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FUR, PURR, PAWS, BARK, CUDDLES; THAT is enough for me to fall in love. I am an animal lover. Whether it is a cat or dog, doesn’t make a difference to me. A friend of mine had a dog that knew to lie down anytime I said, “Do you want a doggie massage?’ Of course, I would then rub him down, including his limbs. This dog became my shadow anytime I was over at my friend’s house. I guess if someone was going to offer me a massage, I would do the same thing! The dog was a real sweetheart; he rarely barked and loved to play fetch. Another friend of mine had a dog that was also sweet but feared many things. She refused to go outside if it was raining. And if there was thunder, she spent most of the time under a bed. Where most dogs walk into a room, she would slink in by staying close to a wall. In fact, it took months before she let me even pet her. I would squat down with my hand extended out for her to sniff. My friend would even let me give the dog a treat, but the poor thing would only come near after I would place it on the floor and step several steps back. I couldn’t get upset nor would I because she was so cute. MY LOVE OF DOGS IS MATCHED by my love of cats. A relative of mine had a gorgeous cat that loved to snuggle around my neck. If I was sitting on the sofa, the cat would jump up to the back of the couch then walk behind me before curling herself around my neck. She had one of the loudest purrs; it sounded like a low motor. On the opposite side, a friend of mine had a cat who hated people coming over to their house. I know that sounds strong, but she did not like people except for her owner. My friend told me the first time his girlfriend stayed over for the night; the cat was a terror. When the two of them were in bed, the cat would jump up and start walking on top of his girlfriend who was not amused. My friend would grab hold of the cat and put her down on the floor, but she would immediately jump up again. There was no choice after going through this a few times; my friend put the cat in the hallway and closed the bedroom door. Their night was mostly filled with the cat meowing non-stop outside the door. The girlfriend wasn’t really a cat person I was told and evidently the cat knew. My friend and I felt it was her loss. Some people prefer one animal over another and act accordingly. You can see how that plays out in this animated adventure comedy. THE PAW PATROL WOULD HAVE THEIR work cut out for them when Adventure City elected a new mayor who loved cats. With Tyler Perry (Gone Girl, Good Deeds) as Gus, Ron Pardo (Hairspray, Undercover Brother) as Cap’n Turbot, Will Brisbin (Forbidden Playground, Abducted) as Ryder, relative newcomer Kingsley Marshall as Marshall and Keegan Hedley (Never Saw it Coming, Odd Squad-TV) as Rubble; this film reminded me of my youth, sitting and watching the Saturday morning cartoons. I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. The visuals, the soundtrack, the mix of excitement with fear; everything blended well to the point I became vested in the characters. I especially enjoyed the inventiveness of the gadgets. With elements of charm similar to those good old-fashioned cartoons, I appreciated the message the writers were conveying. Young children will absolutely enjoy this movie and I feel their parents will as well. With so much going on in the world, I think my enthusiasm for this picture was heightened because of its simplicity and G rating.
