WHEN ONE IS BORN into a majority that person’s awareness of the issues facing someone who was born into a minority may be skewed. The news this week reported on a former sports coach who made comments to the effect that he has not been aware of any racial oppression for the past several decades. Rather startling wouldn’t you say considering the multitude of events that are being shown by the news agencies. I tried to find some rationale to this person’s comments and the only thing I can come up with is maybe they do not read or watch the news; or another possibility may be the coach lives in a gated community where all the residents are the same. I honestly cannot come up with any valid reason for a person to make those types of comments. TWIN GIRLS WERE BORN to a mixed race married couple. One girl was fair skinned where one would think she was Caucasian. The other twin was extremely dark skinned to the point a person would assume she was black. I remember the 2 girls had a hard time in college of all places. The light skinned twin was treated completely different than her sister; it upset them and their parents tremendously. My awareness regarding this issue really came to the forefront when I was with friends or dates whose skin did not match mine. It was subtle at times; for example at restaurants there were times I noticed people, who were seated after us, getting waited on before us. There were some workers in the service industry who acted differently when interacting with my friend or date. I was appalled by such actions. How and why in the world would someone treat another person differently solely based on their looks? Whether it was skin color, appearance or religious attire; I had a hard time processing this type of prejudice. Since I am just an average person my experiences would not be considered newsworthy; imagine though what it must have been like for someone of royalty. You will find out when you see this film festival winning, dramatic movie based on a true event. NO ONE IN THE ROYAL court could understand why Queen Victoria, played by Judi Dench (Skyfall, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel franchise), took a liking to the lowly Indian servant Abdul Karim, played by Ali Fazal (3 Idiots, Furious 7). In fact they would not tolerate it. The reason this historical biography worked was due to Judi Dench. There is something about her that immediately grabs the viewer and brings them into her character. With Tim Pigott-Smith (Gangs of New York, Alice in Wonderland) as Sir Henry Ponsonby, Eddie Izzard (Absolutely Anything, Hannibal-TV) as Bertie the Prince of Wales and Michael Gambon (Harry Potter franchise, Sleepy Hollow) as Lord Salisbury; the cast was well rounded, but still Judi and Abdul were the main focus. My enjoyment of this film was based on the history of the story; the message about tolerance and acceptance easily could be applied today. There were however some scenes that did not ring as true as the others. I would have preferred more depth into the Queen’s relationship with Abdul, along with more dramatic intensity for the rest of the cast. Maybe my slight disappointment was due to the writers falling into comedic flair at times instead of giving me a meatier, more compelling story. I will say I wish there were more people today who had Queen Victoria’s beliefs.
2 ¾ stars
THE HARDER AND LOUDER the weights are dropped on the floor, the more the weightlifter wants you to be aware of their “incredible” strength. Whether they use barbells, dumbbells or just weight plates; I find the releasing of weights in midair perplexing. It is not like they are at the Olympics and lifting massive amounts or metal. They are at a fitness center and sure it might be a large amount of weight they are lifting; but seriously, if you cannot safely bring the weights down to the floor then in my opinion it is too much weight for you. These are my own observations; please do not consider this the standard. From what I have witnessed, when a person makes a loud sound from letting go of the weight load they want attention drawn to them. I have seen them looking into the mirror to see how their muscles look after a big lift, but they also are seeing if anyone else is noticing them. THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES of strength. Some people focus only on increasing their physical strength. To me this is the easiest one because all that is required are some forms of weight bearing exercises. Doing a pushup, walk while carrying a bag of groceries, bicep curls using canned vegetables from the pantry even; all of these will help. The harder strength to me is the mental one. I find if a person cannot muster the mental strength to take on a task there is a good chance of not completing the task or total failure. Mental strength did not come easy for me. Years of believing the things I was being called detoured my personal growth. I think what helped me was my natural stubbornness. If there was something I wanted I would not give up until I was completely exhausted. Nothing overt necessarily but a slow and steady determination was how I started handling the tasks presented to me. Whether it is an item off of one’s “to do” list or preparing for major surgery, the mind needs to be nourished and focused in a positive way to make gains in one’s life. A perfect example of this can be seen in this drama inspired by true events. TRYING TO WIN OVER his on and off girlfriend Jeff Bauman, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals, Southpaw), chose to wait for her at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, just before the bombs went off. This biographical real life story succeeded on many levels. Topmost was the cast which also included Tatiana Maslany (Eastern Promises, Woman in Gold) as Erin Hurley, Miranda Richardson (Empire of the Sun, Churchill) as Patty Bauman and Lenny Clarke (Fever Pitch, Rescue Me-TV) as Uncle Bob. I have to tell you Jake was superhuman; that is the only thing I can say. Trying to figure out what it took to portray survivor Jeff Bauman had to be something short of a miracle; he was outstanding. The movie was hard to watch since it was reenacting the events of the 2013 bombing; there may have been actual footage used in parts. It was and continues to be an amazing story; there was never a moment where I felt the writers were trying to manipulate the viewer or fall into dramatic clichés. After sitting through this picture I have a whole new appreciation for the term, “Boston Strong.”
