IF IT WASN’T FOR MY ECLECTIC taste in music, I would surely be deaf now. In my younger days I could be found at some type of concert almost every week. From small nightclub venues to large indoor stadiums, I was spending a good portion of my paycheck on music concerts. I will say, I have been fortunate to have seen some classic and memorable musical performances. For example, I saw Freddie Mercury and Queen a couple of times; Paul McCartney, Led Zeppelin, Jane Oliver, Black Sabbath, Bette Midler and Tina Turner. Many of the concerts were held in an older 18,000 seat stadium, with the last rows up close to the rafters. I remember the buzz of energy sparking through the massive crowd of people who were piling into their seats. There would be these massive speakers stacked up on both ends of the stage, along with speakers that hung down from the roof. With some bands, the music was so loud coming through the speakers that the sound would reverberate in my chest. My ears would be ringing, but I would not notice it until the concert ended. There was one concert that left me with a ringing in my ears until the middle of the following day. Back then I did not give much thought to my ears and in fact, took the ringing as a sign that it was a good concert. How dumb of me. WHAT MADE ME REALIZE THE DAMAGE I was doing to my ears was my first flight to Mexico. I went with a friend and the night before I came down with a head cold. Since it was just some congestion without a cough or fever, I did not give it much thought. However, when the plane was descending, my ears felt like a knife was plunging into my eardrums because of my clogged sinuses; I was in excruciating pain. By the time we landed, I could not hear a thing. My friend had to take the lead on everything for the next two days. If I hadn’t been so freaked out by it, I would have had a better time and just relaxed with the quiet. The only way I could communicate was either by writing a note or doing a solo form of charades. The day I got my hearing back started out with me hearing a crackling noise every time I swallowed. It was similar sounding to the turning of a radio dial, filled with static and buzzing. As soon as I was able to once again hear the spoken word, I vowed never to fly with a cold again and always put ear plugs in my ears before a concert. It was tough watching the main character in this musical drama at first because it brought back such memories for me. PANIC BEGAN TO SET IN AS Ruben, played by Riz Ahmed (Four Lions, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), started to lose his hearing. To make matters worse, his profession was accelerating the pace. With Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One, Thoroughbreds) as Lou, Paul Raci (Smoothtalker, Todd McFarlane’s Spawn) as Joe, Lauren Ridloff (If You could Hear my Own Tune, The Walking Dead-TV) as Diane and Mathieu Amalric (Venus in Fur, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) as Richard Berger; this film festival winner had a simple but emotionally filled script. The way scenes played into each other with the incredible use of sound to connect them was impressive. Riz was outstanding with his character; the internal and external battles he experienced were equally intense which added to the connection the story was making with the viewer. I hope he gets a nomination this awards season. This was a wonderful film that was filled with depth and poignancy. I think it also provides an accurate picture of those with a hearing loss.
