HEAVEN ON EARTH FOR ME IS anyplace that sells soft-serve, custard ice cream. There is such a feeling of comfort and joy that comes over me when eating the stuff. So, I decided recently to treat myself and go to a shop that sells it. After the choosing and paying for my chocolate ice cream, I sat down at one of the tables in the place. A family of four walked in and they each grabbed a cup to fill up with their choice of ice cream. This shop is set up where the customer fills the container with product and gets charged for it by the weight. Next to the cash registers was a long counter that was covered with containers filled with different toppings for one’s ice cream. I watched as the two children with their full containers ran up to this counter to pick their toppings. Unbelievably, my first thought was why were not the parents supervising them on the toppings; but they eventually came over to pay for their containers, while watching their kids go from one end to the other putting topping after topping on their ice cream. I counted nine toppings; yes, I said nine toppings! You could see part of them on top above the edge of their containers. How did the parents allow so much stuff added to the ice cream, and I wondered how much each of their children’s containers would cost? Also, could they even taste each item when there were so many different ones piled together? I HAVE NEVER SHIED AWAY FROM combined multiple tastes, like chocolate cake with chocolate chips and chocolate ice cream. Or I can do hot fudge, nuts, and sprinkles on top of my ice cream. However, I cannot exceed more tastes into one thing. An example would be that dessert bar that people usually call seven-layer bars or conglomerates. They are not bad, and I have certainly eaten my share of them; however, they are not my favorite. I would be perfectly content with a chocolate chip cookie. When there are too many items pushed together, I never feel I am getting the full taste of each item. It is funny, I am the same way with my meals. I like my salad before the meal and everything on my plate should be separated so they are not mixing. Chicken in one spot, asparagus in another and potatoes by themselves. Of course, Chinese entrees or several Mexican dishes are fine because they are supposed to be put together. The reason I am telling you this is because you will understand better why I was having a challenging time watching this action, adventure fantasy. SEEING A MULTI-TENTACLE CREATURE DESTROYING property was not the biggest shock for Doctor Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog, The Electrical Life of Louis Wan); it was seeing a young girl in the middle of the chaos, who he had seen in his dreams. With Elizabeth Olsen (Wind River, In Secret) as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Chiwetel Ejiofer (Locked Down, The Old Guard) as Baron Mordo, Benedict Wong (The Martian, Annihilation) as Wong and Rachel McAdams (Game Night, Spotlight) as Dr. Christine Palmer; this new installment of the film franchise had a darker side to it than the average Marvel Studios’ film. Benedict’s acting, which was superior, was equally matched and more so by Elizabeth Olsen and that is what kept me grounded to this picture. The abundance of special effects was so over the top for me; that I felt the CGI department let loose with everything they could think of because of being cooped up due to COVID the past couple of years. It was too much for me and I had to pay close attention to the different universes and storylines that were being thrust upon the screen. It was the thoughtful, emotional scenes that got me through the monotony of so many action, fantasy scenes. Though I will say the special effects were amazing; I love Doctor Strange’s cloak. How I like my toppings on ice cream is how I wish this sequel had been written, more backstory and less frenetic action scenes. There were two extra scenes: one in the middle and the other at the end of the credits.
