THE last time a new updated version of an electronic device came out I happened to be at the shopping mall. A long line of people snaked halfway across the mall, waiting for the store to open. During my college years I remember standing in line for hours to buy tickets for a rock concert, but waiting in line for an extended amount of time just to buy a cell phone or computer device seemed odd to me. Being the curious type I walked up to a few of the waiting people at various places in line to ask them why they were there. After they would tell me I asked them if this was a 1st time purchase of the device or were they upgrading to the latest version. Only one person was there to buy their first phone; everybody else just wanted the newest device. As a sidenote every person I asked had their phone out and it appeared to me they were in perfect working condition. On one hand I can understand if someone wants the latest device but on the other, the devices are not cheap and really how much would the new items change the owner’s life. THERE is one other aspect I have noticed that motivates people to buy the latest things. I believe there is a fear the person will appear old or out of touch by other individuals. I see it in myself, not that I run my life based on what other people think of me. Every time I go to the bank the teller asks me to slide my ATM/debit card in the card reader right after they say hello. I used to say I do not have one but got tired of saying each time; so now, I simply hand them my driver’s license. More times than not the teller will look up at me and say, “You don’t have an ATM card?” The looks I get from the various tellers borders on disdain or incredulousness. You would think I had committed some horrible transgression. Just because I do not have an ATM card doesn’t mean I am an old fogey; I choose to only get things that add value to my way of living. Not having an ATM card makes me feel safer that my account will not get hacked. Some things still have worth even if they have a new replacement and this message comes across in a strong way in this animated adventure comedy. LIGHTNING McQueen, voiced by Owen Wilson (No Escape She’s Funny That Way), was on top of the world until he was beaten by a younger race car. Though others counted him out he still believed he had something to offer. This latest sequel in the franchise also starred Cristela Alonzo (Cristela-TV, Hey It’s Fluffy-TV) as Cruz Ramirez and Chris Cooper (Demoltion, Adaptation) as Smokey. I thought the animation was outstanding; there were some outdoor scenes that made me wonder if the backgrounds were real and only the cars were drawn in. The script had value especially due to a couple of the story lines. However there was a long lull I experienced as the car races seemed too long. I actually enjoyed the beginning and end parts to this film. Part of the reason could be attributed to the limited audience the writers were writing to; there was little comedy and what there was would only be appreciated by a younger crowd. With a little more detailing and tweaking this would have been a more exciting movie. There was an extra scene at the end of the film.
2 1/2 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
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.
FIRST thing we would do is look for a thick stick or broken tree branch. If none could be found then we would head down the alley to see if there was anything lying around that had been discarded by the neighbors. Once something was found the next step was to look for a place to impale the object; a mound of dirt, a pile of leaves, or a large snowdrift would do. As soon as the stick or piece of wood was stuck into the ground it became our sword, a special one. If it was during winter we would break up into 2 teams and battle each other with snowballs as each of us tried to get to the sword and pull it out as the rightful owner who would be king. All of us were familiar with the story about King Arthur and his knights of the round table. Also I think each of us at some point had seen the movie, “The Sword in the Stone.” I saw it 3 times; hoping a bit of Merlin’s magic would rub off on me. AFTER all these years there are certain story lines that remain embedded in my brain. I may not remember every detail but certainly have a good idea of what took place. I find it fascinating that fairy tales read or seen as a kid remain more vivid in my memory than where I parked my car in the parking lot on a recent trip to the grocery store. There is something about these childhood fantasies that always stay strong in us. I wonder if part of the reason is due to the morals of the story, especially in the animated versions. A kiss that wakes up one’s true love or the physical ramifications of lying to someone; until this very moment I never consciously realized these stories were teaching me a lesson. Maybe because of these memories I have about King Arthur caused me to now be confused by what I was seeing in this dramatic, action adventure film. UNTIL King Vortigern, played by Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes franchise, The Talented Mr. Ripley), forced every male to make an attempt to pull the recently discovered sword from out of its stone; Arthur, played by Charlie Hunnam (The Lost City of Z, Crimson Peak), had no idea about his heritage when he became the only successful male to remove the special sword. Written and directed by Guy Ritchie (Snatch, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), this movie also starred Astrid Berges-Frisbey (The Sea Wall, I Origins) as the Mage, Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, Gladiator) as Bedivere and Eric Bana (Troy, The Time Traveler’s Wife) as Uther. The story hardly represented the one I had known as a child. Normally that would be okay; however, the script was so loose and disconnected that I sat through most of this picture puzzled by what I was watching. There were some scenes that worked for me, where I enjoyed the CGI effects like the eagle and massive elephants. But then other scenes literally looked like video game clips which were lost on me because I did not care for the quick cut and paste editing. I also dislike modern language in a period piece. For the amount of money the studio spent, all I can say is Jude plays a good evil person and Charlie has a definite presence that lights up the movie screen. They should have kept the sword locked in the stone and forget this story; what a mess.
