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.
Go ahead call me paranoid, I have been called worse; but I try to do as little as possible any personal business on the internet. When I am forced to purchase an item online and the site asks me if I want to save my charge card information I always decline the offer. I am sure I mentioned this before but I do not have an ATM card; I have heard so many horror stories about people having their identity stolen that I do not need to have that easy of an access to my bank. This week the news reported a major hacking of a popular web site; what was it, up to 50 million people may have had their information stolen? I do not want to tempt fate but I have had 3 incidents where my credit card information was stolen. One of those times it was the restaurant waitress serving us who took down my credit card info and tried to make a purchase with it. Fortunately the issuing banks caught each of the incidents immediately and closed my account. On one of this site’s social media outlets I have been reading about a follower who had their personal information stolen and now the thief has been reaching out to all of the victim’s contacts for money. The impersonator wrote their banking information was hacked so the bank froze the account, asking the contacts if they could float some money until everything gets resolved. Can you believe this?!?! So feel free to call me old fashioned or behind the times; I would rather have peace of mind instead of fighting to get my stolen identity back. This dramatic action biography did nothing to calm me down. DISCOVERING where the government was searching for information Edward Snowden, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Walk, Don Jon), decided he could no longer be part of the process. Based on the book “The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man,” this movie was co-written and directed by Oliver Stone (Natural Born Killers, Any Given Sunday). Joseph did a fantastic job of acting in this role, but he was not alone. There was Shailene Woodley (The Fault in our Stars, Divergent franchise) as Lindsay Mills, Zachary Quinto (Star Trek franchise, Margin Call) as Glen Greenwald, Melissa Leo (Prisoners, The Fighter) as Laura Poitras and Tom Wilkinson (Belle, Michael Clayton) as Ewen MacAskill. There were times during this picture where I thought the story was powerful and tense. As I alluded to earlier, I was stunned seeing some of the surveillance techniques that were depicted in several scenes. Though the acting was wonderful, I felt the script was scattered in parts. There were scenes of Edward in the military, scenes with Lindsay and current scenes that made the flow of the story a bit jagged. I felt the story itself was substantial; it was the main drive in grabbing my attention. Without getting into the politics of Edward’s actions; based on the story that was presented here, I left the theater feeling like I was entertained. Yet I was more scared than when I first arrived to see this film.
2 ¾ stars
I do not think the layout of a store is necessarily an engineering feat, more like a psychological one in my opinion. Think about the ease consumers have these days; no matter where one may be, they can walk into the same brand of store and immediately know which aisles they need to stop in. Sure some stores may have slight differences in decorations or signage, but I am sure there is a reason why the stores are laid out in a particular way. I assume you have heard the term “mindless eating?” It is when one is not giving any thought to what they are putting in their mouth; an example would be those huge buckets of popcorn one sits with in the movie theater. Being so engrossed into the film hopefully, one doesn’t pay attention to the amount of popcorn they have eaten. Well the same thing can be said for “mindless shopping.” The way the store gets laid out, the end of the aisles known as “end caps” has either visual significance or price leaders to entice shoppers to stop and pickup the product. Now throughout the store the owners place sale items like small oases to get the consumer to travel from one side of the building to the other. When I go to the grocery store I do not have to think about what I want; I always go with a shopping list and because I am so familiar with the layout, I can quickly make my way through without much thought. It really is a simple process that does not need much effort on my part. I can say it was the same way watching this latest Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, A Walk to Remember) movie. TRAVIS, played by Benjamin Walker (In the Heart of the Sea, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), tried all of his pickup lines on the new neighbor Gabby, played by Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies, I am Number Four), but she was having none of it. As far as she was concerned he was a jerk. I really do not think I have to say anything else because those of you who are at all familiar with a Nicholas Sparks movie will already know the outcome. This dramatic romance followed the same formula as his previous films. In fact, I felt this one was one of the worst. The story followed the same, shall we say, outline to each of his films: the main characters either dislike each other or have issues; there is a hospital scene or tragic event, understanding parents and a tearjerker scene. Regarding this film I felt there was no chemistry between Benjamin and Teresa. The only acting worth mentioning was by Tom Wilkinson (Belle, Michael Clayton) as Shep. If you have never read or seen a Nicholas Sparks story or want a good cry then you may be interested in this movie. The rest of you would be better off skipping this film and go do some mindless shopping.
