Showing posts with label Movie Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Movie Reviews. Show all posts

Friday, February 14, 2020

Togo (2019) Movie Review

Togo (2019) Movie Review
Soundtrack Image/Link
Are you familiar with the name "Togo"?  What about "Balto"?  Does that name ring a bell?  What do you really know about these two dogs.  

I readily admit, I was surprised by the real facts when I recently watched the Disney movie, Togo, which prompted me to research the true history.  My previous knowledge of the legendary serum run to Nome was clearly very limited and had been shaped around the stories of Balto.  Imagine how shocked I was to learn the truth.

Since I love dogs, I am often drawn to movies about dogs, especially when they also feature a favorite actor like Willem Dafoe. When I saw the awesome dvd cover for the movie Togo, I was immediately drawn in and had to watch the movie.  The dvd picture is only the introduction to Togo and Leonhard Seppala.  Just look at that dog!  Isn't he gorgeous!!!  The real Togo was every bit as beautiful as the dog in the movie.  After hearing his story, all I could think was, who wouldn't want that fabulous pup!

One note of warning, ladies get out the tissues!  This is a real tearjerker that even guys will watch with you. Actually, come to think of it, bring extra tissues for them.


Togo The Lead Sled Dog of Leonhard
RDShahriar [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]



Togo (2019) - Disney Movie Synopsis


The movie is based on the true story of Leonhard Seppala and his lead dog, Togo.  Unlike many movies, Togo seems to follow the truth closely, if not completely.  It dramatizes the challenges, the sacrifices, and the risks this team took in order to bring a life-saving serum to the children of Nome, Alaska, as well as gives us a factual account of the real Togo's life. 

Togo was the runt of the litter and expected to die.  Leonhard Seppala thought it would be kinder to put the pup down, but his wife did not agree.  She personally nursed the puppy to health and Togo repaid them with a deep love and devotion that only a dog can give. 
 
Leonhard Seppala was a renowned expert musher and trainer of working sled dogs.  Due to his small size and health issues, Seppala was certain Togo could not be useful.  He actually gave him away twice, but both times Togo was returned, or made his own way back home.
 
Togo was determined to be with Leonhard whether he wanted him or not.  Much to Seppala's surprise, the other dogs were willing to be lead by Togo, even into mischief and against their masters commands.  When Seppala relented and tried Togo as the lead sled dog, they were both rewarded with a win-win compromise.  


Size didn't matter to Togo.  He had the heart and spirit of a born leader.  

In 1925, when Togo was a mature 12 year old dog, the town was hit with a diphtheria epidemic. The children of Nome, Alaska desperately needed medicine.  Due to the weather, an airplane was not an option and the train from Anchorage only went as far as Nenana, Alaska.  The city council asked Leonhard Seppala to make the trip to Nenana to pick up the serum.  

Now, think about that for just a minute!  Over 650 miles round trip, in −30 °F weather with a wind chill of −85 °F and white out storms that no man could possibly see in, on a dog pulled sled.  Only an animal with a fantastic ability to navigate a blizzard could survive.  At 12 years old, the trip alone would most likely kill Togo, but Seppala knew he was their only chance of getting through to Nenana.  No other dog in his kennel possessed the drive and ability needed in such an intense storm.  But could Seppala knowingly sacrifice his beloved Togo to save the lives of the children and adults in Nome? 

Leonhard Seppala, with Togo in the lead of his dog sled team, set out for Nenana.  While in route, the city council set up a relay to intercept Seppala and shorten the length of time it would take to get the medicine back to Nome.  


The Facts about Balto & Togo


Balto was hailed as the hero because he was the reported lead dog that brought the serum into the city of Nome.  In the end, over 20 men (mushers) and 100 dogs were involved in the relay.  Most, including Balto, ran approximately 30 miles of the trek, but they all deserve credit for their part in the mission.  

Leonhard Seppala & his winning dogsled team
during 9th_All-Alaska Sweepstakes dogsled race

University of Washington [Public domain]
Ironically, Balto was also owned and trained by Leonhard Seppala.  Seppala's wife allowed another musher, Gunnar Kaasen, to borrow Balto for the relay.    

Togo and Seppala, along with the rest of their dog team, ran 260 hard miles.  They were the team that crossed the dangerous iced-over Norton Sound and endured 3 days of blizzard weather. The team survived due to Togo's exceptional ability to navigate to safety in a ground blizzard.  If not for Togo, his dog team, Leonhard Seppala, and the serum would have been lost and dead.

Even though they passed the serum off for the last miles into Nome, I think it is clear who deserved the credit for getting the lifesaving serum to Nome.

You can watch the factually accurate movie yourself to see if you agree. 

One note of interest that the movie did not include, is that Seppala had an 8 year old daughter at the time of the serum run.  I have no desire to take away from Seppala, but as a parent myself, I suspect the fact that he had a child affected his decision to make the run for their lives and to use Togo as his lead in spite of the dogs advanced age.  After all, he had the option to use Balto himself.

At the time of publishing this review, Togo is only available for viewing on the Disney+ subscription channel.  No DVD release date has been announced.

The phenomenal music from the movie is available for purchase and downloading. 




