DURING my daily commute to work I pass 3 makeshift memorials that were set up by the side of the road. What they have in common are floral arrangements, ribbons and sadness. My guess is each person from the memorials perished from an auto accident. How tragic it must be for the family; based on past news articles, I can only imagine the circumstances of the accident. I remember one involved a boy riding his bicycle who was struck by a car that swerved out of the way of a tarp that fell off of a truck in front of them, momentarily blinding the driver. Can you imagine if this took place in front of the boy’s house and the family sees the memorial every day? I do not know how I would handle it, seeing a reminder outside my door every day, even without a memorial. RECENTLY I was driving through my old neighborhood with a friend who was curious to see my old stomping grounds. Driving through several blocks, I shared memories and tidbits while pointing out various places. As I drove by one particular building I started to tear up from the flood of awful memories associated with the place. My friend saw the change in me and asked what was going on inside of me. Taking a breath I started to tell them about some of the horrible things that were done to me when I was much younger. It felt like I was reliving them as I spoke them out loud. Though I believe each of us learns something from every experience, thinking about that time after all these years still made me feel sad and angry. I do not think I am alone in saying recalling tough, challenging events in the past is a hard thing to do; this is why it was not easy for me to watch this dramatic historical thriller. FROM an act of terror during the Boston marathon the citizens of Boston united in a powerful way. This film festival winning movie written and directed by Peter Berg (Deepwater Horizon, Lone Survivor) starred Mark Wahlberg (Deepwater Horizon, Daddy’s Home) as Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders, Michelle Monaghan (Sleepless, Source Code) as Carol Saunders, John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane, Love the Coopers) as Commissioner Ed Davis and Kevin Bacon (Black Mass, Elephant White) as Special Agent Richard DesLauriers. I felt Peter presented a thoughtful, reflective story that did not sink into dramatic hyperbole. Because the script was sensitively written I thought the actors did fine in their roles and in regards to Mark he was in his element. Since I was quite familiar with this story, knowing people who were affected by it, I thought I would not have been as engaged in the movie. It turned out I was very much into the film as there were multiple scenes that showed the things taking place away from the public; it was fascinating to watch. I will say it was not easy to sit and watch this movie due to seeing the violence and injuries again. The images I remembered all came up as the story unfolded on the big screen. Let me just say if you have the stomach to revisit this event then it is worth watching this well done film.
WALKING down the street your eye catches something on display behind the store’s display window. You had no intentions of shopping today, but something about the perfectly matched clothing on the mannequin makes you stop. The store was not unfamiliar to you; maybe it was a couple of years ago since you last ventured inside. If memory serves you correctly, you recall the sales staff being helpful. They were not pushy like some of the other clothing stores you have been in, where everything you try on looks perfect according to the staff. Instead the salespeople at this place offer suggestions, asking you where you intend to wear the items. Since the store did not appear to be busy you walked inside to get a closer look at the outfit. As expected a salesperson greeted you and asked if you needed any help. You explained your reason for coming inside and the salesperson directed you to the display rack that was carrying that particular outfit. Finding your size you took the clothing into the dressing room. After you had everything on you looked in the mirror. Though the clothing looked good, it did not look good on you. THIS scenario has happened to me multiple times through my life. Something that looked good on display did not translate to looking good on me. It is weird how that happens. It is not like my size keeps fluctuating; I have been the same size now for years. Yet each store seems to have a different idea of what the waist size should be. Where I may be a 32 inch waist at one place, another will have similar pants that fit the same but they are labeled 31 inch. In fact I know women’s clothing is more varied in how they determine their clothing sizes. It can be disappointing when you see something that you think would look good on you but then your reflection in the mirror says otherwise. It pretty much sums up the way I felt about this crime drama. JOE Coughlin, played by Ben Affleck, chose a different path than his police officer father Thomas Coughlin, played by Brendan Gleeson (In the Heart of the Sea, Suffragette). Joe’s path led to a life of crime down in Florida. This film festival nominee had a great look to it. Set during the time of Prohibition in the 1920s, the costumes and sets were a knock out. Written and directed by Ben, I have enjoyed Ben’s previous directorial efforts; he has an eye for filming a movie. However I think he took on too much with this story. There were scenes that were wonderful to watch, including an exciting car chase. But then there were other places where the story became muddled and slow. I liked the idea of making a gangster period piece but we all have seen similar ones before; this one needed more drama and intensity. As for the acting Ben could have been better since Elle Fanning (20th Century Women, Super 8) as Loretta Figgis and Chris Cooper (The Tempest, Adaptation) as Chief Figgis were more dynamic on screen. Unfortunately by the end of this picture I was left with a blah feeling; it may have been a good looking film but it did not tell its story very well.
