I AM THE FIRST ONE TO wear gloves and earmuffs in late autumn and I am the last to stop wearing them in the early part of spring. So, it made sense for me to agree to fly out of the cold winter weather and stay at a resort on a Caribbean Island. My only hesitation was the fact that I would be on the resort’s property for the entire time. I usually am not that comfortable being thrown in with strangers in a confined area for a lengthy duration of time. On an airplane, it does not bother me to sit among unfamiliar passengers or at a catered affair, where I am seated with strangers at a dinner table. However, being at a resort with the same people day in and day out, was rattling me a bit. On the plus side, the weather was in the 80’s when we landed with bright sunshine. The first night there, introductions were being made at the dinner reception; I was somewhat quiet as I was scanning the room, looking at the variety of individuals in attendance. A woman standing next to me started talking about how the heat was already making her body feel better. I agreed with her and for the next 10 minutes she cited off a list of her ailments and what she was doing to try and remedy them. I couldn’t wait to get away; but wound up seeing her every day, where she gave me an update on her health status. THERE WAS A GENTLEMAN WHO I had met that I tried to avoid as well. He was a boastful, arrogant man who did or did not know he was talking down to people. He was at my table, but you would have thought he was holding court for his subjects. It is a challenge, at least for me, to have a discussion with someone who always thinks they know better. We were talking about fitness, and he had to show me the program he uses to track his fitness progress. Looking at it, I noticed everything he was doing was focused on building up muscle in his body. I asked him what he was doing for his heart, that I did not see any cardio work being done. From that comment, I basically got a lecture about how he does his workouts fast to get his heart involved. He even had to make a point to me that he sweats which I knew was not an indicator of the amount work one was giving to their heart. I already knew better than to try and correct him. Now you know why I am not comfortable being grouped with strangers for an extended amount of time; you never know how things will go. You can see for yourself in this dramatic crime mystery. ENJOYING A WELL-DESERVED VACATION ON a cruise boat took an awful turn for detective Hercule Poirot, played by Kenneth Branagh (All is True, My Week with Marilyn), when a dead body showed up. With Tom Bateman (Cold Pursuit, Snatched) as Bill, Annette Bening (The Report, The Seagull) as Euphemia Bouc, Russell Brand (Army of One, Arthur) as Windlesham and Michael Rouse (1917, Murder on the Orient Express) as Private Laurin; this movie started out slow for me. The cast was good and some of the sets were beautiful; however, I felt the script pushed most of the excitement to the last half. Though I enjoyed seeing the exotic outdoor scenes, some of them did not look real to me. The other factor that affected me was the lack of excitement throughout most of the film. It goes without saying that Agatha Christie’s book was much better. On the bright side, I only had to be with these strangers for a couple of hours before I got to leave and go back home.
2 ½ stars
WHEN I REALIZED IT HAD BEEN six months since I was in a movie theater, I was stunned. Honestly, it felt longer but I did not realize it had been half of the year already and let me tell you I’ve been missing it greatly. Before I was going to venture out to see this movie, I ran it passed those close to me to make sure they were comfortable with me going to a theater. If they were not, I would have been willing to quarantine myself away from them for 2 weeks. Since they were concerned but okay with my precautions, I went online to buy a ticket. I did this because I wanted to see ahead of time how many people were going to be sitting in the theater with me. As luck would have it, I was going to be the only person sitting in the theater presently. I picked a seat in the last row near an exit. This way I could avoid having people (I know, I am being optimistic here) walking by me before and during the movie. When I talked to a friend and told them what I was doing, she asked if I was concerned about coming into contact with the virus by sitting in a seat. I told her no; it is not like I have ever put my head on the headrest or touched the armrests with my bare skin, since I always wear a jacket in the theater. ON OPENING DAY, I DROVE TO the movie complex, a little apprehensive but excited. The parking lot was my first clue that there were not going to be a lot of people in the theater. Normally, I must park a couple of aisles away from the entrance; this time, I found a parking space right near the front door. Walking into the lobby, I looked to see if there were any changes made to accommodate the current environment. There were stickers on the floor to show patrons where to stand and the candy counter had a couple of queues setup far apart, also with the floor marked. At the entrance to each hallway there was a stand in the center with a container of sanitizer wipes for patrons to use. By choosing an earlier time to watch the movie, I only had 2 other people in my theater. They were sitting on the opposite side and the three of us kept our masks on the entire time. After the film was over ushers wheeled in carts filled with cleaning products to clean down the theater. I honestly felt comfortable the entire time I was there, and I am thrilled I can review a new film for today’s review. A RACE AGAINST TIME TAKES ON a whole new meaning when one can replay the past as the protagonist, played by John David Washington (Monsters and Men, BlacKkKlansman) discovered in this action, science fiction story. With Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse, The Lost City of Z) as Neil, Elizabeth Debicki (Widows, The Great Gatsby) as Kat, Aaron Taylor-Johnson (The Wall, Nocturnal Animals) as Ives and Kenneth Branagh (Murder on the Orient Express, My Week with Marilyn) as Andrei Sator; watching this movie was like being on a thrill ride. There was excitement, tension, fear and things to make one’s head spin. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk, Inception), I thought the acting was solid as the story went through spins and turns faster than a pinball. Even the music was exciting; however, I found myself more confused than not through this picture. With little emotional depth and drama, the film relies on the action in the story to carry the viewer. Don’t get me wrong, it does a good part of the time but having to sit and figure out what was going on became tiresome. Nonetheless, it felt good to be at the theater and more importantly, I felt comfortable. Please be aware I am not advocating or suggesting one go to the movies; one must decide for themselves. I am simply talking about my experience at my theater. Stay safe and be well.
