TO ALL THAT KNEW HER SHE was a successful businesswoman. She had owned through her life a few businesses; there was never an exact number because she was modest. With a good heart and kindness, she believed these two attributes would always set her apart from other business owners. Her companies were never staffed with many people; honestly, maybe a handful at the most. There was one company that operated over state lines, but for the most part her businesses were kept locally. I agree kindness and a good heart are wonderful attributes to have; however, I feel one also must have a head for business. All businesses involve making tough decisions that might not appear to be kind. The question is if you can remain honest and true then you can accentuate your success. In her case, she was too kind. Some of her employees took advantage of it. Oh, who am I kidding; they stole from her. As time went on, though sales remained steady, there was less money coming in then going out for bills. There was a problem here, especially when most of the company’s transactions were done in cash. You see, her employees would write up fake invoices that were lower in prices; so, they could pocket the extra money they officially charged the customer. A BUSINESS CAN ONLY LAST SO long with losses before it must close its doors. In her case, this pattern of thievery would follow her from business to business. I am sad to say she never learned from her mistakes until it was too late. The method she would use time and time again to try and keep her various companies open would be to tap into her personal savings. This would also include funds that were set aside for retirement purposes. By the time she was close to reaching retirement age she had no funds left. All those years of trying to be successful at her different companies through the years left her penniless in the end. It was a horrible situation and what made matters worse was the fact she did not have the skill to keep accurate records. The result of this was the reason she never won a court case, for those times she even brought an employee to court. Do you want to know what she is doing now? In her advanced years she is cleaning an apartment building to get a discount on her rent, while living on a small government subsidy. The main character in this crime drama chose a different route when he had to close his business. WITH HIS HOUSE IN FORECLOSURE AND his once thriving horticultural business decimated; the opportunity to make some easy cash was the reason Earl Stone, played by Clint Eastwood (Trouble with the Curve, Million Dollar Baby), decided to be a driver for an unknown company. All he had to do was not ask questions. With Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born, Joy) as Colin Bates, Michael Pena (12 Strong, Ant-Man franchise) as DEA Agent, Taissa Farmiga (The Bling Ring, The Nun) as Ginny and Dianne Wiest (The Birdcage, Rabbit Hole) as Mary; I liked this film more than I had expected. The pacing was steady and Clint, who also directed, created a character that one could easily see him being in real life. The story inspired by a true event was interesting, but I found the script was heavy-handed with its messages. It seemed as if the writers wanted to make sure we knew what we were supposed to be feeling for the scenes. Also, a bit more mystery and tension would have livened up this picture. Though predictable at times, I did not mind watching this film; I just hope I am never put into such a predicament in my “golden” years.
2 ½ stars
I AM MORE OF A “don’t fix it if it isn’t broken” type of guy. As long as the item is meeting my expectations/needs, then I am fine with it. If you recall in one of my recent reviews I said, “Just because something is new does not make it better.” This is true to me based on the multiple examples I have experienced while buying replacement items. When my refrigerator finally stopped working I had to buy a new one. The salesperson had all these reasons why the newer refrigerators were so much better than mine. I originally asked if mine was fixable which led the salesperson to go into their sales pitch for the newer models. Granted, the ones I looked at were nicer looking, brighter inside and had a variety of shelf configurations I could adjust depending on what I needed to store inside. After I came to the realization that the cost to fix my old fridge would be better spent on buying a new one, I chose one similar to what I had and had it delivered. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with my new refrigerator; but for some reason it does not seem I can fit as much food into it as my old one did. MY PHILOSOPHY CAN BE EASILY APPLIED to movie remakes. If you look back at the reviews I did of movies that were remakes, you will not find many that were favorable. Just last week the film Little Women I reviewed was an updated version; it was one of the worst remakes I had seen in a long time. For the life of me I could not understand how the studio looked at that remake and thought they made a good picture. It makes me wonder where are the writers who have an original idea for a story? Honestly, I do not fully understand what the reasoning is behind the decision to do a remake of an established movie. Remember, don’t fix it if it isn’t broken; why would a studio want to take a well-known, classic film and do a remake of it? If the bar is already set up high, what are the studio’s chances of having a success? Maybe it is an economic decision, where if the 1st movie was successful then the new one has a built-in fan base. I do not have the answers, but I must tell you everything I just said about remade movies does not apply to this romantic, musical drama. HAVING BEEN TOLD SHE WAS NEVER good enough Ally, played by Lady Gaga (Machete Kills, American Horror Story-TV), had no reason to believe famous music celebrity Jackson Maine’s, played by Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, Silver Linings Playbook) comments about her. There was only one way to show her. With Sam Elliott (The Hero, I’ll See You in my Dreams) as Bobby, Andrew Dice Clay (Blue Jasmine, Pretty in Pink) as Lorenzo and Anthony Ramos (Mobsters and Men, Patti Cakes) as Ramon; I was stunned with this being Bradley’s 1st stint as a writer and director. His direction was simple and pure which was a beautiful compliment to Lady Gaga’s expressive face. Acting was in top form from everyone, but I do have to say I forgot Bradley was playing Jackson Maine; he was that believable. Doing all the singing live was a brilliant decision because it added a vibrancy to the scenes that truly made them stand out. Now there were a few slow spots for me, but they were just a minor distraction that I did not mind much. This is the 4th time this story has been done in movie form and I believe this not only can stand on its own, but it shines the brightest.
