I KEPT ENCOURAGING HER TO CONTINUE delving into designing jewelry. She really had an eye for creating unique earrings and necklaces. The problem was she did not have the confidence or the belief that she could actually do it and possibly do it for a living. The only person she designed for was herself, except for the occasional friend or relative celebrating a birthday. I made a point of commenting on the jewelry she was wearing anytime we got together; not because I felt I had to, but because her pieces were striking. She created interesting patterns using tiny colored beads and crystals. There was one pair of earrings where she had a series of hoops from small to large hanging together that had rows of beads on each one. When the beads were perfectly aligned, they would create an image; it could be of an animal, a human’s face or some object. The idea was when the person was moving their head the beads would separate a little, distorting the image; but when the person was still and the beads settled down, an image would appear. They were the coolest things, and I really thought my friend could do something with them. I suggested she could sign up for a couple of art fairs or see if there were any boutiques who would take her creations on consignment, but she was too afraid. BEING AFRAID WAS SOMETHING I WAS familiar with, so I understood where she was coming from with her fear of failure. I get it that no one wants to set themselves up for failure; but I also feel no one wants to look back at their life and wonder “What if…” My journey into the fitness world was not easy for me, since I had flunked PE twice in high school and tried avoiding all physical classes through the rest of my schooling. It wasn’t until I was with a friend at a small local aerobic class years after I graduated, where I got my first taste of how exercise could be fun. The class was held in a temple’s meeting room on a hard linoleum floor. The instructor/owner was this bubbly, friendly woman who encouraged each of us to simply do our best, not what we think our classmate thinks is best. She was a big influence on me because she was the first “teacher” I encountered in a fitness class who genuinely wanted to see me be happy with myself. It was an extraordinary experience for me. I think because of my experience with her, I enjoyed this sequel as much as I did the first one. HAVING ACHIEVED SOME LEVEL OF SUCCESS on the local level, theater owner Buster Moon, voiced by Matthew McConaughey (Killer Joe, The Beach Bum), has his sights set on the big city. But he soon finds out the only way he can put on a show is to get a musical icon who has not been seen in years. Buster may be putting more on the line than he thinks with this new show. With Reese Witherspoon (Wild, Water for Elephants) voicing Rosita, Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story, Black Widow) voicing Ash, Taron Egerton (Rocketman, Eddie the Eagle) voicing Johnny and relative newcomer Tori Kelly voicing Meena; I got swept into this film with all its musical numbers and fun animation. Though the script was not clearly defined in parts, I found the story to be both joyous and touching. Granted if you have seen the first film then there will be no surprises in this one, but it still was a charming, sweet picture. And for no other reason, the musical numbers were spot on. Conveying a wonderful message wrapped inside a colorful exciting palette, there is no need to be fearful in seeing this well-done sequel.
I THOUGHT I KNEW BETTER BUT all I accomplished was the wasting of time. Plans were in place for all of us to meet at the theater to see the performance followed by a question and answer session. The theater was in a part of the city that was unfamiliar to me. Because I was going to be driving near a couple of places I had wanted to get to, I figured this would be the perfect time to get everything accomplished at once before showtime. Going to my first stop was an easy experience; there were only a couple of short traffic delays and I found a parking space close by the store that had an item on hold for me. Once I was done there and back in my car, I headed out to the next destination. Unfortunately, I did not make the same good travel time because I got stopped by a slow-moving freight train at a crossing gate. Have you ever noticed when you are in a hurry, delays always seem to last longer? Well, that is how I felt waiting for that train. When the crossing gate finally rose up, I tore across the tracks and raced to my next stop, where I only needed to drop off my donation. In hindsight, this was not my best decision. FINALLY REACHING MY DESTINATION TO DROP off my donation and there was not one available parking spot anywhere. I could not believe it. For a second, I thought about double parking but luckily, I spotted a police car slowly coming down the street to check the parking meters. I decided to drive around the block to see if a parking space would open. Gratefully, as I was about to skip the donation place, I saw a car parked ahead of the place with its reverse lights on. I pulled up behind it and waited for the driver to pull out of the space. My turn signal was on, I was ready to take the spot; but the driver wasn’t moving. I felt like I was waiting for an eternity; I tapped on my horn and must have woken up the driver because their car finally exited the spot. In less than a minute I was in the spot and running into the donation place. I just had to place my package in the donation bin, run back to the car and get to the theater. There was no way I could stay at the speed limit and get to the theater before the start of the show. When I finally got there, I wound up having a miserable time; I missed the opening and spent the rest of the time replaying my route in my head, to see what I could have done differently. I experienced the same type of feeling sitting through the replayed scenes in this action crime film. ONCE WORD WAS OUT THAT DRUG dealer Mickey Pearson, played by Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club, The Beach Bum), wanted to sell his operations; a cast of unscrupulous characters decided to take advantage of the opportunity. With Charles Hunnam (Crimson Peak, The Lost City of Z) as Ray, Michelle Dockery (Non-Stop, Downton Abbey-TV) as Rosalind Pearson, Jeremy Strong (The Big Short, Robot & Frank) as Matthew and Colin Farrell (Dumbo, The Lobster) as Coach; this movie’s story was too cluttered for me. I did however enjoy several scenes for their inventiveness and dark humor as well as enjoying most of the cast’s performances. However, not being a fan of tweaking and replaying events over, I was getting bored with the possibilities being shown. It diffused and made the drama less strong in my opinion. I was able to handle the violence on display; but, the constant, repetitive foul language quickly got old for me. The idea behind this story could have been communicated in a better way; instead, as scenes were being replayed, I sat and wondered what would have happened if I had gone to a different movie.
