AS SOME OF YOU KNOW, I hold teachers in high regard. What they provide is invaluable and they are not compensated enough for it. No disrespect to the professional sporting world, but the pay scale is quite lopsided when you compare a teacher’s salary to a pitcher or basketball player. A teacher is helping our children to become functioning, self-sufficient, independent adults. A sports figure is entertaining us. Despite what I just said, I know there are some teachers who graduate at the top of their class and there are some who graduate at the bottom of their class. The same with any profession; it can be anyone from a doctor to an accountant. I have had some remarkable teachers in my life; ones who pushed me harder to excel in the fields of my interest. However, I remember the instructors, who even back then, I knew were not very good. There was one teacher who taught by reading out of our textbook in a monotone voice. They did not elaborate on anything, nor did they encourage discussion of a topic. It was a boring class, with many of the students not paying attention to them. That class seemed to be the longest one of the day, though it was the same amount of time as all the other classes. COMPARED TO THE TIME I WENT to school; I think teachers have a harder time teaching these days. I spent an evening with a teacher who shared their experiences in the classroom. At their school, all teachers must go through an active shooter training class. Most if not all teachers use their own money to buy supplies for the students because there is never enough money in the school budget to get supplies. Class sizes are larger, where children with learning disabilities are placed in the classroom with no consideration to getting help for the child; it is up to the teacher to try to teach the general student body at the same time as those with some type of disability. The teacher I was talking to told me about a student in their class who they believe is a genius. Being a 2nd grade student, the child’s test scores show they are performing at the level of a sophomore in high school. I asked if the school district is aware of the child’s abilities, and they said yes; but they have not provided any help or tools to help the child excel and adapt to their environment. Learning falls on the teacher, but how can they incorporate a super advanced student into the general mix of the classroom.? If interested, this comedic family drama will show you what I have been talking about to the extreme. HAVING THE WORST PARENTS IN the world, a little girl is hopeful she will finally get an education when her parents decide to enroll her in a school. Her parents would start to look good right after the little girl met the headmistress. With Alisha Weir (Don’t Leave Home, Darklands-TV) as Matilda Wormwood, Emma Thompson (Cruella; Good Luck to You, Leo Grande) as Agatha Trunchbull, Lashana Lynch (Captain Marvel, The Woman King) as Miss Honey, Stephen Graham (Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as Mr. Wormwood and Andrea Riseborough (The Electrical Life of Louis Wan, W.E.) as Mrs. Wormwood; this adaptation of the staged musical production took the essence of the characters and accentuated them to become standout performers. Alisha and Emma were incredible; I could not take my eyes off them. The rest of the cast was equally as good. The direction was precise and magical at times as it worked to create the ideal version of Roald Dahl’s story. The music and songs provided comic relief at times, as well as the sharp passages of dialog. This was such a fun movie watching experience, that brought me back to a less complicated time, where I was rooting all the way for Matilda.
3 1/4 stars
THE WAY SHE DESCRIBED HER HUSBAND to me was to say he was a roommate that she tried to tolerate. I found her statement sad. To live every day trying to tolerate your significant other sounded like an awful way to live. I asked her if she ever loved him and she said yes, when they were much younger. From my own experiences, I was familiar with the progression of a relationship; you know, the initial falling for someone known as the “honeymoon” phase. This is where one begins to have feelings for the other, some would say infatuation. The next stage is where things start to get serious, where the dating couple begin to define their relationship and talk about the future. Next is the tough stage labeled “disillusionment.” Here is where doubt plays a part as fantasy and reality merge together. Once the couple can push through this stage, they will come to stage four which is real love. It is acceptance of each one’s flaws and imperfections, where one focuses more on the other as both are in it for the long term, for better or worse. The final stage is where the couple work together as one, blending strengths and weaknesses that can make a difference. I had to ask her what happened that changed their relationship. FROM THE THINGS SHE TOLD ME about her marriage, one thing stood out for me. There was a lack of communication between the two of them. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen relationships dissolve because the people were not able to communicate their feelings to each other. There was someone I dated years ago who would not share their feelings with me. At times I would ask how they felt about a situation that happened to them, just to get an idea of what things illicit a negative or positive reaction in them. More times than not, they would say what they thought I wanted to hear which I found ludicrous. As you may have guessed, the relationship did not last long. It is funny; after many years, I still remember my college sociology teacher who used the term “holy deadlock” to describe a couple who have lost their love for each other and do not have the energy to make a change. When friends of mine have been in a relationship that appears to be unhealthy, I will ask them why they are staying in it. Several have simply said they do not want to be alone. But this begs the question, “Aren’t they already alone?” In this dramatic comedy, one can see what happens when one has lived such a life. WIDOWED AND RETIRED, A FORMER SCHOOL teacher decides to become a pupil to experience something she had never experienced in her marriage. With Emma Thompson (Late Night, A Walk in the Woods) as Nancy Stokes, Daryl McCormack (Pixie, Peaky Blinders-TV) as Leo Grande and Isabella Laughland (Harry Potter franchise, The Last of the Haussmans) as Becky; this movie took a story done many times before and gave it a twist that was perfectly executed by Emma and Daryl. I thought they worked well together, making their characters believable and emotional. This was one of Emma’s best performances. Considering the limited location, I was never bored while watching and listening to these two adults having a full conversation about personal issues. The writers did an excellent job. Communication is the key in any relationship and this picture displays it in a thoughtful, beautiful way.
3 ½ stars
I REMEMBER THERE WAS A STUDENT in class who was more creative than the rest of us. He would get reprimanded for always drawing outside of the lines. Where pretty much all the drawings being done around me used the color yellow for the sun, he would use a different color like tan or pumpkin. I was not very good at drawing and preferred having figures and objects outlined on the paper, so I could just fill them in with color. My favorite thing to do would be to boldly add color to the pre-drawn outlines then lightly shade color inside of them. The teacher at least did not complain about my work like she did with his art pieces. Many a times he would get a lower grade from the teacher than I did. It puzzled me because his stuff, I thought, was much better than mine. At first, I thought his lower grades were due to not following the rules; but what the teacher explained to us never mentioned the things he did were not acceptable. Maybe she just did not like the work he produced, I thought. Either way, I admired his determination in following his creativity. Years later, I still wonder what he might be doing artistically these days. JOINING A FRIEND AT AN ART fair, we stopped at a booth that was selling jewelry. My friend was familiar with the artist’s work and especially fond of the earrings they created. She was showing me one pair she liked and oddly it looked familiar to me. It was as if I had seen something like it years ago. I had to think about it for a while, but then suddenly it occurred to me; it looked as if that student in my art class from years ago had designed it. I mentioned it to my friend, and she said maybe they did. I told her it was not because his name was different than the jewelry artist. She surprised me when she next said the artist at the booth did not design his jewelry; he had a team of artists who created his look and he simply was the face of it to the public. I could not believe it because listening to him talking to a customer, it sounded like he had designed and manufactured the pieces he was selling. So, in other words, he was taking credit for someone else’s creativity? Maybe that student was one of the artists he had working under him. In my mind the jewelry artist was taking credit for someone else’s hard work which was similar to what I found in this comedic crime adventure. HAVING DREAMT ABOUT WORKING FOR THE top design house in London, nothing prepared Estella, played by Emma Stone (Battle of the Sexes, The Favourite) for the nightmare she was about to experience. With Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, A Walk in the Woods) as The Baroness, Joel Fry (Game of Thrones-TV, 10,000 BC) as Jasper, Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jewel; I, Tonya) as Horace and John McCrea (God’s Own Country, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie) as Artie; the standouts for me were both Emma’s and the soundtrack. Their acting together was wicked and fun. I enjoyed everyone’s performances; however, I thought the script was odd for the main character. Who was the movie studio marketing this film to because it was too dark for young children, in my opinion? Situations seemed too extreme to me in a very unfun and unfunny way. The costumes were great, and I loved the idea of Emma taking charge of her creations; however, there was a streak of meanness that I found uncomfortable. The question comes up for me, was this film created for a quick money grab? I felt the creative team behind this picture could have worked better together to create a more enjoyable experience for the viewer.
