A HANDFUL OF STRANGERS STOOD AROUND videotaping a man on fire. The man was in a car accident that caused the car to catch on fire. A passerby saw what was happening and raced over to the burning man. He grabbed his coat and began slapping the accident victim, to snuff out the flames. Luckily the fire department showed up in time, extinguished the flames and rushed the victim to the hospital. It was reported later that the man survived with the help of the good Samaritan. The group of strangers captured it all on their phones. This was a true story that was reported recently here on the news. The idea of people being more concerned about filming an accident, to either share or post on one of their media sites, instead of helping a person in need is something I find appalling. There was a time where people would help those in need. It eventually diminished as more people withdrew, preferring not to get involved. I have seen this very thing on public transportation, where an altercation takes place and the nearby passengers scurry away from it. I could see if they ran to get help, but now people just want to leave as fast as they can. WITH THE INCREASE IN VIOLENCE BEING reported currently I believe this isolation preference or desire is a contributing factor. It is so much easier to ignore a problem than deal with one. However, when the problem is a human being there can be consequences if the troubled person continues without getting some type of helpful treatment. The recent tragedies that have taken place across the country I find especially horrific. The shooting takes place, the news reports it, people question how it could happen and more times than not the parent of the perpetrator states their child was a good kid. Excuse me but I have a hard time with such a statement. It makes me wonder if the parent has been an active participant in the child’s life. One of the conversations I have been on posed this question: did we always have these troubled individuals around us and we just now are hearing more about them or are people getting crazier (someone else’s words)? I honestly did not have an answer. If someone begins displaying odd behavior traits I believe it needs to be investigated. I remember as a child there were a couple of people in the neighborhood who were labeled “crazy.” Luckily, they were harmless but I do not recall anyone questioning it. It appears the same thing was taking place in this film festival winning crime drama. AFTER BEING KICKED OFF OF HIS bankrupt property Lester Ballard, played by Scott Haze (Midnight Special, Thank you for Your Service), had to figure out how to survive. His method took him further away from rational thought. Written and directed by James Franco (The Disaster Artist, Spring Breakers), I found this DVD disturbing. Scott was excellent in the role but I had the hardest time understanding him. It seemed like the other cast members Tim Blake Nelson (Fantastic Four; O Brother, Where art Thou?) as Sheriff Fate, Jim Parrack (Battle Los Angeles, True Blood-TV) as Deputy Cotton and Brian Lally (As I Lay Dying, L.A. Confidential) as Greer had no such issues. Based on Cormac McCarthy’s (The Road, All the Pretty Horses) novel I assume the story is better in print form; as a movie I felt the story dragged on. It certainly was thought provoking for me as the scenes turned darker and darker. But I must tell you I wanted the film to end; not because of the subject matter, but due to it not being entertaining. There still are parts of this story lingering in my mind; for example, is Lester the result of people’s inactions?
1 ½ — DVD
THERE HAS ONLY BEEN a small handful of individuals I have known who had a natural ability to excel in their life’s journey. Things came naturally to these people, where they did not need to be schooled or guided in conquering their dreams/goals. I am sure when you were in school you had at least one student who did not study before an exam and yet would still get a perfect score. From my college days I remember a student in one of my writing classes who had a book and few short stories published before the semester even began. The entire class looked up to this individual. Even outside a school setting I know a young adult who already is displaying an uncanny ability when it comes to electronics. Without any instruction, he wired and set up a burglary alarm system for his family’s home. NOW THERE ARE SOME people who excel at something but they need to work at it. You know that old joke about how does one get to Carnegie Hall and the answer is practice, practice, practice? Some individuals work hard trying to achieve their dreams. Whether it involves mental concentration or physical training, the individuals in this group sacrifice social interactions among other things to reach their goals. I am a firm believer in people attempting to reach their dreams; for it is better to have tried then spend the rest of one’s life wondering what life would have been like if they had at least attempted to reach their goals, in my opinion. I am sure it has crossed some of your minds, especially if you have watched some of those reality shows, that there are some people who should stop trying to be something they will never be. I know what you mean since I have seen a couple of those singing and dancing reality shows where some of the people auditioning show no talent for the task. It would not be fair for me to judge, but see how you feel about the main character trying to reach his dream in this dramatic comedy based on a true story. REFUSING TO ACCEPT THE negative comments about his acting abilities Tommy, played by James Franco (The Interview, Why Him?) not only liked the idea from his friend Greg, played by Dave Franco (Warm Bodies, Now You See Me franchise), he agreed to it; they would make their own movie to star in. This film festival winning picture also starring Seth Rogen (Funny People, Neighbors franchise) as Sandy, Ari Graynor (The Sitter, Mystic River) as Juliette and Alison Brie (Sleeping with Other People, Mad Men-TV) as Amber; was hilarious in parts. I and the audience around me were laughing out loud. The story is so bizarre it took me some time to actually believe this was a true story and not some big satire. Interestingly I was initially annoyed with James’ character, but after awhile I realized he was doing an excellent acting job playing this mysterious, odd character. I also enjoyed the variety of cameo roles that popped up throughout the movie. As I mentioned earlier it took me time to get into the story; I was confused by the script and was getting “antsy” for something to take place. However with James’ directing and the absurd idea behind the story coming to life, I had to applaud the achievements that were on display by the end. It goes to show you, follow your dreams because you never know where they will lead you.
