Moments of escape can be moments of clarity!

"Oh, had I but followed the Arts"-William Shakespeare

Monday, December 30, 2013

Bits & Bobs...& Creeps....& Shapeshifters....

This is a special year end Bits & Bobs. I have compiled a list of my favorite Reads & Music Cd's from 2013.
#1: "WILD SEED" by Octavia Butler

Anyanwu is a Shape-shifter, ageless, timeless. She has built tribes & birthed tribes. She is all women, every woman. Doro goes from body to body, taking all he needs, then discarding the husk, without a backward glance. He has also built tribes, but he possesses & destroys. When their worlds collide, it is a hatred & a passion that upsets & impacts Worlds. The fate of Anyanwu's tribe & family rests in Doro's ambitious, power-hungry hands.
I'm a big fan of Octavia Butler and WILD SEED surprised me, it was not the story I expected. It has all the best of Sci-Fi & Fantasy. It's timeless & relevant. Her writing is magical. She was a brilliant writer and I miss all the books that could have been.
#2: THE CREEPS by John Connolly   
The CREEPS is the third and final follow-up to the
Samuel Johnson series which includes, THE GATES and 
THE INFERNALS.
Although this is a series, each book can definitely
stand on its own. I happened to read them out of
order...their were no dire consequences.
It's the story of Samuel, his loyal & perceptive dog, Boswell and their battle with the forces of hell, demons, good & bad, the Universe and the multiverse.
When you have plotted and planned for millennia to destroy the world and have had your plans thwarted by an unassuming boy and his annoying dog, well, you simply can't be expected to take that kind of thing lying down. Especially when you have a name like The Great Malevolence to live up to. That's just plain embarassing.
So just when the town of Biddlecombe believes all is back to normal & the battle has been won..well, really things are still a little strange, but it's a strange they have grown accustomed to.  Little do they know, darkness is falling fast & danger is afoot.  Starting with the new Toy Shop opening in the town square. Can Samuel save the day again?
The Samuel Johnson books are a great read for the young (A mature age 7) & up. They are scary in the best way. But be warned, their will be serious eye moisture. John Connolly is a lyrical & insightful writer. He is also the Author of the Charlie Parker Detective books & a new Sci-Fi series, the first out now  CONQUEST, with his partner Jennie Ridyard 

#3 "IMPACT" by Douglas Preston 
It starts with a request from Washington for ex-CIA operative Wyman Ford to find the source of gemstones that have appeared on the market, whose origins are unknown.
A meteor crashes to earth somewhere off the coast of Maine.
A Scientist makes a strange discovery involving the source of unusual Gamma-Rays, and is later discovered murdered.
Abby a young College student , whose passion lies skyward, is intrigued by the Meteor and is determined to find the impact crater.
With the Meteor at the apex, all are on a collision course, and time is not on their side.
Douglas Preston writes about Dinosaurs, Meteors, Epidemics and Monsters with a masters hand & skill. You suspend your skepticism willingly.
He is also Co-Authors with Lincoln Child, the Aloysius Pendergast Detective novels. (My second favorite detective, after Charlie Parker).

#4  "THE FARMING OF BONES" by Edwidge Danticat
The backdrop of "THE FARMING OF BONES" is the

1937 "Parsley Massacre". Dominican Soldiers would carry a sprig of parsley and ask people suspected of being Haitian, to pronounce the Spanish word for it. Those who couldn't, were killed. This all under the rule of dictator Rafael Trujillo.
Haitians had crossed the border to find work in the sugar cane fields.
Amabelle, an orphan, falls hard for Sebastien, a sugar cane cutter. When word of the atrocities reaches the farm where Amabelle lives, her dreams of a life with Sebastien shatters as they become enmeshed in the horrors unfolding.
This was a heart wrenching, but beautifully told story. Rich with survival, loyalty & renewal.

