THERE IS PLENTY OF TRUTH AND plenty of examples that show beauty is only skin deep. I realized this at a young age because of a friend’s grandmother. My friend lived in the same apartment building, so I had met his grandmother numerous times. She was always well dressed, with hair that was never out of place, thanks to her weekly beauty shop visits. I remember how she constantly avoided being out in the sunlight for too long. Being at such a young age, I translated her prettiness for niceness; in other words, if a person was good looking, then there should be no reason why they were not kind. I do not know how I came up with that reasoning, but I was completely wrong. My friend’s grandmother appeared pleasant upon first meeting, but it never lasted long. My friend and I would be playing a board game at his house, and she would walk into the room, eating a bag of candy. She would offer her grandson a piece, but she never offered me one. From other times I was over there, I could hear the way she talked to her daughter and son-in-law; it was demanding, where she constantly had them bring things to her instead of her getting up to go get them for herself. I DISCOVERED THE IDIOM ABOUT BEAUTY being skin deep was not exclusive to people. It could be used as well for buildings. In college, I had a class in a futuristic looking building. From the street it looked amazing, with an outer surface that looked like a checkerboard, with some of the squares raised up. There was a rooftop garden which was more of a novelty back then. When I discovered one of my classes was in this building, I was excited I would finally be able to get inside of it. Upon first entering, there were these cool orbital globes hanging from the ceiling that lit the hallway. My class was held on the third floor; during the warmer months, the room never got cooled off from the air conditioning. The professor told us when they built the building, they installed a HVAC system that was too small for the building. So, the rooms were cold in winter and hot in summer. I later discovered some of the windows leaked which led to a constant cleaning regiment to get rid of the mold. From such a dramatic façade, being inside the building was rarely pleasant. Not that it is as dramatic as that college building, but this action-adventure fantasy is in a similar predicament. HAVING SETTLED INTO DOMESTIC LIFE WITH a family, life takes an ugly turn for Jake, played by Sam Worthington (Hacksaw Ridge, The Shack), when an old foe returns to the planet. With Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Amsterdam) as Neytiri, Sigourney Weaver (The Good House, Call Jane) as Kiri, Stephen Lang (Don’t Breathe franchise, The Lost City) as Quaritch and Kate Winslet (Sense and Sensibility, The Mountain Between Us) as Ronal; this three hour and twelve-minute-long movie was a visual spectacular. There were times where I sat and wondered if things, I was seeing, were real or not. The use of color and detail in creating visual stimulating palettes was a joy to behold and the special effects were magical. It is a good thing because I thought the script was weak. The story is predictable and a bit repetitive at times. I was feeling the length of the film at some point which told me the writers could have cut the length down some. Spending a little more time on character development would have been beneficial in my opinion, though I appreciated the moral messages. And I did not care for the obvious ploys used in the script to prepare the viewers for the 3rd installment of this franchise. How long will that one be?
THEY APPEARED TO BE SUCH A HAPPY family, then why did a dozen roses arrive at the office from a different man, I wondered. After they were delivered, I brought them to her desk. The card was poking out to the side and that is where I saw the signature. It was not her husband’s name. She was thrilled with the roses; it was obvious since she sniffed each individual rose. I walked back to my desk, processing this odd turn of events. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I could hear her bragging about her boyfriend being so sweet. Her boyfriend!??! She was married with 2 kids, yet she is going around telling everyone about her boyfriend; this made no sense to me. One of her co-workers must have asked her about the boyfriend because I heard her say she and him have been together for almost two years. The part I found most disturbing was the fact her daughters knew about it. The girls were only 14 and 8 years old. The fact she confides in her daughters about her affair sends an awful message to them, in my opinion. I can only imagine what this woman says about her husband when her children ask about their father under these circumstances. THIS DECEPTIVE OR MAYBE NOT SO deceptive plan is something I do not understand at all. You could say I have a negative opinion about it. If I was no longer in love with the person I was with, I would end the relationship before starting a new one. I could not stay with someone while cheating on them behind their back. There was a man I used to work with who would make his employees lie to his wife about his whereabouts because he was meeting up with random women during the workday. I was fortunate I was never in a position to