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
THE PROBLEM WAS they looked alike even though they were different sexes. His mother had a reputation in the neighborhood of not being smart; though the adjectives used to describe her were unkind. People just assumed her son had the same low level of intelligence. Sadly it was a perception, it was not a fact. However this falsehood stayed with him all through school. If he had been a straight A student then the assumption would have quickly died, but he was more of an average grade pupil with grades that went from C to A. The interesting thing about this was he did not care or at least did not show any concern regarding what people thought of him. It turns out he was smart and used this incorrect assumption to his advantage. To make a long story short he became a shrewd business owner who became quite successful. ASSUMPTION BY ASSOCIATION is something people tend to do easily and in my opinion too often. To me I consider it along the same lines as profiling. I have mentioned before my feelings about individuals making rash judgments based on a person’s appearance. After recently being updated on the changes taking place within the labor laws, I know they say one cannot discriminate; however I have seen and been on the receiving end with the misconception that overweight individuals are lazy. Sadly I have heard people’s comments in a variety of settings that were derogatory based on a person’s race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. I know it is more prevalent than my experiences and I find it pathetic. The idea of someone making a judgment solely based on one’s looks is frankly horrifying. From my school years I have seen how these types of perceptions can scar a child for a long time, possibly their entire life. Imagine what the boy in this animated action adventure had to endure. ALL THE KIDS avoided Lloyd, voiced by Dave Franco (Now You See Me franchise, Neighbors franchise), because of his father Garmadon, voiced by Justin Theroux (The Girl on the Train, The Leftovers-TV). His father just wanted to rule the world. This 3rd film in the LEGO movie franchise started out in a fun way by having the first several minutes being live action with Jackie Chan (Shanghai Noon, Rush Hour franchise) as Mr. Liu and later voicing Master Wu. I liked Jackie in both roles. Including Fred Armisen (Easy A, Saturday Night Live-TV) voicing Cole, Michael Pena (The Martian, End of Watch) voicing Kai and Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick, Fist Fight) voicing Jay; the actors were fine with their characters. The script had several amusing scenes; however, there was little of the laugh out loud or surprise factor compared to the previous pictures. As for the animation it was just as good as before and I especially enjoyed the interjection of the live action character. In fact that was my favorite part. Overall I have to tell you my enthusiasm watching this film was lackluster; there was a sense of tiredness since it pretty much was the same stuff being done as before. I do not know if there is an actual cartoon character for Master Wu; the closest example I could think of was a takeoff on The Karate Kid or an old television show I think called Kung Fu. After playing with the same toy for an extended time one eventually will get tired of it; that is what I believe is going on here. There was one extra scene of outtakes in the middle of the credits.
2 ¼ 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
IF AN OBSTACLE stops you reaching for your dream, then maybe that dream was not meant to be. If you are willing to give up easily then I do not think your heart was really into it. Imagine if scientists/inventors had given up on their projects after the first defeat. Look at the microwave oven; it came about after a scientist was experimenting with a new vacuum tube and the candy bar in his pocket started to melt. The potato chip came about in the 1850s because a chef got angry at a customer always complaining about the potatoes being served. Figuring he would teach the customer a lesson the chef sliced the potatoes thinner, fried them then covered them in salt; that is how potato chips were born. Dreams are an essential part of us being human; I know if I stopped pursuing my dreams my life would have turned out drastically different. WHEN I FAILED the practical portion of the certification process to teach fitness I got depressed. In my head I was hearing all those old tapes that were telling me I was not good enough and I was stupid for trying to be something I was not. I even heard my elementary school teacher telling me I would amount to nothing. It is interesting because those comments made to me years ago became my fuel to push myself to work harder for my dreams. I have always had the hardest time when it came to me trying to be spontaneous, so I knew that practical portion was going to be a challenge; however, I did not give up. I forced myself to practice in front of a mirror first, then