BARELY ABLE TO SEE ABOVE THE heads of the people sitting in front of me, I watched in astonishment the man leaping in the air. The stage had been filled with dancers dressed in costumes that glittered under the stage lights. Most of the costumes were white in color, but some were the exact opposite in black. The male dancer in the lead role reminded me of royalty because of the way he moved across the stage when he was not leaping and spinning. With angular features for his face, his body on the other hand moved consistently with graceful fluidity. I was too young to realize the amount of work it must have taken him to be able to jump so high without a running start or to spin so quickly in the same spot; his moves at times would make the audience quietly gasp in their seats. The music the orchestra was playing was familiar to me because we had a recording of it at home. I would play it from time to time, never realizing that people were hired to dance to the music. Ballet was something foreign to me at the time. I was aware of it having seen clips of dancers on television or in a movie; but I had never seen a live performance of it up until this time. The male lead dancer in this performance was Rudolf Nureyev. WHEN I DELVED INTO THE FITNESS world as a profession, it was there I discovered the amount of work a dancer must do to make their performances seem effortless. One training class I took was based on dance moves and it was intense for me. Holding positions, working my core, and being able to give instructions to a class at the same time was a challenge. Imagine doing a side plank pose where you are on your side on the floor, balancing only on the side of your bottom foot and the hand from your extended arm. Now raise up you other leg and hold it in the air; trust me, you will feel it in your core. The first time I tried to do this I rolled over onto the floor. It took me some time to build up my strength to master the pose. I knew if I wanted to be an effective fitness instructor, I would have to put in the work to make it happen. It is no different for any profession, but I feel there is a slight difference when your profession involves performing in front of an audience. WITH ONLY ONE PURPOSE IN MIND Rudolf Nureyev, played by newcomer Oleg Ivenko, was willing to work hard to become a top ballet dancer. Nothing would stop him, even his own country. This biographical drama also starred Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter franchise, A Bigger Splash) as Pushkin, Louis Hofmann (Sanctuary, Land of Mine) as Teja Kremke, Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color, Racer and the Jailbird) as Clara Saint and Sergei Polunin (Red Sparrow, Murder on the Orient Express) as Yuri Soloviev. Set during the time of the Cold War, this film festival winner was something I wanted to see since I had seen Rudolf perform. His story was probably more interesting than what the script offered here. I would start to get interested in the story and then the scene would shift to a different time in Rudolf’s life; I found this jumping back and forth more of a distraction then a story telling technique. For someone who commanded the stage with a bigger than life personality; this movie seemed out of step with his story.
2 stars — DVD
THE WORDS KEPT REVERBERATING INSIDE my head. I had never heard them before; wait, that is not exactly right. I had heard those words before, but they were never spoken to me. Now, I was the recipient of these words and was feeling as if my life was going to change forever. No more standing by myself; no more groans or dirty looks from others. Here right in the middle of the school gymnasium I was the first person the team captain asked to be on his team! This had never, never happened to me before. Usually whenever the PE instructor picked two students to be team captains, I was always the last one picked. To tell you the truth I did not blame them. I did not enjoy team sports, I was not good at playing them and I did not have a killer mentality. All of that changed however, when students saw me throw a ball. The only reason they witnessed it was because I was the last person on the team who had not been tagged out. Granted, I was hiding behind players to avoid getting hit with the ball. So, there I was left defending our side against three opposing team players. I tagged each of them out due to my precise, fast and hard throwing of the ball. The students were shocked. MY WORLD CHANGED FROM THAT POINT on or at least I thought so. Students in gym class who had never spoken a word to me or only uttered derogative words my way were acknowledging my presence. I was not as fearful of walking into the locker room and gymnasium expecting to get bullied or abused. It was a surreal time for me. In fact, there was talk about me trying out for the pitcher position on the baseball team. If you are wondering if this all sounds too good to be true, you are right. My time in the spotlight was short-lived. A transfer student arrived who excelled in sports. He could hit, throw, shoot and pass a ball; plus, he was fit and trim instead of fat and chunky. I was immediately discarded and returned to the back of the line, so to speak. No one wanted me on their team anymore. I could live with it; but, when the nasty comments and abusive contact started up again, I had a hard time coping. I desperately wanted to get out of that school. Watching the main character in this action thriller, I could relate to how she must have been feeling. UNDER HER STYLISH VENEER ANNA, PLAYED by Sasha Luss (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets), had a lethal set of skills that people wanted to exploit. They were not interested in anything else, which was a mistake. With Helen Mirren (The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Woman in Gold) as Olga, Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast, High-Rise) as Alex Tchenkov, Cillian Murphy (The Party, In the Heart of the Sea) as Lenny Miller and newcomer Lera Abova as Maud; this movie had potential. I could have gotten into the story, but it stayed locked on the repeat button. There was nothing imaginative about the story. If Charlize Theron’s Atomic Blonde had not been made, maybe I would have been more forgiving with this picture. However, I was periodically getting bored. Now there were some fight scenes that were fun to watch, and I enjoyed some of the plot twists; but overall, there was not much creativity in the story or the script. For the life of me I could not understand why Helen took the role in the film, but I was glad she did; she did her best with what she was given. Given the choices out there, this movie is not one that need be chosen for your viewing pleasure.
