WHO WILL REMEMBER THE MEMORIES WHEN the keepers of the memories are gone? I think about this from time to time. At a recent get together I started thinking about it again as the people in attendance were going over old, family photographs. There were several photos of people whose identities were unknown to the people at the party. These strangers, one had to assume, were related somehow to the family; but there was no one left from the previous generation who could help identify these strangers. I sat and wondered how many generations would have to pass before all the people in the photographs turned into unknown beings. As the gathering continued, I recalled from when I was little a neighbor who had lost many relatives due to war. She was a survivor herself. In fact, the first time I ever saw a tattoo was the one on her arm. It was a series of numbers and I remember asking her what the numbers meant. Looking back, she explained as best she could without frightening me how she was given the tattoo when she was in a concentration camp. Being so young I had not reached an age where I could comprehend the words, she was telling me; yet, though she is long gone I have not forgotten what she had said to me. NOW THERE ARE TIMES WHERE I wished I was privy to a person’s memories, especially when they have a historic factor. I knew several Viet Nam veterans, but that is all I knew about them. They never talked about their time away, what they did or what they saw; it was a subject one realized quickly they never wanted to talk about to anyone. I remember a friend’s family where one of the siblings was a soldier in Viet Nam. The family’s mailbox became their only connection to their son and brother. I was over at their house when a letter had arrived from overseas. The family huddled close together as a parent carefully opened the envelope and took out the onion skin piece of paper. Seeing the joy in their faces is something I have never forgotten. Being curious all these years, I had the privilege of talking to a Viet Nam veteran recently and asked him if the norm was not to talk about one’s experiences during the war. He explained the possible reasons for someone not wanting to talk about it, then generously shared his story. I carry his memory with me as I do now of the heroic act that took place in this dramatic, war film. THOUGH WILLIAM PITSENBARGER, PLAYED BY JEREMY Irvine (War Horse, The Railway Man), had the opportunity to save himself from the heat of a battle, he chose to remain behind and help save his fellow soldiers. Those who were saved wanted to make sure William was never forgotten. This film’s story was inspired by true events and I must tell you I was surprised with some of the things I saw in this picture. With Samuel L. Jackson (Shaft, Jackie Brown) as Takoda, Sebastian Stan (Captain America franchise; I, Tonya) as Scott Huffman, Diane Ladd (Joy, Chinatown) as Alice Pitsenberger and Christopher Plummer (The Man Who Invented Christmas, Knives Out) as Frank Pitsenberger; I thought the cast was excellent. Seeing the older actors display their gift of acting made the characters come alive for me. I found the story unbelievable to the point it started playing out like a mystery. The issue I had, however, was with the directing and the script. Instead of coming across like one continuous emotional journey, the scenes felt like snippets of events which damaged the build up of emotional depth. I would start to connect to a character but then the scene would jump and sever that feeling. The story I felt was important enough that it needed more time to blend scenes together and tighten up the script. Essentially, this film lacked drama for me. Now maybe those who have gone through the war will have a different feeling, which I would certainly understand. Still, I am glad this story came to light and now I know and remember it.
2 ½ stars
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
I have learned never agree or add my opinion to someone who is in the middle of a rant about someone close to them. Let them carry on with their derogatory remarks, their name calling and variety of colorful adjectives; unless you know the history those two share, it will be better to be the thoughtful supportive friend. Time after time I have seen where the individual says whatever they want about the person; but when someone else utters a disparaging word they will scold them, telling them not to talk that way about their friend or relative. In a way it is sort of comical to me. Though I have to tell you, the thing that really gets me is when newscasters are reporting on a suspected criminal and they interview a relative of the suspect. More times than not the relative will say something positive about the suspect, like he was a good boy or she always got good grades in school. First of all what does that have to do with the crime? I hope this does not sound judgmental but I cannot imagine what it must feel like for a parent who has a child that brings them heartbreak or trouble. Even when that is the situation, there still is some truth to that saying, “Blood is thicker than water.” Liam Neeson (The Grey, Taken franchise) played Jimmy Conlon, an infamous mob hit-man. When his estranged son Mike, played by Joel Kinnaman (Safe House, RoboCop), was targeted by childhood friend and mob boss Shawn Maguire’s, played by Ed Harris (The Abyss, Snowpiercer); son Danny, played by Boyd Holbrook (A Walk Among the Tombstones, Gone Girl); Jimmy had no choice but to protect his son. This action, crime drama had some well done chases and fight scenes. There was one particular chase scene that was intense and well orchestrated with excitement and thrills. Liam was not too different from his past tough guy with killer skill roles, though he was a little more broken with this character. To be honest I felt it has really run its course; it is time for Liam to do something different. Besides Liam the other heavyweight in this film was Ed’s character. I so wished the writers would have given the two more screen time together because it would have made this a better film. After a while I started to get bored with the same things happening over and over again. If the script had been stronger this could have helped Liam avoid what has now become another of his movies that had a disappointing opening box office weekend. There were scenes with violence and blood in them.
