FROM THE VARIOUS JOBS I HAVE DONE, I have learned a couple of “truths” about people. The first one is: If an individual does not have passion about what they are doing, then they will never get far in life. The second one: If a person does not have even the smallest of a stubborn streak or maybe I should call it a sense of commitment, they could easily be swayed down a different life path. I have worked with several individuals who were schooled in what became their profession. For example, taking accounting classes towards being an accountant or studying art and interior design to be a decorator/designer. There was one accountant I knew who had the title but was not detail-oriented; I thought it was important to be particular and exact when working with numbers. This individual did not have passion for the work he was doing. Because he did not care, he would make mistakes from time to time. There was a meeting called to go over a group of accounts, I recall; where he came in late despite the fact, he was supposed to be the one who was going to update all the participants at this meeting. He was finally let go (new terminology for getting fired). A WOMAN I USED TO WORK WITH had an inspirational story. She was a single mother with 2 small children. During her entire upbringing she always had an attraction to helping people. At a young age she would tell everyone, when they asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she wanted to be a nurse. She told me there were some individuals who complimented her on her response by encouraging her to pursue her dreams; however, relatives and close friends of the family told her it was not a realistic goal because her parents did not have the means to put her through college. They would encourage her to finish high school then immediately get a job to do her part in supporting the family. She heeded their advice by getting a job, where I met her; however, she took night classes at the local college. Though it took her more than 4 years to get enough classes to graduate, she did and was able to enroll into nursing school. If I remember correctly, it took her something like 10 years to reach her goal; but when she did, she was so excited and thrilled to finally do what she always wanted to do. Her strength was an inspiration; it was like the strength of one of the main characters in this dramatic romance. WHILE THEIR FATHER WAS AWAY AT WAR, four sisters and their mother found ways to pursue their passions while maintaining the household. Their dreams may not have been the same, but their passion was similar in strength. With Saoirse Ronan (Mary Queen of Scots, Brooklyn) as Jo March, Emma Watson (Beauty and the Beast, The Circle) as Meg March, Florence Pugh (Fighting with my Family, Midsommar) as Amy March, Laura Dern (Cold Pursuit, Marriage Story) as Marmee March and Timothee Chalamet (Lady Bird, Beautiful Boy) as Theodore “Laurie” Laurence; this fresh version of the classic story was powered by the acting skills of the cast. The actors playing the sisters were outstanding together, playing as one cohesive unit. I did have trouble with the jumping back and forth in time periods to the point it was a distraction for me in the beginning. However, after some time everything fell into place and I enjoyed watching the story. I thought the directing and writing were wonderful as the scenes came across in a thoughtful, beautiful way upon the screen. This was a surprise for me because I came in feeling like I was going to see the same thing I have seen in other versions of the story. I could not have been more wrong as the writer/director Greta Gerwig (Mistress America, Lady Bird) showed me what can happen when one has passion towards a project; in this case, the classic story of Little Women.
