IT MAY START WITH THAT first “thwack” of a flyswatter against an insect where a child gets desensitized to the concept of death. To a baby or young child a bug may only be perceived as a toy; the idea of life and death is not something a young mind can wrap itself around. I even remember classmates who would hold a magnifying glass above an insect, directing the light of the sun down to burn the bug. To my fellow classmates it was simply a game they played. There were never any protests or condemnations by other students against this practice. It was not until we graduated to a higher grade level; I think it was around the 6th or 7th grade before a student would report a classmate for torturing an animal. This may shock you but we had a classmate who was known for setting fire to cats. I do not know how he caught them but I always wondered if he tortured and killed any other types of animals. To have such a disregard for life I assumed he must have been getting abused by someone. IT IS NOT UNTIL ONE is faced with a life threatening experience before they truly can appreciate their life. Recently I was talking with someone who had dealt with a deadly health issue. We talked and compared the issues we both had during our individual crisis. It was funny but we each told our loved ones we did not want any words of encouragement like “it will be okay.” During my medical scare I told everyone not to respond to any of the updates I would be sending them. Here is the thing though; everyone handles life and death issues differently. Some people are trained to never talk about death so when someone is facing a life threatening illness they stay away from the patient. Most people I think are trained to look at death as a sad experience. Yes it is sad that person will not be around anymore; but I feel death should be looked at as a celebration of life. Since death is a certainty in each of our lives, the idea of spending time dreading it taking place does not make much sense to me. I will say however there are only 2 things I hope will happen when it is my time to die: that my death does not make the news as part of a tragic event and I have a smile on my face as I die happy. FROM A CHANCE MEETING STRANGERS Annabel and Enoch, played by Mia Wasikowska (Crimson Peak, The Kids are All Right) and Henry Hopper (The Color of Time, The Fly Room), discover they have something in common: Death. This film festival nominated dramatic romance also starred Ryo Kase (Letters from Iwo Jima, Beyond Outrage) as Hiroshi Takahashi, Schuyler Fisk (Orange Country, The Best of Me) as Elizabeth and Jane Adams (Poltergeist, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) as Mabel. I thought Mia shined in this movie; her acting was soft and subtle. The story piqued my interest because it was based on a curious idea. However as the story moved forward I started to lose interest. The script was somewhat confusing to me to the point I wasn’t sure if what I was watching had some important symbolism or was a metaphor for a particular issue. I really wished the writers would have delved more into Mia’s character, developing it fuller. She was the focal point as far as I was concerned; the other characters were secondary in my opinion. Sadly this DVD really never came alive for me.
1 ¾ stars — DVD
GOING THROUGH LIFE FEELING invincible, if you can pull it off, must be an incredible experience. Looking at people who dedicate a good portion of their time to working out and exercising, makes me curious as to what their motivation might be. I think if the fitness centers where I teach only had a young clientele, I would not have been able to experience the bigger picture when it comes to health. To this day I admire those people who are advanced in age, who might have limited physical capacity and yet I see them working out at the club consistently. There are even some members who need a cane or walker, but they still come and push themselves to get a complete workout. Seeing an elderly person hunched over, dependent on their walker, shuffling their way around the running track is nothing short of glorious to me. I AM NOWHERE NEAR thinking I am an invincible being; on the contrary, my recent medical scare showed me how vulnerable I actually am. The whole experience showed me a new side to life; I have a deeper appreciation for anyone who struggles with an ailment, yet keeps moving on. From what I have seen, I have determined the mind plays a crucial part in how a person handles their affliction. Having a positive attitude makes a world of difference, yet it is something I still have a hard time with because I am wired to seek out the negative thoughts first. There is a friend of mine who needed surgery; an operation that would leave them incapacitated for several weeks. If it was me I would have asked the doctor to keep me sedated or put me in a comatose state. My friend had the most positive of attitudes and came out of