THE BRIGHT RED BIRD LOOKED like a cross between an ostrich and a flamingo. Long legs and neck connected to this round belly. The bird’s beak was bright yellow and on top of its head there was a tuft of elongated feathers that veered off in different directions. I still can remember how my friend would walk his bird around the room in this sort of hop along, bobbing type of gait. He had gotten the bird as a gift, though if he named the bird I have no recollection of it. The bird was a 16-18” tall puppet. My friend would hold these two wooden sticks that were nailed together into a plus sign, with string attached to each end. The strings were then each affixed to a different part of the bird’s body. Though the beak did not open, the bird’s eyes were not stationary; they had eyelids that would blink depending on the movement of the bird’s head. It was quite a comical sight for us. I had a few stuffed animals when I was younger that I would imitate the animal’s voice; but I would have to hold the animal to make it move. Here there was a stuffed animal that looked like it was moving on its own; it provided hours of fun. PRIOR TO MY FRIEND’S BIRD PUPPET, the only type of puppets I had personal knowledge of were the hand puppets we used to make in school. I am sure many of you did the same thing; where you take a lunch bag, turn it upside down and draw a face on it. Where the first fold of the bag is at the bottom, you would draw the mouth. Some of the girls in class would draw hair and ribbons on their bag; if an evil face was going to be placed on the bag it was usually drawn by a boy. We would stick a hand inside the bag to make the mouth talk by opening and closing our fingers into a fist. I remember one class assignment where we had to create a scenic backdrop on the inside of a box, after removing one side of the box. The teacher set up a table for us to place our boxes; there was a curtain stretched in front of it where we could hide behind to raise our paper bag puppet up and put on a show. I happened to remember this while watching this comedic, action crime film because I would have rather watched our kids’ shows than what I saw on display up on the movie screen. A SERIES OF PUPPET MURDERS WAS plaguing Los Angeles. Two former detectives who had parted ways had to come together to help solve the crimes. Starring Melissa McCarthy (Life of the Party, The Heat) as Detective Connie Edwards, Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games franchise, Love & Mercy) as Jenny, Maya Rudolph (Away We Go, Inherent Vice) as Bubbles, Leslie David Baker (Wish I Was Here, The Office-TV) as Lt. Banning and Joel McHale (Deliver Us from Evil, The Informant!) as Agent Campbell; the one actor that stood out for me was Maya. Melissa, who I previously have said has incredible comedic timing, played the same type of character she has played before. The script was generic and only produced one laugh out of me. Maybe the writers thought having R rated puppets was enough of a laugh; for me, I found it quickly became a bore because every move was so predictable. As a side note, if Jim Henson was alive today I wonder how he would have felt about his son directing this picture? More fun could be gotten out of a paper bag puppet than being stuck watching this “bad” movie. There was an extra scene in the middle of the credits and this IS NOT A FILM FOR CHILDREN.
