I LOOK AT A PARENT AND wonder sometimes, why they ever had children. From the variety of news stories I have seen, I know there is good and bad in every type of group. I am aware of mothers and fathers doing extraordinary things and downright dumb ones. Just recently there was a news report about a father carrying his 2-year-old daughter over barriers to take a selfie in an elephant enclosure. Can you believe it?!?! As you might guess, the elephant charged at them, where the father at one point dropped his child as he was trying to make his escape. I was glad to hear the man was arrested for trespassing and child endangerment. In my opinion, this would be an example of bad parenting. I am reminded of an episode that took place at a movie theater a couple of years ago. A child in the row behind me was kicking the seat in front where a theater goer was sitting a few seats down from me. The movie patron nicely asked the child a couple of times to stop kicking; the child did for several minutes before starting up again. Finally, the person turned around and firmly said to stop it or they would tell the manager. You should have seen the mother; you would have thought the movie goer said they were going to kill the child because the mother went off, yelling and calling the person names until the person got up and went to the manager. The manager told the mother and child they could change seats or leave. ENOUGH WITH THOSE EXAMPLES, I WANT to balance things out by telling you about a couple of friends who I think have amazing parenting skills. One mother picked up her family and moved out of state so her challenged child could attend a special school with a sterling reputation. With the schooling and parenting her child not only graduated high school but is attending college while working a part time job. The growth the child has shown has been remarkable. I have another friend whose child is now 12 or 13 years old. Besides being well mannered, they have such a well-rounded assortment of interests that go way beyond their years. Hearing some of the things that come out of their mouth; you would think you are talking to an adult. There is no denying that many parents sacrifice for the sake of their children. What I witnessed in this film festival winning mystery thriller was a strong example of a mother who never took “No” for an answer; it was a sight to see. WHEN HER DAUGHTER WENT MISSING MARI Gilbert, played by Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone, Strange but True), refused to accept what the police were telling her. In her mind it just was not right. With Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit, Leave No Trace) as Sherre Gilbert, Gabriel Byrne (Louder Than Bombs, The Usual Suspects) as Richard Dormer, Lola Kirke (Gone Girl, Mistress America) as Kim and Oona Laurence (Pete’s Dragon, The Beguiled) as Sarra Gilbert; this movie inspired by true events squarely rested its success on Amy Ryan. Her performance was something to see. Despite what I felt was some choppiness between scenes, I found myself drawn into Amy’s character’s plight. The story has an ick factor and there were a couple of rough scenes to watch; however, I thought overall the directing was good and it tried to keep the story moving forward. As for the script, I appreciated the way it did not sugarcoat things; this was especially noticed during the final scenes. There was a realness that came through that did not seem manufactured. Based on this film, I can only imagine what the real details of the events must have been like. Either way, what an example of a mother fighting for their child.
2 2/3 stars
WHILE WAITING IN THE CHECKOUT LINE, there was a floor show taking place two aisles over from me. There was no way getting away from it, so I along with the other shoppers stood quietly amused while the child performer was in the middle of his soliloquy. I am sure all of us have experienced such a performance within our families and friends; but the one taking place at the grocery store was over the top melodrama. The little boy was pulling out all the stops, being a true “drama queen.” He was carrying on about a box of cereal and a candy bar. I assumed his mother denied his request to buy him one or both items. Weeping with tears rolling down his face I was able to make out part of what he was saying between his sobs. He was telling his mother that he never gets anything and all he is asking for is one candy bar. I had to chuckle when he told his mother he would share the cereal with her if she bought it. When she still declined, he wailed out “Noooooo” and fell to the floor. She told him to get up then turned to the shoppers around her and apologized. Each person gave a slight smile with a nod of their head; there was nothing to be done. You had to feel for the mother because a performance like that, I am sure, was not going to be a one-time event in her life. I USED THE TERM “DRAMA QUEEN” to describe that little boy because I use that term for both male and female, since I have experienced my share of adult drama queens. If you have never experienced one just stand near a customer service counter and you are bound to see one in action at some point. When I took a part time job for the holidays, part of my responsibilities was working the customer service desk. Most of the customers were polite and understanding, but there were a few who would carry on how their event was ruined or they looked like a fool or my favorite, when I would tell them the delivery date of their order and they would go into this operatic aria how that was not acceptable ending with, “I was ruining everything!” It always astounded me how they would make a scene and blame me for something out of my control. I always wanted to tell them this was not a life or death situation, but instead kept calm and quiet. The reason I mention all of this is because I felt I was experiencing another melodramatic opera by watching this dramatic, adventure fantasy. WHOEVER COULD PULL THE SWORD EXCALIBUR out of the stone would become king of the land. Though almost every knight wanted to try, there were some who had other ideas on how to rule. With Nigel Terry (The Lion in Winter, The Emperor’s New Clothes) as King Arthur, Helen Mirren (Collateral Beauty, The Good Liar) as Morgana, Nicholas Clay (Sleeping Beauty, Evil Under the Sun) as Lancelot, Nicol Williamson (Robin and Marian, Spawn) as Merlin and Paul Geoffrey (The Thomas Crown Affair, Wuthering Heights) as Perceval; this film festival winner was such an over the top production to watch, that I felt like I was living in a different time. Dated by today’s standards, I still was enthralled with the size of the cast, the melodramatic classical musical score and the overall cheesiness of the script. The story is a familiar one that has been done before, but this production felt like an opera to me. And the extra kick of it all besides seeing a young Helen Mirren was to see an equally young Patrick Stewart and Liam Neeson, before they became who we know them to be now. It was such a trip down memory lane to see the big production values of movies from the 1980s; I had to wonder if people were more inclined to be over the top dramatic back then as well.
