WAY BEFORE THE MATRIX MOVIES were released people were already feeling more like a machine than human. I believe this is true; just look around and you will see individuals who are stuck in a rut that causes them to lose their zest for life. There are times I feel overwhelmed when I find myself in this cyclical pattern of sleep, eat and work; sleep, eat and work; sleep, eat and work. Life becomes a repetitious pattern of events over and over to the point where one day is no different from the next. What helps me get through these periods of time is an active mind. Keep in mind my daydreaming was used as a defense to get through the dark periods of my earlier life; so now, when I feel myself getting into a rut I fire up the creative furnace of my brain and enter a fantasy land of hopes and dreams. I am aware this method may not be suitable for someone else; in that case, they would need to find a way to bring joy back into their life. Only existing day by day, I feel is not enough to experience life and I will add, living. THERE WAS A MAN I KNEW who would change jobs every time he felt he was getting into a rut. At first, I thought he was just being aggressive in trying to advance himself up the career ladder; but after a couple of different positions, I realized they were more of a lateral move instead of advancement. Within five years he had already changed companies 4 times. Each time he started a new job he was excited and gung ho about it; then as time passed on, you could see the life being drained out of him. Looking back at it I now wonder if he was experiencing some form of depression. It would be understandable if a person felt trapped or stuck in a place. Then that is the time therapy should come into play, instead of running away from the issue like this guy seemed to be doing by changing jobs multiple times. Taking in consideration the stress of changing jobs, I can only wonder if this also played a factor in his decision-making process. Let us face it; for some people it is easier to avoid such feelings and just change the environment instead. But there are some positions that one does not get a choice; they must deal with life’s trials and tribulations. Look what was going on in this film festival nominated comedic drama. WITH EACH CHILD AND BABY demanding all her attention Marlo, played by Charlize Theron (The Fate of the Furious, Atomic Blonde), had nothing left in her to deal with anything else. It came to the point her husband Craig, played by Mark Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed, The One I Love), suggested they get a nanny; not just a regular nanny, but a night one. What was a night nanny? Written by Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult) this film also starred Mackenzie Davis (The Martian, Blade Runner 2049) as Tully and Ron Livingston (The Conjuring, Adaptation) as Drew. This movie was all about Charlize’s character and she did not disappoint, even gaining 50 pounds for the role. I enjoyed the story and most of the script because it came across as believable. There were no apologies about anything nor the painting of a happy picture when there really was nothing to be happy about; this was I believe a true portrayal of what motherhood entails for some women. Having sat through a rut of uninteresting movies this picture was a needed respite.
THOUGH I WOULD LIKE EVERYONE to act in an honest and ethical way, I am sure there is a lot that goes on in the business world that would shock me. Not just big corporations, I am sure it trickles down to small shop owners. I have a couple of friends who ran a medical practice and I used to get surprised by the things they told me they encountered during the average work day. Drug salespeople were constantly dropping in hoping to catch a quick meeting with the doctor. If they could not meet on their first attempt, some would try to bring in lunch for the staff. I assume they were hoping they could entice the doctor to meet them over a meal. There was one salesperson who would stock their cabinet with trial size packages of the drug they were representing; however, they always either pushed back their competitor’s product to the back of the shelf or even took some of it away. Through my friends’ years at the medical practice I was astounded by the amount of free products the drug reps would try to leave at the office. I had to wonder if the drug company eliminated the free trial size portions would they lower the prices of their drugs. THE PAST WEEK A FORMER pharmaceutical executive was sentenced to prison for fraud. I think the verdict is just since he broke the law; but this is the same person who raised the price of a life-saving drug from $13.50 a pill to $750.00. Now I am all for everyone making a profit but gouging the public is simply wrong. The percentage of that price increase covers the price of inflation for centuries. Granted having the product billed as a lifesaver makes it worse, but I would feel the same way if a company increased the price of their bread by some exorbitant price. The difference is they would never do it because one can always buy a loaf of bread from a different company. People in business who only think of themselves and are willing to sacrifice the consumer to get ahead are no different in my opinion to those malicious email attachments seeking your bank information. And as a side note the latest statistics show those emails increased by 300% in the last quarter of 2017. Despite the crooked and unethical things I have mentioned, I was shocked by what I saw in this action crime comedy. WANTING TO BE THE FIRST to come to market with a brand new drug medical executive Richard Rusk, played by Joel Edgerton (Red Sparrow, The Great Gatsby), was willing to do anything to succeed. This would put his employees in a precarious predicament. With Charlize Theron (Atomic Blonde, Mad Max: Fury Road) as Elaine Markinson, David Oyelowo (A United Kingdom, Queen of Katwe) as Harold Soyinka, Thandie Newton (Crash, 2012) as Bonnie Soyinka and Amanda Seyfried (Dear John, Mamma Mia!) as Sunny; I felt the cast choices were way better than the roles they were given to play. The script started out promising to me but as time went on I thought the addition of multiple story lines and the under developed characters bogged it down. I actually do not recall anything funny in this film. Instead I thought the story was a generic version of several “chase” films I have seen before. Even with the acting I felt Charlize was the most authentic; I can only assume David wanted to do something totally different, but it did not work for me. This movie has to make one wonder if all involved producing it were sampling the drug that was coming to market in this story.