Two of my top for favorite Books of 2013, were written by Black women. I have read many lists of Book Store & bloggers top picks in fiction. Rarely did a Black woman Author make the list....in fact of the ones I read..none made the list.
I hope these books will make your list of 2014 reads.

MY TOP MUSIC PICKS OF 2013:

#1  SHUGGIE OTIS  "Inspiration Information"
Just hip-swinging perfection
#2  MAROON 5 "Overexposed"
Yes, they are, but I still found myself singing along.

 #3 VALERIE JUNE  "Pushin Against a Stone" 

All that is R & B and Bluegrass.... Amazing



#4 One Republic " Native"
They are just really where I'm at right now...at the moment.
"Counting Stars" is musically & lyrically just really well configured.
ever-changing tempo & rhythm , a great bridge..just fine.

I look forward to new books ( lots of them) and new music. The backdrop to whatever new adventures await me in 2014!





Sunday, November 10, 2013

Nine Realms & One Hammer








The Reel this week is 2013's THOR:THE DARK WORLD. I always look forward to indulging my inner Geek & Marvel Comics certainly fit the bill.
THOR (Chris Hemsworth) is back on Asgard, pining for Jane who he left on Earth. Loki has been imprisoned, grumpy & full of snide remarks.
 King Odin wants peace & for THOR to ready himself for the Throne that is his birthright. Peace is fleeting ,for the Dark Elves are in search of what is rightfully theirs: revenge & the dark matter known as Aether. When both are obtained, they will destroy Asgard & all nine Realms. 
The Aether the Dark Elves seek, turns up in a most unexpected place & THOR must decide if he is to face the onslaught on his own or put faith in his traitorous brother LOKI (Tom Hiddleston) to help him defend Asgard & all he holds dear.
THOR:THE DARK WORLD made my geek heart soar. It had grand battles, lots of Hammer throwing & other-worldly Kingdoms of dark and light and gold interspersed with clever humor.
Tom Hiddleston & Chris Hemsworth had great moments of brotherly banter. Idris Elba returned as Heimdall the loyal gatekeeper of Asgard.
The Lusty side of my geek, was rewarded with just enough beautiful manliness without being gratuitous. 
My only complaint is once again the lack of women of color. We are still extinct when it comes to fantasy & Sci-Fi. It's frustrating & disappointing.
I did enjoy THOR in all it's comic book delight! A little FYI, don't be in a rush when the credits roll.....stay a while.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Just Glad it finally Ended

My Reel for this week is 1999's THE END OF THE AFFAIR, after the viewing I felt strangely empty inside & sleepy.The movie starts in 1946 and from there dissolves into a series of flashbacks. Maurice (Ralph Fiennes), a writer is recalling in prose his brief affair with Sara (Julianne Moore), the  long suffering wife of Henry (Stephen Rea), her bland, boring & inattentive husband, who walks about the house oblivious to his wife's restlessness. After meeting Maurice at a party, Sara begins a torrid affair. Now they say torrid, I say benumbed & horrid. It was actually excruciating to watch. Sadly, I was not convinced, that they couldn't live without each other. The chemistry was non-existent.When Sara spoke of loving Maurice forever (by the way in a British accent done badly), she could have easily been saying  "Pass the salt".
When Sara mysteriously ends the affair, Maurice spends his time trying to discover what went wrong. I could have told him.

All three leading actors were dull, dull, dull. I couldn't even understand what Sara supposedly found intriguing about Maurice. It seemed like she went from her boring husband, to her boring lover , with some added sex.
The backdrop of the movie was WWII, but even that was dusted in gray.
The film tried to have the feel of an actual 1940's movie, with rain , clipped speech & dewy close-ups, but it lacked fleshiness(well, it definitely had the other kind of flesh) & real emotion.
For me, the entire movie was like  watching a pot boil, but it doesn't even start to simmer. it simply sits there, tepid, wanting to boil, but incapable of it.
THE END OF THE AFFAIR lacked follow through & heart. You scratched the surface, but were left with more surface.
I felt cheated out of an hour & thirty-five minutes of my life, If you want a 1940's style movie, watch an actual 1940's movie. May I recommend "No Man of Her Own" with Barbara Stanwyck or "Leave Her to Heaven" with Gene Tierney & you won't feel cheated.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Frozen Bond of Lies

