My Favorite Stories and Their Feel – The Last Samurai (2003) a film by Edward Zwick 

The Film, The Last Samurai, starts off like any film.  We are presented with problems in the world.  Better yet, we are presented with a cosmic problem and a microscopic problem.  The cosmic, or larger, problem is that there are internal struggles that are taking place both in the US and in Japan.  In the US, westward expansion meant removing the Native Americans from the lands they had loved and protected for centuries.  In Japan, the wholeness of a culture was being torn apart by a rebellion.  The micro dilemma lies in an American Soldier sick with guilt and condemnation and dying an angry alcoholic.  

An opportunity comes around for our Soldier, Nathan Algren, when his former Colonel contracts him to train the Japanese military using Western Strategy.  You see, a rebellion has risen against Westernization in Japan.  The traditional Samaurai have opposed the changes to culture and are ready to die for it.  The Japan Army has rifles while the Samurai still use bow and arrow.  For Algren, the task seemed like eaten cake.  Only the army consisted of farmers and laborers while the Samurai were life-long trained warriors.  This became more than reality on Algren’s first encounter with the Samurai.  The army fell apart with the first wave and Algren was captured by the rebellion.  

Algren spends several months in captivity but is allowed to participate and learn of Samurai culture and customs.  His relationship with the rebellion leader,  Katsumoto, becomes that of student and mentor.  Algren is transformed from the inside out.  

Algrens internal struggles stem from his shame.  The shame he sees in the mirror of who he used to be in the military.  Things he had to do and things he had to see.  We can relate to this even in the alternate.  Maybe there is a disappointment that we feel of things we weren’t able to do and things we may not ever have the chance to see.

What resonates most is the drastic change of scenery that Algren needed to find the cure.  We can see our surrounding and we know that this is life.  It’s a repetition of places and faces; of stresses and turmoils.  Can a change in that scenery bring perspective?  For Algren, that change came physically.  After all he was kidnapped by a Rebel force in Japan.  But for all of us, we must not forget that our number one landscape is our mind.  Our perspective and our take on the world we live in.  A change in landscape doesn’t always happen because we are clingy as humans.  But what if it did?  

Algren found a healthy body and a sound mind when he was snatched from his reality.  The new place gave him new principles and allowed him to find peace and forgiveness.  

As you watch the film, the slow but steady glimmer of light for Algren keeps you wanting more.  You are hopeful for him, even if when you were disgusted by him at the beginning.  This hope is one you fall in love with because you want it for yourself.  You wish it on Algren because you hope someone wishes it for you.  This is not to say that everyone’s life is miserable and everyone is an alcoholic.  No, not by a long shot.  But the sure thing is that everyone is longing for improvement.  A change is needed in every circumstance to achieve that.

5 Horror Films To Die For

When you looked down at the stairwell all you saw was black!

The genre of Horror films has a special place in my heart – and I don’t go there very often!  For a reason of course.  My childhood was filled with excitement and bewilderment due in large part because my family shared a 100-year old house with another family.  This thing was huge, creepy, squeaky and jam-packed with crazy people, myself excluded.  My best friend to-date and his family lived downstairs while my family lived upstairs.  When you looked down at the stairwell all you saw was black!  Add to this that my younger brother and I were in constant competition with my buddy and his younger brother; matching our bravado and macho in any activity including Horror Movies.  I saw the worst ones made way way way too young.

With October comes Halloween and a plethora of horror movies will flood our television screens very soon.  The following are my top 5 rated horror films so that you can weed out the duds and focus on the stuff that will make you sleep with the closet light on and hugging the bear you got for valentine’s day last year.

I warn you that my list will not resemble a lot of shortlists in this categories.  When I choose a film to watch I have to be convinced that there is more than just ghouls and ghosts at every corner.  I have to be immersed in the story, care about the characters and most importantly, the fear has to be deeper than face value.  A monster is somewhat scary, but the realization that your past will haunt you forever is man’s worst nightmare.

 

  • The Sixth Sense (1999)6-sense

I love this film for so many reasons.  In order to keep the conversation sweet and short, I’ll include the most obvious.  The director, M. Night Shyamalan, has got to be one of the most innovative and creative storytellers to ever grace the screen.  His plot twists and character depth grab a hold of you so tightly that he is able to run subtle details right under your nose and you won’t even notice.  This film delves into the most popular and on-demand subject matter which is the paranormal and psychology but it will take you where you least expect by the end.  If you have not seen it, then are you really even alive…?  I hope you see what I did there.

