HOW IRONIC, WE WERE HAVING THIS conversation over dinner. Friends for years, we had gotten together to catch up with each other; it had been some time since we had last seen each other. During our meal the conversation had turned to the topic of how busy everyone seemed, including us. I was talking about my schedule and how I was booking dates a couple of months ahead already, to get together with friends and family. My friend did not understand why I was having a challenging time in getting together with people. I explained I enjoyed getting together with people over a meal; but after a couple of times meeting in restaurants, I like to plan some type of activity we can both experience. It does not have to be anything elaborate like a boat cruise or indoor sky diving; it can be as simple as going bowling or to a movie. For me, doing something together adds fiber to the relationship. Let’s face it, how many of us will remember a meal we had from a year or so ago? Ok, well maybe I would; but food is not a reliable memory maker. Seeing a museum exhibit that moves both of you or a play that you thought was fantastic or even horrendous, would stay longer in your memory I believe. THESE SHARED EXPERIENCES PROVIDE ME WITH A deeper emotional connection and understanding to my friends and family members. Being together and witnessing feelings in “real time” is better to me than having someone sitting and telling me about it. The exhilaration of being at a concert, sporting event or discovering a new place on a walking tour; are things that will stay with me. Another option is taking a trip together. They say you really get to know about a person when you take travel with them and I am telling you, it is absolutely true! Granted, this may not always be a positive thing; but you would certainly know more than you did if you hadn’t taken a trip together. One of the fun aspects of sharing an event together is hearing about it years later. Seeing your memory through someone else’s eyes is a fascinating learning experience. You might be surprised to find out something you did not know before. I am not only talking about the activity; it could also be about yourself. Either way, if you want to take a visual trip and see for yourself then watch this film festival winning, comedic drama adventure. IT WAS NOT ENOUGH FOR ZAK, played by newcomer Zack Gottsagen, to only see his idol on television. He needed to escape the nursing home where he lived and go find his favorite wrestler, the Salt Water Redneck, played by Thomas Haden Church (Sideways, Easy A). This movie was a treat. Playing out like a modern Mark Twain story, the filming of it was beautiful. Enough time was given to the scenes to allow the viewer to settle into them. With Shia LaBeouf (Fury, American Honey) as Tyler, Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, The Social Network) as Eleanor and John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone, The Sessions) as Duncan; the acting was outstanding. Shia was such a force on the screen that I was surprised by it. Though I have not been a big fan of Dakota in the past, she was wonderful in this role. Thanks to the direction and script, watching this film was like reading a novel. I felt like I was experiencing things at my speed, allowing me to get the most I could out of the scenes. An original story with a lead actor representing a group that has less exposure on screen; I wish I would have taken someone with me when I went to see this exquisite film.
3 ½ stars
No matter how much a person thinks they are ready to move out on their own there still is an element of fear with the unknown. I knew several individuals who came from a challenging home life and when they finally decided to leave they were scared. For college age students who are fortunate to go away for school, I can say based on personal experience, it was difficult at first. College was my first time being away from home since I was never the overnight camp type of kid. My first week of college I think I had pizza and fast food meals 5 days out of 7. Food was a comfort for me back then. Doing my own laundry, making sure I got up when the alarm clock went off was solely my responsibility now. Those darn responsibilities; don’t they get in the way of living life sometimes? Having recently returned from vacation, I was talking with someone about the benefits of traveling alone. They said they could never do such a thing. I explained how freeing it was to not have to negotiate, discuss or compromise any of my decisions. The same thing applies to when I moved out on my own. Sure there was some fear in me, but it was liberating to take control of my life. Granted I wasn’t too thrilled to see the electric and gas bill in my name; but I did get a kick out of getting mail addressed to the owner, who was me. I will tell you I was not prepared for the many things like home repairs. Somehow that repairs gene was never handed down to me. I looked up at a hole in my roof caused by a raccoon and imagined filling it in with glass blocks to create a skylight. The fact that raindrops were coming down upon my head did not register this was an urgent matter I had to get fixed. Heading out on your own can be a wild ride. MEETING the traveling group of free-spirited individuals was the spark Star, played by newcomer Sasha Lane, needed to leave the life she was forced to live. This film festival winning drama had a cast that I forgot was acting; that is how authentic they appeared to me. With Shia LaBeouf (Transformers franchise, Fury) as Jake, Riley Keough (The Runaways, Mad Max: Fury Road) as Krystal and Arielle Holmes (Heaven Knows What, 2307: Winter’s Dream) as Pagan; the cast did a great job and Sasha was outstanding. I found the story interesting in the way it kept a focus on Star’s journey, seeing things thru her eyes. The issue I had with this film was its running length of 2 hours and 43 minutes. I felt this was way too long to tell the story; there were multiple scenes that in their own way duplicated earlier scenes. This picture could have used some more editing. However, the script had strength to keep me interested in this traveling group of people. Also, the soundtrack added a fun, funky element to the experience. Despite the fact that I worked going door to door selling products when I was very young, I did not have much in common with most of the characters; but I was intrigued enough to learn more about them.