friends; afterwards, I signed up again for testing and passed. Sure I was nervous standing up in front of a group of strangers, but I knew I could do it and more importantly knew I wanted to do it. Having taught now for over 20 years I know it was worth fighting back to reach my dream based on the amount of pleasure and satisfaction my job gives me every day. This is why I was hoping the main character in this animated, adventure comedy would reach her dream. IF FELICIE, VOICED by Elle Fanning (The Beguiled, 20th Century Woman), could find a way out of the orphanage she knew she had to make her way to Paris, because it was there she could follow her dream to become a great dancer. Her friend Victor, voiced by Dane DeHaan (A Cure for Wellness, Kill Your Darlings), would find a way out. Having a fondness for dance and a dream once of being a go-go dancer, I was looking forward to seeing this movie. The idea to this story was admirable; I liked the way the writers showed one should never give up on a dream. With Carly Ray Jepsen (Grease-TV movie) voicing Odette, Kate McKinnon (Rough Night, Office Christmas Party) voicing multiple characters and Tamir Kapelian (A Broken Code) voicing Rudolph; the actors’ voices were well suited for their characters. The animation was okay, nothing really stood out as special however. My issue with this film was the odd assortment of song choices, along with the timeline confusion regarding certain events. I did not think there was much humor in the script; plus I found a thread of laziness in the entire production process. This story could have been more original instead of appearing to be a Cinderella knockoff. There was a good message in the story but the script did not dream big enough.
BELIEVING IN A cause can be the start to making a change.Throughout history I remember studying multiple examples where groups of people have an affect on what has been the norm in their world. This will sound trite; but outside of my studies, the first time where I saw the results from a diverse crowd of people coming together to affect change was when there was a write-in campaign to keep a television show from being cancelled. What surprised me was the crowd’s dedication in the way they kept up the pressure on the TV network with their letters, calls and peaceful demonstrations. From the little exposure I had to this event, what I was most impressed with was the variety of people from all walks of life. There was no color barriers, no age discrimination; in other words, there was no labels associated with anyone except for their love of this particular television show. THEY SAY THERE is strength in numbers but I have not always seen that to be the case. Sometimes a smaller group can still affect change with their actions. I wish I could say it always produces a positive change but sadly that is not the case. As the years have gone by there seems to be more opinions about any and everything. It is nothing today for someone to not only have an opinion but share it freely with anyone who will listen…or not listen. I believe everyone has the right to have an opinion. The hard part is respecting it when it runs counter to one’s own thoughts on the subject. Putting that aside, I have mentioned in the past I did volunteer work for several organizations around my hometown. What always impressed me was the devotion the employees had for their common cause. How they all were on point and dedicated to make a positive change was an incredible feeling to experience. If you want to see what can happen when a diverse group comes together for a common cause then this sequel is for you. WHEN THEIR SOURCE of food gets blown up it is up to Surly, voiced by Will Arnett (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, The Brothers Solomon), to find a new home for everyone. Unfortunately their new home was about to go through a radical change. This animated, adventure comedy also had Katherine Heigl (The Ugly Truth, Life as We Know It) as Andie, Maya Rudolph (Sisters, Friends with Kids) as Precious, Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man, Chef) as Frankie and Jackie Chan (Rush Hour franchise, The Spy Next Door) as Mr. Feng. The cast was matched perfectly with their characters, but I have to say the best character for me was the Jackie Chan one. Regarding the story, it continued right where the first film left off. I was not a fan of the original movie and I have to tell you I enjoyed this sequel even less. The action just kept being thrown to us in a fast crazy pace, not allowing time to develop a decent scene of humor. All I felt was the writers were just tossing out idea after idea without any filtering. Overall I was bored since there was nothing different or special in this picture. I could appreciate the movie studio believing they were producing a decent product and I respect their opinion. But I was sorry I paid full price for this film. On the plus side the credits were fun to watch and there was an extra scene at the end of them.
