Monthly Archives: June 2016
When the mind is no longer tethered to the body it is free to go anywhere it desires, I guess. From the variety of movies I have seen to stories I have read, there has been a multitude of descriptions given about people’s experiences when they had a near death experience. Some of the things mentioned were a white light, peaceful place, deceased relatives who came back to life and so on. I personally have not actually heard about an experience from someone I know until now. A friend recently was rushed to the hospital due to heart issues. Their heart had stopped beating 3 separate times and gratefully the hospital staff was able to bring them back to life. They of course did not know any of this had happened at the time, but the story they told me was surreal. During these episodes and the coma it put them in they thought they were at a café, sitting indoors at one of those small metal tables they call, “ice cream parlor” tables; they are usually small in diameter with enough room for only 2 people to sit at them. There were a steady stream of customers coming in and out, ordering different beverages and desserts. They could not understand why the staff was all dressed in white colored outfits; at one point they told me they thought it was odd that one of the staff members looked like a nurse but she was mean to everyone. As for the beverages, my friend said he hated the one he had ordered because it was too cold, causing a brain freeze. I sat there listening to this tale with its colorful descriptions of objects and the bustling activity that seemed to only go on for a couple of hours in their mind, yet lasted in reality over a period of 3 days. The things the mind can do are pretty amazing, wouldn’t you agree? Please take a look at what happens in this dramatic mystery for another example. SURVIVING a traumatic experience Sonia, played by Ksenia Rappoport (The Unknown Woman, Yuri’s Day); started to experience some disturbing visions that seemed real to her. This film festival winner from Italy had a straightforward story with several twists in it. With Filippo Timi (The American, As God Commands) as Guido, Antonia Truppo (They Call Me Jeeg Robot, Lo Spazio Bianco) as Margherita and Fausto Russo (Vincere, Bread and Tulips) as Bruno; I thought the acting was excellent, especially by Ksenia. I liked the whole atmosphere of this crime film with its close-up shots, quiet moments and film noir flavorings. There were some parts of the story that did not work as well and I have to tell you I originally was disappointed towards the end because I wanted the story to end a different way. Once I let go of that feeling I actually was okay with the way the story turned out. Little did I know as I was watching this crime story that it would be playing with my mind. Italian and Spanish spoken with English subtitles.
3 stars — DVD
For something so subjective it amazes me how much influence beauty has over many of us. I saw at an early age how people paid more attention to individuals who were considered beautiful—at least on the outside. If you put 2 people together, one thought of as attractive and the other not as pretty, a majority of the general public would believe the attractive one more no matter what they claimed. Look at the fashion industry; can someone tell me why a person is considered less presentable if they are not dressed in something that is currently fashionable? Many years ago the fashion industry came out with bell bottomed pants; maybe some of you remember them. Those in school who did not own a pair of these pants may not have necessary been considered less of a student, but it would not be a surprise if they were looked at as being poor or less intelligent. When I see some of the celebrities that are idolized these days, I am dumbfounded; what in the world is the attraction to these people? Especially those from reality shows that do not focus on talent, strength or creative arts; why do people trust the things these types of celebrities come out with in statements or texts? I find the whole idea of one’s looks such an odd concept. For example when someone wants to fix me up with one of their friends and they say the person is pretty or good looking; that aspect of a person is not important to me like kindness or empathy. So this is why I feel beauty yields an undue amount of power in our world. What I did not know is how dangerous it can be based on the things I saw in this dramatic horror thriller. JESSE, played by Elle Fanning (Super 8, Maleficent), was just starting out in the modeling world but she already had something wanted by other models. Directed and written by Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Knows), this movie went for what I call an “artsy” look. With stark vivid images held in extra long camera shots, I could understand the use of them considering the story line. With Christina Hendricks (Mad Men-TV, Life as We Know it) as Roberta Hoffmann, Keanu Reeves (John Wick, The Matrix franchise) as Hank and Jena Malone (Contact, Sucker Punch) as Ruby; the acting was okay but nothing that really stood out for me. Elle who I have been impressed with in the past still has a certain screen presence but I do not think the script helped her in this film. I believe I understand the message the writers wanted to convey but I did not enjoy the way it was presented to me. There were many scenes where I sat and wished the picture would have ended; I was bored and found the “artsy” scenes a distraction. Maybe the creative team was going for shock value with some of the scenes but a few of them grossed me out. So be it if I am not considered hip, fashionable or with it because I did not find the beauty in this film. There were a couple of scenes with blood.
