I FELT AS IF I WERE driving through the site where a horrific battle had taken place. The landscape was painted in shades of white, gray and black; it was supposed to have been predominantly filled with greens, blues, yellows and a multitude of combined primary colors. The road I was driving on appeared to be dusty, as if it had not been dusted in months. I barely could make out the road markings; so, I was driving slower because of all the curves in the road. The black figurines thrusting out of the ground reminded me of a scene I saw in a movie, where the charred remains of the dead residents of Pompeii looked like ashen statues. These black structures looked like they were part of an abstract painting, frozen into freakish poses. Some looked like they had multiple arms while others appeared to have been the results of a mad scientist’s freakish experiments. I was convinced I was seeing whisps of smoke slowly twisting away from different parts of the terrain. The air even smelled smokey with traces of sulfur. When I planned my vacation, none of this was part of my itinerary; I was envisioning wild animals roaming the grounds. Instead, everywhere I looked I saw dull, barren land. It turned out I was one of the first to drive through this portion of the state after it had succumbed to a major forest fire. TOWARDS THE END OF MY VACATION, I read the forest fire had burned through thousands and thousands of acres. The reporter mentioned the charred remains would help repopulate the landscape, but that it would take time. Those black figurines I saw on my road trip were the burnt remains of decades old trees. I wondered how the animals who survived the fires would be able to live on the land; there could not be any food for them, nearby. It was sad to see the devastation. I know life is a series of events connected in a circle, from birth to death; however, after seeing what I saw I had a difficult time trying to justify the reason for such destruction. From the news I heard and read, there was no word yet about the loss of human life. What did come out sometime later, was that the fire appeared to have been started by a visitor who was camping. I could not believe it. I wondered if the camper(s) even knew what they had done. The idea that these individuals could have been that careless angered me. If you wish to see some of the destruction that can take place in a forest fire, then feel free to watch this dramatic, action thriller. IT WOULD TAKE EVERY OUNCE OF strength and wits for smoke jumper Hannah, played by Angelina Jolie (By the Sea, Maleficent franchise), to keep the lost boy she found alive in the middle of a forest fire and gunfire. With Finn Little (Angel of Mine, Storm Boy) as Connor, Jon Bernthal (Baby Driver, The Wolf of Wall Street) as Ethan, Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones-TV, The Maze Runner franchise) as Jack and Nicholas Hoult (Tolkien, Warm Bodies) as Patrick; it was fun to see Angelina back in an action figure role. And action is predominately what took place in this movie. With little or no depth to the characters, this was the type of story one only needs to feel; no need for a lot of thought about the story. There were some tense and exciting parts that drove the rest of the scenes that paled in comparison. For the most part there was nothing new in the script; it was simply because of the acting and the thrills that made this an easy picture to watch. However, I do hope those who have been careless when it comes to protecting the land from fires appreciate what smoke jumpers have to do to try and keep a place safe; let alone, see what kind of destruction can take place from a single careless moment.
2 ½ stars
THOSE MOMENTS WHEN I REALIZE I AM witnessing something historic are moments I never forget. My only wish is I want to see more positive events than the negative ones. I do not want to be a witness to the worst nightclub massacre or synagogue shooting or largest mass grave or biggest wildfire destruction. Instead, I want to see something that benefits the planet and its people. Think back to a time when something was introduced to the world that forever changed the way we were living. I still have a landline phone, but I remember when cellular phones were available to the public; it was an extraordinary experience. The idea of being able to talk to someone without being tethered to a wall was mind blowing. Right now, we are witnessing something becoming historic and that is driverless vehicles. Prior to seeing them in the news, my only experience was seeing them in science fiction movies and television shows. As a kid I had the toy car model of KITT; do you know what TV show KITT starred in? Something I just discovered is a wearable device that dials 911 if it detects the wearer has fallen. A fellow employee told me they had tripped and fell to the ground. They laid still for a moment to catch their breath and calm down. Within that time their watch alerted emergency assistance and paramedics were sent out to them. IF MEMORY SERVES ME CORRECTLY DIDN’T a well-known amusement park have to update their futuristic exhibit because it had become outdated? Having been created decades ago, some of the items depicted became products we are using presently. I look at the things in my house and I can tell you when and where I was when I acquired them. From hi-tech to