Category Archives: Thriller
IS THERE ANYONE WHO DOES NOT wonder where those stains and marks come from in a hotel room? I for one cannot ignore them when I see them. This is why I am never 100% comfortable when I am staying at a hotel. On a trip to the southwest I stayed at a hotel that was one of the tallest buildings in the city. When I walked into my room everything looked fine. Just like most hotels I have stayed in; this one had a bed, 2 nightstands, an armoire, a desk, an easy chair and a floor lamp. When I walked into the bathroom I was immediately horrified because there appeared to be a blood-stained streak on the shower curtain. My mind was flooded with scenarios that could have caused blood to get splattered in the bathroom. I was not going to attempt to clean it, nor could I simply ignore it. If that was not enough, I decided to relieve my bladder before going downstairs to request a room change. When I went to flush the toilet, the water gurgled inside the bowl but never flushed down; it looked as if the water was simmering close to a boil. I wasn’t about to wonder what was causing the toilet not to flush. The room and in turn the hotel creeped me out. ON ANOTHER TRIP I BOOKED A ROOM in this huge, old majestic hotel. I do not remember the year the building was constructed, but it was originally built as an apartment building. With terra cotta appointments on the façade and a lobby that looked like it came out of 1920’s detective story, I thought the hotel was cool looking. The elevators with jet black doors and silver trim creaked as they traveled up the floors, slightly unsteady like an elderly patient. When I walked into the room I was met by a wall that had worn-out flocked wallpaper. As soon as one entered the room they had to make an immediate right turn to go into the living space. It appeared the original apartments must have been carved up to form the hotel rooms; the room had odd shaped corners and the bathroom door nearly grazed the toilet bowl when it was being closed. There was something about the hotel that made me think about the original residences who must have resided here earlier. During my stay little things happened such as the lightbulb burning out and the water faucet groaning whenever it was turned on. I stayed there despite the odd sounds and my concerns for my safety and hygiene. But I will tell you this; I would rather stay in either of the hotels I mentioned than the one in this mystery thriller. A GROUP OF STRANGERS CHECKED INTO the El Royale but not all of them would check out. This dramatic crime film starred Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water, Kingsman: The Golden Circle) as Father Daniel Flynn, Cynthia Erivo (Widows, Mr. Selfridge-TV) as Darlene Sweet, Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, A Bigger Splash) as Emily Summerspring, Jon Hamm (Baby Driver, Million Dollar Arm) as Laramie Seymour Sullivan and Chris Hemsworth (Thor franchise, 12 Strong) as Billy Lee. I enjoyed the cast and the diversity of the characters they portrayed. This picture had a great look to it with a smoldering script, which allowed every actor a chance in the spotlight. I also liked the way the pieces of the story fit together; however halfway through I started to get bored. It seemed as if scenes were written with less detail and emotion. Sometimes it appeared shocking twists were put in for the sake of shocking the viewer. For me this was not as much of a thriller as a slow burn and I had no desire to book a room at this hotel.
