WALKING down the street your eye catches something on display behind the store’s display window. You had no intentions of shopping today, but something about the perfectly matched clothing on the mannequin makes you stop. The store was not unfamiliar to you; maybe it was a couple of years ago since you last ventured inside. If memory serves you correctly, you recall the sales staff being helpful. They were not pushy like some of the other clothing stores you have been in, where everything you try on looks perfect according to the staff. Instead the salespeople at this place offer suggestions, asking you where you intend to wear the items. Since the store did not appear to be busy you walked inside to get a closer look at the outfit. As expected a salesperson greeted you and asked if you needed any help. You explained your reason for coming inside and the salesperson directed you to the display rack that was carrying that particular outfit. Finding your size you took the clothing into the dressing room. After you had everything on you looked in the mirror. Though the clothing looked good, it did not look good on you. THIS scenario has happened to me multiple times through my life. Something that looked good on display did not translate to looking good on me. It is weird how that happens. It is not like my size keeps fluctuating; I have been the same size now for years. Yet each store seems to have a different idea of what the waist size should be. Where I may be a 32 inch waist at one place, another will have similar pants that fit the same but they are labeled 31 inch. In fact I know women’s clothing is more varied in how they determine their clothing sizes. It can be disappointing when you see something that you think would look good on you but then your reflection in the mirror says otherwise. It pretty much sums up the way I felt about this crime drama. JOE Coughlin, played by Ben Affleck, chose a different path than his police officer father Thomas Coughlin, played by Brendan Gleeson (In the Heart of the Sea, Suffragette). Joe’s path led to a life of crime down in Florida. This film festival nominee had a great look to it. Set during the time of Prohibition in the 1920s, the costumes and sets were a knock out. Written and directed by Ben, I have enjoyed Ben’s previous directorial efforts; he has an eye for filming a movie. However I think he took on too much with this story. There were scenes that were wonderful to watch, including an exciting car chase. But then there were other places where the story became muddled and slow. I liked the idea of making a gangster period piece but we all have seen similar ones before; this one needed more drama and intensity. As for the acting Ben could have been better since Elle Fanning (20th Century Women, Super 8) as Loretta Figgis and Chris Cooper (The Tempest, Adaptation) as Chief Figgis were more dynamic on screen. Unfortunately by the end of this picture I was left with a blah feeling; it may have been a good looking film but it did not tell its story very well.
2 ¼ stars
WHEN I was little all I wanted was to have a common, average full name; something like John Smith or Robert Jones. I was the only one in my elementary school to have my first name, though there were a couple of boys who had names similar to mine. Teachers never asked a Jeffrey or Deborah to repeat their names but with certain teachers I had to repeat mine a 2nd time so they were sure they heard correctly. Thinking back now I am not sure why it was important for me to want a different name unless it was to be less noticed. It was not like my name was hard to spell or even pronounce. AS we graduated out of elementary school we were joined with students from other schools. There was one boy who had the same last name as a local food company and he was picked on because of it. I remember sitting and imagining if he was getting teased for a food product what would happen to a student who had the same last name of an infamous person from history; such as Churchill, Hemingway or Mussolini? Interestingly I knew a couple of people who were connected to famous individuals but no one knew because they did not have the same last name. There was one friend who was able to trace his family history back 6 centuries. He showed me a couple of artifacts that had been handed down generation to generation; it really blew my mind since my knowledge of my family’s history only goes back approximately a couple of hundred years. Tracing a family’s history can be eye opening, both for the relatives or bystanders. The reason I say this is because there is a famous family business headquartered in my city. The descendants have lived around here for years and a friend of mine is the accountant for a couple of them. Just from a couple of stories told to me, this family has some messed up genes in their gene pool. But they do not as far as I know have an ancestor like the one in this fantasy adventure. CAL Lynch, played by Michael Fassbender (The Light Between Oceans, Steve Jobs), was surprised to discover he had an ancestor named Aguilar who was an assassin. Cal was more surprised when he met him. This action film based on a video game had a heavy hitting cast joining Michael. There was Marion Cotillard (Allied, Rust and Bone) as Sofia, Jeremy Irons (The Man in the Iron Mask, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) as Rikkin and Brendan Gleeson (Suffragette, Troy) as Joseph Lynch. With such a good cast it was a shame the nonsensical script was so poor. It was a patchwork of fights, romance, history; it jumped from one to the other. I enjoyed the exterior shots and I did not mind the story, but this film was barely coherent. The actors tried their best I believe; however, I was bored through parts of the picture. Maybe the video game is fun to play but this was not a film one needs to pay full price to see. In my opinion this was a movie studio and family dysfunction.
