A review of Solo – meeting an old friend for the first time.

Solo: A Star Wars Story, or Solo (to avoid confusion, I will refer to the movie as Solo and the character as Han), is the second of the Star Wars stand-alone “anthology” films, following 2016’s Rogue One. It is set prior to the events of Star Wars (yes I said Star Wars dammit, not New Hope not Episode Four…), although it is vague as to how far before – movie executives say about ten years. It explores the first adventures of Han Solo and Chewbacca, as well as their meeting Lando Calrissian, and the theft of a type of super fuel to appease a boss of the criminal underworld for an earlier botched train heist.

This is the darkest of the all the Star Wars movies. We see the criminal underbelly of this galaxy far far away. We had hints of this in Jabba the Hut and others (including Lando). But this is murkier, more nihilistic.

I liked it!

If the movie did not have the Star Wars tag, stripped and scrubbed of all Lucasia, so to speak, it would have still been a good movie. Not great, but good. It was too dark to have the sly wit of The Sting or the hipster wink of Ocean’s 11, but it had the same elements. Individual rogues tying to outwit Criminal organizations who themselves are fighting other criminal organizations all avoiding the Empire fighting a embryonic Rebellion. Who is on who’s side? Their own, obviously. Anyone could turn on Han at any time. No one is NOT suspect.

Well, not Chewbacca, obviously.

***

As part of the so-called anthology of non-canonical eight-and-counting movies (that is, not part of the “Adventures of Luke Skywalker (and family)” – I’ll refer to them as the Canon), comparisons to the first anthology movie – Rogue One – is expected and (were I involved in the movie) welcomed! Rogue One was superb but inextricably linked to the Canon. It was a laser-etched final jigsaw piece to the Canon all while maintaining independence from the Canon. Rogue One managed to juggle an original story while still carry the immense burden (or baggage depending on your opinion) of the Canon movies.

Solo does not have as much baggage as Rogue One and is thus free to create new characters and situations (as Rogue One did but even more independent of “what happens next”) – the only burden was making sure Han and Chewy eventually make it to Tattoine and Lando ends up in Cloud City (the movie ends before either destination is reached). You KNOW they aren’t going to be killed off. Whether they will stay loyal to each other in the meantime … remember their first reunion in Empire Strikes Back

But it does have its nods to the Canon. Jabba the Hut is mentioned (not by name but the implication is obvious), but Bossk is (from Empire), we see Han’s home world of Corellia, we find out why he wears military trousers, we visit the Spice Mines of Kessel and why the Kessel run can’t be made in less than 20 parsecs.

A shame – for 40 years I have established my geek cred by arguing that a parsec was a measure of space, not time, making the Kessel run in 12 parsecs was akin to running a mile in 400 feet. Alas, Solo explains (finally) what this means other than it being an un scientific writer’s error …

***

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Alden Ehrenreich did well as Han. His Han’s arrogance was as unproved as Harrison Ford’s in Star Wars, but the audience in Solo knows he is bluffing about his abilities. By the end of both movies, we are as confident as he is about his piloting (and other) skills.

I had a hard time seeing him “becoming” the Harrison Ford version, however. Compare his performance to, say, River Phoenix’ superior young Indiana Jones in Lost Crusade. River emulated Ford’s manner of speech, his phrasing, even his gate while running. I could see him “growing up” to be Harrison Ford. Not so with Alden Ehrenreich.

Which is neither good nor bad, just different. I didn’t want Rich Little, but this Han Solo wasn’t going to be the one I saw in 1977. Less of a bio-pic and more of a reboot.

Compare this to Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian. HE emulated the speech patterns, phrasing and general cool slickness Billy Dee Williams brought (will bring? Damn these time anomalies) to the character.  It also helped that Lando was only in two movies – and only one in which we glimpsed his personality (he was almost an after-thought in Return of the Jedi) – Lando was not as firmly entrenched in the mythos as Han.

***

The villain behind all the treachery, when revealed, was fun and interesting but caused some confusion. No spoilers, but his/her/its (I’m being deliberately vague as to gender) appearance was … an anachronism. How could this character possibly be around at this time? No spoilers, but it would be as if Kylo Ren appeared in a movie about a young Yoda. “Aren’t you not even supposed to be born for another seven hundred years?” or Qui-Gon Jinn appearing alive and well at the end of the ninth Canon movie. “Didn’t you die … seventy-plus years ago?”

