SHE SPOTTED ME AS I CAME through the door and did not take her eyes off me all the way down the staircase, until I finally took a seat. In that short amount of time she had already figured me out. The trainer came over to introduce herself to me and explain what was expected of me. I was prepared but still had some trepidation. You see, I had never done this before and did not want to embarrass myself right at the start. After going through the instructions, the trainer took me over to meet her. She was taller and much bigger than me, with a long mane of auburn hair. I was told to extend my hand slowly with the palm facing up, so as not to startle her. She started to pull back, but the trainer told her in a quiet, soothing voice that everything was ok and that I was nice. I felt weird standing there with my arm stretched out waiting for her, I guess, to see if she would begin to trust me. It seemed like a long time but evidentially she took a step forward and lowered her head down to sniff my hand. I remained still for a moment before I began scratching her under the chin and softly tell her she was a good girl. That was the extent of our interaction for the day; I was to return tomorrow for our second session. AFTER MY INITIAL INTRODUCTION I THOUGHT I would have been more relaxed but that was not the case. When I returned the next day, she was walking in a large circle until she spotted me and came to a stop; her gaze locked onto me as I walked down the stairs. The trainer was standing near her and motioned me to come over. I took it as a good sign that she did not back away as I joined them. Today’s lesson was to teach me how to clean her feet and if time permitted, I would get a riding lesson. The trainer handed me some type of brush with what looked like a metal claw sticking out of it; I was to use this to clean her feet after the trainer demonstrated it for me. The process was easy, and I got the hang of it rather quickly. Afterwards there was enough time, so the trainer instructed me on how to mount her and get in the saddle. Having never done this before, it took a couple of times before I could do it. I am sure that was enough for my horse to know I was a novice. And sure enough, once I got settled into the saddle, she took off in a trot with me bouncing up and down atop her back. No matter what the trainer told me to do, the horse was not buying it and did what she wanted to do. I was just grateful she did not try to knock me off her. Through my lessons I gained a deeper appreciation for horses, which explains why I enjoyed this dramatic, award winning film. CONVICTED AND IMPRISONED FOR A VIOLENT crime Roman, played by Matthias Schoenaerts (Red Sparrow, Rust and Bone), was enrolled into a prison program that involved the training of wild mustangs. Roman would soon discover he met his match. With Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island) as Henry, Bruce Dern (Nebraska, The ’Burbs) as Myles, Gideon Adlon (Blockers, American Crime-TV) as Martha and Connie Britton (American Ultra, Nashville-TV) as psychologist; this film based on true events told a straight forward story in a simple and surprisingly beautiful way. The filming was eye catching and Matthias’ acting was incredibly intense to the point one could not take their eyes off him. There was a smoldering intensity that boiled and simmered throughout the story. I thought the script was well written as it carried the story between periods of silence and action. This was a quiet and thoughtful movie filled with majestic animals and touching moments.
3 ¼ stars
AS A YOUNG ADULT they did not have a typical body shape for their gender. To say they were stout would be a bit of a stretch; let us say they filled out their shape. Their size may have fooled people but make no mistake they were strong; I saw the way they could throw a ball and it was impressive. There was another person I knew who was not the most popular of kids; not the upper echelon status of cheerleaders and football players, but the tier just below it. Good looking in a funky sort of way, they were extremely smart. You would always want them on your team whenever there were debates or science projects. They had a wonderful command of the English language, yet they never used it in a show off type of way. I PURPOSELY DID NOT reveal the sex of the individuals I was talking about. How many of you thought I was talking about boys? How many thought it was girls? Those of you who thought it was girls would be right. You see from a very young age I saw examples where both boys and girls were capable of doing the same thing. Whether it was being super smart or athletic or talented, both sexes were equal in my mind. The idea of one being a “weaker” sex made no sense to me. In my adult life I have had both female and male military people in my classes; they shared that same discipline vibe and were equally capable of lasting the entire class time, no matter how intense were the exercise levels in the class. I have a hard time relating to individuals who see the sexes as not being equal. For example someone who makes a wisecrack about a stay at home Dad needs to be schooled in parenting in my opinion. In light of the recent events of sexual harassment and the #MeToo campaign, I thought this dramatic movie based on a true story might be an enlightening experience. UP UNTIL THE 1940S all comic book heroes were male. Harvard psychologist and inventor William Moulton Marston, played by Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast, Dracula Untold), envisioned something different because of what he saw in his marriage. With Rebecca Hall (The Town, The Gift) as Elizabeth Marston, Bella Heathcote (The Neon Demon, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Olive Byrne, Connie Britton (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Nashville-TV) as Josette Frank and Oliver Platt (Love & Other Drugs, The Ticket) as M.C. Gaines; the acting in this film was beautiful to watch, especially from Rebecca and Bella. The story was totally new to me since I was a Batman comic book fan and I have to tell you this story was fascinating on many levels. There were 2 main story lines: the debut of Wonder Woman on the public consciousness and the home life of its author. For me there seemed to be too much being crammed into the script, where I felt I was being cheated out of learning more about specific events or time frames. Somewhere during the picture I started to get bored or more to the point, wished it had delved further into the characters’ development. If nothing else I truly appreciated learning the history behind the Wonder Woman character and how she added something new to society’s beliefs. I only wished this movie would have been just as strong as its comic book hero.
