Monthly Archives: September 2016
A life full of expectations will be a life filled with disappointments. I wish it wasn’t so but it is a fact; having those expectations can lead you down a sad path in life. This was a hard lesson I had to learn; I mean it took years for me to figure it out and even to this day I have to catch myself from placing expectations on things I have no control over. Now I am not really referring to the expectations we have when we are buying a product. For example if you are buying a vacuum cleaner you expect to plug it in and it works; though these days that may not be the case as much. Or how about the conversation I just had with a friend who went to a restaurant and ordered a particular dinner because of my recommendation. It turns out they did not like it; they were disappointed in the meal. Stuff happens, but where I had to learn to let go of my expectations was when I interact with people. I used to think when I was dating a person who had expressed the same traits and philosophies as me; they would act in a similar fashion as me. Because I reply quickly to a person’s email or text, I used to think the other person would do the same and when they didn’t I would think I did something wrong. It turns out that is not always the case. I learned I cannot place my values, morals or beliefs on someone else. What all of this has done for me is realize I can only be responsible for myself. I have to tell you, this really has helped me when it comes to seeing a movie. Without learning anything about it, I walk into a movie theater without any expectations. I have no idea if I will enjoy a movie or not; even one like this one. RELOCATING to a beautiful house they purchased out in the country Dana and David, played by Kate Beckinsale (Love & Friendship, Underworld franchise) and Mel Raido (Legend, The Informers), had no idea their house had an extra room that came with a secret. This dramatic horror thriller also starred Duncan Joiner (Some Kind of Beautiful, The Perfect Guy) as Lucas and Gerald McRaney (Focus, Major Dad-TV) as Judge Blacker. What I can tell you is the house and its grounds were beautiful. This was the best part of the movie. Wow, I could not believe people at the movie studio put their stamp of approval on green lighting this project. The script was horrible, void of anything exciting or spine tingling. Normally I have enjoyed Kate’s performances but this role was a waste. It was a bummer because the story was split into two trains of thought. If the writers would have only done a story about the house or one about the family dynamics I think this would have been a better picture. Instead what was offered was a silly, generic, plain movie that should have been locked up in the film studio’s disappointments room. I truly walked into this with no expectations despite the film’s title.
1 ½ stars
Begin with several words, string them together and let a story take you away. Let me show you what I mean. I will start with the words room, curtains, breath, light, skin and airplane. Here is the first beginning to the story: The curtains’ shadows looked like they were reaching out to me as I entered into the room. The light behind them blazed in a crimson red; I could feel the heat on my skin. This was my first time here and the air smelled rancid. It was stifling to the point where I felt I was entering into the mouth of an ogre with bad breath. Suddenly the room shook with a roar as if an airplane had just skimmed the roof above me. Maybe what I just wrote was the beginning of a horror story. Same words, but in a different order; let me see what I will get: The curtains gently rippled as a warm breeze passed them into my room. I was stretched out on the sofa, careful not to disturb the creases where the love of my life had sat minutes ago before they had to leave. Their breath still felt like it was lingering around the skin at the back of my neck. Our light conversation had gone into deeper waters with positive results. I agreed to make airplane reservations to fly out and meet their family for the first time. Now this story sounds romantic, doesn’t it? That is the beauty about stories; they can take us to an infinite amount of places. I love the way a story can take me away from my reality and place me into a whole different world. Some people read to learn, others read to escape; it does not make a difference because I feel just the act of reading provides the essential nutrients for the mind to grow. AMOS OZ, played by newcomer Amir Tessler, was always ready to hear a new story until he felt he was living in some of them. With Natalie Portman (Jane Got a Gun, Black Swan) as Fania Oz, Makram Khoury (Munich, The Physician) as Halawant and Ohad Knoller (The Bubble, Munich) as Israel Zarchi; this film festival nominated dramatic biography was based on the bestseller by Amos Oz. Written and directed by Natalie, the story had a darkness to it as it took place during Israel’s formative years. I could see there was something to the story but I don’t think the screenplay conveyed it. There were some good scenes and I could see Natalie had a good eye for directing, but I did not find this picture entertaining. Despite the acting being good, the story telling interesting and the dynamics between the characters having depth; I was not always into the story. Granted I would not consider the subject upbeat but I think if the script was in different hands the results might have been different. Not that I am knocking Natalie’s 1st directorial effort, but maybe she should have focused only on that instead of the screenplay too. There certainly was a story here; I just did not feel satisfied watching it. Hebrew was spoken with English subtitles.