1 2/3 stars
THE man’s wavy untamed hair in the photograph was the closest looking to his own. No one else in the photo album had hair similar to this man, so there was a good chance that man in the photo could be his father. The young boy would pull out his mother’s photo album anytime he was feeling sorry for himself. Sitting on the sofa with the album in his lap he would stare at this one particular photograph of the man with the wavy hair and wonder what the man was like. The little boy would get lost inside his imagination, placing himself next to his possible father in a variety of scenarios. They would be at the amusement park; sitting side by side in a roller coaster that was about to climb up a steep embankment, their hands tightly clenching their shouldstraps with their legs pressed up against each other. For several years the young boy believed his real father was out there somewhere. SOME people were born into a family while others created their own. A basic definition of family is a group of people related to one another. It could be by blood or there may be something else in common. I have a friend who has a family by birth. Though she continues to try over and over, her and her family have different expectations or maybe it is just different feelings of what makes a family. She has been disappointed more times than not with her so-called family. The only time they do something as a family is if it is convenient for her siblings; they have never gone out of their way for her. So the windup is my friend has started to create her own supportive family among her friends. This action science fiction film will show you what my friend did in her life. SETTLING into their roles as the Guardians of the Galaxy, the group of friends encounter strong forces that will test the bonds they have recently formed with each other. This adventure sequel starred Chris Pratt (Jurassic World, Passengers) as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana (Star Trek franchise, Nina) as Gamora, Dave Bautista (The Man with the Iron Fists, Spectre) as Drax and Michael Rooker (The Bone Collector, Jumper) as Yondu. Right from the start this picture grabs you with its special effects and action packed scenes. And just like the original movie, this one also had a great soundtrack. I thought the script was intriguing with its strong theme of family. Not wanting to get too deep with this theme the writers did not forget to include the same type of humor that was used in the last film. Now this brings me to my issue with this movie; it unfortunately was not the first one because since we are familiar with the new franchise, this installment did not have the same fresh quirkiness because I had seen it before. I do not consider this a major complaint; I still laughed and enjoyed the action. If you are not a fan of science fiction I am not sure you would get totally into this picture, but I am sure you would not be able to stop your feet from tapping along to the music. There were three extra scenes during the credits and one more brief scene at the end of the credits.
