IT TOOK ME A MOMENT TO comprehend what had just happened in front of me. I looked at the receptacle to see if there were any markings on it that would justify what my friend had done. Since there weren’t, I had to ask my friend if his building recycles. He told me they did not; I was shocked. Maybe I was naïve, but I thought all apartment and condominium buildings collected the inhabitants’ recyclables. I told him my thoughts and he said there was a proposal presented to the condo association a couple of years ago, to set up a recycling program; but it was turned down in the voting process. Turned down in the voting?!? I could not believe it. The act of recycling seems like such a no brainer to me; why wouldn’t someone want to do it to help the planet. It is not like I am an extreme recycler who goes around cleaning up highways and beaches; however, if I can recycle plastic items that will go through a process to be repurposed as a park bench or deck, what is the problem? We can save some trees. I could not resist, so I asked my friend if there were any nearby recycling stations, he could bring his stuff. Sadly, there was nothing close by. All I could think about was what type of people lived in his condo building, who voted not to recycle. I HAVE LIVED LONG ENOUGH TO notice the changes that have taken place in our world. When I was a small boy, I used to constantly go swimming in a nearby lake. Now, I would not even wade into it. In elementary school back then I think there was only one student who had asthma; today I know many students and young adults who have it. Could it be something is in the air now that was not years ago? I look at the younger generation and wonder what challenges they will face due to what we as a society have or have not been doing to the planet. Especially because of the heatwave that has been scorching the western states, I wonder if the next generation will still see icebergs or the polar cap. Years from now, I cannot help wondering what the food chain will be. Will there still be corn or wheat? For those who eat red meat, will it all be artificial, pumped with gene altering hormones? I think people, especially those with children, would want to do their part to keep the planet alive and well. Here in this action, adventure drama is an example of what one father was willing to do to save the planet. WHEN THE MILITARY CAME, SCIENCE TEACHER Dan Forester, played by Chris Pratt (The Kid, Guardians of the Galaxy franchise), had no choice but to join the fight to save Earth, despite what his wife and daughter wanted him to do. With Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale-TV, All I See is You) as Colonel Muri Forester, J.K. Simmons (Palm Springs, 21 Bridges) as James Forester, Betty Gilpin (Isn’t it Romantic, The Hunt) as Emmy Forester and Sam Richardson (We’re the Millers, Veep-TV) as Charlie, this science fiction film had potential to become a big attention grabber. However, I think it needed help from a big theater screen. The story was interesting but as I was watching this picture, I felt I had seen some of the story before. At least the action scenes were good; however, I found the pacing uneven and there were times where the script was not believable. In fact, I found a couple of scenes were just ridiculous. Too bad, because I was intrigued with the family connection story line. As I mentioned earlier, maybe this movie would have benefitted by being shown in the theater because as it stands now, I was left with wanting to experience something more.
2 ¼ stars
I HAD NOT NOTICED BUT MY friend was the one who did. We had gotten together for dinner, meeting at the restaurant. After giving his name to the host, he returned, and we settled into a couple of empty chairs in the waiting area. I was not focused on the time since we were busy talking, catching up on the things we had been doing since we last had seen each other. The restaurant was popular so there were a lot of people coming and going. I do not know how long we had been waiting, but my friend motioned to a couple who had been sitting near us, that were now walking to their table. He told me they had walked in after we did. I asked him if he was sure and he said yes. Maybe they had called ahead to make a reservation, I told him. He was not convinced and as we continued with our conversation, he kept looking at the different groups around us, to see who was being called by the host that walked in after he gave his name. When another couple got called my friend pointed out they also had come in after we were seated. The perplexed look on my face told my friend that I was not seeing what he saw; we were being skipped over because he was Black. WHEN HE SAID THIS TO ME, I looked around and noticed there were very few people who were not Caucasian. I normally do not focus on a person’s skin color or ethnic origins since I consider everyone human. The only differential I consider is whether a person is human or animal, nothing else. It does not matter to me if a person is rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight, short