THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS HAVE BEEN something that I thought I would only have experienced by watching it in a movie. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would be told I have to remain indoors and only go out for needed, essential items. I know it has been a challenging time for so many people. Within the past several weeks, I read about a celebrity that filed for divorce, stating the pandemic was a partial cause to the failure in their marriage. It seemed being together 24/7 had a negative effect on their relationship. Now, I believe all love relationships need a component of space in them; but I must wonder if something was going on in this celebrity’s marriage before the country went into lockdown. The reason I question this is because I know a couple who were not getting along before the pandemic and when they both had to stay at home their negativity towards each other only grew more. You would think a life or death environment, which is what I consider we have had to live through the past year, would have put things into perspective for this couple and made them make a decision on how they wanted to live their lives for the future. THOUGH I AM NOT CONFIDENT THAT couple will stay together, I have seen firsthand how being with someone you care about 24/7 adds a deeper depth to the feelings one has for the other. Seeing the person, you think you know so well, working from home suddenly can be a revelation. Listening to the way they manage a meeting or bring resolution to a conflict can be eye opening. You may already know they are compassionate and kind, but to see the way they incorporate that into their workaday world is enlightening. There really is a difference to leading a social event compared to orchestrating a business meeting. What I have noticed now, since some companies are allowing their employees to return to the office, is those couples who have been together around the clock are feeling a sense of loss now that their loved one is not with them in their workday. I can see the advantage of having your loved one with you in your office setting because they immediately can be your trusted advisor or sounding board to bounce off ideas and feelings. It is a wonderful opportunity since we are in such strange times; it is like we are living in an alternative world and we are just trying to make the best of it. The couple in this comedic, crime romance is an example of how two people are dealing with the past year. FORCED TO STAY TOGETHER DURING THE pandemic, a couple’s true feelings for each other comes out in unexpected ways that drives them to the breaking point. With Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind) as Paxton, Anne Hathaway (Dark Waters, Ocean’s Eight) as Linda, Dule Hill (The West Wing-TV, Psych-TV) as David, Jazmyn Simon (Tyler Perry’s Acrimony, Ballers-TV) as Maria and Frances Ruffelle (Secrets & Lies, The Road to Ithaca) as Neighbour; the movie started out as a theater piece for me. I could see where the two actors would have been just as powerful on the stage as on the screen. I liked the idea of the story being about a couple during lockdown; however, there was another story within the script that was misplaced in my opinion. The 2 separate storylines were odd together. The first half of the film was tedious for me with the comments and fights; the last half was out of left field and ridiculous. I felt the writers were just piecing together snippets to form the script as if they did not know how to make an ending for the first storyline, so they just switched gears in the middle of the picture. It was already hard dealing with the restrictive social aspect of my life; watching this movie did not make me feel any better.
1 7/8 stars
IF THE FRY PAN WAS ON the stove, I knew I was going to get a delicious meal. It was a large pan that not only covered the entire burner below it but expanded past into the next burner’s territory. With a long metal handle that had a rubber grip around the end, I loved watching the food cooking in it. One of my favorite things to cook in it was a grilled cheese sandwich. Watching the bread, the thicker the better, go from a whitish color to a golden brown made my mouth water. I always hoped the cheese would ooze out from underneath the top slice to coat the toasty crust. When it would happen, I would spend the first minute of the meal peeling the cheese off the edges with my teeth. Though I liked the soft melted cheese in the middle of the sandwich, I enjoyed the crisp cheesy edges just as much. What I have not told you yet is the best part when it came to making this sandwich; it was when my relative would grab the handle of the fry pan and with a flick of their wrist flip the sandwich into the air to cook the other slice of bread. ANOTHER FAVORITE MEAL OF MINE THAT WAS made in this fry pan was scrambled or over hard eggs. I liked my scrambled eggs dry, where they would become firm enough to form soft yellow pillow shaped forms. For some reason this would remind me of a building block set I used to play with when I was younger. The part I liked about the over hard eggs was watching the eggs turn into a thin white disc with two yellow eyeballs. Sometimes I was given permission to lift the fry pan