THERE WAS NO WAY YOU WOULD not notice him if he was within your eyesight. Even if you were in a crowded store, you still would have picked him out in the crowd. I know because I used to work with him. We worked at the same company; he and I both had desks set up in the back of the warehouse. I did customer service and he was involved with shipping and receiving. My first day on the job, I remember it clearly, he was sitting at his desk wearing black and white patterned slacks with a matching vest. Not to be judgmental, but I did think the attire was a bit much; if nothing else, I knew wearing white in a warehouse setting was never a good idea. Everyday he wore what I considered to be elaborate outfits; I had never seen such clothing hanging on a rack at any store. It turned out he wanted to be a fashion designer. At least that explained the clothing he wore; all his outfits were made by him. After a while, there was nothing that he wore that surprised me. Sometimes he included a big hat with his outfits; the hats would have either big feathers or different charms sticking out of the hat band. The one thing I did not know until much later was the fact he was a functioning alcoholic. BECAUSE I AM NOT A DRINKER, I have little experience or patience with those who drink to excess. I have only been drunk twice in my life; my first time was in college when I turned 18 years old and the other was when I was 24 years old on a date that lasted late into the night. After that, I vowed I would never drink again except for the occasional toast or the tasting of a drink. With my decision, I also took on the role of being everyone’s designated driver whenever I was out with friends. It was amusing to sit back and take in the changes people would go through after they had started drinking alcohol. There were some folk who felt it was their job to make me take a drink. They had decided I could not have a good time unless I had a few drinks inside of me. Others would find or think they found some hidden new courage inside of themselves, where they would act out by performing different stunts that I thought were not safe. One person I remember broke a bathroom urinal off the wall. I never understood the connection between creativity and courage with the amount of alcohol consumed; this is why I found the story in this Oscar nominated film captivating. FOUR HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS DECIDE TO experiment with the consumption of alcohol to see how it expands their teaching abilities. Evidently, they did not realize how it would affect their lives outside of the school as well. With Mads Mikkelsen (Doctor Strange, At Eternity’s Gate) as Martin, Thomas Bo Larsen (The Hunt, The Celebration) as Tommy, Magnus Millang (Heavy Load, The Command) as Nikolaj, Lars Ranthe (The Hunt, Adam’s Apples) as Peter and Maria Bonnevie (The 13thWarrior, Insomnia) as Anika; this comedic, film festival winning drama provided an interesting premise in its story. I appreciated the way the writers presented a midlife crisis scenario without making a judgment. The acting was excellent, and I thoroughly enjoyed the way Mads disappeared into his role. He was the main focus for me. And without giving away anything, I loved the ending to this movie. As for the topic of alcohol consumption based on the study they talked about in the story, I do not know if it is a real study or not. If not, then it was a brilliant way to introduce the story to the viewers. Danish and Swedish was spoken through the film with English subtitles.
3 ½ stars
IT JUST TAKES A LITTLE empty feeling inside for a person to start envying someone else’s good fortune. I have seen it happen many times where a person cannot only envy but resent another individual who appears happy and content. There is a friend of mine who has a relative that acts this way. This relative will offer backhanded compliments that others can see are fueled by jealousy and resentment. Another thing they do is try to copy whatever my friend does, either in hair style or clothing. If my friend is wearing a new outfit at a family function, the relative will seek out and buy something similar; however she take pleasure it telling everyone how much it cost. In other words she wants everyone to know her outfit is more expensive and better quality. It is such a weird game to me, like anyone would care about which one was better or more expensive. The thing I find icky is when my friend tells me this relative showed up at a family dinner with her hair styled in the same manner as my friend’s style; based on what I have heard there is no way I would say she is paying a compliment to my friend. WISHING FOR SOMETHING HAS A different feeling for me than dreaming about it. When I wish for something it usually is a tangible thing like wishing for warmer weather or a winning lottery ticket. I have spent the majority of my life dreaming about a life I hoped I could attain one day. Dreams to me seem to be more goals oriented than wishes. Maybe what I am trying to say is dreams have more of a life altering affect. There is a difference when one says they wish they had a boyfriend compared to dreaming about being with a boyfriend. I hope this is an example; there are two sisters who do not get along well with each other. One sister got married early and started a family; the other one married later in life and did not have any children. As the two sisters grew older the one without children started to resent her sister. Where the one with kids took family trips, attended a variety of school functions and was married to a man who was climbing up in position at his company; the other sister wanted the same things. She was only looking at the things she wanted but never indicated growing up that she wanted that type of life. It reminds me of that old saying about the grass being greener on the other side, which could apply to this mystery film also. ON A RECOMMENDATION ADAM, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals, End of Watch), rented a movie that had in the cast an actor who looked exactly like him. Both stunned and curious Adam began to do research on the actor to see if he could meet him and see what type of life he was leading. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario) the cast also included Melanie Laurent (Beginners, Now You See Me) as Mary and Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) as Helen. This film festival winning dramatic thriller was fueled by the wonderful performance by Jake. The story kept my interest for the most part, though it had a certain oddness to it. There were a couple of times I had to sit and wonder if I was missing something in the story because it seemed as if the script was getting more cerebral. I think watching this DVD could lead to some discussion afterward in a variety of directions. The main thing I took away from this picture was the belief Adam was a wisher.
