BEING INQUISITIVE BY NATURE YOU CAN imagine how I must have felt when I saw for the first time a world globe. I spent time attempting to memorize the capital city of each country. My interest in other countries was sparked early on due to several of my friends having relatives in foreign places. I was lucky enough to be introduced to a couple of them during one of their visits to the states and was fascinated how the words they spoke had an accent. As time went on I found myself gravitating to conversations I heard when I was out and about, to guess where the person came from based on their accent. Whether it was an accent associated with a part of the US or one from a foreign land, I wanted to learn a few simple words from each place. Some of my friends tell me it is rude or demeaning to attempt to say a few words in a person’s native tongue, but I disagree. I feel not only can it be an icebreaker with a stranger, but it shows my interest in getting to know the individual. For this reason, I have learned greetings in several different languages. NOT ONLY ARE THE WORDS IMPORTANT that we use, it is the way we say them. In my daily life I talk on the phone with many individuals from different parts of the world. I do not think I am alone when it comes to forming a picture of them in my mind based on the person’s voice. With my own experiences people have asked me if I grew up in a different part of the country based on my speaking voice. I do not hear an accent and feel like I have a newscaster’s type of speech. What I really get a kick out of is when the image I have of a person is so different from their actual appearance. I remember a customer I used to speak with on the phone, who came to my office once to deliver a payment. Based on his voice I had the image of a tall, brawny type of man. He had this baritone belly laugh that reverberated over the phone line. Though I was expecting him, when he walked into my office it took me a second to figure out who he was supposed to be. He was a short wiry man, with a receding hairline; nothing like I pictured. At least I did not share my thoughts with him, unlike the characters in this comedic film festival winner that is based on a true story. BECOMING THE FIRST BLACK POLICE OFFICER in Colorado Springs, CO; Ron Stallworth, played by John David Washington (Monster, Malcom X), wanted to prove himself to the other officers. He found a way to do it; however, he could not be seen because he was a black man. This comedic crime film also starred Adam Driver (Star Wars franchise, Logan Lucky) as Flip Zimmerman, Laura Harrier (Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Last Five Years) as Patrice Dumas, Robert John Burke (Tombstone, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) as Chief Bridges and Ryan Eggold (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby franchise, The Blacklist-TV) as Walter Breachway. I felt this was one of director Spike Lee’s (Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever) best films. The story was outrageous, but Spike and the writers truly blended uncomfortable and humorous scenes together to form a solid piece of work; that includes the juxtaposition of movie clips chosen to accentuate the message. I found everyone gave a solid performance, especially Adam and Topher Grace. This picture demonstrated the importance of words, no matter how they were spoken.
3 ½ stars
USUALLY AT ANY TYPE OF event I attend the crowd acts accordingly. At a wedding most of the guests are cordial and jovial; whereas at a funeral most people are solemn and respectful. This is the norm but never underestimate the person who is highly charged emotionally. I attended a funeral where 2 guests made a scene and one of the grieving relatives yelled back at them that they would “rot in hell.” Oh and there was that wedding where the bride and her new mother-in-law got into a shouting match in the middle of the reception; it was not pretty. Overall though I have to say there is something about going to an event where everyone is in a similar mood. I do not know if each person is feeding off the emotions of another person but I feel an energy that connects everyone; the best example is a rock concert, where everyone sings along to the musical artist. ONE PLACE WHERE I do not always find consistency in the crowd’s mood is at the movies. There have been times where I sat in my seat perplexed at the viewers’ reactions around me. Where they were guffawing with belly laughs, I found myself getting bored with what I felt was a lame attempt at humor. Other times I am the one sitting in my seat with tears rolling out of my eyes; while the people next to me are focusing on their tub of popcorn, not one teardrop getting squeezed out of their eyes. I certainly do not look at this as a right or wrong situation; everyone has the right to feel the way they do without any type of judgment. That is one of the main pillars I use to write my movie reviews. You may notice I try to never tell someone they can or cannot see a movie; I am simply offering advice and sharing my experiences during my viewing of the movie. If anything I am more curious to hear other people’s views, for I feel that helps me be a better reviewer. However in regards to today’s picture, it was obvious everyone was feeling the same thing—extreme joy and excitement. HAVING TRAVELED FROM AFAR to ask Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill (Airborne, Brigsby Bear), for help in fighting the First Order; Rey, played by Daisy Ridley (Murder on the Orient Express, Silent Witness-TV), could not understand Luke’s determined resistance. She had no idea she was not the first one to ask for his help. This next installment in the Star Wars franchise included Carrie Fisher (Wonderland, This is My Life) as Leia Organa, Adam Driver (Paterson, Silence) as Kylo Ren and Oscar Isaac (The Promise, A Most Violent Year) as Poe Dameron. For a movie watching experience this action, adventure fantasy provided everything one needed for an emotional ride of thrills. Kudos to the director who kept control of the pacing of the story; there was a steady dose of drama, humor and excitement through the 2 hours and 32 minutes of running time. I will say the script was weak in several parts, where there could have been more thoughtful drama. Personally I wanted the First Order to remain menacing and wished Finn had been given more scenes. Without giving anything away one of the love interest story lines was a waste of time. Interestingly I found the acting was better in this sequel than the previous movie. There was more back story to the characters which I appreciated and as for the fight scenes, they were imaginative and thrilling. If you are not a fan of Star Wars chances are you will not care to see this movie; but if you want an easy “share the moment” experience with the people sitting around you then this film will not disappoint.
