“Deepwater Horizon” – Movie Review

img_20160928_190016

Photo of movie screen taken by me before the movie.

“Deepwater Horizon” #deepwaterhorizonmovie dramatically tells the story of the Deepwater Horizon (#deepwaterhorizon) oil spill and explosion that occurred on April 20, 2010 about 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Unfortunately, the technical cause of the oil well explosion is way over my head, so rather than bore you with the details and technicalities of the actual event, if you want a full background, I would direct you to the Wikipedia page – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepwater_Horizon_oil_spill.

I am embarrassed to say that I barely remember hearing about this event. That may just be my ignorance or the fact that 2010 marked the beginning of some serious health issues for me. Perhaps I just wasn’t “tuned-in” to current events or maybe it didn’t get the news coverage it deserved due to the political nature of all things oil related??  I don’t know, but this story of the worst oil spill in U.S. History needs to be told and director, Peter Berg, and screenplay writers Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand do a great job telling it.

The cinematography is incredible. I thought it was especially effective that the movie began with the audio of a hearing asking Transocean employee, Mike Williams, to recount the events. As he gets to the point of the explosion, it goes quiet, we can feel Mike’s hesitation as he goes back to the dark place in his memory where he really doesn’t want to go, and the opening credits begin. Of course there are many scenes with injuries, blood, fire, and explosions that add the necessary “shock value,” but this movie is more than that. This movie takes a very personal approach. The camera focuses on their individual faces. We see that the workers are ordinary people, we learn a little about their personal lives and the loved ones that they leave behind every time they go out to sea.  We see that most of them have a good rapport with each other. They kid around and seem to work well together.  The movie gives more focus to the fact that the crew of 126 that was on board the Deepwater Horizon was just performing their daily routine when suddenly they became faced with an extraordinarily catastrophic chain of events. In a matter of hours, these average oil workers became superheroes, risking their lives to save the lives of their co-workers.

The acting is phenomenal.  Mark Wahlberg plays Mike Williams, one of the heroes, who seemed to have a premonition that something would go wrong as he kissed his wife goodbye at the heliport just before he took-off to work, offshore, on the Deepwater Horizon for what was supposed to be 21 days.  Kurt Russell plays “Mr. Jimmy” Harrell, essentially the captain of the rig. Mike and Mr. Jimmy work for Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon. John Makovich plays Donald Vidrine, one of the BP Oil Company representatives that smugly made some fatally disastrous decisions. You hate him (and BP) right away and you can sense that the crew doesn’t like him either. The Transocean crew seems resentful of the way BP, who (they make a point of stressing) is just “leasing” the rig, was exerting its control over the rig operations about which they knew very little. Those decisions were cost-driven and gave no priority to safety and the “human factor.”  Bottom line, it is evident that monetary greed is what caused this disaster.

I was especially moved by a particular scene – when the injured survivors are on board the rescue ship, after role is called, they all kneel down and recite the Lord’s Prayer.  It is rare, (especially in movies) but awesome when it happens, to see victims immediately giving thanks and praise to God, instead of asking “why?”. It was also very somber at the end of the movie to see the photos of the eleven crew members that died.

I think this movie is excellent. Another “must see”.  I highly recommend you buy your tickets early.  I saw this on the day of its third or fourth screening and people were turned-away because the theater was full.  Please go see Deepwater Horizon and let me know what you think. – BMT

P.S. Country Music Fans, there’s a cameo but well-done performance by Trace Adkins, who plays the father of one of the deceased crew members.

Checkmate for “Queen of Katwe” – Movie Review

P

img_20160919_173759

Photo taken by me of the screen before the movie.

“Queen of Katwe” #QueenofKatwe is a Disney movie, based on a book of the same name written by Tim Crothers, based on the true story of a young Ugandan girl from the small village of Katwe, who becomes an international chess “Queen”. The screenplay was written by William Wheeler. The executive producers of the film are Will Weiske and Troy Buderand and the producers are Lydia Dean Pilcher and John Carls.  It is a real life “rags to riches” story worthy of the Disney name.

I had the opportunity to attend a special advanced screening followed by a live Q&A session (via twitter – #askqueenofkatwe) with the director and the movie cast.  It was even attended by the real main character, Phiona Mutesi.

