THE ACT OF HAVING A DISCUSSION seems to have become a lost art. So much of the news I have seen contains arguments and violence instead of rational and calm discussions of one’s differences. A recent news report covered a fight that happened in a subway between a passenger and street musician. The details of their argument were not listed; however, whatever it was I cannot believe it was something so intense that it caused the two people to resort to physically fighting each other; one using a pocketknife and the other their guitar. The fight took place on a train platform in the middle of the day with passengers walking right by them. I cannot even imagine something like that taking place, but it did. The news reports I find the most tragic are the ones where an argument took place between family members, where one member out of anger kills the other family member. Without being too graphic, in the past few months I have read reports about a son stabbing his mother to death, a father shooting his son and a brother running over his older brother with the family car, just to name a few. The world is becoming scarier and scarier. IT TOOK ME A LONG TIME TO learn how to have an argument without attaching emotions to it. For years I thought the way to win an argument was to have a louder voice than your opponent. If you added profanity to the conversation it would help your cause. For years, I would take anyone’s disagreement with me as a personal affront and immediately go on the attack against them. I did not hold anything back except one thing; I never turned the fight into a physical altercation. My evolution into staying calm and respectful started with a close friend who was a facilitator of a “self-help” organization. She taught me how to keep the negativity out of a discussion by using the word “I” instead of “you.” This may sound trite, but it made a world of difference for me. That change allowed me to stop coming across as the accuser; instead, I started talking about how I felt based on the actions of my opponent. There was no need for name calling or raising my voice any longer; I simply expressed how I was feeling, and it caused the other person to lose their defenses because they were no longer under attack by me. I now can appreciate a “good” argument which explains why I enjoyed watching the two main characters in this biographical, comedic drama. DESPITE THEIR POSITIONS WITHIN THE CATHOLIC church, the differences between Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bergoglio, played by Anthony Hopkins (Thor franchise, Hitchcock) and Jonathan Pryce (The Wife, G. I. Joe franchise), could have a monumental effect on the direction of the church and its followers. The two men would struggle as they had to confront their pasts. With Juan Minujin (Focus, An Unexpected Love-TV movie) as a younger Jorge Bergoglio, Cristina Banegas (Clandestine Childhood, Killer Women-TV) as Lisabetta and Sidney Cole (Felicia’s Journey, Common People) as Cardinal Turkson; this film festival winner succeeded due to the acting skills of Anthony and Jonathan. They were so convincing to me that I started to forget they were actors. I know the movie was inspired by true events, but I wondered how much of what I was watching was true. Though, since this event happened in my lifetime there was the curiosity factor that played to this film’s advantage. The jumping back and forth in time was disruptive and may have contributed to the slowness I experienced at times. Still, I found the subject interesting and I appreciated watching two people having a discussion.
TENSION could be felt in the air, at least by me, as I walked into the company’s lunchroom. It was not a big room, only accommodating a few tables and chairs. Sitting down next to a couple of employees, I joined in on the conversation taking place. While we were eating and talking I did notice 2 employees whose way of conversing was stilted. They each would participate but I noticed they never made eye contact with each other, even if the topic of conversation related to one of them. The other employees around the table did not seem to notice or if they did they were not fazed by it. If you ever sat around a group of people and one person had an attitude, you would feel it. I could not understand what was going on as there was this “stale” dead air in the room when either of these 2 employees said something. SEVERAL weeks later, long after I forgot about those two peculiar employees in the lunchroom, a co-worker was talking to me and made a joke about one of those employees from that time. She could tell I did not understand the joke and asked me if I knew the story about those 2 people from the lunchroom. When I told her no she informed me the 2 used to be married to each other, making it sound like it was common knowledge. Obviously it was not that common because I had no idea they were married at one time. Replaying as much as I could remember about the conversation we had back then I could at least see where the topic could be an uncomfortable one for the divorced couple. I asked my co-worker why they were divorced; she told me about the rumors some people were saying about the former couple. From what she told me I was amazed either of them could work in the same company as their ex-spouse. It is funny having that little bit of unexpected knowledge has changed most of my interactions with either employee. I could say the same thing about what I found out in this latest installment of the sci-fi franchise. BATTLE after battle, war after war; there must be a reason why Earth will not be left alone by these Transformers. Could there be a solution to once and for all rid our world of this destruction? This action adventure starred Mark Wahlberg (Patriot’s Day, The Gambler) as Cade Yeager, Anthony Hopkins (Red Dragon, The Elephant Man) as Sir Edmund Burton and Josh Duhamel (When in Rome, Las Vegas-TV) as Colonel William Lennox. Within a short period of time I realized the script and the story to this film was utterly ridiculous. The explanations being told about why such and such was happening defied any logic. I know this is a science fiction film, but I still appreciate a good story. The script was a hodgepodge of folklore, fantasy, historical references and an assortment of other components; that I found made one big, long mess of a picture. It also did not help that the movie played for 2 hours and 29 minutes; there was no reason to have such a long film. There needed to be a tight editing job to the script. Also I wished the action scenes had been more distinguishable. With action whirling by it was hard to figure out who or what was going on. I could not wait to escape this picture. There was an extra scene early in the credits.