1 ½ stars
THERE WAS ONLY ONE WAY TO describe him and that would be surly. You hear that word and imagine it refers to some gruff, mean-spirited man. I know it could also be a woman but I mostly have heard males being described this way. In any case, who I am referring to is a little boy. I know what you are thinking; how could a young child act like this already? Well I really do not have an answer for you. The only thing I could come up with is the child has a defiant personality. You may be familiar with such a child; whatever you ask or tell them they always will do the opposite. The boy I described earlier was such a child. No matter what you wanted him to do he would always do the opposite. If you asked him to tie his shoe, he would say no. If you asked him to smile for a photo, he would look away or stare blankly at the camera. It was quite annoying to say the least. At some point the child’s parents started saying the opposite thing they wanted to happen, so the boy would essentially do want they originally wanted him to do. I agree it was a bit twisted. SO YOU SEE THIS IS WHY I said there has to be some type of defiant issue a/k/a child/parent dynamics. Now I was not privy to the details about what took place behind closed doors; but I had to assume there had to be in some form an issue of dominance. Speaking about my childhood years, predominantly the teenage years, I kept my hair long for years just because I was constantly being told to cut my hair. I liked my hair but the reason being used for me to cut my hair was that it would look better; better for who I would reply. Maybe everyone goes through a stage growing up where they want to start to exert some independence. I totally understand it; but at some point, when do these remarks or should I say suggestions begin to be a power struggle? Can you imagine being told at say 30 years of age to wear your hair differently or change your makeup because the person would prefer you do it that way? I feel it is a test of dominance and if you want to see what I mean, then get ready to watch it in action in this film festival nominated drama. LIVING AT HOME AND FEELING like she was being taken for granted laid the groundwork for Moll, played by Jessie Buckley (War & Peace-TV mini-series, Rosamund Pilcher’s Shades of Love-TV series), to quickly become enamored with the recent stranger who came to town, who the citizens thought was a murderer. With Johnny Flynn (Clouds of Sils Maria, Crusade of Jeans) as Pascal Renouf, Geraldine James (Sherlock Holmes franchise, Calendar Girls) as Hilary Huntington, Trystan Gravelle (Anonymous, One Chance) as Clifford and Shannon Tarbet (A Promise, Virtuoso-TV movie) as Polly; the story took a little time to sink in with me. I will say I thought the acting was excellent in an intense way. Jessie and Geraldine really stood out for me. The story was this twisted suspense that drew me in by its uneasy feeling script. There were unexpected twists in the story that just made me enjoy this movie more. I also thought the writer did an excellent job of creating an atmosphere of doubt; both in the characters and viewers. One would be hard pressed not to place themselves in such a situation. This really was a fresh, thrill ride of a picture that was worth watching even if someone told you not to go see it.
IT WAS ONE OF THE HOTTEST Broadway shows touring the country and I had tickets for it. Because it was so popular a friend of mine wanted to scalp his ticket. Just my opinion, I thought it was rude of him to even suggest it since the group of us had planned to go out to dinner after the show. On the day of the performance we all met up at the restaurant and got seated quickly, so we would not have to rush to get to the theater. After dinner we walked over to the theater which when built was one of those old movie palaces with ornate terra cotta reliefs and large chandeliers. As I entered into the lobby there was a large board set on an easel that listed the actors that were cast for that day’s performance. Right at the top of the cast list on the first line it showed the understudy would be playing the star attraction’s character. I was devastated; the famous actor was one of the reasons I wanted to see this show and now I was stuck with the understudy. Not that he did a poor performance, in fact he was excellent; but I really wanted to see that famous actor perform in this production. IF THERE IS SOME WAY TO avoid feeling disappointed when you are expecting to get what you paid for, I am not familiar with it. Now granted in regards to that Broadway production, all of us enjoyed the show with its excellent cast and incredible staging of the sets. However I could not help feeling letdown because I did not see the main actor that everyone had been talking about being the perfect actor for the role. I guess the feeling is similar to going to your favorite restaurant for your favorite dish and discovering they ran out of it. At that point it is unlikely you would leave; instead you would find something else to eat, just not as satisfying. Now I do not want this to sound like I am a snob, but there have been times where I have tried the generic version of a product and disliked it. There was a dessert I was preparing for a party where I used raisins that were the grocery store’s brand. They turned out to be these tiny, shriveled raisins that still had some stems attached; I never bought them again, wondering why I did in the first place. I asked myself the same question after I saw this action, crime drama remake; why see this when I could rent the original? AFTER HIS FAMILY WAS BRUTALLY attacked in a home invasion Paul Kersey, played by Bruce Willis (First Kill, Die Hard franchise), got tired waiting for the police to solve the crime. He took things into his own hands. With Vincent D’Onofrio (The Magnificent Seven, Ed Wood) as Frank Kersey, Elizabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas, Adventures in Babysitting) as Lucy Kersey and Dean Norris (Total Recall, Breaking Bad-TV) as Detective Kevin Raines; there was absolutely nothing new in this film compared to the original. The only difference was there were less thrills, tension and good acting. I found the script odd and not quite believable. If you did not see the original movie then you might enjoy this picture more than I did. The strange thing for me was the audience around me during the film’s showing. I had to wonder if some of the people who were watching this movie were thinking they wanted to do the same thing as Paul; it was creepy. As I mentioned earlier if you never saw the original this may interest you, but not something that one needs to rush out and go see.
