THERE always seems to be at least one in a crowd. Whether it is in the classroom, the office or a group of friends; usually one person is the prankster or jokester. I did not have the courage to act out in the classroom; however, I discovered I was quite good in coming up with a plan and then letting someone else execute it. I think the statues of limitations have long expired so I am okay to mention one of my pranks, keeping in mind I am not boasting or full of pride about it. There was a strict teacher we had who made some of us kids’ lives miserable. Looking back now I would not use the word “miserable,” but to a 9 year old who did not know better, the teacher was labeled bad. I discovered if you removed the cylinder of ink from certain pens they could be used to shoot spitballs. But I took it a step further; if you roll one end of the empty pen in lip balm and blow hard on the other end, it would jettison the glob of balm. If it was aimed at the blackboard it would leave a greasy mark. The teacher came into the classroom one day and discovered he could not write on the blackboard due to all the grease spots. THROUGH my early school years I actually did not do many pranks. I was never one to embarrass a classmate, like that student who glued another student’s schoolbook to their desk. The only time I would consider doing a prank against a student is if they hurt me. And even then I would have had to be 100% confident that the joke could never be traced back to me. I am not a mean spirited person, but I used to be a big fan of getting revenge. If I wanted to get back at someone I would have to do the prank myself, not even telling my friends. I was good at keeping a straight face even when my friends would ask if I was the one who did such and such prank. Little did I know I would have something in common with this animated, action comedy based on the bestselling children’s book series. BEST friends George and Harold, voiced by Kevin Hart (The Wedding Ringer, Central Intelligence) and Thomas Middleditch (Kong: Skull Island, Silicon Valley-TV), were always coming up with pranks to upset the school principal Mr. Krupp, voiced by Ed Helms (The Hangover franchise, Vacation). The 2 boys thought they had created the ultimate prank when they hypnotized the principal into their comic book hero, Captain Underpants. The joke was on them though. I was not familiar with this story; based on the kids who were in the theater with me, I would say the books must be written for the 4-8 year old crowd. As a result the humor in the script was geared more to that age group. There was nothing done that I found to be laugh out loud material, more on an amusing level. Some of the animation was similar to the style of those Saturday morning cartoon shows; it was imaginative. What saved this film for me was how life lessons (which I assume are part of the books) were presented into the story. Even if the focus was on pranks, at least something positive was coming out of the events. I was just glad I no longer have to be part of any pranks.
2 ½ stars
I have chosen to believe there are more people on this planet who want to do good than those who wish to do harm. Granted there have been times where I did not think that was the case. From time to time I still remember a kid in elementary school who tortured and killed a cat. Though “they” say people can change, I have my doubts about this person. Just as I was leaving for the office this morning I heard on the news authorities found baby coyotes drowned in a bucket of water. It seems the past several weeks only horrific news of people taking the lives of others has been reported. I can tell you it is not easy to stay positive with what has been taking place around all of us. However an example will come by that renews or restores my faith and give me hope that good will overpower evil. RECENTLY after seeing this film I was watching a news magazine type of television show. A segment was devoted to a woman who has devoted her life to protecting elephants from poachers. She even moved her family to Kenya so she could commit more time to her efforts. I was amazed as I watched this woman negotiate with the village elders to help by reporting to the authorities any sightings of poachers in their area. If I remember correctly she helped set up a program to help captured poachers get rehabilitation and find them decent employment opportunities. They even showed 2 poachers who were sworn enemies that now are friends, working as forest rangers. All of this woman’s efforts were geared to protect elephants from being slaughtered for their tusks. One of the things I find fascinating about individuals who devote such energy towards goodness is where their motivation comes from. Is it something they are born with or does it come from a series of events? Not being familiar with the Wonder Woman character I was totally impressed by her motivation to do good in this action adventure fantasy. WHEN a plane crashed off the shores of her homeland Diana, played by Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious franchise, Keeping up with the Jones), the princess of the Amazons discovered there was an evil force in the world wanting to do harm. She quickly realized what she had to do. With Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, The Finest Hours) as Steve Trevor, Connie Nielsen (One Hour Photo, Gladiator) as Hippolyta and Danny Huston (Children of Men, The Aviator) as Ludendorff; the script to this story was well thought out. I learned about Diana before she became Wonder Woman. The humor, action, drama were beautifully blended for a thoroughly entertaining movie experience. The soundtrack even had a bit of a throwback acknowledgement to the TV show. While the special effects were fun, they had a comic book vibe which was enjoyable to me. Keep in mind my only exposure to this superhero previously was the actress Lynda Carter, where she would spin around to change into her Wonder Woman garb. This was a well done picture that came from a female’s sensibilities; in fact, I understand it earned the highest weekend opening for a film directed by a woman. If that is not enough to convince you to see this picture, I want you to also know everyone in the theater where I saw this film applauded at the end.
