THEY APPEARED TO BE SUCH A HAPPY family, then why did a dozen roses arrive at the office from a different man, I wondered. After they were delivered, I brought them to her desk. The card was poking out to the side and that is where I saw the signature. It was not her husband’s name. She was thrilled with the roses; it was obvious since she sniffed each individual rose. I walked back to my desk, processing this odd turn of events. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I could hear her bragging about her boyfriend being so sweet. Her boyfriend!??! She was married with 2 kids, yet she is going around telling everyone about her boyfriend; this made no sense to me. One of her co-workers must have asked her about the boyfriend because I heard her say she and him have been together for almost two years. The part I found most disturbing was the fact her daughters knew about it. The girls were only 14 and 8 years old. The fact she confides in her daughters about her affair sends an awful message to them, in my opinion. I can only imagine what this woman says about her husband when her children ask about their father under these circumstances. THIS DECEPTIVE OR MAYBE NOT SO deceptive plan is something I do not understand at all. You could say I have a negative opinion about it. If I was no longer in love with the person I was with, I would end the relationship before starting a new one. I could not stay with someone while cheating on them behind their back. There was a man I used to work with who would make his employees lie to his wife about his whereabouts because he was meeting up with random women during the workday. I was fortunate I was never in a position to have to lie for him because I do not know if I could have done it. Just get a divorce and leave the relationship with some dignity. Now I do understand some people associate divorce with failure, but I do not agree with that thinking. I knew a couple who stayed together because they were afraid what their neighbors and friends would say about them. This concept about appearances is so warped; why should someone worry what someone else thinks about them when it comes to relationships. Sure, I can see talking to a close family member or best friend about a personal issue; but to worry about what a neighbor or acquaintance thinks makes no sense to me. Knowing my thoughts about affairs, you will understand my uncomfortableness with how certain things were handled in this Academy Award nominated romantic drama. A SUBURBAN TOWN IN MASSACHUSETTS LOOKS like the ideal place to live until you see some of the cracks in its foundation. With Kate Winslet (The Mountain Between Us, Revolutionary Road) as Sarah Pierce, Jennifer Connelly (House of Sand and Fog, Only the Brave) as Kathy Adamson, Patrick Wilson (The Phantom of the Opera, The Conjuring franchise) as Brad Adamson, Jackie Earle Haley (Shutter Island, The Birth of a Nation) as Ronnie J. McGorvey and Noah Emmerich (The Truman Show, Blood Ties) as Larry Hedges; this film festival winner was an intense, well-done film. The acting was so good to begin with that the script and direction only served to elevate it to a higher level. There were several emotionally powerful scenes that took my breath away, thanks to the way the writers carefully peeled back its layers without inserting any judgements or manipulative techniques. Putting my personal ethics aside, I felt this was a well-crafted story that the actors convincingly conveyed to the viewers.
3 ½ stars
THERE ARE A COUPLE OF ITEMS I have sealed in plastic bags, hoping they may become valuable someday. Neither of them was expensive; I think the most I spent was $6.00. One thing is a set of unusual stamps and the other is a coffee mug shaped like a character from a popular television show. When I bought them years ago I thought immediately they would attract attention; but honestly, I have no idea if they will ever be worth something. You see I do not have that gift for finding a treasure at a thrift store or auction. There is a television show devoted to people bringing in their old possessions, to see if they have something worth a lot of money. I am not that type of individual; most of the things in my house have more sentimental value than monetary. There are some people who have a knack for spotting a bargain; I think I fall more into this category. Part of the reason for this is because I have a knack for finding and using coupons to apply to the item. However, put me in an antique or thrift shop and all I see is used stuff. Sure, I may find something I want; but, it is based on an emotional level not a practical one. THERE IS SOMEONE I KNOW WHO is skilled when it comes to finding things of value. The things he has shown me have totally amazed me. When I look at, for example, a silver serving piece such as a large fork, I see a metal item that is fancy looking. The individual I mentioned can dig through an entire crate of metal serving pieces and pull out the only one of value. I am not kidding you; he even showed me the item. It was a large metal fork with an ornately carved handle and three