VISITING A TOWN OUT OF STATE, I was walking down a cobblestone road while gazing into various shop windows. I was surprised by the number of shops devoted to witches. Granted most of them appeared to be geared towards tourists, with trinkets and baubles filling up their display windows. There was one store that was devoted to magic wands, nothing else. How were they making a living, I thought. I could not help wondering what the residents thought of all, what I considered to be, this gimmickry. What I really would have loved to have known was what the former residents from the late 1600s would have thought if they could have seen all the establishments, signs and statues devoted to witches and witchcraft. The reason being back in the late 1600s people were burned at the stake for being considered witches in this area. Talk about going from one extreme to the other. Maybe I am a bit nerdy to think of these things, but I have always been fascinated with the wide changes that occur in perceptions/reality. Whether it an inanimate object or human being, it does not matter to me. And honestly, I think many of you would be surprised to learn about some of them. NEAR WHERE I GREW UP AS A kid, there used to be a garbage dump. Pretty much it was a non-descript place with tall fences around it. The village leaders decided to create a hill from the trash. Now the place is a destination stop for anyone who wants to go sledding or tobogganing. Except for the older residents no one would have a clue that underneath the grassy turf the entire hill was made from garbage. I get the same kick out of discovering what some celebrities did for a living before they were discovered. For example, James Bond’s Pierce Brosnan was a professional fire eater at a circus. Christopher Lee the actor worked for the intelligence service. And Danny DeVito was a hairdresser for corpses. I am sure some people would think my career path has some extremes in it and maybe it does, but nothing that would match the few examples I listed here. Another aspect I enjoy about the wide differences found in life is when a movie uses an historical figure in the early stages of their life. For example, the writer Herman Melville was a harpooner on a whaling ship, then in his last decades he was a customs inspector. My curiosity in this subject of contrasts/differences led me to view this crime, horror mystery film. AFTER A CADET WAS FOUND DEAD, West Point Academy hired a detective to solve the mystery quickly in order to protect the image of the academy. Appearances were quite important. With Christian Bale (The Fighter, American Hustle) as Augustus Landor, Harry Melling (Harry Potter franchise, The Old Guard) as Cadet Edgar Allan Poe, Simon McBurney (The Last King of Scotland, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as Captain Hitchcock, Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner, Secrets & Lies) as Superintendent Thayer and Fred Hechinger (News of the World, The Woman in the Window) as Cadet Randolph Ballinger; this picture had a wonderful atmospheric look to it. With Christian and Harry blending perfectly with their characters, I was drawn into the story that was a slow burn. Everything was well placed and thought out; however, things took a turn that threw me for a loop. I did not care for how the story finished up. It seemed rushed and not as believable as the rest of the movie. Luckily, the cast kept me engaged through this rough spot; but I still found the ending odd. However, I still got a kick out of watching Edgar Allan Poe before he became famous. There were several scenes that had blood on display.
