I DO NOT KNOW IF THE term “broken home” is still used to describe a child’s home, who has divorced parents. To me, the term was an odd choice of words because the word broken has a negative connotation to it; at least that is how I define it. Who is to say the family is broken? Maybe home life will be better for the child now that the parents are no longer together. I believe it is up to the parents to have as their number one focus their children. If I were to use the term “broken home” regarding a divorced mom and dad, I would only use it if the parents are using their child as a weapon against each other. In that case, I would say it is not a broken home; it is a broken parent. There was a family I knew where this happened when the parents decided to divorce. The mother would say negative things about the father in front of the child, working to twist the impressionable mind of the child to favor her over her ex-husband. I found it appalling. The parent worked at twisting her child’s mind by feeding her lies about what holidays would be like if they spent them with their father. It did not take long for the child to refuse to go to the father’s house for a holiday. It was such an ugly situation. WHERE THAT HOUSEHOLD HAD “BROKEN” PARENTS, I have seen where a child thrived and grew after their parents were divorced. Prior to the couple breaking up, the child witnessed arguments and tension between their mother and father. Through counseling the couple concluded they were better off not being married. Once divorced the 2 were able to devote more time in the rearing of their child. There was no more negative energy within the house, no more fights and the child was able to settle into a new level of comfort with both parents in their separate homes. As a result, the couple became better friends towards each other to the point where, after they found their new significant others, they would socialize together as two couples. The child experienced double the amount of attention and affection. I saw it as a win-win situation for everyone. There was no way I would ever refer to that child’s home as being broken; it was in fact an improvement in my opinion. Sadly, I could not say the same thing for the child in this dramatic, western thriller. OWING HIS BOSS A BIG FAVOR, a former rodeo rider agrees to travel to Mexico to find his boss’ son. What he found was more than he had expected. With Clint Eastwood (Trouble with the Curve, The Mule) as Mike Milo, Dwight Yoakam (Crank franchise, Wedding Crashers) as Howard Polk, relative newcomer Ivan Hernandez as Lucas, Natalia Traven (Collateral Damage, Trade) as Marta and Fernanda Urrejola (Blue Miracle, Narcos: Mexico) as Leta; this movie had its touching moments. I felt the script was geared more to tugging at the viewer’s heart than digging deeper into the characters. The story was familiar, but I have to say the rooster made a big difference in the telling of it. I am not one to think about a person’s age, but for some reason I found Clint playing Mike a distraction. It was obvious when a double was being used and normally, I would not pay attention; however, with several scenes there was such a contrast between the 2 it stood out for me. The pacing of the story was slow and steady, but it was also predictable. There were not enough triggers here to consider a low rating for this picture, but there also was not much to warrant a higher rating.
2 ¼ stars
TO ALL THAT KNEW HER SHE was a successful businesswoman. She had owned through her life a few businesses; there was never an exact number because she was modest. With a good heart and kindness, she believed these two attributes would always set her apart from other business owners. Her companies were never staffed with many people; honestly, maybe a handful at the most. There was one company that operated over state lines, but for the most part her businesses were kept locally. I agree kindness and a good heart are wonderful attributes to have; however, I feel one also must have a head for business. All businesses involve making tough decisions that might not appear to be kind. The question is if you can remain honest and true then you can accentuate your success. In her case, she was too kind. Some of her employees took advantage of it. Oh, who am I kidding; they stole from her. As time went on, though sales remained steady, there was less money coming in then going out for bills. There was a problem here, especially when most of the company’s transactions were done in cash. You see, her employees would write up fake invoices that were lower in prices; so, they could pocket the extra money they officially charged the customer. A BUSINESS CAN ONLY LAST SO long with losses before it must close its doors. In her case, this pattern of thievery would follow her from business to business. I am sad to say she never learned from her mistakes until it was too late. The method she would use time and time again to try and keep her various companies open would be to tap into her personal savings. This would also include funds that were set aside for retirement purposes. By the time she was close to reaching retirement age she had no funds left. All those years of trying to be successful at her different companies through the years left her penniless in the end. It was a horrible situation and what made matters worse was the fact she did not have the skill to keep accurate records. The result of this was the reason she never won a court case, for those times she even brought an employee to court. Do you want to know what she is doing now? In her advanced years she is cleaning an apartment building to get a discount on her rent, while living on a small government subsidy. The main character in this crime drama chose a different route when he had to close his business. WITH HIS HOUSE IN FORECLOSURE AND his once thriving horticultural business decimated; the opportunity to make some easy cash was the reason Earl Stone, played by Clint Eastwood (Trouble with the Curve, Million Dollar Baby), decided to be a driver for an unknown company. All he had to do was not ask questions. With Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born, Joy) as Colin Bates, Michael Pena (12 Strong, Ant-Man franchise) as DEA Agent, Taissa Farmiga (The Bling Ring, The Nun) as Ginny and Dianne Wiest (The Birdcage, Rabbit Hole) as Mary; I liked this film more than I had expected. The pacing was steady and Clint, who also directed, created a character that one could easily see him being in real life. The story inspired by a true event was interesting, but I found the script was heavy-handed with its messages. It seemed as if the writers wanted to make sure we knew what we were supposed to be feeling for the scenes. Also, a bit more mystery and tension would have livened up this picture. Though predictable at times, I did not mind watching this film; I just hope I am never put into such a predicament in my “golden” years.
