Monthly Archives: December 2016
I have seen examples that both agree and disagree with the proverb, “blood is thicker than water.” Using the common definition that family relationships are more important than other types of relationships, I know a family with adult children who focus solely on each other; they hardly have any social activities that involve friendships. Everything they do they do together whether it is going to the health club, the movies, shopping or even carpooling; they only carpool with each other siblings’ children. It is obvious to me that friendships/relationships with people outside of their family are not important to them. AS another example, I know a couple who each came from a dysfunctional family. For them their friends became their family, becoming careful with the time they spent with any of their blood family members. I see them as 2 individuals who became family to each other, creating a safe and protected environment. Where their focus has been on each other, I have seen couples where one person still has as their main priority a family member such as a mother or brother, instead of their partner. I have always been fascinated with the dynamics between family members by blood or love. Two brothers who look nothing alike, who people think are so different from each other, still have a bond that allows them to communicate without talking out loud. Or how about twins who live far away from each other yet when one feels sick the other can sense it; can anyone explain this phenomenon? I recall an article in the newspaper about an elderly gentleman who traveled overseas for vacation. While leisurely strolling through a town he stopped at a café to order a drink and rest. He happened to be facing the doorway while seated and when a customer walked in a few minutes later, the man was stunned; the customer who walked in looked identical to himself. It turned out they were twins separated at birth. Each one expressed the sense of unexplained loss they had been carrying all these years. There is such a strong bond that remains with some family members. SEPARATED from his brother 5 year old Saroo, played by newcomer Sunny Pawar, traveled further than the boundaries of India; he wound up in Australia when husband and wife John and Sue Brierley, played by David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Van Helsing) and Nicole Kidman (Secret in their Eyes, Paddington) adopted the young boy. As he grew up he began to understand certain feelings he had inside. This film festival winning movie based on a true story was a wonderful picture watching experience. Along with Dev Patel (The Last Airbender, Slumdog Millionaire) as Saroo Brierley and Rooney Mara (Carol, Side Effects) as Lucy; the acting in this picture was outstanding. This was Dev’s best performance in my opinion. The story was simply incredible and more amazing because it really happened. I found the 1st half of the film with the young Saroo, beautifully acted by Sunny, more intense due to the young child’s plight; the direction of the scenes kept me totally engrossed in the events. Because of that intensity the 2nd half of the movie felt a bit less so, but it still came across with subtle power. This could easily be an Oscar contender that showed the type of bonds we form for a family.
3 ½ stars
HE was startled when his significant other’s mother was handed the mobile device to introduce herself. She lived out of the country and her “baby” was visiting her for the holidays. During their Face Time date he was asked if he wanted to meet the mother; he could hear her in the background because the sound of her voice had the same lyrical quality he had grown to love. Though nervous he said yes to the request and was pleasantly surprised at her warm smile; again similarities calmed him, next it was her facial features. The conversation was easy and he quickly felt relaxed as they chit chatted about their common love, her child. For a first conversation he felt good about it and thought she might make a wonderful mother-in law. MEETING for the first time the parents of your significant other can be an eye opening experience. Depending on the conversation one could feel a variety of emotions all across the spectrum. I had a friend who upon meeting her boyfriend’s parents walked away with a negative feeling that only grew in time. By the time my friend was engaged there was open hatred between her and the parents. On the other hand I knew someone who totally loved his in-laws; in fact, he insisted on calling them Mom and Dad since the three of them had more affection for each other than what he had growing up. I just realized from my past relationships most of their parents were deceased or if they were still alive they did not communicate with them. So I guess you can say my experience with in-laws is through my friends and family. Some of the stories I have heard were right out of a comedy show or a soap opera. If anything I can at least say listening to their experiences has groomed me on what I need to do to be a “good” son-in-law. Too bad the boyfriend in this comedy did not pay attention. FOR the holidays Stephanie Fleming, played by Zoey Deutch (Vampire Academy, Everybody Wants Some!!), wanted her family to come out to visit her at Stanford so they could meet her boyfriend Laird Mayhew, played by James Franco (The Interview, Spider-Man franchise). The holiday visit would not be such a merry time for all. With Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Argo) as Ned Fleming, Megan Mullally (The Kings of Summer, Will & Grace-TV) as Barb Fleming and Keegan-Michael Key (Keanu, Tomorrowland) as Gustav; the idea for this story I felt would be relatable to most viewers. I thought Megan and Bryan were good in their roles but I have to tell you I thought the script was all over the place. There were a couple of funny scenes here and there but a good portion of the time I was bored seeing the same type of antics happening over and over. In addition there was nothing new offered in this story about the father meeting the boyfriend for the first time. There was strong language repeated throughout the film along with sexual references. As far as I was concerned this was a meeting that did not have to take place for the family in this film nor for me in the movie theater.
