No matter how people are labeled, they all fall somewhere on a horizontal line. From doctors to parents to plumbers, each one can find a place among their peers. A saying I am fond of is, “Someone has to graduate at the head of the class and someone has to graduate at the bottom of the class.” What I mean by this is there will always be individuals who are better than others in their profession or group; just as there are good doctors and bad doctors, the same holds true for parents. Now first let me say I am not a parent and I do not mean to judge anyone’s parenting skills. In my little corner of the world I have seen and heard parents doing extraordinary things along with not so extraordinary things. Just walk through a grocery store; you would be surprised how many things you can see a parent doing to their child. I saw a mother take the time to explain to her kid what harm his actions/behavior could cause to the shoppers around him, explaining to him if he continued their behavior they would have to leave the store. There have been other times where I have seen a parent hit their child then yell at them as they nearly lifted them off the ground by the arm before storming out of the store. WORKING on a criminal case similar to one she had several years ago Detective Nancy Porter, played by Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games franchise, People Like Us), found it interesting that Ronnie Fuller and Alice Manning, played by Dakota Fanning (The Runaways, Man on Fire) and Danielle Macdonald (The East, Trust Me), who were convicted of the previous crime were recently released from prison. Based on best selling author Laura Lippman’s novel, this crime drama had a strong cast of actors. Besides the celebrities I mentioned, there was Diane Lane (Unfaithful, The Perfect Storm) as Helen Manning and Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Beyond the Lights) as Kevin Jones. Everyone did their part well; with Elizabeth, Diane and Danielle being the most memorable to me. I liked the idea of this suspense story being led by a mostly female cast; it provided an interesting take on the detective formula. The story was meant to keep the viewer in suspense with its twists and possibilities; I really wished it had done that for me. Not only did I find the story to be quite predictable, I thought there was a flatness to the drama. For such a story this movie could have used more intensity to keep the viewers guessing. After the movie was over I was disappointed it was not better; I guess there are some writers and directors who are better than others.
1 3/4 stars
The first time I saw the album cover was at my friend’s house. It was their brother’s record so we had to be careful when we pulled the record off of the shelf. I remember looking at the album cover and thinking I had seen it on a T-shirt that was hanging in the window of a store that was known as a “head shop.” I was not sure why the store was called that but I remember there were black lights inside that made things glow eerily in the dark. We would gently ease the record out of its paper sleeve and put it on the record player. (For those of you who do not know, this was a device that was used to listen to music pre-CD, cassette and 8 track times.) The music told a story all the way through the various song tracks. We especially enjoyed singing along with the lead singer Roger Daltrey when he sang, “See Me. Feel Me. Touch Me. Heal Me.” It was soon after I discovered this album was being referred to as a rock opera. I was fascinated with this term since I had never heard it before. Growing up I was exposed to operas like Carmen and Madame Butterfly, but for a popular piece that could be heard on the top 40 hits radio station to be called a rock opera was new to me. I did not know at the time I was listening to something that would become known as a rock classic and the band known as The Who would become world famous. ASPIRING filmmakers Kit Lambert and Christopher Stamp were looking to make a movie about the changing times in England. They came upon a band known as the High Numbers whose players looked the part the two men wanted to portray in their film. These men from opposite sides of the tracks were the most unlikeliest guys to manage a band, but they wound up becoming the band’s managers and so the story began. This biographical documentary was a walk in history for me. Still having vivid images of Tina Turner as the Acid Queen and Elton John as the Pinball Wizard, I enjoyed hearing about the band’s rise from obscurity to super stardom. Christopher who is the brother of actor Terrence Stamp (Wanted, Unfinished Song) and Pete Townshend handled the bulk of the narrative. Though I was pleased to see such early footage, I did not enjoy it being jerky and shaky. I understood a good portion of it had to be non-professional, but I still found it irritating. It was a small price to pay to gain insight into the workings of this band. The movie was too long as it was but I really wished they had shown the band performing some full songs from their rock opera.
