Monthly Archives: January 2020
IT ONLY TOOK ME 4 MUSICAL NOTES and I knew what song was playing. I was sitting in the lobby of the hotel and above the din of people coming and going around me, I heard those notes that were barely audible. Getting up from my rather comfortable chair, I followed the sound of music to see where it was coming from. As I made my way through the massive passageway, I found a lounge/bar off to the side. There were small tables for 2 to 4 people everywhere I looked; it was a large space. Up on the stage, I could not believe what I was seeing, it appeared as if it was one of my favorite Motown acts performing. The singers were all dressed in matching blue suits as they took turns singing parts of the song, when they were not harmonizing. As I went to an empty table, I got closer to the stage. It was obvious to me none of the performers were original members of the group. Heck, I knew that as soon as I came up to the entrance because they were all way too young looking. How many decades had passed already? Their voices were good and did sound like the original guys from the group. As for their dance moves, let me say it would have been better if they just stood behind their mic stands and step side to side. AS I SAT AND LISTENED TO THEM, memories came back that were attached to some of the songs they sang. I remember with one song I was dancing at a relative’s wedding; another song, the first time I played it in class I saw the members start to bop their heads to the rhythm of the music. It was an amusing site as we were all working out. My memories were playing the original music, but what the men on stage were singing sounded more like an imitation. Not that it was bad, it just wasn’t the same. If any of the men were displaying some serious musical capabilities, matching or being better than the originals artists, the show would have been amazing. However, their vocal range was limited; some of the high notes were a strain for them or they simply lowered the octave. I gave them credit for being able to get the gig and perform at one of the hotel’s lounge areas. Though they were not the original group it was still enjoyable for me to sit and listen to them. That is more than what I can say about this action, dramatic horror wannabe. AFTER WHAT APPEARED TO BE AN EARTHQUAKE damaged their drilling station, the crew would have to find a way to make it up to the surface of the ocean they were under. However, something did not want them to leave. With Kristen Stewart (Charlie’s Angels, Personal Shopper) as Norah, Jessica Henwick (Dragonfly, Game of Thrones-TV) as Emily, Vincent Cassel (Black Swan, Eastern Promises) as Captain, TJ Miller (Deadpool franchise, Cloverfield) as Paul Abel and John Gallagher Jr (Short Term 12, Jonah Hex) as Liam; this movie felt like it was trying to be the film Alien, except instead of space it was taking place underwater. I give Kristen credit for trying her best at being an action figure, but the script was incapable of providing any thrills or excitement. The dialog was written in a generic way, using typical exclamations. I thought the filming was dull for the most part, which being underwater I understood. However, the constant dark murkiness did nothing for me. If you have not seen Alien or its sequels, you might find this picture of interest. For the rest of us, I suggest you do not take the bait and find yourself sinking into an abyss.
