Monthly Archives: August 2014
Starve the fighting and feed the relating when it comes to being in a relationship. I am never too old to learn from my past experiences and if there is one thing I have learned, it is never go to sleep angry. Communication is vital if a relationship is to survive in my opinion. I have seen couples where they think they are in love; but when they verbalize what they love about their significant other, I cannot relate to it because they are not attributes I look for in another person. There was one couple that loved the type of presents they would get from each other. Every gift was bought from high-end stores and they were primarily jewelry and electronic items. There was another couple that was very much into their appearance; I am talking the every hair in place, no room for wrinkle type of looks. I could only imagine what would happened to them as they aged. For me kindness and support are needed for a healthy relationship. I have always said relationships take work, but after seeing this original comedic drama I feel I need to rephrase it by saying it takes work until it becomes part of you. COMMUNICATION was sorely lacking as the marriage of Ethan and Sophie, played by Mark Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed, Your Sister’s Sister) and Elizabeth Moss (Get Him to the Greek, Mad Men-TV), was falling apart. Hoping to salvage their relationship the couple agreed to their therapist’s, played by Ted Danson (Big Miracle, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation-TV), suggestion by going on a retreat to see if they could rekindle the love they once had for each other. At the beautiful secluded cottage recommended by their therapist, Ethan and Sophie would discover much more than what they had lost. Watching this film festival winning movie was like inhaling the first breath of fresh air after being deeply submerged in a pool of water. The story was original, curious and thought provoking. I honestly can say I am not sure I understood what I was watching but I did not care because the whole idea behind the story was fascinating to me. Mark and Elizabeth did an excellent job playing the troubled couple; I found them believable and enjoyed the subtle differences that were required of them. The script was smart and mature; presenting a realistic view of two adults struggling to find what was missing in their relationship. Without any fanfare or advertising as far as I could tell, this indie like film came out of nowhere to shine in a week that had been filled with some dreary movies.
There is a special freedom for me when I am able to take a vacation by myself. With the responsibilities I have at my jobs where I need to constantly communicate verbally, I find a peaceful comfort when I am silent. The only time I need to speak is when I check in/out of the hotel and when I order food; otherwise, I can get lost in a new city and release my mind to accept all things visually. Away and alone I do not have to compromise, negotiate, alter or abandon anything I have set out to do while on vacation; talk about the ultimate paradise for someone with control issues. However, when I travel with someone there is the opportunity to see things through a different set of eyes, which can open up a new experience. I have a long time friend who has traveled with me for many years. Our shared adventures have produced some magical and memorable times. When there is a person you have a long history with, there is a steady ease the two of you share throughout the trip. Since I am an avid photographer, documenting everything I see while on vacation, years after our trip we get to revisit and reminiscence, letting our memories filter out with softer edges of our travels. FORMER brother-in-laws Mitch and Colin, played by Earl Lynn Nelson (Pilgrim Song, Passenger Pigeons) and Paul Eenhoorn (This is Martin Bonner, Beautiful Brit Baker), went on a trip to Iceland to share some fun, explore and try to get back their youth. These two actors created a believable connection between their characters. Where one was outgoing and silly the other had more of a quiet sophistication that worked well at balancing out each other in various scenes that unfolded in this adventure comedy. Visually the scenes were beautiful thanks to the breathtaking landscapes of Iceland. Due to the crisp and clean scenes the majority of humor was verbally generated. I enjoyed this movie for the most part though there were times I became bored. Part of the reason was due to the directing. This film had a similar vibe to the movie Thelma & Louise with the foundation of the story being a crazy road trip; it just happened to be played by a pair of friends who were of a geriatric age. Ultimately this sweet picture kept things simple by letting the characters reveal their inner thoughts and fears, while we watched two friends finding their way through life. I hope the opportunity to do that with my friends and family presents itself to me when I get to be that age.
