GROWING UP I DID NOT REALIZE my neighborhood was idyllic, at least for me. But then, I would think any child who grows up in the neighborhood where they were born would think the same thing, as long as they haven’t experienced any type of trauma. I lived in a large apartment building that wrapped around a street corner, so there were 2 entrances for it. There was not one apartment on our side where I did not know the people living in them. In fact, when I had just started walking, I would go out in the hallway and get myself down 2 flights of stairs by sitting on my backside, to visit the neighbor on the 1st floor. The neighborhood was filled with kids my own age who became friends of mine. We would play outside all the time; every parent on the block knew each kid. One of our favorite games was hide and seek among the apartment buildings’ gangways and back porches. Looking back, I wonder how many steps/flights I would have done during a game. With my building we had 2 separate staircases connected by a cement backyard. The various stores in my neighborhood were all familiar with me and my family. I could walk into the drug store with a note from a parent and the pharmacist would hand over any refilled prescription medicine to me without any qualms. When I got older, I could be outside at nighttime with friends, and no one had a concern or fear. AT SOME POINT, I DO NOT remember when, the draw of the suburbs became strong and started pulling my neighbors from their homes to settle past the city limits. The same was true with stores. I remember a men’s clothing store that closed and was replaced by a shop that had black lights to illuminate some of their rock posters and T-shirts. Some people would call the place a “head shop.” I guessed it was because it was messing with one’s head? Where the neighborhood had a strong homogenous look to it, things started to change. I hope this does not come out as a judgement; it was an observation. The store signs in my neighborhood were backlit; in other words, three dimensional for the most part, either actual signage or individual letters. I noticed the new store signs coming in were more like banners or made with strong paper. In my mind they did not look permanent to me. Some of the stores began putting up signs in different languages which I discovered bothered some of the older residents in the neighborhood. Change may not always be easy for certain people; you can see it for yourself in this biographical drama. DURING THE TUMULTUOUS TIMES OF THE 1960s in Ireland, a family experiences something they had never imagined taking place in their small, friendly neighborhood. With Jude Hill (Magpie Murders-TV) as Buddy, newcomer Lewis McAskie as Will, Caitriona Balfe (Ford v Ferrari, Outlander-TV) as Ma, Jamie Dornan (A Private War, Fifty Shades of Grey franchise) as Pa and Judi Dench (All is True, Victoria & Abdul) as Granny; this multiple Oscar nominated film was directed and written by Kenneth Branagh. Based on true events from his childhood, he created a beautifully filmed and directed piece of work here. I loved watching this movie and thought the entire cast worked as one solid, magnificent unit. There was something about the way Kenneth filmed the characters in close or looking up at them that made the visuals stronger. Granted, the actors gratefully could emote without saying a word. The script was solid though there were twinges I felt of manipulation to pull at one’s heart strings. For me, I was able to relate to some of the neighborhood scenes, though I am not sure this would be universal across all viewers. However, it should not deter one from experiencing such a well-done picture.
3 ½ stars
FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO GREW up without an intelligent personal assistant/navigator like SIRI, the first time you saw it in action had to be amazing. I remember the first time I tried it and how excited I was when SIRI created a reminder for me. To me, SIRI and the others of her kind are simply the great grandchildren of HAL 9000. I do not consider myself “worldly;” however, I enjoy trying to stay current. That does not mean I am jaded to experiencing new things either as a participant or observer. I will say though it takes a little something more these days to impress or amaze me. And the reason I say this, is because there is so much more information out there at our disposal. I remember the first time I saw this world-famous traveling, animal free, circus’ performance acts. The things these performers did surprised me to no end. After seeing them for several years, it is harder for me to experience the same level of wonder and amazement when I go to see them now. Yet, I still get a thrill watching the variety of acts. If someone were to ask me if I ever wanted to get to the point where nothing surprises me, I would have to say no; I always want to be able to experience the sensations of being surprised. BESIDES THE ENJOYMENT, WONDER AND THRILLS I experience in life; I get just as much enjoyment in seeing other people experience these feelings. I remember one vacation I was taking, where I was able to ride the city’s new people mover that opened the week I arrived. Sitting in my seat and watching several riders being surprised and amazed with the automatic sliding doors and lowering steps brought me such pleasure. It