You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Reviews’ category.

The Positive Slant On Business had a post called Reverberations of Praise about what can happen when you offer praise.

The Positive Slant On Writing was a Writing Tip on Wielding Perseverance in life and your writing.

Here on The Positive Slant On the Path was My Two Cents on Affirmations and what I think they can really do.

From the Files, Rants and Raves featured a review of the documentary on Muscle Shoals and its singing Tennessee River.

From the Files, Scenes and Musings was really a rant in the heat called Winter Woes from Head to Toes.

Hope you enjoy what’s blooming!

Advertisements

The Positive Slant On Business had “Spreading Love Through Business” about how we can use love to be more successful in business.

The Positive Slant On Writing featured “Absorbing Criticism,” inspired by a Hillary Clinton quote, about how we can use criticism in writing and in life.

Here on The Positive Slant On the Path, in “Physical Evidence of God’s Existence,” I spoke of how I see evidence of God everywhere. And how science even backs me up!

From the Files, Rants and Raves “Fanning the Flames of Fiction,” reflects some thinking and talking I’ve been doing lately about the joy of Fiction, for writers and readers alike.

Here on The Positive Slant On the Path, “The Completion of 7,” finishes my series on numbers with the most significant number of them all!

From the Files, Scenes and Musings, “True Aim” is a scene with an archer and a tiger who helps her find her true aim.

The Positive Slant On Writing – “The Magic of Words” A snippet about the power of words and how we need to use them wisely wherever we may be.

From the Files, Rants and Raves – “Telemarket-saurus,” My rant on the outdated mode of cold calling at home.

Here on The Positive Slant On the Path, my number 6 in the series – “6 Sexy Ways to Love Yourself.” (712)

From the Files, Scenes and Musings – “Just 3 Bites” about taking one for the team. (371)

The Positive Slant On Writing – “Writing Tip: Learn to Use Criticism” talks about how handling criticism will make you a better writer. (759)

The Positive Slant On Business – “Praise-ability,” a short piece on how beneficial praise can be. Next week: the On Business Profile of Verve Marketing and Design. (179)

From the Files, Rants and Raves – “2 Rescue Movies,” reviews of The Monuments Men and Escape from Tomorrow. (444)

Thanks for reading!

 

I have been watching a lot of programs lately about the Universe.  It seems our technology has gone very far and taught us so many things about this vast place we live!

He could well be the new Carl Sagan.  Professor Brian Cox, a British Physicist, has been enchanting me with his lessons and passion for the wonders of this world. (He has series called Wonders of the Universe, Wonders of the Solar System, Wonders of Life, among others.)  If you’ve never experienced his work, I strongly suggest you check him out.

It gets me thinking when you really listen to these scientists, it all seems to work within the spiritual theories I have been taught.  I have yet to hear (except in opinion) any kind of proof that God wasn’t behind all this.  My theory remains that it seems folly to think that all this magnificence happened on its own, without intelligence behind it.

As it is in the microcosm, so it is in the macrocosm is a very spiritual concept that fits perfectly with Dr. Cox’s explanations.  He has said that the stars, the planets, the sun, us, are all made of the same stuff.  That says to me that we are all one.

It’s very exciting when science backs up spirituality.  So often it’s just the words we chose that separate us.  I can’t venture to guess what the good Professor believes, but most scientists don’t confess to believe in the existence of God.  I wonder how they do that with such constant proof around them!

In honor of the Oscars I wanted to post this. I do believe, as creative beings, art is necessary in our lives.  However, there is a lot of crap out there.  It becomes a meaningful spiritual experience when we behold something truly great. I saw the film “3 Colors: Blue” recently.  It was clearly a great film. Certainly a cut above so much of what’s out there.  But, I wondered, why is that?  I don’t know what criteria is used for the Oscars, but here are mine:

First rate acting, of course.  Since this film was largely Juliette Binoche as the heart, it was her acting which really needed to be on.  And she was fabulous!

As a writer, I always look for good writing.  This film, though brilliantly written, was not about the words. Maybe that’s not so crucial.  Let’s say the writing needs to be top notch to be a great film, there just doesn’t have to be a lot of it.

What it also had was stunning and often thought-provoking visuals.  A film is, after all, a visual medium. Stories should be told substantially through the scenes.  What you see in a great film has almost as much to do with the story and character development as the words they’re speaking.

It is a foreign film.  So the action was sparse, as well.  The thread of the story, though, pulled you along.  That must be a qualification: a strong thread.