2 3/4 stars
At the time no one had heard the term politically correct. I grew to dislike team sports from my physical education classes in elementary and high school. Those classes had nothing to do with health I discovered once I was in college. Except for twice a year where we were tested to see how many sit-ups and chin-ups we could do, the majority of the time was spent being picked for a team and being told we had to try and crush the other team. There were a couple of gym teachers who could have been on the “before” posters regarding the benefits of exercising. One in particular always had the stench of cigarette smoke wafting out of his pores. He was the most inappropriate person to be a teacher. When teams were formed he would give us a pep talk, telling us we had to slaughter and beat our opponents. There could only be one winner and one loser; he would verbally abuse the players during the game. I did not want to be a part of those classes, so I focused on individual sports activities outside of school. COMPLETELY opposite from my high school instructor was the teacher in this dramatic sports film inspired by a true story. Jim Caviezel (The Thin Red Line, Person of Interest-TV) played the inspirational teacher and football coach Bob Ladouceur. Working with his team, the De La Salle High School Spartons, Coach Ladouceur along with his assistant Coach Terry Eidson, played by Michael Chiklis (Fantastic Four franchise, The Shield-TV), led the players to an unheard of record-breaking streak of 151 wins. This movie had the perfect story to tell for both the sports and non-sports minded viewer. For someone who does not follow football, I knew their winning streak was unheard of with any professional sports team. The game scenes were actually exciting throughout the film. What was a total disservice to the story was the horrible script; it was dull, lifeless and filled with cliches that were meant to move the viewer. The cast which also included Laura Dern (The Fault in Our Stars, The Master) as Bev Ladouceur, Alexander Ludwig (The Hunger Games, Lone Survivor) as Chris Ryan and Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption, Starship Trooper) as Chris Ryan all did a decent job of acting with their characters. How the writers took what was an incredible story and put out this poor version was beyond me; especially when they showed clips of the actual people at the end of the film. Even I wanted to be part of that team, not the one depicted in this film.
1 3/4 stars
Such a fickle force that makes us breathlessly swoon as we extend our arms into an inviting hug; yet, it can similarly drive us to a dark place to commit a murderous act of passion. It is frightening how much power love can have over us. In yesterday’s review I spoke of love’s ability to move us to a point where we would willingly take the suffering and pain away from the person we love if we could. With today’s movie I am being led to the darker qualities of love. I have met several people who were obsessed by love. For those in a relationship, they needed constant reinforcement from their significant other that they were being loved. If it was not enough they would seek it from outside their relationship. Unfortunately I have dated this type of person and discovered it in an inconvenient place. We had traveled out of the country for a vacation; I was not familiar with the language, but they were fluent. During our stay at the hotel the assistant manager always made a point to come up to us to say hello or ask how we were doing, conversing in English for me and Spanish for them. I did not think much of it at first; however, their conversations seemed to last longer filled with chuckles and smiles. As the week progressed the assistant manager periodically popped up at our door just to check on us and chat. I think you know where this is going. When I returned to the hotel room early from a tour I had taken by myself, I caught them in bed together. Evidently they needed to be loved by more than one person. EMOTIONS of love and hate ran high, driving people to do extreme things in this action thriller. It seemed as if several of Sin City’s citizens with hidden agendas were crossing paths on their way to administering their own form of justice. This sequel to the 2005 movie was able to stand on its own; it had to because I vaguely remembered the first one. The cast included Josh Brolin (Oldboy, Men in Black 3) as Dwight, Eva Green (Casino Royale, Dark Shadows) as Ava and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler, Angel Heart) as Marv. Using the same stylized graphics as the previous film, the majority of violent scenes were made to look more cartoonish; though, there were a couple of places I had to turn my head away from the screen due to the intense violence. In spite of this I was entertained by watching this crime picture. It was nothing spectacular and I was a bit confused in some spots; but, the story was easy to follow and I enjoyed trying to figure out which actors were playing the unrecognizable characters. I believe a majority of viewers will either love or hate this movie.