3 ½ stars
IN SOME CULTURES, THE TERM TWO-SPIRIT is used to describe individuals who participate in a traditional third-gender ceremonial role in some of their customs. Before I learned this definition, I used it in the same way I used Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to describe a person I perceived to be two-faced or moody. The person that comes to mind first when I think about this type of duality is a former boss of mine, when I worked in retail. To the shoppers that came into our store he was a charming, jovial gentleman. He would spend as much time as needed to make a sale, all the while complimenting more female customers than male. I did stock for the store, so was out in front numerous times to add product to the shelves. Without even looking at him I could tell what hand gestures he was using simply by the tone in his voice; it was this sickly-sweet drawl that went to a higher register. This is what I saw out front; but as soon as he walked into the back warehouse, he was a ranting mean man. It was nothing for him to call one of his employees stupid or dumb. If he did not like the way you were packing a box for shipment, he would yell and push you aside and ask someone else to take over. If only the people in the store could have seen him. HE WAS ONLY ONE OUT OF a slew of people I have encountered in my life who showed two opposite sides to themselves. It is funny; since I believe we are born with both good and evil inside of us, you would think I would be immune to these contrasts in behavior. But you would be wrong because I feel humans have free choice to decide if they want to be good or bad. There are some individuals who thrive on negativity and have no issue displaying it, even if it comes out in a mean-spirited way. I do not have to look any further than my high school years. It was there that I can honestly say I saw some evil people. The entire time I was exposed to that craziness I kept wondering why those individuals chose to be that way, to be mean and hurtful. At the time I wasn’t aware abusers usually have been the victim to an abuser; not that it would have made anything better for me. What I would like to know is how people who have this good vs evil turmoil inside come to terms with it. This was one of the things I thought about as I sat and watched this action, science fiction film. HIS LIFE GOING IN A DOWNWARD spiral Eddie Brock, played by Tom Hardy (Child 44, Mad Max: Fury Road), was willing to take a chance by sneaking into a top-secret laboratory. It was there he picked up something nasty. This horror movie also starred Michelle Williams (I Feel Pretty, The Greatest Showman) as Anne Weying, Riz Ahmed (Four Lions, Nightcrawler) as Carlton Drake, Jenny Slate (Gifted, Obvious Child) as Dr. Dora Skirth and Scott Haze (Midnight Special, Thank You for Your Service) as Security Chief Roland Treece. Not being familiar with this comic book character I had no idea what to expect from this story. Tom was excellent in the role, giving it his all; however, the script did not know whether to be a comedy, a horror or an action movie. It felt like the writers were trying to create something like Deadpool, but this was not done as well. I thought the story jumped around too much and I disliked the change of heart in one of the characters. Too bad the story and script were not more concise because the action scenes were exciting and some of the humor scored. How ironic to have a conflicted character playing in a conflicted story in a conflicted movie. There was an extra scene in the middle of the credits besides a trailer for a new animated Spider-Man movie.
I knew I had plans for the day; I just did not have anything confirmed yet with friends. We were going to get together over the weekend. You need to know I am not the type of person who does things spontaneously; I am more of a planner. After several messages back and forth we decided to go to a movie (I never turn that option down) in the afternoon then stop at a friend’s house, who was going to join us for dinner. Our friend was not going to be home until after 5pm, so on the way I decided to stop at a bookstore to kill some time. I found a magazine and a book on the clearance rack before we left for our friend’s place. THERE was a parking space right in front of her apartment building; this was a rare occurrence. Once we were buzzed in at the security gate we made our way to the back of the building’s courtyard to her entrance. My friend was in front of me as we walked up to the 2nd floor apartment. As I crossed the threshold I turned to the left and immediately got greeted with a group of friends shouting, “Surprise!” My friends were surprising me for my birthday. As I told you I am a planner, so you can imagine how stunned I was at this turn of events. They had been planning this for weeks, knowing they had to be careful in orchestrating everything so as not to tip me off. Once all of us were settled down, my friends explained everything they did to make it look like I was actively making plans with them. The details on how they worked to steer me to decisions they needed was genius. I loved hearing all the steps they took in creating this surprise. Little did I know I would feel the same excitement in learning the details of this science fiction movie. WITH the completion of a new massive weapon called the Death Star, it was imperative for the rebel alliance to find a way to steal the schematic plans to the weapon in the hopes of discovering a way to destroy it. Going to this film was an event, simple as that. Everyone in the audience was connected where I could feel the excitement. There was a lot to like about this action adventure story. First there was Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything, Like Crazy) as Jyn Erso; I thought she was great in the role. Other standouts were Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom, The Dark Knight Rises) as Orson Krennic, Diego Luna (The Terminal, Milk) as Cassian Andor and Donnie Yen (Hero, IP Man) as Chirrut Imwe; however, I had wished the script would have given more to Mads Mikkelsen (Doctor Strange, The Hunt) as Galen Erso. Next, the action scenes (there were a lot) were well choreographed and visually exciting. On the negative side I did not feel the cast had the best chemistry amongst themselves; though I understood they were mostly meeting each other for the first time. The music was overpowering and constantly used as a prelude to the upcoming action. Lastly, viewers who are not familiar with Star Wars episodes 4 & 5 would miss out on some of the characters and their significance. The idea for the story was brilliant and it certainly provided a few good surprises along the way.
