I AM USED TO WAITING IN LINE at the drive thru lane of a restaurant; but I was not prepared to do it at a funeral home. As I arrived at the funeral home, I saw there were several cars lined up as if they were preparing for the procession to the burial ground. Pulling into the lot behind the last car an employee of the funeral home, who had been standing off to the side, walked up to me to explain how to proceed through the visitation. I was to follow in single file, as one car at a time will pull underneath the porte-cochere. The occupants can then get out of their car and walk up to the locked, double glass doors of the lobby to pay their respects to the grieving family, who will be standing behind the doors with the casket. After the respects are paid, I was to return to my car and drive out of the parking lot. The last thing the man said to me was that there was not a sign in book; instead, I could go online to the funeral home’s home page and leave a comment for the family. I thanked the gentleman, closed my car window and waited for my turn. AFTER FIVE MINUTES, I WAS ABLE TO move forward one car length ahead. Outside my driver’s side window there was now a TV monitor that was set up on a stand. There was a slide show of photos rotating that showed different time periods in the life of the deceased. From birth to their first birthday part, their school years through college and family trips; I sat and watched the photos appear and disappear, providing me with a glimmer of what their life was like. I had lost track of time, as it became my turn to pull underneath and pay my respects. Getting out of the car, I walked towards the glass doors; the only thing I saw at first through the reflective glass was the open casket. It seemed to be floating in midair. As I got closer, images of the grieving family began to appear through the reflection as if they were materializing before my eyes. Out of the family members standing, the father looked the worse. I could not tell if what I was seeing was distorted by the reflective glass; but the father looked like he was in a state of shock. The solid stone expression on his face never changed. With lifeless eyes and a neck that looked like it had been replaced by a spring, he simply kept nodding his head up and down while staring directly ahead. It looked like he was missing a part of himself; similar to the way the main character did in this mystery drama. WHEN HER DAUGHTER DID NOT COME home it was up to Debra, played by Sienna Miller (The Lost City of Z, American Sniper) to be in charge of raising her grandson. She only needed someone to raise her. This film festival nominated movie also starred Sky Ferreira (Baby Driver, Elvis & Nixon) as Bridget Callahan, Kentucker Audley (Funny Bunny, The Middle Distance) as Brett Tobeck, Christina Hendricks (Good Girls-TV, The Neon Demon) as Katherine and Will Sasso (The Three Stooges, Happy Gilmore) as Terry. Set in rural Pennsylvania, this acting by Sienna and Christina was outstanding. At first, I was not sure where the story was going; but with the acting and directing I fell into the events taking place while becoming emotional attached. This was a quiet film where some of the characters needed more emotional depth. However, the performances of the actors made up for any deficiencies. This was both such a heart wrenching and triumphant story that Sienna navigated with expert skill.
3 ¼ stars
IT DOESN’T TAKE MUCH FOR SOMEONE these days to get a reputation. I am guilty in being quick to judge someone based on their actions. There was an employee I used to work with who I determined was addicted to her phone or more specifically, watching videos on her cell phone. The reason why I quickly came to this conclusion was because the first few times I had to consult with her about business, she did not hear me walking up to her. She was peering down at her phone, ear buds stuck in her ears, while her computer screen showed it was in sleep mode. I had to repeat myself to get her attention before she would look up at me and remove her ear buds. The first couple of times I thought she was listening to music; but I soon discovered she was watching a television show. Maybe I am old school, but I was stunned by her audacity to sit at her desk and watch a TV series while the rest of us were working. Did she think she was being paid to watch television? From my first few encounters with her I determined she was not an ideal worker. One could say she was lazy, distracted, clueless, unmotivated or several other adjectives if they chose; I decided she was unreliable because of all the TV she was watching instead of doing her job. NOW MAYBE THAT EMPLOYEE WAS GOOD at her job and able to keep up with her workload while watching television. I think most people make snap judgements about others based on what they see—on the surface. There was a time when friends of mine would not include me when they went out to the clubs, because I did not drink alcohol. I did not know that was the reason at the time. I found out when I asked a friend about it and he said the group thought I would not be a fun addition because I did not drink. I asked him what one had to do with the other; he could not come up with any proof. After that, I was included in the group’s activities and in my own way, showed them one should not make assumptions or judgements without seeing things for themselves. As I am getting older, I discovered I do not have control over people’s perceptions about me. As long as I am doing what I am supposed to be doing then that is all that matters to me. The main character in this dramatic, crime film could certainly relate to this. WHEN SEVERAL POLICE OFFICERS WERE KILLED one night detective Andre Davis, played by Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther, Marshall), was put on the case specifically because of his reputation. One never wanted to be facing him when he had a gun in his hands. With Sienna Miller (American Sniper, The Lost City of Z) as Frankie Burns, J.K. Simmons (The Front Runner, Patriots Day) as Captain McKenna, Stephan James (Race, If Beale Street Could Talk) as Michael and Taylor Kitsch (Battleship, Only the Brave) as Ray; this action movie benefited with Chadwick in the lead role. I thought he did the best he could with the script. Unfortunately, the story was predictable, and the script did not help disguise it. Nonetheless, I enjoyed watching this film due to the acting and chase scenes. There were several scenes with blood, but gratefully nothing I found gory. As some of you may know, I do not sit and try to figure out where the story will go when I watch a movie. With this picture, I quickly figured out who were the “bad” people. It did not ruin the viewing experience for me, but I was glad I did not pay full price for my ticket.
