I FEEL BETTER WHEN I CAN always still see land, even if it is far in the distance. Maybe because of all the movies I have seen, from Jules Verne stories to historical events, I am anxious whenever I am on a boat or plane. Nothing that needs medication, but the idea of being on the water with no land in sight is not comforting to me. Even with my recent vacation last week, there were warning signs and fences posted along the shoreline preventing the hotel guests from swimming in the lake. You just never know what is lurking below the surface and I for one am not interested in finding out. I have only been on a cruise once and appreciated most of our travel time was done at night from port to port. It was easier for me to go to sleep and wake up in a different city without being exposed to open waters. The only thing I really had to deal with is getting used to the movement of the ship; it took me one full day to get myself steady where I was not feeling nauseous from the ship’s movements. FROM MY ONE AND ONLY cruise I saw an abundance of wildlife. Seated by a window in the dining hall I happened to see a school of whales breaking through the water’s surface. I recall thinking about Moby Dick, wondering if a whale could do damage to our vessel. My biggest fear took place up until we set sail; I was concerned we would get caught in a storm while out to sea. I have seen enough action films like The Perfect Storm and The Poseidon Adventure to know the storm always wins or if not, does severe damage. If these concerns were not enough, recently there have been several instances where passengers became ill while traveling by boat. If one has an imagination they can really scare themselves with all the possibilities of different disasters coming close to them. So, you see why I am less anxious if I can see land while out on the water? The same thing goes for being in an airplane. The few times I have flown overseas was either done at nighttime, where I could not see anything or during the day, where I purposely had an aisle seat. I do not understand how people can be so calm when they are so far away from land. The 2 travelers in this action, adventure drama is a perfect example. THEIR COMMOM LOVE OF THE water made Tami Oldham’s and Richard Sharp’s, played by Shailene Woodley (Divergent franchise, The Fault in Our Stars) and Sam Claflin (Me Before You, Journey’s End), decision easy to set sail together across the ocean. Their trip would not go as planned due to Mother Nature. Based on a true story this movie also starred Grace Palmer (Shortland Street-TV, Home and Away-TV) as Deb, Jeffrey Thomas (Slow West, The Light Between Oceans) as Peter and Elizabeth Hawthorne (30 Days of Night, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) as Christine. What made this film engaging was Shailene’s and Sam’s acting ability. They were so good together they came across like a real couple. The script jumped back and forth between two distinct time periods. At first, I found it kept my interest up; however, as time went on I felt this writing device was diminishing the emotional level of the scenes. For the circumstances taking place, I expected more details to be shown in the story. Nonetheless, the story was beyond amazing and this picture did a decent job of telling it. And as far as I am concerned if I had any interest in taking a ride on a sailboat, this movie pretty much ended it for me.
2 ¾ stars
Go ahead call me paranoid, I have been called worse; but I try to do as little as possible any personal business on the internet. When I am forced to purchase an item online and the site asks me if I want to save my charge card information I always decline the offer. I am sure I mentioned this before but I do not have an ATM card; I have heard so many horror stories about people having their identity stolen that I do not need to have that easy of an access to my bank. This week the news reported a major hacking of a popular web site; what was it, up to 50 million people may have had their information stolen? I do not want to tempt fate but I have had 3 incidents where my credit card information was stolen. One of those times it was the restaurant waitress serving us who took down my credit card info and tried to make a purchase with it. Fortunately the issuing banks caught each of the incidents immediately and closed my account. On one of this site’s social media outlets I have been reading about a follower who had their personal information stolen and now the thief has been reaching out to all of the victim’s contacts for money. The impersonator wrote their banking information was hacked so the bank froze the account, asking the contacts if they could float some money until everything gets resolved. Can you believe this?!?! So feel free to call me old fashioned or behind the times; I would rather have peace of mind instead of fighting to get my stolen identity back. This dramatic action biography did nothing to calm me down. DISCOVERING where the government was searching for information Edward Snowden, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Walk, Don Jon), decided he could no longer be part of the process. Based on the book “The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man,” this movie was co-written and directed by Oliver Stone (Natural Born Killers, Any Given Sunday). Joseph did a fantastic job of acting in this role, but he was not alone. There was Shailene Woodley (The Fault in our Stars, Divergent franchise) as Lindsay Mills, Zachary Quinto (Star Trek franchise, Margin Call) as Glen Greenwald, Melissa Leo (Prisoners, The Fighter) as Laura Poitras and Tom Wilkinson (Belle, Michael Clayton) as Ewen MacAskill. There were times during this picture where I thought the story was powerful and tense. As I alluded to earlier, I was stunned seeing some of the surveillance techniques that were depicted in several scenes. Though the acting was wonderful, I felt the script was scattered in parts. There were scenes of Edward in the military, scenes with Lindsay and current scenes that made the flow of the story a bit jagged. I felt the story itself was substantial; it was the main drive in grabbing my attention. Without getting into the politics of Edward’s actions; based on the story that was presented here, I left the theater feeling like I was entertained. Yet I was more scared than when I first arrived to see this film.
