MY FRIEND HAD A NAME FOR those types of individuals; she called them, “Happiness Vampires.” It was the perfect name I thought. A “Happiness Vampire” is a person who cannot celebrate and be a part of someone else’s happiness; they instead try to suck the happiness out of that person. I would even go a step further by saying these “Happiness Vampires” only feel good about themselves when someone else is feeling bad. That is so twisted I think. I believe all of us have encountered these dour people sometime in our lives, even if they were not at the time acting out on their negativity. My friend who came up with this term figured it out after dating this person for almost one year. I guess because she was in the throes of falling in love, she did realize what he was doing to her. His method was like a sneak attack because he would appear to be happy and congratulatory for her, but then would express these negative scenarios or possible repercussions that could happen to her. Pretty soon her good mood would dim and turn sour, leaving her depressed while her “boyfriend” would build himself up as her shining knight who would save her. I was so happy when she finally dumped him. RECENTLY I ATTENDED A DINNER PARTY where I encountered a guest who turned out to be a “Happiness Vampire.” It was an elegant affair with some prominent people in attendance. When I was introduced to this one individual I suddenly was hit with a bad feeling. It was as if the air was being sucked out around me with a vacuum cleaner. He was short and squat in stature; if you would place him at a fast food restaurant’s salad bar he would fit in perfectly. The person who introduced me to this individual was a successful financial man in his own right; however, this sour man quickly took an opportunity to build himself up by tossing a negative comment (some say back-handed compliment) about this prominent person. The reason he did such a thing was to talk about something he felt was a big success in his career. I caught it right away and just stood there listening to this man go on about his so-called accomplishments. The real successful individual also stood there with a smile on their face that looked like it was painted on with Botox; it did not budge the entire time the other man carried on about himself. He tried to take away our good feelings like the Grinch in this animated, family comedy but we did not let him succeed. BASED ON DR. SEUSS’ BELOVED BOOK, “How The Grinch Stole Christmas;” this movie had Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, Doctor Strange) voicing The Grinch, Cameron Seely (The Greatest Showman, The Jim Gaffigan Show-TV) voicing Cindy-Lou Who, Rashida Jones (The Social Network, Parks and Recreation-TV) voicing Donna Who and musical artist Pharrell Williams as the Narrator. This story has been done many times before in different mediums; so, there was nothing new that came as a surprise except of all things Benedict’s performance. I did not care for his vocal acting; I thought he was not sinister enough for the character. Visually the movie was fun to watch (even the ending credits) and I enjoyed some of the Grinch’s exploits; but I felt this version of the Grinch was more of a lightweight compared to those Grinch’s of Christmas past. This film is well suited for younger children, but adults may get a bit tired of it. Of course, if you have never seen a movie version of Dr. Seuss’ book before then you might want to check this picture out; it almost seems as if it is a holiday tradition.
2 ¼ stars
THOUGH you may not realize it right away, you will receive a gift from the people you meet in your life. You see him sitting across from you, his hand fidgeting with the necklace caught in his shirt button. His voice is lyrical where the words coming out of his mouth sound as if they are building an incredible overture; it is enough for you to think about what the second act could be. You keep catching yourself staring at his eyes while his cheeks continuously swell into 2 ripe plums you want to squeeze. None of it makes sense because you do not know him except for a few emails and one phone conversation that dove below the surface beyond the standard questions about the weather and jobs. The gesture that sent a shiver through your body was the brush of his hand on you as he excused himself to the bathroom. From this point in time the walls around your heart, solidified by the hurt and pain of past relationships, started to spring leaks filled with emotions and feelings. You realized all that was before would not be the same ever again. HOW about the woman who was rushing down the staircase, trying to catch a train to the city. On the way she bumped into a gentleman, unaware the packet sticking out of her bag caught on a fold of his coat and fell out. She missed the train as if the doors of the train car deliberately knew what they were doing. Standing there trying to catch her breath the gentleman tapped her on the shoulder, presenting her packet to her. She thanked him and was surprised the man referred to them as X-rays. It turns out he was a doctor and wound up through conversations and consultations to be the doctor that successfully cured her. You see, you just never know what you might gain from a stranger. NEUROSURGEON Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, Sherlock-TV), survived a horrific auto accident, but his hands did not. His ego would not let go; he was determined to go to the ends of the world to find someone who could restore the use of his hands. His journey led him to The Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton (A Bigger Splash, Snowpiercer). Doctor Strange got something different than what he had expected. This action fantasy followed the Marvel formula though this adventure movie was such a visual trip I felt there was almost too much stimuli for me to grasp everything. With Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, Secret in Their Eyes) as Mordo and Mads Mikkelsen (The Hunt, Hannibal-TV) as Kaecilius, I enjoyed all the characters along with the humor sprinkled throughout the script. I felt the story took a long time during the introduction portion. Once the action finally happened I was a bit disappointed by it. Sure the scenes were visually intense but I felt the action and drama didn’t quite match it. My rating tonight will be heavily influenced by the special effects in this film. Oh and I understood I had to meet this character Doctor Strange because I am going to meet him again in a future Avengers film. There were two extra scenes in the middle and end of the credits.