surgery beautifully; keeping their positivity going, they even reduced their rehabilitation time. I do not know if I can train myself to be as optimistic as they were with their surgery. Maybe I could find someone similar to the main character’s wife in this film based on a true story. ROBIN CAVENDISH, PLAYED BY Andrew Garfield (Silence, 99 Homes), only saw a body that did not work anymore. His wife Diana, played by Claire Foy (Season of the Witch, The Crown-TV), saw something else. This film festival nominated, romantic drama was filmed in such a way to bring out the beauty of the story. Andrew and Claire were perfectly matched with their acting skills and chemistry. I would not be surprised if Andrew is nominated again for an Oscar, he was that good. Along with Tom Hollander (About Time, Pirates of the Caribbean franchise) as Bloggs and David Blacker, Hugh Bonneville (The Monuments Men, Downton Abbey-TV) as Teddy Hall and Ed Speleers (Alice Through the Looking Glass, Downton Abbey-TV) as Colin Campbell; the whole cast did a wonderful job in bringing life and joy into this unbelievable story. Now I will say the script was a bit predictable but I did not care because I could not get over Andrew’s acting and the fact that I was learning something about a true life changing event. The mixture of humor into the script, which I believe was part of the Cavendishs’ makeup, kept the story from sinking into a maudlin state. It would have been interesting to get more of the characters’ thoughts and feelings out onto the script but the writers I can only assume wanted to keep things on the lighter side. I try to avoid doing any type of health comparisons; but after seeing this film, I have a whole new appreciation for having a positive outlook.
YOU cannot force a person to love something or someone they do not like. I have never seen it become successful. There was a mother I knew who drove her daughter everywhere to audition for dance roles even though the daughter did not have her heart in it. Rejection after rejection did not stop the mother from forcing her daughter to try again. Now if the daughter truly had a talent for dance and wanted to pursue it, then it would be somewhat of a different story. There have been several instances where I have seen a parent pushing their child to try out for a sport or some form of the arts, but one thing was never mentioned to the child. “To do their best;” I do not always hear this being included. If a child has a strong desire to do something I feel they should be allowed as long as they give it their best shot. This reminds me of an episode of a singing talent show where the singer auditioning mentioned they had been working with a voice coach for several years. After the contestant auditioned the judge told the person to fire their coach, because they did not have a good singing voice. IF a person is gifted at something wouldn’t it be in the best interest to encourage the individual to give it their all? I am familiar with a family that has 3 children. One child is exceptional when it comes to drawing; her paintings are incredible. The father, who works as an accountant, is against his daughter’s idea of going to college to study art. He believes she will never make a living at it and would rather she go into economics. Now it does not matter if the girl has an aptitude for numbers or not, the father just wants her to do something where she can earn a decent living and thinks since he supports a family by working with numbers, she should do the same thing. It is similar to what was taking place in this drama. AS the owner of an auto repair shop Miguel Alvarez, played by Demian Bichir (The Heat, A Better Life), wanted his two sons to be part of the business. But with his youngest one Danny, played by Gabriel Chavarria (Freedom Writers, A Better Life), wanting to pursue art; Miguel simply could not understand why his son would want to do such a thing. This film festival nominee’s story was set in east Los Angeles and also starred Eva Longoria (The Sentinel, Over her Dead Body) as Gloria and Theo Rossi (Bad Hurt, Sons of Anarchy-TV) as Francisco ”Ghost” Alvarez. I walked into this film not fully understanding what “lowriders” were, but I discovered I liked the look of them. As for what they do, I don’t understand the point. Putting that aside the other part of this movie I enjoyed was the art work on display. Outside of that there really was nothing new about this story. I have seen similar movies that have done the same story line and actually did it better. Every scene in this film followed a generic formula from the portrayal of a Hispanic family to the family tension to the girlfriend; I was bored for the most part. Let me say there was nothing “bad” per se about this picture; if you have never experienced this type of story you may find something of interest. I sort of wish the writers had been pushed harder to try and create a better script.