Phiona’s family sells corn on the streets of a war-torn and impoverished village in Katwe, Uganda. The homes are basically run-down huts without roofs and four walls. The children cannot afford to go to school; they barely have food to eat. She meets coach Robert Katende, played by David Oyelowo. He is a well-educated man who left the corporate world and decided to become a missionary in Uganda. He sets up a make-shift game room, which becomes a safe haven for the local children to get a hot meal and learn to play chess. Phiona’s mother, Harriet, played by Lupita Nyong’o, is at first reluctant to allow Phiona and her brother to attend this chess group.  She doesn’t understand the game and based on rumors, thinks Katende is teaching them some type of voodoo.  Coach Katende realizes very quickly that Phiona has a natural talent for the game and that she could win tournaments and earn scholarships to get an education. He pleads with Harriet to allow Phiona to pursue this opportunity. Phiona goes on to become an international chess champion.

Having the advantage of watching the live Q&A session, I learned that the movie was filmed on location, in Katwe, Uganda, many of the players are local villagers. Phiona is played by a native Ugandan girl, Madina Nalwanga, the director, Mira Nair, spent much of her life living in Uganda, and the real characters were on-set to offer their true accounts.  This ensured the authenticity of the movie. I was a bit shocked when Phiona revealed that watching this movie was her very first time to ever see a movie on the big screen! It also made me happy to know that she had come so far.

I thought the movie was fantastic.  The director uses many close-up shots to focus on the character’s faces, allowing the audience to see into the character’s souls and make a connection with them. These are strong, proud, and faithful people despite their hardships. “Queen of Katwe” sends the message that education does not make people smart or intelligent.  Education allows brilliant people to sharpen their minds. There are some interesting scenes in the movie that show that there is even prejudice among Africans against their own people.  The affluent, educated students that participate in the chess tournaments, as well as the tournament sponsors, turn-up their noses at the kids from Katwe. Eventually, when they show their chess skills, the Katwe kids earn the respect of their opponents.

This is a must see movie.  There are so many lessons learned within this film.  We see how much Harriet loves her family by the sacrifices she makes to allow Phiona to play chess and go to school. We also see how much the children love and respect their mother. One night, they give up their dinner portions to allow the mother to eat. We learn that if we work hard, stand tall, and believe in ourselves, our dreams can become reality.

I see Oscars in the future for the stars and the movie itself.  I also see this movie being shown in schools once it becomes available. “Queen of Katwe” is rated PG and opens Friday, September 30, 2016, get your tickets now.  I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Please post your comments to let me know what you think about the movie.  – BMT

 

Review – “If You Feel Too Much,” by Jamie Tworkowski – Book Signing Event

Jamie to write love on her arms signature 20160913.jpg

In case you didn’t see it on my Facebook, here’s the link to my brief review of the book signing I attended tonight –

https://www.facebook.com/ReviewsoftheArtsSA/posts/1138041892928168

In case you are not on facebook:

So glad we got to meet Jamie Tworkowski at The Twig Book Shop at The Historic Pearl this evening. We had another event to go to, but my daughter asked me to take her because his work means so much to her. I vaguely knew about the To Write Love On Her Arms. movement from the little she told me, but actually didn’t know he was the man behind it, neither did I know about his book, If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For #Ifyoufeeltoomuch. I told her we were only going to stay until 6:30/6:45 because we had to get to a college reception that she was invited to attend. However, once he started talking and reading excerpts from his book, I was captivated. I can’t wait to read the book from cover to cover.

If you already read the original, there is now an expanded edition. To me, based on what he told us tonight, I think it completes his story. Be sure to follow Jamie Tworkowski to find out where he will be appearing next, then mark your calendar, cancel all your plans and GO!!!

Thank you Jamie for being there for my daughter and for all of us who are battling internal demons. Thank you for spreading God’s message of faith, love, and HOPE. – BMT

P.S. Jamie, I wasn’t even kidding, you should seriously look into doing stand-up comedy. Your comedic delivery is great! – BMT

 

NEVER FORGET – 9/11/01

“Today. . .our very freedom came under attack. None of us will ever forget this day.” – President George W. Bush. In loving memory of Joe Hunter and all of the lives that were lost, I offer up prayers for them and the survivors they left behind, for the armed forces – who willingly risk their lives every day to protect and defend freedom all over the world, for our civil service professionals who also risk their lives to protect, serve, and fight terrorism on the home front. As we all know, freedom is not free. We must honor this day and we MUST NEVER FORGET! GOD bless America! – BMT
september 11 photo

Vicki Lawrence & Mama Sing at the Tobin Center

This seems to be my year for checking items off my bucket list or simply doing things I’d never imagined!  Being in the same room as a comedic legend such as Vicki Lawrence falls into the latter category!