1 ¾ stars
Since I have seen it happen before I wonder or more accurately worry that the memories in my mind will slowly dissipate like deflating balloons, ever drifting downward towards a black abyss. I have read the latest studies about diet and exercise; I hope following them will, if the air in my memories has to leave at some point, at least slow down the leakage. When it comes to remembering loved ones both deceased and alive, I know there are many different ways people honor and maintain their memories of the person. Some make visits to the cemetery to replace previously left flowers with new ones. Other people make a donation to a charity or acquire something of significance to remind them of the person. I am not a believer in cemeteries or burials so my methods of remembering may not be conventional. I believe I have mentioned before the ceramic vase I have that is my memory about a deceased friend; for another friend I bought a few shares in the utility company that services the city of my friend’s birthplace. Every 3 months I receive mail that provides an update about the company. In the brochure there are always pictures of the city that remind me of my friend, keeping their memory active in my mind. The city looks beautiful and one day I hope I can go visit it to walk around the neighborhood where they grew up. Recently while talking with a relative, when they asked what I would want done with my ashes, I mentioned a few places I would like some of my ashes to be spread. With a straight face they asked if I expected them to do a year long tour of all the cities I wanted them to visit. Maybe I will have to narrow my list down; at least I would not ask them to visit a place like the beach that was in this dramatic, horror thriller. WHEN visiting a faraway secluded beach that had special significance for her family Nancy, played by Blake Lively (The Age of Adaline, Green Lantern), wanted to take in the location’s beauty. Sadly the place could become her last memory. This movie was pretty much all about Blake’s character; the other actors such as Oscar Jaenada (Cantinflas, The Losers) as Carlos and Brett Cullen (Red Dawn, Person of Interest-TV) as Nancy’s father were very minor characters. Luckily, Blake put in a strong performance that kept me interested in the story. Now as for the story, it was farfetched almost to the point of silly. However, for cheap thrills and good tense moments this picture provided these elements along with a couple of bloody scenes. Honestly I do not feel one has to run out right away to see this film; but if you have some free time with nothing to do, then this movie would do. If nothing else I thought the scenery was gorgeous; I would not mind seeing such a place in person. For now that is the most vivid memory I have of the movie, but it is not like I am going to frame my movie ticket to keep the memory alive.
2 3/4 stars
A minute to me is just as important as an hour. For someone who prefers to have the day planned out, each minute has a place in my schedule. I have a friend who teases me about my planning things down to the minute but they do not understand what one minute can do to me. If I do not cross a set of railroad tracks by a certain time on Saturday morning, I will get stuck at the crossing gates for a good 10 minutes. Then I have to hustle to the fitness center to get to my class in time. Missing the start of a movie by 1 minute means I will not go in to watch it; I have a thing about walking into a movie late, which is why I know how many minutes each movie theater spends showing trailers before the start of the film. I suppose if one is okay or fond of surprises time is not a major factor; I am not a fan of surprises. With my current schedule I have little room for variance; in fact, I even have to plan down time for myself. To keep this whole process going I have to include some expectations. For example, I have to estimate how long grocery shopping will take me if it is one in a series of things I have to accomplish for the day. It is funny, it just occurred to me though I plan out what order I go see newly released movies I never think about my reaction to them. You know, allowing time to let them settle into me before going to do something else. Having just told you I am a planner, there was no way I could have planned what I experienced in this action adventure sequel. TWENTY years since the aliens attacked Earth and mankind has been working diligently on boosting its defenses in case of another attack. Would it be enough to save the planet if the aliens come back? This science fiction film baffled me. As I sat in the theater, repeatedly looking at my watch, I had to wonder who at the movie studio came up with the idea of making a sequel and then making a really bad one. First, one would have thought with the advancements in CGI effects this film would be filled with some dazzling effects; I am afraid that was not the case. Now for the script, it was so cheesy and filled with such repetitive blustering bravado that I felt I was watching a series of ads encouraging me to join the military. Uttering some of the ridiculous dialog were actors Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games franchise, Paranoia) as Jake Morrison, Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park franchise, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as David Levinson and Bill Pullman (The Equalizer, While You were Sleeping) as President Whitmore. There were multiple story lines taking place in the script and I did not find any of them well developed; everything was done in a basic, predictable way. The only thing I could think about after the movie ended was changing the word insurgence to regurgitate for the title.
1 ½ stars
I sit and wait, searching their face for any clue on which direction their reaction will go. It is a gamble; I know that going in, but I am willing to take the risk. Of course, I make sure I have plenty other choices in case any one of them goes bad. You see I love trying new products, especially in the food category. Anytime I have people over to the house I try offering something new to them and myself. It could be from any food group, I would take a chance on it. And here is the little dietary secret; if a guest enjoys the new product I make them take it home because I do not want it to stay alone with me. It would be too much temptation. This way I get to taste something new without overindulging myself. The other secret about having new food items for company is seeing the look on people’s faces at that first bite; I do not know if I can explain it but I truly love seeing someone putting on a happy face due to some new discovery I found. When I am at the grocery store I feel like a treasure hunter when shopping for an upcoming party. Now before you tell me I need to find a new life, let me tell you I feel the same way outside of my home. When I was a kid I wanted to be a tour guide for the city. I wanted to take people I knew or people they knew and show them something they had never seen before. It could be art, architecture, nature or a restaurant; it did not matter as long as the person would have a positive experience from my tours. My desire to be a discoverer played right into this biographical drama. MAX Perkins, played by Colin Firth (The Railway Man, Before I Go to Sleep) had a special place in the literary world. He was the book editor for Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe. This film festival nominee had a top notch cast of actors. Besides Colin there was Nicole Kidman (Secret in Their Eyes, Paddington) as Aline Bernstein, Jude Law (Spy, Sherlock Holmes franchise) as Thomas Wolfe and Laura Linney (Mr. Holmes, Primal Fear) as Louise Perkins. I was excited not only for the cast but the story itself, seeing these authors I was familiar with coming to life was a treat. You will understand now why my disappointment in this film was significant because the script did not live up to the characters. For such dynamic well known authors this story needed more levels of emotion, besides offering more of the artists’ motivations and feelings. Sure there were drunken and screaming scenes but I wanted to hear more about the “why.” The look of this picture was appropriate and the acting was the best the actors could do with the script; I just wished the script would have been at a higher level to match the story. Considering this film was only playing at 2 theaters in the city, I still felt like I was discovering a little piece of history.
2 1/3 stars
It must be some type of precise formula where everything has to be exact down to the tiniest millimeter. I have always wondered if there was one factor that outweighed all the others but I never could find an answer. How does one overcome the norm when there is not an example to show them the way? And when I say factors I am talking about things like support, encouragement and self-confidence. One example that comes to mind is the transformation in the work force. Years ago when a person found a job they stayed with it forever. It was almost like a badge of honor to say, “I’ve been with the company for 30 years.” Currently it is surprising for an employee to stay longer than 3-5 years at one company. I know people who think nothing of living in a place for a while then picking up and moving across country; I am not wired to do such a thing. Granted I admire individuals who blaze a new path, so to speak; however, my mind is not wired to handle dramatic changes in my life, at least well. I know it is easier when someone has an example they can use as a blueprint; but it occurs to me, the examples I had in my life were of the negative type. I have learned things by witnessing how not to do them. How crazy is that? At a company I worked at years ago I had to open up the mail every day. The owner used the business address for his personal mail. I remember one day opening up an envelope that contained a $25,000.00 dividend check for stock he owned in a public company. I was stunned since I had no knowledge about stocks and bonds back then. All I could think about was how cool it must have been to get that size check quarterly; it was enough to retire on. That one example pushed me to learn more about stocks and make a difference in my savings plan. Though I was not confident or encouraged to move into stocks, there was something inside of me that pushed me to take a leap of faith. Not even a leap of faith would have helped me in this movie. GROWING up in the small town of Century Junction Freddie Taylor, played by Christian Cooke (Romeo & Juliet, Where the Heart Is-TV), did not want to wind up like everyone else. He wanted something more. This film festival nominated comedic drama had a competent cast that included Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter franchise, A Bigger Splash) as Mr. Kendrick, Ricky Gervais (The Invention of Lying, Ghost Town) as Mr. Taylor and Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything, Like Crazy) as Julie. Set during the 1970s in England, I thought this film depicted the era perfectly. With this being a coming of age story I did not find anything different to surprise me. There were some scenes that went well and one could tell Ricky Gervais was one of the writers. What kept my interest actually were the actors and their characters. All I can say is I took a risk with getting this DVD and it did not completely pan out.