I TOLD HIM I THOUGHT IT was a wonderful wish, but it would never fly in his crazy family. My friend was telling me about his recently deceased grandfather’s final wish; he wanted his children to stop fighting and remain friends with each other. I knew my friend’s family well for many years and they were certainly an argumentative bunch. They also were a fun group of people to be around. The best way to describe them would be to say they were unfiltered; whatever came to their minds was immediately spoken out loud. I asked my friend how the family reacted to their patriarch’s last wish and he said they were all on their best behavior, for the moment. He really did not think the current peacefulness would last long, since all he remembers from growing up is how the family could be laughing together at one moment and then arguing with each other in the next. I remembered my friend’s grandparents; they were short and quiet. They loved being around their children and grandchildren; however, if an argument started to take place between a couple of their kids, they would ask for silence and want to hear what the two siblings were fighting about. Usually this was enough to get the children to calm down or at least to stop arguing and walk away from one another. LATER ON, WHEN I WAS ALONE, I sat and wondered about the grandfather’s wish. As far as I knew, there was no one in my family who had a final wish request. Though, I guess if someone states how they want their death to be handled, that could be considered a final wish. I know amongst my close friends and family members I joke about not wanting to suffer with sadness over their deaths; so, I would need to go first. However, I then tell them I hope to live a long life, so they need to take care of themselves and be around until my time is close to being done here. The other thing I thought about is what would happen if the person who is listening to someone’s final wish just flat out says they cannot fulfill it. I am so used to seeing people in movies agreeing to someone’s final wish that I just assumed everyone would be agreeable. But what if they have no plans to agree to someone’s final wish, but simply nod in agreement knowing full well once the person is dead, they will not do whatever was asked of them. I honestly do not know what I would do in such a situation. I cannot say the same thing for the main character in this action drama fantasy. TAKING HIS MASTER’S LAST WISH TO heart Qing Ming, played by Mark Chao (Caught in the Web, Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe), makes his way to the city where he will find himself in a game of cat and mouse that will determine the fate of the world. With Allen Deng (Great Escape-TV, Ashes of Love-TV) as Bo Ya, Ziwen Wang (Enter the Forbidden City, Ode to Joy-TV) as the Princess, Jessie Li (Port of Call, Our Time Will Come) as Long Ye and Duo Wang (Bloody Romance-TV, Inference Notes) as Zhong Xing/He Shouyue; this film festival nominee was a weird mix of genres for me. It was part folklore, part X-Men, part video game and part martial arts film. I enjoyed the special effects even if they were a bit cheesy at times. The fight scenes were well choreographed and to tell you the truth, I enjoyed the imagination that went into them. The way the story played out, I do not know if this film was based on a book, comic book or video game. Of course, there was a moral message placed in the story; however, I found this movie to be one of those that will be easily forgotten. Chinese was spoken with English subtitles.
2 ¼ stars
I FELT AS IF I WERE driving through the site where a horrific battle had taken place. The landscape was painted in shades of white, gray and black; it was supposed to have been predominantly filled with greens, blues, yellows and a multitude of combined primary colors. The road I was driving on appeared to be dusty, as if it had not been dusted in months. I barely could make out the road markings; so, I was driving slower because of all the curves in the road. The black figurines thrusting out of the ground reminded me of a scene I saw in a movie, where the charred remains of the dead residents of Pompeii looked like ashen statues. These black structures looked like they were part of an abstract painting, frozen into freakish poses. Some looked like they had multiple arms while others appeared to have been the results of a mad scientist’s freakish experiments. I was convinced I was seeing whisps of smoke slowly twisting away from different parts of the terrain. The air even smelled smokey with traces of sulfur. When I planned my vacation, none of this was part of my itinerary; I was envisioning wild animals roaming the grounds. Instead, everywhere I looked I saw dull, barren land. It turned out I was one of the first to drive through this portion of the state after it had succumbed to a major forest fire. TOWARDS THE END OF MY VACATION, I read the forest fire had burned through thousands and thousands of acres. The reporter mentioned the charred remains would help repopulate the landscape, but that it would take time. Those black figurines I saw on my road trip were the burnt remains of decades old trees. I wondered how the animals who survived the fires would be able to live on the land; there could not be any food for them, nearby. It was sad to see the devastation. I know life is a series of events connected in a circle, from birth to death; however, after seeing what I saw I had a difficult time trying to justify the reason for such destruction. From the news I heard and read, there was no word yet about the loss of human life. What did come out sometime later, was that the fire appeared to have been started by a visitor who was camping. I could not believe it. I wondered if the camper(s) even knew what they had done. The idea that these individuals could have been that careless angered me. If you wish to see some of the destruction that can take place in a forest fire, then feel free to watch this dramatic, action thriller. IT WOULD TAKE EVERY OUNCE OF strength and wits for smoke jumper Hannah, played by Angelina Jolie (By the Sea, Maleficent franchise), to keep the lost boy she found alive in the middle of a forest fire and gunfire. With Finn Little (Angel of Mine, Storm Boy) as Connor, Jon Bernthal (Baby Driver, The Wolf of Wall Street) as Ethan, Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones-TV, The Maze Runner franchise) as Jack and Nicholas Hoult (Tolkien, Warm Bodies) as Patrick; it was fun to see Angelina back in an action figure role. And action is predominately what took place in this movie. With little or no depth to the characters, this was the type of story one only needs to feel; no need for a lot of thought about the story. There were some tense and exciting parts that drove the rest of the scenes that paled in comparison. For the most part there was nothing new in the script; it was simply because of the acting and the thrills that made this an easy picture to watch. However, I do hope those who have been careless when it comes to protecting the land from fires appreciate what smoke jumpers have to do to try and keep a place safe; let alone, see what kind of destruction can take place from a single careless moment.
