I DID NOT SEE THEM UNTIL AFTER we were seated for dinner. They caught my eye because of what they were wearing, identical matching outfits. We were guests at a wedding, and I knew the two of them were not related to me. I had to assume they were a mother and daughter; the little girl looked like she was 5 to 7 years old. They were seated at a table nearby, in seats that were directly in line with my field of vision. Their dresses were made of a soft fabric like crepe or chiffon, with a pattern of autumn colored leaves all over it. With capped sleeves and a rounded neck, they each had a gold necklace around their neck that had a single dropped pearl dangling from it; in their pierced ears there were matching pearl earrings. I tried not to stare but the more I caught glimpses of them the more I found them fascinating in a creepy sort of way. Now I do not want to come off as disrespectful but seeing them dressed and acting the same made me uncomfortable. I have never been one to fall in line to fit in with the majority; I prefer people expressing their individuality and being different without feeling like they must conform to a certain set of “rules.” Watching these two with they identical hair styles and makeup just seemed so weird to me. AFTER THE WEDDING EVENT ON MY DRIVE home, I spent some time thinking about that mother and daughter and my uneasiness with them dressing up to match each other. Having had some friends whose parents tried to raise them to be the same as their parents, I have always questioned the motivation behind it. Why did a mother or father want to have their child be just like them? Was it because that is how they were raised or maybe they wanted their child to be perfect, at least whatever they considered to be perfect? What I believe is children should be raised to be self-thinking, independent beings. Having spent many years feeling like an outsider, one could argue that has contributed to me wanting everyone to freely express their individuality. It is funny; I am remembering an incident with a friend who refused to go out to dinner with me until I had changed my clothes. He did not like what I was wearing, thinking it looked ridiculous on me. Because I did not want to argue I went ahead and put on a different shirt and pair of pants. I needed some of the gumption and fight the main character had in this film festival winner. WAKING UP TO FIND OUT SHE was sent to a place that was going to change and mold her to fit into a certain society, there was only one person Uma, played by Emma Roberts (The Art of Getting By, We’re the Millers), knew who could do such a thing; it was her mother. With Danielle Macdonald (Patti Cake$, Dumplin’) as Chloe, Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell) as Yu, Eiza Gonzalez (Baby Driver, Bloodshot) as Amarna and Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil franchise, Shock and Awe) as The Duchess; this fantasy, sci fi thriller had some lofty goals. Visually, I enjoyed watching this picture; the sets and costumes, especially Milla’s, were wonderful. The cast was well-suited for the roles and worked well together. Unfortunately, I was able to figure out what was going to happen due to the script; it was a mashup of a few previous films in the same genre. There were some scenes that worked, but then others lacked focus. If this had been released (or maybe it was) at the theaters I cannot imagine it doing very well. However, seeing it at home made it more palatable for me. If nothing else, I certainly understood the message that was trying to be conveyed and commend the writers and director for trying to create something original. It was a shame it did not quite get to its high aspirations.
2 1/3 stars
THE STREET I GREW UP ON never changed in size but after I moved away it turned into a one-way road. This was one of many changes I saw when I took a car ride to visit my old neighborhood. I lived on a side street in the city that was lined with houses, except for 2 apartment buildings where one of them was my home. All the years I lived there, drivers had to slow down and cautiously try to pass any cars coming from the opposite direction. If that was not enough of a surprise, the apartment building where I lived was turned into condos. The only change I could see was the doorbells were now on the outside of the building instead of in the lobby. As I drove by, I did wish there was someone I still knew who lived in the building because I would have been interested to see what my apartment looked like now. From there it was only a couple of blocks to both my elementary and high school. As I drove around the high school, I did not notice anything different. There was the same staircase with the wide terra cotta banisters where I used to hide during phys ed. The indoor swimming pool still had the same fiberglass looking window blocks that came halfway down the walls. THERE WERE SO MANY MEMORIES THAT got embedded into me during my time living in that neighborhood, both good and bad. I have a friend who has so few memories of her old neighborhood that I wondered if I was an anomaly or she. I can remember exactly where I was and what I was wearing in my memories from decades ago. The old neighborhood had a candy shop that existed way before I ever heard of Willy Wonka. The store had glass cases along all the walls where the proprietor would be behind them waiting for me to make my selections. Simply a nod of my head and the pointing of my index finger towards the case would set him in motion. He would take a small white paper bag and with a quick downward stroke of his extended arm to let the rush of air pop open the bag, he would lift the horizontal back pane of glass to withdraw my choices for the day. I do not know if he actually made the candies in the cases but those treats spoiled me when it came to other candy places; I never found candy that tasted as good as the ones he sold. Revisiting my old neighborhood is like being on a treasure hunt; there are so many things to find, just like the trio of friends discovered in this dramatic, romance comedy. ON THE DAY OF HIS WEDDING Roland, played by Taye Diggs (Rent, Chicago), was nowhere to be found. His two best friends would find him living in the past. With Omar Epps (Love & Basketball, House-TV) as Mike, Richard T. Jones (Vantage Point, Phone Booth) as Slim, Sean Nelson (Stake Land, Fresh) as young Mike and Malinda Williams (First Sunday, Soul Food-TV) as young Alicia; this film festival winner had a fun cast and great idea for a story. I enjoyed the way the story interspersed flashbacks, giving the viewer enough time to understand the relationship of the scene to present times. My issue had to do with the script. Basic humor was used too often where there really needed to be more of a gentle touch, especially when it came to characters’ past memories. Also, the direction did not flow well; at times, I felt more time needed to be spent on each main character. Overall this was not a great film by any means, but it was not the worst either. For the fact it made me think about my old neighborhood, I was okay with watching it all the way to the end.
