THE ABUNDANCE OF LIGHTBULBS CREATED A continuous glow of light around the carnival. The Ferris wheel was the only attraction that almost reached the edge of darkness waiting above the glow. I could see the Ferris wheel was stopped and there was a man screaming he wanted to get out from the upper most car. He had broken through the car’s safely bar somehow and was hanging off the side, with one arm stretched out towards the closest metal beam. Barely visible to me were two small girls who were trying to pull the man back into the car. I had to close the book right at this point because the phone rang; however, the scary image of the man dangling out of the Ferris wheel car kept floating in my head. And that is the beauty of reading a book. Most of you know me as a person who watches multiple movies every week, but may not know I can escape into a book’s story the same way as when I am watching a film. The difference for me is when I am watching a good movie; I am falling into the visuals that are being presented to me. When reading a book, I am creating the scene based on the writer’s words; I am using my imagination to see what the author is describing to me. Both mediums are equally as powerful to me. THE EXPERIENCE OF WATCHING A FILM (prior to our current stay at home orders) is more of a physical experience for me. Keeping in mind I do not watch movies on my phone, tablet or computer; I either have to go to the movie theater or to my living room television if I want to see a film. When I travel, the options are similar with going to a theater or using the hotel’s cable options. With a book, the story’s characters almost always can surround me anywhere in the world; all I need to do is carry the book or tablet with me. I could be riding a bus, eating at a restaurant, waiting at the airport gate for my flight or (please excuse me) sitting in the bathroom; the possibilities are endless. It is such a wonderful feeling to disappear from my surroundings, by using my imagination as I read the author’s words, to recreate their vision all in my mind. Some of you may already know when a movie is based on a book; I prefer to see the film first before reading the book. One of the reasons is because I have all the characters’ voices in my head already when I open the book. In regards to today’s review, I have the book this film was based on sitting up on a shelf waiting for me. FOR YEARS BOOKBINDER MO, PLAYED BY Brendan Fraser (Crash, The Mummy franchise), has been searching for a particular book. If he could just read its story he was certain he could find his wife. This film festival winning movie also starred Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes franchise, Long Shot) as Capricorn, Helen Mirren (The Good Liar, Woman in Gold) as Elinor, Paul Bettany (Avengers franchise, Journey’s End) as Dustfinger and Eliza Bennett (Nanny McPhee, From Time to Time) as Meggie. This family, adventure fantasy movie had all the right elements to be a fun old-fashioned thriller. Over the top characters, magical characters, big sets, everything was here except for the wandering script. The pacing was uneven as some scenes were great to watch while others were listless. I was disappointed overall with this picture; however, I was okay watching the film all the way through due to the heart and imagination at the base of the plot. Though this viewing did not pan out the way I would have liked, I am certainly looking forward to taking the book this film was based on off of my shelf to read.
2 stars — DVD
THERE were days where it felt he had a target painted on his back. What he originally thought were random acts of violence, where he happened to be the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time, he began to realize he was the main focus of the perpetrators’ aggression. Unfortunately bystanders around him would also fall victim to the violent acts. Being unexpectedly pushed from behind would cause him to fall into anyone standing in front of him, resulting in the chance they could topple and injure themselves. A liquid filled container thrown at him would also have an impact on anyone around him. He could never understand the hatred towards him. It was not like he started a fight or something; he pretty much fell into the average category, avoiding any type of conflicts or confrontations. His attitude was “live and let live” when it came to the behavior of others; however, there were days where it was a challenge to maintain that attitude. SEVERAL weeks of constant attacks pushed me to a place I had never been before. With my friends being affected from the fallout and me becoming consumed with a deep set hatred towards my aggressors, I lashed out at one of them when he was alone. It was the only time I instigated a fight. What worked in my favor was the fact no one would ever imagine me picking a fight. Adding in the element of surprise, I was set to let all of my anger out onto this one individual while I kept telling myself not to get hit in the face and start crying. My hope was if I could show this one person that I could fight back that he and the rest of his kind would stop picking on me. A similar train of thought was considered in this 3rd installment of the rebooted action adventure franchise. WHEN his enclave came under attack Caesar’s, played by Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings franchise, The Prestige), hopes of peaceful co-existence seemed an impossible reality. He would be forced to confront the ugliness of man head on. Compared to the two previous films I found this science fiction story incorporated elements of American slavery and the Bible; especially in regards to Moses and the 10 commandments, at least the movie version. With Woody Harrelson (The Edge of Seventeen, Now You See Me franchise) as the Colonel, Steve Zahn (Dallas Buyers Club, A Perfect Getaway) as Bad Ape, Karin Konoval (The Movie Out Here, 2012) as Maurice and Amiah Miller (Lights Out, How We Live-TV movie) as Nova; I realized some people might not appreciate the acting skills of some of the actors who were CGI enhanced; but I have to tell you, I thought Andy and Karin were amazing in their roles. Andy, besides all of the physical acting, was still able to convey emotions with depth to his character. I will be curious to see if he gets any recognition for the amount of work he put into this dramatic picture. The special effects were well done, never over the top and appearing quite real. What really tied all of the good pieces together in this movie was the script; I felt it was well thought out, going beyond the typical sci-fi story. It had heart which quickly grabbed me into the story. As I continued to think about this film afterwards I can see where it could start a discussion about a variety of topics including our current times.