3 1/3 stars
HE was startled when his significant other’s mother was handed the mobile device to introduce herself. She lived out of the country and her “baby” was visiting her for the holidays. During their Face Time date he was asked if he wanted to meet the mother; he could hear her in the background because the sound of her voice had the same lyrical quality he had grown to love. Though nervous he said yes to the request and was pleasantly surprised at her warm smile; again similarities calmed him, next it was her facial features. The conversation was easy and he quickly felt relaxed as they chit chatted about their common love, her child. For a first conversation he felt good about it and thought she might make a wonderful mother-in law. MEETING for the first time the parents of your significant other can be an eye opening experience. Depending on the conversation one could feel a variety of emotions all across the spectrum. I had a friend who upon meeting her boyfriend’s parents walked away with a negative feeling that only grew in time. By the time my friend was engaged there was open hatred between her and the parents. On the other hand I knew someone who totally loved his in-laws; in fact, he insisted on calling them Mom and Dad since the three of them had more affection for each other than what he had growing up. I just realized from my past relationships most of their parents were deceased or if they were still alive they did not communicate with them. So I guess you can say my experience with in-laws is through my friends and family. Some of the stories I have heard were right out of a comedy show or a soap opera. If anything I can at least say listening to their experiences has groomed me on what I need to do to be a “good” son-in-law. Too bad the boyfriend in this comedy did not pay attention. FOR the holidays Stephanie Fleming, played by Zoey Deutch (Vampire Academy, Everybody Wants Some!!), wanted her family to come out to visit her at Stanford so they could meet her boyfriend Laird Mayhew, played by James Franco (The Interview, Spider-Man franchise). The holiday visit would not be such a merry time for all. With Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Argo) as Ned Fleming, Megan Mullally (The Kings of Summer, Will & Grace-TV) as Barb Fleming and Keegan-Michael Key (Keanu, Tomorrowland) as Gustav; the idea for this story I felt would be relatable to most viewers. I thought Megan and Bryan were good in their roles but I have to tell you I thought the script was all over the place. There were a couple of funny scenes here and there but a good portion of the time I was bored seeing the same type of antics happening over and over. In addition there was nothing new offered in this story about the father meeting the boyfriend for the first time. There was strong language repeated throughout the film along with sexual references. As far as I was concerned this was a meeting that did not have to take place for the family in this film nor for me in the movie theater.
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
They were the perfect guests for dinner. Always on time, trustworthy and filled with noteworthy stories each time they appeared; many of us had the same nightly guests for supper. They were the newscasters who showed up every day at the dinner hour when our televisions were turned on. I am referring to those TV news anchors when I was growing up. Back then they were sometimes considered family members; they would explain current issues in a way that was unbiased and unfettered. There was no hidden agenda or slanted placement to the presentation of the stories. The same could be said about reporters for the newspapers. That was the beauty of the news during those times; one could get the same story whether it was done verbally or visually. I remember the newspapers being so much thicker than they are now, besides fewer ads then. There were some reporters who had their own weekly or daily columns where they would take a topic, cut it up and spoon feed it to us, the readers. I still hold on to those feelings I had years ago every time I hold a newspaper in my hands. However things are not the same; I do not have the same level of trust anymore. It seems to me the news is based now on getting ratings; the more sensational the story, the higher draw of viewers. In addition, with a majority of media outlets now owned by large corporations I get the feeling there is a hidden agenda to their actions. It is harder to figure out what is really true these days. BEING released from the New York Times due to a falsified story reporter Michael Finkel, played by Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Sitter), became an untouchable in the news world. Finding a job seemed like an impossible task until murder suspect Christian Longo, played by James Franco (The Interview, Palo Alto), was taken into custody claiming he was Michael Finkel. Based on actual events this dramatic mystery seemed to have all the elements for making a thrilling picture. I liked the cast which included Felicity Jones (The Invisible Woman, The Theory of Everything) as Jill Barker; however, I only found James to be the most believable. The script was overdone, plodding along to the point where I was bored through portions of the movie. It was too bad because I rather enjoyed the camera work with its variety of close-ups and uncluttered scenes. The beginning of the film was stronger; I kept losing interest as time went on. Though the story had an interesting base, I just could not get into it. I felt the same way about this film as I do about the news; I did not buy into everything I was being shown.
