I KNEW THEY WERE EXPECTING THEIR baby soon but did not know exactly when. As far as I heard the pregnancy had been going relatively smoothly, just the typical things like swollen ankles and nausea were being experienced. When word finally came that the baby was born, everyone was happy to get the news. Along with the baby’s name, we were told about the baby’s length, weight and their full head of hair. However, along with this news there was a request to hold off calling the family because the baby had some complications that needed to be addressed. As you can imagine, everyone wanted to know what was going on but refrained from asking, respecting the new parents’ wishes. For the next couple of weeks, all of us would ask each other if there was any news about the baby. If one person found out something, the news quickly spread amongst us. I was told the baby was still in the hospital and had gone through a couple of procedures. Upon getting such news my instinct was to reach out to the parents, but they early on reinforced their desire not to be contacted due to their hectic schedule for taking care of the baby’s needs, besides being present for their other child. AS THE WEEKS PASSED BY WITH little news, everyone’s attention began to wane ever so slightly. Without getting any updates, it felt as if there was this big hole that was slowly getting filled back up with daily living; that is for everyone except the new parents. At some point word came out the baby was being released from the hospital and would be coming home. We were excited by the news but there was an ominous message included with it; the parents requested if everyone would not ask them how the baby was doing. The only thing they shared was that the baby had been born with a genetic defect and would not grow up in a normal way. This was hard to hear; all of us were feeling helpless. We wanted to do something, even if we could send disposable diapers or formula, anything to try and help. Without any direction we were at a loss and could only keep the family in our thoughts and prayers. I could not imagine how the parents were handling the situation without some kind of outlet to vent, talk, scream, whatever needed to be done to try and find some balance in their life. I felt the same way about the married couple in this comedic, drama adventure. THEIR SON’S OBSESSION WITH MONGOLIA AND belief that he was a goat herder was causing a rift in the family structure. One parent appreciated the vivid imagination, while the other was afraid their son would be ostracized in school. With Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, The Departed) as Alise, Marton Csokas (The Equalizer, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) as Connor, Jacob Tremblay (Room, Wonder) as Wes, Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi, The Million Dollar Arm) as Ismail and Virginia Madsen (Dune, Sideways) as Victoria; this movie survived on the strength of its cast. The acting was excellent, once again I am so impressed with Jacob’s abilities. He just doesn’t take on a character, he becomes them. My issue with this film was the script. I felt the story was uneven due to the swings between the dramatic and comedic scenes. It felt as if the core of the story was getting shortchanged in its development. Also, there were a couple of scenes that seemed farfetched to me. If I did not enjoy watching the cast as much as I did, I am not sure I would have finished watching this picture. On the other hand, being a strong proponent of communicating, I appreciated what the story did to advocate it.
2 ½ stars
THE DENTIST WAS TELLING ME HOW he used to be a high school teacher, but there was always something inside of him that pushed him towards dentistry. He said it was after he had a conversation with his dad, that he started taking steps to become a dentist. His motivation was the fact he would be the 3rdgeneration in his family to be a dentist. I was surprised by that revelation for some reason; I have seen father and son dental practices, but not grandfather, father and son. The dentist said he wanted to make his grandfather and Dad proud. So, he went back to school to become a dentist and went into the family business. It was funny to hear he used to be a teacher because anytime he was performing a procedure on me, he always explained in detail what he was about to do and it always sounded like a teacher was explaining it to me; now it made sense. There was one other thing that intrigued me about his story and that was how he basically wanted to be like his father. The reason I mention this is because I am always curious about family dynamics when either a child wants to be like a parent or when they do everything possible to try and not be like their parent. What takes place in the family unit that motivates a child to choose one or the other? I HAD A FRIEND WHO, IF you did not know better, you would have thought he did not grow up having a father; he never talked about him. It was a long time before I found out he did have a dad and he worked in the scientific community. Interestingly, his mom was quite artistic; both in her career and the things she did outside of work. My friend had nothing to do with the different limbs of science, both in school and interests. He was artistic like his mom and preferred participating in various art and writing contests. He always carried a book to read wherever he went. Though he had a high grade point average, he struggled with his math and science classes. It was in the literature and acting classes where he thrived and grew. It seemed to me as if he was doing everything possible to be like his mother. I never asked about it, but I always wondered what was taking place with him that motivated him to take a similar path to his mother’s. WITH DREAMS OF BECOMING A TATOO ARTIST but content hanging out and smoking weed with his friends; Scott Carlin’s, played by Pete Davidson (Big Time Adolescence, Saturday Night Live-TV), world was jolted when his mother started dating. With Bel Powley (A Royal Night Out, The Diary of a Teenage Girl) as Kelsey, relative newcomer Ricky Velez as Oscar, Lou Wilson (The Guest Book-TV, American Vandal-TV) as Richie and Marisa Tomei (The First Purge, The Wrestler) as Margie Carlin; this comedic drama was the perfect vehicle for Pete’s skills. Granted he co-wrote the story, but I felt his acting was at a new level. It took a while for me to get into this movie because I felt it was a bit slow; however, as the story unfolded, I fell right into it and enjoyed how the characters grew. Marisa was wonderful in her role; I appreciated how the script dug into her and the other characters and gave their dialog an authenticity. I also appreciated the humor that was on display in this film. If Pete was motivated to show he could do something more with his acting skills, he succeeded as far I was concerned.
