WE WERE PART OF AN ELITE group, though none of us would ever admit to it. I do not know any other way to say this, but we were easy targets. We were always the last ones to be picked for a team in PE class. Because I was overweight, the athletic boys assumed I could not do any of the sports that we played in class. They were half right in some cases; but it was okay, I had no desire to be part of any team. I saw what happened to those who did not meet the jocks’ standards. One of the students in our elite group was picked on in brutal ways. In the locker room it was rare a week went by without him getting his head slammed into a locker door or being tripped in the shower room. One time a group of bullies waited for him to completely disrobe at his locker before grabbing him to hang out the window. To this day, I can still hear him screaming as they dragged him to the open window. I was frozen with fear because I had my own hell, I was going through, with some of these same bullies. Some of the less harsh treatments I endured were being shoved into lockers, punched, slapped with textbooks and stabbed. WHEN I WENT TO SCHOOL OUT of state, I decided to reinvent myself because I never wanted to go through what I did previously in school. I got a handle on my eating habits and started exercising properly, none of the competitive crap that was offered in my past schooling. It took a long time, but I started noticing the difference in my weight loss. By the time I finished up my studies and returned home, I looked quite different. Friends and relatives would get surprised when they saw the “new” me. One Saturday night, I was at a party and bumped into a guy who was part of our elite group from school. Back then he used to get bullied because he was extremely skinny (go figure) with these super long legs and short torso. Because he had not matured the same time as most of the boys in class, he was picked on and called names. Looking at him now as an adult, I was amazed at his transformation. From that gangly, prepubescent looking boy, who always carried a baseball mitt in his backpack; I was looking at a tall handsome man with a warm smile. We were both survivors who got to the other side of what life was meant to be. Having that survivor mentality, I immediately felt a connection to him, just like I did when I saw the musical artist of this documentary perform live in concert. ON THE OUTSIDE NO ONE COULD imagine what life was like for Anna Mae Bullock after she got off the stage. From this musical biography, this Grammy award winner will show you how to live a different life. Written and directed by Daniel Lindsay (Undefeated, LA 92) and T.J. Martin (Undefeated, LA 92), this film featured Angela Bassett (Black Panther, Contact), Oprah (The Color Purple, A Wrinkle in Time) and Kurt Loder (Get Him to the Greek, Airheads) talking about their feelings about Tina Turner. Right from the start, I was glued to this film. Granted I am probably biased, having seen her perform in concert 3 times. Out of all the musical artists’ concerts I have attended, she was the hardest working performer I had ever seen. From watching this thoroughly entertaining film, I can see where she gets her strength. It was obvious to me that this movie was made as a love letter to her fans and a goodbye; there were intimate scenes as well as tough ones. The concert footage was enough for me to want to see this film again. As far as I am concerned, she needs to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a single artist. It would be the perfect topping to an amazing life.
SHE CAME FROM A BROKEN HOME and she was related to me. I never knew her father because her mother divorced him before I was born. The only thing I heard as the reason for the divorce was the father was abusive. As far as I knew the mother made a new comforting home for her and her daughter. I remember when the daughter got remarried; though, I never knew she was married before. It turns out she had married a man who was abusive to her, locking her in a closet at times. All I knew was the relatives were all excited when she remarried a gentleman who they all liked. The fact he was devoted to his mother, the relatives took as a good sign of what type of husband he would be. I remember meeting him and being struck how odd it was that his face showed little emotion. Maybe it was nerves or fear on his part for meeting a room full of relatives, yet it was so strange to me that I could not get it out of my mind. Everything appeared to be fine; I heard relatives say the couple had a lovely house. Whenever I would see my relative and her husband, there was something he did that bugged me. Not all the time, but enough times for me to notice he would make his wife the brunt for one of his jokes. I did not find it funny, but she would simply chuckle and tell him to stop it. It never did. SOME YEARS LATER I HEARD MY relative was going to the same beauty shop as another relative. I do not have any proof but was told my relative was wearing heavy makeup to hide bruises on her face. This other relative would see her once or twice a month and noticed the amount of makeup she used on her face would change periodically. A couple of times during the wash and set of her hair, her makeup would get messed up and that is when my other relative would see the bruises. Of course, the question that came to everyone’s mind was whether the bruises were due to a medical reason or from physical abuse. I could not believe they were from abuse; only because I would have thought after what she went through as a child supposedly, she would recognize the behavior of an abuser and steer clear of such an individual. Granted I had no proof only secondhand information. I only wished she had the strength to take care of herself and seek out help if she needed it, like what the mother in this film festival winner had to do. THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERED TO Sandra, played by Clare Dunne (Spider-Man: Far from Home, Monged), was the safety of her daughters. After figuring out a way to provide for her daughters, she had to find a way to make it become reality. With Molly McCann (Sweetness in the Belly, Rosie) as Molly, newcomer Ruby Rose O’Hara as Emma, Ian Lloyd Anderson (Dublin Oldschool, Love/Hate-TV) as Gary and Harriet Walter (The Young Victoria, Sense and Sensibility) as Peggy; this Irish drama was filled with wide ranging emotional scenes. Sandra was such a believable character thanks to Clare’s stunning acting skills, that the daughters only accentuated the family unit where I totally believed everything I was seeing. The story was easy to follow but hard to watch at times. Despite the toughness there was a delicateness that came across thanks to the director’s skills. I never felt manipulated or tricked; there was a certain rawness that came across that really made this film stand out for me. As a side note, due to the Irish dialect there were a few times I had a hard time understanding what was being said. However, this was a minor distraction for me.
