THERE ARE SOME FAMILY GATHERINGS THAT require a program to keep the cast of characters clear in one’s mind. I will avoid talking about my own since it would be easy for the family members to identify themselves in my stories. There have been many occasions where I have been included in another family’s event. From somber to joyful I have discovered each family has their own “baggage” whether they acknowledge it or not. Also, it has reaffirmed in me the belief that there is no such thing as a “normal” family. I was included in a friend’s family dinner where two sisters did not speak to each other because they had an argument months (yes, that is right months) ago. Do you have any idea how challenging it is to carry on a conversation where you have to address each person separately on the same topic? They never made eye contact nor referred to the other in any way; it was uncomfortable for me and yet the parents sat at the dining room table as if nothing in the world was wrong. The wildest part of it was when food was being passed around the table. Neither sister would hand the other any food going around; instead, would put it on the table to make the other sibling stand up and reach for it. Crazy, isn’t it? AT THE OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM, I have been at family functions where nothing was held back; family members were sharing the most intimate details about their personal lives. In other words, WTMI (way too much information). There would be no need for me to hear what type of physical characteristics a relative is looking for in a mate. Or how about sitting around the living room as 3 relatives get into a heated argument, calling each other names and swearing at the top of their lungs. I remember looking around to get a cue on how to react, but the other relatives were just sitting there sipping their cups of coffee and nibbling on their snacks as if nothing was taking place. At one point I thought I was entering a boxing match as the yelling relatives were getting up into each other’s faces. Now I come from a point of view where everyone has the right to express their feelings; but not during a heated argument. It should be a calm setting with no fear of retaliation. If you are curious to see an example of a family with issues, then feel free to observe what takes place with the family in this dramatic crime mystery. RETURNING TO HER SMALL HOME TOWN for her sister’s wedding was to be a happy occasion for Laura, played by Penelope Cruz (The Counsellor, Broken Embraces). But when a tragic event took place, the cracks beneath the family’s surface spread further apart. This film festival winning movie also starred Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside, No Country for Old Men) as Paco, Ricardo Darin (The Secret in Their Eyes, Wild Tales) as Alejandro, Edward Fernandez (Biutiful, The Man with Thousand Faces) as Fernando and Barbara Lennie (Magical Girl, El Nino) as Bea. The acting in this film was excellent; whether it was joyful or heart wrenching, I was feeling the characters’ emotional states. With the acting so strong, this picture needed a tightly written script to keep the actors aloft. At times I felt some scenes went flat; luckily, there were not many of them. The other criticism I have has to do with the ending. It seemed to tidy as if it wanted to wrap up the story quickly. Otherwise, this picture still kept my interest as I wondered what other things this family had hidden below the surface. Spanish was spoken with English subtitles.
2 ½ stars
IS A PERSON JUST BEING GOOD to you enough to have a relationship with them? I have always had a curiosity about the things that are important to a person seeking and being in a love relationship. One of the things that piqued my curiosity was seeing news reporters interviewing the love interest of a person who had recently committed a crime or was in an altercation. Hearing the girlfriend say her boyfriend has always been good to her after he had just been accused of bludgeoning a man to death was the oddest thing to me. Let us say it was true, that he was kind and respectful of her; is that all one needs to fall in love? There seems to be more similar examples currently than I can recall years ago. A husband is stunned when he finds out his wife has been embezzling money from her place of employment for years. Behind the husband and reporter, parked in the driveway of the couple’s house, was a brand new expensive car. I find it all bizarre; how can someone only focus on certain aspects of an individual and base their affection solely on those features? I know I cannot do it. IN MY WORLD ACTIONS HAVE AS much importance as words; in other words, it is not just what a person says that will cement my feelings towards them. I think anyone can say anything and I have been in relationships where the person said things they knew would pull at my heart strings. And the words did; however, there were things they did that did not earn my trust. I had friends who had warned me, but you know how that goes; unless they are in your shoes, you feel your friends are not able to see the whole picture. It is funny because I have been in their place where I expressed