THE AROMA OF ELEPHANT dung was one of the strongest memories I took away from the circus. I only went to the circus once when I was around 6 years old. To get to our seats we had to walk down a long aisle where the floor was covered in sawdust. Once we were seated I was able to see three rings set up in the arena, with the middle one much larger than the other two. I was excited to be there because all I wanted to see were the tigers. To start the show a tall man dressed in a tuxedo with a top hat walked into a single spotlight that then followed him to the large ring; his amplified voice reverberated throughout the massive arena. From one end of the arena several spotlights pierced the dark and lit up a parade of elephants walking in single file as they made their way around the arena. As they passed where I was seated one of the elephants defecated. Because it happened at the far edge of the arena none of the circus performers noticed what happened, so it remained there for the entire show. MAYBE THAT IS WHY I never wanted to go to the circus after that time. The only type of circuses I will go to today are the ones that are animal free. Even if that elephant had not altered my feelings about the circus I would not go to a circus that used animals for entertainment. For the type of circus events I have attended I get to see humans doing unhuman things; this is the way I describe it, because the performers are doing such spectacular things they almost look as if they are not of earth. There is one particular company that travels around the world, pitching a massive tent in an open space, where the performers are dressed in a variety of costumes and makeup. This is my favorite event to see because at one time I can witness people from all different walks of life, from all different parts of the world, come together and create something magical. I do not know how someone could say anything negative about such an environment. OUT OF WORK AFTER the company he worked at went bankrupt Phineas Taylor Barnum, played by Hugh Jackman (Pan, Logan), had an idea. It was an idea that sounded crazy but he did not care what people said, he was willing to take the chance. This musical, dramatic biography also starred Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea, My Week with Marilyn) as Charity Barnum, Zac Efron (Baywatch, Dirty Grandpa) as Phillip Carlyle, Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming, K.C. Undercover-TV) as Anne Wheeler and Rebecca Ferguson (The Girl on the Train, Despite the Falling Snow) as Jenny Lind. The look of this film was wonderful; I thought the sets and costumes were a perfect fit. As for the music written by the same writers who did La La Land, I thought it was much better in this picture; I can actually remember a few of the songs. Sadly despite the decent acting the script failed this film. You got these big, beautiful song and dance numbers connected with a weak script that lacked emotion. I felt a disconnect between the drama of the singing with the acting parts. There was such a timely message to the story that I wished would have been explored more in hopes of connecting everyone together. I would not say this circus movie reminded me of the smelly circus I went to as a kid, but this film could have used a bit of air freshener to make it a better show.
2 ¼ stars
FEELING something similar between you and another person can be the catalyst in forming a bond or a kinship with them. Without being related by blood; the relationship that comes out of this connection can be just as strong, if not stronger. I have experienced this feeling numerous times in my life. Volunteering at an event I remember introducing myself to a fellow volunteer and within several minutes you would have thought we had been friends for some time. There were similarities in our beliefs, humor and philosophy that laid down this immediate connection that lasted for years. I think that is one reason I enjoy asking couples how they first met; it is fascinating to hear what the first things were that started their connection. Rarely have I heard people say their connection took a long time to solidify. ONE of the things I pride myself on is my ability to see parts of myself in other people. I think that is one of the reasons why people tend to be comfortable in my classes. When someone new walks into my class I can get a sense of them based on how they walked into the studio. First let me say I treat every member the same; however, for some people I can sense they need a little more coaxing or encouragement to remain in the room. The tendency for someone who does not have solid body awareness of themselves is to hide in the background so as not to be noticed. When I sense this I make sure I go up and welcome them before the start of class. Usually I crack a joke to break the ice. Within that little amount of time I can usually tell if we have something in common. It can create a strong bond as you can see in this action drama. TIME has passed and the world is different as Logan/Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman (Prisoners, Eddie the Eagle) is in declining health. With his mentor and friend Charles, played by Patrick Stewart (X-Men franchise, Christmas Eve), weak and unable to take care of himself; Logan cannot take on anything more, even when a young girl comes to them in desperate need of their help. This science fiction thriller was not a typical superhero film. I was stunned at the amazing script that made me laugh, cry and sit with excitement on the edge of my seat. With their acting skills Hugh and Patrick made their characters human in a way we have not seen before in their other installments of the X-Men stories. Along with them I was absolutely mesmerized with Dafne Keen’s (The Refugees-TV) performance as Laura. She was such an eye magnet where I could not stop watching her to see what she would do next. I will tell you there was a lot of violence and blood in this film and I did not feel the director was using it just to get a rise out of the viewers. In other words it was necessary based on the arc of the story; so yes this picture deserved its R rating. If you are not familiar with the X-Men series it would be to your advantage to see a couple of the earlier films to appreciate the story in this intense movie. I believe many viewers will feel, on different levels, a connection to this incredible story.
