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…