Sunday, January 24, 2021

Theatre of Zen Film Reviews Now at Letterboxd

Follow me at https://letterboxd.com/TheatreofZen/

The primary purpose of the ToZ blog is to highlight articles written by me covering live events I have attended related to film premieres, film festivals, and film reviews. Due to the pandemic, and as demonstrated by the low volume of posts for all of 2020, there wasn't much of a motivation to update the blog once the lockdowns started in late March of 2020.

With that said, I have been watching films regularly at home but haven't been inspired to write any reviews for ToZ. There's just not enough unique visitors to ToZ to justify the dedicated time it takes to write a review, so my motivation to write reviews have been completely zapped. However, I have posted a few 'Quick Film Reviews' via Twitter. But it appears that due to some changes in the template features of Blogger, which hosts ToZ, I am no longer able to embed tweets on this platform to make it visible for readers to see the tweet film review.

However, as timing would have it, in early January I noticed people posting images of their 'recent activity' film reviews from Letterboxd and it triggered me as to why in the hell didn't I sign up for this film review site much earlier? After posting a few reviews at Letterboxd, I immediately liked it very much and the app and desktop features of Letterboxd makes it not only convenient but user friendly as well. I posted two film reviews back to back this weekend and since I realize the valuable film review and film catalog asset I now have, I went ahead and paid the 'pro' account annual fee of only $19 to get rid of the annoying ads. Ahhhh, it's much prettier and easier on the eyes visiting my profile page now.

Maybe next year I'll update to Patron at $49/year as I look forward to attending premieres and Q&As again in the LA area in 2022. I'm optimistically cautious that perhaps post September of this year theaters will open up again, but that's still 8 months away.

So please come check out my Letterboxd and please follow me at: https://letterboxd.com/TheatreofZen/

And speaking of the pandemic, a major benefit of being a full-time employee of a healthcare organization allowed me to be able to get dose #1 of the Moderna vaccine on January 23rd, and my follow-up vaccination will be on February 20th. What a complete peace of mind this brings me, and it just helps me to look forward to my plans to visit Paris in July now that I will be fully vaccinated and have proof for international travel purposes! 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris

I have waited 4 years for this moment! Today makes me proud to be an American again. Congratulations President Joe Biden and history-making Vice-President Kamal Harris! I have utmost trust that they will make significant strides to move the country forward, and erase many of the terrible things the previous administration has done.


President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden


Vice-President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff


Monday, December 28, 2020

My trip to Tempe to go to the Cinema!

Cinemark Mesa 16

In this horrible year since the closing of theaters in March due to the pandemic, I have seen 5 films in a theater since the spring. Under normal conditions, I would have seen at least 40 between March and December, but I only saw five, and two of those films were seen just this past weekend. As a treat to myself since my travel plans to see family during New Year's Eve weekend has been canceled, I decided to drive to the city closest to me that has theaters open, and that honor goes to Tempe, AZ. I was just in Sedona in September after Labor Day, so I was excited to travel to AZ again.

Theaters are closed in California, and for a change of scenery, especially since I was traveling solo, I felt it was safe enough for me to drive, solo, to Tempe, and stay in a nice hotel, solo, while venturing around town, solo, wearing a mask. I know there has been a lot of news reports about the dismay of public health officials lamenting the fact that people are not adhering to the guidelines of staying home to help prevent the spread of the virus. And for the most part, I wholly agree with that. Especially when you have multiple people who are family or friends flying on planes to go see relatives at the height of the worst part of this pandemic.

 

Cinemark Mesa 16

This is why my trip to Michigan was canceled because it wasn't safe for me to travel. So I get all that, and that is why I felt totally comfortable in my decision to drive to Tempe on Christmas day with low traffic, to stay two nights at a Hilton with the primary purpose to see movies at Cinemark Mesa 16, which was a beautiful theater that had strict Covid-19 sanitation information posted all around the theater.

Below are the quick film reviews of Promising Young Woman and Wonder Woman 1984. First and foremost, both films were so great to experience in the theater and it solidifies my smart decision to treat myself to this special short trip. Now more than ever, I believe it's imperative for us all to support watching films in the theater. It is safe. 