2 ¼ stars
WHETHER there are one or two parents, raising a child is a daunting experience. Some parents use the way they were reared as a blueprint to raise their baby; others use their family members to assist them with their children. From my experiences I have witnessed such a wide variety of methods I cannot say one works better over another way. I have known some parents who worked diligently to shelter their children from everything they did not approve of in the world. Take for example slang words or as some refer to it as “swear” words. There was a couple who forbade their kids from ever uttering such words, to the point of checking every movie first before allowing them to watch it. When the children reached that age where all kids start to enforce their independence, they were ridiculed when they would tell one of their friends they said a “bad” word. SADLY I knew parents whose children grew up with the same prejudices their parents unwittingly displayed in front of their kids during their formative years. A method I have seen done successfully more times than not is exposing the child to most everything in life and explaining it. When these parents first heard their children say a slang word, they did not show anger or discomfort; the parents sat down and explained why saying such words would be hurtful and ugly. I have been impressed with the parents who take their children to volunteer at soup kitchens and shelters, exposing them to people and things their children may not experience in their local environment. Another thing I have noticed is the difference in children who were raised hearing their given language spoken properly to them instead of being talked to in “baby talk.” To me it seems these kids have an easier time articulating their feelings and thoughts. Being a fan of exposing a child to the world around them I feel I had a better understanding about the mother in this dramatic comedy. RAISING her son Jamie, played by Lucas Jade Zumann (Sinister 2, Chicago Fire-TV), without his father made Dorothea, played by Annette Bening (Rules Don’t Apply, Danny Collins), decide to expose her son to other points of view. Though they did not know it Julie, Abbie and William; played by Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon, Ginger & Rosa), Greta Gerwig (Mistress America, Maggie’s Plan) and Billy Crudup (Jackie, Big Fish); would all be contributing to Jamie’s journey to adulthood. This film festival winning movie’s story was set in southern California during the 1970s. I thought the acting was excellent with Annette making this one of her best roles. The script did not focus much on the character’s history, instead providing the viewer with snapshots of the characters’ current lives. One of the things about the story I appreciated the most was taking what was essentially a coming of age story and turning it into something new and different. In a way I found the story more authentic; in turn, I felt more connected to the characters. There were some scenes that did not work as well however, but nothing in a major way. I may not have agreed with everything Dorothea was doing in regards to raising her son, but I did walk away respecting her choices.
QUICK with a quip, he always placed himself in the front row of class. A good portion of the female members in class enjoyed having him stand in front of them. He had a good sense of rhythm which enabled him to pick up any new exercise moves in class. I knew this to be true because he attended my group fitness class for several months. Just a smidge shy of being 6 feet tall, he easily moved across the floor and had a good sense of body awareness. I knew some of the members watched him move because I always faced the class when teaching, so could see what their eyes were focused on. Usually members will look at themselves in the floor to ceiling mirrors behind me; but there was something about this guy woman preferred watching instead. AFTER attending class every week for several months he did not show up one day. A few members questioned where he could be, but other than that the absence was treated as an aberration. When he did not show up for the following class more members started asking about him. I had not heard anything. A few weeks had gone by and he still had not returned to class nor was seen anywhere else in the fitness center. Once in awhile a member would bring up his name but for the most part he became a memory. A few months afterwards I was walking down to the aerobic studio to teach a class and a member stopped me in the hallway. She asked if I had heard the news about that member who disappeared from class. I told her no; so she quickly proceeded to tell me about an article in the newspaper concerning a missing female roommate who was found dead in the truck of her car that was abandoned at the airport parking lot. Our former class participant was charged with the murder. The news traveled fast through the fitness center and everyone wondered how such a fun, happy go lucky guy could commit murder. This horror thriller may have provided the answer. COLLEGE friends Elliot, John and Sasha; played by Douglas Smith (Miss Sloane, Big Love-TV), Lucien Laviscount (One Night in Istanbul, Honeytrap) and relative newcomer Cressida Bonas; began experiencing frightening visions when they rented out an old house that had a past. Before the movie started I glanced around the theater and realized I had to be one of the oldest people in the auditorium. The crowd was predominantly high school and college aged people. Not that this would make any difference to me but the fact they seemed disappointed at the end of this poorly done film told me it must have been more horrible than I believed it to be. The story was bits and pieces of other movies and most importantly there was nothing scary about the villain, let alone any of the scenes. With a bare bones script there was nothing to lift the actors up into at least a mediocre level of acting. Maybe the trailers were enticing but this would be a waste of your time in my opinion.
