IT WAS A DOG AND A FALCON that steered me towards wanting to be an animal doctor. The dog was a relative’s pet and she was the first animal adopted into my extended family. She was a sweetheart who was always happy to see me. Anytime I was visiting my relative, I would always take the dog out for walks. She had a red colored ball that she absolutely loved to fetch, that I would spend nearly all my time throwing for her. This may sound odd; but whenever I was with her, I felt at peace. Yes, I know how that must sound but I was at my calmest when I was with her. She was the origin for my love of animals. I also think the comfort I had around her made me more receptive when it came to other animals. One of my summer camp counselors was a falconer. One day he brought a falcon with him. Where some kids were hesitant and shied away from the falcon, I only wanted to get closer and pet him. When he spread his wings out to their full length, I thought for a moment I was in the wild. He looked magnificent while perched on my counselor’s arm, wings wide and head turning to look at all of us kids. THOSE TWO ANIMALS STARTED MY JOURNEY in studying to be a veterinarian. Though I did not get to the finish line, I never lost my love of animals. When I transitioned to a different major I wondered what would have happened if I had never encountered my relative’s dog or the falcon; one single event in time and a whole life can get steered down a particular path that had not been in your conscious prior. I remember a man I used to work with in a warehouse who wanted to be a fashion designer. Seeing his mother create her own outfits started him down his path. From having her teach him how to sew, to going to fashion school to getting a job at a fabric wholesaler where I met him; everyday he would come to work wearing something he had sewn himself. With row upon row filled with bolts of fabric, he felt he was working in heaven. I asked him once if there was anything else, he had wanted to be when he was growing up and he said yes. But after seeing what his mother could do with a needle and thread, he was hooked (pun intended). I admired his determination, just as I admired the determination of the main character in this biographical, dramatic family film. GROWING UP IN A COAL MINING town meant there were only 2 choices high school students had waiting for them by the time they graduated; either earn an athletic scholarship to go to college or work in the coal mines. For Homer Hickam, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger, Donnie Darko), those choices were waiting for him until he looked up into the sky and saw something that no one had ever seen before. With Chris Cooper (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Adaptation) as John Hickam, Laura Dern (Marriage Story, Little Women) as Miss Riley, Chris Owen (The Mist, American Pie franchise) as Quentin and William Lee Scott (The Butterfly Effect, Pearl Harbor) as Roy Lee; this film festival winner based on a true story had an inspiring story that was wonderfully told through its script. Even at such an early age, Jake already was displaying his formidable acting skills. The whole cast was terrific and with the story set in the 1950s, there was an overall good homey feeling throughout this movie. Despite the predictability that was built into the story, I found this entertaining picture touching and inspirational. It also proved it only takes one event to change one’s life.
3 ½ stars
COMPARED TO MY FRIENDS, I FELT lucky I did not have to experience it until I was 12 years old. For that was the year I experienced my first funeral. It was at that point where I felt like an adult for the first time. Up until then I was living my life in a carefree way, with no responsibilities or serious life events to experience. There was attending school, piano lessons, taking family trips and playing alone or with friends; my schedule was filled with these activities. After that first funeral things started to change for me. I became aware of sicknesses and diseases that were life threatening, besides my own mortality. If I am being perfectly honest, a part of me resented having to think of these things. I was content being a kid and had no desire to deal with adult situations. Not that I was living an idyllic life as Peter Pan, but I just wanted to stay a kid. And this was despite having friends who had lost loved ones at a much earlier age than myself. It turned out there was going to be something else coming down the road towards me that would cement my status into the young adult world. A FEW WEEKS AFTER MY SIXTEENTH birthday I got my first job. Opening my 1st pay envelope and seeing a check made out to me was thrilling. In this case I was okay being treated and feeling like an adult. I had a weekly schedule that consisted of at least 2 days of work after school and a full day Saturday and/or Sunday. The schedule would fluctuate depending on which employees were available to work a shift. It seemed so adult to me. I would get a kick out of telling my friends I could not join them because I had to go to work, so I could get a paycheck. My experiences were not that unusual from most other people. All of us at some point make that change from being a kid to becoming an