I SHOULD HAVE READ THE FINE print before agreeing to participate. We were on vacation, staying at a hotel. When we checked in, we were handed an invitation to a presentation that was going to be held in one of the hotel’s conference rooms. The topic was about a new property the hotel was going to open. Refreshments would be served, and each guest would receive a gift bag worth $300.00. We agreed to participate, hoping the gift bag would at least contain food and drink coupons. On the day of the presentation, we walked into the conference room where a hotel employee greeted us with the gift bag. Finding seats, I went through the bag. There was an assortment of travel sized items like toothpaste, bagged peanuts and body lotion. Along with the stuff there was a gold cardboard envelope. I opened it and found a coupon towards a one night’s stay at their new property being built in the Bahamas; that was where the $300.00 value came in. Though I understood the whole marketing aspect of it, I was still annoyed that I agreed to sit through a 2 hour presentation; where at the end of it, the employee tried to sell us a time share unit at their new property. The way I saw this was I received a few travel sized things and a coupon, which I found out did not include air fare and was not enough for a one night stay, for using up 2 hours of my time. I REALIZE I HAVE A CHOICE; I do not have to agree to these types of sale pitches. For me it is about my time and effort, and what I am getting in return. Here is an example; remember those old TV dinners in the metal trays with the compartments for each food group? I used to get the turkey and gravy one, despite not really liking it. The reason was I loved the dessert that came with it, a baked apple crisp type of thing. The turkey was not horrible; but I was not a gravy person and did not care for the wetness with pieces of mushy stuffing floating in it. I powered through despite it, just so I could enjoy the dessert. As a little boy, I used to go through a box of cereal I disliked just to pull out the sweetened raisins and add them to a different box of cereal that I really enjoyed. Even today, my friends and family know I rarely order something straight off the restaurant menu without making small adjustments for the things I like and dislike. I wish I could have done that for this action, adventure film I saw at the movie theaters. NATASHA ROMANOFF, PLAYED BY SCARLETT JOHNSON (Jojo Rabbit, Marriage Story), must confront her past if she wants to overcome the sinister forces that are circling around her. With Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth, Fighting with my Family) as Yelena Belova, David Harbour (No Sudden Move, Suicide Squad) as Alexei, Rachel Weisz (The Favourite, My Cousin Rachel) as Melina and Ray Winstone (The Departed, Cold Mountain) as Dreykov; this science fiction origin story was a mixed bag for me. There were times where the scenes were brilliant, both in content and visually; but other times I was not as impressed. I think the basic issue had to do with the script. In a Marvel film, we get overloaded with excitement, peril, humor and incredible CGI effects. This film came close at times but did not quite make it. The women were incredible together, especially Scarlett and Florence, who I think has a future in the Marvel universe based on her performance here. For the story, the evil aspect just wasn’t as diabolical as it could have been. I enjoyed watching the movie, but I did not love it. Sort of like that TV dinner I used to eat. There was an extra scene after the credits.
