Monthly Archives: May 2021
THE OPPORTUNITY TO CREATE FOND memories the past year has been a challenge for many of us. The ability to be with friends and family was hampered because of the restrictions placed due to the pandemic. I realized this when I tried carryout food from an unfamiliar restaurant for the first time. When I walked into the place to pickup my order, I was struck with the similarities the place had with a restaurant I used to go to when I was growing up. There were orange, fake leather booths along the walls with various sized tables in the middle of the room. They even had the same kind of lighting hanging down that I remembered when I was a kid. They were oversized, circular colored paper lanterns that gave off a subdued warm glow. I was so surprised by the restaurant’s interior that I felt like I had been transported back to my youth, sitting in a booster chair at our neighborhood restaurant. Adding to my memories, was the food I had ordered. When I brought it home and opened all the packages, the aromas and look of the different foods reminded me so much of the food I enjoyed years ago. It was almost like I was having an out of body experience. It was this that made me realize how much I missed not socializing with friends and family over food, let alone just doing things together. THAT NUDGE OF A MEMORY LED me down a path filled with nostalgia. One weekend I bought one of my favorite childhood cereals. When I was little, I would pour the cereal in a bowl, then fill the bowl up with milk and let it sit for a couple of minutes. I wanted the milk to sweeten up from the sugar that was a major ingredient of the cereal. My favorite thing to do after I had eaten all the cereal was to ladle the remaining sweet milk into my mouth. If I did not have the time, I would just drink the milk right out of the bowl. Weirdly, I can still remember the commercials that aired back then that were for my favorite cereals; favorite meaning any cereal that had sugar. Besides visiting the foods of my childhood, I started going through my photo albums; yes photo albums, that date back to when the only option to take a photograph was the use of a roll of film. There were so many memories stored in my photo albums that the past months seemed to go by faster and easier. And just as things are beginning to open back up around me, I find this documentary to watch that reminded me of one of my favorite pastimes. BEFORE THERE WAS SUCH A THING as streaming or YouTube, there was a blue and yellow store that was filled with every movie you could ever have imagined. It was my 2ndhome. Narrated by Lauren Lapkus (Jurassic World, Orange is the New Black-TV), directed by Taylor Morden (Here’s to Life: The Story of the Refreshments, Project 88: Back to the Future Too) and written by Zeke Kamm (My Life as a Teenage Robot-TV, The Weird Al Show-TV); this film festival winner was such a treat for me to watch. I cannot tell you how many times I would stop at a Blockbuster store to rent a film. The largest number of movies I rented at one time was 10. If you are at all familiar with the Blockbuster store, then you will enjoy seeing this movie. For those who are not familiar, chances are you will get bored with parts of this picture. There was a repetitive quality to the script, where celebrities like Kevin Smith and Jamie Kennedy were essentially saying the same thing about their experiences going to a Blockbuster store. Still, I had a good time remembering all the things I would do in search of a movie to rent. And I am not going to lie here, but if the opportunity presented itself to me, I would absolutely love to visit this last Blockbuster store.
