WHEN I HEARD HOW HER MOTHER-IN-LAW was treating her, I was appalled. To be so blatant about a dislike for a person made me question exactly how so-called religious was she? I was told the mother-in-law never missed attending a church service, was involved by volunteering for church events, helped with fundraising; she did everything she could for her church, yet she did not like her daughter-in-law because she was raised and practiced a different religion. It did not matter that she loved her son, made him happy and in turn, he loved her. The fact her son did not push back at his mother’s behavior towards his bride, told me enough about him. I am trying not to be too judgmental here; probably not doing a good job, but here are a couple of examples of what I am talking about. The mother would ask her son to stop by after work then keep him there for dinner, without asking his wife to join. Now granted the son could/should have said something, but he did not; or he could have said he has to get home because his wife was making dinner. Another thing she would do is only give her daughter-in-law a generic birthday card, while everyone else in the family always received beautiful gifts on their birthdays. Granted this is my opinion, but this is why I found the mother-in-law’s behavior appalling. THE THING I DO NOT UNDERSTAND is why should it matter if a person is of a different religion or for that fact, a different skin color. Human is human, how does one justify having negative feelings about someone who believes in a different religion? Or what fault can be found for someone’s ancestors coming from a different part of the world; we all still have so much in common, if one would just invest the time to find out. For myself, I do not know if it was due to my upbringing, schooling or life experiences that these two things about a person (religion & race) were unimportant to me. Putting environmental issues aside, what does the color of an individual’s skin, the shape of their eyes, their religious beliefs have to do with who they are as a good person. Sure, there are those who “practice what they preach” and there are those whose actions could be considered stereotypical; however, do these things change a person’s morals or heart or empathy? In my dating life I have dated people from all walks of life and places from earth; the only thing that mattered is if they were a good person. You can see what I am talking about if you choose to see this Oscar nominated film. HOW DOES ONE REVIEW A REMAKE of an iconic, classic movie? I will give it a try. Directed by Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List) with Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars, Baby Driver) as Tony, newcomer Rachel Zegler as Maria, Ariana DeBose (The Prom, Hamilton) as Anita, David Alvarez (American Rust-TV) as Bernardo and Rita Moreno (Play it by Ear, Jane the Virgin-TV) as Valentina; this adaptation of the 1957 film stands on its own merits. The filming and direction were outstanding; Steven is a real storyteller. I was stunned that Ansel not only could sing but sing so well. He was a perfect match for Rachel. For me, the music and songs are the highlight. I felt the choreography was better than the original film because it seemed to have a better fit into the story. What surprised me was the script. The way it was updated, the story made more sense to me. Sadly, because the timing was not right for when this picture came out, few people got to see it. If you are a fan of musicals or even not, then you deserve to treat yourself by seeing this beautifully retooled story about two people in love.