3 ½ stars
FEW OF MY FRIENDS LIKED THE candy pellets that came out of the candy dispenser I carried around in my pocket. I had a couple of different kinds; one had Popeye’s head on the top and the other had the head of a dog. When you tilted the head back the mouth would open to reveal a candy pellet, for you to slide out and pop into your mouth. Whenever I went to the candy store I always picked up a couple of packs of pellets to reload my dispensers. As time went on and my tastes changed, I stopped carrying around my candy dispensers; I placed them in a desk drawer and soon forgot about them. Fast forward to years later and on one of my social media sites I have a follower who is a big fan/collector of the same kind of candy dispensers I used to have when I was younger. From seeing the things this follower has been posting, I discovered there is a world of people who enjoy these candy dispensers. And here I thought when I was younger I was the only one who liked them. I will say from the time I had them they certainly have increased the amount of different heads on them. THOUGH I KNOW NONE OF THOSE PEOPLE in my follower’s posts, I felt some kind of connection. It is the type of connection one feels when they discover someone they do not know has the same like/dislike of a particular thing. It immediately forms a connection between the 2 individuals because they have something in common that they can now use to build on a relationship. The best example I can show is my movie review site. The people who comment on my reviews were unknown to me for the most part. All of a sudden we started a dialog that was born in our mutual love of movies and in turn a comfort formed that allowed an easy sharing of each other’s life stories. Growing up, I had a variety of interests that were not shared by those around me. I can remember during the 7th or 8th grades meeting a couple of new students who had similar interests. It was not only an immediate connection, but it was the start of a deep friendship. In a way it was like finding someone who spoke the same language as you after being misunderstood by your peers for years. From the beginning of this film festival winning, dramatic thriller I found myself connected to the main characters. BEING NEW TO THE AREA DID NOT make a difference to the connection that quickly formed between Casey Caraway and her neighbor Jonas Ford, played by Sophie Nelisse (The Book Thief, Pawn Sacrifice) and Josh Wiggins (Max, Walking Out). Their connection would be tested beyond anything they imagined. With Joe Cobden (Source Code, The Day After Tomorrow) as Elbert Ford, Bill Paxton (Twister, Apollo 13) as Wayne Caraway and Colm Feore (Chicago, The Chronicles of Riddick) as The Chief; this story drew me in due to the connection I mentioned previously. The acting came across truthfully and at times powerfully. I felt Bill’s performance was authentic and intense, especially because I was getting a physical reaction from his character. The story line had a similar flavor to past movies of the same genre; however, I was surprised with the twists in this one. The filming style added to the despair felt in the story; there was a simple and direct style that made the characters come across in a raw, sometimes desperate, way. The story may cause uneasiness with viewers in the beginning, but it would be worth staying to see what happens and you never know, there may be a connection that forms with you.