2 1/3 stars — DVD
If I need proof to substantiate my belief that age is only a state of mind, I only need to look around me. I truly believe a person who thinks they are old will become old. The saying “act your age” is a double edged sword as far as I am concerned. No one should have influence over another person, telling them how to act; at least that is my way of thinking. The obvious place where I see multiple examples of age only being a state of mind is at the fitness centers where I teach. There is a member who participates in one of my cycle classes that is in their 80s; you would never know just by looking at them. Someone who used to take one of my aerobic classes I still see at the club; they are currently 90 years old and still work out in the swimming pool. Can you believe it? I admire so many people at the club and it re-enforces another of my beliefs: use it or lose it. Even if I did not have the examples from the fitness centers, I had a neighbor who was in her 90s that would still climb up a ladder every year to clean out the gutters of her house. The physical marvel alone would be enough for me but to hear these people’s history is such a treat. Presently I have a neighbor who has been involved with a city organization for over 60 years. Hearing her stories about the place with its evolutions has provided me with insight on how the city has grown. It is like having a live history book living next to me. Though I have heard second hand stories that originated from century old individuals, I have never actually been around centenarians. This documentary is the next best thing. WRITER and director Alex Tegan (The Irish Pub, Mad Made Men) developed this film around a group of elderly individuals from Ireland who all were at least 100 years old. Their history could fill a book. I had not heard or seen anything about this sweet, charming movie; it was an email from a friend who told me I had to go down into the city to see it playing at only one theater. It was worth the trip for I was fascinated by the amount of people interviewed who were over 100 years old and especially the ones who appeared to still be living independently. Take a moment and just imagine the amount of history all of these seniors have seen. There may be some viewers who may lose a bit of interest since the film essentially is a series of interviews. I found it amusing that subtitles were included with the conversations but I was glad; some of the individuals were hard for me to understand. It was fascinating listening to the variety of topics the people chose to talk about. After sitting through this picture one of the things I wanted to know was what factors contributed to the long lives of these incredible people. Where can I find their fountain of youth?
3 ½ stars
From acts of kindness heroes are born. Some heroes may reach mythical proportions in the minds of the recipients. For me it was that classmate in kindergarten who taught me, the only left-handed student in class, how to properly cut paper with a pair of scissors. For the rest of my elementary school years that student could do no wrong in my eyes. In turn, it was not until years after high school I discovered a kindness I showed a fellow student had an effect on them. I know from personal experience when the act of kindness fights its way through the terror of the moment it can be monumental. It was during a P.E. class and the boys were changing in the locker room. There was this one boy who was a target for a group of bullies. I do not know if it was because he was short, quiet or did poorly in sports; but he got picked on a lot. One day one of the bullies decided to wait for the exact moment when this student was undressed before pouncing on him. The bully and his sidekicks came up from behind, pinning the boy’s arms back as they started dragging him away from his clothes hanging in the locker. One of the sidekicks ran ahead and opened a window as wide as it would go. The three hoisted the boy who was screaming and kicking up onto the window sill then pushed him out, only holding him by the arms. Hanging out the window without any clothes on, the frantic boy did not know some students had run to get the coach to come down into the locker room. Those students were not thinking about becoming heroes. YEARS after high school Calvin Joyner, played by Kevin Hart (The Wedding Ringer, Get Hard), received a Facebook friend request. It came from someone who had fond memories of Calvin when he was a student in high school. Calvin on the other hand had only one memory about this individual. This comedic crime film threw me for a loop due to one of its scenes; you will understand what I mean after seeing the film. I had to quickly regroup myself to focus on the movie. As some of you know I am sensitive whenever a bully is part of the story. The casting of Dwayne Johnson (San Andreas, Pain & Gain) as Bob Stone in this picture was a perfect choice. Besides his affable nature I have to tell you I was impressed with his comedic skills. Kevin was yet again the same type of character he has played in his past movies; but here I felt Dwayne outshined him. Rounding out the main cast was Danielle Nicolet (All-Stars, Third Rock from the Sun-TV) as Maggie and Amy Ryan (Escape Plan, Gone Baby Gone) as Pamela Harris. There were times where I laughed out loud; I enjoyed the make-up of the story more than its execution. I thought the script was simple and tailored for Kevin and Dwayne to the point that the writers expected the two actors would create the funny moments. The easy to follow story did not keep me interested; it was Bob Stone’s transformation from high school to adult life. Heroes certainly come in all sizes.
