CLASSIC STORIES ARE SOMETHING I CAN revisit again and again. During my school years, I wound up reading Moby Dick three times. I am not sure I can even define what constitutes being a classic, but at least I know a classic story has the ability to emotionally move a person. Love plays a prominent role in many classics. For example, My Fair Lady was based on the George Bernard Shaw play, Pygmalion and The King and I was based on Margaret Landon’s novel, Anna and the King of Siam, which was based on the memoirs of the governess to the children of the King of Siam. One of my favorite stories is Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. I do not remember if I read the story or not in school; however, my most vivid memory was seeing the movie directed by Franco Zeffirelli. It was a special showing that was being done in only one theater in the city. A friend joined me as we had to take the train down to go see the movie. To this day, I remember the theater because it was a big classic theater that had these art deco lamps hanging down from the lobby ceiling. To get to the balcony, there was a red carpeted staircase with gold-colored bannisters that curved up to the 2nd level. Because I loved the story of Romeo and Juliet, I knew I was going to equally love the movie West Side Story which was based on Shakespeare’s story. AS YOU CAN SEE, I DO not have an issue with new movies coming out that were based on previous movies/stories. It can be fun to see a story told through a different set of eyes. In some cases, the movie gets remade because there is technology available to enhance the story that was not available when the story first came out in film. For me, some of the successful remakes have been A Star is Born, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Departed. However, as most of us know, there are also remade films that were disastrous. Off the top of my head, I can think of The Stepford Wives, House of Wax and Guess Who. I know when the original movie is idolized, it is hard to try and remake or update the story. It would be best if the movie studio doesn’t refer to the original movie at all; let their new creation come out with any false expectations. With today’s film it did not take me long to decide which category this remake falls in. IN THIS RETELLING OF THE CLASSIC fairy tale, Cinderella has a dream to become a dressmaker. Marriage is not something she was focusing on. With musical artist Camila Cabello as Cinderella, Billy Porter (Like a Boss, Pose-TV) as Fabulous Godmother, Nicholas Galitzine (High Strung, The Changeover) as Prince Robert, Idina Menzel (Uncut Gems, Glee-TV) as Vivian and Pierce Brosnan (False Positive, Mamma Mia! franchise) as King Rowan; this comedic family fantasy took the original story of Cinderella and added a layer of female empowerment to it. I would not have an issue with this update; however, the script was a big misfire that dulled the delivery of the story. Though the musical numbers by themselves were fun to watch, they seemed so out of place to me because of the modern songs. Here was the perfect case not to associate this picture with the classic Cinderella. There were cringeworthy scenes that were painful to watch. The other thing that I felt diminished the telling of this story was the lack of chemistry between the characters. The whole appearance of the cast seemed flat to me. With the music and special effects, this movie might appeal to a narrow range of viewers.
1 ¾ stars
IF HE HAD NOT SAID ANYTHING to me, I would not have given it a second thought. My friend was expressing how his dad could never make the parent/teacher conferences because of his work. I was not aware it bothered him since there were many students who came to these meetings with only one parent. When I mentioned this to my friend, he told me he just wanted his father to show up once to one of his school functions; that his dad worked all the time. I thought about this for a minute and realized I might have only seen his father once or twice at the most through all the years we have been friends. Mentioning this to my friend, he told me his dad only thought about his job and how he could advance himself. According to my friend his dad was driven by this one thought; he did not think of anything else but what he could do to get promoted and earn more money. I felt sad for my friend; it was like he had an absentee father because within our conversation my friend told me his dad missed family birthdays, anniversaries and even some holiday get togethers. There was nothing I could say to make him feel better. THE THINGS HE SAID TO ME about his dad were not unfamiliar to me; I have known several people, including myself, who were driven by a single-mindedness to reach their goals. When I started teaching fitness, I pretty much put myself on call to make myself available when anyone needed a sub to teach their class. Rarely would I ever request a sub; I felt it was my job, so I needed to be there to teach class. There were many occasions when I could not join my friends and family in a