IT APPEARS TO ME when people are reaching a certain age they start going through their home to get rid of stuff. I have recently noticed this due to a few friends, who started doing this very thing recently. They are rummaging through their closets, drawers and basements pulling out a variety of items, from unused tools to shoes that were never taken out of their original packaging. I know this because they are sending me photos showing their stuff piled up, waiting to be donated, recycled or thrown away. In fact a friend of mine who runs an antique/thrift shop was telling me how the store has always gotten items from estate sales or people who are clearing out the homes of their deceased relatives. However now he noticed more and more people are bringing in their own items, telling him they no longer need it or they are downsizing. WHEN THE TIME COMES for me to reorganize my house I know I will have a lot of items to donate or give away. Like so many people I am an acquirer (a kinder way of saying I like to shop). There was a period of time where I bought into the mindset that the person with the most stuff wins. Because I have the space when I bought, let us say, a new pair of pants or shoes, I did not bother getting rid of a similar item from my closet. I think I do this because I have this constant thought that at some point in time I will need that item for whatever reason. Slacks that are too big for me hang in the attic in case I put on weight or have a dinner guest that spills on their pants and needs to wear something while their stained slacks are in the wash. Maybe a better way of explaining this desire for stuff is to look at the way electronic items and children’s toys are marketed these days. Now when a new thing comes out it suddenly becomes a big event, drawing in and making people believe they would be better off with the new item. Need takes a back seat to desire. Let us face it, who wants to feel like they are being left behind as everyone else is jumping on the shopping bandwagon for new stuff. This film festival winning dramatic comedy has something to say about it. FINDING IT HARDER TO make ends meet Audrey and Paul Safranek, played by Kristen Wiig (Ghostbusters, Masterminds) and Matt Damon (The Martian, The Great Wall), agree to become part of the new trend of downsizing oneself to 5” tall and live like a millionaire. However being small doesn’t mean one will have smaller issues to deal with. With Christoph Waltz (Tulip Fever, Big Eyes) as Dusan Mirkovic, Hong Chau (Inherent Vice, Treme-TV) as Ngoc Lan Tran and Rolf Lassgard (A Man Called Ove, After the Wedding) as Dr. Jorgen Asbjornsen; this story caught my attention right from the start. The first part was both fun and curious; but then other story lines came in and none of them ever became fully developed for me. I found it an odd mix that made me lose interest, though I enjoyed the visual contrasts. The story presented was a social satire that could have led to some interesting conversation afterwards, but instead what was in my head was clutter I wanted to clear out.
SHE WAITED UNTIL we were in the car before she broke the news to me. Driving out to the suburbs on a well traveled road, she informed me the person I was in love with was seeing someone else. She realized immediately what she had just said, so she quickly added she did not know if they were sleeping together; all she heard was that they had been spending time together, going out to eat and to the movies. I asked her how long had it been going on and she responded they had only been seeing each other for a few weeks. A few weeks?!?! We had separated only the week before when I was told they needed some time alone; this did not sound like they were going to be alone much. The reason my friend waited until we were in the car before telling me the news was because she knew I could not go “ballistic,” since I needed to focus on the road. In hindsight it was a smart move on her part because I would have gone through the house and destroyed anything that reminded me of us as a couple. YOU MIGHT NOT consider what was done to me as deceitful but I did. Once trust has been established I see no reason why a person would lie in a relationship—unless they were planning a surprise party. Deceitfulness is a deal breaker for me; once a person lies to you how can you ever trust them again? I will say my feelings were badly hurt when my friend broke the news to me; I mean c’mon, how does someone go from one relationship to another in a matter of a couple of weeks? I know I could never do it. Those of my friends who are into Zodiac signs say I am the perfect definition of my sign. Once a person gains my trust they have it for a lifetime…until they do one thing that damages or breaks that trust then I am done with them. I could never trust several of the characters in this film festival nominated drama. MARRIED TO A WEALTHY businessman for the sole purpose of producing an heir became less important for Sophia, played by Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, The Light Between Oceans), when she was introduced to Jan Van Loos, played by Dane DeHaan (Life after Beth, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets); the artist hired to paint a portrait of her and her husband. With Christoph Waltz (The Legend of Tarzan, Carnage) as Cornelis Sandvoort, Judi Dench (Philomena, My Week with Marilyn) as Abbess and Holliday Grainger (The Finest Hours, My Cousin Rachel) as Maria; the cast was well rounded, easily handling each of their roles. Set in Amsterdam during the time tulips first became an important commodity, I found that aspect of the story especially intriguing. The sets and scenes were beautiful and easily transported me back centuries to that specific time. Unfortunately I found the script lacking in originality; to me this story reminded me of a Shakespeare tragedy. In addition there was one character that acted out of character based on what had happened to them; It did not make sense to me or at least it was not fully explained why they were back. Along with many dull spots in the script this movie was a perfect example of looks being deceiving.
