Monthly Archives: January 2016
Do you suppose between the realms of genius and madness there is a thin, semi-permeable membrane? There has to be because I have seen so many individuals who have greatness in them but other factors kept clogging it up from reaching its full maturation. If I remember correctly there was a world famous pianist who suffered with the fear that their fingers were made of glass; that they were capable of completely shattering off their hands or something like that. There are some creative things I have seen where I just wonder how the artist came up with the idea to make such an incredible piece of art. Even some of the new architecture for skyscrapers amazes me. It just makes me think that one needs a little madness in them to excel in a creative or scientific thought process. I remember this person who managed several celebrities and they always said most actors were crazy. Maybe some were, I do not know; however, I would think there has to be some mind manipulation to be able to inhabit a different persona. In fact I remember this other individual who was super smart; I am talking genius level. The things they talked about and did were way above everyone’s head. As time went on some changes came over them and their behavior turned odd. Nothing dangerous but I would say not rational anymore. Their life started going down into a dark place and they became addicted, or if not then constantly used an abundance of drugs. It was sad to see and then one day they just disappeared; no one knew what happened to them. BASED on true events Miss Shepherd, played by Maggie Smith (Harry Potter franchise, Downton Abbey-TV), decided to take up residence in the driveway of the home belonging to Alan Bennett, played by Alex Jennings (The Queen, Babel). Her van was her home. This film festival nominee was a perfect vehicle for Maggie to soar through the story. With touches of drama and comedy I thought she did an incredible job. I had no idea there was any truth to this unbelievable story; to tell you the truth, I had a hard time believing it. There is much to like about this film; the actors such as Jim Broadbent (Cloud Atlas, Moulin Rouge) as Underwood were all well suited to their roles. As time went on I found myself wishing I knew more about Alan and Miss Shepherd. The few flashback scenes were interesting but I did not feel as strong of a connection to the characters as I wanted. I almost felt this biographical dramedy would be more effective as a staged play. It seemed as if the scenes were only scratching the surface of the characters; there could have been more information given into what made each character tick. Nonetheless the fans of Maggie and those new to her will not be disappointed with such a fine performance.
The discovery shocks your system and obliterates the minutia floating in your mind. You only have one focus and that is to find the thing you lost. It is such a horrible feeling when you lose something, I know. I stopped to pick up my paycheck at one health club that was on the way to my cycle class. Parking in their lot I locked the door of my car with the remote lock on my keychain then stuffed the keys in my coat pocket. I ran into the club, stopped at the front desk to say hello, got my check and went back outside. This was all in a matter of minutes. As I was walking towards my car I started to fish my car keys out from my pocket, but there was nothing there. This did not immediately register in my brain because I knew I had put my keys in my coat pocket. I took off my glove and tried again but the pocket was empty. Now my brain fired up with these thoughts: where were my car keys, I had to get to class, my workout clothes were locked in the car, and how I would get the car door open. I retraced every step with my head hung over as I continuously scanned the ground for my keys. Just before I had to turn into the front doors I saw an indentation in the snow. At first glance I thought someone did not pick up after their pet since it was dark against the white snow, enough said. Looking closer it was my keys; they must have fallen out as I was running into the club and I did not hear them drop in the snow. Because of the adrenaline rush by the time I walked into my class I was already exhausted. I do not know how the main character kept going in this science fiction action film. WITH the earth experiencing 4 waves of alien induced calamities Cassie Sullivan, played by Chloe Grace Moretz (The Equalizer, Hugo), had only one thing to do and that was to find her brother Sam, played by Zackary Arthur (Transparent-TV). This adventure film was lucky to have Chloe star in it. Also, it was good to have Liev Schreiber (Spotlight, Pawn Sacrifice) play Colonel Vosch. That is all I can say about this dull movie. I sat through most of it trying to figure out which scenes reminded me of previous movies; this was a boring experience. The special effects were nothing special as was the story. Maybe the idea was good but the writers did nothing to distinguish themselves from the previous YA movies of the same genre. Even after reading this you still want to see this picture you better hurry because I believe it will be quickly lost in the mix and I personally would not be upset.