2 1/3 stars
You know it is a real love when the person looks past your perceptions of yourself and focuses on what they see in you. It may have started as an infatuation but as time lengthened the love inside of you branched out to form a bond with the other person. The connection taps into each of your reservoirs of dreams and hopes, where the common ones blend together as the single ones wait for that spark of support that will fire them up towards reality. Love brings a person startling powers. Alone, individuals would not willingly place themselves in a situation that would be painful or harmful. However, when in a relationship love spurs the person to take on or at least try to take on their significant other’s pain or suffering. I have had a couple of relationships where the person had an accident or became ill and had to be hospitalized. It was awful to see them incapacitated and in pain. I felt helpless, wishing there was something I could do to ease their agony. It was during those times that I discovered love grows stronger in a health crisis. TRAGEDY would not change the feelings Adam, played by Jamie Blackley (The Fifth Estate, Snow White and the Huntsman); had for Mia, played by Chloe Grace Moretz (Carrie, Hugo). A gifted cellist, Mia was on course to follow her dreams when an automobile accident occurred, placing her in a coma. Adam could only hope his love would bring her back. Based on the novel, this dramatic movie had several elements that had the potential to create a moving story. The cast which included Mireille Enos (Gangster Squad, World War Z) as Mia’s mother Kat, Joshua Leonard (Higher Ground, Men of Honor) as her father Denny and Stacy Keach (Nebraska, American History X) as Gramps did the best they could with the script. Ultimately it was not enough because this picture fell flat as the scenes seemed forced and manipulative. The chemistry between Chloe and Jamie never felt strong to me; it only made things worse. One of the big issues I had was the way the story jumped from current time to past memories. They never provided an opportunity for the characters to become more than one dimensional. Compared to this past summer’s movie, “The Fault in Our Stars,” this film was a poor alternative. What made this a less enjoyable experience was the crowd at the theater; it was predominately 13-15 year old girls who were vocal throughout the movie. Geared towards them I just sat in my seat and wondered what would happen to them when they grew up and discovered love in the real world.
1 3/4 stars
It seems as if everything in the world is evolving to become disposable and replaceable. I believe we are being conditioned to accept things will not last. As an example I have a friend who has to replace her hair dryer almost every year or sooner because they keep breaking. She is resigned to the fact that once something starts to go wrong with her dryer it is easier to throw it away and get a new one. Except for the cost factor I guess little energy has to be devoted to replacing material items these days. There is however something that survives even on the littlest amount of spirit from inside of us. When I think about it through the history of mankind, I find it to be one of the most resilient forces on the planet. What it is, is hope. Hope has the ability to carry a person through absolute perilous, debilitative times; yet, like an ember that remains lit in a pile of discarded brush, hope resuscitates the soul. From a thought, a kind word, a gentle action or even a locked glance; hope will rise within each of us to be that beacon of light, shining a picture of a brighter future on the inner walls of our mind. ORPHANED and forced to work in a bamboo factory; ten year old Thuy, played by newcomer Han Thi Pham, felt life had to be better almost anywhere else than her small village. Running away to Saigon, Thuy would discover a world filled with people who were each missing something in their lives. She was undeterred because she believed her hopes and dreams would come true one day. This film festival winning movie had a beautiful subtle charm to it. There was nothing overt or thrown in the face of viewers; the story maintained tenderness even during tense scenes. For a young girl, newcomer Han Thi Pham had a wonderful screen presence as she displayed a natural flair in her acting. Cat Ly (Journey From the Fall, 21 and a Wake-Up) as flight attendant Lan and The Lu Le (The Buffalo Boy) as zookeeper Hai both were similar in the way they were able to let their physicality express their feelings. I found myself being pulled further into the story as the movie unfolded. Though there were a couple of spots that were predictable, I never felt the story was contrived or manipulative. I not only enjoyed watching this sweet and gentle film, I also had a sense of hope by the end of the movie that more people around the world would continue to tell good stories on film. Vietnamese with English subtitles.
