ONCE I WALKED INSIDE THE BUILDING, I was even less convinced I would have a good time. The building was on a commercial street, in the middle of the block. There was no signage out front except for its address and a small sign above the door that said, “THEATER ENTRANCE.” When we opened the front door, we were surprised there was a long hallway in front of us with a string of lights strung all the way down the ceiling to another door. When we got to and opened the 2nddoor, we found a rectangular shaped room with support columns going down the center of it. There was a dresser to one side with its top drawer open and filled with snack bags of pretzels, popcorn and potato chips. A young-looking man was standing behind it. He asked us if we were there to see the play and I said yes. Asking for my last name, he rifled through what looked like a recipe box to retrieve our reserved tickets. From there he directed us to walk thru a black curtain that looked like it had gone through the wash one too many times, to find seats in the theater’s auditorium. CALLING IT AN AUDITORIUM WAS A bit of a stretch, based on what I was seeing. The area, no bigger than a neighborhood bakery shop, had black painted brick walls. Along one side was a makeshift wooden stage and by stage, I mean it was raised one foot off the floor, looking like a large box. There were metal folding chairs lined up in rows, 6 rows to be exact. I was already uncomfortable knowing I was going to be sitting on an unpadded chair for two hours approximately. Hanging from the ceiling were a row of spotlights that looked like metal cocoons that were in the middle of hatching. The only other thing in the room was another black curtain that was covering a doorway next to the stage. As we took our seats, I remembered the time I was involved in a school play. It was a barebones operation, similar to what I was presently seeing around me. I remembered an argument took place between two of the stagehands, over what color to paint a backdrop. A cast member refused to talk to another cast member, only speaking to them if it was dialog from the script. Up until our opening night, I was not sure we could pull off putting on a production. With me sitting in this odd space with my friends, I could not imagine what was in store for me and would it even be any good. It is funny, I felt the same way as I started to watch this comedic drama. INDEPENDENT FILMMAKER NICK REVE, PLAYED BY Steve Buscemi (The Death of Stalin, Norman), has one day to film a powerful piece. It seemed as if everyone else around him had their own agenda. With Catherine Keener (Get Out, We Don’t Belong Here) as Nicole Springer, Dermot Mulroney (Young Guns, August: Osage County) as Wolf, Danielle von Zerneck (La Bamba, Dangerous Curves) as Wanda and James Le Gros (Drugstore Cowboy, Certain Women) as Chad; this film festival winner was a surprise for me. The story was a strong satire about independent filmmaking. Despite Steve’s yelling getting to me after a while, I thought the cast was fun; Catherine was exceptional with her role. The humor was sly, where one had to pay attention to the dialog closely. Now granted, some scenes seemed way over the top in craziness; however, having it all revolve around the making of a movie made it more plausible to me. All I can say about this picture is that it was quirky and funny; and maybe, that is because it reminded me of that time back in school, when we were trying to put on a play.
