PLANS HAD BEEN FINALIZED several weeks before the event. Schedules were coordinated to make sure everyone was available to spend the weekend together. The kids only cared about getting to the amusement park to see some of their favorite television and toy characters. Commercials that showed the things one could do at the park were a constant companion to the children’s television shows. Anytime the TV was on it would only be a matter of minutes before one could hear the famous jingle and tagline for the amusement park. For the weeks leading up to the big day, the siblings and cousins could not stop talking about what rides they wanted to go on first or who they wanted to see. Every night when going to bed each child asked their parents how many more days were left before they would be there. The week of the trip had finally arrived to a changed landscape. UNFORTUNATELY A COUPLE OF the kids got sick and two of the parents could not leave their offices, due to an important schedule change with clients that they needed to address. All of the kids were devastated with the news the trip had to be cancelled. Some of the younger children were sobbing uncontrollably. The adults talked among themselves and finally came up with a solution they hoped would appease or at least calm the children down. Once everyone was healthy they would all get together and take a day trip to the local amusement park. This park had characters walking around like the other amusement park but they were more of a generic nature. One could say they were akin to being the supporting cast or distant relatives to the well known characters. The rides were fun for the kids but they involved random animated creatures the children had never heard of before. Where the initial trip involved an entire weekend to see the entire park, this amusement park was small enough to be easily covered all in one day. The children had a good time but their memories of the day soon faded away. I felt the same way about this action, adventure fantasy. RECENT SIGHTINGS SHOWED A new evil force was descending on the planet; a force that Batman, played by Ben Affleck (The Accountant, Gone Girl), realized he would not be able to handle by himself. Joining forces with Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot (Keeping up with the Joneses, Wonder Woman), the two did not know if there would be enough time to create a formable match for the destructive power wreaking havoc across the land. With Ezra Miller (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as The Flash, Jason Momoa (Conan the Barbarian, Game of Thrones-TV) as Aquaman and Ray Fisher (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) as Cyborg; I thought the only actor who stood out was Ezra. However his character’s personality reminded me of the recent Spiderman reboot. I felt Batman was the mentor for The Flash like Iron Man was for Spiderman. The script for this film was bland to the point where it seemed all everyone was doing was some action scene. And speaking of action I thought the CGI was poorly done compared to other “superhero” movies that have recently come out. And my biggest complaint was the villain in this story; he was so special effected that he did not come across as evil enough. The villain needed to be dominant and evil in this type of picture. I felt I was watching a B movie; okay fun but nothing special. There were 2 extra scenes in the middle and end of the credits.
2 1/3 stars
HAVE you ever met someone and there was an immediate, familiar comfort between the two of you? There was very little or none at all the two of you knew about each other, yet you would listen to what they had to say and you had the sense you knew about it already. This recently happened to me. I only knew a few details about the person before our scheduled meeting. Introductions were made and as we sat down we started up a conversation that was void of any silent moments. Each of us found a rhythm to our speech that was open and real as if we had been friends for years. THE same feeling can be found between long term friends who have been out of touch for a long duration. You must have experienced it at some time I would think. I have a few friends who live out of state. One in particular I had not seen for several years; however, when we finally got together it was as if no significant duration of time every happened between us. We started right up where we left off our previous time as if we had seen each other a few days ago. In situations like this I tend to feel a warm familial connection to the person. Now here is the funny thing, I had this type of reaction to seeing this adventure family film. Being a big fan of the Harry Potter books and movies, I immediately formed a connection to this story that takes place 70 years before Harry Potter arrived in the magical world. ARRIVING in New York City to seek out a particular magical creature Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl, The Theory of Everything), was waylaid by a No-Maj (American for Muggle) who mistakenly wound up with Newt’s suitcase filled with magical creatures. This family movie did not disappoint with the abundance of magical special effects. Set in the 1920s I thoroughly enjoyed the sets and costumes. With Dan Fogler (Fanboys, The Goldbergs-TV) as Kowalski, Colin Farrell (The Lobster, Total Recall) as Graves, Katherine Waterson (Inherent Vice, Steve Jobs) as Tina and Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk about Kevin, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as Credence Barebone; I thought the actors were good with their characters but had no chemistry between each other. Between the script and the directing, I found the movie on a whole a bit stagnant in some places. It went from a slow pace to a frantic action scene causing an unevenness in the pacing. From what I heard I understand this will be the 1st of 5 films, so I understood this movie would be more of an introduction to all the new characters. In addition, it was very hard not to compare this picture to the Harry Potter movies. This may sound odd but I found several characters were lacking personality; I could not tell you much about them. However with me having an immediate connection to the magical world depicted here the flaws in this film were smoothed over.
2 3/4 stars
Labels on products have more meaning to me than labels for humans. When I hear people making introductions, adding the label of the person’s profession, I wonder why it is important that we know what the person does for a living. A couple of examples would be, “This is my husband Aaron, the doctor.” or “Let me introduce you to my girlfriend Emily, the lawyer.” What a person does for a living carries very little weight for me when it comes to what I think of a person. Yet I know there are some people who hunger to reach a certain status established in their mind, so they can feel successful. There was this person I used to know who would only date individuals from a specific list of professions. I would argue with them, trying to force them to look at how their love had conditions on it; bit it did not matter, my words fell on deaf ears. Maybe there is something wrong with me because I do not factor in monetary amounts when I am assessing a person’s character. A wealthy person for me would be one who is charitable, has long term friendships, is kind, has empathy; I could go on with my checklist if I had the time here. But the point I am trying to make is this, you could be with a rich successful accountant who cheats on you or a CFO who is a racist. I do not see that as being a wealthy person. MARRYING town doctor Charles Bovary, played by Henry Lloyd-Hughes (Anna Karenina, Dimensions), was the start of what Emma, played by Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland), hoped would be the wealthy life she deserved. How long could one be content however when there was no limit on when they would finally feel rich? This dramatic period piece’s landscape was filled with beautiful shots of the countryside mixed with authentic reminders of the era. The star of this film was Mia; she had a strong screen presence with a face that easily conveyed emotions. Included in the cast was Paul Giamatti (San Andreas, Love & Misery) as Monsieur Homais and Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, We Need to Talk About Kevin) as Leon Dupuis; both had the ability to do a powerful performance but the script did not allow it. This film dragged miserably for me. I also found Mia’s character strange; for the time frame I could not believe her character’s actions which appeared to be easily made. The book I am sure provided more emotional layers to her that were lacking here on screen. This movie had all the trappings to be a rich dramatic story, sadly it did not succeed.
