Desperation widens the mind’s pool of irrational thoughts. This will send waves to slip up onto logic’s shores. Boy is this true when money is needed to survive. When I was between jobs a long time ago, I was willing to do anything to earn a paycheck to pay my mounting bills. Besides my regular classes I was the go-to sub for other instructors because I had the freest time on my hands. To supplement my income I was always taking small odd jobs like proofreading or delivery service. I remember this one job where I was asked to conduct a yoga demonstration at a grand opening of a hospital’s professional building. The money was good and much needed so I agreed to the event, even though I had some reservations. When I arrived on the opening date I was led to the so-called staging area. They wanted me to stand and perform on a folding table draped in a white tablecloth. As soon as I placed my hand on the table it wobbled from side to side. In addition I was told there was going to be children coming right after their snack time. Without going into the horrific details let me just say I was standing on top of the table in tree pose with kids playing hide-and-go seek under the tablecloth. I thought the money I was earning would have to go for medical bills because I was going to be knocked off my “stage.” OVER their heads in debt with very little income at present; married couple Anna and Tom Wright, played by Kate Hudson (Bride Wars, The Reluctant Fundamentalist) and James Franco (This is the End, Spider-Man franchise), stared at the bag of money they found in their recently deceased tenant’s apartment. They did not know the money had been stolen. This crime action thriller had a good idea that was executed in a completely bad way. Along with James and Kate in the cast there was Tom Wilkinson (Belle, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) as John Halden and Sam Spruell (Defiance, Snow White and the Huntsman) as Jack Witkowski; one would think there would have been a chance of seeing a decent film come out of them. Sorry, this wsa not the case because the script was atrocious and ridiculous. I only thought Sam’s acting and character was worth my time. Some of the scenes were so far-fetched that I had to laugh; what was everyone thinking they were trying to produce with this movie? In my opinion this was the film the movie studio should have pulled from release.
1 1/2 stars
I was an admirer of this charitable organization; they were doing good work in the community. There were friends who used its services and spoke highly about their visits. Despite my hectic schedule I found time to volunteer from time to time, always finding a friendly and helpful staff. Leading the organization was a powerful individual who could easily command a room. They were a dynamic public speaker, so passionate about the organization’s work. Their speeches would stir and motivate the employees and volunteers to such a high level, one could not help but want to be a part of the “team.” I, like the others, put my trust in this leader; believing everything we were doing was in the best interests of the end user. When news spread about the misappropriation of funds, I had a reaction similar to when someone I care about breaks my trust. It felt like a punch in the stomach that echoed with feeling sadly duped and foolish. Things like this can shake one’s confidence in their ability to detect an unscrupulous person. ENAMORED by his looks and strong presence Ida Dalser, played by Giovanna Mezzogiorno (Don’t Tell, Facing Windows) felt she could act on her strong attraction to this man named Benito Mussollini, played by Filippo Timi (The American, The Double Hour). It appeared he felt the same way about her as the two started a relationship that would reach historical proportions. First of all I do not know if I am in the minority or not, but I had never heard the name Ida Dalser mentioned in any of my past history classes. As you may have guessed I had no idea what this movie was about when I starting watching the DVD. This film festival winning biographical drama was a complete shock to me. Both Giovanna and Filippo were so intense in their characters, I was immediately drawn to them; their acting was incredible. Add in the historical significance of the story and I was glued to the television screen. I thought the directing, the sets and even the costumes all worked at making this a strong, emotionally wrought movie. For the most part the subtitles were easy to read, though I did notice I was getting concerned I would miss something in the scene while reading. I do not believe so since everything I saw made sense to me. After viewing this picture I had to look up further information on Ida. However, I cannot guarantee the authenticity of this picture’s story. If some of the scenes were untrue it did not matter because the story was unbelievable. There was Italian and German languages used with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
Unless there is some kind of hard proof or evidence, I do not quite understand why someone would discourage another person from trying something different. Though I saw more of it during my school years, I still witness people putting a negative spin on someone else who is attempting to do something different from what they would do. You could easily extend this type of negativity to those individuals who were just being different, but that would take up a whole lot more space for today’s review. My way of learning something is to make a mistake because then I can align my logic with reality’s logic; did that make sense to you? I can remember building a science project and the teacher telling me I was doing it wrong. How did she know it was wrong before I was done? The funny thing about it was I had been building a work environment for a left-handed person; so, everything was placed opposite from what the instructor was used to as a right-handed person. Imagine if someone told Albert Einstein he was on the wrong track when he was working on his theory of relativity; I am a firm believer in embracing differences. It is our differences that can make our world a better place. DURING World War II the Nazis were communicating by using an unbreakable code machine called Enigma. Assembling the smartest people of their time, British intelligence was not quite sure about mathematician Alan Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Fifth Estate, Sherlock-TV). He wanted to do something completely different from everyone else. Based on true life events, this film festival winning dramatic thriller was a biographical blend of history, war film and intense excitement. I had some knowledge about Alan going into this picture, but I do not know how much of the movie’s story was true. But you know something; I could not have cared less. This film was so well done with a brilliant cast that also included Keira Knightley (Begin Again, Pride & Prejudice) as Joan Clarke, Charles Dance (Dracula Untold, Game of Thrones-TV) as Commander Denniston and Mark Strong (Body of Lies, Robin Hood) as Stewart Menzies. There was such a vibe of civility and subtleness throughout this movie that Benedict was perfectly able to convey to the viewers; he was truly amazing. I was swept away by this film; going through the same emotions at the same time as the characters were in the story. Just the historical importance of Alan’s role in history was enough to carry this movie, but I was glad there was more included from the writers. I for one was so grateful Alan was different.
