THE BUSHES IN FRONT OF THE apartment building offered me ideal cover. I was leading the group on a treasure hunt. Our course was going to take us through hostile territories; I was prepared for the known hazards, but not for the unknown ones. Sneaking out of the bushes, we made our way south by staying off the main thoroughfares. The path I took was uneven, filled with potholes and covered with a mix of unkempt grass and gravel. As we came up to a large building, I had everyone cling to the side of the road where at least there was sporadic cover in case we were walking into a trap. It was the right call because 3 trap doors in the building sprung open and a series of time bombs were being hurled at us. My monkey who was 2ndin command leaped to a nearby tree and scurried up into the branches for cover. From my vantage point I could see him navigating the branches as he made his way to the one branch that was leaning over to the structure. I saw him take a few sticks of dynamite and tape them together. He then lit them and tossed it onto the roof of the building. I only had to wait a few seconds before there was a big explosion that caused the roof to cave in and bury our enemies. WHAT YOU JUST READ WAS ONE of many escapades I had with my entourage of imaginary animals. Besides my trusted monkey, I had a tiger, hawk, panther, wolf and chipmunk as part of my group. All these characters came to the forefront of my imagination after I started reading the books about Doctor Doolittle. The stories about the good doctor were some of my favorite ones when I was growing up. I identified with him because I felt I too could talk to animals; though, I was a novice at understanding them. But that did not stop me from talking to my pet parakeet and the animals several of my relatives had as pets. My conversations were not just exclusive to live animals, it also incorporated the stuffed animals I had gotten through my infant years as gifts. Animals were so easy to talk to and they provided me with hours of comfort. Due to this history when I saw the trailer for this film, I immediately knew I had to see it. Seeing one of my favorite book characters come to life was going to be a big thrill for me. THOUGH DOCTOR DOOLITTLE, PLAYED BY ROBERT Downey Jr. (Avengers franchise, The Judge), had not ventured outside of his home for several years, when the Queen of England summoned him to the palace he could not refuse. His visit would be the start of an incredible adventure. With Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In, Pain and Glory) as King Rassouli, Michael Sheen (The Twilight Sage franchise, The Queen) as Dr. Blair Mudfly, Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady, Gangs of New York) as Lord Thomas Badgley and Harry Collett (Dunkirk, Casualty-TV) as Tommy Stubbins; this adventure, family comedy belonged in a litter box. I know I may have been more invested in this film than others; however, nothing was right about this picture except the animals. I had a hard time understanding Robert’s character due to his quiet mumbling of the words with an odd accent. The script had nothing fun or exciting in it. I felt the writers just threw a bunch of animals into the script to add some slapstick to the dull story. Maybe young viewers will enjoy this movie; but for the young of heart, there would be better enjoyment found if one read the books instead. There was an extra scene during the ending credits.
1 ½ stars
AFTER SPENDING A good portion of one’s life making decisions for others, a person may have forgotten how to make one for themselves. Ideally you grow up and learn how to be self-sufficient, in other words to be a responsible adult. Depending on your life’s course people and/or children can come into your life so your decisions will then have to incorporate them. It only makes sense if you are in a relationship the two of you would consider each other in your decisions. I had a friend who saw most things in black and white; you may know this type of person where all of their decisions come out of a pool of two options: yes or no. There was no room to negotiate with them. After several years they fell in love and soon after the two of them moved in together. I do not know what happened but from that point on this person could not make one decision without getting approval from their partner; it was the oddest thing to me. HAVE YOU EVER noticed how some decisions are influenced by peer pressure? I cannot recall the exact percentage but I read a study where at least 25% of mothers alter their parental decisions in public due to peer pressure. For me this falls into the same category of decisions that get based on statements with the word “should” in them. For example, “you should act your age” or “you should lose weight,” would fall into that category where someone is trying to dictate what they think you should be doing in your life. I am all for friends sharing their opinions about something that affects my life; but I hear them better when it is a discussion with feelings involved instead of just being told I should do such and such then everything will be fine. No, I do not operate that way; if they can tell me the reasons why they feel I should make a change then of course I would give consideration to what they were saying to me. The challenge is when you have more than one person telling you what they think you should do and it is not the same advice; somewhat similar to what was going on in this comedic, romantic drama. MOVING ACROSS THE country after separating from her husband Alice Kinney, played by Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, Wild), found her life taking a different course when she had too much to drink while celebrating her birthday and found herself in bed with Harry, played by Pico Alexander (A Most Violent Year, Indignation). He came with friends. With Nat Wolff (Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars) as Teddy, Michael Sheen (Passengers, Midnight in Paris) as Austen, Jon Rudnitsky (Patchwork, Saturday Night Live-TV) as George and Candice Bergen (Rules Don’t Apply, Gandhi) as Lillian Stewart; the cast was fine for this story. I would have preferred more scenes with Candice and Michael however. The idea behind the story had some valid components, but I found the script was not able to carry them throughout the movie. There was a hodgepodge of scenes were some were cute, others unrealistic and some were simply bland. My overall feeling for this film was “meh;” for me there needed to be more story so I could find some connections to the characters. I do not want this to sound like I am telling the writers what they should have done; I only want to share my feelings with them and with you.
