Monthly Archives: April 2015
It is funny, the individual could be the chief executive officer of a large corporation that has a worldwide reach with thousands of employees; but as soon as they are at a family function they are seen as the shy baby brother, sister, cousin or some other relative that they were years ago. Those early images of our siblings/relatives that were imprinted in our minds never leave us. When I am around my relatives it is the only time I hear the nickname that was given to me when I was a little boy. None of my friends or business associates use that name which is fine by me. Now I am still training my relatives not to introduce me by my nickname to strangers. You see as soon as I hear that nickname memories from my childhood flood my brain, like my first ride in a convertible car to navigating an escalator for the first time without holding an adult’s hand. It doesn’t make a difference if I’m dressed up in a three piece suit or just lead a full cycle class; those images will continue to play in the background of my senses. I know this must happen for many people because I’ve seen the same thing going on with my friends and their families. You just never know how it will play out, for you could be on top of the world but in your family’s eyes you are still that spoiled little brat. REALIZING he had just lost all of his money and everyone else’s investments in his new company businessman Jake, played by Nick Kroll (Date Night, The League-TV), had to leave Manhattan and move in with his sister Justine, played by Rose Byrne (This is Where I Leave You, Annie), and her husband Danny, played by Bobby Cannavale (Blue Jasmine, Danny Collins). Unfocused and unsure were not ideal attributes if he was going to help take care of his little nephew. This comedic drama had very little humor as far as I was concerned. I liked the cast but I found the script to be mostly bland. There was very little that happened on the screen that pulled me into the story. One possibility for my blah reaction to this movie could be the fact that it seemed like a knockoff of the film, The Skeleton Twins. That movie was so much better than this one; I just found myself getting bored here. There really was nothing new or different in this story; what did keep my attention was Rose and Bobby for the most part. Whether you call this a comedy, drama or dramedy; it won’t change the fact that it was not a very good picture.
1 3/4 stars
Something must happen to one’s senses when they become a parent. All of a sudden it seems like their hearing stretches out for several blocks and their eyesight is akin to an eagle. I do not know how it happens but I can remember during the summer months parents and their children from the neighborhood would always be down at the beach and no matter where a child went their parent would always know their whereabouts. Even if there was a group of kids playing in the water; if one stepped on a rock and gave out a yelp, their parent back on shore sunning themselves would immediately sit up and scan for their child. I used to feel like I was surrounded by these superhuman mothers with special powers. That unique connection must get turned on from the love one has for their child. It is a bond that gets twisted, bent and squeezed yet never breaks. In fact you may have seen on the news that mother from Baltimore who, though her son had a hoodie pulled over his masked face, spotted him in a crowd and made a beeline from him. I heard an interview with her where she said she could not tell it was her son by his face; but just his stance and the way the sweatpants were hanging on him, she knew it was him. It is amazing what parents will do for their children. WITH their death weighing heavy on him Australian farmer Connor, played by Russell Crowe (Winter’s Tale, State of Play), was determined to travel all the way to Turkey to find his sons’ corpses and return them back home so they could have a proper burial. This award winning drama was Russell’s first foray behind the camera as director. I have to say I was impressed with his first attempt. The story was big regarding the 1915 Battle of Gallipoli, so there were a lot of scenes and a large cast. Besides Russell taking the title role there was Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, Hitman) as Ayshe and Jai Courtney (Divergent franchise, A Good Day to Die Hard) as Lt. Colonel Hughes. Now there were some parts of this war film that could have been cut back, especially the love interest story line; I found it to be unnecessary. There was also a melodramatic sweep through this picture, where things were predictable and seemed as if they were tweaked with the viewer in mind. In addition there were a couple of parts that did not make much sense; however, with the expansive landscapes, the international locations and the pure story line about a parent’s love, I felt I was seeing an old-fashioned Hollywood period piece. There were several scenes with violence and blood.