2 ½ stars
WATCHING the irate customer badger the salesclerk over the rung up price for a box of cereal reminded me of myself. How awful; I saw myself in this belittling loud consumer. Having a storehouse of anger inside of me made me be a walking pressure cooker. One perceived wrong being done to me would set me off, always going over the top since I had a vast amount of anger readily available anytime. As the salesclerk remained calm, though I could see her eyes constantly scanning for a manager, I wondered how many people thought I was a crazy person. On a positive note, if you want to call it that, at least I could observe the situation and acknowledge I used to act that way; grateful that I dealt with my issues and was able to rise above the source of anger. Don’t people say recognizing the issue is the 1st step in the healing process? HAVING the opportunity to grow old allows one to reflect on the multitude of personas they wore in their life. Not too long ago I was talking with a friend, mentioning something about being a former participant in a local group. My friend was taken by surprise because they never pictured me in such an activity. Curious, they asked how that came to be and why I was no longer interested in it. As I shared that part of history with them, I saw myself back in that period of time. I felt like I was talking about a distant relative like a 2nd or 3rd cousin; you know, having a blood connection but far removed to the point where there is a different level of familiarity. One of the pluses of having this type of conversation and reflection is it provides one with validation to what they have become. This dramatic comedy offered me the opportunity to see separate versions of who I used to be. WITH a broken down car in her client’s driveway holistic practitioner Beatriz, played by Salma Hayek (Here Comes the Boom, Once Upon a Time in Mexico), was invited to stay for a dinner party. For some of the guests she was the entertainment. With a cast that included John Lithgow (Miss Sloane, Love is Strange) as Doug Strutt, Connie Britton (American Ultra, Friday Night Lights-TV) as Cathy, Chloe Sevigny (Boys Don’t Cry, Big Love-TV) as Shannon and Amy Landecker (Doctor Strange, A Serious Man) as Jeana; the acting in this movie was excellent. John was the perfect choice for that character. As the story started out I was interested in the activity, particularly once the guests arrived for I found the mix of them familiar ground to my experiences. There were different ways to look at the story; it was easy to plug in variations of the good vs. evil scenario, which I will leave for the viewer to explore. However as the story unfolded I found myself losing interest. There was something lacking for me to the point I was feeling less connected. Honestly my connection to this picture was the opportunity it provided me to reflect on portions of my former life. At the end of the movie I felt unsatisfied. I would have appreciated more intensity and more discussion of philosophies between the characters. Instead I wound up getting annoyed by John’s character (which I thought was intended) and not caring for the ending. This was a mixed bag for me, but I did enjoy the opportunity to do some reflection.
2 ¾ stars
You think you know someone and then all of a sudden they share something about themselves that changes your perceptions about them. Thinking an individual is a cheapskate only to find out they volunteer their time weekly at a food bank has to make one modify their feelings about that person. I remember this individual who always appeared to be fearful, never able to make a decision because they were afraid they would be making the wrong choice. Fast forward several years I come to find out this person picked up and moved to Europe for a job as a critic for a newspaper; I was absolutely stunned. Heck, I suffered weeks of anxiety just to move to a different neighborhood of the city. When the people we have to change our attitudes about are not directly connected to us, we do not suffer any ramifications. But when it is someone close, it can have a life altering effect on us. Being in a committed relationship for several years, you would think you know someone pretty well; I know I did. Imagine you find out they did something that caused a monumental shift in your relationship, like gambling away your entire savings without you ever knowing they had a gambling problem or they had been carrying on an affair with one of their coworkers, This type of news can be devastating to the point where one may never be able to recover from it. The young couple in this action comedy had a similar dilemma. Laid-back and usually stoned Mike Howell, played by Jesse Eisenberg (The End of the Tour, The Social Network), did not understand why people were trying to kill him. His girlfriend Phoebe Larson, played by Kristen Stewart (Clouds of Sils Maria, Twilight franchise), wanted to know where Mike learned how to defend himself. The concept for this movie was only good because of Jesse in the role. Being such an affable and likable guy, the idea of him being a fighter was something I would never associate with him. Along with Connie Britton (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Friday Night Lights-TV) as Victoria Laseter and Topher Grace (Interstellar, Spider-Man 3) as Adrian Yates, I thought this film was an uneven mess. There were parts that were fun and exciting but then other areas made no sense and were dull. Topher’s character was annoying to me; I could not figure out if he was supposed to be a joke or not. If it was not for Jesse I would have been totally bored by this comedy, that did not have anything especially funny in it. So it turns out I thought I was going to see an exciting comedy movie and wound up seeing neither. There were several scenes with blood and violence.
