I HAD KNOWN HER FOR A LONG time; yet I was still surprised when she told me the reason why she was going to college. Up until that time she did okay in school, nothing above average though. When she told me she wanted to attend college, I had asked her why and she told me she wanted to find a husband. To hide my shock I used my humor by asking her if it would be cheaper to sign up for a dating service. I had to appreciate her honesty, but the idea that college would be the place to find a mate sounded farfetched; there was no guarantee she would find on campus someone to marry. Yet, she was determined and sure enough in her junior year, she met a senior student and fell in love with him. They dated for a year before deciding to get married. During that period, I met him a couple of times when they would drive back home for a weekend visit. He seemed nice, but he had what I refer to as a salesperson’s personality. No disrespect to the people in that profession, but he had a list of catch phrases he depended on when participating in a conversation. Also, he never offered an opinion that was different from the person he was interacting with in a conversation. I did not detect much sincerity behind his statements as a result. THE TWO GOT MARRIED A COUPLE of months after his college graduation. They settled into married life and seemed to be happy. I would see them from time to time and as far as I could tell they seemed fine. There was one thing I noticed however. When they were together, she seemed to talk less. I could not put my finger on it, but it seemed as if he was always the one to make any type of decisions. He never lost the catch phrases, but his delivery of them seemed to have an edge to them now. This continued for a couple of years before my friend started to show up to events without him. At first, she offered excuses for his absences; but it was not too long before she finally confessed she was unhappy and filing for a divorce. I offered support and told her if she needed to talk I was available anytime. She never took my up on the offer and I did not push the subject. Though, one time she did share with me she regretted her years focused on finding a husband because they blinded her to her husband’s faults. I wondered if she could leave her regrets behind to move forward. This was the same thought I had for the main character in this dramatic film. YOUNG GROVER’S, PLAYED BY HONG-CHI Lee (City of Rock, Baby) dream was to move to the United States. Moving there meant leaving the ones he loved behind; a decision that would come with regrets. With Tzi Ma (Arrival, The Ladykillers) as Grover, Christine Ko (Hawaii Five-O-TV, Dave-TV) as Angela, Fiona Fu (Power Rangers, Blood and Water) as Zhenzhen and Joan Chen (Love in Disguise, Judge Dredd) as Yuan; this multigenerational film had an authentic, touching story that was easy to follow. With the beautiful filming, I was thoroughly involved with the story. The acting was well done, as the story would shift between Taiwan and the United States. I did not feel as if the script was trying to manipulate me; each pause in the dialog allowed the actors to express true emotion in my opinion. The story has a certain universal appeal that I think many viewers will connect to and appreciate. I have always said for every action there is a reaction. When it comes to affairs of the heart one can only hope for the best by striving towards a goal. Several scenes were spoken in Chinese with English subtitles.
IT WAS AT A FAMILY (NOT MINE) GATHERING where I first saw how people judge others based on the work they do. Maybe this happens more than I am aware of because the individuals I was in contact with were not so blatant about it. With this family, they had no problem showing their disapproval; I could see and hear it. We were mingling together in the living/dining area of my friend’s parents’ house. I knew the family well, so I was included on the guest list. My friend’s parents were throwing a graduation party for their youngest child. It was a casual affair where most of the food items were finger foods. Everyone my friend introduced me to was pleasant. I do not want this to come out as judgmental; but let me just say some of the guests were impeccably dressed. Everything seemed to be going smoothly as far as I could tell. At some point one of my friend’s sisters walked into the house with her boyfriend. They had only been dating a few months and this was I found out, the first time the family was meeting this new man. I thought all was going well until one of the relatives asked the boyfriend what he did for a living. When he told them he was an electrician, you could see everyone’s smiling veneer melt away. The tone of voice the relatives were now using were filled with disdain; I was stunned. WHAT WAS THE MATTER WITH BEING an electrician, I wondered? You would have thought the boyfriend said he was a mass murderer; it was the oddest thing to see. As if on cue, the relatives nearby him slowly moved further away. I swear it looked as if the relatives had just come upon a grizzly bear in the forest and were quietly and slowly backing away, so as not to disturb it. I was not the only one to have witnessed this; my friend saw what was going on and decided to, at that moment, introduce me to the sister and boyfriend. He was a nice guy as far as I could tell, and it seemed as if he had a good sense of humor. Personally, I never care who my friends and family are dating; all that matters to me is that the person is good to them and loves them. Whether they are a stock trader, a sanitation worker or a zookeeper; none of that matters to me. If my friend or relative loves them and feels good about it, then I will support them always. I think that is one of the reasons I found it challenging to connect to the characters in this dramatic, comedy satire. BORN INTO WEALTH AND BELIEVING SHE was better than most Emma Woodhouse, played by Anya Taylor-Joy (Morgan, The Witch), felt she could not find her equal in love. At least, not in her small town. With Johnny Flynn (Clouds of Sils Maria, Beast) as George Knightley, Bill Nighy (Sometimes Always Never, About Time) as Mr. Woodhouse, Mia Goth (A Cure for Wellness, Everest) as Harriet Smith and Myra McFadyen (Mamma Mia! franchise, Rob Roy) as Mrs. Bates; this movie based on Jane Austen’s novel was hard for me to get into in the beginning. The costumes and scenery were immaculate which helped me pass the time. I also thought Bill Nighy was perfect in his role. Set in England during the 1800’s, it was not until the 2ndhalf of the film where I felt things were better connected. My guess is fans of Jane Austen will enjoy this picture immensely. I on the other hand felt it really had nowhere to go; it was somewhat predictable. And for some reason, I could not connect at all with the main actress’ character; what a surprise based on what I mentioned earlier in this review.