off the burner slightly to swirl the eggs around. It always amazed me how the eggs never stuck to the pan; they looked like they were skating across the pan’s surface. I remember hearing my relative telling someone how much they loved this pan because nothing would stick to it, making cleanup so much easier. Compared to the pans in my house, this pan looked different. Depending on what was being cooked in the pans at home, they would have to sit in the sink for a while to soak after use. This was done to make the stuck food particles come off easier from the pan’s metal surface. I did not understand why we did not have the same type of pan as my relatives. After seeing this biographical drama, I think I understand. ONLY BECAUSE THE FARMER WAS A neighbor of his grandmother, did Robert Bilott, played by Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers franchise, The Kids are All Right) agree to help solve the mystery of the farmer’s dying cattle. It was a decision that would change Robert’s life. With Anne Hathaway (Ocean’s Eight, Colossal) as Sarah Bilott, William Jackson Harper (Paterson, The Good Place-TV) as James Ross, Tim Robbins (Thanks for Sharing, Mystic River) as Tom Terp and Bill Pullman (The Equalizer franchise, Independence Day franchise) as Harry Dietzler; this story based on true events played like a mystery. The acting was excellent from everyone and the director did a wonderful job of layering the story from scene to scene. As for the story, it was horrifying to me; I had no idea there was more to it than what I had assumed. If what was shown was true, then I certainly had the right to be as outraged as I was while watching this film. I cannot imagine anyone sitting through this movie and not wondering if they got through unscathed. My first thought was wondering if those favorite meals I had eaten harmed me in any way.
3 ½ stars
SITTING CLOSE ENOUGH TO ME TO BE heard was a mother and her young son. I could not help but to hear their conversation. The little boy was whining he did not want to go visit his aunt and uncle. For every negative comment the boy made, his mother would answer with an upbeat or positive answer. If you ask me I think their conversation went on way too long. So, I will spare you most of it and only give you some highlights. When the mother asked her son why he did not want to go visit his aunt and uncle, the boy said there was nothing there to do. The mother told him he could play in their backyard. To that the boy said there was nothing in the backyard except flowers and bushes. At another point in the conversation the boy said he did not like sitting by his uncle because he smelled funny. By the way this child was, I am guessing, around 4 or 5 years old. Another thing he did not like was the aunt’s chocolate chip cookies; they were always burnt. To sum up the entire conversation the boy was always bored and uncomfortable sitting at his relatives’ house. MANY OF US MIGHT BE ABLE to relate to that conversation; where we must do something, we might not like doing. For me there was a relative that was an awful cook. Eating at their house was a chore because not only were many of the food dishes unrecognizable, they were also horrible tasting. I would always want to stop at a fast food restaurant before going to their house for dinner. Now there are other circumstances where one doesn’t want to do something they have to do. I don’t like having to go get my driver’s license renewed. The wait is always long and slow; the fear is always there that if I must take the driver’s test I will get an administrator who is in a bad mood; and the worst part, I will have to press my face into the viewer screen for the eye test portion. I can only imagine how many germs and stuff have been left on that viewer screen from all the applicants. Don’t all of us have to do things we do not want to do? It is part of life. The reason I have mentioned this is because I honestly was not looking forward to seeing this comedy. From the trailers, I had a feeling this movie would have a hard time keeping my attention. ONE SCAM ARTIST WAS SOPHISTICATED AND chic, the other raw and uncouth; when they descend on the same place it would turn into a battle for each to outdo the other. With Anne Hathaway (Ocean’s Eight, Rachael Getting Married) as Josephine Chesterfield, Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect franchise, Isn’t it Romantic) as Penny, Nicholas Woodeson (Skyfall, Disobedience) as Albert, Alex Sharp (How to Talk to Girls at Parties, UFO) as Thomas Westerburg and Dean Norris (Fist Fight, Breaking Bad-TV) as Howard Bacon; this film suffered under a variety of poor choices. First, let me talk about Rebel. She needs to stop doing the same thing over and over. This character was no different from many of her past ones. I especially dislike how the writers use her weight to create so called comedy. As for the script, it was so basic that there was nothing noteworthy about it; it was ridiculous and boring. Whenever there was the opportunity to go with the lowest common denominator, this story went with it. I told you I was not looking forward to seeing this film and now I know why. The only positive thing I can say about this movie is that I went to the morning, bargain priced showing.
