Others may find it morbid, but among my close friends it is not unusual for us to tell each other we want to be the one to go first. I am not referring to queuing up for an amusement park ride; I am referring to dying. Before you say, “eeewwww,” let me explain. We are like family to each other; some of us have been friends since elementary school. When one of us says he/she wants to be the first to go, we are saying it would be awful to watch someone else go through the process. It is this way because we love each other so much. Some of us had relatives who lived for a long time that we saw go through the aging process and it was not always easy. On the other hand we have seen through the years some incredible things. We also have talked about what we would like to see in the future. Imagine if one of us could live for a very, very long time. Surely there would be great strides made by mankind; I still have a hope to see a flying car in my lifetime. However, to know you will be seeing everyone you know and love die before you would be a tough thing. I have some friends who are in relationships who hate to even see their significant other ill; they would rather be the one with the illness. Life would take on a new meaning if one never became sick or grew old. ADALINE Bowman, played by Blake Lively (Savages, The Town), stopped growing old. No one could know so she had to keep moving throughout the years, never allowing anyone to get close to her. She had not expected Ellis Jones, played by Michael Huisman (Wild, World War Z), to be so persistent. This dramatic romance presented an interesting quandary both to Adaline and the viewer. I thought the movie was beautifully filmed. The different time periods were well represented. The cast received some heavy hitters in the form of Harrison Ford (Blade Runner, 42) as William Jones and Ellen Burstyn (The Fountain, The Exorcist) as Flemming, which tried to get the rest of the cast to act better. For the most part there was no issue for me with the change in time periods; however, I did tire of the narrator early on. There were a couple of slow and predictable parts to the story. As long as one was able to suspend their belief in reality, then the story could provide a charming tale that would draw the viewer into its world. I may not be wiser but after seeing this intriguing drama I have different thoughts about aging.
2 2/3 stars
Pride means you have a respect for yourself, a sense of happiness when you know you have done something good. There is another form of pride known as false pride. I find this version to be showy or more of a facade. The term “keep up appearances” comes to mind. Some years ago I taught aerobics in a small aerobic studio. The space had this old dark carpeting for the fitness floor and I had to stand on a makeshift wooden stage that was no more than 6 feet wide. We were situated above a clothing store on a busy commercial street. It was my job to be welcoming and upbeat even if there was no hot water or air conditioning. I could deal with stuff like that; however, I had a hard time working for someone who claimed to be a fitness professional but would use illegal drugs in their office. It was such a contradiction; all of the profits were going to their drug habit. I needed the job so I kept quiet, only coming in to teach my classes then leave quickly. After a while the situation began to weigh me further down; it was hard to put on this false front of a gung-ho, cheerful instructor knowing that there may not be enough money to cover my paycheck. Luckily I was able to find another job and resigned from the place. At least I was able to do it, but what about those individuals who have no choice? THERE are no murderers in paradise; at least that was what people were led to believe during the 1950s in the Soviet Union. But after Leo Demidov, played by Tom Hardy (Inception, Lawless), had to read the death notice to his close friend about his son; Leo knew something was not right. This dramatic thriller had a stellar class that really made this picture. Along with Tom there was Noomi Rapace (The Drop, Prometheus) as Raisa Demidov, Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight franchise, Harry Potter franchise) as General Mikhail Nesterov and Joel Kinnaman (Run All Night, RoboCop) as Vasili. This film had an oppressive darkness hanging down on it thanks to the cinematography and sets. I enjoyed all of this so much which makes me sad to say the script was the weak link. The story was ponderous with a few slow passages. As I sat through this movie I felt like there were all these cool puzzle pieces but they were not all fitting together. It seemed to me that there were too many story lines which made this film longer than it needed to be. All I can say is this film had a good front but once you got into it you realized it was not as good as it looked. Brief scenes of violence and blood.
