Winter-Spring 2016 Mini Movie Reviews

SPOTLIGHT
11/25/15

Key Players: Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo

SpotlightEven though I’ve only spent a couple of short months in a real hustle-and-bustle newsroom and never at a major paper, I still get really amped when I watch movies about that kind of setting. It takes me back to when I worked for my college paper—the Spotlight team’s tiny room sectioned off from the rest of the staff made me nostalgic for our tiny computer lab in the basement of the student union, heavy with the scent of newsprint and stale coffee.

Spotlight truly deserved its Best Picture win—what a powerful film. As a journalist, I easily related to their passion for the story, their sense of duty to discover the truth and unveil it to the world. As a former Catholic school kid, the statistics were staggering. Based on true facts, Spotlight tells the story of how The Boston Globe exposed the wide-spread scandal of pedophilic priests and the massive cover-up within the Catholic Church. It hit the front page of the Sunday paper in early 2002 and sent shockwaves around the country—and, as the end credits show, the world.

Should you see it?
If you enjoy journalism movies or are interested in the subject matter. I highly recommend it.

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Vacation Hangover Movies: Cruise Edition

The post-vacation transition from relaxation back to the rise-and-grind routine is usually a pretty tough one. At press time, it’s my first day “back to work” (working from home is such a godsend) after a 10-day cruise throughout the Caribbean. I boarded Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas with my family on Thursday, June 18 and spent the next week exploring: King’s Wharf, Bermuda … Philipsburg, St. MaartenSan Juan, Puerto Rico … and Labadee, Haiti. We kayaked. We snorkeled. We saw the sights. We swam. We sweat buckets on beautiful beaches. All while living on a floating oasis that offered an ice-skating rink, full-sized boxing ring, rock-climbing wall, surfing simulator, mini golf course, three pools, five hot tubs, and mouth-watering meal options that included a full daily buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a coffee café, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlor, cupcake shop, Johnny Rockets, sushi bar, 24-hour pizza, and a five-star formal dining room for dinner. (I’m actually working from home because I can’t see my feet anymore; I just roll from room to room.)

Needless to say, it was a wonderful escape … but it’s always nice to come home. I tend to return to reality with overwhelming wanderlust stowed away in my suitcase, so to help my travel hangover subside, I usually watch some movies that help me ease back into the real world. When I go to Disney World, I unwind with Disney movies. When I visit an island, movies that take place in Hawaii or Greece, usually. So since I just got off a 13-deck luxury ocean liner, I plan to indulge in some of my favorite flicks that take place on (or in) the high seas, such as:

Pirates of the Caribbean | 2003

PiratesBefore Johnny Depp became Disney’s cash cow and Tim Burton’s play thing, he was a respected actor who chose his roles very carefully. The tip of the slippery slope he’s found himself on in recent years (in my opinion) was his very first portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow—which isn’t to say that I don’t love those movies, because I do, very much so. I just don’t like what it did to his career and that they couldn’t stop at just one excellent film. Regardless, the first is the best, as is usually the case, and I absolutely love watching it when I want to get into a nautical mood. Based on the popular Walt Disney World attraction, it’s a highly quotable swashbuckling adventure that I’ve practically memorized. Drink up, me hearties, yo ho! Continue reading

2015 Summer Movie Preview, Part 2

Eh, what the heck. Here’s five more.

Poltergeist | May 22

PoltergeistI find re-boots to be really frustrating, especially when I’m already a big fan of the original. I still remember the very first time I saw the Spielberg-written and produced 1982 fright flick; I was far too young and just flipping channels at my grandparents’ house. It was already to the part where Diane goes after Carol Anne and the huge hunk of skeleton head snarls at Steve. I later watched the full film a couple years later with my dad and sis, who couldn’t have been older than six at the time. She didn’t even flinch at the scene where that guy peeled his face off, but I couldn’t sleep that night. It’s since become one of my favorite scary movies, so I’m incredibly skeptical as to what an attempted remake can do to the integrity of the original, which already has a real life spooky story to back it up. But the trailer does make it look pretty terrifying and even though I NEVER see horror movies in the theater, I feel like this will be one that I just have to bring myself to sit through.

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Five Things That Inspire Me

I wanted to try something new for a PSA; it was easy for me to come up with five things that make me feel inspired—inspired to write, to see and try new things, to do good for others, to live my life to the fullest. Inspiration can hit in big or small ways and it doesn’t always present itself as a bright flash of motivation. Other times, it’s just a feeling of contentment, of knowing you’re doing okay, of being ready to take on the world one baby step at a time. I feel inspired every time I interview a person or organization doing great things for the community in my Blue Mountain’s Best feature for work or when I see someone being kind to a stranger. I think it’s important to find those little flashes in the day-to-day because allowing yourself to be swept up in monotony is a drain on what we’re capable of as humans; inspiration breeds creativity, something I’m quite prone to advocate for as a writer, along with positive vibes. Who couldn’t use a little more of that in their lives? That being said, here are five things (or people or places) that never fail to give me that little jolt.

