AFTER seeing and experiencing it with my own eyes, I understand the reasons why one should not make any major changes in one’s life during an upheaval. The big life changers one could experience are divorce/breakup, relocation or job loss. I had a job for some years at a company that went through a downsizing and my position was eliminated. One of the first things I thought I needed to do was put my house up for sale. Luckily a friend talked me out of it. Eventually I did find a new job and was grateful I had listened to my friend. THERE is a friend of mine who tended to make rash decisions in her life. After being with her boyfriend for several years they broke up; she took it very hard. I made myself available, being her support during the difficult time. Well imagine my shock when she told me in a relative short time she had met someone. I thought maybe this would be a distraction for her to pick herself up and move on; however, within several weeks she comes to tell me she is getting married. Carefully I chose my words to her and asked a few questions about her reasons and such, but nothing deterred her pending nuptials. You might have figured out by now where this story is going. The wedding was lovely, small and intimate with lots of flowers everywhere. But just as flowers have a short lifespan so did this marriage. After 3 or 4 years they got divorced and from the stories she told me I was surprised the relationship did not end sooner. So you see when it comes to big lifetime events, I feel they need to sit out and ripen like a beautiful piece of fruit to yield the strongest taste. ASSIGNED to a secret mission in North Africa intelligence officer Max Vatan and French resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour, played by Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, World War Z) and Marion Cotilard (The Immigrant, Inception), had to pose as a married couple for the plan to succeed. They did not realize emotions could rise during wartime. This action drama drew me early into its story. With Jared Harris (Lincoln, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) as Frank Heslop, I thought the acting was good; though it became obvious Marion was the best out of the group. The buildup of action was well done by director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future franchise, Flight). As for the sets, scenery and costumes; they were picture perfect, adding a beautiful style to the romantic aspects of the film. Unfortunately by the midway point the story started to fizzle out. I felt the picture needed more intense drama. Part of this I believe fell on Brad and Marion; there was some chemistry between them but I felt for this story they needed to smolder and burn brightly. Together they were more like two candles instead of a blazing fire. As the last half of the movie played out I found my mind started to wander which is never a good sign. I had to think about the rating I would give to this film since I liked the first part better than the second and I never want to make a rash decision.
2 ½ stars
THEY had me at the word chocolate. Friends were telling me about this new food product at the store; wait, they were raving about it as they kept saying I had to try it. So the next time I went to the grocery store I found this product and brought it home. I decided to forgo my chocolate ice cream for dessert so I could have this potentially tasty new treat. Opening the bag I stuck my hand inside and withdrew what I hoped would become a staple in my approved foods repertoire. MY first bite was met with a textured crunchy surface. The chocolate taste at this point was diminutive. As I started chewing my taste buds were met with a stronger, darker chocolate which I always enjoy. However there also was another taste in the mixture that I could only describe as man-made or artificial. It was not pleasant and turned me off. But how was this possible; my friends were gaga over this product, convinced I would love it. I sat and wondered if there was something wrong with me; maybe my prior meal screwed up my taste buds. So I decided to try another piece after I rinsed my mouth with a swig of fresh water. The second piece had the same effect on me; I did not like this new product at all. Because I am a bit crazy when it comes to chocolate I decided to bring the bag with me to a get together the next day to see how others would react to tasting this item. Let me fast forward to the end of this story; it turned out a majority of the people did not care for the item, though several thought it was excellent. I cannot say this validated my feelings about this chocolate creation; but I just wanted to know why my friends from yesterday liked it so much. Well I felt the same way about this dramatic film; I just did not get it. THREE women each in their own way are looking for a way to connect in the vastness of Montana. This film festival winner starred Laura Dern (The Fault in Our Stars, Blue Velvet) as Laura Wells, Kristen Stewart (Still Alice, Clouds of Sils Maria) as Beth Travis and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Shutter Island) as Gina Lewis. My favorite segment was the one with Laura Dern. I honestly did not understand the accolades this film had been receiving. Yes it was beautifully filmed; the acting was good, but I did not find this entertaining. Because of the positive buzz around this film I actually went back to see it again, thinking I must have missed something. After a 2nd time I still can say I did not care for this picture. It was slow and though things happened throughout the movie they mostly were done in a too subtle way. I even asked the usher afterward about the movie since many critics had praised it and do you know what he said? He said most people walking out complained about the movie being boring and dull. So there you have it; maybe you will see something I did not.
