IT WAS ALREADY A SAD AFFAIR and now I was back to repeat it, except I would be giving a eulogy. My friend’s significant other had died from a debilitating health condition. I had always heard a parent never wants to bury their child and here both parents along with their remaining children were sitting in front of their child’s casket. My friend was sitting with the siblings. The receiving line was long; I was halfway back away from the seated group of mourners. As I slowly made my way up to them, I occasionally heard a sob or soft whimper rise from out of the family members. Reaching the front of the line, I introduced myself and gave my condolences to the first of the mourners. When I came up to my friend we hugged while they gently cried on my shoulder. Once they were able to calm themself, they thanked me for coming. I tried to offer words of comfort before I had to continue moving forward, to finish offering my sympathy and finding a seat. These types of services are never good to begin with and I found this one especially hard because of the relatively young age of the deceased. It is more of a shock to me, for some reason. SEVEN DAYS AFTER THE BURIAL, I received a phone call that my friend was found dead in their home. It was such a blow to me that I had a hard time comprehending the news. I had not even processed the previous funeral and now a week later there was to be another one? The past week I had been checking in to see how my friend was holding up; they were having a horrible time of it. Hearing this latest news, the only thing I could think of was the fact they were no longer suffering over their loss. However, how would the family endure another sadness so soon, I wondered? For this funeral, I was asked to give a eulogy. A eulogy? I was too young to be dealing with a eulogy for my friend. The pain I was feeling over both deaths was suffocating me. I do not know if it was right for me to think this or not, but I felt I now understood what survivors feel when multiple family members die in a crash or crime. It is like layering one sadness over another and another; it is such an awful experience. In a way this is how I felt about the story in this dramatic science fiction fantasy. Maybe I would have felt different if this had come out before the pandemic. WITH EARTH BECOMING INHABITABLE DUE TO a catastrophic event, humans had to leave the surface. One scientist decided to remain behind to try and warn a space crew returning from a space mission. With George Clooney (The Ides of March, The Monuments Men) as Augustine, Felicity Jones (On the Basis of Sex, The Theory of Everything) as Sully, David Oyelowo (A United Kingdom, Selma) as Adewole, newcomer Caoilinn Springall as Iris and Kyle Chandler (First Man, Godzilla: King of the Monsters) as Mitchell; this film had a beautiful crisp look to it. The music, though interesting, tended to become overbearing throughout the story. I was drawn into the story quickly; but as it unfolded, I felt as if I had already watched it in similar past films. There was a lack of intensity which I felt was a mistake because the movie dragged in places. I felt I was watching separate movies based on what was taking place in the story; there needed to be a stronger central theme in my opinion. Besides these issues, I just thought the timing in releasing this film was a poor choice. I already have enough to think about; so, why do I want to add something that could so closely become our new reality?
IF there is something harder I do not know what it could be. To see a loved one not only suffering from a health issue but also totally aware of it is awful to witness. I have always said when a loved one dies suddenly it is harder for those who remain behind; when a loved one dies after a long illness it is harder for them. After seeing someone in pain and anguish for a long duration, for those who were witnessing it, there is a sense of relief at the time of the sufferer’s passing. This has been my experiences as well as the friends and family around me. I remember walking into the hospital room of a loved one and being stunned on how much their face had changed from their disease. The face looked like one of those death masks that one would see on display at a museum, except it was hollowed out at the cheeks and eye sockets; it was just awful. Standing there in the room I thought to myself there is no reason they need to stay alive and suffer so much. I understand there are some people who want to hang on to every extra minute they can get by keeping their dying loved ones alive longer. Please I do not want to upset anyone but I have seen people treat their pets better than their relatives and friends when it comes to ending the suffering. WITH that being said I know I would do everything I could to help a loved one get whatever treatment they needed to extend their life as long as they were not suffering. If it meant learning how to administer pain medicines or get the ill person to therapy sessions, whatever it took I would attempt it. But here is the thing that gets me, what about people who do not have any health insurance or worse they are not able to handle the out of pocket expense? Can you imagine what it must feel like to know there is a treatment out there to help your loved one but the cost was too great? How brutal would that be and here is an example of it in this dramatic action thriller. THE thought of losing his girlfriend Juliette, played by Felicity Jones, was too much to bear for Casey Stein, played by Nicholas Hoult (X-Men franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road). He was willing to do an illegal job to get the money he needed for his girlfriend’s operation. Unfortunately the job did not go as planned. This film had such a competent cast that also included Anthony Hopkins (The Elephant Man, Hitchcock) as Hagen Kahl and Ben Kingsley (Learning to Drive, Schindler’s List) as Geran. Why in the world did these actors sign up for such a mediocre film is beyond me? The story which we have heard before was okay, but the script was so poorly thought out that I sat in my seat and kept thinking how silly the scenes were becoming. At least the chase scenes were exciting, some across Germany’s autobahn, but even after a time I was getting tired seeing so many of them. This picture could have been better if they had written the parts in a more authentic way. In its present form I just wanted to get to a car crash to end everyone’s misery.