1 2/3 stars
From my various job experiences I have witnessed some pretty cutthroat dealings. Unless the company you work for has a unique, one of a kind type of product; there will always be someone else who will try to outdo your company. The majority of salespeople I have encountered really are the company’s foot soldiers. One can also say they are the circus performers who do acrobatic twists and turns in order to please their customers as they try to “seal the deal.” I know I could never do sales because I do not have the temperament for it. From all my business dealings I could work with any customer until I discovered they were dishonest. Once that happens I lose all respect for them. There are certain products or stores I will not go near because of the way I was treated either as a customer or vendor. Even if a company’s salesperson meets with me and during our conversation speaks negatively about their competitor, it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. Some people say just by definition the word job has no place for fun; I disagree with that type of thinking. Sure it can be hard work, but I feel there needs to be something fun about the workday to keep people motivated. On the other hand I have seen where some individuals have had way too much fun. DESPERATE to land a big business deal and save his fledgling company Dan Trunkman, played by Vince Vaughn (Couples Retreat, Delivery Man), flew to Europe with his employees Mike Pancake and Timothy McWinters, played by Dave Franco (Warm Bodies, 21 Jump Street) and Tom Wilkinson (Selma, The Lone Ranger). With stiff competition going against them the three workers were willing to do anything to win the business. Let me say right at the beginning; consider the movie trailer for this comedy to be its highlights reel. I understood what the story was trying to do, but I thought it lacked imagination and originality. There were several times where I was simply bored. One of the main issues for me had to do with Vince’s performance. It was no different from the past several roles he has performed; they were all the same and it drove me crazy. He really could use a fresh team around him that pushes him to stretch his acting ability. I will keep my fingers crossed for him since he will be starring in next season’s drama series, True Detective. Tom Wilkinson was his usual good self and I believe this was the first time I really thought Dave took ownership of his role. As a movie reviewer I am forced to see many “bad” films; I could have used combat pay for my time with this one.
1 3/4 stars
I may have seen a few sides to the face of hate, but I am well aware there are many more to it. The word hate, depending on how it is used, can be such an evil term. Sure I use the word when I am stating my feelings about a certain food or about the cold weather conditions; however, it would take on a whole different level of meaning if I were to direct the word towards a fellow human being. While participating in a peaceful march I saw how ugly hate could be from the small group of protesters yelling at us. Hate was the fuel that motivated the high school students who tried to lock me in a locker. While walking down the street a couple of guys used their hate to shove me into a store’s plate glass window. I have always said no one is born with hate; it is something that has to be taught to them. Ugly and insidious, hate thrives on conflict as it continually attempts to plant roots into communities, towns, cities, nations; anywhere on the planet to build dividers within mankind. THIS biographical film festival winner’s story depicted the events that lead to a historical moment in time; a peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama that led to the securing of equal voting rights for all citizens of the United States. David Oyelowo (Interstellar, Red Tails) had the task of portraying Dr. Martin Luther King in this drama and he did a masterful job of acting. Carmen Ejogo (Pride and Glory, The Purge: Anarchy) played his wife Coretta Scott King. Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) was an interesting choice to play President Lyndon B. Johnson. Honestly it took me a moment to figure out which president he was playing because he did not have the looks or mannerisms I expected. This movie was beautifully filmed; I thought the use of darkness with its small palette of colors added strength to the emotions of the scenes. I thought the directing was well done, even though there were a couple of brief parts that seemed out of place to me. As a movie watching experience this picture was powerful; however, there were several scenes filled with ugliness that were hard to watch. Even if you are fortunate enough that you have never been a victim of discrimination or hatred, I cannot imagine anyone not being moved by this well done film. It has been said that history is a tool that teaches the younger generation. With that being the case, I feel it would be beneficial to see this movie and remember what hatred has and still does to us.
3 1/2 stars
Desperation widens the mind’s pool of irrational thoughts. This will send waves to slip up onto logic’s shores. Boy is this true when money is needed to survive. When I was between jobs a long time ago, I was willing to do anything to earn a paycheck to pay my mounting bills. Besides my regular classes I was the go-to sub for other instructors because I had the freest time on my hands. To supplement my income I was always taking small odd jobs like proofreading or delivery service. I remember this one job where I was asked to conduct a yoga demonstration at a grand opening of a hospital’s professional building. The money was good and much needed so I agreed to the event, even though I had some reservations. When I arrived on the opening date I was led to the so-called staging area. They wanted me to stand and perform on a folding table draped in a white tablecloth. As soon as I placed my hand on the table it wobbled from side to side. In addition I was told there was going to be children coming right after their snack time. Without going into the horrific details let me just say I was standing on top of the table in tree pose with kids playing hide-and-go seek under the tablecloth. I thought the money I was earning would have to go for medical bills because I was going to be knocked off my “stage.” OVER their heads in debt with very little income at present; married couple Anna and Tom Wright, played by Kate Hudson (Bride Wars, The Reluctant Fundamentalist) and James Franco (This is the End, Spider-Man franchise), stared at the bag of money they found in their recently deceased tenant’s apartment. They did not know the money had been stolen. This crime action thriller had a good idea that was executed in a completely bad way. Along with James and Kate in the cast there was Tom Wilkinson (Belle, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) as John Halden and Sam Spruell (Defiance, Snow White and the Huntsman) as Jack Witkowski; one would think there would have been a chance of seeing a decent film come out of them. Sorry, this was not the case because the script was atrocious and ridiculous. I only thought Sam’s acting and character was worth my time. Some of the scenes were so far-fetched that I had to laugh; what was everyone thinking they were trying to produce with this movie? In my opinion this was the film the movie studio should have pulled from release.