3 ½ stars
Before there were any scheduled play dates, before any friendships were formed and before there was the recognition of family members, there was a special steadfast presence in my young life. His name was Zippy and he was my toy stuffed chimpanzee. Waking up from a nap, my emerging gaze always fell upon the wide awake Zippy watching over me, his head lying close to mine. Dressed in red overalls he would always sit on my lap for a family portrait. He was my best friend, my protector, my guardian; he was always by my side. A few years had gone by before I found out how Zippy lost some of his fingers from his rubber hands. He was caught in the middle of a fight between siblings and had suffered a casualty. I found out he had been part of the family before I was born and had been handed down to me upon my birth. CAESAR in this action film reminded me of Zippy in some ways. Andy Serkis (The Prestige, The Lord of the Rings franchise) was unbelievable portraying the genetically altered chimpanzee Caesar in this science fiction sequel. Set 10 years in the future from the previous movie, mankind had been nearly obliterated by a deadly virus. Having seen no sign of a human for years, Caesar had become the leader to a colony of advanced apes who all lived peacefully together. Their world was about to change with the sudden encounter of Malcolm and Ellie, played by Jason Clarke (The Great Gatsby, Public Enemies) and Keri Russell (Austenland, August Rush). This intelligent exciting film got high marks for several reasons. The believable story made sense to me as it started out with a quick review of the previous movie before setting the stage to show-off its well thought out script. I especially enjoyed the acting from Jason and Gary Oldman (Paranoia, Lawless) as Dreyfus. What made this picture so special was the special effects. I sat watching this film amazed at how good everything looked. I could not tell if the apes were all CGI enhanced, done with makeup or if some actors were wearing costumes; it really was terrific. Besides Andy Serkis’ unbelievable performance I thought Toby Kebbell (War Horse, RocknRolla) was just as good as fellow ape Koba. There were only a couple of spots where I felt the story became sluggish; but they were so minor, it did not take away from the entertainment value. This was a case where the sequel was better than the original. There was scenes that made me nervously tense, excited, sad and happy; I only wished Zippy had been with me to see this great film.
3 1/2 stars
There is a certain beauty in nature’s untouched landscapes. Having traveled across the United States, visiting 47 out of the 50 states to date, I have been incredibly grateful for what I have seen. I felt I was on a different planet while trekking through Badlands National Park and when I was at Yellowstone National Park, I finally understood the line “purple mountain majesties” when I saw them with my own eyes. Without special effects or being touched by man, earth can provide us an unbelievable movie set. Sitting in the movie theater with my 3D glasses on, I felt I was watching a PBS special. Scene after scene after scene of fantastical landscapes filled with soaring mountains and unfurling waterfalls, I did not know where to look first. If this was only a travelogue then this would be wonderful in its own right. But this was a movie, so I wanted a story to connect the beautiful and exciting images before my eyes. It felt to me as if the special effects were thought of first and then the writers put a story to them. Starting a new trilogy, I understood there would have to be a groundwork of explanations laid down to get the movie audience on the same page; however, it made for a slow pace in the beginning. Martin Freeman (Love Actually, Hot Fuzz) played Bilbo Baggins, a hesitant Hobbit who went along with a band of Dwarves to reclaim their mountain home from the dragon Smaug. Richard Armitage (Frozen, Robin Hood) was the Dwarf King Thorin who with the wizard Gandalf, played by Ian McKellen (X-Men franchise, Stardust) lead their group through perilous lands filled with goblins, giant spiders and other deadly creatures. Where the beginning of this movie was disappointing, the last half of this 2 hour and 49 minute film came together for me. Director Peter Jackson and his special effects team did an amazing job, bringing a new and improved Gollum, played by Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Prestige) to the screen. The facial expressions on Gollum and the other fanciful beings were truly realistic. With the excitement ratcheted up, the steadier pacing and deeper chemistry between characters; I thoroughly enjoyed the movie by its conclusion. If only more attention had been given to the story as the special effects this would have been a masterpiece. As I was leaving the theater, if they had been selling postcards of the movie’s landscapes, I would have bought several to mail out to my friends.
2 2/3 stars