1 ¾ stars
MOST EVERYTHING SHE WAS SAYING I understood, but I did not have her gift for figuring out how to alter the taste of home cooked food. Our conversation started when I mentioned I tried a new recipe. The food I made was too spicy for me; my mouth was tingling with heat from each bite I took. She asked me why I did not add this certain ingredient to dull the heat. I explained I had never heard about it, that I just followed the recipe which was new to me. From there we got into a conversation about the different things one can do to make your food taste sweeter or saltier, spicy or plain and so on. After she mentioned her different examples for change, I asked her if she follows the recipe when she is making the food. She told me she glances at the recipe but changes the measurements and items. And that was the major difference between us; there is no way I can cook like her. I must follow the recipe exactly; I cannot cook by putting a little touch of this or a small bit of that into the food preparation. Still somewhat new to this whole cooking thing, there is no way I can experiment and hope the meal will be good. THE SAME THING GOES FOR RESTAURANT food. Unless there is something seriously wrong with the food I ordered, I will not return it. Granted I am always making changes to most things I order from a menu due to personal tastes or allergies; so, when my order is brought to the table, I expect it to be to my liking. Other people may do things differently. I have one friend who always returns their order; it is either not hot enough or according to them it has no taste. There is another friend who rarely returns their meal. She keeps a bottle of hot sauce in her purse. If she doesn’t care too much for the way her food tastes she will take out her hot sauce and shake some of it on top of her meal. No matter what the item is she will add her hot sauce. To me, just because you like the taste of heat doesn’t make the meal better; if anything, I would say it makes it tolerable. Some of the things she has ordered I would not touch with a 10-foot pole, but she doesn’t care. As long as she experiences that burning sensation in her mouth, she will eat anything. I would have to say the same about today’s action thriller. If you just want to see action and don’t care about the script, then this would be your movie. HIS FIRST COMISSION AS A SUBMARINE commander and Captain Joe Glass, played by Gerald Butler (Den of Thieves, Gods of Egypt), found himself in the middle of an international crisis that was about to go nuclear. With Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour, The Space Between Us) as Charles Donnegan, Common (The Hate U Give, Suicide Squad) as John Fisk and Carter MacIntyre (Drop Dead Diva-TV, Benched-TV mini-series) as XO Brian Edwards; this movie was made for someone who just wants to feel thrills without concerns about the script or acting. I found the story silly as it seemed farfetched while jumping from U.S. Navy Seals scenes to submarine scenes to Russian ones. The script was a catch all for the films previously made from this type of genre; the thread that kept it together was the thrills for me. I enjoyed sitting in my seat and not thinking about what I was watching on the screen. Oh no, maybe I am turning into my friend who can tolerate mediocre food by splashing some hot sauce on top of it or in my case a smattering of thrills.