Some people’s costumes are more surprising than other ones. With my philosophy about our bodies being rented, add on the things we wear and sometimes we can transform ourselves into a different type of individual. What one person wears for work may change the way they look to someone else. After all these years I still am fascinated when I come across a member from one of my classes outside and away from the health club. Having seen them only in workout wear, it can be a real contrast to see someone dressed up in their work costume such as a power suit or uniform. In fact, the same thing happens to me all the time when a member sees me somewhere other than class. For myself I may form an impression about the person based on our interactions in class; but then when I see them in a different setting, my impression may be out of synch. We all form impressions of people; I refer to it as taking an imaginary photo of a person with our mind and placing it in our back pocket to check on later after spending more time with them. Sometimes the two impressions will match but other times it may be hard to believe what is right in front of our eyes. FROM playing a talking bear comedic actor Andre Allen, played by Chris Rock (Head of State, Grown Ups franchise), wanted to be taken seriously. With his upcoming wedding to television reality star Erica Long, played by Gabrielle Union (Good Deeds, Cadillac Records); Andre hoped his choice to take on a serious role to play a slave in a dramatic serious film would change people’s minds about him. Written and directed by Chris, this film festival winning comedy was a smart vehicle for Chris to really shine in the public’s eye. One could say parts of the film seemed to mirror Chris’ life, but there was more to this movie. The script had elements of satire, parody, humor, surprise and vulnerability; though, the straightforward story arc was a bit predictable. I thought the chemistry worked well between the actors which also included Rosario Dawson (Sin City franchise, Cesar Chavez) as Chelsea Brown and Cedric the Entertainer (A Haunted House franchise, Larry Crowne) as Jazzy Dee. I enjoyed watching this picture and especially got a kick out of the cameo performances. There was enough bite in this comedy to chew on without choking. Chris left me with a wider impression than I had when I first walked into the theater. There was an extra short scene at the beginning of the credits.
Taken out from a religious context what does the phrase, “Let my people go,” bring to mind? For me it is Charlton Heston playing Moses in the film, The Ten Commandments. I was too young to understand everything about the movie, but several of its iconic scenes have been etched inside of my brain. It would be inconceivable to me to find someone who saw this film prior to the creation of current CGI effects, who was not struck with awe by the parting of the Red Sea. I can remember when we studied that time period in school; I would get confused when the lesson did not match what I remembered in the picture. There are just some films that remain with us for our entire life and this was one of them. So here was my dilemma: could I watch and review this dramatic adventure film without being biased. SURPRISINGLY I was able to sit through most of the action scenes without thinking about Charlton or Yul Brynner. The main reason was due to the special effects; the scope and expanse of the scenes were nearly overwhelming for me. I sat in my seat with stunned surprise at the amount of people used and especially the vast visual depth to the scenes. On a visual basis this film was beautiful, even though the 3D effects did not do much for me. Christian Bale (American Hustle, The Fighter) was excellent playing Moses as was Joel Edgerton (Warrior, Zero Dark Thirty) who played Ramses. However, Joel must have realized the script was quickly tanking as he became more of a caricature as the movie progressed. Directed by Ridley Scott (Gladiator, American Gangster), this film was all surface with no substance. I was saddened on how quickly I became bored with the uneven script that at times would be wonderful then quickly turn dreadful, especially due to the modern macho vibe. Though there was variety with the cast, I thought Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, Iron Man 3) as Nun and Sigourney Weaver (The Cabin in the Woods, Avatar) as Tuya were utterly wasted in this mess. I believe a good portion of the fault was due to having four writers working on the script. There was never a time where I felt emotionally moved by a scene. And of all scenes not able to stir me, the parting of the sea was such an anticlimactic moment for me. I wished the time spent on creating a visual feast would have gone more into the script; I was looking down at my watch a couple of times, which is never a good sign. To give the benefit of the doubt, maybe there are certain stories/movies that should never be remade. I am not sure; but with our technical prowess in special effects, if the movie studio would have spent more energy on the script this would have been a modern epic.