1 ½ stars
I DO NOT UNDERSTAND why I should pay to have a cable repair person come out to replace the defective cable box the cable company shipped me. Customer service told me they could send me a new box and I could install it, saving the cost of a service call. If I had dropped, kicked or broken the box I would better understand the fee structure; however, they installed the box and after several weeks the box started to freeze up periodically. I would have to unplug it and count to ten before plugging it back in so it would reset itself. It is so annoying especially when it freezes up and does not record the programs I scheduled. It is annoyances like this that can drive me crazy. Even when I had my recent medical episode all I wanted medical staff to do was their job and follow through on their promises. IMAGINE TALKING TO THE nurse about your test results and she says she will call the test facility for more information per my request. She tells me she will call me the next day. After not hearing from her most of the next day I contact her late in the afternoon only for her to hear my voice and say she had my file right on her desk and she forgot to call the facility. I sit there and listen to her rattle off all the things she had to do during the day, less the one thing she promised to do for me. Are you kidding me? I do not know about you but if I do not do my job or at least follow through with what I tell someone it reflects on my performance review. How is it that I and my fellow employees are held accountable for our job duties but I see more and more workers’ lack of care or concern for their job responsibilities not being addressed by their employers? It can be so frustrating which is why I could totally sympathize with the grieving mother in this dark dramatic comedy. MONTHS HAVE GONE BY without any inkling of the police finding Mildred’s, played by Frances McDormand (Promised Land, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day), daughter’s killer. Fed up Mildred decides to let everyone know what she thinks about the investigation. This film festival winning crime movie also starred Woody Harrelson (War for the Planet of the Apes, LBJ) as Chief of Police William Willoughby, Sam Rockwell (Seven Psychopaths, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) as Officer Dixon, Lucas Hedges (Lady Bird, Manchester by the Sea) as Robbie and Abbie Cornish (Geostorm, Sucker Punch) as Anne. Hands down Frances deserves a nomination this Oscar season for her unbelievable acting in this role. I know it is a cliché but she was a force of nature; I could not take my eyes off of her. She must have relished the twisted script with all the opportunities to embellish her character. I enjoyed the rest of the cast almost as much but felt Abbie’s role was minor. The one complaint I had about the script was the story arc for Officer Dixon; his development from the 1st to 2nd half of the film did not ring true to me. Honestly I felt the last part of the script quickly tidied up the events and the viewers were left somewhat hanging. Despite these few issues I still was swept up into Mildred’s plight and to tell you the truth, secretly wished I could act out like her whenever I encounter someone not doing their job.