There are various reasons to chase someone and I think I have experienced most of them. I can remember as a small child the thrill of having a relative chase me around the house. Funny for their size and age it was surprising they did not catch me more times than they did back then. I understood this better when I started being asked by my younger relatives to try and catch them. Then there was the time I was riding my bicycle in the neighborhood and a neighbor’s dog ran after me when I passed in front of its house. I was huffing and puffing as I sped away, not sure if the dog was being friendly or protecting its territory. Another form of chasing is when you spot someone you know in a crowd and you try to catch up to them. Out of the different reasons for being chased the one that produces the most adrenaline is the one where you feel you are about to receive bodily damage if you are caught. In that split second when you realize the person or the group assembled in front of you wants to hurt you, your entire body springs into a hyper accelerated gear as you try to run away. All of your senses fine tune themselves to accept clues from your surroundings at a faster clip. The eyes continuously scan for clear paths; the ears listen beyond their usual range to keep track of your attackers and you feel your temperature rising to keep every muscle and fiber from tearing apart under the added exertion. An example of this can be found in this action adventure film. WITH humanity broken and barely surviving on a spent planet two rebels dream about a better place. Such a dream could get them killed. Writer and director George Miller (The Witches of Eastwick, Happy Feet franchise) did not create a remake of his original Mad Max movies here; he produced a fierce, fiery adrenaline fueled science fiction fantasy that was utterly intense. Though I could barely understand some of the dialog, this film was meant to be a visual experience. Tom Hardy (Warrior, Child 44) and Charlize Theron (The Italian Job, Monster) as Max Rockatansky and Imperator Furiosa were awesome. I loved the female empowerment angle to the story. Honestly, you can say whatever you want about the story; it really doesn’t matter because this was a visual masterpiece. There was so much action during what was essentially one long continuous chase scene that I was just amazed with the retro feel to everything. I could not tell what was CGI or what were actual stunts; even the motor vehicles were like individual characters. This picture was one stripped down, raw, death defying road trip without a seat belt. There were scenes with blood and violence.
3 1/2 stars
The night was going to be the first of its kind in this part of the country. An amusement park was closing early to host a charity event that a group of us decided to attend. To gain entry into the park you had to have a special wristband; it was weird to see employees of the park usher out those who did not have one of these bands. However, it was a cool feeling to walk around the park with like-minded folks. The weather was perfect with a summer ending temperature accompanied by a gentle breeze. While we were walking around the park speakers that normally played non-descript background music were pumping out dance music. In fact the center outdoor stage was turned into a huge dance floor with spotlights and disco balls. It was such a successful event the park agreed to host another one the following year. Since all of us had a great time, we decided we would get together next year and do it again. The following year’s event was well attended and the weather was even better this time. As we walked around we noticed some of the rides were not available; we could not remember if they were open the first time. I noticed there were fewer restaurants and food kiosks available for us; luckily I ate before we left for the park. All I remember thinking at the time was the event did not have the same fun feel and magic as the first one. AFTER creating a major embarrassment in front of the President of the United States, the Barden Bellas were banned from performing or auditioning; essentially it would eliminate the a cappella singing group from existence. The only way the women could return to performing was to enter and win an international competition that no American group had ever won. This musical comedy sequel quickly came on strong with its solid singing and dancing performances. Returning cast members like Beca and Amy, played by Anna Kendrick (Into the Woods, The Voices) and Rebel Wilson (Pain & Gain, Bridesmaids), were joined by Hailee Steinfeld (Begin Again, True Grit) as Emily and Birgitte Hjort Sorensen (Borgen, Marie Kroyer) as arch rival Kommissar. There were parts of this film I enjoyed but others seemed forced with cheap humor. In fact I thought several of the jokes were being beaten over our heads and a couple were distasteful in my opinion. Where the first movie was a classic underdog one; this one did not offer the same kind of connection for me. If I was not a fan of the singing portions, I would have been bored after a while. The magic was less compared to the original film. One surprise extra scene in the middle of the ending credits.
