THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS used to be such a cut and dry proposition; at least in my mind. During my formative years (they may still be going on presently) when someone made a decision I would carry it out. Whether it was at home or school, this is how I was raised. I cannot recall as a child if I questioned any decisions, though I will say I am sure I interpreted some of them in different ways than they were intended. My sensibilities started to change when that teacher, I have talked about before, told me I would amount to nothing if I pursued a career in writing. It was at that very moment I began questioning authority. The idea of one person, let alone a relative stranger, making a decision that would directly affect me made me extremely uncomfortable and rebellious. What right did this person have to decide what I could and could not do? Not that I would cause a riot or something, but I would question their decision even if it was only an internal dialog in my mind. LOOKING BACK THRU THE eyes of an adult; I now see where some decisions were solely a lucky guess, while others had consequences. Remembering my gym teacher in high school who refused to give me a passing grade, so I would have to repeat the course over; condemned me to another year of abuse even though he was aware of what I went through the first time. The decision by a fitness instructor to let me choreograph an aerobic routine for her started me on a career path in the fitness industry. Now I am very much aware of the magnitude some decisions have not only on me but on society in general. Thinking about one individual deciding on something that has major ramifications on a vast amount of people has to be a scary notion; heck, it should be a terrifying thing. I would not want someone to decide something of importance so cavalierly. The reason I have been thinking about decisions is due to this film festival winning dramatic war film. It is one thing to read about it in history books, but it is totally different to watch the decision process in action. WITH GERMAN FORCES SWEEPING across Europe it was only a matter of time before Germany had Great Britain in its sights. Choices had to be made but which ones would be the right ones? Starring Gary Oldman (The HItman’s Bodyguard, The Space Between Us) as Winston Churchill, Lily James (Cinderella, Baby Driver) as Elizabeth Layton, Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Clementine Churchill, Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom, Rogue One) as King George VI and Stephen Dillane (Spy Game, The Hours) as Viscount Halifax; this film would be an ideal companion piece to the film Dunkirk since they are set in similar times. Gary was outstanding as Winston Churchill; he was the main focus actually of the whole film and script. I understood this however; I felt the script was a bit weak in parts. When Winston was on everything felt right, but in the quieter moments I was left wanting more out of the characters, more in depth interactions between them. Taking the action at face value, I enjoyed the cat and mouse approach to part of the story. Whoever decided Gary was the right choice for the role deserves a pat on the back. I would not necessarily say the same for the script approval, but still the film was worth seeing.
3 ¼ stars
DECISIONS usually come with consequences, some good others not so good. Personally I am more comfortable with a person who can make decisions as opposed to those who never have an opinion or prefer deferring decisions to someone else. This concept of there being consequences for one’s decisions seems to be losing favor with the newer generations. I say this because I have seen multiple examples where a parent reprimands their child, explaining what the consequences will be if they act out in a certain way and the child still acts in an inappropriate way. The parent then does not make good on their ultimatum, so the child has just learned they can continue with their behavior. I am sure I have mentioned this example before; but I had a friend who early on always gave her young daughter the option to choose her own decision, explaining what the consequences would be for each action. When the daughter was fussing over being toilet trained, the mother told her she could learn how to use the potty or keep wearing the dirty diaper; but if she kept the dirty diaper on no one would want to play with her. The little girl immediately learned how to use the toilet. NOW there are some decisions that can have a profound effect on one’s life. I think the top stressful situations are death, dissolving relationships, moving and job changes. To me the list should also include those who are given the responsibility to decide the fate of a dying loved one. If you ever had to make a decision that involved a group of people it can be stressful. I am not necessarily talking about restaurant choices, more life changing decisions. Here is the thing though, I learn from mistakes. When someone complains to me they made a mistake I ask them to look at it as an opportunity, they may learn something new. If the story in this biographical drama is indeed true, it was a surprise to see how past actions had such a profound effect on the main character. DAYS away from the allied forces launching a massive assault against the German army Prime Minister Winston Churchill, played by Brian Cox (Troy, Rob Roy), has deep reservations about the laid out plan. With Miranda Richardson (The Hours, Empire of the Sun) as Clementine Churchill, John Slattery (Spotlight, Mad Men-TV) as Dwight Eisenhower, Ella Purnell (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Never Let Me Go) as Helen and Julian Wadham (The English Patient, War Horse) as Bernard Montgomery; this thriller based on true events made it due to the acting of Brian and Miranda. They were outstanding in their roles to where I wished the writers had given them more scenes together. The rest of the cast was okay, though I thought John’s portrayal of General Eisenhower was odd; it was nothing I imagined Eisenhower would be like in the situation. Part of the issue falls on the script; some of the dialog felt out of place, almost ringing false for me. Because I was fascinated with the story, after the movie I reached out to a history teacher to see how much truth was involved in what was depicted in the film. I will not tell you because I prefer as always the viewer experiencing a film with the least amount of information. Due to the decisions the director and writers chose, they created a movie that did not live up to the actual events.