2 ¾ stars
I do not know if it is an actual term but I call it “deceptive packaging.” If you walk through a grocery store you will see many examples of these false packages. There are so many liquid products that come in these colored bottles that look like you are buying a full size of the product. However, after you take it home and have used it for a short time you cannot believe you already ran out of the item. Let me tell you, hold that bottle up to the light and you will probably see the bottom of it is much thicker then any other part of the bottle; I am talking thick like those funny eyeglasses that you might see an actor wear for their character in a comedy movie. The type of eyeglasses that were called “soda pop glasses” because they were as thick as the bottom of soda bottles. Another way companies use deceptive packaging is in their use of photography to create these sumptuous looking foods on the cover of their products. A frozen dinner on the cover looks homemade with big chunks of vegetables and steaming meat in a thick bubbly sauce; but after you open the box, the meal consists of a couple of pieces of shriveled meat with tiny cut veggies of a lesser assortment than the picture of it. These things are why I not only look at prices when I am at the grocery store, but I also look at the amounts. This may make my shopping trip longer but I and I am sure everyone else do not like feeling deceived. TRIS, played by Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars, White Bird in a Blizzard), had a feeling inside that there was something beyond the wall surrounding Chicago. No matter what others said she had to find out for herself even if it meant she would lose some of her friends. This next installment of the action adventure series kept my interest going because of Shailene, Jeff Daniels (The Martian, Looper) as David and the futuristic products that were on show in the story. Outside of that this mystery science fiction story had a tired script. There was barely any emotion in the scenes or characters and the reason for that was the bloated script. The movie studio took the last book and decided to split it into 2 films and I was not buying it. With these types of movies I look forward to watching battles and hand to hand combat in a futuristic make-believe setting, using ray guns and other fantasy devices. I was bored for a good part of this film; it would have been better if the studio had filmed the entire book in one movie. Since I did not read the series I have to tell you I do not know if I want to run to see the next picture because I feel like I was duped.
1 3/4 stars
I want my labels to tell me what is in my can of soup or box of cereal. Placing a label on a human being does not do anything for me. Yet so many people like to label individuals as if giving them one makes it easier to categorize them in some imaginary file cabinet. There are some people who believe they are the label given them. I have mentioned previously how in elementary school a teacher told me I would amount to nothing if I wanted to be a writer. From the moment she said that I started to change the way I thought about myself and began focusing on science courses only. In daily conversations I am part of or just hear in passing, people are referring to other folk as stupid, fat or drama queen to name a few. I bristle at such comments; it is people simply making judgements. The other reason I do not like such terms is due to my strong dislike for stereotyping. Having been a victim of it on a variety of levels, I am more comfortable with people who perceive themselves as individuals instead of being part of a group. When you think about it, isn’t it a narrow view to think of oneself as being a part of a group? AFTER being responsible for the collapse of the government; Tris and Four, played by Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars, White Bird in a Blizzard) and Theo James (The Inbetweeners Movie, Underworld: Awakening) needed a safe place to hide from government leader Jeanine, played by Kate Winslet (Labor Day, Revolutionary Road). The hunt for the couple and others like them was intense because Jeanine believed one of the fugitives was the key for her to solidify power under her domain. This adventure science fiction thriller is the 2nd in the series of films based on the popular books. If you did not see the first movie you may have a problem following this one at first. Out of the cast which included newcomer Naomi Watts (The Impossible, St. Vincent) as Evelyn, I thought Shailene and Miles Teller (Whiplash, The Spectacular Now) as Peter were the standouts. I have to say Miles has exceptional timing while Shailene is totally believable. Visually the story was stimulating but I wished the script would have been stronger. Everything seemed to play out on the same level with little variance in emotional depth; keeping in mind I have not read the books. Some scenes did not fit in well with the story’s direction; I wondered if they were meant to be rest stops between the acton scenes. I am not going to label this film by saying I was slightly disappointed; but, I would have appreciated if the writers had spent more time learning about each major character.
