Friday, August 15, 2014

Robin Williams - A Farewell to My Favorite Entertainer

I am still a bit shocked and very sad about the passing of Robin Williams.  He has been my favorite actor for most of my life and I even did a paper on him in college.  I don’t know how well I can articulate everything I have been feeling since learning about it, but I decided I needed to try.  My thoughts may jump around a bit, but that seems fitting since that is frequently what Robin did.  At this point, I have been working on this off and on for a few days because it has taken me this long to get my thoughts in some semblance of order.

I went about my day on Monday August 11, 2014, running errands and things.  I didn’t bother to watch the news - I don’t watch the news all the time because I just get tired of hearing about all the crime and negative stuff.  That night, I was minding my own business, looking through some posts on Facebook when I was stunned to read one about Robin Williams dying.  I immediately went to other sites, hoping not to find confirmation that it had happened - not that I think the friend that posted would have made it up, but I just didn’t want to believe it.  I still don’t. 

Over the years I have felt sad when different celebrities have passed away without getting too upset or crying.  I almost always end up shedding a few tears during the memorial segments on different award shows.  This time it is different.  I have cried several times over the last several days, and that will probably continue to happen for a while.  The only other time the passing of a celebrity has hit me this hard was with Jim Henson.  I grew up watching Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, and since Henson was responsible for so many of those characters, it was like they died too at that point.  Mork & Mindy is one of the few shows I remember watching from the early 80s, so I guess I connect Mork, and therefore Robin with my childhood as well, which may be part of  why this has hit me so hard.  It may also be because it is just so sad that such a talented and gifted man is gone.  Finding out that it was suicide and that he had been severely depressed lately makes it sadder.

I am not in any way judging him for this.  It just makes me sadder that his depression got to such a point where he felt this was his only way to deal with it.  Unfortunately, it seems like others are judging.  I have seen nasty comments left on articles and videos.  There are people who are calling Robin a coward and selfish because of this.  He is a man who spent the majority of his life making other people happy.  He has done all kinds of work for various charities, a lot of which he didn’t talk about because he wasn’t doing it for the publicity.  He did it because he cared, something a selfish person wouldn’t do.  He was suffering from an illness that still has a stigma attached to it.  Someone who seems to be a well known blogger wrote something about it that I chose not to read because just the title ticked me off.  It seems like most of the people who have been posting these rude, judgmental, and even nasty things are people who have never had to deal with the type of severe depression that Robin was battling.  They have no idea what type of torment he felt or how he suffered.  They should be glad they haven’t.  Thankfully I have never had to deal with depression, and I hope I never do.  I do understand that it is an illness that people should not be criticized for having.  Some of the things that some people have said online, or even in some of the “news” reports have the potential to be harmful to people dealing with depression.

Over the years, Robin has battled addiction and depression.  Some of that has come out in his work, with him referencing the battles in his stand up.  He has played characters that have problems with depression.  There was even an episode of Mork & Mindy in which Mork learns about loneliness, and the episode does have some serious moments.   Years ago I saw either an interview or read one in which he talked about having insecurities.  It can be hard for people to grasp that someone who was as funny as Robin was could have insecurities and suffer from depression.  It seems like many funny people, and gifted people as well, end up dealing with some form of depression.  Having money or a successful career doesn’t make a person immune to depression. 

Depression does not discriminate and it can be incredibly hard for people to overcome.  It isn’t just feeling sad and people can’t just make themselves happy.  It isn’t like a cold where a person can wait it out or get some type of medicine to deal with the symptoms until it is gone.  There is no magic cure or magic pill.  What helps one person won’t necessarily help another.  While there are medications that can help, it can take a long time to find the right balance.  A medicine that had been helping can stop for whatever reason, starting the search for the balance all over again.  If a person also has to take other medications, they could cause interactions that mess things up.  Medications interact with each other in weird ways at times that can cause complications.   The side effects for a lot of medications mention depression, including some medicine used to treat depression.  There is at least one medicine used to treat depression - I can’t remember which one, but I have seen a bunch of commercials for it - that mentions, in addition to increased depression, suicidal thoughts and actions as side effects. 

On Wednesday, I was horrified to read that some people attacked his daughter for what she has and hasn’t shared online about him, claiming that she hadn’t shared enough pictures of him or some such nonsense.  No one, no matter how famous, is obligated to share every part of their life with the world.  No one has to take pictures of their every waking moment and post them online.  Famous people have a right to privacy too.  No one should be attacked for not sharing enough about their personal life online ever, and it certainly shouldn’t happen after someone has died. 
Friends and family members of someone who has died should not be attacked or criticized for how they grieve.  I don’t understand how or why those people have been doing this.  What is the matter with people?  That is an extra special level of cruel.

