IT TOOK ME A LONG TIME to realize dreams are not written in stone. They are more like clouds; they do not necessarily have definitive edges and they are never static. Part of living my life is having dreams hanging ahead of me. Think of it like a carrot hanging in front of a horse. I am always trying to make my way towards my dreams. Having lived in rental apartments for most of my life, my dream of home ownership was a large one that had a hold on me. Working two jobs for extra income was tolerable, because I knew there would be more money to devote to building a hefty down payment for a house. It took me some years to reach this dream, but I finally did it. Another dream of mine was to have a brand-new car. The only cars I had to drive were used ones. One of my earliest cars cost $500; it had over 90,000 miles and a houndstooth interior. So, after driving many hand me down autos, I was able to buy a new car. Seven weeks later while parked in front of the post office, a man backed into my car while trying to get out of his parking spot in front of mine. My front bumper was dented and my thrill of having reached my new car dream evaporated in front of me. FROM MY SUCCESSES AND FAILURES IN achieving my dreams, I never judge someone else’s dreams. I may feel the person will have a tough challenge to get to their dreams, but I would not discourage them from trying at least. An acquaintance of mine contacted me about fitness. They wanted to change careers from finance to fitness. Partially based on their comments to my questions, I felt they were not completely aware of the work needed to become successful and earn a decent living. All of their questions I answered to the best of my ability without any judgement. I, also, did not gloss over anything; expressing the work it took to meet club members’ and clients’ needs. When I reached my dream of being a fitness instructor, I had no idea of the amount of preparation and planning it took to conduct a safe, fun class. The training and studying were nearly overwhelming for me. Learning about all the safety protocols alone was a monumental task. However, from a kid who flunked PE class twice to becoming a fitness instructor; I never let the naysayers discourage me and that is why I was rooting for the main character in this musical drama. THOUGH SHE HAD A GOOD VOICE, the idea of Rose-Lynn, played by Jessie Buckley (Beast, The Tempest), moving from her home in Glasgow to Nashville to become a country singer sounded crazy to most; but, that wasn’t going to stop Rose-Lynn from fighting for her dream. With Julie Walters (Harry Potter franchise, Mama Mia!) as Marion, Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda, Martian Child) as Susannah, Jamie Sives (Let Him Talk to the Greek, Valhalla Rising) as Sam and Craig Parkinson (Four Lions, Control) as Alan; this film festival winner took me by surprise. Not spending much time listening to country music, I was moved by the songs and vocals, which were provided by Grammy winner Kacey Musgraves. The acting from Jessie and Julie came across with depth and emotion; I was brought into their world. I will say there were periods of time where I had a tough time understanding the dialog when the Scottish brogue got thick. Yet, it did not distract me enough to lose my connection with the story. There have been previous films about a nobody becoming a somebody; however, there was a freshness to this picture that made me smile and tap my toes to the beat.
