ON A WALL IN MY HOUSE, I have it covered with framed photographs of my relatives, both deceased and alive. I consider it a pictorial history of my life. Besides my baby picture, portrait of me with Zippy the chimpanzee and my college graduation; there are photographs of relatives when they were children and others with family members I have never met. In fact, I have a photograph of my great, great, great grandmother who was alive when Napoleon invaded Russia. Seeing her dressed in long heavy clothing with a scarf around her head, while sitting on a small wooden chair, I look at her face to see if I share any resemblance to her. Standing next to her is her granddaughter who I believe would be my great aunt. In her face, I can see features that I have seen on several current relatives of mine. Every time I walk by what I refer to as the photo wall, I look at least a couple of photos each time. There are so many memories of the relatives I have known since my childhood. The thing that surprises me is the fact those memories are crystal clear in my mind, yet something I did a week ago is already fading away. My recollections are so vivid that even if I did not have my photo wall, I would still have a clear focus of the events each photograph was documenting. IF I HAD THE ABILITY TO go back in time, I would absolutely want to visit my relatives who came before me. Imagine talking to that great, great, great grandmother and learning about the life she was living. I would ask her why she did not leave with her relatives who were moving to the country where I was born, the United States. Because of the times back then, I would assume she worked at home, taking care of the household. There is another relative I wish I could have met who I thought had 7 children; however, I recently found out this relative in actuality had 14 children. There are a multitude of family members living around the world that I have no knowledge about who are descendants from this one relative. Personally, I cannot envision someone having 14 children. My first thought is, “How could they afford it?” Granted, back then if you had any land, the more children you had the more help you would have in taking care of the land and crops. There are so many things I would like to learn if I could go back in time. The main character in this action, adventure fantasy wishes he could go back in time; see what he tries to do. WITH THE WORLD DISCOVERING HIS IDENTITY, there was only one thing Spiderman, played by Tom Holland (The Lost City of Z, Edge of Winter), thought could help him. However, he would need the help of Doctor Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog, The Courier). With Zendaya (The Greatest Showman, Malcolm & Marie) as MJ, Jacob Batalon (Blood Fest, North Woods) as Ned Leeds and Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy, Horrible Bosses franchise) as Max Dillon; this film was a stellar example of what is needed to make a great superhero movie. I was surprised by the range of emotions on display, thanks to an interesting script. I say interesting because there were so many convoluted twists that I stopped trying to keep track of what the results were for each change in the direction of the story. The imagination of the writers is what caught and kept me engaged. The acting all around was a good way above average which added to the wit and humor that was already infused into the script. In the Marvel universe of films, this one certainly deserves to be in the top ten. There were 2 extra scenes during the ending credits.
3 ½ stars
AFTER I FINISHED WATCHING THIS MOVIE, I switched over to the news. The newsman was reporting about an issue a local hospital was having with one of its patients. The screen changed and the image of a woman popped on the TV screen. The shot was from the neck up; she had skin that was wrinkled into deep crevices by the sun. On top of her head, she wore a baseball type of cap that was bejeweled with colored stones to look like the American flag. There was no sound coming from her despite her mouth moving. The reporter was saying this woman did not believe in the COVID vaccines. She wound up being admitted into the hospital because she contracted COVID, and she wanted to be treated with a drug she read about on the internet that claims to cure the disease. It was a medicine that is given to horses. Because the drug is not approved by the FDA for humans, the hospital would not administer it to her. She was fighting them for it. I sat there in bewilderment. How did things get to the point where humans were perfectly fine ingesting medications formulated for animals? Death, I know, can be a huge motivator and I know I would want to learn as much as possible on how to combat whatever illness befalls me. However, I would want to hear from scientists and doctors, not the internet necessarily. I KNEW A FAMILY THAT SUFFERED a major loss of one of their family members. When the person was diagnosed the family went into shock. The older family members understood the severity of the disease; the children only knew it was “bad.” I remember one of the kids delved into a fantasy life to cope with the changes that were taking place in the household. The child believed there were magic seeds that could cure her parent. Anytime