2 ½ stars
FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO WERE never in a relationship, where your significant other cheated on you, you are very fortunate. It is not a good feeling; in fact, for some it can feel like a death. I had three significant relationships where they cheated on me. Two out of the three at least told me to my face; the third one I found out about when I discovered a pair of slippers under the bed, that were not in my size. I confronted them with the slippers, and they finally fessed up to having a relationship with someone else for several months. There was a part of me that felt stupid, for not being able to see the signs. However, I truly did not see any signs; maybe because with me having two jobs and they being on call for nursing, it never occurred to me there would even be time to have an affair. The only thing I did wonder about was if the slippers were purposely left under the bed for me to find them. I mean c’mon, who would leave a pair of slippers if they were not able to stay at our place for a long time, let alone overnight? It did not really matter because even though I tried working through the emotions to save the relationship, my trust never come back the same way. WITH THE ONES WHO AT LEAST told me about their affairs, it was more of a cut and dry split. Yes, it hurt a great deal, but it was also my new reality. The one I had to discover bothered me more because I had to wonder how many of their friends knew about it and had to pretend everything was ok when they were around us. Can you imagine being all together at a party where most people knew my significant other was dating someone else? If it were me, I certainly would be uncomfortable. I would be one of those friends who would say they needed to tell their partner they are cheating on them. The whole scenario gives me an icky feeling, even as I am retelling a part of my history to you. I know those past events shaped me and caused me to have deeper trust issues. It took a long time to work through all of it and at least I did not have to do it in the public’s eye like the main character had to in this biographical drama based on true events. KNOWING THAT HER HUSBAND HAS BEEN cheating on her, did not prevent Princess Diana, played by Kristen Stewart (Charlie’s Angels, Personal Shopper), from attending her mother-in-law’s annual Christmas holiday at her Sandringham estate in Norfolk, England. Nothing could have been more awkward. With Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner, Harry Potter franchise) as Major Alistar Gregory, newcomer Jack Nielen as William, newcomer Freddie Spry as Harry and Jack Farthing (The Lost Daughter, Official Secrets) as Charles; this film was worth watching because of Kristen’s portrayal of Princess Diana. When I first heard she was cast, I thought it was an odd choice. However, seeing her use her body and acting skills to bring the image of Diana to mind was amazing. Obviously, who knows what exactly took place during that trip; but I have to say, some scenes in this picture came across as being weird while others were just uncomfortable to watch. I felt the script could have used a couple more revisions because after a while, I felt like I was viewing scenes that were all similar. On the plus side, I was fascinated with the pomp and traditions on display through the story; though I do not know if there is any truth in them, but still fun to watch. I do not feel this movie was made as a tribute to Diana, but it certainly would intrigue those who are curious.
I AVOID HER LIKE THE PLAGUE; that is how strong I feel about her. When I am at the grocery store and she is there, I will not go into her checkout line. Please understand I know she is doing her job; but I find it irritating that she must look at every single coupon I have cut out of the newspaper, match it to the corresponding product on my receipt before she will scan it. That is what the scanner is supposed to do; if I did not purchase the product the coupon would not work! You would think I am taking the money straight out of her pocket. One time I had words with her because I had a coupon for a free box of pasta that happened to be on a two for one sale, buy 1 box and you get a 2nd box free. So technically with my coupon I would be getting both boxes free, right? She told me I could not use my coupon because the item was on sale. I told her that did not make sense and to scan the coupon. Do you know I had to hold up the line of people behind me before she begrudgingly gave in and scanned the coupon, which the scanner took by the way. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY SOME people internalize their job position then laud it over other individuals. When I travel to other fitness centers I can immediately tell by the way the instructor walks into the room whether they think they are “special” or not. Some instructors I have met have this attitude that I find to be narcissistic; they want everyone to look at them as if they are the oracle for everything that has to do with fitness. Taking a class from a person like this is no fun for me. It is interesting because I wonder if that instructor is so wrapped up into their job label that they cannot have fun even outside the classroom. There was a summer job I had years ago where the owner’s wife walked around the company as if she was royalty. She barely spoke to any of the employees. I mean really, so she was the wife of the president/owner; where was it written that she could not be civil and polite? When I come across people who act like this I cannot imagine them ever having a good time because they are so busy putting on their façade. The same thing was happening to the wife in this dramatic comedy. IT WAS BAD ENOUGH FINDING out her husband was cheating on her, but to leave the life she was accustomed to would turn out to be even harder for Lady Sandra Abbott, played by Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake, Harry Potter franchise). This film festival winner also starred Celia Imrie (Imagine Me & You, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel franchise) as Bif, Joanna Lumley (The Wolf of Wall Street, Absolutely Fabulous-TV) as Jackie, Timothy Spall (The Party, Mr. Turner) as Charlie and David Hayman (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Sid & Nancy) as Ted. I have to tell you the cast was over qualified in this romantic comedy. The script did okay trying not to make everything appear like a cliché, but I felt it needed more drama. This was sort of like a happy-go-lucky type of story; however, the actors were so polished it appeared as if the actors were not even acting. They were living the lives of their characters. With the style of directing and the way the script was written, this film wasn’t trying to be something it was not; it was simply being a light British comedic romance.
