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
The bigger the organization the harder it is to correct any issues, I have found. Unbeknownst to me for several years, I was paying property taxes on real estate that was not mine. The county had “S” for south instead of “N” for north in my home address. With that one change of a letter, I was paying tax for some apartment building on the opposite side of the city. To rectify the situation; it took a Herculean effort with constant diligence on my part to have the county correct my address and send me a refund. The county’s computer system was not compatible with the state treasurer’s computer programs; the property tax department did not accept anything via email or fax, which meant I had to print out form after form that had to be stuffed in envelopes and mailed. Honest to heavens, you would have thought I was living 30-40 years ago by the unyielding ancient methods still being used by these government agencies. Imagine how things used to be and you will appreciate even more, the story in this dramatic movie based on true events. Matthew McConaughey (Killer Joe, Mud) soared to a new level of acting excellence as he portrayed the prejudiced Texan electrician and rodeo bull rider, Ron Woodroof. It was in the early 1980’s when an electrical accident sent Ron to the hospital. When tests showed he was HIV+, Ron could not believe the results or the doctors’ predictions that he had approximately 30 days to live. Men like him were not supposed to get the disease. With the only promising drug in clinical trials, Ron would have to wheel and deal his way around the FDA if he was going to survive beyond a month. Putting the obvious weight losses aside for Matthew and Jared Leto (Requiem for a Dream, Mr. Nobody) as Rayon, their acting was truly unbelievable. There was such depth, conviction and rawness to it; they certainly will be in the forefront during the film awards season. They pretty much carried the weight of the entire movie. As far as I was concerned the rest of the cast, like Jennifer Garner (The Invention of Lying, Daredevil) as Dr. Eve Saks, were secondary. Considering the time this story took place; the writers produced a masterful script about an unforgettable human being, who was portrayed in such an amazing way.
3 1/2 stars
There were two extreme examples of love I saw when growing up. One was a married couple who lived in our apartment building. They bickered and argued almost every day; their voices sometimes reaching the decibels of a roaring jet engine. Though they fought constantly they still were affectionate to each other. The other example was Tony and Maria from the movie West Side Story. It was the scene in the gymnasium where all the lights dim except for a spotlight on each of them; as they see the other for the first time, from across a crowded gym floor. I preferred this example, believing it would happen to me when I fall in love. It took a long time before I experienced something close to that scene from the movie and I thought I would live happily ever after. We learn by example and sometimes those examples give mixed messages. This beautifully filmed drama showed different ways people were motivated by love. Part thriller and part coming of age tale; the story revolved around 14 year old friends Ellis, played by Tye Sheridan (The Tree of Life) and Neckbone, played by newcomer Jacob Lofland. Upon discovering a mysterious stranger living in a boat stuck up in a tree, the two boys agreed to help him reunite with the love of his life. Matthew McConaughey (The Paperboy, Magic Mike) played the stranger who called himself Mud and Reese Witherspoon (This Means War, Walk the Line) played his girlfriend Juniper. Matthew and Tye were the big standouts in this richly textured film. I was impressed with Matthew taking this edgy role and making it his own, similar to what he did in Killer Joe. Tye reminded me of a young Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), having that same type of face that easily expresses emotions. The supporting cast enriched this film. Sam Shepard (Safe House, The Right Stuff) was excellent as sharpshooter Tom Blankenship. I only wished the gifted Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, The Runaways) as Neckbone’s Uncle Galen had a bigger role. This Cannes Film Festival nominee told a multilayered story that was filled with diverse characters. The only commonality shared among the individuals was the effects of a shared or fading love.
3 1/2 stars
Wow, I was both horrified and mesmerized throughout this movie. I could not take my eyes off of Nicole Kidman (The Hours, Rabbit Hole), who was an outrageous southern woman named Charlotte Bless. Honestly, when you think of Nicole you think of a statuesque, porcelain skinned, reserved woman. She was exactly opposite in this thriller with her heavy makeup and tough talking. The director and writer Lee Daniels (Precious, Shadowboxer) deserves credit for getting Nicole to do some of the things she did in this film based on a true story. The tale was about Ward Jansen, played by Matthew McConaughey (Killer Joe, Magic Mike), returning to his hometown in Florida to investigate the case of death row inmate Hillary Van Wetter, played by John Cusack (Martian Child, High Fidelity). With his brother Jack, played by Zac Efrom (The Lucky One, Charlie St. Cloud), Ward used Charlotte as a way to get a meeting with HIllary; since she was engaged to the inmate. Ward’s investigation would cause some dangerous repercussions that would be felt by all. Parts of the movie were highly textured, filled with intense acting and southern gothic atmosphere. But then there would be scenes that plopped down with a thud. John Cusack was unbelievable with his ugly creepiness, while Matthew let his southern drawl coat the intensity that was simmering just below his surface. Once again, Zac was the weak one of the cast. Granted he is trying his hardest to break away from his pretty boy sweetness, but casting him with much better actors only showcase his limited acting abilities. Even his unscripted dance scene in the rain with Nicole, wearing only his underpants deserved extra points; it simply was not enough to make his acting blend in with the others. The movie is worthy of seeing for Nicole’s crazy performance. She may have just acted her way to an Oscar nomination this year. Brief scenes of violence and blood.
2 2/3 stars