WHEN I WAS YOUNGER, THE INDIVIDUALS I did not like knew it. I do not know why, but I felt it was my responsibility to put them in their place. If someone was a braggart, I would find a way to knock them down a couple of rungs. Not that I was proud or that it was an achievement on my part, but I used to be the best when it came to holding a grudge. So, if I encountered someone who I had a negative interaction with previously, they knew along with everyone else in the room that I would have nothing to do with them, to the point of completely ignoring them. No so much as a hello or the nod of my head for acknowledgement, I would purposely hover around them without engaging them into any of my conversations with the other guests. Even if they added a comment to the conversation, I would simply talk over them or remain silent. Of course, the other people within the conversation would realize I was ignoring the individual; but they never would make a comment, let alone try to push me to engage with the unwanted person. Out in the real world this was easy for me to do and maintain; but in the work world, I knew I could not act out in the same fashion. MY GUIDING FORCE WHEN IT COMES to dealing with conflict between employees is remembering that the company comes first. There is nothing more important to me than maintaining a company’s good name. I used to work with a miserable individual who felt everyone around them was stupid, that he was the only smart one. I had a couple of run-ins with him where he tried to get me in trouble. From that point on I decided I would totally ignore him. He got the message quickly when he tried to engage me in small talk; I just looked at him, got up from my desk and walked out of the room. With that being said, when it came to asking anything about company business I would cordially respond. That was the only time I would interact with him, company business. Let us face it, I do not think there is anyone who likes and gets along with every person they meet; there always will be someone that is disliked. I have learned in the work environment to put personal opinions to the side, work with whoever you need to work with, to get the job done. This is the philosophy one can see in this action thriller. THE BEST WAY TO CAPTURE A top-secret weapon for CIA agent Mace, played by Jessica Chastain (Crimson Peak, Molly’s Game), would be to join forces with her counterparts from other international agencies; but would she be able to trust them. With Penelope Cruz (Pain and Glory, The Counselor) as Graciela Rivera, Bingbing Fan (X-Men: Days of future Past, Lady of the Dynasty) as Lin Mi Sheng, Diane Kruger (In the Fade, National Treasure franchise) as Marie Schmidt and Jason Flemyng (Deep Rising, From Hell) as Elijah Clarke; this movie’s selling point was having a strong female group who could act, leading this story. The fight scenes were bloody and violent, with an authentic look to them. I did not mind the story’s plotline, but there really was nothing new to it. I have seen similar films that were a lot better in dealing with the spy stuff. There was a nice twist to the story; however, the script did not add to the characters. Personally, I think the writers could have gone to a deeper intensity level which would have made this picture more engaging. There was only a mild curiosity on my part, that got dulled by the poorly written script.
BEING THE FATHER OF THE BABY was the only thing I knew about him, besides living with the baby’s mother. I knew nothing else like his job, his age or where he came from. I had seen photos of the baby and she was adorable, always with a great big smile on her face; who she looked like I could not say. There was going to be a large social event where we were both going to attend. The baby’s mother was excited to introduce the baby’s daddy to me, talking about him more than usual up until the time of the party. I got the sense she was proud of him and wanted to show him off to me; I was cool with it. When it was time to attend the party, I decided to wear my suit since the event was being held at a hotel’s ballroom. It was easy to get to the place and I was able to find parking in front, which I preferred instead of going into the parking garage. When I entered the ballroom, I was met with the sounds of a DJ spinning his music from atop a stage set up behind a huge dance floor. I made my way through groups of people until I found a familiar face. It was someone I had known for many years. We made some small talk, commenting on the decorations that were placed about the room. IT WAS JUST BEFORE THE WAITSTAFF came out with dinner’s first course, when I felt a tap on the back of my shoulder. I turned around to see the baby’s mother and I assumed father standing side by side behind me. I said hello to her and commented on how tall she appeared. She chuckled and had to show me the high heeled shoes she was wearing. I laughed then directed