THE YOUNG MAN WAS SHARING HIS STORY with the audience on national television. In his words he was expressing how hard it was for him to get to this point, where he made it onto the dance show. He grew up in a tough neighborhood that had its share of crimes. Many of his classmates were already dealing drugs or doing other illegal activities; all he wanted to do was dance. He said he had been picked on and beaten up because of it. When the host asked what his parents thought about his dancing the young man said his Dad wanted a son who liked playing sports. I felt sad for this talented guy who struggled to do what he loved to do. His story reminded me of this couple I knew who had a little girl. The girl preferred playing with trucks and cars instead of her dolls. The parents were not exactly distraught, but you could tell they were concerned their daughter preferred “boy toys” instead of “girl toys.” Oh, and they were upset that the little girl hated wearing dresses. She would cry every time her parents would try to get her to wear a dress. FROM THE TWO STORIES I JUST SHARED with you, can you find a common theme between the two? I will give you a minute to think about it. Ok time is up; let me tell you what I see. The young man and little girl did not have any issue with what they liked; the man loved to dance, and the girl preferred playing with trucks. The people around each of them had an issue with it. Hearing the man talk about his father wishing he was into sports bothered me. I feel a parent’s job is to love their child unconditionally; to nurture them to grow into kind, respectable, responsible adults. The father, I believe, is taking his prejudices and applying them to his son. Maybe I am assuming, but what I took away from the young man’s story was his Dad and neighborhood kids thought less of him, or maybe thought he was not masculine enough, because he was a dancer. The same can be applied to the parents of the little girl. They had a problem with their daughter not playing with toys associated in the past with a girl and not dressing the part. What a child is or chooses to do is not necessarily a reflection on their parents. It is similar to the parents in this heartbreaking, dramatic movie. WHEN NANCY AND MARSHALL EAMONS, played by Nicole Kidman (The Beguiled, Lion) and Russell Crowe (The Nice Guys, The Water Diviner) discover their son is gay, the only thing they feel will solve the “problem” is to enroll their son Jared, played by Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea, Lady Bird), into a program that will convert him to a heterosexual. Jared agreed to participate; he wanted to please his parents. Based on a true story, this film was written and directed by Joel Edgerton (Loving, It Comes at Night) who also starred as Victor Sykes. Most of you know I find Nicole to be a gifted actress and for the time she was on screen, she was dynamite. For the small body of work Lucas has done already, he too is a gifted actor. The script based on the biography was well written, despite a couple of areas that could have used more explanation. As for the topic, I looked on in disbelief that anyone would even consider such a preposterous idea about conversion therapy. But looking underneath the surface, the lack of acceptance upon finding out about their son was sad to see. This was a powerful and thought provoking picture.
3 ½ stars
Besides being humorous can you figure out what each of the following pairings have in common: Abbott and Costello, Burns and Allen, Penn & Teller, Lewis and Martin, Laurel and Hardy. I will set the clock at 60 seconds, now go. Tick, tock, tick tock; your time is up. The common trait between each couple is the 2 individuals that make up the pairing are distinctly dissimilar from each other. Look at Martin and Lewis, one was the goofy clown while the other was the debonair crooner; Hardy was the outgoing talkative one while Laurel was the quiet thoughtful one. It really adds credence to the saying, “opposites attract.” I just find the whole science, if you will, on the attraction of opposites fascinating. When I am waiting for a flight at an airport, one of the things I do to make the time go by is watch the couples walking by and notice the differences between them. Now granted I have to rely on their physical appearances for the most part; but sometimes if I am privy to hearing their conversations, I can get a better idea of each one’s personality. Even within my circle of friends and relatives I have always been aware of how opposites can solidify and form a strong bond. In my past relationships there has always been attributes that each of us were solely skilled in. I remember one relationship where I was the “bad guy” role whenever an issue came up that required talking to a customer service representative; you know, like a returned or malfunctioning product. It was not a problem for me and I was glad to eliminate any possible stress off my significant other. If you do not believe opposites attract then I suggest you watch this wild action comedy film to see how it can work. PRIVATE investigator Holland March, played by Ryan Gosling (The Big Short, Gangster Squad) was given little choice but to help solve a case with the rude and brutish Jackson Healy, played by Russell Crowe (The Water Diviner, Winter’s Tale). I would not have thought the pairing of Gosling and Crowe would be such a crazy fun couple, but I have to tell you they were terrific together. Ryan was amazing handling the physical and comedic parts to his role. Set in Los Angeles during the 1970s, I got such a kick out of the soundtrack and retro look to the scenes. Also starring Angourie Rice (These Final Hours) as Holly March and Matt Bomer (Magic Mike franchise, American Horror Story-TV) as John Boy, everyone did their part in making this a good movie watching experience. For being a relative newcomer compared to the rest of the cast, Angourie was spectacular in her role. The twists and turns in the script were almost too much for me, but the strong acting carried me through all the way to the end of the movie. At the moment I cannot come up with a current comedy couple similar to the ones I mentioned earlier; but I am here to tell you I hope Crowe and Gosling are allowed to solve another case sometime in the near future.