2 ½ stars
ALL I KNEW ABOUT HIM WAS he had not been feeling well for some time. He was more of an acquaintance to me than a friend; however, we had friends in common. I had seen him enough times to form an impression about him; he was a jokester/comedian type of guy. It appeared to me he enjoyed shocking people by making shocking comments and telling outrageous stories about himself. Whenever we were at a gathering together, I always knew exactly where he was located by the amount of laughter I would hear. Up until hearing about him not feeling well, he worked on being the center of attention at every party. I, nor anyone else I knew, never heard what news he received about his health; but I had to assume it was not good news because of the change in his behavior. From being a talker and comedian, he shied away from the limelight suddenly. When I would see him at a party, he was nothing like he used to be. Instead of telling jokes and stories, he could be found sitting somewhere having a quiet conversation with one or two people. The other thing I noticed was the way he started taking things to the extreme. In other words, if he had the opportunity to drink, he would drink to excess. If drugs were available, he would be the one who did not care how much of it he ingested. I HAVE KNOWN SEVERAL PEOPLE WHO upon receiving bad news about their health acted in a similar way; but I also have seen others who acted in an opposite way. There was a woman I knew who did nothing different than what she did before hearing about her illness. She went on with her life as if the information was non-essential as commenting on the weather. I have wondered at times what would I do if I suddenly received bad news about my health. A couple of years ago when I contracted E Coli, the doctors were doing tests and zeroing on an internal organ that had a suspicious look to it on X-ray. I remember telling everyone in my inner circle the news along with explicit instructions never to ask me about it. When I got updated, I would notify them; but up until that point I did not want to discuss or think about it. Gratefully, everything worked out fine; but I must tell you, there was one point where I thought I was going to give up and not care about anything. Something like what happened to the main character in this romantic, dramatic comedy. NO MATTER WHAT SHE DID IT seemed as if every decision went wrong for Kate, played by Emilia Clarke (Me Before You, Game of Thrones-TV). She did not care because she really should not have been alive. With Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians, A Simple Favor) as Tom, Emma Thompson (Late Night, Saving Mr. Banks) as Petra, Boris Isakovic (White White World, Absolute Hundred) as Ivan and Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Crazy Rich Asians) as Santa; the cast helped elevate the formulaic story. I thought Emilia did a wonderful job because I did not see her once as her character from Game of Thrones. Also, I felt she and Henry worked well together. If you have seen an ad for this movie you probably are aware the soundtrack is filled with George Michael songs. Some of them worked in the story, but others felt out of place for me. The story, for the most part, was predictable; but I did not mind. This was an easy film to watch and whether the execution of it was a bit stale, it still was touching and enjoyable.
2 ½ stars
WHEN IT COMES TO MAKING A CHANGE, I would not be one of the first to jump on the “bandwagon;” I readily admit it. For most of my life I have lived by the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If something is working for me, then I will remain doing the same thing over and over; I never get tired of it. I will give you an example: during the work week I like eating the same lunch each and every day; I enjoy it as much as the day before. It turns out I am not alone in my family; in fact, I am a 3rd generation same lunch eater. Among my friends, however, I believe I am the only one who does it. I wish I knew what it is about change that causes me to be hesitant. Though I am wired this way, fitness is what helped me dent my regimented ways, believe it or not. When I became a fitness instructor I had no choice; if I wanted to have a successful class I had to learn how to be more flexible (no pun intended). With any form of exercise, it is a good policy to always change things up; doing the same thing over and over increases the risk of injury from overuse. IN MY AEROBIC CLASSES I WOULD maintain the same routines for several weeks before introducing new movements. If I did not, members would eventually become both bored and stagnant with their fitness goals. I had to teach myself to let go and provide new challenges for my classes. Due to this I slowly became more comfortable with accepting change. It has been a long process. Another thing I have become aware of is how accepting change helps a person stay relevant. I think that is something more important if basing it on society’s standards. This brings to mind someone I used to work with who did the same thing every day. As the years went by, more employees started to forget about them; it did not help they did outside and inside sales. There were stretches of time where no one would have seen them. And when this employee came into the office their desk was in a remote part of the building. As the company grew and updated its software and hardware, this person essentially lost touch with their fellow employees. It was as if time stood still for them, they became lost in the new procedures and operations. It was a similar dilemma that the main character was experiencing in this comedic drama. TRAILBLAZING LATE-NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST Katherine Newbury, played by Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Men in Black: International), after many years is now being looked at in a different light. The same old thing was not working anymore. With Mindy Kaling (A Wrinkle in Time, No Strings Attached) as Molly Patel, John Lithgow (Pet Sematary, Beatriz at Dinner) as Walter Lovell, Hugh Dancy (Adam, Martha Marcy May Marlene) as Charlie Fain and Reid Scott (Venom, Veep-TV) as Tom Campbell; this dramedy excelled from the wonderful acting by Emma and Mindy in particular. Emma’s timing was impeccable throughout the movie. I enjoyed the whole cast but these two really stood out for me. I was pleased with the story because I found it current, funny and thought-provoking; kudos to Mindy for writing the screenplay. Despite a few clichés here and there, this picture provided me with some solid entertainment. And that is saying something because during this film I realized there were certain aspects of Katherine that I could relate to and not in necessarily a good way.
