Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Something To Hide?

The controversial documentary "Vaxxed: From Coverup to Catastrophe" has stirred strong feelings in its defense and in its condemnation. Read more about it in "VAXXED the Movie -- Does the CDC Have Something to Hide?", which includes my review of the film and an accompanying op-ed piece by Richard Gale and Gary Null of the Progressive Radio Network, available by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Check out Reviewers Roundtable this Wednesday!

Join me and fellow reviewers Miriam Knight and Cynthia Sue Larson this Wednesday, June 29, at 2 pm ET, when we’ll get together to discuss some of the latest new book and movie releases on the quarterly Reviewers Roundtable broadcast of New Consciousness Review radio. Tune in by clicking here for some lively chat!

Monday, June 27, 2016

This Week in Movies with Meaning

Reviews of "The Music of Strangers" and "Flowers" and a radio show preview are all in the latest Movies with Meaning post of the Good Radio Network Blog Page, available by clicking here.

The Silk Road Ensemble, one of the most inventive musical collaborations of recent years, celebrates its unique sound in “The Music of Strangers,” a new documentary about its history and featured performers. Photo courtesy of

Ane Goñi (Nagore Aranburu), who once received flower deliveries from an anonymous source to cheer her up, returns the favor to honor the memory of the person she believed sent them in the thoughtful meditation, “Flowers” (“Loreak”). Photo courtesy of Music Box Films.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

‘Finding Dory’ charts the search for self

“Finding Dory” (2016). Cast: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolance, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Sigourney Weaver, Sloane Murray, Lucia Geddes, Bob Peterson, Kate McKinnon, Bill Hader, Torbin Xan Bullock, Andrew Stanton, Bennett Dammann, John Ratzenberger, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Austin Pendleton, Stephen Root. Directors: Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane. Screenplay: Andrew Stanton, Victoria Strouse, Bob Peterson and Angus MacLane. Story: Andrew Stanton. Web site. Trailer.

Finding our family is often an exercise in finding ourselves, especially when we employ inventive means for achieving it. We come to discover things we never knew, including personal skills and talents previously unknown. Such is the odyssey faced by a little blue fish separated from her parents in the charming new animated release, “Finding Dory.”

This sequel to the 2003 smash hit “Finding Nemo” (web site, trailer) finds the once-lost youthful clownfish Nemo (Hayden Rolence) successfully reunited with his dad, Marlin (Albert Brooks), a reunion facilitated by their friend, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a regal tang afflicted with short-term memory loss. This happy experience, in turn, inspires Dory to undertake finding her own long-lost parents (Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy). Given Dory’s innate forgetfulness, that goal is a lot easier said than done, but she’s determined to see it through. She thus sets off on a mission of her own with Nemo and Marlin in tow.

Through a series of miraculous recollections from her days as a youngster (Sloane Murray), coupled with an assortment of inspired intuitive acts, Dory and her friends make their way from their home in the Great Barrier Reef to a marine theme park on the California coast, where she believes her parents live. But where exactly are they? That’s the real challenge Dory undertakes. Thankfully, she has help from a number of newfound allies, including a crafty, curmudgeonly octopus (Ed O’Neill), a near-sighted whale shark (Kaitlin Olson), an insecure beluga whale (Ty Burrell) and a pair of wily sea lions (Idris Elba, Dominic West), all of whom want to see Dory succeed in her quest.

Dory’s search for her parents ultimately proves to be more than just a mission to find her family. Her storied odyssey is also a search for herself, an important personal undertaking considering the inherent challenges associated with her short-term memory issues. Through this experience, Dory learns what it means to be Dory, in every respect. She also learns how to look within and follow her heart, allowing herself to listen to her intuition (no matter how seemingly implausible it might be) and not restrict herself to purely rational thought. Such behavior might seem impulsive, perhaps even illogical, but it generally leads her to where she needs to be to fulfill her task.