2 1/4 stars
Here is a little secret I will share with you on staying young: let the little child inside of you come out to play. There is no reason to suppress the joy and freedom we felt as children; it is therapeutic to find time to do something fun and it will keep you young. In our adult life we will encounter challenges, tests and a variety of events that harden us to be stoic and strong; I totally understand it. However, I do not know who decided the age of 18 or 21 is the dividing line between being a child or an adult. I have met a lot of adults who acted more like children than some children I have seen. The term “old soul” comes to mind when I recall some of the conversations I have had with younger people. Now I know reaching that magic age where you are suddenly transformed into an adult is a big deal; heck, I could not wait to vote for the first time in a presidential election. However, if a person is not responsible can they really be considered an adult? JUST before her 18th birthday Kat Connor, played by Shailene Woodley (The Fault in our Stars, Divergent), was faced with a terrible loss. Her mother Eve, played by Eva Green (Casino Royale, 300: Rise of an Empire); just picked up and left one day, leaving Kat and her father Brock, played by Christopher Meloni (Man of Steel, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit-TV), to fend for themselves. Pushed into being and adult, Kat slowly began to realize something was not right as she began to have dreams about her mother. The big draw for me to watch this dramatic mystery was Shailene. After her last couple of films I was looking forward to seeing her in this thriller. She did not disappoint; I really think she is becoming a well-rounded actress. Writer and director Greg Araki (Mysterious Skin, Kaboom) must have been thinking the same thing because he really dropped the ball on the script. It felt like he did not need to make a good script because he knew Shailene would squeeze the emotions out of his words. She did her best but sadly it was not enough to make this a good film. The story was slow and lifeless; I did not feel any passion coming out of the cast. And it was not their fault; I felt the responsibility fell squarely on Greg. Despite the group of actors assembled and the twists to the story, I did not experience much fun or enjoyment watching this movie.
2 1/4 stars
Though I never had a nightlight, when I went from my crib to a bed I had to have the bedroom door opened a crack. It did not have to be opened wide, just enough to let a sliver of light cast a pathway for me if I needed to make a quick exit. You see there were times when I had to hide under my blanket because there was a bunch of birds or bats fighting to get through the bedroom window. I could see their shadows flapping against each other up on the far wall of the bedroom, opposite the window where a huge oak tree’s branches were reaching towards my room. The limbs looked like long arthritic arms shaking their fists of leaves at me. Sometimes there was an unusual sound; something I had never heard before. It sounded like the wooden floor was groaning from an unexpected heavy weight. I was so scared I would lie very still, pretending I was one of the pillows I had in bed with me. As I grew up I realized that sound was actually our neighbor from the apartment above when he wore his heavy work boots in the house. Life can be really scary for a young child. SAMUEL, played by newcomer Noah Wisemam, was convinced there was a monster in the house. In fact, he was taking household products and turning them into weapons to protect himself and his mother Amelia, played by Essie Davis (Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Matrix franchise), from the scary being. Samuel’s obsession was driving his mother crazy. Written and directed by Jennifer Kent (Monster), I was so relieved to finally watch a horror movie that depended more on suspense than blood to scare the viewer. The story in this film festival winning thriller rolled out in such a way that it worked perfectly in allowing the tension to build up. Now granted, having a mother and a young child as the main focus lent itself for this movie to be even more scary than the usual young adult in the wrong place/wrong time format. The idea for this story was perfect because who as a young child was not scared of something when they went to bed? I had to give Noah extra credit with his acting because I moved from one perception of his character to another due to his performance. Be prepared, his screaming could become annoying for some viewers. I know the horror genre can be a fantasy but it surprised me how real the mother was in this dramatic movie. Just when I thought I was over being scared of going to sleep, how will I get to sleep tonight? There were a couple of brief scenes with blood.