AMONG the employees he was the “go to” guy, for almost anything you needed. Not for work related issues, it was for almost anything you were looking for personally. You see, it always seemed as if he knew someone; or if he did not, he knew someone who knew someone who could handle any of our requests. If you needed a new sidewalk, he knew someone in the cement industry; if you were looking for a new car, his cousin’s brother-in-law sold cars. I cannot recall ever hearing him declining someone’s request; this guy always had some type of connection to get any of us help. Now I cannot honestly say every person he recommended did the best job, because many times I heard employees describe the work done as fine or adequate; but with the promise of getting the work at a cheaper price, I guess one could say you get what you pay for as the saying goes. When I needed new windows in my basement I used this employee’s connections. I did not think doing glass block windows would be too hard, but I did have to call them back to fix the caulk job on a couple of windows. HAVING been employed for many years I learned a long time ago it is not what you know but who you know. In my personal life I know a couple of people who have friends in the entertainment industry. They are part of an association that allows them to attend some of the award shows. Since one of my dreams is to attend the Oscar awards telecast, I would have no issue seeking them out. Granted I wish they were friends of mine instead of being friends of a friend. When I have had the good fortune to attend a special screening of a new film, I always try to stay afterwards during the Q & A session with cast members and the director. If there is an opportunity to give any of them my business card, you better believe I will do it; however, I don’t come anywhere near the skills of this dramatic movie’s main character. ALWAYS coming close but never being a party to the big power brokers Norman Oppenheimer, played by Richard Gere (Arbitrage, Primal Fear), begins to realize something is happening when a politician he had met in the past drops his name. This one connection could change Norman’s life. This film festival nominee also starred Michael Sheen (Passengers, Kingdom of Heaven) as Philip Cohen, Lior Ashkenazi (Later Marriage, Footnote) as Eshel, Charlotte Gainsbourg (Melancholia, 3 Hearts) as Alex and Dan Stevens (Beauty and the Beast, Criminal Activities) as Bill Kavish. The script to this story allowed Richard to shine; he was excellent in the role. The movie for the most part was dialog driven. At first I felt the story was going to become a drag; but the more I saw of Richard’s character, the more involved I became. It was surprising to see this film was also tagged a thriller besides being a drama. Maybe in the loosest of terms was it thrilling; for the most part I took it to be a believable telling of those in power. Not having connections to any powerful bigwigs, I enjoyed getting an up close seat to this party.
THE word “home” is one of those words that can immediately stir up the emotions inside a person. For some hearing that word brings childhood memories such as family dinners around a large oak table topped with a linen tablecloth or being taught by your parents the rules to a new game you received for your birthday. Other individuals may hear the word “home” and immediately feel an icy sense of dread stealing down their spine or a fitful night of sleep caused by deep hunger pains. No matter the circumstances, a home can have a powerful affect on each of us. WHEN friends of mine who grew up out of state talk about going home for the holidays, I take that to mean they are going to visit their family and friends back where they grew up. That does not stop me from sometimes asking what they mean when they say “home.” I am not trying to be a jerk; I am just curious if they feel like the place they currently live in does not feel like home. I find some of my friends’ answers interesting to my question. Some of them feel if they were in a committed relationship their place would feel more like a home, while others have expressed apartment living is not the same as being in a house. Having grown up in apartments I do understand the difference somewhat since I have been living in a house. However my definition of home has grown to incorporate the city where I was born and live in. There is something else inside of me that defines home and it has nothing to do with the material trappings that demarcate one’s living space; it has to do with the heart. You see any place can be a home if it is built on a foundation of nurturing elements such as comfort, peacefulness, safety and love. Now imagine what the main characters were thinking in this science fiction drama. DURING a 120 year journey to a distant colony a ship malfunction accidently wakes up from a state of stasis passenger Jim Preston, played Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World), ninety years to early. He did not sign up to spend the rest of his life alone on a ship full of non-available passengers. This adventure romance had a string of enticing special effects and sets. With Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle, Joy) as Aurora Lane, Michael Sheen (Midnight in Paris, Twilight franchise) as Arthur and Laurence Fishburne (Mystic River, Akeelah and the Bee) as Gus Mancuso; I found myself curious with the story’s concept of long term space travel. The chemistry between Jennifer and Chris felt authentic to me; however, with the poorly thought out script they floundered in their roles. I was bored for the first half of this space romance and was annoyed with the obvious goofs in the scenes. Being selected for a holiday opening I felt this film was not properly thought out in ideas and execution. I am sad to say that this film was not the best choice to leave the comfort of my warm home on a cold day.
