I DON’T THINK I WOULD HAVE been as upset if the packaging had been different; but the fact that the bag looked identical to the name brand product, annoyed me to no end. During my weekly grocery shopping excursion, I picked up a bag of chopped lettuce and threw it into my shopping cart. I buy bagged lettuce every week; it is a staple in my household. When it came time to open the bag to make a salad, I noticed the pieces of lettuce were smaller than usual and several pieces were wilted already. Looking for the best by date on the bag, I realized the brand was different from the one I always bought; it was the grocery store’s private brand. I had no idea because as I said the packaging was so like my brand. Now I am not bad-mouthing store branded products, but it bugs me that they make their products look just like the name brand ones. I perceive it as an act of deception instead of a sign of flattery. In my pantry there are several store branded products, so I don’t have a problem using them. To be honest, some of them taste the same as the national brands; but some just do not have the same quality. I DO UNDERSTAND THE MARKETING THAT goes behind these products. They are usually cheaper priced versions where the store can increase their profit margins by the sale of their own items. In my mind the reason a product is made to look like another product is to trick the shopper into thinking they have the original brand, just like what happened to me. All it takes is for a consumer to try the private brand and then hope they realize the thing they bought is fine, which will turn them into a devoted shopper of the store’s brand. If the package looked nothing like the original brand, a consumer could easily skip over it to reach for the one they have always used in their household; I truly understand the thinking behind this, but I still do not like it. I remember trying a store branded roll of paper towels and I took an immediate dislike to them. They were not as soft or absorbent as my chosen brand. They were a good price on sale, so I was willing to take a chance. This is the type of marketing I prefer where I do not feel I am being manipulated and I am getting something in return for trying the item, a sale price. Now I only wish I would have gotten a discount on my theater ticket for this dramatic, science fiction thriller. HAVING BEEN TOLD HER WHOLE LIFE by her father that it was too dangerous to go outside, 7-year-old Chloe, played by Lexy Kolker (Shooter-TV, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.-TV) never left the house. However, when an ice cream truck came and parked outside her door, she did not understand what could be so dangerous about getting an ice cream cone. This film festival winner starred Emile Hirsch (Milk, Speed Racer) as Dad, Bruce Dern (The Peanut Butter Falcon, Remember Me) as Mr. Snowcone, Grace Park (Hawaii Five-O-TV, The Border-TV) as Agent Ray and Amanda Crew (The Age of Adaline, The Haunting of Connecticut) as Mary. The story started out slow and lasted a long time; it was not until the last third of the film where things picked up for me. I enjoyed the acting, particularly Lexy’s performance. I thought it was a smart move to have the audience see the story through her character’s eyes. The script was fine for the most part, but the entire story felt like a light version of the X-men franchise. Also, I think there must have been a small budget allotted to this project because the special effects looked cheap. When the film was over, I truly felt I had seen a generic X-men picture, interesting characters but nothing memorable.
“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
Before the majority of the world became wired, broadcast news provided us with a recap of noteworthy events. We would see the aftermath to a variety of events that spanned from a car accident to an earthquake. Unless there was a personal connection to the story, most of us would not feel an emotional attachment to what was being shown. When broadcasters report about traffic jams on the highways I travel to get to work, it causes a reaction in me, albeit a negative one. I guess I should consider myself lucky that I have not had a personal connection to any traumatic news stories. The only thing I can recall is when I was at friend’s house back in the 70’s; everyone became quiet when there was news about Vietnam. My friend’s older brother was sent over there during the war and the family always listened for a familiar town or place they had heard about from him. When one has a personal reference to the news it has more of an impact. With movies based on true stories, having information being told from one of the real life characters creates an accessible emotional bond to the story. Based on his best selling book, I was acquainted with this story due to seeing news clips of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell discussing his 2005 failed operation in Afghanistan. Mark Wahlberg (Pain & Gain, Boogie Nights) portrayed Marcus in this biographical film. The rest of the team sent out with Marcus to capture or eliminate a vicious Taliban leader was Michael Murphy, played by Taylor Kitsch (Savages, Friday Night Lights-TV); Danny Dietz, played by Emile Hirsch (Killer Joe, The Girl Next Door) and Matt “Axe” Axelson, played by Ben Foster (The Messenger, Contraband). This action drama was essentially split into 2 stories. The first half of the movie showed the Navy SEALs while stationed on base. The second half was all about the mission and this is where the intensity exploded open. I have seen war films before but the fight scenes in this intense section were bloody real looking and I do mean bloody. Some of them were handled a bit heavy by slowing down the motion. I cannot call this entertaining per se; however, for an action scene it seemed to be one long continuous fight. The acting was good, though I still have an issue with Mark Wahlberg’s acting. I never forget it is Mark playing a character. This story was amazing simply because there was an individual who lived to tell it. Many scenes had violence and blood in them.