***

The rest of the cast? Woody Harrelson surprises as Han’s mentor/frenemy and leader of the one of the criminal gangs. I sometimes forget what a good actor he is. When he was announced as a cast member I was a bit shocked, him being so “serious” an actor – what? Why? Will Sean Penn be in the next Deadpool movie?  Will Robert Duvall play the Whizzer in the next Avengers movie? But as I said, he did very well! The best of the original characters in the movie.

And Emilia Clarke is as indescribably beautiful as ever.

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What is next? Another Han movie is likely – likely (and probably unnecessarily) linking Solo to Star Wars. A Lando Calrissian movie is in the cards – Donald Glover says he would enjoy reprising the role. I’m looking forward to any of these movies.

Maybe more so than the ninth Canon movie…

Copyright 2018 Michael Curry

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

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Star Wars: the Last Jedi, a review of the third second Star Wars movie…

It was worse than Empire Strikes Back and better than Attack of the Clones…”

“Well, duh … name one sequel that doesn’t fit between those movies.”

Godfather 2.”

“Well, of course, …”

Star Trek, the Wrath of Khan.”

“I said one sequel…”

“And on the other end, Matrix 2, Speed 2, Stayin’ Alive…”

“Shut up.”

***

Star Wars: the Last Jedi has wonderful professional reviews but was raked on Facebook and other media by fans. Perhaps they are a very loud minority, or perhaps Rotten Tomatoes is not a reliable source for the quality of a movie…

Wikipedia has a fine plot synopsis. I will include it here with my thoughts in italics, which contain no spoilers.

The Wikipedia summary (in regular type) contains SPOILERS, so if that bothers you, just read the italics…

***

Resistance fighters led by General Leia Organa evacuate their base when a First Order fleet arrives.

Oh, god, here we go again, I thought at the time … SW: The Force Awakens was a (albeit good) retelling of Star Wars (and yes I said Star Wars, not Episode 3, a New blahblahblah … and now we have the same plot opening as Empire …?). Fortunately, the comparison stopped there …

Following an effective but costly counterattack led by Poe Dameron, the Resistance vessels jump into hyperspace to escape, but the First Order pursues them using a tracking device. Kylo Ren, Leia’s son, destroys the Resistance support fighters, but hesitates to fire at the lead Resistance ship after sensing his mother’s presence.

Ren’s evolution in this movie is a highlight. In Force Awakens, he was a typical brooding slacker. This point of the movie was an interesting development – he did not hesitate to kill his father, but did not fire on his mother (although never mentioned again). This was a consistent theme throughout the movie: could Kylo Ren be redeemed? He gravitates between redemption and the Dark Side. At no point do we cheer him on, but (even up to that certain point we are sure he made his decision with finality) we aren’t sure how his struggle with good and evil will eventually end!

TIE fighters destroy the bridge of the ship, killing several Resistance leaders and incapacitating Leia, leaving Vice Admiral Holdo in command. Disapproving of Holdo’s passive strategy, Poe, Finn, BB-8, and mechanic Rose Tico embark on a secret plan to disable the tracking device.

Fin, the co-star of Force Awakens its POV character, has a much smaller role in this movie – that is, smaller in terms of import and impact in the plot. In fact, his role is almost incidental and could have easily been cut.  His dramatic moment at the end of the movie was well-done, in character, and late in coming.

Meanwhile, Rey has arrived on remote Ahch-To …

Gesundheit

… with Chewbacca and R2-D2 aboard the Millennium Falcon to recruit Luke Skywalker to the Resistance. Disillusioned by the failures of the Jedi, Luke initially refuses, even after learning of Han Solo’s death.

Mark Hamill has recently told the press of his dislike of this Luke Skywalker. I found his nihilistic views very MUCH in character and one of the quieter – and more effective – parts of the movie! I cared more for Luke’s redemption than Kylo Ren’s…

Unbeknownst to Luke, Rey and Kylo begin communicating with each other through telepathic visions.

This developed an emotional link between Rey and Kylo that showed us the battle of the Light and Dark within Kylo. Any battle with the Dark Side within Rey eluded me. Despite Kylo assurances, I could not see Rey turning to the Dark Side, even at the important juncture (no spoilers) in which we the viewers were not supposed to be sure … that part of the movie failed, in my opinion. At no time did we think Rey would turn.

BUT it DID give us insight as to Kylo. Until his final decision, the viewer had no idea what it would be!