EACH OF US HAS EMOTIONAL NEEDS such as love, growth and significance. If one begins to feel empty, there is usually a negative feeling ready to fill the void. During those times where I was feeling alone, as if I was the only one of my kind, I filled my emptiness with food. Coming into the house with grocery bags filled with some of my favorite foods would provide me with a short-lived euphoria of comfort. At one point I was eating frozen pizza 2 to 3 times a day; that is how intense I was reacting to the emptiness. My attempts at love kept failing because of my lack of love for myself. It took a lot of hard work and discipline to recognize what I was doing with food and deciding to make some changes. All considering, based on what I have seen regarding what people use to fill a void, I am grateful I only used food to fill the emptiness inside of me. During my period of change it always fascinated or maybe I should say troubled me that this void inside constantly needed to be filled. When I experimented with things I thought might fill it, I never found myself reaching a level of comfort. I certainly got an understanding of what it meant to be “comfortable in one’s own skin.” WHILE I WAS ON MY JOURNEY of self-discovery, a friend of mine was being forced into one. She had been married for 20-25 years when I first met her. She had a great sense of humor and a personality to match. Yet, there was something I saw in her eyes that troubled me. It was a look that was familiar to me. During the life of our friendship I watched as her personality, humor and self-worth faded away. She would never talk about it; but I could see when she said anything about her husband, the life in her would die down like a campfire at the end of an evening. It was painful to see the life being sucked out of her and no matter what I said to her, nothing worked. It was not until a couple of years later when the door opened a crack and she revealed the pain she was in from her loveless marriage. Her outlet was to delve into the world of crafts. It was shocking to know the pain she was going through was producing some incredible pieces of art. Using arts and craft as a springboard, she found her way back to herself and became strong enough to leave her husband. It turned out her husband was abusive to her. Not feeling loved by him opened a gateway where her self-worth spilled out. Gratefully she filled her void in a healthy way, unlike the main character in this film festival winning, romantic drama. STUCK IN A LOVELESS MARRIAGE KATHERINE, played by Florence Pugh (Little Women, Fighting with my Family), realized what she was missing when she felt an attraction to a hired hand. That discovery started Katherine on a path of filling the void inside of her with darkness. With Cosmo Jones (Hunter Killer, The Marker) as Sebastian, Paul Hilton (Doctor Faustus, Eternal Beauty) as Alexander, Naomi Ackie (The Corrupted, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker) as Anna and Christopher Fairbank (The Fifth Element, Guardians of the Galaxy) as Boris; this film grabbed my interest from the beginning. The reason for it was Florence Pugh. She was such a presence in the story; I could not stop watching her in the role. Set in rural England during the 19th century, the story started out slow and deliberate. The scenes appeared authentic and only added to the shifting moods that took place through the script. I will say at times the script drifted off track, but for me this was not a glaring issue because of Florence’s acting. With the present situation regarding the ability to see films, this one filled a void in me for well-done movies.