THOUGH I INITIATED THE CONVERSATION, I now was trying to gracefully remove myself from it. I had been selling raffle tickets at a charity event and was on my hour dinner break. Standing over by the buffet table that nearly stretched out the length of the ballroom, a gentleman next to me commented on one of the platters of food. We both agreed it might taste good but it looked nasty. A man behind be seconded our comments. As we made our way down the table we started up a light conversation between the three of us. It turned out the 2 men were doctors. With my background in fitness, I thought I could hold my own in the conversation. However, when they started delving into different maladies and surgeries; I not only had nothing to contribute, but I did not even want to hear what they were saying. They were talking in detail about unusual surgeries they had performed, life threatening situations where time was of the essence. The ease of their dialog, to the point of almost being bantering, surprised me while at the same time giving me the heebie-jeebies. I was hearing such details about body organs, unusual tumors, spurting blood; I quickly lost my appetite. If you didn’t know the conversation you would have thought they were talking about a sporting event; they were so nonchalant about it. I MAY HAVE FOUND THEIR CONVERSATION icky but I am sure this type of thing is commonplace for so many people. If you take the emotion out of the conversation and are conversing with a like minded individual(s), then whatever the topic is being discussed might not be startling or out of the ordinary. I guess if I was having a conversation with other yoga instructors about poses and practices, to the layman it might sound odd/bizarre to that person. When I am in such a position the thing that surprises me is the juxtaposition between the average dialog and the amazing topic. There is just something about it that can both amuse or horrify me. I am reminded of a CPR class I attended that was being led by a paramedic; his stories about his work were incredible to listen to yet he was so blasé about it. Just because this was recently in the news, I am also reminded of our past primary election where one of the candidates was a Holocaust denier. His matter of fact manner when discussing such a thing was mind blowing to me. The memory of him was in the back of my mind as I sat and watched this unbelievable, biographical drama. DURING WORLD WAR II HITLER’S TOP LIEUTENANTS convened in a remote place to discuss how to proceed on Hitler’s final solution. The meeting for all appearances looked like a lively dinner party. This film festival winning movie based on true events starred Kenneth Branagh (Murder on the Orient Express, My Week with Marilyn) as Reinhard Heydrich, Stanley Tucci (Night Hunter, Spotlight) as Adolf Eichmann, Barnaby Kay (Red Tails, The Man Who Knew too Little) as Rudolf Lange, Peter Sullivan (The Limehouse Golem, The Bill-TV) as S.S. Col Eberhard “Karl” Schongartin and Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, A Single Man) as Dr. Wilhelm Stuckart. Seeing such a young cast of actors was my first surprise; my second was the horror I was witnessing in their conversations. Most of the film takes place in one room, but do not think you will get claustrophobic; the acting was stellar and the script was intense. These were two things that kept me glued to the screen. At times, I felt I was attending a history lesson and at other times I felt I was a “fly on the wall” listening to such world altering conversations. This film seemed like a classic to me.