3 ½ stars
TWO mothers who do not know each other yet both dress consistently in an inappropriate way. One rarely showed up for school events for her child like concerts, bake sales or PTA meetings. These were things she was not interested in doing. However when she was out and about doing her errands or meeting friends for lunch, often she would walk or drive by the school. Her blouses were never buttoned all the way up and many times the material of them would be sheer. During the warmer months her standard form of dress would be a pair of shorts that barely extended down her thighs. It was not surprising to see the students in the playground stopping their games to gawk at this adult who dressed in such a young way, at least through their eyes. Her child was constantly being embarrassed by all of it. THE other mother was the opposite when it came to her child’s school functions. She volunteered for every activity whether it was chaperoning a field trip to a museum or helping in a food drive for charity. Her clothing never fit properly across her large girth. Go-go boots with high heels and hot pants was one of her standard outfits. Where the first mother had very little interaction with any students, including her child’s friends; this mother treated everyone in the student body as her best friend. The other parents would react with a mixture of envy, jealousy and disgust. On the one hand there were parents who wished their own kids would react to them like they did to her. She was considered a fun parent; animated with the use of her hands to talk besides exaggerated facial expressions, her makeup was always heavy and thick which only accentuated the different looks she could make with her face. Many times her child would sit there in embarrassment. From extreme to extreme this film festival winning movie takes you into the world of another type of mother. WHEN she found out her mentally challenged son Yoon Do-joon, played by Bin Won (The Man from Nowhere, Guns & Talk), was arrested for murder; this mother, played by Hye-ja Kim (How to Steal a Dog, Mayonnaise), was determined to find out the truth for herself, not what the police had decided. This crime mystery also starring Ku Jin (The Admiral, A Dirty Carnival) as Jin-tae and Je-mun Yun (The Good The Bad The Weird, The Host) as Je-moon was written and directed by Joon-ho Bong (Snowpiercer, The Host). I found the dramatic story alluring as it drew me into it. The actress who portrayed the mother did an excellent job of acting; I could feel her pain and emotions. The idea for the story was excellent since it immediately introduced this sympathetic character who was charged with a heinous crime. There were however a couple of characters who came off cartoonish which rang false for me, but I did wonder if this was due to a cultural difference in perceptions. I was taken aback by the twists in this DVD; what an interesting series of events. They say never mess around with a protective Mama Bear (mother) and this film proves that right. The Korean language was spoken with English subtitles.
3 stars — DVD
“Use it or lose it” is one of my favorite things to say to people. In my fitness classes the members have been listening to me say this for years. If we stop working on ourselves how will we continue to move and grow, both physically and mentally? From my experiences I know some individuals have an easier time training their body instead of their mind and visa versa. I actually find it is easier to train my body, which is why I work extra hard on using my mind. To me the mind is like any other muscle in the body and it needs to be stimulated so it can continue to thrive and expand. Without going into too much detail my mind was tested at a very young age; you could say trial by fire. Growing up and being overweight, I heard the “F” word a lot to describe my size. I do not remember when it actually started to work but there came a point where I stopped listening to the taunts. Yes, I still would hear it but my mind would not register it. This explains why today I am skilled in being able to shut out different noises and sounds. Where a co-worker may get distracted with an annoying repetitive sound coming out from the warehouse, my mind only hears white noise, if even that. This ability is not limited to just sounds; if the mind is strong enough it can shield a person from certain parts of reality. It has served me well. I see I am not the only one now that I have seen this dramatic movie. WHEN his partner was found dead Detective Galban, played by Keanu Reeves (John Wick, The Matrix franchise), was determined to find the killer. With the trail of clues not adding up and no one claiming to have seen anything, Detective Galban was positive there had to be someone out in the city who could provide him with the answers. This film which also had Mira Sorvino (The Replacement Killers, Mimic) as Janine Cullen and Ana de Armas (Sex, Party and Lies; The Boarding School-TV) as Isabel de la Cruz had a film noir flavor to it at first. I thought Ana was a compelling actress and found her role the most interesting. In a short amount of time the story broke down and became a jumble of sub-stories. From its film noir look it started to become a surreal fantasy type of story before trying to be more like a true detective story. I kept waiting for something to happen as the script randomly offered these little pieces of information that were not tying up the scenes; I started to wonder what was the point the writers were trying to convey to the viewers. Also, I have to say Keanu was more stiff than usual in this role. One could blame it all on the editing, the writing, the direction or all of the above; it does not matter. As I type the last word to my review I will forget about this discombobulated piece of work.