3 ½ stars
As I walked into the conference room I saw most of the seats were filled with participants. There was energy in the air; the only way I could describe it was nervous anticipation. This was going to be a workshop with active participation. Most of the people I saw as I looked for a seat were talking and laughing; it seemed as if a lot of participants knew each other. At the edge of one of the many rows of lined up chairs sat an older man. Upon first glance he looked like he was sitting on a deserted island because no one else sat around him. In his lap was the same course materials everyone else had received. It struck me as odd that all the seats around him were empty. I decided to take one of the seats behind him and settled in as I pulled out my paperwork from my messenger bag. While I looked for this workshop’s outline I was able to hear the conversation from a small group seated a couple of seats down from me. Out of the corner of my eye I quickly realized their comments were about the older man. I do not think he realized their conversation was about him or if he did, there was no reaction on his part. It surprised and saddened me that anyone would question a person’s desire to learn something new. Just because he was older and did not “look” like the average participant was no reason to make fun of him. If you are wondering, I did walk over to them to express my feelings. No one has the right to squash another person’s dreams. INSPIRED by true events Michael “Eddie” Edwards, played by Taron Egerton (Legend, Kingsman: The Secret Service), always wanted to be an Olympian since he was a little boy. No amount of bruises, broken bones or taunts would stop the strongest muscle in his body, his heart. This film festival winning comedic drama had a ready-made, feel good story. With Hugh Jackman (X-Men franchise, Pan) as Bronson Peary and Christopher Walken (Jersey Boys, The Deer Hunter) as Warren Sharp I did not recognize Taron at first. His acting made for a believable and lovable character. I enjoy an underdog type of story and only had wished the script was not so comical. It took away the authenticity of the characters in my opinion and the soundtrack did not provide any help either. There was a predictability to the script that did not allow for much character development. At one point it seemed as if I was just watching one sight gag after another; I was missing the drama to the story. I think what saved this film was indeed the incredible story and that is why I think the writers did not invest as much as they could in developing the story. Besides c’mon, who does not like to root for the underdog?
2 1/2 stars
When I see the way a person acts, I sometimes wish I could have seen what happened to them that made them that way. There is that saying that has to do with not knowing a person’s situation until you have walked in their shoes or something similar. Seeing a stranger sitting alone in front of an apartment building on the front stoop, carrying on a conservation with an imaginary friend, I tend to be curious on what happened to them. I remember this classmate in college who wrote stories for our fiction class that were filled with violent images, yet on the outside he was as mild and quiet as a cotton ball. What took place in his life that filled him with such violence? For some people I know it can be a chemical imbalance, for others it could be outside influences that caused them to be that way. Of course one could look at the positive side of these outside influences. Think about the child who follows their parent into the medical field because their mother or dad was a doctor and he or she discover a cure for a disease; this would be a wonderful thing. Another example would be those movies and books that I thoroughly enjoyed, where I wanted to know about the early life of a character to see how it molded them into the person I had just read about or seen. Where I had no idea I wanted to know how the Wicked Witch of the West came to be, I enjoyed discovering her story when it came out. The same could be said about Peter Pan, where I never gave him any thought before. I see there was a reason for that after seeing this adventure fantasy. Orphaned at a young age Peter, played by relative newcomer Levi Miller, could not understand how boys were being taken from the orphanage; but his mother still had not shown up yet to take him away. This prequel to the Peter Pan story had Hugh Jackman (Chappie, Prisoners) as Blackbeard, Garrett Hedlund (Unbroken, On the Road) as Hook and Rooney Mara (Side Effect, The Social Network) as Tiger Lily. Visually there were several creative and fun scenes in this film. The story was easy to follow as it tried to put down the foundation to the Peter Pan story known by most of us. However the script was awful, to the point the actors came off stunted and emotionless. With odd musical choices I found this picture was dull and unexciting except for Levi; he was the one bright spot throughout the story. After the movie was done I realized I did not really want to know how Peter became the flying Peter. I was satisfied with my memories just as they were of the sweet and magical character known as Peter Pan.
