NO ONE IS GOING TO UTTER a negative comment, I cannot imagine, about a child’s music or dance recital. Who would sit in a school’s auditorium filled with the students’ parents and say a snide remark about a child’s playing or dancing? I have sat through recitals where I barely could recognize the song, but still congratulated the performers. It was not like I expected to hear classically trained musicians or see professional dancers; these were elementary school students. I will admit I have sat at a couple of performances where I had pity for the parents who had to listen to their child practice the same musical pieces over and over, errant notes and all. There was one year where I had to go watch a school football game. The weather was awful, cold and windy. I sat on that cold bleacher bench, bundled up in layers with a scarf nearly wrapped around my entire head; it was that cold outside. If I remember correctly despite only getting their hands on the ball once I still congratulated them on the good work they did. NOW WHEN IT COMES TO situations that do not involve children, reactions can be different. I was at a music concert where the world famous musical artist did a poor job of performing. At times she even turned her back to the audience and sang entire songs to her band, ignoring the people out in the audience who spent a good amount of money just to hear her sing. There were some people in the crowd who started booing, even yelling comments, that is how poorly she acted on stage. I vowed I would never spend a dime on her and haven’t since that concert. The way I look at it is if I am paying to see something I want to be entertained and expect the person or company to do their best to make the event a memorable one. To me this just makes good business sense. Well sadly that was not the case with this final (I hope it is the final) installment of this dramatic, romantic thriller franchise. SETTLING INTO THEIR NEW ROLES as husband and wife Anastasia and Christian, played by Dakota Johnson (How to Be Single, The Social Network) and Jamie Dornan (Marie Antoinette, The Fall-TV), soon discover not everyone is happy for them. With Eric Johnson (Legends of the Fall, Smallville-TV) as Jack Hyde, Eloise Mumford (In the Blood, So Undercover) as Kate Kavanagh and Marcia Gay Harden (The Mist, Miller’s Crossing) as Grace Grey; this movie was a waste of time and effort. There was no chemistry between Dakota and Jamie, besides the fact Jamie came across more like a robot than a human being. The script was filled with clichés and predictable scenarios that tested the intelligence of its audience. I disliked the soundtrack because the song choices were picked to inject some type of dramatic moment that the script and actors could not provide; the music was relentless. The thing that bothered me the most was the lunacy the writers put into the script. I mean seriously, why would someone with a security detail take matters into their own hands, putting their lives in jeopardy?!?! As far as I can tell except for the luxuriousness of the sets and locales, there was little effort put in to make this final installment a memorable one. Believe me when I say it was more torturous for the audience to sit and watch this film than it was for Anastasia in her dominant/submissive scenes.
CHANGE seems so much easier after one experiences a loss. If my use of the word “change” causes anxiety in you then let me substitute the word with “evolve.” I knew this guy who was a friend of a friend; we would travel in the same circle of friends. He always talked about his relationship, how they never lasted long. Being curious I asked him if he knew why that kept happening to him. After a moment he listed off his good attributes. I then asked if there was something all of his dates had in common. Taking a long minute he finally said they were all young. When I asked him what the average age was among them he told me the age difference was 20-25 years between him and them. From that little bit of information I realized or maybe I should say assumed he was attracted and focused on the person’s age instead of the whole person. After a casual but insightful conversation, I finally had to suggest that maybe it was time for him to look beyond one trait since none of the relationships he had lasted very long. From where I stood I felt if this guy would not expand his horizons in the dating world he would continue to get the same results. LET me be the first one to say “change” is not easy, at least for me. I find comfort in routines. However, I have become more comfortable the older I get with evolving. I know if I had not changed from my previous behavior I would continue to attract people who did not put the same value on trustworthiness that I did. You want to talk about a painful lesson; imagine setting the groundwork to a long term relationship together where one day it all falls apart. Now I used to always blame the other person but I started to take a hard look at myself and see where I could have contributed to our demise. This is something that one of the main characters in this romantic sequel was experiencing. BEGINNING with her new job everything was falling into place for Anastasia Steele, played by Dakota Johnson (How to Be Single, Black Mass). She had her dream job, a nice apartment and a sense of peace. That is until a former boyfriend showed up offering to make some changes. Starring Jamie Dornan (Anthropoid, Marie Antoinette) as Christian Grey, Eric Johnson (Legends of the Fall, The Knick-TV) as Jack Hyde and Marcia Gay Harden (Into the Wild, Miller’s Crossing) as Grace Trevelyan Grey; I can only assume this film was following the 2nd book in the series. This picture had some things in common with the previous one; there was still no chemistry between Dakota and Jamie, though at least they did not have the same intense dislike for each other like they had before. The script was just as manipulative, even more so here. There were times the audience around me was laughing at some of the cheesy dialog. If they had a pop up window of a trumpet blaring, it would not have been as blatant as the way the writers foretold a character’s actions. There was less kinkiness in this installment but still there simply was no passion, nor were there any scenes that delved beyond the surface. An extra scene appeared in the middle of the credits; now excuse me I need to go wash my hands.