my concerns about friends’ love interests. There was one person who was a user, who only cared about himself. Yes, he would do these sweet things for my friend that made her heart swell; but he had no empathy and was a cheapskate. If the opportunity came up where she asked me for my opinion I would tell her exactly what I thought. The one thing I would not do is tell her what she “should” do; I knew she would have to figure out what worked for her. Also, I remained respectful around him. My motto is, “I do not have to accept anything, but need to respect it.” And when it comes to this biographical crime film, no truer words have been spoken. If not, one could find themselves getting killed. DESPITE BEING COLOMBIA’S MOST NOTORIOUS DRUG LORD there was something about Pablo Escobar, played by Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) that made journalist and anchorwoman Virginia Vallejo, played by Penelope Cruz (The Counselor, Vicky Cristina Barcelona), fall in love with him. It wasn’t long before everyone knew. This film festival winning action movie also starred Peter Sarsgaard (Jackie, The Magnificent Seven) as Shepherd, Julieth Restrepo (At the End of the Spectra, Moria) as Maria Victoria Henao and Oscar Jaenada (The Shallows, Cantinflas) as Santoro. It goes without saying that Javier and Penelope were a perfect match since they are married to each other. I enjoyed the two of them in this story and picked up a couple of things I did not know about Escobar. However, the script was too superficial; I would have preferred if the writers went deeper into the characters. Instead there were scenes of blood and violence which were expected, but I felt there had to be more to this story than what was shown.
THE SET OF DOORS was still massive looking under the prominent archway sticking out from the building’s façade. Crossing over the threshold the first open area available was a huge lobby. The floor was well worn; the once polished tile was now tired and dull. The ceiling was made up with an elaborate maze of wooden beams that crisscrossed in such a way to form star shapes. Some of the stars had long chandeliers hanging down that threw off just enough light to barely encompass the lobby. There was a grand staircase that started in the middle of the area then swept up like a curl of blonde hair to the 2nd floor. At the top of the staircase just beyond was a wall of stained glass that looked like it was covered in a dark veil; the light coming from behind was no longer strong enough to shine through completely. Behind the staircase on the main floor was a row of doors, each one numbered. NO MATTER WHICH DOOR one walked through, there were railroad tracks waiting on the other side. The platforms were for the most part clear of debris; but there were splotches of dirtiness looking like broken shadows that died on the floor. The lighting was weak, needing the assistance of any light source coming through the glass ceiling above. Not every track had a train unloading or waiting for passengers. As for the train cars that were present, there was not one that did not look like it had gone through some type of battle. With bruises, scrapes and nicks; the cars were so old they would always squeal their aches and pains when leaving the station. Inside the cars one would be challenged to find a seat that did not have a rip in its fabric or graffiti displayed somewhere on the front or back. A passenger’s comfort was not taken into consideration when the cars were manufactured; the main focus was determining how many seats could be stuffed into each car. Seeing the passenger train in this dramatic, crime mystery made me wish I would have had an opportunity to experience such an elegant ride. WHEN ONE PASSENGER WAS found dead in their cabin it was up to Detective Hercule Poirot, played by Kenneth Branagh (Dunkirk, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) to find the killer before another passenger wound meet the same fate. Based on Agatha Christie’s novel this movie directed by Kenneth Branagh was a beautiful representation of a time long passed. With Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Silent Witness-TV) as Miss Mary Debenham, Leslie Odom Jr. (Red Tails, Person of Interest-TV) as Dr. Arbuthnot, Penelope Cruz (The Counsellor, Head in the Clouds) as Pilar Estravados and Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Marshall) as Hector MacQueen; the cast was filled with heavy hitting actors. I truly enjoyed the way this movie was filmed because it was beautiful to watch. However with the script being so lifeless I had to wonder why the studio hired such a talented cast only to have them do nothing. There were some actors that I cannot recall if they had more than 4 lines; it was silly especially since Kenneth was in almost every scene and in the viewers’ faces. Drama and intensity were missing from this picture. Considering the circumstances taking place there needed to be tension, thrills and excitement; none of that was present in this film. I felt this remake took the story and put it in a pretty package to entice viewers, only to have them open it up and realize they already had seen a better version sometime before.
