Monthly Archives: December 2016
THERE was a parked delivery truck in the middle of the street blocking my way. By backing up I was able to turn into an alley that would take me behind the block so I could continue on my way. As I carefully drove down the alley, dodging garbage bins and bushes, I came up to a garage that had a swastika spray painted across its door. Here I was driving through what looked like a pleasant, well maintained neighborhood and came up to a sign of hatred behind what appeared to be to me the street side facade of peacefulness. I looked at the garage door and did not want to believe someone filled with hate or anger took the time to come out and spray the door as an expression of their feelings. THERE have been so many things I have come across where I did not want to believe they were real. Seeing a mass shooting at a school, an oil spill, toxic drinking water or a hotel bombing; the world is filled with awful events and it seems like there are only more taking place. Maybe I live too much time in my fantasy and film fantasy world, but the fact that I can still be surprised by a variety of dastardly deeds/actions tells me I still have my humanity. When friends or colleagues tell me the true story behind certain events, both personal and international, I am reminded that I may be too naïve because I tend to take everything at face value; trusting or hoping people would lean towards goodness instead of badness. So we now come to today’s movie and if any of it was based on true events I am more afraid of the world than I was before. KNOWN for her killer instincts lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane, played by Jessica Chastain (Crimson Peak, The Martian), pitted herself against a tough opponent. It was one that happened to know her. The cat and mouse game that ensued could easily destroy one of them. This dramatic thriller soared on Jessica’s acting skills. She was the main character and she was incredible. All the actors, such as Mark Strong (The Brothers Grimsby, Before I Go to Sleep) as Rodolfo Schmidt, Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Free State of Jones, Beyond the Lights) as Esme Manucharian and John Lithgow (Interstellar, Love is Strange) as Congressman Ron M. Sperling; were excellent, but the women ruled this picture. The world of lobbyists is unknown to me so I enjoyed the story, finding myself periodically surprised with several scenes dealing with the methods used in lobbying influential figures. As for the script I thought the first and last parts of the film were the strongest; the middle of the movie lost me a bit because I felt too much time was being used to remind us of Miss Sloane’s intensity. Personally I would have enjoyed the writers digging deeper into her actions and motivations as well as some of the other characters. With that being said I will tell you I loved the twists in this story. If this movie was based on any truth regarding lobbyists, the world really is a scarier place.
2 ½ stars
THEY had known me for several years. Every week the friends would come to my class. After class they would stay behind to thank me or ask about a certain movement we did in class; in fact, we talked on the fitness floor whenever I was there doing weight training. So imagine how amused I was when I bumped into them at a restaurant and they did not recognize me. Not until I told them my name did they realize I was their aerobics instructor. We laughed about it as they blamed their confusion on the fact I was not dressed in my workout attire; I was dressed in a pair of jeans and a sweater without my baseball cap. THIS type of scenario happens to me quite often; truth be told I have done the same thing when a member from my class comes up to me outside of the health club. Isn’t it funny how a different set of clothes and different environment alter one’s perceptions? It works the same way I believe in any work environment. I worked at a place for several years with the same employees for most of the time. Every day we would talk to each other during one of our breaks or lunchtime; but it was not until we had our 1st holiday party where I learned several of my fellow employees had a completely different life than the perceptions I had formed from our daily communications. It was almost like an alter ego; for example, there was one employee who was a falconer and another who was part of a dance troupe in the city. I do not know if we would have found these facts out if it wasn’t for that holiday party. DETERMINED to keep his company’s branch open and prove his sister CEO Carol Vanstone, played by Jennifer Aniston (We’re the Millers, Horrible Bosses franchise), wrong; Clay Vanstone, played by T.J. Miller (Deadpool, Silicon Valley-TV), decided to have a huge holiday party to woo a potential client. The only issue was whether the representative liked to party. This comedy came with quite a competent cast of actors such as Jason Bateman (The Family Fang, The Gift) as Josh Parker, Olivia Munn (Ride Along franchise, Magic Mike) as Tracey Hughes and Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters, Masterminds) as Mary. Filmed in Chicago, the scenes were a mix of indoor and outdoor shots. The story may have been a good idea, but I did not find anything new compared to other movies of this type. There were a few scenes where I chuckled and surprisingly I thought Jason Bateman was the weak link in the story. As for the script it could have used a rewrite to tighten up some of the scenes that dragged on for me. Granted I have never attended a holiday party like the one in this film, but at some point I thought the story was getting ridiculous. The feeling I had after the film was over was neither a positive or negative one; it was just an okay feeling, though I did enjoy the outtakes early in the ending credits. If your employer throws a party like the one depicted in this picture, maybe you will have a better time watching this party.