1 ¾ 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.
I do not need to know how the beautiful baked dessert placed before me was made. All that matters to me is that it tastes as good as it looks with its dark chocolate syrup dripping down the sides of the spongy chocolate chip cake. The same can be said about the art exhibit I attended, where the artist created these incredible colorful sculptures out of blown glass. It was beyond me how he could take such a delicate medium and produce these exquisite pieces that were placed among the foliage of the local conservatory. Most of the time I prefer not knowing how something was created because I feel it takes away from the visceral experience. It would be similar to having prior knowledge of all the tricks and magical sequences a haunted house amusement park attraction has before you go through it. What fun would that be? This biographical comedic drama is a good example of me not being familiar with the subject, yet I still found this movie to be a highly entertaining experience. I had no idea what was English football. As I viewed this film I wondered if this sport was what here in the United States we call soccer. Michael Sheen (MIdnight in Paris, Twilight franchise) played abrasive, arrogant coach Brian Clough. The story was about the challenges that faced him when he took over the coaching duties from his bitter rival Don Revie, played by Colm Meaney (Law Abiding Citizen, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine-TV), who had taken the Leeds United football team and made them one of the most successful in the league. With Tom Hooper’s (Les Miserables, The King’s Speech) direction, I thought he did a fantastic job in keeping the story steady, letting the actors shine. I have been impressed with Michael Sheen’s body of work so far; this picture only continued it. Adding their specialness to the rest of the cast were Timothy Spall (Ginger & Rosa, Enchanted) as Peter Taylor and Jim Broadbent (Cloud Atlas, The Iron Lady) as Chairman Sam Longson. My only complaint about the film was the use of flashbacks; I had to remind myself of the time frame periodically. To tell you the truth the story was more about egos and personalities than about actual football games. For someone who had no knowledge about this sport, I still had a good time watching this DVD. An added bonus was researching the events of this film afterwards and learning more about the history of the sport. So not only was this an entertaining film, it taught me something new.
3 stars — DVD
Heads will roll if you mess with Bella’s child…and they certainly did in this final chapter of the movie series. After yesterday’s review that talked about the bond between mother and child, we have here another example of a parent’s love for their offspring. In this movie there was a new and improved Bella, played by Kristen Stewart (Snow White and the Huntsman, The Runaways). With the birth of her daughter Renesmee, Bella would need to master all of her new found vampire abilities if she was going to keep her child safe. The reason being there was something special about Renesmee that threatened the Volturi and its leader Ado, played by Michael Sheen (Midnight in Paris, Frost/Nixon). Since I did not read any of the Twilight books I do not know how closely this movie followed the novel. The story picked up right where the previous film ended, with Bella having turned into a vampire. I had hoped with this new Bella there would have been a better acting job from Kristen, but that was not the case. She never looked happy, with only a couple of emotional facial expressions, that honestly looked like she was a mouth breather. Robert Pattinson (Water for Elephants, Cosmopolis) as Edward Cullen played the role with a slightly more relaxed feel to it. As for Taylor Lautner (Abduction, Valentine’s Day), he did not bring anything new or special to his Jacob Black character. The first half of the movie was slow for me. I found it to be syrupy and melodramatic, with its heavy musical accompaniment. What I found odd was how some vampires had unique special skills. It was as if the writers forgot they were dealing with vampires and writing instead for X-Men characters. The last half of this action film had a buildup of tension that led to an epic battle, with a couple of interesting twists thrown into the mix. On a whole the writers of this movie sucked the life out of the story, giving me only an ok movie experience. I was disappointed I could not sink my teeth into something good.
2 1/3 stars
The true story of Richard Pimentel; a Vietnam vet who returned to the states severely hearing-impaired. Played accurately by Ron Livingston (Office Space, Adaptation), we watch as Richard struggles not only with his disability, but with the way people perceive him. Channeling his anger, he sets out on a path to alter those perceptions and champion the rights of anyone with a disability. Little did I know when I got this DVD that I was going to watch the history of the American with Disabilities Act. This was such a powerful movie for me, that taught without being stale, along with some humorous moments. The performance of Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) as Pimentel’s friend, Art Honeyman, a man with cerebral palsy, was outstanding. I feel everyone should see this movie, to see what type of obstacles people with disabilities have and how Richard Pimentel’s passion, to make a change, has affected us all.
3 1/4 stars — DVD