WALKING OUT FROM the station he was greeted by a sea of shirts all in the same color. Every single person was wearing an article of clothing close in the same shade. There were so many people that they filled the space from one side to the other; it indeed looked like there was a slow current of fluid moving away from him, reflecting a settling crimson sun on its surface. He had heard about this special event and looked up the details before committing funds and time to attend the occasion. Though he grew up in the city; the majority of his life was spent in the neighborhood he grew up in. He felt somewhat out of place to his peers because he did not have any reference points to show him he was actually okay. Making his way into the crowd of people before him, he soon discovered the feelings he had about his childhood were similar to the experiences from many of those around him. DON’T YOU FIND it interesting when you grow up feeling the experiences you had were unique to you, only to find out someone from far away had the same type of experiences? I get a kick when I meet someone from another country, in a completely different environment, who has similar feelings about common things that have happened to each of us. It shows me the borders we use to define ourselves are more transparent than we may realize. When you move away from home and set out on your own, you can discover how certain truths instilled in you have a wider definition than you believed. For example in a recent conversation I had with a friend, they shared an experience they had growing up that was so close to one I had that you would have thought the same people were involved in the incident. I was totally surprised by it in the same way the members of the Kingsman were in this action, adventure comedy. AFTER THE DESTRUCTION of their home Eggsy and Merlin, played by Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Legend) and Mark Strong (The Imitation Game, Miss Sloane), discovered their organization was not the only unique one of a kind place to work at; there was something similar halfway around the world. With Julianne Moore (Still Alice, Carrie) as Poppy, Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, Love Actually) as Harry Hart, Channing Tatum (White House Down, Magic Mike franchise) as Tequila and Halle Berry (Kidnap, X-Men franchise) as Ginger; the cast was fun to watch in this 2nd installment. I enjoyed the first one so had high hopes for this film; however, I found the script was weak and filled with strong language that was being used for cheap laughs. Maybe if I had not seen the previous movie I would have enjoyed this more, but I felt the freshness and wicked fun of the first picture was not captured in this story. There were big action scenes and crazy high tech weapons/accessories, but the whole picture felt a bit forced to me with obvious shtick. As I mentioned earlier the actors were a good choice for the roles they had; I wanted to see more depth in them. If the writers were trying to make something that would stand out and be different from other films of this type; in my opinion, they created a typical action picture.
2 ½ stars
THE WORD “BETTER” can be used like a knife. On one hand it is a tool that assists in creating wonderful food dishes in the kitchen; but on the flip side it can be uttered at a person, denting their self-confidence. The person who uses this word may think they are being complimentary; sometimes they are clueless however, not aware of the impact they are having on someone. We can all agree the statement, “Hope you get better soon,” is a positive comment. Telling a friend the dress they are trying on looks better on them than the 1st one they tried is also a positive and maybe helpful statement. When one uses the word “better” in this type of context I am totally on board. NOW YOU MAY not agree 100% with me but I am not a fan of the word “better” when it is used for motivation; it does not always motivate. A teacher telling a student they could have done a better job on their assignment does not have the same effect as asking a student to explain their decisions in doing the homework they way they did. I have learned more when I have been asked why I chose such and such or how I came to that conclusion. Having someone just telling me I could do better does not sit well with me; from my experiences it tends to have a negative connotation. I remember a school project I worked on for a couple of weeks. When it came time to get reviewed one of the things the teacher expressed to me was how she was looking forward to my next project because she knew it would be better. What does that exactly mean? Was she telling me my current assignment was just okay? I will tell you what her words and the comments I received from several sources through my life did to me; they made me more determined to prove them wrong. Hmm, was that their original intention? DESPITE HIS FATHER Sal’s, played by Victor Garber (Titanic, Argo), objections about his writings Jerome David Salinger, played by Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies, Mad Max: Fury Road), refused to give up. He felt he had something to say. This biographical drama also starred Sarah Paulson (Carol, American Horror Story-TV) as Dorothy Olding, Kevin Spacey (L.A. Confidential, House of Cards-TV) as Whit Burnett, and Zoey Deutch (Everybody Wants Some!!, Why Him?) as Oona O’Neill. I thought the cast was excellent along with their perfect for the period outfits and the settings around them. If what I was watching was true then the story was fascinating to me about the reclusive author. His book “The Catcher in the Rye” was required reading at my school; I assume most schools across the country had it as part of their English/Literature classes. What did not work for me in this film was the script. There already was a curious mystique to J.D. Salinger; I felt like I was not learning anything new that I had not seen in the news or on the internet. There was a weakness in the drama that kept most things on an even keel in my opinion. From what I was watching I wanted to learn more about the motivations behind the actions; instead, the scenes seemed like they were glossing over the details. If there was an opportunity to ask the writers, I would ask them why they chose the parts they wrote about in this script.
