THE BUSHES IN FRONT OF THE apartment building offered me ideal cover. I was leading the group on a treasure hunt. Our course was going to take us through hostile territories; I was prepared for the known hazards, but not for the unknown ones. Sneaking out of the bushes, we made our way south by staying off the main thoroughfares. The path I took was uneven, filled with potholes and covered with a mix of unkempt grass and gravel. As we came up to a large building, I had everyone cling to the side of the road where at least there was sporadic cover in case we were walking into a trap. It was the right call because 3 trap doors in the building sprung open and a series of time bombs were being hurled at us. My monkey who was 2ndin command leaped to a nearby tree and scurried up into the branches for cover. From my vantage point I could see him navigating the branches as he made his way to the one branch that was leaning over to the structure. I saw him take a few sticks of dynamite and tape them together. He then lit them and tossed it onto the roof of the building. I only had to wait a few seconds before there was a big explosion that caused the roof to cave in and bury our enemies. WHAT YOU JUST READ WAS ONE of many escapades I had with my entourage of imaginary animals. Besides my trusted monkey, I had a tiger, hawk, panther, wolf and chipmunk as part of my group. All these characters came to the forefront of my imagination after I started reading the books about Doctor Doolittle. The stories about the good doctor were some of my favorite ones when I was growing up. I identified with him because I felt I too could talk to animals; though, I was a novice at understanding them. But that did not stop me from talking to my pet parakeet and the animals several of my relatives had as pets. My conversations were not just exclusive to live animals, it also incorporated the stuffed animals I had gotten through my infant years as gifts. Animals were so easy to talk to and they provided me with hours of comfort. Due to this history when I saw the trailer for this film, I immediately knew I had to see it. Seeing one of my favorite book characters come to life was going to be a big thrill for me. THOUGH DOCTOR DOOLITTLE, PLAYED BY ROBERT Downey Jr. (Avengers franchise, The Judge), had not ventured outside of his home for several years, when the Queen of England summoned him to the palace he could not refuse. His visit would be the start of an incredible adventure. With Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In, Pain and Glory) as King Rassouli, Michael Sheen (The Twilight Sage franchise, The Queen) as Dr. Blair Mudfly, Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady, Gangs of New York) as Lord Thomas Badgley and Harry Collett (Dunkirk, Casualty-TV) as Tommy Stubbins; this adventure, family comedy belonged in a litter box. I know I may have been more invested in this film than others; however, nothing was right about this picture except the animals. I had a hard time understanding Robert’s character due to his quiet mumbling of the words with an odd accent. The script had nothing fun or exciting in it. I felt the writers just threw a bunch of animals into the script to add some slapstick to the dull story. Maybe young viewers will enjoy this movie; but for the young of heart, there would be better enjoyment found if one read the books instead. There was an extra scene during the ending credits.
1 ½ stars
MOST EVERYONE I KNOW has/had one favorite relative they have enjoyed being with the most. For some it was/is a grandparent or an aunt/uncle. I remember the feelings I would get when walking into one of my closest relative’s home. There was a settled in feeling to the place, if that makes any sense. You know those types of homes you visit where you are afraid to sit on the furniture or eat in a room because everything is in place, looking spic and span clean. Possibly some homes might even have furniture that has a plastic or cloth cover over it. Does anyone remember what it was like to sit on plastic covers on a warm summer day? The answer was sticky. That was nothing like my relative’s home. Their place had furniture with deflated cushions on the sofa and chairs as if they were tired from holding up the bottoms of people for so many years. There were a variety of knick-knacks placed around the rooms, from framed photos to small ceramic pieces shaped into animals and dancers. And for me my favorite part was the kitchen because it always provided me with recently baked cookies, pies or cakes. AS FOR THIS RELATIVE they had an all encompassing hug that made me feel safe. After receiving one of their big hugs they would lightly pinch one of my bulbous cheeks as a warm, pure smile spread across their face. I cannot recall ever not getting greeted that way any time I went to visit their home. Because of their disposition and maybe rank in the family, their home was always a safe haven for all the relatives; there never was a fight or disagreement