SHE WAS PROUD OF HER GRANDCHILDREN; I heard her talk about them enough times to know. They were respectful and polite which made me like them right from the start. According to their grandmother, the boy was a star player on his school’s football team and his sister was the school’s photographer. When I met and spoke with the 2 siblings, I learned the grandmother’s description of their school activities was exaggerated a bit. The girl enjoyed photography and had submitted one of her photos to the school’s newspaper; it was one of several to be chosen to accompany an article about the plant life around the school building. The boy was on the football team as the grandmother had mentioned; however, he was one of the 2nd string players on the team. Most of his time was spent sitting on the bench. So, the grandmother expanded the truth, I get it. She was not the first grandmother I met who used hyperboles when it came to her grandchildren. It did appear to me; however, she spoke a lot about these kids. It is one thing to mention one’s children or grandchildren if it comes up in a conversation; but, without solicitation or prodding one talks excessively about them then I start to wonder what could be fueling it. YOU THINK YOU KNOW A PERSON, but then something happens that forces you to re-evaluate everything you thought regarding this individual. This is what happened to me and explained why the grandmother talked a lot about her 2 grandchildren. Her and I were part of a small group of people who had met for lunch one day. During the meal many topics were discussed. However, it was during the subject of racial tensions when the grandmother said something that led me to believe the reason behind her excessive talking about her grandchildren. She had said a derogatory remark about another race. I was shocked because up until that time I never considered her to be a prejudicial person. As I sat there processing this new information the conversation drifted off to something else. No one questioned her about her comment, but I had to because what she said did not make any sense to me. I asked her how she could make a derogatory remark about a person’s skin color when her grandchildren had the same color of skin. She said it was not the same. Her grandchildren were born from a mixed-race couple; evidently, she was not comfortable about it which explained the constant talk about her grandkids. All of this because someone looks different? She has something in common with one of the characters in this adventure fantasy. AGREEING TO MARRY PRINCE PHILIP, PLAYED BY Harry Dickinson (Beach Rats, The Darkest Minds), would be the easiest part compared to having each of their families sitting down together for a dinner. Aurora, played by Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon, Super 8), would have to convince her Godmother Maleficent (Changeling, Mr. & Mrs. Smith), to meet the humans she so distrusted, for good reason. With Michelle Pfeiffer (Hairspray, What Lies Beneath) as Queen Ingrith and Sam Riley (On the Road, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Diaval; this family film was beyond colorful. The opening scenes may take one’s breath away because they were so filled with colors and creativity. Along with my amazement of the visual aspects to this picture, I thought the cast was wonderful. Angelina, Michelle and Elle were so good together that I could see them doing another film together. My only complaint had to do with the story and script; it was uneven and convoluted at times, besides sharing similarities to another story made famous as a Broadway musical. Despite this, I found the movie entertaining. It had great special effects, was visually stunning and had a killer performance by Angelina, Michelle and Elle.
IF AN OBSTACLE stops you reaching for your dream, then maybe that dream was not meant to be. If you are willing to give up easily then I do not think your heart was really into it. Imagine if scientists/inventors had given up on their projects after the first defeat. Look at the microwave oven; it came about after a scientist was experimenting with a new vacuum tube and the candy bar in his pocket started to melt. The potato chip came about in the 1850s because a chef got angry at a customer always complaining about the potatoes being served. Figuring he would teach the customer a lesson the chef sliced the potatoes thinner, fried them then covered them in salt; that is how potato chips were born. Dreams are an essential part of us being human; I know if I stopped pursuing my dreams my life would have turned out drastically different. WHEN I FAILED the practical portion of the certification process to teach fitness I got depressed. In my head I was hearing all those old tapes that were telling me I was not good enough and I was stupid for trying to be something I was not. I even heard my elementary school teacher telling me I would amount to nothing. It is interesting because those comments made to me years ago became my fuel to push myself to work harder for my dreams. I have always had the hardest time when it came to me trying to be spontaneous, so I knew that practical portion was going to be a challenge; however, I did not give up. I forced myself to practice in front of a mirror first, then friends; afterwards, I signed up again for testing and passed. Sure I was nervous standing up in front of a group of strangers, but I knew I could do it and more importantly knew I wanted to do it. Having taught now for over 20 years I know it was worth fighting back to reach my dream based on the amount of pleasure and satisfaction my job gives me every day. This is why I was hoping the main character in this animated, adventure comedy would reach her dream. IF FELICIE, VOICED by Elle Fanning (The Beguiled, 20th Century Woman), could find a way out of the orphanage she knew she had to make her way to Paris, because it was there she could follow her dream to become a great dancer. Her friend Victor, voiced by Dane DeHaan (A Cure for Wellness, Kill Your Darlings), would find a way out. Having a fondness for dance and a dream once of being a go-go dancer, I was looking forward to seeing this movie. The idea to this story was admirable; I liked the way the writers showed one should never give up on a dream. With Carly Ray Jepsen (Grease-TV movie) voicing Odette, Kate McKinnon (Rough Night, Office Christmas Party) voicing multiple characters and Tamir Kapelian (A Broken Code) voicing Rudolph; the actors’ voices were well suited for their characters. The animation was okay, nothing really stood out as special however. My issue with this film was the odd assortment of song choices, along with the timeline confusion regarding certain events. I did not think there was much humor in the script; plus I found a thread of laziness in the entire production process. This story could have been more original instead of appearing to be a Cinderella knockoff. There was a good message in the story but the script did not dream big enough.
