IT MAY START WITH THAT first “thwack” of a flyswatter against an insect where a child gets desensitized to the concept of death. To a baby or young child a bug may only be perceived as a toy; the idea of life and death is not something a young mind can wrap itself around. I even remember classmates who would hold a magnifying glass above an insect, directing the light of the sun down to burn the bug. To my fellow classmates it was simply a game they played. There were never any protests or condemnations by other students against this practice. It was not until we graduated to a higher grade level; I think it was around the 6th or 7th grade before a student would report a classmate for torturing an animal. This may shock you but we had a classmate who was known for setting fire to cats. I do not know how he caught them but I always wondered if he tortured and killed any other types of animals. To have such a disregard for life I assumed he must have been getting abused by someone. IT IS NOT UNTIL ONE is faced with a life threatening experience before they truly can appreciate their life. Recently I was talking with someone who had dealt with a deadly health issue. We talked and compared the issues we both had during our individual crisis. It was funny but we each told our loved ones we did not want any words of encouragement like “it will be okay.” During my medical scare I told everyone not to respond to any of the updates I would be sending them. Here is the thing though; everyone handles life and death issues differently. Some people are trained to never talk about death so when someone is facing a life threatening illness they stay away from the patient. Most people I think are trained to look at death as a sad experience. Yes it is sad that person will not be around anymore; but I feel death should be looked at as a celebration of life. Since death is a certainty in each of our lives, the idea of spending time dreading it taking place does not make much sense to me. I will say however there are only 2 things I hope will happen when it is my time to die: that my death does not make the news as part of a tragic event and I have a smile on my face as I die happy. FROM A CHANCE MEETING STRANGERS Annabel and Enoch, played by Mia Wasikowska (Crimson Peak, The Kids are All Right) and Henry Hopper (The Color of Time, The Fly Room), discover they have something in common: Death. This film festival nominated dramatic romance also starred Ryo Kase (Letters from Iwo Jima, Beyond Outrage) as Hiroshi Takahashi, Schuyler Fisk (Orange Country, The Best of Me) as Elizabeth and Jane Adams (Poltergeist, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) as Mabel. I thought Mia shined in this movie; her acting was soft and subtle. The story piqued my interest because it was based on a curious idea. However as the story moved forward I started to lose interest. The script was somewhat confusing to me to the point I wasn’t sure if what I was watching had some important symbolism or was a metaphor for a particular issue. I really wished the writers would have delved more into Mia’s character, developing it fuller. She was the focal point as far as I was concerned; the other characters were secondary in my opinion. Sadly this DVD really never came alive for me.
1 ¾ stars — DVD
The multi-colored pennants hanging off the building were so thick in numbers you would have thought this was the launching of an armada instead of a grocery store’s grand re-opening. I could tell before I pulled into the parking lot that something must have been going on because traffic was busier than usual. As I walked into the store I immediately noticed all the shopping carts were replaced with polished black, extra wide carts. Later I would discover I missed the squeaky wheels of the old carts because they used to announce my arrival to the shoppers lost in thought IN THE MIDDLE OF THE AISLE, blocking passage. Starting at the produce department all the previous stand alone racks were replaced with these “islands” built of wood with multiple shelves perched on top in a pyramid shape. The produce was carefully lined up on these shelves that were covered in some type of felt or Astroturf. I almost needed sunglasses from the super bright lights that were hanging down from a newly revealed bare ceiling. All the signage was bigger and easier to read. I felt like I was in a brand new store though I had been shopping in this place for years. From my shopping list I saw I needed apples, pears and green peppers. At one island up ahead I could see the green peppers circling the lowest shelf. The shelf above had red peppers and the top shelf was filled with yellow. Looking at the peppers close-up I discovered, though the store was remodeled, the produce hadn’t changed; you had to hunt through to find a pepper that was not bruised or shriveled up. As they say the store was all flash with no substance, just like this fantasy film. ALICE Kingsleigh, played by Mia Wasikowska (Crimson Peak, Jane Eyre), returns to Wonderland to help her good friend Hatter Tarrant Hightopp aka Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp (Black Mass, Into the Woods). Her journey would take her back in time. This adventure film was utterly imaginative and colorful to watch on the big screen. With most of the previous cast returning like Anne Hathaway (The Intern, The Dark Knight Rises) as Mirana, there was a new addition with Sacha Baron Cohen (The Brothers Grimsby, The Dictator) as Time. He was fine though nothing real special. Maybe I was expecting the writers to use his comedic talent fully than what they wrote for him. In fact, this brings me to my main complaint about this film; it was not fun or entertaining. The story was more of a downer as were the characters. It seemed like a long time before the story picked up but by that time I did not care anymore. I remember sitting in my seat and wondering if this is what Lewis Carroll had in mind? The story lines separately may have been good by themselves, but mixing them all in one movie just made things messy in the telling of this story. This movie was like one of those Corpse flowers that is pretty to look at but smells foul.
