The spoken language is not an exact science. Sure there are rules we follow to aid us in communicating with each other; but some choose their words carefully, others say the first thing that pops into their mind. Then there is the inflection, the way we speak our words; some do so with conscious intentions. However, there are times where the intended remarks may come out in a veiled way that leaves them open for interpretation. By using tone, volume and speed to accentuate the words; they can caress a person’s soul like a velvet blanket or prick their heart with the tip of a sharp dagger. Adults seem to be better equipped to decipher what a person is saying to them. Children on the other hand are a whole different matter. They do not have the skills to navigate the convoluted road of language yet. A child proudly handing his parents a report card filled with all A’s and one B for grades thinks something is wrong when he is asked why he received the B and the A’s are ignored. Being told you are not drawing correctly because you are coloring outside the lines can plant the seeds of doubt in the child’s mind that they will never be an artist. WORDS hit their mark with precision accuracy in this dramatic movie. Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man franchise, The Soloist) played high-powered lawyer and estranged son Hank Palmer. Robert Duvall (Secondhand Lion, The Godfather franchise) played Hank’s father, Judge Joseph Palmer. When evidence from a crime pointed towards his father, Hank’s conflicted feelings would spill out as he tried to determine if his father was guilty. To this film’s credit the cast chosen for the story was ideal. Besides both Roberts, having Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade, Armageddon) as lawyer Dwight Dickham and Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket, Law & Order: Criminal Intent-TV) as Hank’s brother Glen Palmer on board helped to sustain the story. I found all the actors were believable with their characters. The issue I had with this picture was the script; it was uneven and stale. I found some scenes were memorable, filled with high drama; but then, the drama would fall down into sections of boredom. It did not help that the film was way too long. The whole story line involving Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring, Up in the Air) as Samantha Powell went nowhere for me; I thought she was wasted here. From the trailer it appeared this drama would be filled with high tension and intense chemistry between the characters. Sadly, the evidence proved otherwise.
2 1/3 stars
Actions reveal more about a person than their words. There are some individuals who use their words as a way to accentuate the meaning of their actions. Throughout my life I have been reminded over and over that actions speak louder than words. Some people are quick to say things they think someone wants to hear as a way to avoid being an active participant with that person. I have noticed however that actions can quickly bond people together. Spending one’s elementary school years with the same classmates connects them in a special way that can remain for a lifetime. When events are of an extreme nature, they have the power to connect people in such a rapid way that solidifies their relationship on a high level. This makes all of the participants act as one unified force. An easy example of this would be any sports team. Having grown up around veterans from every war since world war II, it is quite apparent they have a unique and special bond that is not found among civilians. ALLIED forces were making their final push through the European landscape in April 1945. Army sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier, played by Brad Pitt (World War Z, Fight Club), and his tank crew had orders to secure and defend a crucial crossroad against the advancing Nazi troops. If they could not successfully carry out their mission, there was a chance the allied forces would suffer a major defeat in their campaign. This action war film was one of the most intense movies I have sat through in a long time. There will be some of you that will not be able to take the assault on their eyes from the intense violence and blood in some of the scenes. Putting that aside, this drama from writer/director David Ayer (End of Watch, Training Day) was so well done; I found myself holding my breath several times out of anxiousness. Brad and the actors who made up his tank crew, Shia LaBeouf (Transformers franchise, Lawless) as Boyd “Bible” Swan, Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson franchise, 3:10 to Yuma) who was the biggest standout as Norman Ellison, Michael Pena (End of Watch, American Hustle) as Trini “Gordo” Garcia and Jon Bernthal (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Ghost) as Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis were all so good that I totally took them to be soldiers. If there was any fault to this film I felt some of the violence was overdone. Granted I have never been involved with armed conflict but it started to feel excessive, whereas I would have preferred learning more about each solider. That being said, prepare yourself for battle if you are going to see this intense film.