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Togo (2019) Movie Review Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse



 


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Friday, January 31, 2020

Baby Yoda (The Child) & The Mandalorian Star Wars Series Reviewed

Baby Yoda (The Child) & The Mandalorian Star Wars Series Reviewed
With the release of "The Mandalorian" on the Disney channel, Star Wars fans have gone crazy over the adorable "Baby Yoda"!

In the The Mandalorian episodes, "Baby Yoda" is simply called "The Child".  After all, he is not Yoda.  He looks like Yoda to fans, therefore he is widely known off-screen as Baby Yoda. 

One look at "The Child", humans & creatures on and off-screen are smitten with his enchanting personality, as well as his looks.  A slight tip of the head is all it takes for "The Child" to have you under his spell.  You, too, will wish to hold and protect him! 
  
The featured Child plush will not be available until May of 2020.  When the option is available, you will wish to pre-order your own baby. 
"The Child" that is available now is shown at the bottom of this review.



 

Star Wars:  The Mandalorian Series


 Star Wars The Mandalorian Poster BookCheck PriceMandalorians are an elite group of trained warriors who never reveal their own identity.  In the series, "The Mandalorian" is a bounty hunter for hire.  When a bounty hunter is commissioned to track, find, and capture a target, opinions of the target are not his concern.  However, when the Mandalorian sees the child, he doesn't have a clue about his species and wonders about his clients intent for this youngster.  As the story progresses, what becomes obvious to him is that "The Child" needs protection from his client.

To break the Guild code of conduct and steal the child in order to protect him, the Mandalorian must choose a lone existence, which makes him the hunted as well.

At times, he finds aid from friends, as well as a few who don't mind alliances as long as they are paid.  But every step alone this protective path has dangers.  The Child is fortunate to have a true warrior by his side and the Mandalorian finds out just how fortunate he is to have The Child by his side.

This is a fabulous Star Wars series that I highly recommend!  As a matter of fact, just reviewing it makes me wish to stop and watch it again.  I can hardly wait for season 2.  Beware though, "The Child" will steal your heart!





Season 1 is available to watch now on Disney Plus.  Season 2 is already in production and will release in the fall of 2020.







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Baby Yoda (The Child) & The Mandalorian Star Wars Series Reviewed Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse



 


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Friday, January 10, 2020

Signed, Sealed, Delivered Hallmark Series Reviewed

Signed, Sealed, Delivered Hallmark Series Reviewed
Signed, Sealed, Delivered started as a tv series in 2013, but after the first complete season, Hallmark rebranded the series as television films.  Sadly, that meant there would no longer be a weekly show.  But, for those of us who love the series, we are always excited when a new film is released.

There are 11 episodes, including the pilot, in the one season tv series.  At the time of publishing this review, there are more than 10 films that have been released since the series ended. 


Alongside the wonderful main characters, the shows have featured some really fabulous special guests that include Carol Burnett, Della Reese, Valerie Bertinelli, and Valerie Harper.  These special guests have added lighthearted humor and fun that makes the shows even more entertaining.



Signed, Sealed, Delivered Plot


As you might expect from the name, the main characters are employees of the US post office.  They are the only 4 employees of the Denver dead letter office, where they strive to find the right recipients in order to deliver long lost letters.  They often end up on great adventures while solving intriguing mysteries.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered - Series 1
The dead letter department is headed by Oliver O'Toole who is described by his team as an old-fashioned gentleman, a man of faith, a rule-keeper, and a meticulous manager.  Oliver is married, but his wife left him so she could live in Paris.  He is always on the lookout for any correspondence from her, but she has clearly abandoned him and their marriage.

Shane McInerney is accidentally placed in the dead letter office.  Because of her computer expertise and hacking ability she ends up being an excellent addition to the team.  Plus, she likes the other employees there.  Shane decides to stay with them even when her transfer to her intended position is finally approved.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered Hallmark Series Reviewed Rita Haywith is a really sweet lady who happens to have a photographic memory.  She has an uncanny ability to "look up" facts, names, and information via her own mind.  There are times when she seems too naive to believe, but she is so adorable you can't help but love her.  Her crush on Norman is obvious to everyone but him.

Last but by no means least, Norman Dorman is the consummate librarian and scientist.  He seems to be able to find the right book for any needed reference or information.  Norman possesses the "absent minded professor" personally that doesn't understand the normal, everyday conversations, social cues or nuances. Personally, I find his straight forward purity of words and actions refreshing. 

This team of determined post office workers are later dubbed the Postables because of their commitment to maintain the confidentiality of the contents and sender, while playing detective in order to locate the proper recipient of a dead letter or package.

The Postables always go the extra mile to make sure a missive finally reaches it's destination, even when it is years after it was initially mailed.

The letters always provide something the recipient needs, like an explanation for past actions, a long awaited apology or resolution, a gift like a wedding gown, or they reunite friends and family who have lost touch.  Some of the stories are pretty sad because either the sender or the recipient have died.  But, they still serve a purpose for the remaining loved ones.

One particularly touching episode, "To Whom It May Concern", was about a young woman who wanted to find the soldier who not only taught her to read, but also saved her life by giving up his seat on the rescue helicopter.  The team had to go to great lengths to find the missing soldier.


