There are just some days I want to do something crazy and out of character for me. Do you ever have one of those days where you would like to be someone else? I have mentioned to friends from time to time that it is hard being me some days. Usually I have been overwhelmed with a variety of things just before I get to the point of saying this to my friends. Maybe that is one of the reasons I like to take quick weekend trips by myself to different places; I get to be someone else for a brief moment. When I am strained for time and feel like I am going to go crazy, retail therapy has always been a good backup for me; though it is not always a good use of funds. I have been known to buy some small appliance or electronic device and leave it unopened on the floor for weeks or months before getting around to using it. Recently I have tried to modify my behavior and when I feel I am going to go on a shopping spree, I go to the grocery store instead to buy boxes of breakfast cereal. It is a cheaper and more useful purchase. Now I know on the scheme of things these actions may not be very rational but they make sense to me, for there are plenty examples around us of a whole lot of people acting quite irrationally. Some individuals can be down right scary in what they do, just watch what happens in this dramatic mystery. EXCITEMENT was going through the small college on news of the hiring of philosophy professor Abe, played by Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line, The Master). The school got more than they bargained for once Abe was on staff. Written and directed by Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris, Sweet and Lowdown), I thought the cast which also included Emma Stone (Aloha, The Help) as Jill and Parker Posey (Party Girl, The House of Yes) as Rita was excellent. Sadly I found the script did not benefit these actors. At times there would be a scene that was intelligent and witty; but then it would be followed with a bland one where I felt the dialog was a series of blah, blah, blahs. If this makes any sense, the scenes were too wordy and only bogged down the story from moving forward. Woody has an interesting way of turning a sentence into a breath of fresh air; there have been previous films of his I have enjoyed. But with this picture I found myself becoming bored at times. If I were looking to find something irrational about this whole movie viewing experience I would have to say it was me paying full price to see this dull film.
1 3/4 stars
I suppose it depends on one’s definition of evil whether they see evil taking place around them on a regular basis. Just yesterday I read an article in the newspaper about someone putting 12 kittens in a duffel bag and leaving them out on the street in 85 degree heat. Maybe you would not consider this an evil act, but I do. The person who did this could easily have brought the kittens to a shelter. Luckily all the kittens, except for being dehydrated, were okay and are being listed on animal welfare’s adoption list. When I hear news about a hit and run driver the first thing I think about is whether the driver was drunk. If not (though it still is not an excuse) then I do not understand how a person who knows they hit someone can continue driving without stopping to check on the damage they caused to that person. I would say the driver was an evil individual. Since I refer to myself as a defensive pessimist, my first inclination is to focus on the negative aspects of a situation; so someone could call me Mr. Doom and Gloom. But I do not know if that is an accurate description of me. I see evil things all around me, but I do not let them dictate my actions. Hopefully I do not devote my energy to such things; instead I remove myself from people who act out in evil ways. Granted that is something that is not easy to do as you will see in this horror film. SOMETHING was happening to the people around Angela Holmes, played by Olivia Dudley (Transcendence, Chernobyl Diaries). Father Lozano and Vicar Imani, played by Michael Pena (Ant-Man, American Hustle) and Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, Guardians of the Galaxy), were one of the first to recognize what was happening to Angela. This thriller followed a standard formula for a horror story. I was actually surprised to see Michael and Djimon in this movie because the film really was a “B” maybe “C” type of movie. I could see the actors trying to do something with the low level script but there really was nothing they could do that would have made this picture exciting. Now there were a couple of scenes that had potential, especially because of the way Olivia played her character. She was able to show a different side of herself simply with a subtle change in her facial expressions; it provided a slightly eerie take on the scenes. However due to this type of good vs evil story being done many times before, there was not enough done here to make this film entertaining. Though I consider this movie as being not very good, I think it would be evil if the movie studio decided to make a sequel.
