THE MAJORITY OF US AGREED that in principle social media sites offer people a positive benefit. All around the world individuals have the opportunity to experience and learn about pretty much anything. We were sitting around at dinnertime talking about the recent controversy with a particular social media site; it involved people’s personal information being mined by a consulting firm. It may say in the terms and conditions when one signs up online that our information can be shared, but how many of us actually read all the terms: I know I do not. If I understand correctly the depth of information that was shared by the internet site was startling. Someone at the table was saying the company can keep track of our mobile phone numbers being used since most people are posting comments and photos via their phones. When you think about it, it really does sound invasive. I still cannot get over how I can look at an item at a retail store’s website and the next time I go on my social media account there is an advertisement for the same item. Talk about living in an Orwellian time of Big Brother. AS WE CONTINUED OUR CONVERSATION someone brought up how every good thing that gets created always has a downside due to dishonest people. I had to think about this for only a short time before I agreed. A lot of these internet sites were set up with good intentions but they all are being based on people being honest. I remember receiving a message from a stranger that wanted to connect; everything looked legitimate so I responded back to them. As soon as I did they sent a stream of shocking photos that I had to quickly delete then block the person. On the other hand I am sure there are a multitude of individuals online who believe they are alone, different or feel there is something better for them; who discover like minded individuals. This can have a powerful affect on a person. The reason I say this is because I believe that discovery is the catalyst for one’s imagination to open up and flourish. It all starts with a dream that can lead one to their new reality; just see how this works in this action adventure, science fiction film. IN THE FUTURE EVERYONE TAPS into a virtual world where they can be whatever they want to be. However there were some individuals who saw an opportunity where they could take control of it all for their own gain. Directed by Steven Spielberg (The Color Purple, Catch Me if You Can) this movie starred Tye Sheridan (Mud, X-Men: Apocalypse) as Parzival/Wade Watts, Olivia Cooke (Thoroughbreds, The Quiet Ones) as Art3mis/Samantha, Ben Mendelsohn (Darkest Hour, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Sorrento and Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, Dunkirk) as Anorak/James Halliday. Right at the start this film grabbed me on its visuals. Both its real and virtual world had an assortment of treats; I especially enjoyed the way Spielberg inserted throwback references. The other thing that excited me was the action scenes; they were all well orchestrated with excellent special effects. Now for the bad news; I was somewhat underwhelmed with the story. I found the real world scenes more interesting. The virtual world after awhile seemed like I was watching a video game that I could not participate in it. There was an obvious message that the writers and director wanted to get across to the viewers; it seemed a bit preachy to me. By the end of the film I was not sure if I had just seen what our future could be and if it was going to be a good or bad thing.
2 ¾ stars
THOUGH I had made my way to the front I was nervous by the amount of people that were filling up the train station platform. I had not reached the start of the yellow warning strip at the edge of the platform, but one big surge or push could have detrimental results for someone. Something must have happened somewhere along the route to delay the train; the information board only listed a flashing “delay” notice for this particular train line. Everyone was being squeezed together. You could only hope the person behind you was not carrying any large packages that would dig into your back. On the plus side we were not waiting on one of the above ground stations out in the freezing cold. We were standing in a subway station underneath the downtown area. AFTER what seemed an unbearable amount of time the information board listed the arrival time for the train. I knew it was going to be a challenge to get on the train, let alone get a seat. If the train was skipping stations to make up the delay the chance would be better the passenger cars were not packed. However if it was making its usual stops, by the time it reached my station, the cars could be overflowing with people. As the train finally pulled into the station I saw the cars were over half filled with passengers. I had a good chance based on where I was standing; but only if the doors of the car stopped close in front of me. Luck was with me, one of the train car’s doors stopped directly in front of me. The two people ahead of me quickly moved inside; I followed them and we manuveured to the middle of the car as best we could. The reason was the tightest fit always occurred by the doors and one would have to constantly adjust their place as people tried to exit or shove their way inside. One could not help feeling bad for the passengers who got left behind as they watched their train pull away from the station. I felt much worse for the soldiers in this dramatic action film based on true events. MILITARY forces from Belgium, France and the British Empire were surrounded by the Nazis. The only way out was by sea, where they could easily be picked off by the enemy’s firepower. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight franchise, Interstellar) this historic war picture starred newcomer Fionn Whitehead as Tommy, Damien Bonnard (A Perfect Plan, Staying Vertical) as a French soldier, Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, The Other Boleyn Girl) as Mr. Dawson and Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn, Rabbit-Proof Fence) as the commander. This movie was not only beautifully filmed; it was enhanced with the incredible musical score that played a part in building up the tense scenes. The story was incredible and I felt Christopher kept it simple because honestly the event could speak for itself. With the placement of the cameras Christopher was able to maintain a deep emotional connection to the viewing audience. I saw this movie in an enhanced theater where the seats vibrated based on the sound intensity; it added more to my experience and level of enjoyment as I felt I was part of the scenes. This was such a well done picture and though my chances of dying on that train platform were slim, I could relate somewhat to the soldiers’ plight in this courageous story.
