Sunday, February 16, 2020

What's Next On My List? Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot

Welcome to the sixth installment of #StalloneMonth, which I have to say, is my favorite time of the year! In this period, over the span of four or five weeks (depending on the dates), I review Sylvester Stallone movies. This has been a fun project, and I will keep on going until I run out of movies to review! Thankfully that time has not come yet, so here comes year six!

A sergeant at the police force is visited by his mother, who is not very happy with the way he has been living his life. In an attempt to take down a bad guy, Joe cannot do without his mom, as she refuses to stay home while her son is in danger.

While watching this I was just thinking about this culture of parents humiliating their children in movies and I wonder if people really are like that in the U.S. Is this just an overused character trait because in real life I never had the pleasure of parents who actually embarrassed me or any of the people I know... you know, unless they were actual assholes. And I just wonder if this is a cultural thing or the biggest fear people might have when it comes to their parents? Because exaggerations of a stereotype are fine when it comes to story telling, but I personally am never able to laugh at the expense of others. If anything, I am the one reaching for childhood photos and stories of me being a stupid kid, because I grew up thinking that that is a natural progression in life and that my partner has to see me embarrassed (and then tell me I am cute and stuff). But in this movie, in more than anything in life, I felt the need to slap the mother across the face... it is one thing to be overbearing, it is another to completely disregard the actual needs of someone. Although, technically, when it came to his relationship Joe did need help, and well, a woman's touch can never hurt. But, aside from that, the mother's expertise was truly more of a nuisance.

Watch it? This is not the comedy of the century... it has wonderful actors, don't get me wrong, but the whole thing just feels like the crazy adventure from the point of view of the mom, who probably portrays herself as this great superhero. This story is incredible, I know, that is how comedy works; I do not think there could have been a way to make it seem more believable, but actually, if there would have been an ending that shows how this story was told by the mom to her friends or something like that, I do think it would have been far better. It is a harmless family comedy altogether.

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ 

Sylvester Stallone - Joe Bomowski
Estelle Getty - Tutti
JoBeth Williams - Gwen Harper
Roger Rees - Parnell
Martin Ferrero - Paulie
Gailard Sartain - Munroe
John Wesley - Tony

Monday, February 10, 2020

What's Next On My List? Staying Alive

Welcome to the sixth installment of #StalloneMonth, which I have to say, is my favorite time of the year! In this period, over the span of four or five weeks (depending on the dates), I review Sylvester Stallone movies. This has been a fun project, and I will keep on going until I run out of movies to review! Thankfully that time has not come yet, so here comes year six!

Tony Manero is trying hard to find work as a professional dancer on Broadway, but as he is about to give up, finally his luck seems to turn. He works hard and ends up getting the leading part in a show, that will forever change his life.

This was the fourth movie that my beloved Sylvester Stallone directed, and it was the best one in my opinion. Over the past six years I have mostly talked about movies that he starred in, and of course some of them were also directed by him (Rocky II, Rambo, The Expendables), but this is one of those movies where he has no real role on the other side of the camera. And when it comes to directing, I have to say, he has a really good eye. I fell in love with this movie far before I started to read title cards and notice directors (before that I always thought that actors are either good or bad, no in between, but nope, clearly the director IS the most important part of a movie. But we learn these things only when we get older). So in light of #StalloneMonth I wanted to focus on not only the acting of this great artist, but also the directing. So that is why we are here!

I saw this movie before I saw the original Saturday Night Fever, and well, it is supposed to be a sequel and people did not want a sequel. But here is the thing... this is a REALLY good movie. I had to see the first one several times before I learned to appreciate it. But here is the thing, Tony is the same person. The original movie focuses very much on how this person learns one mistake at a time how to be a good person, but overall, his morals are in the right place. And I find that screenwriters Norman Wexler and Sylvester Stallone did a great job at presenting us this grown up Tony, who is still not quite there, but he is definitely working on it. I have written a whole thesis on the achievement of the American Dream from the point of view of Manero and well, and one of the important things that I noted was the environment that surrounds our protagonist. Once he breaks out of it, like he did at the end of the movie, he is faced with new challenges, and the mistakes he makes in this film are similar to those of boy still learning to outgrow his old ways.
Of every possible interpretation, this movie to me is about learning to appreciate what we have. Tony learns this lesson when he indeed loses the best person in his life: Jackie, who he was completely unable to appreciate. Having watched both movies now back to back, I have to say there are some simple people out there who, even if struggle, believe that they have hundreds of chances, and they have to learn their lesson: Tony is one of those people. Let alone the fact that I love this movie, for the soundtrack, the casting, the story, the directing... everything is a 10/10 for me, but I also think it is a great sequel. Of course, the first one handled a series of difficult topics, from unwanted pregnancies, to family disgraces to suicide, and it comparison this movie is very lighthearted. It focuses more on the magic of dance, of how we speak with our bodies and how we have to be the hero of our own life, no matter what. Many will put you down and make you feel like you are not enough, but you shouldn't walk away from that, no, you should stay and fight to live another day.

