THERE ARE SOME FAMILY GATHERINGS THAT require a program to keep the cast of characters clear in one’s mind. I will avoid talking about my own since it would be easy for the family members to identify themselves in my stories. There have been many occasions where I have been included in another family’s event. From somber to joyful I have discovered each family has their own “baggage” whether they acknowledge it or not. Also, it has reaffirmed in me the belief that there is no such thing as a “normal” family. I was included in a friend’s family dinner where two sisters did not speak to each other because they had an argument months (yes, that is right months) ago. Do you have any idea how challenging it is to carry on a conversation where you have to address each person separately on the same topic? They never made eye contact nor referred to the other in any way; it was uncomfortable for me and yet the parents sat at the dining room table as if nothing in the world was wrong. The wildest part of it was when food was being passed around the table. Neither sister would hand the other any food going around; instead, would put it on the table to make the other sibling stand up and reach for it. Crazy, isn’t it? AT THE OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM, I have been at family functions where nothing was held back; family members were sharing the most intimate details about their personal lives. In other words, WTMI (way too much information). There would be no need for me to hear what type of physical characteristics a relative is looking for in a mate. Or how about sitting around the living room as 3 relatives get into a heated argument, calling each other names and swearing at the top of their lungs. I remember looking around to get a cue on how to react, but the other relatives were just sitting there sipping their cups of coffee and nibbling on their snacks as if nothing was taking place. At one point I thought I was entering a boxing match as the yelling relatives were getting up into each other’s faces. Now I come from a point of view where everyone has the right to express their feelings; but not during a heated argument. It should be a calm setting with no fear of retaliation. If you are curious to see an example of a family with issues, then feel free to observe what takes place with the family in this dramatic crime mystery. RETURNING TO HER SMALL HOME TOWN for her sister’s wedding was to be a happy occasion for Laura, played by Penelope Cruz (The Counsellor, Broken Embraces). But when a tragic event took place, the cracks beneath the family’s surface spread further apart. This film festival winning movie also starred Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside, No Country for Old Men) as Paco, Ricardo Darin (The Secret in Their Eyes, Wild Tales) as Alejandro, Edward Fernandez (Biutiful, The Man with Thousand Faces) as Fernando and Barbara Lennie (Magical Girl, El Nino) as Bea. The acting in this film was excellent; whether it was joyful or heart wrenching, I was feeling the characters’ emotional states. With the acting so strong, this picture needed a tightly written script to keep the actors aloft. At times I felt some scenes went flat; luckily, there were not many of them. The other criticism I have has to do with the ending. It seemed to tidy as if it wanted to wrap up the story quickly. Otherwise, this picture still kept my interest as I wondered what other things this family had hidden below the surface. Spanish was spoken with English subtitles.
2 ½ stars
IS A PERSON JUST BEING GOOD to you enough to have a relationship with them? I have always had a curiosity about the things that are important to a person seeking and being in a love relationship. One of the things that piqued my curiosity was seeing news reporters interviewing the love interest of a person who had recently committed a crime or was in an altercation. Hearing the girlfriend say her boyfriend has always been good to her after he had just been accused of bludgeoning a man to death was the oddest thing to me. Let us say it was true, that he was kind and respectful of her; is that all one needs to fall in love? There seems to be more similar examples currently than I can recall years ago. A husband is stunned when he finds out his wife has been embezzling money from her place of employment for years. Behind the husband and reporter, parked in the driveway of the couple’s house, was a brand new expensive car. I find it all bizarre; how can someone only focus on certain aspects of an individual and base their affection solely on those features? I know I cannot do it. IN MY WORLD ACTIONS HAVE AS much importance as words; in other words, it is not just what a person says that will cement my feelings towards them. I think anyone can say anything and I have been in relationships where the person said things they knew would pull at my heart strings. And the words did; however, there were things they did that did not earn my trust. I had friends who had warned me, but you know how that goes; unless they are in your shoes, you feel your friends are not able to see the whole picture. It is funny because I have been in their place where I expressed my concerns about friends’ love interests. There was one person who was a user, who only cared about himself. Yes, he would do these sweet things for my friend that made her heart swell; but he had no empathy and was a cheapskate. If the opportunity came up where she asked me for my opinion I would tell her exactly what I thought. The one thing I would not do is tell her what she “should” do; I knew she would have to figure out what worked for her. Also, I remained respectful around him. My motto is, “I do not have to accept anything, but need to respect it.” And when it comes to this biographical crime film, no truer words have been spoken. If not, one could find themselves getting killed. DESPITE BEING COLOMBIA’S MOST NOTORIOUS DRUG LORD there was something about Pablo Escobar, played by Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) that made journalist and anchorwoman Virginia Vallejo, played by Penelope Cruz (The Counselor, Vicky Cristina Barcelona), fall in love with him. It wasn’t long before everyone knew. This film festival winning action movie also starred Peter Sarsgaard (Jackie, The Magnificent Seven) as Shepherd, Julieth Restrepo (At the End of the Spectra, Moria) as Maria Victoria Henao and Oscar Jaenada (The Shallows, Cantinflas) as Santoro. It goes without saying that Javier and Penelope were a perfect match since they are married to each other. I enjoyed the two of them in this story and picked up a couple of things I did not know about Escobar. However, the script was too superficial; I would have preferred if the writers went deeper into the characters. Instead there were scenes of blood and violence which were expected, but I felt there had to be more to this story than what was shown.