Prompted by R2-D2, Luke eventually agrees to teach Rey the ways of the Force. Luke and Kylo give Rey differing accounts of the incident that turned Kylo to the dark side, with Luke confessing that he momentarily contemplated killing Kylo upon sensing that Supreme Leader Snoke had corrupted him, causing Kylo to destroy Luke’s emergent Jedi Order in retaliation.

Adam Driver did a wonderful job showing the scared little boy within Kylo in this scene.

Convinced that Kylo can still be redeemed, Rey leaves Ahch-To …

Gesundheit

… to confront Kylo without Luke. Luke prepares to burn down the Ahch-To …

Take some Claritin, will ya?

… Jedi temple and library, but he encounters Yoda’s Force ghost, who destroys the temple himself and encourages Luke to learn from his failure.

Holdo reveals her plan to discreetly evacuate the remaining Resistance members using small transports. Believing her actions to be cowardly and risky, Poe instigates a mutiny.

Holdo, played by Laura Dern, is another character whose loyalties are unknown until the “very end” – that is, when we are shown her choice. Is she on the side of the First Order or the Resistance or someone else? Is she on the side of the angels?Readers of the Star Wars novels will have no doubt as to her stance, but the rest of us remained unsure until near the end.

Finn, Rose and BB-8 travel to Canto Bight and acquire the help of the hacker DJ, who says he is able to help them disable the tracking device.

This is, to me, the weakest part of the movie. I am still unsure if the hacker that accompanied them was the hacker they were looking for. They found the hacker playing craps with lovely ladies on his arms (they were looking for a man with a certain flower in his lapel) – the hacker they took with them was a fellow prisoner. Was he the real hacker all along? If not, he was VERY good at what he did … did they establish this in the movie? Did I miss it? I had a piece of popcorn husk stuck between my lower left molars since the previews, was it THAT distracting? Marvel Comics will release a comic about Canto Bight that promises to explain things…

Also, the long escape scene was too long. Although Finn and Rose planted the seeds of rebellion in some of the child laborers, and we learn a bit of about Rose’s past and her hatred of this gambling planet … this entre subplot seems tacked on, overlong and unnecessary.

They infiltrate Snoke’s ship, but are captured by Captain Phasma, though BB-8 manages to escape. Meanwhile, Rey lands on the ship, and Kylo brings her to Snoke, who reveals that he controlled the mental connection between her and Kylo as part of a plan to destroy Luke. Ordered to kill Rey, Kylo instead kills Snoke and works together with Rey to kill Snoke’s guards. Kylo invites Rey to rule the galaxy with him, but Rey refuses. Using the Force, they struggle for possession of Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber, which splits in two.

A recovered Leia stuns Poe, allowing the evacuation to begin. Holdo remains on the ship to mislead Snoke’s fleet as all others attempt to flee to a nearby old Rebel Alliance base on Crait. DJ reveals the Resistance’s plan to the First Order, and the evacuation transports are targeted with heavy losses; Holdo sacrifices herself by ramming Snoke’s fleet at lightspeed to stop the barrage.

The most incredible scene of the film. I was in awe.

Rey escapes in the chaos, while Kylo declares himself new Supreme Leader. BB-8 frees Finn and Rose, who escape after defeating Captain Phasma, and join the survivors of the evacuation on Crait.

As with the beginning of the movie, comparisons in these scenes to the Battle of Hoth in Empire is unavoidable – by placing this base on a “salt” planet the producers once again asked for the Empire comparisons they should be avoiding…

When the First Order arrives, Poe, Finn, and Rose lead a charge with old speeders. Rey draws the TIE fighters away with the Falcon, while Rose saves Finn from a suicide run against the main enemy cannon, which blasts a hole in the Resistance fortress.

Luke appears and confronts Kylo alone so that the surviving Resistance fighters can escape. Kylo orders the First Order forces to fire on Luke to no effect, then engages Luke in battle himself. Kylo strikes Luke with his lightsaber, only to learn that he has been fighting Luke’s Force projection.

Another failed scene, in my opinion, I guessed Luke’s appearance faster than the “secret” of Sixth Sense. That being said, Luke’s reaction after the barrage of fire on him was laugh-out-loud fun.

Luke defiantly tells Kylo that he will not be the last Jedi, while Rey uses the Force to help the remaining Resistance fighters escape via the Falcon. Back on Ahch-To …

Geshun … oh, never mind.