Watch it? Please do. It stars one of the best actresses of the 80's, Cynthia Rhodes: not only is she a wonderful dancer but a great singer as well and this movie made sure to highlight that. She is a literal triple threat and well, she did not have a lot of movies (I for one have seen them all already several times), and she is one of the greatest things in this movie. Her performance, her love for Tony, her understanding of the hardships of this industry, not to mention never doubting her own abilities... she was one of the strongest and most relatable characters I have ever seen on the big screen. If not for Stallone, if not for the wonderful performance by Travolta, or the adventures of Tony Manero, then definitely watch this movie for Rhodes: you will not be disappointed.

Until the next item on my list.
_ _ _ _ _ 

John Travolta - Tony Manero
Cynthia Rhodes - Jackie
Finola Hughes - Laura
Steve Inwood - Jesse
Julie Bovasso - Mrs. Manero

Monday, February 3, 2020

What's Next On My List? Rambo

Welcome to the sixth installment of #StalloneMonth, which I have to say, is my favorite time of the year! In this period, over the span of four or five weeks (depending on the dates), I review Sylvester Stallone movies. This has been a fun project, and I will keep on going until I run out of movies to review! Thankfully that time has not come yet, so here comes year six!

"In Thailand, John Rambo joins a group of mercenaries to venture into war-torn Burma, and rescue a group of Christian aid workers who were kidnapped by the ruthless local infantry unit." (imdb)

The first ten minutes of the movie featured a lot of snakes, and I hate snakes so I was not a fan of that. But I do, however, appreciate it, because I find that the story focused on geographical accuracy and making sure that they stay true to the culture they are portraying. It might just be that I have the same idea of what this country might be like, but it could just be portrayed by Hollywood. Either way, the movie focused, for me, on something very important: the horror of civil wars. The people of the 21st century like to forget that many are also victims of their governments and their self-proclaimed soldiers. Many are raped, mutilated, killed and used as pawns in a war that benefits very few. It was very painful to watch this movie, but mostly because I felt that I was there. I felt bad for the women, the children, the dogs, the innocent... I felt bad for the men and women all around the world who actually do want to help. I felt bad for the world we live in... Johnny Rambo is an incredible character, to me at least, because he really isn't just another action hero. The reason that all movies decide to take actual historical moments to drop in this American hero is quite smart, when you think about teaching people for the better. It is not easy to draw conclusions of what really is overseas, but damn, these movies take you with them...

If you prefer the PG18 kind of story telling, with graphic blood and breathtaking filmography, then you are in for a treat. I do not think you really need the first couple of movies in this series to watch and understand this one, if you want to, have at it, I have reviewed all of them so far. But this one I think was by far the best, simply because it felt more down to Earth, believe it or not. Rambo showed skill, and not so much sheer luck. The first will always be a classic, but other than that, I think people need to see the world as it is right now, and let me tell you: it's ugly.

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _ 

Sylvester Stallone - John Rambo
Julie Benz - Sarah
Tim Kang - En-Joo
Paul Schulze - Michael Burnett

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

What's Next On My List? Jumper

I have compiled a list of movies I have seen since as long as I can remember. Now, I am going through that list and just writing down movies that I would like to talk about a little bit. These were surprises, hated movies, and some that just worked their way into my hear unexpectedly. So let us get in deeper:

David Rice finds himself in a life-threatening situation, only to wake up in a different place. He realizes that he can teleport and thinks that this is finally the chance he has been looking for to get out of a life that he hated. But only then does he realize that there is an ongoing war between people with his ability and those who have sworn to stop them. He has to decide which side to stand on, and he shows everyone that some wars can be won without a fight.