A TINY POOL of liquid was growing larger in the bowl of guacamole the longer the night went on. The offer of food and drink had ended a long time ago as one host sat and watched the secondhand tick around the clock dial. The other host was keeping busy by tidying up around the room, washing glasses and plates from time to time when hopefully her absence would not be detected. After dinner and dessert the small group of people played a couple of games before settling into their spots to chill out and talk among themselves. As the evening wound down the guests started to leave until there were only 2-3 guests left. These remaining guests had a reputation for always being the last ones to leave a party. Somehow they did not or chose not to pick up the telltale signs hosts would enact to signal they were tired and wanted the party to end. MAYBE I MENTIONED this in an earlier post but all the clocks in my house show different times. How it started was when I pushed the time on my alarm clock ahead in the hope of never being late for work. From there it expanded to the rest of the clocks because I discovered many people do not pay attention to the actual time. From the parties I have thrown there were times where I was dead tired by the end of the evening. By having the clocks set ahead I could make a comment about how late the evening had gone; guests would look at the clock and be surprised by how fast time had passed by. Now before you say anything I do want to tell you that after I found my voice I no longer needed to depend on my false clock times to get late night guests out of the house; now I just tell them it is late and I am tired. It is a shame I could not have invited the homeowners in this dramatic, mystery horror film to one of my parties so they could take a lesson. WHEN THE UNEXPECTED man, played by Ed Harris (A Beautiful Mind, The Rock) was invited in by the homeowners, played by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games franchise, American Hustle) and Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, The Sea Inside), they had no idea how their lives would change. This film festival nominated movie written and directed by Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Fountain), also starred Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Begins, Dark Shadows) as the wife to Ed Harris’ character. The first part of the story was suspenseful and I immediately enjoyed everyone’s acting. However as the script continued this film got weirder and weirder. I became irritated with all the close up shots Darren was doing of Jennifer. The thing about this movie was I appreciated what I felt was the allegories the writer was trying to show. However as the story descended into a pseudo horror film I could not wait for the picture to be over. Because of the stark shift from suspense to horror I experienced a stronger negative reaction. Despite the acting from a cast I admired, I could not find justification for the amount of time I wasted watching this movie.
