One of the bonuses for being in my career positions is being able to communicate with people from every continent except Antarctica. My fascination with other countries and cultures dates back many years. What I have learned is everyone shares the same basic concerns and joys of life, albeit in varying degrees. For me the physical differences associated with one’s race just tell me where their ancestors were born; otherwise, they mean nothing to me just like the color of one’s eyes. Walking through my local grocery store is like taking a free global trip without the jet lag. Down one aisle I will find products from Asia, followed by items from the southern part of North America down to South America. I enjoy watching the shoppers peruse the shelves and sometimes I even ask them about a product I am curious to try. Here is a little known fact about me; very few people in my circles know I go up to help people who appear to be lost or attempting to figure out where something is located. In the old days it was obvious when they were holding a map. Doing this is a great way to learn something new in my opinion. All of this makes up my world; the differences and commonalities between all of us. As generations move up the age ladder my concern is our history gets less important or even forgotten. An example would be a generation several times removed from the generation that experienced an event of genocide. I believe we need to know our history if we are going to grow as civilized humans. To me a major asset is hearing about an event from a person who experienced it. After that person is gone we are left with visual history such as actual places, video/film and historical documents. This is why I feel movies like this one have a place in our knowledge of our past. CONFEDERATE soldier Newton Knight, played by Matthew McConaughey (The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club), came to the realization he could no longer be a part of the corrupt things he saw taking place. Based on a true story this biographical dramatic film kept my attention due to its story; in fact, I felt the story was the best part of the movie. With Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond the Lights, Concussion) as Rachel, Keri Russell (August Rush, The Americans-TV) as Serena and Mahershala Ali (The Hunger Games franchise, The Place Beyond the Pines) as Moses; the acting was solid though oddly I was not as impressed with Matthew as I have been in the past. Parts of the script were well focused and intense; however, the story line that involved a time in the future was a distraction for me. I think if the writers stayed in the one time period this picture would have had more impact. It was obvious what they were trying to convey but I would have preferred if the writers waited and made a sequel that dealt with that particular subject. Despite the tough and bloody scenes in this movie the story is a lesson about our history.
2 ¾ stars
Before there were any scheduled play dates, before any friendships were formed and before there was the recognition of family members, there was a special steadfast presence in my young life. His name was Zippy and he was my toy stuffed chimpanzee. Waking up from a nap, my emerging gaze always fell upon the wide awake Zippy watching over me, his head lying close to mine. Dressed in red overalls he would always sit on my lap for a family portrait. He was my best friend, my protector, my guardian; he was always by my side. A few years had gone by before I found out how Zippy lost some of his fingers from his rubber hands. He was caught in the middle of a fight between siblings and had suffered a casualty. I found out he had been part of the family before I was born and had been handed down to me upon my birth. CAESAR in this action film reminded me of Zippy in some ways. Andy Serkis (The Prestige, The Lord of the Rings franchise) was unbelievable portraying the genetically altered chimpanzee Caesar in this science fiction sequel. Set 10 years in the future from the previous movie, mankind had been nearly obliterated by a deadly virus. Having seen no sign of a human for years, Caesar had become the leader to a colony of advanced apes who all lived peacefully together. Their world was about to change with the sudden encounter of Malcolm and Ellie, played by Jason Clarke (The Great Gatsby, Public Enemies) and Keri Russell (Austenland, August Rush). This intelligent exciting film got high marks for several reasons. The believable story made sense to me as it started out with a quick review of the previous movie before setting the stage to show-off its well thought out script. I especially enjoyed the acting from Jason and Gary Oldman (Paranoia, Lawless) as Dreyfus. What made this picture so special was the special effects. I sat watching this film amazed at how good everything looked. I could not tell if the apes were all CGI enhanced, done with makeup or if some actors were wearing costumes; it really was terrific. Besides Andy Serkis’ unbelievable performance I thought Toby Kebbell (War Horse, RocknRolla) was just as good as fellow ape Koba. There were only a couple of spots where I felt the story became sluggish; but they were so minor, it did not take away from the entertainment value. This was a case where the sequel was better than the original. There was scenes that made me nervously tense, excited, sad and happy; I only wished Zippy had been with me to see this great film.