or tall; for me, it is whether a person is good or bad. So, instead of my friend going up to the host I told him I would go and see what was going on. When the host looked up as I approached him, I asked him how much longer he thought the wait would be, giving him my friend’s name. The host looked at his list and apologized for the wait and said the table was just being cleaned off now and to wait a minute. He was gone for less than a minute and asked me to follow him; I motioned to my friend to join me. Nothing the host did indicated his dislike for my friend; however, I had to wonder if there was something more here that I was not seeing. I want to believe people look beyond a person’s skin color, but I know prejudices have been part of our culture for centuries. This Oscar nominated movie will show you it from a time long gone. HOPES WERE HIGH FOR HENRY McALLAN, played by Jason Clarke (Pet Seminary, Zero Dark Thirty), when he moved his family to Mississippi. What he was not expecting was to share the land with a black family. With Carey Mulligan (The Dig, Promising Young Woman) as Laura McAllan, Mary J. Blige (Black Nativity, The Wiz Live!-TV movie) as Florence Jackson, Rob Morgan (Monsters and Men, Stranger Things-TV) as Hap Jackson and Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island) as Rondel Jackson; this film festival winning war drama had an outstanding cast of actors. I found their acting to be authentic with depth, which made the story come alive. The directing was on point to create multiple levels of intensity and drama, which captured me and drew me into the story. I have not read the book this movie is based on; but I felt the script provided me a complete, well-rounded story. This was a powerful picture that had a couple of violent scenes.
3 ½ stars
SOME OF YOU MAY LAUGH, BUT I learned about the reproduction process from a dog. I was at a relative’s house and was walking their dog. We had only gone to the end of the block when a dog from the corner house came up to us. My relative’s dog was backing up into me because of the neighbor’s dog’s aggressiveness. Luckily the neighbor came outside and retrieved her dog. As we started to head back home, I heard barking sounds behind me. With a look over my shoulder, I saw two dogs trotting towards me. Where were these dogs coming from, I wondered? I picked up my relative’s dog and started running back to the house. The 2 dogs behind me were in pursuit and they were faster than me. I started yelling at the dogs to get away, pushing then with my leg. My relative had heard me and came out to rescue us. Once back inside I asked why these dogs were after us. The reason given to me was their dog was in heat. I was confused by the use of the word heat, so my relative explained the dog was giving off a scent that male dogs were attracted to because she was releasing an egg. This answer only made me ask more questions. By the time we were done I promised I would never walk their dog again when she was in heat. FROM THAT EXPERIENCE, I NEVER LOOKED at dogs the same way. All through my early years my only contact with dogs was if a relative or friend had one. Some of them were smart, others not so much; but they were all friendly dogs. The first time I saw a service dog was at a department store. I was of high school age and saw this dog leading a blind woman through the store. Up until that time I did not know dogs could do such a thing. I kept my distance, but I followed them for a short distance because I was so fascinated by it. After that meeting, I discovered a whole new level of working dogs; from guarding scrap yards to being a service dog for the elderly. A week after 9/11, I was at the airport where I saw dogs doing something I had never seen before; they were sniffing all the passengers in line for explosives. The guards who were leading them kept telling us not to pet or engage with the dogs because they were working. It was both amazing and scary watching these dogs. Now from watching this emotional documentary, I know there is another function dogs perform that could be lethal. WHEN HANDLERS AND THEIR DOGS WORK side by side during military conflicts, it creates a unique bond that can last their entire lives. Directed by Deborah Scranton (Earth Made of Glass, The War Tapes), I feel even if one is not a dog lover, they will be moved by this movie. The story focused on a few veterans and their K9 companions. Seeing the bond between each of them was a glorious sight. I was not familiar with military dogs; I do not know anyone who worked in such a capacity. As I watched this film, it did cross my mind that some of the dogs could be the canine version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I do not want to say too much about the individual scenes; it is best if the viewer goes in and experiences the stories for themselves. From the time I was small, walking a dog that was in heat, up to my love of animals as an adult; I have never seen such a world made up of veterans and their dogs working side by side and loving each other as they are doing it.