Each week I tell myself that I will plan to do better and be a little less neglectful to my little blog. It's certainly not for lack of movies & books to review. It has more to do with my own habit of over extending myself. I will do better, I will, I promise. Well, now that I have unburdened myself, it's onward & upward.

My Reel this week is 2012's "ON THE ICE": In an Inupiaq village in Barrow, Alaska, two boyhood friends Qalli (Josiah Patkotak) and Aivaaq (Frank Qutug Irelan) test the bonds of their life long friendship after a devastating accident on a seal hunt. The two tumble into a web of lies.
All the hopes they have for a bright future, hang in the balance. Qalli's deep family connections and his fear of disappointing those near & dear to him, add fuel to the fire of the subterfuge.
Aivaaq's need for love & acceptance, coupled with his feelings of worthlessness eat at him, causing him to ache for the numbing path of self-destruction chosen by his Father  and Mother before him.
"ON THE ICE" is a coming of age film, steeped in the warmth & connectedness of Native life.
It was filmed so beautifully, it was almost documentary-like. You felt like you were somehow contained within the story, observing it unfold surreptitiously. The acting was achingly real. You just knew that the young actors were in touch with the dynamics of the subject matter.
For me it brought back memories of my own childhood, growing up in Alaska: Fort Greely, Delta Junction,Peters Creek & Chugiak. Especially the wide open, sometimes desolate, but always beautiful, winters.
I felt a closeness to "ON THE ICE", a story of love, fear and choices,but also full of the  joys & complexities of Native life.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

It's been Chronicled...It's not Pitch Black

My Reel for this week is 2013's RIDDICK: RULE THE DARK. Richard Riddick (Vin Diesel) is back. The guy everyone in the galaxy is after.
The latest installment continues the storylines from both PITCHBLACK & THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK.



RIDDICK's tenuous reign as leader of the Necromancer's is betrayed by those wishing his power. Dangling information about his homeland, he is tricked  and left on an abandoned, desolate, dangerous planet. He sends out a rescue beacon from a deserted outpost, not realizing he is also hailing bounty hunters anxious to collect the price on his head. Two separate teams land and must battle not only RIDDICK & each other, but also the creatures who own the planet's night hours.
RIDDICK:RULE THE DARK is everything you expect from the franchise. Vin Diesel is pumped, ferocious,pitiless & at times a little wooden in the acting department. The part is tailor made for him.
Matt Nable who plays BOSS JOHNS, the head of one of the bounty teams, adds depth to an otherwise formulaic story. Their are some cliche dynamics between the two teams, but some good stuff & unexpected humor.
Katee Sackhoff  plays DAHL, the only female on the teams. You know, the tough blond, kick ass...blah, blah. Pretty much a clone of her character on "BattleStar Galactica".
Which gets me on the subject of the lack of women of color in Sci-Fi & Fantasy movies..well really movies in general. I can count on one hand the Sci-Fi or Fantasy movies that have a Black woman in a lead or major role. Yes I know CHRONICLES had Thandie Newton & that was great, but merely a drop in the bucket. RIDDICK:RULE THE DARK went to the trouble of casting a Black woman, but within three minutes of coming on the screen, she was dead.
I have loved Sci-Fi since seeing "THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN" in 1971. I am a huge Sci-Fi, Fantasy fan. I love the action, fear inducing tension & gore. I am not interested in the sort of banal romance they throw in to entice women. 
Hollywood is really missing the mark, when they neglect women & minorities in Sci-Fi. 
RIDDICK had some really good moments, but we are into the 4th installment, let's get to great. I also don't want to believe that in the future , Black women are extinct. If we go by Hollywood movies...we already are.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Bits & Bobs