1 2/3 stars
In our adult life the romantic relationships we form are based on trust, empathy and honesty among other attributes. I hesitate to quickly say love since I have seen examples where some people are in love with the relationship but not necessarily the person. However how many of us even thought of these things when we were younger? Can you remember what attracted you to your first crush or first love? I know I wasn’t wondering if we had similar attributes; I just remember how much fun we would have together. Where some kids were attracted to the star athletes or the smartest ones, I remember my attraction would accelerate if they could make me laugh. Writing this now sounds silly at firs to me; but the more I think about it I see humor has always held a strong position within my relationships. There were friends I had back then who even after their relationship ended with their first love continued to hold onto the memory of it, using it as a measure of judgement for all their future relationships. Not only can I still remember mine, but I can even tell you what events we attended together and what we wore; how crazy is that? There really is some type of exotic, strong power those first loves or crushes have on the majority of us, isn’t there? Just take a look at the main character in this dramatic mystery to find out how much. SINCE he was a young kid Quentin, played by Nat Wolff (The Fault in our Stars, Palo Alto), always had a special place in his heart for his next door neighbor Margo, played by Cara Delevingne (Anna Karenina, The Face of an Angel). The problem was she never knew it; so the day she mysteriously disappeared, Quentin could do only one thing and that was to find her. Based on John Green’s (The Fault in our Stars, Looking for Alaska) novel of the same name, this romantic movie had a capable cast. With relative newcomer Justice Smith as Radar and Austin Abrams (The Kings of Summer, Gangster Squad) as Ben, I thought they all captured the essence of high school life. However as I was watching this film I kept getting the feeling that the writers and director were trying real hard to make this picture as powerful as John’s previous work on The Fault in our Stars movie. This caused the film to come across in uneven patches. There were parts I enjoyed and others that were dull. This may have all started from the premise of the story, for it was a little far-fetched to me. Not that I want to make comparisons but I still remember The Fault in our Stars film; I just do not think I will remember this one as much.
2 1/4 stars
For those of you fortunate enough never to have experienced a broken heart let me describe how it feels. The area around where the heart is located reacts just as if a physical punch was administered to the body; it hurts like a bad bruise, echoing dull pain over and over. Your center of gravity weighs more where it takes added effort to lift your feet off the ground to even walk across a room. With water making up a majority of the body’s composition, it gets redirected to spill out of your tear ducts at a moment’s notice. Hearing the beginning notes of a song could trigger this outpouring as easily as seeing a newly ownerless toothbrush sitting in your medicine cabinet. Some individuals experience the sense of losing control. I know for myself when I am feeling out of control I tend to focus on one single aspect of my life and hold onto it with a near death grip. My default option is usually my diet. Since no one has a say in what I can or cannot eat, my daily food intake is totally under my domain. In the past when I felt I was out of control my eating would take off as I tried filling the void that formed when control became unharnessed, free to do what it wanted to do. Now it is opposite, the more out of control I feel the more I control what I eat. The main character in this dramatic sports film had a different method. BOXING champion Billy Hope, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, End of Watch), had the money, the fame and the big house; however, it did not matter when he lost the one thing money could not buy. I need to start with Jake for this review because he deserved extra credit for the grueling workout he put himself through to give extra meat to this role, so to speak. He did 2,000 sit-ups a day and was told by the director, Atoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer), they would continue filming even if his nose got broken in the fight scenes. Now the fight scenes, they were so intense at times I almost had to look away. The cast, which included Rachel McAdams (Aloha, About Time) as Maureen Hope and Oona Laurence (A Little Game, Lamb) as Leila Hope, was especially strong in their own right. Though Jake could snag a nomination for this role, the script was filled with cliches that kept the story from matching his acting abilities. I thought the scenes he had with Forest Whitaker (Taken 3, Lee Daniels’ The Butler) as Tick Wills could have been even more powerful if the script was better. In spite of this big flaw I was so drawn to the character that it carried me through the entire film. Several scenes had blood in them.
