HE WAS THE LAST DOCTOR I knew who made house calls and he decided to retire from practice. You could tell there was something different about him as soon as you walked into his waiting room. Where every office waiting room (at least where I have been) had that standard office type furniture and generic posters or health notices hanging on the walls, his waiting area had a variety of wooden chairs that recalled different eras from the past. Hanging on the walls were woodworkers’ tools, crocheted art pieces and photographs of landscapes and waterfalls. One of the things I admired about him was his ability to talk to his patients in simple words to explain difficult issues. I cannot confirm all the reasons he decided to retire; but I had heard he was dissatisfied with the way insurance companies were treating the patients. The story I had heard was about a patient who had a test done that showed elevated figures. The doctor wanted to proceed with another preventative test for confirmation; but the insurance denied the procedure, saying they could only pay for it if the patient had already been diagnosed with having the disease the test was to confirm. This made no sense to me; why would the insurance company deny paying the claim that might provide an opportunity to start preventative treatment on the patient before they got to the point of getting the full-blown disease? THIS WAS NOT THE FIRST TIME I heard about a situation in the medical field that did not make sense to me. I knew a woman who received mixed results on her mammogram. Her doctor wanted to do a procedure that could eliminate the problem and save the breast. When the insurance company was contacted for approval, they denied the procedure. I had heard it was due to the expense; the insurance company suggested the doctor proceed with a full removal of the breast because it would be cheaper in the long run. I cannot begin to tell you how outraged I felt with this information, if it was indeed true. I do not wish to badmouth insurance companies in this review; I am simply retelling the stories that were expressed to me. When I go to the doctor, before they do any type of procedure, I ask them if my insurance plan will cover it. I started doing this after I had been to the skin doctor several years ago and a procedure was done where my insurance would not cover it; the charges had to be fully paid by me. Gratefully I had put money aside and was able to cover the bill in one payment. After seeing this film festival winner, I cannot imagine what it must be like to be in the family’s predicament. WHEN TOLD THE COST OF A MEDICAL procedure, a father must find a way to pay for it if he wants to keep a family member alive. With Denzel Washington (The Equalizer franchise, Fences) as John Quincy Archibald, Kimberly Elise (For Colored Girls, Death Wish) as Denise Archibald, Daniel E. Smith (The Bold and The Beautiful-TV, NCIS-TV) as Michael “Mike” Archibald, James Woods (Straw Dogs, White House Down) as Dr. Raymond Turner and Robert Duvall (The Judge, Wild Horses) as Lt. Frank Grimes; this dramatic crime thriller was full of fine acting performances. The script unfortunately was manipulative and obvious; it did not have the creativity to elevate this story to a higher level of freshness and drama. If it was not for the acting skills of the main characters, I might have gotten bored halfway through the movie. The topic is certainly a hot button issue and I feel many individuals could relate to it on some level. This is probably why I remained interested in finding out what was going to happen to the family members in this picture.
2 ½ stars
The spoken language is not an exact science. Sure there are rules we follow to aid us in communicating with each other; but some choose their words carefully, others say the first thing that pops into their mind. Then there is the inflection, the way we speak our words; some do so with conscious intentions. However, there are times where the intended remarks may come out in a veiled way that leaves them open for interpretation. By using tone, volume and speed to accentuate the words; they can caress a person’s soul like a velvet blanket or prick their heart with the tip of a sharp dagger. Adults seem to be better equipped to decipher what a person is saying to them. Children on the other hand are a whole different matter. They do not have the skills to navigate the convoluted road of language yet. A child proudly handing his parents a report card filled with all A’s and one B for grades thinks something is wrong when he is asked why he received the B and the A’s are ignored. Being told you are not drawing correctly because you are coloring outside the lines can plant the seeds of doubt in the child’s mind that they will never be an artist. WORDS hit their mark with precision accuracy in this dramatic movie. Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man franchise, The Soloist) played high-powered lawyer and estranged son Hank Palmer. Robert Duvall (Secondhand Lion, The Godfather franchise) played Hank’s father, Judge Joseph Palmer. When evidence from a crime pointed towards his father, Hank’s conflicted feelings would spill out as he tried to determine if his father was guilty. To this film’s credit the cast chosen for the story was ideal. Besides both Roberts, having Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade, Armageddon) as lawyer Dwight Dickham and Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket, Law & Order: Criminal Intent-TV) as Hank’s brother Glen Palmer on board helped to sustain the story. I found all the actors were believable with their characters. The issue I had with this picture was the script; it was uneven and stale. I found some scenes were memorable, filled with high drama; but then, the drama would fall down into sections of boredom. It did not help that the film was way too long. The whole story line involving Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring, Up in the Air) as Samantha Powell went nowhere for me; I thought she was wasted here. From the trailer it appeared this drama would be filled with high tension and intense chemistry between the characters. Sadly, the evidence proved otherwise.
