The eyes once white bright look like aged paper from a well worn novel. They can still flash with the sparks of life but just not as many as before. Their hands now curled and knotted look like arthritic sampling branches used to create meals that filled the house with intoxicating aromas like seductive sirens. Through the years memories have formed and periodically emerge into one’s consciousness from time to time. Their buoyancy can be attributed to emotions filed with kindness, love, joy and compassion. Throughout one’s journey of life they were present, maybe not in a starring role; yet their contributions were always part of special events. There is a sense of safety when people grow old together. They may take turns in leading the way down life’s road, but always with intentions of ease and comfort. The bonds that formed early on may lose some of their flexibility but they still are apparent to anyone who comes near. I try very hard not to look like I am staring, but watching elderly people interacting fascinates me. It is as if they have their own secret language that is mostly silent to anyone around them. It appears to be more prominent when I see them having a meal. The way items get divvied up, some whole while others are reduced to bite-sized morsels; it is similar to a choreographed dance. To this day when I either hear the names or see certain foods I get a flashback to where I used to get that particular food item when I was younger. HAVING been part of the Leung household for decades, when she suffered a stroke Ah Tao, played by Deanie Yip (The Legend of Shaolin, Dragons Forever), decided to quit and move to a rehabilitation/senior citizens facility. She did not want to be a burden to Roger, played by Andy Lau (House of Flying Daggers, Internal Affairs), who she helped in raising from birth. This film festival winning drama was exquisite in its execution. A beautiful, touching story that truly gave a real sense of the bonds formed in a family’s life. There was nothing extraordinary taking place, no special effects, only a dramatic story that the actors handled skillfully. This is not a fast paced film, so a few scenes seemed stagnant to me. I have to say part of my connection to the film was due to the character Ah Tao because I still feel a little uncomfortable when someone does something for me, I related to this character. Also the fact that all of us are heading in the same direction through the aging process; the story carried more weight for me. Either way this movie will in the future become a fond memory for me. Cantonese and Mandarin was spoken with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
They may only be a string of words but they are filled with the essence of a person. In yesterday’s review I talked about people who do not follow through on their intentions or promises; today I am referring to people who out and out tell lies. For me this is one of my deal breakers on whether I continue a relationship with a person. I don’t have an issue if someone wants to colorize their stories, but saying something that is false to change another person’s perceptions is nothing I want to be around. A few weeks ago a friend of mine called to rant about a friend of hers who I happen to know. This friend had called to touch base with her and catch up with what was going on in their life. During the conversation the friend was explaining why he did not do something he had said he was going to do for her; he told her his sister had cancer throughout her body. My friend was stunned and saddened by the news. After their conversation ended she called another friend to tell them about the sister. Well long story short, it turned out this other friend called the sister to see if they needed any help and shocked her because she did not have any cancer. Now you have to wonder why a person would lie about such a thing; there is no excuse for it as far as I can see. When I hear things like this I feel a person will wind up experiencing a specific negative thing in their life; others would say they are going to hell. AFTER breaking a promise Curt, voiced by Rob Riggle (Let’s Be Cops, 21 Jump Street), was dragged to hell. His friends who witnessed it followed Curt in to try and rescue him. This stop motion animated adventure comedy had some major actors voicing characters like Susan Sarandon (Tammy, The Lovely Bones) as Barb the Angel, Mila Kunis (Jupiter Ascending, Ted) as Deema and Bob Odenkirk (Nebraska, Breaking Bad-TV) as the Devil. Their voices were the best part of the movie; what they said was crude. This film is for adults only because the language was so blue aka risque, bawdy, R rated. I did not find the visuals creative considering the artists could have pretty much created anything they wanted for the scenes. The humor was at such a low level that I did not find anything worth a chuckle. As the script went from one sight gag to another I soon became bored with the story. To tell you the truth I was a bit surprised the studio was able to get first rate actors to partake in this picture. I had to wonder if the actors had done something “bad” in their lives where they had to participate in this film; maybe this was hell for them. Strong language throughout the film.
