I WAS DEFINITELY IN THE MINORITY at the concert. Gratefully the venue had stadium seating; otherwise, I would have been ticked off with all the phone screens blocking my view. The place was packed with fans, and I was there with a couple of friends. As the band was performing, it seemed as if every person around me was watching the group through the screen of their phone as they were snapping photos and videos. Everywhere I looked there were people with their arms up, pointing their phone cameras to the stage. I sat there and wondered how many photos did a person need of their favorite band? It was crazy; instead of sitting there and enjoying the music, everyone was focused on capturing the musicians with their phones. It could not have been comfortable to hold one’s arms up for such a long time. I found it distracting because I did not pay good money to have these phones waving in the air. If I had been sitting on the main floor, I would have had a fight with the people in front of me if they had been using their phones. Why couldn’t people just allow themselves to enjoy the show and let it settle into their minds, to become a fond memory? CAPTURING AN EVENT ON “FILM” IS not exclusive to concerts; everywhere I look, there is someone snapping a photo. Restaurants are a popular location for people to snap pix of their food; I am not sure why they do it. Sure, some dishes look great; but unless one is going to try and reproduce it, I am not clear why one would want to have a photo of it. I know I am more old school, but I do not see the fascination of posting things about myself on social media sites. I am astounded with the amount of people’s video clips that show up on my sites’ feeds. People dancing, pranking, posing, dressing up and so on; it is like a different world for me. There are many individuals who, I believe, see this as a way to earn income and fame. The more outrageous antics are done, I think, with the hope of acquiring a bigger following. And once there is a bigger following then the next step is to find a way to monetize one’s site. I know someone who has been focusing on making a living by getting corporate sponsors or products to promote while flying to various circuit events. So far it looks like they are succeeding. I am not sure I can say the same thing for the family in this dramatic, science fiction mystery. A BROTHER AND SISTER ARE TRYING to keep the family horse business going despite unusual things taking place around their ranch. With Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah, Black Panther) as OJ Haywood, Keke Palmer (Hustlers, Alice) as Emerald Haywood, Brandon Perea (The OA-TV, Insurrection) as Angel Torres, Michael Wincott (Talk Radio, What Just Happened) as Antlers Holst and Steven Yeun (Minari, I Origins) as Ricky ‘Jupe’ Park; there were parts of this film that were bold and spectacular in a Hollywood way. I thought Daniel and Keke were outstanding, especially Keke; this was such a different role for her, and I was totally impressed. There was a lot going on in the story and to tell you the truth, if there was a lot of symbolism or meaning, it was lost on me. The first part of the movie dragged for me, taking some time before I felt I was engaging with the story. I still am not sure about the chimpanzee scenes and that is all I will say about that. Having some quality moments in this picture, I wished it connected more with me. Or maybe that is the point.
2 ¾ stars
THE NEWS STORY REPORTED WAS HORRIFIC. I was watching the news on television as the reporter was standing across from a charred structure. The following is what she reported. A fire broke out in the apartment building and the father of one of the families living in the building was credited with saving several children. He had no training; he simply acted on instinct. First, he got his family safely out and away from the building. Knowing the other residents, he quickly ran back into the building to assist those neighbors who needed it. With smoke billowing and the fire spreading quickly, the father was grabbing any unattended children, bringing them down and out of the building despite the smoke irritating his eyes and lungs. I was wondering as the reporter was talking, how far away was the fire department from the building and how long did it take for them to eventually get there. The reporter continued the father was personally responsible for saving besides his family, five young children from the building. However, the story ended on a sad note; the father did not survive. After bringing out his 5th child, the father went back into the ravaged building to look for any other children. He never came back out. I FOUND THE NEWS STORY INCREDIBLY sad. What a heroic feat the father had done for his family and neighbors; it was heartbreaking he had to lose his life in the process. Though I do not believe my story is anywhere on the same tragic level as what the news reported, I distinctly remembered the day I almost drowned. On a family vacation, we were staying with out of state relatives. One day it was decided we would go to a resort’s swimming pool. I was not even in kindergarten yet, so I do remember I was quite young. My swimming ability was limited to playing in the shallow end. At the end of the day, I decided to wash off my flip-flops. I walked over to the edge of the pool that was closest to me; it turned out it was the deep end. I sat down with my feet in the water and leaned over to rinse off my sandals. Before I knew it, I fell into the water. I had no time to think as I sunk below the surface. Still clutching my flip-flops, I started waving my arms up and down in the hopes I could get back to the surface of the water. The very next thing, I felt two arms hugging me from behind and up to the surface we went; it was that fast. A stranger had saved me who was nearby. It amazes me how instincts take over in times of need. If you choose to see this science fiction thriller, you won’t believe what the dad does to save his kids. WITH THE POPULATION UNDER AN ALIEN threat, a father commits to do anything he can to save his two boys. With Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Malik Khan, Octavia Spencer (Thunder Force, The Shape of Water) as Hattie Hayes, Lucian-River Chauhan (Heartland-TV, Gabby Duran & the Unsittables-TV) as Jay Khan, newcomer Aditya Geddada as Bobby Khan and Rory Cochrane (Black Mass, Love and a .45) as Shepard West; the beginning of this film started off with a bang, it was exciting. The acting was ably handled by Riz with the surprise that the 2 young boys did such an admirable acting job as well. For me, I enjoyed the first half of the movie more than the 2nd half. It was almost as if two different stories were playing out. Unfortunately, it did not work; instead, it lost the excitement factor for me. It was sad because the acting was so good as was the idea behind the story. Too bad there was not someone through the entire making of this production available to save this movie.
