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
A life full of expectations will be a life filled with disappointments. I wish it wasn’t so but it is a fact; having those expectations can lead you down a sad path in life. This was a hard lesson I had to learn; I mean it took years for me to figure it out and even to this day I have to catch myself from placing expectations on things I have no control over. Now I am not really referring to the expectations we have when we are buying a product. For example if you are buying a vacuum cleaner you expect to plug it in and it works; though these days that may not be the case as much. Or how about the conversation I just had with a friend who went to a restaurant and ordered a particular dinner because of my recommendation. It turns out they did not like it; they were disappointed in the meal. Stuff happens, but where I had to learn to let go of my expectations was when I interact with people. I used to think when I was dating a person who had expressed the same traits and philosophies as me; they would act in a similar fashion as me. Because I reply quickly to a person’s email or text, I used to think the other person would do the same and when they didn’t I would think I did something wrong. It turns out that is not always the case. I learned I cannot place my values, morals or beliefs on someone else. What all of this has done for me is realize I can only be responsible for myself. I have to tell you, this really has helped me when it comes to seeing a movie. Without learning anything about it, I walk into a movie theater without any expectations. I have no idea if I will enjoy a movie or not; even one like this one. RELOCATING to a beautiful house they purchased out in the country Dana and David, played by Kate Beckinsale (Love & Friendship, Underworld franchise) and Mel Raido (Legend, The Informers), had no idea their house had an extra room that came with a secret. This dramatic horror thriller also starred Duncan Joiner (Some Kind of Beautiful, The Perfect Guy) as Lucas and Gerald McRaney (Focus, Major Dad-TV) as Judge Blacker. What I can tell you is the house and its grounds were beautiful. This was the best part of the movie. Wow, I could not believe people at the movie studio put their stamp of approval on green lighting this project. The script was horrible, void of anything exciting or spine tingling. Normally I have enjoyed Kate’s performances but this role was a waste. It was a bummer because the story was split into two trains of thought. If the writers would have only done a story about the house or one about the family dynamics I think this would have been a better picture. Instead what was offered was a silly, generic, plain movie that should have been locked up in the film studio’s disappointments room. I truly walked into this with no expectations despite the film’s title.
1 ½ stars
Begin with several words, string them together and let a story take you away. Let me show you what I mean. I will start with the words room, curtains, breath, light, skin and airplane. Here is the first beginning to the story: The curtains’ shadows looked like they were reaching out to me as I entered into the room. The light behind them blazed in a crimson red; I could feel the heat on my skin. This was my first time here and the air smelled rancid. It was stifling to the point where I felt I was entering into the mouth of an ogre with bad breath. Suddenly the room shook with a roar as if an airplane had just skimmed the roof above me. Maybe what I just wrote was the beginning of a horror story. Same words, but in a different order; let me see what I will get: The curtains gently rippled as a warm breeze passed them into my room. I was stretched out on the sofa, careful not to disturb the creases where the love of my life had sat minutes ago before they had to leave. Their breath still felt like it was lingering around the skin at the back of my neck. Our light conversation had gone into deeper waters with positive results. I agreed to make airplane reservations to fly out and meet their family for the first time. Now this story sounds romantic, doesn’t it? That is the beauty about stories; they can take us to an infinite amount of places. I love the way a story can take me away from my reality and place me into a whole different world. Some people read to learn, others read to escape; it does not make a difference because I feel just the act of reading provides the essential nutrients for the mind to grow. AMOS OZ, played by newcomer Amir Tessler, was always ready to hear a new story until he felt he was living in some of them. With Natalie Portman (Jane Got a Gun, Black Swan) as Fania Oz, Makram Khoury (Munich, The Physician) as Halawant and Ohad Knoller (The Bubble, Munich) as Israel Zarchi; this film festival nominated dramatic biography was based on the bestseller by Amos Oz. Written and directed by Natalie, the story had a darkness to it as it took place during Israel’s formative years. I could see there was something to the story but I don’t think the screenplay conveyed it. There were some good scenes and I could see Natalie had a good eye for directing, but I did not find this picture entertaining. Despite the acting being good, the story telling interesting and the dynamics between the characters having depth; I was not always into the story. Granted I would not consider the subject upbeat but I think if the script was in different hands the results might have been different. Not that I am knocking Natalie’s 1st directorial effort, but maybe she should have focused only on that instead of the screenplay too. There certainly was a story here; I just did not feel satisfied watching it. Hebrew was spoken with English subtitles.
For some of you one of your earliest memories may have been waking up in the morning to see 2 eyes intently watching you from a nose distance away. You may have woken up from the warm breath pulsing at you or maybe the low sounding purr. One of the earliest relationships many of us have had was the bond between us and our pets. Though I did not experience it at a young age, I do remember how much I enjoyed slipping in between the bed sheets to discover the warmth a pet had created in my space. I still get a chuckle from the stories and photos my friends share of them waking up to have a sleeping cat draped around their head or going to sleep and finding their dog was already snuggled into the bed with the sheets pulled up to their dog collar, their head resting on a pillow. One picture in particular you would swear the dog was looking at his non-furry friend as if to say, “C’mon, it is time to go to sleep.” The bond between animals and humans has stayed strong throughout the centuries. In the past I would always have a line drawn between the characteristics displayed by animals and humans. An animal acts differently than a human; I never assumed a dog or a cat was thinking in a similar way to me. Seeing the interactions between my friends and their pets, I know some of their pets are more than pets. I get it and I am not judging because I have witnessed some interactions that can only be explained as telepathy or empathy. Even some of the movies I have reviewed here that were based on true stories about humans and animals amazed me. In fact today’s film showed something I never knew about the classic story of Robinson Crusoe. STRANDED and alone Robinson Crusoe, voiced by Matthias Schweighofer (Rabbit without Ears, What a Man), did not realize he actually had friends on the small island. This film festival winning animated adventure comedy also had the voices of Kaya Yanar (Schillerstrabe-TV) as Papagei Dienstal, Ilka Bessin (Der Nanny) as Tapir Rosie and Dieter Hallervorden (Nonstop Nonsens-TV, On Track) as Ziegenbock Zottel. In case you were wondering this Belgium film had dubbed in English for the dialog. The best part of this picture was the colorful animation; that pretty much was it. I did not mind the twist the writers did to the Robinson Crusoe story but was surprised this script lacked anything fun or funny. Maybe the youngest of children would enjoy this but there were a couple of times where I thought the film was mean spirited. If I had never seen an animated film before in my entire life maybe I would have at least found something to like about this movie. It really was such a flat, uninspired production that I could not wait for it to be over. Honestly if this is an award winner, what were the other nominated films like? Your time would be better spent volunteering at an animal shelter or at least taking the money you would have spent for this film and donating it.
