WE WERE STRANGERS SITTING TOGETHER IN a car on our way to a convention but would be connected for the rest of our lives, by the end of the trip. It was early in the morning before rush hour traffic as we headed to the location. After exiting the highway, we were on a street that was lined with industrial buildings. Up ahead there was a car parked at an odd angle alongside the curb; its tail end was stuck out into our lane. Coming up alongside of it, we both noticed the driver was slumped over the steering wheel. My companion yelled for me to pull over and she jumped out the door before I came to a complete stop. I soon joined her as she was tapping the driver’s shoulder, asking if he was okay. The driver roused from what appeared to be a long sleep because he was groggy, and his voice sounded gravelly. However, his speech was slurred. I immediately called 911 as my companion tried to see if the driver could move any of his limbs. By the way, my companion was a health professional. An ambulance soon showed up. After explaining how we found the driver, the two of us got back into our car and continued to the convention. However, something changed in us as we talked about what just happened. From that moment forward a connection formed between us where we would seek out the other at these business conventions. SHARING AN EXPERIENCE CUTS THROUGH MUCH of the introduction process in my opinion. Though less dramatic, I enrolled in a workshop where I found myself not knowing any of the participants. When the facilitator asked everyone in the room to pair up, I turned to the person next to me and asked if she wanted to work together. She agreed and we walked over to an open space of the room where we would get further instructions. There was to be an abundance of physical activity through the workshop, where we would have to assist our partners with hands on instruction. Some of the exercises were intense where I did not know if I could complete them; however, my partner constantly encouraged and helped me to finish. Spending the entire day together, helping each other with challenging tasks; by the end of the session we felt a comfort with each other that led to a friendship and a sense of being family. We wound up working together at the same facility and everyone there thought we were brother and sister because we were so similar. I referred to her as my work sister. It goes to show you one does not need bloodlines to form a family. SURVIVING THESE PAST YEARS THROUGH THE zombie invasion turned the ragtag group of individuals into a small family unit. But as a family, would they be strong enough together to combat the evolved zombies who were stronger and smarter? With Woody Harrelson (Shock and Awe, Solo: A Star Wars Story) as Tallahassee, Jesse Eisenberg (The Hummingbird Project, The Art of Self-Defense) as Columbus, Emma Stone (La La Land, The Favourite) as Wichita, Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island, August: Osage County) as Little Rock and Zoey Deutch (Before I Fall, Set It Up) as Madison; this action, horror comedy sequel had some fun parts in it. I enjoyed the cast immensely, smiling at their snarky sarcastic remarks. The spirit of the first film was present in this one, only it did not feel fresh and new. However, it seemed as if the cast was having fun; so, I was able to travel with them during this mindless ride…so to speak. There was nothing earth shattering here; if you enjoyed the first film then you would probably like this one. For new viewers into comedy horror, good chance you will become a fan of this family unit. There were a couple of extra scenes during and at the end of the credits.
