MAGIC ACTS AND PRODUCT DEMONSTRATERS used to be the only things that amazed me when I was small. I would always become mesmerized by magicians performing things my eyes and brain could not believe. Making animals appear or disappear, cutting assistants in half or shooting flames out of extended hands; all of it was a total fantasy for me. As for those product demonstrators, I still can recall standing at the head of a small crowd of people gathered around a table as a man was talking about an amazing product that would prevent eyeglasses from steaming up. He would extend his hand out and slightly up just above his head while holding a pair of glasses and spray the lenses with this mysterious stuff. Next he would hold the glasses over what looked like a vaporizer that was spewing out steam. Miraculously the lenses never fogged up. It was pure magic to me. Anytime I was at a store and heard one of these demonstrators talking, I would make a beeline to them and wiggle my way to the head of the crowd of shoppers to watch the next magical feat being performed. MY AMAZEMENT OF THINGS HAS expanded as much as I have aged. Every day it seems I hear or see something that stops me in disbelief. I cannot recall a time where so many things happening around the world literally stun me. Gratefully not everything is of a horrific nature; there are some acts that are life changers and I mean that in a good way. Just imagine what it must have been like when the first microwave oven came into existence or when we had the first moon landing. I am sure it had to be a “heady” experience for many people. Sadly it seems to me currently the scale is tipping to the negative side more and more. An example that just came to mind is company advertisements that, for whatever reason, wind up having a racist or derogatory message. I believe it was the past week there was an alcohol commercial that looked as if it was making a prejudicial statement about races. Seeing an act of violence like commercial or religious buildings being blown up with innocent people inside just makes me stare at the news, trying to comprehend how such a thing could even be thought up; it simply boggles my mind. Many times I say to myself, “Did that just happen?” This same question crossed the mind of the main character in this horror thriller. FINDING HERSELF COMMITTED TO A mental institution Sawyer Valentini, played by Claire Foy (Breathe, The Crown-TV), could not tell at times if she was facing her biggest fear. Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike, Erin Brockovich), this movie also starred Jay Pharoah (Ride Along, Get a Job) as Nate Hoffman, Joshua Leonard (If I Stay, The Blair Witch Project) as David Strine, Amy Irving (Carrie, Traffic) as Angela Valentini and Juno Temple (Wonder Wheel, Killer Joe) as Violet. This viewing was somewhat unusual for me. The movie was filmed with the use of an IPhone which made some of the camera shots interesting. I thought Claire was convincing and it was good to see Amy Irving. My issue with this picture has to do with the script. There were several intense scenes within the story, but then all of a sudden everything would go flat. I found myself losing interest because during the film it felt like scenes were being repeated. It was not until close to the end where I got back into the story, though I did not like the way the movie ended. I was amazed this picture was done on an IPhone; too bad it wasn’t better.
WITHIN OUR DAILY LIVES there may be times where you experience something annoying. The stubbing of a toe, the occasional splinter or the dreaded paper cut; in the scheme of things I would consider these events irritating, nothing life threatening. For me getting stopped at a railroad crossing for a freight train or an ill informed employee waiting on me at a store are big irritants. I know I should not devote energy to negative feelings but it is hard to overcome years of acting this way. It used to be if something irritated me I would allow it to leech out into other feelings, being ticked off while walking around with a dark cloud over my head. I can still remember seeing other people experiencing something annoying and not letting it bother them; you might know, letting it roll off their back. Oh no, that used to not be an option for me. THE REASON I AM mentioning this is because a friend of mine just told me about the type of week they recently had and I noticed something interesting. All within one week his refrigerator broke, the microwave oven he ordered was delivered in the wrong size, his dentist told him he would need a root canal, the home laptop computer crashed and he got stuck in his winter jacket when the zipper broke up by his neck. What I found interesting was his reaction to all of these things; he was only slightly annoyed, laughing off the jacket incident as comical. Separately I sort of can see where each of these things might not illicit s strong negative reaction since they all were completely out of his control. While he was telling me all of this I realized I was getting anxious and annoyed for him. What was that about?! Having multiple annoying occurrences evidently affects me even if they have nothing to do with me. I know it is a process that will take time, to learn about letting go of this “small stuff;” however, when it comes to this drama written and directed by Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine, Café Society) I simply am not capable yet of not being annoyed. WITH MONEY BEING TIGHT and her son randomly starting fires all over the place it took Ginny, played by Kate Winslet (The Mountain Between Us, The Dressmaker), everything she had to keep things together. The surprise visit of her husband’s daughter Carolina, played by Juno Temple (Killer Joe, Maleficent), who was wanted by the mob could be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Including Jim Belushi (Red Heat, According to Jim-TV) as Humpty and Justin Timberlake (The Social Network, Runner Runner) as Mickey, I thought this was Jim’s best performances. His character seemed the most real to me; everyone else seemed more like a caricature. Visually I enjoyed this film with its story being set in Coney Island, but the script was so similar to other stories that I have seen in other movies. For me the story dragged at times and maybe her character was supposed to be irritating but I have to tell you I did not care for Kate’s role; she was annoying to me. Overall I felt this picture was stale; it did not offer anything new as far as I could see. Maybe tomorrow I will get a handle on not allowing myself to get irritated, but for right now this film annoyed me.
