Monthly Archives: June 2014
If it is not broke then do not fix it is a well known phrase. It means if there is no evidence of a problem, do not waste time or energy on it unless it provides a significant improvement. The different products that claim they are new and improved are things I tend to cast a skeptical eye towards these days. I do a running commentary during my classes; offering my take on current news, movies and the local scene. Recently I have added a weekly update on the latest product recalls and now have new items to mention every week. Some of the reasons for the recalls totally baffle me. For example there was the playground set whose swings hung too low, injuring children’s legs by scraping across the ground. A hanging glass star votive candleholder would break apart from the heat of the flame, possibly injuring people standing nearby. The variety of baby products that are being recalled is staggering. I am floored by the baby monitors with batteries that overheat and explode, causing possible injury (you think?) besides being a fire hazard. The only explosions I want to see are in a movie and this science fiction adventure directed and written by Michael Bay (Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys franchise) was saturated with them. It made sense since some of the Transformers were new and improved. Mark Wahlberg (Boogie Nights, The Fighter) played Cade Yeager, a mechanic and tinkering inventor. With a recent purchase of a broken down truck, Cade felt he may have made a discovery that could change his life and the life of his daughter Tessa, played by Nicola Peltz (The Airbender, Deck the Halls). Little did he know his life was about to change in a very dramatic way. This action film was all about the battles, crashes and explosions. There was very little story; let me re-phrase that, there was very little good story to keep one’s interest. If you only want to see things being blown up then this movie fits the bill. I will say the special effects were spectacular and my favorite part was the final battle. The only 2 actors who showed actual acting ability were Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games franchise, The Terminal) as Joshua Joyce and Kelsey Grammer (Swing Vote, X-Men: The Last Stand) as Harold Attinger. The script was written with a low level of humor that bordered on ridiculous. I found very little suspense; in fact, it occurred to me I did not get excited by much in this picture. If this is what is in store for us with future sequels, I would prefer watching the original movie again.
1 3/4 stars
The things people do to impress, seduce or persuade other people to do can really take over one’s life. I worked part-time at a clothes store during the holidays one season. There was an employee who would buy an outfit for herself every time she had a new date. Even with the employee discount she had a running balance on her account for all the clothes she kept buying. She would tell me a new outfit was like the front door of a house you are trying to sell; you want it to make a good first impression before the buyer enters to check out the place. This always made me laugh and I would tease her that if someone only wanted to date her because she had a fancy logo on her blouse she should try to exchange the date for someone with a brain. I understand how most of us would like to make a good impression on someone we are meeting for the first time; but if the person is only interested on a surface level, I have no reason to strike up a relationship. It does not matter to me what a person wears or what they look like; I am concerned with what is inside of them. As for the outside aspect as long as my teeth are clean, my face is washed and I have nothing under my fingernails or hanging from my nostrils; I am good to go. The inhabitants of the small harbor town in this award winning comedy had more at stake in making a good impression. Acting mayor Murray French, played by Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter franchise, Gangs of New York), had to find a way to impress temporary doctor Paul Lewis, played by Taylor Kitsch (Lone Survivor, Battleship), so he would choose to remain and be the town’s resident doctor, possibly winning a bid for a new factory to be built close by. The mayor would need the entire town’s residents help if his plan was to succeed. This was a light, fun film that had good performances by Brendan and Gordon Pinsent (Away From Her, The Shipping News) as Simon. The story reminded me of those old fashioned screwball comedies from the 50s and 60s; maybe not as zany. There were parts where the action died down causing a lull in the story, making it somewhat boring. Some things may have been far-fetched but contained in a small town setting gave it a goofy vibe. There would be no need to dress up and rush out to see this film unless the other choices at the theater were not to your liking. This film made a decent impression on me.