1 2/3 stars
On the side of my neighbor’s house are 2 vines that have been there since I moved into my place. They started out small and separate from each other, barely poking out of the ground. As the years passed the vines grew, inching their way up the bricked wall. Then one year the two vines crossed paths, suddenly and unexpectedly. It was as if they went on a date where they shared stories about themselves. From that first contact the two vines were inseparable as their leaves multiplied into a growing family. The bricks became less visible the more the couple grew old. And I do mean couple since they took care of each other whether it was a stern icy wind trying to knock them off the side of the house or intense hot sunlight turning their leaves brown and dry. The two vines supported each other with affection and kindness. They were my elderly couple living right next door and they represented the same qualities that I believed should be in every loving relationship. I have mentioned previously my ideal description of two people who are together. They stand shoulder to shoulder supporting each other through good and bad times. Each one encourages the other, loving them unconditionally with honesty and respect. This type of groundwork allows the relationship to be strong, so any of the hardships that life throws their way can be handled with dignity and courage. In turn this makes for a solid and committed relationship. I have seen such relationships besides those that appeared the same until a secret revealed a crack of doubt. SOON to celebrate his 45th wedding anniversary Geoff Mercer, played by Tom Courtenay (Quartet, Doctor Zhivago), received news that a woman he had a relationship with years ago was found frozen in the Swiss Alps. The news not only had an affect on him but on his wife Kate, played by Charlotte Rampling (Melancholia, The Duchess). This film festival winning, Oscar nominated drama was an ideal showcase for Charlotte and Tom to flourish with their acting abilities. With Geraldine James (Sherlock Holmes franchise, Gandhi) as part of the cast playing Lena, this was a movie that did not have much action taking place on the outside; the story was more internalized by the characters, think of it as being more cerebral. Not only did I feel the direction was beautiful, I thought the cinematography was wonderful. Certain shots were held longer so the viewer could watch the characters act without speaking a word. This was what I consider an adult film because the story dealt with issues that affect a more mature crowd. Charlotte and Tom truly were brilliant in their roles; for all things considered they were this couple who were about to celebrate their anniversary. I felt I had known them as long as those 2 vines on my neighbor’s house, even with all those thorns and leaves that have weathered storms.
3 1/4 stars
The rule of thumb used to be we had to eat everything on our plate. I was a steadfast follower of this rule; in fact, I willingly helped others clear their plates. From the things I now hear people say, this rule is no longer in effect because they want to teach their children to stop eating once they feel full. I could have saved myself a lot of time and effort if that had been the case when I was younger. There are some rules that need to be enforced if there is going to be order such as the rules of the road for driving on the streets. If there were no rules can you imagine what a nightmare it would be just to take a 5 minute ride? Funny growing up, depending on what area of life the rule was meant to be, I would rebel against certain rules. The obvious one would be curfew or bedtime; I remember being offended when I heard there was a law that required people under the legal age not to be outside without a parent or legal guardian after a certain time. On the other hand, all of us create rules for ourselves. An example for me would be my rule that I stop eating 5 hours before I go to sleep. I set this rule up years ago as I was forming my weight loss plan; a rule that is still in force today. It works for me and I understand there may be times where I will have to break my rule; but I know there will not be terrible ramifications, unlike in this horror thriller. WHEN she accepted the job of nanny Greta Evans, played by Lauren Cohan (The Walking Dead-TV, The Vampire Diaries-TV), could not believe it meant taking care of an actual doll. It was a doll with rules that needed to be followed exactly. Along with Rupert Evans (The Canal, Hellboy) as Malcom, the script had all the elements needed to construct a decent horror film. I appreciated the fact that suspense was used to frighten people instead of mostly gore. The first part of the film was fun to watch with ideal characters, music and sets. The way the story unfolded allowed the viewer to better accept the circumstances I thought. However the last half of the movie took a bad turn, becoming an average horror story we all have seen before. Riddled with cliches and predictability, I became disappointed the writer did not stick with the original story they had going in the beginning. I thought the actors worked well together and they did their best with what was given to them. Overall I did not mind seeing this film; it is a type that I refer to as a popcorn film which means cheap matinee or rental. Too bad the writer did not follow the rules for writing a good horror picture.