3 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
THE WORD “BETTER” can be used like a knife. On one hand it is a tool that assists in creating wonderful food dishes in the kitchen; but on the flip side it can be uttered at a person, denting their self-confidence. The person who uses this word may think they are being complimentary; sometimes they are clueless however, not aware of the impact they are having on someone. We can all agree the statement, “Hope you get better soon,” is a positive comment. Telling a friend the dress they are trying on looks better on them than the 1st one they tried is also a positive and maybe helpful statement. When one uses the word “better” in this type of context I am totally on board. NOW YOU MAY not agree 100% with me but I am not a fan of the word “better” when it is used for motivation; it does not always motivate. A teacher telling a student they could have done a better job on their assignment does not have the same effect as asking a student to explain their decisions in doing the homework they way they did. I have learned more when I have been asked why I chose such and such or how I came to that conclusion. Having someone just telling me I could do better does not sit well with me; from my experiences it tends to have a negative connotation. I remember a school project I worked on for a couple of weeks. When it came time to get reviewed one of the things the teacher expressed to me was how she was looking forward to my next project because she knew it would be better. What does that exactly mean? Was she telling me my current assignment was just okay? I will tell you what her words and the comments I received from several sources through my life did to me; they made me more determined to prove them wrong. Hmm, was that their original intention? DESPITE HIS FATHER Sal’s, played by Victor Garber (Titanic, Argo), objections about his writings Jerome David Salinger, played by Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies, Mad Max: Fury Road), refused to give up. He felt he had something to say. This biographical drama also starred Sarah Paulson (Carol, American Horror Story-TV) as Dorothy Olding, Kevin Spacey (L.A. Confidential, House of Cards-TV) as Whit Burnett, and Zoey Deutch (Everybody Wants Some!!, Why Him?) as Oona O’Neill. I thought the cast was excellent along with their perfect for the period outfits and the settings around them. If what I was watching was true then the story was fascinating to me about the reclusive author. His book “The Catcher in the Rye” was required reading at my school; I assume most schools across the country had it as part of their English/Literature classes. What did not work for me in this film was the script. There already was a curious mystique to J.D. Salinger; I felt like I was not learning anything new that I had not seen in the news or on the internet. There was a weakness in the drama that kept most things on an even keel in my opinion. From what I was watching I wanted to learn more about the motivations behind the actions; instead, the scenes seemed like they were glossing over the details. If there was an opportunity to ask the writers, I would ask them why they chose the parts they wrote about in this script.
A TINY POOL of liquid was growing larger in the bowl of guacamole the longer the night went on. The offer of food and drink had ended a long time ago as one host sat and watched the secondhand tick around the clock dial. The other host was keeping busy by tidying up around the room, washing glasses and plates from time to time when hopefully her absence would not be detected. After dinner and dessert the small group of people played a couple of games before settling into their spots to chill out and talk among themselves. As the evening wound down the guests started to leave until there were only 2-3 guests left. These remaining guests had a reputation for always being the last ones to leave a party. Somehow they did not or chose not to pick up the telltale signs hosts would enact to signal they were tired and wanted the party to end. MAYBE I MENTIONED this in an earlier post but all the clocks in my house show different times. How it started was when I pushed the time on my alarm clock ahead in the hope of never being late for work. From there it expanded to the rest of the clocks because I discovered many people do not pay attention to the actual time. From the parties I have thrown there were times where I was dead tired by the end of the evening. By having the clocks set ahead I could make a comment about how late the evening had gone; guests would look at the clock and be surprised by how fast time had passed by. Now before you say anything I do want to tell you that after I found my voice I no longer needed to depend on my false clock times to get late night guests out of the house; now I just tell them it is late and I am tired. It is a shame I could not have invited the homeowners in this dramatic, mystery horror film to one of my parties so they could take a lesson. WHEN THE UNEXPECTED man, played by Ed Harris (A Beautiful Mind, The Rock) was invited in by the homeowners, played by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games franchise, American Hustle) and Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, The Sea Inside), they had no idea how their lives would change. This film festival nominated movie written and directed by Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Fountain), also starred Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Begins, Dark Shadows) as the wife to Ed Harris’ character. The first part of the story was suspenseful and I immediately enjoyed everyone’s acting. However as the script continued this film got weirder and weirder. I became irritated with all the close up shots Darren was doing of Jennifer. The thing about this movie was I appreciated what I felt was the allegories the writer was trying to show. However as the story descended into a pseudo horror film I could not wait for the picture to be over. Because of the stark shift from suspense to horror I experienced a stronger negative reaction. Despite the acting from a cast I admired, I could not find justification for the amount of time I wasted watching this movie.
