THE ACT OF HAVING A DISCUSSION seems to have become a lost art. So much of the news I have seen contains arguments and violence instead of rational and calm discussions of one’s differences. A recent news report covered a fight that happened in a subway between a passenger and street musician. The details of their argument were not listed; however, whatever it was I cannot believe it was something so intense that it caused the two people to resort to physically fighting each other; one using a pocketknife and the other their guitar. The fight took place on a train platform in the middle of the day with passengers walking right by them. I cannot even imagine something like that taking place, but it did. The news reports I find the most tragic are the ones where an argument took place between family members, where one member out of anger kills the other family member. Without being too graphic, in the past few months I have read reports about a son stabbing his mother to death, a father shooting his son and a brother running over his older brother with the family car, just to name a few. The world is becoming scarier and scarier. IT TOOK ME A LONG TIME TO learn how to have an argument without attaching emotions to it. For years I thought the way to win an argument was to have a louder voice than your opponent. If you added profanity to the conversation it would help your cause. For years, I would take anyone’s disagreement with me as a personal affront and immediately go on the attack against them. I did not hold anything back except one thing; I never turned the fight into a physical altercation. My evolution into staying calm and respectful started with a close friend who was a facilitator of a “self-help” organization. She taught me how to keep the negativity out of a discussion by using the word “I” instead of “you.” This may sound trite, but it made a world of difference for me. That change allowed me to stop coming across as the accuser; instead, I started talking about how I felt based on the actions of my opponent. There was no need for name calling or raising my voice any longer; I simply expressed how I was feeling, and it caused the other person to lose their defenses because they were no longer under attack by me. I now can appreciate a “good” argument which explains why I enjoyed watching the two main characters in this biographical, comedic drama. DESPITE THEIR POSITIONS WITHIN THE CATHOLIC church, the differences between Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bergoglio, played by Anthony Hopkins (Thor franchise, Hitchcock) and Jonathan Pryce (The Wife, G. I. Joe franchise), could have a monumental effect on the direction of the church and its followers. The two men would struggle as they had to confront their pasts. With Juan Minujin (Focus, An Unexpected Love-TV movie) as a younger Jorge Bergoglio, Cristina Banegas (Clandestine Childhood, Killer Women-TV) as Lisabetta and Sidney Cole (Felicia’s Journey, Common People) as Cardinal Turkson; this film festival winner succeeded due to the acting skills of Anthony and Jonathan. They were so convincing to me that I started to forget they were actors. I know the movie was inspired by true events, but I wondered how much of what I was watching was true. Though, since this event happened in my lifetime there was the curiosity factor that played to this film’s advantage. The jumping back and forth in time was disruptive and may have contributed to the slowness I experienced at times. Still, I found the subject interesting and I appreciated watching two people having a discussion.
WHO WILL REMEMBER THE MEMORIES WHEN the keepers of the memories are gone? I think about this from time to time. At a recent get together I started thinking about it again as the people in attendance were going over old, family photographs. There were several photos of people whose identities were unknown to the people at the party. These strangers, one had to assume, were related somehow to the family; but there was no one left from the previous generation who could help identify these strangers. I sat and wondered how many generations would have to pass before all the people in the photographs turned into unknown beings. As the gathering continued, I recalled from when I was little a neighbor who had lost many relatives due to war. She was a survivor herself. In fact, the first time I ever saw a tattoo was the one on her arm. It was a series of numbers and I remember asking her what the numbers meant. Looking back, she explained as best she could without frightening me how she was given the tattoo when she was in a concentration camp. Being so young I had not reached an age where I could comprehend the words, she was telling me; yet, though she is long gone I have not forgotten what she had said to me. NOW THERE ARE TIMES WHERE I wished I was privy to a person’s memories, especially when they have a historic factor. I knew several Viet Nam veterans, but that is all I knew about them. They never talked about their time away, what they did or what they saw; it was a subject one realized quickly they never wanted to talk about to anyone. I remember a friend’s family where one of the siblings was a soldier in Viet Nam. The family’s mailbox became their only connection to their son and brother. I was over at their house when a letter had arrived from overseas. The family huddled close together as a parent carefully opened the envelope and