1 2/3 stars
One single seed over time can create a bodacious garden. All it takes is nourishment, encouragement and tenderness. The same holds true for writing a story. A kernel of a memory, truth or experience is all that is needed for the writer. My first published story was about me and my friends’ experiences selling door to door a variety of kitchen and houseware products for a charity. It started out with an incident one of my friend’s had, where he spent the rest of the day walking with me on my route. I took that event and created several companion pieces to accompany it in a series of sales stories told from different perspectives. Just recently a friend called me up after reading one of my reviews, asking me who I was writing about since they could not place me in my opening commentary. I had to remind them of the incident that caused me such anguish. Now I am sure there have been times where you read a story and were curious to know if there was any truth to it; I know I do it all the time. When I am writing each character I have a voice for them I hear in my head. Some of the voices are actual people I have heard while others were made up. I would love to know how authors come up with their stories. To hear the truth behind some of the classics or best sellers would be amazing. Having read the novel Moby Dick 3 times, I had no idea it was based on a true story; in turn, I was excited to see this movie. Herman Melville, played by Ben Whishaw (Spectre, Suffragette), was desperate to talk to Tom Nickerson, played by Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter franchise, Gangs of New York), the last survivor of the New England whaling ship, the Essex. Tom’s unbelievable story about the destruction of the Essex would be the catalyst for Herman to write the story Moby Dick. This action adventure had huge special effects to match the size of the story. There were times I was trying to figure out how the scene was even done; they looked spectacular. With Chris Hemsworth (Rush, Thor franchise) as Owen Chase and Benjamin Walker (The War Boys, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) as George Pollard, there were two things happening in this biographical film. There was Herman listening to Tom for one story line and then there was Owen and George hunting for whales in the 1820s. I preferred watching Herman and Tom. Their acting and story was more memorable to me. Owen’s tale was too choppy; I felt it dragged in places, in others it just seemed ridiculous. It lacked emotion in my opinion. Honestly, I could see this script being a Broadway musical and working better than it did on film. Nonetheless I was fascinated with the story that was the impetus for the classic novel Moby Dick.
2 1/4 stars
Even after so many years I still find myself being stunned by what was said during that conversation. There was a group of people at a party talking about their school years. One of them mentioned they still remembered the year when girls were finally allowed to wear pants to school. I just sat there in disbelief. Why in the world couldn’t girls wear such an everyday item of clothing? On top of it, this was a public school. I can understand if private schools require uniforms but I could not think of any reason why in a place of learning there should be such discrimination. Maybe it is due to my experiences growing up but I honestly never understood this division between women and men. I always felt whoever had the soundest mind and heart would always be the best candidate for any situation. Unfortunately I realize not everyone shares such thinking. Here is an example; when some people hear my primary doctor is a woman they ask my why I would go to a female doctor. I just say because she is good. Maybe it has something to do with the way I was raised; I am aware we live in a more puritanical country. Though I do not understand this divide, I have studied enough history to realize there have been many people who had to dominate others to feel good about themselves. This historical movie is just one example of what was taking place around the world. HAVING spent her entire life working in a laundry Maud Watts, played by Carey Mulligan (Far From the Madding Crowd, An Education), never learned to stand up for herself. That started to change once she met Violet Miller, played by Anne-Marie Duff (Nowhere Boy, Before I Go to Sleep). This film festival winner’s strength was due to the cast. Besides Carey being amazing in this role, there was Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech, Alice in Wonderland) as Edith Ellyn and Brendan Gleeson (Calvary, The Guards) as Inspector Arthur Steed. Inspired by true events the story may not be an easy watch for some viewers. I am simply referring to the injustices that had to be endured during that time period. The sets and costumes added value to this dramatic film, but I was not a big fan of the direction. I felt there was not enough time devoted to character development, besides feeling some scenes were given too much dramatic flair. It seemed as if the goal was to make the viewers cry instead of telling a good story about the feminist movement in England. Nonetheless the acting was super, though Meryl Streep fans will be disappointed that her role was more of a cameo. For me this story seemed like it happened a long, long time ago. However, based on our entire history this really wasn’t that long ago and I am aware it is still happening today.
