THE YOUNG MAN WAS SHARING HIS STORY with the audience on national television. In his words he was expressing how hard it was for him to get to this point, where he made it onto the dance show. He grew up in a tough neighborhood that had its share of crimes. Many of his classmates were already dealing drugs or doing other illegal activities; all he wanted to do was dance. He said he had been picked on and beaten up because of it. When the host asked what his parents thought about his dancing the young man said his Dad wanted a son who liked playing sports. I felt sad for this talented guy who struggled to do what he loved to do. His story reminded me of this couple I knew who had a little girl. The girl preferred playing with trucks and cars instead of her dolls. The parents were not exactly distraught, but you could tell they were concerned their daughter preferred “boy toys” instead of “girl toys.” Oh, and they were upset that the little girl hated wearing dresses. She would cry every time her parents would try to get her to wear a dress. FROM THE TWO STORIES I JUST SHARED with you, can you find a common theme between the two? I will give you a minute to think about it. Ok time is up; let me tell you what I see. The young man and little girl did not have any issue with what they liked; the man loved to dance, and the girl preferred playing with trucks. The people around each of them had an issue with it. Hearing the man talk about his father wishing he was into sports bothered me. I feel a parent’s job is to love their child unconditionally; to nurture them to grow into kind, respectable, responsible adults. The father, I believe, is taking his prejudices and applying them to his son. Maybe I am assuming, but what I took away from the young man’s story was his Dad and neighborhood kids thought less of him, or maybe thought he was not masculine enough, because he was a dancer. The same can be applied to the parents of the little girl. They had a problem with their daughter not playing with toys associated in the past with a girl and not dressing the part. What a child is or chooses to do is not necessarily a reflection on their parents. It is similar to the parents in this heartbreaking, dramatic movie. WHEN NANCY AND MARSHALL EAMONS, played by Nicole Kidman (The Beguiled, Lion) and Russell Crowe (The Nice Guys, The Water Diviner) discover their son is gay, the only thing they feel will solve the “problem” is to enroll their son Jared, played by Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea, Lady Bird), into a program that will convert him to a heterosexual. Jared agreed to participate; he wanted to please his parents. Based on a true story, this film was written and directed by Joel Edgerton (Loving, It Comes at Night) who also starred as Victor Sykes. Most of you know I find Nicole to be a gifted actress and for the time she was on screen, she was dynamite. For the small body of work Lucas has done already, he too is a gifted actor. The script based on the biography was well written, despite a couple of areas that could have used more explanation. As for the topic, I looked on in disbelief that anyone would even consider such a preposterous idea about conversion therapy. But looking underneath the surface, the lack of acceptance upon finding out about their son was sad to see. This was a powerful and thought provoking picture.
3 ½ stars
WHENEVER there was a fight that involved females, they would attract the biggest crowds. There is a term I have heard associated to these types of fights called “catfight.” As a young kid I never understood why other children would yell out this word and immediately others would scurry over to watch 2 girls battle it out. I remember a couple of these fights breaking out in the school hallways and was stunned at the viciousness on display. There was scratching, kicking, hair pulling and smacking, besides tearing of clothing. One particular fight involved a shorter girl who had transferred into our school. She actually stunned and frightened many students when she got involved into a fight with another girl. The reason being she was landing full-fledged hard punches like a boxer. Her opponent dropped to the floor in no time. STRENGTH is not something that is exclusive to the male species. I am sure I have mentioned in previous reviews my female relatives who were in the military; one was a sergeant who could nearly squeeze the blood out of your hand when she shook it. It just makes me wonder how and why stereotypes get formed. You know the ones like females are the weaker sex or are more emotional or always go to the restroom in pairs; why are such things a topic of conversation? There have been numerous times feats of strength have been reported on the news or shown on television specials. I remember from years ago a small child being trapped underneath a car and its mother pushing the vehicle off her child. Just recently in the newspaper there was an article about a father who saved his child from flood waters without the use of anything except his super human strength against the rushing water. Whether one is male or female, a parent or not; I feel when times call for it anyone will do whatever they can to survive. See for yourself in this film festival winning drama. SECLUDED in their boarding school in Virginia the lives of the student body were disrupted when injured soldier Corporal McBurney, played by Colin Farrell (The Lobster, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), was discovered on their property. Besides being injured he was also a northerner. Written and directed by Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette), this civil war story was utterly beautiful to watch. The scenes were full of atmosphere where I was feeling the emotions of the cast which included Nicole Kidman (Lion, Secret in Their Eyes) as Miss Martha, Kirsten Dunst (Hidden Figures, Upside Down) as Edwina and Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon, 20th Century Women) as Alicia. The acting was outstanding especially from Nicole; there is no denying when she is on screen she commands one’s attention. I know this story was done before; but what I enjoyed about this version was the fact it was coming from the women’s point of view. The story was a fascinating one for me because of the women being southerners and Colin’s character was from the north. Everything appeared to hit the mark until I got deeper into the film. Based on the scenes I actually felt there needed to be more intensity coming out of the characters. With that type of cast they could have easily delved further down and made a bigger impact. I still enjoyed watching this picture, loving how some of the scenes were set up visually. One thing for sure after seeing this movie, one cannot assume someone is weaker than another.