2 ½ stars
THE BEST WAY TO HANDLE IT I have found is to smile, nod your head in agreement and slowly try to remove yourself from them. I cannot guarantee it will always work but it usually will lessen the conversation time and hopefully the person will get bored and move on. Now I am not passing any type of judgment on the individual; they are free to do whatever they want to themselves. I just do not have the patience to listen to someone who is drunk or stoned. What bothers me more is when I feel like I am a captive audience to their utterances. For some reason if a person, who is under the influence of something, enters a train car or bus more than likely they will make their way to me. There must be something about me that attracts such individuals; it is like those people who do not like pets and when they walk into a house that has a pet, the animal makes a beeline to them. The only thing I can do when this happens to me on public transportation is either walk to a different train car or try and move to a different seat on the bus. However, this does not always work. USUALLY AT WEDDINGS OR OTHER SUCH gatherings, I can gracefully extricate myself from the intoxicated person and disappear into the other mingling guests. But guess what happens sometimes? That person winds up sitting at my table. Ugh, it is so annoying when one is trying to enjoy their meal and you have a fellow guest acting silly or nonsensical at the table. I have only experienced this a couple of times where a drunken guest gets so smashed that they hurl whatever they have in their stomach. If it were my celebration I would order a taxi to take the individual home; because trust me, there is nothing worse than sitting at a table full of guests with food and have one person sitting there with soiled clothes, about to pass out. I know there are some people who find amusement in the antics of an inebriated or high individual. Granted some people feel their artistic talent gets accentuated with the help of drugs or alcohol; I honestly don’t know one way or the other. All I know for certain is that I felt like I was being held captive to the meanderings of the drunken and high main character in this comedy. LIVING LIFE BY HIS OWN RULES had given writer Moondog, played by Matthew McConaughey (The Dark Tower, Serenity) some notoriety in the areas he traveled. It didn’t matter if people did not understand as long as they had fun. Also starring Isla Fisher (Confessions of a Shopaholic, Nocturnal Animals) as Minnie, Snoop Dog (Future World, Unbelievable!!!!!) as Lingerie, Zac Efron (The Greatest Showman, Baywatch) as Flicker and Stefania LaVie Owen (The Lovely Bones, Krampus) as Heather; this movie was torturous for me. Matthew as far as I could tell was doing schtick that quickly got tedious. It felt like he was just exaggerating characters he had played before. Or maybe, it was his own persona that he created that he was portraying. I felt the script had no structure that simply went from one event to another with no connections. Even now I have no idea why this movie was given approval by the studio; though, at one point I wondered if this was based on a true story and we would eventually get to a poignant spot that would make sense of the whole story. No such luck; instead I sat there bored out of my brain watching the nonsense on screen. Sitting through this movie was like being cornered by a drunken person who has no regard for my personal space.