Hank Williams sang a song called, “Alone and Forsaken,” that had to do with regret. I think all of us at one time have regretted something we did or did not do. I came late to the game of life, where one tries to live without regretting one’s actions. And to tell you the truth there are things I still do that I question if there was a different way I could have handled the situation. The key to managing regrets is to not let them stick and fester inside of you. I am sure we all have experienced buying something where soon after we regretted making the purchase. Before I taught myself to take a breath to slow down my reactions, I have said many things that I now regret saying. Even with a couple of the intense breakups I experienced I still wish I hadn’t said some of the angry things I hurled at the individuals. My philosophy in life is I believe there are no accidents; there is a reason for everything. With that in mind I feel mistakes are made to teach us something new. Just last week I followed a new recipe for baking a dessert. After reading the list of ingredients I started mixing the dry ones together before adding the wet ones. However, I failed to read beyond the mixing of ingredients because if I had I would have seen only 1/2 of the amount of chocolate chips were to be spread across the first layer of batter; the rest of them were to be sprinkled on top. In the scheme of things this was not as tragic a mistake as it was for me to see this action comedy. AFTER searching for his brother Sebastian, played by Mark Strong (The Imitation Game, Kingsman: The Secret Service), for the past 28 years Nobby, played by Sacha Baron Cohen (The Dictator, Bruno), finally found him and discovered he was a top assassin for London’s spy agency MI6. No matter what situation Sebastian was involved in Nobby was not going to lose his brother again; though Nobby did not realize he could lose his life instead. I do not know where I should begin to tell you why I had such a poor time sitting through this movie. Let me start with the humor; it was essentially vulgar, crude and not funny. With the story using comedy to move it along, you can only imagine this was one long viewing experience for me. The thing that truly surprised me was why actors such as Penelope Cruz (To Rome with Love, Zoolander 2) as Rhonda George and Rebel Wilson (How to be Single, Pitch Perfect franchise) as Dawn Grobham agreed to be part of this picture. Did they not read the script and see that a majority of jokes had to do with body parts? When this film was finally over I actually considered going to the box office to complain; I still regret having spent money on this stinker. Brief extra scene at the end of the credits.
What is old eventually becomes new again, is a saying that has been repeated over and over. Some of you may relate to this especially when you see advertisements for the latest clothing styles; the clothes were in fashion before when you were growing up. Take a look at bell bottom pants; they come into fashion for a couple of years then they go out before they come back in. I hate to admit this but I still have clothing stored away that I used to wear years ago, some even back from high school. After my weight loss I still kept them as a backup. Though I have seen some of that old clothing return into vogue, manufacturers in conjunction with marketers bring back some of these items but tweak them just enough to make it look fresh and new. If you remember that soft drink fiasco, not everything new makes it instantly better. Just let me tell you about winter gloves as an example. Years ago gloves were usually fleece lined or had some type of down inside of them. All of a sudden new products came out that claimed to be just as warm as these natural fibers but take up less space, they were thinner. I do not know about you, but I do not find gloves with this thin insulating material to be that warm for my hands. Give me good wool lined or duck down filled gloves and I will be able to tackle any harsh winter day. Now let me say I do believe there is no reason to fix something if it is not broken, so I am never the first one to jump on the latest updated version of something from the past; it turns out this is wise advice. WHEN celebrities were being killed off while striking a signature pose created by Derek Zoolander and Hansel, played by Ben Stiller (While We’re young, The Watch) and Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris, No Escape), the two former models were brought out of retirement to try and help track down the killers. This comedy sequel tipped its hand when the trailers came out for it; they were the best parts of this movie. With Will Ferrell (Daddy’s Home, Get Hard) as Mugatu and Kristen Wiig (The Martian, Welcome to Me) as Alexanya Atoz, all the characters had a chance to do something funny. I kept waiting for it but it never happened; the script went all over the place, it was a mess. Now I have to tell you I did not think the original movie was anything special, but compared to this sequel it moved up on my favorability rating scale. There were more cameos in this film than there were jokes. As I sat through this picture I had to wonder who thought doing a sequel would be a good concept. The only thing this movie did for me was prove not everything updated and made fresh was a good idea.
