Monthly Archives: August 2017
EXCEPT FOR A couple of friends the rest of the people in the train car were strangers. I knew they were going to the same place we were going based on the various paraphernalia and clothing they had on, besides hearing bits and pieces of multiple conversations taking place around me. By the time we arrived at the stadium there were all kinds of festivities taking place. The atmosphere was giddy and light as everyone was in an excited mood, all having come together for this one big event. Everything went smoothly and the sporting event was a huge success. My ears were still ringing from the sold out crowd’s cheering, along with the fireworks display. I remember it took forever for us to leave the stadium; so many people slowly merging closer together to get through what seemed like the narrowest of passageways. The image of threading a needle came to mind as I looked one last time across the field to see how the fans on the other side were making their way out. I READ IN the newspaper the next day that the event was historic. I looked at the accompanying photo to the article and recalled how much fun I had the night before. It never occurred to me that we were participating in an historical event; we were just there to have a good time. It felt pretty cool to have been part of that event; from now on whenever someone talked about it in the future I could say I was there. This made me think about the circumstances so many of us have that put us in a situation where we can become part of history. Think about our ancestors who left their homes due to war. Some people may only know a relative traveled overseas to start a new life, not aware that family member was affected by an historical event. I am sure some of us were more fortunate in learning the details about their loved one’s experiences than others; I will say it takes on a whole new feeling when the stories become personal, like the one told in this historical, animated drama. THOUGH MORE AND more necessities were becoming scarcer Suzu, voiced by Rena Nounen aka Non (Hot Road, Princess Jellyfish), did her best to keep living a normal life. She had no idea she and her family were going to experience an event that was going to become historic. This film festival winning movie also included Megumi Han (The Garden of Words, Hunter x Hunter-TV) voicing Sumi, Yoshimasa Hosoya (The Anthem of the Heart, Attack on Titan-TV) voicing Shusaku, Natsuki Inaba (Frozen) voicing Harumi and Daisuke Ono (Working!!-TV, Attack on Titan-TV) voicing Akira. It took me a short time to get into the story but once in I was enthralled with the beautiful animation and enjoyed the simplicity of the story. The story unfolded like a roll of fabric, revealing daily life in the midst of wartime Hiroshima. If this picture had been done live I do not think it would have worked as well or at all. Presenting that time frame as an animated movie I believe made it easier to tell the story. Let us face it most of us have seen or experienced deadly conflicts; through this movie the viewer was aware of the situation in a subtler way. This well thought out film was a memorable movie watching experience for me. Two versions of this film are being shown; one spoken in Japanese with English subtitles, the other dubbed in English.
3 1/2 stars
BLOOD IS THICKER than water they say but that is not always the case. For those of you not familiar with this saying, it means relationships within a family are the strongest and most important ones. I have seen examples that both prove and disprove this sentiment. Currently the news in my area has been following a story about a father and son. The dad needs a kidney transplant, having suffered with kidney disease for some years. It turns out the son was a perfect match and immediately agreed to donate one of his kidneys to his dad. They both went on an exercise and diet regiment to get themselves into better shape before the surgery. While this is a positive example, I recently read an article in the newspaper about a grandson shooting his grandmother to death and making it look like a burglary. He did it so he could collect the insurance money. THERE ARE FAMILIES who are close-knit, spending most of their free time with each other. They take vacations together, go to special events, pickup groceries for each other and watch each other’s children when the need arises. I know one family where none of the siblings has a non-related friend, as far as I can tell. I am talking no school or neighborhood friends; they are only friends with each other. To me it is somewhat odd; maybe because when I would meet potential dates, one of my red flags would pop up if they never mentioned anything about their friends. If they did not say something I would work the conversation to the topic of friendship to find out if they actually had any people in their life they could call a friend. Now do not get me wrong I have nothing against siblings being best friends. There are 2 sisters I know who are inseparable; they so enjoy each other’s company and do everything together, but nothing like what was in this movie. I was surprised watching what the main character was willing to do for his sibling in this dramatic, crime thriller. CONNIE NIKAS, played by Robert Pattinson (The Twilight Saga franchise, Remember Me), had to stay a step ahead of his pursuers if he wanted any chance of reuniting with his mentally challenged brother. This film festival winner will finally put to rest any lingering memories of Robert playing Edward in the Twilight series. He was outstanding in this movie. Along with Jennifer Jason Leigh (Road to Perdition, The Hateful Eight) as Corey Ellman, Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips, Eye in the Sky) as Dash the park security guard, newcomer Taliah Webster as Crystal and director Benny Safdie (Person to Person, Yeast) as Nick Nikas; the whole cast was excellent in this fast paced film. Robert was the main focus and the script literally put him through his paces. Some of the scenes were less plausible than others, but watching Robert’s desperation was riveting. There were at least several scenes that could have easily been plucked out of the news, but seeing them on a more personal level made them more intense in my opinion. In fact the whole feel of this picture did not come across as a Hollywood production. I have to say the story in this exciting film shines a whole different light on brotherly love. There were several scenes that had blood and violence in them.
