Monthly Archives: June 2019
WHEN IT COMES TO MAKING A CHANGE, I would not be one of the first to jump on the “bandwagon;” I readily admit it. For most of my life I have lived by the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If something is working for me, then I will remain doing the same thing over and over; I never get tired of it. I will give you an example: during the work week I like eating the same lunch each and every day; I enjoy it as much as the day before. It turns out I am not alone in my family; in fact, I am a 3rd generation same lunch eater. Among my friends, however, I believe I am the only one who does it. I wish I knew what it is about change that causes me to be hesitant. Though I am wired this way, fitness is what helped me dent my regimented ways, believe it or not. When I became a fitness instructor I had no choice; if I wanted to have a successful class I had to learn how to be more flexible (no pun intended). With any form of exercise, it is a good policy to always change things up; doing the same thing over and over increases the risk of injury from overuse. IN MY AEROBIC CLASSES I WOULD maintain the same routines for several weeks before introducing new movements. If I did not, members would eventually become both bored and stagnant with their fitness goals. I had to teach myself to let go and provide new challenges for my classes. Due to this I slowly became more comfortable with accepting change. It has been a long process. Another thing I have become aware of is how accepting change helps a person stay relevant. I think that is something more important if basing it on society’s standards. This brings to mind someone I used to work with who did the same thing every day. As the years went by, more employees started to forget about them; it did not help they did outside and inside sales. There were stretches of time where no one would have seen them. And when this employee came into the office their desk was in a remote part of the building. As the company grew and updated its software and hardware, this person essentially lost touch with their fellow employees. It was as if time stood still for them, they became lost in the new procedures and operations. It was a similar dilemma that the main character was experiencing in this comedic drama. TRAILBLAZING LATE-NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST Katherine Newbury, played by Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Men in Black: International), after many years is now being looked at in a different light. The same old thing was not working anymore. With Mindy Kaling (A Wrinkle in Time, No Strings Attached) as Molly Patel, John Lithgow (Pet Sematary, Beatriz at Dinner) as Walter Lovell, Hugh Dancy (Adam, Martha Marcy May Marlene) as Charlie Fain and Reid Scott (Venom, Veep-TV) as Tom Campbell; this dramedy excelled from the wonderful acting by Emma and Mindy in particular. Emma’s timing was impeccable throughout the movie. I enjoyed the whole cast but these two really stood out for me. I was pleased with the story because I found it current, funny and thought-provoking; kudos to Mindy for writing the screenplay. Despite a few clichés here and there, this picture provided me with some solid entertainment. And that is saying something because during this film I realized there were certain aspects of Katherine that I could relate to and not in necessarily a good way.
THOUGH I HAD NOT SEEN THEM for years, my memories of them were just as vivid today as they were back then. I was downsizing my living space and came upon a couple of shelves in the basement that were filled with toys. Some were in their original packaging while others were sealed in plastic bags or bins. They brought a smile to my face as I had to stop my packing and look at each one. There was a boxed game where the players had to pick 5 letters and 5 categories. Writing each one down on a mini-spreadsheet, letters going vertically down and categories across horizontally, the players would be timed as they had to fill in as many spaces as they could within the time frame. This was my favorite game outside of word games. There was a toy on the shelf that I remember getting at the same time as a cousin of mine. It was a moving track, like a miniature moving sidewalk, where I would have to steer a magnetic car through obstacles that would pop up on the revolving track. Each toy I took off the shelf provided me a fond memory; I was not sure if I could part with any of them. IT IS FUNNY HOW FOR MANY of us a toy or stuffed animal can have an influence on our life’s path. I remember playing this word game with a relative, where there was a group of dice that had letters instead of numbers on them. They would be shaken around inside a plastic cube until they settled into spaces set out like a tick tack toe graph. We would turn the timer over to start, then come up with as many words as we could using the letters showing; but, having to only connect the letters down or up and side to side, nothing diagonal. It was this early game that started my love of reading and writing. There