Finding an outlet to let go of life’s daily irritations is the way to stay sane in today’s world. Maybe it is just me but it seems as if everybody has shorter fuses these days. I can easily rattle off a variety of incidents where I find myself becoming irritated. There is the person in the theater texting during the movie; the driver who cut me off to be the last one to cross the railroad crossing before the gates came down and I had to sit for over 10 minutes as a freight train went by; the person at the help desk who was of no help in trying to locate where my cashed check was applied; I can go on, but the point is I find a way to release the collection of negative emotions that simmer and boil inside of me. The first thing I do is tell myself I cannot control those things that are out of my control. This has served me well for many years; there is no reason to devote energy to something I cannot change. If that doesn’t work I always have my reliable backup and that is watching a movie. Mmm, I hope no one assumes I must be teetering on the edge based on the amount of films I view weekly. I know what I would become if I did not have a way to release pent-up stress or anger and I have a pretty good idea what the world would look like if everyone held on to their negativity. They would be doing what the people were doing in this horror thriller sequel. ONCE a year the government made all crimes legal and let the citizens participate in an annual purge of the population. Frank Grillo (The Grey, Warrior) played the character Sergeant, a mysterious man who instead of killing people wound up helping mother and daughter Eva and Cali Sanchez, played by Carmen Ejogo (Pride and Glory, Alex Cross) and Zoe Soul (Prisoners), survive the night. This action film was filled with violence and blood. If this movie was to be a true parody or satire, I did not get the full effect because the story made little sense. Sure one could comment on the disparity between the wealthy and poor people depicted in this film but the script had no substance to assist in such a discussion. I found the movie played more like one long video game, just scene after scene of chases and violence. It became a boring experience for me. What I found scarier was the mother who was with her underaged son, sitting near me in the theater. Why would someone bring a child to see this brutal film; what kind of lesson was she trying to teach him?
1 3/4 stars
Without purpose life would be a continuous cycle of sleeping, eating, working and repeating it all over day after day. This procedure becomes automatic with the absence of thought, similar to being a robot. There is a price one pays when they fall into this mode. The synapses of their brain curl and wither like gnarled arthritic hands, losing movement as they become frozen in one pointless position. Purpose is what adds new colorful landscaped roads to the continual construction site of the mind. These roads can lead one to uncharted territories that spark and reveal a new concept or idea that adds fuel to one’s journey in life. One of the reasons why I decided to become a fitness instructor was due to how I was treated in phys ed classes. Not being athletically inclined, I yearned for a gym class where everyone would be treated equally; no one would be made to feel inadequate or be the butt of cruel jokes. I had a good pitching arm back then but no one looked beyond my physical girth. From that time I found a purpose that put me on my life’s path and continues to bring me unlimited joy as a fitness and yoga instructor. THIS animated adventure film offered a similar message. Dane Cook (Mr. Brooks, Dan in Real Life) voiced the character Dusty Crophopper, a world class champion racer. Discovering he had an engine problem that could end his racing career, Dusty decided to join the aerial firefighter squadron led by Blade Ranger, voiced by Ed Harris (A Beautiful Mind, The Abyss). The major challenge facing Dusty would be to see if his engine could withstand the extensive training required for the job. Visually, this movie was fun to watch with its sense of depth and variety of airplane models, but there was nothing I would consider groundbreaking. The majority of actors voicing the characters were fine in their roles, There were really no standouts except for Fred Willard (Ira & Abby, Anchorman franchise) as the Secretary of the Interior. Though this picture was listed as a comedy, the humor would only appease young children. I found the puns old and corny, not able to recall uttering a single chuckle. The biggest issue I had with this film was its lack of creativity. It was so formulaic and stereotypical that my overall feeling towards this movie was one of tiredness. I think this could have easily been released straight to DVD, there was a blandness to the whole thing. It was such a shame, because the message it was trying to convey was certainly a positive one that shined a light on a noble profession.
