I HAD BEEN LOOKING FOR A small bookcase to fill a space in my living room. Something around 5 feet high is all I could fit into the place I had for it. Months went by without any luck; the contents I wanted to put into the case were sitting in a large box in the basement, collecting dust. One day, I was looking through a catalog I had received in the mail. You know how it is, buy one thing online and your mailing information gets sold to anyone who is looking to sell you something. So, this catalog had a variety of home décor items, T-shirts, jewelry and such listed in its pages. I am sure most people would have just tossed the catalog in the recycling bin, but I have this quirk that I must thumb through it, in case there is something there that I did not know I needed. Lo and behold, I saw on one of this catalog’s pages the bookcase I was looking for; just the right size and in a style that would fit perfectly in my home. I quickly jumped online and ordered the item to be delivered to me. After months of searching who would have thought I would have found what I believed to be the perfect bookcase in some random catalog I had never seen before. THE PACKAGE WAS SITTING ON MY stoop when I arrived home from work. I was excited as I carried it into the house. Putting my work stuff away, I opened the package, taking the pieces out and lining them up on the floor. The first thing I noticed was the size of the shelves; they looked much wider in the catalog photo. I would have to rethink the placement of the items I wanted to put onto the shelves, I guess. Getting a couple of tools, I started the process of building the bookcase. The outside walls were easy to put together; however, when it came time to insert the shelf pegs inside, some of the holes were not drilled all the way. My patience was being tested. I wound up taking a small knife to open the holes, careful not to make them too big where the peg would not stay stationary. What a pain! This process took way more time than I had planned. Finally done, I was able to place the shelves inside. Next was screwing on the French glass doors. It was easy to do, but again I became super annoyed when the doors had a gap separating them when closed. After getting my expectations and excitement boosted by the photo, this bookcase looked so much smaller. It was such a letdown. I felt the same way after being excited to see this Oscar nominated film. FINDING HIMSELF AT A TRAVELING CARNIVAL, a down on his luck Stanton Carlisle, played by Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born, American Hustle), finds one act of particular interest. It would lead him to a lucrative career. With Cate Blanchett (Don’t Look Up, Thor: Ragnarok) as Dr. Lilith Ritter, Toni Collette (Dream Horse, Knives Out) as Zeena the Seer, Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate, The Florida Project) as Clem Hoatley and Rooney Mara (Pan, Side Effects) as Molly Cahill; this dramatic, crime thriller was gorgeous to watch. I am referring to the sets, costumes and wonderful acting. Surprisingly, I felt Cate’s performance had a bit of familiarity to it, as if I had witnessed it before. The issue I had with this film was its length and the last part; I did not like them. Way too long and slow in parts, I was disappointed with the ending. Such a shame since I enjoyed watching the cast perform and many of the individual scenes. But put it all together and the script did not provide the impact this story needed. I hear the original version is better and I certainly want to see it. With high expectations, sadly this picture was a letdown for me.
2 ½ stars
WHEN I CHOSE THE MOVIE I AM reviewing today, I did not realize a connection could be formed between the events surrounding today’s date and the film’s story. I honestly did not plan it that way; however, since I am writing about the movie on this day, there is no way I cannot point out they compliment each other. Now before I go into review mode, I want to stress a point; just like my fitness and yoga classes, I do not discuss politics or religion on this site. The reason is simple; every religion is valid to those who identify with that religion and politics, in recent times, is something where everyone has their own opinions and beliefs. I make it a point not to discuss either topic with a room full of people. I remember one cycle class I was teaching, where a participant made a snarky comment about a political figure. Before anyone could shout out a rebuttal, I looked at the member and told them I do not allow any political comments; they can be said outside of the classroom, because in class we all want to get a break from the real world and simply have some fun while exercising. That was the last time that member said anything political in my class. WITH THAT BEING SAID, I AM going to share my observations and feelings about what I saw today, one year ago. I saw a level of anger that reminded me of my encounter with protesters years ago when I participated in a peaceful march. I saw government property being destroyed. I felt I might be witnessing a revolution. As I sat in disbelief in front of the television, I wondered what was going to be the end game for the people attacking the capital. How would the world change if a politician was captured or even worse, murdered? From that day, listening and watching all the speeches and condemnations, I will tell you what I find appalling; people who denounced the actions of the protesters a year ago, now saying something completely opposite. To say a year later that the protesters were peaceful, or part of a far-left group planted at the capital, is something I find sad and dishonest. This is my opinion and I again stress, what would have happened if the vice president was captured? Or the speaker of the house? I heard as clear as day protesters calling out their names as they were looking for the politicians inside the capital building. To disbelieve what took place a year ago, is the horrible alternate reality that has risen in prominence the past few years. This movie satire turns a spotlight onto this alternate reality that is around us. SPOTTING THEN CALCULATING A DISTANT METEOR’S trajectory was on a direct collision course with Earth, was not the hardest part for two scientists. It was trying to convince an uninterested public. With Leonardo DiCaprio (The Great Gatsby, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood) as Dr. Randall Mindy, Jennifer Lawrence (Red Sparrow, American Hustle) as Kate Dibiasky, Meryl Streep (Little Women, The Post) as President Orlean, Cate Blanchett (Nightmare Alley, Thor: Ragnarok) as Brie Evantee and Rob Morgan (Mudbound, Stranger Things-TV) as Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe; this comedic drama had a stellar cast. The standouts for me were Cate and Jennifer. The script was sharp and biting (at least to me) but there was too much stuffed into it. There was one story line that was not believable to me; others were done in such a heavy-handed way that the scenes fell flat for me. The level of satire was outrageous. While watching this film, I did wonder if those who prefer living in an alternative reality would enjoy this film and to tell you the truth, I am not sure. Basing this strictly on entertainment value, I enjoyed watching it but was also a bit scared by some of the similarities to present life. There was an extra scene during the ending credits.