There could be a raging storm with uncontrollable rain crying down, flooding the ground. An elevator stops between floors and the passengers are stuck in place for a couple of hours. A kitchen chair being moved accidentally scratches the tiled floor, where the edges of the slashed part are rough and jagged. With any of these scenarios there are some people who can find something positive to say about the circumstances. You may have heard it referred to as “every cloud has a silver lining.” I am not one of those individuals; in fact, I am as close to opposite as one can be. Do not get me wrong, I admire people who try to find something positive to say about troubling situations. These people would be called optimists; a word I do not have in my vocabulary. Because of this I was curious about the story in this dramatic romantic movie. Penelope Cruz (Blow, Volver) played Gemma, a mother who decided to take her son Pietro, played by Pietro Castellitto (Don’t Move, Love & Slaps), to Sarajevo. It was the place of his birth and where his father had died. The trip would stir up old memories in Gemma of the chaotic time when she fell in love with the photographer Diego, played by Emile Hirsch (Speed Racer, Milk). The strongest part of this film festival nominated movie was Penelope’s acting. I felt she gave a rich and layered performance that kept me interested in her character. At first I thought it was an odd choice to have Emile as her love interest, but it worked in a carefree childlike way. Where the weakness came in had to do with the multiple stories that jumped back and forth in time. It became too much to track and keep up with the story lines. The other issue I had with this film was the poor script. I found it trite, going for cheap emotional shots instead of letting the characters grow and develop. The character Gojco, played by Adnan Haskovic (Body Complete, Sevday za Karima), was interesting to me but I could not tell you much about his motivations. The Bosnian war was used as a backdrop I felt to heighten the aspects of the romance. I wish I could find a silver lining with this movie but it was not good enough to overcome my pessimistic nature. There were multiple scenes that included Italian and Bosnian dialog with English subtitles.
Ultimately one must lead the life they choose for themselves, not the one someone has chosen for them. I remember years ago when I was between jobs, I received a great piece of advice: Do what you love and the money will follow. My mother always wanted me to be an accountant; yet, I knew I could never be one. The creative side of my mind would have shriveled up. Even when it comes to one’s personal tastes; do not let people impose their tastes on you. It is funny, no matter what length my hair was, my dad would always tell me to wear it differently. If it was long, he would tell me to cut it and if it was short, he would tell me to grow it out. It was maddening at times. Based on a true story; Chris McCandles, played by Emile Hirsch (Killer Joe, Speed Racer), had to live life the way he felt it was meant to be lived. Seeing the life his parents Billie and Walt McCandles, played by Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River, The Mist) and William Hurt (The Incredible Hulk, Vantage Point), were living; Chris did not want any part of it. After graduating from Emory University, Chris decided to get rid of his material possessions and hitchhike to Alaska, to live with nature. His journey would lead him to unexpected adventures. Written and directed by Sean Penn (Milk, 21 Grams), this was a stunning movie. Sean slowly brought out an amazing performance from Emile; both in acting and with the incredible physical transformation that took place. The supporting cast never felt out of place; they added shading to the adventures. Some viewers may think Chris McCandles was crazy to do what he did. I felt it was better to try something, even if it were to fail; than go through life wondering what would have happened, if I had only tried.
3 1/3 stars — DVD