The first time I saw a warning label printed on a product, I remember thinking why would anyone want to buy something that could harm them. It was a pack of cigarettes, I recall. The other item I remember were those plastic bags that dry cleaners used to wrap customers’ freshly laundered clothing. Today it seems as if almost everything comes with some type of warning. Some of them make sense like the ones regarding medicine and over the counter drugs. I am someone who wants to know if a drug is going to make me sleepy or loopy. Recently I bought a hot air popcorn popper and there was a warning not to submerge the base of it in water because it could be an electrical hazard. Ok, that makes sense to me. Now there are some product warnings I have seen where I think the manufacturer must be assuming the person buying their product has no common sense. Shouldn’t everyone know to lift up a hot pot by its handles? I absolutely understand companies are afraid they will get sued, but doesn’t the consumer bear some of the responsibility? Wasn’t there something in the news about a person taking legal action against a fast food chain because the hot coffee filled cup they placed between their legs, while driving out of the drive thru, spilled and burned their legs? Regarding movies, each of them comes with a rating which in a way is like a warning about the content of that particular film. None of the current ratings explain the warning one needs before seeing this comedy. HAVING recently buried his wife Dick Kelly, played by Robert De Niro (Joy, Being Flynn), convinced his soon to be married grandson Jason, played by Zac Efron (Neighbors, That Awkward Moment), to take him on a road trip. Their trip would reveal many new surprises. I want to know how the cast which also included Zoey Deutch (Beautiful Creatures, Ringer-TV) as Shadia, Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed, Life After Beth) as Lenore and Julianne Hough (Safe Haven, Footloose) as Meredith could do any type of press tour and not be embarrassed by this movie. This was one of the worst films I have seen in the past year. The script was vulgar, crude, obnoxious and offensive; I could go on. It is astounding that these actors agreed to do this picture, especially Robert De Niro. Sure he can do comedy but why would he set himself up for ridicule. I guarantee you when the time comes to do a tribute to him; this movie will not be included in any of the film clips of his past roles. In regards to Zac, it seemed to me as if he counted on his looks more than his limited acting skills. This movie needed a warning label so innocent people would not spend their money and unwittingly let the studio know it is okay to make a crappy film.
I was a window washer, a singer, a soldier, a mayor, an explorer and a spaceman. My imagination knew no boundaries when I pretended to be someone else. As far as I can tell, a vivid imagination is a vital component to the well-being of a growing child. I am sure all of us at one time play acted, becoming anything we wanted to be. It was so innocent back then in our childhood, too bad some individuals cannot keep that innocence in their adult life. There have been news stories about people who pretend to be high powered financiers, convincing innocent people to part with their money for huge gains they can attain with the help of the financier. It turns out these finance people were working a Ponzi scheme. I know this example is just one of many since there are all kinds of stories about someone impersonating someone else for their own gain. Now this pretending thing is not just exclusive to individuals; there have been some operations set up just to scam larger amounts of people. I remember reading about a so called pharmaceutical company that was selling placebos of the actual drugs patients required. On the flip side of this, what really blows my mind are the individuals who believe certain historical events never really occurred; that it was all made up. With the technology we have at our disposal today I am sure any group of people can create almost anything they want and just post it online. Can you imagine if you discovered something you thought was true was not? CONCERNED the astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission would not make it to the moon; CIA agent Kidman, played by Ron Perlman (Hellboy franchise, The Job), was sent to London to get director Stanley Kubrick to stage and film a pretend moon landing. Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances agent Kidman was stuck with rock band manager Jonny, played by Rupert Grint (Harry Potter franchise, Driving Lessons), to create a video of the first moon landing. This comedy had a fun idea as its premise. When you think about it this could have been plausible since who would be able to say no among the general public. I thought it was comical that the government wanted Stanley Kubrick to direct. The beginning of this film was enjoyable as the set designers and costumers correctly got the time period. As the story continued I realized the humor was not hitting the mark; there was a disconnect of tired scenes that seemed like they were copies of past better ones. Maybe the additional story lines burdened the original idea because I felt things were just going crazy. Besides I did not feel there was any chemistry between the actors and to be honest, I felt a little sad for Rupert. The writer’s imagination was in the right place, it just was not executed in the best of ways.
