THE PHOTO WAS FORWARDED TO ME and I immediately had memories flood my brain as soon as I saw it. I had not thought about that trip in years; no, actually decades, but remembered the who, what and where of the trip. I am always amazed at the workings of the mind. How these stored memories suddenly appear in full force, like a spotlight, into one’s consciousness; it is fascinating. From that one photo, I was able to remember the place I stayed at, the time of year and the various sights I visited while there. Truthfully, if I had not seen that one photo I do not know if I would have ever recalled that vacation. And that is the other aspect of stirred memories I enjoy experiencing; that random trigger that sets off the memory like a firecracker. For example, just recently I had a lunch date with a few family members. I had found this new food item at the store and thought the relatives would enjoy trying them. Buying a few different flavors, I put them out on the dining room table when the meal was ready. As the group of people inspected the items, I brought out drinking glasses for them to give the products a try. One family member kept taking a taste from their drink. When I asked what they thought of it, they said the taste is reminding them of a different time when they were back in college drinking a mixed alcoholic beverage out of a plastic cup. How random it was; I enjoyed hearing how a past memory got ignited from a new type of drink. JUST AS I AM FASCINATED WITH the way memories suddenly appear from random stimuli, I am also curious how some memories always stay close to the surface to steer the actions of an individual. Many of us might have experienced buying a car that turned out to be a complete lemon. I know I did. There was a car I had that would periodically just shut off while I was driving it. I remember one time it decided to turn off in the middle of a busy intersection. There was nothing I could do because the car would not turn over. I go so fed up, I grabbed my stuff, got out, locked the car doors and walked over to the curb to call a tow service. For the next few weeks while I looked for a car, I rode a bicycle wherever I had to go. From that time, I have never bothered looking at that car manufacturer’s products when I needed to buy a car. Some memories just never fade away, like the one the main character kept having in this action, crime adventure. AFTER AN ASSIGNMENT GETS BOTCHED UP, a well-honed assassin discovers she has a short time to live before she dies. She only has one thing on her mind. With Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Birds of Prey, 10 Cloverfield Lane) as Kate, Woody Harrelson (The Hunger Games franchise, Out of the Furnace) as Varrick, relative newcomer Miku Patricia Martineau as Ani, Tadanobu Asano (Thor franchise, Battleship) as Renji and Jun Kunimura (Kill Bill franchise, The Naked Director-TV) as Kijima; this story was a mix of previous film stories I have seen. There seems to be a recent smattering of movies with female killers. I have enjoyed seeing them and in fact, this film reminded me of a cross between John Wick, Atomic Blonde and Crank. Kate did an admirable job of acting and fighting in this role; however, the script was generic, without much depth and character development. There was a stylized flair in the look of this picture, but it did not have that extra punch, so to speak, to make this a great movie. The bottom line here is I might remember Mary Elizabeth’s performance, but I doubt I will remember this movie after a short time.
IF I ONLY KNEW BACK THEN what I know now, I could have avoided so many troubling things. Oscar Wilde had a famous quote, “With age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone.” This is so true. I am reminded of a friend who would repeat the same pattern when it came to the men she dated. Each relationship ended the same way with the man breaking it off and her heart getting broken. Whatever my 2 cents of advice is worth, she never allowed her relationships to develop; she went from having a few initial dates to acting like they were in a full-blown relationship, as if they were a long time couple. It was odd and uncomfortable to see her place herself repeatedly in these situations; yet, she would do the same thing over and over with each person she started dating. Of course, it is easier for me to give advice to other people than it is for me to take my own advice. I was in several relationships that, I see now, were not healthy. If I had my current level of confidence and knowledge back then, I could have saved myself a whole lot of pain. Yet, I always want to believe we gain something from each person we encounter. I DO NOT KNOW IF I am wiser, but I certainly am aware how differently I react to certain situations these days. In the past, my younger self would always view any type of criticism as a threat, where I would immediately go on the