We were sitting around and talking after dinner. I was expressing my exasperation over building a cabinet from a kit I had bought on the internet. My intentions were to store some of my movie DVDs (no surprise, right?) in it but presently the pieces were scattered on the floor in the living room. The directions had no written text; it only had drawings and icons to follow. I tried but the instructions were not making sense to me. At one point I realized I was building one of the glass enclosed wooden doors backwards, so I unscrewed things and left them on the floor. This led me to explain to my friends why I prefer baking over building. Following a recipe makes me feel calm because it is exact. You have your favorite ingredients such as chocolate, cinnamon or peanut butter and you measure out everything like a chemist until you wind up with this beautiful batter that you put in a hot oven to bake. During the baking process I never taste anything; I feel what company or person would want you to make something that tastes bad. If you follow everything exact it will turn out good is my belief. A friend chimed in it was for that exact reason why they did not like to bake. They said with cooking, if something doesn’t taste good or come out exactly right, you can still add something to fix it. With baking they were stuck once the finished item had baked. The two of us went back and forth on the pluses and minuses of cooking as opposed to baking. The conclusion we both agreed on was there are some ideas that sound absolutely great on paper, but when you make the recipe it just doesn’t turn out as good as it sounded. You could say the same thing about this science fiction mystery. ARTIFICIALLY created humanoid Morgan, played by Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Viking Quest-TV movie), was only 5 years old; but she was already causing problems for the corporation. With a cast that included Kate Mara (The Martian, Fantastic Four) as Lee Weather, Rose Leslie (The Last Witch Hunter, Game of Thrones-TV) as Dr. Amy Menser, Toby Jones (Anthropoid, Captain America franchise) as Dr. Simon Ziegler and Paul Giamatti (San Andreas, The Ides of March) as Dr. Alan Shapiro; one would think this horror film had a capable cast to carry the story. Au contraire, the script was simply awful. I am not one to think ahead in a movie but within a very short time I already had guessed the surprise. Secondly, what is up with Paul Giamatti? Doesn’t he get tired of doing a film where he plays the same loud, yelling professional person over and over? I was bored through most of this picture. The idea was interesting and some of the fight scenes were well choreographed; but this was not enough for me. The execution process was dull; I am referring to the directing, the acting and the beyond predictable script. This may have been a good idea but there is nothing that could have fixed this stinker. There were scenes with blood and violence in them.
1 ½ stars
Besides being a valid emotion, anger can play a vital component in the creative process. Some of the most beautiful classical music we listen to, from artists such as Frederic Chopin and Pyotr Tchaikovsky, came out of outrage for what was taking place within their respective countries. If you take a look at the paintings by Francis Bacon you cannot tell me there were not some kernels of anger inside of him that generated some of his creations. Of course, the arts are not the only beneficiary of angry emotions; I believe every facet of any field from sports to science has individuals who were motivated by anger and frustration. It is like the basketball player who was told he was too short to play, who then pushed himself harder to become a better player. As for me, it took me many years to understand my anger and direct it to something positive. Being told I was too big and could not play in some athletic games caused me to take my anger and stuff it inside of myself. However, I thought that meant I should stuff my face constantly with food. I do not know if there was a single event or something else that flipped a switch inside of me that motivated me to start exercising and focus on healthier food choices; but whatever it was, I am grateful I learned how to deal with my emotions in a nurturing way. Watching this musical movie one cannot help noticing how anger played a part in everyone’s life. FROM a tough neighborhood three friends came together to vent their anger in song that caused a revolution of change. The first thing I want to say is directed at those individuals who do not like rap or hip-hop music. Please do not let that determine whether you watch this biographical drama because you would be missing out on a raw and compelling movie watching experience. I am not a fan of some types of rap music but seeing how the songs in this film came about added a whole new level of understanding for me. Starring newcomer O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Ice Cube, Corey Hawkins (Non-Stop, Romeo and Juliet) as Dr. Dre and Jason Mitchell (Contraband, Broken City) as Eazy-E; these three actors did an intense job playing members of the musical group N.W.A. Having O’Shea play his real life father Ice Cube was creative cloning casting by the studio because he looked just like his father. Now I will say there were parts of the story where I had to wonder if things were being exaggerated or sanitized because they seemed so outrageous to me. But ultimately I did not care because I felt I was watching musical history being made. There was strong language used throughout the movie.
