WE HAD MET WITHIN a group of people who assembled at the art museum. Throughout our time there we bumped into each other several times; it seemed we appreciated the same artists. Everyone from the group returned to our meeting place in the lobby near the gift shop at the designated time. Some individuals said their goodbyes and left; others broke off into smaller groups to stick around or do something else. She and I decided to go out for coffee since it was too early to get something to eat. We walked over to a nearby café, found an open table and sat down with our menus in hand. After we placed our orders we talked about our appreciation for the same artists and how fortunate we were to have a world class art museum in our city. FROM OUR CONVERSATION THAT initially focused on art we veered into the topic of beauty and what does it mean to be beautiful. We touched on a variety of aspects concerning beauty; for example, the unrealistic expectations found in modeling and fashion. I do not know how it happened but we started to share our own assessment of our looks. Something she said struck me in a curious way; it was the way she said it I think that made me question her further. When she talked about herself I noticed a majority of her comments had a negative element to them. I could not understand why she felt that way so I simply asked her if she thought she was not a beautiful person. She just stared at me for only a moment before I noticed tears welling up, about to spill out of her eyes. Turning her head away she looked out the window before she whispered yes. After a brief silence she explained that she was born with a hair lip that took a couple of surgeries to correct, though a trace of it remained. Ever since that time she always felt poorly about herself. I did not want to prod and see if she was teased or treated differently since it was obvious she still was dealing with some emotional baggage over it. Sadly I could relate since I had body image issues growing up that did a number on me. It takes one small thing whether a comment or one’s own lack of confidence that takes us on a path of darkness. FORCED OUT OF THEIR city due to an evil threat; it would take friendship, magic and hope for Princess Skystar, voiced by Kristin Chenoweth (Bewitched, The Boy Next Door), and her friends to find a way to save their precious homes. This animated, adventure comedy also had Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, Looper) voicing Tempest Shadow, Uzo Aduba (Tallulah, Orange is the New Black-TV) voicing Queen Novo, Taye Diggs (Chicago, Private Practice-TV) voicing Capper and Liev Schreiber (Spotlight, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) voicing The Storm King. The animation was your typical old fashioned Saturday morning flat style. I am afraid the script was written in a narrow range for the 5-7 year old set; there was not much offered for anyone older. Unfortunately I found a good portion of this movie boring. It was not until the last ½ hour or so that I became interested. And it was a shame because I thought the message conveyed was poignant and meaningful. For those of you who were into My Little Pony toys you might enjoy this story more than I did. For the rest of the viewing audience I suggest you skip this ride at the theater.
“YOU should write a book about it,” is a comment that has been directed to me numerous times. The reason has less to do with my writing ability and more with the incredible to outrageous stories I have been involved in or told. I will avoid using pronouns to protect the individuals. There was one person I was involved with whose family history played out like an evening soap opera, television show. One family member was going to be elected to a high political position until their views deviated from the people in power. The person I knew was sent out of the country to avoid any fallout, but to also get a better education. Spending many years traveling the world instead of coming back home, they told me about some of their experiences in foreign lands that I have not even seen done in a movie. One of these stories involved a stalker and a secret intelligence agency; that is all I can say about this individual. RECENTLY I was involved with someone who had a story to tell me every time we got together. One of the stories was accompanied with photographs; however, they could only show me a select few because they were brought in to oversee a secret government operation. The first photo they showed me was of them standing in front of a posted sign out in the jungle. I immediately knew why they had to be secretive about their whereabouts. Another photo showed how they were transported to this secret location; essentially it was a cargo bay with portable toilets and folding chairs nailed to the floor. It was so not part of my little corner of the world that I did not even know how to respond to any of it. I could go on with so many other encounters I have had that I could actually fill up a whole book. However if I do that then I cannot tell you whether it was worth seeing this biographical drama about a man who was the real boxer behind the famous film character Rocky Balboa. KNOWN as the “Bleeder of Bayonne” boxer Chuck Wepner, played by Liev Schreiber (Spotlight, Ray Donovan-TV), was a hometown hero even before there was a movie called Rocky. With Elizabeth Moss (The One I Love, Mad Men-TV) as Phyliss, Naomi Watts (St. Vincent, Diana) as Linda, Jim Gaffigan (17 Again, It’s Kind of a Funny Story) as John and Ron Perlman (Poker Night, Hellboy franchise) as Al Braverman; I had never heard about this boxer. Everyone in the cast did a wonderful job of acting. Liev however stood out for me because he was so good in his role, but be prepared there was a lot of blood shown. Not being a big fan of boxing, I was glad that the actual act was secondary to the story. As for the story it was engaging with surprise. The sets, costumes and dialog captured the era; it was interesting to watch the arc of Chuck’s story line. If I had to choose one particular thing that increased my interest in this film it would have to be the connection to Sylvester Stallone and the Rocky movie. I think it helped that this was included into the script because it produced deeper emotional intensity to the story. There are so many people in the world that need to have their story told; I was satisfied that this one came to the big screen.