When one experiences a traumatic change in their life, the person should hold off on making any life altering decisions. I remember hearing this advice a long time ago and did not quite comprehend the magnitude of it. In the past when something rough happened to me I used to binge on food; I know, a classic case of stuffing one’s feelings. I have not done that in manny, many years. As I matured I started to understand the meaning of that wisdom and would force myself to have a pause in my life, to contemplate the issue and look for a solution or allow myself to go through the grieving process. There was one horrible breakup I went through where I did not leave the house for a few days, doing a marathon of movies on DVD. It actually helped me come to terms with the changes that took place. I realized I did not have control over them, learned how to acknowledge my feelings then worked at eventually letting them go. No one can tell you what to do during such times; I believe a person has to come to terms with their emotions. Though I will say I appreciated listening to the different advice my friends were offering me. Unfortunately I had a friend who was not in a space to listen to others when her long term boyfriend decided to end their relationship. She spiraled down into a deep depression. However in a matter of several weeks she all of a sudden introduced me to her new boyfriend. I thought it was rather quick and became more concerned after a couple of months later she told me she was going to marry him. I knew this was going to be trouble just as I knew there was trouble brewing in this dramatic fantasy film. AFTER the tragic loss of her father Edith Cushing, played by Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre), married and moved out of the country with businessman Thomas Sharpe, played by Tom Hiddleston (Thor franchise, Only Lovers Left Alive), to live on his estate. His mansion came with some dark secrets. Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim), this horror film was utterly gorgeous with sumptuous sets and period pieced costumes. The actors including Jessica Chastain (The Martian, A Most Violent Year) as Lucille Sharpe and Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim, Children of Men) as Dr. Alan McMichael were all wonderful in spite of the dull story. With such elaborate sets and scenery I really had hoped the story was going to be a strong gothic suspense drama. There was very little intensity throughout the film as if everything had fallen into a middle of the road type of mentality. Not to take anything away from the actors but due to the script, I found the house to be one of the strongest characters out of the movie.
2 1/3 stars
Labels on products have more meaning to me than labels for humans. When I hear people making introductions, adding the label of the person’s profession, I wonder why it is important that we know what the person does for a living. A couple of examples would be, “This is my husband Aaron, the doctor.” or “Let me introduce you to my girlfriend Emily, the lawyer.” What a person does for a living carries very little weight for me when it comes to what I think of a person. Yet I know there are some people who hunger to reach a certain status established in their mind, so they can feel successful. There was this person I used to know who would only date individuals from a specific list of professions. I would argue with them, trying to force them to look at how their love had conditions on it; bit it did not matter, my words fell on deaf ears. Maybe there is something wrong with me because I do not factor in monetary amounts when I am assessing a person’s character. A wealthy person for me would be one who is charitable, has long term friendships, is kind, has empathy; I could go on with my checklist if I had the time here. But the point I am trying to make is this, you could be with a rich successful accountant who cheats on you or a CFO who is a racist. I do not see that as being a wealthy person. MARRYING town doctor Charles Bovary, played by Henry Lloyd-Hughes (Anna Karenina, Dimensions), was the start of what Emma, played by Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland), hoped would be the wealthy life she deserved. How long could one be content however when there was no limit on when they would finally feel rich? This dramatic period piece’s landscape was filled with beautiful shots of the countryside mixed with authentic reminders of the era. The star of this film was Mia; she had a strong screen presence with a face that easily conveyed emotions. Included in the cast was Paul Giamatti (San Andreas, Love & Misery) as Monsieur Homais and Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, We Need to Talk About Kevin) as Leon Dupuis; both had the ability to do a powerful performance but the script did not allow it. This film dragged miserably for me. I also found Mia’s character strange; for the time frame I could not believe her character’s actions which appeared to be easily made. The book I am sure provided more emotional layers to her that were lacking here on screen. This movie had all the trappings to be a rich dramatic story, sadly it did not succeed.
