EVERYTHING I RESEARCHED WAS TRUE ABOUT my travel destination. The weather was perfect for me when I disembarked from the plane, in the 80s with a gentle breeze. I was almost overwhelmed with the about of vegetation everywhere. There were flowers along the streets, blooming bushes in front of buildings, tall hedges surrounding homes; the place was so colorful, like an artist splashing different colored paints all over the place. I arrived at my hotel and was not disappointed. The lobby had live trees that received sunlight from the large geometrical skylight in the roof. There was artwork, paintings, and sculptures, from local artists that was placed throughout the lobby. After checking in and getting the key to my room, I rode the glass elevator up to my floor. The room was clean and bright, with a view overlooking one of the hotel’s swimming pools. On the bed was a couple of cut flowers that gave off a lovely fragrance; I could not have been happier. Because I did not know if it would be hard getting seated at the hotel’s main restaurant, I had made reservations because I knew I was going to be hungry when I landed. BEFORE I HAD ARRIVED, I WAS told what foods to stay away from; so, I did not have as many choices of food as I had hoped for. It was okay since I tend to like simple foods. It turned out the restaurant was full; I was glad I made reservations. When the waitress handed me the bill, I decided I would pay for it in cash. I also wanted to break the large bill so I would have enough change for tips and small purchases. After sitting there for several minutes, I wondered what was keeping the waitress from bringing back my change. I finally had to ask another server to find her. When she finally came back, I asked her for the change from my payment. She acted like she did not know what I was talking about. I described how much my bill was and the payment I gave her, that I was expecting change back. She said she would go check and when she returned, she had my change. I was ticked off but chalked it off to a one-time thing. However, this same thing happened to me at a couple of other restaurants. My second day there a monsoon hit the place and the hotel lobby flooded; I could not leave my room for a few hours. When I finally was able to get to the lobby, a staff employee was standing by the entrance to the pools. He said they were closed due to the staph infection that had occurred after the flooding. I was not done; throughout my visit I was constantly being asked for money. By the time of my return flight, I was ready to go; my trip was not relaxing. That is what the main character should have done in this dramatic horror science fiction film, go home at the first sign of trouble. GETTING AWAY FROM THE TRAGEDY SHE had been enduring back home, a woman retreats to a quiet estate in the country. During her first walk on the grounds, she encountered a man with no clothes. With Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose, The Lost Daughter) as Harper, Rory Kinnear (Quantum of Solace, Penny Dreadful-TV) as Geoffrey, Paapa Essiedu (Gangs of London-TV, I May Destroy You-TV) as James and Gayle Rankin (The Greatest Showman, Glow-TV) as Riley; this movie directed and written by Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation) left me confused. I thought the acting was wonderful, with Jessie having a commanding screen presence. The filming was shot beautifully throughout the English countryside. However, I felt the script was too ambiguous; I did not quite know what was going on. Individual scenes were well done, but I could not tell you what this movie was about, except maybe it has to do with guilt or man’s relationship to females. I feel if one must work hard to try and make sense of a movie, then it is not entertaining.
1 ¾ stars
There are two types of trauma that affect our body, physical and emotional. Each one has its own unique ramifications on how they are handled. When a bone gets broken in the body, there are ways it gets repaired which usually are visible to everyone as it slowly heals. I remember as a kid when someone would get their arm or leg in a cast it was like a badge of honor. They would have all their friends sign the cast and the goofier the message the better. You would have thought I had found the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when I had found at the local discount store a pen that had gold ink. I thought it was the coolest thing as I would print my messages out in extra large letters. As for emotional trauma, the body usually handles it in such a way that a bystander may not even know something is going on. Emotional trauma cannot only last longer in a person it can do more damage. It can feel as if the person has been trapped in a dilapidated house with unusable windows, where pieces or chunks of wall are dropping on them periodically as a reminder of their pain. JENNIFER Aniston (We’re the Millers, The Bounty Hunter) played lawyer Claire Bennett, a woman suffering with severe pain. When Nina Collins, played by Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect, Into the Woods), a member from Claire’s chronic pain support group committed suicide, Claire began an unusual fixation on Nina’s former life and the life of her widower Roy, played by Sam Worthington (Avatar, Man on a Ledge). This film festival winning drama was all about Jennifer. I have to give her credit for stretching her acting skills to undertake this role. She was excellent to the point that there were times I was cringing along with her as she dealt with her pain. The relationship she had with her housekeeper Silvana, played by Adriana Barraza (Thor, Drag Me to Hell), was especially interesting to watch throughout the film. With Jennifer doing such a good job of acting, it was disappointing the script was not stronger to support her. There were parts of the story that were flat. Also, I do not think it helped having Jennifer’s back story getting revealed in a piecemeal way; some viewers would find it annoying. I think if the writers would not have kept this story in its simplified form it would have been more interesting overall. Based on her performance it was apparent Jennifer was tapping into some traumatic memories, but I am not sure movie goers would feel her pain.
