No matter how much a person thinks they are ready to move out on their own there still is an element of fear with the unknown. I knew several individuals who came from a challenging home life and when they finally decided to leave they were scared. For college age students who are fortunate to go away for school, I can say based on personal experience, it was difficult at first. College was my first time being away from home since I was never the overnight camp type of kid. My first week of college I think I had pizza and fast food meals 5 days out of 7. Food was a comfort for me back then. Doing my own laundry, making sure I got up when the alarm clock went off was solely my responsibility now. Those darn responsibilities; don’t they get in the way of living life sometimes? Having recently returned from vacation, I was talking with someone about the benefits of traveling alone. They said they could never do such a thing. I explained how freeing it was to not have to negotiate, discuss or compromise any of my decisions. The same thing applies to when I moved out on my own. Sure there was some fear in me, but it was liberating to take control of my life. Granted I wasn’t too thrilled to see the electric and gas bill in my name; but I did get a kick out of getting mail addressed to the owner, who was me. I will tell you I was not prepared for the many things like home repairs. Somehow that repairs gene was never handed down to me. I looked up at a hole in my roof caused by a raccoon and imagined filling it in with glass blocks to create a skylight. The fact that raindrops were coming down upon my head did not register this was an urgent matter I had to get fixed. Heading out on your own can be a wild ride. MEETING the traveling group of free-spirited individuals was the spark Star, played by newcomer Sasha Lane, needed to leave the life she was forced to live. This film festival winning drama had a cast that I forgot was acting; that is how authentic they appeared to me. With Shia LaBeouf (Transformers franchise, Fury) as Jake, Riley Keough (The Runaways, Mad Max: Fury Road) as Krystal and Arielle Holmes (Heaven Knows What, 2307: Winter’s Dream) as Pagan; the cast did a great job and Sasha was outstanding. I found the story interesting in the way it kept a focus on Star’s journey, seeing things thru her eyes. The issue I had with this film was its running length of 2 hours and 43 minutes. I felt this was way too long to tell the story; there were multiple scenes that in their own way duplicated earlier scenes. This picture could have used some more editing. However, the script had strength to keep me interested in this traveling group of people. Also, the soundtrack added a fun, funky element to the experience. Despite the fact that I worked going door to door selling products when I was very young, I did not have much in common with most of the characters; but I was intrigued enough to learn more about them.
I have to tell you I really toyed with the idea of buying the new toy I saw when it initially came out. The toy was a replica of an item used in a successful movie franchise and I thought it would be cool to have my very own, so I could grant wishes to friends and family who were visiting me. You will have to excuse my odd sense of humor; I did chuckle when I picked up the packaged toy from the store shelf, remembering several movie scenes where the item was in action. Generally I do not have any issue with a toy company coming out with toys based on a film; they call it marketing for a reason. The thing that bugs me though is seeing movie studios purposely putting in useless props into their movies just so they can sell the items to the masses to recoup some of their costs. What I mean exactly is making a cheap movie just so they can move product. So I am going to let my nerdness come out by telling you I have a few items that are associated with movies I thoroughly enjoyed, such as a miniature bendable cartoon cowboy and a set of glass mugs with several of the crew from a starship. I want you to know if the products were never promoted it would not distract from my fond feelings towards the movies they represented. Heck, I recently bought a couple of my relatives toys based on movies I have seen. Don’t tell anyone this, but I did it so I could play with the items when I go visit them. Maybe you are asking yourself about now what does this have to do with today’s movie review. Well let me tell you; I have never heard or seen a word, a toy or an advertisement for the main character in this science fiction, action film. Who or exactly what is Max Steel? NEVER knowing what caused his father’s death Max McGrath, played by Ben Winchell (Teen Spirit-TV movie, Mandie and the Forgotten Christmas), could not explain the unusual things that his body was experiencing. This adventure picture also starred Maria Bello (A History of Violence, Secret Window) as Molly McGrath, Andy Garcia (The Untouchables, The Air I Breathe) as Dr. Miles Edwards and Josh Brener (The Internship, Silicon Valley-TV) voicing Steel. I am not sure where I should begin with this review except to say this was one of the poorest produced movies I have seen all year. The first thing I found unusual was in the credits when one of the producing credits listed Mattel. I had to look up afterwards to find there is a toy line based on the Max Steel character. So my guess had to be Mattel wanted to sell their toys. Well if they did this was not the way to do it. I was so embarrassed watching Maria and especially Andy that I was cringing in my seat. The script was horribly dull and predictable. Add the poor directing and the acting was simply lame. For me this picture was one big infomercial. I wish I had bought that magic wand to erase the memory of this movie from my brain.