adult. For some, it might get triggered by a friend or family member; for others, it may take place during a trip to a foreign land or a hospital. I am not saying the transition will be easy. If you want to see for yourself, watch what happens to the main character in this science fiction, action adventure film. THE OPPORTUNITY OF A SCHOOL TRIP to Europe was perfect for Peter Parker/Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland (The Impossible, The Lost City of Z). He would finally get the chance to spend time with his classmate MJ, played by Zendaya (The Greatest Showman, Shake it Up-TV), and tell her how he felt about her. However, he did not take into consideration a phone call from Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson (Shaft, Glass). This story for this movie picks up a short time after the Avengers: End Game film. With Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger, Prisoners) as Quentin Beck/Mysterio and Marisa Tomei (The Big Short, The First Purge) as Mary Parker, this picture was a good transition point for future Marvel movies. The script was light and fun, along with a good amount of humor. Tom and Zendaya were an ideal pairing and I could see them growing into these roles in upcoming installments. When I compare this film to other superhero ones, this one comes up a little short with the “wow” factor. Though I smiled, chuckled and teared up a bit; I was not totally transported into the story. The script could have used a rewrite to firm up the plot because I felt the villain and the story surrounding them needed to be more intense and scarier, for one thing. Also, the whole idea for the villain was weak compared to past Marvel stories. This still was absolute fun to watch and you want to certainly see the 2 extra scenes during and at the end of the credits. Oh, and typical to these films there was a Stan Lee sighting.
3 1/4 stars
IT JUST TAKES A LITTLE empty feeling inside for a person to start envying someone else’s good fortune. I have seen it happen many times where a person cannot only envy but resent another individual who appears happy and content. There is a friend of mine who has a relative that acts this way. This relative will offer backhanded compliments that others can see are fueled by jealousy and resentment. Another thing they do is try to copy whatever my friend does, either in hair style or clothing. If my friend is wearing a new outfit at a family function, the relative will seek out and buy something similar; however she take pleasure it telling everyone how much it cost. In other words she wants everyone to know her outfit is more expensive and better quality. It is such a weird game to me, like anyone would care about which one was better or more expensive. The thing I find icky is when my friend tells me this relative showed up at a family dinner with her hair styled in the same manner as my friend’s style; based on what I have heard there is no way I would say she is paying a compliment to my friend. WISHING FOR SOMETHING HAS A different feeling for me than dreaming about it. When I wish for something it usually is a tangible thing like wishing for warmer weather or a winning lottery ticket. I have spent the majority of my life dreaming about a life I hoped I could attain one day. Dreams to me seem to be more goals oriented than wishes. Maybe what I am trying to say is dreams have more of a life altering affect. There is a difference when one says they wish they had a boyfriend compared to dreaming about being with a boyfriend. I hope this is an example; there are two sisters who do not get along well with each other. One sister got married early and started a family; the other one married later in life and did not have any children. As the two sisters grew older the one without children started to resent her sister. Where the one with kids took family trips, attended a variety of school functions and was married to a man who was climbing up in position at his company; the other sister wanted the same things. She was only looking at the things she wanted but never indicated growing up that she wanted that type of life. It reminds me of that old saying about the grass being greener on the other side, which could apply to this mystery film also. ON A RECOMMENDATION ADAM, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals, End of Watch), rented a movie that had in the cast an actor who looked exactly like him. Both stunned and curious Adam began to do research on the actor to see if he could meet him and see what type of life he was leading. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario) the cast also included Melanie Laurent (Beginners, Now You See Me) as Mary and Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) as Helen. This film festival winning dramatic thriller was fueled by the wonderful performance by Jake. The story kept my interest for the most part, though it had a certain oddness to it. There were a couple of times I had to sit and wonder if I was missing something in the story because it seemed as if the script was getting more cerebral. I think watching this DVD could lead to some discussion afterward in a variety of directions. The main thing I took away from this picture was the belief Adam was a wisher.
