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Are movie reviewers jumping on the bandwagon here, so they will be considered cool? There is such a buzz about this movie; that I feel it has surpassed the reality of watching it. Seriously, I had to wait in line at the doors to theater eleven, so that we all could walk in an orderly fashion to our seats. Let me say right at the start, this film is a novelty and for younger viewers, it may be the first time they have sat through a movie that has, for the most part, no dialog. This black and white picture portrayed the period of Hollywood 1927 easily enough, with wonderful sets and some beautiful scenes. The acting had to be all physical with an emphasis on facial expressions to convey emotions. The French actor Jean Dujardin as George Valentin along with the Argentine/French actress Berenice Bejo as Peppy Miller were quite good in their physicality. The story played out with no surprises; essentially about Valentin’s downward spiral at the onset of talking pictures, as Miller’s star begins to rise. Is it worth seeing this picture? Overall, I would say yes; for if nothing else, to get a flavor of what the movie experience could have been like, back in the early days of motion pictures. Is this the best picture (several Golden Globe nominations) of the year? I am afraid not. If that means I can not be with the cool crowd, so be it.
2 3/4 stars
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
INTENSITY HAS BEEN A PART OF ME as long as when I became aware of my shadow. Many people have described me as being intense; or I should say, those who know me well enough know the amount of intensity I can generate in myself. I have always had a strong single mindedness that is like a starving, aggressive dog who will not let go of a found bone. There was a time where I was acutely aware of people around me feeling the heat coming off me when I am intensely, laser focused on one thing. Now you would think there must not be many things that I find intense, but you would be incorrect to assume such a thing. Driving in a violent storm is something that I find to be an intense situation. With the wind jostling the car and rain pelting the windshield relentlessly; I find myself with my shoulders stiff by my ears and my grip turning into a vise around the steering wheel. I used to react in a similar way when I used to ride roller coasters. Now I avoid most of them because I already deal with enough stress and do not want to willingly put more tension on myself. MORE THAN LIKELY MANY OF YOU have experienced some form of tension in your life. The first thing that comes to mind is a doctor’s office or hospital. I knew a person who would get such a strong reaction every time they went to the dentist that they decided to stop going all together. I am sure this happens more now than it used to, but I quickly become uncomfortable anytime someone is heckling a performer. Sitting in the audience and suddenly some random individual talks back to the artist or yells at them and I immediately tense up. I remember sitting in a smallish type of venue, watching a comedian. At one of their jokes a drunken guy in the audience shouted out a derogatory remark to the performer; I immediately tensed up and started worrying about what would happen next. The reason being, I remembered at a rock concert where someone threw a beer bottle towards the band and they instantly stopped the show and left the stage. I held my breath to see what the comedian would do. He came back with such a classic retort that I still use it to this day; it shut the heckler up. From the experiences I listed I can add something new that made me tense and on the edge of my seat, this film festival winning movie based on a true story. KNOWN FOR ITS ELEGANCE AND ATTENTION to its guests the Taj Hotel was the focal point for a terrorist group’s message to get out to the world. This dramatic thriller starred Dev Patel (Lion, The Man Who Knew Infinity) as Arjun, Armie Hammer (On the Basis of Sex, Sorry to Bother You) as David, Nazanin Boniadi (Ben-Hur, Homeland-TV) as Zahra, Tilda Cobham-Hervey (One Eyed Girl, The Kettering Incident-TV) as Sally and Alex Pinder (Ocean Girl-TV, Angel Baby) as Butler Jamon. I cannot remember the last time I sat through a movie where I was swept up into a tense state by the action on the screen. The actors were well suited for this story and they delivered in my opinion. I am telling you now this was not an easy movie to sit through because there was violence, bloodshed and terrifying scenes. Honestly, I did not care if everything I was watching was true or not; the fact that the script kept me engaged and kept my eyes riveted to the screen made the experience memorable for me. I suggest you prepare yourself before you see this film and remember to take deep breaths.