was like seeing a little baby’s expression of laughter when playing peek-a-boo with them. The individuals could not stop giggling and whispering to each other when the steps lowered and raised at various stops. They reminded me of some of the contestants I have seen on those reality shows that left their small town for the first time, on their very first plane ride, to come perform on the show. I cannot imagine someone never leaving their surroundings to explore what is out in the world. One of my lab partners in college had never been outside of his state until he came to school. There were so many things I took for granted that just stunned him. Since I enjoy watching people’s reactions to experiencing new things, I had a good time watching this silly comedy. AFTER 2 BEST FRIENDS WERE LAID off from their job, they decided to take their very first trip out of state. What were the chances they would chose a place that was about to experience a disaster? With Kristen Wiig (Wonder Woman 1984, The Skeleton Twins) as Sharon Gordon Fisherman, Annie Mumolo (This is 40, Bad Moms) as Barb, Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, A Private War) as Edgar Paget, Damon Wayans Jr (Let’s Be Cops, The Other Guys) as Darlie Bunkle and Ryn Dol (Kidding-TV, Drama Club-TV) as Yoyo; this movie was a fun experience. It felt like Kristen took a character she would have done on Saturday Night Live and placed her in a longer comedy sketch. Sure, there were preposterous scenarios and goofy antics; but I did not care. I appreciated the “small town” friends going out of their comfort zone into a new experience. It was just easy to sit back and not have to get confused trying to figure out what was going on in the story. There was nothing fancy or sophisticated here; one needs only to let go and let the cast surprise you. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
2 ½ stars
THE WAY MY FRIEND TOLD THE STORY, she was sitting on the sofa watching television when she suddenly heard a loud bang. She muted the TV as she tried to figure out the origin of the sound. Getting up, she walked over to her living room window and saw a couple of neighbors standing by her car. A feeling of dread settled upon her as she walked out the front door to join the small group. As she walked towards her car one of the neighbors told her not to worry; she had caught the whole thing on her phone. My friend told me one of the neighbors was outside when she heard a car driving faster than it should down their street. The car was swerving, nearly going up on the curb a couple of times. The neighbor took out her phone as she moved towards the street and started recording the speeding car in hopes of getting the license plate’s number. As the driver approached they seemed to momentarily lose control and bounced into my friend’s car. The whole thing was caught on video as the driver kept going as if sideswiping a car was a natural thing to do. My friend was stunned; not only by the accident, but by the neighbor going out into the street to capture everything on her phone. BESIDES FEELING SAD FOR MY FRIEND, I had to admire the neighbor who willing went into the street to capture the erratic driver on her phone. With the way the car was going side to side, she was lucky she did not get hurt. That instinct to run towards an incident is admirable. As a matter of fact, in my city the news recently reported on an off-duty police officer who heard gun shots and immediately ran towards them. The same can be said for firemen who race towards danger to put out a fire. I don’t know if that feeling to go towards danger is something that is taught or is instinctive. And let me make the distinction between danger from outside forces as compared to danger that a person encounters due to their passion, examples would be mountain climbing or auto racing. I always knew reporters assigned to areas of conflict would be put into dangerous positions; but I, maybe mistakenly, assumed it wasn’t their choice. My thinking on this has changed now because of this biographical war drama. Never have I encountered a person with such a large capacity for danger; it has totally changed my views on war correspondents. BECAUSE OF HER PASSION TO GIVE A voice to the voiceless, American journalist Marie Colvin, played by Rosamund Pike (Hostiles, Gone Girl), would willingly go to some of the most dangerous places in the world just to get the true story. With Jamie Dornan (Robin Hood, Fifty Shades of Grey franchise) as Paul Conroy, Tom Hollander (In the Loop, Pride & Prejudice) as Sean Ryan, Stanley Tucci (Patient Zero, Spotlight) as Tony Shaw and Faye Marsay (Pride, Darkest Hour) as Kate Richardson; this movie allowed Rosamund to give her best performance. Her acting was incredible throughout the story. As for the story I was stunned by several of the dangerous scenes that Marie placed herself in. Regarding the script, I would have appreciated it more if the writers spent extra time on Marie’s backstory. There came a point where I felt the areas of conflict were included at times for Rosamund to shine; instead of delving deeper into the things that made up Marie. Jamie, by the way, did an excellent job of acting as her photographer. When I left the theater I still did not know all the reasons why Marie did what she did, but I was totally in awe of her.
