I DID NOT CONSIDER IT ARGUING but my teacher did not feel the same way. The assignment given to us was to create illustrations for a book we were putting together. Each student was handed a page with the outline of a scene printed on it. Our job was to color in the figures and landscapes. Once done the teacher was going to put the drawn pages in the appropriate places between the pages we had written for the story we created. I took my drawing assignments seriously though I did not consider myself a good “artist.” My page had both people and objects in it, so I was diligently working on it with my crayons. I went over the outlines with crayons that I thought would look good on the drawing. For a couple of the figures I gave them a shadow, pretending the scene was of a sunny day. There were times I went outside the lines to add a jacket or hat. When the teacher walked by she stopped at my desk and asked what I was doing. I explained my picture to her, but she kept telling me that was not the assignment she gave us. I disagreed and tried explaining to her what I was creating; however, she was not interested in my explanation. She took my sheet away and replaced it with another one, telling me to follow her instructions. I thought I was doing that. MY IMAGINATION IS STILL AS STRONG now as it was back then. I do not think that teacher was trying to stifle my imagination; she just wanted the drawings done a certain way. At the time though, I felt bad that I had to redo my picture without any of the extra things I was incorporating into it. To me, the picture as it was presented was boring and needed something extra to make it stand out in the reader’s mind. When I think of the students I used to play and eat with, I realize now each of them also had a strong imagination. We would get together after a snow storm and create all these different things with just snow. In someone’s backyard we would make things like tunnels, trenches, guards, hills and ramps; all to be incorporated into whatever scenario we were creating in our minds. I always had an easier time connecting with someone who had an active imagination; for it was that imagination, that would carry us to fanciful places where we would plant the seeds of our dreams. It is exactly what the young girl in this animated adventure comedy was doing. WHILE WALKING IN THE WOODS JUNE, voiced by newcomer Brianna Denski, discovered an old, discarded roller coaster car. When she stepped into the car, it jogged a memory of a place she imagined as a little girl. With Jennifer Garner (Peppermint, Draft Day) voicing the Mom, Ken Judson Campbell (Groundhog Day, Home Alone) voicing Boomer, Mila Kunis (The Spy Who Dumped Me, Bad Moms franchise) voicing Greta and Kenan Thompson (Snakes on a Plane, Saturday Night Live-TV) voicing Gus; this story started out beautifully. The animation was wonderful, and the idea of the story was sweet and charming. Once the story moved to a different time and location everything fell apart for me. I thought the script was dark and disconnected. The idea of the evil protagonists was awful. Some children may react negatively to these characters. Afterwards I discovered why there was no directing credits listed for this movie and it explains why I felt the story was clunky. The idea for the story resonated with me, but there was little imagination used to make this picture stand out for me.
1 ¾ stars
IF YOU WOULD HAVE TOLD THE younger me that I would grow up and become a fitness instructor, I would have laughed in your face. I was far from being an athlete, let alone a physically active student. Reading, studying, watching TV/movies and eating were my dominant activities. Sure, I hung out with my friends all the time, but it wasn’t to toss or kick a ball. Pizza played an important part in my life back then. So, imagine the surprise some childhood friends and students had when we met at our recent class reunion. Hearing that I teach fitness not only shocked them but made a few laugh out loud, since they knew I had flunked PE twice. And I should mention back then I was much heavier. When I look at the course of my life I can pinpoint the exact moment when my mind opened up to physical fitness; it was a friend of mine who asked to join her at an aerobics class in the city. The class never felt like I was working out. Instead, it felt like I was dancing to the music being played. It was from that moment in time I shifted and became enthusiastic over fitness. THERE HAVE BEEN PEOPLE I HAVE encountered who stunned me when they mentioned what type of work they did for a living. At an art fair I met an artist who spent 20 years of her life being a corporate lawyer. She described the grueling hours she put in and the non-stop traveling she had to endure. After all those years she came to the realization that she was not happy with her job; so, she started pursuing something she had always loved doing, painting. After a time, she took a chance and entered an art show, where she wound up getting a first-place ribbon. From there she went full force by quitting her job and devoting all her time to painting. The story was inspirational to me. I find it fascinating how people wind up in their occupations. From that school reunion I mentioned earlier I discovered one student is a PhD, doing medical research on diseases; another person is a theater reviewer overseas. You certainly cannot judge an individual based on their occupation and vice versa, you can’t judge a person’s job based on their physical appearance. This holds true for the main character in this dramatic, action thriller. AFTER HER HUSBAND AND DAUGHTER WERE gunned down Riley North, played by Jennifer Garner (Miracles from Heaven; Love, Simon), wanted justice. Unfortunately, the justice system would not serve her well. With John Gallagher Jr (10 Cloverfield Lane, Short Term 12) as Detective Stan Carmichael, John Ortiz (Silver Linings Playbook, American Gangster) as Detective Moises Beltran, Juan Pablo (The 33, Shot Caller) as Diego and Annie Ilonzeh (He’s Just Not That into You, Person of Interest-TV) as FBI agent Lisa Inman; Jennifer appeared to be going back to her roots from her television show. I was looking forward to seeing her in this character, but I was surprised by the blood and violence; it was somewhat graphic. Though the fight scenes were okay, the script was weak. Just the idea of this one character taking on a large crime organization was a far stretch. Maybe if the writers had cut back some of the violence and devoted more time to building up her character I might have bought more into the story. But as it stands, this revenge film was not special; there was nothing shown that I had not seen before. I do not know but maybe the writers’ former classmates are wondering how these students became writers.