1 2/3 stars
SHE/HE is a special kind of friend. Sure he/she can be a confidant, a buddy and a protector; but what makes this type of friend special is the fact you are her/his only friend. Plus, you are the only one who can see this friend. I had such a friend who was everything I described above; he looked almost identical to me except he was thinner and incredibly strong. He was more than a protector; he was a vigilante. Right after an altercation, where I was on the receiving end of some form of violence/bullying, my friend would appear and take swift action against the perpetrators. If I was punched, my friend was ruthless with the revenge he would administer. No one around would even know what was taking place as my friend’s fists would be pummeling the bodies of the people who attacked me. Usually in less than a minute my friend would have knocked each attacker unconscious, battered and bloody. THERE were some individuals who had a similar friend to mine, but theirs was more of a sounding board for any dilemma the person was pondering. I guess you could say they were created to be the person’s conscious who would play the saint role as well as devil’s advocate. These friends provide a valuable service. Speaking for myself my friend did not provide much consoling for me. I knew I was not going to meet violence with actual violence; it was not part of my makeup, plus I knew I would never win. My friend satisfied the desire/need to make a stand and show the bullies I was not passively sitting by and letting them have their way with me. The anger inside of me was funneled into my friend who in his world could get away with everything and pay no consequences. If you would like to see an example then feel free to watch this dramatic fantasy film. WHILE his mother, played by Felicity Jones (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Inferno), was fighting a fatal disease and a bully was picking on him at school Conor, played by Lewis MacDougall (Pan), one day was visited by a monstrous talking tree who had a story to tell him. This film festival winning movie had a wonderful mix of special effects that fit in well with the actors’ scenes; it created a stylish visual narrative. With Sigourney Weaver (The Cold Light of Day, Alien franchise) as the grandmother and Toby Kebbell (Ben-Hur, Fantastic Four) as the Dad, I have to say all the actors were on their “A” game. Lewis was extra special with his role in my opinion. The story was interesting to me because there was one part that was dealing with terminal illness, another part that was focusing on bullying and lastly the fantasy of the talking tree monster. This is not a film for young children; there were many theater patrons at my showing with tears in their eyes due to the heavy subject matter. As a coming of age story this film provided a different spin on it and as a person who had a special friend, I totally identified with Conor’s monster.
