MINIATURE golf covers my experience with playing the game of golf. For those of you who know my love of travel, you will especially appreciate when I tell you about a miniature golf course I used to play at when I was a small boy. The majority of the holes each had a replica of a national or world landmark that you would have to negotiate, to get your colored golf ball to the cup. For a kid who had not yet seen the actual structures, this was a big deal. I remember one hole that had a tall skyscraper which would light up at night. The goal was to hit your ball between the elevator doors so you could watch your ball rise up to the top of the building where it would be dropped off and disappear for a moment. By the time you ran to the back of the skyscraper you would just see the ball coming out of an exit door right by the cup. My favorite was a reproduction of a famous amusement park roller coaster. If you could get the ball up the entrance ramp, you could watch your ball take a ride on the coaster before it was dropped off at the cup. This was the extent of my golfing prowess. FROM the different comments I have heard about the game of golf, there are a lot of people who consider it a rich man’s sport or a gentleman’s game. Whether it is or not does not make a difference to me. I can appreciate the dedication, raw talent and competitiveness on display; but because I have a hard time justifying the amount of money given to professional athletes compared to school teachers, I find the large sums going into prize money, advertising and betting very odd, troubling. I know this is not exclusive to golfing by any means; at almost any given time I will hear about someone betting on such and such game or being a part of an office pool. Little did I know that this practice has been going on for a long time. SCOTSMAN Tom Morris, played by Peter Mullan (War Horse, Tyrannosaur), had been the groundskeeper and golf club maker of the St. Andrews golf course for many years. The club members assumed his son Tommy, played by Jack Lowden (A United Kingdom, Denial), would take over the family business; however, Tommy had something different in mind. This film festival winning drama based on a true story also starred Sam Neill (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Jurassic Park franchise) as Alexander Boothby and Ophelia Lovibond (Guardians of the Galaxy, No Strings Attached) as Meg Drinnen. The story was the fascinating part for me in this biography; watching how the game of golf was originally played truly was a trip back in time. Unfortunately the script caused this movie to be a bogey instead of a hole in one. For such a game changing story, this script really needed to get gritty and make the characters more than one dimensional. The thing that kept me interested was the historical value the events had in this picture. I may not have any interest in playing golf, but at least I now know how it came to be.
2 ½ stars
SITTING comfortably behind the steering wheel, cruising down the road, the celebrity driver was expounding on the finer things about the automobile. It almost looked like this was their main means of transportation. Now I do not care if a celebrity wants to earn income by doing a commercial; everyone deserves to make a living. Will this person persuade me to buy that type of car when I am in the market for a new vehicle? The answer is absolutely not. In fact that goes for any celebrity endorsement. Though I am a big fan of movies and such, I am well aware of the financial inequity between celebrities and let us say teachers. Not that there is anything wrong with making as much money as you can; however, I have a hard time with anyone who uses their position of wealth as a bully pulpit to tell everyone else what they should do. I have experienced this in my own circle of friends and family, where those who were financially well off starting acting like they knew everything and the rest of us were not as smart. That type of behavior is offensive to me. THE area where I can support celebrities is when they use their wealth and status to help a cause they believe in. I know about one celebrity who works with an organization to bring clean water to third world countries. I remember when parts of Louisiana were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. There were celebrities down there helping and rebuilding houses; they had the means and connections to bypass the red tape to get things done. With some celebrities their support of a cause may be due to personal reasons; they could be experiencing it in their own family, for example a celebrity with an autistic child. Whether you feel the same way or not, I admire someone who overcomes challenges in their life to then become a social activist against those very same tribulations. What I saw in this film festival winning movie, which was based on a true story, both stunned and amazed me. THIRTEEN year old Waris, played by newcomer Soraya Omar-Scego, had to leave her village in Somalia. What was done to her there would have a strong impact on her life when she made it to London. Before I talk about this biographical drama I want to say I have very little knowledge about the customs that were performed in this movie. They may be based on religious beliefs or native; I do not know and I do not want to offend anyone who believes in them. Starring Liya Kebede (The Best Offer, Lord of War) as older Waris Dirie, Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine, Happy-Go –Lucky) as Marilyn and Timothy Spall (Denial, Mr. Turner) as Terry Donaldson; the actual story had to be more powerful than what the script provided here. The back and forth between the young and older Waris dampened the intensity for me. I had a hard time watching some scenes because I could not believe what was being done. The acting was fine; I have always enjoyed Sally’s performances and Liya was perfect in this role. Honestly I still cannot get over that this custom takes place in the world. This DVD provided me with a whole new respect for those who overcome difficulties in their life and decide they want to do something about it.
