The young boy was straining under the weight of the dumbbells. I was exercising on the weight bench behind, yet I could hear the father correcting his son’s posture. With a wide leather weight belt cinched around his waist, the man had the body definition of a serious weightlifter. Hearing and seeing his encouraging words to his son reminded me of the time I learned how to throw a football when I was a small boy. As I continued with my workout I had memories of past mentors and individuals who had a big influence on me. There was the building superintendent of the apartment building where I was born. I recalled how he would magically appear at the front of our place when I would be running towards it on my way home from school. It never occurred to me that he was aware I was being chased; he would just be there with a large grin on his jolly face, his bloodshot eyes barely blinking. In my adult life I was fortunate enough to have a yoga instructor who really showed me the wonders of yoga. This man was amazing to watch as he would bend his body in various positions to show us the difference between poor and ideal forms. He looked like one of those dolls where all the joints were unrestricted, the limbs able to fold from front to back. I have always been grateful that I was able to spend time with him in class and one-on-one sessions. HAVING spent his whole life as the postman for a rural mountainous region of Hunan province, China; being away from home for long stretches of time, it was time for him to retire and turn the responsibility over to the son, played by Ye Liu (Curse of the Golden Flower, Dark Matters), he barely knew. The father, played by Rujun Ten (A Love of Blueness, Xian’s Finest), instructed his boy on all the details of the job as the two took to the route that would deliver them something more than just the mail. This film festival winning drama had such a tender gentleness about it that it quickly drew me into the story. From the lush landscapes to the sweetness exuding out of scenes, I thought the story did a wonderful job in creating a believable and authentic dynamic between the father and son. From a technical standpoint, due to the time this film was made, the subtitles were primitive. There were a few improper words used and sometimes the subtitles flashed by too quickly. I think one of the added beauties of this film will be its ability to stir up warm memories in many viewers. Chinese language was spoken with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
Offering them a ride home was the polite thing to do. It was raining outside, that gentle steady kind where the romantic side of me could see myself sharing an umbrella as we walked down the street. However this was only a first date so I was my more practical self. Leaving the cafe we ran to the car; I had unlocked it remotely so I could run ahead and open the passenger door. As we drove away I became aware of the sound the rain made as it fell onto the car. It sounded like a slightly quick, steady heartbeat waiting in anticipation. With their directions I finally pulled up to the front of their building. This not being my first blind date, I was well aware this point of time could turn awkward if both parties were not on the same page with shaking hands, hugging, kissing or a simple wave of dismissal with the hand. As I was about to say I had a pleasant time they interrupted me, asking where were we going from here. I was perplexed and told them I did not understand what they were asking me. My confusion quickly changed into shock as I was being asked if we were now a couple because they needed to know right now and wanted to know what we were doing next week. The voice in my head was praying they would vacate the car without incident. If you think that was crazy wait until you see what happens in this horror film. JAY Height, played by Maika Monroe (The Guest, Labor Day), woke up to find herself tied to a chair. The boy she had slept with was talking to her, explaining what she had to do to avoid being killed–she had to quickly have sex with someone else. This film festival winning movie had a smartly written script that was original. The thing I liked most about this picture was it being a horror film based on suspense, not gruesome violence with buckets of blood. The actors such as Keir Gilchrist (It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Dead Silence) as Paul and Daniel Zovatto (Laggies, Beneath) as Greg Hannigan were okay, no one really stood out for me. As I sat and watched this film I realized the suspense was really not very suspenseful. I am not an expert in horror movies but it seemed to me as if this picture was a lightweight for this genre. It was a shame since I did give it points for being or at least appearing to be more like an indie film without having the heavy handedness of the film studio’s marketing team, not such a crazy thought.
