THE MAJORITY OF US AGREED that in principle social media sites offer people a positive benefit. All around the world individuals have the opportunity to experience and learn about pretty much anything. We were sitting around at dinnertime talking about the recent controversy with a particular social media site; it involved people’s personal information being mined by a consulting firm. It may say in the terms and conditions when one signs up online that our information can be shared, but how many of us actually read all the terms: I know I do not. If I understand correctly the depth of information that was shared by the internet site was startling. Someone at the table was saying the company can keep track of our mobile phone numbers being used since most people are posting comments and photos via their phones. When you think about it, it really does sound invasive. I still cannot get over how I can look at an item at a retail store’s website and the next time I go on my social media account there is an advertisement for the same item. Talk about living in an Orwellian time of Big Brother. AS WE CONTINUED OUR CONVERSATION someone brought up how every good thing that gets created always has a downside due to dishonest people. I had to think about this for only a short time before I agreed. A lot of these internet sites were set up with good intentions but they all are being based on people being honest. I remember receiving a message from a stranger that wanted to connect; everything looked legitimate so I responded back to them. As soon as I did they sent a stream of shocking photos that I had to quickly delete then block the person. On the other hand I am sure there are a multitude of individuals online who believe they are alone, different or feel there is something better for them; who discover like minded individuals. This can have a powerful affect on a person. The reason I say this is because I believe that discovery is the catalyst for one’s imagination to open up and flourish. It all starts with a dream that can lead one to their new reality; just see how this works in this action adventure, science fiction film. IN THE FUTURE EVERYONE TAPS into a virtual world where they can be whatever they want to be. However there were some individuals who saw an opportunity where they could take control of it all for their own gain. Directed by Steven Spielberg (The Color Purple, Catch Me if You Can) this movie starred Tye Sheridan (Mud, X-Men: Apocalypse) as Parzival/Wade Watts, Olivia Cooke (Thoroughbreds, The Quiet Ones) as Art3mis/Samantha, Ben Mendelsohn (Darkest Hour, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Sorrento and Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, Dunkirk) as Anorak/James Halliday. Right at the start this film grabbed me on its visuals. Both its real and virtual world had an assortment of treats; I especially enjoyed the way Spielberg inserted throwback references. The other thing that excited me was the action scenes; they were all well orchestrated with excellent special effects. Now for the bad news; I was somewhat underwhelmed with the story. I found the real world scenes more interesting. The virtual world after awhile seemed like I was watching a video game that I could not participate in it. There was an obvious message that the writers and director wanted to get across to the viewers; it seemed a bit preachy to me. By the end of the film I was not sure if I had just seen what our future could be and if it was going to be a good or bad thing.
2 ¾ 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
Nestled in a comfy bed or cushy lap were the ideal places to listen to a story being read out loud. Hearing a voice for each character in the story made them come alive and no matter how scary or dangerous any of them were, one always felt safe with the adult in the room who was reading the book. Any place around the world would appear crystal clear as if you were right there. This held true even if the place was from a fantasy story. I can still remember hearing about flying cars, a phantom tollbooth, a giant peach and thousands or maybe millions of other worldly and unworldly objects and people. Why is it I can recall most of the children books I read or had read to me when I was a kid but some of the things I currently read will slowly drift out to sea in my brain? Having books read to me before I could read was a fundamental element to my development into appreciating a good book. I truly feel every child should have the opportunity to become familiar with books and be taught how to read them. Hopefully this will not sound as if I am prejudiced, but I get a feeling of sadness when someone tells me they do not read. The ability to read the written word nurtures part of our mind, letting it grow and expand to make room for more knowledge. Now back to the question in hand; I am not complaining, but I am perplexed I can remember the children stories from my youth. Is it the subject, the fanciful characters or the realization one is not alone; that creates a bond with the reader/listener? I do not have the answer but am ever so grateful I have had the experience. It goes without saying as an adult now I can appreciate when a classic children’s story is made into a movie like this one that is based on the children’s book by Roald Dahl (Matilda, Fantastic Mr. Fox). LOOKING out the window of the orphanage Sophie, played by newcomer Ruby Barnhill), was shocked to see a giant in the street. The giant, played by Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, The Other Boleyn Girl), was just as surprised and could only think of one thing to do. The beginning of this adventure fantasy was magical and charming; I felt I was going to watch something special. The special effects were wonderful; Steven Spielberg’s (Jaws, Schindler’s List) direction was familiar and ideal for the way he can tell a story. But something happened as the movie moved forward and the focus turned from Ruby and the giant to another story line. The magic somewhat disappeared for me, though I thought the actress who played Ruby was terrific. Overall I am glad I saw this family film and feel younger children may not enjoy it as much as the age group that would be able to read the Roald’s book on their own. There was a point during the movie where I had wished I had my blanket, a glass of warm milk and a plate of cookies as I leaned back in my reclining theater seat.
