IDEALLY IT SHOULD BE in balance within one’s life, but that is not always the case. And truthfully sometimes the circumstances are out of the person’s control. Trying to find the balance between one’s work and personal life takes determined strength with a bit of finesse. I have mentioned before how my work load dominates my personal life; from the day job to teaching to writing film reviews, there is a part of me that feels like I have missed out on many things. However, I do realize I am fortunate in the circle of friends around me who understand my crazy schedule as I try to negotiate time to get together with each of them. Others may not be as fortunate. There is an acquaintance of mine that is in sales. It is difficult to get a hold of him because day and night he is usually with clients; making plans to get together is almost impossible. NOW IT OCCURS TO me that I might have been prejudiced against certain occupations. I noticed when a “workaholic” was involved with a worthy cause; I would cut them some slack if they were not always available for family and friends. However if the person worked for a large for profit corporation, I was not so forgiving. Honestly from watching this film I have been thinking about this lopsided thinking when it comes to whether I perceive the business is doing something good or not for the planet. Who am I to assume the person who works 60-80 hours a week to help the homeless is a better person, than the state employee who puts in double shifts to help plow the city streets after a snowstorm? They each are important in their own way; no matter what the job entails the employee plays a vital part in the success of the employer. The one thing I am curious about is how people wind up in their jobs. I wonder if they always wanted to be let us say a window washer or actuary; or did the individual follow in a parent’s footsteps or just fell into the job. These were the type of questions I had when I watched this dramatic, biographical movie. IT TAKES A CERTAIN type of person to fight a forest fire and Eric Marsh, played by Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice, Old Boy), believed he knew what was needed. He just had to prove it to the people in charge. Based on a true story the cast also included Miles Teller (War Dogs, That Awkward Moment) as Brendan McDonough, Jeff Bridges (True Grit, Kingsman: The Golden Circle) as Duane Steinbink, Jennifer Connelly (Blood Diamond, A Beautiful Mind) as Amanda Marsh and Taylor Kitsch (Lone Survivor, Battleship) as Christopher MacKenzie. Having not seen or experienced what forest firefighters do, there were aspects of this story that were amazing. The acting was excellent; the standouts for me were Jennifer, Miles and Josh. For such an incredible story I had a challenging time with the script. The story would go from thrilling, nerve wracking scenes to snippets of a personal nature. What was presented regarding the plight of these types of firefighters, I had wished more time was spent on building up the characters’ personal stories. I felt I was only getting a partial piece of the puzzle so to speak. This movie about the Granite Mountain Hotshots deserves stars just on the story alone; as for the entertainment value of this picture it left me slightly cool.
2 ¾ stars
I DID NOT think my question was that unusual or demanded too much from the sales clerk. If you could have seen their face you would have thought I had just asked something outrageous or personal. All I wanted to know was if the shirt’s material tended to shrink. Besides the “dirty” look and the condescending way they answered me, they did not even bother to look at me in the face. I wanted to tell them if they were that miserable at their job, maybe they should consider changing careers. Now in the past I would have taken that response personally and snapped back something nasty to say to them. To tell you the truth I took most things personally back then. DUE TO THE events I experienced in my earlier days I was wary of most people. My mind would quickly go into attack mode whenever I had an exchange of some kind with a stranger. They could have been a volunteer soliciting signatures or a lost tourist, it did not matter; I would be distrustful of the individual until I saw or could ascertain they were not going to hurt me in some way. I am not exactly sure when I started softening my attitude and not taking things personally, but I think it was during a time I was being fixed up on several blind dates. It did not take me long into the conversation to realize whether the person was interested in me or not. Granted some people showed their disinterest easier than others; but even the ones that kept up a good facade, did not cause me to react negatively. I realized that everyone has likes and dislikes, trigger points that set them off and none of it should be looked at as a good or bad thing. Their qualifications or agenda was not a personal attack on me; I just did not fit into what they were looking for. In a way one could say it was just business. AFTER SURVIVING A terrorist attack while on vacation Mitch Rapp, played by Dylan O’Brien (The Maze Runner franchise, Teen Wolf-TV), could not think of anything else after that date but to hunt down the terrorists. It was something the CIA was doing also. This action thriller also starred Michael Keaton (The Founder, Spider-Man: Homecoming) as Stan Hurley, Sanaa Lathan (Out of Time, The Best Man Holiday) as Irene Kennedy, Taylor Kitsch (Lone Survivor, Friday Night Lights-TV) as Ghost and Shiva Negar (The Art of More-TV, My Babysitter’s a Vampire-TV) as Annika. The highlight of this film was Michael Keaton; he was the most believable out of the cast. I do not know if Dylan was miscast but he did not have much range with his acting and I am afraid to say did not have the physical presence to pull off his character. With decent fight and action scenes the script could not carry the story; there were several situations that did not ring true for me. In addition the story was not only predictable but the premise for it was cheesy and weak in my opinion. A couple of therapy sessions prior to developing this film would have been money well spent.