1 3/4 stars
Two unrelated occurrences recently happened and were on my mind prior to walking into the movie theater. I had stopped in the men’s department of a retail establishment, store coupon in hand. There were 2 women shopping with their young sons; the boys looked like they were 6 or 7 years old. One boy was walking underneath the clothes racks, playing hide and seek. If he happened to knock a piece of clothing onto the floor he would pick it up and return it to the rack. The other boy was running around; if he stopped at the shelves of folded shirts, he would leave one crumpled on the floor. As he darted under the clothes racks, he left a trail of items strewn everywhere. His mother either did not see or care about what he was doing; I could not tell. I started to wonder what were the 2 boys taught that led them to two different reactions regarding respecting someone else’s property. The other incident that was on my mind had to do with a small news item I had read in the newspaper. An elementary school had a costume day where the students dressed up as their favorite literary character. One eleven year old boy was sent home because he came dressed like Christian Grey from the novel, 50 Shades of Grey. The article made me curious to know how this elementary school student even knew how to dress up like the character. From the time of birth to various stages in their lives children are impressionable. CREATED by Deon Wilson, played by Dev Patel (The Last Airbender, Slumdog Millionaire), the security robots of the police force were a big success as they kept crime down in the city. However when Deon gave one robot a conscience, Deon’s rival Vincent Moore, played by Hugh Jackman (The Wolverine, The Prestige), decided to take steps to protect his life’s work. This action, science fiction thriller had a thought provoking story. The idea of uploading a program to give a robot the freedom to think for itself was fascinating to me; especially because the transformed robot named Chappie, played by Sharito Copley (District 9, Maleficent), was essentially an impressionable infant. Unfortunately the idea for this story was poorly executed. Except for the wonderful visuals, the story was far-fetched and unbelievable in places. The acting was nothing special but the script did not do it any favors. For such an intriguing concept I was disappointed in this predictable story that felt shallow and boring at times. Along with the memories from the 2 earlier events before seeing Chappie, I still spent time afterwards thinking not only about the possibilities of having a conscious robot but the responsibilities. There were a few brief scenes that showed blood.
