MOST PEOPLE THINK I WATCH AWARD shows to see the stars; and though that is part of the reason, I also enjoy seeing the behind-the-scenes award winners. The main reason is because these individuals tend to talk more about reaching their dreams. When a movie/television star or musical artist walks up to accept their award on those telecasts, they more so now talk about a cause or belief of theirs during their acceptance speech. I am not saying these are not valid causes; however, I must wonder what the motivation is behind them sharing these views at that moment. Is it because it would be good PR for the celebrity? It is one thing to stand up there and talk about a cause; it is another thing to do something for the cause, either monetarily or physically. In other words, “put your money where your mouth is” is my feeling about the situation. So, that is why I prefer listening to the writers, directors, costume designers and others. Chances are their speeches will include their childhood dream that led them to their current position. A writer may talk about their childhood, where they drafted stories or comics to share with their classmates and friends. Or the costume designer might share their childhood dream of dressing up as a high fashion designer, creating outfits that would be seen one day on the runway. I love hearing about people’s dreams. DREAMS ARE AN IMPORTANT PART OF our life, I believe. They provide us an avenue of growth; we simply need to pay attention to them. Despite having flunked physical education class twice and being told I was not athletic, I continued to believe I could teach fitness. During those first initial classes I taught, I was so nervous that I thought for sure members would yell me out of the fitness studio. I was listening to those past negative voices in my head who said I could never do it; instead of believing in my training and abilities. It was my dream to create an inviting and accepting environment for anyone who walked in to take my class and I did it. It was the type of class I wished I had available to me when I was younger. It was my dream that pushed me to what I believed was a healthier lifestyle. I honestly could not imagine a life without having a desire, a dream for something more. Dreams are great motivators; it is what makes the main character in this comedic sports drama to keep pushing on. NEEDING A BREAK TO REACH HIS dream, a basketball scout thinks he might have found it with a street player in Spain. The problem would be convincing his bosses. With Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems, That’s My Boy) as Stanley Sugarman, Queen Latifah (Girls Trip, The Trap) as Teresa Sugarman, professional basketball player Juancho Hernangomez as Bo Cruz, Ben Foster (The Survivor, Leave No Trace) as Vince Merrick and Kenny Smith (Just Wright, Young Rock-TV) as Leon; this movie is proof Adam Sandler is a gifted actor when he takes on a serious role. I thought he was excellent with his character. Now keep in mind, I am not big into team sports; however, I thought this story was executed beautifully, in such a way that would resonate with both sporting and non-sporting viewers. The story itself is nothing new per se; however, there were enough subtle changes and nuances that made this film seem fresh and new. I found myself fully engaged throughout the picture; it was also quite entertaining, in my opinion. The message in the story came out like a blooming flower, slow anticipation into a rich colorful hue. By the end of this movie, I was solidly ensconced into my dream filled memories.
3 ½ stars
I HAVE LEARNED NOT TO THINK I have heard all the comments and thoughts about a particular subject. After hearing and reading all the different comments about vaccines that inject microchips into our bloodstreams and medical tests that only use lemmings for test subjects, very little can surprise me these days. I do not know if this a good or bad thing to tell you the truth. In my work position, I have heard so many excuses from customers that owe the company money, that I never react to what they say to me. Maybe it is true, maybe not; it does not phase me anymore. Not to delve into any political discussion, but hearing someone actually say members of a political party are buying and selling babies for some demonic ritual; how does someone carry on a discussion with a person who believes this to be true. In yesterday’s review, I mentioned the appalling behavior of individuals who believe the school shootings at Parkland and Sandy Hook were a hoax; it just does not stop does it with these extreme thoughts/comments. WHEN I WAS MUCH YOUNGER, I knew a couple of people who were survivors of a German concentration camp. They both had a series of numbers tattooed on their forearms. I remember talking to one of them about her time in the camps and could not believe what she was telling me was true; it was so horrific; I was too young to take in the scope of the situation she was living in. She remembered always being cold and shivering to the point where captives would huddle together to try and share any type of warmth in a brutal environment. Looking at this tiny, weakened woman, I recall thinking to myself how in the world did she survive such a place and, how could people be so evil to set up a systematic way of eliminating a large group of humans. Her stories