Monthly Archives: February 2015
No four words have the ability to unlock one’s imagination quicker than, “Once upon a time.” How many times have we sat on a soft lap with our heads resting on top of the beat from a loving heart? Maybe instead it was when you were curled up in bed, under the thick warm covers with your favorite stuffed animal or toy? Those four words started a journey where you saw faraway places and talking animals as they sprung up in your mind when it was tickled by your listening ears. I have always been fond of fairy tales and folklore. Part of the reason for my love of books is due to the great storytellers I had in my life. With the ability to change voices, display emotions and act out gestures matching the action; story time was one of my favorite parts of the day. As I got older I began to appreciate the folk tales and legends from other countries. Though they may have common elements and themes, it was always interesting to hear a story through the experiences of a different set of eyes. BASED on Irish and Scottish folklore, this Oscar nominated animated movie’s story was not only wonderful to hear but to see. I do not want to say the animation was old-fashioned but it was more akin to the type I used to see as a kid; in other words it looked hand drawn. I noticed many of the scenes had objects with elaborate patterns on them which made me wonder if there was some significance to them pertaining to Ireland or Scotland. The main focus of the story had to do with brother and sister Ben and Saoirse, voiced by David Rawle (Moone Boy-TV) and newcomer Lucy O’Connell. Annoyed by his younger sister who had not started to talk yet, Ben did not realize she was the last of her kind. This is all I want to tell you about this fantasy film so you can experience it with as little knowledge as possible. The actors were all ideal for their characters, especially Brendan Gleeson (Calvary, The Company You Keep) as Conor/Mac Lir and Fionnula Flanagan (Yes Man, The Others) as Granny/Macha. This is listed as a family film which it is; however, it is not a mainstream type of movie that involved marketing focus groups or product placements. There were no jokes or singing and dancing; it was simply telling an enchanting story. There was one extended scene having to do with near death that made a couple of younger children in the audience whimper. I have to say that watching this movie was like sitting in a comfortable lap to hear a fanciful tale.
3 1/2 stars
One of the definitions for friend that I found in a dictionary said it was, “A person who you like and enjoy being with.” This is absolutely true but for me there is more involved for me to call someone my friend. A person I call friend is someone who joins me on a journey through life; where we are there for each other, supporting each other during happy occasions and even more during sad ones. We may or may not have a similar sense of humor; but we still would understand why the other one found something funny. I would like to say we each have a moral compass that is pointing towards the same direction, but as I write this I know there are a few friends who have a different point of view. And do you know why it is okay if they look at things differently than I do? It is because above all else I place major importance in a relationship that is non-judgemental. Who am I to say you are doing a bad thing? Now granted, I am perfectly comfortable offering advice when asked along with sharing my experiences. Friends just get each other; they do not have to explain or justify things to each other. For me friends are like a bag of mixed candies; though they are covered in a variety of different wrappers, what is inside of them is the most important and favorite part. This is why I was confused at first with this comedy. HORRIFIED to find out she was the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) amongst her friends Bianca, played by Mae Whitman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Independence Day), was determined to prove she was no such thing. Because things seemed to focus on surface issues at first, I had a bit of trouble getting into this movie. The characters were stereotypical examples of high school students such as the snobby mean girl Madison, played by Bella Thorne (Blended, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) and the good looking athlete Wesley, played by Robbie Amell (Left for Dead, Scooby Doo! The Mystery Begins-TV). Having Ken Jeong (The Hangover franchise, Pain & Gain) play teacher Mr. Arthur was an obvious clue his character was not going to be your typical high school teacher. There were parts of the script that had some smart dialog, where I felt the film was trying to be something different. It was however relatively easy to figure out where the story was going since there were not many surprises. By the end of the film I was once again reminded how grateful I was I finished high school a long time ago.
