Archive for Bust-A-Block Movie Reviews

Jan
01

RUSH

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Austrian driver Niki Lauda and British driver James Hunt dramatize the glamour, courage, and some might say, insanity of the 1970’s Formula One race circuit. Each of them successful at living his blockbuster life – fame and fortune via their one true passion-racing cars. Two rivals involved in a deadly sport known to pluck a percentage of other rivals off the face of the planet each season.

Can two guys at the top of their game suffer from villainous blocks? Isn’t being the best at what we do the goal in removing and busting through our villains toward our own blockbuster life?

There are many areas of life in which to succeed. For Niki, the PIRATE villain has him feeling less than in terms of his personal life. Awkward about his place in the social arena he seems accepting of his deficits. Never wavering in his passion and determination for being the best at racing, the tight, self-contained, strict-living Niki pales in comparison to the British driver, James Hunt. But then everyone has a Pirate villain telling them they are “less than,” when compared to James. Equally passionate and determined towards racing, his passion for fast women and faster living carries over far after the race is done.

One could also argue the MONSTER villain is a deadly Siren calling to them, holding them hopelessly and helplessly in her death grip through their love of danger, their love of fear itself. When the fear of living just a normal life becomes stronger than the fear of dying, individuals excel to heights of greatness, or death. It’s a villain they both don’t necessarily want to be rid of. As a result, James has fleeting, romantic adventures and Niki is decidedly unromantic when he mutters to his fiancé, “If I am going to marry anyone, it might as well be you.” Jeez, thanks sweetie. James himself said it best, “How can you expect something normal from a guy who races in circles at 170 mph?” Maybe it was the decade when sex wasn’t deadly, drinking and drugging to excess wouldn’t get you 12-stepped into rehab, and it was cool to be living large with no one in charge during off hours. James Hunt had it down. He knew how to enjoy the life he so willingly put on the back shelf every time he stepped into his racecar. To a man of extremes, this could be a pact with the devil and well worth it. Niki says at the end of the film that James was the only person of whom he was ever envious. There you are, Mugger villain — keeping Niki from living that balls out life off the racetrack as well as on.

JPH NOTE: Of these two daredevil drivers it can be said that they had to numb themselves to both their blocks and their truth in order to keep risking their lives each and every race. Monsters, and Pirates and villains of all sorts kept them tied to their ultimate high – winning the race. The question is, if the monsters were slain, would they lose their need for speed?

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Nov
26

GRAVITY

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Sandra Bullock’s “Dr. Ryan Stone” was driving in her car when she received devastating news about her little girl. With that news, the LOST LOVE VILLAIN succeeded in alienating Ryan from society. Now, she simply gets in her car and drives and drives to escape the pain of reality. She finds solace in her work as Mission Specialist on her first space shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. She is stubborn, confident, and comfortable in the control she believes she has over her abilities and life. But random accidents abound starting with her daughter falling in the schoolyard and hitting her head. Her little girl is simply at play and then dead. Now space debris from an accidental hit on a space station sends death her way. Yet, Ryan is so insulated from feelings and reality that she nearly causes her own death by her stubborn refusal to comply with directions from her fellow astronaut “Matt Kowalski”, played by George Clooney.

When George gives his own life to save hers, Ryan cries out for him not to leave her – PLEASE. We imagine that the desperation was the same when she pleaded to hold on to her daughter’s departing spirit. Please don’t leave me. PLEASE. And again she is alone. The LOST LOVE villain freshly pressed in her mind, she can no longer navigate the streets of her life with her consciousness at half-mast as she had back on Earth. Circling, tumbling out of control through most of the film, her panic almost causes her to run out of oxygen…she has to calm herself, delve into her core, conserve, focus and find control in her center. We know the Lost Love villain will kill her unless she breaks from its lifeless claws by pushing through the fear. Focus. Focus. And finally there is George without whom the tension would be unbearable. This is great storytelling. It took every bit of this drama for Sandra to realize she wants to live. Really live, not just go through the automated, subconscious motions. Lucky her. She was in a story that insisted she breakthrough. Ordinary people on earth rarely engage in such dramatic circumstances. We simply navigate on autopilot never realizing what villains hold us back from living. Yes, our villains are very powerful. I invite you to figure out who your villains are and to push through. Now you are free to live the life of your dreams.

Coach Judith’s Question: What pulls you down in life? Can you break through your own fear to find your mission?

