Cast Away (Ultimate Isolation Movie)

Since new movies are hard to come by these days with Covid-19 still reigning supreme, I have really enjoyed re-watching some of my all-time favorites including one of the topmost isolation-based films of all time – Cast Away. This is not the first tale ever told about tropical island strandings (e.g. Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, Lord of the Flies…), but it’s one of the best in my opinion, and was a box office powerhouse almost two decades ago.

Released in December 2000 and directed by Robert Zemckis this extraordinary saga of survival earned two Oscar nods including a nomination in the best actor category for Tom Hanks who remarkably carried 75% of the entire movie single-handedly. The story is solidly built on character Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks), a FedEx employee whose cargo plane goes down somewhere over the South Pacific with him as the sole survivor of the crash. After barely getting through the harrowing experience of the plane plunging into an unforgiving ocean Chuck aimlessly drifts in what is left of an inflatable life-raft that eventually washes up on a deserted island. For years Chuck is trapped on this humid uninhabited land-mass with nothing but time to ponder what he misses most in the world – his would-be fiancé Kelly Frears played by Helen Hunt; who’s role in the film is quite small compared with Hanks but nevertheless very fundamental in many of the moral messages this film imparts on its viewers.

On this point, this parable converges on what really matters in life and how easy it is to take for granted essential basic needs (access to food, water, heat, and shelter). This movie also reminds us that life is unpredictable and doesn’t always go as planned, but sometimes it’s those forks in the road that make the journey so interesting. Sails do come in from time to time so watch for them and remember those who risk nothing get nothing. The notion is you never know what the tide will bring, so be open-minded and don’t miss opportunities. This flick also delves into our most nefarious emotions including deep despair, utter loneliness, damning frustration, and unimaginable fear, not to mention clearly emphasizing the stark difference between merely existing and actually living. Humans are highly social creatures after all, so what happens to ‘the self’ if others are missing from the equation? At first glance the main meaning of this movie might seem fairly straightforward – leave someone alone long enough and they will slowly go crazy. The mind will split in two, and they will start talking to a volleyball as if it’s a person. By the way, there is a reason why ‘Wilson’ had to be a volleyball instead of a football, soccer ball, bowling ball, bouncy ball, baseball, cricket ball, golf ball… it’s because communication between humans is a ‘serve and return’ interaction. I love symbolism in movies. Okay, a tennis ball, pickleball, or ping-pong ball could have ‘served’ this iconography purpose too but what fun would that have been. Anyway, back to the point. If none of these above-mentioned aspects of the film are the primary take-away message what is? Like a sixth- sense, it’s a familiar concept but not always that simple to comprehend, so let’s break it down.

Adversity is something we all face in life and when that experience is extremely overwhelming and excruciatingly painful, we feel so lost – like being abandoned in solitude on a forsaken island. We keep looking out for a rescuer, but no one comes because no one can reach us. We are truly alone. This is when the realization hits that the self has to save the self. It’s the only way – and it starts with listening to that little ‘Wilson’ voice we all have in our head. It’s called intuition, and if you let it guide you it will truly be the best friend you ever have. So often we focus more on our five basic senses (touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing) and we ignore the most important one – our instinct. Roy T. Bennett said it best, “You will never follow your own inner voice until you clear up the doubts in your mind.” This movie does a stellar job metaphorically bringing to the forefront what goes on in the human brain. Yes, we all constantly talk to ourselves! But it’s what these exchanges produce via our actions that counts. Attending vs. Disregarding – pay attention, collect your thoughts and feelings, communicate your issues to yourself, process your insight, do the hard internal work, be self-reliant, and you might just find manageable solutions. Of course, having others to help us work through our problems is great too when available – but the self is always the final gatekeeper.

Much like this movie, Covid-19 is still making so many of us feel deeply isolated and displaced from our lives not to mention worrying about our health and shortages of our most basic needs; a gap The Owen Hart Foundation is trying to address. But as unpleasant as the last few months have been (especially for people like Tom Hanks and his wife Rita who contracted and recovered from Covid-19) it has also awakened feelings of gratitude and appreciation for our everyday blessings including all the wonderful people in our lives. That said, now that our world is slowly starting to re-open, let’s hope we can resume our fully-functioning yet now enhanced existence soon.

P.S. I really like going to tropical islands at Christmas to escape, not the other way around. Fingers crossed season greetings = slipping this seclusion. Amen!

Vanishing at break-time to my favorite inhabited beachy island in the South Pacific.

Gladiator (20 Years On Gladiator 2 Sequel Underway)

With Covid-19 lingering much longer than any of us can bear thus inadvertently testing the edges of our increasingly frazzled life-force resolve; I thought writing about a movie that epitomizes a supreme sovereign warrior spirit would be refreshingly welcomed. What better pick than the epic yet macabre battle-to-the-death blockbuster Gladiator! Also, since its creators are now taking a second stab at box office gold with plans to release a sequel sometime next year, denoting the poignant life lessons behind this conquering titan of a film seemed like a noble quest. Originally released May 5th 2000 Gladiator marched away with 11 Oscar nominations, 5 wins including Best Picture and Best Male Actor Award for chiseled strongman Russell Crowe who fabulously played ironclad sword wielding Maximus Decimus Meridius a Roman General – turned slave – turned heroic gladiator – turned rescuer of Rome. The upcoming sequel simply entitled Gladiator 2, plans to pick up the plot 20+ years on focusing primarily on then would-be child Roman Emperor Lucius (played by Spencer Treat Clark) now all grown up. It will be interesting to see who they cast and if this follow-up film will be able to mêlée its way to similar victory. A likely prospect given that so many legendary storylines have been somewhat successfully revisited in recent years (e.g. Alien, Bladerunner…).  Who knows, perhaps Russell Crowe might even turn up in a momentous cameo role. We’ll know in time – ‘but not yet, not yet’. Returning to the initial installment let’s summarize the plot before evaluating the invaluable take-away message this timeless modern classic imparts on viewers.

