I FOUND SOMEONE I COULD RELATE to and it was an elephant. Don’t laugh; this little elephant was a character I not only could sympathize with but identify with because of what he was going through in his young life. It was on a Saturday and I remember we took the train down into the city. A theater there was doing a weekend showing of the animated movie Dumbo. As we walked around the corner and I saw the movie theater, I got upset because of all the people lined up trying to get into the theater. I thought for sure all the tickets would be sold before we got up to the box office. By downtown standards this theater was one of the smaller ones which was part of the reason for my fears. All I knew about this little elephant was its ability to fly and I desperately wanted to see it for myself. Flying was something I dreamt about and was hoping I could learn something from Dumbo. As you can see at a young age I was already heavy into fantasy, looking to create a different reality around me. I could not stop fidgeting as we slowly made our way up to the box office. WITH TICKETS IN HAND WE FOUND seats in the theater; I could not have been more excited. When Dumbo was being made fun of, I felt his pain. I was overweight and endured similar name calling. If I could I would have jumped into the screen to defend Dumbo and let him know he was not alone. I was visibly upset as I sat in my seat. And then suddenly, my sadness and pain disappeared in a puff of air, that I felt from Dumbo’s large ears when they flapped to give him flight for the first time. Seeing that little elephant rise up into the air was pure magic for me. I was told I had big ears, so I wondered if it was at all possible I could teach myself to use my ears along with my flapping arms to allow me to lift off the ground. There in that movie theater I had found someone like me; I wanted to do everything Dumbo could do. If I was ever afraid or uncomfortable I could simply fly away from the situation, soar above any of the pain or name calling I was experiencing. After all these years, I now have the opportunity to see my flying friend once again in this live action, fantasy film. WHEN CIRCUS OWNER MAX MEDICI, PLAYED by Danny DeVito (Batman Returns, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia-TV), bought a pregnant elephant; he never imagined the birth of a baby elephant could change his life so drastically. This family movie also starred Colin Farrell (The Beguiled, The Lobster) as Holt Farrier, Michael Keaton (American Assassin, The Founder) as V.A. Vandevere, Eva Green (Based on a True Story, Penny Dreadful-TV) as Colette Marchant and Alan Arkin (Argo, Going in Style) as J. Griffin Remington. While watching this picture I had a visceral reaction to what was being shown on the movie screen. Except for the variety of fanciful visuals, I thought this movie was an abomination. How did the movie studio okay a story that was dark and so not kid friendly? I was completely shocked by the script and found absolutely nothing fun or joyful in this picture. There were little glimpses of a possible pleasurable scene but for the most part the script and over the top soundtrack drowned any hope of enjoyment. Days later I still was confused how this film got made of such a classic iconic character from animated history. Unless you want to punish your child or yourself, there is no reason to go see this poor version of the classic tale.
1 ½ stars
FROM ALL MY YEARS OF TEACHING I feel I am intuitive when it comes to judging people’s attitudes. Maybe instead of attitudes I should say impressions because standing in front of a class I am able to see the members’ eyes. With me facing them while I teach, I can usually tell when a member is feeling annoyed with another member. Another thing I see is when a member is judging someone else because it is quite noticeable to me. There was a club I used to teach at that had a cliental that was predominantly single people. I soon became surprised with the catty comments I would hear, and the dirty looks members would shoot at other participants in the class. If someone was in class who did not appear to be physically fit, more than likely they would cause the members around them to get a look of disdain on their faces. A prime example was a guy who was large in stature; he was over 6 feet tall and well over 200 pounds. He had some tone to him and from participating in my classes, he built up his aerobic capacity to the point where he could get thru the whole class. ONE DAY A MAN CAME INTO THE aerobic studio to participate in my class. I took him to be a weightlifter because he was extremely cut with prominent muscles sticking out from his torso and limbs. You should have seen the face of this weightlifter when the big member came in and stood near him. It was obvious to me he was judging the guy, thinking this large person would not be able to handle the class. Boy, was he wrong because not only did the larger member plow thru my workout regiment, he finished it. The weightlifter had to stop frequently to catch his breath. I had to assume he spent most time