SADLY, IT DID CROSS MY MIND IF any of the theater patrons were looking at me as a threat; these are the times we live in now. I was the only one, as far as I could see, who was wearing a jacket inside the theater. Following my usual routine, I was standing outside in the hallway of the theater waiting for the previews to begin. I was observing the people walking in and then guessing if they were here to see the same movie as me. There was so much buzz about today’s film, I assumed it would only make people more curious to see it. With the film being shown in several of the movie theaters of the multiplex, I watched as the people filtered into the individual theaters that lined the long hallway. Sure enough, there were several couples who had their children with them to see this picture. I cannot tell you how much this always upsets me; taking young children to R rated films, especially when the rating is meant for the level of violence depicted in the movie. As I was looking at these families, I wondered what affect this film would have on these young kids. From there my mind began wandering off, where I started remembering some of my classmates when I was back in school. IT SEEMED AS IF EACH CLASSROOM had at least one bully, one creepy and one scary student. I think I mentioned in a past movie review a student I knew who was unkind to animals. He was not someone I ever associated with and for good reason. There was also a classmate who found it funny to make snowballs with a rock in the center of them. He equally enjoyed throwing these snowballs at kids and buses. I can still remember the feeling I had around certain students; they never showed any remorse or concern for the individuals they harmed. They scared me, causing me to always be cautious around them. Anytime I would see one of them in the hallway between classes, I would veer off as far as I could to the side, so as not to get in close contact with them. As I am writing this review, I am now recalling how one of these scary students wanted to enlist in the military so he could kill people. What I have just written in this review is to show you how today’s dramatic, crime thriller affected me when I went to see it. BEFORE THERE WAS A BATMAN THERE was Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix (Her, You Were Never Really Here), who wanted to be a stand-up comic. How in the world did telling jokes turn into a deadly profession? Find out in this film festival winning movie. With Robert De Niro (The Comedian, Dirty Grandpa) as Murray Franklin, Zazie Beetz (Geostorm, Deadpool 2) as Sophie Dumond, Frances Conroy (The Aviator, Six Feet Under-TV) as Penny Fleck and Brett Cullen (Ghost Rider, Person of Interest-TV) as Thomas Wayne; this film was disturbing to watch. Joaquin was unbelievable in the role. Having lost 52 pounds, I had a hard time looking at Joaquin; most of his bones had become prominent. The story plotted out a logical progression in the transformation of his character; however, there were times I felt it was predictable and reminiscent of a couple of other films I had seen in the past. With both the script and the filming having a darkness to it; I could understand the concerns people have expressed about this origin story. Ultimately this is a fictional film movie based on a cartoon character; but, it certainly will make you wonder.
EVERYTHING THAT ONE IS BORN WITH works together to achieve a harmonious state throughout the body. This is part of my belief system, that we can achieve this harmonious state when we are in balance. I know when I am stressed I usually can figure out what is causing it. With the schedule I keep there are multiple opportunities for me to get stressed out. I find myself thinking about what I need to do instead of being present in the moment. When I am in this state of mind I am much more forgetful, which in turn causes me further stress. It feels like I am jogging in one of those hamster wheels that goes around and round without going anywhere; there is no down time for me. To get back in balance I would need to stop overbooking myself and take some “me” time. The body and mind are so connected; when one is lacking something the other tries to compensate. Well known examples of this would be Ludwig van Beethoven and Helen Keller. Though he lost his hearing his mind filled in the tones he was putting together for his musical pieces. Helen was blind and deaf but her mind and sense of touch for signing were extraordinary. RECENTLY I WAS OBSERVING A martial arts class. One of the participants had underdeveloped arms; they were small for their body size and looked as if they stopped growing at the elbows. I watched this member as the class was put through a variety of exercises. It was incredible to see how the lack of arm strength was made up by the amazing leg strength they incorporated into their one on one exercises. I know it is a cliché to say “when there is a will there is a way;” but in the case of this student, their mind and body found a way for them to be an active participant in the class. I am in awe when a person is denied one sense or body part and another one fills in the gap. People who are blind tend to have exceptional hearing capabilities. Or those confined to wheelchairs usually have powerful upper body strength. In the case of the main character in this biographical dramatic comedy, I started out not being sympathetic towards him; however, as the story unfolded I found myself going with him on his journey of discovery. A NIGHT OF PARTYING AND DRINKING led to a horrific accident that would change the life of John Callahan, played by Joaquin Phoenix (The Master, You Were Never Really Here), in unimaginable ways. Based on a true story this movie also starred Jonah Hill (War Dogs, True Story) as Donnie, Rooney Mara (Carol, Side Effects) as Annu, Jack Black (The D Train, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) as Dexter and newcomer Tony Greenhand as Tim. The fact that I went from being an unsympathetic viewer to admiring Joaquin’s character tells you how impressed I was with his acting skills. He has an eclectic body of work already and each character he does always leaves me amazed at his acting abilities. The rest of the actors were not slouches by any means; they were wonderful. I felt the director handled not only them gracefully but did a beautiful job with the script. Nothing came across as preachy or inspirational; the director took what was a tragic event and found a way to mine the humor and sadness in equal portions. As for the story, the theme may have a familiar feeling to the viewer; however, the execution of it makes it worthwhile to watch. If for nothing else this story will show you not to give up hope because when you lose one thing, something else will take its place.