1 ¾ stars
THE word “home” is one of those words that can immediately stir up the emotions inside a person. For some hearing that word brings childhood memories such as family dinners around a large oak table topped with a linen tablecloth or being taught by your parents the rules to a new game you received for your birthday. Other individuals may hear the word “home” and immediately feel an icy sense of dread stealing down their spine or a fitful night of sleep caused by deep hunger pains. No matter the circumstances, a home can have a powerful affect on each of us. WHEN friends of mine who grew up out of state talk about going home for the holidays, I take that to mean they are going to visit their family and friends back where they grew up. That does not stop me from sometimes asking what they mean when they say “home.” I am not trying to be a jerk; I am just curious if they feel like the place they currently live in does not feel like home. I find some of my friends’ answers interesting to my question. Some of them feel if they were in a committed relationship their place would feel more like a home, while others have expressed apartment living is not the same as being in a house. Having grown up in apartments I do understand the difference somewhat since I have been living in a house. However my definition of home has grown to incorporate the city where I was born and live in. There is something else inside of me that defines home and it has nothing to do with the material trappings that demarcate one’s living space; it has to do with the heart. You see any place can be a home if it is built on a foundation of nurturing elements such as comfort, peacefulness, safety and love. Now imagine what the main characters were thinking in this science fiction drama. DURING a 120 year journey to a distant colony a ship malfunction accidently wakes up from a state of stasis passenger Jim Preston, played Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World), ninety years to early. He did not sign up to spend the rest of his life alone on a ship full of non-available passengers. This adventure romance had a string of enticing special effects and sets. With Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle, Joy) as Aurora Lane, Michael Sheen (Midnight in Paris, Twilight franchise) as Arthur and Laurence Fishburne (Mystic River, Akeelah and the Bee) as Gus Mancuso; I found myself curious with the story’s concept of long term space travel. The chemistry between Jennifer and Chris felt authentic to me; however, with the poorly thought out script they floundered in their roles. I was bored for the first half of this space romance and was annoyed with the obvious goofs in the scenes. Being selected for a holiday opening I felt this film was not properly thought out in ideas and execution. I am sad to say that this film was not the best choice to leave the comfort of my warm home on a cold day.
