CUTTHROAT was the best term to describe him. When first meeting him you would be left with the impression that he was a funny, laid back sort of fellow. Looks can be quite deceiving because that is what I originally thought of him. We used to work for the same company; I was involved with inventory and he was in sales. Dressed immaculately every day, he walked around the office like a proud peacock; I know that may sound like a cliché but he really did. If he had had feathers attached to his backside they would have always been fanned out to draw attention to him. Underneath that polished and pleasant veneer there was a hunger for money. In sales that would be a good thing; however, he had no boundaries. He would lie, cheat, essentially anything to make a sale to increase his commission check. Sure the company benefited but his goal was his bank account. THERE has been several times where I have encountered this type of individual in other settings. It always makes me uncomfortable because I can never get a sense of trust established with the individual. I am all about trust; even at a big box retailer where I know the sales help does not get commission, I will end a conversation with someone who I feel is not trustworthy. Maybe this is prejudicial on my part, but I am simply going with my feelings. It is irritating when an employee gives the consumer the wrong information; I would rather they say they do not know and offer to find someone who knows the answer to my query. When the sales staff at a retail establishment works on commission it can be an ugly experience when you walk through the doors. They can descend on you like a pack of vultures spotting fresh road kill. You will understand my point if you watch the main character in this film festival winning dramatic movie. HEADHUNTER Dane Jensen, played by Gerard Butler (Playing for Keeps, Olympus Has Fallen franchise), would do anything to close on a sale. Even his family was not immune to the ramifications of his actions. With Alison Brie (Sleeping with Other People, Mad Men-TV) as Lynn Vogel, Willem Dafoe (The Great Wall, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Ed Blackridge, Gretchen Mol (Manchester by the Sea, 3:10 to Yuma) as Elise Jensen, Alfred Molina (The Da Vinci Code, Spider-Man 2) as Lou Wheeler and Max Jenkins (Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Sense8-TV) as Ryan Jensen; I was not impressed with the acting. Part of me feeling this way was due to the poorly written script; it was beyond predictable, so pedestrian. Add in the uninspired directing and I was bored through most of the film. Gerard gave it a good shot but being a non likable character did not help me. I could not relate to him; though some would say being unlikeable was good acting on his part. As for the script it was riddled with clichés and emotional manipulations. Funny for a film about sales it certainly had a poor sales pitch for the public. Never seeing a trailer for this at the movies should have been my first clue for what was in store for me.
1 2/3 stars
There are people who live to work; there are other people who work to live. I fall into the latter category. The jobs I have are only a portion of who I am; they do not completely define me. The top 2 responses I get from people when I tell them I am a credit manager is either I must be a mean man or they would be afraid to show me their credit score. Neither statement could be further from the truth; it just so happens this is what I do during the day as is teaching cycling and yoga at night. There is much more in my life besides theses jobs. Now I know there are individuals who define themselves by what they do for a living. I find it humorous when someone announces their job title as if they are landed gentry or royalty. On the other hand I recently was talking to someone who was under stress because they could not let go of their job once they clocked out for the day. Their sleep was being affected, grinding their teeth to the point of waking up with severe pain in their jaw. The lack of sleep was making them sluggish throughout the day, causing their work to back up to the following day which was adding more stress and so on. It was becoming a vicious cycle. I do understand for some folk they love what they do, so their career shares the same space as their life. However, if one begins to lose their identity this could lead to the breakdown of boundaries between personal and business dealings. To see this all you have to do is take a look at the occupation of the main character in this action thriller. FLYING to London to attend the prime minister’s funeral President Benjamin Asher, played by Aaron Eckhart (My All American, Thank You for Smoking), and his team found themselves in the middle of a world catastrophe that was planned especially for him. This sequel had returning cast members Morgan Freeman (Dolphin franchise, The Dark Knight franchise) as Vice President Trumbull and Angela Bassett (Malcom X, American Horror Story-TV) as Lynne Jacobs. The chase and fight scenes were intense; I especially enjoyed the one involving the President’s helicopter. When it came to the script I found it dreadful, filled with ridiculous prejudiced comments and generic catchphrases. For a crime movie all this picture provided was fight scene after fight scene for the most part. And something that I found to be the most unrealistic about these scenes were how in the middle of all these bullets flying around only the “bad” guys were getting hit but none of the good ones. It adds phoniness to the film in my opinion. The idea behind the story was interesting; unfortunately it just turned into a lame action picture. To tell you the truth the whole thing felt like the writers went on automatic to create this script.