3 ½ stars
How annoying is it when you get a new item and it isn’t what you expected or does not work? When it comes to food products our feelings are usually based on the item’s taste; I understand since I have tried some items touting their new great flavor, only to get a nasty taste in my mouth. This type of stuff I either give away or toss into the garbage. The rules are different when the products are not food based. I may have mentioned I bought a new computer. After the store transferred my old information to the new one, along with adding some new programs, I excitedly brought the computer home and turned it on. Everything about it was great until I left it for a moment. When I came back to continue my work the computer would not wake up from its sleep mode. To say I was annoyed would be putting it mildly. I did get it fixed but it is stuff like this that ticks me off. Just a couple of weeks ago it was reported that a department store would no longer carry their line of Egyptian cotton bed sheets. And do you know why? It turns out the company that was making the sheets for the store was not using Egyptian cotton. Can you believe it? The thing that amazes me is the audacity some of these manufacturers have in thinking they are “pulling the wool” over the eyes of their customers. And who really is affected by these actions? It is the consumers who wind up on the losing end. I know the example I gave here is just one of many that take place around the world. CHILDHOOD friends Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, played by Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street, True Story) and Miles Teller (Fantastic Four, The Spectacular Now), found themselves taking on the bigger players in the defense field when they landed a $300 million contract from the Pentagon. The question was how were they going to fulfill it? Based on a true story this comedic drama also starred Ana de Armas (Exposed, The Boarding School-TV) as Iz and Bradley Cooper (Burnt, American Snipe) as Henry Girard. Along with all the other actors in this war film, this still was Jonah’s and Miles’ show. Their acting and chemistry was strong, though I felt Jonah was starting to be typecast with this type of character. The steady pacing kept the story going forward and I have to say even while I was watching this picture I still could not believe some of the things that were taking place. I think that is part of the attraction of this film; viewers will sit in disbelief by the outrageousness of some events. This will make up for the script that did not offer much depth to the characters along with having a little weakness towards the end. In spite of these things the story was so startling that I think it would grab the viewer to stay engaged with it.
