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
THE SILENCE WAS PROMINENT ENOUGH FOR me to notice as soon as I walked into the secured area. Why it was a surprise for me was because the area was an airline’s reward members club at the airport. I had a guest pass; so, I was curious to finally see what was so special about these clubs I have seen at many airports. After my pass was scanned by an airline employee, I took the escalator up to the lounge. With barely an audible sound, I felt I was transported to a futuristic world when I entered the place. There were passengers everywhere, sitting in comfy chairs separated periodically by end tables with small lamps. As far as I could see, everyone was plugged into their electronic devices. Some people were attached to theirs with earbuds or headphones, while others had no connection except their locked eyes on the screen. It was a weird sight for me; I could not tell if I was in a futuristic call center or a laboratory. No one was conversing with anyone else. Each person was a singular entity, focused only on their small space, oblivious to anything around them. IT WAS OBVIOUS TO ME WHICH individuals were playing games, for they were the ones with the most physical movement. Out of this group I assumed the ones that were agitated were probably playing some type of battle game or obstacle course. It was funny to me because at the other end of the spectrum there were those who were quietly typing away on their screens, with the slightest of motion. There was no interaction taking place in the real world. Now I hope I am not being judgmental; but as I looked around, I imagined what the room would look like if each passenger’s electronic game or app came to life. How many people would be embarrassed; or on the other hand, how many would be fascinated with someone else’s game? Before electronic devices, there were arcade games. Placed in bars, restaurants and a variety of public places; these devices tended to attract people to come gather by them. I remember when a player was on a hot streak, he/she would draw a crowd to cheer them on. Honestly, it was a time where people engaged more with each other. There was audible communication; now there is this virtual world that individuals can customize and delve into without any outside human interaction. Think about what if those two worlds of reality and fantasy came together. If you want to see one possibility then this action, adventure comedy can show you. TRAVELING TO THE OFFICE OF HIS deceased father to gather any personal belongings Tim Goodman, played by Justice Smith (Paper Towns, Every Day), found one item that was alive; his Dad’s personal Pokemon. What was more of a shock was the fact he could understand this Pokemon named Detective Pikachu, voiced by Ryan Reynolds (The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Deadpool franchise). With Bill Nighy (The Bookshop, About Time) as Howard Clifford, Ken Watanabe (Inception, Godzilla) as Lieutenant Hide Yoshida and Chris Geere (After Earth, You’re the Worse-TV); I must tell you I have had no dealings with the Pokemon game or its characters. Despite that I was pleasantly surprised with my level of enjoyment for this picture. Ryan seems to be the go-to person when it comes to quick sarcastic remarks and he does a wonderful job here. The creativity of fantasy CGI characters mixing with humans is nothing new; however, the script was compelling enough to draw the viewer in for the ride. Since I do not know if the Pokemon world has some dark places, this story was kept on a consistent goofy, fun level with a few thrills. Of course, fans will enjoy this film more than other viewers; but as a person unfamiliar with the game, I can see why this game has attracted such a large fan base.
2 ½ stars
UPBEAT and positive is how I would describe the man telling us about the changes in our office. We were being told how these moves decided by upper management would be a good thing for our company. I sat there with my fellow employees and I am sure they were thinking the same thing: who was going to get the ax. Maybe that is too harsh to say so here are some ways I have heard it expressed: laid off, let go, reassigned, reevaluated, eliminated and left behind. None of these terms warrant a happy face with optimistic comments. I used to work at one place that decided after many years to outsource their payroll functions. The staff for each manager had meetings set up to explain the changes in how we were going to be paid. You should have seen the spin job the managers tried to sell us. They talked about the convenience of looking up our paycheck online, the ability to schedule time off and the ease of changing our benefits package. I knew there had to be more to the meeting and sure enough towards the end the manager told us how salaries would be administered. EVERYONE’S salary was scaled back to a standard base amount. From that point you would go up the scale depending on a number of factors; each factor was worth a certain dollar amount. I remember sitting there and quickly figuring out the math and realized a majority of us would be taking a rather large pay cut. There stood this person in front of us stating the virtues of this new pay system, doing their best to sell it as if it was the best thing since sliced bread. With me losing over 30% of my salary I had a hard time keeping my mouth shut and not stating the facts about their so called great new system. Let us face it; there is no good way to promote bad news. WHILE Germany was dropping bombs on the city of London during the early 1940s, the defense department was working on a propaganda film in the hopes of drawing the United States into the war. All it needed was a woman’s touch. This film festival winner was part comedy, part drama and part romance. At first I felt the story was starting out slow but as things began to unfold I enjoyed how the writers were fitting together all the different pieces to create this enjoyable movie. Starring Gemma Arterton (The Voices, Gemma Bovery) as Catrin Cole, Sam Claflin (Me Before You, The Hunger Games franchise) as Tom Buckley, Bill Nighy (Love Actually, Pride) as Ambrose Hilliard/Uncle Frank and Jack Huston (American Hustle, Ben-Hur) as Ellis Cole; I thought the cast worked together beautifully. Bill and Gemma were the standouts for me. The script did a great job of balancing the elements of the story. Things moved naturally between the genres of drama, comedy and romance; there was the ever present war, but it never overshadowed the other story lines. I will say I thought the ending was a bit abrupt regarding one of the characters in particular; it felt somewhat false. However, as I sat and imagined what it must have been like back then, I realized there was no choice; the British government needed to stay positive.
