Every decision opens up a new path of travel; though it may not always be the best choice, every new road laid is fraught with actions and reactions. If you choose a sugary cereal over a low sugar one for breakfast you may experience a letdown from your “sugar high” during the morning hours. You discover while driving to work the shortcut you took delayed you further because of the freight train that stopped you at the railroad tracks you now had to cross. Each of these decisions affected you solely, or did they? What if an important phone call was missed because of your delay and the new customer calling with their large order decided not to leave a message and called your competitor, who was willing to match prices? I have said this before but every action causes a reaction; it is just that simple. The ones I have a hard time with are those that cannot be easily explained or do not come with a reason. It is like a friend of mine who was dating someone new for 4 or 5 dates, thinking everything was going well. All of sudden their date stopped communicating. No reply texts, no returned phone calls; there was no reason given for the total silence. This has happened to me and I have to tell you it can throw one for a loop depending on how much was invested into growing the relationship. I always have to wonder, when things happen between two people, if the one individual knows what kind of affect their actions cause to the other person. Even when reasons are laid out, we do not always know what reactions may take place later on. ESTHER Messner, played by Linda Emond (Julie & Julia, Stop-Loss), was so proud of her only son Marcus, played by Logan Lerman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Percy Jackson franchise). He was going on a scholarship to college to become a lawyer. Everything would go as planned as long as Marcus stayed focused and studied hard. Set in the 1950s this drama had a competent cast to handle the story based on Philip Roth’s (Portnoy’s Complaint, The Human Stain) novel. With Tracy Letts (The Big Short, Homeland-TV) as Dean Caudwell, Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold, A Dangerous Method) as Olivia Hutton and Ben Rosenfield (A Most Violent Year, 6 Years) as Bertram Flusser; I thought all were quite good. I only wished there were more scenes with Linda’s character as the mother. The sets and costumes were perfect for the era; this film had a distinct look to it. I especially enjoyed the acting out of Logan and Linda but I found the script becoming top heavy as the story played out. The scenes between Logan and Tracy intrigued me at first but then it felt more like a therapy session than a student and administrator. I was surprised by the turn of events in the story but I almost wished they had taken place earlier. Besides these few quibbles I enjoyed watching the actions and reactions taking place in this movie.
Actions reveal more about a person than their words. There are some individuals who use their words as a way to accentuate the meaning of their actions. Throughout my life I have been reminded over and over that actions speak louder than words. Some people are quick to say things they think someone wants to hear as a way to avoid being an active participant with that person. I have noticed however that actions can quickly bond people together. Spending one’s elementary school years with the same classmates connects them in a special way that can remain for a lifetime. When events are of an extreme nature, they have the power to connect people in such a rapid way that solidifies their relationship on a high level. This makes all of the participants act as one unified force. An easy example of this would be any sports team. Having grown up around veterans from every war since world war II, it is quite apparent they have a unique and special bond that is not found among civilians. ALLIED forces were making their final push through the European landscape in April 1945. Army sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier, played by Brad Pitt (World War Z, Fight Club), and his tank crew had orders to secure and defend a crucial crossroad against the advancing Nazi troops. If they could not successfully carry out their mission, there was a chance the allied forces would suffer a major defeat in their campaign. This action war film was one of the most intense movies I have sat through in a long time. There will be some of you that will not be able to take the assault on their eyes from the intense violence and blood in some of the scenes. Putting that aside, this drama from writer/director David Ayer (End of Watch, Training Day) was so well done; I found myself holding my breath several times out of anxiousness. Brad and the actors who made up his tank crew, Shia LaBeouf (Transformers franchise, Lawless) as Boyd “Bible” Swan, Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson franchise, 3:10 to Yuma) who was the biggest standout as Norman Ellison, Michael Pena (End of Watch, American Hustle) as Trini “Gordo” Garcia and Jon Bernthal (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Ghost) as Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis were all so good that I totally took them to be soldiers. If there was any fault to this film I felt some of the violence was overdone. Granted I have never been involved with armed conflict but it started to feel excessive, whereas I would have preferred learning more about each solider. That being said, prepare yourself for battle if you are going to see this intense film.
