THOUGH SHE APPEARED TO BE AN OLDER woman, I would never ask her age. She had been taking my yoga class for several weeks, bringing her own yoga mat and a bottle of water. Maybe I am stereotyping; but she had long gray hair pulled back into a ponytail that trailed halfway down her back, looking like a former hippie. Every week while I lead the class into warming up poses I provide a little distraction by listing celebrity birthdays for the week. One of the reasons I do this is to break the ice with any new participants who have that “new kid on the block” mentality, coming to class for the 1st time. I will ask the class if they know so-and-so, wait if anyone guesses what the celebrity did to make he/she famous, then reveal their age. So, this one week after I went through my list of celebrity birthdays, the older woman piped up it was also her birthday. I and the rest of the class wished her well. She then said she was happy to say she was 82 years old. I knew she was an older individual but honestly, I would never have guessed that was her age. She told us she loves yoga and has been doing it for decades; what an inspiration. I WAS JUST AS FORTUNATE IN the work world to have met people like that woman in my yoga class. They loved their job, so they stayed employed way past their retirement age. At one of the companies I worked at, the owner came to work every day. He was always busy and kept this up way into his 90’s. There certainly is some truth in finding something you love or are passionate about to feel successful. I had a relative who would always say they were not going to work, they were going to play because they enjoyed what they did at their job. You know how some people are married to their work; where all they think and talk about is their job? Well they do not necessarily love what they do; they have formed an identity for themselves based on their occupation. The individuals I have referred to each have their identity in tack; they just want to continue what they do because they love it. I feel this way about doing my movie reviews and hope I can continue doing them for a long time because they bring me such joy. The same thing can be said about the main character in today’s comedic, crime drama. FORREST TUCKER, PLAYED BY ROBERT REDFORD (The Natural, Truth); was good at what he did, besides getting immense joy out of it. The only downside was the consequences would be steep if he had a misstep. With Casey Affleck (A Ghost Story, The Finest Hours) as John Hurt, Sissy Spacek (The Help, Coal Miner’s Daughter) as Jewel, Danny Glover (Proud Mary, Back in the Day) as Teddy and Tom Waits (Seven Psychopaths, Down by Law) as Waller; this film festival nominee was based on a true story and what a story! Rumor has it this will be Robert’s last acting role. If it is he at least can end his chapter on a high note with this role. It was such a treat to watch him and Sissy, two seasoned actors, play off each other. The story started out slow for me but continued building itself up to a point where I was enjoying watching the mixture of emotions that took place on screen. It was obvious Robert was having a good time doing this character since it came across fully. I must give everyone who worked on this film credit; this will sound cheesy but if there was any labor involved in the making of this picture it was a labor of love.
I blame two things that made people become afraid of the dark; that Scottish poem with the line “…things that go bump in the night” and Francisco Goya’s painting Que Viene el Coco which translates to Here Comes the Bogeyman. It is that damn Bogeyman that started this reign of fear when day turns into night. How many of us slept with a night light on or the bedroom door opened enough to cast a line of light into our rooms? I never had anything underneath my bed but I knew several kids who felt something could be hiding under their beds. If they had to get up in the middle of the night they could not just swing their legs out to the side of the bed to plant their feet on the floor. Instead they would stand up in bed then jump off like an Olympic long jumper, to get as far away from their bed as possible. These days there seems to be an industry devoted to products that help alleviate the anxiety of going to sleep. I know some families that have sleep machines that produce soothing sounds like ocean waves or wind chimes to calm their children at bedtime. It is funny, I never associated the dark with being scary; in fact, I considered nighttime safer than daylight due to some of the events I had to endure during the day. Darkness meant I was less visible which was a good thing for me. Daylight meant I was a more visible target. Who would have thought this horror thriller would now make me scared of the dark. THINKING it would be an easy target friends Rocky, Alex and Money; played by Jane Levy (About Alex, Evil Dead), Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps, Labor Day) and Daniel Zovatto (It Follows, Innocence); decided to rob the house of a blind man, played by Stephen Lang (Avatar, Public Enemies). They could not have been more wrong. Before I tell you about this film I want you to know I had some conflict with the story line. Since I do not want to give anything away let me just use the following scenario as a random example. If an abandoned building is fenced off with signs posted about its demolition and someone trespasses and gets hurt; who is responsible for the injury? So now back to the film; I liked the way the movie started up as it put the pieces of the story together with little explanation. The acting was good for a horror film but I thought Stephen’s performance was the best. Sitting in a theater full of people made the shock scenes more intense in my opinion. Though there were a few scenes that seemed repetitive and somewhat unrealistic, I did like the way the script threw in surprise twists. On the other hand, the reason the story worked for this picture was because it was based in reality. Many of the scenes seemed like they could have happened and we would have read about them in the newspaper. This film was a thrill ride that may cause you to sleep with the lights on.