2 ½ stars
PEOPLE were lined up since 4 am. The line snaked around the museum’s front lawn. Some individuals had camping gear with them, which led me to believe they had been there since the day before. Everyone in line was upbeat and excited about the new exhibit that had opened at the history museum. From ancient Egypt the advertisements for this show stated the artifacts were nothing like anything on display before; they were in pristine condition, only discovered recently from a king’s tomb. The local newspapers showed photos of the long lines which is why we decided to get to the museum so early; at least we thought it was an early time, but there were a lot of people who thought the same thing. We finally entered the exhibit at 11 am and our agonizing wait quickly faded from our minds because the artifacts were all glowing in their temperature controlled glass cases. The craftsmanship was incredible, with such fine details; you would have thought they were recent copies loaned from the souvenir shop. THOUGH that exhibit was a long time ago, I still can see many of those objects clearly in my mind. It is fascinating to me how a society from centuries ago can create such incredible objects. Some people may consider ancient civilizations primitive; but I feel one has to take into consideration what was available at the time. These days we have 3D printers making things for us, but back then what did they have, a chisel and hammer? There have been times where I noticed an underlying prejudice of a person or group solely based on their ethnicity from someone who believes they are enlightened. They do not overtly show it but you can see or hear it in the way they communicate; there is a disdain or dismissive quality to their tone. If I am not making much sense then please watch this lush film based on a true story to see what I mean. DISCOVERING what he believed to be proof of an unknown ancient society deep in the Amazon Percy Fawcett, played by Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim, Sons of Anarchy-TV), set out to convince the naysayers back home in England. This film festival winner also starred a nearly unrecognizable Robert Pattinson (Water for Elephants, The Twilight Saga franchise) as Henry Costin, Sienna Miller (Burnt, Foxcatcher) as Nina Fawcett and Tom Holland (Locke, The Impossible) as Jack Fawcett. Set in the 1920s this movie had richness similar to director Werner Herzog’s (Fitzcarraldo; Aguirre, the Wrath of God) movies. The story unfolded in a quiet deliberate pace, almost to the point of boredom early on; however, the more the actors moved deeper into the story the more interesting it became. I thought Charlie and Robert stood out in their roles. On one level I sat in my seat in a bewildered state trying to understand how Percy could undertake such a challenging task. It felt like I was being propelled back in time; the directing and cinematography lent itself to this feeling. Another aspect I admired was the sense of respect presented in the script; something that I feel is lacking in these present times. This was like watching one of those old fashioned flicks, letting the setting contribute to the narrative. Though I felt this picture could have used a touch more editing, I walked away with a new respect for the men and women who sacrificed to bring to light the accomplishments of mankind.
Between the two of us we had gained and lost enough weight to equal the amount of five adults sitting comfortably in a full-sized sedan automobile. I was having lunch with this old friend of mine who was recently in town for a visit. We both grew up being part of the large sized kids of the neighborhood. As we were waiting for the waitress to return with our food order, we talked about how our feelings had changed about food. Our tastes were always different; where she was attracted to creamy and buttery, soft types of food I was all about the carbs and chocolate. I was not fussy; I could be satisfied with a loaf of bread as well as a box of chocolate chip cookies. What we had in common was our mutual desire to seek out different types of comfort foods. Her favorite was macaroni and cheese and mine was banana bread. Neither of us ever had a desire to eat at a fancy restaurant. I know one of my reasons for not going was because their portions always looked too small based on the pictures I saw in print or on food shows. The two of us discussed how food had lost its importance to us as we got more in touch with our feelings. These days food was looked upon as a fuel source instead of a reward; though each of us admitted we did like to splurge from time to time on a favorite treat. The food looked amazing in this comedic drama, but there were very few things that interested me enough to want to eat them. OVERCOMING the addictions that brought him and his famous Parisian restaurant down Adam Jones, played by Bradley Cooper (Aloha, The Place Beyond the Pines), was determined to create a Michelin 3 star rated restaurant in London. It would become his new addiction. Because I am not that familiar with high rent food, I was fascinated with the food preparation scenes in this film. If any of it was true then I am stunned how stressful it must be in the kitchens of these types of eating establishments. The cast which also included Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher, American Sniper) as Helene and Daniel Bruhl (Rush, Woman in Gold) as Tony were okay but the script was only half cooked (sorry I could not resist). I did not feel there was much chemistry between the actors, besides not feeling much sympathy towards them. The script was strange since there were a couple of other story lines besides the main one that could have been important if they had been developed properly; however, it would have been too much to cover in one film. There just wasn’t much to enjoy here; I prefer my movies well done.