inside their home. I guess the best way to describe it would be to say it was a peaceful place always filled with the smells of something cooking in the kitchen. Though there were few modern devices or appliances, you never felt like you were missing out on something. I can remember bringing my friends there one time and watching them enjoy this one particular cookie that was my favorite. So it wasn’t just me I realized; everyone who met my relative always left with feeling the same way: comforted, safe and joyful. I got to experience these feelings once again while watching this charming, adventure comedy. SEARCHING FOR A BIRTHDAY gift for his aunt Paddington, voiced by Ben Whishaw (The Lobster, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer), found the perfect gift at Mr. Gruber’s, played by Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady, Gangs of New York), shop. But while Paddington was saving up to buy the item it was stolen and the evidence pointed to Paddington. With Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water, Maudie) as Mary Brown, Hugh Bonneville (Notting Hill, Downton Abbey-TV) as Henry Brown and Hugh Grant (Cloud Atlas, About a Boy) as Phoenix Buchanan; this was such an entertaining movie that caused me to have a smile on my face and warmth in my heart. The story evoked feelings of excitement, joy, sadness and comfort; I actually enjoyed this sequel more than the first film. Sure some of the humor was predictable and corny, but it did not bother me; it only added an old fashioned sweetness to the story. For those who want a film to take the whole family to, from child to adult, this would be the one to go see. After viewing this picture I wished I was friends with Paddington. Oh, and do stay for the beginning credits to see a fun scene.
3 ½ stars
SEEING things through someone else’s eyes would have been one of the superpowers I would have picked if I had the opportunity. Since it was non-existent it took me a long time to achieve something comparable, where I could gain insight into a person’s train of thought or experience of a situation. The reason why I would have liked this supernatural ability is because I did not realize 2 people could react so differently to the same event. Imagine from the time of that single event, two people wind up taking different paths in life based on their experience of the situation. So you might understand how being able to see something through another person’s eyes could be beneficial. I absolutely appreciate getting feedback from people; for one reason, to compare their feelings to mine and secondly, I believe the more reactions an individual can be exposed to, the better it allows for a course of action if it is warranted. Let me give you an example of something that happened to me and let us see how you would experience it. WE had been dating for nearly six months, reaching a level of comfort with each other similar to a couple in a long term relationship. Due to certain actions, events and I believe miscommunication our relationship disintegrated without much drama. It was decided we would no longer be a couple. As we worked through our separation, it had only been a couple of weeks when I received an email confirming the things we agreed upon. Within the body of that email they happened to mention they had just returned from having a magical evening with someone they had just met. I sat there reading about how one should grab those magic moments because you never know where they will lead. I was rather shocked by this as you can imagine. There was no need for them to tell me about their date—after we had just broken up 2 weeks prior. How would you feel if you were in this situation? Was it a vindictive move, did they want me to be jealous or were they not even aware they were being hurtful? If I took it as being mean spirited, my memories of them would be forever altered. You just never know how things will turn out without all the facts. UPON receiving a death notification about a woman he once knew Tony Webster, played by Jim Broadbent (Cloud Atlas, The Iron Lady), experiences unsettling memories from his past. This film festival winning drama also starred Charlotte Rampling (The Duchess, 45 Years) as Veronica Ford, Harriet Walker (Sense and Sensibility, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Margaret Webster and Michelle Dockery (Hanna, Downton Abbey-TV) as Susie Webster. Based on the award winning novel, I thought the entire movie should have been all about Jim’s and Charlotte’s characters. They were excellent to the point I did not pay much attention to anyone else. The story was interesting and I did not mind the moving back and forth between two time periods; however, the pace of this movie was slow enough to make me tired. It was a shame since I liked the concept of the story, the acting and the direction of the story. I simply did not find the telling of this story cohesive. On an upbeat note I did enjoy seeing how memories have an effect on people.