have to lie for him because I do not know if I could have done it. Just get a divorce and leave the relationship with some dignity. Now I do understand some people associate divorce with failure, but I do not agree with that thinking. I knew a couple who stayed together because they were afraid what their neighbors and friends would say about them. This concept about appearances is so warped; why should someone worry what someone else thinks about them when it comes to relationships. Sure, I can see talking to a close family member or best friend about a personal issue; but to worry about what a neighbor or acquaintance thinks makes no sense to me. Knowing my thoughts about affairs, you will understand my uncomfortableness with how certain things were handled in this Academy Award nominated romantic drama. A SUBURBAN TOWN IN MASSACHUSETTS LOOKS like the ideal place to live until you see some of the cracks in its foundation. With Kate Winslet (The Mountain Between Us, Revolutionary Road) as Sarah Pierce, Jennifer Connelly (House of Sand and Fog, Only the Brave) as Kathy Adamson, Patrick Wilson (The Phantom of the Opera, The Conjuring franchise) as Brad Adamson, Jackie Earle Haley (Shutter Island, The Birth of a Nation) as Ronnie J. McGorvey and Noah Emmerich (The Truman Show, Blood Ties) as Larry Hedges; this film festival winner was an intense, well-done film. The acting was so good to begin with that the script and direction only served to elevate it to a higher level. There were several emotionally powerful scenes that took my breath away, thanks to the way the writers carefully peeled back its layers without inserting any judgements or manipulative techniques. Putting my personal ethics aside, I felt this was a well-crafted story that the actors convincingly conveyed to the viewers.
3 ½ stars
IT WAS THE FIRST TIME EVER getting such an answer to my question. All I could do was laugh and ask her why she wanted to be a mermaid. The little girl was my friend’s daughter, who said mermaid when I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. She wanted to be one so she could swim faster and stay underwater for a long time. I wasn’t sure how to answer her because I did not want to be the one to tell her she could never be a mermaid. So instead, I asked her if I remembered correctly that mermaids had a large fin instead of feet; she said yes, I was right. Scratching my chin as I tried to put a pensive look on my face, I told the little girl that when she gets older she might be able to buy fins a/k/a flippers for her feet that would make her swim faster in water. She seemed pleased with the answer, so I decided to quit while I was ahead. My conversation with her reminded me of myself when I was her age because back then when people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told them I wanted to fly like a bird and be a window washer. THROUGH ALL MY SCHOOLINGS IF I did not know what I wanted to do after school for a living, I at least had some general idea of what field I could see myself in. There was one relative who always told me I should be an accountant because I was so good with numbers. Another relative said I should work in the arts because I had such an imaginative mind. I wanted to do something with animals because of my love for them. As I started the educational process towards that goal, there was a part of me that also wanted to start my own travel business because of my love for travel. I wanted to provide private tours for people, where they would be ushered through the city in a limousine. While driving them I would be explaining the different sights along with offering them restaurant choices for their meals. Though I always loved these 2 career options they never came to pass. Does that make me a failure? I never felt so; if anything, I felt there was something waiting for me to discover. The journey of discovery sometimes can even be magical as you can see with the main character in this animated, film festival nominated movie. LIVING OUT IN THE COUNTRY WITHOUT any friends made the days boring for Mary, voiced by Ruby Barnhill (The BFG, 4 O’Clock Club-TV). However, the discovery of a rare plant in the forest was about to change all of that for Mary. With Kate Winslet (The Mountain Between Us, The Dressmaker) voicing Madam Mumblechook, Jim Broadbent (Dolittle, Paddington franchise) voicing Doctor Dee, Ewen Bremner (Wonder Woman, Trainspotting franchise) voicing Flanagan and Louis Ashbourne Serkis (The Kid Who Would be King, Alice Through the Looking Glass) voicing Peter; this family adventure story was based on the book, The Little Broomstick. The animation was beautiful and creative; I felt it blended well with the story as the cast did an excellent job with their characters. It was so enjoyable to watch the hand drawn animation for a change instead of the computer driven kind. There was a sense of familiarity as I was viewing this picture; as if bits and pieces of other stories were being incorporated into this one. However, the sweetness, fun and excitement overcame any predictability I was feeling from several scenes. In addition, I thought the message in the story was simple enough for youngsters to appreciate. Seeing a picture like this one makes me glad I write film reviews.
