THE MEMORY IS JUST AS VIVID now as when it was created decades ago. An amusement park that was in the heart of the city. I was there with a large group of relatives. Everyone was in line to go on a water ride; where a long boat would take you through a tunnel, where at the end there was something like a big freight elevator, that lifted the boat several stories high to the top of a water slide. I was not even in school yet; but I remember I was afraid to get into the boat. At some point a relative lifted me up and placed me in a seat on the edge side of the boat; I cried because I was afraid, I thought I was going to tip the boat over. The boat rocked from side to side which only made me more terrified. By the time we got to the freight elevator contraption, I was nearly uncontrollable. There was a loud clicking sound being made while the boat was rising in the air. Through the metal bars of the scaffolding, I could see the park guests walking around, looking like worker ants to me. When the boat reached the top, it paused. The only sound was of me wailing. Slowly the front of the boat started to tip down and before I realized what was taking place, the boat rushed down the water slide, where it made a huge splash hitting the water. My cries immediately turned to gleeful laughter; I absolutely loved it and wanted to ride the boat again. THE MEMORY OF THAT INITIAL RIDE has stayed with me all these years. I was with family, we spent the whole day at the park, I had an ice cream that had a hard chocolate coating on the outside; it was a beautiful and fun filled day. Imagine if one day I no longer could recall this memory? Would it be floating somewhere in my brain where it would randomly flash itself one day into my consciousness for a moment? I think about this from time to time and have been for many years. Maybe that is one of the reasons why I always want to document with a photograph a noteworthy activity I am participating in so that I will never forget it. When I was little, I thought our brains could only hold a finite amount of memories. I wanted to somehow purge myself of the sad ones. After many years and seeing those I know deal with forgetfulness, I am even more determined to continue to create new, happy memories. I have seen what happens when the brain becomes engulfed with the diseases of dementia or Alzheimer’s. In seeing this romantic drama, I only have admiration for what the main couple had to deal with in their lives. AFTER RECEIVING A TROUBLING DIAGNOSIS, A long term couple embark on a road trip to visit those from their past. With Colin Firth (A Single Man, The King’s Speech) as Sam, Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones, Spotlight) as Tusker, Pippa Haywood (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Scott & Bailey-TV) as Lilly, newcomer Nina Marlin and Ian Drysdale (Tulip Fever, Genius) as Paul, this film festival winner won me over with the acting skills of Colin and Stanley. They were able to take a script filled with simple, daily life occurrences and create a quiet powerful piece. The story was touching and for those viewers who know individuals suffering from memory loss, this picture will affect you deeper; though, those unaware will still feel the emotion rising off the script. If it was not for the powerful acting, several scenes in this movie would have gone slowly. Gratefully, I appreciated all the work the actors and crew put into this beautiful film. I believe I will remember this movie for a long time.