2 ½ stars — DVD
IT WAS AN OUTDOOR SHOPPING CENTER made to look like a town square. I was not interested in how it looked, only needed to go to one store located somewhere inside. Within the first minute of turning into the mall I was already annoyed by the parking lot; it was set like an English garden maze, except the green hedges were replaced with concrete curbs. From the posted signs I knew I had to be somewhere in the right area, so I decided to park and make my way on foot. Luckily the store was easy to find and once inside I quickly found what I was looking for before I headed back to my car in record time. Next on my to do list was going to the bank. I asked the virtual voice assistant on my phone for the nearest location to a branch of my bank. Directions were offered which I followed out of the parking lot. I made my way down the street for a short time, just past the shopping mall. Being told to turn down a side street I would up winding my way south, having to stop at each intersection because of stop signs. Finally coming out onto a thoroughfare I was instructed to turn west. The next thing I knew I was back at the shopping center and right there was a sign pointing me to the bank. I FOUND IT ANNOYING THAT I HAD to drive out of the mall, through a residential area, only to be directed back into the mall. It made no sense to me. Maybe there was some reason why the interactive assistant had me drive that way, but I found it confusing. These days I find many things confusing and it is not because of an addled mind. It just seems as if common sense is becoming a rare commodity. Later in the day I was at a condominium building and the elevator had a handwritten sign taped inside that said, “Due to the freezing temperatures it is suggested the cabinet doors under all sinks are opened to prevent pipes freezing. This made no sense to me; how would pipes freeze in a unit of a multi-storied condominium building? Don’t all the residents get their water from a main line that then divides out to each unit? I could spend all day listing the things I come across that make no sense to me; but instead, I will just let today’s movie show you what I am talking about. THE QUIET PEACEFUL LIFE BAKER DILL, played by Matthew McConaughey (Gold, The Dark Tower), had created for himself came apart when his ex-wife suddenly appeared with a desperate plea to save her. This dramatic thriller also starred Anne Hathaway (Ocean’s Eight, The Intern) as Karen Zariakas, Diane Lane (Trumbo, Secretariat) as Constance, Jason Clarke (First Man, Everest) as Frank Zariakas and Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, Guardians of the Galaxy) as Duke. I actually think the actors could have handled anything that got thrown to them, but I do not know how they maintained their composure with this bizarre script. Their first clue, I believe, would have been their initial read through of it. The story made no sense to me which added to my boredom. Maybe the writer wanted to create a twisted, sexy, tension building story but all I found were things that made me scratch my head in confusion. It is a shame because I enjoyed the look of the film and particularly the setting, which was this idyllic island. There is already enough I encounter that dumbfounds me; there was no reason why I needed to pay for my confusion by watching this picture.
1 ½ stars
FROM THE CLASSES I ATTENDED AND the personal stories that were shared with me, I would have thought after all this time I would have a better understanding about the parent/child relationship. Even to this day I still can be surprised by the things I see and hear regarding children and their parents. There is a mother I know who was told by her daughter that the only way she could see her grandchildren would be if she goes into therapy. That is all I know but I can assume something intense happened between the daughter and her mother. There is a father I know who has many prejudices; essentially, he doesn’t like anyone. His daughter is the complete opposite, gratefully. It has come to the point where the daughter tries to avoid social functions with her Dad because she knows he will be offending someone before the evening is over. This is the thing that fascinates me; where the daughter turns out to be a complete opposite to her father, there are other children who turn into their parent(s). How does that happen? I know a man who has the same prejudices as his deceased father; it makes me wonder what type of environment the boy was raised in. As I have said before, no one is born being a racist, sexist or prejudiced; it is something that gets taught. NOW WHEN IT COMES TO BULLYING and abuse, studies have shown a majority of those who act these out were themselves victims to it. I believe it because I have seen it happen. There was a kid in my neighborhood who was a bully; he took pleasure in tormenting other kids. It turns out his dad picked on him, hitting or slapping him besides calling him names. Of course, it doesn’t excuse the son’s behavior and I am guessing the father was abused or bullied when he was a kid. When I was in college one of my classes spent time looking at ways to stop this vicious cycle of abusers creating more abusers. Think about it; parents are supposed to be the protectors of their children. It seems to me when something is off, the home environment becomes a breeding ground for the unhealthy behavior to flourish and be handed down generation to generation. I find it awful and sad. There was a time in school where I felt every human being needed to go into therapy; to help them understand themselves and become of sound mind and body. This certainly would apply to the sisters in this dramatic, crime thriller. HAVING A REPUTATION FOR BEING A BRILLIANT computer hacker; how then was Lisbeth Salander, played by Claire Foy (First Man, Unsane), set up so easily? It would have to be from someone she knew. With Beau Gadsdon (The Crown-TV, Rogue One: A Stars Wars Story) as young Lisbeth, Sverrir Gudnason (A Serious Game, Borg vs McEnroe) as Mikael Blomkvist, Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You, Selma) as Ed Needham and Sylvia Hoeks (Blade Runner 2049, The Best Offer) as Camilla Salander; this movie was mostly all about the action. I thought Claire did a fine job in the role, but it did not stretch her due to the weak script. By the end of the story I found the script to be silly and a letdown. There were a few exciting scenes; but I found most of the acting one dimensional, without much focus to it. While watching some scenes I thought it was odd that Lisbeth could be easily followed considering she was such a computer “genius.” If the producers plan to churn out this level of work, then we need an intervention to make them stop.
