THOUGH I INITIATED THE CONVERSATION, I now was trying to gracefully remove myself from it. I had been selling raffle tickets at a charity event and was on my hour dinner break. Standing over by the buffet table that nearly stretched out the length of the ballroom, a gentleman next to me commented on one of the platters of food. We both agreed it might taste good but it looked nasty. A man behind be seconded our comments. As we made our way down the table we started up a light conversation between the three of us. It turned out the 2 men were doctors. With my background in fitness, I thought I could hold my own in the conversation. However, when they started delving into different maladies and surgeries; I not only had nothing to contribute, but I did not even want to hear what they were saying. They were talking in detail about unusual surgeries they had performed, life threatening situations where time was of the essence. The ease of their dialog, to the point of almost being bantering, surprised me while at the same time giving me the heebie-jeebies. I was hearing such details about body organs, unusual tumors, spurting blood; I quickly lost my appetite. If you didn’t know the conversation you would have thought they were talking about a sporting event; they were so nonchalant about it. I MAY HAVE FOUND THEIR CONVERSATION icky but I am sure this type of thing is commonplace for so many people. If you take the emotion out of the conversation and are conversing with a like minded individual(s), then whatever the topic is being discussed might not be startling or out of the ordinary. I guess if I was having a conversation with other yoga instructors about poses and practices, to the layman it might sound odd/bizarre to that person. When I am in such a position the thing that surprises me is the juxtaposition between the average dialog and the amazing topic. There is just something about it that can both amuse or horrify me. I am reminded of a CPR class I attended that was being led by a paramedic; his stories about his work were incredible to listen to yet he was so blasé about it. Just because this was recently in the news, I am also reminded of our past primary election where one of the candidates was a Holocaust denier. His matter of fact manner when discussing such a thing was mind blowing to me. The memory of him was in the back of my mind as I sat and watched this unbelievable, biographical drama. DURING WORLD WAR II HITLER’S TOP LIEUTENANTS convened in a remote place to discuss how to proceed on Hitler’s final solution. The meeting for all appearances looked like a lively dinner party. This film festival winning movie based on true events starred Kenneth Branagh (Murder on the Orient Express, My Week with Marilyn) as Reinhard Heydrich, Stanley Tucci (Night Hunter, Spotlight) as Adolf Eichmann, Barnaby Kay (Red Tails, The Man Who Knew too Little) as Rudolf Lange, Peter Sullivan (The Limehouse Golem, The Bill-TV) as S.S. Col Eberhard “Karl” Schongartin and Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, A Single Man) as Dr. Wilhelm Stuckart. Seeing such a young cast of actors was my first surprise; my second was the horror I was witnessing in their conversations. Most of the film takes place in one room, but do not think you will get claustrophobic; the acting was stellar and the script was intense. These were two things that kept me glued to the screen. At times, I felt I was attending a history lesson and at other times I felt I was a “fly on the wall” listening to such world altering conversations. This film seemed like a classic to me.
3 ½ stars
THE WHOLE MISUNDERSTANDING COULD HAVE BEEN avoided if I had only known he was in a foul mood. Such a simple thing to do and it would have made a world of difference. I had texted my friend to see if he was free to talk. Getting an affirmative response, I called him with the intention of catching up since it had been some time since we last communicated. The conversation started out in the usual way with each of us updating the other on our family members. Having known each other for years, our extended families have trickled down to be part of our conversations with some familiarity. At some point I commented on something he said but did not get a response. I thought maybe he did not hear me. When there was a break, I repeated myself. There was dead silence for a few seconds before he made a comment that had an edge to it. You might know what I mean; where the comment could be taken two different ways based on the tone of the speaker’s voice. It took me by surprise and I did not know how to reply. Deciding to push past it and not assume the comment was negative, I continued on with the conversation. IT WAS NOT TOO MUCH LONGER before I felt he was hitting me with another comment that could be taken two ways. This time I called him on it, asking what he meant by saying what he said. He replied with “What do you mean?” which is a pet peeve of mine. He had heard what I said, so why answer with a question? I went ahead and explained to him what I heard and why I responded the way I did. He then took my words and turned them back at me with what I heard to be a condescending tone. One thing led to another until we wound up being irritated with each other. We quickly ended the call; I was left feeling ticked off and confused. I tried wrapping my brain around what had happened but could not find a solution. My feelings were hurt. It was not until later that night where he called back to explain what was going on with him. It turned out he was in a bad mood because of something that had nothing to do with me. His negativity spread into our conversation, where he misinterpreted things I had said to him. We hashed it out so we could clear the air between us. The bottom line was realizing the need to express one’s feelings in order to become a better communicator. This was a conversation the main couple needed to have in this romantic, war drama. TRAVELING TO HAMBURG FROM ENGLAND TO JOIN her husband Rachel Morgan, played by Keira Knightley (Colette, The Imitation Game) was surprised to see the amount of devastation the war had done. It was even more shocking to discover she would be sharing a home with its German owner. With Jason Clarke (Pet Sematary, Everest) as Lewis Morgan, Alexander Skarsgard (The Hummingbird Project, The Kill Team) as Stephen Lubert, Flora Thiemann (Nelly’s Adventure, Sputnik) as Freda Lubert and Kate Phillips (Downton Abbey, Peaky Blinders-TV) as Susan; this period piece had a strong cast that worked well together. I thought the filming added drama to the story which turned out necessary due to the cliché filled, predictable script. Despite Keira’s ability to command an audience, the script did not allow for the addition of depth to the characters. I would have also appreciated if the writers included more history into the events that affected the characters placing them on their current paths. With this film based on the same titled book, I have to believe the novel offered a better story than the one in this post World War II setting.