BEING CHOSEN AS THE FAVORITE ONE does not necessarily make one’s life easier; the title can come with some pitfalls. At a previous job where I worked, there was an employee who was the favorite of the owner. Everyone at the company knew it. In fact, even if it was your first day you would soon realize this employee had a special relationship with the owner. Here is just one example of how the owner treated this employee differently than the others. During the holidays we used to receive a variety of gifts for the owner. He would always open these packages in his office, bringing out the shipping boxes for us to break down and recycle. I would say on the average he kept 75% of the gifts sent to him; the ones he did not, he would give to this employee right in front of the rest of us. Depending on what the item was, this employee would either leave it sitting on her desk (which used to annoy all of us) or take it out to her car to bring home. Not once did the owner offer a rejected gift to one of us. Now, I did not care whether I got a gift or not; but I, like everyone else around me, felt it was not fair and was certainly not a morale booster. AS TIME PASSED SOME OF THE EMPLOYEES grew resentful of the “favorite” employee. When anyone would bring in a taste treat of food; if they were going around and offering pieces of it as opposed to putting it out in the kitchen, they would bypass this one employee. Actually, they would wait until the person was away from her desk then go around passing out their food items, so as to avoid the favorite one altogether. I could not say for certainty if this type of treatment was proper because as far as I knew it was not this employee’s fault. Now if there was something going on between the two of them, I had no knowledge. Let me say this though, it seemed from time to time she used her favorite role status to her advantage. For example, there was never a problem for her to leave early from work; but for the rest of us, the owner would always resist our requests while trying to make us change the day or the time, so we would not have to leave early. It came to a point where I just stopped thinking about it; it wasn’t worth the energy. And when I say energy this biographical, comedic drama will give you an idea of how much energy it takes to deal with such things. USING HER POSITION AS THE QUEEN’S CONFIDANTE Lady Sarah, played by Rachel Weisz (My Cousin Rachel, Disobedience), enjoyed exerting her power over others. But that show of power could be quite enticing for anyone who wanted some of the same. This film festival winning movie starred Olivia Coleman (The Lobster, Hot Fuzz) as Queen Anne, Emma Stone (Battle of the Sexes, Magic in the Moonlight) as Abigail, and James Smith (In the Loop, The Iron Lady) as Godolphin. I was so intrigued with this story that I had to do some research about Queen Anne. It quickly became apparent to me that the writers took a basis of facts and elaborated on it to funny extremes. The three actresses were dynamite with the conniving, the wickedness and humor of the script. As much as I enjoyed this aspect of the movie and its super acting, I felt some scenes were unnecessary. There were several that felt like they were added to give this picture an artistic flair; it only slowed the story down for me. All in all, I cannot say this will be a favorite of mine this Oscar season, but I still had a good time watching it.
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.
ARSENIC was what killed the husband. It did not happen overnight; according to the news reports his wife mixed a small amount of the chemical into his food every day. In my naivety I wondered why she just did not divorce him, but a friend quickly informed me it probably involved money. Since money has never played a major factor in deciding my relationship decisions, when I have been with someone where we have shared expenses, all I can think of if the relationship sours is to get out with the least amount of drama. Most possessions are just stuff we have accumulated; how much does a person really need? Recently I met someone who was actively seeking a relationship by using a dating service. On the occupation section of the application they told me they only would list the field they work in without giving the job title. When I asked why they told me there were several potential dates that made contact even though there were no similar interests in the profiles. I listened as they explained when they listed their occupation there were more responses; but they soon discovered after a couple of meetings, the dates were interested more in salary levels then learning about their personal history. WHEN you first meet a couple that has a large age gap between them, what is the first thing you think about them? If you are like the others I have asked, your first thoughts could be leaning towards the idea of a gold-digger, a cougar or a scam artist. We had a family friend who was a widower for many years. Later in life he met a woman who was a widow. After a sweet courtship they married and settled into a calm domestic life. A few years went by before our friend died. Now there was no proof, no autopsy (at that age most doctors just say it is due to old age) and little time before his new widow moved away. It turns out our family friend was her 6th husband; all her previous ones had died a similar way. CONVINCED his guardian’s death was suspicious Philip, played by Sam Claflin (Me Before You, The Hunger Games franchise), believed his guardian’s widow Rachael Ashley, played by Rachel Weisz (Denial, The Light Between Oceans), was behind it. Based on Daphne Du Maurier’s (Rebecca, Frenchman’s Creek) novel, this dramatic romantic mystery simmered and sizzled with the chemistry created between Rachel and Sam. The two of them did a wonderful job of acting that outshone the supporting cast which included Holliday Grainger (Jane Eyre, The Finest Hours) as Louis Kendall and Iain Glen (Resident Evil franchise, Game of Thrones-TV) as Nick Kendall. Visually this picture had some interesting contrasts. Interior shots had darkness to them either with atmosphere or costumes. Where outdoor scenes had a vivid or striking look to them, I particularly was fascinated with Rachel’s clothing against her white horse. On the down side the script was the weak link in this film. I felt it had too many dull parts between the good sections. This added to the slowness I felt during parts of the story. If the acting had not been so good, this film would have died a slow death.
