THE HONEYMOON phase is a real thing in a burgeoning relationship. However it can be quite deceptive for the individuals. I have seen many couples during this period who were bubbly and giddy in love, freely participating in public displays of affection. To the outsider they appeared perfectly in synch and for all intents and purposes they might have been. But it is here where that deception comes into play. With the couple exploring their love connection they might begin to feel that they could be together forever…and they just might succeed. But when 2 people never go past this faze to their real daily world, any slight obstacle can trip them up with drastic consequences. They were so focused on the happy, joyful, loving experiences they never took the time to really learn about each other. Even if some individuals are conscious about the different phases to a relationship they may fear showing their faults or quirks to their partner in love. RELATIONSHIPS take work sometimes; it would be great if everything was simple and easy but most people are complicated. From my past experiences I have learned to express my feelings more and not hide my quirks so far in the future hopes. The reason being I need a person to love me for who I am, instead of them focusing on the good stuff and thinking the difficult things will disappear or worse yet that they can change them in me. Going into a relationship with the idea you can change someone is the quickest way to kill the relationship. I mentioned in an earlier review about being with someone who resented me teaching fitness at night, but there have been others who thought they could change me to suit their needs. I will say it helps if a person will talk about their needs instead of going into a relationship under the pretense the person they are in love with will figure it out. I may not be an expert in the relationship department but I do know a relationship needs communication and respect. Feel free to take a gander at this Oscar nominated romantic drama to see what I mean. DISSIMILAR backgrounds and beliefs were not a concern for Elise and Didier, played by Veerle Baetens (The Ardennes, Code 37-TV) and Johan Heldenbergh (The Zookeeper’s Wife, The Brand New Testament), when they first met. Their love of bluegrass music and physical attraction to each other was a good start to begin a relationship. They were setting themselves up for a fall when their lives took an unexpected turn. This film festival winning musical movie also starred Nell Cattrysse (Labyrinthus, Het Vonnis) as Maybelle and Geert Van Rampelberg (The Treatment, The Memory of a Killer) as William. I thought the acting was excellent because to me Didier and Elise came across as a real couple. The script surprised me and I will tell you why. Normally I am not a fan of a story jumping back and forth in time; but in this case, it worked to break up the intensity of the situation with the musical numbers and home life scenes. There was honesty in the script, where I felt myself getting drawn into the lives of these people. As I stated earlier relationships are not always easy. Flemish and Dutch were spoken with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars – DVD
A life without music is a life less rich. At least that is how I feel about music. The famous line from William Congreve’s play “The Mourning Bride” goes, “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast.” It is usually misquoted as a savage beast; either way I agree with its meaning 100%. However I feel music offers us so much more. As the world appears to be more divided currently, music is the one common element that goes past all boundaries. In my opinion music is a universal language that can establish common ground between individuals. One place where I often see this taking place is at a wedding. You have two distinct families with nothing in common except one of their family members is in love with someone from the other side. There could be differences in race, religion or culture but put on some music and people will come together on the dance floor, beginning the first step in making contact with the other side. ANOTHER benefit music offers us is comfort. How many of us have a “breakup song?” You know that one song that you played over and over because it was speaking to you at the time of your separation from the person you loved. Sure it may cause a tear to spill over your eyelid, but it started the path for your heart to heal. I remember whenever I was sad I would sit at the piano and play my favorite music pieces over and over. By the time I walked away I felt some of the heaviness on my heart had been lifted. Music has to be playing whenever I am in the car or when I have to clean the house. I can better tolerate housekeeping when there is a steady beat playing in the background. If I did not have music playing during my commute I would walk into the office frustrated and angry. Maybe it would be different if I had the mad driving skills like the driver in this action crime movie. SURVIVING a car crash as a young boy Baby, played by Ansel Elgort (Divergent franchise, The Fault in our Stars), may have been influenced by it because he became a fearless getaway driver for crime boss Doc, played by Kevin Spacey (Elvis & Nixon, House of Cards-TV). The only problem was he was not allowed to do anything else. With Jon Hamm (Keeping up with the Jones, Mad Men-TV) as Buddy, Lily James (Cinderella, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Debora and Jon Bernthal (The Ghost Writer, The Wolf of Wall Street) as Griff; this film had a banging hard rock soundtrack. The characters and action were all put into synch with the driving beat. I could not recall seeing in a movie such precision between the two. The driving scenes were intensely thrilling; some of the scenes must be seen to be believed. Ansel was amazing in this picture; I felt it was a breakout role for him. Shifting into a lower gear (I could not resist), there was little explanation about the different relationships between characters. I did not understand Baby’s connection to his friend for example. One other thing for me was the change from such high speed action scenes to lesser ones; it made for some odd pacing. The final diagnostics for this music driven movie is it fires on most cylinders.