Watch Signed, Sealed, Delivered in Chronological Order 


It isn't absolutely necessary to watch the episodes or films in the order of their release date, but it will make the basic storyline more cohesive.  Because the plot and couple relationships develop over time, just like real life relationships, some things will make more sense if you know what happened in the past.

This is one series that I would recommend watching in chronological order.

    Signed, Sealed, Delivered Hallmark Series Reviewed
  1. Signed, Sealed, Delivered - Pilot Movie  (2013)
  2. Signed, Sealed, Delivered - The Complete Season 1  (2013-2014) 
    Note: Series 1 DVD does not include the pilot. Must purchase it separately.
  3. Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas  (2014)
  4. Signed, Sealed, Delivered: From Paris With Love (2015) 
  5. Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Truth Be Told  (2015)
  6. Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Impossible Dream  (2015) 
  7. Signed, Sealed, Delivered: From the Heart  (2016)
  8. Signed, Sealed, Delivered: One in a Million  (2016)
  9. Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Lost Without You  (2016) 
  10. Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Higher Ground  (2017)
  11. Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again  (2017)
  12. Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Road Less Traveled  (2018)
  13. Signed, Sealed, Delivered: To the Altar  (2018)
  14. Next Film to Be Released in 2020!          


 
As you can see above, the DVD's are available to purchase on Amazon.  Or, you can subscribe to the Hallmark Channel via Amazon to watch them all.


Subscribe to Hallmark Channel on Amazon






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Signed, Sealed, Delivered Hallmark Series Reviewed Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse



 


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Sunday, January 5, 2020

How NOT to Binge Watch a Series - The Three Rules of Survival

How NOT to Binge Watch a Series!
Save Yourself Before It's too Late
Tongue in cheek. Well, sort of. I kind-of mean every single word.

In the scope of life problems, this doesn't even rate. But that's why I'm writing about it. Since there's too much going on in the world, mindless drivel is temporarily appealing, almost necessary.

So, you probably guessed by now that I'm the recent victim of binge-watching a series. I can feel the professional binge-watchers rolling their eyes. Still, the pros need to remember, they were newbie-bingers once.

Let's Review the Three Rules:

1. Don't Pick a Series With Only One Season

For gawd-sakes, before you even scroll through Amazon Prime or Netflix, decide that any series with only one season is off-limits.

Want to know why?

Because when you're finished watching Season 1, you'll be googling to find out when Season 2 is coming out.

Then you'll toss your perrier in the fireplace when you find out it hasn't been renewed for a second season. Or if it has been renewed, that filming doesn't start until March of 2020, which means the fall of 2020 before you get to watch it again - one darn episode at a time!

Yes, I binge-watched 'Another Life' on Netflix last night and yep, one season only, and season two doesn't start filming until March 2020. I have this uncontrollable urge to see if they'll hire me on the crew so I can get a heads-up on the story. I need help.

Since I mentioned the series 'Another Life,' are you wondering if I recommend it? Well, if you like Sci-Fi with a connection to Earth as we currently know it, then I hate to say this, but you're going to love it.

Warning, resist it because you'll only want more. Or go ahead and keep me company for a year until season two starts. I'm already looking forward to Fall 2020, how sick is that?

2. Don't Start Binge-Watching at Midnight

Yah. I did that too.

So there I was, scrolling Netflix for a movie. You know, one that's maybe ... like ... 2 hours at the most. I had noticed 'Another Life' before, and that it was a 'series,' and avoided it for that reason.

Last night, I was powerless. I gave in to my 'no series' rule and couldn't fight the urge to not click 'watch next episode' all.night.long.

I figure if you start watching around 7pm and decide to binge, then there's a good chance you'll be heading to bed before 4am. Plus, there's also the chance that life intrusions will prevent you from watching every episode at once! At midnight, there's no one awake to rag on you.

Ok. I did have some discipline, I only watched eight episodes and viewed the final two this afternoon. I can't get this show out of my head, can you tell? I'm so curious about the next season. Grrrr.

3. Don't Be Afraid to Use the Pause Button

It seems logical, right? When you need to take a break, hit the Pause button, and go do your thing. I mean, we're not Gremlins that can't be fed after midnight, are we? But come to think of it, I was more like Stripe last night.

Apparently, that's too much common sense for me, and I held it way too long. Sheesh, I wasn't even stuck in a vehicle.

So, pause your series for snack and pee breaks. When you're really into your show, you'll resist stepping away, and all I can say is resist the resistance -  'taint good for the bladder.

Here's the trailer for Another Life, to lead you into temptation :)



Is There a Series with More Than One Season that I Recommend?

Omg, that's a screaming YES!!

My all-time favorite program in the history of programs is the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon! I know I'm screaming again. It's based on the books, and it.is.absolutely.fantastic. The fans, me included, are chomping at the bit to watch Season 5, which starts in February of 2020!

So guess what, if you binge-watch all 4 seasons of Outlander, you'll be able to start watching Season 5 right away with the rest of us crazies.

I'm so obsessed with this show that I follow it on Twitter and Instagram? I need an intervention.

