WHEN I HEAR ABOUT AN ALTERCATION that took place in the city, I shudder when I see the victim was doing something I used to do. And when I say something, it literally refers to nothing unusual; for example, me just walking to my car. There was a period where I would go down into the city to the dance clubs and bars. Now you might think this was strange for me since I did not drink alcohol, but I wanted to dance and watch music videos. Sometimes I would drive, other times I would take public transportation. Depending on how the evening was going I could be dancing at the club until they closed, or I could be there for an hour before making my way home. My point is I might be walking alone to my car at 3 in the morning. I knew to be cautious or at least aware of my surroundings, but I was not fearful. Granted, on side streets I would always walk down the middle of them. Riding public transportation never was a concern for me. Whether I was on a bus or train, I never thought something could go wrong; at least, not to the extent I read and see in the news. MAYBE I WAS LUCKY THAT NOTHING befell me back then; however, there were several times when I was scared. Once while walking down the street in the afternoon a guy came up to me and asked for a cigarette. When I said I didn’t smoke he started yelling and calling me names. I tried to walk away but he kept shoving me. Not until he pushed me into a plate glass window did he take off running. I used to replay that scene over and over in my head, imagining different endings where I would come out victorious. Another time I was walking to my car after dinner and noticed a small group of teenagers walking towards me. I made a quick decision and turned into a building’s walkway, despite not knowing where it would lead. Luckily, I wound up in the alley just as I heard their laughter echoing out from the walkway. Quickly I ran down the alley until I found another walkway through a building that lead me back to the street, where I ran all the way to my car. Again, as I made my way home I fantasized different scenarios where I was a boxer or martial arts expert who quickly subdued my assailants into submission…or unconsciousness. The only difference between me and the main character in this dramatic comedy is I never acted on it. AFTER BEING MUGGED BY A MOTORCYCLE gang Casey, played by Jesse Eisenberg (The End of the Tour, The Social Network), looked for a way to defend himself. He found his answer at a karate school. With Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle, Disobedience) as Sensei, Imogen Poots (Green Room, Frank & Lola) as Anna, Steve Terada (Crank, Memoirs of a Geisha) as Thomas and Phillip Andre Botello (Pledge, Road Wars) as Kenneth; this film festival nominated movie was wickedly dark, violent and funny. At first, I felt Jesse was doing a repeat of some of his previous roles, but he hit the mark as a timid man on the spectrum. At least I took him to be a person on the spectrum. I am a little familiar with Alessandro’s work and I especially admired him in this role as the owner and head of the karate school. Between my laughter and shock there were a few bumps in the road inside the script, where it became predictable. However, I was enjoying the performances too much to let the predictability bother me. Again, I want to stress this was a real dark comedy with blood and violence. Despite it, I did wonder what would have happened to me if I had joined a karate school.
SURE, I WOULD LOVE TO OPEN a package of chocolate chip cookies and eat all of them up, but could I do it? Okay, maybe I could but do I really need to have so many at one time? As a kid I would try to take more than I needed, especially if I knew someone else was trying to do the same thing; but these days I am not such a greedy person. There is a periodical I get that has a section devoted to high priced homes across the country. When I see some of the houses listed I am constantly amazed at how much people will pay for a roof over their head; and isn’t that all a person is looking for, a roof over their head? One house had 6 bathrooms. I could not understand why someone would need so many and so much stuff inside when the house only had 4 bedrooms. Looking at the furnishings inside some of these places, I cannot imagine how much people must have paid for the items. My first thought is I wish I knew what the owners did for a living to afford such a place. Houses with a multitude of massively sized rooms that have offshoots of other rooms is something that makes no sense to me. Why does a person need so many rooms? THE ANSWER I COME UP WITH is they like to show-off what they have, or they are simply greedy. Wouldn’t average bathroom tiles do the same job as some exotic imported ones that were made of a rare substance? I remember being at a house where the owner was bragging about their dining room chandelier. It had fancy crystal pieces hanging all around the gold karat structure. I thought it was hideous myself but would never say that out loud. However, the bulbs were like any other bulbs; in my opinion, there was no reason to spend so much money on what basically was a light fixture. It just shows me people like to flaunt their money and believe they can never have too much money. Not that I am saintly or anything close to it, but I have always said I wish I was at a place where I did not have to think about what I was purchasing. I would like to know how that feels. And you know, even if I were to win the lottery I cannot see myself becoming this greedy individual who wants more and more stuff. I do not know if I could say the same thing about the people in this dramatic thriller. VINCENT AND ANTON ZALESKI, PLAYED BY Jesse Eisenberg (Now You See Me franchise, American Ultra) and Alexander Skarsgard (The Legend of Tarzan, True Blood-TV), had it all figured out. All that was needed was a little finesse and a second less of time. With Salma Hayek (Some Kind of Beautiful, Beatriz at Dinner) as Eva Torres, Michael Mando (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Better Call Saul-TV) as Mark Vega and Johan Heldenbergh (The Zookeeper’s Wife, The Broken Circle Breakdown) as Amish Elder; there was an element of excitement to this story. Jesse appeared for the most part like the same type of character, fast talking and fidgety, he has done before. I could not get over Alexander, however. He played an interesting character and his transformation was a surprise for me. Since I am talking about acting I will add Salma played a fun part and looked like she was having a good time with it. The script began strong for the first half of this film but after awhile I felt it was getting stuck in a rut. I wondered if the story was based on a true event but there was no mention. Do you need to pay full price to see this picture? Not really, you could wait for a bargain matinee and save some money if you like. I know I would have done it if I could.