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
HIS BITTERNESS WOULD NOT ALLOW him to let go of his grudges; it is true. If he got into an argument or altercation where he felt just even slighted in any way, he would hold a grudge against the person forever. I understood because I used to do the same thing; but that was years ago. You can choose whether it was maturity or growing old, but I do not have the same intensity now like I did back then. Granted nowadays I will not forget, but I do not go out of my way to get back at the “perpetrator.” Instead I ignore the person, devoting as little energy as possible to them. There is a member at one of the fitness centers where I teach who was the owner of a company that was a customer of mine. We used to be on friendly terms and though they ran a little slow with their payments, he would work to get us paid. When the economy started to drop the payments got slower and slower. I had to call their accounts payable department and get a hold of him at the fitness center. Finally, when I found him he told me they were working on our invoices and not to hold up their orders; that he would remember who worked with them once they turned things around. So, I released his current order with us and after a few weeks went by his company filed bankruptcy. To this day when I see him I make no acknowledgment of his existence. NOW THIS MAY SEEM HARSH to some of you, but it really does not take any energy away from me. It is as if he is a stranger passing me by, though by the look on his face he does try to avoid me. The difference I was referring to between me and my friend is he would have turned his feelings all to hatred and made foul comments to the owner any chance he would have seen him. His feelings for an individual would get twisted with any other negative feelings he had stuffed inside of himself; so, his reactions were always at an extreme level, way beyond what the situation warranted. As I am getting older I do not have the energy nor the desire to hold grudges. Sure, as I said before, I may not forget what happened but I do not want to spend my time resenting the individual who wronged me. I have seen some elderly people who are unpleasant to be around because they are filled with resentment and anger. If I was in a similar situation like what was depicted in this romantic drama, I do not know if I would want to be around those individuals. IT WAS HARD FOR RONIT KRISHNA, played by Rachel Weisz (My Cousin Rachel, The Light Between the Oceans), to return for her father’s funeral to the community that had looked down at her. Their reason was still walking the streets. This film festival nominee also starred Rachel McAdams (Game Night, Spotlight) as Esti Kuperman, Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle, Ginger & Rosa) as David Kuperman and Allan Corduner (Defiance, The Merchant of Venice) as Moshe Hartog. Due to the beautiful acting from both Rachels I could get through the slowness at times of the story. The 2 actresses both had this special way of using their physical features to convey their feelings. It took some time for me to get used to the pacing before I was pulled into this film. I did find the setting interesting for it added a religious element to the love story that I found thought provoking. On a curious note I was intrigued with the way people dealt with their grudges.
I DO NOT THINK I would ever be accused of being a game snob; at least I don’t think so. Games provide two important functions in my opinion: they activate the brain and instill a sense of pleasure and fun in the individual. When one can assemble a group of willing participants into playing a game, they should consider it an achievement. I say this because I have been a part of several game nights where there were players who made sure everyone knew they were not having fun. Or worse yet I knew this man (a friend was dating him) who was one of the worst game players I have ever encountered in my entire life. He would yell, scream and belittle any of his teammates if they were not doing what HE thought they should be doing to win the game. It was so awful to sit there and have this guy dramatically, yes dramatically, talk down to someone for making a move that did not help their team’s score. I finally told my friend I would never play with them again; gratefully she stopped dating him soon after. ON THE OTHER HAND I have played with some people who were so disinterested that you had to literally tell them what to do throughout the whole game. They would not pay attention to when it was their turn, the rules or what their teammates were doing when it was their turns; it made one wonder why they agreed to play a game in the first place. Now I do not have an issue with anyone saying they are not interested in playing something; if they want to sit it out I am fine with it. But if you agree to play a game I feel one should at least show an effort and if need be become a team player. When you have several people on one team with one person who is not engaged with everyone else, it does throw the game off. I remember when I was participating on a bowling team and one of the players made no effort in playing; I mean they would just pick up a bowling ball and throw it down the alley without any concern if they hit a pin or not. The rest of the team you could tell was not happy they had this person as a teammate. It just made for an uncomfortable time and that is not something I want to be a part of; the same could be said for either of the teams in this mystery crime comedy. THE GAME NIGHT HOSTED BY Annie and Max, played by Rachel McAdams (Spotlight, The Notebook) and Jason Bateman (Bad Words, The Family Fang), was in for a surprise when Max’ super competitive brother Brooks, played by Kyle Chandler (Manchester by the Sea, Friday Night Lights-TV), showed up and decided to take the competition up a notch with a murder mystery game. Even when there was an actual kidnapping the players continued on with the game. With Sharon Horgan (Imagine Me & You, Man Up) as Sarah and Billy Magnussen (The Big Short, Into the Woods) as Ryan, this cast was exceptionally well suited for the script. I particularly thought Jason and Rachel were perfect playing off of each other. The story seemed familiar to me, but at least there were a few good laughs in the movie. I actually liked seeing Kyle in a different type of role for himself and thought he handled it well; his fight scenes were really good. There are some twists to the plot and those who have a sibling might relate to the sibling rivalry angle. The odds are tipped in favor of having an easy, fun time watching this film.