2 1/2 stars
They are your last dance partner in life. Rarely can you slip out from their cold embrace once the rhythm of your heartbeat matches their failing beat. There are some who spend a lifetime flirting with it, enticing it to come close; but at the last minute, they spin back away from their advances. Everyone has their own names for it; some call it passing while others refer to it as expired. As a permanent fixture in one’s life, everyone interacts with death in their own way. There are some who cannot even look at it, choosing to change direction in mid-step just to avoid confronting it. Various individuals will not veer from their path, expecting to be taken to a different location assisted by death’s guidance. I am not one to dwell on death since there is nothing I can do about it once it decides to greet me. Sure I exercise and do things to make my life less desirable for death’s tastes; but we both know when death comes to us it does not leave empty-handed. This is why I never judge anyone’s reactions or actions in the way they deal with death. There is some saying about not knowing what a person is feeling until you walk in their shoes, so I never comment on someone’s relationship with death. The writer in my though does observe with mild curiosity at times. DEATH became an unwanted guest in the house of Megan and Tom Stark, played by Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River, Into the Wild) and Kevin Bacon (Apollo 13, The Woodsman). Already challenged with Megan’s breast cancer, a heavy burden descended on the couple after a woman drove her car in front of a passenger train that Tom was running that day, leaving her son an orphan. This film festival nominated drama had a curious affect over me. As I began watching this DVD I did not feel drawn to the story. However, as the movie continued the acting from Marcia and Kevin started to pull me in. They did an admirable job with the somewhat predictable script, aided by Miles Helzer (Rudderless, Parenthood-TV) who played Davey Danner. Clint Eastwood’s daughter, actress Alison Eastwood (Poolhall Junkies, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), chose this story to be her directorial debut and she did some decent work here. She had a good eye for framing scenes. Despite the good acting and direction, the script did not live up to its responsibilities toward the picture. At times far-fetched and overwrought with emotional passages, the script failed the actors. I do not recall this movie ever opening at the theaters; it may have died on arrival. But for a home viewing experience I did not mind watching this DVD at all.
2 1/3 stars — DVD
No one has the right to tell you how you should feel is one of my strongest mantras. Among all the individuals within the circles of connections in my life, everyone knows there is no reason to cover-up, modify or hide one’s feelings. If someone is in a foul mood, so be it. I am not one to offer platitudes like “things will get better” or “it will be a brighter day soon.” When I am sad or depressed I certainly do not want someone around trying to cheer me up. I just want someone to be accepting and understand this is how I am feeling right at the moment. The phrase “misery loves company” comes to mind and there is some truth in it. I have noticed a stronger connection forms between 2 people when they are commiserating about similar circumstances. It is true for me when my friends and I are at a concert or on a trip, shared excitement only accentuates the experience. The same holds true during a somber or sad experience. It all comes down to the ability to relate to another being, to know there is someone else who is feeling the same way as you. COINCIDENTALLY, the four individuals in this comedic drama accidentally discovered they were each feeling the same way with the same idea. It was New Year’s Eve and expecting to be alone Martin, Maureen, Jess and JJ; played by Pierce Brosnan (Love is All You Need, The Ghost), Toni Collette (The Way Way Back, Little Miss Sunshine), Imogen Poots (Jane Eyre, That Awkward Moment) and Aaron Paul (Need for Speed, Breaking Bad-TV); all found themselves on the top of a high-rise building at the same time with plans to jump off the roof. Instead of ending their lives that night, they form an unusual pact to help support each other through their troubled times. Based on the novel by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy), believe it or not this film offered a few amusing moments. The subject may be morbid for some; but I found the script did a decent job of handling the subject matter, mixing doses of lightheartedness with darkness. Though the acting was this movie’s strongest feature, it could not help save this dramedy. I found the story jumped around too much, never allowing time to offer further explanation to the scenes. With things coming across piecemeal, the story never fully developed and fell flat. Not that I expect you to agree with me on every one of my movie reviews, but I feel comfortable there will be many who will feel the same way I do after they see this film.
1 3/4 stars