Monthly Archives: July 2017
INTENTLY drawing on their construction paper the students were following the teacher’s assignment to draw a picture of their favorite animal. Each child had their own box of crayons; some had the bigger sized containers with more colors. The teacher was walking around the classroom, checking up on each student’s artwork. She would offer words of encouragement or ask a question or two about the animal. Walking up from behind she looked over the shoulder of a boy who was carefully working on something the teacher could not figure out. There was nothing on the paper that resembled an animal. The teacher asked the student what he was drawing and he gladly explained the scene he created on his paper. What he had drawn was an elaborate jungle scene, using a variety of brightly colored crayons. Off to the side barely visible were 2 eyes staring out; the boy said it was a tiger. The teacher told him that was not the assignment. TECHNICALLY the assignment was to draw your favorite animal; the student did just that, except had the animal hidden in the jungle. One could say the boy was very creative and in fact, encourage the continued use of his imagination. However the teacher did not see it that way. She liked everyone to conform to the same thing. To look at something a different way was not something the teacher was comfortable with evidently. Assignments were supposed to be followed according to what the teacher believed was the “right” way; in other words, the way she thought things were supposed to be done. Someone with imagination would not easily conform to restrictions; they would as they say, “think outside of the box.” Personally I feel it is always an advantage to have people around who see things differently than you do. This animated, adventure comedy knows what I am talking about. EVERYONE living in Textopolis has one facial feature that they hope gets picked by the phone’s user. Considered an anomaly was Gene, voiced by T.J. Miller (Deadpool, Office Christmas Party), who had more than one facial feature. With a cast that included James Corden (Into the Woods, The History Boys) as Hi-5, Anna Faris (The House Bunny, Mom-TV) as Jailbreak, Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids, Sisters) as Smiler and Steven Wright (Reservoir Dogs, Son of the Mask) as Mel Meh; I thought the concept for the story was admirable regarding differences between people. From that idea to the big screen something got lost in translation because the script was bland and uninteresting. I could not get over how you make a film with colorful emojis and then do not offer them some excitement and fun. Overall there were no laughs or emotions to this picture. Not one child in the audience I was sitting with expressed any happiness towards a scene. At least the actors’ voices were fun to listen to, especially from James and Maya. Sadly out of all the emojis shown in the movie, the one that best describes my feelings about this film is “meh.” There was an extra scene in the middle of the credits.
1 ¾ stars
SIGNS were posted across the building and in the parking lot that the grocery store was back open after being remodeled. I had never paid attention to this place since they had very few name brand items on the shelves. The reason I was there now was due to my friends telling me I had to try the place because their prices were on the average much lower than other grocery stores. Once inside I took a shopping cart and started walking down the aisles. Most of the products on the shelves were in disarray which was a turnoff for me. I wound up mainly buying fruits, vegetables, nuts and juice. The prices were lower but I have to tell you I did not think their store brand items were that good compared to the name brand ones. In fact, I thought the sunflower seeds were awful. RECENTLY introduced into my neighborhood was a new grocery chain from out of state. Their store looked like a palace compared to that food store I tried earlier. Produce was stacked up in separate bins, each one brightened by the spotlights that were hanging down from the rafters. I was curious how they were able to get each apple polished and shiny. They had a bake shop in the store that had a wonderful aroma wafting around it. Loaves of different kinds of breads were loaded into a bank of glass cases. Out on the floor there were tables piled high with large assortments of baked goods. The prices were more than what I was used to so I was hesitant to buy many things; but since I am a bread and dessert lover I did splurge a bit in this area. After finally trying both new grocery stores I have not gone back to them. The first place with cheaper prices was more like a knockoff to my regular place; it had less variety and what they had did not taste as good as the usual stuff I purchase. As for the other store, it was beautiful but their prices were on the high end. I could say the same about this science fiction film; a bland imitation that looked expensive to make. SPECIES from all over the universe had finally found a way to live in harmony with each other. That was until a dark force invaded their shared homeland. Written and directed by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita), this action adventure movie starred Dane DeHaan (A Cure for Wellness, Lawless) as Major Valerian, Cara Delevingne (Paper Towns, Suicide Squad) as Sergeant Laureline, Clive Owen (Inside Man, King Arthur) as Commander Arun Filitt and Rihanna (Battleship, Bates Motel-TV) as Bubble. What made this film entertaining were the wild visuals; the word “trippy” came to mind. Some of the scenes and characters were quite imaginative. I am not familiar with the book this film was based on, but I was intrigued by the relationship between Valerian and Laureline; though she was more memorable than he. The idea for this story was sound but I thought the script was poorly done. I was amazed that I figured out immediately who was going to be the “bad” guy and how the story was going to end. Where the visuals were exciting, the acting and script were lackluster. There was little to get excited or thrilled by in this picture. It was a shame because it was obvious they spent a lot on the technical stuff but what got created was a light version of Star Trek mixed with Star Wars.
