EVERYTHING I SAW AND LEARNED LED me to believe dogs and cats were mortal enemies. From cartoons to movies, as far as I knew if the 2 of them saw each other they would fight until one got hurt or worse. As a kid everyone I knew who had pets always had only one species if there were multiple pets in the household. If a family had a cat they would only get another cat as a pet; the same held true with dog lovers. I had a parakeet; so, I would never have considered getting a cat, because in my mind cats ate birds. Do you remember Tweety and Sylvester? I rest my case; this is where I learned never to mix a cat and a bird. Then there was Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. Since coyotes looked like dogs, I assumed dogs were not fond of birds either. I doubt I was the only one who thought this way; I am sure many kids around the same time were thinking the same thing about never mixing different species together. The same holds true for some of the movies I saw as a child where I would see a dog chasing a cat. NOW GRANTED THERE ARE ANIMALS WHO eat other animals for food. I remember seeing a movie that showed a lion going after a herd of wildebeests. It was obvious to me the wildebeests were afraid of the big cat. I translated that as hate. Did the wildebeests instinctively know from birth to fear the big cats or was it something they learned I wondered. I realized at an early age that humans do not come into the world knowing how to hate; they had to be taught on how to do it. I am not talking about hating a specific vegetable or fruit; I am referring to being taught that something or someone is no good, inferior, is bad. I learned about prejudice outside of the classroom, where some kids would make fun of me because I was not the same religion as them. There was a student in class who was quite vocal about his hatreds. He would bully those kids who did not fit into his beliefs. It was awful the way he would make fun of certain students, using their features as examples of what was wrong with them. I had thick curly/kinky hair when I was in school and he took great delight in calling me racist, horrible names. He did not have to be that way, but that is how he was taught. If only there had been someone who could have shown and taught him a different way; someone like the activist in this biographical, dramatic film. WHEN HER DAUGHTER’S SCHOOL CAUGHT ON fire and burned, civil rights activist Ann Atwater, played by Taraji P. Henson (Proud Mary, What Men Want), was determined to find another school for her daughter and the other students to attend. There were people in the community who hated her idea. With Sam Rockwell (Vice, Mr. Right) as C.P. Ellis, Babou Ceesay (Free Fire, Eye in the Sky) as Bill Riddick, Wes Bentley (American Beauty, The Hunger Games) as Floyd Kelly and Anne Heche (Wag the Dog, Six Days Seven Nights) as Mary Ellis; this historical story set in Durham, NC during the 1970s was brought to life by Taraji and Sam. They were dynamite in their roles to the point where I believed who they were portraying. The story was incredible and full of poignant moments that the writers could have taken and made them stand out. I wish they had done that because this historical event deserved a powerful script instead of the sanitized one in this picture. However, it did capture and keep my attention while showing a dramatic time that was brought on by hatred.
2 ½ stars
A PERFECT WORLD TO ME WOULD be one where everyone takes responsibilities for their actions. Maybe it is my imagination, but it seems people used to be this way some time ago. Now, it appears to me people are quick to place the blame on someone else. It reminds me of a little child who is standing next to a broken vase that they knocked onto the floor and when the child’s parent asks if they did it, the child immediately says no it wasn’t him or her. In a similar vein, one example I have seen many times is a shopper who accidentally brushes up to a store’s product and it falls to the floor. It might be a loaf of bread or an article of clothing, for example. The person sees what they have done; but just keeps on walking, pretending I guess the item magically levitated and floated to the floor. Would it have been so hard to pick up the item and put it back? In my opinion, a world filled with irresponsible people will only lead to a world of chaos. THERE IS SOMEONE I KNOW WHO for all the time I have known them has never taken responsibility for their actions. They are involved with high finances that directly affect the company where they are employed. I listen to their work stories; which by the way, seem to always paint this person as the victim. What they do not know is I have a friend who works at the same company and when they tell me about something that involves this other employee, their version is totally different. It is baffling, but the only thing I can think of is maybe it is all about power for this employee. I am not privy to their work environment but possibly this person is afraid of