IT SOUNDED LIKE HE WAS PROUD to tell me he could eat anything; I congratulated him, telling him I had to watch what I ate. When we met in school, he told me he was diabetic. Later he told me he was surprised by my reaction when he initially told me. I said, “Oh, okay; but don’t think I am going to treat you special now.” Up until that moment most people he had told according to him started treating him differently, as if he could not make his own decisions. Please keep in mind, this happened back in time before we had the technology, we have now for tracking blood sugar levels. From that first meeting on our dorm floor, we became fast friends. We both had opted out of the meal plan offered at the school, instead fending for ourselves in the communal kitchen on our floor. Seeing what he ate on a weekly basis did make me curious how he managed to eat certain foods that I had thought would wreak havoc with his sugar levels. I remember asking him if he took the same amount of insulin each day, after seeing him inject himself in the stomach at the table before we started eating dinner one night. He said he could feel his sugar levels and adjust his insulin dosage accordingly; he would just wing the dosages each day depending on what he planned on eating. It surprised me because he would eat desserts, drink alcohol and snack between meals on an assortment of food items from natural to processed. ONE NIGHT WE WERE HANGING OUT, watching TV. After we had sat through a couple of sit-coms, the news came on. The newscaster listed the night’s news stories that were to be covered during the telecast and one of the topics was the use of service dogs for diabetics. Of course, my friend was curious about it as well as myself; so, we decided to sit through the news until the dog story was covered. I was familiar with the use of seeing eye dogs for the blind, but I could not imagine what service dogs would do for those with diabetes. Well, it turned out to be an interesting news segment. Service dogs were being trained to alert a person when their blood sugar level was out of range. Both of us could not believe what we were seeing, but it evidently was working; the dogs could smell when a person’s levels were out of whack. Though that was such a novel idea at the time, it turns out it was only the beginning to the variety of animals that would be put into use to assist people. Some would come from unexpected places, such as the one in this drama based on a true story. WHILE VACATIONING IN THAILAND A FAMILY experiences a horrific accident that would alter their lives. No one seemed to heal from the event until the children one day brought home an injured animal. With Naomi Watts (The Book of Henry, The Impossible) as Sam Bloom, newcomer Griffin Murray-Johnston as Noah Bloom, Andrew Lincoln (Love Actually, The Walking Dead-TV) as Cameron Bloom, newcomer Felix Cameron as Rueben Bloom and Jacki Weaver (Poms, Silver Linings Playbook) as Jan; the story behind this movie was unbelievable and difficult to watch at times. Naomi transformed herself into her character, that easily pulled me into the story. The gorgeous scenery was a bonus as I enjoyed the director’s light touch to letting the story play out in a real way. I am sure there were extra parts that were inserted into the script to manipulate the viewer, but I felt they were not done in a heavy-handed way. And if that was not enough, watching the animal in this film was so amazing and done in such an endearing way that I was captivated. Also, stay for the credits to see actual photographs of the family this film was based on.
THE ONLY PEOPLE who were embarrassed by the couple’s accents were their children. To everyone else the mother and father talked that way because they were European. As far as I knew there was no derogatory intent by saying someone was European, Asian or by some other region of the world. For me I was intrigued with the fact that a friend would have a living relative from a different country; since most of mine had come to the United States either at birth or were dead by the time I was born. Some of the children were able to speak to their parents in their native tongue but they only wanted to do so when no one else was around. It is funny though; by the time these kids reached the grade levels were a foreign language was required in school, they usually got top grades. I would be lying if I did not say I was a bit envious since I struggled with the language I chose to learn. THERE COMES AN age in a child’s life where I think it is natural for them to feel embarrassed at times by their parents’ actions. I think it is just a generational thing, like styles of clothing or genres of music. Each generation wants to own something unique to them that was not from their parents’ generation. Hanging out at a friend’s house, it was not unusual for a parent to come check on us. However, some parents would ask questions or try to fit into our conversation. At this point the parent’s child would do or say something to try to get their parent to leave. I remember one parent who would come into the basement where we were listening to music and try to dance to it. This always produced a groan from their son or daughter. In the scheme of things, compared to what was shown in this dramatic film based on a true story, dancing around would be the very least thing to be embarrassed about. GROWING UP IN a constant state of change and disarray had effected the children of Rex and Rose Mary, played by Woody Harrelson (War for the Planets of the Apes, Wilson) and Naomi Watts (The Book of Henry, Demolition), in ways that would last for a lifetime. This biographical film also starred Brie Larson (Free Fire, Room) as Jeannette, Ella Anderson (The Boss, Mother’s Day) as a young Jeanette and Max Greenfield (The Big Short, New Girl-TV) as David. The story was so bizarre to me that I wondered if the scenes I was seeing really happened in the life of this family. I thought the acting was wonderful, especially from Woody and Brie. At first I was not too crazy about the jumping back and forth in time method, but realized at some point it made better sense to tell the story that way. It emphasized the way the adult versions were acting in their scenes. The issue I had with this picture was the latter part; it seemed as if things were tied up in a quick and easy way. Having not read the book, it just came across as not having the realness of the other parts of the story. I almost want to say it was being painted with a happier ending just to please the movie goers. The book I am willing to bet is more intense than this film. Not that anyone needs to be embarrassed with the final product here; the story still is unbelievable and in my opinion sets a different standard for defining a dysfunctional family.
