NOT ONLY WAS IT INFORMATIVE, IT was also a fun lecture. I know, how many times do you get to have a good time while sitting through a lecture? In this case, it really was an enjoyable time; all because of the lecturer. I was attending a fitness convention and was lucky enough to get a space in the lecture before it became filled. The lecturer was well known in the industry and I had heard his lectures were in high demand. Anyone I spoke with who had attended one of his lectures, raved about him. Everything they said about him I found true while sitting through his lecture. He talked about addictive personalities and how to spot them in our classes. Despite the serious topic, he had a special way of injecting humor; and for lack of a better word, his lust for life, into his talking points. At times, he was giving out so much good information that I had a hard time keeping up with it in my notes. Included in the lecture was a workshop where he led us in some specific exercises related to the topic. I have to say he was a dynamic instructor who used an abundance of visual and audio cues in his instructions. And just like he injected his type of humor into his lecture, he doubled the amount in his workshop. By the time the session was over it was hard not to be a believer in his philosophy. THE FOLLOWING DAY I WAS SITTING in the hotel’s coffee shop when that same presenter walked in. As he came near me, I caught his eye and nodded my head. He nodded back and came over. I told him how much I enjoyed his lecture the day before and offered him a seat, if he cared to join me. Sitting down, we started talking about our experiences at the convention; I was curious to hear things from a presenter’s point of view. A waitress came over to see if he wanted to order something and without looking at the menu, he ordered a couple of desserts. To say I was surprised would have been an understatement. Here he had just been talking about addictive personalities yesterday and now he was having 2 desserts for lunch? A little warning flag popped up in my mind. We continued with our conversation, but I noticed he was talking at the same rapid-fire rate as he had done during his lecture. I assumed on a one to one basis he would have toned himself down. Something was starting to feel odd about him. When the waitress brought over his desserts, I knew something was not right because he tore thru the desserts like they were his first meal in a week. By the time he left, I was convinced he was either addicted to sugar or he was high on something; it made no sense based on everything he said during his lecture. Here people were flocking to his classes to receive his words of wisdom, yet not knowing trouble was bubbling up behind it. BY WRITING ONE SONG, AUSTRALIAN BORN Helen Reddy, played by Tilda Cobham-Hervey (Hotel Mumbai, One Eyed Girl), became the voice of a feminist movement. Little did anyone know what was happening behind that voice. With Evan Peters (X-Men franchise, American Horror Story-TV) as Jeff Wald, Chris Parnell (Anchorman franchise, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) as Artie Mogull, Danielle Macdonald (Bird Box, Dumplin’) as Lillian Roxon and Matty Cardarople (Jurassic World, Stranger Things-TV) as Roy Meyer; this film festival winner revealed a surprising side to the life of Helen Reddy, at least surprising to me. To present that side, I thought Tilda did an admirable job playing the iconic singer in this musical biography. With the amount of drama and turmoil around Helen’s life, the script needed to be a powerful statement. Unfortunately, that was not the case. There was enough drama to spring from and create some riveting scenes, but the writing fell flat. There was a level of predictability that I expected, but not the amount that was happening here. Gratefully, I was enjoying the musical performances enough to prevent me from becoming bored. If everything that was being shown in this film was true for Helen, then she was even stronger than any of us believed her to be.
