AFTER THE MEAL WAS DONE AND the dishes were washed, the lights would be turned down and the show would begin. Except for dessert, this was my favorite part of family get togethers. The first movie projector I ever saw was at a relative’s house. I cannot remember how young I was when I saw my first home movies, but I know it was before I was in kindergarten. The movie projector would get set up in the living room; opposite of it, my relative would unroll a movie screen that was perched on top of a tripod. All the kids would be sitting on the floor while some of the older relatives squeezed together on the sofa. The other family members would either sit on one of the various chairs that were set up around the room or simply lean up against a solid surface. Every time the movie projector was turned on, I enjoyed hearing the film reel being spooled through the projector because it sounded like the sound I would get when I clipped a playing card to the spokes of my bicycle wheel. With the tick, tick, tick sound steady in the background the first few frames of each movie reel always had what I took to be static; random scratches and lines briefly appearing on the screen before family members would materialize. MY COUSINS AND I WOULD GIGGLE whenever we saw a much younger version of one of our relatives. No matter where or what was being filmed, every reel always had scenes of family members waving at the camera. I discovered that waving usually meant they did not want to be filmed, especially anything that required any physical exertion beyond waving. Then there were some relatives who loved to perform in front of the camera by either singing, dancing, demonstrating a tool, cooking or some other type of activity. To me, I did not care what they did because I was just excited to see a piece of family history. I had this fascination with studying the relatives who had died before I was born. It was one of my ways to find a connection to the past. Not that I wanted to live in the past, I just wanted to see the same things my older relatives had seen. Being able to see a past relative in one of these movies brought life to the photos that we had in our old family photo albums. I can not only appreciate what the subject in this documentary has done throughout his life, I can also relate to it. THROUGHOUT HIS ENTIRE LIFE VAL KILMER (The Doors, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) filmed everything he was doing, even when he was the one being filmed. Directed by first time directors Ting Poo and Leo Scott, this biography was a fascinating study of an actor’s life. Spanning approximately 40 years, I enjoyed the cameos from movie actors such as Kevin Bacon and Marlon Brando. The idea of Val having not only filmed so much of his life, but to have saved all of it was remarkable; but seeing it in contrast to his life now was especially emotional. I felt I was getting a history lesson in multiple subjects and I mean that in a positive way. Seeing a brash young actor at one moment, then realizing the scope of his acting journey as it unfolded in this movie provided a solid base for Val to touch on many subjects which I appreciated. Hearing what he wanted to make a particular scene more authentic gave me new insight into his capabilities and insights. Even if one is not a movie fan, this film provides enough entertainment along with poignant moments for any type of viewer.
3 ½ stars
DURING my daily commute to work I pass 3 makeshift memorials that were set up by the side of the road. What they have in common are floral arrangements, ribbons and sadness. My guess is each person from the memorials perished from an auto accident. How tragic it must be for the family; based on past news articles, I can only imagine the circumstances of the accident. I remember one involved a boy riding his bicycle who was struck by a car that swerved out of the way of a tarp that fell off of a truck in front of them, momentarily blinding the driver. Can you imagine if this took place in front of the boy’s house and the family sees the memorial every day? I do not know how I would handle it, seeing a reminder outside my door every day, even without a memorial. RECENTLY I was driving through my old neighborhood with a friend who was curious to see my old stomping grounds. Driving through several blocks, I shared memories and tidbits while pointing out various places. As I drove by one particular building I started to tear up from the flood of awful memories associated with the place. My friend saw the change in me and asked what was going on inside of me. Taking a breath I started to tell them about some of the horrible things that were done to me when I was much younger. It felt like I was reliving them as I spoke them out loud. Though I believe each of us learns something from every experience, thinking about that time after all these years still made me feel sad and angry. I do not think I am alone in saying recalling tough, challenging events in the past is a hard thing to do; this is why it was not easy for me to watch this dramatic historical thriller. FROM an act of terror during the Boston marathon the citizens of Boston united in a powerful way. This film festival winning movie written and directed by Peter Berg (Deepwater Horizon, Lone Survivor) starred Mark Wahlberg (Deepwater Horizon, Daddy’s Home) as Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders, Michelle Monaghan (Sleepless, Source Code) as Carol Saunders, John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane, Love the Coopers) as Commissioner Ed Davis and Kevin Bacon (Black Mass, Elephant White) as Special Agent Richard DesLauriers. I felt Peter presented a thoughtful, reflective story that did not sink into dramatic hyperbole. Because the script was sensitively written I thought the actors did fine in their roles and in regards to Mark he was in his element. Since I was quite familiar with this story, knowing people who were affected by it, I thought I would not have been as engaged in the movie. It turned out I was very much into the film as there were multiple scenes that showed the things taking place away from the public; it was fascinating to watch. I will say it was not easy to sit and watch this movie due to seeing the violence and injuries again. The images I remembered all came up as the story unfolded on the big screen. Let me just say if you have the stomach to revisit this event then it is worth watching this well done film.