2 1/4 stars
They were the perfect guests for dinner. Always on time, trustworthy and filled with noteworthy stories each time they appeared; many of us had the same nightly guests for supper. They were the newscasters who showed up every day at the dinner hour when our televisions were turned on. I am referring to those TV news anchors when I was growing up. Back then they were sometimes considered family members; they would explain current issues in a way that was unbiased and unfettered. There was no hidden agenda or slanted placement to the presentation of the stories. The same could be said about reporters for the newspapers. That was the beauty of the news during those times; one could get the same story whether it was done verbally or visually. I remember the newspapers being so much thicker than they are now, besides fewer ads then. There were some reporters who had their own weekly or daily columns where they would take a topic, cut it up and spoon feed it to us, the readers. I still hold on to those feelings I had years ago every time I hold a newspaper in my hands. However things are not the same; I do not have the same level of trust anymore. It seems to me the news is based now on getting ratings; the more sensational the story, the higher draw of viewers. In addition, with a majority of media outlets now owned by large corporations I get the feeling there is a hidden agenda to their actions. It is harder to figure out what is really true these days. BEING released from the New York Times due to a falsified story reporter Michael Finkel, played by Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Sitter), became an untouchable in the news world. Finding a job seemed like an impossible task until murder suspect Christian Longo, played by James Franco (The Interview, Palo Alto), was taken into custody claiming he was Michael Finkel. Based on actual events this dramatic mystery seemed to have all the elements for making a thrilling picture. I liked the cast which included Felicity Jones (The Invisible Woman, The Theory of Everything) as Jill Barker; however, I only found James to be the most believable. The script was overdone, plodding along to the point where I was bored through portions of the movie. It was too bad because I rather enjoyed the camera work with its variety of close-ups and uncluttered scenes. The beginning of the film was stronger; I kept losing interest as time went on. Though the story had an interesting base, I just could not get into it. I felt the same way about this film as I do about the news; I did not buy into everything I was being shown.
Maybe it is their antics or the way they make eye contact with us, but there is something about monkeys that gives one a sense of familiarity. From my first stuffed animal I received after my birth, I have always had a fondness for our simian cousins. What I am about to say may sound odd to some of you; but from all the animals I have encountered either at a zoo or nature park, the eyes of monkeys convey more to me than any other animal. There is a soulfulness to their eyes that makes one feel they are looking at an old soul. Fortunately there are 2 major zoos close to where I live, so I have access to visiting them frequently. Now I know what I just said about the eyes can apply to some of our pets; trust me I know, who doesn’t melt when they look into the loving eyes of their pet. It is funny how we tend to humanize the different species within the monkey population; just take a look at the movie franchise, “Planet of the Apes.” Gorillas tend to be cast as the enforcers or the heavy muscle (except the cartoon character Magilla Gorilla). Orangutangs are looked at as either the brainy or unintelligent ones. Then there are the monkeys and chimpanzees who know how to have fun and are quite inquisitive. Maybe it is my own prejudices but I never associate war or fighting when it comes to monkeys. FROM Disneynature films this documentary was filmed in the jungles of South Asia about a family of monkeys. Directed by Mark Linfield (Earth, Chimpanzee) and narrated by Tina Fey (Muppets Most Wanted, Date Night), this movie was no less beautiful than the others from the film studio. It was incredibly shot with some scenes that one just had to sit and wonder how the camera people were able to get such close-up action. If you sit through the credits you will find out how they did it. Compared to previous animal based documentaries, I did not mind this film’s story. It provided some chuckles, touching moments, a couple of sad things and a few scenes of disbelief. I had to wonder if some scenes was staged because I could not believe what I was seeing on screen. From the first song of the soundtrack I actually burst out laughing because it was perfect for the scene. You will understand when you see it. Whether the scenes depicted were actually happening among the monkeys it did not matter to me. The story was good enough to the point where I believed it and as far as I was concerned, I was being entertained. I just wished my stuffed monkey was here to have seen it.
