The Challengers, the Champions and the CIA

An exciting, diverse group of movies opened this weekend, ready to duke it out, box-office style, with last week’s reigning champions. Would the sophisticated James Bond’s Skyfall rise above the childlike Wreck-It Ralph, who ruled the Hollywood playground last week?

Could the limited-released Lincoln be Taken 2 a higher Flight than them all?

Those questions were quickly answered, as Daniel Craig’s James Bond caused an impressive Skyfall, pounding the cinematic competition and coming in first with a record-breaking $87.8 million, making it the best Bond debut ever (which is quite impressive considering there have been, count ‘em, 23 of them). Last week’s ‘numero Uno,’ the kid-friendly Wreck-It Ralph, placed a wholesome second with $33.1 million added to Tinstletown’s kiddie till. Denzel Washington once again took an impressive Flight, landing safely at third place with $15.1 million.

Government affairs remained the hot topic of conversation in both the White House and the Movie Manor this week with intense, politically-infused films rounding out the Top 5. Ben Affleck’s CIA Argo-ego earned a politically correct $6.7 million while another CIA agent, this time in the form of Liam Neeson, was Taken 2 Istanbul by questionably hygienic Albanian gangsters but brought back $4.0 million to this week’s United States’ box office sales.

Whether your interests lie in superspies or CIA’s, arcade games or Albanians gone bad, viewed seaside or nationwide, there is plenty to choose from this week at the movies…

Until next time, enjoy a magnetic movie week!

Advertisements

The Movie Goer’s Guide to Great Animated Films

Innocent but imaginative Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes fame, once mused, “If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently.” Six-year-old Calvin’s starry-eyed view of the world, I assume, is significantly different from that of the typical frazzled adult. I image he lives a life filled with animation, wonder and color (and lifelike stuffed animals). Perhaps he would like the grown-ups in his world to take a (movie) break from their jobs and household chores and hole up in their own little island paradise filled with candy and creativity, a respite from shorter days, colder nights (and long lines at their local Wal-Mart). Once there, maybe they’d focus on stars of every kind, not just the ones found in a darkened sky, and they’d see the space between the sun and the sky through special, innocent eyes. Possibly they’d see humanity in all its childlike wonder, as the creators of this year’s animated films surely did, and become inspired by the marathon of feel-good animated films that invaded our movie theaters in 2012.

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax encouraged the dreamer in everyone while a Brave princess showed a lot of strength and heart. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted traveled well through America on friendship and loyalty, Ice Age Continental Drift glided along entertainingly on that same significant theme, as Frankenweenie, Hotel Transylvania and ParaNorman got everyone in a family-loving, appropriately eerie, Halloween mood. Wreck-It Ralph is currently causing anything but destruction at the Box Office, as the villain in the arcade game strives to provide inspiration instead of his usual annihilation. Ending the year determined to land on the right side of the Naughty and Nice list is the eternally good (but with an edge) Santa Clause and his fairy tale cohorts who valiantly meet the Rise of the Guardians to save their holiday-laden kingdom.

Whichever family-friendly films you choose, in the land of animation, there’s always time to find the child within and to look with wonder at the stars…

Hope your weekend is filled with childlike wonder and stars!

The Good Guys Come in First this Week at the Movies

An insightful yet anonymous author once stated, “To be a star you must follow your own light, follow your own path, and never fear the darkness, for that is when the stars shine the brightest.” Could that unknown stargazer have been referring to the lights in Hollywood, which never seem to dim?  As a soft breeze lights the way to the ultimate in movies this week, the days are anything but dark. This week’s cast of characters, however, could use a sunny seaside retreat as they face heavy drama of the major motion picture kind. Strangely, everyone wants to be the hero this week, with varying degrees of “superman” success. A pilot (Denzel Washington) with an until-now hidden drinking problem takes a heroic yet controversial Flight leading him straight into infamy while The Man with the Iron Fists (Wu-Tang Clan) struggles with his own notoriety as he searches for the steely hero within needed to save China’s Jungle Village, his adopted town. Heroes apparently exist in the animated world as well as Wreck-It Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly), tired of always being the guy who wrecks things, becomes determined to save the day in his own arcade-game loving way. Next up, The Details are unimportant to a family man (Tobey Maguire) who tries to save his yard (and his sanity) from a destructive family of raccoons. Finally, a retired rock star (Sean Penn) declares This Must be the Place when he takes a road trip on his father’s behalf on a gallant hunt for a Nazi war criminal.

With twinkling eyes, our heroes reach the end of their journey and find magic within the movie mayhem, following their own well-lit path, where every star shines the brightest on the big screen…

Hope everyone has a great time at the movies this week!

