HAVING A STRONG INTEREST IN HISTORY, I have always had an awareness about being a part of it. Now, I know each of us has a history and a place in other people’s history; however, there is a part of me that wants to be associated with something that makes history for being the first. For example, like the person who created post-it notes or the one who came up with that new shade of blue. I prefer to be known for something positive. Years ago, I was a participant in a charity’s inaugural fundraising event that took place on a cruise boat. I was with a group of bachelors that were to be auctioned off. Each of us had our own dinner package included; mine was a dinner at an Italian restaurant followed with a concert at an outdoor venue. We did promotions for the event, such as holding meet and greets at different locations in the city and being on a float in a parade. The press was kind to us, though I have to say I was surprised when I saw a picture of myself in one of the local newspapers. It was a fun time and we raised a substantial amount of money for the charity. LOOKING AT OTHER THINGS I HAVE DONE, something that never occurred to me was the historical significance of my movie review site. I did not realize that these reviews will be available for my family’s future generations. All I have that connects me to past generations are photographs and old silent film clips. The idea that some relative of mine in the year 2099 can learn about me from reading my reviews blows my mind. I think about this more as I am growing older. I would think the same for the passengers, I recently saw on the news, who took part in the longest non-stop plane ride; imagine what they will be telling their descendants. Or sadly, the tourists involved with the volcano eruption in New Zealand; that now becomes a part of their history. I think about the members I have had in my classes who have come up to me to express the difference I have made in their lives. Here I thought I was doing a job; but it turns out I was doing something more. Seeing the change that takes place in the members’ lives is one of my biggest pleasures when it comes to teaching class. As I said earlier, we all have a history that affects others; that is certainly the case with the main character in this biographical, crime drama. AT THE TIME HE WAS FOLLOWING orders; but Mafia hitman Frank Sheehan’s, played by Robert De Niro (Mean Streets, Joker), dependability and loyalty made him a part of this country’s history. With Al Pacino (The Godfather franchise, Dick Tracy) as Jimmy Hoffa, Joe Pesci (Raging Bull, My Cousin Vinny) as Russell Bufalino, Harvey Keitel (Bad Lieutenant, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Angelo Bruno and Ray Romano (The Big Sick, Everybody Loves Raymond-TV) as Bill Bufalino; no one could ask for a better cast when it came to acting out these characters. The story was fascinating to me; especially because, I was familiar with some of the names that were being mentioned in the movie. The directing and filming of this picture was beautifully done; however, I felt there were parts that dragged on too long. The script caused these slow spots in places where I had to wait for the actors to move on. And truthfully, I felt there was a difference in watching this movie on a small screen instead of at the theater. Overall, I still enjoyed the film; but I wonder how much of it was based on truth. Because if it was indeed true, then Frank Sheeran definitely has a place in history.
3 ¼ stars
THEY knew it was one of my favorite musicals which made them think of me. A relative of theirs was performing in a local, community production; so they offered me the extra ticket in their possession. I am a supporter of the arts, enjoying a variety of venues available all over my city. Normally I would jump at the chance to attend a staged production; however, when it comes to certain plays or musicals I tend to be more cautious. The reason is because those few productions that are my all-time favorites I pretty much have committed to memory; every note, dance move and set design. Going to see anything less than a spectacular production would disappoint me. Do not get me wrong, I have tried many times. I could be sitting on an old rickety, folding chair in some small community center’s space pretending to be an auditorium and if everything is on point I am over the moon with joyous excitement. However if an errant musical note is played or a singer is off pitch it ruins the entire experience for me. ULTIMATELY it is a trade-off I suppose; if a person is willing to gamble and hope for the best they will go for it. But I have a question for you; let us say strawberries are one of your favorite things to eat. You eat them fresh from the garden as well as using them in your baking and making of smoothies. How satisfied would you be to eat something that uses artificial flavoring to make it taste like strawberry? If I had a choice between homemade chocolate chip cookies or store bought packaged ones, I would always go to the homemade ones first. I am not knocking the manufactured ones; heaven knows I have never turned down any type of chocolate chip cookie, but there are just times where I want the real thing. I could say the same thing about this action crime thriller. MEETING at an abandoned warehouse a group of people came together to make a deal to buy and sell guns. It would have helped if some of them had prior training on how to shoot a gun. This film festival winner was executive produced by Martin Scorsese (Shutter Island, The Departed). Starring Brie Larson (Room, The Spectacular Now) as Justine, Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger, The Social Network) as Ord, Cillian Murphy (Inception, In the Heart of the Sea) as Chris and Sharito Copley (District 9, Maleficent) as Vernon; I thought with this much talent the story would have been interesting to watch. The film had a 70s retro look which was fun. As the movie started it appeared there was going to be a sense of mystery to the story. Little did I realize the only mystery was why the movie studio allowed the script to remain in its present form. Essentially if it was not, it sure felt like over ½ of this film was one big shootout. Most of the dialog contained slang words; I was so bored I wanted all of the characters to kill each other and end the picture. If the writers were trying to do a parody on gun violence it was lost on me. And if they were hoping to create an homage to Martin Scorsese, the writers and director failed in my opinion. This was a pseudo action thriller filled with violence and strong language. You have been warned.
