GROWING UP I DID NOT REALIZE my neighborhood was idyllic, at least for me. But then, I would think any child who grows up in the neighborhood where they were born would think the same thing, as long as they haven’t experienced any type of trauma. I lived in a large apartment building that wrapped around a street corner, so there were 2 entrances for it. There was not one apartment on our side where I did not know the people living in them. In fact, when I had just started walking, I would go out in the hallway and get myself down 2 flights of stairs by sitting on my backside, to visit the neighbor on the 1st floor. The neighborhood was filled with kids my own age who became friends of mine. We would play outside all the time; every parent on the block knew each kid. One of our favorite games was hide and seek among the apartment buildings’ gangways and back porches. Looking back, I wonder how many steps/flights I would have done during a game. With my building we had 2 separate staircases connected by a cement backyard. The various stores in my neighborhood were all familiar with me and my family. I could walk into the drug store with a note from a parent and the pharmacist would hand over any refilled prescription medicine to me without any qualms. When I got older, I could be outside at nighttime with friends, and no one had a concern or fear. AT SOME POINT, I DO NOT remember when, the draw of the suburbs became strong and started pulling my neighbors from their homes to settle past the city limits. The same was true with stores. I remember a men’s clothing store that closed and was replaced by a shop that had black lights to illuminate some of their rock posters and T-shirts. Some people would call the place a “head shop.” I guessed it was because it was messing with one’s head? Where the neighborhood had a strong homogenous look to it, things started to change. I hope this does not come out as a judgement; it was an observation. The store signs in my neighborhood were backlit; in other words, three dimensional for the most part, either actual signage or individual letters. I noticed the new store signs coming in were more like banners or made with strong paper. In my mind they did not look permanent to me. Some of the stores began putting up signs in different languages which I discovered bothered some of the older residents in the neighborhood. Change may not always be easy for certain people; you can see it for yourself in this biographical drama. DURING THE TUMULTUOUS TIMES OF THE 1960s in Ireland, a family experiences something they had never imagined taking place in their small, friendly neighborhood. With Jude Hill (Magpie Murders-TV) as Buddy, newcomer Lewis McAskie as Will, Caitriona Balfe (Ford v Ferrari, Outlander-TV) as Ma, Jamie Dornan (A Private War, Fifty Shades of Grey franchise) as Pa and Judi Dench (All is True, Victoria & Abdul) as Granny; this multiple Oscar nominated film was directed and written by Kenneth Branagh. Based on true events from his childhood, he created a beautifully filmed and directed piece of work here. I loved watching this movie and thought the entire cast worked as one solid, magnificent unit. There was something about the way Kenneth filmed the characters in close or looking up at them that made the visuals stronger. Granted, the actors gratefully could emote without saying a word. The script was solid though there were twinges I felt of manipulation to pull at one’s heart strings. For me, I was able to relate to some of the neighborhood scenes, though I am not sure this would be universal across all viewers. However, it should not deter one from experiencing such a well-done picture.
3 ½ stars
IT DROVE ME CRAZY HOW SHE could idolize such a person. Because of it, I had a hard time trusting her. She was his administrative assistant, so I could cut her some slack for being loyal. However, he was such a self-centered individual who only cared about himself to the point where he inflicted harm on the company, we were all working for, that I could not respect him or her. How did she not see this, I always wondered? He would have her place orders for his accounts before he even had a confirmation from the customer; there were several times the customers did not place their orders and we wound up getting stuck with the product and having to pay for it. I found his behavior appalling because with each order placed, he would get a commission; it did not make a difference if we got paid for the order or not. I was positive she had to know or at least figure out that some of his orders were bogus. The worst thing he would do was place an order to ship out but redirected it to a different account that was not credit worthy, claiming he had the wrong account number. Sometimes we could get the order back; but a lot of times we would have to use a collection agency to retrieve the item or payment. IN MY DEALINGS WITH HIM THERE were times I 100% knew what he was telling me was not true. No matter what I would say to him he always had an answer ready, with many of them putting the blame on some other employee. I would then check with the other employee to verify the facts and more times than not the employee had no idea what I was talking about. This would turn into a vicious cycle of he said/she said on his part, to the point where I would become confused and frustrated. I could not understand how upper management could allow such behavior to continue that was damaging to the company. And that is the thing I had the hardest time understanding; why would an employee allow harm to take place against their employer? Besides the financial hit, there was the matter of the company’s reputation being harmed. Imagine a customer getting an invoice for something they did not order; wouldn’t you question that company’s operations and motives? I know I would and would feel less trust towards such a company. Trust is an invaluable asset that a company should never allow an employee to damage. It was unbelievable what was being done to trust in this dramatic, political thriller. INGRID JESTER, PLAYED BY FRANCES McDORMAND (North Country, Moonrise Kingdom), could not understand why her fellow activist went for a drive through Belfast without telling her. For that reason, she refused to leave until she found out what happened to him. With Brian Cox (Remember Me, Troy) as Kerrigan, Brad Dourif (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Lord of the Rings franchise) as Paul Sullivan, Bernard Archard (Krull, The Day of the Jackal) as Sir Robert Neil and John Benfield (The Best Offer, Speed Racer) as Maxwell; this film festival winner had a documentary feel to it at times; that is how good the acting was from the cast. The story was intense, and I thought the pacing was for the majority close on the mark. For me, I felt the script did not go deep enough with the suspense and emotions. There were moments where it seemed as if the scenes were void of dramatic depth. I noticed this especially with Francis’ character. The twists and turns that took place in the script kept me invested in what was taking place and I was to some degree experiencing a level of anger due to what the main characters were experiencing.
2 ¾ stars
It is amazing how quickly they know who to cull from the group. As their eyes narrow to focus on the fidgeting, meandering members of the group; their minds are already in “attack” mode. There are 2 ways they usually strike; one is to take off at full power, the other has them slowly creeping towards the pack. No matter which way they choose, they are confident most of the individual ones will back away from them to avoid getting involved and possibly attacked themselves. The sad thing about this story is it applies to both the animal kingdom and the human world. When I take public transportation I do not focus on my Ipod or phone; I remain aware of my surroundings. There have been times when an individual or small group of people enter the train car with the intentions of harassing a passenger. Whether they are drawing on experience or not, they know the other passengers usually ignore what they are doing or simply get up and change rail cars. It is a sad statement on society but even I know from experience there is strength in numbers. How many of you have witnessed a school fight? As the victim was getting beaten up, how many people tried to stop the fight? From what I remember there were more times than not when the bystanders were cheering the fight. BELFAST, Ireland during the 1970s was a center of conflict. When Gary Hook’s, played by Jack O’Connell (Unwanted, Starred Up), unit was attacked during a riot, he wound up being left behind. Hunted and shot at, this British soldier had very little time left if he wanted to escape with his life. This award winning action movie had an incredible chase scene that was utterly intense. The cast which included Richard Dormer (Mrs Henderson Presents, Good Vibrations) as Eamon, Sean Harris (Prometheus, Harry Brown) as Sandy Browning and Sam Reid (Belle, The Railway Man) as Lt. Armitage really captured the essence of the era. I will tell you I had a challenging time understanding some of the actors’ heavy accents. There was such a dark rawness to this dramatic thriller that it kept me attracted to the story even during the bloody violence. One of the things I appreciated most about this compelling picture was the fact it did not take sides of a well known hatred. It was a story about one man during one night which I found powerful. There certainly were aspects of that group mentality type of thinking about them vs us; but the script showed more layers to it. I still felt that similar type of dread like the kind I experienced in my past. There were scenes with blood and violence.
3 1/4 stars