It was due to my youth and innocence that I did not realize what was really going on. The possibility of earning more than my weekly allowance spurred me to join my friends in selling products door to door. It was the summer before my 13th birthday and my training lasted as long as our van ride, that was taking us to a suburb far from the city. The crew leader who was a friend divided us into pairs; I was put with my best friend who had already been working for a couple of months. The owner of the company had explained to us that the products we were selling were made at a school for blind people. Generally the products consisted of household items such as dishrags, toilet brushes and oven mitts. Each item had a printed sticker attached that read, “Products of the Blind.” I had no idea the owner was buying the items from a discount store and placing the stickers on himself. It was my first job; I did not know better. Looking back now I can see telltale signs that something was not right about the owner. He always appeared disheveled with messy hair as if he had slept in his clothes and had not taken a bath. Sure I had seen some of the items at the store, but I assumed the manufacturers gave them to the school for a special price to let the residents attach the labels. Looking back I can say the owner was an unscrupulous piece of work. DESPERATE for any type of work, Los Angeles native Lou Bloom, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Source Code, Brokeback Mountain), found something enticing when he came upon a traffic accident. Freelance photographers were swarming around the accident victim like sharks as they kept snapping shots that a news agency would be willing to buy. A fast learner without a moral compass, Lou soon discovered a way to increase a photo’s selling price for a willing buyer. Jake was so creepy in this role; the weight loss he endured made his eyes bug out, adding a crazed look to his performance. He will probably earn an Oscar nomination for this role. From writer Dan Gilroy (The Bourne Legacy, The Fall), this was Dan’s first attempt at directing and he created a tense crime thriller. With Rene Russo (Outbreak, The Thomas Crown Affair) as Nina Romina and Riz Ahmed (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Four Lions) playing Rick as part of the cast, they were equally outstanding with their acting. Also, the parallels to our current frenzy to witness immediate reality events did not go unnoticed by me. Despite a few implausible scenes, I found this dramatic movie to be a riveting intense experience that creeped me out. There were multiple scenes that had blood in them.
3 1/3 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
It is one thing to have a first impression of a person; it is another to act on it. When I first meet someone and form a first impression, I consider it a photograph that I stash in an imaginary photo album. After I really get to know the person, it is fun to go back and see how close my first impression was to the real individual. I am reminded of a man who used to be in one of my yoga classes. When he first walked into class I sensed a sudden shift of energy in the room. Several participants quieted down as they warily gazed at the thick, 6+ foot tall imposing figure with shaved head and piercing dark eyes. They were reacting to his looks, assuming he was a certain type of person. In actuality he was a fun, gentle addition to the class. This movie posed a powerful question that involved impressions; it is one of the reasons I went to see it. Riz Ahmed (Four Lions, Shifty) played Changez, a U.S. educated, rising Wall Street star from Pakistan. During one of his business trips abroad, the World Trade Center in New York City was attacked. His return flight back home would bring him to a changed country. Riz was excellent in this role, as was Kiefer Sutherland (Phone Booth, 24-TV) playing Riz’ boss Jim Cross. I thought Liev Schreiber’s (Defiance, Repo Men) role as Bobby Lincoln was an excellent character for him. In what was a total miscast, Kate Hudson (Almost Famous, Bride Wars) was absolutely wrong for the role of Changez’ girlfriend Erica. Not only was her acting poor, I found her character’s story arc ridiculous. With the exception of her, I was able to appreciate what the director and writers were trying to do with this film based on the best selling book. What could have been a thought provoking, powerful movie instead was a film that was too long, filled with melodramatic moments and a sprinkling of intense thrilling scenes. Lesson learned: Do not always believe your first impressions from the movie trailer. Brief scenes with blood in them.
2 1/2 stars