THE PRICE ADVERTISED WAS THE deciding factor for my friends to book their trip. Having gone to Mexico multiple times they did not need the add-on excursions or upgrades to their tour package. With the low price they chose to extend their stay; but once they booked the hotel and agreed upon the dates, there wound up being additional costs. All of a sudden they were being charged extra for their suitcases and seats; never before were they ever billed such a charge when they booked through the travel agency. What really galled them was an extra charge from the hotel due to the extended stay; it brought them into the travel season pricing, whatever that meant. When I talked to one of my friends she expressed her anger at the travel agency. She said if they would have included all the extra fees into their advertised price she would not have gotten a bad attitude about them. The way they listed a super low price to entice travelers then hit them with added fees felt dishonest to her. I WOULD HAVE TO AGREE WITH her. The same thing has happened to me. Several years ago I saw an advertised price for a piece of furniture; it was something I had been waiting to go on sale. When I saw the item being advertised on sale I drove to the store to get it. Once there I sought out someone to help me which I have to tell you has become more of a challenge these days. Finally getting a salesperson, I went over the options of color and pattern. Would you believe the sale price was only for one specific color and wood finish?!?! For my color choices it would be more expensive. I was so ticked off I decided not to buy it and instead go look for something else. Things like this are irritating to me. Why can’t they just list the fine details (in large enough print) or state everything upfront? I feel the same way about passive aggressive behavior; just tell me what you want instead of hinting at it or trying to manipulate the conversation with me. It is annoying which is how I felt about this dramatic thriller inspired by true events. WHAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A romantic weekend for Brea and John, played by Paula Patton (Precious, Déjà Vu) and Omar Epps (Love & Basketball, House-TV), turned into a nightmare as they were being stalked by what they thought were just some prejudiced people. Actually they weren’t, they were looking for something specific. With Dawn Olivieri (American Hustle, Den of Thieves) as Cara, Missi Pyle (The Artist, Galaxy Quest) as Deputy Sally Marnes and Laz Alonso (Detroit, Jumping the Broom) as Darren Cole; this story had an identity crisis. If the writers would have only focused on one of the 2 stories taking place this would have been a better movie in my opinion. Unfortunately they missed an important opportunity to shine light on a dark aspect taking place around the world. I was so disappointed not only by this but the rudimentary script. Paula gave it a good try but as I have said before, a film loses points when the script makes the characters do unrealistic things. I am talking about, as an example, knocking unconscious your attacker but you do not take their gun with you or at least hide it before you run away. Stuff like this drives me crazy. So the bottom line here is this movie should have focused on being either a thriller or a startling revelation about human trafficking.
1 ¾ stars
NOT ONLY HAD I NEVER seen one, I never even heard about them. Walking into their house for the first time, I was introduced to a pleasant couple who were friends with my friend. They were hosting a get together and my friend brought me along. After the introductions they led us into their living room. It took me a moment to take it all in but across most of the flat surfaces in the room, such as shelves and tables, there were these ceramic gnomes everywhere. It was so utterly odd to me and there were so many of them; all different kinds from wizen elderly males to young teenagers to busy looking females. Evidently the expression on my face telegraphed my surprise for the hosts took the liberty of telling me the history of several of their gnomes. I found out the artist who created them always placed some type of object on the piece as a surprise. Oh and I almost forgot, each gnome had a name and a history about their life. SEVERAL YEARS LATER I WAS killing time in a resale shop. As I made my way through the aisles I came to a section that held house wares. There was an entire shelving unit filled with the same type of gnomes I remembered from that dinner party back then. All of them were lined up into rows as if they were all sitting in a theater to watch a movie. I never knew how much were the original prices for these gnomes, but I could not resist checking what they were being priced at in this resale store. A majority of the larger ones were priced at $5.00 and the smaller ones at $3.00. I had to assume this was a major bargain. What is that saying, one person’s junk is another person’s treasure? Based on the traces of dust covering some of the gnomes I assumed they had been sitting there a long time; I guess there is not a need for people to have gnomes in their house or garden currently. It is funny because I wound up feeling the same regarding this animated, adventure comedy sequel. AFTER SETTLING INTO THEIR NEW home Gnomeo and Juliet, voiced by James McAvoy (Split, The Last King of Scotland) and Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train, Into the Woods), expected with a little work to have the perfect garden. However when their fellow gnomes went missing the only one who could hopefully solve the mystery was the top detective Sherlock Gnomes, voiced by Johnny Depp (Black Mass, The Long Ranger) and his companion Dr. Watson, voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, 2012). The idea for this story was cute in this film. With decent animation and a soundtrack provided by Elton John’s songs I thought this would have been a fun film. Just as I was stunned seeing all those gnomes in that couple’s house, I was dumbfounded by how poorly written was the script. This picture was boring to me; there was nothing funny or cute about it. Maybe a narrow group of children would like this film; but where I expected a theater with children to be noisy, in my viewing there were barely any sounds coming from the audience. I had to fight to stay attentive to what was going on in the story. For the most part I felt myself wanting to doze off, but forced myself to stay awake. It was a late viewing for me, but that was not the reason. Like the fate of Beanie Babies and pet rocks, this movie will probably make it to the discount bin in quick time.