2 ½ stars
THERE IS NOTHING LIKE SEEING A musical act performing live at a concert. This may sound corny, but the experience produces a natural high in me. Granted I always start out with a little anxiety about the commuting aspect; however, once I am safely in my seat, I am plugged in to experience everything the musical artist(s) brings to the stage. Let me see if I can describe to you the feeling of being at an arena sized concert. Imagine 15-20,000 fans converging into a stadium; every single person is there for one sole purpose, to hear and show their love/adoration for the performer(s). Everyone is in a good mood, smiling and nodding at each other as if they share a special secret. While walking the halls to find your seats, random music can be heard echoing from the arena; a constant thumping bass sound pulsates through the air. There are some fans dressed up to look like part of the band or artist’s entourage; the more flamboyant the act, the wilder are the costumes. As I walk to my seat, my only wish for the moment is that a tall person or one dressed in an elaborate outfit is not sitting in front of me, obstructing my view. As more people are settling into their seats, the feelings of anticipation are being elevated to a point where the space around everyone is buzzing with excitement. That bass sound that has been thumping is resonating in each person’s chest as if synching everyone to a common beat. And then suddenly the music stops, and the place goes dark. Everyone in unison begins to cheer loudly. THE WEEKS AND MONTHS LEADING UP to this moment were worth the wait. I just need to hear the first couple of notes to announce the start of what I am sure will be a familiar song, one of many that I have been singing in the car since I got the tickets to this show. A set of spotlights slowly wake up to reveal a spot on the stage where 4 strangers are standing. I have never seen them before in my life! An announcer introduces them, and they start to play their instruments. They are the warm-up act. Nowhere in the advertisements or my tickets did it say anything about a warm-up act. Where is the group I paid to see? The built-up feelings that were about to burst out of my body suddenly deflated like a flat tire, after slamming into a deep pothole. It almost felt like I could not catch my breath because I was in such shock. Right at this single moment I am flooded with the feeling of disappointment and this feeling is exactly how I felt about the Oscars and the awards show this year. THE TRANSFORMATION OF UNION STATION FOR the show was beautifully handled. I thought the place looked like an old-fashioned supper club. The outside reception area was equally beautiful in my opinion. I do have to say it was odd for me to see a gathering without masks, where people were hugging each other; it almost felt like a time pre-COVID. There was glamour but due to restrictions, the pre-show scenes seemed like individual segments that were more unconnected than usual. For the fact I could not see all the nominated films, I came into this without my usual excitement and joy. The Oscars telecast has always been my Super Bowl and High Holiday wrapped together. When presenters were talking about a film that I had not seen, it felt so foreign to me as if they were talking a different language. Right from the first acceptance speech, I so badly wished they had a live orchestra to drown out the winner who overstayed their welcome. There were some exceptions but for the most part the acceptance speeches rambled on and on; it was painful. The exception for me was Yuh-Jung Youn, best supporting actress, due to a couple of her comments. Though she was long in her speech, I appreciated her saying, “All the nominees, five nominees, we were the winner for different movies. We played different roles—so we cannot compete against each other. Tonight, I’m here, I just have a little bit more luck. I think, maybe. I’m luckier than you…” WHEN TYLER PERRY ACCEPTED HIS HUMANITARIAN award, I especially appreciated the part of his speech when he said to “refuse blanket judgement” and “refuse hate.” I wish I could do that when it came to Questlove as the DJ; I did not care for most of his musical selections. The music did nothing to try and elevate the mood amongst the guests. Now granted I know there are way more important things to focus on than the Oscars. I simply wanted to be taken away for a couple of hours to a