MOST EVERYONE I KNOW has/had one favorite relative they have enjoyed being with the most. For some it was/is a grandparent or an aunt/uncle. I remember the feelings I would get when walking into one of my closest relative’s home. There was a settled in feeling to the place, if that makes any sense. You know those types of homes you visit where you are afraid to sit on the furniture or eat in a room because everything is in place, looking spic and span clean. Possibly some homes might even have furniture that has a plastic or cloth cover over it. Does anyone remember what it was like to sit on plastic covers on a warm summer day? The answer was sticky. That was nothing like my relative’s home. Their place had furniture with deflated cushions on the sofa and chairs as if they were tired from holding up the bottoms of people for so many years. There were a variety of knick-knacks placed around the rooms, from framed photos to small ceramic pieces shaped into animals and dancers. And for me my favorite part was the kitchen because it always provided me with recently baked cookies, pies or cakes. AS FOR THIS RELATIVE they had an all encompassing hug that made me feel safe. After receiving one of their big hugs they would lightly pinch one of my bulbous cheeks as a warm, pure smile spread across their face. I cannot recall ever not getting greeted that way any time I went to visit their home. Because of their disposition and maybe rank in the family, their home was always a safe haven for all the relatives; there never was a fight or disagreement inside their home. I guess the best way to describe it would be to say it was a peaceful place always filled with the smells of something cooking in the kitchen. Though there were few modern devices or appliances, you never felt like you were missing out on something. I can remember bringing my friends there one time and watching them enjoy this one particular cookie that was my favorite. So it wasn’t just me I realized; everyone who met my relative always left with feeling the same way: comforted, safe and joyful. I got to experience these feelings once again while watching this charming, adventure comedy. SEARCHING FOR A BIRTHDAY gift for his aunt Paddington, voiced by Ben Whishaw (The Lobster, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer), found the perfect gift at Mr. Gruber’s, played by Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady, Gangs of New York), shop. But while Paddington was saving up to buy the item it was stolen and the evidence pointed to Paddington. With Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water, Maudie) as Mary Brown, Hugh Bonneville (Notting Hill, Downton Abbey-TV) as Henry Brown and Hugh Grant (Cloud Atlas, About a Boy) as Phoenix Buchanan; this was such an entertaining movie that caused me to have a smile on my face and warmth in my heart. The story evoked feelings of excitement, joy, sadness and comfort; I actually enjoyed this sequel more than the first film. Sure some of the humor was predictable and corny, but it did not bother me; it only added an old fashioned sweetness to the story. For those who want a film to take the whole family to, from child to adult, this would be the one to go see. After viewing this picture I wished I was friends with Paddington. Oh, and do stay for the beginning credits to see a fun scene.
3 ½ stars
It can be such a dilemma; the choice is whether to be supportive or honest. Now I grant you these two options can be compatible; but I have found myself in situations where I had to stop and think before I reacted to the circumstances present. So here is the question I have for you; how do you tell someone you care about that their dream will never happen? For what I hope is obvious reasons I have changed a few things here; let us say you have a close friend who wants to be a chef. They enjoy having dinner parties so they can try out new dishes on their friends. The food is fine but nothing you would pay for at a restaurant. Politeness dictates you tell your friend the food tastes good. Should you mention you would not necessarily pay for it but for homemade it was okay? Remember this friend’s dream is to be a chef either at an established venue or opening up their own place. Personally it is a tough call for me and I am the blunt one in my circle of friends. I would never quash a person’s dream; dreams are what make human beings grow and learn. On the other hand watching your friend spend money and time on something that probably will not yield them the desired results would be sad. Do you see my predicament? A similar situation was taking place in this biographical comedic drama. NEW YORK heiress Florence Foster Jenkins, played by Meryl Streep (Ricki and the Flash, Hope Springs), dreamed of becoming an opera singer. She had the means, the desire and the drive to fulfill this dream. The question was did she have the talent? Based on a true story this film’s cast formed a wonderful bond that came across the big screen. With Hugh Grant (About a Boy, Did You Hear About the Morgans?) as St. Clair Bayfield, Simon Helberg (Van Wilder: Party Liaison, The Big Bang Theory-TV) as Cosme McMoon and Rebecca Ferguson (Hercules, A One-Way Trip to Antibes) as Kathleen; the actors did their best with what was given to them. The story was better than the script. I thought the sets and costumes were spot on; but the script produced what I thought was a light version to what the story could have been. The acting was very good but I found the characters somewhat bland, though Simon’s character was curious. Without giving a spoiler alert let me just say I read somewhere that it was Meryl’s idea to not let the actors and extras hear her in some scenes until the first take. I have to say it worked because I thought the scenes looked authentic. So you see there were positives to this film; I just felt it lagged emotionally, not making a true connection with the viewer. Maybe there were people behind this project who dreamed of bringing this true story to the big screen. Who am I to tell them they should not have done it this way? Instead let me say my fascination with this story lingered on after the movie was over. The bottom line is everyone has the right to dream.