2 ½ stars
HOW DOES ONE GIVE UP SOMETHING they love? I find it to be one of the hardest things to do. I have been told I have strong willpower; that I can be disciplined enough to forgo something for a short time, not so sure about long term. Talking with someone recently who is pregnant, she said the hardest thing for her during her pregnancy was not being able to eat pizza. It is her favorite food and now every time she tries to eat a slice she gets horribly sick. I mentioned it should only be a temporary situation and pass once her baby is born. Another example I can think of is when one goes shopping with a friend or relative and both fall in love with the same item that the store has only 1 left on their shelf. Think about a sweater or cooking item that you have been searching for that your relative or friend has been wanting also; how do you decide which one of you gets to purchase the item? Maybe only shop alone to avoid the problem in the future; but for the present, most people tend to offer the other person the item out of politeness. I KNOW TWO WOMEN WHO BOTH are passionate about collecting certain antique clothing items. They both have similar tastes which has become an issue for them. The items they seek can be found through auctions; the 2 friends wind up bidding against each other sometimes and not always knowing it. I thought they came up with an equitable plan. Before each auction they now discuss which items they are going to bid on. When they both want to bid on the same item, they take turns on who gets to bid on it. When there are multiple items up for bidding they alternate turns. Gratefully this has worked out for them; they avoid spending more money on items and more importantly, there are no hurt feelings. Now I understand the examples I have mentioned may seem trivial to some individuals. However, I believe whenever love is involved, whether it is love for an item or love for a person, there is a stronger connection that makes it harder for the person to separate themselves. Look at parenting; isn’t the idea of it to raise kids to become independent? Or, at the end of life; there are some people who cannot let go of their loved ones. Love is such a strong emotion; if you do not believe me then feel free to watch this animated, adventure sequel. AS THE NEW RULER HICCUP, VOICED by Jay Baruchel (Lovesick, She’s Out of my League), has created a safe haven for the dragons who look up to his dragon as their leader. Just when his dragon Toothless is needed during a crisis, Hiccup’s dragon is focused more on love. With America Ferrera (Cesar Chavez, Ugly Betty-TV) voicing Astrid, F. Murray Abrahams (Robin Hood, Finding Forrester) voicing Grimmel, Cate Blanchett (Ocean’s Eight, Thor: Ragnarok) voicing Valka and Gerard Butler (Hunter Killer, The Bounty Hunter) voicing Stoick; this action sequel brought everything together for the final chapter in this movie franchise. The animation was wonderful as the actors brought their characters to life. I thought the story made a perfect ending to these films and appreciated the well written script providing a blend of excitement, humor and emotional sensitivity. If you have not seen the previous movies I do not believe you will be lost with this picture; there were things I had forgotten, and it did not make a difference in my level of enjoyment for this film. Though I love the dragons from Game of Thrones, there were a few dragons in this movie that I could see myself loving as well.
