SEEING a person willingly jump out of an airplane could elicit one of two responses: the individual is courageous or crazy. Though there is no way I would ever go skydiving, I would not judge someone who wants to experience such an activity. As I go through my daily life I am constantly witnessing acts of courage. There is the individual who admits to being out of shape, who comes to a fitness class, because they want to make a change in their life. The blind person who is navigating down a crowded, noisy city street or the parent who gets sick on roller coasters, sitting next to their child who is thrilled to be on the ride with their parent; to me all of these individuals are courageous and strong. There are so many other examples of courage that I could write about but it would take up all of my time today. FOR the past several months I have viewed news reports with an eye to the future. The news segments can range from peaceful protesters to refuges to the environment; I look at each one of these and am usually amazed at the amount of courage an individual has in the face of life or death, let alone the person who is willing to make a stand against injustice. Thinking back to some of the famous scientists who left their homeland for a better life or to just stay alive, there is something to be said for that individual’s braveness. Imagine if the scientist was not strong enough or courageous enough to leave a place where they were being persecuted; how different would the world have turned out? Whether a person actively engages in a cause or donates time or money to it, for them they are acting in a courageous way. One cannot necessarily compare different acts of courage; however, some do take on more risk and this movie based on a true story shows you how much risk one person was willing to take to make a difference. AFTER German forces took control of Warsaw they set up a camp in the middle of Antonia and Jan Zabinski’s, played by Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane, The Martian) and Johan Heldenbergh (The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Misfortunates), zoo and got rid of most of the animals. The couple formed an idea that could save lives but they needed the zoo to remain open. This biographic drama was powered with Jessica’s acting. She was the dominant force in this film, though other actors such as Daniel Bruhl (Rush, Woman in Gold) as Lutz Heck and Shira Haas (Princess, A Tale of Love and Darkness) as Urszula still drew my attention to them. The story was amazing, frightening, tragic and a few other adjectives. I will say the script did not come up to what I felt could have been a more powerful story. There were a few scenes that I am willing to bet were created simply for dramatic effect. This produced an odd seesawing effect between intensity and sweetness; for entertainment value it was okay but the story deserved more intensity in my opinion. Regardless, to see Jessica acting in this courageous story was time well spent.
2 ¾ stars
Between the two of us we had gained and lost enough weight to equal the amount of five adults sitting comfortably in a full-sized sedan automobile. I was having lunch with this old friend of mine who was recently in town for a visit. We both grew up being part of the large sized kids of the neighborhood. As we were waiting for the waitress to return with our food order, we talked about how our feelings had changed about food. Our tastes were always different; where she was attracted to creamy and buttery, soft types of food I was all about the carbs and chocolate. I was not fussy; I could be satisfied with a loaf of bread as well as a box of chocolate chip cookies. What we had in common was our mutual desire to seek out different types of comfort foods. Her favorite was macaroni and cheese and mine was banana bread. Neither of us ever had a desire to eat at a fancy restaurant. I know one of my reasons for not going was because their portions always looked too small based on the pictures I saw in print or on food shows. The two of us discussed how food had lost its importance to us as we got more in touch with our feelings. These days food was looked upon as a fuel source instead of a reward; though each of us admitted we did like to splurge from time to time on a favorite treat. The food looked amazing in this comedic drama, but there were very few things that interested me enough to want to eat them. OVERCOMING the addictions that brought him and his famous Parisian restaurant down Adam Jones, played by Bradley Cooper (Aloha, The Place Beyond the Pines), was determined to create a Michelin 3 star rated restaurant in London. It would become his new addiction. Because I am not that familiar with high rent food, I was fascinated with the food preparation scenes in this film. If any of it was true then I am stunned how stressful it must be in the kitchens of these types of eating establishments. The cast which also included Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher, American Sniper) as Helene and Daniel Bruhl (Rush, Woman in Gold) as Tony were okay but the script was only half cooked (sorry I could not resist). I did not feel there was much chemistry between the actors, besides not feeling much sympathy towards them. The script was strange since there were a couple of other story lines besides the main one that could have been important if they had been developed properly; however, it would have been too much to cover in one film. There just wasn’t much to enjoy here; I prefer my movies well done.
1 3/4 stars
With a single word or phrase a story can take on a different meaning. The same holds true for a newscast or written article. When I watch or read the news I know I am getting a fragment of the whole story. It is understandable due to time constraints or limited space. Being a naturally curious person, I enjoy finding out the backstory to what was reported to the public. It could be almost anything from entertainment to science to government; hearing the details on an individual’s thought process behind what they did or created is something that has always fascinated me. In regards to this movie, I was looking forward to discovering something new on the how and why Julian Assange created the site WikiLeaks. As some of you already know, I am not here to judge if something is right or wrong, legal or not, ethical, etc.; I am reviewing the movie on its entertainment value. Benedict Cumberbatch (12 Years a Slave, Star Trek into Darkness) played the role of Julian. Daniel Bruhl (Rush, Winning Streak) played Julian’s collaborator Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Both actors did the best they could with what was given to them. For a movie that claimed it was a dramatic thriller based on real events, the script was a real mess. I was bored through a major portion, finally becoming engaged in the last third of the film. It really was a shame considering the cast also included Laura Linney (Mystic River, Hyde Park on Hudson) as Sarah Shaw and Stanley Tucci (Margin Call, The Terminal) as James Boswell. All of them were good but the way the story played out with short scenes that did not go anywhere; there was not a cohesive trail to follow. With all the controversy regarding WikiLeaks and the way it received anonymous covert data; I wished the writers would, if not enhanced, at least have allowed more time to look at an event from multiple points of view. I did not gain anything new regarding Julian, the site and more importantly I was not entertained. A story so current needed an exciting script and offer something extra to grab the attention of the viewer. If not then one should just watch the news.
1 3/4 stars
The racetrack had to have elaborate turns, at least one bridge, hills and a long stretch of flat road. These were my requirements when I would set up my slot car racing track when I was a kid. Back then it was all about the speed; how fast could I navigate the course without the car spinning off the track. My interest in fast driving continued into adulthood; as long as I was behind the wheel I would get a thrill from driving. However, if I was in the passenger seat or a spectator I lost all interest. Because of that I have no desire to watch auto racing competitions; they leave me bored with their cars repeating the same track over and over into a monotonous blur of metal and sound. This is why it was all the more amazing to me how director Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13) got me totally interested in this action film based on a true story. The film followed the rivalry between 1970’s Formula 1 racing car drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, played by Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Red Dawn) and Daniel Bruhl (Inglourious Basterds, Good Bye Lenin!). I do not know how accurate the depiction of hard partying British playboy James and no nonsense Austrian Niki were to the real men, but for this drama it worked in propelling the story forward. With Chris and Daniel playing the central figures the rest of the cast was left in the background. Olivia Wilde (Drinking Buddies, In Time) as James’ 1st wife Suzy Miller was forgettable for the most part; but Niki’s wife Marlene Lauda, played by Alexandra Maria Lara (Downfall, Youth Without Youth), had more staying power. If I had not known this was a Ron Howard film I would have never guessed he was the director; the film had a fast pace with quick editing shots that made me dizzy at times. Action and speed were the main drivers (get it?) for this story which did not allow much time for character development. The CGI effects were seamless to the point I was not even aware of them. I appreciated the different angles the director used in filming the racing scenes, from driver perspectives to overhead long shots. With the use of voice-overs, I felt the story was well rounded enough for the viewer to get a good sense of these championship drivers. I especially enjoyed the way the movie ended. Please do not tell the state police, but after the movie I made it home in record time. A few scenes had blood in them.