Monthly Archives: January 2018
MOST EVERYONE I KNOW has/had one favorite relative they have enjoyed being with the most. For some it was/is a grandparent or an aunt/uncle. I remember the feelings I would get when walking into one of my closest relative’s home. There was a settled in feeling to the place, if that makes any sense. You know those types of homes you visit where you are afraid to sit on the furniture or eat in a room because everything is in place, looking spic and span clean. Possibly some homes might even have furniture that has a plastic or cloth cover over it. Does anyone remember what it was like to sit on plastic covers on a warm summer day? The answer was sticky. That was nothing like my relative’s home. Their place had furniture with deflated cushions on the sofa and chairs as if they were tired from holding up the bottoms of people for so many years. There were a variety of knick-knacks placed around the rooms, from framed photos to small ceramic pieces shaped into animals and dancers. And for me my favorite part was the kitchen because it always provided me with recently baked cookies, pies or cakes. AS FOR THIS RELATIVE they had an all encompassing hug that made me feel safe. After receiving one of their big hugs they would lightly pinch one of my bulbous cheeks as a warm, pure smile spread across their face. I cannot recall ever not getting greeted that way any time I went to visit their home. Because of their disposition and maybe rank in the family, their home was always a safe haven for all the relatives; there never was a fight or disagreement inside their home. I guess the best way to describe it would be to say it was a peaceful place always filled with the smells of something cooking in the kitchen. Though there were few modern devices or appliances, you never felt like you were missing out on something. I can remember bringing my friends there one time and watching them enjoy this one particular cookie that was my favorite. So it wasn’t just me I realized; everyone who met my relative always left with feeling the same way: comforted, safe and joyful. I got to experience these feelings once again while watching this charming, adventure comedy. SEARCHING FOR A BIRTHDAY gift for his aunt Paddington, voiced by Ben Whishaw (The Lobster, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer), found the perfect gift at Mr. Gruber’s, played by Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady, Gangs of New York), shop. But while Paddington was saving up to buy the item it was stolen and the evidence pointed to Paddington. With Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water, Maudie) as Mary Brown, Hugh Bonneville (Notting Hill, Downton Abbey-TV) as Henry Brown and Hugh Grant (Cloud Atlas, About a Boy) as Phoenix Buchanan; this was such an entertaining movie that caused me to have a smile on my face and warmth in my heart. The story evoked feelings of excitement, joy, sadness and comfort; I actually enjoyed this sequel more than the first film. Sure some of the humor was predictable and corny, but it did not bother me; it only added an old fashioned sweetness to the story. For those who want a film to take the whole family to, from child to adult, this would be the one to go see. After viewing this picture I wished I was friends with Paddington. Oh, and do stay for the beginning credits to see a fun scene.
3 ½ stars
I BELIEVE IT IS SAFE to say all of us at one time or another will have to do something we do not want to do. Though I am not a fan of this word I would almost venture to say “something we hate to do.” There are some things that one does not like but has to do such as pay taxes, clean house, shovel snow and so on. My major dislike falls under home and car repairs; I am not handy and have a hard time dealing with repair people. However I know necessity overcomes distasteful, uncomfortable situations. Remembering my elementary school years, I can honestly say I always hated going to our 1st PE class after the summer break. Every year the gym teachers would use this day to weigh each student. Getting on the scale in front of the whole class was bad enough, but then to have the instructor loudly call out each weight to the student they picked to record it was humiliating. There was always snickers and giggles from several classmates when the weight was high. HATE TOOK ON A WHOLE different meaning the more I studied history. Where my dislike was more of an abstract type, like a procedure or function, the hatred I was seeing among human beings was ugly to me. To dislike or distrust someone because of their looks or differences was hard for me to comprehend. One of the things I noticed about hatred was its ability to draw in multiple individuals like a magnet, without them even questioning the validity of their new found hatred. In a warped way it evokes feelings concerning being left out if you know what I mean. It is a fear some people have where they are afraid they will be missing something or not be part of a group, which makes them act without thinking about what they are doing. I guess what I am trying to say is there are people who hate for hate’s sake. From my own experiences, I have seen two people hate each other for so long that they cannot remember why they started to hate each other in the first place; that is how blind and undiscriminating hate can be. If you are interested in seeing an example of what I am talking about then do see this film festival winning dramatic, adventure western. FORCED AGAINST HIS WILL Captain Joseph J. Blocker, played by Christian Bale (The Big Short, Out of the Furnace), was ordered to accompany and protect Chief Yellow Hawk, played by Wes Studi (Heat, The Last of the Mohicans), on his journey back to his homeland. Captain Blocker would rather have seen the chief dead. Set in the 1890s this film included actors Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, A United Kingdom) as Rosalie Quaid, Ben Foster (Hell or High Water, The Messenger)) as Sgt. Charles Wills and Scott Shepherd (Bridge of Spies, Side Effects) as Wesley Quaid. Watching this picture was akin to reading a book; it told a story from beginning to end. With incredible acting from Rosamund and Christian, these two elevated the sometimes uneven script. Beautifully filmed I found the story as relevant today as it was back then. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the script unfolded, never getting cheesy or preachy. There were times where the multiple silent scenes seemed to drag out the story longer than it needed to be; however, I felt the story carried some importance to it. In my opinion I cannot imagine someone hating this well acted, beautifully filmed picture.