3 ½ stars
LEARNING THE HISTORY ABOUT FAMILY MEMBERS can be a fun experience. Some of the things I found out about my relatives seem so out of character to the people I knew. There is a relative of mine who holds the patent on some particular lint trap that is part of a washing machine. Another family member was a gangster. In the family I had an umbrella maker, a butcher and the owner of the first cable boxes that came into existence. As you can see the list is quite varied and I get a kick out of the randomness of it. Recently I was talking with a friend about a movie that is coming out later in the year. Based on the trailer I mentioned I was looking forward to seeing this film about Mary, Queen of Scots. You will not believe what he told me about Mary; his family history has a branch of it that is loosely tied to Mary. Listening to the connections between the deceased relatives, I was struck with the fact he was able to remember who married who and whose brother’s sister-in-law was part of the genealogy trail. It was astounding listening to so many generations coming from this one side of his family. THERE IS NOTHING AS FASCINATING IN my family tree as my friend’s; but if I had such knowledge on the history of my family, I wonder what historical facts I would find out about my deceased relatives. One of the things I know is which countries some of my relatives were born in. I remember in school I would check out books from the library that pertained to these countries, wanting to learn about its history and how it came into being the mother and fatherland of my relatives. My knowledge barely goes back 3 generations of my family. Pretty much all I know is how relatives made their way to America. One relative was sent here with her sister when they were in their teens. She was going to be married off to someone she knew back home who had been sent over earlier to get established in a city. I have other relatives who did not want to migrate but had to because of war. There was a story told about brothers who as children had to be hidden in the forest to escape being kidnapped or worse killed by enemy forces. Though the young boy in this family fantasy only had to be shipped to the state of Michigan, he found out there was something special about him and his family tree. ORPHANED DUE TO THE DEATH OF his parents Lewis Barnavelt, played by Owen Vaccaro (Daddy’s Home franchise, Mother’s Day), was sent to live with his uncle Jonathan Barnavelt, played by Jack Black (Goosebumps, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), who was an odd man. There was a reason why Jonathan was different. With Cate Blanchett (Ocean’s Eight, Thor: Ragnarok) as Florence Zimmerman, Kyle MacLachlan (Blue Velvet, Dune) as Issac Izard and Renee Elise Goldsberry (Sisters, The Good Wife-TV) as Selena Izard; this comedy film was aided by the chemistry between Cate and Jack, which granted seemed an oddball pairing. They were fun together and I enjoyed the way the film started out. I thought it was strange to have Lewis presented with his aviator goggles and bow tie, but at first I did not mind. It was not until the story moved into the 2nd half where I started losing interest. This is where the script was muddy with different references. For me I felt the story was becoming more of a cartoon, meaning silly. With a little more history, development and originality; this picture would have been more enjoyable for me.
1 ¾ stars
THE HOME COOKED MEAL WAS so good I asked for a copy of the recipe. After making the dish for so many years, the host no longer followed the exact recipe; she knew the ingredients and approximate amounts needed. I gently prodded, well actually begged, her to write it all down sometime during the evening if it was not much trouble. Just prior to me leaving later in the night the host handed me an envelope. You should have seen my face when I opened it and discovered she had written down the recipe on a piece of paper. She did say it may not be exact as the original, but close enough and I could personalize it to my own tastes. Besides wanting the recipe to make for myself, I thought it would be the perfect course to serve for an upcoming dinner party I was planning to host. As the weeks passed I acquired all the ingredients, reading and re-reading the recipe a couple of times to make sure I had everything needed and understood the preparation. THE DAY OF THE DINNER PARTY I had my tasks organized on a list which is something I do each time. Think of it like a pseudo schedule I follow to keep me on track for what needs to be done, to prepare a full meal with dessert. I was looking forward to making the main dish, expecting my guests would enjoy it as much as I did. Because I wanted to give myself as much flexibility with the time constraints I had for my tasks, I pre-cut some of the ingredients and stored them in airtight containers inside the refrigerator. I went about my business, cleaning the house and setting the table. By the time the first guests showed up I had all the dishes that needed to be baked cooking inside the oven. I felt everything was falling into place. When everyone was there and we sat down for dinner, I brought out the main dish and started serving it to each guest; it smelled good. As people started to cut in and taste their meal they complemented me. I was glad everyone enjoyed the meal but I was the only one who knew the dish I made was not as good as the original one I had at that previous dinner party. Don’t get me wrong; it was okay but it did not taste as special to me; I was disappointed by it. Having seen the previous Ocean movies, I must tell you I felt the same way about this gender switched version—disappointed. AFTER DOING HER TIME IN prison Danny’s sister Debbie Ocean, played by Sandra Bullock (The Heat, The Lake House), told the parole board she just wanted to lead a normal life and pay her bills. She did not mention how she was going to pay her bills with the help of the Met’s annual Gala event in New York City. With Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, Thor: Ragnarok) as Lou, Anne Hathaway (The Intern, Les Miserables) as Daphne Kluger, Mindy Kaling (No Strings Attached, The Office-TV) as Amita and Sarah Paulson (12 Years a Slave, Carol) as Tammy; I felt the cast was ideal for this story. All the actors were seasoned enough to make this picture a fun experience. Sadly, the script hindered this group from delivering on it. Except for Anne’s character, which she did beautifully, I found myself not as invested in the story as I thought I would be. The film was more of a fluff piece; it was okay to sit through but I was glad I did not pay full price. Just like the recipe I made, this movie was okay but could have been better.
