THOUGH THE CLERGYMAN TOLD ME HIS tragic story years ago, it all came back to me as I was watching this emotional film. I was friends with this clergyman, not a person who attended his church. I do not recall how we wound up talking about this individual, but our conversation was about relationships. Let me first say I have not had much exposure to individuals with addictions. Sure, I have some friends who drink in excess from time to time, but they tend to only get that way at a celebration event or weekend party and not on a consistent basis. The clergyman started telling me about a couple he knew, never divulging how or where he knew them. They were together for something like 15+ years, both employed with no children. At some point in time the husband started experiencing mood swings. At first, they were not so dramatic; but as time went on, they became more intense. The husband was losing weight and he was away from home for longer periods of time. I am not sure if the wife tried to find out what was going on, but the outcome was so sad. It turned out the husband was addicted to drugs. Not only did he wipe out their savings account, he lost their house. WHEN THE CLERGYMAN TOLD ME THIS story I could not believe such a thing could happen. On the one hand I wondered how the wife did not know bills and past due notices were being ignored; but then on the other hand, if his responsibilities were the financial dealings, how could the husband let things get so out of hand. You see, I did not know addictions could be that debilitating. I did not, nor do I still know, how dangerous addictions can be. Granted, my exposure to this type of disease pretty much revolves seeing it on the big screen, but still I do have an inkling. Since it has not touched me personally, I feel I have this buffer zone around me that isolates me from experiencing the horrors of addiction. For me, I have always looked at addiction as being a tool to fill a void in one’s life. Something is lacking so the person focuses on trying to fill an emotional need. Drugs and alcohol are the first 2 things that come to mind, but I guess almost anything done in excess can be considered an addiction. This dramatic movie based on a true story allows you to experience the tragedy caused by addiction without being a part of it. NEVER IN HIS WILDEST DREAMS DID David Sheff, played by Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes, The Big Short), ever think the beautiful boy he raised would wind up being someone he no longer understood. This dramatic biographical film also starred Timothee Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name, Lady Bird) as Nic Sheff, Maura Tierney (Insomnia, Forces of Nature) as Karen Barbour, Amy Ryan (Escape Plan, Gone Baby Gone) as Vicki Sheff and Jack Dylan Grazer (It; Me, Myself and I-TV) as young Nic Sheff. The best part of this picture was the acting, hands down. Steve and Timothee were exquisite together as father and son. Timothee’s acting in particular is something special to watch. His transformation throughout this story was mesmerizing. Not that any of the other actors were slouches; they all did a fine job here. My only complaint was I felt for the topic the emotions on display could have been rawer. There was a slight repetitiveness to the script that came across without much variance. Still I could not look away at what I was seeing on the big screen. Truly a command performance of a brutal addiction.
I tried throwing out several different topics but they would always steer the conversation back to their job. If I made reference to something that happened to me they would match the experience with someone in their office. Have you ever met a person who brings their work home with them? Maybe because from my day job I go and teach evening fitness and yoga classes, I have an easier time of letting go of the workaday world. I am a big believer in employees finding a way to let go of their job stress and not carry it through their daily life. From my yoga classes I have seen what stress can do to a person’s body and mind. There have been some participants walking into class for the first time who are so tightly wound up they look like they could break on their very first yoga pose. It is funny but I actually offered a free yoga class to the individual I was referring to earlier but they declined. The reason I suggested it was because I could see their shoulders rise up towards their ears as soon as they started talking about their work. It was obvious to me they could not let go of their stress. Sadly this was not the only person I knew who brought their work home with them; I have been exposed to quite a few individuals who live to work as opposed to work to live. Feel free to take a look at the guy in this crime drama and tell me if he is bringing his work home with him. DISCOVERING an opportunity to make a huge drug bust against a major drug lord meant Robert Mazur, played by Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Argo), would have to go undercover and put off retirement. Too bad Robert did not know if it would be worth the trade-off. Based on a true story this biographical film started out slow for me; but just like undertaking a building project, it kept getting bigger and deeper. The acting was first class by everyone including John Leguizamo (Chef, Vanishing on 7th Street) as Emir Abreu, Diane Kruger (Unknown, National Treasure) as Kathy Ertz and Benjamin Bratt (Miss Congeniality, The Lesser Blessed) as Roberto Alcaino. One may expect Bryan to be terrific but I was impressed even more by Diane and Benjamin. Their performances were the most believable for me. I thought the directing not only gave depth to the characters but it also added intensity to various scenes. Besides the beginning of the film there were a few slow parts, along with a couple of things that seemed out of place compared to the major story; however, the acting was so good I did not feel these few things took too much away from my experience watching this picture. The other thing I want to mention is the actual story. It was so out of the realm of my world that I had moments of disbelief, but it was not a distraction. I may be intense at times but I have to tell you after seeing this film I am just thankful I can leave my work behind at the end of the day.