2 ¾ stars — DVD
SEEING a person willingly jump out of an airplane could elicit one of two responses: the individual is courageous or crazy. Though there is no way I would ever go skydiving, I would not judge someone who wants to experience such an activity. As I go through my daily life I am constantly witnessing acts of courage. There is the individual who admits to being out of shape, who comes to a fitness class, because they want to make a change in their life. The blind person who is navigating down a crowded, noisy city street or the parent who gets sick on roller coasters, sitting next to their child who is thrilled to be on the ride with their parent; to me all of these individuals are courageous and strong. There are so many other examples of courage that I could write about but it would take up all of my time today. FOR the past several months I have viewed news reports with an eye to the future. The news segments can range from peaceful protesters to refuges to the environment; I look at each one of these and am usually amazed at the amount of courage an individual has in the face of life or death, let alone the person who is willing to make a stand against injustice. Thinking back to some of the famous scientists who left their homeland for a better life or to just stay alive, there is something to be said for that individual’s braveness. Imagine if the scientist was not strong enough or courageous enough to leave a place where they were being persecuted; how different would the world have turned out? Whether a person actively engages in a cause or donates time or money to it, for them they are acting in a courageous way. One cannot necessarily compare different acts of courage; however, some do take on more risk and this movie based on a true story shows you how much risk one person was willing to take to make a difference. AFTER German forces took control of Warsaw they set up a camp in the middle of Antonia and Jan Zabinski’s, played by Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane, The Martian) and Johan Heldenbergh (The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Misfortunates), zoo and got rid of most of the animals. The couple formed an idea that could save lives but they needed the zoo to remain open. This biographic drama was powered with Jessica’s acting. She was the dominant force in this film, though other actors such as Daniel Bruhl (Rush, Woman in Gold) as Lutz Heck and Shira Haas (Princess, A Tale of Love and Darkness) as Urszula still drew my attention to them. The story was amazing, frightening, tragic and a few other adjectives. I will say the script did not come up to what I felt could have been a more powerful story. There were a few scenes that I am willing to bet were created simply for dramatic effect. This produced an odd seesawing effect between intensity and sweetness; for entertainment value it was okay but the story deserved more intensity in my opinion. Regardless, to see Jessica acting in this courageous story was time well spent.
2 ¾ stars
FOR a brief moment that “look,” which I was familiar with, ran across the man’s face. He was standing in the checkout aisle next to mine. The only way I can describe that “look” is to say it was a cross between contempt and total disgust. Physically the eyes narrow, the muscles of the face slip down to the lower half of the head and the lips seal together in a straight line except for the hint of a curl at one end of the lips. I knew immediately why the man was making that face; it was because of the couple standing in front of me. They were an interracial couple. The look on that man’s face is the same type of look I have been given at various times. Once at the airport where I was sitting with a friend waiting to board our flight, he fell asleep and was leaning over onto my shoulder. A couple who was walking by looked down at me and made that look, uttering a sound of disgust. Another time I was doing volunteer work where we would work in pairs to canvass the neighborhood. I was paired with a woman from a different race than mine. You would not believe there were several people who answered their door, took a look at us and immediately made that face, besides only talking to me; they would ignore her more times than not. It was pathetic, appalling and many other adjectives. WHENEVER I encounter this type of prejudice, I simply want to ask the “offended” person how that person you show disgust towards affects your own life. Why should it even matter to them if the couple is of the same gender or from different races; I honestly cannot understand why anyone would make a judgment about another person based on such things. It is sad that these personal issues are even being addressed. Now that I have seen this film based on a true story, I am even more astonished at the lunacy of people’s prejudices. RUTH Williams and Seretse Khama, played by Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, Pride & Prejudice) and David Oyelowo (Selma, Queen of Katwe), fell in love and eventually wanted to get married. Their marriage would have consequences for Seretse’s country of birth, where he was a prince. This film festival nominated dramatic romance was a wonderful film to watch. With Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Kingsman: The Secret Service) as Alistair Canning and Tom Felton (Harry Potter franchise, Risen) as Rufus Lancaster, the cast was well rounded and performed beautifully. I especially enjoyed David and Rosamund in their roles. Set in London initially during the 1940s, the scenes rolled in a gentle type of way that only accentuated the well written script. I have to tell you the events that took place in this biographical story stunned me; not that there was a sudden surprise moment, but the turn of events taking place on the worldwide stage solely due to a person’s skin color just blew me away. Those of you who know me know how much I enjoy seeing photos of the actual people the actors portrayed; this movie did not disappoint me. Nothing about this film disappointed me except seeing the narrow-mindedness of some people.