It drives me crazy when a computer function does not work. On the monitor a small warning pops up and tells me the procedure failed; then has the nerve to make me press the “okay” button like I have a choice. I want to say no, it is not okay now fix it. The way I look at it I want computers to correct themselves if they are so smart. Now intelligently I understand they cannot think for themselves, but it certainly seems we are going in that direction. With the variety of electronic devices we use these days, some of our computers know more about ourselves than our family or friends. Instead of typing we can talk to our computers, use sign language and maybe soon facial recognition. Just this morning on the news I saw a report of a robot with a human face that has over 40+ pulleys underneath so the robot can provide visual facial cues besides verbal ones. I have to tell you it creeped me out a bit. Maybe it is because of all the science fiction movies I have seen; but the smarter computers are becoming the more concerned I am of their power. There is all this talk about artificial intelligence; do you ever think there will be a time where a computer will refuse one of our requests? It is a frightening thought and this dramatic science fiction film does not make me feel any better about it. WINNING a company contest computer programmer Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson (Unbroken, About Time), won a week at the company CEO’s remote private residence. Upon his arrival he discovered he would be testing a new form of artificial intelligence never seen before and her name was Ava, played by Alicia Vikander (Seventh Son, A Royal Affair). This film festival winning movie quickly drew me in with its crisp sleek look. I enjoyed how the scenes blended in with the soundtrack to create a buildup of tension. The acting was excellent from everyone, particularly by Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year, Robin Hood) as Nathan. He had a commanding presence on screen. For the majority of the film the script kept my interest; there were only a few parts that seemed to deflate and slow down. For such a modern and relevant story, there was an exciting old fashioned type of cat and mouse mystery game going on which was captivating. This picture had the type of science fiction story that could be considered closer to reality than fiction, which was a scary thought to me. I kept thinking about this movie after it was over. After you see this film you may get a better understanding about my fears when it comes to smart computers. There were a couple of brief scenes with blood.
3 1/4 stars
Right in the middle of a conversation the two were having, a little head popped up behind the shoulder of one of them. With big eyes staring out from the cherubic baby’s blank face, the conversation was placed on hold. One or both of them will more than likely do one of the following things: talk in a high voice, cross their eyes, wave their hand or make some type of funny face. Any one of those acts were performed with the hope of getting a smile or laugh out of the baby. I see this happening all the time; sitting in a restaurant booth and a baby or young child in the next booth turns around and stares at you. Make a silly face and the child usually gurgles with laughter or reacts with a wide open mouthed grin on their face. Being silly can be a therapeutic experience. Haven’t we all at one time or another acted silly? I tend to act or say something silly to break the ice when I find myself in a room filled with strangers. However, there is a big risk involved if one chooses this method; if no one laughs then you look like a fool. Another time where I will use silliness or humor as an option is when I find myself in a heavy emotional situation; it is like my default button, but in this case it may be genetic since I am not the only one who does this within my family. My philosophy is I would rather laugh than cry if I am given a choice. Laughter just makes things easier in my opinion. Silliness was served in this security guard sequel. Taking a break from his duties as a mall cop Paul Blart, played by Kevin James (Here Comes the Boom, Hitch), and his daughter Maya, played by Raini Rodriguez (Girl in Progress, Paul Blart: Mall Cop), traveled to Las Vegas for a well deserved vacation. Though Paul was away from his security job, his security instincts were telling him something wrong was going on in the hotel. This action comedy sequel was one long series of silly gags that did not initiate one laugh out of me. Kevin was milking every line throughout this movie. With other cast members like Neal McDonough (Flags of our Fathers, Star Trek: First Contact) as Vincent and Daniella Alonso (The Collector, The Hills Have Eyes II) as Divina, there was not much in the script that allowed the cast to make something out of their characters. I was bored through most of this film. Everyone has their own idea of what is silly; if you found the trailer funny than you might like this picture. For me the trailer showed me everything I needed to know.