2 ½ stars
I WOULD BE ASKED TO COME out and play but they did not know I was already outside. Many times, various relatives would ask if I would prefer to be outside because it was such a nice day and I would politely tell them I was doing fine where I was already. You see most everyone did not understand I was visiting all parts of the world besides traveling to different planets. My spaceships came in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they all were equipped with a multi light ray shooter. For those of you who do not know what that is, please let me tell you. It was a concave dish or half sphere attached to the rocket ship that generated various degrees of light emitting particles. Based on the intensity of the light, it could lock a person in place like a statue if the person came into the shining light’s circumference. When the intensity was dialed all the way up, the light ray would be my ray gun that could pierce enemy spaceships or cause mountains to explode wherever the light hit. Some days, I would hang out closer to home. Periodically, I would pay a visit to my imaginary zoo, where I had trained all the animals to listen to me. I was talking to animals way before I ever heard of that doctor named Doolittle. MY IMAGINATION HAS ALWAYS ENGAGED ITSELF at a high level. At the time, I cannot tell you how many times I preferred being in my imaginary world than the real one. When I look back now, I can see why I had a harder time fitting in with different groups of people. Not to be judgmental here, but they were usually not as exciting and fun as the people I created in my world. Not that I lived a lonely life as a kid, I was able to disconnect and enjoy the company of friends and family. And I will say, when I met someone who had the same sensibilities/flair of imagination as me, we really connected on a deeper level. In fact, because of my imagination most of my friends always wanted me to be in charge of building our snow forts during the winter months; I created solid fortresses that protected us from any barrage of snowballs. So, in a way I see a powerful imagination can be a double-edged sword. It may be a little harder to fit in with people; but on the other hand, the people who can wrap their brain around it really get in synch with you. If I could relive my youth over, would I want to have a less active imagination? The answer is no; I believe it has been one of my strongest assets. You can certainly see why if you choose to watch this animated, adventure movie. HAVING TO TAKE A ROAD TRIP with her family was hard enough for Katie Mitchell, voiced by Abbi Jacobson (Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Broad City-TV). But to then join forces with her family to battle the evil forces behind the raging machines, it might be too much for even Katie to handle. With Danny McBride (Alien: Covenant, Rock the Kasbah) voicing Rick Mitchell, Maya Rudolph (Life of the Party, Inherent Vice) voicing Linda Mitchell, Michael Rianda (Gravity Falls-TV) voicing Aaron Mitchell and Olivia Colman (The Favourite, The Crown-TV) as PAL; this comedy fantasy was such a fun film to watch. The creativity and imagination would be enough to engage the viewer, but I thought the script was witty, smart and relevant. The various references to technology and family issues was a wonderful mixture of funny and familiarity. I particularly enjoyed the injection of quick scenes that perfectly described the feelings and thoughts I was having about the scenarios on display. It was such a good time for me to watch this picture and I appreciated the way it tickled my imagination.
3 ½ stars
IF I HAD LIVED FURTHER DOWN the hallway of my college residence, I would have certainly failed all my classes. At the opposite end of the hallway lived a student who played loud, heavy metal music when he had to study. He did listen to it other times; but during the week, he would play it at the same specific time which I found out was when he had to study. There would be no way I could study, let alone read a book, with such a distraction. When I studied, I had to have it quiet; the same goes for when I read a book for pleasure. I had a friend who could read while the television was on. If that was me, my ears would be picking up snippets of conversations while I was trying to read, causing a distraction for me. I admire people who are not bothered by such distractions. There were some students who liked to study together in small groups. They would congregate in the building’s lounge, fitting themselves around one of the tables or plopping themselves down in a corner filled with beanbag chairs and throw pillows. I would see them huddled together passing around bags of chips and pretzels along with a couple of thermoses filled with what I suspected to be something stronger than a soft drink or coffee. There would be no way I could be part of their study group because I would be constantly distracted. THE WEIRD THING IS WHEN I AM cooking or baking, I like to have some sound playing in the background. Either music or anything on the TV, I like it playing in the background because for some reason it keeps me calm. I always wondered if it is a creative thing, where people who are “making” something like to have a multiple of their senses getting stimulated at the same time. I cannot remember the artist’s name, but there was one I read about who loved to have music playing anytime they were painting. On the other hand, only based on the movie I saw, I believe Vincent Van Gogh preferred silence while painting so he could feel everything around him. It comes down to different creative people experience distractions in different ways. I cannot imagine what it would be like for, let us say, a sculptor trying to create something while having a distraction nearby. There used to be an artist who lived on my block who would always wear noise cancelling headphones whenever they were outside working on a project. With me speaking of distractions, after seeing this Oscar nominated and film festival winning movie, I cannot believe what the main character went through while selling out concert halls. THE PERFORMANCE OF ONE SONG WAS all that it took for the United States government to hopefully find a way to stop the singer Billie Holiday, played by Andra Day (Marshall), from ever singing again. With Leslie Jordan (The Help, Will & Grace-TV) as Reginald Lord Devine, Miss Lawrence (Star-TV, Empire-TV) as Miss Freddy, Natasha Lyonne (Honey Boy, Orange is the New Black-TV) as Tallulah Bankhead and Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight, The Predator) as Jimmy Fletcher; this dramatic music biography must be watched simply because of Andra’s performance. Known more as a singer, this starring role of hers made me think I was truly watching Billie Holiday. Overall, I enjoyed watching this film, though it needed a tightening up on the direction and another rewrite of the script. The reason I say this is because there were such a variety of characters that at times the intensity in Andra’s performance waned. Other than that, I cannot get over the life Billie was living through while trying to simply sing for a living. A deservedly Oscar nominated performance that needs to be seen to be believed.