#PromisingYoungWoman was fucking excellent!!! The Avenger of toxic masculinity and white male bro privilege. Carey Mulligan's character was haunted to honor her best friend and just when you thought she wouldn't succeed, she does so with sublime calculating brilliance! A++

Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman

To elaborate a bit more on Promising Young Woman, this is a story of a former medical student who quit school to support her best friend who was sexually assaulted by fellow male students. Cassie's friend Nina suffered terribly from this devastating attack, and it also affected Cassie, brilliantly played by Carey Mulligan. Promising Young Woman is a story of revenge plotted to avenge a friend, and destroy the toxic privileged male fraternity bullshit that is so rampant and protected. I was shocked and horrified by the end result of the film, but also applaud the surprise ending, it really was a shocker and goes against all conventions in movies about the protagonist. It's bittersweet in the most bitter of ways. But if you're like me, you will be sad and satisfied. I'm so glad I saw this in the theater, but I get bummed out in knowing how denied I am in watching this very film with a Los Angeles audience of my peers of voters and critics. And of course, the Q&As that are so common in the LA market for the awards season. I've seen Carey Mulligan in person back in 2018 for Wildlife, but I would have killed to see her at a Q&A for PYW. I will be participating in a virtual screening of PYW in two weeks via Film Independent, but as you know, that's not the same. But I am looking forward to watching this wickedly smart and brilliant, timely film again. Carey Mulligan won the Best Actress honor for the LA Film Critics Awards two weeks ago, so that's a good sign that she's deservedly on Oscar's radar.

The primary reason why I drove to Tempe was to see Wonder Woman 1984. In the aftermath of the crazy decision for Warner Brothers to release WW84 in theaters and on HBOMax at the same time, there was just no way I was going to watch this very film in my bedroom, all by myself, on Christmas day. No fucking way! I was going to drive 360 miles and pay $14 to see it, and it was worth every drop of gas. 

Now I know why Steve Trevor is in #WonderWoman1984Be careful what you wish for because it comes at a cost that even hurts Wonder Woman. Jenkins and Gadot puts heart into a super hero battling against Pascal's Trump like greedy maniac in a spectacular and exhilarating ride! A-

Gal Gadot and Chris Pine in Wonder Woman 1984

I really enjoyed Wonder Woman 1984, and a superhero film is best seen on the big screen the first time you're able to see it. I don't understand the hate for WW84 that can be seen on Twitter, but most of the haters are guys and fans of Marvel. So make of that what you will. It's almost as if they are taking joy in wanting to slam this film. It's a superhero movie based on the outrageous greedy consciousness of the 80s, and it had great special effects and action scenes. It was just a lot of fun and I think the pandemic has made some people particularly dark and bitter and they just didn't want to like WW84. But alas, Warner Brothers, perhaps in an attempt to sow good favor for themselves in the aftermath of the past two weeks with the revelation of the plans for the 2021 roster of films to be released in some theaters AND on HBOMax, the studio announced today that they have given the green light for Wonder Woman 3. So that's great news as I love Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Patty Jenkins as the director.

My prized WW84 popcorn tin!

I don't know when I'll be able to go back to a theater again, but it felt really good and safe going to AZ to watch these two films. I don't think theaters will open up in CA until perhaps May, and this is based on how soon more people can get vaccinated in the months between Feb-April, which is the time frame I expect to be vaccinated as I work in the healthcare industry and I am considered an essential worker. But as long as theaters are doing the innovative cleaning like Cinemark, and Harkins Theaters are doing at the height of the pandemic, along with social distancing in the theater, I welcome the opportunity to go to the theater again here in SoCAL as soon as possible.

I hope to resume updating ToZ more regularly as I watch more films on screeners in the coming months for the awards seasons, so please keep coming back here.

Be safe, wear a mask, socially distance, and have a Happy New Year, 2021 has to be better for all of us that 2020 was.


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Quick Film Review: The Midnight Sky

 

George Clooney directed and starred in Netflix's The Midnight Sky



George Clooney's #TheMidnightSky began with such vagueness about a global catastrophe that it was a little hard trying to follow where it was leading to. But in the end, the dreariness allowed the human spirit to shine through and offered slight and bittersweet hope. B+

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Film Review: Shoshanna Bean 'Sing Your Hallelujah'

 Review originally posted at Rich Girl TV.

This Christmas, bring some cheer right into your living room with Shoshana Bean and friends in 'Sing Your Hallelujah.'

