DEATH for some people is not always a permanent state. These individuals maintain their bond to the deceased, though it is not necessarily reciprocal. They may talk to their loved one every day, bringing them up on current events or asking advice on an upcoming decision. I had a relative who went to see her mother every single day, having on hand her mother’s favorite coffee and sweet roll. She would park on the side of the road and walk over to a congested area of headstones. With her folding stool, thermos and the plastic bag that carried the sweet roll and napkins; she would sit by the side of her mother’s grave and pour each of them a cup of coffee. Setting the cup down on the headstone, she let her mother know she brought her favorite sweet roll; she placed the item on a small paper plate to then join the perched cup of coffee. This ritual took place every day and after she had spent an hour or two, she would drink up the coffee from her mother’s cup and ask her if she was done with her sweet roll. She would tear the sweet roll into pieces and once she was outside of the cemetery would scatter the pieces by a tree for the birds. I am a firm believer whatever means a person needs to do to deal with death is fine with me; I do not judge or question. Everyone deals with death in their own way. Also, I feel anything is possible. Recently a friend of mine had died after a year long illness. After notifications went out to family and friends, a few days later out of the blue my friend’s cell phone rang with an unknown phone number. There was no one on the line when the call was answered. You want to talk about an eerie moment? Well someone close to the deceased who is in mourning could see the call as a sign. I could easily understand their thought process with this incident. If you choose to watch this mystery thriller, be prepared to experience something unearthly. Or is it really? WORKING as a personal shopper Maureen Cartwright, played by Kristen Stewart (Certain Women, The Twilight Saga franchise), was convinced her deceased brother was trying to contact her. This film festival winning drama also starred Lars Eidinger (Everyone Else, Clouds of Sils Maria) as Ingo, Sigrid Bouaziz (Portrait of the Artist, The Tunnel-TV) as Lara and Anders Danielsen Lie (Reprise, Herman) as Erwin. I have not always been a fan of Kristen Stewart, but I have to say this was one of her best roles. She pretty much carries the interesting story. Watching this movie was like riding an amusement park’s roller coaster; not the big major ones, but the ones that give you a thrill but do not let your stomach move up into your throat. At first I was not getting settled into the story since the script kept things somewhat sparse. But then layer by layer I found myself drawn into the surreal story. I enjoyed the directing in this picture; but at times the script became muddled and fell apart. The concept of the story interested me overall, because as I said you just never know.
2 ½ stars
SEEING things through someone else’s eyes would have been one of the superpowers I would have picked if I had the opportunity. Since it was non-existent it took me a long time to achieve something comparable, where I could gain insight into a person’s train of thought or experience of a situation. The reason why I would have liked this supernatural ability is because I did not realize 2 people could react so differently to the same event. Imagine from the time of that single event, two people wind up taking different paths in life based on their experience of the situation. So you might understand how being able to see something through another person’s eyes could be beneficial. I absolutely appreciate getting feedback from people; for one reason, to compare their feelings to mine and secondly, I believe the more reactions an individual can be exposed to, the better it allows for a course of action if it is warranted. Let me give you an example of something that happened to me and let us see how you would experience it. WE had been dating for nearly six months, reaching a level of comfort with each other similar to a couple in a long term relationship. Due to certain actions, events and I believe miscommunication our relationship disintegrated without much drama. It was decided we would no longer be a couple. As we worked through our separation, it had only been a couple of weeks when I received an email confirming the things we agreed upon. Within the body of that email they happened to mention they had just returned from having a magical evening with someone they had just met. I sat there reading about how one should grab those magic moments because you never know where they will lead. I was rather shocked by this as you can imagine. There was no need for them to tell me about their date—after we had just broken up 2 weeks prior. How would you feel if you were in this situation? Was it a vindictive move, did they want me to be jealous or were they not even aware they were being hurtful? If I took it as being mean spirited, my memories of them would be forever altered. You just never know how things will turn out without all the facts. UPON receiving a death notification about a woman he once knew Tony Webster, played by Jim Broadbent (Cloud Atlas, The Iron Lady), experiences unsettling memories from his past. This film festival winning drama also starred Charlotte Rampling (The Duchess, 45 Years) as Veronica Ford, Harriet Walker (Sense and Sensibility, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Margaret Webster and Michelle Dockery (Hanna, Downton Abbey-TV) as Susie Webster. Based on the award winning novel, I thought the entire movie should have been all about Jim’s and Charlotte’s characters. They were excellent to the point I did not pay much attention to anyone else. The story was interesting and I did not mind the moving back and forth between two time periods; however, the pace of this movie was slow enough to make me tired. It was a shame since I liked the concept of the story, the acting and the direction of the story. I simply did not find the telling of this story cohesive. On an upbeat note I did enjoy seeing how memories have an effect on people.
