HE HAD BEEN PLACED IN REMEDIAL classes through most of his education years. Both teachers and students assumed he was “slow,” though many of the students used a derogatory description to describe him. His grades were poor and yet, he was never given extra help by his teachers or counselors. It did not matter to me because he was my friend. Our initial connection was our mutual love of music. Both of us constantly kept up with current music and took turns buying new songs and albums to share with each other. As for him lacking “book smarts,” he made up for it in practical knowledge. To say he was handy would be an understatement; if something was not working, such as an electronic device or piece of equipment, he usually could figure out and solve the problem. I was envious of his abilities. Besides music his other love was building things. Whether he was helping his family rehab a kitchen or bedroom; for his age, his handiness skills were impressive. Now, if you were to have a conversation with him you would realize there was a communication issue going on with him. He knew what words he wanted to use but could not pronounce them properly. Sometimes he would substitute a wrong word into his conversation because it sounded like the word he was trying to say. Thinking of him now, I must wonder if he might have been dyslexic. DUE TO THAT FRIENDSHIP I REALIZED how many people are quick to judge someone just based of their looks and/or actions. Whenever we went to a restaurant or store, the employees would always look to me to handle the bill or to have a conversation. He would ask a question and the employee would answer it while looking at me as if he was a child or simply did not exist. He was not the only friend I had that people were quick to judge. I had a friend who was over 6 feet tall and had a strong presence about himself. Upon meeting him, people tended to be intimidated his looks; he looked like a “tough guy” with his leather jacket and army boots. What people never took the time with was to get to know him; they would interact with him only for the briefest of moments. He was a super sweet guy who was kind and thoughtful. We would spend hours deep in metaphysical conversations. I realize due to the friendships I have, whenever I get together and go out with friends, I usually look at the people around us to see what kind of reaction they are having to us. Some of these reactions are like the ones I saw in this biographical, dramatic thriller. MOVING TO AMERICA FROM FRANCE TO further her acting career, young actress Jean Seberg, played by Kristen Stewart (Underwater, Personal Shopper), assumed she would expand her fan base. She did not expect that would also include the FBI. With Yvan Attal (Munich, Rush Hour 3) as Romain Gary, Jack O’Connell (Unbroken, Tulip Fever) as Jack Solomon, newcomer Gabriel Sky as Diego Gary and Margaret Qualley (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, The Leftovers-TV) as Linette Solomon; this picture’s story was inspired by true events. I was not familiar with Jean and her career, so I do not know how much I saw in this movie rang true. I guess it did not matter because I thought the script was basic and static. Kristen was good in the role; but I really could not tell you much about her character or for that fact, anyone else’s. Based on the issues that were going on here in the late 1960s, I felt the writers had a wealth of opportunities to create a powerful, dramatic piece. Sadly, like the actress’ career, this story went nowhere.
1 ¾ stars
THERE WAS A BOY IN MY class who liked to slip thumbtacks onto students’ chairs. I was one of the fortunate ones who avoided sitting on one because I noticed it when I went to sit down in my seat after recess. Though I did not know who was doing it, the teacher quizzed several of the boys in class; I was one of them. I was upset that I had been picked. The teacher questioned me because a few of the students’ seats around my desk had thumbtacks on them; it looked like I was the culprit. I do not know if it was the look of horror on my face or the tears welling up in my eyes, but the teacher finished her questioning by asking me to keep my eyes open and let her know if I see something suspicious looking going on. Soon after the boys were questioned (though now looking back, I wonder why that teacher only questioned the boys since both boys and girls were getting thumbtacks on their seats) the prankster ceased placing thumbtacks on students’ seats. I never found out which student was doing it in my class; I was just grateful the teacher didn’t suspect me. BEING SUCH A YOUNG AGE BACK then, it was important to me to have people in authority believe in me. If I am recalling correctly, in an earlier review I told you about the teacher who tried discouraging me from going into writing. In front of the entire class she said I would amount to nothing if I studied to become a writer. Her words not only hurt me deeply; but because she was a “teacher,” I believed her and decided to switch my goals so I could devote my studies to science. It was not until I was halfway through my college studies before I realized I did not have a strong enough calling for the sciences; so, I switched my major and school to start over in the creative arts. That entire ordeal taught me a valuable lesson about accepting and believing in myself. The timing could not have come soon enough because that new thinking was soon tested when I started delving into the fitness world. Having come from a background where I had flunked PE twice in high school, avoided exercising and sports and was overweight; very few people believed I could become a fitness instructor. Despite the naysayers, I worked on achieving that goal by losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle. That determination is what I most identified with in this dramatic movie about the 1996 Olympics. DOING EVERYTHING BY THE BOOK TO become an officer of the law was not enough for people to believe Richard Jewell, played by Paul Walter Hauser (Late Night; I, Tonya) did not have an ulterior motive when he discovered a suspicious package in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Olympics. Was it because he did not look like a person of authority? With Sam Rockwell (Jojo Rabbit, Vice) as Watson Bryant, Olivia Wilde (Lift Itself, The Words) as Kathy Scruggs, Jon Hamm (Baby Driver, Million Dollar Arm) as Tom Shaw and Kathy Bates (Personal Effects, Misery) as Bobi Jewell; I thought the acting was wonderful in this movie. The story started out slow for me; but as it unfolded and more characters came in, I found myself fascinated by the events taking place. From an entertainment standpoint I enjoyed watching this film; however, with doing a little research I do not know how much of what I watched was based on truth. There were times I felt the director was pushing his own agenda about victims and the media. Maybe because in my own life there were people who did not believe in me, I felt a stronger connection to the story in this picture. But even if you do not have that connection, this movie was interesting and enjoyable.