 

  • A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)freddy-2

I’m sure that 90 percent of those reading this have seen this film and that’s part of why I include it in my favorites.  This is one of those films that I saw way too young and that really screwed with my head.  I mean it’s the perfect premise to mess with any childhood – if you fall asleep, then you die!  Smiley Face!  This film was made in 1984 which is fours years before I was born but it spawned a collection of films with one common denominator – Freddy Krueger.  He is undoubtedly a staple of October, Halloween, Trick-or-Treat, and Horror.  You can run when you are awake but what do you when you’re asleep and Freddy takes control?  Krueger is a boss.

 

  • Baskin (2015)baskin

For those with a weak stomach and a photographic memory – you have been warned.  This film is for those that are truly intrigued with how far a film will go to try to get at your psyche and soul and for those that don’t mind guts and gore.  This film was meant to take you right to the belly of H-E-double hockey sticks and it gets you there quick.  Without divulging the entire movie let me just say that it will creep you out and imprint images of horror in your brain that you couldn’t wash away with all the Clorox wipes in the world.  Beware!

  • The Exorcist (1973)exorcist

Without a doubt, one of the most talked about horror and suspense films ever made.  It is said that when this film was first shown in theaters around the globe, the audience raced out in herds because of the images, vibe, and overall subject matters it dealt with.  That was then and this is now – but not a thing has changed.  This film is on my list because it deals with more than just ghosts and goblins.  It starts the conversation containing God and Devil;  Good and Evil;  Light and Dark;  and the most important one yet – they are more real than we care to admit and all around us.  I saw this movie at a very young age and I’ll never forget the moment it became too real and unbearable to take.  I cried, then ran, then had to be soothed like if I was a toddler.  Granted I was about 7 or 8 but that fact alone rests my case which is the following:

There is something very real, tangible, and palpable about the spiritual realms.  Most ignore it their entire lives and never think twice.  But that is fool-hearty.  They say children see your soul right in your eyes – it’s a sense that God has granted them in their innocence and as time goes by we lose it because we are marred by society, troubles and conflicts, and our selfish journey to grandness.  There is something sinister and almost too accurate in this film that resonates more with children and even with adults.  You can’t watch this film without feeling some sense of uneasiness, curiosity, and the need for faith in something larger than yourself.

 

 

  • The Babadook (2014)babadook-3

This film makes the hairs on the back of your neck raise from the moment that it begins.  The casting of this film introduces 3 main characters that you will sympathize with immediately.  A single mother that does not remember what love is and that mundanely, and in a zombie-like trance, traverses each day with the same 2 things in her hands.  In the right hand, she holds regret.  In the left hand, she holds hopelessness.  Her son, which is ingeniously portrayed, has problems at school, is an introvert, is awkward as F-&*, and sees something in his room at night.  Then there is the thing that goes thump in the night.  It creeps its way into their metaphysical world in the most unexpected way but they both end up finding out that it has been with them all along.  In fact, it is them and they are it.  By the end of the film, we learn the true definition of the phrase “Your past haunts you forever.”  If you have not seen this film I bid you farewell with 2 things –

  1.  Watch during morning hours – It won’t help or matter anyway.
  2. Don’t…watch…alone.

 

Check out the Horror Movies that make my fellow Collabers say “Gulp” in the night!

 Jacqueliine Joy- Warning! Warning!  She will make you laugh. She joins me in the “Bloggers that have Kiddo’s” group of the COLLAB.  Check her out.  Jacqueliine’s Blog Site

Varsha- originally from Aruba, she delivers great cooking, fine dining, a rich diverse culture, and different accents!  Totally different timezone, Totally awesome blog! Don’t miss it!! Varsha’s Blog Site

Lee- “The Originator” of the FALL COLLABORATION, she puts together great material on Lifestyle, Beauty, and Health with the purpose of helping everyone out – one at a time!!!  Lee’s Blog Site

Jenna- She promotes self-love and respect!  Check out her blog straight from the Lone-Star State!  Absolutely great material!!  Jenna’s Blog Site

Morgan- She blogs about life,  fitness,  college life and beauty!  She is a Girl vs. World and everything else and boy does she put up a fight.  Check out the great perspective and experiences!! Morgan’s Blog Site

“St. Vincent”-A Race Track, Strip Club, and A Dive Bar

I’ll start this review with the thing that brought me into this film with big expectations – Mr. Bill Murray.  Now, if he were to see this he would possibly consider me a fool.  He would probably point out that with so many intricate details that go into a film it’s impossible to put so much weight on him.  This is where I laugh because who ever said that I’m concerned with all the intricacies??  