The Sweetheart of Summer is over. The coming of September always feels like a beginning & an ending at the same time. I've enjoyed the slower pace of the Summer months. Although their was no vacation for me this year, I still managed to carve out a little relaxation. I took a break from Theater, although I continued to hone my acting chops with Crowbait Club.  
It's been a Summer of songwriting, which I had moved away from for a time.
September it's back to school. I will be taking a few courses: The History of Architecture, Physical Theater & in January I will continue with my ASL course, with Medical Interpreting.
I spent the lions share of my Summer, reading. I read so much , that I think I could write a book review every week for five years & not have to read a new book. My bedroom has stacks of books on every available surface. Hopefully time will be kind and allow me to fill my heart & mind with every single one.
I recently finished John Sanford's "STORM PREY"
He has 24 books that contain the word Prey, it made me suspicious in an irrational way. STORM PREY is number 22. I was given it as a gift, so decided to try it.
I will usually give a book between 50 & 100 pages to grab me. After all life is short. STORM PREY hit early and hit hard.
The book continues with the recurring character of Detective Lucas Davenport & his wife , surgeon Weather Karkinnen. Dr. Karkinnen, unwittingly witnesses one of the players in a violent robbery at the Hospital where she is employed. The thieves are ruthless in their attempt to tie up all loose ends, including ant potential witnesses, but they have no idea that by pursuing Dr. Karkinnen, they will bring down the wrath of Lucas Davenport.
The thieves not only have to contend with Davenport, they must grapple with one another. STORM PREY is the poster child for the saying "No honor among thieves". This "easy" robbery becomes a violent struggle to determine who comes out on top and who will be left standing.
I read that the PREY novels, which started in 1998, run consecutively, but I didn't feel like I was missing anything. The book did make some references to prior events, but they weren't germane to the telling of the story.
All in all PREY was a fast-paced, easy read. Will I read some of other 22? I probably will.
I think my only criticism was the fact that some male (and female) writers, feel the need to dwell on the physical attributes of the female characters. I think John Sanford described Weather Karkinnen as "Blond & attractive" at least six times, while I still have no idea what Lucas Davenport looks like. Just a "What's up with that" moment.

Well, now onto what I've been listening to this Summer. I've had a chance to give a listen to some new artists. I tend to write down the names of artist that have been mentioned to me or I have read about, for later perusal.

One is Indian/Samoan artist Aaradhna:

Also Mali artist fatoumata diawara:
The list is long, so I shall continue, but you enjoy & spread the music. So much music...so little time

Monday, August 5, 2013

The War of Love

This week's Reel is from my favorites list. It is 1984's "CAL". I have lost count of how many times I have watched this movie. I feel a little guilty recommending this film, because it is an extremely difficult movie to locate.

The movie takes place in 1970's Ireland. CAL (John Lynch) is a Catholic working class young man. He lives with his father in a Protestant neighborhood. Tensions are high. Their neighbors want them out & will stop at nothing to make sure that happens. CAL must run a gauntlet to get home each day. He seeks solace & camaraderie amongst sympathetic friends, who move on the fringes of the IRA.

One evening he is asked to drive the car for his friends. In the back of his mind CAL has an idea what is to happen, but is unable to extricate himself from what he believes will transpire. He finds himself the unwilling participate of an unspeakable act of violence.
CAL's guilt is eating him alive & he becomes obsessed with the victims. He goes to the library daily to see Marcella (Helen Mirren), one of the victims. He feels if he can see her, and be near her, then some of the pain he feels,can be some how assuaged. He finds himself inextricably bound to her.
Out of the ashes of that tragedy comes a horribly doomed love affair.
The decision he made that evening has sealed his fate & he seeks no escape, because he welcomes the punishment. He knows whatever happiness he is able to hold onto, will be short-lived.
CAL is not a feel good movie, but I think my love for it comes from the  Shakespearean infolding of it. The poetry that is life, which emanates from it. You root for CAL, even though you, like CAL can't figure a way out.
It's a  melancholy movie, for my melancholy days, and I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Stony the Road we Trod"

I tend to steer clear of documentaries dealing with the Civil Rights Movement because they weigh heavy on me, but I was drawn by the title of this week's Reel of the Week: :BOOKER'S PLACE".

