WAY BEFORE THE MATRIX MOVIES were released people were already feeling more like a machine than human. I believe this is true; just look around and you will see individuals who are stuck in a rut that causes them to lose their zest for life. There are times I feel overwhelmed when I find myself in this cyclical pattern of sleep, eat and work; sleep, eat and work; sleep, eat and work. Life becomes a repetitious pattern of events over and over to the point where one day is no different from the next. What helps me get through these periods of time is an active mind. Keep in mind my daydreaming was used as a defense to get through the dark periods of my earlier life; so now, when I feel myself getting into a rut I fire up the creative furnace of my brain and enter a fantasy land of hopes and dreams. I am aware this method may not be suitable for someone else; in that case, they would need to find a way to bring joy back into their life. Only existing day by day, I feel is not enough to experience life and I will add, living. THERE WAS A MAN I KNEW who would change jobs every time he felt he was getting into a rut. At first, I thought he was just being aggressive in trying to advance himself up the career ladder; but after a couple of different positions, I realized they were more of a lateral move instead of advancement. Within five years he had already changed companies 4 times. Each time he started a new job he was excited and gung ho about it; then as time passed on, you could see the life being drained out of him. Looking back at it I now wonder if he was experiencing some form of depression. It would be understandable if a person felt trapped or stuck in a place. Then that is the time therapy should come into play, instead of running away from the issue like this guy seemed to be doing by changing jobs multiple times. Taking in consideration the stress of changing jobs, I can only wonder if this also played a factor in his decision-making process. Let us face it; for some people it is easier to avoid such feelings and just change the environment instead. But there are some positions that one does not get a choice; they must deal with life’s trials and tribulations. Look what was going on in this film festival nominated comedic drama. WITH EACH CHILD AND BABY demanding all her attention Marlo, played by Charlize Theron (The Fate of the Furious, Atomic Blonde), had nothing left in her to deal with anything else. It came to the point her husband Craig, played by Mark Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed, The One I Love), suggested they get a nanny; not just a regular nanny, but a night one. What was a night nanny? Written by Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult) this film also starred Mackenzie Davis (The Martian, Blade Runner 2049) as Tully and Ron Livingston (The Conjuring, Adaptation) as Drew. This movie was all about Charlize’s character and she did not disappoint, even gaining 50 pounds for the role. I enjoyed the story and most of the script because it came across as believable. There were no apologies about anything nor the painting of a happy picture when there really was nothing to be happy about; this was I believe a true portrayal of what motherhood entails for some women. Having sat through a rut of uninteresting movies this picture was a needed respite.
I AVOID HER LIKE THE PLAGUE; that is how strong I feel about her. When I am at the grocery store and she is there, I will not go into her checkout line. Please understand I know she is doing her job; but I find it irritating that she must look at every single coupon I have cut out of the newspaper, match it to the corresponding product on my receipt before she will scan it. That is what the scanner is supposed to do; if I did not purchase the product the coupon would not work! You would think I am taking the money straight out of her pocket. One time I had words with her because I had a coupon for a free box of pasta that happened to be on a two for one sale, buy 1 box and you get a 2nd box free. So technically with my coupon I would be getting both boxes free, right? She told me I could not use my coupon because the item was on sale. I told her that did not make sense and to scan the coupon. Do you know I had to hold up the line of people behind me before she begrudgingly gave in and scanned the coupon, which the scanner took by the way. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY SOME people internalize their job position then laud it over other individuals. When I travel to other fitness centers I can immediately tell by the way the instructor walks into the room whether they think they are “special” or not. Some instructors I have met have this attitude that I find to be narcissistic; they want everyone to look at them as if they are the oracle for everything that has to do with fitness. Taking a class from a person like this is no fun for me. It is interesting because I wonder if that instructor is so wrapped up into their job label that they cannot have fun even outside the classroom. There was a summer job I had years ago where the owner’s wife walked around the company as if she was royalty. She barely spoke to any of the employees. I mean really, so she was the wife of the president/owner; where was it written that she could not be civil and polite? When I come across people who act like this I cannot imagine them ever having a good time because they are so busy putting on their façade. The same thing was happening to the wife in this dramatic comedy. IT WAS BAD ENOUGH FINDING out her husband was cheating on her, but to leave the life she was accustomed to would turn out to be even harder for Lady Sandra Abbott, played by Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake, Harry Potter franchise). This film festival winner also starred Celia Imrie (Imagine Me & You, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel franchise) as Bif, Joanna Lumley (The Wolf of Wall Street, Absolutely Fabulous-TV) as Jackie, Timothy Spall (The Party, Mr. Turner) as Charlie and David Hayman (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Sid & Nancy) as Ted. I have to tell you the cast was over qualified in this romantic comedy. The script did okay trying not to make everything appear like a cliché, but I felt it needed more drama. This was sort of like a happy-go-lucky type of story; however, the actors were so polished it appeared as if the actors were not even acting. They were living the lives of their characters. With the style of directing and the way the script was written, this film wasn’t trying to be something it was not; it was simply being a light British comedic romance.