1 3/4 stars
There is not a day or two that goes by where I do not hear or see in print the term “OMG.” Usually it comes from younger people, but I have heard folks older than myself uttering it. I am willing to bet some of the individuals who use this term are only using it as an expression of surprise or disbelief, not making a statement about their faith. There is another term, “God’s gift,” that I do not hear as much these days; it always had negative connotations associated with it as far as I could tell. When you heard someone say, “That person thinks they are God’s gift,” what was implied was that person thought they were better than other people. Have you ever encountered such a person? Unfortunately I have met more than my share of such people; I refer to them as demigods. This may be a broad use of the term for it could refer to that person who thinks they know more than you, always telling you what you “should” do; or it could be used for an individual who looks down at you, believing they are better or the things they have are superior to yours. I find it sad, especially when that demigod assumes they have more power because they think they are better. Sadly in my life’s experiences I have seen more corrupt people in positions of power than kinder ones. It bears repeating because I find it so true: absolute power corrupts absolutely. DECIDING it was his turn to rule Set, played by Gerard Butler (Chasing Mavericks, Olympus Has Fallen), defeated his nephew Horus, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Mama, Game of Thrones-TV), who was the rightful heir. The city’s citizens would be subjected to a new period of oppressive dark times. It has been reported this action fantasy had a budget of $140 million dollars which I found absolutely startling. For that much money I expected to be wowed by the special effects that played heavily in this story. What I saw instead was cheap looking effects covering a poorly written script. With Brenton Thwaites (The Giver, Maleficent) as Bek and Geoffrey Rush (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, The Book Thief) as Ra, I found the characters bordering on buffoonery. Geoffrey’s character and the place he resides in was ridiculous enough to make me wonder who would write such a character in that way. Now the fact this adventure film was not released early for reviewers, I did not have high hopes when I walked into the movie theater. However, I would have settled for a light fun fantasy picture with decent CGI effects; this film was boring in parts and in fact, it almost seemed as if it was pieced together in random order. If it is true what I read recently that the movie studio was hoping this film would kickoff a new movie franchise, then I am sad to say this fantasy really is a fantasy of the studio.
1 3/4 stars
There is a particular strength of the fiercest kind that emanates from a mother protecting her young. I cannot count how many documentaries about animals I have seen that showed situations where the odds were stacked against the mothers and their children. It made no difference for those mothers used everything they had to push back an adversary. When I was a tutor in college I saw many mothers arguing with their children’s instructors; even when it was clear, at least to me, the mothers were in the wrong. They would argue and yell sometimes at the professor, demanding certain conditions, wanting what they thought was best for their child. I realized right there that a parent’s protective instincts may not always serve them well. Like anything in life there is always an extreme to every situation. Where a parent could be the biggest advocate for their offspring; on the other end of the spectrum,a parent could be detrimental to their child’s well-being. EMILY Mortimer (Lars and the Real Girl,Hugo) played Lizzie, a mother who would do anything to protect her deaf son Frankie, played by Jack McElhone (Nowhere Boy, Young Adam). Afraid to tell Frankie the truth about his dad, Lizzie had secretly been writing letters to Frankie, pretending to be his father who was traveling the world aboard the HMS Accra. All was good until Frankie discovered the ship was scheduled to return back home to port. Lizzie would have a hard time trying to explain why Frankie’s father was not on that boat. This film festival winning movie had a special gentleness that filtered up out of the story. I thought Emily and Jack really blended well together, creating a loving relationship between mother and son. Gerard Butler (Law Abiding Citizen, Machine Gun Preacher) surprised me as the stranger; there was a sweet softness to his character that played well with the rest of the cast. I want to especially point out the scenes where Frankie went to school. The writers did an honest and believable job of showing how children encounter and react to a peer with a handicap. If there were parts where the action slowed I was not much aware of it because I enjoyed the way the story unfolded, revealing a couple of surprises for me. A person does not need shared bloodlines to become a parent. One only has to start with love, care, support, encouragement and protection to form a bond with a child. The mother in this dramatic picture was just as special as her child.