mementoes, a memory is attached to each item. What I really would love to know is how the inventor/creator came up with the idea for it. Even hearing from the individual who created the pet rock or chia pet is someone I would enjoy talking with. I consider myself more creative than scientific and yet, the things I imagine have never produced tangible results. And that is okay because I know I will still experience new and exciting things in life. If you are like me, by looking at things we use in our daily lives and wonder what it must have been like when they first appeared, then you will enjoy watching this historical, dramatic biography based on a true story. A BATTLE OF WITS AND IDEAS reach an epic peak when three visionary men see what the future would be like if light could be accessible to all. With Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, Star Trek into Darkness) as Thomas Edison, Tom Holland (Spider-Man franchise, In the Heart of the Sea) as Samuel Insull, Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water, Take Shelter) as George Westinghouse, Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies, X-Men franchise) as Nikola Tesla and Matthew Macfadyen (Pride & Prejudice, The Three Musketeers) as J.P. Morgan; I enjoyed the historical aspect of this story, whether it was accurate or not. Seeing these historical men brought to life by the fine acting of the cast was a treat for me. As the story unfolded, I realized something was missing; a spark, a shock, a connection. The script did not provide the drama I thought was needed for this story. It was as if the scenes were in stasis; there was no difference emotionally from one to the other. I did however enjoy the sets and cinematography. With the discovery of electricity as a focal point, I would have thought the movie studio would have demanded more work be done to make this film shine.
2 ½ stars
SHE WAS SHOWING ME HER LATEST purchase. It was still in the box; but from the picture, it was a device that was used on the face. With a clear plastic cone sticking up like a Victrola, my friend was telling me she planned on using it to open the pores of her face. Evidently the machine plugs into an electrical outlet, water is added to a reservoir and steam comes out the plastic cone. I thought, why couldn’t she just boil a pot of water on the stove and drape a towel over her head, while leaning over the steaming boiling water? There was no need for her to spend money on this device since she was on the brink of bankruptcy, according to her. But there was this pattern already of her buying into the latest trendy thing she saw or read about it. One time she wound up with a foot massager that she used a total of three times, before it was pushed back into a closet and she was onto her next new purchase. Out of the things I have seen at her place, I felt she was addicted to one of those home shopping stations or those late-night infomercials that are on TV. BELIEVE ME, I HAVE TRIED TALKING to her about her shopping addiction. At least that is what I called it because she was always buying stuff and more so when she was upset about something. We had been friends for years and I loved her dearly; which is why I was sad to see her go into financial ruin due to her spending habits. Her place looked like a graveyard for discarded products; everything from a popcorn air popper to a pneumatic drain snake. No matter what I suggested or directly said to her, she had an excuse on why she needed whatever she had just bought. She was a close friend who I loved unconditionally. Though it was apparent she was making things worse for herself, I stood by her side and supported her. I think inside of me I was always hoping she would heed my advice one day, but she was an adult and had the ability to make a choice still. It was a hard place for me to be in, but all I could do was love and be there for her until she chose to make a change. Many of the X-Men in this science fiction, adventure film would understand completely. AFTER SURVIVING AN ACCIDENT IN SPACE, a change came over Jean Grey, played by Sophie Turner (Josie, Game of Thrones-TV). It was a change that made several of her fellow X-Men uneasy, but they still wanted to be there for her. With James McAvoy (Atomic Blonde, Victor Frankenstein) as Professor Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs, The Snowman) as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence (Red Sparrow, Joy) as Raven/Mystique and Nicholas Hoult (Tolkien, Warm Bodies) as Beast; this action movie started out with excitement. It had been a long time since the last X-Men picture; so, I was looking forward to this one, especially to see Sophie in a different role from her Game of Thrones character. Unfortunately. the script was a big letdown for me. There was no “wow” factor to any of the scenes. Along with that, I thought the direction was poor because all the characters seemed to be on the same emotional level. I felt there could have been multiple opportunities to inject some fun or sadness or excitement; but I never really experienced any of these feelings. Sophie’s acting was too close to her Game of Thrones’ character in my opinion. The director could have pushed her farther. I have been a fan of the X-Men for a long time and I want to be there supporting them, but this latest installment was trying to push me away.