Two events stand out in my mind as pivotal moments that changed the course of my life’s path. The first was seeing the movie Tarzan the Ape Man with Johnny Weissmuller on television; the second was reading the book Doctor Doolittle. I already was an animal lover, enjoying the local zoos and relatives’ pets; but this book and movie sealed my affection for all animals. Seeing Tarzan’s companion Cheetah (did not know it was the name of a big cat breed at the time) the chimpanzee was extra special because I had a hand me down stuffed chimpanzee; the 2 of us would watch any of the Tarzan films whenever they were being aired on TV. When I saw the original Doctor Doolittle movie I was absorbed into it because here I had read the book and now I was seeing the doctor and his animals come to life, so to speak. Ever since then I have been fortunate to have a variety of animals around me. I do not judge but when someone tells me they do not even like dogs or cats, I tend to wonder if something happened to them earlier in life that swayed them away from animals. Looking into the eyes of a dog with their unconditional love, I do not understand how someone could resist such love. I can still remember when people would ask me why I wanted to become a veterinarian; I would tell them it is because animals never hurt me. It would be easier for me to give a shot to a human being than it would for an animal. I have to tell you I was hoping none of the animals would be hurt in this action adventure film. LIVING a comfortable life in England John Clayton, played by Alexander Skarsgard (What Maisie Knew, True Blood-TV), the Lord of Greystoke was persuaded to return to the Congo for what he thought were humanitarian reasons. John who was known as Tarzan would need the help of some old friends to survive what was in store for him. Joining Alexander in this big budget film were the actors Christoph Waltz (Spectre, Carnage) as Leon Rom, Margot Robbie (Focus, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) as Jane Clayton and Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight, The Avengers franchise) as George Washington Williams. I thought Alexander and Margot were perfect for the roles and wished they would have had more scenes together. I know Alexander is a capable actor but I do not think the script and the director helped him for this role. As for Christoph and Samuel, I just want to say they have to stop; stop doing the same kind of characters they have done in previous films. Samuel was a distraction as were the flashback scenes throughout the picture. The script was an odd mix of different story lines that weighed down the pace of the film; I was bored in a few spots. As for the CGI effects they were not as spectacular as I would have expected for a Tarzan film. By the end of this film not only was I missing not seeing Cheetah, but also missing a good story.