world of glamour and stars, checking my predictions against the winning choices, before I had to settle back down into the real world. Sadly, this show did not provide me with any of these things, except for way too many commercial breaks. I was still mad that the Academy had enough money to give swag bags worth, I heard, up to $200,000.00. Why couldn’t the Academy take all that money to pay for a weekend of nominated films to be shown free across all viewing platforms? Not everyone buys every streaming service to view the nominated films. Don’t you think it would be in the best interests for actors and the Academy if they offered something for their dedicated fans?!?! OUT OF THE ENTIRE BROADCAST, I thought the most egregious error was the change in the order of awards for the end. Usually the last 3 awards are for actress, actor and picture as the last. The very end is seeing all the people associated with the winning picture up on stage, happy and excited for their film. But because I believe the Academy was expecting Chadwick Boseman to win best actor, they changed the order so that category would be last. Well it certainly did not work out the way they thought it would because Anthony Hopkins won, and he was not even there. So, the presenter awkwardly accepts the award in his honor and tells everyone to have a good night; that is the end of the show. What an utter mess and shame on the Academy. I read today that the broadcast this year had the fewest viewers ever and I perfectly understand why. I honestly do not know where my comfort level will be to go back to a theater; I am more in a wait and see mode. However, if Sunday’s broadcast represents the future of how the show will be done, I may have to take more of an attitude like Yuh-Jung Youn, it is just luck; so, why pay attention to what gets nominated.
I KNOW FOR SURE IT WAS before I started kindergarten, but I cannot remember how much younger I was when I saw my very first Oscars telecast. What I do remember was how all the women were so fancy in their long dresses. The other memory is about the Oscar statue; it looked so heavy to me, I wondered how the actors could lift it so easily. Ever since that moment in time, I have seen the Academy Awards telecast each year. Everyone who knows me knows how much I look forward to the telecast. Through the years it became a thing to see every nominated film before the show aired and then soon after the family contest started to see who was best at predicting the winners. I cannot tell you how much I looked forward to this yearly event…. up until now. LIKE SO MANY THINGS THE PAST year, COVID has had an affect on movies. For the first time in my adult life, I have not been able to see all the films nominated in the major categories. With the onslaught of all the different streaming services, it has been a maddening situation for me. The idea of signing on to all these services just to see a few films makes no sense to me; it would cost more than my cable bill, which is already expensive. And I must tell you, I am angry at the Academy’s board of trustees. I feel if movies are such an integral part of society, they could have made the effort to arrange for all the nominated films to be shown for free. Possibly pay the streaming services and studios to air the films under their banner for free or nominal fee over a weekend; I would be happy with this arrangement. But instead for the first time since I was predicting Oscar winners, I will not be doing it this year because I have not seen all the movies in each category. Instead all I can offer is my opinion on which one out of the ones I viewed I liked the best. So, with no further ado, here are my thoughts on this year’s partial crop of Oscar nominated films.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy
Amanda Seyfried, Mank
My favorite out of this group would be Glenn Close.
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami
Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah
Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
This is a tough one for me because they all had a strong impact on me. I would love to see Sacha win just to hear his acceptance speech, plus he did an amazing job. I think the academy will choose Daniel.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
Each of these 3 deserve the award. Carey made the biggest impact on me, so I will go with that though I think the Academy will pick Viola.