RESTING outside on a sunny day I gaze up at the bulbous clouds drifting by. If I look long enough I can make out images among the folds of the clouds. I get a kick out of seeing what might not initially be seen at first glance. As the wisps of cloud matter slowly swirl about, I can make out what looks like an eagle with outstretched wings. Continuing to stare at the same spot the eagle soon disintegrates and becomes the face of a rabbit with attentive ears. Since I was young I have always looked at things with an eye to reality and one to fantasy. Even when I am stuck in traffic I try to keep myself busy by scanning the landscape around to see if images can appear based on how I focus on the shadows or the bright spots of an area. Once there was a flatbed truck alongside of me that had crushed automobiles stacked up to haul to a scrap yard. With traffic barely moving I was able to find outlines of a variety of different objects like a leopard and a clown. THIS ability, if you will, helps me I believe in my attempts to understand modern art. I am fortunate to live in a city that has a modern art museum and some of its exhibits have been a fascinating experience for me. There was the artist who created large sculptures of ordinary things like monkeys and dogs; however, they looked like they were made out of blown up balloons. You know, like the kind a clown or magician would make at a carnival show. I can appreciate the effort and work that went in to create such a piece. Now there have been some shows where I feel clueless with what is on display. A canvas covered totally in black paint doesn’t move me; I wonder if I should focus on the brushstrokes, the consistency of the color or its relationship to its surroundings. My confusion can supersede my involvement with a work of art or what someone is saying is a work of art. I felt the same towards some of this extraordinary artist’s works in this film festival nominated documentary. PERFORMANCE artist, visionary, crazy, unorthodox are some of the terms one can apply to Chris Burden. Whether you understand his craft or not, you will certainly get a reaction from it. I had never heard of this artist until I watched this film, directed by Richard Dewey (The Leisure Class) and Timothy Marrinan (Invisible Lives). Right from the start there were times where I sat and thought this man has a death wish and then another scene would take place where I was amused with his creation. As the movie continued I found myself more and more intrigued with learning about Chris and his motivations. The raw footage interspersed with his current life provided a well rounded presentation of his growth and legacy I thought. Though I did not understand what he was trying to do with some of his performance pieces (if that is how he classified his “live” pieces), I certainly had a reaction to them. Maybe that was the point he was trying to make all this time; I honestly cannot give an answer. I will say I certainly walked away from this picture with a new appreciation for people who want to be artists.
3 ¼ stars
THERE was something white and fluttering at my windshield as I walked back to my car. I was hoping it wasn’t an injured bird that had flown into the glass. As I came up from behind I saw it was a sheet of paper that someone had slipped underneath the windshield wiper. My first thought was it had to be some type of advertisement. Wow was I ever wrong when I removed the paper from the wiper and saw what was written on it. Someone had left me a note with their phone number, explaining how their car door flew open from the wind and nicked my car door. I took a look and there was a white mark on my car where the edge of their door chipped the paint. I could not get over someone was kind enough to let me know what happened, since I have never been notified before of all the mysterious nicks and dents my car has received in parking lots all these years. Reading the phone number, I called the person to thank them and refuse their offer of compensation; I kept a bottle of touchup paint for such occurrences. SOME years ago I remember sitting in my car in a parking lot and hearing a loud bang. The parked car next to me had been nudged by a person pulling out of a space across the way. I got out of my car to examine the damage and saw that car’s fender was pushed in. The driver of the car that backed up was starting to drive away. Running up to the driver side window I waved at them to stop, which I was surprised they did to tell you the truth. The person rolled down their window and I told them they dented the fender of the parked car. When they tried to tell me they did not do it I explained I was sitting in the car right next to it and saw the whole thing. From that short delay of time, it was just enough for the driver of the dented car to come out of the grocery store. I explained what happened and gave them my phone number before driving off to leave the two of them to figure it out. It was the right thing to do. ONCE the video of the horrific prank was downloaded to a social media site brothers Stan and Paul Lohman, played by Richard Gere (Norman, Days of Heaven) and Steve Coogan (Philomena, The Trip to Italy), met with their wives for dinner to discuss what they should do next. This film festival nominee had an important theme and message here. However, the script was such a mess I lost interest in this movie pretty quick. I am not a fan of jumping back and forth to pick up fragments of a story to create a complete piece and this dramatic mystery was doing it until nearly the end. Speaking of the end, it was not until this picture was nearly over that I started to care about the story. The acting was excellent, including Laura Linney (Sully, Mr. Holmes) as Claire and Rebecca Hall (The Gift, The Prestige) as Katelyn, for what they had to work with but it was not enough for me. I consider this review an act of kindness in warning you about this film.
