Monthly Archives: October 2016
SEEING the digital clock was less stressful than watching the second hand of a clock dial counting down the seconds. Traffic was unbearable with construction slowdowns and drivers distracted by a car pulled over to the shoulder due to a flat tire. Finally I made it to the airport parking lot only to find out it was full. How was that possible!?!? I was directed to an unmanned remote lot that was automated; where I had to insert my charge card to get in. My irritation was rising since I was already anticipating being stuck at the security lines inside the airport. Finding a parking space at the outskirts of the lot I had to wait for the free shuttle to pick me up and take me to the airport terminal. Time was ticking down and I refused to look at my watch. What would be the point, there was nothing I could do about it. MY years of commuting on public transportation gave me an advantage over the other passengers on the train; I was able to maneuver to the exit door that I remembered would stop right next to the UP escalator. The train came to a halt and the doors slid open. I ran out and quickly made my way to the departure gate area. The lines were not as long as I had expected but I did get stuck behind a family that kept setting off the metal detector, delaying my turn. I knew the airlines shut the doors of the plane before the departure time so I would have to run through the terminal to get to my gate. It was not easy with a heavy backpack and a carry-on bag that had a broken wheel. The sweat on my forehead was trickling down as I reached my gate only to become disappointed; my flight had been cancelled. The way I felt back then was similar to the way I felt watching this sequel. SUFFERING amnesia from a head wound Robert Langdon, played by Tom Hanks (Sully, Bridge of Spies), would have to depend on Dr. Sienna Brooks, played by Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything, Like Crazy), to fill in some of the missing blanks while being chased by a killer. This action adventure film was set in some beautiful locations such as Florence and Venice, Italy. With Ben Foster (Lone Survivor, Hell of High Water) as Bertrand Zobrist and Omar Sy (The Intouchables, Jurassic World) as Christoph Bouchard; I thought the supporting actors were stronger on screen than Tom or Felicity. The reason being there was no chemistry between these two, besides the script offered very little to help them. I have to tell you this crime movie was one long series of chase scenes that had no sense of excitement or drama. The story which was a bit confusing did not offer anything substantial for character development. It was not until the last portion of the film where I felt things were improving. My favorite parts in this movie were the Italian and Turkish settings. With all the time, money and effort put into this film I wonder if the movie studio is experiencing disappointment now.
1 ¾ stars
ONE could not help thinking that they were the ideal family living the American dream. They lived in the suburbs in a well maintained house that was surrounded by a perfectly manicured lawn. The husband owned a company; the mother did volunteer work and twice a year they and their children would go on a vacation; never to the same place twice. I was friends with their youngest child. As we all grew old they still looked like one big happy family; I knew better. On the outside nothing had changed except for one detail. If you were to meet them now there would be one less child. INSIDE their house the only signs that there was another child could be found in a few photo albums that were stuffed in some drawers. I never knew what happened but their child was not missing; he did not want to have anything to do with his family. The parents and their other children did not know if he was dead or alive, where he lived or what he did to make a living. It really was heartbreaking to see this though as I said the family always kept up a strong face. My friend had told me a few things that had taken place inside the household. From this I learned never to judge someone based on appearances. As they say you never know what goes on behind closed doors. I have witnessed other incidents with other people where a similar situation took place; things much worse than what I just told you. It truly baffles me on what could have happened to have resulted in such extreme measures. This dramatic crime film is an example of what I mean. LIFE was going so well for Swede Levov, played by Ewan McGregor (The Impossible, Star Wars franchise); which only made it harder when his daughter Merry, played by Dakota Fanning (Man on Fire, I Am Sam), started acting differently around the house. Based on Philip Roth’s (The Human Stain, Portnoy’s Complaint) novel, this film festival nominated movie also had as part of the cast Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, Blood Diamond) as Dawn and Peter Riegert (Local Hero, Animal House) as Lou. Set in the 1960s I liked the look of this picture. The film shots were well thought out; this may sound odd, but everything in the scene was well placed. I felt the acting was this film’s strongest suit. I have not enjoyed Dakota’s acting in recent films but I thought she was excellent in this role. If I am not mistaken this was Ewan’s directorial debut and sadly this was the problem I had with the movie. I thought his directing was unpolished; there were times I was bored with the story. It just seemed as if the action was being sucked out of several scenes. The story was interesting but I do not think it translated well into this script because I found parts of it dull and wasteful. Here is the thing though; based on the trailer I thought this was going to be a better film. I need to remind myself not to go into the theater with expectations that are solely based on a movie’s trailer; looks can be deceiving.
