THE TWO OF US SAT QUIETLY playing checkers while people in the room were arguing back and forth between themselves. I had joined my elderly relative for the game after we had eaten dinner. I always enjoyed playing checkers with this relative despite him leading in the amount of games won. It was during our 2ndgame when a couple of the relatives, who were still sitting at the dining room table, started raising their voices towards each other. I had no idea what they were saying, so I started to turn around to look at them. My elderly relative patted his hand on my arm to stop me as he told me not to mind those fighting relatives. I asked him if they would start hurting each other; he said no, they both like being right and will continue yelling at each other until they get tired then they will each get up and walk away. He told me they always argue about unimportant things just so they can say they were right about something. “Pay them no mind,” he said. He also told me to learn from them which I thought was odd to say. When I questioned him, he said he wanted me to learn how to be respectful, that I can disagree with someone but respect that person’s feelings. We went back to playing our game of checkers. THE THINGS THAT ELDERLY RELATIVE SAID to me during our checker games were invaluable to me. I have never forgotten our conversations and his thoughts about the things he saw going around him. To the other relatives, we looked like we were simply playing a game; but if they had paid attention to us, they would have realized this patriarch was teaching me important lessons that carried me through many situations. When I was that little boy, he was the oldest relative I knew. Those born before him, I only got to see in a photo album. The photos were old and faded. He would tell me who each person was and how they were related to me. I would ask questions about them and he would do his best to answer me in a way I would understand. There was one relative I was intrigued with because of a shiny pin he was wearing on his suit lapel in one of the photos. My relative told me it was a diamond and ruby pin shaped like a piece of candy because the man was a candy maker; how I had wished he was still alive. The little boy in this animated film sure was lucky to have his relatives. FEELING NEGLECTED AFTER HIS BABY SISTER was born Yukio, voiced by Crispin Freeman (Young Justice-TV, Hellsing Ultimate-TV) found others who cared more about him. They were out in his yard. With Rebecca Hall (The Awakening, The Town) voicing the Mother, John Cho (Star Trek franchise, Searching) voicing the Father, Daniel Dae Kim (Insurgent, Lost-TV) voicing the young great grandfather and Victoria Grace (47 Ronin, Tokyo Grandfathers) as Mirai; this film festival winning adventure drama had some beautiful visuals throughout it. I loved the whole idea behind the story, finding things that were touching and sweet. The one thing I had an issue with however, was the main character Yukko. I felt there was too much yelling and bratty behavior coming out of him; it was hard to sympathize with him after a short time. Also, I would have liked the yard scenes to have been drawn with more magic and fantasy to them, to make them stand out more. Despite these issues, I still enjoyed the story immensely. Because I did not realize I could have changed the language, I saw this film with subtitles; they were hard to read in many scenes. I still was able to understand what was going on while Japanese was being spoken by the characters.
