IT WAS THE PHOTOGRAPH along with its headline in the newspaper that caught my eye. The old black and white photo was of a man sitting next to a stuffed animal. I recognized the animal as a cartoon character and began reading what turned out to be the man’s obituary. He had provided the voice for this character in all the cartoons, which was one of my favorite cartoon shows when I was younger. After having read that obituary I started making a point of glancing at the obituary columns whenever I read the newspaper. Discovering someone who was unfamiliar to me yet through their occupation or creation had an effect on my life was something I always found fascinating. I enjoyed reading about that person’s life, looking for any clues on what was the catalyst for the individual to steer to a particular profession or come up with their invention/creation. AFTER A SHORT length of time reading different obituaries, I started to notice how those individuals with some type of prestige or prominence got “top billing” in the layout of the death notices. This started me thinking about the finality of death and no matter how much money or notoriety a person acquired, when the time came for their death, they would die the same way as those less fortunate. From my discovery about the obituaries I started to notice a similar bias in news reporting. If a person of some stature was the victim of any type of crime the reports would spend more time to follow the person who killed them and keep the public updated on any and every detail. However if the individual was “average” or disenfranchised, then they barely received a mention in the news. There was something about this that did not sit well with me. In my opinion everyone has the right to die with dignity. Sometimes the newscasts would show the spot where a poor or homeless person was found dead and it was utterly sad to see. But was there an outcry by anyone or plans in place to avoid something like that ever happening again? This is why I loved the determination shown in this action, crime mystery. AFTER A NATIVE AMERICAN, barefooted woman was found dead in the snow Cory Lambert, played by Jeremy Renner (Arrival, The Avengers franchise), made a promise he would do his best to find out what happened to the young woman. With Elizabeth Olsen (Godzilla, Captain America franchise) as Jane Banner, Graham Greene (The Green Mile, Dances with Wolves) as Ben, Kelsey Asbille (Run, The Amazing Spider-Man) as Natalie and Julia Jones (The Twilight Saga franchise, Jonah Hex) as Wilma; the acting in this chilling setting was outstanding. Jeremy and Elizabeth were especially wonderful, each brought life to the well done script. This film festival winner may not have had a fast pace, but the simple settings and landscapes added a layer of despair throughout the picture that added to the mystery. In its own way I felt the story brought to light a subject that may not be familiar to most people. I did appreciate how the writers avoided the typical “Hollywood” ending, yet did not turn the story into a major downer. I could not leave my seat right away because I was thinking about what the world would be like if everyone had respect for each other.
3 ½ stars
Everyone around was becoming uncomfortable by two of their friends’ heated disagreement. The argument had been brewing between the two for a while and neither was willing to give in to the other. Only recently had their words started taking on a snarky tone and the people around knew better to calm either of them down else they would become victims to the venom. The friends hated distancing themselves from the two antagonists but it was becoming the reality of the situation; people were becoming unavailable for the get-togethers. Sadly I am quite familiar with these types of situations because I was usually one of the verbal fighters. For whatever reason the environment I lived in had made me believe a person who disagreed with me no longer liked or loved me. Most of my verbal attacks usually started out saying, “You” instead of “I”; there was rarely any discussion about the what and why I was feeling the way I did. I can still remember the times I would attend a gathering and if there was someone there I had a beef with I would make sure they and everyone around knew it. Whether I used snide remarks or was passive aggressive in attacking them, I can only say it was an ugly situation. With a lot of help and hard work I began to understand an argument was simply an argument; it had nothing to due with what a person thought of you. And the biggest lesson I learned was to express my feelings, starting out a sentence with “I feel…” Need I tell you the disagreement in this action adventure would quickly grow into something of epic proportions. WHEN politicians began to feel there needed to be some checks and balances in the Avengers’ operations, sides would be drawn that could well split the good intentions of the organization. This science fiction film did something that I rarely see in these type of movies; it placed an emphasis on some real life, current issues our world is experiencing at present. The script did a beautiful job of touching on these issues for a bit before switching it up between the wicked humor and personal drama amongst the superheroes. Starring Chris Evans (Snowpiercer, Before We Go) as Captain America, Robert Downey Jr. (The Judge, The Soloist) as Iron Man and Scarlett Johansson (Don Jon, The Avengers franchise) as Black Widow; there were too many characters to list here. I will say the script played to each actor’s strengths and I loved the way it introduced 2 new characters that it was obvious will have their own solo films in the near future. Now with all I have just said I did think this picture was long, but appreciated the way the action scenes were spaced out between the more personal ones. And one other thing I have to mention; I am concerned these Marvel movies are becoming predictable with their spectacular special effects, the two extra scenes during the credits and the Stan Lee appearances; they may raise the viewers’ expectations to a level that makes the films become ordinary. This may cause some discussion among us and that is fine since I know it is not personal. An extra scene during the ending credits and another at the end.