1 1/2 stars
THE GUESTS I was hosting were curious to see the city’s diverse neighborhoods. I put the afternoon aside to take them on a driving tour. After explaining how the city streets were based on a grid system, making it difficult to get lost as long as one could see a street address, we drove off to our 1st neighborhood. It so happens this was the area where I grew up. Driving around I explained the significance of several buildings, pointed out artifacts of interest and shared some of my personal history along the way. When I explained how I could walk to the main shopping district from my house without using any of the streets, they urged me to show them. I pointed out the several buildings’ gangways and alleys I traversed to make my way to the grocery store. There was no need to explain to them that this was one of my safe routes when I was a kid. AFTER SPENDING THE day showing them several neighborhoods I had some down time, letting my mind drift back to the spots that meant something to me. It is funny how as one grows older things that were important become less so. Memories that were crystal clear and vibrant now look dull as if every recall of them had buffed the layers away. There was the neighborhood’s casual restaurant where my friends and I would sit for a couple of hours to solve what we thought were such urgent matters. All of them seemed so insignificant now through aged eyes. One of the neighborhoods I drove my guests through had a two storied nightclub where I had dreams of being hired as a dancer. If I straighten up now too fast from tying my shoelaces I get lightheaded; how did time go by so fast? Having seen my old public library brought back a flood of emotions for it was one of my safe havens. It was there that I could nestle into one of the alcoves with a stack of books in front of me as cover. How I used to dream about what my life would become only to see it now from much further down the road, as I strolled along my path of scattered memories. SPENDING YEARS PARTYING with the upper echelon of society journalist Jeb Gambardella, played by Toni Servillo (The Girl by the Lake, The Consequences of Love), pretty much knew or knew about everyone. But at this stage of his life did he really want to know them? This Oscar and film festival winning drama also starred Carlo Verdone (Me, Them and Lara; Fun is Beautiful) as Romano, Sabrina Ferilli (Forever Young, 3 Women) as Ramona and Carlo Bucci Rosso (The New Monsters Today, Il Divo) as Lello Cava. Set in Italy, it was beautiful watching this movie. Not just the outdoor scenes but even the indoor ones each offered something for the viewer. As I began this DVD I did not connect immediately to the story; however, there was something about the way the film was shot that drew me in. I found it especially interesting that I perceived all the actors to be friends, which was due to how well they all blended together in the story. There was some confusion on my part whether the story was being told in chronological order or not, but it did not distract me too much. I will say I thought the film ran too long; the script could have used some editing. In a way this was an interesting study of the aging process. Italian was spoken with English subtitles.