No four words have the ability to unlock one’s imagination quicker than, “Once upon a time.” How many times have we sat on a soft lap with our heads resting on top of the beat from a loving heart? Maybe instead it was when you were curled up in bed, under the thick warm covers with your favorite stuffed animal or toy? Those four words started a journey where you saw faraway places and talking animals as they sprung up in your mind when it was tickled by your listening ears. I have always been fond of fairy tales and folklore. Part of the reason for my love of books is due to the great storytellers I had in my life. With the ability to change voices, display emotions and act out gestures matching the action; story time was one of my favorite parts of the day. As I got older I began to appreciate the folk tales and legends from other countries. Though they may have common elements and themes, it was always interesting to hear a story through the experiences of a different set of eyes. BASED on Irish and Scottish folklore, this Oscar nominated animated movie’s story was not only wonderful to hear but to see. I do not want to say the animation was old-fashioned but it was more akin to the type I used to see as a kid; in other words it looked hand drawn. I noticed many of the scenes had objects with elaborate patterns on them which made me wonder if there was some significance to them pertaining to Ireland or Scotland. The main focus of the story had to do with brother and sister Ben and Saoirse, voiced by David Rawle (Moone Boy-TV) and newcomer Lucy O’Connell. Annoyed by his younger sister who had not started to talk yet, Ben did not realize she was the last of her kind. This is all I want to tell you about this fantasy film so you can experience it with as little knowledge as possible. The actors were all ideal for their characters, especially Brendan Gleeson (Calvary, The Company You Keep) as Conor/Mac Lir and Fionnula Flanagan (Yes Man, The Others) as Granny/Macha. This is listed as a family film which it is; however, it is not a mainstream type of movie that involved marketing focus groups or product placements. There were no jokes or singing and dancing; it was simply telling an enchanting story. There was one extended scene having to do with near death that made a couple of younger children in the audience whimper. I have to say that watching this movie was like sitting in a comfortable lap to hear a fanciful tale.
3 1/2 stars
From the news to lyrics of a song one eventually comes across the saying: The good die young. There is some truth in those words. Not that I want to get into a political debate here; but when one hears about a person guilty of a crime who died or will be dying, the sympathy is slightly different for them than an innocent individual. Hearing recently about innocent children being killed by stray bullets or just yesterday about the mother who was allegedly murdered and stuffed into a suitcase by her daughter, one’s heart has to go out for these people whose lives were taken away from them. Under those types of circumstances you feel it in the pit of your stomach. I will be the first to admit that I tend not to be sympathetic towards a person who makes the conscience choice to take the life away from another individual. I vividly recall the trial where a friend of mine was picked to be part of the jury, where a mother hung her 2 year old son out the dining room window until he died. She was found guilty for reasons of insanity. HOWEVER, in this dramatic movie the killer appeared to be totally rational. During confession a man sat and explained why he was going to kill the priest listening to him, Father James who was played by Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter franchise, Troy). After explaining his reasons, the announced killer told the priest he had 7 days to get his affairs in order. In this film festival winning picture Brendan was utterly outstanding in his role. Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh (The Guard, Ned Kelly), I found the script to be intelligent and mature. The pacing was well suited for this story, building a slow steady tension to the very end. I felt the camera work beautifully displayed the gorgeous landscapes, besides creating memorable images throughout the film. Everyone in the cast from Kelly Reilly (Flight, Heaven is for Real) as Fiona Lavelle to Chris O’Dowd (Cuban Fury, Bridesmaids) as Jack Brennan did their part to push this movie to excellence. The reason why this story worked for many reasons was due to the fact that the audience was immediately told the circumstances. With this knowledge I could not imagine someone not feeling sadness and dread on a deep level; it really was a brilliant idea from John Michael McDonagh. This film made a strong connection to the audience and the only thing it was guilty of was tugging at our hearts. A couple of scenes had blood in them.