3 1/3 stars
You are sitting back letting your friend tell the assembled group of friends about an incident that happened to the two of you. Everyone is laughing at a particular funny part of the story. As you are following along with your friend’s narrative, you suddenly hear something that clashes with your memory of the event. While still listening to your friend you are quickly going over the chain of events you remember, wondering if your memory is starting to fail you. As your friend continues to veer off from the way you remembered the story, the group of friends haven’t a clue and are enjoying the tale even more. The first opportunity to talk to your friend the narrator was not until the two of you were riding home from the restaurant. When you asked them why they changed the story, making it a more elaborate less truthful scenario, they replied a story is not worth telling if you cannot exaggerate it and provide better entertainment value. I can understand the point they were making since I have been known to tell a tale or two, with something called creative license. In this adventure drama, writer and director Darren Aronofsky (The Fountain, Black Swan) used artistic license to put his own spin on the biblical tale of Noah. Russell Crowe (Man of Steel, A Beautiful Mind) and Jennifer Connelly (Blood Diamonds, Winter’s Tale) played Noah and his wife Naameh. Upon receiving visions of impending doom for the Earth, Noah set out to build an ark that would save all that was good about the planet. This movie was utterly bizarre to me, taking on a science fiction aspect that I found totally ridiculous. Who knew there were prehistoric Transformers in biblical times?! Not only did I find the story silly, but I found it boring as well. The acting was nothing special and I am saying this even with Emma Watson (The Bling Ring, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock, The Rite) being part of the cast. I especially felt the story line of Ham, played by Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson franchise, 3:10 to Yuma) was poorly done. The only redeeming quality to this film was the visual aspect. Though none of the animals were real I did enjoy their scenes along with the start of the flooding. In the case of this disaster film or should I say disastrous film, elaborating the story did nothing to make it a more entertaining experience.
1 3/4 stars
There were two things that stoked my imagination when it came to mythology. One was the original movie of Jason and the Argonauts. Watching those fantastical creatures battle Jason was something that sparked endless imaginary battles in my head. I would use Jason as a decoy while I was the one who found the Golden Fleece. The other object that gave me a new appreciation for myths was the book Mythology by Edith Hamilton. Growing up it was required reading in school; everyone I knew had to read it. The idea that there were these beings living among us, who did not quite fit in, was something I could strongly identify with. If only I could have found a place like Camp Half-Blood that was featured in this fantasy film. Logan Lerman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Number 23) once again reprised his role of Percy Jackson, the son of Poseidon. When the security system protecting the children of gods and goddesses staying at Camp Half-Blood was neutralized, Percy and his friends decided to go out on a mission to seek the one item that could restore and protect their home from evil forces–the Golden Fleece. I thought the concept of this story was a good idea; setting it in current times with typical teenagers who had special gifts. Logan, as he has done in his past films, came across as a likable character; one you did not want to see get into harm’s way. Others in the cast such as Alexandra Daddario (Hall Pass, Texas Chainsaw 3D) as Annabeth, Douglas Smith (Blast From the Past, Antiviral) as Tyson and Jake Abel (I Am Number Four, The Lovely Bones) as Luke were nothing memorable. The special effects could have been better I thought. Ultimately for a story that had multiple opportunities to amaze and surprise me fell flat. I have a feeling the book this adventure film was based on would have been a better choice to spark my imagination, just like when I was kid.
1 3/4 stars
Looking back at my high school years, the popular kids and jocks made up relatively small groups to the rest of the student body. I had an aunt who mistook my largeness for muscles, telling me I should join the football team. It quickly became apparent I did not belong. My goal was to get through high school unscathed. For all of you who understand me, this is our movie. One of the best movies I have seen this year, I commend author Stephen Chbosky who used his own book to write the screenplay and direct this wonderful film. Incoming freshman Charlie, played by Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, 3:10 to Yuma), already was dealing with family trauma and the loss of his best friend as he floundered to find where he belonged in school. Days of loneliness would pass until seniors Patrick and Sam, played by Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin, City Island) and Emma Watson (Harry Potter franchise, My Week With Marilyn) took Charlie into their misfit group. Though lucky to have upperclassmen showing him the way, there would be issues Charlie had to face and conquer alone. The casting of this movie was the icing on the cake to the well thought out story; the actors were a perfect fit together. Emma was so good, not once did I think that was Hermione Granger up on the screen. The trailers for this movie do not really show the depth of the story; this was not a typical goofy high school movie. There were shades of darkness mixed with honest portrayals of real high school events. This was one time where I was able to go back to those school years and have tears of joy, as I applauded with the audience at the end of this impressive film.
3 2/3 stars