… an exhausted Luke peacefully dies and becomes one with the Force. Leia reassures everyone that the rebellion has all that is needed to rise again. On Canto Bight, one of the children that helped Finn and Rose escape grabs a broom with the Force and gazes hopefully up into space.

***

END OF SPOILERS

***

Sadness permeates this movie – as opposed to hopelessness and bleakness, which is why most fanboys probably didn’t like it. Every scene with Leia reminds us of the death of Carrie Fisher. Leia may or may not die on screen in this movie, but we know it will be the character’s swan song.

Seeing an older and more cynical Luke Skywalker reminds us of the death of Han Solo – which tells us that any character from the old films might not make it to the end. Will this be Mark Hamill’s swan song, too, as Force Awakens was Harrison Ford’s? The question was pending throughout his every scene.

Last Jedi did a wonderful job hiding the ultimate fate of its grey-shaded characters – particularly Holdo and Kylo Ren. Until the very end, we were unaware of which way they would turn (compared to, say, Darth Vader’s overlong and obvious redemption in Return of the Jedi).

And, by the way, the annoying bits (such as the obviously marketable Porgs) were not onscreen enough to be really annoying (c.f. Ewoks and JarJar), despite some eye-rolling moments – although the scene in which Chewbacca tried to eat one gave me a smirk in the midst of the bleakness.

Speaking of bleakness: Empire Strikes Back was, that is very true; but it also held onto the original movie’s sense of wonder and excitement. Last Jedi was bleak and sad, with no hint of the joy and giddiness of Force Awakens.

For all Last Jedi’s exciting fight scenes, wonderful special effects and well-placed bits of humor, it still had a gauze of sadness and despair. For all the dialogue espousing hope, there was not much feeling of it, even at the end.

It made for a quiet movie, despite the flashy lights and epic soundtrack.

Ye gods, Rogue One was filled with hopelessness, but at least in that movie the victory wasn’t Pyrrhic (and we all know what eventually happened). Here the number of surviving victors could fit into the sitting room of a very-well-known piece of junk.

“We will rebuild the Rebellion,” they vow.

“Will you, really?” we ask at the end.

So, as with Empire, the good guys barely got away and will live to fight in a third movie. When the good guys win (which they will eventually … it’s Star Wars after all) it will be a relief rather than a celebration due to the bleak and desparattion-laden sadness of Last Jedi.

It may be a tough sell …

 

 

“Caddy Shack 2!’

“Shut. Up!”

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

Copyright 2017 Michael G Curry

 

A disjointed review of Justice League …

Only in America can a movie that has made over 200 billion dollars in profit be considered a box-office bomb.

I liked Justice League.

I didn’t love it with giddy glee nor did I hate it so much I demanded of God my 2+ hours back. But I liked it. I might even get the DVD when it comes out.

I saw it over this past weekend (as usual several weeks since it was released) after most of the professional and fanboy reviews were in.

I struggled for some days with this review – I just couldn’t put my finger on what I liked and disliked about it. I think that is because the movie couldn’t decide what it was either.

Justice League suffered from bearing the burden of being both a capstone and a touchstone.

A capstone: the finale of the first phase of the DC Cinematic Universe (DCCU) – giving us a conclusion to all that came before it. On that level, it worked: it reconciled the cliffhangers from Batman vs Superman: Superman’s death, Wonder Woman’s place in the DCCU, etc.

And to compare Justice League with the original Avengers movie is an unfair as it is inevitable: Avengers was the capstone of Marvel’s cinematic universe, but did so in a thrilling way – fans (and even non-fans – therein lies the key) were excited by a fun plot with fun characters.

The DCCU has hardly been fun.

Expectations were low for the movie – most assuming it would be the usual fest of ultra-violence and brooding sociopaths with no redemption or hope. A typical Zach Snyder film. (He left the movie after the suicide of his daughter – something that is unimaginable and my deepest sympathies and condolences go to him and his family. I can’t imagine his sadness and am very sorry for his loss. But his movies are still shit.).

Then Joss Whedon “took over” and word spread the tone was lightened and (gasp) bits of humor were injected. By this time Batman vs Superman made only the darkest basement-dwellers look forward to Justice League; while Wonder Woman gave the rest of us comic book fans cautious optimism.

DC’s capstone was satisfying, but only just. There is no avoiding the feeling that DC is struggling in Marvel’s shadow and is constantly in a state of catching up (which it has with rare exception since the 1960s).

Familiar and “new” heroes get together and fight off an alien menace. Sound familiar?

