THERE WAS A TEACHER AT MY SCHOOL who had a wooden arm. Every student knew it even if they did not have her as their teacher. She wore long sleeves year-round and she kept the hand portion of her fake arm covered with a glove. There was a rumor I had heard about a student in one of her classes. Upon being told to close the classroom window they had opened without permission; the student asked the teacher why, was she afraid of woodpeckers flying into the room? The student was expelled from school for 2 weeks. I am guessing most of you are shocked after reading about this teacher’s arm. It surprised me as well, since I live in a city that has a renowned rehabilitation center. Through the years the local news has reported on this institution’s latest cutting-edge, technological achievements. Patients from all over the world have come here to receive help and guidance from this rehabilitation center. I did not know the teacher’s circumstances on why she either chose or was given a wooden arm instead of some type of bendable prosthetic. Back in school there was a part of me that had always hoped I would get her for a teacher; so, I could see for myself how she navigated through the daily class routines. What can I say; I was curious. SINCE I MENTIONED THE REHABILITATION CENTER, there was one success story that never made it to the news. I was fortunate to watch one patient’s progress on one of my social media sites. I must tell you; it was an incredible journey to watch because this patient came to the center after an accident caused their inability to walk. Periodically, they would post a photo/video of themselves relearning how to walk with mechanical assistance. I never knew what type of injury they had; however, I remember their earliest videos would show them buckled into a nearly full body suit that was suspended from the ceiling and had electrodes attached all over it. There was one video where the patient was wearing the suit and had 2 people on either side moving their limbs to simulate a walking motion. Weeks and weeks went by before the patient was able to move one leg an inch with no assistance; the smile on their face was immense. At some point the suspended suit was replaced with one that was remotely controlled. The patient had to hold onto two parallel bars, as their legs would slowly shuffle one at a time forward. What a feat to witness; I originally thought I would be seeing a similar feat in this science fiction, action drama. NEW TECHNOLOGY WAS ABLE TO BRING Ray Garrison, played by Vin Diesel (The Last Witch Hunter, The Fast and Furious franchise), back from his untimely death. However, his memories were a different story. With Eiza Gonzalez (Baby Driver, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw) as Katie/KT, Sam Heughan (Outlander-TV, The Spy Who Dumped Me) as Jimmy Dalton, Toby Kebbell (Fantastic Four, The Hurricane Heist) as Martin Axe and Guy Pearce (Spinning Man, The Rover) as Dr. Emil Harting; this film based on a popular comic book was a typical Vin Diesel picture. It also included a typical Vin performance; even when the action was done in slow motion. The idea behind the story intrigued me; in fact, I enjoyed the enhancements made to Vin’s character. Yet, the writers did nothing new with the story line. There were big fight scenes and special effects; but they were all wrapped into a blah script that did not provide me with anything new. All I can say is this film was not horrible; it was just bland and mindless. You would think with all the technological advances that have been achieved in the world, the movie studio could have presented a better film.
1 ¾ stars
I sit and wait, searching their face for any clue on which direction their reaction will go. It is a gamble; I know that going in, but I am willing to take the risk. Of course, I make sure I have plenty other choices in case any one of them goes bad. You see I love trying new products, especially in the food category. Anytime I have people over to the house I try offering something new to them and myself. It could be from any food group, I would take a chance on it. And here is the little dietary secret; if a guest enjoys the new product I make them take it home because I do not want it to stay alone with me. It would be too much temptation. This way I get to taste something new without overindulging myself. The other secret about having new food items for company is seeing the look on people’s faces at that first bite; I do not know if I can explain it but I truly love seeing someone putting on a happy face due to some new discovery I found. When I am at the grocery store I feel like a treasure hunter when shopping for an upcoming party. Now before you tell me I need to find a new life, let me tell you I feel the same way outside of my home. When I was a kid I wanted to be a tour guide for the city. I wanted to take people I knew or people they knew and show them something they had never seen before. It could be art, architecture, nature or a restaurant; it did not matter as long as the person would have a positive experience from my tours. My desire to be a discoverer played right into this biographical drama. MAX Perkins, played by Colin Firth (The Railway Man, Before I Go to Sleep) had a special place in the literary world. He was the book editor for Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe. This film festival nominee had a top notch cast of actors. Besides Colin there was Nicole Kidman (Secret in Their Eyes, Paddington) as Aline Bernstein, Jude Law (Spy, Sherlock Holmes franchise) as Thomas Wolfe and Laura Linney (Mr. Holmes, Primal Fear) as Louise Perkins. I was excited not only for the cast but the story itself, seeing these authors I was familiar with coming to life was a treat. You will understand now why my disappointment in this film was significant because the script did not live up to the characters. For such dynamic well known authors this story needed more levels of emotion, besides offering more of the artists’ motivations and feelings. Sure there were drunken and screaming scenes but I wanted to hear more about the “why.” The look of this picture was appropriate and the acting was the best the actors could do with the script; I just wished the script would have been at a higher level to match the story. Considering this film was only playing at 2 theaters in the city, I still felt like I was discovering a little piece of history.