THE PROFESSOR WROTE A NOTE NEXT to the grade on my term paper. She wrote, “I had no idea you were paying attention in this classroom. Please come see me after class.” I was both amused and hesitant because I wondered what she wanted to talk about. When class was over, I hung around until the other students had left then went up to the professor. Any concerns I had were alleviated by her chuckling. Since I received an “A” on my paper, she told me she was pleasantly surprised but wanted to know why I never participated in any of the class discussions. I told her talking made me nervous, that I was better at communicating my thoughts through the written word. She accepted what I said but encouraged me to participate with the other students because she liked the way I looked at problems, based on what I had written in my term paper. I made her laugh when I told her that my mind takes its time to process information before I can talk about it. Pushing my luck, I said some people talk without thinking and it is a distraction for me. “Aren’t there times where you just sit there and wonder where the student got their thoughts on a subject,” I asked her. All she offered was some students were more excitable which led them to speak out first before thinking everything through; I agreed with her and that was the extent of our conversation. ONE OF THE THINGS I LEARNED from that professor was how the order of words one puts to paper can alter perceptions. Along with that there was the aspect of style; the way the person puts their voice down into their written words. I saw firsthand how easily style is conveyed through written words. A student who sat next to me received back his term paper and it had gotten a grade of “F.” I did not want to appear nosy so I tried to read the professors comments out of the corner of my eye. The professor wrote “not your writing” next to the grade and below that she had highlighted parts of paragraphs with side comments I could not make out. The student must have seen me trying to read the comments because he acknowledged me and said he had misunderstood the instructions; he had copied passages from a book into his term paper. Now he did not tell me; but I assumed he copied the passages word for word, which I had to say was not the best decision. Not that I am an expert, but from the things I heard him read in class, I knew anything he found in a book was not the same as him telling a story. He loved to draw out a point with the use of humor or shock; most textbooks I had read didn’t often have those two elements in its writing. In my opinion he would have been better to employ the use of a term paper writer; I saw their advertisements in the school paper. They would not write the paper; they simply directed the student towards writing a better paper. It is not so dissimilar to what took place in this biographical comedic drama. DESPITE A BROKEN LEG THERE WAS only a short amount of time to write the screenplay for Hollywood’s latest wondered. What wasn’t helping Herman Mankiewicz, played by Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour, The Courier), was his love of alcohol. With Amanda Seyfried (The Last Word, Mean Girls) as Marion Davies, Lily Collins (Tolkien, Mirror Mirror) as Rita Alexander, Tom Pelphrey (Hostage, Iron Fist-TV) as Joe Mankiewicz and Arliss Howard (The Time Traveler’s Wife, Full Metal Jacket) as Louis B. Mayer; this film festival winner had the extra burden of viewers’ anticipation due to the subject matter of Orson Welles and his movie. Visually I thought this film was gorgeous, both in look and style. Ultimately, the big seller in this picture was Gary Oldman’s performance. Whether the script was close to the true events, I do not know; however, I enjoyed the behind the scene aspect, nonetheless. However, as the story was playing out, I was getting less engaged with it. It seemed as if there were pieces of this film that blended well, but then others came across disjointed. There is no doubt in my mind that the whole process of creating what some say is the best movie of all time had to be an amazing experience; I only wished this movie had gotten the same amount of attention.