This is particularly significant as she learns how to work the conscious creation process, the means by which we manifest the reality we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. Since our beliefs are the driving force in materializing what arises in our existence, it’s crucial that we form them in ways that make what we desire possible. And that’s where our intuition and intellect come into play, as they provide the basis for how those beliefs take shape.

Dory’s experience proves particularly insightful when it comes to making use of our intuition. That’s the element of belief formation most of us readily dismiss as irrational and untrustworthy. But not Dory; she freely embraces it at seemingly every turn, no matter how strange or wrongheaded it may appear to onlookers, unaffected by the constraints of logic that hamstring most of us when we place an overreliance on our intellect. She sees her impulses (i.e., her intuitive-based beliefs) as perfectly natural and unreservedly believes in their intrinsic validity, able to cast aside intellectual considerations that might deter the rest of us.

In light of this, Dory’s short-term memory loss could even be seen as an asset, because it liberates her to follow her impulses when she needs them most. It enables her to live in the moment, unfettered by intellectual concerns (which are often driven by memory and experience) that might prevent her from acting in ways necessary to realize her goals. Indeed, one could argue that the creation of this so-called “disability” is itself an inspired way of learning how to make use of her intuition, because it forces her to look past her intellect alone to concoct the beliefs she needs to fulfill her objectives.

In this way, Dory embodies one of conscious creation’s chief aims, the ability to push past limitations, particularly where beliefs and their outcomes are concerned. This can lead to a variety of additional payoffs, such as the discovery of previously unknown parts of ourselves. Skills, talents and abilities hitherto unseen suddenly make their presence known, enriching us and our lives in ways we may have never imagined.

For example, Dory successfully overcomes her short-term memory loss issues when she calls forth recollections from her youth. Prior to launching her quest to locate her parents, she had convinced herself that she’d never be able to surmount her memory challenges. Yet the incentive of finding her family – and the beliefs that support it – are so potent that she’s able to create the means to facilitate it, including her newfound ability to recall memories once thought to be inaccessible (and that prove essential to the fulfillment of her larger objective).

Taking such a bold envelope-pushing approach to the creation of our reality generally means we’re able to face our fears and live heroically. This sheds further light on the value of listening to our intuition, because drawing upon it frequently takes courage, the resolve to dismiss the conventional wisdom and try the untried.

At the start of Dory’s quest, for example, Marlin looks upon her goal with ample skepticism, believing she’s following a fool’s quest, given her memory issues. However, Dory believes she can succeed at it; she’s so confident, in fact, that she’s able to disregard her friend’s well-intentioned, but ultimately misplaced, admonitions. Nemo echoes Dory’s sentiments about this, too, reminding his father of their own experience when they became separated – and how Marlin never lost faith in his beliefs that he would find his son, no matter how much the odds may have seemed stacked against them. Dory thus sets a shining example for us all to follow – even those of us clouded by doubts in our abilities to attain what we set out to do.

“Finding Dory” is a knock-out sequel to a knock-out original, a genuine rarity in the movie industry these days. This fun, touching, playful romp features lovable familiar characters and endearing new ones, along with impressive, inventive animation and affecting vocalizations from a remarkable all-star cast. Although the picture tends to drag a bit toward the end, and even though it could use a few more genuine belly laughs throughout, Disney-Pixar has nevertheless knocked it out of the aquarium with this one, a real charmer sure to entertain kids and adults alike.

The next time you set off on a task you consider important to your personal well-being but don’t know how to proceed, follow the title character’s example. Indeed, as several of her peers observe in the film, when faced with uncertain circumstances, just ask yourself, “What would Dory do?” The answer may prove to be quite revealing – and in more ways than imagined.

Copyright © 2016, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 20, 2016

This Week in Movies with Meaning

Reviews of "Finding Dory" and "Genius" and a look back at "Lucy" are all in the latest Movies with Meaning post on The Good Radio Network Blog Page, available by clicking here.

