IT SOUNDED LIKE HE WAS PROUD to tell me he could eat anything; I congratulated him, telling him I had to watch what I ate. When we met in school, he told me he was diabetic. Later he told me he was surprised by my reaction when he initially told me. I said, “Oh, okay; but don’t think I am going to treat you special now.” Up until that moment most people he had told according to him started treating him differently, as if he could not make his own decisions. Please keep in mind, this happened back in time before we had the technology, we have now for tracking blood sugar levels. From that first meeting on our dorm floor, we became fast friends. We both had opted out of the meal plan offered at the school, instead fending for ourselves in the communal kitchen on our floor. Seeing what he ate on a weekly basis did make me curious how he managed to eat certain foods that I had thought would wreak havoc with his sugar levels. I remember asking him if he took the same amount of insulin each day, after seeing him inject himself in the stomach at the table before we started eating dinner one night. He said he could feel his sugar levels and adjust his insulin dosage accordingly; he would just wing the dosages each day depending on what he planned on eating. It surprised me because he would eat desserts, drink alcohol and snack between meals on an assortment of food items from natural to processed. ONE NIGHT WE WERE HANGING OUT, watching TV. After we had sat through a couple of sit-coms, the news came on. The newscaster listed the night’s news stories that were to be covered during the telecast and one of the topics was the use of service dogs for diabetics. Of course, my friend was curious about it as well as myself; so, we decided to sit through the news until the dog story was covered. I was familiar with the use of seeing eye dogs for the blind, but I could not imagine what service dogs would do for those with diabetes. Well, it turned out to be an interesting news segment. Service dogs were being trained to alert a person when their blood sugar level was out of range. Both of us could not believe what we were seeing, but it evidently was working; the dogs could smell when a person’s levels were out of whack. Though that was such a novel idea at the time, it turns out it was only the beginning to the variety of animals that would be put into use to assist people. Some would come from unexpected places, such as the one in this drama based on a true story. WHILE VACATIONING IN THAILAND A FAMILY experiences a horrific accident that would alter their lives. No one seemed to heal from the event until the children one day brought home an injured animal. With Naomi Watts (The Book of Henry, The Impossible) as Sam Bloom, newcomer Griffin Murray-Johnston as Noah Bloom, Andrew Lincoln (Love Actually, The Walking Dead-TV) as Cameron Bloom, newcomer Felix Cameron as Rueben Bloom and Jacki Weaver (Poms, Silver Linings Playbook) as Jan; the story behind this movie was unbelievable and difficult to watch at times. Naomi transformed herself into her character, that easily pulled me into the story. The gorgeous scenery was a bonus as I enjoyed the director’s light touch to letting the story play out in a real way. I am sure there were extra parts that were inserted into the script to manipulate the viewer, but I felt they were not done in a heavy-handed way. And if that was not enough, watching the animal in this film was so amazing and done in such an endearing way that I was captivated. Also, stay for the credits to see actual photographs of the family this film was based on.
I WAS FORCED TO LISTEN TO a parent and son negotiate over a candy bar. This is one of the downsides of waiting in line at the grocery store. The son had been whining and crying over something as they lined up behind me. I did my best to ignore what the two of them were saying to each other; however, when the young child said he would behave if he could get a candy bar, my ears perked up. Right at that point, I decided the child was being manipulative. And to my surprise, the parent agreed and let the son pick out a candy bar. Who was the adult, I wondered? This would never have worked when I was growing up. I was surprised the parent agreed; but then again, there is little that surprises me these days. Having seen and read stories about the parent/child connection, I have gone from being in awe to being horrified based on a parent’s actions. There was the case of the parents giving their younger son for Christmas, the shotgun their oldest son used to kill himself. What kind of message are the parents giving their child? I know I have mentioned this before, but there was that trial where the parent was being accused of hanging their 2-year-old child out on the fire escape of their apartment building. Unconditional love evidently is not always a given when one brings a child into the world. NO MATTER HOW MANY NEGATIVE STORIES may be told; gratefully, there are just as many positive stories that come out. I remember reading about a family swimming in the ocean where their young child was attacked by a shark. The father did not hesitate as he went up to the shark and started punching it in the head until its mouth opened enough to get the child out, while still alive. Another story was reported of a mother who saved their child from drowning by keeping them afloat long enough to get them back safely onboard their pleasure boat that had drifted far away from them. I have always been puzzled with the way some parents are willing to sacrifice their lives for their children, while others are at the opposite end of the spectrum; in other words, they take away the lives of their children. Is it something a person is born with or is it something a person learns upon the birth of their child? I do not know but either way, what I saw in this dramatic, horror story moved me. SEEING WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE SPREAD of an epidemic, a father desperately seeks out a safe place for his infant baby daughter. This film festival winning movie starred Martin Freeman (The Hobbit franchise, Black Panther) as Andy, Simone Landers (Grace Beside Me-TV) as Thoomi, Susie Porter (The Monkey’s Mask, East West 101-TV) as Kay, Bruce R. Carter (Here I Am, Last Cab to Darwin) as Willie and Kris McQuade (Ned Kelly, Strictly Ballroom) as Etta. For this genre of story, this script was such a different take that pleasantly surprised me. I thought Martin’s and Simone’s acting were outstanding. Typically, this type of story is filled with blood and gore; however, that was not the case with this picture; it was thoughtful and moving, allowing the drama to flourish with a brewing layer of tension. I am not sure the writer’s intended this, but I found parallels between parts of this story with current events. The extra bonus to this film was the outdoor scenes of the Australian countryside; there were some beautiful shots done by the camera people. For those of you who are into this genre of movies, you might be disappointed. However, I would ask that you give this film a chance if for nothing else to see a parent’s love for their child.
