SITTING comfortably behind the steering wheel, cruising down the road, the celebrity driver was expounding on the finer things about the automobile. It almost looked like this was their main means of transportation. Now I do not care if a celebrity wants to earn income by doing a commercial; everyone deserves to make a living. Will this person persuade me to buy that type of car when I am in the market for a new vehicle? The answer is absolutely not. In fact that goes for any celebrity endorsement. Though I am a big fan of movies and such, I am well aware of the financial inequity between celebrities and let us say teachers. Not that there is anything wrong with making as much money as you can; however, I have a hard time with anyone who uses their position of wealth as a bully pulpit to tell everyone else what they should do. I have experienced this in my own circle of friends and family, where those who were financially well off starting acting like they knew everything and the rest of us were not as smart. That type of behavior is offensive to me. THE area where I can support celebrities is when they use their wealth and status to help a cause they believe in. I know about one celebrity who works with an organization to bring clean water to third world countries. I remember when parts of Louisiana were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. There were celebrities down there helping and rebuilding houses; they had the means and connections to bypass the red tape to get things done. With some celebrities their support of a cause may be due to personal reasons; they could be experiencing it in their own family, for example a celebrity with an autistic child. Whether you feel the same way or not, I admire someone who overcomes challenges in their life to then become a social activist against those very same tribulations. What I saw in this film festival winning movie, which was based on a true story, both stunned and amazed me. THIRTEEN year old Waris, played by newcomer Soraya Omar-Scego, had to leave her village in Somalia. What was done to her there would have a strong impact on her life when she made it to London. Before I talk about this biographical drama I want to say I have very little knowledge about the customs that were performed in this movie. They may be based on religious beliefs or native; I do not know and I do not want to offend anyone who believes in them. Starring Liya Kebede (The Best Offer, Lord of War) as older Waris Dirie, Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine, Happy-Go –Lucky) as Marilyn and Timothy Spall (Denial, Mr. Turner) as Terry Donaldson; the actual story had to be more powerful than what the script provided here. The back and forth between the young and older Waris dampened the intensity for me. I had a hard time watching some scenes because I could not believe what was being done. The acting was fine; I have always enjoyed Sally’s performances and Liya was perfect in this role. Honestly I still cannot get over that this custom takes place in the world. This DVD provided me with a whole new respect for those who overcome difficulties in their life and decide they want to do something about it.
2 ¾ stars — DVD
One of the more important acts a parent can instill in a child is the love of reading. There is an art in reading a book to a child. As the words get spoken, images begin to form and take shape in the little one’s mind. Stimulating the brain this way, sets the foundation for an active imagination to grow in the child. A blanket once draped around the shoulders becomes a cape that enables the child to fly from room to room. Spreading that same blanket out on the floor then repeatedly lifting it up and down in waves turns the living room floor into a choppy sea filled with a school of gigantic whales. Once the blanket goes still it becomes the launching pad for today’s rocket launch. Who hasn’t as a kid carried around some item that was special only to them? For me it started out with a stuffed monkey for several years and then my attention was drawn to retractable ballpoint pens. They were my fleet of spaceships that were constantly firing at each other by me clicking and unclicking them. Memories of my childhood, that had been lying dormant, flourished up into my consciousness while watching this sweet and joyful family comedy. COMING from Peru to England Paddington, voiced by Ben Whishaw (Skyfall, I’m not There), found shelter with a lovely family. Mary and Henry Brown, played by Sally Hawkins (Godzilla, Blue Jasmine) and Hugh Bonneville (The Monuments Men, Downton Abbey-TV), agreed to take in the bear for one night. What could possibly go wrong? This movie was an absolute treat, harking back to a civilized and charming time. I mean this in two ways: as a story line and as a movie watching experience. It was obvious this was a group effort because the entire cast from the characters Sally and Hugh played to Mrs. Bird and Millicent, played by Julie Walters (Harry Potter franchise, Mamma Mia) and Nicole Kidman (The Railway Man, Rabbit Hole), all played their parts to the hilt; you could see they were having so much fun. In turn, I had a great time watching this picture; it had drama, comedy, excitement and suspense that was appropriate for all age levels. Even the special effects that created Paddington were seamless to the point where I actually believed he was standing right there in every scene. I cannot imagine anyone sitting through this film and not getting a smile on their face. It was such a good time for me and when it was done and over I walked out of the theater with my childhood memories playing out before my eyes.
3 1/3 stars
There was a period of time where I witnessed the destruction of property and the killing of people. On weekends, there was a small movie theater that played a variety of matinee films that showed all types of creatures trying to destroy parts of our world. My friends and I would meet there often, usually right after we all received our allowances, to watch in awe these huge monsters fighting some spectacular battles. Once we were finished seeing the movie we would stop at the local ice cream and candy shop to talk about the different scenes, marveling at how human ingenuity saved us yet again. The shop was our go to place because the owner knew us and would let us sit in a booth for as long as we needed. There were glass jars filled with different kinds of candy sitting on wooden shelves that had the varnish worn dull from use. This all took place from a different, innocent era, where shop owners knew their customers and kids used their imaginations to create fun times. This action adventure film had some of that throwback feel to it, even with its updated story. When an experiment went out of control, mankind soon discovered they were not the strongest species on the planet. The script took a fresh approach in telling the story of Godzilla, bringing in more of a scientific element. There were times where I felt I had reached my limit of facts, but it was a minor distraction. Visually the movie had incredible special effects and I thought the camera angles were unique. It looked as if we were watching scenes from the cast’s perspectives. Personally I would have preferred a few more long shots when it came to the fight scenes; however, the battles that took place in the heart of the city were quite exciting. A steady tension could be felt throughout the movie and part of its success was due to some of the actors. Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy, In Secret) as Elle Brody, Bryan Cranston (Argo, Breaking Bad-TV) as Joe Brody and Ken Watanabe (Inception, Unforgiven) were the standouts for me. Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Savages, Kick-Ass franchise) was a poor choice as a leading character due to his limited acting ability. I would have switched and made Elizabeth the main lead. She would have brought more to a leading role. The whole feel of the movie was one of excitement and fun. Part of me had those same feelings of wonder and amazement like I had when I was a kid. The only difference was I did not stop for an ice cream cone afterwards.
A life lived without an honest acknowledgement of one’s history is like living in a 3 walled house; eventually, the weight of reality will come crashing down. I know for I have seen it happen. When a person runs away from their life’s history, taking on a new identity, the facade never lasts long. There was someone I dated a long time ago that never talked about their childhood, parents, or even hobbies. It soon became apparent that my interests were becoming their interests. I saw how they were molding themselves to my way of living and found it unsettling. Essentially they were creating a life for themselves that was dependent on me. The problem they ran into was when there was an issue or crisis, they were ill equipped to handle it; they would implode. The relationship soon ended as I found out later they started a brand new, different life. In a powerful Oscar worthy performance Cate Blanchett (The Lord of the Rings franchise, The Aviator) played wealthy socialite Jasmine, a woman whose life crumbled apart upon the arrest of her crooked businessman husband Hal, played by Alec Baldwin (The Departed, It’s Complicated). With everything lost, Jasmine left New York for San Francisco to stay with her working class sister Ginger, played by Sally Hawkins (Made in Dagenham, Happy-Go-Lucky). Writer and director Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris, Match Point) has a knack for picking an ideal cast and letting them shine with their craft. Everyone in this drama was outstanding. Cate’s over the top brilliant performance was as perfect as it could be; she will be a front runner for the award races this year. I have never seen a poor performance from Sally and she was made to play Ginger. Besides the surprisingly excellent acting by Bobby Cannavale (Win Win, Parker) as Ginger’s boyfriend Chili; do not faint when I tell you comedian Andrew Dice Clay (Pretty in Pink, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane) as Ginger’s ex-husband Augie was living real in his role. I thought the switching of scenes from current to past events would be annoying; but instead, it gave them more intensity. There may not have been a lot of laughs but Woody’s script had a wonderful rhythm to it. This was a fascinating story about the lives people try to create for themselves.
3 1/2 stars
I learned a lot about people by standing behind a a cash register. When a new store opened in the city’s shopping district, I applied for a part-time position to see what it would be like to work in retail. It turned out to be an interesting experience for me. I discovered practically every customer showed some sign of being prejudiced towards the employees, however subtle it may have been. If a person came up to the counter to ask for directions they always asked me instead of any female employee. When it came to questioning the sizes of clothing or if items matched, I was always ignored. Both men and women consistently asked only the female workers. I found the whole thing amusing; curious how people’s perceptions were formed. Since we were all on the same pay scale it did not matter to any of us. In the scheme of things what I have just described was rather minor. If I had told you the female employees were hired at a lower pay scale then the men, I am sure you would have had a stronger reaction. Sadly that still happens in today’s world. Here is a perfect example of a movie being both informative and entertaining. This dramatization of a true story was set in England during the late 1960’s, at one of the country’s biggest employers of British workers, the Ford auto plant in the city of Dagenham. Sally Hawkins (Happy-G-Lucky, Never Let Me Go) played Rita O’Grady, one of the women machinists who worked on the cars’ interiors. Besides the poor conditions and hard work, Rita discovered the company was being discriminatory towards the women. She was pushed into taking some kind of action. Except for the hard time I had with the heavy British accents, I was fully drawn into the story of the women’s plight. The costumes and sets were perfect in depicting the era. I found the high level of consistent acting made for a cohesive storytelling experience. Bob Hoskins (Hook, Snow White and the Huntsman) as union representative Albert Passingham, Miranda Richardson (The Young Victoria, Sleepy Hollow) as Secretary of State for Employment Barbara Castle and Daniel Mays (Atonement, The Bank Job) as Rita’s husband Eddie were some of the actors that stood out for me. This was a story of historical significance that could be seen equally by women and men.
3 1/3 stars — DVD
To dwell on the unfairness of life is akin to worrying about a house you built on quicksand. Though my house is not built directly on quicksand, it certainly is on the edge. Think of it as coastal property. I try not to judge my life based on other people’s success. For example, if I cannot afford to buy a ticket to a charity fundraiser I will apply to be a volunteer. I may be asked to work the reception desk or silent auction table, which is fine for me. But when asked to sell raffle tickets I become anxious. It amazes me how uncivil some people can be when being asked if they want to buy a ticket. You would have thought I was asking for their first born. I have been talked down to, pushed aside and yelled at to stop bothering them. How can I not wonder if these same individuals would treat me the same if I was a paying guest and not a volunteer. In the scheme of things I know I should let this type of thing roll off of me, but it is hard. What snaps me out from letting myself wallow in a funk is to remember I have my health. It is not like I am battling the deadly disease that the charity is raising funds to combat. Based on the book by Kazuo Ishiguro, this dramatic movie posed questions for me regarding morality and mortality. Set in an English boarding school, three residents grew up only to discover the truth about why they were born. Carey Mulligan (Drive, An Education), Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man, A Social Network) and Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina, A Dangerous Method) played the adult friends Kathy, Tommy and Ruth. Each of them did a beautiful job with their acting, bringing their characters to life with emotional depth. With a perfect musical accompaniment to the intelligent filming, I did not mind the slower passages of the story. This was not a happy movie; the sadness hung in the air like a heavy mist. I have a feeling people watching this film will either love it or dislike it. Either way the experience will not come close to the lives of the three main characters in this melancholy movie.
3 1/4 stars — DVD