2 ½ stars
SITTING AT THE TABLE WITH no one to talk to was making me uncomfortable. There were at least a dozen people sitting around the long table, but I did not know any of them. I was supposed to meet a friend at this gathering but after I arrived at the restaurant they texted they were still stuck at work. Since I was already there I tried to make the best of it. The group met once a month at this particular restaurant but throughout the year they planned different cultural events; my friend and I thought it would be something worth checking out. After I was seated and introductions were made all around, it became apparent to me that everyone there knew each other. I was the odd man out. Some of the individuals sitting around asked me a couple of questions like where I was from and what did I do for a living, but afterwards their attention was drawn back to their friends or people they already knew. THOUGH THIS WAS NOT THE type of venue where I would bring something, I should have brought my old standby anyway. There is this little bakery I know that has been open more than 50 years. It is sort of like an old world type of place where they bake a variety of items. One in particular is my favorite and whenever I bring them to a gathering the folks there gather around and talk to me about the item. Light and airy, shaped into curved oblong commas, they have a sprinkling of sugar on top. I know a majority of people would bring a bottle of wine; I prefer bringing baked goods. It is difficult to attend a party where you hardly know any of the guests and I have found this item can break the ice with most people. Personally I quickly withdraw from a party when I see guests have gathered into their own little cliques. It reminds me of the divisions that were in place in high school. And since I am not a drinker, when guests at a party start acting silly from too much alcohol I wrap things up and say my goodbyes. Nothing worse than being at a party with an out of control guest; so I better warn you the guests at the party in this dramatic comedy are one intense group. ON THE NIGHT JANET, PLAYED by Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Four Weddings and a Funeral) throws a dinner party her husband Bill, played by Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner, Secrets & Lies), waits until the guests arrived before making an announcement. This film festival winning movie also starred Patricia Clarkson (The Station Agent, The Green Mile) as April, Emily Mortimer (Match Point, Lars and the Real Girl) as Jinny and Cherry Jones (The Perfect Storm, The Village) as Martha. Hands down Patricia was the star of this film, though the rest of the cast was excellent; she stood out for me. I am sure part of it was due to the acidic script. The direction was fine but as the story unfolded I never quite felt engaged with any of the characters. At one point it just seemed like a lot of chaos was taking place; I found myself wanting to tune out. It was too bad, because I enjoyed the picture being filmed in black and white along with some of the wicked lines in the script. By the time the movie was over I was glad I was not invited to this party.