The sign in the window that said, “Lost Our Lease” Sale, was what caught your eye. It was just enough of a catalyst to drive you straight through the store’s double doors. I know because I have had the same thing happen to me. The assumption is the prices have all been marked way down to move the products out of the store, lowering the moving costs for the retail establishment’s relocation. If you are like me, you wind up buying stuff just because it is a perceived bargain. Who knew you were peeling potatoes the wrong way all these years; you now had this contraption where the potato would be placed on a skewer and you would turn a handle to make the potato twirl around, while a fine thin blade sliced the peel off the potato. It really did not do a better job than your old handheld potato peeler, but now you had more things to clean up. What did upset you was discovering the store never closed; it signed a new long term lease. So for all the hype there was nothing really satisfying to show for it. THIS is how I felt after running like a crazy person to go see this “controversial” comedy. Let me start by saying Sony Pictures got the largest holiday gift they could have ever gotten–free publicity. With newscasters talking about the cyber-hacking of Sony Pictures, the online threats if this movie was released, the pulling of the film then the smaller release of it; there was news about this picture every single day. If none of this had taken place this movie would have, in my opinion, had a decent opening before fading into the background. Seth Rogen (This is the End, Pineapple Express) played television producer Aaron Rapaport for talk show host Dave Skylark, played by James Franco (Howl, 127 Hours). Discovering North Korean President Kim Jong-un, played by Randall Park (Larry Crowne, Neighbors), was a big fan lead the 2 men to land an exclusive interview with the president. However, the CIA had other plans for them. I honestly do not understand how of all things this film’s story became the biggest focus regarding the hacking of Sony. It turned out the movie trailer showed the highlights because I found most of the humor to be crude and repetitive. The story was a crazy idea that lent itself to becoming a fun satire; there were a couple of parts where I chuckled. Overall this action film was no big deal. I have seen harsher satirical treatments done of Kim Jong-un on television. Without a doubt this whole episode was a marketer’s dream; it almost makes one wonder if the hackers were getting a kickback for all the free publicity.
Desperation widens the mind’s pool of irrational thoughts. This will send waves to slip up onto logic’s shores. Boy is this true when money is needed to survive. When I was between jobs a long time ago, I was willing to do anything to earn a paycheck to pay my mounting bills. Besides my regular classes I was the go-to sub for other instructors because I had the freest time on my hands. To supplement my income I was always taking small odd jobs like proofreading or delivery service. I remember this one job where I was asked to conduct a yoga demonstration at a grand opening of a hospital’s professional building. The money was good and much needed so I agreed to the event, even though I had some reservations. When I arrived on the opening date I was led to the so-called staging area. They wanted me to stand and perform on a folding table draped in a white tablecloth. As soon as I placed my hand on the table it wobbled from side to side. In addition I was told there was going to be children coming right after their snack time. Without going into the horrific details let me just say I was standing on top of the table in tree pose with kids playing hide-and-go seek under the tablecloth. I thought the money I was earning would have to go for medical bills because I was going to be knocked off my “stage.” OVER their heads in debt with very little income at present; married couple Anna and Tom Wright, played by Kate Hudson (Bride Wars, The Reluctant Fundamentalist) and James Franco (This is the End, Spider-Man franchise), stared at the bag of money they found in their recently deceased tenant’s apartment. They did not know the money had been stolen. This crime action thriller had a good idea that was executed in a completely bad way. Along with James and Kate in the cast there was Tom Wilkinson (Belle, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) as John Halden and Sam Spruell (Defiance, Snow White and the Huntsman) as Jack Witkowski; one would think there would have been a chance of seeing a decent film come out of them. Sorry, this was not the case because the script was atrocious and ridiculous. I only thought Sam’s acting and character was worth my time. Some of the scenes were so far-fetched that I had to laugh; what was everyone thinking they were trying to produce with this movie? In my opinion this was the film the movie studio should have pulled from release.