Cooler Days and Marathon Movie Nights

Poet Thomas Hood once (negatively) quipped “No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees/No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,-November!”

Okay, so we know what November doesn’t provide. The month of “giving thanks,” ironically, gets a bad rap from some. Sure, for many of us diving into an ocean or building sandcastles by the sea is not a typical November event. Still, what could be more awe-inspiring than the sun moving closer to the Earth, its rays bouncing off a still ocean, causing an almost ethereal glow?

I wonder, had the English poet lived along the coast and indulged in a late-fall stroll, maybe he would have viewed November through a sunnier lens. Of course, had he lived during the time of major motion pictures, he’d realize that every month has its value. No matter the season, there remains a soothing (Foster Grant) shade over the land of movies, where the sun somehow always manages to shine (and is somewhat magnified by that thing known as Star Power).

However, if the weather proves too chilly for a stroll to your nearest multiplex, why not take in a just-released DVD, which is sure to provide a warm respite from Mother Nature’s sometimes-fickle mood:

For Your Consideration:
At the North Pole, Arthur Christmas, mischievous son of Santa, is on an animated mission to celebrate Christmas his own way while a grieving man heads to his own ideal version of the North Pole, specifically the Pacific Northwest’s Puget Sound where he has a life-altering encounter with Your Sister’s Sister (it’s very confusing). Also experiencing life-altering moments is Peter Parker, who embraces The Amazing Spider-Man within when he discovers a deeply hidden family secret. Meanwhile, a reckless princess/ skilled archer is dealing with her own family drama, forcing her to be Brave as she struggles to save her family and the entire kingdom. Possessing imaginary bravery is a group of bored men who accidentally stumble upon an alien invasion during The Watch in their suburban neighborhood. The Expendables 2 finds the mercenaries on their own watch during a dangerous mission to retrieve a black box from a downed plane. On a sunnier plane, an aspiring dancer moves to Miami where she meets a flash-mob dance crew who take a Step Up (on a) Revolution to save their neighborhood from a greedy developer. Also greedy are Lawless, bootlegging brothers who strive for their own (gangster style) revolt during the Great Depression. Not revolting but clearly clairvoyant (Para)Norman must save his town from a centuries’ old witch’s curse. Topping off the cinematic month, the Men in Black 3 take a trip back in time where they must alter the past to save the future.

Whether enjoying movies from the comfort of your home or amidst the crowds at the local Cineplex, a movie style November promises to not disappoint!

What movies are you most looking forward to?

Halloween Horror or Heavenly Delight?

Joseph Conrad once said, “There is something haunting in the light of the moon,” making me wonder if the sailor turned novelist of the late 19th Century/early 20th Century was a fan of Halloween and things that go bump in the night (excluding trick or treaters).

Now, with Halloween (and its many sequels) looming ominously over a dark, daunting sky, I’m inspired to reflect on the ultimate, scariest films guaranteed to make grown movie goers cry (or at least tremble slightly). The long, chilling list is, of course, subjective; one person’s horror is another person’s delight.

In honor of all things Terrifying, and in no particular order because they’re all so freaking scary, a Top Ten list of the ultimate horror flicks:

Friday the 13th (1980) The #1 reason for teenagers not to go to an abandoned campsite is terrifyingly depicted in Director Sean S. Cunningham’s slasher flick. Well, they were warned…

Dawn of the Dead (1978) Director George Romera created the ultimate zombie universe within an apartment building in urban Philadelphia. I defy you to eat while watching this flesh-eating film.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) Director Wes Craven showed that reel/real world versus dream world made no difference:  Freddy Krueger found his victims.

Poltergeist ( 1982) Quaint suburban town meets haunted  house where clowns, zombies, trees and televisions eerily spring to life in director Toby Hooper’s frightening film .

The Ring (1998) In Gore Verbinski’s remake, the spectators of a “certain” tape die a week after they’ve watched it. Whether coming out of a television or a well, it’s never good seeing a creepy undead girl clearly in need of a serious makeover.

The Exorcist (1973) is more than a little girl possessed by a demon (although that would have been enough). Director William Friedkin’s film attacks mind, body, and soul, as issues of faith take center stage, with its participants’ beliefs determining their consequences.

The ocean is at its most chilling in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975). The local sheriff, who ironically has a fear of water, is determined to take down the massive man eater. John William’s foreboding theme music lives on decades later.

Halloween (1978) features the legendary, unstoppable Michael Myers on a killing spree leading to the feisty girl of his murderous dream (and her never ending nightmare).