3 ½ stars
SHE THOUGHT SHE WAS SUGGESTING SOME new concept to me, but I knew better. I was sure if I had been in the room before her she would have turned around and walked out after seeing me. She had done it before. I never said a word to anyone, but I felt she was rejecting me because to her I was old. When I walked into the classroom I saw some familiar faces who were participants in my yoga class; but then, I saw this one member was already seated on the floor on her yoga mat. I announced I was subbing for their instructor. This woman said nothing until after I went over what we would be doing in class that day. As I started to sit on the floor to begin our warmup poses, the woman asked if I could shut the lights off because the other instructor does it. This other instructor, by the way, was much younger than me; she only recently started teaching yoga. And in her class, she would shut the lights off, turn on a couple of battery-operated votive candles and play chimes periodically. When I told her, I would do it towards the end after observing how everyone was moving in class, she made one of those sounds associated with disgust, picked up her mat and walked out. TECHNICALLY, THIS MEMBER NEVER SAW ME teach class; she had to be rejecting me based on my appearance, it seemed to me. Though I can understand someone having reservations about trying a different instructor, I would not use appearance as a reason to reject a person. I have taught with other instructors who do not stereotypically look like a fitness person. They were not buff and had extra weight on their body; however, they taught a tough class. From my years of teaching fitness, I can put people into two separate groups: those that work out to look good and those who work out to feel good. Some members are predominately focused on their appearance; they are not interested in understanding how exercise is to be used for one’s quality of life. They think the more they sweat the better they will be and that is rarely the case. This group of people would be more likely to reject me simply because I have gray hair. I guess it goes with the territory, where people get judged either all or partially on their looks. Some lines of work can be tougher than others; that is why I understood what the main character was going through in this comedic drama. DURING THE LATE 60’S, HOLLYWOOD WAS going through changes: changes that would have a deep affect on actor Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio (The Great Gatsby, Titanic) and his stunt double Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt (Fury, Mr. & Mrs. Smith). It did not help that a new, young actress was living next door. With Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, The Legend of Tarzan) as Sharon Tate, Austin Butler (The Dead Don’t Die, The Carrie Diaries-TV) as Tex and Al Pacino (Danny Collins, Dick Tracy) as Marvin Schwarzs; this film took a while to kick in for me. Clocking in at 2 hours and 39 minutes, there was nothing one could say negative about the acting. Leonardo, Brad and Margot were wonderful through the entire story. I enjoyed seeing the movie making scenes as they were only one aspect of the story. The script had a couple of main stories that slowly blended in together. With multiple cameo roles and a great soundtrack; I loved watching this film and felt time went by quickly once I got into the story. There were a couple of violent bloody scenes and there was a quick extra scene during the credits.
THE TELEVISION SHOWS WERE UNRELATED, BUT each displayed something extraordinary. I only say extraordinary because of the way the hosts were pointing out the actions of the contestants. As for me, I did not consider it special in the way the hosts were touting it; I simply admired the strength that was on display. The premise for one of the TV shows was to find the strongest individual who could complete an obstacle course that challenged the contestant’s physical capabilities. Though most contestants on this show were male, there have been several women. Whenever a female comes up to the start line, the hosts are extra effusive in their comments about her. At least they are not talking about what she is wearing or how she looks; the hosts point out how she is navigating the course as if she were something rare and unique. To me strength is strength, it does not matter if the person is male or female; but, I get it. Viewers may be sitting in front of their televisions in disbelief that a woman could be that strong or they may be more like me and admire her skills like any other contestant. Maybe it is because of my years of teaching in the fitness industry, but I do not look at women and men differently when it comes to their physicality. THE OTHER SHOW I HAD WATCHED was a talent competition. There were a multitude of acts ranging from artistic to musical to death defying to magical. One act consisted of a man and woman doing acrobatics; things that involved balance and strength. One of the routines they performed was having the woman lift and balance the man on her bent legs. The host was making a huge deal out of this role reversal. I was surprised, but not by the woman’s strength; only the fact that it is rare to see, in these types of acts, a woman doing what has consistently been a male role. The judges were amazed at what they were seeing as well as the audience. Now I grant you, in years past these women may not have even gotten the chance to perform like they were presently doing on these shows. There might even be some individuals who feel women should not be doing such things. It has been going on for years where one’s sex defines what they can and cannot do. Where is it written that an activity, sport or job can only be done by one of these groups? What I saw in this exciting documentary will prove my point to you. AFTER RUNNING AWAY FROM HOME TRACY Edwards found herself a job as a ship’s cook. Cooking was the last thing she wanted to do, but she had to start somewhere. What she wanted had never been done before. This film festival winner was directed by Alex Holmes who directed the films Dunkirk-TV movie and Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story. I thought the layout of this sports film was wonderful, going from archival footage to home movies to recent filming; the going back and forth in time was not at all a distraction for me. The story was incredible; mainly because I had never heard of the contest discussed in this picture. Secondly, what the contestants had to do for this contest was unreal to me. There is no way I could do such a thing. It is not often a documentary blends excitement, history, emotion and relevance at the same time; but this empowering story/event did it for me. If I had been in any of the cities where they had filmed at the time of this story, I would have certainly been in the crowd to cheer these contestants. Heck, that reality obstacle course show now seems like a rerun to me.
