IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS, THEY may seem insignificant on your life’s journey; but they can have a lasting impact that changes your course. Looking at my evolution for loving animals, there was one breed of dog I did not like. I remember what happened that day, recalling the exact streets I was bicycling on. On a side street, I was riding my bike in a relative’s neighborhood. Suddenly a dog bolted out of a yard; I heard the barking first before seeing where it was coming from. This dog was heading straight to me and from my first glance the dog did not look friendly. I pedaled that bicycle faster than I had ever before as I raced down the street towards the intersection. Because I was afraid of what the dog could do to me, I did not stop as I swerved into the cross street which was a main thoroughfare. A car nearly hit me as the driver laid on his horn while dodging around me. I did not stop pedaling for blocks until I no longer heard the dog barking. That one incident stayed with me for years; I stayed away from that particular dog breed. It was not until college before I became comfortable around that breed, due to some of the classes I was enrolled in. THERE ARE SO MANY EXAMPLES OF little occurrences having a profound effect on one’s self; just off the top of my head I can recall several. From the name calling I endured when I was a kid, I believe I have an extra sensitivity towards the underdog. A person I knew would never eat fried food because when they were a child they accidentally were splattered with hot cooking oil. There was a friend of a friend I knew who would not wear any clothing that had a turtleneck or simply tight collar; she had a choking episode when she was a child and that constricted feeling was something she never forgot. I am sure you have come across this when you hear about a celebrity’s childhood; where they experienced something that planted the seed to create, let us say, the musical artist or inventor that they had become. This is one of the reasons I am always saying, there are no accidents; there is a reason for everything.” Everything I just told you here came about from my viewing of this dramatic, musical, film festival nominated movie. SUFFERING A HORRIFIC TRAGEDY IN SCHOOL put Celeste on a different life path, with the help of her sister. Starring Natalie Portman (Annihilation, Black Swan) as Celeste, Jude Law (Black Sea, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald) as the Manager, Raffey Cassidy (Dark Shadows, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) as young Celeste/Albertine, Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty, A Quiet Passion) as Josie the publicist and Christopher Abbot (It Comes at Night, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) as the journalist; this picture started out with a powerful impact. Because of it I was expecting a different type of movie from what appeared on screen. Natalie gave an excellent performance, but it was not enough to hold my interest due to the confusing script. It seemed as if there were several story lines that could have easily taken charge; but none did, resulting in boredom for me. I did find the music interesting which helped me get through this picture. Honestly, I found this film overly self-indulgent. I could see some of the points the writers/director were trying to make but I did not find my viewing experience entertaining. Maybe somewhere down the road it will hit me that I have discovered or have been acting a certain way because I saw this film. For now, I could have waited a while before paying to see this picture.
1 ¾ stars
IT WAS RATHER COMICAL AS my friend was the intermediary between me and her friend. I was talking to my friend on her cell phone while her friend was on my friend’s landline. The two of them had each just seen the same movie and had different reactions to it. With phones in hand my friend called me up and peppered me with questions and comments. I actually found it an interesting experience because I was seeing the movie again thru someone else’s eyes. Some of the questions made me rethink my interpretation of the story as I tried to piece together the scenes that originally led the three of us to different conclusions. The process was a positive one; I felt it expanded my mind to accept more possibilities for what was the meaning behind the story. We all stayed on our phones for approximately 20 minutes, going back and forth with our ideas and thoughts about the film. By the time we said our goodbyes none of us had changed our opinions; we in fact agreed that each of our points were valid. It would have been nice if we could have asked the writers what they were trying to achieve. AS YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED I enjoy seeing a movie that makes me think. However the bottom line for me is that I am at least being entertained; this is how my star rating system is set up. The story doesn’t have to always make sense nor do the production values have to be a work of art; all I care about is wanting the movie to take me away. I have walked out of some films where I had to mull over what I had just seen on screen. Why did the character do this particular thing or why did the writer add this plot twist can linger with me for some time. If I can reach a conclusion that appeases me then the picture was a total success; but if I walk out of the theater confused and still lost in the story, then as time goes on the lower my enjoyment level drops. You must agree it doesn’t feel good to have sat through a movie for a couple of hours and not feel some sense of satisfaction afterwards. Well I have to tell you I still do not know what I saw in this dramatic fantasy adventure. BIOLOGIST LENA, PLAYED BY Natalie Portman (Jackie, Black Swan), agrees to be part of a team to investigate an unexplained phenomenon in hopes of explaining what happened to her husband. With Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight, LBJ) as Dr. Ventress, Gina Rodriguez (Deepwater Horizon, Jane the Virgin-TV) as Anya Thorensen, Oscar Issac (Star Wars franchise, The Promise) as Kane and Benedict Wong (The Martian, Doctor Strange) as Lomax; this film played out more like a mystery to me. I will say I was intrigued with it as the story kept my interest for the most part. The acting was excellent and I thought the production values were excellent. The visuals both in their unusualness and simplicity were a good counterpoint to the puzzling story. One of the issues I had with this picture was the characters; they were pretty much stereotypical and I did not see much depth to them. By the end of the movie I was confused to the point where I felt I witnessed something extraordinary, but I just could not explain what I had seen. My guess is there will be a lot of discussions in store for those who go see this film.