I used to live near this great restaurant that served these incredible french fries. They were hand cut with some of the potato skin left on them. They were always served separately on their own plate which I thought was a great idea, because you would get more fries than if they were placed next to your entree on the same plate. Besides, this way you could douse them anyway you wanted with ketchup. What made this place standout from other restaurants was the personal touches the staff did for the customers. If your bowl of soup cooled off before you finished it, they were always glad to bring a cup of steaming broth to warm it up. Another thing that made this place standout from others was the way they would hand mold their burgers. No matter what you ordered it always looked and felt like a home cooked meal. When the owners wanted to expand they brought in new business partners. On the outside nothing looked different; there was the same creaky front door and the same counter with its maroon colored stools, where the cushioned seats would spin a full 360 degrees around. However, I soon noticed some subtle changes with the food. The french fries were no longer hand cut; the process became automated, where the potatoes were put through a machine to cut them up. The cloth napkins were replaced with disposable paper ones that were barely big enough to wipe your hands clean. All the personal touches and care that went into cooking the food became automated and it was never the same. I lost interest in the place since my last visits were never as satisfying as the ones with the original owners. This is the same way I have felt about Johnny Depp. His recent films were not entertaining to me since it was obvious he was on automatic. Just slap makeup and costumes on him and it was the same thing over and over. All of that changed with this dramatic crime film. BASED on true events Johnny Depp (Alice in Wonderland, Finding Neverland) played James “Whitey” Bulger, a mobster who with the help of the FBI became Boston’s biggest crime boss. The acting performance by Johnny was stunning; it reminded me of his acting from years ago. With Joel Edgerton’s (The Gift, Zero Dark Thirty) wonderful performance as FBI agent John Connolly and Peter Sarsgaard (Orphan, Jarhead) as Brian Halloran, the acting was of a high caliber for this story. I only wished the script had offered more details. It felt like things were quickly taking place without any explanation just to keep the film under a certain time. Despite this I found the picture compelling enough to keep me involved through most of it. I just hope Johnny will continue to take on roles that push him to really act in them, instead of going on automatic. There were scenes with violence and blood in them.