2 ¾ stars
UNLESS a person is a witness to or told about an abusive act, it is not always easy to know if someone has been victimized. There may be some physical signs such as bruises or cuts, but one cannot rely on them being visible. The emotional aspect resides in the deep, murky waters of the mind; where it is harder for someone to find, even for the victim sometimes. There was a boy who every day after school would stop to buy the largest size serving of ice cream from the ice cream man, who drove his blue and white truck around the neighborhood after school hours. By the time the boy walked home he had finished his ice cream, even if he got a brain freeze from eating it too fast. Once in the house this latchkey kid would eat whatever bread was in the kitchen, at times he would eat the entire loaf. If he was queried on what happened to the bread his standard answer was to say he was hungry. He knew eating this much food before dinner was not normal but it did not matter; it made him feel good which may have been the only time that day where he felt that way. There were visual and emotional cues about his behavior but he was tightlipped, afraid to tell anyone what was being done to him at school. THERE are some people who do their best to help a victim of abuse. They really have good intentions; however, the abuser always has a backup plan or you might say an escape plan. Incorporating a variety of factors they find a way to continue their abusive ways. I remember with a school teacher’s assistance I was ushered into the vice principal’s office. The teacher explained what was happening and to my horror the vice principal requested my attackers be pulled out of class and sent down to him immediately. As each attacker was escorted into the office I prayed I could disappear into my chair. After the vice principal screamed and threatened each of them with expulsion, the group of boys left me alone for exactly 2 weeks. I wonder how they would have felt if they were part of this movie’s story? NOT only did Henry Carpenter, played by Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special, St. Vincent), run the family finances and watch out for his little brother Peter and mother Susan, played by Jacob Tremblay (Room, Before I Walk) and Naomi Watts (While We’re Young, 3 Generations); he also was aware something was not right with his classmate who lived next door. He was sure her stepfather Glenn, played by Dean Norris (Little Miss Sunshine, Total Recall), had something to do with it. This dramatic thriller scored points with me due to the acting. Jaeden and Jacob matched each other’s talents, forming what looked like true brothers. Naomi was also excellent in her role. I was totally aware the script was illogical in places along with having a few patchy spots. It was obvious to me the writer were aiming for the heartstring’s of the movie audience; with that being said, I still found the story interesting enough to keep me engaged with it in its entirety. Additionally I am taking into consideration my sensitivity to the subject; even putting that aside I still found this film a worthwhile watch.
