OUT OF THE CLASSROOM WINDOW I SAW two boys fighting. I was working on homework in study hall, but I kept looking up at the two fighters. They appeared to be from an upper grade because I never saw either of them in any of my classes. As was typical, at least at the schools I attended, there were several other students hovering near the two boys to watch them fight. As far as I could tell it seemed like the two were evenly matched. They were exchanging punches and kicks equally. At some point as I was watching them one of the boys tripped on something and fell backwards. As he hit the ground the other boy pounced on top of him and showered him with body and face blows. The poor boy did not have a chance to regain himself and fend off his assailant. It wasn’t until the fallen boy’s face started bleeding that the other boy got up off him and started to walk away, but only after giving the defeated boy one last kick in the stomach. The boy on the ground curled up into a fetal position and laid there as an instructor was running up to him. I TRIED GOING BACK TO MY STUDIES, but the images of the two boys fighting would not fade from my memory. As they replayed in my mind, I remembered the one boy tripping and it occurred to me if he had not fallen the outcome might have turned out differently. It might have been a pebble, stick or some litter that caused him to trip. I thought of all the lucky breaks he could have gotten, he wound up getting one case of bad luck that sealed his fate. Up until that point, I never thought about how luck plays a part in a fight. Maybe because of the video games I used to play, where everything was in a more controlled environment, it made me think skill was the only important factor in a battle. I started looking at the fights I had been in and wondered how big of a factor did luck play in my losses. Since I was mostly on the receiving end, I cannot remember all the details. However, I remember one fight where 3 boys were chasing and throwing stones at me. They had been chasing me for three blocks when suddenly we were all getting drenched in a downpour. For some reason they broke off their pursuit and I made my way home through back alleys. I can see that was a lucky break for me just as I can now see how luck played in the historical battle in this dramatic action film. AFTER THE SURPRISE ATTACK ON PEARL HARBOR, the United States Navy was left exposed to an ultimate defeat. So many things needed to be in place if the US government wanted any chance of pushing back Japan’s Imperial Navy. With Ed Skrein (If Beale Street Could Talk, Alita: Battle Angel) as Dick Best, Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring franchise, The Phantom of the Opera) as Edwin Layton, Woody Harrelson (Shock and Awe, Natural Born Killers) as Chester W. Nimitz, Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast, Dracula Untold) as Wade McClusky and Mandy Moore (A Walk to Remember, This is Us-TV) as Ann Best; this movie had a lot to live up to because of the well-known true events this story was based on. I thought the CGI effects were excellent, providing an extra thrill to the aerial fight scenes. The story itself is incredible; but sadly, the script was a big letdown for me. I found the dialog cheesy, filled with rah-rah moments by characters trying to build up morale. The acting did not register with me as anything great, but that might have more to do with the script lacking any depth or emotion for the actors to play on. What bad luck for this picture to get a deficient script for such a world changing battle.
WITH THE RESTAURANT BEING SO CROWDED, I was wedged between two sets of diners. We were seated on a vinyl covered bench that spanned the length of the wall. Small wooden tables were barely spaced apart, all the way down, in front of the bench. Next to me sat a mother and her young daughter who happened to be standing in front of me in line, while we were waiting to be seated. A waiter walked up to them first to take their food order. I could not help but hear what they ordered. The mother ordered first and with everything she chose, she asked the waiter to make an alteration to the item. With one food item she did not want the sauce, another she did not want the pickles and so on. Normally I would not have paid attention; however, when it was time for the young daughter to order, the little girl did the same thing. Everything the girl ordered was almost identical to her mother’s orders. I thought how odd; both mother and daughter had identical taste buds? What made me think about this more was the fact when the mother ordered she did not just say, remove the item; she used the words, did not like it or hated it. This made me wonder if the daughter really did not like the items that were being removed or had she learned to dislike them from her mother. Hmmm. WHEN I WAS THAT DAUGHTER’S AGE, there were many foods I did not like. Many of them I had not even tasted before deciding I wasn’t going to eat them. I did not realize back then I was a visual and texture eater. If something did not look right, whatever right meant, I would not touch it. The same thing went for the texture of the food; I always preferred food that was crunchy instead of creamy. There are foods I eat now that back then I would never allow on my plate. In my case I had decided whether I wanted an item or not; no one influenced me. However, with this little girl I wasn’t sure if she had issues with texture and appearance or she was simply mimicking her mother. If her mother did not like something did the daughter choose not to like the same thing? I thought it would be sad if this little girl went through life missing out on different foods or things because she was taught to hate them. If you care to see how it can happen then feel free to watch this dramatic war comedy. JOJO, PLAYED BY NEWCOMER ROMAN GRIFFIN Davis, wanted to grow up and do his part for Nazi Germany. However, all his beliefs and dreams got shattered when he discovered his mother Rosie, played by Scarlett Johansson (Rough Night, Under the Skin), had been hiding a Jewish girl named Elsa, played by Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies), in their attic. What would the Fuhrer think of him? With Taika Waititi (Green Lantern, Wat We Do in the Shadows) as Adolf and Sam Rockwell (Vice, Mr. Right) as Captain Klenzendorf; this story would appear to be another take on the horrors of World War II; however, it was not done the same. The script was both original and fun; I was impressed with the cleverness in which it conveyed its message. The ensemble of actors each provided a particular thread that woven together created an outrageous satire that was enjoyable and funny. For me, this was a bold experiment that zeroed in on the subject of hatred and put it directly in front of the viewer’s face. Truly different and original, I hope no one makes a snap judgement based solely on the movie trailer without experiencing for themselves the magic in this satire.