1 3/4 stars
With their arms stretched to their maximum length, they are yelling out the names of the celebrities walking past them. Though they are not close enough to touch; just a turn of the head, a slight nod, a smile or the ultimate acknowledgement–a wave of the hand, will make the bond between them complete. However, that connection is only in the spectator’s mind. Now you would think with my love of movies i would be right in the middle of that crowd, jostling my way to the front to catch the eye of a movie star, but you would be wrong. I absolutely want to be at the event, but do not see celebrities as demigods walking the planet. They are humans with bodies that function the same and are similar to anyone else. The rise in people’s fascination with celebrity/reality stars is something I find very odd. I do not understand why anyone would care about the mundane occurrences of essentially a stranger’s life. The thing that I find the most offensive are these “stars” who feel they need to bestow upon us their advice on what or how we should live our lives. Sorry but in my book just because someone has money doesn’t give them the right to tell me what I should or should not be doing. You cannot equate wealth with intelligence. In fact, there are many celebrities or wannabes who are filled with ugliness inside. FROM all appearances Dr. Stafford and Christina Weiss, played by John Cusak (The Raven, High Fidelity) and Olivia Williams (An Education, Seventh Son), looked like a successful couple. With him being a best selling author and her managing the acting career of their son Benje, played by Evan Bird (Chained, The Killing-TV), it would be hard to imagine they had any problems. This film festival wining drama directed by David Cronenberg (Cosmopolis, A History of Violence) had an incredible cast that also included Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland) as Agatha and Julianne Moore (Still Alice, Non-Stop) playing Havana Segrand which she won at Cannes for best actress. The story showed how deep ugliness grows even in some of the most recognizable celebrities. I enjoyed the way the scenes moved from one character’s plight to another. Though the acting was wonderful there were parts of the film that did not gel for me. It almost felt as if there was not enough drive with the characters, becoming similar to caricatures. The writers seemed to have worked harder to show the ugliness in the characters than their history. I felt disconnected at times, similar to when I see celebrities in the news doing dumb things. There were a couple of brief scenes with blood in them.
2 1/2 stars
Imagine if every cellular, radio and other invisible electronic pulses each had a distinctive color we could see; we would all be walking through a brightly hued fog in our daily lives. It seems as if the separation between man and machine has narrowed over time. What with the passwords, computer screens, key strokes, computer glasses, ear buds, tablets, smart phones and computer watches; no wonder we need to unplug once in a while. One of the ways I unplug is to visit a national park. I do not know if it is true but I had heard the United States is the only country that has a national park system, where the lands are protected to avoid any harm at the hands of mankind. There is nothing like walking along a tree covered trail where suddenly the trees momentarily part to reveal a tall, tumbling waterfall with a veil of trailing mist; it is a breathtaking yet peaceful sight to me. Seated at the rim of a deep canyon, where violent weather had mauled its walls while the setting sun casts its bright eye on slow moving dark shadows, provides me endless battery free entertainment. What I tell the members in my yoga class applies to me as well when I am visiting various parks, let the mind soften and release all the should do’s, have to do’s and supposed to do’s; so I can be in the moment and let my whole body relax. ALONE except for 4 camels and her dog, Robyn Davidson, played by Mia Wasikowska (Albert Nobbs, Only Lovers Left Alive), decided she needed to walk. Her walk if successful would cover nearly 2000 miles of western Australian arid and deserted lands, taking her all the way to the Indian Ocean. This film festival nominated movie was based on the true story of Robyn’s sojourn that was turned into a bestselling book. The scenes of Australia with their wide expanses were beautiful; it really made me yearn to see the country. Mia was excellent playing Robyn, showing equal sides of vulnerability, strength and courage. Adam Driver (This is Where I Leave You, Girls-TV) as National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan started out as a minor interest for me; however, as the film progressed his acting brought out a truthful and real side to his character. Be prepared for this film took its time to stroll out the story and especially for animal lovers, there were a couple of scenes that were hard to watch. My methods of unplugging may pale by comparison to Robyn’s, but after watching this picture with its incredible story, I felt as if I had been unplugged in a whole new way.