3 ½ stars
WHEN I HEAR ABOUT AN ALTERCATION that took place in the city, I shudder when I see the victim was doing something I used to do. And when I say something, it literally refers to nothing unusual; for example, me just walking to my car. There was a period where I would go down into the city to the dance clubs and bars. Now you might think this was strange for me since I did not drink alcohol, but I wanted to dance and watch music videos. Sometimes I would drive, other times I would take public transportation. Depending on how the evening was going I could be dancing at the club until they closed, or I could be there for an hour before making my way home. My point is I might be walking alone to my car at 3 in the morning. I knew to be cautious or at least aware of my surroundings, but I was not fearful. Granted, on side streets I would always walk down the middle of them. Riding public transportation never was a concern for me. Whether I was on a bus or train, I never thought something could go wrong; at least, not to the extent I read and see in the news. MAYBE I WAS LUCKY THAT NOTHING befell me back then; however, there were several times when I was scared. Once while walking down the street in the afternoon a guy came up to me and asked for a cigarette. When I said I didn’t smoke he started yelling and calling me names. I tried to walk away but he kept shoving me. Not until he pushed me into a plate glass window did he take off running. I used to replay that scene over and over in my head, imagining different endings where I would come out victorious. Another time I was walking to my car after dinner and noticed a small group of teenagers walking towards me. I made a quick decision and turned into a building’s walkway, despite not knowing where it would lead. Luckily, I wound up in the alley just as I heard their laughter echoing out from the walkway. Quickly I ran down the alley until I found another walkway through a building that lead me back to the street, where I ran all the way to my car. Again, as I made my way home I fantasized different scenarios where I was a boxer or martial arts expert who quickly subdued my assailants into submission…or unconsciousness. The only difference between me and the main character in this dramatic comedy is I never acted on it. AFTER BEING MUGGED BY A MOTORCYCLE gang Casey, played by Jesse Eisenberg (The End of the Tour, The Social Network), looked for a way to defend himself. He found his answer at a karate school. With Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle, Disobedience) as Sensei, Imogen Poots (Green Room, Frank & Lola) as Anna, Steve Terada (Crank, Memoirs of a Geisha) as Thomas and Phillip Andre Botello (Pledge, Road Wars) as Kenneth; this film festival nominated movie was wickedly dark, violent and funny. At first, I felt Jesse was doing a repeat of some of his previous roles, but he hit the mark as a timid man on the spectrum. At least I took him to be a person on the spectrum. I am a little familiar with Alessandro’s work and I especially admired him in this role as the owner and head of the karate school. Between my laughter and shock there were a few bumps in the road inside the script, where it became predictable. However, I was enjoying the performances too much to let the predictability bother me. Again, I want to stress this was a real dark comedy with blood and violence. Despite it, I did wonder what would have happened to me if I had joined a karate school.
