IT JUST TAKES A LITTLE empty feeling inside for a person to start envying someone else’s good fortune. I have seen it happen many times where a person cannot only envy but resent another individual who appears happy and content. There is a friend of mine who has a relative that acts this way. This relative will offer backhanded compliments that others can see are fueled by jealousy and resentment. Another thing they do is try to copy whatever my friend does, either in hair style or clothing. If my friend is wearing a new outfit at a family function, the relative will seek out and buy something similar; however she take pleasure it telling everyone how much it cost. In other words she wants everyone to know her outfit is more expensive and better quality. It is such a weird game to me, like anyone would care about which one was better or more expensive. The thing I find icky is when my friend tells me this relative showed up at a family dinner with her hair styled in the same manner as my friend’s style; based on what I have heard there is no way I would say she is paying a compliment to my friend. WISHING FOR SOMETHING HAS A different feeling for me than dreaming about it. When I wish for something it usually is a tangible thing like wishing for warmer weather or a winning lottery ticket. I have spent the majority of my life dreaming about a life I hoped I could attain one day. Dreams to me seem to be more goals oriented than wishes. Maybe what I am trying to say is dreams have more of a life altering affect. There is a difference when one says they wish they had a boyfriend compared to dreaming about being with a boyfriend. I hope this is an example; there are two sisters who do not get along well with each other. One sister got married early and started a family; the other one married later in life and did not have any children. As the two sisters grew older the one without children started to resent her sister. Where the one with kids took family trips, attended a variety of school functions and was married to a man who was climbing up in position at his company; the other sister wanted the same things. She was only looking at the things she wanted but never indicated growing up that she wanted that type of life. It reminds me of that old saying about the grass being greener on the other side, which could apply to this mystery film also. ON A RECOMMENDATION ADAM, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals, End of Watch), rented a movie that had in the cast an actor who looked exactly like him. Both stunned and curious Adam began to do research on the actor to see if he could meet him and see what type of life he was leading. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario) the cast also included Melanie Laurent (Beginners, Now You See Me) as Mary and Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) as Helen. This film festival winning dramatic thriller was fueled by the wonderful performance by Jake. The story kept my interest for the most part, though it had a certain oddness to it. There were a couple of times I had to sit and wonder if I was missing something in the story because it seemed as if the script was getting more cerebral. I think watching this DVD could lead to some discussion afterward in a variety of directions. The main thing I took away from this picture was the belief Adam was a wisher.
2 ½ stars – DVD
PEOPLE REFER TO THEM AS their posse, entourage, gal pals, buddies or a variety of other descriptions. I describe them as my circle of friends or inner circle. These are your group of friends you are close with, who you hang out with the most. There is a small group of friends I have a standing date with where we all get together once every three months. We might get together individually or for some special event between the dates, but we at least know we are guaranteed of seeing each other at a set point in time. However you refer to your friends we all experience something in common and that is what I refer to as an easy comfort. When I am with my group of friends we rarely have to explain our actions or feelings about something because all of us know immediately how each one of us would react in a situation. I find this communication shorthand, if you will, keeps the special bond we feel between us on even keel. THE SAME CAN BE SAID about your coworkers who share that same connection you do with them. In fact I recently read a statistic that was surprising for me: 56% of employees say they would turn down a better job offer because they did not want to leave their “work family.” Don’t you find that statistic interesting? I know for some of us we spend more time with our “work family” than our actual one. Now one thing I have noticed in common between the “work family” and your group of friends is how it doesn’t work the same when someone is not there. The analogy I use is that it feels like a three legged stool with a leg missing. There is a certain type of energy a close group of friends or coworkers feel among themselves that assists in keeping the bonds between everyone strong. When one person is missing it can throw the rest of the group off. If you need to see proof, feel free to see the last of this film’s franchise. IF THOMAS, PLAYED BY Dylan O’Brien (Deepwater Horizon, Teen Wolf), and his friends wanted to get back their friend Minho, played by Ki Hong Lee (Wish Upon, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt-TV), they would have to enter into one of the most dangerous mazes they have ever encountered. Chances were they still might not all get back together. This action, science fiction thriller also starred Kaya Scodelario (Now is Good, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) as Teresa, Thomas Brodie Sangster (Love Actually, Nanny McPhee) as Newt and Aidan Gillen (The Lovers, Game of Thrones-TV) as Janson. Having seen the 2 previous installments I found this one was packed with a lot of action scenes. On the one hand I appreciated the fact the movie studio did not decide to split this story into 2 separate films, but this movie still was overstuffed in my opinion. It needed some editing to reduce the 2 hour and 20 minute running time. Another issue I had was the action scenes; after the intense first one, the others did not quite match in intensity. However the story did its part to keep me interested for the most part, though when there were “gun battles” I was amazed how the “bad” guys were incredibly bad shots. After watching this picture it occurred to me I did not feel I was part of the characters’ inner circle; I was more of an acquaintance.
