THE DINING ROOM TABLE was all set for the arrival of the dinner guests. Covering the table was a handmade table cloth from a relative now deceased. Each place setting had a plate, bowl, glass and silverware; all were recently purchased. In the middle of the table was a candelabra that was handed down through at least a couple of generations in the family. Made of silver the candlestick holder was tarnished; in fact, no matter how much work was put in to polish it the silver never regained its former luster. There were arms that came out from the center fluted column; each arm had a holder at the end that looked like an upside down, silver foiled candy piece. Also on the table was a salad bowl that looked like a white, plastic helmet. This too came from a deceased relative. The host remembered when he was a small child, seeing the plastic bowl out for big family dinners. There was one more thing on the dining room table that had memories attached to it, a small ornamental metal cup that was only used on religious holidays. At least that was what the host was told when the cup was handed down. WHEN I AM A guest in someone’s house, I find myself looking around the room for, what I call artifacts. You know things that look old or maybe I should say look like they have a story. Whether it is framed pictures, ceramic statues or pretty much any object in the place; I always want to hear what the story is behind the thing. You see I feel the people in our lives, both alive and deceased, help mold us into what each of us will become. Plus I enjoy having in my possession items that were handed down from generation to generation. In the previous paragraph imagine how many people would be sitting around the dining room table who had come into contact with the candelabra, salad bowl or metal cup; the connections between everyone would be tremendous. And for that reason this is why I was fascinated with the story in this film festival winning dramatic mystery. THOUGH BORN DECADES APART young Rose and Ben, played by newcomer Millicent Simmonds and Oakes Fegley (Pete’s Dragon, This is Where I Leave You), each wished to find where they belonged. Their journey would lead them to unexpected connections. Based on the book I was fascinated with the story and the dual story lines in this movie. The two young actors in the cast were joined by Julianne Moore (Suburbicon, Maggie’s Plan) as Lillian Mayhew, Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea, My Week with Marilyn) as Elaine and Tom Noonan (Heat, Last Action Hero) as Walter. Visually I felt more interested in Rose’s story, but that probably was due to the decade in which it took place. With an easy soundtrack and interesting scenes I felt engaged with the story. However I thought the directing could have been smoother and the characters could have been given more depth to them. It took me a while to warm up to each character because at first they came across in a monotone way, sort of one dimensional. As the picture progressed and I got more invested into the characters, I felt less slowness which had almost bordered on boredom. There was a payoff for me by the conclusion of the story. When the movie ended I felt as if I had made a connection to several scenes that linger to this day like a family memory.
2 ¾ stars
FOR many people only fond memories resurface when they travel back to their old neighborhood. The discount store that had the best penny candies, the shoe store with the jovial shoe clerk who told the best stories, the house where one’s best friend lived; there could be many places that bring a smile to one’s face. But not everyone may have a similar experience when they go back home. There are some people who tentatively traverse the streets that are fraught with landmines of dark emotions. RECENTLY I had to travel back to my old neighborhood, the place where I grew up. The street I lived on looked the same except several houses on the block were painted in different colors. The tree in the alley next to my home, where I would climb up to hide, was no longer there; it was replaced with recently poured concrete to add parking spaces. My secret place to hide at school was in one of its parking lots; it was still there. I would wait inside until I felt everyone in the school had gone home for the day, before venturing out from it. Driving east I passed a place that was a few houses down from a relative’s place. That spot nearby was where one time I did not get to their home in time before being attacked. I continued on until the street ended at the beach. Here is where I started developing my creative side, building elaborate sand castles and forts. Alas, some of them were meant to fall once the tide came in. No matter which way one looks at it, each neighborhood has its share of good and bad memories. RETURNING home due to the death of his brother Joe, played by Kyle Chandler (The Wolf of Wall Street, Zero Dark Thirty); Lee Chandler, played by Casey Affleck (Out of the Furnace, The Finest Hours), was stunned to find out he was made the guardian of Joe’s son Patrick, played by Lucas Hedges (Moonrise Kingdom, Kill the Messenger). There was a problem, Lee did not want to move back home. This film festival winning drama had some of the best acting I have seen this year. Casey, Lucas and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Blue Valentine) as Randi Chandler were so good together that my heart ached. The atmosphere for this movie was one of sadness and depression; however, the script was smartly written to allow Patrick to act like a typical high school boy. I enjoyed the scenery of the east coast and never felt the camera work was intrusive. There were a couple of spots where I found the story deflated a bit, but seriously the acting in this picture could get a few nominations this awards season. Let me reiterate this was not a happy story; but it was a moving experience, especially the way the story unfolded. Even if the distance is far, it would be worth your time to travel over to the neighborhood in this winning film.