I have seen examples that both agree and disagree with the proverb, “blood is thicker than water.” Using the common definition that family relationships are more important than other types of relationships, I know a family with adult children who focus solely on each other; they hardly have any social activities that involve friendships. Everything they do they do together whether it is going to the health club, the movies, shopping or even carpooling; they only carpool with each other siblings’ children. It is obvious to me that friendships/relationships with people outside of their family are not important to them. AS another example, I know a couple who each came from a dysfunctional family. For them their friends became their family, becoming careful with the time they spent with any of their blood family members. I see them as 2 individuals who became family to each other, creating a safe and protected environment. Where their focus has been on each other, I have seen couples where one person still has as their main priority a family member such as a mother or brother, instead of their partner. I have always been fascinated with the dynamics between family members by blood or love. Two brothers who look nothing alike, who people think are so different from each other, still have a bond that allows them to communicate without talking out loud. Or how about twins who live far away from each other yet when one feels sick the other can sense it; can anyone explain this phenomenon? I recall an article in the newspaper about an elderly gentleman who traveled overseas for vacation. While leisurely strolling through a town he stopped at a café to order a drink and rest. He happened to be facing the doorway while seated and when a customer walked in a few minutes later, the man was stunned; the customer who walked in looked identical to himself. It turned out they were twins separated at birth. Each one expressed the sense of unexplained loss they had been carrying all these years. There is such a strong bond that remains with some family members. SEPARATED from his brother 5 year old Saroo, played by newcomer Sunny Pawar, traveled further than the boundaries of India; he wound up in Australia when husband and wife John and Sue Brierley, played by David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Van Helsing) and Nicole Kidman (Secret in their Eyes, Paddington) adopted the young boy. As he grew up he began to understand certain feelings he had inside. This film festival winning movie based on a true story was a wonderful picture watching experience. Along with Dev Patel (The Last Airbender, Slumdog Millionaire) as Saroo Brierley and Rooney Mara (Carol, Side Effects) as Lucy; the acting in this picture was outstanding. This was Dev’s best performance in my opinion. The story was simply incredible and more amazing because it really happened. I found the 1st half of the film with the young Saroo, beautifully acted by Sunny, more intense due to the young child’s plight; the direction of the scenes kept me totally engrossed in the events. Because of that intensity the 2nd half of the movie felt a bit less so, but it still came across with subtle power. This could easily be an Oscar contender that showed the type of bonds we form for a family.