1 ¾ stars
WITH THE RESTAURANT BEING SO CROWDED, I was wedged between two sets of diners. We were seated on a vinyl covered bench that spanned the length of the wall. Small wooden tables were barely spaced apart, all the way down, in front of the bench. Next to me sat a mother and her young daughter who happened to be standing in front of me in line, while we were waiting to be seated. A waiter walked up to them first to take their food order. I could not help but hear what they ordered. The mother ordered first and with everything she chose, she asked the waiter to make an alteration to the item. With one food item she did not want the sauce, another she did not want the pickles and so on. Normally I would not have paid attention; however, when it was time for the young daughter to order, the little girl did the same thing. Everything the girl ordered was almost identical to her mother’s orders. I thought how odd; both mother and daughter had identical taste buds? What made me think about this more was the fact when the mother ordered she did not just say, remove the item; she used the words, did not like it or hated it. This made me wonder if the daughter really did not like the items that were being removed or had she learned to dislike them from her mother. Hmmm. WHEN I WAS THAT DAUGHTER’S AGE, there were many foods I did not like. Many of them I had not even tasted before deciding I wasn’t going to eat them. I did not realize back then I was a visual and texture eater. If something did not look right, whatever right meant, I would not touch it. The same thing went for the texture of the food; I always preferred food that was crunchy instead of creamy. There are foods I eat now that back then I would never allow on my plate. In my case I had decided whether I wanted an item or not; no one influenced me. However, with this little girl I wasn’t sure if she had issues with texture and appearance or she was simply mimicking her mother. If her mother did not like something did the daughter choose not to like the same thing? I thought it would be sad if this little girl went through life missing out on different foods or things because she was taught to hate them. If you care to see how it can happen then feel free to watch this dramatic war comedy. JOJO, PLAYED BY NEWCOMER ROMAN GRIFFIN Davis, wanted to grow up and do his part for Nazi Germany. However, all his beliefs and dreams got shattered when he discovered his mother Rosie, played by Scarlett Johansson (Rough Night, Under the Skin), had been hiding a Jewish girl named Elsa, played by Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies), in their attic. What would the Fuhrer think of him? With Taika Waititi (Green Lantern, Wat We Do in the Shadows) as Adolf and Sam Rockwell (Vice, Mr. Right) as Captain Klenzendorf; this story would appear to be another take on the horrors of World War II; however, it was not done the same. The script was both original and fun; I was impressed with the cleverness in which it conveyed its message. The ensemble of actors each provided a particular thread that woven together created an outrageous satire that was enjoyable and funny. For me, this was a bold experiment that zeroed in on the subject of hatred and put it directly in front of the viewer’s face. Truly different and original, I hope no one makes a snap judgement based solely on the movie trailer without experiencing for themselves the magic in this satire.