“Yes, but it’s Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman! People will flock to see it!”

Fans will, to be sure. But the rest of us? Are you willing to risk $300 million on that?

It had its great moments: the only shining point of the big battle amongst our heroes was watching Superman’s eye follow the Flash as he approached and the ensuing superspeed slugfest. You just have to see it to understand what that is going on, I won’t spoil it. We know exactly what is going through Flash’s mind at that moment. “Oh shit” was left unspoken and hardly touches how Flash must have felt.

And kudos to the secondary cast – particular Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, JK Simmons as Commissioner Gordon and Jeremy Irons (stealing ever scene) as Alfred.

***

Justice League is also the touchstone of the future DCCU. From here would spring an Aquaman movie, a Flash movie, and a more-in-tune-DCCU-Batman and Superman franchise reboot.

Herein lies the problem – DC is again copying Marvel with Avengers Age of Ulton. It was also a lynchpin, but it spent too much time being a lynchpin and forgot it was supposed to be an enjoyable movie.

Admirably, Justice League avoided some of the problems with Age of Ultron. Time and background was given to the newbies: Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg. But was it enough to make us anticipate their movies? With the large scope of the movie, it may have gotten lost. As with the comics, the stories of the smaller characters are lost compared to the big three. Still, Justice League showed us as much of Aquaman and Flash as Civil War did of Spider-Man, which lead to Homecoming; a success

Another problem with the Flash is the parallel with the excellent handling of the CW Flash. My very first thought when I saw the trailer introducing the Speedster was, “Why not Grant Gustin?” Leave it to DC: not only are they plagued by their failures, but also their successes.

(and by the way, the DCCU is the Spock-with-a-beard universe compared to DC-CW. Gustin’s Flash – even another actor with a comparable personality – would have been an ill-fit. To his credit, Ezra Miller did a great job – he’d have made a great Peter Parker.)

Justice League had other good moments. Batman giving Flash advice: save one person at a time. I wish the movie would have continued with the theme: Flash’s rescue of the Russian family should have reminded us of that.

There’s more: some of the humor was well-placed and in character (a problem that notably plagued Thor: Ragnarok). The only real awkward/ill-placed bit of funny was in the aforesaid rescue of the Russian family. Anyone who knows the name Dostoyevsky probably knows it is not Russian for “Goodbye”.

But DC is not really known for their comedy.  Over the past few decades, they’re not really known for their comic books either…

A disjointed and mixed review for a disjointed and mixed movie. I’d like to discuss it further, would you?

Copyright 2017 Michael Curry

A Late review of Ragnarok: Uncle Thor’s Goofy House of Wacky Fun!

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Thor: Ragnarok has been out for weeks and I am only just NOW going to talk about it?! Yep, I saw it this weekend – I very rarely go see a movie on its opening weekend, remember? I mention that in almost all my movie reviews…

I was worried when I read the initial stories about this third Thor movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The press described it as a Hope & Crosby-esque Road Movie with Hulk and Thor. As the premier weekend arrived, the movie’s humor was the focus.

I was leery. Humor has its place in the Marvel Universe (cinematic or otherwise): Spider-Man revels in it. Robert Downey Jr imbues his personality into the Iron Man franchise. Guardians of the Galaxy had lots of laugh-out-loud-moments. Two words: Deadpool. Okay, that’s only one word.

The Thor franchise is the weakest of all the MCU films, with the exception of the two Hulk movies. Perhaps the powers-that-be thought to shake up their weakest link. The more successful movies are peppered with humor (Guardians, Deadpool), perhaps piling on the snark can revive this branch of the franchise and give it a blockbuster that will stand with the first Iron Man, the first Captain America and the first Avengers movie.

***

Humor has its place. Unfortunately, not in Thor; at least not this kind of humor.

It is mostly man-child dialogue enjoyed mostly by men-children. Goofy Wacky Fun. There is some physical/slapstick moments in the movie (as in the scene with Doctor Strange), but it is appropriate (it fits the scene) and does not smack of Stoogania…

(Oh, to have seen more of Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston together. Only one long shot of the two splendid actors together. Someone needs to develop a vehicle for the two actors. Please!)

Anyway, let’s get back to more Goofy Wacky Fun …

Chris Hemsworth may be excellent in comedic roles … in the future it may be what he is best known for …

But Thor is not a comedic role.   Having other characters around him being the focus of humor, perhaps, may have worked better. But not Thor. He doesn’t need to be funny – Jack Benny and Bob Newhart made their careers allowing others around them to be funny. Thor could be serious – and more in character – and still have scenes with many laughs.

