I have chosen to believe there are more people on this planet who want to do good than those who wish to do harm. Granted there have been times where I did not think that was the case. From time to time I still remember a kid in elementary school who tortured and killed a cat. Though “they” say people can change, I have my doubts about this person. Just as I was leaving for the office this morning I heard on the news authorities found baby coyotes drowned in a bucket of water. It seems the past several weeks only horrific news of people taking the lives of others has been reported. I can tell you it is not easy to stay positive with what has been taking place around all of us. However an example will come by that renews or restores my faith and give me hope that good will overpower evil. RECENTLY after seeing this film I was watching a news magazine type of television show. A segment was devoted to a woman who has devoted her life to protecting elephants from poachers. She even moved her family to Kenya so she could commit more time to her efforts. I was amazed as I watched this woman negotiate with the village elders to help by reporting to the authorities any sightings of poachers in their area. If I remember correctly she helped set up a program to help captured poachers get rehabilitation and find them decent employment opportunities. They even showed 2 poachers who were sworn enemies that now are friends, working as forest rangers. All of this woman’s efforts were geared to protect elephants from being slaughtered for their tusks. One of the things I find fascinating about individuals who devote such energy towards goodness is where their motivation comes from. Is it something they are born with or does it come from a series of events? Not being familiar with the Wonder Woman character I was totally impressed by her motivation to do good in this action adventure fantasy. WHEN a plane crashed off the shores of her homeland Diana, played by Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious franchise, Keeping up with the Jones), the princess of the Amazons discovered there was an evil force in the world wanting to do harm. She quickly realized what she had to do. With Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, The Finest Hours) as Steve Trevor, Connie Nielsen (One Hour Photo, Gladiator) as Hippolyta and Danny Huston (Children of Men, The Aviator) as Ludendorff; the script to this story was well thought out. I learned about Diana before she became Wonder Woman. The humor, action, drama were beautifully blended for a thoroughly entertaining movie experience. The soundtrack even had a bit of a throwback acknowledgement to the TV show. While the special effects were fun, they had a comic book vibe which was enjoyable to me. Keep in mind my only exposure to this superhero previously was the actress Lynda Carter, where she would spin around to change into her Wonder Woman garb. This was a well done picture that came from a female’s sensibilities; in fact, I understand it earned the highest weekend opening for a film directed by a woman. If that is not enough to convince you to see this picture, I want you to also know everyone in the theater where I saw this film applauded at the end.
3 ½ stars
What I am about to tell you all took place in my mind; well, maybe some of it did really happen. As I walked through the double glass doors I flipped the open sign hanging on its metal chain to close. Inside there was a chair to the side; I took it to prop up against the closed doors to bar anyone from walking in. I was there to take action and get some results. You see I had locked in an incredibly low interest rate just before they started to rise back up. I was doing some refinancing and would be lowering my monthly payments significantly. The bank kept delaying me, rejecting my application for the most trivial things that were not even my fault. Since the lock on the interest rate had a short expiration date, I was sure the bank wanted to let it expire so they could charge a higher interest rate. The first time my paperwork got rejected was due to not having a check mark next to the word “Mister.” The second time it came back was because a document was missing which they lost. These things were their fault; they had drawn up the documentation and filled it out. A personal banker came up and before they could say anything I told them I was not leaving until my application was approved. I told them if they could not do it then they needed to find someone else right now. From my knapsack I took out my paperwork, protein bars, 2 bottles of water and a baseball bat. Desperate times called for extreme action. THE only way brothers Toby and Tanner Howard, played by Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, The Finest Hours) and Ben Foster (Lone Survivor, Warcraft), could set things right was to start robbing banks. They would just have to be quick about it. This film festival nominated crime drama’s cast was outstanding. With Jeff Bridges (True Grit, The Giver) as Marcus Hamilton and Dale Dickey (Winter’s Bone, Super 8) as Elsie, the acting was something to see. Maybe there were a couple of things that seemed familiar with Jeff’s performance, but with this character he was close to perfection. As for Chris I was stunned, especially after seeing him recently in the new Star Trek film. It took me a minute to realize this was the same Chris I had seen because he looked and acted so differently; I was impressed with his performance. Set in Texas the story had a strong western type of movie vibe but with a modern take. Visually I enjoyed the framing of the scenes along with the soundtrack. I thought some outdoor shots were ideal in conveying the plight of the bank robbers; it really was wonderful camera work. There were a couple of patches where I felt the story dragged but nothing major. No pun intended but the richness of the script provided a well rounded story that was a pleasure to watch on the big screen. I cannot image a theater patron feeling like they were robbed by paying to see this film; it was worth the money. There were some scenes with blood and violence in them.