2 ½ stars
THERE was a time where the boundaries between reality and fantasy had more distance between each other. Most of my life I wanted to stay in the realm of fantasy but understood it would only be a short visit for some respite. Things have changed now where the barrier has taken on a porous consistency between true and false, fantasy and reality. The biggest culprit I feel that started all of this is reality television shows. Sure when the few first ones aired they were a novelty; but come on now, how authentic are they really? We live in a world where people are getting famous for doing absolutely nothing. No seriously, some of these reality celebrities have huge followings and what I find upsetting is the effect they have on young people. GIRLS and boys watch these self-centered, snobby; better than you attitude individuals who are gaining wealth, notoriety or fame and these kids want to be just like them. What kind of values will the next generation have when they grow up? I do not want this “soapbox speech” dishing all reality shows because there are a few I find enjoyable. The difference for me is these shows in my opinion involve talent, hard work or help make a better life for individuals who could use the help. Outside of that I have no desire to see couples being split up to get farmed out to a different family or to watch people looking for true love on an island where they are paired up on dates sans clothing. Stuff like this is so bizarre to me; I just do not get it. Let me show you an example of what I am talking about in this dramatic comedy. FISH stand owner Luciano, played by Aniello Arena (Fiore), believed his life would change for the better; he just needed to get on the reality show, “Big Brother.” This film festival winning movie had a cast of actors, such as Loredana Simioli (Perez, Gorbaciof) as Maria, Raffaele Ferrante (Ventitre) as Enzo and Nando Paone (Welcome to the South, Bulldozer) as Michele; who seemed like real people to me. I found the story had a strong undercurrent of dark satire that wore a coat of humor and sadness. Being a fan of Italy I thought the sets and the outdoor scenes were wonderful; there was something about the building where Luciano lived that I found to be an extension of him and his family. There were parts of the script that muddled the story. On one hand there were scenes shown where I thought this was too far-fetched; but after the movie was over I gave more thought to it and came to the conclusion anything was possible. Let me add one need not have seen the television show Big Brother to understand what was taking place in this movie. Also, the subtitles did not interfere with me being able to watch and enjoy this wild picture. I do not know what kind of statement is being made when I can watch a picture like this and think sure, this could have happened in the real world. Italian was spoken with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars — DVD
I learned at an early age that having more body mass was not a way to keep up with the people around me. Assumptions were made that I could not hit or catch a ball and I must be slow in a game of tag. Though initially I did not think I was different as time went on I sort of fell into people’s expectations. Oh and not being able to wear the latest trends in clothing because they did not make them in my size really pushed me over the edge. What could I do? I did what others in my situation did, ditch these unwritten rules. Little did I know this was going to help me later in life. AFTER living in apartments where all the residents pretty much were on equal footing, I bought a house. It was a major adjustment for me. From living in places where a building superintendant handled any issues, I was confronted with a neighbor who would point out everything that was wrong (in her opinion) with the outside of my house. First let me say she along with all the other neighbors loved (though I felt it was coming from an envious place) my landscaping. I was always getting complimented on it, though I had nothing to do with the lawn and flowers. A close friend of mine was a landscape architect who lived in a high rise building and missed getting his hands dirty. We were a perfect match because I disliked getting my hands dirty. My neighbor would sit out on her front porch and watch everything my friend did around the yard. Sadly this was the only thing she liked about my place. Anytime I was outside she would remind me I needed to do something about my storm windows, my screen door, my chimney; you get the point. From the lessons I was taught early on, I was able to ignore these reminders with a smile and a remark, “Really?” I did not need to keep up with her standards though you should with yours regarding this action comedy. THE new neighbors, Natalie and Tim Jones, played by Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious franchise, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) and Jon Hamm (The Town, Mad Men-TV), not only fit in with the neighborhood, they were perfect. They seemed a little too perfect for their neighbors Karen and Jeff Gaffney, played by Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers, Home and Away-TV) and Zach Galifianakis (Masterminds, The Campaign). Spying on the new couple would only show how perfect they were indeed, in certain areas of their life. What can I say about this movie; except to say it was poorly thought out and written. The script and story were generic; it was easy to see where the jokes would come in. A waste of talent even though I thought Gal and Jon made a fun couple; I would have liked to have seen this movie focus just on them. If you saw the trailer you already saw the film. You will not be missing anything if you decline an invitation to go see this movie at the theater. Do not feel you have to keep up with the newest movies out.