2 ½ stars
The two had grown up in the same small city, got married and had adequate jobs. Upon first look their life together looked fine. Truthfully there was nothing wrong except their dreams and hopes eventually outgrew the city. Each of them wanted something more. They knew it was time to make a change; so they pared down their belongings and moved out of state to a large metropolitan city. Going from a quaint colonial style house to a 2 bedroom walk up apartment was an adjustment; but it was worth it because their new city could support their dreams. After finding jobs and settling into the rhythm of their new life they explored the city, started doing volunteer work and signed up for various meet up groups; all in the hopes of expanding their social network. As time went on one of them was earning some success at their job, advancing up the ladder as they say. The other did not have such luck and started to feel they were reaching a dead end. With all the expenses of living in a big city compared to their hometown, quitting a job was not in the cards just yet. The two maintained a strong supportive bond between each other, but their shared responsibilities started to go out of alignment. As the one was gaining financial success the other only had incremental raises. The financial divide kept growing to the point where a discussion ensued about remaining in the city. Where one was finally reaching some of their life’s goals, the other felt the city could not offer them what they needed to succeed. It was a conundrum. HOPING to find success Bobby Dorfman, played by Jesse Eisenberg (The End of the Tour, Now You See Me franchise), left his home in the Bronx and moved out to Hollywood. It could not hurt having an uncle out there who was a famous agent. Written and directed by Woody Allen (Midnight in Manhattan, Magic in the Moonlight) this comedic romance had a spectacular look to it. The 1930s décor and style made this film a real treat to watch on the big screen. The perfect accompaniment to the visual aspect was the soundtrack; I thoroughly enjoyed the jazzy music. Starring along with Jesse was Steve Carell (The Big Short, Freeheld) as Phil Stern, Kristen Stewart (American Ultra, Still Alice) as Vonnie and Blake Lively (The Shallows, The Age of Adaline) as Veronica. Though I enjoyed all of them I have to say if they ever decide to do a film biography of Woody Allen then they need to cast Jesse. Using Woody’s words Jesse was perfectly cast in this film. There were parts in this movie where Woody was doing narrations and when the scene moved to Jesse talking it was almost identical in speech. The script was fun with some excellent lines in it, though I did find it somewhat predictable. For a Woody Allen comedy this was more like a light version. I felt there could have been more to mine in the story. It was great film to watch and listen to; I just wish it would have succeeded more in telling a good story.
2 ¾ stars
Unlimited possibilities wait for many rousing from their nightly sleep. For them their day begins with a blank canvas; they let the day lead in what activities and events will be chosen. It is a random process that involves some level of spontaneity. Imagine the freedom one experiences when they are not tethered to a schedule or list of chores for the day. It has been so long that I actually cannot remember if I have ever experienced that type of freedom, to wake up with the attitude that whatever the day brings would be fine. If I do not have a list of things I need to handle for the day, I at least have a mental plan of what I want to accomplish. I have mentioned before that people can set their watches by me; I am most comfortable when I am on my internal schedule. It frees me up from taking time out to make decisions since all of them were made when the schedule was created in my mind, so I can go on automatic. I know when I wake up the first thing I do is eat breakfast; aware no matter the time, when the clock reaches the noon hour it is time for me to prepare for my 2nd meal. Now the downfall to being this way is when something unexpected happens. An example would be my daily ride to the office. I take the same route every day, knowing when I have to get into the right lane to avoid being stopped by cars trying to turn left or aware where I have to swerve slightly to avoid a pothole. If something like a stalled car or broken railroad crossing backs up traffic and causes a detour, I am thrown off my schedule. Honestly, it is rough for me when things don’t go as planned which is why I can relate to the magicians in this action thriller. AFTER lying low for a year the magicians called “The Four Horsemen” reappear for a spectacular magic trick. They were not expecting their trick to take them halfway around the world. The returning cast such as Jesse Eisenberg (American Ultra, The End of the Tour) as J. Daniel and Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers franchise, Infinitely Polar Bear) as Dylan Rhodes were joined by new characters Lula, played by Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield, The Interview) and Walter Mabry, played by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter franchise, Kill Your Darlings). There were the same spectacular magic tricks in this comedy but I missed the way they were explained as in the previous movie. The scenes were flashy but I did not like the camera work; some scenes were too frenetic for me. I could have handled all of this but because the script was such a mess I soon became bored with the story. There wasn’t the same sense of tense danger or excitement as the first film. In my opinion the writers tried to do too much to make this sequel “bigger” and it just did not work. I recently saw last weekend’s box office results and have to assume the movie studio was not expecting the results they got with the final figures.