1 ¾ stars
WITH ONE OF MY PREVIOUS cell phones I programmed most of my contacts with songs as their ringtone. I want you to know I never missed a call. In the middle of a crowded shopping mall or restaurant it did not make a difference because I would always hear the notes of the song. My ears from the time I was born were always accustomed to music and not just one genre; I was exposed to everything from classical to the blues. At some point in time I dreamt about being on a game show where the contestants had to name the song the game show host was playing for them. I was positive I could win. There is something about music that puts me in a place where I may feel relaxed or romantic or exhilarated; besides a wealth of other feelings. I am willing to bet many of us have a “go to” song we play when we have a heartbreak; there were several in my roundhouse. MUSIC CERTAINLY HAS EVOLVED OVER the centuries; I can only fantasize what it must have been like for early man and woman when they struck their first note. Imagine the idea of tying a string to essentially a piece of wood and discovering you can play different sounds depending on where your hand presses down on the string. The same goes for any wind type of instrument; who thought of blowing air into a shell or ram’s horn to make a sound? No matter how music is made one of the main foundations among all genres are the feelings that go into the musical piece. I find when a musical artist can connect to their song it makes me believe what they are saying. I know it is true because even the judges on those singing reality shows (my guilty pleasure) say the same thing. A singer needs to feel what they are singing and pour their emotions into the lyrics. Though it is a cliché I agree that music can soothe the savage beast. If you are not sure about this then you might want to check out this musical, family drama. LIVING WITH AN ABUSIVE FATHER the only thing that saved Bart, played by newcomer J. Michael Finley, was listening to music. It would take years before he understood why. Based on a true story, this movie also starred Dennis Quaid (A Dog’s Purpose, Far from Heaven) as Arthur, Brody Rose (Gifted, Christmas on the Bayou) as young Bart, Trace Adkins (The Lincoln Lawyer, Deepwater Horizon) as Brickell and Madeline Carroll (Flipped, Mr. Popper’s Penguins) as Shannon. With the story being faith based the thing I appreciated about this script was its ability to tell a story without drumming faith into the viewer’s head. The faith based films I have recently seen all focused on telling the viewers what we should believe, instead of creating a well done piece of work that told a story. Maybe because this was a true story about a dark subject I found it more palatable. I also enjoyed the music and especially Bart’s singing; the actor could easily do a Broadway musical with that type of voice. As for the script it did not have any real surprises in it. I felt Dennis did a better than usual job of acting in this film. What tied this whole picture together for me was the showing of statistics and the connection of events that led Bart on his journey. What sold me on this film was the music; if I had not enjoyed it I would have rated the movie lower.
