I HAVE ALWAYS HAD A CURIOUSITY with how things are created and started. When I was a young kid, I used to break apart my toys to see how they worked. One of my favorite toys that I had for an extended time finally met its demise, when I smashed the plastic globe that held these small hard plastic, colored balls that were smaller than golf balls. Attached to this globe that was on wheels was a long handle. As I rolled the toy that got the name “Popcorn Maker,” due to something in the middle popping the balls up against the inside top of the globe, the balls would be bouncing around accompanied by a popping sound. I loved this toy; but eventually my curiosity got the better of me, leading me to destroy it to see what was making the balls pop up whenever I rolled the toy around the house. It looked like a tiny, tiny bicycle wheel without the rim, just the spokes sticking out. As the wheels rolled, this device in the middle of the axel would as well. As the spokes rolled towards the top of their enclosure, they got bent back. When they got to the very top where the hole was the spoke would spring up and snap at any ball that landed in the hole. It was such a simple device, but I enjoyed playing with it nonstop. IN MY LINE OF WORK, I have had the opportunity to discover the origin of hundreds of companies and businesses. A well-known ice cream company got its start over 100 years ago when 2 brothers contracted with a farmer, the use of his 15 cows. They would turn the cows’ milk into ice cream and sell it from the back of their truck. As popularity grew, they bought a distributor to sell their product beyond their small town. I get a kick when I see their product stocked at the grocery store, knowing its humble beginnings. When I was visiting Savannah, Georgia I learned how the Girl Scouts came into being because of a woman’s idea that she wanted to encourage young girls to focus on their strengths; so, they could create opportunities for themselves. Keep in mind this was a time before woman were given the right to vote. Another time where my curiosity was piqued was when I was visiting the Iolani Palace in Hawaii. I wanted to know how it became one of the first places in the United states to be entirely wired for electricity, even before the White House. It came about when the King of Hawaii met Thomas Edison while on a world tour. So, you see, being inquisitive comes naturally to me and that is why I was interested in seeing today’s prequel film. FROM AN IDEA, A FEW INDIVIDUALS formed a group to tackle world problems. They, however, did not know the scope of the problems they would be tackling. With Ralph Fiennes (The Dig, A Bigger Splash) as Orlando Oxford, Gemma Arterton (Their Finest, The Girl with all the Gifts) as Polly, Rhys Ifans (Last Call, The Amazing Spider-Man franchise) as Grigori Rasputin, Harris Dickinson (Beach Rats, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil) as Conrad Oxford and Djimon Hounsou (Captain Marvel, Blood Diamond) as Shola; this action, adventure comedy had a broad canvas to tell its story. I am afraid the canvas was way too big, because I felt there was to much stuffed into the script that the flow of the story was scattered all over the place. I enjoyed the acting and the action scenes; however, there was such a mix of emotions that were on display that I would lose interest periodically. The historical aspect was a fine idea and one I was interested in since I enjoyed the previous films, but the script needed a major rewrite. By the time I left the theater, I had lost my interest in how the Kingsman got its start. There was an extra scene during the ending credits.