1 ¾ stars
THE ABSENCE OF LOVE DOES not necessarily mean that the empty space has been filled in with hate. Until the heart has grown up its loves tend to be relatives, friends and inanimate objects. It is not until one crosses over the border into true love where hate may become a future player. I have, as I am sure many of you, experienced a love shared that comes to an end. Not the type where both parties have agreed to move on, I am talking where one person breaks trust with the other. This is where hate can take over; but I am getting ahead of myself. As far as I am concerned anyone who can experience love will live I believe a more satisfying life. It is so much easier to love than hate someone and love is different for everyone. Do you remember the first time you went out on a date? It can be a scary and exhilarating experience all at the same time. DATING SOMEONE USED TO BE A ritual where 2 people would have to meet face to face; unless of course it was a blind date, but even then each person’s 1st contact (such a Star Trek comment) would be a face to face encounter. I am guessing for some of you this is a foreign concept? With the introduction of the internet, dating has taken on a whole new persona. For some their comfort is getting to learn about a person before committing to meet them; others may have specific ideas on what would create a comfortable environment. I remember in school when everyone started or attempted to date someone. There were some students who were interested in the person they wanted to go out with on a date. And there were some who would settle for anyone or almost anyone to date just so they would not be perceived as being different. Ahh, different; now there is a word most people do not want to take on as a label for themselves. Now here is the funny thing, what one considers different may be the exact thing someone else finds attractive. Plus I like to say, “Different from what?” When it comes to love of the heart, there really is very little difference from person to person. BURDENED WITH A DEEP SECRECT Simon Spier, played by Nick Robinson (Jurassic World, The Kings of Summer), felt he was the only one. It was not until he heard about someone’s posted comments that he felt he could experience something his friends had felt. This dramatic romantic comedy also starred Josh Duhamel (Safe Haven, Transformers franchise) as Jack Spier, Jennifer Garner (Mother’s Day, Danny Collins) as Emily Spier, Alexandra Shipp (Straight Outta Compton, X-Men: Apocalypse) as Abby Suso and Logan Miller (Before I Fall, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) as Martin Addison. For a coming of age story I felt this script did it justice. There was an easy blend of drama and comedy that the cast convincingly portrayed. I did feel some scenes were farfetched or cheesy but all in all the writers tried to maintain a realistic setting as they gave each character their own issues. High school already comes with its own potholes and I enjoyed the way the cast made their way through the obstacles. As a side note I was surprised by the crowd’s reactions to this film. They all seemed to be into the story; in fact, at one point the 2 young adults or teenagers (it was hard to tell in the dark) next to me were crying what I think were tears of joy. This film is not so different from other similar movies; however, it does a better than average job in telling its story.
