Monthly Archives: June 2015
I used to think there were some dogs that were just bad, but I came to my senses. It turned out it really was the dog owners that were bad. My original train of thought was due to a loose dog in the neighborhood where I grew up, that tried biting me as I rode my bicycle down the street near its house. Luckily as I grew up there was a relative of mine that adopted a black poodle that changed my views about dogs. This poodle really showed my what it was like to have a dog be a member of the family. In my adult life I encountered many dogs that were the children of friends and family. I realized like children dogs were not born bad, they had to be trained or not be trained to act in a non-appropriate way. There was one dog in particular that touched me in a special way that cemented my feelings about dogs. This mixed breed dog was not only a loving creature, but was able to express empathy. I will never forget the time when its owner was lying on their bed crying and the dog quietly jumped up and lied down next to them, putting its front paw across their back. I was nearly speechless as I witnessed this sympathetic act. Now when I hear a story like I did last week from a member in my class about walking their dog when the neighbors 2 dogs ran out to attack her dog, I know it says more about the owner instead of their dogs. I believe this even more now that I have seen this heartwarming film. UNABLE to be handled by anyone else after his handler Kyle Wincott, played by Robbie Amell (The DUFF, The Hunters-TV movie), was killed in the line of duty; the military had only one option left to avoid putting down Max, the bomb sniffing dog. They hoped Kyle’s parents Pamela and Ray Wincott, played by Lauren Graham (Evan Almighty, Bad Santa) and Thomas Haden Church (Easy A, Sideways), would take Max in and make him part of their family. Would they and their remaining son Justin, played by relative newcomer Josh Wiggins, want to have this dog in their house, reminding them of their tragic loss? This adventure family film won me over simply by having Max star in it. I was unfamiliar with this breed of dog, thinking Max was a German Shepherd mix. The script would have been stronger if it remained on the main story instead of going off with Kyle’s buddy. Also, I was quite aware I was being manipulated but still teared up because at the end of the day there is nothing like seeing a heroic dog.
2 3/4 stars
There are some friends that can always make you laugh; there are some friends that can have a serious conversation with you and there are some who always provide you with the perfect advice. Just as I believe a love relationship is unconditional, so do I feel the same way about friendships. You cannot pick and choose the parts you like about a friend and ignore the rest; true friendship only comes as a complete package in my opinion and they are as diverse as the world around us. Because this is how I treat friendships, I am always perplexed when someone offers their unsolicited opinion about someone else’s friend. Has this ever happened to you, where a friend of yours asks why you are friends with someone else? I experienced this in the past about a particular friend of mine. Here was an individual who did poorly in school; I suspect there was a learning disability. They may not have been able to carry on a conversation about world events or be able to communicate with proper English; so what, they were such a considerate, kind soul who was always willing to help out a person in need. I remember when a light fixture broke in my house and they immediately offered to fix it, knowing my limited handiness skills. Another friend of mine used to question how I could be friends with someone with such a limited vocabulary. I was offended by their questioning of such a thing, especially without even knowing the other person. How can someone comment on someone else’s relationships? See how it is done in this comedic sequel. RECENTLY married couple Ted and Tami-Lynn, voiced by Seth MacFarlane (A Million Ways to Die in the West, Family Guy-TV) and played by Jessica Barth (Get Smart, The Waterhole), have decided to have a baby. However, Ted will have to prove who or what he is before he can be a father. Written and directed by Seth MacFarlane, this sequel was essentially more of the same from the first film. Though Seth has a wicked sense of humor that was represented in the script by some quick funny lines, I found the story line dull. There was the same crudeness and vulgarity but this time it wasn’t as funny to me; I felt the set up for the scenes was a template that was repeated over and over as the movie progressed. A bright spot for me was Amanda Seyfried (Dear John, In Time) who played the lawyer Samantha. She did a good job with her role. I appreciated the idea behind the story but felt it was being handled with a heavy hand. If I were to consider movies as friends of mine, this would be one film I would not want to watch in a public place. Strong language throughout film.
