SITTING AT THE TABLE WITH no one to talk to was making me uncomfortable. There were at least a dozen people sitting around the long table, but I did not know any of them. I was supposed to meet a friend at this gathering but after I arrived at the restaurant they texted they were still stuck at work. Since I was already there I tried to make the best of it. The group met once a month at this particular restaurant but throughout the year they planned different cultural events; my friend and I thought it would be something worth checking out. After I was seated and introductions were made all around, it became apparent to me that everyone there knew each other. I was the odd man out. Some of the individuals sitting around asked me a couple of questions like where I was from and what did I do for a living, but afterwards their attention was drawn back to their friends or people they already knew. THOUGH THIS WAS NOT THE type of venue where I would bring something, I should have brought my old standby anyway. There is this little bakery I know that has been open more than 50 years. It is sort of like an old world type of place where they bake a variety of items. One in particular is my favorite and whenever I bring them to a gathering the folks there gather around and talk to me about the item. Light and airy, shaped into curved oblong commas, they have a sprinkling of sugar on top. I know a majority of people would bring a bottle of wine; I prefer bringing baked goods. It is difficult to attend a party where you hardly know any of the guests and I have found this item can break the ice with most people. Personally I quickly withdraw from a party when I see guests have gathered into their own little cliques. It reminds me of the divisions that were in place in high school. And since I am not a drinker, when guests at a party start acting silly from too much alcohol I wrap things up and say my goodbyes. Nothing worse than being at a party with an out of control guest; so I better warn you the guests at the party in this dramatic comedy are one intense group. ON THE NIGHT JANET, PLAYED by Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Four Weddings and a Funeral) throws a dinner party her husband Bill, played by Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner, Secrets & Lies), waits until the guests arrived before making an announcement. This film festival winning movie also starred Patricia Clarkson (The Station Agent, The Green Mile) as April, Emily Mortimer (Match Point, Lars and the Real Girl) as Jinny and Cherry Jones (The Perfect Storm, The Village) as Martha. Hands down Patricia was the star of this film, though the rest of the cast was excellent; she stood out for me. I am sure part of it was due to the acidic script. The direction was fine but as the story unfolded I never quite felt engaged with any of the characters. At one point it just seemed like a lot of chaos was taking place; I found myself wanting to tune out. It was too bad, because I enjoyed the picture being filmed in black and white along with some of the wicked lines in the script. By the time the movie was over I was glad I was not invited to this party.
PEOPLE REFER TO THEM AS their posse, entourage, gal pals, buddies or a variety of other descriptions. I describe them as my circle of friends or inner circle. These are your group of friends you are close with, who you hang out with the most. There is a small group of friends I have a standing date with where we all get together once every three months. We might get together individually or for some special event between the dates, but we at least know we are guaranteed of seeing each other at a set point in time. However you refer to your friends we all experience something in common and that is what I refer to as an easy comfort. When I am with my group of friends we rarely have to explain our actions or feelings about something because all of us know immediately how each one of us would react in a situation. I find this communication shorthand, if you will, keeps the special bond we feel between us on even keel. THE SAME CAN BE SAID about your coworkers who share that same connection you do with them. In fact I recently read a statistic that was surprising for me: 56% of employees say they would turn down a better job offer because they did not want to leave their “work family.” Don’t you find that statistic interesting? I know for some of us we spend more time with our “work family” than our actual one. Now one thing I have noticed in common between the “work family” and your group of friends is how it doesn’t work the same when someone is not there. The analogy I use is that it feels like a three legged stool with a leg missing. There is a certain type of energy a close group of friends or coworkers feel among themselves that assists in keeping the bonds between everyone strong. When one person is missing it can throw the rest of the group off. If you need to see proof, feel free to see the last of this film’s franchise. IF THOMAS, PLAYED BY Dylan O’Brien (Deepwater Horizon, Teen Wolf), and his friends wanted to get back their friend Minho, played by Ki Hong Lee (Wish Upon, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt-TV), they would have to enter into one of the most dangerous mazes they have ever encountered. Chances were they still might not all get back together. This action, science fiction thriller also starred Kaya Scodelario (Now is Good, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) as Teresa, Thomas Brodie Sangster (Love Actually, Nanny McPhee) as Newt and Aidan Gillen (The Lovers, Game of Thrones-TV) as Janson. Having seen the 2 previous installments I found this one was packed with a lot of action scenes. On the one hand I appreciated the fact the movie studio did not decide to split this story into 2 separate films, but this movie still was overstuffed in my opinion. It needed some editing to reduce the 2 hour and 20 minute running time. Another issue I had was the action scenes; after the intense first one, the others did not quite match in intensity. However the story did its part to keep me interested for the most part, though when there were “gun battles” I was amazed how the “bad” guys were incredibly bad shots. After watching this picture it occurred to me I did not feel I was part of the characters’ inner circle; I was more of an acquaintance.