3 1/3 stars
SLIGHTLY BELOW AVERAGE height, you would not associate them with unusual let alone average strength. Bespectacled and unassuming, the couple easily blends into a crowd of people without any effort. As they say “looks can be deceiving” and with this couple no truer words have been spoken. For all of their quiet, mild mannered appearances no one would ever guess they both were experts in the martial arts. The only way one would even know that about them would be if you saw them mentoring the students in their classes. Dressed in their off white colored short pants and jacket with a black belt tightly tied around the waist, the two of them periodically demonstrate defensive movements. The speed of their punches and kicks nearly defies nature; they are precise and quick. For some people who would have such skills, they would telegraph it via their enlarged confidence and mannerisms; but for this tiny duo, they conduct their daily life with a sense of peace and calmness. I AM ALWAYS amazed by the amount of people who make assumptions about other people based solely on their outer appearances. And it seems like more and more people are doing that these days. I do not know if it has anything to do with our society’s desire for instant gratification that causes people to make snap judgments; but it seems as if less people want to take the time to learn about another person. It still amuses me to this day when someone finds out what I do for a living and activity. Either they think I am too nice to do one job or not buff enough to do the other job. Think about it; imagine someone freely telling you, you do not look fit enough to teach fitness. I do not believe this would fall into the compliment category; it does not bother me, I find it amusing and rather enjoy seeing the confusing looks given to me. To see what I mean feel free to check out this comedic crime drama directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven franchise, Traffic). AFTER LOSING HIS job Jimmy Logan, played by Channing Tatum (Magic Mike franchise, Jupiter Ascending), hashed out a plan to make his life easier and richer. He would just need help from strangers to pull it off. With Adam Driver (Silence, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Clyde Logan, Daniel Craig (Defiance, Cowboys & Aliens) as Joe Bang, Katie Holmes (Batman Begins, Phone Booth) as Bobbie Jo Chapman and Riley Keough (American Honey, We Don’t Belong Here) as Mellie Logan; the cast overall was fine in this film, though Daniel Craig was the stand out performer for me. His character was so different from what most of us “assume” him to be. I enjoyed the mix of characters in this story along with the side by side story lines; however, I have to tell you I was underwhelmed by this picture. With the buzz about Steven coming out of retirement and the favorable reviews I saw afterwards, I was left with a feeling of light amusement and enjoyment. For some reason the movie came across in a monotone way, without deep emotions attached to it. Some additional background information would have been helpful, but still I just felt I was watching a series of vignettes. It wasn’t like I assumed I was seeing a laugh out comedy or intense drama; I just thought, “Isn’t that a surprise.”
