FROM MY SEAT, I COULD SEE the setting sun poking through a bank of clouds with long tentacles of deep orange, rays of light. The ocean was quietly whispering its waves gently onto the white sand beach. I felt relaxed as a salt infused warm breeze brushed past me. All this beauty around me suddenly dissolved, replaced with rows of wooden folding chairs, when the person next to me accidently elbowed me. I was sitting in the middle of a bookstore, listening to an author talk about his latest book. He was describing the place he secluded himself to, so he could concentrate on his writing. Because he was so descriptive about the area, I felt as if I had been transported from the bookstore to his beach. The people seated around me had been replaced with palm trees and scattered rocks. That is the beauty of a great storyteller; their words can take the reader/listener/viewer on a fantastical trip to any place in the entire universe. I may have no experience or reference point to a place or event; but through the writer’s words, I can experience and understand it as if I had been a part of it. It is a gift I feel because not everyone can tell a good story. THERE WAS THIS PERSON WHO I DREADED being around whenever they started to tell a story. I know this is going to sound rude, but it was tortuous to sit there and listen to them as they would constantly stop to correct some non-essential detail to the story they were trying to tell. Seriously, who cares if a person is 41 or 42, or if someone drives a blue or black car; I would be cringing in my seat, refraining myself from editing them so they could get to the end of their story. This person ruined every joke they tried to tell. Either they would leave out something or add so much frivolous details that by the time they got to the punchline, the listener had lost all interest. There have been times where I felt like I was being held a prisoner due to this person’s poor storytelling ability. I feel the same way about movie scripts. A good script writer can convey the essence, the feelings in a story, allowing the viewer to experience it even if it is something they have never encountered. Some of you may remember the convention that took place in Chicago in the 1960s; if you do or do not, it will not make a difference when you watch this historical, dramatic thriller. A GROUP OF INDIVIDUALS ARRIVED IN CHICAGO to protest the Vietnam War; several of them would find themselves on centerstage in a trial like no other. With Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts franchise, The Danish Girl) as Tom Hayden, Alex Sharp (The Hustle, The Sunlit Night) as Rennie Davis, Sacha Baron Cohen (The Brothers Grimsby, Les Misérables) as Abbie Hoffman, Jeremy Strong (The Big Short, The Judge) as Jerry Rubin and Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon, Robot & Frank) as Judge Julius Hoffman; this film festival winner written and directed by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, The West Wing-TV) immediately grabbed my attention and never let go. The writing was sharp, witty, enlightening; in other words, outstanding. I felt each actor was talking from their heart and mind; they transformed into their characters. Sacha and Frank Langella were brilliant in their roles. I knew about the event that took place in Chicago but did not really understand what was going on with it. Whether scenes in this film were true or not made no difference to me because I wasn’t looking for historical accuracy; I was looking to be entertained and with this movie I received it 100%.
HE WALKED OUT ONTO THE STAGE and told us at one time we were his enemy. Well, I was not expecting that as the introduction to my college history class. The lecture hall was full of students; this was one course that was in high demand because of its professor. If I had not read his bio, I would still know what part of the world he came from based on his heavy accent. To tell you the truth it added authenticity to his lectures, I believed. He continued his introduction by explaining how he was forced to enlist in the army, to help in his country’s war against us. Though they ultimately lost the war, he claimed no one learned from it; people are stupid and will repeat history over again. There was dead silence all around as his last words lightly echoed through the hall. Until people stop hating, he proclaimed, they will never learn and help their society advance. He went on to talk about his experiences during the war, giving us insight into his countrymen’s perceptions and interpretations of known events. It was fascinating to me as I listened to a different version of the history I had been taught in school. For the first day of class, this professor was already stretching our minds. THE TOPICS THIS PROFESSOR DISCUSSED IN his lectures many years ago still rang true for me as I was watching this biographical drama. The subjects