3 ½ stars
ANGER IS SOMETHING that you are told you should not get or show. As far as I can tell most people give anger a negative connotation. From years ago I can still remember people telling me either not to get angry or saying it is not nice to be angry. I vaguely remember someone telling me “instead of getting angry, get even.” Back then I did not have enough self awareness to deal with anger or express it properly. What I did learn about anger, it was a valid emotion like any of the others. I would never encourage anyone to hold in their anger because when it is held inside it can build up and come out with more force than the occasion calls for. Also bottled up anger can physically and mentally do nasty things to one’s body. IF HANDLED PROPERLY anger can be used like a high octane fuel to motivate an individual to overcome a challenge. Personally if I had not funneled my anger and put it to constructive use I believe I would have self destructed. Anger helped me lose weight and it also got me to remove toxic people from my life. Trust me it was not an easy process and I do not want to make it sound like it was no big deal; but after being picked on for such a long time, I started to redirect the self-destructive side of anger towards more positive uses. I started taking steps to build myself up, internally and externally. When I think about it I do not know if I would have returned to putting pen to paper if I did not get in touch with my deep seated anger. An interesting thing to note, in situations where I thought someone intentionally wanted to hurt me I would lash out at them. Dealing with anger allowed me to get clarity about a situation and instead of getting angry I could express how my feelings were hurt. I have to say the main character in this dramatic, film festival winning movie does an amazing job of expressing her feelings. TIRED OF BEING made fun of and living with her alcoholic mother Patricia Dombrowski aka Killa P aka Patti Cake$, played by Danielle Macdonald (The East, Every Secret Thing), wanted to get out of New Jersey. With all the feelings she had been putting down to paper, she wanted to use them and become the next rap superstar. With Bridget Everett (Trainwreck, Inside Amy Schumer-TV) as Barb, Cathy Moriarty (Raging Bull, Analyze That) as Nana and McCaul Lombardi (American Honey, Age of the Moon) as Danny; the cast was excellent in their roles. It was especially terrific seeing Cathy in her role. The first thing I have to tell you is I am not a fan of rap music; however, the music for this film was so intoxicating I would consider buying the soundtrack. Danielle was unbelievable both with her acting and rapping. The theme to this story was a familiar one that has been done before; however, there was a pure rawness to this one. I will say there were a few scenes that came across as odd but I discovered afterwards the director had done the videos for a couple of music artists, which then explained the fantasy feel in some scenes. There were no major surprises in the script; I had a feeling on how things would play out. As you might imagine I could relate to Patricia and admired her strength.
IF AN OBSTACLE stops you reaching for your dream, then maybe that dream was not meant to be. If you are willing to give up easily then I do not think your heart was really into it. Imagine if scientists/inventors had given up on their projects after the first defeat. Look at the microwave oven; it came about after a scientist was experimenting with a new vacuum tube and the candy bar in his pocket started to melt. The potato chip came about in the 1850s because a chef got angry at a customer always complaining about the potatoes being served. Figuring he would teach the customer a lesson the chef sliced the potatoes thinner, fried them then covered them in salt; that is how potato chips were born. Dreams are an essential part of us being human; I know if I stopped pursuing my dreams my life would have turned out drastically different. WHEN I FAILED the practical portion of the certification process to teach fitness I got depressed. In my head I was hearing all those old tapes that were telling me I was not good enough and I was stupid for trying to be something I was not. I even heard my elementary school teacher telling me I would amount to nothing. It is interesting because those comments made to me years ago became my fuel to push myself to work harder for my dreams. I have always had the hardest time when it came to me trying to be spontaneous, so I knew that practical portion was going to be a challenge; however, I did not give up. I forced myself to practice in front of a mirror first, then friends; afterwards, I signed up again for testing and passed. Sure I was nervous standing up in front of a group of strangers, but I knew I could do it and more importantly knew I wanted to do it. Having taught now for over 20 years I know it was worth fighting back to reach my dream based on the amount of pleasure and satisfaction my job gives me every day. This is why I was hoping the main character in this animated, adventure comedy would reach her dream. IF FELICIE, VOICED by Elle Fanning (The Beguiled, 20th Century Woman), could find a way out of the orphanage she knew she had to make her way to Paris, because it was there she could follow her dream to become a great dancer. Her friend Victor, voiced by Dane DeHaan (A Cure for Wellness, Kill Your Darlings), would find a way out. Having a fondness for dance and a dream once of being a go-go dancer, I was looking forward to seeing this movie. The idea to this story was admirable; I liked the way the writers showed one should never give up on a dream. With Carly Ray Jepsen (Grease-TV movie) voicing Odette, Kate McKinnon (Rough Night, Office Christmas Party) voicing multiple characters and Tamir Kapelian (A Broken Code) voicing Rudolph; the actors’ voices were well suited for their characters. The animation was okay, nothing really stood out as special however. My issue with this film was the odd assortment of song choices, along with the timeline confusion regarding certain events. I did not think there was much humor in the script; plus I found a thread of laziness in the entire production process. This story could have been more original instead of appearing to be a Cinderella knockoff. There was a good message in the story but the script did not dream big enough.