Due to the problems I had in high school, by the time I went to college I learned it was safer to not reveal much about myself. This meant being vague about my religion, my politics, even my taste in music; I did not want to take a chance in providing someone ammunition to pick on me. Going to an out of state college gave me the opportunity to be a different person. However, I had no idea how much energy it took to keep up a facade of total blankness; it made me tired. I can only imagine how much strength it takes for people in the witness protection program. In this thriller you will meet a group of individuals who have been undercover for 30 years. When a bank robbery went terribly wrong, members of the activist group behind the heist went into hiding. Thirty years later radical member Sharon Solarz, played by Susan Sarandon (Robot & Frank, Dead Man Walking), decided to turn herself in to the authorities. Shia LaBeaouf (Transformers franchise, Lawless) as investigative reporter Ben Shepard found it odd when civil rights lawyer Jim Grant, played by Robert Redford (The Sting, The Horse Whisperer), refused to take Sharon’s case. Not willing to take no for an answer, Ben tenaciously searched for answers from the evasive lawyer before the FBI removed any chance for Ben to break a great story. The cast was made up with Academy Award winners and nominees like Julie Christie (Away From Her, Don’t Look Now) as Mimi Lurie and Richard Jenkins (The Visitor, Liberal Arts) as Jed Lewis. Robert Redford was just okay as the director; but I found the idea of him being the father to eleven year old daughter Isabel, played by singing sensation Jackie Evancho, not believable. Though this movie was marketed as a thriller; I found for the most part scenes were somewhat tense, but those were few and far between. I was bored at times and it was a shame. The idea behind the story was great; sadly the execution of it was poor. This film needed the same type of passion that one can find in activists today.
2 1/4 stars
With a smoldering Brando vibe and a piercing, steely stare; make no mistake about it, this was Tom Hardy’s (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) picture. If he and his management team continue to make the right career choices like Warrior and avoid the wrong ones such as This Means War; Tom will be one of our top rated actors. He portrayed Forrest Bondurant, who with his brothers Howard, played by Jason Clarke (Death Race, Public Enemies) and Jack, played by Shia LaBeouf (Transformers franchise, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), ran a successful bootlegged liquor operation in Franklin County, Virginia during the depression. When corrupt special agent Charlie Rakes, played by Guy Pierce (The King’s Speech, Factory Girl), came into town; he rounded up the authorities to aid him in getting a cut of the brothers’ growing earnings. Where Tom played his character as a dark, simmering man with a deadly reputation; Guy’s character was an arrogant, mean, sadistic man who was fussy about keeping a pristine appearance. Both actors were amazing. Based on a true story, this was a graphic violent, bloody film; as we saw the brothers fight to maintain a hold on their operations. I, along with everyone else in the theater, sat absolutely still through the entire movie; the story never lagged. Both Tom and Guy were the major players on the screen. The issue I had with this otherwise great film was Shia LaBeouf. This boy could not handle the role given to him. It was so apparent when any of the other cast was in his scenes; he could not elevate himself to their level of acting. Despite Shia, this was one heck of an intense movie to view and I was serious when I said the entire audience sat still in their seats. None of us wanted to miss a single thing.
3 1/4 stars