I AM USED TO WAITING IN LINE at the drive thru lane of a restaurant; but I was not prepared to do it at a funeral home. As I arrived at the funeral home, I saw there were several cars lined up as if they were preparing for the procession to the burial ground. Pulling into the lot behind the last car an employee of the funeral home, who had been standing off to the side, walked up to me to explain how to proceed through the visitation. I was to follow in single file, as one car at a time will pull underneath the porte-cochere. The occupants can then get out of their car and walk up to the locked, double glass doors of the lobby to pay their respects to the grieving family, who will be standing behind the doors with the casket. After the respects are paid, I was to return to my car and drive out of the parking lot. The last thing the man said to me was that there was not a sign in book; instead, I could go online to the funeral home’s home page and leave a comment for the family. I thanked the gentleman, closed my car window and waited for my turn. AFTER FIVE MINUTES, I WAS ABLE TO move forward one car length ahead. Outside my driver’s side window there was now a TV monitor that was set up on a stand. There was a slide show of photos rotating that showed different time periods in the life of the deceased. From birth to their first birthday part, their school years through college and family trips; I sat and watched the photos appear and disappear, providing me with a glimmer of what their life was like. I had lost track of time, as it became my turn to pull underneath and pay my respects. Getting out of the car, I walked towards the glass doors; the only thing I saw at first through the reflective glass was the open casket. It seemed to be floating in midair. As I got closer, images of the grieving family began to appear through the reflection as if they were materializing before my eyes. Out of the family members standing, the father looked the worse. I could not tell if what I was seeing was distorted by the reflective glass; but the father looked like he was in a state of shock. The solid stone expression on his face never changed. With lifeless eyes and a neck that looked like it had been replaced by a spring, he simply kept nodding his head up and down while staring directly ahead. It looked like he was missing a part of himself; similar to the way the main character did in this mystery drama. WHEN HER DAUGHTER DID NOT COME home it was up to Debra, played by Sienna Miller (The Lost City of Z, American Sniper) to be in charge of raising her grandson. She only needed someone to raise her. This film festival nominated movie also starred Sky Ferreira (Baby Driver, Elvis & Nixon) as Bridget Callahan, Kentucker Audley (Funny Bunny, The Middle Distance) as Brett Tobeck, Christina Hendricks (Good Girls-TV, The Neon Demon) as Katherine and Will Sasso (The Three Stooges, Happy Gilmore) as Terry. Set in rural Pennsylvania, this acting by Sienna and Christina was outstanding. At first, I was not sure where the story was going; but with the acting and directing I fell into the events taking place while becoming emotional attached. This was a quiet film where some of the characters needed more emotional depth. However, the performances of the actors made up for any deficiencies. This was both such a heart wrenching and triumphant story that Sienna navigated with expert skill.
3 ¼ stars
I WONDER HOW MANY TIMES in a week the average person has to do something they do not want to do. As I was thinking about today’s review I was wondering what things most of us would not want to take part in. The first one I thought of (no disrespect to the profession) was going to the dentist. I do not recall ever hearing someone say they were excited to go to their dentist. Something else I thought of was funerals; though I did know someone from a previous job who would say she was going to a funeral to make sure the person was dead. Just a guess, but they sounded like they had anger issues. There were so many possibilities I came up with this morning that I dwelled on the amount of time we must waste dreading our participation with a particular activity. I think about the annoying things I have to do, dividing them into 2 categories: required activities and activities of choice. There are some people who dislike doing laundry, yet at some point our clothes need to be cleaned. You would have a choice here, either do the wash yourself or pay someone to do it for you. WHEN I WAS YOUNGER I thought I had all the time in the world, but now I realize time is a precious commodity. I want to eliminate the negativity associated with some of the things I do on a weekly basis. My friends keep asking me why I remain seated at a theater watching a movie I totally dislike. They say I should just walk out; but I cannot do such a thing. If I am going to review a film I need to see it from the beginning to the end. And as you know, no matter how bad a picture may be, I never take out my phone and look at emails or texts while seated. Sure many others in the theater do it, but I stay focused on the job at hand. Now I realize I have a choice because it is not like I was hired and given a salary to review movies; I do it because I love to do it. So yes there are times I wish I was doing something else instead of sitting at the show; but I try to remain positive knowing if I can save someone from spending their time and money at a torturous film then I have done my job. With that being said, I leave it up to you on whether today’s review is a warning or invitation for you. ON THE WAY TO TAKING their daughter Kinsey, played by Bailee Madison (Brothers, Just Go with It); to boarding school Cindy and Mike, played by Christina Hendricks (Ginger & Rosa, Mad Men-TV) and Martin Henderson (Everest, Flyboys), make a stop at what looks like a deserted trailer park, where Cindy’s aunt and uncle live. The park was not necessarily deserted. With Lewis Pullman (Battle of the Sexes, Aftermath) as Luke and Emma Bellomy (Before the Dark-TV) as Dollface, this 2nd installment in the horror film franchise held very little interest for me. One thing that disturbs me is a script that does not take the time to think things out. All I will say is if you are confronted by someone who wants to kill you and you happen to knock them unconscious, why wouldn’t you take their gun away from them? There was nothing I enjoyed about this film. The story was weak to begin with and I truly felt the writers put no effort into the script. I would have more sympathy for livestock being killed than the individuals in this poorly done picture.
