THERE WAS ONLY ONE BRIGHT SPOT for me in that transitional period between summer vacation and the new school year. It was the day when I would get my new school supplies. Up until that day, I loved the freedom of summer vacation. In the early years, I had to endure summer camp programs. There were some I enjoyed but most of them did not interest me. My biggest accomplishment out of all my camp experiences was building a wooden coat rack that I painted in vibrant colors. Once I outgrew the summer camp phase, I was free to hang out with my friends every day. The only part of the day when I was indoors was at lunchtime; otherwise, if I was not playing with my friends, I was either climbing trees or riding my bicycle. As we rolled into the month of August, I started counting the days before I had to go back to school. I also counted how many days until I could go pick out my new school supplies. In one of my earlier reviews, I told you about my obsession with pencil sharpeners; they were always the first item I would pick out at the store. Next item to find were spiral notebooks; I always tried to get left-handed ones because the wire spiral always got in my way when writing. All that was left to get afterwards were pens, pencils and a pencil bag/box to store them. TIMES HAVE CERTAINLY CHANGED AND I NOW understand why all school kids are wearing backpacks. The list of items children must bring to school currently is unbelievable to me. A friend of mine showed me the list she received from her son’s school and I could not get over what has become the responsibility of the child, or should I say of the parents since more than likely they are paying for it. Besides the pens, notebooks and such; the child must bring a box of facial tissues, three rolls of paper towels, a container of cleaning wipes and a ream of computer paper. These along with the rest of the items on her list I found perplexing; since when did the responsibility of facial tissues and paper towels fall on the child? Every company and store that has a bathroom provides these items for their employees and customers; but schools no longer provide, what I consider, these essential items?!?! Are school districts’ budgets so deep in debt that they cannot afford such standard things? I feel the educational system deserves enough funds to properly provide all the tools to create the best learning experience for each child; teachers have such an important role that they should not have to go without or worse, spend their own money to provide items that the class needs. What is wrong with this picture? This crime comedy might explain one of the issues. DETERMINED TO MOVE TO THE TOP POSITION a school district in New York would spare no expense to make their goal a reality. The only problem was they did not know what they were paying for. With Hugh Jackman (The Front Runner, X-Men franchise) as Frank Tassone, Allison Janney (Hairspray, Mom-TV) as Pam Gluckin, Ray Romano (The Irishman, The Big Sick) as Big Bob Spicer, Welker White (Eat Pray Love, Cedar Rapids) as Mary Ann and Geraldine Viswanathan (Blockers, Miracle Workers-TV) as Rachel Bhargava; this story inspired by true events excelled due to the wonderful cast. Everyone fit well into their character and carried the script that needed help in the beginning. The story started out slow for me and though I enjoyed the dark humor/satire, things did not pick up until we got near the midpoint. Not that the first half was boring; it just needed a little more punch and back story to come up to the level of the 2ndhalf of the film. The story as depicted was outrageous; I cannot imagine what that school district could have done for the students if it had known what was going on.