No one has the right to tell you how you should feel is one of my strongest mantras. Among all the individuals within the circles of connections in my life, everyone knows there is no reason to cover-up, modify or hide one’s feelings. If someone is in a foul mood, so be it. I am not one to offer platitudes like “things will get better” or “it will be a brighter day soon.” When I am sad or depressed I certainly do not want someone around trying to cheer me up. I just want someone to be accepting and understand this is how I am feeling right at the moment. The phrase “misery loves company” comes to mind and there is some truth in it. I have noticed a stronger connection forms between 2 people when they are commiserating about similar circumstances. It is true for me when my friends and I are at a concert or on a trip, shared excitement only accentuates the experience. The same holds true during a somber or sad experience. It all comes down to the ability to relate to another being, to know there is someone else who is feeling the same way as you. COINCIDENTALLY, the four individuals in this comedic drama accidentally discovered they were each feeling the same way with the same idea. It was New Year’s Eve and expecting to be alone Martin, Maureen, Jess and JJ; played by Pierce Brosnan (Love is All You Need, The Ghost), Toni Collette (The Way Way Back, Little Miss Sunshine), Imogen Poots (Jane Eyre, That Awkward Moment) and Aaron Paul (Need for Speed, Breaking Bad-TV); all found themselves on the top of a high-rise building at the same time with plans to jump off the roof. Instead of ending their lives that night, they form an unusual pact to help support each other through their troubled times. Based on the novel by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy), believe it or not this film offered a few amusing moments. The subject may be morbid for some; but I found the script did a decent job of handling the subject matter, mixing doses of lightheartedness with darkness. Though the acting was this movie’s strongest feature, it could not help save this dramedy. I found the story jumped around too much, never allowing time to offer further explanation to the scenes. With things coming across piecemeal, the story never fully developed and fell flat. Not that I expect you to agree with me on every one of my movie reviews, but I feel comfortable there will be many who will feel the same way I do after they see this film.
1 3/4 stars
There is a particular strength of the fiercest kind that emanates from a mother protecting her young. I cannot count how many documentaries about animals I have seen that showed situations where the odds were stacked against the mothers and their children. It made no difference for those mothers used everything they had to push back an adversary. When I was a tutor in college I saw many mothers arguing with their children’s instructors; even when it was clear, at least to me, the mothers were in the wrong. They would argue and yell sometimes at the professor, demanding certain conditions, wanting what they thought was best for their child. I realized right there that a parent’s protective instincts may not always serve them well. Like anything in life there is always an extreme to every situation. Where a parent could be the biggest advocate for their offspring; on the other end of the spectrum,a parent could be detrimental to their child’s well-being. EMILY Mortimer (Lars and the Real Girl,Hugo) played Lizzie, a mother who would do anything to protect her deaf son Frankie, played by Jack McElhone (Nowhere Boy, Young Adam). Afraid to tell Frankie the truth about his dad, Lizzie had secretly been writing letters to Frankie, pretending to be his father who was traveling the world aboard the HMS Accra. All was good until Frankie discovered the ship was scheduled to return back home to port. Lizzie would have a hard time trying to explain why Frankie’s father was not on that boat. This film festival winning movie had a special gentleness that filtered up out of the story. I thought Emily and Jack really blended well together, creating a loving relationship between mother and son. Gerard Butler (Law Abiding Citizen, Machine Gun Preacher) surprised me as the stranger; there was a sweet softness to his character that played well with the rest of the cast. I want to especially point out the scenes where Frankie went to school. The writers did an honest and believable job of showing how children encounter and react to a peer with a handicap. If there were parts where the action slowed I was not much aware of it because I enjoyed the way the story unfolded, revealing a couple of surprises for me. A person does not need shared bloodlines to become a parent. One only has to start with love, care, support, encouragement and protection to form a bond with a child. The mother in this dramatic picture was just as special as her child.