3 ½ stars
Nestled in a comfy bed or cushy lap were the ideal places to listen to a story being read out loud. Hearing a voice for each character in the story made them come alive and no matter how scary or dangerous any of them were, one always felt safe with the adult in the room who was reading the book. Any place around the world would appear crystal clear as if you were right there. This held true even if the place was from a fantasy story. I can still remember hearing about flying cars, a phantom tollbooth, a giant peach and thousands or maybe millions of other worldly and unworldly objects and people. Why is it I can recall most of the children books I read or had read to me when I was a kid but some of the things I currently read will slowly drift out to sea in my brain? Having books read to me before I could read was a fundamental element to my development into appreciating a good book. I truly feel every child should have the opportunity to become familiar with books and be taught how to read them. Hopefully this will not sound as if I am prejudiced, but I get a feeling of sadness when someone tells me they do not read. The ability to read the written word nurtures part of our mind, letting it grow and expand to make room for more knowledge. Now back to the question in hand; I am not complaining, but I am perplexed I can remember the children stories from my youth. Is it the subject, the fanciful characters or the realization one is not alone; that creates a bond with the reader/listener? I do not have the answer but am ever so grateful I have had the experience. It goes without saying as an adult now I can appreciate when a classic children’s story is made into a movie like this one that is based on the children’s book by Roald Dahl (Matilda, Fantastic Mr. Fox). LOOKING out the window of the orphanage Sophie, played by newcomer Ruby Barnhill), was shocked to see a giant in the street. The giant, played by Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, The Other Boleyn Girl), was just as surprised and could only think of one thing to do. The beginning of this adventure fantasy was magical and charming; I felt I was going to watch something special. The special effects were wonderful; Steven Spielberg’s (Jaws, Schindler’s List) direction was familiar and ideal for the way he can tell a story. But something happened as the movie moved forward and the focus turned from Ruby and the giant to another story line. The magic somewhat disappeared for me, though I thought the actress who played Ruby was terrific. Overall I am glad I saw this family film and feel younger children may not enjoy it as much as the age group that would be able to read the Roald’s book on their own. There was a point during the movie where I had wished I had my blanket, a glass of warm milk and a plate of cookies as I leaned back in my reclining theater seat.
2 ¾ stars
They bulge out like wide fish eyes skimming the sea’s surface of ceiling tiles. You see them everywhere now, those security cameras encased in smoky dark glass globes. Some places do not even bother making them inconspicuous; they hang up the actual cameras on the walls or have them dangling down from the roof like machine gun turrets. It seems no matter where you turn someone is watching you. Generally it does not bother me; what do I care if someone is watching me pump gasoline into my car or buying kitchenware for a dinner party. However, I just heard on the news this week some financial institution is working on a payment system that only requires the payer to send a selfie of their face. Yuck, the idea turns my stomach. There are already too many people taking selfies or videotaping themselves and everything around them, that I do not need to see more people doing in now. If you do not think security issues are taking a bigger role around you just look at all the crime and detective shows on television; so many of them use high tech surveillance devices that it boggles the mind. If you look at this on an international scale, high tech methods seem to be the norm when it comes to espionage and warfare. Imagine those government officials who worked at a time where being a spy was a more physical job, where one had to secretly tail a suspected individual instead of through the internet. For you Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew readers, you know what I am talking about; for everyone else, see how it was done in this dramatic biographical film. RECRUITED by the CIA to negotiate the release of a captured U2 spy plane pilot by the Soviet Union; insurance lawyer James B. Donovan, played by Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, Cast Away), did not want his morals compromised by the clandestine operations and negotiations unfolding around him. Directed by Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln), this film festival winning drama once again showed why Steven is a master storyteller. The way the story started out in an unassuming way then began building on top of itself; the viewer had no choice but to be drawn into the exciting tension. Along with Alan Alda (The Aviator, Tower Heist) as Thomas Watters Jr and Mark Rylance (The Other Boleyn Girl, Angels and Insects) as Rudolf Abel, who could be nominated for best supporting actor as Rudolf Abel, the acting was outstanding. The way the filming was shot allowed small scenes to be just as important as the major dramatic ones. I truly felt as if I was getting a glimpse into a past world where all of this type of spy work was the norm during the cold war. As I walked out of the theater and into the lobby I am sure who ever was behind the security camera above my head saw my wide satisfied smile.
3 1/2 stars