ARSENIC was what killed the husband. It did not happen overnight; according to the news reports his wife mixed a small amount of the chemical into his food every day. In my naivety I wondered why she just did not divorce him, but a friend quickly informed me it probably involved money. Since money has never played a major factor in deciding my relationship decisions, when I have been with someone where we have shared expenses, all I can think of if the relationship sours is to get out with the least amount of drama. Most possessions are just stuff we have accumulated; how much does a person really need? Recently I met someone who was actively seeking a relationship by using a dating service. On the occupation section of the application they told me they only would list the field they work in without giving the job title. When I asked why they told me there were several potential dates that made contact even though there were no similar interests in the profiles. I listened as they explained when they listed their occupation there were more responses; but they soon discovered after a couple of meetings, the dates were interested more in salary levels then learning about their personal history. WHEN you first meet a couple that has a large age gap between them, what is the first thing you think about them? If you are like the others I have asked, your first thoughts could be leaning towards the idea of a gold-digger, a cougar or a scam artist. We had a family friend who was a widower for many years. Later in life he met a woman who was a widow. After a sweet courtship they married and settled into a calm domestic life. A few years went by before our friend died. Now there was no proof, no autopsy (at that age most doctors just say it is due to old age) and little time before his new widow moved away. It turns out our family friend was her 6th husband; all her previous ones had died a similar way. CONVINCED his guardian’s death was suspicious Philip, played by Sam Claflin (Me Before You, The Hunger Games franchise), believed his guardian’s widow Rachael Ashley, played by Rachel Weisz (Denial, The Light Between Oceans), was behind it. Based on Daphne Du Maurier’s (Rebecca, Frenchman’s Creek) novel, this dramatic romantic mystery simmered and sizzled with the chemistry created between Rachel and Sam. The two of them did a wonderful job of acting that outshone the supporting cast which included Holliday Grainger (Jane Eyre, The Finest Hours) as Louis Kendall and Iain Glen (Resident Evil franchise, Game of Thrones-TV) as Nick Kendall. Visually this picture had some interesting contrasts. Interior shots had darkness to them either with atmosphere or costumes. Where outdoor scenes had a vivid or striking look to them, I particularly was fascinated with Rachel’s clothing against her white horse. On the down side the script was the weak link in this film. I felt it had too many dull parts between the good sections. This added to the slowness I felt during parts of the story. If the acting had not been so good, this film would have died a slow death.
2 ½ stars
HEARTBREAKING was all I could think about as I listened to the news reporter. I do not remember all the details since it happened some time ago, but I vividly retain the feelings I had back then while seeing a picture of the family car before tragedy struck. The mom and dad were driving in the car with their children when they got caught in a flash flood due to the heavy storms experienced in their area. As the car started to float off the road and head towards the river, the parents were trying to gather up the kids to get them out. Here is where my memory is a little fuzzy; the car was starting to sink and the father found himself in one of the worst scenarios possible. Two kids still remained in the car as more of it was sinking below the surface. He had to dive underwater and work at releasing the children from their car seats, I believe. Frantically he had to return to the surface for air and swim back down to the vehicle. Unfortunately he was only able to save one of the 2 kids. I cannot imagine the feelings of guilt the dad must have suffered; it had to be a life altering experience that would not be easy to reconcile. THERE are many times where one has to make a decision that will not bring the best outcome. I have made many decisions that if I could do all over again, I would have chosen a different path. What is that saying people use in these types of situations, hindsight is 20/20? The phrase I tend to use is, “If I knew then what I know now…” Maybe there is some truth to that saying about, “with age comes wisdom.” No matter how old the father was in this horror mystery movie, I do not think any of his decisions were easy. WITH unknown terrors lurking out their door a father, mother and their son seal themselves up inside of their house. Their daily routine would be disrupted when there was a pounding at their door. Starring Joel Edgerton (Loving, The Gift) as Paul, Carmen Ejogo (Selma, Alien: Covenant) as Sarah, Kelvin Harrison Jr. (The Birth of a Nation, Mudbound) as Travis, Christopher Abbott (A Most Violent Year, Martha Marcy May Marlene) as Will and Riley Keough (The Runaways, American Honey) as Kim; this story was more of a psychological thriller to me. The viewers never really saw the terror that was being afflicted across the land. I thought the script started off well enough in building up the tension, assisted with the able acting from the cast. Visually this film had a natural darkness to it, literally and figuratively; things were kept simple from the dialog to the sets. One could really get a feel for what this family was experiencing. My issue with the script came in the latter part of the movie; I felt confused on where the writer was taking the story. By the end of the film I still had some questions I wish would have been answered; in fact, I would not be surprised if some viewers were left feeling dissatisfied. This picture presented some tough choices for the characters and in turn, could present the viewer with their own dilemma if they were in a similar situation.
