HE HAD BEEN PLACED IN REMEDIAL classes through most of his education years. Both teachers and students assumed he was “slow,” though many of the students used a derogatory description to describe him. His grades were poor and yet, he was never given extra help by his teachers or counselors. It did not matter to me because he was my friend. Our initial connection was our mutual love of music. Both of us constantly kept up with current music and took turns buying new songs and albums to share with each other. As for him lacking “book smarts,” he made up for it in practical knowledge. To say he was handy would be an understatement; if something was not working, such as an electronic device or piece of equipment, he usually could figure out and solve the problem. I was envious of his abilities. Besides music his other love was building things. Whether he was helping his family rehab a kitchen or bedroom; for his age, his handiness skills were impressive. Now, if you were to have a conversation with him you would realize there was a communication issue going on with him. He knew what words he wanted to use but could not pronounce them properly. Sometimes he would substitute a wrong word into his conversation because it sounded like the word he was trying to say. Thinking of him now, I must wonder if he might have been dyslexic. DUE TO THAT FRIENDSHIP I REALIZED how many people are quick to judge someone just based of their looks and/or actions. Whenever we went to a restaurant or store, the employees would always look to me to handle the bill or to have a conversation. He would ask a question and the employee would answer it while looking at me as if he was a child or simply did not exist. He was not the only friend I had that people were quick to judge. I had a friend who was over 6 feet tall and had a strong presence about himself. Upon meeting him, people tended to be intimidated his looks; he looked like a “tough guy” with his leather jacket and army boots. What people never took the time with was to get to know him; they would interact with him only for the briefest of moments. He was a super sweet guy who was kind and thoughtful. We would spend hours deep in metaphysical conversations. I realize due to the friendships I have, whenever I get together and go out with friends, I usually look at the people around us to see what kind of reaction they are having to us. Some of these reactions are like the ones I saw in this biographical, dramatic thriller. MOVING TO AMERICA FROM FRANCE TO further her acting career, young actress Jean Seberg, played by Kristen Stewart (Underwater, Personal Shopper), assumed she would expand her fan base. She did not expect that would also include the FBI. With Yvan Attal (Munich, Rush Hour 3) as Romain Gary, Jack O’Connell (Unbroken, Tulip Fever) as Jack Solomon, newcomer Gabriel Sky as Diego Gary and Margaret Qualley (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, The Leftovers-TV) as Linette Solomon; this picture’s story was inspired by true events. I was not familiar with Jean and her career, so I do not know how much I saw in this movie rang true. I guess it did not matter because I thought the script was basic and static. Kristen was good in the role; but I really could not tell you much about her character or for that fact, anyone else’s. Based on the issues that were going on here in the late 1960s, I felt the writers had a wealth of opportunities to create a powerful, dramatic piece. Sadly, like the actress’ career, this story went nowhere.
1 ¾ stars
No one wants to ever lose money. Look at all the apps that are available that try to find you the cheapest price for an item. I am all for trying to save some money on a product I am going to purchase; heck, I even cut out coupons before I go to the grocery store. Now when it comes to trying to increase the funds in my savings I tend to lean more towards low risk ventures. There are a few people I know who buy and sell penny stocks on a daily basis; if they can make a few cents more each day they are satisfied. I do not have the temperament for this type of trading. The same could be said when it comes to gambling. Being a people watcher, I am always stunned by the amount of money people gamble away at casinos. Gambling is not only limited to casinos though; you probably have heard the saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is not true.” Let us face it, there is no easy way to make money; I firmly believe this which is why I gravitate to low risk methods of earning interest on my savings. But there is another component that needs to be factored in regarding the methods we use to earn money. Here is another important saying, “Never put all of your eggs in one basket.” This is so true; the key is to have variety. Even if one is only comfortable putting their savings in an interest bearing bank account, I still would use at least a couple of banks to hold my money just in case something goes wrong with one of the them. If I had my retirement fund held by only one institution and they lost it I would be just as upset as the man in this crime thriller. BELIEVING what financial TV host Lee Gates, played by George Clooney (The Monuments Men, The Ides of March), was saying was true; Kyle Budwell, played by Jack O’Connell (Unbroken, Starred Up), was willing to take a risk with his money. The move would lead to dire consequences. Directed by Jodie Foster (Carnage, The Brave One) and also starring Julia Roberts (Mother’s Day, Secret in Their Eyes); I thought the direction was tight and kept the suspense going throughout this drama. The acting was exceptionally good which helped me because the script was far-fetched in several spots. There were a couple of times I sat in my seat and thought no way could that have happened in real life. In addition, there were a few predictable scenes that played out for all intents and purposes like standard plot twists. In my opinion it took away from the suspense. The story itself could be considered timely and I certainly could understand the frustration level for the circumstances. I am sure there will be some viewers who will be able to relate to this story and if they do they have my condolences.