1 3/4 stars
For some people when they hear these words they expect to have a fun time; others do not share the same feelings. “Start picking sides for your team,” are words I have always found to be twinged with cruelness. Let me show why I think this way. You have a group of people let us say who want to play a game of basketball. Two individuals have been picked as the team captains and they start taking turns picking people for their team. They are certainly going to pick those individuals they think can play well. So as player after player gets picked, imagine how the ones left standing must feel. It is not a real confidence booster, let me tell you. I know how it feels and it takes all the fun out of playing the game, knowing you really were not wanted for the team. There was one PE teacher I had in school who never had teams chosen in this fashion. He would have everyone line up side by side and starting at one end he would assign a number to each student. Usually it was in a series like 1, 2, 3 and 4; other times he would keep assigning numbers in numerical order. Once done he would say all the 1s and 4s will be one team and the 2s and 3s will be the other team. I always found this to be a fairer and kinder way in choosing sides. Ironically, I rose in the pecking order when the other students discovered I threw a hard, fast ball with bull’s-eye accuracy. Little did I know I would have more in common with this sports documentary. CONFUSION and frustration would be felt by both players and coaches who had or faced pitchers who threw knuckleball pitches. It was a baseball pitch that seemed to have a mind of its own. I was utterly surprised by this documentary DVD. The movie played more like a drama as it showed the highs and lows in a knuckleball pitcher’s life. The main focus of the story centered on Tim Wakefield from the Boston Red Sox and R. A. Dickey of the New York Mets. Each of their stories was so compelling to me; especially Tim who was one of the oldest pitchers in the league. As for the pitch itself, I had no idea what it took to throw such an unpredictable ball; I felt like I was getting a mini-class in physics. There were so many touching parts in this film, aided by the interviews of former pitchers Phil Niekro and Jim Bouton. I am not a team sports fan per se, but I have to tell you I thought this documentary was extra special as it focused on what some consider the underdogs of the baseball world.
3 1/3 stars – DVD
If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. But what happens if they do not come back? Let me tell you what happens; the vacated space in your heart will become listless for a time. Your memories go through a transformation that softens the hard edges, like water continuously running through a forming canyon. There may be times where a particular memory morphs with fantasy to create a totally new experience. You believe what you are recalling even though it never really happened. Remember that time where the two of you were supposed to celebrate your anniversary but they could not get away from work? Though at the time you were upset, you now look back at it with fondness because they made it up to you with a spectacular day. Never mind they were never really at work but out with friends and just did not want to tell you. Now you can say what you want, but unless you work really hard on confronting, dealing and expunging your anger over your breakup; your anger will always find a way to come out. And it may happen in the most inappropriate of ways. I know about these things because anger used to be a close friend of mine. One time my bathtub got stopped up and for some reason I bought this plastic pump contraption. I tried putting it together to make it work, but it only frustrated me and I exploded with anger, taking a hammer to it until it was in a million pieces. Just like the character in this dramatic film. LOCKSMITH A. J. Manglehorn, played by Al Pacino (Danny Collins, The Godfather franchise), lived a quiet life with his cat. Well, quiet only when he was not breaking his furniture. What made this film festival nominee attractive to me was seeing Al Pacino teamed up with Holly Hunter (The Piano, Raising Arizona) playing bank teller Dawn. The two of them were wonderful and I wished they had more screen time together. This was the issue I had with this film; the story needed to spend more time on them, instead of spending time with A. J.’s son Jacob, played by Chris Messina (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Argo). His scenes seemed to be filler for the story; though I knew they were trying to make a point about Manglehorn. It all came down to the script in my opinion. The directing was fine but without a strong script I was never fully invested in the story. To me it seemed like it was never really going anywhere until the very end. Who knows maybe down the road I will look back at this film and like it more than I really did.