MAYBE HE THOUGHT HE WAS ENTITLED to his extra benefits, but no one else thought so. He was the head of one of the company’s divisions. When I was first introduced to him, I found him to be a friendly, easy going type fellow. With the position I had at the company, I had to communicate with him from time to time. He was helpful to a point. The reason I say “to a point” is because I soon discovered the information he gave me was not always accurate. Or let me say the information he was giving me was his version of it. When I would follow up with the customer, their version of events did not match. I would find myself in an awkward position of having to go back and forth between the customer and the head of the division; it would drive me crazy. As time passed it became harder to get a hold of this employee. I did not know if he was out of the office on a business call or if he was ill; he never turned on the out of office feature on his email or update his voice message to alert people he was away. It was frustrating for me because I could not complete my work until I got more information out of him. HIS ABSENCES WERE GETTING NOTICED BY more employees. The work he was supposed to do, he started delegating out to his staff to handle. I only found this out after he left the company, but he was turning in receipts for reimbursement that were purchases for his private use, not for the company. It was obvious to me he was taking advantage of the company. In a five-day work week, he would be in the office only 3 days. He always had an excuse that he was visiting a customer or not feeling well; but to keep this up on a weekly basis took some nerve, I have to say. It wasn’t like employees were given an unlimited amount of sick days; everyone in the company was respectful not to abuse this benefit except evidently him. Based on the things I was seeing and hearing, I felt he was taking advantage of the company. I did not know what his reasons were for acting like that, but I became uncomfortable around him. Whatever he thought about the company, the fact remained they were providing him with a good salary and if his actions could cause harm to the company, then that could have an affect on my salary. It is uncomfortable for me to see anyone or anything being taken advantage of which will explain my discomfort while watching this comedic, dramatic crime story. WHEN THE CLIENTELE OF A STRIP CLUB stopped coming after the market crash, a group of the club’s exotic dancers agreed to form a partnership that would drum up business for themselves. Inspired by true events, this film starred Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians, Sound of My Voice) as Destiny, Jennifer Lopez (Second Act, Maid in Manhattan) as Ramona, Julia Stiles (Save the Last Dance, Silver Linings Playbook) as Elizabeth, Keke Palmer (Joyful Noise, Brotherly Love) as Mercedes and Lili Reinhart (The Kings of Summer, Miss Stevens) as Annabelle. The reason to watch this film would be to see the performances by Jennifer and Constance; they really went deep into their characters. I understand Jennifer did some of the actual dancing, but I thought the film editing of her movements was razor sharp. This story was a familiar one; however, there were a few surprises in the script to make it more unique. The female empowerment aspect was obvious, but that did not stop my feelings of uncomfortableness at a few of the scenes. And as a bonus the soundtrack was fun.