3 ½ stars
“BECAUSE I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me; The carriage held but just ourselves And immortality.” What I just wrote came from a poem by Emily Dickinson. I know of her but very little of her poetry. Like many artists Emily’s work was not fully known or appreciated until after her death. Some say she was one of the greatest American poets. One of the best pieces of advice I received was, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” In other words, focus on the things that stimulate, excite and connect with you; everything else will fall into place afterwards. I do not think artists craft their trade with the idea they will become wealthy from their works. They do it because they simply love it. Yet even with that much love there are artists who suffer with their personal demons. There was a famous pianist who could draw the emotions out of any musical piece he played. Sadly he started to believe his fingers were made of glass and became afraid they would break if he continued to play the piano. DESPITE any type of turmoil I cannot imagine what the stress level must be if one is trying to earn a living from their craft. Just from the little I do with these film reviews and my teaching fitness and yoga, if I did not have my full time job there would be no way I could survive. Presently this site generates no income and my pay for classes is at an hourly rate. When I started these two activities each fulfilled an emptiness I had inside of me. Seeing people feel good about themselves after class was a revelation for me since I spent most of my life unhappy with my physical self. Writing my reviews nourishes the creative side of my brain that had been lying dormant for many years. As I watched this biographical drama I was surprised to see Emily experienced similar issues. STARRING Cynthia Nixon (James White, Sex and the City franchise) as Emily Dickinson, Jennifer Ehle (Pride and Prejudice, Zero Dark Thirty) as Vinnie Dickinson, Duncan Duff (Wild Target, Burke and Hare) as Austin Dickinson and Keith Carradine (Nashville, Our Very Own) as Edward Dickenson; this film festival winning movie follows the life and death of Emily. The excellent acting, especially from Cynthia and Jennifer, was brilliantly on display in several scenes. As I said I am not that familiar with Emily’s life, so I was fascinated with her determination and fears. It was such an interesting contrast between the beauty of her poetry and the darkness inside of her. Interestingly there were many scenes that looked dark, staying authentic with the available light source only coming from lit candles. Due to some scenes shining while others were dim, the movie had an uneven feeling to it. I felt the cause of it was from the direction; the pacing was slow in many parts. There were times I became bored because after seeing a wonderfully acted scene a dull one would take place. I think those who are familiar with Emily and her work will enjoy this film more than I did. If for nothing else this picture worked because I left wanting to read Emily’s poetry.