2 ½ stars – DVD
THE HARDER AND LOUDER the weights are dropped on the floor, the more the weightlifter wants you to be aware of their “incredible” strength. Whether they use barbells, dumbbells or just weight plates; I find the releasing of weights in midair perplexing. It is not like they are at the Olympics and lifting massive amounts or metal. They are at a fitness center and sure it might be a large amount of weight they are lifting; but seriously, if you cannot safely bring the weights down to the floor then in my opinion it is too much weight for you. These are my own observations; please do not consider this the standard. From what I have witnessed, when a person makes a loud sound from letting go of the weight load they want attention drawn to them. I have seen them looking into the mirror to see how their muscles look after a big lift, but they also are seeing if anyone else is noticing them. THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES of strength. Some people focus only on increasing their physical strength. To me this is the easiest one because all that is required are some forms of weight bearing exercises. Doing a pushup, walk while carrying a bag of groceries, bicep curls using canned vegetables from the pantry even; all of these will help. The harder strength to me is the mental one. I find if a person cannot muster the mental strength to take on a task there is a good chance of not completing the task or total failure. Mental strength did not come easy for me. Years of believing the things I was being called detoured my personal growth. I think what helped me was my natural stubbornness. If there was something I wanted I would not give up until I was completely exhausted. Nothing overt necessarily but a slow and steady determination was how I started handling the tasks presented to me. Whether it is an item off of one’s “to do” list or preparing for major surgery, the mind needs to be nourished and focused in a positive way to make gains in one’s life. A perfect example of this can be seen in this drama inspired by true events. TRYING TO WIN OVER his on and off girlfriend Jeff Bauman, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals, Southpaw), chose to wait for her at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, just before the bombs went off. This biographical real life story succeeded on many levels. Topmost was the cast which also included Tatiana Maslany (Eastern Promises, Woman in Gold) as Erin Hurley, Miranda Richardson (Empire of the Sun, Churchill) as Patty Bauman and Lenny Clarke (Fever Pitch, Rescue Me-TV) as Uncle Bob. I have to tell you Jake was superhuman; that is the only thing I can say. Trying to figure out what it took to portray survivor Jeff Bauman had to be something short of a miracle; he was outstanding. The movie was hard to watch since it was reenacting the events of the 2013 bombing; there may have been actual footage used in parts. It was and continues to be an amazing story; there was never a moment where I felt the writers were trying to manipulate the viewer or fall into dramatic clichés. After sitting through this picture I have a whole new appreciation for the term, “Boston Strong.”
3 ½ stars
YEARS of reading and watching science fiction books and movies may be the reason why I believe there could be other life forms in the universe. Even if I was not a fan of the fantasy/science fiction genre, I was always open to the possibility we humans were not alone. I could never be convinced that out of the entire universe the planet Earth was the only place that could sustain life. One of the arguments I have heard is our planet is the only one that can sustain oxygen breathing beings; but I would counter that proposal by questioning the logic of oxygen being the only element that can support life. What if an alien species’ anatomy only needed carbon monoxide to exist? Unless they come to us I understand there is no way to prove this thought, since I do not know if we will ever evolve to a point where we will have the ability to deconstruct and rematerialize on another world via a transporting device or be able to travel in a spaceship at warp speed. DURING my studies in college I had a literature course that covered several genres of fiction, including science fiction. For my midterm project I used several rolls of infrared film along with close-up camera lenses to create a photo album that I claimed was proof of foreign existence. The things I photographed represented places we had read about in our required reading list. Our instructor had us put our projects on display around the lecture hall and each of us had to explain what we had done. After we each gave our talks, the students were allowed to walk around and study each item before voting on their favorite in a secret ballot. It turned out not only did I get an “A” on my midterm project but my alien photo album was voted the favorite. From some of the comments I received the majority of my classmates loved how I had shown both friendly and non-friendly aliens. Hopefully I am only right about the good aliens. WORKING in precise maneuvers six astronauts must retrieve a satellite returning from Mars that might contain proof there may be life existing on another planet. This science fiction thriller had some intense, exciting scenes right from the start. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals, Prisoners) as David Johnson, Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, The Proposal) as Rory Adams, Hiroyuki Sanada (47 Ronin, The Wolverine) as Sho Murakami and Rebecca Ferguson (The Girl on the Train, Florence Foster Jenkins) as Miranda North; this horror film had some icky scenes that were hard to watch, involving blood and violence. I thought the sets and special effects were cool, while the actors did their job well. The idea of the story was fine; however, I felt the writers needed to take a different angle because as I sat watching this film I kept thinking about the movie Alien. I did not find much different in this movie though I did enjoy the surprise twists. What I did enjoy, maybe enjoy is not the right word, was the way the writers depicted life and that is all I can say about it. If you do not believe there may be extraterrestrial life, you may not be anxious to see this film. Based on my belief system, maybe you should see it.