The holiday season is different this year. Due to the pandemic, audiences cannot see popular Broadway Star and Billboard #1 recording artist, Shoshana Bean in concert singing favorite holiday songs. However, in 'Sing Your Hallelujah', a virtual concert directed by Amy Segal (Schitt's Creek: Best Wishes, Warmest Regards), Shoshana shines in this concert special, recorded on stage in the beautiful and historic Apollo Theater in Harlem. In between the beautiful stage sets accompanied by an accomplished arrangement of acoustic musicians supporting Shoshana and a variety of guests singing, Shoshana laments very candidly about how New York City and the world has changed due to Covid-19, and the subsequent mandate lock-down guidelines of social distancing.


As the holiday season approaches and revealing in the relief of the announcement of the Biden/Harris Presidential win, Shoshana and friends are inspired and realize that they have a unique opportunity at hand to perform. Although Broadway is still closed down, the show must and can go on, but on a smaller scale by, virtual presentation. Behind the scenes socially distanced rehearsals reveal how much all the talent have a love and respect for each other and are committed to uniting the community through the spiritual power of their voices in the Christmas songs they sing. 

Joining Shoshana in 'Sing Your Hallelujah' in a variety of excellent performances are Tony-winner Gavin Creel, tap dancer Jared Grimes, Broadway star Jeremy Jordan, singers Shayna Steel, and Connie Talbot, and Tony Award nominee Daniel J. Watts. Together, each performer is on stage solo or with a duet with Bean bringing much-needed holiday spirit into the homes of viewers. Bean in particular has an absolutely amazing voice that embraces you with the love she wants to share this Christmas. Extra meticulous care went into designing a stage presence that gives the appearance of a concert that is intimate and in your home, bringing that community spirit close to you when these socially distanced days make one yearn for that very closeness.

Everyone involved in this production explains in their own way about their connection and friendship with Shoshana and how they felt compelled to be a part of this spiritual concert as it is something that they needed to be a part of in these unusual times. Director Amy Segal presents a holiday musical experience that is beautiful, introspective, and meaningful in giving people something special that they need and will cherish this holiday season.





Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max

In highly anticipated movie news, Warner Brothers announced that Wonder Woman 1984 will still be on track to open in theaters on Christmas, but in an unprecedented move, it will also be released on HBO Max on Christmas for a month. While Covid-19 is still rocking havoc on our lives, with over 250,000 Americans dead of this virus, many theaters throughout the country are still closed, and HBO Max is the best place to allow fans to watch this movie that we call need right now. I did not want to wait until next summer for WW84, there have been so many films pushed in 2021 already and Wonder Woman 1984 has a moment to shine all on its own on Christmas and the weeks after.

Most of us who voted for Biden/Harris are still stressed out by the post-election crap in delaying the Biden transition. So a superhero, a Goddess superhero is what we all need to distract us from the madness! I will happily watch Wonder Woman, starring Gal Godot, Chris Pine, the sexy Mandalorian Pablo Pascal, and Kristen Wiig, on Christmas day while eating Chinese or Thai. I graduated from high school in 1984 so I'm very excited to be taken back into the best decade of my life, the 80s. Thanks, Warner Brothers!




Sunday, November 8, 2020

America Elected Compassionate Human Beings

 


A week ago, my last blog post ended on an optimistic note in declaring that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would be elected. I wrote the following:

I believe in my heart that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will win the election. We as Americans are at the precipice of where we will tell the rest of the world exactly who we are. The majority of Americans are good human beings... - ToZ 1 November 2020

After four sleepless nights, I woke up Saturday morning under the benefit of living in Pacific Standard Time here in California, at 7:15am. After making breakfast, I turned on the TV to CNN to see what happened overnight. I saw the same electoral vote tally from the previous evening, however, CNN was just about to receive the latest numbers from the key state of Pennsylvania. Not 10 minutes later, after Joe Biden earned another 3,000 votes, CNN's Wolf Blitzer announced that CNN Projected Joe Biden as President-Elect. I watched this historic moment live, something that I have been waiting for 4 years to witness! See the historic announcement moment below.

https://twitter.com/nytimes/status/1325163627771355136?s=20

Just as Wolf was positioning himself to make the announcement, I knew he was about to call it and I just stood up to listen to enjoy every second of this live historic moment. I started to jump up and down and I was squealing and yelling, just so overjoyed and relieved!!! It was so surreal because it was something I have been thinking about and wishing for many years, and my prayers and the hard work of nearly 75 million Americans paid off.

