THE CANDLE WAS BURNING BRIGHTLY WHEN I went to sleep, and it was still burning when I got up in the morning. I did not know at first the significance of this candle that looked like it was formed inside a drinking glass. All I knew was that it would appear only a handful of times throughout the year. The wax in the glass was always white and by the time the flame extinguished itself, the rim of the glass would have a ring of black stuff around it. Though I never saw it, I believe the used candle was disposed of because I never saw them in the house the rest of the year, in a cupboard or pantry. I never touched the candle for it usually was placed on a counter or sometimes right on top of the stove between the 2 sets of burners. Only when I got older did I find out those candles were lit once a year for a deceased relative as a remembrance. It was a custom/ritual that was handed down from generation to generation; I never found out how long exactly it had been taking place in the family. It also was not the only custom/ritual, I discovered, that had been performed in our home. AS MY CIRCLE OF FRIENDS AND family expanded, I learned there were many families that had their own customs/rituals. I remember attending a wedding where it was custom for the groom to ride in on a white horse, decorated in colorful yarns and jewels. Another custom involved the wedding party; the groomsmen would have to lift a groomsman from the other family. It was fascinating to see young and old men trying to lift each other; usually in a bearhug, but sometimes over the shoulder or in outstretched arms as if they were newlyweds about to walk over the threshold of their new home. Through the years, I have known several individuals who would give up a certain type of food for a short time. I enjoy learning about other people’s customs because I feel it gives me an opportunity to not only get a glimpse of their history but also their heritage. Besides customs/rituals based on religious beliefs, I have known a variety of people who have a custom or tradition that is unique to their family. Though I am not adventuresome when it comes to trying different foods, I enjoy learning about the types of food a family eats that are directly related to the region of the world their family came from. Learning about the customs/rituals and region of the main character was one of the charms that motivated me to watch this film festival winner. TRAVELING TO THE UNITED STATES FOR a medical opinion meant Scotsman Rory MacNeil, played by Brian Cox (The Autopsy of Jane Doe, X2: X-Men United), would see the life his estranged son Ian, played by JJ Field (Third Star, Captain America: The First Avenger), was living in San Francisco. Rory already had an opinion formed before he even arrived. With Thora Birch (Hocus Pocus, Patriot Games) as Emily, Rosanna Arquette (The Whole Nine Yards, Desperately Seeking Susan) as Claudia and Treat Williams (The Hideout, Deep Rising) as Frank Barron; this drama went beyond its script thanks to Brian’s performance. I found myself becoming involved with Brian’s character due to the acting skills of Brian. If not for that, this film would not have kept my interest throughout because the script was predictable. Gratefully it had at least a deeper level of emotion to it. Because I am a fan of traveling and seeing other places, I especially enjoyed the outdoor scenes. If this had been currently playing in the theaters, I don’t think I would have liked it as much as I did in the comfort of my own home. And, I felt as if I was on a private tour with this Scottish man Rory.
2 ¾ stars
IT DROVE ME CRAZY HOW SHE could idolize such a person. Because of it, I had a hard time trusting her. She was his administrative assistant, so I could cut her some slack for being loyal. However, he was such a self-centered individual who only cared about himself to the point where he inflicted harm on the company, we were all working for, that I could not respect him or her. How did she not see this, I always wondered? He would have her place orders for his accounts before he even had a confirmation from the customer; there were several times the customers did not place their orders and we wound up getting stuck with the product and having to pay for it. I found his behavior appalling because with each order placed, he would get a commission; it did not make a difference if we got paid for the order or not. I was positive she had to know or at least figure out that some of his orders were bogus. The worst thing he would do was place an order to ship out but redirected it to a different account that was not credit worthy, claiming he had the wrong account number. Sometimes we could get the order back; but a lot of times we would have to use a collection agency to retrieve the item or payment. IN MY DEALINGS WITH HIM THERE were times I 100% knew what he was telling me was not true. No matter what I would say to him he always had an answer ready, with many of them putting the blame on some other employee. I would then check with the other employee to verify the facts and more times than not the employee had no idea what I was talking about. This would turn into a vicious cycle of he said/she said on his part, to the point where I would become confused