At the time they recited the saying to me I thought I was being handed a line. The spoken words made no sense to me. “You are only given as much as you can handle;” what the heck were they talking about? It is funny how some things stay in your mind, hibernating until something happens then suddenly they awaken and burst to the forefront of your brain. I had been talking with a fellow survivor, commiserating over our similar experiences. We had both turned to food for comfort and as a way to stuff our feelings down. I was surprised by what they were saying because when I was going through the suffering I felt I was the only one. It turns out I was only one of many. Now here is the kicker; while we were talking that line about being given only what I can handle popped into my brain. Both of us had survived and I realized what I went through was an integral part in molding me to the person I am today. I started talking about how those events gave me the awareness of other people’s feelings; that my words could have an effect on an individual. My ability to read a person’s uneasiness, when they walk into one of my classes for the first time, I could now attribute to the things I experienced in the past. This allowed me to share those feelings with the new members and hopefully give them comfort and a sense of belonging. Presently I am pretty happy with my life and have come to terms with what I went through years ago. However I am aware my history also fueled a dark side to me. From the conversations I have had I believe we all have a dark side; so I guess it comes down to the choices we make. RETURNING to the small town she was sent away from Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage, played by Kate Winslet (The Reader, Steve Jobs), had more than just her sewing skills to offer to the community. Based on the bestselling novel this film festival winning drama had an engaging twisted story. With Judy Davis (To Rome with Love, Barton Fink) as Molly Dunnage, Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games franchise, Paranoia) as Teddy McSwiney and Hugo Weaving (Matrix franchise, The Lord of the Rings franchise) as Sergeant Farrat; the acting was great, though Kate and Molly were the best to me. The script was striped with humor, sadness, craziness and softness; I enjoyed the fun aspects of all the characters, besides the filming of it in rural Australia. On the downside there was almost too much going on throughout the story. I found some scenes rang false and felt forced. An example would be some of the scenes between Kate and Liam. Also I think it would be best to place logic aside and simply experience the movie. It would be wrong of me not to mention the amazing costumes, which just added more fun to this wild story. As I mentioned earlier it is the things we choose that mold us and because of the choices made in this picture I had a good time watching it.
2 ¾ stars
I would like someone to show me where it is written the characteristics on being masculine. This whole concept of what it means to be masculine is something that has always puzzled me. Who decided these rules on how a man should act? Can anyone tell me? I want to know why showing sensitivity is a bad thing. Better yet, who decided crying was wrong? There were so many years growing up where the only mantra I had was, “don’t let them see you cry, don’t let them see you cry;” over and over I would say this to myself. Also, I am afraid I never understood the whole camaraderie thing guys have over drinking alcohol because I was never a part of it, not a fan of alcohol. I have gone to many parties where people are drinking and carrying on and I grant you I feel like the odd man out because some of the things that drunken people laugh at are not funny to me. There was a time where it was okay for a man to be drunk, but if a woman got drunk she would be thought of in a negative way. In a similar vein I recall a conversation I heard where the parents were upset that their son was attracted to the colors pink and purple. The parents were asked why this upset them and they said they did not want their son to be considered a sissy. So tell me who decided which colors were approved for males? The whole concept of this masculine versus feminine thing is so ridiculous to me; I have more important things to think about then worrying if I cry in a movie or do not have a drink I will be considered less masculine. This is why you would never catch me participating in the things these college students were doing in this film festival nominated drama. AFTER surviving a brutal mugging Brad Land, played by Ben Schnetzer (The Book Thief, Pride), decided to go to the college where his brother was a student and join the same fraternity to prove a point. This movie was difficult for me to watch and easily could be for many other viewers. There were many scenes that were horrific in their intensity and realness; I am still in shock that people would do the things that were shown in this film. And this story was based on true events. With musical artist Nick Jonas (Kingdom-TV, Scream Queens-TV) as Brett Land, Gus Halper (Ricki and the Flash, Public Morals-TV) as Chance and Danny Flaherty (Hope Springs, The Wolf of Wall Street) as Will; I thought the acting was good under the extreme conditions. I felt the script was going in the right direction but I would have liked more information about the characters. There were times where I thought I would understand a scene better if I understood more of the students’ motivations. As I mentioned earlier this was a rough picture to watch with graphic scenes. I would just like to know why anyone would willingly subject themselves to such things. Is this really what it means to be a man?