THE man standing up on the stage was of a large stature, making the stage look less immense. Queried by the judges he politely answered their questions. There was a hint of nervousness in his voice. One of the judges asked him to begin his audition. A song began to play with a solid beat and the man began to dance to it. The television camera cut back to the judges who all were sitting in a row, each one with a look of disbelief on their faces. The big man shocked all of them with his dancing that was part cheerleader moves, part dance and part pole dancing; all were being done exactly to the beat. To finish off his performance he did a twirl with a leap into the air, coming down into a full leg split with one leg stretched all the way in front of him and the other in the opposite direction behind him. The audience erupted with applause as well as the judges who were still in a bit of shock. Because of the man’s size the judges as well as the audience assumed dancing would have been the last thing the contestant would have performed. I have come across similar scenarios in my fitness classes. A person would walk in and look like they would rather be at the dentist’s office getting a tooth drilled than being in an exercise class; however, once I started the class the person would get into it in an intense way. Years ago I taught an aerobics class that was made up of a mixture of strength and dance moves. First I have to tell you I took one look at this one man and thought he would hate the class, figuring his wife standing next to him had forced him to come with her. He was over 6 feet tall and stocky. Talk about shock for both of us; I was stunned he stayed for the whole class and he was amazed how tough of a workout it was to keep up. It goes to show you one can never assume something based on a person’s appearance. It is a lesson well learned since I was surprised with what I discovered in this biographical music drama. FROM a young age Afeni Shakur, played by Danai Gurira (The Visitor, Mother of George), taught her son that words were more important than a basketball. Based on true events this film went through the life and death of actor/rapper Tupac Shakur, played by relative newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr. Normally I am not a big fan of a story jumping back and forth in time; however, the way the script was written made this a non-issue for me. Starring Hill Harper (Concussion, CSI: New York-TV) as the interviewer, Kat Graham (17 Again, The Vampire Diaries-TV) as Jada Pinkett and Dominic L. Santana (Love for Sale, Dead Heist) as Suge Knight; I thought the acting was excellent. There was not a time I did not think I was watching Tupac. Since I am not too familiar with his work I found this movie enlightening. If one already is familiar with Tupac this film may only be repeating known facts. I will say I wished the script had given more personal background about Afeni and Tupac. Now get this, as people were leaving at the end there was a tap on my shoulder. A man stopped to ask me what I thought about Tupac. I said I had no idea where he came from or who he was, but was now impressed with what he accomplished in his short life.
2 3/4 stars
Do you think food tastes any better coming out of a refrigerator costing $2000.00 as opposed to one costing $500.00? Unless the owner of the expensive refrigerator is a gourmet cook and the other owner cannot even boil water, I do not think so. I never understood this mentality about the more something cost the better it should be. Do you remember a television show that filmed the inside of celebrity houses? Now I can appreciate the “finer things in life” such as artwork or custom made furniture, but some places were just outrageous. Usually those places matched the owners who managed to always be in the news, even if it meant they had to be involved in some ridiculous incident. I do not know about you but I have noticed it is always the same celebrities getting in the news and usually not for a philanthropic or generous act. Personally I find it offensive but I understand their need for publicity, both good and bad. There used to be a time where celebrities maintained some form of discretion. When I think of the old Hollywood actors I do not recall most of them being associated with a scandal. Granted the internet and reality TV has altered the playing field; but seriously, how many of us really care to hear the stuff that is out there these days? From shaved heads to addictions to cheating to posing without clothes; it seems like some celebrities’ stunts become the thing they are known for as they get more popular and overshadow their original body of work. SKYROCKETING in popularity Conner, played by Andy Samberg (That’s my Boy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine-TV), decided to leave his boy band and go solo. He would soon discover popularity has a ferocious appetite. This musical comedy mockumentary also starred Sarah Silverman (I Smile Back, Take This Waltz) as Paula and Tim Meadows (Mean Girls, The Ladies Man) as Harry. The story started out slow for me, where I felt the script was just an expanded version of a Saturday Night Live skit. It was logical since Andy and the writers here were responsible for his digital short films on the show. However, as the story continued it occurred to me the writing trio were creating a satirical social commentary about celebrity fame. There were several biting cuts and loony ideas expressed in this film. I enjoyed the multitude of celebrity cameo appearances that went on throughout the entire movie; I think Andy must know almost everyone in Hollywood. The key to watching this picture is not to take it too seriously. I continued to find parts of the script that did not work for me; but, considering what I have seen and heard these days, the things that did work were sharp. Even the musical numbers were trippy though there was strong language used at times. In a way this movie told a familiar story except it was updated for current times. I recall seeing Andy doing the talk show circuit to promote this film. It may not have been enough to make this film popular at the box office; I just hope he doesn’t start to do some goofy stunts to help gain notoriety for this movie.
