Movie Review (VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE)

VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE was quite fun. I enjoyed the banter between the alien symbiote Venom and his host Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy). More than what I remember in the 2018 prequel (VENOM), Eddie’s symbiote endearingly expresses vulnerability and warmth next to his usual savagery. I laughed out loud fairly often, such as when Venom enters a night club where all the patrons are in costumes. There, he grabs the mic from the singer onstage and encourages everyone to be who they truly are. For once, he fits right in and is a big hit with the crowd.

The special effects are decent and playfully fantastical. The age-old concept of a person coming to better terms with an inner voice and energy that’s more impulsive, wild, and uninhibited than how they outwardly identify as being is humorously played out here. We all have our shadow sides.

The villains are competent enough, but barely worth mentioning. Ultimately, fighting fire with fire is the premise here, for Venom has to battle a red symbiote, Carnage, arising from his own blood. Darkness, like light, exists on a spectrum of intensity. Carnage, inhabiting a serial killer (Woody Harrelson), embodies pure chaotic evil while Venom is, well, like an intelligent wild carnivore steadily evolving with the help of his sympathetic human host.

I would rate this production a close second in quality to the first VENOM movie. It helps that the running time is just a little over 90 minutes, short and intense like a roller coaster ride. These two films are dark, guilty pleasure fun, the violence appearing quite theatrical, quick, and unrealistic. Some people, such as myself, enjoy this twisted fantasy cinema that cleverly balances gritty yet colorful darkness with much levity, including a good dose of camp. You fellow aficionados/appreciators of this high trash know who you are.

Mini Movie Review (NO TIME TO DIE)

I just watched the latest James Bond movie NO TIME TO DIE— because I watch them all— and enjoyed it enough. I’ve always found Daniel Craig too rough and brutish in the lead role, though I do appreciate him as an actor.

The one scene that stands out for me in this finale film for Craig as 007 is when Bond and a few other supporting characters show up at Q’s flat. MI6’s tech guru Q, played here by the lovely, adorable Ben Whishaw, is preparing an intimate dinner for his as-yet-to-arrive boyfriend. Yma Sumac sings in the background. I wanted to crash this gathering then and there and tell Bond et al to promptly leave. Clearly, Whishaw’s Q and I share some same tastes. Also, I imagine the red wine he was serving was delicious, like him.

Sensitivity to Possible Embarrassment

I was just listening to NPR in my car to a show about people’s real life experiences of being embarrassed, including the long-term repercussions from these incidents. I could relate. A central aspect of most, if not all, extremely embarrassing situations is humiliation. I believe actual mistakes that lead to feeling embarrassed are generally forgivable/reparable. But, even when, say, a group of witnesses or even the public has long moved on from judging a person’s perceived mistakes/errors in judgment, the physical/somatic sensations of feeling humiliated remain, triggered forth again by some subtle reminder(s) in one’s environment or even simply by a passing thought.

A lot of us have survived intense embarrassment, often repeated occurrences of this emotional state, including by someone(s) very close to us in childhood, which results in a betrayal of trust. The world can then seem like humiliation lurks around the corner. You never forget because, as trauma specialist Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk states in his well-titled book, “THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE.” Even small embarrassing moments can and often do trigger a mental and physical cascade response to past, old humiliations. Through helpful somatic-oriented psychotherapy, these embedded-in-the-brain and body reactions can be shortened and de-intensified, but I don’t think they ever completely go away. I believe this is evolutionarily important. It is good to hold some memory so one can retain helpful knowledge of these past painful experiences and avoid repeating them as best as possible. Also, empathy for others is deepened, or at least the opportunity for this to happen is presented.

I’ve done all I can to distance myself in proximity and time from those in my past who humiliated me. I know others have also accomplished this for themselves. I’ve created a wonderful, stable life filled with supportive and neutral (such as strangers in my neighborhood) people. I’ve worked on healing myself deeply, including developing a level of self confidence (such as in my competence as an effective psychotherapist) I wasn’t quite sure I’d ever know. But, there is admittedly an edge of caution I still retain. This translates into avoiding more potential embarrassment that could arise in, say, speaking before large groups of people, something I’ve hardly ever done in my life. I remain quite sensitive to the possibility of being humiliated, albeit significantly less so than I used to feel.