The restaurant came highly recommended so it was worth the time and money to check it out. The appetizer was wonderful, crisp and fresh. However the soup was ghastly with globs of grease floating on the surface like used puppy pads. The main course was not hot and had a slightly sour taste, though the potatoes were outstanding with a hint of garlic and a touch of chili powder. When the dessert came with its main ingredient being chocolate it was devoured right up, feeding the remaining hunger inside. So the experience did not match the expectations; maybe it was an off day for the chef or possibly the wrong items were picked. After receiving such high compliments about the place it just seemed odd not to have had a similar experience. Trying to be the optimist (not my forte) another visit was planned with hopes the food would be vastly improved. The only thing learned by going back to the restaurant for a 2nd time was that the food was just not good. What made things worse was the food did not settle well in the stomach causing waves of nausea to wash over the body with a bitter taste coating the inside of the mouth like old rubbery primer. It was confirmed the restaurant was awful. PLEASE accept this review as your confirmation that this sequel was worse than the first movie which starred John Cusak (High Fidelity, Martian Child). Whether it was a scheduling conflict, broken negotiations or a desire not to reprise the role, John must be feeling mighty lucky that his name was not associated with this crude comedy. The weak story had Lou, played by Rob Corddry (Warm Bodies, Sex Tape), in serious trouble. His friends Nick and Jacob, played by Craig Robinson (This is the End, Pineapple Express) and Clark Duke (Kick Ass franchise, Greek-TV), needed the help of their hot tub time machine if they were going to save their buddy’s life. This unfunny sci-fi film was total trash. Among many other adjectives I could use to describe this horrible picture; I found it vulgar, offensive and infantile. We just finished up the Oscar season and I could not believe so early into the new Oscar season we already have a film that deserved my lowest rating. Now I saw the first movie and did not find much to like about it; though the idea for it was mildly novel. Watching this garbage was like being locked in an outhouse that had not been cleaned out for several weeks; it reeked of bad taste. Even if you do not agree with my taste in movies I am pleading, please do not go see this picture; it will only encourage the movie studio to think about another sequel.
Sometimes it takes a different set of eyes to show you what you are capable of doing. Imagine you were born on a farm where you grew into the capability of throwing 50 pound bales of hay onto a flatbed truck. Since it had always been part of your life it would never occur to you that you were strong. However if you compared it to someone who did not have early strength training, you would be considered strong. The key fact in the equation has to do with the comparison aspect and it is something that I find very few people use when commenting on themselves. When someone tells me something about themselves such as they are overweight or too tall let us say, I ask them compared to what? Most of the time I find such statements to be very subjective. Though I have lost a great deal of weight I do not consider myself a thin person because I’m using a warped comparison of what I believe thin looks like. This is one of the reasons it is beneficial to have someone else show you what you are or what you can achieve. If my first aerobic instructor did not nurture and encourage me to choreograph routines, I do not know if I would have ever become a group fitness instructor since I previously flunked high school gym classes. OUT of a job as high school football coach due to anger issues Jim White, played by Kevin Costner (Black or White, Man of Steel), was forced to leave and take an assistant coaching position at a small high school with a dismal football record. Looking at the students, it was obvious to Coach White the kids were not cut out to play football; however, he did think they could do something that had never been done at the small high school before. Based on a true story, the script to this sports drama was written in such a way that allowed the viewers to tear up. There were parts of this movie where I had to wipe the tears from my eyes. I thought Kevin and Maria Bello (A History of Violence, Prisoners) who played his wife Cheryl were well suited for each other, coming across in a believable way. The actors like Carlos Pratts (Coyote, Counterpunch) as Thomas Valles and newcomers Sergio Avelar and Ramiro Rodriguez as Victor Puentes and Danny Diaz were quite good. The issue I had with this film concerned the script; it was contrived and written like a fairy tale. It needed more details and less manipulation. I found it upsetting because I really liked the story. Whoever was in charge should have shown the writers the true story would have been enough to tell.
