Category Archives: Thriller
UGH, THERE GOES THAT ACQUAINTANCE telling us what he would do if he was in that type of situation. I was telling my friends about my recent experiences with the cable company. One of the pieces of equipment they gave me turned out to be faulty. After waiting on hold forever to talk to a customer service representative, I finally got someone on the line to explain my situation. Long story short, if they came out to swap out the equipment I would be billed a service charge. Before I could complete the story to my friends, this friend of a friend interrupted to tell everyone what he would have done if the same thing happened to him; well it did not happen to him so I did not care what he had to say. I hope that doesn’t sound rude, but I do not take kindly to people telling me what I should do or what they would do while I am in the middle of telling people what was happening to me. THERE IS SOMETHING TO SAY about that phrase, “…you do not know until you take a walk in my shoes,” or something similar to it. Unless I am asking someone for their advice, I do not see any real purpose in having someone telling me what they would do if they were in the same situation that I was in. Here is an example of what I am talking about: Sitting down with the teacher and vice principal to discuss the issues I was facing in a particular class, I tell them about a particular bully who was picking on me. Before I could finish telling them everything the gym teacher looks up at me and tells me not to let the bully do it; I should tell him to stop. That was all the advice he had for me. Gratefully the vice principal had other ideas for the short term. The thing that amazes me, not only for that gym teacher but essentially anyone else, is how someone can give advice when they are not part of the experience. It is like that person who tells you if someone tried to pick their pocket they would beat up the offender after you just got done saying someone took your wallet or purse. I guess people like to imagine themselves as superheroes or maybe just like to brag. However in the case of the three friends in this biographical thriller, they did exactly what they meant to do in this crisis. CHILDHOOD FRIENDS ALEX, ANTHONY AND SPENCER; played by Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler and Spencer Stone; while on vacation found themselves in the middle of a terrorist attack. Directed by Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino, Million Dollar Baby) this film also starred Judy Greer (27 Dresses, Ant-Man) as Joyce and Jenna Fischer (The Office-TV, Slither) as Heidi. I unequivocally admire the courage of these three men; their story deserves to be known. Now that I have stated that I have to tell you their acting was so poor that it was a major distraction in watching this dramatic movie. Clint wanted to cast the actual men which was fine, but if you want to tell a story you need to have someone act it out. The script was elementary like a 5th or 6th grade level elementary; that is how rough it was sitting in the theater hearing these non-actors speak. Also there was so much back story that the main event felt secondary to me. I was so stunned at how bad this film was that I joined a group of viewers afterwards who all voiced their negative reactions to this picture. One can assume the movie studio wanted to honor these heroes, but they did no such thing.
1 ½ stars
IT JUST TAKES A LITTLE empty feeling inside for a person to start envying someone else’s good fortune. I have seen it happen many times where a person cannot only envy but resent another individual who appears happy and content. There is a friend of mine who has a relative that acts this way. This relative will offer backhanded compliments that others can see are fueled by jealousy and resentment. Another thing they do is try to copy whatever my friend does, either in hair style or clothing. If my friend is wearing a new outfit at a family function, the relative will seek out and buy something similar; however she take pleasure it telling everyone how much it cost. In other words she wants everyone to know her outfit is more expensive and better quality. It is such a weird game to me, like anyone would care about which one was better or more expensive. The thing I find icky is when my friend tells me this relative showed up at a family dinner with her hair styled in the same manner as my friend’s style; based on what I have heard there is no way I would say she is paying a compliment to my friend. WISHING FOR SOMETHING HAS A different feeling for me than dreaming about it. When I wish for something it usually is a tangible thing like wishing for warmer weather or a winning lottery ticket. I have spent the majority of my life dreaming about a life I hoped I could attain one day. Dreams to me seem to be more goals oriented than wishes. Maybe what I am trying to say is dreams have more of a life altering affect. There is a difference when one says they wish they had a boyfriend compared to dreaming about being with a boyfriend. I hope this is an example; there are two sisters who do not get along well with each other. One sister got married early and started a family; the other one married later in life and did not have any children. As the two sisters grew older the one without children started to resent her sister. Where the one with kids took family trips, attended a variety of school functions and was married to a man who was climbing up in position at his company; the other sister wanted the same things. She was only looking at the things she wanted but never indicated growing up that she wanted that type of life. It reminds me of that old saying about the grass being greener on the other side, which could apply to this mystery film also. ON A RECOMMENDATION ADAM, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals, End of Watch), rented a movie that had in the cast an actor who looked exactly like him. Both stunned and curious Adam began to do research on the actor to see if he could meet him and see what type of life he was leading. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario) the cast also included Melanie Laurent (Beginners, Now You See Me) as Mary and Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) as Helen. This film festival winning dramatic thriller was fueled by the wonderful performance by Jake. The story kept my interest for the most part, though it had a certain oddness to it. There were a couple of times I had to sit and wonder if I was missing something in the story because it seemed as if the script was getting more cerebral. I think watching this DVD could lead to some discussion afterward in a variety of directions. The main thing I took away from this picture was the belief Adam was a wisher.