2 ½ stars
IT IS BEST TO TREAD carefully when you have interactions with a person who has a blurred line between their personal and business life. I am not saying such an individual is a “bad” person; but I have found they tend to react and think differently in social settings and relationships. There are some people whose job becomes their life; the role they play at work continues after hours. At a party I attended there was an individual who was employed in a managerial position. This person was used to having the final say; in other words, they always got their way. If you tried to have a discussion with them they pretended to listen to you, nodding their head up and down at certain points while you talked, but they would quickly make up their mind before you even finished stating your point. Granted this was only one example but I have been a witness to many other similar situations and yet I do not think all managers act this way. It is a particular behavior that I have noticed more than once. DO YOU THINK IT IS safe to say a person who is a control freak or hungry for power would easily change by deferring to another individual? I do not see it happening or at least not easily. Even in a love relationship relinquishing control takes a lot of effort for some people. I admit I am a person who likes to be in control; if for no other reason I have no one to blame for anything that may go wrong. I kid my friends that I wish everyone would follow my rules because it would make life so much easier to navigate. Realistically I know this cannot happen; however, I have been around some individuals who almost desperately try to exert their will on other people. It makes for an uncomfortable situation. These individuals I have noticed tend to compartmentalize all aspects of their daily life, more so at their place of employment. This only feeds into their control issues. And if you want to see an example of this, feel free to view this action crime drama. ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL group of bank robbers has set their sights on something bigger. Their actions are really getting to Officer Nick Flanagan, played by Gerard Butler (Geostorm, Olympus Has Fallen franchise) and his special unit within the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department. With Jordan Bridges (Mona Lisa Smile, Frequency) as “Lobbin Bob” Golightly, Pablo Schreiber (13 Hours, Vicky Cristina Barcelona) as Merrimen, Evan Jones (The Book of Eli, 8 Mile) as Bosco and O’Shea Jackson Jr (Straight Outta Compton, Ingrid Goes West) as Donnie; this movie had some intense moments throughout the story. The director kept the script going with a decent amount of tension throughout. Gerard was good with his character though it did appear to be similar to some of his other roles. I was trying to figure out why I enjoyed this film more than I expected since the story appeared to be your typical bank heist, good guys vs. bad guys type of story and what dawned on me was the audacity of the crimes. With the steady tension and intense characters this picture kept my interest, though the 2 hour and 20 minute running time was not necessary. There will be a chance some viewers will have a problem with the story’s ending. In a test for control I would lose to either group in this movie.