2 1/4 stars
Do you suppose between the realms of genius and madness there is a thin, semi-permeable membrane? There has to be because I have seen so many individuals who have greatness in them but other factors kept clogging it up from reaching its full maturation. If I remember correctly there was a world famous pianist who suffered with the fear that their fingers were made of glass; that they were capable of completely shattering off their hands or something like that. There are some creative things I have seen where I just wonder how the artist came up with the idea to make such an incredible piece of art. Even some of the new architecture for skyscrapers amazes me. It just makes me think that one needs a little madness in them to excel in a creative or scientific thought process. I remember this person who managed several celebrities and they always said most actors were crazy. Maybe some were, I do not know; however, I would think there has to be some mind manipulation to be able to inhabit a different persona. In fact I remember this other individual who was super smart; I am talking genius level. The things they talked about and did were way above everyone’s head. As time went on some changes came over them and their behavior turned odd. Nothing dangerous but I would say not rational anymore. Their life started going down into a dark place and they became addicted, or if not then constantly used an abundance of drugs. It was sad to see and then one day they just disappeared; no one knew what happened to them. BASED on true events Miss Shepherd, played by Maggie Smith (Harry Potter franchise, Downton Abbey-TV), decided to take up residence in the driveway of the home belonging to Alan Bennett, played by Alex Jennings (The Queen, Babel). Her van was her home. This film festival nominee was a perfect vehicle for Maggie to soar through the story. With touches of drama and comedy I thought she did an incredible job. I had no idea there was any truth to this unbelievable story; to tell you the truth, I had a hard time believing it. There is much to like about this film; the actors such as Jim Broadbent (Cloud Atlas, Moulin Rouge) as Underwood were all well suited to their roles. As time went on I found myself wishing I knew more about Alan and Miss Shepherd. The few flashback scenes were interesting but I did not feel as strong of a connection to the characters as I wanted. I almost felt this biographical dramedy would be more effective as a staged play. It seemed as if the scenes were only scratching the surface of the characters; there could have been more information given into what made each character tick. Nonetheless the fans of Maggie and those new to her will not be disappointed with such a fine performance.
As I made my way up the seldom used staircase to the attic I could hear the wood groaning under my feet. I rarely need to be up there where essentially it has turned into one large storage room. As I lifted the door open at the top of the stairs I began to take in air that had not moved in years. Walking through the clothes bins, one of them attracted my eye. Through its semiopaque lid I saw the outline of some animal. I opened the bin and lying on top was a sweater I used to wear years ago. It was purchased during a period of time where Nordic themed fashion was the rage. This copper colored sweater with the image of a large antlered stag across the front was something I thought was the coolest thing back then. Everyone back then was wearing sweaters with various images of animals in winter scenes splayed across their chest. If the sleeves had multicolored yarns woven partially up the sides, the sweater was extra cool. I started to remember those times where all of us appeared to have had more fun, less responsibilities and less news that horrified us like it does these days. As the sunlight falling in from the one small window at the front of the attic began to dim; I put back the sweater, found the item I was originally looking for and came downstairs. That was the last time I reveled in those type of memories of an easier carefree past until I saw this fun retro action film. AFTER surviving the crash of Air Force One in a remote area of Finland President William Alan Moore, played Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers franchise, Reasonable Doubt), had to depend on 13 year old Oskari, played by Omni Tommila (Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, Last Cowboy Standing), who was in the middle of a village ritual to being considered a man. Time would not be an abundant commodity for either of them. This adventure film was a hoot to watch with its throwback style and story. I enjoyed seeing Samuel toning it down to play a more submissive type of character than he normally portrays. The cast which included Ray Stevens (The Book of Eli, Divergent franchise) as Morris and Felicity Huffman (Transamerica, Desperate Housewives-TV) as the CIA director all looked like they enjoyed playing their characters. The story was somewhat predictable and cheesy; but I think that was what the writers were trying to do to create this picture that reminded me of those action movies from the 1980s and 90s. This was a fun no-frills film that favored a class of movies from a distant past. Several scenes had spoken Finnish with English subtitles.
