Words in My Head

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Collateral Beauty, Some Observations

From the moment I saw the trailers for Collateral Beauty, I knew it was something I wanted to see. Will Smith has become an amazing actor in the days since the Fresh Prince oF Bel-Air. But more than that, he seems to pick projects that make you think. For every Men in Black or Independence Day, there’s a Seven Pounds or The Pursuit of Happyness. He balances entertainment with philosophy in equal amounts, and we are better for it.

Collateral Beauty is not a romantic comedy or visual feast of special effects. It’s about a man dealing with the loss of a child and the ripples that form around not only that event, but the fallout.

Due to its subject matter, this will likely not be a huge box office success. But it should quietly gain notice from the people who choose to give it attention. It’s a topic no parent wants to contemplate. I don’t want to outlive my children. And yet it’s a situation we’ve had friends deal with in recent years. One that we respect and treat as gently as possible because it will never be ok. That comes up in the movie in fact and made my wife and I think about our friends, their struggle, and our own children.

It’s not a perfect film, but I want to talk about it in two major areas.

First, there’s the cast, which is amazing. Will Smith. Helen Mirren. Edward Norton. Michael Pena. Naomie Harris. Jacob Latimore. Keira Knightley. Kate Winslet. How can you go wrong with those names on the marquee?

It’s Smith’s movie, though the others come in and out like characters in a Shakespearean play passing through the stage. For a good chunk of the film, Smith says nothing at all, but you can feel the pain and anguish. You can see it in his face. In his body language. In the way he starts to say something and then stops. And later when he starts talking again, you hang on every single word.

Mirren is delightful, playing the aspect of Death. And I don’t mean that in any way other than she’s amazing. Death is a part of life and she embodies it with every line she says in the role. She continues to impress me with her depth and breadth as an actress.

Pena is also amazing. His role in Ant-Man was charming and funny, but this role is so far removed from those concepts that it’s incredible. His character here is the definition of a stoic in word and deed.

Harris offered an understated calm in the storm Smith’s character is going through and by the time you see how things are connected, you’re ok with it because she never forces it. She speaks. She listens. She observes. And she fills a void connecting worlds to one another.

And Latimore in the role of Time… I think he had some of the greatest lines in the film discussing how we take the gift of time for granted. He attacked that role with a vengeance and we came away enlightened as a result. Though I’d seen him in other things, he was an unknown to me. I think we’ll be seeing great things from him in the future.

I didn’t even mind Ed Norton. He’s not one of my favorites, but his character changed through the film in unexpected ways. He went from a damaged middle-aged man pursuing love to explaining why being a parent is one of the most beautiful and terrifying roles anyone will ever play in a lifetime.

The biggest weak point was Knightley. Sorry, but though she has a great role to play as the abstraction of Love — I just never felt anything. She’s not one of my favorites anyway, but I wish she had done better with the role. The words were there, but I felt the conviction was lacking.

Second, there’s the writing. This is honestly one of the best scripts I’ve seen on screen in a long time.

Why? Because it didn’t drown in words. There were entire chunks of the film in which we simply FELT as we watched Will Smith move through the story. It allowed the audience time to breathe, to accept what had come before and digest it a little before we were hit by another brief barrage of philosophy, anger, or the unfair nature of the world. There was an organic rise and fall that never felt rushed in any way. And when we reach the end of the story, it’s almost a cathartic release as it is with Smith’s character.

Collateral Beauty has to be one of my favorite films of the year. It was beautiful. It was sad. It was perfect despite its few flaws. And I hope I never have to experience the loss of a child.


The Best Christmas Present

Over the years, I’ve become more and more jaded about Christmas. I’m a big Grinch when it comes to all the pomp and circumstance – the tree and decorations, cards and parties. Just not my idea of a good time.

Even so, I have to admit I like giving gifts. I try to do it all year. I’m constantly looking for cool geeky t-shirts on DayOfTheShirt.com or perusing Facebook for fun CrossFit-themed socks and clothes. My daughters know I have a bag of t-shirts for each of them that I hand stuff out of when I feel like they deserve a special something.

Some years I do really well with Christmas gifts and have things bought months in advance. This year… not so much. There was a general sense of “meh” and a real lack of inspiration for some reason. That’s not to say that we didn’t have a fantastic year – with a week in Breckenridge and a trip to Spain I don’t think anybody suffered. And, as always, the geeky t-shirts won out.

When I saw a video on Facebook from the company FlyBrix, I knew I hit the jackpot for AJ. She is our inquisitive kid. Mickey may be the artistic performer in the family, but AJ loves putting things together. She’s our Lego kid.

This video sold me in less than a minute:

It was one of the more expensive gifts I’ve purchased lately, but I knew it would be worth it.

The idea is simple. Take Legos, which are already kid-friendly, and add a more technical element: drones. Not only does this teach a bit about how things fly and a bit about electronics, but it serves as a great introduction to the world of radio controlled items. In a world where marketable skills are shifting towards software and hardware development, this offers a great incentive to learn some new things and have fun at the same time.