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Recently I sat in my car watching the light countdown to green, when I noticed a little, old lady half way across the intersection, clearly unable to make it to the other side before the light changed. She was also loaded down with several packages in a roller basket.

I thought, I have got to do something, or she could be hurt. At that moment a man in a truck on the other side of the street, pulled up to block the intersection and ran to help the lady. He picked up her bag and held on to her arm to guide her to safety.

OK, this didn’t happen to me. It’s a TV commercial for DIGNITY HEALTH, and their tag line is “Hello Human Kindness.”

I am giving them a shout out for an advertising message that makes us think about slowing down and incorporating kindness into our lives. Imagine if our healthcare system was based on Human kindness delivered with Dignity.

Today, on Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills, a dainty woman was struggling to turn her mother’s wheelchair around and get across the intersection. She never would have made it, so I ran over, helped her get the chair turned and pushed with her at a gentle run so we could make it in time. Ah-h-h, I felt better.

Years ago, when my mother first started needing a wheelchair, I was not too good of a pilot. One time walking up to the doors of a department store, I got behind a young man, thinking I could sneak in behind him. He rushed in the store and as the door slammed in our faces, he shrugged sheepishly and kept on going.

As Dignity Health demonstrates, let’s all get off the fast track for a moment and extend an act of human kindness every day. It sure beats sheepish shrugs, angry screams, harassed honking and high blood pressure anxiety.

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JPH Intro: So often we perceive that our Dads just didn’t give us enough love, weren’t proud of us, didn’t support us and were instead, tough, unloving, critical and impossible to please, thus leaving room for the saboteur villain to move into our minds and fill them with self-sabotaging behavior. The saboteur plants doubts and questions in your mind. The saboteur is the ultimate terrorist, putting into question all that you stand for. Saboteurs are particularly successful when their victim has not learned whom or how to trust. Ultimately, to defeat the Saboteur, we must learn to trust ourselves. That allows other relationships to be viewed from a new perspective. The Saboteur runs rampant between Dads and their kids in A Good Day to Die Hard.

DEAR OLD DAD THE SABATOUR
Cindy Baker Gilbert

How difficult is it to be the only son of Bruce Willis’ John McClane? Any issues with measuring up might be at the forefront of every thought, word and deed, or as we see in A Good Day To Die Hard, Jai Courtney’s Jack McCLane has dealt with his daddy issues by disappearing to the other side of the world as a CIA operative in Russia and seems to be doing very well. But wait, an unexpected visit from his estranged father throws CIA agent Jack into emotional turmoil to the extent he blows an important mission. Now that’s the power of the SABOTEUR VILLAIN. Amidst the mayhem of recovering from the botched mission he manages to remind his father that as a father he was never there for him.

The daughter of the assumed political prisoner that Jack is sent to free is pressed by this very villain to double cross her own father as she helps capture and deliver him to his enemy. She punches it right on the nose when she chides him for his absence while in prison all those years. These fathers seem to get a bad rap, but when John and Jack McCLane witness the betrayal of their political prisoner by his daughter, they are able to salvage the shred of relationship that still exists between them. By joining forces the son saves dad yet relinquishes his stubborn autonomy by announcing at one point he’s all out of ideas. Of course, John gets to return the favor and save his son and the mission. The SABOTEUR VILLAIN gone, father and son return home as a family they never were.

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When everyone is seen as the monster villain, conflicts surge in response to fear. Iranian revolutionaries strike out against their Monster Villain, the US Government and its support of the deposed Shah, by storming the US embassy and taking 52 American diplomats hostage.

Six diplomats escape capture and find refuge in the Canadian consulate. They, along with the 52 hostages as well as the US, see the revolutionaries as the Monster villain. These six are the focus of Argo. Six against a revolution that will hunt them down and kill them. Monster villain indeed.

When Ben Affleck as CIA operative arrives with an escape plan that involves changing their identities to movie production personnel in the midst of producing a “fake” movie, only one of the six questions their ultimate success. As the director, Ben keeps the personal emotions of fear and doubt off-screen with scenes of the six sipping cocktails, enjoying music and a game of cards. Not what I would be doing had I been in their shoes. If you want to make an audience cry, keep the tears off screen. If you want to involve the audience, keep the melodrama to a minimum and let the audience do the feeling for the characters. As I watched I tapped into my own monster villains of fear, doubt, and uncertainty in a failed economy and my feelings of powerlessness to right my own situation. I knew, watching what these six people went through, that I could not match their courage had I been there, but I came away with more confidence to stand up to my own monsters.