1 ¾ stars
HER EYES WERE FOLLOWING ME AS I started to walk away. I could never forget those eyes and where I saw them. Her smile was quiet as if she was almost embarrassed to let it out. There was another woman I recall from the same place who was perfectly sculpted with marbled skin and hair swept to the back of her head. She also had no arms. Many years ago I was fortunate enough to visit the Louvre museum in Paris. The building alone impressed me before I even stepped foot inside. After years of only seeing them as pictures in magazines or films, I could not believe I was standing in front of the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. You know how you form an image of something in your mind on how it might look in reality? Well I had an image for each of them and when I stood in front of them I realized what I had in my mind paled in comparison to seeing the actual painting and sculpture. Mona Lisa’s eyes were fascinating because they seemed to follow you going to the left or right side of her. They simply looked alive is all I can say. SITUATED IN THE HEART OF the city I live close by to is an art museum that some say is a world class museum. I have been a visitor to it numerous times throughout my life. The collection is extensive and varied with art pieces from the masters like Monet, Picasso, Hopper and Rembrandt. To see these artists’ works close up gives me an enormous amount of pleasure. When I look at a painting I not only study the brushstrokes, shading and choice of colors; I also envision the period of time it depicts. Besides paintings and sculpted pieces this museum has a space devoted to miniature rooms; I am talking rooms that are only as big as a shoebox. The detail in each room is remarkable and each room represents a different period of time, going back centuries. When I am looking at them I feel as if I am getting a glimpse of history. Now just imagine if some of the paintings were able to come to life and talk about themselves, one could get a real dose of the past. Well that is what I experienced when I watched this animated, biographical crime film that was nominated for an Oscar award. POSTMAN JOSEPH ROULIN, voiced by Chris O’Dowd (Molly’s Game, St. Vincent), was determined to get the deceased artist Vincent van Gogh’s returned last letter to his brother Theo. With no forwarding address Joseph assigned the task of finding Theo to Armand, voiced by Douglas Booth (Noah, Jupiter Ascending). Armand would start his search at the town where Vincent had died. His arrival would unveil clues to what really happened to Vincent. This film festival winner was visually one of the most incredible movie watching experiences I have had in a long time. The entire film was hand painted by over 100 artists. Taking inspiration from Vincent’s works, it literally looked like the characters came to life. The result of this process created a pictorial feast, seriously. The shading and illumination in this picture amazed me; I cannot even fathom how the artists did it. Not too familiar with Vincent’s life story, I did not know what was true or false. Honestly it did not matter to me because I enjoyed the way the story allowed each character to spin their thoughts about the situation. After I finished watching this DVD I felt as if I had been touring an art museum and all I wanted to do was learn more about Vincent van Gogh.