2 ½ stars
One of the big mysteries I still struggle to understand is how people gain confidence. The answer is so elusive to me because I see some people who exude confidence; not in a bragging or boastful way, they just seem to have a strong sense of self and more importantly they believe in themselves. The ones who have the skills and knowledge to back up their confidence deserve it in my opinion. But the individuals who do not have the talent or masterfulness in the field they claim make me curious to know why that person feels that way. At the other end of the equation there are people who have the skill or artistry but do not believe they perform it well. I fall into this category. Since I feel that way I have always looked to see if my lack of belief is due to the environment I grew up in or were there other factors that made me feel like I am never good enough for the task at hand. Was it negative comments I received, people’s perceptions about overweight individuals or being forced to blend in with the majority; I just do not know? What I do know however, is the strength inside of me is partially fueled by my desire to prove people wrong or more precisely prove myself wrong. How twisted does that sound? With everything I have just said I am aware that I have been fortunate with the opportunities that were available to me. There is just one other factor that needs to be part of this conversation and that is acknowledging those individuals who were born with a particular gift like being genetically predisposed for a certain set of skills. It does not matter what their environment is like or their circumstances; they simply have the aptitude. But do you want to know something? A person still needs to believe they can do it. SPENDING her days selling maize Phiona Mutesi, played by newcomer Madina Nalwanga, happened to see a game of chess being played. It was a game that came with a multitude of possibilities. This film festival winning movie was based on a true story. With David Oyelowo (Selma, Lee Daniels’ The Butler) as Robert Katende and Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, Non-Stop) as Nakku Harriet, the acting was incredible. Lupita had such power in her expressions that I thought I saw fire coming out of her eyes; that is how good she was with her character. This biographical story could have fallen into oversweet sappiness, but due to the script and directing the story came across with a solid sense of realness. I have to tell you the story was amazing. I enjoyed the setting and contrasts shown in this picture. Chess is something that is considered refined almost stately in some circles and I loved the fact that it was being played by poor villagers in a town of Uganda. After watching this film all I can say is I wish I had some of Phiona’s strength. Stay for the beginning of the great ending credits.
3 1/3 stars
Times have certainly changed and I bet some of you will be surprised to hear how things used to be when someone was expecting a baby. Years ago the new mother spent more time in the hospital before coming home. Nowadays the way things are going I am surprised one doesn’t need a referral from their primary doctor before going to the hospital to deliver a baby. And once you deliver you are sent home as quickly as possible. If she already had any young children at home more than likely they were not allowed in the hospital right away to see their new baby sister or brother. The mother would have to find a relative to stay and watch her child/children while she went to the hospital. I know what I am about to say will seem dated and I am aware in some circles they still would not approve but there used to be negative connotations associated with being a single mother. Growing up I can only recall one person who was a student who became pregnant. She disappeared; none of us knew what happened to her. Currently most people look upon the birth of a child as a joyous occasion. With the definition of family evolving where a family can be related by blood or not, I think deciding to have a child is an important decision. Even the method of delivery has expanded from what was available back then. Presently one can deliver a baby in a filled up bathtub, a birthing chair or even at home; they do not have to go to a hospital necessarily. Honestly does it really matter? As long as a baby is brought into this world with love and want it does not matter how they get here. See for yourself in this animated comedy. HAVING gotten out of the baby delivery business and into delivering packages employee Junior, voiced by Andy Samberg (The To Do List, Poster: Never Stop Never Believing), of internet company Cornerstone.com must find a way to deliver a surprise unexpected baby without his boss finding out. This adventure film also had Katie Crown (Bob’s Burgers, American Dad!) voicing Tulip, Keegan-Michael Key (Tomorrowland, Keanu) as Alpha Wolf, Jordan Peele (Keanu, Wanderlust) as Beta Wolf and Kelsey Grammer (X-Men franchise, Any American Carol) as Hunter. Colorful and filled with scenes that were supposed to be humorous, I found the story odd. There was too much going on with the multiple themes taking place throughout the story. I thought the scenes with Alpha and Beta Wolf were the best. If the writers would have focused on one of the story lines I think this would have been a better film. There were times where I was bored, especially with some scenes that seemed like filler. It was a shame because the theme having to do with family had a good message to convey. I suspect the youngest of children will enjoy this film and I do not recall any scenes that would be terribly frightening for them. Mixing the old ways with some of the new ones this movie may have shown you how to deliver a baby; it just was not the best in delivering entertainment.