Whenever I see the city of my birth up on the big screen I immediately get a sense of pride. Even if the story shows an ugly side to the city, I enjoy seeing familiar surroundings. Let us face it, every city has positives and negatives; I choose to stay upbeat about my city and its possibilities. I have lived my whole life in the same city and have seen historic events throughout the years. When friends or family come into town you can always count on getting at least a mini tour of some area of the city or a visit to a local restaurant. I think having pride about the place you live in sends out a positive message. Not to come across as being too judgmental but I think if people took more pride in their surroundings and city it would become infectious to others. Having a good feeling can only create a better life, don’t you think? You have nowhere further to look than to your city’s local sports team to see the exuberant pride gushing out of the fans. If you have never been to an event where everyone around you was acting out in unison to a common pride, let me tell you it can be a heady experience. Please keep in mind I am not even talking about the people who over indulge in their celebrations. There was an exhibit that came to one of my city’s museums that was only going to be shown here, nowhere else in the country. You should have seen how all the people attending this exhibit were so excited and full of pride that the city snagged such an exclusive event. I even got so wrapped up in the enthusiasm I wound up buying a couple of T-shirts from the gift shop that was set up at the exit of the exhibit. It really is a good feeling to share your pride in something which is why I could relate to the fans sitting in the audience of this record breaking event. HOMETOWN native Kevin Hart (Central Intelligence, The Wedding Ringer) wanted to have a concert in the city he grew up in, Philadelphia. His love of the city helped break a record. This comedy movie for the most part was filmed at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. The opening and closing scenes were created as a big joke on how Kevin would pay for this comedy concert. It also gave him the opportunity to interact with Halle Berry (X-Men franchise, The Call), Don Cheadle (Iron Man franchise, Hotel Rwanda) and Ed Helms (The Hangover franchise, Vacation). Let me first tell you I am not a fan of Kevin’s films because I feel he does the same character over and over. As for his style of humor, there are a few amusing bits he performs; but generally I am not a fan of using foul or vulgar language to get a laugh. If you enjoy Kevin’s work then you will have a fun time watching this concert. For me this picture was just okay; however, I enjoyed seeing a stadium full of people all sharing in a good time.
Water seeking its own level is a way I look at people who have an overabundance of one attribute. Let me show you what I mean. If I saw a person who was extraordinary in a sports activity I would soon discover they were deficient in another part of their life. Not to make this sound like a given but within my small world this seemed to be the norm. There was this boy in school who was a genius when it came to mathematics. He had little skill in socialization, often times he would be off and away from the other students. Because he showed this amazing side of himself and the teacher did nothing to bridge the gap between him and the rest of the class, the other students shied away from him. He had a hard time through high school, though he only stayed for a couple of years before getting a scholarship to MIT at the age of 15. I hope this explains what I mean by water seeking its own level; because math skills took up a majority of this person’s brain, other skills were not fed as much. Hopefully I am making sense here; because there was a time (or maybe it still happens) when people did not take the time to find that special skill in a person. I feel each person has abilities but some don’t translate well. Another way of saying this would be to describe human beings as a recipe. If there is too much sugar they are extra sweet; if they are mean spirited then there is not a lot of goodness in them. Everything has to find a way to balance out inside of us some way. CHRISTIAN Wolff, played by Ben Affleck (Gone Girl, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), had a father who refused the advice of doctors on how to treat his son. It was because of his decision Christian was able to take care of himself as an adult. This action crime drama twisted its way inside of me. With Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air, Pitch Perfect franchise) as Dana Cummings, J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Labor Day) as Ray King and John Lithgow (Interstellar, Love is Strange) as Lamar Black; the story grabbed me on several levels. First I thought the way the writer handed the subject of autism was both sensitive and humorous. Ben did a wonderful job and I especially liked the chemistry between him and Anna. They were not only sweet together but plausible. I thought the flashback scenes would have been a distraction but on the contrary they only added a real depth to the characters. Now keep in mind I never look ahead while watching a film to try and figure it out. This film took me by surprise with the twists and turns that took place. Keeping this real, let me tell you there were a few scenes that did not ring true; but in the scheme of things, it did not matter to me. The movie took an important subject and made it part of an entertaining story. Now if I could find an accountant like this one; or on second thought, I would be glad to wait for a sequel to this film.