IT WAS GOING TO BE A NIGHT AT the theater, to see a stage version of a classic musical movie. I remembered parts of the film and its iconic soundtrack. Back when the movie was made the studio used actors who were already considered legendary figures. The musical I was going to see now got its start on Broadway; I was seeing a version of it at a popular, regional theater. One big difference between the two productions I already knew and that was the regional theater staged their shows in the round, where the stage was in the middle of the theater and the audience sat all around it. This was not going to be a problem since I had been to this theater several times and all their shows were staged with the audience in mind, making sure the cast had plenty of opportunities to face each side of the audience. Sitting in my seat with the lights dimmed, the orchestra began to play. I listened to the familiar music, recalling the scene where the music was used in the movie. From there the musicians began to play something that was unfamiliar to me; I had no recollection of it. Little did I know there was more to come. MAYBE PART OF THE BLAME FALLS ON me for having high expectations. You see, I expected this production to have the same high caliber of singing and dancing as the movie. The male lead’s singing voice was not able to bring the same joyful power as the actor from the film. This one particular song from the movie that still gets airplay today was not given its fair amount of stage time; the cast only sang one refrain from it. I could not believe it. After looking forward to seeing this movie come to life, so to speak; I was let down by what I was watching on stage. This production was nothing like the movie. I do not know how you feel about it, but I do not like when things are loosely created out of established stories. If they would have given this stage show a different title then I would not have had the same reaction, except for the male lead’s singing. Call it whatever you want but do not sell it as a similar production based on the classic story. It is not always a good idea to introduce some random idea that has no place to reside in a story just to freshen it up. This action adventure picture is proof of it. RETURNING FROM THE WAR FRONT ROBIN of Loxley, played by Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Legend), came back to a home in ruins and a girlfriend who no longer was there. Adding in the poverty he was seeing all around him, there was only one thing Robin could do; he would have to go undercover. With Jamie Foxx (Ray, Law Abiding Citizen) as Little John, Ben Mendelssohn (Animal Kingdom, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Sheriff of Nottingham, Eve Hewson (Enough Said, Bridge of Spies) as Marian and Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, A Private War) as Will Scarlet; this thriller was silly, both in the script and visually. I dislike when writers introduce things into the story that were never part of the time period. An example here would be a version of a Gatling gun for arrows; how in the world did the writers come up with this for Robin Hood? I guess they were too busy creating elaborate fight scenes. The miscasting of Taron and Eve was evident since there was no chemistry between the two. Dressed in odd clothing and ridiculous special effects this film succeeded in one thing: it robbed me of my available time.
1 2/3 stars
NO ONE IS GOING TO UTTER a negative comment, I cannot imagine, about a child’s music or dance recital. Who would sit in a school’s auditorium filled with the students’ parents and say a snide remark about a child’s playing or dancing? I have sat through recitals where I barely could recognize the song, but still congratulated the performers. It was not like I expected to hear classically trained musicians or see professional dancers; these were elementary school students. I will admit I have sat at a couple of performances where I had pity for the parents who had to listen to their child practice the same musical pieces over and over, errant notes and all. There was one year where I had to go watch a school football game. The weather was awful, cold and windy. I sat on that cold bleacher bench, bundled up in layers with a scarf nearly wrapped around my entire head; it was that cold outside. If I remember correctly despite only getting their hands on the ball once I still congratulated them on the good work they did. NOW WHEN IT COMES TO situations that do not involve children, reactions can be different. I was at a music concert where the world famous musical artist did a poor job of performing. At times she even turned her back to the audience and sang entire songs to her band, ignoring the people out in the audience who spent a good amount of money just to hear her sing. There were some people in the crowd who started booing, even yelling comments, that is how poorly she acted on stage. I vowed I would never spend a dime on her and haven’t since that concert. The way I look at it is if I am paying to see something I want to be entertained and expect the person or company to do their best to make the event a memorable one. To me this just makes good business sense. Well sadly that was not the case with this final (I hope it is the final) installment of this dramatic, romantic thriller franchise. SETTLING INTO THEIR NEW ROLES as husband and wife Anastasia and Christian, played by Dakota Johnson (How to Be Single, The Social Network) and Jamie Dornan (Marie Antoinette, The Fall-TV), soon discover not everyone is happy for them. With Eric Johnson (Legends of the Fall, Smallville-TV) as Jack Hyde, Eloise Mumford (In the Blood, So Undercover) as Kate Kavanagh and Marcia Gay Harden (The Mist, Miller’s Crossing) as Grace Grey; this movie was a waste of time and effort. There was no chemistry between Dakota and Jamie, besides the fact Jamie came across more like a robot than a human being. The script was filled with clichés and predictable scenarios that tested the intelligence of its audience. I disliked the soundtrack because the song choices were picked to inject some type of dramatic moment that the script and actors could not provide; the music was relentless. The thing that bothered me the most was the lunacy the writers put into the script. I mean seriously, why would someone with a security detail take matters into their own hands, putting their lives in jeopardy?!?! As far as I can tell except for the luxuriousness of the sets and locales, there was little effort put in to make this final installment a memorable one. Believe me when I say it was more torturous for the audience to sit and watch this film than it was for Anastasia in her dominant/submissive scenes.