GOING to someone’s house to share a meal and celebrate a holiday should be an easy thing to do, you would think. Normally you would not be expected to shop for ingredients that the cook needs to prepare the meal, vacuum or clean their whole house; however, you might bring a dish to share or assist in the cleaning process afterwards. All in all it is a relative easy experience. One big factor that could change everything is whether you enjoy the company you will be with for the celebration. Imagine how you would feel if you knew several of the guests there annoy you. THERE was a sense of dread that weighed you down as you pulled up to their house. The hosts were lovely people, sweet and very accommodating to their guests. So their culinary experiments never turn out good; usually there is a total bland taste to the food or at the other extreme, a pungent foul flavor that makes the food barely edible. An easy fix has been to eat something before you show up at their place then eat lightly (and carefully), saying you are not very hungry. At the party the host’s cousin shows up bringing their untrained dog unannounced. The dog is jumping on everyone until it smells the food, then it takes constant monitoring from the guests to make sure this dog does not stand up at the table to grab some food. Another guest that is familiar to you is the man who tells inappropriate jokes at the dining room table. He usually has some prejudiced or sexual comment accompanying his humor. Then there is the narcissist who grabs your attention and will not let you go as they talk on and on about what they recently bought, how much they spent and their recent dating exploits; you see why there is a sense of dread every time you show up to one of these parties. A similar sense of dread welled up in me as I was watching this comedy sequel. STILL drunk and obnoxious Willie Soke, played by Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade, Our Brand is Crisis), could not resist doing another job with the man who tried to kill him. This crime dramedy also starred Kathy Bates (Titanic, American Horror Story-TV) as Sunny Soke, Tony Cox (Oz the Great and Powerful, The Hustle) as Marcus and Christina Hendricks (Life as We Know it, Mad Men-TV) as Diane Hastings. The biggest shock for me was seeing Octavia Spencer (The Help, Fruitvale Station) doing a cameo as Opal and that is all I will say about it. The script for this movie was very basic; the jokes were easy to spot and for the most part were crude. I was quickly bored by the story; not that I am offended by the humor, I just found it uncreative. There may have been a couple of times I chuckled if I remember correctly. If you were a fan of the first film you may have a better time sitting through this sequel. For me the novelty of the first one was not part of this picture. I just had to trudge through to the very end so I could review it.
1 ½ stars
THERE are some people who grow into their identity while there are others who seek out one and take it on. I have become more aware of people’s choices on how they describe themselves and/or how others do it for them. Let me ask you, how often do you hear these days individuals being described as kind, compassionate or sweet? The adjectives I have heard recently are mostly of a negative nature such as racist, workaholic or sexist. Then there are others I have heard that are associated with the person’s career. A banker, a flight attendant; they all seem to come with preconceived notions. AS a matter of fact I know a guy who is a lawyer who used to be a pleasant person. Something about the job changed him however. He turned into all the negative, stereotypical features assumed for a lawyer. He became brusque, cutting off anyone who was not giving him a fast enough answer to his query. Oh and heaven forbid if an item advertised on sale did not ring up the lower price on the cash register; he would cut down the checker who probably had no idea the item was even on sale. It was ugly to watch as he would not let up even when a floor manager would come to override the price. Maybe my small, little world is not representative of society as a whole, but there seems to be a heightened intensity or harshness to people’s personas from what I can tell. I cannot tell if these traits were inherently buried inside the person or outside influences such as career had this effect on them. SUCCESSFUL businesswoman Michele Leblanc, played by Isabelle Huppert (The Piano Teacher, Amour) found her life taking on aspects of her company’s work after she was attacked in her home. This film festival winning dramatic thriller directed by Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Total Recall) was all Isabelle’s stage. She was unbelievable in the role as she dominated over other cast members Laurent Lafitte (Little White Lies, The Crimson Rivers) as Patrick, Anne Consigny (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, A Christmas Tale) as Anna and Charles Bexling (Summer Hours, Ridicule) as Richard Leblanc. Don’t get me wrong they were all good, but Isabelle was amazing as Michele. As for the story all I can say is it was a twisted tale. I found each story line interesting and surprised myself when I came to the realization that 2 of them were in a way mirroring each other. The script was well done, putting in a bit of humor here and there to balance out the levels of intensity. Now I will say there were a few scenes that seemed odd that left me feeling puzzled. It was after the film was over when I thought I figured a couple of them out, but nothing concrete. The subtitles were not a distraction, nor did they interfere with the ability to view the action in the scenes. There were a few scenes of violence that were uncomfortable to watch. This picture did make me wonder if life was imitating art. French was spoken throughout with English subtitles.