1 1/2 stars
They live in my head and do everything I tell them to do. Some of them may have started out as real people like my very 1st friend who lived in the same apartment building where I was born. We were preschool age, but I still remember when we shared a box of colored dog biscuits, thinking they were just extra hard cookies. Over the years that memory was manipulated to fit into a story I was working on for college. I have many fictional characters that reside in my mind, ready to be employed for an article, a story or even just a mental exercise to keep my imagination active. This is the life of a writer or at least of me. Having a dominant right sided brain, my life has always traveled along the perimeter between reality and fantasy. It was a world I was always attracted to because of its ability to be both a crowded and lonely place at the same time. The world inside a writer’s mind can be as present and alive as our daily lives. Liam Neeson (Non-Stop, The Grey) played Michael, an author who traveled to Paris to work on a new book and be with his mistress Anna, played by Olivia Wilde (Rush, In Time). During the same time there were two other stories taking place in this romantic drama. In New York City Julia and Rick, played by Mila Kunis (Black Swan, Ted) and James Franco (This is the End, Palo Alto), were in a bitter custody battle after their son was injured. The third story took place in Rome where Adrien Brody (King Kong, The Pianist) was Scott, a businessman of knockoff designer wear who got involved with a troubled woman who was desperately trying to get her daughter back before being forced into prostitution. The acting was alive and engaging in all three stories, though I found the Mila and James story the strongest. With attractive settings the overall look to this film was pleasing to me; however, it only went so far before the weight of the lumbering script dulled the viewing experience. Written and directed by Paul Haggis (Crash, In the Valley of Elah) I found the stories repetitive. It really felt like the drama went to a certain level and remained there with no variance. I was able to follow all three stories as their scenes switched back and forth between them and figured out relatively early what was going to happen. By the end of the film I did not feel completely satisfied. The concept of peering into a writer’s mind was an excellent idea; in my mind, I would have done a major rewrite of the script.
It was only 4 years, except for the 2 who started that riot, but that time in high school was a prelude to adult life. In those years i began to understand there was this invisible ranking system, more like a hierarchy, where each of us were being assigned a place. I had no say in the matter and assumed there were others like me. One of the toughest parts was when students would get stuck with a label. Among teachers I always figured they had their own list of labels they assigned to students; such as difficult, trouble or quiet. However, the words that were used and got stuck to the students had more bite to them. There were girls who had to live with derogatory words like skank, whore or bitch. For some reason the labels given to boys were not as harsh or maybe it was just my opinion. There were those who were called nerds, druggies, queers or jocks. These words were not always based on any factual information; many times it was just an eyeball observation. High school already had its challenges without the added pressure from one’s peers and this dramatic film unapologetically depicted that life during those years. Based on the book of the same name by James Franco, the film focused on several students as each one was working through a personal struggle. Part of the cast included Emma Roberts (We’re the Millers, Hotel for Dogs) as April, newcomer Jack Kilmer as Teddy, Nat Wolff (Stuck in Love, New Year’s Eve) as Fred and James Franco (This is the End, The Iceman) as Mister B. All did an adequate job of acting, coming across in an honest way. I did not have an issue with the directing, but jumping from one story line to another became tiresome. There were a couple of scenes that made me uncomfortable which was the reaction I felt the director was trying to achieve. However, there was not enough story to engage me. After a short time I became bored with the characters, not caring what happened to them. I did not read the book, but I have to assume the stories read better than being depicted here on the big screen. Some of you already know my high school years were filled more with nightmares than pleasant dreams, so I wanted to make sure I was not reacting to this film on a deeper, personal level before beginning my review. The answer is I am far removed from that chapter in my life and this movie did not offer anything new from what has been done before.
I can remember every single fight I was involved in when growing up. Out of all of them there was only one time where I threw the punch first and that was because the boy had been picking on me for weeks. I am not a violent person; in fact, I was never taught how to defend myself. A friend’s older brother had to show me how to correctly make a fist with my hand. I used to wonder where the aggressive kids learned how to fight and torment other students like me. It was during the parent/teacher conference nights where an answer could be found. I was not old enough to understand the reasons, only remembering how I felt when seeing the parents of a bully. More times than not the parents would frighten me. I could not explain it, but saw how they treated their spouse and child. Among my friends and family I never saw an adult act like that to someone else. In this action thriller, you will see what happens when parents get involved. Jason Statham (The Bank Job, Snatch) played Phil Broker, a former drug enforcement administration agent. After his wife’s death, Phil decided to settle in a small town to raise his young daughter Maddy, played by Izabela Vidovic (Help for the Holidays-TV movie, Raising Hope-TV). With the residents already suspicious of out-of-towners, it appeared Phil and Maddy may have settled into the wrong town. When Jason Statham stars in a movie, one already knows what to expect. There were many fight scenes that showed off Jason’s battling skills. One thing I was grateful for was Sylvester Stallone (Rocky franchise, Rhinestone) not starring in this film since he wrote the screenplay. It seems as if the screenplay was sitting on his shelf for years and Sylvester felt he was now too old for the role. This leads to my next point which concerned the script; it was simple and straight forward. There were few surprises since it was easy to figure out what was going to happen in almost every scene. I did enjoy seeing James Franco (This is the End, 127 Hours) and Kate Bosworth (Blue Crush, 21) play darker roles as brother and sister Morgan “Gator” Bodine and Cassie Bodine Klum. Though this crime film did not offer anything new, I was grateful at the end for not growing up being an aggressive kid. There were multiple scenes with violence and blood.