2 3/4 stars
What I am about to tell you all took place in my mind; well, maybe some of it did really happen. As I walked through the double glass doors I flipped the open sign hanging on its metal chain to close. Inside there was a chair to the side; I took it to prop up against the closed doors to bar anyone from walking in. I was there to take action and get some results. You see I had locked in an incredibly low interest rate just before they started to rise back up. I was doing some refinancing and would be lowering my monthly payments significantly. The bank kept delaying me, rejecting my application for the most trivial things that were not even my fault. Since the lock on the interest rate had a short expiration date, I was sure the bank wanted to let it expire so they could charge a higher interest rate. The first time my paperwork got rejected was due to not having a check mark next to the word “Mister.” The second time it came back was because a document was missing which they lost. These things were their fault; they had drawn up the documentation and filled it out. A personal banker came up and before they could say anything I told them I was not leaving until my application was approved. I told them if they could not do it then they needed to find someone else right now. From my knapsack I took out my paperwork, protein bars, 2 bottles of water and a baseball bat. Desperate times called for extreme action. THE only way brothers Toby and Tanner Howard, played by Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, The Finest Hours) and Ben Foster (Lone Survivor, Warcraft), could set things right was to start robbing banks. They would just have to be quick about it. This film festival nominated crime drama’s cast was outstanding. With Jeff Bridges (True Grit, The Giver) as Marcus Hamilton and Dale Dickey (Winter’s Bone, Super 8) as Elsie, the acting was something to see. Maybe there were a couple of things that seemed familiar with Jeff’s performance, but with this character he was close to perfection. As for Chris I was stunned, especially after seeing him recently in the new Star Trek film. It took me a minute to realize this was the same Chris I had seen because he looked and acted so differently; I was impressed with his performance. Set in Texas the story had a strong western type of movie vibe but with a modern take. Visually I enjoyed the framing of the scenes along with the soundtrack. I thought some outdoor shots were ideal in conveying the plight of the bank robbers; it really was wonderful camera work. There were a couple of patches where I felt the story dragged but nothing major. No pun intended but the richness of the script provided a well rounded story that was a pleasure to watch on the big screen. I cannot image a theater patron feeling like they were robbed by paying to see this film; it was worth the money. There were some scenes with blood and violence in them.
3 ½ stars
It can be so hard to watch someone you care about do something that you feel is not in their best interests–or is just plain wrong. Short of restraining and locking them in their home, there is not a lot one can do to persuade them to at least rethink everything before acting upon it. A friend of mine had been in a loving relationship for a couple of years. Unfortunately it did not last and she was completely distraught over it. Within a short time she met someone new, dated briefly and before you knew it she was engaged to him. I was not only stunned with the suddenness; but from the things she told me, I could not understand why in the world she would even be with him. Get this; she was a late sleeper who loved to lounge in bed to mid-morning. She used to tell me how he would wake her up at 5 am because it was time to clean the house, according to him. I kid you not; I was flabbergasted and would always ask her why she did not tell him to go clean the house, just do not wake her up. Long story short, they stayed married for a few years until she could not stand it anymore and divorced him. SOMETHING did not seem right to cousins Bob and Marv, played by Tom Hardy (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Dark Knight Rises) and James Gandolfini (Enough Said, Killing Them Softly), when the tavern they worked at was held up and robbed. In their small, closely tight neighborhood where everyone knew each other, their employer was not someone you would want to get angry at you. This crime drama was James Gandolfini’s last movie and he left on a high note; it was a memorable and solid performance. As for Tom Hardy, I was blown away by his acting; he was amazing and deserves an Oscar nomination. Along with Noomi Rapace (Prometheus, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo franchise) as Nadia, all the acting melded beautifully into the tense well written story. Based on his short story “Animal Rescue,” Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Bone) wrote the screenplay for this film. There were some memorable scenes that were perfectly directed. I was especially impressed the way the actors only needed a gesture or look to convey the heaviness that was bearing down on them. It truly enhanced the viewing experience for me. I may not have known the characters in this movie, but even I could tell something was not right and wished I had a way to tell them. There were a few scenes that showed blood and violence.