For some of you one of your earliest memories may have been waking up in the morning to see 2 eyes intently watching you from a nose distance away. You may have woken up from the warm breath pulsing at you or maybe the low sounding purr. One of the earliest relationships many of us have had was the bond between us and our pets. Though I did not experience it at a young age, I do remember how much I enjoyed slipping in between the bed sheets to discover the warmth a pet had created in my space. I still get a chuckle from the stories and photos my friends share of them waking up to have a sleeping cat draped around their head or going to sleep and finding their dog was already snuggled into the bed with the sheets pulled up to their dog collar, their head resting on a pillow. One picture in particular you would swear the dog was looking at his non-furry friend as if to say, “C’mon, it is time to go to sleep.” The bond between animals and humans has stayed strong throughout the centuries. In the past I would always have a line drawn between the characteristics displayed by animals and humans. An animal acts differently than a human; I never assumed a dog or a cat was thinking in a similar way to me. Seeing the interactions between my friends and their pets, I know some of their pets are more than pets. I get it and I am not judging because I have witnessed some interactions that can only be explained as telepathy or empathy. Even some of the movies I have reviewed here that were based on true stories about humans and animals amazed me. In fact today’s film showed something I never knew about the classic story of Robinson Crusoe. STRANDED and alone Robinson Crusoe, voiced by Matthias Schweighofer (Rabbit without Ears, What a Man), did not realize he actually had friends on the small island. This film festival winning animated adventure comedy also had the voices of Kaya Yanar (Schillerstrabe-TV) as Papagei Dienstal, Ilka Bessin (Der Nanny) as Tapir Rosie and Dieter Hallervorden (Nonstop Nonsens-TV, On Track) as Ziegenbock Zottel. In case you were wondering this Belgium film had dubbed in English for the dialog. The best part of this picture was the colorful animation; that pretty much was it. I did not mind the twist the writers did to the Robinson Crusoe story but was surprised this script lacked anything fun or funny. Maybe the youngest of children would enjoy this but there were a couple of times where I thought the film was mean spirited. If I had never seen an animated film before in my entire life maybe I would have at least found something to like about this movie. It really was such a flat, uninspired production that I could not wait for it to be over. Honestly if this is an award winner, what were the other nominated films like? Your time would be better spent volunteering at an animal shelter or at least taking the money you would have spent for this film and donating it.
1 ½ stars
It used to be one would peruse the sale advertisements, see something they like/want/need, go to the store and buy it. You knew what you were getting; the item purchased matched the ad. Then something changed in the sale papers, instead of mentioning the name brand the verbiage stated, “…assorted brands from top manufacturers.” The pictures in the advertisements were shot in such a way that you could not make out the name on the product. Okay I get that, the retail store wants you to come in, hoping you buy the product; but if you do not, then they hope you will find something else while you are in their store. In a similar vein with the move to selling on the internet, I have heard a variety of stories about people buying something that was not exactly what was represented on the web site. Just a couple of weeks ago I was with some friends who had recently returned from a vacation. They decided to try the site that offers stays at people’s houses instead of motels/hotels. They even showed me the place and I have to say it looked charming. However, when they arrived at the home the lawn was strewn with a variety of things from shovels (I know, I thought the same thing—graves) to a broken bicycle. The owner answered the door in a dirty, torn T-shirt. He showed them the room and bathroom and let me just say it was not modern, nor was it sparkling clean if you know what I mean. To finish this story, they stayed only 1 night then moved to a hotel. The moral of the story is, “looks can be deceiving.” DESPARATE to start a family John and Laura Taylor, played by Morris Chestnut (The Call, The Best Man Holiday) and Regina Hall (Law Abiding Citizen, Think Like a Man), had been looking for the perfect surrogate mother. Down to their last frozen egg they were sure they found the right one when they saw Anna Walsh, played by Jaz Sinclair (Paper Towns). Also starring Theo Rossi (Bad Hurt, Sons of Anarchy-TV) as Mike Mitchell, this dramatic horror mystery started out okay. I was familiar with Morris and Regina seeing them from previous films, but what attracted my attention more was their characters’ house. The movie started out fine and used the hook of motherhood to grab the viewers. Sadly things went south very quickly. The story was beyond generic, having been done numerous times before. I pretty much found most things so predictable that I was constantly bored. There may have been a couple of scenes that had the hint of a surprise but they were few and far between. Even some of the spoken lines were cheesy and clichéd. I am sure the actors tried their best but there was very little effort given to the script to give the actors something to work with beyond the obvious. In fact, the best part or should I say parts of this film was the trailer. Watch the trailer and you have seen the movie; watch the trailer and movie and you will understand why looks can be deceiving.