1 ½ stars
IF there is something harder I do not know what it could be. To see a loved one not only suffering from a health issue but also totally aware of it is awful to witness. I have always said when a loved one dies suddenly it is harder for those who remain behind; when a loved one dies after a long illness it is harder for them. After seeing someone in pain and anguish for a long duration, for those who were witnessing it, there is a sense of relief at the time of the sufferer’s passing. This has been my experiences as well as the friends and family around me. I remember walking into the hospital room of a loved one and being stunned on how much their face had changed from their disease. The face looked like one of those death masks that one would see on display at a museum, except it was hollowed out at the cheeks and eye sockets; it was just awful. Standing there in the room I thought to myself there is no reason they need to stay alive and suffer so much. I understand there are some people who want to hang on to every extra minute they can get by keeping their dying loved ones alive longer. Please I do not want to upset anyone but I have seen people treat their pets better than their relatives and friends when it comes to ending the suffering. WITH that being said I know I would do everything I could to help a loved one get whatever treatment they needed to extend their life as long as they were not suffering. If it meant learning how to administer pain medicines or get the ill person to therapy sessions, whatever it took I would attempt it. But here is the thing that gets me, what about people who do not have any health insurance or worse they are not able to handle the out of pocket expense? Can you imagine what it must feel like to know there is a treatment out there to help your loved one but the cost was too great? How brutal would that be and here is an example of it in this dramatic action thriller. THE thought of losing his girlfriend Juliette, played by Felicity Jones, was too much to bear for Casey Stein, played by Nicholas Hoult (X-Men franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road). He was willing to do an illegal job to get the money he needed for his girlfriend’s operation. Unfortunately the job did not go as planned. This film had such a competent cast that also included Anthony Hopkins (The Elephant Man, Hitchcock) as Hagen Kahl and Ben Kingsley (Learning to Drive, Schindler’s List) as Geran. Why in the world did these actors sign up for such a mediocre film is beyond me? The story which we have heard before was okay, but the script was so poorly thought out that I sat in my seat and kept thinking how silly the scenes were becoming. At least the chase scenes were exciting, some across Germany’s autobahn, but even after a time I was getting tired seeing so many of them. This picture could have been better if they had written the parts in a more authentic way. In its present form I just wanted to get to a car crash to end everyone’s misery.
1 2/3 stars
She hung in the air without any wires or cables attached to her for an unimaginable long time. I stopped what I was doing to stare in amazement as she twisted and flipped her body around like an aerialist in a circus. When she finally landed on the ground, her two feet smacking the forgiving floor like suction cups, she raised her arms up in the air to a roar of applause. The newscasters were agitated with excitement as they repeated the words, “She did it! She did it!” They used her name to describe the move she had just performed because it was a brand new feat that no one had ever performed before. I happened to be channel surfing on the television and came upon her performance during a gymnastics competition. It was pretty spectacular I have to say and now anyone who uses that move in their gymnastics routine will always have it referred to as her move. It brought back a memory I had of the ice skater Dorothy Hamill when she first performed her signature move that is now and forever called the Hamill Camel. When I first got into aerobics I had dreams of branding my style because I used to choreograph every single move to the music I played in class. I thought it would be so cool to be known for something I was the first to do. BASED on a true story Cor Van Hout, Willem Holleeder and Jan “Cat” Boellard; played by Jim Sturgess (Cloud Atlas, One Day), Sam Worthington (Cake, Sabotage) and Ryan Kwanten (True Blood-TV, Mystery Road); decided they were going to do something that would change their lives forever. They were going to kidnap and hold for ransom Alfred “Freddy” Heineken, played by Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock, The Wolfman), the head of the Heineken beer empire. No kidnapers had ever asked for such an astronomical amount of money before. This action, crime drama depicted the inside doings of this unbelievable plan. The best thing about this movie was Anthony Hopkins, though the writers did not give him much to do. I thought the rest of the cast was okay but on a whole the story lacked intensity, so I never felt connected to the characters. Another reason I may have not been drawn totally into this film was seeing Anthony’s character, this incredibly wealthy individual, not having any security measures in place. Maybe I am paranoid, but someone with that type of wealth cannot just live like an average person on the street I would think. As for the action scenes they had some excitement but I found the editing to be choppy. Maybe one was supposed to have a couple of beers before seeing this film.
