Monthly Archives: January 2017
MADE especially for you by those knotted skinny fingers, you could only imagine it must have taken months to create the gift. She is one of your favorite relatives who always remembers you on holidays and your birthday. This year she knitted you a multi-colored, bulky sweater. You could tell immediately the sweater was going to be way too big even before you unfolded it. Holding it by the shoulders you lifted it up so the body of the sweater cascaded down like a flood. The array of colored yarns clashed in such a sharp way that your eyes squinted as a few dominant colors seemed to vibrate in their confined patch of the sweater’s landscape. Gratefully you were not asked to try on the massive sweater; you did not want her to feel any anxiety seeing you lost in the yards of yarn spinning around you. It is always the thought that counts and the fact that it must have taken her months to knit only affirmed the affection and love the two of you share for each other. SINCE I believe there are no bad pets only bad owners, I keep the same attitude when I encounter someone’s dog or cat. I do not want the owner to know I am not fond of their pet; I simply remain quiet unless their pet is constantly jumping on me or is trying to bite me. Even the friends of mine who have dogs that greet you by sticking their snouts into your crotch are a bit annoying but still loveable. Having started out in veterinary science during my college years, I have always had a soft spot for animals. With that being said, I was looking forward to this comedic drama; however similar to what I said previously, I loved the dogs in this adventure film but was not fond of the script. THE relationship between dogs and their owners is explored in this heartwarming film. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Hachi: A Dog’s Tail) and starring Dennis Quaid (Frequency, Vantage Point) as Adult Ethan, Juliet Rylance (Frances Ha, Sinister franchise) as Ethan’s Mom and Luke Kirby (The Samaritan, Shattered Glass) as Ethan’s Dad; this movie based on the novel could have been a much better picture. I was aware of the controversy surrounding a video that recently popped up of one of the dogs, but I did not feel I had all the facts to make a proper decision yet. In the meantime the script was so heavy handed that it was dripping with cloying sweetness to purposefully pull at the viewer’s heartstrings. The story was predictable and kept everything in a narrow band of emotional depth; it could have been decent if the writers had backed off from focusing on manipulating the audience’s hearts and concentrate on telling a straightforward tale. I found myself getting bored though I mostly enjoyed Josh Gad’s (The Wedding Ringer, Love & Other Drugs) voicing of Bailey. Part of me wants to give a better rating for the dogs’ performances but I know I need to be impartial. The movie studio may have had good intentions but the end result did not fit together very well.
1 ¾ stars
ENTERTAINING is what I want movies to be. They need to sweep me up and carry me into their story. If you have been reading my previous reviews you know that request is a tall order, since many films I have seen were abysmal. Now just because I want to be entertained doesn’t mean I only want light and bright stories. I walk into a theater with the assumption that the movie I am about to watch has some redeeming quality. Whether it is a documentary, horror, romance or science fiction film; I simply want to be engaged with what I am seeing on the big screen. LIKE any other medium films can be made with an ulterior motive in mind. A picture may have a humorous bent to it; but underneath the surface, the writers had a serious message or topic they wanted to convey to the movie watching public. I have learned many things by watching documentaries; they are usually written in a straight forward manner which at times comes across like visual lectures to me. That is a compliment by the way. This does not mean I have not learned something from films with fictional stories. Any movie genre can provide a learning experience in my opinion. I have seen some sensational cinematic stories that appeared to be total works of fiction; however, the stories paralleled actual events covered in the news. This is no different than some of our great novels that were written as satires to shine a light or poke fun of real situations. The reason I am mentioning all of this is because of today’s movie. I found the story curious because it seemed to reflect the current political environment throughout the country. ALLIANCES needed to be formed if Alice, played by Milia Jovovich (The Fifth Element, The Three Musketeers), was going to have any chance to put a stop to the undead once and for all. This latest installment to the Resident Evil franchise starred Iain Glen (The Iron Lady, Game of Thrones-TV) as Dr. Isaacs, Ali Larter (Final Destination franchise, Heroes-TV) as Claire Redfield, Eoin Macken (The Forest, The Night Shift-TV) as Doc and Shawn Roberts (Jumper, X-Men) as Wesker. Out of the entire cast Milia had the strongest screen presence, since the script was mainly written for her character. I thought she did a good job. Despite having a fuzzy memory of the previous films, the story was easy to follow. Unfortunately the numerous action scenes were filmed in such a quick, choppy way I had a hard time figuring out who was fighting. The scenes were literally just a blur of shapes and colors; it became quite annoying early on. As for the story all I can say is it was typical for this type of video game based movie. I lost my interest at various times and to tell you the truth it was not until the last part of the film where I felt I was getting my money’s worth. For the video game players out there this chapter will appeal to them; to the rest of us it will only be a brief distraction to the world around us.