1 ¾ stars
As I walked in the odor of old rubber was still there minus the cigarette smoke. To the left the bar had been enlarged with a small variety of craft beers. When I was younger they only served 2 brands from 2 spigots. There were familiar sounds playing out though some of them seemed more muted than what I remembered. However one particular sound still stood out whenever a ball was rolled down the bowling lane. It was the sound of hope and anticipation for the initial smack against the standing pins that would then scatter out of the way. The old bowling alley I used to go to had gone under renovation. Across all the lanes now hung TV monitors that kept everyone’s scores automatically, accented with colorful animations for each ball thrown. I did miss the fan vent in the middle of the ball return carousel that would blow cool air on the bowlers’ outstretched hand. It never occurred to me that it was used to keep a bowler’s hands dry; I assumed it was to keep one’s palm clean from dust or dirt. Just as I wrote that sentence it dawned on me how odd that must be because after every game my hands always had a dull black residue over them from the ancient bowling balls. It took me no time at all to get into the swing of things and have a good time in this updated place; I had enough memories to mix in with the new things done to the bowling alley. I had similar feelings with this action thriller. KEEPING a promise he made James Bond, played by Daniel Craig (Cowboys & Aliens, Defiance), would discover a trail of events that were created especially for him but had major consequences for everyone else. This latest adventure story in the movie franchise had a big budget to film in various locations around the world which were fun to see. Pretty much the story followed the requirements for what we all expect in a James Bond movie: intense fight scenes, hi-tech gadgets, a love interest and a diabolical enemy. But with a running time of 2 hours 28 minutes, the story was bloated with scenes that were predictable and felt like the actors were going through the motions. I thought Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Madeleine Swann and Ben Whishaw (I’m Not There, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) as Q were exceptionally good in their roles. What bugged me was casting the skilled actor Christoph Waltz (Carnage, Django Unchained) as Oberhauser then giving him such a poorly written role. This was par for the course since there were fun parts to this movie that played off my fond memories of the older Bond films, but then they had to deal with lackluster scenes. I had read Daniel said he would rather slit his wrists then do another Bond film which explained him looking tired. This is not the way I wanted to remember this James Bond.
2 3/4 stars
They reside together as if they were long lost relatives. With some people they may be siblings or half siblings; in others they could be first cousins twice removed. Inside of me they are definitely related; sometimes they are stepbrothers, other times they are half siblings. Either way I find creativity and therapy have a strong connection to each other. My strongest example would be when I used to play piano. It made no difference if I was playing a classical, popular or improvised piece; piano playing always had a calming effect on me. I know several individuals who are quite artistic, one makes jewelry and another designs company annual reports. Each one finds therapeutic value within their creative process. Even though a person may claim they are not creative, I still see them doing an activity that incorporates the right side of their brain for creativity, with a touch of therapeutic value thrown in. An example would be someone who acquires unique earrings, not the usual mass produced kind. The simple act of looking and judging the earring takes some creative license for them to incorporate them into their wardrobe. This is not a cop-out on my part, but there is some truth to the term: retail therapy. BACK in the 1950s an artist emerged onto the scene named Walter Keane, played by Christoph Waltz (The Three Musketeers, Water for Elephants). His large eyed subjects lead the way to a new way of marketing art. The only problem was he did not know how to draw them. This film festival nominated drama was based on a true story. Amy Adams (American Hustle, The Fighter) who played his wife Margaret was the focal point for this biographical story and she was outstanding. I enjoyed watching her character grow from point A to point B; it was a fully acted out journey. Unfortunately I could not say the same thing for Christoph; his character became too cartoonish for me. Part of the fault had to be placed on the director, Tim Burton (Alice in Wonderland, Big Fish). If I had not known, I would have never guessed he had directed this movie. There were uneven parts throughout, going from Christoph’s odd performance to laser sharp acting from Terence Stamp (Wanted, Unfinished Song) as John Canaday and Krysten Ritter (Listen Up Philip, What Happens in Vegas) as DeeAnn. Besides Amy’s wonderful acting, the story was outrageous enough that it kept my attention throughout the picture. I just wished there had been more consistency in this film; but on the other hand, just watching it in the theater was still therapeutic for me.