Unless there is some kind of hard proof or evidence, I do not quite understand why someone would discourage another person from trying something different. Though I saw more of it during my school years, I still witness people putting a negative spin on someone else who is attempting to do something different from what they would do. You could easily extend this type of negativity to those individuals who were just being different, but that would take up a whole lot more space for today’s review. My way of learning something is to make a mistake because then I can align my logic with reality’s logic; did that make sense to you? I can remember building a science project and the teacher telling me I was doing it wrong. How did she know it was wrong before I was done? The funny thing about it was I had been building a work environment for a left-handed person; so, everything was placed opposite from what the instructor was used to as a right-handed person. Imagine if someone told Albert Einstein he was on the wrong track when he was working on his theory of relativity; I am a firm believer in embracing differences. It is our differences that can make our world a better place. DURING World War II the Nazis were communicating by using an unbreakable code machine called Enigma. Assembling the smartest people of their time, British intelligence was not quite sure about mathematician Alan Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Fifth Estate, Sherlock-TV). He wanted to do something completely different from everyone else. Based on true life events, this film festival winning dramatic thriller was a biographical blend of history, war film and intense excitement. I had some knowledge about Alan going into this picture, but I do not know how much of the movie’s story was true. But you know something; I could not have cared less. This film was so well done with a brilliant cast that also included Keira Knightley (Begin Again, Pride & Prejudice) as Joan Clarke, Charles Dance (Dracula Untold, Game of Thrones-TV) as Commander Denniston and Mark Strong (Body of Lies, Robin Hood) as Stewart Menzies. There was such a vibe of civility and subtleness throughout this movie that Benedict was perfectly able to convey to the viewers; he was truly amazing. I was swept away by this film; going through the same emotions at the same time as the characters were in the story. Just the historical importance of Alan’s role in history was enough to carry this movie, but I was glad there was more included from the writers. I for one was so grateful Alan was different.
A great line a former boss of mine used to say was, “I came loaded for bear.” I know this implies a hunting reference, but that is not the intention. They would use the loaded bear line when they knew a meeting was going to be an intense verbal struggle. Aware they were going to be grilled about an issue or procedural operation; they had studied up on all their facts, ready to answer any questions that would get volleyed at them. I prefer using that perfect bear line when it comes to attending a variety of friends or family functions. If I know there is going to be a guest at a dinner party who wants to pick a fight with me, there is nothing wrong with me preparing for any possible antics on their part. There have been family dinners where I have seen sisters fight or cousins yell at each other and all I am interested in is if we are still going to have dessert. If you know you are going to be in a toxic environment there is nothing wrong with insulating yourself from it aka come loaded for bear. I believe in preparing for the worst but even I would not have been ready for the ferocious fighting done by this Oklahoma family. Based on Tracy Letts’ (Killer Joe) Pulitzer Prize winning drama, the story takes place as family members come together due to a death in the family. Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada, The Iron Lady) played the widowed matriarch Violet Weston. Julia Roberts (Notting Hill, Closer) played her daughter Barbara whose husband was contemplating divorce. Those of you who have seen the play will have a different reaction than the ones who are not familiar with this story. I saw the play and enjoyed it more than this dramatic movie. Everyone in the cast was excellent with their acting. Meryl was not a surprise to me, but Julia Roberts and Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek into Darkness, Atonement) shined in their roles. Tracy wrote the screenplay to this film and though there was nothing negative about it, I felt some of the energy dissipated when the focus was taken out of the house. Some viewers will become tired by all of the verbal fighting; if I remember correctly the play had more humor. Either way this multi-nominated movie is worth seeing; just come prepared for one heck of a fight.
2 3/4 stars
With a single word or phrase a story can take on a different meaning. The same holds true for a newscast or written article. When I watch or read the news I know I am getting a fragment of the whole story. It is understandable due to time constraints or limited space. Being a naturally curious person, I enjoy finding out the backstory to what was reported to the public. It could be almost anything from entertainment to science to government; hearing the details on an individual’s thought process behind what they did or created is something that has always fascinated me. In regards to this movie, I was looking forward to discovering something new on the how and why Julian Assange created the site WikiLeaks. As some of you already know, I am not here to judge if something is right or wrong, legal or not, ethical, etc.; I am reviewing the movie on its entertainment value. Benedict Cumberbatch (12 Years a Slave, Star Trek into Darkness) played the role of Julian. Daniel Bruhl (Rush, Winning Streak) played Julian’s collaborator Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Both actors did the best they could with what was given to them. For a movie that claimed it was a dramatic thriller based on real events, the script was a real mess. I was bored through a major portion, finally becoming engaged in the last third of the film. It really was a shame considering the cast also included Laura Linney (Mystic River, Hyde Park on Hudson) as Sarah Shaw and Stanley Tucci (Margin Call, The Terminal) as James Boswell. All of them were good but the way the story played out with short scenes that did not go anywhere; there was not a cohesive trail to follow. With all the controversy regarding WikiLeaks and the way it received anonymous covert data; I wished the writers would, if not enhanced, at least have allowed more time to look at an event from multiple points of view. I did not gain anything new regarding Julian, the site and more importantly I was not entertained. A story so current needed an exciting script and offer something extra to grab the attention of the viewer. If not then one should just watch the news.
