IT WAS ONLY ONE FLASH OF light that caught my attention, but it opened up my eyes to a whole world of beauty. I was walking towards the garage when a millisecond of bright light appeared between 2 ornamental bushes. I was sure I had seen it despite its brief appearance in what appeared to be midair. The plants were a recent addition to my backyard, both seemed to be taking nicely to their parcel of land. I walked over to the bushes to see if there was something I had not noticed before. As I made my way across the lawn a slight breeze of air stirred up and that speck of bright light appeared once again. I walked up and like an apparition there was a large spider web that spanned the space between the 2 plants. It faded in and out depending on the breeze being able to push it into full sunlight. It was exquisite, looking like a fine piece of lace. Not wanting to disturb anything, I carefully stepped closer to get a better look. I had to squat down so the web would be at eye level; cocking my head slightly to view the web in front of a darker background, I saw tiny drops of moisture clinging to several strands of the web. It truly looked like a piece of art or an architect’s dream. UNNOTICED BY ME AT FIRST BECAUSE it was off to the side, closer to one of the bushes, perched a massive hairy looking spider. I stayed still as if I was playing a waiting game with it. There are friends of mine who would have freaked out upon seeing the spider; gratefully, they do not upset me. I look at spiders as the gatekeepers to my house, capturing loads of bugs to prevent them from entering my home. The spider did not move from its spot; only allowing the breezes to swing it slightly in the air, but it never once wavered from its spot. For some reason, I felt the garden had taken on a special allure. Here among the assorted plants and shrubbery there was a feat from one of Nature’s creatures, a latticework of silky luminous strands dotted with diamond chips of raindrops. If the sunlight had not hit the web at the exact time I was walking by, I might not have ever noticed I had a piece of art in my backyard. Part of me wanted to get a spray bottle of water to make more drops appear on the web; however, I decided not to and instead enjoyed the beauty that was in front of me. Part of this experience prepared me for the beauty that was found in this Oscar nominated, film festival winning biography. TIRED OF HIS SURROUNDINGS AND THE PEOPLE around him Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, played by Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse, Aquaman), took the advice of a friend and moved out of Paris to be closer to nature. It was the best move of his life. With Rupert Friend (The Young Victoria, Homeland-TV) as Theo, Oscar Isaac (Star Wars franchise, A Most Violent Year) as Paul Gauguin, Mads Mikkelsen (The Hunt, Doctor Strange) as Priest and Mathieu Amairic (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Doctor Paul Gachet; this dramatic picture contained a stellar performance by Willem. I felt I was privy to the inner workings of van Gogh’s mind. Combined with the beautiful film shots and steady directing, this film’s story unfurled like a long, colorful pennant on a windy day. The whole cast perfectly fit their roles. If there was anything to question it would be the few scenes that dragged a bit; however, the dynamic acting coming out of Willem kept me invested in the story. I almost felt as if I was a visitor at an art gallery.
3 ¼ stars
THERE ARE TWO SCENARIOS WHEN I am in a car that scare me. One is driving in a desolate area and the other is driving during frigid, icy conditions. I was vacationing in both South and North Dakota one summer. The landscape was startling beautiful; I was based in Sioux Falls, SD. My plans were set to drive up and visit sites in North Dakota. Once on the road out of the city I could not get over how far I could see down the road. Literally, the road went all the way to the horizon. That was the cool part; however, what soon made me uncomfortable was the lack of civilization. I was the only car on the road; there were no buildings, gas stations or rest stops even. My mind was brewing with fear as I wondered what would happen if the car broke down and I could not get any cell phone service. All around me were these magnificent monoliths of stone and rock, looking like bulked up defenders frozen in time. The further I drove away from Sioux Falls the more anxious I became. Out of fear I drove faster, figuring the quicker I could get to ND the less chance of getting stuck somewhere. It may not make sense, but I significantly cut down my travel time by going 102 miles per hour. AS FOR DRIVING IN WINTERY WEATHER, I actually do fine in snow; however, when I have to be out late at night when there is less activity, my fear is something could happen, and I will be stuck somewhere without any help. Because I am hyper-sensitive to the cold I worry I could freeze to death (I know, so dramatic) or lose my outer extremities to frostbite. My hands go numb when I am shoveling the sidewalk around my house; think about what if my car skids on ice and into a tree? Without help around or far away, I could get into a serious situation. This is the reason why I always keep a flashlight, a couple of blankets, a large bag of cat litter and water in the car. My body already gets a reaction whenever I first get into a car that has been sitting out in the cold; so, you can imagine what would happen to me if I was stuck for hours in a dead car. In the scheme of things, I know there are many other predicaments that are far worse; for example, the one that took place in this film festival nominated dramatic adventure. THE CHOICES LOOKED BLEAK FOR OVERGARD, played by Mads Mikkelsen (The Hunt, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story); either stay within the confines of his crashed airplane or venture across the frozen tundra in the hopes of finding help. Neither decision would be a sure bet. With Maria Thelma Smaradottir (Black’s Game, Fangar-TV mini-series) as the young woman, this movie was tough to watch at times. Most of the story was told through visuals since there was maybe a dozen or so words spoken. However, it was those visuals that kept the viewers’ attention. Mads was quite good in the role and I must tell you, there were times where it was painful to watch him; that was the level of intensity that got generated with the directing. I will admit there were times where I felt it was enough already; I would lose interest from time to time. Then there were other times where I cringed in my seat. It took work to sit through this picture and the ending did not satisfy me as much as I would have liked, but I enjoyed this film and only hope I never find myself in the same predicament out in the cold.