my attention to the man standing next to her who had been quiet this whole time. Extending my hand, I introduced myself. He took a hold of my hand and gave it a vigorous shake. The three of us fell into easy bantering, though I noticed the baby’s daddy was focusing all his attention towards me. At some point he insisted he buy me a drink at one of the bars that was set up in the ballroom. My gut was telling me to be cautious; I could not explain why I was starting to feel this way, but there was something about him that put me on edge. I knew the baby’s mother would ask me what I thought of him, but I decided that when the time came, I would try to focus on positive statements. However, time would show me that my gut feeling was right. I have been learning to pay attention to my gut feeling, which I believe one of the main characters in this action mystery was doing as well. THERE WAS SOMETHING ABOUT RACHEL, PLAYED by Diane Kruger (In the Fade, Unknown), that made Mossad agent Thomas, played by Martin Freeman (The Hobbitt franchise, Black Panther), believe she would be the right fit for what the agency needed. But when Rachel delves deeper into her assignment, Martin begins to wonder if he had made the right choice. With Cas Anvar (Room, The Expanse-TV) as Farhad, Rotem Keinan (A Tale of Love and Darkness, The Exchange) as Daniel and Lana Ettinger (Live and Become, The Road to Where) as Operative #2; this drama started with a slow pace before the action was introduced. I thought the story was interesting, especially basing it in Tehran. The issue I had though was with the script; there was very little variance in the level of drama and excitement. I found this film turned into a generic, mediocre production. Diane really did a good job of acting as did Martin; but the rest of the cast was not memorable. When the beginning started out slow, I should have listened to my gut; but since there was nothing else to watch at the time, I took a chance. Several scenes with German, Persian, Hebrew, French and Kurdish spoken with English subtitles.
1 ¾ stars
I tried throwing out several different topics but they would always steer the conversation back to their job. If I made reference to something that happened to me they would match the experience with someone in their office. Have you ever met a person who brings their work home with them? Maybe because from my day job I go and teach evening fitness and yoga classes, I have an easier time of letting go of the workaday world. I am a big believer in employees finding a way to let go of their job stress and not carry it through their daily life. From my yoga classes I have seen what stress can do to a person’s body and mind. There have been some participants walking into class for the first time who are so tightly wound up they look like they could break on their very first yoga pose. It is funny but I actually offered a free yoga class to the individual I was referring to earlier but they declined. The reason I suggested it was because I could see their shoulders rise up towards their ears as soon as they started talking about their work. It was obvious to me they could not let go of their stress. Sadly this was not the only person I knew who brought their work home with them; I have been exposed to quite a few individuals who live to work as opposed to work to live. Feel free to take a look at the guy in this crime drama and tell me if he is bringing his work home with him. DISCOVERING an opportunity to make a huge drug bust against a major drug lord meant Robert Mazur, played by Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Argo), would have to go undercover and put off retirement. Too bad Robert did not know if it would be worth the trade-off. Based on a true story this biographical film started out slow for me; but just like undertaking a building project, it kept getting bigger and deeper. The acting was first class by everyone including John Leguizamo (Chef, Vanishing on 7th Street) as Emir Abreu, Diane Kruger (Unknown, National Treasure) as Kathy Ertz and Benjamin Bratt (Miss Congeniality, The Lesser Blessed) as Roberto Alcaino. One may expect Bryan to be terrific but I was impressed even more by Diane and Benjamin. Their performances were the most believable for me. I thought the directing not only gave depth to the characters but it also added intensity to various scenes. Besides the beginning of the film there were a few slow parts, along with a couple of things that seemed out of place compared to the major story; however, the acting was so good I did not feel these few things took too much away from my experience watching this picture. The other thing I want to mention is the actual story. It was so out of the realm of my world that I had moments of disbelief, but it was not a distraction. I may be intense at times but I have to tell you after seeing this film I am just thankful I can leave my work behind at the end of the day.