UP UNTIL I SAW THE MOVIE Bambi, the only characters that would perish in an animated picture were the evil ones. The evil queen, the wicked witch; none of the “bad” characters in those animated films went unpunished for their awful actions. Even Cruella DeVil got her comeuppance for what she did to those innocent puppies. When I watched Bambi, I was traumatized by what happened to the mother. I understood death, but I had not been exposed to it on a personal level. Suddenly it was thrust upon me in an unexpected way, an animated movie where an innocent relative does not survive; it was an awful experience for me. I wanted to take in Bambi, so he would not be alone. In fact, I remember feeling angry towards the movie studio for allowing such a thing to happen. In my mind, innocent people were not supposed to get hurt or die; I believed it was a written rule. Little did I know that my introduction to the film Bambi would only be a prelude to what happens everyday in the real world. I guess that is why I am more attracted to fantasy and movies. SPOILER ALERT: YEARS LATER ANOTHER ANIMATED FILM COMES along where a tragedy befalls the parent of a main character. I at least was better equipped to handle this when I saw the original film of, The Lion King. In the context of the story, there were similarities between it and Bambi. What softened the blow in my opinion were the various musical numbers and the endearing, emotional depth given to the characters. I think a person would be hard pressed not to react to the characters in the movie. From that movie a new industry was created or at least it was new to me. Sitting in a theater, the lights go down and the orchestra begins the familiar notes from the soundtrack; I was immediately brought into their world when part of the cast of the staged version of The Lion King walk down the aisle towards the stage. With the imaginative and colorful costumes, myself and the audience were in awe. The staged show began on Broadway in 1997 and I believe it is still running today. Suffice it to say, it would be a challenge for any movie studio to do something that would top the memories and experiences viewers and theater goers would already have towards this story. However, do not let that stop you if you are curious to see the latest version of a much beloved story. WITHOUT THE GUIDANCE OF HIS PARENTS Simba, voiced by Donald Glover (The Martian, Solo: A Star Wars Story), must learn for himself what it means to become a king. With Beyonce (Dreamgirls, Obsessed) voicing Nala, Seth Rogen (Long Shot, The Disaster Artist) voicing Pumbaa, Billy Eichner (Most Likely to Murder, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) voicing Timon and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things, 12 Years a Slave) voicing Scar; this animated, adventure drama was visually startling to me. I kept questioning myself on whether some of the animals were real or not. The CGI was utterly amazing to the point I felt I was on an African Safari. Now for the substance behind those visuals, the writers stayed close to the original story with only a few minor tweaks. However, what they forgot to do was keep the endearing emotional quality to the characters. Based on the way the characters acted there was not much variance to their emotional output. The script paled in comparison to the technical quality of this picture. I also was distracted by the musical soundtrack; not the individual songs, but the background music was too over dramatic. One of the bright spots was listening to Seth and Billy with their verbal exchanges. If the script would have been better written I think this would have been a stellar production; instead, I felt I had gone to the zoo during the nap times for some of my favorite animals.
2 ½ stars
THINGS STARTED CHANGING AROUND THE 4th and 5th grades. Prior to those times the girls and boys usually played together during recess and after school. I remember when we all came back to school after having the summer off, to start the 4th grade. Something was different I soon noticed. Where we used to do things as a group, there now were smaller groups that had broken off. The girls were not as interested in some of the activities they used to participate in with the boys. They also seemed smarter to me because they usually were the ones to get the highest scores on our tests. I can still picture this one boy during our study time who instead was fiddling with the pigtails of the girl sitting in front of him. She was annoyed and asked the teacher to make him stop. During this time, I found myself in a dilemma. With the girls forming different interests and moving into smaller groups from the boys, I had to split my time between the two. I would hang out with the boys for a while, until they started getting too aggressive in their games or sports; then, I would move over to my friends in the girls’ clique. It became a challenging time for me. DURING MY SCHOOL YEARS I HAD A few real close friends. As we grew up we still maintained a closeness even when we started branching out into different interests. I was spending more time with one friend whose interests closely matched up to mine. Through several years we were there to support each other during the rough patches. I wound up going out of state for college and it was during these years things started to change for me. We stayed in close touch but where we used to get the same reaction to a situation, now there was a difference. It was not until I returned home where I came upon a reason for what I felt was a disconnect. The reactions they were displaying were identical to the way they reacted when we were in elementary school and high school. They were complaining about the same things that took place years ago. I tried explaining if the same reactions were producing the same unsatisfactory results, then maybe it was time to change the reactions. I could see by their expression this fell on deaf ears. Sadly, it was the fork in our road where we grew in different directions. I was reminded of this while watching the two childhood friends in this romantic comedy. IT HAD BEEN YEARS SINCE CHILDHOOD friends Sasha Tran and Marcus Kim, played by Ali Wong (The Hero, American Housewife-TV) and Randall Park (Aquaman, Ant-Man and the Wasp), had seen each other. Could looking at the past bring them forward into the present? With James Saito (Pearl Harbor, While We’re Young) as Harry, Michelle Buteau (Isn’t it Romantic, Sell By) as Veronica and Keanu Reeves (John Wick franchise, 47 Ronin) as Keanu Reeves; this rom-com was an easy watch. The script offered a mixture of family dynamics/traditions with modern thoughts and current topics. I did not experience any laugh out moments; for me, the story simply kept me engaged as the characters went through their paces. However, I did find myself getting amused by several of Marcus’ lines. The connection between him and Sasha came across as real thanks to the acting from Ali and Randall. Also, there was nothing in the movie that surprised me per se, except that I found Keanu’s performance wild. It was just pleasant to sit back and let the story play out in this picture. I would not consider this picture memorable; however, I appreciated the fact it got me thinking about some of my childhood friends.