1 2/3 stars
AMONG the employees he was the “go to” guy, for almost anything you needed. Not for work related issues, it was for almost anything you were looking for personally. You see, it always seemed as if he knew someone; or if he did not, he knew someone who knew someone who could handle any of our requests. If you needed a new sidewalk, he knew someone in the cement industry; if you were looking for a new car, his cousin’s brother-in-law sold cars. I cannot recall ever hearing him declining someone’s request; this guy always had some type of connection to get any of us help. Now I cannot honestly say every person he recommended did the best job, because many times I heard employees describe the work done as fine or adequate; but with the promise of getting the work at a cheaper price, I guess one could say you get what you pay for as the saying goes. When I needed new windows in my basement I used this employee’s connections. I did not think doing glass block windows would be too hard, but I did have to call them back to fix the caulk job on a couple of windows. HAVING been employed for many years I learned a long time ago it is not what you know but who you know. In my personal life I know a couple of people who have friends in the entertainment industry. They are part of an association that allows them to attend some of the award shows. Since one of my dreams is to attend the Oscar awards telecast, I would have no issue seeking them out. Granted I wish they were friends of mine instead of being friends of a friend. When I have had the good fortune to attend a special screening of a new film, I always try to stay afterwards during the Q & A session with cast members and the director. If there is an opportunity to give any of them my business card, you better believe I will do it; however, I don’t come anywhere near the skills of this dramatic movie’s main character. ALWAYS coming close but never being a party to the big power brokers Norman Oppenheimer, played by Richard Gere (Arbitrage, Primal Fear), begins to realize something is happening when a politician he had met in the past drops his name. This one connection could change Norman’s life. This film festival nominee also starred Michael Sheen (Passengers, Kingdom of Heaven) as Philip Cohen, Lior Ashkenazi (Later Marriage, Footnote) as Eshel, Charlotte Gainsbourg (Melancholia, 3 Hearts) as Alex and Dan Stevens (Beauty and the Beast, Criminal Activities) as Bill Kavish. The script to this story allowed Richard to shine; he was excellent in the role. The movie for the most part was dialog driven. At first I felt the story was going to become a drag; but the more I saw of Richard’s character, the more involved I became. It was surprising to see this film was also tagged a thriller besides being a drama. Maybe in the loosest of terms was it thrilling; for the most part I took it to be a believable telling of those in power. Not having connections to any powerful bigwigs, I enjoyed getting an up close seat to this party.
FOR a brief moment that “look,” which I was familiar with, ran across the man’s face. He was standing in the checkout aisle next to mine. The only way I can describe that “look” is to say it was a cross between contempt and total disgust. Physically the eyes narrow, the muscles of the face slip down to the lower half of the head and the lips seal together in a straight line except for the hint of a curl at one end of the lips. I knew immediately why the man was making that face; it was because of the couple standing in front of me. They were an interracial couple. The look on that man’s face is the same type of look I have been given at various times. Once at the airport where I was sitting with a friend waiting to board our flight, he fell asleep and was leaning over onto my shoulder. A couple who was walking by looked down at me and made that look, uttering a sound of disgust. Another time I was doing volunteer work where we would work in pairs to canvass the neighborhood. I was paired with a woman from a different race than mine. You would not believe there were several people who answered their door, took a look at us and immediately made that face, besides only talking to me; they would ignore her more times than not. It was pathetic, appalling and many other adjectives. WHENEVER I encounter this type of prejudice, I simply want to ask the “offended” person how that person you show disgust towards affects your own life. Why should it even matter to them if the couple is of the same gender or from different races; I honestly cannot understand why anyone would make a judgment about another person based on such things. It is sad that these personal issues are even being addressed. Now that I have seen this film based on a true story, I am even more astonished at the lunacy of people’s prejudices. RUTH Williams and Seretse Khama, played by Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, Pride & Prejudice) and David Oyelowo (Selma, Queen of Katwe), fell in love and eventually wanted to get married. Their marriage would have consequences for Seretse’s country of birth, where he was a prince. This film festival nominated dramatic romance was a wonderful film to watch. With Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Kingsman: The Secret Service) as Alistair Canning and Tom Felton (Harry Potter franchise, Risen) as Rufus Lancaster, the cast was well rounded and performed beautifully. I especially enjoyed David and Rosamund in their roles. Set in London initially during the 1940s, the scenes rolled in a gentle type of way that only accentuated the well written script. I have to tell you the events that took place in this biographical story stunned me; not that there was a sudden surprise moment, but the turn of events taking place on the worldwide stage solely due to a person’s skin color just blew me away. Those of you who know me know how much I enjoy seeing photos of the actual people the actors portrayed; this movie did not disappoint me. Nothing about this film disappointed me except seeing the narrow-mindedness of some people.
