SHE SPOTTED ME AS I CAME through the door and did not take her eyes off me all the way down the staircase, until I finally took a seat. In that short amount of time she had already figured me out. The trainer came over to introduce herself to me and explain what was expected of me. I was prepared but still had some trepidation. You see, I had never done this before and did not want to embarrass myself right at the start. After going through the instructions, the trainer took me over to meet her. She was taller and much bigger than me, with a long mane of auburn hair. I was told to extend my hand slowly with the palm facing up, so as not to startle her. She started to pull back, but the trainer told her in a quiet, soothing voice that everything was ok and that I was nice. I felt weird standing there with my arm stretched out waiting for her, I guess, to see if she would begin to trust me. It seemed like a long time but evidentially she took a step forward and lowered her head down to sniff my hand. I remained still for a moment before I began scratching her under the chin and softly tell her she was a good girl. That was the extent of our interaction for the day; I was to return tomorrow for our second session. AFTER MY INITIAL INTRODUCTION I THOUGHT I would have been more relaxed but that was not the case. When I returned the next day, she was walking in a large circle until she spotted me and came to a stop; her gaze locked onto me as I walked down the stairs. The trainer was standing near her and motioned me to come over. I took it as a good sign that she did not back away as I joined them. Today’s lesson was to teach me how to clean her feet and if time permitted, I would get a riding lesson. The trainer handed me some type of brush with what looked like a metal claw sticking out of it; I was to use this to clean her feet after the trainer demonstrated it for me. The process was easy, and I got the hang of it rather quickly. Afterwards there was enough time, so the trainer instructed me on how to mount her and get in the saddle. Having never done this before, it took a couple of times before I could do it. I am sure that was enough for my horse to know I was a novice. And sure enough, once I got settled into the saddle, she took off in a trot with me bouncing up and down atop her back. No matter what the trainer told me to do, the horse was not buying it and did what she wanted to do. I was just grateful she did not try to knock me off her. Through my lessons I gained a deeper appreciation for horses, which explains why I enjoyed this dramatic, award winning film. CONVICTED AND IMPRISONED FOR A VIOLENT crime Roman, played by Matthias Schoenaerts (Red Sparrow, Rust and Bone), was enrolled into a prison program that involved the training of wild mustangs. Roman would soon discover he met his match. With Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island) as Henry, Bruce Dern (Nebraska, The ’Burbs) as Myles, Gideon Adlon (Blockers, American Crime-TV) as Martha and Connie Britton (American Ultra, Nashville-TV) as psychologist; this film based on true events told a straight forward story in a simple and surprisingly beautiful way. The filming was eye catching and Matthias’ acting was incredibly intense to the point one could not take their eyes off him. There was a smoldering intensity that boiled and simmered throughout the story. I thought the script was well written as it carried the story between periods of silence and action. This was a quiet and thoughtful movie filled with majestic animals and touching moments.
3 ¼ stars
I REMEMBER BEING TOLD IT WAS a difficult delivery. Who told me I cannot say; but I can recall hearing about the length of the delivery and the loss of blood involved with it. Despite the difficulties, a baby boy was born who was the couple’s first child. The infant boy had the best of care since both of his parents were doctors. As a result, rarely did the couple ever have to second guess their decisions; any health issue that cropped up and they immediately knew what needed to be done. In other words, there was never any lag time between symptoms and remedies. Not that the child had a sickly constitution; he simply had his share of coughs and colds, along with the other kinds of kids’ ailments. Through his school years, the boy never missed more than 2-3 days of school at one time. Every assignment was turned in on time; each getting a high grade. One could say the boy’s good grades were a direct result of having 2 doctors for parents; however, that would be an erroneous statement. The boy was naturally smart, besides being a good learner who studied hard. What did not surprise me was hearing about the doctors’ son going into the scientific field. AFTER HE HAD FINISHED HIS SCHOOLING, the now grown man had taken a job with a company involved with auditory systems. He did research, studies and experiments that earned him respect from his colleagues and superiors. He was awarded by being named the project lead for a new division in the company. His major responsibility was figuring out how to mimic the sense of hearing for those who could not hear. He was excited with the opportunity to make a difference for those who were either severely hard of hearing or completely deaf. It took a few years before he created a prototype that might work in providing sound to the deaf; he referred to it as an artificial ear. His parents were beyond excited and proud of their son; their boy was making his mark in the world. Though his project never created a workable artificial ear for the average consumer, his work did play an important part in many other areas of scientific research around the world. Imagine back years ago, at the time of this man’s challenging birth, if things had taken a different turn that resulted in him not being born? The world would have missed out on his important contribution. I have thought about this for many years, though not as long as the main character in this action, adventure fantasy. DURING A RESCUE OPERATION THAT WENT bad, the operatives’ special abilities were revealed. It was only a matter of time before people would take advantage of them, unless they could find the culprit and destroy the evidence. With Charlize Theron (Atomic Blonde, Bombshell) as Andy, KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk, Native Son) as Nile, Matthias Schoenaerts (The Mustang, Red Sparrow) as Booker, Chiwetel Ejiofor (The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Triple 9) as Copley and Luca Marinelli (Martin Eden, Rainbow: A Private Affair) as Nicky, this film’s strong suit was the action scenes. Well-choreographed with both women and men on equal footing; I was impressed with the cast, especially Charlize and KiKi. The story was not unusual for this genre and the script was predictable; but the fact that the action was not the prime focus made this picture an enjoyable viewing experience for me. I loved the historical aspect to the story; it played right into my thinking about differences caused when a person’s life is cut short or becomes non-existent. I understand this movie was based on a graphic novel. Whether there are sequels to the book I do not know; but I certainly hope this movie gets a sequel, because I think there would be a lot of ways the writers could take this story.