2 ¾ stars
BEING CHOSEN AS THE FAVORITE ONE does not necessarily make one’s life easier; the title can come with some pitfalls. At a previous job where I worked, there was an employee who was the favorite of the owner. Everyone at the company knew it. In fact, even if it was your first day you would soon realize this employee had a special relationship with the owner. Here is just one example of how the owner treated this employee differently than the others. During the holidays we used to receive a variety of gifts for the owner. He would always open these packages in his office, bringing out the shipping boxes for us to break down and recycle. I would say on the average he kept 75% of the gifts sent to him; the ones he did not, he would give to this employee right in front of the rest of us. Depending on what the item was, this employee would either leave it sitting on her desk (which used to annoy all of us) or take it out to her car to bring home. Not once did the owner offer a rejected gift to one of us. Now, I did not care whether I got a gift or not; but I, like everyone else around me, felt it was not fair and was certainly not a morale booster. AS TIME PASSED SOME OF THE EMPLOYEES grew resentful of the “favorite” employee. When anyone would bring in a taste treat of food; if they were going around and offering pieces of it as opposed to putting it out in the kitchen, they would bypass this one employee. Actually, they would wait until the person was away from her desk then go around passing out their food items, so as to avoid the favorite one altogether. I could not say for certainty if this type of treatment was proper because as far as I knew it was not this employee’s fault. Now if there was something going on between the two of them, I had no knowledge. Let me say this though, it seemed from time to time she used her favorite role status to her advantage. For example, there was never a problem for her to leave early from work; but for the rest of us, the owner would always resist our requests while trying to make us change the day or the time, so we would not have to leave early. It came to a point where I just stopped thinking about it; it wasn’t worth the energy. And when I say energy this biographical, comedic drama will give you an idea of how much energy it takes to deal with such things. USING HER POSITION AS THE QUEEN’S CONFIDANTE Lady Sarah, played by Rachel Weisz (My Cousin Rachel, Disobedience), enjoyed exerting her power over others. But that show of power could be quite enticing for anyone who wanted some of the same. This film festival winning movie starred Olivia Coleman (The Lobster, Hot Fuzz) as Queen Anne, Emma Stone (Battle of the Sexes, Magic in the Moonlight) as Abigail, and James Smith (In the Loop, The Iron Lady) as Godolphin. I was so intrigued with this story that I had to do some research about Queen Anne. It quickly became apparent to me that the writers took a basis of facts and elaborated on it to funny extremes. The three actresses were dynamite with the conniving, the wickedness and humor of the script. As much as I enjoyed this aspect of the movie and its super acting, I felt some scenes were unnecessary. There were several that felt like they were added to give this picture an artistic flair; it only slowed the story down for me. All in all, I cannot say this will be a favorite of mine this Oscar season, but I still had a good time watching it.
YOU HAVE NO IDEA how good it feels to be writing this review. I apologize for being away so long but I experienced something that has never happened to me before. For the 1st time in my adult life I found myself being admitted into the hospital. After being home a few days with these weird non-painful symptoms such as zero energy, my daily banana now tasting like rotten flesh; I drove to one of those clinics inside a retail establishment. I think people refer to them as “doc in the box.” They could not have been nicer and immediately called the ER to let them know I was on my way. Once there I walked through the front door, gave my name at registration and I was ushered immediately into a room. The next hours became a blur as I was hooked up to IV solutions, getting a chest X-ray and some other stuff; at that point all my defenses were down and I did not care. However, they did offer me the opportunity to watch movies on the monitor hanging up in the corner of the room. I wondered how they knew I love films. MY TIME IN THE HOSPITAL was an experience I will never forget. The bed with all the whistles and lights, though sleek and obvious hi-tech, had to have been based on torture racks from medieval times. The mattress on its own would move in spots, so at first I thought I must have been hungover because it made it feel like the room was spinning at times. Through the ups and downs during my days there the one thing that stood out way above everything else was this group of strangers involved with me. I felt I must have woken up from a dream because there were females, males, people from different religious backgrounds, from different countries, old and young, different races, different sexual identity; it was the most utopian place I had ever seen. These people were working side by side; the only drama in the room ironically was me. During those times where my temperature would spike up in a matter of minutes, there were women and men on either side of me placing heated blankets and heat packs around my body. Even one particular nurse I scared after she tried to draw blood from my hand twice at 1 in the morning, looked at me and said she