Monthly Archives: April 2014
It seems to me we are still an appearance motivated society. With the recent controversies concerning digitally altered photographs and racial comments in the media, one has to wonder where this obsession on a person’s looks came into our thought process. Did you know even in the most innocent of places, people will react to someone else’s looks? I saw it happen in one of my yoga classes. A large man wearing a bandanna tied around the top of his head walked into my classroom. His body bore a couple of tattoos and he had a small metal chain around his neck. The members became quiet as they tried to discreetly keep their eyes on him as he moved to a corner of the room. He did not seem to notice he was the center of everyone’s attention. It did cross my mind for a moment that maybe he was in the wrong room; however, he walked over to the pile of yoga mats and grabbed one before settling down into his spot. The windup to this story was he not only was a yoga enthusiast, he would become one of my biggest advocates. I always found it amusing when we were in the locker room and he was saying something complimentary about the class; the men within earshot would turn and take a look at him. Here was an imposing looking man who you could easily see riding off on a big ole motorcycle, dressed in leather, talking about yoga. It just goes to show you there is always something more behind the surface and this action drama would be the proof. Paul Walker (Fast & Furious franchise, Hours) played Detroit undercover policeman Damien Collier. When an advanced weapon was stolen and transported to the worst part of town, Damien would have to rely on convicted cop killer Lino, played by David Belle (The Family, District B13), to get him into the area and disarm the device. This crime picture was a remake of the French film District B13 that starred the same David Belle who was reprising his role here. I appreciated that Paul Walker’s character was not made to be an equal to Lino’s fighting skills because his were based on the Parkour training discipline. The story was attention getting, but I enjoyed the original movie more. The editing and directing were too choppy for me in this one; it felt as if I was jumping from scene to scene without getting any time to see the actors develop their characters. On the surface this looked like an exciting film but in reality there was nothing special going on here.
It was not a requirement but we all knew non-participation would affect our grade. The professor of my college freshmen psychology class encouraged us to enroll in the volunteer program for the graduate students. I remember some of the studies I volunteered for were interesting. There was one where I was sitting in the waiting room with another volunteer. We had a brief time for introductions before we were called into a room. A lab assistant handed each of us a pen and notepad. We were instructed to sit at opposite ends of the room and write down our perceptions of the other one. Once we were done the supervisor asked us to switch our papers. The facilitator then asked the volunteer to read what I wrote about him. I kept my comments to simple generalizations like he seemed nice, had a hearty laugh. When it was my turn to read aloud I was stunned by his words. He had written things like I did not seem to be very smart, appeared to be uncoordinated. After I finished reading, the person in charge asked me to address any comments I might have directly to the volunteer. Turning to him I let loose with such a profanity filled stream of intense anger that the supervisor could not calm me down until he finally admitted this had been a set up and the other volunteer was a graduate student, who was studying subjects’ reactions. I chose to opt out of the program. The test subject in this horror film inspired by actual events did not have the same opportunity. Jared Harris (Lincoln, Natural Born Killers) played professor Joseph Coupland who was convinced he could scientifically explain the irrational occurrences happening to test subject Jane Harper, played by Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel-TV). Settled in a London estate with his team, the professor had everything documented to film by student Brian McNeil, played by Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire). But even some pictures could not explain what took place. The film work with its cool retro look created an interesting setting for this story. There were parts that were extremely loud which I could not tell was set by the movie theater or the film. Since I found aspects of the story far-fetched, the scare factor was somewhat diminished for me in this film. It was a shame because I liked the idea behind the story, having a central character trying to bring rationality to irrational acts. I am afraid this movie left me unimpressed. If you want to hear something scary, remind me to tell you about the time at school when they wanted to hook me up to electrodes. There were several scenes with blood in them.