You are sitting back letting your friend tell the assembled group of friends about an incident that happened to the two of you. Everyone is laughing at a particular funny part of the story. As you are following along with your friend’s narrative, you suddenly hear something that clashes with your memory of the event. While still listening to your friend you are quickly going over the chain of events you remember, wondering if your memory is starting to fail you. As your friend continues to veer off from the way you remembered the story, the group of friends haven’t a clue and are enjoying the tale even more. The first opportunity to talk to your friend the narrator was not until the two of you were riding home from the restaurant. When you asked them why they changed the story, making it a more elaborate less truthful scenario, they replied a story is not worth telling if you cannot exaggerate it and provide better entertainment value. I can understand the point they were making since I have been known to tell a tale or two, with something called creative license. In this adventure drama, writer and director Darren Aronofsky (The Fountain, Black Swan) used artistic license to put his own spin on the biblical tale of Noah. Russell Crowe (Man of Steel, A Beautiful Mind) and Jennifer Connelly (Blood Diamonds, Winter’s Tale) played Noah and his wife Naameh. Upon receiving visions of impending doom for the Earth, Noah set out to build an ark that would save all that was good about the planet. This movie was utterly bizarre to me, taking on a science fiction aspect that I found totally ridiculous. Who knew there were prehistoric Transformers in biblical times?! Not only did I find the story silly, but I found it boring as well. The acting was nothing special and I am saying this even with Emma Watson (The Bling Ring, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock, The Rite) being part of the cast. I especially felt the story line of Ham, played by Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson franchise, 3:10 to Yuma) was poorly done. The only redeeming quality to this film was the visual aspect. Though none of the animals were real I did enjoy their scenes along with the start of the flooding. In the case of this disaster film or should I say disastrous film, elaborating the story did nothing to make it a more entertaining experience.
1 3/4 stars
There is a feeling of anxious anticipation many of us experience when our budding romantic interest says they will call or see us later. The heart trips over the flow of excited joy as the mind tries to recall if there are any commitments on your mental calendar. You want to be available and you want to be ready when you see or hear from them again. But as the days pass without any sign from them, all of the excitement dives into a vat of thick, questioning self-doubt. You start picking at every detail from the previous meeting, seeking out a reason why they have not called you. It can turn into a vicious cycle that very few people are immune from. Even if your boyfriend is a super hero it can still happen; just ask Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman (No Strings Attached, Brothers), who was waiting for 2 years. In this action adventure sequel there was a reason why Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth (The Avengers, Rush), did not come back to see Jane. He was busy trying to establish order in the nine realms. But when an ancient race of beings lead by Malekith, played by Christopher Eccleston (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Amelia), sought to convert the realms into their world; Thor had a good reason why he had not called Jane. I am being silly to match the silliness that was in this fantasy film. It was too much for me. I would have preferred a little more seriousness interjected into some of the scenes to make them more dramatic. Though the returning cast was okay for the most part, the scene stealer was Tom Hiddleston (War Horse, Midnight in Paris) as Loki. He had the strongest presence out of everyone, including Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock,The Wolfman) as Odin. What lost it for me was the jumbled story line. The jumping back and forth between dimensions, if that is even what they were, was too confusing. I felt it took some excitement away from the fight scenes. It was a shame because I really liked the great stylish look to the movie. In a way I guess I had been waiting for this sequel like it was a 2nd date. Too bad the anticipation for it was more exciting than the actual viewing. If you do watch this film, stay through both sets of credits.