was scared to touch me. I told her she should be; she still came back the next day to see how I was doing. I am telling you it was such an incredible sight, these people who were focused on me but were not just doing their job; they were listening and hearing each other and me. Why couldn’t the real world outside be like this; each of these individuals set a prime example of what it means to be human. I will never forget them and tell the stories they shared with me; I will honor them by trying to be a better human being and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. There was no battle between the sexes, everyone was equal and all were just doing the right thing in the true sense of what it means to be human. Sadly this is not the case yet in many places in the world currently and it sure did not take place back in the 1970s where this famous event between one man and one woman took place. THIS FILM FESTIVAL nominated biographical comedy based on a true event succeeded with 2 special actors: Emma Stone (La La Land, Magic in the Moonlight) and Steve Carell (The Big Short, Foxcatcher) as Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. They were outstanding with the look and mannerisms of the actual celebrities. Steve was truly Bobby, it was mind-blowing. Also cast in this sports film was Andrea Riseborough (Nocturnal Animals, Happy-Go-Lucky) as Marilyn Barnett, Sarah Silverman (The Book of Henry, I Smile Back) as Gladys Heldman and Bill Pullman (The Equalizer, While you Were Sleeping) as Jack Kramer. It is hard to believe that it was only 40 years ago, but there was this wedge between the sexes. As I just wrote that I realize we are living it now with that football quarterback’s comments to the female reporter’s question. Though the acting was this picture’s biggest strength, the script was not strong enough for such a big event. It was obvious Billie Jean and Bobby were the main topic but the way the script was written did not give enough to the rest of the cast to keep up. I wanted more consistent levels of intensity; some scenes were brilliant, but others were drab. It did not make this movie go bad, it just dulled the shine it deserved. On the one hand it seems ludicrous that this event needed to take place; but on the other hand, the event caused an important shift to take place in the way people thought about females and males. I certainly wish no harm to anyone but I wish you could experience the staff I had the honor to be part of in a perilous situation and trust me, there is no such thing as one man being better than one female or 1 woman being better than 1 male.
GREAT results can happen when one’s dream remains in a somewhat fluid state, like a soap bubble that grows with the input of more air. A young person grew up with the dream of living in the country, where her art studio would inhabit the abandoned barn on her property. Her skills as an artist were refined over the years to the point she was able to earn a living selling her works. From each sale she took a portion of the profit and squirreled it away to eventually become the down payment for her dream. But something happened when she fell in love with a man who had his own dreams. Ever since he was a young boy he wanted to live in a high rise apartment building that had a doorman. All of his schooling was laid out towards making his dream come true; he finally had his dream job that took him to all parts of the world. The only thing left was to save up and find that special apartment that would be his home base, a secure beacon high above the city. DREAMS have always been a part of my internal motivations. The story I wrote to start out this review is similar to something I experienced when I met someone who had their own dreams. Trust me it was not the easiest thing to do, to let someone else’s dream form a bond with my own; however, once I realized our dreams could blend together without losing our goals it got easier. A relationship is partially a negotiation, a compromise; the key is paring down to the important aspects of one’s dreams then finding a way where they can remain intact within the new dream being formed between two people. Let the couple in this musical movie show you. SPARKS formed right from the start when aspiring actress Mia and jazz musician Sebastian, played by Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, The Help) and Ryan Gosling (The Big Short, The Place Beyond the Pines), first met. Each came into the relationship with a dream; the question was how to achieve it. This comedic drama started out with a bang by having a big, opening musical number. If you are not a fan of musicals and their history there is a good chance this film will not have a strong impact on you. I knew Ryan had a musical background but did not know Emma could sing; both of them had a wonderful chemistry together. With J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, The Closer-TV) as Bill and musical artist John Legend (Soul Men) as Keith for part of the cast, the story was partially an homage to those old fashioned musicals from the 1930s and 40s. The dance numbers were fun but I found the music only okay, nothing very memorable. The allure of this film I believe is due to its novelty; there hasn’t been a good film in this genre recently. I will tell you I enjoyed this movie, especially the story line; however, I was a bit confused to the point I felt I must have missed something, wondering if I needed to see the movie again. Maybe from the unavoidable buzz I was hearing I dreamt this was going to be one of my 4 star movies.