2 ¾ stars
EVERYTHING I SAW AND LEARNED LED me to believe dogs and cats were mortal enemies. From cartoons to movies, as far as I knew if the 2 of them saw each other they would fight until one got hurt or worse. As a kid everyone I knew who had pets always had only one species if there were multiple pets in the household. If a family had a cat they would only get another cat as a pet; the same held true with dog lovers. I had a parakeet; so, I would never have considered getting a cat, because in my mind cats ate birds. Do you remember Tweety and Sylvester? I rest my case; this is where I learned never to mix a cat and a bird. Then there was Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. Since coyotes looked like dogs, I assumed dogs were not fond of birds either. I doubt I was the only one who thought this way; I am sure many kids around the same time were thinking the same thing about never mixing different species together. The same holds true for some of the movies I saw as a child where I would see a dog chasing a cat. NOW GRANTED THERE ARE ANIMALS WHO eat other animals for food. I remember seeing a movie that showed a lion going after a herd of wildebeests. It was obvious to me the wildebeests were afraid of the big cat. I translated that as hate. Did the wildebeests instinctively know from birth to fear the big cats or was it something they learned I wondered. I realized at an early age that humans do not come into the world knowing how to hate; they had to be taught on how to do it. I am not talking about hating a specific vegetable or fruit; I am referring to being taught that something or someone is no good, inferior, is bad. I learned about prejudice outside of the classroom, where some kids would make fun of me because I was not the same religion as them. There was a student in class who was quite vocal about his hatreds. He would bully those kids who did not fit into his beliefs. It was awful the way he would make fun of certain students, using their features as examples of what was wrong with them. I had thick curly/kinky hair when I was in school and he took great delight in calling me racist, horrible names. He did not have to be that way, but that is how he was taught. If only there had been someone who could have shown and taught him a different way; someone like the activist in this biographical, dramatic film. WHEN HER DAUGHTER’S SCHOOL CAUGHT ON fire and burned, civil rights activist Ann Atwater, played by Taraji P. Henson (Proud Mary, What Men Want), was determined to find another school for her daughter and the other students to attend. There were people in the community who hated her idea. With Sam Rockwell (Vice, Mr. Right) as C.P. Ellis, Babou Ceesay (Free Fire, Eye in the Sky) as Bill Riddick, Wes Bentley (American Beauty, The Hunger Games) as Floyd Kelly and Anne Heche (Wag the Dog, Six Days Seven Nights) as Mary Ellis; this historical story set in Durham, NC during the 1970s was brought to life by Taraji and Sam. They were dynamite in their roles to the point where I believed who they were portraying. The story was incredible and full of poignant moments that the writers could have taken and made them stand out. I wish they had done that because this historical event deserved a powerful script instead of the sanitized one in this picture. However, it did capture and keep my attention while showing a dramatic time that was brought on by hatred.
2 ½ stars
Survival of the fittest has always been the mantra regarding the animal kingdom. It used to be for mankind but I am not so sure of it these days. Our gene pool has taken so many hits from various sources. In fact, I recently saw a television program where a scientist was talking about the overuse of antibiotics in our society. He said as a species, mankind has had good bacteria inside of them that dates back eons. With the constant ingestion of antibiotics we are killing off these defense fighters and they will not be passed down to future generations. I find it scary. As it stands now our gene pool produces people that fall on the spectrum from one extreme to the other. I remember there was a kid in elementary school who was different from the rest of us. The questions he would ask in class went over all of our heads and would even stump the teacher. There were students who were book smart, were good at memorizing and testing; but he was so different from us, talking about things that we did not even hear the adults around us ever talk about. I know a 3 year old boy, who when told he had 5 more minutes of playtime before he had to go to sleep, asked what was 5 minutes in a lifetime; it just makes you wonder doesn’t it? This biographical documentary written and directed by Brian Knappenberger (Into the Body, Life After War) was about a boy from one extreme of the human scale. Aaron Swartz was pivotal in the development of basic internet protocol, what we refer to as RSS. He also was the co-founder of Reddit. At a very early age Aaron was already far advanced from any of the other kids around him. This Sundance Film Festival nominee traced Aaron’s life from childhood prodigy to internet activist. I had never heard of Aaron Swartz before; only recently becoming aware of him due to seeing his name in the news. The layout of scenes in this film provided me a clear and easy picture of Aaron’s life. I found the home footage of him as a child quite fascinating as you could see he was someone special. The interviews of family members, friends and peers painted an amazing picture of Aaron’s life; it made watching this movie a highly interesting and fascinating experience. After watching this film is when I really started thinking about the gene pool we all share. What I assumed to be a random process in our development I now question when I see someone like Aaron.
3 1/2 stars
Whenever we want to complain or bitch about something, we have various options to express ourselves. There are social media sites, company websites and even physical protests available to us. When I was going through months of hell trying to refinance my mortgage, I kept my office and classes updated on my bank’s incompetencies. It never occurred to me that our freedom of speech really is a luxury…until I saw this startling movie. What added to this amazing, viewing experience was how I had no prior knowledge of the artist/activist Ai Weiwei. Have any of you heard of him? He was the artistic consultant for the Beijing National Stadium a/k/a Bird’s Nest for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. An acclaimed Chinese artist who took to the internet to protest the government’s policies; Ai Weiwei was an outspoken critic in a country that frowned upon such activity. This documentary played like a movie thriller at times. When the government shut down his internet, Ai Weiwei took to Twitter in getting out his messages. I was appalled with the tactics that were used against him. Besides showing the political aspects of this vocal activist, I felt like I scored with a two for one coupon as there was also a focus on his artistic side. His exhibits were fascinating to me, though seeing the photos of him dropping a 2000 year old urn to the ground took me by surprise. I can only imagine the horror on the faces of antique dealers. There are people who hear the word documentary and think the movie will be dull and unexciting; however, they would be wrong with this captivating film. Part mystery, part action with a creative flair; this one man has been living his life in defiance of the probing eyes from Big Brother. English and Mandarin spoken.
3 1/3 stars