Remember the first two Thor movies had their comic relief with Darcy Lewis and Dr. Erik Selvig. So it CAN be done. I only wish in the prior movies it were done better.

Hiddleston’s Loki is ideal for this kind of humor – the character has shown it since his inception.

But not Thor. Seeing him shout “Oh my god” or “What the hell” or whine about his hair in the best frat-boy manner is out of character and takes us out of the immersion; reminding us we are watching a movie. A movie filled with Goofy Wacky Fun (hereinafter “GWF” for brevity’s sake).

And it seemed everyone had to have their day in the snarky sun, whether it fit the character or not.

Not even Cate Blanchette as Hela the Goddess of Death was immune. Her GWF (snarky comments) aimed at Karl Urban’s Executioner were also out of character.

Even Anthony Hopkins gets in the act – although only when he is Loki in disguise – otherwise his character is the typical (read: unknowable and unpredictable) All-Father.

It worked better with Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner – the befuddled scientist lost inside the Hulk for over two years. Banner is normally played as the pitiable victim or the super-scientist. The whiny wise-cracker here fit, considering his situation.

However, the dialogue between Hulk and Thor is mostly infantile posturing. Eight-year-olds on a playground. GWF.

The eye-rollingly bad acting of Jeff Goldblum as the secondary bad guy the Grandmaster is a waste of celluloid, but fits in perfectly with Director’s Taika Waititi’s vision of GWF.

While we are on this subject, the ending clip after the credits is not worth the wait.  The middle clip after the cast credits apparently sets up Thor’s appearance in Infinity War.

The only character immune from GWF Syndrome was Heimdall, excellently and nobly played again by Idris Elba.

In sum, the GWF turned Thor into Downey’s Iron Man or Deadpool. We don’t need another snarky quipster.

It was humor at the expense of characterization and continuity; and that’s not worth the cost.

Plus, much of it wasn’t all that funny…

***

But I LIKED the movie! The good points vastly out-weigh the bad:

Tessa Thompson shines as Valkyrie. She will make a fine addition to the Marvel Universe – and note that except for Nighthawk we have most of the late-1970s Defenders in this movie!

The battle scenes are inspiring, helped by Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” as a soundtrack – a canny but good choice with its lyrics based on Norse and Tolkien (itself the son-of-Norse) mythology.  (as with Wonder Woman‘s No-Man’s Land battle, the initial battle with Surtur is more effective and exciting than the big battle in the conclusion). Obvious, but it works. By the second airing, though, the song loses some of its thunder.  Pun intended.

Cate Blanchette’s Hela was as evil as she was incredibly sexy!

And wasn’t it fun watching her and Karl Urban together? Two Lord of the Rings vets together again for the very first time…

Heroes acted heroically.  Characters redeem themselves and we cheer.  Characters and situations irrevocably change and we mourn. That’s all I can say without spoilers.

***

Some basic questions:

Why was the identity of the “Champion” so coyly secretive when the audience knew exactly who it was since the first preview aired?

Will we ever see Asgard (or at least Asgardians) again? It is hinted that after Infinity War II our original superheroes and the actors portraying them will be gone. Will Valkyrie take over Thor’s role in future films?

***

Another good-but-not-great Thor movie. A pity … the god of thunder still deserves better.

 

Copyright 2017 Michael Curry

National Adoption Awareness Month spotlight on … Jerry Lewis!

Last year I did a series on the three biggest comedians of the 20th century – Bob Hope, Jack Benny and George Burns – who adopted all their children.

lewis hope benny

But they weren’t the only legendary comedians who adopted. Jerry Lewis did, too.

For those who need a brief bio of Jerry Lewis … from Wikipedia:

Jerry Lewis (born either Jerome Levitch or Joseph Levitch; March 16, 1926 – August 20, 2017) was an American comedian, actor, singer, producer, director, screenwriter and humanitarian. He was known for his slapstick humor in film, television, stage and radio. From 1946 to 1956, he and Dean Martin were partners as the hit popular comedy duo of Martin and Lewis. After that, he became a star in motion pictures, nightclubs, television shows, concerts, album recordings and musicals.

Lewis served as national chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and hosted the live Labor Day weekend broadcast of the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon for 45 years. He received several awards for lifetime achievement from the American Comedy Awards, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Venice Film Festival and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences He was also honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

***

lewis and daughter

His only daughter was adopted during his marriage to SanDee Pitnick (his second marriage): Danielle Sara Lewis (born March 24, 1992.