3 ¼ stars
I MEAN NO DISRESPECT TO ALL the understudies I have seen in theatrical productions, but the shows where the understudy stepped in for the headlining Broadway star left me feeling slightly disappointed. It was especially difficult for me when the show I was seeing was slated to open on Broadway, after its trial run. If it means anything I would feel the same type of disappointment if I bought tickets to a Florida amusement park and its major top ride was not open due to repairs. Am I any different from anyone else who wants to get exactly what they paid for? Now I will say when there is not a major actor in a theatrical production I do not pay attention to see if any of the roles will be played by an understudy. I guess I have always had faith in the producers and director that they have chosen a competent actor who could do the part just as well as the actor who was originally cast. A thought just came to me; I would be totally disappointed if I went to a restaurant for a specific meal I enjoyed only to find out they were not serving it that day. I feel disappointment is simply a part of human nature. THERE HAVE BEEN CERTAIN MOVIES I have seen that disappointed me. Maybe my expectations were set high due to the actors or director involved, but there have been times where I questioned why the film studio chose to make such a film. I remember when I was a kid there was a television show hosted by a man dressed up as a ghoul, warlock or zombie of some kind. It aired every week on the weekend, showing these old dated films. I always wondered if these pictures were ever released in a theater. There was a term for these kinds of movies; they were called “B movies.” Mainly they were low budget films; so, the actors were not the most poplar and the sets/costumes were not the best quality or sophistication. On a rainy Saturday I used to enjoy sitting down and watching these pictures. Some of the stories I remember were about killer tomatoes, 50-foot tall women and crazy aliens aka human beings in cheap looking rubber suits. B movie stories were always easy to follow as the scripts were kept to the minimum, both in words and depth of emotions. If you are not familiar with this type of film, this picture I believe wanted to come off as one of those B movies from a long time ago. ORDERED TO TAKE OUT A VITAL GERMAN radio tower on the eve of D-Day, a small group of soldiers discover something behind enemy lines that could change the course of history. This horror mystery movie starred Jovan Adepo (Fences, Mother!) as Boyce, Wyatt Russell (22 Jump Street, Everybody Wants Some!!) as Ford, Mathilde Ollivier (The Misfortunes of Francois Jane) as Chloe, Pilou Asbaek (Ghost in the Shell, Game of Thrones-TV) as Wafner and John Magaro (The Big Short, Liberal Arts) as Tibbet. For me this picture had a strong retro vibe. The reason I say this is because most of the special effects were done the old-fashioned way, with makeup and costumes instead of CGI. The story was simple which allowed the writers to focus on an abundance of action scenes. I did not mind these scenes but after a while it seemed as if I was watching one long chase scene, going back and forth from the Nazis winning one round to the US forces winning the next and so on. Overall this movie was more of a novelty for me, something that belonged on television during a rainy Saturday afternoon.
1 ¾ stars
THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS used to be such a cut and dry proposition; at least in my mind. During my formative years (they may still be going on presently) when someone made a decision I would carry it out. Whether it was at home or school, this is how I was raised. I cannot recall as a child if I questioned any decisions, though I will say I am sure I interpreted some of them in different ways than they were intended. My sensibilities started to change when that teacher, I have talked about before, told me I would amount to nothing if I pursued a career in writing. It was at that very moment I began questioning authority. The idea of one person, let alone a relative stranger, making a decision that would directly affect me made me extremely uncomfortable and rebellious. What right did this person have to decide what I could and could not do? Not that I would cause a riot or something, but I would question their decision even if it was only an internal dialog in my mind. LOOKING BACK THRU THE eyes of an adult; I now see where some decisions were solely a lucky guess, while others had consequences. Remembering my gym teacher in high school who refused to give me a passing grade, so I would have to repeat the course over; condemned me to another year of abuse even though he was aware of what I went through the first time. The decision by a fitness instructor to let me choreograph an aerobic routine for her started me on a career path in the fitness industry. Now I am very much aware of the magnitude some decisions have not only on me but on society in general. Thinking about one individual deciding on something that has major ramifications on a vast amount of people has to be a scary notion; heck, it should be a terrifying thing. I would not want someone to decide something of importance so cavalierly. The reason I have been thinking about decisions is due to this film festival winning dramatic war film. It is one thing to read about it in history books, but it is totally different to watch the decision process in action. WITH GERMAN FORCES SWEEPING across Europe it was only a matter of time before Germany had Great Britain in its sights. Choices had to be made but which ones would be the right ones? Starring Gary Oldman (The HItman’s Bodyguard, The Space Between Us) as Winston Churchill, Lily James (Cinderella, Baby Driver) as Elizabeth Layton, Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Clementine Churchill, Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom, Rogue One) as King George VI and Stephen Dillane (Spy Game, The Hours) as Viscount Halifax; this film would be an ideal companion piece to the film Dunkirk since they are set in similar times. Gary was outstanding as Winston Churchill; he was the main focus actually of the whole film and script. I understood this however; I felt the script was a bit weak in parts. When Winston was on everything felt right, but in the quieter moments I was left wanting more out of the characters, more in depth interactions between them. Taking the action at face value, I enjoyed the cat and mouse approach to part of the story. Whoever decided Gary was the right choice for the role deserves a pat on the back. I would not necessarily say the same for the script approval, but still the film was worth seeing.