It is a documentary within a documentary. Film maker Raymond De Felitta  decides to help his father, documentary Film maker, Frank De Felitta catalog his vast body of work. While organizing the films they discover an almost forgotten documentary on Race relations in the small town of Greenwood Mississippi during the 1960's. "BOOKER'S PLACE" is about that documentary.
Booker Wright was a waiter at an all white restaurant called "Lusco's". He was also a father and owned his own after hours cafe called "BOOKER'S PLACE'.
Frank De Felitta asked Booker if he would like to be interviewed for the documentary. That interview was so brutally honest, poignant & powerful, it became the catalyst that upended the town & lead to a brutal murder.


The White people of Greenwood  so deep in their delusion of Superiority & the "Happy Negro", were incensed by Booker's interview, which was shown at Prime time on NBC. They granted interviews and proclaimed: "Our Nigras, Love us", "We treat them like they want to be treated", They don't want to go to school with white children, because they aren't as smart. They would feel inferior."
Frank's documentary showed the world, the bloody wound of racism.The Whites of Greenwood were not going to take that lying down & the Blacks had no where to turn. Almost every member of the town council & police force was a card carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan. The Blacks of Greenwood could only steel themselves for the coming retribution.

After Raymond & his father looked over the forgotten footage, they wondered about the the town of Greenwood & Booker Wright. What was life like today for the participants.
They decided to contact Booker's family & have a showing of the film in Greenwood.
After the documentary was shown, Raymond opened up the room for questions & dialogue. What struck me the most, was how vastly different the reactions were between Whites & Blacks. One particular exchange between a White man & a Black really summed it up for me.
The white man stood & spoke about his love for his "Black Mother" who raised him & loved him. A Black man stood & said "While my Mother was tending to, and taking care of the plantation owners children. Feeding them, comforting them , she was not available to me. I was alone.I can't tell you how painful that was." The White man simply said "I wouldn't change a thing. I loved my Black Mother.
That speaks volumes for me & illustrates the deep chasm that still exists.
"BOOKER'S PLACE' & documentaries like it, start a fire in my soul. A fire that most of the time I would rather not stoke. It brought tears for Booker & scores of others who have lost & will lose their lives as the struggle for civil rights continues for all minorities.
Watch "BOOKER'S PLACE" for knowledge. Listen...really Listen. It will give you insight. Even into the trivial, but not so trivial Paula Deen fiasco. It's much deeper than the N word. It's about the culture of Racism. It effects jobs, housing & life & Death (Jordan Davis)

"It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize,accept and celebrate those differences"-Audre Lorde

