Category Archives: Fantasy/Sci-Fi
A FIXTURE OF THE establishment for so many years, most people coming in to the place simply look past him. They do not know what an impact he has had on the business over the years, but I do. Unassuming, close to being an introvert, he is politely quiet; he only engages in a conversation if you start it. I have only seen him dressed in neutral colors and if there happened to be a logo on any of his clothing it usually was from one of the local sport teams. Despite his, shall we say meek appearance; when it comes to a life or death situation he becomes a whole different person. Out of everyone who works with him, he has saved the most lives. You could try to argue it is because of his work schedule that he is at work when there are more people coming into the place, but it would not stick because the employees agree he doesn’t waste a second nor second guess himself when an alert is announced over the loudspeakers. TO ME HE IS an unsung hero; he doesn’t look for accolades or monetary gain when racing to save someone’s life. He is not the only unsung hero I know; there are others who have made a difference and are some of the most unassuming individuals you could ever know. In fact I know a couple of unsung heroes who are not even human. There is a person I know who was saved by his dog. He and his family were sleeping one night when an electrical fire started in one of the lower levels of their house. Since they were all upstairs they did not get woken up by the smoke or noise. However the family dog went into action by jumping up on the parents’ bed, barking and pulling at the blanket. All the family members woke up with a start and immediately smelled the thickening smoke from below. Calling 911 they quickly gathered together and made their escape. Who knows what would have happened if their dog had not run into their bedroom to wake them up. If you want to learn more about other non-human unsung heroes then feel free to watch this animated, adventure comedy. WANTING TO DO MORE with his life Bo, voiced by Steven Yeun (I Origins, The Walking Dead-TV), can only think about breaking free of his restraints. Little did he know he would play a part in the very first Christmas. This film festival winner included Keegan-Michael Key (Keanu, Tomorrowland-TV) voicing Dave, Aidy Bryant (Saturday Night Live-TV, Shrink-TV) voicing Ruth, Gina Rodriguez (Deepwater Horizon, Jane the Virgin-TV) as Mary and Zachary Levi (Shades of Ray, Chuck-TV) voicing Joseph. This movie was a mixed bag for me. On the one hand I did not mind the animation or the idea behind the story; however the script kept bouncing back and forth between slapstick, goofy scenes to holier reverent action. I found it odd. On one level I thought the script could have been narrowed in scope to focus on one aspect of the story. In a weird way there were times I felt the writers were disrespectful of the story. Also I got bored in a couple of places. Granted most viewers could easily figure out the ending of the story, but why couldn’t the writers add either more consistency or excitement into the story? I think my telling of the dog that rescued the family would have been a better idea to make a movie about than this picture.
IT WAS NOT UNITL I turned 12 years old that I first experienced a death. A close relative had suddenly died; it was a complete shock for everyone. After hearing the news I remember sitting down at the piano to play a song over and over that reminded me of this relative. The funeral took place rather quickly and afterwards we all gathered at a relative’s house. The atmosphere was somber but there were periods of laughter throughout the night. Typically I was excited about all the food that somehow magically appeared while we were at the cemetery. There were so many desserts that they commandeered their own table. The amount of people who stopped over was staggering and it never let up for the next several days. By the end of the mourning period I felt the past week had been one long party. I discovered this was our custom for all future funerals. AS I HAVE GONE through the past years I have been exposed to other forms of mourning from my own experiences. There are some cultures that believe in cremation, while others are against it. In some faiths it is important to bury the body quickly, yet I have been to funerals where the body remains above ground for several days. Now one thing I have noticed as baby boomers have aged is hearing more people talk about incarnation. Excuse me for being simplistic but I can see how death would be less scary if one felt they would be coming back to life. To tell you the truth I feel however one deals with death is fine with me because I have seen so many people deal with loss in many different ways. There is not one that is better than another. Regarding myself I hope when my time comes people will focus more on celebrating my life instead of mourning it. Death is one of those things that everyone on the planet will experience in their life; so why focus on the sadness and sense of loss? Honoring a deceased person and sharing personal stories about them is something I find comforting, which is why I was enthralled with this animated, adventure comedy. DESPITE HIS FAMILY’S BAN on music Miguel, voiced by relative newcomer Anthony Gonzalez, wanted to be a musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz, voiced by Benjamin Bratt (Doctor Strange, Miss Congeniality). His determination would lead him to the grave of his idol just in time for the Day of the Dead celebration. This film festival winning movie was exquisite in both the kaleidoscope of colors across the screen as well as the script that beautifully handled the subject of death based on Mexican culture. I thought the story was thoughtful, respectful, kind and in a way comforting; it did not shy away from the subject of death. With Gael Garcia Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries, Rosewater) voicing Hector, Alanna Ubach (Meet the Fockers, Waiting…) voicing Mama Imelda and Renee Victor (Confessions of a Shopaholic, Weeds-TV) voicing Abuelita; I cannot say this was a true comedy. It had a few humorous moments but for the most part the word I would use to describe this picture would be heartwarming. As an added bonus to watching this movie there was a short film shown beforehand from the award winning Frozen realm, “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.” There is nothing you will lose by seeing this captivating film about life and death.
