my area it was already on its last ice cubes of life before the ice age ended, leaving this mound of pushed up dirt in the middle of my neighborhood. By the way when I say hill I have to be honest with you; the height for it was the distance between 2 floors of an apartment building. So we are not talking very tall here. There is a story about a gold coin I have in my possession that was given to me by a relative. This coin was some great, great relative of mine who always kept it in a little secret pocket that was sewed inside of their clothing. I was fascinated with this unknown relative, spending hours daydreaming about the reasons why this particular coin had to remain hidden. Knowing my ancestors were not wealthy people, it seemed odd that the coin was not used as currency back then. I took the coin, wrapped it up and sealed it in a plastic bag to protect it. The fact that it was handled by my long deceased relatives provides me some type of connection to them. This is one of the reasons I enjoy hearing different types of folklore no matter where it comes from. PASSED down amongst the inhabitants in a remote area of the Argentinean rainforest was a story about a being who would emerge from the Amazon river to do battle against any evil forces. Vania, played by Alice Braga (Elysium, I am Legend), needed someone like that to help her and her father defend their land. This film festival nominated drama had the feel of a spaghetti western. Low budget, simple story, minimal conversations and action; I really got into this movie. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal (Rosewater, Bad Education) as Kai, I thought he was excellent in the role. Essentially the story was about good vs evil; it had the right elements in place to maintain one’s interest in the action. Now there were some parts that were easy to predict besides one side story line that seemed unnecessary. Visually I was fascinated with the landscape and thought the cinematography did a wonderful job of playing up the mystery of the forest. I am used to getting folklore verbally; this folk tale was a visual treat. Spanish was spoken with English subtitles. Several scenes had blood and violence in them.
2 2/3 stars
It made a cool spaceship without its razor blade. There was an old metal razor in the cabinet below the sink that I would take out and pretend it was a spaceship. I would hold out the length of my arm and fly it around the house. The best part was how the tip of the handle would turn and the top of the straight razor would open up like dock doors. This is where my spaceship hid its laser cannon. I don’t even know if they make these types of razors anymore because I use disposable plastic ones. I can remember a time when a host wanted to give you leftovers; they would be on a dinner plate covered in tin foil. Now everyone has these disposable plastic containers in every imaginable size. When I am hosting a dinner party I buy several of these to give leftovers to my guest. Most people appreciate it because let us face it, who wants to wash and take care of someone else’s dinnerware until you can give it back to them. I actually do not give the containers a single thought once I turn them over to someone else; I do not expect them back. Everything is becoming disposable these days it seems. When I accidentally stepped on the plastic lid of a storage container and cracked it, I just threw it out and bought a new one. It is a mindset I acquired from everything around me; it never occurred to me to stop and think about what was the real price paid to stock all of this plastic stuff found on store shelves. Now that I have watched this film I give it a lot of thought. INVOLVING thousands of people and billions of dollars, this film festival winning documentary felt like a legal drama. This movie was about the lawsuit that the people of Ecuador brought against one of the largest multinational oil companies. Director Joe Berlinger (Brother’s Keeper, Under African Skies) did an incredible job of making this film interesting, informative and startling. I thought showing the opposing lawyers talking about the case was a perfect way to engage the viewer. Seeing some of the damage that had been done to the Amazon area, to the people who live there; I have to tell you I felt like I contributed to these people’s hardships by having a laissez-faire attitude towards disposable items. I think that really says something for the writers and director on the way they made this unbelievable documentary. For example they touched on human rights, politics, the environment and the loss of culture to name a few. When I was done watching this DVD I really wished I had that straight razor instead of those damn plastic disposable razors.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
Walking into a room filled with strangers does not create anxiety for some people. It could be a business convention, workshop, classroom or a family event and it would not be a problem for a person. Years of teaching class has helped me overcome my instinctive fear of being thrown into a situation with a bunch of strangers. If there is no connection between me and the other people other than we are all in the same line of work, than I am comfortable. However, when I have gone as someone’s guest my first instinct is to hold back and be an observer. I am sure many of us have been in a situation where we were meeting our significant other’s family and though we were told they would not be judging us, deep inside we knew they would be. Sure you want to be on your best behavior and make a good impression, but the pressure can get to you. I cannot tell you how many times I have been in this type of situation, where I not only was careful with my verbiage, but was starving for fear someone would catch me with a piece of food dripping off my facial hair or stuck between my teeth before I could clean it up. There was no way I could not sympathize for Blu, voiced by Jesse Eisenberg (Now You See Me, 30 Minutes or Less), in this animated adventure sequel. Discovering they may not be the last of their kind; Blu and his wife Jewel, voiced by Anne Hathaway (Love & Other Drugs, Bride Wars), left the comfort of Rio de Janeiro and headed out to the deepest parts of the Amazon jungle in hopes of finding blue feathered friends. It would turn into an adventure that would bring a whole new meaning to the word family for Blu, Jewel and their kids. This sequel stayed pretty true to the original one. It would help to see the first one, but one could easily watch and follow this film without seeing the original movie. This comedy adventure’s main attraction was the big dance and song numbers. Each one was fun to watch and provided a huge palette of colorful figures crossing the screen. Musical artist Bruno Mars (Honeymoon in Vegas) had the perfect role playing Roberto, including a big solo performance. The story was the weak link, taking parts of the movie “Meet the Parents” as one of its story lines. I do not think children would care since there was a steady stream of jokes and comical characters. All of the cast from the first film were here including Nigel, voiced by Jemaine Clement (Dinner with Schmucks, Predicament), along with some new characters such as Andy Garcia (Rob the Mob, At Middleton) as Eduardo. This was an enjoyable fun film that did not stray from its winning formula established with the previous one. I believe everyone would feel comfortable being a guest at the showing of this enjoyable movie.
2 1/2 stars
Obsession can be like a bully in the brain; kicking out reasoning, common sense and morals. Driven by a strong force, it can be relentless. Gratefully my obsessions do not involve other people. Some of you could say I am obsessed with movies; I prefer to say I am just passionate. Or when I have the desire for a particular chocolate ice cream, I will go to multiple stores until I find it. That doesn’t sound crazy, does it? In this unbelievable movie there was a fine line on who was more obsessed: the star or the director of the movie. From renowned director Werner Herzog (Rescue Dawn, Fitzcarraldo), this film showed a prime example on the effects of obsession. Set in the 16th century after the demise of the Incas in Peru, Spanish Conquistadors set out on a mission down the Amazon river in search of El Dorado, the Lost City of Gold. When the struggles of the trip began to overwhelm the expedition, the possibility of retreat looming; a mutiny was arranged by Don Lope de Aguirre, played by Klaus Kinski (The Song of Roland, Nosferatu the Vampyre). Obsessed with finding untold riches, he would manipulate and cajole the rest of the men to continue on, even when things looked hopeless. Klaus’ performance was outstanding in this role as he appeared almost maniacal in his drive to find the city of gold. The pacing of the movie was slow, filled with long head-on shots. Jungle sounds were a constant reminder throughout the intriguing soundtrack. I found it amazing how Mr. Herzog got his actors to go through this ordeal to create an incredible movie. On a sad note, this film was made before there were laws in place to protect the welfare of animals. A fascinating character study was on display in this movie, as obsession’s hunger consumed anything in its way. Brief scenes of violence. German with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars — DVD