Robin Williams made the world a funnier, happier place.  I feel lucky to have been able to watch his many wonderful performances over the years and to have been touched by his brilliance in that way.  I have seen recordings of some of his stand up performances that I enjoyed greatly, but I was never lucky enough to have seen him perform in person.  That would have been something very special.  It would have truly been an honor to have been able to meet him, even for a brief time.  I was thrilled when he was in a new comedy series, and then disgusted when CBS cancelled it while renewing the ever more horrible Two and a Half Men.   Now that he is gone, the world is a sadder place.

I always loved to see Robin on talk shows.  He was the most entertaining guest, bouncing from thought to thought at lightening speed.  He was greatness in action.  When he would crack up over something, his laugh was infectious.  Not all comedians can really do improv, even though many of them seem to think they can.  It takes a very special type of talent to consistently be able to do that in front of a live audience and actually be funny. Robin was the best at it.  That is very different from certain actors who think doing improv is doing take after take after take until they decide something is funny when filming a movie.  Robin was a truly gifted, talented performer.  He was a comedy genius the likes of which I don’t think we will ever see again.

Not only was he hilarious, he was also very good at more serious roles.  One of his early movies was more serious - The World According to Garp - and it was made during the time he was playing Mork.  I haven’t seen all of his movies, but I have seen a lot of them.  I traveled about an hour and a half to get to a theater to see One Hour Photo because it wasn’t at the local theater.  The main reason I wanted to see the movie was because he was in it.  Even many of his funny performances have serious, emotional or downright sad moments in them.  In Mrs. Doubtfire, he was hilarious dressing up as an elderly Scottish nanny, and those outrageous moments are probably what many people remember the most from the movie.  I remember that his character dearly loved his children and would do anything to stay a part of their lives.  Late in the movie, during a court scene, he is absolutely heartbreaking talking about how much his children mean to him. 

I have several of his movies on DVD and I will probably pick up more of them at some point.  I actually did look a few up on Amazon only to discover that they are out of stock right now so they got added to my wish list.  I do sort of feel like having a marathon, starting with the three seasons of Mork & Mindy I have on DVD - I have been hoping for years that the fourth will be released - and continuing with the movies, but I also feel like it is a little too soon for me to do that just yet.  I have watched some clips from some things I hadn’t seen before, and others I had over the last few days.  While they have made me laugh hysterically again, I have also ended up crying again and again and again for various reasons, like just that he is gone or because of something sweet or touching said or done.  I know that I will lose it at the end of Aladdin the next time I watch it, but I will watch it again, along with his many other movies.  I will laugh again, sometimes hysterically until I can’t catch my breath, and I will cry again.  What I won’t do is ever forget him or the joy he has brought me. 

Robin Williams was a very special, talented man who was able to touch his fans in ways that left an impact.  That is why so many of us are so sad right now.  Even though we never actually met him, it feels like we have lost someone close to us.  It takes a special type of person to be able to make that sort of connection to so many people. 

Robin Williams will live on . . . as a grown up Peter Pan, a dedicated English teacher, an outrageous disc jockey, Popeye, a troubled homeless man, a few psychiatrists, a Russian defector, a disturbed photo technician, a killer, animated penguins, the President, Teddy Roosevelt, various doctors, the author son of a feminist, a firefighter who moves to the Caribbean, a banker stuck in the past, a used car salesman, an animated bat, a goofy toy maker, an actor who dresses up as an older Scottish, female nanny, a boy trapped in a game for twenty-six years, a boy who ages four times faster than normal, a flamboyant gay night club owner, a distracted professor, an android, an animated robot, the twisted, corrupt host of a children’s show, a man taking a vacation with his family, a man struggling with the aftermath of loss, an eccentric minister, a father trying to protect his son after death, an advertising executive, a centuries old genie who ultimately gains freedom, and a sweet, kind, gentle, loving alien from Ork. 

Robin Williams will not be forgotten, but he will be greatly missed.

Nanu nanu.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy is Still Awesome on Second Viewing

When I really enjoy a movie, I will watch it multiple times.  That is why I have as many movies on DVD and Blu-ray as I do.  I usually only see a movie in the theater once, but I am willing to see some movies more than once while in the theater.  So far, the most I have gone to the theater to see a movie is four times for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.  Over the years, I have seen several movies twice at the theater.  I haven’t done it as often in the last few years, partly because of opportunity and partly because there weren’t as many movies I was interested in seeing at the theater twice.  Earlier in the week, I decided to see Guardians of the Galaxy again.