was also a babysitter of mine who each time she sat for me would bring me a stuffed animal. I am convinced that menagerie started my affection and first educational direction for animals. Let me say at one time I had almost 2 dozen stuffed animals sleeping with me; I could barely move in the bed. Now it has been many years since I played with toys and stuffed animals; but I must tell you, I was pleasantly surprised seeing the familiar characters again in this latest installment of the animated, adventure franchise. WITH A COUPLE OF DISCARDED ITEMS and a little imagination Bonnie, voiced by Madeleine McGraw (American Sniper, Ant-Man and the Wasp), created a new toy for herself. The problem was convincing this new addition that he belonged in her toy collection; something Woody, voiced by Tom Hanks (The Post, Sully), thought he could fix. With Tim Allen (3 Geezers!, Last Man Standing-TV) voicing Buzz Lightyear, Tony Hale (Stranger than Fiction, American Ultra ) voicing Forky and Annie Potts (Ghostbusters, Pretty in Pink) voicing Bo Peep; this film was one of the few sequels I have seen that maintained the high standards of its previous movies. The animation was outstanding, and the humor was appropriate and relevant for both children and adults. Also, the story was thoughtful and cleverly laid out to take adult type themes and present them in such a way that was easy for kids to digest. I experienced a variety of feelings from excitement to tension to love; each expertly fitted into the script without overpowering one another. The movie studio did a wonderful job in keeping the integrity intact for this beloved film franchise. I may never get rid of my toys now. There were 4 extra scenes during the 1sthalf of the credits.
3 ½ stars
HE WAS A MAN WHO NEVER heard the word “No,” during his professional role. I witnessed it for myself. During the summer I had a job at a company that was family owned. The man who hired me was the son of the owner, a man who had died several years prior. This company was the only job the son had done; he started helping out there during his elementary school years. I did not have much interaction with him, even though he was always around. However, I did see how the employees acted around him; some of them were even relatives of his. What became apparent to me was everyone’s reluctance to tell the son something negative or not aligned to his own way of thinking. Even if the person knew it was not in the company’s best interests, they would still not disagree with the son. For full disclosure, I will say the son was not the nicest man to work for; so, maybe some employees did not care about the company or its owner. I could only assume they did not need the job as much as I did. Again, I was only working there during the summer months before school started up again. THAT EXPERIENCE TURNED OUT TO BE quite helpful in my job searches. After I got out of college I applied at a local company that made handbags. During the interview process I discovered the company was being run by a child of the owner. I cannot remember if it was a son, daughter or grandchild. When I found this out it made sense to me because there was an extremely expensive car in the parking lot with vanity plates. I knew right at that moment that the car was owned by the owner’s child. Putting two and two together, I declined the offer they made me; I did not want to get involved with a company that had such a chain of command hierarchy. It was a good thing because a couple of years later I discovered the company had to file for bankruptcy. I never found out the details of it, but I was convinced part of the reason was having the son run the business. Now, I do not want to slight all family owned companies; I know of several that have remained successful from generation to generation. But, I will say if children of the owner are not raised in a reality-based environment, where they must work to get ahead and deal with being told “no,” then I feel the company will never succeed. See how this plays out in this crime action, comedy movie. THOUGH HIS FATHER HAD NO INVOLVEMENT with his upbringing JJ, played by Jessie T. Usher (Almost Christmas, Independence Day: Resurgence), decided to seek out his Dad for help in the mysterious death of a close friend. It would bring a whole new meaning to the saying, “Blood is thicker than water.” With Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers franchise, Snakes on a Plane) as John Shaft, Richard Roundtree (What Men Want, Brick) as John Shaft Sr., Regina Hall (Girls Trip, The Hate U Give) as Maya Babanikos and Alexandra Shipp (Straight Outta Compton; Love, Simon) as Sasha Arias; this film could have been both fun and exciting. Instead it was vulgar and unnecessary. If the writers wanted to move the original story forward, they could have done it without the profanity laced dialog and unimaginative scenarios. Everything was obvious and easy to figure out; I quickly got tired while watching this stale story. I left the movie theater with only one wish: that none of the characters in the story ever procreate.