3 1/4 stars
The human race has created many beautiful things throughout the centuries. Some of them remain standing today while others over time were demolished, either for something newer or in the name of progress. What I find hideous is when the people in power decide to placate the local residents by saving the facade of a structure they are tearing down only to paste it onto the building they are constructing in the same spot. It does not matter that there is not architectural connection between the two. For me a more lasting beauty is what nature creates all around us. I have been extremely lucky to have visited some of the national parks across the United States. From a geyser to a canyon to a mountain peak, I have seen places that have not been touched by a human hand. Can you imagine if there comes a time where, let us say, an electronic billboard is erected in a national park? Or how about if a hotel or gift shop is constructed next to natural stone arches or powerful waterfalls? I for one would consider it a crime to spoil such natural, pristine beauty that is here on this planet. Not everything has to be new and fresh to be considered a natural beauty (good advice for some celebrities); I do not know when our values changed to discard old objects or look at a place and determine how it can generate money. It is this type of message that was the focus of this animated film. WHEN real estate developer Mr. Greene, voiced by Ken Jeong (Ride Along 2, Community-TV), commits to building condos in the Arctic home of Norm, voiced by Rob Schneider (50 First Dates, The Hot Chick), the talking polar bear decides to travel to American to change Mr. Greene’s mind. I have to be blunt and right to the point here; this adventure comedy was one of the worst films I have seen in the past year. It was startling to say the least. The animation was poor, story weak, jokes both lame and inappropriate; I ask you what child needs to see a twerking polar bear? What in the world possessed Heather Graham (Boogie Nights, The Hangover franchise) as Vera and especially Bill Nighy (About Time, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel franchise) as Socrates to take part in this disaster? The movie studio behind this film, as far as I know, is not known for creating animated pictures and it showed. I am not exaggerating in the least when I tell you the children in the audience never reacted to anything on the screen while most of the parents were either focusing on their snacks or smart phones. The only reason I am including an extra 1/4 star to the rating is because the message was sound, not that young children would understand the concept here. This movie was as lame as this joke: this film left me cold.
1 1/4 stars
I felt I was interrupting a prayer service as I stepped into the train car. The majority of the passengers had their heads bowed. They were all looking at their cell phones, though there were some with earbuds dripping out of their ears who stared off into space as if they were witnessing a vision. For whatever reason as I sat amongst them I wondered what the future would be like; would there be mobile apps to take care of all our needs? I have already witnessed the deterioration in our ability to communicate, I just wonder as we grow old will we be tucked away in our own tiny spaces having little contact with the outside world? Though I like my alone time, I find comfort in being part of a community. I may not see some of my neighbors for weeks, but we are well aware of each other’s routines and activities. It may be their car is in a different spot or their dog is out in the backyard; there is an invisible bond that connects all of us. Just this past weekend I was chipping away the melting ice from my walkway and my neighbor came over with an ax. Granted until I recognized him due to the sunlight shining in my eyes, I had a moment of fear spring up. WITH only one room left to rent in his hotel Sonny Kapoor, played by Dev Patel (Chappie, The Newsroom-TV), had his eye on a second property. It would already be a challenge; but with the added stress from the approval process and his upcoming wedding, Sonny would need a lot of things to go right if he was going to realize his dreams. This sequel saw the original cast like Maggie Smith (Quartet, Harry Potter franchise) as Muriel Donnelly and Judi Dench (Philomena, Skyfall) as Evelyn Greenslade mingling with new cast members such as Richard Gere (Brooklyn’s Finest, Amelia) playing Guy Chambers. I enjoyed seeing the cast again but there were parts of the script that I found unattractive. What I mean is I felt some of the writing came across as cheap and easy, not giving the actors enough to fully develop their characters. Sure there was the same mix of comedy and drama, but I did not find this film as entertaining as the first one. It was as if the writers did not know whether to make the story more like a madcap ensemble comedy piece or go in a more serious vein. I really hoped this would have been a better film because I was fond of the idea to have a group of people coming together as a family of choice, a real sense of community.