attack. Most of my verbal confrontations with individuals was me yelling “You” statements at them. These are sentences that start with the word “You” followed by a descriptive adjective or action, like “You never said” or “You didn’t care.” My older self can see the difference between saying “you never said” and “I did not hear you” or “You didn’t care” and “I felt you were not interested.” It changes the whole flavor of the situation when one starts out saying I instead of You. When I look back at my younger years, I can honestly say I have few regrets. However, what I can tell you is my life would have been less stressful if my younger self had my current self-awareness. From time to time in fact, I will recall an experience from my past and replay it in my mind to see how things could have been different, if I acted more like my adult self. For me doing this is more of a mental exercise; for the main character in this dramatic, action science fiction film his past was more physical. REACHING A POINT IN HIS LIFE where he could finally retire; elite assassin Henry Brogan, played by Will Smith (Aladdin, Suicide Squad), did not understand why he suddenly became the target of an assassin who was able to anticipate his every move. With Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane, Scott Pilgrim vs the World) as Danny Zakarweski, Clive Owen (Closer, Inside Man) as Clay Verris, Benedict Wong (The Martian, Doctor Strange) as Baron and Douglas Hodge (Red Sparrow, The Report) as Jack Willis; I was anticipating this film to be an exciting and visual piece of work because of the director, Ang Lee (Life of Pi, Brokeback Mountain). Visually there was a lot to look at; however, the action went to fast for me. I found Will was doing the same type of acting he has done before; so, I was not connecting at all with his character. The real shame here was the script; it was not only generic but gave the viewers clues to what was going to happen further in the story. Overall, there was nothing exciting or fresh about this picture. I hate to say it, but I believe this movie is an example of Oscar Wilde’s quote.
1 ¾ stars
There was a time where they were used for something more important than displaying jewelry. I do not know if it is a passing fad or a new trend but I have seen them being stretched with round rings of a metal or plastic nature. Maybe it is still being done now but I remember some children would have small tubes stuck in their ears to help them with their hearing. Hearing used to be important and there was an art to being a good listener. Yes, being a listener was an important and admirable quality in a person. From a comment I recently read on one of my reviews and seeing this film, it dawned on me that fewer people take the time to listen these days. I cannot tell you how many times I have introduced myself and the person either doesn’t remember or gives me a different name within our initial conversation. The comment I was referring to earlier mentioned wherever you go there are always people just looking down at their phones, not interacting with anyone around them. I can do one better; having met someone at a movie function we texted back and forth to set up a time to get together. After a few texts back and forth I decided to call them because I get more out of having a conversation than a series of abbreviated words and emoticons. The voice message I left was the last communication between the two of us; I never heard from them again. I ask you, why are people so afraid to talk to one another. Being able to talk and express feelings can be therapeutic and healthy, just see what happens in this dramatic comedy. DESPERATE and alone Hank, played by Paul Dano (Prisoners, Ruby Sparks), was about to end his life until he saw a body that had washed ashore. This film festival winning adventure picture had one of the most unusual story lines I have ever seen. With fellow cast mates Daniel Radcliffe (Now You See Me 2, Harry Potter franchise) as Manny and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane, Kill the Messenger) as Sarah; I initially sat in my seat perplexed by what I was watching on screen. As the uneven story progressed I started to understand what was going on and wound up enjoying this film. The acting was not only good but interesting; that is all I can say about it. There were parts that were humorous, parts that were touching and all finely threaded to keep the message on track. I do not know if this is a film for everyone, though I will say the story was certainly original. Instead of telling you this picture was more like an independent art film; I think it would be better to say this movie was not a mainstream one. If memory serves me correctly I believe at its showing at one of the film festivals some of the audience was cheering while others walked out. I chose to go see this film and listen to what it was trying to express.