We had worked at the same company for several years, just in different departments. They did not see their position as a long-term career because they had something else in mind. Being quite creative, away from the office they went to classes to learn a particular craft that was needed if they wanted to keep their dream moving towards reality. I saw pictures of their work; they showed beautiful images of objects and places that were familiar and easily recognizable. The difference was they created them for consumption by making them with food ingredients. Their dream was to open up a business where they could sell their creations. It took them a few years to master the art of designing everyday objects into edible sweet treats. There were baked chocolate top hats with white chocolate bands and red cherry buttons on the sides besides vanilla cupcakes that looked like a set of major league baseballs. They were as tasty as they looked. After selling these types of baked goods by word of mouth, they took a big step and found an empty storefront to rent. Here they would build shelves, buy coolers and baking equipment so they could open up and sell their wares to the general public. This was their dream; they did not want to grow old and wonder how their life would have turned out if they at least had not followed through on their dream. I believe some people call it, “having no regrets.” This is something I believe in too. I do not want to grow old with wishes I had done things differently. What one needs to achieve this is perseverance. NOT wanting to wind up like the rest of her family Joy, played by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games franchise, X-Men franchise), had an idea. The problem would be getting people to believe in her. This film festival nominated, dramatic comedy was based on a true story. With some of the actors like Robert De Niro (The Intern, The Deer Hunter) as Rudy and Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, Silver LInings Playbook) as Neil Walker having worked together previously, there was an easy flow between the characters. Jennifer was outstanding in the role; actually, I found her to be the number one reason to see this film. Who else I found exceptional was Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet, Death Becomes Her) as Trudy. Sadly the script did not elevate the story or the characters. There were parts of this film that stood out for me, where the acting and action were well done. But then there were segments that dragged down the story. If it was not for Jennifer I would have had a hard time staying with this film. The story was amazing if what was on screen was actually true; Joy was one driven character. For such a person who did what she did, this movie did not sell her story in the best way.
2 1/3 stars
Between the two of us we had gained and lost enough weight to equal the amount of five adults sitting comfortably in a full-sized sedan automobile. I was having lunch with this old friend of mine who was recently in town for a visit. We both grew up being part of the large sized kids of the neighborhood. As we were waiting for the waitress to return with our food order, we talked about how our feelings had changed about food. Our tastes were always different; where she was attracted to creamy and buttery, soft types of food I was all about the carbs and chocolate. I was not fussy; I could be satisfied with a loaf of bread as well as a box of chocolate chip cookies. What we had in common was our mutual desire to seek out different types of comfort foods. Her favorite was macaroni and cheese and mine was banana bread. Neither of us ever had a desire to eat at a fancy restaurant. I know one of my reasons for not going was because their portions always looked too small based on the pictures I saw in print or on food shows. The two of us discussed how food had lost its importance to us as we got more in touch with our feelings. These days food was looked upon as a fuel source instead of a reward; though each of us admitted we did like to splurge from time to time on a favorite treat. The food looked amazing in this comedic drama, but there were very few things that interested me enough to want to eat them. OVERCOMING the addictions that brought him and his famous Parisian restaurant down Adam Jones, played by Bradley Cooper (Aloha, The Place Beyond the Pines), was determined to create a Michelin 3 star rated restaurant in London. It would become his new addiction. Because I am not that familiar with high rent food, I was fascinated with the food preparation scenes in this film. If any of it was true then I am stunned how stressful it must be in the kitchens of these types of eating establishments. The cast which also included Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher, American Sniper) as Helene and Daniel Bruhl (Rush, Woman in Gold) as Tony were okay but the script was only half cooked (sorry I could not resist). I did not feel there was much chemistry between the actors, besides not feeling much sympathy towards them. The script was strange since there were a couple of other story lines besides the main one that could have been important if they had been developed properly; however, it would have been too much to cover in one film. There just wasn’t much to enjoy here; I prefer my movies well done.
1 3/4 stars
While standing in the theater lobby you see them out of the corner of your eye. They are walking towards you hand in hand; it is your ex. The last conversation the two of you had replays in your mind as you move your lips into a plastic smile. Introductions are made as you size up your replacement. As small talk hesitantly sputters out you see the replacement put their arm around their shoulders, letting it drape down like a boa constrictor. Funny, when the two of you were together they were not comfortable when you did it. However, the non-verbal connection the two of you shared is still active and you can see in their eyes, they realize you are noticing this change or maybe it is just acceptance in them. You have images rising to the top of your conscience from your pool of memories. The dividing line that was formed between the two of you at the time your relationship ended suddenly turns porous as they bring up one of your shared past events into the conversation. Whatever issues the two of you had at the end, they are fading into the background now as you are remembering how the two of you really had a good time together. Isn’t it funny how time can either soften or harden one’s memories associated with a past relationship? RETURNING to Hawaii as a military contractor now Brian Gilcrest, played by Bradley Cooper (The Words, American Sniper), was there to seek approval for a privately funded military operation by millionaire Carson Welch, played by Bill Murray (Groundhog Day, Lost in Translation). There was no way Brian could avoid his old girlfriend Tracy Woodside, played by Rachel McAdams (Midnight in Paris, About Time). Written and directed by Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, We Bought a Zoo), this comedic drama had such a good cast. Besides Bradley and Rachel there was Emma Stone (Magic in the Moonlight, Gangster Squad) as air force pilot Allison Ng and Alec Baldwin (The Departed, 30 Rock-TV) as General Dixon. I enjoyed the cast because they were perfect for their roles. There was a perfect blend of ingredients that made some scenes shine in this romantic film; but then there were more scenes that made little sense. It felt so disconnected to me; I just found the multiple story lines odd. In addition I did not feel any connection being formed between Brian and Allison which did not help that particular story line. There were times I lost interest in what was going on and for me personally there were not any pretty scenic shots of Hawaii. Sadly this movie was like a bad relationship; the kind you end early and soon forget.