1 ¾ stars
“ACT LIKE A LADY,” what does that exactly mean? I always found it an odd comment because I had never seen or heard about a primer that explained how girls and boys were supposed to act. Sure I remember when I was a child boys played with toy soldiers, guns and baseball bats; while girls played with stuffed animals, tea sets and dolls. There was a young girl who enjoyed playing with trucks, the bigger the better. I can still remember the odd looks some adults would give her as if she was doing something wrong. I used to babysit some of my female relatives and play house with them; it never occurred to me to tell them boys don’t play house or host a dinner party. If that is what they wanted to play or if they wanted to play cards I did not care. However, I was aware that out among my friends I could be teased for it. FAST forward to current times and there now seems like there is a push by people, companies and such to praise women, to show how progressive they have become. Now do not get me wrong, I am all for putting a spotlight on anyone who deserves it; however, some of these campaigns ring false to me. A company has formed a women’s group to promote female employees; yet they still do not get the same pay scale as their male counterparts. A film comes out with a strong female lead but studio executives still treat some of their female staff in an inappropriate way. It bugs me when people assign a label to their friends or co-workers. For example statements like, “my black friend” or “my gay co-worker;” do we really need to classify an individual? Isn’t a friend just your friend or does one choose their friends to fit a specific category? For those who want to try and classify the main character in this action thriller you will have a hard time figuring out what to say. SENT to Berlin to retrieve a secret list MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton, played by Charlize Theron (Dark Places, Mad Max: Fury Road), was a target even before she landed. Based on the graphic novel series “The Coldest City” the cast also included James McAvoy (X-Men franchise, Split) as David Percival, Eddie Marsan (Sherlock franchise, Ray Donovan-TV) as Spyglass, John Goodman (Love the Coopers, Kong: Skull Island) as Emmett Kurzfeld and Toby Jones (Captain America franchise, Tale of Tales) as Eric Gray. Hands down this was Charlize’s film all the way. She simply was a beast in this picture. The fight scenes looked graphically real and Charlize must have gone through intense hand to hand combat training because it showed. I had read afterwards she did over 90% of all the stunts. The soundtrack was an important part to the script, but here is the downside to it. The script was confusing and not as strong as it could have been. I did not mind the jumping back in forth in time but would have preferred less of it. Regardless I felt this was at times an intense, mysterious, all out thriller that did not need to be defined as a male or female film; it was an equal opportunity battle. There were scenes with blood and strong violence.