I WAS SYMPATHITIC TO the sisters’ plight. Each from the same mother had been adopted at birth; raised by their adoptive parents in the same home and yet they were nothing alike, except in appearance. Where daylight is different to nighttime, so were the sisters in temperament, personality and mannerisms among other traits. As the two girls grew older they found something in common; this was a rarity in itself. They each became curious about who were their birth parents. Having matured with more self-awareness, the sisters felt this need to seek out their birth parents; if not in person, at least hopefully to get medical and health backgrounds on both. You see one sister had health issues besides having an addictive personality; the other one had a different type of health issue regarding a disease. I could only imagine what was going through their minds having to deal with adult issues without having any family history about them. I know when I go to the dermatologist he always asks me about my parents’ health history when looking at something on my skin. I am sure if I were to tell him my parents had the same thing, he would act more cautiously in his assessment. If the sisters’ were in the same position I am sure it would be upsetting if they had to tell the doctor they did not know. PULLING OUT THE GENES from the family gene pool is at best a crapshoot. Just like the two sisters I mentioned, I find the whole genetic aspect to humans fascinating. One thing that intrigues me is how one family’s children all look like one of their parents, while another family has children that look like they were conceived by completely different parents. Now what do you think about a family who has both birth and adopted children, where they all share common characteristics? There is a current popular television show that has this very same scenario and I find myself getting drawn more and more into their stories. I have said this before: babies come into this world with a blank slate; they do not know about hate or prejudice, they learn it. With that in mind I can understand why many children are curious or not interested to know the individuals responsible for bringing them into this world. That feeling was quite evident in this comedic movie. TWIN BROTHERS KYLE AND PETER Reynolds, played by Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers, No Escape) and Ed Helms (Vacation, The Office-TV), were stunned that their mother Helen, played by Glenn Close (Air Force One, 101 Dalmatians franchise), kept a secret from them about their father for all these years. The only thing the brothers wanted to do was find their birth father. Among the celebrity cast, this film had J.K. Simmons (The Bachelors, Whiplash) as Roland Hunt and Katt Williams (Norbit, Scary Movie 5) as the hitchhiker. I was surprised with such a prominent group of actors that the movie studio approved such a dismal script. The story may have sounded fun but I am here to tell you there was little fun in this picture. Between slapstick humor to touching brotherly love I could not tell what the writers wanted to create, a heartwarming story or a funny road trip one. It was embarrassing to see some of the actors in this mess; though I enjoyed J.K. Simmons’ part. As for Owen he was a generic version of himself; it was the same thing I have seen before. Sadly I had no sympathy for the brothers or the story in this movie.