IF I WERE TO PLACE A GROUP of people into a room and ask them what one thing, they think is important to have in one’s life, the majority of answers would be for money and love. These answers are perfectly valid; I would not disagree with them. However, I do not know if either of those answers would be mine. Now I certainly hope to always have love and money, but the other thing I want to have in my life is time. Yes, time. There is so much I want to do and see that I want to have as much time as I possibly can available to explore what I want to experience. I read a news article about an elderly couple, who are close to 90 years old, getting married and I am happy for them; may they share many years together and that is what I mean. How many wedding anniversaries do you suppose they will get to celebrate together? Not that I am trying to be morbid here; but I think about how many years will my relationship get as I have more years behind me than in front of me. This is why I believe time is a precious commodity. FOR BEING A NON-SPONTANEOUS PERSON, I am constantly aware of time. When I was working three jobs, I had to function like clockwork. Even today people who know me can set their clocks based on what I am doing or where I am at; this is absolutely true. Some of you may remember my childhood dream coming true when I traveled to Hawaii; it was the last state I had to see before I could say I have been to all 50 states. I have so many other dreams I wish to fulfill, but I need time to make that happen. When I was just starting out in the world on my own, time did not seem as important as it does now as I have grown older. I could stay out until 4 in the morning, get home to sleep a bit then eat breakfast and go on with the day with no problem. Now, I hope I can stay up some nights just to hear the news. Looking around my house, I have all these projects I want to tackle; but I never have enough time to sit down and really focus on them. Instead, I have space being taken up on tables, chairs and shelves with these unfinished tasks. It seems like I never have time to just sit down and relax; I worry that I will fall further behind in trying to accomplish what I have set out for myself. The couple in this romantic, dramatic comedy would understand what I am saying. WITH A POOR PROGNOSIS FROM HIS doctor, time was not something Griffin, played by Dermot Mulroney (The Wedding Date, August: Osage County), wanted to waste on thinking about his future; he wanted to spend time doing what he felt like doing right now. With Amanda Peet (The Whole Nine Yards, 2012) as Phoenix, Sarah Paulson (Glass, Carol) as Peri, Blair Brown (Altered States, The Astronaut’s Wife) as Eve and Alison Elliot (Wyatt Earp, The Spitfire Grill) as Terry; this film festival nominated movie played around with my emotions and I was okay with it. Despite the story following a generic blueprint, I enjoyed the chemistry between Amanda and Dermot. And if nothing else I thought the script’s message was both important and relatable to me. There were a couple of scenes that seemed farfetched but watching the characters’ trajectory kept me fully engaged. As you may imagine, a true test for a movie is not making the viewer feel like they wasted their time watching it; I did not feel like I lost a second of time by sitting down to watch this emotional picture.
2 ½ stars
THE MUTUAL FEAR OR MAYBE it was dread in both of our eyes bonded us together. We were both in the same class to be certified in a new fitness format. Not being a spontaneous type of person, as soon as I heard we would have to pair up to create a workout sequence incorporating the new techniques we were learning, I panicked at the idea of standing up in front of the class and free styling a new workout routine. The woman next to me must have been going through the same thing; because up until that point, we only said a courtesy hello to each other before sitting down in our spots. When the actual time came to pair up I was not sure she wanted to team with me since my experiences in fitness were different compared to hers. Since the people on either side of us turned the other way to find a partner we formed our team, sadly based on dread. WE WERE GIVEN 10-15 minutes to come up with a complete warm-up set to lead the class. I was never good with public speaking in college, though I quickly adjusted to it through my fitness classes. But after all the planning and rehearsing I put in to my own fitness routines I was confident enough to the point I did not hesitate expressing myself to the members. Here I was sitting with this stranger, figuring out what muscle group to utilize first as the goal was to increase the participant’s core temperature. I listened to her suggestions. In my heart I knew some of her routines would not qualify as a warm-up. Trying to gently steer her away from her plan, I made a few suggestions. She nodded her head as I spoke but insisted for the time allotted to us her plan would work best. I was not going to argue about it and relinquished to her choice of muscle workouts. When it was our turn we both went to the head of the class and started the music. Not more than 60 seconds went by when I realized I should have fought for my suggestions. The look on the instructor’s face, along with the participants in the classroom, told me we would not score high in this portion of the practical. Thank heavens this was not a life or death situation like the horrific one I saw in this action, adventure drama. AFTER THEIR PLANE CRASHED in a remote mountain area, two strangers would have to trust and depend on each other if they wanted to survive. Starring Idris Elba (The Dark Tower, Pacific Rim) as Ben Bass, Kate Winslet (Finding Neverland, Collateral Beauty) as Alex Martin, Beau Bridges (The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Descendants) as Walter and Dermot Mulroney (The Grey, My Best Friend’s Wedding) as Mark; there were several incredible thrilling scenes that were accentuated with the great chemistry between Idris and Kate. Overall I did not mind sitting through this picture even though it was predictable and a bit farfetched. What really stood out was the short time the writers went from an adventure film to a romantic one; it seemed forced to me and needed more time to grow organically in my opinion. I think because this was one of the only movies I saw after my ordeal in the hospital, it was escapism for me. Other viewers may not feel they are as in synch with the story as much as I found myself to be.