3 1/3 stars
With the right side of my brain reigning over the left one I have always gravitated to creative achievements. I guess you could say I hold them at a higher status then other accomplishments one does in their life. It has always fascinated me how people express themselves in a creative way, whatever the medium or method may be. One year I bought a ticket package to a dance series, from ballet to modern. To see not only the dancers moving to the music but to watch how the choreography was created to blend with the sounds was amazing to me. Regarding the dancers, I knew what type of dedication they had to have to manage such control over their bodies. Just from what I have experienced by teaching aerobics I know I only covered a sliver of the energy that dancers produce in their craft. The same can be said for any of the artists who have their work on display somewhere. Some of the graffiti I have seen on walls has been wild; in fact, there was a town I visited where they encouraged graffiti artists to create work on the back of buildings in a block long alley. It really was an amazing spectacle. From my own experiences I know creative outlets can be the exit ramps for our emotions to come out from being buried inside of us. Whether it is doing origami or gardening to song writing or pottery making; anything that gives us a vehicle to express ourselves is a positive attribute in my opinion. WITH only a pen and a guitar country western singer Hank Williams, played by Tom Hiddleston (Thor franchise, Crimson Peak), was able to create songs that told real stories. I have had no exposure to Hank’s music so I was curious about this biographical drama. Another thing I wanted to see was how this British actor would handle a southern American accent in his speech and with his singing voice; I knew the film studio wanted him to sing Hank’s songs. I have to tell you he was excellent in the role along with Elizabeth Olsen (Godzilla, Oldboy) as his wife Audrey. The strongest part to this music movie was the acting; even the supporting cast of Cherry Jones (The Village, The Perfect Storm) as Lillie Williams and Bradley Whitford (Saving Mr. Banks, The West Wing-TV) as Fred Rose was quite good. The biggest issue I had concerned the script. I felt I never understood what drove these characters. There were parts of the picture that ran slow which produced unevenness to the story telling. Actually I thought if the writers would have devoted more back story to the songs I would have enjoyed this film more; even exploring the mother/son relationship would have helped me stay more attuned to what was going on up on screen. There is no denying Hank Williams was a gifted and creative artist; I only had wished his story would have been conveyed in a more creative movie.
2 ½ stars
The most important thing for some people is to maintain appearances. It is all about being a dutiful son, obedient daughter or the perfect family member; one must never air their dirty laundry, letting others see any cracks within the family unit. There was a family I knew that had a son and daughter. The two siblings never got along and would act out in some outrageous ways with no regard to personal or commercial property. Inside their home there were the usual scuff marks on the walls and floors. However there were a few unexplained holes in the walls too. If anyone visiting asked about the holes the stock answer given was a delivery man knocked into the wall. Regarding the siblings’ teacher/student conferences, whenever the parents were questioned about their children’s behavior they would blankly stare and say everything was fine at home. I never understood this type of logic, where people think it is better to just smile and say everything is fine than talking issues out. Just because family members may have some troubles between them does not mean they are no longer a unified family unit. Besides, don’t people root for those who come to terms with their issues, who reveal their real selves flaws and all? UNBEKNOWNST to the other Avengers Tony Stark/Ironman and Bruce Danner/Hulk, played by Robert Downey Jr (The Judge, The Soloist) and Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me, Foxcatcher), were working on a new technology that would help and maintain world peace. Instead it would facilitate the destruction of mankind. This action science fiction sequel had a lot of pressure to live up to its predecessor. What made this adventure film fun was the returning cast and their ability to do justice to the smartly written script. There was just the right amount of sarcasm, wittiness, pathos and excitement to keep the viewer entertained. A perfect example would be Robert Downey Jr’s character. His timing which was as impeccable as Jarvis’ (Tony Stark’s virtual assistant) diction was great when he had to deliver one of the clever quips or jokes. The cast really worked well together like a family, but I want to give an extra shout out to Mark Ruffalo and newcomer Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy, In Secret) as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch. These two had a strong impact across the screen due to their acting abilities with their given lines. Now to the crux of why this sequel worked; the characters were allowed to show their flaws and insecurities; they were more real to us where we could sympathize with them. Personally I enjoyed the 1st film more than this one. Yes the action scenes were intense, the special effects were good and James Spader (Lincoln, Boston Legal-TV) was perfect as the voice of Ultron; but the story was a little too long and there was a feeling of familiarity, a sense of deja vu. However, by letting the characters show more of their baggage and flaws, I only wanted to root for them more. There was one extra scene in the middle of the ending credits.