Without purpose life would be a continuous cycle of sleeping, eating, working and repeating it all over day after day. This procedure becomes automatic with the absence of thought, similar to being a robot. There is a price one pays when they fall into this mode. The synapses of their brain curl and wither like gnarled arthritic hands, losing movement as they become frozen in one pointless position. Purpose is what adds new colorful landscaped roads to the continual construction site of the mind. These roads can lead one to uncharted territories that spark and reveal a new concept or idea that adds fuel to one’s journey in life. One of the reasons why I decided to become a fitness instructor was due to how I was treated in phys ed classes. Not being athletically inclined, I yearned for a gym class where everyone would be treated equally; no one would be made to feel inadequate or be the butt of cruel jokes. I had a good pitching arm back then but no one looked beyond my physical girth. From that time I found a purpose that put me on my life’s path and continues to bring me unlimited joy as a fitness and yoga instructor. THIS animated adventure film offered a similar message. Dane Cook (Mr. Brooks, Dan in Real Life) voiced the character Dusty Crophopper, a world class champion racer. Discovering he had an engine problem that could end his racing career, Dusty decided to join the aerial firefighter squadron led by Blade Ranger, voiced by Ed Harris (A Beautiful Mind, The Abyss). The major challenge facing Dusty would be to see if his engine could withstand the extensive training required for the job. Visually, this movie was fun to watch with its sense of depth and variety of airplane models, but there was nothing I would consider groundbreaking. The majority of actors voicing the characters were fine in their roles, There were really no standouts except for Fred Willard (Ira & Abby, Anchorman franchise) as the Secretary of the Interior. Though this picture was listed as a comedy, the humor would only appease young children. I found the puns old and corny, not able to recall uttering a single chuckle. The biggest issue I had with this film was its lack of creativity. It was so formulaic and stereotypical that my overall feeling towards this movie was one of tiredness. I think this could have easily been released straight to DVD, there was a blandness to the whole thing. It was such a shame, because the message it was trying to convey was certainly a positive one that shined a light on a noble profession.
It can be seen as early as infancy. Some may mistake it for stubbornness, but it really is not. I feel a person is born with it, this determination to succeed. I have seen some babies spend untold time on a single item or toy until they came to some sort of conclusion in figuring it out. For all my years working in fitness centers, I have seen adults with walkers or in wheelchairs struggling against their own bodies to lift a weight or walk the track. I am in awe of the determined drive they have in achieving their goal. There are stories that come out that talk about something that seems humanly impossible. One such true story is Slavomir Rawicz’s book “The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom” which inspired this Academy Award nominated movie. The year was 1940 as the world was breaking out into war. A group of men sentenced to a Siberian prison camp made their escape in the dead of winter. From the frigid arctic cold to the unbearable heat of the Gobi desert to the heights of the Himalayas, they walked 4000 miles as they made their way to India. I know, this story sounds unimaginable; but it made for a riveting film that was beautifully directed by Peter Weir (The Truman Show, Dead Poet’s Society). Jim Sturgess (One Day, Cloud Atlas) played the wrongly accused Polish prisoner Janusz. His skills would help the small band of escapees on their perilous journey. The casting for this dramatic adventure was a major asset in bringing the story to life. Among the actors were Ed Harris (A Beautiful Mind, A History of Violence) as Mr. Smith, Colin Farrell (Phone Booth, Total Recall) as Valka, Mark Strong (Body of Lies, Kick-Ass) as Khabarov and Saoirse Ronan (The Host, Atonement) as Irena. The scenes were so thoughtfully set up that I easily accepted everything as being real. In fact, I felt a shiver as I watched the men struggling in the cold harsh conditions. Though the film was long I never felt bored; even in simple scenes that seemed unnecessary, I felt the director was accurately portraying the group’s physical and emotional struggles. This really was an amazing feat of human strength that was done justice by this film. Some scenes had Russian and Polish with English subtitles. A few scenes briefly showed blood.