To recap, the story opens with Russell Crowe’s righteous character loyal general Maximus bravely battling against the barbarians in Germania shoulder-to-shoulder alongside his men in service to Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (played by the late Richard Harris). Once victory is achieved patriot Maximus, who has been at war for several years, requests in gratitude for his service to return home to his beautiful loving wife, adoring son, and wispy shimmering wheat fields. However, ailing Emperor Aurelius has alternative plans for Maximus believing only he can end Rome’s corruption and successfully lead the Senate towards democracy therefore wishing to designate Maximus as the new head of state. However, doing so means outranking and overstepping his own cowardly incestuous depraved biological son Commodus (brilliantly played by Joaquin Phoenix), who undeservingly craves the throne, constantly drooling at the mere thought of the unfettered power it bestows. When Commodus gets wind of the plan he acts swiftly and unremorsefully snuffs out his own father. Then immediately condemns Maximus to death also ordering his family murdered. Maximus escapes his demise due to his commanding military skills but upon returning home his spirit is shattered at the sight of his slain family. In a state of exhaustion and despair he collapses yet wakes to find he has been picked up by slave-owners in Zucchabar (a Roman city that now is in Algeria). Once nursed back to health by follow slave Juba (terrifically played by Djimon Gaston Hounsou), Maximus’ long journey from commanding general, to slave, to gladiator takes shape. The excitement starts to build as a tormented Maximus beings to climb the gladiator ranks in foreign lands becoming a sensational marvel in no time with every defeat of his opponents; all done in an effort to win his freedom. Meanwhile miles away Commodus the new Roman Emperor continues to engineer the demise of the Senate in Rome while lusting after his sister Lucilla (played by Connie Nielse) a former lover of Maximus. The climax of the film comes when Commodus commissions gladiator contests in Rome to distract the masses from his exploitations; and as luck would have it Maximus’ endless wins have landed him in Rome’s famed Colosseum where he knows he must ‘win the crowd’ to be freed. As a mysterious masked good guy Maximus’ popularity continually raises amongst the Roman commoners with each victorious brawl. This in turn enrages the villainous Emperor Commodus who grows increasingly distraught that the crowd is starting to love a lowbrow gladiator more than the superior leader of Rome, including his young seven-year-old nephew Lucius. The story continues to unfold, which ultimately ends with an epic battle for the ages with the Roman Emperor Commodus pitted against an unknown, yet very admired gladiator simply referred to as Spaniard. What a spectacle indeed it turns out to be, which begs the question ‘Are you not entertained?’ For those who haven’t seen the movie yet, I will leave it there and instead now chat about the important life lessons embedded in this film.

First though it’s worth noting that director Ridley Scott does an amazing job bringing Gladiator to life in a very big way with well-scripted dialogue, and stunning cinematography that is visually spectacular. The original fight scenes alone are truly legendary albeit grim, which if nothing else are worth the watch. Although I detest gratuitous violence this film does a fantastic job depicting the bleak viciousness of the times and the unforgiving nature of our distant ancestors. Factually aware that throughout antiquity such unthinkable gore really occurred I appreciate the historic value of the carnage displayed in this film, mostly because the overarching message in the end is one of peace. Though achieving and maintaining peace is not the main life lesson of this movie as lovely as that would be.

Like so many battle-focused movies there are elements of loyalty, friendship, comradery, fairness, betrayal, competitiveness, rivalry… incorporated into the fabric of the narrative and this film is no different. That said, the beauty of Gladiator is that it calls attention to the bleakest undercurrents of the human psyche that if left unchecked loom and fester like rotting carcasses, stiffly leading lost souls to commit the worst of the seven deadly sins. Can you guess which one it is? Hint, hint, it’s not pride, or greed, or wrath, or lust, or gluttony, or slothfulness, although many of these elements prominently present in this movie. It’s worse. Truly the ugliest of all the seven deadly sins that in my opinion, unleashes so many other unthinkable evils is brilliantly displayed in this movie. It’s the crushing weight of ‘envy’ that Commodus feels towards Maximus that engulfs his entire being, eating him alive and propelling him to do the most heinous acts while simultaneously robbing him of any remaining admirable traits he has left. French author François de La Rochefoucauld said it best, ‘The truest mark of being born with great qualities, is being born without envy.’  

Jealousy vs. Confidence – a covetousness spirit spews out resentment, suspicion, distrust, possessiveness and so many other sinister emotions leaving its host corrupted and wary. Wanton desire to have what others have is a sickness of the mind born out of insecurities that steals precious time away from building oneself up, as the focus is directed at tearing another down. Such unhealthy behavior is often thought of as an abuse of one’s natural faculties (e.g. envy abuses one’s desire to be one’s best virtuous self). Self-doubt propagates inhumane fixations of the lowest depths. However, the guiding light to keep in mind is that whatever anyone else is or has, truly takes nothing away from you. In our modern world where voyeurism via the internet (falsely exhibiting endless disillusion of countless unflawed jubilant lives) is so prevalent it helps to remember that everything one needs is within the self to become. So if temptation to slip into a state of envy overtakes the practical senses practice self-awareness and recognize that negative feelings do not need to turn into vile actions. Most importantly, commit to memory the seven heavenly virtues (faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, temperance, and prudence), which can serve to redirect the mind towards merits of positive redeeming characteristics we are all capable of commandeering and conquering. Amen!

P.S. I feel very lucky to have visited Italy, and specifically Rome a number of times as a tourist, for work, and even on route to MIFF. Each trip would not have been complete without a drop-in to its spectacular Colosseum (aka: Flavian Amphitheatre), Rome’s top tourist attraction! A true jewel of the Roman Empire, the Colosseum is one of the seven wonders of the world and was built in 70-80 AD. It could house 50-80 thousand spectators (averaging 65,000) and was used for gruesome gladiatorial contests, executions, mock battles, persecution of Christians… but its use as an entertainment venue ceased in medieval times. With all the grim exhibitions the Colosseum played host to over its long history, one fact of the Colosseum’s past that I really love is that the marble façade where ancient blood-thirsty spectators sat enjoying endless deadly performances was stripped off and used for the construction of St Peter’s Basilica. Looks like the devout got the last laugh in the end. Travel tip – Una Hotel is reasonable, close to the train station, and within walking distance of all attractions. Simply amazing.

Grainy footage of Oje fooling around playing from memory Gladiator’s famous musical score Now We Are Free.
In Rome at the Colosseum when Oje and Athena were younger, on a work trip snapping a pic with sword bearing Roman actors, and on route to MIFF with my ever present OHF entourage.