2 ½ stars – DVD
Something I say to remind me there may be additional opportunities is the saying, “It is not written in stone.” I do not know how this saying came to be, but what it means to me is I do not have to remain in the same place forever. In other words, I can make a decision to learn a new exercise program and discover it is not suitable for me. Just because I agreed to do it does not mean I have to teach it the rest of my life. Maybe a better example is when a friend of mine was out of work. Enough time had passed where their funds were almost depleted. A job offer finally came up that wasn’t exactly in their field and they were not sure they wanted to take it. I explained just because they accept the offer doesn’t mean he will have to stay there the rest of his life. The important thing was to start earning an income and down the road see what opportunities open up for them. This may sound hokey but we can be whatever we want to be. I have rewritten my life’s path several times, going from wanting to be a veterinarian to a fitness presenter to a movie reviewer. Each portion of my past journey has led me to my present destination. KEITH Michaels, played by Hugh Grant (Music and Lyrics, About a Boy), was an Oscar winning screenwriter. So what happened to him where he had to leave Hollywood and take a temporary teaching position at a small east coast college to earn a living? This romantic comedy felt like a well-worn blanket; it felt familiar besides having Hugh’s typical dry wit and humor. To tell you the truth I was surprised this movie had such a stellar cast. There was J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Labor Day) as Dr. Lerner, Marisa Tomei (Spare Parts, The Wrestler) as Holly Carpenter and Allison Janney (Liberal Arts, Bad Words) as Mary Weldon; all of them were wonderful in this easy to watch film. I cannot remember the last time I saw Hugh in a movie but he still was able to play that type of character who was part selfish, part snob and part lovable sheepish bloke. The story was simple; there was nothing really new about it. However, because of the cast I enjoyed watching this movie. There would be no reason to run out and see this film right away; I think this picture would be perfect to watch on a lazy, cloudy day when you have few commitments. You do not have to take my word though; you can watch it anytime you want.
2 1/4 stars
The woman took a part-time job doing stock at a store, even though the full boxes were hard to carry. She did not care because she needed income to manage her mounting bills. The man traveled across the border to pick up medicines that were not yet approved in his country to combat his illness. The driver was afraid they were not going to make their interview for a job; so they drove over the speed limit and after stopping to look both ways, continued driving through any red traffic lights. Each of these individuals did what they did because they were desperate. I am sure each of us has performed at least one desperate act at some point during our life. Whether you were desperate to finish the race even though your leg was cramping up or you were desperate to get accepted at one particular university so you took on a heavy class load to up your grade point average; we have all been there at some time. One of the definitions for the word desperate says, “involves or employs extreme measures in an attempt to escape defeat or frustration;” another one states, “suffering extreme need or anxiety for money.” Evidently these must be desperate times to have made this film. JENNIFER Lopez (Maid in Manhattan, The Wedding Planner) played recently divorced mother Claire Peterson. After Noah Sandborn, played by Ryan Guzman (Step Up franchise, Pretty Little Liars-TV) had moved in next door, it was encouraging to see the positive influence he had on her son Kevin, played by Ian Nelson (The Judge, The Hunger Games). The compliments she was getting from Noah were nice to hear also. It was not long until Noah appeared to be part of the family, but which family member? This thriller was wrong on so many levels; I do not know where to begin. So let me start with Jennifer because she was the executive producer. I hope she did not think this role would make Hollywood stand up and notice her as a big dramatic actress. Stripping down to underwear for a scene does not automatically make a person appear vulnerable and dramatic, let alone younger; it takes acting and that is what was missing from this movie. By the way, that goes for everyone. The story was icky to start with and it was made worse by Claire being a school teacher. Kristin Chenoweth (Bewitched, Stranger Than Fiction) had the burden of playing vice principal Vicky Lansing, a clownish cartoonish character. It was horrible because the script was lame to the point of almost being laughable. There were no surprises since it was so predictable. This bad film needed more than a detention, it needed to be expelled.