Immediately I was struck by their fearlessness. I watched while their fingers without hesitation popped and dropped over the keyboard like convulsing spider legs. Just by pressing two keys at the same time they were able to get the computer to function in a way that took me a few more keystrokes. I knew they must have started at a young age playing video games. There is a certain attitude a gamer has when they are interacting with their computer or some other kind of electronic device; they appear more adventuresome to me. Where they have no problem trying out different commands, a non-gamer may get stuck at their computer afraid the next key they press will cause their machine to explode. I understand totally because I have a love/hate relationship with computers; I expect them to know how to fix themselves without asking me if something is okay to do. It is interesting to think about the recent generations that grew up with video games; I recall an article I read that talked about the positive effect the games had on a person’s eye/hand coordination. There was this one kid in school who would spend hours in the student union playing this one arcade game. His initials for the most points earned remained on the machine the entire time I was at that school. I would be quite curious to see what he is doing now in the world. Maybe he would be doing what the gamers were called to do in this comedic action film. BACK in 1982 a time capsule with examples of mankind’s life including video games was launched into space. Discovered by an alien race, they took the games to be earth’s declaration of war on them; so they reproduced the video games to attack earth first. This science fiction film had a great idea behind it, for it would attract an older audience for nostalgic reasons and a younger crowd who would appreciate the retro vibe of these “ancient” games. Not only did this comedy fail with its attempts to entertain, it made me a bit angry because of the blatant laziness associated with the script. Adam Sandler (Blended, Grown Ups franchise) as Brenner was the exact same character he has been in his last several films. I am tired of seeing the same thing and hearing the same type of jokes over and over. Adding in Kevin James (Here Comes the Boom, Paul Blart franchise) as President Cooper and Michelle Monaghan (Gone Baby Gone, Source Code) as Violet only increased the ridiculousness of this picture. Out of the entire script I chuckled 3 times as the expected excitement never materialized. If I would have known, my money would have been better spent at a video arcade then sit through this video void.
1 2/3 stars
Stories that get handed down from generation to generation sometimes take on a life of their own. I grew up in an area where the land was as flat as a piece of paper except for one hill. Growing up I heard a story about how the hill was formed from a glacier during the ice ages. Evidently a glacier was creeping down from the north and by the time it got to my area it was already on its last ice cubes of life before the ice age ended, leaving this mound of pushed up dirt in the middle of my neighborhood. By the way when I say hill I have to be honest with you; the height for it was the distance between 2 floors of an apartment building. So we are not talking very tall here. There is a story about a gold coin I have in my possession that was given to me by a relative. This coin was some great, great relative of mine who always kept it in a little secret pocket that was sewed inside of their clothing. I was fascinated with this unknown relative, spending hours daydreaming about the reasons why this particular coin had to remain hidden. Knowing my ancestors were not wealthy people, it seemed odd that the coin was not used as currency back then. I took the coin, wrapped it up and sealed it in a plastic bag to protect it. The fact that it was handled by my long deceased relatives provides me some type of connection to them. This is one of the reasons I enjoy hearing different types of folklore no matter where it comes from. PASSED down amongst the inhabitants in a remote area of the Argentinean rainforest was a story about a being who would emerge from the Amazon river to do battle against any evil forces. Vania, played by Alice Braga (Elysium, I am Legend), needed someone like that to help her and her father defend their land. This film festival nominated drama had the feel of a spaghetti western. Low budget, simple story, minimal conversations and action; I really got into this movie. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal (Rosewater, Bad Education) as Kai, I thought he was excellent in the role. Essentially the story was about good vs evil; it had the right elements in place to maintain one’s interest in the action. Now there were some parts that were easy to predict besides one side story line that seemed unnecessary. Visually I was fascinated with the landscape and thought the cinematography did a wonderful job of playing up the mystery of the forest. I am used to getting folklore verbally; this folk tale was a visual treat. Spanish was spoken with English subtitles. Several scenes had blood and violence in them.