1 ¾ stars
THERE was a soft knock at my door. If I had music playing instead of studying for a test I would not have heard it. Upon opening the door I saw a woman standing with a canvas bag filled with pamphlets sitting by her feet. I asked her if I could help her though I was cautious since I was living in off campus housing; we never had strangers in the building. She asked me if I wanted to be saved today. I simply stared at her because I had never been asked such a question. Asking her what I was being saved from she leaned down to take one of the pamphlets out of her book and started to tell me about her religion. Because I was studying for a test I did not let her go on long before asking her how did she determine such a thing for me, that possibly my religion was taking care of me. She paused while maintaining her slight smile before telling me I should consider her faith because it was the only way for me. THIS was my first time having someone trying to convert me from my faith. At the time I was offended, namely because she was not acknowledging my faith. I finally had to ask her what right she had to make assumptions about my faith and spirituality from our short conversation. Having grown up in a diverse neighborhood, my friends and I were always going to each other’s religious holiday celebrations. Houses in my neighborhood would have either Christmas trees displayed in their windows or menorahs, while others displayed nothing. Maybe I grew up in a bubble but there were never any issues about one’s religion being wrong compared to someone else. I think that non-judgmental environment I grew up in made watching this dramatic film festival winning movie more shocking for me. TRAVELING from Portugal to Japan to find their lost mentor 17th century Jesuit priests Rodrigues and Garrpe, played by Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, 99 Homes) and Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Midnight Special) were not safe once they landed on foreign soil. Written and directed by Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Departed), I understand it took Martin years to get this story filmed. With Liam Neeson (Taken franchise, Run All Night) as Ferreira and Tadanobu Asano (Thor franchise, Ichi the Killer) as the interpreter, the story covered deeper subject matter than the usual heavily marketed movie studios’ films. This story was quite thought provoking where I am still processing the scenes I witnessed. I say witness because there were scenes that were tough to watch with their violence, while others presented interesting discussion. The acting was excellent and some scenes were close to brilliant. One issue I had with the film was the length of it; I found the running time of 2 hours and 41 minutes too long. At one point I felt I was going from one torture scene to another. If I heard correctly the movie was originally over an hour longer; I cannot imagine sitting that long for this story. Putting that aside this film did present a forum to discuss human nature and religious issues. I do not know if this movie would cause one to convert but it could possibly change your views on the power of films.
3 ½ stars
When two people work well together they create something truly special. I have one friend who is the only person I will travel with because we compliment each other so well. When we are exploring a new city or area out of state, we usually cover everything on our to do list. If for no other reason because we both are avid walkers. For example at a national park while they read all the signage that pertains to each site, I make sure I take multiple photo shots to create a visual travelog. After we return home we can easily recreate our vacation down to the littlest of details. In film history there have been several couples who had a way of blending with each other to give us memorable moments. Some of these pairings would be Katherine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy/William Powell. A current couple that does something special when they get together on a film project is Leonardo DiCaprio (The Departed, Titanic) and director Martin Scorsese (Hugo, The Departed). In this crime comedy the two men made a spectacular film. Based on a true story Leonardo played Jordan Belfort, a New York stockbroker who was at the center of a huge securities fraud scheme back in the 1990s. With his partner Donnie Azoff, played by Jonah Hill (This is the End, Moneyball), the two built up a brokerage firm that would fund their excessive lifestyle; it did not matter if it was legal or not. I believe this was Leonardo’s best acting performance to date. Not only the emotional aspect but the physical side of his acting created a volcanic, unforgettable character. The casting of this Golden Globe nominated movie yielded several interesting choices such as Rob Reiner (The Story of Us, All in the Family-TV) playing Jordan’s father Max Belfort and Joanne Lumley (Late Bloomers, Absolutely Fabulous-TV) as Aunt Emma. For the few scenes they had, each left a lasting impression. Now I understand the movie originally clocked in over 4 hours but after some editing it was reduced to 3. This was still too long for me, since I felt the amount of sexual scenes were excessive. With that being said, Martin’s directing was pure perfection; each scene came across fully realized. Some viewers may have a hard time with the nudity and use of strong language throughout the film. Based on the track record for Leonardo and Martin, we should be in store for more movie magic in the future.
3 3/4 stars
In my yoga classes I mention how the right side of the body is our masculine, our sun side. The left side is our feminine, our lunar side. For some individuals one side may be more dominant than the other, it is just the way we are. I mention it simply as an awareness so when we do our poses, members can notice if one side is less challenged than the other. Part of yoga is finding balance within ourselves. My yoga teacher kept reminding us before we went into a pose to always start with the side that is more challenging. I, in turn, share this idea with my classes. In the scientific world there is the theory that the left side of the brain is skilled with numbers, logic and reasoning; the right side is proficient with colors, creativity and music. Through my life I have done some things that focused more on the right side of my brain like going to college originally to become a veterinarian. Then there were things I did that nourished the left side of my brain such as taking up the piano for 8 years. I have always been fascinated on how the mind works in highly creative people. In this documentary by Academy Award nominated director Scott Hicks (Shine, The Lucky One), the subject was composer Philip Glass. Scott spent over a year following Philip, taking the footage and breaking it down into twelve segments for this movie. Besides filming Philip collaborating with such artists as Martin Scorsese, Ravi Shankur and Woody Allen; we were privy to his home life with wife and kids. The segments I enjoyed the most were the ones that showed Philip working on his compositions, his creative process. Scenes showing life at home were okay for me, though a couple of them were quite poignant. Philip’s minimalistic style may not be pleasing for some individuals, but this biography focused more towards the creation of such music. I wished there had been more scenes devoted to Philip letting the right side of his brain flourish. As documentaries go, this one kept an even balance showing the daily life of a multifaceted music master.
3 stars — DVD