FROM MY SEAT, I COULD SEE the setting sun poking through a bank of clouds with long tentacles of deep orange, rays of light. The ocean was quietly whispering its waves gently onto the white sand beach. I felt relaxed as a salt infused warm breeze brushed past me. All this beauty around me suddenly dissolved, replaced with rows of wooden folding chairs, when the person next to me accidently elbowed me. I was sitting in the middle of a bookstore, listening to an author talk about his latest book. He was describing the place he secluded himself to, so he could concentrate on his writing. Because he was so descriptive about the area, I felt as if I had been transported from the bookstore to his beach. The people seated around me had been replaced with palm trees and scattered rocks. That is the beauty of a great storyteller; their words can take the reader/listener/viewer on a fantastical trip to any place in the entire universe. I may have no experience or reference point to a place or event; but through the writer’s words, I can experience and understand it as if I had been a part of it. It is a gift I feel because not everyone can tell a good story. THERE WAS THIS PERSON WHO I DREADED being around whenever they started to tell a story. I know this is going to sound rude, but it was tortuous to sit there and listen to them as they would constantly stop to correct some non-essential detail to the story they were trying to tell. Seriously, who cares if a person is 41 or 42, or if someone drives a blue or black car; I would be cringing in my seat, refraining myself from editing them so they could get to the end of their story. This person ruined every joke they tried to tell. Either they would leave out something or add so much frivolous details that by the time they got to the punchline, the listener had lost all interest. There have been times where I felt like I was being held a prisoner due to this person’s poor storytelling ability. I feel the same way about movie scripts. A good script writer can convey the essence, the feelings in a story, allowing the viewer to experience it even if it is something they have never encountered. Some of you may remember the convention that took place in Chicago in the 1960s; if you do or do not, it will not make a difference when you watch this historical, dramatic thriller. A GROUP OF INDIVIDUALS ARRIVED IN CHICAGO to protest the Vietnam War; several of them would find themselves on centerstage in a trial like no other. With Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts franchise, The Danish Girl) as Tom Hayden, Alex Sharp (The Hustle, The Sunlit Night) as Rennie Davis, Sacha Baron Cohen (The Brothers Grimsby, Les Misérables) as Abbie Hoffman, Jeremy Strong (The Big Short, The Judge) as Jerry Rubin and Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon, Robot & Frank) as Judge Julius Hoffman; this film festival winner written and directed by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, The West Wing-TV) immediately grabbed my attention and never let go. The writing was sharp, witty, enlightening; in other words, outstanding. I felt each actor was talking from their heart and mind; they transformed into their characters. Sacha and Frank Langella were brilliant in their roles. I knew about the event that took place in Chicago but did not really understand what was going on with it. Whether scenes in this film were true or not made no difference to me because I wasn’t looking for historical accuracy; I was looking to be entertained and with this movie I received it 100%.
THE FIRST TIME I traveled to Las Vegas my friends explained what I needed to do to play Blackjack. I already knew how to play but I was not familiar with the non-verbal communication between dealer and player. There were hand signals I needed to know; such as a quick drag of two fingers towards me on the felted playing board meant I wanted another card or moving my hand above my cards in a horizontal way meant no more cards. What they did not tell me was how fast the game would go once I was seated. When I flew out and got settled into my hotel room I went downstairs into the casino, confident I would remember all the different signs I was taught. I had $30.00 worth of chips (yeah, I am a big spender) and stacked them in front of me like everyone else did at the blackjack table; I did not want them to know I was a newbie, though I am sure it showed on me. In approximately 6 minutes I lost all of my chips. EVER SINCE THAT TIME I have never gambled again at any of the tables in Las Vegas. That feeling of giving my money to a business and not getting anything in return was one I never wanted to feel again. Sure there are some people who are lucky or even skilled that walk away with more money than what they started with, but I am not one of those individuals. It is funny because I knew several people who more times than not came home with extra money no matter the venue. Now I will tell you I enjoy watching the people in Las Vegas gamble because it is fascinating to see how much money goes into play at some of the tables. I stand there and try to figure out what these people do for a living, where they can make $1000.00+ bets. The other aspect that intrigues me is the camaraderie that forms between some of the players. I am not familiar with which game it is, but there is one where all the people sitting at the table are rooting for one particular player. Everyone cheers depending on what that player did and you would swear these people have no care in the world. It is a foreign concept to me and despite my lack of knowledge I was captivated by this biographical drama. FROM A RANDOM NON-DESCRIPT job former Olympic class skier Molly Bloom, played by Jessica Chastain (The Zookeeper’s Wife, Crimson Peak), took a chance in hopes it would pay off big. The game was poker and she was determined to come out on top. Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, The West Wing-TV) I thought the script was smart and precise. It was certainly adult dialog though at times I thought it was getting too wordy. With Idris Elba (The Mountain Between Us, Thor franchise) as Charlie Jaffey, Kevin Costner (Hidden Figures, Black or White) as Larry Bloom and Michael Cera (Superbad, Juno) as Player X; I thought the acting was of a high caliber. Jessica was amazing in this role and I felt Kevin put in one of his better performances. The story was incredible and I found myself getting into the nitty gritty of the poker games. I did not feel there was any lag time between any of the scenes; each one offered something of interest to watch and hear. Due to the high level of acting in this picture, I do not think you will lose if you choose to gamble on seeing this film.
3 ½ stars
Ugh not again; there they go repeating the same story for everyone. I do not know if this has happened to you but I know a couple of people who can take an entertaining story and pummel it down to the point where most people would have lost interest midway through the tale. One of these individuals will tell me a story, move on to something else for a moment and then come back to the original story to add some unnecessary element. I say “unnecessary” because once you give out the punchline the story is done. If you go back to add something else it never adds extra oomph if someone already knows the ending to the joke or story. At a party this person will go from group to group telling each one a particular story, dragging it out longer and longer as they make their way among the assembled people. It is easy to tell when a captive guest loses interest; their eyes keep darting from side to side after each blink as they are looking to lock in on someone to come save them from the storyteller’s discombobulated oratory. I may not be a great verbal communicator but I do know that a good story or joke needs to be quick and to the point. It is like a speech; there is only a finite amount of time one can hold onto an audience’s attention span before they drift off to someplace else. So here is today’s movie and it is the third film about Steve Jobs I have seen in a short amount of time. How many times do we need to hear about Steve and Apple Computer? Luckily they say the 3rd time is the charm because it was for this dramatic movie. COME backstage during the launch of 3 major products during Steve’s tenure at Apple Computer. Directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) and written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, The West Wing-TV), this film was intelligent, smart and most importantly acted out brilliantly. The casting could not have been better with the likes of Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method, Shame) as Steve Jobs, Kate Winslet (Titanic, Divergent franchise) as Joanna Hoffman and Jeff Daniels (The Martian, Looper) as John Sculley; they were amazing in their roles. Michael completely obliterated any trace memory I had left of Ashton Kutcher’s poor performance as Steve in the film Jobs; there is a good chance Michael will be nominated for best actor this Oscar season. The script was so well done I can only imagine the actors must have really enjoyed digging deep into their characters. I enjoyed the mix of dramatic intensity and humor Aaron brought into the script. The fact the story only focused on three specific time frames I believe made this a stronger picture. Truthfully, I could easily see this film again and not get bored.
3 1/2 stars