stayed with me and when I finally went off to college, one of my professors was one of the foremost experts on Nazi Germany. He was a German man with a thick accent. He was the author of the textbook assigned to us for the class. I remember he always tried to shock us during his lectures, providing us with personal insights into the Nazi culture, to the point I wondered if he had been a German solider. His stories about all the atrocities and actions that took place during the war made me think I was getting a firsthand look at everything that took place back then. That is until I watched this movie based on a true story. KNOWING HIS STORY ABOUT HIS TIME in a concentration camp would produce negative reactions, a survivor decides to tell it anyway in the hopes of finding his true love. With Ben Foster (Leave No Trace, Hell or High Water) as Harry Haft, Billy Magnussen (Into the Woods, Game Night) as Schneider, Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread, The Last Vermeer) as Miriam Woesoniker, Peter Sarsgaard (The Lost Daughter, Loving Pablo) as Emory Anderson and Danny DeVito (Batman Returns, The Comedian) as Charley Goldman; this drama was an intense and riveting viewing experience. Ben’s acting was mind blowing, including the 62-pound loss for part of the story. As for the story, I was stunned upon discovering what he had to do to survive. My only negative comment is I wish the script had not jumped back and forth as much. I felt the emotional tension would have benefitted with more time spent in each era for a longer duration. The current story paled compared to the older era, in my opinion. Despite this and the fact this is based on a true story, I was locked into this biographical sports story and Ben’s performance. There were multiple scenes with blood and violence.
3 ½ stars
SEVERAL OF MY FRIENDS DO NOT UNDERSTAND why I don’t hang up the phone on unsolicited sales calls. I, in turn, ask them why they must be so mean to the people who are making these calls. These people are just trying to make a living, I tell them. When I get one of these calls, I do not let the person go through their whole prepared sales pitch; I tell them thank you, but I am not interested, ending by saying, “Have a good day/night.” If the person persists, I then tell them I am out of work so cannot afford to do anything extra. This white lie always stops the person from going on with their monolog. The reason I do this is because I do not know any of these people and their stories. They may hate what they do but are doing the work for a good reason, like paying for school or medical bills. Because I know I would hate making all those calls, I feel why should I be mean to them when I can just say no thank you and good luck. It is no hard sweat off of me. Besides, I feel people make choices; they could have easily chosen an illegal activity to make money instead of a steady job. So, I commend them for what they are doing to survive in this world. I WOULD RATHER DEAL WITH THOSE sales call people than with an unhappy employee. There is nothing that annoys me more when shopping than dealing with an employee who obviously is miserable and hating their job. I walk into a big box retail store and cannot find an item. Stopping an employee by saying “excuse me” and they do not acknowledge me right away, continuing to stock a shelf or look at their electronic device, drives me crazy. Or how about walking up to the customer service counter and seeing an employee with their elbow on the counter, resting their head in their hand; doesn’t that look inviting to you? I tangled with a checker at the grocery store once who argued with me regarding an item that wasn’t ringing up for the advertised sale price. Add in that I had a coupon and they tried to tell me I could not use it and I almost went ballistic. One of my big pet peeves is employees who are not properly trained and do not know the company’s procedures. With a sour look on their face that expresses their hatred for their job, why do I need to be the recipient of their angriness? If they do not like what they are doing, then they should try finding a different job. The main character in this film festival nominated movie decided he did not want to do what he was doing anymore; if you wish, see what he did in this action, crime drama. AGREEING TO DO ONE LAST JOB for his boss; Roy, played by Ben Foster (The Messenger, Leave No Trace), was lucky he did not follow his boss’ instructions and decided to bring a gun with him anyway. With Elle Fanning (The Beguiled, Maleficent franchise) as Rocky, Jeffrey Grover (Dark Waters, Take Shelter) as Dr. Finelli, Christopher Amitrano (The Land, Sharkskin) as Jay and C.K. McFarland (Blind Fury, Beatdown) as Nancy; the story in this movie was a slow burn. Ben and Elle were excellent with their acting; I found them believable and intense in their own way. The script dragged in parts through the first half of the story. Luckily the acting and directing kept me following the characters. By the 2ndhalf of the film things seemed to go faster, especially coming up to the ending. I would have liked more back story to Ben and a little more variance in the drama level that stayed close to center a good portion of the time. Still, the performances and look of the film kept me engaged. And after watching this movie, I cannot say I had a horrible boss.