2 1/2 stars
Is it possible reality TV is killing romance? Though I have never seen any of the shows that deal with bachelors, wife swapping or housewives; I am aware of them simply when their antics make the news or at least what the major news outlets consider newsworthy. It seems to me that the formation of these relationships are portrayed to show either a financial gain or notoriety. From the little snippets I have heard about these television shows I have to wonder how love played a part in their relationships and marriages. With everyday people, I have noticed there are some who get together for many reasons that do not have anything to do with love. Some of the things I have heard were things like: He has a good credit rating, they know how to drink, she is a good cook or their family is wealthy. To me love is waking up with that person who makes your heart beat faster; who may have sour breath that instead of smelling like road kill it reminds you of the lovely dinner you two shared the night before, as your feet were intertwined under the table. Throughout history I know there were marriages arranged to combine lands or solidify power between families; it did not matter if the prospective bride and groom did not love each other. There was not the option for either one to refuse the offer. This is the very reason why I was immediately attracted to the main character in this movie. BEING the sole inheritor of her uncle’s estate Bathsheba Everdene, played by Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby, Drive), attracted 3 men who could not have been more different from each other if they had tried. However Bathsheba did not need a man to complete herself. This dramatic film based on Thomas Hardy’s (Tess of the D’Urbervilles, The Greenwood Tree) novel was steeped in old world sensibilities but with a fresh feel that the cast brought to the screen. I find Carey to be a classic, intelligent actress who can do almost anything and here she was perfect. Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone, The Drop) as Gabriel Oak, Michael Sheen (Midnight in Paris, Kingdom of Heaven) as William Boldwood and Tom Sturridge (Pirate Radio, On the Road) as Sergeant Francis Troy were a wonderful compliment to Carey. I enjoyed the sets and outdoor scenes with there wide expanses; the whole film had a well-done masterly look that was refreshing to me. There were a few parts where I felt I was missing something as if the writers had to cut parts out to move the story along. Maybe they would have been clearer if the book had been read first. This refreshing film about love and relationships could easily be relatable with current times.
When anyone describes their emotions as a roller coaster ride I believe them. Between friends and work I have seen some extreme actions from people. There was a friend of mine who suffered with bouts of depression from time to time. They were resistant to seeking out help because they were afraid they would be labeled crazy. Yes I know it was a very old concept. Luckily they met a doctor who explained things in a way that brought comfort to my friend and they began to use an antidepressant. Another friend of mine had a tragic experience when their boyfriend who was bipolar committed suicide; he left a gut-wrenching note behind. To a different extreme I had a woman in my yoga class who was classified manic depressive. I did not know it at first but after some time I noticed when she was not wearing her eyeglasses she was bubbly and animated. If she had her glasses on then she was pretty much non-emotional and quiet. After a few months she came up to me after class to ask about a particular yoga pose. From that conversation she informed me of her condition and told me about some of the things she had done when she was on her “high” as she referred to it. I will say some of the stuff she said she did was off the wall as they say, but she stressed how yoga helped keep her steady. It was an eye opening experience for me to say the least and one that was a precursor to the character in this movie. WHEN Alice Klieg, played by Kristen Wiig (The Skeleton Twins, Girl Most Likely), won the lottery she decided to go off of her meds and buy herself a talk show. She wanted to be the next Oprah. This comedic drama had several strengths in its favor. The main one was Kristen; her dramatic acting in this role was made even better with her physicality. With the other actors such as Tim Robbins (Jacob’s Ladder, Mystic River) as Dr. Daryl Moffet, Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games, American Beauty) as Gabe Ruskin and James Marsden (The Best of Me, The Loft) as Rich Ruskin; they all worked well together in keeping the story on track. Not that watching this film would make one feel as if they were a spectator at a traffic accident, but there were times where I felt I was witnessing the breakdown of a human being. The only negative I saw was in the directing; there were some uneven moments through the film. However, having the right mix of humor and drama in this interesting original story, along with Kristen’s wonderful acting and I was hooked.