PEOPLE were lined up since 4 am. The line snaked around the museum’s front lawn. Some individuals had camping gear with them, which led me to believe they had been there since the day before. Everyone in line was upbeat and excited about the new exhibit that had opened at the history museum. From ancient Egypt the advertisements for this show stated the artifacts were nothing like anything on display before; they were in pristine condition, only discovered recently from a king’s tomb. The local newspapers showed photos of the long lines which is why we decided to get to the museum so early; at least we thought it was an early time, but there were a lot of people who thought the same thing. We finally entered the exhibit at 11 am and our agonizing wait quickly faded from our minds because the artifacts were all glowing in their temperature controlled glass cases. The craftsmanship was incredible, with such fine details; you would have thought they were recent copies loaned from the souvenir shop. THOUGH that exhibit was a long time ago, I still can see many of those objects clearly in my mind. It is fascinating to me how a society from centuries ago can create such incredible objects. Some people may consider ancient civilizations primitive; but I feel one has to take into consideration what was available at the time. These days we have 3D printers making things for us, but back then what did they have, a chisel and hammer? There have been times where I noticed an underlying prejudice of a person or group solely based on their ethnicity from someone who believes they are enlightened. They do not overtly show it but you can see or hear it in the way they communicate; there is a disdain or dismissive quality to their tone. If I am not making much sense then please watch this lush film based on a true story to see what I mean. DISCOVERING what he believed to be proof of an unknown ancient society deep in the Amazon Percy Fawcett, played by Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim, Sons of Anarchy-TV), set out to convince the naysayers back home in England. This film festival winner also starred a nearly unrecognizable Robert Pattinson (Water for Elephants, The Twilight Saga franchise) as Henry Costin, Sienna Miller (Burnt, Foxcatcher) as Nina Fawcett and Tom Holland (Locke, The Impossible) as Jack Fawcett. Set in the 1920s this movie had richness similar to director Werner Herzog’s (Fitzcarraldo; Aguirre, the Wrath of God) movies. The story unfolded in a quiet deliberate pace, almost to the point of boredom early on; however, the more the actors moved deeper into the story the more interesting it became. I thought Charlie and Robert stood out in their roles. On one level I sat in my seat in a bewildered state trying to understand how Percy could undertake such a challenging task. It felt like I was being propelled back in time; the directing and cinematography lent itself to this feeling. Another aspect I admired was the sense of respect presented in the script; something that I feel is lacking in these present times. This was like watching one of those old fashioned flicks, letting the setting contribute to the narrative. Though I felt this picture could have used a touch more editing, I walked away with a new respect for the men and women who sacrificed to bring to light the accomplishments of mankind.
AT some point in time I am sure many of us have felt alone, as if we were the only one. I feel it is a valid point; however, my question is what does a person do about it? That feeling of being out of synch from those around you can really do a number on you mentally. Imagine if the co-workers around you all share a fondness for a particular activity which you are not interested in; you could be left out of their conversations or out of office activities. One scenario I have seen numerous times is when one’s circle of friends goes from being single to being a part of a couple. As friends begin to couple up it is understandable there is some adjustment and before you say, “no there is not,” let me say there are a variety of reasons couples may prefer doing things with other couples. I am willing to bet if you were in a relationship that later dissolved, you would have felt alone as your coupled friends came to your support. A particularly difficult time for me took place during my freshmen year of college. I had gone to an out of state university that no one else from my high school was planning on attending. Alone in a foreign city was tough for me, especially because I was the only freshman on my floor; the other residents were all graduate students. It was not until one of my classes held a panel discussion with outside guests that I first felt a connection to some similarly minded students. It was as if a secret door had opened in the middle of the 30,000+ student body and I finally stopped feeling as if I was the odd man out. It was an eye opening experience, not so dissimilar from the one that takes place in this animated adventure comedy. WITH a secret map in her possession Smurfette, voiced by Demi Lovato (Glee-TV, Sonny with a Chance-TV), takes off on a journey that will show her things that she has not found in her own village. Including Mandy Patinkin (The Princess Bride, Homeland-TV) voicing Papa Smurf, Julia Roberts (Mother’s Day, Closer) voicing SmurfWillow, Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike franchise, True Blood-TV) as Hefty Smurf and Rainn Wilson (Juno, The Office-TV) as Gargamel; this movie was geared more for the younger child. The animation was colorful and there were many scenes filled with action. Honestly, I felt like I was watching one of those old Saturday morning cartoon shows I remember as a kid. I appreciated the dual messages the writers were trying to get across to the viewers; however, I found the story in general mediocre. There was nothing either good or poor about this picture; it was predictable and a little bland for me. Granted I was never into the Smurfs while growing up, but I thought the writing could have been more creative to add heft to the fun and excitement factors. As a whole I was left with a bland feeling about this movie; I could have (if I was into the Smurfs) easily have waited to see this some Saturday morning on television, while eating a bowl of breakfast cereal by myself.