1 ½ stars
EVERYONE THOUGHT SHE WAS THE LIVING EMBODIMENT of a toy doll, perfect in every way; but, I knew better. She would always offer help to any fellow employee whether they might need it or not; she would also periodically bring in home-cooked desserts to share with anyone who came by her desk. Though I did not sit next to her, I could hear her talking to the employees who came near her desk. I do not know if I can explain it; but, she was sickly sweet with her conversations. She overused the words “honey” and “sweetie” to no end, besides appearing sympathetic to anyone who wanted to share any personal information with her. I knew better; the entire thing was an act. She was not really interested in what anyone said to her; she was fishing for information that she could use to advance herself within the company. The reason I knew this is because I had heard several conversations she had had with her boss, where she divulged other employees’ personal information in such a way that painted a better image of herself. It was nauseating for me to hear it. That sweet, friendly exterior was just a façade; she knew exactly what she was doing, and I was on to her. BEING IN AN ENVIRONMENT WITH A person like that is toxic. One can never let their guard down because they would never know how their words could be turned into a vice to squeeze them out of an opportunity in the workplace. I was pleasant to her simply because I did not want to get on her “bad side.” I had no idea what she was capable of and I did not want to prompt her to start focusing on me. Maybe I have been lucky, but I have never encountered someone like her in any of my jobs. Granted I have worked with a variety of individuals, from tattletales to “stab in the back” type people; however, there has not been anyone who can match this one employee’s output of manipulative behavior. What I find distressing about it is how it makes working at a company less enjoyable. I ask you, who wants to spend their energy every day combating such a negative force; it is such a drain on the body and mind. You can see how it is for yourself if you wish by watching this action, adventure comedy. THE MEN IN BLACK WERE SKILLED in protecting the Earth from aliens who threatened us. However, when that threat was coming from inside the organization, how could agents trust what they were seeing? Starring Chris Hemsworth (12 Strong, Thor franchise) as Agent H, Tessa Thompson (Creed franchise, Annihilation) as Agent M, Kumail Nanjiani (Big Sick, Silicon Valley-TV) voicing Pawny, Rebecca Ferguson (Life, Despite the Falling Snow) as Riza and Rafe Spall (The Ritual, The BFG) as Agent C; this updated version of the science fiction franchise devoted too much time on the jokes and not enough on the story. I thought Chris and Tessa were fun together; but it seemed as if I was listening to the same comedy routines over and over. There was no excitement, both visually and verbally; the entire picture seemed tired to me. As I was watching the villains I was wishing they would have broken into dance, because I recognized them from a dance-based reality television show. It would have been more fun to watch, I am sure. Another flaw was the fact I was able to figure out how the story would end, which usually is not my forte. Sadly, this was a waste of resources that tarnished the franchise.
1 2/3 stars
SHE WAS SHOWING ME HER LATEST purchase. It was still in the box; but from the picture, it was a device that was used on the face. With a clear plastic cone sticking up like a Victrola, my friend was telling me she planned on using it to open the pores of her face. Evidently the machine plugs into an electrical outlet, water is added to a reservoir and steam comes out the plastic cone. I thought, why couldn’t she just boil a pot of water on the stove and drape a towel over her head, while leaning over the steaming boiling water? There was no need for her to spend money on this device since she was on the brink of bankruptcy, according to her. But there was this pattern already of her buying into the latest trendy thing she saw or read about it. One time she wound up with a foot massager that she used a total of three times, before it was pushed back into a closet and she was onto her next new purchase. Out of the things I have seen at her place, I felt she was addicted to one of those home shopping stations or those late-night infomercials that are on TV. BELIEVE ME, I HAVE TRIED TALKING to her about her shopping addiction. At least that is what I called it because she was always buying stuff and more so when she was upset about something. We had been friends for years and I loved her dearly; which is why I was sad to see her go into financial ruin due to her spending habits. Her place looked like a graveyard for discarded products; everything from a popcorn air popper to a pneumatic drain snake. No matter what I suggested or directly said to her, she had an excuse on why she needed whatever she had just bought. She was a close friend who I loved unconditionally. Though it was apparent she was making things worse for herself, I stood by her side and supported her. I think inside of me I was always hoping she would heed my advice one day, but she was an adult and had the ability to make a choice still. It was a hard place for me to be in, but all I could do was love and be there for her until she chose to make a change. Many of the X-Men in this science fiction, adventure film would understand completely. AFTER SURVIVING AN ACCIDENT IN SPACE, a change came over Jean Grey, played by Sophie Turner (Josie, Game of Thrones-TV). It was a change that made several of her fellow X-Men uneasy, but they still wanted to be there for her. With James McAvoy (Atomic Blonde, Victor Frankenstein) as Professor Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs, The Snowman) as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence (Red Sparrow, Joy) as Raven/Mystique and Nicholas Hoult (Tolkien, Warm Bodies) as Beast; this action movie started out with excitement. It had been a long time since the last X-Men picture; so, I was looking forward to this one, especially to see Sophie in a different role from her Game of Thrones character. Unfortunately. the script was a big letdown for me. There was no “wow” factor to any of the scenes. Along with that, I thought the direction was poor because all the characters seemed to be on the same emotional level. I felt there could have been multiple opportunities to inject some fun or sadness or excitement; but I never really experienced any of these feelings. Sophie’s acting was too close to her Game of Thrones’ character in my opinion. The director could have pushed her farther. I have been a fan of the X-Men for a long time and I want to be there supporting them, but this latest installment was trying to push me away.