The discovery shocks your system and obliterates the minutia floating in your mind. You only have one focus and that is to find the thing you lost. It is such a horrible feeling when you lose something, I know. I stopped to pick up my paycheck at one health club that was on the way to my cycle class. Parking in their lot I locked the door of my car with the remote lock on my keychain then stuffed the keys in my coat pocket. I ran into the club, stopped at the front desk to say hello, got my check and went back outside. This was all in a matter of minutes. As I was walking towards my car I started to fish my car keys out from my pocket, but there was nothing there. This did not immediately register in my brain because I knew I had put my keys in my coat pocket. I took off my glove and tried again but the pocket was empty. Now my brain fired up with these thoughts: where were my car keys, I had to get to class, my workout clothes were locked in the car, and how I would get the car door open. I retraced every step with my head hung over as I continuously scanned the ground for my keys. Just before I had to turn into the front doors I saw an indentation in the snow. At first glance I thought someone did not pick up after their pet since it was dark against the white snow, enough said. Looking closer it was my keys; they must have fallen out as I was running into the club and I did not hear them drop in the snow. Because of the adrenaline rush by the time I walked into my class I was already exhausted. I do not know how the main character kept going in this science fiction action film. WITH the earth experiencing 4 waves of alien induced calamities Cassie Sullivan, played by Chloe Grace Moretz (The Equalizer, Hugo), had only one thing to do and that was to find her brother Sam, played by Zackary Arthur (Transparent-TV). This adventure film was lucky to have Chloe star in it. Also, it was good to have Liev Schreiber (Spotlight, Pawn Sacrifice) play Colonel Vosch. That is all I can say about this dull movie. I sat through most of it trying to figure out which scenes reminded me of previous movies; this was a boring experience. The special effects were nothing special as was the story. Maybe the idea was good but the writers did nothing to distinguish themselves from the previous YA movies of the same genre. Even after reading this you still want to see this picture you better hurry because I believe it will be quickly lost in the mix and I personally would not be upset.
1 2/3 stars
He would be the perfect candidate for a television game show, where the contestants guess the person’s occupation. The reason being no one would guess what he did for a living. With a physical shape more akin to a fireplug; he smoked cigarettes, drank and had a Napoleon complex. In other words, he was aggressive to compensate for his short stature. I was never comfortable around him; he would simply bark orders at everyone, barely hiding his mean streak that simmered just below the surface. Do you want to take a guess at his job title? He was a gym teacher; I hesitate to use the words physical education because he did not know much about health or the human body. There were classes where he would just throw a bunch of basketballs out into the gymnasium and tell us to shoot baskets. I think he only did this so he could sit in his office that had two windows covered with metal grates. If any students knew what he was doing in there they never shared their information. I never understood how this man kept his job. He would throw basketballs at our heads or body; in fact I know I must have mentioned this before, but he put one student up against the wall and kept throwing balls at his head while a majority of the students in the bleachers sat and laughed. How could a school system keep such a person in a position of authority who acted like this, like a bully. INVESTIGATIVE reporters from the Boston Globe discovered a pattern of abuse taking place in their city, but no one seemed to be aware of it; or were they just not saying anything? This film festival winning drama was based on a true story. The actors assembled were all so equally terrific that I could not say one of them was the main star. There was Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me, The Avengers franchise) as Mike Rezendes, Rachel McAdams (The Vow, Midnight in Paris) as Sacha Pfeiffer, Michael Keaton (Batman franchise, White Noise) as Walter “Robby” Robinson and Liev Schreiber (Defiance, Pawn Sacrifice) as Marty Baron. The script being crisply clean without any manipulations played out as a dramatic, suspenseful thriller. There was never a dull moment; every scene mattered and offered a piece to the puzzle the reporters were trying to put together. I do want to say I was impressed with Michael Keaton’s performance because this role was such a contrast to his role in Birdman, yet he was equally as prominent. Everything worked in this biographical film from the direction to the acting to the action. Too bad it had this true story available to be turned into a movie; but I am glad they made it because not only is it a major topic, this movie version will be a major player during the award ceremonies.
