Grand Canyon (North Rim)

"You ever been to the Grand Canyon? Its pretty, but that's not the thing of it. You can sit on the edge of that big ol' thing and those rocks... the cliffs and rocks are so old... it took so long for that thing to get like that... and it ain't done either! It happens right there while your watching it. Its happening right now as we are sitting here in this ugly town. When you sit on the edge of that thing, you realize what a joke we people really are... what big heads we have thinking that what we do is gonna matter all that much... thinking that our time here means diddly to those rocks. Just a split second we have been here, the whole lot of us. That's a piece of time so small to even get a name. Those rocks are laughing at me right now, me and my worries... Yeah, its real humorous, that Grand Canyon. Its laughing at me right now. You know what I felt like? I felt like a gnat that lands on the ass of a cow chewing his cud on the side of the road that you drive by doing 70 mph."  -- Danny Glover, Grand Canyon.

North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, July 15, 2014



Filmed in Bulgaria: Assassin's Bullet

By accident I stumbled across a trailer for the upcoming movie Assassin's Bullet.  Though the movie looks like your typical spy/assassin/thriller movie, what caught my attention while watching it was the familiar streets of Sofia, Bulgaria. So I did some research and apparently they filled pretty much everything in Bulgaria and are actually using Sofia as the main city in the movie. All I can say is: IT'S ABOUT TIME.

When movies are filmed in Sofia, they're generally used as as a backdrop for other European cities like Prague or Budapest. (Jean-Claude Van Damme has filmed a lot of his movies there.)  It's nice to see Sofia actually getting credit for being Sofia instead of pretending its a more glamours Eastern European city. I have no idea where the outdoor scenes were filmed but I didn't see anything that would make me think that it wasn't Bulgaria.

The only thing that makes me cringe is how the actors say "Sofia." Westerners pronounce it so-FEE-a but Bulgarians put the emphasis on the first syllable: SO-fee-a. Yeah, you'd think they would have done their homework but since when have movie makers worried about accuracy?

You can watch the trailer for Assassin's Bullet below.


Widower Wednesday: Widower Movies

Me and Marathon Girl spent the morning signing the paperwork to officially sell our home, making us temporarily homeless until our other home closes. As a result I haven’t had much of a chance to write out or even think about a Widower Wednesday column this week.  (I promise to have a regular post next week.)

So what I want to do this week is follow-up on an email I received this morning asking me if I could recommend some movies about widowers. To be honest, I don’t go out actively looking for movies about widowers, grief, or moving on. If I happen to watch a movie that’s about a widower it’s more chance than choice. But I do see how such a list could be valuable to GOWs, WOWs, and widowers. I’d even be happy to watch some of the most loved or hated movies and see

So what I’d like from you are widower-themed movies that you (or your widower) have loved or hated and the reason why it was such a great or horrible movie. To contribute, just leave a comment below. I’ll compile a list and publish it in a future column.

And for the record, the best movie I’ve seen about widowers so far was UP. I thought the movie did "a great job of dealing with the subjects of death, grief, and moving on better than any other film in recent memory." Read my full review here.

Thanks in advance and I look forward to seeing what movies you'd like to see on the list.

Has DC Learned How to Make Decent Superhero Movies?

Back in my comic book reading days I was always more partial to the DC Universe. Most of the reason for that was that I was such a big Batman fan. But part of it came from my dad who really liked Green Lantern, Superman, Aquaman, and other DC heroes. I have many distinct memories lying on the floor of our living room and my Dad pointing at the pictures and reading Green Lantern and Superman comic books too me. (Green Lantern must have made a real impression because other day when I was going through a box of my comics, I found ten Green Lantern comics from the mid-1990s when the series was re-launched.) Despite some good superhero characters, DC has done a horrible job of turning these characters into blockbuster movies. (Anyone remember that horrible Superman Returns movie that was released in 2006? Yeah, I don’t either.) The lone exception is Batman. Marvel, on the other hand, can turn most of its big-name characters like Spiderman, Iron Man and the X-Men into entertaining movies and win a new generation of fans.

So when there was some buzz about the upcoming Green Lantern movie was leaking out of Comic Con I tried not to get my hopes up. Then I saw the Green Lantern trailer when it was released on Wednesday. And you know what, it doesn’t look too bad. (Watch it below and decide for yourself.)

Granted those who make the trailers can make any movie look good and I’ll reserve final judgment until I actually see the film. However, it does give me hope that DC has learned that you can’t sell a movie on the character and his or her superpowers alone. You need strong script writing, human but strong superheroes, compelling villains, and a great plot and awesome special affect to make something worth watching.

I really hope DC has upped their storytelling a notch or two. Any more movie bombs and I’ll have a hard time passing on my love of DC characters to my kids because they’ll equate the characters with horrible movies.

Tron Reloaded


Years ago, when I was a kid, my dad took me to see the movie Tron. I have vivid memories of not only watching the movie but leaving the movie theatre thinking that it was the coolest movie I’d ever seen. I liked the movie so much that I got my friends to play Tron at recess. We’d ride light cycles around the playground and pretend to throw disks at each other. There was even a Tron arcade game that I played every time I went to an arcade until I mastered it.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I had a chance to see Tron again. And though I still found the movie very imaginative, I realized the writing and acting left much to be desired. I hoped that one day Disney would redo the film and make it better.