1 2/3 stars
The word “determination” not only has assertive connotations associated with it, it even sounds strong. The dictionary defines determination as a quality that makes you continue trying to do or achieve something that is difficult. Just last night after coming home from shopping at a couple of retail establishments I discovered my charge card was missing. I mentally retraced my steps from the stores, to the car, to home, to sweeping the sidewalks of fallen leaves, to entering the house and hanging up my coat. When I later went back to my coat to retrieve the charge card, I checked all the pockets even though I was sure I had put it in the outside pocket of my sleeve which I had already found open and empty. Taking a flashlight I went outside and started to scan the sidewalks, only to find no trace. The pile of leaves that I swept into the street was approximately 7 feet wide by 2 1/2 feet high. Everyone sweeps their leaves into the street where the city comes and picks them up. In the dark, in the cold I started to investigate the mound of dead leaves as I slowly followed the flashlight’s beam of light. Carefully moving leaves aside as if I was an archaeologist, I intently looked for any sign of my card. After 30 minutes freezing in the cold with an aching back from stooping over, my eyes caught the sight of a tiny sliver of blue color barely peeking out between two overlapping leaves. I could not believe I actually found my charge card within all those leaves; my determination paid off. Determination can be a powerful motivator as you can see in this mystery thriller. INVESTIGATING a crime scene partners Ray and Jess, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, The Martian) and Julia Roberts (Eat Pray Love, Closer), discovered the victim was Jess’ daughter. Ray would make it his mission to bring the killer to justice; it was the least he could do for Jess. This film was a remake of the Oscar winner from Argentina. The cast, including Nicole Kidman (Paddington, Before I Go to Sleep) as Claire, was pretty top-notch. Unfortunately they were totally wasted in this dreadful production. The story kept jumping back and forth in time to the point where it was annoying me. I never felt a connection to the characters simply because the script was so dull. Sure the actors did their best and I actually wanted to be interested in their characters; however, I disliked the minimum amount of time spent with them in each scene. The story dragged for me and I never quite understood what motivated Ray so much. In addition I thought the story line between Ray and Claire was unnecessary. If I was not determined to see and review so many movies I would have taken a pass on this one.
1 3/4 stars
Pride means you have a respect for yourself, a sense of happiness when you know you have done something good. There is another form of pride known as false pride. I find this version to be showy or more of a facade. The term “keep up appearances” comes to mind. Some years ago I taught aerobics in a small aerobic studio. The space had this old dark carpeting for the fitness floor and I had to stand on a makeshift wooden stage that was no more than 6 feet wide. We were situated above a clothing store on a busy commercial street. It was my job to be welcoming and upbeat even if there was no hot water or air conditioning. I could deal with stuff like that; however, I had a hard time working for someone who claimed to be a fitness professional but would use illegal drugs in their office. It was such a contradiction; all of the profits were going to their drug habit. I needed the job so I kept quiet, only coming in to teach my classes then leave quickly. After a while the situation began to weigh me further down; it was hard to put on this false front of a gung-ho, cheerful instructor knowing that there may not be enough money to cover my paycheck. Luckily I was able to find another job and resigned from the place. At least I was able to do it, but what about those individuals who have no choice? THERE are no murderers in paradise; at least that was what people were led to believe during the 1950s in the Soviet Union. But after Leo Demidov, played by Tom Hardy (Inception, Lawless), had to read the death notice to his close friend about his son; Leo knew something was not right. This dramatic thriller had a stellar class that really made this picture. Along with Tom there was Noomi Rapace (The Drop, Prometheus) as Raisa Demidov, Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight franchise, Harry Potter franchise) as General Mikhail Nesterov and Joel Kinnaman (Run All Night, RoboCop) as Vasili. This film had an oppressive darkness hanging down on it thanks to the cinematography and sets. I enjoyed all of this so much which makes me sad to say the script was the weak link. The story was ponderous with a few slow passages. As I sat through this movie I felt like there were all these cool puzzle pieces but they were not all fitting together. It seemed to me that there were too many story lines which made this film longer than it needed to be. All I can say is this film had a good front but once you got into it you realized it was not as good as it looked. Brief scenes of violence and blood.