DOG LOVERS: 3 ½ stars NON-DOG LOVERS: 3 stars
AFTER LISTENING TO THEM WHINE ABOUT how hard it is to be separated so long from their significant other, I had to remind them I had been in a long-distance relationship for a couple of years. They were complaining about the 6 months out of state assignment their partner was on for work. I wanted to be supportive, I truly did; but all I was hearing was a list of complaints about their needs not being met. It was only 6 months and I knew the high costs made it prohibitive to travel often; but they were in a committed relationship. Shouldn’t those in such a relationship be able to “weather the storm” of being apart I wondered? In my past relationship we were only able to be together once a month after they were promoted to a position at their corporate headquarters, that was out of state. They could not turn down the offer and I would not have wanted them to do it; we chose to be together while we were figuring out what made the most sense. My friend knew their partner traveled for work. Granted it usually involved being away 3 to 5 days at a time, nothing more until this current work detail. Tell me if I am wrong, but I had to wonder just how committed were they to their love relationship? COMMITMENT TAKES WORK AND IT TAKES strength; don’t kid yourself if you do not think so. I knew a married couple who spent more time apart than together because one of them took a teaching job in a foreign country. They realized for the short term it would be challenging, but they had a goal; with this job they would be able to retire years earlier than expected. The money from the teaching job would allow them to both retire young enough to enjoy sharing their lives together. I am not saying this would work for everyone; but I will say it shows a strong commitment to each other. This couple was able to see each other 3 times a year. Their children were grown and out of the house, which I assume made this arrangement easier for them. Within my circle of friends and acquaintances, I have seen individuals who cannot handle adversity in their relationships. If something tough happens they are too quick to end everything and move on. I try not to judge them; I understand everyone handles things differently. Now that I have watched this Oscar winner, I should just suggest they watch this movie to see how some people deal with commitment. HAVING RECENTLY MET, THERE WAS LITTLE time for Inman, played by Jude Law (The Nest, The Grand Budapest Hotel), and Ada Monroe, played by Nicole Kidman (Boy Erased, Bombshell), to get to know each other because the country was falling into a civil war. With Renee Zellweger (Judy, My One and Only) as Ruby Thewes, Eileen Atkins (Robin Hood, Gosford Park) as Maddy and Brendan Gleeson (The Guard, Calvary) as Stobrod Thewes; this film festival winning adventure drama was beautifully filmed and exquisitely acted. The outdoor scenes were wonderful to look at. Renee was amazing in her role and for me, she was the most believable. Much of the film consisted of a slower pace; sometimes more than I thought necessary. However, I did not lose interest as the script provided enough change in emotions to keep things moving. I can only assume the book must be powerful as this film had a variety of ways to look at the story. Also, I never gave enough thought to those left behind during wartime and I felt the writers did an especially good job in showing viewers the reality of the times. With a running time of 2 ½ hours, it does take one to commit to watching this film; but I feel it would be worth it.