2 ½ stars
SOME INDIVIDUALS WOULD FIND it frustrating; others would find it infuriating after a while. You are partaking in a serious conversation and someone makes a joke. There are times where telling a joke can be the perfect antidote to a tense conversation. In fact I am a big proponent of using humor to diffuse a situation or break the tension in a room. Dealing with tough and uncomfortable topics of conversation can quickly drain an individual; I am all for injecting a touch of humor just to give the participants a momentary breather before continuing their discussion. Pretty much any situation can benefit, at least in my opinion, from a chuckle or belly laugh depending on the circumstances of course. There was a funeral I attended where the service was filled almost to capacity with mourners. Right in the middle of the eulogy a family member made a comment that had everyone laughing, giving a needed respite from the sadness. WHERE A SIMPLE BIT of humor can do wonders in a tense situation, a constant barrage of jokes and wisecracks can have the opposite effect. If it is just you and one other person going back and forth in a deep conversation, you can address it; however, when there are more people involved it can be tricky. When an individual keeps making jokes during what is supposed to be a serious conversation; I have noticed they are uncomfortable either with the topic being discussed or making themselves vulnerable. I know an individual who has a hard time discussing their feelings. When you press them on a subject they will relent and share something personal, but they do it in a hushed voice. I honestly do not know if they feel they are saying something “wrong” or afraid they will be made fun of; they even look uncomfortable. So they prefer to keep up a constant stream of jokes in the conversation to the point they almost overshadow the intended topic of discussion. I felt I was experiencing something of a similar nature during this action, adventure fantasy. IMPRISONED ON A FOREIGN planet far from his home Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth (Ghostbusters, Red Dawn), must figure out a way to return before Asgard is completely destroyed. With Tom Hiddleston (The Night Manager, I Saw the Light)) as Loki, Cate Blanchett (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Carol) as Hela, Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park franchise, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Grandmaster and Tessa Thompson (Creed, Dear White People) as Valkyrie; you could not have asked for a better cast of actors. Who knew Cate could throw down with the best of them as she emoted wicked evilness. I wanted to see more scenes with her. Everything you expect to see in a Marvel superhero movie was here from comic book author Stan Lee’s cameo to big CGI effects to 2 extra scenes during the credits. The only issue I had with this film was the use of humor; I felt the comedy aspect overpowered everything in this story. Do not get me wrong, a good portion of the scenes were fun and humorous but there was so much I felt it took away a little of the dramatic intensity the scenes required. I am sure I am in the minority regarding this but after a while I found the humor getting tedious. Granted since this was my only complaint I still enjoyed the whole movie watching experience and I can only imagine how much fun the actors had making this picture.
Seasoned eyes pause during their trek, scanning the room as they catch a reflection of themselves in someone else’s eyes. The stillness seems to have gone on for a long time, but no one around would have noticed anything different. The two sets of eyes unlock to continue on their way, knowing they will come back to this new laid trail to tread softly upon it once again. When they do this time a shadow of a smile escapes like a gentle sigh as the tiniest of lines appear at the corners of those eyes. The lines are proof that the eyes are settling in for a longer duration. Now here is where the sets of eyes may differ for each set is projecting a series of random images that have played before. A walk down by the lake, sitting at an outdoor cafe on a warm day, helping to take off a thick winter coat; the difference is the added appearance of the new person you have noticed across the room. They are pictures of a possible future that must return to the reality of the mind’s photo album. Some people are quite skilled at all of this because there is a strong sense of self. What happens though when that strong sense is missing? It has been called flirting, prowling, hunting and teasing; some individuals are blatant about it while others are more subdued. When the intentions come from a place of respect and affection any name would do. If the opportunity appears to experience a true and deep love, who would not want to embrace it? STORE clerk Theresa Belivet, played by Rooney Mara (Pan, Side Effects); found she suddenly felt different when she saw customer Carol Aird, played by Cate Blanchett (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Cinderella). It was not just the hat Carol was wearing. Directed by Todd Haynes (I’m Not There, Velvet Goldmine), this film festival winner was an exquisite visual period piece from the 1950s set in New York City. With Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story-TV, 12 Years a Slave) as Abby Gerhard and Kyle Chandler (The Wolf of Wall Street, Zero Dark Thirty) as Harge Aird; the acting was perfect for the story, in an intimate and refined way. I thought Rooney’s acting was one of her best performances. The costumes and sets were created with the utmost style for the era; I liked the look of them. I understood for the era there had to be a certain shall we say subtleness to the script; however, I felt it diminished my overall enjoyment in viewing this dramatic romance. In turn, the pacing tended to run slow for me. There were passages where the emotional level stayed consistent far too long; it needed more dramatic variance in my opinion. Watching this film was like getting a beautifully wrapped present that contained a sweater for you but just not in the right size.