3 1/3 stars
BETWEEN the street corner and an alley a structure was built that changed my life. I remember walking by the construction site on the way to the library. Construction workers wearing hard hats were moving around the site constantly; in a way it looked like an abstract ballet piece the way each of them seamlessly worked together. The outside of the building was made with white tiles; I thought for sure it would have turned to gray within a week from all the exhaust coming out of the cars driving down the busy thoroughfare. Right in the middle of the growing walls a slab of curved metal was jutting out like an awful hangnail. I could not imagine what these workers were thinking of to stab their beautiful white tiled sides with this hollow, arching monstrosity. OVER the course of a season the building took form and all that remained were a few last details. One day appearing in front was a fenced off area that had round metal tables with big opened umbrellas sticking up from the center. Around the tables were bolted down curved benches. A sign was hung from the building announcing a grand opening. My friends and I were there on opening day and it was crazy with people lined up everywhere. I remember ordering a hamburger, french fries and a soft drink. We each were handed our meal in a paper bag and walked outside to the side of the building where the white tiles were built out to form a ledge to sit on. Prior to that moment I had never had a pickle or mustard on a hamburger, only ketchup; the mix of flavors exploded in my mouth. But what sent me into a caloric craze of complete cherished comfort were the french fries and chocolate milkshake. My affair with those slender strands of potato heaven has lasted all these years. I do not know if they would have had the same effect if I had known the story about the man who brought the restaurant with the golden arches to the world. SALESMAN Ray Kroc, played by Michael Keaton (Spotlight, White Noise), could not understand the sales order he received from a restaurant in California. Deciding to take a drive out to see the place, Ray was stunned when he came up to this little “food stand” run by brothers Mac and Dick McDonald, played by John Carroll Lynch (Shutter Island, American Horror Story-TV) and Nick Offerman (21 Jump Street franchise, Parks and Recreation-TV). The brothers may not have realized what they had going but Ray sure did. This film festival winning biographical drama succeeded because of Michael’s performance; he played it beautifully to the point where I was reacting negatively to some of Ray’s actions. Having my memories of the fast food restaurants heightened my interest in this historical story. I am not sure how much of the script was truthful, but I enjoyed most of the progression in the story. There were scenes that only implied certain actions that I would have enjoyed better if there was more back story; however, this did not distract me from the story. With most of the earth’s population having knowledge about this company, I cannot imagine someone getting bored with this movie, though you may get a bit hungry.
EACH person experiences grief in their own way. There are some who put no filters on it, letting their emotions flood out in a public way. Other individuals believe they need to maintain a “stiff upper lip” so they keep their emotions in check, only allowing them out in private. During my years of teaching I have experienced several major losses that affected me deeply. None of my classes knew at the time because I chose not to express my grief. It was hard at times especially when I was teaching a class where the members were looking to me to be upbeat and motivating, but inside I was a blubbering mess. A couple of times I nearly broke down when a song came on that triggered a memory of the person that was no longer in my life. THEY say there is comfort in numbers which can be seen when friends and family come together to share in their grief. Sitting at a stoplight while a funeral procession drives by, I used to look at the passengers in each passing car. It was curious to see the different ways people were handling their journey. Some would be silently sitting, not interacting with each other; while others appeared almost jovial. I know in some cultures death is looked upon as a gain, not a loss. The deceased individual is headed to a better place. One thing I have found interesting is the older a person becomes the more receptive they are to the idea of being reincarnated; I guess it brings comfort to them, knowing they will get to come back. The one thing I think everyone agrees on is when someone young has their life finished early. ACROSS the land citizens were all sharing in their grief from losing their young president to an assassin. At a time when privacy would be expected the president’s widow had to compartmentalize her priorities to satisfy her children, the nation and the world. This dramatic biographical movie was led by the outstanding performance from Natalie Portman (Jane Got a Gun, Your Highness) as Jackie Kennedy. Whether she had the speech and mannerisms down accurately, it did not matter to me because the character on screen as far as I was concerned was Jackie. I never once thought I was watching Natalie. The other actors such as Peter Sarsgaard (The Magnificent Seven, Orphan) as Bobby Kennedy, Greta Gerwig (Francis Ha, Mistress America) as Nancy Tuckerman and Billy Crudup (Spotlight, Watchmen) as the journalist were all quite good and I felt all of them were authentic in their roles. The script moved back and forth in time in an easy way for the viewer to follow. I found myself reacting with sadness to several of the scenes; the way they were reenacted and played out came across in a real way for me. If the script had told this story in chronological order I do not think it would have been as powerful as the way it was done in this film. I felt I was given an inside look behind all the actions that were on display for the public. This was an eye opening experience for me and left me with a few tears of sadness.