“THAT IS THE way it has always been done,” is a response that I have had a love/hate relationship with for a majority of my life. On one hand I am of the mindset “if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.” In other words if things are working fine then do not make any changes. Having lived this way for a long period of time, I am challenged when it comes to making changes. Since I am not a spontaneous type of person, you can imagine how stressful it is for me when my routine is altered. But on the other hand, there have been times in my adult life where I survived a change and found out it made an improvement. One example would be changing from using multiple charge cards for making various purchases to only using one card; I saved time by only having to pay one bill a month instead of several. So I am aware some change is good. AN AREA WHERE change comes slowly is religion. Not that I am an expert by any means but I have seen where some traditions have been updated. I am referring to both the religion I was born into along with other ones I have been exposed to via friends and family. There are some traditions that I admit seem odd to me. Maybe in a different time they made sense but to my sensibilities they appear to have little relevance to the current world. I remember a time where only males led a service; the first time I saw a female do it, I recall how some in the congregation were, shall we say, uncomfortable. Personally I did not think it was a big deal since I always felt everyone had the right to communicate to a higher power the way they saw fit. I do not believe one person has an inside track to their God’s ear. It can be a struggle for some people; it was obvious in this dramatic film festival winning movie. LIVING IN AN ultra-orthodox community in Brooklyn widower Menashe, played by newcomer Menashe Lustig, was being told he could not raise his son Fischel, played by Yoel Falkowitz (The Hudson Tribes), without a mother. Menashe wanted to prove them wrong. With newcomers Ruben Niborski, Meyer Schwartz and Yael Weisshaus, this picture at times seemed more like a documentary than a fictional story. The emotions portrayed by the cast came across as real, with several touching scenes throughout the movie. Some viewers may be totally unfamiliar with what is being portrayed on screen; I do not think it will have an impact on following the story. Speaking of the story, I found this one interesting as it touched on religious beliefs, parenting, family and childrearing. I could see it easily becoming a topic of conversation for viewers afterward. My issue with the script was the lack of dramatic variance. It felt like the scenes remained in a certain pocket of intensity. At one point I was losing interest because it seemed as if the same scenario was repeating itself. Because I enjoy getting exposed to different religious traditions, I still had a curiosity about the unfolding story. Yiddish was spoken with English subtitles.
