JUST BECAUSE IT IS THE PAST does not mean it ever goes away. Recently, I attended back to back family events. The first one was held at a relative’s house with a variety of family members in attendance. During the evening a photo album (does anyone remember one of these?) was brought out for relatives to peruse at their leisure. The cover of the book was made of a deep reddish colored leather or fake leather. I knew it had to be old because the clear vinyl pages that were supposed to cover and hold the photos in place had lost their adhesiveness. Some of the edges of the vinyl were yellowed from age. Making sure the table spot in front of me was clean, I carefully placed the book down to look through it. Thankfully my relative had labelled the photographs because there were many people in the photos I did not know, even though they had a familiar look to them. There were some photos that had been shot in that particular relative’s country of origin; they were printed on thick cardboard with foreign printing on the back. I have to say they looked classy, elegant and ancient. I was seeing for the first-time relatives who were from generations past. The other startling thing I experienced was the realization, while looking at these deceased relatives, many of my current relatives looked like them. THE SECOND FAMILY EVENT I ATTENDED was held at a restaurant. All of us were to meet there for dinner. When I walked in, I saw some of my relatives off to the side. Approaching them, one relative saw me and announced me to the group around her. Out of the faces I could see, there was one there I knew but had not seen in a long time. She was a distant relative from a branch of the family that, for whatever reason, we had not had much interaction with while we were growing up. Walking up and greeting her, we exchanged excited comments of surprise about bumping into each other since her group was not part of the group of relatives I was coming to see. Once we calmed down from the surprise, she told me her brother was there; I had no memory of him in my memory banks. Pointing to someone standing behind me I turned around and was stunned at what I saw; it was the face of one of my deceased parents. Though this relative was connected to me distantly, our shared gene pool dealt him a hand where he turned out looking like he was part of my immediate family. Not that I have forgotten my parent; but it struck me how each relative, whether living or deceased, plays a part in creating a place where we belong and a sense of home. This animated film had a similar story. YI’S, VOICED BY CHLOE BENNET (AGENTS of S.H.I.E.L.D-TV, Nashville-TV), dream of traveling the world took on a new wrinkle when she discovered a magical Yeti hiding on the roof of her apartment building. With Albert Tsai (Dr. Ken-TV, Trophy Wife-TV) voicing Peng, Tenzing Norgay Trainor (Liv and Maddie-TV) voicing Jin, Eddie Izzard (Across the Universe, Ocean’s Thirteen) voicing Burnish and Sarah Paulson (The Goldfinch, The Post) voicing Dr. Zara; I found the animation both beautiful and colorful. The idea behind the story was sweet and touching, despite the script being somewhat generic. However, I so enjoyed the message and the scenes that I did not mind the familiar story lines. Though this film is classified as humorous, it is not a laugh out loud type; more like a knowing chuckle. Appropriate for all family members, one cannot deny the sweetness of the message for it does make one think of their own family. Plus, the still photographs used during the ending credits were a nice touch to cement those feelings of family and home.
GRATEFULLY THE TYPE OF SHOCK I have experienced is the surprise kind. There are different kinds of shock: anaphylactic, cardiogenic and hypovolemic to name a few. Trust me I am not that smart; I had to look up and confirm the definition to each of these types. There is also neurogenic shock that comes from a severe emotional disturbance. This would be the one that comes closest to what I have experienced, though nothing as close to feeling something so severe. I experience shock when something unexpected happens to me. Now you might be thinking unless I stay locked in a room, there is no way I am not going to encounter something unexpected during my daily life; and you would be right. I am tightly wired into having structure in my life. Spontaneity is a foreign concept that unsettles me; but having a set routine has a calming effect on me. RECENTLY, I WAS REMINDED OF HOW my brain shuts down when I become shocked. I had pulled a suit out of the closet to try on, making sure it still fit for an upcoming wedding I would be attending. The jacket was fine; but when I tried on the slacks, there was a good two-inch gap at the waistline that prevented me from zipping up the pants. Since weight has always been an issue in my life, my brain went into shock because my slacks no longer fit. I could not believe I had put on that much weight! If I could have stayed in reality, I would have recognized the pants had pleats, which I never wear and the jacket was double breasted, though I knew I had a single-breasted suit. Because my mind was blown, I could not think rationally. It was like my mind got blasted into space and I had to wait for it to parachute down before I could start thinking clearly. It took me a couple of minutes, after I had previewed several scenarios in my mind such as having to go and buy a new suit or put myself on a crash diet, before I noticed the clues that were right in front of my face. The pleated slacks, the double-breasted suit; I was trying on the wrong suit. This is how I handle shock; others handle it a different way, which you can see in this dramatic movie based on the best-selling, Pulitzer winning novel. SURVIVING A BOMB BLAST CAUSED YOUNG Theo, played by Oakes Fegley (Pete’s Dragon, This is Where I Leave You), to act irrationally. His mother would not have approved, but she was killed in the explosion. With Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver, The Fault in Our Stars) as Adult Theo, Nicole Kidman (Boy Erased, The Upside) as Mrs. Barbour, Jeffrey Wright (Broken Flowers, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay) as Hobie and Luke Wilson (The Family Stone, Middle Men) as Larry; the cast was the strongest part of this film. Their acting skills were on full display and I appreciated it because the story was too long here. I thought the script was broken by the jumping back and forth in time, the multiple story lines and the lack of wonder. It was easy for me to figure out what was going to happen to most of the characters, which some of you know is not something I usually can do. The script was congested; I thought the writers were trying to cram so much into it that nothing really stood out in the scenes as being powerful. It really was a shock for me to see such competent actors doing their best to bring this picture alive, yet I never felt like I connected to this picture.
