Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Voices Finally Growing!

There is a movie, “Me Before You”, that is opening Friday, June 3, 2016. According to the movie’s description on their IMDb website page, is about when “A girl in a small town forms an unlikely bond with a recently-paralyzed man she’s taking care of.” movie poster from imdb - resized - 315x600They did not mention a lot in that short logline/tagline about the movie. I can say that it is set in England. And it looks like a good, romantic dramedy. For those who do not know what a “dramedy” is, it is just what you are probably thinking it is, a hybrid of a drama and comedy. I remember reading about this movie, or more likely as I will mention in a moment, I saw either a television commercial or a trailer during the previews to one of the movies I saw a while back.

Usually, I know about all the movies and most television shows that feature a person with a disAbility, and especially those featuring a paraplegic, months before the general public. But I have finally put more of my attention on my film and entertainment business rather than being the advocate and watchdog that can take up a lot of time. So for this movie I found out along with the general public. I know that is very unusual and as soon as I finish my short film, and complete the development of two other projects, I will be right back at it!

Regardless of when I found out about this film, of course I was very interested in finding out more about it. For years I have been advocating for films like this is to be “authentic”, using a paraplegic actor in the role of the paraplegic character and therefore I wanted to know about the authenticity of this one because I did not recognize the actor playing the English paraplegic character. I am a huge fan of British movies and television shows, but that did not help me identify this actor and so when I Googled “Me Before You”, I found that he is an English actor named, Sam Claflin. And as usual, in Hollywood’s Standard Operating Procedures, he is an able bodied actor. It is a shame because the British entertainment industry has been leading the way by hiring actors with a disAbility to portray characters in their television and movies. As I have mentioned in other blog entries they are somewhat ahead of American entertainment on the authentic portrayals, but not in this case. Maybe not such a shock or surprise because although it is filmed in England, using primarily English actors, and some post-production editing was done there, it is MGM and New Line Cinema listed as the Production companies and they are completely Hollywood.

The next step that I check is the source. The writer. That could add some authenticity to the film and the character if the writer is a person with a disAbility, or their spouse or one of their children is and especailly, in this case, one who is paralyzed. This is one of the three creative positions I have advocated for movies to be more real, genuine, and authentic when portraying a paraplegic character. I have pleaded with, written specific details on how to be more authetnic, advocated, fought for these three main roles in the creative positions of a movie, the writer, director, and the actor of a paraplegic character – be a paraplegic. At least one of them. So in my search for the writer of this movie, I found out it is based on a very popular novel by the same name. The author, JoJo Moyes, is not a paraplegic and as far as I can tell has no personal connections to a paraplegic. The best I could find to her connections to the disAbled community was a professional one, as a “typer of braille statements for blind people for NatWest”. Me before you - book - 1This according to her website where I also found out that she was an English journalist for 10 years and more recently “been a full time novelist since 2002, when her first book, ‘Sheltering Rain’ was published. Since then she has written a further eleven novels, all of which have been widely critically acclaimed.

“Jojo has won the Romantic Novelist’s Award twice, and ‘Me Before You’ has been nominated for Book of the Year at the UK Galaxy Book Awards. ‘Me Before You’ has since gone on to sell over 3 million copies worldwide.”

And now she is a famous screenwriter since she was hired to adapted her book, “Me Before You” for the film.

In my Google search, I did not want to dig too much further in the story of “Me Before You” because I have to admit, I was intrigued about the story. In viewing the movie trailer, it looked like it was a happy, romantic movie. The paralyzed character is portrayed to have hope when the “girl from a small town” comes into his life. He even has romantic aspirations for her and it appears she does for him. This is Hollywood so there will be a Hollywood ending. This could be one in which the disAbled character even though it is not authentic, maybe the story would somehow be. The paraplegic character was finding love and would have a “happily ever after” ending. After all, even though all of my screenplays and short stories leave out the disAbility stereotypes they do have in one way or another the happy ending. And as a reminder, the author is a famous romantic novelist! This is good and I am interested in watching this movie when it comes out. Therefore I do not want any spoilers!