1 3/4 stars
It is getting harder and harder not to turn into a cynic these days. Before the internet (boy, don’t I sound older than dirt) it was easier to believe the things people were saying were true. Not that there weren’t criminal elements throughout society; let us say there were less tools of the trade for a criminal to use to scam someone. Though I believe everyone is born with good and bad tendencies, I lean more towards the thought people are telling me the truth. My reasoning is to look at what they are saying and wonder what gain would come from them lying to me. As you can imagine I have been burned in the past, gratefully at very little loss. There have been people I know who were taken by scam artists and do you know what one of the saddest remarks has been for them to agree with the transaction? “They had a nice face” or “They were so polite” are excuses I have heard. Personally I have always had issues about judgements being made based on a person’s appearance. Whether a person is perceived to be pretty or not should have no bearing on a person’s character. Besides, what is the definition of pretty or handsome? What one person finds beautiful another person may find ugly. So now with the internet as a major part of our lives, criminally minded individuals can be whatever they want to be or what the victim wants them to be. How scary is that? For everyone, but especially those of you who were born after the internet, take a look at how the characters worked their trade in this crime thriller. JUAN, played by Gaston Pauls (Nuts for Love, Iluminados por el Fuego), had that innocent looking face that would fit perfectly into Marcos’, played by Ricardo Darin (The Secret in Their Eyes, Son of the Bride), scheme to sell counterfeit stamps. This film festival winning drama was an absolute twisted, wild ride written and directed by Fabian Bielinsky (The Aura, Sleepwalker). Though these were con artists one could not help but follow them throughout this film with its multiple stories. I thought the acting was terrific as the actors were able to be totally serious yet deliver some sly and wicked humor. Including Leticia Bredice (Burnt Money, The One-TV) as Valerie, I enjoyed the way the story and everyone in it were like jigsaw puzzle pieces that were attempting to fit into spots before finding their correct places. At one point I felt scenes were bordering on being unrealistic but it became a passing thought because I was getting deeper into following the story. On one level one could be horrified about witnessing a crime taking place; but on the other hand, this movie was meant to entertain and it did. Just reading the synopsis about this picture doesn’t convey how fun it was to watch this DVD. Spanish was spoken with English subtitles.
3 1/3 stars — DVD
A switch gets turned on and the lights go on. A simple procedure that requires little movement and truthfully not much thought. The only time I think about it is when a lightbulb burns out. This action of little effort disguises the massive coordination needed to get the power to my home, through the house to the lamp. Fortunately I live in a place that has been reliable for the most part, except for when we have had violent storms. Every month I send a payment to the energy company for the use of their electricity, but I do not have much awareness on where or how the company acquires their energy for sale. I imagine the amount of people involved is staggering; whether it involves coal miners, nuclear technicians or service personnel who maintain solar panels and windmills, the mechanics of it all have to be precise and efficient. As I said, luckily for the most part things work smoothly here for me. Can you imagine if things did not? The chaos that would ensue would be monumental, effecting thousands or millions of people. Presently a city in Michigan is going through a crisis regarding their water system. For the little I know about it, the situation was caused by various agencies within Michigan; it was not like some outside force attacked their water supply. In other words it could have been prevented if everyone had worked together. Now when a breakdown occurs due to outside elements, things can go haywire. ARMED citizens in Benghazi Libya overpower a compound where the U.S. Ambassador has chosen to reside. Thirty miles away a small band of CIA contractors are witnessing the evolving destruction. Based on a true story this action thriller directed by Michael Bay (Transformers franchise, Armageddon) had intense, bloody fight scenes throughout the story. With John Krasinski (Leatherheads, The Office-TV) as Jack Silva, James Badge Dale (World War Z, Shame) as Tyrone “Rone” Woods and Pablo Schreiber (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Manchurian Candidate) as Kris “Tonto” Paronto as part of the cast; I was stunned by this film. Remove all the politics that have formed around this story; it truly was astounding to witness the amount of craziness that was billowing all around the characters. Let me see if I can explain the feeling. I went through drivers education class to get my license. Going through all the simulations and supervised driving lessons in the school’s parking lot did not prepare me to that adrenaline rush the first time my car slid across ice covering a busy intersection. The same can be said here; no one was prepared for the escalation of violence. Too bad the script was filled with cliches and simplistic dialog; how many times does one need to hear someone being called “brother?” The action was typical for Michael, fast action mixed with slow motion movements. Not to take anything away from these heroic people but their story needed a better script.