I grew up watching the Carol Burnett Show; we never missed it. It didn’t matter where we were, a friend’s house, a family get together, everyone sat around to watch Carol Burnett, Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman and Tim Conway perform their weekly comedy sketches and Movie/TV Show parodies.  My favorite segments were the Mama’s Family skits.  Being a young girl, I found it amusing that a Grandma could be so raw, mean, and funny at the same time!  I remember how shocked I was to find out that Vicki Lawrence was actually much younger than Carol!  I actually thought she was older, or at least the same age. I believe that’s how you can judge good acting, when someone can make you believe that she IS the person whose role she’s playing!

We sat behind a taxi driver that had the pleasure of driving Vicki around San Antonio. He was scrolling through his photos and we noticed a photo of him and Vicki.  We asked if he was at the meet and greet.  He told us that she, her husband, Al Schultz, and her son, were really nice. They gave him tickets to the show and it appears that he was their driver for the weekend.

_DSC0454

Vicki sings (Photo by JohnDavid Scarcliff)

Vicki came out and connected with the audience by telling comical, but true stories, about routine events such as visiting the gynecologist.  She reminded some of us that may have forgotten (or those that didn’t know) that she produced and recorded the first version of “The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia.”  Yes folks, Reba is not the original redhead to sing it!  She said her then husband, Bobby Russell, didn’t like the song and she “got it in the divorce.”  In 1973, it was number one on the “Billboard Hot 100.”  She sang it for us and joked about how she was the only artist that could do a medley of her hits in one song.

Vicki also told us the story of how she was discovered by Carol at a “Miss Fireball” contest. Over the years I’ve seen articles speculating that Vicki resented being in Carol’s shadow. I didn’t sense that Vicki had any resentment for Carol at all.  In fact, I think it is the opposite.  I think she is grateful. Though I did sense a little resentment between Vicki and Mama. It seems that whenever Vicki is spotted by fans, they yell out to her, “where’s Mama?” It is as if they don’t realize that she IS Mama.  I believe she should be proud that after 40 years, Mama lives on in the hearts of fans everywhere.  Even though Mama came out of the Carol Burnett Show, she is clearly Vicki’s masterpiece.  The Tobin Center was nearly full with people that came to see Vicki AND Mama and all the laughs were for Vicki and her alter ego – Mama; no one else!

_DSC0503

One thing Vicki did say begrudgingly, was that Bob Mackie created glamorous sequined gowns for Carol and for her just the Mama costume! (Photo by JohnDavid Scarcliff)

Since it is not shown in re-runs, my 17-year old daughter never saw the “Carol Burnett Show” or “Mama’s Family.”  She had no idea what she was in for, but she loved it!  She screamed with laughter, just as much as us “old folks!”  By the way, Vicki advised us that “Mama’s Family” is currently showing on “MeTV,” so if you get that channel, you are in luck.  Sadly for us, MeTV is not on the Dish Network.

_DSC0581

Better listen to Mama! (Photo by JohnDavid Scarcliff)

Of course the crowd really went wild when Mama came out and did a rap for us! It was hysterical!  She did an “ask Mama” routine where she touched on some current issues. One question I recall was how she felt about Caitlyn Jenner.  Mama said that she didn’t understand why someone would want to become a woman at the menopausal stage of life!   The best way to describe the show is to quote Vicki, herself, “My show is not a retrospective, . . .It is a mixture of stand-up comedy, music and my observations about real life.”(http://www.vickilawrence.com/2woman2013.html) The only thing she left out is that you will be laughing so hard your sides will hurt and your eyes will tear!

“Vicki Lawrence and Mama, A Two Woman Show” is touring the country and I highly recommend you catch it if you can.  You can see the schedule on her website by following this link http://www.vickilawrence.com/VickisSchedule.html.  I hope she comes back to San Antonio next year. – BMT