THE ONLY WAY I COULD TELL the twins apart was one of them was heavyset. They wore their hair the same way and personally, I think they dressed the same at times just to throw their teachers off. The heavier twin was not a nice (I wanted to use a slang word here) person; essentially, he was a bully. His twin brother was the opposite; he always had a smile on his face, and he was friendly to everyone. I had classes with both. It seemed like every other week the mean twin would cause a disruption in the classroom. To complete the picture for you, the nice twin had more friends than his brother. After a couple of years, the heavy twin started to lose weight. It took almost one year for him to get down to the same weight as his brother; now, it was nearly impossible to tell the two brothers apart—at least on the outside. I had wondered if his losing weight would have made the heavier twin a nicer person but that was not the case. He was still ugly on the inside. Not knowing what the motivation was for him to go on a diet, I did not know if he had any expectations about how different his life would be being skinnier. I so badly wanted to tell him a cosmetic change was not enough to really make a change in his life. WHERE THE HEAVIER TWIN ONLY CHANGED his appearance, there was another boy at school who changed on the inside. He and I had gone to the same elementary school. Periodically we would be on the same team in gym class; plus, I would see him after school in the neighborhood from time to time. He was not a troublemaker in class; but if some prank or disruption did take place in the classroom, he would be part of the group of kids who were laughing about it. Outside of that, there was nothing else noteworthy about him; he pretty much just blended in with his surroundings. When we graduated into high school, a big transformation took place within him. He started hanging out with a group of students who were on the fringe. At the time I did not know what the bond was between them. However, it first became clearer to me when he changed his style of dress. It was confirmed when I saw him participate in a fight with a group of minority students; he was a white supremist. I was stunned when I saw him and had to wonder if he always had those feelings inside of him. I had the same question when I started watching this dramatic, crime film based on true events. THOUGH HIS CHOSEN FAMILY RAISED AND NURTURED him to be a top leader of their white supremacist group, his love for a woman was making him question his actions. This film festival winning biography starred Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool) as Bryon Widner, Danielle Macdonald (Patti Cake$, Dumplin’) as Julie Price, Daniel Henshall (Ghost in the Shell, The Snowtown Murders) as Slayer, Bill Camp (12 Years a Slave, Love & Mercy) as Fred “Hammer” Krager and Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, Captive State) as Shareen. This film started out on a high level of disturbing intensity. It was almost to the point of me being uncomfortable as I felt I was sitting in the middle of the action. Jamie Bell was incredible in this role; the best I had ever seen him. My major complaint was the script; I never understood the character’s motivations, the how and why. Despite this flaw, I was kept engaged in the story by the top acting performances and the incredibleness of the story itself. I did have a question near the end of the film; can a leopard really change its spots?
SEEKING APPROVAL FROM THOSE YOU LOVE is one of the strongest motivators one has at their disposal. Feeling good about your accomplishment is fine; however, having that “seal of approval” from someone else forms a stronger bond that can last for years. I remember to this day how I felt the first time I had to construct a diorama for a school project. The assignment was to recreate a scene from a book we were reading for class. My choice was an outdoor scene of mountains surrounding a secluded lake that the characters from the book would periodically visit. I had used a combination of materials, including rolled up pieces of plastic wrap for the lake. With a large assortment of colored markers and paints. I colored the pieces of cardboard I had cut out from a packing box, creating a mountain range with snow caps. For trees I used pipe cleaners that I would twist together to form the foliage over brown and black painted toilet paper cores. As I said before, I used a variety of things for this project. Once completed I was proud of what I had done. Family members praised my work which was both wonderful and expected; but, I really was hoping my teacher would shower her praise over my creation. She was a fantastic artist which made me value her opinion more than other people; gratefully she did not disappoint me. WHY I WAS REMINDED OF THIS memory was due to this musical movie. I have seen Elton John in concert a couple of times; once during his earlier years and the other recently. From the variety of acts I have seen live in concert, Elton was not a typical rock star. Many of them played off a certain sex appeal they were portraying. Male guitarists made it look like they were making love to their guitars; female singers would move in seductive ways. Elton was different; instead of trying to use sex appeal he went the spectacle route. The more flamboyant and outrageous he was the more his fans would scream for him. This is only my opinion; but because I was dealing with a poor self-image, I assumed Elton was also. Only when I could “dress up” in my workout clothes or