3 stars — DVD
PHOTOGRAPHS OF IT were impressive so I could only imagine what it looked like in person. One of my trips was planned around seeing this particular area of the country that nature had sculpted. I had read the landscape changes colors based on the sun’s position; turning from a glowing orange to almost red hue at one point. After settling into my hotel room I drove out onto the highway for the car ride there. In my mind I had a game plan laid out of everything I wanted to see and photograph. Hopefully I would find a few areas to pull off of so I could trek through portions of the natural arches and standing rocks. The sun was big and bright in the sky so I was feeling especially lucky about this portion of my trip. IN THE DISTANCE I could see the town; besides, there was a large welcome sign posted on the side of the road telling me I had arrived at my destination. I am not sure what I expected the town to look like, but what I saw was nothing I imagined. No sooner had I entered the city limits and there were signs posted everywhere advertising everything from restaurants to souvenir shops to motels; I am talking sign after sign littering the landscape. To say it was a turn off would be an understatement. As I drove deeper into the town the signs were joined by retail stands and carts. There were people on the side of the rode selling T-shirts and hats with either pictures of the natural area or different variants of the town’s name. If that was not bad enough there was a majority of retail establishments that had gaudy bright lights and decorations adorning their space. Everything I saw looked tasteless to me; to live in a beautiful part of the country and mess it up with all of this stuff was a shame. The reason I am telling you this is because this is how I felt about this action drama. STUCK IN AN elevator at the World Trade Center when the first plane hit, five strangers soon realized they would have to depend on each other if there was any chance of them surviving. Starring Whoopi Goldberg (For Colored Girls, Glee-TV) as Metzie, Gina Gershon (P.S. I Love You, Face/Off) as Eve, Charlie Sheen (Wall Street, Two and a Half Men-TV) as Jeffrey, Luis Guzman (Boogie Nights, Anger Management) as Eddie and Jacqueline Bisset (The Deep, Bullitt) as Diane; I sat in my seat dumbfounded for most of this movie. The acting was almost comical and I found myself feeling embarrassed for the actors. I wondered if they were forced against their will or lost a bet, so they had to be in this film. The script, let me say, was basic and I am being kind. It was so predictable and made the actors look like novices in their field. Sadly I thought the idea to the story was good, where it could provide a variety of ways to play it out. I literally was baffled that such a life changing event in our history winds up being represented by this picture. If I had time I would like to see if it initially went straight to DVD and the movie studio decided to release it to theaters now since the 9/11 anniversary date was upon us. Talk about walking in expecting to experience something meaningful and finding out the only thing that mattered was a paycheck.
1 ½ stars
AFTER SPENDING A good portion of one’s life making decisions for others, a person may have forgotten how to make one for themselves. Ideally you grow up and learn how to be self-sufficient, in other words to be a responsible adult. Depending on your life’s course people and/or children can come into your life so your decisions will then have to incorporate them. It only makes sense if you are in a relationship the two of you would consider each other in your decisions. I had a friend who saw most things in black and white; you may know this type of person where all of their decisions come out of a pool of two options: yes or no. There was no room to negotiate with them. After several years they fell in love and soon after the two of them moved in together. I do not know what happened but from that point on this person could not make one decision without getting approval from their partner; it was the oddest thing to me. HAVE YOU EVER noticed how some decisions are influenced by peer pressure? I cannot recall the exact percentage but I read a study where at least 25% of mothers alter their parental decisions in public due to peer pressure. For me this falls into the same category of decisions that get based on statements with the word “should” in them. For example, “you should act your age” or “you should lose weight,” would fall into that category where someone is trying to dictate what they think you should be doing in your life. I am all for friends sharing their opinions about something that affects my life; but I hear them better when it is a discussion with feelings involved instead of just being told I should do such and such then everything will be fine. No, I do not operate that way; if they can tell me the reasons why they feel I should make a change then of course I would give consideration to what they were saying to me. The challenge is when you have more than one person telling you what they think you should do and it is not the same advice; somewhat similar to what was going on in this comedic, romantic drama. MOVING ACROSS THE country after separating from her husband Alice Kinney, played by Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, Wild), found her life taking a different course when she had too much to drink while celebrating her birthday and found herself in bed with Harry, played by Pico Alexander (A Most Violent Year, Indignation). He came with friends. With Nat Wolff (Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars) as Teddy, Michael Sheen (Passengers, Midnight in Paris) as Austen, Jon Rudnitsky (Patchwork, Saturday Night Live-TV) as George and Candice Bergen (Rules Don’t Apply, Gandhi) as Lillian Stewart; the cast was fine for this story. I would have preferred more scenes with Candice and Michael however. The idea behind the story had some valid components, but I found the script was not able to carry them throughout the movie. There was a hodgepodge of scenes were some were cute, others unrealistic and some were simply bland. My overall feeling for this film was “meh;” for me there needed to be more story so I could find some connections to the characters. I do not want this to sound like I am telling the writers what they should have done; I only want to share my feelings with them and with you.