WHENEVER there was a fight that involved females, they would attract the biggest crowds. There is a term I have heard associated to these types of fights called “catfight.” As a young kid I never understood why other children would yell out this word and immediately others would scurry over to watch 2 girls battle it out. I remember a couple of these fights breaking out in the school hallways and was stunned at the viciousness on display. There was scratching, kicking, hair pulling and smacking, besides tearing of clothing. One particular fight involved a shorter girl who had transferred into our school. She actually stunned and frightened many students when she got involved into a fight with another girl. The reason being she was landing full-fledged hard punches like a boxer. Her opponent dropped to the floor in no time. STRENGTH is not something that is exclusive to the male species. I am sure I have mentioned in previous reviews my female relatives who were in the military; one was a sergeant who could nearly squeeze the blood out of your hand when she shook it. It just makes me wonder how and why stereotypes get formed. You know the ones like females are the weaker sex or are more emotional or always go to the restroom in pairs; why are such things a topic of conversation? There have been numerous times feats of strength have been reported on the news or shown on television specials. I remember from years ago a small child being trapped underneath a car and its mother pushing the vehicle off her child. Just recently in the newspaper there was an article about a father who saved his child from flood waters without the use of anything except his super human strength against the rushing water. Whether one is male or female, a parent or not; I feel when times call for it anyone will do whatever they can to survive. See for yourself in this film festival winning drama. SECLUDED in their boarding school in Virginia the lives of the student body were disrupted when injured soldier Corporal McBurney, played by Colin Farrell (The Lobster, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), was discovered on their property. Besides being injured he was also a northerner. Written and directed by Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette), this civil war story was utterly beautiful to watch. The scenes were full of atmosphere where I was feeling the emotions of the cast which included Nicole Kidman (Lion, Secret in Their Eyes) as Miss Martha, Kirsten Dunst (Hidden Figures, Upside Down) as Edwina and Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon, 20th Century Women) as Alicia. The acting was outstanding especially from Nicole; there is no denying when she is on screen she commands one’s attention. I know this story was done before; but what I enjoyed about this version was the fact it was coming from the women’s point of view. The story was a fascinating one for me because of the women being southerners and Colin’s character was from the north. Everything appeared to hit the mark until I got deeper into the film. Based on the scenes I actually felt there needed to be more intensity coming out of the characters. With that type of cast they could have easily delved further down and made a bigger impact. I still enjoyed watching this picture, loving how some of the scenes were set up visually. One thing for sure after seeing this movie, one cannot assume someone is weaker than another.