AS THE TWO OF US WERE WALKING through the forest we came upon a group of trees. They appeared to be dancing a can-can with their wide trunks hovering above their long-exposed roots. The way the trees’ leaves flickered from the wind made me think they could be feathers attached to wide-brimmed cloth hats. I let the image stay with me as we continued on the trail, towards the sound of water gurgling ahead of us. The ground was firm at our feet, barely allowing the tread of our shoes to remain behind. I was not sure if we would be returning on the same path. It was mid-morning and the vibrant sun had a difficult time piercing through all the foliage around us, as if trying to seek us out. At one point there were slender rays of sunlight crisscrossing around us; all I could think of was one of those magician boxes where the assistant was placed inside before the magician thrusted glimmering swords through it. Up ahead there was an opening where the trees had parted, allowing more light to filter down into an area. We made our way to it and upon arriving discovered a squirming brook. With flat rocks barely breaking the surface of the water, the brook looked like an albino snake in movement. All these things went unnoticed by my companion. EACH OF US HAS THE ABILITY TO see things in our own unique way. Where I can look across a canyon and see the outline of an ancient castle, the person next to me may look and see a single flower jutting out from a crack in the granite wall. Because of this variance, I am always curious to hear what other people think about places that I have visited. So much can be learned by seeing things through another person’s eyes, I believe. For me, this ability is essential for building solid relationships. When two people are in a relationship it is important to understand how your significant other will respond in situations. I was in a relationship where we had conflict between us because I would react to a situation opposite of them, then not understand why they were not being more supportive. After a year we parted ways because neither of us knew at the time how to look at something from a different perspective. I can now say that relationship had a profound affect on me, allowing me to experience healthier relationships. Speaking of profound experiences, this was my first contact with the author of The Hobbit and I had no idea the world around him had such a major effect on him creating the fantasy world in his books. ORPHANED AND POOR LEFT JOHN RONALD Reuel Tolkien, played by Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies, Mad Max: Fury Road) with nothing of tangible worth except for his words. His words would travel around the world one day. This biographical drama also starred Lily Collins (Mirror Mirror, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones) as Edith Bratt, Colm Meaney (Alan Partridge, Layer Cake) as Father Francis, Craig Roberts (Just Jim, Submarine) as Private Sam Hodges and Laura Donnelly (Right Hand Drive, Outlander-TV) as Mabel Tolkien. Having no knowledge of J.R.R Tolkien’s personal life, I was stunned watching this beautifully filmed war drama. The story covered three distinct time periods. If broken apart, each segment was compelling; however, in visual form I was distracted with the jumping back and forth in time. I never felt a deep connection to the characters. With such monumental events taking place in the author’s young life, I wanted to know more about Tolkien. Now I am embarrassed to say this, but I have not read The Hobbit; however, after seeing this film and learning a little about his history I want to read the book.
2 ½ stars
THE WORD “BETTER” can be used like a knife. On one hand it is a tool that assists in creating wonderful food dishes in the kitchen; but on the flip side it can be uttered at a person, denting their self-confidence. The person who uses this word may think they are being complimentary; sometimes they are clueless however, not aware of the impact they are having on someone. We can all agree the statement, “Hope you get better soon,” is a positive comment. Telling a friend the dress they are trying on looks better on them than the 1st one they tried is also a positive and maybe helpful statement. When one uses the word “better” in this type of context I am totally on board. NOW YOU MAY not agree 100% with me but I am not a fan of the word “better” when it is used for motivation; it does not always motivate. A teacher telling a student they could have done a better job on their assignment does not have the same effect as asking a student to explain their decisions in doing the homework they way they did. I have learned more when I have been asked why I chose such and such or how I came to that conclusion. Having someone just telling me I could do better does not sit well with me; from my experiences it tends to have a negative connotation. I remember a school project I worked on for a couple of weeks. When it came time to get reviewed one of the things the teacher expressed to me was how she was looking forward to my next project because she knew it would be better. What does that exactly mean? Was she telling me my current assignment was just okay? I will tell you what her words and the comments I received from several sources through my life did to me; they made me more determined to prove them wrong. Hmm, was that their original intention? DESPITE HIS FATHER Sal’s, played by Victor Garber (Titanic, Argo), objections about his writings Jerome David Salinger, played by Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies, Mad Max: Fury Road), refused to give up. He felt he had something to say. This biographical drama also starred Sarah Paulson (Carol, American Horror Story-TV) as Dorothy Olding, Kevin Spacey (L.A. Confidential, House of Cards-TV) as Whit Burnett, and Zoey Deutch (Everybody Wants Some!!, Why Him?) as Oona O’Neill. I thought the cast was excellent along with their perfect for the period outfits and the settings around them. If what I was watching was true then the story was fascinating to me about the reclusive author. His book “The Catcher in the Rye” was required reading at my school; I assume most schools across the country had it as part of their English/Literature classes. What did not work for me in this film was the script. There already was a curious mystique to J.D. Salinger; I felt like I was not learning anything new that I had not seen in the news or on the internet. There was a weakness in the drama that kept most things on an even keel in my opinion. From what I was watching I wanted to learn more about the motivations behind the actions; instead, the scenes seemed like they were glossing over the details. If there was an opportunity to ask the writers, I would ask them why they chose the parts they wrote about in this script.