3 ¼ stars
AS THE ICONIC BUILDING FLASHED ACROSS my television screen, I was saddened to see the damage. Its beautiful white terra-cotta tiles at street level had been broken or spray painted with graffiti. The glass in the entrance doors had been smashed to pieces. All I could do was sit there and stew in my feelings of anger that was bubbling up. This is something I do not understand; why some protesters feel the need to destroy random pieces of property. Before you tell me, they are making a point, I want to be clear that I believe they have the right to protest; whether it is a peaceful march or a sit-in, they have every right to protest. The thing I do not understand is the correlation between a person’s cause and the destruction of an object. Sure, if one felt let us say that voice enabled smart speakers were evil, then I can understand why a person is making a public statement by breaking the devices with a sledgehammer in the middle of the street. But to attack public property or burn down stores, I do not see that act as a productive use of one’s time in getting their message across. Staging a protest at the corporate headquarters of a company that is contributing to the deforestation of the rainforest is totally understandable and valid, in my opinion. But setting fire to the public train station that is underneath the company is not productive and does more harm I feel. MY DESIRE TO PROTECT PUBLIC PROPERTY is born in the love I have for the city of my birth. I have lived in my city all of my life and I am proud of it. Like any city in the world it has its flaws; however, it has things that are unique to it. I mentioned in an older movie review that when I was growing up, I came up with an idea to run a sightseeing company that used limousines instead of buses to transport small groups of people around the city. One of my favorite things to do is take out of town visitors on a tour of the city and its surrounding areas. There is so much to explore and discover just within the city limits that I could spend days dragging visitors to every corner of my city. Besides loving my tour guide responsibilities, I absolutely enjoy when I visit an out of town friend/relative who does the same thing by showing me all the sights in their city. I do not know what to call my strong feelings about my city; pride, love, protective or a combination of them? I just know I do not what anyone tearing down what has been created for its inhabitants. This is the reason I was impressed with the work that was being done by the main characters in this dramatic war drama. REFUSING TO END THE MISSION THEY started, an elite group of officers continue to face death as they try to rid their city from forces who have been tearing it down. With Waleed Elgadi (Four Lions, A Hologram for the King) as Colonel Kaveh Afsahani, Hayat Kamille (Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile) as Hayat, Thaer Al-Shayei (Fears, The Antwerp Dolls) as Hooka, Suhail Dabbach (The Hurt Locker, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) as Jasem and Adam Bessa (The Blessed, Extraction) as Kawa; this film based on a true story was filled with gripping intensity. Set in what was Iraq’s 2ndlargest city, the non-stop actions of this elite squad were incredible to watch. I thought the direction was in synch with the script and appreciated the moments that were given for emotional release. Despite the violent scenes with blood, I could not stop watching what was taking place in the story and truly, what a story. Arabic was spoken with English subtitles.
3 ½ stars
TELLING STRANGERS TO TRY HARDER WAS not something that came easy to me, at first. My biggest fear was someone becoming ill or injured in my fitness classes. Honestly, I had simple goals when I started out teaching at health clubs and fitness centers; I wanted people to be safe, have fun and feel good about themselves. If they lost weight or inches or gained muscle mass, I considered it “icing on the cake” so to speak. The goals I set out were easy to achieve despite the wide diversity of people who came to my classes. There were some members who considered class their social hour, where they preferred to catch up with their friends and neighbors. I had members who were so serious about working out they made it known they did not want any distractions from anyone, including me. I remember trying to find a tactful way to encourage some members from using perfume and cologne as part of their workout attire because other members were gagging over the smell of it combined with sweat. No matter who walked into the class, all I wanted was for them to try their best and from my experiences I knew barking orders was not the way I wanted to conduct my classes. WHAT WAS ONE OF MY BIGGEST assets when motivating class participants was my humor; I truly believe this. When I would get the class in position to tackle a challenging movement, I would change my voice to make comments as if I were someone who disliked working out. Along with humor, I would always show a variety of options members could do to achieve the same results. In a yoga class I had a member who could not do a plank pose. I had her start the pose with both of her knees on the mat, explaining she would still gain the benefit of the pose without the struggle. As the weeks passed, I encouraged her to try the same pose with only one knee on the mat. The look on her face when she did it was priceless. Over the course of several months she went from doing the pose on both knees to achieving the traditional pose with only her forearms and toes on the mat. No matter what fitness level a member was at, I tried to get each member to push themselves to go an extra 10 seconds or do the movement two more times; it is all about providing a space where everyone feels safe, accepted and part of a group/team. Under these circumstances, I can push myself to take on harder tasks; however, from watching this dramatic action thriller, I do not know how the men were motivated to do what they had to do. IN 1969 VIET NAM US FORCES WERE ordered to capture a hill from enemy forces. The hill was called Hamburger Hill which the servicemen knew was not meant to be a good name. With Anthony Barrile (Friday the 13th: A New Beginning; Kiss Me, Guido) as Pvt. Vincent “Alphabet” Languilli, Michael Boatman (The Peacemaker, The Good Wife-TV) as Pvt. Ray Motown, Don Cheadle (The Guard, Traitor) as Pvt. Johnny Washburn, Dylan McDermott (Survivor, Reign Over Me) as Sgt. Adam Frantz and Courtney B. Vance (Ben is Back, Dangerous Minds) as Spc. Abraham “Doc” Johnson; this story that was based on true events was intense, with graphic scenes. As far as war films go, I found this one to be close to authentic. It was hard for me to imagine that type of action taking place; however, what I was watching made sense. The acting from the cast was good but this film was all about the action, despite some of it looking a bit dated. Based on the script, I cannot believe how much the men had to endure. Even after the film was over, I still had a hard time imagining what the motivation was that pushed these men on.
