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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.
WHITE HOT, BLINDING HATRED WAS something I rarely encountered for most of my life. The occurrence that comes to mind, where I came face to face with hatred, was when I was on vacation. Several years ago, I had traveled out of state and was exploring the main downtown area of a capital city, when I came upon a peaceful demonstration or rally. I was trying to stay on the sidewalk but there were too many people standing around, so I stepped into the street. As I made my way through, I came upon a grassy area nestled between two buildings. There was orange colored netting, the kind you would see at construction sites, strung across the front length. Behind it was a group of individuals that were holding up signs that they bobbed up and down, while they were pointing and shouting at the demonstrators walking by. I realized they would take me for a demonstrator because I was walking in the street. Normally I would not give it a second thought; however, when I started reading what their signs were saying, I contemplated moving to the other side of the street. Their signs were filled with vile rhetoric, along with some attempted colorful artwork. Someone nearby must have said something to them because suddenly, they started yelling and swearing at the crowd that was around me. The intensity of their yelling and screaming was rapid, to the point I had to go off course and find a side street to bypass the turmoil. THE HATRED ON DISPLAY AND the horrible things that group was saying has stayed with me for all these years. On that trip I did watch the news to see if I could get an understanding of the issues involving the demonstrators and protesters. I could not understand how someone could get so angry, to the point of screaming out things like wishing a person dead or burning in hell. If the demonstrators were marching to change a perception, a law, or to gain recognition; I wanted to know how that would affect the yelling protesters. Based on the things I heard, I had a feeling the protesters would not accept whatever was taking place. I have gotten angry from time to time; but I cannot see myself ever going to such an extreme level to act upon it in such a way. Yet, I am seeing more extreme displays of hatred the past few years than ever before. Allowing hate to grow and fester will make a person act out in such an extreme way that could be harmful; see for yourself in this dramatic, mystery thriller. BECAUSE OF HIS FORGETFULNESS ZEV Guttman, played by Christopher Plummer (The Last Station, All the Money in the World), had a list of instructions to follow once he escaped from the nursing home. Would he understand what he was supposed to do once he reached his destination? With Kim Roberts (I’m Not There, Rookie Blue-TV) as Paula, Amanda Smith (The Cradle, Hellmington) as Cele, Martin Landau (Ed Wood, Crimes and Misdemeanors) as Max Rosenbaum and Henry Czerny (Ready or Not, Clear and Present Danger) as Charles Guttman; this film festival winner avoided mediocrity due to Christopher’s performance. With such a high level of acting skill, the others in the cast did not stand out as much. I thought the story was intriguing and felt the script provided tense and dramatic moments; however, I would have appreciated the characters being provided with more depth. There were a couple of manipulative and slow scenes, I felt; however, the continual suspense buildup kept my interest up. As I stated earlier, Christopher made this a better film and I was curious to see how hatred could motivate a person to act out in such a way.
AFTER HAVING SEEN THE BEAUTY OF the resort town on display in the movies, I was going to see it with my own eyes. In the movies, the grandeur of its most popular hotel fascinated me because of its rich history. Built in the late 19th century, the hotel had a prominent porch where guests could sit out and relax before exploring the grounds. There is something about a front porch that has always been attractive to me. I love the idea of sitting inside a screened in porch, curled up on a couch, relaxing while watching the world go by. Some of the prominent guests who stayed at the hotel were past US presidents, Thomas Edison and Mark Twain. The well-manicured lawns looked like green velvet as they sloped down towards the shoreline. The town, as far as I could tell from the movies, had sections where cars were not allowed. For some individuals, their main source of transportation was a horse drawn buggy. I just wanted to be there and experience all of this for myself. Also, since the movie had a love story taking place, I thought going there would add an extra boost to my relatively new relationship. We had everything packed into the car and made it onto the highway just as the sun was waking up at the horizon. IT WAS HARD TO CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT as we drove through the hotel’s front gates and made our way up the winding road. As we reached a curve in the road, the hotel came into view; it sat at the top of a hill, glowing in the sunlight. I could not wait to park and get inside, to see for myself all the things that stood out for me when I saw them in the movie. As we came through the front doors we were greeted by a wall of heat. When we got to the front desk I inquired and was told the air conditioning was not working. I understood things happen; so, I chose not to let that bother me. After getting our room key we made our way to the elevators. I noticed there were a couple of places on the walls where the paint was chipped. Okay, this was not part of my expectations/fantasy; however, it was a well-traveled corridor, with a lot of foot traffic. We found the elevators and walked into one. The amount of noise it made as it took us up to our room was freaking me out. It sounded like metal rubbing against metal. When we made it to our room the final arrow burst my bubble of dreams; the room was so small there was hardly room to walk around the bed and everything looked tired and used. This is not what I expected which might be the same reaction the resort guests had in this action, adventure fantasy. FOR THE SMALL GROUP OF GUESTS arriving at Fantasy Island, it was like walking into a beautiful dream. Sadly, the dream was going to turn into a nightmare. With Michael Pena (End of Watch, 12 Strong) as Mr. Roarke, Maggie Q (Divergent franchise, Young Justice-TV) as Gwen Olsen, Lucy Hale (Truth or Dare, Pretty Little Liars-TV) as Melanie Cole, Austin Stowell (Whiplash, Bridge of Spies) as Patrick Sullivan and Jimmy O. Yang (Patriots Day, Crazy Rich Asians) as Brax Weaver; the impetus for this movie was the television series from the 1970’s. The setting for this story was beautiful to see but that was the only highlight I found from sitting through this misguided story. The script was poorly done; as the story unfolded it became more ridiculous to the point of boredom. It was almost like coming up to a train wreck; my curiosity kept me seated and hoping there would be something good coming out of the wreckage. However, that was not the case with this picture. All I can say is I am so glad I did not pay to see this film at the theaters. It be best if I simply watch the TV show and try to forget having seen this disaster.