3 1/2 stars
PLANS HAD BEEN FINALIZED several weeks before the event. Schedules were coordinated to make sure everyone was available to spend the weekend together. The kids only cared about getting to the amusement park to see some of their favorite television and toy characters. Commercials that showed the things one could do at the park were a constant companion to the children’s television shows. Anytime the TV was on it would only be a matter of minutes before one could hear the famous jingle and tagline for the amusement park. For the weeks leading up to the big day, the siblings and cousins could not stop talking about what rides they wanted to go on first or who they wanted to see. Every night when going to bed each child asked their parents how many more days were left before they would be there. The week of the trip had finally arrived to a changed landscape. UNFORTUNATELY A COUPLE OF the kids got sick and two of the parents could not leave their offices, due to an important schedule change with clients that they needed to address. All of the kids were devastated with the news the trip had to be cancelled. Some of the younger children were sobbing uncontrollably. The adults talked among themselves and finally came up with a solution they hoped would appease or at least calm the children down. Once everyone was healthy they would all get together and take a day trip to the local amusement park. This park had characters walking around like the other amusement park but they were more of a generic nature. One could say they were akin to being the supporting cast or distant relatives to the well known characters. The rides were fun for the kids but they involved random animated creatures the children had never heard of before. Where the initial trip involved an entire weekend to see the entire park, this amusement park was small enough to be easily covered all in one day. The children had a good time but their memories of the day soon faded away. I felt the same way about this action, adventure fantasy. RECENT SIGHTINGS SHOWED A new evil force was descending on the planet; a force that Batman, played by Ben Affleck (The Accountant, Gone Girl), realized he would not be able to handle by himself. Joining forces with Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot (Keeping up with the Joneses, Wonder Woman), the two did not know if there would be enough time to create a formable match for the destructive power wreaking havoc across the land. With Ezra Miller (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as The Flash, Jason Momoa (Conan the Barbarian, Game of Thrones-TV) as Aquaman and Ray Fisher (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) as Cyborg; I thought the only actor who stood out was Ezra. However his character’s personality reminded me of the recent Spiderman reboot. I felt Batman was the mentor for The Flash like Iron Man was for Spiderman. The script for this film was bland to the point where it seemed all everyone was doing was some action scene. And speaking of action I thought the CGI was poorly done compared to other “superhero” movies that have recently come out. And my biggest complaint was the villain in this story; he was so special effected that he did not come across as evil enough. The villain needed to be dominant and evil in this type of picture. I felt I was watching a B movie; okay fun but nothing special. There were 2 extra scenes in the middle and end of the credits.
2 1/3 stars
SOME INDIVIDUALS WOULD FIND it frustrating; others would find it infuriating after a while. You are partaking in a serious conversation and someone makes a joke. There are times where telling a joke can be the perfect antidote to a tense conversation. In fact I am a big proponent of using humor to diffuse a situation or break the tension in a room. Dealing with tough and uncomfortable topics of conversation can quickly drain an individual; I am all for injecting a touch of humor just to give the participants a momentary breather before continuing their discussion. Pretty much any situation can benefit, at least in my opinion, from a chuckle or belly laugh depending on the circumstances of course. There was a funeral I attended where the service was filled almost to capacity with mourners. Right in the middle of the eulogy a family member made a comment that had everyone laughing, giving a needed respite from the sadness. WHERE A SIMPLE BIT of humor can do wonders in a tense situation, a constant barrage of jokes and wisecracks can have the opposite effect. If it is just you and one other person going back and forth in a deep conversation, you can address it; however, when there are more people involved it can be tricky. When an individual keeps making jokes during what is supposed to be a serious conversation; I have noticed they are uncomfortable either with the topic being discussed or making themselves vulnerable. I know an individual who has a hard time discussing their feelings. When you press them on a subject they will relent and share something personal, but they do it in a hushed voice. I honestly do not know if they feel they are saying something “wrong” or afraid they will be made fun of; they even look uncomfortable. So they prefer to keep up a constant stream of jokes in the conversation to the point they almost overshadow the intended topic of discussion. I felt I was experiencing something of a similar nature during this action, adventure fantasy. IMPRISONED ON A FOREIGN planet far from his home Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth (Ghostbusters, Red Dawn), must figure out a way to return before Asgard is completely destroyed. With Tom Hiddleston (The Night Manager, I Saw the Light)) as Loki, Cate Blanchett (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Carol) as Hela, Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park franchise, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Grandmaster and Tessa Thompson (Creed, Dear White People) as Valkyrie; you could not have asked for a better cast of actors. Who knew Cate could throw down with the best of them as she emoted wicked evilness. I wanted to see more scenes with her. Everything you expect to see in a Marvel superhero movie was here from comic book author Stan Lee’s cameo to big CGI effects to 2 extra scenes during the credits. The only issue I had with this film was the use of humor; I felt the comedy aspect overpowered everything in this story. Do not get me wrong, a good portion of the scenes were fun and humorous but there was so much I felt it took away a little of the dramatic intensity the scenes required. I am sure I am in the minority regarding this but after a while I found the humor getting tedious. Granted since this was my only complaint I still enjoyed the whole movie watching experience and I can only imagine how much fun the actors had making this picture.