2 ½ stars
THOUGH you may not realize it right away, you will receive a gift from the people you meet in your life. You see him sitting across from you, his hand fidgeting with the necklace caught in his shirt button. His voice is lyrical where the words coming out of his mouth sound as if they are building an incredible overture; it is enough for you to think about what the second act could be. You keep catching yourself staring at his eyes while his cheeks continuously swell into 2 ripe plums you want to squeeze. None of it makes sense because you do not know him except for a few emails and one phone conversation that dove below the surface beyond the standard questions about the weather and jobs. The gesture that sent a shiver through your body was the brush of his hand on you as he excused himself to the bathroom. From this point in time the walls around your heart, solidified by the hurt and pain of past relationships, started to spring leaks filled with emotions and feelings. You realized all that was before would not be the same ever again. HOW about the woman who was rushing down the staircase, trying to catch a train to the city. On the way she bumped into a gentleman, unaware the packet sticking out of her bag caught on a fold of his coat and fell out. She missed the train as if the doors of the train car deliberately knew what they were doing. Standing there trying to catch her breath the gentleman tapped her on the shoulder, presenting her packet to her. She thanked him and was surprised the man referred to them as X-rays. It turns out he was a doctor and wound up through conversations and consultations to be the doctor that successfully cured her. You see, you just never know what you might gain from a stranger. NEUROSURGEON Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, Sherlock-TV), survived a horrific auto accident, but his hands did not. His ego would not let go; he was determined to go to the ends of the world to find someone who could restore the use of his hands. His journey led him to The Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton (A Bigger Splash, Snowpiercer). Doctor Strange got something different than what he had expected. This action fantasy followed the Marvel formula though this adventure movie was such a visual trip I felt there was almost too much stimuli for me to grasp everything. With Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, Secret in Their Eyes) as Mordo and Mads Mikkelsen (The Hunt, Hannibal-TV) as Kaecilius, I enjoyed all the characters along with the humor sprinkled throughout the script. I felt the story took a long time during the introduction portion. Once the action finally happened I was a bit disappointed by it. Sure the scenes were visually intense but I felt the action and drama didn’t quite match it. My rating tonight will be heavily influenced by the special effects in this film. Oh and I understood I had to meet this character Doctor Strange because I am going to meet him again in a future Avengers film. There were two extra scenes in the middle and end of the credits.
He would be the perfect candidate for a television game show, where the contestants guess the person’s occupation. The reason being no one would guess what he did for a living. With a physical shape more akin to a fireplug; he smoked cigarettes, drank and had a Napoleon complex. In other words, he was aggressive to compensate for his short stature. I was never comfortable around him; he would simply bark orders at everyone, barely hiding his mean streak that simmered just below the surface. Do you want to take a guess at his job title? He was a gym teacher; I hesitate to use the words physical education because he did not know much about health or the human body. There were classes where he would just throw a bunch of basketballs out into the gymnasium and tell us to shoot baskets. I think he only did this so he could sit in his office that had two windows covered with metal grates. If any students knew what he was doing in there they never shared their information. I never understood how this man kept his job. He would throw basketballs at our heads or body; in fact I know I must have mentioned this before, but he put one student up against the wall and kept throwing balls at his head while a majority of the students in the bleachers sat and laughed. How could a school system keep such a person in a position of authority who acted like this, like a bully. INVESTIGATIVE reporters from the Boston Globe discovered a pattern of abuse taking place in their city, but no one seemed to be aware of it; or were they just not saying anything? This film festival winning drama was based on a true story. The actors assembled were all so equally terrific that I could not say one of them was the main star. There was Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me, The Avengers franchise) as Mike Rezendes, Rachel McAdams (The Vow, Midnight in Paris) as Sacha Pfeiffer, Michael Keaton (Batman franchise, White Noise) as Walter “Robby” Robinson and Liev Schreiber (Defiance, Pawn Sacrifice) as Marty Baron. The script being crisply clean without any manipulations played out as a dramatic, suspenseful thriller. There was never a dull moment; every scene mattered and offered a piece to the puzzle the reporters were trying to put together. I do want to say I was impressed with Michael Keaton’s performance because this role was such a contrast to his role in Birdman, yet he was equally as prominent. Everything worked in this biographical film from the direction to the acting to the action. Too bad it had this true story available to be turned into a movie; but I am glad they made it because not only is it a major topic, this movie version will be a major player during the award ceremonies.