2 ½ stars
I have from time to time run across advertisements that sold me on their product. Off to the store I would go to seek it out, where I found it looked like the item in the ad but it was not exactly the same. Where the picture showed a metal ring around the item, in person it was silver colored plastic; I realized it could easily break after several uses. Some people would say this was a deceptive advertisement; the picture and description did not focus on this certain part, letting the consumer come to their own conclusions. It is all marketing and I understand it; I guess you can say I almost expect it. If I think about it I am sure this type of example has played a part in my cautious or suspicious nature when it comes to dealing with any type of business. In my personal life I tend to trust a person until they prove me wrong, but when it comes to companies and corporations I go with the cliche, “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is not true.” I try not letting this mentality infiltrate into my personal dealings with individuals, but after being “burned” a few times it is hard to remain open and trusting of people who have not yet had enough history built between us. As far as I am concerned trust is something that needs to be earned, just ask the main character in this action thriller. AFTER surviving the maze Thomas, Minho, Teresa; played by Dylan O’Brien (The First Time, Teen Wolf-TV), Ki Hong Lee (The Stanford Prison Experiment, Everything Before Us) and Kaya Scodelario (The Truth About Emanuel, Moon), along with the rest of their group may have finally found some relief thanks to Janson, played by Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones-TV, Blitz), the man in charge of the security complex where they have been ensconced for their protection. It was almost too good to be true. The 2nd installment of the science fiction series had more action than the first one. The multiple chase scenes were somewhat exciting but I did grow tired after so many of them. I wanted more scenes with Patricia Clarkson (Learning to Drive, Friends with Benefits) as Ava Paige and Aiden Gillen because not only were they a good choice for their characters, they could easily handle the acting requirements since they are so seasoned. If you did not see the first film this one would be a bit confusing to you; I saw it and I still felt lost a couple of times. The script was the culprit because there was essentially no time for character development since the action was ramped up so much. I did not feel connected to this picture and wondered how closely it followed the book. It makes me wonder how much one can believe in the marketing campaign for this film.
2 1/4 stars
She was the last of my friend’s three dogs when it was time for her life to end. When my friend told me about her dog passing she mentioned how hard it was this time because there was no one left in the house to listen to her. The dogs were great listeners who seemed to always do the right thing when my friend was lamenting about a troubling topic. The furry family would rest their heads on her lap when she was sad. If my friend was talking about an exciting event, the dogs would prance and hop around her as they gave out these short crisp barks; it was hysterical to watch them. Sadly her house was quiet now and it was having a negative effect on her. She used to peacefully fall asleep by listening to the low snoring breaths coming out of the dogs who would sleep in a pile at the foot of her bed. Even though it is such a cliche I told her it would get easier as time went by. I also mentioned to her that one of the most important things to do now was to establish a new routine. We commiserated about the things we missed when a relationship, both human and animal, came to an end. Since I feel a relationship will never last if one goes into it with the hope the other person will complete them, I asked her if she found it odd how we do not necessarily realize how we grow to depend on other beings to compliment certain activities in our daily life. STUNNED when her husband left her Wendy, played by Patricia Clarkson (Last Weekend, Shutter Island), would have to piece her life back together which would include learning how to drive a car. When driving instructor Darwan, played by Ben Kingsley (Hugo, Iron Man 3), arrived for Wendy’s first lesson, little did she know she would be learning something more besides how to drive an automobile. This film festival winning comedic drama was an appropriate vehicle for the actors to delve into their characters. Along with Jake Weber (Meet Joe Black, Medium-TV) as Ted and Grace Gummer (The Horseman, Frances Ha) as Tasha, I felt the cast came off better than what the story allowed. There were some beautiful scenes that came across with honesty and integrity; however, there were not enough of them to keep this movie above the typical broken relationship story. What kept my interest was the acting and the contrast, at least on the surface, between two people from different cultures who have a shared common theme. When it comes to change I am reminded of the saying that talks about when you get the same results from doing the same thing, maybe it is time to do things differently.
2 1/2 stars
I treat companies the same way I treat actors and musical artists. In my cycle classes I do everything I can to avoid playing music from artists associated with racist, sexist or prejudiced lyrics or actions. This applies to actors as well; I will boycott their movies, not even watching them on DVD or cable. I do the same thing with companies. When I travel, one of my guilty pleasures is to eat at fast food restaurants. Recently I discovered one of my favorite out of state places has discriminated against a group of people. Since I do not have a tolerance for people who are prejudiced, I no longer can visit that restaurant chain. Will it hurt their quarterly sales? Not at all, but I do not care. Morally I cannot purchase anything from them. A group of anarchists in this thrilling movie take things beyond what I have done. Brit Marling (Another Earth, Sound of My Voice) played Sarah, a skilled investigator working for a corporate security firm headed by Sharon, played by Patricia Clarkson (Married Life, Easy A). A radical group called the East has been targeting individuals from large corporations. Sarah’s assignment was to infiltrate the group and expose them. Led by the mysterious Benji, played by Alexander Skarsgard (What Maisie Knew, Battleship), the group was cautious around her before revealing their true purpose. This mystery was well thought out, building up the tension as Sarah delved deeper into the group’s activities. Brit worked on the script with the director, creating an intelligent, thought provoking story; I enjoyed watching this film. Ellen Page (Inception, Juno) as Izzy and Toby Kebbell (RocknRolla, Wrath of the Titans) as Doc were exceptional in the roles they played. Having seen Brit’s previous movies and now this one, I am impressed with her writing and acting abilities. She is certainly creating a smart body of work for herself. This action drama only reinforced the beliefs I have regarding certain public individuals and corporations. There were a couple of scenes where blood was shown.