3 stars — DVD
It was the type of conversations where we blended in each of our hopes, some fantasizing and part of our dreams toward a future together. We would get an apartment in the city, somewhere close to public transportation; so we both could easily get to our jobs. Nothing was written in stone, we pretty much were talking out loud about the direction we wanted to go. As time rolled past us I started to put things in place to step closer to our shared plan. I can still remember the day with the sunlight streaming into their apartment; their roommate’s plants hanging in the windows were throwing creeping grotesque shadows across the floor. When I brought up the subject about when we should start looking for a place; they momentarily hesitated before telling me there was a change in plans. Without going into the dramatic details, I was told they did not think it was a good idea to move in together. It seemed my intense personality would be too much to handle on a constant basis and they did not want to endanger the relationship. Other things were discussed but I was angry and hurt. Back then I was less mature; okay, I was very immature. So I was more angry than hurt and showed every bit of it. It took time for me to appreciate the honesty they showed instead of going through with the move and letting our relationship suffer. FRIENDSHIP was at stake when close friends Sean and Eddy, played by Ryan Guzman (Beyond Paradise, April Rain) and Misha Gabriel (Boogie Town, Clerks II), had different ideas about which direction their dance crew should be headed. With a national dance contest looming, Sean’s dream of becoming a winning dancer was put into serious jeopardy. The central driver to this latest installment in the movie franchise was the dancing. It was amazing to see what the choreographers came up with for the dancers. The movements and theatrics were pretty incredible, backed by a strong soundtrack. Included in the cast were Briana Evigan (Sorority Row, She Loves Me Not) and Izabella Miko (Coyote Ugly, Clash of the Titans); whose roles for the most part were just as generic as the others in the cast. However, I did think Izabella had the most fun character of all. The story was just as generic; it was part drama and romance. I found the whole movie was cheesy and easy to figure out. To be honest I did not plan on seeing this film since I had seen the previous ones and they all followed the same formula. This latest one was the only thing I had not seen when I arrived at the movie theater; so, I was somewhat stuck watching it. In addition, I would not want to tarnish my relationship with anyone who reads this review by recommending they go see this film.
1 3/4 stars
They go hand in hand; for every high point in one’s life there will be a low point. It is just the natural order of things or the way I refer to it, the pluses and minuses of life. There is nothing like riding a high wave of elation; where positive feelings flood the body, coating all the senses with heightened awarenesses. Who would not want to have this type of experience; I know I would prefer it. However, life does not give one the option to pick and choose fully their experiences. I know I did not choose to trip off that street curb and scrape my knee on the ground. In my brain having both positive and negative experiences is necessary. You see, if a person only experiences one or the other what do they have to compare with what they are feeling? I know our emotions play a part in all of this. Though I wish I did not have to deal with the downs in life, I know they only make me appreciate the up times more. Without having the two polar opposites life would be pretty bland. ELIMINATION of the emotions was what the society in this dramatic science fiction film achieved for all of its citizens. There was no war, jealousy, hatred, bigotry or sexism; everyone lived in steady harmony. All negative experiences were a thing of the past; only the memories associated with them were stored in one individual known as the Giver, played by Jeff Bridges (True Grit, The Men Who Stare at Goats). When the time came to share those memories with his apprentice, the Giver needed to make sure the events of the past would not repeat themselves in the present. Based on the Newberry Award winning novel by Lois Lowry, this was one of my favorite books. Meryl Streep (Hope Springs, The Iron Lady) played Chief Elder who made sure all the rules were enforced to prevent history from repeating itself. The cast also included Brenton Thwaites (Maleficent, Oculus) as Jonas and Odeya Rush (The Odd Life of Timothy Green, We are What We Are) as Fiona. Sadly I have to say this film version sucked the life out of an incredible, thought provoking story. I was looking forward to seeing this picture and though Jeff and Meryl were excellent, they could not save the dullness of the script. For those not familiar with the book I believe they would mildly stay interested in this film. There was a cool look about the movie where some scenes worked well. Unfortunately with so much taken out of the original story, I could easily see where things could be confusing to viewers. It truly was a shame that a movie about an emotionless society was just as emotionless.