1 3/4 stars
The words had just passed my lips when I realized these were not the correct ones to utter at the moment. I inhaled with the same force I use with a straw in a chocolate peanut butter milkshake, but it was to no avail; the words were out in the open for everyone to hear. If only I had the opportunity to do it all over; but then again, there are so many times I wish for that chance. Almost every checkout line I choose winds up with a customer ahead of me who has some type of issue that will require a price check or swapping out a product. Recently I was running late for work. I had just missed the green light at an intersection that has an unusually long wait period between signals. It was a split second decision and I veered off into a restaurant’s parking lot to avoid the wait. As I was about to exit on the opposite side a police car was sitting there waiting for me to leave the lot. If only I could have turned time back, I would have saved myself from a moving violation ticket. I would have a better understanding of time travel if it personally affected me. In movies I get lost by the explanations or logistics of it. However, in this action adventure film I had no problem. Due to a particular event in history, both humans and mutants (individuals with special abilities) were being targeted for elimination. A plan was developed to send Logan/Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman (Prisoners, Australia), back in time in an attempt to alter the outcome of the specific incident, change the course of history and hopefully save mutants in the future. What drove this fantasy film to excellence was the well thought out script and amazing special effects. I especially liked the way humor was injected into scenes without taking away from the building tension. The other main force that made this movie special was the cast. I thought Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook, The Hunger Games franchise) as Raven/Mystique, Michael Fassbender (The Counselor, Shame) as Erik Lehnsherr and James McAvoy (Trance, The Last Station) as Charles Xavier were outstanding. One of my few and minor complaints was not seeing enough of Patrick Stewart (Safe House, Star Trek franchise) as Professor X and Ian McKellen (The Hobbit franchise, Emile) as Magneto. Though there were a couple of things where I did not understand the logic, it really did not matter; this fantasy film delivered a high dose of exciting entertainment and suspense. In fact, I would not need the ability to turn back time because I would willingly go see this movie again. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
3 1/2 stars
The further technology advances the less personal it becomes is something everyone has heard. From what I have seen I believe it is true. For example, I have noticed a change in people’s reactions to amber alerts. Though everyone still acknowledges such news with sympathy, the feelings do not last long. Driving on the highways it is not uncommon to see an amber alert posted on the electronic signs hanging over the road. For myself, I will take note of the car’s description listed in the message but once I exit the highway the memory fades. With the immediate bombardment of news we get on a daily basis, the significance of each story bleeds into the next until all of it becomes this obscure sea of information that floats outside of us. That is not the case when it comes to this intense crime mystery movie; it brings the story down to a personal level. Hugh Jackman (X-Men franchise, The Prestige) in one of his best roles played Keller Dover, the father of a missing daughter. With his wife Grace, played by Maria Bello (Towelhead, Secret Window) suffering over the loss and Detective Loki’s, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Zodiac, End of Watch), perceived inability to arrest a suspect; Keller would take matters into his own hands, doing whatever it would take to find his daughter. I was totally taken by Hugh’s wide-ranging performance; he was incredible. It was funny, at first I did not understand Jake’s character because I thought the acting was odd from him. But then slowly I began to grasp what Jake was doing and found his interpretation to be quite powerful. It was a different type of character for him and I felt he nailed it. Viola Davis (Won’t Back Down, The Help) as Nancy Birch and Melissa Leo (Frozen River, The Fighter) as Holly Jones were outstanding; Viola does suffering better than almost any other actress I know. The story was not simple; in fact, I feel I need to see this film again to really make some connections I thought I was missing due to some twists. This was a tough, emotional, in your face movie filled with raw emotions, prepare yourself. It is one thing to hear or read about a crime; it is another to see it unfold in front of your eyes. There were several scenes of violence with blood.
3 1/2 stars
Longing for a lost love can be akin to waiting for an end of season plant to bloom again. It can no longer give you what you need. The memories of their scent that would linger after they left the room; the brilliance of their smile, that would burst upon their face; even the way they could calm you with just a look; all of these things can prevent one from moving on. At the time it is hard to realize those petals of memories, which return to the earth, will be the nourishment needed to make a new relationship grow. That sense of loss was apparent throughout this adventure film as movie viewers witnessed the internal struggles that plagued Logan/Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman (The Prestige, Les Miserables). Flying to Japan to visit an old friend, Logan found himself thrown into the middle of a plot to wrestle control of the family fortune away from his friend. For someone not familiar with the character Wolverine, they may find themselves somewhat confused with several scenes in this action film. I will say Hugh poured himself into this role. The amount of time and work he put in to transform himself into his character was impressive. Because of his presence, I felt the director took more time filming the fight scenes; they stood out from the other parts of the movie. There was a flair to them that briefly reminded me of the classic Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone sword fight in The Adventures of Robin Hood. The issue I had with this movie was the uneven story. I felt the love interest angle rang false and unnecessary. Newcomer Rila Fukushima as Yukio was an interesting character as Logan’s guide. I did not understand the role of Viper, played by Sventlana Khodchenkova (Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy, Mala Moskwa); her motivations were not clear to me. The main focus of this film was placed on the action and I will say it carried my interest through the parts of the movie I found confusing. A valiant effort was made to make this film the seed for a blooming sequel. Make sure you stay through the first set of credits. Several brief scenes contained blood in them.