2 ½ stars
INFIDELITY is a hard topic for me to discuss with someone or watch in a TV show/movie. Regarding the dating world if the topic comes up and my date divulges their past cheating history that is a deal breaker for me. Having been cheated on more than once I not only have little understanding why someone would do it, but I also have no tolerance for it. I was friends with a couple several years ago. Having known them for a substantial amount of time they looked like they had a happy and healthy relationship. One day at the movie theater I saw the husband sitting in the bar area with another woman. Since the restrooms were at the back of the bar area I had no choice but to walk right by him to get to the bathrooms. He saw me looking at him and his face went pale. I chose not to go up to him and cause anymore embarrassment. SURE enough the very next day he called me. Listening to him trying to explain the reasons why he was at the theater with a different woman was pitiful. With every excuse all I would ask is why doesn’t he get a divorce? His answer was he still loved his wife. I could not be sympathetic to his plight because it did not make sense to me based on my values. If I love someone I am with them 100%. If there is an issue then it needs to be discussed and not ignored; it is all about communicating one’s needs and wants, besides being a good listener. Now I do get the idea of two people falling out of love or growing apart. If I were in that situation I would sit down and have a heart to heart talk to see if there was a way we could fix things. If not then I would go the divorce route and wait until we were divorced before I start relations with someone else. This is my belief that works for me; I hope I do not come across as judgmental. It is not my intentions. This is why I had a hard time trying to understand the couple in this comedic drama. MARRIED couple Michael and Mary, played by Tracy Letts (Imperium, Indignation) and Debra Winger (Terms of Endearment, The Sheltering Sky), were each having an affair. Something happened during it that produced a spark in the couple’s own relationship. With Aidan Gillen (Sing Street, Games of Thrones-TV) as Robert and Melora Walters (The Butterfly Effect, Cold Mountain) as Lucy, the acting was top notch in this movie. It was so good to see Debra back as a lead actress in a film. Sadly I had wished the script was better for her and the rest of the cast. There were some scenes that worked well; however, other times things felt forced and flat. Part of the issue I believe was with the directing. For this cast there could have been more intensity and drama, either in a comedic or serious way. I found myself being bored at times with scenes that were just blah. From the trailer this looked like the story was going to be a fun farce. And maybe that is the issue I was having besides my own issues with adultery; the story did not know whether to be a comedy or drama. I do not know if this means anything but I had no trouble finishing up this film and going right into another movie to review.
THEY appeared to know each other but were not friends. Dressed similarly in tank tops and baggy sweatpants; they kept an eye on each other, thinking they were being discreet. I knew better because I would notice the things they did while working out on the fitness floor. Before or after my class I would hang out on the fitness floor to do some strength training exercises. Seeing these two young guys in the same area for several weeks, I started to notice they were not workout buddies; they were competing with each other, attempting to exert their dominance by being the best. What I mean is they would try to out lift each other using free weights. If one guy was doing chest presses, the other would start to do them but with slightly more weight on the barbell. Once the first guy caught sight of his “opponent” lifting more weight, he would stop and add more weight. This pattern would go on until they went from doing 15 reps down to 1; it was comical to watch. THERE is something about some men’s testosterone that pushes them over the edge. Those two guys on the fitness floor are still at it, trying to top each other. Since I am at that between age, between birth and death, I can sit back and just observe some of these antics and shake my head. And trust me it is not just the younger generation; I still get from time to time some older member coming up to me in the locker room and making some lewd comment about me teaching “a classroom full of ladies.” Without being rude, since I am an employee of the fitness center, I find a way to give them a quick response that masks my displeasure and get away from them as quick as possible. I felt the same way about watching this action dramatic comedy. FORCED to do community service former Olympic swimming champion Matt Brody, played by Zac Efron (Dirty Grandpa, Neighbors franchise), thought being a lifeguard would be a no-brainer of a job. That all changed when a dead body washed up on shore. This film loosely based on the television show starred Dwayne Johnson (The Fast & Furious franchise, Pain & Gain) as Mitch Buchannon, Priyanka Chopra (Don franchise, Quantico-TV) as Victoria Leeds, Alexandra Daddario (The Choice, San Andreas) as Summer Quinn and Jon Bass (Loving, All Nighter) as Ronnie Greenbaum. I vaguely remember the TV series but I am sure it was nothing like what I saw in this movie. For me the best part of this film was Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron and the outtakes at the beginning of the credits. One cannot help but enjoy Dwayne’s effort and Zac’s comedic timing. Outside of that the story was overloaded and bulky; sort of like Dwayne’s muscles and Zac’s attitude. The script was awful as it was filled with foul language and sexual references. I did not find it funny simply because more than one or two swear words or sexual innuendos is cheap humor in my opinion. Now there were a few fun sarcastic lines in the script, but there was not enough to entertain me for the duration of the picture. Based on the crowd in the theater, the main purpose for seeing this film as far as I could tell was for the eye candy. No matter how many lifeguards were in this movie, it could not be saved.