3 ¼ stars
HE WAS A MEAN, NASTY, RUDE MAN and I worked for him. Being more wide than tall, I think he compensated for it by yelling at people. The company had less than 100 employees; some of them were related to him. I was extra cautious around them, not sure if they loved or hated their relative. Working for him always meant one had to be ready for his phone call or command. He would think nothing of it to call an employee on the telephone late at night. Half the time the calls had nothing to do with work. He would want someone to go pickup something for him, like a pizza or Chinese food. An employee once told me he got woken up early in the morning by the owner, who told him to go to the airport to pick up one of his relatives who was flying in for a visit. Granted he was successful, driving expensive cars and taking lavish trips; but he yielded his wealth like a battering ram, to make people submissive to him. Refusing him meant there was a good chance you would not get a raise in your salary. I was so grateful I did not have much contact with him while I worked there. IT TURNS OUT THAT OWNER WAS one of many individuals I encountered who used their wealth as a weapon. There was the relative who consistently told friends and family what they “should” do with their lives. Since this relative felt they were successful and wealthy, they had the right to tell other people what they did wrong, both in life and career. From my dealings with people of wealth, I realized being wealthy does not necessarily mean one has brains and/or good taste. Sure, a rich person could spend a small fortune on decorating their home, but that does not mean it would be considered a beautiful and comfortable place. I had a friend who would only buy designer clothing. By that, I mean clothes where the designer’s name is prominently displayed on the clothing. They thought they looked great in outfits; but I am here to tell you, some of the stuff they wore was impractical and unattractive. The way I see it, people who showoff their wealth or yield it to get their way are ugly inside. Not that I am stereotyping here; for there are many wealthy people who do not advertise their financial status and do good things. But if you are looking for them you will not find them in this mystery horror thriller. ON HER WEDDING DAY GRACE, PLAYED by Samara Weaving (Home and Away-TV; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) was not only marrying the love of her life, she was getting his entire family. It turns out that would not be a good thing. With Adam Brody (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, CHIPS) as Daniel Le Domas, Mark O’Brien (Arrival, The Front Runner) as Alex Le Domas, Henry Czerny (The Other Half, Clear and Present Danger) as Tony Le Domas and Andie MacDowell (Hudson Hawk, Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Becky Le Domas; this biting satire was bloody wild. And I do mean bloody. I not only thought Samara was great in this role, I thought the entire cast did a spot-on job with their characters. The script was filled with humor and horror; but written in such a smart way that it felt like I was on a carnival ride while watching this picture. Even if I did not have my history with unpleasant wealthy people, I would still appreciate the social commentary being done in the script. Despite my uncomfortableness with bloody scenes, watching this film was like finding something special on a scavenger hunt. It really stood out from the usual films in this genre. There were several scenes with blood and violence.
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.
A TINY POOL of liquid was growing larger in the bowl of guacamole the longer the night went on. The offer of food and drink had ended a long time ago as one host sat and watched the secondhand tick around the clock dial. The other host was keeping busy by tidying up around the room, washing glasses and plates from time to time when hopefully her absence would not be detected. After dinner and dessert the small group of people played a couple of games before settling into their spots to chill out and talk among themselves. As the evening wound down the guests started to leave until there were only 2-3 guests left. These remaining guests had a reputation for always being the last ones to leave a party. Somehow they did not or chose not to pick up the telltale signs hosts would enact to signal they were tired and wanted the party to end. MAYBE I MENTIONED this in an earlier post but all the clocks in my house show different times. How it started was when I pushed the time on my alarm clock ahead in the hope of never being late for work. From there it expanded to the rest of the clocks because I discovered many people do not pay attention to the actual time. From the parties I have thrown there were times where I was dead tired by the end of the evening. By having the clocks set ahead I could make a comment about how late the evening had gone; guests would look at the clock and be surprised by how fast time had passed by. Now before you say anything I do want to tell you that after I found my voice I no longer needed to depend on my false clock times to get late night guests out of the house; now I just tell them it is late and I am tired. It is a shame I could not have invited the homeowners in this dramatic, mystery horror film to one of my parties so they could take a lesson. WHEN THE UNEXPECTED man, played by Ed Harris (A Beautiful Mind, The Rock) was invited in by the homeowners, played by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games franchise, American Hustle) and Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, The Sea Inside), they had no idea how their lives would change. This film festival nominated movie written and directed by Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Fountain), also starred Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Begins, Dark Shadows) as the wife to Ed Harris’ character. The first part of the story was suspenseful and I immediately enjoyed everyone’s acting. However as the script continued this film got weirder and weirder. I became irritated with all the close up shots Darren was doing of Jennifer. The thing about this movie was I appreciated what I felt was the allegories the writer was trying to show. However as the story descended into a pseudo horror film I could not wait for the picture to be over. Because of the stark shift from suspense to horror I experienced a stronger negative reaction. Despite the acting from a cast I admired, I could not find justification for the amount of time I wasted watching this movie.