Dark Side of the Ring ‘Owen Hart’s Final Days’ (Vice Media Docuseries)

Since I haven’t written about any documentaries yet I thought it would be fitting to christen my movie blog with what for me is certainly the most important story ever told. I was married to world famous wrestler Owen Hart who tragically died in the ring on May 23rd 1999. At long last this forty-four minute docuseries episode produced by Vice Media’s Dark Side of the Ring entitled ‘Owen Hart’s Final Days’ has done a phenomenal job capturing our beautiful life together, the final few days of Owen’s life, the raw tragic events surrounding his death, the shock and horror of the egregious negligence that led to his 8 story fall from the top of Kansas City’s Kemper Arena to his death, the ugliest David & Goliath lawsuit battle that followed against the WWF (now WWE – a billion dollar powerhouse wrestling mogul), my unwavering fight for justice, the betrayal and fallout experienced with the Hart family, and the wake of the aftermath that inspired the creation of The Owen Hart Foundation (OHF). Viewers hear from former WWE staffers who were present at the pay-per-view that night including commentator Jim Ross, referee Jimmy Korderas (who was in the ring when Owen fell), wrestler The Godfather (Charles Wright) Owen’s would-be opponent, wrestler colleague/friend D’Lo Brown (Accie Julius Connor), manager Jim Cornette, wrestler and narrator Chris Jericho, me and my children Oje and Athena.

This exceptional documentary effectively informs audiences how a billion-dollar company hired substandard ‘hackers’ to conduct an unsafe stunt using the most inappropriate equipment and set-up to save money while disregarding the commonsense advice of top qualified rigging experts not to do so. Equally sickening is how this company went on with the show after Owen died in the ring and paraded match after match out onto a wrestling mat stained with Owen’s blood and where the boards underneath the ring were broken from the ravaging impact of his fall, with wrestlers feeling the dip in the ring as a result. This true tale also delves into how this company sued me, a young grieving widow, for breach of Owen’s contract in Connecticut in order to try and evade punitive damages that otherwise would be awarded in a Missouri held trial where the wrongful death lawsuit was filed. Not to mention the manipulation of the Hart family, so much so that some members worked against me and even stole my legal documents – handing them over to the defense, while others remained painfully silent. This documentary is harrowing and certainly underscores a cruel side of humanity. However, as awful as some of the elements of this story are, there are also so many uplifting positive messages to take away, which is what I hope viewers do.

On this point, this story touches on many fundamental aspects of the human experience such as duty, loyalty, respect, persevering, and forgiveness. Yes, I have forgiven them all and I wish them all the absolute best in life. This story reminds us that life is not fair or easy but it’s much harder if carrying ill-will, which is why it’s important to incorporate the daily practice of wishing life treats everyone kindly. Lighter means brighter and I will take that any day of the week. But above all this story is about fighting the good fight, knowing right from wrong, being brave even if that means standing alone, true grit, and never giving up. It’s about taking the worst things this world throws at you and refusing to let it destroy you or define you. In life, we don’t really know what we’re made of until we are tested. Adversity acts like a mirror into the soul and when it strikes it reflects a person’s true character. Experiencing hardship isn’t nice but it begets growth. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes some of our most prized accomplishments occur as a result of our misfortunes. This is because motivation to transmute into a higher being generally does not happen when life is stress-free and perfect. Losing Owen shattered my heart into near irreparable shards but what I didn’t expect was that in its place a bigger one would grow. A heart of deep humility and compassion that would propel me to assist those most in-need via the OHF. Given everything said on the best and the worst moments of my mine and Owen’s life together, what then do I think is the main take-away life lesson of this extremely emotional documentary? It’s simple. No matter how difficult, how heartbreaking, how challenging, how grueling, how unpleasant, how exhausting, or how unbearable the task at hand is, do not fret – LOVE will always find the courage no matter the situation or circumstances. Destruction vs. Reconstruction – Note: when trials and tribulations find their way to your doorstep embrace them and let them be a vehicle for reform – not a vestibule for devastation.

I started dating Owen when I fifteen years old, we were betrothed by age 22, had our adorable son Oje a few years later, followed by our beautiful daughter Athena a few years after that, and the rest is history. This was an amazing chapter in my life, and I wish it had been my entire book, but life doesn’t always turn out as we plan. So, walking on we all must do. I shared Owen and our life together with the World and I was happy to do that – it was an amazing First Act that I am so grateful for. Thank you so much Owen for a wonderful life and thank you to everyone who dearly loved him, as I did. He was special and precious and funny and kind and generous and all the lovely things that every person should aspire to be. He is missed. But now my Act 2 is my own and still a work in progress… Please wish me luck and thank you so much to all the magnificent people who have supported me over the years. Bless.

Dark Side of the Ring – S02E10 – The Final Days of Owen Hart … › video44:05Dark Side of the Ring – S02E10 – The Final Days of Owen Hart – May 19, 2020 || Dark Side of the Ring ..

At Calgary International Airport with my late great legal counsel Ed Pipella of Pipella Law LLP (OHF Proud Sponsors) on our first of many trips to Kansas City MO., and with the fabulous Vice Media Dark Side of the Ring Crew – producer Evan Husney (left) with Adam, Dan, Andy & Director Jason Eisener (missing). Thank you so much guys for having the guts to tell my story. Special thanks to my legal team Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP Lawyers Casey Chisick & Stephen Henderson, all of my friends, family, OHF Committee Members, Sponsors, and supporters who always have my back. The episode ‘Owen Hart’s Final Days’ airs in North America on Vice on TV in the USA and CRAVE TV in Canada with encore showings slated to air next week. Be sure to watch as an added 4-minute clip of ‘Owen the Prankster’ is included and it’s priceless!
Vice Media’s Dark Side of the Ring ‘Owen the Prankster’ added 4 minute video clip that highlights some of Owen’s many funny ‘Ribs’.
Commemorative Owen Hart T-Shirts On The Road To #1 Best Seller !
The OHF received the news that the Owen Hart commemorative t-shirts with all proceeds going to the OHF are on the road to #1! Bless everyone for supporting the OHF and for buying these very special t-shirts. Click the link for more information:

Groundhog Day (Modern-Day Classic Return)

Since we all feel like we are living the same day over-and-over again due to the Covid-19 lockdown I thought it would be fitting to write about one of my all-time favorite modern-day classics Groundhog Day. Incidentally, this iconic silver-screen gem has made a comeback in recent years as a dazzling Broadway musical attended on several occasions by the one-and-only king of deadpan Bill Murray, who brilliantly played the film version’s lead.

Speaking of which, this movie opens with Phil Connors (Bill Murray), a jaded pessimistic weatherman finishing up his newscast before reluctantly travelling with his film crew (producer/love interest Rita played by Andie MacDowell and cameraman Larry played by Chris Elliott) to small town Punxsutawney for the 4th year running to report on the annual Groundhog Day festivities. Phil scoffingly perceives the soft media piece as a meaningless story of a town’s obsession with a rodent (also named Phil) and his shadow (any sight of which equals 6 more weeks of winter – yikes). The news crew overnights in the sleepy town to get a quick jump on the early morning fluff story, but then wraps abruptly on the woodchuck silhouette narrative so Phil can get back to the big city asap. On the journey home an unexpected snowstorm hits and the crew is turned around with the threesome forced to spend another night in ‘Hicksville’. This is when the fun begins. The next morning sets off a series of déjà vu wake-ups with Phil experiencing endless repeats of February 2nd. Each day starting with a sharp 6am rousing to Sonny & Cher’s tune ‘I Got You Babe’. In short, like a broken record that won’t stop skipping, Phil finds himself perpetually living the same day over-and-over again with no reprieve in sight.