2 ¾ stars
FOR MANY YEARS I DID NOT realize the ability to “read” an individual was a gift. I just assumed everyone was capable of doing it. As a kid there was a teenage neighbor that was polite and quiet. I did not have much interaction with him; I thought it was due to the age difference. However I always got a cautious feeling when he was around me. I could not explain it but there was just something about him that made me wary of him. One day I was walking down the backstairs with a cousin when the neighbor appeared at the bottom of the stairs we were about to descend. Without warning the teenager threw a rock at us and hit my cousin in the forehead. As the two of us ran back up the stairs the neighbor ran out into the alley and disappeared. Another example of being able to see a person’s true self happened when a friend of mine started to date this man who right from the start was making her all these promises of what their life would be together. Really, I thought; it was not long into their new relationship when his true intentions came out. The guy told her his funds were temporary tied up and he needed $500.00. Need I go any further in this story? SO THE ABILITY TO GET a sense of a person’s true intent is a valuable tool to include (if available) in one’s check off list when evaluating an individual. Now I do want to make it clear there is a distinction between “reading” a person and making a judgment about them. I do not believe my feelings about someone are written in stone; it may be only a feeling that causes me to be more cautious, but I do not assume the person is absolutely what I think they are in inside. Only time will tell the truth and even that is not always a given. I guess this is the area where one can only look for red flags, warnings that something is not right. I have heard just from my friends alone, so many stories about a person pretending to be someone they are not. It is even more prevalent on social media sites. And the ironic thing is this has been going on for such a long time; the only difference is there are now more people being duped who have stopped giving a person the benefit of the doubt, taking longer before they begin to trust someone. The main character in this mystery thriller will show you how it is done. PRIMA BALLERINA DOMINIKA EGOROVA’S, played by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games franchise, Joy), career was cut short due to an accident during a performance. With no other means to support herself and her mother, she was ripe to be recruited into a special Russian spy program. She would become a quick learner. With Joel Edgerton (The Gift, Warrior) as Nate Nash, Matthias Schoenaerts (The Danish Girl, Rust and Bone) as Vanya Egorov, and Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, Never Let Me Go) as Matron; I thought the actors were well cast in this film. Granted Jennifer was the star of the story and gave it her best, but due to the uneven script I did not get totally wrapped up into the story. There were scenes that were intense but then we would go through a dull lull before something exciting happened again. I thought the story was sound but not everything clicked together in this picture. Also I felt the violence and sex on display were used as a distraction for the poorly written script. I had a sense this film would not match up to the excitement of the movie trailers; I guess I should listen to myself more often.