1 ¾ stars
I believe every family has to have at least one. It is that relative who does not follow in line with the other family members. It could be an aunt, grandparent or any other older relative; but more than likely, they do not follow the typical mindset on how to interact with a child. Let me give you some examples: a grandparent who sneaks candy to you even though your parents forbid candy in the house; an uncle who does not believe he should wait for an appropriate age for you to taste the wine in his glass. Though I just gave examples involving food, this type of relative could also be the one who recognizes there is an elephant in the room, so to speak. They will talk about whatever issue is hanging over the family that the other relatives are trying to avoid or pretend does not exist. I feel I learned how to express my feelings at an early age because of all the examples I had around me. Some would say I expressed them too much without trying to be diplomatic or at least more sensitive. I should tell you I still remember the first time I heard a relative use a “bad” curse word without any apology; I was around 5 years old. From that point on I noticed his conversation always had some colorful words in it. Maybe that is why I grew up feeling curse words were just another form of an adjective. Either way, I do believe those experiences contributed to me growing comfortable to speak my mind and this is why I immediately identified with the main character in this dramatic comedy. AFRAID to ask her mother for money Sage, played by Julia Garner (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Martha Marcy May Marlene), turned to the only person she thought could help get her out of her predicament; her grandmother Elle Reid, played by Lily Tomlin (I Heart Huckabees, Nashville). Unfortunately broke at the moment, Elle would not give up on her granddaughter and find a way to help her. I recently read the character of the grandmother was written with Lily in mind which made sense because she was perfect in the role. But the cool part was how the other characters such as Marcia Gay Harden (Into the Wild, Miller’s Crossing) as Judy and Sam Elliott (I’ll See You in my Dreams, Up in the Air) as Karl were not short changed; they each got a real character to expand with their acting ability. There was some predictability to the story but I did not mind it. The acting was so strong with these honest characters that I was able to enjoy the ride the story was taking me on. There is something to be said for those relatives who “call it as they see it” and that is why I want to say, “Go Grandma.”
In my world the most powerful two words to use at the beginning of a sentence are, “I love…” Now I love chocolate chip cookies but that is not what I am referring to here. For a human being to feel and express their love for another human is one of the grand prizes for living; at least that is what I think. There is a poem that has the line, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” and I have to agree with it. Some folk may disagree with me, questioning how someone can miss something if they have never experienced it. If I understand, it would be similar to saying how does someone miss or know if they like a sweet tasting food item if they have never tasted one before. Okay, that makes sense to me. However, one of the many advantages to being in love is having the comfort that one’s tightrope walk through life now has a safety net below to catch them if they should fall. There are people who fall in love and remain together until death. When one dies the other chooses to remain single for the remainder of their life; on the other hand, some individuals may have the opportunity to fall in love again. I admire the people in both scenarios. If someone later in life is fortunate to find love all I can say is more power to them. To me it is like walking through a forest and coming upon a large mighty oak tree. It may not have the flexibility of a young sapling but it has a wide reach to protect you along with deep roots that have been filled with knowledge and nourishment throughout the years. RECENT widower Fred Barcroft, played by Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music, Beginners) was pushed into a new home by his daughter Lydia, played by Marcia Gay Harden (Miller’s Crossing, The Mist). Neighbor Elsa Hayes, played by Shirley MacLaine (Terms of Endearment, Bernie), was quite curious with the quiet gentleman who moved next door to her. This film festival winning movie’s saving grace was Shirley and Christopher. They tried their best, having a few touching moments I might add, to keep the story alive in this comedic romance. There were a couple of parts I enjoyed; however, the story was such a disappointment. It was filled with sappy, predictable, poorly written dialog; this picture could have been so much better. I did appreciate however the idea of folks, who were getting up in years, still making discoveries in their life. Isn’t it amazing what love can do to people?
