BEING THE FATHER OF THE BABY was the only thing I knew about him, besides living with the baby’s mother. I knew nothing else like his job, his age or where he came from. I had seen photos of the baby and she was adorable, always with a great big smile on her face; who she looked like I could not say. There was going to be a large social event where we were both going to attend. The baby’s mother was excited to introduce the baby’s daddy to me, talking about him more than usual up until the time of the party. I got the sense she was proud of him and wanted to show him off to me; I was cool with it. When it was time to attend the party, I decided to wear my suit since the event was being held at a hotel’s ballroom. It was easy to get to the place and I was able to find parking in front, which I preferred instead of going into the parking garage. When I entered the ballroom, I was met with the sounds of a DJ spinning his music from atop a stage set up behind a huge dance floor. I made my way through groups of people until I found a familiar face. It was someone I had known for many years. We made some small talk, commenting on the decorations that were placed about the room. IT WAS JUST BEFORE THE WAITSTAFF came out with dinner’s first course, when I felt a tap on the back of my shoulder. I turned around to see the baby’s mother and I assumed father standing side by side behind me. I said hello to her and commented on how tall she appeared. She chuckled and had to show me the high heeled shoes she was wearing. I laughed then directed my attention to the man standing next to her who had been quiet this whole time. Extending my hand, I introduced myself. He took a hold of my hand and gave it a vigorous shake. The three of us fell into easy bantering, though I noticed the baby’s daddy was focusing all his attention towards me. At some point he insisted he buy me a drink at one of the bars that was set up in the ballroom. My gut was telling me to be cautious; I could not explain why I was starting to feel this way, but there was something about him that put me on edge. I knew the baby’s mother would ask me what I thought of him, but I decided that when the time came, I would try to focus on positive statements. However, time would show me that my gut feeling was right. I have been learning to pay attention to my gut feeling, which I believe one of the main characters in this action mystery was doing as well. THERE WAS SOMETHING ABOUT RACHEL, PLAYED by Diane Kruger (In the Fade, Unknown), that made Mossad agent Thomas, played by Martin Freeman (The Hobbitt franchise, Black Panther), believe she would be the right fit for what the agency needed. But when Rachel delves deeper into her assignment, Martin begins to wonder if he had made the right choice. With Cas Anvar (Room, The Expanse-TV) as Farhad, Rotem Keinan (A Tale of Love and Darkness, The Exchange) as Daniel and Lana Ettinger (Live and Become, The Road to Where) as Operative #2; this drama started with a slow pace before the action was introduced. I thought the story was interesting, especially basing it in Tehran. The issue I had though was with the script; there was very little variance in the level of drama and excitement. I found this film turned into a generic, mediocre production. Diane really did a good job of acting as did Martin; but the rest of the cast was not memorable. When the beginning started out slow, I should have listened to my gut; but since there was nothing else to watch at the time, I took a chance. Several scenes with German, Persian, Hebrew, French and Kurdish spoken with English subtitles.