3 1/2 stars
It took gaining more maturity before I stopped being judgmental about people’s hobbies or interests. When someone used to show me the items they collected, if it was not something that interested me, I would ask myself why anyone would collect such stuff. It did not matter if it was porcelain dolls, sports paraphernalia or ceramic elves; I had no understanding on what was the attraction. When I started working on my personal growth, something clicked inside of me. Who was I to judge someone on the things that brought them enjoyment? What I discovered was how much I admired the passion these people displayed when showing or talking about their interests. To be in touch with such feelings and find enjoyment in whatever it is you do, is something I consider to be a positive attribute. So when Jane Hayes, played by Keri Russell (Dark Skies, August Rush), decided to pursue her passion by spending her life savings on a trip to England, to submerge herself into the world of Jane Austen; I did not have a problem with it. Obsessed with the character of Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s book “Pride and Prejudice,” Jane wanted to find the type of love that would sweep her off of her feet. She was to find much more than that when she arrived at the Austen themed resort managed by Mrs. Wattlesbrook, played by Jane Seymour (Wedding Crashers, Somewhere in Time). I found the Jane Austen angle interesting in this romantic comedy. Maybe it was because of this theme, but I would have thought the producers would have hired the best writers possible to do justice to this movie. It did not happen; the script was stale and unimaginative. Jennifer Coolidge (Legally Blonde, Epic Movie) who I have enjoyed in the past, came across like a predictable cartoon character playing Miss Elizabeth Charming. As for Keri, this was not a good performance from her; I did not feel any connection to her bland character. The only one that came across with any real emotion was J.J. Field (Centurion, Blood: The Last Vampire) as Mr. Henry Nobley. It seemed odd to do a film about a woman’s passion for such an iconic author only to create a dull movie.
1 3/4 stars
At home, it is easier to turn up the music volume than to figure out the unexplained noises. This also works when I am driving my car. I think it is due to my imagination. When I hear an unfamiliar sound, my mind comes up with creative reasons to explain it that may not be based in reality. These days when I am home I either have the television on for background noise or I have music playing throughout the house. Unfortunately the suburban family in this suspenseful movie did not have such an option. Keri Russell (August Rush, Waitress) and Josh Hamilton (J. Edgar, Outsourced) played Lacy and Daniel Barrett, parents to two young boys. When a series of unexplained events began taking place in their home, Lacy and Daniel would eventually have to take extreme measures to protect their family. This scary film caught my attention right from the beginning. I liked the way the director built up the suspense, starting out slow with some creative ways of displaying the unexplained occurrences. As with Keri’s past performances which I have always enjoyed, I found her convincing in this role. What was a letdown for me was her chemistry with Josh. For some reason it seemed slightly restrained; I felt they could have been more dramatic as a couple. The use of J.K. Simmons (Juno, The Words) as Edwin Pollard was a lost opportunity. With his acting skills his role should have been bigger. As the story progressed in the last half of the film, I became disappointed with the way the suspense never increased. Based on the beginning of the movie I thought there would have been at least a couple of jump out of your seat type of scenes–it never happened. This film may not make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, but it was entertaining as a mystery. Two brief scenes with blood.
2 1/2 stars
Even with me not being a pie guy when it comes to desserts, this delectable movie made me hungry. The scrumptious looking baked pies added an extra richness to the wonderful story. Jenna Hunterson, played by Keri Russell (August Rush, Felicity-TV), was in a loveless marriage with her controlling husband Earl, played by Jeremy Sisto (Clueless, Into Temptation). Added to her misery was discovering she was pregnant with his child, extending or possibly cementing what she felt was her prison sentence. Only familiar with her work in August Rush, I was impressed with Keri’s acting. She was excellent in the role, beautifully displaying a full range of emotions. When she met new resident, Dr. Jim Pomatter, played by Nathan Fillion (Serenity, Castle-TV); little did she know how her life would change. Dreaming of having enough money to become independent and free of her husband, Jenna planned on entering one of her creations into the pie contest, with the hope of winning the 1st place cash prize. I was truly moved by this lovely, sentimental film. It was a shame Adrienne Shelly, the writer and director, did not live to see the finished movie about the strength of a sweet southern woman’s heart and her ability to pour it into her pies.
3 1/4 stars — DVD