IT WAS AT A FAMILY (NOT MINE) GATHERING where I first saw how people judge others based on the work they do. Maybe this happens more than I am aware of because the individuals I was in contact with were not so blatant about it. With this family, they had no problem showing their disapproval; I could see and hear it. We were mingling together in the living/dining area of my friend’s parents’ house. I knew the family well, so I was included on the guest list. My friend’s parents were throwing a graduation party for their youngest child. It was a casual affair where most of the food items were finger foods. Everyone my friend introduced me to was pleasant. I do not want this to come out as judgmental; but let me just say some of the guests were impeccably dressed. Everything seemed to be going smoothly as far as I could tell. At some point one of my friend’s sisters walked into the house with her boyfriend. They had only been dating a few months and this was I found out, the first time the family was meeting this new man. I thought all was going well until one of the relatives asked the boyfriend what he did for a living. When he told them he was an electrician, you could see everyone’s smiling veneer melt away. The tone of voice the relatives were now using were filled with disdain; I was stunned. WHAT WAS THE MATTER WITH BEING an electrician, I wondered? You would have thought the boyfriend said he was a mass murderer; it was the oddest thing to see. As if on cue, the relatives nearby him slowly moved further away. I swear it looked as if the relatives had just come upon a grizzly bear in the forest and were quietly and slowly backing away, so as not to disturb it. I was not the only one to have witnessed this; my friend saw what was going on and decided to, at that moment, introduce me to the sister and boyfriend. He was a nice guy as far as I could tell, and it seemed as if he had a good sense of humor. Personally, I never care who my friends and family are dating; all that matters to me is that the person is good to them and loves them. Whether they are a stock trader, a sanitation worker or a zookeeper; none of that matters to me. If my friend or relative loves them and feels good about it, then I will support them always. I think that is one of the reasons I found it challenging to connect to the characters in this dramatic, comedy satire. BORN INTO WEALTH AND BELIEVING SHE was better than most Emma Woodhouse, played by Anya Taylor-Joy (Morgan, The Witch), felt she could not find her equal in love. At least, not in her small town. With Johnny Flynn (Clouds of Sils Maria, Beast) as George Knightley, Bill Nighy (Sometimes Always Never, About Time) as Mr. Woodhouse, Mia Goth (A Cure for Wellness, Everest) as Harriet Smith and Myra McFadyen (Mamma Mia! franchise, Rob Roy) as Mrs. Bates; this movie based on Jane Austen’s novel was hard for me to get into in the beginning. The costumes and scenery were immaculate which helped me pass the time. I also thought Bill Nighy was perfect in his role. Set in England during the 1800’s, it was not until the 2ndhalf of the film where I felt things were better connected. My guess is fans of Jane Austen will enjoy this picture immensely. I on the other hand felt it really had nowhere to go; it was somewhat predictable. And for some reason, I could not connect at all with the main actress’ character; what a surprise based on what I mentioned earlier in this review.
2 ½ stars
DURING A SOCIAL FUNCTION, I WAS introduced to a guest who had recently started an exercise regimen to get back into shape. We were introduced by a mutual acquaintance who knew about each of our fitness journeys. Our conversation only lasted a few minutes; but when it came time to separate, I could not remember his name. I simply said it was nice to meet him and wished him luck on reaching his fitness goals, before I moved on. For the next couple of minutes, I tried to reconstruct the beginning of our conversation when we had been introduced, hoping I would recall his name; it did not work. I was annoyed because I could remember every detail about him, from the color of his socks to the buckle of his belt, but not the name. I found it weird that sometimes I can easily remember a person’s name and other times I have no clue. Considering the fact, I teach multiple classes and work with a multitude of employees at my job; I have retained a long list of names in my memory banks. I would like to know what factors trigger my brain to remember a person’s name. ONE WAY I CAN RETAIN A PERSON’S name is if they have the same name of someone I already know, or their name is similar to a well-known celebrity. However, there are a variety of things that hinder my ability to memorize names. If a person avoids eye contact during a conversation, it is likely I will not remember them. Another cause for me not to retain names is if the person does not hold up their end of the conversation. I feel if a person does not ask any questions, then there is little reason to converse with them. In these types of circumstances, I have found the individual is forgettable. The