PROSPERITY: In theaters near you!

Want to watch Prosperity LIVE in theaters? Well now’s your chance! Prosperity screenings are in select theaters across the country at the IFC Center in New York, Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles, and at all Studio Movie Grill Locations. Check the list below to find a theater screening near you: New York IFC CENTER –...

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Make Your Home Green!

Building Green What would it be worth to get advice on how to make smart purchases for your home; purchases that are not only good for your health, but good for the planet? What if that advice came from the ‘Father of the Green Building Movement”? You have the opportunity to get that with David Gottfried, […]

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‘Jaws’ 40th Anniversary: Here Are 11 Shark Facts to Think About When You’re Watching the Film

‘Twas a cruel summer 40 years ago. Unsuspecting moviegoers were scared out of their wits – and clean out of the ocean – by a movie about a 25-foot man-eating shark that could destroy fishing boats, tear down docks and completely disembowel the summer economy of a small, fictional New York island. The year was 1975 and the movie, of course, was Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.

It was such a massive hit that it jammed the shark into American’s brains and changed the way we thought about the creature, probably forever. It infected pop culture for years. It also negatively affected shark populations.

But what have we learned about one of Earth’s oldest creatures and perhaps the most effective predator ever? Lots, actually. The movie, despite its highly exaggerated story, stirred a fascination with sharks that lead to excessive and often brutal hunting, but also scientific research that has given us far more knowledge and respect for, and even laws protecting them.

As the movie gets talked about again, here are a few things to think about:

1. The first sharks were the biggest and most ferocious. The C. megalodon was estimated to be, on average, between about 50 feet to 60 feet in length and came into existence about 15.9 million years ago and went extinct about 2.6 million years ago (or during the Cenozoic Era). It looked like a cross between a great white and mako shark and swam in virtually every part of Earth’s prehistoric oceans. While the megalodon is long gone, there are 465 shark species today.

2. Though we might think of them as fierce predators, sharks have a very slow reproduction rate and that makes them extremely vulnerable. They only reach reproductive age at 12 to 15 years old and mothers can only have one or two pups at a time, meaning it can take many years for populations to recover from various threats.

3. As the ocean’s top predator, sharks serve the same purpose in the ocean that tigers, bears, raptors, snakes and other predators serve on land: They keep populations healthy. Since sharks usually get the slowest, oldest or sickest fish, it maintains a healthier gene pool for future populations.

4. Sharks even help clean the ocean by eating dead fish, whale and dolphin.

5. Sharks groom the ecosystems they feed off of and hold things in balance. Their absence in places like coral reefs can quickly alter the populations of other species and do serious damage to those ecosystems. Even the simple presence of a shark can generate an intimidation factor that keeps grazers from destroying things like sea grass beds.

6. Recent research has found tagged sharks and marine animals gravitate toward warmer ocean water – namely 79 degrees and above – which also happens to be the temperatures where hurricanes develop. Following the sharks and other animals will give scientists a picture of what ocean temperatures are like and where to anticipate possible hurricane activity.

7. Dogfish sharks contain a chemical called squalamine, which research has found kills bacterial microbes [...]

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Feel Good Movie Review: ‘The Bear’ Is a Cubs-Eye View of Survival in the Wilderness

Feel Good Movies is an ongoing series reviewing films from past and present that we’ve selecting based on their ability to uplift the mind and soul. Not all movies we review are on the surface “feel good” – while some may be happy, others may be sad – but the objective is always to motivate, enlighten and uplift. 

Rarely is an animal the lead in a live-action movie. Since the days of Steamboat Willie, cartoons have made it routine, but it’s always been a rare feat for flesh and blood movies. Partly because filmmakers are reluctant to work with animals and partly because we like to think we’re the only interesting species in the world.

The Bear (1989) gets it right in bold and innovative ways. An orphaned bear cub must beat the odds to survive in the wilderness after his mother is accidentally killed. Usually, the story of an animal is told from an overriding human perspective. Basically, how the creature must survive in our world. There are easy caricatures of good guys, bad guys, and the animals stuck between them. While there are certainly many all too real stories that could be spun from that basic idea, they almost never are.

With The Bear, the entire movie takes place somewhere deep in the wilderness. The story is told from the cub’s point of view and it’s riveting. There is little dialogue, supplied only from the few humans present. And the humans themselves are neither good nor bad. They are hunters – typically painted as the bad guys in animal movies – but here, they are gray and human and vulnerable and learn as they go. Kind of like all of us. And in an unusual twist, they are the outsiders here.