1 ¾ stars
Just imagine if everyone would express exactly what they felt or thought. I would be more comfortable hearing the truth instead of some flimsy throwaway type of phrase. How would you react to the 2 following comments: “Why did you cut your hair to look like that?” or “I miss the way your hair outlines your face now that you cut your hair.” I have to admit I do find amusement in people’s comments sometimes; especially those folks who are passive aggressive. An example would be someone I had not seen in a long time coming up to me to say they haven’t heard from me, they missed me. When they say that to me I ask them why then didn’t they just pickup the phone and call me. Let me ask you, how many times have you gone on a date when the person tells you what a good time they had meeting you and will call you later in the week to set up another date? You do not hear from them so you call and leave them a message. And guess what, they still do not call. I do not get it; I wish they would just say they are not interested or they don’t think we make a good fit. Heck, they can say they don’t like my looks; I am not going to take it personally because they barely know me. People can be so funny at times. WITH everyone believing he murdered his girlfriend Merrin Williams, played by Juno Temple (Killer Joe, Afternoon Delight); Ig Perrish, played by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter franchise, Kill Your Darlings), would now have to face the townsfolk with the unusual horns that had mysteriously sprouted up on his head. He soon discovered the horns had a strange effect on people. Based on the best-selling book, this dramatic fantasy had a bizarre premiss as a story line. However, I was game since I have been intrigued with Daniel’s movie role choices recently. He did not disappoint me in this picture, carrying it off quite nicely as a matter of fact. Actually I thought the whole cast worked well together including Max Minghella (The Ides of March, The Social Network) as Lee Tourneau. Where this film lost me was the script; it tried to do too much, not sure if it wanted to be a drama, fantasy, mystery or horror film. There were some scenes that worked well thanks to the actors; but then other times things would just go flat. One other thing to mention, I believe the idea for this story had been done a couple of times before. Just as I like my conversations to state the bottom line, so do I wish my movies would do the same thing in what they are trying to tell me.
It is so much easier to help people fix or solve their issues than one’s own. I fall into that category of people who do not like change for myself. It is simple for me to stick with a known routine instead of trying to alter it, even if I find it taxing. You never know what the unknown has to offer. Regarding someone else, I can easily dole out the advice that I believe can help them. Isn’t that like being a doctor because I have heard they make the worst patients? Having a streak of doom and gloom inside of me, I at least am aware how easy it is for me to remain in a rut. This is why it was so easy for me to understand where the main character was coming from in this dramatic comedy. Kathryn Hahn (Step Brothers, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) played frustrated stay-at-home mom Rachel. Tired of the monotony in her life with her husband Jeff, played by Josh Radnor (Liberal Arts, How I Met Your Mother-TV); Rachel decided to take in exotic dancer McKenna, played by Juno Temple (Killer Joe, Atonement), to become their son’s nanny. There was an interesting switch of sweetness and sourness among the scenes in this Sundance Film Festival winning film. It took little effort to go from a humorous situation right into a poignant predicament. Part of the reason for that was due to the excellent directing. Kathryn had perfect comedic timing as she delivered some smart fun lines. I thought her interaction with Juno was in flawless balance; each of them was able to play off the other’s energy. Jane Lynch (Role Models, Glee-TV) played a great character as Rachel’s therapist Lenore. The script provided a twisted, keen take on suburban living; allowing secondary characters to have a bit of time in the spotlight. There were a few scenes that were uneven, but they did not last long. I do not know if I really believed the ending to this film but that may be due to my own way of looking at things. Each of us handles our issues in our own way. I find it fascinating how we react to them so differently.
2 1/2 stars