1 ¾ stars
It only takes a few minutes after the alarm goes off before the sense of dread awakens inside of you. With a heaviness that weighs you down, you would think it would be thick enough to fend off any physical blows. Sadly it does not prevent it. When you are living with dread, you really have no idea how much energy it takes away from you. Like a straw continuously seeking out the last drops of a bottomless glass, dread constantly makes it presence known no matter what you are doing to distract yourself from it. Unfortunately I know too well what I speak of; dread was my unwanted friend for an entire school year. My daily walk to school was devoted to planning out what escape routes I would use for the day. One never wanted to be caught navigating the same route each day because it could provide for an easy ambush. Bathrooms were always avoided between class times. Instead I would either ask for a hall pass during the class or wait for a free period; I had to wait for a time when it would be less likely anyone would be lying in wait for me. Unless you have been bullied, you may not understand what it feels like to always be on the defensive throughout the day. I was not the only one who was targeted and that was something I never understood. The general population, whether it is in a school or a town, is usually so much larger than the bully and their cohorts; yet the masses rarely band together to stop the bully. At least that has been my experiences. It was hopeful to see that was not the case in this action western remake of a classic film. DETERMINED to take over the entire town Bartholomew Bogue, played by Peter Sarsgaard (Orphan, Jarhead), gave the townsfolk an ultimatum. One citizen, a recent widow due to Bartholomew, was willing to fight for her land; but she needed help. Starring Denzel Washington (The Equalizer, Training Day) as Chisolm, Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World) as Josh Faraday and Ethan Hawke (Born to be Blue, Good Kill) as Goodnight Robicheaux; the only actors who stood out for me were Ethan, Chris and Peter. I thought Denzel was a generic version of the character, not quite believable. The filming of this movie was the highlight; the outdoor scenes were the best. As for the action scenes some really popped out with intensity while others seemed scattered and all over the place. I really felt the script was what prevented this picture from achieving its lofty goals. The reason I say lofty is because it was obvious everyone involved was trying to make this a modern classic, even taking on the original music during the ending credits. Unfortunately it did not work; overall this film production was uneven. There were parts I could get into but then other times I found them bland. Also this movie was way too long; it could have used some extra editing. I am sure the film studio wants this picture to punch its way to the top of the box office charts; however, I do not think the other movies will let it stay there.
2 ½ stars
Go ahead call me paranoid, I have been called worse; but I try to do as little as possible any personal business on the internet. When I am forced to purchase an item online and the site asks me if I want to save my charge card information I always decline the offer. I am sure I mentioned this before but I do not have an ATM card; I have heard so many horror stories about people having their identity stolen that I do not need to have that easy of an access to my bank. This week the news reported a major hacking of a popular web site; what was it, up to 50 million people may have had their information stolen? I do not want to tempt fate but I have had 3 incidents where my credit card information was stolen. One of those times it was the restaurant waitress serving us who took down my credit card info and tried to make a purchase with it. Fortunately the issuing banks caught each of the incidents immediately and closed my account. On one of this site’s social media outlets I have been reading about a follower who had their personal information stolen and now the thief has been reaching out to all of the victim’s contacts for money. The impersonator wrote their banking information was hacked so the bank froze the account, asking the contacts if they could float some money until everything gets resolved. Can you believe this?!?! So feel free to call me old fashioned or behind the times; I would rather have peace of mind instead of fighting to get my stolen identity back. This dramatic action biography did nothing to calm me down. DISCOVERING where the government was searching for information Edward Snowden, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Walk, Don Jon), decided he could no longer be part of the process. Based on the book “The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man,” this movie was co-written and directed by Oliver Stone (Natural Born Killers, Any Given Sunday). Joseph did a fantastic job of acting in this role, but he was not alone. There was Shailene Woodley (The Fault in our Stars, Divergent franchise) as Lindsay Mills, Zachary Quinto (Star Trek franchise, Margin Call) as Glen Greenwald, Melissa Leo (Prisoners, The Fighter) as Laura Poitras and Tom Wilkinson (Belle, Michael Clayton) as Ewen MacAskill. There were times during this picture where I thought the story was powerful and tense. As I alluded to earlier, I was stunned seeing some of the surveillance techniques that were depicted in several scenes. Though the acting was wonderful, I felt the script was scattered in parts. There were scenes of Edward in the military, scenes with Lindsay and current scenes that made the flow of the story a bit jagged. I felt the story itself was substantial; it was the main drive in grabbing my attention. Without getting into the politics of Edward’s actions; based on the story that was presented here, I left the theater feeling like I was entertained. Yet I was more scared than when I first arrived to see this film.