For those of you fortunate enough never to have experienced a broken heart let me describe how it feels. The area around where the heart is located reacts just as if a physical punch was administered to the body; it hurts like a bad bruise, echoing dull pain over and over. Your center of gravity weighs more where it takes added effort to lift your feet off the ground to even walk across a room. With water making up a majority of the body’s composition, it gets redirected to spill out of your tear ducts at a moment’s notice. Hearing the beginning notes of a song could trigger this outpouring as easily as seeing a newly ownerless toothbrush sitting in your medicine cabinet. Some individuals experience the sense of losing control. I know for myself when I am feeling out of control I tend to focus on one single aspect of my life and hold onto it with a near death grip. My default option is usually my diet. Since no one has a say in what I can or cannot eat, my daily food intake is totally under my domain. In the past when I felt I was out of control my eating would take off as I tried filling the void that formed when control became unharnessed, free to do what it wanted to do. Now it is opposite, the more out of control I feel the more I control what I eat. The main character in this dramatic sports film had a different method. BOXING champion Billy Hope, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, End of Watch), had the money, the fame and the big house; however, it did not matter when he lost the one thing money could not buy. I need to start with Jake for this review because he deserved extra credit for the grueling workout he put himself through to give extra meat to this role, so to speak. He did 2,000 sit-ups a day and was told by the director, Atoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer), they would continue filming even if his nose got broken in the fight scenes. Now the fight scenes, they were so intense at times I almost had to look away. The cast, which included Rachel McAdams (Aloha, About Time) as Maureen Hope and Oona Laurence (A Little Game, Lamb) as Leila Hope, was especially strong in their own right. Though Jake could snag a nomination for this role, the script was filled with cliches that kept the story from matching his acting abilities. I thought the scenes he had with Forest Whitaker (Taken 3, Lee Daniels’ The Butler) as Tick Wills could have been even more powerful if the script was better. In spite of this big flaw I was so drawn to the character that it carried me through the entire film. Several scenes had blood in them.
While standing in the theater lobby you see them out of the corner of your eye. They are walking towards you hand in hand; it is your ex. The last conversation the two of you had replays in your mind as you move your lips into a plastic smile. Introductions are made as you size up your replacement. As small talk hesitantly sputters out you see the replacement put their arm around their shoulders, letting it drape down like a boa constrictor. Funny, when the two of you were together they were not comfortable when you did it. However, the non-verbal connection the two of you shared is still active and you can see in their eyes, they realize you are noticing this change or maybe it is just acceptance in them. You have images rising to the top of your conscience from your pool of memories. The dividing line that was formed between the two of you at the time your relationship ended suddenly turns porous as they bring up one of your shared past events into the conversation. Whatever issues the two of you had at the end, they are fading into the background now as you are remembering how the two of you really had a good time together. Isn’t it funny how time can either soften or harden one’s memories associated with a past relationship? RETURNING to Hawaii as a military contractor now Brian Gilcrest, played by Bradley Cooper (The Words, American Sniper), was there to seek approval for a privately funded military operation by millionaire Carson Welch, played by Bill Murray (Groundhog Day, Lost in Translation). There was no way Brian could avoid his old girlfriend Tracy Woodside, played by Rachel McAdams (Midnight in Paris, About Time). Written and directed by Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, We Bought a Zoo), this comedic drama had such a good cast. Besides Bradley and Rachel there was Emma Stone (Magic in the Moonlight, Gangster Squad) as air force pilot Allison Ng and Alec Baldwin (The Departed, 30 Rock-TV) as General Dixon. I enjoyed the cast because they were perfect for their roles. There was a perfect blend of ingredients that made some scenes shine in this romantic film; but then there were more scenes that made little sense. It felt so disconnected to me; I just found the multiple story lines odd. In addition I did not feel any connection being formed between Brian and Allison which did not help that particular story line. There were times I lost interest in what was going on and for me personally there were not any pretty scenic shots of Hawaii. Sadly this movie was like a bad relationship; the kind you end early and soon forget.