WALKING down the street your eye catches something on display behind the store’s display window. You had no intentions of shopping today, but something about the perfectly matched clothing on the mannequin makes you stop. The store was not unfamiliar to you; maybe it was a couple of years ago since you last ventured inside. If memory serves you correctly, you recall the sales staff being helpful. They were not pushy like some of the other clothing stores you have been in, where everything you try on looks perfect according to the staff. Instead the salespeople at this place offer suggestions, asking you where you intend to wear the items. Since the store did not appear to be busy you walked inside to get a closer look at the outfit. As expected a salesperson greeted you and asked if you needed any help. You explained your reason for coming inside and the salesperson directed you to the display rack that was carrying that particular outfit. Finding your size you took the clothing into the dressing room. After you had everything on you looked in the mirror. Though the clothing looked good, it did not look good on you. THIS scenario has happened to me multiple times through my life. Something that looked good on display did not translate to looking good on me. It is weird how that happens. It is not like my size keeps fluctuating; I have been the same size now for years. Yet each store seems to have a different idea of what the waist size should be. Where I may be a 32 inch waist at one place, another will have similar pants that fit the same but they are labeled 31 inch. In fact I know women’s clothing is more varied in how they determine their clothing sizes. It can be disappointing when you see something that you think would look good on you but then your reflection in the mirror says otherwise. It pretty much sums up the way I felt about this crime drama. JOE Coughlin, played by Ben Affleck, chose a different path than his police officer father Thomas Coughlin, played by Brendan Gleeson (In the Heart of the Sea, Suffragette). Joe’s path led to a life of crime down in Florida. This film festival nominee had a great look to it. Set during the time of Prohibition in the 1920s, the costumes and sets were a knock out. Written and directed by Ben, I have enjoyed Ben’s previous directorial efforts; he has an eye for filming a movie. However I think he took on too much with this story. There were scenes that were wonderful to watch, including an exciting car chase. But then there were other places where the story became muddled and slow. I liked the idea of making a gangster period piece but we all have seen similar ones before; this one needed more drama and intensity. As for the acting Ben could have been better since Elle Fanning (20th Century Women, Super 8) as Loretta Figgis and Chris Cooper (The Tempest, Adaptation) as Chief Figgis were more dynamic on screen. Unfortunately by the end of this picture I was left with a blah feeling; it may have been a good looking film but it did not tell its story very well.
2 ¼ stars
WHETHER there are one or two parents, raising a child is a daunting experience. Some parents use the way they were reared as a blueprint to raise their baby; others use their family members to assist them with their children. From my experiences I have witnessed such a wide variety of methods I cannot say one works better over another way. I have known some parents who worked diligently to shelter their children from everything they did not approve of in the world. Take for example slang words or as some refer to it as “swear” words. There was a couple who forbade their kids from ever uttering such words, to the point of checking every movie first before allowing them to watch it. When the children reached that age where all kids start to enforce their independence, they were ridiculed when they would tell one of their friends they said a “bad” word. SADLY I knew parents whose children grew up with the same prejudices their parents unwittingly displayed in front of their kids during their formative years. A method I have seen done successfully more times than not is exposing the child to most everything in life and explaining it. When these parents first heard their children say a slang word, they did not show anger or discomfort; the parents sat down and explained why saying such words would be hurtful and ugly. I have been impressed with the parents who take their children to volunteer at soup kitchens and shelters, exposing them to people and things their children may not experience in their local environment. Another thing I have noticed is the difference in children who were raised hearing their given language spoken properly to them instead of being talked to in “baby talk.” To me it seems these kids have an easier time articulating their feelings and thoughts. Being a fan of exposing a child to the world around them I feel I had a better understanding about the mother in this dramatic comedy. RAISING her son Jamie, played by Lucas Jade Zumann (Sinister 2, Chicago Fire-TV), without his father made Dorothea, played by Annette Bening (Rules Don’t Apply, Danny Collins), decide to expose her son to other points of view. Though they did not know it Julie, Abbie and William; played by Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon, Ginger & Rosa), Greta Gerwig (Mistress America, Maggie’s Plan) and Billy Crudup (Jackie, Big Fish); would all be contributing to Jamie’s journey to adulthood. This film festival winning movie’s story was set in southern California during the 1970s. I thought the acting was excellent with Annette making this one of her best roles. The script did not focus much on the character’s history, instead providing the viewer with snapshots of the characters’ current lives. One of the things about the story I appreciated the most was taking what was essentially a coming of age story and turning it into something new and different. In a way I found the story more authentic; in turn, I felt more connected to the characters. There were some scenes that did not work as well however, but nothing in a major way. I may not have agreed with everything Dorothea was doing in regards to raising her son, but I did walk away respecting her choices.