celebration because it was my time to teach. I know my one mindedness had an affect on my relationships. Some of the people I dated ended our relationship with the excuse I was not easily available to them. At the time it was hurtful to hear because I could not see things through their eyes. I felt they were essentially asking me to choose between them and my job. Now granted, though fitness was my part time job I treated it with the same importance as my full time one. There were instructors who did not have an issue taking off time from teaching whenever they felt like it; I could not do it, that is how driven I was with teaching. After many years, I now finally understand I was not seeing the big picture of my life; I was out of balance. It was the same, I felt, for the main character in this musical comedy. NOTHING ELSE MATTERED TO LARS CRICKSSONG, played by Will Ferrell (Downhill, Holmes & Watson), then to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest. His singing partner and family were certainly aware of his drive, even if they did not understand it. With Rachel McAdams (A Most Wanted Man, Game Night) as Sigrit Ericksdottir, Dan Stevens (Beauty and the Beast, The Guest) as Alexander Lemtov, Mikael Persbrandt (In a Better World, The Hobbit franchise) as Victor Karlosson and Pierce Brosnan (Some Kind of Wonderful, Mama Mia! franchise) as Erick Erickssong; this movie could have used some fine tuning. I am not a fan of Will Ferrell; for me, he was doing a role that he has been doing since his Saturday Night Live days. There was nothing new or fresh about his character. On the other hand, Rachel was impressive; her comedic timing, acting and possible singing voice hit the right notes for me. Dan Stevens was another standout for me; he was crazy good in this role. There were patches where the story and script were amusing; but then there were times where things felt flat. Gratefully these 2 actors hit the right notes and made this movie easier to watch for me.
2 ½ stars
CONFRONTING A BUREAUCRACY AND its red tape requires a person to be persistent, strong willed, stubborn and in good physical/mental health. These characteristics can easily be applied to a person preparing for war. From my recent hospital stay I got a taste of what it takes to confront a large corporation. In the scheme of things I realize my few inconsistent encounters there were not major, though I say this without knowing what the ramifications would have been if I did not question the staff’s actions. A nurse came into my room at one point to tell me she was there to give me drops for my eyes. I asked her what was she applying and she said probiotics. This made no sense since I provided the hospital with my bottle of probiotics; they were capsules, so how could they be given in eye drops I asked her. She agreed to go back to the pharmacy to find out the error. I have no idea what was in those drops by the way. ANOTHER TIME A DIFFERENT nurse came in to tell me she had my flu shot. I told her I did not approve a flu shot since my office offers them to the employees. In addition, I mentioned to her that I thought one should not get a flu shot when they are not in good health. She nodded her head and left the room with her medical cart. Since this was my first experience being in a hospital I now realize the patient needs to stay diligent in being aware of everything being done to them. If they cannot do this, then the patient needs an advocate; in other words, someone who will look out for the patient’s best interests. With so many different people coming into my room at all times throughout the day and night, I really got a taste of how not just the hospital but any large entity can wear a person down until they just give up. Granted my energy level was low while in the hospital; however, I am aware of the benefits reaped when one remains determined and steadfast. The main character in this action thriller is the perfect example of such a strong minded person. WHEN HIS DAUGHTER WAS killed in a terrorist bombing Quan Ngoc Minh, played by Jackie Chan (Shanghai Noon, Dragon Blade), was positive certain individuals had to know about it. He would not take “no” for an answer. This film also starred Pierce Brosnan (The November Man, Die Another Day) as Liam Hennessy, Katie Leung (Harry Potter franchise, T2 Trainspotting) as Fan, Rufus Jones (Bill, Hunderby-TV) as Ian Wood and Mark Tandy (Howards End, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason) as Simpson. What grabbed me in this picture were Jackie’s and Pierce’s characters; they did not appear to be similar to the roles they have portrayed in their other films. Jackie was an older version of himself which meant there were less comedic martial arts moves and more age appropriate movements. Pierce was intense in this film which only added to the whole cat and mouse vibe taking place. I thought the fight scenes were exciting and well done; they never seemed out of place or gratuitous. For me this film was good escapism and provided some food for thought about what really goes on in the world.