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Gary Oldman, Mank
Chadwick has a lock on this category. I did think Riz did an amazing job with his role and under different circumstances I would pick him.
INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
Another Round – Denmark
Better Days – Hong Kong
I absolutely loved Better Days and it deserves every award it can get.
My Octopus Teacher
Though I thoroughly engaged with Crip Camp, My Octopus Teacher is my favorite.
Judas and the Black Messiah
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7
My choice goes to The Trial of the Chicago 7
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Over the Moon
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
The one that took me away is Over the Moon
Judas and the Black Messiah
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Out of the ones I was able to view, I would give it to The Trial of the Chicago 7
So, there you have it; I am sad I haven’t seen all the nominees and have not been in a movie theater for one year. However, putting things into perspective, at least I am here and able to see some films. The most important thing is that we all get through this time and get to our new normal. Be well and stay safe, that is my wish for you. Thank you.
DESPERATE, I TOLD MY FRIEND I did not want to stick my fingers in the bowling ball. Sure, it was dumb to say; but I did not want to go by myself to the charity event. My friend was involved with the charity and they were having an event at a bowling alley, having rented out the entire place. There was going to be food, a raffle, silent auction and some other things. The morning of the event my friend woke up sick. He called to tell me and insisted I still go though now I would not know a single person at the event. Our tickets were already paid for and he wanted me to go so I could tell him all about it, since he was on the committee for the event. I tried using a variety of excuses, even offering to drive all the way there just to scope out the place then leave; but he was not having any of it. Even the offer of bringing him dinner did not work. At some point I finally resigned to the fact that I had to go; but I told him to let me know if he started to feel better later in the day and If he wanted, I could come pick him up. Unfortunately, I wound up going to the bowling alley alone. THE DRIVE WAS UNEVENTFUL EXCEPT FOR my build up of dread. Because I am not the best in making small talk, I prefer going with someone to these events, especially when there is an activity that I must participate in. I knew I was going to have to be on a bowling team with a bunch of strangers; my anxiety was weighing heavily on me. Walking into the bowling alley I was assaulted with loud, booming music over the loudspeakers. The check-in process was easy; I got my name tag, raffle tickets and lane assignment. I went to get bowling shoes before going to my alley. The shoes I was handed looked newer gratefully than some of the shoes I saw behind the counter. As I got to my lane, I saw my teammates were already there. There was no choice but to go up to them and introduce myself. It did not go as bad as I expected; they all seemed friendly and familiar with each other. When the MC of the event came out to welcome everyone, I was relieved for the ending of our small talk. The MC went through the list of things planned then ended by telling us to have a good time as all the lanes lit up for action. On my first throw of the ball, the wildest thing happened; I rolled a strike. My teammates yelled praises at me; I felt a slight sense of relief. It turned out for the next 4 frames I threw strikes. I could not believe it, but it was such a welcome surprise because all the players around me were being supportive and encouraging. It was crazy and only the beginning for an awesome night of fun, topped with me winning one of the raffle prizes. Here I was not looking forward to going and instead had a great time; it was such a surprise. The characters in this action, adventure mystery experienced something similar by getting surprised; but, with way different results. AFTER HER FIANCE WENT MISSING DOCTOR Karen Ross, played by Laura Linney (You Can Count on Me, The Other Man) found an expedition that would take her to the Congo to look for him. Her travels would lead her to find something more. With Dylan Walsh (The Stepfather, The Lake House) as Dr. Peter Elliot, Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters franchise, The Crow) as Captain Monroe Kelly, Tim Curry (The Hunt for Red October, The Rocky Horror Picture Show) as Herkermer Homolka and Grant Heslov (The Ides of March, Argo) as Richard; this film festival winner was based on the thrilling novel of the same name. Because computer graphics have gotten so much better, this movie looked so out of date. With the script jam packed with action as it tried to pour in as much from the novel as possible, the result was a cheesy mess. The highlight for me was seeing Laura Linney; she was able to command the scenes better than any of the other actors. I could see where the writers wanted to take the story, but sadly they failed. For those curious to see what special effects looked like before computer graphics, they may find this picture somewhat amusing. For the rest, they may be left groaning through most of the film.