2 1/2 stars
There are still so many different things I see that I do not understand. Competitive eating contests would be one example. I like food as much as the next person but the idea of shoving and swallowing a bunch of food in one’s mouth in a short period of time makes no sense to me. In a circus I have seen some acts that make me sit there and wonder if that person really grew up wanting to swallow swords or chew up lightbulbs. When it comes to mountain climbing, the whole concept baffles me. I have no problem trekking up a mountain to a vantage point that looks out onto an extraordinary view; however, I want a trail that zigzags its way up where I can just walk and not have to use my arms to pull myself along. At the top I would like a little rest stop or cafe where I can sit out and gaze upon the breathtaking scenery. Even before the recent tragedy in Nepal, I never understood people who had the need to conquer Mt. Everest or any other high mountain peak. Hanging off the side of sheer rock covered in snow and ice, while dangling by a rope tied to a spike driven into granite does not sound like a fun time to me. Based on a true story, this adventure drama was absolutely riveting. Set in 1936 at a time where European countries were drawing sides, it was important to Germany that they be the first to conquer one of the most dangerous peaks in the Alps. Their hopes were dependent on the German climbers Toni Kurz and Andi Hinterstoisser, played by Benno Furman (Joyeux Noel, In Darkness) and Florian Lukas (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Good Bye Lenin). Though they were experienced climbers the two men knew this climb would be their most challenging since they would have to compete against several other climbing teams to reach the top first. This award winning film had several remarkable scenes of Mt. Eiger which means ogre in German. Most of the drama took place on the mountain; however, the secondary story being held in the mountain hotel where childhood friend Luise Fellner, played by Johanna Wokalek (Aimee & Jaguar, Pope Joan) worked as a photographer was a needed respite from the intensity of the story. I abhor cold weather, am not fond of tall heights, do not understand the motivation to do something so dangerous, but none of it mattered because I was frozen to my seat watching this incredible story. There was German, French and Italian languages used with English subtitles. There were a couple of scenes where blood was shown.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
Stuff just becomes stuff after time has passed. Things that seemed important now only take up space in your home. I can still remember the 1st piece of advice I received when I was learning how to drive, “A car can always be replaced, but not a human being.” So when I look around my house I have a different perspective on what objects are important to me. If there was some kind of impending doom about to happen to my place, I would save my photo albums and postcard collection. The photographs span decades of living, starting before I was born. I took over the job of photographing everyone when I received my 1st camera when I was 13 years old. All the postcards have been mailed to me by friends and family, from places all over the world. With the photos and postcards I feel like I have a little piece of the person close to me; capturing a moment of their time that will always be a memory. I know I sound like a greeting card, but these items provide endless pleasure with their retro feeling. I never want to lose them for they are dear to me. Just as important to Eric, played by Guy Pearce (Lawless, The King’s Speech), in this crime drama was his automobile. When his car was hijacked right in front of him, Eric would have to track down the thieves through the challenges of the Australian Outback. There was no guarantee he would succeed let alone survive. With the story done by actor Joel Edgerton (Warrior, The Great Gatsby), I found the camera work and music score captivating. Maybe because the landscape looked so bleak and different to me, the sense of doom seemed to be more prominent. Guy was so intense in the role that I became increasingly anxious as the story progressed. The big surprise for me was seeing Robert Pattinson (Twilight franchise, Remember Me) in a role where I totally forgot he was Edward the vampire and believed him as the injured Rey. He was as convincing as Guy was determined in getting his car back and they were excellent together. The downside of this picture was the lack of explanation in several scenes. I felt some of the drama was just being repeated but with different characters. Eric’s actions led me to assume he was a certain type of individual but it did not jive with part of the story. There is a chance some people will not like the ending to this film festival nominated movie. However, you cannot fault someone for fighting to hold on to those things that were important to them. There were several scenes with violence and blood.
2 2/3 stars
There are two very important elements needed to transform a dream into reality: passion and determination. One must feel a deep desire inside that bubbles over the flames of possibilities. In addition, one must have the strength to remain committed to their long term goal. When I started out to become an aerobic instructor I had to audition in a variety of undesirable places across the metropolitan area. I would be placed in racquet ball courts where my recorded music would bounce off the walls, creating a blur of musical tones as I strained to remain on the beat. At a few clubs I was introduced to the fitness director who would look at me with disgust, as if they had just scrapped me off the bottom of their shoes. None of this deterred me; I was determined to get my style of teaching into health clubs and eventually succeeded. Regarding my movie reviews, I have had to do some creative scheduling to make sure I can see the new releases as quickly as possible. Sometimes this means I am seeing 3 to 4 films in one day; but it does not phase me, I am determined to offer the best possible service I humanly can. Would I like to be a paid movie critic someday; you better believe it. I keep the dream alive and the dream keeps me alive. There was a man in this dramatic musical film who also was determined to see his dreams come true and his name was Frankie Valli, played by John Lloyd Young (Jersey Boys-Broadway). Though you may be familiar with the voice and the music, there was a story of failure and success behind the singing group Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Inspired by a true story this biographical film was directed by Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino, Unforgiven). The singing numbers were the best part of this movie. I found the story to be as dramatic and startling as a classic opera; however, due to the script and direction, there was no life in this dull picture. Having seen the staged play, this production had the life sucked out of it. Personally I do not enjoy seeing an actor come out of character to talk to the viewing audience; it was done here multiple times. For me it took away the magic of the story, creating a pause to the dramatic build up. The strongest character in the cast was Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter, Stand Up Guys) as Gyp DeCarlo. I am sure there are many people whose dream was to see this story come to the big screen; it was a shame it could not have been told better.