1 1/2 stars
Letters come together and form words, and then words come together and form sentences. These simple actions trigger a thought, an idea or even ignite one’s imagination. One of my favorite word games is the one where you are presented one large word and you get a short amount of time to make up as many words as you can, using only the letters of that one word. I have always been in awe of the power words have to paint frescoes along the infinite walls of my mind; to spur me on to learn, to question, to react to image after image as the words I read continuously move the paintbrush in my head with bold strokes. When I first meet a person and find out they enjoy reading, I feel an immediate kinship to them. Because words can teach us in so many ways, I find it puzzling when I hear about school programs being cut or when a person argues over a subject they have little knowledge of due to their lack of investigating it or checking out the facts from the rumors. To me educators are one of the essential backbones of society. There are many instructors who truly are unsung heroes. The one portrayed in this dramatic film based on a true story was very special indeed. In a small village in Kenya there was a school where teacher Jane Obinchu, played by Naomie Harris (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Skyfall), had limited resources to teach all the children that were being enrolled, due to a new law that proclaimed free education for everyone. One day an 84 year old man named Kimani Ng’Ang”A Maruge, played by Oliver Litondo (The Lion of Africa-TV movie, Ivory Hunters-TV movie), stood at the front gate of the school, looking to be taught how to read. The headmaster turned him away but Maruge would return again and again since the law did not list an age limit. I found the story and message in this film festival winning movie absolutely charming and inspirational. Naomie Harris and Oliver Litondo were totally convincing with their roles and I found myself becoming more and more empathetic toward their characters as the story progressed. The directing was too choppy for me but as the story continued, the scenes started to make better sense and the back story came to light. What an amazing movie with individuals who understood the power of words.
3 stars — DVD
Two days prior to watching this movie I had to complete an advanced abuse prevention training for one of the health facilities. The subjects I reviewed did not surprise me; it was remembering things I witnessed during my school years and how they would be so unacceptable now. How many of you remember a teacher keeping a student after class or having a pupil sitting alone with an instructor in a room for detention. According to the training module I read it is no longer acceptable, unless there is easy visibility for other individuals to see the teacher and student. I can go down a list of my teachers and find many who would be considered violators now, besides being inappropriate back then. There was one teacher who periodically would be drunk in class; his face turning bright red as he slurred his words. There was another teacher who was living with one of their former students. Oh and how could I forget the teacher who would throw a ball at their students’ heads to get their attention? If you combine all of my teachers together as one, I am not sure they would be the worst teacher ever compared to the bad teacher in this comedy. Cameron Diaz (Gangs of New York, There’s Something About Mary) played Elizabeth Halsey; who after being dumped by her wealthy fiance was forced to teach at a middle school. Her motivation had nothing to do with the students; instead it was how quickly she could get money to pay for her breast augmentation procedure. I enjoyed Cameron in this role and thought she was outrageous, doing a decent job. The other teachers were too much like cartoon characters, such as Lucy Punch (Hot Fuzz, Stand Up Guys) as Amy Squirrel and Phyllis Smith (Butter, The Office-TV) as Lynn Davies. Surprisingly I thought Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Muppets) was not used enough as PE instructor Russell Gettis and Justin Timberlake’s (In Time, Runner Runner) character was just weird. This award winning movie was crude in parts, but there were a couple of chuckle worthy scenes. I did not find the ending satisfying with the change that took place. Overall watching this film would be a harmless activity, unlike having to be a student at this school.