2 ½ stars
ONLY FOR A MOMENT did I catch a glimpse of a shadow against the wall before it retreated. I quickly changed directions and walked away from the alleyway. Purposely I tried keeping my footsteps quiet by taking little steps with the soles of my shoes rolling from heel to toe against the pavement. It did not help as I heard a rustling sound behind me. Darting into a gangway between two apartment buildings, I saw each of them had wrought iron fire escapes that mirrored each other. They looked like origami figurines with a limb reaching out to grab me. Walking up to one of the fire escapes I grabbed a hold of the bottom rung of a ladder that easily gave way for me to pull it far down enough for me to hoist myself onto it. Quickly I made my way up to the first floor and cowered against the building in a crevice of a black area the nearby street lamp could not reach. The dark shadow I had seen lengthened down the alley towards my location. A looming figure attached to the shadow came into view… WHAT YOU JUST READ was something out of my imagination. I apologize if you wanted to find out what happened next, but that scenario never took place. However I will tell you as I was writing it I was looking at it as if it really did take place. You see whenever I write a piece of fiction I see everything in my mind first and then it appears before my eyes. My own version of virtual reality I guess you can call it. In fact I have been accused of not paying attention in class or when someone is speaking directly to me because I do not maintain constant eye contact; I actually am listening to them and picturing what they are telling me. When I think about it I have always had this capability, even before I found my fondness for writing; all that was needed was an imagination. Being a visual learner I certainly can attest to the benefits of visualization. What a surprise it was to see Charles Dickens did the same thing in this comedic drama. DISAPPOINTED WITH HIS RECENT works Charles Dickens, played by Dan Stevens (Beauty and the Beast, Downton Abbey-TV), was desperate to overcome his writer’s block and produce a successful story for the holidays. All he needed to do was look at the people around him. This film festival winning movie based on a true story also starred Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music, A Beautiful Mind) as Ebenezer Scrooge, Jonathan Pryce (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Game of Thrones-TV) as John Dickens, Simon Callow (Amadeus, Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Leech and Miriam Gargoyles (The Age of Innocence, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) as Mrs. Fisk. The idea for this story was a new twist on the Christmas Carol story. I enjoyed watching the process Charles Dickens went through to create his iconic story. The acting was a mixed bag for me; I thought Christopher Plummer far outshined Dan in this biographical film. At times I thought the humor was a bit much, inching the Charles Dickens character closer to buffoonery. I may have felt this way because Dan was not totally believable to me. I would have preferred added focus on creating more drama in the script. Despite these issues there still was a certain charm to this picture and fans of Charles Dickens or at least his novel “A Christmas Carol” will get a kick out of the imagination used to bring the novel’s characters to life.
2 ½ stars
AS A YOUNG ADULT they did not have a typical body shape for their gender. To say they were stout would be a bit of a stretch; let us say they filled out their shape. Their size may have fooled people but make no mistake they were strong; I saw the way they could throw a ball and it was impressive. There was another person I knew who was not the most popular of kids; not the upper echelon status of cheerleaders and football players, but the tier just below it. Good looking in a funky sort of way, they were extremely smart. You would always want them on your team whenever there were debates or science projects. They had a wonderful command of the English language, yet they never used it in a show off type of way. I PURPOSELY DID NOT reveal the sex of the individuals I was talking about. How many of you thought I was talking about boys? How many thought it was girls? Those of you who thought it was girls would be right. You see from a very young age I saw examples where both boys and girls were capable of doing the same thing. Whether it was being super smart or athletic or talented, both sexes were equal in my mind. The idea of one being a “weaker” sex made no sense to me. In my adult life I have had both female and male military people in my classes; they shared that same discipline vibe and were equally capable of lasting the entire class time, no matter how intense were the exercise levels in the class. I have a hard time relating to individuals who see the sexes as not being equal. For example someone who makes a wisecrack about a stay at home Dad needs to be schooled in parenting in my opinion. In light of the recent events of sexual harassment and the #MeToo campaign, I thought this dramatic movie based on a true story might be an enlightening experience. UP UNTIL THE 1940S all comic book heroes were male. Harvard psychologist and inventor William Moulton Marston, played by Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast, Dracula Untold), envisioned something different because of what he saw in his marriage. With Rebecca Hall (The Town, The Gift) as Elizabeth Marston, Bella Heathcote (The Neon Demon, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Olive Byrne, Connie Britton (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Nashville-TV) as Josette Frank and Oliver Platt (Love & Other Drugs, The Ticket) as M.C. Gaines; the acting in this film was beautiful to watch, especially from Rebecca and Bella. The story was totally new to me since I was a Batman comic book fan and I have to tell you this story was fascinating on many levels. There were 2 main story lines: the debut of Wonder Woman on the public consciousness and the home life of its author. For me there seemed to be too much being crammed into the script, where I felt I was being cheated out of learning more about specific events or time frames. Somewhere during the picture I started to get bored or more to the point, wished it had delved further into the characters’ development. If nothing else I truly appreciated learning the history behind the Wonder Woman character and how she added something new to society’s beliefs. I only wished this movie would have been just as strong as its comic book hero.