2 ½ stars
ONCE upon a time employees took pride in their work. Whether it was an office clerk, salesperson, mechanic or repair person; doing a good job used to mean something. Maybe because the business climate changed over the decades from an employees matter mentality to workers now being considered just a disposable statistic, it is not only sad but can be frustrating for the public. Presently I have friends who have been dealing with a large phone carrier for over 2 months, to get them to transfer their business phone lines to another party. Every single time my friends call customer service they get a different answer to the same question. Right now they have received 8 different responses where one representative says they need the new party’s permission to change the phone line to that party, but another rep says they can do it without any permission. Yet nothing ever gets done. WHAT I have found these days are employees who take their pride to cockiness. They really are not feeling good about doing decent work; they are doing it so they can boast and make themselves feel better than the people around them. I do not know about you but it takes a lot of energy for me to keep a straight face while a worker talks down to me in a condescending way. When I encounter someone bragging about something they did at work, that they think was extraordinary, all I want to ask them is, “Isn’t that part of your job responsibilities?” And companies want to know why consumers are switching to online shopping. It only takes one bad employee to color a person’s perception of that company or organization. This crime thriller will show you what I mean. POLICE officer Vincent Downs, played by Jamie Foxx (White House Down, Law Abiding Citizen) found himself being hunted down after he stole a drug shipment from a crime family. His problems got worse when he discovered the family kidnapped his son Thomas, played by Octavius J. Johnson (Coldwater, Ray Donovan-TV). Set in Las Vegas this action film told a story that has been done repeatedly before. The problem was this picture did not offer anything different with this genre. With Michelle Monaghan (Patriots Day, Due Date) as Jennifer Bryant, Dermot Mulroney (The Grey, My Best Friend’s Wedding) as Stanley Rubino and Scoot McNairy (12 Years a Slave, Non=Stop) as Novak; the only actor I thought did anything well was Michelle. In fact I wish the script had been written more around her character for she was the only one where I felt I had a connection. Jamie brought nothing to his role and the script only made things worse for him. C’mon, he has a bleeding wound that seems to only hurt when he needs to take a pause to catch his breath between stunts. Otherwise he is fighting and dodging bullets all over the place. Plus I find it ridiculous to have the bad guys shooting so many bullets but none of them have good aim. This movie was a tedious one to get through; I really would like to know if the people behind this film felt pride in what they created for the moviegoer.
1 ½ stars
On the very fringe of the neighborhood there sat an old sagging house. Painted a long time ago in dark colors, it now looked like it was freckled and wrinkled. All the kids who lived around the area had heard an old witch lived in the house. When I would have to walk by the place I always did so at a faster pace. There were some kids who had a defiant streak in them. They would run a stick along the rungs of the long metal front gate, letting the staccato clanking noise talk for them. I had heard some kids late at night would throw stones at the front door then take off running before the witch would storm out to scream at them. As far as I could remember she was the only occupant of the house, though there were rumors that some unsuspecting children who lingered too long by the property were never found again. As time went by and I began high school, all the stories and rumors I had heard about the owner of the haunted house went to sleep in my mind. Years later I found myself at a party and struck up a conversation with a another guest who was familiar with my old neighborhood. As we were talking she mentioned her grandmother used to live near where I grew up. You know what I am going to say; it turned out her grandmother was the witch who lived in that old house that us kids were afraid to go near. I really wished I knew how the story about her grandmother being a witch had started in my old neighborhood. HOPING to make contact with her deceased mother; a young Quinn Brenner, played by Stefanie Scott (No Strings Attached, A.N.T. Farm-TV), paid a visit to psychic Elise Rainier, played by Lin Shaye (Take Me Home, There’s Something About Mary). Elise had to explain why she no longer gave readings and warned Quinn what could happen if one tried to contact the dead on their own. This third installment’s story in the horror film franchise was a prequel, before the Lambert family’s time. With Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend’s Wedding, About Schmidt) as Sean Brenner, this film festival winner did not have the same impact like the 1st one did for me. Lin was the strongest character out of the cast; it was understandable since she was reprising her role. Except for a couple of good fright scenes, I did not find this movie particularly scary. There were scenes that had stereotypical horror tricks like a sudden sound or quick appearance. The directing was okay, but I found the script somewhat generic with its plot. I was more afraid of that old woman from my childhood than this film.