2 ¾ stars
It was one of the items I inherited from a broken relationship. Totally functional, it served a purpose. The item was a kitchen garbage can; it was made of some type of silver metal and had a foot pedal that when depressed would open up the lid. I never liked the way the lid opened because instead of width wise it lifted from the length side. Being of a rectangular shape the lid would plop down with a thud when the foot pedal was released. On top of it the lid did not match up seamlessly with the rest of the garbage can. Another irritating feature may have been my fault but I blamed the can. The plastic garbage bag I would fit inside the can never remained fitted around the rim of the can; after a certain amount of garbage was placed inside, the bag would crumble to the bottom of the can. It was not like I produced so much garbage, but I felt one bag should be enough to last me one week until my neighborhood’s garbage pickup day. Unless I was having a dinner party I never had a full bag. So after years living with this slightly annoying garbage can I recently bought a new one when the old one’s foot pedal broke. I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoy this new can better. It is quiet where the lid slowly descends to the bordering rim that locks in the kitchen garbage bag that has not fallen once. And I love the way the lid opens width wide so I can scrape an entire dinner plate clean of its crumbs without any escaping to the kitchen floor. Who knew such a small thing could bring me such pleasure. I am sure others have had a similar experience when swapping out an old product for a new one. But when I hear about people doing it to their long term significant others, I do not have an understanding of it. MARRIED for 30 years Inge, played by Ursula Werner (Stopped on Track, Madchenabend), did not know how to tell her husband she had started an affair with another man. This romantic drama also starred Horst Rehberg (The Policeman’s Wife, Verflixtes Missgeschick!) as Werner, Horst Westphal (Du Bist Dran-TV movie, Und Das Am Heiligabend-TV movie) as Karl and Steffi Kuhnert (The White Ribbon, Stopped on Track) as Petra. I thought the acting was excellent but what really kept me involved with this story was my curiosity about the subject. Personally I have not been exposed to situations like the one in this film festival winning movie, though I have had friends who did with their parents. I would like to know about the motivation that makes a person, after so many years being together, take a drastic change. This story seemed real to me; I enjoyed the mix of subtle humor and heart tugging scenes. To me this picture felt like it was depicting real life. All I can say after watching this film is the heart is such a curious creature to me. German was spoken with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars — DVD
With pen in hand the blank paper lies in repose for its infusion. For some writers once the tip makes contact with the paper the pen becomes a syringe, injecting the mind’s thoughts and words into the page. It flows freely, creating a world for all visitors. There are writers out there who walk a fine line between truth and fiction when they are writing a story. I know how that feels because I used to be scared to reveal too much about myself in my writings. It was in college where I broke through my paper walls and let myself be heard in class. I wrote about an incident that happened to me and instead of writing the event in 3rd person (using a fictional name and pronoun) I wrote a sentence that started with, “I fell down from the fists that punched into my back.” The scariest part about writing this story for me was knowing I would have to read it out loud to the class the following week. Not that I was singled out, everyone in the class would be reading their stories. It turned out to be a cathartic experience. Listening and working with my classmates that semester taught me how to present a story. Some students were able to express themselves on a deeper level when they wrote about a character; others did it with actual people in their life. I guess it comes down to finding balance. There are some things that happened to me that I know would lose some impact if I were to create a surrogate of myself. That is the beauty about writing, authors can create any world they wish to and call it whatever they want it to be. The story behind the story in this documentary will show you one way on how it is done. BURSTING onto the literary scene was JT LeRoy (The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, Sarah), but who really was this person? This film festival nominated movie was written and directed by Jeff Feuerzeig (The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Half Japanese: The Band that Would be King). With appearances by Winona Ryder (Black Swan, Edward Scissorshands) and writer Dennis Cooper (Frisk, Luster), this film started out slow for me. There was a mixture of actual footage and interviews throughout the documentary, but for some reason I was not following the story at first. However something took place and this picture took on the persona of a suspenseful mystery. The story became interesting and fascinating to the point I had wished I had been aware of the events when they actually took place. By the way I am not familiar with any of the author’s writings. Even after seeing this film I still am a bit confused on a few points and may seek out one of the books to see if it will help me get a better understanding on all the hoopla. This may be a picture that is more suited for writers than the general public.