3 ¼ stars
IF there is something harder I do not know what it could be. To see a loved one not only suffering from a health issue but also totally aware of it is awful to witness. I have always said when a loved one dies suddenly it is harder for those who remain behind; when a loved one dies after a long illness it is harder for them. After seeing someone in pain and anguish for a long duration, for those who were witnessing it, there is a sense of relief at the time of the sufferer’s passing. This has been my experiences as well as the friends and family around me. I remember walking into the hospital room of a loved one and being stunned on how much their face had changed from their disease. The face looked like one of those death masks that one would see on display at a museum, except it was hollowed out at the cheeks and eye sockets; it was just awful. Standing there in the room I thought to myself there is no reason they need to stay alive and suffer so much. I understand there are some people who want to hang on to every extra minute they can get by keeping their dying loved ones alive longer. Please I do not want to upset anyone but I have seen people treat their pets better than their relatives and friends when it comes to ending the suffering. WITH that being said I know I would do everything I could to help a loved one get whatever treatment they needed to extend their life as long as they were not suffering. If it meant learning how to administer pain medicines or get the ill person to therapy sessions, whatever it took I would attempt it. But here is the thing that gets me, what about people who do not have any health insurance or worse they are not able to handle the out of pocket expense? Can you imagine what it must feel like to know there is a treatment out there to help your loved one but the cost was too great? How brutal would that be and here is an example of it in this dramatic action thriller. THE thought of losing his girlfriend Juliette, played by Felicity Jones, was too much to bear for Casey Stein, played by Nicholas Hoult (X-Men franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road). He was willing to do an illegal job to get the money he needed for his girlfriend’s operation. Unfortunately the job did not go as planned. This film had such a competent cast that also included Anthony Hopkins (The Elephant Man, Hitchcock) as Hagen Kahl and Ben Kingsley (Learning to Drive, Schindler’s List) as Geran. Why in the world did these actors sign up for such a mediocre film is beyond me? The story which we have heard before was okay, but the script was so poorly thought out that I sat in my seat and kept thinking how silly the scenes were becoming. At least the chase scenes were exciting, some across Germany’s autobahn, but even after a time I was getting tired seeing so many of them. This picture could have been better if they had written the parts in a more authentic way. In its present form I just wanted to get to a car crash to end everyone’s misery.
1 2/3 stars
If the animal kingdom has several species like tiger sharks and hamsters that eat or discard their young, then does it not make sense there would be some humans who do the same thing? Maybe I should clarify what I mean since I am not saying there are parents who literally eat their children; I am referring more to the discarding or the total emotional and mental consumption aspect of the parent/child relationship. From stories I have heard to ones I have seen reported on the news I still react with a sense of shock to some of the stories. For example when the news reporter is interviewing the parents of a child accused of a killing spree or bombing a place I have to wonder if the parents really had no idea their child was capable of such an act. The parents tearfully express their sadness, telling the reporter their son or daughter was always a good child. I am curious about this; is it possible or are the parents so removed from their child’s life they have no clue what their children are capable of doing? I do not have an answer. Perhaps I mentioned this in an earlier review about my friend who was on a jury involved in a case about a mother who hung her 2 year old son off the fire escape of their apartment building. What would possess a parent to do such a thing? But then I think about the classes I attended in school where we had a discussion about the culture where parents would drown their new born babies if they were born female. Now I have such a hard time wrapping stuff like this around my brain because I feel children do not ask to come into this world; however, if a person is going to bring a child into this world then they need to do what is in the best interests for that child. I would be curious to hear what you think about what happened in this dramatic film. FIFTEEN years had passed before Gianni, played by Kim Rossi Stuart (Angel of Evil, Those Happy Years), decided to see his handicapped son Paolo, played by newcomer Andrea Rossi, for the first time. Gianni did not know what to expect. This film festival winning movie was fortunate to have Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, The Duchess) play the character Nicole because she was wonderful in the role. Along with Pierfrancesco Favino (World War Z, Angels & Demons) as Alberto the script tended to push the sentimental aspects of the story but to tell you the truth it did not bother me. I was grabbed early on into this picture, impressed by the acting and the story. If this had been done by a Hollywood studio I think this film would have been over done; instead, the direction and script provided a straight forward and honest portrayal of the events. There was a line that Charlotte’s character says that will prove my point. Do not be surprised if this foreign film gives you a new appreciation of what it means to be a parent. Italian and German were spoken with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars — DVD