SITTING on the sofa after a satisfying meal I was waiting for the punch line to the story that was being told to us. It was not because the story was exciting, though it was the 1st time I heard it some years ago, or that the storyteller always had an animated way of telling a tale; I actually had heard this story enough to be able to retell it without any coaching. The reason I was waiting for the ending of the story was so I could get up and go to the bathroom without appearing rude to the story teller or the other people sitting around. The first time I heard the story I remember how all of us were laughing hysterically; it really was a funny set of circumstances that happened to the story teller. However after hearing the same story again and again, it had lost its surprise and funniness. For my way of thinking once a funny story has been told it needs to go into retirement, put away on a shelf only to come out on special occasions as a reminder about a particular person or period of time. THE retelling of jokes or stories only robs them of their uniqueness. After a time the listener you are trying to entertain is simply lulled into boredom. This reminds me of a person I know who does not fully grasp the art of joke telling. Every time they tell a joke they have to explain the portion of it that they find particularly amusing. This is never a good idea; if you have to explain a joke then it is not a joke. There have been times where I find myself sitting and listening to them and I immediately know anything I might find funny will be weighed down with this explaining thing that will make me cringe into wishing they would stop talking. Telling something over and over again is not exclusive to parties and family gatherings; it can be found in movie franchises. FAMILY was the most important thing to Dom, played by Vin Diesel (The Pacifier, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk). Then why did he turn his back on them? Starring Jason Statham (The Expendables franchise, The Mechanic franchise) as Deckard, Dwayne Johnson (San Andreas, Hercules) as Hobbs and Charlize Theron (Monster, Mad Max: Fury Road) as Cipher; the script for this action crime thriller was the weak link. The action scenes kept coming over and over, most connected by cheesy dialog. I will say the action was outrageous as the stunts were things the viewer has come to expect from this franchise. Another positive point about this movie was Charlize Theron; I found her acting to be above everyone else in the cast. After so many years with this franchise the writers needed to do something different in my opinion. I found some of the characters’ conversations were so typical of past films that I found myself becoming dazed and tired. Good thing there was always some over the top action scene ready to unfold right afterwards. This film franchise has had a long run but based on this installment it might be time for this group to take the exit ramp and take a rest. It might do wonders for them.
2 ½ stars
One of the main motivations for breeding an animal is to make money. From my college studies I learned how much thought and detail goes into deciding which animal should be bred. Whether a farmer or racehorse breeder they each spot specific traits they want to be carried down to the offspring of their herd. I still remember a course I had where we were taught to look at a pig and figure out their most prominent traits for breeding purposes. Some of you who follow race horsing may already know a winning horse is worth more in retirement when they go out to stud. Aren’t you glad we are not animals? But I have to tell you I am just as fascinated by family traits as I was in animal science. The gene pool to me is this vast reservoir of a family’s history; it is a game of chance when a couple has a child. What traits will the child acquire from the parents? I am always curious when a business establishment is family owned and has been handed down from generation to generation. It makes me wonder whether each new generation has acquired the same set of skill sets to make the business a continued success. Even when I witness a child doing the same thing as one of their parents, like being a tennis player or painter, it amazes me how that talent filtered down to the younger generation. Though I have to tell you I know of a family that has a business that has been handed down and the latest generation involved with it dislikes being a part of it. They wanted to be something else but their family essentially forced them to follow in the footsteps of their parent. Gratefully that was not the case in this gorgeous animated adventure film. KUBO, voiced by Art Parkinson (Dracula Untold, San Andreas), never knew his father and could not understand why his mother insisted he be home before dark. She had a very good reason. With a mixture of claymation and CGI effects, this family film was magical and enchanting. The actors such as Charlize Theron (Young Adult, A Million Ways to Die in the West) as Monkey, Matthew McConaughey (Mud, Dallas Buyers Club) as Beetle and Ralph Fiennes (A Bigger Splash, Harry Potter franchise) as Moon King were wonderful voicing their characters. I do not know if the story was actually from Japanese folklore, but the script was something special. The way it brought in the topic of ancestors was beautiful. I felt there was the right balance of humor, drama, danger and thrills to create a connection to any age group watching this film. Not sure why but there is something about the art of claymation that attracts me. Maybe it is because I know how much effort has to be made to make the characters move seamlessly; the figures are just more dimensional to me. I do not know what else I could tell you except after seeing this picture I had wished I was part of Kubo’s gene pool.