A TINY POOL of liquid was growing larger in the bowl of guacamole the longer the night went on. The offer of food and drink had ended a long time ago as one host sat and watched the secondhand tick around the clock dial. The other host was keeping busy by tidying up around the room, washing glasses and plates from time to time when hopefully her absence would not be detected. After dinner and dessert the small group of people played a couple of games before settling into their spots to chill out and talk among themselves. As the evening wound down the guests started to leave until there were only 2-3 guests left. These remaining guests had a reputation for always being the last ones to leave a party. Somehow they did not or chose not to pick up the telltale signs hosts would enact to signal they were tired and wanted the party to end. MAYBE I MENTIONED this in an earlier post but all the clocks in my house show different times. How it started was when I pushed the time on my alarm clock ahead in the hope of never being late for work. From there it expanded to the rest of the clocks because I discovered many people do not pay attention to the actual time. From the parties I have thrown there were times where I was dead tired by the end of the evening. By having the clocks set ahead I could make a comment about how late the evening had gone; guests would look at the clock and be surprised by how fast time had passed by. Now before you say anything I do want to tell you that after I found my voice I no longer needed to depend on my false clock times to get late night guests out of the house; now I just tell them it is late and I am tired. It is a shame I could not have invited the homeowners in this dramatic, mystery horror film to one of my parties so they could take a lesson. WHEN THE UNEXPECTED man, played by Ed Harris (A Beautiful Mind, The Rock) was invited in by the homeowners, played by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games franchise, American Hustle) and Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, The Sea Inside), they had no idea how their lives would change. This film festival nominated movie written and directed by Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Fountain), also starred Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Begins, Dark Shadows) as the wife to Ed Harris’ character. The first part of the story was suspenseful and I immediately enjoyed everyone’s acting. However as the script continued this film got weirder and weirder. I became irritated with all the close up shots Darren was doing of Jennifer. The thing about this movie was I appreciated what I felt was the allegories the writer was trying to show. However as the story descended into a pseudo horror film I could not wait for the picture to be over. Because of the stark shift from suspense to horror I experienced a stronger negative reaction. Despite the acting from a cast I admired, I could not find justification for the amount of time I wasted watching this movie.
1 1/2 stars
I DID NOT think my question was that unusual or demanded too much from the sales clerk. If you could have seen their face you would have thought I had just asked something outrageous or personal. All I wanted to know was if the shirt’s material tended to shrink. Besides the “dirty” look and the condescending way they answered me, they did not even bother to look at me in the face. I wanted to tell them if they were that miserable at their job, maybe they should consider changing careers. Now in the past I would have taken that response personally and snapped back something nasty to say to them. To tell you the truth I took most things personally back then. DUE TO THE events I experienced in my earlier days I was wary of most people. My mind would quickly go into attack mode whenever I had an exchange of some kind with a stranger. They could have been a volunteer soliciting signatures or a lost tourist, it did not matter; I would be distrustful of the individual until I saw or could ascertain they were not going to hurt me in some way. I am not exactly sure when I started softening my attitude and not taking things personally, but I think it was during a time I was being fixed up on several blind dates. It did not take me long into the conversation to realize whether the person was interested in me or not. Granted some people showed their disinterest easier than others; but even the ones that kept up a good facade, did not cause me to react negatively. I realized that everyone has likes and dislikes, trigger points that set them off and none of it should be looked at as a good or bad thing. Their qualifications or agenda was not a personal attack on me; I just did not fit into what they were looking for. In a way one could say it was just business. AFTER SURVIVING A terrorist attack while on vacation Mitch Rapp, played by Dylan O’Brien (The Maze Runner franchise, Teen Wolf-TV), could not think of anything else after that date but to hunt down the terrorists. It was something the CIA was doing also. This action thriller also starred Michael Keaton (The Founder, Spider-Man: Homecoming) as Stan Hurley, Sanaa Lathan (Out of Time, The Best Man Holiday) as Irene Kennedy, Taylor Kitsch (Lone Survivor, Friday Night Lights-TV) as Ghost and Shiva Negar (The Art of More-TV, My Babysitter’s a Vampire-TV) as Annika. The highlight of this film was Michael Keaton; he was the most believable out of the cast. I do not know if Dylan was miscast but he did not have much range with his acting and I am afraid to say did not have the physical presence to pull off his character. With decent fight and action scenes the script could not carry the story; there were several situations that did not ring true for me. In addition the story was not only predictable but the premise for it was cheesy and weak in my opinion. A couple of therapy sessions prior to developing this film would have been money well spent.