1 ½ stars
IT WAS AN OUTDOOR SHOPPING CENTER made to look like a town square. I was not interested in how it looked, only needed to go to one store located somewhere inside. Within the first minute of turning into the mall I was already annoyed by the parking lot; it was set like an English garden maze, except the green hedges were replaced with concrete curbs. From the posted signs I knew I had to be somewhere in the right area, so I decided to park and make my way on foot. Luckily the store was easy to find and once inside I quickly found what I was looking for before I headed back to my car in record time. Next on my to do list was going to the bank. I asked the virtual voice assistant on my phone for the nearest location to a branch of my bank. Directions were offered which I followed out of the parking lot. I made my way down the street for a short time, just past the shopping mall. Being told to turn down a side street I would up winding my way south, having to stop at each intersection because of stop signs. Finally coming out onto a thoroughfare I was instructed to turn west. The next thing I knew I was back at the shopping center and right there was a sign pointing me to the bank. I FOUND IT ANNOYING THAT I HAD to drive out of the mall, through a residential area, only to be directed back into the mall. It made no sense to me. Maybe there was some reason why the interactive assistant had me drive that way, but I found it confusing. These days I find many things confusing and it is not because of an addled mind. It just seems as if common sense is becoming a rare commodity. Later in the day I was at a condominium building and the elevator had a handwritten sign taped inside that said, “Due to the freezing temperatures it is suggested the cabinet doors under all sinks are opened to prevent pipes freezing. This made no sense to me; how would pipes freeze in a unit of a multi-storied condominium building? Don’t all the residents get their water from a main line that then divides out to each unit? I could spend all day listing the things I come across that make no sense to me; but instead, I will just let today’s movie show you what I am talking about. THE QUIET PEACEFUL LIFE BAKER DILL, played by Matthew McConaughey (Gold, The Dark Tower), had created for himself came apart when his ex-wife suddenly appeared with a desperate plea to save her. This dramatic thriller also starred Anne Hathaway (Ocean’s Eight, The Intern) as Karen Zariakas, Diane Lane (Trumbo, Secretariat) as Constance, Jason Clarke (First Man, Everest) as Frank Zariakas and Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, Guardians of the Galaxy) as Duke. I actually think the actors could have handled anything that got thrown to them, but I do not know how they maintained their composure with this bizarre script. Their first clue, I believe, would have been their initial read through of it. The story made no sense to me which added to my boredom. Maybe the writer wanted to create a twisted, sexy, tension building story but all I found were things that made me scratch my head in confusion. It is a shame because I enjoyed the look of the film and particularly the setting, which was this idyllic island. There is already enough I encounter that dumbfounds me; there was no reason why I needed to pay for my confusion by watching this picture.
1 ½ stars
THERE ARE individuals who tend to be the recipient of an “I told you so” more times than not. One could say they were blinded by love or naïve or lacked life experiences; but that is really not the case. They simply do not see or focus on negativity when it comes to other people. I guess you can say they take the individual on face value. They do not look at good or evil in a person; instead their attention goes toward the current moment, however it gets presented to them. Looking at the other side of this equation, there are other individuals who can look at a person and quickly get an accurate feel for them, getting a sense if they are good or evil. They can have a conversation with someone and cut through the words and figure out the person’s makeup. You could say it is a valuable skill. GOOD AND EVIL has been the topics to several of my past reviews. I believe everyone has both of them inside; what they do with good and evil is up to them. I am familiar with both types of individuals I mentioned earlier. Several of my friends fall into the seeing good category; they take what they are given without question. One of the hardest parts about this for me is when one of my friends is in a relationship with someone I can see has evil in them. I offer my opinion when I am asked for it unless there is something blatant they do that cannot be ignored. Trust me I do not get any pleasure out of telling a friend I do not think the person they are dating is telling the truth. There was one friend I had who was in love with this guy who seemed to have these incredible jobs where he would travel the world. I remember one time where he was talking about a place I was extremely familiar with and I caught him in a couple of lies. It was with a heavy heart I had to break the truth about this mooch not having such a job. For me evil can come in many forms as this action, adventure fantasy will show you. WITH THE WORLD being made up of good and evil, the dark tower was the only thing that kept the two forces separate. Walter O’Dim aka The Man in Black, played by Matthew McConaughey (Free State of Jones, Killer Joe), was determined to make the tower fall. Based on the Stephen King (The Shining, Carrie) book series this film also starred Idris Elba (Star Trek Beyond, Luther-TV) as Roland Deschain aka The Gunslinger, Tom Taylor (Doctor Foster-TV, Legends-TV) as Jake Chambers, Jackie Earle Haley (The Birth of a Nation, Watchmen) as Sayre and Katheryn Winnick (Love & Other Drugs, 50 First Dates) as Laurie Chambers. I found Idris to be an interesting choice for this film. He has the acting capability as well as the rest of the cast but for me the script did not offer any of them the opportunity to be memorable. For the most part I found the script cheesy and it stayed in the mid range level of emotions. The idea was intriguing but I felt this story needed more punch to it. Matthew who can play crazy intense again was not offered the chance to let loose. Also the special effects were dull. Having never read any of the books, I wondered how much evil Stephen King really had put into this world.