IF there is something harder I do not know what it could be. To see a loved one not only suffering from a health issue but also totally aware of it is awful to witness. I have always said when a loved one dies suddenly it is harder for those who remain behind; when a loved one dies after a long illness it is harder for them. After seeing someone in pain and anguish for a long duration, for those who were witnessing it, there is a sense of relief at the time of the sufferer’s passing. This has been my experiences as well as the friends and family around me. I remember walking into the hospital room of a loved one and being stunned on how much their face had changed from their disease. The face looked like one of those death masks that one would see on display at a museum, except it was hollowed out at the cheeks and eye sockets; it was just awful. Standing there in the room I thought to myself there is no reason they need to stay alive and suffer so much. I understand there are some people who want to hang on to every extra minute they can get by keeping their dying loved ones alive longer. Please I do not want to upset anyone but I have seen people treat their pets better than their relatives and friends when it comes to ending the suffering. WITH that being said I know I would do everything I could to help a loved one get whatever treatment they needed to extend their life as long as they were not suffering. If it meant learning how to administer pain medicines or get the ill person to therapy sessions, whatever it took I would attempt it. But here is the thing that gets me, what about people who do not have any health insurance or worse they are not able to handle the out of pocket expense? Can you imagine what it must feel like to know there is a treatment out there to help your loved one but the cost was too great? How brutal would that be and here is an example of it in this dramatic action thriller. THE thought of losing his girlfriend Juliette, played by Felicity Jones, was too much to bear for Casey Stein, played by Nicholas Hoult (X-Men franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road). He was willing to do an illegal job to get the money he needed for his girlfriend’s operation. Unfortunately the job did not go as planned. This film had such a competent cast that also included Anthony Hopkins (The Elephant Man, Hitchcock) as Hagen Kahl and Ben Kingsley (Learning to Drive, Schindler’s List) as Geran. Why in the world did these actors sign up for such a mediocre film is beyond me? The story which we have heard before was okay, but the script was so poorly thought out that I sat in my seat and kept thinking how silly the scenes were becoming. At least the chase scenes were exciting, some across Germany’s autobahn, but even after a time I was getting tired seeing so many of them. This picture could have been better if they had written the parts in a more authentic way. In its present form I just wanted to get to a car crash to end everyone’s misery.