1 1/2 stars
Searching through several sources I did not find where the word “different” was defined as being a bad thing. Some of the items I read said different was not being identical or alike in character or quality, to be separate or distinct; I did not find anything that conveyed a negative connotation. What I found troubling was when being different evoked hatred. Unaware of what started this phenomenon or even when it began; I just found it to be vulgar and ignorant. One of the scary aspects of this different/hatred connection is when an individual is filled with hatred. I hate sauerkraut but that hatred does not fill my veins up, fueling me to go off on someone who likes that shredded jellyfish looking stuff. It is disturbing to witness someone treating a person with disrespect simply because they are different. In my previous review I talked about being a disposable society; I was referring to manufactured products. What struck me in this movie, based on a true story, was how people could be considered disposable. The script for this film festival winner began when the writer saw a painting she found odd. Her exploration into the creation of that artwork spurred her to develop this amazing story. Matthew Goode (Stoker, Watchmen) as Captain Sir John Lindsay was the father of an illegitimate, mixed race daughter named Dido Belle Lindsay, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Larry Crowne, Odd Thomas). Soon to command a ship in the royal navy, Sir John Lindsay had to leave his daughter with his aunt and uncle, Lady and Lord Mansfield, played by Emily Watson (The Book Thief, War Horse) and Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton, The Lone Ranger). The presence of Belle would be a concern for Lord Mansfield who happened to be the chief justice for the British courts. Why this beautifully told drama was special was due to the story being set in England during the 1700s. Slaves were a commodity that could be bought, traded or discarded. The richly detailed scenes and the way the story unfolded swept me in, filling me with emotions. I believed in the characters due to the strong acting from the cast, which also included Miranda Richardson (Empire of the Sun, The Crying Game) as Lady Ashford and Sam Reid (The Railway Man, Anonymous) as John Davinier. With strong elements I found it surprising how the story was still able to convey a certain delicateness. Still fresh in my mind after the movie ended, my thoughts lingered on how we have advanced as a society. However, I am very much aware there is still a deep hatred prevalent towards those who are different.
3 1/3 stars
The first musical notes may not be recognized by younger people, but almost everyone else will know the William Tell Overture. As soon as I hear the music I can recall the excitement I had seeing a majestic white horse standing on its hind legs, the rider dressed in white except for his black mask as he exclaimed, “Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!” Danger, thrills, disguises and chases are things I associate with the Lone Ranger. He was a strong character who fought for justice, alongside his Native American companion Tonto. In this action film you at least get the white horse. For nearly 2 1/2 hours you get a boring, ridiculous mess of a movie. Johnny Depp (Dark Shadows, The Rum Diary) played an ancient Tonto telling in flashbacks his story of witnessing the transformation of John Reid into the Lone Ranger, played by Armie Hammer (Mirror Mirror, J. Edgar). I am tired of movie studios slapping bizarre makeup and costumes on Johnny, thinking that is all that is needed to make a memorable character. Sure, I remember the outfit but I also remember Johnny hardly did any acting worth noting. Partners need chemistry to convince the audience that they have a solid bond and are there for each other. I did not feel any such thing between Armie and Johnny. Having the older Tonto tell the story was utterly useless; it did nothing to enhance the story except the duration of the movie’s running time. The explosions were well done and a couple of chase scenes had some thought put into them, but it was like watching fireworks. The story was so disconnected I felt I was just watching one fight after another. The only decent acting came from Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton, The Debt) as businessman Cole and William Fichtner (Contact, Black Hawk Down) as outlaw Butch Cavendish. The best way to watch this film would be going out for a meal at the start of the movie then arrive back for the last 1/2 hour of the film. At least you will get to hear the William Tell Overture. Better yet, download the music and look for an old episode of the television show to watch. There were a couple of scenes with blood and one particularly disturbing scene.
1 2/3 stars
Being met by a plethora of colors and a sea of people, a group of British retirees had landed in Jaipur, India to begin the next chapter of their lives at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Well, the brochure they received stated it was the “Best.” However, the hotel looked like it was way past its bloom. As for me, the movie felt like it was cut off before fully blossoming, with characters not fully developed, to make for a better story. There were some parts of the film that were quite enjoyable. These usually involved stellar acting from Judi Dench (J. Edgar, Ladies in Lavender) as the widowed Evelyn Greenslade, Bill Nighy (Wrath of the Titans, Pirate Radio) as retired civil servant Douglas Ainslie, Maggie Smith (Harry Potter franchise, Ladies in Lavender) as the wheelchair bound Muriel Donnelly and Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton, The Debt) as former judge Graham Dashwood. These four characters were more believable to me as we saw their characters grow throughout the movie. I have always been fascinated seeing other cultures and appreciated the way the director used the city and its citizens to propel the story forward. However, there were other parts of the movie I found slow and not totally believable. I have to say, it was a pleasure sitting in the company of all adult viewers–no one was texting or talking on their cell phones during the movie.
2 2/3 stars