I AM USED TO WAITING IN LINE at the drive thru lane of a restaurant; but I was not prepared to do it at a funeral home. As I arrived at the funeral home, I saw there were several cars lined up as if they were preparing for the procession to the burial ground. Pulling into the lot behind the last car an employee of the funeral home, who had been standing off to the side, walked up to me to explain how to proceed through the visitation. I was to follow in single file, as one car at a time will pull underneath the porte-cochere. The occupants can then get out of their car and walk up to the locked, double glass doors of the lobby to pay their respects to the grieving family, who will be standing behind the doors with the casket. After the respects are paid, I was to return to my car and drive out of the parking lot. The last thing the man said to me was that there was not a sign in book; instead, I could go online to the funeral home’s home page and leave a comment for the family. I thanked the gentleman, closed my car window and waited for my turn. AFTER FIVE MINUTES, I WAS ABLE TO move forward one car length ahead. Outside my driver’s side window there was now a TV monitor that was set up on a stand. There was a slide show of photos rotating that showed different time periods in the life of the deceased. From birth to their first birthday part, their school years through college and family trips; I sat and watched the photos appear and disappear, providing me with a glimmer of what their life was like. I had lost track of time, as it became my turn to pull underneath and pay my respects. Getting out of the car, I walked towards the glass doors; the only thing I saw at first through the reflective glass was the open casket. It seemed to be floating in midair. As I got closer, images of the grieving family began to appear through the reflection as if they were materializing before my eyes. Out of the family members standing, the father looked the worse. I could not tell if what I was seeing was distorted by the reflective glass; but the father looked like he was in a state of shock. The solid stone expression on his face never changed. With lifeless eyes and a neck that looked like it had been replaced by a spring, he simply kept nodding his head up and down while staring directly ahead. It looked like he was missing a part of himself; similar to the way the main character did in this mystery drama. WHEN HER DAUGHTER DID NOT COME home it was up to Debra, played by Sienna Miller (The Lost City of Z, American Sniper) to be in charge of raising her grandson. She only needed someone to raise her. This film festival nominated movie also starred Sky Ferreira (Baby Driver, Elvis & Nixon) as Bridget Callahan, Kentucker Audley (Funny Bunny, The Middle Distance) as Brett Tobeck, Christina Hendricks (Good Girls-TV, The Neon Demon) as Katherine and Will Sasso (The Three Stooges, Happy Gilmore) as Terry. Set in rural Pennsylvania, this acting by Sienna and Christina was outstanding. At first, I was not sure where the story was going; but with the acting and directing I fell into the events taking place while becoming emotional attached. This was a quiet film where some of the characters needed more emotional depth. However, the performances of the actors made up for any deficiencies. This was both such a heart wrenching and triumphant story that Sienna navigated with expert skill.
3 ¼ stars
He was born with an athletic build; early on had a gift for doing almost any type of sport. After he was enrolled into little league his contribution helped the team rise up in the rankings. When it was time to have swimming lessons he was the first one to volunteer to hold their breath under water, paying no mind to a couple of classmates who sat on the side shivering and crying. He was what you would call fearless. Then a period came where he decided to go into gymnastics and applied to the school’s team. Of course he made it and quickly became the team’s star athlete. Now running parallel to all of these achievements and activities was another road traveled by him. It was a journey filled with accidents. They were not all major type of accidents but they did cause him pain. There was the time he was playing with a cousin on the back stairs of an apartment building. A neighbor’s son who was playing nearby decided to pick up a rock and throw it at them. One cousin saw it and ducked out of the way, but the rock found its mark. The athletic cousin got hit in the forehead. Blood gushed out and he was rushed to the hospital where they patched him up; a scar remained forever on his forehead. Playing with another cousin the two were running around his house, going in and out through the glass paned screen door. For some reason during one pass through he did not see the door was closed and ran right into it, shattering the glass into pieces that shredded up part of his skin. There were other accidents involving broken limbs but he always bounced back. Relatives would just say he was accident prone. I on the other hand wondered if something else was going on with him always getting hurt. Well this mysterious thriller may have provided me with an answer. AMAZINGLY 9 year old Louis Drax, played by Aiden Longworth (Hector and the Search for Happiness, Cut Bank), was still alive after a fatal fall. The investigation included Dr. Allan Pascal, played by Jamie Dornan (Anthropoid, Fifty Shades of Grey), who was willing to believe something else was going on. This film’s cast also included Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold, A Dangerous Method) as Natalie, Aaron Paul (Eye in the Sky, Exodus: Gods and Kings) as Peter and Molly Parker (The Road, The Five Senses) as Dalton. I found the story interesting at first, helped by Jamie’s and Aiden’s acting. Sadly there was nothing else special about this film. It came across in a predictable way except for maybe one or two scenes. It was almost as if the movie studio did not want to invest too much effort in creating this picture; the acting was nothing memorable, there was no intensity to the scenes and the whole package when put together left me bored. What this all comes down to is having a film about accidents being an accident itself.