Melissa McCarthy plays Maggie, a struggling single mother in the midst of a divorce.  She moves to Brooklyn with her 12-year-old son, Oliver.  She is excited about their new house and her new job since it will all prove that she is fit and able to care for her child.  Problem is the new job requires her to work very long hours, so she is forced to leave Oliver in the care of Vincent (Bill Murray), the next door neighbor whom they met after their moving crew dropped a tree limb on his car.  First impression – ruined. Vincent, agreeing to babysit only for the cash, isn’t slowed down by the boy.   He takes Oliver along on his trips to the race track, strip club and dive bar.  What ensues is the formation of an unlikely friendship.  Oliver begins to see Vincent as a mentor  and, against all odds and everyone’s good judgment, sees the good in him.

This movie is speckled with so many amusing moments.  It had me from smile to frown; from inspired to let down.  I loved how it was so honest about the way we live and why we live that way.  It paints a picture of struggle and the domino effect we experience along with those struggles.  

The casting could not have been more perfect.  I read that the film might not have ever been made had Murray not agreed to it.  Do you know why this is?  This is because Vincent, from the get go, is a low life.  He smells of alcohol, never cleans his house, always wears the same clothes, and spends his time and money on prostitutes – pregnant ones at that.  Now Murray is not that!!  But he is an artist, an actor.  And this film needed someone that could go there.  It got what it needed.  Murray impresses me yet again and, coupled with Jaeden Lieberher as Oliver, tells a story of revealed truths.  In this book, the cover definitely does not tell the whole story.  We learn of Vincent and what he is capable of and grow to love Oliver with his wit and charisma for that age.  Melissa and Naomi Watts also contribute in their own ways, adding to the storyline that in one way or another has to come together.  

The only thing missing in this film is a gangster with a gun out to get Vincent.  Oh…. Wait.  That’s in there too.  I’m not including any spoilers in this one so you will have to log onto Netflix RIGHT NOW AND HIT PLAY!!!

“Begin Again” a film by John Carney

As the film takes us from both characters’ broken reality into life shaping itself up to be all they want it to be, we see a bond form that injects that “Feel Good Movie” vibe into you. While other films rely on predictable writing, cliche scenes, and unreal circumstances to get you high, Mark and Keira work together in a remarkable way to show you their healing. There is something powerful in watching someone come alive. Someone that thought they were dead and now breathes in new life.

v1.bTsxMTE4MDg5MTtqOzE3MTUwOzIwNDg7ODAwOzEyMDA

 

Whenever I skim through the Netflix library with my wife I can be sure of one thing – she will want to watch something in the “Feel Good Movie” category.  I tend to shy away from this type only because a lot of the time they are sappy, love-soaked, Nicholas Spark-esque material.  This is not criminal.  In fact I can admit that The Choice was great.  I greatly enjoyed that and have watched it on numerous occasions.  The only thing is that I knew what was going to happen.  You can smell it a mile away but we humans love one thing more than day dreaming about a perfect life – and thats actually seeing it happen. Thats why we hold those films so high up on the totem pole.

What happens when you stumble upon an independent film with great talent attached to it?  I click “Play”.

Mark Ruffalo plays Dan, an alcoholic, post familial-doomsday music executive that has lost credibality with all those around him.  Professionally and personally.  His ex-wife despises him, his teenage daughter looks down on him, and he has lost control of his once booming business.  All he needs is that one break-through talent to get him to the top again.  In his directionless bliss he enters a bar one night and hears the voice of Gretta (Keira Knightley).  She plays only a guitar but Dan’s imagination brings all of the instruments around her alive as he imagines the arrangements that could make that song A HIT!  He approaches Gretta about working with her and getting her recorded and all of a sudden we are off.