Oh, here's a heads-up warning:

When you get to the episode called 'The Wedding,' umm, watch it without kids in the room. The wedding night is very, very very and very physical with a lot of nudity. If that's not your thing you can skip it, but I must say, it's pertinent to fully appreciate Jamie and Claire's connection.

I'm leading you into temptation one more time with the Trailer for Outlander Season 1, but this show has 4 seasons to consume your life - a much better way to get lost in space.




I'll close by saying that I don't watch a lot of TV. Don't laugh, it's true. However, when I do watch, I apparently go all in?

So let's summarize the three rules:

1. A show with more than one season
2. Don't start binge-watching at midnight
3. Take breaks

Or ignore them, and watch what you want, when you want :)


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Monday, December 30, 2019

Movie Review - The Aeronauts

The Aeronauts is a beautifully filmed movie that is both entertaining and educational. It gives the audience a glimpse into a pivotal event in the 1860s that impacted meteorology and scientists' ability to begin to understand and predict the weather. 


The Aeronauts an Amazon Original Movie

I use the word glimpse because this is a fictional version inspired by a true event. Some of the movie storyline strays far from the actual event. But overall, this is a beautiful movie depicting explorers who risked their lives to further our understanding of the weather that impacts our earth. 

My son recommended that I watch The Aeronauts via Amazon Prime. I am so glad he did. I enjoyed this movie immensely. I have always been in awe of explorers and inventors - not understanding how humans can be so inventive. I often say, "how in the world did they think of that?".  The Aeronauts kept me glued to the screen and made me realize that I've been completely unaware of an entire group of adventurers who fundamentally began space exploration from baskets lifted above the clouds by balloons.

James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne) is a scientist, a meteorologist, who is determined to gather data while in the sky. He appears in front of the Royal Society to plead his case of creating a science of the weather. He is convinced that the ability to predict the weather could come from studying the weather while in the sky.  He advocated, and finally received funding and support for an expedition in the skies. Mr. Glaisher, a meticulous and studious young man seems to be the polar opposite of young Ms. Wren.

Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones) is the female aeronaut who reluctantly agrees to pilot Glaisher's trip. She is conflicted, not wanting to be his chauffer on one hand yet having a philosophy of "Look up. The sky lies open... ". Ms. Wren is as entertaining and dramatic as she is strong and athletic all while fighting the sad memories of the loss of her husband two years prior.

The balloon lifts the two explorers to heights that is currently the typical cruising altitude for commercial jets (37,000 feet). The views in the movie are breath-taking. The setting both beautiful and stressful; on the balloon, those in the balloon, and me while I was watching. The temperatures, oxygen issues, and atmospheric impact on the balloon are things that caused me to hold my breath and sit on the edge of my seat. 

I very much enjoyed Felicity Jones' portrayal of Ms. Wren. I don't think I have words that are sufficient to explain why I enjoyed her performance so much.  So I'll just leave it at that. 


The Aeronauts - Facts Versus Fiction


As it turns out, during the late 1700s to mid-1800s, women were passengers then pilots of balloons for entertainment purposes. These people who piloted the balloons were called aeronauts. Skilled as these women were, they were not a part of the scientific world. 

The Aeronauts that inspired this story were scientists James Glaisher and Henry Tracy Coxwell. These two men made significant discoveries related to weather during their record-breaking flights. And began the school of thought that weather can be predicted.

I found it a bit irritating that Coxwell was replaced with a woman. I'm not sure I like this sort of re-writing of historical events. It seems to take credit away from the very important life's work of another human being. 

However, if the director felt the need to put a female in place of one of the male scientists, I am grateful that he did so without a plot that included romance. 

In other parts of the internet, Director Tom Harper is quoted with an explanation that the worlds of science and Hollywood have had clear gender bias against women, and "we need to be active in our pursuit to redress that."  (Time, December 2019). I suppose that is why he replaced Mr. Coxwell with the fictional Ms. Wren. 

Even with my concern about erasing Coxwell from the movie, I highly recommend this movie. I enjoyed the themes of exploration, bravery, defying gravity, and a reminder of those who have been instrumental in society's progress over 100 years ago. Weather forecasts are something we seem to take for granted and it was very interesting to see a portrayal of someone so passionate in their career.




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For more information about Mr. Glaisher and Mr. Coxwell and their record-breaking flight, click here  (I recommend watching after you see the movie - to avoid small spoilers). You can be sure that I will be learning more about the early aeronauts, male and female, and their brave exploration. 


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Friday, December 20, 2019

A Gift Wrapped Christmas Movie Review

A Gift Wrapped Christmas Movie Review
Most people would say that a review of "A Gift Wrapped Christmas" could be summed up with one word.  I can hear the men in the house saying words like cheesy, sappy, predictable, mush, but the women would say, adorable, sweet, loving, and romantic.  While I doubt very many males would sit down and watch this movie, I do think women will enjoy it.  It provides a nice escape for 87 minutes.

Before I watched this movie, I was not familiar with any of the actors, but I thought I would give it a chance. I was seeking a Christmas movie that didn't require me to be heavily invested. Because I was physically tired and emotional exhausted, I simply wanted a reprieve from reality for just a bit.  That is exactly what I got with A Gift Wrapped Christmas!