The landscape of one’s life may be properly maintained, with a meticulous eye to detail to make everything look ideal. Each component made to fit together so no one would see a gap or break across the land. It pretty much has everyone fooled. The reason I say this is because if someone from your past, who parted not being in synch with your feelings, suddenly showed up in your life the blurred lines around you both could cause a ripple effect that tills the soil around your present life. I have seen this for myself and to be honest have experienced it too. There was a couple I knew where I was originally friends with one of them before they were in the relationship; so I knew much of their history. The two of them lived together and anyone who met them thought they made the perfect couple. However when a person my friend had lived with previously came back into their life, the foundation for the present relationship started to crumble. Maybe there had not been much communication or the expression of feelings before but it was obvious there still was a connection with their former lover. I remember being at a small dinner party where the past and present relationships were together and it was obvious there was a murky tension between all of them. It was a tough situation and in fact I may experience something similar in the near future because I have heard talk about someone from my past is planning a visit to come here and meet up with friends. And this trip would include the new person in their life. I know I do not want to experience any of the drama that I saw playing out in this dramatic movie. ENJOYING a peaceful, quiet time off the coast of Italy rock star Marianne Lane and her boyfriend Paul De Smedt, played by Tilda Swinton (Trainwreck, Only Lovers Left Alive) and Matthias Schoenaerts (The Drop, Rust and Bone), suddenly had their trip disrupted by the appearance of record producer Harry Hawkes and his daughter Penelope Lannier, played by Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter franchise, Spectre) and Dakota Johnson (How to be Single, Fifty Shades of Grey). Their visit would stir up things that were better left alone. This film festival winner had some beautiful outdoor film shots; besides the acting it was a highlight for me. As for the cast I thought they all were wonderful and because of them I was able to still stay somewhat interested in what was otherwise a dysfunctional story. I thought the script was a mess; the story morphed from a drama to a mystery and changed the entire tone. A shame because I could not stay engaged with the characters despite the good acting. If the script had stuck with one story line I think it would have made for a better movie experience. The idea behind this story was something I could follow; I just wished it had been cleaner in its execution. Several scenes were spoken in Italian with English subtitles.
2 1/4 stars
At some point the two individuals decide to spend their lives with each other and the weaving begins. Like craftsmen their lives intermingle into a finely woven mesh, similar to a fishing net. The two cast their net out into the sea of hope and dreams, letting the currents spread it wide to capture good fortune. Their net will remain strong through any type of storm; the only thing that could create a hole is doubt. If either person discovers they cannot love unconditionally then the net of their life begins to unravel, parts splitting off and traveling to darker depths. I have always believed a relationship will last when both parties accept their significant other completely. There have been so many times where I have seen someone falling in love who thinks they are in love, but is more in love with the idea of falling in love. Sure they may be fond of the person they are dating, but somewhere inside of them they have this little checklist displaying the things that are “wrong.” There is this friend of mine who for some reason enjoys testing me on my definition of beauty. They will point to a stranger and ask me if I think they are beautiful. I know they want an answer based on the looks of the person, but I keep saying I cannot tell if they are beautiful until I know what is inside of them. Sure there may be surface features that are attractive but it can be so fleeting; the character, the personality, the morals, the compatibility of a person would be some of the elements that are more important to me. Maybe it is easier to simply say their soul. FILLING in as a model for his artist wife Gerda, played by Alicia Vikander (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Ex Machina); Danish artist Einar Wegener, played by Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, My Week with Marilyn), donned the clothing that was picked out and suddenly felt more like himself than he ever did before. This film festival winning biographical drama was based on a true story. It was brilliantly brought to life by Eddie and Alicia; their acting was amazing to see. The depth of their emotions was authentic and convincing to me; I easily see an Oscar nomination for both of them. Even the supporting cast, such a Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone, The Drop) as Hans Axgil and Amber Heard (Pineapple Express, Zombieland) as Ulla, was a good compliment to the two main stars. Set during the early 1920s in Copenhagen, the sets and outdoor shots were ideal. The story was captivating and interesting almost to the end; however, the last part of the film fell apart for me. I felt the script let the cast down. In addition, there were a few scenes that did not register as true compared to other ones. This incredible story explored the meaning of love and the cast delivered it.
I listened and looked but still did not quite understand how the relationship worked. In its infancy there was a given intimacy as a comfortable space was created to allow for growth. The amount of attention given was at a high level so that everything that would help keep things fresh had an opportunity to do so. For years I was a bystander as I listened to friends talk about their gardens. The relationship they had with their gardens provided them with a pleasure that made little sense to me. Sitting in a friend’s backyard watching them prune and weed patches of open land that were thriving with vibrant colors only perplexed me. Yet after all these years something has happened inside of me. I have been visualizing seeing mounds of ornamental grasses with feathered tops out my back windows, watching how breezes would tickle the tops and cause the grass to sway. Besides the tall grasses there was a row of plants in different stages of colorful growth going down the width of my house. So I decided to dig in and bought 10 plants that I planted in the same way as in my visualizations. And wouldn’t you know it, everything I saw my friends do to their plants I am now doing to mine. Little uninvited sprouts of green invaders keep trying to circle my plants but I find myself stopping by each plant everyday to violently remove these interlopers. I have a new appreciation for what it takes to create a beautiful garden. King Louis XIV, played by Alan Rickman (Harry Potter franchise, Nobel Son), wanted and expected the gardens around his palace in Versailles to be something that no one had every seen anywhere in the world. The responsibility befell Andre Le Norte, played by Matthias Schoenaerts (Far From the Madding Crowd, Rust and Bone), who was taking a big risk in hiring landscape artist Sabine De Barra, played by Kate Winslet (Finding Neverland, Labor Day). This romantic drama had as you can imagine a beautiful look to it. I thought the story’s premise was wonderful and loved the idea that some of the things portrayed in this film could have a basis of truth in them. All the actors were so believable and really commanded the viewer’s attention. I had to hand it to Alan, not only was the role a perfect fit for him but he was also the director and one of the writers for this period piece. Maybe he took on a bit much because the script lacked a deeper level of drama, along with keeping the characters two-dimensional. On the plus side I liked the feminist angle the writers were trying to convey. This picture about the gardens of Versailles needed a little more pruning.