Gretta is in New York at the time but only because there is no way to physically jet plane out of town on that night.  She rode in with her rock star boyfriend who ended up kicking her to the curb right as he begun recording his album.  An album that contains some originals penned by Gretta, mind you.  She sees the opportunity to share her music and agrees to work with Dan.  When she realizes that Dan has absolutely nothing necessary to produce an album, they hire some musicians and record on the streets of the Big Apple.

video-trailer-2begin-again-rooftop

As the film takes us from both characters’ broken reality into life shaping itself up to be all they want it to be, we see a bond form that injects that “Feel Good Movie” vibe into you.  While other films rely on predictable writing, cliche scenes, and unreal circumstances to get you high, Mark and Keira work together in a remarkable way to show you their healing.  There is something powerful in watching someone come alive.  Someone that thought they were dead and now breathes in new life.  Sure there is turmoil in the film.  Its the kind of turmoil that makes you feel embarrassed for Dan who had a perfect family and career and now sleeps in a crappy apartment in somewhere, New York.  Gretta was on the high road to riches and fame and she didn’t even have to pose for pictures.  She would marry her musically talented and famous boyfriend and reap all the benefits.  All the while she would help him write a few song which would ultimately be the bond that would last through time.  Not so much for either of them anymore.  The great part about this film is that we get to watch them work through the turmoil and come out on the path to victory.  By the end of the film neither of them are where they want to be – and with that the movie cuts out predicability.  The credits role and we don’t necessarily see “Happy”.  What we see instead is better than a resolute finality- its hope for the possibility of anything happening in our characters story.  The hope that they won’t be the same as they were yesterday but in a better, healthier, place in life.

Mark Ruffalo, for me, is one of the most under-rated actors of our time.  He doesn’t get the huge summer block busters that others ride to stardom.  Instead what I imagine he does is participate in pictures he believes in and that he knows he can pull off.  With his talent, I’d be hard pressed to find something that he couldn’t do.  Minus the superhero movies that he has ultimately become involved in, the man makes gold of everything that he touches.

I recommend this film to those that tend to surf the “Feel Good Movie” section a lot only to be running out of options.  Netflix had this movie in a different category but I can appreciate that.  The hunt is more amusing when your not sure where to find what your looking for.

“Run and Jump” A film by Steph Green


One of the reasons that I enjoy watching film is due to the sheer gamble of it.  I picture it in the following manner: We don’t have an infinite number of hours in our life.  It’s set.  Our hours are numbered.  The average film length is about 1 hour 45 minutes.  So how do you decide what you want to invest your hours in?  Sometimes, you just have to go all in on something that you can’t be sure about.

So was my experience one night as I scrolled through Hulu.  With my mind not entirely made, I implemented the most obvious systematic selection method – Inny Minnie Miny Mo.

Fall, did I, on a film centered around a Irish family struggling through a recent medical tragedy that has ruffled the feathers of an other-wise normal home.  Documenting, or researching, the whole thing is an American MD with a beard most guys can’t pull off.

The film takes place in that time of year in Ireland where rain is a staple at sunrise and you can see your breathe in the chilled air at dawn.  The father of the home recently had a stroke – if they had a scale it would be a 9/10.  This alters his everything.  His attitude is different, he has to learn to speak again, and even his walk is skewed.  He is a different man altogether.  The only remnant of the man-that-was is his love for carpentry.  He doesn’t remember how to be a husband or a father meaning there is a single mother in the making right in first of us and a flip-flop in roles between father and son.

The Dr. has come for a case study.  He is supposed to stay at home with the family and document everything that they experience as a unit in this unfortunate circumstance.  His notebook, his handy camera, and his trusted glasses always accompany him as he begins to become a fan of those in the struggle.  He gets close, then he struggles to avoid getting too close.

What ensues is a film that is rightly placed in the drama/comedy genre.  The characters portrayed are honest and quirky.  At times they seem too optimistic for individuals faced with such a terrible situation.  As you watch, you whole-heartedly wish you could have had the same glass-half-full attitude.  The candor in the mother and her determination to pretend that everything is okay resound.  Some scenes jolt you like thunder on a silent night.  They are raw and real in that the person that was once “Dad” is now a total stranger.  A stranger is in your house and you have to pretend to know them as the person they once were.

No need for spoiler alerts because there will be none.  Time well spent is time spent on becoming a better you.  When you watch this film, one thing stands out at the end – everyone is better off.  A better wife, a smarter son, a whole new father, and a Doctor with a new appreciation for what he wants in his future.