3 ½ stars — DVD
SHE WAITED UNTIL we were in the car before she broke the news to me. Driving out to the suburbs on a well traveled road, she informed me the person I was in love with was seeing someone else. She realized immediately what she had just said, so she quickly added she did not know if they were sleeping together; all she heard was that they had been spending time together, going out to eat and to the movies. I asked her how long had it been going on and she responded they had only been seeing each other for a few weeks. A few weeks?!?! We had separated only the week before when I was told they needed some time alone; this did not sound like they were going to be alone much. The reason my friend waited until we were in the car before telling me the news was because she knew I could not go “ballistic,” since I needed to focus on the road. In hindsight it was a smart move on her part because I would have gone through the house and destroyed anything that reminded me of us as a couple. YOU MIGHT NOT consider what was done to me as deceitful but I did. Once trust has been established I see no reason why a person would lie in a relationship—unless they were planning a surprise party. Deceitfulness is a deal breaker for me; once a person lies to you how can you ever trust them again? I will say my feelings were badly hurt when my friend broke the news to me; I mean c’mon, how does someone go from one relationship to another in a matter of a couple of weeks? I know I could never do it. Those of my friends who are into Zodiac signs say I am the perfect definition of my sign. Once a person gains my trust they have it for a lifetime…until they do one thing that damages or breaks that trust then I am done with them. I could never trust several of the characters in this film festival nominated drama. MARRIED TO A WEALTHY businessman for the sole purpose of producing an heir became less important for Sophia, played by Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, The Light Between Oceans), when she was introduced to Jan Van Loos, played by Dane DeHaan (Life after Beth, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets); the artist hired to paint a portrait of her and her husband. With Christoph Waltz (The Legend of Tarzan, Carnage) as Cornelis Sandvoort, Judi Dench (Philomena, My Week with Marilyn) as Abbess and Holliday Grainger (The Finest Hours, My Cousin Rachel) as Maria; the cast was well rounded, easily handling each of their roles. Set in Amsterdam during the time tulips first became an important commodity, I found that aspect of the story especially intriguing. The sets and scenes were beautiful and easily transported me back centuries to that specific time. Unfortunately I found the script lacking in originality; to me this story reminded me of a Shakespeare tragedy. In addition there was one character that acted out of character based on what had happened to them; It did not make sense to me or at least it was not fully explained why they were back. Along with many dull spots in the script this movie was a perfect example of looks being deceiving.
RESTING outside on a sunny day I gaze up at the bulbous clouds drifting by. If I look long enough I can make out images among the folds of the clouds. I get a kick out of seeing what might not initially be seen at first glance. As the wisps of cloud matter slowly swirl about, I can make out what looks like an eagle with outstretched wings. Continuing to stare at the same spot the eagle soon disintegrates and becomes the face of a rabbit with attentive ears. Since I was young I have always looked at things with an eye to reality and one to fantasy. Even when I am stuck in traffic I try to keep myself busy by scanning the landscape around to see if images can appear based on how I focus on the shadows or the bright spots of an area. Once there was a flatbed truck alongside of me that had crushed automobiles stacked up to haul to a scrap yard. With traffic barely moving I was able to find outlines of a variety of different objects like a leopard and a clown. THIS ability, if you will, helps me I believe in my attempts to understand modern art. I am fortunate to live in a city that has a modern art museum and some of its exhibits have been a fascinating experience for me. There was the artist who created large sculptures of ordinary things like monkeys and dogs; however, they looked like they were made out of blown up balloons. You know, like the kind a clown or magician would make at a carnival show. I can appreciate the effort and work that went in to create such a piece. Now there have been some shows where I feel clueless with what is on display. A canvas covered totally in black paint doesn’t move me; I wonder if I should focus on the brushstrokes, the consistency of the color or its relationship to its surroundings. My confusion can supersede my involvement with a work of art or what someone is saying is a work of art. I felt the same towards some of this extraordinary artist’s works in this film festival nominated documentary. PERFORMANCE artist, visionary, crazy, unorthodox are some of the terms one can apply to Chris Burden. Whether you understand his craft or not, you will certainly get a reaction from it. I had never heard of this artist until I watched this film, directed by Richard Dewey (The Leisure Class) and Timothy Marrinan (Invisible Lives). Right from the start there were times where I sat and thought this man has a death wish and then another scene would take place where I was amused with his creation. As the movie continued I found myself more and more intrigued with learning about Chris and his motivations. The raw footage interspersed with his current life provided a well rounded presentation of his growth and legacy I thought. Though I did not understand what he was trying to do with some of his performance pieces (if that is how he classified his “live” pieces), I certainly had a reaction to them. Maybe that was the point he was trying to make all this time; I honestly cannot give an answer. I will say I certainly walked away from this picture with a new appreciation for people who want to be artists.