I knew I had plans for the day; I just did not have anything confirmed yet with friends. We were going to get together over the weekend. You need to know I am not the type of person who does things spontaneously; I am more of a planner. After several messages back and forth we decided to go to a movie (I never turn that option down) in the afternoon then stop at a friend’s house, who was going to join us for dinner. Our friend was not going to be home until after 5pm, so on the way I decided to stop at a bookstore to kill some time. I found a magazine and a book on the clearance rack before we left for our friend’s place. THERE was a parking space right in front of her apartment building; this was a rare occurrence. Once we were buzzed in at the security gate we made our way to the back of the building’s courtyard to her entrance. My friend was in front of me as we walked up to the 2nd floor apartment. As I crossed the threshold I turned to the left and immediately got greeted with a group of friends shouting, “Surprise!” My friends were surprising me for my birthday. As I told you I am a planner, so you can imagine how stunned I was at this turn of events. They had been planning this for weeks, knowing they had to be careful in orchestrating everything so as not to tip me off. Once all of us were settled down, my friends explained everything they did to make it look like I was actively making plans with them. The details on how they worked to steer me to decisions they needed was genius. I loved hearing all the steps they took in creating this surprise. Little did I know I would feel the same excitement in learning the details of this science fiction movie. WITH the completion of a new massive weapon called the Death Star, it was imperative for the rebel alliance to find a way to steal the schematic plans to the weapon in the hopes of discovering a way to destroy it. Going to this film was an event, simple as that. Everyone in the audience was connected where I could feel the excitement. There was a lot to like about this action adventure story. First there was Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything, Like Crazy) as Jyn Erso; I thought she was great in the role. Other standouts were Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom, The Dark Knight Rises) as Orson Krennic, Diego Luna (The Terminal, Milk) as Cassian Andor and Donnie Yen (Hero, IP Man) as Chirrut Imwe; however, I had wished the script would have given more to Mads Mikkelsen (Doctor Strange, The Hunt) as Galen Erso. Next, the action scenes (there were a lot) were well choreographed and visually exciting. On the negative side I did not feel the cast had the best chemistry amongst themselves; though I understood they were mostly meeting each other for the first time. The music was overpowering and constantly used as a prelude to the upcoming action. Lastly, viewers who are not familiar with Star Wars episodes 4 & 5 would miss out on some of the characters and their significance. The idea for the story was brilliant and it certainly provided a few good surprises along the way.
SEEING the digital clock was less stressful than watching the second hand of a clock dial counting down the seconds. Traffic was unbearable with construction slowdowns and drivers distracted by a car pulled over to the shoulder due to a flat tire. Finally I made it to the airport parking lot only to find out it was full. How was that possible!?!? I was directed to an unmanned remote lot that was automated; where I had to insert my charge card to get in. My irritation was rising since I was already anticipating being stuck at the security lines inside the airport. Finding a parking space at the outskirts of the lot I had to wait for the free shuttle to pick me up and take me to the airport terminal. Time was ticking down and I refused to look at my watch. What would be the point, there was nothing I could do about it. MY years of commuting on public transportation gave me an advantage over the other passengers on the train; I was able to maneuver to the exit door that I remembered would stop right next to the UP escalator. The train came to a halt and the doors slid open. I ran out and quickly made my way to the departure gate area. The lines were not as long as I had expected but I did get stuck behind a family that kept setting off the metal detector, delaying my turn. I knew the airlines shut the doors of the plane before the departure time so I would have to run through the terminal to get to my gate. It was not easy with a heavy backpack and a carry-on bag that had a broken wheel. The sweat on my forehead was trickling down as I reached my gate only to become disappointed; my flight had been cancelled. The way I felt back then was similar to the way I felt watching this sequel. SUFFERING amnesia from a head wound Robert Langdon, played by Tom Hanks (Sully, Bridge of Spies), would have to depend on Dr. Sienna Brooks, played by Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything, Like Crazy), to fill in some of the missing blanks while being chased by a killer. This action adventure film was set in some beautiful locations such as Florence and Venice, Italy. With Ben Foster (Lone Survivor, Hell of High Water) as Bertrand Zobrist and Omar Sy (The Intouchables, Jurassic World) as Christoph Bouchard; I thought the supporting actors were stronger on screen than Tom or Felicity. The reason being there was no chemistry between these two, besides the script offered very little to help them. I have to tell you this crime movie was one long series of chase scenes that had no sense of excitement or drama. The story which was a bit confusing did not offer anything substantial for character development. It was not until the last portion of the film where I felt things were improving. My favorite parts in this movie were the Italian and Turkish settings. With all the time, money and effort put into this film I wonder if the movie studio is experiencing disappointment now.
