THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THOSE who sacrifice to make their dreams succeed and those who get it handed to them. From my work and life experiences, I have seen the results from both ways. There was the job I had where the owner was the son, who inherited the business after his father passed away. The son was not a pleasant man to work for because he never really had to work to make the business succeed. He had big ideas, but because he did not understand the amount of work needed to succeed, he lost everything when he opened a retail store in a large shopping center. The new store lasted a little over one year before he had to close it down, since it never turned a profit. I remember when I first started to teach fitness, I thought about making it a full-time job/career. For three solid years I worked at making a name for myself as I studied the presenters at fitness conventions, wondering if I could get to that level in the fitness world. At one point I was working at 5 different locations, doing a multitude of classes; I never turned down an offer to sub for an instructor who could not teach their class that day. It was a hectic pace that did not allow me to socialize much. Now, I knew that would be the case and I was willing to focus all my energy on teaching classes while taking classes to increase my knowledge in the fitness world. WHEN I DECIDED TO START WRITING movie reviews here, I made a promise to myself that I would write a review every day for one entire year, and I did it. My life was basically filled with either sitting in movie theaters or sitting at home writing reviews. After the first year, I did not want to stop but understood I could not keep up such a pace and now it has been over 10 years of me writing reviews at a slower pace. In the scheme of things, my sacrifices were not life and death decisions unlike a friend of mine who had to become the main wage earner in her household. After her husband lost his job, she took on extra shifts at work to make up the loss of household income. She realized she would not be able to keep up the pace for the long term; so, she enrolled back in school to complete her master’s degree. With the added degree her wages and job opportunities would increase quickly. This meant she would be working at her job and with schoolwork for 1 solid year with no breaks, and she did it. It was a major sacrifice for their relationship but once it was done, they both had a deeper appreciation of each other and their life together. This biographical musical drama can show you what can happen when one makes a sacrifice. HIS DREAM WAS TO WRITE THE next great musical; but with the clock ticking Jonathan Larson, played by Andrew Garfield (The Eyes of Tammy Faye, 99 Homes), felt the pressure on what he would do with his life if he failed. With Alexandra Shipp (X-Men franchise; Love, Simon) as Susan, Robin de Jesus (The Boys in the Band, Hair Brained) as Michael, Vanessa Hudgens (Beastly, Spring Breakers) as Karessa and Joshua Henry (American Renegades, Sex and the City) as Roger; this Oscar nominated movie is something that musical theater fans would love. The big surprise for me was how good Andrew was with his performance; he held his own with the other wonderful performers in the cast. Overall, I thought the directing was crisp and precise, though at times it almost felt frenetic. I do not know how much of the story was true; but for those of you who do not know, this story is about the creation of the musical Rent. Knowing that made my film watching experience more enjoyable. As I mentioned before, if one is not a fan of musicals, they may not enjoy this picture as much.
3 ¼ stars
IT WAS NOT UNUSUAL TO HAVE knocking on my front door, but it was strange to have a stranger standing there when I opened the door. I was living off campus in a 6 storied, student housing building. There was a property manager who lived on the ground floor, but all the apartments were for students; married students would live in the corner units of the building because they were 2-bedroom apartments. I was living in a studio apartment, or I should say one room with a bathroom, like most the students on the floor. Each floor had a common kitchen that the residents on the floor would share. It was nothing to knock on a door and ask a fellow student for something; however, on this day there was a middle-aged woman standing at my door. She was dressed in a long skirt and a light jacket over a white blouse that had a bow up around her neck. Her arm was hugging a pile of pamphlets close to her chest. She had a warm smile despite seeing the shocked look on my face when I opened my door. My first thought was thinking she was doing a survey for the university because I did not understand how she got through the security door in the building’s lobby. I SAID, “HELLO, HOW CAN I help you?” As she introduced herself, she handed me one of her pamphlets. The front of it was illustrated in such a way to make me think it was an advertisement for a children’s book. She asked if she could tell me about her god. I declined the offer, saying I practice a different religion. Without losing her smile, she said her god would save me. Right then my attitude changed because I found her statement offensive. I believed ever person’s religion should be respected and that one was not better than another. I explained to her I was not interested, but it was nice to meet her as I closed my door. It has always puzzled me how people think their religion is the best or the “right” one. If memory serves me correctly, I think there are only three religions that do not actively seek out people to convert them over to their religion. It is one thing to be open and expressive about one own’s religion, but the idea of seeking out people to say they will not go to heaven or be with their god because of their religion is wrong in my book. I feel more strongly about it after seeing this Oscar nominated, biographical drama. UPON MEETING THE MAN SHE WOULD later marry, young Tammy Faye, played by Jessica Chastain (The 355, Molly’s Game) would wind up experiencing more than she ever imagined one could while being a good Christian. With Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge; tick, tick…BOOM!) as Jim Bakker, Cherry Jones (Ocean’s Twelve, The Perfect Storm) as Rachel Grover, Vincent D’Onofrio (The Unforgivable, The Judge) as Jerry Falwell and Mark Wystrach (Road to Red, Scavengers) as Gary Paxton; this film based on a true story excelled due to Jessica, Cherry and Andrew. They saved the script that I found to be a bit too sanitized, considering what was going on during the times when Jim and Tammy Faye were growing their business. At times, I felt Jessica was on the verge of being a caricature but then she would reel it in during the next scene. I will say the script does not put the religious conservatives in a good light; if what was shown was true, I was taken aback with the backroom antics of the religious leaders in this story. Not only was this an entertaining picture for the most part, but it also reaffirmed my feelings about those who preach their way is the right way.