2 ½ stars
THE ghost from the love of her life remained close to her even after she found herself alone. They had been together for some years so the ghost was familiar with many of the things she enjoyed doing when she was part of a couple. She would hear a particular song and feel a tug at her heart as her feet prepared to move into step to the music; it was their song they danced to when they first expressed their love for each other. The times when she drove by the lake she could look out and almost see the two of them frolicking between the waves. No matter where or when she would experience these random moments, where she sensed there was something around her, it would alert at least one if not more of her senses. An aroma, a sound, a particular look to something and she would feel her heart sigh, experiencing a brief feeling as if she was not alone. WHEN it comes to whether I believe in ghosts or not I do not have an opinion one way or the other. Let me say I believe anything is possible just because there have been things I experienced that cannot be explained. Maybe there are invisible souls connected to us in some way; how would we really know? I will say love can affect us in such a strong way that sometimes the connection never gets broken. To this day there are a few songs I hear that immediately send me back to a time where I was sharing life with another. As time goes on I do not believe we really forget someone; I feel we just create different routines that do not always take us to the same places we used to share with them. Not to say everyone does this; there are some people who prefer staying in the same spot so they do not have to move on. EVEN in death C, played by Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea, Out of the Furnace), found himself in the same home he shared with M, played by Rooney Mara (The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). The difference was she could not see him. Written and directed by David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints), this dramatic romantic fantasy offered a deep message. I appreciated how the script tackled the topics of love, loss, legacy and connection; however, I thought the presentation of it was a slow process. One would expect the acting to be good coming from Casey and Rooney and for the most part it was, though over half the movie Casey was covered in a white sheet. For me the pacing was tedious and it was apparent I was not the only one who felt this way. During a scene where Rooney was eating an entire pie, an audience member yelled out, “It is enough already,” when the camera remained on Rooney the whole time; it really was getting painful to watch I have to say. And this is the issue I had with this picture; there were several times where I wanted to flip a switch to make the film go faster. From the trailers I was intrigued by this story and wanted the movie to be a good viewing experience. The story made me think but its execution was not entertaining for me and that is how I base my ratings.
LOVE, when it is expressed, can be one of the purest and strongest emotions. At least that is what it can be depending on the person. When an individual falls in love they can find themselves smiling for no apparent reason or getting giddy with excitement in anticipation of being with the source of their love. Some people love going to the circus; they get to experience a range of emotions from the varied acts on display. Other people get in touch with their sense of love when they are able to hike up a mountain trail then sit out on the edge of a precipice. Another thing love can do is steer you away from your daily routines and venture into new territory, exploring the ways 2 people can blend their individual lives into a shared common one. HOWEVER when a person sacrifices their other emotions and rational thoughts to focus strictly on love, they then have entered the land of the extremes. In this place a person scrutinizes every action, comment and reaction from the focus of their love. In turn they react in an extreme way to the point of becoming obsessive. I was in a relationship some time ago where things started out in an easy way for us. We seemed compatible and had similar tastes in things. As the weeks went by little things started cropping up that I found odd. For example a delay in us getting together due to a prior commitment I had would produce a passive aggressive response in an attempt to make me feel guilty, hoping I would change my plans. This was a red flag for me and a cause of concern. Maybe if my ego was inflated I would have enjoyed the attention and their need to be with me; instead, it caused a disconcerting feeling inside of me. My instincts turned out to be correct. I was being turned into this desired object that they needed to feel fulfilled and complete in their life. Obsession can be a lethal road for one to travel on. FRANK, played by Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals, Midnight Special), was falling deeper in love with Lola, played by Imogen Poots (Green Room, Need for Speed), to the point where even warning signs could not influence him. This film festival nominated drama also starred Justin Long (Drag Me to Hell, Accepted) as Keith and Michael Nyqvist (John Wick, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Alan. It was interesting to see Michael playing a romantic lead. He is an excellent actor and in this crime mystery he was good, but I have to tell you I felt he was not the best choice for the role. The intensity he has displayed in previous movies did not translate well in this one. Set in Las Vegas and Paris, I was initially interested with the story line and thought the acting was good throughout the film. One of the reasons why I did not feel totally connected to the story was the lack of back story or depth with the Frank and Lola characters. I could see what the writer was trying to do but it did not take me where I needed to be to truly get into the story. I love movies but I did not love watching this one much.
