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Ever feel like you’ve unwittingly projected something of yourself out onto the world? That might not be so bad if it’s something beneficial. But what if it’s resulted in something positively monstrous? That’s the uncomfortable realization faced by a shocked young protagonist in the new sci-fi comedy, “Colossal” (web site, trailer).

Transplanted Gothamite Gloria (Anne Hathaway) faces a number of challenges. As an online writer who’s been unemployed for a year, she’s virtually given up on looking for work, spending most of her time going out and drinking with friends, a pastime she’s begun to enjoy a little too much. These are habits not lost on her boyfriend, Tim (Dan Stevens), who has grown tired of her irresponsible behavior. Fed up and unwilling to let her sponge off of him any longer, Tim packs Gloria’s bags while on one of her nightly binges, informing her upon her return that he wants her to move out.

With no money and nowhere else to go, Gloria reluctantly returns to her hometown, moving into her nearly vacant family home to try and figure out what’s next. Not long after arriving, Gloria has a chance encounter with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), an old grade school friend who stayed in town and took over his family’s bar. He invites Gloria to hang out with him at the bar and proceeds to offer her a job as a waitress. The prospects of income and a ready source of alcohol appeal to her, so she accepts Oscar’s offer.

Given everything that’s been going on in her own world, Gloria has paid little attention to what’s been happening in the world at large. That changes, however, when she hears about a shocking incident in Seoul, South Korea, where a giant Godzilla-like monster has begun terrorizing the city. She’s stunned by the graphic video images of devastation blanketing the Internet and cable TV. But that’s nothing compared to what comes next, an even more astounding realization that sends shudders down to her bones: While watching the latest footage of events in Seoul, Gloria notices an uncanny synchronization between her movements and those of the monster. And, when she puts this theory to the test by trying out specific gestures, she finds the creature matching her move for move. In short, Gloria comes to realize that, in some strange way, she’s the monster, with her scaly Korean counterpart mimicking each and every action.

Considering her recent behavior, one might say that the monster really is a projection of Gloria’s inner self. And, when she realizes the damage that’s been done, she’s distraught, looking for ways to somehow make amends. So, after further investigation, she finds she can manipulate the creature’s behavior and intentionally changes it for the better. However, that nevertheless raises the question of why did this happen in the first place?

As Gloria seeks to take responsibility for her actions and those of her unexpected doppelganger, she starts to clean up her act, giving up drinking and seriously contemplating her future. She even begins taking an interest in a potential new romantic interest, Joel (Austin Stowell), one of Oscar’s drinking buddies. But, in making these changes, Oscar begins behaving oddly, especially after Gloria lets him in on her little secret. These developments bring out some ugly traits from her increasingly puzzling friend, with roots that apparently go all the way back to their childhood, as seen in a series of flashbacks.

Gloria soon realizes she needs to address these increasingly perilous circumstances, both at home and in Korea. She clearly needs to take steps to deal with Oscar, as well as measures to save her soul (or is it Seoul?), before matters really get out of hand. Just as she summoned the monster from within her being, she must now bring forth other elements of herself to sort out the new challenges in her life. It’s an experience that teaches her what it means to take change in her life and the responsibility that accompanies it, an action with potentially “colossal” consequences.

Writer-director Nacho Vigalondo’s latest offering is truly one of the most unusual releases to come along in quite some time. On the surface, it’s part comedy, part campy sci-fi monster movie. But, beneath the surface, “Colossal” is an inventive, deceptively profound metaphysical fantasy about how our innermost thoughts spring into physical existence, offering us a tangible glimpse of true selves – if we only have the courage to look at it. The film’s excellent performances (especially Hathaway) bring the characters to life, enlivening the picture’s quirky yet thought-provoking narrative. Despite a handful of somewhat contrived, drawn-out soliloquies (delivered by Sudeikis in an often-annoying monotone) and a slight tendency to meander at times, “Colossal” nonetheless succeeds in virtually every other regard, offering audiences a unique viewing experience, one that’s likely to become a cult classic.

Those schooled in metaphysical thought are all too familiar with the notion that energy flows where thoughts go, something that can have decidedly tangible results, as Gloria’s experience reveals. That’s as true for life’s little manifestations as it is with its bigger materializations. In either case, though, it’s important that we pay attention to what we bring into being. You never know who or what may depend on it

A complete review will appear in the near future by clicking here.

What It Means To Live in Community

The east Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights has gone through numerous changes over the past century. As one of the historically most integrated communities in the US, the working class neighborhood virtually epitomizes the concept of diversity, a notion its residents cling to staunchly. However, as the documentary “East LA Interchange” (web site, trailer)  illustrates, that identity – not to mention the neighborhood’s very existence – faces multiple challenges that threaten it as a community.

As Los Angeles began to grow in the first half of the 20th Century, immigrants both foreign and domestic began making their way to the City of Angels to start new lives. With most having limited resources, they settled in one of LA’s few affordable neighborhoods, the community of Boyle Heights on the city’s east side. Before long, it began attracting individuals of varied ethnic backgrounds, including Asians, Jews, eastern Europeans, Latinos and African-Americans, among others. The neighborhood became intrinsically integrated quite naturally, and residents came to recognize this diversity matter-of-factly. Boyle Heights was innately diversified, and locals didn’t think of it any other way.

The neighborhood’s ethnic diversity gave it an integrated richness and cohesiveness rarely seen in other communities at the time. Everyone got along, and the community felt like home to all who lived there.