Psycho (1960) Well, the name says it all. A girl on the run, unfortunately for her, runs right in to the Bates Motel. To say Norman Bates has a little family secret would be like saying the ocean contains a few drops of water.  Many scary “don’t take a shower” films followed this one, but it set the bar extremely high.

Paranormal Activity (2007) When film promoters put the words “supernatural” and “horror” together, you know you’re in for it. In this case, a young couple is haunted by a supernatural being in their home, compelling them to set up cameras in an attempt to photograph and figure out what is haunting them. BIG MISTAKE.

Should you mistakenly find yourself stranded in a seemingly abandoned house on All Hallow’s eve, where the suspiciously missing tenants have ceased paying the electric bill, here’s wishing you the brightest of flashlights and the biggest of imaginations to keep you safe from the horrors occurring in all their gory glory on the Big Screen

Happy Halloween!

Autumn’s Movie Style Scenery

Poet William Allingham once said, “Autumn’s the mellow time,” and I couldn’t agree more. Fall inspires tranquil moments filled with soothing cups of hot tea, warm, comfy boots and movie marathons that extend well beyond the orange-tinged horizon. With frost on the pumpkins and a Harvest Moon over the ocean, we’re treated to a wide array of movies flowing through the gentlest of seasons like a calm wave, inviting us to curl up in our coziest blanket and stay awhile (at least until the Holiday Movie Marathon begins). Beyond that horizon, also known as the time between Summer Blockbusters and Academy Award Season, we’re treated to movies as diverse as the multicolored leaves on the trees.

In the upcoming weeks, we’ll get to witness Denzel Washington take Flight as a heroic pilot, Daniel Craig watch the Skyfall in his spiffiest James Bond attire, Daniel Day Lewis channel his inner Lincoln during the Civil War battle while Alec Baldwin (at least his voice) commandeers the role of Santa Claus in Rise of the Guardians, conducting his own version of (animated) battle with Jude Law’s nefarious bogeyman. Not to be out dramatized is Keira Knightley’s Anna Karenina, who has major drama of the romantic, literary kind rivaling that of Bradley Cooper, who plays a former high school teacher recently released from a mental institute with the Silver Linings Playbook and romantic issues of his own. John C. Reilly lends his voice to the destructive but well-intentioned Wreck-it Ralph, who crashes into theaters as well as arcade games, intent on finally playing the part of hero. The Life of Pi, meanwhile, couldn’t be sweeter as our heroic main character is treated to the ultimate ocean view.

While we’re treated to the ultimate in movies during the most colorful of seasons, now is the best time to take in the vibrant scenery, preferably along a colorful coastline, followed by a scenic stop at your local movie theater…

(Movie)Stargazing

“Never be afraid to try something new; remember amateurs built the ark professionals built the Titanic.” Anonymous

Since no lives are dependent on my blog-building skills, I move bravely forward, attempting something new and hoping no blog-loving being out there will want to (metaphorically) throw me overboard.

I love what writing has brought to my life. As a freelance writer, I’ve developed innovative skills and visited imagined lands (while remaining just enough in reality to pay the bills and water the plants). Although I write happily on a variety of topics, the one closest to my heart is movies; good, bad and everything in between (really bad movies provide their own unique entertainment, something to be explored in another blog).

Before I go any further, a big warm welcome to all those who ventured inside. Thanks so much for coming! My “blogging aspirations” are to share my love of movies with kindred spirits, people who see the creative artists at work on the canvas also known as the big screen. I hope to make you think (but not too hard) differently about a movie you may have quickly dismissed or commiserate with you over potentially good movies gone pathetically wrong (Gigli really should have worked. It had BENNIFER POWER! What went wrong? Oh, yeah, it sucked.)

Movies, at their best, are an art form. They inspire, educate and entertain. They bring “color” to a sometimes gray world. I’ve written numerous movie columns over the years, often finding inspiration from a beach stroll and an ocean view. Something about the surf and the sea is conducive to quality writing, at least in my little seaside world. Movies, to me, are much like the pristine sky suspended over a vast ocean, providing the ultimate setting for life’s ebbs and flows. Here, everything is illuminated and I’m the better for having been a welcomed witness.

A good movie is timeless; it soothes the soul, like hot cocoa on a cold night, sometimes decades after its big screen debut. I’m reminded of Jack Lemmon’s C.C. Baxter in 1960s The Apartment, who humbly uttered, “Ya know, I used to live like Robinson Crusoe; I mean, shipwrecked among 8 million people. And then one day I saw a footprint in the sand, and there you were,” and I’m once again a contented observer to the transformation of a lost, lonely heart.

Got a treasured classic or a recently- released- destined –to- be- a- masterpiece that illuminates your soul? I’d love to chat about it with you in my own little corner by the sea…