1 1/2 stars
THE ABSENCE OF a single conversation can steer a relationship off course and down an embankment towards rocky terrain. When someone says “they were afraid to tell their significant other” or do not want to say anything “because they won’t understand what I am saying anyway,” I want to give them a time out. I may understand why the person does not want to confront their partner but the bottom line for me is this: if you are in a committed relationship there should be no fear for one to express their feelings and thoughts. I had a friend who was afraid to tell her husband she was feeling lonely in their relationship. Her husband would go out with his friends to drink or play sports on a consistent basis. She would be left at home. Now granted she could have easily made plans with her friends, but for her it would not have solved the fundamental issue. The issue being she wanted to spend some down time with her husband after their busy work week schedules. WHEN I WITNESS couples not sharing their feelings with each other I fear they are laying down the groundwork for a life of miscommunication; that is if they choose to remain together for that long. More times than not this not talking to each other situation usually brings in to the relationship anger and resentment. In turn a game gets set up where one person does something they know will irritate their partner; then the partner returns the favor by doing something equally as irritating back. It becomes a vicious cycle that only places more negativity on the relationship. I find it sad and if given the opportunity to express my thoughts I will share them with the couple. Something I always recommend is therapy, to get an outside person involved to mediate and help the couple learn how to communicate their feelings to each other. I can see where the idea for this comedy came from regarding the issues facing the couples in this movie. LOOKING TO PROVE her theory about marriage researcher Vivian, played by Dolly Wells (Bridget Jones franchise, 45 Years), chose what she believed to be the perfect couples to participate in her documentary. Each couple had issues, maybe more than Vivian had bargained for. Starring writer and director Lake Bell (In a Word, No Strings Attached) as Alice, Ed Helms (Love the Coopers, Vacation) as Noah, Mary Steenburgen (The Proposal, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape) as Cybil, Paul Reiser (Whiplash, Mad About You-TV) as Harvey and Amber Heard (The Danish Girl, Drive angry) as Fanny; this was a well chosen ensemble for this story. As I mentioned the idea for this story was sound in my opinion; but it did not always translate to the script. Where some scenes had humor and real life situations, others fell flat and were not realistic. It was as if there was more than one story going on at times which attributed to the loss of focus. I was periodically bored and never felt like I fully knew any of the characters. In the past I have enjoyed Lake Bell’s work and performances, but for this film the directing did not help in jumping from one couple’s story to another. I am afraid for a story about communication and marriage; this movie did not do a good job in proving its point. There was a brief extra scene during the beginning credits.
1 ¾ stars
It was one of the items I inherited from a broken relationship. Totally functional, it served a purpose. The item was a kitchen garbage can; it was made of some type of silver metal and had a foot pedal that when depressed would open up the lid. I never liked the way the lid opened because instead of width wise it lifted from the length side. Being of a rectangular shape the lid would plop down with a thud when the foot pedal was released. On top of it the lid did not match up seamlessly with the rest of the garbage can. Another irritating feature may have been my fault but I blamed the can. The plastic garbage bag I would fit inside the can never remained fitted around the rim of the can; after a certain amount of garbage was placed inside, the bag would crumble to the bottom of the can. It was not like I produced so much garbage, but I felt one bag should be enough to last me one week until my neighborhood’s garbage pickup day. Unless I was having a dinner party I never had a full bag. So after years living with this slightly annoying garbage can I recently bought a new one when the old one’s foot pedal broke. I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoy this new can better. It is quiet where the lid slowly descends to the bordering rim that locks in the kitchen garbage bag that has not fallen once. And I love the way the lid opens width wide so I can scrape an entire dinner plate clean of its crumbs without any escaping to the kitchen floor. Who knew such a small thing could bring me such pleasure. I am sure others have had a similar experience when swapping out an old product for a new one. But when I hear about people doing it to their long term significant others, I do not have an understanding of it. MARRIED for 30 years Inge, played by Ursula Werner (Stopped on Track, Madchenabend), did not know how to tell her husband she had started an affair with another man. This romantic drama also starred Horst Rehberg (The Policeman’s Wife, Verflixtes Missgeschick!) as Werner, Horst Westphal (Du Bist Dran-TV movie, Und Das Am Heiligabend-TV movie) as Karl and Steffi Kuhnert (The White Ribbon, Stopped on Track) as Petra. I thought the acting was excellent but what really kept me involved with this story was my curiosity about the subject. Personally I have not been exposed to situations like the one in this film festival winning movie, though I have had friends who did with their parents. I would like to know about the motivation that makes a person, after so many years being together, take a drastic change. This story seemed real to me; I enjoyed the mix of subtle humor and heart tugging scenes. To me this picture felt like it was depicting real life. All I can say after watching this film is the heart is such a curious creature to me. German was spoken with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars — DVD