3 ¼ stars
Something must happen to one’s senses when they become a parent. All of a sudden it seems like their hearing stretches out for several blocks and their eyesight is akin to an eagle. I do not know how it happens but I can remember during the summer months parents and their children from the neighborhood would always be down at the beach and no matter where a child went their parent would always know their whereabouts. Even if there was a group of kids playing in the water; if one stepped on a rock and gave out a yelp, their parent back on shore sunning themselves would immediately sit up and scan for their child. I used to feel like I was surrounded by these superhuman mothers with special powers. That unique connection must get turned on from the love one has for their child. It is a bond that gets twisted, bent and squeezed yet never breaks. In fact you may have seen on the news that mother from Baltimore who, though her son had a hoodie pulled over his masked face, spotted him in a crowd and made a beeline from him. I heard an interview with her where she said she could not tell it was her son by his face; but just his stance and the way the sweatpants were hanging on him, she knew it was him. It is amazing what parents will do for their children. WITH their death weighing heavy on him Australian farmer Connor, played by Russell Crowe (Winter’s Tale, State of Play), was determined to travel all the way to Turkey to find his sons’ corpses and return them back home so they could have a proper burial. This award winning drama was Russell’s first foray behind the camera as director. I have to say I was impressed with his first attempt. The story was big regarding the 1915 Battle of Gallipoli, so there were a lot of scenes and a large cast. Besides Russell taking the title role there was Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, Hitman) as Ayshe and Jai Courtney (Divergent franchise, A Good Day to Die Hard) as Lt. Colonel Hughes. Now there were some parts of this war film that could have been cut back, especially the love interest story line; I found it to be unnecessary. There was also a melodramatic sweep through this picture, where things were predictable and seemed as if they were tweaked with the viewer in mind. In addition there were a couple of parts that did not make much sense; however, with the expansive landscapes, the international locations and the pure story line about a parent’s love, I felt I was seeing an old-fashioned Hollywood period piece. There were several scenes with violence and blood.
2 3/4 stars
You are sitting back letting your friend tell the assembled group of friends about an incident that happened to the two of you. Everyone is laughing at a particular funny part of the story. As you are following along with your friend’s narrative, you suddenly hear something that clashes with your memory of the event. While still listening to your friend you are quickly going over the chain of events you remember, wondering if your memory is starting to fail you. As your friend continues to veer off from the way you remembered the story, the group of friends haven’t a clue and are enjoying the tale even more. The first opportunity to talk to your friend the narrator was not until the two of you were riding home from the restaurant. When you asked them why they changed the story, making it a more elaborate less truthful scenario, they replied a story is not worth telling if you cannot exaggerate it and provide better entertainment value. I can understand the point they were making since I have been known to tell a tale or two, with something called creative license. In this adventure drama, writer and director Darren Aronofsky (The Fountain, Black Swan) used artistic license to put his own spin on the biblical tale of Noah. Russell Crowe (Man of Steel, A Beautiful Mind) and Jennifer Connelly (Blood Diamonds, Winter’s Tale) played Noah and his wife Naameh. Upon receiving visions of impending doom for the Earth, Noah set out to build an ark that would save all that was good about the planet. This movie was utterly bizarre to me, taking on a science fiction aspect that I found totally ridiculous. Who knew there were prehistoric Transformers in biblical times?! Not only did I find the story silly, but I found it boring as well. The acting was nothing special and I am saying this even with Emma Watson (The Bling Ring, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock, The Rite) being part of the cast. I especially felt the story line of Ham, played by Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson franchise, 3:10 to Yuma) was poorly done. The only redeeming quality to this film was the visual aspect. Though none of the animals were real I did enjoy their scenes along with the start of the flooding. In the case of this disaster film or should I say disastrous film, elaborating the story did nothing to make it a more entertaining experience.
