EXCEPT FOR A COUPLE OF PARTICIPANTS WHO came with a friend none of us knew each other as we sat in the room, waiting for the instructor. The class each of us signed up for was a pottery class at the local community center. I was interested in pottery after seeing a potter at an art fair use a potter’s wheel to make a bowl. Watching him take a lump of clay, throw it onto the wheel and with some water and wooden utensils turn it into a beautiful etched bowl; it was mesmerizing to me, as it seemed to be pure magic. The instructor walked into the room and introduced himself to us. After explaining what he planned on us achieving, he asked us to come up and get some clay to work on for the day. With a quick succession of instructions and encouragement, the instructor asked us to talk to each other and left us to explore the possibilities with our clay. Before we turned on our potter’s wheels a member in the class asked what people were thinking of making with their clay. I planned on doing a bowl, but I was surprised by all the different comments. The creative ideas some of the participants expressed were fueling the conversations as we began our projects. It wasn’t until after the potter’s wheels were on and everyone’s lump of clay were halfway towards completion that I realized how exciting it was to be sitting in a room with engaged and creative “artists.” THE CREATIVITY THAT CAME OUT OF THAT classroom could be seen by the variety of objects that each of us made and designed. I surprised myself by how quick I adapted to the environment. Almost all of the time, I need time to process a situation. As you can imagine being spontaneous is not something I do often, or maybe ever. When I have attended aerobic workshops, I always have a fear the presenter is going to ask us to break up into smaller groups and create an exercise routine. I am horrible in these types of scenarios. Now granted, I am aware and can feel the excitement participants experience while working together to create a routine to present in the workshop; I, on the other hand, experience an undercurrent of dread as I feel I am put on the spot to come up with something to share with the rest of the group. I do see the merits of working together to hash out ideas and there have been times where I do contribute once I feel more comfortable; however, I prefer sitting back and think over the variety of possibilities that begin to pop up into my head. This is why I totally understood what the musical artists were experiencing in this musical documentary. DURING THE 1960S, A GROUP OF MUSICIANS found an area in Los Angeles that not only allowed but also encouraged them to take creative license with the music they were creating; it was called Laurel Canyon. This film festival winning movie had a variety of interviews and performances by Fiona Apple, Ringo Star, the Byrds, the Beach Boys, Eric Clapton, and The Mamas and the Papas. This film’s journey was “hosted” by Jakob Dylan who also performed. I did not mind him being the interviewer, but wished he had asked more questions of the musical artists instead of simply nodding his head. I enjoyed watching and listening to this documentary because of the historical significance and the personal stories being told. At times, I felt I was being taught a history lesson as I listened to the artists explain their connection and influences to the creation of a particular song; it was so cool. For music lovers in particular, this would be a worthwhile viewing experience. It reminded me of my younger days in winter when I would sing to myself “California Dreamin’” to stay warm.
3 ½ stars
THE FIRST TIME I ENCOUNTERED SOMEONE affected by a divorce was a boy in 5th grade. He and his mother had recently moved to the neighborhood after her divorce. If someone had asked me if I noticed anything different because this boy’s parents were divorced, I would have said not one thing. His mother worked which was no different than many of the other mothers who had a job outside the home. I do not recall any time when this classmate could not attend a school function or activity due to a missing parent or affordability; he was like any other student. It was not until 7th grade before there was another student who had parents that were divorced. Now during this time there were kids in school who had one out of both parents who had to be away from home for extended periods of time, either for work or the military. There would be times when the parent remaining at home would get help from a family member or neighbor; but it was not like that would make any kind of difference. The only time where it would ever make a difference, if you even want to call it that, was when there was a gender specific event like a father/daughter dance or a field trip where parents were needed to chaperone. So, an uncle or older cousin would fill in for the dance and some relative would handle being a chaperone; it was easily workable. HAVING HAD SUCH EXPERIENCES WHILE GROWING UP, made the realization there was another option couples employed when they no longer wanted to be together much more difficult for me to rationalize. In fact, even today when I hear someone say they are staying together for the kids’ sake, I have to cringe. In my experiences I have not once seen where that option does anyone any good. I knew a family where the parents were doing this and all it accomplished was their kids having to go into therapy to deal with the craziness, they wound up experiencing, during what was a toxic environment. One parent started using the kids to deliver messages to their spouse; besides, trying to sway the kids’ opinion about the other parent into negative thoughts. It was sad to see the manipulation that was taking place in that household. Even worse was when I heard through a second party that one parent told one of their children, they were the cause for the breakdown in their marriage. To me that was criminal to say to a child. Because of my experiences; I intently watched this comedic, dramatic romance to see what was happening with the couple’s marriage. MARRIAGE REQUIRES AN ABILITY IN BEING able to give and take; it appeared Charlie and Nicole, played by Adam Driver (Star Wars franchise, The Dead Don’t Die) and Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit, Lost in Translation), thought they were good at it. With Laura Dern (Certain Women, J.T. Leroy) as Nora Fanshaw, Alan Alda (Bridge of Spies, The Four Seasons) as Bert Spitz and Julie Hagerty (A Master Builder, Airplane franchise) as Sandra; this film festival winner’s cast was brilliant. I enjoyed each actor and the words they spoke. The story may appear to have a theme that is common to many other films; however, this script came across fresh and new to me. Adam and Scarlett were so good that I thought their characters were actual, real people. The dialog was authentic which only added to the realness of the characters. If I have any criticism, I think some viewers might find the beginning of the story sedated. Like a marriage, it can take a little work to get into it; but once you are, it can turn into a valuable lesson.