2 1/4 stars
I would have been upset if this movie was based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Except for Victor Frankenstein’s creation, there was no similarity between this action fantasy film and the original story. It turns out this movie was based on the graphic novel of the same name. I looked up the definition of graphic novel to find out it is defined as a fictional story that is done in a comic strip format, but in book form. With this understanding, I did not have a problem with this movie’s story. Frankenstein’s creation, played by Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight, Thank You for Not Smoking), was being hunted by evil demons led by Naberius, played by Bill Nighy (About Time, Love Actually), who needed him to complete their plan to create an army of demonic soulless beings to take over the world. The only thing standing in their way were the gargoyles led by Leonore, played by Miranda Otto (The Lord of the Rings franchise, What Lies Beneath). The film trailer I saw for this movie was predominantly filled with battle scenes. I now understand why since most of the time I was watching chase and fight scenes. If you are looking for just a mindless movie to sit back and not think about, this one is doable. The idea and concept of this story was fine; however, it was poorly executed. I found the writing to be bland and pretty cheesy for the most part. The transformation from gargoyle to human form was fun but most of the special effects were just okay, nothing really spectacular. I have always been fond of Aaron’s and Bill’s acting in the past and would have liked to have seen here more detail in their roles. Granted once I realized the Frankenstein character was more of a superhero I thought Aaron was an odd choice. If there were not any CGI effects involved then Aaron was chiseled for the role but was still of an average human size. There was a familiarity to the whole layout of this movie and I found out why afterwards. The writer was the same one who did the Underworld films, which explained the look and feel to this picture. Now I cannot say this was an awful film, it still entertained me; it just was too generic. If the movie studio still plans to do a sequel, since it was obvious at the end, I hope they spend more time devoted to the details of the story to make the viewers care about it.
1 3/4 stars
The conversation seemed to be going well. There was a rhythm established where we started to volley thoughts and questions back and forth. I have always considered the absence of questions being asked as a red flag. In conversations I am a stickler for making eye contact, for I gain added insight when I can look into their eyes while we are talking to each other. The dinner date was going well but there was a voice in the back of my head that was critiquing my performance. There was an onslaught of questions chipping away at my confidence. Why did I immediately say indoors without asking their opinion, when the host asked if we wanted to dine indoors or out? I detest eating outdoors; having to fight bugs, car exhaust and pedestrians walking by. Why didn’t I order a plain entree instead of something that I had to tell the waiter to either remove or exchange parts for something different? If I could have only gone back in time like they did in this comedic drama I know I could have made a better impression. When Tim, played by Domhnall Gleeson (True Grit, Dredd), was told by his father, played by Bill Nighy (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Love Actually), that all the men in their family had the ability to travel back in time, he had to find out for himself. Discovering it was true, Tim set out on a journey to find himself a girlfriend. He would also discover things change when one goes back in time. This fantasy film had a sweet and sentimental story; I was thoroughly entertained by it. I thought everyone did a wonderful job with their characters, especially Rachel McAdams (Midnight in Paris, The Vow) as Mary. The role was perfect for her style of acting. Since this film festival winning movie was a fantasy, I was not so concerned with the way Tim traveled in time or if it was hokey. They were easily forgivable because I found the entire story had an easy flow and kept me engaged. Imagine if we could go back and do things over from our past; it would make life easier. But since it is make-believe, I have to remember to embrace and live in the moment.
Being met by a plethora of colors and a sea of people, a group of British retirees had landed in Jaipur, India to begin the next chapter of their lives at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Well, the brochure they received stated it was the “Best.” However, the hotel looked like it was way past its bloom. As for me, the movie felt like it was cut off before fully blossoming, with characters not fully developed, to make for a better story. There were some parts of the film that were quite enjoyable. These usually involved stellar acting from Judi Dench (J. Edgar, Ladies in Lavender) as the widowed Evelyn Greenslade, Bill Nighy (Wrath of the Titans, Pirate Radio) as retired civil servant Douglas Ainslie, Maggie Smith (Harry Potter franchise, Ladies in Lavender) as the wheelchair bound Muriel Donnelly and Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton, The Debt) as former judge Graham Dashwood. These four characters were more believable to me as we saw their characters grow throughout the movie. I have always been fascinated seeing other cultures and appreciated the way the director used the city and its citizens to propel the story forward. However, there were other parts of the movie I found slow and not totally believable. I have to say, it was a pleasure sitting in the company of all adult viewers–no one was texting or talking on their cell phones during the movie.
2 2/3 stars