2 ½ stars
THERE COMES A TIME WHERE A child realizes their parent is only human. Some children reach this conclusion with hardly a notice while others discover it in a flurry of drama. There was a kid in my old neighborhood whose parents were born and raised in a different country. They spoke English with a heavy accent which I did not know kept them from socializing with the other families on the block. I rarely saw them for the years I lived there. Their son, I knew, felt embarrassed by them. Though I could understand his reasons why, I did not agree; English was not their first language, so who cared if they spoke with an accent? There was another family in the neighborhood where I remember the exact time their child realized their parents did not know everything; it was during a study session, where a small group of us were studying for class. When we got stuck trying to figure out one problem in our study guide my friend asked his parents. They came in and looked at what we were trying to solve. After a few minutes reading and re-reading the problem they told us they did not know. That was the moment we realized parents did not know everything. WHERE I FELT THE SADDEST for a kid was when they had a parent who was not fully functioning in reality. During the middle grades there was a new student who had recently moved into the neighborhood. Come to find out it was their 13thmove in 9 years. The fact that they could keep up their studies while moving back and forth across the country was amazing to me. None of us believed the excuse given for all the moves; we could tell there was some embarrassment about it. Now there was a girl I knew whose mother had serious mental health issues. If this had happened presently I believe she could have received the proper care; but back then she was constantly going between her house and a mental health institute. Some of the kids would call it an “insane asylum.” I felt bad for her because sometimes her mother had to be removed from their house strapped down on a stretcher, with the ambulance lights piercing the night sky. All the neighbors knew what was going on without peeking out their front windows. I am sure it was not easy for anyone, especially when one needs their parent to act like a parent. This film festival winning drama brings a new definition to what is a parent and a home. ALL THEIR NEEDS WERE BEING met as war veteran Will, played by Ben Foster (The Messenger, Hell of High Water), was raising his daughter Tom, played by Thomasin McKenzie (The Changeover, Shortland Street-TV), in the middle of a national park, that they called home. Written and directed by Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone, Stray Dog), this movie was exquisite. The story slowly rolled out allowing the actors to shine with the sparse script. Ben and Thomasin were beyond good; they brought realness and rawness to their characters, making them come alive. With Dana Millican (Lean on Pete, Portlandia-TV) as Jean and Jeff Kober (Sully, Sons of Anarchy-TV) as Mr. Walters, this was a film for adults. I absolutely enjoyed the experience which included the viewers at my showing. All were adults and not one of them looked at their cell phones the entire time the movie was playing. The filming was beautiful with the story being set in Portland, Oregon and I felt the director took full advantage of the surroundings to let the actors truly discover themselves. This picture was a magnificent way to show a relationship between a father and daughter.