JPH NOTE: ARGO is a perfect example of purpose and power embodied in an escape plan. There were so many steps in the “Produce a fake movie” plan that there was no time for despair. The six diplomats chose to survive, to trust the “fake” director, and to succeed for each other one step at a time. And, they were completely focused on what IS in their heightened sense of the moment. The monster villain was overcome by a masterfully executed plan full of meaning and purpose.

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Rather than a review this month, I’m including an experiment. First read the story below, then try it out on a particularly frustrating time in your life. The next time you watch a movie, look for the “Well ya’ never know” moments. They always signal complications that move the plot forward and cause the characters to grow, and that’s exactly what they do in your life, too.

There once was a very astute and prosperous horse farmer in Minnesota who had the most fabulous stable of stallions in the whole area. All the other farmers looked up to him and his success. One day the farmer’s most prized stallion took off and could not be found. When the other farmers in the area heard about it, they were desolate for the man, and immediately came over to console him. They all lamented, “We heard, about your stallion and it’s really terrible.”

The farmer calmly replied, “Well, ya’ never know.”

A few days later, his prize stallion came prancing home, accompanied by another equally fine, if not better, stallion. The other farmers couldn’t believe it. They quickly came over to see the new stallion that would make this farmer even richer than he had been before. They exclaimed, “Oh, you’re so lucky, what good fortune you have!”

He said, “Well, ya’ never know.”

Three days later, the farmer’s son was outside breaking in the new stallion. He was doing a good job, but the stallion’s wildness overpowered the son, who fell and broke his leg from the ankle up to the hip. Doctors weren’t sure they could mend the leg in a way that he could ever use it again. The farmers heard the news and came over to express their concern, “Oh, we heard about your son, what an awful thing this must be.”

The farmer replied, “Well, ya’ never know.”

A week later, war broke out. Recruiting efforts took all of the farmers sons away — except the son with the broken leg. As the farmers worried about their sons going off to war, they looked on in astonishment at the farmer and his son with the broken leg only to hear him say, “Well, ya’ never know.”

This wonderful Sufi teaching story uses the simple phrase, “Well, ya’ never know,” to illustrate what it means to have faith and reliance in a power that is greater than the individual. That power resides within us all in the form of spirit. There are many names for that spirit; God, Buddha, Allah, Higher Power, Divine Light…

We cannot fully plan our life story. We do know to expect change. When we come to a crossroads, there is always a point where we must make a leap of faith: Sometimes pain comes into our lives to make us wiser, stronger, more true to ourselves. If you give up to the crisis before endeavoring to find the purpose, then you may miss the potential of your life by shutting yourself off to the possibilities.

Now it’s your turn. Try the “Well ya’ never know” exercise on a time in your life that you thought was disastrous and follow it through for three to five years by using the “Well, ya’ never know” comment after every turn and change of events. You could have a surprise in store. Things may have turned out completely different from your worries, fears and dire prognostications.

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The Lost Love Villain creeps into the corners of your psyche blinding you to even your greatest achievements.

In Moneyball, Brad Pitt’s “Billy Bean” manages the Oakland A’s on a shoestring budget while the other teams in the league far exceed the A’s available funds to draft the top players.

In order to compete, Billy discovers a number-crunching economics graduate with the ink still wet on his diploma, and they come up with a way to put together a roster of has-beens and looked-overs based on ignored statistics of each player. Rather, what it is they each can do, perhaps not necessarily in the position for which they were drafted. A second chance for many, and Billy wonders how things would be different had this chance been given to him. He was one of the high school stars drafted directly into the pros whose career did not pan out.

It’s a rough go at first, but the plan works and the A’s find themselves in the final race for the world series. Things go wrong and the A’s lose. Billy knows he failed. That’s where his Lost Love Villain has blinded him to his real accomplishment. He changed the way the game of baseball is managed and was such a success he was offered a twelve million dollar contract to manage the Boston Red Sox, which he turned down. The Red Sox implemented Brad’s system of management, and two years later won the world series.

JPH Note: Yes, indeed, the movie had the Lost Love Villain running through it until the very last frame as each character wrestles with the struggle to rise and find their own personal best within: Billy Beane’s determination and belief in his strategy against all odds; a computer geek’s heroic journey propelled by his own unique talent; each player’s relationship with each other and the game; Billy’s relationship with his daughter; Billy’s relationship with his players and his number cruncher – and finally the biggest love of all, Billy’s love for Billy when he turns down the big money and stays with his team.