1 ½ stars
ONCE again I was dressed up as a clown. I actually had no complaints about the costume; it was custom made using satin fabric. The buttons down the front were these big colored pom-pom looking things. Though the outfit was not made for me, it had been handed down; only a few adjustments were needed for me to safely walk in it. There was a cone shaped hat with another of those pom-poms attached on top that completed the outfit. I could only wear the hat for a short time before the strap holding it down on my head started to irritate under my chin. The first time the costume was worn by the original owner, they won a costume contest at a local theater. By the time I got the outfit, it was still in good shape. Why wouldn’t it be? It was handmade with strong stitching and detailing. You could not compare it to one of those store bought costumes for the fabric was thicker and it must have had better elastic because the cuffs of the legs still were able to hug my ankles, helping the balloon effect of the pants. AFTER wearing the clown costume every Halloween for a few years I finally was able to pick out my very own outfit. The reason was due to me outgrowing the pants, both in length and width. I remember spending the longest time at the toy store deciding what I wanted to be. I looked at the popular outfits like a soldier and pirate, but it seemed like all my friends were picking those outfits to wear. Finally I decided to become an astronaut; I thought the white spacesuit was cool with its fake badges and big pockets. And of course the big feature was the helmet though I had wished the visor would have been real. You would have thought I would have been thrilled to walk the neighborhood in my new outfit but I did not experience that feeling. After wearing the same costume for a few years I was just getting to the age where I really did not care to go trick or treating anymore. It is a similar feeling to what I experienced watching this action adventure fantasy. WITH the rumors possibly being true about Poseidon’s trident, opposing forces were in a mad dash to gain the powerful device. Starring Johnny Depp (Black Mass, The Lone Ranger) as Captain Jack Sparrow, Javier Bardem (The Gunman, No Country for Old Men) as Captain Salazar and Geoffrey Rush (The Book Thief, The Best Offer) as Captain Hector Barbossa; the best acting came from Javier and Geoffrey. In fact I could watch Javier if there was a spinoff to this film franchise. The reason being the story here was a hodgepodge. It did not help that I thought Johnny brought nothing new to the role; besides the script felt a bit tired with the same type of things seen in the previous films. Having said that, I will say I enjoyed the special effects in this picture and there were a lot of them. The majority of the scenes were action based, almost to the point of one after another after another. One other issue I had was the length of this movie; I felt it needed another round of editing. If you want light familiar fare to make the time go by then this newest installment might satisfy you; however, don’t be surprised if it leaves you wanting more. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
“YOU should write a book about it,” is a comment that has been directed to me numerous times. The reason has less to do with my writing ability and more with the incredible to outrageous stories I have been involved in or told. I will avoid using pronouns to protect the individuals. There was one person I was involved with whose family history played out like an evening soap opera, television show. One family member was going to be elected to a high political position until their views deviated from the people in power. The person I knew was sent out of the country to avoid any fallout, but to also get a better education. Spending many years traveling the world instead of coming back home, they told me about some of their experiences in foreign lands that I have not even seen done in a movie. One of these stories involved a stalker and a secret intelligence agency; that is all I can say about this individual. RECENTLY I was involved with someone who had a story to tell me every time we got together. One of the stories was accompanied with photographs; however, they could only show me a select few because they were brought in to oversee a secret government operation. The first photo they showed me was of them standing in front of a posted sign out in the jungle. I immediately knew why they had to be secretive about their whereabouts. Another photo showed how they were transported to this secret location; essentially it was a cargo bay with portable toilets and folding chairs nailed to the floor. It was so not part of my little corner of the world that I did not even know how to respond to any of it. I could go on with so many other encounters I have had that I could actually fill up a whole book. However if I do that then I cannot tell you whether it was worth seeing this biographical drama about a man who was the real boxer behind the famous film character Rocky Balboa. KNOWN as the “Bleeder of Bayonne” boxer Chuck Wepner, played by Liev Schreiber (Spotlight, Ray Donovan-TV), was a hometown hero even before there was a movie called Rocky. With Elizabeth Moss (The One I Love, Mad Men-TV) as Phyliss, Naomi Watts (St. Vincent, Diana) as Linda, Jim Gaffigan (17 Again, It’s Kind of a Funny Story) as John and Ron Perlman (Poker Night, Hellboy franchise) as Al Braverman; I had never heard about this boxer. Everyone in the cast did a wonderful job of acting. Liev however stood out for me because he was so good in his role, but be prepared there was a lot of blood shown. Not being a big fan of boxing, I was glad that the actual act was secondary to the story. As for the story it was engaging with surprise. The sets, costumes and dialog captured the era; it was interesting to watch the arc of Chuck’s story line. If I had to choose one particular thing that increased my interest in this film it would have to be the connection to Sylvester Stallone and the Rocky movie. I think it helped that this was included into the script because it produced deeper emotional intensity to the story. There are so many people in the world that need to have their story told; I was satisfied that this one came to the big screen.
