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