2 ½ stars
I WAS HOPING THE SERVER WAS coming to our table, but he veered to the other side of the aisle to serve the party of three people across from us. At first glance I did not realize one of the plates he was carrying was an unusual size. When he placed it in front of one of the diners I was just as stunned as the three across from me; the plate was enormous. It must have been at least 16 inches in length, I kid you not. Loaded with food that looked wonderful, I only knew what it was when our waiter came by and I asked him for the name of the dish. Surprisingly it was nachos, but it did not look like any plate of nachos I had seen before. Honestly, the size of that plate would normally be found on a buffet table for a multitude of diners. The woman who ordered it laughed when it was put in front of her. When everyone was served at her table, the other 2 people started eating their food; however, the woman grabbed her phone and took several photos of the nachos. I could see taking one photo, but a whole series of them? After she was done doing whatever she was planning to do with the photos, she said the oddest thing, “I hope no one thinks I am a fat slob.” SUCH AN ODD THING TO SAY, I thought. First, if you were concerned someone might think of you in a negative light then why post the photo on social media? Secondly, why do you care what people might think about you? This is something I see more and more these days; people overly concerned what others will think of them. Whether it is the clothes being worn or the food being eaten or the way one’s home is decorated; so many individuals live life cautiously, all in the hopes of being thought of positively. Now I can understand asking a friend/family member how an article of clothing looks on you; but if you choose not to buy a shirt or blouse because you think people will think you are not dressing your age, then I feel you are not living your true self. It seems to me more people act and react based on how they will be perceived by others. I have challenged friends/family members by asking them why it is important to have people’s acceptance of their actions, for all they really need is their respect. Just look at what happens to one of the main characters in this action, crime comedy; all for a 5-star rating. AFRAID OF GETTING A NEGATIVE RATING Stu, played by Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick, Central Intelligence), was willing to go above and beyond what was expected of an Uber driver; even if it might kill him and it just might. With Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Hotel Artemis) as Vic Manning, Mira Sorvino (The Replacement Killers, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion) as Angie McHenry, Natalie Morales (Battle of the Sexes, Parks and Recreation-TV) as Nicole and Iko Uwais (The Raid franchise, Mile 22) as Oka Tedjo; this story’s strength was in its 2 main actors. They had an easy flow between them where I could see them reteaming again. There were several places where I laughed or chuckled, despite the story being a rehash of several past films in this genre. The script was an odd mix with several holes in it and a couple of non-believable parts. If it wasn’t for Kumail’s comedic timing and quick witty line reads with Dave’s over-the-top tough cop actions, this picture might have tanked. Instead, I found myself being amused and not caring what others around me in the theater were thinking of me.