1 ½ stars
IT APPEARS TO ME when people are reaching a certain age they start going through their home to get rid of stuff. I have recently noticed this due to a few friends, who started doing this very thing recently. They are rummaging through their closets, drawers and basements pulling out a variety of items, from unused tools to shoes that were never taken out of their original packaging. I know this because they are sending me photos showing their stuff piled up, waiting to be donated, recycled or thrown away. In fact a friend of mine who runs an antique/thrift shop was telling me how the store has always gotten items from estate sales or people who are clearing out the homes of their deceased relatives. However now he noticed more and more people are bringing in their own items, telling him they no longer need it or they are downsizing. WHEN THE TIME COMES for me to reorganize my house I know I will have a lot of items to donate or give away. Like so many people I am an acquirer (a kinder way of saying I like to shop). There was a period of time where I bought into the mindset that the person with the most stuff wins. Because I have the space when I bought, let us say, a new pair of pants or shoes, I did not bother getting rid of a similar item from my closet. I think I do this because I have this constant thought that at some point in time I will need that item for whatever reason. Slacks that are too big for me hang in the attic in case I put on weight or have a dinner guest that spills on their pants and needs to wear something while their stained slacks are in the wash. Maybe a better way of explaining this desire for stuff is to look at the way electronic items and children’s toys are marketed these days. Now when a new thing comes out it suddenly becomes a big event, drawing in and making people believe they would be better off with the new item. Need takes a back seat to desire. Let us face it, who wants to feel like they are being left behind as everyone else is jumping on the shopping bandwagon for new stuff. This film festival winning dramatic comedy has something to say about it. FINDING IT HARDER TO make ends meet Audrey and Paul Safranek, played by Kristen Wiig (Ghostbusters, Masterminds) and Matt Damon (The Martian, The Great Wall), agree to become part of the new trend of downsizing oneself to 5” tall and live like a millionaire. However being small doesn’t mean one will have smaller issues to deal with. With Christoph Waltz (Tulip Fever, Big Eyes) as Dusan Mirkovic, Hong Chau (Inherent Vice, Treme-TV) as Ngoc Lan Tran and Rolf Lassgard (A Man Called Ove, After the Wedding) as Dr. Jorgen Asbjornsen; this story caught my attention right from the start. The first part was both fun and curious; but then other story lines came in and none of them ever became fully developed for me. I found it an odd mix that made me lose interest, though I enjoyed the visual contrasts. The story presented was a social satire that could have led to some interesting conversation afterwards, but instead what was in my head was clutter I wanted to clear out.
IN THEORY I THOUGHT my idea would work. With the variety of items I needed to purchase as gifts for the holidays, I thought it made sense to go to one of those massive shopping centers. There was one within driving distance from my house; so picking a cloudy day, I drove out to the shopping center only to discover there were a lot of other people who had the same idea as mine. After some time driving up and down the aisles of parked cars, I found a space in the outer reaches or a better description would be, in the frozen tundra. Making my way to the indoor shopping center, I had a loose game plan on how I should navigate through the maze of stores that were on multiple levels. Once inside the warmth in temperature greeted me like a long lost relative. WITH MY MENTAL LIST of people who I needed to buy gifts for in my head, I maneuvered into the continuous stream of shoppers ahead of me. I felt like a worker ant falling into step. Almost every store I passed had some kind of sign stating a sale; with the amount of people everywhere one would have thought the stores were giving away stuff for dirt cheap. I went into one store and navigated my way to the department where I had to buy 1 of the needed gifts. Surprisingly the whole process was relatively painless, so I was able to move on to the next item rather quickly. However my luck quickly ran out at the next place. This store had unique items that were made exclusively for them and unfortunately they did not have in stock the one item I needed. Moving on I made my way to another store on a different level, hoping I could regain my shopping mojo. Sadly it was another strikeout; they had what I needed but not in the right color. When I left that store I had to stop for a moment to reorganize my list, thinking of other items I could get to replace what I initially wanted to buy as gifts. Not sure what I needed I found myself aimlessly wandering in and out of a bunch of stores, getting propelled forward by the ever present stream of shuffling shoppers. I soon came to the realization I had no idea where I was going or why I was there. Lo and behold I felt the same way about this latest installment of this horror mystery franchise. ELISE RAINIER, PLAYED BY Lin Shaye (There’s Something About Mary, Dead End), was used to hearing and seeing spirits. But she wasn’t prepared for what was waiting for her at the home she grew up in. With Leigh Whannell (Saw franchise, Cooties) as Specs, Angus Sampson (Winchester, Mad Max: Fury Road) as Tucker, Kirk Acevedo (The Thin Red Line, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) as Ted Garza and Josh Stewart (The Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar) as Gerald Rainier; I could not tell you where this thriller fits into the time frame for the entire series. There were a few spooky scenes but out of the 4 films, this one was the least suspenseful. However I can tell you the humor on display was a relief since it forced the viewer to have some kind of an emotional response. I felt the script was listless and uninspiring; I did not feel a connection to any of the characters, though I liked Lin’s performance. Maybe it is time for the movie studio to regift this franchise and get it out of their hands.
