Showing posts from 2018

On the Nature of Being, Creation, & Beauty: Annihilation ("Movie Monday")

"Movie Monday"... A biology professor delivers her beginning-of-term lecture on the amazing replicative ability of a single cell… the building block of the entire universe 
A soldier—MIA and presumed dead—suddenly reappears… somehow altered by whatever experience he’s been through over the past year.
And, a mysterious phenomenon—referred to as “the Shimmer”, due to its glimmering appearance—threatens to consume anything—and everyone—in its path… creating seemingly-impossible hybrids from that which it absorbs.
So begins Alex Garland’s 2018 film, Annihilation. ______________
When biologist Lena’s (played by Natalie Portman) husband Kane (Oscar Isaacs) returns, she quickly goes straight from that shock to another, as he starts convulsing and spewing blood within minutes of his surprise appearance.

It’s only after he’s been spirited away to a military hospital that she—and we—begin to find out what’s really going on: Kane—along with many others before him—was sent on a reconnaissance…

You Can Never Really be Too Careful... ("What I'm Reading Wednesday")

"What I'm Reading Wednesday"... Imagine, out of the blue, being terrorized and blackmailed by a stranger, claiming to “know what you’d done”… but you, having no memory at all of what the “what” in question actually was. Such is the premise of Mary Torjussen’s chilling psychological suspense, The Girl I Used to Be. _____________________________
During a rare night away from her family while attending a conference, (mostly) happily-married businesswoman Gemma Brogan has far too much to drink while dining with a potential client. The next morning, she wakes up in her hotel room—alone, in her underwear—with a savage hangover… and no memory of most of the previous evening. 
Ashamed—and completely unsettled by the whole experience—she returns home to her husband and young son, vowing never to put herself in a similar position again (and to put what little she can remember of that whole weekend out of her mind). 
Someone else has no intention of letting her forget, though… because a…

When the Past Becomes the Present ... in Helsinki ("TV Tuesday")

"TV Tuesday"...

The one thing that good storytellers--of any genre--never forget is the importance of the human element at a story's center: why the audience should care about what happens to the characters therein. (If there's a lot of stuff happening, but we feel no connection to those it's all happening to, what's the point?)

Finland's "Koukussa" (or "Hooked", in English)--streaming now on Amazon--is a fine example of how to take a group of characters (including some thoroughly unlikable ones), and make us care.  

Oskari Autio is a Helsinki cop at the top of his game in the drug unit, with a one-two punch--a reliable network of informants, plus killer instincts--that's led to an impressive conviction rate over the years. 

At home, he plays single father to sensitive, smart, teenage son Niko (with whom he has a good relationship, all things considered), and both of them are fond of Oskari's easy-going, girlfriend, Juulia. 

So, yea…

Catching Up on Three Oscar Noms... ("Movie Monday")

"Movie Monday"...

Ah, life. Mine has been throwing all manner of "stuff" at me lately, meaning the blog has suffered. (Sorry about that, but I'm betting you know how it goes, too.) Still, in between all that "just tryin' to keep my head above water" business, I've also managed to watch (and read) a few things. And, since today is Monday, well... you know what that means. 

So, the Oscars. They're upon us once again, and, as usual, I've found myself trying to cram in as many nominated films that I had yet to see, as possible. Last week, I actually managed three(!): The Shape of Water,  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and Lady Bird. (I know, I know... it's like feast or famine, innit?)

Director Guillermo del Toro has said that The Shape of Water is a movie that was pulled from his very soul, and I believe it. Exquisitely beautiful--both visually and thematically--it's a movie unlike any I've ever se…

Swedish "Ove" Foregoes Schmaltzy Sentimentality for Genuine, Heartwarming Feels.. ("Movie Monday")

I never had a grandpa--both were gone before I popped out, red-faced and screaming, into the world--which means I don't really know anything about how old men operate. 

In other words, the sum total of what I've gleaned comes from pop culture--hello, books, movies, and TV--and jokes that involve elderly guys saying "Get outta my yard!" a lot. (Basically, the older a man gets, the grouchier he becomes..?)

So, when I sat down to watch "A Man Called Ove" (the 2015 film based on the Fredrik Backman book by the same name), I figured I knew what to expect: a series of hopefully amusing (but most likely forced) situations involving a grumpy old coot, who'd undoubtedly turn into a big ol' teddy bear by the end. 

Okay, kinda... but that doesn't BEGIN to describe "Ove".

Retiree Ove is, as expected, a curmudgeonly older chap (although not that old, this being a film made in Sweden, where adults aren't necessarily expected to work themselves into …

Old School... ("Sunday Musings")

"Sunday Musings..."
Sometimes, you gotta go old school...