Today, when AJ and I built our first Lego-based drone with the kit, I knew I hit pay dirt. In about an hour we had a simple drone built. Now, I won’t say that we were all that successful in flying it! But we had a blast putting it together.

The first project is a quad-copter, so four rotors. We were able to update the firmware on the computer with simple directions and a USB cable, get the first project put together, and then try to fly it.

Even though we crashed it about 3 times before we put everything away for today, we both had a blast.

Next time… an octocopter! And I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

But if you’re looking for a way to get a Lego-loving kid into something a bit more technically challenging, this may be it. Check out their website — Flybrix.com — for more information.

Definitely the best gift I purchased for Christmas this year — just having that experience with AJ was priceless.

My 2017 Movie List

This is my first SWAG at a list of movies I’m either definitely going to see or may see…

Top Films to See in 2017

  • John Wick: Chapter 2 (February 10)
  • Logan (March 3)
  • Kong: Skull Island (March 10)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5)
  • Alien: Covenant (May 19)
  • Wonder Woman (June 2)
  • The Mummy (June 9)
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7)
  • Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21)
  • Blade Runner 2049 (October 6)
  • Thor: Ragnarok (November 3)
  • Justice League (November 17)
  • Star Wars: Episode VIII (December 15)

The Full List of Definites and Maybes

January 2017

  • January 6
    • Hidden Figures (a bit of the hidden history of NASA)
    • Underworld: Blood Wars (let’s see if Kate Beckinsale still fits in the leather suit – probably a renter)
    • A Monster Calls (looks like a fun, original kids movie – probably a renter)
  • January 20
    • xXx 3: The Return of Xander Cage (just looks like fun – definitely a renter, but will probably see at the theater anyway)
  • January 27
    • Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (the last turn of Milla Jovovich, zombie hunter – definitely a renter)

February 2017

  • February 10
    • John Wick: Chapter 2 (also known as “Valentine’s Day, Bloody Valentine’s Day” – must see in the theater)

March 2017

  • March 3
    • Logan (one last Wolverine movie – must see in the theater)
  • March 10
    • Kong: Skull Island (can Sam Jackson beat King Kong? – must see in the theater)
  • March 24
    • Life (looks intriguing as a science fiction horror – probably a renter)
  • March 31
    • Ghost in the Shell (not sure what to make of this – probably a renter)

April 2017

  • April 21
    • The Lost City of Z (amazing book, probably a renter but hopefully worth seeing)

May 2017

  • May 5
    • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (must see)
  • May 12
    • King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (??? probably a renter)
  • May 19
    • Alien: Covenant (hopefully no rolling doughnuts in this one – want to see though)
  • May 26
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (also known as “Johnny Depp needs a paycheck” – will probably see)

June 2017

  • June 2
    • Wonder Woman (looks exciting, must see)
  • June 9
    • The Mummy (Tom Cruise vs. the Mummy, I’m rooting for the Mummy, must see)
    • World War Z 2 (the first one was better than I expected, will probably see this one)
  • June 16
    • Cars 3 (let’s see just how photo-realistic and scary Pixar can make this film for children)
  • June 23
    • Transformers: The Last Knight (this is going to be an awful film, but will probably see it)
  • June 30
    • Despicable Me 3 (again, probably an awful film, but we’ll probably go see it)

July 2017

  • July 7
    • Spider-Man: Homecoming (please be good!)
  • July 21
    • Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (please be good!)
  • July 28
    • The Dark Tower (never read this Steven King series, but maybe the film will be good?)

October 2017

  • October 6
    • Kingsman: The Golden Circle (the first one was more fun than it had any right to be, so let’s try again)
    • Blade Runner 2049 (this has the potential to be awful, but the first teaser looks good… so maybe?)

November 2017

  • November 3
    • Thor: Ragnarok (Thor + Hulk buddy movie? I’m in!)
  • November 17
    • Justice League (can it really be any worse than Batman v. Superman?)

December 2017

  • December 15
    • Star Wars: Episode VIII (yes!!)
  • December 22
    • Jumanji (the Rock + Kevin Hart + Jack Black? could be fun!)
    • Pitch Perfect 3 (at least the music will probably be good)



A New Home

Once upon a time, I had my old blog – the Lair of the Green Knight – to serve as a home for the odds-n-ends I needed to get out of my head. It was a bit of a clearing house for reviews, poetry, and editorial content. And, as old websites must, it faded into the background. And when I went to resurrect it, it decided to stay dead despite the help of a more web-savvy friend.

So here we are… and I still have Words In My Head, so I thought it would be a good title for a new wave of odds and ends as I purged some of the thoughts from within this bony housing for what serves as a mind.

Among the things you might find here…

  • poetry
  • movie, book, or music reviews
  • editorials
  • recipes
  • whatever comes out of my head

Thanks for joining me on this journey.


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