I blame two things that made people become afraid of the dark; that Scottish poem with the line “…things that go bump in the night” and Francisco Goya’s painting Que Viene el Coco which translates to Here Comes the Bogeyman. It is that damn Bogeyman that started this reign of fear when day turns into night. How many of us slept with a night light on or the bedroom door opened enough to cast a line of light into our rooms? I never had anything underneath my bed but I knew several kids who felt something could be hiding under their beds. If they had to get up in the middle of the night they could not just swing their legs out to the side of the bed to plant their feet on the floor. Instead they would stand up in bed then jump off like an Olympic long jumper, to get as far away from their bed as possible. These days there seems to be an industry devoted to products that help alleviate the anxiety of going to sleep. I know some families that have sleep machines that produce soothing sounds like ocean waves or wind chimes to calm their children at bedtime. It is funny, I never associated the dark with being scary; in fact, I considered nighttime safer than daylight due to some of the events I had to endure during the day. Darkness meant I was less visible which was a good thing for me. Daylight meant I was a more visible target. Who would have thought this horror thriller would now make me scared of the dark. THINKING it would be an easy target friends Rocky, Alex and Money; played by Jane Levy (About Alex, Evil Dead), Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps, Labor Day) and Daniel Zovatto (It Follows, Innocence); decided to rob the house of a blind man, played by Stephen Lang (Avatar, Public Enemies). They could not have been more wrong. Before I tell you about this film I want you to know I had some conflict with the story line. Since I do not want to give anything away let me just use the following scenario as a random example. If an abandoned building is fenced off with signs posted about its demolition and someone trespasses and gets hurt; who is responsible for the injury? So now back to the film; I liked the way the movie started up as it put the pieces of the story together with little explanation. The acting was good for a horror film but I thought Stephen’s performance was the best. Sitting in a theater full of people made the shock scenes more intense in my opinion. Though there were a few scenes that seemed repetitive and somewhat unrealistic, I did like the way the script threw in surprise twists. On the other hand, the reason the story worked for this picture was because it was based in reality. Many of the scenes seemed like they could have happened and we would have read about them in the newspaper. This film was a thrill ride that may cause you to sleep with the lights on.
2 3/4 stars
There is this great word I like to use; the word is “schnorrer.” It means freeloader, basically a person who is greedy. Here is a perfect example of a schnorrer. In my social circles there is an acquaintance, more like a friend of a friend. When a group of us go out for dinner we usually split the check. Sure sometimes you wind up paying more than the actual price of your meal, but it could also be less. Well this one individual/acquaintance always and I mean always orders the more expensive items on the menu, besides one or two additional alcoholic drinks. They never offer to throw in a couple of extra bucks for their meal; they just sit there and expect to pay the same amount everyone else is paying. This to me is a greedy person and I find them irritating; but I have a couple of options available at least. For one, I can request a separate bill or not go out when this person is invited. When it comes to seeing or hearing about greediness in companies it doesn’t irritate me, it makes me angry. Ever since the recent market collapse I find myself angry over the reports of the latest insider greed. You may have recently heard about the EpiPen price increase; it is things like this that tick me off. Or what about these corporations that decide to close some of their locations because they need to save money; however, in the next breath they are giving their executive staff a raise. The ones that are being affected by the closing are the people who work there. How can one not get angry over this type of thing? What I find even more despicable are those same executives who earn huge financial gains due to insider information; it is simply wrong. INVESTMENT banker Naomi Bishop, played by Anna Gunn (Enemy of the State, Breaking Bad-TV), had a lot riding on her latest business deal. Her reputation depended on it. This film festival nominated drama had a high powered cast of capable actors. Besides Anna there was James Purefoy (A Knight’s Tale, Solomon Kane) as Michael Connor, Sarah Megan (Backwoods, The Girl in the Park) as Erin Manning and Alysia Reiner (That Awkward Moment, Sideways) as Samantha. I understood what the writers were trying to do with this story. Most stories of this kind tend to be male dominated; this one was female driven. I wish we lived in a time where this distinction would not even need to be addressed, but alas that is not the case. The acting was exceptionally good in this movie. I needed a stronger script however. There were a few parts in the story that did not make sense to me. At least there was a fair amount of tension and decent pacing to keep the story moving forward. In fact, there were a couple of moments where I was getting angry at what was taking place in Naomi’s life. So you see the movie was having an effect on me; I do not like to be around greedy people.