2 3/4 stars
The more excuses I have heard people use to be or not to be in love, the more I wonder if love’s definition is changing. Some of the excuses I have heard (I kid you not) have been things like: they make me laugh, they walk too fast, they drink too much, they have nice furniture, they are considerate or they have a job. I know; when I heard some of these all I could do was just stand there and stare at them, wondering if they were serious. For me love is love; there are no qualifiers or conditions. I get amused when someone tells me they wished she was shorter or wished he was not so hairy, like these are really deal breakers? I just do not get it. With some cultures it is frowned upon to love someone outside of one’s race or religion. I respect their thinking though I do not have to accept it. If two people can find each other and fall in love; in my book, they have won one of the grand prizes in life. Besides the love two people share, love can be used as a protection. The love of animals can make a person choose to become a vegan or the love of architecture can motivate someone to become an activist to preserve important buildings. Love is one of the most powerful forces in the world; that is why it can make some people heroes and others crazy. AFTER their father had died June, played by Cory Hardrict (American Sniper, Gran Torino), had to take care of Sergio and Jackie, played by Eric D. Hill Jr. (Hurricane Season, Orange is the New Black-TV) and Keke Palmer (Akeelah and the Bee, Joyful Noise), his younger brother and sister. He would have to do whatever it took to keep them on track in their tough neighborhood. Though this dramatic film was set in Philadelphia, the story had one strong element straight out from the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. Except for the location it essentially was the same story which made the scenes quite predictable. The other story line was one that has been played before and was done better than this one. The film was pretty bland for me; nothing horrendously glaring nor very interesting. I thought Keke and Cory were the strongest actors out of the cast, though I liked seeing Macy Gray (For Colored Girls, The Paperboy) as Mrs. Taylor. The idea for this story was based on solid ground; however, I did not find anything special about it. This may be a forgettable film but it will not stop me from loving movies.
1 3/4 stars
Others may find it morbid, but among my close friends it is not unusual for us to tell each other we want to be the one to go first. I am not referring to queuing up for an amusement park ride; I am referring to dying. Before you say, “eeewwww,” let me explain. We are like family to each other; some of us have been friends since elementary school. When one of us says he/she wants to be the first to go, we are saying it would be awful to watch someone else go through the process. It is this way because we love each other so much. Some of us had relatives who lived for a long time that we saw go through the aging process and it was not always easy. On the other hand we have seen through the years some incredible things. We also have talked about what we would like to see in the future. Imagine if one of us could live for a very, very long time. Surely there would be great strides made by mankind; I still have a hope to see a flying car in my lifetime. However, to know you will be seeing everyone you know and love die before you would be a tough thing. I have some friends who are in relationships who hate to even see their significant other ill; they would rather be the one with the illness. Life would take on a new meaning if one never became sick or grew old. ADALINE Bowman, played by Blake Lively (Savages, The Town), stopped growing old. No one could know so she had to keep moving throughout the years, never allowing anyone to get close to her. She had not expected Ellis Jones, played by Michael Huisman (Wild, World War Z), to be so persistent. This dramatic romance presented an interesting quandary both to Adaline and the viewer. I thought the movie was beautifully filmed. The different time periods were well represented. The cast received some heavy hitters in the form of Harrison Ford (Blade Runner, 42) as William Jones and Ellen Burstyn (The Fountain, The Exorcist) as Flemming, which tried to get the rest of the cast to act better. For the most part there was no issue for me with the change in time periods; however, I did tire of the narrator early on. There were a couple of slow and predictable parts to the story. As long as one was able to suspend their belief in reality, then the story could provide a charming tale that would draw the viewer into its world. I may not be wiser but after seeing this intriguing drama I have different thoughts about aging.