Based on the 1916 novel The Grizzly King, a true story by hunter-turned-naturalist James Oliver Curwood, the movie uses a Curwood quote as a recurring plot point and as a way to clinch the movie’s climax: The thrill is not to kill, but to let live. It even includes the true event the book was based on to illustrate the point with a particular twist. That I won’t reveal, but it’s a key moment in the movie.

Yes, there are some Hollywood contrivances that certainly exist to help the narrative, but even if you know better, it’s hard to mind. No, bear cubs don’t typically sound the way this cub does. Clearly, he’s been humanized a bit. But it never gets in the way. And no, in the wild, an adult male bear would likely never be a big brother to a strange cub. He would almost surely kill it.

In life, there is killing to eat. There is in some cases, killing to end suffering. Then, there is the plethora of other moments where killing takes place. But the movie is ultimately about survival on multiple levels, with its lessons applied to bear and man – a wishful and somewhat allegorical appeal to live life a little lighter. A lesson which could [...]

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Review: “I Am” Film Seeks Answers to Life Questions

I Am

Running time: 80 minutes

Theme: Mindset

Director: Tom Shadyac

Availability: Google Play, Netflix

Price: $3.99 to rent, $12.99 to buy, free to stream on Netflix

Fun Fact: Director Tom Shadyac was the youngest writer ever to work with legendary comedian Bob Hope.

In this documentary, director Tom Shadyac seeks to answer two questions:

What’s wrong with our world?

What can we do about it?

You may be familiar with Shadyac – a hugely successful Hollywood director and producer, he’s the man behind classics like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Patch Adams and The Nutty Professor. After a nasty cycling accident, Shadyac found himself in a state of deep depression while suffering through post-concussion syndrome, a condition in which concussion symptoms can last for months, even years.

He describes himself during this period of his life as not suicidal, but still feeling ready for death. This time of reflection led him down the path of wanting to share what he had learned in his life, what changes in mindset he had in relation to success, happiness and the world we inhabit. He looks back at how he used his own success – multiple large estates, private jets, etc. – and how unfulfilling it all turned out to be.

To accomplish his mission of answering the two very simple questions, he interviews historians, activists, scientists, philosophers and journalists – including Noam Chomsky and Desmond Tutu – to find out what underlying principles are missing that are causing the ills of our planet (hunger, poverty, war, etc.).

The premise of this movie sounds like countless other documentaries, and you’d expect it to be an affair involving a whirlwind of negativity, pointing out all the ills of our society and who’s behind it all. The result of his efforts, however, is very different from what you might expect, and turns out to be quite beautiful.

Shadyac explores ideas that are common to New Age teachings and beliefs, but he does it in both a scientific and genuine way. He balances esoteric concepts with his own principles and scientific fact. He sheds light on the fact that human nature does not exclusively involve separation, scarcity and competition. In fact, he argues (and backs up with facts) that throughout nature you’ll find cooperation, compassion and unity to be just as, if not more, prevalent. Charles Darwin himself discusses these concepts in his work, The Descent of Man, but the interpretation of his works is skewed toward the concept of competition.

One of the most interesting parts of the film is the discussion of the intuitive and predictive power of the heart through regulating emotion, cognition and producing electromagnetic fields. The electromagnetic field that it produces can be measured and detected by other human brains. Positive emotions have a biological byproduct of helping you function better, including a clear mental state and drive to perform. Many negative emotions, including anger, physically inhibit cognitive function. We’re biologically hardwired to succeed when we practice and experience positive emotions such as compassion and cooperation.

I found myself moved by these concepts of practicing love, seeing [...]

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Review: “Song of the New Earth” Opens Your Mind to the Power of Sound

Song of the New Earth

Running time: 87 minutes

Theme: Spirituality

Director: Ward Serrill

Availability: Digital version | Deluxe edition DVD

Price: Rent digital for $6.99 or buy for $16.99 | Deluxe DVD, $29.95

Fun Fact: It was named one of “The Top 10 Heartwarming Films of 2014” by The Huffington Post.

In this documentary, filmmaker Ward Serrill tells the fascinating story of sound healer/psychotherapist/sonic shaman Tom Kenyon. The film details his winding journey through the paths of a struggling artist, multiple life-changing transcendental experiences, studying in the Catholic Church and his academic career in the field of psychology. His experiences ultimately transform him into a very spiritual human being, able to utilize transcendental states to channel various beings through his voice. It just takes hearing a few testimonials of those who have attended his healing workshops to understand the impact he’s made.