2 1/3 stars
There once was a little boy who was not very little. A majority of the people around him all looked the same which made him more self-concsious about his size. Not finding many places to fit in, to be like one of the others around him, he found a safe place in a palace. It looked like a palace to him with stained glass windows, smooth white colored brick walls, aged statues and a massive awning filled with colored lights perched above sets of pure glass doors with brass oversized handles. He not only felt safe inside but found a whole different world to the one he was living in. The first spot he would stop at once inside was the glass cases that were pieced together like a kid’s fort. Walking around he saw more types of candy than he had ever seen before. From there he would walk through a set of polished black doors that opened into a huge auditorium filled with row upon row of red velvet seats. He spent as much time as he could in this place because he discovered different worlds and experienced things he only saw in his imagination. Every week there would be a new movie that proved to him there were all types of people from all different places. He laughed, he cried, he yearned, he wished; and most importantly discovered he was okay just the way he was. FROM that point in time he has paid his respects to the magic of movies by watching the Oscar telecast every year. This year the show started out on a high note with the host Neil Patrick Harris doing what he does best, being a song and dance man. With the special effects around him that placed him into classic movie clips, things took a fun turn with Anna Kendrick and Jack Black. As the evening progressed Neil had more misses than hits as a host. The schtick with Octavia Spencer got old fast, though I give him points for honoring the film Birdman by walking out on stage in his underwear. One of my favorite moments was Lady Gaga’s tribute to the 50th anniversary of the movie The Sound of Music. Having seen her in concert where she sang live, she already had extra points in my book. Using a higher register of voice without losing her power; she did the movie proud. And if that was not enough to have Julie Andrews walk on stage was perfect for me. I wanted Mary Poppins to come to my house when I was a kid. For the best song from the movie Selma I thought the staging, the message and the vocals all contributed to the power a song has not only in a movie but in our hearts. THIS year the speeches took on a more personal aspect. The one everyone is talking about and deservedly so was the one given by Graham Moore for best adapted screenplay for The Imitation Game. Coming from the heart, his speech was the most inspiring in my opinion. Julianne Moore and Patricia Arquette both had strong speeches delivered in two distinctly different styles, yet each had potency in their words. Reese Witherspoon may not have given an acceptance speech but her #askhermore campaign is a wonderful idea. I understand all the designers are expecting shout outs for their handy work with the gowns the actresses are wearing, but is that all people want to hear about? Reese’s idea is for journalists to start asking more questions besides, “Who are you wearing?” OVERALL I am pleased with who received the Oscar award. To tell you the truth on one level I find it odd to place movies into a race with each other. My thing has always been if a movie can move you then it did its job. Just like there has to be someone who graduates at the top of their class and others from the bottom, some movies are phenomenal and others are awful. No matter what movie I am seeing, to this day there is a certain comfort and safety that comes over me when I sit down in a movie theater seat. So with the Oscars now given out the past year of movies has come to a close. May the new year of films stir something in our hearts and give us something to talk about.
Something I say to remind me there may be additional opportunities is the saying, “It is not written in stone.” I do not know how this saying came to be, but what it means to me is I do not have to remain in the same place forever. In other words, I can make a decision to learn a new exercise program and discover it is not suitable for me. Just because I agreed to do it does not mean I have to teach it the rest of my life. Maybe a better example is when a friend of mine was out of work. Enough time had passed where their funds were almost depleted. A job offer finally came up that wasn’t exactly in their field and they were not sure they wanted to take it. I explained just because they accept the offer doesn’t mean he will have to stay there the rest of his life. The important thing was to start earning an income and down the road see what opportunities open up for them. This may sound hokey but we can be whatever we want to be. I have rewritten my life’s path several times, going from wanting to be a veterinarian to a fitness presenter to a movie reviewer. Each portion of my past journey has led me to my present destination. KEITH Michaels, played by Hugh Grant (Music and Lyrics, About a Boy), was an Oscar winning screenwriter. So what happened to him where he had to leave Hollywood and take a temporary teaching position at a small east coast college to earn a living? This romantic comedy felt like a well-worn blanket; it felt familiar besides having Hugh’s typical dry wit and humor. To tell you the truth I was surprised this movie had such a stellar cast. There was J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Labor Day) as Dr. Lerner, Marisa Tomei (Spare Parts, The Wrestler) as Holly Carpenter and Allison Janney (Liberal Arts, Bad Words) as Mary Weldon; all of them were wonderful in this easy to watch film. I cannot remember the last time I saw Hugh in a movie but he still was able to play that type of character who was part selfish, part snob and part lovable sheepish bloke. The story was simple; there was nothing really new about it. However, because of the cast I enjoyed watching this movie. There would be no reason to run out and see this film right away; I think this picture would be perfect to watch on a lazy, cloudy day when you have few commitments. You do not have to take my word though; you can watch it anytime you want.