THOUGH I INITIATED THE CONVERSATION, I now was trying to gracefully remove myself from it. I had been selling raffle tickets at a charity event and was on my hour dinner break. Standing over by the buffet table that nearly stretched out the length of the ballroom, a gentleman next to me commented on one of the platters of food. We both agreed it might taste good but it looked nasty. A man behind be seconded our comments. As we made our way down the table we started up a light conversation between the three of us. It turned out the 2 men were doctors. With my background in fitness, I thought I could hold my own in the conversation. However, when they started delving into different maladies and surgeries; I not only had nothing to contribute, but I did not even want to hear what they were saying. They were talking in detail about unusual surgeries they had performed, life threatening situations where time was of the essence. The ease of their dialog, to the point of almost being bantering, surprised me while at the same time giving me the heebie-jeebies. I was hearing such details about body organs, unusual tumors, spurting blood; I quickly lost my appetite. If you didn’t know the conversation you would have thought they were talking about a sporting event; they were so nonchalant about it. I MAY HAVE FOUND THEIR CONVERSATION icky but I am sure this type of thing is commonplace for so many people. If you take the emotion out of the conversation and are conversing with a like minded individual(s), then whatever the topic is being discussed might not be startling or out of the ordinary. I guess if I was having a conversation with other yoga instructors about poses and practices, to the layman it might sound odd/bizarre to that person. When I am in such a position the thing that surprises me is the juxtaposition between the average dialog and the amazing topic. There is just something about it that can both amuse or horrify me. I am reminded of a CPR class I attended that was being led by a paramedic; his stories about his work were incredible to listen to yet he was so blasé about it. Just because this was recently in the news, I am also reminded of our past primary election where one of the candidates was a Holocaust denier. His matter of fact manner when discussing such a thing was mind blowing to me. The memory of him was in the back of my mind as I sat and watched this unbelievable, biographical drama. DURING WORLD WAR II HITLER’S TOP LIEUTENANTS convened in a remote place to discuss how to proceed on Hitler’s final solution. The meeting for all appearances looked like a lively dinner party. This film festival winning movie based on true events starred Kenneth Branagh (Murder on the Orient Express, My Week with Marilyn) as Reinhard Heydrich, Stanley Tucci (Night Hunter, Spotlight) as Adolf Eichmann, Barnaby Kay (Red Tails, The Man Who Knew too Little) as Rudolf Lange, Peter Sullivan (The Limehouse Golem, The Bill-TV) as S.S. Col Eberhard “Karl” Schongartin and Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, A Single Man) as Dr. Wilhelm Stuckart. Seeing such a young cast of actors was my first surprise; my second was the horror I was witnessing in their conversations. Most of the film takes place in one room, but do not think you will get claustrophobic; the acting was stellar and the script was intense. These were two things that kept me glued to the screen. At times, I felt I was attending a history lesson and at other times I felt I was a “fly on the wall” listening to such world altering conversations. This film seemed like a classic to me.
3 ½ stars
I WAS FASCINATED WITH IT WHEN I was small, which was the last time I laid eyes on it. Years had passed; where, during this time frame, I became the recipient of a multitude of items from different relatives’ estates. Some were sentimental, others practical and some bordered on being an oddity—at least odd for my lifestyle. I treated each item with the respect it deserved and for the most part could recall a vivid memory I had associated with that item. However, this one particular article was something special because I remembered the relative who owned it. She was a kind and loving soul. There was never a time where she was not happy to see me. Keep in mind, this would apply to any of my relatives because that is how she felt about each and every one of them. She enjoyed being around family. Somewhere in my house I knew I had this piece of jewelry that she wore all the time. Venturing up into my attic I started to tackle each stacked box; I felt I was going back in time with every box I explored. It was not until I was halfway done, after laying hands on so many random non-essential things, I found this small black velvet jewelry case. Inside there it was, a vintage pink colored cameo broach. What made this piece so special to me was the fact the woman depicted in this piece had a resemblance to the woman who wore it. THE CAMEO WAS COOL TO THE TOUCH as I traced the woman’s profile with my finger. Memories flooded me as I stood in the quiet attic, surrounded by a multitude of discarded or half-forgotten items that were bequeathed to me. Among the items I had unearthed were coats, hats, baseball equipment and dinnerware. None of it stood out for me, though I could for the most part remember the relative who wore or used it. None of them provided the excitement I felt when I found this cameo. My relative loved this piece and wore it as much as possible. Whenever I got to visit with her, she would be wearing it. Throughout our conversations, her hand would quietly rise to allow her extended index finger to trace the profile of the woman in the broach. It was done almost in an absentminded way, as if she did not remember she had done the same thing earlier in our visit. Finding this jewelry in my attic was like finding a lost treasure. I felt the same way about seeing this exquisite, dramatic war film. WITHIN A SMALL WINDOW OF TIME, two soldiers must travel behind enemy lines and get a message to the commander of a battalion of troops, to halt his planned attack because the enemy was waiting for them. With Dean-Charles Chapman (Before I Go to Sleep, Game of Thrones-TV) as Lance Corporal Blake, George MacKay (Captain Fantastic, Pride) as Lance Corporal Schofield, Daniel Mays (The Bank Job, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Sergeant Sanders, Colin Firth (The Command, The King’s Speech) as General Erinmore and Pip Carter (Robin Hood, The Eagle) as Lieutenant Gordon; this film festival winning World War I story had the most brilliant filming I have seen in such a long time. After sitting through an abundance of poor or average pictures, this one grabbed me right from the start. The director worked at making the scenes all look like one continuous shoot; it was amazing…and at times exhausting, in a good way. Where we do not learn much about the characters, we certainly can feel what the actors are going through in the story. There was excitement, danger, thrills, sadness and horror all mixed within the script. I still cannot get over the amount of physical demands the actors had to endure throughout the film. I felt like I was watching a triumphant piece of work that had familiar attachments but seen in a whole new way. There were a few scenes that could be disturbing for some viewers and a few scenes with blood.
