THOUGH SHE APPEARED TO BE AN OLDER woman, I would never ask her age. She had been taking my yoga class for several weeks, bringing her own yoga mat and a bottle of water. Maybe I am stereotyping; but she had long gray hair pulled back into a ponytail that trailed halfway down her back, looking like a former hippie. Every week while I lead the class into warming up poses I provide a little distraction by listing celebrity birthdays for the week. One of the reasons I do this is to break the ice with any new participants who have that “new kid on the block” mentality, coming to class for the 1st time. I will ask the class if they know so-and-so, wait if anyone guesses what the celebrity did to make he/she famous, then reveal their age. So, this one week after I went through my list of celebrity birthdays, the older woman piped up it was also her birthday. I and the rest of the class wished her well. She then said she was happy to say she was 82 years old. I knew she was an older individual but honestly, I would never have guessed that was her age. She told us she loves yoga and has been doing it for decades; what an inspiration. I WAS JUST AS FORTUNATE IN the work world to have met people like that woman in my yoga class. They loved their job, so they stayed employed way past their retirement age. At one of the companies I worked at, the owner came to work every day. He was always busy and kept this up way into his 90’s. There certainly is some truth in finding something you love or are passionate about to feel successful. I had a relative who would always say they were not going to work, they were going to play because they enjoyed what they did at their job. You know how some people are married to their work; where all they think and talk about is their job? Well they do not necessarily love what they do; they have formed an identity for themselves based on their occupation. The individuals I have referred to each have their identity in tack; they just want to continue what they do because they love it. I feel this way about doing my movie reviews and hope I can continue doing them for a long time because they bring me such joy. The same thing can be said about the main character in today’s comedic, crime drama. FORREST TUCKER, PLAYED BY ROBERT REDFORD (The Natural, Truth); was good at what he did, besides getting immense joy out of it. The only downside was the consequences would be steep if he had a misstep. With Casey Affleck (A Ghost Story, The Finest Hours) as John Hurt, Sissy Spacek (The Help, Coal Miner’s Daughter) as Jewel, Danny Glover (Proud Mary, Back in the Day) as Teddy and Tom Waits (Seven Psychopaths, Down by Law) as Waller; this film festival nominee was based on a true story and what a story! Rumor has it this will be Robert’s last acting role. If it is he at least can end his chapter on a high note with this role. It was such a treat to watch him and Sissy, two seasoned actors, play off each other. The story started out slow for me but continued building itself up to a point where I was enjoying watching the mixture of emotions that took place on screen. It was obvious Robert was having a good time doing this character since it came across fully. I must give everyone who worked on this film credit; this will sound cheesy but if there was any labor involved in the making of this picture it was a labor of love.
THE ghost from the love of her life remained close to her even after she found herself alone. They had been together for some years so the ghost was familiar with many of the things she enjoyed doing when she was part of a couple. She would hear a particular song and feel a tug at her heart as her feet prepared to move into step to the music; it was their song they danced to when they first expressed their love for each other. The times when she drove by the lake she could look out and almost see the two of them frolicking between the waves. No matter where or when she would experience these random moments, where she sensed there was something around her, it would alert at least one if not more of her senses. An aroma, a sound, a particular look to something and she would feel her heart sigh, experiencing a brief feeling as if she was not alone. WHEN it comes to whether I believe in ghosts or not I do not have an opinion one way or the other. Let me say I believe anything is possible just because there have been things I experienced that cannot be explained. Maybe there are invisible souls connected to us in some way; how would we really know? I will say love can affect us in such a strong way that sometimes the connection never gets broken. To this day there are a few songs I hear that immediately send me back to a time where I was sharing life with another. As time goes on I do not believe we really forget someone; I feel we just create different routines that do not always take us to the same places we used to share with them. Not to say everyone does this; there are some people who prefer staying in the same spot so they do not have to move on. EVEN in death C, played by Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea, Out of the Furnace), found himself in the same home he shared with M, played by Rooney Mara (The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). The difference was she could not see him. Written and directed by David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints), this dramatic romantic fantasy offered a deep message. I appreciated how the script tackled the topics of love, loss, legacy and connection; however, I thought the presentation of it was a slow process. One would expect the acting to be good coming from Casey and Rooney and for the most part it was, though over half the movie Casey was covered in a white sheet. For me the pacing was tedious and it was apparent I was not the only one who felt this way. During a scene where Rooney was eating an entire pie, an audience member yelled out, “It is enough already,” when the camera remained on Rooney the whole time; it really was getting painful to watch I have to say. And this is the issue I had with this picture; there were several times where I wanted to flip a switch to make the film go faster. From the trailers I was intrigued by this story and wanted the movie to be a good viewing experience. The story made me think but its execution was not entertaining for me and that is how I base my ratings.