In relation to life’s meaning this fantasy comedy is packed with so many priceless take-away messages all cleverly veiled behind a backdrop of humor that is unmatched. To begin, when Phil realizes the inescapable reality of being stuck in the same reoccurring day his dominate response is to be increasingly curt, condescending, and rude. When that gets him no where he switches gears and preys on people’s weaknesses. When that doesn’t work either he becomes indifferent, and eventually suicidal, which again just plops him right back to reliving Groundhog Day. For a time he’s sorrowful but then ultimately he turns his sights on winning over female producer Rita (a woman he secretly admires but feels she’s out of his league) and strategically uses each day to gather personal information from her about her likes/dislikes. All done in an effort to artificially mold himself into the type of man he thinks Rita is worthy of having, but one he is naturally not. Initially Phil is encouraged by the limited success he achieves as Rita starts to warm up to his advances. But since all his conversions are a façade it’s not long before his methods are met with frustration. The harder he tries to win her over the more inauthentic he becomes thus creating the opposite desired effect. As a result, Rita senses he’s a fraud and becomes increasingly repulsed by him. This disenchantment finally prompts Phil to give up the ghost. As Albert Einstein stated, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Truer words have never been spoken.

Phil begins to realize that appearing one way but acting another just doesn’t cut it; learning that legitimate self-improvement is required to stop the repetitive garbage-in garbage-out cycle. Alas, after many failed attempts Phil embraces sincere shifts in behavior and comprehends that true change is the only change that matters. He accepts it’s okay to get it wrong – and lucky for him he receives endless second chances to get it right. Phil slowly learns to be a giver not a taker and discovers that charm can attract quality people into your life, but it can’t keep them there – that takes unfeigned substance! Most importantly Phil ascertains that when it comes to love, aspiring to be a better person is always worth the effort, even if the desired outcome evades you. Acclimatization vs. Transformation – disabling undesirable individual attributes requires a genuine mindset makeover. People can alter their dominate negative responses by training the brain to engage in positive thinking/behaviors as mental reboots are the only bona-fide route to personal reconstructive adjustment. As the old adage goes, ‘change your thoughts and you change your life’. Doing so, may just lead to the highest reward of all – actually being a good person. Amen. This movie reminds us that achieving one’s best self means transforming without a hidden agenda since life-altering transition involves more than just superficial modifications. But the process needs to start with caring about others over oneself even when such noble deeds go unappreciated and unrecognized. When people engage in random acts of kindness with virtuous intentions and without expectations good things tend to follow. This is what life is all about. As my favorite genius so eloquently stated, ‘only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.’- Albert Einstein. It’s never too late to reach your full potential and this in my opinion is the ultimate life lesson highlighted in this movie.  

While we are all living through our own form of never-ending Groundhog Days (I have named Quarantine Days) perhaps we too can use our time effectively to change some of our own undesirable behaviors or learn new skills that otherwise might never have been on our agendas. As nicely emphasized in this movie, all that matters in the end is kindness and it’s contagious (which is a good thing in this case); and always a magnanimous aim. Let’s hope we all wake up soon from our very long Covid-19 slumber with 6:01am on the clock radio (digits = lucky #7) wiser for the valuable humanitarian lessons we learned via our collective caring and self-isolation sacrifices but instead now forever chanting to our fellow-man ‘I Got You Babe’. What a silver lining that would be given concern for others will be the only philosophy that gets us through this persisting plague. Bless.

PS. I traveled to the charming town of Brodheadsville Pennsylvania shortly after 9-11 located just a few hours away from the very quaint famed town of Punxsutawney – where groundhog Phil is known to dwell. I was there visiting the brilliant Dr. Frank Romascavage (one of Owen’s favorite people – and in my opinion the only appointed MD in the biz worth his salt) and his lovely family. We had a wonderful stay, which included a limo drive with Doc to Boston Mass for my graduate-studies interview at Harvard University. Fantastic memories with fabulous friends.

The Gentlemen

As the title of this movie implies this film is most definitely tailored to a male audience and with Guy Ritchie as director this is no surprise. In sum, Guy likes making guys movies – namely crime capers – a genre that put him on Hollywood’s map! But females may like this movie too as Ritchie’s films are typically full of good-looking men (this one included) due to his ‘fascination with the male ego and macho bonding’. A pleasant bonus for lady viewers no doubt. Ritchie also normally manages to drop in a few humorous elements; a nice treat for all. That said, this film has more of a hardcore edgy approach with some seriously disturbing content and some gratuitous violence. Ordinarily not my type of movie but with the recent film freeze due to Covid-19 newer cinematic selections are wearing thin. That aside, this movie is captivating enough with a stellar cast and some pretty good life lessons to pass along too.

On this point, there are understated themes of ‘honor amongst thieves’ and degrees of loyalty woven in. Though what stuck in my mind the most about this picture was the inconceivable cost these men pay to climb and stay on top of the success ladder. It’s easy to understand and appreciate ambition but when the business is a shady setup, the questionable lengths required are beyond most people’s comprehension. In short, gentlemen they are not! To be a true gentleman, one needs to be a ‘chivalrous, courteous, honorable man’, which isn’t easy when running an extremely lucrative high-stakes illegal grow-op. Deviance vs. Decency; corruption corrupts – plain and simple. This is human nature – or is it? It might help to remember that the root of most evil is grounded in excessive self-preoccupation of one’s own wants over the well-being of others; and that external acts of debauchery are only expressed when internal seeds of malice are planted in the heart/soul; nurtured and ‘allowed’ to grow. Only then is the game ‘kill or be killed’ where the players are takers with agendas so slippery; it’s like trying to catch oil in a sieve. Dirty money has always attracted dark creatures and it’s ugly, unscrupulous, dishonest, foul, and soiled. It makes you wonder who would ever pursue such an exhausting vicious cut-throat self-interested existence in real life. Yikes. I’d rather be poor with a clear conscience and able to sleep in peace – than with the fishes! Always take the high road – the view is spectacular.

