Monthly Archives: December 2017
WITHIN OUR DAILY LIVES there may be times where you experience something annoying. The stubbing of a toe, the occasional splinter or the dreaded paper cut; in the scheme of things I would consider these events irritating, nothing life threatening. For me getting stopped at a railroad crossing for a freight train or an ill informed employee waiting on me at a store are big irritants. I know I should not devote energy to negative feelings but it is hard to overcome years of acting this way. It used to be if something irritated me I would allow it to leech out into other feelings, being ticked off while walking around with a dark cloud over my head. I can still remember seeing other people experiencing something annoying and not letting it bother them; you might know, letting it roll off their back. Oh no, that used to not be an option for me. THE REASON I AM mentioning this is because a friend of mine just told me about the type of week they recently had and I noticed something interesting. All within one week his refrigerator broke, the microwave oven he ordered was delivered in the wrong size, his dentist told him he would need a root canal, the home laptop computer crashed and he got stuck in his winter jacket when the zipper broke up by his neck. What I found interesting was his reaction to all of these things; he was only slightly annoyed, laughing off the jacket incident as comical. Separately I sort of can see where each of these things might not illicit s strong negative reaction since they all were completely out of his control. While he was telling me all of this I realized I was getting anxious and annoyed for him. What was that about?! Having multiple annoying occurrences evidently affects me even if they have nothing to do with me. I know it is a process that will take time, to learn about letting go of this “small stuff;” however, when it comes to this drama written and directed by Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine, Café Society) I simply am not capable yet of not being annoyed. WITH MONEY BEING TIGHT and her son randomly starting fires all over the place it took Ginny, played by Kate Winslet (The Mountain Between Us, The Dressmaker), everything she had to keep things together. The surprise visit of her husband’s daughter Carolina, played by Juno Temple (Killer Joe, Maleficent), who was wanted by the mob could be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Including Jim Belushi (Red Heat, According to Jim-TV) as Humpty and Justin Timberlake (The Social Network, Runner Runner) as Mickey, I thought this was Jim’s best performances. His character seemed the most real to me; everyone else seemed more like a caricature. Visually I enjoyed this film with its story being set in Coney Island, but the script was so similar to other stories that I have seen in other movies. For me the story dragged at times and maybe her character was supposed to be irritating but I have to tell you I did not care for Kate’s role; she was annoying to me. Overall I felt this picture was stale; it did not offer anything new as far as I could see. Maybe tomorrow I will get a handle on not allowing myself to get irritated, but for right now this film annoyed me.
1 ¾ stars
THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS used to be such a cut and dry proposition; at least in my mind. During my formative years (they may still be going on presently) when someone made a decision I would carry it out. Whether it was at home or school, this is how I was raised. I cannot recall as a child if I questioned any decisions, though I will say I am sure I interpreted some of them in different ways than they were intended. My sensibilities started to change when that teacher, I have talked about before, told me I would amount to nothing if I pursued a career in writing. It was at that very moment I began questioning authority. The idea of one person, let alone a relative stranger, making a decision that would directly affect me made me extremely uncomfortable and rebellious. What right did this person have to decide what I could and could not do? Not that I would cause a riot or something, but I would question their decision even if it was only an internal dialog in my mind. LOOKING BACK THRU THE eyes of an adult; I now see where some decisions were solely a lucky guess, while others had consequences. Remembering my gym teacher in high school who refused to give me a passing grade, so I would have to repeat the course over; condemned me to another year of abuse even though he was aware of what I went through the first time. The decision by a fitness instructor to let me choreograph an aerobic routine for her started me on a career path in the fitness industry. Now I am very much aware of the magnitude some decisions have not only on me but on society in general. Thinking about one individual deciding on something that has major ramifications on a vast amount of people has to be a scary notion; heck, it should be a terrifying thing. I would not want someone to decide something of importance so cavalierly. The reason I have been thinking about decisions is due to this film festival winning dramatic war film. It is one thing to read about it in history books, but it is totally different to watch the decision process in action. WITH GERMAN FORCES SWEEPING across Europe it was only a matter of time before Germany had Great Britain in its sights. Choices had to be made but which ones would be the right ones? Starring Gary Oldman (The HItman’s Bodyguard, The Space Between Us) as Winston Churchill, Lily James (Cinderella, Baby Driver) as Elizabeth Layton, Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Clementine Churchill, Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom, Rogue One) as King George VI and Stephen Dillane (Spy Game, The Hours) as Viscount Halifax; this film would be an ideal companion piece to the film Dunkirk since they are set in similar times. Gary was outstanding as Winston Churchill; he was the main focus actually of the whole film and script. I understood this however; I felt the script was a bit weak in parts. When Winston was on everything felt right, but in the quieter moments I was left wanting more out of the characters, more in depth interactions between them. Taking the action at face value, I enjoyed the cat and mouse approach to part of the story. Whoever decided Gary was the right choice for the role deserves a pat on the back. I would not necessarily say the same for the script approval, but still the film was worth seeing.