GOING THROUGH LIFE FEELING invincible, if you can pull it off, must be an incredible experience. Looking at people who dedicate a good portion of their time to working out and exercising, makes me curious as to what their motivation might be. I think if the fitness centers where I teach only had a young clientele, I would not have been able to experience the bigger picture when it comes to health. To this day I admire those people who are advanced in age, who might have limited physical capacity and yet I see them working out at the club consistently. There are even some members who need a cane or walker, but they still come and push themselves to get a complete workout. Seeing an elderly person hunched over, dependent on their walker, shuffling their way around the running track is nothing short of glorious to me. I AM NOWHERE NEAR thinking I am an invincible being; on the contrary, my recent medical scare showed me how vulnerable I actually am. The whole experience showed me a new side to life; I have a deeper appreciation for anyone who struggles with an ailment, yet keeps moving on. From what I have seen, I have determined the mind plays a crucial part in how a person handles their affliction. Having a positive attitude makes a world of difference, yet it is something I still have a hard time with because I am wired to seek out the negative thoughts first. There is a friend of mine who needed surgery; an operation that would leave them incapacitated for several weeks. If it was me I would have asked the doctor to keep me sedated or put me in a comatose state. My friend had the most positive of attitudes and came out of surgery beautifully; keeping their positivity going, they even reduced their rehabilitation time. I do not know if I can train myself to be as optimistic as they were with their surgery. Maybe I could find someone similar to the main character’s wife in this film based on a true story. ROBIN CAVENDISH, PLAYED BY Andrew Garfield (Silence, 99 Homes), only saw a body that did not work anymore. His wife Diana, played by Claire Foy (Season of the Witch, The Crown-TV), saw something else. This film festival nominated, romantic drama was filmed in such a way to bring out the beauty of the story. Andrew and Claire were perfectly matched with their acting skills and chemistry. I would not be surprised if Andrew is nominated again for an Oscar, he was that good. Along with Tom Hollander (About Time, Pirates of the Caribbean franchise) as Bloggs and David Blacker, Hugh Bonneville (The Monuments Men, Downton Abbey-TV) as Teddy Hall and Ed Speleers (Alice Through the Looking Glass, Downton Abbey-TV) as Colin Campbell; the whole cast did a wonderful job in bringing life and joy into this unbelievable story. Now I will say the script was a bit predictable but I did not care because I could not get over Andrew’s acting and the fact that I was learning something about a true life changing event. The mixture of humor into the script, which I believe was part of the Cavendishs’ makeup, kept the story from sinking into a maudlin state. It would have been interesting to get more of the characters’ thoughts and feelings out onto the script but the writers I can only assume wanted to keep things on the lighter side. I try to avoid doing any type of health comparisons; but after seeing this film, I have a whole new appreciation for having a positive outlook.