THERE ON THE RACK YOU SEE a sweater that not only grabs your eye, but you know you must have it. You start going through the rack; unfortunately, the color you want is not in your size. The style is what grabbed you at first and you know yourself so well. Your wanting of it is now turning into a need. After checking the entire rack you are now faced with making a decision. The sales staff was no help because there was nothing left in stock; so, if you want the sweater you will have to settle on a different color. Blue is your favorite color, so you certainly do not want the brown or red one. Looking at the remaining colors you picture yourself wearing each color. The decision was not that difficult; you settle on the green colored sweater. You take satisfaction in your purchase because you know if you did not buy the sweater you would be thinking about it for a long time. Green was not such a bad color, you could deal with it not being blue. THERE ARE SOME INDIVIDUALS WHO WOULD not have bought the sweater; they are the type who will not settle for something less than the exact thing they want. I believe I fluctuate somewhere in between, depending on the item. For a recent holiday we decided to celebrate at a restaurant. There were eight of us around an oval table. When it came to ordering off the menu, three of us chose the same thing. It was a turkey dinner with mashed potatoes and a cooked vegetable. After the waiter left with our orders we sat around talking while nibbling on the appetizers. In a few minutes the waiter came back to tell us out of the three turkey dinners, there were only two left. I was the first to speak up and told the waiter to give the other two their dinners; I would instead have the turkey burger and fries. The waiter was apologetic and left with my order. For me it was not a big deal; they didn’t have anymore, so what was I to do? When the meals were served the restaurant manager came up to apologize. I accepted his apology, so he would leave and all of us could start to eat. The meal was okay, but it was not a full dinner that looked especially good; I just settled for the turkey burger because I did not want there to be a fuss. The same thing could be said about this comedy film; If you do not have time to see a great movie, then this one might be okay instead. WHEN A CYBER-ATTACK EXPOSES THE identities of Britain’s secret service agents there is only one agent available who is off the grid retired agent Johnny English, played by Rowan Atkinson (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bean franchise). Can old school spying work in a computer connected world? This action adventure also starred Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Bridget Jones’ Baby) as Prime Minister, Ben Miller (Paddington 2, What We Did on our Holiday) as Bough and Olga Kurylenko (The Death of Stalin, Hitman) as Ophelia Bauletova. This entire film had a retro vibe that reminded me of the Pink Panther movies. There was nothing that stood out as horrible; but for the most part, everything in the story seemed like it was done before. Rowan is quite good with physical comedy which is lucky since most of the script was having a gag upon gag upon gag. I did not find anything hilarious; possibly because the set-ups were all predictable to me. If the show times aren’t working for you to see a better film and you are the type who doesn’t mind settling, then this picture would just be okay. But do not spend money on a full priced ticket.