2 ¾ stars
THE NARRATOR WAS STATING IT IN such a matter of fact way, yet I was highly amused. I was watching a TV special about the royals and would you believe the hard-boiled egg for a royal’s breakfast comes with its shell cracked and opened. I know, such an innocuous function that the royal cannot do themselves. There were other functions shown during the special that surprised me, but this one was the silliest in my opinion. I am all for the pomp and circumstance that comes with royalty, no matter what royal ruler. Seeing the different customs and procedures have always been something that I have been curious about, which explains why I like to read about history. Not to be too graphic here, but there was a time when a person on the royal staff had the job to clean the bottom of the royal after they had defecated. Honestly, I don’t think there could be enough money for me to take such a position. Some positions make better sense to me, like a food taster or the transporter of the royal jewels. I understand how a royal or a country’s leader gets treated with reverence; however, I cannot fathom how the general population finds amazement with their leaders’ or royals’ everyday ordinary functions. It is as if once they achieve a high position their country people turn them into a deity. HERE IN MY OWN COUNTRY, I am constantly amazed when people focus on the president’s activities. Some time ago I remember when the news stations reported on the president stopping at a fast food restaurant to eat a burger, making sure to tell us that the president paid for it himself. Ok, so can someone tell me why this is so newsworthy? Throughout the different administrations we have elected, we have seen our leaders playing golf, fishing, playing basketball and even bowling; there were none of them that I would classify as a gifted athlete. And that is okay, whether they excel in sports or not doesn’t take away from their ability to govern; at least I hope so. Personally, I want the best person for the job. I do not care what they do in their downtime as long as it doesn’t become too much of a distraction for the job at hand. Seeing a world leader breaking down in tears tells me they are still human. If they choose to break out in song, I assume they enjoy music. As far as I am concerned every world leader has the same type of internal organs and bodily functions as every other person on the planet. Because of my feelings, I became totally enchanted with this comedic romantic drama. ANDREW SHEPHERD, PLAYED BY MICHAEL DOUGLAS (Ant-Man franchise, Traffic), was a widower who was raising his young daughter. He also was the President of the United States. Being seen alone with a woman would immediately have people talking about and possibly using it for their own personal advantage. With Annette Bening (The Kids are all Right, American Beauty) as Sydney Ellen Wade, Martin Sheen (The Departed, The Way) as A.J. MacInerney, Michael J. Fox (Back to the Future franchise, The Frighteners) as Lewis Rothschild and Anna Deavere Smith (The Kingdom, Rachel Getting Married) as Robin McCall; this Academy Award nominee and film festival winner was charming and fun, in an old-school way. I thought the cast was excellent and loved the play between Michael and Annette, with the aid of the smart script. The other thing I liked about this movie was the political undertone. Considering when this film was made, it felt like a prelude for the things that we are experiencing now. The writers and director pulled this off in a wonderful way that was both entertaining and enjoyable. I wonder, with the recent political climate we have gone thru, how this story would have played in real time.
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.
THE EXPECTATION IS TO LIVE HAPPILY ever after, but sometimes it is not meant to be. With any of my past relationships, I knew that is what I had always hoped would happen. For me, it was part of my belief system that each of us was put here to find happiness; finding someone you could share your happiness with was an extra bonus. That doesn’t mean one cannot be happy without a significant other; on the contrary, I have always said no one can make you feel a certain way. Each of us control how we choose to feel. I have never been a “love at first sight” type of guy; however, there have been times where I felt an immediate connection. You know, where the conversation makes you forget the time and place, as the two of you volley and share thoughts, feelings and ideas back and forth. I remember a date where we sat in a coffeeshop for hours talking and laughing until we noticed the wait staff was starting to turn the chairs over onto the tables, on the way to closing the place up. I know I have said this before, but it bears repeating: A relationship is when 2 people are walking side by side down a long path that has hills and valleys; sometimes, one has to help pull the other along or push them up. However, no matter where they are walking, they are always side by side. NOW THAT YOU KNOW MY PHILOSOPHY, you can see why I feel if two people in a committed relationship do not grow together their relationship will never survive. They do not have to be growing at the same rate or same level; but if they are not growing then the relationship and love will go stale and wilt away. This is something I firmly believe. I knew a couple who had been married for several years. As time went on, I became aware one of the two was venturing into new activities; the other one was content with the way things were already going. At some point only one was taking trips with their friends, instead of both going together. I knew something had to be going on with them. Well it was not soon after they wound up breaking up and going their own way. It was certainly not a surprise to those of us who were noticing the changes taking place. I felt bad for the content one because they were shocked when their partner decided to breakup with them. It was like they were lost at sea, drifting aimlessly with no where to moor. To see what I am talking about you might want to see what happens to the main character in this film festival nominee. HAVING BEEN BLINDSIDED BY HER HUSBAND’S decision to end their marriage, a middle-aged woman would have to find a new life for herself. It would first start in the elevator of her apartment building. With Holly Hunter (The Big Sick, Thirteen) as Judith Moore, Danny DeVito (Batman Returns, The War of the Roses) as Pat Francato, Queen Latifah (Hairspray, Bringing Down the House) as Liz Bailey, Martin Donovan (Tenet, Inherent Vice) as Robert Nelson and Richard Schiff (Man of Steel, The West Wing-TV) as Phil Francato; this romantic comedy drama stood out for me with the performances of Danny and Holly. It felt as if they were completely into their characters. There was an even mix of humor and sadness throughout the script, which was a big help in my opinion, because otherwise the plot would have been more generic than it was already. Having known people in the same situation as Judith, I appreciated the journey she took us on as she dealt with her emotions and newly discovered growth.