she went outside, the young child would spend most of her time searching for these seeds in flower beds, around trees, in sidewalk cracks and even along the curbs of the streets. She was convinced if she could find these seeds and give them to her parent, it would make them feel better. The reason I mention this little girl is because to me, there is a similarity between her and the woman that was reported in the news who is demanding a horse pill to cure herself. Each of them is looking to fantasy for a cure; the difference being one is a child and the other is an adult. For those who may have forgotten what it is like to be a child, this dramatic family adventure can remind you. WITH HIS MOTHER’S ILLNESS GETTING WORSE, a young boy sets out to find a cure for her. With Lonnie Chavis (This is Us-TV, Magic Camp) as Gunner Boone, David Oyelowo (A United Kingdom, Don’t Let Go) as Amos Boone, Rosario Dawson (Eagle Eye, The Captive) as Mary Boone, Amiah Miller (Lights Out, War for the Planet of the Apes) as Jo Riley and Alfred Molina (Boogie Nights, The Devil has a Name) as Jim Bussey; this movie had a touching story that was easy to watch. I thought the cast was well suited to tell the story. The script was good though it was close to predictable and the reason I say that is because some of the scenes were done in a heavy-handed way. A lighter touch would have allowed the scene to mature and grow I believe. I also enjoyed the way the writers introduced the minor story line and kept it low key for the viewer to connect the pieces. There have been other similar stories told before; the difference for me was this one had a gentleness in the way the story was told that was much appreciated.
2 ½ stars
IT SOUNDED LIKE A FUN TIME, so me and a group of friends decided to sign up for it. A charity was holding an event at a large amusement park that was about an hour’s drive away. They had rented out the park for the evening and planned on having games, music, dancing and entertainment besides the rides. I figured it would be less of a hassle to get around the park than on an average weekend day with the big crowds. Also, because they would be serving alcohol in the park, no one under 18 would be allowed. My friends and I were excited about the prospects of having an easier time riding the big attraction rides multiple times. Usually because the lines were so long for the well-known rides, one might be able to go on it only once due to time constraints. I for one do not like waiting in line for over an hour just to ride an attraction for less than one minute. My only concern was the weather; I was hoping there would be no chance of rain, causing the park to shut down some of their rides. Each of us were getting excited as the date got closer. ON THE DAY OF THE EVENT, with a clear blue sky drifting towards twilight, we piled into one car and headed out on the road towards the amusement park. I was the driver for the evening since I did not care for alcohol. While we were making our way there, we decided to come up with a game plan on how to get as many of the “big” rides in while still taking part in the charity’s planned activities. A quick survey showed most of us were excited to tackle the park’s top roller coasters first. I had heard the newest roller coaster was the ultimate thrill ride because it not only spun and swerved around the track, it also plummeted down to an underground tunnel. Some of my friends were planning on doing that ride more than once; while I figured I would go find a less stressful ride, one that didn’t have spinning as a main component. The fastest spinning I can tolerate is the speed of a merry-go-round. Our excitement increased by the time I pulled the car into the parking lot. With tickets in hand, we headed inside the park to carry out our strategy. As we got to the first roller coaster, I was the first one to notice it was not running. Maybe it was broken? We moved onto our 2ndchoice and discovered the same thing; it too was not running. Paying attention now, as we were walking around, we saw many of the “big” rides were shut down. All the excitement we had built up melted into disappointment. I experienced a similar reaction while watching this mystery thriller. DURING A TORRENTIAL RAINSTORM A GROUP of random strangers took refuge in a motel. They thought they would be safe for the night until one of the guests was found dead. With John Cusack (Cell, Grosse Pointe Blank) as Ed, Ray Liotta (Something Wild, Shades of Blue-TV) as Rhodes, Amanda Peet (The Whole Nine Yards, Griffin & Phoenix) as Paris, John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone, The Pardon) as Larry and Alfred Molina (Saint Judy, Frida) as Dr. Malick; this film festival winner was a good old fashioned thriller in the same vein as an Agatha Christie story. I thought the cast did a decent job with their acting, despite the disconnected script. Not that I did not enjoy watching this movie, I did; but I felt let down as the script started winding down to its conclusion. I thought the filming and sets added an extra level of anxiety and dread to the written words. During the picture, I found myself getting into the story with its plot twists and suspense. If only that level experienced in the beginning had lasted all the way to the end.