I knew I had plans for the day; I just did not have anything confirmed yet with friends. We were going to get together over the weekend. You need to know I am not the type of person who does things spontaneously; I am more of a planner. After several messages back and forth we decided to go to a movie (I never turn that option down) in the afternoon then stop at a friend’s house, who was going to join us for dinner. Our friend was not going to be home until after 5pm, so on the way I decided to stop at a bookstore to kill some time. I found a magazine and a book on the clearance rack before we left for our friend’s place. THERE was a parking space right in front of her apartment building; this was a rare occurrence. Once we were buzzed in at the security gate we made our way to the back of the building’s courtyard to her entrance. My friend was in front of me as we walked up to the 2nd floor apartment. As I crossed the threshold I turned to the left and immediately got greeted with a group of friends shouting, “Surprise!” My friends were surprising me for my birthday. As I told you I am a planner, so you can imagine how stunned I was at this turn of events. They had been planning this for weeks, knowing they had to be careful in orchestrating everything so as not to tip me off. Once all of us were settled down, my friends explained everything they did to make it look like I was actively making plans with them. The details on how they worked to steer me to decisions they needed was genius. I loved hearing all the steps they took in creating this surprise. Little did I know I would feel the same excitement in learning the details of this science fiction movie. WITH the completion of a new massive weapon called the Death Star, it was imperative for the rebel alliance to find a way to steal the schematic plans to the weapon in the hopes of discovering a way to destroy it. Going to this film was an event, simple as that. Everyone in the audience was connected where I could feel the excitement. There was a lot to like about this action adventure story. First there was Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything, Like Crazy) as Jyn Erso; I thought she was great in the role. Other standouts were Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom, The Dark Knight Rises) as Orson Krennic, Diego Luna (The Terminal, Milk) as Cassian Andor and Donnie Yen (Hero, IP Man) as Chirrut Imwe; however, I had wished the script would have given more to Mads Mikkelsen (Doctor Strange, The Hunt) as Galen Erso. Next, the action scenes (there were a lot) were well choreographed and visually exciting. On the negative side I did not feel the cast had the best chemistry amongst themselves; though I understood they were mostly meeting each other for the first time. The music was overpowering and constantly used as a prelude to the upcoming action. Lastly, viewers who are not familiar with Star Wars episodes 4 & 5 would miss out on some of the characters and their significance. The idea for the story was brilliant and it certainly provided a few good surprises along the way.
THOUGH you may not realize it right away, you will receive a gift from the people you meet in your life. You see him sitting across from you, his hand fidgeting with the necklace caught in his shirt button. His voice is lyrical where the words coming out of his mouth sound as if they are building an incredible overture; it is enough for you to think about what the second act could be. You keep catching yourself staring at his eyes while his cheeks continuously swell into 2 ripe plums you want to squeeze. None of it makes sense because you do not know him except for a few emails and one phone conversation that dove below the surface beyond the standard questions about the weather and jobs. The gesture that sent a shiver through your body was the brush of his hand on you as he excused himself to the bathroom. From this point in time the walls around your heart, solidified by the hurt and pain of past relationships, started to spring leaks filled with emotions and feelings. You realized all that was before would not be the same ever again. HOW about the woman who was rushing down the staircase, trying to catch a train to the city. On the way she bumped into a gentleman, unaware the packet sticking out of her bag caught on a fold of his coat and fell out. She missed the train as if the doors of the train car deliberately knew what they were doing. Standing there trying to catch her breath the gentleman tapped her on the shoulder, presenting her packet to her. She thanked him and was surprised the man referred to them as X-rays. It turns out he was a doctor and wound up through conversations and consultations to be the doctor that successfully cured her. You see, you just never know what you might gain from a stranger. NEUROSURGEON Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, Sherlock-TV), survived a horrific auto accident, but his hands did not. His ego would not let go; he was determined to go to the ends of the world to find someone who could restore the use of his hands. His journey led him to The Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton (A Bigger Splash, Snowpiercer). Doctor Strange got something different than what he had expected. This action fantasy followed the Marvel formula though this adventure movie was such a visual trip I felt there was almost too much stimuli for me to grasp everything. With Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, Secret in Their Eyes) as Mordo and Mads Mikkelsen (The Hunt, Hannibal-TV) as Kaecilius, I enjoyed all the characters along with the humor sprinkled throughout the script. I felt the story took a long time during the introduction portion. Once the action finally happened I was a bit disappointed by it. Sure the scenes were visually intense but I felt the action and drama didn’t quite match it. My rating tonight will be heavily influenced by the special effects in this film. Oh and I understood I had to meet this character Doctor Strange because I am going to meet him again in a future Avengers film. There were two extra scenes in the middle and end of the credits.