their peers or maybe they all act the same way, who knows? Power can be quite addictive for some individuals. One taste of it can put a person on a path where responsibilities get steamrolled and left crushed on the side of the road. I can handle a person who is assertive with their actions; however, a person who is aggressive is a different story for me. In my experiences those who aggressively seek power will do anything to reach their goal and as far as I can tell have a lower moral consciousness. The only time I have an issue with individuals in this category is when their actions have a direct effect on my life. For some of us, when you watch the scenes in this comedic drama you may find yourself stunned. CIRCUMSTANCES FELL INTO PLACE FOR ONE individual to rise above all others and make choices that would affect a country and the world. This film festival winning biography starred Christian Bale (The Big Short, Hostiles) as Dick Cheney, Amy Adams (Nocturnal Animals, Big Eyes) as Lynne Cheney, Steve Carell (Beautiful Boy, Battle of the Sexes) as Donald Rumsfeld, Sam Rockwell (A Single Shot, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) as George W. Bush and Alison Pill (Milk, Dan in Real Life) as Mary Cheney. If Christian does not get nominated for best actor this award season, then something is wrong. I never once watched him and thought that was Christian; he was 100% the character he portrayed and enough of a reason to see this film. The acting was fine overall, but the script was scattered; I did not know if it wanted to be a satire, drama, comedy or documentary. Some of the scenes were startling to me, but I could not tell if it was totally made up or not. If not, then I am more scared than I thought. What a feat to accomplish, driven by power.
2 ½ stars
I DO NOT UNDERSTAND why I should pay to have a cable repair person come out to replace the defective cable box the cable company shipped me. Customer service told me they could send me a new box and I could install it, saving the cost of a service call. If I had dropped, kicked or broken the box I would better understand the fee structure; however, they installed the box and after several weeks the box started to freeze up periodically. I would have to unplug it and count to ten before plugging it back in so it would reset itself. It is so annoying especially when it freezes up and does not record the programs I scheduled. It is annoyances like this that can drive me crazy. Even when I had my recent medical episode all I wanted medical staff to do was their job and follow through on their promises. IMAGINE TALKING TO THE nurse about your test results and she says she will call the test facility for more information per my request. She tells me she will call me the next day. After not hearing from her most of the next day I contact her late in the afternoon only for her to hear my voice and say she had my file right on her desk and she forgot to call the facility. I sit there and listen to her rattle off all the things she had to do during the day, less the one thing she promised to do for me. Are you kidding me? I do not know about you but if I do not do my job or at least follow through with what I tell someone it reflects on my performance review. How is it that I and my fellow employees are held accountable for our job duties but I see more and more workers’ lack of care or concern for their job responsibilities not being addressed by their employers? It can be so frustrating which is why I could totally sympathize with the grieving mother in this dark dramatic comedy. MONTHS HAVE GONE BY without any inkling of the police finding Mildred’s, played by Frances McDormand (Promised Land, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day), daughter’s killer. Fed up Mildred decides to let everyone know what she thinks about the investigation. This film festival winning crime movie also starred Woody Harrelson (War for the Planet of the Apes, LBJ) as Chief of Police William Willoughby, Sam Rockwell (Seven Psychopaths, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) as Officer Dixon, Lucas Hedges (Lady Bird, Manchester by the Sea) as Robbie and Abbie Cornish (Geostorm, Sucker Punch) as Anne. Hands down Frances deserves a nomination this Oscar season for her unbelievable acting in this role. I know it is a cliché but she was a force of nature; I could not take my eyes off of her. She must have relished the twisted script with all the opportunities to embellish her character. I enjoyed the rest of the cast almost as much but felt Abbie’s role was minor. The one complaint I had about the script was the story arc for Officer Dixon; his development from the 1st to 2nd half of the film did not ring true to me. Honestly I felt the last part of the script quickly tidied up the events and the viewers were left somewhat hanging. Despite these few issues I still was swept up into Mildred’s plight and to tell you the truth, secretly wished I could act out like her whenever I encounter someone not doing their job.