THE ABSENCE OF LOVE DOES not necessarily mean that the empty space has been filled in with hate. Until the heart has grown up its loves tend to be relatives, friends and inanimate objects. It is not until one crosses over the border into true love where hate may become a future player. I have, as I am sure many of you, experienced a love shared that comes to an end. Not the type where both parties have agreed to move on, I am talking where one person breaks trust with the other. This is where hate can take over; but I am getting ahead of myself. As far as I am concerned anyone who can experience love will live I believe a more satisfying life. It is so much easier to love than hate someone and love is different for everyone. Do you remember the first time you went out on a date? It can be a scary and exhilarating experience all at the same time. DATING SOMEONE USED TO BE A ritual where 2 people would have to meet face to face; unless of course it was a blind date, but even then each person’s 1st contact (such a Star Trek comment) would be a face to face encounter. I am guessing for some of you this is a foreign concept? With the introduction of the internet, dating has taken on a whole new persona. For some their comfort is getting to learn about a person before committing to meet them; others may have specific ideas on what would create a comfortable environment. I remember in school when everyone started or attempted to date someone. There were some students who were interested in the person they wanted to go out with on a date. And there were some who would settle for anyone or almost anyone to date just so they would not be perceived as being different. Ahh, different; now there is a word most people do not want to take on as a label for themselves. Now here is the funny thing, what one considers different may be the exact thing someone else finds attractive. Plus I like to say, “Different from what?” When it comes to love of the heart, there really is very little difference from person to person. BURDENED WITH A DEEP SECRECT Simon Spier, played by Nick Robinson (Jurassic World, The Kings of Summer), felt he was the only one. It was not until he heard about someone’s posted comments that he felt he could experience something his friends had felt. This dramatic romantic comedy also starred Josh Duhamel (Safe Haven, Transformers franchise) as Jack Spier, Jennifer Garner (Mother’s Day, Danny Collins) as Emily Spier, Alexandra Shipp (Straight Outta Compton, X-Men: Apocalypse) as Abby Suso and Logan Miller (Before I Fall, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) as Martin Addison. For a coming of age story I felt this script did it justice. There was an easy blend of drama and comedy that the cast convincingly portrayed. I did feel some scenes were farfetched or cheesy but all in all the writers tried to maintain a realistic setting as they gave each character their own issues. High school already comes with its own potholes and I enjoyed the way the cast made their way through the obstacles. As a side note I was surprised by the crowd’s reactions to this film. They all seemed to be into the story; in fact, at one point the 2 young adults or teenagers (it was hard to tell in the dark) next to me were crying what I think were tears of joy. This film is not so different from other similar movies; however, it does a better than average job in telling its story.
“I AM GOING TO SPEND TIME in my playroom,” she said to me. More than likely you are assuming a child made that statement, but you would be wrong. It is a friend of mine who has one room in her house set up for just herself, to spend time on her hobbies. There is a television and music player in the room that she will turn on once in a while as she works on a project. The idea of the playroom came to her when she realized her activities were cluttering up parts of the house, leading to confusion when she was looking for a particular item. Having everything in one room made sense and she discovered a major bonus by having her own room; she could decompress and check out from reality as she got lost in her thoughts, doing stuff that gave her enormous pleasure. Her time spent in her playroom allowed her to take a mental break; something that served her well in life. THERE ARE SO MANY DIFFERENT ways people spend their time to take a break from their daily grind, not that every day is a grind for some. I utilize a few methods such as watching movies and working out, though with movies I am focused on the story instead of myself. However with working out on a cycle bike or treadmill I can get into a mental zone that allows me to contemplate and reflect on any issues or concerns that may have cropped up for me. Before I knew it the time had flown by and I was done with my workout; I consider this a double bonus. This is my usual method but there are some people who get lost in their kitchen by cooking or go shopping or knit; anything that is not self destructive and allows a person to calm down is an acceptable form for taking a mental holiday. When I was much younger my method was playing the piano or just listening to music. I really feel everyone needs to take time out for themselves and whether it is to work on a troubling issue or gain self-gratification, all of it is good therapy. The main character in this comedic drama has his own way of dealing with certain aspects of his life, if you are interested in seeing it. AFTER BEING RAVAGED BY FIRES it was up to Texas highway road worker Alvin, played by Paul Rudd (Ant-Man, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) to paint lines on the new roads. For his crew he agreed to take on his girlfriend’s brother Lance, played by Emile Hirsch (Lone Survivor, Into the Wild). Their summer together would make for an interesting journey. Written and directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Stronger) this film festival winner also starred Lance LeGault (Stripes, Magnum P.I.-TV) as the truck driver. Because of the acting by Paul and Emile, my interest remained steady for the most part. The story started out a bit slow, but Paul’s character in particular made me curious to continue watching this DVD. Set in the 1980s there was a certain retro feeling to this story. Honestly I do not know how they put stripes on the roads these days, but I was interested in the way the two man crew had to keep up in such a repetitive lonely job. Overall there were several predictable scenes and I felt at times the story slowing down. Now that I think about it this DVD might be used in helping the viewer take a mental break from reality; you would not have to think much.