UNLESS a person is a witness to or told about an abusive act, it is not always easy to know if someone has been victimized. There may be some physical signs such as bruises or cuts, but one cannot rely on them being visible. The emotional aspect resides in the deep, murky waters of the mind; where it is harder for someone to find, even for the victim sometimes. There was a boy who every day after school would stop to buy the largest size serving of ice cream from the ice cream man, who drove his blue and white truck around the neighborhood after school hours. By the time the boy walked home he had finished his ice cream, even if he got a brain freeze from eating it too fast. Once in the house this latchkey kid would eat whatever bread was in the kitchen, at times he would eat the entire loaf. If he was queried on what happened to the bread his standard answer was to say he was hungry. He knew eating this much food before dinner was not normal but it did not matter; it made him feel good which may have been the only time that day where he felt that way. There were visual and emotional cues about his behavior but he was tightlipped, afraid to tell anyone what was being done to him at school. THERE are some people who do their best to help a victim of abuse. They really have good intentions; however, the abuser always has a backup plan or you might say an escape plan. Incorporating a variety of factors they find a way to continue their abusive ways. I remember with a school teacher’s assistance I was ushered into the vice principal’s office. The teacher explained what was happening and to my horror the vice principal requested my attackers be pulled out of class and sent down to him immediately. As each attacker was escorted into the office I prayed I could disappear into my chair. After the vice principal screamed and threatened each of them with expulsion, the group of boys left me alone for exactly 2 weeks. I wonder how they would have felt if they were part of this movie’s story? NOT only did Henry Carpenter, played by Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special, St. Vincent), run the family finances and watch out for his little brother Peter and mother Susan, played by Jacob Tremblay (Room, Before I Walk) and Naomi Watts (While We’re Young, 3 Generations); he also was aware something was not right with his classmate who lived next door. He was sure her stepfather Glenn, played by Dean Norris (Little Miss Sunshine, Total Recall), had something to do with it. This dramatic thriller scored points with me due to the acting. Jaeden and Jacob matched each other’s talents, forming what looked like true brothers. Naomi was also excellent in her role. I was totally aware the script was illogical in places along with having a few patchy spots. It was obvious to me the writer were aiming for the heartstring’s of the movie audience; with that being said, I still found the story interesting enough to keep me engaged with it in its entirety. Additionally I am taking into consideration my sensitivity to the subject; even putting that aside I still found this film a worthwhile watch.
2 ¾ stars
Some people assume I am good at detecting the anger inside of individuals because of my yoga background. While that certainly has helped me in recognizing the tension and anger someone may carry, the larger reason I can spot anger is because I have had an intimate relationship with it. I am not talking about spats, conflicts or disagreements; I am referring to that deep anger that boils inside, always on the verge of flaring up with any little spark. It is the type that is so out of proportion to the situation that bystanders stare in disbelief as you look like a cross between a paper shredder and volcano. I can remember how my anger would invade my brain, pushing everything aside into a single room as if it were being held prisoner. The anger and frustration would tense my body into stiffness. Luckily the release valve to my anger used a verbal route instead of a physical one. Though when I was younger, if something did not work the way I wanted it to, I would beat it apart to teach it a lesson. Yes I know it was stupid, but I did not know better at the time. I do not think anger ever leaves a person; at least I know it is still inside of me. The difference being it shares a space with my other emotions, willing now to work together with them. What worked for me may not work for someone else; each person has to find their own path in dealing with their anger. JOSEPH, played by Peter Mullan (War Horse, Trainspotting), was unemployed, frustrated and angry all the time; he was a time bomb without a fuse. Hannah, played by Olivia Collman (The Iron Lady, Hot Fuzz), was a Christian woman who felt she could save him through prayer. But who would save Hannah? This film festival winning drama was an incredibly intense viewing experience. There was some strong language, though I had a hard time understanding Joseph’s accent. Their acting was beautiful which may seem like an odd choice of adjective to use; but I loved their dynamics along with Eddie Marson (Sherlock Holmes franchise, God’s Pocket), who played Hannah’s husband James. I thought the story and script were dynamite, both figuratively and literally. There was never a moment where I was not either washed over by various emotions or feeling on edge with the intensity of the scene. This DVD was a total surprise to me; in fact, afterwards when I looked online to see if this picture had received any recognition, I could not get over the long list of accolades. It is funny how this movie that dealt with anger could make me glad I saw it. A few scenes had blood and violence in them.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
I think most people have something they can do or use when they want to escape from reality. Some people get lost into their knitting, while others may disappear into their work shop for hours. For me it was playing piano when I was younger. These days I escape by watching movies. In this film I could certainly appreciate how the character LV (Little Voice) removed herself from her oppressive reality. After her father had died, LV played by Jane Horrocks (Brother of the Head, Absolutely Fabulous-TV) would hole up into her room, singing along to her father’s old vinyl records. When she would sing, LV was no longer the quiet, shy girl of her loud and abusive mother Mari Hoff, played by Brenda Blethyn (Atonement, Pride & Prejudice). Little Voice was able to shine just like the popular singers from the records she played. When one of Mari’s sleazy boyfriends, Ray Say played by Michael Caine (The Dark Knight, Inception), heard LV’s incredible singing; he thought he had a chance to make a profit–if only he could convince her to sing at a nightclub. Everyone’s performance in this movie was wonderful, especially the knock out singing from Ms. Horrocks. I, also, loved the way the writers subtley moved the characters out of their comfort zones into new territory. Not only was this emotional movie a perfect escape for me, it was a great movie to watch.
3 stars — DVD