1 ¾ stars
THE SUN HAD NOT RISEN YET as I headed out onto the barren streets of the town. Leaving so early, the stillness around me had not been disturbed by any residents. I headed north towards the volcano, though I was not able to see it through the darkness. The road up, I was told, would be challenging due to its narrowness and thick underbrush. My rental car had relatively new tires since the mileage on the odometer was low; I figured the tread was sufficient enough to handle the twisting road. It would have been nice to be able to see the landscape around me, but I was only privy to what my car’s headlamps showed me. From what I could tell there were tall trees lining the roads at times, only being interrupted intermittently by mounds of earth that honestly looked like excrement. I had no idea if this was a natural or man-made phenomenon. Everything I heard about this volcano had to do with being on top; I did not find many references made regarding the trip to it. So far, the ride was uneventful; little did I know that would change soon. AS I CONTINUED ON MY WAY, I started to leave the town behind me. The spaces between buildings got further apart as nature was taking back her land. I did not know what to expect but there was no signage as I came up to the base of the volcano. I continued on my way as the road started to take me on a convoluted path made up of twists and sharp turns. Due to the slower pace I had to drive, I was concerned I would not make it to the top before sunrise. This was the whole point of my early car trip, to see the sun rise and watch what its rays of light would reveal inside the dormant volcano. As I ventured up I periodically glanced up at the sky to see if there was any trace of sunlight seeping into the darkness; gratefully the sky did not turn while I was on my journey. I finally reached my destination, parked and waited for the big unveiling. The first ray of light appeared then slowly began to spread out into the blackness; I had been looking forward to this for a long time. One thing I did not expect was a bank of rainclouds that were ready to pounce once the sun’s rays revealed them. The clouds rolled over everything around me, blocking me of the chance to see inside the volcano. After all the planning I put into this trip, I would not get the satisfaction of seeing it to its intended conclusion. I had the same feeling sitting through the last installment of this dramatic, science fiction trilogy. SUPER STRENGTH NEEDS TO BE MET by super strength, something a superhero could do. However, there are no such things as superheroes as far as we know, right? This mystery movie starred James McAvoy (Atomic Blonde, Victor Frankenstein) as Barry and others, Bruce Willis (Death Wish, Looper) as David Dunn, Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight, Avengers franchise) as Elijah Price, Sarah Paulson (12 Years a Slave, Ocean’s Eight) as Dr. Ellie Staple and Spencer Treat Clark (Mystic River, Animal Kingdom-TV) as Joseph Dunn. Based on seeing James reprise his role as the Beast, I had positive hopes this film would be good. There were aspects I enjoyed; they revolved around the story between James, Bruce and Elijah. Sarah’s story line started out odd to me and by the ending I found the entire timeline for her ridiculous. I did not like the ending and thought the writing of the script lacked originality. If it was not for the four main actors mentioned before I would have lost interest in this picture early on. It would not have taken a superhero effort to produce a fitting conclusion to this trilogy instead of the silliness that took over it.