1 ½ stars
I WAS GETTING TIRED AS I was going through a bin of paperwork. For the past hour, I was sorting, shredding and filing papers, cards and clippings. Grabbing a handful of stacked papers, I started to lift it up out of the bin when a letter slipped out onto the floor. I picked it up and turned it over to see a name I had not thought about for some time. It was a friend who moved to California, who would communicate with me via hand-written letters. It was such a retro thing to do; yet, it was fun to get a letter from him in the mail. Lifting the letter out of the envelope, I gently unfolded the pages and smoothed them onto my lap. I chuckled because I had forgotten he always used yellow legal-size paper to write his letters. Starting with page one, the handwriting quickly became familiar to me once again. He was starting vacation when writing this letter because he talked about the hikes he wanted to do and the chance to go rafting for the first time. This was one of the things I admired about him; his freedom to try almost anything once with no hesitation. I, on the other hand, had to mull things over for days on end before agreeing to try something new. For him, it was as easy as taking a breath. WHEN I REACHED PAGE 4 OF his letter, things took a darker turn. Not on his part per se, but because I knew what the outcome was going to be with these first symptoms he was talking about. Since he moved to California, he was prone to getting sinus infections. At first, he thought it was allergy based and was treating it as such on his own. But after some time, he would decide to go see a doctor about the infections. The letter only talked about how he had to back out of a couple of engagements due to his sinuses acting up. I knew this was just the beginning to a challenging year ahead of him. Over the course of his treatments he went from only taking prescribed medications to trying alternative methods such as meditation and visualizations. He changed his diet, thinking that it would make a difference, but he would find out it did nothing for him. Finally, he agreed with a specialist to have an operation on his sinuses. The relief it provided him lasted a couple of months, but then his health rapidly deteriorated. This letter in my hands was written in 1998; a year later he was gone. The letters I kept were the only way I could go back in time and visit with him. WORKING ON THEIR SCIENCE PROJECT for time traveling, two science whiz kids are put to the test when a relative is killed. With Eden Duncan-Smith (Annie, Meadowland) as C.J. Walker, relative newcomer Dante Crichlow as Sebastian Thomas, Astro (A Walk Among the Tombstones, Earth to Echo) as Calvin Walker, Marsha Stephanie Blake (The Laundromat, The Blacklist-TV) as Phaedra and Johnathan Nieves (Penny Dreadful: City of Angels-TV, Grey’s Anatomy-TV) as Eduardo; this film festival winner had a deep message wrapped in a goofy package. With limited special effects and a plot that stumbled a few times, this crime action adventure took an important matter and fed it to the viewer in a new type of way. Eden was impressive as C.J. and it was a treat to see Michael J. Fox in a small role. There were predictable moments but having started out at what I thought was going to be a comedy, turned into something much different. By the end, I found myself having enjoyed sitting through this picture and wishing I had the ability to travel through time.