1 1/3 stars
They were different times back then; an age prior to the sheen of political correctness and the term, “time out.” Back then punishments were doled out with non-negotiable terms. Not only could one’s own parents differ in their style of implementation, each set of parents in the neighborhood varied tremendously on what they considered to be a just punishment. I remember one mother down the street would stand on the porch and threaten her son that she was going to send him away to a bad boy’s school. Another parent would impose a curfew on any of her children if they acted up; usually this meant they could only go outside to go to school, but then come straight home and stay in the house. I can still remember a couple of friends who would get smacked in the head if they got in trouble. No one ever questioned these actions nor did anyone call the Department of Children and Family Services. I am a firm believer in doling out a proper punishment for the “crime.” Granted it is steeped in a foundation of reasoning and I know there are some times one cannot reason with a screaming child. However, I like the idea of explaining if these actions continue then this will be the consequences…and follow through with it. Some of you may recall a few of the stories I have mentioned previously about the things that took place in my high school. This dramatic action film could give my school a run for its money. BASTOY was an island where juvenile delinquent boys would be sent to do time. Harsh punishment was the norm for any infraction, but that did not seem to stop the newest boy named Erling/C-19, played by Benjamin Helstad (Body Troopers, Permafrost). The rumor going around was Erling had been sent because he had murdered someone. This film festival winning dramatic movie was based on a true story and what a story it was. Set in the early 20th century in Norway, the entire look of the film was a continuous grim harshness. It worked perfectly for the well done script. Speaking of the script, I enjoyed the way it drew the viewer into the story. With actors such as Stellan Skarsgard (The Avengers, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Bestyreren, Trond Nilssen (All That Matters is Past, Sons of Norway) as Olav/C-1 and Kristoffer Joner (The Monitor, Next Door) as Brathen; I thought the entire cast did a wonderful job with their characters. As I sat and watched this film I wondered how different the story would have been if it had taken place today. A frightening thought either way. Norwegian and Swedish was spoken with English subtitles.
3 1/2 star — DVD
Only a friend has the right to tell another friend they are being dumb. If someone else tries to do it they will be met with a strong reaction. This is part of what it means to be friends. I will come to the defense of any friend who is being attacked. In one of my college science classes I became friends with my lab partner and we would hang out with other students in the class. After a couple of get togethers socially I noticed one of the students tended to act differently towards my lab partner compared to the other people. It started out in subtle ways with things like answering my partner’s questions with short answers and making little eye contact with them. At some point my friend and I talked about it, wondering if anyone else in the group had noticed it. You may recall I believe there are no accidents; so, when an opportunity came up where I bumped into this other student at the campus library, I brought up my observations to them. It turned out they did not like my lab partner because he was of a similar heritage as a robber who had shot his uncle dead a couple of years ago back home. I asked him if he realized my friend had nothing to do with his tragic loss, while inside my head the word “prejudice” was flashing. Instead of looking up information for our class assignment the two of us sat in a small alcove of the library and discussed the situation. I understood where he was coming from, but I was determined to show and explain the limitations he was laying down for his life, besides having a frank talk about the dangers of being prejudiced based on the looks of a person. THEIR country being torn apart by civil unrest, several Liberian missionaries must trek across and out of the country in order to protect one of their members. Based on true events this dramatic thriller had a story line I could relate to: protecting a friend. I only wished a friend would have protected me from this amateurish film. With a cast of newcomers and a script that lacked any excitement or emotional depth, I was painfully bored throughout this movie. I cannot say with certainty but I believe this is another of these faith based films that the movie studio feels all they need is religion to sell it. This is not the case; people want to see something good that is done well. For a time frame filled with such horror and violence being done against its people, this picture was a flatliner. Please excuse me now, I have to go warn my friends about this film.