3 ½ stars
THE SET OF DOORS was still massive looking under the prominent archway sticking out from the building’s façade. Crossing over the threshold the first open area available was a huge lobby. The floor was well worn; the once polished tile was now tired and dull. The ceiling was made up with an elaborate maze of wooden beams that crisscrossed in such a way to form star shapes. Some of the stars had long chandeliers hanging down that threw off just enough light to barely encompass the lobby. There was a grand staircase that started in the middle of the area then swept up like a curl of blonde hair to the 2nd floor. At the top of the staircase just beyond was a wall of stained glass that looked like it was covered in a dark veil; the light coming from behind was no longer strong enough to shine through completely. Behind the staircase on the main floor was a row of doors, each one numbered. NO MATTER WHICH DOOR one walked through, there were railroad tracks waiting on the other side. The platforms were for the most part clear of debris; but there were splotches of dirtiness looking like broken shadows that died on the floor. The lighting was weak, needing the assistance of any light source coming through the glass ceiling above. Not every track had a train unloading or waiting for passengers. As for the train cars that were present, there was not one that did not look like it had gone through some type of battle. With bruises, scrapes and nicks; the cars were so old they would always squeal their aches and pains when leaving the station. Inside the cars one would be challenged to find a seat that did not have a rip in its fabric or graffiti displayed somewhere on the front or back. A passenger’s comfort was not taken into consideration when the cars were manufactured; the main focus was determining how many seats could be stuffed into each car. Seeing the passenger train in this dramatic, crime mystery made me wish I would have had an opportunity to experience such an elegant ride. WHEN ONE PASSENGER WAS found dead in their cabin it was up to Detective Hercule Poirot, played by Kenneth Branagh (Dunkirk, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) to find the killer before another passenger wound meet the same fate. Based on Agatha Christie’s novel this movie directed by Kenneth Branagh was a beautiful representation of a time long passed. With Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Silent Witness-TV) as Miss Mary Debenham, Leslie Odom Jr. (Red Tails, Person of Interest-TV) as Dr. Arbuthnot, Penelope Cruz (The Counsellor, Head in the Clouds) as Pilar Estravados and Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Marshall) as Hector MacQueen; the cast was filled with heavy hitting actors. I truly enjoyed the way this movie was filmed because it was beautiful to watch. However with the script being so lifeless I had to wonder why the studio hired such a talented cast only to have them do nothing. There were some actors that I cannot recall if they had more than 4 lines; it was silly especially since Kenneth was in almost every scene and in the viewers’ faces. Drama and intensity were missing from this picture. Considering the circumstances taking place there needed to be tension, thrills and excitement; none of that was present in this film. I felt this remake took the story and put it in a pretty package to entice viewers, only to have them open it up and realize they already had seen a better version sometime before.
THOUGH I had made my way to the front I was nervous by the amount of people that were filling up the train station platform. I had not reached the start of the yellow warning strip at the edge of the platform, but one big surge or push could have detrimental results for someone. Something must have happened somewhere along the route to delay the train; the information board only listed a flashing “delay” notice for this particular train line. Everyone was being squeezed together. You could only hope the person behind you was not carrying any large packages that would dig into your back. On the plus side we were not waiting on one of the above ground stations out in the freezing cold. We were standing in a subway station underneath the downtown area. AFTER what seemed an unbearable amount of time the information board listed the arrival time for the train. I knew it was going to be a challenge to get on the train, let alone get a seat. If the train was skipping stations to make up the delay the chance would be better the passenger cars were not packed. However if it was making its usual stops, by the time it reached my station, the cars could be overflowing with people. As the train finally pulled into the station I saw the cars were over half filled with passengers. I had a good chance based on where I was standing; but only if the doors of the car stopped close in front of me. Luck was with me, one of the train car’s doors stopped directly in front of me. The two people ahead of me quickly moved inside; I followed them and we manuveured to the middle of the car as best we could. The reason was the tightest fit always occurred by the doors and one would have to constantly adjust their place as people tried to exit or shove their way inside. One could not help feeling bad for the passengers who got left behind as they watched their train pull away from the station. I felt much worse for the soldiers in this dramatic action film based on true events. MILITARY forces from Belgium, France and the British Empire were surrounded by the Nazis. The only way out was by sea, where they could easily be picked off by the enemy’s firepower. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight franchise, Interstellar) this historic war picture starred newcomer Fionn Whitehead as Tommy, Damien Bonnard (A Perfect Plan, Staying Vertical) as a French soldier, Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, The Other Boleyn Girl) as Mr. Dawson and Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn, Rabbit-Proof Fence) as the commander. This movie was not only beautifully filmed; it was enhanced with the incredible musical score that played a part in building up the tense scenes. The story was incredible and I felt Christopher kept it simple because honestly the event could speak for itself. With the placement of the cameras Christopher was able to maintain a deep emotional connection to the viewing audience. I saw this movie in an enhanced theater where the seats vibrated based on the sound intensity; it added more to my experience and level of enjoyment as I felt I was part of the scenes. This was such a well done picture and though my chances of dying on that train platform were slim, I could relate somewhat to the soldiers’ plight in this courageous story.