3 1/3 stars
A grocery store is the perfect example to show you. Within the store the aisles are broken down into categories. As you walk down let us say aisle 3 you find boxes of cereal, each with its own colorful markings to entice you like proud fan-tailed peacocks. Those boxes are grouped together by manufacturers; however, if you keep pushing your cart down the aisle you will find boxes of cereal that have different packaging but the contents are similar to the first group of cereals you passed. You see each box has something in common; except for a slight difference in its properties, every kind of cereal starts out with some type of grain. After the grain is chosen a variety of ingredients are mixed in with the grains. Depending on the amounts, the cooking time and the molds; the cereals will have varying degrees of sweetness, color, shape and texture. Despite these differences all cereals (Yes, I know I am being kind here) provide the same thing: nourishment. It is the same way I think of human beings. Our outer surfaces may vary from person to person, but our insides come with the same common organs such as lungs, liver and heart; though I have come across some individuals where I questioned if they really had a heart. All I am saying is our bodies are simply rented vehicles to keep our true essence contained within us. To judge someone solely based on what they look like is at the very least abhorrently repugnant to me. BACK in 1997 actor Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight franchise, The Bucket List) made an offer to the Charleston, Mississippi school board; he would pay all the expenses if the board agreed to have only one prom for the high school seniors. Up until that time the high school held 2 proms, one for its white students and one for the black students. The school board turned Morgan down. In 2008 Morgan, who grew up in Charleston, returned to town to present his offer again. This film festival winning documentary showed what happened when Morgan met with the school board about his proposal. Maybe I am naive but I was stunned while watching this film. I know the world is filled with discrimination; but to see it at the school level, a place of higher learning, was startling for me. Incorporating interviews with the parents, students and officials helped to keep the story moving forward in an important way. I not only felt this movie was worth watching, I also enjoyed being reminded of my own prom; the difference being I did not have to dress up in a tuxedo.
3 stars — DVD
Though pretty much everyone wants to be told the truth, not everyone wants to hear it. When asking someone what they think of your new item of clothing, who really wants to hear that it looks ugly or unflattering on you? I realize there may be times where it would serve no useful purpose to tell someone the truth, such as an elderly parent who is in the throws of dementia that one of their children had died. Similarly, a young child at the center of their parents’ bitter divorce does not need to hear all the sordid details about their mother or father, I would think. My friends tell me I am brutally honest to a fault. I am aware what I say can initially seem hurtful; but I expect the same honesty in return. I cannot tell you how many dates I have had where I asked if they would like to get together again and was told yes. For me it is more hurtful when they never return my follow up calls; I would rather be told right at the start that they are not interested. What is the big deal to say no thank you? I would not take it personally since they do not even know me; however, I realize there are some who feel uncomfortable expressing their true feelings. TRUTH did not come about easily in this dramatic crime film based on a true story. Jeremy Renner (The Avengers, The Hurt Locker) played investigative news reporter Gary Webb, who stumbled onto a story that would affect the standing of the United States Government on a global scale. I vaguely remember parts of this story since there was another noteworthy event taking place around the same time as this one which involved drugs for guns. Along with Jeremy the entire cast which included Rosemarie DeWitt (Men, Women & Children, The Watch) as Gary’s wife Sue, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Die Hard franchise) as Anna Simons and Oliver Platt (Love & Other Drugs, 2012) as Jerry Ceppos, were all outstanding in their roles. The tightly woven scenes produced a continuous flow of suspense that kept me riveted in my seat. I especially enjoyed the insertion of actual film clips into the scenes as the director kept up a steady pace with the filming. There were only a couple of parts that felt slow to me; however, I understood the reasoning since the story was biographical. In fact, it added an extra level of poignancy to this powerful film and that is the truth.