For endless hours of entertainment there is nothing like watching a newborn baby. Their facial expressions, the laugh they emit when you play “Peek-a-Boo” with them, the soft pudgy limbs; babies can ease pretty much any person’s mind of stress. In my yoga classes I tell new members that we were born with incredible flexibility. All they need to do to be reminded of it is to watch a baby move. As we grow and take on life’s challenges some of our flexibility may diminish; hopefully in class we can get re-introduced to that flexibility once again. Babies are not the only source of joyfulness or inspiration; there are many animals that at birth provide unlimited fun moments. The obvious ones would be puppies and kittens. Who doesn’t stop to look at a puppy or kitten playing? I believe I have mentioned I have a neighbor who fosters kittens and every day I get a show of them scampering and playing around their room. It was especially amusing to me the day I saw one kitten standing up and leaning on the closed door as another kitten was standing on them, as if they were forming a kitten pyramid up to the door handle. Just seeing the amount of cat and dog videos on my social media sites, I know I am not the only one who loves watching animals. This same neighbor has a food blog and when I asked her how she got so many followers to her site, she said all she had to do was post pictures of cats. Every time she posted a picture of one of the cats and kittens she was fostering, she would get new followers. Maybe that is why this comedy fantasy started out by showing cat videos. SUCCESSFUL businessman Tom Brand, played by Kevin Spacey (Elvis & Nixon, House of Cards-TV), was on the verge of his company’s latest achievement coming to fruition; the completion of North America’s tallest building. Pre-occupied with so much going on, Tom gave little thought to his daughter’s birthday request when he chose Mr. Fuzzypants from Felix Perkins, played by Christopher Walken (The Family Fang, Stand Up Guys), the odd proprietor of the pet store. This family film’s selling point was the cat. On a visual level, it was enjoyable watching the cat or the CGI cat doing the physical activities required for this story. However, the script not only did not help the cat; it did no favors for fellow cast members Jennifer Garner (Danny Collins, Dallas Buyers Club) as Lara Brand and Cheryl Hines (The Ugly Truth, Curb Your Enthusiasm-TV) as Madison Camden. The characters were more like cartoon ones than actual humans. As for Jennifer and her role, I really think she needs to do something different. The past few films she has been in she essentially is doing the same thing repeatedly. The story was predictable and one dimensional; there was little I found funny and for the most part I felt I was watching video clips taken from other movies. Actually more like videos that went viral. Maybe the film studio should have instead stayed with the cat videos for 90 minutes.
1 ½ stars
If one wants to create an express lane to the heartstrings of a movie viewer or reader all they need to do is have a sick child or pet in their story. I do not want to come off as being callous; because trust me, I am one of the first ones who will start tearing up when I see an ill animal or child. There is something about seeing a defenseless child or animal suffering that affects me quicker than seeing an adult. I believe it is due to the innocence I perceive in them. Maybe this will make better sense: I have more sympathy for living beings who did nothing to cause themselves to get sick as opposed to an adult who, let us say, drank too much alcohol most of their life and now is suffering with a dying liver. So if that scenario of sickness is going to be part of a story then I want to follow it to its conclusion; whether it has a happy or sad ending does not make a difference to me as long as it is told in an honest way. There is another aspect about all of this that makes this type of story more poignant and that is when it is based on true events. When I am sitting in the theater and the first frame of the film shows what I am about to see is based on a true story I get higher hopes that I will enjoy the movie. When her daughter Anna, played by Kylie Rogers (Finders Keepers, Fathers and Daughters), suddenly became ill and started suffering with severe stomach pain; Christy, played by Jennifer Garner (Dallas Buyers Club, Draft Day), wanted an explanation for it, even from God. Based on a true story this dramatic film also included Martin Henderson (Everest, Smokin’ Aces) as Kevin Beam and Eugenio Derbez (Instructions not Included, Jack and Jill) as Dr. Nurko. What worked for me in this picture was the fact this story was based on true events. However, my issue with it was I wished the script would have stayed focused on the Beam family’s plight without the heavy-handed use in reminding me about faith. I read afterwards the movie studio did not want to promote this as a faith based film; however this movie wound up preaching to the chorus in my opinion. Interestingly I became aware of the audience sitting in the theater when one viewer yelled out at a particular scene, “It is a miracle!” It was then that I looked around and realized the crowd was the same type of crowd I have seen at all of these poorly made faith based films. I do not want to be hit over the head with the swooning soundtrack, the film shots of the sky filled with bright light and sermons; I just want to watch and discover the story in my own way. This story of Anna was fascinating enough; I did not need someone telling me how to live my life.
1 ¾ stars
Luck is such a fickle, fluidic vehicle of fate. You cannot depend on it because it is unreliable, at least for some folks. There are terms you may have heard such as, “Born with a lucky horseshoe up their bum” or “If they didn’t have bad luck, they would have no luck at all,” that describe people who seem to be visited frequently by “Lady Luck.” I have noticed that when luck chooses to visit me in a negative way it usually returns in rapid succession once or twice immediately afterwards. Just this past weekend when I was trying to fly back home I wound up being stuck at the airport due to my flight being delayed. Upon the first delay I remembered thinking just my luck, I will have to find something to eat for dinner at the airport. Now someone could say I was lucky to find something to eat; but in my brain, I was upset because a mixed green salad, fruit cup, snack sized bag of chips and a small bottle of water cost me $21.00. When the flight was delayed for the second time I realized I would miss the opportunity to catch a film on the way home after landing. By the 3rd delay I was getting anxious because I did not know if public transportation would still be running. Finally arriving late at night, I missed the train as it pulled out of the station and had to wait 15 minutes for the next one. Finally exiting at my stop it started raining as I walked 20 minutes to my car, parked at my office. I could certainly relate to the main character of this family comedy regarding having a bad day. ALEXANDER, played by Ed Oxenbould (Puberty Blues-TV), was used to having a bad day. However, when his family members all began to experience one of his typical bad days Alexander was not sure they would be able to handle it. Based on Judith Viorst’s book series, this comedic drama stayed at a steady pace thanks to the director. With Steve Carell (The Way Way Back, The Office-TV) and Jennifer Garner (Dallas Buyers Club, Valentine’s Day) as Alexander’s parents Ben and Kelly Cooper, the cast was well suited to handle both the comedic and dramatic sides of the story. The trailer was a good representation of the film; the unlucky events were consistent. There was nothing major in a negative way in this movie; I just found it a bit too fluffy for my tastes and a bit predictable. As for the rest of my day afterwards, this movie did not contribute either way in making it a good or bad day.