1 3/4 stars
There are two kinds of lies, the good ones and the bad ones. Before you tell me there are no good lies, let me explain. A good lie is telling your friend you need them, just to get them out of their house long enough for their spouse to decorate it for a surprise birthday party. Or a friend asks you if they already told you about their business meeting and you tell them no because you know how proud they were of their recent success; so, it was worth hearing again to see how excited they got by telling their story. To me these are acceptable lies or what some people say are “white” lies. They are not meant to hurt or deceive someone for personal gain. Now the bad lies can be hurtful and drastically alter a person’s life. Your boyfriend or girlfriend telling you how much they love you while they sleep around with other people; I consider this a bad lie. Meeting a date for the 1st time who showed up 20 years older and 30 pounds heavier than they claimed would not only be a bad lie, but an ignorant one. Why would anyone do that and what did they think they would gain? How about you be the judge as you watch this romantic comedy. Cameron Diaz (The Counselor, Bad Teacher) played high powered lawyer Carly Whitten, who felt she finally found the right one when she met successful businessman Mark King, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Mama, Game of Thrones-TV). Everything was going well until Carly showed up at Mark’s house to surprise him and was greeted by Mark’s wife Kate, played by Leslie Mann (This is 40, Knocked UP). That was not going to be the only surprise the two women would encounter when they decided to join forces against Mark and his cheating ways. I was stunned at how quickly this film went from bad to worse. Sitting in front of me were at least a dozen 10 to 12 year old girls with a few mothers. Though the movie was rated PG-13, I thought the mature subject matter was inappropriate for these girls. The only reason I could think of these mothers taking these girls to see this film was to show them what not to be when they grew up. The script with its humor was predictable and infantile. An example would be the scene that involved a powerful amount of laxatives being consumed. Do I need to say anything further to you about this crappy film? I am not lying when I say the trailer was the only thing I liked about this movie.
1 1/2 stars
It happened during my first school field trip where we traveled to our city’s zoo. We were in the lion house and I remembered how the pungent smell hung in the still air. I felt I was inhaling musky cotton balls. The big cats were one of my favorite animals so it was worth the odor to be up close to them. While standing in front of one cage with a pacing male lion, a park attendant who was stationed by one of the main entrances announced to all the visitors they would have to remain in the lion house. The reason was one of the animals had escaped from their enclosure outside. It turned out it was one of the zoo’s star attractions, a large silverback gorilla. My classmates and I were nervously excited with all the commotion this caused throughout the crowd around us. Until the gorilla was captured we spent enough time in the lion house to see the animals being fed by park assistants. I recall how frightening it looked to me to see how the lions would attack their fleshy meal. Back then it made sense to me that the animals were in cages for our protection. Little did I know that the time would come where they were there for their protection. From directors Alastair Fothergill (Chimpanzee, Earth) and Keith Scholey (African Cats) this documentary followed one family of bears in Alaska for one year, from coming out of hibernation to preparing for its return. If for nothing else I have to tip my hat to the movie studio for providing exquisite footage of the bears’ habitat. I have visited Alaska and it was breathtaking to see. The camera work not only provided a true sense of the state, but the close-up work in filming the animals was wonderful. Personally I would have liked more facts about the life of the bears but that was just my own tastes. The studio wanted to make a film that was entertaining so I understood why they had John C. Reilly (We Need to Talk to Kevin, Carnage) as the narrator. Children will probably enjoy the humorous spin he put on the animals’ actions; I just happened to find it odd attaching human emotions to animals. Either way this film was an enjoyable experience. I will say my opinion about zoos has changed as an adult now; there are still ones out there that are simply prisons. Once you view this film you just might agree with me.
2 3/4 stars
Though the physical and verbal blows ended a long time ago they are still remembered. The changing landscape of an aging body may cover up the dents of abuse but the tremors remain just beneath the surface. Pain never discriminates, it only knows to dig toward one’s heart. It was not until I was in my 20s before I realized there was supposed to be space between my shoulders and ears. I can still remember when a friend or relative expressed kindness with an innocent physical gesture; my whole body would tense up. It was not something that was done consciously, more instinctive or something I learned at a young age. In addition each verbal assault can be recalled verbatim to this day. They dominate any positive comments I may receive by shoving them to a junk room in my mind. To say it takes a lot of work to correct this circuitry in the brain would be putting it mildly. Based on a true story former British army officer Eric Lomax, played by Colin Firth (A Single Man, The King’s Speech), was someone I could relate to in this film festival winning movie. Years have past since he was forced to work on a railroad for Japanese troops while he was a prisoner of war. His wife Patti, played by Nicole Kidman (The Hours, The Golden Compass), had no idea what her husband had to endure during the war because he never talked about it. She only knew something was not right. Nicole and Colin were beautifully suited to play husband and wife. From their performance I was easily convinced they were a married couple; that was how commanding they were in playing their characters. Stellan Skarsgard (Good Will Hunting, The Avengers) as Finlay had a curious role in which he was well suited for the part. The director had a good eye for setting up scenes where I rather enjoyed the contrast between the young and older Eric characters. Where this film let me down was the script. I found myself becoming bored through parts, after going from intense scenes to average ones and back. Having only seen one trailer for this picture, I imagined there would have been more dynamic emotions and energy on display. In my opinion the story warranted it. One need not have to relate to the subject matter to know there was a powerful story here. It just was not executed to its best advantage.