2 1/4 stars
Years of learning to clear my dinner plate of all food has taught me to appreciate the importance of having food guests want to eat. I have had dinner parties where most of the meal has dishes I do not like. But I was raised with the notion that no one should leave the dinner table hungry, so I tend to make a variety of main and side dishes. In my mind this is what a host is supposed to do. It is the same if you are hosting an event outside of the home, such as being the best man/woman for a bachelor/bachelorette party. Being responsible for entertaining and feeding the invited guests, the best person usually does everything they can to make it a memorable bash. For some individuals money is no object, even if multiple charge cards are employed in making the event. What host would want any of their guests not having a good time? Certainly not Cedric, played by Kevin Hart (Ride Along, About Last Night), who was the best man of a wedding party in this comedy. The same could be said for Lauren, played by Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Date Night), who was hosting a bachelorette party the same time as the guys’ big night. In this sequel the friends descend onto Las Vegas to celebrate the wedding of Candace, played by Regina Hall (Law Abiding Citizen, Scary Movie franchise). Nothing was going to get in the way of a good time, even Kristen’s future mother-in-law Loretta, played by Jennifer Lewis (Hereafter, Meet the Browns). For those of you who enjoyed the first movie, more than likely you will have a good time watching this sequel. As for me my 1st and biggest complaint has to do with Kevin Hart. I have seen enough of his movies (not always by choice) to see he has very little acting talent. Each of his performances consist of him screeching in an annoying vocal pitch, dishing out insults in a machine gun style of rapid fire barbs while being the recipient of a multitude of put-downs. As far as I could tell there were no original jokes in this cheap, tired mess. Everything was easy to follow since it was so predictable. I was bored throughout the picture; however, I will say I liked the lip sync video to the song “Poison,” though it was a ploy to fill up the running time because the writers evidently had run out of ideas. Oh wait, that is not right; the writers had no ideas, using standard situations that were done before. Hosting a movie night at my house, I would be embarrassed to show this film. There was a brief extra scene at the end of the credits.
1 2/3 stars
Luck is such a fickle thing that some people get it in abundance while others barely get a visit from it. I have a friend who may not win the top prize in a raffle contest, but more times than not, he wins something. And don’t get me started on his luck in always finding a parking spot, no matter how congested the neighborhood may be. I feel I am having a lucky day if I can make it to work without being stopped by a train at a railroad crossing. Along with luck comes an emotional attachment. For example, if you are feeling lucky your entire day seems easier to navigate. On the other hand if you encountered a stint of bad luck it can make your day feel like you are wearing clothes that are 2 sizes too small for you. There is a saying, “When it rains it pours,” that some of you may know. It basically means if something goes wrong the chances are pretty good more things will be going wrong for you. I have the perfect example since it just happened to me this week. My pipes below my kitchen sink sprung a leak. The next day my shower head cracked and now leaks out the back when I take a shower. Yesterday I discovered I have a raccoon who decided to take up residence in the roof of my house. You probably can guess I am not having a good week. Now I understand everything is relative because I have to say Donna Stern, played by Jenny Slate (This Means War, Saturday Night Live-TV), was having a worse time in this comedic romance. After being dumped by her boyfriend and losing her job, Donna soon found out she was pregnant. Trying to earn a living as a comedienne, Donna would air her problems out to any audience who would listen to her. This was an interesting movie that offered a different take on a controversial subject. I could not tell if Jenny was acting or just being herself; this is how she came across on film. Included in the cast were Jack Lacy (The Office-TV, Better With You-TV) as Max and Gabe Hoffman (Field of Dreams, Uncle Buck) as Nellie. Parts of this movie were funny and I enjoyed the switching of scenes between Jenny’s act and her life. The issue I had with this film festival nominee concerned the script. I felt the characters other than Donna stayed pretty close to the surface, not giving them the opportunity to dig deeper inside of themselves. In turn, I never became fully invested in the movie. Maybe I just was not having a lucky day. There were scenes with strong language.