2 2/3 stars
Pride means you have a respect for yourself, a sense of happiness when you know you have done something good. There is another form of pride known as false pride. I find this version to be showy or more of a facade. The term “keep up appearances” comes to mind. Some years ago I taught aerobics in a small aerobic studio. The space had this old dark carpeting for the fitness floor and I had to stand on a makeshift wooden stage that was no more than 6 feet wide. We were situated above a clothing store on a busy commercial street. It was my job to be welcoming and upbeat even if there was no hot water or air conditioning. I could deal with stuff like that; however, I had a hard time working for someone who claimed to be a fitness professional but would use illegal drugs in their office. It was such a contradiction; all of the profits were going to their drug habit. I needed the job so I kept quiet, only coming in to teach my classes then leave quickly. After a while the situation began to weigh me further down; it was hard to put on this false front of a gung-ho, cheerful instructor knowing that there may not be enough money to cover my paycheck. Luckily I was able to find another job and resigned from the place. At least I was able to do it, but what about those individuals who have no choice? THERE are no murderers in paradise; at least that was what people were led to believe during the 1950s in the Soviet Union. But after Leo Demidov, played by Tom Hardy (Inception, Lawless), had to read the death notice to his close friend about his son; Leo knew something was not right. This dramatic thriller had a stellar class that really made this picture. Along with Tom there was Noomi Rapace (The Drop, Prometheus) as Raisa Demidov, Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight franchise, Harry Potter franchise) as General Mikhail Nesterov and Joel Kinnaman (Run All Night, RoboCop) as Vasili. This film had an oppressive darkness hanging down on it thanks to the cinematography and sets. I enjoyed all of this so much which makes me sad to say the script was the weak link. The story was ponderous with a few slow passages. As I sat through this movie I felt like there were all these cool puzzle pieces but they were not all fitting together. It seemed to me that there were too many story lines which made this film longer than it needed to be. All I can say is this film had a good front but once you got into it you realized it was not as good as it looked. Brief scenes of violence and blood.
2 1/4 stars
They were the perfect guests for dinner. Always on time, trustworthy and filled with noteworthy stories each time they appeared; many of us had the same nightly guests for supper. They were the newscasters who showed up every day at the dinner hour when our televisions were turned on. I am referring to those TV news anchors when I was growing up. Back then they were sometimes considered family members; they would explain current issues in a way that was unbiased and unfettered. There was no hidden agenda or slanted placement to the presentation of the stories. The same could be said about reporters for the newspapers. That was the beauty of the news during those times; one could get the same story whether it was done verbally or visually. I remember the newspapers being so much thicker than they are now, besides fewer ads then. There were some reporters who had their own weekly or daily columns where they would take a topic, cut it up and spoon feed it to us, the readers. I still hold on to those feelings I had years ago every time I hold a newspaper in my hands. However things are not the same; I do not have the same level of trust anymore. It seems to me the news is based now on getting ratings; the more sensational the story, the higher draw of viewers. In addition, with a majority of media outlets now owned by large corporations I get the feeling there is a hidden agenda to their actions. It is harder to figure out what is really true these days. BEING released from the New York Times due to a falsified story reporter Michael Finkel, played by Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Sitter), became an untouchable in the news world. Finding a job seemed like an impossible task until murder suspect Christian Longo, played by James Franco (The Interview, Palo Alto), was taken into custody claiming he was Michael Finkel. Based on actual events this dramatic mystery seemed to have all the elements for making a thrilling picture. I liked the cast which included Felicity Jones (The Invisible Woman, The Theory of Everything) as Jill Barker; however, I only found James to be the most believable. The script was overdone, plodding along to the point where I was bored through portions of the movie. It was too bad because I rather enjoyed the camera work with its variety of close-ups and uncluttered scenes. The beginning of the film was stronger; I kept losing interest as time went on. Though the story had an interesting base, I just could not get into it. I felt the same way about this film as I do about the news; I did not buy into everything I was being shown.