ZOOKEEPERS’ love of animals is stronger than their fear of getting killed. Granted precautions would be in place to avoid being fatally hurt by an animal. I give them credit nonetheless because I feel it takes courage to walk into a space where a wild animal is located. According to a couple of surveys some of the most dangerous jobs would be loggers, fishing workers, construction workers, truckers and farmers. Let us assume the person had a choice in what type of work they wanted to do and were aware of any dangers associated with it. The point I am making is a person chooses what they want to do for either financial reasons or desire to be in that field; they usually do not base their decision on how dangerous and thrilling it would be. Well maybe a stunt double or daredevil would want the excitement. DESPITE the present danger there were and are people who defy the given norm. A person at one time marrying out of their faith or race could find themselves being cast out or killed. Holding hands or kissing someone of the same gender could get you thrown off of a building. The world is a scary place and personally I find it getting scarier than when I was younger. There is however examples all around of people being courageous. I think those who volunteer for experimental drug studies show courage, as an example. With most cases whatever lines of work a person chooses there would be some down time where they can relax and be off the clock so to speak. However what would you say about a person who decides to do something that will affect their life 24/7? You could say they are nuts, why would they want to do such a thing; however, there is something inside such an individual who would willingly take on the risk for a deeper cause. There is courage but after watching this film festival winning documentary I have a new definition for what courage means. WATCHING their city being taken over by ISIS a small group of anonymous activists risk their lives to show the world what is going on in their hometown of Raqqa in Syria. Written and directed by Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land, Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare), watching this movie was not only hard but it was also unimaginable. The idea that these men are willing to take on such risk to show the world what is going on in their city was unbelievable. Seeing the footage they were able to shoot may be too much for some viewers. From a viewing experience this picture was suspenseful, thrilling, emotional and dramatic; I still am in a bit of shock that these activists are now marked for life for undertaking this endeavor. Kudos to the director for bringing together the various aspects to this story for there was the actual footage from the city, the personal stories of the activists and news reports. I will be honest I was hesitant for a moment on whether I should post this review. Based on the lengths being taken to squash these activists’ actions, I was wondering if I was in any kind of danger. It may sound crazy but after you view this film you might understand where I am coming from. This was not an easy movie to sit through but compared to what was on screen I have no right to complain about anything.