1 ½ stars
GOING to someone’s house to share a meal and celebrate a holiday should be an easy thing to do, you would think. Normally you would not be expected to shop for ingredients that the cook needs to prepare the meal, vacuum or clean their whole house; however, you might bring a dish to share or assist in the cleaning process afterwards. All in all it is a relative easy experience. One big factor that could change everything is whether you enjoy the company you will be with for the celebration. Imagine how you would feel if you knew several of the guests there annoy you. THERE was a sense of dread that weighed you down as you pulled up to their house. The hosts were lovely people, sweet and very accommodating to their guests. So their culinary experiments never turn out good; usually there is a total bland taste to the food or at the other extreme, a pungent foul flavor that makes the food barely edible. An easy fix has been to eat something before you show up at their place then eat lightly (and carefully), saying you are not very hungry. At the party the host’s cousin shows up bringing their untrained dog unannounced. The dog is jumping on everyone until it smells the food, then it takes constant monitoring from the guests to make sure this dog does not stand up at the table to grab some food. Another guest that is familiar to you is the man who tells inappropriate jokes at the dining room table. He usually has some prejudiced or sexual comment accompanying his humor. Then there is the narcissist who grabs your attention and will not let you go as they talk on and on about what they recently bought, how much they spent and their recent dating exploits; you see why there is a sense of dread every time you show up to one of these parties. A similar sense of dread welled up in me as I was watching this comedy sequel. STILL drunk and obnoxious Willie Soke, played by Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade, Our Brand is Crisis), could not resist doing another job with the man who tried to kill him. This crime dramedy also starred Kathy Bates (Titanic, American Horror Story-TV) as Sunny Soke, Tony Cox (Oz the Great and Powerful, The Hustle) as Marcus and Christina Hendricks (Life as We Know it, Mad Men-TV) as Diane Hastings. The biggest shock for me was seeing Octavia Spencer (The Help, Fruitvale Station) doing a cameo as Opal and that is all I will say about it. The script for this movie was very basic; the jokes were easy to spot and for the most part were crude. I was quickly bored by the story; not that I am offended by the humor, I just found it uncreative. There may have been a couple of times I chuckled if I remember correctly. If you were a fan of the first film you may have a better time sitting through this sequel. For me the novelty of the first one was not part of this picture. I just had to trudge through to the very end so I could review it.
1 ½ stars
For something so subjective it amazes me how much influence beauty has over many of us. I saw at an early age how people paid more attention to individuals who were considered beautiful—at least on the outside. If you put 2 people together, one thought of as attractive and the other not as pretty, a majority of the general public would believe the attractive one more no matter what they claimed. Look at the fashion industry; can someone tell me why a person is considered less presentable if they are not dressed in something that is currently fashionable? Many years ago the fashion industry came out with bell bottomed pants; maybe some of you remember them. Those in school who did not own a pair of these pants may not have necessary been considered less of a student, but it would not be a surprise if they were looked at as being poor or less intelligent. When I see some of the celebrities that are idolized these days, I am dumbfounded; what in the world is the attraction to these people? Especially those from reality shows that do not focus on talent, strength or creative arts; why do people trust the things these types of celebrities come out with in statements or texts? I find the whole idea of one’s looks such an odd concept. For example when someone wants to fix me up with one of their friends and they say the person is pretty or good looking; that aspect of a person is not important to me like kindness or empathy. So this is why I feel beauty yields an undue amount of power in our world. What I did not know is how dangerous it can be based on the things I saw in this dramatic horror thriller. JESSE, played by Elle Fanning (Super 8, Maleficent), was just starting out in the modeling world but she already had something wanted by other models. Directed and written by Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Knows), this movie went for what I call an “artsy” look. With stark vivid images held in extra long camera shots, I could understand the use of them considering the story line. With Christina Hendricks (Mad Men-TV, Life as We Know it) as Roberta Hoffmann, Keanu Reeves (John Wick, The Matrix franchise) as Hank and Jena Malone (Contact, Sucker Punch) as Ruby; the acting was okay but nothing that really stood out for me. Elle who I have been impressed with in the past still has a certain screen presence but I do not think the script helped her in this film. I believe I understand the message the writers wanted to convey but I did not enjoy the way it was presented to me. There were many scenes where I sat and wished the picture would have ended; I was bored and found the “artsy” scenes a distraction. Maybe the creative team was going for shock value with some of the scenes but a few of them grossed me out. So be it if I am not considered hip, fashionable or with it because I did not find the beauty in this film. There were a couple of scenes with blood.