There are just some days I want to do something crazy and out of character for me. Do you ever have one of those days where you would like to be someone else? I have mentioned to friends from time to time that it is hard being me some days. Usually I have been overwhelmed with a variety of things just before I get to the point of saying this to my friends. Maybe that is one of the reasons I like to take quick weekend trips by myself to different places; I get to be someone else for a brief moment. When I am strained for time and feel like I am going to go crazy, retail therapy has always been a good backup for me; though it is not always a good use of funds. I have been known to buy some small appliance or electronic device and leave it unopened on the floor for weeks or months before getting around to using it. Recently I have tried to modify my behavior and when I feel I am going to go on a shopping spree, I go to the grocery store instead to buy boxes of breakfast cereal. It is a cheaper and more useful purchase. Now I know on the scheme of things these actions may not be very rational but they make sense to me, for there are plenty examples around us of a whole lot of people acting quite irrationally. Some individuals can be down right scary in what they do, just watch what happens in this dramatic mystery. EXCITEMENT was going through the small college on news of the hiring of philosophy professor Abe, played by Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line, The Master). The school got more than they bargained for once Abe was on staff. Written and directed by Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris, Sweet and Lowdown), I thought the cast which also included Emma Stone (Aloha, The Help) as Jill and Parker Posey (Party Girl, The House of Yes) as Rita was excellent. Sadly I found the script did not benefit these actors. At times there would be a scene that was intelligent and witty; but then it would be followed with a bland one where I felt the dialog was a series of blah, blah, blahs. If this makes any sense, the scenes were too wordy and only bogged down the story from moving forward. Woody has an interesting way of turning a sentence into a breath of fresh air; there have been previous films of his I have enjoyed. But with this picture I found myself becoming bored at times. If I were looking to find something irrational about this whole movie viewing experience I would have to say it was me paying full price to see this dull film.
1 3/4 stars
While standing in the theater lobby you see them out of the corner of your eye. They are walking towards you hand in hand; it is your ex. The last conversation the two of you had replays in your mind as you move your lips into a plastic smile. Introductions are made as you size up your replacement. As small talk hesitantly sputters out you see the replacement put their arm around their shoulders, letting it drape down like a boa constrictor. Funny, when the two of you were together they were not comfortable when you did it. However, the non-verbal connection the two of you shared is still active and you can see in their eyes, they realize you are noticing this change or maybe it is just acceptance in them. You have images rising to the top of your conscience from your pool of memories. The dividing line that was formed between the two of you at the time your relationship ended suddenly turns porous as they bring up one of your shared past events into the conversation. Whatever issues the two of you had at the end, they are fading into the background now as you are remembering how the two of you really had a good time together. Isn’t it funny how time can either soften or harden one’s memories associated with a past relationship? RETURNING to Hawaii as a military contractor now Brian Gilcrest, played by Bradley Cooper (The Words, American Sniper), was there to seek approval for a privately funded military operation by millionaire Carson Welch, played by Bill Murray (Groundhog Day, Lost in Translation). There was no way Brian could avoid his old girlfriend Tracy Woodside, played by Rachel McAdams (Midnight in Paris, About Time). Written and directed by Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, We Bought a Zoo), this comedic drama had such a good cast. Besides Bradley and Rachel there was Emma Stone (Magic in the Moonlight, Gangster Squad) as air force pilot Allison Ng and Alec Baldwin (The Departed, 30 Rock-TV) as General Dixon. I enjoyed the cast because they were perfect for their roles. There was a perfect blend of ingredients that made some scenes shine in this romantic film; but then there were more scenes that made little sense. It felt so disconnected to me; I just found the multiple story lines odd. In addition I did not feel any connection being formed between Brian and Allison which did not help that particular story line. There were times I lost interest in what was going on and for me personally there were not any pretty scenic shots of Hawaii. Sadly this movie was like a bad relationship; the kind you end early and soon forget.