From acts of kindness heroes are born. Some heroes may reach mythical proportions in the minds of the recipients. For me it was that classmate in kindergarten who taught me, the only left-handed student in class, how to properly cut paper with a pair of scissors. For the rest of my elementary school years that student could do no wrong in my eyes. In turn, it was not until years after high school I discovered a kindness I showed a fellow student had an effect on them. I know from personal experience when the act of kindness fights its way through the terror of the moment it can be monumental. It was during a P.E. class and the boys were changing in the locker room. There was this one boy who was a target for a group of bullies. I do not know if it was because he was short, quiet or did poorly in sports; but he got picked on a lot. One day one of the bullies decided to wait for the exact moment when this student was undressed before pouncing on him. The bully and his sidekicks came up from behind, pinning the boy’s arms back as they started dragging him away from his clothes hanging in the locker. One of the sidekicks ran ahead and opened a window as wide as it would go. The three hoisted the boy who was screaming and kicking up onto the window sill then pushed him out, only holding him by the arms. Hanging out the window without any clothes on, the frantic boy did not know some students had run to get the coach to come down into the locker room. Those students were not thinking about becoming heroes. YEARS after high school Calvin Joyner, played by Kevin Hart (The Wedding Ringer, Get Hard), received a Facebook friend request. It came from someone who had fond memories of Calvin when he was a student in high school. Calvin on the other hand had only one memory about this individual. This comedic crime film threw me for a loop due to one of its scenes; you will understand what I mean after seeing the film. I had to quickly regroup myself to focus on the movie. As some of you know I am sensitive whenever a bully is part of the story. The casting of Dwayne Johnson (San Andreas, Pain & Gain) as Bob Stone in this picture was a perfect choice. Besides his affable nature I have to tell you I was impressed with his comedic skills. Kevin was yet again the same type of character he has played in his past movies; but here I felt Dwayne outshined him. Rounding out the main cast was Danielle Nicolet (All-Stars, Third Rock from the Sun-TV) as Maggie and Amy Ryan (Escape Plan, Gone Baby Gone) as Pamela Harris. There were times where I laughed out loud; I enjoyed the make-up of the story more than its execution. I thought the script was simple and tailored for Kevin and Dwayne to the point that the writers expected the two actors would create the funny moments. The easy to follow story did not keep me interested; it was Bob Stone’s transformation from high school to adult life. Heroes certainly come in all sizes.