1 3/4 stars
With wide open eyes that look almost too big for their head and their body shivering, how can one not feel sorry for their skittish pet? There are some pets that are afraid of lightning and thunder while others get freaked out by a running vacuum cleaner. All one can do is hold and comfort their scared pet if they let them. In the human species there are some people who have a predisposition to be easily scared or high-strung. They get frightened being a passenger in a car. I am sure there are times where they have a legitimate reason to jump in their seat; but sometimes it is just a different style of driving from their way. I tend to be a quiet walker and I am always amazed when I walk up to an employee. If they did not see of hear me they jump with a start. I always wonder who they think would be coming into their office in the middle of our department. Lastly there are some individuals who fall into the intense or high maintenance category. Now there is a difference between the two; with intense people one has to exert effort to try and maintain the relationship, to keep it satisfying for both parties. As for people who are high-strung, one needs only to accept and love them. In this Sundance Film Festival winning movie, it will take a whole lot of love and patience to maintain a civil relationship with this intense family. Ellen Barkin (Sea of Love, Ocean’s Thirteen) played high-strung Lynn who was traveling with her family to the Annapolis home of her parents Doris and Joe Baker, played by Ellen Burstyn (The Exorcist, The Fountain) and George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke, Naked Gun franchise). The occasion was to attend her estranged son’s wedding who was raised by Lynn’s ex-husband Paul, played by Thomas Haden Church (Sideways, Easy A) and his 2nd wife Patty, played by Demi Moore (Ghost, Margin Call). Mix in dysfunctional relatives, money, addiction, hurt feelings and what could possibly go wrong? I really enjoyed this comedic drama in the beginning. The cast was excellent and Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Perks of Being a Wallflower), who has cornered the market in playing a teenager in distress, played Lynn’s addictive son Elliot. As the movie played out I felt overloaded by the yelling and crying to the point I lost interest in the characters. It was too much which is exactly what I say when having to deal with someone who is high maintenance.
2 stars — DVD
It is impossible to control those things that are out of our control. This took me a long time to learn, yet periodically I still try. I came to this realization when I started my yoga studies. Prior to them, each morning I would get angry while I was stuck in traffic on the way to work. There was nothing I could do about it, though I did come up with some creative ideas on how to eliminate the cars around me. From my studies I finally made the connection that day after day I was using up my energy to get angry at something that was out of my control. I still sit in traffic every day but I stay relaxed, listening to music now. In this dramedy we got an honest portrayal of the daily challenges in a family’s life. Liev Schreiber (Salt, Defiance) and Helen Hunt (The Sessions, Twister) played married couple Ned and Jeanne. The two began to experience their daily lives veering out of control when Jeanne’s cantankerous father Ernie, played by Brian Dennehy (First Blood, Romeo + Juliet), came to live with them. At the same time their gay son Jonah, played by Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Perks of Being a Wallflower), announced he wanted to attend the school’s prom. I thought the fine acting sold the majority of the multiple story lines. What did not work for me was Ned’s office. His boss Garrett’s, played by Eddie Izzard (Ocean’s Thirteen, The Cat’s Meow), extreme requests seemed too outrageous. If Eddie’s character was supposed to represent a commentary on reality television, it was lost on me. The topics of elder care and acceptance would have been enough to make a strong story. Adding the other issues, though valid in the real world, only bogged down the pacing in this film. In addition, I believe this caused the ending to be weak. I would have preferred the writers took a couple of issues and dug deeper into them. The movie kept my interest; there was no need to get angry over its flaws. Besides, there was nothing I could do about it anyway.
2 1/3 stars — DVD
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
I’m not a parent but know I would be a “tough love” type of Dad. I do not understand those parents who let their children run wild in a store or restaurant. And don’t get me started on the ones that bring their underage kids to an R rated movie–I am talking like a 6 or 7 year old! But what do you do if it turns out you do not like your child? The Kevin in this movie would really test a parent’s love. This intense film was too much for me to watch all the way through; I had to take a break from it. Since birth it appeared Kevin and his mother Eva Khatchadourian, played by Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton, Adaptation) never got along. Or maybe they just did not like each other. Tilda was extraordinary in this challenging role. As the teenage Kevin, Ezra Miller (Another Happy Day, City Island) not only looked like he was Eva/Tilda’s son, but his acting was just as remarkable. Playing the father Franklin, John C. Reilly (Cedar Rapids, The Promotion) was reduced to a minor character compared to the mother and son. I did not care for the direction, finding the use of flashbacks annoying. There were times I was trying to figure out why something was taking place. If you were to ask me if I enjoyed watching this movie, I would have to say no, not really. I wanted to see the acting since Ms Swinton was Oscar nominated. And yet, maybe this was a good film since it elicited a strong response in me. I have one other question I would like to ask: Should a parent be held responsible if their child grows up to be a sociopath?
3 stars — DVD