1 3/4 stars
Maybe it takes a passage of time for one’s perceptions to evolve out of a wider base of experiences. Now when I look back at my school years, though some of them were brutal, I see there were parts of it where I was fortunate. Having gone to school at a time when students were not considered bull’s-eyes I can only recall one incident where a student had died. He was the brother of a classmate who was 1 year behind us in school. There were rumors about what happened to him but it appeared as if he had killed himself. Outside of that the only thing that came close was one student who was an epileptic who had a seizure in the middle of a class and another who was a hemophiliac. I remember when the teacher spent half of the morning explaining to us what it meant to be a hemophiliac; we were told to be very careful around her, especially during PE class and recess. As you are probably guessing this was before the HIPAA law came into effect. In regards to these 3 individuals, it was the only time where the different factions (it is the only word that does justice to what my school was like) in the school came together. Whether one actively sought out a faction or was judged and placed in one; after seeing this stellar film, I think all schools have the same factions. FORCED by his mother to go visit a classmate recently diagnosed with cancer Greg, played by Thomas Mann (Project X, Beautiful Creatures), had no idea what to say to Rachel, played by Olivia Cooke (The Signal, Ouija). Not interested in his pity Rachel and Greg had nothing in common except not being part of a particular group in school. Her journey through her illness would blur the lines. This film festival winning comedic drama was this generation’s coming of age story. With cast members like Nick Offerman (We’re the Millers, Parks and Recreation-TV) as Greg’s dad, Molly Shannon (Analyze This, Life After Beth) as Denise and newcomer R J Cyler as Earl; everyone was believable and gelled so well together. The bond between everyone was cemented by the intelligent script that had street smarts. As I sat in the theater watching this movie, I had various school memories popping up that were similar in theme to what I was seeing on screen. With the outstanding directing that beautifully blended in the absurd, sad, happy and uncomfortable scenes; I was swept into the story of this film and enjoyed nearly every minute being involved with these students. Wow, I wish I could have said the same thing about my time spent during my school years.
3 2/3 stars
It felt as if I was receiving the winning lottery ticket when I was handed my high school diploma. I saw it as my opportunity to become someone different. You see, I was tired of being a punching bag and a punch line in high school. One of the reasons why I chose the particular university I attended was, as far as I knew, no one from my high school had applied there. The summer prior to attending the fall semester, I let my hair grow out to its natural curly state, began an exercise and diet program and most importantly, found student housing off campus. My studio apartment was on a floor that had mostly graduate students. Being the youngest and newest on the floor, the older students not only helped me navigate my way through the university system, but looked out for me. It was a whole different world for me, where I was finally able to be myself and not be judged. Having always felt that peer pressure was a highly infectious disease; I immediately understood where valedictorian Brandy Klark, played by Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed, Damsels in Distress) was coming from in this story. Determined not to still be a virgin by the time she started college, Brandy made a to do list of all the activities she felt she needed to achieve her goal. This comedy was filled with a multitude of strong, crude, graphic language and scenes. I did not have an issue with it, understanding the attraction to this film was having the story being told from a woman’s point of view. To verify my reactions, I imagined scenes where the female characters were male and came to the same conclusion: I did not find this movie funny. There were pockets of humor here and there, but overall I felt the movie was on overkill. Brandy’s relationship to her older sister Amber, played by Rachel Bilson (Jumper, Hart of Dixie-TV), was similar to other sister relationships done before. I felt more humor could have been mined from Brandy’s parents Judge and Mrs. Klark, played by Clark Gregg (The Avengers, 500 Days of Summer) and Connie Britton (Conception, Friday Night Lights-TV). As for Bill Hader (Superbad, Saturday Night Live-TV) playing pool manager Willy, his character was no different then the characters he did before on television. I did find the crisp pacing led to tight, steady scenes. If only the to do list in making this movie had been double checked.
1 3/4 stars