2 ½ stars
SITTING AT THE TABLE WITH no one to talk to was making me uncomfortable. There were at least a dozen people sitting around the long table, but I did not know any of them. I was supposed to meet a friend at this gathering but after I arrived at the restaurant they texted they were still stuck at work. Since I was already there I tried to make the best of it. The group met once a month at this particular restaurant but throughout the year they planned different cultural events; my friend and I thought it would be something worth checking out. After I was seated and introductions were made all around, it became apparent to me that everyone there knew each other. I was the odd man out. Some of the individuals sitting around asked me a couple of questions like where I was from and what did I do for a living, but afterwards their attention was drawn back to their friends or people they already knew. THOUGH THIS WAS NOT THE type of venue where I would bring something, I should have brought my old standby anyway. There is this little bakery I know that has been open more than 50 years. It is sort of like an old world type of place where they bake a variety of items. One in particular is my favorite and whenever I bring them to a gathering the folks there gather around and talk to me about the item. Light and airy, shaped into curved oblong commas, they have a sprinkling of sugar on top. I know a majority of people would bring a bottle of wine; I prefer bringing baked goods. It is difficult to attend a party where you hardly know any of the guests and I have found this item can break the ice with most people. Personally I quickly withdraw from a party when I see guests have gathered into their own little cliques. It reminds me of the divisions that were in place in high school. And since I am not a drinker, when guests at a party start acting silly from too much alcohol I wrap things up and say my goodbyes. Nothing worse than being at a party with an out of control guest; so I better warn you the guests at the party in this dramatic comedy are one intense group. ON THE NIGHT JANET, PLAYED by Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Four Weddings and a Funeral) throws a dinner party her husband Bill, played by Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner, Secrets & Lies), waits until the guests arrived before making an announcement. This film festival winning movie also starred Patricia Clarkson (The Station Agent, The Green Mile) as April, Emily Mortimer (Match Point, Lars and the Real Girl) as Jinny and Cherry Jones (The Perfect Storm, The Village) as Martha. Hands down Patricia was the star of this film, though the rest of the cast was excellent; she stood out for me. I am sure part of it was due to the acidic script. The direction was fine but as the story unfolded I never quite felt engaged with any of the characters. At one point it just seemed like a lot of chaos was taking place; I found myself wanting to tune out. It was too bad, because I enjoyed the picture being filmed in black and white along with some of the wicked lines in the script. By the time the movie was over I was glad I was not invited to this party.
IT ALL STARTED WITH SEA GLASS. Seeing children bent over picking at the ground like hungry chickens, they were searching the beach for bits of glass that had been polished for years by the ocean. I sat on a park bench above shifting my gaze from them to the calming water slipping quietly up onto the shore. As I listened to the kids periodically shouting out they found a piece of sea glass, I wondered where the glass originated. Could it have been a broken bottle, plate or piece of ceramic that was on a boat that had sunk a century ago, who knows? I wondered what the circumstances might have been; maybe the glass had traveled halfway around the world, tumbling over and over in the currents, until it landed right here up on our shore. Each and every piece of sea glass the children collected had all been part of something else from a different time. The thought fascinated me as I imagined a variety of scenarios based on a historical past. Maybe there was a bottle with a note in it that a child from a war torn country threw into the ocean, hoping someone would find it and come save them. AS I WAS THINKING OF the past I remembered my recent trip to the history museum. Seeing artifacts that were centuries old such as mummies and dinosaur bones created pictures in my mind of what life must have been like for these animals and individuals. Honestly I cannot stand camping so how could I have possibly survived back then? With that being said I do wish there was a way I could look into the past and see for example what circumstances led up to the first person who discovered fire. Another thing, I would like to know what caused someone to make a wheel; was it a boulder rolling down a hill or maybe someone tripped and began falling head over heels that made them think about the possibilities of having a round object as a tool. I could go on and on coming up with different scenarios and circumstances. Through my schooling it was always taught to us to look back on history as a guide to where we are now. Now we just enter something into an internet search engine and read about it; I prefer hearing someone’s story about a time gone past. Granted it would only go up to several decades past, but lucky for us this animated adventure comedy delved far back in time to show us what was really going on. THREATENED HAVING THEIR LAND taken over Dug, voiced by Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, The Danish Girl) agrees to a wager. The wager was based on a game that was called soccer. With Tom Hiddleston (Thor franchise, I Saw the Light) as Lord Nooth, Maisie Williams (Mary Shelley, Game of Thrones-TV) as Goona and Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner, Secrets & Lies) as Chief Bobnar; the movie studio that created this film is known for their claymation technique. I love the look of their films and the quirky humor they put into their scripts. Compared to their previous films I have to tell you this one was not one of my favorites. The story was odd with having a soccer game taking place during prehistoric times. As for the script there were some jokes and puns that were not as clever as I have seen them do in the past. Where I could not stop watching their fun previous pictures, this one bored me a little. If I think about it maybe prehistoric men and women did not have the luxury to be funny.