2 ½ stars
THERE was something white and fluttering at my windshield as I walked back to my car. I was hoping it wasn’t an injured bird that had flown into the glass. As I came up from behind I saw it was a sheet of paper that someone had slipped underneath the windshield wiper. My first thought was it had to be some type of advertisement. Wow was I ever wrong when I removed the paper from the wiper and saw what was written on it. Someone had left me a note with their phone number, explaining how their car door flew open from the wind and nicked my car door. I took a look and there was a white mark on my car where the edge of their door chipped the paint. I could not get over someone was kind enough to let me know what happened, since I have never been notified before of all the mysterious nicks and dents my car has received in parking lots all these years. Reading the phone number, I called the person to thank them and refuse their offer of compensation; I kept a bottle of touchup paint for such occurrences. SOME years ago I remember sitting in my car in a parking lot and hearing a loud bang. The parked car next to me had been nudged by a person pulling out of a space across the way. I got out of my car to examine the damage and saw that car’s fender was pushed in. The driver of the car that backed up was starting to drive away. Running up to the driver side window I waved at them to stop, which I was surprised they did to tell you the truth. The person rolled down their window and I told them they dented the fender of the parked car. When they tried to tell me they did not do it I explained I was sitting in the car right next to it and saw the whole thing. From that short delay of time, it was just enough for the driver of the dented car to come out of the grocery store. I explained what happened and gave them my phone number before driving off to leave the two of them to figure it out. It was the right thing to do. ONCE the video of the horrific prank was downloaded to a social media site brothers Stan and Paul Lohman, played by Richard Gere (Norman, Days of Heaven) and Steve Coogan (Philomena, The Trip to Italy), met with their wives for dinner to discuss what they should do next. This film festival nominee had an important theme and message here. However, the script was such a mess I lost interest in this movie pretty quick. I am not a fan of jumping back and forth to pick up fragments of a story to create a complete piece and this dramatic mystery was doing it until nearly the end. Speaking of the end, it was not until this picture was nearly over that I started to care about the story. The acting was excellent, including Laura Linney (Sully, Mr. Holmes) as Claire and Rebecca Hall (The Gift, The Prestige) as Katelyn, for what they had to work with but it was not enough for me. I consider this review an act of kindness in warning you about this film.
1 2/3 stars
DEATH for some people is not always a permanent state. These individuals maintain their bond to the deceased, though it is not necessarily reciprocal. They may talk to their loved one every day, bringing them up on current events or asking advice on an upcoming decision. I had a relative who went to see her mother every single day, having on hand her mother’s favorite coffee and sweet roll. She would park on the side of the road and walk over to a congested area of headstones. With her folding stool, thermos and the plastic bag that carried the sweet roll and napkins; she would sit by the side of her mother’s grave and pour each of them a cup of coffee. Setting the cup down on the headstone, she let her mother know she brought her favorite sweet roll; she placed the item on a small paper plate to then join the perched cup of coffee. This ritual took place every day and after she had spent an hour or two, she would drink up the coffee from her mother’s cup and ask her if she was done with her sweet roll. She would tear the sweet roll into pieces and once she was outside of the cemetery would scatter the pieces by a tree for the birds. I am a firm believer whatever means a person needs to do to deal with death is fine with me; I do not judge or question. Everyone deals with death in their own way. Also, I feel anything is possible. Recently a friend of mine had died after a year long illness. After notifications went out to family and friends, a few days later out of the blue my friend’s cell phone rang with an unknown phone number. There was no one on the line when the call was answered. You want to talk about an eerie moment? Well someone close to the deceased who is in mourning could see the call as a sign. I could easily understand their thought process with this incident. If you choose to watch this mystery thriller, be prepared to experience something unearthly. Or is it really? WORKING as a personal shopper Maureen Cartwright, played by Kristen Stewart (Certain Women, The Twilight Saga franchise), was convinced her deceased brother was trying to contact her. This film festival winning drama also starred Lars Eidinger (Everyone Else, Clouds of Sils Maria) as Ingo, Sigrid Bouaziz (Portrait of the Artist, The Tunnel-TV) as Lara and Anders Danielsen Lie (Reprise, Herman) as Erwin. I have not always been a fan of Kristen Stewart, but I have to say this was one of her best roles. She pretty much carries the interesting story. Watching this movie was like riding an amusement park’s roller coaster; not the big major ones, but the ones that give you a thrill but do not let your stomach move up into your throat. At first I was not getting settled into the story since the script kept things somewhat sparse. But then layer by layer I found myself drawn into the surreal story. I enjoyed the directing in this picture; but at times the script became muddled and fell apart. The concept of the story interested me overall, because as I said you just never know.