2 1/3 stars
Slowly you remove yourself from the warmth you were lovingly lying next to, to give them a couple of extra minutes of sleep before the start of their day. You did not even think about the clothes you have at the dry cleaners because they will be hanging in your closet when you get home that night from work. When the two of you are out at a restaurant, you do not have to ask the waitstaff to remove the veggies you do not like from your salad; your significant other will take them without having to be asked. The two of you have an easy symbiotic relationship. Not that you take each other for granted, but the daily things that transpire between you two become their own type of routine. It is sad to say, but it is not until you no longer are a couple that you realize the extra wonderful things that made your relationship so special. I do not mean to paint this in a bad light; but I have found it is the small things that take place between two people that re-enforce the glue which keeps both in a relationship. It is part of the support system each one has created in unison and like anything that occurs on a constant schedule, it may appear less special and sweet as it fades into a routine. This is one of the reasons that I have always insisted on keeping up a date night so the two of us can break out of our daily routines to focus on each other. Not only do I understand but I have experienced what it feels like when that special love is no longer with you. SUCCESSFUL investment banker Davis, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Source Code, Nightcrawler), only began to realize what he was missing after his wife was killed in a tragic automobile accident. This film festival winning comedic drama also included Naomi Watts (While we’re Young, The Impossible) as Karen, Chris Cooper (Adaptation, American Beauty) as Davis’ father-in-law and Judah Lewis (Point Break) as Chris. Though the acting was good I found the script to be dismal though in a way this played to Jake’s strengths. I do not even know if I would classify this movie as part comedy. There was nothing in it that I found funny. Now there were several opportunities to create impressive dramatic scenes but they tended to fall short. Also, I usually do not notice but this time I thought Jake’s shower scenes were unnecessary and wondered if they were inserted for eye candy value. The other odd thing I found was the lack of time awareness. I became aware to the fact that he wasn’t working yet these different events were taking place with him over time. For some reason this stood out for me. The idea behind this story was interesting and the script had some valid points; however, I did not connect to this film, nor did I miss it after it was over.
1 ¾ stars
The first thing one notices is the air feels different, a fresher smell unlike the cloying scents from air fresheners. It seems more spacious with odorous wisps filled with childhood memories of jumping into piles of leaves and water sprinklers. Traveling higher the landscape reveals ancient scars deeply etched into its face, some are dry while others have rushing water tumbling down them. If you are standing in the right place on a sunny day you may see the appearance of a rainbow floating in the mist coming off the water. There is a sense of discovery or more precisely being on a treasure hunt because one could travel undercover for some distant, where the sun’s rays can barely reach you except for the momentarily flash between waving leaves, before stepping out of the darkness to a cliff overseeing a wide valley of sleepy hills under a wheat and green colored blanket. Personally I love exploring this type of terrain…from the comfort of my car. Now before you ask me how I can explore nature while riding around in a car, let me explain. My first two hiking experiences turned me off from physically climbing and scaling rugged territories. The first hike ended with the rocks under my feet dislodging and I tumbled down towards a cliff, my clothes ripping apart on the jagged surface. My second time was hiking on an easier topography, however it was dense with foliage and we lost our way as night fell. We were stuck on the mountain for 4 hours until we finally found our way down by midnight, hungry and cold. Ever since that time I only hike if there is a designated trail to walk or a road to drive on. So for the life of me I could not understand why the people in this adventure thriller wanted to climb Mt. Everest. BASED on a true story, a group of mountain climbers have the perfect window of opportunity to scale Mt. Everest, unaware a storm is about to take birth. The storm would become one for the record books. This dramatic movie was incredible to watch. The different landscape shots were spectacular. With a cast that included Jason Clarke (Lawless, The Great Gatsby) as Rob Hall, Josh Brolin (Labor Day, Gangster Squad) as Beck Weathers and Thomas M. Wright (Balibo, Van Diemen’s Land) as Michael Groom; the acting was utterly convincing. I do not know how the actors handled the grueling frigid scenes; it looked totally real to me. Putting aside my bewilderment for this type of undertaking, the story really had the potential for creating a powerful movie. However, the script had poor dialog and a smattering of cliches. I know the focus was on the action and this picture really delivered it. I just wished the movie theater had turned up the heat; we were bundled up sitting in our seats.