UPBEAT and positive is how I would describe the man telling us about the changes in our office. We were being told how these moves decided by upper management would be a good thing for our company. I sat there with my fellow employees and I am sure they were thinking the same thing: who was going to get the ax. Maybe that is too harsh to say so here are some ways I have heard it expressed: laid off, let go, reassigned, reevaluated, eliminated and left behind. None of these terms warrant a happy face with optimistic comments. I used to work at one place that decided after many years to outsource their payroll functions. The staff for each manager had meetings set up to explain the changes in how we were going to be paid. You should have seen the spin job the managers tried to sell us. They talked about the convenience of looking up our paycheck online, the ability to schedule time off and the ease of changing our benefits package. I knew there had to be more to the meeting and sure enough towards the end the manager told us how salaries would be administered. EVERYONE’S salary was scaled back to a standard base amount. From that point you would go up the scale depending on a number of factors; each factor was worth a certain dollar amount. I remember sitting there and quickly figuring out the math and realized a majority of us would be taking a rather large pay cut. There stood this person in front of us stating the virtues of this new pay system, doing their best to sell it as if it was the best thing since sliced bread. With me losing over 30% of my salary I had a hard time keeping my mouth shut and not stating the facts about their so called great new system. Let us face it; there is no good way to promote bad news. WHILE Germany was dropping bombs on the city of London during the early 1940s, the defense department was working on a propaganda film in the hopes of drawing the United States into the war. All it needed was a woman’s touch. This film festival winner was part comedy, part drama and part romance. At first I felt the story was starting out slow but as things began to unfold I enjoyed how the writers were fitting together all the different pieces to create this enjoyable movie. Starring Gemma Arterton (The Voices, Gemma Bovery) as Catrin Cole, Sam Claflin (Me Before You, The Hunger Games franchise) as Tom Buckley, Bill Nighy (Love Actually, Pride) as Ambrose Hilliard/Uncle Frank and Jack Huston (American Hustle, Ben-Hur) as Ellis Cole; I thought the cast worked together beautifully. Bill and Gemma were the standouts for me. The script did a great job of balancing the elements of the story. Things moved naturally between the genres of drama, comedy and romance; there was the ever present war, but it never overshadowed the other story lines. I will say I thought the ending was a bit abrupt regarding one of the characters in particular; it felt somewhat false. However, as I sat and imagined what it must have been like back then, I realized there was no choice; the British government needed to stay positive.
3 1/4 stars
I did not learn about the concept of “having a conscience” until I saw a cartoon where an angel was sitting on the left shoulder and a devil on the right one of a talking duck. The two were whispering back and forth into the duck’s ear, telling the animal what it should do. I was confused though I laughed at the imagery appearing above them anytime they spoke. After asking many questions with a multitude of examples I started to understand what it meant to have a conscience. Throughout the years I have seen more than my share of individuals who must have listened to their conscience’s negative thoughts. I know I am not alone in this regard; simply watching the newscasts, one can see people from all over the world who act out from the darkness inside of them. Now do not get me wrong, I am certainly no angel and a few of my friends can tell you about times where my dark side took over. When a driver cuts me off you better believe I may imagine I’m ramming their car with mine or they run out of gas or maybe their car’s engine dies, forcing them to use the barrier wall to stop their vehicle. However, that is as far as it goes, it is a fantasy. I may hear my dark side telling me what to do but I never act on it. And that is the difference; what makes some people act out their dark side? RYAN Reynolds (Buried, Safe House) played Jerry, an affable factory worker who found himself attracted to coworker Fiona, played by Gemma Arterton (Unfinished Song, Quantum of Solace). However, Jerry’s talking pets kept telling him to kill her. This film festival winning crime thriller was a real dark comedy. I thought Ryan was excellent in this role, playing this kind and friendly fellow who had a dark side. The cast was so much fun, which also included Anna Kendrick (Into the Woods, Cake) as Lisa and Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom, Silver Linings Playbook) as Dr. Warren. Let me add the talking pets had some wicked fun lines. The set pieces really helped this comedy with Jerry working at a bathtub factory and living above a bowling alley. There were some scenes that seemed familiar to me as if I had already seen them in other movies and at one point I was not sure if the director was purposely trying to create some campiness or it was part of the script. Either way I was surprised I enjoyed this film despite the violence and bloodshed. I think you will remain with happy thoughts after viewing this film instead of listening to your dark side.
