Pick your movie of the week: The 3 Amigos (Aug 4-10/19)

Did you know that five of the last six Best Director Oscars have gone to three Mexican directors? In movie fandom they are nicknamed The Three Amigos: Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro, and Alejandro Iñárritu. These are all awesome movies and I look forward to seeing what you all pick:

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014, Alejandro Iñárritu)

The Shape of Water (2017, Guillermo del Toro)

Roma (2018, Alfonso Cuarón)

 

Other notable “Three Amigo” flicks:

  • The Revenant, (2015, Iñárritu)
  • Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, del Toro)
  • Gravity (2013, Cuarón)
  • Pacific Rim (2013, del Toro)
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004, Cuarón)
  • Babel (2006, Iñárritu)
  • Hellboy and Hellboy 2 (2004, 2008, del Toro)
  • Children of Men (2006, Cuarón)
  • Amores perros (2000, Iñárritu)

Chapter 6: Wild Encounters

Congratulations Shrek. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Julia Roberts as Julianne Potter in My Best Friend’s Wedding.

Best Actor: John Cusack as Craig Schwartz in Being John Malkovich.

Best Quote: “Now really, it’s rude enough being alive when no one wants you, but showing up uninvited to a wedding?” — John Lithgow as Lord Farquaad in Shrek.

Chapter 6

A king cobra wasn’t what Brody thought he’d find while running for his life at Wrestlemania. He had been running for at least ten minutes but seeing no sign of Cable. He kept looking for elevators, since that was where he’d seen her last. At the third set he’d come upon he decided to try hitting the down button. He had no idea what to do, but without her, much less Anita and Chester, his every decision was a big guessing game.

Ding. The doors slid open and that’s when he first saw it. A frighteningly large snake was inside, its body sprawled randomly on the floor as if it was a thick cord dropped carelessly. Its head, however, was up and doing just what Brody was doing: waiting to see what was on the other side. Seeing him standing there caused the serpent to stand, as cobras do, widening its scaly neck. When Brody was just 8 years-old he’d watched a video of a king cobra attacking a lion and had nightmares about it for weeks. This was his greatest fear. For this reason he’d never even given a thought to travelling anywhere in Africa or Asia. He wasn’t all that crazy about going anywhere south of the Tropic of Cancer for that matter. He froze as the snake hissed and growled, standing high enough to be looking him straight in the eye.

It was uncertain to him where he mustered the courage to do so, but Brody managed to turn himself around and run. He knew if he looked back he’d regret it. Seeing a king cobra is terrifying, but not anywhere near as much as seeing one chase you. But he couldn’t help himself. He had to look.

Yup, it was chasing him alright. What made it worse was that he could hear that familiar Richard Strauss orchestral music blaring from inside the stadium. He knew that song meant only two things: the 1968 classic 2001: A Space Odyssey or Ric Flair. Knowing just where he was made it easy to know the music’s purpose, but it was playing just as he’d caught sight of the snake and was still playing as he ran. He felt like he did in those bad dreams where you’re being chased but your legs aren’t working right and it feels as if you’re running through waist-high water.

The snake was gaining on him. This could be a fake. A figment of my own imagination. But that thought wasn’t helping. The idea that this could be something other-worldly meant he didn’t know if it was better or worse than what he thought. Taking a lightning-quick look back a third time he was sure the snake could catch up to him and dig its fangs into his neck at any moment. Then he felt something grab his wrist and jolt him to a stop, his legs flying up in the air like they were going to keep going without him. He stumbled and fumbled his way to a standing position to see that it was Cable. “Finally I found you! Follow me.” The snake had stopped short but kept its gaze. “Oh, don’t be afraid of that. It’s from Odium.”

“So it’s… not real?”

“Oh no it’s very real. You’re lucky it didn’t catch you before I did. One bite could kill twenty of you.”

And you want me to NOT be afraid of it? Brody wondered how she could be so calm and cool around this writhing embodiment of terror. And then she did the unthinkable. “Hsssssssss! ….come on! Come get us!” she seethed, extending her harm in a taunting gesture. Is she insane?! Brody thought.

“Cable… what are you…” the snake lunged just as it had in the video that 8-year-old Brody regrettably witnessed. Seeing it coming towards him made him yelp in fear loud enough to drown out any of the cheers and jeers coming from inside the stadium.

But just as the snake lurched, Cable made a diagonal slicing motion through the air with her arm. It left a trail of white shiny dust like you’d see in the tail of a comet. The snake appeared to dive right into that thin arc and vanish into it. Then the arc of light dust disappeared as fast as it had shown up. Brody stood stiff as a board with an ashen face and widened eyes.