1 3/4 stars
I first learned about prejudice in elementary school, but it was not from school books. My first exposure had to do with religious differences. After answering a classmate’s question on what was my religion, he told me I was dirty. At the time I was confused by his comment, remembering I looked down at my hands to see if they were unclean. Shortly after I discovered other classmates were treated to the same encounter. If you were not the same religion as this boy, he believed something was wrong with you. The next form of prejudice I witnessed occurred later when a new student was enrolled into my class who was African American. There was no overt actions taken against her; however, she was shunned by several students. I did not understand why classmates would react in such a way, let alone try to figure out the reasoning behind it. My elementary school years were only a prelude to the horrors I would encounter when I entered into high school. One of the reasons I started this review by writing about the prejudices and discriminations I saw at such a young age was to prepare you for what were the most realistic depictions of them that I have ever seen in a movie. Based on Solomon Northup’s memoir, this movie should be required viewing in every school. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Children of Men, American Gangster) was unbelievable playing Solomon; a free black man with a wife and two children, living in upper state New York who was kidnapped, shipped to Louisiana and sold into slavery. Directed by Steve McQueen (Shame, Hunger), I have never experienced the range of intensity and hatred portrayed in a film about slavery like it was done in this film festival winner. Relative newcomer Lupita Nyong’o was outstanding in her role as Patsey, the slave of cotton plantation owner Edwin Epps, played by Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method, Prometheus). The story was amazing to watch on film; I can only imagine what Solomon Northup’s book must be like to read. Even with some actors such as Paul Dano (Prisoners, Ruby Sparks) as Tibeats and Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement,War Horse) as Ford having brief screen time, they still made every minute count with their characters. This is a movie that needs to be seen by everyone. Now I certainly would not be considered an optimist, but forgive me if my hope is the human race would be better by witnessing the ugliness of prejudice and slavery shown in this magnificent film. There were several scenes that showed blood and violence.
When the opportunity presents itself I take a drive through the neighborhood where I grew up. I see ghosts of my youth everywhere I look. Playing hide & seek or selling lemonade on the corner, my memories waken from a long sleep. They are refreshed and vivid allowing me to visit with the younger me, showing events that contributed to who I would become as an adult. It is that history that reminds me how I currently arrived at this point in my life. Director J.J. Abrams (Super 8, Lost-TV) treated the history of Star Trek with the utmost respect for this 2nd movie in the relaunched franchise. The story was brilliant as we found the Enterprise crew back on Earth, unaware they would encounter a dangerous villain close to home. Besides Chris Pine (This Means War, Unstoppable) as James T. Kirk and Zachary Quinto (Margin Call, Heroes-TV) as Spock, there was the addition of Peter Weller (RoboCop, the Hard Easy) as Marcus and Benedict Cumberbatch (War Horse, Atonement) as John Harrison. In this go around; the characters were more complex, filled with deeper feelings. Zachary was so incredible that I forgot about Leonard Nimoy for the moment, the original Spock. Chris earned my respect with what he did in this movie. I could almost hear William Shatner cursing at Chris’ exemplary performance. The nonstop action was exciting and evenly balanced to allow flourishes of drama and honestly, giving the movie goers a chance to catch their breath. I cannot add anything further to this review without giving away hints to the plot. Hopefully when people talk about this movie and they will, they do not say much about the story or cast. The added suspense, at least for me, made the time fly by. Also, I felt emotionally spent. Whether you grew up in the world of Star Trek or not will not make much of a difference in loving this film. History is what makes us who we are today; I tip my hat to the current custodian of the historical vaults of Star Trek, J.J. Abrams. A nice touch in the beginning of the credits. There were brief scenes with blood in it.
3 2/3 stars for Trekkies 3 1/2 stars for non-Trekkies