I FELT AS IF I WERE driving through the site where a horrific battle had taken place. The landscape was painted in shades of white, gray and black; it was supposed to have been predominantly filled with greens, blues, yellows and a multitude of combined primary colors. The road I was driving on appeared to be dusty, as if it had not been dusted in months. I barely could make out the road markings; so, I was driving slower because of all the curves in the road. The black figurines thrusting out of the ground reminded me of a scene I saw in a movie, where the charred remains of the dead residents of Pompeii looked like ashen statues. These black structures looked like they were part of an abstract painting, frozen into freakish poses. Some looked like they had multiple arms while others appeared to have been the results of a mad scientist’s freakish experiments. I was convinced I was seeing whisps of smoke slowly twisting away from different parts of the terrain. The air even smelled smokey with traces of sulfur. When I planned my vacation, none of this was part of my itinerary; I was envisioning wild animals roaming the grounds. Instead, everywhere I looked I saw dull, barren land. It turned out I was one of the first to drive through this portion of the state after it had succumbed to a major forest fire. TOWARDS THE END OF MY VACATION, I read the forest fire had burned through thousands and thousands of acres. The reporter mentioned the charred remains would help repopulate the landscape, but that it would take time. Those black figurines I saw on my road trip were the burnt remains of decades old trees. I wondered how the animals who survived the fires would be able to live on the land; there could not be any food for them, nearby. It was sad to see the devastation. I know life is a series of events connected in a circle, from birth to death; however, after seeing what I saw I had a difficult time trying to justify the reason for such destruction. From the news I heard and read, there was no word yet about the loss of human life. What did come out sometime later, was that the fire appeared to have been started by a visitor who was camping. I could not believe it. I wondered if the camper(s) even knew what they had done. The idea that these individuals could have been that careless angered me. If you wish to see some of the destruction that can take place in a forest fire, then feel free to watch this dramatic, action thriller. IT WOULD TAKE EVERY OUNCE OF strength and wits for smoke jumper Hannah, played by Angelina Jolie (By the Sea, Maleficent franchise), to keep the lost boy she found alive in the middle of a forest fire and gunfire. With Finn Little (Angel of Mine, Storm Boy) as Connor, Jon Bernthal (Baby Driver, The Wolf of Wall Street) as Ethan, Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones-TV, The Maze Runner franchise) as Jack and Nicholas Hoult (Tolkien, Warm Bodies) as Patrick; it was fun to see Angelina back in an action figure role. And action is predominately what took place in this movie. With little or no depth to the characters, this was the type of story one only needs to feel; no need for a lot of thought about the story. There were some tense and exciting parts that drove the rest of the scenes that paled in comparison. For the most part there was nothing new in the script; it was simply because of the acting and the thrills that made this an easy picture to watch. However, I do hope those who have been careless when it comes to protecting the land from fires appreciate what smoke jumpers have to do to try and keep a place safe; let alone, see what kind of destruction can take place from a single careless moment.
