AT some point in time I am sure many of us have felt alone, as if we were the only one. I feel it is a valid point; however, my question is what does a person do about it? That feeling of being out of synch from those around you can really do a number on you mentally. Imagine if the co-workers around you all share a fondness for a particular activity which you are not interested in; you could be left out of their conversations or out of office activities. One scenario I have seen numerous times is when one’s circle of friends goes from being single to being a part of a couple. As friends begin to couple up it is understandable there is some adjustment and before you say, “no there is not,” let me say there are a variety of reasons couples may prefer doing things with other couples. I am willing to bet if you were in a relationship that later dissolved, you would have felt alone as your coupled friends came to your support. A particularly difficult time for me took place during my freshmen year of college. I had gone to an out of state university that no one else from my high school was planning on attending. Alone in a foreign city was tough for me, especially because I was the only freshman on my floor; the other residents were all graduate students. It was not until one of my classes held a panel discussion with outside guests that I first felt a connection to some similarly minded students. It was as if a secret door had opened in the middle of the 30,000+ student body and I finally stopped feeling as if I was the odd man out. It was an eye opening experience, not so dissimilar from the one that takes place in this animated adventure comedy. WITH a secret map in her possession Smurfette, voiced by Demi Lovato (Glee-TV, Sonny with a Chance-TV), takes off on a journey that will show her things that she has not found in her own village. Including Mandy Patinkin (The Princess Bride, Homeland-TV) voicing Papa Smurf, Julia Roberts (Mother’s Day, Closer) voicing SmurfWillow, Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike franchise, True Blood-TV) as Hefty Smurf and Rainn Wilson (Juno, The Office-TV) as Gargamel; this movie was geared more for the younger child. The animation was colorful and there were many scenes filled with action. Honestly, I felt like I was watching one of those old Saturday morning cartoon shows I remember as a kid. I appreciated the dual messages the writers were trying to get across to the viewers; however, I found the story in general mediocre. There was nothing either good or poor about this picture; it was predictable and a little bland for me. Granted I was never into the Smurfs while growing up, but I thought the writing could have been more creative to add heft to the fun and excitement factors. As a whole I was left with a bland feeling about this movie; I could have (if I was into the Smurfs) easily have waited to see this some Saturday morning on television, while eating a bowl of breakfast cereal by myself.
SITTING comfortably behind the steering wheel, cruising down the road, the celebrity driver was expounding on the finer things about the automobile. It almost looked like this was their main means of transportation. Now I do not care if a celebrity wants to earn income by doing a commercial; everyone deserves to make a living. Will this person persuade me to buy that type of car when I am in the market for a new vehicle? The answer is absolutely not. In fact that goes for any celebrity endorsement. Though I am a big fan of movies and such, I am well aware of the financial inequity between celebrities and let us say teachers. Not that there is anything wrong with making as much money as you can; however, I have a hard time with anyone who uses their position of wealth as a bully pulpit to tell everyone else what they should do. I have experienced this in my own circle of friends and family, where those who were financially well off starting acting like they knew everything and the rest of us were not as smart. That type of behavior is offensive to me. THE area where I can support celebrities is when they use their wealth and status to help a cause they believe in. I know about one celebrity who works with an organization to bring clean water to third world countries. I remember when parts of Louisiana were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. There were celebrities down there helping and rebuilding houses; they had the means and connections to bypass the red tape to get things done. With some celebrities their support of a cause may be due to personal reasons; they could be experiencing it in their own family, for example a celebrity with an autistic child. Whether you feel the same way or not, I admire someone who overcomes challenges in their life to then become a social activist against those very same tribulations. What I saw in this film festival winning movie, which was based on a true story, both stunned and amazed me. THIRTEEN year old Waris, played by newcomer Soraya Omar-Scego, had to leave her village in Somalia. What was done to her there would have a strong impact on her life when she made it to London. Before I talk about this biographical drama I want to say I have very little knowledge about the customs that were performed in this movie. They may be based on religious beliefs or native; I do not know and I do not want to offend anyone who believes in them. Starring Liya Kebede (The Best Offer, Lord of War) as older Waris Dirie, Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine, Happy-Go –Lucky) as Marilyn and Timothy Spall (Denial, Mr. Turner) as Terry Donaldson; the actual story had to be more powerful than what the script provided here. The back and forth between the young and older Waris dampened the intensity for me. I had a hard time watching some scenes because I could not believe what was being done. The acting was fine; I have always enjoyed Sally’s performances and Liya was perfect in this role. Honestly I still cannot get over that this custom takes place in the world. This DVD provided me with a whole new respect for those who overcome difficulties in their life and decide they want to do something about it.