THE GUESTS I was hosting were curious to see the city’s diverse neighborhoods. I put the afternoon aside to take them on a driving tour. After explaining how the city streets were based on a grid system, making it difficult to get lost as long as one could see a street address, we drove off to our 1st neighborhood. It so happens this was the area where I grew up. Driving around I explained the significance of several buildings, pointed out artifacts of interest and shared some of my personal history along the way. When I explained how I could walk to the main shopping district from my house without using any of the streets, they urged me to show them. I pointed out the several buildings’ gangways and alleys I traversed to make my way to the grocery store. There was no need to explain to them that this was one of my safe routes when I was a kid. AFTER SPENDING THE day showing them several neighborhoods I had some down time, letting my mind drift back to the spots that meant something to me. It is funny how as one grows older things that were important become less so. Memories that were crystal clear and vibrant now look dull as if every recall of them had buffed the layers away. There was the neighborhood’s casual restaurant where my friends and I would sit for a couple of hours to solve what we thought were such urgent matters. All of them seemed so insignificant now through aged eyes. One of the neighborhoods I drove my guests through had a two storied nightclub where I had dreams of being hired as a dancer. If I straighten up now too fast from tying my shoelaces I get lightheaded; how did time go by so fast? Having seen my old public library brought back a flood of emotions for it was one of my safe havens. It was there that I could nestle into one of the alcoves with a stack of books in front of me as cover. How I used to dream about what my life would become only to see it now from much further down the road, as I strolled along my path of scattered memories. SPENDING YEARS PARTYING with the upper echelon of society journalist Jeb Gambardella, played by Toni Servillo (The Girl by the Lake, The Consequences of Love), pretty much knew or knew about everyone. But at this stage of his life did he really want to know them? This Oscar and film festival winning drama also starred Carlo Verdone (Me, Them and Lara; Fun is Beautiful) as Romano, Sabrina Ferilli (Forever Young, 3 Women) as Ramona and Carlo Bucci Rosso (The New Monsters Today, Il Divo) as Lello Cava. Set in Italy, it was beautiful watching this movie. Not just the outdoor scenes but even the indoor ones each offered something for the viewer. As I began this DVD I did not connect immediately to the story; however, there was something about the way the film was shot that drew me in. I found it especially interesting that I perceived all the actors to be friends, which was due to how well they all blended together in the story. There was some confusion on my part whether the story was being told in chronological order or not, but it did not distract me too much. I will say I thought the film ran too long; the script could have used some editing. In a way this was an interesting study of the aging process. Italian was spoken with English subtitles.