2 ¼ stars
TOMBSTONES fall down due to hateful thoughts these days. Houses of worship get tagged with symbols of hate. Videos are posted online to show acts of discrimination. Throughout my life I have personally experienced bigotry and discrimination. With each exposure to it I never understood how a person grew up with such hate inside of them. I am sure within our general conversations with friends and family, someone will mention they do not like someone’s laugh or hair; you know unimportant surface stuff. But when there has been no interaction of any kind and a person actively discriminates against you solely on visual information, it is mind numbing. Any form of discrimination is wrong as far as I am concerned. Before you think better of me, I want you to know there are individual people I do not care to be around. There may be something they do or the way they act that annoys me, so what? I would not hate them because of it; I would simply avoid them. If someone is eating a food like sauerkraut, which I dislike immensely, I would not think less of them or hate them for it. HATRED is such a strong word and I am sad to see how it appears more prevalent today then years ago. Maybe it was always there inside of people, but now it seems as if it is acceptable out in the public eye. I am horrified by some of the acts of hatred I see on the news. This brings me back to my earlier statement: how do people get so much hatred inside of them? We are not born with it; it is something that is learned. If that is the case who or what is teaching us to become hateful? Well I found part of the answer in this BAFTA and film festival winning crime drama. FROM a chance meeting 12 year old Shaun, played by Thomas Turgoose (Eden Lake, The Scouting Book for Boys), discovers a way to feel superior over others. Set in England during the early 1980s, this movie also starred Stephen Graham (Public Enemies, Gangs of New York) as Combo, Jo Hartley (Eddie the Eagle, Dead Man’s Shoes) as Cynth and Joseph Gilgun (Lockout, Harry Brown) as Woody. I found the beginning of the story slow, not sure what the focus was supposed to be. There were troubling scenes for me because they had to do with bullying. As the story progressed I became more involved with what was taking place because a new element was introduced that changed the whole tone of this film. If you are uncomfortable seeing discrimination as I am then I have to tell you I was uncomfortable watching some of the scenes. Now it did not stop me; the story in a way was a revelation. This DVD made me think and in a way, one could say this is a coming of age story which is frightening on some levels. There were powerful performances and though the story was set a few decades ago, I do not think there would be much change in the process of transforming an individual into a dark place. Maybe this movie could be used as an example for schools and organizations to show how a person learns how to hate.
3 ¼ stars — DVD
The rule of thumb used to be we had to eat everything on our plate. I was a steadfast follower of this rule; in fact, I willingly helped others clear their plates. From the things I now hear people say, this rule is no longer in effect because they want to teach their children to stop eating once they feel full. I could have saved myself a lot of time and effort if that had been the case when I was younger. There are some rules that need to be enforced if there is going to be order such as the rules of the road for driving on the streets. If there were no rules can you imagine what a nightmare it would be just to take a 5 minute ride? Funny growing up, depending on what area of life the rule was meant to be, I would rebel against certain rules. The obvious one would be curfew or bedtime; I remember being offended when I heard there was a law that required people under the legal age not to be outside without a parent or legal guardian after a certain time. On the other hand, all of us create rules for ourselves. An example for me would be my rule that I stop eating 5 hours before I go to sleep. I set this rule up years ago as I was forming my weight loss plan; a rule that is still in force today. It works for me and I understand there may be times where I will have to break my rule; but I know there will not be terrible ramifications, unlike in this horror thriller. WHEN she accepted the job of nanny Greta Evans, played by Lauren Cohan (The Walking Dead-TV, The Vampire Diaries-TV), could not believe it meant taking care of an actual doll. It was a doll with rules that needed to be followed exactly. Along with Rupert Evans (The Canal, Hellboy) as Malcom, the script had all the elements needed to construct a decent horror film. I appreciated the fact that suspense was used to frighten people instead of mostly gore. The first part of the film was fun to watch with ideal characters, music and sets. The way the story unfolded allowed the viewer to better accept the circumstances I thought. However the last half of the movie took a bad turn, becoming an average horror story we all have seen before. Riddled with cliches and predictability, I became disappointed the writer did not stick with the original story they had going in the beginning. I thought the actors worked well together and they did their best with what was given to them. Overall I did not mind seeing this film; it is a type that I refer to as a popcorn film which means cheap matinee or rental. Too bad the writer did not follow the rules for writing a good horror picture.
