ONE OF THE BIGGEST COMPLAINTS I have heard about treadmills is that they are boring. They don’t take the person anywhere is a frequent excuse why a person will not use one. I used to jog outside on the streets until I was almost hit by a car that was making a fast turn. That event was the last time I jogged on the streets. I tried running on sidewalks but I could not handle all the cracks and debris I found. To avoid them I switched to jogging on a treadmill. When this transition took place treadmills did not have video screens attached to them. I would turn on loud music as motivation and off I went on my run. Currently I have seen treadmills with video screens attached for the runner to either follow a programmed scenic trail or television shows. At the clubs I work at there are large monitors suspended in a long row from the ceiling facing the treadmills, so members have further options of what they want to look at while jogging. I can see where this could help or motivate a person to exercise. THERE IS ANOTHER COMMENT I have heard regarding people who jog. Some say the person is running away or to something they have on their mind. I do not know if I would make a blanket statement like that, but speaking for myself I do get lost in my thoughts while jogging. If there is something bothering me I usually focus on it and before I know it 30-60 minutes have passed by. But when you think about it isn’t any leisure activity prone to letting one experience a time of reflection? There are some members at the fitness center I am sure are working on some issue in their head as they go through their paces on the exercise equipment. Jogging, along with any aerobic activity, can produce endorphins which are hormones that get released in the brain to reduce pain and make one feel relaxed or full of energy, according to the dictionary. Knowing this as I do, I had to wonder what the main character in this action adventure film was going towards because she was doing an awful lot of running. FINALLY COMING TO TERMS WITH her father’s death Lara Croft, played by Alicia Vikander (Tulip Fever, The Danish Girl), was about to sign on as heir to the Croft fortune and take over the company’s businesses until she was handed a puzzle by the executor. The puzzle was only the first piece into solving the mysterious disappearance of her father Lord Richard Croft, played by Dominic West (Chicago, The Forgotten). With Kristin Scott Thomas (Darkest Hour, The Party) as Ana Miller, Walter Goggins (The Hateful Eight, Diablo) as Mathias Vogel and Daniel Wu (The Man with the Iron Fists, One Nite in Mongkok) as Lu Ren; this reboot was centered on Alicia’s character and she did not disappoint. She was more than capable to helm this story and in fact she would be the only reason to watch this picture. Some of her action scenes were crazy to watch; but overall they were not enough to support the weak script. There was little development of the characters and to tell you the truth I thought the special effects were nothing special. If I did not know better I could have sworn the writers took their inspiration from the Raiders of the Lost Ark story. The story here did not appear to be well thought out in my opinion; Lara was too busy running all the time to allow the viewers to fully connect with her and her plight.
SITTING AT THE TABLE WITH no one to talk to was making me uncomfortable. There were at least a dozen people sitting around the long table, but I did not know any of them. I was supposed to meet a friend at this gathering but after I arrived at the restaurant they texted they were still stuck at work. Since I was already there I tried to make the best of it. The group met once a month at this particular restaurant but throughout the year they planned different cultural events; my friend and I thought it would be something worth checking out. After I was seated and introductions were made all around, it became apparent to me that everyone there knew each other. I was the odd man out. Some of the individuals sitting around asked me a couple of questions like where I was from and what did I do for a living, but afterwards their attention was drawn back to their friends or people they already knew. THOUGH THIS WAS NOT THE type of venue where I would bring something, I should have brought my old standby anyway. There is this little bakery I know that has been open more than 50 years. It is sort of like an old world type of place where they bake a variety of items. One in particular is my favorite and whenever I bring them to a gathering the folks there gather around and talk to me about the item. Light and airy, shaped into curved oblong commas, they have a sprinkling of sugar on top. I know a majority of people would bring a bottle of wine; I prefer bringing baked goods. It is difficult to attend a party where you hardly know any of the guests and I have found this item can break the ice with most people. Personally I quickly withdraw from a party when I see guests have gathered into their own little cliques. It reminds me of the divisions that were in place in high school. And since I am not a drinker, when guests at a party start acting silly from too much alcohol I wrap things up and say my goodbyes. Nothing worse than being at a party with an out of control guest; so I better warn you the guests at the party in this dramatic comedy are one intense group. ON THE NIGHT JANET, PLAYED by Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Four Weddings and a Funeral) throws a dinner party her husband Bill, played by Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner, Secrets & Lies), waits until the guests arrived before making an announcement. This film festival winning movie also starred Patricia Clarkson (The Station Agent, The Green Mile) as April, Emily Mortimer (Match Point, Lars and the Real Girl) as Jinny and Cherry Jones (The Perfect Storm, The Village) as Martha. Hands down Patricia was the star of this film, though the rest of the cast was excellent; she stood out for me. I am sure part of it was due to the acidic script. The direction was fine but as the story unfolded I never quite felt engaged with any of the characters. At one point it just seemed like a lot of chaos was taking place; I found myself wanting to tune out. It was too bad, because I enjoyed the picture being filmed in black and white along with some of the wicked lines in the script. By the time the movie was over I was glad I was not invited to this party.
THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS used to be such a cut and dry proposition; at least in my mind. During my formative years (they may still be going on presently) when someone made a decision I would carry it out. Whether it was at home or school, this is how I was raised. I cannot recall as a child if I questioned any decisions, though I will say I am sure I interpreted some of them in different ways than they were intended. My sensibilities started to change when that teacher, I have talked about before, told me I would amount to nothing if I pursued a career in writing. It was at that very moment I began questioning authority. The idea of one person, let alone a relative stranger, making a decision that would directly affect me made me extremely uncomfortable and rebellious. What right did this person have to decide what I could and could not do? Not that I would cause a riot or something, but I would question their decision even if it was only an internal dialog in my mind. LOOKING BACK THRU THE eyes of an adult; I now see where some decisions were solely a lucky guess, while others had consequences. Remembering my gym teacher in high school who refused to give me a passing grade, so I would have to repeat the course over; condemned me to another year of abuse even though he was aware of what I went through the first time. The decision by a fitness instructor to let me choreograph an aerobic routine for her started me on a career path in the fitness industry. Now I am very much aware of the magnitude some decisions have not only on me but on society in general. Thinking about one individual deciding on something that has major ramifications on a vast amount of people has to be a scary notion; heck, it should be a terrifying thing. I would not want someone to decide something of importance so cavalierly. The reason I have been thinking about decisions is due to this film festival winning dramatic war film. It is one thing to read about it in history books, but it is totally different to watch the decision process in action. WITH GERMAN FORCES SWEEPING across Europe it was only a matter of time before Germany had Great Britain in its sights. Choices had to be made but which ones would be the right ones? Starring Gary Oldman (The HItman’s Bodyguard, The Space Between Us) as Winston Churchill, Lily James (Cinderella, Baby Driver) as Elizabeth Layton, Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Clementine Churchill, Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom, Rogue One) as King George VI and Stephen Dillane (Spy Game, The Hours) as Viscount Halifax; this film would be an ideal companion piece to the film Dunkirk since they are set in similar times. Gary was outstanding as Winston Churchill; he was the main focus actually of the whole film and script. I understood this however; I felt the script was a bit weak in parts. When Winston was on everything felt right, but in the quieter moments I was left wanting more out of the characters, more in depth interactions between them. Taking the action at face value, I enjoyed the cat and mouse approach to part of the story. Whoever decided Gary was the right choice for the role deserves a pat on the back. I would not necessarily say the same for the script approval, but still the film was worth seeing.
3 ¼ stars
It is funny how one person may think a tidbit of information is important to know, while another feels it is insignificant. As the years pass the bond between friends and family solidifies, where shared experiences provide more knowledge about each other. There may even be a point in time where you could anticipate what the other person would do in a situation. Having this type of awareness can help prevent some types of conflict or disagreements. After being part of each other’s life for some years imagine what kind of surprise it would be to discover something you never knew about your friend or family member. I had a relative who remarried later in life. The entire family had heard his new bride was a singer in Europe, but the way we were told made it sound like she sang at weddings and open mic nights at several local establishments. Since I never heard her sing, I did not give much thought to her past life of being an entertainer. Recently I had a member who came up to me after class to ask about a yoga pose. We started talking and she mentioned she had just returned from a European trip. When she brought up she visited the country of her birth, which happened to be the same place where my relative’s wife grew up, I was curious to see if she had ever heard of her. I was stunned when she not only knew about my relative’s wife, but had been to several of her concerts. She continued heaping praise on her to the point I was upset I never got the chance to hear more about my relative’s life story. SURPRISE was in store for Mathais Gold, played by Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda, The Last of Robin Hood), when he inherited an apartment in Paris. Upon arriving to inspect the apartment Mathais was shocked to find Mathilde Girard, played by Maggie Smith (Harry Potter franchise, Quartet), living in the place. It would be the first of many surprises. I wished I had enjoyed this comedic drama more because I thought Maggie and Kevin did a wonderful job of acting, along with Kristin Scott Thomas (Gosford Park, The English Patient) as Chloe. They did everything to try and make their characters come to life. However, the script was poorly done; there were gaps where the story dragged and felt uneven. On the plus side I found the idea behind the story interesting and enjoyed watching Maggie’s performance. It came as a surprise to me when I realized at the end of the movie I could only give an average star rating to this dramatic comedy with its exceptional cast.