3 ½ stars
Summer for me meant the typical things such as hot weather, no school and trips to the ice cream shoppe. There was one other thing important to me; it meant the television season coming to an end until autumn. Most of the major networks showed reruns and I was perfectly fine with it. But then something happened and some television shows had more episodes than others, while others started either earlier or later in the season. Since I do not like change this caused me undue stress. By the way when I say I do not like change, I really mean it. Having a mind set of not fixing things if they are not broken, consistency brings calmness to me. In fact, just hearing the word change gives me reason to pause (except when using it to describe the direction I am driving); this is why I prefer to use the word evolve. Now the reason I am talking about this is my way of explaining the sadness I experienced while watching this movie. It was hard to see Anton Yelchin (Green Room, Like Crazy) reprising for the last time his character Chekov. I could not help but think the crew I have gotten to know will never be the same. My other sadness was thinking about the passing of Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock from the TV series and Spock Prime in this latest movie franchise. A part of life is death, it is an absolute given; yet it is for the most part an unwelcome change. With today’s review I did not want to turn it into a maudlin piece; I wanted to express my dislike with change and the sadness it caused, so we can move on to the rest of my movie watching experience. RESPONDING to a call for help the Enterprise comes under a vicious attack that will change the lives of the crew members. This latest in the action, science fiction series saw the return of Chris Pine (The Finest Hours, Z for Zachariah) as Captain James T. Kirk and Karl Urban (Dredd, The Loft) as Doctor “Bones” McCoy. Brought into this adventure story were new characters Sofia Boutella (StreetDance 2, Kingsman: The Secret Service) as Jaylah and Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Beasts of No Nation) as Krall. I have to say these two were a welcome addition with both their acting and action skills. It was needed with the fast paced fight scenes in this film. There was a lot to like in this film but I felt the script was the weak link. I never felt I understood fully the villain’s story besides the disappointing major battle scene, at least for me. During a middle period of the picture I felt I was just watching a series of fights and battles that did not have much thought put in to where the story was going. On a positive note I really liked the idea behind the story, especially the dynamics between Spock and McCoy. This installment may not be the best out of the series but it certainly was not the worst. Outside of the passing of Leonard and Anton, I was not sad with the outcome of this film and left the theater feeling happy.
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
When it comes to starting a conversation with a stranger I am the last one to begin. In fact, depending on the circumstances I try to deter them from uttering anything my way. In an elevator there is not enough time for a conversation to start up usually; but on a plane, I tend to carry a sense of dread along with my carry-on bag until I find out who is sitting next to me. When I am on a plane I do not want to be coerced into a conversation; I want to sit in my seat reading the magazines from my knapsack. Please do not judge me but there have been times where I pretended to have laryngitis just so I would not have to talk to my seat mate. Now here is the interesting part about everything I just said. If some type of crisis occurs while I am among a group of people, I am right into the conversation along with everyone else around me. When I was waiting to board a flight as an earthquake struck, you better believe I was chatting up a storm with the strangers around me. Gratefully I have never been stuck in an elevator, but I cannot image standing there in silence while others are trying to figure out what they should do. I do not know if it is a comfort level or trust issue thing regarding my wariness to engage in a conversation with a stranger. It certainly was something I thought about as I watched this mysterious drama. RESIGNED to the belief she was the only person left alive on earth Ann Burden, played by Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street, About Time), was stunned when she came upon a stranger named John Loomis, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, Kinky Boots), who was sick from radiation exposure. What was the right thing to do? This science fiction film had a simple apocalyptic story that was beautifully filmed. The only other actor in the cast was Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, Unstoppable) as Caleb and I have to tell you I thoroughly enjoyed all three of them. Margot was unrecognizable to me at first; I felt she was the stand out of the group with her wonderful portrayal. The acting, the stunning landscapes and fluid editing kept me constantly engaged in the story. I do have to tell you the slow pacing may weigh a person down from fully enjoying this interesting film festival nominee. Also, I hesitate to list this as a science fiction picture though it is classified as such because except for the premise, there really was nothing sci-fi about it in my opinion. As far a I was concerned I was watching a series of events that contained several curious possibilities to ponder. Even after the movie I was still wondering how I would react if I were in any one of the character’s situation.