2 2/3 stars
She could be so vindictive even while serving you buttered toast. I do not want to say she was untouchable, but she was essentially the only one who knew how to operate the outdated billing system at the company. By today’s standards she would have been written up by her manager multiple times; I was one of her victims having been on the receiving end of a spiteful attack. I had done nothing wrong in my dealings with this one customer; however, while she was on the switchboard she added some extra lines to the message the customer left for their salesperson. She made it look like I had been verbally abusive with the customer. Luckily I kept detailed notes about all my accounts, so her plan did not hit me full force. I will tell you I was furious and spent a long week dealing with my anger at her, devising imaginative plots of revenge. Each plan I came up with became more outrageous as my anger increased, even though I knew I would not act on any of them. But do you know what I did instead? I took my anger and started working harder at my job, soliciting more conversations from my contacts, to strike up a sense of familiarity between us. As time passed my efforts paid off and I was promoted to a bigger position. I became that employee’s boss. You are probably thinking I made her life a living hell, but I did not. Though I remained wary of her, I kept close tabs on her since we had to work together. Sort of the same thing the 2 agents had to do in this action adventure film. DURING the cold war a new threat emerged that could become more powerful than the United States or Soviet Union. CIA agent Napoleon Solo, played by Henry Cavill (Immortals, Man of Steel), and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin, played by Armie Hammer (Mirror Mirror, The Lone Ranger), would have to work together if they were to succeed in their mission. Based on the 1960s television series there were parts of this film that were fun and entertaining. With a slick stylized look to the movie I enjoyed some of the banter that took place between the two agents. However, I did not care for the story much; it seemed choppy and uneven to me. The fight scenes only seemed to enhance this point; I did not like the way they were filmed for the most part. Throughout the picture it appeared to me everything was being laid out as an overture to what would become the main movie, the possible sequel. This felt like a trial run of a story so I will try to keep an open mind if the film studio decided to do another one.
2 1/2 stars
Something I say to remind me there may be additional opportunities is the saying, “It is not written in stone.” I do not know how this saying came to be, but what it means to me is I do not have to remain in the same place forever. In other words, I can make a decision to learn a new exercise program and discover it is not suitable for me. Just because I agreed to do it does not mean I have to teach it the rest of my life. Maybe a better example is when a friend of mine was out of work. Enough time had passed where their funds were almost depleted. A job offer finally came up that wasn’t exactly in their field and they were not sure they wanted to take it. I explained just because they accept the offer doesn’t mean he will have to stay there the rest of his life. The important thing was to start earning an income and down the road see what opportunities open up for them. This may sound hokey but we can be whatever we want to be. I have rewritten my life’s path several times, going from wanting to be a veterinarian to a fitness presenter to a movie reviewer. Each portion of my past journey has led me to my present destination. KEITH Michaels, played by Hugh Grant (Music and Lyrics, About a Boy), was an Oscar winning screenwriter. So what happened to him where he had to leave Hollywood and take a temporary teaching position at a small east coast college to earn a living? This romantic comedy felt like a well-worn blanket; it felt familiar besides having Hugh’s typical dry wit and humor. To tell you the truth I was surprised this movie had such a stellar cast. There was J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Labor Day) as Dr. Lerner, Marisa Tomei (Spare Parts, The Wrestler) as Holly Carpenter and Allison Janney (Liberal Arts, Bad Words) as Mary Weldon; all of them were wonderful in this easy to watch film. I cannot remember the last time I saw Hugh in a movie but he still was able to play that type of character who was part selfish, part snob and part lovable sheepish bloke. The story was simple; there was nothing really new about it. However, because of the cast I enjoyed watching this movie. There would be no reason to run out and see this film right away; I think this picture would be perfect to watch on a lazy, cloudy day when you have few commitments. You do not have to take my word though; you can watch it anytime you want.