2 ½ stars – DVD
I HAVE BEEN RACKING my brain out trying to figure out how I feel connected to this film. With the past year accomplishing something in the box office rankings that had not been done for 59 years (the top 3 grossing movies in 2017 were headed by females), I was looking forward to this female lead story. Now if you think about it, what does this statistic say about a society that divides acting between men and women? You know I treat the Oscar telecast as a high holiday, but I have been curious about this division. What would happen if they only had one category for best acting in a lead role? I do not see where acting skills should be judged by the person’s gender. If one is a great actor then they are and it has nothing to do with whether they are a woman or a man. Yet I understand from the dawn of time men and women have been separated and treated differently. And I have to tell you I find it amusing when one sex ventures into what is perceived as the other sex’s domain, such as car racing, knitting or hockey. ANOTHER ASPECT THAT NEEDS to be addressed in this conversation about the division between women and men is the personal perceptions people place on others. Maybe this happens less so now but I can remember hearing parents telling their child not to act a certain way. I am not referring to misbehavior, but to things that are steeped in so called gender characteristics. Examples like “don’t be such a sissy,” “act like a lady” and “you cry like a girl” come to mind. Who decided that certain traits were to be exclusive to one gender is what I would like to know. When it comes to my music I am attracted to big vocals, most of the time female voices. Not because they are women but because that combination of range and power mixed in the right combination is pleasing to my ears. With acting I simply want a dynamic performance that helps sweep me away into the film’s story. From the lead actress’ recent work I expected a strong character to shine in this action thriller. AFTER COMPLETING HER ASSIGNMENT by killing her target Mary, played by Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures, Person of Interest-TV), discovered something in the man’s apartment that would change her life. With Billy Brown (Star Trek, Race to Witch Mountain) as Tom, Danny Glover (The Color Purple, 2012) as Benny, Jahi Di’Allo Winston (The Upside, Feed the Beast-TV) as Danny and Neal McDonough (Timeline, Captain America: The First Avenger) as Walter; the idea for this story seemed interesting to me. Sadly this movie was put together in all the wrong ways, so my interest level dropped significantly close to the start. I thought the script was generic, put together like a child’s puzzle. There really was nothing new about it; in fact, I think there was a movie similar to this one years ago. For this picture the only thing that held my interest was the soundtrack. I mean how can you not like Tina Turner singing Proud Mary? The action was dull, the acting was plain, the script was tired and there was nothing new in it to illicit an emotional response from the viewer. All I want to say is this; with this female lead picture, I hope it is not an indication of what is in store for female actresses in this year’s crop of films.