1 1/2 stars
Our usual ammunition was snowballs and squirt guns, with the occasional water balloon bombs. But when a friend came up with the brilliant idea to freeze the water balloons first, our parents put a stop to it when one friend on the enemy’s side got a black eye from one of our frozen balloons. In wintertime when a heavy wet snow would fall, my friends and I would be outside building forts, stockpiling them with snowballs. During summer we would choose different apartment buildings to be our designated headquarters as we would sneak through alleys and gangways for a surprise attack on our enemies. This was the extent of our war games; it was based on what we learned about warfare in school. From our textbooks and videos we saw war as a distant game filled with bombs and guns. There really was no personal connection for most of us. It was not until new neighbors moved into our apartment building, that I got a deeper understanding of how war affects all of us. One of the new neighbors had a series of numbers tattooed on her forearm. It was the first time I had seen such a thing so I asked her about it. She explained to me how she was a concentration camp survivor which led to multiple questions from me. From that point on, whenever the subject of war came up in class, I would always go and ask her opinion. I discovered there were and had been many horrors done throughout the world. AFTER defeating the Chinese troops in the city of Nanking during the year 1937, the Japanese troops settled into a six week reign of terror against the city’s residents. Though I was familiar with the history of this event, this film festival winning drama was utterly riveting. Filmed in black and white, the story unfolded with the assistance of seeing things through the eyes of three different individuals. There was Hideo Nakaizumi (Who’s Camus Anyway, Scout Man) as Kadokawa, Wei Fan (Back to 1942, Set Off) as Mr. Tang and Yuanyuan Gao (Beijing Bicycle, Caught in the Web) as Miss Jiang. I thought it was brilliant the way the director shot this historical war movie; there was a direct approach that needed no special effects or swooning melodrama. Honestly, this was one of the most realistic portrayals I have seen in a World War II film. It also had some hard scenes of brutality and horror, besides violence and blood. Speaking to a friend after seeing this picture, she asked me why I watch such movies. The reason is to remind me that war is not a kid’s game. Chinese, Japanese, German and English was spoken with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
Except for that one teacher in elementary school, I cannot recall someone telling me I could not join or participate in an activity. Now granted I got the message loud and clear during those times where I was picked last to be on a team, so there were certain sports games I shied away from. I remember my summer camp days provided me a variety of activities to explore. There was an archery class where my first arrow hit the metal baseboard below the target, sending sparks up into the air just like in a cartoon. I had a woodworking class where I made a coat rack out of geometric shapes that I painted in primary colors; it hung on my bedroom wall for several years. Based on my past experiences in school PE classes, I would be the last person to be picked to become an aerobics instructor, yet no one stopped me and I became certified to teach classes. When I decided I wanted to learn yoga, no one told me I was not flexible enough so I could not go. I do not have it in my brain to discourage someone from attempting to fulfill one of their passions. If anyone tells me they wish they could do such and such, I usually ask what is stopping them. When the movie Footloose came out I thought it was a fantasy film because I could not believe there would be a law that banned dancing; I later discovered in some circles it really was not allowed. BORN during the wrong time all Afshin Ghaffarian, played by Reece Ritchie (Hercules, The Lovely Bones), wanted to be was a dancer. Unfortunately dancing was banned in his country; but Afshin was determined to somehow express himself via dance. Based on a true story this drama had all the markings to be a tense exciting experience. The story was set during turbulent times in Iran. There was a ban on dancing, the rebellious dancer wannabe, a love interest, conflicts, punishments; everything was here to create a dynamite story. Sadly this movie was incredibly dull. With Freida Pinto (Trishna, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) as Elaheh, Tom Cullen (Weekend, Downton Abbey-TV) as Ardavan and Nazanin Boniadi (The Next Three Days, Homeland-TV) as Parisa Ghaffarian; I thought the cast could easily handle the scenes and they probably would have if the script had been good. The parts that should have been scary with intensity lacked power, while the intimate portions were simply bland. This biographical film contained two things I enjoy seeing: people dancing and exotic settings. The desert scenery was beautiful as was the dancing, but none of it moved me enough to become fully involved in this true story.
1 3/4 stars