3 ½ stars
WATCHING me stand in line at the grocery checkout line cannot be very exciting. The most someone would see is me arranging my items on the conveyor belt according to description, such as frozen or produce. Only other thing one could witness is me holding coupons in my hand. I have no issue with any of the security cameras throughout the store. In fact I do not even pay attention to any of the cameras that have been installed in public places. The thing that freaks me out is on a personal level. For example I was online looking for a small shelving unit; I went to 2 or 3 different sites without finding anything suitable. Would you believe the very next time I checked into one of my social media accounts, right there on the welcome page, was an advertisement for shelving units? How did the site know I was looking for shelving units?! This made me uncomfortable as if I was being watched in my very own home. AS the world becomes more tech savvy I feel like I am turning into a dinosaur. I do not know if it some kind of paranoia on my part, but I have always been a private person. Keeping the window shades pulled down in the house is preferable than having pedestrians walking by out front peering in; not that there is anything going on, I just do not want people looking into my space. There was a news article about these new talking assistant devices for the home being hacked, so someone can listen to the conversations taking place in the house and sometimes respond to them without being asked. Am I the only one who finds that disturbing? It has come to the point if I do not know the origin of an email I will delete it. At my office anything that comes in unfamiliar to me I have sent to our MIS department to investigate; I just do not want to take a chance on my computer becoming infected with a virus. Sitting through this dramatic thriller made me uncomfortable for more than one reason. WITH the help of a friend Mae, played by Emma Watson (Beauty and the Beast, Harry Potter franchise), got a job interview with a premier high tech company. This job would offer a big change in her life, but at what cost? This film also starred Tom Hanks (Sully, Bridge of Spies) as Bailey, Bill Paxton (Titanic, Apollo 13) in one of his final roles as Vinnie and John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Attack the Block) as Ty. As the story started out I wondered if this movie was a satire about a current popular tech company; there seemed to be several similarities. I felt the idea was sound, but the script was poorly done and amateurish to the point where I was periodically bored. There were some good scenes but there were times where a scene did not make any sense. For example the character of Ty was odd right from the start and it was obvious why he was in the story. I liked Emma’s acting and felt she tried her best, but hearing some of the words coming out of her mouth just made me cringe. If the writers were hoping to scare the audience with the subject matter, they missed their mark; this could have been a better movie if everyone involved was watching what they were doing.
1 ¾ stars
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.
You are sitting back letting your friend tell the assembled group of friends about an incident that happened to the two of you. Everyone is laughing at a particular funny part of the story. As you are following along with your friend’s narrative, you suddenly hear something that clashes with your memory of the event. While still listening to your friend you are quickly going over the chain of events you remember, wondering if your memory is starting to fail you. As your friend continues to veer off from the way you remembered the story, the group of friends haven’t a clue and are enjoying the tale even more. The first opportunity to talk to your friend the narrator was not until the two of you were riding home from the restaurant. When you asked them why they changed the story, making it a more elaborate less truthful scenario, they replied a story is not worth telling if you cannot exaggerate it and provide better entertainment value. I can understand the point they were making since I have been known to tell a tale or two, with something called creative license. In this adventure drama, writer and director Darren Aronofsky (The Fountain, Black Swan) used artistic license to put his own spin on the biblical tale of Noah. Russell Crowe (Man of Steel, A Beautiful Mind) and Jennifer Connelly (Blood Diamonds, Winter’s Tale) played Noah and his wife Naameh. Upon receiving visions of impending doom for the Earth, Noah set out to build an ark that would save all that was good about the planet. This movie was utterly bizarre to me, taking on a science fiction aspect that I found totally ridiculous. Who knew there were prehistoric Transformers in biblical times?! Not only did I find the story silly, but I found it boring as well. The acting was nothing special and I am saying this even with Emma Watson (The Bling Ring, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock, The Rite) being part of the cast. I especially felt the story line of Ham, played by Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson franchise, 3:10 to Yuma) was poorly done. The only redeeming quality to this film was the visual aspect. Though none of the animals were real I did enjoy their scenes along with the start of the flooding. In the case of this disaster film or should I say disastrous film, elaborating the story did nothing to make it a more entertaining experience.