There was a period of time where I witnessed the destruction of property and the killing of people. On weekends, there was a small movie theater that played a variety of matinee films that showed all types of creatures trying to destroy parts of our world. My friends and I would meet there often, usually right after we all received our allowances, to watch in awe these huge monsters fighting some spectacular battles. Once we were finished seeing the movie we would stop at the local ice cream and candy shop to talk about the different scenes, marveling at how human ingenuity saved us yet again. The shop was our go to place because the owner knew us and would let us sit in a booth for as long as we needed. There were glass jars filled with different kinds of candy sitting on wooden shelves that had the varnish worn dull from use. This all took place from a different, innocent era, where shop owners knew their customers and kids used their imaginations to create fun times. This action adventure film had some of that throwback feel to it, even with its updated story. When an experiment went out of control, mankind soon discovered they were not the strongest species on the planet. The script took a fresh approach in telling the story of Godzilla, bringing in more of a scientific element. There were times where I felt I had reached my limit of facts, but it was a minor distraction. Visually the movie had incredible special effects and I thought the camera angles were unique. It looked as if we were watching scenes from the cast’s perspectives. Personally I would have preferred a few more long shots when it came to the fight scenes; however, the battles that took place in the heart of the city were quite exciting. A steady tension could be felt throughout the movie and part of its success was due to some of the actors. Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy, In Secret) as Elle Brody, Bryan Cranston (Argo, Breaking Bad-TV) as Joe Brody and Ken Watanabe (Inception, Unforgiven) were the standouts for me. Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Savages, Kick-Ass franchise) was a poor choice as a leading character due to his limited acting ability. I would have switched and made Elizabeth the main lead. She would have brought more to a leading role. The whole feel of the movie was one of excitement and fun. Part of me had those same feelings of wonder and amazement like I had when I was a kid. The only difference was I did not stop for an ice cream cone afterwards.
There are a multitude of actions and reactions that can be attributed to love. The warmth that rises up to the surface of your skin when your significant other engulfs your hand with their hand is due to love. Saddened as you look at the remnants of your love’s face outlined on their pillow while they are away on a business trip, slows your heart rate for the duration of their time away. I remember spending weeks driving around the city and suburbs, taking photographs of places we had been to that were associated with happy moments, to create a memory photo album for their birthday. Yep, due to the love I had for them. Love can overrule the mind’s practical side and make us do some things that can be embarrassing, odd or even scary. For me, I cringe when I think about the time I went to meet them at the airport, dressed up as a shirtless cowboy. Please excuse me for a moment as I clear the taste of bile from my mouth. Most of us associate being in love with joyful thoughts, but in this dramatic thriller love revealed a darker side. Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy, Liberal Arts) played Therese Raquin who was sent to stay with her aunt Madame Raquin, played by Jessica Lange (The Vow, Big Fish). She was to become a companion and caretaker for her sickly cousin Camille, played by Tom Felton (Harry Potter franchise, The Apparition). As time passed Therese was taken by surprise the day her aunt decided that she would be marrying her cousin and the three of them would live happily ever after. That was until one day Camille brought home his old friend Laurent, played by Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis, Drive). The sets in this period piece were excellent, depicting France in the 1860s. Already fond of Elizabeth Olsen, I thought her and Jessica’s performances were outstanding. Actually I enjoyed the entire cast; the acting level was of a high caliber. The problems with this film have to do with the script and the directing. There were slow dry scenes where I felt the story sagging. It was sad because the potential for a highly dramatic, powerful film was there but it never reached it. The only love I felt for this film was for Jessica Lange and Elizabeth Olsen.