2 ¼ stars
THERE ARE SOME SITUATIONS AND PLACES that cause us to be fearful or simply creep us out. I get uncomfortable when, sitting in a movie theater with only a handful of patrons, someone enters and sits directly behind me. Most of the seats are empty, yet they choose the seat right in back of me; my mind immediately flashes images of what they could do to me. Have a wire loop to choke me; cut my throat with a knife; you get the picture. Yes, I see a lot of movies; I get these types of visuals immediately. It isn’t pretty. I feel the same way when I am on public transportation and the person sits close to me, though there are vacant seats all over the bus or train car. Oh, I almost forgot; standing in line and you can feel the person’s breath on your neck because they are standing in your personal space. On the other hand, there are people who do not like clowns; everyone has their own personal list of things that scare or make them feel uncomfortable. MY FEARS AND THINGS I FIND creepy predominately come from people; however, there are many individuals who get scared by places. I had no idea my garage was a scary place for example. For me, a garage is just a place to park my car; I do not devote a bit of time in the maintenance of it. Yet a friend of mine, I recently discovered, does not like walking into my garage because there are visible cobwebs in it. Nothing that one would accidently walk into, but they can be seen on the windows and rafters. Honestly, I never gave them a second thought, but my friend took one look at the cobwebs and decided to wait in the alley until I could pull my car out. I never knew I had a fear of this but on a trip I took a few years ago, I started getting scared driving on a deserted remote road. I wondered what would happen if the car broke down because there was no sign of life anywhere. Stranded with no cellular service, no gas station, no road lights, all by myself; I ask you, how would you feel in such a situation? You must admit it certainly looks like the start to a horror movie. I had the same feeling and thoughts as I started to watch this mystery, horror thriller. WHEN A NUN WAS FOUND DEAD hanging from a window of her monastery, the Vatican dispatched Father Burke, played by Demian Bichir (The Hateful Eight, A Better Life), who had some experiences in such types of situations. With Taissa Farmiga (The Bling Ring, American Horror Story-TV) as Sister Irene, Jonas Bloquet (3 Days to Kill, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets) as Frenchie, Bonnie Aarons (The Princess Diaries franchise, The Fighter) as The Nun and Ingrid Bisu (The Zero Theorem, Outbound) as Sister Oana; this movie had all the earmarks of being a real scary story. The set pieces, the music, being part of The Conjuring franchise; everything was in place, including the excellent acting from Taissa, for me to get into this picture. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be the case. There were a few scenes with potential, but the writers never took it any further out of being a predictable setup. There was nothing real “jump in your seat” worthy; though there were a few creepy scenarios. By the end of the film I was left with a “meh” feeling. I must tell you, in my opinion I feel as if the whole Conjuring story line has reached the end of the line. It was a well-done horror movie in the beginning, but now with this installment there doesn’t seem to be anything creepy left to tell us.
1 ¾ stars
AT WHAT TIME DO YOU BEGIN to trust someone completely? For myself I do not have a definite set time where I start trusting a person. What I will say is this: trust is something that gets earned, it is not given freely by me. One of the ways trust gets built between me and an individual is to hear and listen to a person when they speak. Because my mind accelerates during a conversation, where I start to finish the person’s sentences in my mind, I tend to interrupt people. I must keep reminding myself to slow down and let the person finish before I say something. Being aware of this makes me more attentive in seeing if the person’s words and actions match each other, which is one-way trust starts to grow for me. Another thing that helps a person gain my trust is exposing me to their circle of friends at some point. I feel one can gain insight into a person based on the company they keep. I do not know; maybe it is harder to deal with me because I do not give my trust out freely. I can easily tell you why; after giving my trust out and getting it broken a few times, I questioned my ability to vet out untrustworthy individuals. ONE PERSON WHO BROKE MY trust was a co-worker at a previous job. I thought we had a good, friendly relationship; she would even confide in me. I found out later that she resented me being promoted into a position that she was hoping to get. Of course, I did not know she wanted it; another employee told me. There had been several incidents that reflected poorly on my performance. I did not understand how these kept happening until I found out she was entering inaccurate information on purpose to make me look bad. Besides being furious at her, I was hurt. If I confronted her I would have to divulge the name of the employee who tipped me off; so, from that point on I totally ignored her. If it was a business question I would answer her; but anything else she said to me I would not give her a response. This may sound childish to you, but it worked for me. Trust me, this kind of broken trust doesn’t compare to the ones that get damaged in a love relationship; those are much harder to come back from in my opinion. But then again, I have been fortunate that my life has never been put into jeopardy due to the trust I had given someone, unlike the main characters in this action adventure film. THERE WAS LITTLE TIME FOR an elite group of CIA agents to build trust with the one person who had the key that would save thousands of people. Too many other people wanted him dead. Starring Mark Wahlberg (All the Money in the World, The Gambler) as James Silva, Lauren Cohan (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Walking Dead-TV) as Alice Kerr, Iko Uwais (The Raid franchise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Li Noor, John Malkovich (Bullet Head, Secretariat) as Bishop and Ronda Rousey (The Expendables 3, Furious 7) as Sam Snow; this crime movie was all about intense action. Development of the characters was close to nil; the script was a mess and I especially disliked the jumping back and forth in time periods. Iko was my favorite and I have to say his fight scenes were insane. I only wished they were not so edited to the point it was hard to figure out who was fighting. There was a good deal of violence and blood, too much for my tastes. The idea behind the story was valid; I only wished they had a better script and a less heavy hand in making sure the viewers were experiencing non-stop intensity.