at the health club lifting weights instead of doing something with aerobics. The larger member had no clue that this guy standing near him had judged him solely on his looks, assuming there was no way he could do aerobics. I would be lying if I did not tell you I was amused by the weightlifter’s look of disbelief towards the larger man. It really goes to show you that one should never judge someone solely on their looks; because there are times where your assumptions could get you in trouble. Proof can be found in this dramatic, crime thriller. HAVING NOTHING IN COMMON EXCEPT THEY each lost their husband; a group of widows were forced to work together to survive the fallout from their husbands’ actions. Starring Viola Davis (Fences, The Help) as Veronica, Michelle Rodriguez (Fast & Furious franchise, Lost-TV) as Linda, Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby, Guardians of the Galaxy franchise) as Alice, Liam Neeson (The Commuter, Taken franchise) as Harry Rawlings and Colin Farrell (The Beguiled, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) as Jack Mulligan; if nothing else, just watching these women act was a privilege. Viola was outstanding, and I was surprised with Elizabeth’s performance. The story had twists and turns in it, though it took some time before things started to pick up and move the story forward. I thought there were a few predictable scenes, but the wonderful direction kept things exciting for me. Filmed in Chicago, I was aware how scenes went from beauty to being gritty and back; adding to the texture of the script. There have been other crime heist films made before, but I was thoroughly brought into these females’ plights and stayed with them for the entire trip. Please do not solely judge this movie by its marketing; there is more here than meets the eye.
3 ¼ stars
HOW FAIR IS IT when an employee who has inside information acts on it? I do not feel it is right. At a company I used to work at there was an employee who worked in a division that assisted the human resources department. This person was involved in the yearly creation of the company’s calendar that listed which holidays the company would be closed. By the time the calendar was distributed the employee had already picked the most popular days to schedule their vacation time. For example they would always take the day after the company’s scheduled closure for the Christmas holiday. As for the holidays that were celebrated on Mondays, this person would pick either the Friday before or Tuesday after to extend the weekend out. Other employees in the department would get upset and rightfully so in my opinion. Limited on how many employees could schedule time off in one department, no one else got the opportunity to extend their holiday celebration or take an extended weekend vacation. WITH THE ONSET OF instant news I have seen so many examples of individuals or groups of people using the knowledge they were privy to for personal gains. I am willing to bet there is a lot more that goes on that we have not heard about. And I am sure it was taking place way before the internet came into existence. Now I am not one to claim I walk a high moral ground, but I feel people who take advantage of other people solely because of their position are immoral. They may gain in financial ways but as a human being they fall down a couple of rungs on the evolution ladder. There is that old saying, “what goes around comes around” and I would like to believe that is true; however, I am sure there are some people who skate through life untouched by their misdeeds. I can see where believing in karma allows one to let go of the negativity of such actions, knowing the “crooked” individual will face consequences in their lifetime or the next one. If you are curious to see what can happen to a person then may I suggest you see this dramatic crime film. DEDICATED TO HIS PROFESSION as a lawyer Roman J. Israel, played by Denzel Washington (Fences, The Equalizer), uses a piece of information to make a change in his life. It possibly could turn into more of a change than he anticipated. This film festival winner also starred Colin Farrell (The Beguiled, The Lobster) as George Pierce, Carmen Ejogo (Selma, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) Maya Alston and Amanda Warren (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Mother!) as Lynn Jackson. I had trouble connecting with Denzel’s character because I could not figure out if he was shy or socially undeveloped or on the spectrum for autism, despite Denzel doing his best. The script which was written by Dan Gilroy (Kong: Skull Island, Nightcrawler), who also directed this picture; did not help in developing Denzel and some of the other characters. Another thing for me was the lack of explanation on the connections between the characters. I am afraid I became bored with this movie at times. Considering the cast I felt there could have been more drama than the uneven script allowed. Maybe those involved in producing this film had knowledge about the characters, but they did not share it with the viewers.