3 stars — DVD
PHOTOGRAPHS OF IT were impressive so I could only imagine what it looked like in person. One of my trips was planned around seeing this particular area of the country that nature had sculpted. I had read the landscape changes colors based on the sun’s position; turning from a glowing orange to almost red hue at one point. After settling into my hotel room I drove out onto the highway for the car ride there. In my mind I had a game plan laid out of everything I wanted to see and photograph. Hopefully I would find a few areas to pull off of so I could trek through portions of the natural arches and standing rocks. The sun was big and bright in the sky so I was feeling especially lucky about this portion of my trip. IN THE DISTANCE I could see the town; besides, there was a large welcome sign posted on the side of the road telling me I had arrived at my destination. I am not sure what I expected the town to look like, but what I saw was nothing I imagined. No sooner had I entered the city limits and there were signs posted everywhere advertising everything from restaurants to souvenir shops to motels; I am talking sign after sign littering the landscape. To say it was a turn off would be an understatement. As I drove deeper into the town the signs were joined by retail stands and carts. There were people on the side of the rode selling T-shirts and hats with either pictures of the natural area or different variants of the town’s name. If that was not bad enough there was a majority of retail establishments that had gaudy bright lights and decorations adorning their space. Everything I saw looked tasteless to me; to live in a beautiful part of the country and mess it up with all of this stuff was a shame. The reason I am telling you this is because this is how I felt about this action drama. STUCK IN AN elevator at the World Trade Center when the first plane hit, five strangers soon realized they would have to depend on each other if there was any chance of them surviving. Starring Whoopi Goldberg (For Colored Girls, Glee-TV) as Metzie, Gina Gershon (P.S. I Love You, Face/Off) as Eve, Charlie Sheen (Wall Street, Two and a Half Men-TV) as Jeffrey, Luis Guzman (Boogie Nights, Anger Management) as Eddie and Jacqueline Bisset (The Deep, Bullitt) as Diane; I sat in my seat dumbfounded for most of this movie. The acting was almost comical and I found myself feeling embarrassed for the actors. I wondered if they were forced against their will or lost a bet, so they had to be in this film. The script, let me say, was basic and I am being kind. It was so predictable and made the actors look like novices in their field. Sadly I thought the idea to the story was good, where it could provide a variety of ways to play it out. I literally was baffled that such a life changing event in our history winds up being represented by this picture. If I had time I would like to see if it initially went straight to DVD and the movie studio decided to release it to theaters now since the 9/11 anniversary date was upon us. Talk about walking in expecting to experience something meaningful and finding out the only thing that mattered was a paycheck.
1 ½ stars
AFTER SPENDING A good portion of one’s life making decisions for others, a person may have forgotten how to make one for themselves. Ideally you grow up and learn how to be self-sufficient, in other words to be a responsible adult. Depending on your life’s course people and/or children can come into your life so your decisions will then have to incorporate them. It only makes sense if you are in a relationship the two of you would consider each other in your decisions. I had a friend who saw most things in black and white; you may know this type of person where all of their decisions come out of a pool of two options: yes or no. There was no room to negotiate with them. After several years they fell in love and soon after the two of them moved in together. I do not know what happened but from that point on this person could not make one decision without getting approval from their partner; it was the oddest thing to me. HAVE YOU EVER noticed how some decisions are influenced by peer pressure? I cannot recall the exact percentage but I read a study where at least 25% of mothers alter their parental decisions in public due to peer pressure. For me this falls into the same category of decisions that get based on statements with the word “should” in them. For example, “you should act your age” or “you should lose weight,” would fall into that category where someone is trying to dictate what they think you should be doing in your life. I am all for friends sharing their opinions about something that affects my life; but I hear them better when it is a discussion with feelings involved instead of just being told I should do such and such then everything will be fine. No, I do not operate that way; if they can tell me the reasons why they feel I should make a change then of course I would give consideration to what they were saying to me. The challenge is when you have more than one person telling you what they think you should do and it is not the same advice; somewhat similar to what was going on in this comedic, romantic drama. MOVING ACROSS THE country after separating from her husband Alice Kinney, played by Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, Wild), found her life taking a different course when she had too much to drink while celebrating her birthday and found herself in bed with Harry, played by Pico Alexander (A Most Violent Year, Indignation). He came with friends. With Nat Wolff (Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars) as Teddy, Michael Sheen (Passengers, Midnight in Paris) as Austen, Jon Rudnitsky (Patchwork, Saturday Night Live-TV) as George and Candice Bergen (Rules Don’t Apply, Gandhi) as Lillian Stewart; the cast was fine for this story. I would have preferred more scenes with Candice and Michael however. The idea behind the story had some valid components, but I found the script was not able to carry them throughout the movie. There was a hodgepodge of scenes were some were cute, others unrealistic and some were simply bland. My overall feeling for this film was “meh;” for me there needed to be more story so I could find some connections to the characters. I do not want this to sound like I am telling the writers what they should have done; I only want to share my feelings with them and with you.