2 1/4 stars
WHEN I ask why they are attracted to that certain feature of the individual, the answer is never the same. It is perplexing to me how people acquire a particular attraction to a person’s height, hair color or body type. Friends of mine to this day test me because they cannot believe I do not pay attention to the surface details of an individual. They will point at someone and ask me if I would be attracted to that person. Each time I have to tell them I do not know until I have had a couple of conversations with that particular individual. Maybe from my studies in psychology I attempt to rationalize a person’s tastes in potential dates. In some circles of thought one could say one of the reasons a person is attracted to redheads is because they are less available, rarer if you will. This person wants to stand out from the pack. Someone may be attracted to facial hair because it represents a father figure, an authoritarian. There are so many different interpretations, yet they still do not answer my fundamental thought: why should it make a difference what a person looks like? You can have what looks like the most perfect apple in your hand, but it still may be rotten underneath the skin. TAKING this a step further, I feel the same way about a person’s ethnicity. The only thing a person’s ethnic makeup tells me is what region of the world their ancestors were born. After taking in the cultural differences, I do not find anything different between people of different races. Each group produces geniuses, thieves, liars, bigoted and loving people. I find this whole discrimination thing puzzling and troubling. People are quick to make judgments about individuals solely based on skin color; I just do not get it. From what I have said you may begin to suspect, this fairy tale is one my favorite stories from childhood. SIMPLY by plucking a single rose off a bush Maurice, played by Kevin Kline (Cry Freedom, My Old Lady), was imprisoned by a monstrous beast, played by Dan Stevens (The Guest, Downton Abbey-TV). If it was not for his daughter Belle, played by Emma Watson (The Bling Ring, Harry Potter franchise); Maurice would have never survived the ordeal. This live action, fantasy musical was based on the animated film version of this story done in the 1990s. With Luke Evans (Dracula Untold, The Raven) as Gaston and Josh Gad (The Wedding Ringer, Jobs) as LeFou, the cast members not associated with singing surprised me with their vocal abilities. Emma took her character and made it a somewhat more modern and determined figure. I do not know if it was because of this or not, but I found her interactions with the Beast emotionally too fast. She never had a sense of revulsion upon meeting the Beast; in other words there was a lack of tension between the two. The same argument could be made with other portions of the film; the story was quickly pushed from one action scene to another I felt. At least the creativity and imagination that went into the sets and individual pieces were thoroughly entertaining. Along with the wonderful musical score and beautiful story, there are more things to like about this film than not. Maybe just do not look too deep under the surface to find the cracks.
TOMBSTONES fall down due to hateful thoughts these days. Houses of worship get tagged with symbols of hate. Videos are posted online to show acts of discrimination. Throughout my life I have personally experienced bigotry and discrimination. With each exposure to it I never understood how a person grew up with such hate inside of them. I am sure within our general conversations with friends and family, someone will mention they do not like someone’s laugh or hair; you know unimportant surface stuff. But when there has been no interaction of any kind and a person actively discriminates against you solely on visual information, it is mind numbing. Any form of discrimination is wrong as far as I am concerned. Before you think better of me, I want you to know there are individual people I do not care to be around. There may be something they do or the way they act that annoys me, so what? I would not hate them because of it; I would simply avoid them. If someone is eating a food like sauerkraut, which I dislike immensely, I would not think less of them or hate them for it. HATRED is such a strong word and I am sad to see how it appears more prevalent today then years ago. Maybe it was always there inside of people, but now it seems as if it is acceptable out in the public eye. I am horrified by some of the acts of hatred I see on the news. This brings me back to my earlier statement: how do people get so much hatred inside of them? We are not born with it; it is something that is learned. If that is the case who or what is teaching us to become hateful? Well I found part of the answer in this BAFTA and film festival winning crime drama. FROM a chance meeting 12 year old Shaun, played by Thomas Turgoose (Eden Lake, The Scouting Book for Boys), discovers a way to feel superior over others. Set in England during the early 1980s, this movie also starred Stephen Graham (Public Enemies, Gangs of New York) as Combo, Jo Hartley (Eddie the Eagle, Dead Man’s Shoes) as Cynth and Joseph Gilgun (Lockout, Harry Brown) as Woody. I found the beginning of the story slow, not sure what the focus was supposed to be. There were troubling scenes for me because they had to do with bullying. As the story progressed I became more involved with what was taking place because a new element was introduced that changed the whole tone of this film. If you are uncomfortable seeing discrimination as I am then I have to tell you I was uncomfortable watching some of the scenes. Now it did not stop me; the story in a way was a revelation. This DVD made me think and in a way, one could say this is a coming of age story which is frightening on some levels. There were powerful performances and though the story was set a few decades ago, I do not think there would be much change in the process of transforming an individual into a dark place. Maybe this movie could be used as an example for schools and organizations to show how a person learns how to hate.