2 ½ stars
SHE WAS PROUD OF HER GRANDCHILDREN; I heard her talk about them enough times to know. They were respectful and polite which made me like them right from the start. According to their grandmother, the boy was a star player on his school’s football team and his sister was the school’s photographer. When I met and spoke with the 2 siblings, I learned the grandmother’s description of their school activities was exaggerated a bit. The girl enjoyed photography and had submitted one of her photos to the school’s newspaper; it was one of several to be chosen to accompany an article about the plant life around the school building. The boy was on the football team as the grandmother had mentioned; however, he was one of the 2nd string players on the team. Most of his time was spent sitting on the bench. So, the grandmother expanded the truth, I get it. She was not the first grandmother I met who used hyperboles when it came to her grandchildren. It did appear to me; however, she spoke a lot about these kids. It is one thing to mention one’s children or grandchildren if it comes up in a conversation; but, without solicitation or prodding one talks excessively about them then I start to wonder what could be fueling it. YOU THINK YOU KNOW A PERSON, but then something happens that forces you to re-evaluate everything you thought regarding this individual. This is what happened to me and explained why the grandmother talked a lot about her 2 grandchildren. Her and I were part of a small group of people who had met for lunch one day. During the meal many topics were discussed. However, it was during the subject of racial tensions when the grandmother said something that led me to believe the reason behind her excessive talking about her grandchildren. She had said a derogatory remark about another race. I was shocked because up until that time I never considered her to be a prejudicial person. As I sat there processing this new information the conversation drifted off to something else. No one questioned her about her comment, but I had to because what she said did not make any sense to me. I asked her how she could make a derogatory remark about a person’s skin color when her grandchildren had the same color of skin. She said it was not the same. Her grandchildren were born from a mixed-race couple; evidently, she was not comfortable about it which explained the constant talk about her grandkids. All of this because someone looks different? She has something in common with one of the characters in this adventure fantasy. AGREEING TO MARRY PRINCE PHILIP, PLAYED BY Harry Dickinson (Beach Rats, The Darkest Minds), would be the easiest part compared to having each of their families sitting down together for a dinner. Aurora, played by Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon, Super 8), would have to convince her Godmother Maleficent (Changeling, Mr. & Mrs. Smith), to meet the humans she so distrusted, for good reason. With Michelle Pfeiffer (Hairspray, What Lies Beneath) as Queen Ingrith and Sam Riley (On the Road, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Diaval; this family film was beyond colorful. The opening scenes may take one’s breath away because they were so filled with colors and creativity. Along with my amazement of the visual aspects to this picture, I thought the cast was wonderful. Angelina, Michelle and Elle were so good together that I could see them doing another film together. My only complaint had to do with the story and script; it was uneven and convoluted at times, besides sharing similarities to another story made famous as a Broadway musical. Despite this, I found the movie entertaining. It had great special effects, was visually stunning and had a killer performance by Angelina, Michelle and Elle.
I was told there are beings who walk the planet robbing people of their energy; they are referred to as “Energy Vampires.” This is what I heard at a convention I attended some time ago. At first I did not quite understand what the presenter was talking about; but after a few examples were given and I later experienced it for myself, it made perfect sense. Let me see if I can explain it to you. Have you ever been at a party where one person dominates the conversations? They may be humorous, crack jokes or do some physical antics to provoke a response from people; however, the underlying current to all of their manipulations is to be the center of attention. This explained why I had such an uncomfortable time being around my friend’s boyfriend. Anytime we would get together he would dominate the conversations; no matter the topic he would bring it back to talk about himself. You may have experienced something similar, where the person throws out a question to you but they really are not interested in your answer. They just want to use the query to talk about themselves. If we played cards or a board game he was merciless; he had to always win. It was exhausting, I always felt tired after being around him. I did not realize it at the time but this guy was sucking the energy out of me and frankly out of the entire room. It came to the point where I had to limit my time around my friend and curtail the times we would play games. Luckily I had the option available to not be around them; but sometimes there is not an option and one has to face up to the challenge. WHEN the evil Kai, voiced by J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Juno), began eliminating the kung fu masters from across the land Po, voiced by Jack Black (Goosebumps, Bernie), could not walk away. He would have to confront the evil force and need help to do it. This animated action film had wonderful sharp animation. Visually I was impressed with the look of this adventure picture. With Bryan Cranston (Argo, Trumbo) as Li, Angelina Jolie (Malefiecent, Salt) as Tigress and Dustin Hoffman (Meet the Fockers franchise, Wag the Dog) as Shifu; the story was well thought out and made this sequel quite enjoyable to view. The humor was age appropriate and the writers took care not to make the subject matter too dark for younger viewers. Though I have seen the previous 2 films I do not think it is necessary to see them before seeing this movie. As a matter of fact I liked this one the best out of the three. The audience from what I could tell was into this film, both adults and children. This film was a good reminder that one cannot always run away.