1 ¾ stars
I remember it as if it happened last weekend. Someone’s older brother had told us about this game that used magic. One of my friends had gotten it as a gift and we were to meet at his house to play the game. It was sometime after dinner when we went down into his basement that was set up as a family room. The floors were covered in linoleum but there was this big oval throw rug that covered part of it between 2 long couches. We sat on the floor around the coffee table after we removed the candy dishes and magazines. Off to one side was a bar that had a variety of bottles in different sizes and colors. We all knew we were not allowed to go behind the bar because there were 2 shelves that held these unusual shaped bottles. On the wall above the shelves was a large clock that not only told time but also had these dancing colors that bounced up and down when a switch was turned on off to the side of the clock. ALL of us were sitting around the table with the game board out; our hands were placed on the triangular shaped piece that had a monocle in the middle of it. At least that is what it looked like to me. My friend had read the instructions to the rest of us and it was time to ask a question to see if the plastic disc would move. All of us were leaning over to see what would happen after the question was asked but suddenly the lights went out in the basement. However the clock over the bar turned on, shining its multi-colored lights. I remember hearing someone scream and we all ran up the stairs, leaving the game behind us. No one initially thought there was something evil in the room and certainly nothing like what was in this horror film. ALICE Zander, played by Elizabeth Reaser (Young Adult, The Twilight Saga franchise), had been struggling to keep things afloat after the death of her husband. It was not until she brought in a board game to include in her fake séances that things took a turn—to something worse. Set in Los Angles during the 1960s, I initially sat in my seat wondering where this prequel was going story wise. I am here to tell you it went to some thrilling, dramatic places. With Annalise Basso (Oculus, Captain Fantastic) as Lina, Lulu Wilson (Deliver us From Evil, The Millers-TV) as Doris and Henry Thomas (E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Legends of the Fall) as Father Tom; Lulu stole this movie, she was wonderful. The fact there was no blood shown or gore was a plus for me; but having the writers incorporate a family’s emotional and economic struggle into the plot only added more dimension to the story. I liked this film more than the first one. Even though some of the scares were your typical shock the audience stunts I did not mind them. The whole look of the film and Lulu’s performance made this an entertaining experience; plus I enjoyed the audience’s reactions around me. They were similar to me and my friends the first time we played that game.
Plans were all set for you and your friends to meet up at the local amusement park. The weathercasters had predicted good weather and they were right, warm and sunny. You and your friends were excited about going to the park because there was a new attraction. Walking into the kitchen to get something to eat for breakfast you heard your mother talking on the phone. The conversation was just ending and after your mother hung up the phone she said your aunt, uncle and cousins were coming over in the afternoon. You explained your plans but your mother told you it would not be polite to leave when your cousins were looking forward to playing with you. If your cousins were coming over in the morning you were sure they would want to go with you to the amusement park; but coming later in the afternoon, you knew your friends would already be finishing up and going home. Not that you did not want to see your relatives but you were disappointed having to stay at home and miss out on the plans you made with your friends. I have had my share of similar disappointments, plus I can recognize that same type of dejected look on kids’ faces when I walk past the nursery at the health clubs where I teach. The face is easy to spot. You will see a child in the nursery who is older than the other kids. Sitting on the small chairs that look like miniature toys under their weight, the older child usually has their head buried into some type of electronic device as they totally ignore all the little kids playing around them. They are there because their parent came to work out or take a class and they did not want to leave their kid, who they felt was not old enough to be home by themselves. Most parents know their child is too old to be stuck in a nursery. I felt like one of those kids as I sat through this comedy horror film. MADEA, played by Tyler Perry (Alex Cross, Good Deeds) agreed to watch her nephew’s daughter Tiffany, played by Diamond White (Haunted Hathaways-TV, Sing It!-TV), during Halloween. Dealing with an uncooperative child was only a small issue compared to the zombies, poltergeists and creepy clowns Madea would encounter. For the amount of time Tyler has devoted to his Madea character, I would have thought every possible scenario of trouble Madea could find herself in would have been covered. I do not know about this story but I found it redundant. It was the same type of humor and stunts to the point I did not find much to laugh about. With Cassi Davis (House of Payne-TV, Madea’s Big Happy Family) as Aunt Bam and Patrice Lovely (Madea Gets a Job, Love Thy Neighbor-TV) as Hattie, the humor was lost on me. Part of the reason may have been the difficulty in understanding some of the dialog. It was not very clear to me. For those who are fans of Madea you might enjoy this picture. Sitting through this movie was like getting a rotten apple instead of candy for Halloween.