1 ¾ stars
I WAS FORCED TO LISTEN TO a parent and son negotiate over a candy bar. This is one of the downsides of waiting in line at the grocery store. The son had been whining and crying over something as they lined up behind me. I did my best to ignore what the two of them were saying to each other; however, when the young child said he would behave if he could get a candy bar, my ears perked up. Right at that point, I decided the child was being manipulative. And to my surprise, the parent agreed and let the son pick out a candy bar. Who was the adult, I wondered? This would never have worked when I was growing up. I was surprised the parent agreed; but then again, there is little that surprises me these days. Having seen and read stories about the parent/child connection, I have gone from being in awe to being horrified based on a parent’s actions. There was the case of the parents giving their younger son for Christmas, the shotgun their oldest son used to kill himself. What kind of message are the parents giving their child? I know I have mentioned this before, but there was that trial where the parent was being accused of hanging their 2-year-old child out on the fire escape of their apartment building. Unconditional love evidently is not always a given when one brings a child into the world. NO MATTER HOW MANY NEGATIVE STORIES may be told; gratefully, there are just as many positive stories that come out. I remember reading about a family swimming in the ocean where their young child was attacked by a shark. The father did not hesitate as he went up to the shark and started punching it in the head until its mouth opened enough to get the child out, while still alive. Another story was reported of a mother who saved their child from drowning by keeping them afloat long enough to get them back safely onboard their pleasure boat that had drifted far away from them. I have always been puzzled with the way some parents are willing to sacrifice their lives for their children, while others are at the opposite end of the spectrum; in other words, they take away the lives of their children. Is it something a person is born with or is it something a person learns upon the birth of their child? I do not know but either way, what I saw in this dramatic, horror story moved me. SEEING WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE SPREAD of an epidemic, a father desperately seeks out a safe place for his infant baby daughter. This film festival winning movie starred Martin Freeman (The Hobbit franchise, Black Panther) as Andy, Simone Landers (Grace Beside Me-TV) as Thoomi, Susie Porter (The Monkey’s Mask, East West 101-TV) as Kay, Bruce R. Carter (Here I Am, Last Cab to Darwin) as Willie and Kris McQuade (Ned Kelly, Strictly Ballroom) as Etta. For this genre of story, this script was such a different take that pleasantly surprised me. I thought Martin’s and Simone’s acting were outstanding. Typically, this type of story is filled with blood and gore; however, that was not the case with this picture; it was thoughtful and moving, allowing the drama to flourish with a brewing layer of tension. I am not sure the writer’s intended this, but I found parallels between parts of this story with current events. The extra bonus to this film was the outdoor scenes of the Australian countryside; there were some beautiful shots done by the camera people. For those of you who are into this genre of movies, you might be disappointed. However, I would ask that you give this film a chance if for nothing else to see a parent’s love for their child.
The older people are getting the more I have noticed they incorporate an escape plan into their world. If I do a quick count I believe a majority of the people I know have some kind of activity they can escape to, withdrawing from the realities of their day. Off the top of my head I know individuals who do scrap booking, knitting, jigsaw puzzles and reading books just to name a few. I, if you have not noticed, do movies to escape the pressures that come up in my daily life. Films offer me the fastest way to leave the present moment and be whisked into the alternative world of a movie. Even a poorly done movie that I have given a 1 1/2 star rating will partially transport me away; however, the better the film the more I will be drawn into it. If you have read my description for what merits a 4 star rating, you know the movie has to completely remove me from the theater and allow me to become part of the story; where I do not see the actors playing out their roles only the actual characters. Personally I feel everyone should have some kind of activity that allows them to disconnect from their everyday routines. I do not know about you but it seems the older I get more things become challenging for me. A simple activity like driving a car has become harder due to so many distracted drivers, besides the endless construction projects that constantly close roads and lanes. It is no wonder a person feels stuck in their life and just wants to escape to somewhere or something else. With that in mind, I was surprised to see what the main character chose to do in this comedy. JOURNALIST Kim Baker, played by Tina Fey (Sisters, Muppets Most Wanted), felt she was stuck; her life was going nowhere. That is until an opportunity came up for her to take an assignment in Afghanistan. Based on a true story this war comedy had a well rounded cast that included Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street, About Time) as Tanya Vanderpoel, Martin Freeman (The Hobbit franchise, Hot Fuzz) as Iain MacKelpie and Alfred Molina (An Education, Chocolat) as Massoud Sadiq. There were parts of this film I enjoyed, but the more the story unfolded the more I lost sense of it. For some reason I started to disbelieve the scenes because they seemed so outrageous or maybe more accurately they lost the emotion of the action. I did not find much humor in this picture; it slowly became ridiculous to me. It is a shame because the idea of the real Kim Baker taking on this assignment is extraordinary; I just wished this script would have come across more real. Part of the blame would have to go to the director. I never once felt I was watching the actual characters, only seeing the actors playing them. This film did not provide me a total escape.