3 ½ stars
More so today than any time before, I believe a sense of disbelief falls over an individual who meets someone who appears to have all the qualities to become their ideal mate. The path to perfection can start out with the simplest common denominator such as both parties prefer hot instead of cold weather or each of them is lactose intolerant. For me I assume they will understand me better if they too are left handed. From this starting point one’s brain starts sending out signals of mistrust as a defense against the heart that is waiting to gallop out of the starting gate. Here is where the conflict emerges; on the one hand, this new person is steadily matching each of the items on your checklist for the perfect person. But at the same time your brain is telling you this is too good to be true; there is no such thing as being perfect. I have learned there is no such thing as perfect; the way I feel about “being perfect” is the same way I feel about “being normal.” Each cannot set the exact same standard across the board to fit every single person on the planet. What one person thinks is normal another may feel differently. So what an individual has to do is keep a checklist of things that would be a deal breaker for starting a relationship with someone. Depending on the person some items on that list could be: no pets, only city living, gambler, no children or weight issues. A deal breaker for me would be if they were an assassin like the one in this action comedy. UNLUCKY in relationships Martha McKay, played by Anna Kendrick (Into the Woods, Pitch Perfect franchise), could not stop wondering about the curious man she met even though he frightened her. This romantic romp also starred Sam Rockwell (Poltergeist, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) as Mr. Right, Tim Roth (The Hateful Eight, Hardcore Henry) as Hopper and James Ransone (Sinister franchise, Inside Man) as Von Cartigan. I enjoyed the mix of Anna and Sam because both easily handled the comedy of the story. The script provided a variety of madcap scenes that were on the verge of being silly filler. I felt the actors worked well together with the script that did not provide enough new ideas to pull it out of being a typical story for this genre. There were scenes that had violence and blood but they were quick and kept on the “light” side if you know what I mean. Since I have been a fan of Sam for a long time I think that is what kept me interested in this movie. If they had chosen a different actor I probably would have enjoyed this film less. To watch this movie it would be better to wait until it is on DVD. Now I say this only because I have a mental checklist of things that a picture has to have to take me to a different place.
No matter where you look, from a corporation to a charitable organization to a health care facility, there will always be someone there who has the power. I have seen so many times where an individual changes once they get themselves into a position of power. It takes a strong internal makeup not to get corrupted by its force or to use it for one’s own advantage. At a former company where I worked there was an individual who did any and everything to get a particular title attached to their name. They did some sneaky and underhanded things to other employees just to get ahead in their career. The thing that really got me was when their actions were questioned by any of their co-workers (the ones that even talked to them) they would claim they had to act that way because it would benefit the company. This was rarely the case as far as I could tell. Even on the world stage haven’t we all seen individuals who claim their actions were for the greater good? I have such a hard time listening to people who claim to be righteous but they do not act it. I know an individual who is active in their religion and is quick to use their activities as proof that they are devout in their belief. However if you heard some of the prejudicial remarks that came out of their mouth you would never believe they were a religious person. To top it off, I have seen their friends who all believe this individual is the poster child for goodness. Do you think their title of vice chairman has anything to do with it? BIBLICAL archaeologist Don Verdean, played by Sam Rockwell (The Sitter, Seven Psychopaths), was approached by Pastor Tony Lazarus, played by Danny McBride (Your Highness, This is the End), to form a partnership where Don’s discoveries would go on display at Pastor Lazarus’ church. The pastor believed this would greatly increase the size of his congregation and Don did not want to disappoint him. This comedy had a well seasoned cast; besides Sam and Danny, it had Amy Ryan (Escape Plan, Gone Baby Bone) as Carol Jensen and Jemaine Clement (What We Do in the Shadows, Men in Black 3) as Boaz. The story was a satire or more precisely a spoof on people’s willingness to believe anything depending on how it is presented to them. I thought the idea for this comedy was okay but as the movie continued I realized nothing was making me care about any of the characters. As the story played out it dropped into a madcap mode that came across as ridiculous. The actors did try to help but by the end of the film I was left with a blah feeling; there was nothing great or bad about this picture, it was innocuous if you can believe it.