1 1/2 stars
I wish commitment and determination would play an important part in people’s lives as it did when we were younger. When you watch a small child that has been introduced to a new toy or even a benign household item, they will not let up until they can open it or make it work. I am sure some of you who have listened to an infant crying out of frustration know what I mean. Commitment has always played a strong part of my makeup; I am not one to make plans then cancel them because I suddenly do not feel like doing it or I got a better offer. Through my years of teaching I cannot tell you how many times people have asked me to sub out my class so I can join them for an event. I made a commitment to be at that class and could never on a whim suddenly decide to sub it out. In fact, I have in the past taught class while wearing sunglasses because my eyes were still dilated from my eye doctor appointment; even one week with a bout of trachea bronchitis did not stop me. It seems to be as people age they do not have the energy to see something all the way through; all it takes is one setback and they are ready to give up. I hope this has not come across as too judgmental but when a person says they are going to do something I take them at their word; otherwise why say anything, it is not like anyone would ever know. ONCE he saw a photograph of the soon to be completed World Trade Center towers in New York City; high-wire artist Philippe Petit, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Don Jon, The Dark Knight Rises), could think of nothing else but to walk across the towers. The only problem was he could not do it alone. Based on true events I was familiar with this dramatic biography because I had seen and reviewed the wonderful documentary, “Man on Wire.” This adventure film was written and directed by Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away, Flight) and unfortunately the movie started out slow for me. What turned me off was having Joseph as Philippe narrating the story while perched on top of the Statue of Liberty. I felt him telling us what he was feeling at the time took away from the drama. However the last half of the movie was visually stunning; those who may have a fear of heights would have a hard time watching this film. The cast which included Ben Kingsley (Self/Less, Learning to Drive) as Papa Rudy and Charlotte Le Bon (The Hundred-Foot Journey, Mood Indigo) as Annie were fine, but if the script had been stronger they would have been better. Luckily once the story switched to New York from Paris one could not help but admire Philippe’s determination to create such an artistic feat.
I always want to be respectful of people’s feelings, even when I know with pain and discomfort it is all about perspective. Someone complaining about a nasty paper cut is something I can understand and sympathize along with the person. However, compared to someone having a limb amputated due to disease, the paper cut appears pretty minor; it is all about perspective. Last week was a challenging time for me. I am still a novice when it comes to doing things that are computer related and I had 2 online courses that had to be completed by October 1st. Without formal training on how to navigate the website, I felt lost as I struggled to find my way to taking and completing the courses. In fact on one site, every time after I logged in and clicked on the course title I was brought back to the login screen. Even trying it on a different computer and operating system ended with the same results; it was absolutely frustrating as I had to work with the site’s help desk as the clock was ticking. At the same time my day job was getting busier as we approached month end, so my mind was being heavily taxed to say the least. And if that was not enough I thought a birthday gift I had ordered online was missing as the birthdate was fast approaching. By the time Friday end of work rolled around it took all my energy just to go park the car and buy my theater ticket to see this dramatic adventure film. Right from the start my problems quickly disappeared as I saw what the main character had to endure in his situation. ABANDONED and left for dead astronaut Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon (Interstellar, Saving Private Ryan), realized he had to find a way to contact NASA and his crew before his food and supplies would run out. Mars was not going to be helpful in his endeavor. From director Ridley Scott (American Gangster, Black Hawk Down), this science fiction film was extra special because of its cast, which included Jessica Chastain (Mama, A Most Violent Year) as Melissa Lewis and Jeff Daniels (Dumb & Dumber franchise, Looper) as Teddy Sanders; everyone was outstanding with their characters. The other reason I was transported to Mars was due to the script; special effects took a back seat as I realized I was getting an abundance of technological jargon, but Matt made everything seem believable to me. Nothing seemed frivolous; I felt Ridley used a deft touch in letting the tension and drama play off of each other. There were some scenes where I was sitting on the edge of my seat in nervous anticipation and in the next moment I was sitting back as my eyes teared up. This picture absolutely took me away to a different place, besides adding a new perspective to this year’s batch of Oscar worthy movies. One brief scene showed blood in it.