2 ¾ stars
IT always comes as a surprise to me when people make the assumption that an individual’s job is the ultimate definition of that person. Just this past week a co-worker and I were talking about a couple of restaurants we both enjoy. When I mentioned something about putting ketchup on my entrée they reacted with surprise. I asked them why they were shocked and they said they did not take me for a “ketchup guy. “ It was such an odd statement to me since I did not have a clue what constitutes being a “ketchup guy.” Here I come to find out because this employee knows I teach fitness, they assumed I kept a strict diet of eating only healthy foods. Well anyone who knows me knows all food types are open game for me on the weekends; it is only during the weekdays that I keep to a restricted diet. FROM this conversation I started to think about how I have experienced this type of thinking numerous times; not only towards me but in daily conversations I have been a part of. In a way you could say it is a form of stereotyping or typecasting. An example would be a librarian; from what I have witnessed a majority of people think of librarians as quiet, reserved individuals who keep to themselves. Or accountants, the perception people have about them is they are socially awkward and quiet. I find this simply odd; it is as if a person is not allowed to have other interests that may be opposite to the perceptions people hold about a profession. It is like me saying a truck driver cannot play the violin in a local orchestra; it makes no sense. If you care to see what I am talking about then feel free to watch this dramatic, comedic film festival winner. EVERYDAY Paterson, played by Adam Driver (Silence, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), goes to work as a bus driver then stops off to see Doc, played by Barry Shabaka (The Terminal, Miami Vice), for one drink after work before going home to his wife Laura, played by Golshifteh Farahani (Body of Lies, Exodus: Gods and Kings). The routine stays the same except when he sits down to write poetry in his notebook. Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive, Broken Flowers), this movie was done in a quiet slow pace. Maybe because I saw it on a Sunday after a hectic weekend but there were times where I was bored with the story. I thought Adam was flat in his acting, though I realized that was part of his character; however, I found the action so subtle that I could not get fully drawn into this picture. My favorite characters were Laura and Marvin the dog; they seemed to have the most life and maybe that was exactly the point. I know this film has received high praise but I have to tell you from an entertainment standpoint I was not entertained. For me, this movie would have been better seen on DVD in the comfort of my own home. That way, audience members would not have had to see this group fitness/yoga instructor fighting to keep his eyes from not shutting down into a nap.
THERE was a soft knock at my door. If I had music playing instead of studying for a test I would not have heard it. Upon opening the door I saw a woman standing with a canvas bag filled with pamphlets sitting by her feet. I asked her if I could help her though I was cautious since I was living in off campus housing; we never had strangers in the building. She asked me if I wanted to be saved today. I simply stared at her because I had never been asked such a question. Asking her what I was being saved from she leaned down to take one of the pamphlets out of her book and started to tell me about her religion. Because I was studying for a test I did not let her go on long before asking her how did she determine such a thing for me, that possibly my religion was taking care of me. She paused while maintaining her slight smile before telling me I should consider her faith because it was the only way for me. THIS was my first time having someone trying to convert me from my faith. At the time I was offended, namely because she was not acknowledging my faith. I finally had to ask her what right she had to make assumptions about my faith and spirituality from our short conversation. Having grown up in a diverse neighborhood, my friends and I were always going to each other’s religious holiday celebrations. Houses in my neighborhood would have either Christmas trees displayed in their windows or menorahs, while others displayed nothing. Maybe I grew up in a bubble but there were never any issues about one’s religion being wrong compared to someone else. I think that non-judgmental environment I grew up in made watching this dramatic film festival winning movie more shocking for me. TRAVELING from Portugal to Japan to find their lost mentor 17th century Jesuit priests Rodrigues and Garrpe, played by Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, 99 Homes) and Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Midnight Special) were not safe once they landed on foreign soil. Written and directed by Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Departed), I understand it took Martin years to get this story filmed. With Liam Neeson (Taken franchise, Run All Night) as Ferreira and Tadanobu Asano (Thor franchise, Ichi the Killer) as the interpreter, the story covered deeper subject matter than the usual heavily marketed movie studios’ films. This story was quite thought provoking where I am still processing the scenes I witnessed. I say witness because there were scenes that were tough to watch with their violence, while others presented interesting discussion. The acting was excellent and some scenes were close to brilliant. One issue I had with the film was the length of it; I found the running time of 2 hours and 41 minutes too long. At one point I felt I was going from one torture scene to another. If I heard correctly the movie was originally over an hour longer; I cannot imagine sitting that long for this story. Putting that aside this film did present a forum to discuss human nature and religious issues. I do not know if this movie would cause one to convert but it could possibly change your views on the power of films.