1 ¾ stars
THERE WAS NO WAY I COULD stop the color in my face from draining. I was in a state of shock. It was an hour before I was going to get off from work and the owner of the company had called me into his office. I knew him better than some of the other employees because I worked both in the retail and wholesale parts of his company, when I wasn’t in school. In fact, when he opened a 2ndstore in a large shopping mall out in the suburbs, I helped set up the shelves with stock. So, when he asked me into his office, I did not think much of it. When he closed the door behind me as I walked in, I knew something was different. As I sat across from him, he began to tell me about the inventory being off, that items were coming up missing. I thought maybe he wanted me to take a bigger part of the inventory process, but that was not the case. He asked me if I had seen anything odd going on. I told him no and that I was surprised to hear such a thing. My face had not turned white up to this point; however, when he said he wanted to talk to my parents I could feel my face changing. He said he was asking the same of the other employees who were also in high school. EMBARRASSMENT, FEAR AND ANGER WERE THE predominant feelings coursing through my body as I sat there. Despite not having any knowledge about the missing stock, I was angry that I was being considered a suspect. Logically I knew it made sense for the owner to question his employees; but I still felt like I was being accused of something I had no part in. It was an awful feeling. My mind was showing me a series of movie scenes depicting courthouses, jails, tearful testimonies; my imagination was running amok. The other thing that came to mind was the possibility I might be considered an accomplice because I was friendly with the other employees. The anger portion I was feeling was due to the idea one of my friends, who I had been working alongside with for over one year, could be a thief. It was all upsetting to me, and I did not know how my parents would take the news about them having to come in to talk to the owner. All this hassle and confusion just because I essentially was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The magnitude of my situation didn’t come close to the main character’s situation in this dramatic film based on a true story; but I understood what he had to be feeling. LIVING ON DEATH ROW, ONE DOESN’T get hopeful; even when your Harvard educated lawyer is willing to fight for your life. With Brie Larson (Captain Marvel, Short Term 12) as Eva Ansley, Michael B. Jordan (Creed franchise, Black Panther) as Bryan Stevenson, Jamie Foxx (Robin Hood, Ray) as Walter McMillian, Rafe Spall (The Big Short, The Ritual) as Tommy Chapman and Tim Blake Nelson (Fantastic Four; O Brother, Where Art Thou?) as Ralph Myers; the story in this film festival winning movie was horrifying to me at times due to the injustice and discrimination that was taking place. The acting was strong and solid from the cast; in fact, they really carried the story along. For most of the time I took the script to be truthful; however, there were a couple of scenes, especially one close to the end, where I felt it was the writer’s option to make something up to pull in the audience deeper into the story. Besides that, I still cannot get over what Walter had to go through for all those years.
I WAS FASCINATED WITH IT WHEN I was small, which was the last time I laid eyes on it. Years had passed; where, during this time frame, I became the recipient of a multitude of items from different relatives’ estates. Some were sentimental, others practical and some bordered on being an oddity—at least odd for my lifestyle. I treated each item with the respect it deserved and for the most part could recall a vivid memory I had associated with that item. However, this one particular article was something special because I remembered the relative who owned it. She was a kind and loving soul. There was never a time where she was not happy to see me. Keep in mind, this would apply to any of my relatives because that is how she felt about each and every one of them. She enjoyed being around family. Somewhere in my house I knew I had this piece of jewelry that she wore all the time. Venturing up into my attic I started to tackle each stacked box; I felt I was going back in time with every box I explored. It was not until I was halfway done, after laying hands on so many random non-essential things, I found this small black velvet jewelry case. Inside there it was, a vintage pink colored cameo broach. What made this piece so special to me was the fact the woman depicted in this piece had a resemblance to the woman who wore it. THE CAMEO WAS COOL TO THE TOUCH as I traced the woman’s profile with my finger. Memories flooded me as I stood in the quiet attic, surrounded by a multitude of discarded or half-forgotten items that were bequeathed to me. Among the items I had unearthed were coats, hats, baseball equipment and dinnerware. None of it stood out for me, though I could for the most part remember the relative who wore or used it. None of them provided the excitement I felt when I found this cameo. My relative loved this piece and wore it as much as possible. Whenever I got to visit with her, she would be wearing it. Throughout our conversations, her hand would quietly rise to allow her extended index finger to trace the profile of the woman in the broach. It was done almost in an absentminded way, as if she did not remember she had done the same thing earlier in our visit. Finding this jewelry in my attic was like finding a lost treasure. I felt the same way about seeing this exquisite, dramatic war film. WITHIN A SMALL WINDOW OF TIME, two soldiers must travel behind enemy lines and get a message to the commander of a battalion of troops, to halt his planned attack because the enemy was waiting for them. With Dean-Charles Chapman (Before I Go to Sleep, Game of Thrones-TV) as Lance Corporal Blake, George MacKay (Captain Fantastic, Pride) as Lance Corporal Schofield, Daniel Mays (The Bank Job, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Sergeant Sanders, Colin Firth (The Command, The King’s Speech) as General Erinmore and Pip Carter (Robin Hood, The Eagle) as Lieutenant Gordon; this film festival winning World War I story had the most brilliant filming I have seen in such a long time. After sitting through an abundance of poor or average pictures, this one grabbed me right from the start. The director worked at making the scenes all look like one continuous shoot; it was amazing…and at times exhausting, in a good way. Where we do not learn much about the characters, we certainly can feel what the actors are going through in the story. There was excitement, danger, thrills, sadness and horror all mixed within the script. I still cannot get over the amount of physical demands the actors had to endure throughout the film. I felt like I was watching a triumphant piece of work that had familiar attachments but seen in a whole new way. There were a few scenes that could be disturbing for some viewers and a few scenes with blood.