2 ¾ stars — DVD
SEEING a person willingly jump out of an airplane could elicit one of two responses: the individual is courageous or crazy. Though there is no way I would ever go skydiving, I would not judge someone who wants to experience such an activity. As I go through my daily life I am constantly witnessing acts of courage. There is the individual who admits to being out of shape, who comes to a fitness class, because they want to make a change in their life. The blind person who is navigating down a crowded, noisy city street or the parent who gets sick on roller coasters, sitting next to their child who is thrilled to be on the ride with their parent; to me all of these individuals are courageous and strong. There are so many other examples of courage that I could write about but it would take up all of my time today. FOR the past several months I have viewed news reports with an eye to the future. The news segments can range from peaceful protesters to refuges to the environment; I look at each one of these and am usually amazed at the amount of courage an individual has in the face of life or death, let alone the person who is willing to make a stand against injustice. Thinking back to some of the famous scientists who left their homeland for a better life or to just stay alive, there is something to be said for that individual’s braveness. Imagine if the scientist was not strong enough or courageous enough to leave a place where they were being persecuted; how different would the world have turned out? Whether a person actively engages in a cause or donates time or money to it, for them they are acting in a courageous way. One cannot necessarily compare different acts of courage; however, some do take on more risk and this movie based on a true story shows you how much risk one person was willing to take to make a difference. AFTER German forces took control of Warsaw they set up a camp in the middle of Antonia and Jan Zabinski’s, played by Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane, The Martian) and Johan Heldenbergh (The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Misfortunates), zoo and got rid of most of the animals. The couple formed an idea that could save lives but they needed the zoo to remain open. This biographic drama was powered with Jessica’s acting. She was the dominant force in this film, though other actors such as Daniel Bruhl (Rush, Woman in Gold) as Lutz Heck and Shira Haas (Princess, A Tale of Love and Darkness) as Urszula still drew my attention to them. The story was amazing, frightening, tragic and a few other adjectives. I will say the script did not come up to what I felt could have been a more powerful story. There were a few scenes that I am willing to bet were created simply for dramatic effect. This produced an odd seesawing effect between intensity and sweetness; for entertainment value it was okay but the story deserved more intensity in my opinion. Regardless, to see Jessica acting in this courageous story was time well spent.
2 ¾ stars
WHEN I saw Rosie helping the Jetson family and Data assisting the crew of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, I believed an opportunity was being created for mankind to better itself. Removing some of the unimportant necessities of the day would allow man to study and learn more about life; in other words humans could reach a higher level of consciousness. Witnessing the blending of mechanical objects with people really has been an extraordinary event. Just think about individuals who received mechanical hearts and valves or athletes getting artificial arms and legs; it has changed people’s perceptions about what it means to be physically challenged. Just in the past several months the news reported on an artificial hand that a person could control with their mind; did you ever imagine this becoming reality during your lifetime? I vaguely remember an advertisement tagline that said something like, “better living through science.” This idea certainly has validity; however, I have a growing concern that science, depending on who is calling the shots, could dominate mankind. ONE of my concerns for some time has been the manipulations taking place in our food chain. I am not comfortable ingesting a food item that has been genetically modified. The idea of animals being injected with growth hormones to create supersized creatures to yield more meat or milk frightens me. This was one of the reasons I gave up red meat years ago. Another area that concerns me is the “beauty” industry. With the amount of chemicals people apply to themselves on a daily basis with their soaps, dyes and makeup; I just wonder what the body does with it when the products get absorbed into the skin. Even seeing people who have gone through extensive plastic surgery to maintain their youthful appearance troubles me. I remember standing next to a television celebrity who was talking to their aide. Their face barely budged as the lips were forming words; their facial expression was totally void of any emotion. The title of this futuristic action film could easily apply to this celebrity. MAJOR, played by Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers franchise, Lost in Translation), was the first of her kind; she was the ultimate blend of human and machine. At least she thought so until she started experiencing flashbacks. Watching this dramatic crime movie was a wild visual ride. All I could think about was it looked like a cross between the films Blade Runner and The Fifth Element. Based on the graphic novel this movie also starred Pilou Asbaek (Lucy, A Hijacking) as Batou, Juliette Binoche (Godzilla, The 33) as Dr. Ouelet and Michael Pitt (Seven Psychopaths, The Dreamers) as Kuze. I am not familiar with the story; however, the first half of this picture had me totally into it. Scarlett was good with the physical demands of the role, but I thought the acting part was one dimensional; unless that was how the character was written in the book. The last half of the film for me turned into a typical action movie; in fact, I am concerned Scarlett is being typecast since her character shared similarities with her Lucy and Avengers characters. I would have preferred if the script had stayed focused on the storyline regarding the flashbacks. The title of this movie remained with me afterwards as I wondered if this is where science will be going in the future.