1 3/4 stars
The elderly couple swirled around the dance floor as the bottom of the woman’s dress trailed behind her like a settling morning mist. They dipped, spun and veered from side to side in synch to the beat of the music calling out to them from the tall black speakers that stood like sentries around the dance floor. There was an elegant grace to their movements that did not betray their actual ages. Speaking with them after the dance I discovered they were in their upper 70s and had been dancing together since their wedding day over 50 years ago. When I complimented them on their beautiful movements they thanked me, telling me I should have seen them when they were younger. The couple took turns explaining their moves that involved lifts, fast spins and quick footwork in unison across an entire dance floor. Due to their ages they could no longer do such things and be graceful about it or at least without throwing out either of their backs and falling to the ground. Here was a couple who did not look their age but knew their body’s limitations as it aged; I admired their practicality and honest spirit. AGING gracefully was not an option in the latest for this movie franchise. As the third installment this action film treaded on familiar ground. Sylvester Stallone (Grudge Match, Bullet to the Head) returned as Barney Ross, the head of an elite covert fighting force. After a mission had failed, Barney decided it was time to form a team of younger players who would have to go up against the man who brought Barney’s original team down; revenge had no age limit. Along with the cast from the previous films; this movie had Harrison Ford (Ender’s Game, Cowboys & Aliens) as Drummer, Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In, Desperado) as Galgo and Wesley Snipes (Blade franchise, Demolition Man) as Doc. I can just hear you wondering what happened to the younger team members. They were in this adventure thriller; I just wondered if they were happy about it. This could have been a fun somewhat campy film, especially with its great opening scene, if the script had been better. Unfortunately the story was poorly executed. The only older actor that looked like he did some of his own stunts was Jason Statham (Snatch, Homefront) as Lee Christmas. I think the most physical thing Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Last Stand, The Terminator franchise) as Trench did was walk across a hallway. There was violence and blood as a multitude of stunt doubles did the physical work. I am afraid this third film was aged and tired; it needed to be retired.
1 3/4 stars
They say clothes makes the person, but does it really? Do clothes truly have the power to turn a person into something else? At my last visit to the bank for work I noticed all the men were now wearing sport coats; in the past they only needed to wear their branded shirts. I asked one of the tellers why he was wearing the jacket and he said the bank wanted to present a professional, knowledgeable staff to the public. Yet I did not see a difference since no one could explain why the bank kept pulling out international checks from our lockbox and mailing them to us. I would then have to bring the checks to the bank and deposit them; it made no sense. On a more personal level I have known a variety of people who feel better when they are wearing some new article of clothing. I can understand even though I do not place much importance into what a person wears. As long as it is clean I do not care. However for some individuals clothes can be used as their calling card in making a strong statement. If it is a hazardous materials suit or protective bomb defusing clothing, then yes that makes a bold presentation. UNIFORMS were the catalyst for this comedic movie. Jake Johnson (21 Jump Street, New Girl-TV) and Damon Wayan Jr. (The Other Guys, New Girl-TV) played best friends Ryan and Justin. When the two dressed up as police officers for a costume party, the pair discovered they were being treated quite differently compared to their everyday life. However the fun and perks that came with wearing those uniforms may not have been enough for the friends after they started to take the joke too far. I read an interview that was done with the director, where he said he allowed the two actors to ad lib many of their scenes together because they already had established a relationship with each other on their television show. It worked for this film since I found there was an emotional connection between the 2 men that helped form convincing characters. The humor and funny situations started out strong; but halfway through, the story lost the surprise factor and became repetitive. Part of the reason had to fall on the director’s shoulders; however, the script did him no favors. Having James D’Arcy (Hitchcock, Cloud Atlas) as Mossi and Rob Riggle (The Internship, Big Miracle) as Segars was a plus in getting to the end of this picture without complete boredom. Overall the story was not hard to figure out. This led me to believe several scenes were just done to provide filler, adding enough time to stretch what would have been a sitcom segment into a full length movie.