3 stars — DVD
I feel very fortunate that I grew up in the city, in an established neighborhood. Before I knew our neighbors they already knew me. You see, everyone knew each other from the block. My first playground was essentially the hallway of the apartment building where I was born. I used to crawl up and down the staircases, visiting any neighbor who happened to have their front door open as I came by. Once I was able to go outside to play, I quickly became friends with the other kids who lived on the block. Unbeknownst to us at the time, there were always at least a couple of mothers watching us while we played. We felt we owned the streets and alleys as we would set up forts made of snow in winter and during summer we would use any bushes or leaves as a cover for our secret spy meetings. It constantly baffled us how each of our mothers already knew what we were doing before we would come in to tell them about our day. As they say a mother always knows and the proof can be seen in this dramatic film. GOD’S Pocket was a tough, gritty neighborhood of Philadelphia. After she found out her son Leon, played by Caleb Landry Jones (No Country for Old Men, Antiviral), died at work Jeanie Scarpato, played by Christina Hendricks (Drive, Life as We Know It), was convinced it was not an accident. She wanted her husband Mickey, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman (A Late Quartet, Capote), to find out what really happened to her son. This Sundance Film Festival nominated movie captured the look and feel of a rugged, economically depressed area during the 1960s. There was a general heaviness that weighed on everyone including the viewer. Besides Philip and Christina performing on a high level, I thought John Turturro (Fading Gigilo, Barton Fink) as Arthur “Bird” Capezio and Richard Jenkins (The Cabin in the Woods, The Visitor) as Richard Shellburn stood out in the cast; though everyone did a convincing job of acting. The downfall to this picture was all in the script. The story was filled with cliches, did not offer anything original. There were moments where I wondered if the writers intended the scene to be funny, but it only created a messiness that left me perplexed. What a shame for this to be one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final films; the story did no favors for anyone. It boiled down to tough luck in a tough neighborhood. A couple of brief scenes with blood.
They say a picture paints 1,000 words and for the most part it can. However, there are some pictures/photographs that I feel would be a perfect accompaniment to an oral history. Family photos are one example that comes to mind. Whether they are from my family or friends, I have always been curious to hear the stories associated with the pictures. Some of those old sepia toned photos pasted onto hard cardboard, where the people are staring straight ahead with stern faces, can provide some interesting tales. Among my photographs I have sat and wondered what future generations would think about them. There is the photo of a dog’s head lying on a pillow with a blanket pulled up to his chin. They have no idea that in the middle of the night when I would get up to use the bathroom, our dog would jump up onto the bed into my spot and pull the covers up over himself. I would come back to bed and see him looking at me as if he were asking me, “What do you want?” That dog was such a character. BECAUSE I feel family stories are important and need to be shared; I thoroughly enjoyed what was being said in this film festival nominated movie. Taking place in Texas, Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense, Pay it Forward) played Walter, a young boy whose mother Mae, played by Kyra Sedgwick (Gamer, The Closer-TV), planned to drop him off with his eccentric uncles so she could go to school out of state. Uncle Garth and Uncle Hub, played by Michael Caine (Children of Men, Sleuth) and Robert Duvall (The Godfather franchise, Crazy Heart) were 2 of the most unusual men, who told strange stories, Walter had ever seen in his life. This comedic drama had such a pleasant way of letting the stories unfold from scene to scene. There was a sense of homeyness and familiarity that many viewers could identify to their own families. Though some of the roles verged on being cartoon like, I thought the cast’s acting was incredibly good. Michael and Robert were perfect, giving even doses of abruptness and quiet sweetness out of their characters. With the story set in the 1960s, this family film had a different pace and simpleness where some individuals might have a hard time relating to it. I, on the other hand, found such a feeling of comfort and deepening between the characters in this picture that it made me yearn for those family get togethers where the older relatives would share their family histories with the younger generations.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
