MY FRIEND WAS SO EXCITED TO show me her new designer purse. It was a good thing she told me ahead of time because when I saw it, I thought it looked like a premium gift one would have received for opening a new bank account. The purse looked ugly to me, with the designer’s initials being repeated row after row all around the bag. But then again, I was never fond of having “name/designer brands” or logos on clothing. When I was a little kid, I had a couple of pullover shirts that had a little crocodile patch attached to them. I never liked crocodiles, so I could not understand why I had to wear a shirt with one on it. All I said to my friend was how happy I was for her to get something she had been wanting for a long time. Little did I know I would see the same design on so many purses women were carrying all around the city. It was not too long before other designers were putting their initials on their clothing items. I thought for sure the people who could not afford these designer brands would be judged by their “ordinary” purses. To me, it looked like a caste system was being formed based on the brand of purse or clothing one was wearing. MAYBE IT WAS A REACTION TO that idea, that drove me to look for fitness wear that was not simply an advertisement for the manufacturer. I started buying novelty T-shirts that were funny or quirky. Gaining the opportunity to be able to travel, I started buying a T-shirt and hat from every state I visited. Soon two dozen shirts and hats blossomed into 50, then 100; until I wound up with over 300 T-shirts, none advertising a logo or brand name. Sure, I was stuck with workout shoes that had the company’s logo on them, but I always looked first for a nondescript article. I continued to keep my principles even after the imitation/fake items doused the consumer. My lesson in fake items took place at a flea market, where a booth was selling what I thought were expensive watches. It turned out the items piled on the table were fake but looked so close to the originals that I do not think many people would know the difference. However, underneath the tables unbeknownst to me were watches that were made at the same factories as the name brand ones. They were tweaked a bit in cost cutting moves but essentially, they were coming from the same watch company but for more than ½ the price. I thought it was crazy but then I watched this Oscar nominated film. FROM A SIMPLE LIFE PATRIZIA REGGIANI, PLAYED by Lady Gaga (A Star is Born, Sin City: A Dame to Kill), had no idea who she was looking at when she saw the awkward man behind the bar. If she knew who she was looking at, she certainly did not know what went with the man’s name. With Adam Driver (The Last Dual, Marriage Story) as Maurizio Gucci, Al Pacino (The Irishman, Dick Tracy) as Aldo Gucci, Jeremy Irons (Margin Call, Assassin’s Creed) as Rodolfo Gucci and Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club, Requiem for a Dream) as Paolo Gucci; what saved this movie inspired by a true story was Lady Gaga. She was totally committed to the character to the point I forgot it was her. Because of her performance, Adam Driver was pushed into the background; granted the fact he could not hold onto an Italian accent did not help his cause. As for Jared, I had not idea it was him until I saw the ending credits. The script and direction were weak in my opinion. It was nearly halfway before things started to gel better together and the story finally kept my interest. The story was unbelievable if any of it was true in this picture. And looking up a photo afterwards of Patrizia Reggiani, the producers did perfect casting with choosing Lady Gaga.
2 ½ stars
WHEN I was little all I wanted was to have a common, average full name; something like John Smith or Robert Jones. I was the only one in my elementary school to have my first name, though there were a couple of boys who had names similar to mine. Teachers never asked a Jeffrey or Deborah to repeat their names but with certain teachers I had to repeat mine a 2nd time so they were sure they heard correctly. Thinking back now I am not sure why it was important for me to want a different name unless it was to be less noticed. It was not like my name was hard to spell or even pronounce. AS we graduated out of elementary school we were joined with students from other schools. There was one boy who had the same last name as a local food company and he was picked on because of it. I remember sitting and imagining if he was getting teased for a food product what would happen to a student who had the same last name of an infamous person from history; such as Churchill, Hemingway or Mussolini? Interestingly I knew a couple of people who were connected to famous individuals but no one knew because they did not have the same last name. There was one friend who was able to trace his family history back 6 centuries. He showed me a couple of artifacts that had been handed down generation to generation; it really blew my mind since my knowledge of my family’s history only goes back approximately a couple of hundred years. Tracing a family’s history can be eye opening, both for the relatives or bystanders. The reason I say this is because there is a famous family business headquartered in my city. The descendants have lived around here for years and a friend of mine is the accountant for a couple of them. Just from a couple of stories told to me, this family has some messed up genes in their gene pool. But they do not as far as I know have an ancestor like the one in this fantasy adventure. CAL Lynch, played by Michael Fassbender (The Light Between Oceans, Steve Jobs), was surprised to discover he had an ancestor named Aguilar who was an assassin. Cal was more surprised when he met him. This action film based on a video game had a heavy hitting cast joining Michael. There was Marion Cotillard (Allied, Rust and Bone) as Sofia, Jeremy Irons (The Man in the Iron Mask, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) as Rikkin and Brendan Gleeson (Suffragette, Troy) as Joseph Lynch. With such a good cast it was a shame the nonsensical script was so poor. It was a patchwork of fights, romance, history; it jumped from one to the other. I enjoyed the exterior shots and I did not mind the story, but this film was barely coherent. The actors tried their best I believe; however, I was bored through parts of the picture. Maybe the video game is fun to play but this was not a film one needs to pay full price to see. In my opinion this was a movie studio and family dysfunction.