2 ¾ stars
CUTTHROAT was the best term to describe him. When first meeting him you would be left with the impression that he was a funny, laid back sort of fellow. Looks can be quite deceiving because that is what I originally thought of him. We used to work for the same company; I was involved with inventory and he was in sales. Dressed immaculately every day, he walked around the office like a proud peacock; I know that may sound like a cliché but he really did. If he had had feathers attached to his backside they would have always been fanned out to draw attention to him. Underneath that polished and pleasant veneer there was a hunger for money. In sales that would be a good thing; however, he had no boundaries. He would lie, cheat, essentially anything to make a sale to increase his commission check. Sure the company benefited but his goal was his bank account. THERE has been several times where I have encountered this type of individual in other settings. It always makes me uncomfortable because I can never get a sense of trust established with the individual. I am all about trust; even at a big box retailer where I know the sales help does not get commission, I will end a conversation with someone who I feel is not trustworthy. Maybe this is prejudicial on my part, but I am simply going with my feelings. It is irritating when an employee gives the consumer the wrong information; I would rather they say they do not know and offer to find someone who knows the answer to my query. When the sales staff at a retail establishment works on commission it can be an ugly experience when you walk through the doors. They can descend on you like a pack of vultures spotting fresh road kill. You will understand my point if you watch the main character in this film festival winning dramatic movie. HEADHUNTER Dane Jensen, played by Gerard Butler (Playing for Keeps, Olympus Has Fallen franchise), would do anything to close on a sale. Even his family was not immune to the ramifications of his actions. With Alison Brie (Sleeping with Other People, Mad Men-TV) as Lynn Vogel, Willem Dafoe (The Great Wall, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Ed Blackridge, Gretchen Mol (Manchester by the Sea, 3:10 to Yuma) as Elise Jensen, Alfred Molina (The Da Vinci Code, Spider-Man 2) as Lou Wheeler and Max Jenkins (Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Sense8-TV) as Ryan Jensen; I was not impressed with the acting. Part of me feeling this way was due to the poorly written script; it was beyond predictable, so pedestrian. Add in the uninspired directing and I was bored through most of the film. Gerard gave it a good shot but being a non likable character did not help me. I could not relate to him; though some would say being unlikeable was good acting on his part. As for the script it was riddled with clichés and emotional manipulations. Funny for a film about sales it certainly had a poor sales pitch for the public. Never seeing a trailer for this at the movies should have been my first clue for what was in store for me.
1 2/3 stars
The older people are getting the more I have noticed they incorporate an escape plan into their world. If I do a quick count I believe a majority of the people I know have some kind of activity they can escape to, withdrawing from the realities of their day. Off the top of my head I know individuals who do scrap booking, knitting, jigsaw puzzles and reading books just to name a few. I, if you have not noticed, do movies to escape the pressures that come up in my daily life. Films offer me the fastest way to leave the present moment and be whisked into the alternative world of a movie. Even a poorly done movie that I have given a 1 1/2 star rating will partially transport me away; however, the better the film the more I will be drawn into it. If you have read my description for what merits a 4 star rating, you know the movie has to completely remove me from the theater and allow me to become part of the story; where I do not see the actors playing out their roles only the actual characters. Personally I feel everyone should have some kind of activity that allows them to disconnect from their everyday routines. I do not know about you but it seems the older I get more things become challenging for me. A simple activity like driving a car has become harder due to so many distracted drivers, besides the endless construction projects that constantly close roads and lanes. It is no wonder a person feels stuck in their life and just wants to escape to somewhere or something else. With that in mind, I was surprised to see what the main character chose to do in this comedy. JOURNALIST Kim Baker, played by Tina Fey (Sisters, Muppets Most Wanted), felt she was stuck; her life was going nowhere. That is until an opportunity came up for her to take an assignment in Afghanistan. Based on a true story this war comedy had a well rounded cast that included Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street, About Time) as Tanya Vanderpoel, Martin Freeman (The Hobbit franchise, Hot Fuzz) as Iain MacKelpie and Alfred Molina (An Education, Chocolat) as Massoud Sadiq. There were parts of this film I enjoyed, but the more the story unfolded the more I lost sense of it. For some reason I started to disbelieve the scenes because they seemed so outrageous or maybe more accurately they lost the emotion of the action. I did not find much humor in this picture; it slowly became ridiculous to me. It is a shame because the idea of the real Kim Baker taking on this assignment is extraordinary; I just wished this script would have come across more real. Part of the blame would have to go to the director. I never once felt I was watching the actual characters, only seeing the actors playing them. This film did not provide me a total escape.