3 ½ stars
I sit and wait, searching their face for any clue on which direction their reaction will go. It is a gamble; I know that going in, but I am willing to take the risk. Of course, I make sure I have plenty other choices in case any one of them goes bad. You see I love trying new products, especially in the food category. Anytime I have people over to the house I try offering something new to them and myself. It could be from any food group, I would take a chance on it. And here is the little dietary secret; if a guest enjoys the new product I make them take it home because I do not want it to stay alone with me. It would be too much temptation. This way I get to taste something new without overindulging myself. The other secret about having new food items for company is seeing the look on people’s faces at that first bite; I do not know if I can explain it but I truly love seeing someone putting on a happy face due to some new discovery I found. When I am at the grocery store I feel like a treasure hunter when shopping for an upcoming party. Now before you tell me I need to find a new life, let me tell you I feel the same way outside of my home. When I was a kid I wanted to be a tour guide for the city. I wanted to take people I knew or people they knew and show them something they had never seen before. It could be art, architecture, nature or a restaurant; it did not matter as long as the person would have a positive experience from my tours. My desire to be a discoverer played right into this biographical drama. MAX Perkins, played by Colin Firth (The Railway Man, Before I Go to Sleep) had a special place in the literary world. He was the book editor for Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe. This film festival nominee had a top notch cast of actors. Besides Colin there was Nicole Kidman (Secret in Their Eyes, Paddington) as Aline Bernstein, Jude Law (Spy, Sherlock Holmes franchise) as Thomas Wolfe and Laura Linney (Mr. Holmes, Primal Fear) as Louise Perkins. I was excited not only for the cast but the story itself, seeing these authors I was familiar with coming to life was a treat. You will understand now why my disappointment in this film was significant because the script did not live up to the characters. For such dynamic well known authors this story needed more levels of emotion, besides offering more of the artists’ motivations and feelings. Sure there were drunken and screaming scenes but I wanted to hear more about the “why.” The look of this picture was appropriate and the acting was the best the actors could do with the script; I just wished the script would have been at a higher level to match the story. Considering this film was only playing at 2 theaters in the city, I still felt like I was discovering a little piece of history.
2 1/3 stars
She would be woken up in the middle of the night and told to pick out one thing in her room to take with her. It had taken place so many times that she already knew which doll she would choose to take on their trip that only had an arrival destination, never a return trip. Extra clothes were never taken because each family member always had one piece of baggage that was already filled up with clothing. All of the stuffed pieces of luggage were kept in the basement, ready to go in an instant. She remembered very few of the trips since all of them always took place in the middle of the night when most of the neighborhood was fast asleep. Quietly the family would pile into the car while her Dad filled the trunk with the suitcases, careful to close the trunk with the least amount of noise. Leaving their home behind she usually fell back to sleep before they reached the highway. It was not until the sun peeked up out of the east before she would wake up with her doll clutched close to her body. Though these trips always involved sadness, having to leave friends and neighbors behind, they were expected because of their father’s line of work. He had told the family because he worked for the FBI, they would have to relocate periodically after his assignment was completed. Since all of his work was top secret, they had to evacuate their residences in the middle of the night, under the cover of darkness which was the exact same reason she would read in some of her mystery books. It was not until she was about to graduate from middle school that she found out her Dad did not work for the FBI; he was wanted by them. AFTER their conceptual performance artist parents Annie and Caleb Fang, played by Maryann Plunkett (The Squid and the Whale, Blue Valentine) and Christopher Walken (Jersey Boys, A Late Quartet) went missing under disturbing circumstances; Annie and her brother Baxter, played by Nicole Kidman (Paddington, The Railway Man) and Jason Bateman (The Gift, Bad Words) agreed to meet at their parents’ house to figure out if indeed there was foul play involved or was this another one of their parents’ public stunts. This comedic drama directed by Jason Bateman had a curious, different type of story that kept me totally interested in it. Grant you it was pretty easy to do with the wonderful acting from the cast. I enjoyed the way flashbacks were inserted into the story; some of them were wild ideas that involved the children being incorporated into the parents’ artistic endeavors. Jason did a sensitive job in directing the actors through the script because their performances were multi-layered. I do not know how popular the novel was that this mystery film was based on; but with such an off the wall story, I was mesmerized by this picture. Just where was the Department of Children and Family Services?