I called it a goal; my friends said it was an obsession. When I planned this movie review site I decided I wanted to do one movie review a day for the entire year. No matter what holiday, in sickness and in health, even on vacation; I planned to write a new film review each and every day for 365 days. And you know what, I did it. Trust me when I tell you it was not always easy. I remember leaving many social functions to race home and get a review posted. Even after working all day then teaching at night, my classes would even ask me what movie I was reviewing that evening and I would tell them only the title, for they would have to wait until I got home to write it. I never considered this an obsession, though I could see where some people would question my sanity. It was more like a challenge and I wanted to be able to say I posted movie reviews for an entire year. After reaching my goal I have to be honest I was relieved. It was getting to me especially on weekends; trying to figure out the logistics to post reviews, going to movies, meeting friends and family for a meal or activity was driving me to exhaustion. That is when I decided to take the weekends off from writing and if something came up during the week where I could not get a review posted to not beat myself up for it. So you see I do not think I have an obsession, though I know there could be a fine line between it and reality. DURING the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union a battle was brewing over a chess match between American chess prodigy Bobby Fisher, played by Tobey Maguire (Labor Day, Seabiscuit), and world chess champion Boris Spassky, played by Liev Schreiber (A Perfect Man, Fading Gigolo). Based on a true story this biographical drama had a compelling story that revealed more than I remembered about the chess games. I thought the acting was spot on, including Peter Sarsgaard (Black Mass, Flightplan) as Father Bill Lombardy; however the script was somewhat flawed. Where I wanted to sympathize with Bobby’s plight, I felt the script made him out to simply be an arrogant, hard to get along with hole. The scenes were setup in such a way to provide a good dose of tension, but as the movie progressed I grew tired of Bobby’s rants. Maybe they did happen in real life, but I did not find enough background story to the characters. It just seemed as if we were seeing the same “craziness” over and over with little explanation. At the end of the film I came away wondering where Bobby placed on that fine line between an obsessive genius and insanity.
2 3/4 stars
There is a force that is more powerful than any drug; that can turn us into valiant, strong fighters and yet can also bring us down to our knees, wallowing in a puddle of our lost dreams. Love is the force that can make and turn us into so many different variations of ourself. There are some people who love to be in love, where the person they are with may not be the sole focus of their affection. I have seen couples like this, where one person is not motivated to do kind gestures from their heart; they have seen or read about it and are just copying it. An example would be surprising your significant other with tickets to, let us say, a play or sporting event. The fact that they do not know if the other person would like such things does not matter; they just know it is something one is supposed to do. Then there are some people who are driven by their love of something, like money or food. Love can make people do such a variety of things and you will be able to see it for yourself in this dramatic comedy. John Turturro (Barton Fink, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) wrote, directed and starred as florist Floravante in this film festival winning movie. Since he was having a hard time making ends meet, Floravante agreed to the plan concocted by his friend Murray, played by Woody Allen (To Rome with Love, Deconstructing Harry). Floravante would be a male escort for a select group of clients. He would discover everyone had their own definition of love. My first reaction to this movie was it felt like it was trying to be a Woody Allen film. There was the same vibe and look to it and even had Woody playing Woody. I did not find much else in common, finding the script to be odd and disconnected in parts. Sharon Stone (Casino, Total Recall) and Sofia Vergara (Machete Kills, Modern Family-TV) as Dr. Parker and Selma were not believable in the least. All I saw on the screen was Sharon and Sofia, not there characters. A nugget of interest was generated with the story line involving Liev Schreiber (Salt, Defiance) as Dovi and Vanessa Paradis (Heartbreaker, The Girl on the Bridge) as Avigal but it never evolved and I disliked what happened to them. There were scenes that were amusing and others that were dull, making an unevenness that led to boredom. I think i knew what John was trying to do in this film but I did not love it.