WHENEVER there was a fight that involved females, they would attract the biggest crowds. There is a term I have heard associated to these types of fights called “catfight.” As a young kid I never understood why other children would yell out this word and immediately others would scurry over to watch 2 girls battle it out. I remember a couple of these fights breaking out in the school hallways and was stunned at the viciousness on display. There was scratching, kicking, hair pulling and smacking, besides tearing of clothing. One particular fight involved a shorter girl who had transferred into our school. She actually stunned and frightened many students when she got involved into a fight with another girl. The reason being she was landing full-fledged hard punches like a boxer. Her opponent dropped to the floor in no time. STRENGTH is not something that is exclusive to the male species. I am sure I have mentioned in previous reviews my female relatives who were in the military; one was a sergeant who could nearly squeeze the blood out of your hand when she shook it. It just makes me wonder how and why stereotypes get formed. You know the ones like females are the weaker sex or are more emotional or always go to the restroom in pairs; why are such things a topic of conversation? There have been numerous times feats of strength have been reported on the news or shown on television specials. I remember from years ago a small child being trapped underneath a car and its mother pushing the vehicle off her child. Just recently in the newspaper there was an article about a father who saved his child from flood waters without the use of anything except his super human strength against the rushing water. Whether one is male or female, a parent or not; I feel when times call for it anyone will do whatever they can to survive. See for yourself in this film festival winning drama. SECLUDED in their boarding school in Virginia the lives of the student body were disrupted when injured soldier Corporal McBurney, played by Colin Farrell (The Lobster, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), was discovered on their property. Besides being injured he was also a northerner. Written and directed by Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette), this civil war story was utterly beautiful to watch. The scenes were full of atmosphere where I was feeling the emotions of the cast which included Nicole Kidman (Lion, Secret in Their Eyes) as Miss Martha, Kirsten Dunst (Hidden Figures, Upside Down) as Edwina and Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon, 20th Century Women) as Alicia. The acting was outstanding especially from Nicole; there is no denying when she is on screen she commands one’s attention. I know this story was done before; but what I enjoyed about this version was the fact it was coming from the women’s point of view. The story was a fascinating one for me because of the women being southerners and Colin’s character was from the north. Everything appeared to hit the mark until I got deeper into the film. Based on the scenes I actually felt there needed to be more intensity coming out of the characters. With that type of cast they could have easily delved further down and made a bigger impact. I still enjoyed watching this picture, loving how some of the scenes were set up visually. One thing for sure after seeing this movie, one cannot assume someone is weaker than another.
HAVE you ever met someone and there was an immediate, familiar comfort between the two of you? There was very little or none at all the two of you knew about each other, yet you would listen to what they had to say and you had the sense you knew about it already. This recently happened to me. I only knew a few details about the person before our scheduled meeting. Introductions were made and as we sat down we started up a conversation that was void of any silent moments. Each of us found a rhythm to our speech that was open and real as if we had been friends for years. THE same feeling can be found between long term friends who have been out of touch for a long duration. You must have experienced it at some time I would think. I have a few friends who live out of state. One in particular I had not seen for several years; however, when we finally got together it was as if no significant duration of time every happened between us. We started right up where we left off our previous time as if we had seen each other a few days ago. In situations like this I tend to feel a warm familial connection to the person. Now here is the funny thing, I had this type of reaction to seeing this adventure family film. Being a big fan of the Harry Potter books and movies, I immediately formed a connection to this story that takes place 70 years before Harry Potter arrived in the magical world. ARRIVING in New York City to seek out a particular magical creature Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl, The Theory of Everything), was waylaid by a No-Maj (American for Muggle) who mistakenly wound up with Newt’s suitcase filled with magical creatures. This family movie did not disappoint with the abundance of magical special effects. Set in the 1920s I thoroughly enjoyed the sets and costumes. With Dan Fogler (Fanboys, The Goldbergs-TV) as Kowalski, Colin Farrell (The Lobster, Total Recall) as Graves, Katherine Waterson (Inherent Vice, Steve Jobs) as Tina and Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk about Kevin, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as Credence Barebone; I thought the actors were good with their characters but had no chemistry between each other. Between the script and the directing, I found the movie on a whole a bit stagnant in some places. It went from a slow pace to a frantic action scene causing an unevenness in the pacing. From what I heard I understand this will be the 1st of 5 films, so I understood this movie would be more of an introduction to all the new characters. In addition, it was very hard not to compare this picture to the Harry Potter movies. This may sound odd but I found several characters were lacking personality; I could not tell you much about them. However with me having an immediate connection to the magical world depicted here the flaws in this film were smoothed over.