1 3/4 stars
Eventually over time all bright objects lose some of their glow. As bright as a high noon sun can be, time’s strength with its constant pull draws out the shadows that were tucked away, freeing them to dance across the landscape of one’s life. A smooth taut face will turn and appear like the flapping jowls of a bounding Shar-Pei dog or a centuries old ravaged canyon. Besides youth not staying long in a person’s life, one’s accomplishments can diminish as future generations with their energy and determination restructure the environment. Within some aspects of my life I am familiar with the fading light of a past moment or if you will a past glory. When I was much younger and taught up to 20 aerobic classes a week, I felt I was on top of the world. With each movement choreographed for all the main muscle groups of the body, beside to each beat of selected songs; I felt I was walking onto a Broadway stage for every class. Having upwards of 50 members in a class, working out truly felt like a high energy theatrical production. At this stage of my life I know I could never keep up with my younger self (though I keep trying) and I am okay with it. I do my best not to judge anyone; but in regards to various celebrities, when I see them trying to perform the same way they did in a movie they starred in 15-20 years ago I have to wonder what motivates them. DECLINING fame was a hard fact to swallow for action movie star Riggan Thomson, played by Michael Keaton (Batman franchise, White Noise). Trying to recapture the spotlight once again; Riggan was launching a staged production that he wrote, directed and planned on starring in. He would have to deal with past events as he sorted through his true feelings. A film festival winner, this surreal comedic drama was outstanding on every level. The cast which also included Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, Magic in the Moonlight) as Sam, Edward Norton (The Illusionist, Fight Club) as Mike and Zach Galifianakis (Due Date, The Hangover franchise) as Jake were all amazing to watch as they handled all the twists and turns the script threw at them. From writer and director Alejandro Gonzalez (Babel, 21 Grams), the story dealt with real feelings and fears even when scenes took on a fantasy nature. Having Michael Keaton star in this movie was brilliant casting since in some circles people have said his best work was during the Batman films. I thought he was incredible in this role. In fact, I expect there will be multiple acting nominations for this film during next year’s Oscar race. Original, thought-provoking, stimulating; this movie was a glorious example for the beauty of filmmaking while showing the downfalls of yearning for one’s past glories.
Early exposure to the art of magic gives us permission to draw outside the lines. When we see something that defies logic it opens us up to accepting additional possibilities to a situation. Some people may say this directly affects our minds, while others will say it definitely stirs our hearts; either way magic certainly can influence us. I can remember my first exposure to magic (not taking into account peek-a-boo) happened when I was nearly 3 years old. There was a relative who would always grab my nose then show it to me sticking out from their closed fingers. I would inhale as much air as my little lungs could hold, to try and get back my nose. It wasn’t long before I realized by relative’s thumb and not my nose was poking out between his clenched fingers. There was another relative however who really performed magic or at least I thought so. Anytime he was visiting he would come up to me and ask me what was sticking out of my ear. I would rub my ear but never found anything. He would reach down, touch my ear then show me the quarter he pulled out before handing it to me. I would always check my ears afterward to see if I could find any money in them, but never did. BELIEVE it or not magic played a central character in this dramatic comedy. Written and directed by Woody Allen (Sweet and Lowdown, Midnight in Paris), this romantic film was about a magician and a soothsayer. Colin Firth (The Railway Man, A Single Man) played Stanley, a man who pretended to be a Chinese magician. When not in costume Stanley was considered the expert in disproving psychics and fortune-tellers. Hearing news about a young, incredible soothsayer named Sophie, played by Emma Stone (Easy A, The Amazing Spider-Man franchise), Stanley set out to show the world she was a fake. Both the music and sets were beautiful in this movie that depicted a bygone era. I thought the acting was quite good, especially from Jackie Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook, Animal Kingdom) as Grace. There were 2 major issues I had with this picture. The first had to do with Colin and Emma; their characters did not come across as a believable couple. Yes they both acted well but I found the idea of them being in any type of relationship just odd. My other concern was the story itself. Though the concept was good, the execution came across a bit tired to me. It felt more like a rehash of Woody’s previous films. There were times I found this film dull. For a movie about magic, I really wished it would have magically taken me out of my theater seat and into its story.