Before there were any scheduled play dates, before any friendships were formed and before there was the recognition of family members, there was a special steadfast presence in my young life. His name was Zippy and he was my toy stuffed chimpanzee. Waking up from a nap, my emerging gaze always fell upon the wide awake Zippy watching over me, his head lying close to mine. Dressed in red overalls he would always sit on my lap for a family portrait. He was my best friend, my protector, my guardian; he was always by my side. A few years had gone by before I found out how Zippy lost some of his fingers from his rubber hands. He was caught in the middle of a fight between siblings and had suffered a casualty. I found out he had been part of the family before I was born and had been handed down to me upon my birth. CAESAR in this action film reminded me of Zippy in some ways. Andy Serkis (The Prestige, The Lord of the Rings franchise) was unbelievable portraying the genetically altered chimpanzee Caesar in this science fiction sequel. Set 10 years in the future from the previous movie, mankind had been nearly obliterated by a deadly virus. Having seen no sign of a human for years, Caesar had become the leader to a colony of advanced apes who all lived peacefully together. Their world was about to change with the sudden encounter of Malcolm and Ellie, played by Jason Clarke (The Great Gatsby, Public Enemies) and Keri Russell (Austenland, August Rush). This intelligent exciting film got high marks for several reasons. The believable story made sense to me as it started out with a quick review of the previous movie before setting the stage to show-off its well thought out script. I especially enjoyed the acting from Jason and Gary Oldman (Paranoia, Lawless) as Dreyfus. What made this picture so special was the special effects. I sat watching this film amazed at how good everything looked. I could not tell if the apes were all CGI enhanced, done with makeup or if some actors were wearing costumes; it really was terrific. Besides Andy Serkis’ unbelievable performance I thought Toby Kebbell (War Horse, RocknRolla) was just as good as fellow ape Koba. There were only a couple of spots where I felt the story became sluggish; but they were so minor, it did not take away from the entertainment value. This was a case where the sequel was better than the original. There was scenes that made me nervously tense, excited, sad and happy; I only wished Zippy had been with me to see this great film.
3 1/2 stars
I did not always understand what I was watching but it did not matter to me. As long as I experienced an emotional reaction and was entertained, I was content and satisfied. I remember seeing a flying car in one movie and wondering why my family was stuck with a four door sedan. After seeing a boy fly on screen I could not wait to get that ability, figuring it would be taught to me in school. You see, movies always had a major influence on me. Once the film started I could easily be taken away from the reality around me, transported to the time and place inside the movie screen. Fantasy has always been mightier than reality in my world. Once I became aware of movie critics, the first pages I took out from the newspaper were from the entertainment section. Poring over every article pertaining to movies became an obsession (really? you ask). There was one critic who was different from all the rest; he was someone I soon felt was in synch with me. I never sensed he was talking down to me; it was as if we were sitting together and he was explaining what the movie would offer me. That movie critic was Roger Ebert from the Chicago Sun-Times. Every week I had a standing date with him to plan out my weekend of movies. SPANNING the decades of his life, this documentary directed by Steve James (Hoop Dreams) unapologetically and candidly showed how Roger went from a young boy to newspaper reporter to Pulitzer Prize winning film critic to his battles with cancer. Executive produced by Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street, Hugo), this film festival nominee did an outstanding job of blending various sources together such as family film footage, outtakes from Roger’s television show with fellow movie critic Gene Siskel and interviews with a variety of friends and celebrities. I felt this movie was evenly balanced; it did not shy away from tough subjects, nor did it try to sway the viewer by the way things were depicted. There were a few scenes that were hard to watch when Roger was shown struggling with his health issues. When you think about it, there really could be no other way to make this film. Roger approved and it was even shown how he wanted this film to show him as he really was in life. Whether it was his alcoholism or showing how he got nourishment after his surgery; for me, this biographical film was the real thing. It was an incredible life squeezed into the short time frame of this wonderful documentary. I know if Roger would have reviewed this film he would have given it a thumbs up.