2 3/4 stars
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
The best part of the forest for me is the darkest place. Passing the wooden sentries, I look for the area where leaves have formed a confetti sky above me. In the quiet stillness, when the sun is at the right angle, a single ray of light will infiltrate the darkness. I love to see that single bright strand illuminate a tiny patch of ground; noticing almost microscopic sized, feathery objects floating briefly through the light. It is wonderful to witness; seeing the forest teaming with life. In this animated adventure, the forest was home to a magical world of creatures. Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained, Carnage) was flawless voicing the evil leader Mandrake. With the fate of the forest dangling in the balance, Mandrake was determined to overcome the forest’s protector Queen Tara, played beautifully by Beyonce Knowles (Dreamgirls, Cadillac Records). The basic story was about good and evil. What set this one apart from others was its creativity. First there was the imaginative and colorful characters of the forest. Next was the use of actors with distinctive voices like Colin Farrell (Total Recall, Seven Psychopaths) as Ronin and Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia, The Big Wedding) as Mary Katherine. I never thought in my lifetime I would hear Steven Tyler of Aerosmith voice a cartoon character as he did here, playing Nim Galuu. The movie was stunning to watch and had an engaging soundtrack, thanks to American composer Danny Elfman (Men in Black franchise, The Nightmare Before Christmas). While I was watching this film I was aware the children in the audience were sitting quietly, intently watching the screen. There was action, comedy, adventure and romance; something for everyone. The next time I walk through a forest, there will be no way I cannot think about the memorable creatures from this fantasy world.
You are getting something more with your purchase of a ticket for this movie. You are receiving passage to a director who lovingly pays tribute to his elders with this film. Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill franchise) looks at past filmmakers’ achievements and updates them for a current audience. And in this case he also channels a little bit of Mel Brooks into a couple of scenes in this film. I am not a fan of blood and guts violence, so when I view a Tarantino movie I know there will be a heightened intensity to any kind of confrontation. But Quentin adds a stylized touch to such violence; case in point, the viewer sees a red mist of blood sprayed onto a patch of cotton plants instead of the intended victim. Then there is Quentin’s choice of music for the various scenes; it clearly conveys the actors’ feelings on an audible emotional level. The story starts out simple: a bounty hunter becomes a mentor to a recently freed slave, needing his assistance in tracking down the wanted Brittle brothers. As you may know with any story written by Quentin, there are multiple story lines added. The acting was outstanding throughout this wild film. Jamie Foxx (Law Abiding Citizen, Ray) played slave turned bounty hunter Django. His performance was a simmering, restricted anger on the verge of boiling over. His mentor was the precise, German transplant Dr. King Schultz (you have to love the irony of his name) played brilliantly by Christoph Waltz (Carnage, Water for Elephants). One of my favorite actors, Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic, The Departed) was cast as the maniacal southern plantation owner Calvin Candie. Adding his own special touch to the cast and story was Samuel L. Jackson (Jackie Brown, Unbreakable) as Calvin’s servant Stephen. The great use of dialog, the captivating photography and the imaginative camera angles all helped to make this movie a wonderful homage to what was referred to as the spaghetti western movies. Clocking in at 2 hours and 45 minutes, this film could have used stronger editing. Be prepared to laugh, wince, cringe, stare with disbelief, have your ears assaulted by vulgar negative words, witness ripped or bullet ridden bloody flesh as you enter the unbelievable world of Quentin Tarantino.
3 1/2 stars
That famous quote, “One for all and all for one,” took on a new meaning for the making of this movie. The film studio must have thought it meant for them to pick parts of different movies and blend them into one story. Sacrebleu, there was a little part of The Matrix; a cup of The Wild, Wild West and a touch of Mission Impossible all stirred into this confused film. Right from the beginning, when the ninja looking scuba diver rose from the depths of the murky water, I realized these musketeers were not the same as the ones I read about in school. Though the movie had an imaginative look about it, along with fun fighting scenes, I found myself growing tired from the poorly written script. A surprise for me was seeing Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds, Carnage) playing Cardinal Richelieu. Why did he agree to do this movie? Though I will say, he tried his best with what he had been handed. The character Milady de Winter, played by Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element, Resident Evil franchise) was so odd to me; she came across as a poor excuse for my beloved Emma Peel from the old television series. I could understand the Musketeers coming out of retirement to foil the sinister Richelieu’s plot against the king; sadly, they were not good enough to save this movie.
1 3/4 stars — DVD