1 3/4 stars
It is getting so hard to trust anyone, let alone anything these days. I may not be one to talk since I do not easily give out trust; it is something I have always felt gets earned. My trust was originally formed as a solid unblemished mountain on protected land. Through the years each untruthful statement whipped at the outer layers of my trust like pelting rain, eroding the surface away. Being told I was your friend only to find out I was not; being told the product I was purchasing would be compatible with my other devices only to find out it was not; being told I was the only one only to find out I was not; each of these hit my trust, leaving a gaping dark hole that became impossible to traverse. If all the negative news about recalls, stolen credit cards and fraud was not enough; the stories I see about people doing bodily harm to others scares me more. The way individuals gain access to places so they can do damage alarms me terribly. I am afraid to answer my front door unless the screen door is locked and I know I am not the only one who feels this way. TRUST was heavily tested in this thriller based on John le Carre’s novel of the same name. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master, Doubt) played Gunther Bachman, an agent in a highly secretive German government agency. After Issa Karpov, played by Grigoriy Dobrygin (How I Ended the Summer, 4 Days in May), illegally arrived in Hamburg to claim his father’s estate; a clandestine race of cat and mouse began as German and American agents attempted to find out Issa’s true intentions. This film festival nominee was one of Philip’s final completed films. It saddens me to say he was outstanding in this role because seeing him only reminded me there would be no further performances. He helped push the cast to a higher standard, where everyone was so believable they kept the viewer guessing through each scene. Part of the cast included Willem Dafoe (The Fault in our Stars, Out of the Furnace) as Tommy Brue, Robin Wright (Forrest Gump, Rampart) as Martha Sullivan and Rachel McAdams (Midnight in Paris, About Time) as Annabel Richter. The major disappointment about this movie was the script. The first half of the film was muddled and slow; I sat wondering when it would get exciting. Finally by the last half I got into the story, appreciating the acting even more. Due to the actors and plot source I trusted this movie was going to be an intense thrilling picture. It did not quite make it all the way, but Philip certainly would have had nothing to apologize for regarding his performance.
The conversation seemed to be going well. There was a rhythm established where we started to volley thoughts and questions back and forth. I have always considered the absence of questions being asked as a red flag. In conversations I am a stickler for making eye contact, for I gain added insight when I can look into their eyes while we are talking to each other. The dinner date was going well but there was a voice in the back of my head that was critiquing my performance. There was an onslaught of questions chipping away at my confidence. Why did I immediately say indoors without asking their opinion, when the host asked if we wanted to dine indoors or out? I detest eating outdoors; having to fight bugs, car exhaust and pedestrians walking by. Why didn’t I order a plain entree instead of something that I had to tell the waiter to either remove or exchange parts for something different? If I could have only gone back in time like they did in this comedic drama I know I could have made a better impression. When Tim, played by Domhnall Gleeson (True Grit, Dredd), was told by his father, played by Bill Nighy (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Love Actually), that all the men in their family had the ability to travel back in time, he had to find out for himself. Discovering it was true, Tim set out on a journey to find himself a girlfriend. He would also discover things change when one goes back in time. This fantasy film had a sweet and sentimental story; I was thoroughly entertained by it. I thought everyone did a wonderful job with their characters, especially Rachel McAdams (Midnight in Paris, The Vow) as Mary. The role was perfect for her style of acting. Since this film festival winning movie was a fantasy, I was not so concerned with the way Tim traveled in time or if it was hokey. They were easily forgivable because I found the entire story had an easy flow and kept me engaged. Imagine if we could go back and do things over from our past; it would make life easier. But since it is make-believe, I have to remember to embrace and live in the moment.