2 1/2 stars
Even though it may have been painful to learn some of these relationship rules, I hold all of them close to my heart: No one can go to bed angry; Never raise your voice; Remember to talk about how you feel; If something is bothering you discuss it immediately, not months later; Realize there will be some things you will have to do that you will not like; Show your love. This is not a complete list and I realize each person has their own rules; but it is safe to say relationships require constant input as they evolve in time. I have seen couples that have grown distant from each other because they did not take into account that each of them was growing at a different pace and they did not talk about it. Communication is vital in my opinion and when I have met someone who never used the words “I” and “feel” in the same sentence, it immediately sent up a red flag for me. If you want to see a couple dealing with their changes in an adult, real and raw way then follow Nick and Meg, played by Jim Broadbent (Another Year, The Iron Lady) and Lindsay Duncan (About Time, Alice in Wonderland), in this award winning comedic drama. For their 30th wedding anniversary Meg and Nick decided to spend it in Paris, the place where it all began for them years ago. The beauty of the city remained the same but things looked different with older eyes. I do not think this movie would have worked if they had used any other actors besides Jim and Lindsay. They blended so well together that I was experiencing a nervous anticipation during some of their conversations. For his small role I thought Jeff Goldblum (The Switch, The Fly) was wonderful as Morgan, one of Nick’s former proteges. When I say this was an adult film, it is meant to express the real issues this couple was experiencing. Though I believe younger adults would find this film boring, I think the movie honestly shows what people go through in their relationships. I did find times where I was becoming bored with some of the bickering; it felt like the same subject was being rehashed. There will be some of you that will find the script too wordy. I know it is early in the season, but I can see Jim Broadbent being nominated for this role. When it comes to relationships, if you want to make them bloom you sometimes have to get your hands dirty.
I do not need to know how the beautiful baked dessert placed before me was made. All that matters to me is that it tastes as good as it looks with its dark chocolate syrup dripping down the sides of the spongy chocolate chip cake. The same can be said about the art exhibit I attended, where the artist created these incredible colorful sculptures out of blown glass. It was beyond me how he could take such a delicate medium and produce these exquisite pieces that were placed among the foliage of the local conservatory. Most of the time I prefer not knowing how something was created because I feel it takes away from the visceral experience. It would be similar to having prior knowledge of all the tricks and magical sequences a haunted house amusement park attraction has before you go through it. What fun would that be? This biographical comedic drama is a good example of me not being familiar with the subject, yet I still found this movie to be a highly entertaining experience. I had no idea what was English football. As I viewed this film I wondered if this sport was what here in the United States we call soccer. Michael Sheen (MIdnight in Paris, Twilight franchise) played abrasive, arrogant coach Brian Clough. The story was about the challenges that faced him when he took over the coaching duties from his bitter rival Don Revie, played by Colm Meaney (Law Abiding Citizen, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine-TV), who had taken the Leeds United football team and made them one of the most successful in the league. With Tom Hooper’s (Les Miserables, The King’s Speech) direction, I thought he did a fantastic job in keeping the story steady, letting the actors shine. I have been impressed with Michael Sheen’s body of work so far; this picture only continued it. Adding their specialness to the rest of the cast were Timothy Spall (Ginger & Rosa, Enchanted) as Peter Taylor and Jim Broadbent (Cloud Atlas, The Iron Lady) as Chairman Sam Longson. My only complaint about the film was the use of flashbacks; I had to remind myself of the time frame periodically. To tell you the truth the story was more about egos and personalities than about actual football games. For someone who had no knowledge about this sport, I still had a good time watching this DVD. An added bonus was researching the events of this film afterwards and learning more about the history of the sport. So not only was this an entertaining film, it taught me something new.