WHEN IS ENOUGH, SIMPLY enough? One of my business subscriptions sends a supplemental edition focused on real estate, that I always glance through to check out the photo spreads of high end residences. I am amazed by the amount of money, I assume, that must have been spent on these places. Sure I understand it cost more to buy a place that is on the higher floors of a building or has a coastal/mountain view; but some of the upgrades I have seen border on the ridiculous in my opinion. Seriously, how important is it to have an extra long sofa covered in an elaborate, expensive fabric or bathroom fixtures that are gold plated; do they really make a difference in one’s comfort and hygiene? I find it ridiculous just because a person is wealthy; they feel they need to show off their wealth. You would not believe some of the places that are highlighted in my subscription. The fact they are even being put on display tells me something about the owners, unless they are trying to sell their property. JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE HAS a vast amount of money does not make them smarter or more thoughtful in my opinion. I have noticed some people who are rich feel they are entitled, more important than anyone else around them. I knew this person who was quite successful; having started out in humble beginnings, they overcame the obstacles before them and amassed a sizable fortune. For all their hard work they deserved it and I had no issue with their success. However, the more money they made the more they would voice their opinions on everyone else’s daily life; whether it was personal or business problems it did not matter. They would expound on all the things they felt everyone else “should” be doing to better themselves. I do not know about you but I took offense at their behavior. Having money does not give a person a license to dictate to others about how they should be living their lives. If you want to see what I am talking about then feel free to watch the powerful performances in this biographical, crime drama. WHEN KIDNAPERS CONTACTED GAIL Harris, played by Michelle Williams (The Greatest Showman, Blue Valentine), about her son; the ransom amount was way beyond her means, but not for her ex-father-in-law J. Paul Getty, played by Christopher Plummer (The Insider, The Man Who Invented Christmas). However Mr. Getty was not one to part easily with his money and Gail did not have the time to negotiate a price on her son’s life. With Mark Wahlberg (Deepwater Horizon, Daddy’s Home franchise) as Fletcher Chase, Charlie Plummer (King Jack, Lean on Pete) as John Paul Getty III and Romain Duris (Heartbreaker, The Beat That My Heart Skipped) as Cinquanta; the acting by Michelle and Christopher was outstanding. I will say Mark was somewhat better in this role, but he still came across as the same type of character that he has done in previous movies. Set in Rome during the 1970s, this story inspired by true events kept my interest as it weaved its way through some harsh and tense moments to despair. The pursuit scenes were well done to the point where I was feeling a sense of dread waiting for the outcomes. My only issue with this film was the lack of connection between some of the characters, making some of the scenes feel disjointed. The story really was amazing and reminded me of a phrase I have used in the past when someone was being cheap: you never see an armored car following a hearse to the cemetery.
Weddings bring out the best in some people and the worst in others. What is supposed to be a happy occasion can dissolve into a grudge match between family members or guests. A friend of mine recently told me about a wedding they attended for one of their family members. Evidently there is a cousin who becomes belligerent after having a few drinks. As I was listening to this story I quickly came to the conclusion this cousin was essentially a bully. He wound up trying to pick a fight with a cousin from the bride’s side for no apparent reason; however, that cousin was a black belt in the martial arts. As soon as the drunken bully threw the first punch he was immediately thrown onto his back by the martial arts expert. Family members from both sides rushed to the scene, picked up the cousin from the floor and took him away. That type of entertainment I could do without at a wedding; my experiences have been less dramatic at the weddings I have attended. What I have found at weddings are relatives who feel it is appropriate to ask, not only the bride and groom but other family members both married and single, personal questions about when they will have children or when will they settle down and get married. Or better yet, they will go up to a single person and ask them why they are not married yet as if something is wrong with being single. Oh I just remembered this one wedding I went to where the parents of both the bride and groom hated each other and did not hide their feelings about it to anyone. This is why I said what I said earlier about weddings and the people who attend them. I could easily understand the concerns the family had in this comedy. THE parents of hard partying brothers Dave and Mike Stangle, played by Zac Efron (Neighbors franchise, The Lucky One) and Adam Devine (The Intern, Pitch Perfect franchise), demanded their sons each bring a date to their sister’s wedding to keep them in check from riling each other up. The brothers felt they could find respectable girls with an online ad. Inspired by a true story this comedy came with some strong language. The other thing it came with was a cast that was skilled in comedic timing. Along with Zac and Adam there was Anna Kendrick (Into the Woods, Cake) as Alice and Aubrey Plaza (Dirty Grandpa, Safety Not Guaranteed) as Tatiana. These two women were exceptional in their comedic abilities. There were some laugh out loud moments in this adventure romance but after a while the script turned into a series of crazy events that did not offer anything new for the viewer. If it was not for the cast performing so well, I probably would have been bored through parts of this film. Outrageous, loony with poor judgments and lots of alcohol; some of you may be grateful you did not get an invite to this wedding.