LONLINESS can be your friend when you do not fit in. Depending on the circumstances not fitting in can be an asset; however, in a “dog eat dog” environment the non-conformer can become an easy target for ridicule. When I look back at my experiences involving group settings, the one thing I find in common across all of them is the quickness people have in making judgments. If one person deems another person an oddball, others will easily follow suit; even if they have not had any personal contact with the newly labeled individual. Personally I celebrate those individuals who do not follow this pack mentality. It saddens me when I have found myself in a situation where one person decides another person inferior in some way. When I can I will challenge them to explain why they think that way. You should hear some of the excuses; a majority of them have to do with a person’s looks or appearance. Other reasons have to do with the individual not following exactly the same steps as the accuser. As far as I can tell there really is no good excuse. ONE summer I was enrolled in a woodworking class that was limited to 12 students. Once we were taught how to use our tools we were given a project to create a functional object. I chose to make a chessboard while the guy next to me decided to make a boomerang. Out of all of us there was one person who spent time lining up different pieces of wood around their workspace, color coordinating them. Everyone else was into cutting and arranging the wood they chose. Within a couple of minutes I heard someone behind me whispering to look at the weird one with all the wood around him. It only took a few seconds before I started to hear people snickering around me. Long story short, the student with all the wood pieces created an incredible looking coat rack that even impressed our instructor. It goes to show that those who do not fit in can still achieve great things; just see what happens in this action adventure film. FIVE high school students on the outs with their classmates find themselves thrown together when they start experiencing weird effects from a glowing rock. Starring Dacre Montgomery (Safe Neighborhood, A Few Less Men) as Jason/Red Ranger, Naomi Scott (The 33, Terra Nova-TV) as Kimberly/Pink Ranger, RJ Cyler (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Vice Principals-TV) as Billy/Blue Ranger, Ludi Lin (Monster Hunt, Marco Polo-TV) as Zack/Black Ranger and Becky G. (Empire-TV, House of Sin) as Trini/Yellow Ranger; I first have to tell you I am not familiar with the television show that inspired this fantasy picture. Based on the audience reaction at my viewing; those who were fans of the Power Rangers enjoyed the movie immensely, those seeing the rangers for the first time were not as enthusiastic. I found the movie cheesy; in other words, the special effects were not top notch and the script was average. Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games franchise, Pitch Perfect franchise) as Rita Repulsa was the most fun character in my opinion. What impressed me the most about this movie was how they incorporated a student on the spectrum into the story; unless of course the character was the same in the original TV show. Overall this movie did not stand out for me.