I BELIEVE IT IS SAFE to say all of us at one time or another will have to do something we do not want to do. Though I am not a fan of this word I would almost venture to say “something we hate to do.” There are some things that one does not like but has to do such as pay taxes, clean house, shovel snow and so on. My major dislike falls under home and car repairs; I am not handy and have a hard time dealing with repair people. However I know necessity overcomes distasteful, uncomfortable situations. Remembering my elementary school years, I can honestly say I always hated going to our 1st PE class after the summer break. Every year the gym teachers would use this day to weigh each student. Getting on the scale in front of the whole class was bad enough, but then to have the instructor loudly call out each weight to the student they picked to record it was humiliating. There was always snickers and giggles from several classmates when the weight was high. HATE TOOK ON A WHOLE different meaning the more I studied history. Where my dislike was more of an abstract type, like a procedure or function, the hatred I was seeing among human beings was ugly to me. To dislike or distrust someone because of their looks or differences was hard for me to comprehend. One of the things I noticed about hatred was its ability to draw in multiple individuals like a magnet, without them even questioning the validity of their new found hatred. In a warped way it evokes feelings concerning being left out if you know what I mean. It is a fear some people have where they are afraid they will be missing something or not be part of a group, which makes them act without thinking about what they are doing. I guess what I am trying to say is there are people who hate for hate’s sake. From my own experiences, I have seen two people hate each other for so long that they cannot remember why they started to hate each other in the first place; that is how blind and undiscriminating hate can be. If you are interested in seeing an example of what I am talking about then do see this film festival winning dramatic, adventure western. FORCED AGAINST HIS WILL Captain Joseph J. Blocker, played by Christian Bale (The Big Short, Out of the Furnace), was ordered to accompany and protect Chief Yellow Hawk, played by Wes Studi (Heat, The Last of the Mohicans), on his journey back to his homeland. Captain Blocker would rather have seen the chief dead. Set in the 1890s this film included actors Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, A United Kingdom) as Rosalie Quaid, Ben Foster (Hell or High Water, The Messenger)) as Sgt. Charles Wills and Scott Shepherd (Bridge of Spies, Side Effects) as Wesley Quaid. Watching this picture was akin to reading a book; it told a story from beginning to end. With incredible acting from Rosamund and Christian, these two elevated the sometimes uneven script. Beautifully filmed I found the story as relevant today as it was back then. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the script unfolded, never getting cheesy or preachy. There were times where the multiple silent scenes seemed to drag out the story longer than it needed to be; however, I felt the story carried some importance to it. In my opinion I cannot imagine someone hating this well acted, beautifully filmed picture.
SEEING the digital clock was less stressful than watching the second hand of a clock dial counting down the seconds. Traffic was unbearable with construction slowdowns and drivers distracted by a car pulled over to the shoulder due to a flat tire. Finally I made it to the airport parking lot only to find out it was full. How was that possible!?!? I was directed to an unmanned remote lot that was automated; where I had to insert my charge card to get in. My irritation was rising since I was already anticipating being stuck at the security lines inside the airport. Finding a parking space at the outskirts of the lot I had to wait for the free shuttle to pick me up and take me to the airport terminal. Time was ticking down and I refused to look at my watch. What would be the point, there was nothing I could do about it. MY years of commuting on public transportation gave me an advantage over the other passengers on the train; I was able to maneuver to the exit door that I remembered would stop right next to the UP escalator. The train came to a halt and the doors slid open. I ran out and quickly made my way to the departure gate area. The lines were not as long as I had expected but I did get stuck behind a family that kept setting off the metal detector, delaying my turn. I knew the airlines shut the doors of the plane before the departure time so I would have to run through the terminal to get to my gate. It was not easy with a heavy backpack and a carry-on bag that had a broken wheel. The sweat on my forehead was trickling down as I reached my gate only to become disappointed; my flight had been cancelled. The way I felt back then was similar to the way I felt watching this sequel. SUFFERING amnesia from a head wound Robert Langdon, played by Tom Hanks (Sully, Bridge of Spies), would have to depend on Dr. Sienna Brooks, played by Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything, Like Crazy), to fill in some of the missing blanks while being chased by a killer. This action adventure film was set in some beautiful locations such as Florence and Venice, Italy. With Ben Foster (Lone Survivor, Hell of High Water) as Bertrand Zobrist and Omar Sy (The Intouchables, Jurassic World) as Christoph Bouchard; I thought the supporting actors were stronger on screen than Tom or Felicity. The reason being there was no chemistry between these two, besides the script offered very little to help them. I have to tell you this crime movie was one long series of chase scenes that had no sense of excitement or drama. The story which was a bit confusing did not offer anything substantial for character development. It was not until the last portion of the film where I felt things were improving. My favorite parts in this movie were the Italian and Turkish settings. With all the time, money and effort put into this film I wonder if the movie studio is experiencing disappointment now.