2 1/4 stars
For the past year I have spent my time in a variety of movie theaters. Some had floors so sticky that my shoes refused to go with me when I tried to leave my seat. There were numerous occasions I had to ask people around me to shut off their phones; some did so obediently while others had to first glare at me. I did not care for I had a movie to watch and review. And what a year it has been; we learned there was a theory for everything and we had new guardians of the galaxy. The Chicago Bears finally caught a Fox and a man bonded with the avian world. There was another lesson on how to train your dragon while a woman went wild and another was just gone. We saw a boy grow up to be a mature young man and discovered a new hotel in Budapest. Such an eclectic group of films the past year; just the way I like it. As we come to an end this weekend during the high holiday of the Oscar awards, I want to thank each and every one of you for joining me on this journey that was filled with discovery, disappointment, joy, amazement, anger and love. Wow, doesn’t that sound just like an intimate relationship? Without further ado, here are my thoughts and predictions for who will take home the Oscar.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
I would be very surprised if the academy awards this to Meryl. Personally my other choice would have been Emma Stone.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
This was my easiest decision; I felt he deserved it from the moment I saw him in this movie.
BEST DIRECTOR: Alejandro G. Inarritu (Birdman)
I believe the academy will choose Richard Linklater for Boyhood because the film was novel. However, I thought Alejandro with his seamless filming was extraordinary.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: CitizenFour
Though I did not see all the nominees in this category I thought this film played out like an exciting thriller. My other choice would be Finding Vivian Maier.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Once again I did not see all the entries in this category but I felt this picture was the most well-rounded out of the group.
BEST ACTRESS: Julianne Moore
It is not only her time now but out of the group I thought she really stood out.
BEST ACTOR: Eddie Redmayne
This was my toughest decision and I feel there is a good chance the Academy will choose Michael Keaton based on his body of work. I would be okay with that decision. He was excellent but I felt Eddie’s detailed transformation made for a brilliant performance. My other choice would be Benedict Cumberbatch.
BEST MOTION PICTURE: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Here again I feel the Academy might reward Boyhood though if I did not choose Birdman first I would choose The Grand Budapest Hotel.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: Glory
If for nothing else this movie deserved more nominations so the Academy will vote to give this the best song Oscar and I agree on the choice; it was the most memorable to me.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: The Grand Budapest Hotel
I normally do not include this category in my predictions but because the movie was so different and fun, I wanted to list it as my 1st choice.
There you have it, this year’s predictions. No matter who wins, I had a great time watching all of these films.
Where some departments are inviting and welcoming to fellow employees, there are others that are structured like secured fortresses to keep away all outsiders. Working in an office means you acquire a pseudo family, quirks and all. I have worked for a few companies and I have found the larger ones mirror the globe. Depending on the department managers, it can feel like you are traveling to a different country when entering their fiefdoms, where employees never mingle with those from a different department. I worked for an individual who treated all the employees as if they were his personal assistants, from washing his car to picking up his laundry; I could not wait to get out of there. Luckily I have worked at places where all the employees in the department felt like family. We would always celebrate each other’s birthdays and be there for each other during the sad occasions. Like any family there would be disagreements and spats; but when you think about it, most employees are together 8 hours a day. For some that can be more time together than with one’s own blood relatives. I will say one of the negatives to having a family environment at the workplace is when one employee’s work is dependent on another employee. It can be hard to separate the lines between employee and pseudo family member. SANDRA, played by Marion Cotillard (Inception, The Immigrant), discovered her boss offered her fellow employees a choice to either keep her as an employee or receive a cash bonus upon her termination. With her husband Manu, played by Fabrizio Rongione (The Kid with a Bike, Rosetta), pushing her to fight for her job, Sandra would have to confront each of her fellow workers to ask them to vote for her to stay on the job. This Oscar nominated and film festival winning drama was an interesting viewing experience. The movie started out slow; at first I was not sure what was going on since it seemed as if the story had started in the middle. Gratefully Marion was outstanding in the role so I was able to stay interested. With her acting I could easily feel her pain and discomfort as she went from employee to employee. Written and directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (The Kid with the Bike, L’Enfant), I found the story’s idea compelling. There was however a few slow parts in the film and one scene in particular did not ring true for me. If this makes sense, this picture was more of a cerebral experience since there was not much action. The thing that rang true about the script was the way the employees interacted with each other. French was spoken with English subtitles.