3 3/4 stars
THE FIRST TIME I ENCOUNTERED SOMEONE affected by a divorce was a boy in 5th grade. He and his mother had recently moved to the neighborhood after her divorce. If someone had asked me if I noticed anything different because this boy’s parents were divorced, I would have said not one thing. His mother worked which was no different than many of the other mothers who had a job outside the home. I do not recall any time when this classmate could not attend a school function or activity due to a missing parent or affordability; he was like any other student. It was not until 7th grade before there was another student who had parents that were divorced. Now during this time there were kids in school who had one out of both parents who had to be away from home for extended periods of time, either for work or the military. There would be times when the parent remaining at home would get help from a family member or neighbor; but it was not like that would make any kind of difference. The only time where it would ever make a difference, if you even want to call it that, was when there was a gender specific event like a father/daughter dance or a field trip where parents were needed to chaperone. So, an uncle or older cousin would fill in for the dance and some relative would handle being a chaperone; it was easily workable. HAVING HAD SUCH EXPERIENCES WHILE GROWING UP, made the realization there was another option couples employed when they no longer wanted to be together much more difficult for me to rationalize. In fact, even today when I hear someone say they are staying together for the kids’ sake, I have to cringe. In my experiences I have not once seen where that option does anyone any good. I knew a family where the parents were doing this and all it accomplished was their kids having to go into therapy to deal with the craziness, they wound up experiencing, during what was a toxic environment. One parent started using the kids to deliver messages to their spouse; besides, trying to sway the kids’ opinion about the other parent into negative thoughts. It was sad to see the manipulation that was taking place in that household. Even worse was when I heard through a second party that one parent told one of their children, they were the cause for the breakdown in their marriage. To me that was criminal to say to a child. Because of my experiences; I intently watched this comedic, dramatic romance to see what was happening with the couple’s marriage. MARRIAGE REQUIRES AN ABILITY IN BEING able to give and take; it appeared Charlie and Nicole, played by Adam Driver (Star Wars franchise, The Dead Don’t Die) and Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit, Lost in Translation), thought they were good at it. With Laura Dern (Certain Women, J.T. Leroy) as Nora Fanshaw, Alan Alda (Bridge of Spies, The Four Seasons) as Bert Spitz and Julie Hagerty (A Master Builder, Airplane franchise) as Sandra; this film festival winner’s cast was brilliant. I enjoyed each actor and the words they spoke. The story may appear to have a theme that is common to many other films; however, this script came across fresh and new to me. Adam and Scarlett were so good that I thought their characters were actual, real people. The dialog was authentic which only added to the realness of the characters. If I have any criticism, I think some viewers might find the beginning of the story sedated. Like a marriage, it can take a little work to get into it; but once you are, it can turn into a valuable lesson.