Speaking of nice scenery, this movie in set in England (one of my favorite places) and opens with sophisticated intelligent yet seedy drug lord Mickey Pearson (played by Matthew McConaughey) entering a typical neighborhood pub. As he sits quietly at a table gunfire erupts. Then without explanation viewers are left to wonder about his survival until the end of the film. I like stories that start with the ending first then walks the audiences back in time to see what led up to the current dramatic moments. The English musical Blood Brothers does this brilliantly, and similar to this popular West-End play, differences in social class are weighted heavily in this movie with a smidgen of racism thrown in just for fun (not). It’s a basic ‘kill what you eat and eat what you kill’ type of film. The story takes viewers on a walk through the circle of developments that shapes the yarn. Without giving too much away Hugh Grant who plays Fletcher, a sleazy despicable evasive night-crawler tabloid type journalist turned screenwriter thinks he’s got the goods on Mickey and is trying his hand at blackmail to turn a quick buck/quid. It’s a long winding road that includes likable mobsters’ Coach (played by Colin Farrell) and loyalist Raymond (played by Charlie Hunnam) as well as Mickey’s wife Rosalind (played by Michelle Dockery) whom he is lovingly and completely devoted to – his one redeeming quality. In the end the path narrative leads back to the incident at the pub and then the whole story ties up in a perfect bow and the tale all makes sense. Walla! Clean and simple. Well maybe not clean. ha ha

P.S. I crossed paths with Colin Farrell in London at Heathrow Airport in 2015. His movie The Lobster filmed in Dublin was just coming out and he was featured in Men’s Health Magazine, so he was having a good year. He looked like he just came right from his Cover Shoot – wearing jeans and a white T-shirt looking handsome as the ‘black Irish’ do with their dark hair and brown eyes, and he was just getting his arm tattoos removed. It’s a process so they were faded but still visible and given his sleeves were rolled right up it seemed to be irritating him. Ouch. Notwithstanding, I must say he’s a really sweet guy and it was nice to run into him. He was overly apologetic about autograph seekers that chased him relentlessly, though he was very polite to his fans, which I thought was most kind. Bless.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Throwback 2013)

With everyone feeling down with the grim reality of Covid-19 looming I decided to do a feel-good throwback on one of my favorite movies entitled The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013), an adaptation of James Thurber’s classic short story. I love this movie! Probably because at the core I am a nomad, living for the unknown, never afraid to take a calculate risk. Given we are all feeling endlessly restless from many weeks in lock down what could be better than to virtually escape into foreign lands and roads untraveled. As LIFE’s Motto states, “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.” And I’m lovin it!

This film opens with daydreamer Walter Mitty (fabulously played by Ben Stiller), a very bland white-collared negative assets manager/picture researcher at LIFE Magazine in New York City living an uneventful vanilla lifestyle trying to take a gamble on a dating website. When his online attempt fails due to his unfinished eHarmony been-there-done-that profile the movie tumbles into a fabulous daydreaming-turned-reality adventure of self-realization. The film highlights that living in your own head is not living at all. Stepping or jumping out of the box is required to really experience the present and live a big life. Pushing the limits of the human spirit is what it is all about. Not letting everyday problems and doldrums rule the day. This movie entertainingly rolls out how taking chances allows the authentic self to be revealed. In short, live in the moment and just enjoy every minute. This is an important message no doubt, yet not the primary take-away of this film. Instead the overriding life lesson this flick imparts is more about understanding, recognizing, cherishing, and acknowledging all the amazing people hidden behind the scenes of our being that propel us forward and make us shine so bright. Unseen vs. Unnoticed – Sean Penn who plays sought after (successful, brave, tough, fearless, rugged, handsome) illusive LIFE photographer Sean O’Connel said it best ‘beautiful things don’t ask for attention’ but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve it. Hats off to all the Ghost Cats in our lives.

Directed by Ben Stiller, this movie incorporates a star-studded cast starting with Kristen Wiig as Mitty’s colleague/love interest Cheryl Melhoff, Shirley MacLaine as his mother Edna, Kathryn Hahn as sister Odessa and Adam Scott as boss Ted Hendricks to name a few. All of which did a great job in their roles though I thought Ben Stiller outshone them all. He did such an excellent job portraying Walter Mitty as someone who wants more out of life but does not come across as depressed or completely unhappy. Instead he is just a regular guy that zones in and out of reality indulging in fantastical delusions of grandeur to cope with his boring life. That is until he can’t locate the most valuable film-roll negative slated to be LIFE Magazine’s last-ever print issue Cover, which in turn reluctantly propels him on a quest to find it. Doing so unexpectedly helps Mitty expand as a person and unwittingly increases his confidence and self-belief. Basically, he finds identity through his adventures. In the process Mitty evolves into his best self by learning he is valued by those he values. Something I think we all strive for. After all, ‘Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.’― Voltaire. This film also humors viewers with some nice illustrations of the imagination before snapping us back to the now. I liked the inventive fantasist components almost as much as the factual aspects of Mitty’s life. Although this story could be contrived as too airy and perfect, I happen to like a good RomCom once in a while. On that note, I loved how at the end of Mitty’s journey the real thing turns out to be so much better than anything he could have made-up. I know that sounds sappy but what’s wrong with a little fantasy every now and then. And of course, I loved how Mitty’s mum saved the day too! Mums are the best after all. ha ha

PS. Similar to the Walter Mitty character, for me living my best life means travelling as much as possible. I worship freedom and being on the go wandering the world. Lucky for me a lot of my travel is humanitarian based or work related, which adds another meaningful layer to my expeditions. That said, I also really enjoy my structured everyday life, but some of my best moments are when I’m in some incredible foreign land seeing and doing spectacular things while not even knowing or caring what day of the week it is. This is when I feel I am truly awake in my life and I love that feeling. On that point, it is worth noting that the cinematography in this film was delightful in its display of stunning landscapes, some of which I have visited. This movie also gave Iceland its first leading role in Hollywood, which definitely made many explorers like me want to visit this enchanted place even more. For the record seeing Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull was phenomenal and witnessing its famous Strokkur Geyser erupt in front of my eyes was truly life altering. In a flash I genuinely comprehended just how alive our planet really is. Amazing. Cheers to all the roving gypsies like me (in practice and at heart). It won’t be long before Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, and we are back on the road again. Bless.

Literally standing/walking on the rift path between two continents this pic was taken in the World Heritage Unesco site of Iceland’s Þingvellir region located 49km east of capital city Reykjavik in the active volcano rift valley created by the drifting apart of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates that are still drifting in opposite directions at the rate of 2cm annually. Other pic on a ship much like the movie’s Erkigsnek vessel just off the coast of Iceland and one at Strokkur Geyser as it erupted. Other pics taken while trekking the Himalayas while on a humanitarian trip – receiving official Mount Everest Certificate for traveling to (not climbing) the majestic Sagarmatha ‘Goddess of the Sky’ a.k.a. Peak 15! Such great adventurous memories. Can’t wait until we can all travel the world again! Bless this beautiful planet and all its inhabitants. BTW happy belated Earth Day – we love you.