There are times where a dark cloud does not have a silver lining or an oyster has a pearl. A saying I like is “never judge a book by its cover.” I am sure all of us have been in a situation where you did not understand what your friend saw in their boyfriend or girlfriend. I have a friend who used to date a man I found crude and rude. Whenever we were invited to a party where there was food, he would be the first one and the last one to grab whatever was on the table. Not once did I ever hear him ask if anyone wanted anymore before he finished off the platter. If games were played he would be ultra-competitive, concerned only with winning and vanquishing his opponents. It was never a fun time. Where I felt it wasn’t my place to tell her that her boyfriend was a jerk, I had a friend who made his feelings known by telling me he hated the person I was dating. I finally had to sit him down and tell him I was uncomfortable with his actions. His reasons for the strong feelings were based on things that meant nothing to me. I saw kindness, humor and beauty inside of them; but I realize not everyone sees the same things because we do not walk in each other’s shoes. SUPER secret agent Harry Hart, played by Colin Firth (The Railway Man, The King’s Speech) had a hunch there was something more behind the tough talking streetwise kid Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, played by Taron Egerton (Testament of Youth, The Smoke-TV). With a new threat looming could Harry transform “Eggsy” in time to join the agency, despite his fellow agents’ concerns. This action adventure film was pure fun. Written and directed by Matthew Vaughn (Stardust, X-Men: First Class), I enjoyed many aspects of this movie. The story was flavored with humor and I liked the idea of British gentlemen as spies. It reminded me of the character John Steed from an old TV show called The Avengers. Also included in the cast was Mark Strong (Body of Lies, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as Merlin and Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers, Pulp Fiction) as Valentine; they were perfect for their roles. The fight scenes did not have a dark edge which made them more high-tech treats; I tend to be fond of ordinary gadgets that have a dual purpose. Personally I would not mind if the movie studio made a sequel because I appreciated the way this comedy set out in the trailers what it planned to do; make a fun throwback type of secret agent film. What you see is what you get. There were scenes of blood and violence.
The only reason I started listening to their conversation was because I thought they were talking about Russian royalty. As I stood in line to check out my groceries, two women in front of me were talking about someone named Anastasia. Since it was the title to one of my favorite Ingrid Bergman films, my ears perked up upon hearing that name. I quickly realized they were not talking about the movie so I lost interest in their conversation. Some time shortly after I was in a store and while in the shoe department I heard some people nearby talking about Anastasia and Christian. What were the chances I would hear the name Anastasia twice in one week? It was not long before I kept hearing about these two individuals everywhere I went, from the office to the health club to any retail establishment; it was unreal how many people were talking about them. Feeling like I hadn’t been invited to the party I asked a couple of coworkers to explain to me who were these two people, Christian and Anastasia. After getting acquainted with these characters from author E.L. James’ 2011 book, 50 Shades of Grey, I became even more fascinated by their ability to draw so many people into their world. AFTER all this time I have finally been introduced to the infamous couple in this dramatic romance film based on the book. Dakota Johnson (Need for Speed, Beastly) and Jamie Dornan (Marie Antoinette, Shadows in the Sun) played Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey; she, a college student and he, a young successful business entrepreneur. If there is anyone left besides me who has not read the book, the story is about these two characters’ attraction to each other, though for different reasons. Starting with the screenplay written by Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr. Banks, Terra Nova-TV), I really wished E.L. James would have written it because I thought the script was poorly done, with some real awful lines. I do not know if it was due to the lack of chemistry between the two main stars (there was none), but I still do not understand what the attraction was for Christian. From her 1st entrance into his office to him suddenly flying out to see her at the hardware store where she worked, I just did not get it. Scenes seemed disjointed or maybe I should say they lacked the emotion one would expect for such a scene. Again I want to stress I did not read the book; but as for this movie, I found sitting through it to be a painful experience. However, maybe you should check with the majority of women at my viewing who were hooting and hollering whenever Christian took off any of his clothing.
1 2/3 stars