DURING MY SPACE EXPLORATIONS I DISCOVERED planets far from earth that were inhabited by peaceful beings. The inhabitants of one planet did not walk; they were able to float above the ground effortlessly. Everyone was dressed in a similar fashion with a long, flowing robe-like outer coating that refracted light to form a non-stop palette of colors. I considered their heads to be egg shaped with large dark eyes and no hair. Because they were a peaceful race, there were a couple of other species from other planets that wanted to conquer them. Due to this threat the peaceful ones, as I called them, had to build up their defenses. I was in charge of the space ships that in actuality were different writing pens I collected; however, they were able to shoot out death rays from the tips. The pocket clip part of the pen is where the captain and their crew flew the ship, so I addressed my warnings to that part of the pen. I could spend hours flying my pens through the house as they took on evil forces, defending their home planet. Sometimes I had to fly through space dust or debris which was the mist from a can of air freshener. IT WAS NOT UNTIL MY HIGHER LEARNING days that I paid more attention to space. Oh and of course Star Trek and Star Wars pushed me into that direction. To this day I enjoy science fiction/fantasy movies and books. I feel a certain connection to them because they have always presented a different reality to the dark one I was experiencing at times. Within science fiction stories it seemed as if a planet was being threatened, all the inhabitants would come together to defeat the threat. There was something about having diverse beings coming together that I found attractive. At the time, I did not realize it was what I was wishing for in my reality. Feeling like an outsider or just different growing up, the idea of an all accepting society fascinated me. I think that is why when I was a kid fantasizing about space I always had planets filled with peaceful beings. Add in the story lines from Star Trek and I was sure there was a safe haven somewhere in space. It is funny that a few of my friends to this day can tell when I am spacing out and the reasons for it. None of my fantasies however had the type of intensity that I saw in this dramatic, biographical space film. IN A RACE WITH THE SOVIET Union to achieve glory in space, the United States embarked on a radical idea that had never been done before. It would take a certain type of person to be a part of what could become an event of historical proportions. This film festival nominated movie starred Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049, La La Land) as Neil Armstrong, Claire Foy (Breathe, Unsane) as Janet Armstrong, Jason Clarke (Everest, The Man with the Iron Heart) as Edward Higgins White, Kyle Chandler (Manchester by the Sea, Argo) as Deke Slayton and Pablo Schreiber (13 Hours, Den of Thieves) as Jim Lovell. The beauty of this film was the way the director allowed scenes to tell the story without dialog; some of the film shots were beautiful. Now add in the acting skills, especially form Ryan and Claire, and I for the most part was taken away by the story. There have been a variety of space films but for some reason I found the intensity of this one to be tangible. Everything felt authentic and real. Though my imagination made traveling to space an easy process, I got on board for this historical event, space story.
3 1/2 stars
IT IS SAFE TO SAY the majority of us has experienced the feeling of shock. Hopefully it was the type of shock that surprises or dumbfounds you; you know, like seeing a driver do something ignorant and illegal or seeing a parent pouring a soft drink into a baby bottle to feed their child. I used these two examples because I actually was a witness to them. For the driver they were impatient and did not want to continue creeping along until they got to their exit off the highway. So the driver drove off the road, down the gully running alongside then up the steep grassy hill. Their car looked like it was sliding down sideways but they just gunned the engine and eventually made it to the exit. So something like this would definitely be placed in the “shock” category in my book. NOW THERE IS A DIFFERENT FORM of shock; the only way I can describe it, is that it numbs one’s brain. As if your brain becomes paralyzed, all the synapses lose current and stop connecting with each other. For the most part I tend to see this type of shock only on television shows and in movies, which is a good thing. I hope it is the same for you. Only a couple of my friends that I have known for years can tell when I am experiencing something close to this kind of shock. Years ago my friends made a surprise birthday party for me; I was totally unaware of it. When I walked into the place a photo was taken of me so there is proof on my face that I was completely stunned by the surprise. At least the shock was for a good thing because on the flipside getting “bad” news can certainly stop someone dead in their tracks as they say. I do not remember (see I am already preparing you for the shock) if I told you about an incident that happened during my medical scare last year. One evening I received a phone call from a doctor that was unfamiliar to me. I was at the movie theater waiting for a film to start. The doctor began telling me about my recent tests and said there was something else he wanted me to have checked out. If these were the only words he had used I would not have freaked out, but when he said “you need to do it sooner than later” my brain immediately short-circuited. For that reason I could appreciate on some level what was going through the brain of the main character in this historic drama. THE FEAR OF DROWNING COULD have easily been a factor in Ted Kennedy’s, played by Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Everest), behavior after the car he was driving plunged off a bridge. That one car accident would alter the course of history. This film festival nominee also starred Ed Helms (Vacation, Love the Coopers) as Joseph Gargan, Jim Gaffigan (Away We Go, Going the Distance) as Markham and Bruce Dern (The Hateful Eight, Nebraska) as Joseph Kennedy. This movie played out like a docudrama; there were times where I believed what I was seeing but then other times I felt the story was being embellished upon to create some excitement. Jason was excellent in the role as was Bruce Dern; as for the rest of the cast they were more background players for me. I would have appreciated if the script delved more into the history of the characters, especially the relationship between Ted and his father, but I understood this film was focused on one major incident. Since I would have no idea if what I witnessed in this movie actually happened, I left the theater with mixed emotions. It certainly was a tragic event, but I did not feel invested in the story.