3 1/3 stars — DVD
The pairing of the words pain and gain is something I associate with working out. I have heard gym teachers tell their students, “work through the pain” or “you won’t get stronger if you don’t feel the pain.” To me these are not words of encouragement. The closest I come to saying something like that in my classes is to say, “it is ok to feel a muscle working.” I am afraid members could injure themselves if they think that feeling pain is the only way to know they are doing the exercises correctly. Thanks to this action film I now have a different association for the words pain and gain. I will always remember how painful it was for me to watch this film and how I wanted to gain back the time I lost. Based on a true story, director Michael Bay (Transformers franchise, Armageddon) filled this movie with an abundance of blood and violence. The actual story was so outrageous that I kept thinking that what I was seeing on the screen could not have really happened. And herein was one of the issues I had with Michael’s directing; there was so much time devoted to showing the violence I never got a real sense of the three main characters. Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter, Ted), Dwayne Johnson (Snitch, Get Smart) and Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker, Real Steel) played bodybuilders Daniel Lugo, Paul Doyle and Adrian Doorbal. Not wanting to spend the rest of his life as a personal trainer; Daniel Lugo hatched a plan to kidnap his wealthy client Victor Kershaw, played by Tony Shalhoub (Hemmingway & Gellhorn, Monk-TV), for his money. With Paul and Adrian on board; what was to have been a fast, easy job turned into a cluster blunder. The only good acting came from Tony Shalhoub and Ed Harris (The Rock, A History of Violence) as Ed DuBois. If Dwayne Johnson’s goal was to look like a moving mountain, he succeeded. Maybe with the story being so unbelievable, Dwayne wanted to look as non-human as possible. After some time I was bored with this film. Though I did not get pumped up by the story, I did get a sudden urge to go to the health club and work out.
1 3/4 stars
I am a defensive pessimist and I am proud of it. As with most things in life there are pluses and minuses associated to everything. On the one hand I am better equipped to handle deviations from a set plan. The reason being, I look at all the negative options that could happen; so, if there is a change, more than likely I have already prepared for it. On the down side, when I am asked to do something my first reaction is to say no; until I can process the request. I know what some of you must be thinking. Let me just say I prefer to shake hands with my neurosis instead of wrestling with them. I think if the political players on Senator John McCain’s team had my ability, things would have been different. This movie was about John McCain’s 2008 campaign for president. I will not be getting into the political aspect of the story; I am reviewing the film and its screenplay. Ed Harris (A History of Violence, The Abyss) did not necessarily look like Senator McCain, but I enjoyed his performance. Woody Harrelson (Seven Psychopaths, The Messenger) was excellent as McCain’s chief political advisor Steve Schmidt. The best performance from the cast was Julianne Moore (Being Flynn, Children of Men) as Sarah Palin. She had the look and mannerisms backed by her excellent acting ability. Whether the events presented here were true or not, one could not help but see Sarah in a sympathetic light. I found it fascinating to witness the dealings behind the public events surrounding the campaign. If any part of the planning depicted in this film for the Katie Couric interview was true; all I have to say is, “Wow.” By the director inserting actual footage into this movie, it added validity to the story. This DVD could be used as an example to show people the pitfalls of being an optimist–in my opinion.
3 stars — DVD
What is it about the western movie genre that attracts a loyal following? My maternal grandmother loved them and both my parents were big fans for years. I think it is because there is a no-nonsense purity to them. They depict a time in our history where everything seemed to have a direct cause and effect mindset. For these reasons, that is why this movie worked well on several levels. The story began straightforward enough about a town hiring law men partners Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, played by Ed Harris (The Abyss, Pollock) and Viggo Mortensen ( A History of Violence, The Road) respectively, to protect itself from the menacing rancher Randall Brage, played by Jeremy Irons (Margin Call, Georgia O’Keefe). This was Mr. Harris’ project since he was director, actor and part of the writing team. He, along with Viggo’s fine acting, really made this movie worth watching; both were outstanding in their roles. In the hands of these two actors, the script was better than I thought it would have been with different actors. The two deputies found their job becoming complicated when Allison French, played by Renee Zellweger (Miss Potter, My One and Only) arrived in town. In spite of a few slow parts, I reckon this old fashioned western is worth renting, if nothing else to see the mighty fine acting.
2 3/4 stars — DVD