MY enjoyment in learning something about a celebrity’s life predominantly comes from only one source. Actually hearing about an individual’s personal experience or shall we say exposure to a celebrity piques my interest. Sure there maybe something reported in the news or entertainment shows; however, I never pay attention to the gossip magazines. Let me show you what I mean without sharing the celebrity’s name just so I do not get sued or something. THERE is a friend of mine who was an extra on a popular television show. He had direct contact with one actor in a scene that had a few extra tapings with different camera angles, over a couple of days. It took place mid morning and my friend told me the actor smelled of alcohol each day before they even started to film. In fact, when my friend was pouring fake drinks for the scene, this actor insisted his drink has real liquor. Now gaining this little insight doesn’t change my opinion of the person unless he does something stupid, like driving, while under the influence. However, if I discover a celebrity is prejudiced against any type of minority I discard them totally. Some of you may already know there are a couple of actors whose films never get reviewed by me because I will not support them in any way, especially by giving them money to see their pictures. Putting that aside, one other thing I get a kick out of are the movies that have for at least part of their story a portrayal of an actual famous person. The fun factor in this comedic drama for me was seeing the “life” of Howard Hughes. RECENTLY transplanted to Hollywood, California Marla Mabrey and Frank Forbes, played by Lily Collins (The Blind Side, Mirror Mirror) and Alden Ehrenreich (Blue Jasmine, Beautiful Creatures), wound up working for the same employer; the famous Howard Hughes, played by Warren Beatty (Bonnie and Clyde, Dick Tracy). Working for the billionaire meant they would have to follow certain rules. This film festival winning romance written and directed by Warren had a great cast of actors such as Matthew Broderick (Glory, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) as Levar Mathis and Candice Bergen (Miss Congeniality, Murphy Brown-TV) as Nadine Henly. I thought the sets and costumes were accurate and visually pleasing. As for the story there were parts of it that captured the essence of those madcap comedy films from the 1940s; however, there were times where the script got bogged down. It felt like there was so much going on that the viewer was only getting the highlights of the characters’ lives. I found the story line involving Howard to be more entertaining; in turn, a stronger presence on screen in my opinion. Maybe because of my interest in real life individuals I was more interested in Warren’s scenes, though I thought he did a good job of acting. Just now it occurred to me that Warren’s kinetic performance partially mirrored the pacing at times during this film. Overall I enjoyed watching this movie, wondering if any of the scenes involving Howard Hughes were based on any real life events besides the obvious ones shown.
2 ½ stars
A feeling comes over you, familiar in an unpleasant way. Your body has overpowered your mind, making its presence known to distract you from your surroundings. There is a weight pressing on top of you that makes your body slump back but there is nowhere else to go in the space you are occupying. What started out soft around you is becoming stiff and unyielding. The images being shown are unfamiliar, but something about them triggers a memory. Thoughts from the past may be from a different place and a different time, but there is a budding familiarity that cannot be translated in your mind yet to make sense. And one of the most dominant changes has to do with time. YOU were aware of the length of time this experience would take before you entered into the place; in the scheme of things being occupied for a couple of hours would be nothing for you. In this instance time has slowed down to a crawl as if the turn key on the alarm clock is making its last rotation before the second hand comes to a complete stop. I have experienced such an event sporadically and every time I walk into a movie theater I do my best not to pre-judge a movie I am about to see. However with today’s film review I was tipped off; so to remain totally transparent, I want to tell you prior to going to this movie, I had read the film studio did not release this picture early to the film critics. In my experiences this has never been a good thing; I have always assumed the studio knows they have a poor product and wants to try and get it out and earn some money before word spreads, sealing the fate of their dud. This is what happened to this movie, at least in my opinion. VATICAN representative Camilia, played by Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace, Fast Food Nation), felt only one person could help in determining if a young boy named Cameron, played by David Mazouz (The Games Maker, Gotham-TV), was truly being possessed by an evil being. Scientist Dr. Seth Ember, played by Aaron Eckhart (Bleed for This, Thank You for not Smoking), was her choice because he had a unique way of entering a person’s mind. This horror thriller also starred Carice van Houten (Repo Man, Game of Thrones-TV) as Lindsay and Emjay Anthony (Bad Moms, Krampus) as Jake; the acting was nothing special though it was obvious Aaron and Carice were trying their best with the lines given to them. I thought the script was a mess with the various story lines that were not followed through in a complete way. The story was basic and one that had been done many times before, so to stand out this film needed a different angle. I was bored for most of this picture and have to tell you the few special effects were laughable with their poor quality. Honestly, this film came across like a school class’ amateur production. At the end of the film I was weighed down with tiredness, wondering how long did I suffer through this movie.