THE STUDENT POPULATION of a school forms its own world map, where borders may be harder to determine. Where you may have one group of students coming together for their common love of sports, there could be another batch of kids who form a clique based on their enjoyment of drinking and drugging. To an outsider it may be difficult to see how these individual groups come together, since its formation is more akin to the way magnets attract metal; it is an unseen force yet yields a strong pull. Added to that there may not be any way to visually determine the common attraction. Unlike a bunch of students who are into and always wearing the latest fashion trends, there are individual groups that appear to be well diversified on the surface. One thing to remember about interacting with someone from a clique is that you rarely will be dealing with that person on a one to one basis; they always have the rest of their group to back them up. BACK DURING MY school years I never really was part of a group or clique; at least I did not think so. I was part of the film club and yearbook committee. What I did not realize was the group of friends I was hanging out with actually formed a clique-those not cool enough to be in one of the popular groups. At the time I thought we all just became friends because we had the same classes together or shared common friends; but maybe it was due to the fact we were easily accessible to each other because no group would accept us. As a result we were always initially left behind from various school activities until we banded together to head out as our own group. Looking at the students I hung out with through adult eyes I can now see we did share some common interests; however, we also had distinct differences. I am sure a good portion of them had no idea what I was going through with being bullied. Having met some of my abusers in my adult life, it was apparent to me they had no idea they were evil. The students in this dramatic horror film at least all knew who was evil. WITH NO ONE to keep them safe a group of kids come together to protect themselves from an evil clown that has been terrorizing each of them. Starring Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special, Aloha) as Bill Denbrough, Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ant-Man, 42) as Ben Hanson, Sophia Lillis (37, A Midsummer Night’s Dream) as Beverly Marsh, Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things-TV) as Richie Tozier and Bill Skarsgard (Atomic Blonde, Allegiant) as Pennywise; the acting from all of them was surprisingly quite good. I had wished there were more scenes with Bill Skarsgard however. The script for this Stephen King (Carrie, The Shining) novel took an interesting perspective I thought. Where I had wanted more back story to Pennywise, the writers’ focused more on the kids. By doing so I felt they were using a wider definition of “monster.” As for the movie there was more suspense to the scenes than horror; there were only a couple of scenes that had gore and blood. However, there was an over abundance of strong language throughout the film. For me the underlying message of the story was actually a positive one; I connected to it as it brought back memories of my school years. Isn’t that a scary thought?
SHE WAITED UNTIL we were in the car before she broke the news to me. Driving out to the suburbs on a well traveled road, she informed me the person I was in love with was seeing someone else. She realized immediately what she had just said, so she quickly added she did not know if they were sleeping together; all she heard was that they had been spending time together, going out to eat and to the movies. I asked her how long had it been going on and she responded they had only been seeing each other for a few weeks. A few weeks?!?! We had separated only the week before when I was told they needed some time alone; this did not sound like they were going to be alone much. The reason my friend waited until we were in the car before telling me the news was because she knew I could not go “ballistic,” since I needed to focus on the road. In hindsight it was a smart move on her part because I would have gone through the house and destroyed anything that reminded me of us as a couple. YOU MIGHT NOT consider what was done to me as deceitful but I did. Once trust has been established I see no reason why a person would lie in a relationship—unless they were planning a surprise party. Deceitfulness is a deal breaker for me; once a person lies to you how can you ever trust them again? I will say my feelings were badly hurt when my friend broke the news to me; I mean c’mon, how does someone go from one relationship to another in a matter of a couple of weeks? I know I could never do it. Those of my friends who are into Zodiac signs say I am the perfect definition of my sign. Once a person gains my trust they have it for a lifetime…until they do one thing that damages or breaks that trust then I am done with them. I could never trust several of the characters in this film festival nominated drama. MARRIED TO A WEALTHY businessman for the sole purpose of producing an heir became less important for Sophia, played by Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, The Light Between Oceans), when she was introduced to Jan Van Loos, played by Dane DeHaan (Life after Beth, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets); the artist hired to paint a portrait of her and her husband. With Christoph Waltz (The Legend of Tarzan, Carnage) as Cornelis Sandvoort, Judi Dench (Philomena, My Week with Marilyn) as Abbess and Holliday Grainger (The Finest Hours, My Cousin Rachel) as Maria; the cast was well rounded, easily handling each of their roles. Set in Amsterdam during the time tulips first became an important commodity, I found that aspect of the story especially intriguing. The sets and scenes were beautiful and easily transported me back centuries to that specific time. Unfortunately I found the script lacking in originality; to me this story reminded me of a Shakespeare tragedy. In addition there was one character that acted out of character based on what had happened to them; It did not make sense to me or at least it was not fully explained why they were back. Along with many dull spots in the script this movie was a perfect example of looks being deceiving.