However, over time, that cohesiveness was threatened. During World War II, for example, much of the neighborhood’s Asian population was displaced by the government’s forced relocation of these residents – many of them American citizens – to federal detention camps. Years later, Boyle Heights was overrun by the burgeoning interstate highway system, effectively dissecting the neighborhood into segments and forcing out many residents through eminent domain proceedings. Then came the street gangs, who brought rampant crime to the streets. And, most recently, with a flood of new developer money, the neighborhood has wrestled with an ever-encroaching wave of gentrification.

Actor Xavi Moreno takes pride in his Boyle Heights roots, an east Los Angeles neighborhood long known for its sense of community and ethnic diversity, in director Betsy Kalin’s new documentary, “East LA Interchange.” Photo by Chris Chew, courtesy of Bluewater Media.

Nevertheless, the sense of community has always been strong in Boyle Heights, and that continues to this day. Locals know the meaning of this, and they have undertaken numerous initiatives to promote this. Community activists have also benefitted from the valuable backing of homegrown success stories who have since returned to their roots to help reinvigorate the health and well-being of the neighborhood, such as actor Xavi Moreno, actress Josefina López and musician of the Black Eyed Peas.

To this day, Boyle Heights continually seeks to preserve its culture and character, qualities that continually evolve and make it one of most distinctive neighborhoods in the city and the country. Director Betsy Kalin has assembled an impressive collection of archive footage and engaging interviews with residents and observers from assorted disciplines, painting a clear, concise portrait of a neighborhood that knows the meaning of community – and the need to save it.

The Best of Movies with Meaning – “A Man Called Ove”

When we get on in years, we may feel like we lose our purpose for living, especially if the things we hold most dear – like our jobs and significant others – are no longer part of our lives. It may even prompt many of us to contemplate whether we even want to consider carrying on. That’s the dilemma faced by a curmudgeonly 59-year-old who wonders whether life is still worth it as seen in the delightful Swedish comedy, “A Man Called Ove” (“En man som heter Ove”) (web site, trailer), available on DVD, Blu-ray disk and video on demand.

Ove Lindahl (Rolf Lassgård) has grown increasingly dissatisfied with his life. As the former head of his local homeowners’ association, he’s embittered at having lost his power, yet he still feels compelled to do daily rounds of the community to check for compliance with the organization’s rules, a frustrating exercise that perpetually reinforces his opinion of his neighbors as idiots. But, if that weren’t bad enough, he next learns he’s being squeezed out of his job of 43 years, a casualty of the rise of technology. And, on top of all that, he wrestles with his grief over the loss of his beloved wife, Sonja (Ida Engvoll), the only person he’s convinced ever gave him any joy in his life.

Ove Lindahl (Rolf Lassgård), a cantankerous widower who’s recently lost his job and his standing as head of the local homeowners’ association, contemplates whether he wants to carry on with his life in the delightful Swedish comedy, “A Man Called Ove” (“En man som heter Ove”). Photo courtesy of Music Box Films.

With everything seemingly working against him, Ove believes that maybe it’s time he joined Sonja. He methodically begins wrapping up his affairs in anticipation of committing suicide. But, when the big moment comes, he’s distracted by a ruckus outside his home, one that clearly involves multiple violations of homeowner association rules. He resolves that he can’t possibly kill himself until he sets to right the impertinent scofflaws, his new neighbors, Patrik (Tobias Almborg) and Parvaneh (Bahar Pars).

Once Ove doles out one of his signature tongue lashings, he returns home to follow through on his suicidal intent. However, once again, he’s interrupted, an occurrence that subsequently happens over and over again each time he tries to do himself in. Whether it’s helping his wheelchair-bound neighbor Rune (Börge Lundberg), a young gay man kicked out by his close-minded family (Poyan Karimi), his pudgy young neighbor (Klas Wiljegård) or even a stray, largely ungrateful cat, Ove never gets to follow through on his objective.

A young Ove Lindahl (Filip Berg, right) courts his future wife, Sonja (Ida Engvoll, left), in a touching scene from the charming Swedish comedy, “A Man Called Ove” (“En man som heter Ove”). Photo courtesy of Music Box Films.

Interestingly, though, each time Ove tries his hand at suicide, he begins looking back on his life as a child (Viktor Baagøe) and as a younger man (Filip Berg). Through these visionary experiences, Ove gets to see the purpose he’s served in the lives of others throughout the years, something that he feels he’s lost all these decades later. However, as his experiences with his needy neighbors show, Ove obviously still fills a need in the lives of others. All he need do is recognize this, provided he’ll allow himself to do so.

Ove’s experience shows us what it means to feel needed, to have a purpose in life. His story serves as a valuable cautionary tale to those who feel they no longer have a place in the world. Many of us contribute more to the world than we realize; if only we’d open our eyes and take a good, hard look at our existence and the role we fulfill within it.

Helping his new neighbor, Parvaneh (Bahar Pars, second from right), and her two children, Sepideh (Nelly Jamarani, second from left) and Nasanin (Zozan Akgün, right), is one of the reasons for living that Ove (Rolf Lassgård, left), an aging, cantankerous curmudgeon, unexpectedly discovers in the delightful Swedish comedy, “A Man Called Ove” (“En man som heter Ove”). Photo courtesy of Music Box Films.

“A Man Called Ove” is a quirky, bittersweet comedy that takes a little time to find traction, and it waxes more than a little melodramatic on occasion. However, its clever storytelling, fine performances, offbeat humor and charming narrative make up for some of its formulaic shortcomings. It’s a touching, fun-filled matinee offering, one that’s sure to lift us out of the doldrums when they seem to be closing in on us. The film turned up a surprise nominee at the Academy Awards, picking up two unexpected nods, including one for best foreign language film.

When all seems lost, it just might not be, as Ove’s experience illustrates. It means having faith in life and what it has to offer. It just may prove to be not nearly as bad as we think it is.

A full review is available by clicking here.

Copyright © 2017, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.