2 1/3 stars
They say a picture paints 1,000 words and for the most part it can. However, there are some pictures/photographs that I feel would be a perfect accompaniment to an oral history. Family photos are one example that comes to mind. Whether they are from my family or friends, I have always been curious to hear the stories associated with the pictures. Some of those old sepia toned photos pasted onto hard cardboard, where the people are staring straight ahead with stern faces, can provide some interesting tales. Among my photographs I have sat and wondered what future generations would think about them. There is the photo of a dog’s head lying on a pillow with a blanket pulled up to his chin. They have no idea that in the middle of the night when I would get up to use the bathroom, our dog would jump up onto the bed into my spot and pull the covers up over himself. I would come back to bed and see him looking at me as if he were asking me, “What do you want?” That dog was such a character. BECAUSE I feel family stories are important and need to be shared; I thoroughly enjoyed what was being said in this film festival nominated movie. Taking place in Texas, Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense, Pay it Forward) played Walter, a young boy whose mother Mae, played by Kyra Sedgwick (Gamer, The Closer-TV), planned to drop him off with his eccentric uncles so she could go to school out of state. Uncle Garth and Uncle Hub, played by Michael Caine (Children of Men, Sleuth) and Robert Duvall (The Godfather franchise, Crazy Heart) were 2 of the most unusual men, who told strange stories, Walter had ever seen in his life. This comedic drama had such a pleasant way of letting the stories unfold from scene to scene. There was a sense of homeyness and familiarity that many viewers could identify to their own families. Though some of the roles verged on being cartoon like, I thought the cast’s acting was incredibly good. Michael and Robert were perfect, giving even doses of abruptness and quiet sweetness out of their characters. With the story set in the 1960s, this family film had a different pace and simpleness where some individuals might have a hard time relating to it. I, on the other hand, found such a feeling of comfort and deepening between the characters in this picture that it made me yearn for those family get togethers where the older relatives would share their family histories with the younger generations.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
Sudden death is easier than a lingering one. As I get older I have started thinking about death; but not too often. Most people consider death to be a sad occasion; I on the other hand, want my death to be looked at as a cause for celebration. I would want a big party where people could have some of my favorite foods. My cream cheese pound cake was my calling card when I was invited to someone’s house for dinner. It would be a hoot if I could arrange to have a couple of cakes on hand in the freezer for my funeral. Since picture taking has been a big portion of my life, there would be pictures everywhere; from my old photo albums (before there were digital cameras) to framed pictures hanging on the walls of the funeral home. Recently I have toyed around with the idea of leaving a video recording of me talking to my friends and family. In this lush, dramatic mystery; the main character had a better idea than me. Feared hermit Felix Bush, played by Robert Duvall (Deep Impact, Secondhand Lions), wanted to be at his own funeral while he was still alive. Holed up in the backwoods for 40 years; the town folk feared Felix, believing the numerous stories they had heard about him. Felix wanted to hear the stories and set them straight; not only for himself, but for the woman that was in the photograph he had kept close at hand for all these years. Speaking of photographs; this film had such a visual warmth to it, I felt I was looking through an album filled with deep, dark rich photos. It was a joy to watch the cast. Besides Robert’s excellent acting, Sissy Spacek (Carrie, The Help) as the woman Mattie who had a history with Felix and Bill Murray (Moonrise Kingdom, Hyde Park on Hudson) as funeral director Frank Quinn were both wonderful. There were a couple of places where the story was predictable but I enjoyed the mix of folklore, mystery, humor and redemption. I felt a kinship to Felix because when the time should come I only hope I do not have any unfinished business.
3 1/4 stars — DVD