1 ½ stars
THERE was a soft knock at my door. If I had music playing instead of studying for a test I would not have heard it. Upon opening the door I saw a woman standing with a canvas bag filled with pamphlets sitting by her feet. I asked her if I could help her though I was cautious since I was living in off campus housing; we never had strangers in the building. She asked me if I wanted to be saved today. I simply stared at her because I had never been asked such a question. Asking her what I was being saved from she leaned down to take one of the pamphlets out of her book and started to tell me about her religion. Because I was studying for a test I did not let her go on long before asking her how did she determine such a thing for me, that possibly my religion was taking care of me. She paused while maintaining her slight smile before telling me I should consider her faith because it was the only way for me. THIS was my first time having someone trying to convert me from my faith. At the time I was offended, namely because she was not acknowledging my faith. I finally had to ask her what right she had to make assumptions about my faith and spirituality from our short conversation. Having grown up in a diverse neighborhood, my friends and I were always going to each other’s religious holiday celebrations. Houses in my neighborhood would have either Christmas trees displayed in their windows or menorahs, while others displayed nothing. Maybe I grew up in a bubble but there were never any issues about one’s religion being wrong compared to someone else. I think that non-judgmental environment I grew up in made watching this dramatic film festival winning movie more shocking for me. TRAVELING from Portugal to Japan to find their lost mentor 17th century Jesuit priests Rodrigues and Garrpe, played by Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, 99 Homes) and Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Midnight Special) were not safe once they landed on foreign soil. Written and directed by Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Departed), I understand it took Martin years to get this story filmed. With Liam Neeson (Taken franchise, Run All Night) as Ferreira and Tadanobu Asano (Thor franchise, Ichi the Killer) as the interpreter, the story covered deeper subject matter than the usual heavily marketed movie studios’ films. This story was quite thought provoking where I am still processing the scenes I witnessed. I say witness because there were scenes that were tough to watch with their violence, while others presented interesting discussion. The acting was excellent and some scenes were close to brilliant. One issue I had with the film was the length of it; I found the running time of 2 hours and 41 minutes too long. At one point I felt I was going from one torture scene to another. If I heard correctly the movie was originally over an hour longer; I cannot imagine sitting that long for this story. Putting that aside this film did present a forum to discuss human nature and religious issues. I do not know if this movie would cause one to convert but it could possibly change your views on the power of films.
3 ½ stars
IT was in elementary school where I first met them, but at different times. One became friends with me in 4th grade, the other in 7th. They became my best friends and we did everything together. We would have dinner at each others’ houses, sleepovers, go on family trips together; we considered ourselves the three musketeers. Having two best friends was great during the school day because there was always a good chance one of them would be in one of my several classes during the day. As we started to grow towards our teen years we began to develop our own tastes. I did not think much about it because I just adapted to the new environment. There were some activities one friend liked that the other did not, so the two of us would do it by ourselves. DURING this time I did not realize my two friends were forming a dislike towards each other; I had no idea why it was even taking place, but it was becoming clear that I was neutral territory. They were not overt about their dislike but when the three of us were together I noticed when either of them talked it was directed towards me. They did very little eye contact towards the other. This was becoming very stressful for me because I did not know how to fix the situation. Once we were in high school the hostility they had for each other became more public. It was getting harder to make plans with either one because if I could not make it for a certain date, I would be accused of favoring the other friend. Talk about drama, the situation was uncomfortable to the point if one friend saw me talking to the other one I was accused of playing favorites. I reached my breaking point and told both of them I was done with the drama; if they wanted to keep this anger up then go for it, but I was removing myself from listening or dealing with any more hostilities. I felt the same way about this action fantasy film. THE key to winning the war between vampires and werewolves all came down to the blood flowing through the body of Selene, played by Kate Beckinsale (The Aviator, Love & Friendship). Whoever could capture her would win the war. This sequel also starred Theo James (Divergent franchise, The Benefactor) as David, Tobias Menzies (Finding Neverland, Atonement) as Marius and Lara Pulver (The Special Relationship, True Blood-TV) as Semira. On the surface this film had a good, dark look to it which fit into the theme of vampires. The fight scenes were fun in that comic book way of filming. Kate was the focus and handled the role beautifully; however, the script was so basic and clichéd that I quickly became bored. To me the script seemed as if it was pieced together in a “connect the dots” fashion. The writers must have decided the film needed a love scene, a rivalry, a generation gap, etc. and just threw it into the story; it was easy to figure out where things were going, so there were no surprises for me. As far as I was concerned I was hoping the 2 sides would kill each other so I would not have to sit through another sequel.