1 ½ stars
EXCUSE ME IF THERE ARE TYPOS within this Oscar telecast review; I did not get much sleep due to the extra long telecast last night. It was a good thing I added extra recording time on my DVR for the show. After finishing up the weekend’s chores earlier in the day, I had everything out and ready to sit back and relax while checking off my predictions. Overall, most of my predictions were correct; the biggest surprise was the best picture category. The reason for my surprise was not that Parasite was chosen; it was that the academy actually voted it the best. I thought by them giving the award for best international film (I am glad they changed the title of this category from best foreign film) to Parasite, the academy would not also give the movie the best picture award. None of the other picks shocked me. LAST YEAR I TOLD YOU HOW I did not miss having a host; it turns out that may have been a fluke, because this telecast had an uneven flow without a host. I thought the show started out with a big bang by having Janelle Monae opening the night to get the crowd into the mood. Sadly, her precise and lively performance only made Steve Martin’s and Chris Rock’s banter stilted when they came out next. Some of their jokes were humorous, but it appeared they needed more rehearsal time; or, they might have been confused on why they were there if the show was not going to have a host. It became apparent to me as the show lumbered along that a host might have kept things connected and flowing. Having people come out to introduce celebrities who were then going to introduce the nominees seemed redundant to me. As for the acceptance speeches; some were short and delightful, while others rambled on. As you know I rate movies based on their entertainment value; I want the same thing for award shows—to be entertained. I do not want to hear celebrities lecture or preach about a cause unless they actually are involved with it. Just to hear someone’s opinion on a subject, I do not feel an awards show should be the avenue for a celebrity to tell me what I should do. And another thing about the presenters; maybe the academy should vet them a little better. There were a few actors/actresses who rambled on without making much sense. They took valuable viewing time and wasted it. THERE WERE A FEW SEGMENTS THAT I found baffling. Why did we need someone to give us a recap of what we had seen so far in a rap? Why did we need to hear Eminem sing his Oscar winning song without an introduction or explanation? And speaking of introductions, why were some of the nominated songs performed without letting the viewers know who and what was being sung? Some of the decisions that were made for this telecast were wasteful and frustrating to me, especially since I could tell the telecast was going to go past its allotted time slot. Now I do not want to be Mr. Gloom and Doom here; there were some lovely and touching moments. Seeing the winning director of Parasite pay his respects to Martin Scorsese was sweet as was Laura Dern’s acceptance speech. I admit it takes a lot for me to be disappointed with the Oscars telecast since it is something I have been watching ever since I was a young child. The memories I have of past shows have stayed with me all these years as will the new memories I get from current telecasts. For yesterday’s show, though I still enjoyed watching it, there certainly was room there for improvement. I hope everyone had fun this past Oscar year as I go right into our next year of movies, looking for that perfect 4-star film. Thank you for your comments and support throughout the past year; I appreciate it deeply.
UNLIKE LAST YEAR AT THIS TIME, I am right on track to have a perfect Oscars day. I am going to the movies early in the weekend and luckily, I can see my choices back to back. My shopping list is completed; all I need to do is pickup the ingredients for the treats to have on Oscar day. There will be a creamy dip accompanied by cinnamon sugar chips, pretzels baked with caramel chocolate pieces and topped with a pecan half and of course the main chocolate item: a chocolate brownie bread loaf; no stepping on a scale for 2 weeks for me. Household chores will get done long before the telecast and I do not plan on leaving the house several hours before the show; so, I have little concern on what the weather will be. My extra soft afghan is already on the sofa and I wiped clean any dust from my television screen; as you can see, I am all set to reap the rewards from this past year of watching movies. NOW DESPITE MY EVERY BEST EFFORT to cover as many films as possible, this year’s nominees caused me some distress. There are a couple of categories where there are nominated films I not only did not see, but I never even heard of them. I do hope this is an anomaly and will not happen again. Because of this situation, in the category where I have not seen all the nominees, I will only list what I think should win and not what will win. With that being said, I want to take this moment and wish everyone a happy and fun Oscar viewing time. Once again there will be no host and I am totally fine with it. So, here we go; below please find my predictions on who should win and who will win this year’s Oscar awards.
MY CHOICES: OSCAR PICKS:
JOAQUIN PHOENIX JOAQUIN PHOENIX
BRAD PITT BRAD PITT
RENEE ZELLWEGER RENEE ZELLWEGER
KATHY BATES LAURA DERN
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD
SAM MENDES BONG JOON HO
FORD V FERRARI PARASITE
STAND UP “(I’M GONNA) LOVE ME AGAIN
JOJO RABBIT THE IRISHMAN
KNIVES OUT ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD