I cannot imagine how even the coldest of hearts can stay frozen when those set of eyes look to you for love and guidance. One of the purest things on Earth is the unconditional eyes of a baby or pet staring up at you. When I started out in college my courses were for veterinary science. I wound up looking into the eyes of a variety of animals. There was the horse that had a mischievous glint in his eye, who would toss up strands of hay every time I entered her stall. One of my professors would bring in one of his dogs that always found a comfortable spot by my feet whenever she wanted to take a nap. No matter what type of animal I encountered, I was always fascinated with their eyes; imagining how they see the world around us. From my limited observations I narrowed down the different looks in their eyes to the following: fondness, food, fear, fun and sadness. One of the hardest things for me was looking into the sad eyes of an animal; without knowing the reason why I always felt helpless. EYES played an important part in this dramatic sequel. Winter, the dolphin with the prosthetic tail, had been living a full life at the Clearwater Marine Hospital until her companion passed away. It was of paramount importance that Dr. Clay Haskett, played by Harry Connick Jr (New in Town, P.S. I Love You) and his team find a new companion for the dolphin if she was going to continue to survive at the hospital. This family film was pretty much as wholesome as a movie could be. There was nothing surprising for me as the story was straight forward and quite predictable. I do not mean to say this was a poor film; it was just a simple story inspired by true events. The cast that included Ashley Judd (Divergent, Kiss the Girls) as Lorraine Nelson, Morgan Freeman (Lucy, Now You See Me) as Dr. Cameron McCarthy and Nathan Gamble (The Mist, Marley & Me) as Sawyer were all back for this continuation of Winter’s tale. At times the script veered into hokey territory for my tastes; however, I do not think young children would care or even notice. The acting was okay; as I said earlier, there really is nothing negative to say about this film. For the most part it was innocuous light fare. If nothing else I hope people would walk away from this movie with a deeper respect and understanding towards the animals who live among us.
2 1/4 stars
Depending on the day it could feel as if you have either a veil or shroud draped over you. A bright shining sun cannot penetrate the darkness that surrounds you. Each step may need all of your concentration to make the effort to lift your foot off of the ground from its footprint’s vice like grip. Depression lets the irrational thoughts win the battle over one’s rational thoughts. I have witnessed and experienced the darkness of depression. For each person the response to it can be so different. Some people will sleep away the majority of the day while others will focus on a particular food, consuming it way beyond the daily recommended amount. For those individuals in my circle, I know it is not productive to utter those generic platitudes such as ” cheer up” or “things will get better;” they serve no meaningful purpose. All I can do is stay in contact and be supportive. DEPRESSION was a trait estranged twins Maggie and Milo, played by Kristen Wiig (Girl Most Likely, Whip It) and Bill Hader (The To Do List, Saturday Night Live-TV), had in common. Though they had not spoken or seen each other in 10 years, they each were experiencing the same irrational act at the same time that resulted in them coming together. They would discover more about each other than they knew on their own. Though this film festival winning drama was filled with heavy subject matter, the director beautifully laced the scenes with a delicate to goofy humor. In addition, I have to give credit to the writer/director Craig Johnson (True Adolescents) for not letting the two leads fall into their shared Saturday Night Live type of performances. Kristen and Bill were absolutely amazing; in fact, I feel this was Kristen’s best performance. Their seemless chemistry was perfection. When 2 actors shine as brightly as these two did, it can make the rest of the cast look dull. Luckily that was not the case for Luke Wilson (Death at a Funeral, Legally Blonde) as Maggie’s husband Lance and Ty Burrell (Muppets Most Wanted, Modern Family-TV) as Milo’s former teacher Rich; they held their own in helping make each scene feel complete. The script was thoughtful, filled with subtleness and compassion; I never felt I was being fooled. There was one brief offshoot of the story that seemed unnecessary but it was only a minor complaint. Life is filled with happy and sad moments; for me, when I left the theater I was in a good mood because I had just seen a well done film.
3 1/3 stars
I am generally not as kind of a person as I used to be or even want to be. Those within my circles of friends and family I try to be kind and thoughtful; however, these days strangers are a whole different story. And I have to tell you I hate being that way. Through the years as some of my displays of kindness were met with deceitfulness, those layers of negative experiences started to pull the kindness inside of me down into a setting hardness of mistrust. There were the relationships where kindness was met with covert acts of hurtfulness; helping the high school student who was selling local newspaper subscriptions but my money never made it to the newspaper office and the former co-worker who took my data to pretend it was their own hard work; each thing kept chipping away at me. Look at all the news being reported about internet or phone scams that prey on unsuspecting individuals; it is enough to make one never answer the phone or open a piece of mail again. I know all of these things can lead to a society that is made of closed up and isolated people; it is a scary thought. KINDNESS was met with a night of terror and horror for Terri, played by Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Person of Interest-TV). All it took was to help a stranded driver who had a car accident and needed to make a phone call. Unbeknownst to Terri the gentleman was escaped convict Colin Evans, played by Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom). The strongest element in this crime thriller was Taraji and Idris. The rest of the cast that included Leslie Bibb (Iron Man franchise, Law Abiding Citizen) as Meg and Henry Simmons (World’s Greatest Dad, Madea’s Family Reunion) as Terri’s husband, really took a back seat to Idris and Taraji. With their solid acting the two actors had a believable chemistry that kept me interested in the story. Now about that story; the script was kept at such a poor level that the movie kept brushing into hokeyness. It was astounding how many times Taraji’s character Terri, who was a lawyer, kept making poor choices. Even though the story was predictable and filled with cliches, I still was able to be mildly entertained for a portion of the time. It was a shame this movie was not kind to its actors and it would be unkind of me to tell you to go see it at the movie theaters. There were several scenes that had violence and blood in them.
I am curious to know where it first began how the mindset of one being wealthy equated to being better than someone else. From various news and media sources I have seen, I definitely can see being rich does not mean one has good taste. When I see some of these celebrities in their massive estate mansions, I have to wonder do they really need all of that space and stuff. Seriously, how many bathrooms does one need in their house? Enough for a party of 25 being able to all go to the bathroom at the very same time with no waiting? My first experience where I saw a wealthy person exerting their so called power over another individual was with a distant family member. Because they were successful in business, aka making lots of money, they began telling other family members what they should be doing to get ahead in life. Though I was young at the time I was offended by the way they would talk down to people, treating them like they were ignorant just because they were not as rich. Success and wealth are not terms I necessarily use to denote financial status. A person who has close and long relationships with family and friends is a wealthy person to me. POWER came to those who were wealthy in this futuristic science fiction film. After an experiment failed to reverse global warming, mankind was virtually wiped off the planet. Only a small group continued to survive in a self-contained train that continuously circled the globe. Even though the passengers all suffered under the same horrific experiment, inside the train there still were divisions of class. And with class power was soon to follow. This film festival winning thriller gave me a fantastic ride. With Chris Evans (The Avengers, Captain America franchise) as Curtis, Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive, Moonrise Kingdom) as Mason and Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station, The Help) as Tanya; the cast was well represented with abundant talent and star power; yet, I did not see any advertisements for this action movie. The story was interesting and easy to follow even with its surprise turns. I thought the look of the film was perfect in the way the viewer became a witness to the contrasts within the train. It was interesting how the few special effects were not very good; but it was okay, since this film was predominately story driven. What a pleasant surprise to watch a science fiction movie, having no prior awareness of it, that had a feasible story and was wildly entertaining. It really had a power over me and I was fine with it.
3 1/4 stars
Each of us has been a victim at one time or another, though you may not have known it. Maybe it was the restaurant host who did not like the way you were dressed, so they told you there was over an hour wait to get a table. How about that taxi driver who drove past you as you were trying to flag them down, even though they did not have anyone in the car with them. Anytime during school when you were picked on, called hateful names or bullied; turned you into a victim. The big question is what do you do after you have been victimized. For me I internalized it for years; however, the pain found ways to filter through my mind in a constructive way. I grew to be extra sensitive towards new members entering my classes when it was quite obvious they were uncomfortable being in such an environment. Having been picked on for my lack of athletic ability back in high school, I became fiercely protective of each person in my classes; to the point where I had to ask someone to move to a different part of the aerobic studio because I could see they were becoming aggressively territorial towards a new member standing next to them. More and more I witness someone not liking someone else because they are different. GEORGE Takei (Star Trek franchise, Heroes-TV) started out being a minority withing a minority. Here was a man who helmed the Starship Enterprise, yet I had no idea as a young boy he lived in an internment camp for Japanese American citizens during World War II. From such a traumatic event this documentary was able to show how driven one man became in the pursuit of his dreams. I found this film to be a fascinating study of George. He was able to take his drive and determination into such varied areas of his life, almost reinventing himself time and time again. Always charming and witty, he has recently become an internet star with over 7 million followers on Facebook. If nothing else this movie was worth watching simply to hear George talk about William Shatner (Star Trek franchise, T.J. Hooker -TV) and then to see how William acted in interviews when George was brought up for discussion; it was hilarious. There were other parts of the movie that were funny and even when the topic turned serious, there was never a time where the viewer was made to feel uncomfortable. I completely enjoyed this film, watching the indomitable spirit of a man who would never allow himself to become a victim.
3 1/4 stars
I can only imagine what it must have been like to sit in one of those old movie palaces with the etched terra cotta walls, marble countertops and various sculptures plus murals adorning its grand lobby. Settled into one of the plush velvet covered seats with the wooden armrests that were polished to a high gloss, there had to be an electric energy in the air when this actor was up on the large movie screen. The reason I say this is because I remember seeing his movies on television when I was a little boy. Whether he played a pirate who was secretly conspiring with Queen Elizabeth I to pick off Spanish ships or robbing from the rich to give to the poor; to me he was the ultimate hero. I remember one Halloween I wore a pirate costume but at each house I visited I would tell them I was Errol Flynn (The Sea Hawk, Captain Blood). During his lifetime there was no social media or reporter frenzy like there is today. Scandals may have been reported via word of mouth, but with Errol his outrageousness went beyond any behind the back whispers. KEVIN Kline (Last Vegas, Wild Wild West) portrayed Errol Flynn in this dramatic biography that focused on the movie star’s last years. The story focused on Errol’s infatuation with a young girl named Beverly Aadland, played by Dakota Fanning (Man on Fire, The Runaways). With a celebrity obsessed mother named Florence, played by Susan Sarandon (Tammy, Thelma & Louise), the young starlet wannabe and older actor would set off a controversy that would rock Hollywood. Since I was not familiar with this story I did ask a couple of people if they remembered this chapter of Errol’s life. They in fact did remember the incident, confirming parts of this film for me. Kevin Kline did an admirable job playing Errol. He may not have had the same suave golden charm of Errol but he was still able to pull it off. As for Dakota I was surprised how much I did not care for her in this role. Her acting was bland and lifeless to me. Compared to Kevin and Susan she stood out as a joke; though I have to say, I did not think Susan was all that great either. For such a character from the golden age of actors, this movie fell flat; I was periodically bored as I would glance at my watch to see if the film was almost over. It is never a good sign if I have to look at my watch during a picture. Such a poorly written script, this film did not put the life into an actor who was larger than life.
1 3/4 stars
Keep the luxury cars, the big mansions, the designer clothes and the fancy restaurants; true luxury for me is taking a vacation. Being able to leave the daily responsibilities of living behind me, a vacation is a time where I can let the rigors of my days’ requirements melt off of me like spring’s first thaw. When away on vacation I always seek out meals from local establishments. It is funny, I am a picky eater who rarely orders something off a menu without asking for something to be changed; however, I thoroughly get a thrill when I can recommend a restaurant by taking a friend to it to see if they will enjoy the place as much as I did. Away from home, traveling with a friend, sitting and enjoying the local cuisine; the bonds between us become infused with a new joyous future memory. Talk about being relaxed and being able to let our minds wander together in our present surroundings; visiting new or old places in our minds, thoughts, ideas and just re-enforcing the bonds that made us friends in the first place. This to me is pure luxury and this dramatic comedy only reaffirms my beliefs about vacationing and eating. ITALY was the setting for this sequel about two friends Steve and Rob, played by Steve Coogan (Philomena, Tropic of Thunder) and Rob Brydon (The Trip, MirrorMask), who headed out across the countryside to seek out and review new restaurants. Traveling to places such as Tuscany, Rome and Capri; the two buddies were able to sit back and relax, while offering their thoughts and comments about life and food. I suspect a good portion of the dialog was ad libbed as the two men would spontaneously break out into celebrity impersonations, jokes, comments; all the while being able to keep the bantering between them flowing evenly. I had a hard time getting into this film at first because I was waiting for something to happen. Since I had not seen the first film “The Trip,” I have to guess for those who did, they would get into this movie quicker. On the flip side from what I have read about this picture afterwards, it is pretty much the same as the previous one except for the locale. It was hard for me to think of Steve and Rob as actors, since they were pretty much being themselves. The cast included Rosie Fellner (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, Nine Lives) as Lucy and Claire Keelan (Hush, The Trip) as Emma. What made this comedic drama more palatable for me was the gorgeous scenes of Italy and the pictures of the amazing meals.
2 2/3 stars
LIving a life filled with “what ifs” is like driving a car with filthy windows; you may get to your final destination but will not have seen where you have been going. I understand this concept on an intellectual level, but it has always been a challenge for me emotionally. It is easy for me to fall into this “what if” trap for example by standing in a checkout line where a customer in front of me suddenly needs a price check on one of their items. I will immediately think I should have chosen that other line that did not look busy. Maybe it was the environment I grew up in or lack of confidence, but a life spent wondering what would have happened if I had done something different is a waste of time. I cannot reverse time or change the results; so why devote energy to something that is out of my control? It would be similar to going out to dinner and after the meal wishing you had chosen your other choice. You would not go and purge yourself of the meal to start over; you could only gain the knowledge not to order it again. Now in the field of entertainment I see nothing wrong with the “what if” scenario being used as a meaningful plot device. WHAT if Elvis Presley’s stillborn twin borther had lived? Though this dramatic musical film does not mention Elvis in any of its advertisements; it was obvious to me if the character looks like Elvis, sings like Elvis and moves like Elvis then the writers were using Elvis’ birth as the catalyst for this story about identical twins who were separated at birth. Both roles played by newcomer Blake Rayne, the one named Drexel Hemsley would grow up to be a rock superstar while the one named Ryan Wade grew up being groomed to follow in his father Reece’s, played by Ray Liotta (Identity, Smokin’ Aces), footsteps in the ministry. I did not have a problem with the idea for this story per se; however, having to sit through this film with its ridiculous cliches and pandering to faith based viewers was torturous for me. It stunned me to see Ashley Judd (High Crimes, Divergent) as Louise Wade trying to do something with the horrible script. I would say the same for Ray; but after seeing his name listed as a producer, one has to wonder what he was thinking, agreeing to this mess of a movie. The only reason this film received as a high rating as it did from me was due to the musical numbers. After seeing this picture you would be justified in wondering what would have happened if you had gone seen some other film.
1 2/3 stars
A majority is defined as being the largest segment or party of a larger group. Being part of the majority gives one some added liberties or shall I say freebies in life. Whether in government or a condominium association when you are part of the majority you get to set the rules. I believe each of us at some point in our life has been part of both a majority and a minority. Having grown up in a large city, when I went to summer camp I was in the majority of fellow campers who came from the city as opposed to the suburbs. However, when I was in college I had a class where I was the only person who came from the city; all the other classmates had grown up on farms. I am well aware in the scheme of things this example is a minor issue. There are some huge hurdles to overcome when one is considered as a member of a minority based on skin color, religion, gender or body shape; along with a multitude of other various factors. Decades ago Hollywood was even less diverse than it is presently. For someone who was not part of the majority it was tough to break-in and be part of the moviemaking magic. STRUGGLING as a young man Mario Moreno had a gift for making people laugh. From modest beginnings he would eventually become the most popular comedic actor in Mexico, known as Cantinflas. Could he accomplish that feat in Hollywood, however? I had no idea what this movie was about until I was told which roles Cantinflas played in American films. As soon as I heard the moive titles, “Around the World in 80 Days,” and “Pepe,” I immediately remembered this actor. This biographical drama showed what Cantinflas encountered as he stayed focused on doing what he loved to do–make people laugh. Oscar Jaenada (The Losers, Pirates of the Caribeean: On Stranger Tides) portrayed Cantinflas and I have to say I thought he did a wonderful job of acting. Along with Michael Imperioli (The Lovely Bones, The Sopranos-TV) playing producer Michael Todd and Ilse Salas (Gueros, Locas de Amor-TV) as Valentina Ivanova, the acting overall was believable and enjoyable to watch. The main issue I had with this film was the script; it seemed as if the viewer was only getting snippets of Cantinflas’ life, never getting deep down into the emotional aspects about the occurrences in his life. Though I was mostly entertained by this picture, I left the theater wishing I had seen “Around the World in 80 Days” again; it would have been more entertaining. Portions of the movie had Spanish dialog with English subtitles.
They are two of the most powerful words one could ever utter in their entire life. Each word represents a profound, deep commitment from an individual; neither should ever be taken lightly. One word is love, the other one is sorry. Though I use both words cautiously, each one represents a deep core value that is permanently embedded inside of my being. The reason I do not freely use these words is because I want them to retain their specialness, so when I say either of them to a person, they know they are getting the true fullness of my heart and soul without any conditions. There is another word that carries almost as much weight as the word love; however, I do not feel it is as strong. The word is hate. It certainly can strike a person as deeply as the word love, but from my experiences I feel it takes less effort to be hateful than loving. Hate to me means one closes themselves off from experiencing feelings, like an old item that one would store up in an attic. A person hates something so they may walk away from it, never allowing themself to explore and see if they can look at it through a different set of eyes. For me love is a full-time commitment that one nourishes, allowing it to continually flourish. TOGETHER nearly 40 years Ben and George, played by John Lithgow (Leap Year, Cliffhanger) and Alfred Molina (An Education, Chocolat), decided to get married. Their celebrating with friends and family did not last long once George’s employer heard about the union; they terminated him. Forced to find cheaper housing the couple would have to live apart after living together for the majority of their adult life. The story in this drama was straight forward without embellishing the situation for dramatic purposes. The acting by John and Alfred was outstanding; in fact, along with Marisa Tomei (Parental Guidance, The Wrestler) as Kate and Charlie Tahan (Blue Jasmine, Charlie St. Cloud) as Joey, the acting was the major force of this movie. What dragged this movie down was the ponderous script. I felt the additional story lines took away from what was the heart of the story. The directing was of no help because there were times where the film seemed to drag a bit for me. With a story that could have been plucked out from current news, this dramatic picture handled the subject matter honestly and with sensitivity. Believing love is one of the most powerful acts a person can commit, it was the underlying theme in bringing this story to life.
2 3/4 stars