IT OCCURRED TO ME THAT I was watching different groups in this movie, with origins that spanned the globe, working together as one. There weren’t any indications of dislike, envy or hatred; in fact, it seemed as if their differences enhanced their capabilities to do good. They all had different physical differences. Some were darker, some were smaller, some had both dark and light color mixed in them and it did not matter. What a world they were living in where these things had no bearing on one’s feelings. I would have enjoyed experiencing the world they were living in. Those that were quite big were not picked on or made fun of, unlike my own past experiences. One was handicapped, and it appeared to me no one treated them different from anyone else. If I had seen this as a kid, I would have been surprised because of what I saw growing up. There was a student in class who had a health condition, something to do with their blood, that prevented her from participating in any physical activity. This student was shunned by other students; they considered her weird. Granted, they did not know the details of her situation; but, why did they immediately choose to treat her different was perplexing to me. RELIVING THESE MEMORIES MAKES ME NOW wonder if humans have an inherit tendency to shy away from others that are different or is it something that must be taught. Isn’t that a frightening thought if adults have been handing down that fear to their offspring. Based on what I have been seeing and hearing presently, it seems as if more people are less tolerate of those they perceive to be different. Because of the differences between us, I feel we are seeing more conflicts around the world. People are fighting and arguing for the simple reason they cannot accept someone being different. It does not matter if it is politics or religion or lifestyle; there is a pack mentality that gets formed where people only want to live with their own kind. I am saddened by what I read in the newspapers. Young adults are being killed because they dress and act different than what is “expected” of them. It is horrific, and it is wrong. So much more can be accomplished when the participants come from different backgrounds, to bring their unique skills to the forefront. Maybe those that do not believe me should take a look and see what the different animals in this animated, adventure comedy accomplish by working together. A WHOLE DIFFERENT WORLD AWAITS MAX and Duke, voiced by Patton Oswald (Young Adult, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) and Eric Stonestreet (The Loft, Modern Family-TV), when their family takes a vacation out in the country. How will Max handle so many new experiences? With Kevin Hart (Night School, The Upside) voicing Snowball, Harrison Ford (The Age of Adaline, Raiders of the Lost Ark franchise) voicing Rooster and Jenny Slate (Obvious Child, Gifted) voicing Gidget; this sequel came with its own built in charm. If you enjoyed the 1st film, you will enjoy watching this picture. The humor was fun, and the animation added to it. The children in the audience certainly were having a good time watching this movie. Now it appeared to me the movie studio did not want to deviate from the winning formula of the past film; however, by doing so there really was not anything new in this sequel. I thought there were too many story lines taking place at the same time. But here is the thing though, it did not take away my enjoyment from seeing what was happening in the story. Though there was nothing new with the characters, I liked seeing the way they worked together to tackle issues. Now if only they could teach humans that lesson.