3 ¼ stars
DECISIONS usually come with consequences, some good others not so good. Personally I am more comfortable with a person who can make decisions as opposed to those who never have an opinion or prefer deferring decisions to someone else. This concept of there being consequences for one’s decisions seems to be losing favor with the newer generations. I say this because I have seen multiple examples where a parent reprimands their child, explaining what the consequences will be if they act out in a certain way and the child still acts in an inappropriate way. The parent then does not make good on their ultimatum, so the child has just learned they can continue with their behavior. I am sure I have mentioned this example before; but I had a friend who early on always gave her young daughter the option to choose her own decision, explaining what the consequences would be for each action. When the daughter was fussing over being toilet trained, the mother told her she could learn how to use the potty or keep wearing the dirty diaper; but if she kept the dirty diaper on no one would want to play with her. The little girl immediately learned how to use the toilet. NOW there are some decisions that can have a profound effect on one’s life. I think the top stressful situations are death, dissolving relationships, moving and job changes. To me the list should also include those who are given the responsibility to decide the fate of a dying loved one. If you ever had to make a decision that involved a group of people it can be stressful. I am not necessarily talking about restaurant choices, more life changing decisions. Here is the thing though, I learn from mistakes. When someone complains to me they made a mistake I ask them to look at it as an opportunity, they may learn something new. If the story in this biographical drama is indeed true, it was a surprise to see how past actions had such a profound effect on the main character. DAYS away from the allied forces launching a massive assault against the German army Prime Minister Winston Churchill, played by Brian Cox (Troy, Rob Roy), has deep reservations about the laid out plan. With Miranda Richardson (The Hours, Empire of the Sun) as Clementine Churchill, John Slattery (Spotlight, Mad Men-TV) as Dwight Eisenhower, Ella Purnell (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Never Let Me Go) as Helen and Julian Wadham (The English Patient, War Horse) as Bernard Montgomery; this thriller based on true events made it due to the acting of Brian and Miranda. They were outstanding in their roles to where I wished the writers had given them more scenes together. The rest of the cast was okay, though I thought John’s portrayal of General Eisenhower was odd; it was nothing I imagined Eisenhower would be like in the situation. Part of the issue falls on the script; some of the dialog felt out of place, almost ringing false for me. Because I was fascinated with the story, after the movie I reached out to a history teacher to see how much truth was involved in what was depicted in the film. I will not tell you because I prefer as always the viewer experiencing a film with the least amount of information. Due to the decisions the director and writers chose, they created a movie that did not live up to the actual events.
2 ¼ stars
Whether you say a fly or speck when you say, “I wish I was a fly on the wall,” don’t you find yourself saying it more these days? Among my friends I have noticed an increase in its usage. Could it be because there are more incredulous things we see happening around us? I am sure many parents wish they could do it when their children start going out with friends and dates. The reason we wish we could be a fly on the wall is because we do not want our presence known. Now what if one could blend in with the people around them? I appreciate it when I can just be part of the crowd. In the fitness world when instructors go to other instructors’ classes they usually let them know before class. I prefer not to; I just want to be part of the class and let the instructor do their thing without focusing any energy on me. There have been times where the instructor knows I am in class and I can tell they are trying too hard to make the class perfect. They push for total class participation; they go through whatever list of helpful reminders constantly; in other words, they lose the fun factor to their class because they are focusing on doing everything properly instead of just working along with the members. Another example would be some of my friends’ relatives. My friends wish I could actually see for myself what they can only describe to me about their family members because it sounds too far-fetched to me. So you see there are occasions where it would be advantageous to blend in. CELEBRATIONS were taking place all over London due to the Allied victory in 1945. For that night Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, played by Sarah Gadon (A Dangerous Method, Dracula Untold) and Bel Powley (The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Side by Side), want to go outside and be part of the festivities just like everyone else. Their night would not go as planned. This film festival winning romantic drama was lucky to have Sarah and Bel as the princesses. They added a charm and silliness to this film. I also enjoyed seeing Emily Watson (Everest, The Book Thief) and Rupert Everett (My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Importance of Being Earnest) as the Queen and King. Whether there was a kernel of truth to this story or not, I thought the idea was an excellent one. Unfortunately the script became redundant, where I felt the princesses were getting in the same predicaments but just in different locations. Also the goofiness after a while turned me off; I could not imagine some of the scenes ever happening to the sisters. However this simple story was easy to follow and it allowed me to imagine what it must have been like for the princesses to not be part of all the royal pomp and circumstance of the crown and just be regular girls for a night.
