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