3 ½ stars
Do you remember the first time you heard these lyrics, “A dream is a wish your heart makes?” How about these words, “Bibbidi, Bobbidi, Boo?” The first time I saw the animated movie “Cinderella” I was scared of the stepmother. I could not understand how a parent could treat a child that way. But the character that really caught my attention was Gus the mouse because of his size; I could relate to him. The kindness Cinderella showered on him was something I wanted. If memory serves me correctly, I believe this movie was one of the first films that showed me how kindness could beat out evilness. I have seen articles that discussed the perceptions this past fantasy picture was portraying regarding Cinderella being a victim who relied solely on her looks. My interpretation resided along the lines of good vs evil. I hated the stepmother along with her daughters and was excited when Cinderella’s fairy godmother helped her get to the prince’s ball. As I grew older I continued to hope that good would always win over evil, even when it was being sorely tested on me. DIRECTED by Kenneth Branagh (Thor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), this film festival winning live action drama adventure was gorgeous to watch. The sets and costumes were incredible. Starring Lily James (Wrath of the Titans, Downton Abbey-TV) as Cinderella, Cate Blanchett (The Monuments Men, Blue Jasmine) as the stepmother and Richard Marden (A Promise, Game of Thrones-TV) as the prince; they really embodied the essence of the characters I remembered from the animated film. It was obvious they really were striving to make a memorable movie. In fact it was reported when Lily would wear the blue ball gown she could only consume liquids, nothing solid because the outfit was so restrictive. I read Cate could not sit down in some of her outfits and had to lean up onto a slant board to rest between takes; so, I give the actresses extra points for pushing through in their roles. The beginning 20-30 minutes of the movie dragged for me and involved sadness. It has been so long since I saw the animated film that I could not remember if it had dealt with Cinderella’s loss the same way, if at all. My disappointment fell onto the script; I did not know if it was due to my expectations or my memories of previous films, but I needed more drama and passion. Though Cate was terrific, I wanted her to be more evil if that makes sense. It just seemed as if the filming and story were kept at a constant safe level. In my heart I was wishing this would have matched my feelings for the animated Disney film; I guess I can still dream.
2 3/4 stars
I am so grateful I stopped using my charge card after the November Black Friday hacking scandal came to light. You see I used my card at that retailer over the weekend it was discovered and was concerned my account information got stolen. This past Saturday I received a phone call from the charge card company because they were detecting a suspicious transaction taking place on my account number. Someone in Plano, Texas was attempting to buy $41.28 worth of items at a grocery store, using an actual charge card with my number on it, at the checkout cash register. After telling the representative on the phone that I had the card in my possession here at home; she denied the purchase and closed the account, telling me a new account number and charge card would be issued and sent to me immediately. The reason I am mentioning it is because this happened just before I left to see this action thriller. The story involved electronic sabotage. Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, Unstoppable) played Jack Ryan. After an injury ended his military career, Jack caught the attention of Thomas Harper, played by Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves, Waterworld), who believed Jack’s skills would help the CIA foil a possible terrorist act against the United States. Possibly due to not having read the Tom Clancy books with Jack Ryan and my hacking episode, I enjoyed this action mystery film more than I though I would. Sure I still thought of Captain Kirk when Chris was on screen, but I thought his action scenes were well choreographed and his acting was good enough for the role. I thought Kevin did a fine job playing an older no-nonsense character. Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina, King Arthur) who played Doctor Cathy Muller was adequate, but the character felt more like it was there just to add a love interest into the story. As for Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn, Hamlet) who directed and starred as Viktor Cherevin in this movie, his direction and pacing was tight, keeping the story moving forward; I never felt a dull moment. However, his character was confusing to me because I did not quite understand his motives, nor thought he was intense enough. There were a couple of “you have to be kidding me” scenes but they played into the action scenes. If they make a sequel I probably would go see it. I just would not use my charge card to pay for it. There were a few scenes that had violence and blood.
2 2/3 stars