2 2/3 stars
The foliage was dense causing the shade to be as thick as morning fog. My face and arms were getting scratched up from the thorny branches and sturdy vines as I tried to outrun whatever was pursuing me. I was freaked out hearing my heart beating in my ears. There were tiny pinholes of light striking the ground like lasers; if I happened to run through one of them I felt a pinch of heat on the top of my head. I saw the gaping hole too late and fell into it. Tumbling down its craggy wall, my clothing was taking a beating while trying to protect my skin. Complete darkness was rushing up to me as I heard one single growl and then I woke up. I had no idea where that dream came from; it made no sense to me. I refer to these as unconscious dreams; sometimes they make sense, sometimes not. The other kinds are conscious ones where a person imagines themselves in a different place, environment or time period. Though each I feel are important, the conscious ones can be strong motivators for a person. I remember growing up I would imagine myself living in a single family home that had a screened in porch and a short fence around the property. For years I would dream about the life I wanted to have when I was an adult. Interestingly I recently saw parts of a television reality show’s finale where they were interviewing the top players and I found it fascinating to hear some of the contestant’s responses. More than not they would say they had been dreaming about doing what they were doing for years; it was their dream coming true now. LOOKING around and seeing what his life could become Cosmo, played by newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, had bigger dreams. Written and directed by John Carney (Once, Begin Again), this film festival nominee shared a similar type of vibe with his other films. Set in Dublin Ireland during the 1980s I liked the look of this picture. With Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones-TV, Blitz) as Robert and Maria Doyle Kennedy (Albert Nobbs, Jupiter Ascending) as Penny making up part of the cast I thought the acting was well done. What sold me on this film was the music. I enjoyed the way the songs played a part in the telling of the story. In some aspects I felt this movie was a younger version of John Carney’s Once film. I almost want to say it was a bit predictable, but maybe it would be better to say I found myself relating to certain parts of the script. Now there were a couple of times my mind started to drift but overall I found myself staying interested in what was going on; plus the 80’s pop songs were entertaining. There was enough taking place in this film to allow a majority of viewers to sit and dream about themselves.
Addiction is defined as an unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something. When I hear the word addicted or addiction I immediately think of something harmful like drugs or alcohol. It would never occur to me to think of something that could be detrimental to a person. However, if I think about the above definition what would you say about a person who grew up only wanting to do one activity; let us say running or shopping. Now I knew someone who would get at least one package every day delivered to their house for things they would purchase online; can you imagine? There was one room of the house that you could barely see the walls because the boxes were stacked so high. Would you say this person was addicted to shopping? My answer would be yes. Maybe I am not the one to talk about this since some of my friends think I am addicted to movie watching; like that is a bad thing if it were true? But seriously, I wonder what takes place in an individual to sway them to a particular activity if they already have a predisposition to addiction. I do not know why but after seeing this movie I started thinking about different activities and you know, there are so many ways you can consider them being an addiction. If I remember correctly there was a news report about a person who was addicted to plastic surgery. They had gone through at least a dozen different procedures for different parts of their body and face. I cannot fathom it let alone what the cost must have been. It is a curious subject that plays out in this movie. THIS film festival nominated drama was about jazz musician Chet Baker, played by Ethan Hawke (Training Day, Good Kill). Also starring Carmen Ejogo (Selma, Pride and Glory) as Jane/Elaine and Callum Keith Rennie (The Butterfly Effect, Fifty Shades of Grey) as Dick, I thought the acting was quite good. I had no idea Ethan could sing or play the trumpet; but if not him, he certainly was convincing to me. Set in the 1960s this film had a real retro look for the era and I admired the way it was filmed. The script moved back and forth between different years of Chet’s life; since I am not familiar with him, I did not mind the switches. Also, I enjoyed listening to the soundtrack besides witnessing his place in music history. Due to the coincidence of this being my 2nd musical film this week, there is a tendency to compare the two. I have to say both films had excellent acting, but I felt more engaged to this film. Hopefully I am not biased because I am more familiar with jazz music then country. I think this story was more authentic and had a film style that better matched the music genre. You may not get addicted to the story or music but there was enough here to keep you interested about his life.