3 1/3 stars
Luck is such a fickle, fluidic vehicle of fate. You cannot depend on it because it is unreliable, at least for some folks. There are terms you may have heard such as, “Born with a lucky horseshoe up their bum” or “If they didn’t have bad luck, they would have no luck at all,” that describe people who seem to be visited frequently by “Lady Luck.” I have noticed that when luck chooses to visit me in a negative way it usually returns in rapid succession once or twice immediately afterwards. Just this past weekend when I was trying to fly back home I wound up being stuck at the airport due to my flight being delayed. Upon the first delay I remembered thinking just my luck, I will have to find something to eat for dinner at the airport. Now someone could say I was lucky to find something to eat; but in my brain, I was upset because a mixed green salad, fruit cup, snack sized bag of chips and a small bottle of water cost me $21.00. When the flight was delayed for the second time I realized I would miss the opportunity to catch a film on the way home after landing. By the 3rd delay I was getting anxious because I did not know if public transportation would still be running. Finally arriving late at night, I missed the train as it pulled out of the station and had to wait 15 minutes for the next one. Finally exiting at my stop it started raining as I walked 20 minutes to my car, parked at my office. I could certainly relate to the main character of this family comedy regarding having a bad day. ALEXANDER, played by Ed Oxenbould (Puberty Blues-TV), was used to having a bad day. However, when his family members all began to experience one of his typical bad days Alexander was not sure they would be able to handle it. Based on Judith Viorst’s book series, this comedic drama stayed at a steady pace thanks to the director. With Steve Carell (The Way Way Back, The Office-TV) and Jennifer Garner (Dallas Buyers Club, Valentine’s Day) as Alexander’s parents Ben and Kelly Cooper, the cast was well suited to handle both the comedic and dramatic sides of the story. The trailer was a good representation of the film; the unlucky events were consistent. There was nothing major in a negative way in this movie; I just found it a bit too fluffy for my tastes and a bit predictable. As for the rest of my day afterwards, this movie did not contribute either way in making it a good or bad day.
2 1/3 stars
Sometimes I wish I could have seen the earlier years of a person I have known or recently met. An individual, no matter how hard they have tried, will still act out a particular way based on past interactions from their life. I am sure all of us have had times where we silently wondered why a person was acting a certain way. It could be something as benign as not liking candles or as wicked as mercilessly teasing a cat or dog. I knew someone who rarely gave an opinion about anything. Being asked where they wanted to eat or what movie to see, they could not voice their thoughts, only say whatever or it did not matter. It wasn’t until I happened to meet their parent that I finally saw the reason why they were acting that way. The parent was overbearing and quick to belittle their child. My curiosity goes beyond people in the present; I would enjoy finding out what transpired with historical people, like Napoleon or Catherine the Great, that influenced or molded them that has not been told in our history books. Purely for entertainment value, I find taking liberties with a known character or actual person an acceptable form; look at the success of Wicked, the story about how the Wicked Witch of the West came to be. VLAD III dubbed Vlad the Impaler, played by Luke Evans (Immortals, Fast & Furious III), was an ideal candidate to use to create an action fantasy backstory. Protective of his family and subjects, not wanting to see the children of his kingdom experience what he had as a child, Vlad would have to look beyond his kingdom if he was going to repel the Sultan Mehmed, played by Dominic Cooper (The Devil’s Double, Need for Speed). His search would lead to a force that could even overpower him. The idea for this dramatic story was appealing to me and I found the opening scenes compelling. Joining Luke and Dominic was Charles Dance (Game of Thrones-TV, Gosford Park) as Master Vampire; all three had a strong screen presence. The special effects were not the greatest but were darkly fun to watch. With a good start it was all the more disappointing that the script got sillier and sillier as the film progressed. Seriously, I was stunned that the writers thought the idea of a blindfolded army going into battle was a good idea. Add in the trendy haircut for Dominic’s character Mehmed and this was a movie sorely lacking the guts for a great backstory. There were multiple scenes that had blood and violence.