2 3/4 stars
Here is a little secret I will share with you on staying young: let the little child inside of you come out to play. There is no reason to suppress the joy and freedom we felt as children; it is therapeutic to find time to do something fun and it will keep you young. In our adult life we will encounter challenges, tests and a variety of events that harden us to be stoic and strong; I totally understand it. However, I do not know who decided the age of 18 or 21 is the dividing line between being a child or an adult. I have met a lot of adults who acted more like children than some children I have seen. The term “old soul” comes to mind when I recall some of the conversations I have had with younger people. Now I know reaching that magic age where you are suddenly transformed into an adult is a big deal; heck, I could not wait to vote for the first time in a presidential election. However, if a person is not responsible can they really be considered an adult? JUST before her 18th birthday Kat Connor, played by Shailene Woodley (The Fault in our Stars, Divergent), was faced with a terrible loss. Her mother Eve, played by Eva Green (Casino Royale, 300: Rise of an Empire); just picked up and left one day, leaving Kat and her father Brock, played by Christopher Meloni (Man of Steel, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit-TV), to fend for themselves. Pushed into being and adult, Kat slowly began to realize something was not right as she began to have dreams about her mother. The big draw for me to watch this dramatic mystery was Shailene. After her last couple of films I was looking forward to seeing her in this thriller. She did not disappoint; I really think she is becoming a well-rounded actress. Writer and director Greg Araki (Mysterious Skin, Kaboom) must have been thinking the same thing because he really dropped the ball on the script. It felt like he did not need to make a good script because he knew Shailene would squeeze the emotions out of his words. She did her best but sadly it was not enough to make this a good film. The story was slow and lifeless; I did not feel any passion coming out of the cast. And it was not their fault; I felt the responsibility fell squarely on Greg. Despite the group of actors assembled and the twists to the story, I did not experience much fun or enjoyment watching this movie.
2 1/4 stars
It started out as a simple cough, nothing more. The advice given was to push fluids and rest. The cough got deeper, sounding as if it was trying to peel layers of lung up like faded paint chips. Everything that tried to suppress it only seemed to make it stronger. The color of their skin began to fade into the atmosphere around them and their facial expressions softened. Those little creases at the edges of their mouth got shallower and shallower as the eyes sunk further back into their skull. Besides hearing about it in the news, I have heard about people in a relationship who leave it when their significant other becomes ill. It is hard to imagine anything lower in a human being in my opinion. To love someone for life comes with a lot of responsibilities, it takes work; but the rewards enrich and color our experiences with added shades of hues from the palette of life. Unconditional means not subject to any conditions. The only way I know how to love someone is unconditionally. In this romantic drama decide for yourself if the love you see was an unconditional one. Shailene Woodley (The Spectacular Now, Divergent) played Hazel, a teenager whose only close friend was an oxygen tank due to her illness. Wanting to just live an ordinary life, Hazel felt stuck in a support group where she met Gus, played by Ansel Elgort (Divergent, Carrie). Her with her tank and him with his prosthetic leg, they made an odd couple. The major reason this film worked was the chemistry between Shailene and Ansel. Having played brother and sister in their recent movie Divergent, they were outstanding; I believed every word uttered by the two of them. What accentuated their roles was having Laura Dern (Wild at Heart, Tenderness) and Sam Trammell (Autumn in New York, True Blood-TV) play Hazel’s parents Frannie and Michael. Only recently being aware of the acting from Nat Wolf, he was quite good as Gus’ best friend Isaac. There was no getting around the fact the story was a tearjerker. I have not read the book but part of the script seemed to have an extra layer of melodrama, some of it predictable. On the other hand if you know how I rate the films I review, this movie allowed me to enter into the lives of Hazel and Gus, leaving my life behind. I cried like everyone else in the theater and despite my few minor gripes, I loved this film unconditionally.