If you or someone you know is particularly concerned about being embarrassed and, likely, humiliated, which is not exactly the same as worrying about what others think of you (which I largely could care less about except with a small few who I know well and love), please hold patience and compassion for that individual, including yourself. Sensitivity to embarrassment, especially the sting of humiliation, is a scar on the psyche, a reminder of one’s tender humanity.

Mini Movie Review (BIT)

The lesbian teenage vampire movie BIT (2019) was, to sum it up in a word, dope. I mean that in both a good and trashy sense. This was fun, thoughtful escapism with excellent feminist and inclusion-oriented messaging. I enjoyed a lot of the music and the young women’s sexy outfits. The lead vampiress of the gang (Diana Hopper as “Duke”) was quite lovely and kick ass. I like how imaginative campy sensibilities can still come through in contemporary movies– albeit on rare occasion– and not just in productions made before, say, 1975 (though, especially, during the 1940s through the 1960s). I also appreciated the portrayal of teenaged angst by the lead character Laurel (Nicole Maines). I felt empathy and compassion for her and a few others in the movie, such as Laurel’s sweet older brother Mark (James Paxton) and her awkward gay best friend Andy (Matt Pierce). I only wish we viewers saw a bit more of Andy in the story.

I’m not a fan of vampire movies in general, but I like the occasional ones with a good twist or two. BIT delivered enough twists, including the feminist lesbian one, which kept it interesting for me and not overly-formulaic. 

Mini Movie Review (GODZILLA VS. KONG)

For those who enjoy Kaiju movies, GODZILLA VS. KONG, released earlier this year, was a lot of fun. There were some great, colorful visual effects. I found myself liking both Godzilla and Kong. The indigenous island girl communicating with Kong through sign language added a sweet, humanizing touch. And I appreciated the message of nature balancing things out, including overcoming out of control man-made (yes, made by arrogant men) technology.

Movie Review (THE ISLAND)

As far as I’m concerned, THE ISLAND (2005), directed by Michael Bay and produced by DreamWorks, is a modern science fiction classic. I watched this movie very recently since last seeing it in a theater as a new release. The film, which takes place in 2019, now two years past, holds up well after the better part of two decades. Granted, some of the technology presented, such as flying cars and motorcycles, still has not come into existence. Because of this, I would have added another decade into the future for when the story takes place, but perhaps the production’s creators wanted to be more immediate for the sake of relevancy to real life issues. In any case, the bold, saturated colors and periodic closeups lend an effective immediacy, intensity, and intimacy to the movie. The antiseptic, straight-lined, futuristic sets are grimly fascinating and claustrophobic (like institutions of science can often be, I find), making it easy to empathize with the two protagonists.

THE ISLAND initially takes place in some mysterious massive facility where several clones of adult people reside and are heavily monitored by a staff of uniformed, often intrusive, workers. Ewan MacGregor plays Lincoln Six Echo, an especially bright and curious clone who begins to push against the hum drum existence doled out to him. Recurring, disturbing dreams also add to his restlessness. Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) is his close friend and love interest. These two and all of the other clones each await winning a frequently held lottery. The winner gets to leave the sterile facility and go to the Island, a supposedly idyllic place that is free of deadly contamination, unlike the rest of the earth, which has gone through some vaguely explained, human-caused apocalypse. When Jordan wins the lottery one day, Lincoln panics and quickly persuades her to escape with him. He suspects much nefariousness is afoot, including the likelihood that there is no actual Island.

The entire cast is very competent, with Steve Buscemi providing occasional comic relief as James McCord, a technician/mechanic employee of the facility who befriends Lincoln before the start of the film. He later aids the two main characters on their adventure. Sean Bean plays Dr. Bernard Merrick, the director of and ruthless mastermind behind the institution. He hires highly skilled mercenary and security specialist Albert Laurent (Djimon Hounsou) to pursue and capture Lincoln and Jordan after they escape to the outside world. Much intrigue and action ensues. MacGregor’s precocious and thrill-seeking Lincoln Six Echo is a good foil to Johansson’s more innocent but feisty Jordan Two Delta. I felt they had believable sexual chemistry.