1 ¾ stars
THE mother was upset by the zoo animals fighting in their enclosure. With her young child standing by her side with his arm extended up to hold his mother’s hand, she was arguing with a zookeeper. I was standing off to the side with other visitors but I could hear every word and she was mad. Essentially she was upset the animals were not peacefully walking around their pen, letting the visitors get a good look at them. I had the urge to tell her this was a zoo and not a beauty pageant but decided to keep my mouth shut. The animals were just being themselves and fighting over territory; but apparently that was not enough for her, she wanted them to act more human. I know there are people who find animals more endearing when they can attach a human emotion to the animal’s actions. I totally understand because I wanted to become a veterinarian after I read the book Doctor Dolittle. I loved the way the animals carried on conversations with the doctor. Wouldn’t you say most of us are more comfortable with animals when they act in a fashion more akin to human beings? As a child I could not wait to grow up and go out on a date to an Italian restaurant so we could share a spaghetti meal just like Lady and Tramp did in their movie. Look at how many talking animals have been part of our culture, from Michigan J. Frog to the horse Mr. Ed to the talking chipmunks Alvin and his brothers. Oh and how can I ignore all of those cat and dog videos posted on the internet? The animals look adorable as they perform tricks or interact with those around them. Watching them can be fun but I have never seen any that can match the singing that was done in this animated film. BUSTER Moon, voiced by Matthew McConaughly (The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club), came up with a brilliant idea to save his beloved theater; hold a singing contest. He was in for a big surprise after the mailer advertising the event was sent out. This comedic drama had a wonderful cast of actors to voice many of the characters; there was Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, This Means War) as Rosita, Seth MacFarlane (A Million Ways to Die in the West, Tooth Fairy) as Mike, Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers franchise, Don Jon) as Ash and the biggest surprise for me Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Testament of Youth) as Johnny. Luckily the characters were fun to watch because the script was a bit bland. The story revolved around the singing competition which was fine, but there were times where I felt the script could have used a rewrite. Let me say kids will like the mayhem and action while the parents will enjoy the singing; most of the songs were current. This film may have lacked a little in the lessons learned aspect that other children’s animated pictures have depicted, but I found this movie to be quite entertaining. Plus c’mon how can one resist animals that sing and sing well?
TWO mothers who do not know each other yet both dress consistently in an inappropriate way. One rarely showed up for school events for her child like concerts, bake sales or PTA meetings. These were things she was not interested in doing. However when she was out and about doing her errands or meeting friends for lunch, often she would walk or drive by the school. Her blouses were never buttoned all the way up and many times the material of them would be sheer. During the warmer months her standard form of dress would be a pair of shorts that barely extended down her thighs. It was not surprising to see the students in the playground stopping their games to gawk at this adult who dressed in such a young way, at least through their eyes. Her child was constantly being embarrassed by all of it. THE other mother was the opposite when it came to her child’s school functions. She volunteered for every activity whether it was chaperoning a field trip to a museum or helping in a food drive for charity. Her clothing never fit properly across her large girth. Go-go boots with high heels and hot pants was one of her standard outfits. Where the first mother had very little interaction with any students, including her child’s friends; this mother treated everyone in the student body as her best friend. The other parents would react with a mixture of envy, jealousy and disgust. On the one hand there were parents who wished their own kids would react to them like they did to her. She was considered a fun parent; animated with the use of her hands to talk besides exaggerated facial expressions, her makeup was always heavy and thick which only accentuated the different looks she could make with her face. Many times her child would sit there in embarrassment. From extreme to extreme this film festival winning movie takes you into the world of another type of mother. WHEN she found out her mentally challenged son Yoon Do-joon, played by Bin Won (The Man from Nowhere, Guns & Talk), was arrested for murder; this mother, played by Hye-ja Kim (How to Steal a Dog, Mayonnaise), was determined to find out the truth for herself, not what the police had decided. This crime mystery also starring Ku Jin (The Admiral, A Dirty Carnival) as Jin-tae and Je-mun Yun (The Good The Bad The Weird, The Host) as Je-moon was written and directed by Joon-ho Bong (Snowpiercer, The Host). I found the dramatic story alluring as it drew me into it. The actress who portrayed the mother did an excellent job of acting; I could feel her pain and emotions. The idea for the story was excellent since it immediately introduced this sympathetic character who was charged with a heinous crime. There were however a couple of characters who came off cartoonish which rang false for me, but I did wonder if this was due to a cultural difference in perceptions. I was taken aback by the twists in this DVD; what an interesting series of events. They say never mess around with a protective Mama Bear (mother) and this film proves that right. The Korean language was spoken with English subtitles.