1. The Ocean

11004390_10100364350201578_1793488586_nBeing born and raised a shore kid (and fueled by my childhood obsession with “The Little Mermaid”), I developed a deep and intense love for the ocean early in life. I love the heady aroma of sea air and the feel of my salt-encrusted skin when I leave the water, how alive I feel after being tossed around by the waves for a while and how just being close enough to hear them crashing on the beach rejuvenates my soul. (Trust me, I hear the cheese in that statement, but nevertheless, it’s true.) I call it my “happy place” and I go through periods of withdrawal, particularly during the winter months. Leaving the sea behind when I moved to PA was one of the hardest parts of the process. I’m transfixed by the immensity of it and fascinated by how it works, what lives in it, what makes it so powerful. I’ve always believed that if I hadn’t discovered such a love of writing and journalism, I would’ve studied marine biology. I can’t say what it is about it that affects me so deeply, but any time spent near churning, frothy water leaves me feeling completely recharged and ready to plow forward with whatever life has next in store. When I finally caught a break and got a job as a staff writer for a newspaper group in New Jersey and was abruptly let go less than a month after being hired, I drove myself straight to Sea Bright Beach where I sat on the sand for three hours, just staring at the horizon, planning my next move. For me, the ocean will always equal therapy. Continue reading

My Must-Watch Christmas Movies

5. Love Actually (2003)

Love Actually

This was the movie that started the chain of terrible holiday-themed ensemble cast rom-coms (lookin’ at you, Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve). OK, OK, so Love Actually is an all-Brit version and at least it’s not called “Christmas,” not to mention it has very little to do with the holiday itself … but for all its cliches, I still adore this movie, particularly when Hugh Grant starts dancing across his house to The Pointer Sisters.

4. The Family Stone (2005)

The Family Stone

I can watch this movie 17 times a season and not get sick of it. During the week of Thanksgiving this year, I watched it three times in three days! If I need to wrap something and I want background noise, it gets popped in. It’s feel-good family drama starring Sarah Jessica Parker at her least annoying. Continue reading

Five Frightening Flicks

I was never one for scary movies growing up. I just didn’t see how they were fun or enjoyable, all that jumping and shrieking at something you knew wasn’t real, yet had the power to creep into your dreams at night. I also don’t like too much blood and gore, although I did manage to sit through a majority of the SAW films. I preferred my Halloween movies to be more along the lines of Hocus Pocus or that Christina Ricci Casper nonsense. They don’t bother me as much anymore, mainly because I don’t believe in ghosts or demons. The movies that scare me have to have some roots in the realm of possibility. And they can be fun every once in a while, as long as I have some alcohol in my system, a pillow to hug, and a big group of friends to scream with. That being said, I haven’t seen a whole lot, therefore my list of “favorites” wasn’t too hard to come up with. Check ‘em out.

5. Poltergeist (1982)

936full-poltergeist-poster

The only real classic on my list. I saw snippets of the end of Poltergeist once when I was little and flipping channels at my grandparents’ house. I later saw it in full when my father, using his excellent parenting judgement, popped it in one night. I was 12. My sister, only six, enjoyed it almost more than I did. While the whole face-peeling scene was a little squeamish, the Steven Spielberg-written ghost story has remained a favorite to this day. It’s a bit ridiculous at times between the killer clown doll and the tree that eats kids, but I love Craig T. Nelson and I can’t help but think of the corresponding Family Guy episode (“Petergeist”) when I watch it these days. Stewie busting out into Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” cracks me up every time. Plus, there’s that whole creepy “curse” coincidence of the deaths tied to the film. Continue reading

Book VS. Film: Divergent

Screen shot 2014-03-31 at 2.08.13 PMIt’s official; I have been sucked into the world of Divergent. I always do this. I ignore something as the buzz builds and builds, and when it finally reaches a deafening roar, I break down. I did it with Harry Potter, believe it or not. When my mom first brought the Sorcerer’s Stone home for me, I thought it looked silly. Flash forward 14 years and I’m sitting in a movie theater sobbing my heart out as a gigantic chunk of my childhood finally comes to an end. The Hunger Games: Not quite as dramatic, but still the same result. I resisted until maybe a month or so before the movie, then finally read the book, nay, the entire trilogy, in one weekend. And now I love it. So when everyone started talking about Divergent, I knew I would eventually have to grab the book, since I’m the type of person who simply has to read the book before seeing the movie.

I read it in 8 hours. I sat down the Saturday evening of the film’s opening weekend (March 22) and didn’t move until 3 a.m. Sunday afternoon, I was sitting in the theater. I saw it again this past weekend and subsequently read the entire second book, Insurgent. My plans for this coming weekend? Allegiant. Continue reading