2 1/3 stars
DISCLAIMER: The description and actions described below do not describe actual people. Any resemblance to an actual individual is purely a coincidence. In addition, the scenarios and/or people do not represent any health club members who presently attend any of my fitness classes. The fitness center was situated on the border between an upper and lower class neighborhood. This produced an eclectic mix of people with different reasons for joining the health club. There were factory workers, executives, family members of organized crime figures; you name it and more than likely they attended the club. I had a large morning class that consisted of policemen, housewives, doctors and students. There were a couple of attendees who never came to class without being in full makeup and their hair in perfect place. The part I had a hard time with was the strong perfume they wore that always wafted just above everyone like a rolling bank of thunderclouds. Besides the assortment of members, the staff was just as diverse. There was one trainer that literally looked like a beast; they were so muscularly pumped up, one had to wonder how they could even bend their limbs. One trainer was engaged to marry another trainer, but one month before the wedding called it off and eloped with the fitness floor manager. Oh, I have to tell you about the aerobic instructor who was a chain smoker. They never understood why no one would stand close to them when they taught class. It was because the stench of cigarette smoke would ooze out of their pores and choke the front row of members; it was utterly nasty. So you see I had excellent training to understand this comedy film. FITNESS club owner Trevor, played by Guy Pearce (Lawless, Memento), was hesitant to let his trainer Kat, played by Cobie Smulders (The Avengers franchise, How I Met Your Mother-TV), work with new wealthy client Danny, played by Kevin Corrigan (The Departed, Pineapple Express). He had good reason to think it. This film festival nominated comedy offered an odd offbeat take on the health care industry. At first glance I thought some scenes were unrealistic; but the more I thought about it the more I realized any of the situations could be feasible based on the things I had seen at the different health clubs where I taught. I still did not get a good handle on Danny’s character until later in the movie. There were a few spots where my attention waned which I attributed to the uneven script. Also, I have to say I did not find the acting that great; the characters never seemed fully developed to me. As an overall experience I did not mind watching this film, but maybe I was grateful I did not have to teach a class there.
2 1/2 stars
Stuff just becomes stuff after time has passed. Things that seemed important now only take up space in your home. I can still remember the 1st piece of advice I received when I was learning how to drive, “A car can always be replaced, but not a human being.” So when I look around my house I have a different perspective on what objects are important to me. If there was some kind of impending doom about to happen to my place, I would save my photo albums and postcard collection. The photographs span decades of living, starting before I was born. I took over the job of photographing everyone when I received my 1st camera when I was 13 years old. All the postcards have been mailed to me by friends and family, from places all over the world. With the photos and postcards I feel like I have a little piece of the person close to me; capturing a moment of their time that will always be a memory. I know I sound like a greeting card, but these items provide endless pleasure with their retro feeling. I never want to lose them for they are dear to me. Just as important to Eric, played by Guy Pearce (Lawless, The King’s Speech), in this crime drama was his automobile. When his car was hijacked right in front of him, Eric would have to track down the thieves through the challenges of the Australian Outback. There was no guarantee he would succeed let alone survive. With the story done by actor Joel Edgerton (Warrior, The Great Gatsby), I found the camera work and music score captivating. Maybe because the landscape looked so bleak and different to me, the sense of doom seemed to be more prominent. Guy was so intense in the role that I became increasingly anxious as the story progressed. The big surprise for me was seeing Robert Pattinson (Twilight franchise, Remember Me) in a role where I totally forgot he was Edward the vampire and believed him as the injured Rey. He was as convincing as Guy was determined in getting his car back and they were excellent together. The downside of this picture was the lack of explanation in several scenes. I felt some of the drama was just being repeated but with different characters. Eric’s actions led me to assume he was a certain type of individual but it did not jive with part of the story. There is a chance some people will not like the ending to this film festival nominated movie. However, you cannot fault someone for fighting to hold on to those things that were important to them. There were several scenes with violence and blood.