...because there are things that can only be expressed with the feel of paper beneath your hand and a pen in your fingers. 

Why Setting Up Your Own Home Gym is Smart... and Easier Than You Think! .. ("Fitness Friday")

"Fitness Friday"...
It all started with growing up in the middle of nowhere, and it continued as a poor college student. Later, it was more a factor of working really long hours, 7 days a week, then getting off very late.

Regardless of what stage of life I've been at, though, it's always been more realistic for me to accomplish my fitness goals without setting foot in a commercial gym.

So, I'm a big proponent of "if you can create your own space--physical, mental, and spiritual (in a non-religiousy way)--in which to work out, you're a lot more likely to achieve your goals". 

How's that, you ask? Because you're actually making more of an effort, right from the start, in the creation of that space... and thus, tend to be more invested in seeing your effort pay off.I won't lie; it's best if you have at least some equipment to really do everything you need to do to be healthy and fit. But you can absolutely start with doing just-your-own-bod…

Murder & Scandal in a Tiny Swedish Town Make for a Perfect Winter's Evening ("What I'm Reading Wednesday"...)

"What I'm Reading Wednesday"...
Since I'm actually headed to Scandinavia, soon, it seemed fitting to choose something by one of the Scandi authors in my TBR list for this week.

Sweden's number-one-selling native author is Camilla Läckberg, whose work falls into the mystery, thriller, and police procedural genres (in other words, Scandi-noir, one of my fave subsets). And now, after (finally) reading the first in her "Fjällbacka" series, it isn't hard to see why.

A tiny little town on the west coast of Sweden, Fjällbacka is much nearer Norway and Denmark, than to Stockholm. As it's Läckberg's hometown, she's able to give a good feel for the place, along with conveying some of the attitudes common in such a small town (from the everyone-knows-everyone-else's-business aspect, to a widespread distaste for the "big city" and a sense of bemusement about why folks would want to live anywhere but their hamlet, to frustration over the i…

Stoic Coppers, Murders, and the Welsh Countryside Equate to Good TV ("TV Tuesday"...)

"TV Tuesday"...
If all you had to go by was what you know of my reading and watching habits, you might assume I'm a grim, humorless thing. (In reality, that couldn't be farther from the truth, but like I said... going by the stuff that pulls me in, you'd be forgiven for assuming so.)

But sometimes, even I'm surprised by how dark something is. 

If "Hinterland"--which I've finally gotten around to watching--were a color, it might be a super-dark and utterly-depressing shade of green, like sodden, rotting vegetation. Or maybe it would be a blue so murky and opaque that it was nearly black, like the bottom of the ocean. That's how the characters in "Hinterland" strike me.

There is, you see, no smiling in "Hinterland". Seriously. I've watched all but the last couple of episodes, and I can't remember anyone smiling. Now, maybe--surely(!)--someone showed a smidgeon of humor, for a split second, at some point... but if that&#…

Cloverfield is One Paradox We Can All Live Without... ("Movie Monday")

"Movie Monday"...
In asurprising (and pretty damn bold) move, someone, somewhere made the decision to forego the upcoming April theatrical release of the third film in the "Cloverfield" family, bumping it to air immediately after 2018's Super Bowl (Feb 4, if American football isn't your thing)... on Netflix. 

Say what? A Cloverfield anything, getting the "Do-Not-Pass-Go-or-Stop-Anywhere (meaning those High-Dollar-Houses-o'-Films)-but-Go-Straight-to-Streaming" treatment? Yup. That.

It'll be plenty interesting to follow the fallout from this decision, and to see whether or not this gamble pays off in a big way. In the meantime, though, what about "The Cloverfield Paradox"...since we did, after all, get it a full two-plus months early?

Eh, that's a tricky one.

There's plenty to like about "Paradox", to be sure. It's shiny and pretty and has some nifty effects. The cast is, mostly, interesting and believable enough t…

Scandinavia, Here I Come! ("What I'm Reading Wednesday/Travel Thursday")

"What I'm Reading Wednesday/Travel Thursday"...
With two other books currently in progress (I know, I know--"pick one and finish it, Ms. Fickle!"), the only thing I've managed to go cover-to-cover on over the past couple of weeks has been a travel guide. (Didn't see that one coming, did you? 😄) 

Why's that, you ask? Because for the first time in nearly 2.5 years, this gal is goin' on holiday!