2 ½ stars
THE ONLY WAY I COULD TELL the twins apart was one of them was heavyset. They wore their hair the same way and personally, I think they dressed the same at times just to throw their teachers off. The heavier twin was not a nice (I wanted to use a slang word here) person; essentially, he was a bully. His twin brother was the opposite; he always had a smile on his face, and he was friendly to everyone. I had classes with both. It seemed like every other week the mean twin would cause a disruption in the classroom. To complete the picture for you, the nice twin had more friends than his brother. After a couple of years, the heavy twin started to lose weight. It took almost one year for him to get down to the same weight as his brother; now, it was nearly impossible to tell the two brothers apart—at least on the outside. I had wondered if his losing weight would have made the heavier twin a nicer person but that was not the case. He was still ugly on the inside. Not knowing what the motivation was for him to go on a diet, I did not know if he had any expectations about how different his life would be being skinnier. I so badly wanted to tell him a cosmetic change was not enough to really make a change in his life. WHERE THE HEAVIER TWIN ONLY CHANGED his appearance, there was another boy at school who changed on the inside. He and I had gone to the same elementary school. Periodically we would be on the same team in gym class; plus, I would see him after school in the neighborhood from time to time. He was not a troublemaker in class; but if some prank or disruption did take place in the classroom, he would be part of the group of kids who were laughing about it. Outside of that, there was nothing else noteworthy about him; he pretty much just blended in with his surroundings. When we graduated into high school, a big transformation took place within him. He started hanging out with a group of students who were on the fringe. At the time I did not know what the bond was between them. However, it first became clearer to me when he changed his style of dress. It was confirmed when I saw him participate in a fight with a group of minority students; he was a white supremist. I was stunned when I saw him and had to wonder if he always had those feelings inside of him. I had the same question when I started watching this dramatic, crime film based on true events. THOUGH HIS CHOSEN FAMILY RAISED AND NURTURED him to be a top leader of their white supremacist group, his love for a woman was making him question his actions. This film festival winning biography starred Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool) as Bryon Widner, Danielle Macdonald (Patti Cake$, Dumplin’) as Julie Price, Daniel Henshall (Ghost in the Shell, The Snowtown Murders) as Slayer, Bill Camp (12 Years a Slave, Love & Mercy) as Fred “Hammer” Krager and Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, Captive State) as Shareen. This film started out on a high level of disturbing intensity. It was almost to the point of me being uncomfortable as I felt I was sitting in the middle of the action. Jamie Bell was incredible in this role; the best I had ever seen him. My major complaint was the script; I never understood the character’s motivations, the how and why. Despite this flaw, I was kept engaged in the story by the top acting performances and the incredibleness of the story itself. I did have a question near the end of the film; can a leopard really change its spots?
IT IS SO INFURIATING TO ALWAYS be asked for advice that always gets dismissed. I just need to stop giving it when I am being asked, because it drives me crazy. A friend of mine will constantly ask me what I think or would do regarding an issue she is experiencing. Since she asked I am willing to help; not that I am some kind of oracle of truth who has the best advice. However, in those circumstances where I do have knowledge about the subject I will advise her. Time after time she will pick my brain to get as much information as possible before she goes and does the exact opposite of my suggestion. This is not bragging but a majority of the time my advice has been right on target. I know she hears me but from all those times she chose not to take my suggestions she wound up either losing money, wasting time or delaying her healing process. It really is maddening to see this stuff happen to her when it could have all been avoided. If she does not believe what I am saying, then what is the point of continually asking me? THE IRONIC THING ABOUT THIS is we had a mutual friend who could never tell the truth. With anything he said the listener had to discount most of it. As an example, within a span of 3-4 months I heard him say he was a personal trainer, an accountant, a financial advisor, a banker and a chef. I know there were more but I no longer can remember, nor care about it. As I am writing this I just realized on the one hand I have a friend that doesn’t believe what I am saying and on the other there is another friend who never tells the truth. If memory serves me correctly, the friend who did not trust my advice used to accept the other friend’s stories a/k/a lies. What the heck was she thinking?!?! Truth is based on facts and reality; so, she must have been using a different reality if she was willing to believe the story telling friend. I guess this is an example of a person believing something is true, but not knowing if it indeed is true. Sadly, this is only one of many instances where I have seen someone willing to believe something without investigating the facts. I have an idea what the journalists must have been feeling in this dramatic biography based on true events. HEARING A RUMOR ABOUT THE government wanting to invade a country journalists Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel, played by Woody Harrelson (Wilson, Solo: A Star Wars Story) and James Marsden (Hairspray, Enchanted), set out to find the facts to such a story. Every turn they made was met with disbelief. Set before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, this movie also starred Rob Reiner (The Wolf of Wall Street, All in the Family-TV) as John Walcott, Tommy Lee Jones (The Homesman, The Fugitive) as Joe Galloway and Jessica Biel (Total Recall, The Illusionist) as Lisa Mayr. I so wished I had some knowledge about this story and the journalists from Knight Ridder newspapers; the story was made to play like a political thriller. Horribly, this movie lacked everything needed to tell a good story. I cannot put my finger on it but the script was dull; there was no excitement or thrills when there should have been. The acting was okay but if you look at the film Spotlight, this movie was a light version of this type of investigative story. Such a shame and waste of resources to produce this mess of a movie. Trust me you do not want to spend money on this picture. I would rather have seen a documentary about these 2 journalists and what they accomplished.