1 1/2 stars
ONCE again I was dressed up as a clown. I actually had no complaints about the costume; it was custom made using satin fabric. The buttons down the front were these big colored pom-pom looking things. Though the outfit was not made for me, it had been handed down; only a few adjustments were needed for me to safely walk in it. There was a cone shaped hat with another of those pom-poms attached on top that completed the outfit. I could only wear the hat for a short time before the strap holding it down on my head started to irritate under my chin. The first time the costume was worn by the original owner, they won a costume contest at a local theater. By the time I got the outfit, it was still in good shape. Why wouldn’t it be? It was handmade with strong stitching and detailing. You could not compare it to one of those store bought costumes for the fabric was thicker and it must have had better elastic because the cuffs of the legs still were able to hug my ankles, helping the balloon effect of the pants. AFTER wearing the clown costume every Halloween for a few years I finally was able to pick out my very own outfit. The reason was due to me outgrowing the pants, both in length and width. I remember spending the longest time at the toy store deciding what I wanted to be. I looked at the popular outfits like a soldier and pirate, but it seemed like all my friends were picking those outfits to wear. Finally I decided to become an astronaut; I thought the white spacesuit was cool with its fake badges and big pockets. And of course the big feature was the helmet though I had wished the visor would have been real. You would have thought I would have been thrilled to walk the neighborhood in my new outfit but I did not experience that feeling. After wearing the same costume for a few years I was just getting to the age where I really did not care to go trick or treating anymore. It is a similar feeling to what I experienced watching this action adventure fantasy. WITH the rumors possibly being true about Poseidon’s trident, opposing forces were in a mad dash to gain the powerful device. Starring Johnny Depp (Black Mass, The Lone Ranger) as Captain Jack Sparrow, Javier Bardem (The Gunman, No Country for Old Men) as Captain Salazar and Geoffrey Rush (The Book Thief, The Best Offer) as Captain Hector Barbossa; the best acting came from Javier and Geoffrey. In fact I could watch Javier if there was a spinoff to this film franchise. The reason being the story here was a hodgepodge. It did not help that I thought Johnny brought nothing new to the role; besides the script felt a bit tired with the same type of things seen in the previous films. Having said that, I will say I enjoyed the special effects in this picture and there were a lot of them. The majority of the scenes were action based, almost to the point of one after another after another. One other issue I had was the length of this movie; I felt it needed another round of editing. If you want light familiar fare to make the time go by then this newest installment might satisfy you; however, don’t be surprised if it leaves you wanting more. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
Everyone has their own way of offering penance to right a wrong. There are some people who will say they are sorry so many times that it begins to sound like a standard salutation. When I have to I will usually use the word “apologize” instead of “sorry” because for some reason I have it in my brain that the word sorry should be saved for important occasions. I want the word to have deeper meaning when I use it. Instead of verbalizing one’s regrets there are some individuals who will perform an act of kindness to represent the regret of their actions. After the disintegration of an important relationship, where I kept starting my heated sentences with the word “you” instead of sharing my feelings, I spent months volunteering at a few non-profit organizations that represented us. A goal I have for this lifetime is not to leave with any regrets. Sure there are times I feel guilty about something that happened; but before I act upon it I look back to see how I could have handled the situation differently. When someone tells me they wished they did not feel guilty I point out that feeling guilt is a good thing; it shows that we are aware and in touch with our feelings. On the other hand there are people who know how to manipulate others by placing a guilt trip on them. FORMALLY part of a Congo based assassination team Terrier, played by Sean Penn (All the King’s Men, Milk), did not realize when he returned after several years that he would become the target. This action drama film assembled a capable cast. Besides Sean there was Javier Bardem (The Counselor, Eat Pray Love) as Felix, Jasmine Trinca (The Son’s Room, The Big Dream) as Annie and Ray Winstone (Hugo, The Departed) as Stanley. It was obvious Sean put a great deal of time into this role since he bulked up for the character, removing his shirt several times to show it off. This may sound odd but the story was easy to follow; it just did not make much sense. Sadly the script was poorly done where I found myself being bored several times. The truth is once I understood the story I realized the writers had a perfect opportunity to create a compelling, tight script. They failed miserably because there was no tension, suspense or connections between most of the characters. If they thought the violence and bloodshed would suffice, I have to say they were completely wrong. I tried finding good things to say about this crime movie but I could not come up with anything else. There is nothing I have to apologize for with this review. There was blood and violence throughout the movie.