Monday, June 24, 2013

Bits & Bobs

Hello Summer! I am optimistically gearing up for a great Summer. Hopefully with some life changing transitions. Hoping to fit in a 2nd trip to Dublin, possibly late Summer, early Fall.
I have just finished an Online Finger-Spelling refresher course. So I will be ready to finally tackle the 401's. I believe there may be light at the end of this ASL journey.
On the Acting front. My latest CMP commercial has been running on CBS. Unless you know me very, very well, you won't recognize me. I will be the only brown hands plugging in various & sundry electronic devices. I'm still thrilled when I see it & find myself shouting at the TV. "Those are my hands & those are my hands & that's me...."
I have also become a member of  the CROWBAIT CLUB" a cross between Improv & a kind lunacy. Definitely not for those who crave direction & order. It's fun, and a great way to keep my foot in the Theater door without the commitment.
Now on to what pages I'm turning & what has me dancing in my own private Idaho.
I have just finished "BLANCHE ON THE LAM" by Barbara Neeley.
It's a book that presented itself like a treasure from under my vast pile of books that seem to procreate under my bed. Because I swear that there are more every time I look. So, once in a while I peruse the pile until I find a book that piques my interest.
"BLANCHE ON THE LAM" was a delightful & entertaining sleuth story.
Blanche White is a Domestic worker who tries to make ends meet working for well to do families of North Carolina. She is also trying to raise the children of her dead sister. She will do whatever it takes ,to make a life for herself & her unexpected family.
When she finds herself facing 30 days in jail for a series of bounced checks. Blanche plays out the scenario of thirty days in jail: losing her kids, her jobs, & even the respect of her mother. Blanche makes the decision to grab the opportunity to flee when it presents itself. Knowing she can't go home, she wanders the genteel neighborhoods. She spies a familiar gated Community. She is mistakenly identified by a woman waiting at the gate, who believes Blanche is the help she has hired from an agency to accompany her family to their Summer home.
Blanche knows better than to look a gift horse in the mouth. So she jumps at the chance to remove herself from her troubles. But has she really escaped danger or has she jumped from the frying pan into the fire. The family she finds herself in the midst of , is rife with murderous intentions & Blanche must solve a crime & save her own life. She has only her instincts & her network of fellow domestics to rely on, & not much time.
I was amused & captivated by "BLANCHE ON THE LAM" . Barbara Neeley turns the Murder & Mayhem genre on it's ear. She creates a twist to the "detective" story. I am hooked and have moved on to "BLANCHE AMONG THE TALENTED TENTH". What new dangers await Blanche?
On to my dancing feet. Summer for me is music's muse. Why is it that during winter, I never sing at the top of my lungs with radio cranked? Is it the heat? the sunshine? I don't know, but Summer has me blasting the radio, Cd player & MP3 player.
I throw content to the wind & long for a catchy hook & tapping feet.
sooo.......
and.....
oh hell...why not..

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Intrepidity of an ordinary life









It's time for the Reel of the Week from my list of favorite movies. This week it's 1983's SILKWOOD. It's an engrossing real life who done it, or more of a Did someone do it? I think besides "A CRY IN THE DARK", it is absolutely, for me, one of Meryl Streeps best performances. She portrays Karen Silkwood, a rebellious, passionate & mischievous woman. Someone thought to be the most unlikely person to become a Labor Union Activist. She was employed as a chemical technician for Kerr-McGee, a Uranium Fuel production Company in Oklahoma. Karen was disturbed by safety violations she witnessed while working in the metallography department. She relayed her concerns to the Labor Union & was asked to testify in front of the Atomic Energy Commission, along with her best friend and co-worker Dolly Pellitier. Played with a brilliant lack of selfconsciousness by Cher. Also her live-in lover Drew (Kurt Russell), who is simultaneously devoted to Karen and frustrated by the total abandonment in which she lives her life.
When Ker-McGee gets wind of what they view as collusion with the Labor Union,Karen's life starts to become the terrifying stuff of nightmares.
During a routine exposure check, Karen is found to have been exposed to 400 times the legal limit of plutonium, which fuels supposition as to how this happened. Karen's explanation & Kerr-McGee's are wildly divergent.
Her life from then on becomes a living hell. Her fellow employees & friends are forced to take sides. Her decision to get involved with the labor Union affects everyone she hold dear. Ultimately a very high price is paid by all involved.
SILKWOOD is probably one of the earliest films depicting consequences of becoming a Whistle Blower. The courage it takes to go against the flow of things.
SILKWOOD is a well written, well crafted, taut tale, written by the talented & much missed Nora Ephron.
The mystery surrounding Karen Silkwood remains to this day. Is it a cautionary tale of strength & courage or the stuff of legend.Maybe something in between.









Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I Know what you're thinking Tony Stark....." 'Cos we're connected"

The Summer Blockbuster season has officially started, so naturally I was first in line like the movie geek I am. So my Reel of the week is  the third installment of the IRON MAN series.
Robert Downey Jr reprises his role as Tony Stark, the witty, insomnolent Industrialist who's alter ego, IRON MAN, champions the downtrodden & abused, constantly asking himself the question: "Am I IRON MAN or is IRON MAN me?"

Tony Stark's glib dismissal of a scientist's idea that would have gotten him in on the ground floor of an incredible breakthrough, comes back to haunt not only him,but the love of his life & his voice of reason Penny Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).
This installment brings to the screen, IRON MANS comic book foe ,Mandarin, the head of a terrorist organization that strikes globally.
This 3rd installment is spirited, clever & action-packed. Tony Stark's humor is front & center. Robert Downey Jr has a way of delivering a line, that simply defines the word snarky. It's razor sharp.
Don Cheadle is once again in the role of Colonel Rhodes, aka Iron Patriot, the liaison between IRON MAN & the government. He & Stark have some laugh out loud tete a tetes, which added warmth & a sense of comaraderie to the storyline.
 
There was action galore & the special effects were absolutely amazing.
It even managed to throw a few plot-line curve balls. Ben Kingsley's performance being one of them. 
Their were a couple of scenes that bordered on throw away scenes. One at the beginning of the movie, involving a plane and one nearly at the end. they were just superfluous & over the top.
All in all, IRON MAN 3 was great fun. I really don't think that it would have been nearly as good without Robert Downey Jr. He is definitely IRON MAN. His perfect blend of wit, vulnerability & sexiness, pulls you into the story and makes you believe.
So plunk down a few bucks this weekend, if you just want to have some rollicking good fun for a few hours & laugh your ass off & also see some fantastic special effects and on top of that a clever story. If you look behind you, I will probably be there for a second helping of snarky!
 



 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Revenge ain't no puppet

My Reel of the week is 2010's BUNRAKU. My daughter who is a fan of the J-rock singer & actor Gackt, promised me his performance in this film was much better than his performance in 2003's MoonChild. I have to say, for the most part she is correct.
After a Worldwide war, guns have been outlawed & blades & fists are the law of the land. 
A Drifter (Josh Hartnett) wanders into town with a score to settle. Through the local bartender (Woody Harrelson) he meets Yoshi (Gackt), man on a mission to avenge his father and take back the talisman stolen from his family by the killer and self appointed ruler of the town, Nicola the Ruthless, played to smarmy, evil perfection by character actor Ron Perlman.
Yoshi & The Drifter find themselves joining forces to end Nicola's reign. The only person standing in their way is Killer#2. Nicola's evil right hand , maniacal,song & dance man , played fantastically and dare I say handsomely by Kevin Mckidd.
They must put aside their differences in order to break the heavy yoke of injustice each one carries.
BUNRAKU is a form of Japanese puppetry. The way in which this movie was filmed, relays that to the audience in an abstract way. The set is minimal. atmosphere is conveyed with lighting & shadows, also no actual outdoor scenes. At first I wasn't sure if I was going to like the style of filming, but it worked. It was a strange combination of graphic novel, theater & shadow puppetry.
Demi Moore has a small role, but she pretty much phoned it in. It was forgettable.  A lackluster performance and thank god, brief.
Josh Hartnett was surprisingly good. I have to say I was not expecting it.
Gackt redeemed himself after that horrific MoonChild, but still has a way to go.
For the most part, I really enjoyed BUNRAKU. It was fun, smart, albeit gory, but that was expected. It was a theater version of a graphic novel brought to life, and THAT was unexpected.
 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bits & Bobs

Spring is in the air, finally. I feel positively buoyant! Winter has donned it's coat & departed (at least I hope so).
Along with Spring comes the annual Maine Playwright's Festival. Our fund raising is in full swing:
I'm involved in one play. I have to decided to resist the urge to bite off more than I can chew. Rehearsals are going well, with performances beginning at the end of April.
I have also finished a Film project for the wonderful women of Gitgo Productions  It was a blast. Further solidifying my love of film.