1 ¾ stars
I have known for a long time I could never live in a condominium. I would be the resident everyone would talk about after any of the condo board meetings. You see, I know if I voted differently than the majority I would be upset if I lost. Not for things that have to do with maintaining the buildings, but for items that do not interest me. Having a friend who was a board member for his condominium association, the stories he told me about the heated discussions, back stabbing and yelling only confirmed my decision never to live in such a dwelling. When too many people have a say in the decision process I have found it always to be filled with unhappy participants. If you do not believe me just get a group of say 6 to 8 people together and ask them where they want to go to eat out dinner. In my experiences I have never had a group all say the same place or cuisine. Now there is the “care factor” of your group; some individuals have a definite response and will only eat at certain places. Then there are others who go for the socializing aspect; the food is secondary for them. I have been part of both sides, being the dominant one on where we should all eat besides being on the not caring where we wind up side. The point is if no one can agree or make a decision then someone has to step up and lead the group to, under the circumstances, the best decision possible. It can be a hard decision but someone has to do it, just like in this military drama. COLONEL Katherine Powell, played by Helen Mirren (Woman in Gold, Trumbo), suddenly had an opportunity open up that she had been waiting on for 6 years. If she was the only one who needed to make a decision she was ready. This film festival nominee was a tense thriller. Besides Helen the cast also had Aaron Paul (Triple 9, Need for Speed) as Steve Watts and Alan Rickman (Harry Potter franchise, Nobel Son) as Lt. General Frank Benson. The story fascinated me because of its relevancy and the logistics that were involved in creating the action. Without a question, Helen was terrific as usual and though I enjoyed seeing Alan, part of his performance reminded me of his Harry Potter character. Another reason why this film worked was due to the questions it presented in the decision process. If there is any truth to this story I am totally amazed with how many people are needed to be involved in the decision process. The type of action on display in this war picture is something I have seen before; however, my perceptions of it being similar to playing a video game are no longer true. All this time I thought getting people together to go out to dinner was a challenge; little did I know it pales in comparison to the decisions that had to be made in this movie.
Once upon a time I had only known police officers to be friendly and helpful. There was a relative’s relative (you know, from the other side of a marriage) who was in the police force. The few times where we would be together for an occasion they were simply kind and quiet. I was told they were tough at work but I never witnessed it. In high school there was a narcotics officer who stationed himself in the cafeteria during all of the lunch periods. I remember him kidding around with the students as he patrolled the large lunchroom. He was always at the entrance first thing in the morning to greet all of us; though I always wondered if he was looking for something in particular. There was only one time where I saw him interacting with a student in a forceful way. It turned out the student was high on something and tried to resist the officer’s request to come with him to the principal’s office. That was my only contact with police officers. Sadly when you hear people talking about the police these days it tends to be with disdain and mistrust. The use of video cameras, installed on the officers and in police cars along with bystanders’ cell phones, has changed the general public’s opinions about the police. With the altercations that have been recorded and shown on the news these days, I cannot imagine someone not being affected by it in a negative way. The one reason I am not surprised by the things I have seen is because I have always had this philosophy for every occupation: someone has to graduate at the top of the class just as there has to be someone who graduates at the bottom. UNDER pressure to commit a criminal act a group of crooked officers have to set up a code 999, which means an officer is down. This crime thriller had an amazing cast of actors that included Chiwetel Ejiofer (The Martian, Z for Zachariah) as Michael Atwood, Casey Affleck (Tower Heist, Gone Baby Gone) as Chris Allen, Anthony Mackie (Ant-Man, Our Brand is Crisis) as Marcus Belmont and Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs, Titanic) as Irina Vlaslov. Now you would think with such a group of actors this movie would be stellar, wouldn’t you? The action scenes were absolutely intense but the story went nowhere. I felt no connection to any of it; none of the scenes flowed together, it was disjointed. Sitting here and recalling the characters reminds me I knew nothing about them. It felt as if I had only seen a portion of the film; the part that had the blood and violence in it. The actors did what they could with the script but the only one that stood out for me was Casey. Kate was wasted on her role and I felt I had wasted my time watching this picture. Maybe the people involved with making this movie graduated at the bottom of their class.