2 ¾ stars
“YOU should write a book about it,” is a comment that has been directed to me numerous times. The reason has less to do with my writing ability and more with the incredible to outrageous stories I have been involved in or told. I will avoid using pronouns to protect the individuals. There was one person I was involved with whose family history played out like an evening soap opera, television show. One family member was going to be elected to a high political position until their views deviated from the people in power. The person I knew was sent out of the country to avoid any fallout, but to also get a better education. Spending many years traveling the world instead of coming back home, they told me about some of their experiences in foreign lands that I have not even seen done in a movie. One of these stories involved a stalker and a secret intelligence agency; that is all I can say about this individual. RECENTLY I was involved with someone who had a story to tell me every time we got together. One of the stories was accompanied with photographs; however, they could only show me a select few because they were brought in to oversee a secret government operation. The first photo they showed me was of them standing in front of a posted sign out in the jungle. I immediately knew why they had to be secretive about their whereabouts. Another photo showed how they were transported to this secret location; essentially it was a cargo bay with portable toilets and folding chairs nailed to the floor. It was so not part of my little corner of the world that I did not even know how to respond to any of it. I could go on with so many other encounters I have had that I could actually fill up a whole book. However if I do that then I cannot tell you whether it was worth seeing this biographical drama about a man who was the real boxer behind the famous film character Rocky Balboa. KNOWN as the “Bleeder of Bayonne” boxer Chuck Wepner, played by Liev Schreiber (Spotlight, Ray Donovan-TV), was a hometown hero even before there was a movie called Rocky. With Elizabeth Moss (The One I Love, Mad Men-TV) as Phyliss, Naomi Watts (St. Vincent, Diana) as Linda, Jim Gaffigan (17 Again, It’s Kind of a Funny Story) as John and Ron Perlman (Poker Night, Hellboy franchise) as Al Braverman; I had never heard about this boxer. Everyone in the cast did a wonderful job of acting. Liev however stood out for me because he was so good in his role, but be prepared there was a lot of blood shown. Not being a big fan of boxing, I was glad that the actual act was secondary to the story. As for the story it was engaging with surprise. The sets, costumes and dialog captured the era; it was interesting to watch the arc of Chuck’s story line. If I had to choose one particular thing that increased my interest in this film it would have to be the connection to Sylvester Stallone and the Rocky movie. I think it helped that this was included into the script because it produced deeper emotional intensity to the story. There are so many people in the world that need to have their story told; I was satisfied that this one came to the big screen.
Slowly you remove yourself from the warmth you were lovingly lying next to, to give them a couple of extra minutes of sleep before the start of their day. You did not even think about the clothes you have at the dry cleaners because they will be hanging in your closet when you get home that night from work. When the two of you are out at a restaurant, you do not have to ask the waitstaff to remove the veggies you do not like from your salad; your significant other will take them without having to be asked. The two of you have an easy symbiotic relationship. Not that you take each other for granted, but the daily things that transpire between you two become their own type of routine. It is sad to say, but it is not until you no longer are a couple that you realize the extra wonderful things that made your relationship so special. I do not mean to paint this in a bad light; but I have found it is the small things that take place between two people that re-enforce the glue which keeps both in a relationship. It is part of the support system each one has created in unison and like anything that occurs on a constant schedule, it may appear less special and sweet as it fades into a routine. This is one of the reasons that I have always insisted on keeping up a date night so the two of us can break out of our daily routines to focus on each other. Not only do I understand but I have experienced what it feels like when that special love is no longer with you. SUCCESSFUL investment banker Davis, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Source Code, Nightcrawler), only began to realize what he was missing after his wife was killed in a tragic automobile accident. This film festival winning comedic drama also included Naomi Watts (While we’re Young, The Impossible) as Karen, Chris Cooper (Adaptation, American Beauty) as Davis’ father-in-law and Judah Lewis (Point Break) as Chris. Though the acting was good I found the script to be dismal though in a way this played to Jake’s strengths. I do not even know if I would classify this movie as part comedy. There was nothing in it that I found funny. Now there were several opportunities to create impressive dramatic scenes but they tended to fall short. Also, I usually do not notice but this time I thought Jake’s shower scenes were unnecessary and wondered if they were inserted for eye candy value. The other odd thing I found was the lack of time awareness. I became aware to the fact that he wasn’t working yet these different events were taking place with him over time. For some reason this stood out for me. The idea behind this story was interesting and the script had some valid points; however, I did not connect to this film, nor did I miss it after it was over.