There are just some days I want to do something crazy and out of character for me. Do you ever have one of those days where you would like to be someone else? I have mentioned to friends from time to time that it is hard being me some days. Usually I have been overwhelmed with a variety of things just before I get to the point of saying this to my friends. Maybe that is one of the reasons I like to take quick weekend trips by myself to different places; I get to be someone else for a brief moment. When I am strained for time and feel like I am going to go crazy, retail therapy has always been a good backup for me; though it is not always a good use of funds. I have been known to buy some small appliance or electronic device and leave it unopened on the floor for weeks or months before getting around to using it. Recently I have tried to modify my behavior and when I feel I am going to go on a shopping spree, I go to the grocery store instead to buy boxes of breakfast cereal. It is a cheaper and more useful purchase. Now I know on the scheme of things these actions may not be very rational but they make sense to me, for there are plenty examples around us of a whole lot of people acting quite irrationally. Some individuals can be down right scary in what they do, just watch what happens in this dramatic mystery. EXCITEMENT was going through the small college on news of the hiring of philosophy professor Abe, played by Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line, The Master). The school got more than they bargained for once Abe was on staff. Written and directed by Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris, Sweet and Lowdown), I thought the cast which also included Emma Stone (Aloha, The Help) as Jill and Parker Posey (Party Girl, The House of Yes) as Rita was excellent. Sadly I found the script did not benefit these actors. At times there would be a scene that was intelligent and witty; but then it would be followed with a bland one where I felt the dialog was a series of blah, blah, blahs. If this makes any sense, the scenes were too wordy and only bogged down the story from moving forward. Woody has an interesting way of turning a sentence into a breath of fresh air; there have been previous films of his I have enjoyed. But with this picture I found myself becoming bored at times. If I were looking to find something irrational about this whole movie viewing experience I would have to say it was me paying full price to see this dull film.
1 3/4 stars
I sure wish they would hurry up and create those human transporter devices I have seen in science fiction films. You may know the type where your body turns into a swirling mass of small, colored bubbles of light that disperse and reassemble you in a different location. This would be so useful during those awkward moments where you feel out of place among a group of individuals. The moments I am referring to would be similar to situations like attending a party where you were not told it was a masquerade event and costumes were mandatory. Last year I signed up for a training workshop regarding a new body fitness sculpting format; it was a three day event. The first day I walked into the training facility and was met with a group of people who were easily half my age. There I was dressed in baggy workout shorts and a loose T-shirt as everyone else either had skin tight or skimpy, color co-ordianted outfits. Now it was not a big deal to me what they wore or their age; however, a majority of them were personal trainers and I was not. As we went through the training I realized there was no way my body could do what everyone else was doing in class. I could have used that transporter then since I felt out of place. Those same feelings started to come over me during this comedic crime drama. WHEN Los Angeles detective Larry “Doc” Sortello, played by Joaquin Phoenix (The Immigrant, Her), agreed to help his ex-girlfriend he had no idea where the case would lead him, but as long as he had drugs available he was good to go. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will be Blood, The Master) that was based on Thomas Pynchon’s (Gravity’s Rainbow, Mason & Dixon) novel, I did not get this film festival winning movie that ran for 148 long minutes. Viewers will either love or hate this picture, I believe. The cast was good, including Josh Brolin (Labor Day, W.) as Lt. Detective Christian F. “Bigfoot”Bjornesen and Katherine Waterston (Michael Clayton, Robot & Frank) as Shasta Fay Hepworth, along with the variety of other actors who had small roles. However, for a movie watching experience I did not have a good time sitting through this showing. The mix of scenes seemed random and scattered, as if little vignettes were first created then pieced together. Since I was getting bored in the theater I did glance around at the crowd. This may sound weird but I actually felt a little out of place because the crowd seemed to be all cut from the same mold and I was not. I do not know if it was a generational thing; all I wanted was to be transported out of the theater.