1 ½ stars
IT WAS AN OUTDOOR SHOPPING CENTER made to look like a town square. I was not interested in how it looked, only needed to go to one store located somewhere inside. Within the first minute of turning into the mall I was already annoyed by the parking lot; it was set like an English garden maze, except the green hedges were replaced with concrete curbs. From the posted signs I knew I had to be somewhere in the right area, so I decided to park and make my way on foot. Luckily the store was easy to find and once inside I quickly found what I was looking for before I headed back to my car in record time. Next on my to do list was going to the bank. I asked the virtual voice assistant on my phone for the nearest location to a branch of my bank. Directions were offered which I followed out of the parking lot. I made my way down the street for a short time, just past the shopping mall. Being told to turn down a side street I would up winding my way south, having to stop at each intersection because of stop signs. Finally coming out onto a thoroughfare I was instructed to turn west. The next thing I knew I was back at the shopping center and right there was a sign pointing me to the bank. I FOUND IT ANNOYING THAT I HAD to drive out of the mall, through a residential area, only to be directed back into the mall. It made no sense to me. Maybe there was some reason why the interactive assistant had me drive that way, but I found it confusing. These days I find many things confusing and it is not because of an addled mind. It just seems as if common sense is becoming a rare commodity. Later in the day I was at a condominium building and the elevator had a handwritten sign taped inside that said, “Due to the freezing temperatures it is suggested the cabinet doors under all sinks are opened to prevent pipes freezing. This made no sense to me; how would pipes freeze in a unit of a multi-storied condominium building? Don’t all the residents get their water from a main line that then divides out to each unit? I could spend all day listing the things I come across that make no sense to me; but instead, I will just let today’s movie show you what I am talking about. THE QUIET PEACEFUL LIFE BAKER DILL, played by Matthew McConaughey (Gold, The Dark Tower), had created for himself came apart when his ex-wife suddenly appeared with a desperate plea to save her. This dramatic thriller also starred Anne Hathaway (Ocean’s Eight, The Intern) as Karen Zariakas, Diane Lane (Trumbo, Secretariat) as Constance, Jason Clarke (First Man, Everest) as Frank Zariakas and Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, Guardians of the Galaxy) as Duke. I actually think the actors could have handled anything that got thrown to them, but I do not know how they maintained their composure with this bizarre script. Their first clue, I believe, would have been their initial read through of it. The story made no sense to me which added to my boredom. Maybe the writer wanted to create a twisted, sexy, tension building story but all I found were things that made me scratch my head in confusion. It is a shame because I enjoyed the look of the film and particularly the setting, which was this idyllic island. There is already enough I encounter that dumbfounds me; there was no reason why I needed to pay for my confusion by watching this picture.