2 ½ stars
It is amazing how quickly they know who to cull from the group. As their eyes narrow to focus on the fidgeting, meandering members of the group; their minds are already in “attack” mode. There are 2 ways they usually strike; one is to take off at full power, the other has them slowly creeping towards the pack. No matter which way they choose, they are confident most of the individual ones will back away from them to avoid getting involved and possibly attacked themselves. The sad thing about this story is it applies to both the animal kingdom and the human world. When I take public transportation I do not focus on my Ipod or phone; I remain aware of my surroundings. There have been times when an individual or small group of people enter the train car with the intentions of harassing a passenger. Whether they are drawing on experience or not, they know the other passengers usually ignore what they are doing or simply get up and change rail cars. It is a sad statement on society but even I know from experience there is strength in numbers. How many of you have witnessed a school fight? As the victim was getting beaten up, how many people tried to stop the fight? From what I remember there were more times than not when the bystanders were cheering the fight. BELFAST, Ireland during the 1970s was a center of conflict. When Gary Hook’s, played by Jack O’Connell (Unwanted, Starred Up), unit was attacked during a riot, he wound up being left behind. Hunted and shot at, this British soldier had very little time left if he wanted to escape with his life. This award winning action movie had an incredible chase scene that was utterly intense. The cast which included Richard Dormer (Mrs Henderson Presents, Good Vibrations) as Eamon, Sean Harris (Prometheus, Harry Brown) as Sandy Browning and Sam Reid (Belle, The Railway Man) as Lt. Armitage really captured the essence of the era. I will tell you I had a challenging time understanding some of the actors’ heavy accents. There was such a dark rawness to this dramatic thriller that it kept me attracted to the story even during the bloody violence. One of the things I appreciated most about this compelling picture was the fact it did not take sides of a well known hatred. It was a story about one man during one night which I found powerful. There certainly were aspects of that group mentality type of thinking about them vs us; but the script showed more layers to it. I still felt that similar type of dread like the kind I experienced in my past. There were scenes with blood and violence.
3 1/4 stars
Appearing not so dissimilar from the uniqueness of an individual’s fingerprints is a person’s pain threshold. I am curious to know what determines someone’s tolerance to pain. Is it genetic, environmental or mind over matter; I have seen people’s reactions go from one extreme to the other. One friend of mine is hypersensitive to any type of discomfort; a pinprick will cause them to let out a loud wail. Another friend could be in pain but one would never know by looking at them. If anything they may not walk as fast as they normally do; but if you did not know, they would appear to be having an average day. Though I am not comfortable comparing one person’s reactions to pain to another, I can appreciate those individuals who overcome intense suffering. One of the places where I have witnessed a person’s courage on display has been at the health and fitness centers where I have classes. Seeing people battle back from serious health issues, some involving major surgery and/or artificial limb replacement, has been humbling. I have watched with awe as I have watched them struggling to walk a single lap around the indoor track or try to lift a 2 pound weight to their chest. Every single one of them is a hero to me. INCREDIBLE and heroic would not have been terms used to describe Louis Zamperini, played by Jack O’Connell (Starred Up, 300: Rise of an Empire), if he had not transformed himself from a wild hooligan into an Olympic athlete and U.S. Air Force bombardier. However, it was because of those earlier experiences that enabled him to survive not only the sea but a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp during World War II. This film festival winning biographical drama was directed by Angelina Jolie (Maleficent, Salt). Based on Louis’ life, his story was bigger than this movie. I felt Angelina had a good eye for blocking scenes and I understood she worked at getting a PG-13 rating for this film. However, I believe she was too reserved in bringing Louis’ story to life. For what he endured I thought there would have been more emotional intensity to the scenes. There were times where I felt things were dragged out longer than necessary; I was starting to get bored. This may have been part of the reason I did not connect with Jack or newcomer Takamasa Ishihara who played Watanabe a/k/a The Bird; they could have been pushed harder to deliver a stronger performance. I recently saw a television special about Louis and from it I knew his story would have been challenging for any director to do it justice. Angelina gave it a good try but I felt this movie needed more of everything.
2 1/2 stars
A baby is born into the world helpless and dependent on their parent. It may take a period of time before the baby can walk or feed on their own. The birth of a human child is amazing and wonderful in its own right. In the animal world I have witnessed some births that were surprising due to the different outcome compared to the human way. Watching a pregnant horse in labor can be shocking because as soon as the little one is born they struggle a bit but then stand up on all 4 legs. i remember standing there in shock and awe, witnessing this baby horse instinctively working to get up. Once the mare is able to stand up on her own, her baby follows her around and the learning process begins. No matter which species you talk about, most offspring learn by example. The 3 year old sitting in her car seat who yells out the open car window to the driver next to them, “Move that #$%@ car,” had to learn that from somewhere. Having been to a number of parent/teacher conferences, I can tell you the majority of kids who were bullies had parents that acted like bullies to their children. A child does not wake up one day and start acting out inappropriately. TOUGH and mean was how one would describe Eric Love, played by Jack O’Connell (300: Rise of an Empire, Eden Lake). Arrested and convicted to prison, Eric was not afraid of what he would find; he could easily take care of himself. What he did not count on was someone tougher than him being there; his father Neville Love, played by Ben Mendelsohn (The Place Beyond the Pines, Killer Elite). This film festival winning drama was an intense film to watch, with several bloody violent scenes. The script produced a steady pace despite the land mines of action and tension that would erupt on the screen. All the actors including Rupert Friend (The Young Victoria, Pride & Prejudice) as Oliver Baumer were convincing to the point where I believed they were actual prisoners in prison. The scenes showed everything I imagined jail to be. I will say I had a challenging time understanding some of the dialog due to the heavy accents, at least to me, being used by the actors. What I found to be the major strength of this film was the evolving relationship between father and son in the story. Babies are born into this world with a clean slate; their behavior forms based on what they observe. A few scenes had blood and violence in them.