For something so subjective it amazes me how much influence beauty has over many of us. I saw at an early age how people paid more attention to individuals who were considered beautiful—at least on the outside. If you put 2 people together, one thought of as attractive and the other not as pretty, a majority of the general public would believe the attractive one more no matter what they claimed. Look at the fashion industry; can someone tell me why a person is considered less presentable if they are not dressed in something that is currently fashionable? Many years ago the fashion industry came out with bell bottomed pants; maybe some of you remember them. Those in school who did not own a pair of these pants may not have necessary been considered less of a student, but it would not be a surprise if they were looked at as being poor or less intelligent. When I see some of the celebrities that are idolized these days, I am dumbfounded; what in the world is the attraction to these people? Especially those from reality shows that do not focus on talent, strength or creative arts; why do people trust the things these types of celebrities come out with in statements or texts? I find the whole idea of one’s looks such an odd concept. For example when someone wants to fix me up with one of their friends and they say the person is pretty or good looking; that aspect of a person is not important to me like kindness or empathy. So this is why I feel beauty yields an undue amount of power in our world. What I did not know is how dangerous it can be based on the things I saw in this dramatic horror thriller. JESSE, played by Elle Fanning (Super 8, Maleficent), was just starting out in the modeling world but she already had something wanted by other models. Directed and written by Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Knows), this movie went for what I call an “artsy” look. With stark vivid images held in extra long camera shots, I could understand the use of them considering the story line. With Christina Hendricks (Mad Men-TV, Life as We Know it) as Roberta Hoffmann, Keanu Reeves (John Wick, The Matrix franchise) as Hank and Jena Malone (Contact, Sucker Punch) as Ruby; the acting was okay but nothing that really stood out for me. Elle who I have been impressed with in the past still has a certain screen presence but I do not think the script helped her in this film. I believe I understand the message the writers wanted to convey but I did not enjoy the way it was presented to me. There were many scenes where I sat and wished the picture would have ended; I was bored and found the “artsy” scenes a distraction. Maybe the creative team was going for shock value with some of the scenes but a few of them grossed me out. So be it if I am not considered hip, fashionable or with it because I did not find the beauty in this film. There were a couple of scenes with blood.
1 ¾ stars
Guilt by association can be a decision based on a visual observation. What someone is essentially doing is making a judgement about you without having any knowledge of you. I have always taken offense to this type of discrimimation. It does not matter if it was family members or friends; I could never understand how people just assumed everyone in a group was the same, as if we were all made out of the same mold. The first time I became aware I was being judged was in school. Having been a larger sized boy than the average student, when it came to any athletic activity, I was usually one of the last students still standing before being picked for a team. Though I was too young to really understand the mindset, it did not take long before I became aware of many incidents involving me and various other students. The interesting aspect was witnessing how if a person repeated the same misconception over and over, others started to believe it was true. The outcome sometimes would be upsetting, other times humorous. ARCHIBALD Snatcher, voiced by Ben Kingsley (Hugo, Iron Man 3), was determined to capture every single last Boxtroll if it was the last thing he would do. He had made a promise to Lord Portley-Rind, voiced by Jared Harris (Pompeii, Natural Born Killers). Eggs, voiced by Isaac Hempstead (Closed Circuit, The Awakening), who had been raised by Boxtrolls since he was a baby, needed to seek out townsfolk who would believe him when he said Boxtrolls were decent and good. It was the only chance he had to save his family. This stop action animated comedy was so much fun. The clever animation was done in such a creative way that I sat with my eyes glued to the screen. With the array of different actors’ voices, including Elle Fanning (Maleficent, Super 8) as Winnie, I found myself believing the characters. The script had its twist of British humor that was not only amusing, but made one pay attention to the sly comments that were being scattered about. Also, the distinctive look of each character worked splendidly with the script’s speech. I am not sure young children will understand some of the humor; however, with a bad villain, wild scenes and plenty of physical comedy they will still enjoy watching this adventure movie. As a fan of most film genres and my avoidance of any movie publicity before seeing a film, this picture reaffirmed one of the reasons I love movies; it provided a joyful surprise with its uniqueness. Never assume just because it is an animated movie that it will be a cartoon. There was an extra behind the scenes segment in the middle of the lively credits.