The word “determination” not only has assertive connotations associated with it, it even sounds strong. The dictionary defines determination as a quality that makes you continue trying to do or achieve something that is difficult. Just last night after coming home from shopping at a couple of retail establishments I discovered my charge card was missing. I mentally retraced my steps from the stores, to the car, to home, to sweeping the sidewalks of fallen leaves, to entering the house and hanging up my coat. When I later went back to my coat to retrieve the charge card, I checked all the pockets even though I was sure I had put it in the outside pocket of my sleeve which I had already found open and empty. Taking a flashlight I went outside and started to scan the sidewalks, only to find no trace. The pile of leaves that I swept into the street was approximately 7 feet wide by 2 1/2 feet high. Everyone sweeps their leaves into the street where the city comes and picks them up. In the dark, in the cold I started to investigate the mound of dead leaves as I slowly followed the flashlight’s beam of light. Carefully moving leaves aside as if I was an archaeologist, I intently looked for any sign of my card. After 30 minutes freezing in the cold with an aching back from stooping over, my eyes caught the sight of a tiny sliver of blue color barely peeking out between two overlapping leaves. I could not believe I actually found my charge card within all those leaves; my determination paid off. Determination can be a powerful motivator as you can see in this mystery thriller. INVESTIGATING a crime scene partners Ray and Jess, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, The Martian) and Julia Roberts (Eat Pray Love, Closer), discovered the victim was Jess’ daughter. Ray would make it his mission to bring the killer to justice; it was the least he could do for Jess. This film was a remake of the Oscar winner from Argentina. The cast, including Nicole Kidman (Paddington, Before I Go to Sleep) as Claire, was pretty top-notch. Unfortunately they were totally wasted in this dreadful production. The story kept jumping back and forth in time to the point where it was annoying me. I never felt a connection to the characters simply because the script was so dull. Sure the actors did their best and I actually wanted to be interested in their characters; however, I disliked the minimum amount of time spent with them in each scene. The story dragged for me and I never quite understood what motivated Ray so much. In addition I thought the story line between Ray and Claire was unnecessary. If I was not determined to see and review so many movies I would have taken a pass on this one.
1 3/4 stars
One of the more important acts a parent can instill in a child is the love of reading. There is an art in reading a book to a child. As the words get spoken, images begin to form and take shape in the little one’s mind. Stimulating the brain this way, sets the foundation for an active imagination to grow in the child. A blanket once draped around the shoulders becomes a cape that enables the child to fly from room to room. Spreading that same blanket out on the floor then repeatedly lifting it up and down in waves turns the living room floor into a choppy sea filled with a school of gigantic whales. Once the blanket goes still it becomes the launching pad for today’s rocket launch. Who hasn’t as a kid carried around some item that was special only to them? For me it started out with a stuffed monkey for several years and then my attention was drawn to retractable ballpoint pens. They were my fleet of spaceships that were constantly firing at each other by me clicking and unclicking them. Memories of my childhood, that had been lying dormant, flourished up into my consciousness while watching this sweet and joyful family comedy. COMING from Peru to England Paddington, voiced by Ben Whishaw (Skyfall, I’m not There), found shelter with a lovely family. Mary and Henry Brown, played by Sally Hawkins (Godzilla, Blue Jasmine) and Hugh Bonneville (The Monuments Men, Downton Abbey-TV), agreed to take in the bear for one night. What could possibly go wrong? This movie was an absolute treat, harking back to a civilized and charming time. I mean this in two ways: as a story line and as a movie watching experience. It was obvious this was a group effort because the entire cast from the characters Sally and Hugh played to Mrs. Bird and Millicent, played by Julie Walters (Harry Potter franchise, Mamma Mia) and Nicole Kidman (The Railway Man, Rabbit Hole), all played their parts to the hilt; you could see they were having so much fun. In turn, I had a great time watching this picture; it had drama, comedy, excitement and suspense that was appropriate for all age levels. Even the special effects that created Paddington were seamless to the point where I actually believed he was standing right there in every scene. I cannot imagine anyone sitting through this film and not getting a smile on their face. It was such a good time for me and when it was done and over I walked out of the theater with my childhood memories playing out before my eyes.
3 1/3 stars
It is not given out freely, nor should it be taken lightly. To be treated with respect, trust is something that is to be earned; at least that is what I think. The dictionary defines trust as a belief that someone or something is reliable, good or honest. Imagine if everyone believed everything they were being told was true, how hurt they would become when they found out that was not the case. How many of us make a large purchase, let us say a car or house, without depending on a realtor or salesperson? If we do not build trust with the individual we are not going to buy the item. I have never been one to give out trust easily; it has to develop over time. However, once someone has my trust they have it completely. I never question their actions or what they tell me because I believe them. Now I have to tell you being this way has a downside. If someone who has my trust breaks or bruises it, I feel the sting much deeper. Depending on the severity my trust could go from just needing a bandage to totally crumbling around me. No matter which way, my trust never comes back all the way. TO love a person is to trust them, but what if you could not remember them? Nicole Kidman (The Others, The Hours) played Christine, a married woman who was so savagely beaten that it affected her memory. Not able to recall anything from her past, she could only retain memories that occurred while she stayed awake; for once she fell asleep her memories would vanish by the next morning. Each day she woke up to find a stranger in her bed who was really her husband Mike, played by Colin Firth (The Railway Man, The King’s Speech). When she received a call from a Dr. Nasch, played by Mark Strong (Body of Lies, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), who claimed he was treating her, she would not know who to trust as she tried to find some way to retrieve her lost memories. Based on the novel, this mystery thriller could not have asked for a better cast. Having been paired previously for a film, Nicole and Colin were excellent and convincing with their acting. There is something about Nicole on screen that makes one focus their attention solely on her. Because the two actors were so good it only pointed out how poorly written the script was for this movie. I found it irritating because there were odd moments throughout along with a certain staleness to several scenes. Despite a couple of twists in the story, overall I was disappointed. I wonder if Nicole and Colin will lose their memory of this film as quickly as I have started to do. There were a few scenes that had blood in them.