The things people do to impress, seduce or persuade other people to do can really take over one’s life. I worked part-time at a clothes store during the holidays one season. There was an employee who would buy an outfit for herself every time she had a new date. Even with the employee discount she had a running balance on her account for all the clothes she kept buying. She would tell me a new outfit was like the front door of a house you are trying to sell; you want it to make a good first impression before the buyer enters to check out the place. This always made me laugh and I would tease her that if someone only wanted to date her because she had a fancy logo on her blouse she should try to exchange the date for someone with a brain. I understand how most of us would like to make a good impression on someone we are meeting for the first time; but if the person is only interested on a surface level, I have no reason to strike up a relationship. It does not matter to me what a person wears or what they look like; I am concerned with what is inside of them. As for the outside aspect as long as my teeth are clean, my face is washed and I have nothing under my fingernails or hanging from my nostrils; I am good to go. The inhabitants of the small harbor town in this award winning comedy had more at stake in making a good impression. Acting mayor Murray French, played by Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter franchise, Gangs of New York), had to find a way to impress temporary doctor Paul Lewis, played by Taylor Kitsch (Lone Survivor, Battleship), so he would choose to remain and be the town’s resident doctor, possibly winning a bid for a new factory to be built close by. The mayor would need the entire town’s residents help if his plan was to succeed. This was a light, fun film that had good performances by Brendan and Gordon Pinsent (Away From Her, The Shipping News) as Simon. The story reminded me of those old fashioned screwball comedies from the 50s and 60s; maybe not as zany. There were parts where the action died down causing a lull in the story, making it somewhat boring. Some things may have been far-fetched but contained in a small town setting gave it a goofy vibe. There would be no need to dress up and rush out to see this film unless the other choices at the theater were not to your liking. This film made a decent impression on me.
2 1/2 stars
Before the majority of the world became wired, broadcast news provided us with a recap of noteworthy events. We would see the aftermath to a variety of events that spanned from a car accident to an earthquake. Unless there was a personal connection to the story, most of us would not feel an emotional attachment to what was being shown. When broadcasters report about traffic jams on the highways I travel to get to work, it causes a reaction in me, albeit a negative one. I guess I should consider myself lucky that I have not had a personal connection to any traumatic news stories. The only thing I can recall is when I was at friend’s house back in the 70’s; everyone became quiet when there was news about Vietnam. My friend’s older brother was sent over there during the war and the family always listened for a familiar town or place they had heard about from him. When one has a personal reference to the news it has more of an impact. With movies based on true stories, having information being told from one of the real life characters creates an accessible emotional bond to the story. Based on his best selling book, I was acquainted with this story due to seeing news clips of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell discussing his 2005 failed operation in Afghanistan. Mark Wahlberg (Pain & Gain, Boogie Nights) portrayed Marcus in this biographical film. The rest of the team sent out with Marcus to capture or eliminate a vicious Taliban leader was Michael Murphy, played by Taylor Kitsch (Savages, Friday Night Lights-TV); Danny Dietz, played by Emile Hirsch (Killer Joe, The Girl Next Door) and Matt “Axe” Axelson, played by Ben Foster (The Messenger, Contraband). This action drama was essentially split into 2 stories. The first half of the movie showed the Navy SEALs while stationed on base. The second half was all about the mission and this is where the intensity exploded open. I have seen war films before but the fight scenes in this intense section were bloody real looking and I do mean bloody. Some of them were handled a bit heavy by slowing down the motion. I cannot call this entertaining per se; however, for an action scene it seemed to be one long continuous fight. The acting was good, though I still have an issue with Mark Wahlberg’s acting. I never forget it is Mark playing a character. This story was amazing simply because there was an individual who lived to tell it. Many scenes had violence and blood in them.
Take an older stoic movie star, a pseudo action hero, a pop singer, a hot television character, a model/actress, a group of aliens and what do you get? You get a half-baked dumb movie. The powers that be must have sat down and gone through a list of options, picking out the ones that would interest a wide swath of the general population. Unfortunately, this left no one to focus on the story, for it was silly. I mean seriously, aliens could travel across the universe, but could not move out of the way of a communications satellite’s path? The gist of the story was scientists beamed a signal out into the universe and something not so friendly answered it. Poor Liam Neeson (The Grey, Taken) as Admiral Shane tried his hardest with the cheesy script. I was embarrassed for Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood-TV, Melancholia) as Commander Stone Hopper with some of the lines he had to utter. Rihanna as Petty Officer Cora “Weps” Raikes was still Rihanna. And if it was not bad enough being part of the biggest movie flop in history, Taylor Kitsch (John Carter, The Bang Bang Club) had to endure being in this mess as Lieutenant Alex Hopper. On the plus side, the real marines used in this film must have had a fun time hanging out with the cast and crew. The only reason to see this science fiction thriller would be to give your brain a break from thinking.
1 3/4 stars
On my quest to see all 50 states, little did I know I had been to Mars on one of my excursions. While viewing this movie I recognized the landscape in several of the scenes. Did it distract me from the story? Not at all; it was about the images and it was obvious Disney poured a lot of money into this visual extravaganza of a movie. For me, the look of it reminded me slightly of Star Wars. There were fascinating alien creatures, big battle scenes and a love story involving a princess. Lynn Collins (The Number 23, The Lake House) played the strong, intelligent princess, Dejah Thoris. As for the story, I found it weak, leaving me confused in some parts. Civil War vet John Carter, played by Taylor Kitsch (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Covenant), unwittingly discovered he was transported to another planet, where he now had super strength and agility. Oh and those twelve foot tall aliens were another clue he was not on earth. There were several basic plot lines: a group of mysterious beings that I did not fully understand what their ultimate purpose was in the story; an individual who was determined to take over the entire planet and a search for some mysterious thing that would tip the scale of power among opposing forces. As I said, the story was not the best; however, the movie’s action was exciting and I enjoyed all the special effects. I only wish Disney would have spent just a little more money on disguising the locale they used, here on earth.
2 3/4 stars