1 2/3 stars
There are various reasons to chase someone and I think I have experienced most of them. I can remember as a small child the thrill of having a relative chase me around the house. Funny for their size and age it was surprising they did not catch me more times than they did back then. I understood this better when I started being asked by my younger relatives to try and catch them. Then there was the time I was riding my bicycle in the neighborhood and a neighbor’s dog ran after me when I passed in front of its house. I was huffing and puffing as I sped away, not sure if the dog was being friendly or protecting its territory. Another form of chasing is when you spot someone you know in a crowd and you try to catch up to them. Out of the different reasons for being chased the one that produces the most adrenaline is the one where you feel you are about to receive bodily damage if you are caught. In that split second when you realize the person or the group assembled in front of you wants to hurt you, your entire body springs into a hyper accelerated gear as you try to run away. All of your senses fine tune themselves to accept clues from your surroundings at a faster clip. The eyes continuously scan for clear paths; the ears listen beyond their usual range to keep track of your attackers and you feel your temperature rising to keep every muscle and fiber from tearing apart under the added exertion. An example of this can be found in this action adventure film. WITH humanity broken and barely surviving on a spent planet two rebels dream about a better place. Such a dream could get them killed. Writer and director George Miller (The Witches of Eastwick, Happy Feet franchise) did not create a remake of his original Mad Max movies here; he produced a fierce, fiery adrenaline fueled science fiction fantasy that was utterly intense. Though I could barely understand some of the dialog, this film was meant to be a visual experience. Tom Hardy (Warrior, Child 44) and Charlize Theron (The Italian Job, Monster) as Max Rockatansky and Imperator Furiosa were awesome. I loved the female empowerment angle to the story. Honestly, you can say whatever you want about the story; it really doesn’t matter because this was a visual masterpiece. There was so much action during what was essentially one long continuous chase scene that I was just amazed with the retro feel to everything. I could not tell what was CGI or what were actual stunts; even the motor vehicles were like individual characters. This picture was one stripped down, raw, death defying road trip without a seat belt. There were scenes with blood and violence.
3 1/2 stars
It can be a word or a phrase I hear and I immediately get flooded with memories from a long time ago. Hearing “Just a spoonful of sugar…” and I see myself sitting in an ornate downtown theater with my mother, aunt and cousins watching Mary Poppins on the big screen. Afterwards, we walked across the street to a department store where my cousins and I were each able to pick out one toy to buy. When I hear “I’ll get you my pretty” I can picture my aunt’s house where everyone was gathered; with all the kids in the basement sitting on the floor, in front of the television watching a special presentation of The Wizard of Oz. As soon as I heard Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum in this adventure movie; I was swept up into a mixture of childhood memories with storybook characters coming to life. Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies, About A Boy) played Jack, the boy who went to town to sell a horse and received magic beans for payment. Except in this updated version there were a few twists to the story. When Princess Isabelle, played by Eleanor Tomlinson (The Illusionist, Alice in Wonderland) was caught and lifted away in the growing beanstalk to the land of the giants; her father King Brahmwell, played by Ian McShane (Deadwood-TV, Snow White and the Huntsman), dispatched a rescue party to save her. Leading the party were Isabelle’s fiancee Roderick and guardsman Elmont, played by Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games, Margin Call) and Ewan McGregor (The Impossible, Big Fish). Director Bryan Singer (X-Men franchise, The Usual Suspects) did a perfect balance between story and wonderful special effects. I enjoyed the almost cartoonish quality to the characters of Ewan and Stanley as they had to endure a more physical type of role. Surprisingly, the two leads Nicholas and Eleanor were just okay compared to the other actors. This was a fun movie, that was easy to watch with consistent pacing. It may not have had many surprises, but how could it really when one has grown up with the fantasy story.
2 3/4 stars
Love is coming home where a warm hug is waiting to brush the trying day off of you. Waking up to a gentle protective breath on your neck that kept dark dreams away through the night is love. Comfort in knowing that if you make a mistake it will not diminish one’s love for you. Even the unexpected card filled with caring thoughts is a form of love. Taylor Dayne’s song “Love will Lead you Back” would be apropos to describe this romantic comedy. From the director of 50/50, Jonathan Levine created a funny horror movie that was a relative to the story of Romeo and Juliette. Nicholas Hoult was the unusual zombie named R. On a night of feasting on humans; R became enthralled with Julie, played by Teresa Palmer (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Bedtime Stories), after making a meal of her boyfriend. Determined to protect her, R formed an unexpected relationship with Julie that would change the world. But R did not know Julie’s father Grigio, played by John Malkovich (Burn After Reading, Con Air), was the leader of the human zombie killers. I was totally taken by surprise with the smart and witty dialog. Nicholas and Teresa were perfectly matched, adding authenticity to their characters. Playing R’s friend M, Rob Cordday (Cedar Rapids, W.) was wonderful in his role, coming up with some great lines. My only regret was the small amount of screen time Analeigh Tipton (Damsels in Distress, The Green Hornet) had playing Julie’s friend Nora. A very entertaining film that was rated PG-13 had brief scenes of blood and gore. I was completely surprised by this fun movie. Who knew this zombie film came with a big heart.