3 ½ stars
Being the recipient of unconditional love is one of the most extraordinary events to experience in one’s lifetime. To have a person who loves you, respects you and accepts you with all of your quirks and oddities is like always having a comforting warm hug around you. Most everybody assumes the first exposure to unconditional love comes from our parents and for the most part that is true. However I have seen examples where I had to wonder to myself why that person became a parent. This may sound harsh to some of you but I saw a parent during a team sporting event that spent the entire time yelling at their child, telling them everything they were doing wrong. It was horrifying and frankly disgusting to me. I cannot honestly say that parent loved their child unconditionally. Let me ask you what you think about a parent who informs their child they should have never become a parent; what does that say about them? In fact because they did not want to be bothered by their child they started giving them an allowance at a very early age to stay out of their hair. Unconditional love is not exclusive to one group of people; it goes for everyone. I have had discussions with friends who were in relationships with people who smoked cigarettes. Knowing they were non-smokers I asked how the two worked it out. They said an agreement was made that there would be no smoking in the house or car and they deal with it because they love their significant other. To me that is unconditional love and as I was moved by that statement I was just as moved by the unconditional love I saw in this adventure drama. WITH the government thinking his son could be a threat and a religious group thinking he was a savior, the only thing that mattered to Roy, played by Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, The Iceman), was figuring out how to keep his special little boy safe. This film festival nominee immediately grabbed me at the beginning of its original story, which is listed as science fiction by the way. With Joel Edgerton (Black Mass, The Gift) as Lucas, Adam Driver (Frances Ha, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Sevier and Kirsten Dunst (Spiderman franchise, Upside Down) as Sarah Tomlin; I thought the acting was wonderful, adding oomph to the already compelling script. The combination of Michael Shannon as the Dad and Jaeden Lieberher (Aloha, St. Vincent) as his son Alton was powerful enough for me to actually believe they were family. The acting took this story which was essentially a long chase scene and made the movie extra special for me. On another level the script allowed the viewer to come up with their own interpretation concerning the different factions staking out their claims. I feel if one can accept the story they will find this picture a fascinating study. This movie took me away despite falling off towards the end; but it was okay, I still loved watching this indie feeling film treat.
3 ¼ stars
It has been years since we first got together; has it been decades already? Old friends who have seen and lived through so much together all these years. I remember when we first met; I was standing in a long line of people outside on a cloudless day. Though you were not native to the area we soon discovered we had things in common and became fast friends. Our conversations were never forced; in fact, we were comfortable enough to say anything because neither of us ever judged the other. Even when you were having father issues I was there for you. There were periods of time where we did not get to see each other. Remember when you went away to that remote place to find yourself? I will never forget when you found out you had a sister; you were over the moon. When I look back at the times we spent staring up at the stars, wondering which ones looked like they were in the throes of death, we really have experienced a lot together. And like any close friendship, no matter how long it has been between visits, we pick up right where we left off as if we had just seen each other yesterday. There is a certain comfort that comes with our conversations. Though we view things with older and wiser eyes, I still see younger images of us whenever we talk. To tell you the truth, memories of our past years always accompany you so that I always get a sense of home whenever we meet. THE years of peaceful harmony that followed the defeat of the Empire were about to be threatened from a new evil force called the First Order. Their plan involved the use of the dark side. This action adventure fantasy directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams (Super 8, Star Trek franchise) had the perfect balance between the past and present. Not that someone unfamiliar with the past Star Wars movies needs to see all of them, but it would help with some of this film’s humorous dialog. With relative newcomer Daisey Ridley as Rey, Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year, Ex Machina) as Poe Dameron and Adam Driver (This is Where I Leave You, What If) as Kylo Ren; I can say with certainty the franchise has been placed in capable hands. These three actors especially Daisy were powerful on screen. Is the story perfect; no, I do not believe so. I found a few parts to be a rehash from past films. There were also some scenes that shared a similarity with past ones. However, the overall movie viewing experience was really special. The entire audience acted and reacted in identical ways, from cheering at the unbelievable battle scenes to the sly remarks from past cast members. As a stepping stone for a new story arc, this picture will fulfill many viewers’ hopes and dreams. Things look good for a new force to take fight.
3 1/2 stars for Star Wars fans 3 1/4 stars for everyone else
I sat in their front room staring at the VCR with its display flashing 12:00 for the time. It stayed at the same time while I waited for my friend to finish up helping his mother before we were going out to dinner. I was not surprised by the flashing number since I have seen the same thing in houses of other people from the same generation as my friend’s parent. With technology constantly changing, I sat and wondered what people from younger generations would find amusing about some of the things I do. Some of my friends cannot believe I still do not have an ATM card; I just do not care for them. They say change is good and I can see the value in that statement, but sometimes I prefer staying in a place or routine that is already established as being an easy comfort. As we all get older we experience changes not only in material things but in relationships too. I have friends who change when they are in a relationship; one makes adjustments as that common single mentality turns to a couple and single person relationship. Or when friends have kids, a change takes place; it is no longer about going to a late night movie, instead it is getting home in time to take the babysitter home. These are changes all of us face to some degree. The difference is in how one accepts the changes in their life. CORNELIA and Josh, played by Naomi Watts (Insurgent, St. Vincent) and Ben Stiller (Night at the Museum franchise, The Watch), were a 40 something couple whose friends were settled down having children. Things were not like they used to be; but upon meeting the young couple Darby and Jamie, played by Amanda Seyfried (Dear John, Mamma Mia!) and Adam Driver (What If, Inside Llewyn Davis), Cornelia and Josh felt they found what they were looking for. Written and directed by Noah Baumbach (Francis Ha, Margot at the Wedding), this dramatic comedy had some smart, observant dialog. I thought the cast worked quite well together, coming across as real people. Noah had a good ear in the way he presented the differences between age groups; I could relate to some of these individuals. The first half of the film was stronger for me. As the story played out I found the last part was not as interesting to me. There were more scenes that worked than not; but the more I thought about, those scenes I cared less for were the ones that Ben’s character appeared to be in a crisis mode. This story certainly presented valid points about changes; but at the end of the film I felt like an old man in the theater.