took out the onion skin piece of paper. Seeing the joy in their faces is something I have never forgotten. Being curious all these years, I had the privilege of talking to a Viet Nam veteran recently and asked him if the norm was not to talk about one’s experiences during the war. He explained the possible reasons for someone not wanting to talk about it, then generously shared his story. I carry his memory with me as I do now of the heroic act that took place in this dramatic, war film. THOUGH WILLIAM PITSENBARGER, PLAYED BY JEREMY Irvine (War Horse, The Railway Man), had the opportunity to save himself from the heat of a battle, he chose to remain behind and help save his fellow soldiers. Those who were saved wanted to make sure William was never forgotten. This film’s story was inspired by true events and I must tell you I was surprised with some of the things I saw in this picture. With Samuel L. Jackson (Shaft, Jackie Brown) as Takoda, Sebastian Stan (Captain America franchise; I, Tonya) as Scott Huffman, Diane Ladd (Joy, Chinatown) as Alice Pitsenberger and Christopher Plummer (The Man Who Invented Christmas, Knives Out) as Frank Pitsenberger; I thought the cast was excellent. Seeing the older actors display their gift of acting made the characters come alive for me. I found the story unbelievable to the point it started playing out like a mystery. The issue I had, however, was with the directing and the script. Instead of coming across like one continuous emotional journey, the scenes felt like snippets of events which damaged the build up of emotional depth. I would start to connect to a character but then the scene would jump and sever that feeling. The story I felt was important enough that it needed more time to blend scenes together and tighten up the script. Essentially, this film lacked drama for me. Now maybe those who have gone through the war will have a different feeling, which I would certainly understand. Still, I am glad this story came to light and now I know and remember it.
2 ½ stars
THERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT get better with age and there are others that get worse. I am a big fan of leftovers because I have found some foods taste better to me the next day. This may gross some of you out but I love cold pizza on the 2nd day as much as when I originally ordered it. Not being an alcohol drinker I have heard some wines and liquors taste better the longer they sit. When it comes to shoes I definitely feel they get better with age; my feet are much happier in an old pair of sneakers than a brand new, store bought pair. Having watched people around me go through the aging process I feel I can say some of them got softer with age. What I mean is they lost some of their intensity and rigidity. Things that used to annoy them do not have the same effect as they have grown older. On the other hand there are some folk who have become less accepting or maybe I should say less open to new experiences. They want things in a particular order with no deviation, becoming more argumentative if things are not to their liking. ALONG THESE SAME LINES I have noticed that the feelings of love and hate have altered through the years. Love for all intents and purposes has stayed steady through the years. Sure there are more ways to show one’s love these days, but overall it pretty much has stayed intact in its pureness. Hate to me has become more of a hungry beast that wants to devour things whole. Years ago when two people broke off their relationship they stopped seeing each other. Yes there may have been yelling and name calling; but eventually the participants moved on with their lives. Now we have people becoming stalkers and killers when their love goes unanswered. Hatred to me has become more volatile where groups of people form over a common hate towards some other group. The things I see on the news are hard to comprehend sometimes. People being poisoned as they walk down the street, vehicles exploding in highly populated areas, beheadings being recorded; there is only so much one can see before they get depressed by it all. You would think with the way technology has helped advance society there would be a way people could learn to embrace each other’s differences instead of using them to fuel their hatred. Though the story in this dramatic, crime thriller took place in the 1970s it could easily have taken place today. LOOKING FOR A WAY TO achieve their mutual goals a group of radicals hatch a creative plan involving an airplane. To the individuals who would be affected by their plan, it meant they would have to come up with something just as creative if they wanted to save lives. Inspired by true events this film starred Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, A United Kingdom) as Brigitte Kuhlmann, Daniel Bruhl (The Zookeeper’s Wife, Rush) as Wilfried Bose, Eddie Marsan (Happy-Go-Lucky, 21 Grams) as Shimon Peres and Lior Ashkenazi (Footnote, Walk on Water) as Yitzhak Rabin. The story was an intense one and for it to succeed it needed a solid script, but that did not happen. The cast was certainly capable to handle it but I found the script uneven; there were some riveting scenes but then others fell flat. I actually did not like the way the movie ended with the 2 story lines. Maybe if there was more back story to the characters I would have gotten more into this film; however, what I watched only made me sad on many levels.