1 2/3 stars
No matter how much a person thinks they are ready to move out on their own there still is an element of fear with the unknown. I knew several individuals who came from a challenging home life and when they finally decided to leave they were scared. For college age students who are fortunate to go away for school, I can say based on personal experience, it was difficult at first. College was my first time being away from home since I was never the overnight camp type of kid. My first week of college I think I had pizza and fast food meals 5 days out of 7. Food was a comfort for me back then. Doing my own laundry, making sure I got up when the alarm clock went off was solely my responsibility now. Those darn responsibilities; don’t they get in the way of living life sometimes? Having recently returned from vacation, I was talking with someone about the benefits of traveling alone. They said they could never do such a thing. I explained how freeing it was to not have to negotiate, discuss or compromise any of my decisions. The same thing applies to when I moved out on my own. Sure there was some fear in me, but it was liberating to take control of my life. Granted I wasn’t too thrilled to see the electric and gas bill in my name; but I did get a kick out of getting mail addressed to the owner, who was me. I will tell you I was not prepared for the many things like home repairs. Somehow that repairs gene was never handed down to me. I looked up at a hole in my roof caused by a raccoon and imagined filling it in with glass blocks to create a skylight. The fact that raindrops were coming down upon my head did not register this was an urgent matter I had to get fixed. Heading out on your own can be a wild ride. MEETING the traveling group of free-spirited individuals was the spark Star, played by newcomer Sasha Lane, needed to leave the life she was forced to live. This film festival winning drama had a cast that I forgot was acting; that is how authentic they appeared to me. With Shia LaBeouf (Transformers franchise, Fury) as Jake, Riley Keough (The Runaways, Mad Max: Fury Road) as Krystal and Arielle Holmes (Heaven Knows What, 2307: Winter’s Dream) as Pagan; the cast did a great job and Sasha was outstanding. I found the story interesting in the way it kept a focus on Star’s journey, seeing things thru her eyes. The issue I had with this film was its running length of 2 hours and 43 minutes. I felt this was way too long to tell the story; there were multiple scenes that in their own way duplicated earlier scenes. This picture could have used some more editing. However, the script had strength to keep me interested in this traveling group of people. Also, the soundtrack added a fun, funky element to the experience. Despite the fact that I worked going door to door selling products when I was very young, I did not have much in common with most of the characters; but I was intrigued enough to learn more about them.
I have to tell you I really toyed with the idea of buying the new toy I saw when it initially came out. The toy was a replica of an item used in a successful movie franchise and I thought it would be cool to have my very own, so I could grant wishes to friends and family who were visiting me. You will have to excuse my odd sense of humor; I did chuckle when I picked up the packaged toy from the store shelf, remembering several movie scenes where the item was in action. Generally I do not have any issue with a toy company coming out with toys based on a film; they call it marketing for a reason. The thing that bugs me though is seeing movie studios purposely putting in useless props into their movies just so they can sell the items to the masses to recoup some of their costs. What I mean exactly is making a cheap movie just so they can move product. So I am going to let my nerdness come out by telling you I have a few items that are associated with movies I thoroughly enjoyed, such as a miniature bendable cartoon cowboy and a set of glass mugs with several of the crew from a starship. I want you to know if the products were never promoted it would not distract from my fond feelings towards the movies they represented. Heck, I recently bought a couple of my relatives toys based on movies I have seen. Don’t tell anyone this, but I did it so I could play with the items when I go visit them. Maybe you are asking yourself about now what does this have to do with today’s movie review. Well let me tell you; I have never heard or seen a word, a toy or an advertisement for the main character in this science fiction, action film. Who or exactly what is Max Steel? NEVER knowing what caused his father’s death Max McGrath, played by Ben Winchell (Teen Spirit-TV movie, Mandie and the Forgotten Christmas), could not explain the unusual things that his body was experiencing. This adventure picture also starred Maria Bello (A History of Violence, Secret Window) as Molly McGrath, Andy Garcia (The Untouchables, The Air I Breathe) as Dr. Miles Edwards and Josh Brener (The Internship, Silicon Valley-TV) voicing Steel. I am not sure where I should begin with this review except to say this was one of the poorest produced movies I have seen all year. The first thing I found unusual was in the credits when one of the producing credits listed Mattel. I had to look up afterwards to find there is a toy line based on the Max Steel character. So my guess had to be Mattel wanted to sell their toys. Well if they did this was not the way to do it. I was so embarrassed watching Maria and especially Andy that I was cringing in my seat. The script was horribly dull and predictable. Add the poor directing and the acting was simply lame. For me this picture was one big infomercial. I wish I had bought that magic wand to erase the memory of this movie from my brain.