The movie starts with a quote from New York Yankee, Mickey Mantle, “It’s unbelievable how much you don’t know about the game you’ve been playing all of your life.” And that not only sums up the game, but also our life-long relationship with love.

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John Cryer’s character, an uptight, affable goof, is controlled by his villains. His Bandit villain, manifested as brother Charlie, ensures John continually comes up short in looks, money and women, no matter how hard he tries. The Sorceress controls John because he is unable or unwilling to find his rightful place in the world and hangs on to brother Charlie for life support ike a cleat-clinging girl to an athlete. The Saboteur causes John to doubt his intelligence, his manhood, his very being. Congratulations, villains. Mission accomplished. Something very powerful must happen to allow John’s character to change.

CUT TO:

Present reincarnation of show. With Charlie’s character dead and gone, brother John has lucked into a similar living situation with the rich guy who bought Charlie’s beach house in which the brothers lived. Hello Sorceress. We see you are still alive and well. While new guy Walden, played by Ashton Kutcher, has the looks, money and girls, he is not the street-wise playboy of Charlie’s character, but rather an innocent who never grew up. This crack in Ashton’s character provides the entry John Cryer needs to realize he has more intelligence and life smarts than he ever suspected when called upon to get Ashton’s character out of scrapes and help him handle romantic situations. Who knew he knew? Certainly not John. If it hasn’t dawned on John’s character yet, he will soon realize his growing confidence and see the importance of the qualities he has in abundance. As the story line progresses we may see the Bandit and the Saboteur begin to fade followed by the Sorceress for he will no longer feel the need to rely on the kindness of strangers. And that’s when the show ends, because watching a well-adjusted person go through life just isn’t interesting or fun. We laugh at characters through our identification with them, and come away feeling much better about our own circumstances.

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Suppose your character is loaded with blocks, yet has no idea these blocks are causing him problems. In fact, he thinks quite highly of himself and loves his life. Sheldon Cooper in the Big Bang Theory is the physical manifestation of this situation and of the various villains in the lives of his friends.

From the lofty, intellectual tower in his mind he lords his knowledge of everything over his friends but especially Howard Wolowitz who only has a masters degree in engineering and not a PH.D. in physics like Sheldon. Howard lives with an over-bearing, loud mother who controls him, and he is hard-wired for Sheldon’s Bandit Villain.

It is Sheldon’s Bandit Villain that makes him controlling to the point of having his roommate and fellow physicist, Leonard, sign a ridiculous roommate agreement to include but not limited to how far to stand from the bathroom mirror when flossing, leaving Leonard confused and then resigned to this odd behavior.

Sheldon’s Bandit Villain meets up wtih Penny, the neighbor who is a waitress/aspiring actress from the Midwest who is always broke. fact of which Sheldon repeatedly reminds her. Penny’s Bandit Villain has her feeling she is not talented enough, rich enough, or from the right area to succeed, and Sheldon is the happy messenger that affirms her fears.

As in real life, film characters bust through their villainous blocks and take us along for the entertaining ride. A cathartic catapult from stuck to unstuck. Blocked to blockbuster. Or, they don’t change and suffer the consequences.

In television, it is the promise that a character will not bust through his blocks that keep viewers coming back. Writers armed with this knowledge keep these characters continually acting out their villains in varying comic situations.

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Aug
24

One Day

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The Lost Love Villain has a hay day in ONE DAY. On July 15th every year for 20 years we get to see how life is developing for two friends who met in college and established a life long friendship. She is from a working class family, he is from upper middle class; She is a dreamer, he is a player; She never gives up and he succumbs to most every temptation. She knows how to love, he wouldn’t recognize love if it hit him in the heart, that is until…

Ann Hathaway’s Emily Morley and Jim Sturgess as Dexter Mayhew give us almost enough to root for. The problem is that Jim Sturgess is no Hugh Grant, whom he’s been compared to in many reviews. He’s missing an essential element – he never turns from bad boy into a man the woman can finally love, and that’s the dynamic we romance lovers live for. I felt the love in Emily’s smoldering eyes, but not in Dexter’s impish grin.

Both of my favorite definitions of love never saw the light of day in ONE DAY, “Love is the flow of truth and personal power from your heart to another heart,” and “Love is the ability to fully appreciate life.” I wanted more life and love in this movie.

Even the Villain Sorceress couldn’t make that happen as she had both Emily and Dexter saying, “If ___________ happens, then I’ll be happy, then I’ll be loved, then I’ll be successful. The “If,” finally does happen, but for me too late, too little and too lost.

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