CHANGE seems so much easier after one experiences a loss. If my use of the word “change” causes anxiety in you then let me substitute the word with “evolve.” I knew this guy who was a friend of a friend; we would travel in the same circle of friends. He always talked about his relationship, how they never lasted long. Being curious I asked him if he knew why that kept happening to him. After a moment he listed off his good attributes. I then asked if there was something all of his dates had in common. Taking a long minute he finally said they were all young. When I asked him what the average age was among them he told me the age difference was 20-25 years between him and them. From that little bit of information I realized or maybe I should say assumed he was attracted and focused on the person’s age instead of the whole person. After a casual but insightful conversation, I finally had to suggest that maybe it was time for him to look beyond one trait since none of the relationships he had lasted very long. From where I stood I felt if this guy would not expand his horizons in the dating world he would continue to get the same results. LET me be the first one to say “change” is not easy, at least for me. I find comfort in routines. However, I have become more comfortable the older I get with evolving. I know if I had not changed from my previous behavior I would continue to attract people who did not put the same value on trustworthiness that I did. You want to talk about a painful lesson; imagine setting the groundwork to a long term relationship together where one day it all falls apart. Now I used to always blame the other person but I started to take a hard look at myself and see where I could have contributed to our demise. This is something that one of the main characters in this romantic sequel was experiencing. BEGINNING with her new job everything was falling into place for Anastasia Steele, played by Dakota Johnson (How to Be Single, Black Mass). She had her dream job, a nice apartment and a sense of peace. That is until a former boyfriend showed up offering to make some changes. Starring Jamie Dornan (Anthropoid, Marie Antoinette) as Christian Grey, Eric Johnson (Legends of the Fall, The Knick-TV) as Jack Hyde and Marcia Gay Harden (Into the Wild, Miller’s Crossing) as Grace Trevelyan Grey; I can only assume this film was following the 2nd book in the series. This picture had some things in common with the previous one; there was still no chemistry between Dakota and Jamie, though at least they did not have the same intense dislike for each other like they had before. The script was just as manipulative, even more so here. There were times the audience around me was laughing at some of the cheesy dialog. If they had a pop up window of a trumpet blaring, it would not have been as blatant as the way the writers foretold a character’s actions. There was less kinkiness in this installment but still there simply was no passion, nor were there any scenes that delved beyond the surface. An extra scene appeared in the middle of the credits; now excuse me I need to go wash my hands.
1 ¾ stars
He was born with an athletic build; early on had a gift for doing almost any type of sport. After he was enrolled into little league his contribution helped the team rise up in the rankings. When it was time to have swimming lessons he was the first one to volunteer to hold their breath under water, paying no mind to a couple of classmates who sat on the side shivering and crying. He was what you would call fearless. Then a period came where he decided to go into gymnastics and applied to the school’s team. Of course he made it and quickly became the team’s star athlete. Now running parallel to all of these achievements and activities was another road traveled by him. It was a journey filled with accidents. They were not all major type of accidents but they did cause him pain. There was the time he was playing with a cousin on the back stairs of an apartment building. A neighbor’s son who was playing nearby decided to pick up a rock and throw it at them. One cousin saw it and ducked out of the way, but the rock found its mark. The athletic cousin got hit in the forehead. Blood gushed out and he was rushed to the hospital where they patched him up; a scar remained forever on his forehead. Playing with another cousin the two were running around his house, going in and out through the glass paned screen door. For some reason during one pass through he did not see the door was closed and ran right into it, shattering the glass into pieces that shredded up part of his skin. There were other accidents involving broken limbs but he always bounced back. Relatives would just say he was accident prone. I on the other hand wondered if something else was going on with him always getting hurt. Well this mysterious thriller may have provided me with an answer. AMAZINGLY 9 year old Louis Drax, played by Aiden Longworth (Hector and the Search for Happiness, Cut Bank), was still alive after a fatal fall. The investigation included Dr. Allan Pascal, played by Jamie Dornan (Anthropoid, Fifty Shades of Grey), who was willing to believe something else was going on. This film’s cast also included Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold, A Dangerous Method) as Natalie, Aaron Paul (Eye in the Sky, Exodus: Gods and Kings) as Peter and Molly Parker (The Road, The Five Senses) as Dalton. I found the story interesting at first, helped by Jamie’s and Aiden’s acting. Sadly there was nothing else special about this film. It came across in a predictable way except for maybe one or two scenes. It was almost as if the movie studio did not want to invest too much effort in creating this picture; the acting was nothing memorable, there was no intensity to the scenes and the whole package when put together left me bored. What this all comes down to is having a film about accidents being an accident itself.