3 ½ stars
STEP by step I listened to them explain how they mapped out their career. I was actually curious because the methodology I was hearing was foreign to me, compared to my career route. I find it particularly fascinating when an individual knows what they want to do at an early age. You see I had assumed most people went through a series of professions before settling on one. When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, a singer, a window washer, a dancer and a veterinarian among other things. A friend of mine wanted to be a doctor since he was a young boy and that is what he became. It makes me wonder how much does outside influences play on steering a person to a particular job field. For example a farmer who has children; does growing up in the environment automatically mean a person will take on the occupation associated with it? On my daily route to work I pass a billboard advertisement for a dentist’s office that has a picture of the dentists who are a father and his son. I wonder if the son really wanted to be a dentist or maybe he wanted to be something else. I want to be clear that I am not judging any of the possibilities I have mentioned; however, one area where I could be judgmental is when a person chooses an occupation for ulterior motives. There is an individual I know distantly who chose a career in sales so they could travel and “safely” carry on affairs without anyone knowing, including his wife. I know, I agree with you as you are thinking he is a despicable individual. To me a job should be something you enjoy doing or at least it serves as a greater purpose for something you want to achieve in your future. The two main characters in this comedy came to the job with their own agendas. Frank “Ponch” Poncherello and Jon Baker, played by Michael Pena (The Martian, End of Watch) and Dax Shepard (The Judge, Parenthood-TV), had different reasons becoming motorcycle officers for the California Highway Patrol. They also had different ways of doing it which was a problem since they were put together as partners. This action crime film was written and directed by Dax, loosely based on the television show. With Jessica McNamee (The Vow, The Loved Ones) as Lindsey Taylor, Adam Brody (Life Partners, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) as Clay Allen and Ryan Hansen (Central Intelligence, Veronica Mars-TV) as Brian Grieves; for the life of me I truly would like to know how the cast felt about doing this movie. Except for the chase scenes and cool looking motorcycles, there was nothing I enjoyed about this film. The script for the most part was written at an elementary school level; what was supposed to be humor I found offensive. I do not know how popular the TV show was when it aired; but I can only assume, based on what I saw in this awful movie, Jon and Ponch were “characters” and there would have been exciting action. That was not the case in this movie. If I were you I would keep driving and not get off the highway to see this picture.
1 ½ 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.
I traveled halfway across the country only to find out we were no longer going to be a couple. It happened within 1 hour of me stepping off of the plane to find out they, “could not go on like this,” whatever that was supposed to mean since I did not get a clear answer when I asked, “Like what?” Returning back to the airport for my connecting flight, I had enough time between flights to call a close friend. I called them up so I could lament over the abrupt ending of my relationship and complain about why I had to travel all the way to a remote area of the country just to be told this; why couldn’t they have told me before they took this summer job that kept them away for the summer? As we spoke on the phone my free ear heard a high pitched tinkling noise of glasses clinking together. I did not focus on it until I started feeling the floor shaking beneath my feet. The sound was coming from a tourist gift shop near the waiting area I was standing in. The banners and lights that were suspended from the ceiling began to wave in unison. It took me a moment before I realized an earthquake was taking place; I never experienced one before in my life. People started to scream as items were being knocked off of their perches; I dropped to the floor. Was this upheaval I was experiencing a manifestation of my emotional turmoil? Just as suddenly everything came to a quiet standstill. I started experiencing a similar anxiety at the opening scene of this action film, so do not come in late. CALIFORNIA rocked by a massive earthquake rescue-chopter pilot Ray, played by Dwayne Johnson (Fast & Furious franchise, Hercules), had to navigate through the chaos to try and find his daughter Blake, played by Alexandra Daddario (Percy Jackson franchise, Texas Chainsaw 3D). This dramatic thriller, emphasis on the thrills, was one heck of a visual ride through California. The special effects were unbelievable and intense. I saw it in 3D but do not feel it is a must; the only reason was due to the time of the showing that it wound up being in 3D. With a cast that included Paul Giamatti (Romeo & Juliet, Sideways) as Lawrence and Carla Gugino (Watchmen, Sin City) as Emma, they all did their best with the poorly written script. Everything was so obvious from a mile away due to the formula the writers followed for disaster film 101. At least Dwayne and Paul were perfectly cast; one was affable and the other did a great portrayal of frantic intensity. Sadly this action movie did not completely rock me; but for a mindless escape, it provided enough thrills to keep me interested.
2 1/3 stars