2 ½ stars
I remember a time when facts were important and meant something. In my chemistry class when we would conduct an experiment, each of the students had to create a particular reaction then have a fellow student repeat the same steps to see if they get the same results. My experiment was to create a blue clear liquid in my test tube. Mixing chemicals in a precise order and amounts when the final chemical was added the liquid in my test tube turned a beautiful Caribbean blue color. Next my lab partner had to reproduce my steps to see if he would get the same results. It turned out he did not; the liquid in his test tube turned into a cloudy, swamp brown color with a nasty odor. So to substantiate my results a 3rd student was brought in to repeat my experiment. They were successful as they created the same blue colored liquid. Pouring over our notes we discovered my lab partner mistook one measurement which completely altered the chemical reaction to create the color blue. This is how we learned about facts and fact checking. From my school years I learned studies and facts would yield accurate results. It seems as if facts do not carry the same weight of importance as they once did. This is my own opinion but I feel if facts lose their importance then conversations, accusations, claims and other such things turn into one big game of that kid’s game, “Telephone.” It is a game where one person whispers a statement into the ear of the person sitting next to them; who in turn, whispers the statement to the next and so on and so on, until the last person sitting in the circle repeats what they were told to the very first person who issued the statement. More than likely the statement was altered as it got passed from one person to the next. I learned from this dramatic film based on a true story that there were people back then who also did not believe in facts. HISTORIAN Deborah Lipstadt, played by Rachel Weisz (The Light Between Oceans, The Lobster), had to fly to London to prove in court that the Holocaust did indeed happen after she was sued for libel. In London’s judicial system the burden of proof is placed on the accused. This biographical film had outstanding acting provided not only by Rachel but also Tom Wilkinson (Snowden, Belle) as Richard Rampton, Timothy Spall (Harry Potter franchise, Enchanted) as David Irving and Andrew Scott (Spectre, Saving Private Ryan) as Anthony Julius. Based on Deborah’s book, History on Trial: My Day in Court, I found this film to be a taut courtroom drama. It was due to this cast that my interest stayed with the story because there were several scenes that lagged compared to others. I believe this was due to the script for the most part, though the directing had a hand in causing this slowness. Ultimately this did not weigh me down because I was very much into the story which interestingly one could draw parallels between it and the environment we currently live in.
There are many people who use the word “love,” though looking at world affairs maybe not enough. I have experienced individuals who actually say the word too often, to the point where I feel it loses some of its importance. Now I am not referring necessarily to someone telling another person they love them; though I have to tell you, hearing someone say it constantly throughout the day makes me feel as if there is less specialness behind the meaning of the spoken word. I remember the first time I realized I was truly in love with someone was when they became ill. Being a person who avoids touching things like doorknobs, other people’s cell phones and their hands; when I sat looking at my loved one wishing I would have gotten sick instead of them, I knew I had fallen deeply in love. Wanting to take away their discomfort besides nursing them without thinking about all the germs was a transformative experience for me. So I use this as my litmus test: if I am willing to put the needs of someone ahead of my germ phobia then I know our relationship is meant to be. Sadly I have seen some people who could not take that extra step in their relationship. I knew someone who was in a relationship for a couple of years; they were quite in love. However when one came down with a life threatening illness, the other could not handle it. Though in their defense they did try, but after a time they ended the relationship. It was just a sad situation all around. One could certainly say love makes people do some crazy or should I say irrational things; the couple in this dramatic romance will show you another example. WHEN lighthouse keeper Tom Sherbourne, played by Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs, X-Men franchise) spotted what looked like an abandoned rowboat, he had no idea his life was about to change because of what he found inside the boat. This film festival nominated movie based on the bestselling book was not only beautiful to watch, it also had a wonderful soundtrack. Besides Michael there was Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, Jason Bourne) as Isabel Graysmark and Rachel Weisz (The Lobster, Oz the Great and Powerful) as Hannah Roennfeldt; all of them were amazing with their characters. I have not read the book but I found the story interesting. Starting out slowly the script took some time before pulling me in. I will say the chemistry between Michael and Alicia was quite strong; they kept me interested in their story. However the script had some holes in it that were a distraction for me. There were some events that did not ring true to me to the point I felt the writer was focusing more on making the audience react instead of going deeper with the characters. It just came across as heavy handed and manipulative to me. Love can make a person do some uncharacteristic things but I was not totally in love with this movie.