Kenyon provides a very unique perspective on the spiritual realm – as someone who holds a master’s degree in psychology/counseling and has initiated psycho-acoustic brain research, he brings together both scientific and spiritual viewpoints. He seems to be keenly aware of the difference in his experiences between a psychological projection and a legitimate vibration from other realms. He recognizes himself standing right on the edge of the two distinctly different studies: “I’m actually a neo-pagan, Taoist, Tibetan Buddhist, agnostic, quantum physicist … mystic all rolled into one strange amalgam.”

His demeanor stands out as unbelievably authentic throughout the film. He himself recognizes that the things he claims and does sound absolutely “crazy” – but that doesn’t take away from their value. He speaks with a calm energy and utters various foods for thought that make you hit pause at various points.

“I believe we emerged from the infinite into the finite. And there’s different experiences for each of us as we make that transition.”

The production value of the film is very high. Engaging animations vividly tell the story of his past. The film also includes snippets from a few of his healing workshops, both with video of him performing and audio clips paired with video of natural scenery. The viewer can use these few minutes that pop up as micro-meditations – a small taste of the healing workshop experience.

“Sound vibration speaks to our souls, to our bodies, it bypasses our cognitive mind; when that happens, a door opens, and people can go through that door and discover miracles and mysteries in themselves they never imagined.”

The story ultimately pushes the boundaries of your beliefs (if they don’t already lie on that end of the spectrum) into what’s possible through entering transcendental states. He believes achieving mystical states of consciousness is a skill that can be learned through practice and concentration. He speaks with such a genuine energy that’s difficult not to believe.

Above all, the film gives a new, deeper appreciation of the power of sound, and how precious a gift it is for those of us who have been blessed with the ability to receive the vibrations.

Kenyon is currently taking time off from his healing workshops until later [...]

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REVIEW: “Welcome to the Machine” Provokes Thought About the Future of Technology

Welcome to the Machine

Running time: 86 minutes

Theme: Technology

Director: Avi Zev Weider

Availability: VHX

Price: Rent for $6.99 or buy for $14.99

Fun Fact: It was backed on Kickstarter.

In this documentary, filmmaker Avi Zev Weider explores the debate of the impact that rapid expansion of technology has and will have. Filmed in the United States in 2012, the movie follows a few storylines of people with a close relationship to technology: a blind man experimenting with new sight technology, army officers in the Unmanned Aviation Vehicle (“drone”) department and Weider himself, whose children were born prematurely and were forced to rely on life support machines for survival.

Intertwined with these stories is the discussion over the fundamental issue of the role of technology for humans as a species. The extreme views of Ted Kaczynski, also known as “The Unabomber,” are presented throughout the movie as snippets from his Manifesto; they serve as a platform of thought-provoking ideas that are directly and indirectly touched upon by the experts interviewed. This list includes a professor of technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a philosophy professor from the University of Michigan (who directly corresponds with Kaczynski through letters), the founding editor of Wired Magazine and a professor of computer science at Yale who was a victim of one of Kaczynski’s mail bombs.

Among the experts interviewed is renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil, known for his predictions, most notably that of technological singularity – the point where artificial intelligence exceeds human capacity and control – occurring by 2045. Kurzweil supports such rapid progress and a future in which we’re able to live past biological constraints. His views are presented in stark contrast to Kaczynski’s.

Kaczynski advocated for a society modeled after the hunter/gatherer days – claiming the Industrial Revolution sparked the creation of a system that fundamentally does not prioritize the best interests of the people. Weider’s mail correspondence with him (shown in the film) is an insightful addition to the discussion.

The film succeeds in presenting both sides of the issue without an extreme bias toward one direction. It causes the viewer to re-examine his or her own ideas, or establish some in the first place. It approaches the topic from multiple angles, including philosophical, social and religious. Ultimately, it provokes some questions that aren’t immediately easy to answer. Is technology neutral as a means to an end? If not, are potential negative consequences of technology justified by the positive effects of things like being able to maximize human potential and expression? Are we blindly following technologists who are fueling an “engine of novelty,” but may not be in control of the vehicle? What’s the appropriate level of technology that we and the planet can tolerate?

These questions might be a little scary to consider, but are without a doubt important ones to address going forward. The film is a good introduction to anyone new to the debate, but doesn’t dive too deep into any particular area. If the topic interests you, expect to do some research for more information after [...]

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