There was a time when the words, “Do you have any change you can spare,” meant someone needed something. Sadly times have changed or maybe I have because when I hear those words from a stranger my first reaction is disbelief. Let me give you an example why I do not trust as many people as I once did. I was standing on the crowded train platform one morning. There was a man going up to each waiting passenger and asking them for money. He would point to his wife and 2 children sitting on a bench, so it sounded like he needed money to feed his family. Under these circumstances who could refuse the man? I saw a few people gave him some money, but before he could get to me the train pulled up to the station and the man walked over to his family. Since it was not my train I watched them as the wife and 2 kids walked onto the train first. The individuals who had given this man money had all entered the train cars by now; however, the man did not follow his family inside. He just stood by the doors until they finally closed and he went back to sit down on the bench. I thought it strange, not understanding at first why he did not go with them. The reason I soon found out was because the woman and 2 children were not his family; he pretended they were to get more sympathy out of his story, for as soon as the train platform became crowded with new passengers he did the same thing, except now his family was an elderly couple he would point to as he told people they were his parents he was taking to the doctor. I ask you, “Who can you trust?” WAKING up from a bad car accident MIchelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), found herself chained to a bed. A man named Howard, played by John Goodman (Love the Coopers, Argo), who came into her room told her he had saved her. Saved her from what she thought. This dramatic science fiction mystery was twisted in all the right ways. John and Mary Elizabeth were amazing; this was one of John’s best roles. I cannot call this a sequel per se because I barely remember the first film from 8 years ago and did not see where it would be necessary to watch it before this suspenseful one. The directing beautifully played to the audience’s fears about trust and beliefs; I appreciated the way the story created this tense atmosphere without the need for violence or fighting. The script was absolutely generated by the actors; they pushed the story along and kept the intensity up throughout. The soundtrack was an additional help. I could see where this movie could spawn a new direction in the franchise; the question I have to ask you is, “Do you trust me?”
3 1/3 stars
Though pretty much everyone wants to be told the truth, not everyone wants to hear it. When asking someone what they think of your new item of clothing, who really wants to hear that it looks ugly or unflattering on you? I realize there may be times where it would serve no useful purpose to tell someone the truth, such as an elderly parent who is in the throws of dementia that one of their children had died. Similarly, a young child at the center of their parents’ bitter divorce does not need to hear all the sordid details about their mother or father, I would think. My friends tell me I am brutally honest to a fault. I am aware what I say can initially seem hurtful; but I expect the same honesty in return. I cannot tell you how many dates I have had where I asked if they would like to get together again and was told yes. For me it is more hurtful when they never return my follow up calls; I would rather be told right at the start that they are not interested. What is the big deal to say no thank you? I would not take it personally since they do not even know me; however, I realize there are some who feel uncomfortable expressing their true feelings. TRUTH did not come about easily in this dramatic crime film based on a true story. Jeremy Renner (The Avengers, The Hurt Locker) played investigative news reporter Gary Webb, who stumbled onto a story that would affect the standing of the United States Government on a global scale. I vaguely remember parts of this story since there was another noteworthy event taking place around the same time as this one which involved drugs for guns. Along with Jeremy the entire cast which included Rosemarie DeWitt (Men, Women & Children, The Watch) as Gary’s wife Sue, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Die Hard franchise) as Anna Simons and Oliver Platt (Love & Other Drugs, 2012) as Jerry Ceppos, were all outstanding in their roles. The tightly woven scenes produced a continuous flow of suspense that kept me riveted in my seat. I especially enjoyed the insertion of actual film clips into the scenes as the director kept up a steady pace with the filming. There were only a couple of parts that felt slow to me; however, I understood the reasoning since the story was biographical. In fact, it added an extra level of poignancy to this powerful film and that is the truth.
3 1/3 stars
In social situations where my answer to drink requests was water; more times than not, I was asked if I had an issue with alcohol. I explained to the person that no, I did not like the taste of it; preferring to use calories on a chocolate chip cookie. As a child I remember being horrified as I saw relatives acting out from being drunk. Inevitably an argument would ensue making everyone around uncomfortable. It usually was not a pleasant situation when the drunk person’s date or spouse was not in a similar inebriated state. This comedic drama gave a straight forward, unapologetic look at the challenges encountered when one person in a relationship attempts to make a change. Kate and Charlie Hannah, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Thing, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad-TV, The Last House on the Left) had the best times together when alcohol was involved. From backyard games to night time drunken bicycle rides, life was a constant high. But after hungover Kate vomited in front of her 1st grade students, those good times seemed less fun. What could replace her’s and Charlie’s favorite activity? The story was well thought out in this compelling film. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul were not only believable in their raw performances; they brought a subtle darkness to the characters. I was moved to the point where I felt a twinge of anxiety, similar to what I felt as a kid. The remaining cast for the most part were secondary; I thought Octavia Spencer (The Help, Seven Pounds) as Kate’s mentor Jenny could have been a stronger character. With an outstanding performance from Mary Elizabeth, this movie transcended from a story about two heavy drinkers to a keen observation on the choices one makes in life.