1 ¾ stars
I would like someone to show me where it is written the characteristics on being masculine. This whole concept of what it means to be masculine is something that has always puzzled me. Who decided these rules on how a man should act? Can anyone tell me? I want to know why showing sensitivity is a bad thing. Better yet, who decided crying was wrong? There were so many years growing up where the only mantra I had was, “don’t let them see you cry, don’t let them see you cry;” over and over I would say this to myself. Also, I am afraid I never understood the whole camaraderie thing guys have over drinking alcohol because I was never a part of it, not a fan of alcohol. I have gone to many parties where people are drinking and carrying on and I grant you I feel like the odd man out because some of the things that drunken people laugh at are not funny to me. There was a time where it was okay for a man to be drunk, but if a woman got drunk she would be thought of in a negative way. In a similar vein I recall a conversation I heard where the parents were upset that their son was attracted to the colors pink and purple. The parents were asked why this upset them and they said they did not want their son to be considered a sissy. So tell me who decided which colors were approved for males? The whole concept of this masculine versus feminine thing is so ridiculous to me; I have more important things to think about then worrying if I cry in a movie or do not have a drink I will be considered less masculine. This is why you would never catch me participating in the things these college students were doing in this film festival nominated drama. AFTER surviving a brutal mugging Brad Land, played by Ben Schnetzer (The Book Thief, Pride), decided to go to the college where his brother was a student and join the same fraternity to prove a point. This movie was difficult for me to watch and easily could be for many other viewers. There were many scenes that were horrific in their intensity and realness; I am still in shock that people would do the things that were shown in this film. And this story was based on true events. With musical artist Nick Jonas (Kingdom-TV, Scream Queens-TV) as Brett Land, Gus Halper (Ricki and the Flash, Public Morals-TV) as Chance and Danny Flaherty (Hope Springs, The Wolf of Wall Street) as Will; I thought the acting was good under the extreme conditions. I felt the script was going in the right direction but I would have liked more information about the characters. There were times where I thought I would understand a scene better if I understood more of the students’ motivations. As I mentioned earlier this was a rough picture to watch with graphic scenes. I would just like to know why anyone would willingly subject themselves to such things. Is this really what it means to be a man?
2 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
The far reaching white expanse was marred by deep fissures that revealed touches of crystal blue running water. It almost looked like the ice had tears rolling down due to the frigid temperatures. The brightness reflecting off of all this ice made it difficult to shoot photos from my perch inside the helicopter. Once we landed on the ice I had the opportunity to take pictures but only if I left the warmth, comparatively speaking, from inside the chopper. As I stepped outside the still, frigid air settled on me like a bear hug. I felt my blood reversing course to go back and protect my internal organs, leaving my extremities to stiffen up from the cold. To take pictures I had to remove my gloves and I knew my fingers would quickly turn to rock solid stumps. The only way I cold function was to quickly snap multiple photos at a single time, alternating with the taking off and putting on of my bulky gloves. I grew up in a place that had 4 seasons, so I was used to the winter months; however here in Alaska, the cold seemed more intense. Maybe it was because there were no man made structures around just wide open spaces with the occasional rolled up snow drifts and broken ice chunks. Where I was visiting in Alaska there were no human inhabitants; I could not even imagine human life venturing to this area. Pristine and untouched, yet silently able to extinguish life with its icy breath it was all the more reason why I found this dramatic adventure film something special. CLOSE to death from a bear attack Hugh Glass, played by Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception, The Departed), was determined to stay alive in the unforgiving cold frontier. He had a special reason to reunite with his expedition. Inspired by true events this thriller was a monumental production. Included in the cast was Tom Hardy (Legend, Mad Max: Fury Road) as John Fitzgerald, Will Poulter (We’re the Millers, The Maze Runner) as Bridger and Domhnall Gleeson (About Time, Ex Machina) as Captain Andrew Henry; everyone deserved extra credit for the contribution they made to this incredible film. Both the directing and cinematography were outstanding. I especially admired the camera angles that were used in the shooting of multiple scenes. Honestly I do not know how the cast and crew survived such a long film shoot in such an inhospitable locale. There were a few cringeworthy scenes that included blood; I found myself squirming in my seat. Set in the 1820s this was a raw yet beautiful picture; the original soundtrack was a perfect accompaniment. At one point I had to keep reminding myself that the film studio would not want to lose anyone to the brutal elements so there had to be some protection set up for everyone. I have to tell you watching this film was like a workout for me; bundled up in my seat staring and cringing in disbelief.