MOST CHILDREN ONLY WANT it to rain in the middle of the night, while they are sleeping. For some hopefully, thunder and lightning will not wake them up; though they would not mind if there were puddles to jump in during the morning hours. I remember hoping every time it was snowing outside the schools would close for the day, so I could play in the snow with my friends all day. Back then the weather was only thought about when it would alter the planned day of events. A rainy day meant I could not go to the beach or the local amusement park. Depending on how much snow fell would determine if we would go out to the suburbs to visit relatives. Weather back then was simply a part of life; dramatic events were at a minimum. Thunderstorms I recall lasted a couple of hours with very little damage to property. THOUGH IT WAS STARTED in the late 1940s, I think it was not until the 1960s or 70s when cloud seeding was mentioned in the mainstream. The idea of humans changing weather patterns fascinated me. Then again I always enjoyed the character Storm, who could manipulate the weather, in the X-Men series. Now I do not know about you but I have noticed the weather has taken on a more sinister veneer these days. Storms and weather events have become more violent, from intense tornados to major flooding. To my way of thinking, something had to happen that affected the weather patterns. If I remember correctly didn’t the host country China seed clouds before the Olympics started, so it would rain before the opening ceremony? One has to wonder if there were any ramifications from doing such a thing. Something has changed in my opinion that is causing the weather to turn on us. Long stretches of drought, major flooding, multiple tornadoes and hurricanes; whether one believes or not the theories that are being used to explain the weather, wouldn’t it make sense to at least explore the possibilities to see what is taking place around us? This action, science fiction thriller might be a prelude to what could happen to us. AFTER A PERIOD OF peaceful coexistence with the weather, a network of satellites that were controlling the climate begins to malfunction. The cause needed to be found before the earth would become the victim to a massive, destructive world storm. Starring Gerald Butler (A Family Man, Playing for Keeps) as Jake Lawson, Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe, The Best Offer) as Max Lawson, Abbie Cornish (Bright Star, Limitless) as Sarah Wilson, Alexandra Marie Lora (Rush, Control) as Ute Fassbinder and Daniel Wu (New Police Story, One Nite in Mongkok) as Cheng Long; the script quickly sunk this film. There was nothing new in this story that has not played in numerous disaster movies from before. Even the special effects were only okay; something about them did not make them pop out like I have seen done in other pictures. I am afraid outside of a couple of scenes I was bored a good portion of the time. Scenes that lent themselves to intense drama were lacking it and one pretty much could figure out what was going on in the story. Though I saw this film on a sunny day, it put a cloudy damper over me.