2 ½ stars
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 QUESTIONING DIED DOWN AFTER A short time. It was a good thing since it was starting to annoy me. I had a friend who on the surface was a complete opposite of me; several of my friends would keep asking me why I was friends with him. I realized he came across as gruff to some people, with an air of indifference. Between the two of us we were different politically and religiously. We were complete opposites when it came to exercise and healthy food choices. Where I tried to exercise 5-6 days a week, he never did any physical activity where he would have to exert himself. In fact, the last time he actually exercised was back when he was a student in high school, where it was a mandatory requirement. I could see why my friends would think the two of us had nothing in common; however, they never took the time to really get to know him like I had done. Now granted, I did not push for all of us to get together and hang out. I do not know if you do this with your friends; but I tend to get together with my friends either on a one to one basis or in small groups. When there is a large group, I feel I do not get to catch up completely with friends’ lives. Also, the larger a group the more chances there will be personality conflicts. THOUGH IT APPEARED THERE WAS NOTHING in common between this friend and me; we got along great. There was a deep, sweet kindness inside of him that many people never got to see because they could not get past his abrupt manners. That was one of the things I liked about him; he would tell it like it is without soft-pedaling any of it. We would have these lengthy, philosophical conversations about a variety of topics that were stimulating to me. We did not always agree on things; but the key was both of us respected the other’s opinions. Neither him nor I had to accept each others’ opinions, but we both had respect for them. Not that I want to paint this perfect picture of two friends totally in synch, because there were times we got on each other’s nerves. The key to a successful friendship, at least according to me, is to be respectful, loyal and unconditional. One cannot pick out the pieces we like in a friend and discard the rest; they must accept their friend unconditionally and simple love them. If you care to see how this works, then feel free to watch this film festival nominated, comedic drama. WITH ONE NEIGHBOR LIVING ABOVE THE other, both men fell into a friendship that had its routines. That is until one of the neighbors was given hard medical news about his health. With Mark Duplass (Creep, The One I Love) as Michael, Ray Romano (The Big Sick, The Irishman) as Andy, Christine Woods (Stray, Adult Interference) as Doctor Hagen, Jen Sung (The Happytime Murders, Battle of the Damned) as Master Liu and Sierra Fisk (Piranha 3DD, The Concessionaires Must Die!) as Olive; this movie had a slow start. Not that this was entirely a bad thing because the acting between Mark and Ray was so solid, I was able to connect to the two neighbors during this slow part. The last half of the film made up for the beginning part. I felt the story and the script was done in a real and believable way that made the scenes convincing to me. The humor was gentle, never looking to create belly laughs for the viewer. In a way, I found the ending treated the subject matter in an authentic way that was touching and loving. And that was the beauty in watching this picture; one did not need to have experienced such a scenario to be moved by it.
THE SERVING PLATTER LOOKED LIKE IT HAD an old roadmap embedded into it. All roads led to a happy memory. At the bottom of a china hutch, I found wrapped in an ancient dishtowel a large oval serving plate. I remembered it from when I was a little boy. It had gold filigree outlining the rim and center of it. Tracing the gold was a thin dusty rose-colored line; in the center, there was a bouquet of flowers of which some were of the same rose color. The roadmap I referred to was created from years of use, especially due to the washing of it. Fine ghost like crooked lines, crisscrossing all across the plate; gave the appearance of abandoned roads. I can remember sitting down for dinner at family gatherings where this platter would hold the main part of the meal. There were times it held brisket of beef or roasted chicken or slices of turkey during the Thanksgiving holiday. When I was really young I could not hold it up by myself as it was being passed around the dining room table; the relative next to me would have to hold it or sometimes even place the food on my plate after I pointed out to them which pieces. THOSE FAMILY DINNERS WERE A SOURCE OF immense joy to me. Getting together with my cousins was always a highlight. The conversations around the table were usually lively and animated. Relatives would be laughing all the time, even when they were in the middle of a heated discussion. I can still remember that time where a relative brought a gelatin-molded dessert (gelatin mixed with other food items like nuts or fruit set into a mold) to the table. When it was unmolded it plopped on the plate and slid off onto the table. This dinner platter is something I will always associate with good food. Especially during holidays, I do not remember one time where the platter was not being used for serving. As a former large person, the food certainly was the catalyst for me having a good time among my relatives. It was during these gatherings where I really learned what it meant to have and be part of a family. Beside myself I know others must have gained valuable memories at these meals and I am sure the dinner platter played a part in them. So now, my dilemma is what to do with this decades old dinner platter. How could I possibly part with it? I would feel the same way if I were the main character in this dramatic, film festival winning comedy. WHEN THE READING OF HER GRANDFATHER’S will took place, the last thing Cynthia, played by Jillian Bell (Rough Night, Office Christmas Party) expected to get was an old sword. What in the world would she do with such a thing? With Marc Maron (Almost Famous, Glow-TV) as Mel, Jon Bass (Molly’s Game, Loving) as Nathaniel, Michaela Watkins (The Back-Up Plan, Thanks for Sharing) as Mary and Dan Bakkedahl (The Heat, Veep-TV) as Kingpin, this was an odd film for me. The script came across in such a way that it appeared as if the cast was doing improvisation. I will say each actor did a good job of portraying a wacky/kooky type of character. Some of the dialog had witty comments and comebacks. There was a loose feel to the scenes, which made the satire stand out more. As for the story it was farfetched and at times the absurdity of it bored me. And as the story wound down, I felt the ending lost momentum and did a quick job to finish things up. This was a strange picture that at times looked amateurish and goofy, but then at times had quick biting repartee.
IT WAS OUR PASSION FOR WORKING out that sparked our friendship. Meeting at the house of mutual friends, I knew immediately he was into fitness. My first clue was the food he had on his plate. From all the choices available at the buffet table, he chose the items with the least amount of carbs. Also, he was wearing a light colored T-shirt that was stretched to the max across his chiseled torso and bulging biceps. It was over at the table set up as the bar, where I made a comment about his plate of food. He, in turn, asked where was my plate. When I explained I stop eating 5 hours before going to sleep, I could tell my comment piqued his interest. From there we got into a discussion about health and exercise, sharing our journey into fitness. I shared stories about witnessing the effects brought on by family members’ poor health and how I started questioning the things I was doing that might trigger into action those same poor genes I shared with them from the family gene pool. It turned out we had a similar history that motivated us to take better care of ourselves. Before the evening was over, we both had a good sense of each other and agreed to hang out at some point. FROM THAT RANDOM MEETING AT THAT party, we wound up becoming pretty good workout buddies. When time permitted we would meet at the health club and become each other’s coach and spotter. It must have been 6 or 8 months later when he got the news that would change his life forever. On a routine doctor visit it was discovered he had a serious disease. Because he was so fit, he did not notice the early symptoms. From that point on things changed, as you would expect. He still met me at the gym but not as often; not because he did not want to, but because he was busy getting his house ready to sell. Upon getting the news, he decided he did not want to live and die in a cold climate. Instead, he planned on moving to a warmer city on the west coast. He still kept close to his workout routine but the times did not mesh with my availability. By the time we were in the middle of the autumn season, he had sold most of his furnishings, grew a beard and bought a house. Though he hadn’t finalized the sale of his current house, he wanted to get out and start enjoying the days he had remaining in a warm climate. I was impressed with his matter of fact actions in completely uprooting himself to seek out comfort for his remaining days. I don’t know if I would have the same courage as him or the main character in this dark comedic drama. UPON RECEIVING DIRE NEWS ABOUT HIS HEALTH Richard, played by Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Black Mass) changed the way he was teaching his classes and also the people around him. With Rosemarie DeWitt (Your Sister’s Sister, Rachel Getting Married) as Veronica, Odessa Young (Assassination Nation, The Daughter) as Olivia, Danny Huston (The Aviator, The Constant Gardener) as Peter and Zoey Deutch (Before I Fall, Dirty Grandpa) as Claire; this film festival nominee had a decent cast of actors. Johnny was ok but he did not provide me with something new that I had not seen before. The script had an occasional glimmer of hope, but I felt it lacked in developing the characters. There were several chances for this story to well up into an emotional peak but I felt the writers wanted to play it safe. So instead what was left for the viewer was a repeat of actions and emotions; as if, the writers wanted to not only numb the main character but the audience as well.