2 1/4 stars
They are two of the most powerful words one could ever utter in their entire life. Each word represents a profound, deep commitment from an individual; neither should ever be taken lightly. One word is love, the other one is sorry. Though I use both words cautiously, each one represents a deep core value that is permanently embedded inside of my being. The reason I do not freely use these words is because I want them to retain their specialness, so when I say either of them to a person, they know they are getting the true fullness of my heart and soul without any conditions. There is another word that carries almost as much weight as the word love; however, I do not feel it is as strong. The word is hate. It certainly can strike a person as deeply as the word love, but from my experiences I feel it takes less effort to be hateful than loving. Hate to me means one closes themselves off from experiencing feelings, like an old item that one would store up in an attic. A person hates something so they may walk away from it, never allowing themself to explore and see if they can look at it through a different set of eyes. For me love is a full-time commitment that one nourishes, allowing it to continually flourish. TOGETHER nearly 40 years Ben and George, played by John Lithgow (Leap Year, Cliffhanger) and Alfred Molina (An Education, Chocolat), decided to get married. Their celebrating with friends and family did not last long once George’s employer heard about the union; they terminated him. Forced to find cheaper housing the couple would have to live apart after living together for the majority of their adult life. The story in this drama was straight forward without embellishing the situation for dramatic purposes. The acting by John and Alfred was outstanding; in fact, along with Marisa Tomei (Parental Guidance, The Wrestler) as Kate and Charlie Tahan (Blue Jasmine, Charlie St. Cloud) as Joey, the acting was the major force of this movie. What dragged this movie down was the ponderous script. I felt the additional story lines took away from what was the heart of the story. The directing was of no help because there were times where the film seemed to drag a bit for me. With a story that could have been plucked out from current news, this dramatic picture handled the subject matter honestly and with sensitivity. Believing love is one of the most powerful acts a person can commit, it was the underlying theme in bringing this story to life.
2 3/4 stars
Pretty Boy was our family’s female parakeet. Do not ask about her name. She was the dog we could not have in our 3rd floor apartment. For me she was not just a parakeet, she was a hawk. Except when Pretty Boy was asleep for the night, her cage door was always open. When one of my brothers or I entered the room she would fly to our shoulder to greet us. I would tell her to attack any one of my friends who happened to be over and she would take off and circle them before coming back to my outstretched arm. And get this: when my family would be gathered around the television for the Academy Awards show, she would fly down onto the floor and sit with me. Since her I have always had an interest in flying, so this fantasy film would certainly be something I would watch. For a fantasy there were few magical things; the movie essentially was a love story. Rutger Hauer (Sin City, Blade Runner) was Captain Ethenne Navarre who joined up with young thief Phillipe Gaston, played by Matthew Broderick (Glory, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), for help in sneaking up and surprising the corrupt bishop. For you see the bishop, played by John Wood (Chocolat, Sabrina), had cast a spell on Captain Navarre and his love Isabeau d’Anjou, played by Michelle Pfeiffer (People Like Us, Stardust). At nightfall the Captain would turn into a wolf and at daybreak Isabeau would turn into a hawk. Directed by Richard Donner (Superman franchise, Radio Flyer), this sweet movie harkened back to a time where the story drove the movie instead of special effects. There were well staged fight scenes and it was fun watching a young Matthew Broderick. I especially enjoyed the performance of Leo McKern (A Man for All Season, Rumpole of the Bailey-TV) as Father Imperiust the Monk. This fanciful movie did not reach my highest rating, but I still took pleasure in the way I floated along with the story.
2 3/4 stars — DVD