2 ½ stars
UGH, THERE GOES THAT ACQUAINTANCE telling us what he would do if he was in that type of situation. I was telling my friends about my recent experiences with the cable company. One of the pieces of equipment they gave me turned out to be faulty. After waiting on hold forever to talk to a customer service representative, I finally got someone on the line to explain my situation. Long story short, if they came out to swap out the equipment I would be billed a service charge. Before I could complete the story to my friends, this friend of a friend interrupted to tell everyone what he would have done if the same thing happened to him; well it did not happen to him so I did not care what he had to say. I hope that doesn’t sound rude, but I do not take kindly to people telling me what I should do or what they would do while I am in the middle of telling people what was happening to me. THERE IS SOMETHING TO SAY about that phrase, “…you do not know until you take a walk in my shoes,” or something similar to it. Unless I am asking someone for their advice, I do not see any real purpose in having someone telling me what they would do if they were in the same situation that I was in. Here is an example of what I am talking about: Sitting down with the teacher and vice principal to discuss the issues I was facing in a particular class, I tell them about a particular bully who was picking on me. Before I could finish telling them everything the gym teacher looks up at me and tells me not to let the bully do it; I should tell him to stop. That was all the advice he had for me. Gratefully the vice principal had other ideas for the short term. The thing that amazes me, not only for that gym teacher but essentially anyone else, is how someone can give advice when they are not part of the experience. It is like that person who tells you if someone tried to pick their pocket they would beat up the offender after you just got done saying someone took your wallet or purse. I guess people like to imagine themselves as superheroes or maybe just like to brag. However in the case of the three friends in this biographical thriller, they did exactly what they meant to do in this crisis. CHILDHOOD FRIENDS ALEX, ANTHONY AND SPENCER; played by Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler and Spencer Stone; while on vacation found themselves in the middle of a terrorist attack. Directed by Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino, Million Dollar Baby) this film also starred Judy Greer (27 Dresses, Ant-Man) as Joyce and Jenna Fischer (The Office-TV, Slither) as Heidi. I unequivocally admire the courage of these three men; their story deserves to be known. Now that I have stated that I have to tell you their acting was so poor that it was a major distraction in watching this dramatic movie. Clint wanted to cast the actual men which was fine, but if you want to tell a story you need to have someone act it out. The script was elementary like a 5th or 6th grade level elementary; that is how rough it was sitting in the theater hearing these non-actors speak. Also there was so much back story that the main event felt secondary to me. I was so stunned at how bad this film was that I joined a group of viewers afterwards who all voiced their negative reactions to this picture. One can assume the movie studio wanted to honor these heroes, but they did no such thing.
1 ½ stars
There were some toys that were just begging me to take them apart. Toys that did amazing things to my young mind back then warranted me either unscrewing screws, twisting off parts or simply breaking pieces apart until I could see what was inside. The downside to this was I would not have the toy to play with anymore. It is funny now as an adult there are some things I do not want to know anything about how they work. Getting into an elevator, all I care about is when I press the floor number the elevator car takes me there with no incident. I do not need to know if the car is rising due to air pressure, counterweights or pulleys; all I care about is I do not get stuck between floors and make the local news. While on vacation I had to take a gondola lift to reach my destination. There was no reason for me to look at the cable wires strung above or the little wheeled contraption that the gondola was hanging from. As I stepped into the car with the other passengers I looked down at the floor until we started moving. Once we rose above the visitor’s center I peered out the large windows that enclosed us to see the slope of the mountain slowly pass us by. All I was interested in was taking pictures until we arrived at the top; I did not want to know about the mechanics that got us there. Just writing about that experience still creeps me out, though I did get some fantastic shots with my camera. For the same reasons I just described there is no way I want to hear about all the mechanics involved in getting the airplane I am on up into the air and to my destination. If you are already nervous about flying then this film will not calm your nerves. WHEN a flock of birds destroyed both engines of the plane he was flying Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, played by Tom Hanks (Bridge of Spies, Captain Phillips), had little time to follow the flight manual; he had to rely on his instincts. Based on the true story this biographical drama was led by Tom who was exceptional in the role. Along with Aaron Eckhart (Olympus Has Fallen, The Dark Knight) as Jeff Skiles and Laura Linney (Mr. Holmes, The Fifth Estate) as Lorraine Sullenberger; this film was directed by Clint Eastwood (Trouble with the Curve, Gran Torino). I have to say Clint did a great job with taking the story and recreating it on screen. For the most part the script was fine; I am sure it was a big asset having Sully’s conversations to build on. However, there were parts of the story where I had wished the writers would have gone deeper. It seemed as if some scenes were assigned to convey a quick reference before moving forward. On the scheme of things this was not a major fault because it did not take the entertainment value away from the movie watching experience. Let us face it; this was an incredible story about a true hero and the ordeal he had to endure even after the flight. Make sure you stay for the beginning of the credits.