1 2/3 stars
She had seen the advertisement on a social networking site so she felt it must have been true. All she needed to do was pay for shipping charges and she would get a free trial container of wrinkle remover for her face. The lotion arrived on time but a week afterwards another container arrived, followed by yet a 3rd one the next week. Checking her charge card statement when it arrived, she saw she was charged $70.00 for each additional product. With emailing the only option to communicate with the company, she was told everything was correct about the special advertised deal and it was stated as such in the fine print in the advertisement. I only knew about this person’s plight because it was recently on the news after she contacted a television station’s consumer hotline. I can see where things like this can happen because I tried retrieving a coupon for a free meal once that was posted online; all that I got was a bunch of junk emails for weeks. From that experience I never trust any offers online unless I have signed up to a well-known company; I am now prejudiced towards that form of advertising. Due to this it occurs to me that there are other ways we are taught not to believe something we see or hear. I have not only seen but have been the victim of someone’s disbelief in my answer solely based on external factors; in other words my physical appearance. I guess the person could not trust my answer because I did not look like I knew what I was talking about. There was someone I knew who kept having the same thing happen to them all the time because they did not dress in a fashionable way or because their clothing looked too worn. You know what they say about judging a book by its cover, don’t you? DESPITE what his colleagues at Cambridge thought mathematician G.H. Hardy, played by Jeremy Irons (Beautiful Creatures, Margin Call), felt there was something special about S. Ramanujan, played by Dev Patel (Chappie, Slumdog Millionaire). It did not matter to Professor Hardy that the poor young man was from India. Based on a true story this biographical drama was ripe for an incredible telling of it. With part of the cast including Tobey Jones (Captain America franchise, Infamous) as Littlewood and Malcolm Sinclair (Casino Royale, V for Vendetta) as Professor Cartwright, I thought the acting was extremely good especially from Dev and Jeremy. The story is so amazing I only wished the script would have followed suit by being more precise and intense. I felt there were some characters that needed more screen time to let their story develop properly. Maybe the script was a bit too formulaic and the director did not utilize the actors fully, but my interest in the story was kept for the majority of the time. This movie offered proof that there was good reason to look beyond the surface.