2 2/3 stars
The older I get the harder it is for me to remember the last time we were together. I at least remember where we met, it was in the city of Denver, I just cannot come up with the year. He met me at the airport; as I walked outside to the loading area, I saw them standing off to the side of the entrance. If I had not known he was coming to get me I might have overlooked him. He was an older version of the image I had of him in my mind. Perched now on his face were aviator style glasses, looking large on his oval shaped face. There was not a lot of hair on his head, but there never was to tell you the truth. However, what hair he still had now was all gray with wisps of white. Despite these changes as soon as we got in his car for the ride back to his house, it felt like very little time had passed since we last met. We picked up right where we left off as we talked about our families, jobs, health and everything else that was on our mind. This was the norm for our relationship presently since he moved to a different city. I felt fortunate that we were able to feel this continuation in our friendship despite the lack of time spent hanging out together. The funny thing about this is when we do finally meet up we are reminded how good it feels to share some time with each other. I felt the same way about this animated, adventure comedy. THIRTEEN years have passed and though afflicted with short term memory loss Dory, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres (The Love Letter, The Ellen Show), suddenly remembered she had a family. She had to find them. As I said just before I did not realize how much I missed Dory with Ellen’s incredible comedic timing. Along with Albert Brooks (Drive, Defending Your Life) as Marlin, Ed O’Neill (The Bone Collector, Married with Children-TV) as Hank and Kaitlin Olson (The Heat, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia-TV) as Destiny; many of the characters were memorable, aided by the magnificent visuals all around them. The weak link to this sequel was the script. I found the humor and drama did not have a lot of variance; there were only chuckles instead of laughs, with very few attention grabbing dramatic scenes. But what made this movie stand out was the way the writers addressed the characters with special needs. I thought this was a brilliant way to introduce children to the topic and showed it was not a scary or bad thing. Kudos to the writers for making this issue a part of the story. In spite of the few issues I had with the script, overall the film was well worth seeing on the big screen. Before the picture started there was a sweet, charming short film that I totally enjoyed. Then make sure you stay through the fun credits for the extra scene at the very end. After seeing Dory again I hope it will not be another 13 years before I see her again.
3 1/4 stars
We had no choice we had to go up. I was not happy with the rented van; the sides of it had peeling paint and the tires looked too small to bear the weight of all the furniture we were going to pack up. My friend said he got a good deal on it so I kept quiet. It was still light out when we started our route up into the mountains but I have to tell you it was a slow ride. Whenever the road would be on the decline he would have to ride the brakes because the weight of the van plus gravity would push the truck down faster. A burning smell would appear in the cab; it came from the brakes that my friend said they felt like they were slipping. It was scary enough but adding in the lack of guardrails along the side of the roads only made me freak out more. All of this was a surprise to me since my friend had not given me much detail on how I was going to help him move. Because of our slow passage through the mountains my biggest fear was doing this route in the dark and that is exactly what we had to do. Gratefully a full moon added a little depth to the blackness all around us. At one point while we were just coming out of a long curve in the road, the headlamps spotlighted several mountain goats crossing the road right in front of us. The sudden shock made my friend slam on the brakes which caused the furniture to groan as we could feel it pushing into our cab, trying to propel the truck further forward. By sheer luck we did not hit any of the goats or careen off the road. When we finally realized we made it through the mountain range, when we caught a glimpse of the highway below us, it was the first time I was able to relax. I had a similar reaction as I watched this crime thriller. DANNY and Vic, played by Martin Compston (Filthy, Red Road) and Eddie Marsan (The Illusionist, Sherlock Holmes franchise), had everything planned down to the smallest detail. All they needed to do was kidnap Alice Creed, played by Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace, Unfinished Song). Written and directed by J Blakeson (Pitch Perfect, The 5th Wave), this film festival nominated movie presented a straight forward story. Right from the start it grabbed me with its tight focused scenes. I thought the acting was good and enjoyed the way the characters expanded as the story moved forward. What especially sold me on this DVD were the surprise twists and the way the director built up the tension in several scenes. Now I will say there were a few scenes that did not ring as true as the others, where I just sat there and said to myself, C’mon.” Despite that I still enjoyed watching this film. If nothing else, it was easier getting shocked and surprised knowing I personally could not get hurt. There were a couple of scenes where blood was shown.
2 ¾ stars — DVD