2 ½ stars
THERE IS NOTHING TO BE said when a friend has made up their mind unless they asked for your opinion. Realistically though how many of your friends would listen and act on your advice anyway? You may see the perils your friend could face by their decision and try as you might they feel the decision they are making is the right one. So be it. All you really can do is be there to support them if things do not go as they had envisioned. A friend of mine told me about their plan to consolidate all of their bills into one loan, using one of those check advances that accompany their monthly charge card statement. I did not think it was a good idea because I witnessed how they handled their finances and had seen them do this very same thing before. Because they asked me what I thought about their plan I had to tell them and bring up the fact the last time they took a cash advance they kept using their charge cards, incurring debt with finance charges. They claimed that it would not be the case this time but I knew better. MY DILEMMA TAKES PLACE when a friend asks me how they look. I do not have a problem telling them they have food stuck between their teeth or their hair got windblown; however, if they want my opinion about what they are wearing how can I critique their outfit if they are the one who purchased it for themselves in the first place. If I think the clothing looks good on them I will let them know my feelings. But if the item of clothing does nothing for them or worse is unflattering, I do not want to just come out with saying it is ugly or unflattering. I prefer to say, “It doesn’t matter what I think, it is what you think.” You see what it comes down to is if an individual can get some type of pleasure from wearing a particular item of clothing, it should not matter what other people think about it. I have no reason to burst their bubble or make them uncomfortable with their fashion decision. This is why I had a tough go in writing today’s film review. I was sad to see one of my favorite actors in this picture, based on true events. SARAH WINCHESTER, PLAYED BY Helen Mirren (The Queen, Eye in the Sky), upon the death of her husband was left with controlling interest in her late husband’s arms company. The board of directors felt they found a way to eliminate her and stop the spending on the continuous remodeling of her residence. It was up to Dr. Eric Price, played by Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Everest), to make a determination. This biographical, fantasy horror film also starred Sarah Snook (The Dressmaker, Steve Jobs) as Sarah’s niece, Eamon Farren (Red Dog, Chained) as Ben Block and Finn Scicluna-O’Prey (The Secret River-TV, Rosehaven-TV) as Henry. I was distraught watching Helen in this poorly done film. Though I enjoyed her performance, the script was so generic and there was no reason for it. The story was fascinating; it was something I wish the writers would have delved into more. Instead we got this horror film with the only trick to scare the audience being the use of the jump scare, something suddenly appearing in the frame. The music did not help either since it telegraphed the upcoming action. Oh and I did not want to forget Jason’s character mumbling through the movie and always jumping back in fear. I cannot comprehend Helen being a part of this mess and wonder why no one told her to rethink her choice of films, unless she was repaying someone a favor.
1 ½ 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.
There is one individual I still have heated debates with that rarely end in mutual agreement. That person would be me; I am my own harshest critic. I doubt I am totally alone in this regard. There are times where I have gone back and forth about something before acting upon it. I have to look at the pluses and minuses for each option available to me; this is why it has been hard for me to immediately reply yes when someone asks me if I want to do something. The time where I really beat myself up is when I react quickly before thinking things out. This past weekend I was out with a group of people. There was a lot of people coming and going where someone in one group knew someone in another, so there was a lot of introductions going on. Two people unfamiliar to me joined our group. Things went at a pleasant pace with laughter and jokes. At the end of the evening these two individuals started saying their goodbyes to everyone. There was something about one of them that looked familiar to me and before I could drop my filter in place to process my thoughts before uttering them, I said something to them I intended to be a compliment. The look on their face told me it was not received that way. I wanted to kick myself for even saying anything; I should have kept quiet. At least I only beat myself up mentally, nothing like what was done in this science fiction adventure. GROWN-UP resistance leader John Connor, played by Jason Clarke (The Great Gatsby, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), had a plan to save his mother Sarah, played by Emilia Clark (Game of Thrones-TV, Dom Hemingway). He would send Kyle Reese, played by Jai Courtney (Divergent franchise, The Water Diviner), back in time to protect her. However Kyle was not prepared for what he found when he got there. This addition to the earlier Terminator films was all about the special effects. An older Arnold Schwarzenegger (Escape Plan, The Expendables franchise) played the Guardian and in what was to be an epic scene had to fight his younger self. Sound confusing doesn’t it; well do not worry you are not alone. The script became tedious as it kept using time jumping for an excuse to move the story along. It made me lose interest in this picture. Since Arnold could not do all the action stunts, his character had to use parody for comic relief. In an odd way I felt the writers were counting on viewers to be nostalgic about the story, so they spent less time thinking things through before writing them down. They could have used my mulling over abilities. There was an extra scene in the middle of the ending credits.