3 ½ stars
AFTER so many years teaching in the health industry you would think there is nothing left to surprise me these days. It is not often I encounter a long distance runner but when I do I still am fascinated by the person’s dedication/determination. Personally there is no way I would let my feet pound pavement that long. And if that is not enough reason to avoid running, the individuals who run outside in winter simply baffle me. There was one person I spoke with who ran every day no matter what the weather was outside. They had to get new running shoes every three months. I asked one time what they got out of running every day and they said it was peace of mind. If there was one day they could not run, they felt oft-kilter the entire day. On a certain level I had to admire the person’s drive. DO you know how you can see traits in other people that you do not recognize in yourself? Regarding my film reviews, everyone who knows me knows I have to be at the movies over the weekend. When talking to a friend about getting together I cannot tell you how many times I have said I need to see a movie first. The response I get from them is this, “You do know you do not HAVE to go; you choose to go.” I usually say it is my job because that is how I look at writing reviews; the best job by the way. The way my mind is wired this is something that I have to do. Some of you might remember when I first started posting reviews my goal was to write one review a day for 365 days and I achieved that goal. Afterwards I posted comments that going forward there would be times where I would miss posting a review; there was no need to worry. I dialed back to find balance once again in my life. It is funny how I realized I am no different than a marathon runner; we both have the drive and determination. It has given me a whole new appreciation for anyone who single mindedly has a need to achieve something. BASED on a true story world champion boxer Vinny Pazienza, played by Miles Teller (War Dogs, Fantastic Four), did something no one believed he could every do. Evidently no one knew the drive Vinny had to achieve his goal. This dramatic sport story worked because of its amazing cast. Besides Miles there was Aaron Eckhart (Sully, My All American) as Rooney and Katey Sagal (Married with Children-TV, Sons of Anarchy-TV) as Louise who were both on par with Miles. I was not familiar with this biographical story but I have to say it truly was incredible. What was missing for me was more detail in the script. We all have seen boxing movies and this one had a basic floor plan that was a bit predictable. I would have appreciated more details into Vinny’s life and family life. As it stood, the movie was interesting though there were scenes that had blood and violence in them. As I mentioned earlier it was the acting that made this film and with seeing this story, one has to admire this boxer’s determination.
2 ¾ stars
THE first time I heard that word being hurled at me I knew it would not be the last time. What I did not know was once a person was labeled by that word, no matter what they achieved, most of their peers would still only see a f-a-t person. Around the same time I remember a classroom discussion about race. A little boy in class asked the teacher why some people’s skin was a different color. I still recall what the teacher said to us. She told the class all it meant was that person’s family, from a very long time ago, was born in a different part of the world. The closer to the equator, the darker the person’s skin would be is how she described it. This bit of information turned into a game outside of class, where students would guess where a person’s grandparents were born based on the color of the skin on a person. NOW fast forward to high school my freshman year; we heard a rumor there was a time when girls were not allowed to wear pants in school. You can imagine how astonished we were on this bit of news. It turned out it was true; if you were female then you had to wear a skirt or dress to school. I could not understand what possible reason did the administration have for such a ridiculous rule. Past my school years when I was living in the city in my first apartment, I was walking down the street. Two guys were walking in my direction but I did not pay attention since there was a variety of shoppers on the street. Just as we were coming shoulder to shoulder the guy closest to me punched me in the face and I staggered back into a plate glass window. Either they did it for some initiation or they just did not like the way I looked. For 2 1/2 decades I had experienced actions based on looks, why was there such a preoccupation with it? MILDRED and Richard, played by Ruth Nega (World War Z, The Samaritan) and Joel Egerton (The Gift, Black Mass), were deeply in love. Their love however was not right according to some of their neighbors. Based on a true story this dramatic biography set during the 1950s in Virginia had such an important story to tell. With Marton Csokas (The Lord of the Rings franchise, The Equalizer) as Sheriff Brooks and Nick Kroll (Adult Beginners; I Love You, Man) as Bernie Cohen, the actors were all good; however, Joel and Ruth were incredible and Ruth deserves an Oscar nomination. For this story I felt the script could have done a better job in telling the story. I wanted to know how Mildred and Richard met considering the obvious racial divide that was on display. There was a subdued nature to the telling of this story, both the written word and the directing of scenes. At the end of the film I had a mixture of feelings. On the one hand one could say we have come a long way from this story; but on the other hand, the hate I am currently seeing in the world makes it seem as if nothing has changed. Hate is the new black.
