LIKE MANY OTHERS, I TOO SUCCUMBED to the allure of the recent lottery buzz. I find it one of the cheapest fantasies, simply with a two-dollar purchase price. There was so much coverage in the newspapers, television broadcasts and online news sources about it being one of the largest pots in lottery history, that I wanted to be part of the craze. After I made my purchase, I kept fantasizing about what I would do with the winnings. Surprisingly for that much money I did not have that much on my wealthy life to do list. The first thing I decided I would do is to buy a car, despite financial columnists saying now is not a good time. Next, I would buy a home in a warm climate; a place I could go to during the winter months. There is not that much I want or desire after that except to travel. So, with my $2.00 lottery ticket in hand, I joined everyone else who was hoping their ticket would be the winner. The suspense, and it was a good suspense, was building up as the drawing neared; I was all into my fantasies. By the time of the drawing, the suspense was overwhelming because of my mind being filled with imaginary houses on the market for me to peruse. SADLY, THE NUMBERS I WAS READING from the lottery site were not on my ticket. My dreams shattered, just like that. There would be no new car or new home, oh well. As far as I was concerned it was still a wonderful week of suspenseful fun. There are different forms of suspense, and I would partake with this kind any day. It certainly is better than the suspense one experiences before going under for surgery or the kind associated with what one hopes will be the delivery of a healthy baby. I believe each of us has experienced a form of suspense. The suspenseful anticipation of waiting for a loved one to come out on stage for a performance or the suspense one endures during a live auction; I feel they all are valid forms. As most of you know, horror films are not the first on my list to attend. I prefer the kind of horror that has suspense and is psychological. When I first saw the movie poster for this film, I was curious because the face reminded me of an old film that I enjoyed, where the main character had a similar mask. Deciding to see it, hoping it was not going to be gruesome, I cannot tell you how surprised I was watching it. YOUNG CHILDREN ARE GOING MISSING AND the police have very few leads. The latest victim wakes up in an empty room with a disconnected phone that still rings. Should he answer it? With Mason Thames (Walker-TV, For All Mankind-TV) as Finney, Madeleine McGraw (American Sniper, Outcast-TV) as Gwen, Ethan Hawke (The Northman, The Kid) as the Grabber, Jeremy Davies (Twister, Saving Private Ryan) as Terrence and E. Roger Mitchell (Favorite Son, The 5th Wave) as Detective Wright; this film checked off all my boxes for pure entertainment. I thought Mason and Madeleine were wonderful. Part horror, part mystery and part fantasy; the suspense level was steady and consistent due to a smart script. Aiding the suspense level was this constant sense of dread that the director expertly managed. Ethan was as good as the other cast members, but I felt his character could have been darker. I was relieved there were only a couple of short, bloody scenes with violence. During the ending credits, I sat in my chair and thought if there was any other movie this year that moved me as much as this one. None came to mind, but I certainly will not forget how much I enjoyed watching this one.
3 1/3 stars
I COULD NOT IMAGINE WHAT THE COMPANY did to him that would make him seek revenge. Most of my interactions with him were pleasant and non-confrontational; he was a salesperson after all. If I were to base my opinion on material things, I would say he was making a good living selling the company’s products. He was always fashionably dressed; I cannot recall him ever wearing anything that appeared old or worn. Both his and his wife’s cars were always new and sporty; I think he traded in his cars every other year. Also, I remember him showing me vacation pictures from time to time. So yes, I believed he was successful at his job. There was no indication of his scheming to get back at the company. I did not learn of his misdeeds until after he was fired. If there were any other actions brought against him, I was not aware. It turns out he was either running a clever ruse or the company’s protocols left much to be desired. It turns out he was having the company set up what they believed were new accounts. However, most of them were friends/acquaintances of his or post office boxes he was setting up himself. His “customer” orders were turned in after he changed the prices on the products, getting the items below cost. Once the product shipped, he would arrange to receive them at these various locations. Since all his orders were marked prepaid, he would turn in cash for them. UNBEKNOWNST TO THE COMPANY, HE WAS renting storage space at various locations. The way I heard how the story went was a fellow employee found a posting on a social media site that showed one of our products. After investigating further, this employee discovered our products were being sold for a cheaper price than what we could sell them for. Essentially, he was stealing from the company by lowering the cost of all the products he was buying from us under an alias, then putting them up for sale on several internet sites. Every sale had a huge markup which he pocketed for himself. I also heard he tried stealing a customer master list from us, but he was caught with it and tried making excuses on why he