art of conversation appears to be under siege to me. I do not want to sound judgmental; but what is the point of carrying on conversation with a person who does not ask questions or engage with you? I must assume they are not interested in either me or the topic being discussed. Usually, I will converse on multiple topics and ask open ended questions to help both of us start up a conversation. If this doesn’t produce anything then I end my time with the person and gracefully remove myself. The reason I am telling you about this is because for the first time, when I sat down to write my review of this animated, adventure comedy I could not remember the story or several of the characters. DURING AN ARGUMENT BROTHER AND SISTER Charlie and Marla, played by Gabriel Bateman (Lights Out, American Gothic-TV) and Anya Taylor-Joy (Morgan, The Witch), suddenly found themselves transported to an animated world where they would discover the true meaning of family. With Jim Gaffigan (Away We Go, Chappaquiddick) voicing Del, Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter franchise, Swiss Army Man) voicing Rex Dasher and Dan Navarro (The Book of Life, American Dad-TV) voicing Viking Leader; this film was one long series of product placements. I did not mind the non-animated scenes; but after that, I found the script to be one long bore. There was no humor, adventure or fun musical numbers; in other words, this was a generic version of the Lego films. At 7:00 pm on a Friday there were a total of 3 people in the movie theater and that is including me. I do not know what the film studio was trying to do, but this picture was that one holiday gift that came broken and was not worth fixing, so it gets thrown away. With an extra scene during the credits, the studio really wants to do a sequel? If I were you, I would not engage with this poor example of an animated movie.
1 ½ stars
AT FIRST I THOUGHT IT was due to the amount of gifts a child received, but I am not so sure anymore. I have attended children’s birthday parties where the number of toys being unwrapped was almost obscene. The child would get so worked up into a frenzy that they were just shredding the gift wrapping paper, going from box to box. I do not know if they even spent 10 seconds focusing on the unwrapped package before they went on to the next one. For the longest time I assumed a child who gets showered with gifts appreciates them less than a child whose parents could only afford to give one or two items. There just seemed to be a sense of boredom that settled in with the children of wealthier parents. I remember one party where the birthday boy received a remote controlled race car and proceeded to race it into the walls until the car broke; it did not faze him at all. In fact, he just left the broken pieces right where they were and walked away. MAYBE IT IS JUST ME but it appears the amount of toys and electronic devices marketed to children has dulled their imaginations. There was a time where a stick and a garbage can cover would be all one needed to have a sword and shield for King Arthur’s court. A pile of fallen, autumn leaves would be the domain of a king you wanted to depose. These days I see more and more kids getting plugged into electronic games. I used to make believe with my friends that we were a combat unit sent out to fight the enemy. We needed imagination as we used whatever we could find as props. I once used an empty dishwater detergent bottle as a flame thrower, except it was filled with water that would spew out when I squeezed the bottle. We had to pretend and sure one of us would die at each battle, but no one ever got harmed; none of us ever wanted to see an injury. These days it is hard not to see some form of real violence on the internet, television and video games. Heck, how many times have I complained about parents bringing their 5 year olds to an R rated movie; it upsets me. After constantly being exposed to violence I am sure it numbs a person to the reality of it. I think that is what was going on in this film festival winning, dramatic thriller. CHILDHOOD FRIENDS LILY AND AMANDA, played by Anya Taylor-Joy (Split, The Witch) and Olivia Cooke (The Signal, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), reconnect after several years. At first they seemed at odds until Lily expressed her dislike for her stepfather Mark, played by Paul Sparks (Midnight Special). Now there was something the two friends could focus on. This bloody crime movie also starred Anton Yelchin (Green Room, Star Trek franchise) as Tim and Kaili Vernoff (Café Society, The Path-TV) as Karen. I know this film has been getting a lot of good press and I can see where it is deserved. The filming style, the acting and the look of it were all done well. However the story dragged for me; I never felt connected to the characters. I had a feeling where the story was going and admit I was surprised in the twist, but I left the theater feeling blah about the whole experience. And this was despite the scenes with blood. Maybe I need to see this again but I would rather go do something outside.