Maybe it is their antics or the way they make eye contact with us, but there is something about monkeys that gives one a sense of familiarity. From my first stuffed animal I received after my birth, I have always had a fondness for our simian cousins. What I am about to say may sound odd to some of you; but from all the animals I have encountered either at a zoo or nature park, the eyes of monkeys convey more to me than any other animal. There is a soulfulness to their eyes that makes one feel they are looking at an old soul. Fortunately there are 2 major zoos close to where I live, so I have access to visiting them frequently. Now I know what I just said about the eyes can apply to some of our pets; trust me I know, who doesn’t melt when they look into the loving eyes of their pet. It is funny how we tend to humanize the different species within the monkey population; just take a look at the movie franchise, “Planet of the Apes.” Gorillas tend to be cast as the enforcers or the heavy muscle (except the cartoon character Magilla Gorilla). Orangutangs are looked at as either the brainy or unintelligent ones. Then there are the monkeys and chimpanzees who know how to have fun and are quite inquisitive. Maybe it is my own prejudices but I never associate war or fighting when it comes to monkeys. FROM Disneynature films this documentary was filmed in the jungles of South Asia about a family of monkeys. Directed by Mark Linfield (Earth, Chimpanzee) and narrated by Tina Fey (Muppets Most Wanted, Date Night), this movie was no less beautiful than the others from the film studio. It was incredibly shot with some scenes that one just had to sit and wonder how the camera people were able to get such close-up action. If you sit through the credits you will find out how they did it. Compared to previous animal based documentaries, I did not mind this film’s story. It provided some chuckles, touching moments, a couple of sad things and a few scenes of disbelief. I had to wonder if some scenes was staged because I could not believe what I was seeing on screen. From the first song of the soundtrack I actually burst out laughing because it was perfect for the scene. You will understand when you see it. Whether the scenes depicted were actually happening among the monkeys it did not matter to me. The story was good enough to the point where I believed it and as far as I was concerned, I was being entertained. I just wished my stuffed monkey was here to have seen it.
It drives me crazy when a computer function does not work. On the monitor a small warning pops up and tells me the procedure failed; then has the nerve to make me press the “okay” button like I have a choice. I want to say no, it is not okay now fix it. The way I look at it I want computers to correct themselves if they are so smart. Now intelligently I understand they cannot think for themselves, but it certainly seems we are going in that direction. With the variety of electronic devices we use these days, some of our computers know more about ourselves than our family or friends. Instead of typing we can talk to our computers, use sign language and maybe soon facial recognition. Just this morning on the news I saw a report of a robot with a human face that has over 40+ pulleys underneath so the robot can provide visual facial cues besides verbal ones. I have to tell you it creeped me out a bit. Maybe it is because of all the science fiction movies I have seen; but the smarter computers are becoming the more concerned I am of their power. There is all this talk about artificial intelligence; do you ever think there will be a time where a computer will refuse one of our requests? It is a frightening thought and this dramatic science fiction film does not make me feel any better about it. WINNING a company contest computer programmer Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson (Unbroken, About Time), won a week at the company CEO’s remote private residence. Upon his arrival he discovered he would be testing a new form of artificial intelligence never seen before and her name was Ava, played by Alicia Vikander (Seventh Son, A Royal Affair). This film festival winning movie quickly drew me in with its crisp sleek look. I enjoyed how the scenes blended in with the soundtrack to create a buildup of tension. The acting was excellent from everyone, particularly by Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year, Robin Hood) as Nathan. He had a commanding presence on screen. For the majority of the film the script kept my interest; there were only a few parts that seemed to deflate and slow down. For such a modern and relevant story, there was an exciting old fashioned type of cat and mouse mystery game going on which was captivating. This picture had the type of science fiction story that could be considered closer to reality than fiction, which was a scary thought to me. I kept thinking about this movie after it was over. After you see this film you may get a better understanding about my fears when it comes to smart computers. There were a couple of brief scenes with blood.