Once two people have a shared history of intimacy together, it will always reappear when one is in the presence of the other. They may have not seen each other in a long time; but as soon as they meet, that oasis of intimate vulnerability floats up from the recesses of their minds to create terra firma. A gentle puff of breath slipping across an ear can remind one how they were being held as they dove into a luxurious sleep. The scent of their hair can bring back the vision of a wide open vista of sun stained cliffs cascading into a deep canyon as both sat close, taking in the majesty of the moment. So knowledgeable of each other’s ways, the two created a world unto themselves that is separate from the reality around then. Two individuals who had this connection in this dramatic romantic film were Eve and Adam, played by Tilda Swinton (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Adaptation) and Tom Hiddleston (War Horse, Thor franchise). Aware of Adam’s despondent reclusiveness, Eve traveled from her home in Tangier, Morocco to be with him in Detroit, MIchigan. With the world around them in decline they had their own little safe haven until Eve’s sister Ava, played by Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre, The Kids are all Right), showed up at their front door. This film festival nominated movie grew on me like Spanish moss on a thick humid day. Tilda and Tom were so deliciously good together as the centuries old vampires. The whole cast was strong but I could not take my eyes off the two of them. They were able to convey a feeling, an emotion simply by the turn of the head or the gaze of their eyes. The script was smart and hip with quick spurts of fresh humor. Since some of the characters were vampires, the whole picture had a certain darkness to it; but, there was a subtle lightness that made for deep languishing scenes. I really enjoyed the way the director’s or maybe it was cinematographer’s penetrating use of light sources played with the blackness. Though this film was listed as horror, there was nothing I would consider scary in the traditional sense. If you are squeamish at the sight of blood, no matter the vessel it may be in, then yes there were scenes that had blood. However, I can only think of one scene that might be considered gory. Despite a bit of uneven pacing, by the end of the movie I felt I had visited an old couple who knew each other so well, they did not have to ask how the other one felt, they just knew. Brief scenes of blood were shown.
You can run but you cannot hide from your gene pool. I am well aware of it. Being in a family with a history of high blood pressure was one of the reasons I became a group fitness instructor. Besides the health aspects from acquired genes; there are the, shall we say, odd similarities that can be found among family members. Though my brothers and I do not look alike, we share some common patterns in our behaviors. In my extended family I can find certain similar peculiarities among siblings. For the Stoker family there was a deep darkness that ran through their gene pool. After her father died in an auto accident; the mourning India Stoker, played by Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre, Lawless), was surprised to find out her father had a brother. The first time she met Uncle Charlie, played by Matthew Goode (Match Point, Watchmen), was when he showed up to stay at her house after the funeral. India’s grieving mother Evelyn, played by Nicole Kidman (The Paperboy, Moulin Rouge), gladly took in Charlie, hoping to find comfort from her loss. Despite finding a strangeness to Uncle Charlie, India became intoxicated with his different ways. It was curious to India why she never knew of him and why he entered her life now. From Korean director Chan-woo Park (Thirst, Lady Vengeance), this film had a rich subtle moodiness to the scenes. I enjoyed the filming with its edge of off centeredness. The acting was wickedly wonderful; I really like Nicole taking on these different types of roles in her past few films. The reoccurring scene of India hunting with her father Richard, played by Dermot Mulroney (The Grey, About Schmidt), was a wonderful addition to the ultimate story. Even Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook, Animal Kingdom) as Aunt Gwendolyn was great, though the role was minor. What held this movie back from being an even better film was the script. There were unexplained situations and a slight lack of depth to the characters. The Stoker family was aptly named; just do not go diving into their gene pool. Brief scenes with blood.
3 1/4 stars