2 ½ stars
WAKING UP FROM A deep sleep I immediately knew something was not right. It was still dark outside so the house remained richly seeped in muted shades of black and gray. My eyes were trying to adjust to the lack of light but my ears had already detected an unfamiliar sound. Lying perfectly still my brain was trying to decipher this foreign sound; a sound that I realized could be associated with some form of movement. There was a slight delay between my mental state and my physical body, but a surge of fear flooded across me when I realized there was someone in the house. Paralyzed with fear I could not move for all of my energy was diverted to my mind, as a stream of options for my next course of action popped up into my brain. The sound was coming closer to me. I wanted to scream something out but only dead air wafted out of my mouth, my vocal cords were frozen in fear. THE LAST THING I remembered was seeing a shadow growing up on my bedroom wall before I would wake up, panting for oxygen. This reoccurring dream happened to me several times over the course of a year. Having done some studies in the field of psychology, I was slightly familiar with interpreting dreams. What threw me off though was the intensity of this dream. Every time I woke up from it my body was in crisis mode, with my heart pounding and my breathing rapidly taxing my lungs. I would even hear my heart pounding in my ears. When I woke up it always took me several minutes to calm down because the dream felt so real. I literally would remain still in bed trying to make out any unusual sounds in the house. Once my breathing slowed down I would try to figure out the meaning behind this dream or more appropriate, nightmare. At least I never dreamt long enough to experience my own death; unlike the poor, unfortunate college student in this horror mystery. EVERY DAY STARTED THE same for Tree Gelbman, played by Jessica Rothe (La La Land, Summertime). She would wake up from a dream that ended with her murder and have to start the same day all over again, knowing that later she was going to be killed. She could not understand why someone wanted her dead. This thriller’s cast also included Israel Broussard (The Bling Ring, Flipped) as Carter Davis, Ruby Modine (Memoria, Shameless-TV) as Lori Spengler, Charles Aitken (The Girl on the Train, The Knick-TV) as Gregory Butler and Laura Clifton (The Alamo, The New Guy) as Stephanie Butler. For the most part the actors were adequate in their roles; nobody stood out for me except Jessica. I not only enjoyed her performance but liked the development of her character. Basically this story was a cross between the movies Groundhog Day and Scream. What made this film more palatable was its campy, tongue in cheek script. It didn’t take itself too seriously and had a few scenes that generated laughter out of me and the theater goers around me. There were no big surprises in this picture; sorority students were stereotypically portrayed and the dorm residents were either wholesome or nerdy. I did appreciate the absence of blood and gore from the scenes. This was light fare that at least for me did not produce any nightmares.
2 ½ stars
THE MUTUAL FEAR OR MAYBE it was dread in both of our eyes bonded us together. We were both in the same class to be certified in a new fitness format. Not being a spontaneous type of person, as soon as I heard we would have to pair up to create a workout sequence incorporating the new techniques we were learning, I panicked at the idea of standing up in front of the class and free styling a new workout routine. The woman next to me must have been going through the same thing; because up until that point, we only said a courtesy hello to each other before sitting down in our spots. When the actual time came to pair up I was not sure she wanted to team with me since my experiences in fitness were different compared to hers. Since the people on either side of us turned the other way to find a partner we formed our team, sadly based on dread. WE WERE GIVEN 10-15 minutes to come up with a complete warm-up set to lead the class. I was never good with public speaking in college, though I quickly adjusted to it through my fitness classes. But after all the planning and rehearsing I put in to my own fitness routines I was confident enough to the point I did not hesitate expressing myself to the members. Here I was sitting with this stranger, figuring out what muscle group to utilize first as the goal was to increase the participant’s core temperature. I listened to her suggestions. In my heart I knew some of her routines would not qualify as a warm-up. Trying to gently steer her away from her plan, I made a few suggestions. She nodded her head as I spoke but insisted for the time allotted to us her plan would work best. I was not going to argue about it and relinquished to her choice of muscle workouts. When it was our turn we both went to the head of the class and started the music. Not more than 60 seconds went by when I realized I should have fought for my suggestions. The look on the instructor’s face, along with the participants in the classroom, told me we would not score high in this portion of the practical. Thank heavens this was not a life or death situation like the horrific one I saw in this action, adventure drama. AFTER THEIR PLANE CRASHED in a remote mountain area, two strangers would have to trust and depend on each other if they wanted to survive. Starring Idris Elba (The Dark Tower, Pacific Rim) as Ben Bass, Kate Winslet (Finding Neverland, Collateral Beauty) as Alex Martin, Beau Bridges (The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Descendants) as Walter and Dermot Mulroney (The Grey, My Best Friend’s Wedding) as Mark; there were several incredible thrilling scenes that were accentuated with the great chemistry between Idris and Kate. Overall I did not mind sitting through this picture even though it was predictable and a bit farfetched. What really stood out was the short time the writers went from an adventure film to a romantic one; it seemed forced to me and needed more time to grow organically in my opinion. I think because this was one of the only movies I saw after my ordeal in the hospital, it was escapism for me. Other viewers may not feel they are as in synch with the story as much as I found myself to be.