A Gift Wrapped Christmas Movie Synopsis


 A GIFT WRAPPED CHRISTMASCheck PriceGwen is a personal shopper that has a unique talent.  She knows what style and colors would look best on her clients at first glance. Matching their personalities requires more individual interaction, but her vivacious personality endears her to them quickly.  

When she is assigned as Charlie Baker's personal shopper, he is not particularly happy with her clothing choices for him.  However, he learns to trust her opinions and gift selections for the people on his Christmas shopping list.  

Because Gwen researches the gift recipient, she is able to buy relevant gifts that are perfect for everyone.  When Charlie reaps the benefits from the gifts she has sent to others in his name, he begins to reconsider his initial opinion of Gwen and her advice. 

In addition to Gwen's ability to delight Charlie's associates with gifts, she also seems to have a knack for making his 8 year old son happy.  

Even though both Charlie and his son, Owen, enjoy having Gwen around, his girlfriend, Victoria, does not.  As a matter of fact, Victoria has her own plans for a special Christmas gift she expects Charlie to give to her.  She is happy to give Gwen a precise description of the engagement ring she should purchase for Charley to give to her.  However, Gwen is not too happy to take her instructions from Victoria.  

I'm sure you can imagine what happens next, but imagining is not as much fun as watching.  I recommend you find a hour this holiday season to gift yourself with the time to watch this delightful Christmas movie.  It will put a lovely smile back on your own face!  

A Gift Wrapped Christmas Movie Review



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A Gift Wrapped Christmas Movie Review by:
House of Sylvestermouse




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Thursday, December 19, 2019

Christmas Jars - Movie Review

Watch Christmas Jars - Free Online Streaming
This time of year I am looking for inspirational movies in keeping with the true spirit of Christmas.  I love stories with heart, so when I came upon Christmas Jars, I knew I had found my kind of holiday movie.

Based on Jason F. Wright's New York Times bestselling novel, this film is for anyone who appreciates a focus on kindness, generosity, hope, forgiveness, compassion, and family.

As the movie begins, Hope Jensen, a 22-year-old aspiring writer is going through really hard times. Just when she is at her lowest, Hope discovers that someone has left a jar filled with coins on her doorstep.

The mystery of who committed this random act of kindness grips Hope.  She goes into full investigative journalist mode in her quest to uncover the perpetrator of this anonymous generosity.

Of course, there are twists and turns along the way, for that is the nature of life, and a good holiday movie.  Hope does find the beautiful individual who left her a gift much bigger than a sum of money.  Things become complicated, however, when she must choose between protecting the identity of her benefactor or achieving the long-awaited dream of publishing the feature that skyrockets her career.

This isn't a spoiler review, so I am being careful not to reveal too much.  Let's just say there will be elements of romance and finding what you have always needed.  In wrestling with her moral dilemma, and coming out on the other side, Hope experiences the power of compassion, forgiveness, and chosen family.

Though the movie is associated with a faith organization, there are no religious overtones.  It is simply a wholesome family film that can be enjoyed by all.  Originally released in November of 2019 as a special one-night theater event, Christmas Jars recently made its debut on television.  Both the original novel and the movie have spawned an ever-expanding kindness movement.  Millions of dollars in spare change has been collected and distributed to individuals in need.

In conjunction with seeing the movie (I've provided you with this link to watch it for free online), I encourage you to visit the Christmas Jars website to be moved by the personal stories of recipients of that kindness.  There is so much goodness that often goes unreported by the news networks.  I found that these true stories were a reminder that it is the small acts of love that change the world for the better—one person at a time.

As I was working on this review, and doing my own Hope-esque search for the backstory behind this movie, and the phenomenon of the Christmas Jars, I discovered something really wondrous.  The author of the book, Jason F. Wright, actually started the tradition of the Christmas jar with his wife and young children back in 2004.

When they were looking for a new family tradition that would make the holidays extra special, they decided to place all of their spare change in a jar throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas.  Then, they would select someone—an individual or family—who needed some encouragement.  That first jar contained about $88.  On Christmas Eve, they crept up on the chosen family's porch, placed their jar of coins by the door, rang the doorbell, and then ran to hide behind some bushes.

Here's where it gets really good.  In 2005, when Wright's book was first released, and had not yet achieved NYT bestseller status, he found himself downsized at work and a bit financially strapped.  It was at that moment when someone anonymously left Wright and his family their very own Christmas jar.  The tradition had gone full circle.  How beautiful is that?

It may not seem like much, but as you will read from the testimonies, a Christmas jar can be miraculous to the one needing a miracle, or a reminder that they are seen and loved.  I am filling my own jar of coins even as we speak.  On Christmas Eve, I plan to leave someone a little bit of tender loving kindness.  For what are the holidays if not a time to be a messenger of hope and light?











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Monday, December 16, 2019

Movie Review: Charged - The Eduardo Garcia Story

"Being alive with a few handicaps is much better than being dead ... that's for damn sure" - Eduardo Garcia. 


A story of life and healing.