I have seen examples that both agree and disagree with the proverb, “blood is thicker than water.” Using the common definition that family relationships are more important than other types of relationships, I know a family with adult children who focus solely on each other; they hardly have any social activities that involve friendships. Everything they do they do together whether it is going to the health club, the movies, shopping or even carpooling; they only carpool with each other siblings’ children. It is obvious to me that friendships/relationships with people outside of their family are not important to them. AS another example, I know a couple who each came from a dysfunctional family. For them their friends became their family, becoming careful with the time they spent with any of their blood family members. I see them as 2 individuals who became family to each other, creating a safe and protected environment. Where their focus has been on each other, I have seen couples where one person still has as their main priority a family member such as a mother or brother, instead of their partner. I have always been fascinated with the dynamics between family members by blood or love. Two brothers who look nothing alike, who people think are so different from each other, still have a bond that allows them to communicate without talking out loud. Or how about twins who live far away from each other yet when one feels sick the other can sense it; can anyone explain this phenomenon? I recall an article in the newspaper about an elderly gentleman who traveled overseas for vacation. While leisurely strolling through a town he stopped at a café to order a drink and rest. He happened to be facing the doorway while seated and when a customer walked in a few minutes later, the man was stunned; the customer who walked in looked identical to himself. It turned out they were twins separated at birth. Each one expressed the sense of unexplained loss they had been carrying all these years. There is such a strong bond that remains with some family members. SEPARATED from his brother 5 year old Saroo, played by newcomer Sunny Pawar, traveled further than the boundaries of India; he wound up in Australia when husband and wife John and Sue Brierley, played by David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Van Helsing) and Nicole Kidman (Secret in their Eyes, Paddington) adopted the young boy. As he grew up he began to understand certain feelings he had inside. This film festival winning movie based on a true story was a wonderful picture watching experience. Along with Dev Patel (The Last Airbender, Slumdog Millionaire) as Saroo Brierley and Rooney Mara (Carol, Side Effects) as Lucy; the acting in this picture was outstanding. This was Dev’s best performance in my opinion. The story was simply incredible and more amazing because it really happened. I found the 1st half of the film with the young Saroo, beautifully acted by Sunny, more intense due to the young child’s plight; the direction of the scenes kept me totally engrossed in the events. Because of that intensity the 2nd half of the movie felt a bit less so, but it still came across with subtle power. This could easily be an Oscar contender that showed the type of bonds we form for a family.