2 ½ stars
I ADMIT I DO HAVE MY FAVORITES. My top three to see when I go to a zoo are the monkeys, big cats and bears. Chimpanzees, in particular, have a special place inside of me since my first stuffed animal was one. When I visit a zoo or a variation of an animal sanctuary, I not only pay attention to those animals that attract a crowd of people, but also to those less popular ones. I find it interesting; no matter which zoo I am visiting, the same type of animals draws the same size crowds. From my observations animals that have fur or hair are more popular than those that have scales or bare skin. There are always more people around a giraffe than a snake. I believe the more an animal has human like mannerisms, the more comfortable humans are around it. Many times, I have seen throngs of people gravitate to the bear enclosure when someone is trying to get one of the bears to sit up for a peanut or marshmallow (not that I am condoning the feeding of animals). You should hear the people laugh and cheer if the bear not only sits up but catches the tossed food item in its mouth. It is as if one were teaching their pet; there is a connection being made to something familiar. THE ANIMALS THAT TEND TO SCARE or at least cause people to be fearful are those that do not display any type of human characteristics. Snakes, bats and spiders come to mind first for me, as examples. Pair up a tiger stalking its prey and a snake doing the same thing; I am willing to bet people will have a more negative reaction to the snake than the tiger. Image how many more children became fearful of snakes due to the Harry Potter books? There is nothing cuddly or warm about snakes; people tend to put negative connotations on the species. All snakes are trying to do is survive, just like any other animal. Now I grant you if a movie studio wants to do a non-fantasy horror film, the easiest thing for them to do is to demonize a less popular animal. Something on the order of a killer shark or piranhas would easily fit the bill. Sure, there have been rabid dogs and angry birds; but, they all miss what I refer to as the “ick” factor. There is something about a hairless/furless crazed animal that scares us more. See for yourself in this action, adventure horror film. DESPITE BEING IN THE PATH OF A category 5 hurricane Harley, played by Kaya Scodelario (The Maze Runner franchise, Moon), would not let anything stop her from checking up on her dad Dave, played by Barry Pepper (True Grit, The Green Mile). What she found could easily kill her. With Morfydd Clark (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Call Up) as Beth, Ross Anderson (Unbroken, The Silent Storm) as Wayne and relative newcomer Anson Booth as Stan; the animals were the stars of this picture. The acting did not move me much; however, I put most of the blame of it on the script. It did not make sense in parts and I felt the writers were trying too hard to make the viewers care for the actors. There was not anything that made me jump out of my seat; it was more of me feeling “icky” at several scenes. Again, this was simply due to the animals in the story. If the writers had gone the campy route, this could have been a fun B movie. As it stands now, it was just okay. Okay like watching a past movie released in the theaters airing repeatedly on television. If there is nothing else playing, one might decide to see this one. Just remember there will be blood in the water.
THE WORDS KEPT REVERBERATING INSIDE my head. I had never heard them before; wait, that is not exactly right. I had heard those words before, but they were never spoken to me. Now, I was the recipient of these words and was feeling as if my life was going to change forever. No more standing by myself; no more groans or dirty looks from others. Here right in the middle of the school gymnasium I was the first person the team captain asked to be on his team! This had never, never happened to me before. Usually whenever the PE instructor picked two students to be team captains, I was always the last one picked. To tell you the truth I did not blame them. I did not enjoy team sports, I was not good at playing them and I did not have a killer mentality. All of that changed however, when students saw me throw a ball. The only reason they witnessed it was because I was the last person on the team who had not been tagged out. Granted, I was hiding behind players to avoid getting hit with the ball. So, there I was left defending our side against three opposing team players. I tagged each of them out due to my precise, fast and hard throwing of the ball. The students were shocked. MY WORLD CHANGED FROM THAT POINT on or at least I thought so. Students in gym class who had never spoken a word to me or only uttered derogative words my way were acknowledging my presence. I was not as fearful of walking into the locker room and gymnasium expecting to get bullied or abused. It was a surreal time for me. In fact, there was talk about me trying out for the pitcher position on the baseball team. If you are wondering if this all sounds too good to be true, you are right. My time in the spotlight was short-lived. A transfer student arrived who excelled in sports. He could hit, throw, shoot and pass a ball; plus, he was fit and trim instead of fat and chunky. I was immediately discarded and returned to the back of the line, so to speak. No one wanted me on their team anymore. I could live with it; but, when the nasty comments and abusive contact started up again, I had a hard time coping. I desperately wanted to get out of that school. Watching the main character in this action thriller, I could relate to how she must have been feeling. UNDER HER STYLISH VENEER ANNA, PLAYED by Sasha Luss (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets), had a lethal set of skills that people wanted to exploit. They were not interested in anything else, which was a mistake. With Helen Mirren (The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Woman in Gold) as Olga, Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast, High-Rise) as Alex Tchenkov, Cillian Murphy (The Party, In the Heart of the Sea) as Lenny Miller and newcomer Lera Abova as Maud; this movie had potential. I could have gotten into the story, but it stayed locked on the repeat button. There was nothing imaginative about the story. If Charlize Theron’s Atomic Blonde had not been made, maybe I would have been more forgiving with this picture. However, I was periodically getting bored. Now there were some fight scenes that were fun to watch, and I enjoyed some of the plot twists; but overall, there was not much creativity in the story or the script. For the life of me I could not understand why Helen took the role in the film, but I was glad she did; she did her best with what she was given. Given the choices out there, this movie is not one that need be chosen for your viewing pleasure.