SITTING in the semi-darkened theater waiting for the movie trailers to begin, I was wondering how many different film variations of King Kong I had seen. I believe I saw every one of them and I could even include the robotic one Bette Midler used in one of her concerts, where she played the Fay Wray character who was sprawled out across King Kong’s palm. Thinking about these different versions of the big ape, we really have come a long way from the 1st one to the latest one I was about to see. Of course I was basing it on the movie trailers I had recently seen. Recalling the earlier Kong versions, I can still remember how fake looking he was in the oldest movies. My guess is the writers needed to fine tune their script to keep the audience engaged with the story since an unrealistic looking gorilla would quickly become boring. SPEAKING of story lines I wondered what the writers would do to keep me interested in this umpteenth time of me watching a King Kong film. More often than not I have noticed when a movie comes out with a well known character that has played before the script is updated to reflect current times. Sometimes it works and sometimes it is a bust. I can remember a group of classic horror monsters like Frankenstein and the Mummy being part of a series of movies that were based in comedy, starring comedians and comedy duos. Personally I found them ridiculous; taking such classic horror characters and placing them in a genre of films that no one would ever consider for them, diminishes their scariness in the public’s eyes. With these thoughts in mind the movie theater lights became dark and I sat back in my seat to see what Kong was up to these days. FLYING over the Pacific Ocean, bound for a newly discovered uncharted island, a group of scientists and soldiers did not know they would be disturbing the inhabitants to the point of making them angry. This action adventure fantasy succeeded because of the special effects. From all the different versions of King Kong I have seen on film, this was the best looking or should I say the most realistic version of King Kong. The fight scenes were exciting, especially the opening one. If this film had not been so technically advanced I would have been bored by the script. With Tom Hiddleston (Crimson Peak, I Saw the Light) as James Conrad, Samuel L. Jackson (The Legend of Tarzan, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) as Preston Packard, Brie Larson (Room, Short Term 12) as Mason Weaver and John C. Reilly (Carnage, Step Brothers) as Hank Marlow; I only found Hank’s character interesting. Samuel was doing his identical acting thing, so no surprises there. However I was surprised how stiff Tom and Brie were with their characters. This was partially due to the script that offered no insights, along with the direction that kept them one dimensional. Only John C. Reilly and John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane, The Monuments Men) as Bill Randa offered any interest among the cast. If you are into visual experiences then you would want to see this picture inside a movie theater. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
WALKING among the ancient relics in the midst of reproductions was exciting. The museum had opened an exhibit devoted to the achievements of ancient man. As I started to walk around the displays I came up to glass cases that had several items in each one. According to the printed cards next to each item these objects were all tools that must have been used eons ago. To tell you the truth except for the obvious hammer and chisel devices I would not know these things were tools. I wondered how the archeologists and scientists figured it out. Among the cases there were blueprints displayed on large easels that stood alongside each case. The plans were modern but they depicted the schematics to ancient structures that historians believed would have been built using some of these same tools that were in the cases. I may be a pessimist but how did they really know? At least I could see the blueprints and corresponding tools would make a good story for the visitors. IN another part of the exhibit there were computer monitors set up to provide visual mini tours of some famous structures. I gravitated towards these monitors and stopped at the first one which was focused on a famous temple in Cambodia. I knew about the temple only because a friend of mine had traveled to it and shared his photographs with me. Listening to the film’s narrator I heard a variety of statements being made about the uses or purposes to several portions of the temple’s structure. How could one really know that a platform jutting out from a side entryway was used for sacrifices I wondered? Maybe it was used as a balcony or it was a portion of a bridge that had fallen apart; who could really say with certainty what something was from so long ago? Call me a skeptic but I tend to need more proof before I will accept someone’s version of an ancient item’s purpose. Maybe this is why I had a hard time believing this action adventure film. MERCENARIES William and Tovar, played by Matt Damon (The Martian, Promised Land) and Pedro Pascal (The Adjustment Bureau, Game of Thrones-TV), were traveling through China in search of a black powder that was rumored to be a powerful weapon. Their search would lead them to something scarier than the powder. Directed by Yimou Zhang (House of Flying Daggers, Hero), this was the largest production to be filmed entirely in China. I will say this expansive fantasy picture had some wonderful visual scenes. Women warriors swinging off of the Great Wall of China looked like a cross between a ballet company and Cirque du Soleil; it was beautiful to watch. Also starring Tian Jing (Special ID, The Warring States) as Commander Lin Mae and William Dafoe (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Platoon) as Ballard, I found the story to be silly and the script to be even sillier. The idea of fending off “alien” creatures was an odd concept, but if that is the idea I would have reluctantly been okay with it if the script was written better. I was periodically bored and the CGI effects did not help the situation. Except for a couple of well choreographed fight scenes I actually enjoyed the craziness of the Great Wall’s defenses. Who knows, maybe there is actual proof somewhere that the wall used to do these things.
1 ¾ stars