3 ½ stars
Breakfast for many people is a quick grab and drink before facing the day. Some have coffee machines on a timer that brew the coffee just as the person is waking up. I have known a few individuals who barely function upon awakening. They have to sit for a while, maybe with a cup of coffee, before deciding on whether to eat something or wait until later. This is a foreign concept for me; as soon as I am awake I am heading to the kitchen to eat breakfast. The only time much thought would be put into a breakfast meal would be on the weekend, I imagine. I only say this because I do not work on the weekends except for teaching a class or two. Weekends are the only opportunity if I want to get together with friends or family over breakfast or brunch. For me breakfast during the week is a set routine of cereal and orange juice. I never think about the specific food items and while eating I am either reading or watching television. I know I have to eat but there are many times I am thinking about that day’s movie review. Before I know it my cereal bowl is empty and I have a few drops left of orange juice in the glass. You see I do not think about the texture, taste or the amount of cereal to be eaten; it more resembles a Pavlovian reaction. My eyes open from sleep so it is time to eat; it is simple as that. The reason I am mentioning this is because this sequel requires the same mindset: no thought. RETIRED assassin Arthur Bishop, played by Jason Statham (The Expendables franchise, Spy), had a choice; do nothing and only one person would die or kill three hard to access individuals to save one particular person. He decided to change the odds. This action crime thriller had an interesting cast. Besides Jason there was Jessica Alba (Fantastic Four franchise, Valentine’s Day) as Gina, Tommy Lee Jones (Jason Bourne, The Family) as Max Adams, Michelle Yeoh (Babylon A.D.; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) as Mei and Sam Hazeldine (The Raven, The Monuments Men) as Crain. On the plus side I enjoyed the different locations used for filming, such as Brazil and Australia. Those familiar with Jason’s style of acting in these type of roles will not be disappointed; the movie was pretty much watching Jason beating everyone up. I am afraid his acting was on autopilot. The script was predictable from beginning to end; the only thing that kept my interest was the elaborate assassination scenes. Truthfully there is nothing one needs to think about while viewing this film. You have the good guys and the bad guys and each are trying to kill the other. I had wished there would have been more scenes with Michelle and that Jessica had an even more physical role to the one she had here. With the script being so formulaic however there was little room to make this wish happen. If you are in the mood to just sit and watch explosions and people fighting then this would be your film.
1 ¾ stars
Walk down my street and you cannot help but hear a dog barking or a cat meowing. Within my block there are close to a dozen cats and dogs, granted six of them live next door to me. The interesting thing about my next door neighbors is how everyone on the street knows their three cats and 3 dogs. Davidson is still a puppy, but he is a very big puppy that is over 60 pounds so far. If he is in the backyard when I pull into the garage, he settles down onto the ground like a Sphynx from ancient Egypt and waits for me to come out from the garage door. Once I call out his name he bounds up like he was in starter blocks for a race and runs to the fence between our properties. I have to give him a rub down his back as he leans into the fence. Two out of the 3 cats are always outside; they prefer eating al fresco if you know what I mean. I do not know which one but for some horrifying reason Becker or Mercury have the need to leave their leftovers right in the middle of my sidewalk, to make sure I will see what they had for dinner. It drives me crazy. When I come home late at night I not only have to watch where I am stepping; but before I open my front door, I have to look down and make sure Becker is not around because he will quickly try to run inside. I feel like the animals are part of my family since they are always hanging around my house. Everyone on the block knows them and keeps an eye out to make sure the animals do not get in trouble. WHEN the red furred dog arrived he would listen to no one in the small Australian community; but that all changed when John, played by Josh Lucas (A Beautiful Mind, Poseidon), became a resident. This film festival winning comedic drama was based on a true story and what a story it was for me. Avoiding the cliched sentimentality associated with the usual animal driven stories, I thought the script did a great job in telling this remarkable story. With cast members Rachael Taylor (Transformers, The Darkest Hour) as Nancy, Rohan Nichol (Fool’s Gold, South Solitary) as Jocko and John Batchelor (Danny Deckchair, Sea Patrol-TV) as Peeto; I thought this eclectic mix of characters kept things exciting. One would think with the boozing and betting, hard driving guys, this would not be a family film; but it certainly was one. I had no trouble with the flashbacks in the picture; this DVD was a real treat. Afterwards I had to go out and pet my next door 4 legged buddy.