Slowly you remove yourself from the warmth you were lovingly lying next to, to give them a couple of extra minutes of sleep before the start of their day. You did not even think about the clothes you have at the dry cleaners because they will be hanging in your closet when you get home that night from work. When the two of you are out at a restaurant, you do not have to ask the waitstaff to remove the veggies you do not like from your salad; your significant other will take them without having to be asked. The two of you have an easy symbiotic relationship. Not that you take each other for granted, but the daily things that transpire between you two become their own type of routine. It is sad to say, but it is not until you no longer are a couple that you realize the extra wonderful things that made your relationship so special. I do not mean to paint this in a bad light; but I have found it is the small things that take place between two people that re-enforce the glue which keeps both in a relationship. It is part of the support system each one has created in unison and like anything that occurs on a constant schedule, it may appear less special and sweet as it fades into a routine. This is one of the reasons that I have always insisted on keeping up a date night so the two of us can break out of our daily routines to focus on each other. Not only do I understand but I have experienced what it feels like when that special love is no longer with you. SUCCESSFUL investment banker Davis, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Source Code, Nightcrawler), only began to realize what he was missing after his wife was killed in a tragic automobile accident. This film festival winning comedic drama also included Naomi Watts (While we’re Young, The Impossible) as Karen, Chris Cooper (Adaptation, American Beauty) as Davis’ father-in-law and Judah Lewis (Point Break) as Chris. Though the acting was good I found the script to be dismal though in a way this played to Jake’s strengths. I do not even know if I would classify this movie as part comedy. There was nothing in it that I found funny. Now there were several opportunities to create impressive dramatic scenes but they tended to fall short. Also, I usually do not notice but this time I thought Jake’s shower scenes were unnecessary and wondered if they were inserted for eye candy value. The other odd thing I found was the lack of time awareness. I became aware to the fact that he wasn’t working yet these different events were taking place with him over time. For some reason this stood out for me. The idea behind this story was interesting and the script had some valid points; however, I did not connect to this film, nor did I miss it after it was over.
1 ¾ stars
There they sit across from you, eating the dinner you both prepared. When there is any conversation it is kept to trivial, light things about the day. After the meal is done and the dishes have been washed and dried the two of you sit on the sofa to watch television. The side of their leg is pressed up against yours; not for any romantic reasons, just because that is where the two of you have always sat together. You can feel their physical presence but that is all; they are there but not there like a ghost of their former self. Not reacting to anything being shown on the TV nor sharing any thoughts or feelings, you feel totally alone. Any type of chitchat you start up is only met with a grunt. I believe most of us have experienced some form of pain or discomfort coming from physical cruelty. A punch or slap where the pain radiates heat prior to dispersing into a dullness is what I am referring to here. However there is another form of cruelty that I find just as painful if not more and it would be the emotional kind. The person who you have had some type of relationship with mentally checks out unexpectedly for no apparent reason. It is an awful place to be in, especially when you have given your heart to that person. In a situation like this I find silence to be the absolute worst choice; I would rather a person be honestly blunt with me instead of avoiding what needs to be said. Silence in this type of situation can be a form of purgatory in my opinion. MARRIED and set in their ways for many years Nolan and Joy Mack’s, played by Robing Williams (Old Dogs, Good Will Hunting) and Kathy Baker (Edward Scissorhands, 13 Going on 30), lives started to become unglued the night Nolan nearly drove over the stranger Leo, played by Roberto Aguire (Sand Sharks-TV movie). This dramatic film already came with a sense of sadness since this was Robin’s final film performance. I thought his acting was strong as he showed emotional restraint. In fact, the cast which also included Bob Odenkirk (Nebraska, Breaking Bad-TV) as Winston did a wonderful job. If the script had offered more emotional depth, not only would have the actors been able to handle it; but it would have made this a much more powerful drama. As it was I found parts of the movie were lackluster, with a few scenes that did not come across as believable for me. The other issue I had with this film was the uneven pacing of the story. I felt the story with its powerful themes could have been clearly presented without slowing down the action. As I said earlier I was already feeling sad when the movie started and only became sadder as the story unfolded.