MOST OF YOU MUST KNOW BY NOW I am a sucker for a good story. Whether it is in print, film or spoken to me; I enjoy almost all of them. But despite my fondness I do know every story has another side. I know that is such a cliché; but it is true, a story can easily be manipulated by the change of a few words or the inflection of one’s voice. As a young boy I had a family member who told the best ghost stories out of the entire family. The way they used their voice for various characters and the different sounds they would utter scared me and my cousins, to our delight. It just occurred to me I believe those ghost stories being told to us is where I grew to love the spoken word. However, as I have grown up I see more and more examples of individuals who twist their words to suit their purposes. I knew a married couple where I was friends with both the wife and husband before they had married each other. After several years they divorced; the husband made it sound like it was all his wife’s fault and she did the same against him. Were they each telling the truth or was one lying? ANOTHER SIDE TO STORIES THAT I believe takes place is the omission of words. I am guilty of this myself and realize it is a form of manipulation. This is one of the reasons why I wonder what I am not being told regarding news stories. What I mean is I think there is more to a story that has not been mentioned or released. So, if there is a news story with negative implications I think it is worse than any of us knows; I guess this would mean I am a pessimist. I believe in being an informed listener, which would entail researching a topic before forming an opinion. For example, let me use a nuclear plant story. When stories are reported about a leak or some form of a mishap at a nuclear plant, I immediately think things there are worse then what the news services are reporting to us. It may easily be explained that the plant’s owner only gave out certain details about the danger as to not to scare the public. I am sure I am no different than anyone else when I say I want to hear the full story, no sugar coating of it. If you feel the same way then you may find yourself surprised by some of the scenes in this latest documentary by Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine, Sicko). OF THE MOVIES I HAVE SEEN from Michael this one was not my favorite. I am strictly speaking about the entertainment value. Unlike his previous films this one did not stay focused on one single topic. I believe I understood why because the underlying message I received concerned our duty to vote. There were some scenes that stunned me, such as the city of Flint, Michigan’s water crisis, because of the scenes and interviews given. It was a crime for what took place there. With Michael writing, directing and producing this film; he did not hold back his feelings in the way he portrayed the issues. There was a variety of cameo scenes with celebrities such as George Clooney, Roseanne Barr, John Boehner and Donald J. Trump. The news clips, interviews and stunts shown all contributed to painting a bleak picture of our current times. I did not have an issue with what Michael was doing, but I felt some scenes were a hit or miss. Not wishing to have any political dialog here, I will say there is worth in watching this picture.
2 ½ stars
No one wants to ever lose money. Look at all the apps that are available that try to find you the cheapest price for an item. I am all for trying to save some money on a product I am going to purchase; heck, I even cut out coupons before I go to the grocery store. Now when it comes to trying to increase the funds in my savings I tend to lean more towards low risk ventures. There are a few people I know who buy and sell penny stocks on a daily basis; if they can make a few cents more each day they are satisfied. I do not have the temperament for this type of trading. The same could be said when it comes to gambling. Being a people watcher, I am always stunned by the amount of money people gamble away at casinos. Gambling is not only limited to casinos though; you probably have heard the saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is not true.” Let us face it, there is no easy way to make money; I firmly believe this which is why I gravitate to low risk methods of earning interest on my savings. But there is another component that needs to be factored in regarding the methods we use to earn money. Here is another important saying, “Never put all of your eggs in one basket.” This is so true; the key is to have variety. Even if one is only comfortable putting their savings in an interest bearing bank account, I still would use at least a couple of banks to hold my money just in case something goes wrong with one of the them. If I had my retirement fund held by only one institution and they lost it I would be just as upset as the man in this crime thriller. BELIEVING what financial TV host Lee Gates, played by George Clooney (The Monuments Men, The Ides of March), was saying was true; Kyle Budwell, played by Jack O’Connell (Unbroken, Starred Up), was willing to take a risk with his money. The move would lead to dire consequences. Directed by Jodie Foster (Carnage, The Brave One) and also starring Julia Roberts (Mother’s Day, Secret in Their Eyes); I thought the direction was tight and kept the suspense going throughout this drama. The acting was exceptionally good which helped me because the script was far-fetched in several spots. There were a couple of times I sat in my seat and thought no way could that have happened in real life. In addition, there were a few predictable scenes that played out for all intents and purposes like standard plot twists. In my opinion it took away from the suspense. The story itself could be considered timely and I certainly could understand the frustration level for the circumstances. I am sure there will be some viewers who will be able to relate to this story and if they do they have my condolences.