3 ¼ stars
I HAD NOT NOTICED BUT MY friend was the one who did. We had gotten together for dinner, meeting at the restaurant. After giving his name to the host, he returned, and we settled into a couple of empty chairs in the waiting area. I was not focused on the time since we were busy talking, catching up on the things we had been doing since we last had seen each other. The restaurant was popular so there were a lot of people coming and going. I do not know how long we had been waiting, but my friend motioned to a couple who had been sitting near us, that were now walking to their table. He told me they had walked in after we did. I asked him if he was sure and he said yes. Maybe they had called ahead to make a reservation, I told him. He was not convinced and as we continued with our conversation, he kept looking at the different groups around us, to see who was being called by the host that walked in after he gave his name. When another couple got called my friend pointed out they also had come in after we were seated. The perplexed look on my face told my friend that I was not seeing what he saw; we were being skipped over because he was Black. WHEN HE SAID THIS TO ME, I looked around and noticed there were very few people who were not Caucasian. I normally do not focus on a person’s skin color or ethnic origins since I consider everyone human. The only differential I consider is whether a person is human or animal, nothing else. It does not matter to me if a person is rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight, short or tall; for me, it is whether a person is good or bad. So, instead of my friend going up to the host I told him I would go and see what was going on. When the host looked up as I approached him, I asked him how much longer he thought the wait would be, giving him my friend’s name. The host looked at his list and apologized for the wait and said the table was just being cleaned off now and to wait a minute. He was gone for less than a minute and asked me to follow him; I motioned to my friend to join me. Nothing the host did indicated his dislike for my friend; however, I had to wonder if there was something more here that I was not seeing. I want to believe people look beyond a person’s skin color, but I know prejudices have been part of our culture for centuries. This Oscar nominated movie will show you it from a time long gone. HOPES WERE HIGH FOR HENRY McALLAN, played by Jason Clarke (Pet Seminary, Zero Dark Thirty), when he moved his family to Mississippi. What he was not expecting was to share the land with a black family. With Carey Mulligan (The Dig, Promising Young Woman) as Laura McAllan, Mary J. Blige (Black Nativity, The Wiz Live!-TV movie) as Florence Jackson, Rob Morgan (Monsters and Men, Stranger Things-TV) as Hap Jackson and Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island) as Rondel Jackson; this film festival winning war drama had an outstanding cast of actors. I found their acting to be authentic with depth, which made the story come alive. The directing was on point to create multiple levels of intensity and drama, which captured me and drew me into the story. I have not read the book this movie is based on; but I felt the script provided me a complete, well-rounded story. This was a powerful picture that had a couple of violent scenes.
3 ½ stars
MAYBE BEING BORN IN AN APARTMENT building is the reason why I acknowledge neighbors when I see them. I have lived in buildings and houses; each offers a different living experience. With a house, I always made sure that any loud music/noise ended by 9 pm. There were times I would get home late on a winter night and I would not use the snowblower to shovel the sidewalks, because I did not want to disturb any neighbors. It was important to me to be a good neighbor, so I never complained about a dog barking non-stop in the neighbor’s backyard or my neighbor’s child shooting baskets at 6:30 in the morning. Honestly, I was fortunate to have reasonable and good neighbors. It was not unusual for a neighbor to come over and help when they saw me attempting to do a home repair outside. Likewise, I would help a neighbor carry groceries or heavy objects from their vehicle whenever I saw them. When I moved from an apartment to a house, I made it a point to maintain friendly, or at least cordial, relations with my neighbors. We were going to be living next door to each other, so why would I want to cause something that would turn the relationship acrimonious. LIVING IN A CONDO BUILDING, I have found I have more frequent contact with neighbors than when living in a house. Having several apartments on one floor, one is bound to bump into a neighbor in the hallway. Add in an elevator and there rarely is a day I would not see anyone. Now here is the funny thing; when someone would get on the elevator I always either say hello or acknowledge them with a nod of my head. We live in the same building and though they may be a stranger to me, I feel it is the kind thing to do. It always surprises me when I meet a neighbor who either does not make eye contact or says nothing in return when I acknowledge them. It is not like I get offended by it; I just find it odd. There