The Invisible Man

As Covid-19 keeps the world on lockdown there has been a ‘horrifying global surge’ in domestic violence, which is the main reason why I have decided to write about the newly released movie entitled The Invisible Man, an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic sci-fi novel published in 1897. Normally I am not fond of aggressive horror gore movies as I do not like scare and terror films. Violence begets violence in my opinion, but this futuristic thriller encapsulates some very important messages on the topic of partner abuse, so I digress.

The film opens with Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss) trying to escape an abusive violent relationship with long-time optics expert boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) in the dead of night. Her well thought-out plan is a success but does not go off without a hitch. As the movie unfolds it doesn’t take long for audiences to feel the bone-chilling fear that abused women often feel and how females’ concerns about their safety are habitually ‘invisible’. This film is captivating but fairly one dimensional so without giving anything away, I will say that this story does a good job portraying how abusers are likened to stalkers, with victims never knowing what abusers will do next or when they will show up. The take-away message of this movie is clear – out the abuser and get out! But why would anyone stay with a destructive vicious partner in the first place you ask? Leaving an abusive relationship is complicated; something people who have never experienced abuse might not realize. This is because abused individuals can feel embarrassed or shamed, have low self-esteem, struggle with beliefs that abuse is normal, or they might even love their abuser still. Sometimes there are also financial, cultural, religious, or language considerations. But most often victims of domestic abuse are just too afraid to leave and carry a lot of emotional scars due to the trauma. Though as Cody Kennedy reminds us, “Don’t judge yourself by what others did to you.” Submission vs. Dominance – leaving an abusive relationship means regaining control of one’s life but the execution of the plan is always the most dangerous time for abuse victims since vacating troubled relationships threatens the abusers’ sense of power and control; often resulting in escalated anger and hostility by the offender. But defeating violence and mistreatment is achievable via exodus, though as Asunta Harris affirms, ‘Overcoming abuse doesn’t just happen It takes positive steps every day. Let today be the day you start to move forward.’ Amen.

Directed by Leigh Whannell, I liked how this film, true to life, underscores that domestic violence happens in all walks of life and at any socio-economic level. Cecilia, the attractive smart lead is seen fleeing her beautiful ultra-modern ocean front glass house mansion, expensive cars, handsome bright ‘tech mogul’ beau… to room with a childhood friend turned cop James (Aldis Hodge) in his modest home where Cecilia shares a bedroom with his young daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). Welfare over luxury. A testament that all the money in the world is worthless if personal safety is at risk. The terror Cecilia feels throughout this film is palpable even when she thinks she is in a safe place. Her trepidation and anxiety are justified but it’s painful to watch the enormous toll and mental agony one still feels even once the danger and torment has lifted. Always jumpy always hyper-alert, always thinking you’re crazy or something bad is waiting right around the corner. There is nothing more frightening than fearing for your personal safety. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best, ‘Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.’ Assault and battery plant seeds in the mind that can live and grow even when the perpetrator is not in plain sight. However, Cecilia’s endless dread cannot be dismissed as simple paranoia, especially in this futurism flick. This movie also highlights how others can be pulled into relationship drama with harmful consequences and shows how people can serve as enablers who help facilitate the crime and even aggravate the situation knowingly or not. The impact of abuse and its aftereffects are not pretty.

As a doctor in mental health I have personally worked at several community agencies with individuals who are fervently trying to escape domestic violence situations. So how does one go about gauging such risk you ask? First, it’s important to recognize the problem as follows:

What Is Domestic Violence? Does your partner ever…

  • Insult, demean or embarrass you with put-downs?
  • Control what you do, who you talk to or where you go?
  • Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
  • Push you, slap you, choke you or hit you?
  • Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
  • Control the money in the relationship? Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
  • Make all of the decisions without your input or consideration of your needs?
  • Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away your children?
  • Prevent you from working or attending school?
  • Act like the abuse is no big deal, deny the abuse or tell you it’s your own fault?
  • Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
  • Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
  • Attempt to force you to drop criminal charges?
  • Threaten to commit suicide, or threaten to kill you?

If you answered ‘yes’ to even one of these questions, you may be in an unhealthy or abusive relationship. Understanding what domestic abuse is and why it happens can help initiate the healing process.

With so much global uncertainty due to Covid-19 there has been a frightening spike in ‘intimate terrorism’. The problem is so enormous that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for urgent action to combat the international flood of domestic violence incidents, urging governments to ‘put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic.’ Typically, when families with a history of domestic violence are forced to spend a lot of time together tensions raise and the risk of harm increases. Unfortunately, this is just another illustration of the widespread collateral damage caused by this awful coronavirus crisis. Regardless, the safety of abuse victims is paramount, and the cycle of domestic violence can be broken in a productive non-violent way (unlike the caustic saga portrayed in this intense fictional film, which I do not condone). There is help for both victims (safe houses/shelters) and abusers (certified batterer intervention programs). For assistance contact: List of domestic violence hotlines – Wikipedia › wiki › List_of_domestic_violence_hotlines

P.S. I loved how the dog in this movie barked at the hidden wickedness. I’ve forever said we should trust a dogs’ reaction. They can always sense good vs. evil! Bless.  

Interviewing with CTV’s Kathy Le at Discovery House chatting about the ATTACH Program.  ‘A new program at Discovery House aims to help children heal from domestic violence. The CSM’s Dr. Martha Hart, PhD, talks about the ‘ATTACH’ pilot project:

Dear Evan Hansen

Normally I don’t write about live theater on my movie blog even though I love it so much. However, given the toll Covid-19 is having on peoples’ mental health globally I thought it would be fitting to pen about the highly acclaimed Broadway Stage Musical entitled Dear Evan Hansen as it tackles the reticent issue of suicide. Additionally, this live show will soon be coming to the big screen as Universal Pictures has apparently acquired the movie rights, so let’s count this appraisal as a prelude to the film.