3 1/2 stars
Even after so many years I still find myself being stunned by what was said during that conversation. There was a group of people at a party talking about their school years. One of them mentioned they still remembered the year when girls were finally allowed to wear pants to school. I just sat there in disbelief. Why in the world couldn’t girls wear such an everyday item of clothing? On top of it, this was a public school. I can understand if private schools require uniforms but I could not think of any reason why in a place of learning there should be such discrimination. Maybe it is due to my experiences growing up but I honestly never understood this division between women and men. I always felt whoever had the soundest mind and heart would always be the best candidate for any situation. Unfortunately I realize not everyone shares such thinking. Here is an example; when some people hear my primary doctor is a woman they ask my why I would go to a female doctor. I just say because she is good. Maybe it has something to do with the way I was raised; I am aware we live in a more puritanical country. Though I do not understand this divide, I have studied enough history to realize there have been many people who had to dominate others to feel good about themselves. This historical movie is just one example of what was taking place around the world. HAVING spent her entire life working in a laundry Maud Watts, played by Carey Mulligan (Far From the Madding Crowd, An Education), never learned to stand up for herself. That started to change once she met Violet Miller, played by Anne-Marie Duff (Nowhere Boy, Before I Go to Sleep). This film festival winner’s strength was due to the cast. Besides Carey being amazing in this role, there was Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech, Alice in Wonderland) as Edith Ellyn and Brendan Gleeson (Calvary, The Guards) as Inspector Arthur Steed. Inspired by true events the story may not be an easy watch for some viewers. I am simply referring to the injustices that had to be endured during that time period. The sets and costumes added value to this dramatic film, but I was not a big fan of the direction. I felt there was not enough time devoted to character development, besides feeling some scenes were given too much dramatic flair. It seemed as if the goal was to make the viewers cry instead of telling a good story about the feminist movement in England. Nonetheless the acting was super, though Meryl Streep fans will be disappointed that her role was more of a cameo. For me this story seemed like it happened a long, long time ago. However, based on our entire history this really wasn’t that long ago and I am aware it is still happening today.
At the time no one had heard the term politically correct. I grew to dislike team sports from my physical education classes in elementary and high school. Those classes had nothing to do with health I discovered once I was in college. Except for twice a year where we were tested to see how many sit-ups and chin-ups we could do, the majority of the time was spent being picked for a team and being told we had to try and crush the other team. There were a couple of gym teachers who could have been on the “before” posters regarding the benefits of exercising. One in particular always had the stench of cigarette smoke wafting out of his pores. He was the most inappropriate person to be a teacher. When teams were formed he would give us a pep talk, telling us we had to slaughter and beat our opponents. There could only be one winner and one loser; he would verbally abuse the players during the game. I did not want to be a part of those classes, so I focused on individual sports activities outside of school. COMPLETELY opposite from my high school instructor was the teacher in this dramatic sports film inspired by a true story. Jim Caviezel (The Thin Red Line, Person of Interest-TV) played the inspirational teacher and football coach Bob Ladouceur. Working with his team, the De La Salle High School Spartons, Coach Ladouceur along with his assistant Coach Terry Eidson, played by Michael Chiklis (Fantastic Four franchise, The Shield-TV), led the players to an unheard of record-breaking streak of 151 wins. This movie had the perfect story to tell for both the sports and non-sports minded viewer. For someone who does not follow football, I knew their winning streak was unheard of with any professional sports team. The game scenes were actually exciting throughout the film. What was a total disservice to the story was the horrible script; it was dull, lifeless and filled with cliches that were meant to move the viewer. The cast which also included Laura Dern (The Fault in Our Stars, The Master) as Bev Ladouceur, Alexander Ludwig (The Hunger Games, Lone Survivor) as Chris Ryan and Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption, Starship Trooper) as Chris Ryan all did a decent job of acting with their characters. How the writers took what was an incredible story and put out this poor version was beyond me; especially when they showed clips of the actual people at the end of the film. Even I wanted to be part of that team, not the one depicted in this film.