1 3/4 stars
Deep within the Amazon Jungle I saw a pair of dark, wide eyes peering out at me through dense, overflowing foliage. A separate time I was able to revisit Florence Italy where I had climbed up to the top of Il Duomo di Firenza, the main church of the city. Friends have told me about their ability to see the birth of a child from across the country. They have also told me some of their horror stories involving deceitful people. In the news recently I heard how retail chains were hacked and their customers’ charge card information was stolen.I did not have to listen because I already knew about it when my credit card information was stolen. Until the credit card company called me to verify a purchase that was being done in a different state from where I lived, I had no idea someone had grabbed my information. All of the things I have mentioned so far were made possible by the internet. Ah yes, the internet; where it can take you to far remote spots of the world to witness the discovery of a rare plant, while its evil side robs you of your identity while you sleep. For me, using the internet is akin to relating to someone with a split personality disorder; it can be so rewarding, yet extremely challenging. PEOPLE have to constantly adjust the way they relate to each other due to the power of the internet. Writer/director Jason Reitman (Juno, Labor Day) assembled a large cast of actors for this drama based on the novel, about the twists and turns people must navigate in their daily lives due to the accessibility of the internet. A few of the actors in this film were Adam Sandler (Blended, That’s My Boy) and Rosemarie DeWitt (The Watch, Rachel Getting Married) who played Don and Helen Truby, a married couple looking for something more than they had in their marriage. Jennifer Garner (Draft Day, Dallas Buyers Club) played overprotective mother Patricia Beltmeyer to her daughter Brandy, played by Kaitlyn Dever (Short Term 12, The Spectacular Now). Out of all the actors in this movie the only two that stood out for me were Kaitlyn and Ansel Elgort (Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars) as Tim Mooney. Their story line and acting were the most interesting to me. I found the rest of the cast somewhat dull but considering the script went nowhere it was understandable. For most of this film I sat in my seat being bored. With the absence to a beginning, a middle and defined conclusions to the different story lines I felt I was only seeing bits and pieces of people’s lives; similar to mindlessly surfing the internet for hours.
1 3/4 stars
I have been fortunate to have met several noteworthy individuals in my life, mostly on a statewide level. There were however a few famous celebrities I have seen, just never had the chance to actually talk to them. In regards to myself, I have no aspirations of being famous. My only hope is to get through this life without hurting anyone’s feelings. This does not mean I do not want to be part of a historical event, however. One of my dreams is to be sitting in the audience at the Oscar Awards telecast. If I were to break my desire down to a more basic level, one of the reasons I love traveling to different places is so if they wind up in the news I can say I was there; I was at the place they were talking about. For whatever reason, I get great pleasure in being able to say this. Imagine being at an event, whether it is cultural, sporting or on an international scale and something extraordinary takes place that will be talked about, to be remembered by future generations. I do not know about you but I would love to be part of that convergence of remarkable, famous, historical, life changing and any other adjective one could think of events. BURSTING into our conscience at the 1987 Monterey Pop Festival Jimi Hendrix, played by Andre Benjamin (Idlewood, Battle in Seattle), was something new and different in the musical world. With his dominance over his guitar playing and his cool funky look, maybe some but not all fans at the festival realized they were going to be witnessing history. Having only seen film clips of Jimi’s performances, I was looking forward to seeing this musical biography. Andre was so cool and gifted in this role. I do not know if it was a spot on performance of Jimi per se; but it sure came across the movie screen as believable. The whole retro look of this drama played well with some of the actors such as Imogen Poots (That Awkward Moment, Need for Speed) as Linda Keith and Hayley Atwell (The Duchess, Captain America franchise) as Kathy Etchingham; besides being fun to watch on a visual level. Where this film failed was the screenplay. The entire movie felt like it was trying to cram in as much as they could in the chosen time frame and all it wound up doing was providing snippets of Jimi’s life with little substance. I never felt connected to the characters which led me to periodically being bored. It would not matter if you are a fan of his type of music or not, the movie intended to show the beginnings of a musical genius. Unfortunately it never reached iconic proportions of its musical star.