2 2/3 stars
Anticipation builds as the roller coaster climbs to the top where the tracks suddenly vanish. As the coaster car creeps over the top, I take a deep breath just before the wind pushes me against my seat. The next 60 seconds are filled with laughter and yelling from everyone as the roller coaster swoops and soars along the tracks. I enjoyed those older roller coasters, before they started doing corkscrews and flips. When I started taking ibuprofen after riding a roller coaster, I realized it was time to stop going on them. Happily I was able to revisit those same type of thrills while watching this rip-roaring film. After a couple of months sitting through some dismal movies, this 3rd installment of the action series was absolute fun. If it is important to you that the story follows the comic books, you will be disappointed. Since I am not a purist, I thought the story was terrific. Sure there were parts that made no sense to me; but the entertainment value was at such a high level, I just went along for the ride. When the mysterious, ruthless villain known as the Mandarin, played brilliantly by Ben Kingsley (Hugo, The Dictator), struck out at Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr. (The Avengers, Due Date), the ensuing battle no longer was about good versus evil; it was about revenge. Robert was at his best this time around. Pay close attention to his quick one-liners that were flying out from the wonderful script. With the actors being pushed physically, I thought Gwyneth Paltrow (Country Strong, Proof) as Pepper Potts and Guy Pearce (Lawless, Prometheus) as Aldrich Killian were outstanding. The same was true about Don Cheadle (Traitor, Reign Over Me) as Colonel James Rhodes, but I wished he had been given more screen time. The action scenes were perfectly balanced throughout the movie. I never felt the fight scenes were rushed; I was able to distinctly make out each character. Just like those old roller coasters; this film was exciting entertainment. So take the ride of your life; it will be worth the price of admission. Stay through the ending credits.
3 1/3 stars
With a smoldering Brando vibe and a piercing, steely stare; make no mistake about it, this was Tom Hardy’s (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) picture. If he and his management team continue to make the right career choices like Warrior and avoid the wrong ones such as This Means War; Tom will be one of our top rated actors. He portrayed Forrest Bondurant, who with his brothers Howard, played by Jason Clarke (Death Race, Public Enemies) and Jack, played by Shia LaBeouf (Transformers franchise, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), ran a successful bootlegged liquor operation in Franklin County, Virginia during the depression. When corrupt special agent Charlie Rakes, played by Guy Pierce (The King’s Speech, Factory Girl), came into town; he rounded up the authorities to aid him in getting a cut of the brothers’ growing earnings. Where Tom played his character as a dark, simmering man with a deadly reputation; Guy’s character was an arrogant, mean, sadistic man who was fussy about keeping a pristine appearance. Both actors were amazing. Based on a true story, this was a graphic violent, bloody film; as we saw the brothers fight to maintain a hold on their operations. I, along with everyone else in the theater, sat absolutely still through the entire movie; the story never lagged. Both Tom and Guy were the major players on the screen. The issue I had with this otherwise great film was Shia LaBeouf. This boy could not handle the role given to him. It was so apparent when any of the other cast was in his scenes; he could not elevate himself to their level of acting. Despite Shia, this was one heck of an intense movie to view and I was serious when I said the entire audience sat still in their seats. None of us wanted to miss a single thing.
3 1/4 stars
I am all for cutting corners where one can to save some money. In my heyday you should have seen my coupon prowess. But what was the studio thinking when they saw a script like this one which had Bruce Willis’ name written all over it? Maybe Bruce’s asking price was too high and the studio went instead for a discount. So they chose Guy Pearce (The King’s Speech, Traitor) to play the role of wrongly convicted, smart mouthed Snow. Not that Bruce has cornered the market on quick-witted, sarcastic retorts; but, I became bored early on with Guy’s attempts. Here is the story in a nutshell: Snow was offered his freedom if he would agree to rescue the President’s daughter Emilie Warnock, played by Maggie Grace (Taken, The Jane Austen Book Club), who was trapped inside an outer space prison, when overtaken by the prisoners. Granted, not the most original of ideas and the movie studio did not just stop there in their frugality. I found the special effects, for this day and age, lackluster and unexciting. The one object I found cool could be seen in the trailer–the space-aged motorcycle ridden by Guy Pearce. Okay, so it looked like a pimped out Bat-Pod. Remember, the producers were trying to save some change. As you may have gathered, I did not find too much to like in this movie. All I was hoping to accomplish was some space out time with a thrilling fun science fiction movie. Instead I felt a dose of reality as I watched this cheaply made movie that should have gone straight to DVD.
1 2/3 stars