2 3/4 stars
There are some people who are uncomfortable being the 3rd wheel of a group, others do not even think of it. I suppose it depends on what is going on at the time. For those unfamiliar with the term “3rd wheel” let me explain. A third wheel is a person who joins a couple for a social occasion. There rarely is a time when I feel uncomfortable being considered the 3rd wheel. When a friend becomes part of being a couple what do you do? Do you stop socializing with them just because they have a significant other? I don’t think so. We still get together. Now I will say there are times when a friend may be dating someone that I find offensive, but I remain cordial and just deal with it. I can remember though a couple of times where I was aware I was the odd man out. For example, a friend of mine won free tickets to an amusement park and invited me to join him and the person he was dating. Walking and eating in the park was okay but after a while I was getting tired of always having to ride an attraction by myself or with a stranger seated next to me because my friend and his date had to ride together so they could hold hands or hug. It was not a big deal but I did make a mental note to be aware of it if the circumstances were reversed and I was the one in a relationship. If I had time I would tell you about a friend of mine who would come visit me in college and bring along her boyfriend, so they could share the extra bed in my dorm room; talk about being uncomfortable. Do you find it as odd as I do how some people act differently when they are in a relationship? IMAGINE living in a society where you had 45 days to find a partner otherwise you would get turned into an animal. This was one of the most absurdist romantic comedies I have seen in a long time. Starring Colin Farrell (Phone Booth, Miami Vice) as David, Rachel Weisz (Oz the Great and Powerful, The Fountain) as short sighted woman and John C. Reilly (Chicago, Carnage) as lisping man; I had to wonder what the actors must have thought while making this film. There were parts of the story that made strong satirical statements; others were humorous, while some were just odd. I think viewers will have a strong reaction to this film festival winner; they will either love it or hate it. This was confirmed for me by the audience’s reactions I heard after the movie was over. I have to say I had a strong negative reaction to the end of the story; but before I got to that point, I cannot say I was entertained as much as I was curious while watching this romantic comedic drama. The interesting thing about this picture is how it offers something to think about whether you are presently single or in a relationship.
2 ¾ stars
Look around and you will see the carcasses of lost love. Like the spent cocoons of former butterflies, love does not always last; people sometimes grow out of love in their relationships. Sure it can flourish and last for many years, where the two of you seem to be sailing in the same direction through the currents of life. But things change and your love for each other cools, slipping off of you like the final rays of a setting sun. There is, however, a love that lasts a lifetime and beyond. Even if you are no longer together, you carry your love for them like a comfortable sweater draped around your shoulders. It does not necessary hinder you but its presence always reminds you how love can feel. Within this dramatic fantasy there was a beautiful love story. From the trailers I was not only excited to see this mysterious movie, but I wanted to have a good cry. Yes, I admit I enjoy watching a well done picture that can move me to tears now and then. I thought everything was in place to make it happen with the story in this film. Colin Farrell (Saving Mr. Banks, In Bruges) played a burglar named Peter Lake. Thinking a house was empty, Peter broke in only to be startled by an ailing Beverly Penn, played by Jessica Brown (Albatross, Downton Abbey-TV), who had remained behind from her family. There was something about her that stole his heart. This was writer Akiva Goldman’s (A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code) first attempt at directing and it was one of the major issues I had about this movie. I was so disappointed to see the actors lifelessly move through their scenes. There was a nice chemistry building between Peter and Beverly, but the director never fully utilized it. Russell Crowe (Les Miserables, State of Play) as gang leader Pearly Soames was good, but after I saw who played his boss in this film I just sat in my seat in disbelief. I am sure the book is better and maybe it is hard to translate a century old love story to the big screen; but in more capable hands, I have to wonder if this movie would have been better. Colin gave it his best, working great with his horse, but I did not love this movie like I wanted. Walking away from the theater I could feel my hopes and unrequited love for this film dropping off of me like the petals of a wilted flower.