1 ¾ stars
WHILE LOOKING AT OLD PHOTOGRAPHS I could not stop asking myself what was I thinking to wear such a thing. I understand part of the fashion industry’s mission is to constantly update clothing trends, so consumers will buy clothes for every season of every year. If all we wore was a pair of blue jeans and a plain cotton shirt, the clothing manufacturers would not last long. As far as I am concerned there is no reason to ever wear pleated pants; this is just my opinion. The clothing choices I saw in my old photos could be classified more as a fad. I do not mean to disrespect any culture or group of people, but there really was no reason I needed to wear puka shells/beads around my neck. There was a time where wearing puka beads was considered cool; I have no idea why but as I saw other people wearing them, I decided I needed them. Another fad I went through was Nehru and surfer shirts. I cannot remember when these items were a fad but all of us wore them. In fact, it was extra cool to wear a Nehru collared shirt with puka beads around the neck. Please do not judge me but at one point I even made my own puka bead necklaces. IN WRITING THIS REVIEW TODAY I looked up other fads from the past and came up with a variety of items. There was the Slap Bracelet, Garbage Pail Kids, Push Pops and Jelly shoes. Most fads, such as the ones listed, were innocuous; they are what I consider a singular fad because you do not need anyone to participate along with you. However, there are some fads that have a darker side. What may start out as a fad could turn into a cult. I have to wonder if the flash mob videos that were posted online was the spark that lead individuals to start posting more and more daring or unusual events. Do you remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? It was a novel idea created for a good cause; but, do you think it could be the first step in people trying more difficult and dangerous challenges to gain notoriety? The subject of today’s film started as a fad that I saw in the news led two Wisconsin 12-year old girls to lure their friend into the woods to stab her multiple times, just to impress this fictional character who stars in this horror, mystery film. WHILE A GROUP OF FRIENDS START to check out the internet stories about the Slender Man, one of them goes missing. Starring Joey King (White House Down, The Conjuring) as Wren, Julia Goldani Telles (The Affair-TV, Bunheads-TV) as Hallie, Jaz Sinclair (Paper Towns, When the Bough Breaks) as Chloe, Annalise Basso (Captain Fantastic, Oculus) as Katie and newcomer Alex Fitzalan as Tom; I cannot think of one positive thing to say about this incredibly, poorly thought out movie. The acting was basic; add in the dull script and it was close to painful to sit and watch this mess. I thought the special effects were a total joke. Taking a telephoto camera lens and moving it quickly back and forth from near to far did not produce anything close to scariness for the scene; if anything, it simply made me dizzy. I was not familiar with the Slender Man; but if one should be fearful of him, this picture did not place him in the proper light. There was nothing scary or suspenseful in the story. If this character of the Slender Man was supposed to be sinister, then the writers completely missed the point. My deepest wish is for this fad to go away; I never want to see a sequel or hear about him again.