1 ½ stars
WHERE THEY CAME FROM no one took part or even mentioned anything about Sweetest Day. Looking at the rack with cards on display, they were shocked that this holiday was “a thing.” Not only did they not know anything about this special day, they did not recall it ever being talked about when they were children. They joked that this had to be a manufactured holiday; maybe it was created by the card companies to increase their sales. To tell you the truth when I was growing up I had never heard anything about Sweetest Day. For this review I wanted to see if I could find out the history behind it; so my searching discovered this holiday was first celebrated in 1921 in Cleveland Ohio, planned by a committee of 12 confectioners to a candy company. Isn’t that an interesting tidbit? It appears to be a bit self-serving; create a holiday that would entice people to buy sweets for their sweet. THE CREATION OF FALSEHOODS for personal gain has been going on for centuries; it still does not make it right. I worked at a place that had a salesperson that constantly turned in fake orders. When I say fake I mean the salesperson might have discussed the product with the customer, but had not gotten the approval to go ahead and place the order. The company would process the order and pay commission to the salesperson, unaware the order was not completely legit at that point in time. If luck was on the salesperson’s side by the time the order was received and ready to ship out the approval came through for it; no one was the wiser. However, there were times where the okay was delayed or never given. In those cases the salesperson already received their commission but our company did not get payment for months or not at all. For the orders that were never approved we would get stuck with the product and scramble to find someone else to buy it from us. I found the salesperson’s behavior appalling; without thought about the company they worked for, they were only interested in their own personal gain. I felt this same behavior was the motivation for this horror, crime mystery film. TEN YEARS HAD PASSED since serial killer Jigsaw’s death. However the recent cases Detective Halloran, played by Callum Keith Rennie (Born to be Blue, Memento), was solving had all the markings of being the work of Jigsaw. And like Jigsaw, there were more cases to come. With Matt Passmore (Satisfaction-TV, McLeod’s Daughters-TV) as Logan Nelson, Tobin Bell (Mississippi Burning, Manson Family Vacation) as John Kramer, Hannah Emily Anderson (Lizzie Borden Took an Ax-TV movie, Shoot the Messenger-TV) as Eleanor Bonneville and Cle Bennett (Barney’s Version, Urban Legend) as Detective Keith Hunt; there were many gruesome scenes the cast experienced. Fans of the Saw films will probably get on board with this latest installment; but I have to tell you, I found the script to be bland. I can appreciate the one story line concerning administering justice on the guilty; but it made me uncomfortable, as if the writers were sending a positive message that it is okay to take justice into your own hands. As I was sitting and watching this picture I felt it was created simply to reboot the franchise; there was nothing new or special except for a plot twist at the end. I have to tell you I do not know who had it worse, the victims in this movie or me sitting and watching it.
1 ¾ stars
CONFRONTING A BUREAUCRACY AND its red tape requires a person to be persistent, strong willed, stubborn and in good physical/mental health. These characteristics can easily be applied to a person preparing for war. From my recent hospital stay I got a taste of what it takes to confront a large corporation. In the scheme of things I realize my few inconsistent encounters there were not major, though I say this without knowing what the ramifications would have been if I did not question the staff’s actions. A nurse came into my room at one point to tell me she was there to give me drops for my eyes. I asked her what was she applying and she said probiotics. This made no sense since I provided the hospital with my bottle of probiotics; they were capsules, so how could they be given in eye drops I asked her. She agreed to go back to the pharmacy to find out the error. I have no idea what was in those drops by the way. ANOTHER TIME A DIFFERENT nurse came in to tell me she had my flu shot. I told her I did not approve a flu shot since my office offers them to the employees. In addition, I mentioned to her that I thought one should not get a flu shot when they are not in good health. She nodded her head and left the room with her medical cart. Since this was my first experience being in a hospital I now realize the patient needs to stay diligent in being aware of everything being done to them. If they cannot do this, then the patient needs an advocate; in other words, someone who will look out for the patient’s best interests. With so many different people coming into my room at all times throughout the day and night, I really got a taste of how not just the hospital but any large entity can wear a person down until they just give up. Granted my energy level was low while in the hospital; however, I am aware of the benefits reaped when one remains determined and steadfast. The main character in this action thriller is the perfect example of such a strong minded person. WHEN HIS DAUGHTER WAS killed in a terrorist bombing Quan Ngoc Minh, played by Jackie Chan (Shanghai Noon, Dragon Blade), was positive certain individuals had to know about it. He would not take “no” for an answer. This film also starred Pierce Brosnan (The November Man, Die Another Day) as Liam Hennessy, Katie Leung (Harry Potter franchise, T2 Trainspotting) as Fan, Rufus Jones (Bill, Hunderby-TV) as Ian Wood and Mark Tandy (Howards End, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason) as Simpson. What grabbed me in this picture were Jackie’s and Pierce’s characters; they did not appear to be similar to the roles they have portrayed in their other films. Jackie was an older version of himself which meant there were less comedic martial arts moves and more age appropriate movements. Pierce was intense in this film which only added to the whole cat and mouse vibe taking place. I thought the fight scenes were exciting and well done; they never seemed out of place or gratuitous. For me this film was good escapism and provided some food for thought about what really goes on in the world.