They were not just a nightly dinner guest, they were more like family as we ate dinner in front of them. I remember the television being on while I would be sitting at the dining room table or sometimes directly in front of the TV with a snack tray in front of me, so I could watch the news. This is how we would learn what was taking place around the world besides in our city. Every night it was the same newscaster, who we trusted and believed, explaining events that made no sense initially, along with showing us parts of the world I knew I would never visit. Some of you may have never experienced this method of getting the news; but I have to tell you, once trust was established with our newscaster we never doubted what they had to say. Our confirmation was always the next day’s daily newspaper. Now I can still recall news stands that were set up at various locations around the city, manned by individuals who would be hawking the latest editions of the city’s daily newspapers. These people sounded like sirens stuck on repeat as they kept announcing their wares. The papers always reiterated what the newscaster said the night before. It only seems to be a recent phenomenon where newscasts have taken more of a personal agenda slant on the news. To tell you the truth even with the news no further than our fingertips these days I never know who to trust. TRUSTED newscaster Dan Rather, played by Robert Redford (A Walk in the Woods, All is Lost), and his long time producer Mary Mapes, played by Cate Blanchett (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Cinderella), felt they did a good job with their latest story airing on CBS’ 60 Minutes program. The story would not only shake the foundation of the TV network but also change the way people looked at the news. This film festival winning drama was fortunate to have Cate as part of the cast. She was by far the most engaging actor with her wonderful acting skills. This is not to say other actors such as Dennis Quaid (Vantage Point, The Day After Tomorrow) as Lt. Colonel Roger Charles and Topher Grace (Playing it Cool, Interstellar) were bad; they just did not evoke their feelings as well as Cate. I thought the script inspired by a true event focused more on the drama instead of telling a compelling story; there were scenes that needed more detail to explain the situation that was taking place at the moment. If it wasn’t for the acting on a whole, I would have found myself more disengaged than I already was during this biographical movie. By the end of the story I still had unanswered questions and that is the truth.
2 1/4 stars
Do you remember the first time you heard these lyrics, “A dream is a wish your heart makes?” How about these words, “Bibbidi, Bobbidi, Boo?” The first time I saw the animated movie “Cinderella” I was scared of the stepmother. I could not understand how a parent could treat a child that way. But the character that really caught my attention was Gus the mouse because of his size; I could relate to him. The kindness Cinderella showered on him was something I wanted. If memory serves me correctly, I believe this movie was one of the first films that showed me how kindness could beat out evilness. I have seen articles that discussed the perceptions this past fantasy picture was portraying regarding Cinderella being a victim who relied solely on her looks. My interpretation resided along the lines of good vs evil. I hated the stepmother along with her daughters and was excited when Cinderella’s fairy godmother helped her get to the prince’s ball. As I grew older I continued to hope that good would always win over evil, even when it was being sorely tested on me. DIRECTED by Kenneth Branagh (Thor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), this film festival winning live action drama adventure was gorgeous to watch. The sets and costumes were incredible. Starring Lily James (Wrath of the Titans, Downton Abbey-TV) as Cinderella, Cate Blanchett (The Monuments Men, Blue Jasmine) as the stepmother and Richard Marden (A Promise, Game of Thrones-TV) as the prince; they really embodied the essence of the characters I remembered from the animated film. It was obvious they really were striving to make a memorable movie. In fact it was reported when Lily would wear the blue ball gown she could only consume liquids, nothing solid because the outfit was so restrictive. I read Cate could not sit down in some of her outfits and had to lean up onto a slant board to rest between takes; so, I give the actresses extra points for pushing through in their roles. The beginning 20-30 minutes of the movie dragged for me and involved sadness. It has been so long since I saw the animated film that I could not remember if it had dealt with Cinderella’s loss the same way, if at all. My disappointment fell onto the script; I did not know if it was due to my expectations or my memories of previous films, but I needed more drama and passion. Though Cate was terrific, I wanted her to be more evil if that makes sense. It just seemed as if the filming and story were kept at a constant safe level. In my heart I was wishing this would have matched my feelings for the animated Disney film; I guess I can still dream.
2 3/4 stars