1 1/2 stars
There could be a raging storm with uncontrollable rain crying down, flooding the ground. An elevator stops between floors and the passengers are stuck in place for a couple of hours. A kitchen chair being moved accidentally scratches the tiled floor, where the edges of the slashed part are rough and jagged. With any of these scenarios there are some people who can find something positive to say about the circumstances. You may have heard it referred to as “every cloud has a silver lining.” I am not one of those individuals; in fact, I am as close to opposite as one can be. Do not get me wrong, I admire people who try to find something positive to say about troubling situations. These people would be called optimists; a word I do not have in my vocabulary. Because of this I was curious about the story in this dramatic romantic movie. Penelope Cruz (Blow, Volver) played Gemma, a mother who decided to take her son Pietro, played by Pietro Castellitto (Don’t Move, Love & Slaps), to Sarajevo. It was the place of his birth and where his father had died. The trip would stir up old memories in Gemma of the chaotic time when she fell in love with the photographer Diego, played by Emile Hirsch (Speed Racer, Milk). The strongest part of this film festival nominated movie was Penelope’s acting. I felt she gave a rich and layered performance that kept me interested in her character. At first I thought it was an odd choice to have Emile as her love interest, but it worked in a carefree childlike way. Where the weakness came in had to do with the multiple stories that jumped back and forth in time. It became too much to track and keep up with the story lines. The other issue I had with this film was the poor script. I found it trite, going for cheap emotional shots instead of letting the characters grow and develop. The character Gojco, played by Adnan Haskovic (Body Complete, Sevday za Karima), was interesting to me but I could not tell you much about his motivations. The Bosnian war was used as a backdrop I felt to heighten the aspects of the romance. I wish I could find a silver lining with this movie but it was not good enough to overcome my pessimistic nature. There were multiple scenes that included Italian and Bosnian dialog with English subtitles.
The word “enough” has a different meaning today than it did when I was growing up. Back then the word meant: as much or as many as required; like when I was asked if I had enough to eat. It related more to a personal level. I have always said if I won the lottery there would be little change in my personal possessions. There would be no multiple car purchases or living in a mansion. One of the benefits I could see would be for me to no longer worry how I was paying for something. That would be a nice aspect I wish to experience someday. These days I find the word “enough” is being used more as a comparison to someone else. For example, they have more than I do, I do not have enough. Greed seems to have taken on a more extreme persona in society today. When the news reports on prominent people getting caught for illegal activity, in their desire to acquire even more wealth, I have to wonder what is wrong that they cannot be satisfied with what they have already. An extreme example of this is the premise for this dramatic crime film. Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave, A Dangerous Method) played a wealthy counselor who decided to acquire more wealth via drug trafficking. When the deal did not go as planned, the counselor learned there were consequences to the decisions he made. Based on the book by Cormac McCarthy (All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men), the script was Cormac’s attempt at being a screenwriter. This was a poor decision because the script was horrendous. I thought the dialog was bizarre while multiple scenes made no sense. Even with a cast that included Javier Barden (Skyfall, No Country for Old Men) as Reiner, Penelope Cruz (To Rome With Love, Volver) as Laura and Cameron Diaz (Bad Teacher, My Sister’s Keeper) as Malkina; there was no way they could save this film from its bloody boredom. I found it interesting that a film about greed may have been green lighted by individuals who wanted to score again, on par with the fortunes reaped from their previous film No Country for Old Men. It was a greedy ploy that did not pay off. There were scenes with blood and violence.
1 2/3 stars