1 3/4 stars
I wish it was not the case but I cast a cynical eye towards a kind gesture from a stranger these days. Where I first noticed a change had taken place over me was when I used to travel to Georgia. People were saying thank you for the simplest things, besides opening doors for each other. I realized I had not seen such actions for a long time. Then there were incidents I witnessed that began altering my perceptions. I used to know someone who was always eager to share their recipes with anyone who asked for them, but would leave out one small item from the list of ingredients. During my daily commute I cannot remember the last time someone slowed down to let me pull into traffic or merge into another lane due to construction. It seems as if people are becoming more isolated and protective of their surroundings. I partially understand it because of all the news that gets reported on Ponzi schemes, fake charities and internet scams. Last summer I answered the knock at my front door and there was a high schooler who was selling discounted subscriptions for the local newspapers. Yep, you are right; I gave him $20.00 but never saw a single newspaper. Life is hard and I would say it is partially due to the modern world we live in; however, one only has to look at history to see it is not a modern phenomenon. You could also see a horrifying example in this Cannes Film Festival nominated drama. Set in the early 1920s Ewa Cybulska and her sister Magda, played by Marion Cotillard (Contagion, The Dark Knight Rises) and Angela Sarafyan (Paranoia, Love Hurts), traveled from Poland to America to start a new life. During processing at Ellis Island Magda was quarantined, leaving Ewa to fend for herself on the streets of New York City. She had to rely on the kindness of strangers and Bruno Weiss, played by Joaquin Phoenix (Her, Walk the Line), was eager to welcome and help her. Marion Cotillard was made to do this romantic mystery movie. Her eyes alone could have done all the talking for her, she was mesmerizing. The story was filled with many opportunities to create a powerful piece; however, it never gelled for me. I did not believe Joaquin’s character, finding his performance odd. It really was a shame because the sets and scenes were beautifully appointed. Jeremy Renner (American Hustle, The Town) was a welcomed addition to the story playing the magician Emil. I wish I could offer a kind gesture to this film by giving it a higher rating but truthfully it does not warrant it.
2 2/3 stars
There are some people who fall in love at first sight. I know it has happened but I have never experienced it. Now sure there can be an immediate attraction, but what is it based on? For some folks it could be the person’s looks, style of dress, humor or manners. Though each of those attributes have their place in one’s love scorecard, I have had different experiences. A good portion of relationships I have encountered started out where I had no feelings for them. They may have not been attractive according to some people’s way of thinking or at first glance, we had very little in common. However, as we continue to communicate with each other a transformation takes place. Their features soften in my eyes while their voice begins to feel like a warm current of water that continuously washes over me. I cannot explain it nor does it make sense to me most of the time, but a connection forms that is like a high voltage cable that jump starts my heart. Each of their spoken words ignite an array of colorful sparklers in my mind that blaze across the landscape of my soul. I refer to this as being in a cerebral state, but others call it an emotional relationship. Having this ability allowed me to have a couple of long distance relationships in the past. It also made me fall in love with this romantic Golden Globe nominated movie. Writer and director Spike Jonze (Adaptation, Where the Wild Things Are) created a story in the not so distant future about letter writer Theodore, played brilliantly by Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line, The Master). With the purchase of a revolutionary operating system, Theodore began discovering a different world with the help of the operations assistant Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson (Don Jon, The Prestige). With most of the screen time devoted to Theodore and Samantha, they created a world of amusements and touching moments. Joaquin was utterly amazing playing a character filled with total emotional depth, some of it even light and funny. With only using her voice Scarlett created such a vivid character that I was immediately drawn in to her, believing she was a living breathing human. Even Amy Adams (Man of Steel, Enchanted) as Theodore’s neighbor Amy was lovely in a stripped down sensitive way. I thought this was Spike’s best movie; his directing of the cast, the gorgeous cinematography and even the perfectly placed music from Arcade Fire created an amazing film viewing experience. Like a long distance relationship this movie continued to resonate with me long after I saw it in the theater.
3 3/4 stars
The word “master” comes with several connotations. If I hear master crafter, I think of a skilled creator. When a person is referred to as the master of the house, I think of slavery. The title of this dramatic movie was a perfect choice. Freddie Quell, played by Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line, Hotel Rwanda), was a naval veteran who had a gift for making alcohol, out of a variety of substances. A majority of his life had been spent in a haze of drunkenness. When Freddie met the charismatic Lancaster Dodd, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman (Moneyball, Doubt), he hoped to find some clarity in his life. Lancaster saw something in Freddie that could be purged with his help. The two men began a tumultuous relationship; Freddie would become both a guinea pig and an example of Lancaster’s unorthodox methods. Staging assemblies around the country, Lancaster’s fervent beliefs began to attract followers. If for nothing else, the amazing acting from Joaquin has to be seen. Besides his explosive, emotional rants; his physical transformation was mind blowing. Pitting him with Philip should easily earn the two Oscar nominations, in my opinion. As for the story, I found it tedious and wordy. Scenes that were carefully detailed did not help with the drawn out passages that I found boring. There were parts that made no sense to me and Amy Adams (Trouble with the Curve, The Fighter) as Lancaster’s wife Peggy was underutilized. She was the wrong choice for the role. Without excuses or making judgements, this movie simply presented a man with his flock; others could interpret it as the master and his cult.
2 1/2 stars