I absolutely loved Guardians of the Galaxy when I saw it on opening day.  The movie is fun and entertaining with a great soundtrack. Probably within a day of seeing the movie, I was thinking about trying to go see it again.  I ended up waiting until Tuesday because I was going to have several hours in between two work related classes and I didn’t want to make two trips into the office.  If that hadn’t been happening, I think I would have gone again on Monday. 

There weren’t as many people there the second time, but it was a decent amount for early afternoon, especially considering it was a 3D showing.  For whatever reason, there are only two show times at the local theater for Guardians of the Galaxy that aren’t in 3D.  The very first showing every day is discounted even more on top of the matinee price, so there could have been more at that time - I missed that showing because of the first class.  Everyone in the theater seemed to really enjoy the movie - all of us stayed through the credits for the extra scene.  Yes I had already seen it, but I wanted to see it again too. 

I noticed a few more things here and there that I had missed the first time I saw the movie.  I noticed how Yondu’s mohawk turns red at times, especially when he is using his whistle controlled arrow.  I paid more attention to one character when he turned up because I figured out from reading the credits the first time that Nathan Fillion did the voice for that character.  The voice really sounds nothing like Fillion.  I noticed more cool things with the special effects, including with the 3D.  Since there weren’t as many people there, I was able to hear a few lines that I had missed previously thanks to the laughter of the audience.  I did notice the one character from the scene after the credits earlier in the movie - no I’m not saying who it is.  The character in question can be seen in the background when the main characters go to see the Collector.  There isn’t a closeup of the character or anything like that.  It is really just a silhouette, but that is enough to make it clear who it is.

Guardians of the Galaxy holds up very well on a second viewing.  I enjoyed the movie just as much as I did the first time.   Honestly, I would be see it in the theater again if I got the chance.  I would even pay the higher price for a 3D showing again.  This is one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen in a long time.  I will definitely be adding this to my movie collection.

This review is part of elvisdo’s 7th Annual Funny Pages Write off.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy is Awesome (Spoiler Free)

5 out of 5 Stars

Guardians of the Galaxy is the latest Marvel movie.  I have been looking forward to seeing it for months, ever since I saw the first trailer that has Hooked on a Feeling playing.  The movie is very fun and entertaining and it is definitely worth checking out.  It does build on what has happened in previous Marvel movies and sets up things for future movies while still standing alone fairly well. 

I am only going to briefly discuss the plot for Guardians of the Galaxy.  People who prefer not to know anything about the plot before seeing the movie should skip the next paragraph.

** Minor Plot Discussion **
Peter Quill is abducted from Earth in 1988, just minutes after his mother passes away.  Twenty-six years later, he is calling himself Star Lord.  He ends up in a world of trouble when he manages to find an orb that Ronan, a Kree, is trying to retrieve for Thanos.  Ronan sends Gamora, an assassin and Thanos’s adopted daughter, after Peter.  Gamora and Peter end up in prison along with Groot and Rocket, where they meet Drax.  The five decide to work together to get out so they will have a chance to stop Ronan and Thanos.

** End of Minor Plot Discussion **
There is a cute scene at the end of the movie, just as the credits are starting.  There is a scene after the credits that ties back into something that happens during the movie.  All of the Marvel movies have done this, and with most of them, the extra scenes hint at something that will be coming in some way in a future movie.  Another Marvel character is introduced in the short scene.  I did recognize the character, but I have no idea what is being planned there.  I honestly never expected to see that character show up, and I am now wondering what Marvel is planning since all the other characters introduced in this way have turned up in later movies so far.

Guardians of the Galaxy is the based on the Marvel comic book.  I have never read it, so I have no idea what has stayed the same and what has been changed.  I hadn’t even heard of Guardians of the Galaxy before Marvel announced that they were making the movie.  I didn’t know what to expect from the movie, even after seeing the first few trailers, but I still wanted to see the movie.  I’m very glad that I saw it. This is one of the best movies of the year.

Peter is first shown as a child in 1988.  The movie only spends a few minutes on that point in his life, but it is a rough few minutes.  The movie then jumps forward twenty-six years to show Peter as he is finding the orb.  From that point on, things move at a fairly good pace without feeling rushed.  The story works well overall.  It is very interesting and entertaining, blending in some touching moments with really funny things.  Some of what happens is just flat out bizarre - one of the characters is a talking raccoon and another one is a sort of tree that can only say I am Groot  - but it all works perfectly to make an awesome movie. 

All of the main characters say and do things that are funny in some way.  All the humor gives a movie a lighter feel overall even with the emotional moments.  Music also plays a part in what is going on since Peter’s most treasured possession is the mix tape his mother made for him of songs from the 70s and 80s.  Those songs actually work very well with what is going on when they are heard.  I am slightly disappointed that more of Hooked on a Feeling isn’t heard during the movie like it was in one or two trailers.  Other characters react oddly to Peter’s music, and at one point, he even uses it during a confrontation in an unexpected way.  In another scene, Peter shares the legend of Footlose and hero Kevin Bacon.  The music also serves as a connection to Earth and his mother for Peter, so it is understandable why he is so protective of his walkman and the mix tape.  I do wonder where he got batteries for the walkman over the years.

I ended up seeing Guardians of the Galaxy in 3D because of the show times.  For whatever reason, all but two of the show times are in 3D at the local theater.  I do think the 3D was pretty good and that it added to a few cool images.  I think the movie is also showing in IMAX 3D at some locations.  Everything looks wonderful throughout the movie.  Several things are created with special effects that are done well. 

There is a decent amount of action to what is going on without things getting too graphically violent overall.  A few things happen that are more violent and could be upsetting or even disturbing to some viewers.  There are different fights, including a few involving space ships, that are done well.  I think there is a decent amount of action in the movie overall.  I think of the movie mostly as a fun action adventure in space.  The movie is rated PG-13, so parents should keep that in mind when deciding on taking kids to see it.  There is some swearing, though nothing extreme and the word that rhymes with luck is not used.  Peter does make an obscene gesture at one point, though it is done in a funny way. 

Guardians of the Galaxy has an interesting group of unique characters.  Peter, Gamora, Rocket, Groot, and Drax are basically misfits who are thrown together by circumstances and end up finding a way to work together.  They ultimately become friends and discover that their individual strengths compliment each other, making them stronger together.  Peter is a bit of an outlaw who has a rather inflated view of his own reputation.  Chris Pratt is perfect in the part. 

Gamora was raised by Thanos and turned into an assassin after he killed her family.  She sees the current situation as her way of getting away from him.  She is very good at fighting and does have some trust issues.  Zoe Saldana is good in the part.  Nebula, who is part cyborg,  was raised with Gamora and the two have issues.  Nebula has issues with Thanos as well, though she seems loyal to him.  Karen Gillian is really good in the part.  I don’t think I would have recognized her if I hadn’t know she was playing the part since she looks so different. 

Rocket and Groot have been working together for a while as some sort of bounty hunters/mercenaries.   Rocket is a raccoon that has been experimented on, giving him the ability to talk.  He is very fond of large weapons.  The voice Bradley Cooper does for the character fits him very well.  Groot is basically a walking tree who is very good in fights.  Vin Diesel provides his voice even though he only says one thing.  He does say it in different ways, and it seems like Rocket is able to pick up on more other things that Groot means.  Drax is after vengeance for his family.  He wants to kill Ronan and even go after Thanos, and his need for vengeance causes him to make some stupid decisions at times.  Dave Bautista is fine in the part. 

Ronan is the main villain of the movie.  He wants revenge against enemies of the Kree, and he is determined to get it.  Most people are afraid of him since he will not hesitate to use deadly force.  Lee Pace does well with the part.  Thanos is just briefly in the movie, though it is clear that he has bigger plans.  I believe that Thanos will be playing a bigger part in future movies.  Josh Brolin performed as the character for motion capture and provided his voice. 

Yondu is a bandit that has basically raised Peter.  The two have some conflicts.  Yondu isn’t really a bad guy, but he isn’t really a good guy either.  Michael Rooker does well with the character.  Glenn Close is in a few scenes as Nova Prime, the leader of the Nova Corps who are in charge of protecting the planet Xandar.  John C. Reilly turns up in a few scenes as Rhomann Dey, a member of the Nova Corps. Benicio Del Toro is The Collector in a few short scenes.  Stan Lee makes another short appearance somewhat early in the movie.  Nathan Fillion has a small cameo, though I think, now that I figured out which character it was, that he just did the voice.  Director James Gunn has a cameo too, though I didn’t manage to spot him.

Guardians of the Galaxy is absolutely awesome and definitely worth seeing in the theater.  People who have liked the other Marvel movies will probably enjoy this one as well even though it is a bit different.  This is one of the best movies of the year.

This review is part of elvisdo’s 7th Annual Funny Pages Write off