1 ¾ 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
You think you know someone and then all of a sudden they share something about themselves that changes your perceptions about them. Thinking an individual is a cheapskate only to find out they volunteer their time weekly at a food bank has to make one modify their feelings about that person. I remember this individual who always appeared to be fearful, never able to make a decision because they were afraid they would be making the wrong choice. Fast forward several years I come to find out this person picked up and moved to Europe for a job as a critic for a newspaper; I was absolutely stunned. Heck, I suffered weeks of anxiety just to move to a different neighborhood of the city. When the people we have to change our attitudes about are not directly connected to us, we do not suffer any ramifications. But when it is someone close, it can have a life altering effect on us. Being in a committed relationship for several years, you would think you know someone pretty well; I know I did. Imagine you find out they did something that caused a monumental shift in your relationship, like gambling away your entire savings without you ever knowing they had a gambling problem or they had been carrying on an affair with one of their coworkers, This type of news can be devastating to the point where one may never be able to recover from it. The young couple in this action comedy had a similar dilemma. Laid-back and usually stoned Mike Howell, played by Jesse Eisenberg (The End of the Tour, The Social Network), did not understand why people were trying to kill him. His girlfriend Phoebe Larson, played by Kristen Stewart (Clouds of Sils Maria, Twilight franchise), wanted to know where Mike learned how to defend himself. The concept for this movie was only good because of Jesse in the role. Being such an affable and likable guy, the idea of him being a fighter was something I would never associate with him. Along with Connie Britton (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Friday Night Lights-TV) as Victoria Laseter and Topher Grace (Interstellar, Spider-Man 3) as Adrian Yates, I thought this film was an uneven mess. There were parts that were fun and exciting but then other areas made no sense and were dull. Topher’s character was annoying to me; I could not figure out if he was supposed to be a joke or not. If it was not for Jesse I would have been totally bored by this comedy, that did not have anything especially funny in it. So it turns out I thought I was going to see an exciting comedy movie and wound up seeing neither. There were several scenes with blood and violence.
1 3/4 stars
Even if someone created a non-caloric doughnut I would not eat it if the person was not respectful and nice to other people. I would rather cycle an extra 30 minutes to burn off a calorie rich doughnut before eating one of their calorie free ones. Recently I saw a posting on the internet that said, “It does not cost you anything to be nice.” How true that is for all of us. For those people who have obtained some level of celebrity status I think these words should be heeded even more. It seems easier or maybe I should say more prevalent these days to put celebrities up on a pedestal. Now there are some that may deserve a little extra praise, but all in all they are just human beings like the rest of us. I remember the time when I was an extra on a movie set; a couple of the actors from the cast were throwing major attitude at all the extras. I thought how rude it was of them, some of these extras are idolizing you and you are standing there acting like a jerk. There was a part of me that wanted to go up to them, tap them on the shoulder and say, “Excuse me you are only an actor, you did not find a cure for cancer where you should be acting like you are something special to the world.” On the other hand, there were a few actors on the set who were so kind and generous to the extras that they won me over since I had only known them from the way the media was portraying them. Funny how a public image can be so different from the actual person, just see what happens in this dramatic film. AUTHOR David Foster Wallace, played by Jason Segel (The Five-Year Engagement, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), burst onto the scene with his incredible book, “Infinite Jest.” Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky, played by Jesse Eisenberg (Now You See Me, The Social Network), wanting to make his own splash by getting the ultimate interview, arranged a 5 day trip with David during the end of his book tour. The two could not have been more different or were they? From a true story this was one of the more cerebral films I have seen in a long time. Gratefully the actors had such good chemistry that I really felt I was in on their little road trip. I have not read the book nor was familiar with David until this movie but my curiosity has been piqued now. This drama may not be for everyone because the action was kept to a bare minimum; however, for a character study on celebrity fame this film offered a unique take on it.