3 1/4 stars
Labels on products have more meaning to me than labels for humans. When I hear people making introductions, adding the label of the person’s profession, I wonder why it is important that we know what the person does for a living. A couple of examples would be, “This is my husband Aaron, the doctor.” or “Let me introduce you to my girlfriend Emily, the lawyer.” What a person does for a living carries very little weight for me when it comes to what I think of a person. Yet I know there are some people who hunger to reach a certain status established in their mind, so they can feel successful. There was this person I used to know who would only date individuals from a specific list of professions. I would argue with them, trying to force them to look at how their love had conditions on it; bit it did not matter, my words fell on deaf ears. Maybe there is something wrong with me because I do not factor in monetary amounts when I am assessing a person’s character. A wealthy person for me would be one who is charitable, has long term friendships, is kind, has empathy; I could go on with my checklist if I had the time here. But the point I am trying to make is this, you could be with a rich successful accountant who cheats on you or a CFO who is a racist. I do not see that as being a wealthy person. MARRYING town doctor Charles Bovary, played by Henry Lloyd-Hughes (Anna Karenina, Dimensions), was the start of what Emma, played by Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland), hoped would be the wealthy life she deserved. How long could one be content however when there was no limit on when they would finally feel rich? This dramatic period piece’s landscape was filled with beautiful shots of the countryside mixed with authentic reminders of the era. The star of this film was Mia; she had a strong screen presence with a face that easily conveyed emotions. Included in the cast was Paul Giamatti (San Andreas, Love & Misery) as Monsieur Homais and Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, We Need to Talk About Kevin) as Leon Dupuis; both had the ability to do a powerful performance but the script did not allow it. This film dragged miserably for me. I also found Mia’s character strange; for the time frame I could not believe her character’s actions which appeared to be easily made. The book I am sure provided more emotional layers to her that were lacking here on screen. This movie had all the trappings to be a rich dramatic story, sadly it did not succeed.
1 3/4 stars
I feel very fortunate that I was introduced to a variety of music genres at an early age. For anyone who can put two musical tones together, they have my respect. Music has a way of clearing the fuzz off of our daily life, allowing us to experience emotions in a pure way. One of the first composers that made a strong connection with me was Ludwig van Beethoven. There were 2 things that grabbed my attention about him. The first was his place in history; he was a trendsetter, leading music from the baroque period to the romantic era. Next, his ability to continue writing music after he had become deaf amazed me. Beethoven was the first artist where I realized there could be a connection between great art and human suffering. Walk through any art museum and you are bound to experience breathtaking art done by an artist who had to deal with their own demons or tragedies. Cutting off an ear or dying from a horrible disease and yet these artists created something of lasting beauty; I have to wonder what came first, the ability or the suffering. Someone had once told me that when a person cannot use one of their 5 senses, the other ones acquire a heightened ability. An example for me would be Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles. Look at how many musical artists we have seen who died early or experienced some type of deficiency, yet produced music that not only moved us but stayed with us. CREATING a whole new sound for a song took more than stringing a group of musical notes together for Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. He would have to battle against the voices in his head. No matter when you were born, more than likely you have heard at least one song by the Beach Boys. This film festival winning biography, not to be funny, blew my mind. Getting a glimpse of what was taking place during the time the Beach Boys were producing their hits, it was incredible to see what was happening to their major songwriter Brian. With the dual story lines Paul Dano (Prisoners, Ruby Sparks) played the younger Brian and John Cusack (Maps to the Stars, The Raven) played the older one. The 2 of them were excellent and I thought it was a great idea to have 2 actors play Brian as the script took us back and forth between the different eras. Also part of the cast in this musical drama included Elizabeth Banks (Every Secret Thing, Pitch Perfect franchise) as Melinda Ledbetter and Paul Giamatti (San Andreas, Cinderella Man) as Dr. Eugene Landy. Due to the story being so compelling, the minuses to this film were minor compared to the pluses. Once again here was an example of artistic genius coming out of painful darkness.
I traveled halfway across the country only to find out we were no longer going to be a couple. It happened within 1 hour of me stepping off of the plane to find out they, “could not go on like this,” whatever that was supposed to mean since I did not get a clear answer when I asked, “Like what?” Returning back to the airport for my connecting flight, I had enough time between flights to call a close friend. I called them up so I could lament over the abrupt ending of my relationship and complain about why I had to travel all the way to a remote area of the country just to be told this; why couldn’t they have told me before they took this summer job that kept them away for the summer? As we spoke on the phone my free ear heard a high pitched tinkling noise of glasses clinking together. I did not focus on it until I started feeling the floor shaking beneath my feet. The sound was coming from a tourist gift shop near the waiting area I was standing in. The banners and lights that were suspended from the ceiling began to wave in unison. It took me a moment before I realized an earthquake was taking place; I never experienced one before in my life. People started to scream as items were being knocked off of their perches; I dropped to the floor. Was this upheaval I was experiencing a manifestation of my emotional turmoil? Just as suddenly everything came to a quiet standstill. I started experiencing a similar anxiety at the opening scene of this action film, so do not come in late. CALIFORNIA rocked by a massive earthquake rescue-chopter pilot Ray, played by Dwayne Johnson (Fast & Furious franchise, Hercules), had to navigate through the chaos to try and find his daughter Blake, played by Alexandra Daddario (Percy Jackson franchise, Texas Chainsaw 3D). This dramatic thriller, emphasis on the thrills, was one heck of a visual ride through California. The special effects were unbelievable and intense. I saw it in 3D but do not feel it is a must; the only reason was due to the time of the showing that it wound up being in 3D. With a cast that included Paul Giamatti (Romeo & Juliet, Sideways) as Lawrence and Carla Gugino (Watchmen, Sin City) as Emma, they all did their best with the poorly written script. Everything was so obvious from a mile away due to the formula the writers followed for disaster film 101. At least Dwayne and Paul were perfectly cast; one was affable and the other did a great portrayal of frantic intensity. Sadly this action movie did not completely rock me; but for a mindless escape, it provided enough thrills to keep me interested.