3 ½ stars
HE MAY HAVE THOUGHT WE WERE friends but that was not really the case. I felt I had to for my own self-preservation. We hung around the same group of people. If I remember correctly, he was a friend of a friend who started including him in our get togethers. He had a loud and boisterous personality that was quick with sarcasm; that was the part of him that was fun to be around. However, he also had a quick temper that was the first thing to flare up in any kind of confrontational circumstances. His “go-to” comment was “Do you want to take this outside?” This is the reason why I stayed on good terms with him; I did not want to get pulled into his negative drama. Whenever we would all go out to a club, the chances were better than 50% he would get into some type of altercation with one of the patrons of the place. I found it maddening and ridiculous because before you knew it, he would be asking the person to join him outside. Now granted he made an imposing figure; but still, there was no reason he needed the theatrics. The way I used to deal with him was simply to agree to his extreme pontifications on life and living, by nodding my head or grunting a sound that he could interpret as an affirmative answer. THOUGH IT HAS BEEN YEARS SINCE I have seen him, he is the first person I think of whenever I hear someone saying, “Do you want to take this outside?” Even if I hear it in a movie, he comes to mind. I was never the type of person who willingly confronted someone. Growing up people fell into two categories, aggressive or passive. I was in the passive group during my childhood years. It was not until I was in college before I found my voice. After what I went through during high school, I worked on myself to get to a point where no one would take advantage of me. It was not an easy process by any means; but I acquired the tools necessary to have an argument without including negative or demeaning comments. What I learned that was valuable to me was to remove the emotions from the equation and talk about my feelings instead. There are some people who think if they talk loudly enough, they will win the fight; as you know that does not work in the real world. As I was watching this animated, action adventure I identified more with one of the characters than the other; you probably could guess which one. AFTER INGESTING AN EXPERIMENTAL CONCOCTION WITHOUT it being tested, the only thing super spy Lance, voiced by Will Smith (I Am Legend, Men in Black franchise) had to rely on was his wits and new-found avian abilities to bring down an evil genius bent on destroying the agency. With Tom Holland (Spider-Man franchise, In the Heart of the Sea) voicing Walter, Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Robin Hood) voicing Killian, Reba McEntire (The Little Rascals, One Night at McCool’s) voicing Joyless and Rachel Brosnahan (The Finest Hours, Patriots Day) voicing Wendy; this film festival nominee had wonderful animation work. Including the cast of actors; overall, this was a pleasant, family friendly film to watch. There was nothing extreme about it; I felt it fell in the middle of other animated films. There was more of a focus on fun instead of a series of humorous jokes and pranks. The message however was what grabbed me the most. I connected more with the last half of the film, finding it to be a touching statement. If you choose to see this film, you would easily see why I felt a strong affinity to one of the characters.
2 ½ stars
IT STARTED, I BELIEVE, WITH HER friend not pledging money towards her charity walk. The walk was going to be 5 miles and the idea was for each participant to ask people to pledge a certain amount of money for every mile they walked. You may be familiar with this type of charity event; people would pledge anywhere from one penny to upwards of twenty+ dollars for every mile their friend or relative would walk. My friend who was participating did not say anything outright to me; however, ever since that charity event I could tell she had an attitude towards her friend. There would be subtle negative comments made about the person and my friend started spending less time with her. As months passed there were times where we would all wind up together at a party or event; there was now a layer of tension in the air. It was obvious to me my friend was holding a grudge against her friend for not contributing to her charity walk. I tried reasoning with her; suggesting the possibility her friend did not support that particular charity or simply did not have extra funds. My friend was not buying any of it; she felt because she had given her money for a charitable organization when she was asked to, her friend should have reciprocated and done the same. There was no way convincing her otherwise. MY FRIEND WAS AN EXPERT WHEN IT came to holding a grudge. I thought I was good at it, but she was my equal, if not better. When I was younger if I felt someone slighted me in any way, I would immediately have nothing to do with them. I never looked at the possibilities or reasons why that person acted in such a way; I immediately took it personally and cut myself off from them. However, I never let that stop me from not going to an event they were attending. In fact, I used to relish the chance to show the person I was angry at them, by ignoring them at the event or keeping my part of the conversation to one-word answers. Yeah, it was childish of me; I now realize it. But at the time, I was angry at them. As I am getting older the ease of holding a grudge became harder for me to do. Whether it was because it took more effort or I just started losing interest in it, I do not know for sure. All I do know regarding this horror mystery is I might hold a grudge against the movie studio for wasting my time. AFTER VISITING A HOUSE THAT WAS the scene to a gruesome murder; Detective Muldoon, played by Andrea Riseborough (Mandy, The Kindness of Strangers), started having horrific visions. With Demian Bichir (A Better Life, The Nun) as Goodman, Tara Westwood (The Big Take, Detours) as Fiona Landers, Joel Marsh Garland (The Bounty Hunter, Lady in the Water) as Detective Greco and John Cho (Searching, Star Trek franchise) as Peter Spencer; the script for this picture was dreadful. What made this viewing experience even more upsetting was the fact I appreciated the cinematography and the use of music. There was potential for this remake to deliver something fresh; but instead, there was nothing shown that would make anyone gasp or shudder. I was surprised at how bad this movie came across; there was no reaction coming from any of the viewers who were in the theater with me. The leads had the ability to provide us with decent scares, but the script never provided them with the needed ammo. Time would have been better spent if I instead rented the original Japanese version or the American remake.