In one version of being singled out you could win cash or valuable prizes. I was a member of a studio audience during the taping of a TV game show and won a television set because I had the correct numbers drawn on my admission ticket. There are other ways one can experience a positive result by being picked out of a group; a couple of examples could be the employee of the month or the valedictorian of a graduating class. The other version of being the recipient of everyone’s attention can be a dangerous one. In this version it only takes one person to single you out and depending on the hierarchy of the other people around, you could be marked for pretty much any type of abuse. Whether it starts with a bully in school, a coworker or a complete stranger; the results can be detrimental to your health. I hope none of you experience this type of scenario. For those of you who unfortunately have, you can confirm it literally is a death race when you are being chased by a person or a group that means to inflict harm on you. The taunts, the yelling from the crowd constantly rings in your ears like a massive clock tower stuck on the tolling of its bells for 12 o’clock. There never is a time to negotiate or even figure out why you were chosen; you just need to find somewhere safe fast. My past anxieties welled up right at the start of this action thriller. TRAVELING to Southeast Asia for a new business opportunity Jack Dwyer, played by Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris, Night at the Museum franchise), and his family had only recently arrived shortly after the country’s prime minister was assassinated. They came just in time for an angry chaotic rebellion. This picture took off quickly with some well orchestrated tense scenes; I found myself breathing quickly from my nervousness due to the unfolding mob scenes. With Lake Bell (What Happens in Vegas, In a World…) as Jack’s wife Annie and Pierce Brosnan (Some Kind of Beautiful, After the Sunset) as Hammond, I thought the cast did an admirable job with the physically tough roles. This movie had a distinct shift in the middle of it. The first half of the film was much better than the last half. If the writers would have stayed with the original story line I think this would have been a better film. During the second half the film felt like one of those monster movies where no matter what the characters did there always seemed to be a monster waiting for them. I think it would have been more powerful if the writers had spent more time on the reasons that led up to the rebellion. This would have resulted in a better experience. There were scenes with blood and violence.
2 1/2 stars
You know it does not always have to be an awkward situation when you meet someone you used to be married to or have dated. Of course, it depends on the circumstances that led to the separation in the first place. There have been a couple of people I dated that I would prefer not having to see or talk to, just because they lied to me and broke the trust that was established between the two of us. One of them used to live near me, so periodically I would see them walking down the street; if I was able to I used to cross the street to avoid talking to them. Then there was someone else I used to be with that would literally run away if they saw me. I used to have a hard time with that because nothing happened between us that I felt warranted such an action. I remember sitting down with them to say I did not share the same feelings as they did about our relationship. It did take a couple of years before the running stopped and actually we have remained friends now. In fact, a majority of the people I have dated have stayed on friendly terms with me. When some of my friends would question how I could still be friends with someone who broke my heart, I had to explain to them that just because the love aspect of the relationship died did not cancel out the other good qualities about the person that attracted me to them in the first place. Unless they did something hateful, I for the most part have been able to adjust my thought processes about them over time. Everyone handles this type of situation differently; just see what happens in this comedic romance. CAMBRIDGE English professor Richard Haig, played by Pierce Brosnan (Love is All You Need, The Ghost Writer), enjoyed his single life until he met American student Kate, played by Jessica Alba (Fantastic Four franchise, Valentine’s Day). What was it about Kate that made Richard want to be a better man? The cast which also included Salma Hayek (Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Frida) as Olivia and Malcom McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Easy A) as Gordon was the draw for me to watch this film; they were good and tried to do the best they could with the lines that were given to them. However, it was not enough to save this movie. The script was not only blatantly predictable, it was unpolished. Scenes felt separate from each other as if they were comedy bits from a television sitcom. I think if the writers would have spent more time developing the characters, giving them more depth; the story could have been more palatable. Love certainly has a way of making us do things we never thought of doing before.