3 ½ stars
THE restaurant was full of people which kept the noise volume up at a consistent level. It was the usual sounds: clatter of dishes, scraping of silverware, conversations and low volume music. We were seated around one of the many round tables that filled up the center of the restaurant. I did not have any trouble hearing our conversations over the steady din of random sounds. It was when we were nibbling on our appetizers that a table nearby opened up and quickly after new diners were escorted to it by the hostess. There were 4 of them and they were in good spirits as they were laughing and high fiving each other on the way to their table. Once seated the group did not let up on the laughing and carrying on, calling each other either by their nicknames or something of a derogatory nature. BY the time our main courses came to the table the noise from that group of four rose and stayed above the general sound level; however, they were freely using foul language within their comments and jokes. Now I do not have a problem with such language, but I tend to be considerate of my environment. In mixed company, I am referring to adults and children; I would never use such language. My friends are used to my colorful vocabulary since those types of coarse words are adjectives to me. If I were to use such strong language at a restaurant I certainly would not say it loud enough to go beyond my table, unlike the group near me. They were throwing the F-bomb around like confetti and I could see some of the other diners were shooting them dirty looks. If anyone from that loud table noticed, they certainly did not care since they kept up the foul language and boisterous laughter. I tried to block out the noise they were creating but it did not work, just as it did not work for me in this comedy. LIFE sometimes can get in the way of maintaining friendships; it had been a long time since girlfriends Ryan Pierce, Sasha Franklin, Lisa Cooper and Dina; played by Regina Hall (Law Abiding Citizen, Think Like a Man), Queen Latifah (Chicago, Bringing Down the House), Jada Pinkett Smith (Bad Moms, Gotham-TV) and Tiffany Haddish (Keanu, The Carmichael Show-TV); hung out together. The best way to solve it would be a girls’ trip to New Orleans. These four actresses worked extremely well together to form a believable group of lifelong friends. Even during times when I thought the conversation was rapidly boxing back and forth, the actresses were skillfully able to handle it. With that being said the script was loaded with strong and sexual language; I mean loaded like top heavy to the point if one were to remove all such dialog the movie would be half as long. If one gets offended by such language then this would not be the movie to see. The script had predictability; however, compared to recent female lead comedies, this one had a few good laughs in it. Personally I do not find swearing a comedic talent; to me it is a lazy way of creating a funny situation. Plus the idea of women talking trash I feel is used to shock viewers because there was a time people were raised to believe women who spoke like that were “bad.” Based on the crowd I was sitting with, the majority of women in the theater liked this film more than I did.
2 ¼ stars
THOUGH I had made my way to the front I was nervous by the amount of people that were filling up the train station platform. I had not reached the start of the yellow warning strip at the edge of the platform, but one big surge or push could have detrimental results for someone. Something must have happened somewhere along the route to delay the train; the information board only listed a flashing “delay” notice for this particular train line. Everyone was being squeezed together. You could only hope the person behind you was not carrying any large packages that would dig into your back. On the plus side we were not waiting on one of the above ground stations out in the freezing cold. We were standing in a subway station underneath the downtown area. AFTER what seemed an unbearable amount of time the information board listed the arrival time for the train. I knew it was going to be a challenge to get on the train, let alone get a seat. If the train was skipping stations to make up the delay the chance would be better the passenger cars were not packed. However if it was making its usual stops, by the time it reached my station, the cars could be overflowing with people. As the train finally pulled into the station I saw the cars were over half filled with passengers. I had a good chance based on where I was standing; but only if the doors of the car stopped close in front of me. Luck was with me, one of the train car’s doors stopped directly in front of me. The two people ahead of me quickly moved inside; I followed them and we manuveured to the middle of the car as best we could. The reason was the tightest fit always occurred by the doors and one would have to constantly adjust their place as people tried to exit or shove their way inside. One could not help feeling bad for the passengers who got left behind as they watched their train pull away from the station. I felt much worse for the soldiers in this dramatic action film based on true events. MILITARY forces from Belgium, France and the British Empire were surrounded by the Nazis. The only way out was by sea, where they could easily be picked off by the enemy’s firepower. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight franchise, Interstellar) this historic war picture starred newcomer Fionn Whitehead as Tommy, Damien Bonnard (A Perfect Plan, Staying Vertical) as a French soldier, Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, The Other Boleyn Girl) as Mr. Dawson and Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn, Rabbit-Proof Fence) as the commander. This movie was not only beautifully filmed; it was enhanced with the incredible musical score that played a part in building up the tense scenes. The story was incredible and I felt Christopher kept it simple because honestly the event could speak for itself. With the placement of the cameras Christopher was able to maintain a deep emotional connection to the viewing audience. I saw this movie in an enhanced theater where the seats vibrated based on the sound intensity; it added more to my experience and level of enjoyment as I felt I was part of the scenes. This was such a well done picture and though my chances of dying on that train platform were slim, I could relate somewhat to the soldiers’ plight in this courageous story.