1 ¾ stars
There were some toys that were just begging me to take them apart. Toys that did amazing things to my young mind back then warranted me either unscrewing screws, twisting off parts or simply breaking pieces apart until I could see what was inside. The downside to this was I would not have the toy to play with anymore. It is funny now as an adult there are some things I do not want to know anything about how they work. Getting into an elevator, all I care about is when I press the floor number the elevator car takes me there with no incident. I do not need to know if the car is rising due to air pressure, counterweights or pulleys; all I care about is I do not get stuck between floors and make the local news. While on vacation I had to take a gondola lift to reach my destination. There was no reason for me to look at the cable wires strung above or the little wheeled contraption that the gondola was hanging from. As I stepped into the car with the other passengers I looked down at the floor until we started moving. Once we rose above the visitor’s center I peered out the large windows that enclosed us to see the slope of the mountain slowly pass us by. All I was interested in was taking pictures until we arrived at the top; I did not want to know about the mechanics that got us there. Just writing about that experience still creeps me out, though I did get some fantastic shots with my camera. For the same reasons I just described there is no way I want to hear about all the mechanics involved in getting the airplane I am on up into the air and to my destination. If you are already nervous about flying then this film will not calm your nerves. WHEN a flock of birds destroyed both engines of the plane he was flying Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, played by Tom Hanks (Bridge of Spies, Captain Phillips), had little time to follow the flight manual; he had to rely on his instincts. Based on the true story this biographical drama was led by Tom who was exceptional in the role. Along with Aaron Eckhart (Olympus Has Fallen, The Dark Knight) as Jeff Skiles and Laura Linney (Mr. Holmes, The Fifth Estate) as Lorraine Sullenberger; this film was directed by Clint Eastwood (Trouble with the Curve, Gran Torino). I have to say Clint did a great job with taking the story and recreating it on screen. For the most part the script was fine; I am sure it was a big asset having Sully’s conversations to build on. However, there were parts of the story where I had wished the writers would have gone deeper. It seemed as if some scenes were assigned to convey a quick reference before moving forward. On the scheme of things this was not a major fault because it did not take the entertainment value away from the movie watching experience. Let us face it; this was an incredible story about a true hero and the ordeal he had to endure even after the flight. Make sure you stay for the beginning of the credits.
3 ½ stars
He was born with an athletic build; early on had a gift for doing almost any type of sport. After he was enrolled into little league his contribution helped the team rise up in the rankings. When it was time to have swimming lessons he was the first one to volunteer to hold their breath under water, paying no mind to a couple of classmates who sat on the side shivering and crying. He was what you would call fearless. Then a period came where he decided to go into gymnastics and applied to the school’s team. Of course he made it and quickly became the team’s star athlete. Now running parallel to all of these achievements and activities was another road traveled by him. It was a journey filled with accidents. They were not all major type of accidents but they did cause him pain. There was the time he was playing with a cousin on the back stairs of an apartment building. A neighbor’s son who was playing nearby decided to pick up a rock and throw it at them. One cousin saw it and ducked out of the way, but the rock found its mark. The athletic cousin got hit in the forehead. Blood gushed out and he was rushed to the hospital where they patched him up; a scar remained forever on his forehead. Playing with another cousin the two were running around his house, going in and out through the glass paned screen door. For some reason during one pass through he did not see the door was closed and ran right into it, shattering the glass into pieces that shredded up part of his skin. There were other accidents involving broken limbs but he always bounced back. Relatives would just say he was accident prone. I on the other hand wondered if something else was going on with him always getting hurt. Well this mysterious thriller may have provided me with an answer. AMAZINGLY 9 year old Louis Drax, played by Aiden Longworth (Hector and the Search for Happiness, Cut Bank), was still alive after a fatal fall. The investigation included Dr. Allan Pascal, played by Jamie Dornan (Anthropoid, Fifty Shades of Grey), who was willing to believe something else was going on. This film’s cast also included Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold, A Dangerous Method) as Natalie, Aaron Paul (Eye in the Sky, Exodus: Gods and Kings) as Peter and Molly Parker (The Road, The Five Senses) as Dalton. I found the story interesting at first, helped by Jamie’s and Aiden’s acting. Sadly there was nothing else special about this film. It came across in a predictable way except for maybe one or two scenes. It was almost as if the movie studio did not want to invest too much effort in creating this picture; the acting was nothing memorable, there was no intensity to the scenes and the whole package when put together left me bored. What this all comes down to is having a film about accidents being an accident itself.