2 stars — DVD
IT APPEARS TO ME when people are reaching a certain age they start going through their home to get rid of stuff. I have recently noticed this due to a few friends, who started doing this very thing recently. They are rummaging through their closets, drawers and basements pulling out a variety of items, from unused tools to shoes that were never taken out of their original packaging. I know this because they are sending me photos showing their stuff piled up, waiting to be donated, recycled or thrown away. In fact a friend of mine who runs an antique/thrift shop was telling me how the store has always gotten items from estate sales or people who are clearing out the homes of their deceased relatives. However now he noticed more and more people are bringing in their own items, telling him they no longer need it or they are downsizing. WHEN THE TIME COMES for me to reorganize my house I know I will have a lot of items to donate or give away. Like so many people I am an acquirer (a kinder way of saying I like to shop). There was a period of time where I bought into the mindset that the person with the most stuff wins. Because I have the space when I bought, let us say, a new pair of pants or shoes, I did not bother getting rid of a similar item from my closet. I think I do this because I have this constant thought that at some point in time I will need that item for whatever reason. Slacks that are too big for me hang in the attic in case I put on weight or have a dinner guest that spills on their pants and needs to wear something while their stained slacks are in the wash. Maybe a better way of explaining this desire for stuff is to look at the way electronic items and children’s toys are marketed these days. Now when a new thing comes out it suddenly becomes a big event, drawing in and making people believe they would be better off with the new item. Need takes a back seat to desire. Let us face it, who wants to feel like they are being left behind as everyone else is jumping on the shopping bandwagon for new stuff. This film festival winning dramatic comedy has something to say about it. FINDING IT HARDER TO make ends meet Audrey and Paul Safranek, played by Kristen Wiig (Ghostbusters, Masterminds) and Matt Damon (The Martian, The Great Wall), agree to become part of the new trend of downsizing oneself to 5” tall and live like a millionaire. However being small doesn’t mean one will have smaller issues to deal with. With Christoph Waltz (Tulip Fever, Big Eyes) as Dusan Mirkovic, Hong Chau (Inherent Vice, Treme-TV) as Ngoc Lan Tran and Rolf Lassgard (A Man Called Ove, After the Wedding) as Dr. Jorgen Asbjornsen; this story caught my attention right from the start. The first part was both fun and curious; but then other story lines came in and none of them ever became fully developed for me. I found it an odd mix that made me lose interest, though I enjoyed the visual contrasts. The story presented was a social satire that could have led to some interesting conversation afterwards, but instead what was in my head was clutter I wanted to clear out.