Charged: The Eduardo Garcia Story is a movie that chronicles a man's recovery after an electrocution accident that should have left him dead in the back country of Montana. Not only did he survive, he thrives. 

As an adult, Eduardo returns to Montana. While on an outing in a glorious wilderness setting, he finds a bear carcass in a old steel tube. Curious, and with no warning that the old tube was an electrical station, he touched the bear and was electrocuted with 2,400 volts. When he regained consciousness, he somehow walked back down the trail and found help. He was life-flighted from Montana to Salt Lake City Burn Trauma ICU. 

It is mysterious to me that life is both fragile and strong beyond understanding. An accident can kill us in the blink of an eye. Or we can continue living through that which should have killed us. With no explanation to the how and why we survived. This is the case for Eduardo. It is beyond our ability to understand how he survived. 

The electrical shock blew off part of his side, head, and hand/fingers. It left him without a large portion of muscle. The film shows his treatment and wounds - including scenes that are not for the squeamish. I am not squeamish and I had to look away from the screen several times. The burnt skin and holes in his body looked like movie special effects but the damage filmed was real.

This documentary is not about a perfect hero. No. Eduardo has his flaws and difficulties in relationships. His ex/best friend/business partner, Jennifer, remains at his side during his recovery. Eduardo recognizes that caregivers are the forgotten victims of such trauma. He family members, including his previously absent father, are shown throughout the process of physical and emotional healing. 

Eduardo, a chef prior to the accident, resumes cooking when he returns home. He jokes that at least with the prosthetic arm he no longer has to worry about cutting his fingers while chopping. He resumes outdoor activities; running, hiking, surfing, and hunting. 

We all have pain and trauma - our individual crosses to bear. What makes us different is how we choose to live our lives while facing difficulties. Frankly, I'm not so good at it. I see others who seem to be optimistically facing much more hardship than I am, yet I continue to struggle to get out of bed many days. But I'm working at finding ways to stay upbeat and productive. Eduardo inspires me to keep working at it and to appreciate every single day. We are not promised tomorrow.

Eduardo Garcia reflects about his need to take a full appraisal of himself. His strength and tenacity is displayed from the moment he walks out of the wilderness to find help to the end of the movie while he's continuing to address relationships and living. But his realization of the need to take a good look at all aspects of himself I think is what requires the most bravery. No one wants to take an honest look at our own character flaws.

I saw this movie for free with my Amazon Prime account. It is also available on Blu-ray. If you are looking for a motivational movie to help you keep on, keeping on... this might be it. 

Related Link:

MontanaMex.com is Chef Garcia's website with original spice blends and sauces for sale. He also lists many recipes






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Friday, December 13, 2019

A Very Nutty Christmas Movie Review

A Charming Christmas Movie starring Melissa Joan Hart and Barry Watson

A Very Nutty Christmas Movie Review
Earlier this week, I found an absolutely adorable Christmas movie to watch that I had never seen before.  I selected it solely because Melissa Joan Hart was playing the main character, a baker in a small town.  I also have an affinity for Nutcrackers, so the movie seemed perfect for me.

I'll tell you in advance, the Amazon description of the movie is rather misleading.  It says she "awakes on Christmas day to find a handsome soldier who might be the Nutcracker Prince".  Not true!  She awakes to the Nutcracker Prince in her home several days before Christmas.  Getting the proper chronology of events is pretty important! After all, the Nutcracker Prince helps her rediscover the joy of Christmas  BEFORE Christmas day. 

Also, the word "nutty" in the title made me think the movie would be funny.  While there were definitely times of lighthearted laughter, I wouldn't call it funny. The "nutty" clearly refers to the Nutcracker and not humor.

Now that we have set the record straight, allow me to tell you about "A Very Nutty Christmas" and why I would recommend it for your holiday viewing.


A Very Nutty Christmas Movie Synopsis


 A Very Nutty ChristmasCheck PriceKate is overwhelmed by the work load and orders coming into her bakery during the Christmas season.  She needs the money, but she also requires help to complete her orders in time.  With thousands of cookies to bake in 6 days, Kate and her friends turned co-workers have their work cut out for them.

When Kate's boyfriend breaks up with her, her stress level intensifies.  Even though she truly needs a reprieve, cookies must be baked and delivered.  When Kate drops off multiple shipments of cookies at the post office, she accepts an invitation to walk home with her neighbor. Along the way, they chat, share Christmas woes, and stop off at several outdoor vendor tables set up in town. 

It is in one of those temporary Christmas booths that Kate meets Randolf Drosselmeyer who gifts Kate with a special Nutcracker.  The following morning Kate wakes to find a live Nutcracker laying on her living room floor.  She mistakenly believes he is a holiday "houseshare" guest who is renting her spare room for a few days and is in town for the "Nutcracker" ballet presentation.  Then the fun begins!

When he visits her bakery, she discovers his unusual talent for cracking walnuts.  An ability she can definitely use since her nut cracking machine chose this season to break.  She immediately puts him to work.  Over the next few days, they have a variety of activities they share that include caroling, ice skating, a Christmas ball, and the ballet.  Without realizing it, Kate is rediscovering the joy of Christmas while in the company of the real Nutcracker.  