1 ¾ stars
Unless there is something seriously dramatic going on there is no way to know your family may be different from other families. This is one of the reasons we initially grow up believing we are just normal. However once you start experiencing the dynamics within other families it can be eye opening. I remember the first time my best friend invited me for dinner when we were in 3rd grade. Sitting there I knew something was just different about his family. His older brother sat at the dinner table with us and the parents, but he never said a word to me or his younger brother. He only would talk to the parents but just barely. To an outsider they would say that brother was just being rude, but to a young me I thought he was mean. As I grew and had more opportunities to be around other families I actually started to enjoy the experiences. I wonder if that was the start of my interest in pursuing interests in psychology. A college friend invited me to their home for the weekend where I wound up feeling like I was on one of those old family television shows from the 1950s or 60s. Every family member would get dressed up for dinner; I could not understand how the mother could cook an entire meal yet look like she was ready to go out on the town. There was another family I experienced that cursed at each other like they were just having a friendly conversation. Oh and how could I forget the family that shared a meal with me where all and I mean all the home cooked foods were barely edible to me? I do not want to sound ungrateful but nothing tasted like it was supposed to taste and some things did not look like they were cooked enough; yet all of the family members carried on about the food as if it were the best thing since sliced bread. It just goes to show there really is no such thing as a “normal” family. ONLY after his mother was admitted into the hospital did John Hollar, played by John Krasinski (Away We Go, 13 Hours), travel back home to be with his family. One tends to forget about their family when they are away from them. This film festival nominated comedic drama also starred Margo Martindale (The Hours, August: Osage County) as Sally Hollar, Sharlto Copley (Elysium, District ) as Ron Hollar and Richard Jenkins (The Visitor, The Cabin in the Woods) as Don Hollar. I thought Margo and Richard were the best out of the cast. The story had fun moments in it but there really was nothing that moved me to think I was watching a good movie. Maybe because there were a variety of issues taking place I felt nothing stood out except for Margo’s character. The actors tried their best I believe and John who also directed did a decent job; but the ending left me with a blah feeling. I do not know if it is because I have seen my share of dysfunctional families that I did not think this film was any big deal.
We were sitting around and talking after dinner. I was expressing my exasperation over building a cabinet from a kit I had bought on the internet. My intentions were to store some of my movie DVDs (no surprise, right?) in it but presently the pieces were scattered on the floor in the living room. The directions had no written text; it only had drawings and icons to follow. I tried but the instructions were not making sense to me. At one point I realized I was building one of the glass enclosed wooden doors backwards, so I unscrewed things and left them on the floor. This led me to explain to my friends why I prefer baking over building. Following a recipe makes me feel calm because it is exact. You have your favorite ingredients such as chocolate, cinnamon or peanut butter and you measure out everything like a chemist until you wind up with this beautiful batter that you put in a hot oven to bake. During the baking process I never taste anything; I feel what company or person would want you to make something that tastes bad. If you follow everything exact it will turn out good is my belief. A friend chimed in it was for that exact reason why they did not like to bake. They said with cooking, if something doesn’t taste good or come out exactly right, you can still add something to fix it. With baking they were stuck once the finished item had baked. The two of us went back and forth on the pluses and minuses of cooking as opposed to baking. The conclusion we both agreed on was there are some ideas that sound absolutely great on paper, but when you make the recipe it just doesn’t turn out as good as it sounded. You could say the same thing about this science fiction mystery. ARTIFICIALLY created humanoid Morgan, played by Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Viking Quest-TV movie), was only 5 years old; but she was already causing problems for the corporation. With a cast that included Kate Mara (The Martian, Fantastic Four) as Lee Weather, Rose Leslie (The Last Witch Hunter, Game of Thrones-TV) as Dr. Amy Menser, Toby Jones (Anthropoid, Captain America franchise) as Dr. Simon Ziegler and Paul Giamatti (San Andreas, The Ides of March) as Dr. Alan Shapiro; one would think this horror film had a capable cast to carry the story. Au contraire, the script was simply awful. I am not one to think ahead in a movie but within a very short time I already had guessed the surprise. Secondly, what is up with Paul Giamatti? Doesn’t he get tired of doing a film where he plays the same loud, yelling professional person over and over? I was bored through most of this picture. The idea was interesting and some of the fight scenes were well choreographed; but this was not enough for me. The execution process was dull; I am referring to the directing, the acting and the beyond predictable script. This may have been a good idea but there is nothing that could have fixed this stinker. There were scenes with blood and violence in them.