2 1/3 stars
Before there were any scheduled play dates, before any friendships were formed and before there was the recognition of family members, there was a special steadfast presence in my young life. His name was Zippy and he was my toy stuffed chimpanzee. Waking up from a nap, my emerging gaze always fell upon the wide awake Zippy watching over me, his head lying close to mine. Dressed in red overalls he would always sit on my lap for a family portrait. He was my best friend, my protector, my guardian; he was always by my side. A few years had gone by before I found out how Zippy lost some of his fingers from his rubber hands. He was caught in the middle of a fight between siblings and had suffered a casualty. I found out he had been part of the family before I was born and had been handed down to me upon my birth. CAESAR in this action film reminded me of Zippy in some ways. Andy Serkis (The Prestige, The Lord of the Rings franchise) was unbelievable portraying the genetically altered chimpanzee Caesar in this science fiction sequel. Set 10 years in the future from the previous movie, mankind had been nearly obliterated by a deadly virus. Having seen no sign of a human for years, Caesar had become the leader to a colony of advanced apes who all lived peacefully together. Their world was about to change with the sudden encounter of Malcolm and Ellie, played by Jason Clarke (The Great Gatsby, Public Enemies) and Keri Russell (Austenland, August Rush). This intelligent exciting film got high marks for several reasons. The believable story made sense to me as it started out with a quick review of the previous movie before setting the stage to show-off its well thought out script. I especially enjoyed the acting from Jason and Gary Oldman (Paranoia, Lawless) as Dreyfus. What made this picture so special was the special effects. I sat watching this film amazed at how good everything looked. I could not tell if the apes were all CGI enhanced, done with makeup or if some actors were wearing costumes; it really was terrific. Besides Andy Serkis’ unbelievable performance I thought Toby Kebbell (War Horse, RocknRolla) was just as good as fellow ape Koba. There were only a couple of spots where I felt the story became sluggish; but they were so minor, it did not take away from the entertainment value. This was a case where the sequel was better than the original. There was scenes that made me nervously tense, excited, sad and happy; I only wished Zippy had been with me to see this great film.
3 1/2 stars
There are those who want a fairy tale ending where the couple live happily ever after. Some people only care to watch topics of a historical nature. Many individuals want to be taken to a completely different world made up of aliens and fanciful creatures. Others seek out movies that will scare and frighten them. That is the beauty of movies; there is enough variety to fulfill everyone’s needs. Now if I tell you this movie was horrifying, I am willing to bet some of you will immediately think there must be some blood or violence involved in this film. There was no such thing, but this dramatic thriller was creepy and disturbing. I think every parent in particular needs to watch this riveting movie. Clive Owen (The Boys Are Back, Killer Elite) and Catherine Keener (Enough Said, Captain Phillips) played Will and Lynn, the parents of 14 year old daughter Annie, played by Liana Liberato (Trespass, Stuck in Love). The parents’ lives disintegrate when they discovered their daughter’s boyfriend was not a student from her school, but someone she met online. Directed by David Schwimmer (Nothing But the Truth, Friends-TV), I thought he did an admirable job for the most part. There was predictability to the story but the acting won me over. Besides the excellent work by the cast members I mentioned, there were solid performances by Viola Davis (Prisoners, Beautiful Creatures) as Gail Friedman and Jason Clarke (Lawless, The Great Gatsby) as Doug Tate. The flashing of text messages on the screen was distracting for me in the beginning, but I began to like the way it moved the story forward. I was already fearful of the internet, but now I am creeped out even more due to the story in this drama. Considering the topic, I felt both the writers and director created a starkly real portrayal. In a way one could look at this film festival winner as a coming of age story and I would not have an issue with it. I just find it sad that things shown in this film are now part of a young child’s life these days. Whether you want happy endings, different realities or history lessons in your movies; this film can provide these things for you. Just not in the way you would have imagined.