WAKING UP FROM A deep sleep I immediately knew something was not right. It was still dark outside so the house remained richly seeped in muted shades of black and gray. My eyes were trying to adjust to the lack of light but my ears had already detected an unfamiliar sound. Lying perfectly still my brain was trying to decipher this foreign sound; a sound that I realized could be associated with some form of movement. There was a slight delay between my mental state and my physical body, but a surge of fear flooded across me when I realized there was someone in the house. Paralyzed with fear I could not move for all of my energy was diverted to my mind, as a stream of options for my next course of action popped up into my brain. The sound was coming closer to me. I wanted to scream something out but only dead air wafted out of my mouth, my vocal cords were frozen in fear. THE LAST THING I remembered was seeing a shadow growing up on my bedroom wall before I would wake up, panting for oxygen. This reoccurring dream happened to me several times over the course of a year. Having done some studies in the field of psychology, I was slightly familiar with interpreting dreams. What threw me off though was the intensity of this dream. Every time I woke up from it my body was in crisis mode, with my heart pounding and my breathing rapidly taxing my lungs. I would even hear my heart pounding in my ears. When I woke up it always took me several minutes to calm down because the dream felt so real. I literally would remain still in bed trying to make out any unusual sounds in the house. Once my breathing slowed down I would try to figure out the meaning behind this dream or more appropriate, nightmare. At least I never dreamt long enough to experience my own death; unlike the poor, unfortunate college student in this horror mystery. EVERY DAY STARTED THE same for Tree Gelbman, played by Jessica Rothe (La La Land, Summertime). She would wake up from a dream that ended with her murder and have to start the same day all over again, knowing that later she was going to be killed. She could not understand why someone wanted her dead. This thriller’s cast also included Israel Broussard (The Bling Ring, Flipped) as Carter Davis, Ruby Modine (Memoria, Shameless-TV) as Lori Spengler, Charles Aitken (The Girl on the Train, The Knick-TV) as Gregory Butler and Laura Clifton (The Alamo, The New Guy) as Stephanie Butler. For the most part the actors were adequate in their roles; nobody stood out for me except Jessica. I not only enjoyed her performance but liked the development of her character. Basically this story was a cross between the movies Groundhog Day and Scream. What made this film more palatable was its campy, tongue in cheek script. It didn’t take itself too seriously and had a few scenes that generated laughter out of me and the theater goers around me. There were no big surprises in this picture; sorority students were stereotypically portrayed and the dorm residents were either wholesome or nerdy. I did appreciate the absence of blood and gore from the scenes. This was light fare that at least for me did not produce any nightmares.