There goes by a young couple walking hand in hand. As they stroll through the park they carry on a conversation that causes them to chuckle, sigh, exclaim and smile from time to time. Periodically one rests their head on the shoulder of the other and when the pathway narrows they wrap their arms around each other to get closer. In a completely different locale there is a couple sitting in an airport gate’s waiting area. While one leans into the other as they begin to doze off, the other is reading a book. When finally coming back to consciousness, the other brushes the hair off their sleepy face, looking into their sputtering eyes. With the book closed and placed to the side the two simply lean into each other, one affectionately massaging the neck of the other one. Anywhere you look you can always find people in love. A candlelight dinner, shopping at the grocery store or sitting together at a sporting event; they do not need to declare their love to the world, the way they interact with each other is proof enough. But I ask you, how often do you see couples in their twilight years out and about participating in public displays of affection? How about in the media or forms of entertainment like movies and television? I can only bring to mind a few from recent movies compared to the amount of films I have seen about youthful love. And the reason why I believe that is the case is because growing old isn’t for the weak. Let us face it when one hears the words, “in sickness and health,” how often do they imagine what their life might be like in their later years? AFTER spending years in a labor camp during the cultural revolution in China Lu Yanshi, played by Chen Daoming (Hero, Aftershock), was finally released to return to his waiting wife Feng Wanyu, played by Gong Li (Raise the Red Lantern, Memoirs of a Geisha). But after so many years Feng did not recognize the man who showed up at her door. This film festival winning drama’s story was beautiful in its simplicity. With newcomer Zhang Huiwen as the couple’s daughter Dan Dan, the acting was painfully real. It was wonderful watching Gong Li as she would turn an emotion upside down with a look or subtle movement. On one level the story focused on the effects the cultural revolution had families. The stronger part of the story in my opinion had to do with the strength love had between two people. I did find a few places where the movie dragged for me, in a repetitive type of way. However, the way the story unfolded as it progressed kept me engaged. After the movie was over I walked away with the feeling I had just witnessed a full and unconditional love. Mandarin was spoken with English subtitles.
3 1/4 stars
I have found a majority of noises eventually turn into white noise, background sounds as the mind tunes them out. One sound that never stops being heard is the sound of a loving heart. Hearing it brings such a comfort like a warm, cozy, fuzzy blanket on a crisp winter day. To be in a loving relationship is a major accomplishment in one’s life as far as I am concerned. Finding that one special person who accepts all of you, is supportive and kind, who helps you fill out your dreams and provides nourishment that keeps you glowing is a remarkable achievement. As the two of you grow old together the relationship continues to evolve, taking in account any new dreams or hopes; the underlying strength of your bond will always be there to support whoever trips while walking the path of your lives. All of this is wonderful but I have seen how devastating it becomes when death takes one of the two. I knew someone who could not accept the death of their loved one, going to their grave every single day, seven days a week. She stopped living as she surrounded herself with the memories death left behind. One of the hardest parts I have found is altering the daily routines the two of you had shared. STRUCK with immense grief seeing Zoe, played by Olivia Wilde (In Time, Rush), lying on the floor dead from a horrible accident; Frank, played by Mark Duplass (The One I Love, Safety Not Guaranteed), would not let her go. He was willing to take a chance on using her for his scientific experiment that had not been tested yet on humans. Not knowing what would happen, all Frank wanted was to bring back Zoe. The concept for this story was not new; there have been various movies that dealt with bringing someone back from the dead. I thought it would be interesting to use love for the main character’s motivation. The cast worked well together which also included Evan Peters (American Horror Story-TV, X-Men: Days of Future Past) as Clay and Sarah Bolger (In America, The Spiderwick Chronicles) as Eva. Unfortunately the only horror about this film was sitting and watching it. I was completely bored due to the poorly written script, the lack of anything original and the utter absence of suspense. For being classified as a thriller and horror movie, neither took place. The ending was written in such a way that there could be a sequel which would be a very scary thing. I cannot imagine anyone sitting through this picture and finding something they could relate to, let alone being entertained. The heart of this film needs a “do not resuscitate” order placed on it. There were scenes that had blood in them.