1 3/4 stars
The time was put in and you felt you paid your dues. There was a sense of success associated with the job that enabled you to feel proud. But when the time came you were done; you did not want to have to put in another day doing the same thing you had been doing for many years. A long time ago I had a part-time job as the manager for a furniture company’s moving crews. Prior to taking the position, the department was constantly under fire from customer complaints about the damage caused by the crews delivering the furniture. My responsibilities were to setup weekly routes for the various crews; manage the loading of the moving vans and reduce damages to a minimum. It was a grueling job since more times than not I had to fill in and be part of a crew. I was constantly amazed by the customers who bought furniture that would not fit into their houses. When the time came to leave that job I was glad and vowed I would never move another piece of furniture again. However, I soon learned never to say never because anytime a friend asked me to help them move something I could not say no. These are some of the things you just do for friends. Similarly former CIA agent Devereaux, played by Pierce Brosnan (Love is All You Need, The Ghost), had the same dilemma when he agreed to come out of retirement to extract a friend from a potentially hostile situation in Russia. Due to the length of time away from the agency, there was a chance Devereaux’s special skills would not be able to serve him well this time. This action thriller played out as a light version of James Bond; without the sophistication, charm and witty dialog. Though there were plenty of explosions and chases, the script was a poor excuse for a crime film. Pierce was convincing in his role which helped fellow cast members Luke Bracey (Monte Carlo, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) as Mason and Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, Seven Psychopaths) as Alice. Unfortunately the directing was not very good; I found myself becoming bored as the story spiraled into a multitude of cliches and predictability. With the recent releases of these action films starring aging movie stars and their obvious stunt doubles, I did appreciate the fact that Pierce appeared to be doing some of his own stunts; if not, the camera work was much better here because it was convincing to me. It would have been fun to watch Pierce in this type of role since I was always fond of his James Bond movies; however, it could not be found here because this film was easily forgettable.
No one has the right to tell you how you should feel is one of my strongest mantras. Among all the individuals within the circles of connections in my life, everyone knows there is no reason to cover-up, modify or hide one’s feelings. If someone is in a foul mood, so be it. I am not one to offer platitudes like “things will get better” or “it will be a brighter day soon.” When I am sad or depressed I certainly do not want someone around trying to cheer me up. I just want someone to be accepting and understand this is how I am feeling right at the moment. The phrase “misery loves company” comes to mind and there is some truth in it. I have noticed a stronger connection forms between 2 people when they are commiserating about similar circumstances. It is true for me when my friends and I are at a concert or on a trip, shared excitement only accentuates the experience. The same holds true during a somber or sad experience. It all comes down to the ability to relate to another being, to know there is someone else who is feeling the same way as you. COINCIDENTALLY, the four individuals in this comedic drama accidentally discovered they were each feeling the same way with the same idea. It was New Year’s Eve and expecting to be alone Martin, Maureen, Jess and JJ; played by Pierce Brosnan (Love is All You Need, The Ghost), Toni Collette (The Way Way Back, Little Miss Sunshine), Imogen Poots (Jane Eyre, That Awkward Moment) and Aaron Paul (Need for Speed, Breaking Bad-TV); all found themselves on the top of a high-rise building at the same time with plans to jump off the roof. Instead of ending their lives that night, they form an unusual pact to help support each other through their troubled times. Based on the novel by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy), believe it or not this film offered a few amusing moments. The subject may be morbid for some; but I found the script did a decent job of handling the subject matter, mixing doses of lightheartedness with darkness. Though the acting was this movie’s strongest feature, it could not help save this dramedy. I found the story jumped around too much, never allowing time to offer further explanation to the scenes. With things coming across piecemeal, the story never fully developed and fell flat. Not that I expect you to agree with me on every one of my movie reviews, but I feel comfortable there will be many who will feel the same way I do after they see this film.
1 3/4 stars
Conjuring up the directional spirit of Alfred Hitchcock, this intelligent suspense movie was beautifully directed by Roman Polanski. Atmospheric scenes added to the thrilling story as Ewan McGregor (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Miss Potter) introduced himself as the Ghost aka the ghost writer. He was hired to complete the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang, played by Pierce Brosnan (Die Another Day, Mamma Mia), when the previous ghost writer died from an accidental drowning. As Ewan’s character delved into Mr. Lang’s past, he discovered something unusual. My attention was totally captured by this exciting film. Without the use of explosions or hi-tech wizardry, this movie steadily built up the anticipation with the aid of a smart script. The characters were all believable to me and with Mr. Polanski’s trained eye for making each frame appear full, I loved the way the tension kept a steady pace throughout the movie. The casting of Pierce in the role of prime minister was bloody brilliant. The only complaint I had about this film was my disappointment in the way it ended. However, it was not traumatic enough for me to have lost my enthusiasm for having been a witness to this gripping movie.
3 1/3 stars — DVD