 

Notice the hashtag – #LiveBoldly – I found these promoting the movie.  And to clarify, the full quote that is listed on the promo picture on the right is, “Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live well. Just LIVE.” — This is sounding good. And the trailer, the television commercial looks good. This has the possibility of being the kind of movie that features a paralyzed person in a good way despite not being authentically portrayed!

 

But the past couple of days I have seen some Facebook posts from my fellow disAbility advocates and especially the disAbility film advocates. The comments were very short and without knowledge of this movie, a bit cryptic. So I had to click on the articles they posted so I could find out what they were talking about. And I was not happy with what I found.

The first one was an article about an event that happened five days ago. On May 23, 2016, in the regular course of movie promotion, the star, well I am calling him the actor faking the disAbility of paraplegia in the upcoming movie, “Me Before You”, Sam Claflin went on the movie’s Twitter account to Tweet with fans for an hour. #AskSam  #LiveBoldly – As I read the down, the author of the article, Dominick Evans, one of the more active disAbility film advocates, which in that respect reminds me a lot of myself five, ten years ago, wrote that the film is far from one that has a happy Hollywood ending. In fact,

THE PARALYZED CHARACTER KILLS HIMSELF.

Yes, I am giving spoilers with no alerts. And I have good reason for it. People should not go see this movie. The character is despressed because of his disAbility. And instead of any mention of getting him some mental help, he feels it is better to be dead than disAbled. He feels it is better he gives up his life for an able bodied person. I guess the life of a person with a disAbility is worthless? Or at least worth less than an able bodied person. They certainly did not show any of this in the trailer or televsion commercials!

They fooled me.

This is what I have fought against Hollywood from doing. Do not keep portraying this kind of stuff. And if they portrayed a paralyzed person LIVING BOLDLY then people who become paralyzed, injured or acquire some other disAbility, they will know they can LIVE BOLDLY TOO!

Dominick Evans, the disAbility advocate and author of this article, tells us that he is one who requires much the same level of caretaking as is portrayed in this movie. And he is a very active person with a disAbility. He is one that is an advocate, a filmmaker, a family man. He is not like the person portrayed in this movie.

The person/character portrayed in the movie is depressed and wanting to kill himself. Assisted sucicide. Euthenasian. Call it whatever you want but many people, especailly in these days of assisted LIVING, and accessible activities and jobs, help for PTSD that can affect those that are newly paralyzed and therefore no need to portray this kind of mindset.

Hollywood and I will say the author of the book, JoJo Moyes are perpetuating the NEGATIVE so often found in books and movies by people who have no idea what it is like to LIVE with a disAbility – especially those that they are portraying. That is why it should be people like myself and Dominick who is also a filmmaker. We need authentic portrayals. Writers, directors and actors with the same or similar disAbility of that which is being portrayed in the character.

Now I am going beyond just encouraging you to read his article. I am pleading with you. It is easy to read. It gives the points that are so important to those of us with a disAbility. And it shows the Tweets that many people with a disAbilty had asked Sam Claflin about his portrayal of a paralyzed person. It seems he did not answer any of them. And in fact, he left the Twitter Chat after 40 minutes – instead of staying the full hour as they promoted him to do. Please read this:

https://storify.com/dominickevans/sam-claflin-ends-twitter-chat-on-mebeforeyou-after

This shows that there are many people now active in voicing their opinions about this kind of portrayals. Non-authentic portrayals. In story and in performance. 10, 15, and certainly 20 years ago I felt like I was the only one that felt this way about these kinds of stereotypical movies. I have mentioned many of them before. And in those like this movie where the paralyzed person wants to die instead of living – “Whose Life Is It Anyway”, “Million Dollar Baby”, “The Sea Inside”. We have seen it. They are portrayed. Let those portrayals stand. It has been done. Let us have more POSITIVE and REALISTIC portrayals of the overwhelming majority of us with disAbility – with paralysis. We know about it. We live it. We do not focus on what we canot do but on what we can do.