1 1/2 stars
Situated in the middle of a city block sat an empty lot, where a six story apartment building used to stand. A developer bought the land and knocked the building down so he could construct a bigger building, but when the economy soured he went bankrupt. All that remained on the lot was gravel and pieces of broken cement that looked like they were once part of a cliff that had been weathered away by the wind. A chain-link fence surrounding the property was now dull with rust that had stained the ground like ruined brown mascara off of a crying face. There was nothing to see in the rubble at first glance; however, if you closely peered at one of the larger cement boulders towards the left side, a single small flower had broken through a crack, releasing a bloom shaded in midnight blue with white star like flecks. It was extraordinary to look at and amazing it could live among the ruins. Finding beauty in a hostile environment was the hook in this dramatic World War II movie about an epic battle in history. A small group of Russian soldiers were holed up in a strategic apartment building, trying to defend it from Nazi troops led by Captain Kan, played by Thomas Kretschmann (Wanted, King Kong). As the two sides fought for control of the building Katya and Masha, played by Mariya Smolnikova (The Daughter) and Yanina Studilina (Yasnovidyashchaya), found their lives going down different paths among the horrors around them. The opening scenes in this action film were unbelievable and frightening at the same time. The production values were quite good in both outdoor and indoor scenes. I do not know how accurate the story was compared to the actual battle; but the writers had ample help to create a historic, dramatic story. Unfortunately it was a big letdown for me because the acting and the script collapsed in the scenes. There were some scenes that really were tough to watch but I sat in my seat without much reaction. From such a boffo opening this movie seemed to slide down into disrepair. I am afraid the beauty I thought I saw in this film turned out to be a mirage. The languages spoken were Russian and German with English subtitles. There were scenes that had blood and violence in them.
How many of us as little kids fantasized about whom we would share our life with when we grew up? I am sure there were a multitude looking for their Prince Charming, Princess Jasmine, Superman or even their Wonder Woman. I have a cousin who used to insist she was adopted and that she would return to her royal birthright when she found her prince. There are some people who believe they can rise in status by marrying the right individual. But what if you belonged to a culture where there was a strong divide between the classes? This film’s story was an updated version of Thomas Hardy’s novel, Tess and the d’Urbervilles, set in India. Trishna, played by Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire, Immortals) came from a poor rural family. As the movie started I was surprised with the opening scenes showing a group of guys partying, wondering where the writers were taking this tale. One of the friends named Jay, played by Riz Ahmed (Four Lions, The Road to Guantanamo), happened to notice Trishna. From this chance meeting began a slow transition into the beginnings of a love relationship. Jay, the son of a wealthy Indian businessman, was the perfect gentleman at first; however, as the movie progressed the budding romance between the two took on a sinister flavor. Freida was lovely in this role as her rural upbringing clashed with Jay’s upper class sensibilities. I was lost though on Jay’s character development, never fully understood his motives. The story broke apart halfway through for me and I lost my interest in the unfolding events. It was a good idea bringing the story into a modern setting, in an exotic locale; but it needed more drama and explanation to make it a good movie. There were a couple of scenes that showed blood.
2 1/2 stars
In the Latin community, so I have been told, the males need to be machismo, manly. I do not buy that, but I am aware that there is a strong focus on being a family. We can all assume that when a child is brought into this world, whatever their parents’ backgrounds, they will love their child unconditionally. If only that were really true. I have witnessed the horror of a child being kicked out of the house by their parents, because they announced they were gay. These parents only loved him as long as they believed he was straight. What made this situation worse was how the parents had nothing to do with him from that day on…until they found out years later how successful their son had become in the business world. Then all of a sudden they tried re-establishing a relationship with him. For these reasons, I was intrigued when I saw the trailer for this movie. In the mission district of San Francisco lived Che Rivera, played by Benjamin Bratt (Miss Congeniality, Law & Order-TV). He was an ex-con, recovering alcoholic and a single dad. Respected by some, feared by others; Che’s world spun out of control when he discovered his son Jes, played by Jeremy Ray Valdez (Constantine, All She Can), was gay. Though this story can and has played out in many ways, I felt having the setting take place in a hyper masculine, Hispanic neighborhood gave the conflicts more intensity. Benjamin and Jeremy did a wonderful job of acting, in spite of several undeveloped scenes. Even if I had never known about my friend’s parents, I would have still found this dramatic film to be a truthful story. In my world, love is either an all or nothing proposition.
2 3/4 stars — DVD