I NEVER CONSIDERED IT A UNIQUE ability; in fact, I actually did not give it any thought. It wasn’t until a couple of friends asked me how I could recall what everyone at a party was wearing, that I had to stop and think about it. You see I was not alone in having this ability; there were at least a couple of my relatives who could do the same thing. Each of us could walk into a room and immediately see and commit to memory every detail of our surroundings. When my friends tested me after we had gone to a get together at a friend’s house, I not only told them what everyone was wearing but also details of the room we hung out in; such as a small crack in one of the windows, not the one with the broken window shade, and a stain on the carpeting near the front leg of the sofa. They could not believe how much I remembered, telling me in a teasing way that I was a freak. From my perspective, I felt they were just not paying close enough attention to everything around them. I never considered it as a flaw or deficiency; if anything, I felt they simply chose not to devote energy into taking in the details. MAYBE ONE OF THE REASONS I HAVE this ability is because I have always been more of a visual learner than an auditory one. Not that I understood this back when I was a young student; I always was attracted to things that visually stimulated me. I remember this one time where my friends and I were having a discussion on the ramifications of losing or not having one of our senses. We queried each other on what modifications could one do to compensate for the loss. I brought up the point how I noticed when one sense is missing, the others tend to compensate for it. In my experiences, I have witnessed individuals who were blind having a more acute sense of hearing. It was as if the body had compensated for the loss to keep the individual closer to being in balance. Not that I have had any personal experiences with people on the spectrum, but I have seen a non-verbal person with autism play piano like a concert pianist without any formal training. The news reported a few months ago about a young boy who did not express himself emotionally until he saw a famous animated movie. Suddenly, he started to express himself and increased his vocabulary by seeing other movies from the same film studio. The mind is extraordinary as you can see when watching the main character in this dramatic, crime mystery. AFTER WITNESSING THE MURDER OF HIS friend Lionel Essrog, played by Edward Norton (Primal Fear, Keeping the Faith), was determined to find out who killed him. With so few clues no one would be able to do what Lionel had the ability to do. With Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Fast Colour, Beyond the Lights) as Laura Rose, Alec Baldwin (It’s Complicated, Blue Jasmine) as Moses Randolph, Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse, Bad Country) as Paul Randolph and Cherry Jones (The Perfect Storm, Ocean’s Twelve) as Gabby Horowitz; this film festival winner based on the novel of the same name was written and directed by Edward Norton. Set in New York City during the 1950s, I found the story dragged for the first half of the film. Though I thought the acting and filming were excellent, it just seemed as if the story was going nowhere. However, by the second half of the picture, I found myself more engaged and enjoying the snowballing mystery aspect of the story. There was a part of the story that was just as relevant now as it was back then. If the script had been not as long, I think this movie would have been more powerful. Despite this I at least enjoyed watching the stylish scenes and incredible acting skills of Edward.
2 ½ stars
SOMETIMES IT TAKES AN UNEXPECTED EVENT for an individual to discover their hidden ability. I have no recollection of the event, but I was told my relative ran alongside a bus to keep me safe. The story told to me was about a time I was riding a bus from the doctor’s office. When the bus came to our stop, I lined up behind my relative who had taken me. I was the last one in line to exit the backside door of the bus. Because I was young and small, the bus driver could not see me in his rearview mirror, walking down the stairs. He closed the doors and my back leg got caught between them. My relative, who had stepped off of the bus, turned around just as I yelled out for help. She immediately grabbed me to see if she could pull me out but the doors had a solid hold of my leg. The bus started to coast away from the curb; my relative kept holding me as she trotted along. Though she was active as a teenager, it had been decades since she did anything that would yield a drop of sweat to break out on her forehead, let alone running at top speed. With the bus merging into traffic it was going at a good clip by now. There were a couple of people sitting near the back of the bus that caught a glimpse of my predicament and hollered out to the bus driver to stop. He finally did but not after my relative had been running alongside for a few blocks. DUE TO THAT EVENT MY RELATIVE discovered she had a knack for running. I know, what a way to find out, right? I was told I was shaken up from the bus ride but there were no injuries done to me. Presently, I have a friend who discovered he has an artistic flair for creating art pieces. With the stay at home order in place in his state, he has been purging his house of old, discarded items that he does not need anymore. He was gathering up all kinds of items, anywhere from hardware things to clothing accessories to expired medicine bottles. Having them stacked in a pile, one day he was sitting and looking at them. For some reason, he started picking out items and laying them on his coffee table. Pretty soon he had a small group of things that he arranged into a pattern. This intrigued him and before you know it, he found a 12 x 12 piece of wooden board and started gluing all the items onto the board. By the time he was done he had created a piece of art that could easily be hung up on a wall and no one would be the wiser. I saw a photo of it and it was beautiful. At present he has several pieces created that will easily sell in an art show. Just as he discovered a hidden ability, the main character in this dramatic thriller discovered her ability. AFTER DISCOVERING HER ABILITY RUTH, PLAYED BY Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Beyond the Lights), became a target that needed to be harnessed. With David Strathaim (Lincoln; Good Night, and Good Luck) as Ellis, Lorraine Toussaint (Selma, Love Beats Rhymes) as Bo, Christopher Denham (Shutter Island, Sound of my Voice) as Bill and Saniyya Sidney (Hidden Figures, Fences) as Lila; this science fiction, film festival winning movie had a down to earth, gentleness to its story. I thought the acting was excellent and was grateful the script assisted the actors in a positive way. What I liked about this picture was the fact for a science fiction story it did not have major special effects, battles or otherworldly characters; it was rather a simple story that had similarities to other films with the same type of special ability characters. There was no new ground covered in this movie; however, its ability to be entertaining was much appreciated.