2 2/3 stars
Each of us one way or another has in some type of form gambled. Not necessary with money, but based on choices we made on a daily basis. Everyday I drive to work I have to take a gamble on which route will get me to the office the quickest. If I choose the highway there may be a backup of cars that would delay me. Taking side streets will take longer but if traffic is flowing I could get there earlier; it is a calculated gamble I have to take each day. How many of us have had to lift something that was extra heavy? There is a risk that some of us may injure our backs; isn’t that taking a gamble? I have very little experience when it comes to gambling with money; never understood the attraction of it. However, I certainly have no problem watching other people play with their money. In this dramatic thriller the gambling was done entirely online. Justin Timberlake (Friends with Benefits, The Social Network) played Princeton student Richie Furst. Discovering he was cheated out of his tuition money on an online gambling site, Richie decided to take his proof to the site’s headquarters in Costa Rica and confront millionaire owner Ivan Block, played by Ben Affleck (Argo, The Company Men). Impressed with Richie’s moxie, Ivan made him an enticing offer. The story had all the elements to make an exciting film, even if none of them were original. I could have dealt with the cliches and obvious setups if the acting stood out. Unfortunately, it did not nor helped this crime film. Part of it may be due to the direction, but Justin could not carry the story as a lead character. As long as Ben was doing gentler scenes he was okay, but his intense scenes fell flat. Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace, Unfinished Song) as Rebecca Shafran was forgettable, lacking any chemistry with her co-stars. Anthony Mackie (The Adjustment Bureau, Real Steel) as Agent Shavers was wasted on his stereotypical character. There was nothing new being offered in this movie; parts dragged for me. As I mentioned in the beginning, all of us have gambled in some way and that holds true for the movie studio that made this film. It took a risk and lost I am afraid. There were a couple of brief scenes with blood in them.
1 3/4 stars
There are times when it is better to be the patient than the doctor. When you see the one you love in discomfort or pain from an illness, it can break one’s heart. I was in a long term relationship where at one point they were sick for 2 consecutive months. The doctors could not find the cause of the sickness; my heart would crack a little further each time I looked into their eyes. Gratefully, things turned out fine; but I know how hard it could have been if it was something that turned fatal. Everyone handles sickness and death differently. The beauty of this touching film festival winner was watching Vanessa Redgrave (Letters to Juliet, Coriolanus) and Terrence Stamp (Wanted, Yes Man) play long time married couple Marion and Arthur Harris. In a previous review I talked about the attraction of opposites. This couple perfectly showed how two strikingly different individuals built a loving and supportive life together. Marian was the bubbly, outgoing joyful one; while Arthur was the dark, brooding sourpuss. The story showed how two people handled the intrusion of illness into their lives. Though there were no surprises with the story; the acting from Vanessa and Terrence was something to behold. More drama than comedy, I was surprised with the turn of events in this musical movie. Regarding Gemma Arterton (Hansel & Gretal: Witch Hunters, Quantum of Solace), this was a different type of role for her as she played choir director Elizabeth. I actually found her character to be undeveloped; there was not enough information to understand what motivated her. A puzzling side note has to do with the audience sitting around me. I was the youngest person in the theater; the majority of patrons were senior citizens, several being assisted by walkers. I have no explanation for it. The story may not have been special, but watching Marion and Arthur brought tears to my eyes. To have someone special in your life is truly a gift; I just wish it could last forever.
2 3/4 stars
My introduction to the brothers Grimm was through animated movies. I can remember being perched atop folded coats on my theater seat, so I would have a clear view of the movie screen. Cinderella dressed in her magical ball gown or the poisoned apple that induced eternal slumber for Sleeping Beauty were characters that amazed me, when I saw them up on the big screen. At a time before movie characters were marketed into every conceivable consumer product, I stored a variety of Grimm fairy tale characters in my imagination. Let me first say I am not a purist when it comes to keeping a story true to its original form. If the story can still be entertaining, I am fine with it. Unfortunately this abomination lacked the entertainment factor, besides a variety of other things. The movie updated the story of Hansel and Gretel by turning the brother and sister into adult witch hunters. Sure I get it, nearly cooked in an oven by an evil witch as kids; I could buy into their chosen profession. What I found out of character was having the two talking in a contemporary style, dropping the “F” word freely. It was foolish to have fairy tale characters from olden days swearing like thugs. Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Bourne Legacy) was Hansel and we were led to believe he was a diabetic. He wore a special wristwatch that rang every 2 hours, reminding him to take an injection that would keep him alive. It was so ridiculous I knew the concept was only there to be used later in the boring story. Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace, Clash of the Titans) was the sharpshooter Gretel. The two were hired by a town to find a witch that was stealing children. What Hansel and Gretel found was a diabolical plot by the powerful witch Muriel, played by Famke Janssen (X-Men franchise, Goldeneye). In a nutshell the acting was miserable, the special effects were bland, the story was putrid and I resented the movie studio for tarnishing a classic tale.
1 1/4 stars