2 1/4 stars
They were the perfect guests for dinner. Always on time, trustworthy and filled with noteworthy stories each time they appeared; many of us had the same nightly guests for supper. They were the newscasters who showed up every day at the dinner hour when our televisions were turned on. I am referring to those TV news anchors when I was growing up. Back then they were sometimes considered family members; they would explain current issues in a way that was unbiased and unfettered. There was no hidden agenda or slanted placement to the presentation of the stories. The same could be said about reporters for the newspapers. That was the beauty of the news during those times; one could get the same story whether it was done verbally or visually. I remember the newspapers being so much thicker than they are now, besides fewer ads then. There were some reporters who had their own weekly or daily columns where they would take a topic, cut it up and spoon feed it to us, the readers. I still hold on to those feelings I had years ago every time I hold a newspaper in my hands. However things are not the same; I do not have the same level of trust anymore. It seems to me the news is based now on getting ratings; the more sensational the story, the higher draw of viewers. In addition, with a majority of media outlets now owned by large corporations I get the feeling there is a hidden agenda to their actions. It is harder to figure out what is really true these days. BEING released from the New York Times due to a falsified story reporter Michael Finkel, played by Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Sitter), became an untouchable in the news world. Finding a job seemed like an impossible task until murder suspect Christian Longo, played by James Franco (The Interview, Palo Alto), was taken into custody claiming he was Michael Finkel. Based on actual events this dramatic mystery seemed to have all the elements for making a thrilling picture. I liked the cast which included Felicity Jones (The Invisible Woman, The Theory of Everything) as Jill Barker; however, I only found James to be the most believable. The script was overdone, plodding along to the point where I was bored through portions of the movie. It was too bad because I rather enjoyed the camera work with its variety of close-ups and uncluttered scenes. The beginning of the film was stronger; I kept losing interest as time went on. Though the story had an interesting base, I just could not get into it. I felt the same way about this film as I do about the news; I did not buy into everything I was being shown.
I did not learn about the concept of “having a conscience” until I saw a cartoon where an angel was sitting on the left shoulder and a devil on the right one of a talking duck. The two were whispering back and forth into the duck’s ear, telling the animal what it should do. I was confused though I laughed at the imagery appearing above them anytime they spoke. After asking many questions with a multitude of examples I started to understand what it meant to have a conscience. Throughout the years I have seen more than my share of individuals who must have listened to their conscience’s negative thoughts. I know I am not alone in this regard; simply watching the newscasts, one can see people from all over the world who act out from the darkness inside of them. Now do not get me wrong, I am certainly no angel and a few of my friends can tell you about times where my dark side took over. When a driver cuts me off you better believe I may imagine I’m ramming their car with mine or they run out of gas or maybe their car’s engine dies, forcing them to use the barrier wall to stop their vehicle. However, that is as far as it goes, it is a fantasy. I may hear my dark side telling me what to do but I never act on it. And that is the difference; what makes some people act out their dark side? RYAN Reynolds (Buried, Safe House) played Jerry, an affable factory worker who found himself attracted to coworker Fiona, played by Gemma Arterton (Unfinished Song, Quantum of Solace). However, Jerry’s talking pets kept telling him to kill her. This film festival winning crime thriller was a real dark comedy. I thought Ryan was excellent in this role, playing this kind and friendly fellow who had a dark side. The cast was so much fun, which also included Anna Kendrick (Into the Woods, Cake) as Lisa and Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom, Silver Linings Playbook) as Dr. Warren. Let me add the talking pets had some wicked fun lines. The set pieces really helped this comedy with Jerry working at a bathtub factory and living above a bowling alley. There were some scenes that seemed familiar to me as if I had already seen them in other movies and at one point I was not sure if the director was purposely trying to create some campiness or it was part of the script. Either way I was surprised I enjoyed this film despite the violence and bloodshed. I think you will remain with happy thoughts after viewing this film instead of listening to your dark side.
2 2/3 stars