THERE HAS ONLY BEEN a small handful of individuals I have known who had a natural ability to excel in their life’s journey. Things came naturally to these people, where they did not need to be schooled or guided in conquering their dreams/goals. I am sure when you were in school you had at least one student who did not study before an exam and yet would still get a perfect score. From my college days I remember a student in one of my writing classes who had a book and few short stories published before the semester even began. The entire class looked up to this individual. Even outside a school setting I know a young adult who already is displaying an uncanny ability when it comes to electronics. Without any instruction, he wired and set up a burglary alarm system for his family’s home. NOW THERE ARE SOME people who excel at something but they need to work at it. You know that old joke about how does one get to Carnegie Hall and the answer is practice, practice, practice? Some individuals work hard trying to achieve their dreams. Whether it involves mental concentration or physical training, the individuals in this group sacrifice social interactions among other things to reach their goals. I am a firm believer in people attempting to reach their dreams; for it is better to have tried then spend the rest of one’s life wondering what life would have been like if they had at least attempted to reach their goals, in my opinion. I am sure it has crossed some of your minds, especially if you have watched some of those reality shows, that there are some people who should stop trying to be something they will never be. I know what you mean since I have seen a couple of those singing and dancing reality shows where some of the people auditioning show no talent for the task. It would not be fair for me to judge, but see how you feel about the main character trying to reach his dream in this dramatic comedy based on a true story. REFUSING TO ACCEPT THE negative comments about his acting abilities Tommy, played by James Franco (The Interview, Why Him?) not only liked the idea from his friend Greg, played by Dave Franco (Warm Bodies, Now You See Me franchise), he agreed to it; they would make their own movie to star in. This film festival winning picture also starring Seth Rogen (Funny People, Neighbors franchise) as Sandy, Ari Graynor (The Sitter, Mystic River) as Juliette and Alison Brie (Sleeping with Other People, Mad Men-TV) as Amber; was hilarious in parts. I and the audience around me were laughing out loud. The story is so bizarre it took me some time to actually believe this was a true story and not some big satire. Interestingly I was initially annoyed with James’ character, but after awhile I realized he was doing an excellent acting job playing this mysterious, odd character. I also enjoyed the variety of cameo roles that popped up throughout the movie. As I mentioned earlier it took me time to get into the story; I was confused by the script and was getting “antsy” for something to take place. However with James’ directing and the absurd idea behind the story coming to life, I had to applaud the achievements that were on display by the end. It goes to show you, follow your dreams because you never know where they will lead you.
3 1/3 stars
ONLY FOR A MOMENT did I catch a glimpse of a shadow against the wall before it retreated. I quickly changed directions and walked away from the alleyway. Purposely I tried keeping my footsteps quiet by taking little steps with the soles of my shoes rolling from heel to toe against the pavement. It did not help as I heard a rustling sound behind me. Darting into a gangway between two apartment buildings, I saw each of them had wrought iron fire escapes that mirrored each other. They looked like origami figurines with a limb reaching out to grab me. Walking up to one of the fire escapes I grabbed a hold of the bottom rung of a ladder that easily gave way for me to pull it far down enough for me to hoist myself onto it. Quickly I made my way up to the first floor and cowered against the building in a crevice of a black area the nearby street lamp could not reach. The dark shadow I had seen lengthened down the alley towards my location. A looming figure attached to the shadow came into view… WHAT YOU JUST READ was something out of my imagination. I apologize if you wanted to find out what happened next, but that scenario never took place. However I will tell you as I was writing it I was looking at it as if it really did take place. You see whenever I write a piece of fiction I see everything in my mind first and then it appears before my eyes. My own version of virtual reality I guess you can call it. In fact I have been accused of not paying attention in class or when someone is speaking directly to me because I do not maintain constant eye contact; I actually am listening to them and picturing what they are telling me. When I think about it I have always had this capability, even before I found my fondness for writing; all that was needed was an imagination. Being a visual learner I certainly can attest to the benefits of visualization. What a surprise it was to see Charles Dickens did the same thing in this comedic drama. DISAPPOINTED WITH HIS RECENT works Charles Dickens, played by Dan Stevens (Beauty and the Beast, Downton Abbey-TV), was desperate to overcome his writer’s block and produce a successful story for the holidays. All he needed to do was look at the people around him. This film festival winning movie based on a true story also starred Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music, A Beautiful Mind) as Ebenezer Scrooge, Jonathan Pryce (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Game of Thrones-TV) as John Dickens, Simon Callow (Amadeus, Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Leech and Miriam Gargoyles (The Age of Innocence, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) as Mrs. Fisk. The idea for this story was a new twist on the Christmas Carol story. I enjoyed watching the process Charles Dickens went through to create his iconic story. The acting was a mixed bag for me; I thought Christopher Plummer far outshined Dan in this biographical film. At times I thought the humor was a bit much, inching the Charles Dickens character closer to buffoonery. I may have felt this way because Dan was not totally believable to me. I would have preferred added focus on creating more drama in the script. Despite these issues there still was a certain charm to this picture and fans of Charles Dickens or at least his novel “A Christmas Carol” will get a kick out of the imagination used to bring the novel’s characters to life.
2 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.