2 1/2 stars
Is it possible reality TV is killing romance? Though I have never seen any of the shows that deal with bachelors, wife swapping or housewives; I am aware of them simply when their antics make the news or at least what the major news outlets consider newsworthy. It seems to me that the formation of these relationships are portrayed to show either a financial gain or notoriety. From the little snippets I have heard about these television shows I have to wonder how love played a part in their relationships and marriages. With everyday people, I have noticed there are some who get together for many reasons that do not have anything to do with love. Some of the things I have heard were things like: He has a good credit rating, they know how to drink, she is a good cook or their family is wealthy. To me love is waking up with that person who makes your heart beat faster; who may have sour breath that instead of smelling like road kill it reminds you of the lovely dinner you two shared the night before, as your feet were intertwined under the table. Throughout history I know there were marriages arranged to combine lands or solidify power between families; it did not matter if the prospective bride and groom did not love each other. There was not the option for either one to refuse the offer. This is the very reason why I was immediately attracted to the main character in this movie. BEING the sole inheritor of her uncle’s estate Bathsheba Everdene, played by Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby, Drive), attracted 3 men who could not have been more different from each other if they had tried. However Bathsheba did not need a man to complete herself. This dramatic film based on Thomas Hardy’s (Tess of the D’Urbervilles, The Greenwood Tree) novel was steeped in old world sensibilities but with a fresh feel that the cast brought to the screen. I find Carey to be a classic, intelligent actress who can do almost anything and here she was perfect. Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone, The Drop) as Gabriel Oak, Michael Sheen (Midnight in Paris, Kingdom of Heaven) as William Boldwood and Tom Sturridge (Pirate Radio, On the Road) as Sergeant Francis Troy were a wonderful compliment to Carey. I enjoyed the sets and outdoor scenes with there wide expanses; the whole film had a well-done masterly look that was refreshing to me. There were a few parts where I felt I was missing something as if the writers had to cut parts out to move the story along. Maybe they would have been clearer if the book had been read first. This refreshing film about love and relationships could easily be relatable with current times.
There is a wide chasm between dependency and codependency. As my mother entered the world of Alzheimer’s disease, she had to depend on my father’s instructions for the simplest of tasks. Then there was a couple I knew where the husband continually cheated on his wife. She always took him back; she felt she deserved it due to low self-esteem. This would be an example of codependency. As the story unfolded in this dramatic movie, I could not clearly say if the two main characters were dependent on each other or not. One person was emotionally handicapped while the other was physically. Former kick-boxer Alain van Versch, played by Matthias Schoenaerts (Black Book, Bullhead), with his son Sam, played by newcomer Armand Verdure, moved from Belgium to his sister’s house in Antibes France. Having taken a job as a bouncer at a nightclub, he met Stephanie who was too drunk to drive home. Alain drove her home and left her his phone number. From that one act of kindness, their lives would begin traveling on a parallel course, each one seeking to fulfill a need. Marion Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises, Big Fish) was incredible playing whale handler Stephanie. She already has received nominations for her acting in this role. Matthias’ character was the perfect blend of a good heart masked over by brute strength. I would not say the relationship between Alain and Stephanie was a traditional love story. To the credit of the director and writers, I felt they brought out the beauty of the film by not making a standard love story. The screenplay went to a much deeper level as we observed two damaged individuals trying to make their way in life. My only criticism was the ending felt a little too neat and tidy, compared to the rest of the movie. With several brilliantly filmed scenes; this dark, emotionally charged film left me pondering the fine line between codependency and dependency. Brief scenes of blood and violence. French with English subtitles.
3 1/3 stars