I remember a time when facts were important and meant something. In my chemistry class when we would conduct an experiment, each of the students had to create a particular reaction then have a fellow student repeat the same steps to see if they get the same results. My experiment was to create a blue clear liquid in my test tube. Mixing chemicals in a precise order and amounts when the final chemical was added the liquid in my test tube turned a beautiful Caribbean blue color. Next my lab partner had to reproduce my steps to see if he would get the same results. It turned out he did not; the liquid in his test tube turned into a cloudy, swamp brown color with a nasty odor. So to substantiate my results a 3rd student was brought in to repeat my experiment. They were successful as they created the same blue colored liquid. Pouring over our notes we discovered my lab partner mistook one measurement which completely altered the chemical reaction to create the color blue. This is how we learned about facts and fact checking. From my school years I learned studies and facts would yield accurate results. It seems as if facts do not carry the same weight of importance as they once did. This is my own opinion but I feel if facts lose their importance then conversations, accusations, claims and other such things turn into one big game of that kid’s game, “Telephone.” It is a game where one person whispers a statement into the ear of the person sitting next to them; who in turn, whispers the statement to the next and so on and so on, until the last person sitting in the circle repeats what they were told to the very first person who issued the statement. More than likely the statement was altered as it got passed from one person to the next. I learned from this dramatic film based on a true story that there were people back then who also did not believe in facts. HISTORIAN Deborah Lipstadt, played by Rachel Weisz (The Light Between Oceans, The Lobster), had to fly to London to prove in court that the Holocaust did indeed happen after she was sued for libel. In London’s judicial system the burden of proof is placed on the accused. This biographical film had outstanding acting provided not only by Rachel but also Tom Wilkinson (Snowden, Belle) as Richard Rampton, Timothy Spall (Harry Potter franchise, Enchanted) as David Irving and Andrew Scott (Spectre, Saving Private Ryan) as Anthony Julius. Based on Deborah’s book, History on Trial: My Day in Court, I found this film to be a taut courtroom drama. It was due to this cast that my interest stayed with the story because there were several scenes that lagged compared to others. I believe this was due to the script for the most part, though the directing had a hand in causing this slowness. Ultimately this did not weigh me down because I was very much into the story which interestingly one could draw parallels between it and the environment we currently live in.
If the animal kingdom has several species like tiger sharks and hamsters that eat or discard their young, then does it not make sense there would be some humans who do the same thing? Maybe I should clarify what I mean since I am not saying there are parents who literally eat their children; I am referring more to the discarding or the total emotional and mental consumption aspect of the parent/child relationship. From stories I have heard to ones I have seen reported on the news I still react with a sense of shock to some of the stories. For example when the news reporter is interviewing the parents of a child accused of a killing spree or bombing a place I have to wonder if the parents really had no idea their child was capable of such an act. The parents tearfully express their sadness, telling the reporter their son or daughter was always a good child. I am curious about this; is it possible or are the parents so removed from their child’s life they have no clue what their children are capable of doing? I do not have an answer. Perhaps I mentioned this in an earlier review about my friend who was on a jury involved in a case about a mother who hung her 2 year old son off the fire escape of their apartment building. What would possess a parent to do such a thing? But then I think about the classes I attended in school where we had a discussion about the culture where parents would drown their new born babies if they were born female. Now I have such a hard time wrapping stuff like this around my brain because I feel children do not ask to come into this world; however, if a person is going to bring a child into this world then they need to do what is in the best interests for that child. I would be curious to hear what you think about what happened in this dramatic film. FIFTEEN years had passed before Gianni, played by Kim Rossi Stuart (Angel of Evil, Those Happy Years), decided to see his handicapped son Paolo, played by newcomer Andrea Rossi, for the first time. Gianni did not know what to expect. This film festival winning movie was fortunate to have Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, The Duchess) play the character Nicole because she was wonderful in the role. Along with Pierfrancesco Favino (World War Z, Angels & Demons) as Alberto the script tended to push the sentimental aspects of the story but to tell you the truth it did not bother me. I was grabbed early on into this picture, impressed by the acting and the story. If this had been done by a Hollywood studio I think this film would have been over done; instead, the direction and script provided a straight forward and honest portrayal of the events. There was a line that Charlotte’s character says that will prove my point. Do not be surprised if this foreign film gives you a new appreciation of what it means to be a parent. Italian and German were spoken with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars — DVD