3 ½ stars
SACRIFICE may be too strong of a word; I prefer saying compromise. Maybe I feel this way because when I was younger the only time I would be aware of the word and its meaning was in stories and movies. A sacrifice involved killing, either human or animal. Just look at the film King Kong where the villagers make an offering to Kong. So when it comes to relationships I tend to avoid saying sacrifice; though if they made me mad enough—just kidding. For me compromising is an essential part of being in a relationship. There have been several couples I have known where one person was so needy, they were never satisfied with the amount of changes their significant other had gone through to please them. More times than not resentment filters into the relationship and from there everything quickly goes downhill. This of course can turn out completely different when one participant has low self-esteem. FROM a recent relationship I experienced some of this firsthand. We were still in the early stages where everything was great and exciting. A couple of times I was questioned about my teaching schedule; I took it as a sign of interest. After a couple of months we had a talk about finding places in our schedules where we could spend more time together. I offered a couple of options where I could fit in some of my chores during the week to free up more open time on the weekend. This seemed a doable solution so life went on as we became more attached to each other. It was around the 6-7 month mark when I was asked if I could join them for some function. My schedule did not allow it and they seemed to understand. Sure enough a few weeks went by before they started an argument and threw this back at me. It turns out they resented me teaching at night; something I was doing way before we had met. From my point of view they wanted me to make the sacrifice and stop teaching; I think you can guess what happened—I still am teaching classes. ARTISTS Noriko and Ushio Shinohara would have to give up something to make their relationship work, but would it be fair? Written and directed by Zachary Heinzerling (Hugh the Hunter, P.O.V-TV) this film festival winning documentary was nominated for an Oscar. Spanning their 40 year marriage I enjoyed seeing how the creativity came out of these 2 artists along with their artistic son Alex. It was fascinating to see how emotions play such an important role in an artist’s life. Ushio is known as the boxing artist and I could easily see where some of his work was therapeutic. The things he made using cardboard were incredible. However Noriko’s story was the stronger one for me because one could really see the progression she made throughout the years of their marriage. Another aspect I enjoyed about this film was the use of animation with some of Noriko’s artwork. I, like many others I am sure, have heard how artists suffer for their art. Now I do not want to say there was suffering on display here; but it was interesting to see what people do for the sake of their art. Whether one thinks there was sacrifice or compromise in the Shinohara’s relationship does not matter; what does is how it all fits together. Parts of the movie were spoken in Japanese with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars — DVD
THE ghost from the love of her life remained close to her even after she found herself alone. They had been together for some years so the ghost was familiar with many of the things she enjoyed doing when she was part of a couple. She would hear a particular song and feel a tug at her heart as her feet prepared to move into step to the music; it was their song they danced to when they first expressed their love for each other. The times when she drove by the lake she could look out and almost see the two of them frolicking between the waves. No matter where or when she would experience these random moments, where she sensed there was something around her, it would alert at least one if not more of her senses. An aroma, a sound, a particular look to something and she would feel her heart sigh, experiencing a brief feeling as if she was not alone. WHEN it comes to whether I believe in ghosts or not I do not have an opinion one way or the other. Let me say I believe anything is possible just because there have been things I experienced that cannot be explained. Maybe there are invisible souls connected to us in some way; how would we really know? I will say love can affect us in such a strong way that sometimes the connection never gets broken. To this day there are a few songs I hear that immediately send me back to a time where I was sharing life with another. As time goes on I do not believe we really forget someone; I feel we just create different routines that do not always take us to the same places we used to share with them. Not to say everyone does this; there are some people who prefer staying in the same spot so they do not have to move on. EVEN in death C, played by Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea, Out of the Furnace), found himself in the same home he shared with M, played by Rooney Mara (The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). The difference was she could not see him. Written and directed by David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints), this dramatic romantic fantasy offered a deep message. I appreciated how the script tackled the topics of love, loss, legacy and connection; however, I thought the presentation of it was a slow process. One would expect the acting to be good coming from Casey and Rooney and for the most part it was, though over half the movie Casey was covered in a white sheet. For me the pacing was tedious and it was apparent I was not the only one who felt this way. During a scene where Rooney was eating an entire pie, an audience member yelled out, “It is enough already,” when the camera remained on Rooney the whole time; it really was getting painful to watch I have to say. And this is the issue I had with this picture; there were several times where I wanted to flip a switch to make the film go faster. From the trailers I was intrigued by this story and wanted the movie to be a good viewing experience. The story made me think but its execution was not entertaining for me and that is how I base my ratings.
