SHE THOUGHT SHE WAS SUGGESTING SOME new concept to me, but I knew better. I was sure if I had been in the room before her she would have turned around and walked out after seeing me. She had done it before. I never said a word to anyone, but I felt she was rejecting me because to her I was old. When I walked into the classroom I saw some familiar faces who were participants in my yoga class; but then, I saw this one member was already seated on the floor on her yoga mat. I announced I was subbing for their instructor. This woman said nothing until after I went over what we would be doing in class that day. As I started to sit on the floor to begin our warmup poses, the woman asked if I could shut the lights off because the other instructor does it. This other instructor, by the way, was much younger than me; she only recently started teaching yoga. And in her class, she would shut the lights off, turn on a couple of battery-operated votive candles and play chimes periodically. When I told her, I would do it towards the end after observing how everyone was moving in class, she made one of those sounds associated with disgust, picked up her mat and walked out. TECHNICALLY, THIS MEMBER NEVER SAW ME teach class; she had to be rejecting me based on my appearance, it seemed to me. Though I can understand someone having reservations about trying a different instructor, I would not use appearance as a reason to reject a person. I have taught with other instructors who do not stereotypically look like a fitness person. They were not buff and had extra weight on their body; however, they taught a tough class. From my years of teaching fitness, I can put people into two separate groups: those that work out to look good and those who work out to feel good. Some members are predominately focused on their appearance; they are not interested in understanding how exercise is to be used for one’s quality of life. They think the more they sweat the better they will be and that is rarely the case. This group of people would be more likely to reject me simply because I have gray hair. I guess it goes with the territory, where people get judged either all or partially on their looks. Some lines of work can be tougher than others; that is why I understood what the main character was going through in this comedic drama. DURING THE LATE 60’S, HOLLYWOOD WAS going through changes: changes that would have a deep affect on actor Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio (The Great Gatsby, Titanic) and his stunt double Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt (Fury, Mr. & Mrs. Smith). It did not help that a new, young actress was living next door. With Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, The Legend of Tarzan) as Sharon Tate, Austin Butler (The Dead Don’t Die, The Carrie Diaries-TV) as Tex and Al Pacino (Danny Collins, Dick Tracy) as Marvin Schwarzs; this film took a while to kick in for me. Clocking in at 2 hours and 39 minutes, there was nothing one could say negative about the acting. Leonardo, Brad and Margot were wonderful through the entire story. I enjoyed seeing the movie making scenes as they were only one aspect of the story. The script had a couple of main stories that slowly blended in together. With multiple cameo roles and a great soundtrack; I loved watching this film and felt time went by quickly once I got into the story. There were a couple of violent bloody scenes and there was a quick extra scene during the credits.
The far reaching white expanse was marred by deep fissures that revealed touches of crystal blue running water. It almost looked like the ice had tears rolling down due to the frigid temperatures. The brightness reflecting off of all this ice made it difficult to shoot photos from my perch inside the helicopter. Once we landed on the ice I had the opportunity to take pictures but only if I left the warmth, comparatively speaking, from inside the chopper. As I stepped outside the still, frigid air settled on me like a bear hug. I felt my blood reversing course to go back and protect my internal organs, leaving my extremities to stiffen up from the cold. To take pictures I had to remove my gloves and I knew my fingers would quickly turn to rock solid stumps. The only way I cold function was to quickly snap multiple photos at a single time, alternating with the taking off and putting on of my bulky gloves. I grew up in a place that had 4 seasons, so I was used to the winter months; however here in Alaska, the cold seemed more intense. Maybe it was because there were no man made structures around just wide open spaces with the occasional rolled up snow drifts and broken ice chunks. Where I was visiting in Alaska there were no human inhabitants; I could not even imagine human life venturing to this area. Pristine and untouched, yet silently able to extinguish life with its icy breath it was all the more reason why I found this dramatic adventure film something special. CLOSE to death from a bear attack Hugh Glass, played by Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception, The Departed), was determined to stay alive in the unforgiving cold frontier. He had a special reason to reunite with his expedition. Inspired by true events this thriller was a monumental production. Included in the cast was Tom Hardy (Legend, Mad Max: Fury Road) as John Fitzgerald, Will Poulter (We’re the Millers, The Maze Runner) as Bridger and Domhnall Gleeson (About Time, Ex Machina) as Captain Andrew Henry; everyone deserved extra credit for the contribution they made to this incredible film. Both the directing and cinematography were outstanding. I especially admired the camera angles that were used in the shooting of multiple scenes. Honestly I do not know how the cast and crew survived such a long film shoot in such an inhospitable locale. There were a few cringeworthy scenes that included blood; I found myself squirming in my seat. Set in the 1820s this was a raw yet beautiful picture; the original soundtrack was a perfect accompaniment. At one point I had to keep reminding myself that the film studio would not want to lose anyone to the brutal elements so there had to be some protection set up for everyone. I have to tell you watching this film was like a workout for me; bundled up in my seat staring and cringing in disbelief.