FOR MANY YEARS I DID NOT realize the ability to “read” an individual was a gift. I just assumed everyone was capable of doing it. As a kid there was a teenage neighbor that was polite and quiet. I did not have much interaction with him; I thought it was due to the age difference. However I always got a cautious feeling when he was around me. I could not explain it but there was just something about him that made me wary of him. One day I was walking down the backstairs with a cousin when the neighbor appeared at the bottom of the stairs we were about to descend. Without warning the teenager threw a rock at us and hit my cousin in the forehead. As the two of us ran back up the stairs the neighbor ran out into the alley and disappeared. Another example of being able to see a person’s true self happened when a friend of mine started to date this man who right from the start was making her all these promises of what their life would be together. Really, I thought; it was not long into their new relationship when his true intentions came out. The guy told her his funds were temporary tied up and he needed $500.00. Need I go any further in this story? SO THE ABILITY TO GET a sense of a person’s true intent is a valuable tool to include (if available) in one’s check off list when evaluating an individual. Now I do want to make it clear there is a distinction between “reading” a person and making a judgment about them. I do not believe my feelings about someone are written in stone; it may be only a feeling that causes me to be more cautious, but I do not assume the person is absolutely what I think they are in inside. Only time will tell the truth and even that is not always a given. I guess this is the area where one can only look for red flags, warnings that something is not right. I have heard just from my friends alone, so many stories about a person pretending to be someone they are not. It is even more prevalent on social media sites. And the ironic thing is this has been going on for such a long time; the only difference is there are now more people being duped who have stopped giving a person the benefit of the doubt, taking longer before they begin to trust someone. The main character in this mystery thriller will show you how it is done. PRIMA BALLERINA DOMINIKA EGOROVA’S, played by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games franchise, Joy), career was cut short due to an accident during a performance. With no other means to support herself and her mother, she was ripe to be recruited into a special Russian spy program. She would become a quick learner. With Joel Edgerton (The Gift, Warrior) as Nate Nash, Matthias Schoenaerts (The Danish Girl, Rust and Bone) as Vanya Egorov, and Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, Never Let Me Go) as Matron; I thought the actors were well cast in this film. Granted Jennifer was the star of the story and gave it her best, but due to the uneven script I did not get totally wrapped up into the story. There were scenes that were intense but then we would go through a dull lull before something exciting happened again. I thought the story was sound but not everything clicked together in this picture. Also I felt the violence and sex on display were used as a distraction for the poorly written script. I had a sense this film would not match up to the excitement of the movie trailers; I guess I should listen to myself more often.
There is a saying that I have seen in numerous places recently; it goes, “Being kind is easier than being mean.” I have noticed it on social media sites, T-shirts and heard it talked about on television talk shows; it seems to be everywhere. Now here is my question, “Why?” Why are so many people (at least to me) talking about kindness? I can remember a time where it was polite to hold the door open for someone, to give up one’s seat to someone else on public transportation or let a person enter in ahead of you. Really, how much of a burden would it be to do any of these acts? Something happened that has turned kindness into a rare gemstone; days could go by before I would see an example of it being done. There certainly is a layer of distrust that has permeated our consciousness. A good example of why this is would be the time I signed up for a newspaper subscription from a high school student who knocked on my front door. They took my money but I never received a paper, finding out the newspaper company never solicits subscriptions in such a way. Another reason I feel is due to the electronic revolution we have been embracing. With the fraud now associated to our ATM and charge cards, a good portion of us are afraid to click on any email links. That simple click could unleash a virus on one’s electronic device that will steal our identity, wipe out our savings and possibly lead a path for the virus to seek out our contacts. I have gone through at least half a dozen times where my bank has called me due to fraudulent activity on my charge card. It is enough to make a person go back to the old days and pay cash for everything. Stuff like this is only one part of the factors that cause a person to hold back from doing a kind act. Then again, see what happens when one does something kind in this movie thriller. LITTLE did Perry, played by Ewan McGregor (Star Wars franchise, The Impossible), know that the offer of a drink by Dima, played by Stellan Skarsgard (The Avengers franchise, The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo), would have such an effect on his life. This story based on John le Carre’s (A Most Wanted Man, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) novel had a good mix of actors that also included Naomie Harris (Skyfall, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) as Gail. Stellan was outstanding in the role to the point I felt he dominated the movie screen. The story started out slow and though I did not read the book, I found myself able to predict where the story would lead next. Being able to figure out the story was kind of a drag on my enjoyment level while watching this film. At least the acting quality was at a good enough level for me to stay interested in what was going on. I guess this is my way of being kind to this picture.
2 ¾ stars
The time was put in and you felt you paid your dues. There was a sense of success associated with the job that enabled you to feel proud. But when the time came you were done; you did not want to have to put in another day doing the same thing you had been doing for many years. A long time ago I had a part-time job as the manager for a furniture company’s moving crews. Prior to taking the position, the department was constantly under fire from customer complaints about the damage caused by the crews delivering the furniture. My responsibilities were to setup weekly routes for the various crews; manage the loading of the moving vans and reduce damages to a minimum. It was a grueling job since more times than not I had to fill in and be part of a crew. I was constantly amazed by the customers who bought furniture that would not fit into their houses. When the time came to leave that job I was glad and vowed I would never move another piece of furniture again. However, I soon learned never to say never because anytime a friend asked me to help them move something I could not say no. These are some of the things you just do for friends. Similarly former CIA agent Devereaux, played by Pierce Brosnan (Love is All You Need, The Ghost), had the same dilemma when he agreed to come out of retirement to extract a friend from a potentially hostile situation in Russia. Due to the length of time away from the agency, there was a chance Devereaux’s special skills would not be able to serve him well this time. This action thriller played out as a light version of James Bond; without the sophistication, charm and witty dialog. Though there were plenty of explosions and chases, the script was a poor excuse for a crime film. Pierce was convincing in his role which helped fellow cast members Luke Bracey (Monte Carlo, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) as Mason and Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, Seven Psychopaths) as Alice. Unfortunately the directing was not very good; I found myself becoming bored as the story spiraled into a multitude of cliches and predictability. With the recent releases of these action films starring aging movie stars and their obvious stunt doubles, I did appreciate the fact that Pierce appeared to be doing some of his own stunts; if not, the camera work was much better here because it was convincing to me. It would have been fun to watch Pierce in this type of role since I was always fond of his James Bond movies; however, it could not be found here because this film was easily forgettable.