1 ¾ stars
I always felt I had a decent education; maybe not the top schools, but certainly a well rounded learning experience. Oh, except for a couple of teachers in my early schooling that should not have been allowed to teach. After my college years I still kept up my desire for learning. Using a variety of mediums such as radio, print and internet; I like to be and stay an informed individual. So here I sat watching this film and discovered I had no knowledge about it whatsoever. As the audience was filing out after the movie ended I made a comment to no one in particular, mentioning how the movie was intense. A couple of people in front of me turned and acknowledged the same thing, asking me if I knew this movie was based on a true story. I told them I did not and I was actually surprised I had never heard about it before, considering its significance in history. Standing in the lobby we discussed the movie and our lack of knowledge. It was interesting for us to compare our educational backgrounds, which included Big Ten universities and small city colleges; none of us knew about a specific early scene in this movie. I posed a question about the history classes we had taken; due to the time constraints placed on curriculum courses do teachers provide students only highlights from historical events or do they focus on the subjects they prefer to talk about? I do not have an answer for this; I just know I have to reconfigure my present knowledge to incorporate the story from this historic thriller. PARACHUTED back into their own country of Czechoslovakia Josef Gabcik and Jan Kubis, played by Cillian Murphy (Inception, In the Heart of the Sea) and Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey, The Fall-TV), had only one mission. They had to find a way to assassinate Adolf Hitler’s 3rd in command, SS General Reinhard Heydrich. Based on a true story this film also starred Charlotte Le Bon (The Hundred-Foot Journey, The Walk) as Marie, Toby Jones (Captain America franchise, Tale of Tales) as Uncle Hajsky and Brian Caspe (The Martian, The Illusionist) as Antonin. The story had a slow pace to start, but there was a continual buildup that intensified later in the film. I had wished the script would have stuck with the main story because I found the love aspect story line to be a distraction and not believable. It is understandable the writers wanted to humanize the characters but under the circumstances it took away the characters’ purpose in my opinion. The actual story I have to assume was more powerful than what this movie was able to achieve; however, I was still totally engaged by this biographical film. Though they were not graphic there still were violent, disturbing scenes. The editing did not help; I found choppy parts throughout the film. This may not have been the best interpretation of the actual chain of events (I just did not know how much of this movie was true, but I plan on finding out), but its importance in history and the movie in whole was a riveting experience for me. Violent scenes with blood.
The only reason I started listening to their conversation was because I thought they were talking about Russian royalty. As I stood in line to check out my groceries, two women in front of me were talking about someone named Anastasia. Since it was the title to one of my favorite Ingrid Bergman films, my ears perked up upon hearing that name. I quickly realized they were not talking about the movie so I lost interest in their conversation. Some time shortly after I was in a store and while in the shoe department I heard some people nearby talking about Anastasia and Christian. What were the chances I would hear the name Anastasia twice in one week? It was not long before I kept hearing about these two individuals everywhere I went, from the office to the health club to any retail establishment; it was unreal how many people were talking about them. Feeling like I hadn’t been invited to the party I asked a couple of coworkers to explain to me who were these two people, Christian and Anastasia. After getting acquainted with these characters from author E.L. James’ 2011 book, 50 Shades of Grey, I became even more fascinated by their ability to draw so many people into their world. AFTER all this time I have finally been introduced to the infamous couple in this dramatic romance film based on the book. Dakota Johnson (Need for Speed, Beastly) and Jamie Dornan (Marie Antoinette, Shadows in the Sun) played Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey; she, a college student and he, a young successful business entrepreneur. If there is anyone left besides me who has not read the book, the story is about these two characters’ attraction to each other, though for different reasons. Starting with the screenplay written by Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr. Banks, Terra Nova-TV), I really wished E.L. James would have written it because I thought the script was poorly done, with some real awful lines. I do not know if it was due to the lack of chemistry between the two main stars (there was none), but I still do not understand what the attraction was for Christian. From her 1st entrance into his office to him suddenly flying out to see her at the hardware store where she worked, I just did not get it. Scenes seemed disjointed or maybe I should say they lacked the emotion one would expect for such a scene. Again I want to stress I did not read the book; but as for this movie, I found sitting through it to be a painful experience. However, maybe you should check with the majority of women at my viewing who were hooting and hollering whenever Christian took off any of his clothing.
1 2/3 stars