3 ¼ stars — DVD
CONTROL was something that had been a part of me for so long that not being in control was becoming a distant memory. Using myself and several people I know who also prefer being in control, I believe certain events in one’s life steers them to becoming a “control freak” or as I prefer to say “control aficionado.” For some experiencing disappointment multiple times can trigger them to stop counting on others. For example at work if you have an employee on your team that isn’t working up to the level needed to succeed in a specific task you are involved in, you might decide to take on some of the co-worker’s responsibilities to finish your project to your satisfaction. Another thing I have noticed for some people is their lack of spontaneity increases their desire for control. I know I can relate to this one because my brain is wired to the logic, “for every action there is a reaction.” My days are usually planned out due to my multiple jobs and responsibilities. To do something out of the norm would throw off the rest of the day for me. NOW with everything I just said I recently discovered or better yet I should say rediscovered the feeling of not being in control. I have to tell you when I first realized I was relinquishing control it was unsettling for me. So you have a reference point, let me tell you that the level of my control used to be where I would not participate in a group decision on where to go out for dinner. If I did not like someone’s choice on where to eat I would not order any food. Reading what I just wrote doesn’t make me sound like a fun person does it? I hope I do not grow old and get a similar reputation like the main character in this dramatic comedy. SUCCESSFUL businesswoman Harriet Lauler, played by Shirley MacLaine (Bernie, Elsa & Fred), had such control over her life that she even needed to know what her obituary would say about her before she was gone. That tough task would fall onto newspaper employee Anne Sherman, played by Amanda Seyfried (Dear John, Mamma Mia!). Casting Shirley in the main role was a big asset for this story. Both her and Amanda worked well together I thought. Also starring newcomer AnnJewel Lee Dixon as Brenda and Thomas Sadoski (John Wick franchise, Wild) as Robin Sands, I did not mind the rest of the cast; however, even if they were all renowned thespians it would not have helped the contrived script. The scenes did not come across as totally believable and it was long into the movie before I even felt a connection to Shirley’s character. For the most part none of the scenes went beyond standard fare; what I mean is Shirley’s character could have been more extreme, the scenes if they were believable could have been pushed for more emotion. As a result I was left with a “blah” feeling by the end of the film. In fact my strongest feelings came from the idea that I could wind up like Harriet if I don’t start giving up some control in my life.