My feet could not completely fit on the stairs; I felt like I was walking on tiptoe as I made my way up the spiral staircases. The echoes from my steps reverberated off the stone walls so it sounded like I was climbing with a crowd of people around me. I had left the outside of the centuries old structure with its marble panels of white, green and red; to slowly make my way up the inside of its dome. The fact that this building was completed in 1436 did not escape me; I could not stop taking photographs of everything that came into my sight. It was almost hard to process that I was making my way through a building that had been standing already for over 500 years; if it was not one of the oldest things I had seen, it had to be pretty close then. My goal was to reach the top and venture outside to look over the city of Florence, Italy. This building is known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flowers aka il Duomo di Firenze and to this day its dome is the largest brick structure in the world. As I finally reached the top and ventured out into the daylight, the sun flashed into my face. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the brightness and when they did, I was horrified to see the walls of the observation balcony had spray painted graffiti all over them. I felt it was incredibly disrespectful and plain old ignorant; why would someone do such a thing? Just watch this horror thriller and see what could happen when someone is disrespectful towards ancient objects. AFTER returning from vacation the Taylor family began to experience odd occurrences around their house. Husband and wife Peter and Bronny, played by Kevin Bacon (Cop Car, Black Mass) and Radha Mitchell (Finding Neverland, Man of Fire); noticed their son Michael’s, played by David Mazouz (The Games Maker, Touch-TV), behavior was being affected. What I liked about this horror film was the use of suspense instead of using graphic and bloody props to scare the audience. It also helped that the characters were placed in a typical setting and reacted in a way that was easily relatable. However, the script did not do anything new or different from the multitude of horror films I had seen before. I did not mind the acting but I felt there could have been more opportunities to increase the tension level or even scare factor if the writing was better. This production came across with a connect the dots story line that incorporated bits and pieces of stuff that had been done before; sort of like the writers were following a recipe where you add a little of this and a little of that, if you know what I mean. Even the briefest of an extra scene at the end of the credits essentially provided nothing for the viewers, so why did the writers add it? They should have left well enough alone in more ways than one.
1 ¾ stars
Bombs were splattering their contents all around me. Luckily I had scoped out the area so I had my escape route planned out before settling into my current hiding spot. The rest of my team was spread out but we had a plan to regroup in case the enemy overpowered us. I fell back and raced to the rope bridge that would get me to higher ground. Making my way across it I glanced down to see the gaping valley below was barren; there was no place for anyone to take cover. As I reached the top I bounded across these odd wooden slats, trying to keep the soles of my shoes from announcing my location. Up ahead my fellow warriors were huddled together near a cold fire pit. We decided to fan out in two groups to circle around our aggressors and capture them from behind. There was a cave down to the north, but it was actually a tunnel that would take us all the way to the back of the mountain. The problem was to get down, we would have to scale down the side of the mountain with our backs exposed; it was a dangerous undertaking but it was the only way. It was a treacherous climb but we did it, creeped around and captured the enemy. Since it was already late in the day we all decided we better get home and get ready for dinner; our parents would be worrying about us. What I just described took place around a large apartment building from the neighborhood where I grew up. My friends and I had hours of fun with our imaginations. WHILE 10 year old friends Travis and Harrison, played by relative newcomers James Freedson and Hays Welford, were working on their escape they came across an abandoned police car. They now had a getaway car but their escape would turn into a chase when Sheriff Kretzer, played by Kevin Bacon (My One and Only, Mystic River), came back to find his squad car was missing. This film festival nominated thriller had a simple, bare bones story; I felt I was watching an old “B” movie. I enjoyed the way the writers let the audience know right upfront what the characters were like, so as the film progressed we felt we knew the true character of the players. I rather relished the tenseness I was experiencing as I wanted to warn the kids to watch out. With Shea Whigham (Take Shelter, Silver Linings Playbook) as the man, I thought the acting was real good in this slower paced type of thriller. The way the kids were playacting connected me to some of my memories when I was a child with a vivid imagination. It is funny because I never imagined I would have enjoyed this film as much as I did. There were several scenes with blood in them.