1 ½ stars
THE HOME COOKED MEAL WAS so good I asked for a copy of the recipe. After making the dish for so many years, the host no longer followed the exact recipe; she knew the ingredients and approximate amounts needed. I gently prodded, well actually begged, her to write it all down sometime during the evening if it was not much trouble. Just prior to me leaving later in the night the host handed me an envelope. You should have seen my face when I opened it and discovered she had written down the recipe on a piece of paper. She did say it may not be exact as the original, but close enough and I could personalize it to my own tastes. Besides wanting the recipe to make for myself, I thought it would be the perfect course to serve for an upcoming dinner party I was planning to host. As the weeks passed I acquired all the ingredients, reading and re-reading the recipe a couple of times to make sure I had everything needed and understood the preparation. THE DAY OF THE DINNER PARTY I had my tasks organized on a list which is something I do each time. Think of it like a pseudo schedule I follow to keep me on track for what needs to be done, to prepare a full meal with dessert. I was looking forward to making the main dish, expecting my guests would enjoy it as much as I did. Because I wanted to give myself as much flexibility with the time constraints I had for my tasks, I pre-cut some of the ingredients and stored them in airtight containers inside the refrigerator. I went about my business, cleaning the house and setting the table. By the time the first guests showed up I had all the dishes that needed to be baked cooking inside the oven. I felt everything was falling into place. When everyone was there and we sat down for dinner, I brought out the main dish and started serving it to each guest; it smelled good. As people started to cut in and taste their meal they complemented me. I was glad everyone enjoyed the meal but I was the only one who knew the dish I made was not as good as the original one I had at that previous dinner party. Don’t get me wrong; it was okay but it did not taste as special to me; I was disappointed by it. Having seen the previous Ocean movies, I must tell you I felt the same way about this gender switched version—disappointed. AFTER DOING HER TIME IN prison Danny’s sister Debbie Ocean, played by Sandra Bullock (The Heat, The Lake House), told the parole board she just wanted to lead a normal life and pay her bills. She did not mention how she was going to pay her bills with the help of the Met’s annual Gala event in New York City. With Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, Thor: Ragnarok) as Lou, Anne Hathaway (The Intern, Les Miserables) as Daphne Kluger, Mindy Kaling (No Strings Attached, The Office-TV) as Amita and Sarah Paulson (12 Years a Slave, Carol) as Tammy; I felt the cast was ideal for this story. All the actors were seasoned enough to make this picture a fun experience. Sadly, the script hindered this group from delivering on it. Except for Anne’s character, which she did beautifully, I found myself not as invested in the story as I thought I would be. The film was more of a fluff piece; it was okay to sit through but I was glad I did not pay full price. Just like the recipe I made, this movie was okay but could have been better.
2 ½ stars
ACTIONS speak louder than words. Sometimes they do more than just speak louder. There are some people who do things with little fanfare, but their actions have a profound effect on many. Recently on the news I saw there was an anonymous donor who provided enough funds to rebuild a charitable organization’s offices after they were damaged by a tornado. Another news source reported on a patient who needed a kidney transplant. A donor had stepped forward after hearing the patient’s story. This donor had no connections to the individual, but after hearing the patient’s story he said he felt it was the right thing to do. He did not want any compensation or recognition for his healthy kidney, nor did he want any fuss. Of course the news sources jumped at the chance to bring a “feel good” story to the public. During these current times I find it refreshing to find individuals doing good deeds without the need to broadcast or brag about them to the world. LOOKING towards the opposite end of the spectrum, there are individuals who have no idea their actions can have a negative impact on people. How many of us have experienced at work where one worker does something shady or let me say “against policy” that causes the company to install a new procedure that affects all the workers? I was employed at a company where the owner was carrying on an affair with a woman who was not his wife. Luckily I did not get sucked into the drama, but several employees were put in an uncomfortable spot when the wife would call looking for her husband. The employees were put in an awkward place because they had no choice but to lie to the wife if they wanted to keep their job. You might be thinking the affair would not last long and you would be partially correct. Some did not last long but there was always some other woman waiting in the wings. I so wanted to tell the owner to take a look around and see how his actions were affecting his employees. Too bad he did not have the insight that the main character found in this fantasy comedy. GLORIA’S, played by Anne Hathaway (The Intern, Rachael Getting Married), constant drinking was having an effect on her boyfriend Tim, played by Dan Stevens (Beauty and the Beast, The Guest). She could not see what her actions were doing to him, let alone to people nowhere near her. This film festival winning movie’s story was quite unusual. It started out slow or more to the point confusing to me; however, once I felt I understood what Gloria’s drinking represented I was able to sit back and enjoy this quirky film. Anne did a wonderful job of acting with her character and the bonus was watching her play against Jason Sudeikis (Masterminds, Mother’s Day) as Oscar. He was amazing in his ability to switch back and forth between comedy and seriousness. I honestly do not see this picture going into wide release because I would not consider it a mainstream movie. However the story really had a way of pulling in the viewer; one only needed to suspend reality and watch how actions speak louder than words at times.