2 ½ stars
WHAT I WOULD HAVE GIVEN FOR a flashlight; it was dumb of me not to think of one. I was visiting a friend out of state, who thought it would be a cool idea to climb a mountain. It was nothing like the Rockies, but it was high enough. We were able to drive up part of it, park, then follow on foot a trail to get to higher ground. Up until that point everything was going fine. The vegetation was thick all around us which made our surroundings cooler in temperature and darker. I was okay since the day had been hot and sunny. Because we were making our way in subdued light, we kept assuming it was still bright outside, and this was our first mistake. As we were ducking under branches and constantly checking the ground for solid footing, we did not realize our ascent was going slower than anticipated. Neither of us thought about the challenges we would face by trying to crawl down in the darkness of night. I THINK IT WAS ME WHO was getting cold first and hungry. We had reached a substantial height where we could see the city glowing in the distance. All we had with us was water; I had wished I had brought a piece of fruit or a granola bar. We decided to turn back by retracing our steps to get back to a trail and then to our car. It did not take long for me to realize we were in trouble. It was nighttime and neither of us could see the ground clearly enough. There were multiple times where one of us thought we had solid footing but then the ground/rock gave away and we would stumble or fall. I fell and scraped the palms of my hands. With no sense of direction, only knowing we had to go down, we were lost. The area was not known for wildlife; however, that did not stop my brain from imagining a multitude of scary creature encounters. The longer we remained stuck on the mountain, the more we were freaking out. After multiple tries and retreats, we finally found a trail. By the time we returned to the car, we had logged nearly 10 hours in total crawling on the mountain. Ever since then, I have always felt an uneasiness whenever I find myself in a remote area. Whether it is in rugged terrain or wide-open spaces, my imagination kicks into high gear on what things could happen to me. This will explain my anxiousness as I watched this dramatic, crime thriller. WITH YOUNG WOMEN GOING MISSING in an area of Alaska, the only lead Jack Holcombe, played by Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas, Face/Off), had was a junkie named Cindy Paulson, played by Vanessa Hudgens (Beastly, Dog Days) and she did not want to be involved with any part of his investigation. With John Cusack (High Fidelity, Love & Mercy) as Robert Hansen, Dean Norris (Total Recall, The Book of Henry) as Sgt. Lyle Haugsven and Gia Mantegna (The Prince, Criminal Minds-TV) as Debbie Peters; this film festival nominee’s story was based on actual events. For that reason, I found this movie creepier than usual. The main leads were quite convincing in the story; in fact, I was impressed with Vanessa’s work in particular. The filming of this picture made the feelings of isolation and despair more prominent throughout the scenes. It almost felt like it was hanging in the air. The story basically was a good guy vs bad guy set-up; I only wished the writers had delved deeper into the characters. It would have made for a more intense viewing, in my opinion. I was already uneasy about remote areas and this movie has now solidified my feelings about them.
2 ¼ stars
WE WERE SITTING AROUND THE DINING room table when his cell phone rang. From where I was sitting, I was able to see the display with the caller’s phone number. The young man had a quizzical look on his face as he studied the number. I took it upon myself to tell him the call was coming from Oklahoma. He looked and asked me how I knew that as he let the call go to voicemail. I told him I knew because of the area code, 405; it was the area code for the Oklahoma City area. He was so surprised by my knowing such a thing that I found it amusing. When he asked me why I knew such a thing, I explained that I have accounts in Oklahoma that I have to call on the phone; so, the area code is something that has stuck in my brain from all the times I have called them. This explanation sparked a curiosity in him that spurred him on to suddenly test me. He asked if I knew any other area codes; I told him I know some states, but not all of them. He needed proof so he unlocked his phone and started looking up area code numbers. Not to toot my own horn, but out of seven area codes he tested me on I knew six of them. He was totally amazed by this; I found the whole thing curious. ON MY WAY HOME, I STARTED to think about the area code “game.” Was my generation the last one that dialed phone numbers instead of pressing one button on their cell phone? I looked at my ability to remember area codes/phone numbers as a positive statement on my brain’s ability to retain information. For some reason, I feel depending on a device for common functions like simple math or reminders will make my mind soft. I will never forget walking into a bank to cash a check for $19.81 and handing the teller nineteen cents to round up the change on the dollar amount. The teller was perplexed by my actions and had to pull out a calculator to figure out I wanted to get back an even $20.00. Besides thinking how they graduated out of high school, I wondered what they would do if they did not have the use of a calculator. When you think about it; don’t you think it would be a valid discussion to say the same thing about someone who only knew how to tell time in a digital format instead of a clock dial? It scares me to think how future generations will function when they do not have a device to depend on and this comedic, science fiction adventure did nothing to help alleviate my concerns. WHAT WAS TO BE A ONE YEAR experiment for Private Joe Bauers, played by Luke Wilson (The Family Stone, Old School), turned into a decades long event that left Joe the smartest man on the planet. He did not believe it until he saw for himself. With Maya Rudolph (Sisters, Away We Go) as Rita, Dax Shephard (Employee of the Month, Chips) as Frito, Terry Crews (The Expendables franchise, John Henry) as President Camacho and Anthony “Citric” Campos (Harsh Times, Lopez-TV) as Secretary of Defense; this film festival nominated movie had a script that was filled with satirical bits and sight gags. A good portion of them hit their mark and were amusing to me. However, the script had so much going on with it that I felt at times things were just silly and dragged on too long. The cast was fun to watch, especially Maya and Dax. Ultimately, I felt the story was relevant and, in some ways, important; the writers just chose a fun way to deliver their message. I do not know what I would do if reading becomes something that we let our digital assistants do for us; you just never know.