2 ½ stars
LIFE as you know it can burst apart in a seismic moment when you are introduced to your new baby sister or brother. If you are the first born it probably is a bigger adjustment than it would be for those born after you. When you are the only one, you benefit from your parents devoting their attention solely on you. With multiple children in the family the parents may feel as if they are spending equal time with each child; but the perception from the child’s point of view may be totally different. It stands to reason before that baby arrived the only child was the sole focus; now 2 siblings will vie for the attention of Mom and Dad. It does not stand to reason that the scope of your parents’ attention will double with each new child coming into the household. If that was not enough then there is the whole issue about birth order and the characteristics associated with it; such as the middle child gets the least attention and the youngest of the siblings gets spoiled. THE thing that stuns me the most about families with more than one child is how these early, shall we say, landmines can lead to the deterioration of family ties. I recently was talking with someone who expressed they do not talk to their brother. When I asked what they meant, they told me they have not had any communication with their sibling for years. Personally I cannot understand how siblings could dissolve to a level where it was preferable to end all communication between each other. One has to wonder where the parents and their involvement in the upbringing of these children were during the siblings’ formative years. The answers may be found in this animated family comedy. THERE was something different about the baby, voiced by Alec Baldwin (The Departed, 30 Rock-TV), who came into the life of Tim, voiced by Miles Christopher Bakshi (Shrek franchise). For starters the baby was dressed up in a suit. This movie was geared towards the older siblings of a family. I felt part of the humor and sight gags were pointed more to the 6-10 year olds; however, a good portion of the script had the parents in mind, with the type of jokes and references on display. I am not sure if younger children will have as much fun watching this film. Alec was perfect in the role, though Steve Buscemi (Reservoir Dogs, Fargo) as Francis Francis, TV talk show host Jimmy Kimmel as Dad and Lisa Kudrow (Easy A, The Comeback-TV) as Mom held their own. What I enjoyed about this movie besides the humor was its retro look; the visuals reminded me of some of the cartoon shows I used to watch when I was a kid. Underneath all of this I thought the writers did a wonderful job in introducing the lesson of the story. Maybe parents will see the lesson to learn early on, but for children it came across in an imaginative way. Pitting this against other recent animated films, this one may not have all the bells and whistles; however, as the baby of the family I refrain from making such comparisons. There was a brief extra scene in the middle of the credits and another extra scene at the end.