WHEN I ask why they are attracted to that certain feature of the individual, the answer is never the same. It is perplexing to me how people acquire a particular attraction to a person’s height, hair color or body type. Friends of mine to this day test me because they cannot believe I do not pay attention to the surface details of an individual. They will point at someone and ask me if I would be attracted to that person. Each time I have to tell them I do not know until I have had a couple of conversations with that particular individual. Maybe from my studies in psychology I attempt to rationalize a person’s tastes in potential dates. In some circles of thought one could say one of the reasons a person is attracted to redheads is because they are less available, rarer if you will. This person wants to stand out from the pack. Someone may be attracted to facial hair because it represents a father figure, an authoritarian. There are so many different interpretations, yet they still do not answer my fundamental thought: why should it make a difference what a person looks like? You can have what looks like the most perfect apple in your hand, but it still may be rotten underneath the skin. TAKING this a step further, I feel the same way about a person’s ethnicity. The only thing a person’s ethnic makeup tells me is what region of the world their ancestors were born. After taking in the cultural differences, I do not find anything different between people of different races. Each group produces geniuses, thieves, liars, bigoted and loving people. I find this whole discrimination thing puzzling and troubling. People are quick to make judgments about individuals solely based on skin color; I just do not get it. From what I have said you may begin to suspect, this fairy tale is one my favorite stories from childhood. SIMPLY by plucking a single rose off a bush Maurice, played by Kevin Kline (Cry Freedom, My Old Lady), was imprisoned by a monstrous beast, played by Dan Stevens (The Guest, Downton Abbey-TV). If it was not for his daughter Belle, played by Emma Watson (The Bling Ring, Harry Potter franchise); Maurice would have never survived the ordeal. This live action, fantasy musical was based on the animated film version of this story done in the 1990s. With Luke Evans (Dracula Untold, The Raven) as Gaston and Josh Gad (The Wedding Ringer, Jobs) as LeFou, the cast members not associated with singing surprised me with their vocal abilities. Emma took her character and made it a somewhat more modern and determined figure. I do not know if it was because of this or not, but I found her interactions with the Beast emotionally too fast. She never had a sense of revulsion upon meeting the Beast; in other words there was a lack of tension between the two. The same argument could be made with other portions of the film; the story was quickly pushed from one action scene to another I felt. At least the creativity and imagination that went into the sets and individual pieces were thoroughly entertaining. Along with the wonderful musical score and beautiful story, there are more things to like about this film than not. Maybe just do not look too deep under the surface to find the cracks.
I have to be honest; I was enjoying the attention given to me. It started out with short voice messages being left on my phone. Nothing major just things like wishing me a good day or they wanted me to know they were thinking about me. From there as our relationship progressed I would be surprised from time to time with a “care” package left at my front door. It could be a box of chocolate chip cookies or an envelope filled with coupons from the Sunday newspapers. I found these left items endearing and sweet. For it being early in our relationship I was actually surprised with so much attention. To me their actions showed confidence, desire and on some level their willingness to take a risk. More of my past relationships had more tentativeness to them, where the two of us took our time to learn and reveal more about each other; so this particular relationship took me a little by surprise at first. Later on it took me by shock. You see while the two of us were becoming more intimate with each other, they were also dating someone else. It turns out they had met me a couple of weeks after this other guy they had been seeing, so decided to continue both relationships and see who would be the winner. I had no idea I was in a competition; for if I had, I would have ended it. Granted my odds were 50/50 but it would have been hard for me to let the walls protecting my heart come down in a situation like this one. I am only competitive with myself unlike the gentlemen in this romantic comedy. TURNING another year older Bridget, played by Renee Zellweger (Cinderella Man, Chicago), decided it was time to make some changes in her life. She just had not planned on making such a drastic change like the one that took place. With Patrick Dempsey (Made of Honor, Enchanted) as Jack, Colin Firth (Magic in the Moonlight, The King’s Speech) as Mark and Gemma Jones (Sense and Sensibility, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger) as Mum; the acting was well done. If I saw the previous Bridget Jones movies I do not have a memory of them so I will judge this sequel on its own. The story was fun with a script that offered a variety of physical comedy. I will say it took some time before I started to get into this film; the beginning did not grab me right away with the slow pacing. Maybe if I was more familiar with the Bridget character I would have felt differently. However once Patrick and Colin were in the story, I enjoyed the banter and the pacing picked up. There was a sense of the writers trying hard to make this sequel funny because I was starting to feel Bridget was turning into a cartoon character with all the incidents taking place. Overall I think those viewers familiar with Bridget will enjoy this film more than those who are just being introduced to the character. Maybe I should see the 2 previous films to make a comparison.