2 2/3 stars
It is one of the hardest situations to navigate I have found, when two people you are fond of do not like each other. Friends, family, significant others, neighbors; I have seen and been a part of all types of uncomfortable situations. There was a dinner party where 2 of my friends attended and spent the evening staying on opposite sides of me. Mingling among the guests or sitting at the table, the 2 friends kept their distance from each other; however, they each wanted equal time with me throughout the night. It was such a challenge to try and keep a mental log of how much time I was spending with each of them, that I found myself not having a very good time at the party. Now I know I have the choice of stepping away from 2 combative friends and letting them deal with their issues, not altering how I interact with them; but I have to tell you, it is harder when someone you are in love with is disliked by someone else you care about. In this scenario there could be times where you choose not to attend an event because you know your significant other will be uncomfortable. I do not know how you would handle it but I dread finding myself in such a scenario. There standing before you are 2 people you care about and they cannot get along; in some circumstances I just want to say, “Be adults and just be cordial to each other whenever the occasion comes up.” Knowing what you do about me now, you can only imagine how I felt seeing 2 of my favorite comic book heroes battling each other in this action adventure film. THE seeds of hatred were planted in Bruce Wayne, played by Ben Affleck (Gone Girl, The Town), when he witnessed the people he cared about perishing in a catastrophe due to the actions of Superman, played by Henry Cavill (Immortals, The Cold Light of Day). As the hatred continued to grow inside of Bruce, it would not be too long before his alter ego Batman would take matters into his own hands. This fantasy had a dark brooding look that I enjoyed at first, but as the movie continued to its 2 hour and 31 minutes running time I found myself wishing scenes were brighter and clearer. Where I was concerned about Ben taking over the iconic role, it turned out my fears were unfounded; he was a strong, emotional Batman. With a strong cast of supporting actors, intense fight scenes and fun special effects; all that was missing was a great script. The story was dull and slow for the first half of the film before things started to kick into high gear. Part of the reason for this I believe was the movie studio’s intentions to make this film a vehicle for future multiple stories and spinoff characters; it was that apparent. When I left the theater I not only felt bad these 2 superheroes fought but they had to in this film.
2 1/3 stars
If it was in the textbook then it had to be true; this is what I grew up believing. I was convinced newspapers and books only contained the truth. In fact it was not until college before I learned I was wrong. In classes we learned newspaper editors could put their personal slant on a story, giving it a whole different meaning. Book publishers may have wanted to only publish the truth, but there could have been outside circumstances like government agencies that did not want the truth to come out. I remember a history class where the instructor showed the class the difference between 2 history books, one printed in the US and the other from a foreign country. The professor read about a specific wartime battle out of both books. It was startling to me because according to the US book American forces won the battle, but per the other book they lost the fight. How was that possible I wondered as I sat in my seat in total disbelief. As far as I knew history was like a science class, it dealt in exact facts; there was no margin of error or acceptable fabrication. So there I sat re-evaluating my entire belief system in what history meant to me. One of the aspects I soon realized about history that could not change was its ability to teach humans to become better by showing them where they came from. I do not mean logistically but by recording mankind’s transgressions and feats. I could show you no better example than the true story depicted in this sports drama. Germany’s 1936 Olympics was supposed to show the world that Adolf Hitler’s creation of an Arian nation was going to be the best in the world. American athlete Jesse Owens, played by Stephan James (Selma, Home Again), wanted the chance to prove them wrong. With a cast that included Jason Sudeikis (We’re the Millers, Sleeping with Other People) as Larry Snyder, Shanice Banton (Degrassi: The Next Generation, A Day Late and a Dollar Short-TV movie) as Ruth Solomon and Jeremy Irons (Margin Call, Dead Ringers) as Avery Brundage; the story was a remarkable one. Stephan James was wonderful in the role as Jesse; there was no denying this was an incredible story that is just as relevant today. This just makes it harder to say the script did not live up to this American hero. I found most of the script let its drama come from the historical events without going deeper into the characters; the scenes appeared almost cut and dried, nothing extra to offer. However even with everything I have said, I still was entertained watching this biographical picture. Just seeing such a humble man from humble beginnings reach the world stage and remain true to himself was beyond refreshing. I would say it is a feel good story but if I do I feel it does not acknowledge what Jesse continued to experience after the Olympics. Nothing could change the fact that this was an important chapter in our history.