1 3/4 stars
The day before I went to see this movie, I was at a dinner party where I heard an incredible story. A friend, who lives in the house she grew up in, said her house has ghosts. The people around her did not know how to react to such a statement, so the majority of them replied by saying, “Really” with a question mark at the end. With her sister confirming there were ghosts, she told us about the wristwatch she lost 4 months ago. She had placed it on her dresser before she went to take a shower. When she returned, the watch was gone. She looked all around the dresser, even in the drawers, as she retraced her steps positive she had left the watch on the dresser. A week went by and still no watch so she went out and bought a new one. None of us knew how to respond; so we simply nodded our heads, letting her continue with her story. Months passed as she went about her business, opening and closing the drawers of her dresser on a daily basis. One day as she was getting ready to go out with her boyfriend, she opened one of the dresser’s drawers and sitting in the bottom of it was her original watch. That in itself would have been freaky enough but along with the watch was an old folded up piece of paper. When she unfolded the paper she saw it was a shopping list that her deceased sister had written years ago because the first item listed was cigarettes. Everyone listening to her story was speechless. FORCED to downsize their expenses Eric and Amy Bowen, played by Sam Rockwell (The Way Way Back, Moon) and Rosemarie DeWitt (The Odd Life of Timothy Green, The Watch), took a deal on a smaller house. The real estate agent failed to mention the house was built on top of an old cemetery. This remake of the 1982 horror thriller was odd to me. The writers kept some of the original ideas in tact, but other iconic parts were discarded. Unfortunately they were not replaced with something that was more intense or memorable. The cast was okay even if I thought Sam was an odd choice. I admire his work, but having him in this film gave it a slightly comic bent. Another example was the character Carrigan Burke, played by Jared Harris (Lincoln, Natural Born Killers). He too was okay but his character did not have the impact like the original character he replaced. Now there were some scenes where I enjoyed the special effects; but here again, they just did not have the same level of intensity. So if you have not seen the original movie you may be okay with this modern version. I would have rather attended another dinner party with shared paranormal stories.
1 3/4 stars
You may know some who are being shoved to it, kicking and screaming. I personally continue to look for alternative routes to avoid its constant creep towards me. There are some people who run head-on to that point of time where they will finally be considered a grown-up. What is wrong with them? Yes, I know there are many advantages to being an adult; I am not knocking it. I really wish the knowledge I have now in my adult life had come earlier when I was younger. Now you have to admit all those responsibilities that come with being a grown-up can be daunting at times. At some point a majority of us will have to take on the duty of paying bills, maintaining a livable space and cleaning it; though I do not know what all the buzz is about cleaning, the space just gets dirty again. For those who want to have a family, they then extend themselves into child rearing; it never ends! Oh for those times where one could be free to do whatever they want, whenever they want, not having to be accountable to anyone. Looking at the world around us, I have to tell you it really takes courage these days to be an adult. THOUGH she was highly educated Megan, played by Keira Knightley (Begin Again, Anna Karenina) did not have much motivation. When her boyfriend Anthony, played by Mark Webber (The Memory Thief, Scott Pilgrim vs the World), surprised her at a friend’s wedding by getting down on one knee to propose to her, it was too much for Megan to handle. She found herself shortly thereafter at a convenience store where 16 year old Annika, played by Chloe Grace Moretz (The Equalizer, If I Stay), and her friends were hanging out looking for someone to buy them alcohol. The two women would start a friendship that would change their lives. Directed by Lynn Shelton (Safety Not Guaranteed, Your Sister’s Sister) this comedic romance had good potential. Lynn let the actors tell the story in a straightforward way that seemed real to me. The acting was good and I really enjoyed seeing Sam Rockwell (The Way Way Back, Seven Psychopaths) playing Annika’s dad Craig. One of the issues I had with this film had to do with the story; there were parts that were too far-fetched for me. I was sitting in my seat thinking that could never happen. Though I enjoyed Lynn’s earlier films, this movie was slow moving. Maybe it needed more exploration of the characters but I felt scenes were starting to repeat themselves with nothing new added. How ironic that I found myself looking at the screen and thinking will these people just grow up already.