that were being discussed back in the 1960s seemed just as current as what is taking place presently around us. I do not know if I can describe it, but it made this historical story resonate within me. History does repeat itself; the arguments that took place decades ago are still an issue today. Everyone has experienced some form of prejudice, I believe. For me, the attacks on me were based on a variety of things from weight to religion to the type of music I listened to, if you can believe that. I consider all of it, whether it is race, origin of birth, or some other aspect of a person; fundamentally hatred. People are afraid to learn; they would rather hang on to their prejudices that were instilled in them. I say instilled because hate is not something we are born with; it is taught to us. Watching this film and seeing what is taking place currently in the world only shows you we still have a lot of work to do. UNEXPECTANTLY BEING THRUST INTO THE PRESIDENCY, Lyndon B. Johnson, played by Bryan Cranston (The Upside, Last Flag Flying), wanted to do what was right for the country. Unfortunately, there were many senators who did not share his idea of what was right. With Anthony Mackie (The Adjustment Bureau, Captain America franchise) as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Melissa Leo (The Fighter, The Equalizer franchise) as Lady Bird Johnson, Frank Langella (The Box, Robot & Frank) as Senator Richard Russell and Bradley Whitford (The Last Full Measure, Get Out) as Senator Hubert Humphrey; this film festival winner had Bryan giving a tour de force performance as Lyndon. And with Lady Bird by his side, I did not recognize Melissa Leo; she did an amazing job of acting also. So many people think of Lyndon as the Viet Nam president, but he was so much more. I thought the script was excellent as it played a cat and mouse game between several of the government officials. Everyone in the cast was excellent and with the script I felt the writers and cast really brought history to life in this picture. Adapted from the Tony award winning Broadway play, I was thrilled to have been able to watch this piece of history come to life. Now if we can just learn from it.
3 ½ stars
After all the different styles and methods I have seen, I have to wonder if it comes down to just doing your hardest and wishing for the best when it comes to raising children. When I was a child I used to hear adults say so and so is a bad kid; now when a child is acting up I hear adults say the parents are bad. Sadly I still see some parents hit their children or make outrageous, unrealistic demands on them. Things like, “If you do that one more time I will take all your toys away and burn them,” or “If you take 2 more bites of your food, I will give you $5.00;” yes, I have actually heard these comments. Now I do not want to paint a dire picture here; I have witnessed some solid well thought out child rearing techniques. There was a person I knew who when it came to potty training her child explained the benefits of using the bathroom. She also talked about the negative aspects of walking around in a dirty diaper. I was fascinated by the discussion and the child’s reaction. When the child was told no one would want to play with her if she was wearing a dirty diaper, the child forgot her fears and started telling her mother every time when she had to go to the bathroom. I found it extraordinary since I had never seen that technique before. As for the methods used in teaching the children in this comedic drama, they were as foreign to me as the present world would be for them. HOLED away in the Pacific Northwest Ben, played by Viggo Mortensen (The Road, The Lord of the Rings franchise), was teaching his 6 children how to survive in their little corner of the world. The skills the family was learning could only teach them so much. This film festival winner allowed Viggo to shine in his role as the father. Not that the other actors such as Frank Langella (Robot & Frank, The Ninth Gate) as Jack, Ann Dowd (Side Effects, Garden State) as Abigail or George MacKay (Defiance, How I Live Now) as Bo were less skilled; they all blended well together just like the kids did in this drama. The beginning of the story started out a bit slow for me; I felt like it needed more action. However as things moved along I started to appreciate what the script was laying out for the characters. Let me add the drama increased when Frank’s character Jack came into the picture. I felt the intensity building in the story and admired the range of emotions Viggo performed. With the story lines and buildup that took place I was somewhat disappointed at the ending. I may have been reacting to a particular character, but I sort of felt I was wishing for something different to happen. Nonetheless I can see this story being a catalyst for many discussions between people, especially for those who have children.