1 1/2 stars
THERE ARE individuals who tend to be the recipient of an “I told you so” more times than not. One could say they were blinded by love or naïve or lacked life experiences; but that is really not the case. They simply do not see or focus on negativity when it comes to other people. I guess you can say they take the individual on face value. They do not look at good or evil in a person; instead their attention goes toward the current moment, however it gets presented to them. Looking at the other side of this equation, there are other individuals who can look at a person and quickly get an accurate feel for them, getting a sense if they are good or evil. They can have a conversation with someone and cut through the words and figure out the person’s makeup. You could say it is a valuable skill. GOOD AND EVIL has been the topics to several of my past reviews. I believe everyone has both of them inside; what they do with good and evil is up to them. I am familiar with both types of individuals I mentioned earlier. Several of my friends fall into the seeing good category; they take what they are given without question. One of the hardest parts about this for me is when one of my friends is in a relationship with someone I can see has evil in them. I offer my opinion when I am asked for it unless there is something blatant they do that cannot be ignored. Trust me I do not get any pleasure out of telling a friend I do not think the person they are dating is telling the truth. There was one friend I had who was in love with this guy who seemed to have these incredible jobs where he would travel the world. I remember one time where he was talking about a place I was extremely familiar with and I caught him in a couple of lies. It was with a heavy heart I had to break the truth about this mooch not having such a job. For me evil can come in many forms as this action, adventure fantasy will show you. WITH THE WORLD being made up of good and evil, the dark tower was the only thing that kept the two forces separate. Walter O’Dim aka The Man in Black, played by Matthew McConaughey (Free State of Jones, Killer Joe), was determined to make the tower fall. Based on the Stephen King (The Shining, Carrie) book series this film also starred Idris Elba (Star Trek Beyond, Luther-TV) as Roland Deschain aka The Gunslinger, Tom Taylor (Doctor Foster-TV, Legends-TV) as Jake Chambers, Jackie Earle Haley (The Birth of a Nation, Watchmen) as Sayre and Katheryn Winnick (Love & Other Drugs, 50 First Dates) as Laurie Chambers. I found Idris to be an interesting choice for this film. He has the acting capability as well as the rest of the cast but for me the script did not offer any of them the opportunity to be memorable. For the most part I found the script cheesy and it stayed in the mid range level of emotions. The idea was intriguing but I felt this story needed more punch to it. Matthew who can play crazy intense again was not offered the chance to let loose. Also the special effects were dull. Having never read any of the books, I wondered how much evil Stephen King really had put into this world.
1 ¾ stars
INTENTLY drawing on their construction paper the students were following the teacher’s assignment to draw a picture of their favorite animal. Each child had their own box of crayons; some had the bigger sized containers with more colors. The teacher was walking around the classroom, checking up on each student’s artwork. She would offer words of encouragement or ask a question or two about the animal. Walking up from behind she looked over the shoulder of a boy who was carefully working on something the teacher could not figure out. There was nothing on the paper that resembled an animal. The teacher asked the student what he was drawing and he gladly explained the scene he created on his paper. What he had drawn was an elaborate jungle scene, using a variety of brightly colored crayons. Off to the side barely visible were 2 eyes staring out; the boy said it was a tiger. The teacher told him that was not the assignment. TECHNICALLY the assignment was to draw your favorite animal; the student did just that, except had the animal hidden in the jungle. One could say the boy was very creative and in fact, encourage the continued use of his imagination. However the teacher did not see it that way. She liked everyone to conform to the same thing. To look at something a different way was not something the teacher was comfortable with evidently. Assignments were supposed to be followed according to what the teacher believed was the “right” way; in other words, the way she thought things were supposed to be done. Someone with imagination would not easily conform to restrictions; they would as they say, “think outside of the box.” Personally I feel it is always an advantage to have people around who see things differently than you do. This animated, adventure comedy knows what I am talking about. EVERYONE living in Textopolis has one facial feature that they hope gets picked by the phone’s user. Considered an anomaly was Gene, voiced by T.J. Miller (Deadpool, Office Christmas Party), who had more than one facial feature. With a cast that included James Corden (Into the Woods, The History Boys) as Hi-5, Anna Faris (The House Bunny, Mom-TV) as Jailbreak, Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids, Sisters) as Smiler and Steven Wright (Reservoir Dogs, Son of the Mask) as Mel Meh; I thought the concept for the story was admirable regarding differences between people. From that idea to the big screen something got lost in translation because the script was bland and uninteresting. I could not get over how you make a film with colorful emojis and then do not offer them some excitement and fun. Overall there were no laughs or emotions to this picture. Not one child in the audience I was sitting with expressed any happiness towards a scene. At least the actors’ voices were fun to listen to, especially from James and Maya. Sadly out of all the emojis shown in the movie, the one that best describes my feelings about this film is “meh.” There was an extra scene in the middle of the credits.