2 ¾ stars
Usually I am met with perplexed looks on friends’ faces when I tell them one of the highlights of my trip was taking public transportation. I do not know if I can explain it, but something connects inside of me when riding public buses or trains in a new city. There is a dual feeling of being an outsider yet fitting in with a group of strangers, going through a similar routine. One of the major benefits of taking public transportation is the opportunity to see multiple sights in an easy and quick fashion. When I was in Rome I remembered waiting for a subway train, standing among a crowd of office workers. Except for the language they were no different from the ones I see on my daily commute to work. I feel like I get a sense of a city’s energy or vibe as I ride around it. Similar to my friends not judging me (or at least I hope not), I do not question the things they insist on doing while on vacation. There is one friend who has to go to at least one museum no matter where he winds up. It could be a major institution or a little shack that is run by an elderly couple who remember the history about the area. I am sure most of us have the need to participate in things that are challenging to explain to others who do not have the same thought process. For that reason I understood why the main character had to do what he needed to do in this adventure comedy. BILL Bryson, played by Robert Redford (All is Lost, The Horse Whisperer), was given one requirement by his wife Catherine, played by Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Sense and Sensibility), if he insisted on going on this trip that made no sense to her. He could not go alone; he would have to find someone to join him. After going through a list of people, that someone turned out to be Stephen Katz, played by Nick Nolte (Warrior, Cape Fear), who still owed him $600.00. Having been out of touch for so many years, what would be the ultimate cost to have Stephen come with him? Based on Bill Bryson’s popular memoir, the cinematography was gorgeous in this film. I wished there had been even more shots of the landscape. The other thing I wanted was a decent script to match the caliber of the actors. All the story seemed to be was one lame gag after another; it was embarrassing to watch. It appeared as if all the writers wanted to do was provide schtick for Robert and Nick; it took away from the few decent scenes in this dramatic comedy. If the book of this true story has photos of his trip, I should have bought the book instead of watching this film version.
I agree that opposites attract is valid most of the time; however, sometimes it can be a real challenge. My friends were quite puzzled when I was in a relationship with a mathematician. In fact, they had a PhD degree in mathematics. Looking back I have to laugh at some of the conversations we used to have when we were in disagreement. Where they needed fact based information to make a decision, they were always perplexed when I would say things like “it feels right” or “that is how I feel.” How does one explain a feeling to a scientific mind? Suffice to say our different perspectives was the cleaver that finally severed our relationship. So here in this movie there were two individuals who were curious about each other; both passionate about their respective creative talents. This comedy was extra fun for me because it combined two of my favorite things besides movies: music and books. Judy Davis (Barton Fink, To Rome with Love) played writer Amandine Lucile Aurore Dupin aka George Sand. She was known to wear men’s clothing and smoke cigars, besides her romantic affairs with some prominent men; all which were quite outrageous back in the early 1800s. Upon hearing rapturous music being played on the piano by composer Frederic Chopin, played by Hugh Grant (About a Boy, Music and Lyrics), George was determined to meet this man whose music was speaking directly to her heart. Unfortunately former lovers and friends had different ideas for them. This biographical film was enjoyable on multiple levels. Seeing a young Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Sense and Sensibility) play Duchess D’Antan, Mandy Patinkin (The Princess Bride, Criminal Minds-TV) as Alfred De Musset and Bernadette Peters (The Jerk, Annie) as Maria D’Agoult was amusing to me. The acting from the whole cast was solidly cohesive. I have to tell you I liked the retro look to the whole film. What I mean is the use of actual film to shoot the picture and on location in France without any type of special effects. Of course it was understandable since the movie was made over 20 years ago. Being familiar with the works of Chopin and Franz Liszt, played by Julian Sands (The Killing Sands, Leaving Las Vegas), I found the connection between my own knowledge of these historic figures and the characterizations of them in this musical film a crazy juxtaposition. This comedy would not only work for those who have a strong creative side but to those with a dominant scientific mind.
3 stars — DVD