2 ½ stars
WALKING OUT FROM the station he was greeted by a sea of shirts all in the same color. Every single person was wearing an article of clothing close in the same shade. There were so many people that they filled the space from one side to the other; it indeed looked like there was a slow current of fluid moving away from him, reflecting a settling crimson sun on its surface. He had heard about this special event and looked up the details before committing funds and time to attend the occasion. Though he grew up in the city; the majority of his life was spent in the neighborhood he grew up in. He felt somewhat out of place to his peers because he did not have any reference points to show him he was actually okay. Making his way into the crowd of people before him, he soon discovered the feelings he had about his childhood were similar to the experiences from many of those around him. DON’T YOU FIND it interesting when you grow up feeling the experiences you had were unique to you, only to find out someone from far away had the same type of experiences? I get a kick when I meet someone from another country, in a completely different environment, who has similar feelings about common things that have happened to each of us. It shows me the borders we use to define ourselves are more transparent than we may realize. When you move away from home and set out on your own, you can discover how certain truths instilled in you have a wider definition than you believed. For example in a recent conversation I had with a friend, they shared an experience they had growing up that was so close to one I had that you would have thought the same people were involved in the incident. I was totally surprised by it in the same way the members of the Kingsman were in this action, adventure comedy. AFTER THE DESTRUCTION of their home Eggsy and Merlin, played by Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Legend) and Mark Strong (The Imitation Game, Miss Sloane), discovered their organization was not the only unique one of a kind place to work at; there was something similar halfway around the world. With Julianne Moore (Still Alice, Carrie) as Poppy, Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, Love Actually) as Harry Hart, Channing Tatum (White House Down, Magic Mike franchise) as Tequila and Halle Berry (Kidnap, X-Men franchise) as Ginger; the cast was fun to watch in this 2nd installment. I enjoyed the first one so had high hopes for this film; however, I found the script was weak and filled with strong language that was being used for cheap laughs. Maybe if I had not seen the previous movie I would have enjoyed this more, but I felt the freshness and wicked fun of the first picture was not captured in this story. There were big action scenes and crazy high tech weapons/accessories, but the whole picture felt a bit forced to me with obvious shtick. As I mentioned earlier the actors were a good choice for the roles they had; I wanted to see more depth in them. If the writers were trying to make something that would stand out and be different from other films of this type; in my opinion, they created a typical action picture.
2 ½ stars
I DID NOT think my question was that unusual or demanded too much from the sales clerk. If you could have seen their face you would have thought I had just asked something outrageous or personal. All I wanted to know was if the shirt’s material tended to shrink. Besides the “dirty” look and the condescending way they answered me, they did not even bother to look at me in the face. I wanted to tell them if they were that miserable at their job, maybe they should consider changing careers. Now in the past I would have taken that response personally and snapped back something nasty to say to them. To tell you the truth I took most things personally back then. DUE TO THE events I experienced in my earlier days I was wary of most people. My mind would quickly go into attack mode whenever I had an exchange of some kind with a stranger. They could have been a volunteer soliciting signatures or a lost tourist, it did not matter; I would be distrustful of the individual until I saw or could ascertain they were not going to hurt me in some way. I am not exactly sure when I started softening my attitude and not taking things personally, but I think it was during a time I was being fixed up on several blind dates. It did not take me long into the conversation to realize whether the person was interested in me or not. Granted some people showed their disinterest easier than others; but even the ones that kept up a good facade, did not cause me to react negatively. I realized that everyone has likes and dislikes, trigger points that set them off and none of it should be looked at as a good or bad thing. Their qualifications or agenda was not a personal attack on me; I just did not fit into what they were looking for. In a way one could say it was just business. AFTER SURVIVING A terrorist attack while on vacation Mitch Rapp, played by Dylan O’Brien (The Maze Runner franchise, Teen Wolf-TV), could not think of anything else after that date but to hunt down the terrorists. It was something the CIA was doing also. This action thriller also starred Michael Keaton (The Founder, Spider-Man: Homecoming) as Stan Hurley, Sanaa Lathan (Out of Time, The Best Man Holiday) as Irene Kennedy, Taylor Kitsch (Lone Survivor, Friday Night Lights-TV) as Ghost and Shiva Negar (The Art of More-TV, My Babysitter’s a Vampire-TV) as Annika. The highlight of this film was Michael Keaton; he was the most believable out of the cast. I do not know if Dylan was miscast but he did not have much range with his acting and I am afraid to say did not have the physical presence to pull off his character. With decent fight and action scenes the script could not carry the story; there were several situations that did not ring true for me. In addition the story was not only predictable but the premise for it was cheesy and weak in my opinion. A couple of therapy sessions prior to developing this film would have been money well spent.