3 3/4 stars
WALKING OUT FROM the station he was greeted by a sea of shirts all in the same color. Every single person was wearing an article of clothing close in the same shade. There were so many people that they filled the space from one side to the other; it indeed looked like there was a slow current of fluid moving away from him, reflecting a settling crimson sun on its surface. He had heard about this special event and looked up the details before committing funds and time to attend the occasion. Though he grew up in the city; the majority of his life was spent in the neighborhood he grew up in. He felt somewhat out of place to his peers because he did not have any reference points to show him he was actually okay. Making his way into the crowd of people before him, he soon discovered the feelings he had about his childhood were similar to the experiences from many of those around him. DON’T YOU FIND it interesting when you grow up feeling the experiences you had were unique to you, only to find out someone from far away had the same type of experiences? I get a kick when I meet someone from another country, in a completely different environment, who has similar feelings about common things that have happened to each of us. It shows me the borders we use to define ourselves are more transparent than we may realize. When you move away from home and set out on your own, you can discover how certain truths instilled in you have a wider definition than you believed. For example in a recent conversation I had with a friend, they shared an experience they had growing up that was so close to one I had that you would have thought the same people were involved in the incident. I was totally surprised by it in the same way the members of the Kingsman were in this action, adventure comedy. AFTER THE DESTRUCTION of their home Eggsy and Merlin, played by Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Legend) and Mark Strong (The Imitation Game, Miss Sloane), discovered their organization was not the only unique one of a kind place to work at; there was something similar halfway around the world. With Julianne Moore (Still Alice, Carrie) as Poppy, Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, Love Actually) as Harry Hart, Channing Tatum (White House Down, Magic Mike franchise) as Tequila and Halle Berry (Kidnap, X-Men franchise) as Ginger; the cast was fun to watch in this 2nd installment. I enjoyed the first one so had high hopes for this film; however, I found the script was weak and filled with strong language that was being used for cheap laughs. Maybe if I had not seen the previous movie I would have enjoyed this more, but I felt the freshness and wicked fun of the first picture was not captured in this story. There were big action scenes and crazy high tech weapons/accessories, but the whole picture felt a bit forced to me with obvious shtick. As I mentioned earlier the actors were a good choice for the roles they had; I wanted to see more depth in them. If the writers were trying to make something that would stand out and be different from other films of this type; in my opinion, they created a typical action picture.