1 ¾ stars
SHE/HE is a special kind of friend. Sure he/she can be a confidant, a buddy and a protector; but what makes this type of friend special is the fact you are her/his only friend. Plus, you are the only one who can see this friend. I had such a friend who was everything I described above; he looked almost identical to me except he was thinner and incredibly strong. He was more than a protector; he was a vigilante. Right after an altercation, where I was on the receiving end of some form of violence/bullying, my friend would appear and take swift action against the perpetrators. If I was punched, my friend was ruthless with the revenge he would administer. No one around would even know what was taking place as my friend’s fists would be pummeling the bodies of the people who attacked me. Usually in less than a minute my friend would have knocked each attacker unconscious, battered and bloody. THERE were some individuals who had a similar friend to mine, but theirs was more of a sounding board for any dilemma the person was pondering. I guess you could say they were created to be the person’s conscious who would play the saint role as well as devil’s advocate. These friends provide a valuable service. Speaking for myself my friend did not provide much consoling for me. I knew I was not going to meet violence with actual violence; it was not part of my makeup, plus I knew I would never win. My friend satisfied the desire/need to make a stand and show the bullies I was not passively sitting by and letting them have their way with me. The anger inside of me was funneled into my friend who in his world could get away with everything and pay no consequences. If you would like to see an example then feel free to watch this dramatic fantasy film. WHILE his mother, played by Felicity Jones (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Inferno), was fighting a fatal disease and a bully was picking on him at school Conor, played by Lewis MacDougall (Pan), one day was visited by a monstrous talking tree who had a story to tell him. This film festival winning movie had a wonderful mix of special effects that fit in well with the actors’ scenes; it created a stylish visual narrative. With Sigourney Weaver (The Cold Light of Day, Alien franchise) as the grandmother and Toby Kebbell (Ben-Hur, Fantastic Four) as the Dad, I have to say all the actors were on their “A” game. Lewis was extra special with his role in my opinion. The story was interesting to me because there was one part that was dealing with terminal illness, another part that was focusing on bullying and lastly the fantasy of the talking tree monster. This is not a film for young children; there were many theater patrons at my showing with tears in their eyes due to the heavy subject matter. As a coming of age story this film provided a different spin on it and as a person who had a special friend, I totally identified with Conor’s monster.
HIS attendance was perfect; he never missed a day of work. The quality of his work was outstanding and it showed in his yearly performance review because he never received a below average mark in any of the performance categories. However, he never received an above average mark either; but, he did not complain about it, grateful he had a job. The travel time for him was long; it required 2 buses and a train to get to the office. The company had over 200 employees but he could not call one of them a friend. Some individuals would only talk to him if they had to for business; he was used to the blank or condescending looks he would get for nearly every action he took. SHE was in love and it did not even take her long to realize it. They had met at a coffee shop one afternoon. Over their drinks they did not strictly make small talk; they ventured into deeper subjects and it was apparent there was a unique kindness being shared between them. Over the next several weeks a mutual fondness grew between them. Each was starting to think they found the right one they wanted to be with for the rest of their life. With the blossoming love they shared they became more affectionate with each other. Simple things like holding hands at the movies or a quick kiss on the cheek, actions everyone in love has done from time to time. When they were affectionate they did not realize people around them would stop what they were doing to watch the happy couple. The look on these strangers’ faces was usually a grimace, a look of disgust. Nothing the happy couple did was inappropriate but it did not matter, there was another reason. And the reason could be found in the color of a person’s skin. LOSING the space race to the Russians was not acceptable; it would take effort from every single person at NASA to get astronaut John Glenn up into space. But if you were not the right color, you did not count to some people. Based on a true story this is a must see drama. Starring Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Empire-TV) as Katherine G. Johnson, Octavia Spencer (The Help, Snowpiercer) as Dorothy Vaughan, recording artist Janelle Monae (Moonlight) as Mary Jackson and Kevin Costner (Black or White, Draft Day) as Al Harrison; this film festival winning movie was unbelievable. Let me start with the story; what an amazing achievement during a time period that most of us had never known about while history was being made in getting a rocket into space. The acting was wonderful from everyone; even minor characters fit right in without missing a beat of the story. As a movie viewing experience I had a great time clapping and cheering with the audience during a few scenes. Knowing how the story was going to end, since it is a part of US history, did not take away from the enjoyment in watching the amazing feats being achieved by the people in this movie. The space program has come so far from blasting John Glenn into space; now if only we could elevate our thinking about judging a person on their abilities instead of their color.