1 ¾ stars
WATCHING HOW PEOPLE LIVE THEIR DAILY lives has always been one of the main attractions for me when I travel out of state. Whether I am in a large metropolitan area or a remote small town, there is always something new I learn. Recently I was on a road trip through three northwestern states. While driving on a two-lane highway through mountainous terrain, I spotted something ahead on the road. As I got closer I realized it was a pack of dogs. I had to quickly slow down as I realized the dogs were not moving off the road; it was as if they were using themselves as a blockade across the pavement. There was no choice; I had to come to a complete stop. The dogs walked around my car while looking up at the car windows. For the life of me I could not figure out what was going on, especially since none of the dogs had a collar. I had no idea; were they just wild dogs? Slowly I started to apply the gas, letting the car creep forward. The dogs followed me. Finally, there was a break in the circle; so, I picked up speed to break away from the dogs. They chased me for a moment before stopping and turning their attention to the car behind me. WHEN I REACHED MY DESTINATION, I stopped for a bite to eat. While looking for a local restaurant I noticed there seemed to be an abundance of dogs milling about; some sleeping on park benches, others freely walking down the roads. It was the weirdest thing to me. After finding a place to eat and settling into my seat, I asked the waitress, when she came up to me, about all the loose dogs around. She explained in some cultures dogs were used for transportation, companionship, hunting and food; they were somewhat revered. Because of this the people in the area tend to let their dogs roam free, refusing to put a collar or leash on them. I told her about my experience with the pack of dogs on the highway; she was not surprised. She said because some drivers will toss food out their car windows to feed the dogs, they have learned to slow cars down with the intention of getting fed. I was taken aback with this story, thinking about all the possible hazards that could take place. Though I was happy to find out the reason for the loose dogs, I was glad I was just visiting the area. I cannot say the same for the place depicted in this dramatic, mystery film. A GROUP OF FRIENDS TRAVEL TO a remote area in Sweden to delve into the culture and traditions of a small community’s festivities. Everything seemed idyllic until the traditions started to take on a darker tone. With Florence Pugh (Fighting with my Family, The Commuter) as Dani, Jack Reynor (Free Fire, Glassland) as Christian, William Jackson Harper (True Story, Paterson) as Josh, Vilhelm Blomgren (The Days of Flowers Bloom-TV mini-series, Gosta-TV) as Pelle and Will Poulter (Detroit, We’re the Millers) as Mark; this horror movie piqued my interest at the beginning. I thought the cast was good and the scenes were interesting. However, as time went on I felt the story dragging. And with it clocking in at nearly 2 ½ hours, this picture was testing me. There were some scenes that were lovely to look at, but then something odd or horrific would take place. Despite having several interesting concepts/themes in the story, I did not find the picture as a whole very entertaining. If my travels took me near this area I would probably not stop for a visit.