1 3/4 stars
They are talking though they are standing alone. Without evidence of an earpiece or some other type of cellular device, you search for any visual clue that can help you evaluate the person’s mental state. The hair is disheveled as if a gust of wind tried to steal several strands and the clothes appear to be well-worn, nothing out of the ordinary. Just their slight swaying side to side as if they were pouring their body weight from one leg to the other makes you pause a second before walking past them. I cannot tell you how many times this very thing has happened to me. It is quite ironic that I am one of the more skeptical ones in my circle of friends and yet, I am the one that attracts people who appear to be living in a reality that was somewhat askew. Walking down the street with several friends around me, I will be the one that gets signaled out by a person asking off the wall questions, expecting me to answer in kind. A majority of these encounters tend to happen to me on public transportation. In the past I have dismissed these individuals as addicts or chemically imbalanced; but after seeing this horror movie, I have to wonder now if there was something else going on for those strangers. INSPIRED by a true story, this film festival nominee would not be something I would classify 100% as a horror picture. It was more of a crime, thriller, horror film. Based on the book by New York police officer Sarchie, played by Eric Bana (Star Trek, Munich), this story followed Sarchie and his partner Butler, played by Joel McHale (Ted, Blended), as they were investigating a series of unexplainable acts taking place around the city. I really liked the acting from Eric and especially Joel, who was more familiar to me playing comedic roles. Edgar Ramirez (Wrath of the Titans, Vantage Point) was just as good with his character Mendoza. There were several scenes that worked well with tension and fear. Unfortunately it was not sustained throughout the movie, some parts were just flat. The main reason this film did not work as well as it could was due to the story, there was absolutely nothing new compared to any of the previous movies that involved individuals appearing to be possessed. It was a missed opportunity because there were inklings of this movie becoming a good scary flick. On the other hand I now have something else to think about when a stranger approaches me and that scares me more. There were several scenes that had blood and violence in them.
It was not a requirement but we all knew non-participation would affect our grade. The professor of my college freshmen psychology class encouraged us to enroll in the volunteer program for the graduate students. I remember some of the studies I volunteered for were interesting. There was one where I was sitting in the waiting room with another volunteer. We had a brief time for introductions before we were called into a room. A lab assistant handed each of us a pen and notepad. We were instructed to sit at opposite ends of the room and write down our perceptions of the other one. Once we were done the supervisor asked us to switch our papers. The facilitator then asked the volunteer to read what I wrote about him. I kept my comments to simple generalizations like he seemed nice, had a hearty laugh. When it was my turn to read aloud I was stunned by his words. He had written things like I did not seem to be very smart, appeared to be uncoordinated. After I finished reading, the person in charge asked me to address any comments I might have directly to the volunteer. Turning to him I let loose with such a profanity filled stream of intense anger that the supervisor could not calm me down until he finally admitted this had been a set up and the other volunteer was a graduate student, who was studying subjects’ reactions. I chose to opt out of the program. The test subject in this horror film inspired by actual events did not have the same opportunity. Jared Harris (Lincoln, Natural Born Killers) played professor Joseph Coupland who was convinced he could scientifically explain the irrational occurrences happening to test subject Jane Harper, played by Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel-TV). Settled in a London estate with his team, the professor had everything documented to film by student Brian McNeil, played by Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire). But even some pictures could not explain what took place. The film work with its cool retro look created an interesting setting for this story. There were parts that were extremely loud which I could not tell was set by the movie theater or the film. Since I found aspects of the story far-fetched, the scare factor was somewhat diminished for me in this film. It was a shame because I liked the idea behind the story, having a central character trying to bring rationality to irrational acts. I am afraid this movie left me unimpressed. If you want to hear something scary, remind me to tell you about the time at school when they wanted to hook me up to electrodes. There were several scenes with blood in them.
1 3/4 stars