LOVE, when it is expressed, can be one of the purest and strongest emotions. At least that is what it can be depending on the person. When an individual falls in love they can find themselves smiling for no apparent reason or getting giddy with excitement in anticipation of being with the source of their love. Some people love going to the circus; they get to experience a range of emotions from the varied acts on display. Other people get in touch with their sense of love when they are able to hike up a mountain trail then sit out on the edge of a precipice. Another thing love can do is steer you away from your daily routines and venture into new territory, exploring the ways 2 people can blend their individual lives into a shared common one. HOWEVER when a person sacrifices their other emotions and rational thoughts to focus strictly on love, they then have entered the land of the extremes. In this place a person scrutinizes every action, comment and reaction from the focus of their love. In turn they react in an extreme way to the point of becoming obsessive. I was in a relationship some time ago where things started out in an easy way for us. We seemed compatible and had similar tastes in things. As the weeks went by little things started cropping up that I found odd. For example a delay in us getting together due to a prior commitment I had would produce a passive aggressive response in an attempt to make me feel guilty, hoping I would change my plans. This was a red flag for me and a cause of concern. Maybe if my ego was inflated I would have enjoyed the attention and their need to be with me; instead, it caused a disconcerting feeling inside of me. My instincts turned out to be correct. I was being turned into this desired object that they needed to feel fulfilled and complete in their life. Obsession can be a lethal road for one to travel on. FRANK, played by Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals, Midnight Special), was falling deeper in love with Lola, played by Imogen Poots (Green Room, Need for Speed), to the point where even warning signs could not influence him. This film festival nominated drama also starred Justin Long (Drag Me to Hell, Accepted) as Keith and Michael Nyqvist (John Wick, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Alan. It was interesting to see Michael playing a romantic lead. He is an excellent actor and in this crime mystery he was good, but I have to tell you I felt he was not the best choice for the role. The intensity he has displayed in previous movies did not translate well in this one. Set in Las Vegas and Paris, I was initially interested with the story line and thought the acting was good throughout the film. One of the reasons why I did not feel totally connected to the story was the lack of back story or depth with the Frank and Lola characters. I could see what the writer was trying to do but it did not take me where I needed to be to truly get into the story. I love movies but I did not love watching this one much.
AS I was led down the street I came up to a row of stores. One had a large picture window with black letters outlined in gold that made me stop. What I saw inside both scared me and fascinated me at the same time. Sitting in a row alongside one wall were women wearing tall hats that looked like silver ice cream cones turned upside down. I could not tell if they were locked in because each of them sat perfectly still as if they were in a trance. Suddenly it occurred to me they may have gone through surgery and were now recovering from their procedure. As quickly as that thought entered my mind another one popped up; maybe these women were being fitted for uniforms they needed to travel to outer space. My imagination took off with all kinds of possibilities those silver cones could have been and the image of those women sitting underneath them has stayed with me all these years. THAT was the first time I had ever seen a beauty shop. Memories of that shop came back to me when I started working at a company who had a receptionist with red hair that was piled up, I swear, at least 15 inches above her scalp. Her hair never moved because the amount of hair spray she used on it which always caused a brief fog around her sealed each strand of hair in place until the entire hairdo looked as if it had been covered in varnish. Hearing the amount of time she spent each week at the beauty shop was hard for me to comprehend; though if I put it into movie viewing time it did not seem so long, maybe one very long feature film. Now that I am “follicularly” challenged I have a whole different outlook on hair which made me more curious about the things I saw in this documentary. HAIRSTYLES were never looked at the same way after a young British man named Vidal Sassoon picked up a pair of shears and starting cutting women’s hair in a mathematical, precise way. I did not realize the impact Vidal had on the hair industry; for the most part I just remember seeing his hair care products on store shelves. His story was interesting to me; it had this “rags to riches” element that played out predominately due to Vidal’s determination. Another aspect I enjoyed was seeing where he fit into pop culture during his time. There were many curious elements in this film that was written and directed by Craig Teper (Hit and Runaway, No Way Home). As the movie progressed I started feeling as if the story was turning into a self promoting piece; the majority of Vidal’s story was kept at the surface. I never got a sense of the why and how he was so fascinated with hair. Except for a couple of scenes everything was kept upbeat and cheery which after awhile started to become monotonous. For those interested in hairstyles and even just the curious, this DVD would be an easy viewing experience and if nothing else seeing what this one man did to the fashion world and pop culture might even surprise you.
2 1/4 stars — DVD