2 1/2 stars
Once two people have a shared history of intimacy together, it will always reappear when one is in the presence of the other. They may have not seen each other in a long time; but as soon as they meet, that oasis of intimate vulnerability floats up from the recesses of their minds to create terra firma. A gentle puff of breath slipping across an ear can remind one how they were being held as they dove into a luxurious sleep. The scent of their hair can bring back the vision of a wide open vista of sun stained cliffs cascading into a deep canyon as both sat close, taking in the majesty of the moment. So knowledgeable of each other’s ways, the two created a world unto themselves that is separate from the reality around then. Two individuals who had this connection in this dramatic romantic film were Eve and Adam, played by Tilda Swinton (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Adaptation) and Tom Hiddleston (War Horse, Thor franchise). Aware of Adam’s despondent reclusiveness, Eve traveled from her home in Tangier, Morocco to be with him in Detroit, MIchigan. With the world around them in decline they had their own little safe haven until Eve’s sister Ava, played by Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre, The Kids are all Right), showed up at their front door. This film festival nominated movie grew on me like Spanish moss on a thick humid day. Tilda and Tom were so deliciously good together as the centuries old vampires. The whole cast was strong but I could not take my eyes off the two of them. They were able to convey a feeling, an emotion simply by the turn of the head or the gaze of their eyes. The script was smart and hip with quick spurts of fresh humor. Since some of the characters were vampires, the whole picture had a certain darkness to it; but, there was a subtle lightness that made for deep languishing scenes. I really enjoyed the way the director’s or maybe it was cinematographer’s penetrating use of light sources played with the blackness. Though this film was listed as horror, there was nothing I would consider scary in the traditional sense. If you are squeamish at the sight of blood, no matter the vessel it may be in, then yes there were scenes that had blood. However, I can only think of one scene that might be considered gory. Despite a bit of uneven pacing, by the end of the movie I felt I had visited an old couple who knew each other so well, they did not have to ask how the other one felt, they just knew. Brief scenes of blood were shown.
Before I write this review I want to say it is not my intention to offend or ridicule anyone’s beliefs or religion. I follow the advice given to me by my very first employer; never discuss politics or religion in mixed company. With that being said, I have noticed the older people get the more comfort they find with the idea there is a heaven. Most people like to know where they are going in life so it makes sense they would want to know in death. I have heard a variety of interpretations from several people on what heaven means to them. For me heaven would be a place where there are no calories in food. Being able to eat something without thinking how it will affect me sounds like total bliss. I have attended funerals where someone commenting on the deceased will say they are now with the person’s significant other or family members and I can see this is meant to comfort the living. Since heaven is not some tangible item that one can hold or visit on vacation, it is open to anyone’s interpretation. Four year old Colton Burpo, played by newcomer Conner Corum, had a very distinct and vivid recollection of heaven in this dramatic movie based on a true story. Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine, Thin Ice) played Colton’s dad Todd. After a near-death experience Colton began speaking of heaven as if he had visited it during the time of his surgery. His father who was a preacher began to question his own beliefs as people in their small town began reacting to the news. The movie studio scored big time by choosing Connor to play Colton in this film version based on the best selling book of the same title. Connor was so good that I started to believe he was Colton. Greg Kinnear and Margo Martindale (The Hours, August: Osage County) as Nancy Rawling were way above the rest of the cast in regards to acting skills. The direction was okay but I felt there were passages that slowed down as the story at times verged on becoming preachy. I hope what I say next does not make me appear to be stereotyping people, but the movie audience I was sitting with seemed almost reverent. Everyone and I do mean everyone sat quietly in their seats. There were no sounds from people munching on food or commenting to each other. At the end of the movie a good portion of the viewers applauded. I think this will be of those movies that will draw in a specific crowd. Heaven knows if viewers will find this film entertaining.