1 ½ stars
ONE OF THE THINGS I FIND more annoying then autocorrect changing my misspelled words to something completely different is a person who never believes what you tell them. I have this one friend who for some reason must confirm pretty much any details you share with him, even the most random of things. For example, if I were to tell him about a travel survey I read that listed the world’s top travel destinations, he would have to confirm it by looking it up for himself. When I told him that the retirement age for Social Security was not 65 anymore, that it was now based on the year of one’s birth, he did not believe me and had to go research it. Here is the specific part that I find the most irritating; he feels the need to come back and tell me that I am right. I just want to ask him why he thinks I would make up such a thing. Now of course there have been times where I misunderstood what I heard or read; but not enough to warrant disbelief for every single thing I have mentioned. THERE ARE OTHER TYPES OF PEOPLE who like to see things with their very own eyes. Mention there was a car crash and they immediately want to see it for themselves. I am good with just hearing about it; though there are times where I am being told too much detail, especially if it is gory. Oh, and there are also some individuals who will share something they experienced or witnessed but add their own personal flair to it. I have mentioned before a friend I used to have who had this great saying: a story is not worth telling if you cannot exaggerate it. This is the category I fall into the most; I am all for telling a good story but keep the essential facts intact. To me this makes the difference between a good versus mediocre storyteller. I knew someone who everyone dreaded when she would try to tell us a story. She would have to give every single detail, weighing down her story to the point where you did not care how things turned out. And what made it worse was when the story was supposed to be humorous and she would explain why it was humorous as if you were unable to understand what made the story funny. I think the writers were not sure what type of audience was coming to see this action, horror thriller. WHEN MEMBERS OF A DEEPSEA EXPLORATION team found themselves stranded on the ocean floor, the crew’s leader felt there was only one person who could save them. He was a former, discredited diver who believed there was something lurking at the bottom of the ocean. Starring Jason Statham (Spy, The Expendables franchise) as Jonas Taylor, Bingbing Li (The Forbidden Kingdom, Transformers: Age of Extinction) as Suyin, Rainn Wilson (Permanent, The Office-TV) as Morris, Cliff Curtis (Training Day, Whale Rider) as Mac and Winston Chao (The Wedding Banquet, Road to Dawn) as Zhang; this movie felt like one of those “B’ type of pictures that would play as a matinee. Jason was fun to watch but I found the script predictable and basic. There was little suspense though some of the special effects were good. As the story progressed after its slow start it appeared as if the script was constructed with bits and pieces from other movies, washed together with a Moby Dick vibe. As far as I am concerned this was an afternoon popcorn movie; I cannot recommend paying full price for it. I understand some of you will want to see it for yourself; I do not have an issue if you do.
SIR ISAAC NEWTON’S THIRD LAW states: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I would add: And some of the reactions come with consequences. As I thought about the next sentence I was going to write, I want to preface it by saying I am embarrassed. However, upon further consideration I decided I am not going to be embarrassed; I am simply stating how I feel about certain things. So here goes; I take pleasure in seeing someone getting their just dues. For example, a driver who cuts me off and speeds away, getting stopped by a police officer who gives the driver a speeding ticket. Or I love at the supermarket when a shopper starts walking faster to get ahead of me in line to check out and winds up getting stuck by the shopper in front of them who needs a price check on an item. Because they ran ahead of me I went to a different line and wound up getting checked out before them. It is little things like this that makes me believe in karma. My only hope is that those selfish individuals learn from their actions; but from how many times I still witness such behavior, I do not think the lesson gets taught. ONE OF MY ALL TIME FAVORITE stories is about a friend of mine who took such rude behavior to the next level. He was a big, brawny guy who could appear imposing to people. In a parking lot if a driver sneaked into a parking spot he was waiting for, he would pull right up behind the driver and park his car to block them into the spot. The driver would jump out to yell until they got a look at him. He on the other hand would calmly stare and tell them because they took the spot he was obviously waiting for, they could now sit and wait for him to finish his shopping. Or they could apologize, get back into their car, and he would move to let them out to go find a different parking place. Every person my friend did this to always chose the apology option. I wish I had the guts to do such a thing; but since I do not come across as a “tough” guy, I must take satisfaction in believing a rude person will get their “just desserts.” In the meantime, I at least can take pleasure in seeing justice being done in this action, crime thriller. WHEN A TRAGEDY STRIKES CLOSE to home Robert McCall, played by Denzel Washington (Fences, The Magnificent Seven), comes out of his quiet existence to contact his old partner Dave York, played by Pedro Pascal (The Great Wall, The Adjustment Bureau). Problem is, Dave thought Robert was dead. This film festival nominee also starred Ashton Sanders (Moonlight, Straight Outta Compton) as Miles Whittaker, Bill Pullman (Lake Placid, Independence Day franchise) as Brian Plummer and Orson Bean (Being John Malkovich, Innerspace) as Sam Rubinstein. As far as I was concerned this movie did exactly what I expected it to do; it was a good people vs bad people story. Denzel was excellent as Robert which was the first time he ever reprised a character. If you have not seen the previous film or television show this picture is based on, it is okay. The story was simple and to the point. I thought the action scenes were terrific, especially one that took place in a car sharing ride. Though the script was predictable, I was surprised by the twist in it. If you are so inclined in watching justice being served, this is the film to watch as Denzel delivers it.