2 1/4 stars
The more time spent with a person the less one notices any changes taking place. I have noticed this especially when it comes to the physical aspect of a person. In regards to the emotional and intelligence areas, you would think the longer you know a person the better you understand them; I certainly have believed this to be true. But I have to tell you the more I see and hear about people’s infidelity, transgressions and even crimes; the more I am at a loss for words because I cannot process it. What happens that causes a person in a long term relationship to suddenly start cheating on their significant other? Or these news shows that profile a married couple where one of them murders the other one? Stuff like this shakes my belief that 2 people can live happily ever after. I am the first to admit I have trust issues based on what has happened to me in my life; you think you know someone and it turns out you really do not, at least in my case. Though my philosophy may cause more hurt feelings for me, I choose to believe what people are telling me is true until they prove it otherwise. I cannot tell you how many times where I started dating someone who agreed with my definition of an exclusive relationship, yet I find out they had cheated on their previous partners. And do not get me started on some of the other things I have seen people do in a relationship; it can be frightening. LEFT for dead with a disfigured face Nelly Lenz, played by Nina Hoss (A Most Wanted Man, Barbara), with the help of Lene Winter, played by Nina Kunzendorf (Woman in Gold, Unspoken), not only survived the German concentration camps but also facial reconstruction surgery. Her goal was to find her husband Johnny Lenz, played by Ronald Zehrfeld (Inbetween Worlds, Barbara), who was no where to be found when the Germans took her away. This film festival winning drama was utterly captivating to me. With no prior knowledge about this mystery movie, I not only thought the filming of it was beautiful but that the script had elements of tenderness, longing and surprise. The story was set in Berlin after the war which I found made it more interesting to see how people were picking up the pieces of their lives while recalling past events. I thought the director did a wonderful job of letting the actors talk using nonverbal cues; luckily the actors were quite skilled in achieving this method of communication. I found this film fascinating and was surprised to find out my initial thoughts about the characters were not totally accurate. Maybe it is harder than you think to really know someone. German was spoken with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars
If you really want to engage the viewer into your story, have a child or a pet as a main focus. The pure innocence of a child, who comes into the world with a clean slate until the adult world shades it, is an ideal candidate to make an adult care about the action in a movie. A pet filled with that unconditional love that pours out of their big brown eyes is enough to make the viewer shudder if there is any chance of danger in store for the loving animal. A horror movie needs to have a subject the viewer will care about; otherwise, they will not care if the character meets an early demise. The next element to have in the film is a love story or at least a potential love connection between characters. Simply put most people can relate to having their heart broken. The viewer will rally around the grieving, surviving character and follow them all the way to the end of the story. So if a movie studio wants to have a successful horror movie, they need one of these items in their story. WITH World War II raging and London being subjected to German bombing runs, children in the city were suddenly finding themselves orphans. To protect them from further harm Jean Hogg and Eve Parkins, played by Helen McCrory (Harry Potter franchise, Hugo) and Phoebe Fox (One Day, Switch-TV), took a group out into the country to an abandoned estate, hopefully to be away from the horrors of the war. However, their presence in the mansion would stir up an old terror. This dramatic sequel’s story took place 40 years after the story in the first film. It had a couple of the elements I listed earlier, children and a love interest. I thought this would be a horror movie that could scare me. It had a love interest in the character of Harry Burnstow, played by Jeremy Irvine (War Horse, the Railway Man) and it had children in peril; what could be easier to grab the audience’s attention? Well, I am here to tell you this horror thriller was neither. The beginning of the movie started out good but quickly became a dull, bland imitation of a horror film. I thought the sets and staging were done well, but there was never a sense of horrible dread or something deeply sinister. Besides being predictable this picture left me with a blah feeling, where I felt I had just wasted my time. I do not think anyone could accuse me of being a callous jerk, but I did not care about the kids or the potential for someone to suffer a broken heart in this dud.
1 2/3 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.