2 ¾ stars
It felt like I was taking a walk through history. They were giving me a tour of their home, pointing out numerous artifacts. I say artifacts because there was pottery, paintings, tapestries, along with dinnerware items such as bowls and spoons. All of it quite old and displayed everywhere. It was fascinating to me because I knew this person was able to trace their family back to the time of the Spanish Inquisition which started around the late 1400s. Think about that for a second; this homeowner knew about their family members for the past half a dozen centuries; it literally boggled my mind. My tour of the house was almost done but the best was being saved for last. We walked into a room that appeared to be part library, part den. Two walls of the room had rows of bookcases lined across, each filled with hardcover books. At the juncture where the two sides would have met there was an opening or let me say a small alcove. It wasn’t big enough for someone to freely walk into; however, it had enough space for this ornately carved wooden pedestal. As I was directed to it I was told it contained the family’s most precious item. Sealed in a glass box was an extremely old book. It was his great, great, great (I don’t remember how many times they said great) grandfather’s prayer book. This small plain looking book had been handed down from generation to generation. I stared at it imagining how many relatives must have held this book before it was sealed up. As they were telling me about the book’s history there was a twinge of sadness to their voice. I soon found out they were the last of their family; there was no one left to take possession of this treasured item at their death. SOMEWHERE deep in the Amazon was a sacred plant with healing powers. Two scientists would devote their lives to find this elusive miracle. It possibly could take their life. Starring newcomer Nilbio Torres as young Karamakate, newcomer Antonio Bolivar as old Karamakate, Jan Bijvoet (The Broken Circle Breakdown, Borgman) as Theo and Brionne Davis (Avenged, Gentleman Explorers) as Evan; this Oscar nominated and film festival winning adventure biography had a lush, beautiful look that was shot in black and white. For those familiar with the works of Werner Herzog, this film had a similar vibe to it. The original story took me a short time to understand due to the two separate story lines; but afterwards, I enjoyed the way the parallel stories created the world these characters lived in. You could tell the camera work was carefully thought out because there were shots that lingered for the perfect amount of time to convey the feelings. Even some of the camera angles were so well placed to add an extra sense of curiosity for the viewer that I almost wished English was spoken so I would not have to read any subtitles. But I want to say the subtitles in this drama were easy to read and I did not feel like I missed anything. I only hope this will not be the director’s last film. Spanish, Portuguese, Aboriginal and German were spoken with English subtitles.
3 ½ stars — DVD
One of the benefits for me in living close to a large metropolitan city is to have easy access to the old historical structures that are still standing. I have always enjoyed seeing buildings from different style periods and eras such as Frank Lloyd Wright to Art Deco. The detailing on these buildings is something you rarely see these days. Now there are many modern structures that I find beautiful; in fact, there is a relatively new high rise building here that has series of balconies in different sizes to give the illusion of water cascading down the sides of the skyscraper. No matter where I travel I always try to find time to check out a place’s famous buildings; there is just something about these majestic structures that amaze me. Maybe part of it is due to the fact they are viable and still standing compared to some of the new buildings I have seen that already show decay. I may have mentioned some time ago my favorite movie theater growing up. It was one of those old stucco structures with a large colored marquee in front. Inside there was marble everywhere and all the porcelain and gold decorations were styled after actual objects found in churches, villas and palaces across Spain and Italy. I cannot describe the sadness I experienced when years later the land underneath the theater was purchased and the new owners demolished the structure. What replaced this grand theater was a monstrosity, an apartment building with retail stores. As for a new theater one was built several miles away; it was a cinder block, square structure void of any decorative appointments. Supposedly the candy counter had a bigger selection of candy and they claimed the popcorn was better. There are some things that should not be touched; they are perfectly fine just the way they are. BETRAYED and imprisoned for several years Judah Ben-Hur, played by Jack Huston (American Hustle, The Longest Ride), returned home to seek out revenge on the person who ruined his life; it was his adopted brother Messala Severus, played by Toby Kebbell (Fantastic Four, The East). This adventure drama remake also starred Morgan Freeman (London Has Fallen, Now You See Me franchise) as Ilderim, Rodrigo Santoro (300 franchise, Pele: Birth of a Legend) as Jesus and Sofia Black-D’Elia (The Immigrant, Project Almanac) as Tirzah Ben-Hur. CGI was the main tool used to freshen up this story. It was needed because I thought the script was just a mess. Some of the dialog was ridiculous and out of place for the time period. As for acting it was bland except I did not mind Morgan’s character even though it was similar to many of his other roles. He plays this sensible, mild spoken character who knows more than anyone else. Reading the credits there were two names listed I recognized that have produced other films; each one of their movies was poorly done in my opinion. It explains why this production was no different. You have to know if the horses are even trying to run out of the story then something must be terribly wrong with this picture.