Throughout the country, millions of people partied and celebrated in the streets. It's as if it was destiny that this news would break early on a Saturday morning, allowing people to celebrate for the rest of that day as if it were a holiday. More impressively, as news spread around the world, human beings of good conscience also celebrated with the Americans, and leaders from our ally nations reached out to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to congratulate them. The world breathed a sigh of relief along with the Americans who voted for Biden/Harris. I'm not going to waste font space on the opposition, all that matters is that the people voted in record numbers and decency and compassion prevailed. This is the one grand thing from 2020. 

(Photo) AP: Noah Berger

May our nation now begin to heal after this horrible nightmare!


Sunday, November 1, 2020

At the Precipice

I must admit, I have not been in the mood to update the ToZ blog because the pandemic has literally ruined the primary purpose of utilizing ToZ. Covid-19 has Los Angeles and the country pretty much on semi-lockdown, but on full lockdown when it comes to the entertainment industry. There are no movie theaters open so that I can see 2-3 films a week; there are no film festivals I can attend in-person to watch Oscar contender films; there are no red carpet events; I can't even meet up with my few friends to do exciting things to write about and share with my limited audience. This year has sucked for me creatively and I feel it in being anxious and semi-depressed. 

I was able to thoroughly enjoy my birthday trip to Sedona, AZ in early September, and I overspent my budget in treating myself to some fun things I bought for myself. I think I did this in an effort to cheer myself up and give things to myself to make up for the misery that I know we're all feeling together. I live and work at home in the same space M-F. Everyday is exactly the same.

Everyday is exactly the same. This is a song from Nine Inch Nails' 2005 self-titled album. In fact, I'm wearing that t-shirt right now, a shirt I ordered from NIN.com in September when they put these limited edition t-shirts on sale. It sold out quickly and that's no surprise as surely, everyone felt the t-shirt reflected their current lives. Anyway, I think for the most part I am coping as well as could be but something is missing in my life that makes it so much more fulfilling, and that thing is the theatrical experience of watching a new film in the theater. Now, when I was in Sedona, I went to the Harkins Theater three times to see 3 different films: Tenet, The New Mutants, and Unhinged. Social distancing was employed, and mask-wearing was required. I felt safe and comfortable and was reminded of how much I missed going to the theater. 

When my highly anticipated Dune was pushed from December 18th to October 1, 2021, I was not surprised because the spike in Covid-19 infection rates, and the fact that LA and NYC theaters are still closed, it just made no sense to have such a blockbuster be released during a time when not many people would be able to see it. Since then, several other very high profile films have been pushed into 2021, but as I publish this entry, Wonder Woman 1984 is still slated to open on Christmas Day. I'm sure within the next week or so, that will be pushed too. It makes no sense in keeping it on this release schedule when infection rates are at levels similar to March/April. 

Timothée Chalamet | GQ Magazine Nov 20 | Renell Medrano

However, in this darkness, I have found a new creative outlet for my Club Chalamet (CC) venture. In September I created the Club Chalamet Conversations YouTube video series to focus on the latest news on actor Timothée Chalamet and have discussions with select friends. Three videos have been created thus far and I'll be recording another one today. They are a lot of fun and it's a way for me to connect with local friends who have supported CC for quite a while. I'm producing and editing the videos, and I even self-taught myself how to create a damn intro video! In conjunction with videos, I also hired a graphic designer to create a new logo for the CC Instagram account, a logo design to be used at the CC forums, and a design for merchandise to be sold at the CC Zazzle store. All this is in an effort to professionalize my Club Chalamet brand and to stand out from the hundreds of other Chalamet fan accounts. So at the least, I am being creative and having fun with my stan project for Chalamet and as we're heading into the most important Presidental election, this project has alleviated some anxieties about the upcoming unknowns. 

The next President and Vice President

Speaking of the election. I believe in my heart that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will win the election. We as Americans are at the precipice of where we will tell the rest of the world exactly who we are. The majority of Americans are good human beings and for the first time in American society, record numbers of people have voted early and will vote on Election Day because they want to get rid of the current President. He who shall not be named is not only corrupt and evil, but he's a mentally unfit person for the job, and the current mismanagement of the pandemic we're in is testimony to the fact that he is the wrong person to be President at this very challenging time in our country. I voted early by mail and received confirmation days later that my ballot has been received and counted. It's my hopes that for the election of 2024, all of America will have it as easy as me to vote by mail so their voice is heard. I will update ToZ on election night of the outcome of the results. Good will prevail over evil!