2 ½ stars
EACH person experiences grief in their own way. There are some who put no filters on it, letting their emotions flood out in a public way. Other individuals believe they need to maintain a “stiff upper lip” so they keep their emotions in check, only allowing them out in private. During my years of teaching I have experienced several major losses that affected me deeply. None of my classes knew at the time because I chose not to express my grief. It was hard at times especially when I was teaching a class where the members were looking to me to be upbeat and motivating, but inside I was a blubbering mess. A couple of times I nearly broke down when a song came on that triggered a memory of the person that was no longer in my life. THEY say there is comfort in numbers which can be seen when friends and family come together to share in their grief. Sitting at a stoplight while a funeral procession drives by, I used to look at the passengers in each passing car. It was curious to see the different ways people were handling their journey. Some would be silently sitting, not interacting with each other; while others appeared almost jovial. I know in some cultures death is looked upon as a gain, not a loss. The deceased individual is headed to a better place. One thing I have found interesting is the older a person becomes the more receptive they are to the idea of being reincarnated; I guess it brings comfort to them, knowing they will get to come back. The one thing I think everyone agrees on is when someone young has their life finished early. ACROSS the land citizens were all sharing in their grief from losing their young president to an assassin. At a time when privacy would be expected the president’s widow had to compartmentalize her priorities to satisfy her children, the nation and the world. This dramatic biographical movie was led by the outstanding performance from Natalie Portman (Jane Got a Gun, Your Highness) as Jackie Kennedy. Whether she had the speech and mannerisms down accurately, it did not matter to me because the character on screen as far as I was concerned was Jackie. I never once thought I was watching Natalie. The other actors such as Peter Sarsgaard (The Magnificent Seven, Orphan) as Bobby Kennedy, Greta Gerwig (Francis Ha, Mistress America) as Nancy Tuckerman and Billy Crudup (Spotlight, Watchmen) as the journalist were all quite good and I felt all of them were authentic in their roles. The script moved back and forth in time in an easy way for the viewer to follow. I found myself reacting with sadness to several of the scenes; the way they were reenacted and played out came across in a real way for me. If the script had told this story in chronological order I do not think it would have been as powerful as the way it was done in this film. I felt I was given an inside look behind all the actions that were on display for the public. This was an eye opening experience for me and left me with a few tears of sadness.
3 ½ stars
Begin with several words, string them together and let a story take you away. Let me show you what I mean. I will start with the words room, curtains, breath, light, skin and airplane. Here is the first beginning to the story: The curtains’ shadows looked like they were reaching out to me as I entered into the room. The light behind them blazed in a crimson red; I could feel the heat on my skin. This was my first time here and the air smelled rancid. It was stifling to the point where I felt I was entering into the mouth of an ogre with bad breath. Suddenly the room shook with a roar as if an airplane had just skimmed the roof above me. Maybe what I just wrote was the beginning of a horror story. Same words, but in a different order; let me see what I will get: The curtains gently rippled as a warm breeze passed them into my room. I was stretched out on the sofa, careful not to disturb the creases where the love of my life had sat minutes ago before they had to leave. Their breath still felt like it was lingering around the skin at the back of my neck. Our light conversation had gone into deeper waters with positive results. I agreed to make airplane reservations to fly out and meet their family for the first time. Now this story sounds romantic, doesn’t it? That is the beauty about stories; they can take us to an infinite amount of places. I love the way a story can take me away from my reality and place me into a whole different world. Some people read to learn, others read to escape; it does not make a difference because I feel just the act of reading provides the essential nutrients for the mind to grow. AMOS OZ, played by newcomer Amir Tessler, was always ready to hear a new story until he felt he was living in some of them. With Natalie Portman (Jane Got a Gun, Black Swan) as Fania Oz, Makram Khoury (Munich, The Physician) as Halawant and Ohad Knoller (The Bubble, Munich) as Israel Zarchi; this film festival nominated dramatic biography was based on the bestseller by Amos Oz. Written and directed by Natalie, the story had a darkness to it as it took place during Israel’s formative years. I could see there was something to the story but I don’t think the screenplay conveyed it. There were some good scenes and I could see Natalie had a good eye for directing, but I did not find this picture entertaining. Despite the acting being good, the story telling interesting and the dynamics between the characters having depth; I was not always into the story. Granted I would not consider the subject upbeat but I think if the script was in different hands the results might have been different. Not that I am knocking Natalie’s 1st directorial effort, but maybe she should have focused only on that instead of the screenplay too. There certainly was a story here; I just did not feel satisfied watching it. Hebrew was spoken with English subtitles.