THE landscape tilted down as I peered out the airplane’s window. I was looking forward to a peaceful ride. The day was clear except for small clumps of clouds that looked like wadded up paper towels discarded across the sky. We were close to reaching our flying altitude when I heard a faint noise. It sounded like a sad pet uttered a whimper. There was a slight pause before a piercing wail filled the cabin. It was a baby I had not seen when we boarded. I thought after a minute the parent(s) would have done something like give the baby a bottle, a toy, a set of keys, something to distract the child. Maybe they did, I could not see though since they were sitting closer to the front. As I sat in my seat I stared up at the FASTEN SEATBELT sign, hoping it would turn off. With no sign of stopping if the parent(s) were not going to take the baby to the restroom, I would go to it to get away from the crying. Needless to say the flight was not pleasant. LIVING a full life means there will be celebrations as well as challenges. Let me include into that equation annoyances. I cannot imagine someone getting through life without ever becoming annoyed by something. Of course the question is what does one do when they become annoyed? Being stuck at a railroad crossing due to a long, slow moving freight train is annoying to me; however if there is no alternative route as an option, there is no point in me staying annoyed. It is out of my control, so I just turn the radio up louder and wait it out. It is funny, I found myself in a similar predicament while watching this family comedy film. Sure I could have walked out, but who then would have warned you? THE special occasion of Meemaw’s 90th birthday was the catalyst for the Heffley family hitting the road to be part of the celebrations. Unfortunately for Greg, played by Jason Drucker (Barely Lethal, Every Witch Way-TV), that meant he would not be able to go to the video gaming convention. Starring Alicia Silverstone (Clueless, Batman & Robin) as Susan Heffley, Tom Everett Scott (La La Land, Dead Man on Campus) as Frank Heffley and relative newcomer Charlie Wright as Rodrick Heffley; this latest installment of the franchise had new cast members. It did not make a difference to me but I understood some fans of the series were upset. After seeing this picture the change of actors was the least of this movie’s problems. Both the script and directing were poorly done; if you saw the trailer then you saw the best parts. I was uncomfortable with the story; I found it whiney and disrespectful. There was nothing funny taking place or let me say I did not find the pranks and embarrassing situations amusing. It seemed as if there was little thought put into the script. Besides not being funny, there was not one element of surprise; the set up and payoff could be seen a mile away, which is where I wished I had been from this film. Here is something interesting: I have never sat in a movie theater and seen so much foot traffic from the audience. Kids and parents were constantly walking in and out during the entire showing of this movie. If I wasn’t annoyed already, there was a parent sitting down in front who played with her cell phone for ½ the time.