3 stars — DVD
GREAT results can happen when one’s dream remains in a somewhat fluid state, like a soap bubble that grows with the input of more air. A young person grew up with the dream of living in the country, where her art studio would inhabit the abandoned barn on her property. Her skills as an artist were refined over the years to the point she was able to earn a living selling her works. From each sale she took a portion of the profit and squirreled it away to eventually become the down payment for her dream. But something happened when she fell in love with a man who had his own dreams. Ever since he was a young boy he wanted to live in a high rise apartment building that had a doorman. All of his schooling was laid out towards making his dream come true; he finally had his dream job that took him to all parts of the world. The only thing left was to save up and find that special apartment that would be his home base, a secure beacon high above the city. DREAMS have always been a part of my internal motivations. The story I wrote to start out this review is similar to something I experienced when I met someone who had their own dreams. Trust me it was not the easiest thing to do, to let someone else’s dream form a bond with my own; however, once I realized our dreams could blend together without losing our goals it got easier. A relationship is partially a negotiation, a compromise; the key is paring down to the important aspects of one’s dreams then finding a way where they can remain intact within the new dream being formed between two people. Let the couple in this musical movie show you. SPARKS formed right from the start when aspiring actress Mia and jazz musician Sebastian, played by Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, The Help) and Ryan Gosling (The Big Short, The Place Beyond the Pines), first met. Each came into the relationship with a dream; the question was how to achieve it. This comedic drama started out with a bang by having a big, opening musical number. If you are not a fan of musicals and their history there is a good chance this film will not have a strong impact on you. I knew Ryan had a musical background but did not know Emma could sing; both of them had a wonderful chemistry together. With J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, The Closer-TV) as Bill and musical artist John Legend (Soul Men) as Keith for part of the cast, the story was partially an homage to those old fashioned musicals from the 1930s and 40s. The dance numbers were fun but I found the music only okay, nothing very memorable. The allure of this film I believe is due to its novelty; there hasn’t been a good film in this genre recently. I will tell you I enjoyed this movie, especially the story line; however, I was a bit confused to the point I felt I must have missed something, wondering if I needed to see the movie again. Maybe from the unavoidable buzz I was hearing I dreamt this was going to be one of my 4 star movies.
DEATH does not owe anyone an answer; it takes what it wants and all we can do is experience grief, relief or believe it or not, happiness. I say happiness because of a funeral I once attended where I knew the deceased but not all of the other people in attendance. Sitting in the chapel I was shocked with some of the comments people were so free to share with those around them. One person said they were there to make sure that bastard was buried deep in the ground; another guest wanted to come to see if there was actually someone who was mourning the death. I could only silently sit in my seat because I was too stunned to say anything. As a side note the funeral service was done quickly with only a couple of eulogies. FROM a previous review I mentioned the hardest deaths involve those where the person was taken early. When a person reaches an old age one can hear comments such as, “he lived a long life” or “she did what she wanted to do,” at the funeral. Sadness could be wrapped up in the sense of loss but rarely have I heard anyone question why the individual perished. If there was a long growing illness I could understand the sense of relief one would feel at the time of death. From my experiences I have learned when a person dies unexpectedly; it is harder for those who are left behind. When the individual has suffered for a long time, finishing their journey here, those remaining do feel a sense of relief. I do not recollect anyone questioning why the person died. Personally I think asking questions that you cannot get answers for only delays the healing process. I know a couple of people who still want to know why a friend of theirs committed suicide. This makes for a hard road to travel, the asking of questions. You can see for yourself in this dramatic movie. DEVASTATED by the death of his young daughter Howard, played by Will Smith (Suicide Squad, Concussion) began writing letters to Death, Youth and Love. It was not long before they started answering him. This film festival winner had an excellent cast that included Edward Norton (The Grand Budapest Hotel, American History) as Whit, Kate Winslet (The Dressmaker, Finding Neverland) as Claire, Michael Pena (End of Watch, The Martian) as Simon, Naomie Harris (Moonlight, Skyfall) as Madeleine and Helen Mirren (Trumbo, Woman in Gold) as Brigitte. For a story line I did not mind the concept and felt the actors were more than capable to do a fine job. Out of the cast the 2 that stood out for me were Naomie and Michael; they were believable and conveyed true emotions. Outside of them I did not feel a connection to anyone else. Whether the rest of the actors knew the script was poorly written or not, they did not provide any substance to their characters. As for the script I found it to be in manipulative in a sappy way. I felt the film was created just to get viewers weepy and use that as their connection to the story. Sitting through this picture was like experiencing a slow death.