1 3/4 stars
Look around and you will see the carcasses of lost love. Like the spent cocoons of former butterflies, love does not always last; people sometimes grow out of love in their relationships. Sure it can flourish and last for many years, where the two of you seem to be sailing in the same direction through the currents of life. But things change and your love for each other cools, slipping off of you like the final rays of a setting sun. There is, however, a love that lasts a lifetime and beyond. Even if you are no longer together, you carry your love for them like a comfortable sweater draped around your shoulders. It does not necessary hinder you but its presence always reminds you how love can feel. Within this dramatic fantasy there was a beautiful love story. From the trailers I was not only excited to see this mysterious movie, but I wanted to have a good cry. Yes, I admit I enjoy watching a well done picture that can move me to tears now and then. I thought everything was in place to make it happen with the story in this film. Colin Farrell (Saving Mr. Banks, In Bruges) played a burglar named Peter Lake. Thinking a house was empty, Peter broke in only to be startled by an ailing Beverly Penn, played by Jessica Brown (Albatross, Downton Abbey-TV), who had remained behind from her family. There was something about her that stole his heart. This was writer Akiva Goldman’s (A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code) first attempt at directing and it was one of the major issues I had about this movie. I was so disappointed to see the actors lifelessly move through their scenes. There was a nice chemistry building between Peter and Beverly, but the director never fully utilized it. Russell Crowe (Les Miserables, State of Play) as gang leader Pearly Soames was good, but after I saw who played his boss in this film I just sat in my seat in disbelief. I am sure the book is better and maybe it is hard to translate a century old love story to the big screen; but in more capable hands, I have to wonder if this movie would have been better. Colin gave it his best, working great with his horse, but I did not love this movie like I wanted. Walking away from the theater I could feel my hopes and unrequited love for this film dropping off of me like the petals of a wilted flower.
1 3/4 stars
Every week I would take a trip to outer space, where I would visit aliens and super heroes. I learned about ray guns, space ships and all kinds of devices that were not found on Earth. I never knew our planet was being protected by people with special powers; I wanted to grow up and be just like them. You would be surprised to find out how often Earth had been saved by these special individuals. Each Saturday morning I ate my breakfast on a little snack tray, in our living room in front of the television. The Saturday cartoon shows I watched was where I discovered all these new places and people. In this reboot of the Superman story, I felt I was back watching those morning cartoons. Henry Cavill (Stardust, Immortals) was a perfect blend of wholesomeness and angst as Clark Kent/Kal-El. I found the childhood scenes touching as we witnessed Clark being picked on by the other kids. The story focused on Clark’s struggle with feeling different but not fully understanding the reasons why. Not until a mysterious object was discovered on Earth would he then learn about his true identity. The casting in this action movie greatly helped with the weak story. Amy Adams (Enchanted, The Fighter) as Lois Lane, Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, The Iceman) as General Zod, Russell Crowe (The Next Three Days, Gladiator) as Jor-El and Diane Lane (Unfaithful, The Perfect Storm) as Martha Kent were all excellent. The sets and props were so imaginative; I got a real kick out of seeing them. Plus, I want to point out the musical score was awesome. Just like those Saturday cartoons, this film was driven by action. There were so many battles, with an over abundance of special effects; it became too much for me. As a result the story suffered because there was not enough room to develop the characters; despite the movie being 2 hours and 23 minutes long. I will say some of the fights were unbelievable; they looked like cartoons that came to life. As long as you go into the movie theater knowing this was more of a comic book/Saturday morning cartoon type of film, that was small on drama; it will entertain you. At the end of the movie I did have a craving for some sugary crunchy cereal. A brief scene that showed a small amount of blood.
Besides babies and animals, there is nothing harder to witness than having a loved one ill or in distress. Seeing them nearly immobile from pain, you only wish your hug could remove the discomfort from their body, letting them fall into a quiet healing sleep. Though the relationship was several years ago, I can still recall sitting on the sofa while they were convalescing after a medical procedure. Suddenly there was a yell, followed by a roaring, tumbling sound. I sprang up and raced to the stairs where I saw them sprawled down at the bottom. My throat constricted as it tried to squeeze back my thumping heart that was so loud, it reverberated inside my ears. After making sure they had nothing broken; all I could do was hold them close in my arms, watching their hair sway back and forth from my heavy breathing. That same instinctive protectiveness is what attracted me to this compelling drama. Russell Crowe (Broken City, Les Miserables) and Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games, People Like Us) were husband and wife, John and Lara Brennan. Arrested for the murder of her boss, John felt increasingly helpless with his wife’s unsuccessful case appeals. As Lara became more despondent, John had to do something to keep his family together. The start of the movie had a great set up for the beginning of the story. Russell and Elizabeth blended well together, doing a fine job of acting. I liked the way the director built up the levels of emotion as the movie progressed. My problem started with the change in Russell’s character; I found it hard to believe. Because of that, the story started to fall apart for me. It annoyed me somewhat because the last 30 minutes of the movie offered tense excitement. I did get a kick out of Liam Neeson (Battleship, The Grey) doing a cameo as Damon Pennington. For the few scenes Brian Dennehy (Every Day, The Big Year) was in as George Brennan, he still was able to provide a quiet strength. It can be brutal watching our significant other in crisis; making some of us wish we could take their place. One scene had blood in it.