They share similar features, have the same inflection in their voice, with mannerisms that are alike, even from the same gene pool; yet they are nothing like each other. This is something that has always fascinated me: the similarities and differences between siblings. I always wanted to figure out what were the factors that caused brothers and sisters to turn out the way they did when they were from the same parents. One of the obvious things to me was the birthing order because I strongly believe there is unique baggage in being an older, middle or younger sibling. I have seen families who blatantly treated their first born child differently compared to their 2nd born. From the people I know who were the youngest of their siblings I know some people claim this group was spoiled the most by their parents. I do not totally agree with this; I just think by the time the youngest of at least 3 children have been born, the parents were too tired to care about the same things they once did with their older children. Personally I am not a fan of dressing up one’s children in the same clothing; I feel it takes a bit away from a child’s identity. Now when siblings display strong reactions towards each other, I have to wonder what took place in their childhood that caused such negative feelings towards each other. It is so perplexing to me that I notice when I am introduced socially to new people I tend to ask them at some point if they have any siblings. You should hear some of the responses I have gotten, but nothing that matches the siblings’ story in this fantasy adventure drama. AFTER suffering a horrific loss Freya, played by Emily Blunt (Sicario, Into the Woods), decided to leave her older sister Ravenna, played by Charlize Theron (Young Adult, Mad Max: Fury Road), and stake out her own land where she would be the sole ruler. Her kingdom would have one major law: falling in love was not allowed. The special effects in this action film were certainly fun to watch with the actors. Besides Charlize and Emily there was Chris Hemsworth (In the Heart of the Sea, Thor franchise) as Eric and Jessica Chastain (Crimson Peak, A Most Violent Year) as Sara. I was stoked to see this cast especially in the fight scenes; however, the dull script ruined the already poorly thought out story. I could not believe two actresses like Emily and Charlize were not given more powerful dramatic scenes that they could easily have handled. With the multiple story lines I do not know if this picture was a prequel or sequel; it was totally baffling to me. The writers and director could have created a wild fantasy franchise but for me this movie was a bust. I do not know about you, but I have seen more sparks and drama at a family dysfunction.
1 ¾ stars
There are various reasons to chase someone and I think I have experienced most of them. I can remember as a small child the thrill of having a relative chase me around the house. Funny for their size and age it was surprising they did not catch me more times than they did back then. I understood this better when I started being asked by my younger relatives to try and catch them. Then there was the time I was riding my bicycle in the neighborhood and a neighbor’s dog ran after me when I passed in front of its house. I was huffing and puffing as I sped away, not sure if the dog was being friendly or protecting its territory. Another form of chasing is when you spot someone you know in a crowd and you try to catch up to them. Out of the different reasons for being chased the one that produces the most adrenaline is the one where you feel you are about to receive bodily damage if you are caught. In that split second when you realize the person or the group assembled in front of you wants to hurt you, your entire body springs into a hyper accelerated gear as you try to run away. All of your senses fine tune themselves to accept clues from your surroundings at a faster clip. The eyes continuously scan for clear paths; the ears listen beyond their usual range to keep track of your attackers and you feel your temperature rising to keep every muscle and fiber from tearing apart under the added exertion. An example of this can be found in this action adventure film. WITH humanity broken and barely surviving on a spent planet two rebels dream about a better place. Such a dream could get them killed. Writer and director George Miller (The Witches of Eastwick, Happy Feet franchise) did not create a remake of his original Mad Max movies here; he produced a fierce, fiery adrenaline fueled science fiction fantasy that was utterly intense. Though I could barely understand some of the dialog, this film was meant to be a visual experience. Tom Hardy (Warrior, Child 44) and Charlize Theron (The Italian Job, Monster) as Max Rockatansky and Imperator Furiosa were awesome. I loved the female empowerment angle to the story. Honestly, you can say whatever you want about the story; it really doesn’t matter because this was a visual masterpiece. There was so much action during what was essentially one long continuous chase scene that I was just amazed with the retro feel to everything. I could not tell what was CGI or what were actual stunts; even the motor vehicles were like individual characters. This picture was one stripped down, raw, death defying road trip without a seat belt. There were scenes with blood and violence.