THE only remaining open seat was next to me. I was sitting by the window gazing at the changing landscape as I was traveling downtown on the train. At the next train stop I did not pay attention to the person who sat down next to me. Before getting to the next stop the man commented on a building that came into view from out our window. I replied in agreement about the modern looking building and from that a conversation ensured between us. It appeared this man had some knowledge about architecture as he explained details about a couple of buildings that we noticed during our travels. I was surprised to hear his comments since I grew up in the city and had never heard about the things he was saying about these structures. AS we made our way down into the city he made a couple of comments that did not ring true to me. I cannot exactly explain why but some of the things he stated came out with a slight edge to them; do you know what I mean? A twinge of irritation or anger is the only way I could describe it. I did not react to these comments except for nodding my head since I did not want to appear confrontational. It did not matter however since something obviously set him off; his talking increased in volume. It wasn’t soon after that his comments were not making sense to me. Something about one of the buildings he had just commented on was setting him off on a tirade of expletives. Being stuck by the window with him in the next seat, I was getting extremely uncomfortable. If I excused myself to go stand in the aisle with several of the other passengers he may become offended and who knows what he would do. So instead I told him my stop was next. When we reached it I walked out and ran down the train platform to one of the other train cars before the car doors closed, so I could continue on my way. It was such an odd encounter, but at least I was able to leave which was not the case for the students in this horror thriller. CAPTURED and held against their will Casey, Claire and Marcia; played by Anya Taylor-Joy (Morgan, The Witch), Haley Lu Richardson (The Edge of Seventeen, The Last Survivors) and Jessica Sula (Honeytrap, Skins-TV); needed a plan to find a way out. However there appeared to be more than one kidnapper. This film festival nominated movie written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan (Lady in the Water, The Sixth Sense) was a big surprise to me because I enjoyed it so much; this was not the case for his past several pictures. What sealed the deal regarding this movie was the wonderful performance of James McAvoy (X-Men franchise, Wanted) as Kevin and Betty Buckley (Carrie, The Happening) as Dr. Karen Fletcher. The script was straight forward, but the pacing kept up the creepy intensity of the story. Though there were a couple of scenes that had showed blood, for the most part this was a psychological thriller which I enjoyed immensely. Be prepared for several different points of view in this film.
We were sitting around and talking after dinner. I was expressing my exasperation over building a cabinet from a kit I had bought on the internet. My intentions were to store some of my movie DVDs (no surprise, right?) in it but presently the pieces were scattered on the floor in the living room. The directions had no written text; it only had drawings and icons to follow. I tried but the instructions were not making sense to me. At one point I realized I was building one of the glass enclosed wooden doors backwards, so I unscrewed things and left them on the floor. This led me to explain to my friends why I prefer baking over building. Following a recipe makes me feel calm because it is exact. You have your favorite ingredients such as chocolate, cinnamon or peanut butter and you measure out everything like a chemist until you wind up with this beautiful batter that you put in a hot oven to bake. During the baking process I never taste anything; I feel what company or person would want you to make something that tastes bad. If you follow everything exact it will turn out good is my belief. A friend chimed in it was for that exact reason why they did not like to bake. They said with cooking, if something doesn’t taste good or come out exactly right, you can still add something to fix it. With baking they were stuck once the finished item had baked. The two of us went back and forth on the pluses and minuses of cooking as opposed to baking. The conclusion we both agreed on was there are some ideas that sound absolutely great on paper, but when you make the recipe it just doesn’t turn out as good as it sounded. You could say the same thing about this science fiction mystery. ARTIFICIALLY created humanoid Morgan, played by Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Viking Quest-TV movie), was only 5 years old; but she was already causing problems for the corporation. With a cast that included Kate Mara (The Martian, Fantastic Four) as Lee Weather, Rose Leslie (The Last Witch Hunter, Game of Thrones-TV) as Dr. Amy Menser, Toby Jones (Anthropoid, Captain America franchise) as Dr. Simon Ziegler and Paul Giamatti (San Andreas, The Ides of March) as Dr. Alan Shapiro; one would think this horror film had a capable cast to carry the story. Au contraire, the script was simply awful. I am not one to think ahead in a movie but within a very short time I already had guessed the surprise. Secondly, what is up with Paul Giamatti? Doesn’t he get tired of doing a film where he plays the same loud, yelling professional person over and over? I was bored through most of this picture. The idea was interesting and some of the fight scenes were well choreographed; but this was not enough for me. The execution process was dull; I am referring to the directing, the acting and the beyond predictable script. This may have been a good idea but there is nothing that could have fixed this stinker. There were scenes with blood and violence in them.
1 ½ stars