1 1/2 stars
The word “enough” has a different meaning today than it did when I was growing up. Back then the word meant: as much or as many as required; like when I was asked if I had enough to eat. It related more to a personal level. I have always said if I won the lottery there would be little change in my personal possessions. There would be no multiple car purchases or living in a mansion. One of the benefits I could see would be for me to no longer worry how I was paying for something. That would be a nice aspect I wish to experience someday. These days I find the word “enough” is being used more as a comparison to someone else. For example, they have more than I do, I do not have enough. Greed seems to have taken on a more extreme persona in society today. When the news reports on prominent people getting caught for illegal activity, in their desire to acquire even more wealth, I have to wonder what is wrong that they cannot be satisfied with what they have already. An extreme example of this is the premise for this dramatic crime film. Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave, A Dangerous Method) played a wealthy counselor who decided to acquire more wealth via drug trafficking. When the deal did not go as planned, the counselor learned there were consequences to the decisions he made. Based on the book by Cormac McCarthy (All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men), the script was Cormac’s attempt at being a screenwriter. This was a poor decision because the script was horrendous. I thought the dialog was bizarre while multiple scenes made no sense. Even with a cast that included Javier Barden (Skyfall, No Country for Old Men) as Reiner, Penelope Cruz (To Rome With Love, Volver) as Laura and Cameron Diaz (Bad Teacher, My Sister’s Keeper) as Malkina; there was no way they could save this film from its bloody boredom. I found it interesting that a film about greed may have been green lighted by individuals who wanted to score again, on par with the fortunes reaped from their previous film No Country for Old Men. It was a greedy ploy that did not pay off. There were scenes with blood and violence.
1 2/3 stars
It takes a lot of work to make a long distance relationship successful. Communication is so important, I have found, in keeping that connection solid when the two individuals are apart. One of the pitfalls of a long distance relationship is when the two of you are together, it tends to feel like a vacation. Cramming in favorite restaurants and sights becomes the norm, bypassing the reality of daily life. Another thing to consider, if the final goal is to start a life together in the same place, is what location becomes home base. A sure sign of maturity with your decision is when “yours” and “mine” becomes “ours.” In this dramatic romance directed by Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life, Day’s of Heaven), we witness the shock waves of a couple’s love when the romance and reality of their relationship come together. Ben Affleck (Argo, The Town) played Neil, an American who fell in love with a woman he met while traveling through Europe. Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, Hitman) was Marina, the European woman smitten with Neil. After a whirlwind romance Neil brought Marina back to the states, to settle with him down in Oklahoma. Told with very little dialog, I felt I was just watching a series of random scenes on the movie screen. I can appreciate the artistic value in making a film such as this, where the viewer is being told the story via visuals. However, after 15-20 minutes I started losing interest in the story. As the movie dragged on I felt I was in one of those market research groups watching a series of beautiful television commercials and I was supposed to rate them. As for co-stars Rachel McAdams (Midnight in Paris, The Vow) as Jane and Javier Bardem (Skyfall, No Country For Old Men) as Father Quintana, they were wasted in this laborious movie. I strongly disliked Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life; however, if you enjoyed that film, you probably would like this one. Consider this a lighter version with less unconnected scenes of outer space and nature. I have to tell you, it was easier for me to handle the times of separation in my long distance relationship than sitting through this movie.
1 3/4 stars
It took me a moment to process what appeared on the movie screen before me. This year is the 50th anniversary of the first James Bond movie. For those who might not know, it was Dr. No back in 1962. My most vivid memory of a James Bond film was Thunderball. It was an evening showing and my parents took me to a classic movie palace. Washed in a white glow, the terra cotta building had a colorful marquee with the theater’s name flashing above in small twinkling lights. Inside there were onyx colored marble walls with a row of brass torcheres topped with an orange glow, standing like sentinels down the long hallway. Sitting in red velvet seats, the three of us felt regal as we watched the exciting movie. After all these years, I felt the same excitement while watching this new Bond movie. Daniel Craig (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Defiance) was outstanding this time around, playing an older and wiser James Bond. When a computer drive, filled with the secret identities of every British Agent, was stolen; James discovered a bigger plot was in play that personally affected M, played by Judi Dench (J. Edgar, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). The surprise for me was Judi Dench; her role was rich and deep. Add in her steely blue eyes, perfect diction and brilliant acting skills; this was the best M portrayal I have ever seen. The script played tribute to the Bond heritage, allowing sly humor to filter in between the well choreographed action. One could see Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside, No Country for Old Men) relished playing the high tech villain Silva, making the character memorable. When one goes to see a James Bond movie, there are certain things that are just a given: explosive action, high tech weapons, witty dialog, elegance and hand to hand fights. No one would be disappointed by this thriller. Granted the story was far fetched but that goes with the territory. After all these years for a James Bond movie to still excite me was amazing. The character has gotten better with age, allowing a new generation of viewers to come on board. Years from now these new fans should easily remember the time they saw their first James Bond movie. Scenes with violence and blood.
3 1/3 stars