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A Cure For Wellness

A Cure For Wellness

This post contains mild plot point spoilers but honestly you shouldn’t waste your time seeing the movie anyway. Just read my post and you’ll be all set.

 

A Cure For Wellness is one of the biggest letdowns in some time. Similar to Crimson Peak a few years ago, it had a beautifully haunting trailer that drew me in and made me want to see a “scary movie,” a genre I tend to avoid. I’m a scaredy cat who will have nightmares for days after a mildly scary episode of TV. So, mustering up the courage to see a scary movie is a big deal. And then, I see something like A Cure For Wellness and I just sit there bored out of my mind trying to envision a better version of the movie than the one on screen.

Wellness is a master class in how not to pace a film. The beginning drags but I figured it was a lot of build up to a exciting second half. The excitement never came. At 2.5 hours I’m not sure what the director felt was so precious to keep. It’s as if the storyboards were written on cards that fell on the ground and however they were shuffled back together was the order they edited the film. With so many resets to the action, it was difficult to ever get into a groove.

I’ll give you the one sentence description of the plot. A young man, Lockhart, goes to a sanitarium in Switzerland to bring back the CEO of his Wall Street firm only to find something is not right in the seemingly idyllic spa. The problem is he figures that out almost immediately but not quite as fast as the audience. I heard multiple people whisper to their movie-going companion, “Don’t drink the water,” the very first instant the water was shown. Everything is so on the nose as to not leave anything for the audience to discover.

Let’s get back to the pacing. One of the keys to a scary film, especially when the main character has a broken leg*,  is the sense that there is no where for them to go and no way for them to run. Think Misery or literally any other suspenseful film with an injured protagonist. So, what does A Cure For Wellness do with this plot point? They continuously let Lockhart leave. He goes into town multiple times and even calls work. Yet, he goes back and keeps drinking the Kool-Aid even though he knows it’s bad for him. The film gives the main character too much distance from the rest of the brainwashed patients at the sanitarium though. Since he never buys in to the lies the staff is telling, we never buy in. And if we never buy in, it makes the whole thing seem ridiculous.

For a film that takes no chances and has no real sense of tension or terror, it seems to have no problem leaning gratuitously on sexual violence toward the end. A rape scene completely changes the tone of the film and one specifically unnecessary moment had the audience make its first collective sound of the movie, a big grossed-out groan. The fact that the love interest is a pre-pubescent girl and the main town secret revolves around incest should give you a sense of what the film relished in, as opposed to finding real terror in the experiments performed on the guests (patients).

* Bad storytelling is when a plot device is thrown away the second it will make the rest of the story harder to tell. As soon as the film needed Lockhart to be able to run and fight, they let him remove his cast and magically walk on his broken leg. Now, given that the caretakers are all crazy perhaps it wasn’t broken in the first place. But, the director made us listen to the sound of Lockhart walking on his crutches for almost two hours (many times the only sound in the scene) so just for that reason he should have been held to using them for the rest of the film.

I won’t get started with the eels, or the face masks, or the eels, or the dead babies in jars, or the use of dentist as torturer, or the eels. All I’ll say is, never sign your name on a form that’s in a foreign language you can’t read. Also, if Stranger Things taught us anything, don’t mess with sensory deprivation chambers.

If you want to be scared by something associated with A Cure For Wellness read about the real-life history of the location used during filming. That will raise the hair on your arms. The movie will just leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.

 

Snakes on a Plane – The Best Film Experience of My Life

Snakes on a Plane – The Best Film Experience of My Life

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It seems as if people don’t make going to a movie in a theater as much of an event as it used to be. People have big screen TVs and streaming services to recreate the visuals of a theater in their own home. And why go to the movies when people are just going to talk and be rude on their phones the whole time, am I right? Well, this is the story of a time when a movie-going experience far outweighed the movie and became my favorite movie memory.

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It was 2006 and the best movie theater in my college town, San Luis Obispo, CA, was The Fremont, an old theater with only one screen and 500 seats. A group of about 10 of us were pumped for the movie and only got more excited once we realized how energized the rest of the audience was. The theater was only about half full but you would have thought it was a full house from the sound. The moment I knew this would be an experience unlike any other? The moment someone threw a fake snake into our row. That’s right, the movie I’m talking about is SNAKES ON A MOTHERF***ING PLANE! 