“YOU’RE wishing your life away” is what she told me. I was complaining about having to go to a social function I did not want to attend and my friend told me I needed to stop wishing things were over. Explaining my reasons for not wanting to attend, she pointed out there was no choice in the matter since I was required to attend; so why keep complaining about it because nothing is going to change. She was right; there really was nothing I could do about the situation. Of course, that did not stop me from complaining and wishing I did not have to go to the event. I am so used to or maybe it is better to say I have been programmed for so many years to wish things away; let me tell you why. DEPENDING on my age I have spent a majority of my youth wishing certain things were different. As a young boy I wanted to fly or at least be invisible; when you cannot be seen you cannot get hurt. When I learned how to bowl it seemed it was a long time before my wish came true to throw a strike. By the time I was in high school my wish list expanded greatly. Besides wishing myself away I also wished something bad would happen to my tormentors. The list of “bad things” is way too long to list here; let me just say some of the wishes included burning, drowning and torture. These wishes created if you will an alternative world where I was in control and not getting hurt. During that time I did have other wishes like wanting to be skinny, strong and a world traveler. Correct me if I am wrong in my assumption but I do not think I was the only one who had wishes. Based on how many people I have seen at the convenience store buying lottery tickets, it seems many people wish for something to happen in their lives. Another example is the high school girl in this fantasy, horror thriller. FINDING an unusual discarded Chinese box Clare Shannon, played by Joey King (Wish I Was Here, Independence Day: Resurgence), discovered what she wished for would come true. What she did not know was the price that needed to be paid to make that wish turn into reality. With a cast that included Ryan Phillippe (The Lincoln Lawyer, Cruel Intentions) as Jonathan Shannon, Ki Hong Lee (The Maze Runner franchise, The Stanford Prison Experiment) as Ryan Hui and newcomer Mitchell Slaggert as Paul Middlebrook; this story had a decent idea that quickly dropped into the dumpster. There was nothing scary per se; just a few scenes of violence. If the writers were trying to unnerve the viewer with tension I did not see anything worthwhile. At one point I felt sad for the actors because the script was so typical it was easy to figure out what the next scene would be. I did not find the acting anything to write home about; it was close to forgettable though I was drawn most to Joey and Ki with their roles. For a majority of this film I sat in my seat feeling bored; wishing I did not have to be there, stuck watching it. Oh there I go again wishing for something to be over; but in this case, I feel I was justified. There were violent scenes and in the middle of the credits there was an extra scene.