THE ISLAND is a powerful blend of dystopian screenplay and intriguing action movie which speaks to the superficiality and entitlement of glorified wealth culture and how dehumanization is a real danger/problem within capitalism, including when it is united with science. It isn’t often that speculative fiction in cinema is thought-provoking while being well-done overall in terms of acting, writing, and production values. THE ISLAND happens to be a screen drama that meets all these standards and entertained me throughout.

Mini Movie Review (SNOWPIERCER)

The off beat science fiction action film SNOWPIERCER (2013) is a gritty and fantastical post apocalypse allegory which effectively explores classism and subsequent other issues such as dehumanization and substance addiction. Chris Evans and the rest of the cast perform excellently, all within the setting of an enormous train that houses the remainder of humanity in a world enduring a human-made second ice age in the year 2031. The script is intriguing and movingly written. And Tilda Swinton is always fun to watch. She portrays quite a smug yet entertaining villainess here. The colorful and often almost surreal visuals reminded me of the 1990s movies DELICATESSEN and CITY OF LOST CHILDREN. The pace is fast and never dull, the story thought provoking.

Brief Note to Self About Narcissism

Note to Self: Narcissistic people are everywhere, living from a deeply self-centered “I above everyone else” frame of mind. It’s so important to give this way of thinking as little validation as possible while doing whatever you can to genuinely value the whole person(s) before you as (an) equal(s), neither above or less than any of us. Mindfulness around actually practicing/applying this view is key. Please remain aware and alert as best as possible. Enjoy and nurture genuine reciprocity (true connection) with others wherever you can, like the precious life resource that it is.

Some Brief Thoughts on Narcissism, Including Hope


I think it’s quite common in childhood and early adulthood to have fantasies of grandeur. These can be part of daydreaming, which is often an adaptive coping skill in the face of enduring difficulties in one’s environment that are out of one’s control. I believe more of us than not outgrow the need to focus on these types of fantasies, except, perhaps, on infrequent occasions for sheer entertainment or as part of enduring some acute, unpleasant stress.

Those folks who make it a point to manifest their fantasies of grandeur, no matter what the cost, enter a dangerous zone, ethically and relationally. They have foregone efforts to live from out of true Self, which they surely don’t believe even exists in them. Instead, it becomes all about creating/manufacturing an inflated, sadly false, self that must be constantly fed by external validation from others to exist. Hence, why such a way of living is akin to vampirism, albeit in an emotional, psychological way.

Dr. Ramani S. Durvasula, who specializes in understanding narcissism and helping others heal from narcissistic abuse, urges a paradigm shift in collective thinking and response here around the age-old glorifying of narcissistic behaviors, which continue to be admired and enabled, particularly in leaders. Like her, I see no need to glorify asshole-dom in any form. We survivors of narcissistic abuse and our allies can take back power in sharing and emphasizing other narratives and stop headlining the narcissists’— other than ones, perhaps, in which these kind of folks are finally put in their place with the rest of humanity. After all, narcissists are human like the rest of us, part of the collective “we,” who put on their clothes each day like we all do.

I hold hope that narcissism on both a collective and individual level can be healed, even if only up to a point for actual full-blown narcissists (who are likely incurable, yet possibly somewhat healable). It’s a very tall order, but possible. It comes down to a critical mass of dis-incentivizing and extinguishing overly self-centered behaviors in people and reinforcing healthy, pro social ones, over and over again. I understand, however, that at this moment in time, one might as well try and herd a mass of cats than embark on such a social endeavor I’m proposing. Still, large scale change often starts with widely sharing a proposed paradigm shift and then proceeding to explore ways to execute it. I think many efforts across assorted disciplines and projects (small and large) point to being planted seeds for the growing forth of such a societal shift I’m talking about.