IT TOOK ME A MOMENT TO comprehend what had just happened in front of me. I looked at the receptacle to see if there were any markings on it that would justify what my friend had done. Since there weren’t, I had to ask my friend if his building recycles. He told me they did not; I was shocked. Maybe I was naïve, but I thought all apartment and condominium buildings collected the inhabitants’ recyclables. I told him my thoughts and he said there was a proposal presented to the condo association a couple of years ago, to set up a recycling program; but it was turned down in the voting process. Turned down in the voting?!? I could not believe it. The act of recycling seems like such a no brainer to me; why wouldn’t someone want to do it to help the planet. It is not like I am an extreme recycler who goes around cleaning up highways and beaches; however, if I can recycle plastic items that will go through a process to be repurposed as a park bench or deck, what is the problem? We can save some trees. I could not resist, so I asked my friend if there were any nearby recycling stations, he could bring his stuff. Sadly, there was nothing close by. All I could think about was what type of people lived in his condo building, who voted not to recycle. I HAVE LIVED LONG ENOUGH TO notice the changes that have taken place in our world. When I was a small boy, I used to constantly go swimming in a nearby lake. Now, I would not even wade into it. In elementary school back then I think there was only one student who had asthma; today I know many students and young adults who have it. Could it be something is in the air now that was not years ago? I look at the younger generation and wonder what challenges they will face due to what we as a society have or have not been doing to the planet. Especially because of the heatwave that has been scorching the western states, I wonder if the next generation will still see icebergs or the polar cap. Years from now, I cannot help wondering what the food chain will be. Will there still be corn or wheat? For those who eat red meat, will it all be artificial, pumped with gene altering hormones? I think people, especially those with children, would want to do their part to keep the planet alive and well. Here in this action, adventure drama is an example of what one father was willing to do to save the planet. WHEN THE MILITARY CAME, SCIENCE TEACHER Dan Forester, played by Chris Pratt (The Kid, Guardians of the Galaxy franchise), had no choice but to join the fight to save Earth, despite what his wife and daughter wanted him to do. With Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale-TV, All I See is You) as Colonel Muri Forester, J.K. Simmons (Palm Springs, 21 Bridges) as James Forester, Betty Gilpin (Isn’t it Romantic, The Hunt) as Emmy Forester and Sam Richardson (We’re the Millers, Veep-TV) as Charlie, this science fiction film had potential to become a big attention grabber. However, I think it needed help from a big theater screen. The story was interesting but as I was watching this picture, I felt I had seen some of the story before. At least the action scenes were good; however, I found the pacing uneven and there were times where the script was not believable. In fact, I found a couple of scenes were just ridiculous. Too bad, because I was intrigued with the family connection story line. As I mentioned earlier, maybe this movie would have benefitted by being shown in the theater because as it stands now, I was left with wanting to experience something more.