Better yet, my two-city/two-country itinerary is gonna put me smack-dab in the midst of two of the "Happiest Countries in the World"(yeah, it's a thing, and America is NOT in the Top Ten), which actually makes me happier just thinking about it. (The only downside is, I may not want to come back... aside from the boycat, that is, as he'll be "guarding the fort" [😂] whilst I'm away.) Sweden and Denmark, here I come!

So... quickie review of said tour book, Lonely Planet Pocket Stockholm, by Becky Olsen. 

Since my travels will, for …

The Feline Fitness PhotoBomber... ("Friday Fitness")

"Fitness Friday"...

Just a fast funny, today...

I do a lot of my workouts at home (more about that in a future post), which means there's ample opportunity for the Ragdoll Photobomber™(😆) to do his thing. (Which he does, quite well.)


Bright: Bringin' Urban Fantasy to the (Small) Screen in a Big Way ("Movie Monday")

“Movie Monday”… For me, one of the best movie trends from the ‘80s and ‘90s was the rash of “buddy-cop” films. (Think your “Beverly Hills Cops”, “Lethal Weapons”, and“Die Hards”.)
What made those movies, in particular, so much fun—and better than others in the same genre—is that they knew what they were about, then executed it. The macho butting-of-heads early on between partners who had somehow gotten stuck working together? Yep. Exciting action (fights and chases) scenes? Check. Interesting stories (that weren’t so complicated you needed to take notes to keep track)? Roger that. Humorous banter aplenty? Absolutely. And finally, a sense that these two characters actually grew to kind of like (or at least, tolerate) each other--became buds--by the time the credits rolled? Definitely.
When I sat down to watch “Bright” (a Netflix Original movie) last month, it wasn’t with high hopes. The trailer looked lame, frankly—a muddled mess that didn’t seem to know what it was trying to be. Plus, it…

Little Lost Boys... and the Adults Who Get Lost Pursuing Them ("TV Tuesday")

"TV Tuesday"... It’s our nature to be sympathetic to others—particularly when they’re going through something horrific. (We could have a big discussion about whether it’s really that altruistic of us, or if the truth is more that we’re just relieved it’s them and not us—which in turn frees us up to feel badly for them—but let’s just leave it as a basic human response for our purposes here.)
The first season of “The Missing” (which originally aired on BBC One and Starz, but is now available to stream on Amazon) gives an intelligent, thoughtful look at what happens when a child vanishes… what the terrifying experience is like for the parents, how the police proceed, how the media respond, and how everyone else in the vicinity is affected.
So, the basics: A couple from the UK, Tony and Emily Hughes, head off to France with their 5-year-old son Oliver for a holiday, in 2006. What seems like a fun little getaway for the threesome in a charming small town soon turns to disaster, thou…

This Snowman Should've Just Melted in the Sun... ("Movie Monday")

"Movie Monday"...
If you’re gonna butcher something, you might as well butcher the $h*t out of it,” must’ve been director Tomas Alfredson’s mantra during the making of “The Snowman”… because there is No. Other. Way. to explain how a project with this much potential—based on a Scandi-noir bestseller! with legit star power! Scorcese!—could’ve gone so tragically wrong.
Seriously, this adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s thriller goes wrong, right out of the gate. In the first scene, a boy calls another character “Jonas” (with a hard “j”, like saying the word “joy”). What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, nothing… if this film were set somewhere in America (which it isn’t), or if Jonas and the boy in question were Americans (which they aren’t). No, “The Snowman” takes place in Norway, with almost-entirely Norwegian characters (including these two), meaning “Jonas” would’ve rolled off the boy’s tongue with a “y” sound (as in the word “yo-yo”). An off-putting directorial choice, which—as it t…

Crossing Oceans of Time, Chasing Love and Destiny ("What I'm Reading Wednesday")

"What I'm Reading Wednesday"... You ever have one of those weeks (months, years, insert your own time span here) where it takes everything you’ve got, just to (sorta) keep up with all the things on your metaphorical plate? (Yeah, that was a completely rhetorical question. Unless you’re literally the luckiest person on planet Earth, you have.)
Anyway, that’s been me, recently… and my reading, unfortunately, always seems to be affected (negatively) by any turmoil in my life. So, at such times, it’s good to have a couple of things in the ole arsenal: first, a go-to group of the closest friends, who always have my back; and second, friends who recommend (or even gift!) books at just the right time. (Seriously, if you’re lacking either of the above, I can’t recommend highly enough your going in search of ‘em. PRICELESS!)
Heidi Heilig’s The Girl From Everywhere was just the ticket for me to get back into reading after a few-weeks’ absence; it’s an easy read that takes you away fr…