2 1/3 stars
As I walk through the glass doors I am immediately aware my movements throughout the store are being tracked. It is okay, I really do not mind. I have my list and know where I can find each item. Though I am quick to get through the store, I do pause whenever I see a new product on the shelves or displayed at the end caps. You see I am a marketer’s dream consumer; I enjoy trying out new products. Sometimes when I am navigating through the store I feel like I am on a treasure hunt, searching for new discoveries in the food kingdom. I like trying new items if they fit into my food requirements. If I find something that I think is delicious, I immediately want to share it with other people; that is if I do not devour all of it on a weekend. Naw, I will go buy another package to share. However, I understand that things I think taste good someone else may think are horrible. I do not have a problem with that because it is nothing I take personally; we each like and dislike different things. Regarding my movie reviews you may notice I rarely will tell you what you should or should not do. I only let you know what affect the film had on me. There is no ulterior motive on my part and I take offense when a movie is made with an agenda like this one. FROM different backgrounds and places in their lives, a group of strangers each discover the same revelation on their own. Before reviewing this faith based picture I want to reiterate I am not commenting nor want to get into a discussion about religion; I consider that subject to be personal. As a story this dramatic film was completely predictable. It felt as if the writers took snippets from various television shows and pieced them together to make their story. I do not know if it was all the script’s fault or the actors were not on their “A” game but I found nothing good to say about any of them. Part of the cast included Mira Sorvino (The Replacement Killers, Mimic) as Samantha, Cybil Shepherd (The Last Picture Show, Moonlighting-TV) with no name, Lee Majors (The Six Million Dollar Man-TV, The Big Valley-TV) with no name and Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings franchise, The Goonies) as Dr. Farell. The story was hokey to me and it was obvious this film was made for a select audience. I was offended on some levels, especially due to the stereotyping of thugs being Black and the single pregnant female being ethnic, possibly Hispanic. This was a waste of my time, not for my tastes.
1 1/2 stars
Everyone has their own way of offering penance to right a wrong. There are some people who will say they are sorry so many times that it begins to sound like a standard salutation. When I have to I will usually use the word “apologize” instead of “sorry” because for some reason I have it in my brain that the word sorry should be saved for important occasions. I want the word to have deeper meaning when I use it. Instead of verbalizing one’s regrets there are some individuals who will perform an act of kindness to represent the regret of their actions. After the disintegration of an important relationship, where I kept starting my heated sentences with the word “you” instead of sharing my feelings, I spent months volunteering at a few non-profit organizations that represented us. A goal I have for this lifetime is not to leave with any regrets. Sure there are times I feel guilty about something that happened; but before I act upon it I look back to see how I could have handled the situation differently. When someone tells me they wished they did not feel guilty I point out that feeling guilt is a good thing; it shows that we are aware and in touch with our feelings. On the other hand there are people who know how to manipulate others by placing a guilt trip on them. FORMALLY part of a Congo based assassination team Terrier, played by Sean Penn (All the King’s Men, Milk), did not realize when he returned after several years that he would become the target. This action drama film assembled a capable cast. Besides Sean there was Javier Bardem (The Counselor, Eat Pray Love) as Felix, Jasmine Trinca (The Son’s Room, The Big Dream) as Annie and Ray Winstone (Hugo, The Departed) as Stanley. It was obvious Sean put a great deal of time into this role since he bulked up for the character, removing his shirt several times to show it off. This may sound odd but the story was easy to follow; it just did not make much sense. Sadly the script was poorly done where I found myself being bored several times. The truth is once I understood the story I realized the writers had a perfect opportunity to create a compelling, tight script. They failed miserably because there was no tension, suspense or connections between most of the characters. If they thought the violence and bloodshed would suffice, I have to say they were completely wrong. I tried finding good things to say about this crime movie but I could not come up with anything else. There is nothing I have to apologize for with this review. There was blood and violence throughout the movie.
1 1/2 stars
I want my labels to tell me what is in my can of soup or box of cereal. Placing a label on a human being does not do anything for me. Yet so many people like to label individuals as if giving them one makes it easier to categorize them in some imaginary file cabinet. There are some people who believe they are the label given them. I have mentioned previously how in elementary school a teacher told me I would amount to nothing if I wanted to be a writer. From the moment she said that I started to change the way I thought about myself and began focusing on science courses only. In daily conversations I am part of or just hear in passing, people are referring to other folk as stupid, fat or drama queen to name a few. I bristle at such comments; it is people simply making judgements. The other reason I do not like such terms is due to my strong dislike for stereotyping. Having been a victim of it on a variety of levels, I am more comfortable with people who perceive themselves as individuals instead of being part of a group. When you think about it, isn’t it a narrow view to think of oneself as being a part of a group? AFTER being responsible for the collapse of the government; Tris and Four, played by Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars, White Bird in a Blizzard) and Theo James (The Inbetweeners Movie, Underworld: Awakening) needed a safe place to hide from government leader Jeanine, played by Kate Winslet (Labor Day, Revolutionary Road). The hunt for the couple and others like them was intense because Jeanine believed one of the fugitives was the key for her to solidify power under her domain. This adventure science fiction thriller is the 2nd in the series of films based on the popular books. If you did not see the first movie you may have a problem following this one at first. Out of the cast which included newcomer Naomi Watts (The Impossible, St. Vincent) as Evelyn, I thought Shailene and Miles Teller (Whiplash, The Spectacular Now) as Peter were the standouts. I have to say Miles has exceptional timing while Shailene is totally believable. Visually the story was stimulating but I wished the script would have been stronger. Everything seemed to play out on the same level with little variance in emotional depth; keeping in mind I have not read the books. Some scenes did not fit in well with the story’s direction; I wondered if they were meant to be rest stops between the acton scenes. I am not going to label this film by saying I was slightly disappointed; but, I would have appreciated if the writers had spent more time learning about each major character.