FOR many people only fond memories resurface when they travel back to their old neighborhood. The discount store that had the best penny candies, the shoe store with the jovial shoe clerk who told the best stories, the house where one’s best friend lived; there could be many places that bring a smile to one’s face. But not everyone may have a similar experience when they go back home. There are some people who tentatively traverse the streets that are fraught with landmines of dark emotions. RECENTLY I had to travel back to my old neighborhood, the place where I grew up. The street I lived on looked the same except several houses on the block were painted in different colors. The tree in the alley next to my home, where I would climb up to hide, was no longer there; it was replaced with recently poured concrete to add parking spaces. My secret place to hide at school was in one of its parking lots; it was still there. I would wait inside until I felt everyone in the school had gone home for the day, before venturing out from it. Driving east I passed a place that was a few houses down from a relative’s place. That spot nearby was where one time I did not get to their home in time before being attacked. I continued on until the street ended at the beach. Here is where I started developing my creative side, building elaborate sand castles and forts. Alas, some of them were meant to fall once the tide came in. No matter which way one looks at it, each neighborhood has its share of good and bad memories. RETURNING home due to the death of his brother Joe, played by Kyle Chandler (The Wolf of Wall Street, Zero Dark Thirty); Lee Chandler, played by Casey Affleck (Out of the Furnace, The Finest Hours), was stunned to find out he was made the guardian of Joe’s son Patrick, played by Lucas Hedges (Moonrise Kingdom, Kill the Messenger). There was a problem, Lee did not want to move back home. This film festival winning drama had some of the best acting I have seen this year. Casey, Lucas and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Blue Valentine) as Randi Chandler were so good together that my heart ached. The atmosphere for this movie was one of sadness and depression; however, the script was smartly written to allow Patrick to act like a typical high school boy. I enjoyed the scenery of the east coast and never felt the camera work was intrusive. There were a couple of spots where I found the story deflated a bit, but seriously the acting in this picture could get a few nominations this awards season. Let me reiterate this was not a happy story; but it was a moving experience, especially the way the story unfolded. Even if the distance is far, it would be worth your time to travel over to the neighborhood in this winning film.
3 2/3 stars
Once upon a time I had only known police officers to be friendly and helpful. There was a relative’s relative (you know, from the other side of a marriage) who was in the police force. The few times where we would be together for an occasion they were simply kind and quiet. I was told they were tough at work but I never witnessed it. In high school there was a narcotics officer who stationed himself in the cafeteria during all of the lunch periods. I remember him kidding around with the students as he patrolled the large lunchroom. He was always at the entrance first thing in the morning to greet all of us; though I always wondered if he was looking for something in particular. There was only one time where I saw him interacting with a student in a forceful way. It turned out the student was high on something and tried to resist the officer’s request to come with him to the principal’s office. That was my only contact with police officers. Sadly when you hear people talking about the police these days it tends to be with disdain and mistrust. The use of video cameras, installed on the officers and in police cars along with bystanders’ cell phones, has changed the general public’s opinions about the police. With the altercations that have been recorded and shown on the news these days, I cannot imagine someone not being affected by it in a negative way. The one reason I am not surprised by the things I have seen is because I have always had this philosophy for every occupation: someone has to graduate at the top of the class just as there has to be someone who graduates at the bottom. UNDER pressure to commit a criminal act a group of crooked officers have to set up a code 999, which means an officer is down. This crime thriller had an amazing cast of actors that included Chiwetel Ejiofer (The Martian, Z for Zachariah) as Michael Atwood, Casey Affleck (Tower Heist, Gone Baby Gone) as Chris Allen, Anthony Mackie (Ant-Man, Our Brand is Crisis) as Marcus Belmont and Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs, Titanic) as Irina Vlaslov. Now you would think with such a group of actors this movie would be stellar, wouldn’t you? The action scenes were absolutely intense but the story went nowhere. I felt no connection to any of it; none of the scenes flowed together, it was disjointed. Sitting here and recalling the characters reminds me I knew nothing about them. It felt as if I had only seen a portion of the film; the part that had the blood and violence in it. The actors did what they could with the script but the only one that stood out for me was Casey. Kate was wasted on her role and I felt I had wasted my time watching this picture. Maybe the people involved with making this movie graduated at the bottom of their class.