wanted to take it home. As I mentioned earlier, if the company pressed charges against him, I was not told. All I knew is he had damaged the company’s name by stealing from them. Oh, and I heard once he sold the product, he was never available to offer any type of customer service to his buyers. Too bad I could not find out his reasons as clearly as the ones that were laid out in this action, adventure film. A VIKING PRINCE SPENDS YEARS PREPARING to avenge his father’s death that he witnessed as a young boy. His rage is what kept him warm. With Alexander Skarsgard (The Kill Team, The Hummingbird Project) as Amleth, Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos, The Prom) as Queen Gudrun, Claes Bang (The Square, The Last Vermeer) as Fjolnir the Brotherless, Ethan Hawke (Tesla, The Kid) as King Aurvandil War-Raven and Anya Taylor-Joy (The New Mutants, The Queen’s Gambit-TV) as Olga of the Birch Forest; this drama was beautiful to watch despite all the blood and violence. I thought the cast was excellent and well suited to their roles; however, I could not figure out what this film wanted to be. It was part fantasy, part Game of Thrones and part folklore; it was distracting. The story was not that unusual. If it were not for the cast and filming, I would have been bored and uncomfortable having to sit through all the cringe-worthy scenes. In my opinion, the script needed to be more refined in its ability to tell an exciting, dramatic story. Using this film as a reference point, the couple of times where I was revengeful were nothing compared to the intensity displayed in this picture.
2 ½ stars
HIS PHOTOGRAPH WAS PROMINENTLY DISPLAYED ON one of the banners in the hotel’s convention center. There were also photos of him in the members’ welcome booklets, along with a bio about his achievements. In the aerobic world he had achieved a level of popularity akin to a rock star. I was able to sign up for only one of his numerous workshops at the convention. There must have been a cancellation I figured because the rest of his classes filled up immediately according to one of the volunteers monitoring the ballroom. From the articles that were published in my fitness magazines, he seemed like a fun guy who had a strong sense of humor. As I looked around the room at the other participants I noticed many of them already had his DVD’s and other branded merchandise that were being sold down at the aerobic marketplace. This was a place put up in the convention center where a variety of vendors could set up booths and sell their latest fitness products to the participants. A woman walked up onto the stage at one end of the ballroom, to announce his name. She had only gotten out his first and last name before the audience cheered wildly for him. I almost felt like I was sitting in the middle of a cult. I HAVE TO SAY IT WAS AN excellent workshop he presented to us. There wasn’t anyone around me who was not covered in sweat. I toweled off as best as I could in the room, packed up my stuff and headed out to find somewhere to eat in the convention center. There was a coffee shop I found that would work for me, so I went in and let the hostess seat me. Once I ordered food, it came to the table quickly. It was when I was halfway through eating that I saw that same presenter from earlier coming into the restaurant. He looked around the room until he saw me then nodded. I was stunned; how in the world did he recognize me, let alone see me in the middle of a mass of people? He walked over to me and introduced himself. I told him I had just taken his workshop. He smiled and asked if he could join me; I said absolutely. Putting his soft drink cup down on the table, he sat down across from me. The conversation was easy as we both shared aerobic class stories. However, as he was talking he took a flask out of his gym bag and poured out the liquid from it into his drink. I could smell it was alcohol. By the time I finished my meal he was giddy and talking nonsense. Evidently this was not his first drink. To say I was shocked would be an understatement; I wondered if he had any other workshops to teach later. Here I had this image of him based on what I read about him, but this was someone completely different from my thoughts. The young boy in this western drama went through a similar experience. HAVING HEARD AND SEEN SO MUCH written about Billy the Kid, played by Dane DeHaan (A Cure for Wellness, Kill Your Darlings); a young boy could not believe the person he met could have done all those things being said about him. With Chris Pratt (Passengers, Guardian of the Galaxy franchise) as Grant Cutler, Ethan Hawke (First Reformed; Juliet, Naked) as Pat Garrett, Leila George (Mortal Engines; Mother, May I Sleep with Danger-TV movie) as Sara and Vincent D’Onofrio (The Cell, Ed Wood) as Sheriff Romero; I enjoyed the perspective used to tell this story. The acting was good for the most part, but I did not feel there was much connection between the characters if that makes sense. Ethan was in top form having been on a strong streak with movie roles; his acting keeps getting better with each film he has been in. What caused me to lose my interest was the script; the first half was better than the last. The components of the script had all been done before, so there were no surprises here. I felt little emotion being generated in the 2nd part which attributed to my mind wandering. I understand this movie can be viewed online already; which I have felt means the studio knows what they have on their hands, so they try to keep up appearances.