2 ¾ stars
SLIGHTLY BELOW AVERAGE height, you would not associate them with unusual let alone average strength. Bespectacled and unassuming, the couple easily blends into a crowd of people without any effort. As they say “looks can be deceiving” and with this couple no truer words have been spoken. For all of their quiet, mild mannered appearances no one would ever guess they both were experts in the martial arts. The only way one would even know that about them would be if you saw them mentoring the students in their classes. Dressed in their off white colored short pants and jacket with a black belt tightly tied around the waist, the two of them periodically demonstrate defensive movements. The speed of their punches and kicks nearly defies nature; they are precise and quick. For some people who would have such skills, they would telegraph it via their enlarged confidence and mannerisms; but for this tiny duo, they conduct their daily life with a sense of peace and calmness. I AM ALWAYS amazed by the amount of people who make assumptions about other people based solely on their outer appearances. And it seems like more and more people are doing that these days. I do not know if it has anything to do with our society’s desire for instant gratification that causes people to make snap judgments; but it seems as if less people want to take the time to learn about another person. It still amuses me to this day when someone finds out what I do for a living and activity. Either they think I am too nice to do one job or not buff enough to do the other job. Think about it; imagine someone freely telling you, you do not look fit enough to teach fitness. I do not believe this would fall into the compliment category; it does not bother me, I find it amusing and rather enjoy seeing the confusing looks given to me. To see what I mean feel free to check out this comedic crime drama directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven franchise, Traffic). AFTER LOSING HIS job Jimmy Logan, played by Channing Tatum (Magic Mike franchise, Jupiter Ascending), hashed out a plan to make his life easier and richer. He would just need help from strangers to pull it off. With Adam Driver (Silence, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Clyde Logan, Daniel Craig (Defiance, Cowboys & Aliens) as Joe Bang, Katie Holmes (Batman Begins, Phone Booth) as Bobbie Jo Chapman and Riley Keough (American Honey, We Don’t Belong Here) as Mellie Logan; the cast overall was fine in this film, though Daniel Craig was the stand out performer for me. His character was so different from what most of us “assume” him to be. I enjoyed the mix of characters in this story along with the side by side story lines; however, I have to tell you I was underwhelmed by this picture. With the buzz about Steven coming out of retirement and the favorable reviews I saw afterwards, I was left with a feeling of light amusement and enjoyment. For some reason the movie came across in a monotone way, without deep emotions attached to it. Some additional background information would have been helpful, but still I just felt I was watching a series of vignettes. It wasn’t like I assumed I was seeing a laugh out comedy or intense drama; I just thought, “Isn’t that a surprise.”
2 ¾ stars
WE HAD BEEN friends for several years. Through that time we had gotten closer, each of us did not use a filter when talking about personal stuff. Our friendship was evolving, though it took a big adjustment when she started dating someone who quickly became her main focus. I was not the only one who noticed the shift; our mutual group of friends noticed her dating relationship was turning serious. As with any relationship time spent with friends took place with less frequency; it was understandable as we all knew time was needed to lay the groundwork to establish a strong bond between the couple. After a few years our friend became engaged and the two of them began laying out plans to begin their life together as a married couple. AFTER THEY WERE married they planted roots in a suburb not too far away from all of us; however, spending time together with them took place less and less often. As the years progressed I started to lose contact with a few of the friends since I moved to a different location. However I was still privy to news through the “grapevine.” I do not remember exactly how it came down, but at some point I heard derogatory remarks were made about me by this married friend. My feelings were hurt and I became angry to the point where I did not what to have any interaction with this couple. Now in hindsight I did not know if they actually meant what was told to me or if they really even said such a thing. Because I was angry I did not care; as far as I was concerned I did not want to have any part of them. This was the way I handled things in the past when I got angry. Long story short, this couple opened up a store that a couple of my friends told me was doing a thriving business. I did not care since I planned never to step foot into their place. After seeing this action comedy I did wonder if I made the right decision. AS A TOP bodyguard Michael Bryce, played by Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, Woman in Gold), had to deal with all kinds of clients. Having fallen on hard times he never imagined he would have to protect the man who tried to kill him. Also starring Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight, Kong: Skull Island) as Darius Kincaid, Gary Oldman (The Space Between Us, The Dark Knight franchise) as Vladislav Dukhovich, Elodie Yung (Gods of Egypt, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Amelia Roussel and Salma Hayek (Beatriz at Dinner, Some Kind of Beautiful) as Sonia Kincaid; the story for this film was decent enough and the cast did a good job of handling the script. Ryan’s character was a light version of his Deadpool one in my opinion. As for Samuel L. Jackson this was one of his typical performances; however, for this character it worked. The highlight for me was Salma Hayek, she was the surprise with what the writers had given her to say. Truthfully there really was nothing special about this picture; there were many scenes with blood and violence. The story was not unique and for the most part it was predictable. At one point I felt like I was just watching a string of nonsensical scenes. I wondered at the end of the movie if I had made the right decision to use my free movie pass for this film. There was one outtake scene in the middle of the credits.