2 ½ stars
FOR general purposes let me define “karma” this way: The things you do in this life determine how you will be treated in your next one. I would have to spend more time to contemplate how I came to believe in karma since it was not part of my childhood religious upbringing. As a child I know the concept of karma would have been foreign to me. It was in college where I first was introduced to it. Though it was looked at from an educational perspective, as time went on I began to see where certain people would receive comfort from the philosophy behind it. Removing the religious aspect; when I think about karma, it makes me stop to question some of my actions. I cannot change what I have done in the past but in the present I do find value in being aware of karma. A perfect example would be a friend of mine. Recently coming to a place where they now believe in karma, I have noticed a change in their behavior. From a greedy position I can now see how they are more relaxed in their daily life and the need they had before has abated, replaced with almost a serene attitude. AN area of my life where my awareness of karma has affected me is my interactions with difficult people. I know this may sound trivial to some; but in the past I would match a difficult person’s nastiness, loudness and orneriness inch for inch. If they were yelling I would yell back; if they called me names I would throw it right back at them. Having altered my attitude I get angry much less because in my mind I am thinking this difficult person is going to have a hard time in their next life. I wonder if that is how the saying, “What goes around, comes around,” came into existence. It is a lesson some of the teenagers in this dramatic mystery could have learned. STUCK reliving the last day of her life Samantha Kingston, played by Zoey Deutch (Vampire Academy, Why Him?), begins to see herself in a different light. With fellow cast members Halston Sage (Paper Towns, Neighbors) as Lindsay Edgecomb, Logan Miller (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, I’m in the Band-TV) as Kent McFuller and Elena Kampouris (Labor Day, My Big Fat Greek Wedding franchise) as Juliet Sykes; this young adult story started out with an interesting concept. The acting was decent since some of the characters’ actions were making me uncomfortable. To address the elephant in the room, the idea for this story was similar to the one in the film Groundhog Day, where a character relives their life over and over. For some reason I never totally connected to the characters. I would have appreciated more insight into each person; instead, I felt myself reacting to the nastiness. It reminded me of what I saw during my high school days, which I prefer leaving in the past. However, I did like the story arc of one main character and that is what kept me somewhat interested in this picture. My guess is this movie would draw similar aged viewers since that was the makeup of the audience at my viewing. After the film was over I had a feeling that me sitting through this mystery movie meant I would not have to do this again in my next life.