1 ¾ stars
I feel very fortunate that I grew up in the city, in an established neighborhood. Before I knew our neighbors they already knew me. You see, everyone knew each other from the block. My first playground was essentially the hallway of the apartment building where I was born. I used to crawl up and down the staircases, visiting any neighbor who happened to have their front door open as I came by. Once I was able to go outside to play, I quickly became friends with the other kids who lived on the block. Unbeknownst to us at the time, there were always at least a couple of mothers watching us while we played. We felt we owned the streets and alleys as we would set up forts made of snow in winter and during summer we would use any bushes or leaves as a cover for our secret spy meetings. It constantly baffled us how each of our mothers already knew what we were doing before we would come in to tell them about our day. As they say a mother always knows and the proof can be seen in this dramatic film. GOD’S Pocket was a tough, gritty neighborhood of Philadelphia. After she found out her son Leon, played by Caleb Landry Jones (No Country for Old Men, Antiviral), died at work Jeanie Scarpato, played by Christina Hendricks (Drive, Life as We Know It), was convinced it was not an accident. She wanted her husband Mickey, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman (A Late Quartet, Capote), to find out what really happened to her son. This Sundance Film Festival nominated movie captured the look and feel of a rugged, economically depressed area during the 1960s. There was a general heaviness that weighed on everyone including the viewer. Besides Philip and Christina performing on a high level, I thought John Turturro (Fading Gigilo, Barton Fink) as Arthur “Bird” Capezio and Richard Jenkins (The Cabin in the Woods, The Visitor) as Richard Shellburn stood out in the cast; though everyone did a convincing job of acting. The downfall to this picture was all in the script. The story was filled with cliches, did not offer anything original. There were moments where I wondered if the writers intended the scene to be funny, but it only created a messiness that left me perplexed. What a shame for this to be one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final films; the story did no favors for anyone. It boiled down to tough luck in a tough neighborhood. A couple of brief scenes with blood.
There is nothing wrong having the support and guidance of a parent or sibling helping you as you begin your years of schooling. An older brother or sister can certainly steer you away from the many unintentional land mines of uncertainty that you may come across in your life. But as you progress from grade to grade, there is nothing like having a best friend who is living and experiencing the same things you are on a daily basis. Whether it is suffering through a challenging homework assignment or discovering a new rock band, being able to share any and every emotion with a best friend is incredibly special. I have been blessed more than once with the presence of several best friends throughout my entire life. To this day I can remember calling up the new kid in my 6th grade class to see if he wanted to go to the library with me. Though we already knew of our similar interests; it was not until later while sitting at the local fast food outlet for a milkshake, that we found out we grew up with the same type of background, beginning a friendship that would last for decades. Ginger and Rosa, played by Elle Fanning (Super 8, Deja Vu) and Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures, 8), had a comparable relationship to the one I just described. Growing up during the early 1960s in London, Ginger and Rosa were inseparable friends. With the threat of nuclear proliferation coming into view, the girls’ close bond began to branch out into different interests. These new paths would eventually lead to an incident that caused a fissure to form in their lifelong friendship. The main asset in this film festival nominated film was Elle Fanning. For her age, I am so impressed with her acting capacity; she certainly has screen presence. Helping her and the other actors was the decision to shoot them multiple times in close-up. Add in the subdued lighting created a moodiness that accentuated the tensions forming between the characters. Christina Hendricks (Drive, Mad Men-TV) and Alessandro Nivola (Coco Before Chanel, The Eye) were durable as Ginger’s parents Natalie and Roland. The script was the weak link in this dramatic film; there were parts of the story that dragged for me. An interesting interpretation on the definition of friendship that was fortunate to have Elle as one of the friends.
2 3/4 stars — DVD