2 1/4 stars
There was a time when I would think nothing of wrapping my hand around a door handle to open a door or borrow someone’s pen to fill out a form. I do not recall a specific incident or time when these actions turned into a forbidden hazard for me. If I am not wearing long sleeves or a jacket, you should see how I try to open a door without using the palm of my hand. To some people I must appear like a stroke survivor. Having individuals get offended at me when I refused their requests to borrow my pen, I now always carry extra pens with me to just hand out to folks and tell them to keep the pen. Reading up on the ways one can catch a cold or discovering what places at work have the dirtiest surfaces, I have discouraged everyone at work from sticking their hands into any communal bags of snacks that come into the office. Instead they need to pour out the amount they want on a plate or napkin. In my classes I always use a fist bump when greeting someone, in place of shaking hands with them. Before you decide that I am a bona fide germophobe, think about the times you have stood in a checkout line and seen the checker wipe their nose across their hand or sneeze into them just before they give you back your change. Yuck, I would use a charge card to make the purchase. So you see there is enough things in the real world that can be a hazard to our health which is why this horror film was scary. CELEBRATIONS over the July 4th weekend turned deadly when the citizens of a small town started showing signs from an unknown illness that was rapidly spreading through the area. Written and directed by Barry Levinson (Liberty Heights, Sleepers), this film festival winning horror movie used the found footage style of filming. Due to the story line I understood why this method was used; however, the multiple sources and the shakiness of it became tiresome for me. The idea was great to base the story in a realistic setting because it only made this movie scarier for the viewer; it could have happened anywhere, not just off the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. With cast members such as Kether Donohue (Pitch Perfect franchise, Boy Wonder) as Donna and Kristen Connolly (Revolutionary Road, The Happening) as Stephanie, I was not moved much by their performances. It was due to the script; though there were a few scary moments, I did not feel the level of fear provided the needed thrills a movie like this required to convey to the audience. However, this film sure made me think twice about what we are doing to our planet. Several scenes had blood in them.
2 stars — DVD
She did not even give me a chance to show her what I could do. I noticed her looking me up and down as I walked into her office for the interview. After we went over my work history she asked me about my teaching style. I gave her a brief description and offered to give a demonstration. She declined the offer which confirmed by suspicions. The way she looked at me in the beginning told me she was judging me based on my looks. I did not look like the typical fitness instructor because I did not have a smooth chiseled body; I was pudgy (I preferred saying soft and malleable) and hairy with a full beard. She had no idea how committed I would be to the job, nor see how hard I would work alongside the members of the health club. Due to the challenges I had in PE classes during my school years, I pushed myself harder than other fitness instructors. Maybe I was trying to prove a point of just fight my way to acceptance; it probably was a mixture of both. I was upset that this fitness manager was basing her decisions on the way I looked; I wanted to tell her that true good health began on the inside. She had no idea that I was able to teach 3 classes in a row, giving each one of them 100% of myself. Sadly she was not the first person to judge me based on my looks. I understood it; however, it still stung because I was never one to make a judgement based solely on the surface of a person. The main character in this movie could relate I am sure. LIVING in a tough neighborhood was a challenge for high school senior Malcolm, played by Shameik Moore (Joyful Noise, Incredible Crew-TV). Added pressure coming from the upcoming college entrance exams, that he needed to help get him into Harvard, Malcolm took a break by going to a party with his friends. It was a party that would have a major impact on all of them. This film festival winning comedic drama offered a different take on the typical coming of age tale. There was grittiness to the story with the use of some strong language. With Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Perfect Game) as Jib and Zoe Kravitz (Mad Max: Fury Road, Good Kill) as Nakia, the cast was good though I did not always find them believable. The script had a hint of being a screwball comedy in places as certain events unfolded. There were a couple of people who walked out in the middle of this movie. Maybe they had preconceived notions of what this film was supposed to be.