Over the years I started to meet others with the same feelings and thoughts I had about these portrayals. At the time it was mostly actors with a disAbility. As a filmmaker, I was, I am writing the non-stereotypical screenplays. I wanted to make a difference in Hollywood and did everyting in my ABILITY to pitch it and prove it to them. But they never wanted to hear anything about change. And the small group of people with a disAbility that felt the same way – also felt like they were alone and fighting a system that would not hear our voices.

Now, in 2016, the momentum is growing. It has grown and is growing! There are many voices – growing in support of real authentic storytelling and authentic portrayals of the paraplegic life. Not just actors and filmmakers witha  disAbility. I wish that I knew about this Twitter #askSam, #liveboldly event ahead of time so that I could add my voice – one that if anyone has been following my blog here, or will scroll down and read some of the blog entries knows – I have advocated everything that is being said in these Tweets for years. Even though I am not on Twitter that often because I have a hard time limiting my comments to only 140 characters – I would have done so to add my voice that has been a voice for 21 years! Instead, I will do this – add a blog post and promote it on social media in hopes to reach as many as possible. You! And you can pass this on!

 

me before you - not dead yet uk - 1
This is from a disAbility advocate in the United Kingdom.

 

 

Here is another great article in Self magazine online and again I plead with you to read it. If you “like” this page and/or you “like” me – then YOU need to read this to understand me and what I am doing with my work in Abilities United Productions.

Please read:

http://www.self.com/trending/2016/05/why-some-disability-rights-activists-are-protesting-me-before-you/

I am sure there are a thousand other things I could say in this blog entry, and many I will wish I had added before posting it, but know this, I am NOT going to see this movie. I ask you to also not give your money to support this kind of portrayal of those with a disAbility.

And please pass this on in your social media. Even if it is not this blog entry – then one or both of the articles I posted above. Real easy to do when you are on their page. If you do not see the Social Media links – click on the address bar and copy the website’s address. Then paste it on your Facebook or Twitter page with comments such as that this is an offensive movie to people who are paralyzed. That you know a person who is paralyzed and he is offended by this portrayal and is asking you to not support it. This is an insult to people with a disAbility. We want to live. Life, even with a disAbility is worth living! Our lives are just as valuable as the able bodied life. And we want that to be portrayed – not this insult.

We really need to get this out over the next 7 days – before it opens on Friday, June 3rd. I was nearly fooled into it. You have been educated and if nothing else – you know what is going to happen and therefore it’s not worth your money! Do not let your friends be fooled. If you’re a real friend you will do this for them! If you are my friend, I ask you to do this. We need YOUR voice to be added to ours. The power of social media and the power of the pocketbook will tell them not to make this kind of portrals anymore. Thanks.

 

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Seven Deadly Sins of the Seven Seas!

Seven Deadly Sins of the Seven Seas!

Wow! Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.
What a movie huh? Broke a single day record and followed up with making more money then any for the first weekend. The American Cinema audience, the movie goers must like that kind of sequel, huh? I am amazed when I talk to people, especially those whom I know and I feel are far from lazy, couch potatoes with IQ’s that barely reach a high school level, but they just tell me how much they liked this movie! Why?

What in the hell is going on? Hollywood has had a terrible 18-24 months leading into this Summer’s traditional money making season. And it appeared there was no stopping it. Mission Impossible III did respectable money but not what they expected or hoped for. And that is just one example and then comes another sequel with blockbuster hopes in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.  