1 ½ stars
Only a friend has the right to tell another friend they are being dumb. If someone else tries to do it they will be met with a strong reaction. This is part of what it means to be friends. I will come to the defense of any friend who is being attacked. In one of my college science classes I became friends with my lab partner and we would hang out with other students in the class. After a couple of get togethers socially I noticed one of the students tended to act differently towards my lab partner compared to the other people. It started out in subtle ways with things like answering my partner’s questions with short answers and making little eye contact with them. At some point my friend and I talked about it, wondering if anyone else in the group had noticed it. You may recall I believe there are no accidents; so, when an opportunity came up where I bumped into this other student at the campus library, I brought up my observations to them. It turned out they did not like my lab partner because he was of a similar heritage as a robber who had shot his uncle dead a couple of years ago back home. I asked him if he realized my friend had nothing to do with his tragic loss, while inside my head the word “prejudice” was flashing. Instead of looking up information for our class assignment the two of us sat in a small alcove of the library and discussed the situation. I understood where he was coming from, but I was determined to show and explain the limitations he was laying down for his life, besides having a frank talk about the dangers of being prejudiced based on the looks of a person. THEIR country being torn apart by civil unrest, several Liberian missionaries must trek across and out of the country in order to protect one of their members. Based on true events this dramatic thriller had a story line I could relate to: protecting a friend. I only wished a friend would have protected me from this amateurish film. With a cast of newcomers and a script that lacked any excitement or emotional depth, I was painfully bored throughout this movie. I cannot say with certainty but I believe this is another of these faith based films that the movie studio feels all they need is religion to sell it. This is not the case; people want to see something good that is done well. For a time frame filled with such horror and violence being done against its people, this picture was a flatliner. Please excuse me now, I have to go warn my friends about this film.
1 1/2 stars
Unless there is some kind of hard proof or evidence, I do not quite understand why someone would discourage another person from trying something different. Though I saw more of it during my school years, I still witness people putting a negative spin on someone else who is attempting to do something different from what they would do. You could easily extend this type of negativity to those individuals who were just being different, but that would take up a whole lot more space for today’s review. My way of learning something is to make a mistake because then I can align my logic with reality’s logic; did that make sense to you? I can remember building a science project and the teacher telling me I was doing it wrong. How did she know it was wrong before I was done? The funny thing about it was I had been building a work environment for a left-handed person; so, everything was placed opposite from what the instructor was used to as a right-handed person. Imagine if someone told Albert Einstein he was on the wrong track when he was working on his theory of relativity; I am a firm believer in embracing differences. It is our differences that can make our world a better place. DURING World War II the Nazis were communicating by using an unbreakable code machine called Enigma. Assembling the smartest people of their time, British intelligence was not quite sure about mathematician Alan Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Fifth Estate, Sherlock-TV). He wanted to do something completely different from everyone else. Based on true life events, this film festival winning dramatic thriller was a biographical blend of history, war film and intense excitement. I had some knowledge about Alan going into this picture, but I do not know how much of the movie’s story was true. But you know something; I could not have cared less. This film was so well done with a brilliant cast that also included Keira Knightley (Begin Again, Pride & Prejudice) as Joan Clarke, Charles Dance (Dracula Untold, Game of Thrones-TV) as Commander Denniston and Mark Strong (Body of Lies, Robin Hood) as Stewart Menzies. There was such a vibe of civility and subtleness throughout this movie that Benedict was perfectly able to convey to the viewers; he was truly amazing. I was swept away by this film; going through the same emotions at the same time as the characters were in the story. Just the historical importance of Alan’s role in history was enough to carry this movie, but I was glad there was more included from the writers. I for one was so grateful Alan was different.
It would be hard for some to understand the challenge if they did not know the burden. Living under the weight of expectations or in the shadow of an older sibling can add an unnecessary strain to one’s daily life. There have been studies that looked at siblings’ birth order as a means to understand the psychology behind each one’s actions. Quick examples would be the oldest one could become the caretaker or dominant one while the youngest had the least parental restrictions placed on them, becoming spoiled. I remember a college course where we dissected case studies of actual family dynamics. A couple had 2 sons where the oldest was their pride and joy; the other one was always being told to act more like his older brother. After the two boys reached their teen years, the first born was given a gun for hunting. Sadly a year or so later the boy killed himself with the very rifle his parents had given him. The parents were devastated as they plunged into despair and sadness. The living sibling was barely acknowledged at times. However, the following Christmas the parents presented him with a large gift wrapped present. When he opened it up he found the same rifle that his brother had used to kill himself. Think about the message the parents were sending their second child. SUCCESS was hard to acknowledge when trouble was brewing underneath in this biographical drama. Based on a true story, winning the gold medal did not translate into financial success for wrestler Mark Schultz, played by Channing Tatum (White House Down, Side Effects). Living under the shadow of his older brother David, played by Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me, Begin Again); David felt he was going nowhere until he received a strange phone call from financial heir John du Pont, played by Steve Carell (Get Smart, Dan in Real Life). David was offered the chance to train and lead an elite group of wrestlers towards gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The acting was incredible in this film festival winning movie. Steve Carell was utterly creepy in this dramatic role. Vaguely remembering the story about John du Pont I found this movie to be more of a psychological sports drama. Though it was directed by winning director Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote); I thought the film dragged, especially in the first half of the story. There were times the screen went dark without sound where I thought something was wrong with the movie projector; it did not help in the entertainment department in my opinion. This film had a thoughtful dark story that did not come up to the same level as the acting.