Editor Maxwell Perkins (Colin Firth, left) and author Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law, right) collaborate to produce works of greatness in the new biopic, “Genius.” Photo by Marc Brenner, courtesy of Roadside Attractions.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

‘Princess Shaw’ celebrates creative fulfillment, diversity

“Presenting Princess Shaw” (2016). Cast: Samantha “Princess Shaw” Montgomery, Ophir “Kutiman” Kutiel. Director: Ido Haar. Screenplay: Ido Haar. Web site. Trailer.

What does it mean to follow one’s dreams of creative fulfillment? It can be a challenging and frustrating experience, especially when one’s efforts don’t readily bear fruit. But, when events come together to bring about the realization of those goals, the rewards are tremendously satisfying, especially when the results take pleasantly unexpected forms. Such are the outcomes chronicled in the uplifting new documentary, “Presenting Princess Shaw,” now available in theaters specializing in independent cinema and on video on demand.

Aspiring singer-songwriter Samantha Montgomery (a.k.a. Princess Shaw) spends her days as a health care worker in a senior center and her nights as a would-be performer in New Orleans night spots. However, despite her perseverance, her musical career seems to gain little traction. Even with her own YouTube channel, on which she posts a cappella renditions of her original compositions, she has little success attracting fans or potential backers.

Meanwhile, across the globe in Israel, visionary composer and video artist Ophir Kutiel (a.k.a. Kutiman) scans the Internet (particularly YouTube) in search of material for use in the unique creations he posts to his own YouTube channel. Kutiman compiles inventive video mash-ups by combining samples from the web performances of amateur musicians, mixed with his own original orchestration, to create entirely new distinctive works. He essentially treats these video samples as “notes” for his “compositions,” which not only create new pieces but also an entirely new musical and visual art form. He has developed quite a following for these creations, too, earning him international acclaim and invitations for high-profile public performances, such as a special concert at New York’s Guggenheim Museum.

While scanning the Internet for inspiring new source material, inventive composer and video artist Ophir “Kutiman” Kutiel (foreground) discovers the a cappella music of Samantha “Princess Shaw” Montgomery (on computer screen) in the uplifting new documentary, “Presenting Princess Shaw.” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

While searching YouTube for new material, Kutiman discovers Princess Shaw’s videos, and he’s mesmerized. He soon begins sampling her videos and reworking her music with his original arrangements. The result is an overnight sensation, one that astounds viewers around the world – including Princess Shaw herself, who knows nothing of Kutiman or his reworking of her material until she sees it online for herself. This fusion subsequently leads to a new creative collaboration, one that brings together two of the unlikeliest of participants.

Journeying to the creative promised land often seems like an exhilarating adventure. When we start out, the air is full of thrill and expectation. But, once we embark on that trek, we quickly find it often requires considerable effort, likely far more than originally anticipated. And that naturally raises the question, “How do we get noticed?”

That’s where what we have to offer comes into play. To get the attention of potential followers, we frequently need to offer materials that are fresh, new and distinctive, something that decidedly requires us to think outside the box. And, to make that happen, we must be able to envision those unexplored possibilities, an outcome made possible by searching the reserves of our beliefs, the means by which we create the reality we experience through the conscious creation process.

Singer-songwriter Samantha “Princess Shaw” Montgomery (left) and inventive composer-arranger Ophir “Kutiman” Kutiel (right) engage in an unusual musical collaboration in the intriguing new documentary, “Presenting Princess Shaw.” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

This is something that applies to both of the principals in this film. Princess Shaw, for example, clearly has the basics down, and her YouTube channel helps to make her presence known. But, to successfully place her work in the public eye, she needs something to set it apart. This requires her to formulate beliefs aimed at manifesting that nebulous “x factor,” the element that will put things over the top for her.

Kutiman, meanwhile, faces a comparable challenge. Even though he may be more practiced at materializing unique creations than his future collaborator, he nevertheless needs to put out beliefs that will lead him to the secret ingredient he needs for his next original sensation.