2 3/4 stars
UNFILTERED, loudmouth, bad, rude and outrageous are some of the words that have described a person who speaks their mind. Personally, I have been associated with a couple of these descriptions. Honestly I cannot remember when I started speaking my mind; I want to say it started after high school. Seeing people being “two faced” where they would be friendly and kind to someone, then behind their back they would say nasty stuff about the person upset me. Obviously it made me wonder what was being said behind my back. The other thing that used to bother me was seeing people afraid to state their feelings. I firmly believe no one has the right to tell another person how they should feel; each one of us should be able to talk freely about our feelings without any feedback unless we asked for it. What will turn me off quicker than a light switch is when someone tells me how I “should” feel. Really?? If I sit here and think about it I want to say this “how I should feel” phrase may have contributed to me expressing my thoughts and feelings without holding anything back. NOW with everything I just said there is one other element I want to introduce into this conversation and that is sensitivity. Looking back I now realize my honesty at times may have been too intense for some people. Though I was being truthful, the individual may have not been ready to hear what I was telling them. Just because you tell someone they are in a co-dependent relationship for example does not mean they will accept the news if they are not ready. It took me a long time to soften what I was saying so the words would not be heard so harshly. I attribute this to maturity. If someone asks me what I think about a situation I will tell them, but be sensitive to their feelings. This is something the main character could have used in this dramatic comedy. WILSON, played by Woody Harrelson (Now You See Me franchise, No Country for Old Men), said exactly what was on his mind. Maybe that is why he lived alone. Based on the graphic novel this film also starred Judy Greer (Jurassic World, Ant-Man) as Shelly, Laura Dern (The Founder, Certain Women) as Pippi, Shaun Brown (Female Fight Club, The Great Indoors-TV) as Laptop Man and Isabella Amara (The Boss, Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life) as Claire. The only actors that stood out for me were Woody and Laura; they gave this script a good shot, but I found the story uneven. It did not take long for me to lose interest as the scenes seemed to repeat themselves as Woody’s mouth continued to get reactions from a rotating cast of characters. I think there could have been places of opportunity where the writers could have given the characters more emotions to act out. By the time something of substance took place I did not care anymore. Listening to this annoying character Wilson throughout the film annoyed me after awhile. In the real world I would not allow myself to be around such a person. I have to be brutally honest here; do not waste your money on seeing this movie.
1 ¾ stars
STEP by step I listened to them explain how they mapped out their career. I was actually curious because the methodology I was hearing was foreign to me, compared to my career route. I find it particularly fascinating when an individual knows what they want to do at an early age. You see I had assumed most people went through a series of professions before settling on one. When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, a singer, a window washer, a dancer and a veterinarian among other things. A friend of mine wanted to be a doctor since he was a young boy and that is what he became. It makes me wonder how much does outside influences play on steering a person to a particular job field. For example a farmer who has children; does growing up in the environment automatically mean a person will take on the occupation associated with it? On my daily route to work I pass a billboard advertisement for a dentist’s office that has a picture of the dentists who are a father and his son. I wonder if the son really wanted to be a dentist or maybe he wanted to be something else. I want to be clear that I am not judging any of the possibilities I have mentioned; however, one area where I could be judgmental is when a person chooses an occupation for ulterior motives. There is an individual I know distantly who chose a career in sales so they could travel and “safely” carry on affairs without anyone knowing, including his wife. I know, I agree with you as you are thinking he is a despicable individual. To me a job should be something you enjoy doing or at least it serves as a greater purpose for something you want to achieve in your future. The two main characters in this comedy came to the job with their own agendas. Frank “Ponch” Poncherello and Jon Baker, played by Michael Pena (The Martian, End of Watch) and Dax Shepard (The Judge, Parenthood-TV), had different reasons becoming motorcycle officers for the California Highway Patrol. They also had different ways of doing it which was a problem since they were put together as partners. This action crime film was written and directed by Dax, loosely based on the television show. With Jessica McNamee (The Vow, The Loved Ones) as Lindsey Taylor, Adam Brody (Life Partners, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) as Clay Allen and Ryan Hansen (Central Intelligence, Veronica Mars-TV) as Brian Grieves; for the life of me I truly would like to know how the cast felt about doing this movie. Except for the chase scenes and cool looking motorcycles, there was nothing I enjoyed about this film. The script for the most part was written at an elementary school level; what was supposed to be humor I found offensive. I do not know how popular the TV show was when it aired; but I can only assume, based on what I saw in this awful movie, Jon and Ponch were “characters” and there would have been exciting action. That was not the case in this movie. If I were you I would keep driving and not get off the highway to see this picture.