2 3/4 stars
I remember a time when facts were important and meant something. In my chemistry class when we would conduct an experiment, each of the students had to create a particular reaction then have a fellow student repeat the same steps to see if they get the same results. My experiment was to create a blue clear liquid in my test tube. Mixing chemicals in a precise order and amounts when the final chemical was added the liquid in my test tube turned a beautiful Caribbean blue color. Next my lab partner had to reproduce my steps to see if he would get the same results. It turned out he did not; the liquid in his test tube turned into a cloudy, swamp brown color with a nasty odor. So to substantiate my results a 3rd student was brought in to repeat my experiment. They were successful as they created the same blue colored liquid. Pouring over our notes we discovered my lab partner mistook one measurement which completely altered the chemical reaction to create the color blue. This is how we learned about facts and fact checking. From my school years I learned studies and facts would yield accurate results. It seems as if facts do not carry the same weight of importance as they once did. This is my own opinion but I feel if facts lose their importance then conversations, accusations, claims and other such things turn into one big game of that kid’s game, “Telephone.” It is a game where one person whispers a statement into the ear of the person sitting next to them; who in turn, whispers the statement to the next and so on and so on, until the last person sitting in the circle repeats what they were told to the very first person who issued the statement. More than likely the statement was altered as it got passed from one person to the next. I learned from this dramatic film based on a true story that there were people back then who also did not believe in facts. HISTORIAN Deborah Lipstadt, played by Rachel Weisz (The Light Between Oceans, The Lobster), had to fly to London to prove in court that the Holocaust did indeed happen after she was sued for libel. In London’s judicial system the burden of proof is placed on the accused. This biographical film had outstanding acting provided not only by Rachel but also Tom Wilkinson (Snowden, Belle) as Richard Rampton, Timothy Spall (Harry Potter franchise, Enchanted) as David Irving and Andrew Scott (Spectre, Saving Private Ryan) as Anthony Julius. Based on Deborah’s book, History on Trial: My Day in Court, I found this film to be a taut courtroom drama. It was due to this cast that my interest stayed with the story because there were several scenes that lagged compared to others. I believe this was due to the script for the most part, though the directing had a hand in causing this slowness. Ultimately this did not weigh me down because I was very much into the story which interestingly one could draw parallels between it and the environment we currently live in.
DISCLAIMER: At the time of my viewing I was not aware of the controversy surrounding the writer, director and star of this film. Due to what I feel is the importance of this historical story I decided to post this review. It is not meant as an endorsement one way or the other of the person’s past events; I do not have enough knowledge on this controversy.
The 64 count box had the ideal amount for me. Anything more would only confuse me, taking more time to decide which color I would use next. For a kid a box of crayons is an unlimited source of fun and imagination. In my world every color had a purpose and belonged in the box. I started out using the yellow crayon every time I had a sun to draw. Later on I started adding crayons from the orange family, giving the sun a morning or evening look. At one time I started outlining everything with the black crayon then shading in the rest with a variety of colors. None of my crayons ever went unused; they each were treated equally and belonged in that 64 count crayon box. Something I noticed when I was at someone’s house who had crayons; not all of the crayons wore down at the same rate. They could have a short white crayon but a long black one that looked like it had not been used. Another house could have the tan or I think it was also called cocoa colored crayon sitting in the box never to be touched or be part of the picture the person was working on. I will never forget in a science class how the teacher showed us if we took a blue and yellow crayon then drew one color over the other we would have the color green. It was a revelation for me. Except for blue, red and yellow all the other crayons are a combination of 2 or more other colors. The crayons in my box all worked together in harmony unlike the real world. BEING one of the few slaves who could read Nat Turner’s, played by Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Red Tails); owner was able to rent him out to preach to the unruly slaves living on the other plantations. The things Nat saw opened his eyes in a new way. This film festival winning dramatic biography also starred Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger, The Social Network) as Samuel Turner and Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist, Awakenings) as Elizabeth Turner. As I said the story based on true events was important but I felt the script needed to be stronger to support the magnitude of the events taking place back during the 1830’s in Virginia. The acting was quite good especially during some of the disturbing scenes in this picture; however, there were gaps in the script where things slowed down for me. I was confused by the outcome that took place in a couple of scenes. For the most part the directing was spot on for this first time director. This was not easy to watch for a few reasons, one being the narrowness and ugliness of the times that only wanted to use 1 of 2 colors from a very small box of crayons.