2 ½ stars
SHE did not recognize the woman who was standing over her sleeping mother. At the side of her mother’s bed this woman stood still, intently gazing down while the sleeping woman’s torso slowly rose and receded with long breaths. There was no way to tell time but it seemed to only last half a minute before the entire room faded into darkness. Hours later when it was morning the daughter woke up and recalled the image of her mother sleeping and realized it was a dream. Over coffee she told her mother about the dream. SEVERAL days later the mother happened to be going through a box of old photographs. When she came across a picture of her mother she called her daughter over to take a look at the grandmother she had never known. When the daughter looked at the photograph of her deceased grandmother she became a bit flustered. She turned to her mother and told her that was the woman from last night’s dream who was standing next to the bed. I have always believed there are no accidents, that there is a reason for everything. Most of the time I never focused on the possibility an outside source was influencing the event; I just took things at face value. Earlier I mentioned in a review about getting a new furnace but what I did not tell you were the events that led up to it. The thermostat that controlled the furnace broke; I initially thought it just needed new batteries. After trying the different batteries I had in the house, besides keeping up with my hectic schedule, three days had passed before I could get a repair person to come in and check out the equipment. During this time we had unusually warm weather so I did not have to be concerned with my sensitivity to cold. When the service tech came and started to work on the thermostat a device he was wearing started to flash a bright red. It turned out I had a dangerous level of carbon monoxide in the house. If the thermostat had not broken I would not have known. Was it possible someone was looking out for me? MOST of the townsfolk thought Thomas, played by Anton Yelchin (Star Trek franchise, Green Room), was odd. It was just because they did not know he could see dead people. This comedic horror fantasy was based on the novel by Dean Koontz (Watchers, Whispers). I enjoyed the cast which also included Willem Dafoe (The Fault in our Stars, Platoon) as Chief Wyatt Porter and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Free State of Jones, Jupiter Ascending) as Viola. If it was not for the actors this DVD would have been even lighter fare. There was nothing new about the story and the special effects were not all that special. To me it appeared as if this movie was made on the cheap, not that I want to say anything negative towards the actors. They could only do what the script told them to do. What it comes down to is this: there is nothing awful or great about this film. It was just an amusement to pass the time, with a touch of sadness seeing Anton.
1 ¾ stars — DVD
It still can have disastrous effects and doesn’t make things better, but at least there were no ill intentions associated with it. As part of my banter during my classes I do public service announcements, a portion of it is listing any product recalls. There have been some that were not due to human error; for example, a bad circuit board installed into a motor vehicle or a food item that did not receive all of its ingredients due to a glitch during the automated manufacturing process. I understand things can happen. The issue I have is when individuals willingly keep the status quo though they know it could be dangerous for the consumer. Listen to these product recalls I have previously announced in class: a paper lantern that could catch on fire because the votive candle holders were too close to the lamp’s sides or how about the children’s swing set where the seats hung too low, causing kids to scrape their legs on the ground when swinging. You are telling me no one bothered to inspect the product before selling it? It has been drummed into all of our heads that time is money; no one wants to spend a lot of time on something if it affects the bottom line. I find it sad and miss the old days (listen to me) when people cared about their products and even other people. This is why I was so taken aback by this drama. FORENSIC neuropathologist Dr. Bennett Omalu, played by Will Smith (I Am Legend, Hancock), worked at the coroner’s office in Pittsburgh. When the corpse of one of the Pittsburgh Steeler’s star football players arrived, Dr. Omalu could not understand why such a relatively young person had suffered such ailments and was now dead. It was a mystery he was determined to solve. This film festival winning sports film played partially like a thriller. Based on a true story I have to give credit to Will Smith. The character Will portrayed was such a gentle, down to earth man that one just wanted to root for him. Maybe the accent was weak but Will made this role one of his best performances I have ever seen. With Alec Baldwin (The Departed, 30 Rock-TV) as Dr. Julian Bailes and Albert Brooks (Drive, Defending Your Life) as Dr. Cyril Wecht, the supporting cast did a fine job with their characters even though they were not written with much depth to them. There were a couple of scenes that felt forced, where the writers wanted to inject an element of suspense; they were only a distraction for me. On the other hand I will say as the pieces of this mystery were being discovered there was one particular scene that was powerful and put everything into place for me. After seeing this picture I honestly cannot imagine a parent, who has children playing in some type of sports activity, not questioning their decision to allow their children’s participation.