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
There are hardships that affect us on an emotional and internal level. An attack on the heart can feel as if we are experiencing it in a physical way; but once that initial punch subsides over time, the shattered pieces of one’s heart and soul remain below the surface for the most part. To the average person, the one in mourning could pass by undetected. Now there are some misfortunes that cause pain in a predominately physical way. Sure there is the emotional aspect but the physical trauma is irreversible. The loss of something related to one’s physical being such as eyesight or a limb is something that can alter a person’s life forever. Another life changer would be the change of status for one’s home. An apartment fire that throws tenants out into the cold, forced to take residence up in a shelter or if lucky a place to stay with a family member or friend, could have a long term effect on an individual. I have a friend who lost their house due to the financial crash a few years back. It was devastating for them; the house they lived in for years with the tree in back that started out as a small sapling was now gone. I drove by the place some time later only to see it looking crippled and old as a hungry wild lawn was in the middle of devouring it. It was so sad to see and I know this house was only one of millions that are in the same situation, with former inhabitants that are suffering in pain. The worst day of Dennis Nash’s, played by Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, The Social Network), life was the day he and his family were evicted from their home by real estate broker Rick Carver, played by Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, The Iceman). That was before he accepted a job from the greedy realtor. This dramatic film festival winner was powered by two important elements: incredible acting by the cast that also included Laura Dern (Wild, The Fault in Our Stars) as Lynn Nash and Noah Lomax (Safe Haven, Playing for Keeps) as Connor Nash, along with a straightforward honest script. This story was utterly believable where I started feeling for the characters’ plight early on. I have been a fan of Michael Shannon for some years and this role was another stellar performance by him. He really has a presence that dominates on the big screen. If I have to look for any negative aspects to this film it would be a few scenes that were a bit slow. Honestly though they were no big deal compared to the positive things that were going on. I think everyone except maybe the top 5% could relate to what was taking place in this movie.
3 1/3 stars
It can be a heart wrenching experience to be on the receiving end of a change without any explanation. Imagine after dating someone for several months they one day tell you they can no longer do this and say goodbye. You are left with a hole inside of you that will not heal properly. You can fill it with anger, vowing you will never let someone get that close to you again or you can push yourself to find someone else to fill the emptiness inside; but in the back of your mind a seed of doubt took hold that maybe you did something “wrong” that drove your boyfriend/girlfriend away. I also have to believe being let go from a job without being told a reason why has to be brutal. How about a child who has enough awareness to know they are being given up to someone else? I cannot even comprehend what ramifications would emerge from it, which is why I thought the strongest part of this action adventure sequel was the back story about the parents of Peter Parker aka Spider-Man, played by Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, Boy A). In his attempt to find out the reason why his parents left him, Peter would discover a surprising secret buried at his father’s former employer, Oscorp. The big plus to this movie were the special effects; I especially liked the way they incorporated iconic landmarks. With the single exception of Sally Field (Lincoln, Mrs. Doubtfire) as Peter’s Aunt May and Emma Stone (Gangster Squad, The Help) as Peter’s girlfriend Stacy, I did not find much else to like about this overindulgent fantasy film. Jamie Foxx (Law Abiding Citizen, Ray) looked better than he acted as Max Dillon aka Electro and Dane DeHaan (Lawless, Kill Your Darlings) would have been a better Harry Osborn if the writers would have left him alone. There were too many villains, too many story lines and too much whining to make this an exciting movie for me. The majority of the blame has to fall on the writers. I felt they were trying to outdo any current superhero movies by making Spider-Man deal with so many different issues in this one film. They needed a good editor to clean up the voluminous scenes, making a tighter story and shortening the film’s 2 hours and 23 minutes running time. If this sequel is any indication I will not be upset if the movie studio does not make a 3rd film; I do not even need to know the reasons why. There was one surprise scene in the middle of the ending credits.
2 1/4 stars
To dwell on the unfairness of life is akin to worrying about a house you built on quicksand. Though my house is not built directly on quicksand, it certainly is on the edge. Think of it as coastal property. I try not to judge my life based on other people’s success. For example, if I cannot afford to buy a ticket to a charity fundraiser I will apply to be a volunteer. I may be asked to work the reception desk or silent auction table, which is fine for me. But when asked to sell raffle tickets I become anxious. It amazes me how uncivil some people can be when being asked if they want to buy a ticket. You would have thought I was asking for their first born. I have been talked down to, pushed aside and yelled at to stop bothering them. How can I not wonder if these same individuals would treat me the same if I was a paying guest and not a volunteer. In the scheme of things I know I should let this type of thing roll off of me, but it is hard. What snaps me out from letting myself wallow in a funk is to remember I have my health. It is not like I am battling the deadly disease that the charity is raising funds to combat. Based on the book by Kazuo Ishiguro, this dramatic movie posed questions for me regarding morality and mortality. Set in an English boarding school, three residents grew up only to discover the truth about why they were born. Carey Mulligan (Drive, An Education), Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man, A Social Network) and Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina, A Dangerous Method) played the adult friends Kathy, Tommy and Ruth. Each of them did a beautiful job with their acting, bringing their characters to life with emotional depth. With a perfect musical accompaniment to the intelligent filming, I did not mind the slower passages of the story. This was not a happy movie; the sadness hung in the air like a heavy mist. I have a feeling people watching this film will either love it or dislike it. Either way the experience will not come close to the lives of the three main characters in this melancholy movie.
3 1/4 stars — DVD