I DID NOT NOTICE HER WHEN I entered the classroom. My main concern was finding an empty seat. The class was mandatory; my friends teased me about the title of it, Meat and Animal Science. The instructor walked in and explained what was expected of us for the semester. After he was finished with his introduction, the teacher asked us to pair up with another student to become lab partners for the course. Since it was our first day, all the students simply asked whoever was sitting next to them. I became partnered with a farm boy, using his definition, from a little town that had only one stoplight. I thought he was joking, but it turned out he was not. The teacher waited a few moments to get the talking to die down before asking if anyone did not get a partner; one lone hand was raised in the air and it was from a female student. I looked around the room and noticed for the first time that she was the only female; it was just a curious observation on my part. The instructor assigned her to the two students sitting next to her who had teamed up, forming a trio. AS WE PROGRESSED THROUGH THE SEMESTER, there were times my partner and I were stationed near the trio during our lab time. I did not notice at first; but as the weeks passed, I noticed the female student was rarely working alongside her lab partners. My first thought was that she wanted to work alone. The reason being anytime her group had to do a presentation, the two male students would do the talking and fielding of questions. She would nod her head in agreement and would only talk if the instructor or student asked her something directly. As the weeks continued, I paid closer attention to her group, mostly to satisfy my own curiosity. I began to notice she did offer suggestions and advice to her teammates; they would nod their heads and/or mumble something I could not make out. However, based on how they proceeded, I saw the female lab partner would start up her own work on the task. I could only assume her lab partners were ignoring her and doing what they felt was the right thing to do. As far as I could tell the instructor did not notice or, sadly if this was the case, did notice and did not care. I did not know how she made out in the course, but I felt sad that her lab partners treated her with a lack of respect. My feelings for the main character in this film festival winning drama were similar. ON HER QUEST TO REPORT ONLY hard news stories television news reporter Christine Chubbuck, played by Rebecca Hall (The Town, The Gift), constantly came up against roadblocks. Whether it was not being the right type of story or something else; the only thing left was for her to create the story she wanted to report on. With Michael C. Hall (Kill Your Darlings, Dexter-TV) as George, Tracy Letts (Lady Bird, The Post) as Michael, Maria Dizzia (True Story, Rachel Getting Married) as Jean and J. Smith-Cameron (Man on a Ledge, You Can Count on Me) as Peg; this biographical story was based on true events. The key in making this movie work was the cast, led by the amazing Rebecca in her role. Unfamiliar to me, it was because of the cast’s acting skills that kept me involved with the plot. It took a while for me to get a sense of what was going on; but once I did, I enjoyed watching this movie. What surprised me about this picture was the fact not only was I unaware of the story, but also that I could not recall having heard anything about Rebecca’s amazing performance.
2 ½ stars
THE ONLY WAY TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT is to not have hopes or expectations. Sounds simple but it really is not. I have learned to avoid placing expectations on people’s behaviors. We all react to situations in a different way; one is not better or worse than the other. Trouble starts when an individual makes statements that use the word, “should;” something like, “You should have known…” This actually was a hard lesson for me to learn, where I would react to what I thought a person should have said or done. It took me a long time to realize no one has the right to tell me how to feel, that I am the only one responsible for how I am feeling. However, as we each go through our daily life there are things that crop up that disappoint us. For example, going to a particular restaurant to get your favorite dish and it winds up they are out of it. Seeing an article of clothing that you feel is perfect for you, only to find it does not look good on you or does not do what it was advertised to do. Things like this can cause us to feel disappointed; we had our mind set for one thing, but then the reality did not match our expectations. THE PAST HOLIDAY IS SOMETHING I look forward to because the movie studios release what they believe will be their heavy Oscar contenders and audience blockbusters. Every year I spend most of the day at the theater watching one movie after another. This year was no different and in fact, I was extra excited because a couple of limited release films were opening at a theater near me. I studied the movie times to figure out what would produce the maximum viewing experience. This also was taking into consideration the duration of the movie trailers; the average amount of time devoted to them is around 20 minutes. I was starting the day at one theater to watch three films then drive to another theater to finish up with 3 more. After finding a parking spot at the 2ndtheater I walked in to discover the films I needed to see were all sold out for the present time slots. Even rearranging start times did not help me; there was only one movie available and I had no desire to see it. The reason being, I saw the trailers and the main star does the same thing for every movie with no discretion towards the scripts. I was so disappointed and after watching this comedy I was even more disappointed that I wasted my time on this picture instead of one of the ones I had on my list. ONLY ONE DETECTIVE COULD FIND THE CULPRIT who was threatening the queen of England and that was Sherlock Holmes, played by Will Ferrell (Daddy’s Home franchise, Get Hard). With the help of his trusted friend Watson, played by John C. Reilly (The Sisters Brothers, Life After Beth), the two would have to work fast to save the queen. This adventure crime film was one of the worst movies I have seen the past year. How it got saved to be released during the holiday season was baffling to me. There was nothing funny since the jokes were noticeable a mile away and were of the lowest level of anything remotely humorous. I was bored out of my mind and angry that I had to pay to be subjected to this mess. Will has done the same schtick in his comedies for so long that his actions and acting must be on autopilot. Notice I did not list the rest of the main actors because I did not want to embarrass them any further.