The multi-colored pennants hanging off the building were so thick in numbers you would have thought this was the launching of an armada instead of a grocery store’s grand re-opening. I could tell before I pulled into the parking lot that something must have been going on because traffic was busier than usual. As I walked into the store I immediately noticed all the shopping carts were replaced with polished black, extra wide carts. Later I would discover I missed the squeaky wheels of the old carts because they used to announce my arrival to the shoppers lost in thought IN THE MIDDLE OF THE AISLE, blocking passage. Starting at the produce department all the previous stand alone racks were replaced with these “islands” built of wood with multiple shelves perched on top in a pyramid shape. The produce was carefully lined up on these shelves that were covered in some type of felt or Astroturf. I almost needed sunglasses from the super bright lights that were hanging down from a newly revealed bare ceiling. All the signage was bigger and easier to read. I felt like I was in a brand new store though I had been shopping in this place for years. From my shopping list I saw I needed apples, pears and green peppers. At one island up ahead I could see the green peppers circling the lowest shelf. The shelf above had red peppers and the top shelf was filled with yellow. Looking at the peppers close-up I discovered, though the store was remodeled, the produce hadn’t changed; you had to hunt through to find a pepper that was not bruised or shriveled up. As they say the store was all flash with no substance, just like this fantasy film. ALICE Kingsleigh, played by Mia Wasikowska (Crimson Peak, Jane Eyre), returns to Wonderland to help her good friend Hatter Tarrant Hightopp aka Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp (Black Mass, Into the Woods). Her journey would take her back in time. This adventure film was utterly imaginative and colorful to watch on the big screen. With most of the previous cast returning like Anne Hathaway (The Intern, The Dark Knight Rises) as Mirana, there was a new addition with Sacha Baron Cohen (The Brothers Grimsby, The Dictator) as Time. He was fine though nothing real special. Maybe I was expecting the writers to use his comedic talent fully than what they wrote for him. In fact, this brings me to my main complaint about this film; it was not fun or entertaining. The story was more of a downer as were the characters. It seemed like a long time before the story picked up but by that time I did not care anymore. I remember sitting in my seat and wondering if this is what Lewis Carroll had in mind? The story lines separately may have been good by themselves, but mixing them all in one movie just made things messy in the telling of this story. This movie was like one of those Corpse flowers that is pretty to look at but smells foul.
It started with a letter I read in a syndicated advice column. A person wrote in lamenting about the state of our education system that seems to be pushing students through who do not have simple basic skills. This person’s example was the checker at their grocery store who could not figure out what the cost was for an item that had a sale price of 4 for $1.00, but was ringing up at 44 cents each. When the shopper pointed it out, the checker had to ask a coworker who also could not figure out what to charge for each item. This shopper knew that these 2 had graduated with honors from high school and were college freshmen. They finally took out a calculator to get the correct answer of 25 cents per item. It is funny because I had a similar experience at the movie theater last week. My ticket cost $5.75 so I gave the cashier a $20 dollar bill and a single dollar. The person started to hand back the dollar to me but I told her I wanted even change. I could tell they had no idea what I wanted so I had to explain what change I wanted back. There used to be a time when older employees with a long job history were admired and respected for their knowledge and experience. These employees were invaluable to a company. From what I have seen and heard that is no longer the case. When a company is looking to cut costs the older employees can be targeted because the company may feel they can get someone young and right out of college to fill the position for half the price. This is why I thought the premise for the story in this comedy was a good one. SINCE retirement was not totally fulfilling for 70 year old Ben, played by Robert De Niro (Casino, Meet the Parents franchise), he decided to apply for the intern position at a hot new online fashion company. It was quickly apparent to him offices and their employees had changed when he saw the company’s president Jules, played by Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married, Love & Other Drugs), riding around the office on a bicycle. I thought Robert was especially good in this role and was surprised at the chemistry he had with Anne. There were some scenes they shared that worked well, similar to the ones he shared with Rene Russo (Outbreak, Thor franchise) as Fiona. The issue I had with the script was the multiple offshoots to the main story. I felt some scenes were forced just to try and get a laugh; they were unnecessary to me. If the writers would have focused more on the company and its employees the movie would have been stronger in my opinion. On the plus side I appreciated the film showing the value of having an older more experienced employee.