I heard what was being said but I could not comprehend it. What was being told to me was foreign to my experiences. I was listening to a story about a mother not wanting to take a road trip with her grandchildren because she did not want to be stuck in a car that long with her son-in-law. Whatever issues she had with her son-in-law did not matter to me; but the idea of missing out on her grandkids was something I found odd. Couldn’t she find another way to get to their destination I thought? I sat listening about this woman and all the traits I associate with being a grandmother did not apply to her. Here are a few things I learned about this person. If there was a television show on she wanted to watch, she would tell her grandchildren not to bother her for the duration of the show. When she was out with her grandchildren she rarely agreed to buy them something they asked for; even something small like an ice cream cone from the ice cream shop or a candy bar from the grocery store. The more I sat learning about this person the more I realized she was a narcissist. Everything was about her and everyone’s purpose according to her was to take care of her. This was so strange to me because my experiences showed me grandparents were kind and sweet. They would take delight in making any of their grandchildren laugh as well as praise them no matter how insignificant the child’s feat may be. Grandparents offered unconditional love and this dramatic movie will show you what I mean. PHYSICALLY surviving a near fatal accident Alexander “Sashko” Georgiev, played by Carlo Ljubek (Off Beat, Shahada), was left with no memories. He did not want the strange man named Bai Dan, played Predrag Manojlovic (Irina Palm, Underground), to keep visiting him in the hospital, even though the man kept saying he was Sashko’s grandfather. This film festival winning movie had a dual story line that was easy to follow; one was set in present time and the other was told via flashbacks. Also starring Hristo Mutafchiev (Hannibal, Undercover-TV) as Vasil “Vasko” Georgiev and Ana Papadopulu (Letter to America, Verso Nord) as Yana Georgiev, I thought the cast did a wonderful job of acting. Though the idea for the simple story initially sounded familiar, I enjoyed the direction it took because what it turned into was something much more. The soundtrack was melodic in a sparse way, but it added an extra layer of charming sweetness to the scenes. It would have been easy to film this picture in closer quarters; gratefully that did not happen because I found the outdoor scenes that included landscapes to be quite beautiful. Maybe some of the script was geared to being overly sentimental, but it did not matter to me. In fact, from the time I saw this movie to writing the review, any minor issues I might have had were now long forgotten. The character Bai Dan was a perfect example of a grandparent’s love. Bulgarian, German and Italian were spoken with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars — DVD
There was no other option because we were hungry. A line of people standing outside the front door was how we determined the restaurant had to have good food. The problem was the way it served the food to the customers. Besides buffets, foraging in a trough or potluck meals; sitting at a table with strangers for family style feeding is not one of my approved methods of eating. I do not like passing a bowl around where people serve themselves. It is creepy when I see someone helping themselves to the food with their own silverware that was just in their mouth. Since there was nothing else around we had no other choice if we wanted to eat. Seated at a large round table with a dozen strangers, the opening conversation focused on where each of us came from then progressed to our reasons for being there. I was not comfortable at the table through the food was good; however, during the chitchat I heard about a part of the city that sounded like a real cool place to visit. No where did I see any mention of this area when I was searching for points of interest. We altered our travel plans to include this place and were quite surprised by it. I felt I had been rewarded for my uncomfortableness during lunch.The story in this dramatic movie had a similar swing of feelings for the main character. Nejat Aksu, played by Baki Davrak (Lola and Billy the Kid, Our Grand Despair), was displeased by his father Ali’s, played by Tuncel Kurtiz (Pains of Autumn, The Wall), choice for a live-in girlfriend; a prostitute named Yeter Ozturk, played by Nursel Kose (When We Leave, My Mother). Due to unexpected circumstances Nejat would have to travel to Turkey to search for Yeter’s daughter Ayten, played by Nurgul Yesilcay (Vicdan, 7 Husbands for Hurmuz). The journey would only be part of the change that began to affect different lives. This film festival winning movie started out with a strong script. I found the story similar to a jigsaw puzzle, where each scene was laid out like a puzzle piece. With chance and circumstance playing a large part in telling this story, the excellent acting only added deeper feelings in my interest to see how things would pan out. This gifted film transcended any language limitations or concerns with subtitles, for it told a complete story. I have to say this film was a great surprise because I had not heard any approving or disapproving remarks prior to receiving it. It now has my approval. There was German, Turkish and English languages used with subtitles.
3 1/4 stars — DVD