1 1/4 stars
AS A YOUNG ADULT they did not have a typical body shape for their gender. To say they were stout would be a bit of a stretch; let us say they filled out their shape. Their size may have fooled people but make no mistake they were strong; I saw the way they could throw a ball and it was impressive. There was another person I knew who was not the most popular of kids; not the upper echelon status of cheerleaders and football players, but the tier just below it. Good looking in a funky sort of way, they were extremely smart. You would always want them on your team whenever there were debates or science projects. They had a wonderful command of the English language, yet they never used it in a show off type of way. I PURPOSELY DID NOT reveal the sex of the individuals I was talking about. How many of you thought I was talking about boys? How many thought it was girls? Those of you who thought it was girls would be right. You see from a very young age I saw examples where both boys and girls were capable of doing the same thing. Whether it was being super smart or athletic or talented, both sexes were equal in my mind. The idea of one being a “weaker” sex made no sense to me. In my adult life I have had both female and male military people in my classes; they shared that same discipline vibe and were equally capable of lasting the entire class time, no matter how intense were the exercise levels in the class. I have a hard time relating to individuals who see the sexes as not being equal. For example someone who makes a wisecrack about a stay at home Dad needs to be schooled in parenting in my opinion. In light of the recent events of sexual harassment and the #MeToo campaign, I thought this dramatic movie based on a true story might be an enlightening experience. UP UNTIL THE 1940S all comic book heroes were male. Harvard psychologist and inventor William Moulton Marston, played by Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast, Dracula Untold), envisioned something different because of what he saw in his marriage. With Rebecca Hall (The Town, The Gift) as Elizabeth Marston, Bella Heathcote (The Neon Demon, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Olive Byrne, Connie Britton (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Nashville-TV) as Josette Frank and Oliver Platt (Love & Other Drugs, The Ticket) as M.C. Gaines; the acting in this film was beautiful to watch, especially from Rebecca and Bella. The story was totally new to me since I was a Batman comic book fan and I have to tell you this story was fascinating on many levels. There were 2 main story lines: the debut of Wonder Woman on the public consciousness and the home life of its author. For me there seemed to be too much being crammed into the script, where I felt I was being cheated out of learning more about specific events or time frames. Somewhere during the picture I started to get bored or more to the point, wished it had delved further into the characters’ development. If nothing else I truly appreciated learning the history behind the Wonder Woman character and how she added something new to society’s beliefs. I only wished this movie would have been just as strong as its comic book hero.
2 ½ stars
THERE was something white and fluttering at my windshield as I walked back to my car. I was hoping it wasn’t an injured bird that had flown into the glass. As I came up from behind I saw it was a sheet of paper that someone had slipped underneath the windshield wiper. My first thought was it had to be some type of advertisement. Wow was I ever wrong when I removed the paper from the wiper and saw what was written on it. Someone had left me a note with their phone number, explaining how their car door flew open from the wind and nicked my car door. I took a look and there was a white mark on my car where the edge of their door chipped the paint. I could not get over someone was kind enough to let me know what happened, since I have never been notified before of all the mysterious nicks and dents my car has received in parking lots all these years. Reading the phone number, I called the person to thank them and refuse their offer of compensation; I kept a bottle of touchup paint for such occurrences. SOME years ago I remember sitting in my car in a parking lot and hearing a loud bang. The parked car next to me had been nudged by a person pulling out of a space across the way. I got out of my car to examine the damage and saw that car’s fender was pushed in. The driver of the car that backed up was starting to drive away. Running up to the driver side window I waved at them to stop, which I was surprised they did to tell you the truth. The person rolled down their window and I told them they dented the fender of the parked car. When they tried to tell me they did not do it I explained I was sitting in the car right next to it and saw the whole thing. From that short delay of time, it was just enough for the driver of the dented car to come out of the grocery store. I explained what happened and gave them my phone number before driving off to leave the two of them to figure it out. It was the right thing to do. ONCE the video of the horrific prank was downloaded to a social media site brothers Stan and Paul Lohman, played by Richard Gere (Norman, Days of Heaven) and Steve Coogan (Philomena, The Trip to Italy), met with their wives for dinner to discuss what they should do next. This film festival nominee had an important theme and message here. However, the script was such a mess I lost interest in this movie pretty quick. I am not a fan of jumping back and forth to pick up fragments of a story to create a complete piece and this dramatic mystery was doing it until nearly the end. Speaking of the end, it was not until this picture was nearly over that I started to care about the story. The acting was excellent, including Laura Linney (Sully, Mr. Holmes) as Claire and Rebecca Hall (The Gift, The Prestige) as Katelyn, for what they had to work with but it was not enough for me. I consider this review an act of kindness in warning you about this film.