Walking into a room filled with strangers does not create anxiety for some people. It could be a business convention, workshop, classroom or a family event and it would not be a problem for a person. Years of teaching class has helped me overcome my instinctive fear of being thrown into a situation with a bunch of strangers. If there is no connection between me and the other people other than we are all in the same line of work, than I am comfortable. However, when I have gone as someone’s guest my first instinct is to hold back and be an observer. I am sure many of us have been in a situation where we were meeting our significant other’s family and though we were told they would not be judging us, deep inside we knew they would be. Sure you want to be on your best behavior and make a good impression, but the pressure can get to you. I cannot tell you how many times I have been in this type of situation, where I not only was careful with my verbiage, but was starving for fear someone would catch me with a piece of food dripping off my facial hair or stuck between my teeth before I could clean it up. There was no way I could not sympathize for Blu, voiced by Jesse Eisenberg (Now You See Me, 30 Minutes or Less), in this animated adventure sequel. Discovering they may not be the last of their kind; Blu and his wife Jewel, voiced by Anne Hathaway (Love & Other Drugs, Bride Wars), left the comfort of Rio de Janeiro and headed out to the deepest parts of the Amazon jungle in hopes of finding blue feathered friends. It would turn into an adventure that would bring a whole new meaning to the word family for Blu, Jewel and their kids. This sequel stayed pretty true to the original one. It would help to see the first one, but one could easily watch and follow this film without seeing the original movie. This comedy adventure’s main attraction was the big dance and song numbers. Each one was fun to watch and provided a huge palette of colorful figures crossing the screen. Musical artist Bruno Mars (Honeymoon in Vegas) had the perfect role playing Roberto, including a big solo performance. The story was the weak link, taking parts of the movie “Meet the Parents” as one of its story lines. I do not think children would care since there was a steady stream of jokes and comical characters. All of the cast from the first film were here including Nigel, voiced by Jemaine Clement (Dinner with Schmucks, Predicament), along with some new characters such as Andy Garcia (Rob the Mob, At Middleton) as Eduardo. This was an enjoyable fun film that did not stray from its winning formula established with the previous one. I believe everyone would feel comfortable being a guest at the showing of this enjoyable movie.
2 1/2 stars
My first experiences with live magicians it turned out were not really performing magic. In fact, they were not even magicians. I would see them in stores surrounded by throngs of people. Each time I spotted one I would run up and join the crowd, enthralled with the magician’s flair during their presentation. I saw glasses that would never fog up, even if they were held over a steaming pot of water. There was the wonder knife that a magician would thrust up into the air to show its sharp gleaming blade, just before he used it to slice through a metal pipe. At the time I thought these individuals were doing magic; instead, they were product demonstrators. As a young kid I still could be entertained by the different demonstrations. It was the same feeling I had while watching this adventure film about illusionists. Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network, Zombieland), Woody Harrelson (Seven Psychopaths, Rampart), Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers, Home and Away) and Dave Franco (21 Jump Street, Warm Bodies) played street performers who became The Four Horsemen, a popular magic act that appeared to rob a bank in the middle of their act. Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Shutter Island) played FBI agent Dylan Rhodes who was determined to catch the illusionists, but always it seemed was a step behind. Even with the help of Interpol detective Alma Dray, played by Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds, Beginners) and magic debunker author Thaddeus Bradley, played by Morgan Freeman (The Prestige, Children of Men); it still seemed as if they were just pawns in the Four Horsemen’s high stakes game. The movie started out strong and fast; it was easy to keep up. The magic tricks kept getting bigger and more elaborate as they were expertly performed by the four actors. Everything was working to make this film a fun exciting experience to watch. But halfway through the story it became unfocused and lost steam. The quick editing and shifts in the story became too much to handle. Frantic pacing only deflated the thrills; I started to get bored. Now I may be gullible when it comes to magic, but I know when smoke and mirrors are being used in an attempt to create a passable story.
2 1/2 stars
I hope I never lose touch with the little kid inside of me. Harking back to the older, classic animated movies from my youth; this film shined like a well done piece of art. With a beautiful palette of colors, I enjoyed the vibrant scenes that led me through the story. Blu, a domesticated blue colored macaw voiced by Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network, Zombieland), was one of only two such birds left in the world. With the hope of becoming mates, Blu and his owner were flown down to Rio de Janeiro to meet Jewel, voiced by Anne Hathaway (Get Smart, The Devil Wears Prada). The two actors were perfect choices to voice their characters. Jesse with his distinctive way of delivering his lines and Anne’s ability to project sweetness or irritation with her voice, along with her wonderful singing, made Blu and Jewel come to life. This movie had everything: there was plenty of thrilling action when the two birds were kidnapped, a smattering of musical numbers and amusing humor throughout; I had a great time watching this fun, exciting film. All that was missing was my little table and chair from when I was a child, so I could have had my glass of chocolate milk and chocolate chip cookie.
3 1/4 stars — DVD