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
THE MUTUAL FEAR OR MAYBE it was dread in both of our eyes bonded us together. We were both in the same class to be certified in a new fitness format. Not being a spontaneous type of person, as soon as I heard we would have to pair up to create a workout sequence incorporating the new techniques we were learning, I panicked at the idea of standing up in front of the class and free styling a new workout routine. The woman next to me must have been going through the same thing; because up until that point, we only said a courtesy hello to each other before sitting down in our spots. When the actual time came to pair up I was not sure she wanted to team with me since my experiences in fitness were different compared to hers. Since the people on either side of us turned the other way to find a partner we formed our team, sadly based on dread. WE WERE GIVEN 10-15 minutes to come up with a complete warm-up set to lead the class. I was never good with public speaking in college, though I quickly adjusted to it through my fitness classes. But after all the planning and rehearsing I put in to my own fitness routines I was confident enough to the point I did not hesitate expressing myself to the members. Here I was sitting with this stranger, figuring out what muscle group to utilize first as the goal was to increase the participant’s core temperature. I listened to her suggestions. In my heart I knew some of her routines would not qualify as a warm-up. Trying to gently steer her away from her plan, I made a few suggestions. She nodded her head as I spoke but insisted for the time allotted to us her plan would work best. I was not going to argue about it and relinquished to her choice of muscle workouts. When it was our turn we both went to the head of the class and started the music. Not more than 60 seconds went by when I realized I should have fought for my suggestions. The look on the instructor’s face, along with the participants in the classroom, told me we would not score high in this portion of the practical. Thank heavens this was not a life or death situation like the horrific one I saw in this action, adventure drama. AFTER THEIR PLANE CRASHED in a remote mountain area, two strangers would have to trust and depend on each other if they wanted to survive. Starring Idris Elba (The Dark Tower, Pacific Rim) as Ben Bass, Kate Winslet (Finding Neverland, Collateral Beauty) as Alex Martin, Beau Bridges (The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Descendants) as Walter and Dermot Mulroney (The Grey, My Best Friend’s Wedding) as Mark; there were several incredible thrilling scenes that were accentuated with the great chemistry between Idris and Kate. Overall I did not mind sitting through this picture even though it was predictable and a bit farfetched. What really stood out was the short time the writers went from an adventure film to a romantic one; it seemed forced to me and needed more time to grow organically in my opinion. I think because this was one of the only movies I saw after my ordeal in the hospital, it was escapism for me. Other viewers may not feel they are as in synch with the story as much as I found myself to be.
2 ½ stars
DEATH does not owe anyone an answer; it takes what it wants and all we can do is experience grief, relief or believe it or not, happiness. I say happiness because of a funeral I once attended where I knew the deceased but not all of the other people in attendance. Sitting in the chapel I was shocked with some of the comments people were so free to share with those around them. One person said they were there to make sure that bastard was buried deep in the ground; another guest wanted to come to see if there was actually someone who was mourning the death. I could only silently sit in my seat because I was too stunned to say anything. As a side note the funeral service was done quickly with only a couple of eulogies. FROM a previous review I mentioned the hardest deaths involve those where the person was taken early. When a person reaches an old age one can hear comments such as, “he lived a long life” or “she did what she wanted to do,” at the funeral. Sadness could be wrapped up in the sense of loss but rarely have I heard anyone question why the individual perished. If there was a long growing illness I could understand the sense of relief one would feel at the time of death. From my experiences I have learned when a person dies unexpectedly; it is harder for those who are left behind. When the individual has suffered for a long time, finishing their journey here, those remaining do feel a sense of relief. I do not recollect anyone questioning why the person died. Personally I think asking questions that you cannot get answers for only delays the healing process. I know a couple of people who still want to know why a friend of theirs committed suicide. This makes for a hard road to travel, the asking of questions. You can see for yourself in this dramatic movie. DEVASTATED by the death of his young daughter Howard, played by Will Smith (Suicide Squad, Concussion) began writing letters to Death, Youth and Love. It was not long before they started answering him. This film festival winner had an excellent cast that included Edward Norton (The Grand Budapest Hotel, American History) as Whit, Kate Winslet (The Dressmaker, Finding Neverland) as Claire, Michael Pena (End of Watch, The Martian) as Simon, Naomie Harris (Moonlight, Skyfall) as Madeleine and Helen Mirren (Trumbo, Woman in Gold) as Brigitte. For a story line I did not mind the concept and felt the actors were more than capable to do a fine job. Out of the cast the 2 that stood out for me were Naomie and Michael; they were believable and conveyed true emotions. Outside of them I did not feel a connection to anyone else. Whether the rest of the actors knew the script was poorly written or not, they did not provide any substance to their characters. As for the script I found it to be in manipulative in a sappy way. I felt the film was created just to get viewers weepy and use that as their connection to the story. Sitting through this picture was like experiencing a slow death.