1 2/3 stars
Those words that get spoken to you may wind up lining the path of your life with land mines. Sadly the speaker of those words may not even be conscious of the destruction they will be causing you. Maybe it is because of the twists and turns I navigated through my life that makes me hyperaware of what a person is saying to another person. I have mentioned my 7th grade teacher before, who told me I would amount to nothing if I tried to become a writer. For the next several years after that comment I spent my time focusing on a scientific career before coming to my senses; imagine how many other kids she must have affected with her opinions. There are three words in the English language that can have a major effect on a person when they are preceded with the word, “You.” The words are can, should and are. Think about a time in your life when someone told you that you could not do something or that you were ____(fill in the blank). As adults we at least have the capacity to process such remarks, both the positive and negative ones. However, a child may not be able to overcome the nickname someone bestowed on them; in fact, the bestower may not even realize how much damage a nickname can cause a person. To this day I can be inside the dressing room of a clothes store, trying on a new article of clothing and hear one of the nicknames forced on me when I was a kid. WHILE at the store picking out items for their new house Simon, played by Jason Bateman (The Longest Week, Identity Thief), bumped into an old classmate named Gordon, played by Joel Edgerton (Warrior, The Great Gatsby). After introducing Gordon to his wife Robyn, played by Rebecca Hall (Closed Circuit, The Town), Simon figured that would be the last he would see of this man he barely remembered from school; that was until Gordon showed up at their house with a housewarming gift. The first thing I have to do is give a shout out to Joel Edgerton because not only did he star in this mystery thriller but wrote and directed it. The story played out like a good old fashioned suspense tale, where I was taken on a ride filled with twists and turns. I am not saying like a roller coaster ride, more like layers that change the landscape as the story progresses along. The acting was excellent to the point where I was experiencing similar uncomfortableness along with the characters. It is a good feeling for me when a script can provide thrills without the need of explosions or special effects; letting the characters build up suspense for the viewers. In the case of this movie the label fits perfectly, a thrilling mystery.
3 1/4 stars
I would not say it is an irrational fear; it is more of a mistrust I have of computers. Sure when they do what they are supposed to do they can be wonderful; but, when they do not function properly, they can be a nightmare. I do not understand how a computer can follow the same procedure ever day then all of a sudden one day it cannot perform it. This drives me crazy. I used to work at a company where the corporate offices did very little of their daily requirements on a computer. The owner never wanted to see the departments’ routines come to a standstill due to a power outage or computer virus. I could understand the reasoning behind such actions because I have worked at companies where their entire operations were done by computers. It made things easier in some ways but when the computers would go down, the entire company would come to a complete stop. Do not get me wrong, computers certainly have enhanced our lives; but at what cost? This dramatic mystery movie delved into the possibilities of what the computer could do to elevate the life of mankind. Johnny Depp (The Lone Ranger, The Tourist) played Will Caster, one of the most respected researchers in the field of artificial intelligence. With his wife Evelyn and fellow researcher Max Waters, played by Rebecca Hall (Closed Circuit, The Prestige) and Paul Bettany (Margin Call, Inkheart), working alongside him; Will was working to create a machine that would have self-awareness. There would be no limits to the advancements that would benefit mankind…or would there be? This science fiction movie had a sharp, cool look to it. I liked the premiss of the story and felt it was relevant since we now have operating systems that verbally communicate with us. The cast which also included Morgan Freeman (Last Vegas, Million Dollar Baby) as Joseph Tagger and Kate Mara (Transsiberian, The Open Road) as Bree were solid but the script did not allow them to excel at their craft. Johnny Depp was actually the weak one out of the group. There were some parts, like Bree’s scenes with members of her gang, that did not make much sense due to the lack of back story. I thought the director’s pacing in this film was quite poor; I sat through passages where I was just bored. One could say this film created by humans was ironic since it had the emotions of a computer.