1 ¾ stars
BETWEEN the street corner and an alley a structure was built that changed my life. I remember walking by the construction site on the way to the library. Construction workers wearing hard hats were moving around the site constantly; in a way it looked like an abstract ballet piece the way each of them seamlessly worked together. The outside of the building was made with white tiles; I thought for sure it would have turned to gray within a week from all the exhaust coming out of the cars driving down the busy thoroughfare. Right in the middle of the growing walls a slab of curved metal was jutting out like an awful hangnail. I could not imagine what these workers were thinking of to stab their beautiful white tiled sides with this hollow, arching monstrosity. OVER the course of a season the building took form and all that remained were a few last details. One day appearing in front was a fenced off area that had round metal tables with big opened umbrellas sticking up from the center. Around the tables were bolted down curved benches. A sign was hung from the building announcing a grand opening. My friends and I were there on opening day and it was crazy with people lined up everywhere. I remember ordering a hamburger, french fries and a soft drink. We each were handed our meal in a paper bag and walked outside to the side of the building where the white tiles were built out to form a ledge to sit on. Prior to that moment I had never had a pickle or mustard on a hamburger, only ketchup; the mix of flavors exploded in my mouth. But what sent me into a caloric craze of complete cherished comfort were the french fries and chocolate milkshake. My affair with those slender strands of potato heaven has lasted all these years. I do not know if they would have had the same effect if I had known the story about the man who brought the restaurant with the golden arches to the world. SALESMAN Ray Kroc, played by Michael Keaton (Spotlight, White Noise), could not understand the sales order he received from a restaurant in California. Deciding to take a drive out to see the place, Ray was stunned when he came up to this little “food stand” run by brothers Mac and Dick McDonald, played by John Carroll Lynch (Shutter Island, American Horror Story-TV) and Nick Offerman (21 Jump Street franchise, Parks and Recreation-TV). The brothers may not have realized what they had going but Ray sure did. This film festival winning biographical drama succeeded because of Michael’s performance; he played it beautifully to the point where I was reacting negatively to some of Ray’s actions. Having my memories of the fast food restaurants heightened my interest in this historical story. I am not sure how much of the script was truthful, but I enjoyed most of the progression in the story. There were scenes that only implied certain actions that I would have enjoyed better if there was more back story; however, this did not distract me from the story. With most of the earth’s population having knowledge about this company, I cannot imagine someone getting bored with this movie, though you may get a bit hungry.