1 ¾ stars
I knew I had plans for the day; I just did not have anything confirmed yet with friends. We were going to get together over the weekend. You need to know I am not the type of person who does things spontaneously; I am more of a planner. After several messages back and forth we decided to go to a movie (I never turn that option down) in the afternoon then stop at a friend’s house, who was going to join us for dinner. Our friend was not going to be home until after 5pm, so on the way I decided to stop at a bookstore to kill some time. I found a magazine and a book on the clearance rack before we left for our friend’s place. THERE was a parking space right in front of her apartment building; this was a rare occurrence. Once we were buzzed in at the security gate we made our way to the back of the building’s courtyard to her entrance. My friend was in front of me as we walked up to the 2nd floor apartment. As I crossed the threshold I turned to the left and immediately got greeted with a group of friends shouting, “Surprise!” My friends were surprising me for my birthday. As I told you I am a planner, so you can imagine how stunned I was at this turn of events. They had been planning this for weeks, knowing they had to be careful in orchestrating everything so as not to tip me off. Once all of us were settled down, my friends explained everything they did to make it look like I was actively making plans with them. The details on how they worked to steer me to decisions they needed was genius. I loved hearing all the steps they took in creating this surprise. Little did I know I would feel the same excitement in learning the details of this science fiction movie. WITH the completion of a new massive weapon called the Death Star, it was imperative for the rebel alliance to find a way to steal the schematic plans to the weapon in the hopes of discovering a way to destroy it. Going to this film was an event, simple as that. Everyone in the audience was connected where I could feel the excitement. There was a lot to like about this action adventure story. First there was Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything, Like Crazy) as Jyn Erso; I thought she was great in the role. Other standouts were Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom, The Dark Knight Rises) as Orson Krennic, Diego Luna (The Terminal, Milk) as Cassian Andor and Donnie Yen (Hero, IP Man) as Chirrut Imwe; however, I had wished the script would have given more to Mads Mikkelsen (Doctor Strange, The Hunt) as Galen Erso. Next, the action scenes (there were a lot) were well choreographed and visually exciting. On the negative side I did not feel the cast had the best chemistry amongst themselves; though I understood they were mostly meeting each other for the first time. The music was overpowering and constantly used as a prelude to the upcoming action. Lastly, viewers who are not familiar with Star Wars episodes 4 & 5 would miss out on some of the characters and their significance. The idea for the story was brilliant and it certainly provided a few good surprises along the way.