Touted as ‘One of the most remarkable shows in musical theater history.’ – The Washington Post, this six-time Tony (and Grammy) Award Winning show is just that! This melodious play focuses on teenager Evan Hansen who is an insecure loner that suffers from an anxiety disorder. In a depressed state of isolation, he authors a melancholy memo to himself that accidentally gets mistaken for another equally dejected classmate’s suicide note. As a result, this socially awkward high school student becomes the center of the tragedy and in a misguided attempt to comfort his deceased peer’s grieving parents Evan pretends the two were best friends. As the story unfolds Evan becomes more entangled in his web of lies, which have shockingly and unintentionally increased his popularity at school overnight. His untruths also have the knock-on effect of gaining emotional and physical closeness to his departed classmate’s family, including his attractive sister. But it also causes a disconnect with his own single mother. Evan eventually needs to decide if he will fess up and tell the truth or keep living a lie. Loneliness and friendlessness are brought to the forefront when fellow students decide to start a movement to raise funds and awareness about suicide with Evan as the poster child of the crusade. This show does a good job of tracing the sadness that can drive young people to unthinkable acts of violence against themselves, while highlighting how easy it is to get caught up in deception and fabrications, especially when the overall intentions are meant for good. That said, I think the main life lesson of this influential show is more about shining light on the incredible sorrow and emptiness felt by those who lose someone to suicide. ‘Why’ – is the most inconsolable question left unanswered. Despair vs. Buoyancy – suicidal people are often blinded by their own sense of hopelessness, depression, self-loathing, and aloneness with death looking like the only option. That is why it is so important to take talk of suicide seriously. Anyone who feels like their emotional suffering is unbearable just wants the pain to stop. Intervention can help.

Having been trained in suicide prevention there are a few quick helpful hints to keep in mind when thinking someone might be at risk of committing suicide, as follows:

  • Be sensitive about their struggles/feelings and look for warning signs like talking about suicide or giving personal items away, buying a weapon…
  • Be direct and ask them straightforwardly if they are thinking of taking their own life. If the answer is yes,
  • Ask if they have a plan. If the answer is yes,
  • Talk to them and find out the plan and what matters to them. People still alive are living for something so try to find out what that is (e.g. spouse, family member, job, friend, pet…) and remind them of that reason to live…
  • If you are with them don’t leave them alone. If not, make them promise they will not do anything to hurt themselves for 24 hours. This will buy you time.
  • Get them help immediately.

NOTE: Covid-19 is creating tremendous anguish for all of us on so many levels of our being, so we all need to guard our own mental/physical health as well as those we care about. Watch out for each other and remember there is hope and there is help. Together we can and as the hashtag of this musical states ‘you will be found’ – we all will – stay connected. Bless.

P.S. I recently saw this magnificent musical in London’s West End and NEVER have I cried so much while watching live theater in my life as I did at this show. I wasn’t the only one. Everyone in the theater was deeply moved and many were openly weeping just like me. This show is so incredibly inspirational, sad, and heart-rending it’s easy to get completely caught up in the story-line. This speaks volumes of this musical as it is very rare that live performances can have such an emotive impact in real time, unlike their onscreen counterparts that seem much easier for audiences to get lost in the narrative. As a result, I highly recommend everyone see this amazing show ‘live’ if you ever get the chance. Oddly enough when I was away in the UK seeing this fabulous performance abroad the show made its debut in my hometown of Calgary Alberta (Feb 18-23, 2020). This is one musical that certainly lives up to the hype so I’m very glad it’s receiving the wide-reaching recognition it deserves. Well done and let’s hope we won’t have to wait too long to enjoy such wonderful outings again.

 At the Noel Coward Theatre in London March 2020. So happy I was able to see this amazing show and buy my fridge magnet for my collection!

Uncut Gems

As my isolation continues due to the Covid-19 crisis I continue to get caught up on films I wanted to watch but hadn’t had the time, and Netflix movie Uncut Gems was at the top of my list. This blistering dark thriller is an exhilarating yet exhausting ride riddled with anxious nerve-racking scenes that leave viewers equally captivated and frustrated at the same time. The central character is fast-talking Jewish New York City jewelry dealer Howard Ratner (brilliantly played by Adam Sandler) who is constantly trying to keep one step ahead of the loan sharks who dog his every move. As the movie unfolds Howard continues to be his own worst enemy making endless mistakes due to his insatiable appetite to roll the dice. Every aspect of his life is flawed by the delusion of better circumstances awaiting him right around the corner if only he could get that one break. Forever chasing the ‘if only’ sequences Howard is a troubled man who despite getting the odd break truly cannot help making perpetual bad decisions even though obvious good choices are blatantly right in front of his face. As Sandler’s character states, ‘Everything I do, it’s not going right, and I don’t know what to do.‘ An aspect of this movie that is so maddening for viewers.

But alas as the film takes shape the audience starts to see that this inescapable nightmarish lifestyle is very typical of anyone suffering from any kind of an addiction (a complex condition considered to be a brain disease that is manifested by compulsivity despite harmful consequence) and the monkey squarely placed on Howard’s back is a toxic impetus to gamble, mainly on Boston Celtics basketball games. Unfortunately, those who suffer from the propulsion to gamble do not always recognize that this obsession is a true addiction much like a drug addiction that rewires neural circuits in the brain, and once established take a lot of hard work to undo. Addictions trigger unsavory behavior in the pursuit to achieve the addict’s ultimate goal, whatever that may be. To the addict over-engaging in activities releases heady dopamine into their system that gives them a heightened feeling of pleasure. This is why addicts have such a difficult time stopping compulsions even when it’s to the detriment of their own life, and everything that should matter is compromised (e.g. health, family, finances…). With gambling the added attraction is the illusion of control that in reality does not exist. As Howard states ‘This is how I win.‘ Wrong. Addictions typically stem from some type of emotional distress rooted deep in the psyche that is too overwhelming to address head-on, so the addiction serves as a coping mechanism. This movie doesn’t touch on the underlying causes behind Howard’s addiction, but the good news is that of those who experience issues with impulse control only 20+% (approx.) will develop an addiction, and for those who do there is always help (e.g. associative learning; training based on a new stimulus).

So with this in mind what is the main take-away message of this movie you ask? It’s easy. If you feed the beast of temptation that may live in your head your life will become uncontrollable chaos, so do not let your own mind be your prison. Find a way to break the cycle. Specifically as it relates to this movie – pay your debts and do not buy into the fantasy of long shots. Find the strength to walk away when you’re ahead and don’t look back. Risk vs. Security – foolish are those who do not comprehend the danger of the gamblers fallacy (an erroneous belief that if a particular event occurs more frequently than normal during the past it is less likely to happen in the future or vice versa, when it has otherwise been established that the probability of such events does not depend on what has happened in the past), which in layman’s terms means if you flip a coin nine times and it comes up heads it’s still just a 50/50 chances that the 10th toss will be tails – not more not less. As my favorite genius stated, ‘Any fool can know; the point is to understand.’ – Albert Einstein. 