There are certain obligations that require us to be there. The working lunch business meeting would be one such function, though I strongly dislike this one. I do not want to sit at a table across from someone who talks with their mouth full; besides, I prefer my lunch (my biggest meal of the day) to be a relaxed and enjoyable time. How often do you hear people say their business lunch meeting was enjoyable? Another obligation, though I really would not say obligation, is accompanying someone to the doctor’s office to hear the results of their medical test. No one wants to hear “bad” news, but if a loved one asks you, you need to be there to support and comfort them no matter what the doctor says to them. Now that I think about it, even if someone were to ask me to join them for some type of function because they do not want to go alone, I would more than likely go with them. I remember going to a friend’s company holiday party where I did not know a soul except for them. Eating and drinking late into the evening is not my version of fun, along with the majority of the conversation revolving around the company’s business; I was bored most of the evening, but I went because a friend asked me. Now when it is about going to the movies, there are some I know are not going to be great works of art; but I feel I have to see them if for nothing else to warn you. If it was just for me I would not spend a cent on some of the things I have sat through since starting this review site. This horror film would be an example. STUDENT activists travel to the Amazon forest to protest a company’s construction site. It would have helped them if they had studied up on the area beforehand. This film festival nominated adventure movie was brutal to sit through and watch. Horror without suspense is not horror to me; it is just gross disgusting acts of violence and this picture excelled at it. Starring Lorenza Izzo (Knock Knock, Aftershock) as Justine, Ariel Levy (Best Worst Friends, Aftershock) as Alejandro and Aaron Burns (Grindhouse, Planet Terror) as Jonah; I thought the acting was dull. Granted the script did not help anyone because some of the lines and scenes were ridiculous. I did not find anything that was exciting or compelling; it seemed as if the writers used one particular act to be the cornerstone of the story. I understood it but to see this act over and over did not produce anything valuable to me; it simply bored me. There were two things that happened that I liked about the film and one of them was found in the credits. Let me tell you this was a tough obligation to fulfill. Intense scenes with blood and violence.
1 1/4 stars
As part of my daily vitamin regiment I used to take a supplement that caused an unusual reaction in me. I would get these intense, what I would call, hot flashes that would change my skin color to red; I mean a deep bright red. This would happen spontaneously throughout the day. One time my boss walked by and started to panic when they saw me sitting at my desk with my face and ears crimson red. I had to explain I was fine and it would pass as soon as I gulped down copious amounts of water. That supplement was the reason I started to always keep a bottle of water with me whenever I was out and about. One of the few places this caused a problem believe it or not was at this one movie theater near my house. They would confiscate any food or liquids carried inside by the patrons. I understood what they were doing; they wanted people to use the concession stands because let us face it that is where the movie theaters make their money. Because I never knew when I would get a rush of heat across my body, I did not want to have to leave my seat during the movie to go get some water. So I would bring in my own bottle of water and carry it beneath my jacket, underneath my arm. I know I was breaking their rules but the idea of missing out on parts of a film was something I could not handle. In my mind bending the rules led me to a better review. VOLUNTEERING for a special task force led by government agent Matt Graver, played by Josh Brolin (Everest, Men in Black 3); FBI agent Kate Macor, played by Emily Blunt (Looper, The Young Victoria), found herself involved in a drug war where the rules were not always followed. This film festival nominated crime drama had a superior cast that also included Benicio Del Toro (Traffic, The Usual Suspects) as Alejandro and Victor Garber (Titanic, Milk) as Dave Jennings. First I must warn you there were several scenes of intense bloody violence. The taut story kept the viewers in a constant state of suspense; the director did an excellent job keeping the scenes tight while bringing the life out of the actors. I caught myself several times holding my breath in anticipation of what was to come. Though there have been other films about the drug war between the United States and Mexico, I found this one to be a raw realistic story that lingered with me even after the movie was over. If the film studio had to bend a few rules to get this action film made then I firmly believe it was worth it because this picture kept you on the edge of your seat. Intense violent scenes with blood in this film.