We would sit and observe the couples sitting near us. It was not on a consistent basis, but there were times where it amused us. Looking at a couple, all of us would try to figure out, just from what we observed, what kept the couple together or maybe not. There were couples that would sit across from each other and never utter a word of conversation; they would slowly eat their meal with little emotion crossing their faces. Other times two people would hold hands from across each other, chatting up a storm interspersed with laughter and surprise. I remember looking at some couples and wondering what attracted each person to the other. Even among my friends there have been times where someone would bring there new significant other into the group and after a few meetings one of us would start to wonder what our friend saw in their girlfriend/boyfriend. I do not mean in a catty or gossipy way; but in a protective way. For example there was one friend I felt was being used by their new love interest, where I finally had to have a conversation with them to share my feelings. When they told me they were aware of being used and did not see the relationship going long term, I was cool with it then. We were all adults; sure we watched out for each other but we would never force our feelings onto another. We would respect each other’s decisions, though there were times it was challenging. I felt the same way about the main character in this dramatic western. WHEN her husband Bill Hammond, played by Noah Emmerich (Super 8, The Truman Show), returned home shot and bleeding from a gang of thieves out to kill him; Jane Hammond, played by Natalie Portman (Thor franchise, Black Swan), had no choice but to contact her ex-lover Dan Frost, played by Joel Edgerton (Black Mass, The Gift), to come help her defend her husband and home. This action drama had some good things going for it. First there was Natalie and Joel along with Ewan McGregor (Star Wars franchise, The Impossible) as Colin McCann; they were real good in their roles. I enjoyed the idea of a strong female character leading the story. Sadly the issue with this western was the script; it was predictable enough where I could almost figure out everything going on. There was at least a cool twist in the story, but the scenes were not consistent. They did not have an easy flow to them as if there was a 2nd director doing several scenes. Too bad the film did not gel well together because I liked the old fashioned feeling to it with its fresh idea of a leading strong female character. Also the script certainly had an interesting take on what brings two people together. There were multiple scenes with blood and violence.
There is a feeling of anxious anticipation many of us experience when our budding romantic interest says they will call or see us later. The heart trips over the flow of excited joy as the mind tries to recall if there are any commitments on your mental calendar. You want to be available and you want to be ready when you see or hear from them again. But as the days pass without any sign from them, all of the excitement dives into a vat of thick, questioning self-doubt. You start picking at every detail from the previous meeting, seeking out a reason why they have not called you. It can turn into a vicious cycle that very few people are immune from. Even if your boyfriend is a super hero it can still happen; just ask Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman (No Strings Attached, Brothers), who was waiting for 2 years. In this action adventure sequel there was a reason why Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth (The Avengers, Rush), did not come back to see Jane. He was busy trying to establish order in the nine realms. But when an ancient race of beings lead by Malekith, played by Christopher Eccleston (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Amelia), sought to convert the realms into their world; Thor had a good reason why he had not called Jane. I am being silly to match the silliness that was in this fantasy film. It was too much for me. I would have preferred a little more seriousness interjected into some of the scenes to make them more dramatic. Though the returning cast was okay for the most part, the scene stealer was Tom Hiddleston (War Horse, Midnight in Paris) as Loki. He had the strongest presence out of everyone, including Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock,The Wolfman) as Odin. What lost it for me was the jumbled story line. The jumping back and forth between dimensions, if that is even what they were, was too confusing. I felt it took some excitement away from the fight scenes. It was a shame because I really liked the great stylish look to the movie. In a way I guess I had been waiting for this sequel like it was a 2nd date. Too bad the anticipation for it was more exciting than the actual viewing. If you do watch this film, stay through both sets of credits.
2 2/3 stars
There are times when the intentions may be good, but the motivations do not match. This could cause a problem, especially when it comes to relationships. Have you ever met someone where you felt a connection to them? You start to hang out together, discover you have things in common and you really enjoy their company. While you see potential for the relationship to progress, they inform you they just want to be friends and your heart stumbles on the kernel of doubt that was just placed in front of you. Upon hearing such news, some people can turn themselves off and move on, while others can agree to the new definition placed on the relationship. Then there are individuals who agree to be friends, but secretly hope to change the other person’s mind. In these instances, it may not go well for either one or both participants. Relationships already take some work without placing land mines along your heart’s path as this romantic comedy will show you. After discovering his father Alvin, played by Kevin Kline (A Wish Called Wanda, Wild Wild West), was dating one of his former girlfriends; Adam, played by Ashton Kutcher (Jobs, Killers), went out for a night of hard partying and drinking. The next day he woke up in an apartment where Emma, played by Natalie Portman (Black Swan, Thor), his old childhood friend lived. Though Adam felt there was some chemistry between them, Emma was not interested in a relationship. Instead, she offered Adam an alternative that he easily accepted. The two would soon discover saying and doing were two different things. Ashton was better suited to play this type of character than the one he did recently as Steve Jobs in the film Jobs. His chemistry with Natalie was solid as they both came across like real people in this comedy. In fact, I thought Natalie was the better of the two. It was a shame the script was not stronger; I know Natalie could have handled it, not sure about Ashton though. The story did not provide anything new; it was easily predictable. This award winning film chose a romantic topic that came with many pitfalls; sadly it took a safe generic path to show us.
2 stars — DVD