“It’s ok Brody. It’s gone.”

“Where’d it go?” he managed with a quiet, shaky voice.

“It’s now entering through that thing you folks call a black hole. It’ll be fine. He’s gone somewhere good for him.”

I wasn’t concerned about its safety! Thought Brody.

“Now come on, we have to act quick!” said Cable grabbing him again by the wrist. The two ran in the opposite direction that Brody and the cobra were heading. They were moving quickly, though were almost stopped by another cobra. In fact, cobras were appearing from every corner; yet, disappearing almost as fast with every slash through the air Cable made with her arms. They finally arrived at an elevator when they heard a roar from behind them. Once again Brody was paralyzed with fear as he beheld a giant lion bounding in their direction.

“I got this Brody. Just open the doors!”

More and more lethal animals appeared, each one with obvious and direct intent on attacking and killing the two of them. There were cobras and mambas, lions and panthers, tigers and cheetahs. Even a giant bear ran at them monstrously, its body barely filling the hall.

“How is it that no one else is seeing this?” cried Brody. It was true. They had passed by plenty of people as they were running for their lives and none of them seemed concerned at all, let alone horrified.

“I’m protecting them from it. They’re not seeing any of this.” The animals kept coming, and not one at a time anymore either. “Are the doors open yet?”

Brody looked up and saw the number 2 lit. Then 3. “It’s getting there!”

With one gesture Cable created a bigger portal that stayed visible and functioning as vicious animals poured into it. Cable grabbed Brody by the shoulders and looked him in the eyes.

“When that door opens, you don’t move until I say so. No matter what’s in there!”

DING

Brody wasn’t ready for this, but he had to be. The doors slowly parted and revealed a beast beyond his (or anyone’s)  imagination. It looked like a giant wolf on its hind legs with human arms and claws that would make Wolverine looks like a kitten. It had enormous fangs dripping with saliva and a forked tongue fluttering in and out of its mouth. The haunting growl it made shot currents of electricity through Brody’s body. Even being with the rock-steady Cable didn’t stop Brody from believing that he was about to die a horrifying death.

“Stay where you are,” whispered Cable. “Don’t. Move.”

The creature let out a blood curdling scream, then crouched.

“MOVE!” yelled Cable and kicked Brody to the side as the beast jumped forward with the speed of a shot arrow. But Cable didn’t move herself. She stood strong and absorbed the tackle. She wrestled and fought with it as she yelled out directions to Brody.

“Get in the elevator Brody. Quick!” He felt like he was abandoning Cable, but he didn’t know what else he could do but follow her lead. She could only grunt sentence fragments as she tussled with the immensely powerful monster.

“Let the doors close… the lights… are going to… go out. Don’t be afraid…”

He watched her seem to weaken in her fight as the doors closed. This time they didn’t slide slowly like elevator doors normally do. In a jarring and unforgiving fashion they slammed shut. Hard. And just as Cable had said, the lights went out. Complete blackness.

Now it was time for just another dose of fear and despair. The elevator dropped straight down as if someone had snapped the cables. No one can truly understand the sheer terror of free-falling, no matter what scary theme park ride they’d been on. Only those who’d been in an airplane falling to the earth, or who’d been suddenly pushed from the top of a building, could possibly appreciate the shockwaves pulsing through the veins and the feeling of electricity leaping from the naval to the forehead.

Then, a splash. Brody suddenly felt cold and couldn’t breathe. He could hardly move as well. But he did see light. It was above him, waving. It took him a second to realize he was in water. His arms and legs instinctively moved about against the liquid, trying to get him up to the light. He could taste salt on his lips and was afraid the water would enter his mouth and then his lungs if he didn’t reach the surface soon.

To be continued…

Pick your movie of the week: Cameron Diaz! (July 28-Aug 3/19)

These ones are pretty iconic for Diaz and they just happen to fall right around the same time period. And I think it’s fair to say that she’s  one of the more underappreciated actresses in Hollywood today. Which of these fun movies would be your pick for Movie of the Week?

My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

Being John Malkovich (1999)

Charlie’s Angels (2000)

Shrek (2001)

Chapter 5 – When You’re All Alone

Congratulations Dances with Wolves. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Whitney Houston as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard.

Best Actor: Other than Mr. Costner, I’d say the most deserving is Morgan Freeman as Azeem in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Best Quote: “Many times I’d felt alone, but until this afternoon I’d never felt completely lonely.” — Kevin Costner as John “Dances with Wolves” Dunbar in Dances with Wolves.