2 ½ stars
The first time I saw them on a small screen I thought they looked unusual, almost bizarre. Every Saturday afternoon there was a television show that showed old movies. I did not understand the point of a movie musical the first time I saw one. Why actors were breaking out into songs in the middle of their scenes baffled me. It was not until I paid attention to the lyrics that I realized the songs were explaining parts of the story. These films along with the others that got broadcast came from a different time. The screwball comedies, dramatic romances and other genres had movie stars that were, to use a cliche, larger than life. I was familiar with those who had a prolific career, churning out a new movie every year. These actors gave off an almost regal persona; it appeared the film studios kept each of them up on a pedestal to be admired and revered. As far as I can recall there was never any controversy associated with those actors, unlike the current actors of today. It seems as if more times than not actors are just as famous for their offscreen activities as they are for their acting roles. This however brings up an interesting thought: are current actors more out of control then the ones from years past? It would seem easy to say yes but upon more thought, I do not think there is much difference between the different eras except for the way we get our news presently. This comedy sheds some light on what the movie studios used to do for their actors. EDDIE Mannix, played by Josh Brolin (Everest, Sicario), had one mission and that was to keep things running smoothly for the film studio. With the actors they had under contract it was a 24 hour a day job. This dramatic comedy written and directed by Ethan and Joel Coen (Fargo, True Grit), was set in the 1950s when movie studios was churning out movies like an assembly line. The cast which included George Clooney (The Ides of March, Gravity) as Baird Whitlock, Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Only Lovers Left Alive) as Thora Thacker/Thessaly Thacker and Channing Tatum (Magic Mike franchise, Foxcatcher) as Burt Gurney were all representative of past celebrities. For example Channing’s character was similar to a past star like Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire. With the variety of actors in this film, each had essentially their own story going on. Though things kept moving along I felt most scenes were only offering a brief glimpse of a story before it was time for the next actor’s turn. The movie came across as little skits pieced together. I found the story amusing but nothing that warranted any major investment. Don’t get me wrong, this picture was fun to watch; however, if one is not familiar with movies that came out from the old Hollywood era, they may not enjoy this film as much.
2 3/4 stars for fans of old movies 2 stars for fans unfamiliar with the Golden Age of Hollywood
I do not know if it was because I did not go at an early age and had more time to think about it, but I used to wonder what I would find in Tomorrowland when I finally got there. Besides the usual science fiction stuff like flying cars and robots, I thought of other things that could be in the park; I was not an average little boy. I wanted there to be no sadness or pain in Tomorrowland; everyone would be kind and accepting of everyone else. The opportunity to go there did not happen until a friend and me were legal adults. It was the first trip by airplane for both of us. When we arrived at the amusement park I was overwhelmed with all the images that I had only seen on television or in photographs come to life right before my eyes. We made our way through every attraction whether it was a roller coaster ride or stage show; we felt like little kids again. From one section to another we planned on experiencing it all over the course of 3 days. On the second day we had Tomorrowland on our to do list. As we followed the signs pointing to it, I was remembering all the things I imagined about the park when I was small. I was not expecting what I found when we reached our destination. Tomorrowland had a somewhat dated look to it; almost like a retro look from a decade or so ago. I was so confused by the things around me; this was nothing I imagined Tomorrowland would be. I felt the same about this action adventure film. Mysteriously appearing among Casey Newton’s, played by Britt Robertson (The Longest Ride, Dan in Real Life), things was a curious pin. When touched only by her, Casey ‘s surroundings would change into a futuristic world; she had to find out how and why she had this pin. Starring George Clooney (The Monuments Men, Up in the Air) as Frank Walker, Hugh Laurie (The Oranges, House M.D.-TV) as Nix and Raffey Cassidy (Dark Shadows, Snow White and the Huntsman) as Athena; this science fiction fantasy was so confusing to me, I could not even tell you what the story was about. Now I lived through Star Trek’s space-time continuum and could follow its logic; but this story made no sense to me. With all the money used for the great special effects, that was all this movie offered the viewer essentially. However, the writers wanted to make sure we understood the message they were trying to convey so it was repeated over and over to us. This was the 2nd time Tomorrowland disappointed me; I better focus on making each year better than the last. You can start by not paying full price for this confusing picture.