3 stars — DVD
It seems more so now than ever, higher profile crime stories are being reported in two versions. The first one covers the obvious details such as location, subject description and approximate time. After the crime scene has been secured and evidence collected, the public gets a second report that shares some of the classified details on how the crime was solved. With the advances in technology it appears to me the stories are getting more high tech. Now I am sure some details never get released to the public which may be part of the reason people are more skeptical, when it comes to news stories. Either way I find the high tech reports to be fascinating. If you feel the same way and like a good crime story then this movie is something you would enjoy. When a bomb exploded in a crowded marketplace, injuring and killing civilians; London authorities assembled an investigative legal team to uncover the motives, in preparation for a criminal trial. Part of the team included former lovers Martin Rose and Claudia Simmons-Howe, played by Eric Bana (Munich, The Time-Traveler’s Wife) and Rebecca Hall (Iron Man 3, The Town). Due to their past history together, they could possibly jeopardize the investigation as the trail of clues took them to unexpected places. I enjoyed this crime mystery film because it provided a stimulating rush to the mind instead of the ears and eyes. Without the use of special effects, the movie relied on dialog to tell the story, providing a stylish look in my opinion. The way the clues were uncovered meant I had to keep up and pay attention, staying engaged throughout the film. I thought the entire cast did an excellent job though I did feel the chemistry was lacking between Eric and Rebecca. Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady, Cloud Atlas) was interesting as the Attorney General as Riz Ahmed (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Four Lions) was, playing Nazaul Shama. As the movie progressed it started to confuse me. I do not know if it seemed more improbable, but I found it harder to follow. On the other hand as I was driving home from the theater I did wonder how much truth was there to some of the scenes I had just witnessed. A brief scene that showed blood.
2 1/2 stars
Some years ago for my birthday I received a gift of a reading from a psychic. Before going into the session I was told to remember the things that did not make sense to me. One thing said, that had no meaning for me, was her seeing me standing in a room surrounded by people dressed in funny outfits, moving to music. This was said several years prior to me attending, let alone teaching, an aerobic class. She also said I should pay particular attention to any person with red hair, for they have something to offer me. To this day I still think of that whenever I am introduced to a red haired person. Part of my reading delved into what she referred to as my past lives. According to her I was a spy in a previous life, so I would have easy access to two opposing forces. I was an educator and a leader along with being skilled in the use of a crossbow. Though I may not have understood everything told to me, I walked away with the idea that a person keeps returning to this world again and again until they complete their challenge correctly. This same notion could be applied to this expansive movie. With multiple stories set in the past, present and future; the actors took on several roles in this visual extravaganza. Leaving you to figure out which star was playing what role, part of the cast had Tom Hanks (Larry Crowne, Charlie Wilson’s War), Halle Berry (X-Men franchise, Monster’s Ball), Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady, Another Year) and Susan Sarandon (Arbitrage, The Lovely Bones). Adding in the previews, this 3 hour viewing was too much, trying too hard to be a saga for the ages. Some of the stories were more interesting to me; I would have rather seen an entire movie made out of one of them. There was pressure for me to keep up with each story line as the film kept jumping back and forth, seeing no connection between them at first. I felt everyone associated with the making of this film was spread too thin, which made for a meandering stream of babble at times. For me it seemed as if the writers and directors were deliberately obtuse, leaving this pseudo epic film open to multiple interpretations. The message I walked away with was we are all connected, with our actions having a timeless effect throughout the centuries. I got the same message from the psychic in a lot less time without the fear of my bladder exploding.
2 2/3 stars
Happiness can be such an elusive feeling for some people. It took me a long time to realize that no one else could make me happy; only I am responsible for my own happiness. Granted the people in our lives heighten the feeling, but it ultimately has to come from within. When two people commit to a loving relationship, as the years pass, their levels of happiness can rise and fall. I found this charming film had the perfect example of a happy couple, Tom and Gerri. The irony was not lost on me regarding their names being the same as the cat and mouse cartoon characters. The movie traversed four seasons in the lives of joyfully married Gerri and Tom, played by Ruth Sheen (Vanity Fair, High Hopes) and Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady, Gangs of New York). For the many years they had been married, the couple had maintained a blissful easiness with each other; while everyone around them seemed to be suffering various stages of unhappiness. Jim and Ruth were outstanding in their roles, bringing a tender believability to the characters. I loved watching their relaxed, supportiveness for each other. Where they were drama free, Geri’s colleague was nothing of the sort. Mary, played by Lesley Manville (Secrets & Lies, Vera Drake), was a single woman desperate to be in a relationship. You see, Mary thought being in a relationship would make her happy. With each season we watch what life would offer to each of these different people, in the life of Tom and Gerri. This movie may not appeal to younger people. The sensibilities and emotions portrayed were more seasoned. For me, I felt I was watching a slice of real life; filled with everyday issues that we all have encountered at one time or another.
3 1/3 stars — DVD