BLOOD IS THICKER than water they say but that is not always the case. For those of you not familiar with this saying, it means relationships within a family are the strongest and most important ones. I have seen examples that both prove and disprove this sentiment. Currently the news in my area has been following a story about a father and son. The dad needs a kidney transplant, having suffered with kidney disease for some years. It turns out the son was a perfect match and immediately agreed to donate one of his kidneys to his dad. They both went on an exercise and diet regiment to get themselves into better shape before the surgery. While this is a positive example, I recently read an article in the newspaper about a grandson shooting his grandmother to death and making it look like a burglary. He did it so he could collect the insurance money. THERE ARE FAMILIES who are close-knit, spending most of their free time with each other. They take vacations together, go to special events, pickup groceries for each other and watch each other’s children when the need arises. I know one family where none of the siblings has a non-related friend, as far as I can tell. I am talking no school or neighborhood friends; they are only friends with each other. To me it is somewhat odd; maybe because when I would meet potential dates, one of my red flags would pop up if they never mentioned anything about their friends. If they did not say something I would work the conversation to the topic of friendship to find out if they actually had any people in their life they could call a friend. Now do not get me wrong I have nothing against siblings being best friends. There are 2 sisters I know who are inseparable; they so enjoy each other’s company and do everything together, but nothing like what was in this movie. I was surprised watching what the main character was willing to do for his sibling in this dramatic, crime thriller. CONNIE NIKAS, played by Robert Pattinson (The Twilight Saga franchise, Remember Me), had to stay a step ahead of his pursuers if he wanted any chance of reuniting with his mentally challenged brother. This film festival winner will finally put to rest any lingering memories of Robert playing Edward in the Twilight series. He was outstanding in this movie. Along with Jennifer Jason Leigh (Road to Perdition, The Hateful Eight) as Corey Ellman, Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips, Eye in the Sky) as Dash the park security guard, newcomer Taliah Webster as Crystal and director Benny Safdie (Person to Person, Yeast) as Nick Nikas; the whole cast was excellent in this fast paced film. Robert was the main focus and the script literally put him through his paces. Some of the scenes were less plausible than others, but watching Robert’s desperation was riveting. There were at least several scenes that could have easily been plucked out of the news, but seeing them on a more personal level made them more intense in my opinion. In fact the whole feel of this picture did not come across as a Hollywood production. I have to say the story in this exciting film shines a whole different light on brotherly love. There were several scenes that had blood and violence in them.
3 ½ stars
GETTING AN EDUCATION was more important than the living arrangements. Her child had special needs that the local school district could not adequately provide. The decision was not easy since they had settled into their home almost 10 years ago. After much discussion, investigation and planning they packed up everything and moved to a location in a new school district in a different state. If you thought it would be easy it was not. The mother was considered an outsider, since the rest of the mothers had known each other for a few years and they were all much younger in age. The new mother did not care; her child’s well being was more important than trying to fit in to any group. Over the next school year there was an inkling that her child was improving in a couple of key areas. She felt she had made the right decision and over the years marveled at her child’s progress. THERE IS NO manual on how to raise a child; you simply bring them into this world and do your best, hopefully producing good results. Listening to parents talk about their “trials’ in childrearing I am always impressed by the amount of sacrifices a parent endures in raising their children. I find it encouraging because I have seen the ramifications of not participating in a child’s upbringing. There was a boy in my old neighborhood who my friends and I tried to avoid playing with because he liked to punch and bite people. When we were at his home we saw how his parents rarely disciplined or even reprimanded him. It was like his parents could not be bothered with him. It was so odd to me because I was familiar with some parents who were ferocious when it came to looking out for the well being of their children. In fact I still remember walking by the principal’s office and the parents of a boy who had been punched by that boy in our neighborhood were demanding actions that would protect their child along with the other children in the school. They may not have had to go to the extremes the mother did in this thriller but they were just as intense. DISTRACTED FOR ONLY a moment was all the time needed for Karla Dyson’s, played by Halle Berry (X-Men franchise, Cloud Atlas), child to get separated from her. Nothing would stop her from finding her son Frankie, played by Sage Correa (Tempting Fate, Uncle Buck-TV). Along with Chris McGinn (My Own Love Song, Sight Unseen) as Margo and Lew Temple (Lawless, The Devil’s Rejects) as Terry, the story would hit home for most people; even those without children could still relate to the sense of loss. Both Halle and Chris were the standouts for me; each one was able to draw me into their character. As for the film some of the action scenes were exciting and nerve wracking. By having so many similar scenes however, I was getting a bit bored or found them farfetched. When the story got closer to the ending is when my interest perked up once again, but by that time I wanted everything to be done. In my opinion I would have preferred having more back story and interaction with Chris’ character. This film did not need to be on the road so long.