1 3/4 stars
No one has the right to tell you how you should feel is one of my strongest mantras. Among all the individuals within the circles of connections in my life, everyone knows there is no reason to cover-up, modify or hide one’s feelings. If someone is in a foul mood, so be it. I am not one to offer platitudes like “things will get better” or “it will be a brighter day soon.” When I am sad or depressed I certainly do not want someone around trying to cheer me up. I just want someone to be accepting and understand this is how I am feeling right at the moment. The phrase “misery loves company” comes to mind and there is some truth in it. I have noticed a stronger connection forms between 2 people when they are commiserating about similar circumstances. It is true for me when my friends and I are at a concert or on a trip, shared excitement only accentuates the experience. The same holds true during a somber or sad experience. It all comes down to the ability to relate to another being, to know there is someone else who is feeling the same way as you. COINCIDENTALLY, the four individuals in this comedic drama accidentally discovered they were each feeling the same way with the same idea. It was New Year’s Eve and expecting to be alone Martin, Maureen, Jess and JJ; played by Pierce Brosnan (Love is All You Need, The Ghost), Toni Collette (The Way Way Back, Little Miss Sunshine), Imogen Poots (Jane Eyre, That Awkward Moment) and Aaron Paul (Need for Speed, Breaking Bad-TV); all found themselves on the top of a high-rise building at the same time with plans to jump off the roof. Instead of ending their lives that night, they form an unusual pact to help support each other through their troubled times. Based on the novel by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy), believe it or not this film offered a few amusing moments. The subject may be morbid for some; but I found the script did a decent job of handling the subject matter, mixing doses of lightheartedness with darkness. Though the acting was this movie’s strongest feature, it could not help save this dramedy. I found the story jumped around too much, never allowing time to offer further explanation to the scenes. With things coming across piecemeal, the story never fully developed and fell flat. Not that I expect you to agree with me on every one of my movie reviews, but I feel comfortable there will be many who will feel the same way I do after they see this film.
1 3/4 stars
If you would have asked me several years ago if I was a vengeful person I would have said yes. It was not something that made me proud, especially since I was not mature about it, letting it flame out of me as a way to cover up my hurt feelings. An example would be if someone broke my trust; I would want to hurt them as much as I felt they hurt me. I cannot say there was one thing that triggered a change in me; maybe the realization I no longer wanted to give my energy away to someone who did not deserve it. Instead of going into attack mode I can now express my feelings and if need be walk away while not giving that individual another thought. This would not be the case if I felt I needed to right a wrong, however. Being a big believer in actions speaking louder than words, I could not fault the main character in this action drama from righting a wrong done to him. Aaron Paul (The Last House on the Left, Breaking Bad-TV) played Tobey Marshall. After being sent to prison for a crime he did not commit, Tobey would ride across the country to enter a racing contest just so he could compete against the man who had set him up. Based on the popular video game, the main stars of this crime film were the automobiles. Aaron who twice won an Emmy for his performance in Breaking Bad was horrible as the leading character. Topping his poor performance was an actor I have had high regard for, Dominic Cooper (The Devil’s Due, The Duchess) who played racing car driver Dino Brewster. Not all the fault should be placed on them because the script and direction were the real problems that made this a dull film. Though the driving and racing scenes were good and well orchestrated, I thought the driving was better in the Fast & Furious movie franchise. Imogen Poots (That Awkward Moment, Fright Night) as Julia Maddon and Michael Keaton (RoboCop, First Daughter) as Monarch had more life in their characters, though Michael seemed to be channeling his Beetlejuice character a bit. As an overall movie watching experience, I always cheer for the underdog character and like to see justice being served; but when the cars are acting better than the cast, I felt this film was a quart low in being entertaining. I also want to add there is no reason to see this film in 3D. An extra scene can be seen after the short first set of credits at the end of the film.
1 3/4 stars
In social situations where my answer to drink requests was water; more times than not, I was asked if I had an issue with alcohol. I explained to the person that no, I did not like the taste of it; preferring to use calories on a chocolate chip cookie. As a child I remember being horrified as I saw relatives acting out from being drunk. Inevitably an argument would ensue making everyone around uncomfortable. It usually was not a pleasant situation when the drunk person’s date or spouse was not in a similar inebriated state. This comedic drama gave a straight forward, unapologetic look at the challenges encountered when one person in a relationship attempts to make a change. Kate and Charlie Hannah, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Thing, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad-TV, The Last House on the Left) had the best times together when alcohol was involved. From backyard games to night time drunken bicycle rides, life was a constant high. But after hungover Kate vomited in front of her 1st grade students, those good times seemed less fun. What could replace her’s and Charlie’s favorite activity? The story was well thought out in this compelling film. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul were not only believable in their raw performances; they brought a subtle darkness to the characters. I was moved to the point where I felt a twinge of anxiety, similar to what I felt as a kid. The remaining cast for the most part were secondary; I thought Octavia Spencer (The Help, Seven Pounds) as Kate’s mentor Jenny could have been a stronger character. With an outstanding performance from Mary Elizabeth, this movie transcended from a story about two heavy drinkers to a keen observation on the choices one makes in life.