They are your last dance partner in life. Rarely can you slip out from their cold embrace once the rhythm of your heartbeat matches their failing beat. There are some who spend a lifetime flirting with it, enticing it to come close; but at the last minute, they spin back away from their advances. Everyone has their own names for it; some call it passing while others refer to it as expired. As a permanent fixture in one’s life, everyone interacts with death in their own way. There are some who cannot even look at it, choosing to change direction in mid-step just to avoid confronting it. Various individuals will not veer from their path, expecting to be taken to a different location assisted by death’s guidance. I am not one to dwell on death since there is nothing I can do about it once it decides to greet me. Sure I exercise and do things to make my life less desirable for death’s tastes; but we both know when death comes to us it does not leave empty-handed. This is why I never judge anyone’s reactions or actions in the way they deal with death. There is some saying about not knowing what a person is feeling until you walk in their shoes, so I never comment on someone’s relationship with death. The writer in my though does observe with mild curiosity at times. DEATH became an unwanted guest in the house of Megan and Tom Stark, played by Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River, Into the Wild) and Kevin Bacon (Apollo 13, The Woodsman). Already challenged with Megan’s breast cancer, a heavy burden descended on the couple after a woman drove her car in front of a passenger train that Tom was running that day, leaving her son an orphan. This film festival nominated drama had a curious affect over me. As I began watching this DVD I did not feel drawn to the story. However, as the movie continued the acting from Marcia and Kevin started to pull me in. They did an admirable job with the somewhat predictable script, aided by Miles Helzer (Rudderless, Parenthood-TV) who played Davey Danner. Clint Eastwood’s daughter, actress Alison Eastwood (Poolhall Junkies, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), chose this story to be her directorial debut and she did some decent work here. She had a good eye for framing scenes. Despite the good acting and direction, the script did not live up to its responsibilities toward the picture. At times far-fetched and overwrought with emotional passages, the script failed the actors. I do not recall this movie ever opening at the theaters; it may have died on arrival. But for a home viewing experience I did not mind watching this DVD at all.
2 1/3 stars — DVD
An ideal life would be one with no regrets from one’s choices. I still struggle with some of the decisions I have made; telling myself to stop it, I cannot change something that was out of my control. It does not always work. The answer may be to realize there was a reason for that choice, though it may not make sense at the time. As I started watching this movie, I began comparing some of the aspects of these high schoolers’ lives to my own school experiences. Funny how people can portray a particular persona, that covers up the true reality of their life. A remake of the Swedish film “Den Onsynlige,” this film had an interesting story line. After being brutally attacked by Annie Newton, played by Margarita Levieva (The Lincoln Lawyer, Adventureland), and her buddies; Nick Powell, played by Justin Chatwin (War of the Worlds, Taking Lives), was left for dead. But on the next day of school Nick showed up to his class, yet no one could see him. He would have to piece together clues about his disappearance before it would become a life or death conclusion. Does that sound confusing to you? Let me just say I found this intriguing dilemma to be a fascinating idea. I thought the set up to Nick’s attack was an excellent example of what type of consequences could befall a person based on their choice of action. Marcia Gay Harden’s (Mystic River, Into the Wild) portrayal as Nick’s mother Diane was well done, using her appearance to cover up her true feelings. The one character I had trouble with was Nick’s best friend Peter Egan, played by Chris Marquette (Fanboys, The Girl Next Door). His role did not come across as being real to me. The foundation of the story was solid; my issue was I felt the writers were inconsistent. Where some scenes were tight with levels of tension, others were loose and unrealistic. Though I liked the idea behind this movie, it did not make as big of an impact as I expected. Then again, one could say I chose to elevate my expectations. Either way, I did not regret seeing this film. A couple of scenes with blood shown.
2 1/3 stars — DVD