1 3/4 stars
SITTING in the semi-darkened theater waiting for the movie trailers to begin, I was wondering how many different film variations of King Kong I had seen. I believe I saw every one of them and I could even include the robotic one Bette Midler used in one of her concerts, where she played the Fay Wray character who was sprawled out across King Kong’s palm. Thinking about these different versions of the big ape, we really have come a long way from the 1st one to the latest one I was about to see. Of course I was basing it on the movie trailers I had recently seen. Recalling the earlier Kong versions, I can still remember how fake looking he was in the oldest movies. My guess is the writers needed to fine tune their script to keep the audience engaged with the story since an unrealistic looking gorilla would quickly become boring. SPEAKING of story lines I wondered what the writers would do to keep me interested in this umpteenth time of me watching a King Kong film. More often than not I have noticed when a movie comes out with a well known character that has played before the script is updated to reflect current times. Sometimes it works and sometimes it is a bust. I can remember a group of classic horror monsters like Frankenstein and the Mummy being part of a series of movies that were based in comedy, starring comedians and comedy duos. Personally I found them ridiculous; taking such classic horror characters and placing them in a genre of films that no one would ever consider for them, diminishes their scariness in the public’s eyes. With these thoughts in mind the movie theater lights became dark and I sat back in my seat to see what Kong was up to these days. FLYING over the Pacific Ocean, bound for a newly discovered uncharted island, a group of scientists and soldiers did not know they would be disturbing the inhabitants to the point of making them angry. This action adventure fantasy succeeded because of the special effects. From all the different versions of King Kong I have seen on film, this was the best looking or should I say the most realistic version of King Kong. The fight scenes were exciting, especially the opening one. If this film had not been so technically advanced I would have been bored by the script. With Tom Hiddleston (Crimson Peak, I Saw the Light) as James Conrad, Samuel L. Jackson (The Legend of Tarzan, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) as Preston Packard, Brie Larson (Room, Short Term 12) as Mason Weaver and John C. Reilly (Carnage, Step Brothers) as Hank Marlow; I only found Hank’s character interesting. Samuel was doing his identical acting thing, so no surprises there. However I was surprised how stiff Tom and Brie were with their characters. This was partially due to the script that offered no insights, along with the direction that kept them one dimensional. Only John C. Reilly and John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane, The Monuments Men) as Bill Randa offered any interest among the cast. If you are into visual experiences then you would want to see this picture inside a movie theater. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
FOR general purposes let me define “karma” this way: The things you do in this life determine how you will be treated in your next one. I would have to spend more time to contemplate how I came to believe in karma since it was not part of my childhood religious upbringing. As a child I know the concept of karma would have been foreign to me. It was in college where I first was introduced to it. Though it was looked at from an educational perspective, as time went on I began to see where certain people would receive comfort from the philosophy behind it. Removing the religious aspect; when I think about karma, it makes me stop to question some of my actions. I cannot change what I have done in the past but in the present I do find value in being aware of karma. A perfect example would be a friend of mine. Recently coming to a place where they now believe in karma, I have noticed a change in their behavior. From a greedy position I can now see how they are more relaxed in their daily life and the need they had before has abated, replaced with almost a serene attitude. AN area of my life where my awareness of karma has affected me is my interactions with difficult people. I know this may sound trivial to some; but in the past I would match a difficult person’s nastiness, loudness and orneriness inch for inch. If they were yelling I would yell back; if they called me names I would throw it right back at them. Having altered my attitude I get angry much less because in my mind I am thinking this difficult person is going to have a hard time in their next life. I wonder if that is how the saying, “What goes around, comes around,” came into existence. It is a lesson some of the teenagers in this dramatic mystery could have learned. STUCK reliving the last day of her life Samantha Kingston, played by Zoey Deutch (Vampire Academy, Why Him?), begins to see herself in a different light. With fellow cast members Halston Sage (Paper Towns, Neighbors) as Lindsay Edgecomb, Logan Miller (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, I’m in the Band-TV) as Kent McFuller and Elena Kampouris (Labor Day, My Big Fat Greek Wedding franchise) as Juliet Sykes; this young adult story started out with an interesting concept. The acting was decent since some of the characters’ actions were making me uncomfortable. To address the elephant in the room, the idea for this story was similar to the one in the film Groundhog Day, where a character relives their life over and over. For some reason I never totally connected to the characters. I would have appreciated more insight into each person; instead, I felt myself reacting to the nastiness. It reminded me of what I saw during my high school days, which I prefer leaving in the past. However, I did like the story arc of one main character and that is what kept me somewhat interested in this picture. My guess is this movie would draw similar aged viewers since that was the makeup of the audience at my viewing. After the film was over I had a feeling that me sitting through this mystery movie meant I would not have to do this again in my next life.