HE WAS SUCH AN UNASSUMING INDIVIDUAL that I did not know he was the owner of the company. A fellow employee pointed him out to me one day; I thought they were playing a joke on me because I did not believe it. The owner was casually dressed in nondescript clothing. In other words, there were no fancy labels or names on anything, nor did he wear anything around his neck or wrist like a gold chain or expensive watch. Basically, there was nothing about this man’s appearance that defined his achievements. The product the company was selling was something he had invented. I thought that alone would have been enough reason for him to put on airs or display a sense of importance around the offices, but it was not. He acted like one of the employees of the company. When I think about it, the only time one would wonder what his position was in the company was during the holidays. He would receive a variety of thank you gifts from vendors; things like boxes of fruit, assorted cookies or other food-based products. Instead of keeping them for himself he was always opening the packages and placing them in the company kitchen for people to take for themselves. AS MUCH AS THE OWNER WAS humble, there was one company salesman who had ego for days. Every day he was dressed in a suit, whether he had customer appointments of not. That alone would not have been a big deal; but he wore quite a few expensive accessories. I had counted at least 6 expensive watches he switched up every day, besides thick gold jewelry pieces on his other wrist. Whether you asked him for his opinion or not, he was the type of person who would always tell you what you should do. Even things that were just common sense, he had to make a point of telling you what was the “right” way to do it; at least right according to him. If a customer came into the offices, they usually assumed he was the owner based on his mannerisms and speech. He was full of himself as they say; I did my best to have only minimal interaction with him. From that job to all the others I have had I have learned those who “crow” the loudest usually know the least. Those who do not brag, or showoff tend to be the most knowledgeable. This certainly applies to the main character in this biographical film festival winning movie. HAVING PRACTICED A LIFESTYLE OF NON-CONFRONTATION became a conflict for Ip Man, played by Donnie Yen (Rouge One: A Star Wars Story, Seven Swords) when Japanese forces invaded and took over his town. With resources scarce, he would have to find a way to survive. With Simon Yam (Election, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life) as Quan, Lynn Xiong (Hotel Deluxe, My Sassy Girl 2) as Cheung, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi (The Handsome Suit, Railroad Tigers) as Miura and Siu-Wong Fan (Future X-Cops, Flying Swords of Dragon) as Jin; this action drama surprised me. For the genre it is in, this film’s focus was on the story and I found it interesting. It felt to me like a partial history lesson with its inclusion of the Japanese invasion of China back in the 1930s. The action scenes were beautifully choreographed, even when a bit of humor was interjected in some of them. It was unexpected to see a martial arts movie that was so story driven; I was drawn into the plight of Ip Man and his family. Also, the fact that this character was based on a true person (who in real life had Bruce Lee as a student) made this picture that more enjoyable. Seeing photos of the actual man at the end was an added treat. Cantonese, Mandarin and Japanese was spoken with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars
IT WAS NOT UNTIL I CAUGHT his sideways glance back at us that I realized we needed to stop talking separately. I understood because I had been in his position myself and knew what it felt like. Early on, I did not realize when two people are together in a relationship, they learn to talk to each other in a certain shorthanded type of way, that only they understand. They also can get a sense through their partner’s body language; people refer to this as non-verbal visual cues. I remember walking with their new significant other as mine was walking behind to catch up with their old flame. To me it sounded like they were conversing with sentence fragments; little snippets of phrases and idioms that made little sense to me. They would laugh at what I heard to be random bits; but to hear them, one would think they were a couple of comedians sharing their comedy routines with each other. I cannot say I was feeling hurt per se, however, I did feel as if I was being left out from being part of their clique. As I said, the first time this happened to me I was uncomfortable. But as I gained experience being in that role and with maturity, I stopped feeling threatened and instead, learned to respect it for what it was: 2 exes’ catching up in the way only they knew how to communicate with each other. WHETHER IT IS TWO OR A DOZEN people who have spent a significant time together, it is understandable they form a special bond between themselves. The bond becomes so strong that a long expanse of time filled with absence barely shaves off a layer from the top surface of the connection. I remember going back to an elementary school class reunion and despite having had no contact with many of my classmates for decades, all of us immediately fell into that comfortable spot of familiarity and