2 1/3 stars
Some people learn about someone from looking through their medicine cabinet. Who knows, you may discover they suffer from acid reflux, wear contact lenses or have sensitive teeth. Now I will admit if the door to the medicine cabinet is ajar, I will peek at what is visible without touching anything; so there will not be any fingerprints. So yes, I may know what type of hair shampoo a person likes or they are on an antibiotic; however, this does not reveal a true picture about the individual. If you really want to get to know someone, take a look at their music library. Based on the type of music they listen to can tell you a variety of things, such as they are an old-fashioned romantic or they must have had a relationship that had a bad breakup. I know if someone were to go through my music they would figure out I like to move because of the abundance of dance music in my library. Another aspect of music is its healing properties. How many of us have played a particular song over and over to heal a sad, heavy heart? Music has a way of providing us many gifts. AFTER a horrific accident Franny, played by Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises, Bride Wars), flew home after being away for several years, to be there for her brother Henry, played by Ben Rosenfield (A Most Violent Year, Boardwalk Empire-TV), and her estranged mother Karen, played by Mary Steenburgen (Last Vegas, The Help). Listening to her brother’s music, Franny sought out her brother’s favorite places to listen to his favorite artists so she could get to know him. This film festival nominee had a gentle story despite its tragic event. Anne was well suited for the role and I enjoyed her performance as I did Mary and Johnny Flynn (Something in the Air, Lotus Eaters) as James Forester. The music score was full of indie folk songs; at least that is how I would describe them. They were sweet but nothing memorable. The idea for this drama was admirable; I thought it was an interesting take on a familiar theme. The issue I had with this movie was it did not go far enough to be unique. There were times I felt I had already seen parts of it before. In addition, it was pretty easy to figure out how the story would play out. Despite these shortcomings I did not mind sitting through this drama; granted the main attraction for me was the music. On a final note, this film may have hit a few sour notes but it did prove again the power of music.
1 3/4 stars
A mound of recently fallen autumn leaves became an ancient fragile pyramid that was ready to be explored by us. We had to be careful as we dug our way inside so the colored walls would not crumble and fall. The discarded stove in the alley turned into a rocket ship with 4 blazing thrusters and a retractable dock door that revealed a double landing deck made of steel. For a child the world was this huge amusement park, filled with infinite places to explore. I feel exploring is part of our human nature. Not necessarily in the same way, all of us do it in some kind of form. There are people who explore various stores to find the cheapest price on an item before buying it. When I take a trip to an unfamiliar place, I go into full explorer mode. After researching and mapping out my trip; once I arrive I usually go non-stop to cover as much territory as I can before I return home. Think about it; isn’t taking an art or dance class a way for us to explore our creative side? Throughout the ages there have been individuals who spent their entire life looking for something new and different; as I said, it is just in our nature. EXPLORING for a new planet to call home was imperative if mankind wanted to survive as a species since the Earth was dying. For Professor Brand’s, played by Michael Caine (Harry Brown, The Dark Knight franchise), plan to succeed he would have to depend on the skills of retired astronaut Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club, Mud), to pilot the spaceship. One of the passengers was the professor’s daughter; a scientist who Cooper referred to simply as Brand, played by Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables, The Devil Wears Prada). No one knew if the crew would be back in time before the planet expired. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight franchise, Inception), this science fiction adventure was a major piece of work. Without the use of green screens for the special effects, the actors were able to react in a more realistic way to the sets around them. Visually the movie was stunning with its broad spectrum of varied scenes, both on Earth and in space. Where I felt this movie stumbled was its story. Though the script per se was well done, even with the past and present story lines going simultaneously, the story had some muddled spots in it. With a running time of 2 hours and 49 minutes; I felt the film could have used a little more editing. The hardest part watching this movie was at the end; after sitting all the way through, I found myself confused to the point I felt I was left out in space.