ONCE upon a time employees took pride in their work. Whether it was an office clerk, salesperson, mechanic or repair person; doing a good job used to mean something. Maybe because the business climate changed over the decades from an employees matter mentality to workers now being considered just a disposable statistic, it is not only sad but can be frustrating for the public. Presently I have friends who have been dealing with a large phone carrier for over 2 months, to get them to transfer their business phone lines to another party. Every single time my friends call customer service they get a different answer to the same question. Right now they have received 8 different responses where one representative says they need the new party’s permission to change the phone line to that party, but another rep says they can do it without any permission. Yet nothing ever gets done. WHAT I have found these days are employees who take their pride to cockiness. They really are not feeling good about doing decent work; they are doing it so they can boast and make themselves feel better than the people around them. I do not know about you but it takes a lot of energy for me to keep a straight face while a worker talks down to me in a condescending way. When I encounter someone bragging about something they did at work, that they think was extraordinary, all I want to ask them is, “Isn’t that part of your job responsibilities?” And companies want to know why consumers are switching to online shopping. It only takes one bad employee to color a person’s perception of that company or organization. This crime thriller will show you what I mean. POLICE officer Vincent Downs, played by Jamie Foxx (White House Down, Law Abiding Citizen) found himself being hunted down after he stole a drug shipment from a crime family. His problems got worse when he discovered the family kidnapped his son Thomas, played by Octavius J. Johnson (Coldwater, Ray Donovan-TV). Set in Las Vegas this action film told a story that has been done repeatedly before. The problem was this picture did not offer anything different with this genre. With Michelle Monaghan (Patriots Day, Due Date) as Jennifer Bryant, Dermot Mulroney (The Grey, My Best Friend’s Wedding) as Stanley Rubino and Scoot McNairy (12 Years a Slave, Non=Stop) as Novak; the only actor I thought did anything well was Michelle. In fact I wish the script had been written more around her character for she was the only one where I felt I had a connection. Jamie brought nothing to his role and the script only made things worse for him. C’mon, he has a bleeding wound that seems to only hurt when he needs to take a pause to catch his breath between stunts. Otherwise he is fighting and dodging bullets all over the place. Plus I find it ridiculous to have the bad guys shooting so many bullets but none of them have good aim. This movie was a tedious one to get through; I really would like to know if the people behind this film felt pride in what they created for the moviegoer.
1 ½ stars
THERE is always a can of mashed pumpkin I keep up on the shelf in my kitchen cabinet. You never know when the urge will come for some homemade pumpkin bread. It brings memories of comfort and home when my house gets filled with the aroma of pumpkin and cinnamon. The recipe I use was handed down to me: I keep the frail piece of paper it is written on in a plastic sleeve secured in a three ringed binder. I love the taste of pumpkin though I was never a big fan of its seeds; I think it is because those store bought ones were always covered in salt back when I was a kid. Ironically I was also never a huge fan of carved pumpkins sitting out for Halloween. After a couple of days they would start to smell or worse, were attacked by squirrels that would gnaw on them and leave a mess on one’s front porch. Except for that issue there is something about pumpkins that brings back memories of childhood, family and Thanksgiving to me. LAST week while I was grocery shopping I came across a small section of shelves that were stocked with items priced for clearance. At first glance I noticed a majority of the items listed the words “pumpkin spice” on its packaging. Just to give you an idea let me tell you a few of the products that were on the shelves; there were car deodorants, breakfast cereals, cough syrups and coffee all flavored with pumpkin spice. I do not know about you but I found it weird to have so many random products all with the scent or taste of pumpkin spice. Are there that many people driving around with the inside of their vehicles smelling of pumpkin spice? I did not list all the items for you but I felt companies just let their marketing departments go amok and now they are all sitting up on shelves as clearance items; what a waste of time, energy and money. I felt the same way about this sequel. XANDER Cage, played by Vin Diesel (Fast & Furious franchise, Babylon A.D.), was not dead; he was living a peaceful life until he was needed to help retrieve a secret hi-tech device that was stolen by Xiang, played by Donnie Yen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, IP Man franchise). Whoever had possession of the powerful product could easily bring a country’s government down to its knees. This action thriller also starred Deepika Padukone (Happy New Year, Chennai Express) as Serena Unger, Toni Collette (Krampus, Miss You Already) as Jane Marke and Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight, The Legend of Tarzan) as Augustus Gibbons. For the life of me I do not understand how a movie studio decides to bring back a character after all these years and produce a total mess of a picture. The script was awful to the point of almost being a total embarrassment. Sure the action scenes were well orchestrated but that is all this adventure film offered and that only goes so far. I could not tell the difference between Vin’s character here with the one he plays in the Fast & Furious movies. If you want to watch a mindless fast paced film then this would be the one; I suggest though you wait for it on clearance.