Cha

Chapter 5

Odium was a different kind of being. The kind you only find out about post- life on earth. The universe is very wide, very long, very deep, and very mysterious. And so are the others just like it. Countless others.

Most of us living on earth have some understanding of who we would call the devil, but that wasn’t Odium. He was not evil incarnate. He was simply a being that should not have been where he was for the past thousand years or so. But he sure was dangerous.

There were many things he and his kind desired and enjoyed, and almost all of them were harmful to human beings. One of his favourite activities was manipulation. It fascinated him and he was addicted to doing it to humans in a variety of ways. He knew every language imaginable down to the most specific accent and could mimic any temperament that humans recognize. He wasn’t a shape-shifter by any stretch, but his abilities in persuasion brought him the closest one could imagine to actually being one. Trusting him was never difficult. Resisting him took work, to say the least, and from the brief look he was able to steal from Brody’s eyes, he believed things would fall in his favour.

So naturally the young man dressed in black casuals with a walkie-talkie clipped to his belt didn’t stand a chance. Despite the music booming through the speakers and the roar of a crowd coming from the stadium, Odium made his case for the young man to follow him and open a door. He had found Brody.

————–

The silence in the room had hung for several minutes. When this happens in day-to-day life, those minutes can be long. In a context such as this one, the moments seemed to last for days. Finally Chester spoke up.

“Brode, I’m very sorry.”

More silence. It wasn’t just the shock of the news, it was also the betrayal of time. Were all of these years and memories for nothing? Were his friends characters in a play? A figment of his imagination? And as if Anita could read his mind, she added her own offering of comfort.

“All that you remember is real… it’s just… you remember that U2 song, ‘Stuck in a Moment’? Well, that’s what you are right now. You went to northern India to see a boxing match, which is where Odium got a hold of you. Then he sent you through a portal to your homeland.”

“It’s true Brode,” interrupted Chester. “And you’ve been stuck in a 48-hour time loop. Thankfully the Puri-Stone fight took place in that loop. We knew we could find you there.”

At this point Brody was on the floor, back against the wall, staring at the humming air conditioner across the room. People joke about being caught in the “twilight zone.” But for Brody this was real, and it was no joke. He knew all of this was just too crazy to be true, but he’d experienced enough of the unexplainable in the last few hours to write it all off as a hoax or dream. Doubt, however, continued to swirl in his brain. This may or may not have been the source of his pounding headache. Maybe it was the lack of sleep. Maybe it was the… “time change”? Does that apply in this kind of activity.

“Once you’re back it will all be clear. Back to normal,” offered Chester, though even he wasn’t a fan of his choice of words here. Normal?

“Brody, all that  you…”

Just then the door opened. There was Odium with his head turned to the side giving a smile and a thank you to the young man, though he moved quickly. He knew Anita and Chester would slam the door as soon as they could think quickly enough.

“Brody!” he said with a smile of relief. I am so glad I’ve found you. I am even more pleased that these two haven’t harmed you. Not yet anyway.”

“Odium, you need to go back to where you belong!” shouted Chester before he was flown across the room like he’d been shot with a bullet. He laid on the beige nylon carpet motionless.

Then every folding table in the room flew towards Brody and stacked themselves in front of him, blocking Odiums view of him.

“Oh, aren’t you clever?” sneered Odium. Anita then receives the same treatment as Chester. Brody didn’t see this but he could hear the thud and Anita’s weak cry. He didn’t remember ever being so scared. It felt as if he could feel every vein and every artery in his body pumping blood and adrenaline like a million little firehoses.

Yet it wasn’t long before he was feeling calm. Unusually calm. Odium moved around the stack of tables and looked pitifully at Brody like a grandmother finding her grandchild with a skinned knee.

“Brody, I am so sorry you’ve had to go through all of this.”

Odium gave Brody his complete attention and delivered to him a speech for the ages. He told him how great of a man he was and reminded him of all of his accomplishments over the years of his life. He told Brody about how his friends were rogue con artists who only wanted to use him to get to others. To harm them and steal from them.

“What did they say their names were?”

By now Brody felt more collected and tranquil. “Anita and, um, Chester,” he managed.

Odium closed his eyes and shook his head. “I don’t even want to know what kind of lies they’ve told you to get you here. Full of magic tricks aren’t they?” Brody nodded. “I mean, who wouldn’t follow these two and do whatever they ask? It’s impossible not to I guess.” Odium’s voice trailed off. “But you’re here now. And you’re safe.” A reassuring smile.