2 3/4 stars
I could hear the two voices in a heated discussion about whether I should bring a jacket or not. Planning on attending an outdoor event recently, there was one voice in my head telling me to bring a jacket due to the possibility of rain showers. It was also telling me that I needed a jacket since I would be outside after nightfall and I could get cold. The other voice was saying I needed to leave my jacket at home because with the temperature going up into the middle 80s no one would be walking around with a jacket. This argument was going on while I was changing in the locker room of the health club. In the next bank of lockers there was a father with 2 young children, the youngest in diapers. As the older boy was amusing himself by opening and closing the locker doors around him, the father placed his daughter on her back on top of a bench. She immediately let out an ear piercing scream as she burst into wailing tears. The father quickly pulled out his phone, swiping the screen with his thumb like a gunslinger, to position it right in front of the infant’s face. Instantaneously all sounds out of her stopped and the tear ducts dried up. But here is the catch; as soon as the dad tried to move his arm back to change his daughter’s diaper, she revved right up again with crying wails. To me it looked like a Pavlovian experiment as the opposite reactions of the daughter kept flipping back and forth depending on where the smartphone was placed. I now understand how these opposing feelings could rise up so quickly since I have seen this imaginative movie. RILEY, voiced by relative newcomer Kaitlyn Dias, only knew her Minnesota home her entire life. Moving to San Francisco due to her father’s job, Riley’s emotions were sent reeling as her unhappiness grew as the family tried to settle into their new place. This animated dramatic comedy had a more sophisticated story than other animated films I have recently seen. I am not sure if very young children will sit through this movie. At least at the theater where I saw this visual jewel of a picture, the movie trailers and short film before the movie clocked in for a total of 25 minutes. The actors such as Amy Poehler (Mean Girls, Baby Mama) as Joy, Lewis Black (Man of the Year, The Aristocrats) as Anger and Phyllis Smith (Bad Teacher, The Office-TV) as Sadness were just perfect at voicing their characters. The imaginativeness displayed in this adventure has set a new bar of excellence in my opinion. Just the idea of these emotions working together as we reach our adolescence was brilliantly handled in this story. By the end of the film the joy inside of my head was jumping up and down.
3 1/2 stars
Labels on products have more meaning to me than labels for humans. When I hear people making introductions, adding the label of the person’s profession, I wonder why it is important that we know what the person does for a living. A couple of examples would be, “This is my husband Aaron, the doctor.” or “Let me introduce you to my girlfriend Emily, the lawyer.” What a person does for a living carries very little weight for me when it comes to what I think of a person. Yet I know there are some people who hunger to reach a certain status established in their mind, so they can feel successful. There was this person I used to know who would only date individuals from a specific list of professions. I would argue with them, trying to force them to look at how their love had conditions on it; bit it did not matter, my words fell on deaf ears. Maybe there is something wrong with me because I do not factor in monetary amounts when I am assessing a person’s character. A wealthy person for me would be one who is charitable, has long term friendships, is kind, has empathy; I could go on with my checklist if I had the time here. But the point I am trying to make is this, you could be with a rich successful accountant who cheats on you or a CFO who is a racist. I do not see that as being a wealthy person. MARRYING town doctor Charles Bovary, played by Henry Lloyd-Hughes (Anna Karenina, Dimensions), was the start of what Emma, played by Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland), hoped would be the wealthy life she deserved. How long could one be content however when there was no limit on when they would finally feel rich? This dramatic period piece’s landscape was filled with beautiful shots of the countryside mixed with authentic reminders of the era. The star of this film was Mia; she had a strong screen presence with a face that easily conveyed emotions. Included in the cast was Paul Giamatti (San Andreas, Love & Misery) as Monsieur Homais and Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, We Need to Talk About Kevin) as Leon Dupuis; both had the ability to do a powerful performance but the script did not allow it. This film dragged miserably for me. I also found Mia’s character strange; for the time frame I could not believe her character’s actions which appeared to be easily made. The book I am sure provided more emotional layers to her that were lacking here on screen. This movie had all the trappings to be a rich dramatic story, sadly it did not succeed.