2 1/4 stars
I agree that opposites attract is valid most of the time; however, sometimes it can be a real challenge. My friends were quite puzzled when I was in a relationship with a mathematician. In fact, they had a PhD degree in mathematics. Looking back I have to laugh at some of the conversations we used to have when we were in disagreement. Where they needed fact based information to make a decision, they were always perplexed when I would say things like “it feels right” or “that is how I feel.” How does one explain a feeling to a scientific mind? Suffice to say our different perspectives was the cleaver that finally severed our relationship. So here in this movie there were two individuals who were curious about each other; both passionate about their respective creative talents. This comedy was extra fun for me because it combined two of my favorite things besides movies: music and books. Judy Davis (Barton Fink, To Rome with Love) played writer Amandine Lucile Aurore Dupin aka George Sand. She was known to wear men’s clothing and smoke cigars, besides her romantic affairs with some prominent men; all which were quite outrageous back in the early 1800s. Upon hearing rapturous music being played on the piano by composer Frederic Chopin, played by Hugh Grant (About a Boy, Music and Lyrics), George was determined to meet this man whose music was speaking directly to her heart. Unfortunately former lovers and friends had different ideas for them. This biographical film was enjoyable on multiple levels. Seeing a young Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Sense and Sensibility) play Duchess D’Antan, Mandy Patinkin (The Princess Bride, Criminal Minds-TV) as Alfred De Musset and Bernadette Peters (The Jerk, Annie) as Maria D’Agoult was amusing to me. The acting from the whole cast was solidly cohesive. I have to tell you I liked the retro look to the whole film. What I mean is the use of actual film to shoot the picture and on location in France without any type of special effects. Of course it was understandable since the movie was made over 20 years ago. Being familiar with the works of Chopin and Franz Liszt, played by Julian Sands (The Killing Sands, Leaving Las Vegas), I found the connection between my own knowledge of these historic figures and the characterizations of them in this musical film a crazy juxtaposition. This comedy would not only work for those who have a strong creative side but to those with a dominant scientific mind.
3 stars — DVD
Some years ago for my birthday I received a gift of a reading from a psychic. Before going into the session I was told to remember the things that did not make sense to me. One thing said, that had no meaning for me, was her seeing me standing in a room surrounded by people dressed in funny outfits, moving to music. This was said several years prior to me attending, let alone teaching, an aerobic class. She also said I should pay particular attention to any person with red hair, for they have something to offer me. To this day I still think of that whenever I am introduced to a red haired person. Part of my reading delved into what she referred to as my past lives. According to her I was a spy in a previous life, so I would have easy access to two opposing forces. I was an educator and a leader along with being skilled in the use of a crossbow. Though I may not have understood everything told to me, I walked away with the idea that a person keeps returning to this world again and again until they complete their challenge correctly. This same notion could be applied to this expansive movie. With multiple stories set in the past, present and future; the actors took on several roles in this visual extravaganza. Leaving you to figure out which star was playing what role, part of the cast had Tom Hanks (Larry Crowne, Charlie Wilson’s War), Halle Berry (X-Men franchise, Monster’s Ball), Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady, Another Year) and Susan Sarandon (Arbitrage, The Lovely Bones). Adding in the previews, this 3 hour viewing was too much, trying too hard to be a saga for the ages. Some of the stories were more interesting to me; I would have rather seen an entire movie made out of one of them. There was pressure for me to keep up with each story line as the film kept jumping back and forth, seeing no connection between them at first. I felt everyone associated with the making of this film was spread too thin, which made for a meandering stream of babble at times. For me it seemed as if the writers and directors were deliberately obtuse, leaving this pseudo epic film open to multiple interpretations. The message I walked away with was we are all connected, with our actions having a timeless effect throughout the centuries. I got the same message from the psychic in a lot less time without the fear of my bladder exploding.
2 2/3 stars
With some hesitation, I went to the early showing of this animated movie. As I suspected, the theater was packed with parents and their children. Don’t get me wrong, I knew this movie time would attract more children then a late night showing. The talking, eating, fighting and crying of various kids did not wipe the smile off of my face, though. Granted the father seated behind me who left with his crying child within the first 30 minutes, was enough reason to smile as far as I was concerned. However, this humorous movie had enough jokes, sight gags and fun claymation to keep me entertained. I thought the comedy had a bit more sophistication to it, geared towards the adults in the audience. Possibly the wonderful visuals would be enough to entertain the younger ones. The Pirate Captain, voiced by Hugh Grant (Music and Lyrics, Love Actually), was determined to finally win the Pirate of the Year award. Setting sail to plunder unsuspecting sailing vessels, the Pirate Captain knew the competition was stiff with Cutlass Liz, voiced by Salma Hayek (Frida, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) as one of the competitors. Both actors did an admirable job in their roles. For me, the stand out performance was from Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake, Harry Potter franchise) voicing Queen Victoria. The story, I felt, dragged out too long; but, I enjoyed just sitting and watching the beautiful art of claymation.
2 3/4 stars