1 ½ stars
EVERYDAY was a battle between me and dessert. I say dessert even though it was not only the course one waits to eat after their main meal. It would be multiple times throughout the day and I should tell you dessert encompassed a wide variety of items. Where other people have a sweet tooth, I have a set of sweet molars. My first choice to snack on used to be cookies or cakes, but if none were available I would seek out sweetened cereal or candy. If I could not get my hands on anything sweet I would switch and go to the salty side; looking for potato chips, pretzels or even sliced white bread. I had no shame; everything was free game. I tried a variety of diets when I was younger, even to the point where a doctor prescribed what he called an appetite suppressant; years later I found out it was a form of “speed.” As my issues with weight took a toll on me mentally I eventually got a handle on the reasons why I was seeking out food for comfort. TODAY the way I work with my weight is to be aware of what I am eating during the week. On weekends I let go of my control but never too far out to become a food festival. I realized I was no longer dieting; I had changed my way of life and no longer made food my focus. For those of you who do not have concerns with weight, you have no idea how much of a impact one’s issues with food can weigh on them. It can come to the point where you feel like you are not living your life anymore; every day you wake up knowing you are going to have a struggle throughout the day. It really is not a way to live. This dramatic film will give you an idea of what I am talking about by showing you something similar, where an individual has to deal with the same thing over and over. MADDY Whittier, played by Amanda Sternberg (The Hunger Games, Colombiana), had a rare disease that made her allergic to practically everything. Never leaving her house was the norm until the new neighbors moved in next door. This romance movie, based on the best selling young adult book, also starred Nick Robinson (Jurassic World, The 5th Wave) as Olly Bright, Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls, The Good Wife-TV) as Pauline and Ana de la Reguera (Nacho Libre, Cowboys & Aliens) as Carla. I thought Amandia and Nick were a good choice for the roles; they appeared vulnerably real. The script was just okay and as the story unfolded I realized there was a lack of energy. This may have been caused by the combination of the script and direction. I have sat through other movies based on YA novels and there was more intensity or “oomph” to the characters. The energy which was never high did a continual slow descent to a place I found bizarre by the end of the film. Not only did I not care for the ending, there were several scenes that did not seem believable to me. I am afraid the title to this movie is misleading; it did not have all the elements one needs to make an engrossing movie watching experience. Maybe young adults (the majority of the audience at my viewing) would have something different to say about this picture.
IF a person wants to learn how to drive a car there is a set of rules and regulations that must be followed to get a license. These rules are needed otherwise there would be chaos on every street. I have noticed with the introduction of red light cameras (devices that take detailed photographs of cars that run stoplights and mail the driver a traffic ticket) there has been an increase in accidents. In the past if a driver drove up to an intersection and the light started to change from green to red, more times than not, they would continue on their way. Once the cameras became active I started seeing cars slamming on their brakes so they would not enter the intersection and get a ticket. However because of these quick sudden stops there was not enough lag time for the car behind to stop in time; so periodically I would see automobiles getting rear ended. Recently some of the intersections have had countdown timers installed next to the WALK/DO NOT WALK signs to help the drivers prepare for a complete stop. NOW before you think I am one to follow every rule by the letter, I have to tell you that is not always the case. I would not say I break rules, I prefer to say I modify them. At the grocery store I may go through the express checkout line with 1 or 2 more items than the posted limit. However I would never abuse it with a full shopping cart like I have seen other people do, pretending they did not know it was an express lane. Rules are needed in any industry from construction to agriculture. There are even rules when it comes to writing a story. I will say to interject the element of surprise one must have the breaking of a rule. In this science fiction horror thriller there were a few surprises in store for the crew and the viewer. ON a mission to populate a distant planet the crew of the colony ship Covenant were awaken early. A transmission was detected that surprised the crew members. This latest installment of the Alien franchise starred Michael Fassbender (Assassin’s Creed, The Light Between Oceans) as David/Walter, Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) as Daniels, Billy Crudup (Jackie, 20th Century Women) as Oram, Danny McBride (Your Highness, The Pineapple Express) as Tennessee and Demian Bichir (Lowriders, The Heat) as Lope. Visually this film caught my eye right away; I thought the sets were interesting. As for the actors Michael and Katherine were the standouts, especially Michael in his dual roles. My issue with this movie was the script. I do not think I am picky but there seemed to be a lack of believability. Not that I am a space explorer but common protocols regarding space travel were ignored in this story. In addition scenes were too predictable. It is safe to say we all know what happens when someone excuses themselves to go to the bathroom in a horror picture. Due to the script there was a lack of new things taking place for me. I found it odd; where the writers could have taken liberties was in the structure of the story line. Instead they chose to break the rules of reason in telling a story. Blood and violence was shown in multiple scenes.
2 ½ stars