2 2/3 stars
Maybe this practice still takes place somewhere in the world, but I know I have not seen it anywhere for many years. It used to be Saturday afternoon was the time a movie theater would change its movie rotation and show a special matinee film for one showing only. The movies that played were family friendly, multiple genres and at times lower production values. There was a small movie theater (if you want to even call it that) near my house when I was a kid; it sat in the middle of the block with small shops flanking it on both sides. If they did not have their small free standing marquee sign in front of the theater, most people would not even know it was there. All the theater seats inside were tired looking with missing threads and very little bounce to the cushions. I was there most Saturdays, waiting in line with the other families. The only way I can describe how it felt to sit and watch a movie there is to tell you it was like being on an amusement park ride. If the picture was dramatic it had to be over dramatic; the hero was always captured at some point but would escape to the cheers of the audience around me. It was such a communal event for all of us and we saw so many new places around the world and even universe. I have such warm memories about that theater and the movies it showed. This horror mystery film would have been shown at that theater’s Saturday afternoon matinee, I am certain of it. WITH no explanation one day the citizens of Detroit vanished into thin air. Luke, played by Hayden Christensen (Star Wars franchise, Jumper), was not affected however; but he noticed something was different about the dark. What I liked about this horror thriller was the fact there was no violence or bloodshed used to make the story scary. Instead the script tried to keep a sense of urgency in the forefront, letting the cast express their fear through their bodies. John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge, Chef) as Paul and Thandie Newton (For Colored Girls, Good Deeds) as Rosemary did a good job making this happen. I do not think it was the studio’s intentions but this picture was the type of film I would call a “B” movie. It looked like a bare bones production with few props and sets. The story was like a primer as if it would be used to teach a class called horror film 101. The script was loose, letting the viewer come to their own conclusion about the action in the scenes. You may consider this more of a disposable movie that you watch once when you have nothing else to do. I enjoyed the easiness to this picture, feeling like I was a little kid at a Saturday matinee.
2 stars — DVD
Presently when I look towards what my future may be, I cannot make out any distinct elements to it. As if just beginning to wake from a slow long slumber in the middle of a morning fog, retirement has never been something that has made its presence known in my awarenesses. Only recently do I wonder what my life will be like in the years to come. I imagine there will be an older version of myself with deeper lines etched into my face like small creeks that have run dry. The mirror in my house may appear to have a layer of permanent dust on it because my outline always appears fuzzy. Will I still be teaching fitness and yoga classes; I would like to think so, though maybe my energy level may not be able to reach its former high. Maybe I will be leading a walking class instead of a cycling class. Age is such a contradiction. On the one hand it is assumed we acquire more knowledge the older we get; however, we may not be able to do as much with it as we age. What sense does that make? I am known for telling my yoga classes, when we are in the middle of a challenging pose, that we are doing this now so we can get out of a chair by ourselves when we are 90 years old. I really do believe this to be true. For me I need this as a fundamental pillar of my retirement years. RETIRED to the country to tend to his bees the famous Sherlock Holmes, played by Ian McKellen (The Hobbit franchise, X-Men franchise), has one old unsolved case that still troubles him. His failing mind cannot bring back all the clues he needs to solve it. I mean this as a compliment; everything about this film festival winning crime drama was window dressing for Ian’s amazing performance. The idea of the story was brilliant, based on the novel of the same name. In addition the cinematography was exquisite for both story lines and the acting from Laura Linney (Hyde Park on Hudson, The Savages) as Mrs. Munro and relative newcomer Milo Parker as Roger fit in perfectly with Ian and his character. Even the small humorous throwaways about the real Sherlock Holmes compared to Dr. Watson’s version were a nice balance as we learn more about the unsolved case. Since I grew up watching the old Sherlock Holmes movies with Basil Rathbone, it took me a few minutes to readjust my mind and let Ian fill in the elements for this version of Sherlock. It was an easy adjustment. By the end of this film I felt I had seen the real Sherlock Holmes honestly dealing with life in his older years.