1 3/4 stars
From my various job experiences I have witnessed some pretty cutthroat dealings. Unless the company you work for has a unique, one of a kind type of product; there will always be someone else who will try to outdo your company. The majority of salespeople I have encountered really are the company’s foot soldiers. One can also say they are the circus performers who do acrobatic twists and turns in order to please their customers as they try to “seal the deal.” I know I could never do sales because I do not have the temperament for it. From all my business dealings I could work with any customer until I discovered they were dishonest. Once that happens I lose all respect for them. There are certain products or stores I will not go near because of the way I was treated either as a customer or vendor. Even if a company’s salesperson meets with me and during our conversation speaks negatively about their competitor, it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. Some people say just by definition the word job has no place for fun; I disagree with that type of thinking. Sure it can be hard work, but I feel there needs to be something fun about the workday to keep people motivated. On the other hand I have seen where some individuals have had way too much fun. DESPERATE to land a big business deal and save his fledgling company Dan Trunkman, played by Vince Vaughn (Couples Retreat, Delivery Man), flew to Europe with his employees Mike Pancake and Timothy McWinters, played by Dave Franco (Warm Bodies, 21 Jump Street) and Tom Wilkinson (Selma, The Lone Ranger). With stiff competition going against them the three workers were willing to do anything to win the business. Let me say right at the beginning; consider the movie trailer for this comedy to be its highlights reel. I understood what the story was trying to do, but I thought it lacked imagination and originality. There were several times where I was simply bored. One of the main issues for me had to do with Vince’s performance. It was no different from the past several roles he has performed; they were all the same and it drove me crazy. He really could use a fresh team around him that pushes him to stretch his acting ability. I will keep my fingers crossed for him since he will be starring in next season’s drama series, True Detective. Tom Wilkinson was his usual good self and I believe this was the first time I really thought Dave took ownership of his role. As a movie reviewer I am forced to see many “bad” films; I could have used combat pay for my time with this one.
1 3/4 stars
There are some individuals who have a natural ability or gift to perform a particular skill. In my old neighborhood there were a couple of boys who in school were the fastest when it came to running. Now there are other people who excel at a particular function but it is only after years that were filled with practice and determination. In some societies children are observed and evaluated to see if they have a certain skill that could be nurtured in them so it will continue to grow. I knew a woman who pushed her daughter for years in the field of dance; taking her to every audition, from one instructor to another as the little girl’s talent continued to expand. This went on over 15 years. However, as the daughter matured her desire lessened to the point where she did not want to do anything that involved dance. Though she had aptitude and skill for dance, her mother did not look at one other essential element: the heart, the desire for it. I know even with myself if my heart is not into what I am doing, I will lose interest quickly. The heart is the fuel for the engine of motivation. SKILLED with a rifle since a young age Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle), joined the military and became a Navy Seal. His love of country along with his special skills made him a legend in the eyes of his fellow Seals. It did not go unnoticed by the enemy who put a bounty on his head. Directed by Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River), this film festival winner and Oscar nominated action drama was based on a true story. Bradley was amazing in the role, having to pack on 40 pounds of muscle to play Chris. I did not recognize Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher, Casanova) at first who played his wife Taya; she also did a wonderful job of acting. This movie was intense to watch with scenes of violence and bloodshed; especially when the character the Butcher, played by Mido Hamada (Unknown, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), had a hand in it. The story is an incredible one; however, I am not sure the movie was on the same level. I say this because there were times where I had wished there would have been more development to the characters, to try and understand their motives. From what I saw on screen, I felt the characters needed to be more complex. Initially I was not fond of the ending; but having discovered afterwards it was done due to legal reasons, I am not listing it as a major complaint. It was obvious a lot of heart and thought was put into the making of this picture.