Monday, August 7, 2017

Mt. Rushmore with Sean

Last summer Marilyn and I took Sean on a road trip to the Four Corners Monument, Grand Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park.  Apparently, summer road trips are now a tradition so we asked Sean where he wanted to go this year and he picked Mt. Rushmore.  We went last weekend and, aside from a very long drive, we had so much fun!  Sean said that the view was worth the drive!
At the entrance to the monument.
Sean in front of a sculpture of Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who created Mt. Rushmore.
The plaza leading up to the monument.
It is quite impressive!
Sean and I walked along the Presidential Trail to get a few different perspectives of the presidents.  We ate lunch at the cafeteria and, of course, we had to get some of the famous ice cream.
As we drove away from the monument there was a turnout to get a really good view of Washington's profile.  It is pretty spectacular.
Sean posing in front of the sign in his new Mt. Rushmore hoodie!
In the late afternoon we decided to visit the Crazy Horse Monument.  So far only the head has been completed and they have started working on the horse.  It doesn't seem like much has been done when you look at what the completed monument is supposed to look like but it is quite different from what I remember seeing as a kid.  Sean really liked the Native American museum.  In the evening we went back to Mt. Rushmore for the evening patriotic program and to see the monument illuminated.  It was a great day.  Marilyn and I had so much fun with Sean and it seemed like we were laughing all of the time at everything he said.  He means so much to both of us and I am so happy that we could take him on this road trip.  He is already thinking of where he wants to go next year!

Note:  It was the beginning of the Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis so we saw lots and lots of motorcycles which was really cool.  The street in front of our hotel was lined with parked motorcycles.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Dark Tower

I have read all eight books in Stephen King's Dark Tower series and I absolutely love them so, as you can imagine, I have been anticipating the movie adaptation with both excitement and apprehension.  I was so excited when I heard that Idris Elba had been cast as Roland Deschain because, in my opinion, he is the Gunslinger.  But I was also apprehensive because I really wanted this movie to be good.  It is always bad to walk into a screening with such high expectations because they are rarely met and they certainly weren't met in this case.  The Dark Tower is such a disappointment.  I knew going in that it had received appalling reviews and the theater was nearly empty, which is very unusual for a Thursday night preview, so I should have known better.  I still hoped it would be good and I was disappointed.  This film has both too much and too little exposition.  Way too much time is squandered on Earth introducing Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) and describing his visions of the Gunslinger (Elba) and his quest to stop the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) from destroying the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together.  Then, when we get to Mid-World, the story becomes incomprehensible.  I had only the vaguest notion of what was going on (and I've read the books so I understand the mythology).  I also was quite bewildered by the cuts back and forth between Mid-World and Earth and the tone in the Earth scenes is inappropriate.  The fish-out-of-water trope is very tedious here.  The books are full of action but the action sequences here are not only few and far between but they are not very good (The only scene that really held my attention was when Roland shoots his way into a portal to Mid-World).  The special effects are pretty shoddy for a summer blockbuster.  The only character that is really explored in depth is Jake and he is played rather blandly by Taylor.  McConaughey is an absolute disaster as the Man in Black, playing him as a caricature of a villain rather than someone to be feared, and we never learn enough about him or the Gunslinger because we don't get enough time with them.  They are supporting players to Jake which is a huge mistake.  The only bright spot in this movie is Elba.  Imagine what he could have done with a decent script and a proper budget for effects.  Ugh.  Definitely give this a miss!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Summer Reading: Commonwealth

The final selection on my summer reading list (the summer has gone by so fast!) was Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. My former book club read Truth and Beauty, a memoir about Patchett's friendship with the author Lucy Grealy which was quite moving, but I had never read any of her fiction until now. I will definitely read some of her other works because I loved Commonwealth. This novel spans fifty years in the lives of the blended family of Bert Cousins and Beverly Keating, including Bert's children Cal, Holly, Jeannette, and Albie, and Beverly's daughters Caroline and Franny. The six children spend their summers together with their parents in Virginia, mostly left to their own devices as the adults try to deal with the situation they have created, until a tragedy strikes. The events are told in a nonlinear narrative from multiple perspectives as the children become adults and deal, each in their own way, with the trauma of their childhood. All of the events are set in motion when Bert attends the christening party, to which he has not been invited, of the daughter of a man with whom he has a passing acquaintance and then shares an illicit kiss with his wife, Beverly. Thus begins a chain-reaction of events which have far flung consequences. All of the children, at various points, wonder what their lives would have been like had that kiss not happened. There is a sub-plot involving Franny and her relationship with a famous author who uses her childhood stories as the basis for a best-selling novel, and later movie, and her siblings' negative reaction to something which makes them confront their past. This is an interesting device because Patchett's own childhood informed much of this story and one has to wonder if her siblings had a similar reaction as the fictional ones. What I liked most about this novel is the use of time. Whole decades are skipped in the lives of the characters in favor of a series of vignettes but you still feel like you know them intimately and they are all incredibly compelling. The time span allows the theme of learning how to forgive family members, even ex-spouses, to emerge very powerfully. The writing is absolutely exquisite and I enjoyed reading this novel so much, which I did well into the night so I could finish it. I think anyone who has ever been a part of a blended family will find it very authentic and I highly recommend it.