1 ¾ stars
At the time they recited the saying to me I thought I was being handed a line. The spoken words made no sense to me. “You are only given as much as you can handle;” what the heck were they talking about? It is funny how some things stay in your mind, hibernating until something happens then suddenly they awaken and burst to the forefront of your brain. I had been talking with a fellow survivor, commiserating over our similar experiences. We had both turned to food for comfort and as a way to stuff our feelings down. I was surprised by what they were saying because when I was going through the suffering I felt I was the only one. It turns out I was only one of many. Now here is the kicker; while we were talking that line about being given only what I can handle popped into my brain. Both of us had survived and I realized what I went through was an integral part in molding me to the person I am today. I started talking about how those events gave me the awareness of other people’s feelings; that my words could have an effect on an individual. My ability to read a person’s uneasiness, when they walk into one of my classes for the first time, I could now attribute to the things I experienced in the past. This allowed me to share those feelings with the new members and hopefully give them comfort and a sense of belonging. Presently I am pretty happy with my life and have come to terms with what I went through years ago. However I am aware my history also fueled a dark side to me. From the conversations I have had I believe we all have a dark side; so I guess it comes down to the choices we make. RETURNING to the small town she was sent away from Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage, played by Kate Winslet (The Reader, Steve Jobs), had more than just her sewing skills to offer to the community. Based on the bestselling novel this film festival winning drama had an engaging twisted story. With Judy Davis (To Rome with Love, Barton Fink) as Molly Dunnage, Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games franchise, Paranoia) as Teddy McSwiney and Hugo Weaving (Matrix franchise, The Lord of the Rings franchise) as Sergeant Farrat; the acting was great, though Kate and Molly were the best to me. The script was striped with humor, sadness, craziness and softness; I enjoyed the fun aspects of all the characters, besides the filming of it in rural Australia. On the downside there was almost too much going on throughout the story. I found some scenes rang false and felt forced. An example would be some of the scenes between Kate and Liam. Also I think it would be best to place logic aside and simply experience the movie. It would be wrong of me not to mention the amazing costumes, which just added more fun to this wild story. As I mentioned earlier it is the things we choose that mold us and because of the choices made in this picture I had a good time watching it.
2 ¾ stars
Once upon a time I had only known police officers to be friendly and helpful. There was a relative’s relative (you know, from the other side of a marriage) who was in the police force. The few times where we would be together for an occasion they were simply kind and quiet. I was told they were tough at work but I never witnessed it. In high school there was a narcotics officer who stationed himself in the cafeteria during all of the lunch periods. I remember him kidding around with the students as he patrolled the large lunchroom. He was always at the entrance first thing in the morning to greet all of us; though I always wondered if he was looking for something in particular. There was only one time where I saw him interacting with a student in a forceful way. It turned out the student was high on something and tried to resist the officer’s request to come with him to the principal’s office. That was my only contact with police officers. Sadly when you hear people talking about the police these days it tends to be with disdain and mistrust. The use of video cameras, installed on the officers and in police cars along with bystanders’ cell phones, has changed the general public’s opinions about the police. With the altercations that have been recorded and shown on the news these days, I cannot imagine someone not being affected by it in a negative way. The one reason I am not surprised by the things I have seen is because I have always had this philosophy for every occupation: someone has to graduate at the top of the class just as there has to be someone who graduates at the bottom. UNDER pressure to commit a criminal act a group of crooked officers have to set up a code 999, which means an officer is down. This crime thriller had an amazing cast of actors that included Chiwetel Ejiofer (The Martian, Z for Zachariah) as Michael Atwood, Casey Affleck (Tower Heist, Gone Baby Gone) as Chris Allen, Anthony Mackie (Ant-Man, Our Brand is Crisis) as Marcus Belmont and Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs, Titanic) as Irina Vlaslov. Now you would think with such a group of actors this movie would be stellar, wouldn’t you? The action scenes were absolutely intense but the story went nowhere. I felt no connection to any of it; none of the scenes flowed together, it was disjointed. Sitting here and recalling the characters reminds me I knew nothing about them. It felt as if I had only seen a portion of the film; the part that had the blood and violence in it. The actors did what they could with the script but the only one that stood out for me was Casey. Kate was wasted on her role and I felt I had wasted my time watching this picture. Maybe the people involved with making this movie graduated at the bottom of their class.