3 2/3 stars
THEY had me at the word chocolate. Friends were telling me about this new food product at the store; wait, they were raving about it as they kept saying I had to try it. So the next time I went to the grocery store I found this product and brought it home. I decided to forgo my chocolate ice cream for dessert so I could have this potentially tasty new treat. Opening the bag I stuck my hand inside and withdrew what I hoped would become a staple in my approved foods repertoire. MY first bite was met with a textured crunchy surface. The chocolate taste at this point was diminutive. As I started chewing my taste buds were met with a stronger, darker chocolate which I always enjoy. However there also was another taste in the mixture that I could only describe as man-made or artificial. It was not pleasant and turned me off. But how was this possible; my friends were gaga over this product, convinced I would love it. I sat and wondered if there was something wrong with me; maybe my prior meal screwed up my taste buds. So I decided to try another piece after I rinsed my mouth with a swig of fresh water. The second piece had the same effect on me; I did not like this new product at all. Because I am a bit crazy when it comes to chocolate I decided to bring the bag with me to a get together the next day to see how others would react to tasting this item. Let me fast forward to the end of this story; it turned out a majority of the people did not care for the item, though several thought it was excellent. I cannot say this validated my feelings about this chocolate creation; but I just wanted to know why my friends from yesterday liked it so much. Well I felt the same way about this dramatic film; I just did not get it. THREE women each in their own way are looking for a way to connect in the vastness of Montana. This film festival winner starred Laura Dern (The Fault in Our Stars, Blue Velvet) as Laura Wells, Kristen Stewart (Still Alice, Clouds of Sils Maria) as Beth Travis and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Shutter Island) as Gina Lewis. My favorite segment was the one with Laura Dern. I honestly did not understand the accolades this film had been receiving. Yes it was beautifully filmed; the acting was good, but I did not find this entertaining. Because of the positive buzz around this film I actually went back to see it again, thinking I must have missed something. After a 2nd time I still can say I did not care for this picture. It was slow and though things happened throughout the movie they mostly were done in a too subtle way. I even asked the usher afterward about the movie since many critics had praised it and do you know what he said? He said most people walking out complained about the movie being boring and dull. So there you have it; maybe you will see something I did not.
The prequel really came to the forefront with the Star Wars franchise. I find it to be a valid form to use in the art of making movies. For me it feels like seeing an old friend from college who is now in a love relationship and getting to hear how the two of them met. Excited to see this prequel to the classic film The Wizard of Oz, the movie studio certainly has been marketing it from a ton of commercials to the movie theater employees wearing promotional T-shirts. James Franco (127 Hours, Howl) played carnie magician Oscar Diggs who was swept up into a storm that took him far away from Kansas. Finding himself in a strange land called Oz he encountered Theodora, played by Mila Kunis (Black Swan, Ted), a witch who believed he was the wizard that the prophecy said would come to save her people. James’ acting in this role was proof that his stint as the wooden host of the Oscar telecasts was not a fluke. Joining him in the awful acting department was Mila and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Blue Valentine) as the witch Glinda. The only acting worth talking about came from Rachel Weisz (The Bourne Legacy, The Deep Blue Sea) as Evanora; computer graphic China Girl, voiced by Joey King (Ramona and Beezus, Crazy Stupid Love) and flying monkey Finley, voiced by Zach Braff (Garden State, Scrubs-TV). There were some beautiful and magical scenes, but then there would be flat scenes that were poorly designed. My favorite part of the movie was the last 20-25 minutes that had a cool, creative flair. The script was badly written, not providing depth to the characters which made James Franco’s character extra annoying. Not only was I disappointed by the end of the movie, I felt I had gotten stuck in Oz’ deadly poppy field.
2 1/3 stars
Is there such a thing as love at first sight or is it something else? Though I have never experienced it; I have come close, referring to it as love at first infatuation. That time where you see a person and immediately feel comfortable around them, quickly finding a common rhythm. When the two of you start a relationship, the key in maintaining it is communication. I would also add the ability not to let expectations trip you up, while continuing to learn and grow with your partner. This is why I found this dramatic movie to be the real deal when it came to charting the course of a couple’s relationship through the years. Dean and Cindy, played by Ryan Gosling (Drive, Half Nelson) and Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn, Take This Waltz) met and fell in love. The story was told with the assistance of flashbacks, going between the current state of their relationship to the start of their courtship. As we watched scenes from different parts of their lives, we became privy to their expectations and emotional baggage. Ryan, who I find to be a gifted actor, gave another fine performance as the emotionally damaged Dean. Pairing him with Michelle was a brilliant move, for she handled her role with a rich texturing as we witnessed the bloom of their love wilting. I am not sure I would have given the movie the NC-17 rating it received; because to me, the director only captured the real rawness of a couple’s lovemaking while being out of synch. This well done film showed how easy it was to fall in love. The challenge came in how well that love could be maintained.
3 1/4 stars — DVD