It was deep.  About deep emotions and thoughts.  It dared to show day-to-day activities, ones we can all relate to, which illustrate and often confront that emotion.

There was a scene where a cube of sugar is dipped into a cup of coffee.  The writer and director, Krzysztof Kieslowski, in the extras, gave us a rather extensive description of what that action was to represent and how the absorption had to be exactly 5 seconds long.  He told of all the time they took to get just the right sugar cube!  Careful attention to the details is always the hallmark of a great film.

God is in the details.  And so is a great film. A careful (if not obsessive ) eye on everything is essential, making sure everything contributes to the story, pulls the thread and moves the emotion and attention of the viewers.

Sometimes these details come out in happy coincidences (or the hand of the muse.)  In the original version of this story, our heroine was supposed to be seen regularly jogging.  They ended up having to change it to swimming.  This more closely evoked the emotional distance they were trying to portray, as well as giving another blue light to the film.  Perfect!

People who care, bring together the right elements, no matter the budget and allow fate and circumstances to fill in the rest.  Perhaps this comes from the clear vision of the director, allowing for changes, but knowing the true intent.

I think a great film has to have something to say.  Messages of all stripes are welcome. What’s most crucial is that the makers of the film are clear about what it is they want to say and feel it’s important.  I like to see some growth in the main character, too. The film, to be great, needs to have a purpose, a point to make.  (Sometimes that point may be that we need funny movies.  See Sullivan’s Travels – another great film.)

In summary I’d say a great film has to have something to say, to share.  It must have exceptionally good acting (at least from the central character), visuals which, along with strong writing express well, a compelling story.

When you finish watching a great film, you should feel something.  You can tell you were affected in some way.  There’s a sense of awe and quiet.  You know you were just in the presence of greatness.

Sometimes in the heart of winter, when I feel like I’ve been cold for months, it helps to find a summer breeze.

The warm scent of flowers blooming.  When a cool breeze feels like a refreshing drink.  I actually like walking into that wall of heat, when there’s nothing but it, packed in tight.  Barely room to move . . .  It can feel like a hug if you’ve been trapped in over cranked air conditioning most of the day!

Can you really hear the ocean in a shell?  The sound of it lulls me. Easy does it.  No where to be.  The feel of the ocean as it caresses your ankles, cooling you down.  And then receding, sinking your toes in the soft, wet sand.  It’s almost like a foot massage.

I adore the sun sparkling through thick green leaves. When the trees are full I feel abundant, pregnant with possibilities!

One of my favorite things about summer is the bursts of color you see everywhere.  Flowers along the side of the road, in parking lots, and surrounding houses.  Most everyone is wearing colorful clothes, too.  There’s a spirit of vacation and having fun.

Ah, the long evenings, cooling down, but remaining sultry. The sun gracing the day until nearly 9 pm!  When there’s still enough light in the sky to see by, it makes me feel like the days are endless.

Recently, Jeff Bridge published a book called “The Dude and the Zen Master.”  As I understand it, it’s conversations he had with Roshi Bernie Glassman about the ways “The Big Lebowski” movie espouses spiritual principles.

I haven’t read the book, but I’ve always held a notion that the character Jeff Bridges plays in the movie, that  of The Dude (a.k.a Jeff Lebowski)  is very Zen.  I haven’t given a lot of thought to the possibilities in the rest of the film. However,  I think Mr. Bridges said something about the character of Donny. I could see  Donny being a bit like Monkey Mind as he chattered on and asked meaningless questions. The Dude’s best friend, and bowling partner, Walter, was always saying, “Shut up, Donny.”  But I’m merely grasping at straws.

What I do know is The Dude.  As the movie begins, the Dude is in a grocery store.  It’s late and there aren’t a lot of people around.  He is dressed in his usual outfit of tan Bermuda shorts, a tee shirt and sandals.  He lives in LA, so he doesn’t need much else.  But he is in the grocery store in his bathrobe on top of the uniform.  Seems the Dude needed some cream for his favorite drink, the White Russian.  He was probably wearing his robe at home and just went out the way he was.

The Dude lives a simple life.  All he really needs is the fixings for his drink and a joint now and then.  He uses his sense of smell to make sure the cream hasn’t soured.  His apartment is sparsely furnished, except for the rug which “ties the room together.”

The quest of the movie is to replace the carpet the nihilists, actually looking for another Lebowski, ruined after peeing on it.  Prior to the urinating, two men had pushed the Dude’s head into a toilet, asking him where the money was.  He didn’t know and told them so.  When they persisted in the question, the Dude suggested that maybe it is down the toilet and he should take another look.