Josh and Benny Safdie who directed and co-wrote this film should be commended for casting unlikely pick Adam Sandler to play the protagonist. Sandler fiercely displays his vast range of serious acting skills – so much so viewers quickly forget all the comedic shticks that made him a household name. The story-line cleverly convinces audiences to abandon all previously held views of Sandler’s repertoire as we follow his cheating lying unreliable untrustworthy character Howard down a sad road whereby he is placated into believing that some expensive gems still encased in stone (that he wrangled from poor black Jews in Ethiopia) are his saving grace, and once sold will solve all of his problems. The movie is a frantic roller-coaster of carrot-and-stick, reward-and-punishment money hunting whereby NBA basketball great Kevin Garnett plays prominent. The Weeknd also makes a small appearance in this film that adds to the plot. All and all, it’s a real shame this movie (and Sandler) was overlooked by the Oscars… as this flick is certainly a worthy contender of recognition.

P.S. I have visited Monte Carlo many times when attending the AFA-MIFF where the notion of the gamblers fallacy a.k.a. the Monte Carlo Fallacy originated in 1913 based on true events occurring at the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco. Thankfully I have never been interested in the gambling aspect of the city. I imagine the relentless desire to play the odds must be a terrible thing and I truly sympathize with anyone who struggles with this addiction. So much so I always feel sad when I walk past any casino including the one in Monaco despite the sheer beauty of this historical glided structure. Bless those who suffer with addiction but remember there is always help;

Pictured (left) at Monaco’s famous Cafe de Paris adjacent to the Monte Carlo Casino, officially named Casino de Monte-Carlo (top right) enjoying cappuccinos with my fabulous OHF Committee Members, Virginia Xavier, Oje Hart, Tammi Christopher and Ashid Bahl. Good times with good friends and family – oh how I miss those times right now!
Again at the Cafe de Paris with my OHF Crew with the Casino de Monte-Carlo in the background.

Jumanji: The Next Level

I was looking forward to watching Jumanji: The Next Level as I really enjoyed the first installment of this remake with Dwayne Johnson and crew, and I finally got my chance on my recent flight back to Calgary from the UK last week. Initially I wondered if this new version would compare to the original Jumanji flick with the one-and-only Robin Williams (1995) who had headlined for our 2012 Owen Hart Foundation Event, and this reboot certainly did (FYI: all of us at the OHF loved Robin Williams so much!).

Fantasy films like this one are meant to be pure entertainment and this movie is just that, though with a few good life lessons embedded into the plot along the way. This fun sequel directed by Jake Kastan follows its earlier story-line (with a few unforeseen twists) of four quite different teenagers who in the first treatment originally meet up in high school detention, each in trouble for various reasons, and who via their punishment are commanded to clear out an old storage room whereupon they stumble across a weird old video game entitled Jumanji. Of course, for fun they plug it in, pick their avatar profiles, and voilà – they are magically sucked into the game. The foursome includes studious student Spence (Alex Wolff) who at the outset picks handsome hulky Dr. Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), while odd ball indie girl Martha (Morgan Turner) settles on beautiful kick-ass biologist Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and self-centered instragramer Bethany (Madison Iseman) takes nervous Professor Shelley who unbeknownst to her turns out to be a guy (Jack Black), while football athlete Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) selects jittery small in stature zoologist Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart). As the adventure begins none of the avatar characters turn out to be quite what the kids expect, which adds to the fun as the group go through a series of exciting and dangerous escapades to escape the game before all three of their lives are used up – a fate that would trap them in the game forever. Through the mishaps this unlikely quartet develop strong friendship bonds despite the differences in their real-life personalities.

The sequel picks up three years later with the same four friends now colleague students who have drifted apart on their adult quest to discover their way through life. This new chapter introduces Danny DeVito as aging former restaurateur Eddie (Spence’s grandfather) and Danny Glover as his elderly estranged friend/colleague Milo. The film opens with an uncertain Spencer (Alex Wolff) struggling with the direction of his adult life. In an attempt to recapture the invincible feelings he once felt as strong brave attractive adventurer Dr Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) he purposely slips back into the treacherous jungles of Jumanji where the adventure begins for a second time. Without giving anything away his distant friends join forces again and reenter the game to rescue him. Except this time there are a few added surprises reminiscent of the body switching Freaky Friday flick as the avatar profiles randomly pair-up game characters and players since the players in this continuation of the story did not pre-select them before entering the game.

With the foundation of Jumanji and its follow-up now laid out you may be wondering what the take-away message is of this light-hearted pleasant film? This picture does somewhat underscore the significance of fortitude as it relates to the inner self, and implies that the outer shell can look nice but it’s really what’s on the inside that creates the essence of the person, though I wouldn’t say this is the main take-away message of this film. Instead, similar to the first installment this sequel’s theme is the enduring power of friendship and how truly priceless it is. As American columnist Walter Winchell rightly stated, ‘A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.’ Union vs. Division – the potency of friendship is its ability to construct loyal camaraderie whereby individuals’ compliment and protect one another at any cost despite personal shortcomings and differences. In short, good friends/partners bolster each other’s weaknesses and admire their strengths. It goes without saying, great pals are in for the long haul; a valuable life lesson I highlight in in my book BrokenHarts ‘True friends are there when the bombs hit and when the dust settles.’ – Martha Hart.

In closing, I must admit I liked the first installment of this reboot film a bit more than the sequel as I thought the entire premise of the initial remake was so inventive. To elaborate, in the first film I really enjoyed watching the insecure characters gain confidence, namely Spence and Martha (I always love to see a pleasant yet powerful ‘Martha’ character! ha ha) as well as the amorousness that continued to build between the two throughout.  With this in mind, you may ask why does Hollywood even make sequels instead of just creating original material? It’s simple – audiences enjoy watching extended stories with familiar characters, and when the actors are as well liked as the ones in this film it’s a no-brainer. Don’t be surprised if a third installment is in the works – watch the credits roll. Hint, hint.

P.S. My late husband Owen worked alongside popular Jumanji star Dwayne Johnson and thought of him as an exceptionally intelligent athlete/performer with loads of talent, but more importantly as a very nice person as well. In short, Owen liked him a lot. I met Dwayne a few times – a true gentleman indeed. Dwayne was a good friend to Owen throughout and even though I never really had the opportunity to tell him, I truly appreciated it. A Parting Note: Friendship is valued by those who share it but also by those who witness it. Bless.

Pictured on the last Air Canada flight back to Calgary March 23 2020 from the UK due to Covid-19 happily watching Jumanji: The Next Level. Owen & Dwayne back in the day (lower right).