1 ½ stars
THE only remaining open seat was next to me. I was sitting by the window gazing at the changing landscape as I was traveling downtown on the train. At the next train stop I did not pay attention to the person who sat down next to me. Before getting to the next stop the man commented on a building that came into view from out our window. I replied in agreement about the modern looking building and from that a conversation ensured between us. It appeared this man had some knowledge about architecture as he explained details about a couple of buildings that we noticed during our travels. I was surprised to hear his comments since I grew up in the city and had never heard about the things he was saying about these structures. AS we made our way down into the city he made a couple of comments that did not ring true to me. I cannot exactly explain why but some of the things he stated came out with a slight edge to them; do you know what I mean? A twinge of irritation or anger is the only way I could describe it. I did not react to these comments except for nodding my head since I did not want to appear confrontational. It did not matter however since something obviously set him off; his talking increased in volume. It wasn’t soon after that his comments were not making sense to me. Something about one of the buildings he had just commented on was setting him off on a tirade of expletives. Being stuck by the window with him in the next seat, I was getting extremely uncomfortable. If I excused myself to go stand in the aisle with several of the other passengers he may become offended and who knows what he would do. So instead I told him my stop was next. When we reached it I walked out and ran down the train platform to one of the other train cars before the car doors closed, so I could continue on my way. It was such an odd encounter, but at least I was able to leave which was not the case for the students in this horror thriller. CAPTURED and held against their will Casey, Claire and Marcia; played by Anya Taylor-Joy (Morgan, The Witch), Haley Lu Richardson (The Edge of Seventeen, The Last Survivors) and Jessica Sula (Honeytrap, Skins-TV); needed a plan to find a way out. However there appeared to be more than one kidnapper. This film festival nominated movie written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan (Lady in the Water, The Sixth Sense) was a big surprise to me because I enjoyed it so much; this was not the case for his past several pictures. What sealed the deal regarding this movie was the wonderful performance of James McAvoy (X-Men franchise, Wanted) as Kevin and Betty Buckley (Carrie, The Happening) as Dr. Karen Fletcher. The script was straight forward, but the pacing kept up the creepy intensity of the story. Though there were a couple of scenes that had showed blood, for the most part this was a psychological thriller which I enjoyed immensely. Be prepared for several different points of view in this film.
DURING my daily commute to work I pass 3 makeshift memorials that were set up by the side of the road. What they have in common are floral arrangements, ribbons and sadness. My guess is each person from the memorials perished from an auto accident. How tragic it must be for the family; based on past news articles, I can only imagine the circumstances of the accident. I remember one involved a boy riding his bicycle who was struck by a car that swerved out of the way of a tarp that fell off of a truck in front of them, momentarily blinding the driver. Can you imagine if this took place in front of the boy’s house and the family sees the memorial every day? I do not know how I would handle it, seeing a reminder outside my door every day, even without a memorial. RECENTLY I was driving through my old neighborhood with a friend who was curious to see my old stomping grounds. Driving through several blocks, I shared memories and tidbits while pointing out various places. As I drove by one particular building I started to tear up from the flood of awful memories associated with the place. My friend saw the change in me and asked what was going on inside of me. Taking a breath I started to tell them about some of the horrible things that were done to me when I was much younger. It felt like I was reliving them as I spoke them out loud. Though I believe each of us learns something from every experience, thinking about that time after all these years still made me feel sad and angry. I do not think I am alone in saying recalling tough, challenging events in the past is a hard thing to do; this is why it was not easy for me to watch this dramatic historical thriller. FROM an act of terror during the Boston marathon the citizens of Boston united in a powerful way. This film festival winning movie written and directed by Peter Berg (Deepwater Horizon, Lone Survivor) starred Mark Wahlberg (Deepwater Horizon, Daddy’s Home) as Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders, Michelle Monaghan (Sleepless, Source Code) as Carol Saunders, John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane, Love the Coopers) as Commissioner Ed Davis and Kevin Bacon (Black Mass, Elephant White) as Special Agent Richard DesLauriers. I felt Peter presented a thoughtful, reflective story that did not sink into dramatic hyperbole. Because the script was sensitively written I thought the actors did fine in their roles and in regards to Mark he was in his element. Since I was quite familiar with this story, knowing people who were affected by it, I thought I would not have been as engaged in the movie. It turned out I was very much into the film as there were multiple scenes that showed the things taking place away from the public; it was fascinating to watch. I will say it was not easy to sit and watch this movie due to seeing the violence and injuries again. The images I remembered all came up as the story unfolded on the big screen. Let me just say if you have the stomach to revisit this event then it is worth watching this well done film.