2 ¼ stars
ALL the furniture was pushed into the center of the room. A large old tarp with splotches of color looking like fireworks was covering all of the pieces. A white haired man dressed in white overalls was carefully outlining the walls with fresh paint. Using a paintbrush that he told me was made of natural bristles, he started at the top of the wall making his way across by sidestepping down a plank of wood he had stuck between two ladders. Once the top of the walls were all done he slowly filled the sides all around so each wall looked like it was a blank picture frame. I would watch him pour cans of paint into a big bucket, stirring it like it was a thick porridge. Once he was satisfied he would start at one side of the room and begin to paint in the walls. He had a steady rhythm as his arm would rise and fall, leaving a trail of fresh paint from his brush or roller. The thing that amazed me the most about him was his overalls; I do not recall every seeing any drops of paint on them. He told me he had been painting houses ever since he got out of high school. Though he may have been in his early 60s, which meant he had been doing this for decades, he still felt the same pride for every paint job. TIMES have changed as far as I can tell. Over at a friend’s house recently, they showed me the poor job their painter did on their front door. The new color did not always reach the boundaries of the door or it would go beyond. It was ghastly looking and he was quite upset. I have had my share of poor service either from repair people in my home or out at a store. Recently in the news I assume most of you have seen the videos of poor customer service with some airlines. It almost looks like a war situation doesn’t it? One has to wonder if some employees are afraid to let people know what they do for a living when they are not at work. It is something the main character in this dramatic crime story experienced on a daily basis. FOLLOWING in the footsteps of his uncle and father Albert Pierrepoint, played by Timothy Spall (Harry Potter franchise, Secrets & Lies), wanted to surpass their records and be the best in the country. He just did not want anyone to know. Based on true events, this film festival winning biography also starred Juliet Stevenson (Bend it Like Beckham, Mona Lisa Smile) as Anne Fletcher, Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes franchise, V for Vendetta) as James ‘Tish’ Corbitt and James Corden (Begin Again, Into the Woods) as Kirky. With Timothy’s outstanding performance I was quickly tied up into the story. It really provided the viewer with things to think about regarding one’s profession, beliefs and feelings. I have to say the topic was something I had not given much thought to and ironically it has been in the news recently. No matter what is your belief system regarding the industry Albert dwells in, I think there is much to gain by watching this DVD. My guess is no one would have thought customer service would be a part of this story.