2 1/4 stars
The couple sitting next to me either thought the armrest between us was radioactive or rigged to explode. No not really, they were heavy into performing public displays of affection, known as PDAs. I do not have an issue with a kiss, hug, neck massage, tickle or the holding of hands; but when 2 people are intensely trying to invade each other’s body in a public area like the aisle of a grocery store or on a crowded train, I have to wonder what is going on that they need to show the world they are in love that much. Honestly, I interpret it to mean there is something lacking in their relationship and they are overcompensating for it. On the flip side when a person does not want to be out in public with their significant other, I usually make the assumption there is something they are hiding or embarrasses them. Based on the biographical book of the same name, this romantic drama revealed a side of Charles Dickens that was unfamiliar to me. Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter franchise, Red Dragon) directed and starred as Charles Dickens. Upon meeting the young daughter of Mrs. Frances Ternan, played by Kristin Scott Thomas (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The English Patient), Charles Dickens became enamored with her to the point where his wife Catherine, played by Joanna Scanlan (Notes of a Scandal, Girl with a Pearl Earring), knew something was afoot. The first thing I have to tell you is how surprised I was about the story. Witnessing the actions of Charles Dickens in this Oscar nominated film I could easily see him play one of the characters in his novels. The scenes in this richly detailed film went from sparse open expanses to muted fully appointed rooms. Each aspect of this movie was well thought out. Felicity Jones (Hysteria, The Tempest) as the young woman Nelly did a beautiful job of acting as did the other actors. If I separate each part of this film I had no complaints about them individually; however, what failed for me was the directing. This story was so dragged out; I had a hard time staying focused. One of the comments I heard a fellow viewer say afterwards was if he saw the back of Nelly’s head one more time he was going to scream. I am sure Ralph is proud of this film, but if I had done this picture with the same results I would have tried to keep it hidden away from my friends.
2 3/4 stars
No matter what profession a person has studied in, they could have graduated at the top or bottom of their class. Even with my high regard for the teaching profession, the same holds true. I have had an assortment of teachers that ran the spectrum from inspirational to looney. There was one teacher I had who was an alcoholic. When he walked into the classroom with a beet red face, all the students knew he had been out drinking somewhere. A scandal was caused when my social studies teacher started an affair with one of the gym teachers. Out of all my teachers, my 7th grade teacher was the most bizarre. She avoided talking to students by keeping a pack of flash cards with her at all times. I do not know if she had the cards specifically made for her, because they each had different messages such as “Bring that to me” or “Please sit down and stop talking.” All I can say is, there are some teachers who are mentors and there are some who should have never chosen teaching as a career. In this dark mysterious comedy from France, the instructor took his mentoring to an extreme. Fabrice Luchini (The Women on the 6th Floor, Paris) played Germain, a frustrated writing teacher. When student Claude Garcia, played by Ernst Umhauer (The Monk), showed talent in his writing, Germain encouraged the young man to explore and push the topic further. However the subject happened to be Claude’s classmate Rapha, played by newcomer Bastien Ughetto, and his parents Esther and Rapha Sr., played by Emmanuelle Seigner (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Ninth Gate) and Denis Menochet (Robin Hood, Inglourious Basterd)s. When boundaries get pushed to create good story, consequences cannot be too far behind. I found parts of the story witty and amusing, enjoying Fabrice’s performance and that of Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Gosford Park) as his wife Jeanne. There were some sections of the story that seemed too crazy to even be possible. I would be the first one to praise the teaching profession; I just would not use the teacher in this movie as an example. French with English subtitles.