1 ½ stars
YEARS of reading and watching science fiction books and movies may be the reason why I believe there could be other life forms in the universe. Even if I was not a fan of the fantasy/science fiction genre, I was always open to the possibility we humans were not alone. I could never be convinced that out of the entire universe the planet Earth was the only place that could sustain life. One of the arguments I have heard is our planet is the only one that can sustain oxygen breathing beings; but I would counter that proposal by questioning the logic of oxygen being the only element that can support life. What if an alien species’ anatomy only needed carbon monoxide to exist? Unless they come to us I understand there is no way to prove this thought, since I do not know if we will ever evolve to a point where we will have the ability to deconstruct and rematerialize on another world via a transporting device or be able to travel in a spaceship at warp speed. DURING my studies in college I had a literature course that covered several genres of fiction, including science fiction. For my midterm project I used several rolls of infrared film along with close-up camera lenses to create a photo album that I claimed was proof of foreign existence. The things I photographed represented places we had read about in our required reading list. Our instructor had us put our projects on display around the lecture hall and each of us had to explain what we had done. After we each gave our talks, the students were allowed to walk around and study each item before voting on their favorite in a secret ballot. It turned out not only did I get an “A” on my midterm project but my alien photo album was voted the favorite. From some of the comments I received the majority of my classmates loved how I had shown both friendly and non-friendly aliens. Hopefully I am only right about the good aliens. WORKING in precise maneuvers six astronauts must retrieve a satellite returning from Mars that might contain proof there may be life existing on another planet. This science fiction thriller had some intense, exciting scenes right from the start. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals, Prisoners) as David Johnson, Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, The Proposal) as Rory Adams, Hiroyuki Sanada (47 Ronin, The Wolverine) as Sho Murakami and Rebecca Ferguson (The Girl on the Train, Florence Foster Jenkins) as Miranda North; this horror film had some icky scenes that were hard to watch, involving blood and violence. I thought the sets and special effects were cool, while the actors did their job well. The idea of the story was fine; however, I felt the writers needed to take a different angle because as I sat watching this film I kept thinking about the movie Alien. I did not find much different in this movie though I did enjoy the surprise twists. What I did enjoy, maybe enjoy is not the right word, was the way the writers depicted life and that is all I can say about it. If you do not believe there may be extraterrestrial life, you may not be anxious to see this film. Based on my belief system, maybe you should see it.
2 1/3 stars
LONLINESS can be your friend when you do not fit in. Depending on the circumstances not fitting in can be an asset; however, in a “dog eat dog” environment the non-conformer can become an easy target for ridicule. When I look back at my experiences involving group settings, the one thing I find in common across all of them is the quickness people have in making judgments. If one person deems another person an oddball, others will easily follow suit; even if they have not had any personal contact with the newly labeled individual. Personally I celebrate those individuals who do not follow this pack mentality. It saddens me when I have found myself in a situation where one person decides another person inferior in some way. When I can I will challenge them to explain why they think that way. You should hear some of the excuses; a majority of them have to do with a person’s looks or appearance. Other reasons have to do with the individual not following exactly the same steps as the accuser. As far as I can tell there really is no good excuse. ONE summer I was enrolled in a woodworking class that was limited to 12 students. Once we were taught how to use our tools we were given a project to create a functional object. I chose to make a chessboard while the guy next to me decided to make a boomerang. Out of all of us there was one person who spent time lining up different pieces of wood around their workspace, color coordinating them. Everyone else was into cutting and arranging the wood they chose. Within a couple of minutes I heard someone behind me whispering to look at the weird one with all the wood around him. It only took a few seconds before I started to hear people snickering around me. Long story short, the student with all the wood pieces created an incredible looking coat rack that even impressed our instructor. It goes to show that those who do not fit in can still achieve great things; just see what happens in this action adventure film. FIVE high school students on the outs with their classmates find themselves thrown together when they start experiencing weird effects from a glowing rock. Starring Dacre Montgomery (Safe Neighborhood, A Few Less Men) as Jason/Red Ranger, Naomi Scott (The 33, Terra Nova-TV) as Kimberly/Pink Ranger, RJ Cyler (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Vice Principals-TV) as Billy/Blue Ranger, Ludi Lin (Monster Hunt, Marco Polo-TV) as Zack/Black Ranger and Becky G. (Empire-TV, House of Sin) as Trini/Yellow Ranger; I first have to tell you I am not familiar with the television show that inspired this fantasy picture. Based on the audience reaction at my viewing; those who were fans of the Power Rangers enjoyed the movie immensely, those seeing the rangers for the first time were not as enthusiastic. I found the movie cheesy; in other words, the special effects were not top notch and the script was average. Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games franchise, Pitch Perfect franchise) as Rita Repulsa was the most fun character in my opinion. What impressed me the most about this movie was how they incorporated a student on the spectrum into the story; unless of course the character was the same in the original TV show. Overall this movie did not stand out for me.
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