2 2/3 stars
There is an easy camaraderie created when a group of people have a singular purpose. Whether one is an employee, volunteer or teammate; when personalities blend together a relationship is formed of shared experiences. When I have done volunteer work I notice there tends to be a quick connection made between all the volunteers. The same happens when new fitness instructors come on board at the health clubs, where I teach. An added benefit to these types of connections is the ability to have fun. Yes, even at one’s place of employment there can be times of fun when everyone is supportive of their fellow employees. Well okay, let us say at least bearable. This sense of fun is what I appreciated most about this action comedy. It was obvious the actors were enjoying both their roles and each other in this sequel. Joining Bruce Willis (Looper, Moonrise Kingdom) as Frank, John Malkovich (Burn After Reading, Dangerous Liaisons) as Marvin, Helen Mirren (The Debt, Hitchcock) as Victoria and Mary-Louise Parker (R.I.P.D., Weeds-TV) as Sarah were Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago, The Terminal) as Russian agent Katja and Anthony Hopkins (Thor, Hitchcock) as mad scientist Bailey. The story was far-fetched about Frank and the team trying to retrieve a megaton explosive device that was smuggled into Moscow during the cold war. Being a fan of Helen, I got a kick out of her role being more physical this time. The script was uneven where some lines were humorous while others fell flat. Bruce has been doing the same type of character for so long, he tended to be a bit cartoonish for me. In the case of John; since I have seen him perform live on stage and know what he is capable of doing, I thought he was excellent in his role. Anthony was exceptionally good with his character. This was not the type of movie where one needed to think much; there was nothing deep about it. Honestly, I think the success of the first movie gave these actors the opportunity to hang out again and share some good times, while filming took place all over the world.
2 1/4 stars
Executives of sanitation and water plants could not explain the sudden drop in water usage. There were many people walking around with a musty smell and slightly unpolished look. Hotel employees were perplexed in the sudden cancellation of room reservations. Well, maybe things were not that bad; however, you cannot tell me there were not a lot of people who thought twice about taking a shower, after they saw the movie Psycho. I remember the first time I saw this movie and how my heart raced. When a film is considered a classic, I enjoy hearing the back story on how forces came together to create such a great movie. This was one of the reasons I wanted to see this film, along with Anthony Hopkins’ (Thor, Proof) performance as famed director Alfred Hitchcock. When the story focused on the birth of Psycho it was fascinating. Even with all the success Hitchcock had with the movie studio, they balked at his plans, refusing to finance the project. I got a kick out of all the tidbits surrounding the filming process. It was fun to see Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, The Avengers) and James D’Arcy (W.E., Cloud Atlas) playing Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. In some scenes Anthony Hopkins was believable as Hitchcock; but at times, it seemed as if he slipped out of character and the makeup was odd. For me, the star of this movie was Helen Mirren (The Last Station, The Debt) as Alfred’s wife Alma Reville. I had no idea, if the story here is true, that she was as influential as she was portrayed. The problem I had was when the story veered off the making of Psycho and delved into the relationship Alma and Alfred had, it did not make for a cohesive story line. I appreciated the things I learned from this interesting movie; I just wished it had been more.
2 3/4 stars
I am not one of those individuals who can figure out a movie’s story early on. It is not in me to think about what is coming up ahead in the story. For some of you, even if you can solve the ending to this thrilling film early on, I do not think you will be disappointed. The reason being, the exciting battle of wits on display between the two leading actors, Anthony Hopkins (Thor, All The King’s Men) and Ryan Gosling (Crazy, Stupid, Love; Drive). Playing the meticulous and cunning self-confessed killer Ted Crawford, Sir Anthony’s performance was a smoldering, steely tour de force–think a vegan Hannibal Lecter. Watch the determined prosecutor Willy Beachum, a younger Ryan Gosling, not only hold his own in the acting department with the experienced Anthony Hopkins, but listen to the wittiness and sly humor that was sprinkled into the script. For the most part I was riveted to my television screen, though I thought the love interest for Ryan was not believable. In the scheme of things, it was the acting that was the centerpiece of this crime drama; the little flaws here and there were easily forgiven.
3 1/4 stars — DVD