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Death, Grief, and Pop Culture

Death, Grief, and Pop Culture

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my dad’s death. I thought I’d have at least another 20 years to prepare for the death of a parent but instead my loss, and the loss for my entire family, came suddenly and unexpectedly. The most important lesson I’ve learned in the past year is that everyone handles the grieving process differently and its impossible to get everyone to say and do what you need in order to feel emotionally supported. For some people, they want to grieve in private and don’t want to talk about it. I had my brief time with that urge but it passed and then I desperately wanted to talk about my heartache but found that many people think its uncomfortable or impolite to ask me how I’m doing or even acknowledge the situation. In turn, I didn’t want to burden my friends and family with a constant barrage of tears. I went where I always go for comfort, television and movies, but found there is no safe place to be when you are trying to hide from grief.

Growing up I always prided myself on the fact that I never cried at movies. I would brag about it and make fun of my mom for crying at commercials. I thought crying equaled weakness and I never wanted to be perceived as an “emotional” girl. Of course, there’d been times in my life when I cried over a boy or a lost friendship but to me, crying over some piece of pop culture always felt beneath me. I’ve cried more in the last 365 days then I knew was humanly possible which, looking back on my childhood, seems like that damn was bound to break at some point.

The week after my dad died I was flipping through the TV channels and stopped at The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and watched for a few minutes just as the scene where Eowyn’s uncle (basically her father) is killed and she must say goodbye to him. I completely lost it. My husband held me as I cried and then I started laughing at how absurd it felt to be crying uncontrollably at a movie I’ve seen before and a scene that never made my eyes well up previously. If only I’d known that was just the beginning.

I’d been a big fan of the television show Parenthood. The father in the show, Zeek, always reminded me of my dad. So, in the final season (spoiler alert) when the show started dealing with Zeek’s heart issues around the same time my dad was having a procedure on his heart, I got very nervous. I thought, “Please don’t let Zeek die because it will make me nervous for my own dad.” And then my dad died before Zeek. I saved the last six or so episodes of Parenthood on my DVR for months because I wasn’t ready to watch my reality play out again on television.

Three weeks after my dad died I went and saw Interstellar over Thanksgiving weekend. I spent two and a half hours watching what is essentially a love story between a father and his daughter. A story about how love has no bounds in time or space. I cried quietly to myself throughout the ending everyone else thought was confusing or cheesy. This was my new emotional state.

In the months that Parenthood was holding a spot on my DVR, I couldn’t escape what felt like a constant onslaught of men having heart attacks on television and in movies. Fathers dying seemed to be everywhere.

When did the trope of male characters having heart attacks become such a prominent thing and how can we make it stop?

I found myself avoiding dramas at all costs. I tried sticking to mindless television and comedies to escape the theme of loss prominent in every show. I’d watch Shark Tank to withdraw from my emotions only to have one of the entrepreneurs say she was doing this for her dad who had passed away. I’d listen to Nerdist, a generally funny and lighthearted podcast, and come across episodes where host Chris Hardwick talked with guests about the death of his father. I went to see Trainwreck thinking it would be a fun lighthearted movie to take my mind off things. And then I had to sit in a dark theater with no tissues as I watched Amy Schumer’s character eulogize her dad at his funeral. I wanted to run out of the theater and cry in the bathroom but I stayed and felt a bit of comfort crying alongside the characters.

There’s a moment in Pixar’s brilliant Inside Out where the characters Joy and Sadness realize that previous memories that were once only filled with Joy had become tinted with sadness. They think this is a mistake and try to fix it, only to realize memories change based on current circumstances. This moment rang true to me in regards to the process of dealing with loss and grief. When my dad died, all the previous, once joyous memories turned blue. Moments like my wedding, which were pure joy only months earlier, became too painful to think about. I couldn’t bear to look at family photos. I had to remind myself that there can be joy without sadness but part of what makes sadness so powerful is the joy that came before. My sadness was coming from a place where joy was once so prevalent and that should be something to be grateful for. If I didn’t have such happy memories I wouldn’t be as sad about all the memories I’ll no longer get to make with my dad.

Months passed and I finally sat down and watched the final episodes of Parenthood. By this time, I knew what was going to happen to Zeek but instead of running from it I embraced it. I sat on my couch and cried along with the Braverman’s for hours. It was cathartic in a way I didn’t think possible. I still catch my breath when I’m watching something and a father dies but now I find myself embracing it much more. Sometimes I find myself seeking out a sad story so I can have an excuse to let my emotions run free.