3 1/3 stars
FINALLY the day arrived where she no longer would need to get up early for work. She had worked in the education field all her life, in various positions from teacher to vice principal. After her discussions with her accountant she decided it was okay to retire and devote the rest of her years to herself. Some of the things she wanted to do was travel and take up painting; she had dreamed of these two things for a long time. The first few days of the school week felt odd to her. She felt something was wrong since she was home, sitting in her recliner, instead of being with her class. The feeling soon receded as she started getting into the joys of retired life. Her finances had been set up to live a good life, not a lavish one, where she could enjoy a couple of treats once in a while. However, there was no way for her to have known at the next condominium board meeting the officers agreed to charge the owners a special assessment to replace all the windows, balconies and repair the swimming pool. The cost to each owner would be close to the mid five figure range; this would drastically alter her retirement plans to the point she would need to go back to work to pay for the assessment. She became resentful and angry about it. FALLING into a state of anger or resentment has always been easy for me. Recently I had to get a new hot water heater and furnace because the old ones broke down and could not be repaired. It all came so sudden for me when it was discovered my house was filling up with carbon monoxide. When all was said and done I realized I should be grateful that I was not killed by the gas; however, I immediately became angry and resentful. The reason for feeling this way was because of the impact this purchase would have on my finances. The funds set aside to pay off my house earlier would have to be transferred to pay off the heating equipment. On an intellectual level I knew this was silly, equipment breaks down; it is not a purposeful act. That did not stop me but at least I did not get extreme about it like the retired hit man in this crime thriller. SETTLING into retirement John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves (47 Ronin, The Matrix franchise), received a visitor at his home who needed a job done. Refusing to help the gentleman would have consequences. This action sequel took the feel of the first film and amped up the intensity and action. With Riccardo Scamarcio (Burnt, Loose Cannons) as Santino D’Antonio and Common (Selma, Just Wright) as Cassian, the fight scenes were unbelievable and bloody violent. They were well choreographed and looked real. An example was the way John Wick constantly had to reload his weapon. Keanu wore his role perfectly, basic dialog with a touch of sarcasm. In fact the whole script had a no nonsense approach with slight humorous moments. Essentially this film festival nominee was a revenge story; it did not pretend to be anything else. I would like to refer to this as an “escape” film to just sit back and enjoy, but I am afraid John Wick would still find me.