3 ½ stars
GRATEFULLY THE TYPE OF SHOCK I have experienced is the surprise kind. There are different kinds of shock: anaphylactic, cardiogenic and hypovolemic to name a few. Trust me I am not that smart; I had to look up and confirm the definition to each of these types. There is also neurogenic shock that comes from a severe emotional disturbance. This would be the one that comes closest to what I have experienced, though nothing as close to feeling something so severe. I experience shock when something unexpected happens to me. Now you might be thinking unless I stay locked in a room, there is no way I am not going to encounter something unexpected during my daily life; and you would be right. I am tightly wired into having structure in my life. Spontaneity is a foreign concept that unsettles me; but having a set routine has a calming effect on me. RECENTLY, I WAS REMINDED OF HOW my brain shuts down when I become shocked. I had pulled a suit out of the closet to try on, making sure it still fit for an upcoming wedding I would be attending. The jacket was fine; but when I tried on the slacks, there was a good two-inch gap at the waistline that prevented me from zipping up the pants. Since weight has always been an issue in my life, my brain went into shock because my slacks no longer fit. I could not believe I had put on that much weight! If I could have stayed in reality, I would have recognized the pants had pleats, which I never wear and the jacket was double breasted, though I knew I had a single-breasted suit. Because my mind was blown, I could not think rationally. It was like my mind got blasted into space and I had to wait for it to parachute down before I could start thinking clearly. It took me a couple of minutes, after I had previewed several scenarios in my mind such as having to go and buy a new suit or put myself on a crash diet, before I noticed the clues that were right in front of my face. The pleated slacks, the double-breasted suit; I was trying on the wrong suit. This is how I handle shock; others handle it a different way, which you can see in this dramatic movie based on the best-selling, Pulitzer winning novel. SURVIVING A BOMB BLAST CAUSED YOUNG Theo, played by Oakes Fegley (Pete’s Dragon, This is Where I Leave You), to act irrationally. His mother would not have approved, but she was killed in the explosion. With Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver, The Fault in Our Stars) as Adult Theo, Nicole Kidman (Boy Erased, The Upside) as Mrs. Barbour, Jeffrey Wright (Broken Flowers, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay) as Hobie and Luke Wilson (The Family Stone, Middle Men) as Larry; the cast was the strongest part of this film. Their acting skills were on full display and I appreciated it because the story was too long here. I thought the script was broken by the jumping back and forth in time, the multiple story lines and the lack of wonder. It was easy for me to figure out what was going to happen to most of the characters, which some of you know is not something I usually can do. The script was congested; I thought the writers were trying to cram so much into it that nothing really stood out in the scenes as being powerful. It really was a shock for me to see such competent actors doing their best to bring this picture alive, yet I never felt like I connected to this picture.
1 ¾ stars
A life without music is a life less rich. At least that is how I feel about music. The famous line from William Congreve’s play “The Mourning Bride” goes, “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast.” It is usually misquoted as a savage beast; either way I agree with its meaning 100%. However I feel music offers us so much more. As the world appears to be more divided currently, music is the one common element that goes past all boundaries. In my opinion music is a universal language that can establish common ground between individuals. One place where I often see this taking place is at a wedding. You have two distinct families with nothing in common except one of their family members is in love with someone from the other side. There could be differences in race, religion or culture but put on some music and people will come together on the dance floor, beginning the first step in making contact with the other side. ANOTHER benefit music offers us is comfort. How many of us have a “breakup song?” You know that one song that you played over and over because it was speaking to you at the time of your separation from the person you loved. Sure it may cause a tear to spill over your eyelid, but it started the path for your heart to heal. I remember whenever I was sad I would sit at the piano and play my favorite music pieces over and over. By the time I walked away I felt some of the heaviness on my heart had been lifted. Music has to be playing whenever I am in the car or when I have to clean the house. I can better tolerate housekeeping when there is a steady beat playing in the background. If I did not have music playing during my commute I would walk into the office frustrated and angry. Maybe it would be different if I had the mad driving skills like the driver in this action crime movie. SURVIVING a car crash as a young boy Baby, played by Ansel Elgort (Divergent franchise, The Fault in our Stars), may have been influenced by it because he became a fearless getaway driver for crime boss Doc, played by Kevin Spacey (Elvis & Nixon, House of Cards-TV). The only problem was he was not allowed to do anything else. With Jon Hamm (Keeping up with the Jones, Mad Men-TV) as Buddy, Lily James (Cinderella, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Debora and Jon Bernthal (The Ghost Writer, The Wolf of Wall Street) as Griff; this film had a banging hard rock soundtrack. The characters and action were all put into synch with the driving beat. I could not recall seeing in a movie such precision between the two. The driving scenes were intensely thrilling; some of the scenes must be seen to be believed. Ansel was amazing in this picture; I felt it was a breakout role for him. Shifting into a lower gear (I could not resist), there was little explanation about the different relationships between characters. I did not understand Baby’s connection to his friend for example. One other thing for me was the change from such high speed action scenes to lesser ones; it made for some odd pacing. The final diagnostics for this music driven movie is it fires on most cylinders.