1 ¾ stars
THE mother was upset by the zoo animals fighting in their enclosure. With her young child standing by her side with his arm extended up to hold his mother’s hand, she was arguing with a zookeeper. I was standing off to the side with other visitors but I could hear every word and she was mad. Essentially she was upset the animals were not peacefully walking around their pen, letting the visitors get a good look at them. I had the urge to tell her this was a zoo and not a beauty pageant but decided to keep my mouth shut. The animals were just being themselves and fighting over territory; but apparently that was not enough for her, she wanted them to act more human. I know there are people who find animals more endearing when they can attach a human emotion to the animal’s actions. I totally understand because I wanted to become a veterinarian after I read the book Doctor Dolittle. I loved the way the animals carried on conversations with the doctor. Wouldn’t you say most of us are more comfortable with animals when they act in a fashion more akin to human beings? As a child I could not wait to grow up and go out on a date to an Italian restaurant so we could share a spaghetti meal just like Lady and Tramp did in their movie. Look at how many talking animals have been part of our culture, from Michigan J. Frog to the horse Mr. Ed to the talking chipmunks Alvin and his brothers. Oh and how can I ignore all of those cat and dog videos posted on the internet? The animals look adorable as they perform tricks or interact with those around them. Watching them can be fun but I have never seen any that can match the singing that was done in this animated film. BUSTER Moon, voiced by Matthew McConaughly (The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club), came up with a brilliant idea to save his beloved theater; hold a singing contest. He was in for a big surprise after the mailer advertising the event was sent out. This comedic drama had a wonderful cast of actors to voice many of the characters; there was Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, This Means War) as Rosita, Seth MacFarlane (A Million Ways to Die in the West, Tooth Fairy) as Mike, Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers franchise, Don Jon) as Ash and the biggest surprise for me Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Testament of Youth) as Johnny. Luckily the characters were fun to watch because the script was a bit bland. The story revolved around the singing competition which was fine, but there were times where I felt the script could have used a rewrite. Let me say kids will like the mayhem and action while the parents will enjoy the singing; most of the songs were current. This film may have lacked a little in the lessons learned aspect that other children’s animated pictures have depicted, but I found this movie to be quite entertaining. Plus c’mon how can one resist animals that sing and sing well?
One of the main motivations for breeding an animal is to make money. From my college studies I learned how much thought and detail goes into deciding which animal should be bred. Whether a farmer or racehorse breeder they each spot specific traits they want to be carried down to the offspring of their herd. I still remember a course I had where we were taught to look at a pig and figure out their most prominent traits for breeding purposes. Some of you who follow race horsing may already know a winning horse is worth more in retirement when they go out to stud. Aren’t you glad we are not animals? But I have to tell you I am just as fascinated by family traits as I was in animal science. The gene pool to me is this vast reservoir of a family’s history; it is a game of chance when a couple has a child. What traits will the child acquire from the parents? I am always curious when a business establishment is family owned and has been handed down from generation to generation. It makes me wonder whether each new generation has acquired the same set of skill sets to make the business a continued success. Even when I witness a child doing the same thing as one of their parents, like being a tennis player or painter, it amazes me how that talent filtered down to the younger generation. Though I have to tell you I know of a family that has a business that has been handed down and the latest generation involved with it dislikes being a part of it. They wanted to be something else but their family essentially forced them to follow in the footsteps of their parent. Gratefully that was not the case in this gorgeous animated adventure film. KUBO, voiced by Art Parkinson (Dracula Untold, San Andreas), never knew his father and could not understand why his mother insisted he be home before dark. She had a very good reason. With a mixture of claymation and CGI effects, this family film was magical and enchanting. The actors such as Charlize Theron (Young Adult, A Million Ways to Die in the West) as Monkey, Matthew McConaughey (Mud, Dallas Buyers Club) as Beetle and Ralph Fiennes (A Bigger Splash, Harry Potter franchise) as Moon King were wonderful voicing their characters. I do not know if the story was actually from Japanese folklore, but the script was something special. The way it brought in the topic of ancestors was beautiful. I felt there was the right balance of humor, drama, danger and thrills to create a connection to any age group watching this film. Not sure why but there is something about the art of claymation that attracts me. Maybe it is because I know how much effort has to be made to make the characters move seamlessly; the figures are just more dimensional to me. I do not know what else I could tell you except after seeing this picture I had wished I was part of Kubo’s gene pool.