I saw this movie in the theater and I just loved it. I think it was a very creative story, that really just reuses a very well know concept of those with power fighting those who seek to get it from them. As the story itself told, the jumpers and the paladins have been in a war for centuries. However, David emphasizes that he is different. I do find that even if he might not have been at the beginning of the story, he still find purpose in being finally normal when the love of his life comes back into his life. I also kind of enjoy that without going into much detail, you immediately feel that the paladins are following a cult-like behavior that makes them feel that they are indeed allowed to pass judgement on others. 
When you look at David, he did steal a lot of money, perhaps left a few girls hanging, but at the same time, he had never killed anyone, even when all of his loved ones where taken from him one by one. He had the chance to take out the leader of the paladins in any way he wished, but instead he even defeated another jumper, because his morals lied in the wrong place. I find that it was a movie about an unlikely hero, who showcased that even with a hard background, you can still grow up to be a good person. I loved the scenery, I loved the music, I loved the story and the chemistry between Christensen and Bilson especially. Jamie Bell could have used a different haircut, but that is simply the only negative feedback I can think of right now.

Watch it? I think it is one of the most underrated movies of my time. I loved the visuals, not to mention the outstanding cast of this movie. And well, the locations they shot the movie at are also something to be desired for. I find that showcasing to us why it is great to have this ability, but moving the story to so many corners of the world, was probably the best way they could have approached it.

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _

Hayden Christensen - David Rice
Jamie Bell - Griffin
Rachel Bilson - Millie
Diane Lane - Mary Rice
Michael Rooker - William Rice

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Blogger: Let's Talk About Reader's Block

For at least two years I have had a big problem that has been weighing down on my shoulders. I have found that talking about these, or more priceless, writing about these issues has been a great help in overcoming many of my problems. Funnily enough, when I was suffering from a severe writers block after the passing of my grandmother, I could only find my way back after writing about those movies that got me into reviewing and screenplay writing in the first place. That was a long six months, and even after talking about it, in my entry "The Comeback", I still had to wait a good couple of weeks before my rhythm or even just willingness to create and to jot down letter after letter came back to me. I have now been suffering from a similar kind of mental block, that manifested itself in a different area of my life, and I want to talk about reader's block.

Have you ever looked at a page and just could not comprehend any of the letters? Did you just re-read the same sentence over and over again and still have no idea what you are reading? Did you try to get pen and paper so you can - maybe - take notes and that way understand it? Have you then looked at your notes and those letters don't make sense either? So you re-read the same page again, this time, making sure that you really do pay attention to every comma, every dot, every stress mark... and nothing. You cannot recall anything on the page. Your attention span has reduced itself to five seconds, which is the first 10 words approx., and then, you feel extra frustration, because you already know by heart the beginning of the sentence, so why re-read that? Yet you still have no clue what the end of the paragraph holds... And over and over again through every reading material you find yourself in front of. ... The pages might as well be blank. 

Now, I do not know if there is a medical terminology for this kind of "blank" state in one's brain. I call it reader's block because it strangely resembles the state of writer's block. And by that I mean, that writer's block too does not touch every single area, I for example had no problem writing assignments for university, as I was told exactly what to write about. And I still had my poetry to fall back on, but when it came to my blog (which has now entered its ninth year, despite the intermission), I just stared at the screen and nothing came of it. It was very scary, because I did not know if there was a way out of it... just because at the age of nine I decided that I want to be a writer, does not mean that I will be able to do it when I do grow up. Even now I doubt my ability to become a published author with one of my fiction pieces (as some of my academic articles made it out there already, and yet I did not feel that same satisfaction as I hope I will if I get a book out there). Now that I did find my way back to writing I do hope that there is a way to get out of all of these slumps, and the answer is not that we have to learn to live with it, because reading and writing and drawing and music even, all of these... all are various forms of art, some we are better at, the others we need immense practice in, but I find they are overall the base of what makes human life worth living. So I knew, that even if I could not write, and then, cannot read, I will have to get it back someway.

"Everyone has one book in them. Almost nobody has two."

