IT IS A RITE OF PASSAGE FOR MANY, whether they want to go or not. One goes because it is their son or daughter, niece or nephew, cousin or a friend’s child; there is no getting around it. I do not want to make this sound torturous even though there have been times where it has been painful. The school recital or production is hard to refuse when you are connected to someone who is a participant. It is one of those things you do to support the child; one is not going to see or hear a top notch performance necessarily. I have sat through band recitals where if the program did not list the names of the songs I would have had no idea what the kids were playing. It is just the way the dice fall I guess because I was at a high school talent show that had some wonderful performances. Let me admit however the toughest times for me are when the school is putting on a musical production. I sit in those uncomfortable assembly hall seats at the school, watching the miscues and the forgotten lines, waiting for the one line my relative gets to say in the 2nd half of the play. It is a challenge for me. WATCHING STUDENTS PUT ON A play that I have seen before is harder for me to watch than when they do something I have never seen before. Not knowing what to expect makes the evening at the school performance easier because I am curious about the story. For the productions I have seen more than likely I have seen a professional theater production straight from Broadway. Now granted I will still enjoy the music, even if the school orchestra is not as polished as hired musicians; but that only goes so far before I get antsy in my seat. Not that I would ever make a negative comment to family or friends about the school performance. This is why I refer to it as a rite of passage; it is just one of those things you do because it is polite, supportive and the right thing to do. And it is important to be there for the child to commend and praise them. Regarding everything I just said please disregard it when it comes to the retelling of the biblical story in this action drama. HAVING BEEN TOLD HIS WHOLE life that he was a savior for the Hebrews; Samson, played by Taylor James (Christmas Eve, Justice League), did not want any part of it. All he was interested in was to antagonize the Philistines and be with women. This movie’s cast had Jackson Rathbone (Twilight franchise, The Last Airbender) as Rallah, Billy Zane (Titanic, The Phantom) as King Balek, Caitlin Leahy (Queen of the South-TV, Black-ish-TV) as Delilah and Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner, The Hitcher) as Manoah. Being familiar with the story of Samson and Delilah I have to tell you I was not looking forward to this film. I am aware of this movie studio and they did exactly what I expected them to do. They put no thought into the script, the production values or the cast. This picture was so poorly done that I would have preferred sitting through an elementary school production of the story. The acting was atrocious; granted the script was part of the cause. I sat in my seat and as I watched these actors I had to wonder if each one of them was carrying a heavy debt load, causing them to accept their role in this poorly made production. All I can say is I would rather have watched a friend’s daughter cry on stage during their ballet recital than sit through this picture.
1 ½ stars
Begin with several words, string them together and let a story take you away. Let me show you what I mean. I will start with the words room, curtains, breath, light, skin and airplane. Here is the first beginning to the story: The curtains’ shadows looked like they were reaching out to me as I entered into the room. The light behind them blazed in a crimson red; I could feel the heat on my skin. This was my first time here and the air smelled rancid. It was stifling to the point where I felt I was entering into the mouth of an ogre with bad breath. Suddenly the room shook with a roar as if an airplane had just skimmed the roof above me. Maybe what I just wrote was the beginning of a horror story. Same words, but in a different order; let me see what I will get: The curtains gently rippled as a warm breeze passed them into my room. I was stretched out on the sofa, careful not to disturb the creases where the love of my life had sat minutes ago before they had to leave. Their breath still felt like it was lingering around the skin at the back of my neck. Our light conversation had gone into deeper waters with positive results. I agreed to make airplane reservations to fly out and meet their family for the first time. Now this story sounds romantic, doesn’t it? That is the beauty about stories; they can take us to an infinite amount of places. I love the way a story can take me away from my reality and place me into a whole different world. Some people read to learn, others read to escape; it does not make a difference because I feel just the act of reading provides the essential nutrients for the mind to grow. AMOS OZ, played by newcomer Amir Tessler, was always ready to hear a new story until he felt he was living in some of them. With Natalie Portman (Jane Got a Gun, Black Swan) as Fania Oz, Makram Khoury (Munich, The Physician) as Halawant and Ohad Knoller (The Bubble, Munich) as Israel Zarchi; this film festival nominated dramatic biography was based on the bestseller by Amos Oz. Written and directed by Natalie, the story had a darkness to it as it took place during Israel’s formative years. I could see there was something to the story but I don’t think the screenplay conveyed it. There were some good scenes and I could see Natalie had a good eye for directing, but I did not find this picture entertaining. Despite the acting being good, the story telling interesting and the dynamics between the characters having depth; I was not always into the story. Granted I would not consider the subject upbeat but I think if the script was in different hands the results might have been different. Not that I am knocking Natalie’s 1st directorial effort, but maybe she should have focused only on that instead of the screenplay too. There certainly was a story here; I just did not feel satisfied watching it. Hebrew was spoken with English subtitles.