2 1/4 stars
My tongue instinctively brushed the surface of my teeth looking for my braces that were made from the shiniest metal on the planet. I had to check my face to see if any angry pimples were about to burst out from under my skin. Then there was the vision of me seeing the first wave of facial hair spreading across my face like a brewing storm, warning me of the impending turmoil of adolescence that was coming over me. All of those awkward and confused moments swirled up from my pooled memories while I sat and watched this wonderful, coming of age film. Liam James (Fred Claus, 2012) was perfect playing the 14 year old character Duncan. A simple look from him easily conveyed those embarrassing emotions we all felt at one time or another during our adolescent years. Duncan was stuck going with his mother Pam, played by Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine, United States of Tara-TV) and her overbearing boyfriend Trent, played by Steve Carell (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Get Smart) to Trent’s summer home during summer vacation. Uncomfortable with his surroundings, Duncan found refuge at a run down water park managed by the kid like Owen, played by Sam Rockwell (Moon, Seven Psychopaths) and his wife Caitlin, played by Maya Rudolph (Grown Ups, Bridesmaids). This was one of the best performances I have seen from Sam; his character was crazy and memorable. I loved the unexpectedness of this poignant film. Everyone’s acting was so strong and realistic; Allison Janney (Juno, Liberal Arts) was hilarious as Trent’s alcoholic neighbor Betty. The script offered up such ideal lines, I actually felt a bond forming between me and several of the characters. After experiencing many memories from my youth during this film, a shadow of my adolescence remained behind as I walked out of the theater.
3 1 /3 stars
A pet is a part of the family. The unconditional love, their eyes filled with devotion looking up at you; there is nothing better. When I would come through the front door and see that dog tail whipping side to side I would say, “Who wants a doggie massage?” Immediately Baldwin would plop down at my feet, waiting for his rubdown. That is a fond memory I keep close to my heart. Presently the far western suburbs where I teach are being warned not to let their small pets outside alone due to coyote attacks. The idea sends chills through me. Now imagine my confusion when I heard what the story was in this comedy. Struggling screenwriter Marty, played by Colin Farrell (Alexander, Total Recall), had two crazy friends Hans and Billy, played by Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter, Hairspray) and Sam Rockwell (Moon, Everybody’s Fine), who were dog kidnappers. They would do it for the reward money. Like me, you have to wonder how this could be a funny movie. This was one twisted film filled with great one liners. Christopher Walken was at his crazy best and may get a nomination for his role. When Billy and Hans unknowingly took the Shih Tzau of LA criminal Charlie, played by Woody Harrelson (The Messenger, Zombieland), their lives would not only be put into jeopardy, but they would become fodder for Marty’s new script. As you can imagine this was no ordinary comedy. Think of this wild film more like a fine rich broth, spiced up with a touch of Tarantino and a smidgen of the Coen Brothers; the offbeat dialog was precisely delivered by the incredible actors for maximum affect. Seeing what someone will do to get their beloved pet back will surprise you and amuse you. Scenes with graphic violence and blood.
3 1/4 stars
There are parents that do whatever they can to give their children a better life. Whether they push their kids to work harder at their studies or to give more time to their practices, most parents want the best for their children. Growing up my mother would always tell me that I should become an accountant, because I was good with numbers. I did not know if it was because at the age of 8 years old I started selling my brothers’ comic books and records on the street corner, unbeknownst to them. Or at the age of 13, I got a job with my friends selling household products door to door; I was enterprising but had no desire to grow up and become an accountant. From what I have seen, you just never know how a child will turn out. The family dynamics were fascinating to me, in this touching drama. Recent widower Frank Goode, played by Robert De Niro (Being Flynn, Limitless), realized he had to find some way to connect with his children, now that their mother was gone. When the children cancel a planned holiday trip to come in and visit him, Frank decided he would surprise each of them by showing up at their homes unannounced. Some surprises, however, do not turn out as planned. Just because someone says they are fine, doesn’t necessary mean they are okay. In the past few years I felt Robert De Niro was becoming a cartoon character of himself. It was so good to see him take this role and bring out a nuanced, emotional vulnerability; I thought it was one of his better performances. Playing his daughters Amy and Rosie, Kate Beckinsale (Underworld franchise, The Aviator) and Drew Barrymore (Charlie’s Angels, Music and Lyrics) were quite good in this poignant film. I certainly will give more thought before telling someone I am fine, after having seen this movie.
3 stars — DVD