It has been years since we first got together; has it been decades already? Old friends who have seen and lived through so much together all these years. I remember when we first met; I was standing in a long line of people outside on a cloudless day. Though you were not native to the area we soon discovered we had things in common and became fast friends. Our conversations were never forced; in fact, we were comfortable enough to say anything because neither of us ever judged the other. Even when you were having father issues I was there for you. There were periods of time where we did not get to see each other. Remember when you went away to that remote place to find yourself? I will never forget when you found out you had a sister; you were over the moon. When I look back at the times we spent staring up at the stars, wondering which ones looked like they were in the throes of death, we really have experienced a lot together. And like any close friendship, no matter how long it has been between visits, we pick up right where we left off as if we had just seen each other yesterday. There is a certain comfort that comes with our conversations. Though we view things with older and wiser eyes, I still see younger images of us whenever we talk. To tell you the truth, memories of our past years always accompany you so that I always get a sense of home whenever we meet. THE years of peaceful harmony that followed the defeat of the Empire were about to be threatened from a new evil force called the First Order. Their plan involved the use of the dark side. This action adventure fantasy directed and co-written by J.J. Abrams (Super 8, Star Trek franchise) had the perfect balance between the past and present. Not that someone unfamiliar with the past Star Wars movies needs to see all of them, but it would help with some of this film’s humorous dialog. With relative newcomer Daisey Ridley as Rey, Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year, Ex Machina) as Poe Dameron and Adam Driver (This is Where I Leave You, What If) as Kylo Ren; I can say with certainty the franchise has been placed in capable hands. These three actors especially Daisy were powerful on screen. Is the story perfect; no, I do not believe so. I found a few parts to be a rehash from past films. There were also some scenes that shared a similarity with past ones. However, the overall movie viewing experience was really special. The entire audience acted and reacted in identical ways, from cheering at the unbelievable battle scenes to the sly remarks from past cast members. As a stepping stone for a new story arc, this picture will fulfill many viewers’ hopes and dreams. Things look good for a new force to take fight.
3 1/2 stars for Star Wars fans 3 1/4 stars for everyone else
It drives me crazy when a computer function does not work. On the monitor a small warning pops up and tells me the procedure failed; then has the nerve to make me press the “okay” button like I have a choice. I want to say no, it is not okay now fix it. The way I look at it I want computers to correct themselves if they are so smart. Now intelligently I understand they cannot think for themselves, but it certainly seems we are going in that direction. With the variety of electronic devices we use these days, some of our computers know more about ourselves than our family or friends. Instead of typing we can talk to our computers, use sign language and maybe soon facial recognition. Just this morning on the news I saw a report of a robot with a human face that has over 40+ pulleys underneath so the robot can provide visual facial cues besides verbal ones. I have to tell you it creeped me out a bit. Maybe it is because of all the science fiction movies I have seen; but the smarter computers are becoming the more concerned I am of their power. There is all this talk about artificial intelligence; do you ever think there will be a time where a computer will refuse one of our requests? It is a frightening thought and this dramatic science fiction film does not make me feel any better about it. WINNING a company contest computer programmer Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson (Unbroken, About Time), won a week at the company CEO’s remote private residence. Upon his arrival he discovered he would be testing a new form of artificial intelligence never seen before and her name was Ava, played by Alicia Vikander (Seventh Son, A Royal Affair). This film festival winning movie quickly drew me in with its crisp sleek look. I enjoyed how the scenes blended in with the soundtrack to create a buildup of tension. The acting was excellent from everyone, particularly by Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year, Robin Hood) as Nathan. He had a commanding presence on screen. For the majority of the film the script kept my interest; there were only a few parts that seemed to deflate and slow down. For such a modern and relevant story, there was an exciting old fashioned type of cat and mouse mystery game going on which was captivating. This picture had the type of science fiction story that could be considered closer to reality than fiction, which was a scary thought to me. I kept thinking about this movie after it was over. After you see this film you may get a better understanding about my fears when it comes to smart computers. There were a couple of brief scenes with blood.
3 1/4 stars
I am used to friends and family picking up and moving out of state for either a job opportunity or retirement. As for me I would be willing to do it only on a part-time basis, specifically during wintertime. I never had the courage to even think about this until the past several years as the winter months have been harder on me; but who knows if I will ever get to a point where I could afford to do such a thing. What I find to be more courageous are those individuals and families who emigrate to a different country, especially the ones who hope to become business owners one day. I have known people who were willing to work seven days a week, doing whatever needed to be done, to try and make a go of their new business. Depending on where it is located can add an extra level of difficulty when it involves local or federal government agencies. In fact, I just heard a story from a member from one of my classes who is trying to build a new building. The restrictions and requirements to get and keep a building permit is truly a nightmare. ON the verge of expanding his business Abel Morales, played by Oscar Isaac (Inside Lleywn Davis, Body of Lies), was desperately trying to keep things afloat while trying to find out who was stealing from his company. With all of his finances tied up in the business he was taking these acts of crime personally. This film festival winning crime drama had everything going for it. Written and directed by J.C. Chandor (Margin Call, All is Lost), the movie perfectly balanced the emotional scenes with brilliant film work. One of the main reasons why this worked so well was due to the cast and what a group of actors were chosen. Besides Oscar’s performance which was wonderful, there was Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, The Help) who played his wife Anna, David Oyelowo (Selma, Interstellar) as Lawrence and Albert Brooks (Defending Your Life, Drive) as Andrew Walsh. All of them were amazing to watch; but let me add, Jessica was electric in this role. She was so good that I have to say I think this was her best performance to date. Set in New York during the early 1980s, the whole look of the picture was right on. This action movie was the complete package that was beautifully done with the right amount of emotional investment; I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. There were a couple of scenes where blood and violence was shown.