2 1/3 stars
I HAD NO OPINION ONE WAY or the other about the movie coming to campus until the university decided it could not be shown. All I knew about the film was that it had received a lot of notoriety due to the plot and one of the main actors and that it was coming to our campus to raise funds for some cause. Once word got out about the university’s actions, I became curious about the picture and wanted to go see it. I just did not want to get involved with the politics behind the student organization’s reasons for choosing this particular movie, nor the university’s reasons to ban it; I simply wanted to see what all the hoopla was about concerning this film. The week the university came out against the movie, students started to protest around the campus. They demonstrated in front of the Dean’s residence, holding up signs as they walked back and forth in front. At one of the college buildings, a group of students held a sit-in. Having never been involved in the middle of a protest, I found the experience not only curious, but a fascinating study in camaraderie. With my background, camaraderie appeared to be based more on like kind physically instead of being based on a common idea. Here in college, the protesters were an array of humanity coming together for a single purpose. The outcome from the demonstrations and protests was the university allowed the film to be shown at a satellite, off campus venue; both sides were happy with the results and I got to see the movie. I KNOW I AM STATING THE OBVIOUS, but protests have taken on a wider array of actions since my college days. The news recently showed a man riding a horse down a city expressway to bring attention to a cause. I live near a city that experienced violent protesters who came out after a judge’s rule in a famous court case. A friend of mine has had to work at home because the office building where they work was damaged during the protests. A 70 year old retail shop that I used to frequent often was shown on the news, where its front windows were smashed and had over half of their inventory stolen; it was so sad to see as the owner said he may not be able to recover from the damages and close the business. I firmly believe everyone has the right to protest; but to the point where violence and damage occurs, I cannot condone such actions. There is something to be said for the “power in numbers” that to me makes a protest successful. I saw it when I was in college and now, I have seen its strength in this historical film festival winner. SUCH A SIMPLE ACT THAT WAS defiant became the catalyst to a peaceful movement during the 1950s in Mobile, Alabama. With Jeffrey Wright (The Goldfinch, Only Lovers Left Alive) as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Terrence Howard (The Best Man Holiday, Empire-TV) as Ralph, CCH Pounder (Home Again, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit-TV) as Jo Ann Robinson, Carmen Ejogo (Selma, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) as Coretta Scott King and Iris Little Thomas (Above the Rim, Malcolm X) as Rosa Parks; this drama captured me because of the way it dug into the background of the after events that surrounded Rosa’s refusal to give up her bus seat. The cast was excellent and worked well together in my opinion. As I was watching this film, I was struck by the role money played into the events; previously, I did not recall that aspect of the event playing as important of a role as it did in this picture. It made for a riveting watch at times. Not only did this movie teach history, it also provided a blueprint for creating a peaceful protest.