2 2/3 stars
They are your last dance partner in life. Rarely can you slip out from their cold embrace once the rhythm of your heartbeat matches their failing beat. There are some who spend a lifetime flirting with it, enticing it to come close; but at the last minute, they spin back away from their advances. Everyone has their own names for it; some call it passing while others refer to it as expired. As a permanent fixture in one’s life, everyone interacts with death in their own way. There are some who cannot even look at it, choosing to change direction in mid-step just to avoid confronting it. Various individuals will not veer from their path, expecting to be taken to a different location assisted by death’s guidance. I am not one to dwell on death since there is nothing I can do about it once it decides to greet me. Sure I exercise and do things to make my life less desirable for death’s tastes; but we both know when death comes to us it does not leave empty-handed. This is why I never judge anyone’s reactions or actions in the way they deal with death. There is some saying about not knowing what a person is feeling until you walk in their shoes, so I never comment on someone’s relationship with death. The writer in my though does observe with mild curiosity at times. DEATH became an unwanted guest in the house of Megan and Tom Stark, played by Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River, Into the Wild) and Kevin Bacon (Apollo 13, The Woodsman). Already challenged with Megan’s breast cancer, a heavy burden descended on the couple after a woman drove her car in front of a passenger train that Tom was running that day, leaving her son an orphan. This film festival nominated drama had a curious affect over me. As I began watching this DVD I did not feel drawn to the story. However, as the movie continued the acting from Marcia and Kevin started to pull me in. They did an admirable job with the somewhat predictable script, aided by Miles Helzer (Rudderless, Parenthood-TV) who played Davey Danner. Clint Eastwood’s daughter, actress Alison Eastwood (Poolhall Junkies, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), chose this story to be her directorial debut and she did some decent work here. She had a good eye for framing scenes. Despite the good acting and direction, the script did not live up to its responsibilities toward the picture. At times far-fetched and overwrought with emotional passages, the script failed the actors. I do not recall this movie ever opening at the theaters; it may have died on arrival. But for a home viewing experience I did not mind watching this DVD at all.
2 1/3 stars — DVD
It is not healthy for me to ignore my cravings. If it involves a particular food, I know if I do not satisfy my yearning, I will only wind up eating other things that will not be gratifying to me. What would make the situation worse is if I could not find the right item; I am sure this has happened to many of you. That urge, let us say, for a chocolate chip cookie; where your mind races to figure out the fastest way you can get one of those decadent, lovely circular mounds of soft moist dough that have accepted the requests from those deep rich chocolate chips to come settle down and plant roots on their pliable land–aahhhh. Imagine how it feels when you finally find a place that sells these cookies, buy one and on your first bite your taste buds are assaulted by a dry, unsweetened, hard pice of crumbling sawdust. You were taken in by a horrible imposter. Well, that is the same feeling I had watching this poor excuse for a science fiction/fantasy film. Recently slain police officer Nick, played by Ryan Reynolds (Safe House, Just Friends) found himself sitting in front of Proctor, played by Mary-Louise Parker (Red franchise, Solitary Man), the Unhuman Resources Manager for the Rest In Peace Department. Being given the option to go back to Earth, Nick agreed to join the force so he could find his killer. Accompanying him was veteran officer Roy, played by Jeff Bridges (True Grit, Crazy Heart). The story was a cut and paste job that took parts from Men in Black, Ghost and Ghost Busters. Unfortunately the writers did nothing to enhance or update the stories; so, I am at a loss to understand why they bothered with this movie. There was such a great opportunity to inject humor into this film; if only the writers had played up the human forms of NIck and Roy. Those alive would see Roy as a young, voluptuous blonde-haired woman and Nick as an elderly Asian man. It would have been funny to see more of these two characters in the crazy stunts that happened to them. The special effects were fine and I was so surprised to see Kevin Bacon (Mystic River, Sleepers) in the movie as Hayes. He was not in any of the trailers I had seen. Maybe the whole purpose of the film was so Jeff and Ryan could be added into the trail of seven degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon. After sitting through this film I came home and popped a DVD in of a good science fiction movie to watch and satisfy my craving.
1 2/3 stars