1 ¾ stars
IT WAS THE FIRST time I was invited to such an event and it would be my last. I was invited to an ice skating birthday party many years ago. The party was being held at an indoor ice skating rink that had a party room that my friend’s parents decorated with balloons and signs. I had never gone ice skating before so I was excited to try it out. After lacing up the skates, on wobbly legs I made my way to the rink, grabbing any solid object for balance on my way. Stepping on the ice I remained at the side with my hand on the short wall that surrounded the rink. I had seen ice skaters on TV and thought it was easy to stand on a thin steel blade but I was wrong. Every time I let go of the wall and tried to skate I fell down. I do not think I ever made it around the rink once without my skates slipping out from underneath me, either falling face first on the ice or on my backside. THOUGH THERE WAS STILL time to skate before we were having cake, I got off the ice and sat on a bench where there was carpeting. I would not say I was sad, maybe frustrated; since there were people on the ice who made it look effortless. There were a few individuals who would skate face forward then suddenly do a hop so they could skate going backwards. I still remember one girl who was given a wide space around her because she was doing these incredible fast spins, where she simply looked like a blur or did spinning jumps in the air that captivated me. These few people almost looked like the skaters I would watch at the Olympics and other ice skating competitions. Sitting there looking at my discarded skates, I wondered if it was possible to get a second blade on each boot. I just felt if I had more blades to balance on I could make my way around the rink. And do you know what the funny part is to this story? I remember seeing Tonya Harding on television when she did something that no other female skater had done before and no one I saw at that rink was like her. FROM A YOUNG AGE Tonya, played by Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, The Wolf of Wall Street), stood out from the other ice skaters; her mother LaVona Golden, played by Allison Janney (Hairspray, The Hours), stood out even more. Based on true events this film festival winning, biographical drama has to be seen to be believed. Allison was totally outrageous in the role and I see award nominations piling up for her. Margot was a perfect fit for this character; it was a smart choice on her part that will make her even more bankable as they say. With Sebastian Stan (Captain America franchise, The Covenant) as Jeff Gillooly, Paul Walter Hauser (Kingdom-TV, Super Troopers 2) as Shawn and Julianne Nicholson (Black Mass, August: Osage County) as Diane Rawlinson; I cannot remember how long it has been since I sat in a movie theater laughing out loud. The script beautifully blended outrageous moments with tragic undertones. The story when it happened was so bizarre to begin with, I enjoyed seeing the behind the scenes stuff in this movie even if it was not true. One thing I knew for certain was the judgmental views officials had about Tonya. No matter which way one chooses to view Tonya in this picture, the fact remains she did something astounding. You will have to decide what it was she did.