1 ¾ stars
It must be some type of precise formula where everything has to be exact down to the tiniest millimeter. I have always wondered if there was one factor that outweighed all the others but I never could find an answer. How does one overcome the norm when there is not an example to show them the way? And when I say factors I am talking about things like support, encouragement and self-confidence. One example that comes to mind is the transformation in the work force. Years ago when a person found a job they stayed with it forever. It was almost like a badge of honor to say, “I’ve been with the company for 30 years.” Currently it is surprising for an employee to stay longer than 3-5 years at one company. I know people who think nothing of living in a place for a while then picking up and moving across country; I am not wired to do such a thing. Granted I admire individuals who blaze a new path, so to speak; however, my mind is not wired to handle dramatic changes in my life, at least well. I know it is easier when someone has an example they can use as a blueprint; but it occurs to me, the examples I had in my life were of the negative type. I have learned things by witnessing how not to do them. How crazy is that? At a company I worked at years ago I had to open up the mail every day. The owner used the business address for his personal mail. I remember one day opening up an envelope that contained a $25,000.00 dividend check for stock he owned in a public company. I was stunned since I had no knowledge about stocks and bonds back then. All I could think about was how cool it must have been to get that size check quarterly; it was enough to retire on. That one example pushed me to learn more about stocks and make a difference in my savings plan. Though I was not confident or encouraged to move into stocks, there was something inside of me that pushed me to take a leap of faith. Not even a leap of faith would have helped me in this movie. GROWING up in the small town of Century Junction Freddie Taylor, played by Christian Cooke (Romeo & Juliet, Where the Heart Is-TV), did not want to wind up like everyone else. He wanted something more. This film festival nominated comedic drama had a competent cast that included Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter franchise, A Bigger Splash) as Mr. Kendrick, Ricky Gervais (The Invention of Lying, Ghost Town) as Mr. Taylor and Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything, Like Crazy) as Julie. Set during the 1970s in England, I thought this film depicted the era perfectly. With this being a coming of age story I did not find anything different to surprise me. There were some scenes that went well and one could tell Ricky Gervais was one of the writers. What kept my interest actually were the actors and their characters. All I can say is I took a risk with getting this DVD and it did not completely pan out.
2 1/3 stars — DVD
They were the perfect guests for dinner. Always on time, trustworthy and filled with noteworthy stories each time they appeared; many of us had the same nightly guests for supper. They were the newscasters who showed up every day at the dinner hour when our televisions were turned on. I am referring to those TV news anchors when I was growing up. Back then they were sometimes considered family members; they would explain current issues in a way that was unbiased and unfettered. There was no hidden agenda or slanted placement to the presentation of the stories. The same could be said about reporters for the newspapers. That was the beauty of the news during those times; one could get the same story whether it was done verbally or visually. I remember the newspapers being so much thicker than they are now, besides fewer ads then. There were some reporters who had their own weekly or daily columns where they would take a topic, cut it up and spoon feed it to us, the readers. I still hold on to those feelings I had years ago every time I hold a newspaper in my hands. However things are not the same; I do not have the same level of trust anymore. It seems to me the news is based now on getting ratings; the more sensational the story, the higher draw of viewers. In addition, with a majority of media outlets now owned by large corporations I get the feeling there is a hidden agenda to their actions. It is harder to figure out what is really true these days. BEING released from the New York Times due to a falsified story reporter Michael Finkel, played by Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Sitter), became an untouchable in the news world. Finding a job seemed like an impossible task until murder suspect Christian Longo, played by James Franco (The Interview, Palo Alto), was taken into custody claiming he was Michael Finkel. Based on actual events this dramatic mystery seemed to have all the elements for making a thrilling picture. I liked the cast which included Felicity Jones (The Invisible Woman, The Theory of Everything) as Jill Barker; however, I only found James to be the most believable. The script was overdone, plodding along to the point where I was bored through portions of the movie. It was too bad because I rather enjoyed the camera work with its variety of close-ups and uncluttered scenes. The beginning of the film was stronger; I kept losing interest as time went on. Though the story had an interesting base, I just could not get into it. I felt the same way about this film as I do about the news; I did not buy into everything I was being shown.