1 3/4 stars
It seems more so now than ever, higher profile crime stories are being reported in two versions. The first one covers the obvious details such as location, subject description and approximate time. After the crime scene has been secured and evidence collected, the public gets a second report that shares some of the classified details on how the crime was solved. With the advances in technology it appears to me the stories are getting more high tech. Now I am sure some details never get released to the public which may be part of the reason people are more skeptical, when it comes to news stories. Either way I find the high tech reports to be fascinating. If you feel the same way and like a good crime story then this movie is something you would enjoy. When a bomb exploded in a crowded marketplace, injuring and killing civilians; London authorities assembled an investigative legal team to uncover the motives, in preparation for a criminal trial. Part of the team included former lovers Martin Rose and Claudia Simmons-Howe, played by Eric Bana (Munich, The Time-Traveler’s Wife) and Rebecca Hall (Iron Man 3, The Town). Due to their past history together, they could possibly jeopardize the investigation as the trail of clues took them to unexpected places. I enjoyed this crime mystery film because it provided a stimulating rush to the mind instead of the ears and eyes. Without the use of special effects, the movie relied on dialog to tell the story, providing a stylish look in my opinion. The way the clues were uncovered meant I had to keep up and pay attention, staying engaged throughout the film. I thought the entire cast did an excellent job though I did feel the chemistry was lacking between Eric and Rebecca. Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady, Cloud Atlas) was interesting as the Attorney General as Riz Ahmed (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Four Lions) was, playing Nazaul Shama. As the movie progressed it started to confuse me. I do not know if it seemed more improbable, but I found it harder to follow. On the other hand as I was driving home from the theater I did wonder how much truth was there to some of the scenes I had just witnessed. A brief scene that showed blood.
2 1/2 stars
Still in the glow from my recent 4 star review of Argo, I decided to visit Ben Affleck’s (Argo, Smokin’ Aces) previous directorial effort. Having traveled out east for many years, the setting and mood of this film was quite familiar to me. For those of you unfamiliar with the Bostonian swagger; it has to do with a single mindfulness and toughness. When I first started visiting Boston it was evident that there were invisible boundary lines between neighborhoods. There was an intense loyalty on display from the residents for their community. Granted with Ben growing up in the area this was not a stretch for him to recreate that same brotherhood in this movie. The story was about a group of bank robbing friends. When a heist did not go as exactly planned; bank employee Claire Keesey, played by Rebecca Hall (The Prestige, Frost/Nixon), was taken hostage for a brief time. Concerned she could still reveal clues about the heist to special agent Adam Frawley, played by Jon Hamm (Mad Men-TV, Friends With Kids); Ben’s character Doug MacRay decided to keep an eye on her by following her around. What better way than to somehow innocently make her acquaintance. However, when his worry turned into affection for her; would he be putting his gang into jeopardy? I could see Ben’s directing style clearer here now that I have seen his recent stint with Argo. He has a good eye for what creates tension in a scene. The pacing was steady as he balanced big action scenes with a kind gentleness. Jeremy Renner (The Avengers, The Bourne Legacy) brought a manic bravado to his fellow robber character James Coughlin. I enjoyed the way Ben and Jeremy played off of each other. It is apparent to me that Ben’s skilled directing is no fluke. I venture to say he will be known more for his directing than acting in the years to come. Scenes with violence and blood.
3 stars — DVD