3 1/2 stars
There is a certain comfort in eating the same thing for lunch each business day. Working in a chaotic environment, I find stability in having a meal that is both dependable and made up with comforting foods that I can count on. Growing up in a neighborhood where the majority of people came from the same political, socioeconomic and religious background provided a built-in shorthand to everyone’s conversations. A single word could explain everything without having to go into details. I do not find fault with people being similar, but what about the person who appears not to fit in with the majority? In my own observations it seems there is less conformity but also less tolerance; or maybe it is the less tolerant are louder. Personally, I am comfortable with variety in my life; even with my lunch I change it up on the weekends. The way I describe it is by saying life is like a massive mansion where each person provides a different window that lets me see something new from its vantage point. By now you have probably guessed I was tuned in with the plot in this action adventure film. Set in the future, society was broken down into 5 factions based on virtues. Once a child reached a certain age they were tested to determine which faction would be most suitable for them. Shailene Woodley (The Descendants, The Spectacular Now) played Beatrice “Tris” Prior who did not fit into one convenient category. According to the policies in place and enforced by Jeanine, played by Kate Winslet (Titanic, Revolutionary Road); people like Tris would be considered a threat to society. If Tris was going to survive she would have to pretend to fit in with her faction. From what I have heard, moviegoers who have read Veronica Roth’s book which this film was based on were disappointed. Since I have not read the trilogy my comments are strictly based on the entertainment value of this movie. The best part of this picture comes down to two people: Shailene Woodley and Theo James (The Inbetweeners Movie, Underworld: Awakening) as her group leader named Four. I thought they worked well together and his acting was almost as good as Shailene’s. Filmed in Chicago, the outdoor scenes and sets constantly kept my attention. Extra points go to the 2 actors for actually climbing up the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier. I found the beginning of the movie was slow and dry. Maybe if I had read the book I would have had a better understanding of Tris’ relationships with her fellow inductees. The last hour of the movie was more exciting to me. Based on my personality I would be honored to be considered a Divergent, but then again I like being different.
2 3/4 stars
Somehow I did not get the class syllabus on inter-clique dating when I started high school. In fact, I was not prepared to even handle the concept of cliques. I do not recall there being any such thing in elementary school; everyone considered themselves part of a single grade. All of that changed once we entered high school as we blended in with four other elementary schools. Even if I had gotten that syllabus, it would not have made much difference because upperclassmen were quick to exert their power over us freshmen. Now that I think about it, I bet it was that exertion that quickly pushed the freshmen to scatter and seek out students who were most like themselves. It must be true when they say strength in numbers because soon there were several groups such as the jocks, the brainiacs, the nerds and the most popular all around me. In the scheme of things finding a group was not a top priority of mine; my energy was devoted to staying alive and avoid getting picked on. Those were such strange times for me, navigating through the pecking order and peer pressures all around me. It was because of those memories that I really got into the story in this smart, dramatic comedy. Miles Teller (Rabbit Hole, 21 & Over) played high school party animal Sutter Keely. A hard drinking, unambitious goof-off; Sutter had no plans in place once he finished his senior year; if he even finished his senior year. But due to a chance meeting with good girl Aimee Finecky, played by Shailene Woodley (The Descendants, Crossing Jordan-TV), Sutter’s outlook on life got shaken up in more than one way. The script created wonderful, real and honest characters. It never felt contrived or went for cheap laughs. I was already impressed with Shailene’s acting in The Descendants and was not disappointed with her in this film. She had a great screen presence that almost pushed Miles to the background when they were in the same scenes. However, to Miles’ credit, he took his character and gave it a vulnerability I had not seen him play in his other films. Another surprise in this romantic film was Kyle Chandler (Zero Dark Thirty, Friday Night Lights-TV) playing something different as Sutter’s absent father, Tommy. This was an intelligent movie that provided, what I can only assume, a true slice of high school life.
3 1/3 stars