3 1/2 stars
The things people do to impress, seduce or persuade other people to do can really take over one’s life. I worked part-time at a clothes store during the holidays one season. There was an employee who would buy an outfit for herself every time she had a new date. Even with the employee discount she had a running balance on her account for all the clothes she kept buying. She would tell me a new outfit was like the front door of a house you are trying to sell; you want it to make a good first impression before the buyer enters to check out the place. This always made me laugh and I would tease her that if someone only wanted to date her because she had a fancy logo on her blouse she should try to exchange the date for someone with a brain. I understand how most of us would like to make a good impression on someone we are meeting for the first time; but if the person is only interested on a surface level, I have no reason to strike up a relationship. It does not matter to me what a person wears or what they look like; I am concerned with what is inside of them. As for the outside aspect as long as my teeth are clean, my face is washed and I have nothing under my fingernails or hanging from my nostrils; I am good to go. The inhabitants of the small harbor town in this award winning comedy had more at stake in making a good impression. Acting mayor Murray French, played by Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter franchise, Gangs of New York), had to find a way to impress temporary doctor Paul Lewis, played by Taylor Kitsch (Lone Survivor, Battleship), so he would choose to remain and be the town’s resident doctor, possibly winning a bid for a new factory to be built close by. The mayor would need the entire town’s residents help if his plan was to succeed. This was a light, fun film that had good performances by Brendan and Gordon Pinsent (Away From Her, The Shipping News) as Simon. The story reminded me of those old fashioned screwball comedies from the 50s and 60s; maybe not as zany. There were parts where the action died down causing a lull in the story, making it somewhat boring. Some things may have been far-fetched but contained in a small town setting gave it a goofy vibe. There would be no need to dress up and rush out to see this film unless the other choices at the theater were not to your liking. This film made a decent impression on me.
2 1/2 stars
Sequels are unusual due to the fact they suffer from a personality disorder. When they are done well, the movie viewer is able to take fresh fond memories and store them with the seasoned ones that are already up in a cupboard of their mind. I feel a closer connection to the characters after I see a good sequel; for example, Ironman or Before Midnight. In a way it feels as if I caught up with an old friend. There are some movies that should never have a sequel because the original movie was classic, such as Sleeping Beauty, Pinnochio or Lawrence of Arabia. It would be upsetting to see a sequel that soiled the pristine features of an iconic film. Out of all the sequels there is a certain group that I consider the most offensive. These are the ones that were made as an afterthought because the movie studio was surprised with the large revenue generated from the first film. To me the movie sequels in this group are only there because of greed. Case in point is this movie. First of all, are Smurfs even relevant these days? I do not know anyone whose children have some kind of Smurf branded item. In this sequel the evil wizard Gargamel, played by Hank Azaria (Godzilla, Love & Other Drugs), has created two mischievous creatures called the Naughties. The one thing missing to complete them for his evil plan was in a secret formula. The only way he could get his hands on it was to kidnap Smurfette, voiced by Katy Perry. The Smurfs would need their human friends Patrick and Grace Winslow, played by Neal Patrick Harris (Undercover Brother, How I Met Your Mother-TV) and Jayma Mays (Red Eye, Glee-TV), to foil Gargamel’s plan. The story was made up of a series of one-liners and sight gags. There was no character development which attributed to the blase acting. Hank was the only actor that looked like he was trying to act and make the best of the pathetic script. In regards to Brendan Gleeson (Safe House, Gangs of New York) as Patrick’s stepdad Victor, I was simply embarrassed for him. I can only assume Neal was under contract because with his string of hosting successes there would be no reason to sully that with this poor sequel. The best parts of this comedy movie were the animation and outdoor scenes of Paris; the worst part was everything else. On a sad note it was touching to see the dedication to Jonathan Winters who voiced Papa Smurf. The sadness was because this film had to be his final performance. If you plan on seeing the film, then stay through to the end of the credits.
1 2/3 stars