2 ½ stars
I have to be honest; I was enjoying the attention given to me. It started out with short voice messages being left on my phone. Nothing major just things like wishing me a good day or they wanted me to know they were thinking about me. From there as our relationship progressed I would be surprised from time to time with a “care” package left at my front door. It could be a box of chocolate chip cookies or an envelope filled with coupons from the Sunday newspapers. I found these left items endearing and sweet. For it being early in our relationship I was actually surprised with so much attention. To me their actions showed confidence, desire and on some level their willingness to take a risk. More of my past relationships had more tentativeness to them, where the two of us took our time to learn and reveal more about each other; so this particular relationship took me a little by surprise at first. Later on it took me by shock. You see while the two of us were becoming more intimate with each other, they were also dating someone else. It turns out they had met me a couple of weeks after this other guy they had been seeing, so decided to continue both relationships and see who would be the winner. I had no idea I was in a competition; for if I had, I would have ended it. Granted my odds were 50/50 but it would have been hard for me to let the walls protecting my heart come down in a situation like this one. I am only competitive with myself unlike the gentlemen in this romantic comedy. TURNING another year older Bridget, played by Renee Zellweger (Cinderella Man, Chicago), decided it was time to make some changes in her life. She just had not planned on making such a drastic change like the one that took place. With Patrick Dempsey (Made of Honor, Enchanted) as Jack, Colin Firth (Magic in the Moonlight, The King’s Speech) as Mark and Gemma Jones (Sense and Sensibility, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger) as Mum; the acting was well done. If I saw the previous Bridget Jones movies I do not have a memory of them so I will judge this sequel on its own. The story was fun with a script that offered a variety of physical comedy. I will say it took some time before I started to get into this film; the beginning did not grab me right away with the slow pacing. Maybe if I was more familiar with the Bridget character I would have felt differently. However once Patrick and Colin were in the story, I enjoyed the banter and the pacing picked up. There was a sense of the writers trying hard to make this sequel funny because I was starting to feel Bridget was turning into a cartoon character with all the incidents taking place. Overall I think those viewers familiar with Bridget will enjoy this film more than those who are just being introduced to the character. Maybe I should see the 2 previous films to make a comparison.
2 ¾ stars
I sit and wait, searching their face for any clue on which direction their reaction will go. It is a gamble; I know that going in, but I am willing to take the risk. Of course, I make sure I have plenty other choices in case any one of them goes bad. You see I love trying new products, especially in the food category. Anytime I have people over to the house I try offering something new to them and myself. It could be from any food group, I would take a chance on it. And here is the little dietary secret; if a guest enjoys the new product I make them take it home because I do not want it to stay alone with me. It would be too much temptation. This way I get to taste something new without overindulging myself. The other secret about having new food items for company is seeing the look on people’s faces at that first bite; I do not know if I can explain it but I truly love seeing someone putting on a happy face due to some new discovery I found. When I am at the grocery store I feel like a treasure hunter when shopping for an upcoming party. Now before you tell me I need to find a new life, let me tell you I feel the same way outside of my home. When I was a kid I wanted to be a tour guide for the city. I wanted to take people I knew or people they knew and show them something they had never seen before. It could be art, architecture, nature or a restaurant; it did not matter as long as the person would have a positive experience from my tours. My desire to be a discoverer played right into this biographical drama. MAX Perkins, played by Colin Firth (The Railway Man, Before I Go to Sleep) had a special place in the literary world. He was the book editor for Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe. This film festival nominee had a top notch cast of actors. Besides Colin there was Nicole Kidman (Secret in Their Eyes, Paddington) as Aline Bernstein, Jude Law (Spy, Sherlock Holmes franchise) as Thomas Wolfe and Laura Linney (Mr. Holmes, Primal Fear) as Louise Perkins. I was excited not only for the cast but the story itself, seeing these authors I was familiar with coming to life was a treat. You will understand now why my disappointment in this film was significant because the script did not live up to the characters. For such dynamic well known authors this story needed more levels of emotion, besides offering more of the artists’ motivations and feelings. Sure there were drunken and screaming scenes but I wanted to hear more about the “why.” The look of this picture was appropriate and the acting was the best the actors could do with the script; I just wished the script would have been at a higher level to match the story. Considering this film was only playing at 2 theaters in the city, I still felt like I was discovering a little piece of history.