2 ½ stars
IT WAS A MONTH AFTER HER death when we came together for a memorial service of her life. She chose to be cremated; so next to a poster sized photograph of herself, sat a simple carved urn filled with her ashes. I had only met her once; she was my friend’s mother. The memorial service was being performed in a chapel that barely held all of us attendees. I knew very few people so when I arrived I immediately went to sit down after paying my respects to my friend. Being a people watcher, I watched as the guests eventually walked in to take a seat. They came from all walks of life, I must say. Some stood out by the outfits they were dressed in. I cannot say they were inappropriate; let me just say I would never have associated their clothing choices with a memorial service. With that being said, the service was touching as various individuals stood up to give eulogies and share funny stories about the deceased. It was fascinating to see the different facial expressions people had on their faces; if you did not know why everyone was gathered, you couldn’t figure out if it was a sad or happy occasion. AFTER THE SERVICE I ACCOMPANIED my friend back to her mother’s house. She wanted me to help move and store some of her mother’s items and furniture. As we drove up to the house the first thing that struck me was that it looked like it was hand made. The house was tiny and a bit rundown. It needed a paint job and the front stairs sagged in the middle, giving off an eerie sneering appearance. When we entered the house, I was immediately struck by the assortment of either items or devices that were placed in every room. In the living room was a wooden staff leaning up against the wall, that was carved entirely with elephants stacked on each other. On the wall was a framed mirror that caught my eye. The entire frame consisted of tiny human faces that were either carved into the wood or glued on top; it was an odd piece to me. I must tell you I found the whole place somewhat weird. There was a variety of different items; whether they were relics or newer I could not tell. All I know is I was glad when we finally finished and could get out of the place; though after seeing this dramatic mystery horror film, I would rather live in my friend’s mother’s house than join this family in theirs. AFTER HER MOTHER HAD DIED estranged daughter Annie, played by Toni Collette (Please Stand By, Little Miss Sunshine), and her family started to experience odd feelings and occurrences in and outside of their home, as if Grandma never left. With newcomer Miley Shapiro as Charlie, Alex Wolfe (Patriots Day, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) as Peter, Gabriel Byrne (Miller’s Crossing, Endless Night) as Steve and Ann Dowd (Compliance, The Manchurian Candidate) as Joan; I found this suspenseful story creepy and twisted. That was a compliment because I was easily drawn into the film by Toni’s unbelievable acting, along with the rest of the cast and the non-typical script. There were some surprises in the way the story turned and I thought the filming and directing worked in synch to create this foreboding atmosphere. Some of you know I am not a big fan of horror films that have lots of blood and violence; this picture did have a couple of scenes with blood but the majority of it was more of the suspense genre, which I enjoy more. It is funny how you think you know someone then find out later something completely different about them.
It may only take one article of clothing, accessory, family member or friend and you get branded for life by your peers. A sweater you wore may have a spot or small hole that you did not notice, but someone else did and made the assumption you came from a poor family or even worse a dirty family. I have a watch that looks like an expensive, famous brand of timepiece. It always surprises me during a conversation with an unfamiliar person, when i catch them staring at my watch and their mannerisms do a slight shift towards me afterwards. I cannot explain it since I avoid dealing with people who only focus on the surface of an individual. Back in school I had a friend whose dad was a bus driver. I cannot tell you how many times other classmates would make comments about how his dad was Ralph Kramden (if this name is unfamiliar to you then look up Jackie Gleason) or he was the son of a bus driver. Not only did I not understand the reason for these kinds of comments, but I found them cruel. Well, evidently this same kind of labeling takes place among vampires. Lucy Fry (Lightning Point-TV) played Lissa Dragomir, the last vampire of a royal bloodline. After being out on her own in the real world she was forced to return to St. Vladimir’s academy for vampires with her best friend and protector Rose Hathaway, played by Zoey Deutch (Beautiful Creatures, Mayor Cupcake). She was not well received by some of the student body; in fact, some would rather have seen her dead. As if school was not hard enough already, Lissa found herself in the middle of a class struggle. This action fantasy was such a poor production; it screamed of being a Harry Potter and Twilight movie knockoff. The character Rose appeared to be jacked up on huge amounts of caffeine; her speech was more of a verbal blur to me. For the life of me I did not understand why Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects, Miller’s Crossing) as Victor Dashkov and Joely Richardson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Event Horizon) as Queen Tatiana were part of this film unless they both lost a bet with someone. The script provided nothing but poor dialog and goofy comments. There were so many opportunities to instill some excitement, tension, thought or even sentimental moments but none of that entered into this boring tale. I hope there are no plans to make a sequel. Though I mentioned I try not to label anyone based on their surface, I may have to reconsider when it comes to the director and writers of this silly vampire fantasy.
1 1/2 stars