If you happen to trip or fall and break a bone, it usually can get fixed. Joints after years of an active lifestyle are now being replaced with high-tech metal products. However, when the body is attacked by a disease the landscape of the person’s life is forever altered. I am old enough to remember a time when people would avoid talking about their or a family member’s affliction. Those that were children were separated from the general student population; rarely to be seen except for the occasional assembly where they were relegated to a section of seats far from the other students. There were few outlets where adults could get special attention to assist them in achieving or maintaining a level of quality to their lives. It was not unusual for healthy individuals to react with fear and avoid those who were dealing with a physical or mental challenge. In fact, I am going to share with you a tidbit that might surprise you. Kids who were bullied would develop a dislike or even hatred towards disadvantaged peers. You see with the constant barrage of negative comments and physical abuse, the victims would redirect their anger towards an easy target which usually would be a challenged individual. I know this may sound twisted to you; that internalization of not being perfect can warp a person’s perceptions. Gratefully we have advanced and there are people who set a high standard for what can be achieved. PHYSICAL limitations could not stop Stephen Hawking, played by Eddie Redmayne (My Week with Marilyn, Les Miserables), from exploring his ideas about the universe. Based on Stephen’s first wife Jane’s book, “Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen,” this film festival winning biographical drama followed the challenges and achievements of two extraordinary individuals. With Felicity Jones (The Invisible Woman, Like Crazy) playing Jane, the two actors were wonderful together. They acted and appeared as these two strong characters who together could take on any obstacles. Eddie was beyond amazing as he physically transformed himself into the brilliant astrophysicist battling a debilitating disease. I found myself at times writhing in my seat with sympathy pains for what I saw Eddie doing on screen. The director allowed the story to flow smoothly whether the scenes were of a scientific or romantic nature; I always felt I was engaged with the characters on screen. If there is fault to be found I felt it was the script. It seemed as if some events were being treated quickly. I would have liked to have seen more story and emotion to them. The satisfying feeling I was experiencing overshadowed this complaint. What an example to see how one man did not let his physical limitations hold his mind back from growing and exploring.
3 1/4 stars
The couple sitting next to me either thought the armrest between us was radioactive or rigged to explode. No not really, they were heavy into performing public displays of affection, known as PDAs. I do not have an issue with a kiss, hug, neck massage, tickle or the holding of hands; but when 2 people are intensely trying to invade each other’s body in a public area like the aisle of a grocery store or on a crowded train, I have to wonder what is going on that they need to show the world they are in love that much. Honestly, I interpret it to mean there is something lacking in their relationship and they are overcompensating for it. On the flip side when a person does not want to be out in public with their significant other, I usually make the assumption there is something they are hiding or embarrasses them. Based on the biographical book of the same name, this romantic drama revealed a side of Charles Dickens that was unfamiliar to me. Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter franchise, Red Dragon) directed and starred as Charles Dickens. Upon meeting the young daughter of Mrs. Frances Ternan, played by Kristin Scott Thomas (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The English Patient), Charles Dickens became enamored with her to the point where his wife Catherine, played by Joanna Scanlan (Notes of a Scandal, Girl with a Pearl Earring), knew something was afoot. The first thing I have to tell you is how surprised I was about the story. Witnessing the actions of Charles Dickens in this Oscar nominated film I could easily see him play one of the characters in his novels. The scenes in this richly detailed film went from sparse open expanses to muted fully appointed rooms. Each aspect of this movie was well thought out. Felicity Jones (Hysteria, The Tempest) as the young woman Nelly did a beautiful job of acting as did the other actors. If I separate each part of this film I had no complaints about them individually; however, what failed for me was the directing. This story was so dragged out; I had a hard time staying focused. One of the comments I heard a fellow viewer say afterwards was if he saw the back of Nelly’s head one more time he was going to scream. I am sure Ralph is proud of this film, but if I had done this picture with the same results I would have tried to keep it hidden away from my friends.
2 3/4 stars