1 ¾ stars
WE HAD MET WITHIN a group of people who assembled at the art museum. Throughout our time there we bumped into each other several times; it seemed we appreciated the same artists. Everyone from the group returned to our meeting place in the lobby near the gift shop at the designated time. Some individuals said their goodbyes and left; others broke off into smaller groups to stick around or do something else. She and I decided to go out for coffee since it was too early to get something to eat. We walked over to a nearby café, found an open table and sat down with our menus in hand. After we placed our orders we talked about our appreciation for the same artists and how fortunate we were to have a world class art museum in our city. FROM OUR CONVERSATION THAT initially focused on art we veered into the topic of beauty and what does it mean to be beautiful. We touched on a variety of aspects concerning beauty; for example, the unrealistic expectations found in modeling and fashion. I do not know how it happened but we started to share our own assessment of our looks. Something she said struck me in a curious way; it was the way she said it I think that made me question her further. When she talked about herself I noticed a majority of her comments had a negative element to them. I could not understand why she felt that way so I simply asked her if she thought she was not a beautiful person. She just stared at me for only a moment before I noticed tears welling up, about to spill out of her eyes. Turning her head away she looked out the window before she whispered yes. After a brief silence she explained that she was born with a hair lip that took a couple of surgeries to correct, though a trace of it remained. Ever since that time she always felt poorly about herself. I did not want to prod and see if she was teased or treated differently since it was obvious she still was dealing with some emotional baggage over it. Sadly I could relate since I had body image issues growing up that did a number on me. It takes one small thing whether a comment or one’s own lack of confidence that takes us on a path of darkness. FORCED OUT OF THEIR city due to an evil threat; it would take friendship, magic and hope for Princess Skystar, voiced by Kristin Chenoweth (Bewitched, The Boy Next Door), and her friends to find a way to save their precious homes. This animated, adventure comedy also had Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, Looper) voicing Tempest Shadow, Uzo Aduba (Tallulah, Orange is the New Black-TV) voicing Queen Novo, Taye Diggs (Chicago, Private Practice-TV) voicing Capper and Liev Schreiber (Spotlight, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) voicing The Storm King. The animation was your typical old fashioned Saturday morning flat style. I am afraid the script was written in a narrow range for the 5-7 year old set; there was not much offered for anyone older. Unfortunately I found a good portion of this movie boring. It was not until the last ½ hour or so that I became interested. And it was a shame because I thought the message conveyed was poignant and meaningful. For those of you who were into My Little Pony toys you might enjoy this story more than I did. For the rest of the viewing audience I suggest you skip this ride at the theater.
THE INVITATION WAS NOT addressed to me, but I was asked to go as a guest. I took no offense since the event was something that had never been part of my usual experiences. It was an art gallery opening for an artist; I was familiar with their name but not their work. Situated down in a trendy part of the city, the gallery’s large windows were swathed in dark banners that looked like they had been splattered with blood. I was not sure what I was getting into as I looked at the people milling about the front of the gallery when we walked in. Once inside servers with skin painted in dull shades of gray were walking around with champagne glasses filled with something that looked like a thick syrupy wine. If I did not know better I would have said I walked onto the set of a vampire themed movie. I declined any offer of the drink. WALKING AROUND THE GALLERY I was exposed to pieces of art that depicted graphic violence. They were done in an abstract way but one could easily make out the human form even with the bizarre, twisted ways it was being placed. Making my way around I was able to hear a variety of comments from the guests that were meandering about as they were looking for more of that reddish liquid stuff to drink. The majority of things I heard people say were positive about the artwork. I honestly did not understand how they could look at these grotesque pieces and interpret them as these beacons of reason and positivity. There was one gentleman who literally was lecturing the small group of individuals around him, expounding on the dynamic themes this one piece presented. I actually stopped to listen to him and though I am not a judgmental person by nature, I have to tell you I thought the talkative man sounded pompous, as he went on and on about various themes one could draw from the piece. By no means do I claim to be an art expert and I know appreciating art is a subjective thing; but I did not get any of the artwork for it did not entertain or move me in a positive way. Sadly I felt the same way about this science fiction, mystery sequel. BLADE RUNNER K, played by Ryan Gosling (Gangster Squad, La La Land), discovered a secret that was hatched years ago that could alter evolution. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Prisoners) this sci-fi thriller visually was impressive. The sets and costumes all conveyed a sense of defeat or maybe more to the point tiredness. Ryan with Robin Wright (Wonder Woman, House of Cards-TV) as Lieutenant Joshi, Ana de Armas (War Dogs, Hands of Stone) as Joi, Sylvia Hoeks (The Best Offer, The Storm) as Luv and Harrison Ford (42, The Age of Adeline) as Rick Deckard were all wonderful in their roles. My big issue with this film was the unnecessary length of time to tell a story from a script that was spotty in parts. I was bored through parts of the picture. There were some characters that one never got the opportunity to really understand, while others had more depth to them. It pains me to say this but I found this film to be pretentious and full of itself. Maybe with major editing there would have been more excitement for me; however, for my viewing time I sat there with a perplexed look on my face.