1 3/4 stars
Obsession is my next door neighbor. We visit from time to time and when they want to go on holiday, I watch over their house. I am very familiar with obsession’s traits; just ask any of my friends. At the height of my fitness classes, when I was teaching full-time, I could wear a different T-shirt every single day for over 1 year, before I needed to think about doing any laundry. What can I say, I liked fun T-shirts to wear in my classes. With my love for movies, one would think I obsess over the actors’ lifestyles. I have no desire to be like them. If anything, I would only like to know what it is like to buy something without having to think about how I will pay for it later. The mass of reality shows, I feel, warps the perceptions of so many people. Seeing the lifestyles of these celebrities, they want to live the same good life but without putting in any of the hard work. Not that a majority of these so called celebrities even have a concept of what it is like to work. Based on actual events, writer and director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Somewhere) created this film about celebrity obsessed teenagers, who go on a crime spree. Using the internet, the group of friends break into celebrities’ houses, to steal their personal items. Leading the group was relative newcomer Katie Chang as Rebecca and her friend Mark, played by Israel Broussard (Flipped, The Chaperone). Emma Watson (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Harry Potter franchise) as Nicki and Leslie Mann (This is 40, Knocked Up) as her mother Laurie were far and above the best when it came to the acting in this drama; yet, they were not major characters. The set up for this film through the first robbery kept my attention; I just sat there amazed that something like this actually happened. As the movie progressed I started to lose interest due to the repetitive robberies being filmed in a similar way. The choppy writing and the shallow character development left me disinterested in any of the individuals. By the end of the movie, I had the same feelings about the characters as I have about reality stars; I did not care about them or their vapid lives.
2 1/4 stars
This may come as a surprise but it turns out celebrities do not walk on water, even though some of them think they do. Part of the problem is the public’s fascination with these bigger than life characters. I do not understand why people will buy merchandise simply because their favorite celebrity endorsed it. Now I know some of you must be thinking who am I to talk with me contributing to actors’ bank accounts by going to see their movies. All I can say is I watch movies for medicinal reasons; they are therapeutic for me. This does not mean I approve of celebrities acting out in public. As far as I am concerned; there is no difference between them and the rest of us, they have the same body functions as we do. If a celebrity should fall on hard times, there are some people who get a sense of satisfaction in seeing these stars brought down to human level. Now if you want to laugh at a celebrity’s predicament and not feel guilty about it, this is the movie to watch. Essentially playing themselves I admired all the actors who took part in this wickedly funny comedy. Even those who only had cameo roles helped to knock down this facade or fascination we might have about their public personas. During a party at James Franco’s (Oz the Great and Powerful, Spring Breakers) house, what was originally thought of as an earth tremor turned into something of catastrophic proportions. I was taken by surprise by how good the writing was for this part parody, part satire, crazy fantasy film. Too many stars to list, the major players were Seth Rogen (The Green Hornet, Pineapple Express), Jonah Hill (21 Jump Street, Superbad), Jay Baruchel (Tropic Thunder, Knocked Up), Craig Robinson (Peeples, The Office-TV) and Danny McBride (Up in the Air, Your Highness). I have to give a shout out to Michael Cera (Juno, Youth in Revolt) and Emma Watson (Harry Potter franchise, My Week with Marilyn) for their small hilarious roles. Though some of the jokes got tiresome, who knew the end could be so funny. Warning: Strong and crude language used throughout the film.
3 1/4 stars
Looking back at my high school years, the popular kids and jocks made up relatively small groups to the rest of the student body. I had an aunt who mistook my largeness for muscles, telling me I should join the football team. It quickly became apparent I did not belong. My goal was to get through high school unscathed. For all of you who understand me, this is our movie. One of the best movies I have seen this year, I commend author Stephen Chbosky who used his own book to write the screenplay and direct this wonderful film. Incoming freshman Charlie, played by Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, 3:10 to Yuma), already was dealing with family trauma and the loss of his best friend as he floundered to find where he belonged in school. Days of loneliness would pass until seniors Patrick and Sam, played by Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin, City Island) and Emma Watson (Harry Potter franchise, My Week With Marilyn) took Charlie into their misfit group. Though lucky to have upperclassmen showing him the way, there would be issues Charlie had to face and conquer alone. The casting of this movie was the icing on the cake to the well thought out story; the actors were a perfect fit together. Emma was so good, not once did I think that was Hermione Granger up on the screen. The trailers for this movie do not really show the depth of the story; this was not a typical goofy high school movie. There were shades of darkness mixed with honest portrayals of real high school events. This was one time where I was able to go back to those school years and have tears of joy, as I applauded with the audience at the end of this impressive film.
3 2/3 stars