2 ¼ stars
THOUGH I try to avoid using the word “should,” in this case I think it is appropriate. One should not get offended by which table they are assigned to at a celebratory function, such as a wedding or bar mitzvah. Whether you believe it or not there is a ranking system, just like there is one for the seating arrangement at the Oscar awards. I am not including company functions here since most of the ones I have attended did not have assigned tables. It makes sense to me to place those people that may have a task to perform closer to the staging area of a room. For example the siblings of the bride and groom would be seated near the newlyweds so they would have easy access to give their speeches. Grandparents are always placed close by out of respect or maybe just to keep an eye on them for whatever reason. Those in the wedding party also would be seated somewhere near the newlyweds since those individuals I would assume are part of the couples’ inner circle of close friends and relatives. I see it as a ranking system in general, plus I can see the logic in it. THERE is a running joke in my family about the table that is closest to the kitchen. I freely admit, at least within my family structure, those seated at that particular table tend to be individuals who do not fit in at the other tables. No one in that group is going to perform any function like a toast or speech; there may be a pair of single people placed there, especially if the bride and/or groom is trying to fix up a relative or friend; and it is not uncommon to place a person there who shares only a past history with the celebrating families, having been invited out of respect. As long as the food is good it really doesn’t matter where I sit, though the guests at the last table in this dramatic comedy would have been a bit of a challenge for me. GOING from being the maid of honor to simply a guest when the best man dumped her Eloise, played by Anna Kendrick (The Accountant, The Hollars) found herself seated at the dreaded last table at the wedding. She was not the only one at the table. The idea for this story was something I could easily relate to and felt almost anyone else would find something in common with it. With Lisa Kudrow (Easy A, Friends-TV) as Bina Kepp, Craig Robinson (This is the End, Pineapple Express) as Jerry Kepp and June Squibb (Nebraska, Scent of a Woman) as Jo Flanagan; I liked the variety of the cast and each of their back stories. As for the script it provided plenty of chances for most viewers to connect to something familiar in their own lives. The issue I had was the script was too basic; it was too easy to see the jokes coming, the acting was partially uneven due to the dialog and none of the scenes were pushed to a farther place to add some intensity to the story. I felt as if everything was on one emotional level which led to boredom. The script really needed to be punched up to make this picture stand out from other movies that had similar story lines. If you get an invitation to this film you might want to send back your regrets.
1 ¾ stars
FROM my experiences I know every person treats religion differently. I also am aware of the differences between someone who is religious compared to a person who is spiritual. Some years ago I knew a man who went to temple every day to pray. He followed his religion’s customs and traditions fully, handing them down to his children. The interesting thing was after he died his wife stopped following the rituals; not totally but she became more relaxed about the structure shall we say. I know another person who partakes in all the customs of her religion, but her actions are not of a religious person. Just because you attend services and donate money to charity does not automatically make one religious. In other words you have to practice what you preach. This person discriminates against a variety of minorities; I am talking blatantly speaks out against them. I just sit and wonder how they can justify their actions based on how much they talk about their religious participation. THOUGH I understand the circumstances were devastating for the individual I still find it curious when they suddenly become religious. I have experienced this myself on some level at a time when I felt there was no hope of me coming out unscathed. It took place one of the times I was being chased by a group of bullies after school. Hiding behind a couple of garbage cans on the back porch of an apartment building, I could hear them below me. They must have been looking up at the porches of the 4 storied building before running up the stairs to only check on the top floor they could not fully see from the alley. I remember praying to God to keep me hidden from them until they came down the stairway and were long gone. Due to this experience I have gained insight or maybe it is sensitivity to the actions taken by someone experiencing tragedy, like the family in this inspirational fantasy drama. DEEP into depression from a tragic event Mack Phillips, played by Sam Worthington (Clash of the Titans franchise, Avatar), one day received a letter in his box without a postmark. It was from someone he stopped believing in. Based on the bestselling book this fantasy movie also starred Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, The Help) as Papa, Radha Mitchell (Man on Fire, Looking for Grace) as Nan Phillips and Tim McGraw (The Blind Side, Country Strong) as Willie. I appreciated the idea behind this film’s story and felt the cast was certainly capable to bring the story to life. My issue lies with the director; the pacing was slow to the point I felt the story was dragging. Add in the script being stacked in favor of manipulating the viewers’ emotions to shed tears, I did not find this a pleasant movie watching experience. If the story would have been told in a more even handed way, allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions, I feel the film would have been better all around. Sitting next to me through this picture were a couple of friends who are more religious than me. Asking them what they thought, they felt the same way I did about the movie. The story was a sad one that did not give them a sense of comfort due to the poor writing and direction.
2 ¼ stars