2 3/4 stars
It is amazing how quickly they know who to cull from the group. As their eyes narrow to focus on the fidgeting, meandering members of the group; their minds are already in “attack” mode. There are 2 ways they usually strike; one is to take off at full power, the other has them slowly creeping towards the pack. No matter which way they choose, they are confident most of the individual ones will back away from them to avoid getting involved and possibly attacked themselves. The sad thing about this story is it applies to both the animal kingdom and the human world. When I take public transportation I do not focus on my Ipod or phone; I remain aware of my surroundings. There have been times when an individual or small group of people enter the train car with the intentions of harassing a passenger. Whether they are drawing on experience or not, they know the other passengers usually ignore what they are doing or simply get up and change rail cars. It is a sad statement on society but even I know from experience there is strength in numbers. How many of you have witnessed a school fight? As the victim was getting beaten up, how many people tried to stop the fight? From what I remember there were more times than not when the bystanders were cheering the fight. BELFAST, Ireland during the 1970s was a center of conflict. When Gary Hook’s, played by Jack O’Connell (Unwanted, Starred Up), unit was attacked during a riot, he wound up being left behind. Hunted and shot at, this British soldier had very little time left if he wanted to escape with his life. This award winning action movie had an incredible chase scene that was utterly intense. The cast which included Richard Dormer (Mrs Henderson Presents, Good Vibrations) as Eamon, Sean Harris (Prometheus, Harry Brown) as Sandy Browning and Sam Reid (Belle, The Railway Man) as Lt. Armitage really captured the essence of the era. I will tell you I had a challenging time understanding some of the actors’ heavy accents. There was such a dark rawness to this dramatic thriller that it kept me attracted to the story even during the bloody violence. One of the things I appreciated most about this compelling picture was the fact it did not take sides of a well known hatred. It was a story about one man during one night which I found powerful. There certainly were aspects of that group mentality type of thinking about them vs us; but the script showed more layers to it. I still felt that similar type of dread like the kind I experienced in my past. There were scenes with blood and violence.
3 1/4 stars
When you first walked into the place you were hit with a curious aroma of cured meats, baked goods and chicken soup. High above on the back wall behind the massive glass counter hung a variety sausages and salamis, each one hanging like cocoons in different stages of undress. Inside the glass counter were bowls and pans overflowing with such a span of foods you could spend weeks until you had tasted each one. My favorite part was the area off to the side that had bins filled with light and dark colored breads. I remembered how I would stand in line and be offered the end piece from a loaf of bread from one of the employees behind the counter, feeling lucky beyond belief. Just beyond this area was a long counter with stools set in front of it. Here is where you would mostly see men sitting early in the morning eating breakfast. They would be seated with a cup of steaming coffee placed in front of them. All of the men would be folding their tall newspapers into the smallest squares like origami masters, as they waited for their meal. After the counter the space opened up into a large dining room filled with booths and tables that waitresses navigated like errant pinballs. I loved this place because of the food; however, what really made it special for me was the lure the place had on my relatives. They would travel from the suburbs to the city to meet us for a meal. Life at a delicatessen was like being in a whole different world, filled with family recipes, traditions and kinship. THIS documentary could easily make a person hungry. The stars of this film were the few remaining delicatessens left in the United States. At one time there were thousands of them across the country; sadly their numbers have dwindled down to a handful. Part history and part personal stories, some of the individuals interviewed were comedian Jerry Stiller (Hairspray, Seinfeld-TV), newscaster Larry King (Larry King Live-TV) and deli owner Ziggy Gruber of Kenny & Ziggy’s deli in Houston, Texas. I was fascinated more by the historical aspects of the story than listening to the deli owners talk about their personal lives. Granted it was somewhat interesting from a sociological stance, but I found them becoming similar and a bit boring. Possibly it may have been caused by the amount of places visited like Katz’s and 2nd Avenue Deli. I am not sure this film will interest a lot of people; it may be more of a niche movie. If you have never been to a deli, you might find the food portions obscene. Besides, the food was not meant to be fancy or trendy; it was simply good solid comfort food that could easily trigger a fond memory.