It can be seen as early as infancy. Some may mistake it for stubbornness, but it really is not. I feel a person is born with it, this determination to succeed. I have seen some babies spend untold time on a single item or toy until they came to some sort of conclusion in figuring it out. For all my years working in fitness centers, I have seen adults with walkers or in wheelchairs struggling against their own bodies to lift a weight or walk the track. I am in awe of the determined drive they have in achieving their goal. There are stories that come out that talk about something that seems humanly impossible. One such true story is Slavomir Rawicz’s book “The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom” which inspired this Academy Award nominated movie. The year was 1940 as the world was breaking out into war. A group of men sentenced to a Siberian prison camp made their escape in the dead of winter. From the frigid arctic cold to the unbearable heat of the Gobi desert to the heights of the Himalayas, they walked 4000 miles as they made their way to India. I know, this story sounds unimaginable; but it made for a riveting film that was beautifully directed by Peter Weir (The Truman Show, Dead Poet’s Society). Jim Sturgess (One Day, Cloud Atlas) played the wrongly accused Polish prisoner Janusz. His skills would help the small band of escapees on their perilous journey. The casting for this dramatic adventure was a major asset in bringing the story to life. Among the actors were Ed Harris (A Beautiful Mind, A History of Violence) as Mr. Smith, Colin Farrell (Phone Booth, Total Recall) as Valka, Mark Strong (Body of Lies, Kick-Ass) as Khabarov and Saoirse Ronan (The Host, Atonement) as Irena. The scenes were so thoughtfully set up that I easily accepted everything as being real. In fact, I felt a shiver as I watched the men struggling in the cold harsh conditions. Though the film was long I never felt bored; even in simple scenes that seemed unnecessary, I felt the director was accurately portraying the group’s physical and emotional struggles. This really was an amazing feat of human strength that was done justice by this film. Some scenes had Russian and Polish with English subtitles. A few scenes briefly showed blood.
3 1/3 stars — DVD
My father’s side of the family traces itself back to Russia. I remember my parents had an old shoebox filled with thick postcard sized photographs of my father’s relatives. All of the pictures were sepia toned, showing somber relatives dressed in heavy clothing. I would periodically go through the photos imaging what those relatives’ lives were like back then. There was one picture in particular that I liked of my uncle. He was bundled in a big fur coat and oversized shearling hat that was pulled down low to his eyebrows, as he was standing up in a reindeer drawn sled. While watching this lush looking film I was reminded of those old photographs. Each scene in this movie was presented in such a way that I felt I was paging through an aristocratic family’s photo album. Adding in the beautiful musical score only made the experience more pleasing. Based on Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, the story set in 19th century Russia was about the life of Anna Karenina, wife of prominent Aleksei Karenin, played by Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes franchise, Enemy at the Gates). High society was spun into a frenzy when Anna, played by Keira Knightly (A Dangerous Method, The Duchess), was swept up into a torrid affair with the well known Count Vronsky, played by Aaron Taylor (The Illusionist, Nowhere Boy). Keira has a gift for portraying emotionally distraught characters. Jude Law was excellent in his role, showing a restrained maturity. As for Aaron playing Count Vronsky, it was not convincing to me. It might have been because he looked too young or just did not have the acting skills to pull off the character. From the trailers I anticipated a classic story blossoming into a breath taking movie experience. Sadly, the movie was a big disappointment for me. Several times I caught myself beginning to nod off; I was bored for a good portion of the film. The theater within a theater filming made for a pretty picture; however, it made the story choppy. I would have had a better time getting that frail shoebox filled with family photos and going through the pictures again.
2 1/2 stars