One of the bonuses for being in my career positions is being able to communicate with people from every continent except Antarctica. My fascination with other countries and cultures dates back many years. What I have learned is everyone shares the same basic concerns and joys of life, albeit in varying degrees. For me the physical differences associated with one’s race just tell me where their ancestors were born; otherwise, they mean nothing to me just like the color of one’s eyes. Walking through my local grocery store is like taking a free global trip without the jet lag. Down one aisle I will find products from Asia, followed by items from the southern part of North America down to South America. I enjoy watching the shoppers peruse the shelves and sometimes I even ask them about a product I am curious to try. Here is a little known fact about me; very few people in my circles know I go up to help people who appear to be lost or attempting to figure out where something is located. In the old days it was obvious when they were holding a map. Doing this is a great way to learn something new in my opinion. All of this makes up my world; the differences and commonalities between all of us. As generations move up the age ladder my concern is our history gets less important or even forgotten. An example would be a generation several times removed from the generation that experienced an event of genocide. I believe we need to know our history if we are going to grow as civilized humans. To me a major asset is hearing about an event from a person who experienced it. After that person is gone we are left with visual history such as actual places, video/film and historical documents. This is why I feel movies like this one have a place in our knowledge of our past. CONFEDERATE soldier Newton Knight, played by Matthew McConaughey (The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club), came to the realization he could no longer be a part of the corrupt things he saw taking place. Based on a true story this biographical dramatic film kept my attention due to its story; in fact, I felt the story was the best part of the movie. With Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond the Lights, Concussion) as Rachel, Keri Russell (August Rush, The Americans-TV) as Serena and Mahershala Ali (The Hunger Games franchise, The Place Beyond the Pines) as Moses; the acting was solid though oddly I was not as impressed with Matthew as I have been in the past. Parts of the script were well focused and intense; however, the story line that involved a time in the future was a distraction for me. I think if the writers stayed in the one time period this picture would have had more impact. It was obvious what they were trying to convey but I would have preferred if the writers waited and made a sequel that dealt with that particular subject. Despite the tough and bloody scenes in this movie the story is a lesson about our history.
2 ¾ stars
A mound of recently fallen autumn leaves became an ancient fragile pyramid that was ready to be explored by us. We had to be careful as we dug our way inside so the colored walls would not crumble and fall. The discarded stove in the alley turned into a rocket ship with 4 blazing thrusters and a retractable dock door that revealed a double landing deck made of steel. For a child the world was this huge amusement park, filled with infinite places to explore. I feel exploring is part of our human nature. Not necessarily in the same way, all of us do it in some kind of form. There are people who explore various stores to find the cheapest price on an item before buying it. When I take a trip to an unfamiliar place, I go into full explorer mode. After researching and mapping out my trip; once I arrive I usually go non-stop to cover as much territory as I can before I return home. Think about it; isn’t taking an art or dance class a way for us to explore our creative side? Throughout the ages there have been individuals who spent their entire life looking for something new and different; as I said, it is just in our nature. EXPLORING for a new planet to call home was imperative if mankind wanted to survive as a species since the Earth was dying. For Professor Brand’s, played by Michael Caine (Harry Brown, The Dark Knight franchise), plan to succeed he would have to depend on the skills of retired astronaut Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club, Mud), to pilot the spaceship. One of the passengers was the professor’s daughter; a scientist who Cooper referred to simply as Brand, played by Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables, The Devil Wears Prada). No one knew if the crew would be back in time before the planet expired. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight franchise, Inception), this science fiction adventure was a major piece of work. Without the use of green screens for the special effects, the actors were able to react in a more realistic way to the sets around them. Visually the movie was stunning with its broad spectrum of varied scenes, both on Earth and in space. Where I felt this movie stumbled was its story. Though the script per se was well done, even with the past and present story lines going simultaneously, the story had some muddled spots in it. With a running time of 2 hours and 49 minutes; I felt the film could have used a little more editing. The hardest part watching this movie was at the end; after sitting all the way through, I found myself confused to the point I felt I was left out in space.
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