1 ¾ stars
SIGNS were posted across the building and in the parking lot that the grocery store was back open after being remodeled. I had never paid attention to this place since they had very few name brand items on the shelves. The reason I was there now was due to my friends telling me I had to try the place because their prices were on the average much lower than other grocery stores. Once inside I took a shopping cart and started walking down the aisles. Most of the products on the shelves were in disarray which was a turnoff for me. I wound up mainly buying fruits, vegetables, nuts and juice. The prices were lower but I have to tell you I did not think their store brand items were that good compared to the name brand ones. In fact, I thought the sunflower seeds were awful. RECENTLY introduced into my neighborhood was a new grocery chain from out of state. Their store looked like a palace compared to that food store I tried earlier. Produce was stacked up in separate bins, each one brightened by the spotlights that were hanging down from the rafters. I was curious how they were able to get each apple polished and shiny. They had a bake shop in the store that had a wonderful aroma wafting around it. Loaves of different kinds of breads were loaded into a bank of glass cases. Out on the floor there were tables piled high with large assortments of baked goods. The prices were more than what I was used to so I was hesitant to buy many things; but since I am a bread and dessert lover I did splurge a bit in this area. After finally trying both new grocery stores I have not gone back to them. The first place with cheaper prices was more like a knockoff to my regular place; it had less variety and what they had did not taste as good as the usual stuff I purchase. As for the other store, it was beautiful but their prices were on the high end. I could say the same about this science fiction film; a bland imitation that looked expensive to make. SPECIES from all over the universe had finally found a way to live in harmony with each other. That was until a dark force invaded their shared homeland. Written and directed by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita), this action adventure movie starred Dane DeHaan (A Cure for Wellness, Lawless) as Major Valerian, Cara Delevingne (Paper Towns, Suicide Squad) as Sergeant Laureline, Clive Owen (Inside Man, King Arthur) as Commander Arun Filitt and Rihanna (Battleship, Bates Motel-TV) as Bubble. What made this film entertaining were the wild visuals; the word “trippy” came to mind. Some of the scenes and characters were quite imaginative. I am not familiar with the book this film was based on, but I was intrigued by the relationship between Valerian and Laureline; though she was more memorable than he. The idea for this story was sound but I thought the script was poorly done. I was amazed that I figured out immediately who was going to be the “bad” guy and how the story was going to end. Where the visuals were exciting, the acting and script were lackluster. There was little to get excited or thrilled by in this picture. It was a shame because it was obvious they spent a lot on the technical stuff but what got created was a light version of Star Trek mixed with Star Wars.