3 stars — DVD
Imagine if every cellular, radio and other invisible electronic pulses each had a distinctive color we could see; we would all be walking through a brightly hued fog in our daily lives. It seems as if the separation between man and machine has narrowed over time. What with the passwords, computer screens, key strokes, computer glasses, ear buds, tablets, smart phones and computer watches; no wonder we need to unplug once in a while. One of the ways I unplug is to visit a national park. I do not know if it is true but I had heard the United States is the only country that has a national park system, where the lands are protected to avoid any harm at the hands of mankind. There is nothing like walking along a tree covered trail where suddenly the trees momentarily part to reveal a tall, tumbling waterfall with a veil of trailing mist; it is a breathtaking yet peaceful sight to me. Seated at the rim of a deep canyon, where violent weather had mauled its walls while the setting sun casts its bright eye on slow moving dark shadows, provides me endless battery free entertainment. What I tell the members in my yoga class applies to me as well when I am visiting various parks, let the mind soften and release all the should do’s, have to do’s and supposed to do’s; so I can be in the moment and let my whole body relax. ALONE except for 4 camels and her dog, Robyn Davidson, played by Mia Wasikowska (Albert Nobbs, Only Lovers Left Alive), decided she needed to walk. Her walk if successful would cover nearly 2000 miles of western Australian arid and deserted lands, taking her all the way to the Indian Ocean. This film festival nominated movie was based on the true story of Robyn’s sojourn that was turned into a bestselling book. The scenes of Australia with their wide expanses were beautiful; it really made me yearn to see the country. Mia was excellent playing Robyn, showing equal sides of vulnerability, strength and courage. Adam Driver (This is Where I Leave You, Girls-TV) as National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan started out as a minor interest for me; however, as the film progressed his acting brought out a truthful and real side to his character. Be prepared for this film took its time to stroll out the story and especially for animal lovers, there were a couple of scenes that were hard to watch. My methods of unplugging may pale by comparison to Robyn’s, but after watching this picture with its incredible story, I felt as if I had been unplugged in a whole new way.
Stuff just becomes stuff after time has passed. Things that seemed important now only take up space in your home. I can still remember the 1st piece of advice I received when I was learning how to drive, “A car can always be replaced, but not a human being.” So when I look around my house I have a different perspective on what objects are important to me. If there was some kind of impending doom about to happen to my place, I would save my photo albums and postcard collection. The photographs span decades of living, starting before I was born. I took over the job of photographing everyone when I received my 1st camera when I was 13 years old. All the postcards have been mailed to me by friends and family, from places all over the world. With the photos and postcards I feel like I have a little piece of the person close to me; capturing a moment of their time that will always be a memory. I know I sound like a greeting card, but these items provide endless pleasure with their retro feeling. I never want to lose them for they are dear to me. Just as important to Eric, played by Guy Pearce (Lawless, The King’s Speech), in this crime drama was his automobile. When his car was hijacked right in front of him, Eric would have to track down the thieves through the challenges of the Australian Outback. There was no guarantee he would succeed let alone survive. With the story done by actor Joel Edgerton (Warrior, The Great Gatsby), I found the camera work and music score captivating. Maybe because the landscape looked so bleak and different to me, the sense of doom seemed to be more prominent. Guy was so intense in the role that I became increasingly anxious as the story progressed. The big surprise for me was seeing Robert Pattinson (Twilight franchise, Remember Me) in a role where I totally forgot he was Edward the vampire and believed him as the injured Rey. He was as convincing as Guy was determined in getting his car back and they were excellent together. The downside of this picture was the lack of explanation in several scenes. I felt some of the drama was just being repeated but with different characters. Eric’s actions led me to assume he was a certain type of individual but it did not jive with part of the story. There is a chance some people will not like the ending to this film festival nominated movie. However, you cannot fault someone for fighting to hold on to those things that were important to them. There were several scenes with violence and blood.
2 2/3 stars
When two people are in a committed relationship, they negotiate and offer compromises for the sharing of responsibilities. They become a team with each person utilizing their best skills. Though I dislike ironing, I gladly will do the laundry. Before I learned how to cook, I always insisted that I clean up and wash the dishes after a meal. Once that rhythm has been established, things worked smoothly in the household. Imagine what it must be like when you lose your significant other. And if there is a child, it must be overwhelming to have all the responsibilities on your shoulders. When I first received this DVD I was surprised with the casting of Clive Owen (Children of Men, Shoot ‘Em Up) as the father Joe Warr. I thought of him more as a rogue or sinister type for some reason. He was excellent in this role of dad to Artie and Harry, played by newcomer Nicholas McAnulty and George MacKay (Defiance, Peter Pan), inspired by a true story. Set in Australia with some beautifully filmed scenes, Joe had to figure out how to raise his young son Artie after the death of his wife. Though he earned respect as a sportswriter, when it came to his home life Joe did not have the skills to make it all work. It seemed easiest to go with the philosophy of saying yes to most things. When Harry who was his son from his first marriage arrived for a visit, Joe would have to face past mistakes to avoid repeating them. This tender movie had some well done parts. The characters were convincing as each actor did an admirable job. There were several themes going through this movie, such as child rearing, abandonment and the effects from having a loss; certainly one could find something to relate to in this narrative. Parts of the story were stagnant, however; disrupting the otherwise enjoyable viewing experience. Whether one is single, in a relationship, with or without children; there was enough in this film to interest most people. One brief scene with blood.
2 2/3 stars — DVD