2 ¾ stars
They bulge out like wide fish eyes skimming the sea’s surface of ceiling tiles. You see them everywhere now, those security cameras encased in smoky dark glass globes. Some places do not even bother making them inconspicuous; they hang up the actual cameras on the walls or have them dangling down from the roof like machine gun turrets. It seems no matter where you turn someone is watching you. Generally it does not bother me; what do I care if someone is watching me pump gasoline into my car or buying kitchenware for a dinner party. However, I just heard on the news this week some financial institution is working on a payment system that only requires the payer to send a selfie of their face. Yuck, the idea turns my stomach. There are already too many people taking selfies or videotaping themselves and everything around them, that I do not need to see more people doing in now. If you do not think security issues are taking a bigger role around you just look at all the crime and detective shows on television; so many of them use high tech surveillance devices that it boggles the mind. If you look at this on an international scale, high tech methods seem to be the norm when it comes to espionage and warfare. Imagine those government officials who worked at a time where being a spy was a more physical job, where one had to secretly tail a suspected individual instead of through the internet. For you Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew readers, you know what I am talking about; for everyone else, see how it was done in this dramatic biographical film. RECRUITED by the CIA to negotiate the release of a captured U2 spy plane pilot by the Soviet Union; insurance lawyer James B. Donovan, played by Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, Cast Away), did not want his morals compromised by the clandestine operations and negotiations unfolding around him. Directed by Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln), this film festival winning drama once again showed why Steven is a master storyteller. The way the story started out in an unassuming way then began building on top of itself; the viewer had no choice but to be drawn into the exciting tension. Along with Alan Alda (The Aviator, Tower Heist) as Thomas Watters Jr and Mark Rylance (The Other Boleyn Girl, Angels and Insects) as Rudolf Abel, who could be nominated for best supporting actor as Rudolf Abel, the acting was outstanding. The way the filming was shot allowed small scenes to be just as important as the major dramatic ones. I truly felt as if I was getting a glimpse into a past world where all of this type of spy work was the norm during the cold war. As I walked out of the theater and into the lobby I am sure who ever was behind the security camera above my head saw my wide satisfied smile.
3 1/2 stars
Alas, my adventures were ruined by a drunken captain. Within several minutes of the character Captain Haddock played by Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Lord of the Rings franchise) appearing on screen, I became tired of the role. For me, he was the Jar Jar Binks of this film. All I will say about the story is that it has to do with a treasure hunt, with the sinister Sakharine played by Daniel Craig (Casino Royale, Defiance) trying to beat out Haddock and Tintin, played by Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, Jumper), to find a hidden treasure. The action was overpowering–fast paced with scenes flying by one after another. I had thought with the pairing of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson they would have produced exhilarating, motion picture magic. There were some well done and exciting scenes; but I have to tell you, the majority of the action scenes reminded me of the Indiana Jones movies, but without the fuel to make them pop out at the viewer. If the film studio has hopes of making this a long running franchise; I seriously hope, they consider a whole new team to bring on board, to make a worthwhile movie.
2 1/3 stars
After seeing a scene from the Broadway show on the Tony awards, I had high expectations for this film. The director Steven Spielberg had what seems to be his requirements these days: lovable main character in Joey the horse, cute kid, pull your heart string scenes, funny interlude, obstacle course. Now I’ll be the 1st to admit, I had tears in my eyes, along with the majority of the audience; however, it was not enough to make this a great movie that moved me. I am afraid it was predictable and that is because Mr. Spielberg was directing. There were individual scenes that worked beautifully; though one important scene, I found odd, reminded me of Gone with the Wind. From what I read and heard, the Broadway stage production of War Horse was filled with drama; but in Steven’s hands, we evidently are required to have a wee bit of comic relief in our movie watching experience. With a stable of 20+ horses, filling in for Joey (stunt doubles?), the animal was wonderful to watch in this movie. And for those of you who want to take your children, please keep in mind; though we do not see horrific bloodshed, there are the 1st scenes depicted after a battle. I just wish this movie would have been better.
2 3/4 stars