THERE were days where it felt he had a target painted on his back. What he originally thought were random acts of violence, where he happened to be the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time, he began to realize he was the main focus of the perpetrators’ aggression. Unfortunately bystanders around him would also fall victim to the violent acts. Being unexpectedly pushed from behind would cause him to fall into anyone standing in front of him, resulting in the chance they could topple and injure themselves. A liquid filled container thrown at him would also have an impact on anyone around him. He could never understand the hatred towards him. It was not like he started a fight or something; he pretty much fell into the average category, avoiding any type of conflicts or confrontations. His attitude was “live and let live” when it came to the behavior of others; however, there were days where it was a challenge to maintain that attitude. SEVERAL weeks of constant attacks pushed me to a place I had never been before. With my friends being affected from the fallout and me becoming consumed with a deep set hatred towards my aggressors, I lashed out at one of them when he was alone. It was the only time I instigated a fight. What worked in my favor was the fact no one would ever imagine me picking a fight. Adding in the element of surprise, I was set to let all of my anger out onto this one individual while I kept telling myself not to get hit in the face and start crying. My hope was if I could show this one person that I could fight back that he and the rest of his kind would stop picking on me. A similar train of thought was considered in this 3rd installment of the rebooted action adventure franchise. WHEN his enclave came under attack Caesar’s, played by Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings franchise, The Prestige), hopes of peaceful co-existence seemed an impossible reality. He would be forced to confront the ugliness of man head on. Compared to the two previous films I found this science fiction story incorporated elements of American slavery and the Bible; especially in regards to Moses and the 10 commandments, at least the movie version. With Woody Harrelson (The Edge of Seventeen, Now You See Me franchise) as the Colonel, Steve Zahn (Dallas Buyers Club, A Perfect Getaway) as Bad Ape, Karin Konoval (The Movie Out Here, 2012) as Maurice and Amiah Miller (Lights Out, How We Live-TV movie) as Nova; I realized some people might not appreciate the acting skills of some of the actors who were CGI enhanced; but I have to tell you, I thought Andy and Karin were amazing in their roles. Andy, besides all of the physical acting, was still able to convey emotions with depth to his character. I will be curious to see if he gets any recognition for the amount of work he put into this dramatic picture. The special effects were well done, never over the top and appearing quite real. What really tied all of the good pieces together in this movie was the script; I felt it was well thought out, going beyond the typical sci-fi story. It had heart which quickly grabbed me into the story. As I continued to think about this film afterwards I can see where it could start a discussion about a variety of topics including our current times.
3 ½ stars
THE bus pulled up just as I said goodbye to my friends. They were hanging out together after school, but I had to go to work. The bus ride took around 25 minutes which gave me some time to study for an exam I was having the next day. Is this what I wanted to do after school? No, I would have preferred hanging out with my friends; studying for the exam could take place after dinner. My part-time job was at a camera store. Luckily I worked in the warehouse so I would not have to be out in front selling or ringing up sales. It was already bad enough that I was one of the few who had a job; but to have to wait on my friends or their parents would make things worse. Truthfully the job was not bad at all; since I was already into photography, I enjoyed being around the different film and camera products. I also would hear about new items before the general public, which I thought was cool. MANAGING my time between school and work was a challenge. By the time my friends and I were seniors a majority of us had after school jobs. One of the perks for me was being able to drive the owner’s car to make special pickup orders or deliveries when the company van was out on the road. I was not comfortable driving the large van as I would have to maneuver several side streets on the route. As for the owner’s car, it was a luxury automobile with all the extra appointments; in other words, all the bells and whistles one could buy for it. Even though driving the car was a highlight, I still had the challenge of keeping my grades up while working. Going to school, work and be with my friends was always a give and take situation. There were times I would miss out doing fun stuff; but on the other hand, I always had money in my wallet. My challenges paled by comparison to the ones the main character in this action, adventure film had to endure. AFTER helping out the Avengers the only thing Peter Parker/Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland (The Impossible, The Lost City of Z), wanted to do was to become a full time crime fighter. However he first had to finish high school. This reboot of the science fiction franchise had a well rounded cast that gave the story a good kick of fun excitement. Starring Robert Downey Jr (Sherlock Holmes franchise, The Judge) as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Michael Keaton (The Founder, Spotlight) as Adrian Toomes/Vulture and Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler, The Lincoln Lawyer) as May Parker; each of them did a great job in their roles. I did wish Michael Keaton had more screen time. With his acting skills the writers could have made his character darker and more intense; I think this would have added more to the story. The thing I enjoyed about this film was having Peter struggle with his desire to be a superhero while trying to be a typical teenager. There were elements of wit and charm to many scenes due to Tony Stark’s presence and Peter’s puppy like eagerness. I felt the middle of the film slowed down with the story line about going out on a date; the intensity and action were weak. Though I found Tom’s whiny voice annoying at times, I felt he was the right choice to lead this reboot. There were extra scenes in the middle and at the end of the credits.
3 ¼ stars