1 ¾ stars
One of the main motivations for breeding an animal is to make money. From my college studies I learned how much thought and detail goes into deciding which animal should be bred. Whether a farmer or racehorse breeder they each spot specific traits they want to be carried down to the offspring of their herd. I still remember a course I had where we were taught to look at a pig and figure out their most prominent traits for breeding purposes. Some of you who follow race horsing may already know a winning horse is worth more in retirement when they go out to stud. Aren’t you glad we are not animals? But I have to tell you I am just as fascinated by family traits as I was in animal science. The gene pool to me is this vast reservoir of a family’s history; it is a game of chance when a couple has a child. What traits will the child acquire from the parents? I am always curious when a business establishment is family owned and has been handed down from generation to generation. It makes me wonder whether each new generation has acquired the same set of skill sets to make the business a continued success. Even when I witness a child doing the same thing as one of their parents, like being a tennis player or painter, it amazes me how that talent filtered down to the younger generation. Though I have to tell you I know of a family that has a business that has been handed down and the latest generation involved with it dislikes being a part of it. They wanted to be something else but their family essentially forced them to follow in the footsteps of their parent. Gratefully that was not the case in this gorgeous animated adventure film. KUBO, voiced by Art Parkinson (Dracula Untold, San Andreas), never knew his father and could not understand why his mother insisted he be home before dark. She had a very good reason. With a mixture of claymation and CGI effects, this family film was magical and enchanting. The actors such as Charlize Theron (Young Adult, A Million Ways to Die in the West) as Monkey, Matthew McConaughey (Mud, Dallas Buyers Club) as Beetle and Ralph Fiennes (A Bigger Splash, Harry Potter franchise) as Moon King were wonderful voicing their characters. I do not know if the story was actually from Japanese folklore, but the script was something special. The way it brought in the topic of ancestors was beautiful. I felt there was the right balance of humor, drama, danger and thrills to create a connection to any age group watching this film. Not sure why but there is something about the art of claymation that attracts me. Maybe it is because I know how much effort has to be made to make the characters move seamlessly; the figures are just more dimensional to me. I do not know what else I could tell you except after seeing this picture I had wished I was part of Kubo’s gene pool.
How annoying is it when you get a new item and it isn’t what you expected or does not work? When it comes to food products our feelings are usually based on the item’s taste; I understand since I have tried some items touting their new great flavor, only to get a nasty taste in my mouth. This type of stuff I either give away or toss into the garbage. The rules are different when the products are not food based. I may have mentioned I bought a new computer. After the store transferred my old information to the new one, along with adding some new programs, I excitedly brought the computer home and turned it on. Everything about it was great until I left it for a moment. When I came back to continue my work the computer would not wake up from its sleep mode. To say I was annoyed would be putting it mildly. I did get it fixed but it is stuff like this that ticks me off. Just a couple of weeks ago it was reported that a department store would no longer carry their line of Egyptian cotton bed sheets. And do you know why? It turns out the company that was making the sheets for the store was not using Egyptian cotton. Can you believe it? The thing that amazes me is the audacity some of these manufacturers have in thinking they are “pulling the wool” over the eyes of their customers. And who really is affected by these actions? It is the consumers who wind up on the losing end. I know the example I gave here is just one of many that take place around the world. CHILDHOOD friends Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, played by Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street, True Story) and Miles Teller (Fantastic Four, The Spectacular Now), found themselves taking on the bigger players in the defense field when they landed a $300 million contract from the Pentagon. The question was how were they going to fulfill it? Based on a true story this comedic drama also starred Ana de Armas (Exposed, The Boarding School-TV) as Iz and Bradley Cooper (Burnt, American Snipe) as Henry Girard. Along with all the other actors in this war film, this still was Jonah’s and Miles’ show. Their acting and chemistry was strong, though I felt Jonah was starting to be typecast with this type of character. The steady pacing kept the story going forward and I have to say even while I was watching this picture I still could not believe some of the things that were taking place. I think that is part of the attraction of this film; viewers will sit in disbelief by the outrageousness of some events. This will make up for the script that did not offer much depth to the characters along with having a little weakness towards the end. In spite of these things the story was so startling that I think it would grab the viewer to stay engaged with it.