2 1/3 stars
There is a place where all the should do’s, have to do’s and suppose to do’s in life cannot infiltrate; it is in one’s memories. Some of these remembrances may be average such as a friend’s phone number or a bank account number; however, there is a special area where the cherished memories are stored. It is in this place where I keep my fondest memories that get quick access to my heart. I remember my favorite babysitter who had a way of reading a story where the characters would come to life for me. She had a quiet gentleness that I found soothing. The reason she is presently closest in my thoughts is due to this comedic drama about a nanny. This film reveals the true untold story of how Walt Disney gained the rights to create what was to become the iconic film Mary Poppins. In that place where my fondest memories reside is the memory of the first time I saw this film about the unusual nanny, Mary Poppins. Since I can perfectly recall that experience I was concerned this biographic film would taint my memories. I can honestly say it did no such thing, instead it added a new depth of color to my vivid memories. Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility, Pirate Radio) played the fiercely protective author of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers. Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips, The Terminal) played Walt Disney, the creative genius who spent 20 years pursuing the author for the rights so he could keep a promise he made to his daughters. This film received a brilliant performance by Emma, who was as difficult and unyielding as anyone could be against the creator of Mickey Mouse. The scenes where she had to sit with the creative team of Don DaGadi, played by Bradley Whitford (Scent of a Woman, The West Wing-TV), and brothers Robert and Richard Sherman, played by B.J. Novak (Knocked Up, Inglorious Basterds) and Jason Schwartzman (The Darjeeling Limited, Moonrise Kingdom), provided me a wild history lesson to some of the cherished songs from the Mary Poppins movie. The one complaint I had was the use of dual story lines because I thought each story could be its own film. Though I will say I thought Colin Farrell (Total Recall, Pride and Glory) did a touching, emotional job as P.L. Travers’ father. The insertion of Mary Poppins film clips in this Golden Globe nominated movie added to the heightened amount of joy I experienced during this film. I am happy to say my childhood memory of seeing Mary Poppins now has a new coating of fondness due to this beautiful movie. Please make sure you stay through part of the credits to hear the actual recordings of P.L. Travers.
3 1/4 stars
I first learned about prejudice in elementary school, but it was not from school books. My first exposure had to do with religious differences. After answering a classmate’s question on what was my religion, he told me I was dirty. At the time I was confused by his comment, remembering I looked down at my hands to see if they were unclean. Shortly after I discovered other classmates were treated to the same encounter. If you were not the same religion as this boy, he believed something was wrong with you. The next form of prejudice I witnessed occurred later when a new student was enrolled into my class who was African American. There was no overt actions taken against her; however, she was shunned by several students. I did not understand why classmates would react in such a way, let alone try to figure out the reasoning behind it. My elementary school years were only a prelude to the horrors I would encounter when I entered into high school. One of the reasons I started this review by writing about the prejudices and discriminations I saw at such a young age was to prepare you for what were the most realistic depictions of them that I have ever seen in a movie. Based on Solomon Northup’s memoir, this movie should be required viewing in every school. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Children of Men, American Gangster) was unbelievable playing Solomon; a free black man with a wife and two children, living in upper state New York who was kidnapped, shipped to Louisiana and sold into slavery. Directed by Steve McQueen (Shame, Hunger), I have never experienced the range of intensity and hatred portrayed in a film about slavery like it was done in this film festival winner. Relative newcomer Lupita Nyong’o was outstanding in her role as Patsey, the slave of cotton plantation owner Edwin Epps, played by Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method, Prometheus). The story was amazing to watch on film; I can only imagine what Solomon Northup’s book must be like to read. Even with some actors such as Paul Dano (Prisoners, Ruby Sparks) as Tibeats and Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement,War Horse) as Ford having brief screen time, they still made every minute count with their characters. This is a movie that needs to be seen by everyone. Now I certainly would not be considered an optimist, but forgive me if my hope is the human race would be better by witnessing the ugliness of prejudice and slavery shown in this magnificent film. There were several scenes that showed blood and violence.