(Note: If you want to continue with my review skip to the next paragraph. I have some commentary here that as in my usual manner tends to ramble a bit!) I absolutely love going to the theatre to see a movie. It is a regular event that I am always excited for when I enter the lobby. To assure I get one of the few wheelchair accessible seating before able bodied people snag them so they have extra leg room and several feet before the next row and therefore I have to embarrass myself to ask them to sit somewhere else so I can transfer into that seat, have my family and/or friends or date sit with me or else I stay in my chair in one of those spaces where there isn’t any seats. That is what those are there for so hopefully if I am resigned to having to stay in my chair then I again better get there before mommy and daddy put their damn strollers there and then I have to ask those that I have come with to enjoy the movie together, to sit somewhere else – so I arrive much earlier then most. I get my over priced concession goodies and head into the theater! So I find that designated wheelchair accessible seat that finally most theaters have put in a more reasonable place within the theatre instead of the very first freakin’ row or the very last freakin’ row (in those cases I never seem to have the problem of others sitting in those seats and I could usually arrive with the crowds instead of being way too early and having to read the slide show on the screen for the seventh time before the commercials start and don’t get me started with that!) and so there is already about 10-15 people in the theatre and guess what? Two of them are sitting in the wheelchair seating area! Fortunately I am in one of the newer theatres that have an entire row for wheelchair users and there are others available. It is the principal of it though! If the theatre is full and there are some seats available on the accessible row then by all means please help yourself – I sometimes wish there was a Disability Etiquette course everyone could take! (The Boy Scouts of America have a new merit badge that is called Handicapped Etiquette which I give kudos too but am still upset they call it Handicapped (read a future post on the topic!)  So now I have raised the armrest (yes that is why that those move and none of the other rows have movable armrests – except in the newer theatres I have seen some of them where all the armrests move) transfered into the seat, moved my wheelchair to the open spot right next to me and am now comfortably sitting eye to eye with all the rest of the theatre patrons, since on this occasion I was by myself but is another one of the main reasons I do not stay in my chair whenever possible because then – unlike in most of life’s situations, I am taller then everyone else in the room! Which that just leads to sticking out just as much – although now instead of being ignored people are forced to look at me or sometimes around me! And if I have a date with me then this is real uncomfortable – I sit next to her but not really. I cannot make my movie theatre moves on her from so high up! How can I hold her hand or stretch my arm to rest it around her shoulder!! Date night is ruined if I have to stick out and away from my date! But as I said this time I do not have that problem and am sitting in the theatre seat with my wheelchair next to me.

I am now ready to watch the sequel that I was excited to see. I had seen the Curse of the Black Pearl several times – twice at the theatre and then a few more times on DVD and then HBO. I would watch it right now if it was on! That was a very entertaining movie and I felt as one who used to go to Disneyland for school field trips that they captured the feel of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. They had a great storyline, character development and special effects that were perfect for that movie. Surely this sequel will match that right? Or at the very least come close since all the key elements are in place for a summer blockbuster of a movie, right?

WRONG! WAY #&$%@) WRONG! By sometime between half way and three quarters I couldn’t take it. I contemplated staying which I usually do because I paid for it and you never know it could turn for the better or I could learn something of what not to do but sometimes after it is over I regret staying immensely (Like in “Domino” anybody waste their money on that flick – wished I took my gut feeling and left that one in the middle. Kira’s strip dance was good but not worth sitting through the rest of that crap) and then I did what I never do – I transferred back into my chair while the movie was still on. I remained there to watch it because I felt that it was near the end – I could feel the third act coming – but it went on and on and on. I felt like I was at the end of the Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King – only this final act NEVER came! They kept leading to an end where you can see what conclusion is going to happen, but then it doesn’t and they continue on and on and on. 

Well, because I like to read the credits and wait until the able bodied crowd leaves the theatre before I move my chair into the walk way to transfer into which annoys most because I am then in there way to get to the bathroom and release all of the overpriced already but it was only twenty-five cents more for the extra large Coke, or to get a cigarette lit as soon as possible or to get to their car and beat the traffic out of the parking lot and I am in their way which will cause them precious time – they never say it but I often see it behind the cloud of politically correct politeness – but this time I was already in my chair and when the end – which come to find out isn’t the end but just seems to be when they finally ran out of film – I rushed the exit as if I was one of those still addicted to nicotine! 