This was certainly the first time in a long time now that Brody was feeling at ease. He’d longed for this feeling. Odium offered his hand and it felt so right for Brody to take it and get lifted back up on his feet. Seeing his two friends lying on the floor as the two turned to exit the room was saddening to Brody, but he was relieved that he was being led away from the craziness. Just before getting to the door, however, they heard a faint voice singing a song. It was Anita. It wasn’t anything Odium recognized, so for a few brief seconds he simply stared at her with a look of confusion. “Quiet you! You’ve done enough,” turning to Brody now, “Try and ignore her. It’s probably an incantation or some other trick to try and capture your mind.”

If it was a trick, she was good, thought Brody. He knew this song: “When You’re Alone,” sung by a young little actress from the movie Hook. Why was she singing this?

“It’s just a movie tune Odium. Do you know it?”

“No, I can’t say that I do.” His brow furrowed and concern danced in his eyes. Or maybe it was panic.

“Well, I really liked that movie. Somehow she must’ve known that… and is probably trying to win me over,” he turned to Odium. “Don’t worry. I won’t let her trick me.” The man in white smiled.

But inside the mind of Brody was clarity. Clarity slowly creeping up like the tortoise in the proverbial race. Not everything was clear, of course. For instance, he was picturing watching this movie with his family at Christmas, but he wasn’t sure where this memory was coming from. The rest of his family didn’t seem to care about the film like he did. He could see the little girl in the story, Maggie, hugging a wooden post on a pier singing with all her heart. Then a flash of another little girl doing the same, only wrapping her arms around the newel post of a set of stairs in a home. Then Anita stopped singing. Her lips looked like they were glued shut. He knew it had to have been Odium. He wasn’t sure who the little girl was in his memory, but regardless if it was Anita, Anita’s mom, or some random stranger, it didn’t matter. He knew something was connecting here.

“Look at that!” said Odium with a disgusted look, “They are such odd and sorry looking creatures! Brody I’m so glad we’re getting you awa…”

Brody simply yelled “Run home Jack!” and dove for the door. Landing just in the threshold he rolled himself to the hallway side. Odium ran after him but the door slammed shut. He spun around and glared at a now standing Chester who had his hand outstretched toward the door.

It was unclear what Odium could or would do to his friends, but Brody just knew what the two of them would have told him to do. He could feel it in his bones. Run away and find Cable.

Chapter 4 – The Man in White

Congratulations Game Night. This is your Week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Definitely Rachel McAdams in Game Night. I am a big fan of J-Law—even shared a plane with her!—but RM killed it in Game Night. She’s a very funny actress, which of course you’d know if you saw Mean Girls (2004).

Best Actor: Chris Evans as Captain America in Avengers: Endgame. You can’t deny he plays the part extremely well. I never liked the character as a kid, and never thought I ever would. Yet, here I am…

Best Quote: “May the odds be ever in your favour.” — Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games

 

Chapter 4

Looking for Cable wouldn’t be difficult, despite being in a 72,000 capacity football stadium crawling with avid wrestling fans bustling from spot to spot: ticketed seat–popcorn stand—bathroom—merch table—back to seat. It was dizzying to the sleep depraved Brody, but adrenaline was doing its job in his veins just fine. According to Chester, Cable liked to watch the show from a vantage point facing the wrestlers’ entrance ramp, as square on as possible. They went straight to the top level, #4, of the stadium where Brody realized that Cable wasn’t what he thought. He was prepared to find a middle-aged white man who loosely resembled the comic book store guy on The Simpsons. What he was introduced to was a late-20’s latino woman in a black t-shirt with “SECURITY” spelled out in large letters on the back from shoulder blade to shoulder blade. She wore a ball cap with a ponytail and had a countenance that gave the impression she was a very happy person, even when she wasn’t smiling.

She and Chester hugged, then so did she and Anita. Brody was always uncomfortable with hugs, so thankfully that’s where the hugging stopped. Chester got right to business.

“So you’re aware of this being-stuck problem we have?”

“Yes, I do. We’ve all heard about it. We might as well take care of this now. Unless you three were hoping to see the matches.”

“No, you were right the first time. We have to move fast,” said Anita.

They walked away together, collectively knowing where they were heading, leaving Brody to follow like a puppy dog. Heading down a “staff only” hallway with blank beige walls the group stopped by a set of elevator doors. The wheels in Brody’s head were turning and it showed on his face.

“Ah, I can see you’re figuring things out,” Cable said. You took the shower route to get here. Maybe an underground parking garage ride as well?”

“Yeah,” answered Brody with a weak smile.

“This is scary too, but much faster.”

“Yes, Chester and I are not as skilled as Cable in this form of travel. But if we want to get unstuck, this is the only way.”

“I thought you acquired all the knowledge that humans can know.”