3 1/2 stars
The sting from the punch lingered on my arm. He had done it before but it hurt just as much this time. There was a difference though because I decided to get back at him. I had a knack for quietly cracking pumpkin seeds in my mouth and discreetly keeping the shells in my school desk until I could dispose of them. As the class prepared to go outside for recess I stayed behind, allowing myself just enough time to place some of the empty shells under his school desk. I took the rest of the shells with me, tossing them into a garbage can in the hallway before joining up with my class as it was exiting out the playground door. When we returned to class, it did not take long for the teacher to notice the empty shells below his desk. Sure he denied they were his when the teacher asked him. She questioned each of us who sat around him but their look of confused denial was matched by mine. The boy that hit me was forced to sweep up the entire floor while we continued on with our history lesson. As an adult I can look back and criticize my actions; but back then, I relished the revenge. At least I did not plan the identity switch for criminal reasons like the one that was done to poor Kermit in this comedy caper. While the Muppets were on an international tour the world’s most evil frog Constantine, a dead ringer for Kermit, switched identities with him. While Kermit was imprisoned in a Russian prison headed by Nadya, played by Tina Fey (Admission, 30 Rock-TV), Constantine used the Muppets as a cover for his audacious plot. Seeing the Muppets on the big screen again just brings a smile to one’s face. For the duration they have been around, multiple generations have some type of fond memory about the Muppets. This adventure film had its moments with sight gags, Muppets humor, songs and a cavalcade of celebrity cameo appearances. I enjoyed the performances from Tina Fey and Ty Burrell (The Incredible Hulk, Modern Family-TV) as Jean Pierre Napoleon. As for Ricky Gervais (The Invention of Lying, The Office-TV) as Constantine’s associate, I found him forgettable for the most part. Overall this film was okay but it was lacking the fun, I want to say oomph, I usually feel for the Muppets. The story was, dare I say, somewhat predictable. There was however a creative flair throughout the film and credits, even to the very end. With the Muppets under a new owner I hope this movie is not the start of a string of films based on marketing results instead of fun creativity.
2 1/2 stars
While the age of 65 is the brass ring the average person strives to reach for retirement, it was not for a majority of my family members. My father worked seven days a week and continued to work beyond retirement age. I had a couple of uncles where one worked every day at a tavern and the other traveled around the country as a manufacturer’s rep. Both worked past the age of 65. The goal was to do whatever was necessary to provide for one’s family. As for myself, I have not given much thought to the idea of retirement. In this powerful drama I was fascinated with the juxtaposition of methods used by two fathers to provide for their families. Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine, Drive) played stunt motorcycle driver Luke, a single man who found out he was the father of a baby boy. Romina, the woman he had the fling with a year ago and now the mother of his child, was played by Eva Mendes (Hitch, We Own the Night). Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, Limitless) played Avery Cross, a police officer who worked in a department riddled with corruption. When Luke chose to rob banks as a way to provide for his son, it would set in motion a series of events that would affect his family and officer Cross’ family for generations. Already being a fan of Ryan’s acting, his part of the story was incredible to watch. From the opening sequence, where we follow Luke as he prepares for his motorcycle stunt, everyone did a great job of acting. Ben Medelsohn (The Dark Knight Rises, Killing Them Softly) as auto repair shop owner Robin was terrific. Because the first part of the film was thrilling for me, Bradley’s story was a slight letdown; but not by much. His acting was excellent as was Ray Liotta (Identity, Smokin’ Aces) as policeman Deluca. With outstanding direction and camera work, the span of years the story covered did not seem long at all. Sometimes choices made cause a ripple effect that last a lifetime. A couple of scenes with violence and blood.
3 1/3 stars