1 ¾ stars
What I am about to tell you all took place in my mind; well, maybe some of it did really happen. As I walked through the double glass doors I flipped the open sign hanging on its metal chain to close. Inside there was a chair to the side; I took it to prop up against the closed doors to bar anyone from walking in. I was there to take action and get some results. You see I had locked in an incredibly low interest rate just before they started to rise back up. I was doing some refinancing and would be lowering my monthly payments significantly. The bank kept delaying me, rejecting my application for the most trivial things that were not even my fault. Since the lock on the interest rate had a short expiration date, I was sure the bank wanted to let it expire so they could charge a higher interest rate. The first time my paperwork got rejected was due to not having a check mark next to the word “Mister.” The second time it came back was because a document was missing which they lost. These things were their fault; they had drawn up the documentation and filled it out. A personal banker came up and before they could say anything I told them I was not leaving until my application was approved. I told them if they could not do it then they needed to find someone else right now. From my knapsack I took out my paperwork, protein bars, 2 bottles of water and a baseball bat. Desperate times called for extreme action. THE only way brothers Toby and Tanner Howard, played by Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, The Finest Hours) and Ben Foster (Lone Survivor, Warcraft), could set things right was to start robbing banks. They would just have to be quick about it. This film festival nominated crime drama’s cast was outstanding. With Jeff Bridges (True Grit, The Giver) as Marcus Hamilton and Dale Dickey (Winter’s Bone, Super 8) as Elsie, the acting was something to see. Maybe there were a couple of things that seemed familiar with Jeff’s performance, but with this character he was close to perfection. As for Chris I was stunned, especially after seeing him recently in the new Star Trek film. It took me a minute to realize this was the same Chris I had seen because he looked and acted so differently; I was impressed with his performance. Set in Texas the story had a strong western type of movie vibe but with a modern take. Visually I enjoyed the framing of the scenes along with the soundtrack. I thought some outdoor shots were ideal in conveying the plight of the bank robbers; it really was wonderful camera work. There were a couple of patches where I felt the story dragged but nothing major. No pun intended but the richness of the script provided a well rounded story that was a pleasure to watch on the big screen. I cannot image a theater patron feeling like they were robbed by paying to see this film; it was worth the money. There were some scenes with blood and violence in them.
3 ½ stars
Before I tell you my vivid memory about tasting chocolate for the first time, keep in mind I remember standing up in my crib and figuring out how I could climb out of it. That is as far back as some of my memories go. The chocolate was in the form of a baked cake in a 9X9 metal pan. From my very first bite I was hooked; with a spongy texture and no frosting on top, this first tasting started an avalanche of chocolate items coming into the house. Because I could not reach anything but the lowest shelf in the pantry, I could not reach any of the products like chocolate chip cookies or chocolate syrup that were kept on the higher shelves, without asking someone to get them for me. At the time I was around 1 ½ to 2 years old. Some may call it an obsession, I call it personal preference; but from that time whenever I am given the option I will always choose the one that has chocolate in it. I do not think I am unusual in this regards; don’t most of us gravitate towards things that give us pleasure or make us feel good? Example, one of my favorite musicals is Les Miserables. After seeing it for the first time, I had to own the soundtrack; then when the movie came out I had to own a copy of the DVD. Though different venues may not always work I enjoy when one of my favorite pastimes expands into another format; this is one of the reasons I want to travel to the Harry Potter theme park one day. So you see I can totally understand those who are into video games flocking to see this movie version of the popular game. DESPERATE to leave their dying planet and find a new place to colonize, the Orc invade the peaceful realm of Azeroth. Losing the conflict meant one side’s total destruction or the other’s extinction. Starring Travis Fimmel (The Experiment, Vikings-TV) as Anduin Lothar, Paula Patton (Deja Vu, 2 Guns) as Garona, Ben Foster (Lone Survivor, 3:10 to Yuma) as Medivh and Toby Kebbell (Wrath of the Titans, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) as Durotan/Antonidas; I cannot really say the acting was good or bad because the script presented all of them as 2 dimensional characters. This action adventure’s forte was the special effects. I think everything was CGI; my favorite look was the flying bird like creature. For a fantasy I thought the story was good; it made for perfect escapism. However, after the continuation of similar scenes I felt this film went on for far too long. From the trailer this movie looks like it would be fun and I guess on some level it was, but not enough to keep me thoroughly engaged with the story. And sadly it is obvious by the ending the movie studio is hoping to do a sequel. If that is the case may I suggest they bring in some drama, surprise and better dialog to bring in more than just gamers.