***

The story of Jerry’s adopted daughter has taken a controversial turn since his death:

From People Magazine:

“According to his Last Will and Testament, provided to PEOPLE by The Blast, the funnyman emphatically cut out all six children he had with his first wife Patti Palmer — meaning they will inherent nothing.

“I have intentionally excluded Gary Lewis, Ronald Lewis, Anthony Joseph Lewis, Christopher Joseph Lewis, Scott Anthony Lewis, and Joseph Christopher Lewis and their descendants as beneficiaries of my estate, it being my intention that they shall receive no benefits hereunder,” the will, written in 2012, states.

“Lewis’s potentially vast estate (estimated at 50 million dollars) will be passed to his widow, SanDee Pitnick. Second in line to inherit his fortune, should something happen to his wife, is his 25-year-old adopted daughter Danielle.”

http://www.angelfire.com/ok/kingofcomedy/article/daughter.html tells a controversial story about his sons and his new daughter.

Daughter Danielle was Jerry’s manager in his last years.

***

frontcover

“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

WINNER: 2015 Reader’s Favorite Book Award Finalist, Non-Fiction Humor

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2015 New York Book Festival!

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival!

Abby’s Road is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at Smashwords.

 

Copyright 2017 Michael Curry

Adoption Spotlight: Hugh Jackman

November is National Adoption Awareness Month.

Hugh Michael Jackman (born 12 October 1968) is an Australian actor, singer, and producer. Jackman has won international recognition for his roles in a variety of film genres. He is known for his long-running role as Wolverine in the X-Men film series, as well as for his lead roles in films such as the romantic-comedy fantasy Kate & Leopold (2001), the action-horror film Van Helsing (2004), the magic-themed drama The Prestige (2006), the epic fantasy drama The Fountain (2006), the epic historical romantic drama Australia (2008), the film version of Les Misérables (2012), and the thriller Prisoners (2013). His work in Les Misérables earned him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and his first Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy in 2013.

In Broadway theatre, Jackman won a Tony Award for his role in The Boy from Oz. A four-time host of the Tony Awards themselves, he won an Emmy Award for one of these appearances. Jackman also hosted the 81st Academy Awards on 22 February 2009.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Jackman kids

From: http://www.more.com/entertainment/celebrities/27-famous-people-who-have-adopted-children

Hugh Jackman and wife of 20 years Deborra-Lee Furness have two adopted children: Oscar, 15, and Ava, 10. Jackman has said that he and Furness planned to have adopted and biological children but found out they couldn’t have children naturally.

 

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“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

WINNER: 2015 Reader’s Favorite Book Award Finalist, Non-Fiction Humor

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2015 New York Book Festival!

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival!

Abby’s Road is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at Smashwords.

 

Copyright 2017 Michael Curry

Sensory-Friendly Theaters: something good from Hollywood…

Sensory-friendly-movie2-992x558

We took our seven-year-old daughter to the theater for the very first time. She did very well and sat through the entire movie! She enjoyed the popcorn and the fruit snacks.

It was 10:00 am on a Saturday morning. 10:00am? Weird time for a movie. But Beauty and the Beast is a huge hit and odd movie-times are not unusual for a hit (see my “review” – more in the way of thoughts on the movie – here). As we walked down the hallway of the multiplex to Theater 1 I noticed a sign saying this was a Sensory-Friendly showing.

A what?

Here is an article from June of 2016 from The Mighty:

https://themighty.com/2016/06/movie-theaters-offer-sensory-friendly-screenings-for-autistic-people/

Loud noises, bright lights and foreign smells can make going to the movie theater or seeing a live performance an overwhelming experience for those with autism spectrum disorder. To make showings more inclusive, an increasing number of theaters across the country are now offering “sensory-sensitive” screenings of movies and performances for people living with autism.

“Many people on the autism spectrum experience intense anxiety and heightened sensory sensitivity,” Lori McIlwain, Co-founder & Board Chair of the National Autism Association told The Mighty. ”By making a few simple adjustments, movie theaters can give individuals on the spectrum the opportunity to enjoy a film without judgment or fear.”

According to the Autism Society, approximately 3.5 million Americans live on the spectrum – a huge market for the cinema arts world to tap into. Sensory-sensitive screenings began in 2007, with AMC Entertainment, the second largest cinema chain in America.