THE STUDENT POPULATION of a school forms its own world map, where borders may be harder to determine. Where you may have one group of students coming together for their common love of sports, there could be another batch of kids who form a clique based on their enjoyment of drinking and drugging. To an outsider it may be difficult to see how these individual groups come together, since its formation is more akin to the way magnets attract metal; it is an unseen force yet yields a strong pull. Added to that there may not be any way to visually determine the common attraction. Unlike a bunch of students who are into and always wearing the latest fashion trends, there are individual groups that appear to be well diversified on the surface. One thing to remember about interacting with someone from a clique is that you rarely will be dealing with that person on a one to one basis; they always have the rest of their group to back them up. BACK DURING MY school years I never really was part of a group or clique; at least I did not think so. I was part of the film club and yearbook committee. What I did not realize was the group of friends I was hanging out with actually formed a clique-those not cool enough to be in one of the popular groups. At the time I thought we all just became friends because we had the same classes together or shared common friends; but maybe it was due to the fact we were easily accessible to each other because no group would accept us. As a result we were always initially left behind from various school activities until we banded together to head out as our own group. Looking at the students I hung out with through adult eyes I can now see we did share some common interests; however, we also had distinct differences. I am sure a good portion of them had no idea what I was going through with being bullied. Having met some of my abusers in my adult life, it was apparent to me they had no idea they were evil. The students in this dramatic horror film at least all knew who was evil. WITH NO ONE to keep them safe a group of kids come together to protect themselves from an evil clown that has been terrorizing each of them. Starring Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special, Aloha) as Bill Denbrough, Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ant-Man, 42) as Ben Hanson, Sophia Lillis (37, A Midsummer Night’s Dream) as Beverly Marsh, Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things-TV) as Richie Tozier and Bill Skarsgard (Atomic Blonde, Allegiant) as Pennywise; the acting from all of them was surprisingly quite good. I had wished there were more scenes with Bill Skarsgard however. The script for this Stephen King (Carrie, The Shining) novel took an interesting perspective I thought. Where I had wanted more back story to Pennywise, the writers’ focused more on the kids. By doing so I felt they were using a wider definition of “monster.” As for the movie there was more suspense to the scenes than horror; there were only a couple of scenes that had gore and blood. However, there was an over abundance of strong language throughout the film. For me the underlying message of the story was actually a positive one; I connected to it as it brought back memories of my school years. Isn’t that a scary thought?
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.
THE LACK OF hope in one’s life can create situations fueled by desperation. It is one thing to ignore the perceived bleakness; but when one comes face to face with it, life looks like it has turned into a series of extremes. There was a person who used to work in the same department as me whose life was a series of extreme events. She would tell us about some of her hardships, but only after the fact. In other words, for example she would sign up for these different so called easy money earning jobs that promised big earnings. The only thing she would have to do is pay a couple of hundred dollars for the sales kit that would have everything she needed to start making money quickly. If she would have said something to anyone in the department beforehand they could have warned her it was just a scam, but she never did and then wondered why she could not get ahead on her bills. BELIEVING YOU WERE dealt a bad hand in the game of life can feel like a constant burden of negative emotions. Depression, anger and hate would be a few that come to mind. I remember there was a new fashion trend in clothing that everyone in school was running to the stores in search of, not wanting to be left out of it. I was one of those who also went on the hunt for the clothing; however, every store I went to did not have my size. At first I wistfully hoped they were just out of stock but I knew better. None of the stores I visited carried my large size. This may sound trivial but back then school was all about fitting in or becoming an outcast. I am embarrassed to admit this but I even saved up money to see if I could have a tailor or seamstress make the clothes for me in my size. Looking back the adult me would never have cared one way or the other whether I wore a new fashion trend, but as I said desperation has a way of altering one’s priorities. WITHOUT A SENSE of hope or purpose Frankie, played by Harris Dickinson (Home-TV movie, Clique-TV), was looking for something that would satisfy the feelings he had bottled inside. Friends and family would not be able to provide any help. This film festival winning drama also starred relative newcomer Madeline Weinstein playing Simone, Kate Hodge (Rapid Fire, She-Wolf of London-TV) as Donna and Neal Huff (Split, Moonrise Kingdom) as Joe. Set in Brooklyn I found the style of filming created a stark realness to the scenes; in some ways it almost seemed like I was watching a documentary. There were multiple close-up scenes that lingered on characters’ faces so the viewer could get a feeling for the emotions being felt. This style helped the acting but overall I found the pacing exceptionally slow and drawn out. With the lack of any major dramatic scenes I felt everything was contained in a narrow band of emotions which did not help in the entertainment value of this story. I did not feel any connections to the characters, along with not knowing exactly what motivated them. There was a physical darkness to the film that I took was done on purpose to make scenes look more bleak. Unfortunately that despair was being felt by me as I did not see my feelings about this movie improving.