Conclusion


This is truly an enchanting story, perhaps we would liken it to a fairy tale, that is a sheer delight to watch.  I wasn't quite sure what to make of the ending, but otherwise I found this to be a pretty good movie.
I recommend the movie for a reprieve from your own holiday workload and a reminder to stop and have fun this Christmas season.






If you are seeking a sweet, enjoyable movie this year for Christmas, be sure to watch A Very Nutty Christmas.


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Thursday, December 5, 2019

Won't You Be My Neighbor - Movie Review

Watch on Amazon Prime Video
I might as well lead with my truth: I love people who dare to be way out there—the kind of out there that is called for when convention just doesn't cut it.  And if ever there was someone who defined outthereness, it was Mister Rogers.

Who else could have led the revolution of neighborliness that transformed the lives of millions of children?  It seems the least likely among us are always the ones who rise up to do the right thing that should have been obvious all along.  I thought I knew this unlikely rebel, but it turns out the man in the cardigan was so much more than any parody.

Watching Won't You Be My Neighbor, the top-grossing biographical documentary ever made, was more than enlightening.  Just as this biopic was one of the genuine surprises of 2018, one of Time Magazine's Top Ten Movies of the Year, the man, Fred Rogers, turned out to be the biggest surprise of all.

Yes, Mister Rogers was a puppeteer.  He loved children and treated them with great respect.  His manner was gentle and kind.  Empathy was one of his greatest gifts.  Young children adored him.  We knew all of that, right?  What more do we need to know?

Every television personality is born of context.  It is the context I wanted to know.  What made Mister Rogers the man that he became?  Who was Mister Rogers the child?  How is it that Fred Rogers was able to remember what it was like to be a child?  How did that knowledge—that essence—inform his interactions with both young children and the child in each of us grown-ups?

Learning that Mister Rogers had a rich solitary life as a child was one key piece of that context.  Hearing that he was bullied, called Fat Freddy by his peers, told me something vitally important about Mister Rogers' inner child.  Knowing he had been a sickly youth who dealt with frequent bouts of asthma added to the picture.

Then there were the epiphanies that resulted from the discovery that Rogers was an ordained minister.  Things were really beginning to make even more sense now.  And those 200+ songs he wrote for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood?  Surely his degree in Music Composition, and the fact that he began playing the piano at the age of five, had something to do with that.  Music was in his soul.

There is so much more, but I will leave it to you to engage with Won't You Be My Neighbor and to have your own epiphanies.  After all, isn't that what makes a movie memorable?

I very mindfully chose to spend time immersed in this documentary in preparation for going to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.  They are two very different takes on Mister Rogers and the impacts of his humanity on others.  Both films spoke to me, but in entirely distinctive ways.

One sure common element of the two explorations into the persona of Mister Rogers is this:  You will feel Mister Rogers reach out to you.  He will meet you where you are.  He will appreciate the beauty of you.

Oh, how I wish Mister Rogers was my neighbor.  I wonder how I might become the kind of neighbor he would be to me.

It occurs to me that what we need most in the world right now is more of Mister Rogers' brand of neighborliness.  He, too, was living through tumultuous times when he created Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.  The themes of his trailblazing show are more current than ever: embracing differences; treating others with kindness; loving others for exactly who they are; and not being afraid to talk about the things that matter.

I highly recommend both of these films and will be publishing a separate review for each.  Stay tuned for my upcoming reflections on A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.  Coming soon to a blog near you.













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Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Art of Racing in the Rain - Movie Review

The Art of Racing in the Rain DVD
According to Enzo, lead philosopher in The Art of Racing in the Rain, some things are meant to be.  He just knew he was meant to be Denny's dog.  I now know I was meant to fall in love with this movie.  It is the best film I have seen in ages.

Just as there is a real art to racing in the rain (we'll get back to that in a moment), it takes a gifted touch to tell a story from a dog's point of view.  I have to admit I'd never before gotten into stories told by talking dogs.  It just wasn't my thing.

Why, then, was this movie different?  What made it so moving and beautiful?  Why was I crying from the opening scene on?

When it comes right down to it, I would have to say there was a true Zen quality to Enzo that spoke to my heart.  Though the film uses auto racing as a muse to supply life lessons, it is the dog who is in many ways, and at the same time, both the messenger and the message.  

As Denny and Enzo experience life's many joys and heartaches together, they are each what the other needs in the process of moving toward what they will become—who they will become.  In sharing their bond vicariously, I also found myself reflecting on where I am headed in my own life.

So, let's get back to the art of racing in the rain—the art of dealing with circumstances that others may find daunting.  Denny explains to Enzo that his secret to excelling in the racing conditions that cause others to crash is to anticipate and actually choose to force the skid that is necessary while traveling through dangerously wet curves.  By driving the skid, instead of letting it force his vehicle out of control, Denny is able to gain the edge he needs to achieve his dreams.

The movie is chock full of insights for living.  Somehow, when the wisdom is coming from a dog, it seems easier to receive.  Who could resist Enzo (and who would want to even if they could)?  You don't have to be a dog-lover to fall for this leading guy.  Though I cried plenty of tears for Enzo, I also felt an abundance of all of the good things dogs bring into our lives.  