1 ½ stars
It used to be one would peruse the sale advertisements, see something they like/want/need, go to the store and buy it. You knew what you were getting; the item purchased matched the ad. Then something changed in the sale papers, instead of mentioning the name brand the verbiage stated, “…assorted brands from top manufacturers.” The pictures in the advertisements were shot in such a way that you could not make out the name on the product. Okay I get that, the retail store wants you to come in, hoping you buy the product; but if you do not, then they hope you will find something else while you are in their store. In a similar vein with the move to selling on the internet, I have heard a variety of stories about people buying something that was not exactly what was represented on the web site. Just a couple of weeks ago I was with some friends who had recently returned from a vacation. They decided to try the site that offers stays at people’s houses instead of motels/hotels. They even showed me the place and I have to say it looked charming. However, when they arrived at the home the lawn was strewn with a variety of things from shovels (I know, I thought the same thing—graves) to a broken bicycle. The owner answered the door in a dirty, torn T-shirt. He showed them the room and bathroom and let me just say it was not modern, nor was it sparkling clean if you know what I mean. To finish this story, they stayed only 1 night then moved to a hotel. The moral of the story is, “looks can be deceiving.” DESPARATE to start a family John and Laura Taylor, played by Morris Chestnut (The Call, The Best Man Holiday) and Regina Hall (Law Abiding Citizen, Think Like a Man), had been looking for the perfect surrogate mother. Down to their last frozen egg they were sure they found the right one when they saw Anna Walsh, played by Jaz Sinclair (Paper Towns). Also starring Theo Rossi (Bad Hurt, Sons of Anarchy-TV) as Mike Mitchell, this dramatic horror mystery started out okay. I was familiar with Morris and Regina seeing them from previous films, but what attracted my attention more was their characters’ house. The movie started out fine and used the hook of motherhood to grab the viewers. Sadly things went south very quickly. The story was beyond generic, having been done numerous times before. I pretty much found most things so predictable that I was constantly bored. There may have been a couple of scenes that had the hint of a surprise but they were few and far between. Even some of the spoken lines were cheesy and clichéd. I am sure the actors tried their best but there was very little effort given to the script to give the actors something to work with beyond the obvious. In fact, the best part or should I say parts of this film was the trailer. Watch the trailer and you have seen the movie; watch the trailer and movie and you will understand why looks can be deceiving.
1 ¾ stars
There were some toys that were just begging me to take them apart. Toys that did amazing things to my young mind back then warranted me either unscrewing screws, twisting off parts or simply breaking pieces apart until I could see what was inside. The downside to this was I would not have the toy to play with anymore. It is funny now as an adult there are some things I do not want to know anything about how they work. Getting into an elevator, all I care about is when I press the floor number the elevator car takes me there with no incident. I do not need to know if the car is rising due to air pressure, counterweights or pulleys; all I care about is I do not get stuck between floors and make the local news. While on vacation I had to take a gondola lift to reach my destination. There was no reason for me to look at the cable wires strung above or the little wheeled contraption that the gondola was hanging from. As I stepped into the car with the other passengers I looked down at the floor until we started moving. Once we rose above the visitor’s center I peered out the large windows that enclosed us to see the slope of the mountain slowly pass us by. All I was interested in was taking pictures until we arrived at the top; I did not want to know about the mechanics that got us there. Just writing about that experience still creeps me out, though I did get some fantastic shots with my camera. For the same reasons I just described there is no way I want to hear about all the mechanics involved in getting the airplane I am on up into the air and to my destination. If you are already nervous about flying then this film will not calm your nerves. WHEN a flock of birds destroyed both engines of the plane he was flying Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, played by Tom Hanks (Bridge of Spies, Captain Phillips), had little time to follow the flight manual; he had to rely on his instincts. Based on the true story this biographical drama was led by Tom who was exceptional in the role. Along with Aaron Eckhart (Olympus Has Fallen, The Dark Knight) as Jeff Skiles and Laura Linney (Mr. Holmes, The Fifth Estate) as Lorraine Sullenberger; this film was directed by Clint Eastwood (Trouble with the Curve, Gran Torino). I have to say Clint did a great job with taking the story and recreating it on screen. For the most part the script was fine; I am sure it was a big asset having Sully’s conversations to build on. However, there were parts of the story where I had wished the writers would have gone deeper. It seemed as if some scenes were assigned to convey a quick reference before moving forward. On the scheme of things this was not a major fault because it did not take the entertainment value away from the movie watching experience. Let us face it; this was an incredible story about a true hero and the ordeal he had to endure even after the flight. Make sure you stay for the beginning of the credits.
3 ½ stars