Well, now they have. The new Tron Legacy trailer looks awesome. Not only do the special effects look great but it looks like it actually has a decent plot and acting. I’m looking forward to seeing it.

Up with Grief

Up: Carl & Ellie

Note: This post was written for and posted on the Open to Hope site. You can see the original post here.

It's hard to find movies for adults that adequately deal with the death of a spouse and putting one's life back together. Fortunately, one of the movies nominated for the Best Picture Oscar does a great job of dealing with the subjects of death, grief, and moving on better than any other film in recent memory—and it's target audience is kids.

The movie? Up.

In the first 20 minutes of the film we see Carl Fredricksen as a boy meeting his future wife, Ellie. When they grow up, they both want to become explorers and journey to faraway lands. Ellie shows Carl her adventure book that contains a few notes and drawings of things she's done. Most of the pages in the book are blank, and Ellie tells Carl that she's going to fill the rest of book with photos and of all the exciting things she's going to do.

Then the audience is taken on a short silent movie journey of their life. They get married and start careers. They decide to have a family only to find out she's infertile. Though the news is tough to swallw, they both decide to keep working and save their pennies for a trip to Paradise Falls in South America. But as the years pass, they keep raiding their savings to pay for car repairs and other life emergencies. They grow old, and one day Carl realizes that they've never taken the trip they dreamed about. He throws caution to the wind and buys tickets to Paradise Falls. Only they never make the trip. As he's about to surprise his wife with the plane tickets, she falls ill and dies.

The next time we see Carl he's a grumpy widower. Fed up with life and facing a court-ordered placement in a retirement home, he decides he's had enough. As a former balloon salesman, he rigs his Victorian house with thousands of balloons and launches it into the sky, determined to finally visit Paradise Falls. The only complication to his trip is that Russell, a neighborhood kid and wilderness explorer, has unwittingly come along for the ride too.

During the journey to the falls, the Victorian house becomes the symbol for Ellie. Not only does the house contain photographs and other reminders of Ellie and Carl's life together but, at various points in the journey, Carl looks up at the house talks to it, wondering what Ellie would say if only she were there with him.

As he travels with Russell, the house becomes more of a hindrance than a help. Carl's so determined to take the house to Paradise Falls that he's unable to form a relationship with Russell or even think about getting them both home safely. At times Carl seems more concerned about damage the house receives than the danger Russell and himself find themselves in.

Carl doesn't realize how much the house is holding him back until he finds himself browsing through Ellie's adventure book. As he turns the pages, he's surprised to discover that the blank pages she showed him years ago are filled with pictures of his and Ellie's life together. Suddenly Carl realizes that even though he and Ellie were never able to visit the Paradise Falls together, they did have a wonderful, fulfilling life as husband and wife. It doesn't matter that they never got to visit the falls together—the real adventure in life was the years spent with Ellie.

Armed with this new insight Carl is able to literally let go of the house in order to get he and Russell home safely. As a result, he's able to move on with his life and start a new and fulfilling chapter as a father for Russell. It's a message that anyone who's struggling to move on after the death of a spouse could use.

Don't let this beautifully animated film trick you into thinking it's for kids only. There's plenty in Up to keep kids entertained but with its unique plot and adept handling of more “grown up” issues, this life-affirming film deserves the Best Picture of the year award and is the new high water mark in movies that deal with grief and the loss of a spouse.

Going to See WALL*E

Wall*e Took my four year old to the movie theatre for the first time on Saturday. We saw Pixar’s new film WALL*E, which was by far the best animation I’ve ever seen on the big screen and quite enjoyable overall. (I’d give it 3 ½ out of 4 stars.)

I was a little worried about whether or not he would have the attention span to sit through an entire movie. I know he can sit through a 90 minute movie at home without a problem but was a little worried whether or not he’d do it in for a movie he’d never seen before in an unfamiliar, dark theatre. Overall, he had a great time – especially since I bought him his favorite snack to eat: popcorn. It wasn’t until there was about 15 minutes left in the film that he asked if we could go home. (More on that in a minute.) I told him it was almost over and he sat through the rest of the movie without a problem.

On the drive home, when asked about his favorite moments he said, “The rabbit movie [a five minute short before the actual movie] and when the robot made trash.” Yeah, I think he could have watched WALL*E compact trash and build tall towers of garbage all day.

He also liked the popcorn.

Am I looking forward to taking him to another movie? You bet.

I also can’t wait until our other two kids are old enough to come too.


A quick note on WALL*E: I don’t know if this is the best movie for young kids. The movie has very little dialogue and when there is talking, most of it is between two robots that younger children might have a hard time understanding. I can see why Aidan grew restless toward the end. I’ll be interested to see if he asks Marathon Girl or me to buy it when he sees it at the store – the sign whether or not he really likes a movie.