3 ¼ stars
DISTANCE was never a factor until I reached adulthood. As a kid I loved all my relatives equally including the ones that lived out of state. They rarely were able to participate in the weekend family dinners and could not be present for every special occasion; however, these distant relatives were always included in our daily lives. And this was at a time before the internet was widespread; when one would buy a birthday card or write a letter that would be dropped off at the post office for mailing. Phone calls were only done on a landline phone; there was no video time to see the person one was talking to on the other end of the telephone line. Love was never brought into question. As I think about this I have to say part of the reason was the respect we had for each other. Being an aunt or uncle was a unique position because they were at times surrogate parents, confidants or pseudo buddies. Another reason why love was strong across distances was the effort everyone committed to in keeping the family bonds strong. IMAGINE my surprise when I first started out in the dating world when my query to go out on a date was rejected because I did not live in any of the surrounding zip codes. I was dumbfounded and left speechless. Now I am not talking about some small town surrounded by farmland; we are talking in the heart of a big metropolis with several forms of public transportation, besides expressways and bike paths. A similar experience happened with someone else when we exchanged phone numbers. Because my area code did not match theirs I immediately saw the disappointment flitter across their face. It was such an odd thing to me where I had to wonder what a person does when they set up limited boundaries for themselves and they exhaust the dating pool of their area. I have to give credit to the main character in this adventure romance for the distance he traveled. GARDNER Elliot, played by Asa Butterfield (Ender’s Game, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), was the 1st person to be born in space. Living on Mars with only scientists, his only connection to earth was through his computer screen. But what he found on it changed his life. This dramatic film festival nominee had a wonderful story; the movie trailers played it up well. Along with Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight franchise, Tinker Tanker Solider Spy) as Nathaniel Shepherd, Britt Robertson (The Longest Ride, Tomorrowland) as Tulsa and Carla Gugino (San Andreas, Watchmen) as Kendra Wyndham; the script was so hokey and basic that none of the actors came off well in their roles. With the right writers this could have been a thoughtful, exciting love story; but instead, this picture may only interest the young adult group if even them. There were a couple of scenes that were decent but I did not feel most scenes ever matured enough to help create an engaging story. I cannot tell you what to do but all I can say is with my reviews I have traveled near and far to see a film; this movie was not worth the travel time for me.
1 ¾ stars
THE only remaining open seat was next to me. I was sitting by the window gazing at the changing landscape as I was traveling downtown on the train. At the next train stop I did not pay attention to the person who sat down next to me. Before getting to the next stop the man commented on a building that came into view from out our window. I replied in agreement about the modern looking building and from that a conversation ensured between us. It appeared this man had some knowledge about architecture as he explained details about a couple of buildings that we noticed during our travels. I was surprised to hear his comments since I grew up in the city and had never heard about the things he was saying about these structures. AS we made our way down into the city he made a couple of comments that did not ring true to me. I cannot exactly explain why but some of the things he stated came out with a slight edge to them; do you know what I mean? A twinge of irritation or anger is the only way I could describe it. I did not react to these comments except for nodding my head since I did not want to appear confrontational. It did not matter however since something obviously set him off; his talking increased in volume. It wasn’t soon after that his comments were not making sense to me. Something about one of the buildings he had just commented on was setting him off on a tirade of expletives. Being stuck by the window with him in the next seat, I was getting extremely uncomfortable. If I excused myself to go stand in the aisle with several of the other passengers he may become offended and who knows what he would do. So instead I told him my stop was next. When we reached it I walked out and ran down the train platform to one of the other train cars before the car doors closed, so I could continue on my way. It was such an odd encounter, but at least I was able to leave which was not the case for the students in this horror thriller. CAPTURED and held against their will Casey, Claire and Marcia; played by Anya Taylor-Joy (Morgan, The Witch), Haley Lu Richardson (The Edge of Seventeen, The Last Survivors) and Jessica Sula (Honeytrap, Skins-TV); needed a plan to find a way out. However there appeared to be more than one kidnapper. This film festival nominated movie written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan (Lady in the Water, The Sixth Sense) was a big surprise to me because I enjoyed it so much; this was not the case for his past several pictures. What sealed the deal regarding this movie was the wonderful performance of James McAvoy (X-Men franchise, Wanted) as Kevin and Betty Buckley (Carrie, The Happening) as Dr. Karen Fletcher. The script was straight forward, but the pacing kept up the creepy intensity of the story. Though there were a couple of scenes that had showed blood, for the most part this was a psychological thriller which I enjoyed immensely. Be prepared for several different points of view in this film.