3 stars — DVD
When the option is presented who would not want to repeat an experience that brought them pleasure previously? I know I certainly would want to do it. There are some places I return to when I take a vacation; the familiarity makes my transition from work mode to leisure time all the quicker. I have a few movie theaters that I prefer going to if I have the choice. Granted if there is a film I need to see that is only playing at a theater I am not fond of, you can be sure I will tough it up and go see it still. In regards to restaurants, when I find a meal that is good I will order it every time I return to the place. Where I am adventuresome in some areas, when it comes to food once I find something I like I can eat it over and over. I do not want to take a chance that I may not experience the same euphoria on a new meal that I could have had with my favorite. This type of thinking also plays into my feelings about movie sequels. If watching the first film was a great experience for me, I am hesitant about going to the sequel for fear of being disappointed. Sure there have been sequels that have been good or even better than the original, but I believe the majority of them tip to the side of being mediocre or a quick money grab by the movie studios. However, no need to worry with this animated adventure sequel; it was absolutely fantastic. After orchestrating a healthy relationship between vikings and dragons 5 years earlier Hiccup, voiced by Jay Baruchel (The Art of the Steal, This is the End), heads out with his dragon Toothless to find and hopefully change the mind of the the evil Drago, voiced by Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, Gladiator), who was determined to take control over all dragons. This action film was filled with amazing animation that worked beautifully with the fully developed story. Before I realized it was her, I was immediately captivated with the emotional voice of Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, The Lord of the Rings franchise) who voiced Valka. Gerald Butler (Olympus Has Fallen, Chasing Mavericks) reprised his rich voice for the character Stoick. Appropriate for the entire family, this picture was even better than the first one. I went through several emotional feelings while watching this wonderful film festival nominee. You can put your cares aside, take flight and join the wonderful world of dragons in this sequel. I hope they continue the franchise.
3 1/2 stars
Around the globe there are iconic structures that mean something to a variety of individuals. From the Grand Canyon to the Eiffel Tower, their fame becomes part of our memories, whether we have seen them with our own eyes or not. The first time I saw the White House I was standing outside of it as a peaceful rally was taking place. Suddenly there was a whirling sound that increased in tempo. The president’s helicopter rose above the White House and began to head towards us. I remember the helicopter moving higher above our heads as if it was floating on the breeze from our waving hands. With this memory I already had an investment in this action film. Transferred to a different department job after a tragic accident; secret service agent Mike Banning’s, played by Gerard Butler (Law Abiding Citizen, Playing for Keeps), training kicked in when the White House came under attack. If it meant taking a bullet; Mike’s conditioning prepared him to do so in order to protect the president. The cast had a roster of fine actors to tackle the task of portraying powerful political figures. Aaron Eckhart (Rabbit Hole, Thank You for Smoking) as President Benjamin Asher, Morgan Freeman (Invictus, Million Dollar Baby) as Speaker Trumbull and Melissa Leo (The Fighter, Frozen River) as Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan to name a few. Gerard was no-nonsense in his character; he handled his wisecracks as well as his killings. What bothered me was a majority of the fight scenes were cloaked in shadows, making it hard to see the action. Granted this would be an advantage for those who cannot watch bloody violence. The thing I found most annoying was the soundtrack. It was made of cloying dramatic musical swells that took tension away from the scenes. The story was standard good guy/bad guy fare with a couple of surprises and a few unrealistic notions. All the movie needed was the opportunity for the President to say at some point, “Not in my house!” Scenes filled with graphic blood and violence.
2 1/2 stars
I am more comfortable with diversity, whether it is in my classes or in my neighborhood, than everyone being the same. There is more opportunity for learning with a diverse group in my opinion. For example, I am uncomfortable with a group of people who all act as if they are part of the Stepford Wives. This is one of the reasons why I lost interest with the characters in this predictable movie. I found the soccer mom characters to be simply icky. The message coming across was that soccer moms were unsatisfied, desperate to find physical affection. Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago, The Terminal) as Denise and Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction, Gattaca) as Patti would be examples of the poorly developed characters in this dull film. Gerard Butler (Chasing Mavericks, Law Abiding Citizen) played George, a former soccer star who was down on his luck. Divorced and having been an absentee dad to his son, George decided to coach his son’s soccer team in hopes of getting back into his son’s life again. Jessica Biel (The Illusionist, Total Recall) played George’s ex-wife Stacie who had moved on with her life and was about to get remarried as George came back into her life. Besides the story being silly, I felt the characters were one dimensional. Dennis Quaid (The Day After Tomorrow, Pandorum) was ridiculous as smarmy character Carl, cheating husband to Patti. The acting was not memorable and came across as being stilted. I could appreciate the idea of Gerard’s character wanting to be a responsible father to his son, but the writers veered off from it by filling scenes with silly filler. Relative newcomer Noah Lomax was very good playing the son Lewis. I felt bad for this character; not as much for having an absentee father as for being stuck in this loser of a movie.
1 2/3 stars