3 ¼ stars
LET ME SHARE WITH you several observations and I will let you be the judge. You are walking down the street and you see an elderly couple walking towards you, who are holding hands. While shopping at a store it is obvious the sales clerk helping you is wearing a toupee; it is easy to spot because it is almost black in color, but the real hair sticking out below is curly grey. At a wedding reception there is a guest who had several alcoholic drinks that caused them to be unsteady. The person kept knocking over glasses and centerpieces every time they stumbled into one of the tables that were around the ballroom. Hanging out with friends at a nightclub you spot a patron on the dance floor who is dancing wildly. Their movements are jerky and off the beat of the music blaring over the loudspeakers. FROM THE EXAMPLES I just wrote about, how did you feel about each one? What was your first thought? In my more judgmental days I would tell you except for the elderly couple I found all the other examples embarrassing. In my earlier years I was extremely opinionated; though today I still have strong opinions, but I just do not force them on other people. Seeing the salesman with the toupee would make me wonder what was wrong with the guy not to notice that the toupee doesn’t even come close to looking like his real remaining hair; why draw attention to the one thing that you are trying to cover? Regarding the dancing at the nightclub, I would question what was wrong with the dancer that they could not hear the beat. But as I told you I was a judgmental person, so I would make these types of opinions. Luckily I came to the realization that my opinions do not matter; it is not about me. If these individuals are enjoying themselves who am I to say something about them. If the toupee wearing salesman feels better wearing his hair piece so be it; it has nothing to do with me. With that being said I have to tell you I could not wrap my brain around why the actors chose to be part of this comedic, action film. HAVING SUCCESSFULLY SETTLED INTO his new identity managing a retirement community Duke, played by Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby, Last Knights), enjoyed being the person in charge and the center of attention. His center was about to be challenged by a new resident who came with his own set of skills that did not go unnoticed. With Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive, No Country for Old Men) as Leo, Rene Russo (The Thomas Crown Affair, Big Trouble) as Suzie, Glenne Headly (Mr. Holland’s Opus, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) as Margarite and Jane Seymour (Somewhere in Time, Live and Let Die) as Delilah; the cast was over qualified for the script. The story was not original which I normally could handle; however, the script was simplistic and not funny. These actors could have been fun to watch if they were provided with a better script. I was bored through most of the film and when I wasn’t I sat there wondering why the actors chose to be part of this picture. Tommy Lee was doing a character he had done before; Rene’s role was weak and Jane Seymour’s character was a stereotype that did not come with anything new. I will not say I was embarrassed for the cast; instead I felt sad that people would be spending money to see these actors in this film.