tines which were wide at the bottom then narrowed down to fine points. He paid less than $5.00 for the fork. When he got home he looked up and discovered this was a special fork from a particular manufacturer. Double checking online he learned the fork was selling for approximately $120.00. Maybe the dollar amount isn’t a big deal to you, but you must admit the percentage between the price difference is huge. He did the same thing with an oil painting where he paid $11.00 and found out it was worth over $500.00. Another person gifted like him was the doctor in this science fiction, action adventure. FINDING A PORTION OF A DISCARDED OLD cyborg was a stroke of luck for Dr. Dyson Ido, played by Christoph Waltz (Carnage, Big Eyes). There was more than luck involved when he brought her to life. This romantic thriller also starred Rosa Salazar (Maze Runner franchise, CHIPS) as Alita, Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, House of Sand and Fog) as Chiren, Mahershala Ali (Green Book, Hidden Figures) as Vector and Ed Skrein (Deadpool, If Beale Street Could Talk) as Zapan. Visually, this film was a feast of technical marvels. The fight scenes were intense with great special effects. The acting was also well done, even when the actors were transformed by CGI effects. Where I had high hopes for this picture based on the trailer, the script let me down. I found having a female hero led to a more sensitive story line; but the script was predictable, and the dialog was hokey at times. This picture was based on a graphic novel series that was unfamiliar to me; so, for those who know it or are into this type of genre, they might enjoy this movie more than me. It was obvious the producers are hoping for a sequel based on the ending scenes. I would be interested in seeing it but only if they get a better script.
2 ½ stars
IDEALLY IT SHOULD BE in balance within one’s life, but that is not always the case. And truthfully sometimes the circumstances are out of the person’s control. Trying to find the balance between one’s work and personal life takes determined strength with a bit of finesse. I have mentioned before how my work load dominates my personal life; from the day job to teaching to writing film reviews, there is a part of me that feels like I have missed out on many things. However, I do realize I am fortunate in the circle of friends around me who understand my crazy schedule as I try to negotiate time to get together with each of them. Others may not be as fortunate. There is an acquaintance of mine that is in sales. It is difficult to get a hold of him because day and night he is usually with clients; making plans to get together is almost impossible. NOW IT OCCURS TO me that I might have been prejudiced against certain occupations. I noticed when a “workaholic” was involved with a worthy cause; I would cut them some slack if they were not always available for family and friends. However if the person worked for a large for profit corporation, I was not so forgiving. Honestly from watching this film I have been thinking about this lopsided thinking when it comes to whether I perceive the business is doing something good or not for the planet. Who am I to assume the person who works 60-80 hours a week to help the homeless is a better person, than the state employee who puts in double shifts to help plow the city streets after a snowstorm? They each are important in their own way; no matter what the job entails the employee plays a vital part in the success of the employer. The one thing I am curious about is how people wind up in their jobs. I wonder if they always wanted to be let us say a window washer or actuary; or did the individual follow in a parent’s footsteps or just fell into the job. These were the type of questions I had when I watched this dramatic, biographical movie. IT TAKES A CERTAIN type of person to fight a forest fire and Eric Marsh, played by Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice, Old Boy), believed he knew what was needed. He just had to prove it to the people in charge. Based on a true story the cast also included Miles Teller (War Dogs, That Awkward Moment) as Brendan McDonough, Jeff Bridges (True Grit, Kingsman: The Golden Circle) as Duane Steinbink, Jennifer Connelly (Blood Diamond, A Beautiful Mind) as Amanda Marsh and Taylor Kitsch (Lone Survivor, Battleship) as Christopher MacKenzie. Having not seen or experienced what forest firefighters do, there were aspects of this story that were amazing. The acting was excellent; the standouts for me were Jennifer, Miles and Josh. For such an incredible story I had a challenging time with the script. The story would go from thrilling, nerve wracking scenes to snippets of a personal nature. What was presented regarding the plight of these types of firefighters, I had wished more time was spent on building up the characters’ personal stories. I felt I was only getting a partial piece of the puzzle so to speak. This movie about the Granite Mountain Hotshots deserves stars just on the story alone; as for the entertainment value of this picture it left me slightly cool.