1 3/4 stars
There is a place where all the should do’s, have to do’s and suppose to do’s in life cannot infiltrate; it is in one’s memories. Some of these remembrances may be average such as a friend’s phone number or a bank account number; however, there is a special area where the cherished memories are stored. It is in this place where I keep my fondest memories that get quick access to my heart. I remember my favorite babysitter who had a way of reading a story where the characters would come to life for me. She had a quiet gentleness that I found soothing. The reason she is presently closest in my thoughts is due to this comedic drama about a nanny. This film reveals the true untold story of how Walt Disney gained the rights to create what was to become the iconic film Mary Poppins. In that place where my fondest memories reside is the memory of the first time I saw this film about the unusual nanny, Mary Poppins. Since I can perfectly recall that experience I was concerned this biographic film would taint my memories. I can honestly say it did no such thing, instead it added a new depth of color to my vivid memories. Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility, Pirate Radio) played the fiercely protective author of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers. Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips, The Terminal) played Walt Disney, the creative genius who spent 20 years pursuing the author for the rights so he could keep a promise he made to his daughters. This film received a brilliant performance by Emma, who was as difficult and unyielding as anyone could be against the creator of Mickey Mouse. The scenes where she had to sit with the creative team of Don DaGadi, played by Bradley Whitford (Scent of a Woman, The West Wing-TV), and brothers Robert and Richard Sherman, played by B.J. Novak (Knocked Up, Inglorious Basterds) and Jason Schwartzman (The Darjeeling Limited, Moonrise Kingdom), provided me a wild history lesson to some of the cherished songs from the Mary Poppins movie. The one complaint I had was the use of dual story lines because I thought each story could be its own film. Though I will say I thought Colin Farrell (Total Recall, Pride and Glory) did a touching, emotional job as P.L. Travers’ father. The insertion of Mary Poppins film clips in this Golden Globe nominated movie added to the heightened amount of joy I experienced during this film. I am happy to say my childhood memory of seeing Mary Poppins now has a new coating of fondness due to this beautiful movie. Please make sure you stay through part of the credits to hear the actual recordings of P.L. Travers.
3 1/4 stars
It can be seen as early as infancy. Some may mistake it for stubbornness, but it really is not. I feel a person is born with it, this determination to succeed. I have seen some babies spend untold time on a single item or toy until they came to some sort of conclusion in figuring it out. For all my years working in fitness centers, I have seen adults with walkers or in wheelchairs struggling against their own bodies to lift a weight or walk the track. I am in awe of the determined drive they have in achieving their goal. There are stories that come out that talk about something that seems humanly impossible. One such true story is Slavomir Rawicz’s book “The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom” which inspired this Academy Award nominated movie. The year was 1940 as the world was breaking out into war. A group of men sentenced to a Siberian prison camp made their escape in the dead of winter. From the frigid arctic cold to the unbearable heat of the Gobi desert to the heights of the Himalayas, they walked 4000 miles as they made their way to India. I know, this story sounds unimaginable; but it made for a riveting film that was beautifully directed by Peter Weir (The Truman Show, Dead Poet’s Society). Jim Sturgess (One Day, Cloud Atlas) played the wrongly accused Polish prisoner Janusz. His skills would help the small band of escapees on their perilous journey. The casting for this dramatic adventure was a major asset in bringing the story to life. Among the actors were Ed Harris (A Beautiful Mind, A History of Violence) as Mr. Smith, Colin Farrell (Phone Booth, Total Recall) as Valka, Mark Strong (Body of Lies, Kick-Ass) as Khabarov and Saoirse Ronan (The Host, Atonement) as Irena. The scenes were so thoughtfully set up that I easily accepted everything as being real. In fact, I felt a shiver as I watched the men struggling in the cold harsh conditions. Though the film was long I never felt bored; even in simple scenes that seemed unnecessary, I felt the director was accurately portraying the group’s physical and emotional struggles. This really was an amazing feat of human strength that was done justice by this film. Some scenes had Russian and Polish with English subtitles. A few scenes briefly showed blood.
3 1/3 stars — DVD
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.