WALKING down the street your eye catches something on display behind the store’s display window. You had no intentions of shopping today, but something about the perfectly matched clothing on the mannequin makes you stop. The store was not unfamiliar to you; maybe it was a couple of years ago since you last ventured inside. If memory serves you correctly, you recall the sales staff being helpful. They were not pushy like some of the other clothing stores you have been in, where everything you try on looks perfect according to the staff. Instead the salespeople at this place offer suggestions, asking you where you intend to wear the items. Since the store did not appear to be busy you walked inside to get a closer look at the outfit. As expected a salesperson greeted you and asked if you needed any help. You explained your reason for coming inside and the salesperson directed you to the display rack that was carrying that particular outfit. Finding your size you took the clothing into the dressing room. After you had everything on you looked in the mirror. Though the clothing looked good, it did not look good on you. THIS scenario has happened to me multiple times through my life. Something that looked good on display did not translate to looking good on me. It is weird how that happens. It is not like my size keeps fluctuating; I have been the same size now for years. Yet each store seems to have a different idea of what the waist size should be. Where I may be a 32 inch waist at one place, another will have similar pants that fit the same but they are labeled 31 inch. In fact I know women’s clothing is more varied in how they determine their clothing sizes. It can be disappointing when you see something that you think would look good on you but then your reflection in the mirror says otherwise. It pretty much sums up the way I felt about this crime drama. JOE Coughlin, played by Ben Affleck, chose a different path than his police officer father Thomas Coughlin, played by Brendan Gleeson (In the Heart of the Sea, Suffragette). Joe’s path led to a life of crime down in Florida. This film festival nominee had a great look to it. Set during the time of Prohibition in the 1920s, the costumes and sets were a knock out. Written and directed by Ben, I have enjoyed Ben’s previous directorial efforts; he has an eye for filming a movie. However I think he took on too much with this story. There were scenes that were wonderful to watch, including an exciting car chase. But then there were other places where the story became muddled and slow. I liked the idea of making a gangster period piece but we all have seen similar ones before; this one needed more drama and intensity. As for the acting Ben could have been better since Elle Fanning (20th Century Women, Super 8) as Loretta Figgis and Chris Cooper (The Tempest, Adaptation) as Chief Figgis were more dynamic on screen. Unfortunately by the end of this picture I was left with a blah feeling; it may have been a good looking film but it did not tell its story very well.