EACH person experiences grief in their own way. There are some who put no filters on it, letting their emotions flood out in a public way. Other individuals believe they need to maintain a “stiff upper lip” so they keep their emotions in check, only allowing them out in private. During my years of teaching I have experienced several major losses that affected me deeply. None of my classes knew at the time because I chose not to express my grief. It was hard at times especially when I was teaching a class where the members were looking to me to be upbeat and motivating, but inside I was a blubbering mess. A couple of times I nearly broke down when a song came on that triggered a memory of the person that was no longer in my life. THEY say there is comfort in numbers which can be seen when friends and family come together to share in their grief. Sitting at a stoplight while a funeral procession drives by, I used to look at the passengers in each passing car. It was curious to see the different ways people were handling their journey. Some would be silently sitting, not interacting with each other; while others appeared almost jovial. I know in some cultures death is looked upon as a gain, not a loss. The deceased individual is headed to a better place. One thing I have found interesting is the older a person becomes the more receptive they are to the idea of being reincarnated; I guess it brings comfort to them, knowing they will get to come back. The one thing I think everyone agrees on is when someone young has their life finished early. ACROSS the land citizens were all sharing in their grief from losing their young president to an assassin. At a time when privacy would be expected the president’s widow had to compartmentalize her priorities to satisfy her children, the nation and the world. This dramatic biographical movie was led by the outstanding performance from Natalie Portman (Jane Got a Gun, Your Highness) as Jackie Kennedy. Whether she had the speech and mannerisms down accurately, it did not matter to me because the character on screen as far as I was concerned was Jackie. I never once thought I was watching Natalie. The other actors such as Peter Sarsgaard (The Magnificent Seven, Orphan) as Bobby Kennedy, Greta Gerwig (Francis Ha, Mistress America) as Nancy Tuckerman and Billy Crudup (Spotlight, Watchmen) as the journalist were all quite good and I felt all of them were authentic in their roles. The script moved back and forth in time in an easy way for the viewer to follow. I found myself reacting with sadness to several of the scenes; the way they were reenacted and played out came across in a real way for me. If the script had told this story in chronological order I do not think it would have been as powerful as the way it was done in this film. I felt I was given an inside look behind all the actions that were on display for the public. This was an eye opening experience for me and left me with a few tears of sadness.
3 ½ stars
SOME ancient cultures thought cameras were evil devices that stole people’s souls. At least that is what I saw in several films. Truthfully that is not too far off; cameras do not actually rob an individual’s soul but they do capture a moment in the person’s life. Now I have to tell you I am biased about this subject since photography was my minor in college. Ever since I received my 1st camera when I was in elementary school, I have used my cameras to document events and occasions. Imagine being able to see 4 generations of a family in one photograph; the history of that family being handed down generation to generation is a powerful moment for me. I was part of the last group to visit a remote area of Alaska that was being closed off to humans for the damage they had caused the area. My camera never stopped as I shot as many photos as possible. SADLY I am concerned a whole generation of people will miss out on the power of photographs. These days a majority of pictures posted on social media sites show food, in poor lighting I might add. When did this practice take on such importance? A recent survey discovered 2 out of 3 millennial choose recipes specifically to share their food photos on their social media sites. I just do not get it. Whenever a friend or relative returns from a vacation I am the first one who wants to see their photographs. In fact, I have been part of a small group of friends for years that get together every three months to share our latest photographs; it has been a way to stay in touch and experience new places without the physical demands of traveling. And when we all react in a similar way to one of our photographs we know that photo captured a memorable moment in time. HARRY Benson may not have been considered a good student in school but he certainly had a way of taking the perfect photograph. Many of us including myself may have never heard of photographer Harry Benson but all of us are familiar with his photographs. This documentary for me was sheer joy since I love photography. The amount of iconic photos this man has shot was amazing. Imagine what it must have been like to have been part of so much history; some of the people he has had close contact with have been The Beatles, Muhammad Ali, Joe Namath, Robert Kennedy, Michael Jackson and Greta Garbo. I have to tell you the amount of photographs shown throughout this movie was staggering. Being able to hear the behind the scenes stories to these photos added an extra thrill for me. Written and directed by Justin Bare (Coked Up, Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s) and Matthew Miele (Crazy about Tiffany’s, Everything’s Jake), I found the flow to this film easy to follow. There was nothing deeply expressed except when the story brushed by the ethical aspects of a few photos. I would have appreciated more conversation about this subject. For those of you who may not remember when cameras and film were used to take a photograph you might not enjoy this movie as much. I, however, felt like I was taking a walking tour through history.
3 ¼ stars