2 1/3 stars
It can be a heart wrenching experience to be on the receiving end of a change without any explanation. Imagine after dating someone for several months they one day tell you they can no longer do this and say goodbye. You are left with a hole inside of you that will not heal properly. You can fill it with anger, vowing you will never let someone get that close to you again or you can push yourself to find someone else to fill the emptiness inside; but in the back of your mind a seed of doubt took hold that maybe you did something “wrong” that drove your boyfriend/girlfriend away. I also have to believe being let go from a job without being told a reason why has to be brutal. How about a child who has enough awareness to know they are being given up to someone else? I cannot even comprehend what ramifications would emerge from it, which is why I thought the strongest part of this action adventure sequel was the back story about the parents of Peter Parker aka Spider-Man, played by Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, Boy A). In his attempt to find out the reason why his parents left him, Peter would discover a surprising secret buried at his father’s former employer, Oscorp. The big plus to this movie were the special effects; I especially liked the way they incorporated iconic landmarks. With the single exception of Sally Field (Lincoln, Mrs. Doubtfire) as Peter’s Aunt May and Emma Stone (Gangster Squad, The Help) as Peter’s girlfriend Stacy, I did not find much else to like about this overindulgent fantasy film. Jamie Foxx (Law Abiding Citizen, Ray) looked better than he acted as Max Dillon aka Electro and Dane DeHaan (Lawless, Kill Your Darlings) would have been a better Harry Osborn if the writers would have left him alone. There were too many villains, too many story lines and too much whining to make this an exciting movie for me. The majority of the blame has to fall on the writers. I felt they were trying to outdo any current superhero movies by making Spider-Man deal with so many different issues in this one film. They needed a good editor to clean up the voluminous scenes, making a tighter story and shortening the film’s 2 hours and 23 minutes running time. If this sequel is any indication I will not be upset if the movie studio does not make a 3rd film; I do not even need to know the reasons why. There was one surprise scene in the middle of the ending credits.
2 1/4 stars
Change within a person, if they so choose, usually happens over time. There are some people who make it look almost effortless; I am not one of those folks. The pace it takes me to set myself on a course for change barely can be measured with a pedometer. Keep in mind I have eaten the same thing for lunch at work every day, five days a week, for 20 years. In some unexplainable way I take pride in it because it was the same thing my mother did when she worked, as did her father my grandfather. Little did I know I would get a lesson about change from the prehistoric family in this animated comedy. By following the same exact rules every day Crug Crood, voiced by Nicolas Cage (Adaptation, Season of the Witch), had kept his family alive. Everyone knew when it started to get dark outside they had to retreat to the safety of their cave. Well, almost everyone knew except for his adventurous daughter Esp, voiced by Emma Stone (The Help, Zombieland). The family would have no choice however when disaster struck and the rules had to be changed, if they were going to survive. Catherine Keener (A Late Quartet, Into the Wild) voiced Ugla, Crug’s wife who was the peace maker of the family. Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein, The Beverly Hillbillies) voiced Gran, the thorn in Crug’s side. I enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would and part of the reason was the cast. Having been in some dreadful films lately, I thought Nicolas did a fine job as the father. The humor was predominantly slapstick, but not in an overpowering way. Ryan Reynolds (Buried, The Proposal) was perfect as the inventive Guy, letting his pet handle the majority of comedy between the two. It did not bother me that the story was formulaic, it was easily figured out. However, due to the pacing and excellent animation; I found myself going along for the exciting ride. This film was appropriate for the entire family; there was a little for everyone. I think the film had a positive effect on me because I was able to tune out the noisy children sitting near me. Is it possible that I am changing?