“We do. But Cable isn’t a human. And her gate skills go beyond what the two of us can do. She’s like a wizard.” It seemed Anita was using this last word as more of a compliment than a literal identity designation. With a twinkle in her eye it looked like she enjoyed bragging on Cable, but the idea that she wasn’t human was unsettling to Brody.

A ding turned all four heads to the elevator door. None of them seemed to expect what would materialize before them. Their eyes widened as a man wearing white from head to toe stood inside the elevator. His face was a chiseled and carved work of art, like a statue had come to life. Two curtains of jet black hair hung on for dear life along the sides of his skull.

“Don’t run.” He said these two words simply and slowly, as if there was a period in between them. The melancholy of his voice creeped Brody out.

Just then Cable let out the most terrifying and piercing scream one could imagine. That seemed to be a cue as Anita and Chester ran back down the hall, each with a fistful of Brody’s shirt, forcing his flight as well.

The man in white covered his ears, knees buckling as he absorbed the pain. But he was determined and stumbled out of the tiny elevator. He made his way down the corridor but looked like a helpless drunk trying to leave a bar, hands still covering his ears. Cable kept the scream going until she could see the man in white no longer.

Chester seemed to know exactly where to go in this stadium. Brody and Anita followed him as swiftly as they could. There wasn’t enough people in the building yet to keep them from moving fast, but just enough to help cover their tracks. They eventually ended up in a large hallway, one that Brody thought might connect to the private boxes. A door flew open and they ran in. Again, not sure which one opened it, but it hadn’t ceased to amaze him that Anita and Chester could do that. A big Star Wars fan all of his life made it even greater of a thrill for Brody.

“We’re safe here,” said Anita, with the steady voice of someone who certainly did not just run the quarter length of a stadium afraid for her life. Another reminder for Brody that his new friends did not have the limitations of being a human being.

“How are we safe here?” cried Brody, between panting and gasping.

“He can’t open doors without a human’s help. Not knobs, not lee-vahs,” said  Chester. “Like Cable, he’s not human. He can do a lot of snazzy things, but being trapped in space and time really make take a trip for biscuits.”

Brody’s forehead furrowed and his eyes darted at Chester. But Anita interjected. “He’s also not entirely used to this time and space. He’s been living in 5th century Nepal for the last two hundred years. But Brody, that’s not important. What’s important is that we get to an elevator with Cable.”

“Wait!” Brody had caught enough breath and caught his bearings enough to get a bit impatient. “I don’t need to know all the ins and outs of the afterlife, but I do need to know why it’s so important that you two need me to get you out of here. Why can’t Cable just do it?”

Chester gave Anita that same look he did back in the Denny’s booth when Brody had asked how they’d known him. And like before, Anita chose to answer first.

“I don’t know if you’re ready for that yet Brody.”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I am! At this point I’m running for my life and all to get you guys back to… to… heaven or something!”

“Brody,” said Anita, “You’re life as you know it isn’t what’s in danger. That man in white is Odium. He’s here to stop Chester and I from getting you back home.”

“Home?” This just kept getting stranger for Brody, but just as the word left his mouth he felt for Anita. He could tell what she was about to say was hard for her to get out. For just a moment he saw her as his granddaughter. He imagined her as a child opening up a Christmas gift he’d gotten her. He wondered if she listened to him tell stories or had a favourite meal that he would make for her. Maybe she was a grandchild he would never have known at all for some reason. Either way, he felt love in his heart for her despite their only being introduced hours ago.

“Go ahead Anita,” he managed. “Tell me what I need to hear, and hold back what you think I can’t handle. You’re the boss.”

She smiled. “Brody, have you wondered yet while I’m old while Chester is young?” He had. “When we die, our bodies that we appear in don’t reflect the age when we died or anything like that. It simply reflects the body we were most comfortable in. And truly, after life nobody really cares what they look like.”

Chester looked like he was about to add to Anita’s lesson of sorts but she held up her hand, politely asking him to let her finish.

“Brody, everything I told you about me and my life are true…but I purposely didn’t tell you the years I was born, married, died, etc.”

“Why…what…”

“Brody, you died after living a very full life at the age of 97.”

 

To be continued…

Pick your movie of the week: Game on! (July 14-20/19)

My siblings and I love playing games, and by that I refer to the “board” variety, not so much video games or sports. So this week we’re going to pick from three movies that all have the word “game” or “games” in the title. They’re all good, so which one would you choose for our Movie of the Week?

The Hunger Games
(2012, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Woody Harrelson)

Game Night
(2018, starring Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams)

Avengers: Endgame
(2019, don’t get me started here…)