In love; when one is experiencing it, everything in the world appears to have taken on richer hues. Each step a person takes lands on soft pillows with an ah, instead of hard concrete. There is a refreshing lightness that is always ready to be swept up into the breezes of affections and dreams. For every waking moment, the imprint of a deep hug remains to caress, calm and soothe the body. But when one has it and then it is gone, love can reach deep into the body to squeeze the heart of its breath. The loss is replaced with a pain that thrives in the veins of the soul as it seeks out new ways to cripple daily functions. I will go with the notion everyone is familiar with the story of Romeo and Juliet; two young lovers from two feuding families, the Capulets and the Montagues. So story wise, there is not much a screenwriter can do to change the story if they want to stay true to the Shakespeare piece. In this latest film version I felt the writer was updating the story for a new generation. Douglas Booth (From Time to Time, LOL) and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) played Romeo and Juliet. For me, they were the main reason I had issues with this movie. The two actors were way over their heads with their characters. There was no connection, no emotion, no desire between them; their performance came across as an amateur school production. To make matters worse, the adult cast had several wonderful actors such as Paul Giamatti (Win Win, Barney’s Version) as Friar Laurence, Damian Lewis (Dreamcatcher, Homeland-TV) as Lord Capulet and Lesley Manville (Another Year, Vera Drake) as Nurse. The acting from these gifted artists was on a completely different level than Hailee and Douglas. Visually I enjoyed this beautiful movie with its gorgeous scenes around the city of Verona and surrounding areas. With such a disconnect for me between the familiar story and the lead actors, I was bored for a good portion of the time. Honestly, if someone wanted to see a film version of this classic story, I would recommend seeing writer and director Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 movie. Knowing a thing or two about love, I can certainly say I did not love this film.
1 3/4 stars
Dreams are the fuel that propel us forward on our life’s journey. They instill a sense of hope that helps us traverse the choppy waters we may encounter along the way. I still can recall one of my earliest dreams of what I wanted to be when I grew up: a window washer. There was something about being on the outside, way up high, that appealed to me. Good thing I did not follow through since these days I am exactly opposite, preferring to be inside and close to the ground. Even though my dreams evolved, I have always been aware how they have pushed me forward in life. The same could be said for the main character in this animated film. Garden snail Turbo, voiced by Ryan Reynolds (Buried, The Proposal), dreamed he would one day race at the Indianapolis 500. No one would take his dream away from him; including his sensible brother Chet, voiced by Paul Giamatti (Win Win, The Last Station). When a freak accident gave Turbo the ability to move fast, he was not going to let anyone or anything stop him from achieving his dream. This adventure film had a diverse cast of actors to voice the many characters. For example, there was Michael Pena (End of Watch, Shooter) as Tito, Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained, Pulp Fiction) as Whiplash, Bill Hader (Men in Black 3, Saturday Night Live-TV) as Guy Gagne and Snoop Dog (Old School, Bruno) as Smooth Move. Though the animation was quite good, I found the story was lacking a couple of key elements. I did not find it exciting except for the beginning and ending parts. The characters were okay but really did not leave any impression on me. It felt as if the characters were created as a way to sell toys to kids. Compared to other animated films I have recently seen, this one just left me with a blah feeling. I think only young children would enjoy this movie. It was a shame the movie studio could not dream up a better story. Stay through the first set of credits.
2 1/4 stars
Imagine the possibilities if you were able to swap out your soul for another or just have it removed to avoid some type of distress in your life. For example, maybe you are a lawyer about to go to trial and you want to have the soul of one of the top lawyers in the country. It is an intriguing concept and this dark comedy chose the perfect actor for the role: Paul Giamatti (The Illusionist, Win Win). Playing himself, Paul was struggling in rehearsals for a production of Anton Chekov’s Uncle Vanya. Seeing a magazine article about a storage facility for souls, Paul made an appointment to see Dr. Flintstein, played by David Strathairn (Heavens Fall, The Whistleblower). Mr Giamatti has a gift for quickly changing emotions, going from a humorous point to an intense frantic state with the simple use of his expressive face. The movie with its science fiction vibe had several funny bits throughout it. Paul went from being a soulless actor, much to the director’s chagrin, to a brillant actor with the aid of his temporary soul. I wish the writers would have stayed with this story line instead of bringing in the secondary story involving the Russians. It would have made for a stronger film. Fans of Paul Giamatti will certainly enjoy this movie. For those of you not familiar with his work, this DVD would be one to rent to see his excellent acting skills on display.
2 2/3 stars — DVD