3 1/4 stars
It was not until after the movie had ended that I saw this family of four walking down the steps of the theater. The parents with their 2 children, who looked approximately six to nine years old, must have been sitting somewhere behind me. Normally I do not pay much attention to the people around me at the movies but in this case there was a reason. This happened last week when I saw that horror film about a high school’s theater department putting on a play that caused a death the last time it was played at the school. As I watched the family exiting the theater I wondered why they chose to bring their kids to this movie; were they preparing those children for the horrors of high school or did they want them to grow up and be accountants by showing them what will happen if they go into the arts. It never ceases to amaze me what people do these days. I just wanted to go up and ask the parents what they were thinking. Did they not realize their young children may by learning by example? I know when I was that age I would follow along with what people were doing; though I will say, there were times I saw someone doing something and I would do the exact opposite thing. At the time I did not realize what determined my choice on whether I copied a person’s actions or repelled from them. I believe the main character in this movie had issues and did not have the best of role models to choose from. AMY, played by Amy Schumer (Inside Amy Schumer-TV), learned quite early that monogamy was a falacy; it was easier not to be committed to any one individual. However, not everyone thought the same way as Amy. This was my first exposure to this comedic force known as Amy Schumer. Besides starring in this comedy she was also credited for the writing of it and I have to tell you right away the language was pretty strong throughout this movie. With that being said, there were times I was laughing out loud in the theater besides tearing up a bit at other moments. Her timing was impeccable and along with fellow actors Bill Hader (The Skeleton Twins, Saturday Night Live-TV) as Aaron Conners, Colin Quinn (Grown Ups franchise, Girls-TV) as Gordon and Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive, Snowpiercer) as Dianna; they all were strong with their characters. This was by no means a perfect film; there were some scenes that felt like a mini sitcom episode and a couple of easy to figure out parts. But with its combination of shock value, humor and LeBron James; I was fully committed to this wild story.
There is one kind of hero that resides in a make-believe world. They could have an extraordinary power because of the planet they came from or due to an earth shattering accident that changed them on the molecular level. I enjoy and look forward to seeing these types of superheroes on the big screen. However, there is a different type of hero that is just as strong and important; who was born here on earth, did not experience a life transforming accident and for the most part is unrecognizable. They do not have some special type of clothing that can block bullets or allow them to fly; instead they may be wearing a white apron and hairnet as they stand behind the counter of a school’s cafeteria. Or they may be on disability as a life threatening disease slowly spreads across their body. I see these type of heroes all around me. There is the single mother who has to pull double shifts so her child can afford school supplies and lunches. Another hero I have seen is the volunteer who devotes time everyday to bring food and check-in on a stranger who is housebound. For me these are some of the true heroes around us. I am so impressed by the individuals who do not wear their heroism like a badge of honor; they simply do what they do because they have to or want to do it. This is why I was impressed with the unlikely hero in this action film. WHAT started out as a way for con man Scott Lang, played by Paul Rudd (Role Models, This is 40), to see his daughter turned into a crisis that would have worldwide consequences. This science fiction adventure film did not fit into the typical superhero genre. Here was a human with no special powers who was not an ideal citizen; yet he overcame himself to become the Ant-Man. Paul was perfectly cast for this role and he even helped with the screenplay. Michael Douglas (Falling Down, Wonder Boys) as Dr. Hank Pym and Evangeline Lilly (Real Steal, The Hurt Locker) as his daughter Hope van Dyne were an excellent fit. Now I understood there was a change of directors and writers for this film and I am not sure if that is the reason why I found the 2nd half of the film to be stronger. I really had to give thought to the idea I was reacting to the movie having a long intro arc without many special effects. However, Paul along with the fun sight gags in the film made this a worthy picture, besides a mini history lesson (at least for me) into the Avengers World. Pulling off this type of movie was no small feat and the studio succeeded. Two extra scenes in the middle and end of the closing credits.