I would not say it is an irrational fear; it is more of a mistrust I have of computers. Sure when they do what they are supposed to do they can be wonderful; but, when they do not function properly, they can be a nightmare. I do not understand how a computer can follow the same procedure ever day then all of a sudden one day it cannot perform it. This drives me crazy. I used to work at a company where the corporate offices did very little of their daily requirements on a computer. The owner never wanted to see the departments’ routines come to a standstill due to a power outage or computer virus. I could understand the reasoning behind such actions because I have worked at companies where their entire operations were done by computers. It made things easier in some ways but when the computers would go down, the entire company would come to a complete stop. Do not get me wrong, computers certainly have enhanced our lives; but at what cost? This dramatic mystery movie delved into the possibilities of what the computer could do to elevate the life of mankind. Johnny Depp (The Lone Ranger, The Tourist) played Will Caster, one of the most respected researchers in the field of artificial intelligence. With his wife Evelyn and fellow researcher Max Waters, played by Rebecca Hall (Closed Circuit, The Prestige) and Paul Bettany (Margin Call, Inkheart), working alongside him; Will was working to create a machine that would have self-awareness. There would be no limits to the advancements that would benefit mankind…or would there be? This science fiction movie had a sharp, cool look to it. I liked the premiss of the story and felt it was relevant since we now have operating systems that verbally communicate with us. The cast which also included Morgan Freeman (Last Vegas, Million Dollar Baby) as Joseph Tagger and Kate Mara (Transsiberian, The Open Road) as Bree were solid but the script did not allow them to excel at their craft. Johnny Depp was actually the weak one out of the group. There were some parts, like Bree’s scenes with members of her gang, that did not make much sense due to the lack of back story. I thought the director’s pacing in this film was quite poor; I sat through passages where I was just bored. One could say this film created by humans was ironic since it had the emotions of a computer.
1 3/4 stars
When I arrived at the city in the new state I was visiting, I drove my rental car to the eastern part of town. There spanning the length of a city block was a mural painted on a brick wall, depicting the struggles immigrants had who settled in the area. After spending some time examining the fine detailed work I noticed a community center across the street. I walked over to it to see if I could use their restroom before driving off to another part of town. Once inside I saw a tired looking woman sitting behind a long formica counter. Hearing my footsteps, the woman slowly raised her face up until her eyes made contact with mine. With a look of shock creeping on her face she asked me what I was doing there. I explained how I stopped to see the mural across the street. When I asked if I could use the restroom she muttered something in a low voice, then told me to use the private restroom behind her, not the one down the hallway. It seemed odd but I did as she told me. At the end of the day back at my hotel, I asked the front desk clerk if they had ever seen the mural across town. A stunned look came across her face as she asked if I had gone and seen it yet. When I said yes, she nearly hissed at me that I should have never gone, it was a bad area; no one in their right mind would be caught there. When I asked her how I would have known she told me it was easy, just look at what was walking around there. I was sensing she might be prejudiced so I decided to drop it and go to my room. I was reminded of this incident while watching this exquisite, Oscar nominated film. The message in this movie was told in such a delicate and lovely way; I was totally engrossed with the story. Raised to fear the other, rodents lived underground away from the bears who resided above. Rules were in place to keep each away from the other until young Celestine, voiced by newcomer Pauline Brunner, accidentally met street musician Ernest, voiced by Lambert Wilson (Of Gods and Men, Sahara). Their friendship would go against everything in place that kept the two groups apart. This Cannes Film Festival winning movie was enchanting with its uncluttered and simple artwork that magically told a beautiful story. I saw the original version of this dramatic comedy in French with English subtitles, though I found out later there was an English version. Without preaching or browbeating the audience, this film had a wonderful message that bears repeating.
3 1/2 stars
The words coming out of his mouth never quite settled down in my head. I understood each word, but strung together they were like sheets flapping in the wind. All the individuals in my tour group sat attentively with their heads moving from side to side, as if they were watching a tennis match. We were in a museum and our tour guide was giving a lecture about the large, abstract art piece that was squatting in front of us. The people around me kept looking back and forth between the guide and the art piece, as if they were witnessing the creation of a new species. I sat there perplexed because I was evidently not seeing the things that everyone else were focusing on when gazing at this large, colorful mass of steel and paper. To me the object looked like a massive teepee that was starting to lift up its skirt as a front porch wrapped partially around it, with odd shaped geometrical flags sticking out that had been starched to stiffness. I guess I am not an art connoisseur like the others because I was not getting the whole thing. Everyone reacts to art in different ways; I understood it having grown up in an artistic family. But as I looked around it appeared I was the odd man out. Gratefully that was not the case with this science fiction thriller. From director Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Birth) the visual aspects of this film festival nominated drama was both curious and enticing. It was this component of the movie that kept my interest. Some of the scenes were fascinating due to the camera angles and the effects. Filmed in Scotland, Scarlett Johansson (Hitchcock, We Bought a Zoo) played an alien who preyed on lone single men. There was very little dialog and I gave Scarlett credit in her ability to convey the emotions of her character. I am willing to bet there will be people who sit through this unusual movie and afterwards spend hours debating the symbolism they felt was there. I, on the other hand, do not want to work that hard when I go see a film. So I must tell you I had no idea what the movie was about and when I typed the word “gratefully” earlier it was because the viewers around me said the same thing at the end of the picture. I could come up with things I assumed but they would only be my take on the film and everyone will have their own opinion; so what is the point?
2 1/2 stars