3 1/2 stars
I have from time to time run across advertisements that sold me on their product. Off to the store I would go to seek it out, where I found it looked like the item in the ad but it was not exactly the same. Where the picture showed a metal ring around the item, in person it was silver colored plastic; I realized it could easily break after several uses. Some people would say this was a deceptive advertisement; the picture and description did not focus on this certain part, letting the consumer come to their own conclusions. It is all marketing and I understand it; I guess you can say I almost expect it. If I think about it I am sure this type of example has played a part in my cautious or suspicious nature when it comes to dealing with any type of business. In my personal life I tend to trust a person until they prove me wrong, but when it comes to companies and corporations I go with the cliche, “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is not true.” I try not letting this mentality infiltrate into my personal dealings with individuals, but after being “burned” a few times it is hard to remain open and trusting of people who have not yet had enough history built between us. As far as I am concerned trust is something that needs to be earned, just ask the main character in this action thriller. AFTER surviving the maze Thomas, Minho, Teresa; played by Dylan O’Brien (The First Time, Teen Wolf-TV), Ki Hong Lee (The Stanford Prison Experiment, Everything Before Us) and Kaya Scodelario (The Truth About Emanuel, Moon), along with the rest of their group may have finally found some relief thanks to Janson, played by Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones-TV, Blitz), the man in charge of the security complex where they have been ensconced for their protection. It was almost too good to be true. The 2nd installment of the science fiction series had more action than the first one. The multiple chase scenes were somewhat exciting but I did grow tired after so many of them. I wanted more scenes with Patricia Clarkson (Learning to Drive, Friends with Benefits) as Ava Paige and Aiden Gillen because not only were they a good choice for their characters, they could easily handle the acting requirements since they are so seasoned. If you did not see the first film this one would be a bit confusing to you; I saw it and I still felt lost a couple of times. The script was the culprit because there was essentially no time for character development since the action was ramped up so much. I did not feel connected to this picture and wondered how closely it followed the book. It makes me wonder how much one can believe in the marketing campaign for this film.
2 1/4 stars
It started with a letter I read in a syndicated advice column. A person wrote in lamenting about the state of our education system that seems to be pushing students through who do not have simple basic skills. This person’s example was the checker at their grocery store who could not figure out what the cost was for an item that had a sale price of 4 for $1.00, but was ringing up at 44 cents each. When the shopper pointed it out, the checker had to ask a coworker who also could not figure out what to charge for each item. This shopper knew that these 2 had graduated with honors from high school and were college freshmen. They finally took out a calculator to get the correct answer of 25 cents per item. It is funny because I had a similar experience at the movie theater last week. My ticket cost $5.75 so I gave the cashier a $20 dollar bill and a single dollar. The person started to hand back the dollar to me but I told her I wanted even change. I could tell they had no idea what I wanted so I had to explain what change I wanted back. There used to be a time when older employees with a long job history were admired and respected for their knowledge and experience. These employees were invaluable to a company. From what I have seen and heard that is no longer the case. When a company is looking to cut costs the older employees can be targeted because the company may feel they can get someone young and right out of college to fill the position for half the price. This is why I thought the premise for the story in this comedy was a good one. SINCE retirement was not totally fulfilling for 70 year old Ben, played by Robert De Niro (Casino, Meet the Parents franchise), he decided to apply for the intern position at a hot new online fashion company. It was quickly apparent to him offices and their employees had changed when he saw the company’s president Jules, played by Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married, Love & Other Drugs), riding around the office on a bicycle. I thought Robert was especially good in this role and was surprised at the chemistry he had with Anne. There were some scenes they shared that worked well, similar to the ones he shared with Rene Russo (Outbreak, Thor franchise) as Fiona. The issue I had with the script was the multiple offshoots to the main story. I felt some scenes were forced just to try and get a laugh; they were unnecessary to me. If the writers would have focused more on the company and its employees the movie would have been stronger in my opinion. On the plus side I appreciated the film showing the value of having an older more experienced employee.