are some neighbors who will make small talk and there are others who just say a quick hi and go about their business. This may sound weird, but I sometimes wonder what a neighbor would do if they came upon me in some kind of physical distress. Would they quickly walk away because they do not want to be involved or would they try to help? I would rather they be like the neighbors in this dramatic, Academy Award winning movie. EXPERIENCING MULTIPLE LOSSES AFTER THE GREAT recession, the only thing Fern, played by Frances McDormand (Moonrise Kingdom, Burn After Reading), had available was her phone and a van. Between the two she would find a place unlike the place she had come from. With newcomer Gay DeForest as Gay, newcomer Patricia Grier as Patty, newcomer Linda May as Linda and David Strathairn (Fast Color, Godzilla: King of the Monsters) as Dave, this film festival winner was a gentle piece of work. The direction was excellent though I have to say the pacing bordered close to being too slow for me. The acting from Francis was a study on how one could convey emotions without talking and she was powerful in the role. One of the big surprises for me were the newcomers who were not actors but the actual people portraying their lives. The story was a curious one and I appreciated the way it was filmed; the scenery was beautiful. I do have to say if I had seen this before I did my Oscar favorites, I honestly would not have picked Frances as best actress, not that she was bad by any means. My focus is first and foremost the entertainment value and I think the slowness and quiet dragged me down a bit. However, I still feel this rightfully deserved to be included with the nominees this past year.
3 ¼ stars
WHETHER IT WAS RIGHT OR WRONG, I felt a sense of betrayal. Having worked at the company for many years, there was a sense of family amongst the employees. I had worked my way up through a few departments before I settled into a management position. We came from different backgrounds and places, but we all shared a common goal; we wanted our company to be the best. The company had another location out of state that was headed by a relative of the owner. I knew most of their employees by name but had only seen a couple of them when they flew in for business meetings. We had 3 competitors who had their corporate headquarters in the same city as us; so, it was especially “sweet” when we would get a large order that all of us had bid on. I do not know if it was true or not, but I heard the outside salespeople from each company, including ours, were ruthless to each other. Not to their faces, but they would do things like throw away the sample books from a competing company or hide them while placing their books in a prominent location. I knew each of us bought our inventory from the same manufacturers and what sealed the sale was price and customer service. I SAW MYSELF RETIRING FROM THIS company. That is why it was so hard for me to be told the company was filing for bankruptcy. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I could not understand for what reason was the company closing its doors. As far as I could see we were doing everything we were supposed to do. Many of the employees were there longer than me; some only had a few years left until retirement and now they did not know what was going to happen to them for their remaining years. Unemployment can only take one so far, then what? I put my trust in the company; showing up to work on time each day, getting our customers’ issues resolved and yet all of sudden my life was going into freefall. This is why I felt betrayed. I worked hard and appreciated the rewards I received in the process. I had put my trust in this company and for whatever reason, I was being terminated. The dreams and hopes I had based on my employment had to be put on hold. Not that my job defined who I was; however, it was something I took pride in. My feelings of broken trust and betrayal, though on a different scale, is what I connected to with the main character in this action, adventure thriller. WHEN HIS LAST MISSION TURNED OUT different from what he expected, a growing suspicion made John Kelly, played by Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther, Just Mercy), question the orders he was receiving. It would take death to get him to find the answers. With Jodie Turner-Smith (Queen & Slim, The Last Ship-TV) as Karen Greer, Jamie Bell (Rocketman, Fantastic Four) as Robert Ritter, Guy Pearce (The Last Vermeer, The Rover) as Secretary Clay and Lauren London (Baggage Claim, This Christmas) as Pam Kelly; this movie was a reboot for the franchise. The action scenes were for the most part exciting and I especially enjoyed the performances from Michael and Jodie. However, the script was confusing and sloppy to me. The characters in general were a bit boring at times and I felt the excitement level needed to be amped up. Another negative to this picture was how it was filmed; there were multiple scenes that were so dark I could not make out much detail. I think with a better script Michael could do justice to the franchise. In the meantime, there was an extra scene placed in the middle of the ending credits.
1 ¾ stars