THE HOME COOKED MEAL WAS so good I asked for a copy of the recipe. After making the dish for so many years, the host no longer followed the exact recipe; she knew the ingredients and approximate amounts needed. I gently prodded, well actually begged, her to write it all down sometime during the evening if it was not much trouble. Just prior to me leaving later in the night the host handed me an envelope. You should have seen my face when I opened it and discovered she had written down the recipe on a piece of paper. She did say it may not be exact as the original, but close enough and I could personalize it to my own tastes. Besides wanting the recipe to make for myself, I thought it would be the perfect course to serve for an upcoming dinner party I was planning to host. As the weeks passed I acquired all the ingredients, reading and re-reading the recipe a couple of times to make sure I had everything needed and understood the preparation. THE DAY OF THE DINNER PARTY I had my tasks organized on a list which is something I do each time. Think of it like a pseudo schedule I follow to keep me on track for what needs to be done, to prepare a full meal with dessert. I was looking forward to making the main dish, expecting my guests would enjoy it as much as I did. Because I wanted to give myself as much flexibility with the time constraints I had for my tasks, I pre-cut some of the ingredients and stored them in airtight containers inside the refrigerator. I went about my business, cleaning the house and setting the table. By the time the first guests showed up I had all the dishes that needed to be baked cooking inside the oven. I felt everything was falling into place. When everyone was there and we sat down for dinner, I brought out the main dish and started serving it to each guest; it smelled good. As people started to cut in and taste their meal they complemented me. I was glad everyone enjoyed the meal but I was the only one who knew the dish I made was not as good as the original one I had at that previous dinner party. Don’t get me wrong; it was okay but it did not taste as special to me; I was disappointed by it. Having seen the previous Ocean movies, I must tell you I felt the same way about this gender switched version—disappointed. AFTER DOING HER TIME IN prison Danny’s sister Debbie Ocean, played by Sandra Bullock (The Heat, The Lake House), told the parole board she just wanted to lead a normal life and pay her bills. She did not mention how she was going to pay her bills with the help of the Met’s annual Gala event in New York City. With Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, Thor: Ragnarok) as Lou, Anne Hathaway (The Intern, Les Miserables) as Daphne Kluger, Mindy Kaling (No Strings Attached, The Office-TV) as Amita and Sarah Paulson (12 Years a Slave, Carol) as Tammy; I felt the cast was ideal for this story. All the actors were seasoned enough to make this picture a fun experience. Sadly, the script hindered this group from delivering on it. Except for Anne’s character, which she did beautifully, I found myself not as invested in the story as I thought I would be. The film was more of a fluff piece; it was okay to sit through but I was glad I did not pay full price. Just like the recipe I made, this movie was okay but could have been better.
2 ½ stars
THEY WERE THE IDEAL DINNER guests that dined with us. Informative, knowledgeable, honest and dependable; with such admirable traits they were always welcome into our home. I learned so much from them while eating my dinner. The topics of conversation went from world news to state news to local news and once in a while a tidbit of a heartwarming story. Sure there were times we got shocked by what they told us; but we also could be joyful while listening to them. It all depended on what they were talking about since they were the ones who brought up the various topics. I admit I may not have understood everything they spoke about, but I would either ask someone in the room or after dinner I would try to look up information on the subject. There was one time they were talking about a war that had broken out in a country I had never heard of before. So after the meal ended I went over to our encyclopedias to find out more about the country and where it was located. It occurs to me you may know these dinner guests and you too might have had them over for dinner; they were Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. FROM THESE NEWS BROADCASTERS I grew up trusting the news. Looking back I realize I knew nothing or very little about their personal beliefs or thoughts; they were simply doing their job which was reporting on the news. I am well aware there are places in the world where people like them would be killed for telling certain news stories. It is funny I recall from years ago, while I was in school, sitting in on a meeting for the school’s newspaper. A couple of student reporters presented their story to the staff and teacher advisor. Their article shined an unfavorable light on the school to the point where the advisor suggested they shelf the story. The majority of the paper’s staff immediately protested the idea and a discussion ensued concerning the definition of newsworthy. The students insisted the school paper was created as a news source for the student body; it was not going to only print “cheerful” stories. As far as the staff was concerned if the news was worthy then it should be in the newspaper. Voting against the advisor’s wishes the paper went with the story and it did get a response from the student body. It started a dialog on what the school needed to do to fix a particular troublesome situation. This was my first example in the power of the printed word. WHEN A GOVERNMENT COVERUP is brought to light Kay Graham, played by Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins, The Giver), the first female publisher of a major newspaper finds herself in a test of wills between her editor, staff and the government. What took place would set a new standard in reporting the news. Directed by Steven Spielberg (Bridge of Spies, Catch Me if You Can) this biographical drama also starred Tom Hanks (The Circle, Cast Away) as Ben Bradlee, Sarah Paulson (Carol, American Horror Story-TV) as Tony Bradlee, Bob Odenkirk (Nebraska, Better Call Saul) as Ben Bagdikian and Tracy Letts (Lady Bird, The Lovers) as Fritz Beebe. My only negative comment for this incredibly told story is that it started out slow for me, but only for a brief time. The acting from Meryl and Tom was superb. The script played out much like a thriller to me. And though this true story took place in the 1970s it is as current now as it was back then. I totally enjoyed the way Steven told the story with his direction, even loving the little details that went into so many of the scenes. This movie is already a film festival winner and I am sure more awards will be coming its way. What an amazing profession is news reporting; people who risk so much to tell the truth. There is nothing that came across as fake in this movie and that is the truth.