3 stars — DVD
Even if one has not visited an iconic building, they can still be upset upon its destruction. When I travel to a new city I always seek out buildings of historic significance. Whether it is an ancient structure or a world renowned architect’s masterpiece, I enjoy seeing the architecture in every place I visit. I have only seen the Capital in Washington, DC from the outside; yet, I felt a twinge of sadness when it came under terrorist attack in this explosive action film. During the horrific incident John Cale, played by Channing Tatum (Side Effects, Magic Mike) and his daughter Emily, played by Joey King (Oz the Great and Powerful, Crazy Stupid Love) were taking a tour of the White House. With President James Sawyer, played by Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained, Ray) in residence, the building went into lockdown mode. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time; but for who, as the attackers were not counting on someone like John Cale being in the White House. My sadness over the destruction of the Capitol was overshadowed by my dread over the ridiculous script for this film. It did not know whether to be an exciting action drama or a high stakes comedy. Some of the dialog was utterly looney, with no help from Channing and Jamie. Thrown into this mess was Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight, Won’t Back Down) as secret service agent Finnerty, Richard Jenkins (The Visitor, Step Brothers) as politician Raphelson and Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Lawless) as terrorist Stenz. I felt bad for these three individuals being stuck in this uninspired movie. To its favor, the film had good explosions and fights. If the writers had kept the story presidential without the attempted humor, I think this would have been a better film. Also, I was annoyed when the good guy characters did ignorant things; I felt as if the writers were underestimating the viewers’ intelligence. If you have nothing else to do and have never taken a tour of the White House, I suppose there would be no harm in watching this film. One of the funniest things to me was reading the credits, where I saw the film was filmed in Montreal, Canada. There were several scenes with blood and violence.
1 3/4 stars
The haves and have nots, the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, the upper class exploiting the lower class, wealthy husbands and their mistresses; any of these topics can be found in today’s headlines. They also are part of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, The Great Gatsby. Brought to the big screen by director/writer Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, Australia), we saw the lavish surroundings where the wealthy play; oblivious to those of lesser means. The marketing of this movie has been intense, showing glimpses of spectacular parties, classic cars, mansions; all accompanied by a heavy hip hop beat. Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception, Django Unchained) played Jay Gatsby, a mysterious wealthy man whose life had been motivated by his love for one particular woman. Carey Mulligan (Drive, Shame) was Daisy Buchanan, a wealthy socialite married to the unfaithful Tom Buchanan, played by Joel Edgerton (Warrior, The Odd Life of Timothy Green). Set up as the narrator of this story was midwesterner Nick Carraway, played by Tobey Maguire (Spiderman franchise, Brothers). I enjoyed the performances from each actor; they did their best with what was written for them. The costumes and sets were brilliantly reproduced to reflect the era of 1920’s Long Island, New York. With such detail given to the look of this film, I found the choice of music to be a distraction. At a particular scene I glanced down at my watch to make a mental note of the time. It was approximately 50 minutes into the story before I started caring about any of the characters. I found the 1st half of the film to be bloated as it lumbered along. The last half of the movie contained most of the drama, almost force feeding it to the audience. The heavy handed way the story was told made it sag under its own excessiveness. This extravagant film could have benefitted from an austerity program. A couple of brief scenes with blood.
2 1/2 stars
An image of my sister-in-law’s deceased cat came to mind while I was thinking about this movie I had just seen. If you had met TC in the house; he was an affectionate, sweet cat. But if you saw him outside; he was a cold, stealthy killer. The reason TC came to mind was due to watching Jessica Chastain (Lawless, Take Shelter) as CIA operative Maya in this tense dramatic movie. She was a slight wisp of a woman in a male dominated arena, whose single focused determination revealed her underlying strength. I found her performance to be one of her best. Since the September 2001 attacks, Maya’s only job was to find Osama Bin Laden. Her single-mindedness would push her to the gray areas of government policy. Whether this movie’s facts were true or not, it was the job of the director to take the story and make it believable to the viewer. In the case of this riveting movie about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Point Break) created a compelling experience. If you have read my explanation of my rating system; you know for me to award 4 stars to a movie, I have to be swept into the movie and leave my world’s reality behind. As I sat in my seat watching the movie; the sounds of crunching popcorn, the clinking of jostled ice cubes in cups of soda and the rustling of winter coats being squeezed into the back of the theater seats all turned into a hushed silence. My peripheral vision latched onto the edges of the movie screen and stretched them all the way beyond me. I had entered into Maya’s world. Because of the experience I just described, I awarded this movie 4 stars. The directing was brilliant; attaining rock solid performances from the actors. Too many to mention, I wanted to at least acknowledge a few of the competent actors such as Jason Clarke as Dan, Joel Edgerton as squadron team leader Patrick and Kyle Chandler as Joseph Bradley. Everything you have heard about this movie is true; it easily could be the frontrunner for this year’s Oscar awards. Brief scenes with blood.