As events unfold, the participants in this scenario each succeed in their respective tasks. Princess Shaw finds the missing piece to complete her work, and Kutiman identifies the centerpiece of his newest undertaking, all made possible by the manifesting beliefs that they both put forth. They thus take their respective intangible conceptions and materialize them in finished physical form, the practice that essentially underlies any creative venture, including anything from the lofty to the mundane, be it writing a song or cooking dinner for the kids.

Singer-songwriter Samantha “Princess Shaw” Montgomery seeks to make it big in the music business in director Ido Haar’s “Presenting Princess Shaw.” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Working such magic can be facilitated by drawing on several key related principles, all of which the collaborators in this film are expert at. For instance, both Princess Shaw and Kutiman have an unshakable faith in their abilities (and, by extension, the beliefs that support them). This galvanizes their resolve and confidence, significantly bolstering their efforts at achieving what they set out to accomplish.

Likewise, both collaborators approach their endeavors by operating with personal integrity. They’re sincere in the tasks they undertake, and this resonates in the beliefs they employ to make it happen. By making use of such genuine intents, they significantly augment their efforts at realizing what they set out to manifest.

Of course, nothing happens without being willing to face our fears and live heroically. Both Princess Shaw and Kutiman understand these principles and don’t hesitate to stridently push forward with their creative ventures by drawing on them. When Princess Shaw realizes that her career is going nowhere in New Orleans, for instance, she decides to travel to Atlanta, the music industry’s newest hot spot, in an attempt to increase her visibility. And she does this despite a number of personal hardships, fully aware that it’s an essential step to furthering her vocation.

In the end, both principals appreciate the fact that their journey together is an act of co-creation. Their joint efforts, as well as the beliefs that support them, are integral to the fulfillment of their finished products. In large part, this is made possible by their creation and recognition of fortuitous synchronicities, those “meaningful coincidences” that appear so perfectly tailor-made to meet their needs that they enable their goals to sail through from concept to materialization quickly and with tremendous ease. It’s truly inspiring to see what such collaboration can yield when we put our minds – and beliefs – to it.

Inventive composer and video artist Ophir “Kutiman” Kutiel tries out new arrangements in his Tel Aviv recording studio in “Presenting Princess Shaw.” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

“Presenting Princess Shaw” imparts a resoundingly uplifting message, one that’s sure to inspire viewers. The film candidly captures an artist’s struggle to get by, both creatively and in the challenges of everyday life, not to mention the balance required to make them both work. The protagonist’s heartfelt revelations about her life and her past are indeed moving, providing poignant insight into the source material for much of her music.

What’s more, success issues aside, the film profoundly celebrates what it means to create for its own sake, something aspiring artists often lose sight of in seeking to establish themselves. As the efforts of Princess Shaw, Kutiman and the many YouTube artists featured in the film illustrate, there is much to be said for pursuing our creative ventures, regardless of the outcome. One would hope that rewards follow from such efforts, but, as this picture shows, sometimes creative fulfillment is its own compensation.

However, even though the film is based on a true story, its designation as a “documentary” might seem a bit dubious, given the chronology of events and the participants’ apparent one-sided awareness of one another. In production notes for the film, director Ido Haar acknowledges that, while he knew what Kutiman was doing with Princess Shaw’s music, he didn’t volunteer this information to her during filming prior to the video remix releases, a revelation not made in the movie. Without this acknowledgment, astute viewers might justifiably wonder how the filmmaker just happened to be opportunely present to capture his subject’s candid revelations and the seminal moments in her life and developing career at a time when she was still largely unknown. This is a rather glaring oversight, in my opinion, one that seriously impacts the film’s credibility. Nevertheless, with that caveat in mind, it’s still entirely possible to enjoy the picture and what it has to offer, even if this conspicuous omission makes some of the content seem somewhat suspect.