2 ½ stars
WALKING OUT FROM the station he was greeted by a sea of shirts all in the same color. Every single person was wearing an article of clothing close in the same shade. There were so many people that they filled the space from one side to the other; it indeed looked like there was a slow current of fluid moving away from him, reflecting a settling crimson sun on its surface. He had heard about this special event and looked up the details before committing funds and time to attend the occasion. Though he grew up in the city; the majority of his life was spent in the neighborhood he grew up in. He felt somewhat out of place to his peers because he did not have any reference points to show him he was actually okay. Making his way into the crowd of people before him, he soon discovered the feelings he had about his childhood were similar to the experiences from many of those around him. DON’T YOU FIND it interesting when you grow up feeling the experiences you had were unique to you, only to find out someone from far away had the same type of experiences? I get a kick when I meet someone from another country, in a completely different environment, who has similar feelings about common things that have happened to each of us. It shows me the borders we use to define ourselves are more transparent than we may realize. When you move away from home and set out on your own, you can discover how certain truths instilled in you have a wider definition than you believed. For example in a recent conversation I had with a friend, they shared an experience they had growing up that was so close to one I had that you would have thought the same people were involved in the incident. I was totally surprised by it in the same way the members of the Kingsman were in this action, adventure comedy. AFTER THE DESTRUCTION of their home Eggsy and Merlin, played by Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Legend) and Mark Strong (The Imitation Game, Miss Sloane), discovered their organization was not the only unique one of a kind place to work at; there was something similar halfway around the world. With Julianne Moore (Still Alice, Carrie) as Poppy, Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, Love Actually) as Harry Hart, Channing Tatum (White House Down, Magic Mike franchise) as Tequila and Halle Berry (Kidnap, X-Men franchise) as Ginger; the cast was fun to watch in this 2nd installment. I enjoyed the first one so had high hopes for this film; however, I found the script was weak and filled with strong language that was being used for cheap laughs. Maybe if I had not seen the previous movie I would have enjoyed this more, but I felt the freshness and wicked fun of the first picture was not captured in this story. There were big action scenes and crazy high tech weapons/accessories, but the whole picture felt a bit forced to me with obvious shtick. As I mentioned earlier the actors were a good choice for the roles they had; I wanted to see more depth in them. If the writers were trying to make something that would stand out and be different from other films of this type; in my opinion, they created a typical action picture.