What I am about to tell you all took place in my mind; well, maybe some of it did really happen. As I walked through the double glass doors I flipped the open sign hanging on its metal chain to close. Inside there was a chair to the side; I took it to prop up against the closed doors to bar anyone from walking in. I was there to take action and get some results. You see I had locked in an incredibly low interest rate just before they started to rise back up. I was doing some refinancing and would be lowering my monthly payments significantly. The bank kept delaying me, rejecting my application for the most trivial things that were not even my fault. Since the lock on the interest rate had a short expiration date, I was sure the bank wanted to let it expire so they could charge a higher interest rate. The first time my paperwork got rejected was due to not having a check mark next to the word “Mister.” The second time it came back was because a document was missing which they lost. These things were their fault; they had drawn up the documentation and filled it out. A personal banker came up and before they could say anything I told them I was not leaving until my application was approved. I told them if they could not do it then they needed to find someone else right now. From my knapsack I took out my paperwork, protein bars, 2 bottles of water and a baseball bat. Desperate times called for extreme action. THE only way brothers Toby and Tanner Howard, played by Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, The Finest Hours) and Ben Foster (Lone Survivor, Warcraft), could set things right was to start robbing banks. They would just have to be quick about it. This film festival nominated crime drama’s cast was outstanding. With Jeff Bridges (True Grit, The Giver) as Marcus Hamilton and Dale Dickey (Winter’s Bone, Super 8) as Elsie, the acting was something to see. Maybe there were a couple of things that seemed familiar with Jeff’s performance, but with this character he was close to perfection. As for Chris I was stunned, especially after seeing him recently in the new Star Trek film. It took me a minute to realize this was the same Chris I had seen because he looked and acted so differently; I was impressed with his performance. Set in Texas the story had a strong western type of movie vibe but with a modern take. Visually I enjoyed the framing of the scenes along with the soundtrack. I thought some outdoor shots were ideal in conveying the plight of the bank robbers; it really was wonderful camera work. There were a couple of patches where I felt the story dragged but nothing major. No pun intended but the richness of the script provided a well rounded story that was a pleasure to watch on the big screen. I cannot image a theater patron feeling like they were robbed by paying to see this film; it was worth the money. There were some scenes with blood and violence in them.
3 ½ stars
I always felt I had a decent education; maybe not the top schools, but certainly a well rounded learning experience. Oh, except for a couple of teachers in my early schooling that should not have been allowed to teach. After my college years I still kept up my desire for learning. Using a variety of mediums such as radio, print and internet; I like to be and stay an informed individual. So here I sat watching this film and discovered I had no knowledge about it whatsoever. As the audience was filing out after the movie ended I made a comment to no one in particular, mentioning how the movie was intense. A couple of people in front of me turned and acknowledged the same thing, asking me if I knew this movie was based on a true story. I told them I did not and I was actually surprised I had never heard about it before, considering its significance in history. Standing in the lobby we discussed the movie and our lack of knowledge. It was interesting for us to compare our educational backgrounds, which included Big Ten universities and small city colleges; none of us knew about a specific early scene in this movie. I posed a question about the history classes we had taken; due to the time constraints placed on curriculum courses do teachers provide students only highlights from historical events or do they focus on the subjects they prefer to talk about? I do not have an answer for this; I just know I have to reconfigure my present knowledge to incorporate the story from this historic thriller. PARACHUTED back into their own country of Czechoslovakia Josef Gabcik and Jan Kubis, played by Cillian Murphy (Inception, In the Heart of the Sea) and Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey, The Fall-TV), had only one mission. They had to find a way to assassinate Adolf Hitler’s 3rd in command, SS General Reinhard Heydrich. Based on a true story this film also starred Charlotte Le Bon (The Hundred-Foot Journey, The Walk) as Marie, Toby Jones (Captain America franchise, Tale of Tales) as Uncle Hajsky and Brian Caspe (The Martian, The Illusionist) as Antonin. The story had a slow pace to start, but there was a continual buildup that intensified later in the film. I had wished the script would have stuck with the main story because I found the love aspect story line to be a distraction and not believable. It is understandable the writers wanted to humanize the characters but under the circumstances it took away the characters’ purpose in my opinion. The actual story I have to assume was more powerful than what this movie was able to achieve; however, I was still totally engaged by this biographical film. Though they were not graphic there still were violent, disturbing scenes. The editing did not help; I found choppy parts throughout the film. This may not have been the best interpretation of the actual chain of events (I just did not know how much of this movie was true, but I plan on finding out), but its importance in history and the movie in whole was a riveting experience for me. Violent scenes with blood.