2 1/2 stars — DVD
Greed is that insidious demon that once fed will forever more be hungry. Through the years it seems as if there has been an increase in the amount of corruption and greed in the world. Living in a state that has had an over abundance of corrupt politicians, I find it absolutely despicable that the men and women who have been elected into public office have so little regard for the people who elected them. I guess having the adulation and support from the masses is not enough to support their egos. In this crime thriller corruption became a deadly business. Private investigator Billy Taggart, played by Mark Wahlberg (Ted, The Fighter) was hired by Mayor Nicholas Hostetler, played by Russell Crowe (Les Miserables, Robin Hood), to follow his wife Cathleen, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones (No Reservations, Entrapment). But when Billy discovered he was set up for a more diabolical reason, he would need his years of police training to seek out revenge. The idea behind this story was solid enough to have built an exciting, tense drama. Unfortunately the writer and director were ill equipped to make this happen. The acting was dull; Mark Wahlberg was beyond generic, having acted the same way 100 times before. There were fringe characters that popped in and out as the story tumbled into a mess. The only character I found interesting was Police Commissioner Carl Fairbanks, who was played by the underrated but always excellent actor Jeffrey Wright (Source Code, Quantum of Solace). I kept looking at my watch throughout this film; never a good sign. The only pleasure I received was from the quick ending, even with its cheesiness. I am afraid the real crime being done here was me buying a ticket to see this poorly done movie.
1 2/3 stars
The stage musical of Les Miserables is one of my favorite shows, having seen it three times. It has one of the best musical scores I have ever heard besides incredible set designs. At least the productions I have seen. The story set in the 1800’s in France, revolved around the life long pursuit by police officer Javert of Jean Valjean, a former prisoner who broke parole. There were so many different aspects of the story to hook in the viewer; from redemption and unconditional love to salvation and honor. Everything I loved about the stage show was abused in this film version. While watching this 2 hour and 37 minute movie, I felt the director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Red Dust) sucked the life out of this classic tale. As much as I was impressed with his Oscar winning film The King’s Speech, I was disappointed in this ugly movie. The reason I use the word ugly is because the majority of the scenes looked like they were shot with camera lenses stuck in portrait mode. Constantly seeing angled shots of the actors’ faces quickly became a bore. Then there was the quick cutting from shot to shot, along with using a spiraling camera shoot on actors and buildings, that made me slightly nauseous. Shame on Mr. Hooper; it would have been easy to add drama to the scene if we could have seen some of the body language of the actors. Hugh Jackman (Real Steel, X-Men franchise) who I normally enjoy, had something wrong here as Jean Valjean. While every actor singing had a mellowness to their voice, it seemed as Hugh was forced to sing in a higher key. His voice was shrill and grating on my ears. Russell Crowe (Gladitor, A Beautiful Mind) as Javert did an admirable job with his singing. Playing factory worker Fantine, it seemed as if Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married) knew she had one chance to make the Oscar voters notice, giving it her all to her song performance. I will say she did a great job. The surprise for me was Eddie Redmayne (My Week With Marilyn, The Other Boleyn Girl) as Marius. I had no idea he could sing and do it so well. Sacha Baron Cohen (Hugo, The Dictator) and Helena Bonham Carter (Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows) were comic relief as the crooked innkeeper and his wife. I knew I was going to witness misery in this movie; I just did not realize it would be my own over this poorly done film.
Ladies and gentlemen for tonight’s main attraction; oh wait, that is not right. There were very few women in the audience for this blood fest. For the couple of women seated near me I am guessing they lost a bet; one seemed more interested in her fingernails than what was on the screen. I haven’t seen so much slicing and dicing since I had to wait in line at the neighborhood delicatessen during their cold cuts holiday sale. With Quentin Tarantino as a producer, one has to know there is going to be a spirited blood bath. It was 19th century China and Jungle Village was the home to several rival clans. When word got out that a shipment of gold was to be transported through the village; mysterious individuals, mobs and assassins plotted a way to steal the gold and seize power. Rza (Repo Men, American Gangster) wrote the screenplay, directed the movie and starred as the blacksmith who was forced to make elaborate weapons for rival gangs. Russell Crowe (Robin Hood, A Beautiful Mind) was the curious Jack Knife, a man who was as comfortable with his knife as he was with his opium. And to interject a shot of estrogen into this dominant men’s club, Lucy Liu (Kill Bill Vol. 1, Charlie’s Angels) was the lethal Madam Blossom, with her bevy of poisonous beauties. The action drove the majority of this story and that was a good thing. With only Russell and Lucy doing any acting worth noting, the other characters were left portraying poor caricatures. There was a comic book flavor to this kung fu film with unsophisticated humor and sight gags. I will say some of the fight scenes were decent, but it lacked the finesse of a true martial arts master. If one is looking to see people getting the crap beat out of them in a somewhat creative way, this would be a cheap choice. Scenes with graphic violence and blood, including the movie trailer.
2 1/4 stars