1 ¾ stars
I do not know if it is an actual term but I call it “deceptive packaging.” If you walk through a grocery store you will see many examples of these false packages. There are so many liquid products that come in these colored bottles that look like you are buying a full size of the product. However, after you take it home and have used it for a short time you cannot believe you already ran out of the item. Let me tell you, hold that bottle up to the light and you will probably see the bottom of it is much thicker then any other part of the bottle; I am talking thick like those funny eyeglasses that you might see an actor wear for their character in a comedy movie. The type of eyeglasses that were called “soda pop glasses” because they were as thick as the bottom of soda bottles. Another way companies use deceptive packaging is in their use of photography to create these sumptuous looking foods on the cover of their products. A frozen dinner on the cover looks homemade with big chunks of vegetables and steaming meat in a thick bubbly sauce; but after you open the box, the meal consists of a couple of pieces of shriveled meat with tiny cut veggies of a lesser assortment than the picture of it. These things are why I not only look at prices when I am at the grocery store, but I also look at the amounts. This may make my shopping trip longer but I and I am sure everyone else do not like feeling deceived. TRIS, played by Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars, White Bird in a Blizzard), had a feeling inside that there was something beyond the wall surrounding Chicago. No matter what others said she had to find out for herself even if it meant she would lose some of her friends. This next installment of the action adventure series kept my interest going because of Shailene, Jeff Daniels (The Martian, Looper) as David and the futuristic products that were on show in the story. Outside of that this mystery science fiction story had a tired script. There was barely any emotion in the scenes or characters and the reason for that was the bloated script. The movie studio took the last book and decided to split it into 2 films and I was not buying it. With these types of movies I look forward to watching battles and hand to hand combat in a futuristic make-believe setting, using ray guns and other fantasy devices. I was bored for a good part of this film; it would have been better if the studio had filmed the entire book in one movie. Since I did not read the series I have to tell you I do not know if I want to run to see the next picture because I feel like I was duped.
1 3/4 stars
I sat in their front room staring at the VCR with its display flashing 12:00 for the time. It stayed at the same time while I waited for my friend to finish up helping his mother before we were going out to dinner. I was not surprised by the flashing number since I have seen the same thing in houses of other people from the same generation as my friend’s parent. With technology constantly changing, I sat and wondered what people from younger generations would find amusing about some of the things I do. Some of my friends cannot believe I still do not have an ATM card; I just do not care for them. They say change is good and I can see the value in that statement, but sometimes I prefer staying in a place or routine that is already established as being an easy comfort. As we all get older we experience changes not only in material things but in relationships too. I have friends who change when they are in a relationship; one makes adjustments as that common single mentality turns to a couple and single person relationship. Or when friends have kids, a change takes place; it is no longer about going to a late night movie, instead it is getting home in time to take the babysitter home. These are changes all of us face to some degree. The difference is in how one accepts the changes in their life. CORNELIA and Josh, played by Naomi Watts (Insurgent, St. Vincent) and Ben Stiller (Night at the Museum franchise, The Watch), were a 40 something couple whose friends were settled down having children. Things were not like they used to be; but upon meeting the young couple Darby and Jamie, played by Amanda Seyfried (Dear John, Mamma Mia!) and Adam Driver (What If, Inside Llewyn Davis), Cornelia and Josh felt they found what they were looking for. Written and directed by Noah Baumbach (Francis Ha, Margot at the Wedding), this dramatic comedy had some smart, observant dialog. I thought the cast worked quite well together, coming across as real people. Noah had a good ear in the way he presented the differences between age groups; I could relate to some of these individuals. The first half of the film was stronger for me. As the story played out I found the last part was not as interesting to me. There were more scenes that worked than not; but the more I thought about, those scenes I cared less for were the ones that Ben’s character appeared to be in a crisis mode. This story certainly presented valid points about changes; but at the end of the film I felt like an old man in the theater.
2 3/4 stars
I want my labels to tell me what is in my can of soup or box of cereal. Placing a label on a human being does not do anything for me. Yet so many people like to label individuals as if giving them one makes it easier to categorize them in some imaginary file cabinet. There are some people who believe they are the label given them. I have mentioned previously how in elementary school a teacher told me I would amount to nothing if I wanted to be a writer. From the moment she said that I started to change the way I thought about myself and began focusing on science courses only. In daily conversations I am part of or just hear in passing, people are referring to other folk as stupid, fat or drama queen to name a few. I bristle at such comments; it is people simply making judgements. The other reason I do not like such terms is due to my strong dislike for stereotyping. Having been a victim of it on a variety of levels, I am more comfortable with people who perceive themselves as individuals instead of being part of a group. When you think about it, isn’t it a narrow view to think of oneself as being a part of a group? AFTER being responsible for the collapse of the government; Tris and Four, played by Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars, White Bird in a Blizzard) and Theo James (The Inbetweeners Movie, Underworld: Awakening) needed a safe place to hide from government leader Jeanine, played by Kate Winslet (Labor Day, Revolutionary Road). The hunt for the couple and others like them was intense because Jeanine believed one of the fugitives was the key for her to solidify power under her domain. This adventure science fiction thriller is the 2nd in the series of films based on the popular books. If you did not see the first movie you may have a problem following this one at first. Out of the cast which included newcomer Naomi Watts (The Impossible, St. Vincent) as Evelyn, I thought Shailene and Miles Teller (Whiplash, The Spectacular Now) as Peter were the standouts. I have to say Miles has exceptional timing while Shailene is totally believable. Visually the story was stimulating but I wished the script would have been stronger. Everything seemed to play out on the same level with little variance in emotional depth; keeping in mind I have not read the books. Some scenes did not fit in well with the story’s direction; I wondered if they were meant to be rest stops between the acton scenes. I am not going to label this film by saying I was slightly disappointed; but, I would have appreciated if the writers had spent more time learning about each major character.