2 ¼ stars
WHETHER there are one or two parents, raising a child is a daunting experience. Some parents use the way they were reared as a blueprint to raise their baby; others use their family members to assist them with their children. From my experiences I have witnessed such a wide variety of methods I cannot say one works better over another way. I have known some parents who worked diligently to shelter their children from everything they did not approve of in the world. Take for example slang words or as some refer to it as “swear” words. There was a couple who forbade their kids from ever uttering such words, to the point of checking every movie first before allowing them to watch it. When the children reached that age where all kids start to enforce their independence, they were ridiculed when they would tell one of their friends they said a “bad” word. SADLY I knew parents whose children grew up with the same prejudices their parents unwittingly displayed in front of their kids during their formative years. A method I have seen done successfully more times than not is exposing the child to most everything in life and explaining it. When these parents first heard their children say a slang word, they did not show anger or discomfort; the parents sat down and explained why saying such words would be hurtful and ugly. I have been impressed with the parents who take their children to volunteer at soup kitchens and shelters, exposing them to people and things their children may not experience in their local environment. Another thing I have noticed is the difference in children who were raised hearing their given language spoken properly to them instead of being talked to in “baby talk.” To me it seems these kids have an easier time articulating their feelings and thoughts. Being a fan of exposing a child to the world around them I feel I had a better understanding about the mother in this dramatic comedy. RAISING her son Jamie, played by Lucas Jade Zumann (Sinister 2, Chicago Fire-TV), without his father made Dorothea, played by Annette Bening (Rules Don’t Apply, Danny Collins), decide to expose her son to other points of view. Though they did not know it Julie, Abbie and William; played by Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon, Ginger & Rosa), Greta Gerwig (Mistress America, Maggie’s Plan) and Billy Crudup (Jackie, Big Fish); would all be contributing to Jamie’s journey to adulthood. This film festival winning movie’s story was set in southern California during the 1970s. I thought the acting was excellent with Annette making this one of her best roles. The script did not focus much on the character’s history, instead providing the viewer with snapshots of the characters’ current lives. One of the things about the story I appreciated the most was taking what was essentially a coming of age story and turning it into something new and different. In a way I found the story more authentic; in turn, I felt more connected to the characters. There were some scenes that did not work as well however, but nothing in a major way. I may not have agreed with everything Dorothea was doing in regards to raising her son, but I did walk away respecting her choices.
QUICK with a quip, he always placed himself in the front row of class. A good portion of the female members in class enjoyed having him stand in front of them. He had a good sense of rhythm which enabled him to pick up any new exercise moves in class. I knew this to be true because he attended my group fitness class for several months. Just a smidge shy of being 6 feet tall, he easily moved across the floor and had a good sense of body awareness. I knew some of the members watched him move because I always faced the class when teaching, so could see what their eyes were focused on. Usually members will look at themselves in the floor to ceiling mirrors behind me; but there was something about this guy woman preferred watching instead. AFTER attending class every week for several months he did not show up one day. A few members questioned where he could be, but other than that the absence was treated as an aberration. When he did not show up for the following class more members started asking about him. I had not heard anything. A few weeks had gone by and he still had not returned to class nor was seen anywhere else in the fitness center. Once in awhile a member would bring up his name but for the most part he became a memory. A few months afterwards I was walking down to the aerobic studio to teach a class and a member stopped me in the hallway. She asked if I had heard the news about that member who disappeared from class. I told her no; so she quickly proceeded to tell me about an article in the newspaper concerning a missing female roommate who was found dead in the truck of her car that was abandoned at the airport parking lot. Our former class participant was charged with the murder. The news traveled fast through the fitness center and everyone wondered how such a fun, happy go lucky guy could commit murder. This horror thriller may have provided the answer. COLLEGE friends Elliot, John and Sasha; played by Douglas Smith (Miss Sloane, Big Love-TV), Lucien Laviscount (One Night in Istanbul, Honeytrap) and relative newcomer Cressida Bonas; began experiencing frightening visions when they rented out an old house that had a past. Before the movie started I glanced around the theater and realized I had to be one of the oldest people in the auditorium. The crowd was predominantly high school and college aged people. Not that this would make any difference to me but the fact they seemed disappointed at the end of this poorly done film told me it must have been more horrible than I believed it to be. The story was bits and pieces of other movies and most importantly there was nothing scary about the villain, let alone any of the scenes. With a bare bones script there was nothing to lift the actors up into at least a mediocre level of acting. Maybe the trailers were enticing but this would be a waste of your time in my opinion.
1 ½ stars