2 ½ stars
There are some people who are uncomfortable being the 3rd wheel of a group, others do not even think of it. I suppose it depends on what is going on at the time. For those unfamiliar with the term “3rd wheel” let me explain. A third wheel is a person who joins a couple for a social occasion. There rarely is a time when I feel uncomfortable being considered the 3rd wheel. When a friend becomes part of being a couple what do you do? Do you stop socializing with them just because they have a significant other? I don’t think so. We still get together. Now I will say there are times when a friend may be dating someone that I find offensive, but I remain cordial and just deal with it. I can remember though a couple of times where I was aware I was the odd man out. For example, a friend of mine won free tickets to an amusement park and invited me to join him and the person he was dating. Walking and eating in the park was okay but after a while I was getting tired of always having to ride an attraction by myself or with a stranger seated next to me because my friend and his date had to ride together so they could hold hands or hug. It was not a big deal but I did make a mental note to be aware of it if the circumstances were reversed and I was the one in a relationship. If I had time I would tell you about a friend of mine who would come visit me in college and bring along her boyfriend, so they could share the extra bed in my dorm room; talk about being uncomfortable. Do you find it as odd as I do how some people act differently when they are in a relationship? IMAGINE living in a society where you had 45 days to find a partner otherwise you would get turned into an animal. This was one of the most absurdist romantic comedies I have seen in a long time. Starring Colin Farrell (Phone Booth, Miami Vice) as David, Rachel Weisz (Oz the Great and Powerful, The Fountain) as short sighted woman and John C. Reilly (Chicago, Carnage) as lisping man; I had to wonder what the actors must have thought while making this film. There were parts of the story that made strong satirical statements; others were humorous, while some were just odd. I think viewers will have a strong reaction to this film festival winner; they will either love it or hate it. This was confirmed for me by the audience’s reactions I heard after the movie was over. I have to say I had a strong negative reaction to the end of the story; but before I got to that point, I cannot say I was entertained as much as I was curious while watching this romantic comedic drama. The interesting thing about this picture is how it offers something to think about whether you are presently single or in a relationship.
2 ¾ stars
It never occurred to me but the two attributes really do sit opposing each other on the scales of justice. On one side sits youth, ah youth the golden period where one feels invincible, has less fears, can survive on little sleep and has an indestructible skin that quickly removes any cuts or bruises. Settled on the other side is wisdom; now this one can be a bit elusive for some folk. Wisdom has a better understanding of one’s emotions; years of experience has ripened wisdom, allowing a majority of one’s decisions to become rational. I am sure like me you have heard a variety of ways people talk about aging, such as “youth is wasted on the young” or “growing old is not for the weak.” In my younger years I laughed at these outlooks, now I understand. Getting together with friends and family now includes conversations about medical issues. We compare drug prices or what new drugs we are taking, how many times we get up in the middle of the night, our new physical limitations; all such things are becoming constant companions to us. I am not saying I am smart by any means, but with the wisdom I have gained in my life I sure wish I still had a youthful body holding it. Not that I want to sit and wish I were younger, but it would be nice to have youth and wisdom share more time together instead of a fleeting moment as the scales of justice pass each other while slowly traveling to opposite sides. LIFETIME friends Fred and Mick, played by Michael Caine (Harry Brown, Inception) and Harvey Keitel (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Piano), spend every year at their favorite resort in the Swiss Alps. While Fred is a retired conductor and Mick is always working on a new screenplay, the two friends were never too old to learn something new. This film festival winning drama had a wise cast of actors. Including Rachel Weisz (Oz the Great and Powerful, The Fountain) as Lena Ballinger and Jane Fonda (Nine to Five, Georgia Rule) as Brenda Morel, the acting was terrific in this pretty looking movie. Some of the outdoor scenes were breathtaking, where I wanted to go visit the place. Luckily this was a big plus for me because I did not care for the script. I not only found myself getting bored during several scenes, but some parts of the story seemed out of place to me. The story did not flow, it staggered along. I certainly appreciated the concept and idea of aging friends, but I was not feeling any deep connection between the characters. I have to tell you I was conflicted here. The wonderful acting, scenery and story sounded great but together it did not work. I have seen enough movies in my life to know the difference between an entertaining one or not and this one did not make it for me.