One of the more important acts a parent can instill in a child is the love of reading. There is an art in reading a book to a child. As the words get spoken, images begin to form and take shape in the little one’s mind. Stimulating the brain this way, sets the foundation for an active imagination to grow in the child. A blanket once draped around the shoulders becomes a cape that enables the child to fly from room to room. Spreading that same blanket out on the floor then repeatedly lifting it up and down in waves turns the living room floor into a choppy sea filled with a school of gigantic whales. Once the blanket goes still it becomes the launching pad for today’s rocket launch. Who hasn’t as a kid carried around some item that was special only to them? For me it started out with a stuffed monkey for several years and then my attention was drawn to retractable ballpoint pens. They were my fleet of spaceships that were constantly firing at each other by me clicking and unclicking them. Memories of my childhood, that had been lying dormant, flourished up into my consciousness while watching this sweet and joyful family comedy. COMING from Peru to England Paddington, voiced by Ben Whishaw (Skyfall, I’m not There), found shelter with a lovely family. Mary and Henry Brown, played by Sally Hawkins (Godzilla, Blue Jasmine) and Hugh Bonneville (The Monuments Men, Downton Abbey-TV), agreed to take in the bear for one night. What could possibly go wrong? This movie was an absolute treat, harking back to a civilized and charming time. I mean this in two ways: as a story line and as a movie watching experience. It was obvious this was a group effort because the entire cast from the characters Sally and Hugh played to Mrs. Bird and Millicent, played by Julie Walters (Harry Potter franchise, Mamma Mia) and Nicole Kidman (The Railway Man, Rabbit Hole), all played their parts to the hilt; you could see they were having so much fun. In turn, I had a great time watching this picture; it had drama, comedy, excitement and suspense that was appropriate for all age levels. Even the special effects that created Paddington were seamless to the point where I actually believed he was standing right there in every scene. I cannot imagine anyone sitting through this film and not getting a smile on their face. It was such a good time for me and when it was done and over I walked out of the theater with my childhood memories playing out before my eyes.
3 1/3 stars
As I pulled up alongside the stopped vehicle, the driver’s head was slumped down as if he had passed out or was praying. When the traffic light turned green he lifted his head and draped the newspaper he was reading over the steering wheel and drove off. Now I love reading newspapers but even I would wait until I was in a less potentially dangerous environment before I would start reading something. My daily commute takes me through several neighborhoods where over the last few years I have seen some of the most incredulous things being done by drivers. There was the woman who was fixing her hair with a curling iron while driving with only one hand on the steering wheel. I remember passing by a car where the driver was shaving with an electric shaver. My favorite sighting was the man brushing his teeth while driving and rinsing out his mouth with a can of soda pop. When did the automobile become an extension of our house or office? I do not want to even think about a cousin who always drove around with a couple of empty, plastic water bottles in his car. It seems as if everyone is in a hurry these days, needing to be available around the clock. What could be so important that one could not wait until they were at the office or not driving their car? The answer lies in Tom Hardy’s (The Dark Knight Rises, Warriors) tour de force performance as Ivan Locke in this dramatic thriller. On an extended drive to London, Ivan would have to handle a variety of matters that needed his immediate attention. Writer and director Steven Knight (Closed Circuit, Dirty Pretty Things) had the perfect actor for this role that required him to spend the entire film in his car. I thought it would be a challenge to sit and watch this film festival nominated movie but Tom drew me in along with others such as Olivia Colman (Cuban Fury, The Iron Lady) as Bethan and Andrew Scott (Saving Private Ryan, Dead Bodies) as Donal. The way the story unfolded paralleled the miles covered by Ivan in his SUV, along with the changing camera angles that kept everything moving forward; all of it provided an interesting take on the scenes. I had read afterwards the vehicle had a gas gauge alarm that annoyed Tom while performing his scenes. The director kept filming, only eliminating the sound during editing. If anything it only made Tom’s acting even stronger. Now when I see someone talking while driving I imagine if they are experiencing any of the issues Ivan faced in this startling good film.
3 1/3 stars
That sinking feeling, where your heart is at it’s breaking point, when the person you love makes it clear your love has not been enough, it can be devastating. I have been on both sides of that love equation and either way it sucks. One thing I have learned from my experiences, has been to change the routine that we were following and get into a new regime designed solely for me. This was the movie’s premise. Amanda Woods, played by Cameron Diaz (My Sister’s Keeper, What to Expect When You’re Expecting), discovered her live-in boyfriend cheated on her. Iris Simpkins, played by Kate Winslet (Finding Neverland, Revolutionary Road), was shocked when the man she loved became engaged to another woman. As if they were following my advice, the two women were pushed to the brink and had to make a change. While looking online for ideas on where to take a vacation, Amanda discovered a home exchange vacation website. And the house she chose to exchange with was Iris’ home in England, far away from her LA place. But the online pictures did not show the women what type of extra amenities could be found in their new locations. I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Though the story was easy to figure out, with very few surprises; I thought the acting and directing was exceptionally good. Jude Law (Repo Men, Sleuth) did exceedingly well in his role as Graham, Iris’ brother. What gave this movie extra punch for me was the secondary story about old time Hollywood. Maybe you and I don’t have the luxury to take a swapping house vacation, to get away from a broken heart; but, this appealing movie certainly would provide a respite, giving the heart some needed nourishment.
2 3/4 stars — DVD