2 ¾ stars
I have to be honest; I was enjoying the attention given to me. It started out with short voice messages being left on my phone. Nothing major just things like wishing me a good day or they wanted me to know they were thinking about me. From there as our relationship progressed I would be surprised from time to time with a “care” package left at my front door. It could be a box of chocolate chip cookies or an envelope filled with coupons from the Sunday newspapers. I found these left items endearing and sweet. For it being early in our relationship I was actually surprised with so much attention. To me their actions showed confidence, desire and on some level their willingness to take a risk. More of my past relationships had more tentativeness to them, where the two of us took our time to learn and reveal more about each other; so this particular relationship took me a little by surprise at first. Later on it took me by shock. You see while the two of us were becoming more intimate with each other, they were also dating someone else. It turns out they had met me a couple of weeks after this other guy they had been seeing, so decided to continue both relationships and see who would be the winner. I had no idea I was in a competition; for if I had, I would have ended it. Granted my odds were 50/50 but it would have been hard for me to let the walls protecting my heart come down in a situation like this one. I am only competitive with myself unlike the gentlemen in this romantic comedy. TURNING another year older Bridget, played by Renee Zellweger (Cinderella Man, Chicago), decided it was time to make some changes in her life. She just had not planned on making such a drastic change like the one that took place. With Patrick Dempsey (Made of Honor, Enchanted) as Jack, Colin Firth (Magic in the Moonlight, The King’s Speech) as Mark and Gemma Jones (Sense and Sensibility, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger) as Mum; the acting was well done. If I saw the previous Bridget Jones movies I do not have a memory of them so I will judge this sequel on its own. The story was fun with a script that offered a variety of physical comedy. I will say it took some time before I started to get into this film; the beginning did not grab me right away with the slow pacing. Maybe if I was more familiar with the Bridget character I would have felt differently. However once Patrick and Colin were in the story, I enjoyed the banter and the pacing picked up. There was a sense of the writers trying hard to make this sequel funny because I was starting to feel Bridget was turning into a cartoon character with all the incidents taking place. Overall I think those viewers familiar with Bridget will enjoy this film more than those who are just being introduced to the character. Maybe I should see the 2 previous films to make a comparison.
2 ¾ stars
Fortunately I was not one of those kids who would get carsick. I knew a couple of children who were never invited to take a ride in anyone’s new automobile; for fear the new upholstered or leather seats would no longer have that new smell after they went along for a ride. Even though I was fine being in a car, there were a couple of adults I avoided when they were the drivers. One in particular was referred to as the cowboy because you felt you were riding a bucking bronco (the actual horse, not the car) anytime you would be riding with them. Most people when they see a stop sign or red stoplight would slow down as they neared the intersection, but not them. They would continue the same speed, which by the way was always over the speed limit; all the way until they were just about at the cross street and then they would slam down hard on the brakes. You could not help but be forced forward in your seat. When it came to making a left or right turn it was always better to hold onto the armrest so you would not slide across the seat. After spending just a little time in their car would cause me to have a headache. The constant hard stopping and quick starts just made the entire ride a series of jerking motions that never was pleasant. When I finally could exit their car I usually was dizzy and needed to sit still for a few moments after. It has been years since I experienced a ride like that until I sat through this horror thriller. HAVING seen new footage of the Blair Witch woods James, played by James Allen McCune (The Walking Dead-TV, Shameless-TV) was convinced his missing sister could still be alive. The only way he would know for sure would be to venture into the demonic area. This film also starred Callie Hernandez (Machete Kills, Members Only-TV movie) as Lisa Arlington, Corbin Reid (Words with Girls-TV movie, Kingdom-TV) as Ashley and Brandon Scott (An American in Hollywood, Knife Fight) as Peter. Sitting through this picture I was essentially uncomfortable for most of the time. There was nothing I found positive about this film. Most of you know I am not a fan of the found footage way of shooting a picture, but watching this was more painful than usual. The jerky movements, the poor lighting, the multiple scenes where the camera was dropped on the ground and the periodical blackouts made for a scattered mess on the big screen. There really was no acting to speak of and I did not find any suspense or horror except for one character’s medical condition. I honestly do not know what the point was in making this film; just like the bizarre sound effects had no meaning to me. These random sounds would take place to scare the characters but nothing had any follow through to it. After enduring this movie all the way to the end, all I got out of it was a headache. I would hate to see what would happen for those viewers who get motion sickness; it doesn’t sound like a pretty picture either way.
1 ½ stars