1 ¼ stars
THERE is nobody I know who wants to hear “bad” news. I do not think anyone would like to receive such news. What I find interesting is the way people react to such news. There are families who do not acknowledge news of a loved one’s illness. They may hear a relative was diagnosed with cancer but they do not know how to react or act on such news. The relative may go on their journey towards death without having the support and love of their family members, not out of hate only ignorance, who do not know how to make things better. Sadly you cannot always make things better; however, lending an ear or bringing a cup of ice chips to the dying relative could make a world of difference. WHEN it comes to the general public I am not sure if “bad” news is always reported honestly by the media. Sure they are quick to report a tragedy, let us say an earthquake or flood, but the focus seems to go to what will grab a viewer’s attention or heart strings. A small child saved from the roof of their home would make good story; but not an individual who was struck with a debilitating injury from the catastrophic event, who will no longer be able to perform their job, facing a life of poverty. Now I know there have been times where this is not the case, just recently seeing these “Go Fund Me” pages would be an example of getting the word out. I think the influx of reality television shows and the various social media outlets have warped people’s perceptions of basic truth. It is because of this movie that I have been thinking about this subject. We may want to only celebrate and focus on the positives, but the reality may not always match the cheering. RETURNING to the states for a short victory tour Billy Lynn, played by relative newcomer Joe Alwyn, had one person who did not want him going back overseas after the celebrations; his sister Kathryn, played by Kristen Stewart (Café Society, Still Alice). This film festival winning war drama directed by Ang Lee (Life of Pi, Taking Woodstock) was filmed by a new process using a high frame rate. It made this picture look like a live television show is the only way I can describe it. Personally I found it a big distraction and did not like the look it created on screen; there was a harsh sharpness to the scenes, but that is simply my tastes. With Garrett Hedlund (Pan, Unbroken) as Dime, Steve Martin (The Pink Panther franchise, Cheaper by the Dozen franchise) as Norm and Vin Diesel (The Last Witch Hunter, Fast & Furious franchise) as Shroom; the acting was good but the script did not provide enough for the actors. At times there were scenes of brilliance but then another scene would fall flat. I did not think the story offered much for the viewers; I was left with a bored feeling, wishing I knew more about certain characters and their motivations. Overall the viewing aspect was not pleasant to me and if this technique of shooting a film is going to be a reality, then I want fantasy.
1 ¾ stars
FOUR years attending the same school taught me more about social dynamics than any of my classes. I am not sure this applies to every school; but going into high school I was not prepared for the pecking order that was established for the student body. It could easily have been called a caste system because there were the “haves and have nots.” Within a short time one group that quickly formed were the popular kids. This class was made up of jocks, cheerleaders and anyone who the majority of students deemed beautiful or handsome. From my experience this was the alpha group. STUDENTS with the best grades, who did not qualify for the alpha group, formed their own clan known as the “brainiacs” aka smart students. Now this group used their collective intellect to thwart the jock group as a counterbalance to their top status. This group tended to be more receptive in allowing classmates to join them. If one was not fit for either of these two groups then there was a lower status group known as the “good students.” Though not as high in status, the students in this group never got in trouble, did nothing to standout in an inappropriate way or clash with any of the other groups. Continuing down the food chain so to speak there is the group referred to as the stoners. For anyone displaying behavior associated with drunkenness or high on drugs, this was their group. They did not care about the status of the other groups, barely acknowledged them or did not care at all. There are sub groups and such but down at the bottom were the leftovers in the student body and they were considered the losers. The kids in this group had to be on guard because they could be easy targets for any of the other groups. The toughest part of this caste system was trying not to carry it with you as your time served was ending. ALREADY not feeing connected to her fellow classmates Nadine, played by Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Begin Again), at least had one good friend. However that was not going to be enough considering her brother Darian, played by Blake Jenner (Everybody Wants Some, Glee-TV), was a star football player. This coming of age comedic drama was not like the other films that have been done in this category. With Woody Harrelson (Out of the Furnace, Now You See Me franchise) as Mr. Bruner, Kyra Sedgwick (Gamer, The Closer-TV) as Mona and Hayden Szeto (The Unbidden, Chop Shop-TV) as Erwin; this cast not only performed well together, they appeared authentic in a modern way. My experiences both helped and hindered my involvement into the story. On one hand I understood the dynamics perfectly, but then some of the scenes did not seem real to me only because I had never encountered them when I was in school. There were a couple of times that my disbelief took over which lost the scene for me. However the acting was sharp as was the script; so I was able to get back on track with the story. Having seen this movie only confirmed my belief that high school is not meant for the weak.