2 1/2 stars
Everyone needs a place where they can feel safe. For many such a place would be their home, but it can be anywhere. Whatever that space may be it should offer one a sense of comfort and release as soon as they enter its area. Each of us has a set of awarenesses that have been honed by the outside world; they can demand a large quantity of energy from us. My safe haven growing up was the apartment building I lived in from the time I was born. Planted on the corner of a city block, it had multiple layers of protection for me. When I was being chased home from school by a group of bullies, the wide front door of the building would swing open with a whoosh, allowing me into a plain paster walled lobby that had brass mailboxes hanging on one side and a glass paned security door on the opposite. It could only be opened with a key, which I always had ready in my hand by the time I would reach home. Once past the security door’s threshold, the sweat pouring down my reddened face would lessen, my piston rapid breathing would slow down and every muscle that was tense with fire began to calm down into a smoldering buzz. That building was always my go to place as it was my protector for many of my early years. I was fortunate with my circumstances; sadly it was different for the main character in this Oscar nominated movie. Giovanna Mezzogiorno (Facing Windows, The Last Kiss) played Sabina, a young woman who began experiencing nightmares around the same time she found out she was pregnant. Her fragmented memories would lead her to the United States to seek out answers from her brother Daniele, played by Luigi Lo Cascio (Light of my Eyes, The Best of Youth). I thought the acting was exceptionally good from Giovanna and Luigi, along with Stefania Rocca (The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Card Player) who played Emilla. There was a sense of mystery in this drama that revealed itself in a horrifying way. Though there were a couple of slow passages in this film festival winner, overall I was engaged with the story and appreciated the way it unfolded. The acting was this movie’s strongest element; the script provided the fuel for it. One thing I appreciated in particular was the subtle way certain things were revealed. It kept me emotionally attached to the story even though I was uncomfortable at times. The story may be one you have heard before; but this film delicately handled it, providing a safe environment for the viewer. The majority of the film was spoken in Italian with English subtitles.
3 stars — DVD
It is good to have a healthy curiosity about the world around us. For a society it is a component to conscious advancement. Without curiosity imagine what life would be like for us, even just our life expectancy. I remember in school how students were encouraged to be inquisitive and guided to figure out how things worked, instead of tapping a smartphone screen for the answers. A small example just happened to me at the grocery store this weekend when my total bill was $10.89. I gave the cashier $21.00. She stared at it for a moment then looked up at me and told me the total again. I had to explain to her that I wanted $10.00 back instead of singles. I used to be curious enough to try a new food item but now I have to read the label to see what things went into making the product. There was a time when something was not working I could at least open it up to see what was wrong with it. Now if I do that I void the warranty. It used to be if you saw someone standing next to a broken down car by the side of the road, you could stop and offer them help. These days people have to be careful because you never know if what you see is really true. It is so drummed into my head at work not to click on any attachments in emails from unknown sources that I tend to delete emails coming from anyone unfamiliar to me. One has to be careful these days as the 3 friends in this science fiction thriller found it. While on a road trip friends Nic, Haley and Jonah; played by Brenton Thwaites (Oculus, Maleficent), Olivia Cooke (The Quiet Ones, Bates Motel-TV) and Beau Knapp (Super 8, No One Lives); go off course to track down a computer hacker who had broken into their operating system. The beginning of the story started out good in this film; I liked the idea. Adding in the well done direction to the pacing and building tension, I thought this movie would be exciting. To top it off, the studio cast Laurence Fishburne (Man of Steel, Event Horizon) who did an excellent job with his character Damon. Everything seemed to be in place to make a great picture except for one important element: the script was a mess. There were times I was bored and I still am not sure what went on. I felt the script could have benefited if it had been re-written to tighten up the scenes and add some depth to the situations. Thinking about it now I could have waited for this to come out on DVD, if only I had not been so curious.
When the option is presented who would not want to repeat an experience that brought them pleasure previously? I know I certainly would want to do it. There are some places I return to when I take a vacation; the familiarity makes my transition from work mode to leisure time all the quicker. I have a few movie theaters that I prefer going to if I have the choice. Granted if there is a film I need to see that is only playing at a theater I am not fond of, you can be sure I will tough it up and go see it still. In regards to restaurants, when I find a meal that is good I will order it every time I return to the place. Where I am adventuresome in some areas, when it comes to food once I find something I like I can eat it over and over. I do not want to take a chance that I may not experience the same euphoria on a new meal that I could have had with my favorite. This type of thinking also plays into my feelings about movie sequels. If watching the first film was a great experience for me, I am hesitant about going to the sequel for fear of being disappointed. Sure there have been sequels that have been good or even better than the original, but I believe the majority of them tip to the side of being mediocre or a quick money grab by the movie studios. However, no need to worry with this animated adventure sequel; it was absolutely fantastic. After orchestrating a healthy relationship between vikings and dragons 5 years earlier Hiccup, voiced by Jay Baruchel (The Art of the Steal, This is the End), heads out with his dragon Toothless to find and hopefully change the mind of the the evil Drago, voiced by Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, Gladiator), who was determined to take control over all dragons. This action film was filled with amazing animation that worked beautifully with the fully developed story. Before I realized it was her, I was immediately captivated with the emotional voice of Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, The Lord of the Rings franchise) who voiced Valka. Gerald Butler (Olympus Has Fallen, Chasing Mavericks) reprised his rich voice for the character Stoick. Appropriate for the entire family, this picture was even better than the first one. I went through several emotional feelings while watching this wonderful film festival nominee. You can put your cares aside, take flight and join the wonderful world of dragons in this sequel. I hope they continue the franchise.
3 1/2 stars