1 ½ stars
HOW FAIR IS IT when an employee who has inside information acts on it? I do not feel it is right. At a company I used to work at there was an employee who worked in a division that assisted the human resources department. This person was involved in the yearly creation of the company’s calendar that listed which holidays the company would be closed. By the time the calendar was distributed the employee had already picked the most popular days to schedule their vacation time. For example they would always take the day after the company’s scheduled closure for the Christmas holiday. As for the holidays that were celebrated on Mondays, this person would pick either the Friday before or Tuesday after to extend the weekend out. Other employees in the department would get upset and rightfully so in my opinion. Limited on how many employees could schedule time off in one department, no one else got the opportunity to extend their holiday celebration or take an extended weekend vacation. WITH THE ONSET OF instant news I have seen so many examples of individuals or groups of people using the knowledge they were privy to for personal gains. I am willing to bet there is a lot more that goes on that we have not heard about. And I am sure it was taking place way before the internet came into existence. Now I am not one to claim I walk a high moral ground, but I feel people who take advantage of other people solely because of their position are immoral. They may gain in financial ways but as a human being they fall down a couple of rungs on the evolution ladder. There is that old saying, “what goes around comes around” and I would like to believe that is true; however, I am sure there are some people who skate through life untouched by their misdeeds. I can see where believing in karma allows one to let go of the negativity of such actions, knowing the “crooked” individual will face consequences in their lifetime or the next one. If you are curious to see what can happen to a person then may I suggest you see this dramatic crime film. DEDICATED TO HIS PROFESSION as a lawyer Roman J. Israel, played by Denzel Washington (Fences, The Equalizer), uses a piece of information to make a change in his life. It possibly could turn into more of a change than he anticipated. This film festival winner also starred Colin Farrell (The Beguiled, The Lobster) as George Pierce, Carmen Ejogo (Selma, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) Maya Alston and Amanda Warren (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Mother!) as Lynn Jackson. I had trouble connecting with Denzel’s character because I could not figure out if he was shy or socially undeveloped or on the spectrum for autism, despite Denzel doing his best. The script which was written by Dan Gilroy (Kong: Skull Island, Nightcrawler), who also directed this picture; did not help in developing Denzel and some of the other characters. Another thing for me was the lack of explanation on the connections between the characters. I am afraid I became bored with this movie at times. Considering the cast I felt there could have been more drama than the uneven script allowed. Maybe those involved in producing this film had knowledge about the characters, but they did not share it with the viewers.
WHEN A TELEVISION PROGRAM shows graphic scenes of blood, violence or medical procedures I have to avert my eyes. If the setting is make believe then I can handle seeing it; but if it is real or depicted accurately I have a hard time viewing it. Because of this I had to stop watching a particular TV series set in a hospital; the patients’ injuries and the doctors operating were all too real. This may sound weird but the sight of blood does not actually disturb me; it is the open wounds or peeling back body tissue to reveal internal organs that gross me out. Seeing the body broken or damaged is more upsetting to me than just looking at a pool of blood on the floor. Unlike me I have a friend who cannot even look at a bloodspot, for it will cause them to have nightmares. Whether it is an open wound or a drop of blood from a finger prick, they will be haunted by it. I AM USED TO people being squeamish about body functions and injuries, but I do not understand those people who actively seek out such scenes. You may have experienced them for they are the ones who purposely slow down at car accidents to catch a glimpse of the destruction and/or injuries. This infuriates me; for the life of me I do not understand why someone wants to stop and stare at such scenes. Please keep in mind I am not referring to the drivers who slow down for safety reasons; I am talking about the ones who are clear to drive, some in the lanes furthest from the accident, but creep along either staring or snapping photos. Who and why would one want to show pictures of such things? I think I have told you in a previous review about a couple I knew who would listen to the news and if possible would try to drive to the location of an accident just to see what happened. Sorry but this makes no sense to me; it wasn’t like they wanted to offer any help. You have no idea how relieved I was that this Oscar nominated and film festival winning documentary came up with a novel way to tell its story. DURING THE YEARS BETWEEN 1975 and 1979 Cambodia suffered at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Writer and director Rithy Panh (The Land of the Wandering Souls, Paper Cannot Wrap Ember) found a way to tell his story. Narrated by Randal Douc (The Sea Wall, Le Chemin) and Jean-Baptiste Phou (White Soldier, FLA), the use and combination of clay figures and archival footage were both creative and brilliant. I realize some viewers may balk at watching a film with clay figures, but I have to tell you it made this story just as real as if they used actual actors. Doing it this way gave the movie a twinge of unearthliness but yet still told what I felt was an accurate story. I do not know if I could have sat all the way through watching the atrocities that were being done. Though this time period took place over 35 years ago I still felt it was relevant. This is just my opinion but it still seems to happen; when one group of people take over with claims of prosperity and growth, it is only meant for them.