It is important to hear encouragement but how much of it is heard depends on the person. I have seen people on those reality shows where their family and friends have told them they can sing or dance and it is obvious they do not have talent. They believe every compliment they are receiving, even if it is only being given out of kindness. I personally do not think it is fair to mislead a person unless the whole family or friends do not realize they are all tone deaf or lack rhythm. Being a defensive pessimist on top of being my own worst critic, I am in a different category. Any compliment I receive I tend to discount. Though appreciative of encouraging words, they actually are the fuel that drives me harder to do better. All these years I thought it was a stubborn streak that kept me pounding away to succeed at the task at hand. I have come to realize there is a voice inside of me that has high standards, pushing me to prove wrong the other voice in my brain that tells me I am a failure. The same can be said for those people who told me I could not do something; it only made me fight harder to prove them wrong. The first thing I heard inside of me when my first short story was published was that 7th grade teacher who told me I would never be a writer. It all comes down to believing in yourself and that inner drive was something I admired in general manager Sonny Weaver, played by Kevin Costner (3 Days to Kill, Mr. Brooks) in this sports drama. Hoping to rebuild the Cleveland Browns football team, Sonny would butt heads against strong opposition for his NFL Draft pick from Coach Penn and team owner Anthony Molina, played by Denis Leary (Sand, Rescue Me-TV) and Frank Langella (Robot & Frank, The Ninth Gate). Even with his mother Barb, played by Ellen Burstyn (Another Happy Day, The Fountain), questioning his moves Sonny was determined to do what he thought was right. I found the NFL Draft story exciting and thought Kevin was believable in his role. The part that did not ring true was the story involving Jennifer Garner (Dallas Buyers Club, Elektra) as Ali. There was little chemistry between her and Kevin’s character and I just found it phony and unnecessary. If the writers would have stayed with the football story, including the back stories for the hopeful picks, this movie would have been better in my opinion. Keep in mind I am not a fan of team sports but I enjoyed all of the drama and tension revolving around the team franchise. Whether Sonny made the right choice or not did not matter to me; his drive and conviction was what I admired in him the most.
2 1/2 stars
Everyone has a breaking point; it is just the reactions that are different. Some people quietly remove themselves from the situation that pushed them over the edge; others may explode with anger. I have been working to separate myself from the latter group, trying to teach myself to walk away when I get angry. It has not been easy. When I get pushed past my breaking point a floodgate opens up, releasing years of stored anger and hurt that sears through my veins before erupting out of my mouth. If I am fortunate to have a friend with me, who has the ability to read my face and see the subtle telltale signs of my transformation, they will try to diffuse the situation before I go over to the dark side. Age may have something to do with it, because as the years have gone by the intensity levels have diminished. I cannot say the same thing for the main character in this crime mystery, inspired by true events. A talented actor was needed for this role and Ryan Gosling (Drive, Gangster Squad) was eerily perfect playing David Marks. Son of real estate magnate Sanford Marks, played by Frank Langella (Robot & Frank, Frost/Nixon), David did not want anything to do with the family business. He thought he could succeed on his own when he met Katie, played by Kirsten Dunst (Upside Down, Melancholia), a tenant in one of the family’s buildings. Settling into what appeared to be an idyllic life with Katie, it would not take long before mounting pressures pushed David to the brink. In one of her best performances, Kirsten was wonderful playing an intelligent woman of simple means who experiences life on a new level. Frank was great as he oozed with entitlement playing the chairman and demanding father. I wished the script would have been better because there were spots int the story that I found perplexing. Not that I was bored at all; the powerful acting kept me watching what essentially was a love story mixed with a murder mystery. There is a fine line between rational and irrational behavior. It all depends on where we place the breaking point. A couple of brief scenes with blood.
2 3/4 stars — DVD
Things would be easier if memories were filed in some type of arrangement, such as a card catalog or power point presentation. My memories reside in this vast sea where they float about, swirling below and rising to the surface, depending on the current. Gratefully I can simply fish them out when needed. But what will happen if the waters become murky? In this story set in the near future, ex-jewel thief Frank, played by Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon, Unknown), was at a point in life where his children Hunter and Madison, played by James Marsden (Hairspray, X-Men franchise) and Liv Tyler (Armageddon, The Lord of the Rings franchise) were concerned for his well-being. The solution was to provide Frank with a robot assistant. At first, Frank looked at this intrusion with disdain; however, once the robot assisted Frank with a heist, a new partnership was formed. This comedic drama set itself apart with firm acting by the cast. The exchanges between the robot and Frank were fun; I loved the deadpan delivery by Peter Sarsgaard (Jarhead, An Education), who voiced the robot. There were parts of the story that dragged for me; but with the other parts being so good, it was not a major concern. The added story line of librarian Jennifer, played by Susan Sarandon (Enchanted; Jeff, Who Lives at Home), being replaced by a robot was an interesting twist among others. Who knows what the future holds, but this movie provided an interesting answer both in an amusing and poignant way.