The day before I went to see this movie, I was at a dinner party where I heard an incredible story. A friend, who lives in the house she grew up in, said her house has ghosts. The people around her did not know how to react to such a statement, so the majority of them replied by saying, “Really” with a question mark at the end. With her sister confirming there were ghosts, she told us about the wristwatch she lost 4 months ago. She had placed it on her dresser before she went to take a shower. When she returned, the watch was gone. She looked all around the dresser, even in the drawers, as she retraced her steps positive she had left the watch on the dresser. A week went by and still no watch so she went out and bought a new one. None of us knew how to respond; so we simply nodded our heads, letting her continue with her story. Months passed as she went about her business, opening and closing the drawers of her dresser on a daily basis. One day as she was getting ready to go out with her boyfriend, she opened one of the dresser’s drawers and sitting in the bottom of it was her original watch. That in itself would have been freaky enough but along with the watch was an old folded up piece of paper. When she unfolded the paper she saw it was a shopping list that her deceased sister had written years ago because the first item listed was cigarettes. Everyone listening to her story was speechless. FORCED to downsize their expenses Eric and Amy Bowen, played by Sam Rockwell (The Way Way Back, Moon) and Rosemarie DeWitt (The Odd Life of Timothy Green, The Watch), took a deal on a smaller house. The real estate agent failed to mention the house was built on top of an old cemetery. This remake of the 1982 horror thriller was odd to me. The writers kept some of the original ideas in tact, but other iconic parts were discarded. Unfortunately they were not replaced with something that was more intense or memorable. The cast was okay even if I thought Sam was an odd choice. I admire his work, but having him in this film gave it a slightly comic bent. Another example was the character Carrigan Burke, played by Jared Harris (Lincoln, Natural Born Killers). He too was okay but his character did not have the impact like the original character he replaced. Now there were some scenes where I enjoyed the special effects; but here again, they just did not have the same level of intensity. So if you have not seen the original movie you may be okay with this modern version. I would have rather attended another dinner party with shared paranormal stories.
1 3/4 stars
Guilt by association can be a decision based on a visual observation. What someone is essentially doing is making a judgement about you without having any knowledge of you. I have always taken offense to this type of discrimimation. It does not matter if it was family members or friends; I could never understand how people just assumed everyone in a group was the same, as if we were all made out of the same mold. The first time I became aware I was being judged was in school. Having been a larger sized boy than the average student, when it came to any athletic activity, I was usually one of the last students still standing before being picked for a team. Though I was too young to really understand the mindset, it did not take long before I became aware of many incidents involving me and various other students. The interesting aspect was witnessing how if a person repeated the same misconception over and over, others started to believe it was true. The outcome sometimes would be upsetting, other times humorous. ARCHIBALD Snatcher, voiced by Ben Kingsley (Hugo, Iron Man 3), was determined to capture every single last Boxtroll if it was the last thing he would do. He had made a promise to Lord Portley-Rind, voiced by Jared Harris (Pompeii, Natural Born Killers). Eggs, voiced by Isaac Hempstead (Closed Circuit, The Awakening), who had been raised by Boxtrolls since he was a baby, needed to seek out townsfolk who would believe him when he said Boxtrolls were decent and good. It was the only chance he had to save his family. This stop action animated comedy was so much fun. The clever animation was done in such a creative way that I sat with my eyes glued to the screen. With the array of different actors’ voices, including Elle Fanning (Maleficent, Super 8) as Winnie, I found myself believing the characters. The script had its twist of British humor that was not only amusing, but made one pay attention to the sly comments that were being scattered about. Also, the distinctive look of each character worked splendidly with the script’s speech. I am not sure young children will understand some of the humor; however, with a bad villain, wild scenes and plenty of physical comedy they will still enjoy watching this adventure movie. As a fan of most film genres and my avoidance of any movie publicity before seeing a film, this picture reaffirmed one of the reasons I love movies; it provided a joyful surprise with its uniqueness. Never assume just because it is an animated movie that it will be a cartoon. There was an extra behind the scenes segment in the middle of the lively credits.
It was not a requirement but we all knew non-participation would affect our grade. The professor of my college freshmen psychology class encouraged us to enroll in the volunteer program for the graduate students. I remember some of the studies I volunteered for were interesting. There was one where I was sitting in the waiting room with another volunteer. We had a brief time for introductions before we were called into a room. A lab assistant handed each of us a pen and notepad. We were instructed to sit at opposite ends of the room and write down our perceptions of the other one. Once we were done the supervisor asked us to switch our papers. The facilitator then asked the volunteer to read what I wrote about him. I kept my comments to simple generalizations like he seemed nice, had a hearty laugh. When it was my turn to read aloud I was stunned by his words. He had written things like I did not seem to be very smart, appeared to be uncoordinated. After I finished reading, the person in charge asked me to address any comments I might have directly to the volunteer. Turning to him I let loose with such a profanity filled stream of intense anger that the supervisor could not calm me down until he finally admitted this had been a set up and the other volunteer was a graduate student, who was studying subjects’ reactions. I chose to opt out of the program. The test subject in this horror film inspired by actual events did not have the same opportunity. Jared Harris (Lincoln, Natural Born Killers) played professor Joseph Coupland who was convinced he could scientifically explain the irrational occurrences happening to test subject Jane Harper, played by Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel-TV). Settled in a London estate with his team, the professor had everything documented to film by student Brian McNeil, played by Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire). But even some pictures could not explain what took place. The film work with its cool retro look created an interesting setting for this story. There were parts that were extremely loud which I could not tell was set by the movie theater or the film. Since I found aspects of the story far-fetched, the scare factor was somewhat diminished for me in this film. It was a shame because I liked the idea behind the story, having a central character trying to bring rationality to irrational acts. I am afraid this movie left me unimpressed. If you want to hear something scary, remind me to tell you about the time at school when they wanted to hook me up to electrodes. There were several scenes with blood in them.
1 3/4 stars