THE PROBLEM WAS they looked alike even though they were different sexes. His mother had a reputation in the neighborhood of not being smart; though the adjectives used to describe her were unkind. People just assumed her son had the same low level of intelligence. Sadly it was a perception, it was not a fact. However this falsehood stayed with him all through school. If he had been a straight A student then the assumption would have quickly died, but he was more of an average grade pupil with grades that went from C to A. The interesting thing about this was he did not care or at least did not show any concern regarding what people thought of him. It turns out he was smart and used this incorrect assumption to his advantage. To make a long story short he became a shrewd business owner who became quite successful. ASSUMPTION BY ASSOCIATION is something people tend to do easily and in my opinion too often. To me I consider it along the same lines as profiling. I have mentioned before my feelings about individuals making rash judgments based on a person’s appearance. After recently being updated on the changes taking place within the labor laws, I know they say one cannot discriminate; however I have seen and been on the receiving end with the misconception that overweight individuals are lazy. Sadly I have heard people’s comments in a variety of settings that were derogatory based on a person’s race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. I know it is more prevalent than my experiences and I find it pathetic. The idea of someone making a judgment solely based on one’s looks is frankly horrifying. From my school years I have seen how these types of perceptions can scar a child for a long time, possibly their entire life. Imagine what the boy in this animated action adventure had to endure. ALL THE KIDS avoided Lloyd, voiced by Dave Franco (Now You See Me franchise, Neighbors franchise), because of his father Garmadon, voiced by Justin Theroux (The Girl on the Train, The Leftovers-TV). His father just wanted to rule the world. This 3rd film in the LEGO movie franchise started out in a fun way by having the first several minutes being live action with Jackie Chan (Shanghai Noon, Rush Hour franchise) as Mr. Liu and later voicing Master Wu. I liked Jackie in both roles. Including Fred Armisen (Easy A, Saturday Night Live-TV) voicing Cole, Michael Pena (The Martian, End of Watch) voicing Kai and Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick, Fist Fight) voicing Jay; the actors were fine with their characters. The script had several amusing scenes; however, there was little of the laugh out loud or surprise factor compared to the previous pictures. As for the animation it was just as good as before and I especially enjoyed the interjection of the live action character. In fact that was my favorite part. Overall I have to tell you my enthusiasm watching this film was lackluster; there was a sense of tiredness since it pretty much was the same stuff being done as before. I do not know if there is an actual cartoon character for Master Wu; the closest example I could think of was a takeoff on The Karate Kid or an old television show I think called Kung Fu. After playing with the same toy for an extended time one eventually will get tired of it; that is what I believe is going on here. There was one extra scene of outtakes in the middle of the credits.
2 ¼ stars
THE STUDENT POPULATION of a school forms its own world map, where borders may be harder to determine. Where you may have one group of students coming together for their common love of sports, there could be another batch of kids who form a clique based on their enjoyment of drinking and drugging. To an outsider it may be difficult to see how these individual groups come together, since its formation is more akin to the way magnets attract metal; it is an unseen force yet yields a strong pull. Added to that there may not be any way to visually determine the common attraction. Unlike a bunch of students who are into and always wearing the latest fashion trends, there are individual groups that appear to be well diversified on the surface. One thing to remember about interacting with someone from a clique is that you rarely will be dealing with that person on a one to one basis; they always have the rest of their group to back them up. BACK DURING MY school years I never really was part of a group or clique; at least I did not think so. I was part of the film club and yearbook committee. What I did not realize was the group of friends I was hanging out with actually formed a clique-those not cool enough to be in one of the popular groups. At the time I thought we all just became friends because we had the same classes together or shared common friends; but maybe it was due to the fact we were easily accessible to each other because no group would accept us. As a result we were always initially left behind from various school activities until we banded together to head out as our own group. Looking at the students I hung out with through adult eyes I can now see we did share some common interests; however, we also had distinct differences. I am sure a good portion of them had no idea what I was going through with being bullied. Having met some of my abusers in my adult life, it was apparent to me they had no idea they were evil. The students in this dramatic horror film at least all knew who was evil. WITH NO ONE to keep them safe a group of kids come together to protect themselves from an evil clown that has been terrorizing each of them. Starring Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special, Aloha) as Bill Denbrough, Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ant-Man, 42) as Ben Hanson, Sophia Lillis (37, A Midsummer Night’s Dream) as Beverly Marsh, Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things-TV) as Richie Tozier and Bill Skarsgard (Atomic Blonde, Allegiant) as Pennywise; the acting from all of them was surprisingly quite good. I had wished there were more scenes with Bill Skarsgard however. The script for this Stephen King (Carrie, The Shining) novel took an interesting perspective I thought. Where I had wanted more back story to Pennywise, the writers’ focused more on the kids. By doing so I felt they were using a wider definition of “monster.” As for the movie there was more suspense to the scenes than horror; there were only a couple of scenes that had gore and blood. However, there was an over abundance of strong language throughout the film. For me the underlying message of the story was actually a positive one; I connected to it as it brought back memories of my school years. Isn’t that a scary thought?