2 ½ stars
HAVING SPENT MANY A TIME listening to the fortunate folk who are able to retire soon, I thought I would have gained a wealth of information on how to plan for my own retirement. Pretty much all I gained was confusion. There was one person who lived modestly most of their life; this means they only spent money on things they needed instead of wanted. Traveling was limited to special occasions such as out of state weddings, births or funerals. Vacation days meant puttering around the house. By saving as much money as they could, they were able to retire early. Another individual set up a financial plan where their salary was divided into several categories, one of them being investments. Every 3 months the portion of their money designated for investments was used for that, investing in things that would yield a financial return; such as stocks, bonds and real estate trusts. They amassed a sizable nest egg that will carry them many years through their retirement years. One thing I have started to notice about people who retire without planning some types of activities is they die sooner. I know that sounds harsh but I am aware of a few people who retired and suddenly became predominantly sedentary; this is the only explanation I could come up with, outside of medical issues, on why the quality of their life took a rapid decline. MY FAVORITE LINE I HAVE heard a retired person say is, “Every day is Saturday.” Doesn’t that sound like fun? One of the things I am curious about retirement is if time will no longer be an issue for me. Presently I keep up with a hectic schedule between 2 jobs, watching and reviewing films, house upkeep, socializing and traveling. Many of my chores like grocery shopping and washing clothes are done only on the weekends, where it seems everyone else is on my schedule. I wonder what it would be like to go to a grocery store during the weekday? Having less people there would mean I could get my shopping done quicker. I assume the waiting list at many businesses is shorter during the weekdays; I am curious to experience this option as well. Now there are some people I know who do not think about retirement. They continue past their retirement age; either staying with the same employer or sometimes retiring from one place to begin a new job or career with another company. As I said earlier I have heard of many retirement plan options, but it never occurred to me that drug dealers need to plan also for their retirement until I saw this action, crime thriller. LOOKING TO MAKE ONE LAST big score before retiring drug dealer Youngblood Priest’s, played by Trevor Jackson (Burning Sands, A Beautiful Soul), plan meant he would have to bypass his supplier and go directly to the source. The question was would this plan cause him to be permanently retired—from living? With Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton, Detroit) as Eddie, Michael Kenneth Williams (12 Years a Slave, Assassin’s Creed) as Scatter, Lex Scott Davis (The First Purge, Tales-TV) as Georgia and Esai Morales (King of the Avenue, La Bamba) as Adalberto Gonzalez; this movie portrayed the glamorous side of drug money. With fancy cars, flashy jewelry and mansions; I was waiting to see where the script would take us. As far as I could tell the story had little variance from other drug dealer stories I have seen before. There was nothing that stood out for me. You see one drug dealer’s party in a movie and you pretty much have seen them all; they always show drugs, scantily clothed females, exotic bottles of alcohol and people either laughing or fighting. In this story there were a couple of surprises but they were not enough to get me high on this picture.
OF ALL PLACES I WOULD NOT have thought an amusement park would have been the place where I felt I was now part of a group. Growing up I never was much associated with any one group. I was not into team sports nor did I belong to any type of organization. Some of my friends had been involved with the Boy Scouts or after school programs; I never felt comfortable to be a part of such things. My friends were an eclectic group I enjoyed being with; but I also liked having my alone time too. During the high school years is when I really shied away from being labeled part of any type of group. There were the jocks who always hung out together and as far as I could tell did most activities as one group. If one person was going to a party then they all would go to it; if one person picked on a student then the others would join in. Another group that did everything en masse were the cheerleaders. If one of them hated something then the rest of them immediately hated the same thing. I know these two examples are considered stereotypical, but this type of group mentality was prevalent throughout my school. SO HERE I FIND MYSELF at this massive amusement park and we have special passes that allow us to bypass the lines of people waiting to get on the rides. I am not sure if I can describe how I felt as we walked up to the park employees managing the lines, showed them our pass and then directed into a separate line that was right next to the general line. As I walked by I looked at the faces of the attendees who had been standing there for 30-65 minutes; they looked tired, dehydrated and a bit annoyed by the long wait. So