I find that not being able to read is is something actually a lot of people experience, yet I have not had the pleasure of talking to anyone about it. One of the possible reasons I think is the same as the above mentioned with writing: it only manifests itself in certain areas. Think of the fact that you probably just read an article online (which was stored in some other place of your brain, than where you keep all of your knowledge of Harry Potter), yet, you keep looking over to your bedside table and see that big novel that you did not open for months now, although you promised yourself you will read it every night before falling asleep. There is an incredible sense of failure that grows within us, isn't there? "Great, I didn't read... again!" But the pattern does not change, just each day we grow more frustrated with ourselves as the book gets its newer coat of dust.
I do believe that it is all about "time". And I know that we all have the time to read, however, we do not have the time to get lost in a story. Which is ridiculous as we should all be able to get lost in a world, even if it is for a little bit. I am saying this knowing very well that I am the same. I take a book to my bedside table every month, and then take it back to its place on the shelf, unopened, at the end of the month. I also measure the time it takes me to read 10 pages, for example, and if I am not gonna sit still for that amount of time, then there is no point in getting out the book either. I also catch myself looking at the length of each piece I want to read, ensuring myself - perhaps - that I will not die before I finish reading it, because I do want to know the ending once I decide to get started (and that goes for academic paper as well, incredibly boring and dry academic papers that reveal in the introduction exactly what you should expect and there are no sudden deaths, or dragons, lurking among the thickly written pages of any paper I had the pleasure of having in my hands so far). I am fairly certain, that this is where we make our biggest misstep, in thinking that any time can be too little to open a book. 

You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true. If I had a nickel for every person who ever told me he/she wanted to become a writer but 'didn’t have time to read,' I could buy myself a pretty good steak dinner. Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.
Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life. I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in … Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered anyway.
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

So how to beat this block? I have absolutely no idea. But I do know what helped me: (1) I waited. This was not something that I could just jump start... but when enough time passed, that was exactly what I did, decided to force myself. Of all the books I had on my shelf, and on my e-book reader, I reached out for the one that I was most curious about: John Green's Looking For Alaska. My partner has read all of his books, and after becoming a great admirer of the author himself, I decided to get into it. It was very hard, in the beginning, and it was not the book's fault, as it was written wonderfully. It has hard because I too wouldn't let myself be transported to Culver Creek High unless I could spend at least 20 minutes or more on it. In fact, I finished the book on a three hour flight to Barcelona, which shows, that if I do have the time (and am physically unable from doing anything else), I cannot be stopped from indulging in a story. (2) An issue is that so many things surround me that seem to be much more important than reading (and thus the idea of reading before bed), that even if curiosity kills me, I cannot help but put the book last on my list of things to do. So, how to overcome that? I had to trap myself in situations where I would read. One way was taking the book in my hands and going with the bus that takes longer: this way, once in hand, it is very easy to open and the travel time was always longer than just 20 minutes, so I had no excuse not to read. (3) Another way was disconnecting the internet in my apartment, so no phone, tablet, or laptop could even rise the suspicion of being more interesting than my book. This is probably the hardest one, but I find that some things are better if you earn them, and if you set a daily reading goal (or a monthly/yearly one), then getting around to doing something else, even just using up your lives in candy crush, is still very rewarding.

And if length is a problem, plenty of short stories out there that deserve to be read as their impact is sometimes far greater than some 600 page books I have read in my youth. This is the final, (4), technique I have mastered in regaining my strength to read: finding the shortest thing possible, and growing slowly. That means that the next one will not indeed be a 600 page book, but I am gonna get there again, and so will everyone else. So far, just by using the method of reaching towards the thing I want most I have read Let it Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green and Lauren MyracleJ.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (which I have been pushing off due to my crippling phobia of certain reptiles), and The Name Of The Rose by Umberto Eco (in the original Italian of course).  [Allow me to thank John Green here, for having all these stories that I can turn to. I do believe that my break in this seemingly endless blockade of blankness was partly thanks to his variety of books, written about incredibly complex characters at all ages. He captures something I have not read from many before. I cannot wait to continue through his series of books!]

What I am trying to say is that you are not alone. And I can say that because I saw all the faces sharing my pain when I talked about my difficulty when it comes to reading. I am also sure you recognized yourself, as you are reading this on your phone and can clearly see that book on the bedside table, as if tried to move just and inch closer to you, but it will not be opened tonight. Or maybe... maybe it will. Maybe talking about it is the first step. I know it helped me, did it help you?

Let me know!