2 3/4 stars
Early into this fantasy film it occurred to me that I may be watching descendants of Samantha and Darrin Stephens. I am referring to the television show not the movie with Nicole Kidman. Before Lena Duchannes from this movie, Bella Swan from Twilight or Hermione Granger from Harry Potter; there was Samantha and her mother Endora. Darrin and Samantha represented one of the earliest interspecies marriages between a human and a witch. So you see with today’s movies and books about witches and humans, we can trace a path back to Samantha. That is why I was not too terribly surprised with this film. Relative newcomer Alice Englert played Lena Duchannes, a young witch on the verge of celebrating a special birthday. For on that day Lena would choose whether to practice on the dark side of casting or the light side. Her path would become complicated when she fell in love with Ethan Wate, played by Alden Ehrenreich (Tetro, Twixt). The two teenagers had more in common than they realized at first. Could Ethan’s love of Lena alter the choices laid out before her? What really made this dramatic fantasy were the older cast members. Jeremy Irons (The Words, Margin Call) and Emma Thompson (Last Chance Harvey, Nanny McPhee franchise) were excellent as Lena’s uncle Macon Ravenwood and powerful evil witch Sarafine. As I expected, Viola Davis did a fine job as librarian Amma. A surprise was the enthusiastic performance from Emmy Rossum (The Phantom of the Opera, The Day After Tomorrow) as Lena’s cousin Ridley Duchannes. The movie felt a bit rushed for me as if the film studio and all involved wanted to get this story out quickly. If they would have taken their time, I believe they would have made a better looking and deeper movie experience. Having knowledge of past tales about witches and humans, this movie had more of a “been there, done that” type of feeling. Like the first time you heard about an interspecies relationship, it may have surprised you; hearing about it now was no big deal.
2 1/2 stars
After the layers are peeled away, the one thing that we have left is our word. I place a high value on a person’s word. One of my biggest pet peeves has been someone telling me they will do something, then not following through with it. When a person does not place importance on their word, it bruises my trust in them. There are always consequences to such actions and writer Rory Jansen, played by Bradley Cooper (Limitless, Hit and Run), would eventually find this out. Discovering an unnamed manuscript inside an old briefcase his wife Dora, played by Zoe Saldana (Star Trek, Columbiana), bought him; Rory chose to take the story and copy it word for word. When Dora found and read the magnificent story she thought her husband had written, that was the little push Rory needed to move forward and see if he could get “his” book published. Not only was the book published, but it became a huge bestseller; with its touching story about a young couple falling in love. This dramatic film almost had all the pieces to be an outstanding movie, but sadly did not achieve it. The issue I had with the movie was the running of 3 story lines simultaneously. If the focus was narrowed to Rory’s story line and the book’s tale, that would have been more than enough. The cast’s acting was good, with Jeremy Irons (Dead Ringers, Margin Call) doing a wonderful bit of acting as the Old Man. It really was a shame more time wasn’t spent on editing the story and allowing the characters more depth and back story. I am not sure why, but the movie attracted an elderly crowd; who came prepared with their own bags of candy. At the end of the film I felt let down. Words are what make us human; actions are what defines us.
2 1/2 stars
What is it about the western movie genre that attracts a loyal following? My maternal grandmother loved them and both my parents were big fans for years. I think it is because there is a no-nonsense purity to them. They depict a time in our history where everything seemed to have a direct cause and effect mindset. For these reasons, that is why this movie worked well on several levels. The story began straightforward enough about a town hiring law men partners Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, played by Ed Harris (The Abyss, Pollock) and Viggo Mortensen ( A History of Violence, The Road) respectively, to protect itself from the menacing rancher Randall Brage, played by Jeremy Irons (Margin Call, Georgia O’Keefe). This was Mr. Harris’ project since he was director, actor and part of the writing team. He, along with Viggo’s fine acting, really made this movie worth watching; both were outstanding in their roles. In the hands of these two actors, the script was better than I thought it would have been with different actors. The two deputies found their job becoming complicated when Allison French, played by Renee Zellweger (Miss Potter, My One and Only) arrived in town. In spite of a few slow parts, I reckon this old fashioned western is worth renting, if nothing else to see the mighty fine acting.
2 3/4 stars — DVD
This drama played more like a thriller, taking place within a 24 hour period, during the beginning of the financial crisis back in 2008. Among the all-star cast there was Kevin Spacey (Casino Jack, The Men Who Stare at Goats), Jeremy Irons (Eragon, Being Julia) and Zachary Quinto (Star Trek, Heroes) all doing a strong acting job, as employees of a high profile investment bank. As I viewed this movie, I wondered how close to reality was the portrayal of upper management’s cold heartedness towards its workers. It certainly looked hellish to me. The other thought I had, was how one individual could make or break a firm during those perilous times. There have been several movies made already about the financial meltdown and some of them have been quite good. I would have to say this movie is among those well done ones. With a great cast and consistent directing, this story will keep your attention and I believe, draw a strong reaction from you.
3 1/4 stars — DVD