2 ¼ stars
YOU can plan, contemplate and imagine every scenario but it will not make a difference. The first time you meet the parents of your significant other is a stressful experience. One wants to be at their best; perfectly dressed and groomed, remembering any stories you heard about them; in a way it is not so far removed from a job interview in my opinion. As to location I guess there are pluses and minuses to meeting the parents, either on your home turf or their surroundings. Personally I have experienced both ways and I prefer hosting parents instead of being their guest for the first meeting. At least for me when I do not have to focus on my surroundings I can be more attentive to the parents’ needs. When I have to travel to visit the parents I have to take into account my eating restrictions, my privacy and remembering my place as a guest. This takes a lot of energy to do, at least for me. On the plus side I can decide to leave which I could not do if the parents were visiting us. There is nothing worse than realizing early on you are not connecting with the parents for whatever reason but you still have to remain civil and pretend like everything is okay. They say when you marry the person you love you are also marrying their family. FROM a causal meal together to a weekend away, I have experienced a variety of different ways to break the ice. I honestly cannot recall ever feeling calm about the experience. In one relationship I wound up meeting the parents over the internet when a mobile device was shoved into my hands and I was told to say hello to their parents. Talk about not being prepared, I had to try and calm my nerves while making small talk which was never my forte. So while I am communicating back and forth I sit and wonder if I am sounding like a babbling fool as I try to come up with conversation points; heaven forbid there should me a dreaded moment of silence. However I would rather experience this over and over compared to what the boyfriend in this suspense horror film had thrust upon him. CHRIS Washington, played by Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario, Kick-Ass 2), was already nervous meeting his girlfriend Rose’s, played by Allison Williams (Peter Pan Live-TV, Girls-TV), parents because she did not tell them he was black. Upon arriving at her parents’ estate it turned out Rose’s parents Missy and Dean Armitage, played by Catherine Keener (Captain Phillips, Into the Wild) and Bradley Whitford (The Cabin in the Woods, The West Wing-TV), were very interested in him, a little too interested. Written and directed by Jordan Peele (Keanu, Key and Peele-TV), this mystery satire was a big shock for me in a good way. The satire was biting and edgy while Jordan built up the suspense in a creepy intense way. I thought the story was great along with the script. This was the type of movie that takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions; one only has to give in and go with it. Along with the fun visuals and the good acting coming out of Catherine and Bradley, this was a fun and exciting movie watching experience. I have to tell you I would do FaceTime or Skype anytime compared to this meeting of the parents experience.
3 1/3 stars
LOVE, when it is expressed, can be one of the purest and strongest emotions. At least that is what it can be depending on the person. When an individual falls in love they can find themselves smiling for no apparent reason or getting giddy with excitement in anticipation of being with the source of their love. Some people love going to the circus; they get to experience a range of emotions from the varied acts on display. Other people get in touch with their sense of love when they are able to hike up a mountain trail then sit out on the edge of a precipice. Another thing love can do is steer you away from your daily routines and venture into new territory, exploring the ways 2 people can blend their individual lives into a shared common one. HOWEVER when a person sacrifices their other emotions and rational thoughts to focus strictly on love, they then have entered the land of the extremes. In this place a person scrutinizes every action, comment and reaction from the focus of their love. In turn they react in an extreme way to the point of becoming obsessive. I was in a relationship some time ago where things started out in an easy way for us. We seemed compatible and had similar tastes in things. As the weeks went by little things started cropping up that I found odd. For example a delay in us getting together due to a prior commitment I had would produce a passive aggressive response in an attempt to make me feel guilty, hoping I would change my plans. This was a red flag for me and a cause of concern. Maybe if my ego was inflated I would have enjoyed the attention and their need to be with me; instead, it caused a disconcerting feeling inside of me. My instincts turned out to be correct. I was being turned into this desired object that they needed to feel fulfilled and complete in their life. Obsession can be a lethal road for one to travel on. FRANK, played by Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals, Midnight Special), was falling deeper in love with Lola, played by Imogen Poots (Green Room, Need for Speed), to the point where even warning signs could not influence him. This film festival nominated drama also starred Justin Long (Drag Me to Hell, Accepted) as Keith and Michael Nyqvist (John Wick, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Alan. It was interesting to see Michael playing a romantic lead. He is an excellent actor and in this crime mystery he was good, but I have to tell you I felt he was not the best choice for the role. The intensity he has displayed in previous movies did not translate well in this one. Set in Las Vegas and Paris, I was initially interested with the story line and thought the acting was good throughout the film. One of the reasons why I did not feel totally connected to the story was the lack of back story or depth with the Frank and Lola characters. I could see what the writer was trying to do but it did not take me where I needed to be to truly get into the story. I love movies but I did not love watching this one much.