I WAS RECENTLY TOLD ABOUT A man who came home one day to find a note left by his wife on the kitchen table. Written on the piece of paper were the words, “I can’t do this anymore.” That is all that she had written. He looked around the room and everything seemed to be in its place. After checking the rooms on the first floor of their house he nervously walked upstairs to the bedrooms. Each one was empty; he could not understand what was going on. The only clue that was provided to him was the closet door in their bedroom was ajar. He walked over to it and saw some of her clothes were hanging up, but there were a lot of empty hangers on the clothes rack. She must have left he thought, so he walked out of the bedroom to check the utility closet where they kept their luggage stored and saw a piece was missing. His mind simply went numb; he had no idea why his wife suddenly picked up and left him. He tried calling her cell phone, but a recorded message said it was now an invalid number. This was just crazy he thought; there was no sign or even discussions about being unhappy in their 22 years of marriage. He had no idea how he was going to tell his two adult children that their mother had disappeared. THE STORY I JUST TOLD YOU actually took place and in case you were wondering the wife eventually did call her husband to apologize for leaving him that way. However, she did want a divorce. When this story was told to me I could not believe someone who had been married for all those years could do such a thing to their spouse. There is nothing worse than not getting an explanation for someone’s actions. What I was curious about was why the wife waited so many years to make a change. I did not think she just suddenly became unhappy in the relationship, right? Wouldn’t you have thought if she was unhappy she would talk to her husband or at least a therapist at some point, instead of staying married for all those years? There was a term a professor of mine used to use in my college sociology class; it was “holy deadlock.” It meant the couple stayed together for financial or religious reasons as an example despite not wanting to be in the relationship. This dramatic comedy can show you an example of it. WHAT STARTED OUT AS AN EMAIL became the catalyst for what Annie, played by Rose Byrne (Peter Rabbit, This is Where I Leave You), had been missing for a long time. This film festival nominee also starred Ethan Hawke (First Reformed, Maudie) as Tucker Crowe, Chris O’Dowd (Molly’s Game, The Program) as Duncan, Jimmy O. Yang (Crazy Rich Asians, Patriots Day) as Elliot and Azhy Robertson (Furlough, The Americans-TV) as Jackson. What set this romantic comedy apart from others I have seen was the script. The usual silly jokes and stereotypical situations were not included; the writers let the actors play in the real world. I thought the acting between Rose an Ethan was honest and real, a bit magical in fact. Add in Chris’ great sense of timing and facial expressions and the three of them were wonderful to watch. Now there were some parts of the movie that dragged slightly for me, along with a couple of scenes that seems uncompleted; however, it was a pleasure to witness people dealing with what life had to give them. This movie spoke to me and I appreciated it.