I have learned never agree or add my opinion to someone who is in the middle of a rant about someone close to them. Let them carry on with their derogatory remarks, their name calling and variety of colorful adjectives; unless you know the history those two share, it will be better to be the thoughtful supportive friend. Time after time I have seen where the individual says whatever they want about the person; but when someone else utters a disparaging word they will scold them, telling them not to talk that way about their friend or relative. In a way it is sort of comical to me. Though I have to tell you, the thing that really gets me is when newscasters are reporting on a suspected criminal and they interview a relative of the suspect. More times than not the relative will say something positive about the suspect, like he was a good boy or she always got good grades in school. First of all what does that have to do with the crime? I hope this does not sound judgmental but I cannot imagine what it must feel like for a parent who has a child that brings them heartbreak or trouble. Even when that is the situation, there still is some truth to that saying, “Blood is thicker than water.” Liam Neeson (The Grey, Taken franchise) played Jimmy Conlon, an infamous mob hit-man. When his estranged son Mike, played by Joel Kinnaman (Safe House, RoboCop), was targeted by childhood friend and mob boss Shawn Maguire’s, played by Ed Harris (The Abyss, Snowpiercer); son Danny, played by Boyd Holbrook (A Walk Among the Tombstones, Gone Girl); Jimmy had no choice but to protect his son. This action, crime drama had some well done chases and fight scenes. There was one particular chase scene that was intense and well orchestrated with excitement and thrills. Liam was not too different from his past tough guy with killer skill roles, though he was a little more broken with this character. To be honest I felt it has really run its course; it is time for Liam to do something different. Besides Liam the other heavyweight in this film was Ed’s character. I so wished the writers would have given the two more screen time together because it would have made this a better film. After a while I started to get bored with the same things happening over and over again. If the script had been stronger this could have helped Liam avoid what has now become another of his movies that had a disappointing opening box office weekend. There were scenes with violence and blood in them.
Do you remember the first time you heard these lyrics, “A dream is a wish your heart makes?” How about these words, “Bibbidi, Bobbidi, Boo?” The first time I saw the animated movie “Cinderella” I was scared of the stepmother. I could not understand how a parent could treat a child that way. But the character that really caught my attention was Gus the mouse because of his size; I could relate to him. The kindness Cinderella showered on him was something I wanted. If memory serves me correctly, I believe this movie was one of the first films that showed me how kindness could beat out evilness. I have seen articles that discussed the perceptions this past fantasy picture was portraying regarding Cinderella being a victim who relied solely on her looks. My interpretation resided along the lines of good vs evil. I hated the stepmother along with her daughters and was excited when Cinderella’s fairy godmother helped her get to the prince’s ball. As I grew older I continued to hope that good would always win over evil, even when it was being sorely tested on me. DIRECTED by Kenneth Branagh (Thor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), this film festival winning live action drama adventure was gorgeous to watch. The sets and costumes were incredible. Starring Lily James (Wrath of the Titans, Downton Abbey-TV) as Cinderella, Cate Blanchett (The Monuments Men, Blue Jasmine) as the stepmother and Richard Marden (A Promise, Game of Thrones-TV) as the prince; they really embodied the essence of the characters I remembered from the animated film. It was obvious they really were striving to make a memorable movie. In fact it was reported when Lily would wear the blue ball gown she could only consume liquids, nothing solid because the outfit was so restrictive. I read Cate could not sit down in some of her outfits and had to lean up onto a slant board to rest between takes; so, I give the actresses extra points for pushing through in their roles. The beginning 20-30 minutes of the movie dragged for me and involved sadness. It has been so long since I saw the animated film that I could not remember if it had dealt with Cinderella’s loss the same way, if at all. My disappointment fell onto the script; I did not know if it was due to my expectations or my memories of previous films, but I needed more drama and passion. Though Cate was terrific, I wanted her to be more evil if that makes sense. It just seemed as if the filming and story were kept at a constant safe level. In my heart I was wishing this would have matched my feelings for the animated Disney film; I guess I can still dream.
2 3/4 stars