2 1/3 stars
There are times where a dark cloud does not have a silver lining or an oyster has a pearl. A saying I like is “never judge a book by its cover.” I am sure all of us have been in a situation where you did not understand what your friend saw in their boyfriend or girlfriend. I have a friend who used to date a man I found crude and rude. Whenever we were invited to a party where there was food, he would be the first one and the last one to grab whatever was on the table. Not once did I ever hear him ask if anyone wanted anymore before he finished off the platter. If games were played he would be ultra-competitive, concerned only with winning and vanquishing his opponents. It was never a fun time. Where I felt it wasn’t my place to tell her that her boyfriend was a jerk, I had a friend who made his feelings known by telling me he hated the person I was dating. I finally had to sit him down and tell him I was uncomfortable with his actions. His reasons for the strong feelings were based on things that meant nothing to me. I saw kindness, humor and beauty inside of them; but I realize not everyone sees the same things because we do not walk in each other’s shoes. SUPER secret agent Harry Hart, played by Colin Firth (The Railway Man, The King’s Speech) had a hunch there was something more behind the tough talking streetwise kid Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, played by Taron Egerton (Testament of Youth, The Smoke-TV). With a new threat looming could Harry transform “Eggsy” in time to join the agency, despite his fellow agents’ concerns. This action adventure film was pure fun. Written and directed by Matthew Vaughn (Stardust, X-Men: First Class), I enjoyed many aspects of this movie. The story was flavored with humor and I liked the idea of British gentlemen as spies. It reminded me of the character John Steed from an old TV show called The Avengers. Also included in the cast was Mark Strong (Body of Lies, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as Merlin and Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers, Pulp Fiction) as Valentine; they were perfect for their roles. The fight scenes did not have a dark edge which made them more high-tech treats; I tend to be fond of ordinary gadgets that have a dual purpose. Personally I would not mind if the movie studio made a sequel because I appreciated the way this comedy set out in the trailers what it planned to do; make a fun throwback type of secret agent film. What you see is what you get. There were scenes of blood and violence.
It is not given out freely, nor should it be taken lightly. To be treated with respect, trust is something that is to be earned; at least that is what I think. The dictionary defines trust as a belief that someone or something is reliable, good or honest. Imagine if everyone believed everything they were being told was true, how hurt they would become when they found out that was not the case. How many of us make a large purchase, let us say a car or house, without depending on a realtor or salesperson? If we do not build trust with the individual we are not going to buy the item. I have never been one to give out trust easily; it has to develop over time. However, once someone has my trust they have it completely. I never question their actions or what they tell me because I believe them. Now I have to tell you being this way has a downside. If someone who has my trust breaks or bruises it, I feel the sting much deeper. Depending on the severity my trust could go from just needing a bandage to totally crumbling around me. No matter which way, my trust never comes back all the way. TO love a person is to trust them, but what if you could not remember them? Nicole Kidman (The Others, The Hours) played Christine, a married woman who was so savagely beaten that it affected her memory. Not able to recall anything from her past, she could only retain memories that occurred while she stayed awake; for once she fell asleep her memories would vanish by the next morning. Each day she woke up to find a stranger in her bed who was really her husband Mike, played by Colin Firth (The Railway Man, The King’s Speech). When she received a call from a Dr. Nasch, played by Mark Strong (Body of Lies, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), who claimed he was treating her, she would not know who to trust as she tried to find some way to retrieve her lost memories. Based on the novel, this mystery thriller could not have asked for a better cast. Having been paired previously for a film, Nicole and Colin were excellent and convincing with their acting. There is something about Nicole on screen that makes one focus their attention solely on her. Because the two actors were so good it only pointed out how poorly written the script was for this movie. I found it irritating because there were odd moments throughout along with a certain staleness to several scenes. Despite a couple of twists in the story, overall I was disappointed. I wonder if Nicole and Colin will lose their memory of this film as quickly as I have started to do. There were a few scenes that had blood in them.