suit did I feel better about myself. Seeing Elton dressed up in so many costumes led me to believe he was feeling the same way. Behind the façade there was a boy who wanted to be loved; I understood. If you wish to see what was going on behind the scenes, then feel free to watch this dramatic film about a music icon. FROM AN EARLY AGE ELTON JOHN displayed a gift for playing the piano. However, he was looking for something more. With Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Robin Hood) as Elton John, Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool) as Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden (Cinderella, The Take) as John Reid, Bryce Dallas Howard (Pete’s Dragon, Jurassic World franchise) as Sheila and Gemma Jones (Sense and Sensibility, Bridget Jones’s Diary franchise) as Ivy; the cast was well chosen. Standing above all of them though was Taron; he was incredible in his role, including his own singing. The acting and story drew me into this picture. I could not believe what I was seeing behind the scenes of so many memorable moments in Elton’s career. Granted I do not know how much truth was shown in this film, but nonetheless I enjoyed watching this movie for the most part. The one thing that did not connect with me was the use of fantasy scenes. A couple would have been fine, but I felt these scenes drained the emotional impact away from the story. It was amazing to see how so many of Elton’s songs’ lyrics lent themselves to the scenes. I would have preferred spending more time in the moment instead of turning the emotion into a fantasy scene. Whether one is a fan or not; one would be hard pressed not to be impressed with what Elton has accomplished in his life.
2 ¾ stars
One of the quickest ways to bond with another human being is to share an event together. Whether it is an occurrence filled with celebration or tragedy, there is something about being a part of the same occasion that cuts through the preliminary chitchat and creates a quicker path to friendship or possibly something more. One of the first health clubs that hired me to teach aerobics had an all female staff. I always assumed I was hired because of my teaching skills and style, hoping that I did not get the job because I was a novelty. It was a year later when another man was hired on staff. The two of us quickly bonded, sitting near each other during staff meetings and traveling together to fitness conventions. Now do not get me wrong, this was in no shape a battle of the sexes type of thing or a testosterone competition; we just happened to have a similar mindset towards teaching, with the same type of humor. And do you want to know something; we have remained friends all these years. I could share other examples of how people bond but the events may cause you to become sad and I would rather we all try to stay upbeat with tonight’s movie review of this science fiction, action adventure film. TELEPORTED to a distant world, the four space travelers returned to earth changed in unusual ways. They would have to learn to work together to overcome their differences if they wanted to save the world from an evil force. Having gone to this viewing with no prior knowledge of the film, my shock and confusion about what I was watching was a surprise to me. With competent actors Miles Teller (Whiplash, That Awkward Moment) as Reed Richards, Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station, That Awkward Moment) as Johnny Storm, Kate Mara (127 Hours, Shooter) as Sue Storm and Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, King Kong) as Ben Grimm, I was stunned at how poorly they came across on the big screen. The reason started with the script and anyone else involved with this film who was not familiar with what it took to make a superhero movie. The first half of the fim was utterly boring; with no action, no humor or fun surprises. I could not remember a recent time where an entire cast looked like they were sleepwalking through the picture. As for the evil aspect to the story, it was simply dull and did not provide any thrills. The fact that there was no extra scene at the end of the credits spoke volumes about how poorly managed this project was from beginning to end. On the plus side a group of us stopped in the theater lobby after the movie to talk about our similar negative reactions to this super dud.
1 1/2 stars
Alas, my adventures were ruined by a drunken captain. Within several minutes of the character Captain Haddock played by Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Lord of the Rings franchise) appearing on screen, I became tired of the role. For me, he was the Jar Jar Binks of this film. All I will say about the story is that it has to do with a treasure hunt, with the sinister Sakharine played by Daniel Craig (Casino Royale, Defiance) trying to beat out Haddock and Tintin, played by Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, Jumper), to find a hidden treasure. The action was overpowering–fast paced with scenes flying by one after another. I had thought with the pairing of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson they would have produced exhilarating, motion picture magic. There were some well done and exciting scenes; but I have to tell you, the majority of the action scenes reminded me of the Indiana Jones movies, but without the fuel to make them pop out at the viewer. If the film studio has hopes of making this a long running franchise; I seriously hope, they consider a whole new team to bring on board, to make a worthwhile movie.
2 1/3 stars