I FELT AS IF I WERE driving through the site where a horrific battle had taken place. The landscape was painted in shades of white, gray and black; it was supposed to have been predominantly filled with greens, blues, yellows and a multitude of combined primary colors. The road I was driving on appeared to be dusty, as if it had not been dusted in months. I barely could make out the road markings; so, I was driving slower because of all the curves in the road. The black figurines thrusting out of the ground reminded me of a scene I saw in a movie, where the charred remains of the dead residents of Pompeii looked like ashen statues. These black structures looked like they were part of an abstract painting, frozen into freakish poses. Some looked like they had multiple arms while others appeared to have been the results of a mad scientist’s freakish experiments. I was convinced I was seeing whisps of smoke slowly twisting away from different parts of the terrain. The air even smelled smokey with traces of sulfur. When I planned my vacation, none of this was part of my itinerary; I was envisioning wild animals roaming the grounds. Instead, everywhere I looked I saw dull, barren land. It turned out I was one of the first to drive through this portion of the state after it had succumbed to a major forest fire. TOWARDS THE END OF MY VACATION, I read the forest fire had burned through thousands and thousands of acres. The reporter mentioned the charred remains would help repopulate the landscape, but that it would take time. Those black figurines I saw on my road trip were the burnt remains of decades old trees. I wondered how the animals who survived the fires would be able to live on the land; there could not be any food for them, nearby. It was sad to see the devastation. I know life is a series of events connected in a circle, from birth to death; however, after seeing what I saw I had a difficult time trying to justify the reason for such destruction. From the news I heard and read, there was no word yet about the loss of human life. What did come out sometime later, was that the fire appeared to have been started by a visitor who was camping. I could not believe it. I wondered if the camper(s) even knew what they had done. The idea that these individuals could have been that careless angered me. If you wish to see some of the destruction that can take place in a forest fire, then feel free to watch this dramatic, action thriller. IT WOULD TAKE EVERY OUNCE OF strength and wits for smoke jumper Hannah, played by Angelina Jolie (By the Sea, Maleficent franchise), to keep the lost boy she found alive in the middle of a forest fire and gunfire. With Finn Little (Angel of Mine, Storm Boy) as Connor, Jon Bernthal (Baby Driver, The Wolf of Wall Street) as Ethan, Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones-TV, The Maze Runner franchise) as Jack and Nicholas Hoult (Tolkien, Warm Bodies) as Patrick; it was fun to see Angelina back in an action figure role. And action is predominately what took place in this movie. With little or no depth to the characters, this was the type of story one only needs to feel; no need for a lot of thought about the story. There were some tense and exciting parts that drove the rest of the scenes that paled in comparison. For the most part there was nothing new in the script; it was simply because of the acting and the thrills that made this an easy picture to watch. However, I do hope those who have been careless when it comes to protecting the land from fires appreciate what smoke jumpers have to do to try and keep a place safe; let alone, see what kind of destruction can take place from a single careless moment.
2 ½ stars
I WAS INTRODUCED TO THEM AT a restaurant, while waiting to be seated. We were meeting for dinner and a friend had invited this couple to join us. They were friendly and I immediately liked the wife’s sense of humor. It wasn’t too long before the host sat us at a table; I was sitting directly across from the couple. Over the course of the evening the wife’s husband was telling us about their plans to move out of state. He said he had to first sell a boat he had in drydock. Once he could get the boat sold, he told us he needed to buy some type of machine to print up T-shirts. I thought he might be talking about screen printing T-shirts; but why was he not saying it, I wondered. Because I am naturally curious, I asked them why they needed to move to make T-shirts and he said it would lower their expenses. From there he started telling me about the other plans he was working on. Throughout our conversation or more accurately, his talking and my listening, I could not get a read on his wife. She looked like she was listening, nodding her head at some of the things he was saying; but she did not look excited or thrilled or even happy about all the plans that were in the works for them. AFTER WE PAID THE BILL AND said our goodbyes, I asked my friend when we were alone if she was sad about her friends moving out of state. She said she was said to see the wife go but was fine with the husband leaving. I asked her why and she told me she was angry at the husband because all his plans/dreams were burning through all their money. This latest plan was taking place with the help of their 401K retirement money. She told me that is why the wife, who was her friend, was still working. It turns out the husband had all these crazy schemes cooked up to make a quick buck, but they always failed. That boat he was trying to sell was bought with the idea of him doing private boat cruises despite the fact he has never sailed in his life. She told me the boat has never been in the water. I was now getting an understanding of the wife’s actions during our dinner. Asking my friend why the wife went along with these crazy plans, she told me the husband would go and do all this stuff without asking her first. If I was in that type of situation, I would have kicked them out of the house which is why I understood what was taking place between the married couple in this film festival winning movie. AFTER BEING LAID OFF OF WORK from the golf course, the jobs available to Jerry Brinson, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain, Nocturnal Animals), were slim. That is until he came up with the idea of battling the encroaching forest fire. With Ed Oxenbould (The Visit, Better Watch Out) as Joe Brinson, Carey Mulligan (An Education, Never Let Me Go) as Jeanette Brinson, Travis W. Bruyer (The Beast, Useless) as Forester and Bill Camp (Joker, 12 Years a Slave) as Warren Miller; this drama showcased a well-blended cast of actors. Ed and Carey must be seen to be believed; that is how good their acting was in this story. I thought the directing was delicate and thoughtful because everything felt intimate to me. It took a while before the script grabbed my attention; but once everything started to fall in place, I was hooked on the story. There was nothing that seemed out of place or phony. I felt I was a witness to a family’s reality instead of their dream.