Early exposure to the art of magic gives us permission to draw outside the lines. When we see something that defies logic it opens us up to accepting additional possibilities to a situation. Some people may say this directly affects our minds, while others will say it definitely stirs our hearts; either way magic certainly can influence us. I can remember my first exposure to magic (not taking into account peek-a-boo) happened when I was nearly 3 years old. There was a relative who would always grab my nose then show it to me sticking out from their closed fingers. I would inhale as much air as my little lungs could hold, to try and get back my nose. It wasn’t long before I realized by relative’s thumb and not my nose was poking out between his clenched fingers. There was another relative however who really performed magic or at least I thought so. Anytime he was visiting he would come up to me and ask me what was sticking out of my ear. I would rub my ear but never found anything. He would reach down, touch my ear then show me the quarter he pulled out before handing it to me. I would always check my ears afterward to see if I could find any money in them, but never did. BELIEVE it or not magic played a central character in this dramatic comedy. Written and directed by Woody Allen (Sweet and Lowdown, Midnight in Paris), this romantic film was about a magician and a soothsayer. Colin Firth (The Railway Man, A Single Man) played Stanley, a man who pretended to be a Chinese magician. When not in costume Stanley was considered the expert in disproving psychics and fortune-tellers. Hearing news about a young, incredible soothsayer named Sophie, played by Emma Stone (Easy A, The Amazing Spider-Man franchise), Stanley set out to show the world she was a fake. Both the music and sets were beautiful in this movie that depicted a bygone era. I thought the acting was quite good, especially from Jackie Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook, Animal Kingdom) as Grace. There were 2 major issues I had with this picture. The first had to do with Colin and Emma; their characters did not come across as a believable couple. Yes they both acted well but I found the idea of them being in any type of relationship just odd. My other concern was the story itself. Though the concept was good, the execution came across a bit tired to me. It felt more like a rehash of Woody’s previous films. There were times I found this film dull. For a movie about magic, I really wished it would have magically taken me out of my theater seat and into its story.
2 1/3 stars
Though the physical and verbal blows ended a long time ago they are still remembered. The changing landscape of an aging body may cover up the dents of abuse but the tremors remain just beneath the surface. Pain never discriminates, it only knows to dig toward one’s heart. It was not until I was in my 20s before I realized there was supposed to be space between my shoulders and ears. I can still remember when a friend or relative expressed kindness with an innocent physical gesture; my whole body would tense up. It was not something that was done consciously, more instinctive or something I learned at a young age. In addition each verbal assault can be recalled verbatim to this day. They dominate any positive comments I may receive by shoving them to a junk room in my mind. To say it takes a lot of work to correct this circuitry in the brain would be putting it mildly. Based on a true story former British army officer Eric Lomax, played by Colin Firth (A Single Man, The King’s Speech), was someone I could relate to in this film festival winning movie. Years have past since he was forced to work on a railroad for Japanese troops while he was a prisoner of war. His wife Patti, played by Nicole Kidman (The Hours, The Golden Compass), had no idea what her husband had to endure during the war because he never talked about it. She only knew something was not right. Nicole and Colin were beautifully suited to play husband and wife. From their performance I was easily convinced they were a married couple; that was how commanding they were in playing their characters. Stellan Skarsgard (Good Will Hunting, The Avengers) as Finlay had a curious role in which he was well suited for the part. The director had a good eye for setting up scenes where I rather enjoyed the contrast between the young and older Eric characters. Where this film let me down was the script. I found myself becoming bored through parts, after going from intense scenes to average ones and back. Having only seen one trailer for this picture, I imagined there would have been more dynamic emotions and energy on display. In my opinion the story warranted it. One need not have to relate to the subject matter to know there was a powerful story here. It just was not executed to its best advantage.
2 1/2 stars