Appearing not so dissimilar from the uniqueness of an individual’s fingerprints is a person’s pain threshold. I am curious to know what determines someone’s tolerance to pain. Is it genetic, environmental or mind over matter; I have seen people’s reactions go from one extreme to the other. One friend of mine is hypersensitive to any type of discomfort; a pinprick will cause them to let out a loud wail. Another friend could be in pain but one would never know by looking at them. If anything they may not walk as fast as they normally do; but if you did not know, they would appear to be having an average day. Though I am not comfortable comparing one person’s reactions to pain to another, I can appreciate those individuals who overcome intense suffering. One of the places where I have witnessed a person’s courage on display has been at the health and fitness centers where I have classes. Seeing people battle back from serious health issues, some involving major surgery and/or artificial limb replacement, has been humbling. I have watched with awe as I have watched them struggling to walk a single lap around the indoor track or try to lift a 2 pound weight to their chest. Every single one of them is a hero to me. INCREDIBLE and heroic would not have been terms used to describe Louis Zamperini, played by Jack O’Connell (Starred Up, 300: Rise of an Empire), if he had not transformed himself from a wild hooligan into an Olympic athlete and U.S. Air Force bombardier. However, it was because of those earlier experiences that enabled him to survive not only the sea but a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp during World War II. This film festival winning biographical drama was directed by Angelina Jolie (Maleficent, Salt). Based on Louis’ life, his story was bigger than this movie. I felt Angelina had a good eye for blocking scenes and I understood she worked at getting a PG-13 rating for this film. However, I believe she was too reserved in bringing Louis’ story to life. For what he endured I thought there would have been more emotional intensity to the scenes. There were times where I felt things were dragged out longer than necessary; I was starting to get bored. This may have been part of the reason I did not connect with Jack or newcomer Takamasa Ishihara who played Watanabe a/k/a The Bird; they could have been pushed harder to deliver a stronger performance. I recently saw a television special about Louis and from it I knew his story would have been challenging for any director to do it justice. Angelina gave it a good try but I felt this movie needed more of everything.
2 1/2 stars
With one aggressive act can a deep buried anger breakout from its vault inside the body. Flowing like white hot lava, it courses through and scorches the veins within a matter of seconds. The whole body becomes a pulsating furnace, emitting a constant heat fueled by the bellowing breath of hatred. If one does not have the tools to dismantle and disperse this generator of hatred, one will always see life through the smoke of anger. I remember acting this out when I had a toy that was not working properly; beating it against the floor or with any nearby heavy object to teach it a lesson. A majority of my earlier life was spent living with a burning anger. As a result I was able to quickly see it in others. My friends and I were riding in a car driven by the brother of one of the friends. A car driving in the opposite direction sideswiped us, knocking off the side view mirror. My friend’s brother spewed out a stream of obscenities as he violently turned the steering wheel, driving the car into the oncoming traffic. I was stunned by his hot blind anger heating the air around us, incinerating any and all of his common sense. That day I learned anger can be an all consuming emotion that manipulates every intention if left unchecked. The proof can be seen in this action adventure fantasy. Angelina Jolie (Salt, Changeling) was made to play this role, the evil Maleficent character from Walt Disney’s classic movie Sleeping Beauty. Though the story began when Maleficent was an innocent youth, it would show the events that led her to become a spiteful, hatred-filled adult. Despite Angelina’s strong presence, she had to share the screen with the amazing special effects. One of the reasons I liked Sam Riley (On the Road, Control) as Diaval was because he took the brunt of fanciful visuals. Elle Fanning (Super 8, Ginger & Rosa) was lovely as Princess Aurora and blended perfectly with Angelina. My major complaint about this film was the inadequate script. With the ability to take the character of Maleficent to great heights, the script failed Angelina. The lack of dialog created very little drama for her, along with the other actors. At one point the film went from embellishing the Sleeping Beauty story to a poor version of the musical Wicked. In addition the story veered into a dry disconnect that made very little sense. I was disappointed by this movie. Maybe it was because I have seen some truly angry and evil people in my life; the only difference was there was nothing magical about them.
2 1/2 stars