There are people among us pretending they are somebody else due to embarrassment or envy. They want nothing to do with individuals who know their history. Within this group you find folk who were guided into taking on a different persona by a parent or mentor. I knew a few people who transformed themselves into someone different. There was one man who grew up in my neighborhood who went to the same schools I did, bought food from the same local grocery and drug stores and even participated in the same summer camp program. However, it apparently was not enough for him. Out of nowhere he started talking with an accent as if he had spent sufficient time in a foreign country and took on their language. He stopped shopping in the neighborhood and began buying only designer clothing. I never understood the change in him but he never wavered from his new veneer. Within my circle of friends I had a friend who had a mother that acted in a couple of television commercials. She was quite the dramatic character and always pushed her daughter towards acting, even though her daughter had no desire to do it. My friend was constantly being dragged either to auditions or fittings for some, what I thought at least, unusual looking clothing. Thinking about them now, I can only imagine how much energy must have been devoted towards maintaining their transformations. UNCOMFORTABLE and despondent emerging pop star Noni, played by Gugu Mbatha Raw (Belle, Larry Crowne); found herself sitting on the edge of the balcony outside her penthouse suite. Driven by her mother Macy Jean, played by Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting, Barney’s Version), Noni felt she had no other way out until police officer Kaz Nicol, played by Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Red Tails), tried talking her off the ledge. This film festival nominated drama was written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Secret Life of Bees, Love & Basketball). Having first becoming aware of Gugu in the film Belle, I thought she did an admirable job of acting for this role. There was an easy chemistry between her and Nate. Including Danny Glover (The Color Purple, 2012) as Captain Nicol, I thought everyone’s acting was quite good overall. The script had its moments of real raw emotion that the actors were able to accentuate. Unfortunately the story did not offer any surprises; it was predictable for the most part. There was a familiarity to this film which I realized had to do with it having a similar story to the movie The Bodyguard. Starting out strong, I wished this picture would have stayed more unique and not try to be something else.
2 3/4 stars
Searching through several sources I did not find where the word “different” was defined as being a bad thing. Some of the items I read said different was not being identical or alike in character or quality, to be separate or distinct; I did not find anything that conveyed a negative connotation. What I found troubling was when being different evoked hatred. Unaware of what started this phenomenon or even when it began; I just found it to be vulgar and ignorant. One of the scary aspects of this different/hatred connection is when an individual is filled with hatred. I hate sauerkraut but that hatred does not fill my veins up, fueling me to go off on someone who likes that shredded jellyfish looking stuff. It is disturbing to witness someone treating a person with disrespect simply because they are different. In my previous review I talked about being a disposable society; I was referring to manufactured products. What struck me in this movie, based on a true story, was how people could be considered disposable. The script for this film festival winner began when the writer saw a painting she found odd. Her exploration into the creation of that artwork spurred her to develop this amazing story. Matthew Goode (Stoker, Watchmen) as Captain Sir John Lindsay was the father of an illegitimate, mixed race daughter named Dido Belle Lindsay, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Larry Crowne, Odd Thomas). Soon to command a ship in the royal navy, Sir John Lindsay had to leave his daughter with his aunt and uncle, Lady and Lord Mansfield, played by Emily Watson (The Book Thief, War Horse) and Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton, The Lone Ranger). The presence of Belle would be a concern for Lord Mansfield who happened to be the chief justice for the British courts. Why this beautifully told drama was special was due to the story being set in England during the 1700s. Slaves were a commodity that could be bought, traded or discarded. The richly detailed scenes and the way the story unfolded swept me in, filling me with emotions. I believed in the characters due to the strong acting from the cast, which also included Miranda Richardson (Empire of the Sun, The Crying Game) as Lady Ashford and Sam Reid (The Railway Man, Anonymous) as John Davinier. With strong elements I found it surprising how the story was still able to convey a certain delicateness. Still fresh in my mind after the movie ended, my thoughts lingered on how we have advanced as a society. However, I am very much aware there is still a deep hatred prevalent towards those who are different.
3 1/3 stars