2 1/2 stars
It was a delayed reaction on my part when I heard the undecipherable sounds in the subway car. It was white noise or at least I thought it was when it coughed out of the train car speakers. The train was being detoured to the elevated tracks instead of its usual route and going express to a station that was unfamiliar to me. I was stuck as I gazed out the window at the new views of the city’s landscapes. It became exciting for me since I was seeing some of the city’s skyscrapers from a new angle and they were magnificent. We finally reached the station where I stepped out onto the platform, only to be surprised by what I saw before me. The station had been remodeled to its original look from the 1920’s. Freshly painted with wide brass signs hung on the wall, the place was a knockout. Here my trip had started out on an ordinary trek and wound up in a different place that shocked me. The same thing happened to me when I went to see this action mystery movie. I had no prior knowledge, did not know it was a remake of a South Korean cult classic or that the story would be so twisted. Josh Brolin (Men in Black 3, Milk) played alcoholic advertising executive, Joe Doucett. After a night of heavy drinking Joe woke up to find himself in a strange motel room. It turned out not to be a motel room but a cell, where he remained for the next 20 years. With no explanation or human contact to explain why he was imprisoned, one day Joe woke up and found himself free in an open field. He would spend every waking minute tracking down the people responsible for his imprisonment and take revenge on them. Directed by Spike Lee (Malcom X, Inside Man), visually the scenes were exciting but not for the faint of heart. There were extremely bloody and violent scenes in this action drama. Josh appeared to have bulked up for the demanding role and he impressed me with his determined darkness. Elizabeth Olsen (Silent House, Liberal Arts) brought her high level of excellent acting skills to her performance as Marie Sebastian, a first responder who was drawn into Joe’s plight. The story took such twisted turns that it was not a shock to see Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained) play the character Chaney. I have to honestly say this bizarre movie left me with mixed feelings. The cast was good but I felt some of the scenes lacked any depth, besides not making much sense to me. I would be very curious to get the original film and see why it has reached a cult status. Since I prefer knowing as little as possible when I go see a movie, I was very much taken aback by this crazy mystery; I just do not know if I enjoyed the ride. There were scenes with blood and violence.
2 1/4 stars
Going away to college was a liberating experience for me. Where a majority of fellow high school seniors planned attending the state school, I chose to go out of state. Moving to a place where no one knew me seemed the safest thing to do. Surrounded by people who had similar interests to mine was exciting. For one of my required courses I was responsible for the upkeep of a horse named Daiquiri. Doing so allowed me free horseback riding lessons which I thought made be cool looking. In this educational world I learned more about myself and felt I was coming back to life. There was nothing better than acquiring knowledge and being allowed to express myself. These feelings were rekindled as I watched this sweet touching film. Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother-TV, Not Another Teen Movie) deserves credit since he was the director, writer and star of this fresh thoughtful film. He played Jesse Fisher; a 30 something, recently single guy. When favorite college professor Peter Hoberg, played by Richard Jenkins (The Visitor, The Cabin in the Woods), invited him to his retirement party, Jesse agreed to travel back to his alma mater. The return to campus sparked fond memories in Jesse. When introduced to college student Zibby, played by Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene; Peace, Love and Misunderstanding), Jesse was taken by surprise with the strong connection that quickly formed between the two of them. Despite their age difference, both discovered they could still learn something from each other. This film had more to offer than what was shown in the trailer. I loved Elizabeth Olsen; she and Richard Jenkins were simply special with their acting. A surprise for me was seeing Zac Efron in this film and liking him for a change. This slice of college life with its sense of discovery, emotional upheaval and life’s lessons could easily make you want to enroll in school again.
The bond between a mother and daughter can be a beautiful and loving connection. That was not the case in this comedy. After her husband declared he was divorcing her; high strung Diane, played by Catherine Keener (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Into the Wild), left with the children and reluctantly went to visit her aged, hippie of a mother. It had been 20 years since mother and daughter had last seen each other. Jane Fonda (Monster-in-Law, Agnes of God) was the pot smoking, laid back, free loving mother Grace–a total opposite from her tightly wound, uptight daughter. All staying under one roof; Grace, Diane and the grandchildren needed time not only to adjust to each other, but to heal issues from the past before they could go forward. The bright spot for me in this clunker of a movie was Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Silent House) playing the granddaughter Zoe. I have been so impressed with Elizabeth’s brief career in acting so far; she really has a gift for it. There were parts of the story that interested me; however, what turned me off was Jane Fonda’s character. It was so over the top stereotypical, I was annoyed by it. I would be curious to know why Jane took this role. With no surprises in this movie, it was not long before I started glancing down at my watch–never a good sign. Though Elizabeth and Catherine were good, it was not enough to save this lame movie.
1 3/4 stars