It was a different time where a discarded flashlight was a ray gun and a retractable ballpoint pen was a rocket ship with extra thrusters. It was in the alley behind our houses where my friends and I would let our imaginations lead us on untold adventures when we were kids. A broken tree branch became my secret trap detector. I would test the ground with the prod of my stick, making sure there were no trapdoors before we would venture forward. There was one particular tricky spot where apartment buildings flanked us on both sides; their dark gangways always open in a petrified scream with a whistling wind forcing its way out towards us. We could never be too careful. On extremely hot days each of us had our empty dishwater bottles filled with cold water that we would spray at each other to keep our body temperatures down while we traversed the scorching landscape on the planet Mars. We never had a dull moment as we played and explored around our neighborhood. EXPLORERS are what three friends would have to be when a strange signal suddenly appeared on their cell phones in this science fiction movie. Newcomers Ted Halm, Brian “Astro” Bradley and Reese Hartwig played Alex, Tuck and Munch; the three friends who followed the signal that would lead them to an out of this world destination. This action family film started out with the good idea of having the three friends taking off on a mysterious adventure. I am not a fan of the handheld filming look, so I quickly became annoyed with the unsteady camera shots. The actors were adequate; I took them as their characters. When they were talking to each other the script was fine; however, the rest of the script was bland. There were really no big exciting or tense parts to this picture. If Jason Gray-Stanford (A Beautiful Mind, Monk-TV) who played Dr. Lawrence Madsen was to be the “bad guy” the writers could have made him more extreme. Except for a couple of scenes I thought the special effects were paltry. Now to the biggest issue I had with this film. This story was done before by director Steven Spielberg when he filmed E.T. He did a wonderful job where the movie is considered a classic. If a movie studio is going to create anything that resembles that film they need to make sure they get the best people to do their best work so the viewer will not be reminded of E.T. This did not happen and in fact, this movie had no imagination. Except for young kids who are not familiar with E.T. I cannot recommend spending money to see this film. There was a brief extra scene at the end of the credits.
1 3/4 stars
There are people who come into our lives to provide us with the glasses of confidence for us to see our true abilities. It can happen to any of us where the important things close to us cannot be seen. This movie review site is the perfect example. I had been content emailing friends and family my latest feelings about the movies I had seen. A few friends mentioned setting up a site where I would only need to type up one review of a movie and the site would forward it to those who signed up. One friend in particular was the catalyst for me to pull myself away from the fear of uncertainty and venture into the vulnerable world of the internet. He was a former talk show host out east, who was a gifted cook. His latest project was to create a blog where he could teach viewers how to cook. He had such an enthusiasm that was infectious regarding his blog that it spilled over onto me. With his encouragement and incredible positive attitude, I began the mental process of creating Moviejoltz. There are so many examples around us of individuals who have the ability to illuminate our seeds of hope; I could go on and on. INSTEAD I suggest you watch what took place in this comedic drama. Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Now You See Me) played Dan, a down on his luck music executive. Spiraling down into a world of alcoholism, one night Dan heard a voice in a nightclub that would change his life and the life of the singer/songwriter Greta, played by Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit). Written and directed by John Carney (Once, The Rafters) this musical movie had a certain charm and sweetness to it, even if it was somewhat predictable. The best part was the acting. Besides Mark and Keira, Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Ender’s Game) as Dan’s daughter Violet and musician Adam Levine (American Horror Story-TV) as Greta’s boyfriend Dave were excellent with their characters. I will admit there was a part of me that felt the director was trying to recapture the magic of his movie Once, however having the story set in New York City along with the gifted cast, I found myself being entertained by the story. An additional surprise was seeing Keira carrying a tune which only added to my enjoyment of the soundtrack. Being a firm believer that we each are handed a gift from everyone we meet, I found the way the characters connected in this film to be life affirming.