2 ½ stars
IN YEARS LONG PAST, PARENTS WERE either cool or nerds. There was the family who had a mother that liked to dress up like her daughter. It was funny, where no one noticed the daughter’s attire; most people would not forget what the mother was wearing if they happened to see her in the neighborhood. On the other hand, there was another family that had a mother who seemed to be stuck in an era long past; she dressed and looked like an old movie to me. Mothers by the way were not the only ones who would stand out to the kids in the neighborhood. Living a couple of blocks away from me was a father who rode a motorcycle. To a young kid this dad seemed ultracool dressed up in leather jacket and pants with a matching black helmet. Another father in our school district would always tell these “dumb” jokes that made most children groan. It did not matter what our parents did for a living; every child tended to judge other parents solely on their looks and actions. The only time a parent would be considered mean was when they would not let their child come out to play. That was the extent of our feelings about parents. CURRENTLY THE NEWS HAS HAD SEVERAL stories about adults who have or have attempted to commit crimes against children. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen or read news alerts about an adult who tried to lure a child into their vehicle. Recently there was a verdict in a trial where the parents had kept their children locked in cages in the basement of their home. It is stories like these, that reaffirm my belief that people should be required to have a license to have a child. One needs a license to drive a car; so, why not have a test for adults to see if they are fit to have a child? I am not going to go into my rant again about parents who bring their young children to violent/sexual R rated films, just because they want to see the movie, or they do not want to pay for a babysitter. In fact, I am uncomfortable sometimes when I go to review a children’s animated film by myself. The reason being it looks odd to the families sitting around. There I sit, an older man without kids, at a children’s film. I have gotten some curious looks from the parents. They should see the adult in this movie if they want something real to worry about. AFTER SUE ANN, PLAYED BY OCTAVIA SPENCER (The Shape of Water, Hidden Figures), agreed to buy alcohol for a group of underaged friends; she felt it would not be safe for them to be driving and drinking. She offered the young adults her basement as a place to party and she was going to be the best host. With Diana Silvers (Booksmart, Glass) as Maggie, Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers, Cape Fear) as Erica, McKaley Miller (The Standoff, Hart of Dixie-TV) as Haley and Corey Fogelmanis (Girl Meets World-TV, PrankMe-TV) as Andy; this horror thriller needed to thank Octavia for starring in the key role. She was so good in the role that she creeped me out a bit. With that being said, the other aspects of this movie did not live up to the trailers. There were holes in the story where I questioned the validity of the situation; at other times, I thought the script was being lazy and generic. This could have been a real knuckle holder, but instead it only provided me with a glimmer at times of something that could have been frightening. Sue Ann and this movie had something in common; they were both troubled.
2 ½ stars
SEEKING APPROVAL FROM THOSE YOU LOVE is one of the strongest motivators one has at their disposal. Feeling good about your accomplishment is fine; however, having that “seal of approval” from someone else forms a stronger bond that can last for years. I remember to this day how I felt the first time I had to construct a diorama for a school project. The assignment was to recreate a scene from a book we were reading for class. My choice was an outdoor scene of mountains surrounding a secluded lake that the characters from the book would periodically visit. I had used a combination of materials, including rolled up pieces of plastic wrap for the lake. With a large assortment of colored markers and paints. I colored the pieces of cardboard I had cut out from a packing box, creating a mountain range with snow caps. For trees I used pipe cleaners that I would twist together to form the foliage over brown and black painted toilet paper cores. As I said before, I used a variety of things for this project. Once completed I was proud of what I had done. Family members praised my work which was both wonderful and expected; but, I really was hoping my teacher would shower her praise over my creation. She was a fantastic artist which made me value her opinion more than other people; gratefully she did not disappoint me. WHY I WAS REMINDED OF THIS memory was due to this musical movie. I have seen Elton John in concert a couple of times; once during his earlier years and the other recently. From the variety of acts I have seen live in concert, Elton was not a typical rock star. Many of them played off a certain sex appeal they were portraying. Male guitarists made it look like they were making love to their guitars; female singers would move in seductive ways. Elton was different; instead of trying to use sex appeal he went the spectacle route. The more flamboyant and outrageous he was the more his fans would scream for him. This is only my opinion; but because I was dealing with a poor self-image, I assumed Elton was also. Only when I could “dress up” in my workout clothes or suit did I feel better about myself. Seeing Elton dressed up in so many costumes led me to believe he was feeling the same way. Behind the façade there was a boy who wanted to be loved; I understood. If you wish to see what was going on behind the scenes, then feel free to watch this dramatic film about a music icon. FROM AN EARLY AGE ELTON JOHN displayed a gift for playing the piano. However, he was looking for something more. With Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Robin Hood) as Elton John, Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool) as Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden (Cinderella, The Take) as John Reid, Bryce Dallas Howard (Pete’s Dragon, Jurassic World franchise) as Sheila and Gemma Jones (Sense and Sensibility, Bridget Jones’s Diary franchise) as Ivy; the cast was well chosen. Standing above all of them though was Taron; he was incredible in his role, including his own singing. The acting and story drew me into this picture. I could not believe what I was seeing behind the scenes of so many memorable moments in Elton’s career. Granted I do not know how much truth was shown in this film, but nonetheless I enjoyed watching this movie for the most part. The one thing that did not connect with me was the use of fantasy scenes. A couple would have been fine, but I felt these scenes drained the emotional impact away from the story. It was amazing to see how so many of Elton’s songs’ lyrics lent themselves to the scenes. I would have preferred spending more time in the moment instead of turning the emotion into a fantasy scene. Whether one is a fan or not; one would be hard pressed not to be impressed with what Elton has accomplished in his life.