Climbing the ladder of success often pushes us to our limits – and beyond – in our search for our own creative milieu. Preparing ourselves by being in the right place at the right time, backed by manifesting beliefs that make such circumstances possible, can turn things in our favor when those auspicious moments arrive. We should all be so fortunate, but, thankfully. we have Princess Shaw’s example to draw from.

Copyright © 2016, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 13, 2016

This Week in Movies with Meaning

Reviews of "Presenting Princess Shaw" and "Freeheld" and a magazine article that will change your life are all available in my latest Movies with Meaning post on the Blog Page of The Good Radio Network, available by clicking here.

Singer-songwriter Samantha “Princess Shaw” Montgomery (left) and inventive composer-arranger Ophir “Kutiman” Kutiel (right) engage in an unusual musical collaboration in the intriguing new documentary, “Presenting Princess Shaw.” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Life partners Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore, left) and Stacie Andree (Ellen Page, right) face life-changing – and culture-changing – challenges in the heart-tugging biopic, “Freeheld.” Photo by Phil Caruso, courtesy of Summit Entertainment.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

“X-men: Apocalypse” explores personal power management

“X-men: Apocalypse” (2016). Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Josh Helman, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Lucas Till, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Hardy, Alexandra Shipp, Olivia Munn, Caroline Bartczak, T.J. McGibbon, Hugh Jackman. Director: Bryan Singer. Screenplay: Simon Kinberg. Story: Bryan Singer, Simon Kinberg, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris. Web site. Trailer.

What does it mean to wield unchecked power? How do we control it? And what responsibility comes with that? Those are the considerations raised in the latest offering in one of the movie industry’s most storied action-adventure franchises, “X-men: Apocalypse.”

Set in 1983, 10 years after the series’ previous installment, “X-men: Days of Future Past” (2014), the film follows a band of mutant beings who possess special powers (and who are often discriminated against for being different, viewed by many as a threat to public safety). While the plot is too complicated to detail here, it essentially follows the X-men in their battle against a resurrected being, En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), who draws upon an array of special abilities that he has amassed through multiple incarnations to fulfill his personal agenda.

Led by the mutants’ mentor, Prof. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), the X-men (Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence, Evan Peters, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee) and a courageous CIA agent (Rose Byrne) match wits with their nemesis, who literally looks to bring about what his new name embodies – the Apocalypse. And, to ensure that he succeeds in this nefarious quest, Apocalypse recruits the assistance of four jaded, impressionable mutants (Michael Fassbender, Ben Hardy, Alexandra Shipp, Olivia Munn) who possess powers comparable to their heroic counterparts, setting up an epic battle for the fate of the world.

As in many action-adventure offerings, themes of facing fears, living heroically and tapping into our innate courage permeate the narrative, principles that are integral to the conscious creation process, the means by which we manifest the reality we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. But, in this film, the story also delves deeply into another crucial concept – the management of our personal power and the responsibility that comes with it.

Personal power is by no means unfamiliar turf for the “X-men” franchise. In this film’s predecessor, for example, the narrative plumbed the notion of claiming our personal power. In this release, that idea is carried further, following the exploits of characters who have claimed their power but now face the challenge of managing it (and doing so responsibly).

In this regard, the film is thus a metaphor for a fundamental challenge we all face. Power is something we each possess and in vast, untapped reserves. Indeed, as author Marianne Williamson observed in A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” What matters, however, is what we do with our power, something that becomes readily apparent in the film – and in the actions of both the heroes and the villains.

Apocalypse, for instance, believes that mankind has poisoned the planet and needs to be eliminated. Wiping the slate clean, he contends, will offer an opportunity for a fresh start, one that he asserts will bring about a glorious new future. However, while it may be true that humanity has done its share of despoiling the earth, and no matter how appealing a new beginning might seem, does that mean we should necessarily scrap what we’ve got? That’s particularly important to consider when we realize we have it within us to bring about such a sweeping outcome. (If you doubt we possess such power, think about what we’d reap if we allowed ourselves to engage in a nuclear exchange.)