The truth is, the Dude doesn’t have much money.  But he has the money he needs.  Some things are more important.  His landlord came to the door one day asking for the rent, which the Dude didn’t have. The landlord brushed it off, but asked that the Dude come to the Landlord’s scheduled performance and give him notes.  Such the Dude is revered by others.

The Dude knows right from wrong.  He doesn’t like to hurt people and wants very much to help “that poor woman,” who is the object of much of the plot.  After being drugged by Jackie Treehorn, the man to whom money was owed, the Dude ended up at the police station and explained to the sheriff that “Jackie Treehorn treats objects like women!”  The Dude doesn’t approve.

He doesn’t usually get upset. “The Dude Abides,” they say.  When he does get upset, as the comings and goings of the plot evolve, Walter points out that he is being very “un Dude.”  By nature, the Dude is easy going, taking it light.

The Dude enjoys bowling with his friends, taking baths by candlelight and was the  author of the original Port Heron Statement – not the second version which compromised too much.

He is patient and lives in the moment.  He is willing to listen to others, even the “Big Lebowski” who offered him a proposal.  The Dude is tolerant of his kooky friends, even Donny, to a certain extent.  And he is quite comfortable saying the word “vagina.”  The Dude did not forget his promise to show up at the Landlord’s performance.

Plenty of White Russians, some pot now and again, and enough bowling, the Dude is a Happy Man.  Oh yeah, if he has the right rug to pull the room together, the Dude Abides.

Burn Notice, if you don’t already know, is a wonderful TV show, set in Miami, on USA Network.  Its focus is Michael Westen, a spy who was burned.  Michael has spent many years and several seasons trying to find out who burned him.  I wondered, in the beginning, how the writers could stretch that out and keep us interested long enough to keep the showing going.  And what would happen when Michael finally found out who burned him?

Part of the way they have kept me hooked is by dragging out the process.  Most episodes are about a job where Michael says he’ll see what he can do to help people who are in trouble.  One or two pieces of the burned puzzle are revealed each episode.

But now, in the 6th season, Michael has his position back at the CIA and knows who burned him.  How can it keep going?  Yet, I am still on the edge of my seat during each show and can’t wait for Thursday nights.

Here are some of my humble reasons why:

1.  The Crew
Michael is good, but no one is that good. In this business you need back up.  What a team he has!  Sam Axe, ex-Navy Seal and especially clever spy in his own right.  Sam always wears Hawaiian shirts and prefers a Mojito, but will gladly take a beer.  He adores women – especially rich ones.  He uses the alias Chuck or Charles Findley, whenever the need arises.
Fiona Glenanne is Michael’s girlfriend (though I have to say I liked it better when she was chasing him).  “Fi” is an extremely thin, but beautiful woman in the style of Emma Peale or Anna Devane.  Stronger than most men and more clever, having the weapon of her sex that they don’t.  An explosive expert, Fiona is happiest when she’s blowing things up with a big gun.
In the process of finding out who burned him, Michael had to burn another spy.  When Jesse Porter got over what he did, they become good friends.  Jesse has a good job with a security firm and can occasionally lend Michael equipment.  Though Jesse is less experienced than Michael in this spy game, he is still a reliable and smart partner in any of Michael’s cons.

2.  Michael’s Mom
Madeline Westen, Michael’s widowed mom is a pistol!  She lives in a cute little Miami house. She wears brightly colored shorts or pants sets with big hoop earrings to match.  There is often a cigarette in her hand.  Madeline is fierce and courageous.  She has pitched in to help Michael on many dangerous missions.

3.  The Extended Family
A person like Michael gets to know a lot of a certain kind of people.  Like Barry the money launderer.  Michael often has an assortment of quirky characters he can reach out to, including agents, both capable and fumbling.  Sam has well-earned connections and can be counted on to have a buddy who can dig up crucial information. Fiona knows a lot of seedy people, including gun dealers who can supply any arms or explosives she may have a hankering for.

4.  The Cars
Jesse has a Porsche that he reluctantly lends to Michael for a scheme.  Fiona drives a fast Hyundai (a sponsor of the show). Sam’s girlfriend of the moment usually has a fancy car he can use when needed.  Michael owns a Charger which belonged to his father (also a spy) all refurbished and souped up.  Many episodes include at least one exciting car chase.  Fast is good, but clever is better.