2 1/4 stars — DVD
No matter what profession a person has studied in, they could have graduated at the top or bottom of their class. Even with my high regard for the teaching profession, the same holds true. I have had an assortment of teachers that ran the spectrum from inspirational to looney. There was one teacher I had who was an alcoholic. When he walked into the classroom with a beet red face, all the students knew he had been out drinking somewhere. A scandal was caused when my social studies teacher started an affair with one of the gym teachers. Out of all my teachers, my 7th grade teacher was the most bizarre. She avoided talking to students by keeping a pack of flash cards with her at all times. I do not know if she had the cards specifically made for her, because they each had different messages such as “Bring that to me” or “Please sit down and stop talking.” All I can say is, there are some teachers who are mentors and there are some who should have never chosen teaching as a career. In this dark mysterious comedy from France, the instructor took his mentoring to an extreme. Fabrice Luchini (The Women on the 6th Floor, Paris) played Germain, a frustrated writing teacher. When student Claude Garcia, played by Ernst Umhauer (The Monk), showed talent in his writing, Germain encouraged the young man to explore and push the topic further. However the subject happened to be Claude’s classmate Rapha, played by newcomer Bastien Ughetto, and his parents Esther and Rapha Sr., played by Emmanuelle Seigner (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Ninth Gate) and Denis Menochet (Robin Hood, Inglourious Basterd)s. When boundaries get pushed to create good story, consequences cannot be too far behind. I found parts of the story witty and amusing, enjoying Fabrice’s performance and that of Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Gosford Park) as his wife Jeanne. There were some sections of the story that seemed too crazy to even be possible. I would be the first one to praise the teaching profession; I just would not use the teacher in this movie as an example. French with English subtitles.
What a rude awakening I got my first week as a high school freshman. The first time in physical ed class a ceiling tile fell, nearly hitting a student in the head. From that day forward I always kept one eye on the roof waiting for the next tile bomb to drop. Since my elementary school did not have a cafeteria, the first time I walked down the lunch room line I was surprised by how many food items did not look like they were part of nature. I do not recall any teachers who would do what the teachers did in this movie. If Kevin James (Grown Ups, The King of Queens-TV) was graded for playing teacher Scott Voss, he would get an above average for effort. He deserved credit for doing the physical training the role demanded. Scott would try to become a mixed martial arts fighter to raise money for classes being cut, due to a budget shortfall. If he could get a scheduled fight, he would get paid even if he lost. It was a win-win situation. The cast was an enjoyable bunch to watch. Kevin’s character was affable and down to earth. I do have to say it was odd seeing Henry Winkler (Click, Happy Days-TV) playing a submissive, wishy washy character as music teacher Marty Streb. Come on, he was the Fonz. The other surprise was seeing Salma Hayek (Frida, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) playing school nurse Bella Flores in this comedy. For what was required of her, she was fine in this role. The problem with this movie was the story was bloated and predictable. The multitude of sight gags did not always work, being dull and flat. More chuckles than laughs, this boom was more like a pop. A brief scene with blood.
There are teachers that inspire us and there are some that damage us. I had a teacher who would ring a bell to get the class’ attention, then hold up preprinted instructional signs for us to follow. A music teacher expanded my knowledge and love of music. It only goes to show you that in every profession there is someone who had to graduate at the top of their class and someone who had to at the bottom. This dramatic movie was based on the book written by the same teacher portrayed in this film. It was a beautiful testament to those teachers that have inspired their students. Erin Gruwell’s, played by Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby, Boys Don’t Cry), first teaching position was at a disadvantaged school. With segregated ethnic groups, gang fights and killings were the norm. The teaching staff had resigned themselves to the reality they were more like prison guards than educators. Erin came in with innovative ideas and frank discussions to find commonality between the different factions and to gain their trust. Her drive and dedication was astounding as she took part-time jobs to help pay for various supplies the school could not provide. Though being a supportive mate, her husband Scott, played by Patrick Dempsey (Enchanted, Made of Honor), felt their marriage was suffering the strain of disconnection between them. Hilary did such a good job in the role; I had tears in my eyes. Though there has been similar movies done about individuals doing extraordinary things for others, I felt this wonderful film was especially well done. There is no greater gift than the gift of education.
3 stars — DVD
I believe I had this instructor for a teacher years ago. He was not a nice man and neither was the one in this movie. The teacher was Dr. P and he was played by Billy Bob Thornton (Mr. Woodcock, The Astronaut Farmer). One could trademark Billy Bob’s sarcastic meanness; he does it very well. The only thing though, it was nothing new for me; he has done this type of character before. The other lead actor was meter reader Roger, played by Jon Heder (Blades of Glory, Napoleon Dynamite). And here again, was a role similar to others Jon has done before. It just may be that Jon has a narrow range in his acting abilities, so he can only get cast for these type of characters. In this story Roger signed up for Dr. P’s confidence building course, hoping to gain assertiveness and get the girl of his dreams. I am afraid some of the actions taken in the course were far-fetched for me. With so few fun scenes, I started to get bored as the movie progressed. There was nothing horrendous in the movie, but there was not a lot of levity either. At the end of the day, just like I did not like that mean teacher back in school, I did not like this movie.
1 3/4 stars — DVD