2 3/4 stars
There was a time you could find a commune in the heart of a big metropolitan city. It was called an apartment building; I should know, because I grew up in one of them. Everyone knew everyone else in the building; in fact, it was not uncommon for a neighbor to give a quick knock on the back kitchen door and walk right in since we kept our doors unlocked during the day. Before I was able to walk down the stairs by myself I would scoot down them on my backside to visit a neighbor on a different floor. If someone could not get out to the grocery store, they would easily find a resident who was willing to go for them. Babysitting was simple because there were a multitude of parents who would willingly help each other out day or night. I loved growing up in an apartment building though it did spoil me. When I moved out on my own I just assumed all places were similar to my childhood home. Unfortunately that was not the case. From the time I was born to the time I moved, a change starting to take place. It appeared as if the world was moving faster with less time to socialize. I had some new neighbors who would offer a friendly hello; but I had others who barely acknowledged anyone, wearing an uninviting scowl on their face. RECENTLY divorced mother Maggie, played by Melissa McCarthy (The Heat, Mike & Molly-TV), had no choice but to impose on her next door neighbor Vincent, played by Bill Murray (Lost in Translation, Moonrise Kingdom). At first glance Vincent would be the unlikeliest candidate to babysit anyone’s child. Maggie’s son Oliver, played by newcomer Jaeden Lieberher, would soon find out Vincent was not like any other babysitter he had before. This film festival winning comedy had a lot going for it. Though I have seen Bill in similar roles, he really took charge and owned his character Vincent. He was a fun, wicked character to watch throughout the story. Melissa finally decided to take on a different kind of character; I actually liked the fact she played a straight role here without her usual schtick that she had done in her recent films. Add in Jaeden’s touching performance along with Naomi Watts (The Impossible, King Kong) as Daka and this picture had more to offer than your typical comedy. There were several scenes that were dramatic and moving for me. I may not have had a neighbor living next door to me like Vincent; but I sure would not mind one now after seeing this super film.
3 1/4 stars
There is a reason one does not find an accountant or welder coming to the rescue in a fairy tale. Not that I am being disparaging towards those occupations, but living in a country that does not have a monarchy, I want to be saved by someone greater than myself. As a small child didn’t most of us dream of being swept away into a world of kings, queens and wizards? I know I certainly did as I imagined myself walking down long marble floored hallways, guided by faces that peered down at me from large musty portraits, as I looked for my chambers. The whole idea of royalty has a magical quality for many of us today. There is a fascination to see or hear anything that has to do with a royal member of the family. For me part of the interest has to do with the person’s lineage, their royal bloodline. Since I can only trace my family back to a few generations, the idea that these royal individuals are related to people I have read about in history books blows my mind. One of the most famous in modern times was Diana, Princess of Wales. In this dramatic movie the story focused on the last two years of her life. Naomi Watts (The Impossible, Fair Game) portrayed Princess Diana during the time she began seeing Dr. Hasnat Khan, played by Naveen Andrews (The Brave One, Lost-TV). I do not know where to begin to tell you how wrong this biographical romance was on so many levels. First there was Naomi Watts, who I have always admired. She was not a good fit for the role; she did not come across as iconic and statuesque as Diana. Part of the issue was the horrible and ridiculous script she had to try and make work. The scenes were lifeless and boring which I can only attribute to poor direction. And finally, let me talk about the specific scenes where Diana and Hasnat were by themselves. Who knows how they really acted when they were alone; but if you are making a movie about two people in love, there should be some chemistry between the two actors. There was none between Naomi and Naveen; it was the finishing touch in making a complete mess of a movie. Personally I think the film studio should have kept the fantasy and allure about Princess Diana going by not putting together this tawdry film.
1 2/3 stars