With the right side of my brain reigning over the left one I have always gravitated to creative achievements. I guess you could say I hold them at a higher status then other accomplishments one does in their life. It has always fascinated me how people express themselves in a creative way, whatever the medium or method may be. One year I bought a ticket package to a dance series, from ballet to modern. To see not only the dancers moving to the music but to watch how the choreography was created to blend with the sounds was amazing to me. Regarding the dancers, I knew what type of dedication they had to have to manage such control over their bodies. Just from what I have experienced by teaching aerobics I know I only covered a sliver of the energy that dancers produce in their craft. The same can be said for any of the artists who have their work on display somewhere. Some of the graffiti I have seen on walls has been wild; in fact, there was a town I visited where they encouraged graffiti artists to create work on the back of buildings in a block long alley. It really was an amazing spectacle. From my own experiences I know creative outlets can be the exit ramps for our emotions to come out from being buried inside of us. Whether it is doing origami or gardening to song writing or pottery making; anything that gives us a vehicle to express ourselves is a positive attribute in my opinion. WITH only a pen and a guitar country western singer Hank Williams, played by Tom Hiddleston (Thor franchise, Crimson Peak), was able to create songs that told real stories. I have had no exposure to Hank’s music so I was curious about this biographical drama. Another thing I wanted to see was how this British actor would handle a southern American accent in his speech and with his singing voice; I knew the film studio wanted him to sing Hank’s songs. I have to tell you he was excellent in the role along with Elizabeth Olsen (Godzilla, Oldboy) as his wife Audrey. The strongest part to this music movie was the acting; even the supporting cast of Cherry Jones (The Village, The Perfect Storm) as Lillie Williams and Bradley Whitford (Saving Mr. Banks, The West Wing-TV) as Fred Rose was quite good. The biggest issue I had concerned the script. I felt I never understood what drove these characters. There were parts of the picture that ran slow which produced unevenness to the story telling. Actually I thought if the writers would have devoted more back story to the songs I would have enjoyed this film more; even exploring the mother/son relationship would have helped me stay more attuned to what was going on up on screen. There is no denying Hank Williams was a gifted and creative artist; I only had wished his story would have been conveyed in a more creative movie.
2 ½ stars
The majority of the people who asked me if I was paying attention never knew how much attention I was actually devoting to them. I was probably studying their face as they were speaking to me. Looking at the shape of their ears, studying the color of their eyes, listening to the sound of their speech, checking their teeth for any errant food particles, noticing any unusual smells wafting off of them; I was trying to expand and fine-tune my senses. Our five senses, some say six, is something I never took for granted. I thought everyone practiced exercising their senses; it never occurred to me that someone would not be doing it. Growing up I thought the more I used my hearing the farther and clearer it would be able to hear sounds. The idea of hearing a colony of ants on the sidewalk as they systematically moved particles of sand fascinated me to no end; I thought with practice one day I would hear them. Little did I know in the adult world hearing or should I say listening would almost be a lost art form. I have encountered so many people who do not hear what a person is telling them. The same can be said about seeing; haven’t you ever walked down the street with a friend and at some point asked them if they saw that stranger standing at the store window or say bus stop? They did not see anyone and have no idea what you are talking about. I have had this happen to me more times than I can count. There is so much going around us in our daily lives that I cannot imagine not being able to experience even a little of it each day. If you are not totally convinced maybe this beautiful drama will help you. TEN year old Mui, played by relative newcomer Man San Lu, was sent to live with a family who had experienced a tragic loss, to become their servant. Nothing was taken for granted in this household. This film festival winner and Oscar nominated movie had a gentle, quiet story. I say quiet because scenes focused on some of the simplest things but were able to produce exquisite results. With a beautiful music score I thought the script was well done and the actors such as Tran Nu Yenkhe (The Vertical Ray of the Sun, Cyclo) as the adult Mui and relative newcomer Thi Loc Truong as La mere were all totally believable. I enjoyed the way the story moved forward; things were subtly introduced instead of being too overt. In some ways I felt this produced calmness to the story even when there was an issue brewing underneath the surface. In addition, the use of dialog was kept to a minimum. This was the type of picture one could easily sit down to watch and absorb the action with one’s senses. Vietnamese was spoken with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