For those of you fortunate enough never to have experienced a broken heart let me describe how it feels. The area around where the heart is located reacts just as if a physical punch was administered to the body; it hurts like a bad bruise, echoing dull pain over and over. Your center of gravity weighs more where it takes added effort to lift your feet off the ground to even walk across a room. With water making up a majority of the body’s composition, it gets redirected to spill out of your tear ducts at a moment’s notice. Hearing the beginning notes of a song could trigger this outpouring as easily as seeing a newly ownerless toothbrush sitting in your medicine cabinet. Some individuals experience the sense of losing control. I know for myself when I am feeling out of control I tend to focus on one single aspect of my life and hold onto it with a near death grip. My default option is usually my diet. Since no one has a say in what I can or cannot eat, my daily food intake is totally under my domain. In the past when I felt I was out of control my eating would take off as I tried filling the void that formed when control became unharnessed, free to do what it wanted to do. Now it is opposite, the more out of control I feel the more I control what I eat. The main character in this dramatic sports film had a different method. BOXING champion Billy Hope, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, End of Watch), had the money, the fame and the big house; however, it did not matter when he lost the one thing money could not buy. I need to start with Jake for this review because he deserved extra credit for the grueling workout he put himself through to give extra meat to this role, so to speak. He did 2,000 sit-ups a day and was told by the director, Atoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer), they would continue filming even if his nose got broken in the fight scenes. Now the fight scenes, they were so intense at times I almost had to look away. The cast, which included Rachel McAdams (Aloha, About Time) as Maureen Hope and Oona Laurence (A Little Game, Lamb) as Leila Hope, was especially strong in their own right. Though Jake could snag a nomination for this role, the script was filled with cliches that kept the story from matching his acting abilities. I thought the scenes he had with Forest Whitaker (Taken 3, Lee Daniels’ The Butler) as Tick Wills could have been even more powerful if the script was better. In spite of this big flaw I was so drawn to the character that it carried me through the entire film. Several scenes had blood in them.
It was due to my youth and innocence that I did not realize what was really going on. The possibility of earning more than my weekly allowance spurred me to join my friends in selling products door to door. It was the summer before my 13th birthday and my training lasted as long as our van ride, that was taking us to a suburb far from the city. The crew leader who was a friend divided us into pairs; I was put with my best friend who had already been working for a couple of months. The owner of the company had explained to us that the products we were selling were made at a school for blind people. Generally the products consisted of household items such as dishrags, toilet brushes and oven mitts. Each item had a printed sticker attached that read, “Products of the Blind.” I had no idea the owner was buying the items from a discount store and placing the stickers on himself. It was my first job; I did not know better. Looking back now I can see telltale signs that something was not right about the owner. He always appeared disheveled with messy hair as if he had slept in his clothes and had not taken a bath. Sure I had seen some of the items at the store, but I assumed the manufacturers gave them to the school for a special price to let the residents attach the labels. Looking back I can say the owner was an unscrupulous piece of work. DESPERATE for any type of work, Los Angeles native Lou Bloom, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Source Code, Brokeback Mountain), found something enticing when he came upon a traffic accident. Freelance photographers were swarming around the accident victim like sharks as they kept snapping shots that a news agency would be willing to buy. A fast learner without a moral compass, Lou soon discovered a way to increase a photo’s selling price for a willing buyer. Jake was so creepy in this role; the weight loss he endured made his eyes bug out, adding a crazed look to his performance. He will probably earn an Oscar nomination for this role. From writer Dan Gilroy (The Bourne Legacy, The Fall), this was Dan’s first attempt at directing and he created a tense crime thriller. With Rene Russo (Outbreak, The Thomas Crown Affair) as Nina Romina and Riz Ahmed (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Four Lions) playing Rick as part of the cast, they were equally outstanding with their acting. Also, the parallels to our current frenzy to witness immediate reality events did not go unnoticed by me. Despite a few implausible scenes, I found this dramatic movie to be a riveting intense experience that creeped me out. There were multiple scenes that had blood in them.
3 1/3 stars