3 ¼ stars — DVD
SITTING comfortably behind the steering wheel, cruising down the road, the celebrity driver was expounding on the finer things about the automobile. It almost looked like this was their main means of transportation. Now I do not care if a celebrity wants to earn income by doing a commercial; everyone deserves to make a living. Will this person persuade me to buy that type of car when I am in the market for a new vehicle? The answer is absolutely not. In fact that goes for any celebrity endorsement. Though I am a big fan of movies and such, I am well aware of the financial inequity between celebrities and let us say teachers. Not that there is anything wrong with making as much money as you can; however, I have a hard time with anyone who uses their position of wealth as a bully pulpit to tell everyone else what they should do. I have experienced this in my own circle of friends and family, where those who were financially well off starting acting like they knew everything and the rest of us were not as smart. That type of behavior is offensive to me. THE area where I can support celebrities is when they use their wealth and status to help a cause they believe in. I know about one celebrity who works with an organization to bring clean water to third world countries. I remember when parts of Louisiana were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. There were celebrities down there helping and rebuilding houses; they had the means and connections to bypass the red tape to get things done. With some celebrities their support of a cause may be due to personal reasons; they could be experiencing it in their own family, for example a celebrity with an autistic child. Whether you feel the same way or not, I admire someone who overcomes challenges in their life to then become a social activist against those very same tribulations. What I saw in this film festival winning movie, which was based on a true story, both stunned and amazed me. THIRTEEN year old Waris, played by newcomer Soraya Omar-Scego, had to leave her village in Somalia. What was done to her there would have a strong impact on her life when she made it to London. Before I talk about this biographical drama I want to say I have very little knowledge about the customs that were performed in this movie. They may be based on religious beliefs or native; I do not know and I do not want to offend anyone who believes in them. Starring Liya Kebede (The Best Offer, Lord of War) as older Waris Dirie, Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine, Happy-Go –Lucky) as Marilyn and Timothy Spall (Denial, Mr. Turner) as Terry Donaldson; the actual story had to be more powerful than what the script provided here. The back and forth between the young and older Waris dampened the intensity for me. I had a hard time watching some scenes because I could not believe what was being done. The acting was fine; I have always enjoyed Sally’s performances and Liya was perfect in this role. Honestly I still cannot get over that this custom takes place in the world. This DVD provided me with a whole new respect for those who overcome difficulties in their life and decide they want to do something about it.
2 ¾ stars — DVD
I remember a time when facts were important and meant something. In my chemistry class when we would conduct an experiment, each of the students had to create a particular reaction then have a fellow student repeat the same steps to see if they get the same results. My experiment was to create a blue clear liquid in my test tube. Mixing chemicals in a precise order and amounts when the final chemical was added the liquid in my test tube turned a beautiful Caribbean blue color. Next my lab partner had to reproduce my steps to see if he would get the same results. It turned out he did not; the liquid in his test tube turned into a cloudy, swamp brown color with a nasty odor. So to substantiate my results a 3rd student was brought in to repeat my experiment. They were successful as they created the same blue colored liquid. Pouring over our notes we discovered my lab partner mistook one measurement which completely altered the chemical reaction to create the color blue. This is how we learned about facts and fact checking. From my school years I learned studies and facts would yield accurate results. It seems as if facts do not carry the same weight of importance as they once did. This is my own opinion but I feel if facts lose their importance then conversations, accusations, claims and other such things turn into one big game of that kid’s game, “Telephone.” It is a game where one person whispers a statement into the ear of the person sitting next to them; who in turn, whispers the statement to the next and so on and so on, until the last person sitting in the circle repeats what they were told to the very first person who issued the statement. More than likely the statement was altered as it got passed from one person to the next. I learned from this dramatic film based on a true story that there were people back then who also did not believe in facts. HISTORIAN Deborah Lipstadt, played by Rachel Weisz (The Light Between Oceans, The Lobster), had to fly to London to prove in court that the Holocaust did indeed happen after she was sued for libel. In London’s judicial system the burden of proof is placed on the accused. This biographical film had outstanding acting provided not only by Rachel but also Tom Wilkinson (Snowden, Belle) as Richard Rampton, Timothy Spall (Harry Potter franchise, Enchanted) as David Irving and Andrew Scott (Spectre, Saving Private Ryan) as Anthony Julius. Based on Deborah’s book, History on Trial: My Day in Court, I found this film to be a taut courtroom drama. It was due to this cast that my interest stayed with the story because there were several scenes that lagged compared to others. I believe this was due to the script for the most part, though the directing had a hand in causing this slowness. Ultimately this did not weigh me down because I was very much into the story which interestingly one could draw parallels between it and the environment we currently live in.
