UPBEAT and positive is how I would describe the man telling us about the changes in our office. We were being told how these moves decided by upper management would be a good thing for our company. I sat there with my fellow employees and I am sure they were thinking the same thing: who was going to get the ax. Maybe that is too harsh to say so here are some ways I have heard it expressed: laid off, let go, reassigned, reevaluated, eliminated and left behind. None of these terms warrant a happy face with optimistic comments. I used to work at one place that decided after many years to outsource their payroll functions. The staff for each manager had meetings set up to explain the changes in how we were going to be paid. You should have seen the spin job the managers tried to sell us. They talked about the convenience of looking up our paycheck online, the ability to schedule time off and the ease of changing our benefits package. I knew there had to be more to the meeting and sure enough towards the end the manager told us how salaries would be administered. EVERYONE’S salary was scaled back to a standard base amount. From that point you would go up the scale depending on a number of factors; each factor was worth a certain dollar amount. I remember sitting there and quickly figuring out the math and realized a majority of us would be taking a rather large pay cut. There stood this person in front of us stating the virtues of this new pay system, doing their best to sell it as if it was the best thing since sliced bread. With me losing over 30% of my salary I had a hard time keeping my mouth shut and not stating the facts about their so called great new system. Let us face it; there is no good way to promote bad news. WHILE Germany was dropping bombs on the city of London during the early 1940s, the defense department was working on a propaganda film in the hopes of drawing the United States into the war. All it needed was a woman’s touch. This film festival winner was part comedy, part drama and part romance. At first I felt the story was starting out slow but as things began to unfold I enjoyed how the writers were fitting together all the different pieces to create this enjoyable movie. Starring Gemma Arterton (The Voices, Gemma Bovery) as Catrin Cole, Sam Claflin (Me Before You, The Hunger Games franchise) as Tom Buckley, Bill Nighy (Love Actually, Pride) as Ambrose Hilliard/Uncle Frank and Jack Huston (American Hustle, Ben-Hur) as Ellis Cole; I thought the cast worked together beautifully. Bill and Gemma were the standouts for me. The script did a great job of balancing the elements of the story. Things moved naturally between the genres of drama, comedy and romance; there was the ever present war, but it never overshadowed the other story lines. I will say I thought the ending was a bit abrupt regarding one of the characters in particular; it felt somewhat false. However, as I sat and imagined what it must have been like back then, I realized there was no choice; the British government needed to stay positive.
3 1/4 stars
One of the benefits for me in living close to a large metropolitan city is to have easy access to the old historical structures that are still standing. I have always enjoyed seeing buildings from different style periods and eras such as Frank Lloyd Wright to Art Deco. The detailing on these buildings is something you rarely see these days. Now there are many modern structures that I find beautiful; in fact, there is a relatively new high rise building here that has series of balconies in different sizes to give the illusion of water cascading down the sides of the skyscraper. No matter where I travel I always try to find time to check out a place’s famous buildings; there is just something about these majestic structures that amaze me. Maybe part of it is due to the fact they are viable and still standing compared to some of the new buildings I have seen that already show decay. I may have mentioned some time ago my favorite movie theater growing up. It was one of those old stucco structures with a large colored marquee in front. Inside there was marble everywhere and all the porcelain and gold decorations were styled after actual objects found in churches, villas and palaces across Spain and Italy. I cannot describe the sadness I experienced when years later the land underneath the theater was purchased and the new owners demolished the structure. What replaced this grand theater was a monstrosity, an apartment building with retail stores. As for a new theater one was built several miles away; it was a cinder block, square structure void of any decorative appointments. Supposedly the candy counter had a bigger selection of candy and they claimed the popcorn was better. There are some things that should not be touched; they are perfectly fine just the way they are. BETRAYED and imprisoned for several years Judah Ben-Hur, played by Jack Huston (American Hustle, The Longest Ride), returned home to seek out revenge on the person who ruined his life; it was his adopted brother Messala Severus, played by Toby Kebbell (Fantastic Four, The East). This adventure drama remake also starred Morgan Freeman (London Has Fallen, Now You See Me franchise) as Ilderim, Rodrigo Santoro (300 franchise, Pele: Birth of a Legend) as Jesus and Sofia Black-D’Elia (The Immigrant, Project Almanac) as Tirzah Ben-Hur. CGI was the main tool used to freshen up this story. It was needed because I thought the script was just a mess. Some of the dialog was ridiculous and out of place for the time period. As for acting it was bland except I did not mind Morgan’s character even though it was similar to many of his other roles. He plays this sensible, mild spoken character who knows more than anyone else. Reading the credits there were two names listed I recognized that have produced other films; each one of their movies was poorly done in my opinion. It explains why this production was no different. You have to know if the horses are even trying to run out of the story then something must be terribly wrong with this picture.
1 ¾ stars
When I put food on my dinner plate, I do not want the different servings I took to touch each other. For example, I do not want the mashed potatoes to be mixed in with the sugar snap peas, nor do I want anything touching my turkey burger. It is okay, you can call me crazy; I have heard it before. I do not care because the first time I saw a TV dinner tray with its individual compartments for the different food items, I thought it was the ideal way to serve people their meals. Being a visual type of eater, if something does not look good to me I will not touch it. Now I certainly do not force my feelings onto anyone else and will gladly sit with someone who is spooning a conglomeration of food items into their mouth. Actually, it never occurred to me to mix different foods; heck I did not think one could mix different silverware. If you are wondering if I have these same types of rules in other areas of my life the answer would be yes. I have always been most comfortable when things around me have a sense of symmetry. Now here is the funny thing; though I am still the same way about food, a slow change has been taking place in me over the past years when a friend asked me if I had seen this video mashup of two singing artists’ songs. I had never heard that word before so I looked it up and found it meant a mixture of disparate elements. When I finally saw that video I was fascinated; it was such a creative and cool idea. It is because of that video I started looking at things differently. Isn’t that bizarre? Is it any crazier than the mashup done in this romantic horror film? WHEN Elizabeth Bennet, played by Lily James (Cinderella, Broken), first met Mr. Darcy, played by Sam Riley (Maleficent, On the Road), she found him to be such a snob. Though her mother was hoping to see her daughter wedded off, Elizabeth did not need a man; she could take care of herself quite well as a matter of fact. I was so surprised by this action movie that took author Jane Austen’s (Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park) classic story and infused it with the zombie genre. The story pretty much was kept intact but I did enjoy the sly humor and the fact that Elizabeth and her sisters were now skilled in the marital arts. The writers were not going for a parody or comedy; they kept the story as level as one can with flesh eating zombies and they made it work actually. Take the story for what it is, this film may not be high art or a new classic; but for a fun viewing experience with a twist and a teardrop, this mashup was pretty good. Several scenes with blood and violence.
2 1/2 stars