1 3/4 stars
There was an old television game show that would have an “ordinary looking” contestant come out and the panel of celebrities had to guess what was the person’s job or hobby, I believe. This is a show I would have watched because I am attracted (not in a good way) to this type of scenario where people judge other people based solely on their looks. I never understood that line of thought because I never understood what a person’s looks had to do with anything except for sanitary or health reasons. This is why I enjoy watching a current reality singing show where the judges do not see the singer; they only get to hear them sing and base their decisions on the vocalists’ voices. This is one of the few reality type shows I would watch because it has eliminated that old cliche: don’t judge a book by its cover. As I just wrote that I am reminded about a friend who had a career that always surprised anyone when they found out what this person did for a living; they were a scientist at a large pharmaceutical company. Of course most people were shocked because the stereotypical image of a scientist was not part of my friend’s image. I used to get a chuckle out of this when I would see a perplexed look come over someone’s face as they tried to mesh their image of what a scientist “should” look like compared to my friend. The reason I am talking about all of this is because I enjoyed how the characters were perceived in this dramatic action film. BASED on a true story Bernie Webber, played by Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, Z for Zachariah), believed in following rules; so when his commanding chief Daniel Cluff, played by Eric Bana (Munich, Closed Circuit), ordered him to take a crew out into a nor’easter storm to aid a ship in distress, Bernie followed his orders. Most of his fellow coast guard members did not think he would ever make it. What made this film stand out was the visual effects. Those of you with a fear of water may not be able to sit through this picture. Besides the special effects I have to say the story really grabbed me; it is an amazing true story. Out of the cast I thought Casey Affleck (Interstellar, Out of the Furnace) as Ray Sybert and Holliday Grainger (Cinderella, Jane Eyre) as Miriam stood out. Unfortunately the script was dull and I thought the direction was not strong enough for such a story. There were a couple of scenes that did not even ring true to me; they actually distracted from the story line as if they were just thrown in for dramatic effect. Too bad because what these members did in the coast guard was extraordinary; which goes to show you, you cannot judge a movie by its trailers.
2 1/4 stars
In our everyday life things we don’t know do not necessarily cause us stress or anxiety. In a math class, there may be an unknown variable in an equation you must figure out. Maybe you have an appointment in a part of the city that is not familiar to you or you were invited to a party where you do not know what type of gift to buy for the host. As I said before, these scenarios should not be too stressful for you. Now if the unknown is the whereabouts of a loved one that would be a different story. I have been fortunate not to have experienced such an awful thing. When newscasts report on a missing child or relative, they usually show family members in distress. Days or weeks can go by without any news and the relatives just want to know what happened to their loved ones. This type of scenario was the premise for this dramatic crime thriller. Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone, Gerry) played Iraqi war veteran Rodney Baze Jr. Experiencing a hard adjustment to life back home, in the small steel mill town, Rodney could not find employment except for some clandestine fighting matches. When he did not return from one of his matches his older brother Russell, played by Christian Bale (American Psycho, The Prestige), could not wait for the local police to find him. He took matters into his own hands. From the start, this intense film created heaviness within me. It felt as if each scene was created to convey a sense of resigned depression. The cinematography which was beautiful further helped convey those feelings. As for the acting it was subtly superb by Christian and Casey. Then there was Woody Harrelson (Rampart, No Country for Old Men) playing Harlan DeGroat. He was as wickedly sinister as he has every been. I also thought Willem Dafoe (The Hunter, The English Patient) was perfect for his role as John Petty. The disappointment in this film festival winner came from the script. I found it weak as it lost steam by the end. If the actors’ incredible acting had a stronger screenplay, this movie would have been close to a 4 stars rating. Instead I left the theater knowing I had seen a great cast, but not knowing what the writers were thinking when they wrote the screenplay. There were scenes that had violence and blood in them.
2 3/4 stars