Each and every person has the capabilities to display both beautiful and ugly traits that are buried inside. I believe the environment one grows up with can influence the way these traits come out. It seems to me as we age the percentages between them varies more. I find it so perplexing when the newscasts televise a segment on someone who was convicted of a crime and they make a point of reciting the perpetrator’s good qualities. For example, the individual was a good father though he was convicted of a hate crime. It is such a wide contrast to me; I have a hard time making sense of it. Some of you may remember that my family and I will not watch certain actors’ films because of certain things they believe or have done in their personal lives. The idea that these artists may be good actors on screen but nasty people in real life does not compute in my brain. Look throughout history and you can easily find historical individuals who made a significant contribution to society but they had ugliness inside of them. SUCH a character but he did extraordinary things with a paintbrush. This film festival winning biographical drama was about the life of 18th century English painter J.M.W. Turner, played by Timothy Spall (Harry Potter franchise, Ginger & Rosa). From a visual aspect this film was at times lush and bright as it was soft and dark. I really got a sense of life during that time. It was interesting to me because I have seen other movies that depicted the same time period, yet this one was more convincing. Though I did not quite understand the character he played early into the picture, Timothy’s acting on a whole slowly grew on me; he had wonderful depth. The character Hannah Danby, played beautifully by Dorothy Atkinson (All of Nothing, Topsy-Turvy) was a fascinating study. In her silence she still was a powerful force on the big screen. Written and directed by Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky, Secret & Lies), this historical film may not be an easy watch for many viewers. I found it very slow in parts, besides very long with a running time of 2 hours and 30 minutes. At times there was very little action in the scenes; however, when I thought more about it afterwards it made a bit more sense to me. I chalked it up to the time period and place, finding it more artful then entertaining. One aspect I appreciated was the fact I actually saw a few of his paintings in museums but had no knowledge of him at the time. I would be curious for those who see this film, what percentages of beautiful and ugly did you think Mr. Turner showed us?
2 3/4 stars
I do not need to know how the beautiful baked dessert placed before me was made. All that matters to me is that it tastes as good as it looks with its dark chocolate syrup dripping down the sides of the spongy chocolate chip cake. The same can be said about the art exhibit I attended, where the artist created these incredible colorful sculptures out of blown glass. It was beyond me how he could take such a delicate medium and produce these exquisite pieces that were placed among the foliage of the local conservatory. Most of the time I prefer not knowing how something was created because I feel it takes away from the visceral experience. It would be similar to having prior knowledge of all the tricks and magical sequences a haunted house amusement park attraction has before you go through it. What fun would that be? This biographical comedic drama is a good example of me not being familiar with the subject, yet I still found this movie to be a highly entertaining experience. I had no idea what was English football. As I viewed this film I wondered if this sport was what here in the United States we call soccer. Michael Sheen (MIdnight in Paris, Twilight franchise) played abrasive, arrogant coach Brian Clough. The story was about the challenges that faced him when he took over the coaching duties from his bitter rival Don Revie, played by Colm Meaney (Law Abiding Citizen, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine-TV), who had taken the Leeds United football team and made them one of the most successful in the league. With Tom Hooper’s (Les Miserables, The King’s Speech) direction, I thought he did a fantastic job in keeping the story steady, letting the actors shine. I have been impressed with Michael Sheen’s body of work so far; this picture only continued it. Adding their specialness to the rest of the cast were Timothy Spall (Ginger & Rosa, Enchanted) as Peter Taylor and Jim Broadbent (Cloud Atlas, The Iron Lady) as Chairman Sam Longson. My only complaint about the film was the use of flashbacks; I had to remind myself of the time frame periodically. To tell you the truth the story was more about egos and personalities than about actual football games. For someone who had no knowledge about this sport, I still had a good time watching this DVD. An added bonus was researching the events of this film afterwards and learning more about the history of the sport. So not only was this an entertaining film, it taught me something new.
3 stars — DVD