In a single moment’s time, the calm road one has been walking on can turn into an icy precipice; causing a slide into stark confusion. I stopped at the health club to pick up some paperwork on my way to teaching a class at another fitness center. It was a cold winter morning where during the night a layer of thick new snow had covered the ground. Returning to my car, I reached into my coat pocket to get my car keys but they were gone. I had the keys when I locked the car a few minutes ago. Panic began to course through my veins as my mind crashed into several possibilities on where my keys could be. With each passed second landing heavily on my shoulders I retraced my footsteps; looking for the imprint of the bottom of my boots in the snow. Halfway to the club’s front doors a discoloration in the snow caught my eye. Tucked into the snow like a priceless gem in a white velvet jewel box were my car keys. All of the confusion spiraling in my mind fell to the floor of my brain with a thud as reality started to seep back into me once again. Where I panicked over my lost car keys; imagine what Dr. Martin Harris, played by Liam Neeson (The Grey, Taken franchise), must have felt when he thought he was losing his mind. Waking up in Berlin from a coma due to an accident; Martin discovered the woman he thought was his wife Elizabeth, played by January Jones (Pirate Radio, Mad Men-TV), had no idea who he was since she had never seen him before. Adding to the confusion, Elizabeth was already married to a Dr. Martin Harris, played by Aidan Quinn (Legends of the Fall, The Missing). This action mystery movie was a fun mental diversion for me. Even with its improbabilities and convenient coincidences I enjoyed the story’s twists and surprises. Liam was very good in this role as were Diane Kruger (Inhale, Troy) as taxi driver Gina and Bruno Ganz (Downfall, Eternity and a Day) as former Stasi agent Ernst Jurgen. The directing kept the story going at a fast clip, helped with some good editing. There was no confusion on my part in watching this thrilling movie. I knew I wanted to see an entertaining film that would enable me to mentally escape for a couple of hours and I got it. A couple of brief scenes that showed blood.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
Beauty beyond skin deep was an underlying message I picked up from this romantic science fiction film. My friends have heard me say so many times, the body is rented. I have always been fascinated to see old photographs of long term partners. To see how their physical appearance could have dramatically changed but not the connection between their hearts is something I truly admire. Stuff like hair color, weight and height are simply frivolous decorations compared to a person’s soul in my opinion. The story in this movie could really have taken the concept of a person’s identity and expanded it. An alien race arrived on earth to inhabit the bodies of humans, replacing their individuality with their own. The process was painless and efficient most of the time; unless the person was strong minded. One such person was Melanie, played by Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, The Lovely Bones). She had made a promise to see her little brother Jamie, played by Chandler Canterbury (Knowing, Repo Man), again. Would Melanie’s love for him and boyfriend Jared, played by Max Irons (Being Julia, Red Riding Hood), be stronger than an alien invasion? This was not the first time mankind has been invaded in the movies. However, the script was so cheesy and flat; I was bored for the majority of the film. With the writers having Diane Kruger (Unknown, National Treasure) as the Seeker, William Hurt (Dark City, A History of Violence) as Uncle Jeb and Frances Fisher (Titanic,Unforgiven) as Maggie in the cast; it was a shame they did not do some rewriting to give these actors more meatiness to their characters. I have not read Stephenie Meyer’s book this movie was based on, but I suspect it may play like a soap opera as did this film. Saoirse’s acting has been something I have respected. She gave it a good try here, but by the end of the movie I believe she really was not running away from aliens; she was running to get out of this dud. A couple of brief scenes with blood.
1 3/4 stars
Since we just had our first measurable snowfall, I recall how much fun I had building forts out of snow. The best kind of snow to use was one heavy with moisture; it would make a funny scrunching sound as it was being squeezed tight. Once the fort was completed, my friends and I would separate into two sides and start a snowball fight. Usually the winning team would get to destroy the opponent’s fort. There was never any hatred involved or wishing someone harm. If anything each of us would use our imaginations to come up with exotic or fanciful ways of winning. I claimed my snowballs were stun balls, causing anyone hit by one to be temporarily paralyzed until the end of the game. Coming across this Oscar nominated movie based on a true story, it really sent a clear message to me for this holiday season. It was December 24, 1914 and the most horrific war to date was raging in Europe. Converging together on the battlefield were fully armed German, French and Scottish troops. Every soldier was cold and weary while their respective commanders were looking for some weakness to exploit in defeating the enemy. However something happened when a stray cat wandered into the fray. I found this story to be a hopeful example of what can be achieved when people put aside their differences and become human again. Not only did I find the acting well done, I thought the casting of actors was exceptional. For example, Diane Kruger (National Treasure, Troy) lovely as Danish soprano Anna Sorensen; Benno Furmann (North Face, Curse of the Ring) as German officer Nicolaus Sprink and Ian Richardson (Dark City, Becoming Jane) as religious figure L’eveque. In the middle of a grotesque war to find an oasis of humanity, this film was a surprise treat. The bottom line for me has nothing to do with a person’s race, religion, sexuality or country; it simply is a matter of being a decent human being. This was an astonishing, inspiring story; I was grateful it had been turned into a movie. French, German, English, Latin with subtitles.
3 1/3 stars — DVD