2 1/3 stars
It is important to hear encouragement but how much of it is heard depends on the person. I have seen people on those reality shows where their family and friends have told them they can sing or dance and it is obvious they do not have talent. They believe every compliment they are receiving, even if it is only being given out of kindness. I personally do not think it is fair to mislead a person unless the whole family or friends do not realize they are all tone deaf or lack rhythm. Being a defensive pessimist on top of being my own worst critic, I am in a different category. Any compliment I receive I tend to discount. Though appreciative of encouraging words, they actually are the fuel that drives me harder to do better. All these years I thought it was a stubborn streak that kept me pounding away to succeed at the task at hand. I have come to realize there is a voice inside of me that has high standards, pushing me to prove wrong the other voice in my brain that tells me I am a failure. The same can be said for those people who told me I could not do something; it only made me fight harder to prove them wrong. The first thing I heard inside of me when my first short story was published was that 7th grade teacher who told me I would never be a writer. It all comes down to believing in yourself and that inner drive was something I admired in general manager Sonny Weaver, played by Kevin Costner (3 Days to Kill, Mr. Brooks) in this sports drama. Hoping to rebuild the Cleveland Browns football team, Sonny would butt heads against strong opposition for his NFL Draft pick from Coach Penn and team owner Anthony Molina, played by Denis Leary (Sand, Rescue Me-TV) and Frank Langella (Robot & Frank, The Ninth Gate). Even with his mother Barb, played by Ellen Burstyn (Another Happy Day, The Fountain), questioning his moves Sonny was determined to do what he thought was right. I found the NFL Draft story exciting and thought Kevin was believable in his role. The part that did not ring true was the story involving Jennifer Garner (Dallas Buyers Club, Elektra) as Ali. There was little chemistry between her and Kevin’s character and I just found it phony and unnecessary. If the writers would have stayed with the football story, including the back stories for the hopeful picks, this movie would have been better in my opinion. Keep in mind I am not a fan of team sports but I enjoyed all of the drama and tension revolving around the team franchise. Whether Sonny made the right choice or not did not matter to me; his drive and conviction was what I admired in him the most.
2 1/2 stars
The bigger the organization the harder it is to correct any issues, I have found. Unbeknownst to me for several years, I was paying property taxes on real estate that was not mine. The county had “S” for south instead of “N” for north in my home address. With that one change of a letter, I was paying tax for some apartment building on the opposite side of the city. To rectify the situation; it took a Herculean effort with constant diligence on my part to have the county correct my address and send me a refund. The county’s computer system was not compatible with the state treasurer’s computer programs; the property tax department did not accept anything via email or fax, which meant I had to print out form after form that had to be stuffed in envelopes and mailed. Honest to heavens, you would have thought I was living 30-40 years ago by the unyielding ancient methods still being used by these government agencies. Imagine how things used to be and you will appreciate even more, the story in this dramatic movie based on true events. Matthew McConaughey (Killer Joe, Mud) soared to a new level of acting excellence as he portrayed the prejudiced Texan electrician and rodeo bull rider, Ron Woodroof. It was in the early 1980’s when an electrical accident sent Ron to the hospital. When tests showed he was HIV+, Ron could not believe the results or the doctors’ predictions that he had approximately 30 days to live. Men like him were not supposed to get the disease. With the only promising drug in clinical trials, Ron would have to wheel and deal his way around the FDA if he was going to survive beyond a month. Putting the obvious weight losses aside for Matthew and Jared Leto (Requiem for a Dream, Mr. Nobody) as Rayon, their acting was truly unbelievable. There was such depth, conviction and rawness to it; they certainly will be in the forefront during the film awards season. They pretty much carried the weight of the entire movie. As far as I was concerned the rest of the cast, like Jennifer Garner (The Invention of Lying, Daredevil) as Dr. Eve Saks, were secondary. Considering the time this story took place; the writers produced a masterful script about an unforgettable human being, who was portrayed in such an amazing way.
3 1/2 stars