2 ½ stars
IT LOOKED LIKE it was not being affected by gravity when I first saw it. Walking into the small building one would not even expect to see such a feat of masterly craftsmanship. Off to the side of a larger sized room, rising up from the floor, was a spiral staircase. It was like none I had ever seen before because there was no center pole for the stairs to connect to on their way up. The design of it reminded me of one of those spiral DNA or some such diagrams in a science book. I could not imagine this spiral staircase could withstand the weight of an average person, it looked too delicate. Curious to learn how this beautiful staircase wound up in this place, I pulled out one of the information booklets I took at the front door. After the building was almost completed, the builders realized there was no room for a traditional staircase. After spending days fretting over their dilemma, a stranger appeared at the building site and offered to solve their problem. THERE WAS MORE to this documented story; the history about this building and its spiral staircase was a captivating read for me. I am always interested in learning about the history to a place I am visiting or a person I am meeting. It is said there is much to learn from looking back at history and I agree with that statement. A perfect example would be the time I was listening to a friend sound off on their poor record on dating. Listening to their reasons why a relationship never went beyond a certain time frame, I noticed a pattern forming with each person they talked about. After listening to them go on about their different romances, I shared my observations about the common connections I saw between each individual. After explaining my feelings on what I heard about each relationship we had a deep discussion about the pattern my friend was following unconsciously. If I had not heard the history of those past relationships we may not have found a way to avoid the same dating results. So you see paying attention to history can be an enlightening experience as you will see in this horror thriller. LUCKY FOR THE orphans Esther and Samuel Mullins, played by Miranda Otto (The Lord of the Rings franchise, What Lies Beneath) and Anthony LaPaglia (Empire Records, The Client), decided to open their house up to board the young girls when their orphanage closed. Little did the girls know they were not the only boarders. This latest installment to the The Conjuring franchise starred Stephanie Sigman (Pioneer, Spectre) as Sister Charlotte, Tabitha Bateman (The 5th Wave, The Hive) as Janice and Lulu Wilson (Deliver Us from Evil, Ouija: Origin of Evil) as Linda. The idea to this story was well thought out as the movie set the right tone from the start. Though there were a couple of scenes with blood, this mystery film relied more on atmosphere and mood instead of violence which I appreciated. There were some tense scenes; however, I felt the movie never went far enough. Maybe because the first movie in this series had the intensity and thrills in the right mix, this one was somewhat of a letdown. What kept my interest was the history about the doll that has been featured in each film. If you enjoyed the previous pictures then this one will provide you the insight you have been looking for. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
2 1/2 stars
THERE are some hugs that linger just a little too long that are loaded with hidden meaning. In one of the more uncomfortable positions I have experienced in my fitness career, there was a member who tried to cross the line with me from casual to personal. She was an enthusiastic participate in my classes, since she started seeing the changes her body was making both muscularly and aerobically. After class she would hang behind to talk to me as I was gathering my gear together. Honestly, there were no red flags I could detect since her behavior was no different than many of the other members. The fitness center was offering a 10 week class on massages which I mentioned in my beginning announcements. Someone asked in class if I was planning to attend and I said yes. At the first class this member was there and worked her way to be next to me so she could be my training partner. Long story short, after a few classes where we started working on each other she followed me out afterwards one time and wrapped her arms around me. She said she was glad we were training partners and with her arms still around me she looked up and I could tell she was coming in for a kiss. I put a stop to it. EVER since that time I have always been keenly aware of any shift in members’ actions that come close to crossing that professional line. Away from the fitness center I have been an observer to a variety of situations that have involved my friends and family. You have heard the phrase, “I’ve got your back” haven’t you? In my circle of friends we each feel comfortable having another set of eyes on us to see things from a different angle. There have been times where a friend cannot tell if a person they have only recently started dating is really interested or not. Or maybe one of us points out the person they think is a friend really wants something more. There have been incidents where something innocent looking really has a different meaning or I will say intention. If you have time for a story then this romantic comedy will show you what I mean. THINKING a goodnight kiss was an appropriate ending for their time together Gabriel, played by Michael Cohen (It Begins with the End, Them), was willing to listen to Emile’s, played by Julie Gayet (My Best Friend, Chaos and Desire), story about what happens when a kiss is given. With Virginia Ledoyen (The Beach; Farewell, My Queen) as Judith, Emmanuel Mouret (The Art of Love, Change of Address) as Nicolas and Stefano Accorsi (Saturn in Opposition, The Son’s Room) as Claudio; the script had a story within a story. It was easy to follow and I enjoyed how both stories had this give and take feeling as if they were in synch. The thing that attracted me the most was the concepts and thoughts the script evoked in me. One could easily have a discussion afterwards on their feelings about what they saw in this DVD. I will say there were a couple of scenes that seemed forced, ringing false for me. In addition I was able to figure out the ending which is something I do not do that often. This was a simple, easy movie to view that had some depth to it. French was spoken with English subtitles.
2 ½ stars — DVD