and frustrated. I could not understand how upper management could allow such behavior to continue that was damaging to the company. And that is the thing I had the hardest time understanding; why would an employee allow harm to take place against their employer? Besides the financial hit, there was the matter of the company’s reputation being harmed. Imagine a customer getting an invoice for something they did not order; wouldn’t you question that company’s operations and motives? I know I would and would feel less trust towards such a company. Trust is an invaluable asset that a company should never allow an employee to damage. It was unbelievable what was being done to trust in this dramatic, political thriller. INGRID JESTER, PLAYED BY FRANCES McDORMAND (North Country, Moonrise Kingdom), could not understand why her fellow activist went for a drive through Belfast without telling her. For that reason, she refused to leave until she found out what happened to him. With Brian Cox (Remember Me, Troy) as Kerrigan, Brad Dourif (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Lord of the Rings franchise) as Paul Sullivan, Bernard Archard (Krull, The Day of the Jackal) as Sir Robert Neil and John Benfield (The Best Offer, Speed Racer) as Maxwell; this film festival winner had a documentary feel to it at times; that is how good the acting was from the cast. The story was intense, and I thought the pacing was for the majority close on the mark. For me, I felt the script did not go deep enough with the suspense and emotions. There were moments where it seemed as if the scenes were void of dramatic depth. I noticed this especially with Francis’ character. The twists and turns that took place in the script kept me invested in what was taking place and I was to some degree experiencing a level of anger due to what the main characters were experiencing.
2 ¾ stars
IT HAS BEEN YEARS SINCE I thought about a game we had to play in PE class. My adult self cannot believe we had to play what now looks like a brutal, archaic competition. The class would be split in half by whoever the gym teacher chose to be team captains for that week. There was a green line that was painted down the center of the gymnasium which neither team could pass. With 3 balls placed equal distance apart on the line the gym teacher would blow a whistle to start the game. The fastest running students from each side would sprint to the center to retrieve one of the balls. From there utter chaos would take place. You see the point of the game was to hit a student from the opposing side with the ball, to kick him out of the game. No matter where the ball touched the student, they would be eliminated and have to go sit in the bleachers until the game was over. The aggressive students or to be more accurate, the mean students would purposely try to hit the students in the head with the ball; this was usually followed with a cheer or laughter. As I am writing this I still have no idea how this game was promoting good health. THE GYM TEACHER CALLED THIS game “Bombardment.” I do not know if that is the real name or if in fact he just made this game up for his own enjoyment. It floors me that an activity like that was even approved by the principal, school district or whatever agency oversees school curriculum. You should have seen how hard the ball was thrown at the heads of kids by the “rougher” students; you could actually see their heads snap back by the force of the ball. The more timid students would stay all the way in the back, right up against the wall to avoid getting hit. However the downside of doing this was opening up the possibility they would be one of the last standing, giving the opposing team the opportunity to grab all the balls and pummel the poor student at the same time. I thought the whole thing was barbaric then as I do now. There was no purpose as far as I could tell in participating in such a violent game. In today’s world I am sure this game would have been banned from all schools. It needs to stay in the past, just like this sequel should have done. UNDER A GOVERNMENT PROPOSAL A small Canadian town would become part of the United States. This meant the Canadian Mounties were being replaced by the Super Troopers. Not everyone was on board with this transition to the point they wanted to sabotage the plan. This comedy starred Steve Lemme (The Origins of Wit and Humor, The Slammin’ Salmon) as Mac, Eric Stolhanske (Club Dread, Beerfest) as Rabbit, Brian Cox (Troy, Adaptation) as Captain O’Hagan, Jay Chandrasekhar (Beerfest, Speechless-TV) as Thorny and Kevin Heffernan (The Dukes of Hazzard, Club Dread) as Farva. After 17 years this group returns in a story that was weak right from the start. I do not remember the first film so maybe diehard fans will appreciate this movie. I found it painful; the so called humor was dated, cheap and offensive. I felt like I was surrounded by those students I described above; that is how infantile some of the characters were in their scenes. Honestly I could not wait for this film to be over since I felt like I was being beaten by the barrage of dated material. If this is the best the writers could come up with after 17 years then I vote for Canada to annex this franchise and put a stop to it.