2 1/4 stars
It has been a long time; some people had relationships that were of a shorter duration. When we first met my eyes were dazzled by your beauty and my mind was tickled by your fanciful creativity. You showed me places I had only read about in books, never imagining I would see them come to life. I so enjoyed listening to your stories as the images you created appeared before my very eyes. You had this ability to sweep me away to a place where I could forget my problems and let the little boy inside of me come out to play. The years have been good to us. Like any relationship we settled into an easy comfort as we grew old together. Though my hearing and vision may not be as good as it used to be, I still looked forward to the tales you would tell me. After all this time I very much appreciated the fact you did not judge me if it looked like I was about to doze off during your storytelling; you know I never did. By the way, whenever I needed to take a bathroom break I always quickly ran there and back so I would not miss much. DIRECTOR Peter Jackson (King Kong, The Lovely Bones) and I started our journey back in 2001 at the release of his first film from his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Twenty-three years later we meet again for the last movie of his Hobbit franchise. This film festival winning adventure fantasy was just as spectacular visually as the previous ones. I particularly admired Peter’s eye for detail when it came to the scenes. Besides returning cast members Ian McKellen (X-Men franchise, Gods and Monsters) as Gandalf and Martin Freeman (Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) as Bilbo Baggins, there was newcomer Billy Connolly (The Boondock Saints, Quartet) adding a bit of life with his character Dain. Let me start by saying I enjoyed this film more than the previous one. Smaug the dragon, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imagination Game, Sherlock-TV), who ended the last movie began this one with a fiery blast. What it boiled down to for me (no pun intended) was the script could not match the visual technical achievements of the scenes. After all this time there was a tired feeling to the last couple of pictures. It seemed as if this final installment was repetitive, with added fillers. For me watching a nearly one hour long battle scene was a laborious undertaking; it lost intensity as it went on. There was a “let us throw everything at them” quality to it. I am, however, glad I saw this movie. Our relationship may not have been as fresh as it once was, but I could not stand Peter up.
2 2/3 stars
Some of the things home means to me are comfort, peacefulness, safety and refuge. This pertains to my present location. Home also has a special meaning when I think of the place where I grew up. There were neighbors who lived across, below and around the corner from our apartment. If I wanted to talk to my cousins who lived on the other side of the building all I had to do was open the bathroom window and call out their names. The other neighbors in the building were just like family to me. It meant nothing to go pick up something at the grocery store for a neighbor, especially since they would give me extra money to buy myself some candy. Years later when I found out our old apartment building was going from rentals to condominiums I was heartbroken. How could the apartment I was born in now be owned by someone? As long as it was a rental I could still imagine each person living there was only temporarily residing in my childhood apartment. Home can be a powerful connection which explains the motivation that drove the dwarves of Erebor to reclaim their land taken away by the greedy dragon Smaug. Led by Thorin, played by Richard Armitage (Captain America: The First Avenger, Robin Hood-TV), the dwarves were helped on their perilous journey by the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, played by Martin Freeman (Love Actually, The World’s End) and Gandalf the Grey, played by Ian McKellen (X-Men franchise, Gods and Monsters). The landscape that director Peter Jackson (King Kong, The Lovely Bones) laid out in this fantasy film was exquisite. It looked as real and amazing as any of the incredible landscapes that would be considered a wonder of the world. The action was close to nonstop as possible to the point where I felt it was overkill. For me this was the movie’s downfall. There were so many action scenes that the story never developed fully. For the life of me I have no idea what was the reason for the secondary story line regarding the elf Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly (Real Steel, Afterwards); it came out of the blue and made no sense to me. Due to the excess of fight scenes in this adventure film, their repetitiveness only added to the times where I was getting bored. Clocking in at 2 hours and 41 minutes, this was a movie that felt longer because it did not have the magic that was present in the The Lord of the Rings franchise. To end on an up note I thought the dragon Smaug was a technical achievement. It was a shame the dwarves not only had to fight evil forces if they wanted to get back their homeland, they had to battle a bad script.