2 1/3 stars
The human race has created many beautiful things throughout the centuries. Some of them remain standing today while others over time were demolished, either for something newer or in the name of progress. What I find hideous is when the people in power decide to placate the local residents by saving the facade of a structure they are tearing down only to paste it onto the building they are constructing in the same spot. It does not matter that there is not architectural connection between the two. For me a more lasting beauty is what nature creates all around us. I have been extremely lucky to have visited some of the national parks across the United States. From a geyser to a canyon to a mountain peak, I have seen places that have not been touched by a human hand. Can you imagine if there comes a time where, let us say, an electronic billboard is erected in a national park? Or how about if a hotel or gift shop is constructed next to natural stone arches or powerful waterfalls? I for one would consider it a crime to spoil such natural, pristine beauty that is here on this planet. Not everything has to be new and fresh to be considered a natural beauty (good advice for some celebrities); I do not know when our values changed to discard old objects or look at a place and determine how it can generate money. It is this type of message that was the focus of this animated film. WHEN real estate developer Mr. Greene, voiced by Ken Jeong (Ride Along 2, Community-TV), commits to building condos in the Arctic home of Norm, voiced by Rob Schneider (50 First Dates, The Hot Chick), the talking polar bear decides to travel to American to change Mr. Greene’s mind. I have to be blunt and right to the point here; this adventure comedy was one of the worst films I have seen in the past year. It was startling to say the least. The animation was poor, story weak, jokes both lame and inappropriate; I ask you what child needs to see a twerking polar bear? What in the world possessed Heather Graham (Boogie Nights, The Hangover franchise) as Vera and especially Bill Nighy (About Time, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel franchise) as Socrates to take part in this disaster? The movie studio behind this film, as far as I know, is not known for creating animated pictures and it showed. I am not exaggerating in the least when I tell you the children in the audience never reacted to anything on the screen while most of the parents were either focusing on their snacks or smart phones. The only reason I am including an extra 1/4 star to the rating is because the message was sound, not that young children would understand the concept here. This movie was as lame as this joke: this film left me cold.
1 1/4 stars
It is hard to tell someone what they are attempting to do is not very good. I am not referring to someone’s behavior or actions per se, more as a reality check to a person’s desire. Many of you may have seen these reality shows where a person auditions to be part of the program, as a singer or dancer. I am all for encouraging a person to pursue their dreams, but some of the people I have seen on these television shows appear to have been chosen solely to amuse the viewing audience. I find it perplexing that the contestant claims their family and friends said they would make a great singer or dancer, when it is obvious they cannot carry a tune or stay on beat. Remembering one of my writing classes, there was a student who wanted to be a writer. Through class discussions we found out his family encouraged him by holding mini story times for him to read his stories to the family. Based on what he read in our class, his stories tended to follow a formula: the endings always involved someone dying and the use of profanity was meant to shock the reader since its use rarely fit his characters. He did pass the class but by junior year he either dropped out of school or changed majors; I never saw him again. I do not think anyone wants or enjoys having to be the one to perform the reality check, but isn’t it preferable to watching the person go through with some ill-advised life decisions based on unrealistic hopes? There was a similar situation taking place in this comedic sequel. BEN Barber, played by Kevin Hart (The Wedding Ringer, Get Hard), was positive he was on the right path to becoming a permanent police officer when he accompanied his future brother-in-law Detective James Payton, played by Ice Cube (21 Jump Street franchise, Barbershop franchise), to Miami to help solve a case. James was convinced Ben could not handle the pressure. If you saw the original movie and enjoyed it then you will be in store for the exact same thing in this film. I first have to say I do not consider Kevin an actor; he is exactly the same in every role I have seen him in previously. Regarding this action picture, there were many aspects of it that irritated me. The jokes about Kevin’s height (is this a requirement for every one of his movies?), the jokes about the two characters becoming brother-in-laws and the lack of a solid story all contributed to my boredom. However I did enjoy Ken Jeong (The Hangover franchise, All About Steve) as A.J. and Benjamin Bratt (Miss Congeniality, Demolition Man) as Antonio Pope. This film as far as I was concerned was a quick money grab by the movie studio. Someone needs to tell them they are not producing a decent product if this is what they come up with for a sequel.
1 3/4 stars