2 ¾ stars
BEFORE THE INNOCENT CREATURE COULD SEE the threat, I was silently sitting nearby to watch what was about to happen. The gigantic monster was deftly making its way down the wired girders. Because I could not hear anything, I assumed it was making its way in the quietest of ways. The prey was fidgeting and twirling around trying to escape once the monster came within eye sight. I was fascinated by the operation as it smoothly went like clockwork or at least that is how I perceived it. To the victim I am sure it was terrifying to see its immediate demise, once it got a sense of its predicament. Its wings were batting the air, trying to lift itself off the screen. It was no use; the enormous, dark predator descended over the prey to the point of nearly covering it from my view. I imagined there were screams of writhing pain being emitted but all I heard was silence. In my mind I was picturing the movie I had seen last week where a monster was on the brink of destroying Tokyo, Japan. The final battle pitted the monster with one that could fly in the air. What I was seeing was a re-enactment of that battle done by a fly and a spider on my window screen. AS A KID I WAS WELL VERSED with all the creatures that were trying to destroy our cities. There was Rodan, Mothra, Hedorah and Gigan to name a few. For some reason they each seemed to be attracted to Tokyo; or at least that is what I am remembering now. I never saw any of these creatures at the movie theater. Instead, they would be seen on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, television program. As a kid I was not very impressed with the special effects in the movies, but I also did not care. The monsters were never agile, always seeming to lumber and stumble their way through the scenes. At some point in time, I do not recall all the details, I discovered some of the monsters were actually men dressed up in costume; I was so disappointed at the time. It did not, however, make me stop watching these movies. There was never any deep thought put into the script. Essentially, every one of the monsters was destroying our planet whether it was their intentions or not. Some things still hold true no matter the time. AFTER A PERIOD OF PEACEFULNESS, A disruption brings out a new creature to threaten our world. The only hope is to combat this creature with another one. Could the earth withstand such a battle between these titans? This action, adventure fantasy starred Kyle Chandler (Game Night, First Man) as Mark Russell, Vera Farmiga (Captive State, The Conjuring franchise) as Dr. Emma Russell, Millie Bobby Brown (Strange Things-TV, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland-TV) as Madison Russell, Ken Watanabe (Inception, Transformers: Age of Extinction) as Dr. Ishiro and Bradley Whitford (Get Out, Saving Mr. Banks) as Dr. Rick Stanton. There were 2 glaring issues I had with this picture. Many of the fight scenes were dark in nature was one of them. The other problem was the script. I could not connect at all with this story. The script was so ridiculous and unemotional that I kept wondering if there was something worthwhile to focus on. I found many of the characters’ decisions crazy and unrealistic, especially the arc of Vera’s character. The monsters looked good which was a plus compared to those old-time films, I used to watch on television; but, this movie was not fun. I could not wait for it to be over. If this is what the film studio is going to produce these days, I hope there is a triumphant movie exec who kills the idea.
1 ½ stars