3 1/4 stars
Right in the middle of a conversation the two were having, a little head popped up behind the shoulder of one of them. With big eyes staring out from the cherubic baby’s blank face, the conversation was placed on hold. One or both of them will more than likely do one of the following things: talk in a high voice, cross their eyes, wave their hand or make some type of funny face. Any one of those acts were performed with the hope of getting a smile or laugh out of the baby. I see this happening all the time; sitting in a restaurant booth and a baby or young child in the next booth turns around and stares at you. Make a silly face and the child usually gurgles with laughter or reacts with a wide open mouthed grin on their face. Being silly can be a therapeutic experience. Haven’t we all at one time or another acted silly? I tend to act or say something silly to break the ice when I find myself in a room filled with strangers. However, there is a big risk involved if one chooses this method; if no one laughs then you look like a fool. Another time where I will use silliness or humor as an option is when I find myself in a heavy emotional situation; it is like my default button, but in this case it may be genetic since I am not the only one who does this within my family. My philosophy is I would rather laugh than cry if I am given a choice. Laughter just makes things easier in my opinion. Silliness was served in this security guard sequel. Taking a break from his duties as a mall cop Paul Blart, played by Kevin James (Here Comes the Boom, Hitch), and his daughter Maya, played by Raini Rodriguez (Girl in Progress, Paul Blart: Mall Cop), traveled to Las Vegas for a well deserved vacation. Though Paul was away from his security job, his security instincts were telling him something wrong was going on in the hotel. This action comedy sequel was one long series of silly gags that did not initiate one laugh out of me. Kevin was milking every line throughout this movie. With other cast members like Neal McDonough (Flags of our Fathers, Star Trek: First Contact) as Vincent and Daniella Alonso (The Collector, The Hills Have Eyes II) as Divina, there was not much in the script that allowed the cast to make something out of their characters. I was bored through most of this film. Everyone has their own idea of what is silly; if you found the trailer funny than you might like this picture. For me the trailer showed me everything I needed to know.
1 1/3 stars
They were different times back then; an age prior to the sheen of political correctness and the term, “time out.” Back then punishments were doled out with non-negotiable terms. Not only could one’s own parents differ in their style of implementation, each set of parents in the neighborhood varied tremendously on what they considered to be a just punishment. I remember one mother down the street would stand on the porch and threaten her son that she was going to send him away to a bad boy’s school. Another parent would impose a curfew on any of her children if they acted up; usually this meant they could only go outside to go to school, but then come straight home and stay in the house. I can still remember a couple of friends who would get smacked in the head if they got in trouble. No one ever questioned these actions nor did anyone call the Department of Children and Family Services. I am a firm believer in doling out a proper punishment for the “crime.” Granted it is steeped in a foundation of reasoning and I know there are some times one cannot reason with a screaming child. However, I like the idea of explaining if these actions continue then this will be the consequences…and follow through with it. Some of you may recall a few of the stories I have mentioned previously about the things that took place in my high school. This dramatic action film could give my school a run for its money. BASTOY was an island where juvenile delinquent boys would be sent to do time. Harsh punishment was the norm for any infraction, but that did not seem to stop the newest boy named Erling/C-19, played by Benjamin Helstad (Body Troopers, Permafrost). The rumor going around was Erling had been sent because he had murdered someone. This film festival winning dramatic movie was based on a true story and what a story it was. Set in the early 20th century in Norway, the entire look of the film was a continuous grim harshness. It worked perfectly for the well done script. Speaking of the script, I enjoyed the way it drew the viewer into the story. With actors such as Stellan Skarsgard (The Avengers, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Bestyreren, Trond Nilssen (All That Matters is Past, Sons of Norway) as Olav/C-1 and Kristoffer Joner (The Monitor, Next Door) as Brathen; I thought the entire cast did a wonderful job with their characters. As I sat and watched this film I wondered how different the story would have been if it had taken place today. A frightening thought either way. Norwegian and Swedish was spoken with English subtitles.
3 1/2 star — DVD