Though movie critics seem to enjoy panning this film, it is clear that audiences love it.  I never go by what the critics think.  That is their job—to criticize.  

The actors, the messages, and especially the dogs... pure gold.  I highly recommend this film.  



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Friday, October 25, 2019

Love Surreal - Hallmark Movie Review

Love Surreal - Hallmark Channel Movie Review
Have you ever overlooked a great movie simply because the feature image does not appeal? That is exactly what happened to me with the Hallmark movie, "Love Surreal". I admit, the title didn't draw me in either! 

During a stressful day recently, I went in search of a nice movie to help calm my concerns for the day. After all, there was nothing I could do to change the outcome of the source of my stress. I simply had to wait. 

When I find myself having to "wait", I tend to imagine the worst. Therefore, it is best for me to refocus and stop the horrible images having a field day in my mind. I turned to the Hallmark channel to find my balance.  I needed a calm and peaceful movie, preferably with a happy ending.

Unfortunately, I had seen most to the movies currently available on the Hallmark channel.  I scanned the images several times and finally gave in to one that I intentionally dismissed previously.  I would watch "Love Surreal" and hope for the best.  

As it turns out, it was a pretty good movie.  A romantic story with a dose of comic relief.  I found myself laughing out loud several times during the movie and being equally delighted by the story line.  Love Surreal was exactly what I needed!


Love Surreal Movie Synopsis


Love Surreal Movie DVD
This is the featured image for the movie.
It didn't draw me in, which is a shame.  What do you think?
Being an only child, Abigale Morrison always felt alone when she was growing up.  Since her parents focused their attention on each other and traveling, instead of on Abby, she believed she was only an accessory in her parents marriage.  Not really a part of their lives.  Young Abby found company in her imaginary friend, Simon (Sy for short).  

Sy was understanding, compassionate and always available. When Abby loved drawing and when she drew pictures of herself, she included her friend, Sy as her companion.  She found contentment with her new ally. So much so, she maintained her friendship with her imaginary friend throughout her high school years and into her college life. Simon becomes a barrier between Abby and relationship pain.  It all works wonderfully well until Abby meets her roommates cousin, Quinn.

Quinn happens to be a fellow student in Abby's art appreciation class. He doesn't really appreciate art or the class, but he needs a good grade.  Which means, he needs help!

With a bit of coaxing by her roommate, Jessica, Abby becomes Quinn's tutor and subsequently his friend.  However, Abby makes it clear that she has a long time boyfriend, Simon.  But, that only works for so long.  


Conclusion


Yes, the basis of the story is rather unbelievable.  However if we suspend reality for a few hours, we can really enjoy this romantic comedy.  All of the actors are adorable and fun to watch as they fumble their way through life and make some difficult choices.

This truly is a delightful movie to watch! 

By the way, Love Surreal is also included in Amazon Prime Video.  I just happened to find it on my Hallmark Channel subscription.

   


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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Shadows in the Sun Movie Review

Finding Love And More In Italy

A friend of mine, Joan, recently suggested that I watch the movie Shadows in the Sun. I took her suggestion and would like to review it for you today. 

shadows in the sun
A street in Italy
image courtesy of pixabay.com
First of all, I'll share that I loved this movie! I have always wanted to go to Italy so the setting where the story takes place appealed to me a great deal. The countryside and the small village are charming and very much somewhere I would like to visit in real life someday.

There is a reason, Joan recommended that I watch this movie. The general theme in the plot involves a relationship that develops between two writers. One is famous while the other is aspiring to write his first book. Since I write novels, myself, of course it grabbed my attention.

Synopsis of the movie Shadows in the Sun

Jeremy Taylor is a successful agent in a London publishing firm. He is sent to Tuscany by his boss to do what others have failed to do; sign a reclusive author to a contract for a new book. Weldon Parish, the author, hasn't written a book in a few decades. His past work was a huge success but he gave up writing after his wife died. 

It is a struggle for Jeremy to even find Weldon in the beginning but he perseveres; eventually meeting the eccentric and crabby older man. Their first meeting doesn't go well as Weldon makes it known that he hates publishers, editors and agents. 

As the plot unfolds, Weldon and Jeremy become friends. Jeremy is a huge fan of the books that the former author wrote years ago and he is struggling with his own writing. Weldon wants no part of writing another book but he does start to teach Jeremy ways that he might improve his own style. 

Jeremy learns to let go of his rigid restraint as Weldon drags him into a few wild adventures in the small village and surrounding area. He is also falling head over heels in love with Weldon's daughter. The growing feelings between Jeremy and Isabella are sweet and touching while the antics by Weldon are humorous.

I'm really glad that Joan suggested this movie to me. It isn't a new movie, it was first released in theaters in 2005 and in DVD in 2006. Jeremy is played by the actor Joshua Jackson from Cursed and Dawson's Creek. The character of Weldon Parish is played by Harvey Keitel who has been in many movies and television shows. 

If you like a romantic comedy, I think you will enjoy this movie. It can be viewed for free if you are a Prime member. You can rent it to stream or you can buy the DVD. 


Shadows in the Sun
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