3 1/2 stars
When two people work well together they create something truly special. I have one friend who is the only person I will travel with because we compliment each other so well. When we are exploring a new city or area out of state, we usually cover everything on our to do list. If for no other reason because we both are avid walkers. For example at a national park while they read all the signage that pertains to each site, I make sure I take multiple photo shots to create a visual travelog. After we return home we can easily recreate our vacation down to the littlest of details. In film history there have been several couples who had a way of blending with each other to give us memorable moments. Some of these pairings would be Katherine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy/William Powell. A current couple that does something special when they get together on a film project is Leonardo DiCaprio (The Departed, Titanic) and director Martin Scorsese (Hugo, The Departed). In this crime comedy the two men made a spectacular film. Based on a true story Leonardo played Jordan Belfort, a New York stockbroker who was at the center of a huge securities fraud scheme back in the 1990s. With his partner Donnie Azoff, played by Jonah Hill (This is the End, Moneyball), the two built up a brokerage firm that would fund their excessive lifestyle; it did not matter if it was legal or not. I believe this was Leonardo’s best acting performance to date. Not only the emotional aspect but the physical side of his acting created a volcanic, unforgettable character. The casting of this Golden Globe nominated movie yielded several interesting choices such as Rob Reiner (The Story of Us, All in the Family-TV) playing Jordan’s father Max Belfort and Joanne Lumley (Late Bloomers, Absolutely Fabulous-TV) as Aunt Emma. For the few scenes they had, each left a lasting impression. Now I understand the movie originally clocked in over 4 hours but after some editing it was reduced to 3. This was still too long for me, since I felt the amount of sexual scenes were excessive. With that being said, Martin’s directing was pure perfection; each scene came across fully realized. Some viewers may have a hard time with the nudity and use of strong language throughout the film. Based on the track record for Leonardo and Martin, we should be in store for more movie magic in the future.
3 3/4 stars
The haves and have nots, the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, the upper class exploiting the lower class, wealthy husbands and their mistresses; any of these topics can be found in today’s headlines. They also are part of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, The Great Gatsby. Brought to the big screen by director/writer Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, Australia), we saw the lavish surroundings where the wealthy play; oblivious to those of lesser means. The marketing of this movie has been intense, showing glimpses of spectacular parties, classic cars, mansions; all accompanied by a heavy hip hop beat. Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception, Django Unchained) played Jay Gatsby, a mysterious wealthy man whose life had been motivated by his love for one particular woman. Carey Mulligan (Drive, Shame) was Daisy Buchanan, a wealthy socialite married to the unfaithful Tom Buchanan, played by Joel Edgerton (Warrior, The Odd Life of Timothy Green). Set up as the narrator of this story was midwesterner Nick Carraway, played by Tobey Maguire (Spiderman franchise, Brothers). I enjoyed the performances from each actor; they did their best with what was written for them. The costumes and sets were brilliantly reproduced to reflect the era of 1920’s Long Island, New York. With such detail given to the look of this film, I found the choice of music to be a distraction. At a particular scene I glanced down at my watch to make a mental note of the time. It was approximately 50 minutes into the story before I started caring about any of the characters. I found the 1st half of the film to be bloated as it lumbered along. The last half of the movie contained most of the drama, almost force feeding it to the audience. The heavy handed way the story was told made it sag under its own excessiveness. This extravagant film could have benefitted from an austerity program. A couple of brief scenes with blood.