here I am walking at my usual fast pace and come up to other guests who have passes. I think we only had a 10-minute wait before we could get on the ride. As I am getting strapped into the compartment assigned to me I get this realization that all of us were being treated in a special way. Granted the tickets cost more, but I suddenly felt like I had something in common with this group of strangers; it was like we were a part of a secret club. It was a new feeling for me and helped me understand the group camaraderie that took place in this action crime thriller. SITUATED IN PLAIN VIEW IN the heart of Los Angeles stood a hotel that was run by a nurse, played by Jodie Foster (The Accused, Elysium), who only allowed a certain type of individual in to be a guest—a criminal. There were rules that had to be followed if you wanted to stay. With Sterling K. Brown (Marshall, This is Us-TV) as Waikiki, Sofia Boutella (Atomic Blonde, Star Trek: Beyond) as Nice, Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Blade Runner 2049) as Everest and Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park franchise, The Fly) as Niagara; the set-up to this story seemed promising, along with the capable cast. However once again the movie studio focused on the cast instead of the script. I enjoyed this cast of characters and the script’s campy vibe, but nothing stood out as exceptional for me. Everything I was watching seemed familiar despite the cool looking sets. It also seemed obvious the studio would not be opposed to doing a sequel. It would be a mistake if they chose to keep the same writers. I may not be part of the reviewers who enjoyed this picture and you know what? That would be okay because I am used to going my own way.
1 ¾ stars
YOU WILL KNOW WHEN YOU are experiencing an acute stress response. It is a physiological reaction that happens when you feel threatened; a real threat where you feel you may get attacked or seriously hurt. The reaction stimulates the pituitary and adrenal glands which releases hormones that have an immediate effect on your body’s systems. A few of the changes that takes place involve an increase in blood pressure, faster heart and lung activity, the constriction of blood vessels in parts of the body and tunnel vision or the loss of peripheral vision. All of this prepares your body to either fight or take flight; it is how animals survive in the wild. The amount of energy you will expend might surprise you. This is not something I hope you experience in your lifetime; trust me, it will take time to recover from such an episode. I remember when I was in a situation where I thought I was going to be severely beaten and my body immediately went on fight/flight mode. The tunnel vision thing happened to me as I ran faster than I had ever done before for at least 3-4 city blocks, trying to escape my attackers. Once I felt I was out of harm’s way my body slowed down and I realized I was drenched in sweat. IN MY FITNESS CLASSES I always try to add a short period of time devoted to anaerobic activity. Anaerobic means occurring without free oxygen, pushing the body to function at a quicker pace; just like the body reacting during an acute stress response. High caliber athletes train in a similar way so they have a deeper reserve of energy to tap into when they need to kick it up a gear. The reason I do this is so a person is prepared or has a better chance if they ever find themselves in a situation that appears to be life threatening. I do not announce that in class, simply coax members gently to push a little harder. There was a news report some years ago that I may have mentioned before, but it is still as clear in my memory as when it was first on the news. A driving accident took place and a person was pinned underneath the car. The passengers wedged themselves out of the car and lifted it high enough to move the victim out. I believe one of the passengers was a mother who was the first to spring into action after the crash, that primal instinct bursting forth. You are not familiar with that force? Then feel free to watch the mother in this thriller. WITH HER CHILDREN BEING HELD HOSTAGE by four burglars; would Shaun Russell’s, played by Gabrielle Union (Deliver Us from Eva, Think Like a Man franchise) primal instinct to protect her children be more than a match for these criminals? With Billy Burke (Fracture, The Twilight Saga franchise) as Eddie, Richard Cabral (End of Watch, Walk of Shame) as Duncan, Ajiona Alexus (Acrimony, Empire-TV) as Jasmine and Seth Carr (Black Panther, Terminator Genisys) as Glover; this film’s saving grace was Gabrielle. I was both impressed and surprised how good she was in the role. Her performance reminded me a little of Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde. However, the script for this thriller failed to deliver anything new. I thought the character Eddie’s dialog was so unemotional that there was no sense of him being sinister, though the character Duncan did his best to be the ”crazy” one. And that was my issue about this picture; it was so basic and predictable that I was getting bored. It is sad for all the physical work Gabrielle put into this movie the rewards could not have been better. I wish some of that primal energy had been devoted to making the script more intense.
1 ¾ stars