1 3/4 stars
There are some individuals who have a natural ability or gift to perform a particular skill. In my old neighborhood there were a couple of boys who in school were the fastest when it came to running. Now there are other people who excel at a particular function but it is only after years that were filled with practice and determination. In some societies children are observed and evaluated to see if they have a certain skill that could be nurtured in them so it will continue to grow. I knew a woman who pushed her daughter for years in the field of dance; taking her to every audition, from one instructor to another as the little girl’s talent continued to expand. This went on over 15 years. However, as the daughter matured her desire lessened to the point where she did not want to do anything that involved dance. Though she had aptitude and skill for dance, her mother did not look at one other essential element: the heart, the desire for it. I know even with myself if my heart is not into what I am doing, I will lose interest quickly. The heart is the fuel for the engine of motivation. SKILLED with a rifle since a young age Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle), joined the military and became a Navy Seal. His love of country along with his special skills made him a legend in the eyes of his fellow Seals. It did not go unnoticed by the enemy who put a bounty on his head. Directed by Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River), this film festival winner and Oscar nominated action drama was based on a true story. Bradley was amazing in the role, having to pack on 40 pounds of muscle to play Chris. I did not recognize Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher, Casanova) at first who played his wife Taya; she also did a wonderful job of acting. This movie was intense to watch with scenes of violence and bloodshed; especially when the character the Butcher, played by Mido Hamada (Unknown, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), had a hand in it. The story is an incredible one; however, I am not sure the movie was on the same level. I say this because there were times where I had wished there would have been more development to the characters, to try and understand their motives. From what I saw on screen, I felt the characters needed to be more complex. Initially I was not fond of the ending; but having discovered afterwards it was done due to legal reasons, I am not listing it as a major complaint. It was obvious a lot of heart and thought was put into the making of this picture.
Any story or event becomes enhanced with the addition of an unexpected surprise. If I were to tell you that every 25th person who visited my movie site would get a gift card to a movie theater, I am sure the people who received the cards enjoyed reading my reviews more than the ones who did not get a gift card. If I read a news story about someone doing an extraordinary feat in the middle of a crisis, like a person lifting a heavy piece of machinery that accidentally rolled on top of a child, I feel more invested in the story and will probably remember it for a longer time. There was the time I was at a friend’s wedding reception where his introverted cousin, who used to hang out with us, was called up to give a toast. Instead of giving a speech filled with embarrassing or funny tidbits about the groom, the cousin had secretly made arrangements with the band and performed a couple of my friend’s favorite songs. The big surprise was no one knew the cousin could even sing; he amazed everyone with his incredible voice. So you see, experiencing the unexpected can provide a memorable time. SURPRISED by the unexpected was used to the maximum to enhance this science fiction adventure film. Chris Pratt (Delivery Man, Moneyball) played Peter Quill, a space traveler who was being hunted down after he stole a mysterious metal artifact. Only the evil Ronan, played by Lee Pace (The Hobbit franchise, Lincoln), had an idea what the metal object contained and he was determined to get it from Peter. This action movie had one of the most unusual opening scenes I had ever seen in the superhero genres; I suggest you do not come in late to the movie. Speaking of the superhero genre, the cast in this fun film consisted of some of the most unlikely characters and I do mean characters one will ever see as superheroes. Besides Peter who preferred to be called Star Lord, there was Zoe Saldana (Star Trek franchise, Columbiana) as Gamora, Dave Bautista (Riddick, The Man with the Iron Fists) as Drax, Vin Diesel (Saving Private Ryan, Boiler Room) who voiced the character Groot and Bradley Cooper (American Hustle, Hit and Run) who voiced Rocket. I loved this movie on so many levels. First was the awesome soundtrack; it pretty much played out like an extra character of the cast. The humor, snide remarks, action and special effects were terrific, all fitting together to create something different from any previous superhero film. There was not one time where I felt bored; every scene provided something to look at, feel or think about. I had no idea this motley crew would help make this picture a total, unexpected surprise for me. There was a brief extra scene after the credits.