3 ½ stars
THE WORD “BETTER” can be used like a knife. On one hand it is a tool that assists in creating wonderful food dishes in the kitchen; but on the flip side it can be uttered at a person, denting their self-confidence. The person who uses this word may think they are being complimentary; sometimes they are clueless however, not aware of the impact they are having on someone. We can all agree the statement, “Hope you get better soon,” is a positive comment. Telling a friend the dress they are trying on looks better on them than the 1st one they tried is also a positive and maybe helpful statement. When one uses the word “better” in this type of context I am totally on board. NOW YOU MAY not agree 100% with me but I am not a fan of the word “better” when it is used for motivation; it does not always motivate. A teacher telling a student they could have done a better job on their assignment does not have the same effect as asking a student to explain their decisions in doing the homework they way they did. I have learned more when I have been asked why I chose such and such or how I came to that conclusion. Having someone just telling me I could do better does not sit well with me; from my experiences it tends to have a negative connotation. I remember a school project I worked on for a couple of weeks. When it came time to get reviewed one of the things the teacher expressed to me was how she was looking forward to my next project because she knew it would be better. What does that exactly mean? Was she telling me my current assignment was just okay? I will tell you what her words and the comments I received from several sources through my life did to me; they made me more determined to prove them wrong. Hmm, was that their original intention? DESPITE HIS FATHER Sal’s, played by Victor Garber (Titanic, Argo), objections about his writings Jerome David Salinger, played by Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies, Mad Max: Fury Road), refused to give up. He felt he had something to say. This biographical drama also starred Sarah Paulson (Carol, American Horror Story-TV) as Dorothy Olding, Kevin Spacey (L.A. Confidential, House of Cards-TV) as Whit Burnett, and Zoey Deutch (Everybody Wants Some!!, Why Him?) as Oona O’Neill. I thought the cast was excellent along with their perfect for the period outfits and the settings around them. If what I was watching was true then the story was fascinating to me about the reclusive author. His book “The Catcher in the Rye” was required reading at my school; I assume most schools across the country had it as part of their English/Literature classes. What did not work for me in this film was the script. There already was a curious mystique to J.D. Salinger; I felt like I was not learning anything new that I had not seen in the news or on the internet. There was a weakness in the drama that kept most things on an even keel in my opinion. From what I was watching I wanted to learn more about the motivations behind the actions; instead, the scenes seemed like they were glossing over the details. If there was an opportunity to ask the writers, I would ask them why they chose the parts they wrote about in this script.
Seasoned eyes pause during their trek, scanning the room as they catch a reflection of themselves in someone else’s eyes. The stillness seems to have gone on for a long time, but no one around would have noticed anything different. The two sets of eyes unlock to continue on their way, knowing they will come back to this new laid trail to tread softly upon it once again. When they do this time a shadow of a smile escapes like a gentle sigh as the tiniest of lines appear at the corners of those eyes. The lines are proof that the eyes are settling in for a longer duration. Now here is where the sets of eyes may differ for each set is projecting a series of random images that have played before. A walk down by the lake, sitting at an outdoor cafe on a warm day, helping to take off a thick winter coat; the difference is the added appearance of the new person you have noticed across the room. They are pictures of a possible future that must return to the reality of the mind’s photo album. Some people are quite skilled at all of this because there is a strong sense of self. What happens though when that strong sense is missing? It has been called flirting, prowling, hunting and teasing; some individuals are blatant about it while others are more subdued. When the intentions come from a place of respect and affection any name would do. If the opportunity appears to experience a true and deep love, who would not want to embrace it? STORE clerk Theresa Belivet, played by Rooney Mara (Pan, Side Effects); found she suddenly felt different when she saw customer Carol Aird, played by Cate Blanchett (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Cinderella). It was not just the hat Carol was wearing. Directed by Todd Haynes (I’m Not There, Velvet Goldmine), this film festival winner was an exquisite visual period piece from the 1950s set in New York City. With Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story-TV, 12 Years a Slave) as Abby Gerhard and Kyle Chandler (The Wolf of Wall Street, Zero Dark Thirty) as Harge Aird; the acting was perfect for the story, in an intimate and refined way. I thought Rooney’s acting was one of her best performances. The costumes and sets were created with the utmost style for the era; I liked the look of them. I understood for the era there had to be a certain shall we say subtleness to the script; however, I felt it diminished my overall enjoyment in viewing this dramatic romance. In turn, the pacing tended to run slow for me. There were passages where the emotional level stayed consistent far too long; it needed more dramatic variance in my opinion. Watching this film was like getting a beautifully wrapped present that contained a sweater for you but just not in the right size.