I want my labels to tell me what is in my can of soup or box of cereal. Placing a label on a human being does not do anything for me. Yet so many people like to label individuals as if giving them one makes it easier to categorize them in some imaginary file cabinet. There are some people who believe they are the label given them. I have mentioned previously how in elementary school a teacher told me I would amount to nothing if I wanted to be a writer. From the moment she said that I started to change the way I thought about myself and began focusing on science courses only. In daily conversations I am part of or just hear in passing, people are referring to other folk as stupid, fat or drama queen to name a few. I bristle at such comments; it is people simply making judgements. The other reason I do not like such terms is due to my strong dislike for stereotyping. Having been a victim of it on a variety of levels, I am more comfortable with people who perceive themselves as individuals instead of being part of a group. When you think about it, isn’t it a narrow view to think of oneself as being a part of a group? AFTER being responsible for the collapse of the government; Tris and Four, played by Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars, White Bird in a Blizzard) and Theo James (The Inbetweeners Movie, Underworld: Awakening) needed a safe place to hide from government leader Jeanine, played by Kate Winslet (Labor Day, Revolutionary Road). The hunt for the couple and others like them was intense because Jeanine believed one of the fugitives was the key for her to solidify power under her domain. This adventure science fiction thriller is the 2nd in the series of films based on the popular books. If you did not see the first movie you may have a problem following this one at first. Out of the cast which included newcomer Naomi Watts (The Impossible, St. Vincent) as Evelyn, I thought Shailene and Miles Teller (Whiplash, The Spectacular Now) as Peter were the standouts. I have to say Miles has exceptional timing while Shailene is totally believable. Visually the story was stimulating but I wished the script would have been stronger. Everything seemed to play out on the same level with little variance in emotional depth; keeping in mind I have not read the books. Some scenes did not fit in well with the story’s direction; I wondered if they were meant to be rest stops between the acton scenes. I am not going to label this film by saying I was slightly disappointed; but, I would have appreciated if the writers had spent more time learning about each major character.
2 3/4 stars
It started out as a simple cough, nothing more. The advice given was to push fluids and rest. The cough got deeper, sounding as if it was trying to peel layers of lung up like faded paint chips. Everything that tried to suppress it only seemed to make it stronger. The color of their skin began to fade into the atmosphere around them and their facial expressions softened. Those little creases at the edges of their mouth got shallower and shallower as the eyes sunk further back into their skull. Besides hearing about it in the news, I have heard about people in a relationship who leave it when their significant other becomes ill. It is hard to imagine anything lower in a human being in my opinion. To love someone for life comes with a lot of responsibilities, it takes work; but the rewards enrich and color our experiences with added shades of hues from the palette of life. Unconditional means not subject to any conditions. The only way I know how to love someone is unconditionally. In this romantic drama decide for yourself if the love you see was an unconditional one. Shailene Woodley (The Spectacular Now, Divergent) played Hazel, a teenager whose only close friend was an oxygen tank due to her illness. Wanting to just live an ordinary life, Hazel felt stuck in a support group where she met Gus, played by Ansel Elgort (Divergent, Carrie). Her with her tank and him with his prosthetic leg, they made an odd couple. The major reason this film worked was the chemistry between Shailene and Ansel. Having played brother and sister in their recent movie Divergent, they were outstanding; I believed every word uttered by the two of them. What accentuated their roles was having Laura Dern (Wild at Heart, Tenderness) and Sam Trammell (Autumn in New York, True Blood-TV) play Hazel’s parents Frannie and Michael. Only recently being aware of the acting from Nat Wolf, he was quite good as Gus’ best friend Isaac. There was no getting around the fact the story was a tearjerker. I have not read the book but part of the script seemed to have an extra layer of melodrama, some of it predictable. On the other hand if you know how I rate the films I review, this movie allowed me to enter into the lives of Hazel and Gus, leaving my life behind. I cried like everyone else in the theater and despite my few minor gripes, I loved this film unconditionally.
3 1/2 stars