2 ¾ stars
ONE could not help thinking that they were the ideal family living the American dream. They lived in the suburbs in a well maintained house that was surrounded by a perfectly manicured lawn. The husband owned a company; the mother did volunteer work and twice a year they and their children would go on a vacation; never to the same place twice. I was friends with their youngest child. As we all grew old they still looked like one big happy family; I knew better. On the outside nothing had changed except for one detail. If you were to meet them now there would be one less child. INSIDE their house the only signs that there was another child could be found in a few photo albums that were stuffed in some drawers. I never knew what happened but their child was not missing; he did not want to have anything to do with his family. The parents and their other children did not know if he was dead or alive, where he lived or what he did to make a living. It really was heartbreaking to see this though as I said the family always kept up a strong face. My friend had told me a few things that had taken place inside the household. From this I learned never to judge someone based on appearances. As they say you never know what goes on behind closed doors. I have witnessed other incidents with other people where a similar situation took place; things much worse than what I just told you. It truly baffles me on what could have happened to have resulted in such extreme measures. This dramatic crime film is an example of what I mean. LIFE was going so well for Swede Levov, played by Ewan McGregor (The Impossible, Star Wars franchise); which only made it harder when his daughter Merry, played by Dakota Fanning (Man on Fire, I Am Sam), started acting differently around the house. Based on Philip Roth’s (The Human Stain, Portnoy’s Complaint) novel, this film festival nominated movie also had as part of the cast Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, Blood Diamond) as Dawn and Peter Riegert (Local Hero, Animal House) as Lou. Set in the 1960s I liked the look of this picture. The film shots were well thought out; this may sound odd, but everything in the scene was well placed. I felt the acting was this film’s strongest suit. I have not enjoyed Dakota’s acting in recent films but I thought she was excellent in this role. If I am not mistaken this was Ewan’s directorial debut and sadly this was the problem I had with the movie. I thought his directing was unpolished; there were times I was bored with the story. It just seemed as if the action was being sucked out of several scenes. The story was interesting but I do not think it translated well into this script because I found parts of it dull and wasteful. Here is the thing though; based on the trailer I thought this was going to be a better film. I need to remind myself not to go into the theater with expectations that are solely based on a movie’s trailer; looks can be deceiving.
2 ½ stars
You are sitting back letting your friend tell the assembled group of friends about an incident that happened to the two of you. Everyone is laughing at a particular funny part of the story. As you are following along with your friend’s narrative, you suddenly hear something that clashes with your memory of the event. While still listening to your friend you are quickly going over the chain of events you remember, wondering if your memory is starting to fail you. As your friend continues to veer off from the way you remembered the story, the group of friends haven’t a clue and are enjoying the tale even more. The first opportunity to talk to your friend the narrator was not until the two of you were riding home from the restaurant. When you asked them why they changed the story, making it a more elaborate less truthful scenario, they replied a story is not worth telling if you cannot exaggerate it and provide better entertainment value. I can understand the point they were making since I have been known to tell a tale or two, with something called creative license. In this adventure drama, writer and director Darren Aronofsky (The Fountain, Black Swan) used artistic license to put his own spin on the biblical tale of Noah. Russell Crowe (Man of Steel, A Beautiful Mind) and Jennifer Connelly (Blood Diamonds, Winter’s Tale) played Noah and his wife Naameh. Upon receiving visions of impending doom for the Earth, Noah set out to build an ark that would save all that was good about the planet. This movie was utterly bizarre to me, taking on a science fiction aspect that I found totally ridiculous. Who knew there were prehistoric Transformers in biblical times?! Not only did I find the story silly, but I found it boring as well. The acting was nothing special and I am saying this even with Emma Watson (The Bling Ring, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock, The Rite) being part of the cast. I especially felt the story line of Ham, played by Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson franchise, 3:10 to Yuma) was poorly done. The only redeeming quality to this film was the visual aspect. Though none of the animals were real I did enjoy their scenes along with the start of the flooding. In the case of this disaster film or should I say disastrous film, elaborating the story did nothing to make it a more entertaining experience.
1 3/4 stars