1 2/3 stars
Before the majority of the world became wired, broadcast news provided us with a recap of noteworthy events. We would see the aftermath to a variety of events that spanned from a car accident to an earthquake. Unless there was a personal connection to the story, most of us would not feel an emotional attachment to what was being shown. When broadcasters report about traffic jams on the highways I travel to get to work, it causes a reaction in me, albeit a negative one. I guess I should consider myself lucky that I have not had a personal connection to any traumatic news stories. The only thing I can recall is when I was at friend’s house back in the 70’s; everyone became quiet when there was news about Vietnam. My friend’s older brother was sent over there during the war and the family always listened for a familiar town or place they had heard about from him. When one has a personal reference to the news it has more of an impact. With movies based on true stories, having information being told from one of the real life characters creates an accessible emotional bond to the story. Based on his best selling book, I was acquainted with this story due to seeing news clips of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell discussing his 2005 failed operation in Afghanistan. Mark Wahlberg (Pain & Gain, Boogie Nights) portrayed Marcus in this biographical film. The rest of the team sent out with Marcus to capture or eliminate a vicious Taliban leader was Michael Murphy, played by Taylor Kitsch (Savages, Friday Night Lights-TV); Danny Dietz, played by Emile Hirsch (Killer Joe, The Girl Next Door) and Matt “Axe” Axelson, played by Ben Foster (The Messenger, Contraband). This action drama was essentially split into 2 stories. The first half of the movie showed the Navy SEALs while stationed on base. The second half was all about the mission and this is where the intensity exploded open. I have seen war films before but the fight scenes in this intense section were bloody real looking and I do mean bloody. Some of them were handled a bit heavy by slowing down the motion. I cannot call this entertaining per se; however, for an action scene it seemed to be one long continuous fight. The acting was good, though I still have an issue with Mark Wahlberg’s acting. I never forget it is Mark playing a character. This story was amazing simply because there was an individual who lived to tell it. Many scenes had violence and blood in them.
There seems to be a strong curiosity prevalent through society regarding the early years of an individual’s life, before they became noteworthy. The person does not even have to be real; just take a look at the success of the X-Men or Star Trek prequels for example. I admit I fall into this category of people who are fascinated with the younger years of a person. This is one reason why I enjoy looking at old photographs of friends and family. For a prominent person like Steve Jobs or Albert Einstein, I like to delve into that person’s childhood to see if there was some special moment that put the individual onto their life path. I do not know, but maybe my fascination has to do with examining my own life experiences to see the choices I made to get to the place I am at presently. Besides prequels, I have a fondness for movies that show a good story on the early history of famous people. With my interest in literature and poetry, this dramatic film festival nominated movie intrigued me. Based on true events the story was about the college years of some of the most renowned people of the beat generation. The time was 1944 when a murder had a connection to the poets Allen Ginsberg, played by Daniel Radcliffe (The Woman in Black, December Boys); Lucien Carr, played by Dane DeHaan (Lawless, Lincoln); Jack Kerouac, played by Jack Huston (Outlander, Boardwalk Empire-TV) and William Burroughs, played by Ben Foster (The Messenger, The Mechanic). Having only seen a few news footages of these writers, I thought the acting from Daniel, Ben and Michael C. Hall (Gamer, Dexter-TV) as David Kammerer was especially good. The movie had a dark stylized look that gave added authenticity to the story. There were a few passages that were slow for me and a couple of times I was simply confused. What kept me interested was the fact I was familiar with these writers, having read some of their works; so, some of you may not have the same interest level as mine. I would have preferred a deeper exploration of the characters because I think it would have helped the viewers who have had little exposure to these individuals. With that being said, I was entertained during a majority of the film, but was wondering how these writers would have told the story.
2 3/4 stars