5.  Miami
Burn Notice never lets you forget they are in Miami, flashing over beaches and ocean, shopping districts and high rises.  On some, but not all episodes, clips show us some of the better female bodies on the beaches.  Miami is a colorful and exciting setting.  Its many coves and warehouses, as well as high end homes and shining office buildings, play a vital role in the stories.

6.  Excitement and Explosions
With fast cars and explosions, sometimes shoot outs, the writers and directors keep us on our toes.  It’s hard to fall asleep when Burn Notice is on.  You can tell how much fun they’re having with all this.  Even someone like me, who could care less about special effects, is hooked.

7.  Michael, himself.
The is no show without Michael.  He is a complicated and interesting character.  A super spy as we have come to find out.  Michael is well-schooled in the art of spying, (and happy to share what he knows with friends as well as the audience) but he is also very smart and can think on his feet to get out of any situation. There are several “characters” in Michael in can pull out as needed.  He tries to be cold and reserved, annoyed by his mother, for a long time avoiding or ignoring Fi’s advances.  But Michael loves the people in his life deeply and would do anything for them.  He’s generous with appreciation for a job well done. No one is better at making a phone, a bomb or a clever ruse than Michael.  I will say, I liked in the earlier shows, how Michael would gather a few supplies from Radio Shack, find some scraps in the garage and build a fairly sophisticated tracking device.  The show spokes people said they heavily researched these things (and I believe were careful not to reveal all the ingredients for making a bomb, for instance).  These days he has more resources and can get the real things.

8. Writers Continuing to Excite and Leave Something Hanging
I have to give credit to the writers and creators who have managed to created cliff hanger after cliff hanger.  They’ve pulled Michael and his friends along, gave them sharp turns, sent them leaping ahead and then flying back. They’ve built the suspense perfectly and managed to create a new wrinkle at just the right time.

I believe these 8 items, plus the fabulous actors which grace the screen every episode are what make this an exceptionally good TV show.

I can’t wait for the next episode!

I saw the new Dark Shadows movie the other day.  I really don’t know why it isn’t doing better.  But then again, I don’t always go with the crowd.  I thought it was fabulous!  And several days later, it’s still making me feel good.

The opening was a quick recap of how Barnabas Collins became a vampire, for those who don’t know. It set us up for an eerie, gothic tale.

However, I laughed out loud several times, had a couple of laughing fits and smiled quite bit.  Even days later.

It was a big picture with stunning interiors and breathtaking exteriors.

There was a love story, too.  Although the emphasis was more on Barnabas and Angelique, rather than his true love, Josette.  He and Angelique had a much funnier relationship.

I have to admit there were some liberties taken with characters and story line, from the original.  But it’s pretty difficult to contain the story developed through a 5-year soap, or even the very amusing 90’s series with 14 episodes.

As always Johnny Depp made Barnabas his own and was completely mesmerizing. (Though I am a little partial to anything he does.)  He wasn’t the engaging Jonathan Frid, nor the sensual Ben Cross.  He was elegant and strong, passionate and loyal. And he was very funny.  These previous Barnabas Collins never had a lot of trouble adjusting to life 200 years in the future.  Set in 1972, Tim Burton’s Dark Shadow of 2012 had lots of fun with the era and Barnabas’ perplexed responses.

Helena Bonham Carter did a great job with the very different Dr. Julia Hoffman.  In other versions she was an intellectual and reserved doctor who was the only one to share Barnabas’ secret.  This incarnation was a worthless drunkard.

Some of the story twists were a bit contrived or out of nowhere.  But I was having such a good time it didn’t bother me at all.

A special feature that I missed on this first viewing was the addition of several actors from the original series, appearing as guests at the Collins’ ball.  Including the recently deceased, Jonathan Frid.

Perhaps its less than stellar box office performance  is because the movie is hard to pin down.  All I know is that I enjoyed every moment of it and still feel delighted when I think of it!

One side note on the negative slant:  After this experience at a movie theater, we have decided that it’s too expensive for what you get.  With a wide screen digital TV at home and a substantial audio system, the picture and sound are better in our living room.  Plus, it’s more comfortable at home and the movie can be paused for bathroom breaks or snacks.  I won’t have to pay $4.75 for tap water in a plastic bottle! Absolutely criminal. Nor will I fork over ridiculous prices to get on.  There will be no trying to shut out anyone talking around me.  Next time, I’m going to wait for the DVD.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 140 other followers

Positive Slant Categories