With one aggressive act can a deep buried anger breakout from its vault inside the body. Flowing like white hot lava, it courses through and scorches the veins within a matter of seconds. The whole body becomes a pulsating furnace, emitting a constant heat fueled by the bellowing breath of hatred. If one does not have the tools to dismantle and disperse this generator of hatred, one will always see life through the smoke of anger. I remember acting this out when I had a toy that was not working properly; beating it against the floor or with any nearby heavy object to teach it a lesson. A majority of my earlier life was spent living with a burning anger. As a result I was able to quickly see it in others. My friends and I were riding in a car driven by the brother of one of the friends. A car driving in the opposite direction sideswiped us, knocking off the side view mirror. My friend’s brother spewed out a stream of obscenities as he violently turned the steering wheel, driving the car into the oncoming traffic. I was stunned by his hot blind anger heating the air around us, incinerating any and all of his common sense. That day I learned anger can be an all consuming emotion that manipulates every intention if left unchecked. The proof can be seen in this action adventure fantasy. Angelina Jolie (Salt, Changeling) was made to play this role, the evil Maleficent character from Walt Disney’s classic movie Sleeping Beauty. Though the story began when Maleficent was an innocent youth, it would show the events that led her to become a spiteful, hatred-filled adult. Despite Angelina’s strong presence, she had to share the screen with the amazing special effects. One of the reasons I liked Sam Riley (On the Road, Control) as Diaval was because he took the brunt of fanciful visuals. Elle Fanning (Super 8, Ginger & Rosa) was lovely as Princess Aurora and blended perfectly with Angelina. My major complaint about this film was the inadequate script. With the ability to take the character of Maleficent to great heights, the script failed Angelina. The lack of dialog created very little drama for her, along with the other actors. At one point the film went from embellishing the Sleeping Beauty story to a poor version of the musical Wicked. In addition the story veered into a dry disconnect that made very little sense. I was disappointed by this movie. Maybe it was because I have seen some truly angry and evil people in my life; the only difference was there was nothing magical about them.
2 1/2 stars
There is nothing wrong having the support and guidance of a parent or sibling helping you as you begin your years of schooling. An older brother or sister can certainly steer you away from the many unintentional land mines of uncertainty that you may come across in your life. But as you progress from grade to grade, there is nothing like having a best friend who is living and experiencing the same things you are on a daily basis. Whether it is suffering through a challenging homework assignment or discovering a new rock band, being able to share any and every emotion with a best friend is incredibly special. I have been blessed more than once with the presence of several best friends throughout my entire life. To this day I can remember calling up the new kid in my 6th grade class to see if he wanted to go to the library with me. Though we already knew of our similar interests; it was not until later while sitting at the local fast food outlet for a milkshake, that we found out we grew up with the same type of background, beginning a friendship that would last for decades. Ginger and Rosa, played by Elle Fanning (Super 8, Deja Vu) and Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures, 8), had a comparable relationship to the one I just described. Growing up during the early 1960s in London, Ginger and Rosa were inseparable friends. With the threat of nuclear proliferation coming into view, the girls’ close bond began to branch out into different interests. These new paths would eventually lead to an incident that caused a fissure to form in their lifelong friendship. The main asset in this film festival nominated film was Elle Fanning. For her age, I am so impressed with her acting capacity; she certainly has screen presence. Helping her and the other actors was the decision to shoot them multiple times in close-up. Add in the subdued lighting created a moodiness that accentuated the tensions forming between the characters. Christina Hendricks (Drive, Mad Men-TV) and Alessandro Nivola (Coco Before Chanel, The Eye) were durable as Ginger’s parents Natalie and Roland. The script was the weak link in this dramatic film; there were parts of the story that dragged for me. An interesting interpretation on the definition of friendship that was fortunate to have Elle as one of the friends.
2 3/4 stars — DVD
I thought the surprise in this movie was seeing Octavia Spencer (The Help, Dinner for Schmucks), Elle Fanning (Super 8, We Bought a Zoo) and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids, Pretty Ugly People) at an earlier stage of their careers. It is a kick for me to see how actors started out or watch their earlier films before they hit the big time. The other surprise about this film was the outcome from three separate stories and discovering the connection. Without giving too much away, the stories could be broken down into a comedy, drama and a fantasy. This unusual film started with Ryan Reynolds (Safe House, The Proposal) as Gary, a troubled actor who burned his girlfriend’s house down. Under house arrest, he was supervised by sweetly tough publicist Margaret, played by Melissa McCarthy. As the days pass, Gary begins to hear voices, find mysterious notes he does not recall writing and thinks he is seeing glimpses of himself in the large house. By the end of the story I was confused, not sure where this movie on a whole was going to take me. The second segment started out providing me no help in my confusion. All I will tell you is to stick it out in watching this movie. There was some interesting points to the stories and I found myself being drawn in to discover the conclusion. Was it the best acting I have seen in a movie? Certainly not; however, I enjoyed the entertainment value this film provided me.
2 2/3 stars — DVD