1 3/4 stars
After a few attempts I came to the conclusion that my brain was not wired that way. There was something about a PC’s operating system that did not interface with my mind. I would sit in front of its glowing screen, staring at the dialog box that told me a function did not work, asking me if it was okay. No, it was not okay I would say as the level of my frustration rose. According to my way of thinking, the computer should have been able to correct itself and show me what I needed to do to proceed; it was a computer for heaven’s sake. When I left the PC world, replacing it with an Apple computer, an immediate connection formed between us. This is not meant to be an advertisement or endorsement of their products; I am simply saying the billowing brainwaves in my head found clarity with its operating system. The creator and driving force behind my computer and cell phone was Steve Jobs. From the events he orchestrated and the frenzied crowds who camped out for his products, I would be surprised to find someone who had not heard of this man. To portray such an intense individual in a movie, one would need an actor with some considerable acting abilities. Who this movie studio came up with to play Steve Jobs was Ashton Kutcher (The Butterfly Effect, That ’70s Show-TV). In his television commercials, Ashton has an engaging personality that is comfortable to watch. This trait worked for him when he was recreating Steve’s media events in this dramatic film. Unfortunately, it was the only thing that did work for him. Ashton was completely wrong for this character that needed to show the emotional intensity that Steve was known to have and display freely. The script was awful, making the scenes seem like small tidbits that were randomly spliced together. Where I thought Josh Gad (Love & Other Drugs, 21) had potential playing Steve’s partner Steve Wozniak, Dermot Mulroney (Zodiac, The Grey) was wasted playing the financial backer Mike Markkula. This was such a disappointing movie; I can only imagine what Steve Jobs would have done after seeing this film. My guess is he would be yelling at everyone involved, using words not usually found in a dictionary; telling them it was ugly and not consumer friendly.
1 2/3 stars
You can run but you cannot hide from your gene pool. I am well aware of it. Being in a family with a history of high blood pressure was one of the reasons I became a group fitness instructor. Besides the health aspects from acquired genes; there are the, shall we say, odd similarities that can be found among family members. Though my brothers and I do not look alike, we share some common patterns in our behaviors. In my extended family I can find certain similar peculiarities among siblings. For the Stoker family there was a deep darkness that ran through their gene pool. After her father died in an auto accident; the mourning India Stoker, played by Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre, Lawless), was surprised to find out her father had a brother. The first time she met Uncle Charlie, played by Matthew Goode (Match Point, Watchmen), was when he showed up to stay at her house after the funeral. India’s grieving mother Evelyn, played by Nicole Kidman (The Paperboy, Moulin Rouge), gladly took in Charlie, hoping to find comfort from her loss. Despite finding a strangeness to Uncle Charlie, India became intoxicated with his different ways. It was curious to India why she never knew of him and why he entered her life now. From Korean director Chan-woo Park (Thirst, Lady Vengeance), this film had a rich subtle moodiness to the scenes. I enjoyed the filming with its edge of off centeredness. The acting was wickedly wonderful; I really like Nicole taking on these different types of roles in her past few films. The reoccurring scene of India hunting with her father Richard, played by Dermot Mulroney (The Grey, About Schmidt), was a wonderful addition to the ultimate story. Even Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook, Animal Kingdom) as Aunt Gwendolyn was great, though the role was minor. What held this movie back from being an even better film was the script. There were unexplained situations and a slight lack of depth to the characters. The Stoker family was aptly named; just do not go diving into their gene pool. Brief scenes with blood.
3 1/4 stars