2 3/4 stars
Imagine if every cellular, radio and other invisible electronic pulses each had a distinctive color we could see; we would all be walking through a brightly hued fog in our daily lives. It seems as if the separation between man and machine has narrowed over time. What with the passwords, computer screens, key strokes, computer glasses, ear buds, tablets, smart phones and computer watches; no wonder we need to unplug once in a while. One of the ways I unplug is to visit a national park. I do not know if it is true but I had heard the United States is the only country that has a national park system, where the lands are protected to avoid any harm at the hands of mankind. There is nothing like walking along a tree covered trail where suddenly the trees momentarily part to reveal a tall, tumbling waterfall with a veil of trailing mist; it is a breathtaking yet peaceful sight to me. Seated at the rim of a deep canyon, where violent weather had mauled its walls while the setting sun casts its bright eye on slow moving dark shadows, provides me endless battery free entertainment. What I tell the members in my yoga class applies to me as well when I am visiting various parks, let the mind soften and release all the should do’s, have to do’s and supposed to do’s; so I can be in the moment and let my whole body relax. ALONE except for 4 camels and her dog, Robyn Davidson, played by Mia Wasikowska (Albert Nobbs, Only Lovers Left Alive), decided she needed to walk. Her walk if successful would cover nearly 2000 miles of western Australian arid and deserted lands, taking her all the way to the Indian Ocean. This film festival nominated movie was based on the true story of Robyn’s sojourn that was turned into a bestselling book. The scenes of Australia with their wide expanses were beautiful; it really made me yearn to see the country. Mia was excellent playing Robyn, showing equal sides of vulnerability, strength and courage. Adam Driver (This is Where I Leave You, Girls-TV) as National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan started out as a minor interest for me; however, as the film progressed his acting brought out a truthful and real side to his character. Be prepared for this film took its time to stroll out the story and especially for animal lovers, there were a couple of scenes that were hard to watch. My methods of unplugging may pale by comparison to Robyn’s, but after watching this picture with its incredible story, I felt as if I had been unplugged in a whole new way.
There was a time when family members lived close to each other because they wanted to, not out of necessity. I had an aunt & uncle who lived in the same apartment building where I lived and my grandmother lived a couple of blocks away. It was nothing to come home and have visiting relatives sitting around the house. The world may have been big and the neighborhoods small back then; however, times seem to be different now where the world has become small and the neighborhoods have gotten bigger. Children can live on a different continent than their parents, relatives can be scattered across a country like confetti on a windy day. With distance comes the possibility of less shared experiences. It may not seem like a big deal at first but before you know it there could be long stretches of time where unfamiliarity rises up and devours a niece’s first soccer game or a cousin’s 1st place winning high school science project. When the younger generation begins creating the next generation it can stretch the weeks of absence into months, eventually years. It is sad to say that families wind up getting together only at a happy or sad occasion; what I refer to as a wedding or funeral event. DEATH was what brought the Altman family back together. When Hillary Altman’s, played by Jane Fonda (Coming Home, Monster-in-Law), husband passed away she insisted her children stay in the house and sit shiva with her for 7 days. Judd, Wendy, Paul and Phillip Altman; played by Jason Bateman (Bad Words, Horrible Bosses), Tina Fey (Muppets Most Wanted, Admission), Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris, Non-Stop) and Adam Driver (Frances Ha, Inside Llewyn Davis); would soon discover it was not as easy to live together again like they did when they were kids. The first thing that stood out in this comedic drama was the amount of star power in the cast. Jason Bateman with his impeccable comedic timing and quick change ability to become sincere was in top form for this film. Tina and Jane easily kept up with him. Now what made this film harder to watch was having this talented group of actors try to bring life to such a poorly constructed script. I could not believe how bored I was during parts of this movie; the script was dull and lifeless. In my opinion the script hindered the actors from creating chemistry among themselves. Watching this picture felt like being trapped with a distant relative who would not stop talking about their children.