2 ½ stars
If memory serves me correctly there was an old movie I watched a long time ago that had one actress playing twins. One twin was boisterous while the other one was reserved. I remember I was curious how the film crew was able to capture the two characters in the same scene. As I grew older I found out there were several techniques the film studio used to create such an illusion. If one of the character’s face was away from the camera, the studio would use a stunt double. Other tricks used were split screens and filming the scene twice using one character for the first portion and the other for the second. With that last option the two characters never came together physically; it was a well orchestrated event where exactly each one had to navigate around the set. This brings to mind a television show from the 1960s called Bewitched. The lead actress had a dual role when she would play Samantha and then her mischievous cousin Serena. Now yesterday’s review talked about futuristic objects becoming real due to mankind’s technical advances. The same thing can be applied to the way movie studios can make CGI and real characters mingle together. Amazing strides have been made in this area. One recent film comes to mind where Arnold Schwarzenegger fought a younger version of himself. It was a fun trick, though the younger version did not look totally human. I have to say with today’s review what I saw being done was phenomenal. RONALD and Reggie Kray, played by Tom Hardy (The Drop, Mad Max: Fury Road), were identical twins who wanted to establish the biggest crime empire in London during the 1960s. The brothers could not have been more different on how they would go about to achieve it. Based on a true story this film festival nominee was all about Tom Hardy. His acting skills were stellar in this crime thriller. The magic of him playing twin brothers on screen was something to see. Their interactions verbally and physically were seamless. It was a good thing because the script was lacking substance. For two such extreme characters I never got a sense of their drive; they just came off crazy. There were times I felt I was just watching the highlights of the twins’ lives. In addition I had a hard time understanding one of the brother’s speech due to (for me at least) his thick, mumbling accent. Despite that the story was still interesting to me, appreciating as well the acting from the other cast members such as Emily Browning (Sucker Punch, Pompeii) as Frances Shea and Colin Morgan (Testament of Youth, Merlin-TV) as Frank Shea. The sets and costumes were perfect for the period in this dramatic biography. If you can handle the violence and blood, it is worth seeing the technical achievements and Tom’s acting in this movie.
2 1/2 stars
When one does not have the opportunity to form memories of someone, made-up ones have to suffice. The make-believe memories can be a kinder, gentler, more loving version of the real person. I have heard individuals carry on about someone they barely knew, painting the person in sweet coats of affection; whereas, my memories recall that person being somewhat mean and angry. Growing up there were some relatives I never got the chance to meet; I only had old photographs and other people’s stories to form any connection to the unknown family members. Whenever the mood struck, I would pull out these old photos and study the features and outfits of my relatives. There was one photograph where a bespectacled man dressed in a suit was standing with one foot up on what I thought was a big wooden block. He was holding up a violin as if he was giving it the once over before placing it on his shoulder to play. I would imagine he was practicing for a recital. He would perform in a garden, where the relatives would be seated all around as they listened to the rich deep notes of a concerto. Besides my imagination, any hearsay or tidbits about a relative I would incorporate into elaborate stories; turning some of them into heroes, gangsters, spies, or some other fanciful characters. Where my fake memories were about deceased people, there is a world of difference when the memories are based on someone who is still alive. INSPIRED by a true story, a letter written by John Lennon arrived 40 years late to singer/songwriter Danny Collins, played by Al Pacino (Righteous Kill, Scarface). Seeing the letter sparked Danny into seeking out Tom Donnelly, played by Bobby Cannavale (Blue Jasmine, Chef), the son he never knew. This comedic drama was driven by its outstanding cast. Al was perfect for this role; he not only looked the part but I was convinced he was this aging singer who was well past his glory days. Besides him and Bobby there was Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music, A Beautiful Mind) as Frank Grubman and Annette Bening (Ruby Sparks, American Beauty) as Mary Sinclair. I thoroughly enjoyed the acting in this movie; it was believable and filled with great depth. Now I admit the script was somewhat predictable, besides being manipulative; but I did not care because I liked the way the story carried me throughout the film. There were even a couple of surprises along my journey. The dynamics between the characters were engaging; I was intrigued with their perceptions and memories. And after you see this picture I hope you too will have developed fond memories.