Joe Biden recently said, “…My family has suffered a loss, and I hope there would come a time, and I’ve said this to many other families, that sooner rather than later when you think of your loved one, it brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eyes.” I’m not quite there yet. I still have a hard time looking at family pictures or listening to my dad’s favorite songs but now I know I can turn to myriad stories within pop culture that remind me that I’m not alone in my grief. Am I feeling angry at the loss today? Do I want to curl up in a ball and cry? Do I want to laugh in the face of this new version of my life? I know now I can find a piece of media that will match my mood and my place in the grieving process. I now know that when and how I choose to process my grief is up to me and that if I want to cry at a commercial showing a loving father and daughter it shouldn’t make me feel weak. It should make me proud to have had such a wonderful dad who still impacts my life every single day.


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The Art of Movie Marketing: Jurassic World

The Art of Movie Marketing: Jurassic World

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Jurassic World is going to be a huge money maker. That’s not up for debate. What is being discussed ad nauseam are the over the top CG, sexism, and stupid plot points (trained raptors). As a huge Jurassic Park fan, I’ve been excited to see Jurassic World for the last couple years. I’m seeing the movie this Friday and I’m trying not to let what I read color my giddiness. What’s clear though is that regardless of my opinion once I see the movie, Jurassic World has had the best marketing campaign I’ve possibly ever seen. The marketing has been immersive, fun, inventive, and an impressive story on its own.

The main reason I’m so excited for the movie is the same reason the marketing has been a compelling multimedia story to follow. The ability to watch a fully functioning and realized dinosaur theme park is a great idea. It’s what everyone wanted after seeing Jurassic Park, despite the death and destruction. Even though the fictional theme park depicted in Jurassic Park was a failure before it ever opened, people who watched it dreamed of a park like that in real life that was a success. Who doesn’t want to pet a Triceratops?

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Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road

madmaxExciting. Breathtaking. Funny. Nerve-racking. These are the adjectives that should describe every summer blockbuster and action film. For the last few years, however, tent-pole films could be described as bloated, sappy, overwrought, and a CGI black hole. Mad Max: Fury Road finally reminded us what we’ve all been missing from action films of late; bad ass women, men not wearing tights or superhero costumes, and action with real consequences. If action, violence, cars, heavy metal, and dystopia don’t sound like anything that will interest you, I promise Mad Max will change your mind as you sit in awe of the sheer feats of filmmaking and ingenuity that are apparent in every frame of the film.

Mad Max: Fury Road, as most will tell you, is not about Max. It’s about Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and her quest to free the sex slaves (more on that later) held captive by Immortan Joe to provide him with healthy offspring. That’s really all you need to know and that’s about all the film tells you. You can pick up snippets of backstory (Furiosa was kidnapped and taken by Joe 7,000 days ago) or world-building cultural touchstones (The War Boys believe in the afterlife, Valhalla) but the plot is basically one long car chase and it’s exhilarating.

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Settlers of Catan: A Film?

Settlers of Catan: A Film?

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Me basking in the glory of a Catan win!

My sister, Sara, brought to my attention that there are plans for a movie based on the board game Settlers of Catan. Since the first time I ever played the game was with Sara and her friends, it felt fitting that she asked me to write about my thoughts on the potential adaptation.

Loser: Board Games Adapted as Fictional Movies

No one needs a movie or tv show based on a board game. Battleship (2012) being the obvious example of why this idea will fail. All producer Gail Katz, and every other film studio, wants is name recognition so people will tune in. The reality is that Settlers is quite simple (once you set up the board and understand all the rules) and there is no backstory so the script will end up being a complete work of fiction with no real ties to the game anyway.

Obviously, people with money and producing power in Hollywood have realized the fanatic love of the game. I’ve been play with friends for years. We all should have known this was coming after it showed up in an episode of The Big Bang Theory.

Winner: Board Games as Documentary Film Subject

The better question is not “what will the film adaptation be like?” but “why fictionalize it?” Katz has the makings for a great story right in front of her in the form of a documentary. If she really wants to capitalize on the fan base this is the way to their hearts.

Some of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen are based on people’s obsessions with specific games. The King of Kong (2007) being my favorite. Its a brilliant piece of film that is a standard good vs. evil story with all the tropes of a Hollywood Western. King of Kong is about people trying to break the record score on an old King Kong arcade machine but it is so well executed that even if you’ve never seen an old coin-op machine you’ll find yourself quickly immersed in this subculture. If you want to be complete engrossed and amazing by the level of commitment people have to a game, watch the complete film on Hulu.

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Other documentaries about striving for perfection in the world of competitive game play:
Word Wars (2004) – Scrabble
Wordplay (2006) – Crossword Puzzles
Darkon (2006) – Live Action Role Playing (larping)
Mile High Magic (2014) – Magic: The Gathering

What are your favorite films about games? Would you watch a Settlers of Catan film or documentary?

Final Thought: Clue (1985) is the only exception to this rule.