It was the beginning to our rite of passage. The years up to this point for the average student was a life of following the rules. Stand in single file, no talking, sit in alphabetical order; these were the things we heard in the early years. As we now entered into 6th grade some of us started flexing our independence. For me it was leaving my bicycle at home and letting public transportation take me and my friends further down into the city. Our allowances would give us this new found freedom. Taking the bus or train, eating out at a fast food restaurant; we were finally adults–at least in our minds. Back in the classroom the students who had aggressive tendencies started flexing their ability to dominate other students. In my class there was a student who was repeating the year over. Though this person did not bully us, we still were cautious whenever we were around them. I remember how surprised I was that for being 1 year older this person had incredible strength. In PE class everyone wanted this student on their team. The aggressive students were not the only ones who asserted themselves; the class clowns from elementary school were now constantly testing their teachers to see how far they could be pushed. These two groups were heroes to some of us because they blatantly did not follow the rules. Sure they were sent to the principal’s office numerous times but it just seemed like they did not care. In fact, when they would come back to the classroom they were treated like demigods. I am embarrassed for what I am about to tell you; my way of being rebellious was to quietly shoot spitballs at students. But I did not use bits of wet rolled up paper, I used lip balm. Taking one end of an empty pen I would twirl it into the balm then aim for the back of a person’s head. When the student put their hand back to feel what hit them in the head they would smear the balm further in their hair. I was surprised no one in this dramatic comedy did not think of it. STARTING at a new school Rafe, played by Griffin Gluck (Just Go With It, Red Band Society-TV), could not believe all the rules students had to follow. One rule in particular would push him over the edge. With Lauren Graham (Bad Story, Gilmore Girls-TV) as Jules and Andrew Daly (She’s Out of My League, What Happens in Vegas) as Principal Dwight; I could not tell if the acting was meant to be more cartoonish to suit this story. I liked the animated scenes and felt I understood what the students were trying to achieve. However these students did not come across as real students for me. Part of this had to do with the script, but I think the directing also had a hand in it. For a good portion of this film I was simply bored. I believe this film would only be a hit with those who are presently attending middle school.
1 3/4 stars
DISCLAIMER: At the time of my viewing I was not aware of the controversy surrounding the writer, director and star of this film. Due to what I feel is the importance of this historical story I decided to post this review. It is not meant as an endorsement one way or the other of the person’s past events; I do not have enough knowledge on this controversy.
The 64 count box had the ideal amount for me. Anything more would only confuse me, taking more time to decide which color I would use next. For a kid a box of crayons is an unlimited source of fun and imagination. In my world every color had a purpose and belonged in the box. I started out using the yellow crayon every time I had a sun to draw. Later on I started adding crayons from the orange family, giving the sun a morning or evening look. At one time I started outlining everything with the black crayon then shading in the rest with a variety of colors. None of my crayons ever went unused; they each were treated equally and belonged in that 64 count crayon box. Something I noticed when I was at someone’s house who had crayons; not all of the crayons wore down at the same rate. They could have a short white crayon but a long black one that looked like it had not been used. Another house could have the tan or I think it was also called cocoa colored crayon sitting in the box never to be touched or be part of the picture the person was working on. I will never forget in a science class how the teacher showed us if we took a blue and yellow crayon then drew one color over the other we would have the color green. It was a revelation for me. Except for blue, red and yellow all the other crayons are a combination of 2 or more other colors. The crayons in my box all worked together in harmony unlike the real world. BEING one of the few slaves who could read Nat Turner’s, played by Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Red Tails); owner was able to rent him out to preach to the unruly slaves living on the other plantations. The things Nat saw opened his eyes in a new way. This film festival winning dramatic biography also starred Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger, The Social Network) as Samuel Turner and Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist, Awakenings) as Elizabeth Turner. As I said the story based on true events was important but I felt the script needed to be stronger to support the magnitude of the events taking place back during the 1830’s in Virginia. The acting was quite good especially during some of the disturbing scenes in this picture; however, there were gaps in the script where things slowed down for me. I was confused by the outcome that took place in a couple of scenes. For the most part the directing was spot on for this first time director. This was not easy to watch for a few reasons, one being the narrowness and ugliness of the times that only wanted to use 1 of 2 colors from a very small box of crayons.