1 ½ stars
THERE were days where it felt he had a target painted on his back. What he originally thought were random acts of violence, where he happened to be the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time, he began to realize he was the main focus of the perpetrators’ aggression. Unfortunately bystanders around him would also fall victim to the violent acts. Being unexpectedly pushed from behind would cause him to fall into anyone standing in front of him, resulting in the chance they could topple and injure themselves. A liquid filled container thrown at him would also have an impact on anyone around him. He could never understand the hatred towards him. It was not like he started a fight or something; he pretty much fell into the average category, avoiding any type of conflicts or confrontations. His attitude was “live and let live” when it came to the behavior of others; however, there were days where it was a challenge to maintain that attitude. SEVERAL weeks of constant attacks pushed me to a place I had never been before. With my friends being affected from the fallout and me becoming consumed with a deep set hatred towards my aggressors, I lashed out at one of them when he was alone. It was the only time I instigated a fight. What worked in my favor was the fact no one would ever imagine me picking a fight. Adding in the element of surprise, I was set to let all of my anger out onto this one individual while I kept telling myself not to get hit in the face and start crying. My hope was if I could show this one person that I could fight back that he and the rest of his kind would stop picking on me. A similar train of thought was considered in this 3rd installment of the rebooted action adventure franchise. WHEN his enclave came under attack Caesar’s, played by Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings franchise, The Prestige), hopes of peaceful co-existence seemed an impossible reality. He would be forced to confront the ugliness of man head on. Compared to the two previous films I found this science fiction story incorporated elements of American slavery and the Bible; especially in regards to Moses and the 10 commandments, at least the movie version. With Woody Harrelson (The Edge of Seventeen, Now You See Me franchise) as the Colonel, Steve Zahn (Dallas Buyers Club, A Perfect Getaway) as Bad Ape, Karin Konoval (The Movie Out Here, 2012) as Maurice and Amiah Miller (Lights Out, How We Live-TV movie) as Nova; I realized some people might not appreciate the acting skills of some of the actors who were CGI enhanced; but I have to tell you, I thought Andy and Karin were amazing in their roles. Andy, besides all of the physical acting, was still able to convey emotions with depth to his character. I will be curious to see if he gets any recognition for the amount of work he put into this dramatic picture. The special effects were well done, never over the top and appearing quite real. What really tied all of the good pieces together in this movie was the script; I felt it was well thought out, going beyond the typical sci-fi story. It had heart which quickly grabbed me into the story. As I continued to think about this film afterwards I can see where it could start a discussion about a variety of topics including our current times.
3 ½ stars
WHENEVER there was a fight that involved females, they would attract the biggest crowds. There is a term I have heard associated to these types of fights called “catfight.” As a young kid I never understood why other children would yell out this word and immediately others would scurry over to watch 2 girls battle it out. I remember a couple of these fights breaking out in the school hallways and was stunned at the viciousness on display. There was scratching, kicking, hair pulling and smacking, besides tearing of clothing. One particular fight involved a shorter girl who had transferred into our school. She actually stunned and frightened many students when she got involved into a fight with another girl. The reason being she was landing full-fledged hard punches like a boxer. Her opponent dropped to the floor in no time. STRENGTH is not something that is exclusive to the male species. I am sure I have mentioned in previous reviews my female relatives who were in the military; one was a sergeant who could nearly squeeze the blood out of your hand when she shook it. It just makes me wonder how and why stereotypes get formed. You know the ones like females are the weaker sex or are more emotional or always go to the restroom in pairs; why are such things a topic of conversation? There have been numerous times feats of strength have been reported on the news or shown on television specials. I remember from years ago a small child being trapped underneath a car and its mother pushing the vehicle off her child. Just recently in the newspaper there was an article about a father who saved his child from flood waters without the use of anything except his super human strength against the rushing water. Whether one is male or female, a parent or not; I feel when times call for it anyone will do whatever they can to survive. See for yourself in this film festival winning drama. SECLUDED in their boarding school in Virginia the lives of the student body were disrupted when injured soldier Corporal McBurney, played by Colin Farrell (The Lobster, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), was discovered on their property. Besides being injured he was also a northerner. Written and directed by Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette), this civil war story was utterly beautiful to watch. The scenes were full of atmosphere where I was feeling the emotions of the cast which included Nicole Kidman (Lion, Secret in Their Eyes) as Miss Martha, Kirsten Dunst (Hidden Figures, Upside Down) as Edwina and Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon, 20th Century Women) as Alicia. The acting was outstanding especially from Nicole; there is no denying when she is on screen she commands one’s attention. I know this story was done before; but what I enjoyed about this version was the fact it was coming from the women’s point of view. The story was a fascinating one for me because of the women being southerners and Colin’s character was from the north. Everything appeared to hit the mark until I got deeper into the film. Based on the scenes I actually felt there needed to be more intensity coming out of the characters. With that type of cast they could have easily delved further down and made a bigger impact. I still enjoyed watching this picture, loving how some of the scenes were set up visually. One thing for sure after seeing this movie, one cannot assume someone is weaker than another.