1 ¼ stars
DECISIONS usually come with consequences, some good others not so good. Personally I am more comfortable with a person who can make decisions as opposed to those who never have an opinion or prefer deferring decisions to someone else. This concept of there being consequences for one’s decisions seems to be losing favor with the newer generations. I say this because I have seen multiple examples where a parent reprimands their child, explaining what the consequences will be if they act out in a certain way and the child still acts in an inappropriate way. The parent then does not make good on their ultimatum, so the child has just learned they can continue with their behavior. I am sure I have mentioned this example before; but I had a friend who early on always gave her young daughter the option to choose her own decision, explaining what the consequences would be for each action. When the daughter was fussing over being toilet trained, the mother told her she could learn how to use the potty or keep wearing the dirty diaper; but if she kept the dirty diaper on no one would want to play with her. The little girl immediately learned how to use the toilet. NOW there are some decisions that can have a profound effect on one’s life. I think the top stressful situations are death, dissolving relationships, moving and job changes. To me the list should also include those who are given the responsibility to decide the fate of a dying loved one. If you ever had to make a decision that involved a group of people it can be stressful. I am not necessarily talking about restaurant choices, more life changing decisions. Here is the thing though, I learn from mistakes. When someone complains to me they made a mistake I ask them to look at it as an opportunity, they may learn something new. If the story in this biographical drama is indeed true, it was a surprise to see how past actions had such a profound effect on the main character. DAYS away from the allied forces launching a massive assault against the German army Prime Minister Winston Churchill, played by Brian Cox (Troy, Rob Roy), has deep reservations about the laid out plan. With Miranda Richardson (The Hours, Empire of the Sun) as Clementine Churchill, John Slattery (Spotlight, Mad Men-TV) as Dwight Eisenhower, Ella Purnell (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Never Let Me Go) as Helen and Julian Wadham (The English Patient, War Horse) as Bernard Montgomery; this thriller based on true events made it due to the acting of Brian and Miranda. They were outstanding in their roles to where I wished the writers had given them more scenes together. The rest of the cast was okay, though I thought John’s portrayal of General Eisenhower was odd; it was nothing I imagined Eisenhower would be like in the situation. Part of the issue falls on the script; some of the dialog felt out of place, almost ringing false for me. Because I was fascinated with the story, after the movie I reached out to a history teacher to see how much truth was involved in what was depicted in the film. I will not tell you because I prefer as always the viewer experiencing a film with the least amount of information. Due to the decisions the director and writers chose, they created a movie that did not live up to the actual events.
2 ¼ stars
It is a strange creature that can stick with you for years. For some people it is a positive thing; but not so much for others. The sneaky part is that you may not have done anything for it to latch on and become part of you. What I am talking about is a person’s reputation. I have the reputation of being a lover of chocolate; oh wait, that is not a good example. There was a girl in my elementary school who was the first female I ever heard use a curse word. Not that I am making a judgment or saying it is okay for males to swear but not females; it was just an observation I made at that time. Well from that quick utterance this girl got the reputation for being a “bad” girl, if you know what I mean. Among my friends I am known for being direct; I tend not to sugarcoat things. Now this is part of my reputation and I own it. There are some people who get a reputation due to a rumor being started about them or one time they did something out of character. If someone observes the uncharacteristic action and makes a snap judgment about the person, the seeds of a reputation are immediately planted and will flourish. It surprises me how these false reputations can spread like a flash fire. I will say there are times where having a false reputation can work to a person’s advantage. AFTER being away from home for so many years there were some townsfolk who did not believe, based on his reputation, that John Henry Clayton, played by Kiefer Sutherland (Phone Booth, Mirrors), came back just to settle down at home. This film festival nominated western had some beautiful landscapes in many scenes. With actors Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games franchise, The Italian Job) as Reverend William Clayton, Brian Cox (Troy, Believe) as James McCurdy and Demi Moore (Ghost, Mr. Brooks) as Mary-Alice Watson; I thought the acting worked well in this drama. The story was not very original; it pretty much followed step by step instructions in creating a western. Just in case there are some of you who do not know what I mean, I will refrain from explaining it. But here is the thing, though I could see where the story was going I enjoyed watching the cast acting it out. The scenes between Kiefer and his father were interesting to me since they are father and son in real life that were now playing the same with their roles. It was good to see Demi getting back to acting; I thought she was fine in the role. For those of you who have the reputation of being a western movie lover, this would be a worthy watch. To those who may not be a fan of westerns, the acting and scenery is something worth seeing in this old fashioned film. There were scenes with blood and violence in them.
2 ½ stars