EVERY TIME I BUY A newspaper I believe I am doing my part in preventing the publisher from shutting down. I know it is a fallacy, but I have to believe it is true. The convenience store used to have their racks full of newspapers; now if I do not get there early enough the few papers they do get are already gone. It makes me sad because I prefer reading a newspaper instead of looking at an electronic screen. So, I want to believe my little contribution will help sustain newspapers through my lifetime. I have a similar belief when it comes to my personal banking. There is no way I want a debit card; it is that simple. Yet anytime I need to use a teller the first thing they ask me is to swipe my debit card. When I say I do not have one they give me this look as if I am a much older version of a Rip Van Winkle character. I want to believe that I am not alone, that there are others like me who prefer doing their banking the old-fashioned way and by that, I mean the banks still need to keep their branches open with tellers. WHEN IT COMES TO BELIEFS I believe I am not alone; each of us has a set of beliefs. The ones I just mentioned are not based on any facts which fits into the definition of belief. It is a state of mind where a person thinks something is true despite having evidence to prove it. For me my beliefs are based in feelings, not facts. An example would be the route I take to work. I believe it is the fastest way to get to my office; however, if someone shows me a different way that is faster, then I will no longer believe my route is the fastest. Remember there was a time where people believed the earth was flat; it took science to show them that was not the case. I consider beliefs to be multifaceted; some people refer to them as opinions, others define them as faith. It seems to me beliefs assist us in finding order in the world or put another way, they help explain the world around us. This does not mean I expect others to have the same beliefs; in fact, I would be offended if someone tried to foist their beliefs onto me. They are a personal matter as far as I am concerned. To see how beliefs can affect a person, feel free to watch this film festival winning, dramatic thriller. IN THE MIDDLE OF PREPARATIONS for his church’s celebration Reverend Ernst Toller, played by Ethan Hawke (Born to Be Alive, The Magnificent Seven), experiences a crisis of faith. With Amanda Seyfried (The Big Wedding, Dear John) as Mary, Cedric the Entertainer (Larry Crowne, Barbershop franchise) as Reverend Joel Jeffers and Victoria Hill (December Boys, Macbeth) as Esther; this thought provoking movie posed a variety of topical issues. Written and directed by Paul Schrader (Raging Bull, The Walker), I found the acting to be excellent. Not in a flowery or over the top type of way, but simply an adult driven script that infused the characters with realness. I felt the way the picture was filmed complimented the script, set in upstate New York, beautifully. My major complaint about this movie concerned the lead up to the ending. I did not like the element of fantasy that was introduced nor the way the story ended. It was a letdown for me because I believed the script was going to maintain a consistent flow to its conclusion. You might think differently because you have a different set of beliefs and that is okay.
SITTING in the waiting room there was a woman near me who was feverishly knitting. I could not tell what she was making but I was fascinated with the dexterity of her fingers; they looked like spider legs that were spinning silk into a massive web. Normally I would not have paid much attention to her since I know many people who take their knitting with to work on pieces when they have free time. There was something different about her though; her pace I can only say was caffeinated. However I noticed one of her legs was deliberately shaking up and down, like a mini pneumatic power jack. This is something I do when I have excess energy but I also know people do it when they are nervous or anxious. To tell you the truth she did not look relaxed at all; there was an intensity about the way she sat in her chair and there were no clues on her face telling me she was relaxed. I do not know maybe knitting was her therapy; it was a valid point. HOWEVER a person deals with stress is their business; I give them credit for finding an outlet to eliminate it as best as they can from their body and mind. When I had access to a piano it was my “go to” place whenever I was troubled or under stress. Creating music was a soothing experience where I could get lost and forget the reality I was experiencing. I would assume almost every person has some outlet that provides them a peaceful place. For some it may be participating in or watching sports programs, others may take long walks. Teaching yoga these past years has provided me another outlet where I can experience calmness. That is the key when it comes to disconnecting the mind from a stressful situation; one has to focus on the thing they love and stick with it. It is because of that I found myself intently following the story in this film festival winning movie based on a true story. MAUD Lewis, played by Sally Hawkins (A Brilliant Young Mind, Blue Jasmine), loved to paint. No matter what anyone thought or did to her, her painting brought her comfort. No one thought much of her work except one person. This biographical romantic drama had a pure beautiful story. With Ethan Hawke (The Magnificent Seven, Training Day) as Everett Lewis, Kari Matchett (Civic Duty, Cypher) as Sandra, Gabrielle Rose (A Dog’s Purpose, The Sweet Hereafter) as Aunt Ida and Zachary Bennett (Hacker, Jack) as Charles Dowley; the acting between Sally and Ethan has to be seen to be believed. Sally was incredible and deserves to be nominated for a film award. I never heard of Maud Lewis but I absolutely enjoyed the arc to this film’s story. The depth and the transformations displayed by the characters kept me engaged throughout the picture. Set in Nova Scotia, I thought the natural beauty of the landscapes created wonderful opportunities for the filming process. Simple scenes were still able to convey emotions clearly. I did wish the writers had provided a little more background information for Maud and Everett, particularly Everett because I was not sure what was motivating his emotions in the early parts of the story. However this was a mild concern. The human character is amazing and seeing what a person can create out of troubling situations is a beautiful feat.