3 ½ stars
There are some individuals who have a natural ability or gift to perform a particular skill. In my old neighborhood there were a couple of boys who in school were the fastest when it came to running. Now there are other people who excel at a particular function but it is only after years that were filled with practice and determination. In some societies children are observed and evaluated to see if they have a certain skill that could be nurtured in them so it will continue to grow. I knew a woman who pushed her daughter for years in the field of dance; taking her to every audition, from one instructor to another as the little girl’s talent continued to expand. This went on over 15 years. However, as the daughter matured her desire lessened to the point where she did not want to do anything that involved dance. Though she had aptitude and skill for dance, her mother did not look at one other essential element: the heart, the desire for it. I know even with myself if my heart is not into what I am doing, I will lose interest quickly. The heart is the fuel for the engine of motivation. SKILLED with a rifle since a young age Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle), joined the military and became a Navy Seal. His love of country along with his special skills made him a legend in the eyes of his fellow Seals. It did not go unnoticed by the enemy who put a bounty on his head. Directed by Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River), this film festival winner and Oscar nominated action drama was based on a true story. Bradley was amazing in the role, having to pack on 40 pounds of muscle to play Chris. I did not recognize Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher, Casanova) at first who played his wife Taya; she also did a wonderful job of acting. This movie was intense to watch with scenes of violence and bloodshed; especially when the character the Butcher, played by Mido Hamada (Unknown, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), had a hand in it. The story is an incredible one; however, I am not sure the movie was on the same level. I say this because there were times where I had wished there would have been more development to the characters, to try and understand their motives. From what I saw on screen, I felt the characters needed to be more complex. Initially I was not fond of the ending; but having discovered afterwards it was done due to legal reasons, I am not listing it as a major complaint. It was obvious a lot of heart and thought was put into the making of this picture.
There are two very important elements needed to transform a dream into reality: passion and determination. One must feel a deep desire inside that bubbles over the flames of possibilities. In addition, one must have the strength to remain committed to their long term goal. When I started out to become an aerobic instructor I had to audition in a variety of undesirable places across the metropolitan area. I would be placed in racquet ball courts where my recorded music would bounce off the walls, creating a blur of musical tones as I strained to remain on the beat. At a few clubs I was introduced to the fitness director who would look at me with disgust, as if they had just scrapped me off the bottom of their shoes. None of this deterred me; I was determined to get my style of teaching into health clubs and eventually succeeded. Regarding my movie reviews, I have had to do some creative scheduling to make sure I can see the new releases as quickly as possible. Sometimes this means I am seeing 3 to 4 films in one day; but it does not phase me, I am determined to offer the best possible service I humanly can. Would I like to be a paid movie critic someday; you better believe it. I keep the dream alive and the dream keeps me alive. There was a man in this dramatic musical film who also was determined to see his dreams come true and his name was Frankie Valli, played by John Lloyd Young (Jersey Boys-Broadway). Though you may be familiar with the voice and the music, there was a story of failure and success behind the singing group Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Inspired by a true story this biographical film was directed by Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino, Unforgiven). The singing numbers were the best part of this movie. I found the story to be as dramatic and startling as a classic opera; however, due to the script and direction, there was no life in this dull picture. Having seen the staged play, this production had the life sucked out of it. Personally I do not enjoy seeing an actor come out of character to talk to the viewing audience; it was done here multiple times. For me it took away the magic of the story, creating a pause to the dramatic build up. The strongest character in the cast was Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter, Stand Up Guys) as Gyp DeCarlo. I am sure there are many people whose dream was to see this story come to the big screen; it was a shame it could not have been told better.
2 1/4 stars