belonging. It was as if I had just been with them a short time ago as my memories burst into my awareness like a school of swimming dolphin coming up for air at the same time; I would see someone new walk into the room and I immediately recognized them and recalled the interactions we had together when we were back in such and such grade. Any of the petty issues that any of us were carrying about a bad experience shared got washed away from the excitement of being back together as one cohesive body of students who survived the formative years of elementary school. That special bond between people was something that resonated with me when I watched the group of friends in this dramatic war adventure film. RETURNING TO VIET NAM AFTER MANY YEARS, four military Vets were determined to complete their mission to retrieve their buddy’s remains and a stack of gold that was left behind. The bonds between them would serve them well as they went back into the jungle. With Delroy Lindo (Malcom X, Get Shorty) as Paul, Jonathan Majors (White Boy Rick, Captive State) as David, Clarke Peters (John Wick, Marley & Me) as Otis, Norm Lewis (Winter’s Tale, Sex and the City 2) as Eddie and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Cedar Rapids, BlackKklansman) as Melvin; the story in this movie was loaded up with several topical themes. The acting was excellent to the point I believed the 4 Viet Nam vet characters really fought together in the war. Granted I have no personal experience about being in the military during the Viet Nam war, but I found the script authentic enough for it to be believable. There were times where I felt some preaching was taking place, but it did not distract me enough to care about it. There were several scenes with blood and violence. One other positive thing about watching this movie was it reminded me how good pictures can provide viewers with things to think about afterwards.
3 ½ stars
THE WHOLE MISUNDERSTANDING COULD HAVE BEEN avoided if I had only known he was in a foul mood. Such a simple thing to do and it would have made a world of difference. I had texted my friend to see if he was free to talk. Getting an affirmative response, I called him with the intention of catching up since it had been some time since we last communicated. The conversation started out in the usual way with each of us updating the other on our family members. Having known each other for years, our extended families have trickled down to be part of our conversations with some familiarity. At some point I commented on something he said but did not get a response. I thought maybe he did not hear me. When there was a break, I repeated myself. There was dead silence for a few seconds before he made a comment that had an edge to it. You might know what I mean; where the comment could be taken two different ways based on the tone of the speaker’s voice. It took me by surprise and I did not know how to reply. Deciding to push past it and not assume the comment was negative, I continued on with the conversation. IT WAS NOT TOO MUCH LONGER before I felt he was hitting me with another comment that could be taken two ways. This time I called him on it, asking what he meant by saying what he said. He replied with “What do you mean?” which is a pet peeve of mine. He had heard what I said, so why answer with a question? I went ahead and explained to him what I heard and why I responded the way I did. He then took my words and turned them back at me with what I heard to be a condescending tone. One thing led to another until we wound up being irritated with each other. We quickly ended the call; I was left feeling ticked off and confused. I tried wrapping my brain around what had happened but could not find a solution. My feelings were hurt. It was not until later that night where he called back to explain what was going on with him. It turned out he was in a bad mood because of something that had nothing to do with me. His negativity spread into our conversation, where he misinterpreted things I had said to him. We hashed it out so we could clear the air between us. The bottom line was realizing the need to express one’s feelings in order to become a better communicator. This was a conversation the main couple needed to have in this romantic, war drama. TRAVELING TO HAMBURG FROM ENGLAND TO JOIN her husband Rachel Morgan, played by Keira Knightley (Colette, The Imitation Game) was surprised to see the amount of devastation the war had done. It was even more shocking to discover she would be sharing a home with its German owner. With Jason Clarke (Pet Sematary, Everest) as Lewis Morgan, Alexander Skarsgard (The Hummingbird Project, The Kill Team) as Stephen Lubert, Flora Thiemann (Nelly’s Adventure, Sputnik) as Freda Lubert and Kate Phillips (Downton Abbey, Peaky Blinders-TV) as Susan; this period piece had a strong cast that worked well together. I thought the filming added drama to the story which turned out necessary due to the cliché filled, predictable script. Despite Keira’s ability to command an audience, the script did not allow for the addition of depth to the characters. I would have also appreciated if the writers included more history into the events that affected the characters placing them on their current paths. With this film based on the same titled book, I have to believe the novel offered a better story than the one in this post World War II setting.