A good way to feel the heartbeat of a city is to take a ride on its commuter train. It is an easy way to not only see the city but to watch how its citizens mingle throughout the city’s arteries. When I used to take public transportation to work I would find myself getting lost into the brief visual vignettes all around me. There were the train’s adult babies who would quickly be lulled to sleep by the swaying of the train car as it rolled down the tracks. Among the passengers there was the group that always had a hardcover or paperback book to read, while another group used their electronic devices. The thing I liked to do was look out the windows. From my train car I could watch a parade taking place that had citizens carrying a long paper dragon down a street in a neighborhood with a large population of Asian Americans. In another part of the city I could see people sitting outside at a café having an afternoon coffee with shopping bags lying at their feet like trusted pets. After a few times on the same route I would know which train stops some of the passengers would get off at; business attired people would step out in the downtown area of the city and passengers with book bags or textbooks in their laps would get off at one of two stops that was close to a city college. For a different type of experience taking the train at night brings in a more intimate experience; at least it does for me. Apartment buildings would reveal a grid of lit windows where each one told a different story. With one blink of the eye I could see someone cooking up a storm of a meal or two people studiously peering down at a table full of jigsaw pieces. Each day would be a different scene and you would never know what you could witness. CATCHING the same train everyday Rachel, played by Emily Blunt (Into the Woods, Sicario), would come up with an internal story for the people she would see. But what if a person was not following her script? This mystery thriller based on the bestselling book also included Haley Bennett (The Magnificent Seven, The Equalizer) as Megan and Justin Theroux (American Psycho, Wanderlust) as Tom. Since I did not read the book I was confused for the 1st half of the movie, though Emily was excellent as Rachel. The issue for me was the script. I did not care for the scenes jumping back and forth in time along with several scenes that did not come across as authentic. All this did for me was to slow the pace down of telling the story. It was not until the last half of the picture where things picked up and it started to actually be a mystery thriller for me. An interesting side note; when I mentioned this to one of my classes 5 out of 6 people who read the book said they did not like it and felt the same about the book as I did about the film. Too bad the train ride I took did not reveal much excitement for me.
2 ¼ stars
Something must have changed this summer that caused a large influx of skunks in my neighborhood. I never saw them but smelled them. Plus it did not help that my neighbors’ dogs tried playing with one, got sprayed and came back into the house through their doggie door while their owners were at work. When I came home the stench was overwhelming, spewing out of my neighbor’s house. But do you know what, once I am in my kitchen preparing for a dinner party all of that nasty smell dissipates as my food is cooking. There is something about home cooking that instills a sense of peace throughout the house. I cook very simple dishes, nothing fancy. My tastes run closer to diner/cafeteria food than haute cuisine. It is the same when I go out to a restaurant. I enjoy food that has a personal touch to it, where it looks like it was hand chopped or sliced. Not to sound disparaging but I have seen some restaurant chains where the food always looks the same no matter how many times I have been there. The main entrée is perfectly shaped, the vegetable slices are identical; just look at the difference between machine and hand cut French fries and you will understand what I am saying. Another reason I enjoy home style cooking is the history behind the meal. Imagine sitting at a table with friends and sharing a dish you made from a recipe that was handed down to you from your grandparent or great grandparent. I think that is one of the coolest things about cooking in the kitchen. There is nothing more exciting than making something and it comes out the same way you remembered it as a child; I love when that happens. With everything I have just told you I want you to know that I am very picky about my food, beyond finicky. Despite it I would still follow the Pulitzer Prize winning food critic in this delicious documentary. WHAT Los Angeles represented to food critic Jonathan Gold was one huge scavenger hunt in search of a perfect meal. There was nothing he would not try. This film festival nominated documentary was a feast to watch, pun intended. Written and directed by Laura Gabbert (Sunset Story, No Impact Man: The Documentary) this film had multiple interviews with a variety of people in the food world such as chef David Chang and chef Roy Choi. I know this movie is a biography but to me it played more like a historical drama. The stories behind the restaurants, the food trucks or one item on the menu were all fascinating to me. Listening to pieces of Jonathan’s reviews was similar to having a bedtime story read to you. Honestly there were many, many dishes displayed throughout this film that I would never touch; but it did not matter, I was in awe of the elements that got that food to its customers. This man Jonathan Gold must have a stomach made of iron; I do not think he ever backed away from a meal. Whether made in some remote out of the way area of the city, a hole in the wall place or a food truck; it is obvious he loves food.
3 ½ stars