IT WAS THE PHOTOGRAPH along with its headline in the newspaper that caught my eye. The old black and white photo was of a man sitting next to a stuffed animal. I recognized the animal as a cartoon character and began reading what turned out to be the man’s obituary. He had provided the voice for this character in all the cartoons, which was one of my favorite cartoon shows when I was younger. After having read that obituary I started making a point of glancing at the obituary columns whenever I read the newspaper. Discovering someone who was unfamiliar to me yet through their occupation or creation had an effect on my life was something I always found fascinating. I enjoyed reading about that person’s life, looking for any clues on what was the catalyst for the individual to steer to a particular profession or come up with their invention/creation. AFTER A SHORT length of time reading different obituaries, I started to notice how those individuals with some type of prestige or prominence got “top billing” in the layout of the death notices. This started me thinking about the finality of death and no matter how much money or notoriety a person acquired, when the time came for their death, they would die the same way as those less fortunate. From my discovery about the obituaries I started to notice a similar bias in news reporting. If a person of some stature was the victim of any type of crime the reports would spend more time to follow the person who killed them and keep the public updated on any and every detail. However if the individual was “average” or disenfranchised, then they barely received a mention in the news. There was something about this that did not sit well with me. In my opinion everyone has the right to die with dignity. Sometimes the newscasts would show the spot where a poor or homeless person was found dead and it was utterly sad to see. But was there an outcry by anyone or plans in place to avoid something like that ever happening again? This is why I loved the determination shown in this action, crime mystery. AFTER A NATIVE AMERICAN, barefooted woman was found dead in the snow Cory Lambert, played by Jeremy Renner (Arrival, The Avengers franchise), made a promise he would do his best to find out what happened to the young woman. With Elizabeth Olsen (Godzilla, Captain America franchise) as Jane Banner, Graham Greene (The Green Mile, Dances with Wolves) as Ben, Kelsey Asbille (Run, The Amazing Spider-Man) as Natalie and Julia Jones (The Twilight Saga franchise, Jonah Hex) as Wilma; the acting in this chilling setting was outstanding. Jeremy and Elizabeth were especially wonderful, each brought life to the well done script. This film festival winner may not have had a fast pace, but the simple settings and landscapes added a layer of despair throughout the picture that added to the mystery. In its own way I felt the story brought to light a subject that may not be familiar to most people. I did appreciate how the writers avoided the typical “Hollywood” ending, yet did not turn the story into a major downer. I could not leave my seat right away because I was thinking about what the world would be like if everyone had respect for each other.
3 ½ stars
THE ONLY PEOPLE who were embarrassed by the couple’s accents were their children. To everyone else the mother and father talked that way because they were European. As far as I knew there was no derogatory intent by saying someone was European, Asian or by some other region of the world. For me I was intrigued with the fact that a friend would have a living relative from a different country; since most of mine had come to the United States either at birth or were dead by the time I was born. Some of the children were able to speak to their parents in their native tongue but they only wanted to do so when no one else was around. It is funny though; by the time these kids reached the grade levels were a foreign language was required in school, they usually got top grades. I would be lying if I did not say I was a bit envious since I struggled with the language I chose to learn. THERE COMES AN age in a child’s life where I think it is natural for them to feel embarrassed at times by their parents’ actions. I think it is just a generational thing, like styles of clothing or genres of music. Each generation wants to own something unique to them that was not from their parents’ generation. Hanging out at a friend’s house, it was not unusual for a parent to come check on us. However, some parents would ask questions or try to fit into our conversation. At this point the parent’s child would do or say something to try to get their parent to leave. I remember one parent who would come into the basement where we were listening to music and try to dance to it. This always produced a groan from their son or daughter. In the scheme of things, compared to what was shown in this dramatic film based on a true story, dancing around would be the very least thing to be embarrassed about. GROWING UP IN a constant state of change and disarray had effected the children of Rex and Rose Mary, played by Woody Harrelson (War for the Planets of the Apes, Wilson) and Naomi Watts (The Book of Henry, Demolition), in ways that would last for a lifetime. This biographical film also starred Brie Larson (Free Fire, Room) as Jeannette, Ella Anderson (The Boss, Mother’s Day) as a young Jeanette and Max Greenfield (The Big Short, New Girl-TV) as David. The story was so bizarre to me that I wondered if the scenes I was seeing really happened in the life of this family. I thought the acting was wonderful, especially from Woody and Brie. At first I was not too crazy about the jumping back and forth in time method, but realized at some point it made better sense to tell the story that way. It emphasized the way the adult versions were acting in their scenes. The issue I had with this picture was the latter part; it seemed as if things were tied up in a quick and easy way. Having not read the book, it just came across as not having the realness of the other parts of the story. I almost want to say it was being painted with a happier ending just to please the movie goers. The book I am willing to bet is more intense than this film. Not that anyone needs to be embarrassed with the final product here; the story still is unbelievable and in my opinion sets a different standard for defining a dysfunctional family.
2 ¾ stars