Have you read Commonwealth or any of the other selections on my summer reading list?  What did you think?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Lady Macbeth

Sunday night I went to the Broadway, as I often do on a Sunday night, to see Lady Macbeth.  My friend saw this film at Sundance and gave it a very unfavorable review (even going so far as to call it "indie rubbish" which has become a bit of an inside joke with us) while another friend loved it, hailing it as a masterpiece.  After viewing this film myself, my reaction falls somewhere in between.  Katherine (a mesmerizing Florence Pugh) is forced into an arranged marriage with a much older man, Alexander (Paul Hilton), who shows very little interest in her.  Alexander's father, Boris (Christopher Fairbank), continually reminds her of her marital duty which is, namely, to provide them with a legitimate heir, and he also mistreats her.  She is kept to a very rigid schedule and is never allowed outside of the house.  When both Alexander and Boris are called away, she takes advantage of the opportunity and roams the countryside.  She also begins a passionate affair with Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), a groomsman on the estate.  When Boris returns, he hears about the affair, which has been conducted very openly, and has Sebastian beaten and locked up.  Katherine poisons Boris so she can be with Sebastian, showing very little remorse.  As is often the case, they are forced to commit several more murders (including a particularly egregious one) in order to keep up pretenses and Sebastian begins to feel more and more guilty.  There are a few things I really liked about this film but there are definitely some aspects that I didn't enjoy.  I was quite impressed by Florence Pugh's performance as a woman who will go to any lengths to keep her newfound freedom and her journey is very compelling, at least in the beginning.  I was on the edge of my seat most of the time and the eerie silence on screen added greatly to my unease.  I also think that William Oldroyd made some very interesting choices; for example, highly composed shots of Katherine sitting on a couch wearing a buttoned up dress and corset with her hair tightly coiled juxtaposed with beautiful shots of her roaming the moor unbound with her hair blowing in the wind are highly effective at establishing her motivation.  However, some of his choices are less effective.  I found the scenes involving a cat to be completely bewildering.  I am sure that these scenes are meant to be artistic but the symbolism was lost on me because the cat disappears after a few early scenes never to be seen again.  Why?  Another problem I had was that, while I sympathized with Katherine in the first half of the film because of her ill-treatment, I found many of her actions in the latter half to be completely reprehensible.  She ends up being more ruthless than her oppressors, particularly to her maid, Anna (Naomi Ackie).  I had to look away during a scene involving a horse and the final murder (which went on for so long) of an innocent child was especially brutal.  The ambiguous ending did not hold her to account for her actions in a way that brought me satisfaction.  Finally, I don't know if it is just me but I thought there was a racist undertone to this film.  There is absolutely no discussion of race but all of the characters portrayed by black actors end up as victims and it left a bad taste in my mouth.  Hmmm.  Have you seen this film?  What did you think?

Note:  This film is not based on William Shakespeare's Scottish play (as I originally thought) but, rather, on the novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde is a sleek and stylish thriller with Cold War intrigue and a kick-ass female spy.  What could be better on a Saturday night?  Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is an MI6 agent sent to Berlin just before the fall of the wall to retrieve a list, stolen by the KGB, of every British agent under cover in the Soviet Union and to discover and assassinate a double agent named Satchel.  She is aided by the Berlin Chief of Station (James McAvoy) who may or may not be her ally.  I found it to be an interesting, if sometimes convoluted, story with one twist after another but what makes this movie so much fun to watch is the action.  The set pieces are pretty violent (Lorraine does get pretty battered and bloody) but, as I mentioned, they are extremely stylish with incredibly complex choreography and camera work with multiple angles.  There is a fantastic sequence involving a stiletto heel in a moving car, another one involving a garden hose over a balcony, and yet another in a stairway (which goes on for at least ten minutes without any discernible cuts).  Charlize Theron does most of her own stunts and it is impossible to take your eyes off of her as she punches, shoots, and kicks her way out of trouble in one fabulous outfit after another.   James McAvoy looks like he is having so much fun with a "disastrous Sinead O'Connor haircut" and a knowing smirk.  As a child of the 80s, I really loved the soundtrack which features at least a dozen pop songs from that decade.  I think I giggled out loud when I heard the opening notes to "Der Kommissar."  My only complaint with this movie is that we see Lorraine naked multiple times (she takes an ice bath, not once but, twice and she has quite the sex scene with another female agent) for no reason beyond titillation.  Can we please have a strong female character without resorting to objectifying her?  However, this is a fun movie and I recommend it to fans of the spy genre.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...