As Apocalypse wreaks his havoc, the X-men wrestle with how to respond. Given the strength of their adversary’s will (and the beliefs and power that back it up), a formidable response is obviously called for. But how far should the mutants go? How much of their own power should they exercise in thwarting his efforts? If they hold back, they run the risk of letting Apocalypse succeed. However, if they unleash everything they have, they come perilously close to matching the unchecked actions of their opponent, moves that, at best, could be viewed as hypocritical or, at worst, could result in devastation equal to or worse than that inflicted by their foe. These are thorny questions, to be sure, yet they’re considerations the X-men ultimately must address – just as we’re all likely to have to do at some point in our lives.

This naturally raises the question, “So what are we to do in circumstances like this?” For starters, we must consider the responsibility that comes with our power. As recent films like “The Lobster” and “Money Monster” illustrate, just because we have the power to accomplish a particular objective doesn’t mean we necessarily should seek to manifest it. Apocalypse obviously needs to address this, but so do the X-men – including those on both sides of the duel in this film. This is especially true for Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), one of the good guys, a psychic gifted with incomparable creative powers that are equally capable of materializing glorious outcomes or unspeakable destruction.

In managing her power, Jean (like all of us) must ask herself how far should she go. But how much is too much (or too little)? That’s where she (and we) must look inward to assess our beliefs and intents, a process in which we should employ honesty and integrity. If we do that (and follow through accordingly), the answers (and results) will come to us. However, we must be careful to avoid the pitfalls of allowing fear, doubt or contradiction to come into play; if we do, we may well be disappointed with what we get.

If examining our personal beliefs doesn’t provide the answer we’re looking for, then perhaps we should consider expanding the scope of our analysis, especially when dealing with big issues like the fate of the world. In situations such as this, we should bear in mind that large-scale manifestations are co-creations, materializations that we bring forth with the assistance of others. Taking it upon ourselves to decide the destiny of our peers can be problematic (especially if it results in their annihilation), so, under these circumstances, we should be willing to take a step back and consider the ramifications of our beliefs and their manifested progeny. Our future – and that of the planet we call home – might depend on it.

Those who might be tempted to dismiss “X-men: Apocalypse” as little more than just a piece of summer fluff need to take a closer look; they’ll find there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface of its dazzling special effects. This flat-out winner features an engaging narrative, a thoughtful, well-executed script, terrific action sequences and enough overall variety to keep it interesting without becoming overburdened or unduly convoluted. It’s truly refreshing to see a sci-fi adventure that actually packs some meaningful meat into its plot instead of relying on things just blowing up for two hours (though the visuals are outstanding, especially the 3-D effects, which are some of the best I’ve seen using this cinematic technology). Fans of the franchise will definitely love it, and viewers who fancy their blockbusters with some depth will likely find it worthwhile, too.

For those in need of an excellent example of “Think before you act,” then this is the movie to see. Its exploration of the respect we must have for the power each of us possesses is crucial to avoid falling into the trap of allowing ourselves to be governed by our heads rather than our hearts, a pitfall that, if not heeded, could trigger our own personal Apocalypse.

Copyright © 2016, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

An Honorable Distinction

I'm thrilled to have received my medal from the National Indie Excellence Awards for my book Get the Picture?!: Conscious Creation Goes to the Movies being named the winner of this year's Best New Age Nonfiction honors! For more about the book, click here. And, for a complete list of this year's NIEA award winners, click here.

Photo by Trevor Laster.

Photo by Brent Marchant.

Cover design by Paul L. Clark, Inspirtainment (

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

On the Radio Thursday

Tune in to this month’s Movies with Meaning segment on Frankiesense & More radio when host Frankie Picasso and I will discuss several new film releases. Tune in Thursday at 1 pm ET or listen to the on-demand podcast for some lively movie talk! For more, click here.

Change Your Life at the Movies

Check out my latest article in the Conscious Cinema series in New Consciousness Review magazine, "Want To Change Your Life? Watch a Movie!", available by clicking here.