On Saturday afternoons there was a television program that exposed me to some strange creatures. I remember watching a being that had the limbs of a human but was totally covered in scales like a fish, living in a dark lagoon. Tomatoes which never frightened me before were now wreaking havoc on innocent citizens with their massive weight. When I was little you would always find me in front of our television set on Saturdays watching this program, where each week the uniformed host would introduce a new movie. As I got older I started to figure out that the space aliens attacking Earth had aluminum foil wrapped around their heads and the colossal woman was not fifty feet tall; there was a split screen which explained my confusion on why there was never any interaction between her and anyone else. All of these movies served some level of entertainment. Looking back at those times I can easily say some of the films are now considered campy. With today’s movie review, this science fiction horror thriller took itself too seriously to be considered campy. A small group of space explorers on the planet Mars was completing their duties as they prepared for their return trip back to Earth. Their plans were disrupted when an evil force started to attack them and try to pick them off one at a time. Liev Schreiber (Salt, Defiance) as Commander Vincent Campbell did his best to battle the unknown force; however, I was completely perplexed why he even agreed to do this film. I felt the story was an amalgamation of several other movies, finding nothing new or exciting. The character Kim Aldrich, played by Olivia Williams (An Education, The Sixth Sense), was a Ripley wannabe from the Alien franchise as far as I could tell. The special effects were substandard to the point of almost being laughable. I have been sitting here racking my brain out to find something redeeming to say about this awful film and all I can come up with is the fact it did not have anything offensive in a hateful way. Do yourself a favor and go rent one of those campy movies from the 1950’s or 60’s, taking a pass on this film that was horrific for the wrong reasons. There were scenes of violence and blood.
1 1/4 stars
It is one thing to have a first impression of a person; it is another to act on it. When I first meet someone and form a first impression, I consider it a photograph that I stash in an imaginary photo album. After I really get to know the person, it is fun to go back and see how close my first impression was to the real individual. I am reminded of a man who used to be in one of my yoga classes. When he first walked into class I sensed a sudden shift of energy in the room. Several participants quieted down as they warily gazed at the thick, 6+ foot tall imposing figure with shaved head and piercing dark eyes. They were reacting to his looks, assuming he was a certain type of person. In actuality he was a fun, gentle addition to the class. This movie posed a powerful question that involved impressions; it is one of the reasons I went to see it. Riz Ahmed (Four Lions, Shifty) played Changez, a U.S. educated, rising Wall Street star from Pakistan. During one of his business trips abroad, the World Trade Center in New York City was attacked. His return flight back home would bring him to a changed country. Riz was excellent in this role, as was Kiefer Sutherland (Phone Booth, 24-TV) playing Riz’ boss Jim Cross. I thought Liev Schreiber’s (Defiance, Repo Men) role as Bobby Lincoln was an excellent character for him. In what was a total miscast, Kate Hudson (Almost Famous, Bride Wars) was absolutely wrong for the role of Changez’ girlfriend Erica. Not only was her acting poor, I found her character’s story arc ridiculous. With the exception of her, I was able to appreciate what the director and writers were trying to do with this film based on the best selling book. What could have been a thought provoking, powerful movie instead was a film that was too long, filled with melodramatic moments and a sprinkling of intense thrilling scenes. Lesson learned: Do not always believe your first impressions from the movie trailer. Brief scenes with blood in them.
2 1/2 stars
It is impossible to control those things that are out of our control. This took me a long time to learn, yet periodically I still try. I came to this realization when I started my yoga studies. Prior to them, each morning I would get angry while I was stuck in traffic on the way to work. There was nothing I could do about it, though I did come up with some creative ideas on how to eliminate the cars around me. From my studies I finally made the connection that day after day I was using up my energy to get angry at something that was out of my control. I still sit in traffic every day but I stay relaxed, listening to music now. In this dramedy we got an honest portrayal of the daily challenges in a family’s life. Liev Schreiber (Salt, Defiance) and Helen Hunt (The Sessions, Twister) played married couple Ned and Jeanne. The two began to experience their daily lives veering out of control when Jeanne’s cantankerous father Ernie, played by Brian Dennehy (First Blood, Romeo + Juliet), came to live with them. At the same time their gay son Jonah, played by Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Perks of Being a Wallflower), announced he wanted to attend the school’s prom. I thought the fine acting sold the majority of the multiple story lines. What did not work for me was Ned’s office. His boss Garrett’s, played by Eddie Izzard (Ocean’s Thirteen, The Cat’s Meow), extreme requests seemed too outrageous. If Eddie’s character was supposed to represent a commentary on reality television, it was lost on me. The topics of elder care and acceptance would have been enough to make a strong story. Adding the other issues, though valid in the real world, only bogged down the pacing in this film. In addition, I believe this caused the ending to be weak. I would have preferred the writers took a couple of issues and dug deeper into them. The movie kept my interest; there was no need to get angry over its flaws. Besides, there was nothing I could do about it anyway.
2 1/3 stars — DVD