It may have only been a snippet of a conversation or a brief moment seeing someone in the middle of an activity, but it was all you needed to make an assumption. With all the ways humans now can communicate with each other, I feel we lost the most important part: face to face. For me face to face provides the adjectives or better yet the emotions, the intentions to a person’s conversations. However, there is a pitfall embedded in this way of communicating. Have you noticed how people tend to believe someone if they talk louder or give an impassioned speech? I abhor talking or mentioning politics, but I have only recently noticed that after politicians debate or give speeches, the news services provide a fact check on the politicians’ claims. It is amazing to me how many falsehoods these news sources reveal. The scary part about this is how some people do not care if things are true or not, they just want to be part of a group or majority. I still remember a fight that took place after school hours. One of the combatants had spread a rumor about the other; so there was a small crowd circling the two fighters, cheering and yelling. They believed the rumor was true. It looked like a school of piranha for the scene turned into a feeding frenzy, where bystanders were adding punches and kicks when the opportunity presented itself. You know it only takes one person to plant a seed of an idea into people’s minds before that group mentality mindset takes over to motivate individuals to become joiners. As adults we should know better, but what if that seed came out of a child’s mouth? STRUGGLING to get back on his feet after a bitter divorce Lucas, played by Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, Hannibal-TV), had a steady teaching job and was fighting for equal visitation rights for his son Marcus, played by relative newcomer Lasse Fogelstrom. Plans changed when the principal of the school heard what one of the students named Klara, played by newcomer Annika Wedderkopp, said about Lucas. This Oscar nominated and film festival winning movie was an intense, thought provoking drama. With Thomas Bo Larsen (The Celebration, Pusher) playing Theo as part of the cast, the acting was outstanding. The actors were so good that they kept me glued to the TV screen, tensely wondering what was going to happen next. I can see why this picture was nominated for best foreign movie by the academy. Even the newcomers of the cast were just as convincing as the adults in this story. I have been a fan of Mads for some time and after you see him in this role I believe you will feel the same way. After the movie was over I stayed seated, going over the story in my head. Do not be surprised if you too mull over the story in your head. Danish was spoken with English subtitles.
4 stars — DVD
For every person you have loved you received a gift from them. No matter if the period of time was short or long term, there was always something you gained from being in that relationship. This process is intertwined with my belief that there are no accidents in life; there is a reason for everything. It was these two trains of thought that came to mind, while watching this visual history lesson on the Danish monarchy in the 1700’s. For me, this film did a beautiful job showing the power of love. Alicia Vikander (The Crown Jewels, Beloved) played young English Princess Caroline Mathilde. By arrangement she was sent to Denmark to marry King Christian VII, played by Mikkel Boe Folsgaard (Those Who Kill-TV, Bryggerch-TV mini series). Within a short time the princess discovered her husband’s madness and lack of interest in her. Not until the king’s physician Johann Friedrich Struensee, played by Mads Mikkelsen (Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, Flame and Citron), paid a call on her did the princess fully understand what she had been missing. Little did the two realize their attraction to each other would start a revolution. I do not know how accurate the story was compared to history, but I fully enjoyed this dramatic film. The way it was filmed with alternating scenes of beauty and drabness perfectly accompanied the story. Add in the wonderful acting and I could see why this movie was Denmark’s official entry into the best foreign language category for the Academy Awards. A testament to the power of love, I considered this film a gift that stayed with me as I left the theater. Danish, German and French with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars
Being left-handed, I always said I was in my right mind; though I am sure there are people who would beg to differ. My education took me from science based studies to liberal art courses, so I am familiar with the mindset of both groups. I find it fascinating how creative people see things in a different way. Their imagination takes them beyond the practicality of purpose, creating entirely new items. This stylish movie was nourishment for the creative soul. Set in Paris mostly during the 1920’s; the set designs, the art nouveau trappings and the beautiful camera shots made this film a visual treat to watch. The movie opened with the debut performance of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Seated in the audience was Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, played by Anna Mouglalis (Romanzo Criminale, I Always Wanted to be a Gangster). As the outraged crowd stirred to a riotous pitch, Coco was moved in a different way. It would be several years later at a party where Coco was finally introduced to that same composer Igor Stravinsky, played by Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, Clash of the Titans). From the start there was a dynamic connection between the two creative geniuses. Coco offered her country estate to Igor and his family, who were living off the generosity of others since they left Russia. Within the confides of her immaculate house, the two individuals were pressed into a world of ultimate imagination and passion. I have not delved into the story, to see how accurate these events were in real life. Truthfully, I am curious but do not think it would change my opinion of the the movie itself. The acting smoldered throughout each sumptuous set. It was fascinating to watch Coco seeking out the perfect scent for what would become her signature perfume: Chanel No. 5. From a movie standpoint, this film told a captivating story about two visionaries who were changing the world. French and Russian with English subtitles.
3 stars — DVD