1 ½ stars
I WANT TO BELIEVE CORPORATIONS ARE NOT intentionally taking advantage of me along with other consumers; but I cannot help feeling they are whenever I make a change to my account with them. For several years, I had an account with a cable company. When I called to cancel my subscription, they asked me why I was cancelling my account. After I explained my reason, they told me they needed to switch me to an account representative to complete the process; I did not think anything of it. The rep came on the line and asked me a couple of questions. After explaining myself again, the rep asked if I would keep the service if the monthly price was lower. This is where I got annoyed because it was not like they were looking at ways to lower my bill; they were simply willing to reduce the monthly charges to keep me as a customer. Hearing this made me feel like they had been gouging me the whole time. Suddenly when they feared they were losing me as a customer, they miraculously can lower the price now? Why couldn’t they start me out at the lowest price when I signed up in the first place? And the thing is, I know they are not the only company that carries out this type of practice; my friends and family members have told me similar stories about their experiences when they went to cancel their accounts. MY EXPERIENCES WITH THAT COMPANY LEFT a bad taste in my mouth. I have never felt comfortable with companies and individuals who I would classify as schemers; someone or something that makes secret plans to benefit themselves, even if it means taking advantage of or deceiving someone else. I had an acquaintance who I classified as a schemer. Whenever a group of us would get together for a meal at a restaurant, he would always order an expensive item off the menu. He knew we would split the bill, so he always came out ahead in how much he owed. Even when he was the only one who ordered an alcoholic drink, he expected the price of it would be part of the split. I do not mind when one goes out with the same group for a meal and splits the bill each time; sometimes you pay more sometimes less than the cost of what you ordered, it evens out over time. However, this person was always coming out cheaper because the rest of the group was picking up more of his tab. It came to a point where we started asking the wait staff for separate checks and suddenly, he started ordering less expensive food. I did not care to be around him anymore; I had the same feeling about the schemer in this film festival winning dramatic, crime mystery. OVEREXTENDED WITH HIS CUSTOMERS’ MONEY jeweler Howard Ratner, played by Adam Sandler (Blended, The Wedding Singer), was trying to complete a major score before the consequences would have a major affect on his business and family. With newcomer Julia Fox as Julia, Idina Menzel (Rent, Glee-TV) as Dinah, LaKeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You, Short Term 12) as Demany and Eric Bogosian (Talk Radio, Cadillac Records) as Arno; this film festival winning feature provided Adam with the perfect role. He was excellent as Howard. For the first part of the movie I thought the script was repetitive; it pretty much was Howard yelling and swearing at everyone. It came to a point where I got tired and bored with it. I enjoyed the 2ndhalf more because there was at least a better sense of emotional depth on display among the characters. I have to say I prefer seeing Adam in these serious roles instead of comedic ones like he has done in the past. Despite not being comfortable around schemers, I did not find the watching of this film to be an entertaining experience.
2 ½ stars