2 3/4 stars
Once upon a time a person was able to bite into a piece of food and savor the taste blooming in their mouth. Planted in an orchard or field where the rays of the sun encouraged it to grow, the fruit or vegetable was picked at the peak of its ripeness. It was nurtured by the loving hands of a farmer who learned their craft from their father who had learned it from their father; a simple process that provided the most natural and best taste. Times have changed as the world now moves at a faster pace. Some food items are grown indoors where its roots are stuck in a test tube device to keep them moist as the only light source shines out of heat lamps hanging low from the ceiling. If plants are grown outside they are bombarded with chemicals to ward off things that could damage them. Not only are grains being genetically manipulated to create a super race of wheat or corn, but even livestock get injected with hormones and antibiotics because a dead or sick animal cuts into profits. I try to think about what is going into my mouth, though there are times where I wished I wasn’t thinking. My thoughts for the most part focus on either squeezing, smelling, reading or looking at the item before I take it from the store shelf or bin. AFTER watching this documentary I felt guilty for not knowing more about where and how the food I was leisurely putting into my shopping cart had reached the store. Executive produced by Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives-TV, The Sentinel) and narrated by Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland, Phone Booth), this movie focused on a group of migrant workers who picked tomatoes. I am sure this will not come as a surprise; but the story showed the chain of command that dictated the course of the tomato, from the bottom where the migrant workers toiled in the fields to the final destination at the grocery store. I was surprised to find out I was not completely correct on which component in the chain yielded the most power. For a documentary this topic was presented in a straight forward manner with little consideration given to tweaking elements to make this more of a dramatic story. There were times where I felt a scene’s actions was being repeated more than necessary to drive a point home. However, this particular story was both moving and incredulous to watch. Though I would like to consider myself an intelligent consumer, this movie proved me wrong. I was shocked by what I saw. I have to tell you I would have a hard time shopping at the grocery store that was the focus of this film, if there was one near me.
3 1/2 stars
The reason certain man-made creations are called wonders of the world is because they started out in someone’s imagination, being the first of its kind ever to grace this planet. To be different and never seen before; it must have been mind blowing when objects like the Great Wall of China or the Great Pyramid of Giza were initially discussed. In addition, where did the idea even come from? Whether I am fortunate to see the object with my own eyes or only view it by electronic means, I wonder what it must have been like for the people who did the manual labor. From history books I am aware the labor consisted of slaves; were they even aware of what they were building or just told to move one rock from one pile to another. There have been enough movies that have fueled the idea that each famous structure had several curses associated with it. I know with my imagination I could come up with some wild ideas for curses. UPON discovering a lost pyramid, an archaeological team discovered a way inside that they hoped would lead them to understanding the nature of the unusual 3 sided structure. What they soon realized was they were not alone. Some of the major players in this horror film were Ashley Hinshaw (Chronicle, True Blood-TV) as Nora, Denis O’Hare (Dallas Buyers Club, American Horror Story-TV) as Holden, James Buckley (Charlie Countryman, The Inbetweeners franchise) as Fitzie and relative newcomer Christa Nicola as Sunni. The opening scenes were effective in setting up the story, softly starting out before bringing in the intensity and shock value. I have to tell you this was the only positive aspect to this film. If you have never seen a horror film before, then this picture may be able to keep your attention, but I think that is a lot to ask for. Let me start with the acting; it was sad because the script provided nothing for the actors. With such generic predictable lines being uttered or screamed, I was bored for the majority of the movie. There was only one special effect that I thought was decent and yet, I am hesitant to mention what it was in case someone is determined to inflict pain on themselves by sitting through this mess. It did not have to be this way since there was enough to choose from with most of us aware of ancient pyramids, curses and myths in some form or another; all that was needed was a better script and director. This may not be nice to say but having sat through this film I felt as if I had been cursed. There were a few scenes that showed blood.
1 1/3 stars
It may start as a single tear that slipped out of the eye, leaving a trail of moist sadness. As time trudges on its unsteady path, the sadness builds up into waves that defy tidal logic, washing over you again and again. There are some people who do not experience grief in the same way. For them it feels like a sore throat that only reminds them of the pain when they swallow. And then there is a group of individuals who believe they remain in control; however, memories trip them up when they hear a certain song or maybe the taste of a favorite food. Death is the quilt formed by a person’s life experiences that never stops growing until the time it comes to wrap itself around you in one final loving embrace. I have seen how a person’s imminent death affects all the people around them. There is a heaviness in the air as it squeezes itself into the lives of friends and family. I can see where some people feel like they are suffocating and the only thing they want to do is to check out of life for a while. DEVASTATED by a recent tragedy Cheryl Strayed, played by Reese Witherspoon (Mud, Walk the Line), chose to deal with it by escaping from the life she was living. Her way of escaping was to undertake a 1,100 mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. Based on a true story this dramatic biography led me into its story due to Reese. This may sound odd, but seeing her play this character made me realize she was an adult woman. With her past roles I always had the sense she was a little girl playing dress up. In this picture she had a rawness and grittiness that seemed to have been formed from her personal life choices; I had never experienced this from her before. There was a dual beauty about this film. The first was the gorgeous scenic shots that popped up throughout the story. The other beauty was the way the cast blended together in a consistent show of strength, dominated by Laura Dern (The Fault in Our Stars, We Don’t Live Here Anymore) as Bobbi and Thomas Sadoski (John Wick, Loser) as Paul. For me this film had a story that was out of the realm of my thought processes. I enjoy hikes that are easy to manage that do not take a lot of thought; it is one of the ways I get to take a break from myself. What Cheryl did went way beyond anything I could have imagined for myself. It was astounding to see what Cheryl needed to do for herself.
3 1/4 stars