So why did I find this so bad? Because in my opinion it did not live up to the standard that the Curse of the Black Pearl set. 

Here are my Seven Deadly Sins of the Seven Seas!   

First of all the story was too fake and senseless – I never wondered “how are they going to get out of this Curse”. It never engaged me. I could’ve told that in about 30 minutes instead of two and a half hours without an ending. The beginning should have been a clue. The trumped up charges putting Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann in prison? On the day of their wedding day? Was these charges stemming form the end of the Black Pearl? When if I remember correctly it was given that Jack could get on with his life. So now is there another circumstance that in the dialogue that seems to be going in many directions is explaining and I am too dumb to figure out? And Ms Swann’s father has no way of influencing the
new Captain, Mayor, Constable, whatever he is – I have no clue except that somehow he has gotten power over the people. And now he can throw anybody into prison – even those of wealth in a time and society where that meant everything and if you were a member of that upper class you could not be subjugated in most circumstances. Here we go into a minimal, roller coaster of a story that has no common sense applied anywhere! For instance, how does Boot Strap Bill fit into this story? He was responsible for the first curse and now he is somehow connected, even trapped into this one? Cameo appearances by some of the other characters including Barbossa from the Curse of the Black Pearl? Why are they here? How do they fit into this story? And again what is this story? You have to go home and try and figure it all out because the writing is so all over the place that it isn’t making much sense. We have a mysterious compass that Jack never lets out of his sight – though this is the first time we have seen it – Will is forced to find it by this character who just arrived with the Almighty’s power and Jack on some quest that is of such importance that he escaped justice and that Will and Elizabeth aided in. Some guy name Davey Jones with a weird face that keeps moving and a crew of monsters that are chasing Jack. Whew, this is all making sense, to who?

Second no character development. I found myself not rooting for anyone – unlike in the first one I was hoping for Jack Sparrow, and Orlando Bloom and Kira Knightley’s characters to all get what they want – The Black Pearl and to get out of a wedding so they could have a real wedding! Whether it was a humorous bit, like is Captain Sparrow going to keep his hat in the end, or will he run into another woman whom he has loved and left? To the more serious like will he be able to get the Black Pearl back and be recognized as a Captain again? Will Will find his true identity within himself now that it is revealed he is the son of Boot Strap Bill Turner who is responsible for the curse they are all in. And speaking of which will they be able to end the curse? I was never engaged in the Dead Man’s Chest let alone to the level of the Curse of the Black Pearl.

Third was this sequel was filled with cliché after cliché. I hadn’t seen anything this riddled with cliché’s since Con Air and Independence Day. When they’re on the beach and the guys are being guys fighting and the woman is being a woman upset and saying that the boys will be boys. It was pathetic.

Fourth was the special effects – now before you jump down my throat, they were done well but it was too much. The characters under the curse of the Dead Man’s Chest each being some kind of fish or animal or monster of the sea made this too much like a comic book. And not in a good way like Daredevil, Spiderman, Batman, Superman, the X-Men or Sin City all who brought life from the comic book – this one reversed it and went from life into an animated over the top special effects look what I can do with my computer! I quickly grew tired of the special effects here – unlike the Curse of the Black Pearl where the special effects enhanced the movie because it added to the reality of the Curse they were in. It was not over the top or done too much and did not turn it into a b or c rated comic book. At night those with the curse seemed human and set on a mission we all wanted to know about and then find a cure for. When Kira’s character, Elizabeth Swann was being held in the Captain’s room and Barbossa said “You better start believing in ghost stories Ms. Swann. You’re in one now!” and he stepped into the light to reveal that he is really a pile of bones – a walking skeleton – it was brilliant – and a great special effect that worked so well for the story. Dead Man’s Chest again it seemed too ridiculous. The hammerhead shark, the starfish and mangled with barnacles on his head. It just got more and more ridiculous.  