It only takes a few minutes after the alarm goes off before the sense of dread awakens inside of you. With a heaviness that weighs you down, you would think it would be thick enough to fend off any physical blows. Sadly it does not prevent it. When you are living with dread, you really have no idea how much energy it takes away from you. Like a straw continuously seeking out the last drops of a bottomless glass, dread constantly makes it presence known no matter what you are doing to distract yourself from it. Unfortunately I know too well what I speak of; dread was my unwanted friend for an entire school year. My daily walk to school was devoted to planning out what escape routes I would use for the day. One never wanted to be caught navigating the same route each day because it could provide for an easy ambush. Bathrooms were always avoided between class times. Instead I would either ask for a hall pass during the class or wait for a free period; I had to wait for a time when it would be less likely anyone would be lying in wait for me. Unless you have been bullied, you may not understand what it feels like to always be on the defensive throughout the day. I was not the only one who was targeted and that was something I never understood. The general population, whether it is in a school or a town, is usually so much larger than the bully and their cohorts; yet the masses rarely band together to stop the bully. At least that has been my experiences. It was hopeful to see that was not the case in this action western remake of a classic film. DETERMINED to take over the entire town Bartholomew Bogue, played by Peter Sarsgaard (Orphan, Jarhead), gave the townsfolk an ultimatum. One citizen, a recent widow due to Bartholomew, was willing to fight for her land; but she needed help. Starring Denzel Washington (The Equalizer, Training Day) as Chisolm, Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World) as Josh Faraday and Ethan Hawke (Born to be Blue, Good Kill) as Goodnight Robicheaux; the only actors who stood out for me were Ethan, Chris and Peter. I thought Denzel was a generic version of the character, not quite believable. The filming of this movie was the highlight; the outdoor scenes were the best. As for the action scenes some really popped out with intensity while others seemed scattered and all over the place. I really felt the script was what prevented this picture from achieving its lofty goals. The reason I say lofty is because it was obvious everyone involved was trying to make this a modern classic, even taking on the original music during the ending credits. Unfortunately it did not work; overall this film production was uneven. There were parts I could get into but then other times I found them bland. Also this movie was way too long; it could have used some extra editing. I am sure the film studio wants this picture to punch its way to the top of the box office charts; however, I do not think the other movies will let it stay there.
2 ½ stars
No matter how hard one tries to plan things out, life is always the ultimate decider. Take it from someone who does his best to plan everything to the minute (people can set their watches by me); life has a way of saying, “Not so fast there, here is something you can deal with first.” As I get older I am finally learning to let go and as they say, “Go with the flow.” This reminds me of a woman I knew who was married with 2 children. I met her husband only once or twice, but really did not know much about him since she rarely talked about him. They had been married for years and were quite settled as they were heading towards their senior years. According to her it came out of nowhere; her husband filed for divorce. She told me he did not want to be with her anymore; there was no other reason given for his decision. She was devastated by it. Here she thought she had most of her life planned out with her husband and now, as she would constantly say, she was alone. I told her that was not true; besides her children and friends, she may want to look at her situation as a place where she could redefine herself. Of course, I waited awhile before I expressed these thoughts at a time where I thought she would be more receptive to hearing them. And do you want to know something? She branched out and started trying new activities and meet up groups, where she eventually met someone who was as passionate as she was about dancing. They started going together to see ballet performances and enrolled in several dance classes; it was such a hoot to hear about this from her. She was happier than she had ever been before. Isn’t it funny how your version of life may not be what is in store for you? MAGGIE, played by Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha, Mistress America), had everything planned out it to become a single parent. That is until she met John, played by Ethan Hawke (Born to be Blue, Good Kill). This film festival nominated comedic drama had a wonderful cast of actors. Along with Greta and Ethan there was Julianne Moore (Seventh Son, Still Alice) as Georgette and Bill Hader (They Came Together, Trainwreck) as Tony; each one made their role memorable, but I have to say Greta was incredible. I found this romantic story to be intelligent and quirky at the same time. It had adult conversation coming from messed up people, making them more real to me. There were a few scenes that I felt did not work, besides one story line that seemed odd to me. It is not easy to blend comedy and drama but the script pulled it off; the humor was more of an amusement level than a laugh out loud one. For me this film simply felt like a slice of life, where I could just sit and watch someone else’s drama without feeling like I needed to participate and be supportive.