2 1/2 stars
You may have done it over a burning candle that was perched on top of a birthday cake. Maybe it was while you were peering into a shiny display window you came upon while walking down the street. No matter where it was done, I do not know anyone who has not wished something for themselves. The whole concept was presented to us at a young age when we were asked what we wanted for our birthday or holiday. As kids we mostly focused on toys and games; but as we grew up, our wish list spread further out to encompass things like trips and cars. In addition, some of the things we started to wish for came with a price. When I started attending aerobic classes I was amazed at how much I enjoyed them. I was lucky because there was a great instructor leading the class who played awesome music. It made me start thinking that maybe I could teach a class one day, so I took steps to make it happen. My love for teaching fitness is as strong today as it was when I first started out; however, I did not know at the time there was going to be as much work involved as there has been. THERE is no better place to see dreams come true than in a fairy tale which this film festival winning movie beautifully created. Taking familiar characters from several fairy tales such as Cinderella, played by Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air) and Little Red Riding Hood, played by newcomer Lilla Crawford, this fantasy combined all of them into a story about making wishes. There were a variety of actors; I expected Meryl Streep (The Hours, The Giver) as the Witch and James Corden (Begin Again, The History Boys) as the Baker to be good. However, the standouts for me were Emily Blunt (Looper, The Devil Wears Prada) as the Baker’s wife and Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, People Like Us) as the Prince. I had no idea either of them could even sing. If you are not a musical fan then more than likely you may not enjoy this film as much. Especially with a Stephen Sondheim (Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd) musical, I find his songs to be more complicated for the average movie/theater goer. Having seen the staged version of this musical, I actually enjoyed this movie production more because the way it unfolded made clearer sense to me. This picture had me thinking because there were several ways one could interpret its story. Also, it was not a kid’s movie; there were none in the movie theater. If you wish for good acting , solid singing and a cast of fairy tale characters, you will not be disappointed.
Nothing came to mind; this was quite unusual because it had never happened before. I wondered if I was still suffering from the overdose of tryptophan I ingested during the past holiday weekend. Maybe I should not have tried the variety of desserts that caused me distress from that post sugar high. I did not think it was the mediocre movies that played this past weekend; or maybe, they actually lulled my brain into a quiet stupor that it had not reawakened from as of yet. The pessimistic voice inside of me was audible; telling me I was a fraud and this had all been a sham. Those who regularly read my movie reviews know I start out talking about the personal connection I made to the film. I have always said as long as a movie can move you then it has done its job. It was the strangest thing however when I started to write my review today; for the life of me, I could not recall one iota of a connection I felt to this comedy sequel. HAVING left their jobs best friends Nick Hendricks, Kurt Buckman and Dale Arbus; played by Jason Bateman (Bad Words, Up in the Air), Jason Sudeikis (Hall Pass, We’re the Millers) and Charlie Day (Pacific Rim, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia-TV); decided to start their own company to be their own bosses. They thought everything was working out perfectly after they showed the product they invented to wealthy investor Bert Hanson, played by Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained, Carnage). However, their meeting with Bert would lead the friends to come up with a diabolical plan. If you did not see the previous film to this sequel, it probably will not make too much of a difference for you in following the story. Jennifer Aniston (We’re the Millers, The Bounty Hunter), returned as foul-mouthed Dr. Julia Harris. I honestly could not find any positive things to say about this picture except that I was grateful it was less than 2 hours long. The gags and jokes were juvenile and monotonous; even with both Jasons’ quick sharp deliveries. The story had very little connection to the previous movie which led me to believe this film was a labor of love for the paycheck. If you saw the film trailer then you have seen the majority of what this film will be. For the most part I was bored, finding very little to even chuckle at during the scenes. To tell you the truth, the story was a cheap knockoff to a couple of previous movies that did the job better. I guess it was a good thing after all that I could not find a personal connection to this dreadful film. Strong language was used in the film.
1 1/2 stars
I am so grateful I stopped using my charge card after the November Black Friday hacking scandal came to light. You see I used my card at that retailer over the weekend it was discovered and was concerned my account information got stolen. This past Saturday I received a phone call from the charge card company because they were detecting a suspicious transaction taking place on my account number. Someone in Plano, Texas was attempting to buy $41.28 worth of items at a grocery store, using an actual charge card with my number on it, at the checkout cash register. After telling the representative on the phone that I had the card in my possession here at home; she denied the purchase and closed the account, telling me a new account number and charge card would be issued and sent to me immediately. The reason I am mentioning it is because this happened just before I left to see this action thriller. The story involved electronic sabotage. Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, Unstoppable) played Jack Ryan. After an injury ended his military career, Jack caught the attention of Thomas Harper, played by Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves, Waterworld), who believed Jack’s skills would help the CIA foil a possible terrorist act against the United States. Possibly due to not having read the Tom Clancy books with Jack Ryan and my hacking episode, I enjoyed this action mystery film more than I though I would. Sure I still thought of Captain Kirk when Chris was on screen, but I thought his action scenes were well choreographed and his acting was good enough for the role. I thought Kevin did a fine job playing an older no-nonsense character. Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina, King Arthur) who played Doctor Cathy Muller was adequate, but the character felt more like it was there just to add a love interest into the story. As for Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn, Hamlet) who directed and starred as Viktor Cherevin in this movie, his direction and pacing was tight, keeping the story moving forward; I never felt a dull moment. However, his character was confusing to me because I did not quite understand his motives, nor thought he was intense enough. There were a couple of “you have to be kidding me” scenes but they played into the action scenes. If they make a sequel I probably would go see it. I just would not use my charge card to pay for it. There were a few scenes that had violence and blood.
2 2/3 stars
When the opportunity presents itself I take a drive through the neighborhood where I grew up. I see ghosts of my youth everywhere I look. Playing hide & seek or selling lemonade on the corner, my memories waken from a long sleep. They are refreshed and vivid allowing me to visit with the younger me, showing events that contributed to who I would become as an adult. It is that history that reminds me how I currently arrived at this point in my life. Director J.J. Abrams (Super 8, Lost-TV) treated the history of Star Trek with the utmost respect for this 2nd movie in the relaunched franchise. The story was brilliant as we found the Enterprise crew back on Earth, unaware they would encounter a dangerous villain close to home. Besides Chris Pine (This Means War, Unstoppable) as James T. Kirk and Zachary Quinto (Margin Call, Heroes-TV) as Spock, there was the addition of Peter Weller (RoboCop, the Hard Easy) as Marcus and Benedict Cumberbatch (War Horse, Atonement) as John Harrison. In this go around; the characters were more complex, filled with deeper feelings. Zachary was so incredible that I forgot about Leonard Nimoy for the moment, the original Spock. Chris earned my respect with what he did in this movie. I could almost hear William Shatner cursing at Chris’ exemplary performance. The nonstop action was exciting and evenly balanced to allow flourishes of drama and honestly, giving the movie goers a chance to catch their breath. I cannot add anything further to this review without giving away hints to the plot. Hopefully when people talk about this movie and they will, they do not say much about the story or cast. The added suspense, at least for me, made the time fly by. Also, I felt emotionally spent. Whether you grew up in the world of Star Trek or not will not make much of a difference in loving this film. History is what makes us who we are today; I tip my hat to the current custodian of the historical vaults of Star Trek, J.J. Abrams. A nice touch in the beginning of the credits. There were brief scenes with blood in it.
3 2/3 stars for Trekkies 3 1/2 stars for non-Trekkies
Since today is my favorite holiday of Thanksgiving, I feel this is the perfect movie to review. Do you know that feeling where random variables line up perfectly to make your life easier? For example, when all the traffic lights turn green so you can get to the movie theater on time. You enter the full parking lot just as one car pulls out giving you the only open space. Then you get to the long ticket line just as extra cashiers open up, speeding up the line, so you can get into the theater just as the last preview ends and you see your favorite seat is the last seat open. In a similar vein, I felt everything fell into place to make this movie extra special for me. Recalling fond memories from past Thanksgiving meals with friends and family, as soon as the film started I felt I was that little boy again, filled with wonder and excitement. This wonderful animated movie starred characters we all used to believe were real. When an evil spirit threatened the children of earth, it would take the forces of the Guardians to come together to save the children. The Guardians consisted of Jack Frost, voiced by Chris Pine (Star Trek, This Means War); North aka Santa Claus was voiced by Alec Baldwin (To Rome With Love, 30 Rock-TV); Tooth aka Tooth Fairy was voiced by Isla Fisher (Wedding Crasher, Confessions of a Shopaholic) and Bunny aka Easter Bunny was voiced by Hugh Jackman (Real Steel, X-Men franchise). These actors did a wonderful job of bringing life to their characters. Jude Law’s (Anna Karenia, Hugo) voice was spot on for his character Pitch the evil spirit. The CGI effects were magical to me, adding an extra layer of fun and excitement to the story. As I walked back to my car I tried to remember if I ever believed in these characters when I was a little kid. Honestly, I do not recall ever believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. But because of this movie I believe in them now. As a side note, there is no reason to see this movie in 3D.
3 1/3 stars