1 ½ stars
There are many people who use the word “love,” though looking at world affairs maybe not enough. I have experienced individuals who actually say the word too often, to the point where I feel it loses some of its importance. Now I am not referring necessarily to someone telling another person they love them; though I have to tell you, hearing someone say it constantly throughout the day makes me feel as if there is less specialness behind the meaning of the spoken word. I remember the first time I realized I was truly in love with someone was when they became ill. Being a person who avoids touching things like doorknobs, other people’s cell phones and their hands; when I sat looking at my loved one wishing I would have gotten sick instead of them, I knew I had fallen deeply in love. Wanting to take away their discomfort besides nursing them without thinking about all the germs was a transformative experience for me. So I use this as my litmus test: if I am willing to put the needs of someone ahead of my germ phobia then I know our relationship is meant to be. Sadly I have seen some people who could not take that extra step in their relationship. I knew someone who was in a relationship for a couple of years; they were quite in love. However when one came down with a life threatening illness, the other could not handle it. Though in their defense they did try, but after a time they ended the relationship. It was just a sad situation all around. One could certainly say love makes people do some crazy or should I say irrational things; the couple in this dramatic romance will show you another example. WHEN lighthouse keeper Tom Sherbourne, played by Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs, X-Men franchise) spotted what looked like an abandoned rowboat, he had no idea his life was about to change because of what he found inside the boat. This film festival nominated movie based on the bestselling book was not only beautiful to watch, it also had a wonderful soundtrack. Besides Michael there was Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, Jason Bourne) as Isabel Graysmark and Rachel Weisz (The Lobster, Oz the Great and Powerful) as Hannah Roennfeldt; all of them were amazing with their characters. I have not read the book but I found the story interesting. Starting out slowly the script took some time before pulling me in. I will say the chemistry between Michael and Alicia was quite strong; they kept me interested in their story. However the script had some holes in it that were a distraction for me. There were some events that did not ring true to me to the point I felt the writer was focusing more on making the audience react instead of going deeper with the characters. It just came across as heavy handed and manipulative to me. Love can make a person do some uncharacteristic things but I was not totally in love with this movie.
2 ½ stars
Can a child really understand the meaning of the words hate and love? The power of these 2 words is too heavy for a young mind to wrap itself around I believe. I used these words as a child, telling anyone who asked I hated peas and I loved chocolate. What I was really conveying was my preference in tastes; it had nothing to do with my emotional relationship to these food items. I did not know any better though I understood the affect it had on a person when I would tell them I loved or hated them. Before you say anything I really never told a person to their face that I hated them, though I wanted to say it to one particular babysitter who used to sit for me. Now through all the years of dating, seeing and being in relationships, besides becoming more mature; I understand all the nuances associated with love and hate. Some of the terminology I have used and heard would be things like not fond of, do not like, prefer not being around, enjoy your company, comfortable around you and so on. To me love and hate are strong words; I am careful about saying love because I do not want it to become a generic version of itself. I want love to have importance so when I tell someone I love them they know I mean it completely. As for the word hate I really do not use it much except for extreme circumstances like telling someone I would hate to have to do something like surgery or sit on a tour bus for 8 hours. So when I see other people displaying hate I have to take a step back. I find it sad that hatred these days seems to be in vogue; that it is becoming acceptable for someone to display their hatred. For this reason I found this dramatic thriller horrific. AGREEING to go undercover to infiltrate a radical white supremacy group FBI agent Nate Foster, played by Daniel Radcliffe (Swiss Army Man, Victor Frankenstein), did not realize how much he could lose. Based on true events this story was disturbing. Maybe I am reacting on more of a personal level but the amount of hatred on display was absolutely frightening to me. What pulled me through was the strong acting from the cast which also included Toni Collette (Krampus, A Long Way Down) as Angela Zamparo, Tracy Letts (Indignation, The Big Short) as Dallas Wolf and Sam Trammell (The Fault in Our Stars, True Blood-TV) as Gerry Conway. I have to give credit to Daniel since he is so closely associated to the Harry Potter franchise, that he can transform himself into these interesting roles he has a knack in choosing for himself. Overall I thought the script was good but there were times where some of the characters came across more like a cartoon in their extremeness. I found this crime film gripping in a chilling way. Partially because of the times we presently live in, to see such hatred and know that there are people out there who act the same way was scary for me.