3 1/2 stars
There are so many times I hear people say life is easier now, but I am not 100% convinced of it. I remember reading Generation Zs do not know how to fold up a map since they only grew up with GPS devices; some only know how to tell time from a digital display. Does this make life easier? When you expand the length of time, sure I can see where some things are easier now then decades or centuries ago. When the United States still had frontiers, there was a reason why people referred to the areas as the Wild West. Back then you would have to protect yourself from wild animals; now it is more likely it will be from humans. There was more farmland back then; people would work the land and grow their own food, eating healthier. Now you can simply take your pre-wrapped meal from the freezer to the microwave oven and have hot food in 6 minutes. The differences between the two time periods were ripe for creating a comedy which Seth MacFarlane (Tooth Fairy, Ted) tried to do in this humorous western. Besides being the writer and director of this film, Seth took on his first starring role playing Albert the sheep farmer. After being threatened to a dual with pistols and getting dumped by his girlfriend Louise, played by Amanda Seyfried (Mama Mia, Red Riding Hood), Albert was willing to take advice from the mysterious Anna, played by Charlize Theron (Prometheus, The Italian Job). The only problem was Louise already started seeing Foy, played by Neil Patrick Harris (The Smurfs franchise, How I Met Your Mother-TV). I wish I could have figured out how Seth went from writing the comedy Ted to creating this farce. Where I found Ted to be wickedly funny, this movie was a bust. I only found a few sporadic scenes humorous since the majority of the jokes were either lame or cheap shots. It would be easy to compare this film to Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles but there is a big difference. Mel’s comedy was a trendsetting funny spoof that understood its purpose. Seth’s picture was just a series of gags that had a certain predictability to them. The chosen cast certainly had the talent to make this a fun time but I found things were dull and lifeless. However, it was a kick to see the actors who made cameo roles. I had no idea it would be so hard to write a funny story about a period of time from our past. There was an extra scene after the credits.
1 3/4 stars
Let me first state the obvious: This science fiction thriller is a prequel to the movie Alien, which starred Sigourney Weaver. The steady tension in this movie was similar to the previous one; it kept me captivated. Believing they found clues to the origin of mankind, a group of explorers traveled to a distant planet. Michael Fassbender (Shame, A Dangerous Method) was excellent as the android David, who had specific reasons for being part of the crew. Charlize Theron (Snow White and the Huntsman, The Italian Job) was steely good as Meredith Vickers, the crew’s captain. I was quite pleased Noomi Rapale (The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo Swedish franchise, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) did an excellent job as Elizabeth Shaw, the scientist who discovered the map that lead the explorers to their destination. Not only were the special effects excellent throughout this film; but I felt the visuals were works of art, they were beautiful. I only had wished the story was as good; parts of it made no sense to me. For example, the idea that one could get up and walk around right after having abdominal surgery with only staples closing the incision was ridiculous. To me it felt as if the special effects were thought of first, then the writers came up with the scenes to accompany them. Honestly, I left the movie theater a bit disappointed. It was like getting a beautifully wrapped birthday gift that you were excited to open, only to discover that you already had something just like it.
2 3/4 stars
Having an aunt who was a sergeant in the Women’s Army Corps, I am familiar with what makes up a strong woman. My friends were always scared of her, because she would make them give her a solid handshake. Putting a different spin on the Snow White story; the writers of this action film created a strong Snow White, played by Kristen Stewart (Twilight franchise, The Runaways). This Snow White was a fighter; determined to reclaim her right to the throne after escaping imprisonment by the Queen, her step mother. The problem I had with this was the casting of Kristen. She did not convey the strength expected for such a role and it was due to her acting ability. I found her doing the same character as Bella in Twilight. A better actress would have made this movie more exciting; I found myself getting bored in parts. It was especially noticeable since the evil Queen Ravenna was so wickedly played by Charlize Theron (Monster, Young Adult). It looked like Charlize relished her role as she was the dominant figure out of the cast. In addition, there was Chris Hemsworth (The Avengers, The Cabin in the Woods) as the Huntsman who was sent by the Queen to hunt down Snow White in the Dark Forest. Chris did an admirable job with his character, being the tough yet sensitive man of the movie. The film was beautiful to watch, enhanced with great special effects. Though I liked the idea behind the story, I was underwhelmed by the execution of it. This movie needed someone like my aunt to make it better.
2 2/3 stars