Though the physical and verbal blows ended a long time ago they are still remembered. The changing landscape of an aging body may cover up the dents of abuse but the tremors remain just beneath the surface. Pain never discriminates, it only knows to dig toward one’s heart. It was not until I was in my 20s before I realized there was supposed to be space between my shoulders and ears. I can still remember when a friend or relative expressed kindness with an innocent physical gesture; my whole body would tense up. It was not something that was done consciously, more instinctive or something I learned at a young age. In addition each verbal assault can be recalled verbatim to this day. They dominate any positive comments I may receive by shoving them to a junk room in my mind. To say it takes a lot of work to correct this circuitry in the brain would be putting it mildly. Based on a true story former British army officer Eric Lomax, played by Colin Firth (A Single Man, The King’s Speech), was someone I could relate to in this film festival winning movie. Years have past since he was forced to work on a railroad for Japanese troops while he was a prisoner of war. His wife Patti, played by Nicole Kidman (The Hours, The Golden Compass), had no idea what her husband had to endure during the war because he never talked about it. She only knew something was not right. Nicole and Colin were beautifully suited to play husband and wife. From their performance I was easily convinced they were a married couple; that was how commanding they were in playing their characters. Stellan Skarsgard (Good Will Hunting, The Avengers) as Finlay had a curious role in which he was well suited for the part. The director had a good eye for setting up scenes where I rather enjoyed the contrast between the young and older Eric characters. Where this film let me down was the script. I found myself becoming bored through parts, after going from intense scenes to average ones and back. Having only seen one trailer for this picture, I imagined there would have been more dynamic emotions and energy on display. In my opinion the story warranted it. One need not have to relate to the subject matter to know there was a powerful story here. It just was not executed to its best advantage.
2 1/2 stars
From two places one could easily find themselves in the middle of a raging battle in a foreign land, to relaxing at a beach resort on a faraway island. All it takes is either reading a book or watching a movie. Sitting in a comfortable spot, a book will take me out of my home and let my imagination conjure up the places I am reading about. In my mind I can add the sounds, the colors and the inflection of people’s voices; there are no limits on what I can create. When I watch a film my eyes are the first to be stimulated. There is nothing I have to add; when a movie is good it will go beyond the limits of the screen it is projected on and engulf me into its story. I love both experiences. The visual stimulation in this dramatized biography was awesome. From the comfort of my sofa, I was transported back to the Spanish Civil War. From there I wound up in Cuba, the United States and on a fishing boat. It was the incredible filming of this story that immersed me in the tumultuous relationship between Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn. Nicole Kidman (Stoker, The Paperboy) as Martha was wonderful. I want to know how her eyes always had my attention in every one of her scenes. Clive Owen (Children of Men, The Boys are Back) was over the top as Ernest, to the point it was buffoonish for me. However, I cut him some slack since Hemingway was a larger than life character. Adding to the capable cast was David Strathairn (Lincoln, The Whistleblower) as John Dos Passos and Tony Shalhoub (Feed the Fish, Monk-TV) as Mikhail Koltsov. Similar to the filming style of Forrest Gump, I thoroughly enjoyed the intermingling of historic footage with current characters. The gentle shifting from black and white to sepia to color in the film was beautifully done. I am sure this movie took major liberties in regards to historical accuracy, facts about Martha and Ernest, along with the other characters in general; but I did not care. This Emmy award winning film was great to watch and I was able to visit different places around the world from my cozy couch. A few scenes with violence, blood and war casualties.
3 stars — DVD