2 3/4 stars
Living close enough to go back and visit the old neighborhood where I grew up, I fondly remember the good times I had with my friends. From playing ball in the alley, to seeing the same high school staircase where a group of kids parked a car overnight; I enjoyed living in the city back then. When my friends and I became of legal age, we were excited to buy alcohol legally. The excitement did not last long; I soon lost interest in it. Instead of hanging out with the usual group, I had a couple of friends that would go restaurant hopping with me. Since none of us liked to drink, we would go out at night and stop at different food places along the way. Talk about stuffing one’s feelings; my record was eating at five restaurants in one night. Looking back I think that was the most unusual thing I did while growing up. Granted, I have good memories of that activity but I could never go back and try to do it again; unlike the five friends in this comedy. Gary King, played by Simon Pegg (Star Trek franchise, Hot Fuzz), decided to round up the old group and see if they could complete the legendary pub crawl in their old home town. Joining him on the road trip were his friends Andy Knightley, Oliver Chamberlain, Steven Prance and Peter Page; played by Nick Frost (Paul, Shaun of the Dead), Martin Freeman (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Hot Fuzz), Paddy Considine (In America, Dead Man’s Shoes) and Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes franchise, Hancock). Upon reaching their old stomping grounds, the group of friends discovered things were not exactly the same; the townsfolk were acting oddly. Little did the friends know their pub crawl would entail more than just downing a pint at each location. This humorous action film started out slow for me; though, the fast paced dialog with its British humor was easily handled by the cast members. It was not until later into the movie that things turned into a science fiction story. There were some gags and scenes that fell flat for me. Taking everything into consideration this was a madcap, fun film on the unexpected times one can have when they go back home.
2 2/3 stars
There is a certain beauty in nature’s untouched landscapes. Having traveled across the United States, visiting 47 out of the 50 states to date, I have been incredibly grateful for what I have seen. I felt I was on a different planet while trekking through Badlands National Park and when I was at Yellowstone National Park, I finally understood the line “purple mountain majesties” when I saw them with my own eyes. Without special effects or being touched by man, earth can provide us an unbelievable movie set. Sitting in the movie theater with my 3D glasses on, I felt I was watching a PBS special. Scene after scene after scene of fantastical landscapes filled with soaring mountains and unfurling waterfalls, I did not know where to look first. If this was only a travelogue then this would be wonderful in its own right. But this was a movie, so I wanted a story to connect the beautiful and exciting images before my eyes. It felt to me as if the special effects were thought of first and then the writers put a story to them. Starting a new trilogy, I understood there would have to be a groundwork of explanations laid down to get the movie audience on the same page; however, it made for a slow pace in the beginning. Martin Freeman (Love Actually, Hot Fuzz) played Bilbo Baggins, a hesitant Hobbit who went along with a band of Dwarves to reclaim their mountain home from the dragon Smaug. Richard Armitage (Frozen, Robin Hood) was the Dwarf King Thorin who with the wizard Gandalf, played by Ian McKellen (X-Men franchise, Stardust) lead their group through perilous lands filled with goblins, giant spiders and other deadly creatures. Where the beginning of this movie was disappointing, the last half of this 2 hour and 49 minute film came together for me. Director Peter Jackson and his special effects team did an amazing job, bringing a new and improved Gollum, played by Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Prestige) to the screen. The facial expressions on Gollum and the other fanciful beings were truly realistic. With the excitement ratcheted up, the steadier pacing and deeper chemistry between characters; I thoroughly enjoyed the movie by its conclusion. If only more attention had been given to the story as the special effects this would have been a masterpiece. As I was leaving the theater, if they had been selling postcards of the movie’s landscapes, I would have bought several to mail out to my friends.
2 2/3 stars