2 1/3 stars
I am still baffled by the way people’s discriminations overpower what should be the simplest of connections: the love of a person. There have been so many times where I have heard a parent tell their child they wished they would… It could be anything from telling them they should have been an accountant and not an artist or telling them they should marry someone of the same religion. One of the best pieces of advice I heard was to do what you love and everything else would follow, so to tell someone who is an artist that they should be working with numbers makes no sense to me. Now there is nothing wrong with questioning a person’s choices, to be a sounding board for them; however, I become uncomfortable when someone tries to place their values and expectations on another person, whether it be a family member or a stranger. I know this family where the parents have a strained relationship with one of their 4 children because they married someone out of their faith. The pain they caused this child has been long lasting because the young grandkids have not spent much time around their grandparents. I can only imagine how many opportunities they have all missed to create a fond memory or a deeper connection. Love does not discriminate, only people do. Now the reason I am talking about this theme is because it resonated in me and played a part in this animated comedy sequel. DRACULA, voiced by Adam Sandler (Pixels, Grown Ups franchise), could only think about one thing anytime he saw his daughter Mavis’, voiced by Selena Gomez (Getaway, Spring Breakers), and her human husband Jonathan’s, voiced by Andy Samberg (That’s My Boy, Saturday Night Live-TV), baby boy; would he be a vampire or a human? One of the surprises about this movie was seeing Adam being credited as one of the writers. Sure the jokes were pretty basic and straight forward, plus there was a couple of times where I thought they were close to being inappropriate for a family film. But the fact that this film offered a valuable lesson was a shock to me. My favorite character out of the cast was Mel Brooks (Spaceballs, High Anxiety) as Vlad. I thought he had great lines besides perfect delivery of them. As an overall entertaining picture, this one was nothing above average. The animation was fine, the creation of the monsters was creative and the soundtrack was lively. Outside of that, I thought this sequel was pretty much the same thing as the first one. I cannot say I was bored; if I had to tell someone all I could think of was that the film was okay. I did not find anything horrible or terrific; just middle of the road except for tackling an important issue, in my opinion, in a subtle easy way.
I called it a goal; my friends said it was an obsession. When I planned this movie review site I decided I wanted to do one movie review a day for the entire year. No matter what holiday, in sickness and in health, even on vacation; I planned to write a new film review each and every day for 365 days. And you know what, I did it. Trust me when I tell you it was not always easy. I remember leaving many social functions to race home and get a review posted. Even after working all day then teaching at night, my classes would even ask me what movie I was reviewing that evening and I would tell them only the title, for they would have to wait until I got home to write it. I never considered this an obsession, though I could see where some people would question my sanity. It was more like a challenge and I wanted to be able to say I posted movie reviews for an entire year. After reaching my goal I have to be honest I was relieved. It was getting to me especially on weekends; trying to figure out the logistics to post reviews, going to movies, meeting friends and family for a meal or activity was driving me to exhaustion. That is when I decided to take the weekends off from writing and if something came up during the week where I could not get a review posted to not beat myself up for it. So you see I do not think I have an obsession, though I know there could be a fine line between it and reality. DURING the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union a battle was brewing over a chess match between American chess prodigy Bobby Fisher, played by Tobey Maguire (Labor Day, Seabiscuit), and world chess champion Boris Spassky, played by Liev Schreiber (A Perfect Man, Fading Gigolo). Based on a true story this biographical drama had a compelling story that revealed more than I remembered about the chess games. I thought the acting was spot on, including Peter Sarsgaard (Black Mass, Flightplan) as Father Bill Lombardy; however the script was somewhat flawed. Where I wanted to sympathize with Bobby’s plight, I felt the script made him out to simply be an arrogant, hard to get along with hole. The scenes were setup in such a way to provide a good dose of tension, but as the movie progressed I grew tired of Bobby’s rants. Maybe they did happen in real life, but I did not find enough background story to the characters. It just seemed as if we were seeing the same “craziness” over and over with little explanation. At the end of the film I came away wondering where Bobby placed on that fine line between an obsessive genius and insanity.
2 3/4 stars