2 2/3 stars
No matter where you look, from a corporation to a charitable organization to a health care facility, there will always be someone there who has the power. I have seen so many times where an individual changes once they get themselves into a position of power. It takes a strong internal makeup not to get corrupted by its force or to use it for one’s own advantage. At a former company where I worked there was an individual who did any and everything to get a particular title attached to their name. They did some sneaky and underhanded things to other employees just to get ahead in their career. The thing that really got me was when their actions were questioned by any of their co-workers (the ones that even talked to them) they would claim they had to act that way because it would benefit the company. This was rarely the case as far as I could tell. Even on the world stage haven’t we all seen individuals who claim their actions were for the greater good? I have such a hard time listening to people who claim to be righteous but they do not act it. I know an individual who is active in their religion and is quick to use their activities as proof that they are devout in their belief. However if you heard some of the prejudicial remarks that came out of their mouth you would never believe they were a religious person. To top it off, I have seen their friends who all believe this individual is the poster child for goodness. Do you think their title of vice chairman has anything to do with it? BIBLICAL archaeologist Don Verdean, played by Sam Rockwell (The Sitter, Seven Psychopaths), was approached by Pastor Tony Lazarus, played by Danny McBride (Your Highness, This is the End), to form a partnership where Don’s discoveries would go on display at Pastor Lazarus’ church. The pastor believed this would greatly increase the size of his congregation and Don did not want to disappoint him. This comedy had a well seasoned cast; besides Sam and Danny, it had Amy Ryan (Escape Plan, Gone Baby Bone) as Carol Jensen and Jemaine Clement (What We Do in the Shadows, Men in Black 3) as Boaz. The story was a satire or more precisely a spoof on people’s willingness to believe anything depending on how it is presented to them. I thought the idea for this comedy was okay but as the movie continued I realized nothing was making me care about any of the characters. As the story played out it dropped into a madcap mode that came across as ridiculous. The actors did try to help but by the end of the film I was left with a blah feeling; there was nothing great or bad about this picture, it was innocuous if you can believe it.
1 3/4 stars
There is no age limit when it comes to making a good impression on a date. How many of us have done things out of our comfort zone, with the intent to show our willingness and flexibility in being an accommodating person? I remember going on a date where I agreed to a night of country two stepping. Borrowing a cowboy hat from a friend, I spent the night never showing my misery with my awkward dance steps. By the end of the evening I was hoping for a 2nd date, so we could go to a dance club and I prove I at least had rhythm. These are the things that one does to cast a positive light on themselves and in this dramatic movie we see a beautiful example of someone trying his best to make a good impression. This film adaptation of the stage play was the directorial debut of Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master, A Late Quartet). Reprising his role as limousine driver Jack, Philip was comfortable with his role. After being fixed up on a blind date by his friends Lucy and Clyde, played by Daphne Robin-Vega (Life on the Ledge, Flawless) and John Ortiz (Silver Linings Playbook, American Gangster), Jack decided he would learn how to swim and cook. He wanted to make a good impression on Connie, played by Amy Ryan (Win Win, Gone Baby Gone). The only problem in his plan was getting advice from his friends who were having martial issues. Though the pacing seemed slow at times, I was impressed with Philip’s directing. The scenes where his character was visualizing himself swimming and cooking had a delicate sweetness. I could see this movie as a play, feeling it was an easy transition to film since it was more actor driven than action. The things one does for romance; Jack got an “A” for effort and Philip made a good impression on me with his capable directing of this good film.
2 3/4 stars — DVD
All of my training in tailing a suspect came from The Hardy Boys. Besides having read all of the books in the series when I was young, I read their special handbook on how to become a detective. Early on a Saturday morning I would leave the house to start following my first suspect. There was an elderly woman who every week would walk to the grocery store, wheeling her massive shopping cart behind her. I would tail her to the store and note what items she took off the shelves. With my vivid imagination I pretended I was the store detective looking for shoplifters. At the time, I believed the detective handbook was my most valuable possession. The training I received back then has helped me today find actors that are creating a sound, diverse body of work. This is one of the reasons I wanted to see this DVD. Michael Shannon (Premium Rush, The Runaways) is one such actor. I have been impressed each time I have seen him in a movie or television show. Playing alcoholic private investigator John Rosow in this neo-noir film, Michael delivered a solid performance in this drama. His character was hired to follow a man from Chicago to Los Angeles. Without any information on the individual, John only had the instructions relayed by the mysterious Miss Charley, played beautifully by Amy Ryan (Win Win, Gone Baby Gone). During his assignment, John began to discover perplexing aspects to this strange man, played by Frank Wood (Changeling, Michael Clayton). Little did John know his job would take him to a connection to the 9/11 attack in New York City. The director created a slow paced, artful film that may not appeal to those who need action and excitement in their movies. I found the story took every day trappings and added a slight twist to them. The jazz infused soundtrack was a perfect accompaniment to this freshly mined mystery story.
2 3/4 stars — DVD