2 3/4 stars
During tragic times there are some people who ask themselves what they can do to help. One of the most selfless groups of people I have ever witnessed are those individuals who do hospice care. To me they are a rare breed of humans who give of themselves without expecting something in return. I have a saying I use that goes, “For every plus in life there is a minus.” What I mean by this is the world is made up of people, things or events that can be either a plus or minus, positive or negative, or you can even say good or bad. Here is an example: my car’s windshield got chipped from debris on the highway. The following day my company handed out holiday cash bonuses and the amount covered my deductible. The negative act was cancelled out by the positive act. With that being said it saddens me to say with all the positive folk we have in the world, it appears we have almost as large a group of negative ones. They can prey on others; not only during tragic events but even on those individuals who may be less fortunate. The “criminals” in this crime drama inspired by a true story were utterly despicable. I will tell you it was hard watching this film festival winning movie. Rachel Weisz (The Mummy franchise, The Deep Blue Sea) played American police officer Kathryn Bolkovac, who took a position as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia. Working on an investigation she discovered young women were being trafficked for the pleasure of men. Though she would encounter obstacles, Kathryn was determined to have her voice be heard for these victims. This certainly was Rachel’s film and she owned it, making an amazing character come to life. She was backed up by some real star power with Vanessa Redgrave (Unfinished Song, Blow-Up) as Madeleine Rees and David Strathairn (Lincoln, L.A. Confidential) as Peter Ward. As I watched the story unfold I really was outraged witnessing the scenes that were filled with such desperation. I was aware the director and writers probably took liberties with the story, focusing more on the cruelty; but it still bothered me. Though there was drama, personally I wanted more back story to the main characters. With this being such a vehicle for Rachel, some of the supporting cast was lost in the frame. At the end of the picture I had to stay seated and thought about the negative people in the story. I just wondered what kind of childhood did these people have to carry out the things they did in this gripping film.
3 stars — DVD
The prequel really came to the forefront with the Star Wars franchise. I find it to be a valid form to use in the art of making movies. For me it feels like seeing an old friend from college who is now in a love relationship and getting to hear how the two of them met. Excited to see this prequel to the classic film The Wizard of Oz, the movie studio certainly has been marketing it from a ton of commercials to the movie theater employees wearing promotional T-shirts. James Franco (127 Hours, Howl) played carnie magician Oscar Diggs who was swept up into a storm that took him far away from Kansas. Finding himself in a strange land called Oz he encountered Theodora, played by Mila Kunis (Black Swan, Ted), a witch who believed he was the wizard that the prophecy said would come to save her people. James’ acting in this role was proof that his stint as the wooden host of the Oscar telecasts was not a fluke. Joining him in the awful acting department was Mila and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Blue Valentine) as the witch Glinda. The only acting worth talking about came from Rachel Weisz (The Bourne Legacy, The Deep Blue Sea) as Evanora; computer graphic China Girl, voiced by Joey King (Ramona and Beezus, Crazy Stupid Love) and flying monkey Finley, voiced by Zach Braff (Garden State, Scrubs-TV). There were some beautiful and magical scenes, but then there would be flat scenes that were poorly designed. My favorite part of the movie was the last 20-25 minutes that had a cool, creative flair. The script was badly written, not providing depth to the characters which made James Franco’s character extra annoying. Not only was I disappointed by the end of the movie, I felt I had gotten stuck in Oz’ deadly poppy field.
2 1/3 stars