1 3/4 stars
DISCLAIMER: The description and actions described below do not describe actual people. Any resemblance to an actual individual is purely a coincidence. In addition, the scenarios and/or people do not represent any health club members who presently attend any of my fitness classes. The fitness center was situated on the border between an upper and lower class neighborhood. This produced an eclectic mix of people with different reasons for joining the health club. There were factory workers, executives, family members of organized crime figures; you name it and more than likely they attended the club. I had a large morning class that consisted of policemen, housewives, doctors and students. There were a couple of attendees who never came to class without being in full makeup and their hair in perfect place. The part I had a hard time with was the strong perfume they wore that always wafted just above everyone like a rolling bank of thunderclouds. Besides the assortment of members, the staff was just as diverse. There was one trainer that literally looked like a beast; they were so muscularly pumped up, one had to wonder how they could even bend their limbs. One trainer was engaged to marry another trainer, but one month before the wedding called it off and eloped with the fitness floor manager. Oh, I have to tell you about the aerobic instructor who was a chain smoker. They never understood why no one would stand close to them when they taught class. It was because the stench of cigarette smoke would ooze out of their pores and choke the front row of members; it was utterly nasty. So you see I had excellent training to understand this comedy film. FITNESS club owner Trevor, played by Guy Pearce (Lawless, Memento), was hesitant to let his trainer Kat, played by Cobie Smulders (The Avengers franchise, How I Met Your Mother-TV), work with new wealthy client Danny, played by Kevin Corrigan (The Departed, Pineapple Express). He had good reason to think it. This film festival nominated comedy offered an odd offbeat take on the health care industry. At first glance I thought some scenes were unrealistic; but the more I thought about it the more I realized any of the situations could be feasible based on the things I had seen at the different health clubs where I taught. I still did not get a good handle on Danny’s character until later in the movie. There were a few spots where my attention waned which I attributed to the uneven script. Also, I have to say I did not find the acting that great; the characters never seemed fully developed to me. As an overall experience I did not mind watching this film, but maybe I was grateful I did not have to teach a class there.
2 1/2 stars
Advice given that was so simple and easy to remember; I can still hear it after all these years. I was talking to the wife of a married couple about what kept their marriage together. She said there were times you just had to keep quiet and not complain when you sometimes had to do something you really did not want to do. This was not earth shattering by any means; but it really resonated with me. I now cringe when I think about all those times where I used to complain about going to a restaurant I did not like or going out with “their” friends who I found annoying. There really was no reason I needed to let everyone know I did not want to be there. Whether it is the passage of time or maturity, I am so glad I do not act out like that anymore. I understand the importance compromises and sacrifices have in every relationship. Dating someone who enjoyed country western dancing meant even though I felt like a lopsided goofball while two-stepping, I kept doing it so I could be their dance partner. It is funny as I just wrote that I was remembering a couple I knew who got divorced because the husband did not like his wife being away from home as much as she was for her job. She was a flight attendant who was doing this even before they got married. Separation can be tough for any couple; imagine those individuals who are in a relationship with someone in the military. If you want to see an example from a long time ago you can see it in this autobiographical film. MISTER Brittain, played by Dominic West (The Wire-TV, Pride), believed Oxford was no place for his daughter Vera, played by Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, A Royal Affair). Though she had dreamt of going there, Vera would find her heart being distracted by a young man and the impending war. This film festival nominee was based on Vera Brittain’s memoir; I have not read it yet. However, after seeing this beautifully filmed period piece I want to read her book now. It was interesting to see the effects of World War I through a woman’s point of view. The cast which also included Kit Harington (Game of Thrones-TV, Pompeii) as Roland Leighton and Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Smoke-TV) as Edward Brittain were all especially good in this romantic drama. I will say the story started out a bit slow and predictable for me; however, Vera’s acting skills kept me involved in her plight. The look and feel of this movie was gracefully lush and when I found out it was based on a true story, I only had more fondness for Vera’s incredible life. There were brief scenes that had blood in them.