Fifth was the acting – again hear me out – these actors are very good actors but they had little to work with. I do not need to mention the depth of Depp – and when he created the nuances of Jack Sparrow, the way he used his facial expressions to be a part of the character was amazing and why we all fell in love with Jack Sparrow (btw I think that facet of Depps acting can been seen ever since the beginning of his movie career with Edward Scisscorhands – he is a master at using his look to create the story that cannot be said out loud) Knightly is pleasant, Bloom is a fine actor and Jack Davenport I hope we see more of him. Of course I am a little bias because I loved Coupling but he did a great job there and although it was very limited here too. Speaking of which the lack of Geoffrey Rush who is an amazing actor who I have never seen give less then a spectacular performance comes in at the end – oh wait its not the end just the end of part one of the Dead Man’s Chest! But none of them have much to work with because as I stated above there is no story and no character development. Dialogue is contrived and filled with cliché. They have nothing to work from. A real waste of good and great talent.

Sixth was the pointless scenes – it is a rule in filmmaking – in story writing that every scene must lead you toward the conclusion, the third act. The Dead Man’s Chest was filled with scenes that wasted time and had no point to it, did not add to he story and did not lead to the conclusion of the story. Here is one example: When they were shipwrecked on the deserted island and Jack was captured by the natives. First of all the first half of this scene looked like it was taken right out of the master reel of Peter Jackson’s King Kong! I forgot what movie I was watching for this scene. And what was the point to it? What did it contribute to the story? The Characters? Anything? I thought the make-up on Jack Sparrow’s face was funny and the chasing and the crew members being suspended in those wicker balls suspended over a deep gorge and sea below. But that is it. Nothing to it and it adds nothing – it was a waste of time like the ones that included cameos from characters from the first Pirates that I have no idea still how they are related to this masquerade of a story just as many of the other scenes were pointless which brings me to the final reason this movie sucks!

Seventh is what I already mentioned, it was way too long. Exactly two and half hours and on top of that it….did… not…end! There are movies that do not end – The Lord of the Rings – but we are all aware up front that it is a trilogy. Tarantino’s Kill Bill Volume 1 and 2 where again he made it perfectly clear – even in the title that there would not be a conclusion at the end of the first one. But this one gave no indications of that until it happened – suspended the audience like the crewmen in the scene that had no point! How can I get out of this situation? This is not a television series. I do not expect to go to the theatre and see a movie that has a cliffhanger! And if you do then please tell me before hand!

A story that was barely there and what was so mixed up it didn’t make any sense, did not engage me did not even bring the characters into a position where I cared what happened to them, acting that was well below the standard of many of them because they had nothing to work with, cliché after cliché, special effects that were way over the top turning this into some comic book I couldn’t care less about, too many pointless scenes that seems some were made just to accommodate cameos and some that were ripped off from other movies all of which was drawn out and out and out to finally say…come back next year and we’ll tell you what happens! SUCKER!

When I rush
ed the exit and got into my van I kept thinking that word of mouth will doom this piece of crap. Sure it made a lot of money in this opening weekend but people will tell others how disappointing it was and then like many movies the life of it will cease after a month. Then the rest will wait until the DVD comes out. I surely wish I had! But wait no, people continue to see it and it is grossing unheard of money! WHY? Can anyone tell me WHY? I found no redeeming quality in this movie and it was a huge disappointment from the first one which was of tremendous entertainment value.

I am baffled and if this is what the people, the movie goers want then I might have to re-evaluate my wanting to be a filmmaker! I am seriously sadden by the statement this movie is making by the sales – by the people that are seeing it. To me this movie was truly the Seven Deadly Sins of the Seven Seas!