Whenever I see the city of my birth up on the big screen I immediately get a sense of pride. Even if the story shows an ugly side to the city, I enjoy seeing familiar surroundings. Let us face it, every city has positives and negatives; I choose to stay upbeat about my city and its possibilities. I have lived my whole life in the same city and have seen historic events throughout the years. When friends or family come into town you can always count on getting at least a mini tour of some area of the city or a visit to a local restaurant. I think having pride about the place you live in sends out a positive message. Not to come across as being too judgmental but I think if people took more pride in their surroundings and city it would become infectious to others. Having a good feeling can only create a better life, don’t you think? You have nowhere further to look than to your city’s local sports team to see the exuberant pride gushing out of the fans. If you have never been to an event where everyone around you was acting out in unison to a common pride, let me tell you it can be a heady experience. Please keep in mind I am not even talking about the people who over indulge in their celebrations. There was an exhibit that came to one of my city’s museums that was only going to be shown here, nowhere else in the country. You should have seen how all the people attending this exhibit were so excited and full of pride that the city snagged such an exclusive event. I even got so wrapped up in the enthusiasm I wound up buying a couple of T-shirts from the gift shop that was set up at the exit of the exhibit. It really is a good feeling to share your pride in something which is why I could relate to the fans sitting in the audience of this record breaking event. HOMETOWN native Kevin Hart (Central Intelligence, The Wedding Ringer) wanted to have a concert in the city he grew up in, Philadelphia. His love of the city helped break a record. This comedy movie for the most part was filmed at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. The opening and closing scenes were created as a big joke on how Kevin would pay for this comedy concert. It also gave him the opportunity to interact with Halle Berry (X-Men franchise, The Call), Don Cheadle (Iron Man franchise, Hotel Rwanda) and Ed Helms (The Hangover franchise, Vacation). Let me first tell you I am not a fan of Kevin’s films because I feel he does the same character over and over. As for his style of humor, there are a few amusing bits he performs; but generally I am not a fan of using foul or vulgar language to get a laugh. If you enjoy Kevin’s work then you will have a fun time watching this concert. For me this picture was just okay; however, I enjoyed seeing a stadium full of people all sharing in a good time.
Water seeking its own level is a way I look at people who have an overabundance of one attribute. Let me show you what I mean. If I saw a person who was extraordinary in a sports activity I would soon discover they were deficient in another part of their life. Not to make this sound like a given but within my small world this seemed to be the norm. There was this boy in school who was a genius when it came to mathematics. He had little skill in socialization, often times he would be off and away from the other students. Because he showed this amazing side of himself and the teacher did nothing to bridge the gap between him and the rest of the class, the other students shied away from him. He had a hard time through high school, though he only stayed for a couple of years before getting a scholarship to MIT at the age of 15. I hope this explains what I mean by water seeking its own level; because math skills took up a majority of this person’s brain, other skills were not fed as much. Hopefully I am making sense here; because there was a time (or maybe it still happens) when people did not take the time to find that special skill in a person. I feel each person has abilities but some don’t translate well. Another way of saying this would be to describe human beings as a recipe. If there is too much sugar they are extra sweet; if they are mean spirited then there is not a lot of goodness in them. Everything has to find a way to balance out inside of us some way. CHRISTIAN Wolff, played by Ben Affleck (Gone Girl, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), had a father who refused the advice of doctors on how to treat his son. It was because of his decision Christian was able to take care of himself as an adult. This action crime drama twisted its way inside of me. With Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air, Pitch Perfect franchise) as Dana Cummings, J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Labor Day) as Ray King and John Lithgow (Interstellar, Love is Strange) as Lamar Black; the story grabbed me on several levels. First I thought the way the writer handed the subject of autism was both sensitive and humorous. Ben did a wonderful job and I especially liked the chemistry between him and Anna. They were not only sweet together but plausible. I thought the flashback scenes would have been a distraction but on the contrary they only added a real depth to the characters. Now keep in mind I never look ahead while watching a film to try and figure it out. This film took me by surprise with the twists and turns that took place. Keeping this real, let me tell you there were a few scenes that did not ring true; but in the scheme of things, it did not matter to me. The movie took an important subject and made it part of an entertaining story. Now if I could find an accountant like this one; or on second thought, I would be glad to wait for a sequel to this film.