2 1/3 stars
Those initial first experiences are what gets played in most people’s heads when they encounter them again later in life. I refer to this as recordings in my head. Gratefully as I have aged I now have the ability to fast forward some of them when they crop up just as I am encountering some new situation that resembles a past experience. An example would be individuals who had a bad experience the first time they went to a dentist. Chances are their future visits were accompanied with a bit of dread. There used to be an amusement park in the city that had a creepy looking fun house. The first time I went there my cousins convinced me to go with them into the fun house. I was not scared initially by the exterior with its dark shadowed walls and large doorway that looked like a clown’s gaping mouth with yellowed teeth. As we entered, however, we were immediately thrust into darkness; there were only a few dim lights that barely cast a weak glow. For some reason I became separated from the rest of the group and wound up getting stuck in a maze of mirrored passageways. Each turn I took I would encounter some action that scared me further. I finally was retrieved after I began screaming and crying. From that experience it took a long time before I could enter a fun house without having a preconceived sense of fear. BUILT-IN fan base with some expectations would be a reason to do a prequel to a successful film which is why I believe director John R Leonetti (The Conjuring, Insidious) was on board for this horror movie. Soon to be parents Mia and John Gordon, played by Annabelle Wallis (Body of Lies, The Tudors-TV) and Ward Horton (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Mighty Macs), began experiencing frightening events after John bought Mia a gift of an antique doll for her collection. I had high hopes for this prequel since I had enjoyed John R. Leonetti’s previous picture The Conjuring. Unfortunately the poorly written script deflated much of the fear out of this film. It seemed as if the writers were randomly plopping down quick scenes to scare the viewer without much suspense. The acting did not do anything for me including the performance out of Alfre Woodward (12 Years a Slave, The Family That Preys) as bookshop owner Evelyn. With this film I felt the movie studio saw the success of The Conjuring and hurriedly decided they could earn more money by turning it into a franchise. Frankly the only thing I found scary was the possibility they would make another movie of this caliber. There were a few scenes that had blood and violence.
1 3/4 stars
Once again I was peering into the kitchen sink with its stopped up drain. The still, murky dishwater had a few mounds of suds that aimlessly drifted across the surface like melting icebergs. I had already poured some liquid drain opener into the sink but there were no signs of any movement. Looking in the basement over by my tools I came across an unopened box that contained a device that claimed to clear drains. I had seen an advertisement for it but had not used it yet. Returning with it to the kitchen I broke open the sealed box flap and poured the contents onto the kitchen counter. At first glance the items looked like a pile of tired snakes, gray with red tips. I followed the instructions on how to assemble the pieces. When I was done I was not sure which end was to go into the sink first. Inserting one end into the drain I pushed down on the air pump but nothing happened. Flipping to the other side I tried again but not even an air bubble came up to the water’s surface. Repeating the process again with the other end, the air pump still did not deliver its claim to clear the drain with forced air; the device was a useless piece of garbage. SIMILARLY, this faith based film reminded me of my clogged kitchen drain: dead in the water filled with rubbish. Nicholas Cage (Moonstruck, Leaving Las Vegas) played commercial pilot Rayford Steele, who was piloting a flight overseas to London when a portion of the passengers suddenly disappeared into thin air. Unable to contact anyone at flight control, it was not until he heard from his daughter Chloe, played by Cassi Thomson (Grave Halloween-TV, Big Love-TV), that he discovered people were mysteriously vanishing all over the world. Flying blind, Rayford was not sure if he would be able to safely land. I do not know where to start regarding all the things that were wrong with this action thriller. Besides being utterly offensive in the way they used stereotypes such as the “smart” asian man and the “suspicious” middle easterner, the script was cheesy and pathetic. The acting if you want to call it that was sad from everyone including Lea Thompson (Back to the Future franchise, J. Edgar) as Irene Steele and Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill-TV, House of Wax) as Buck Williams. Seeing the character Chloe going from riding a motorcycle to a piece of heavy equipment was laughable. It was brutal sitting through this film as it pounded its faith based agenda into the viewers’ heads. No way would I even consider this a movie; it was bigoted propaganda. This garbage needed to be flushed down the drain since nothing was going on except a paycheck.