3 ½ stars — DVD
A FIXTURE OF THE establishment for so many years, most people coming in to the place simply look past him. They do not know what an impact he has had on the business over the years, but I do. Unassuming, close to being an introvert, he is politely quiet; he only engages in a conversation if you start it. I have only seen him dressed in neutral colors and if there happened to be a logo on any of his clothing it usually was from one of the local sport teams. Despite his, shall we say meek appearance; when it comes to a life or death situation he becomes a whole different person. Out of everyone who works with him, he has saved the most lives. You could try to argue it is because of his work schedule that he is at work when there are more people coming into the place, but it would not stick because the employees agree he doesn’t waste a second nor second guess himself when an alert is announced over the loudspeakers. TO ME HE IS an unsung hero; he doesn’t look for accolades or monetary gain when racing to save someone’s life. He is not the only unsung hero I know; there are others who have made a difference and are some of the most unassuming individuals you could ever know. In fact I know a couple of unsung heroes who are not even human. There is a person I know who was saved by his dog. He and his family were sleeping one night when an electrical fire started in one of the lower levels of their house. Since they were all upstairs they did not get woken up by the smoke or noise. However the family dog went into action by jumping up on the parents’ bed, barking and pulling at the blanket. All the family members woke up with a start and immediately smelled the thickening smoke from below. Calling 911 they quickly gathered together and made their escape. Who knows what would have happened if their dog had not run into their bedroom to wake them up. If you want to learn more about other non-human unsung heroes then feel free to watch this animated, adventure comedy. WANTING TO DO MORE with his life Bo, voiced by Steven Yeun (I Origins, The Walking Dead-TV), can only think about breaking free of his restraints. Little did he know he would play a part in the very first Christmas. This film festival winner included Keegan-Michael Key (Keanu, Tomorrowland-TV) voicing Dave, Aidy Bryant (Saturday Night Live-TV, Shrink-TV) voicing Ruth, Gina Rodriguez (Deepwater Horizon, Jane the Virgin-TV) as Mary and Zachary Levi (Shades of Ray, Chuck-TV) voicing Joseph. This movie was a mixed bag for me. On the one hand I did not mind the animation or the idea behind the story; however the script kept bouncing back and forth between slapstick, goofy scenes to holier reverent action. I found it odd. On one level I thought the script could have been narrowed in scope to focus on one aspect of the story. In a weird way there were times I felt the writers were disrespectful of the story. Also I got bored in a couple of places. Granted most viewers could easily figure out the ending of the story, but why couldn’t the writers add either more consistency or excitement into the story? I think my telling of the dog that rescued the family would have been a better idea to make a movie about than this picture.
THERE HAS ONLY BEEN a small handful of individuals I have known who had a natural ability to excel in their life’s journey. Things came naturally to these people, where they did not need to be schooled or guided in conquering their dreams/goals. I am sure when you were in school you had at least one student who did not study before an exam and yet would still get a perfect score. From my college days I remember a student in one of my writing classes who had a book and few short stories published before the semester even began. The entire class looked up to this individual. Even outside a school setting I know a young adult who already is displaying an uncanny ability when it comes to electronics. Without any instruction, he wired and set up a burglary alarm system for his family’s home. NOW THERE ARE SOME people who excel at something but they need to work at it. You know that old joke about how does one get to Carnegie Hall and the answer is practice, practice, practice? Some individuals work hard trying to achieve their dreams. Whether it involves mental concentration or physical training, the individuals in this group sacrifice social interactions among other things to reach their goals. I am a firm believer in people attempting to reach their dreams; for it is better to have tried then spend the rest of one’s life wondering what life would have been like if they had at least attempted to reach their goals, in my opinion. I am sure it has crossed some of your minds, especially if you have watched some of those reality shows, that there are some people who should stop trying to be something they will never be. I know what you mean since I have seen a couple of those singing and dancing reality shows where some of the people auditioning show no talent for the task. It would not be fair for me to judge, but see how you feel about the main character trying to reach his dream in this dramatic comedy based on a true story. REFUSING TO ACCEPT THE negative comments about his acting abilities Tommy, played by James Franco (The Interview, Why Him?) not only liked the idea from his friend Greg, played by Dave Franco (Warm Bodies, Now You See Me franchise), he agreed to it; they would make their own movie to star in. This film festival winning picture also starring Seth Rogen (Funny People, Neighbors franchise) as Sandy, Ari Graynor (The Sitter, Mystic River) as Juliette and Alison Brie (Sleeping with Other People, Mad Men-TV) as Amber; was hilarious in parts. I and the audience around me were laughing out loud. The story is so bizarre it took me some time to actually believe this was a true story and not some big satire. Interestingly I was initially annoyed with James’ character, but after awhile I realized he was doing an excellent acting job playing this mysterious, odd character. I also enjoyed the variety of cameo roles that popped up throughout the movie. As I mentioned earlier it took me time to get into the story; I was confused by the script and was getting “antsy” for something to take place. However with James’ directing and the absurd idea behind the story coming to life, I had to applaud the achievements that were on display by the end. It goes to show you, follow your dreams because you never know where they will lead you.
3 1/3 stars