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
THEY seemed scared as they huddled over their map. Looking up at the arrival time for the next train, they stood near the edge of the train platform. I made the assumption they were tourists who were not familiar with the language. Luckily I knew how to say hello and how are you in their language; plus, I was ½ of the winning team among my friends in charades the past 2 years which I felt could help. Walking up to them I said hello and immediately their heads sprung up and turned to me. They excitedly began talking to me in their native tongue but I had no clue what they were saying. I made hand gestures which I hoped conveyed the little I knew about their language then pointed at their map and made a questioning facial expression. En masse they moved next to me and pointed to a sticky note attached to what I could see on the map was the downtown area. THEY were looking for a well known tourist attraction in the city. Using my charade skills I was able to show them which train they had to get on and how many stops they needed to travel to get to their destination. I think they were saying thank you to me as my train arrived and I bordered it. Being proud of my city I have this thing where I want all tourists to have the best time here. So if I can spend a few minutes learning how to communicate with those who do not speak English it is well worth it to me. The key word is communicating; I see and have experienced so many people who do not take the time to properly communicate. It seems as if language is turning into a series of emails, texts, abbreviations and emojis. How can someone figure out a person’s intent with such things? LINGUISTIC expert Dr. Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams (American Hustle, Man of Steel), was given a short time frame to find a way to communicate with the alien spacecraft that landed on earth before the military took over. This film festival nominated drama mystery took a different route from the usual alien versus human plot and it paid off. I enjoyed it so much and thought Amy was fantastic in the role. Along with Jeremy Renner (The Avengers franchise, The Hurt Locker) as Ian Donnelly and Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels’ The Butler, The Last King of Scotland) as Colonel Weber, the actors did well in conveying a sense of urgency and fear. The soundtrack added an eerie dimension to the scenes that I felt brought out more suspense. With director Denis Villeneuve’s (Prisoners, Sicario) skills the story had a gradual buildup of tension, even with the subplot that was interjected between present day scenes. This science fiction movie had a couple of surprises, though I have to say the ending was confusing to me. I am not sure I totally understood what was going on but I still felt like I was entertained for the most part. Especially with the poor (in my opinion) state of communications today, I really was impressed with this picture.
3 ¼ stars
A good way to feel the heartbeat of a city is to take a ride on its commuter train. It is an easy way to not only see the city but to watch how its citizens mingle throughout the city’s arteries. When I used to take public transportation to work I would find myself getting lost into the brief visual vignettes all around me. There were the train’s adult babies who would quickly be lulled to sleep by the swaying of the train car as it rolled down the tracks. Among the passengers there was the group that always had a hardcover or paperback book to read, while another group used their electronic devices. The thing I liked to do was look out the windows. From my train car I could watch a parade taking place that had citizens carrying a long paper dragon down a street in a neighborhood with a large population of Asian Americans. In another part of the city I could see people sitting outside at a café having an afternoon coffee with shopping bags lying at their feet like trusted pets. After a few times on the same route I would know which train stops some of the passengers would get off at; business attired people would step out in the downtown area of the city and passengers with book bags or textbooks in their laps would get off at one of two stops that was close to a city college. For a different type of experience taking the train at night brings in a more intimate experience; at least it does for me. Apartment buildings would reveal a grid of lit windows where each one told a different story. With one blink of the eye I could see someone cooking up a storm of a meal or two people studiously peering down at a table full of jigsaw pieces. Each day would be a different scene and you would never know what you could witness. CATCHING the same train everyday Rachel, played by Emily Blunt (Into the Woods, Sicario), would come up with an internal story for the people she would see. But what if a person was not following her script? This mystery thriller based on the bestselling book also included Haley Bennett (The Magnificent Seven, The Equalizer) as Megan and Justin Theroux (American Psycho, Wanderlust) as Tom. Since I did not read the book I was confused for the 1st half of the movie, though Emily was excellent as Rachel. The issue for me was the script. I did not care for the scenes jumping back and forth in time along with several scenes that did not come across as authentic. All this did for me was to slow the pace down of telling the story. It was not until the last half of the picture where things picked up and it started to actually be a mystery thriller for me. An interesting side note; when I mentioned this to one of my classes 5 out of 6 people who read the book said they did not like it and felt the same about the book as I did about the film. Too bad the train ride I took did not reveal much excitement for me.
2 ¼ stars