3 ¼ stars
DEATH for some people is not always a permanent state. These individuals maintain their bond to the deceased, though it is not necessarily reciprocal. They may talk to their loved one every day, bringing them up on current events or asking advice on an upcoming decision. I had a relative who went to see her mother every single day, having on hand her mother’s favorite coffee and sweet roll. She would park on the side of the road and walk over to a congested area of headstones. With her folding stool, thermos and the plastic bag that carried the sweet roll and napkins; she would sit by the side of her mother’s grave and pour each of them a cup of coffee. Setting the cup down on the headstone, she let her mother know she brought her favorite sweet roll; she placed the item on a small paper plate to then join the perched cup of coffee. This ritual took place every day and after she had spent an hour or two, she would drink up the coffee from her mother’s cup and ask her if she was done with her sweet roll. She would tear the sweet roll into pieces and once she was outside of the cemetery would scatter the pieces by a tree for the birds. I am a firm believer whatever means a person needs to do to deal with death is fine with me; I do not judge or question. Everyone deals with death in their own way. Also, I feel anything is possible. Recently a friend of mine had died after a year long illness. After notifications went out to family and friends, a few days later out of the blue my friend’s cell phone rang with an unknown phone number. There was no one on the line when the call was answered. You want to talk about an eerie moment? Well someone close to the deceased who is in mourning could see the call as a sign. I could easily understand their thought process with this incident. If you choose to watch this mystery thriller, be prepared to experience something unearthly. Or is it really? WORKING as a personal shopper Maureen Cartwright, played by Kristen Stewart (Certain Women, The Twilight Saga franchise), was convinced her deceased brother was trying to contact her. This film festival winning drama also starred Lars Eidinger (Everyone Else, Clouds of Sils Maria) as Ingo, Sigrid Bouaziz (Portrait of the Artist, The Tunnel-TV) as Lara and Anders Danielsen Lie (Reprise, Herman) as Erwin. I have not always been a fan of Kristen Stewart, but I have to say this was one of her best roles. She pretty much carries the interesting story. Watching this movie was like riding an amusement park’s roller coaster; not the big major ones, but the ones that give you a thrill but do not let your stomach move up into your throat. At first I was not getting settled into the story since the script kept things somewhat sparse. But then layer by layer I found myself drawn into the surreal story. I enjoyed the directing in this picture; but at times the script became muddled and fell apart. The concept of the story interested me overall, because as I said you just never know.
2 ½ stars
DISCLAIMER: At the time of my viewing I was not aware of the controversy surrounding the writer, director and star of this film. Due to what I feel is the importance of this historical story I decided to post this review. It is not meant as an endorsement one way or the other of the person’s past events; I do not have enough knowledge on this controversy.
The 64 count box had the ideal amount for me. Anything more would only confuse me, taking more time to decide which color I would use next. For a kid a box of crayons is an unlimited source of fun and imagination. In my world every color had a purpose and belonged in the box. I started out using the yellow crayon every time I had a sun to draw. Later on I started adding crayons from the orange family, giving the sun a morning or evening look. At one time I started outlining everything with the black crayon then shading in the rest with a variety of colors. None of my crayons ever went unused; they each were treated equally and belonged in that 64 count crayon box. Something I noticed when I was at someone’s house who had crayons; not all of the crayons wore down at the same rate. They could have a short white crayon but a long black one that looked like it had not been used. Another house could have the tan or I think it was also called cocoa colored crayon sitting in the box never to be touched or be part of the picture the person was working on. I will never forget in a science class how the teacher showed us if we took a blue and yellow crayon then drew one color over the other we would have the color green. It was a revelation for me. Except for blue, red and yellow all the other crayons are a combination of 2 or more other colors. The crayons in my box all worked together in harmony unlike the real world. BEING one of the few slaves who could read Nat Turner’s, played by Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Red Tails); owner was able to rent him out to preach to the unruly slaves living on the other plantations. The things Nat saw opened his eyes in a new way. This film festival winning dramatic biography also starred Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger, The Social Network) as Samuel Turner and Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist, Awakenings) as Elizabeth Turner. As I said the story based on true events was important but I felt the script needed to be stronger to support the magnitude of the events taking place back during the 1830’s in Virginia. The acting was quite good especially during some of the disturbing scenes in this picture; however, there were gaps in the script where things slowed down for me. I was confused by the outcome that took place in a couple of scenes. For the most part the directing was spot on for this first time director. This was not easy to watch for a few reasons, one being the narrowness and ugliness of the times that only wanted to use 1 of 2 colors from a very small box of crayons.