2 3/4 stars
I cannot imagine how even the coldest of hearts can stay frozen when those set of eyes look to you for love and guidance. One of the purest things on Earth is the unconditional eyes of a baby or pet staring up at you. When I started out in college my courses were for veterinary science. I wound up looking into the eyes of a variety of animals. There was the horse that had a mischievous glint in his eye, who would toss up strands of hay every time I entered her stall. One of my professors would bring in one of his dogs that always found a comfortable spot by my feet whenever she wanted to take a nap. No matter what type of animal I encountered, I was always fascinated with their eyes; imagining how they see the world around us. From my limited observations I narrowed down the different looks in their eyes to the following: fondness, food, fear, fun and sadness. One of the hardest things for me was looking into the sad eyes of an animal; without knowing the reason why I always felt helpless. EYES played an important part in this dramatic sequel. Winter, the dolphin with the prosthetic tail, had been living a full life at the Clearwater Marine Hospital until her companion passed away. It was of paramount importance that Dr. Clay Haskett, played by Harry Connick Jr (New in Town, P.S. I Love You) and his team find a new companion for the dolphin if she was going to continue to survive at the hospital. This family film was pretty much as wholesome as a movie could be. There was nothing surprising for me as the story was straight forward and quite predictable. I do not mean to say this was a poor film; it was just a simple story inspired by true events. The cast that included Ashley Judd (Divergent, Kiss the Girls) as Lorraine Nelson, Morgan Freeman (Lucy, Now You See Me) as Dr. Cameron McCarthy and Nathan Gamble (The Mist, Marley & Me) as Sawyer were all back for this continuation of Winter’s tale. At times the script veered into hokey territory for my tastes; however, I do not think young children would care or even notice. The acting was okay; as I said earlier, there really is nothing negative to say about this film. For the most part it was innocuous light fare. If nothing else I hope people would walk away from this movie with a deeper respect and understanding towards the animals who live among us.
2 1/4 stars
Music has such an intoxicating affect on me when I am listening to it. There are certain songs that contain the memories of my joy and pain in their musical notes. A particular song will come on the car radio and my heart will deflate, peeling a layer of sadness that floods into my bloodstream, reminding me of a painful breakup. I will be walking through a department store and hear the beginning notes of a song playing on the speaker system; a waterfall of joy cascades down on me like a sparkling waterfall as I remember the wonderful time I spent with a close friend. There is the famous quote, “Music has charms to sooth the savage breast,” though it is usually misquoted as beast. Well music can do that and a whole lot more as you will see in this touching dramatic movie. J.K. Simmons (Contraband, Juno) and Cara Seymour (Gangs of New York, An Education) played Henry and Helen Sawyer, the parents to their estranged son Gabriel, played by Lou Taylor Pucci (The Story of Luke, Beginners). When it is discovered Gabriel had a brain tumor that prevented him from forming any current memories, his parents sought a way they could somehow reconnect to the son they had not seen for so many years. The first thing that grabbed me in this film was the acting of J.K. Simmons. He had always been a solid actor in a multitude of supporting roles, but it was great to watch him take this lead role and bring life to it. Of course to have music be part of the narrative was a big bonus at least for me. Speaking of the plot, I became enthralled with it since it was based on a true story. Getting Julia Osmond (My Week with Marilyn, Legends of the Fall) to play musical therapist Dianne Daley was a wonderful addition that balanced out the rest of the cast. The story already had built in emotional elements to it, which the director used to his advantage. I was aware of the manipulation and pulling of heart strings but I did not care. The mind’s capabilities was something that has always fascinated me. Seeing how it could be affected by music in this touching film only made me enjoy watching the movie that much more. I would not be surprised if I added a new memory to one of the songs from this film’s wonderful soundtrack.
3 stars — DVD