It should not matter what other people think about the things that bring you joy. This seems like such a basic concept; you cherish desserts but your good friend does not or your significant other loves to go camping but you are not fond of it. For those individuals who shall we say have a stronger constitution, someone else’s thoughts and tastes have no bearing on their enjoyment. I knew this person who loved to dance; whenever the opportunity presented itself, they were the first one to get up and start dancing. They had a poor sense of rhythm but either they were not aware or just did not care. It did not stop some people from making comments or teasing remarks. Now some individuals who were not as sure of themselves as this dancer would probably stop dancing in public. For others they would ignore the remarks and comments, not stopping for anyone. I am aware this is not always an easy thing to do. When I first starting teaching fitness, I was a nervous wreck every time I walked into a class. Yelling in my mind were these voices that told me I was too big, not flexible or good enough; I was a fraud who was just pretending to be an instructor. There were so many other instructors who looked and acted the part with their snug fitting outfits that were color coordinated. I wore baggy basketball shorts, a loose T-shirt that had either a state logo or landmark and a baseball cap. It took me a long time to acquire the confidence to believe I was doing something good. Because of this I was able to understand what the main character was feeling in this musical adventure. NOT until a video of her singing was uploaded to the internet did Jerrica, played by Aubrey Peeples (Rage, Nashville-TV), begin to believe in herself. Along with her sisters they would become overnight sensations; but would it be too much for them to handle? I do not know where to begin because I was void of any feelings by the end of this dramatic fantasy film. If I can explain, the entire script sounded like an example that would be used for a screenwriter’s 101 class; it was cliched, predictable and sappy. I was not familiar with the 1980s cartoon series this movie was based on, but the robot story line seemed like a totally different movie from the singing one. Even Molly Ringwald (Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles) playing Aunt Bailey left me perplexed since she came across as a flat one dimensional character. The only worthwhile scenes were the ones that had singing in them. This was such an odd film; notice I did not even list any other actors because their acting was so sad. If any of them look back at this they might want to change careers. There was an extra scene in the beginning of the ending credits.
1 1/2 stars
The sentences that were being verbalized to us were losing some of their words on the way to me. It was as if their voice had been heard enough to transform into a blur of white noise, causing my eyelids to become heavy as they wanted to slowly come down like a drawbridge. The lecture was only halfway completed and I did not know how I would survive the rest. My head was starting to look like it was on an old weak spring as it would droop down periodically. I pretended there was something in my eyes so I could fake rubbing them, giving me a few extra seconds of shut eye. The individual leading the training seemed to know what they were talking about; however, their delivery was turning the participants into mindless drones, only coming back to life if a direct question prodded them back to the present time. I am sure many of us have experienced a similar situation during a training, lecture or workshop; the facilitator pretty much is going on automatic since they have done it for so long. And it does not matter whether it is done in person or via a webinar; they follow the same script, the same pre-planned ice breakers and the same jokes. To me the delivery is so important in making the event a success. If you cannot keep the participants engaged and interested in what is being said, then the session becomes a waste of time for a majority of the them; similar to what took place in the movie theater as we watched this musical comedy. LITTLE did rock manager Richie Lanz, played by Bill Murray (Aloha, Lost in Translation), know his trip to Afghanistan would lead him to the beautiful singing voice of Salima, played by Leem Lubany (From A to B, Omar). Unfortunately it was coming out of a female in a country that frowned on women singing. With a cast that also included Kate Hudson (Wish I was Here, Almost Famous) as Merci and Bruce Willis (Die Hard franchise, Looper) as Bombay Brian; I could only sit and wonder if they realized they were stuck in such a poor product. This movie provided nothing new or exciting for me. I still cannot get over the fact it was directed by Barry Levinson (Liberty Heights, Wag the Dog), a director I have respected for a long time. The script made no sense to me; for example, what was the point of including Bruce Willis’ character into the story? Bill Murray was utterly dreadful; he brought absolutely nothing different to his character, having done this type of role over and over previously. I was bored through the majority of this film except during a couple of songs. When the picture was over I felt as if I had been slipped a tranquilizer or what some people call a roofie.
1 1/2 stars