Each of us has been a victim at one time or another, though you may not have known it. Maybe it was the restaurant host who did not like the way you were dressed, so they told you there was over an hour wait to get a table. How about that taxi driver who drove past you as you were trying to flag them down, even though they did not have anyone in the car with them. Anytime during school when you were picked on, called hateful names or bullied; turned you into a victim. The big question is what do you do after you have been victimized. For me I internalized it for years; however, the pain found ways to filter through my mind in a constructive way. I grew to be extra sensitive towards new members entering my classes when it was quite obvious they were uncomfortable being in such an environment. Having been picked on for my lack of athletic ability back in high school, I became fiercely protective of each person in my classes; to the point where I had to ask someone to move to a different part of the aerobic studio because I could see they were becoming aggressively territorial towards a new member standing next to them. More and more I witness someone not liking someone else because they are different. GEORGE Takei (Star Trek franchise, Heroes-TV) started out being a minority withing a minority. Here was a man who helmed the Starship Enterprise, yet I had no idea as a young boy he lived in an internment camp for Japanese American citizens during World War II. From such a traumatic event this documentary was able to show how driven one man became in the pursuit of his dreams. I found this film to be a fascinating study of George. He was able to take his drive and determination into such varied areas of his life, almost reinventing himself time and time again. Always charming and witty, he has recently become an internet star with over 7 million followers on Facebook. If nothing else this movie was worth watching simply to hear George talk about William Shatner (Star Trek franchise, T.J. Hooker -TV) and then to see how William acted in interviews when George was brought up for discussion; it was hilarious. There were other parts of the movie that were funny and even when the topic turned serious, there was never a time where the viewer was made to feel uncomfortable. I completely enjoyed this film, watching the indomitable spirit of a man who would never allow himself to become a victim.
3 1/4 stars
Though the physical and verbal blows ended a long time ago they are still remembered. The changing landscape of an aging body may cover up the dents of abuse but the tremors remain just beneath the surface. Pain never discriminates, it only knows to dig toward one’s heart. It was not until I was in my 20s before I realized there was supposed to be space between my shoulders and ears. I can still remember when a friend or relative expressed kindness with an innocent physical gesture; my whole body would tense up. It was not something that was done consciously, more instinctive or something I learned at a young age. In addition each verbal assault can be recalled verbatim to this day. They dominate any positive comments I may receive by shoving them to a junk room in my mind. To say it takes a lot of work to correct this circuitry in the brain would be putting it mildly. Based on a true story former British army officer Eric Lomax, played by Colin Firth (A Single Man, The King’s Speech), was someone I could relate to in this film festival winning movie. Years have past since he was forced to work on a railroad for Japanese troops while he was a prisoner of war. His wife Patti, played by Nicole Kidman (The Hours, The Golden Compass), had no idea what her husband had to endure during the war because he never talked about it. She only knew something was not right. Nicole and Colin were beautifully suited to play husband and wife. From their performance I was easily convinced they were a married couple; that was how commanding they were in playing their characters. Stellan Skarsgard (Good Will Hunting, The Avengers) as Finlay had a curious role in which he was well suited for the part. The director had a good eye for setting up scenes where I rather enjoyed the contrast between the young and older Eric characters. Where this film let me down was the script. I found myself becoming bored through parts, after going from intense scenes to average ones and back. Having only seen one trailer for this picture, I imagined there would have been more dynamic emotions and energy on display. In my opinion the story warranted it. One need not have to relate to the subject matter to know there was a powerful story here. It just was not executed to its best advantage.
2 1/2 stars
Situated in the middle of a city block sat an empty lot, where a six story apartment building used to stand. A developer bought the land and knocked the building down so he could construct a bigger building, but when the economy soured he went bankrupt. All that remained on the lot was gravel and pieces of broken cement that looked like they were once part of a cliff that had been weathered away by the wind. A chain-link fence surrounding the property was now dull with rust that had stained the ground like ruined brown mascara off of a crying face. There was nothing to see in the rubble at first glance; however, if you closely peered at one of the larger cement boulders towards the left side, a single small flower had broken through a crack, releasing a bloom shaded in midnight blue with white star like flecks. It was extraordinary to look at and amazing it could live among the ruins. Finding beauty in a hostile environment was the hook in this dramatic World War II movie about an epic battle in history. A small group of Russian soldiers were holed up in a strategic apartment building, trying to defend it from Nazi troops led by Captain Kan, played by Thomas Kretschmann (Wanted, King Kong). As the two sides fought for control of the building Katya and Masha, played by Mariya Smolnikova (The Daughter) and Yanina Studilina (Yasnovidyashchaya), found their lives going down different paths among the horrors around them. The opening scenes in this action film were unbelievable and frightening at the same time. The production values were quite good in both outdoor and indoor scenes. I do not know how accurate the story was compared to the actual battle; but the writers had ample help to create a historic, dramatic story. Unfortunately it was a big letdown for me because the acting and the script collapsed in the scenes. There were some scenes that really were tough to watch but I sat in my seat without much reaction. From such a boffo opening this movie seemed to slide down into disrepair. I am afraid the beauty I thought I saw in this film turned out to be a mirage. The languages spoken were Russian and German with English subtitles. There were scenes that had blood and violence in them.