Two of my constant companions during my adolescence were awkwardness and self-consciousness. Besides a case of acne and dealing with a body mass larger than my frame, I suffered from thick hair sprouting up on my face. I know I am not the only one who had to deal with these changes, but what made me want to be invisible was my dermatologist–that is what the state license crookedly hanging on his office wall said he was able to practice. I was constantly suffering from a rash of red bumps that kept appearing on my neck. The dermatologist determined they were flat warts and treated them with a cauterizing needle. In other words, he would burn them off my neck. I had a schedule of appointments where I would have this done and return to school with my neck looking like it had been attacked by a swarm of bees. You can understand why I wanted to disappear. Adding salt to the wound, I found out a few years later they were not flat warts, just ingrown hairs. I could sympathize with the young adults wanting to disappear in this quirky film. Fed up with the lack of privacy from his sarcastic father Frank, played by Nick Offerman (Sin City, 21 Jump Street), Joe came up with a plan to run away to a place where he could set the rules. Agreeing to go with Joe, played by Nick Robinson(Melissa & Joey-TV) was his best friend Patrick, played by Gabriel Basso (Super 8, Alabama Moon). Joining the best friends was the oddball Biaggio, wildly played by Moises Arias (Nacho Libre, Hannah Montana-TV). Fitting somewhat into the coming of age genre, what set this movie apart were the adults in the cast. Besides NIck’s wickedly good performance there was Megan Mullally (Smashed, Will & Grace-TV) and Marc Evan Jackson (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Slammin’ Salmon) as Patrick’s parents Mr. & Mrs. Keegan. I enjoyed the out of kilter vibe in this Sundance Film Festival nominated comedy and if for nothing else, the story lightened up my mood from recalling my adolescence. Stay for the credits.
I learned the hard way how important communication is in a relationship. Actions speak louder than words had always been the major way I would convey my feelings. When a friend or relative would tell me they loved me; my reciprocation would stumble out of my mouth, landing in a nervous thud. In one of my most meaningful relationships, a day did not go by without me being told that I was loved. After a short time the importance of the word “love” diminished for me, due to hearing it every day like one would hear the word hello. When my friends carried on how I did not flinch when my significant other stuck their finger in my lip balm, in my brain I was simply showing my love. Watching this movie reinforced my belief in the power of communication. The story looked at the relationship between Peter and Vandy, showing different stages of their growth. Jason Ritter (Parenthood-TV, Freddy vs. Jason) and Jess Weixler (Teeth, The Big Bad Swim) were perfectly cast as Peter and Vandy. Their expressive faces beautifully conveyed the emotions they were feeling without the need of dialog. This Sundance nominated movie told the story in short scenes that jumped back and forth in time. At the start I had a hard time connecting to the out of order segments. But as more was revealed about the couple, the easier it was for me to understand the story. I thought this film was spot on in showing how communication or the lack of molds the relationship between two people. It was a truthful depiction in my opinion. Having gone through the love and loss of someone special, this romantic drama resonated deep inside of me.
3 stars — DVD
In a discussion with a member in my yoga class who is a magazine editor, we talked about the current state of reporting on the news. If someone does not have a direct connection to an event, the story becomes abstract. We specifically were talking about war coverage since we had been talking about the movie Zero Dark Thirty. She mentioned the differences in media coverage between the Vietnam and Afghanistan wars. In the 1970’s newspapers and newscasts put battles and casualties right in people’s faces. These days it tends to be mentioned as a statistic with less importance, which angers her. Unfortunately we had to end our conversation since I was about to start class. Believing in synchronicity, I found this movie came at the perfect time; right after I had seen Zero Dark Thirty. Where one was a Hollywood production, this movie was a documentary distributed by National Geographic. Directors Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger spent over 1 year with the men of Battle Company 2nd of the 503rd Infantry Regiment 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, starting with their deployment to Afghanistan. These men were being sent to Korangal Valley, an area that could easily have been called “Death Valley” due to the never-ending deadly skirmishes with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. What I appreciated most about this Oscar nominated and Sundance Film Festival winner was the matter of fact way it was filmed. There were no political agenda, no slanted interpretations; it was more about the daily lives of these courageous men. Where Zero Dark Thirty had its intense scenes; so did this film in a different way–these men were shooting real bullets. Some people may find parts of this movie slow because there was not a story line to be followed. We were watching real soldiers up close, from deadly battles to burning their own feces. Foul language and a couple of brief scenes with blood.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
Before I talk about this movie I need you to know that I rarely pay attention to what a person looks like–unless there is some hygiene thing going on. Whether tall or short, big or small, blonde or black, glasses or not; the surface of an individual has no bearing on what type of human being they can be. For me, what is inside of a person means more to me, for example a good heart and a kind soul. With that being said, I found watching Helen Hunt (As Good as it Gets, Mad About You-TV) to be a bit disturbing. Her plastic surgery has given her the appearance of a Klingon. I do not understand why she felt the need to alter her appearance. The other issue I had, which I know is more valid in reviewing this film, was the continuous loss of her Boston accent for her character Cheryl. Inspired from a true story, Cheryl was a sex surrogate hired for an unusual job. Mark O’Brien, played incredibly by John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone, The Perfect Storm), was a polio victim who only had the ability to move his head. Using an iron lung to help him breath and a gurney as his only means of transport, Mark had the blessing of Father Brendan, played by William H. Macy (Fargo, The Cooler), to try and lose his virginity. Cheryl and Mark would discover the journey was more important than the end results. This movie could have been a downer, but the witty script and flowing direction kept the story moving along in a charming way. John Hawkes was amazing in this challenging role, able to convey feelings and emotions simply with his face and words. I found this engaging Sundance Film Festival winner to be a testament to the mind being stronger than the body and the heart giving us our humanity.
The act of forgiveness has always been mercurial at best for me. When I was younger, if someone broke my trust or crossed me I would wipe them out of my life. Just like deleting data from a disk or setting fire to the film negatives of all the memories I had of them; I would never think about them again. These days I have had some success on being a forgiving person. Inspired by real life individuals, this Sundance Film Festival winning movie dealt with the powerful acts of forgiveness, redemption and revenge. Alistair Little joined the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) at a young age. The time was during the conflict in Northern Ireland and Alistair’s goal was to kill a Catholic. The victim’s little brother witnessed the whole murder. Fast forward to a peaceful time and the media came up with a marketing idea to have the younger brother and killer meet and shake hands as a true sign of peace in the country. It was from this point that this film really worked for me. The adult Alistair was played by Liam Neeson (The Grey, Wrath of the Titans) and the surviving brother Joe Griffen was played by James Nesbitt (Coriolanus, Match Point). These two men took the intense script and added a knock out emotional punch to it. Mr. Nesbitt was riveting as he dealt with his red hot anger for revenge. I was glued to my television screen as each man dealt with their demons and thoughts on meeting once again. There was one quick bloody scene in the beginning of this dramatic film.
2 3/4 stars — DVD