The playing field is never fair when the rules get changed in the middle of the game. This applies to any type of situation; I have experienced it at the office. We agree to sell a customer a product on net 30 terms then after it ships the customer tells us they will be making 3 monthly payments. They just decided to change the payment terms after the fact without ever discussing it prior to the sale. Some people would just say life is not fair and I get it; however, it still is offensive and frustrating to me. Besides seeing it on television shows I see it reported in the media how the rules change, where for example someone does not get convicted of a crime due to a technical detail or some such other thing. There have been so many incidents where I have seen this very thing, where people know how to play the system. You may have seen on the news where a long-term homeowner loses their house due to a misunderstanding regarding the taxes on the property and someone else swoops in to pay the sales tax and take possession of the property, kicking out the previous owner. It makes me angry just thinking about it and it is the same type of anger I felt while watching this disturbing documentary. Now I do not want to get into the politics of the situation, nor take any sides; I am just reviewing this film for entertainment value. I will say to sit and watch this DVD was compelling. VILLAGERS who had lived their entire life in the small Palestinian town called Bil’in were suddenly told the land was not theirs anymore. A separation barrier was going to be installed to keep them away from Israeli settlers. This former Oscar nominated, film festival winning movie was directed by Emad Burnat, one of the residents. He used 5 video cameras to record his personal story regarding the situation that was taking place around him. The way he told his story was impressive simply due to the dangers he had to encounter. I especially found it poignant the way he used his 4 sons as time markers for his story; it put things into perspective. My anger as I watched this film came from the way the rules were being changed to stymie the villagers, who were maintaining non-violent resistance. There was however a few graphic scenes that showed blood. When some people see or hear about a conflict far from them, they may become immune to the action. For this movie that was not the case because it was done on such a personal level. The idea of each camera having to take over from the previous one once it could no longer function formed perfectly spaced chapters. It would be hard to ignore such powerful images. Arabic spoken with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
There are some skills I have been trained in that I hope I will never have to perform. Every year I must be re-certified in CPR if I want to continue teaching my cycle and yoga classes, besides keeping my fitness certifications current. I only hope an opportunity will never present itself to me, where I must utilize my CPR training. Speaking to a coworker who had to perform CPR on a member, he said his body was flooded with adrenalin as everything became quiet around him. The only sound he heard was his counting as he preformed chest compressions. He kept the member alive until the paramedics came and took over, saving the member’s life. In this intense war drama, the soldiers’ training did not prepare them for the real battle. The time was 1982 during the first Lebanon/Israeli war. A small group of soldiers operating a tank accompanied a platoon of paratroopers to a bombed out town, to flush out any remaining resistance. The entire movie was filmed from inside the tank. Starring relative newcomer Yoav Donat as Shmuli, Zohar Shtrauss (Eyes Wide Open, Things Behind the Sun) as Gamil, Oshri Cohen (Agora, Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi) as Hertzel and Itay Tiran (The Debt, Die Lebenden) as Assi; the atmosphere inside the tank was a simmering stew of fear, sweat, horror and confusion as they entered hostile territory. I thought the acting was gritty and taut between the characters. With only having an optical periscope to view the outside, the effect worked for me; I felt myself constantly being drawn into the small world of the tank soldiers. This multi nominated, winning film depicted a soldier’s harsh reality, showing a disconnect between one’s duty and morality. No matter how much training a person receives, it does not always prepare them for the real world. Scenes with blood. Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles.
3 1/4 stars — DVD
Having gone through the “make love not war” decade, I am not a fan of war stories. I find most conflicts today are based usually on a racial or religious prejudice. No matter what the reasons there are always innocent victims. Maybe because of all the science fiction/fantasy books I have read, I wish conflicts could be held in an arena out in space. The only value I place on war is from a historical standpoint. If I could have may way, I would prefer hearing about military stories in a dramatized style. From what I have heard about this Oscar nominated documentary, the draw for audiences has been seeing the six former heads of Israel’s secret intelligence agency, Shin Bet. What grabbed me in this movie was hearing behind the scene details of past events. This particular aspect of the movie gave it a James Bond or Jason Bourne spy type feeling. I was curious why these men agreed to speak on camera. Was it vanity, guilt or propaganda that brought these individuals together? I do not have a clear cut answer to that question even after seeing the movie. Judging this film as a whole package, I did not find it all that entertaining. Going back and forth between each former head, historical footage and computer generated scenes became boring for me. When the conversation was about major public events I remembered, it would pique my curiosity. From each man I got the sense none of them really cared for politicians, finding them a deterrent to their job. When I put this documentary up against others I have seen the past year, I found this one lacking excitement. Maybe if one had an interest in politics and warfare, they would get more out of this film. The stars I gave this documentary reflect the entertainment value on a whole that I felt from this movie. Hebrew with English subtitles.
2 3/4 stars