3 1/2 stars
One would think with my love of movies I would see a favorite film more than once. In all honesty it happens very rarely. If there is a movie I just have to own, I will see the film again when I buy the DVD. As far as I can remember, I think there are only 4 movies I have seen twice while they were still playing at the theater. One of those films was The Sting with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. If I were reviewing movies back then I would have given this film a 4 star rating. Everything from the acting to directing to the music was as close to perfect as possible. Now the reason I brought up this film was because this crime film reminded me of The Sting. From writer and director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter) this film festival winning movie was loosely based on the ABSCAM scandal from the 1970’s, which was an FBI sting operation against public corruption. Forty pound heavier Christian Bale (Out of the Furnance, American Psycho) and Amy Adams (Man of Steel, Enchanted) played con artists Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser. Forced into service by ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso, played by Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, The Words), they discovered their lives could be at risk when some dangerous individuals suddenly became involved. The first thing in this Golden Globe nominated movie that reminded me of The Sting was its story. Besides both being about a sting operation, the story had several twists and surprises. The next thing that was similar was the unbelievable, amazing acting. Everyone in this film held their own with their terrific acting skills. One of the youngest actors in the cast gave such an astounding performance that she should get nominated for an Oscar. That actress was Jennifer Lawrence who played Irving’s alcoholic wife Rosalyn Rosenfeld. I thought her young age would be a hinderance in playing this role, but that was not the case. However, Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, North Country) who played Mayor Carmine Polito looked too young for the part. His acting was first rate, but I felt he needed to look older for the part. Everyone in this dramatic film had equal amounts of screen presence which carried me through the couple of parts I found to be slow. With a little more editing the already fantastic dialog would have been ideal for me. The music and sets were perfect for the times. This movie certainly will get a couple of Oscar nominations and is definitely worth seeing. Now that I have seen it I have this urge to see The Sting again.
3 2/3 stars
Being the designated driver for some of my friends, I have been stuck staying at a nightclub until closing time. When the lights came on I was stunned how the entire place radically changed. When we first arrived at the club there were colored strobe lights sparking everywhere, narrow spotlights searching the dance floor while a cool, low fog circulated around our feet. At the end of the evening the room was flooded with harsh white light, exposing stained dark walls and a floor littered with confetti and crepe paper streamers. Some of it was clumped together on parts of the floor where drinks were spilled. At one of the leather clad booths along the wall, there was a passed out patron. As you can see it was not a pretty picture. The same could be said for this tired film. Consider this movie the last call of the franchise. Phil, Stu and Justin; played by Bradley Cooper (Limitless, Silver Linings Playbook), Ed Helms (Cedar Rapids, The Office-TV) and Justin Bartha (National Treasure franchise, The Rebound); participated in an intervention for Alan, played by Zach Galifianakis (The Campaign, Due Date). On the way to the treatment center; the Wolfpack was ambushed by Marshall, played by John Goodman (Argo, Flight). Holding Doug as hostage; Marshall gave the rest of the gang three days to find Mr. Chow, played by Ken Jeong (Community-TV, Pain & Gain). The story was one dimensional; in other words, it seemed as if they planned the jokes first, then wrote the story around them. The problem was the lack of humor; the jokes were utterly stale. Using Alan’s questionable feelings towards Phil as a continuous joke quickly became old. The character of Mr. Chow derived his humor by being inappropriate for these politically correct times. When the first movie came out it was a novel and fresh idea. I found the film to be dreary and lazy. Consider this film a reminder to never stay beyond last call.
1 3/4 stars