ASL is going well. I'm drilling as often as I can on my finger-spelling skills.
working online to improve my reading. Hopefully I can finally finish my 400 class.


Now onto what I have been reading & listening to.  
I just finished Alan Brennert's "MOLOKA'I". It is based on the true story of the leprosy outbreak in Hawaii in the late 1800's. It is told through the life of seven year old Rachel Kalama. She contracts Leprosy and is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined settlement on the island of Moloka'i. She is separated from her family and home.
It's the story of a dark history in Hawaii's past. The story of indigenous people, worldwide. The story of usurpers forcing their will, through disease, dismissal of indigenous culture & religious indoctrination .
All told through the eyes & soul of little Rachel Kalama, but it is also a story filled with triumph, love & forgiveness.
MOLOKA'I was vibrant & insightful. You were transported to that time & place. There were emotional moments that had me reaching for the tissues. Having been to Hawaii, Alan's writing brought the beauty of the island back to my consciousness.  Rachel's story was told eloquently. MOLOKA'I Schooled me on a history I knew nothing about, but it also touched my heart.

Now what's been playing on my MP3.  Because the end of winter has me giddy. It's been all about music that keeps that smile on my face like:

Justin Timberlake's  "Suit & Tie
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsUsVbTj2AY&feature=youtu.be 



 Elton John of course, alway's a cure for Spring Fever!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhJHL34DiBY&feature=youtu.be
Music & Spring a cure-all!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

"Heartfelt, but slightly stifled"



My Reel of the Week is 2005's "NEO NED".
Ned (Jeremy Renner) never really stood a chance for a normal life. He yearned for a Father, who looked upon him with pride. He needed a Mother who was attentive, strong & loving. He struck out on all counts. What he did get, was a Father who's idea of nurturing, consisted of Ned taking  trips to the local prison to visit him & having his Father dispense advice from behind a pane of glass.
His Mother, uses Ned's emotional Floundering & frequent legal troubles to boost her own self esteem and to gain evermore chances for that elusive 15 minutes of fame.
Ned is on a constant search for acceptance & a sense of belonging. He thinks he has found it, when he stumbles upon a group of Neo Nazi's.
But what he thinks is acceptance, turns into a nightmare of murder, humiliation & false bravado. That night of wrong turns, lands Ned in Court and from there to a Mental Hospital.
During his stay there, he meets Rachael (Gabrielle Union). A young Black woman who is hospitalized after severe Post-Partum Depression. She is convinced that she has been reincarnated as Adolf Hitler.
This most unlikely pair start to form a bond, which abruptly ends when Ned is suddenly discharged due to lack of funds.
He finds himself unable to let Rachael go. She represents a new start, a chance at that elusive, tenuous thing called "normalcy", or Ned's vision of it. They decide to strike out on their own , but quickly find out , that the broken pieces, just below the skin have sharp edges that tear & rip away all hope of happiness. That "Normal" is an illusion.
NEO NED, held promise & wanted to be bigger than it ultimately was. The story didn't elevate itself. It didn't dive into the deep end of the pool.
Jeremy Renner (Ned) was held back by the dialogue that was at times trite & hokey. He had moments that gave me a glimpse of the actor he has become.
Gabrielle Union (Rachael) has some really nice moments. When Rachael spoke of her past & her child, you were taken in. But like Ned (Jeremy Renner), the dialogue held her back, with it's pedestrian quality.  Keeping the plot predictable & holding the characters back.
 Jeremy & Gabrielle had real chemistry, but it seemed restrained. I don't know if it was a writing problem or a director problem. Especially sad because the subject matter begged for something more.
What I loved the most about NEO NED, was the promise of what it could have been.