2 3/4 stars
It does not take long after perusing my reviews to notice movies mean a lot to me. Whether on a physical, emotional or cerebral level; there is some kind of connection made between me and the movie. From several of the comments left, there is an appreciation to the personal relationship that a film forms with me. That is one of the wonderful aspects of watching a movie. The way it can trigger a memory, make me think, cause me to burst out laughing; I love the way a movie can take me away so easily. This is why I am so thrilled to say there was absolutely no connection between me and this worthless, offensive comedy. To say I was stunned by the tasteless subject matters would be an understatement. After sitting through this movie, despite several people walking out, I felt every actor and actress should come out publicly with an apology. The movie consisted of several short films that were loosely connected, each one vulgar and tasteless. The cast is more than I can list here, but there are a few that stood out. Let me start with Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables, The Prestige) and Naomi Watts (The Impossible, 21 Grams). These two have been nominated for best actor and actress in this year’s Oscars. I want to know how they can walk the red carpet, knowing what they did in this dreadful piece of garbage. If Halle Berry (Cloud Atlas, X-Men franchise) was concerned she would never live down her role in Catwoman, she won’t have to worry about that anymore. Let me just say she reached a new low when she was mixing guacamole with her breast during her film segment. Add in Richard Gere, Liv Schreiber, Greg Kinnear and Kate Winslet; did all of these movie stars owe someone a huge favor? I could go on and on, but let me end on a positive note. This movie has earned a special place on my movie review site: it is the first film to receive a single star from me. I would have given it a zero; but when I started this site, I decided to make 1 star my lowest rating. Obscene and vulgar language in trailer.
The stage musical of Les Miserables is one of my favorite shows, having seen it three times. It has one of the best musical scores I have ever heard besides incredible set designs. At least the productions I have seen. The story set in the 1800’s in France, revolved around the life long pursuit by police officer Javert of Jean Valjean, a former prisoner who broke parole. There were so many different aspects of the story to hook in the viewer; from redemption and unconditional love to salvation and honor. Everything I loved about the stage show was abused in this film version. While watching this 2 hour and 37 minute movie, I felt the director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Red Dust) sucked the life out of this classic tale. As much as I was impressed with his Oscar winning film The King’s Speech, I was disappointed in this ugly movie. The reason I use the word ugly is because the majority of the scenes looked like they were shot with camera lenses stuck in portrait mode. Constantly seeing angled shots of the actors’ faces quickly became a bore. Then there was the quick cutting from shot to shot, along with using a spiraling camera shoot on actors and buildings, that made me slightly nauseous. Shame on Mr. Hooper; it would have been easy to add drama to the scene if we could have seen some of the body language of the actors. Hugh Jackman (Real Steel, X-Men franchise) who I normally enjoy, had something wrong here as Jean Valjean. While every actor singing had a mellowness to their voice, it seemed as Hugh was forced to sing in a higher key. His voice was shrill and grating on my ears. Russell Crowe (Gladitor, A Beautiful Mind) as Javert did an admirable job with his singing. Playing factory worker Fantine, it seemed as if Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married) knew she had one chance to make the Oscar voters notice, giving it her all to her song performance. I will say she did a great job. The surprise for me was Eddie Redmayne (My Week With Marilyn, The Other Boleyn Girl) as Marius. I had no idea he could sing and do it so well. Sacha Baron Cohen (Hugo, The Dictator) and Helena Bonham Carter (Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows) were comic relief as the crooked innkeeper and his wife. I knew I was going to witness misery in this movie; I just did not realize it would be my own over this poorly done film.