2 1/2 stars
You are getting something more with your purchase of a ticket for this movie. You are receiving passage to a director who lovingly pays tribute to his elders with this film. Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill franchise) looks at past filmmakers’ achievements and updates them for a current audience. And in this case he also channels a little bit of Mel Brooks into a couple of scenes in this film. I am not a fan of blood and guts violence, so when I view a Tarantino movie I know there will be a heightened intensity to any kind of confrontation. But Quentin adds a stylized touch to such violence; case in point, the viewer sees a red mist of blood sprayed onto a patch of cotton plants instead of the intended victim. Then there is Quentin’s choice of music for the various scenes; it clearly conveys the actors’ feelings on an audible emotional level. The story starts out simple: a bounty hunter becomes a mentor to a recently freed slave, needing his assistance in tracking down the wanted Brittle brothers. As you may know with any story written by Quentin, there are multiple story lines added. The acting was outstanding throughout this wild film. Jamie Foxx (Law Abiding Citizen, Ray) played slave turned bounty hunter Django. His performance was a simmering, restricted anger on the verge of boiling over. His mentor was the precise, German transplant Dr. King Schultz (you have to love the irony of his name) played brilliantly by Christoph Waltz (Carnage, Water for Elephants). One of my favorite actors, Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic, The Departed) was cast as the maniacal southern plantation owner Calvin Candie. Adding his own special touch to the cast and story was Samuel L. Jackson (Jackie Brown, Unbreakable) as Calvin’s servant Stephen. The great use of dialog, the captivating photography and the imaginative camera angles all helped to make this movie a wonderful homage to what was referred to as the spaghetti western movies. Clocking in at 2 hours and 45 minutes, this film could have used stronger editing. Be prepared to laugh, wince, cringe, stare with disbelief, have your ears assaulted by vulgar negative words, witness ripped or bullet ridden bloody flesh as you enter the unbelievable world of Quentin Tarantino.
3 1/2 stars
The higher the value placed on objects, the more greed comes out in mankind, it seems to me. And the ones that suffer the most are the poor workers. At a time of escalating unstableness in Sierra Leone, conflict diamonds were being used to fund rebel forces. This startling film depicted the horrors people faced when forced to work in the diamond mines, as the wealthy power brokers sought out ways to gain even more strength for themselves. The story centered on a rare, raw diamond that could change the fortune of whoever had possession of it. Forcibly separated from his family; Solomon Vandy, played by Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator, The Island), was the discoverer of this unusual diamond. Danny Archer, played by Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception, J. Edgar) was the smuggler who saw an opportunity that could alter his life greatly, if he could only gain access to the incredible gem. With a shaky government, bloody warlords and conniving opportunistic businessmen, the level of greed was astounding to me. Leonardo was absolutely amazing in this role, even if I found the accent a bit odd. Matching in intensity, Djimon was such a strong presence, he filled out every scene he was in; it was a breathtaking performance. In a lessor role, I felt Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, Hulk) as Maddy Bowen did an excellent job with the dialog she was given. This was not an easy movie to watch with scenes of bloody violence. However, with an incredulous story, along with the brilliant acting, there was no way I could look away. I was amazed how things of such beauty could elicit such ugliness in man.
3 1/2 stars — DVD