It can be such a dilemma; the choice is whether to be supportive or honest. Now I grant you these two options can be compatible; but I have found myself in situations where I had to stop and think before I reacted to the circumstances present. So here is the question I have for you; how do you tell someone you care about that their dream will never happen? For what I hope is obvious reasons I have changed a few things here; let us say you have a close friend who wants to be a chef. They enjoy having dinner parties so they can try out new dishes on their friends. The food is fine but nothing you would pay for at a restaurant. Politeness dictates you tell your friend the food tastes good. Should you mention you would not necessarily pay for it but for homemade it was okay? Remember this friend’s dream is to be a chef either at an established venue or opening up their own place. Personally it is a tough call for me and I am the blunt one in my circle of friends. I would never quash a person’s dream; dreams are what make human beings grow and learn. On the other hand watching your friend spend money and time on something that probably will not yield them the desired results would be sad. Do you see my predicament? A similar situation was taking place in this biographical comedic drama. NEW YORK heiress Florence Foster Jenkins, played by Meryl Streep (Ricki and the Flash, Hope Springs), dreamed of becoming an opera singer. She had the means, the desire and the drive to fulfill this dream. The question was did she have the talent? Based on a true story this film’s cast formed a wonderful bond that came across the big screen. With Hugh Grant (About a Boy, Did You Hear About the Morgans?) as St. Clair Bayfield, Simon Helberg (Van Wilder: Party Liaison, The Big Bang Theory-TV) as Cosme McMoon and Rebecca Ferguson (Hercules, A One-Way Trip to Antibes) as Kathleen; the actors did their best with what was given to them. The story was better than the script. I thought the sets and costumes were spot on; but the script produced what I thought was a light version to what the story could have been. The acting was very good but I found the characters somewhat bland, though Simon’s character was curious. Without giving a spoiler alert let me just say I read somewhere that it was Meryl’s idea to not let the actors and extras hear her in some scenes until the first take. I have to say it worked because I thought the scenes looked authentic. So you see there were positives to this film; I just felt it lagged emotionally, not making a true connection with the viewer. Maybe there were people behind this project who dreamed of bringing this true story to the big screen. Who am I to tell them they should not have done it this way? Instead let me say my fascination with this story lingered on after the movie was over. The bottom line is everyone has the right to dream.
2 2/3 stars
I did not actually have what you would call imaginary friends; they were more like superheroes who looked a lot like me except skinnier and taller. During the time they were around me I did not realize they were all mental extensions of me. None of them had names but each one specialized in one superhuman power. There was the one who could fly; he was a lookout for me, letting me know of any danger spots around me. One of my favorite ones was this brawny fighter who appeared anytime I was angry. If someone had picked on or teased me, he would appear in a rage and pummel the bully so I could be left alone to continue my studies in class. This one in particular stayed with me the longest, evolving into my bodyguard. During an especially dismal time he was out almost every day. No one else knew about these imaginary friends if you want to call them that. My friends and I never really talked about our special friends though I can recall there were times where we needed people to be the enemy in our neighborhood battle scenes. We would be on one of our missions to track down the enemy’s secret headquarters when suddenly one of the members of our search party was sucker punched by an imaginary enemy operative. I would see a friend whirl around with his fists jabbing into the air to land a punch on the enemy’s jaw. Each of us took turns on getting attacked; the more dramatic we could be in our fake battles, the more satisfying it was when we would finally discover the hidden headquarters and blow it up with our ray guns. With all the imaginary beings I had in my life, I wish I would have had a dragon like the one in this family adventure film. WHEN Grace, played by Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World, The Help), discovered the orphan boy Pete, played by Oakes Fegley (This is Where I Leave You, Fort Bliss), living deep in the woods; she could not understand how he could have survived for so long on his own. He was not alone. This fantasy movie shared the same title as the original animated film but it was a different type of story. With a cast that also included Robert Redford (A Walk in the Woods, All is Lost) as Meacham and Karl Urban (Star Trek franchise, The Loft) as Gavin, I fell into this story that had sort of an E.T. slant to it. The pacing was not always smooth; there were a couple of slow parts for me. This was not a big issue because I actually enjoyed the simplistic script that basically was about the bonds that form between friends and family. I thought the special effects for the dragon were wonderful; at a certain point I felt this dragon would be the perfect pet for anyone. It was refreshing to sit and watch a movie that focused on telling a good story that a person could relate to no matter their age.