3 ½ stars
THE FIRST TIME I traveled to Las Vegas my friends explained what I needed to do to play Blackjack. I already knew how to play but I was not familiar with the non-verbal communication between dealer and player. There were hand signals I needed to know; such as a quick drag of two fingers towards me on the felted playing board meant I wanted another card or moving my hand above my cards in a horizontal way meant no more cards. What they did not tell me was how fast the game would go once I was seated. When I flew out and got settled into my hotel room I went downstairs into the casino, confident I would remember all the different signs I was taught. I had $30.00 worth of chips (yeah, I am a big spender) and stacked them in front of me like everyone else did at the blackjack table; I did not want them to know I was a newbie, though I am sure it showed on me. In approximately 6 minutes I lost all of my chips. EVER SINCE THAT TIME I have never gambled again at any of the tables in Las Vegas. That feeling of giving my money to a business and not getting anything in return was one I never wanted to feel again. Sure there are some people who are lucky or even skilled that walk away with more money than what they started with, but I am not one of those individuals. It is funny because I knew several people who more times than not came home with extra money no matter the venue. Now I will tell you I enjoy watching the people in Las Vegas gamble because it is fascinating to see how much money goes into play at some of the tables. I stand there and try to figure out what these people do for a living, where they can make $1000.00+ bets. The other aspect that intrigues me is the camaraderie that forms between some of the players. I am not familiar with which game it is, but there is one where all the people sitting at the table are rooting for one particular player. Everyone cheers depending on what that player did and you would swear these people have no care in the world. It is a foreign concept to me and despite my lack of knowledge I was captivated by this biographical drama. FROM A RANDOM NON-DESCRIPT job former Olympic class skier Molly Bloom, played by Jessica Chastain (The Zookeeper’s Wife, Crimson Peak), took a chance in hopes it would pay off big. The game was poker and she was determined to come out on top. Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, The West Wing-TV) I thought the script was smart and precise. It was certainly adult dialog though at times I thought it was getting too wordy. With Idris Elba (The Mountain Between Us, Thor franchise) as Charlie Jaffey, Kevin Costner (Hidden Figures, Black or White) as Larry Bloom and Michael Cera (Superbad, Juno) as Player X; I thought the acting was of a high caliber. Jessica was amazing in this role and I felt Kevin put in one of his better performances. The story was incredible and I found myself getting into the nitty gritty of the poker games. I did not feel there was any lag time between any of the scenes; each one offered something of interest to watch and hear. Due to the high level of acting in this picture, I do not think you will lose if you choose to gamble on seeing this film.
3 ½ stars
WHEN IS ENOUGH, SIMPLY enough? One of my business subscriptions sends a supplemental edition focused on real estate, that I always glance through to check out the photo spreads of high end residences. I am amazed by the amount of money, I assume, that must have been spent on these places. Sure I understand it cost more to buy a place that is on the higher floors of a building or has a coastal/mountain view; but some of the upgrades I have seen border on the ridiculous in my opinion. Seriously, how important is it to have an extra long sofa covered in an elaborate, expensive fabric or bathroom fixtures that are gold plated; do they really make a difference in one’s comfort and hygiene? I find it ridiculous just because a person is wealthy; they feel they need to show off their wealth. You would not believe some of the places that are highlighted in my subscription. The fact they are even being put on display tells me something about the owners, unless they are trying to sell their property. JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE HAS a vast amount of money does not make them smarter or more thoughtful in my opinion. I have noticed some people who are rich feel they are entitled, more important than anyone else around them. I knew this person who was quite successful; having started out in humble beginnings, they overcame the obstacles before them and amassed a sizable fortune. For all their hard work they deserved it and I had no issue with their success. However, the more money they made the more they would voice their opinions on everyone else’s daily life; whether it was personal or business problems it did not matter. They would expound on all the things they felt everyone else “should” be doing to better themselves. I do not know about you but I took offense at their behavior. Having money does not give a person a license to dictate to others about how they should be living their lives. If you want to see what I am talking about then feel free to watch the powerful performances in this biographical, crime drama. WHEN KIDNAPERS CONTACTED GAIL Harris, played by Michelle Williams (The Greatest Showman, Blue Valentine), about her son; the ransom amount was way beyond her means, but not for her ex-father-in-law J. Paul Getty, played by Christopher Plummer (The Insider, The Man Who Invented Christmas). However Mr. Getty was not one to part easily with his money and Gail did not have the time to negotiate a price on her son’s life. With Mark Wahlberg (Deepwater Horizon, Daddy’s Home franchise) as Fletcher Chase, Charlie Plummer (King Jack, Lean on Pete) as John Paul Getty III and Romain Duris (Heartbreaker, The Beat That My Heart Skipped) as Cinquanta; the acting by Michelle and Christopher was outstanding. I will say Mark was somewhat better in this role, but he still came across as the same type of character that he has done in previous movies. Set in Rome during the 1970s, this story inspired by true events kept my interest as it weaved its way through some harsh and tense moments to despair. The pursuit scenes were well done to the point where I was feeling a sense of dread waiting for the outcomes. My only issue with this film was the lack of connection between some of the characters, making some of the scenes feel disjointed. The story really was amazing and reminded me of a phrase I have used in the past when someone was being cheap: you never see an armored car following a hearse to the cemetery.