One of the hardest things to see is a pet or child suffering the consequences of an adult’s actions. Seeing those pitiful eyes looking out at you in pain is just brutal. More so when they cannot communicate their hurt. There was a recent trial taking place here where a man was accused of dropping puppies off a highway overpass. If the fall did not kill them a speeding car or truck would have done it. What type of person would think of such a thing? This is an example of why I believe some people have only pure evil inside of themselves. When it comes to some of the caretakers of children, they too have that same type of evil. There was a story in the newspaper about a boyfriend who poured scalding water on his girlfriend’s 2 year old son for crying; can you believe it? The two adults in the situations I just described knew what they were doing and deserve to get the harshest of terms. But you know there are other adults who do not realize what ramifications their actions can cause innocent people. The individual who wants to kill themselves by driving into oncoming traffic; why harm anyone else when one wants to die? Or what about the innocent children who suffer the effects of armed conflicts between adults? Whether they become orphans or physically disabled due to guns or bombs, these children did not ask nor deserve this type of outcome due to the adults’ actions. It takes a special person to jump in and try to help in these types of situations. BASED on a true story this film festival winning movie was about Christina Noble, played by Deirdre O’Kane (Intermission, Boy Eats Girl), a poor Irish girl who had to fight for everything just to survive. Her battles were just the training she needed for what lied ahead for her and the orphaned children of Viet Nam during the late 1980s. This biographical drama’s strength was not only having Deirdre star but also Sarah Greene (The Guard, Love & Savagery) who played the younger Christina. The story lines were captivating for both characters. I think they would have been even more powerful if the director had done a better job; for the direction dragged the story down. Scenes that were tough to watch due to the circumstances taking place in them felt slightly disconnected to the scenes around it. However, the story truly was amazing to watch because Christina was such a strong character. I know there had to be more to this story than what was depicted in this film and to tell you the truth, I would not have minded if they had to make the movie longer to tell the story. For being such an amazing woman, Christina deserved to get more exposure.
A funny thing happened to me when I went to see this movie. There was a smattering of people seated in their seats as I walked into the theater. I immediately saw there was a couple sitting in one of my preferred seats. A seat on the aisle that is 1/4 to 1/3 up the rows of seats is my favorite spot to watch a film. As I started walking up the stairs to find a seat, I saw the woman sitting in what should have been my seat staring at me. I made eye contact, looked away, then looked back to see she was still staring at me with a puzzled look on her face. Due to the subdued lighting I could not make out her facial features until I was closer to her. Once I saw her face an image appeared in my mind of a little girl who went to elementary school with me who used to wear a satin ribbon tied in the back of her hair; they both had the same face. I spoke the little girl’s name to the woman in the seat and she spoke mine, saying she would not have recognized me if it was not for my photo on my movie review site. We had not seen each other since high school, having gone through elementary school together. What a coincidence that we bumped into each other after all these years at a theater that was about to show a film about a class reunion. JACK Black (School of Rock, Bernie) played Dan Landsman who was the head of his high school class reunion committee. When by chance he saw his former classmate Oliver Lawless, played by James Marsden (X-Men franchise, Enchanted), in a suntan lotion commercial on television, Dan became obsessed in getting the actor to come to the class reunion. If he could deliver the actor Dan was sure he would finally be considered one of the cool kids. There were some good themes underlying the story in this picture, but the implementation of them was awful. The writers took the ideas to such an extreme that I found many things not believable and frankly ridiculous. Kathryn Hahn (We’re the Millers, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) as Stacey Landsman and Jeffrey Tambor (The Hangover franchise, Arrested Development-TV) as Bill Shurmur were wasted in this movie. I felt Jack Black offered nothing new, just doing his usual schtick. The only one I believed in was James’ character. After the movie was done my former classmate came up to me to tell me how uncomfortable the two of them were watching this film. I agreed with them wholeheartedly. To get the horrible scenes I had suffered through out of my mind, I sat and reminisced about our time back in elementary school.