Since 2007, AMC has expanded their program to include 175 cinemas in 33 states, about half of their cinemas. Other cinema groups are starting to broaden their offerings as well. The largest cinema chain, Regal Entertainment Group, offers screenings at about 6 percent of their cinemas, 36 out of 565. Smaller chains, like NCG Cinemas, offer sensory-sensitive showings at all 20 of their locations.

Shows billed as sensory-sensitive often include accommodations such as lowered volume and raised lighting. Other theaters skip the previews and make accommodations for special dietary needs. Allowing families to bring their own food is another way theaters can make themselves more accessible, McIlwain said.

Of the cinemas that have sensory-sensitive offerings, most films are geared towards children and families – limiting showings to one children’s movie playing one morning a month. Others offer more frequent showings once a week or several times a month, as well as discounted tickets. AMC is one of the only theater groups to offer screenings for adolescents and adults with autism, occasionally playing movies rated PG-13 and R.

“It’s important to allow individuals with autism to be in a comfortable, low-stress environment where they can simply be themselves,” she said. These screenings all act as a judgment-free zone where patrons are allowed to get up, make noise and act in ways that may otherwise be regarded as disruptive. Because of their relaxed environment, sensory-sensitive screenings can benefit more than just those with autism. Relaxed screenings can also benefit those with learning disabilities, movement disorders, young children and their families, as well as those with neurological conditions like Tourette syndrome.

Movie theaters aren’t the only venues increasing their reach. Playhouses and other performing arts venues are also looking for ways to become more inclusive. Earlier this month, playhouses in New York and California hosted relaxed performances of “Backstage in Biscuitland,” a show about life with Tourette’s. In December, the California Ballet will become the first West Coast dance company to offer a sensory-sensitive production of “The Nutcracker.”

Inclusivity is key, McIlwain said. “We’re happy to see movie theaters promoting inclusivity and hope more will follow suit.”

Among the theater chains with Sensory Friendly shows include Regal Cinemas and Marcus Theaters.

AMC-Sensory-Friendly-Films

Our local chain is AMC.  Their website describes Sensory Friendly as:

The program provides a special opportunity for families to enjoy their favorite films in a safe and accepting environment. The auditoriums dedicated to the program have their lights up, the sound turned down and audience members are invited to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing!

The idea for the program began with a request from a parent with an autistic child for a special screening at AMC Columbia Mall 14 in Columbia, MD. More than 300 children and parents attended the first screening.

We are thrilled to now offer the program at many locations nationwide – please see below for a complete list of participating theatres. As a leading theatrical exhibition company, we are so proud to be making a difference in the estimated 1.5 million Americans living with an autism spectrum disorder by offering families a chance to see a movie together – often for the very first time.

Good for them! I am all for Sensory-Friendly showings!

Although it does bring in families that would otherwise not buy movie tickets, and that is their ultimate bottom line; when corporate whores act less like corporate whores – even if only on the surface – we should all encourage it.

The lights were not dimmed very much – kind of like when you first walk in before everything starts – but not as bright as when the movie was over and we finally leave (after sitting through 20 minutes of credits to see Samuel L. Jackson ask Belle to join the Avengers).

The sound is turned down. This is never a bad thing. Even so, in B&B the constant slamming of castle doors thunders through the theater. I can understand how that can help the special-needs movie-goer.

My favorite? At 10:00 the movie started. No previews, no Fanta ads, no house ads to keep quiet and turn off the cell phones and go eat something. No music was piped in before the show started.

And it’s not just for children’s movies – at least at AMC. They plan on Sensory Friendly shows for Fate of the Furious for example. Well, that kind of reminds me of my Facebook post from March 16 of 2013:  “One ticket to see The Hobbit, please.” “For an adult or a child?” “That depends on your opinion of people who goes to see movies like The Hobbit…”

I think it’s wonderful and I applaud AMC and the other chains for doing this kind of thing.

Of course, if they were truly concerned about special needs children and their families during these special showings they would also have lowered their concession prices …

… corporate whore baby steps …

#AMCSensoryFriendly

Copyright 2017 Michael Curry

About the author:

Michael is the author of Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped

frontcover

The cover of Abby’s Road

Abby’s Road leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

WINNER: 2015 Reader’s Favorite Book Award Finalist, Non-Fiction Humor

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2015 New York Book Festival!

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival!

Abby’s Road is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at Smashwords.