Carefully with a crayon I would outline the picture in the coloring book, using a heavy hand. Once done I would shade in the different segments of the page. This was the way I created art when I was little. The first time I was taken to an art museum I was amazed by the artwork. Up until that time I was only familiar with paint by number paintings. It was not until I matured that I realized art was an expression or application of a human’s creative skills. Art pieces can move us to tears, laughter or reflection besides being a mirror to our souls. To this day I find it unsettling when a room has no art in it. I first became aware of the historical theft of famous masterpieces during World War II in the startling documentary, “The Rape of Europa” which I reviewed here some time ago. The idea of systematically stealing the world’s art treasures from museums, churches, even people’s homes was something I could barely comprehend. Whether you enjoy art or not; you would have to agree it plays an important part in a society’s culture. This dramatic action film was based on Robert M. Edsel’s book about a small group of artisans who were chosen to track down and retrieve stolen masterpieces, that were being amassed in Germany during World War II. George Clooney (Gravity, Up in the Air) wrote, directed and starred in this film. Playing Frank Stokes, it was his responsibility to bring together art experts and craftsmen from around the world, who would have to survive basic training before they could start their mission in Europe. Among the members he chose were Matt Damon (Elysium, The Departed) as James Granger, John Goodman (Argo, Inside Llewyn Davis) as Walter Garfield and Bill Murray (Moonrise Kingdom, Lost in Translation) as Richard Campbell. Now with a cast like this one would have to wonder if the movie was a drama or a comedy and this was one of my main issues with the story. The screenplay was dreadful; I did not understand why there were cheap bits of humor placed in what could have been a tense exciting film. Casting Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, Hanna) as Claire only proved that she was a better actor than the rest of the cast. I am afraid George Clooney took a light hand in creating this loose and confused movie. It really did not do justice to the actual people who saved the artwork and in turn saved a piece of our humanity. A couple of scenes had blood in them.
It was only for a brief time where I believed the moon was made of cheese. I was always fascinated with the planets and stars; if for nothing else, it was where Flash Gordon, Luke Skywalker and Klaatu lived. One of my earliest exposures to outer space took place at the planetarium, where images of solar systems and planets were brought to life for me. Then it was science fiction movies and science classes that expanded my curiosity beyond earth. The closest I had come to experiencing what it must feel like to be in outer space were those virtual amusement park rides. You may know the kind; where you sit in a simulator that is programmed to rise, twist and fall with the projected movie in front you. I am here to tell you none of that came close to the feeling I had in this dramatic thriller. This was the first movie where I actually felt I understood what it must be like to be in outer space. In fact, I thought I was starting to get motion sickness, but it never turned into anything. The visuals were truly amazing. I read writer/director Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) created a new filming technique to create the incredible zero gravity scenes. Sandra Bullock (The Heat, The Proposal) played rookie astronaut Ryan Stone. Due to an accident; Ryan and fellow astronaut Matt Kowalski, played by George Clooney (The Descendants, Up in the Air) would have to depend on each other if they were going to survive the harshness of outer space. As I mentioned earlier the visuals were the strongest part of this film; they really were breathtaking and exciting to me. Going into the movie I had some concern the story would not keep my attention with two characters in outer space and no sign of any aliens to battle. There was nothing to worry about; this film kept my attention all the way through. In addition the music was ideal as it blended perfectly with every scene. Where this science fiction film lost points was with the script. George Clooney was just being himself in my opinion; he did not have anything to stretch his acting ability. Sandra’s character had similar facets drawn from some of her previous roles. With that being said this movie had everything else in its favor. Not a fan of 3D, I saw this at an IMAX theater in 3D with rumble seats and I loved it. I could not have cared in the least if some space scenes were not plausible; I left the theater both excited and exhausted for I felt I had just taken my first trip beyond earth.
3 1/2 stars