1 1/3 stars
Everyone was having a good time as things continued to go smoothly at the reception. The top reason for this was due to the main attraction, the bride and groom. They were each outgoing individuals that were able to create memorable times no matter the situation. Now as a couple their chemistry only accentuated their fun qualities. All the guests were mingling and chatting during the cocktail hour, telling each other memories they had shared with the bride and/or groom. Dinner was announced as the large padded doors along one wall were folded back, revealing a room glowing in a soft palette of white, burgundy and gold colors. There was an orchestra playing music as the guests headed to their seats. After everyone was seated the orchestra leader announced the newly married couple as they entered in to the sound of cheers and applause from family and friends. Once they were seated the first toasts of the evening were given by each of the parents. They shared personal fun stories about their children, giving the crowd a good laugh. The next toast came from the best man who was the groom’s best friend. Since they had known each other since 1st grade, there were intimate tales the best man felt for some reason were okay to tell the crowd. One embarrassing story led to another with a running joke that was only cute the first time. The lukewarm reaction to the joke did not stop the best man; his speech dragged out to a point where the crowd was dulled into boredom. JUST like the best man overstayed his welcome, so did the main characters in this action comedy. Reese Witherspoon (Wild, Walk the Line) played uptight police officer Cooper who was assigned to protect Daniella Riva, played by Sofia Vergara (Chef, Modern Family-TV), the wife of a drug lord. Cooper’s training did not prepare her for Daniella and all the bad guys after her. I was surprised by this movie’s story. Sure there was humor to mine when the two main characters were total opposites of each other; however, the writers did nothing new with them. The running joke about Daniella’s accent and not being understood got old very fast. I found Reese’s character, which was the blander of the two, annoying after a short time. As the movie went on it dawned on me that it was similar to the film, The Heat with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. The difference being this was a very poor version of it. I read afterwards that Reece and her production company want to bring out strong women driven films which I am all for; but if this was an example of what is in store for the movie audience, I think it will push back the limited gains that have been made already.
1 1/2 stars
There were so many things I used to believe in. I believed I could still see colors on a black and white monitor. I believed a relative of mine really could pull nickels and quarters out of my ears. I believed love would last forever. No matter the size of the boat, I believed I could sink it the moment I stepped foot on it. Whether maturity or life experiences released my hold on those beliefs, I still have some I keep with me now. What goes around, comes around is something I truly believe in. Another belief I have, that there are some people who have pure evil inside of them; they do not have anything good. When I believe I am right about something, I will fight non-stop until someone can prove me wrong. Granted as I get older I devote less and less energy to defending my beliefs; I think this is where one would use the phrase: we agree to disagree. Life is too short, so I now pick and choose my battles. I think beliefs can motivate people to be better human beings; however, it can also cause stagnation in them too. PULLED from the audience at a magic show Pepper Flynt Busbee aka Little Boy, played by Jakob Salvati (Red Widow-TV, Esacpe from Tomorrow), was asked to move a bottle across a table without touching it. The magician asked Pepper if he believed he could do it. Pepper said yes and the bottle began to move. With this new found discovery Pepper believed he could now stop World War II and bring back his father; all he had to do was believe in himself. This comedic drama set in the 1940s had some strong themes it wanted to tackle. A few touched upon in the story were bullying, faith, war and love. Each individually would have been more than enough to create a solid film here; however, what the writers did instead made for a messy mix. The cast which had Emily Watson (The Book Thief, Belle) as Emma Busbee, Michael Rapaport (The Heat, Men of Honor) as James Busbee and Kevin James (Hitch, Here Comes the Boom) as Dr. Fox was a bit eclectic; I felt there was a disconnect between them. The major flaw in this film was the soundtrack and the unbelievable heavy-handed way the writers pounded the story into our heads. With syrupy dramatic music rippling in the background, I felt I was being forced fed emotions the writers wanted me to experience for the scene. It was way too manipulative and only made me lose interest in this picture. I think the writers should have had more faith in the public and let them decide how they wanted to react to the story.
1 2/3 stars