1 3/4 stars
Ugh not again; there they go repeating the same story for everyone. I do not know if this has happened to you but I know a couple of people who can take an entertaining story and pummel it down to the point where most people would have lost interest midway through the tale. One of these individuals will tell me a story, move on to something else for a moment and then come back to the original story to add some unnecessary element. I say “unnecessary” because once you give out the punchline the story is done. If you go back to add something else it never adds extra oomph if someone already knows the ending to the joke or story. At a party this person will go from group to group telling each one a particular story, dragging it out longer and longer as they make their way among the assembled people. It is easy to tell when a captive guest loses interest; their eyes keep darting from side to side after each blink as they are looking to lock in on someone to come save them from the storyteller’s discombobulated oratory. I may not be a great verbal communicator but I do know that a good story or joke needs to be quick and to the point. It is like a speech; there is only a finite amount of time one can hold onto an audience’s attention span before they drift off to someplace else. So here is today’s movie and it is the third film about Steve Jobs I have seen in a short amount of time. How many times do we need to hear about Steve and Apple Computer? Luckily they say the 3rd time is the charm because it was for this dramatic movie. COME backstage during the launch of 3 major products during Steve’s tenure at Apple Computer. Directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) and written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, The West Wing-TV), this film was intelligent, smart and most importantly acted out brilliantly. The casting could not have been better with the likes of Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method, Shame) as Steve Jobs, Kate Winslet (Titanic, Divergent franchise) as Joanna Hoffman and Jeff Daniels (The Martian, Looper) as John Sculley; they were amazing in their roles. Michael completely obliterated any trace memory I had left of Ashton Kutcher’s poor performance as Steve in the film Jobs; there is a good chance Michael will be nominated for best actor this Oscar season. The script was so well done I can only imagine the actors must have really enjoyed digging deep into their characters. I enjoyed the mix of dramatic intensity and humor Aaron brought into the script. The fact the story only focused on three specific time frames I believe made this a stronger picture. Truthfully, I could easily see this film again and not get bored.
3 1/2 stars
I listened and looked but still did not quite understand how the relationship worked. In its infancy there was a given intimacy as a comfortable space was created to allow for growth. The amount of attention given was at a high level so that everything that would help keep things fresh had an opportunity to do so. For years I was a bystander as I listened to friends talk about their gardens. The relationship they had with their gardens provided them with a pleasure that made little sense to me. Sitting in a friend’s backyard watching them prune and weed patches of open land that were thriving with vibrant colors only perplexed me. Yet after all these years something has happened inside of me. I have been visualizing seeing mounds of ornamental grasses with feathered tops out my back windows, watching how breezes would tickle the tops and cause the grass to sway. Besides the tall grasses there was a row of plants in different stages of colorful growth going down the width of my house. So I decided to dig in and bought 10 plants that I planted in the same way as in my visualizations. And wouldn’t you know it, everything I saw my friends do to their plants I am now doing to mine. Little uninvited sprouts of green invaders keep trying to circle my plants but I find myself stopping by each plant everyday to violently remove these interlopers. I have a new appreciation for what it takes to create a beautiful garden. King Louis XIV, played by Alan Rickman (Harry Potter franchise, Nobel Son), wanted and expected the gardens around his palace in Versailles to be something that no one had every seen anywhere in the world. The responsibility befell Andre Le Norte, played by Matthias Schoenaerts (Far From the Madding Crowd, Rust and Bone), who was taking a big risk in hiring landscape artist Sabine De Barra, played by Kate Winslet (Finding Neverland, Labor Day). This romantic drama had as you can imagine a beautiful look to it. I thought the story’s premise was wonderful and loved the idea that some of the things portrayed in this film could have a basis of truth in them. All the actors were so believable and really commanded the viewer’s attention. I had to hand it to Alan, not only was the role a perfect fit for him but he was also the director and one of the writers for this period piece. Maybe he took on a bit much because the script lacked a deeper level of drama, along with keeping the characters two-dimensional. On the plus side I liked the feminist angle the writers were trying to convey. This picture about the gardens of Versailles needed a little more pruning.
2 1/2 stars