Addiction is defined as an unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something. When I hear the word addicted or addiction I immediately think of something harmful like drugs or alcohol. It would never occur to me to think of something that could be detrimental to a person. However, if I think about the above definition what would you say about a person who grew up only wanting to do one activity; let us say running or shopping. Now I knew someone who would get at least one package every day delivered to their house for things they would purchase online; can you imagine? There was one room of the house that you could barely see the walls because the boxes were stacked so high. Would you say this person was addicted to shopping? My answer would be yes. Maybe I am not the one to talk about this since some of my friends think I am addicted to movie watching; like that is a bad thing if it were true? But seriously, I wonder what takes place in an individual to sway them to a particular activity if they already have a predisposition to addiction. I do not know why but after seeing this movie I started thinking about different activities and you know, there are so many ways you can consider them being an addiction. If I remember correctly there was a news report about a person who was addicted to plastic surgery. They had gone through at least a dozen different procedures for different parts of their body and face. I cannot fathom it let alone what the cost must have been. It is a curious subject that plays out in this movie. THIS film festival nominated drama was about jazz musician Chet Baker, played by Ethan Hawke (Training Day, Good Kill). Also starring Carmen Ejogo (Selma, Pride and Glory) as Jane/Elaine and Callum Keith Rennie (The Butterfly Effect, Fifty Shades of Grey) as Dick, I thought the acting was quite good. I had no idea Ethan could sing or play the trumpet; but if not him, he certainly was convincing to me. Set in the 1960s this film had a real retro look for the era and I admired the way it was filmed. The script moved back and forth between different years of Chet’s life; since I am not familiar with him, I did not mind the switches. Also, I enjoyed listening to the soundtrack besides witnessing his place in music history. Due to the coincidence of this being my 2nd musical film this week, there is a tendency to compare the two. I have to say both films had excellent acting, but I felt more engaged to this film. Hopefully I am not biased because I am more familiar with jazz music then country. I think this story was more authentic and had a film style that better matched the music genre. You may not get addicted to the story or music but there was enough here to keep you interested about his life.
I always watch the way their fingers move like spider’s legs weaving a web. There is a rhythm to it that is not familiar to me. These fingers always belong to a younger person, even those all the way down to 5 year olds. When I see them playing their video games my focus is more on their dexterity than the actual game, especially if the game is filled with guns and violence. I see enough of that in our everyday life. This is the reason why I will not teach any aerobic classes that involve punching and kicking, with titles like aerobic combat or fitness war. I have seen enough people playing video games that I sit and marvel how we created this whole new generation of humans who have this incredible eye and hand coordination; besides video games, where else could they apply this skill? My years of playing piano have given me a certain control over my fingers, but I do not come close to those individuals referred to as gamers. There is one aspect of the video game experience that I am curious about that concerns the long term effects of playing violent games. Will a person become less shocked or even oblivious to seeing violence? Seeing war footage from the various news services, will it only be perceived in a video game context? These are things I think about and this movie could be used as an example for it. AFTER serving several tours of duty as an air force pilot Major Thomas Egan, played by Ethan Hawke (Boyhood, Training Day), found himself sitting in a metal box looking at a video screen all day as a drone pilot. As the level of targets increased something was starting to eat away at his conscience. This film festival nominee was a chilling thriller. I was riveted to the movie screen because I could not tell if I was watching reenacted or real military scenes. The cast which also included January Jones (Unknown, Mad Men-TV) as Molly Egan, Zoe Kravitz (Divergent franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road) as airman Vera Suarez and Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek franchise, Deja Vu) as Lt. Colonel Jack Johns only added to the dramatic tension throughout this film. There was some predictability to the story which slowed the pace down; however, I found Ethan’s performance exceptional enough to power through any of the negatives I had about the script. I really was stunned or maybe I should say enlightened by this whole other world filled with drones. It really gave me food for thought, where I had to wonder what qualifications were needed to become a drone pilot. Do you think military experience will be necessary or will it be more important for the person applying to list gamer on their resume?