3 1/2 stars
There are a multitude of actions and reactions that can be attributed to love. The warmth that rises up to the surface of your skin when your significant other engulfs your hand with their hand is due to love. Saddened as you look at the remnants of your love’s face outlined on their pillow while they are away on a business trip, slows your heart rate for the duration of their time away. I remember spending weeks driving around the city and suburbs, taking photographs of places we had been to that were associated with happy moments, to create a memory photo album for their birthday. Yep, due to the love I had for them. Love can overrule the mind’s practical side and make us do some things that can be embarrassing, odd or even scary. For me, I cringe when I think about the time I went to meet them at the airport, dressed up as a shirtless cowboy. Please excuse me for a moment as I clear the taste of bile from my mouth. Most of us associate being in love with joyful thoughts, but in this dramatic thriller love revealed a darker side. Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy, Liberal Arts) played Therese Raquin who was sent to stay with her aunt Madame Raquin, played by Jessica Lange (The Vow, Big Fish). She was to become a companion and caretaker for her sickly cousin Camille, played by Tom Felton (Harry Potter franchise, The Apparition). As time passed Therese was taken by surprise the day her aunt decided that she would be marrying her cousin and the three of them would live happily ever after. That was until one day Camille brought home his old friend Laurent, played by Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis, Drive). The sets in this period piece were excellent, depicting France in the 1860s. Already fond of Elizabeth Olsen, I thought her and Jessica’s performances were outstanding. Actually I enjoyed the entire cast; the acting level was of a high caliber. The problems with this film have to do with the script and the directing. There were slow dry scenes where I felt the story sagging. It was sad because the potential for a highly dramatic, powerful film was there but it never reached it. The only love I felt for this film was for Jessica Lange and Elizabeth Olsen.
2 1/2 stars
Hope is such a funny thing. In some circumstances it is the life preserver that keeps you afloat during the rough choppy waters of doubt and fear. When one has to wait for test results, hope is there to carry them through the days. There are times though where hope drives us crazy as if it greased the wheels of one’s reasoning, making them skid across the roads of reality and sanity. Checking one’s email account for an email or voice messages for that one call, hoping the person you just met keeps their promise to contact you for a date, as you refuse to make any plans yet for the weekend. This would be the wicked side of hope. The dictionary defines hope as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. It says nothing about it helping or hindering us. In this latest dramatic film from the writing and directing team of Ethan and Joel Coen (The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men) hope was the only thing musician Llewyn Davis, played by Oscar Isaac (Robin Hood, Drive), had as he tried to make it in the New York folk scene back in the 1960’s. This Golden Globe nominated black and white movie was meticulously filmed down to each detail. The set pieces and scenes had the Coen Brothers’ special way of evoking emotions out of both the characters and viewers. I do not believe everyone will be familiar with the Fred Harvey rest stop oasis, but it was priceless to see one of them in a scene. If I am not mistaken they were in only one state in America where they spanned across the highway. Besides the outstanding acting from Oscar, I thought the acting was equally well done by Carey Mulligan (An Education, The Great Gatsby) as Jean and John Goodman (Argo, Roseanne-TV) as Roland Turner. In fact, I think John is one of the best character actors working in movies today. As for the story I enjoyed most of it, though I felt at times it was meandering about, leaving uncertain conclusions. The ending left me a little cold. I am not sure this film festival winning movie will please everyone. Music lovers will certainly enjoy this musical movie; at least I hope so.
3 1/3 stars
Rarely am I impressed with someone’s job. My motto has always been “someone has to graduate at the top of the class and someone at the bottom of the class.” But when it comes to teachers, I have to admit I am somewhat biased. Both my brothers were teachers; one was a career AP history and sociology high school teacher and the other was an EMH teacher; the letters stood for educable mentally handicapped. I think today the title would be a special needs teacher. From my school years I can absolutely vouch for the effect a teacher can make on a student. For every positive effect there is an equal amount of negative ones. When it came to this movie, I understood what single mother Jamie Fitzpatrick, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal (Hysteria, Crazy Heart), hoped to accomplish. She wanted her daughter to get a decent education from the PIttsburgh school system. With poor conditions and uninterested tenured teachers at the failing, inner city school; Jamie waged a battle against the school system. To achieve change, her tenacity would be met by an unyielding school bureaucracy, fearful teacher’s union and skeptical parents; all determined to protect their own interests. For Jamie to make a solid case, she would first need to win over teacher Nona Alberts, played by Viola Davis (The Help, Doubt). This film was a mess; it received a failing grade from me. Though Viola gave it her best it was not enough, the script was ridiculous; filled with cliches, manipulation and catch phrases. I found Maggie one dimensional and felt her relationship made no sense with teacher Michael Perry, played by Oscar Isaac (Drive, Body of Lies). The story did not know what it wanted; going with an anti union message, then back tracking on it. What could have been a powerful movie was instead slow and uninteresting. Give this film a detention for being boring.
1 2/3 stars