1 ¾ stars
WHO WILL REMEMBER THE MEMORIES WHEN the keepers of the memories are gone? I think about this from time to time. At a recent get together I started thinking about it again as the people in attendance were going over old, family photographs. There were several photos of people whose identities were unknown to the people at the party. These strangers, one had to assume, were related somehow to the family; but there was no one left from the previous generation who could help identify these strangers. I sat and wondered how many generations would have to pass before all the people in the photographs turned into unknown beings. As the gathering continued, I recalled from when I was little a neighbor who had lost many relatives due to war. She was a survivor herself. In fact, the first time I ever saw a tattoo was the one on her arm. It was a series of numbers and I remember asking her what the numbers meant. Looking back, she explained as best she could without frightening me how she was given the tattoo when she was in a concentration camp. Being so young I had not reached an age where I could comprehend the words, she was telling me; yet, though she is long gone I have not forgotten what she had said to me. NOW THERE ARE TIMES WHERE I wished I was privy to a person’s memories, especially when they have a historic factor. I knew several Viet Nam veterans, but that is all I knew about them. They never talked about their time away, what they did or what they saw; it was a subject one realized quickly they never wanted to talk about to anyone. I remember a friend’s family where one of the siblings was a soldier in Viet Nam. The family’s mailbox became their only connection to their son and brother. I was over at their house when a letter had arrived from overseas. The family huddled close together as a parent carefully opened the envelope and took out the onion skin piece of paper. Seeing the joy in their faces is something I have never forgotten. Being curious all these years, I had the privilege of talking to a Viet Nam veteran recently and asked him if the norm was not to talk about one’s experiences during the war. He explained the possible reasons for someone not wanting to talk about it, then generously shared his story. I carry his memory with me as I do now of the heroic act that took place in this dramatic, war film. THOUGH WILLIAM PITSENBARGER, PLAYED BY JEREMY Irvine (War Horse, The Railway Man), had the opportunity to save himself from the heat of a battle, he chose to remain behind and help save his fellow soldiers. Those who were saved wanted to make sure William was never forgotten. This film’s story was inspired by true events and I must tell you I was surprised with some of the things I saw in this picture. With Samuel L. Jackson (Shaft, Jackie Brown) as Takoda, Sebastian Stan (Captain America franchise; I, Tonya) as Scott Huffman, Diane Ladd (Joy, Chinatown) as Alice Pitsenberger and Christopher Plummer (The Man Who Invented Christmas, Knives Out) as Frank Pitsenberger; I thought the cast was excellent. Seeing the older actors display their gift of acting made the characters come alive for me. I found the story unbelievable to the point it started playing out like a mystery. The issue I had, however, was with the directing and the script. Instead of coming across like one continuous emotional journey, the scenes felt like snippets of events which damaged the build up of emotional depth. I would start to connect to a character but then the scene would jump and sever that feeling. The story I felt was important enough that it needed more time to blend scenes together and tighten up the script. Essentially, this film lacked drama for me. Now maybe those who have gone through the war will have a different feeling, which I would certainly understand. Still, I am glad this story came to light and now I know and remember it.
2 ½ stars