2 ¼ stars
FOR THE PAST COUPLE OF MONTHS, I have been keeping track of my friends’ and family members’ experiences inside a movie theater. I wasn’t interested in hearing about the movie as much as hearing if everyone in the theater was following the safety protocols. Though I have been fully vaccinated for a few months, my comfort level was low for sitting inside a movie theater with a bunch of strangers. From the comments I received, the movie theaters were sticking to their policy of blocking out the seats around the one the patron picked. In every hallway there was a little stand set up that had sanitizing wipes for people to take to wipe down their seat. My friends also told me all the employees were masked and the water fountains were blocked off from use. Since there was no way to know who was vaccinated, I heard there was a mix of masked and unmasked people sitting in the theater. I knew I would not be comfortable going into a crowded theater; so, I ruled out Friday and Saturday as an option to go to the theater. I also knew there would be no way I could go to an opening weekend release of a film that had gotten a lot of positive buzz and/or was being labeled as a blockbuster. After accumulating this information, the past several weeks, I decided to look for a movie I could go to on a weeknight. IT TOOK ME A COUPLE OF weeks to find a film time that would fit my schedule, but it finally happened last week. The movie was playing right after work; I knew I would be able to get there in time if that theater chain was still showing 20-22 minutes of previews like they were doing pre-pandemic. I had chosen a seat on the aisle in the last row. When I purchased the ticket online, I was the only person scheduled to see the film at the time; I was feeling better about the whole movie going experience. The fact that it has been 16 months since I have been in a movie theater, I was hoping to see a recently released summer picture. However, that was not the case; I was going to see a sequel that had been out for a couple of months. Luckily, I enjoyed the first movie enormously; so, chances were good that I would enjoy the sequel. I look at sequels like baked desserts. One can make the same dish several times and either one time the item doesn’t taste as good as the others made before or something unknown happens that alters the outcome of the dessert. It is a mystery to me. Regarding this dramatic, horror science fiction sequel; it did not disappoint me in the least. FORCED FROM THEIR HOME, THE ABBOTT family discovers there are other horrors taking place in the world besides alien creatures. With Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns, Into the Woods) as Evelyn Abbott, Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck, Andi Mack-TV) as Regan Abbott, Cillian Murphy (The Dark Knight, In the Heart of the Sea) as Emmett, John Krasinski (The Hollars, 13 Hours) as Lee Abbott and Noah Jupe (Honey Boy, Ford v. Ferrari) as Marcus Abbott; this sequel matched the intensity of the first film. Kudos to John in his directing because I enjoyed the way the tension got built up, along with the incredible acting with extra credit for Emily and Millicent. Like the original movie, the dialog was sparse in this one; yet, I did not find myself ever getting disengaged from the story. The only difference to tell you the truth, was the fact that there was no element of surprise in the discovery of the aliens. Having said that, I feel viewers who did not see the first movie would still enjoy this one just as much as I did. For all my nervousness about going to the theater, this was the perfect picture to welcome me back to my former home away from home.
3 ½ stars
SHE WAS SHOWING ME HER LATEST purchase. It was still in the box; but from the picture, it was a device that was used on the face. With a clear plastic cone sticking up like a Victrola, my friend was telling me she planned on using it to open the pores of her face. Evidently the machine plugs into an electrical outlet, water is added to a reservoir and steam comes out the plastic cone. I thought, why couldn’t she just boil a pot of water on the stove and drape a towel over her head, while leaning over the steaming boiling water? There was no need for her to spend money on this device since she was on the brink of bankruptcy, according to her. But there was this pattern already of her buying into the latest trendy thing she saw or read about it. One time she wound up with a foot massager that she used a total of three times, before it was pushed back into a closet and she was onto her next new purchase. Out of the things I have seen at her place, I felt she was addicted to one of those home shopping stations or those late-night infomercials that are on TV. BELIEVE ME, I HAVE TRIED TALKING to her about her shopping addiction. At least that is what I called it because she was always buying stuff and more so when she was upset about something. We had been friends for years and I loved her dearly; which is why I was sad to see her go into financial ruin due to her spending habits. Her place looked like a graveyard for discarded products; everything from a popcorn air popper to a pneumatic drain snake. No matter what I suggested or directly said to her, she had an excuse on why she needed whatever she had just bought. She was a close friend who I loved unconditionally. Though it was apparent she was making things worse for herself, I stood by her side and supported her. I think inside of me I was always hoping she would heed my advice one day, but she was an adult and had the ability to make a choice still. It was a hard place for me to be in, but all I could do was love and be there for her until she chose to make a change. Many of the X-Men in this science fiction, adventure film would understand completely. AFTER SURVIVING AN ACCIDENT IN SPACE, a change came over Jean Grey, played by Sophie Turner (Josie, Game of Thrones-TV). It was a change that made several of her fellow X-Men uneasy, but they still wanted to be there for her. With James McAvoy (Atomic Blonde, Victor Frankenstein) as Professor Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs, The Snowman) as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence (Red Sparrow, Joy) as Raven/Mystique and Nicholas Hoult (Tolkien, Warm Bodies) as Beast; this action movie started out with excitement. It had been a long time since the last X-Men picture; so, I was looking forward to this one, especially to see Sophie in a different role from her Game of Thrones character. Unfortunately. the script was a big letdown for me. There was no “wow” factor to any of the scenes. Along with that, I thought the direction was poor because all the characters seemed to be on the same emotional level. I felt there could have been multiple opportunities to inject some fun or sadness or excitement; but I never really experienced any of these feelings. Sophie’s acting was too close to her Game of Thrones’ character in my opinion. The director could have pushed her farther. I have been a fan of the X-Men for a long time and I want to be there supporting them, but this latest installment was trying to push me away.
IN SOME CULTURES, THE TERM TWO-SPIRIT is used to describe individuals who participate in a traditional third-gender ceremonial role in some of their customs. Before I learned this definition, I used it in the same way I used Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to describe a person I perceived to be two-faced or moody. The person that comes to mind first when I think about this type of duality is a former boss of mine, when I worked in retail. To the shoppers that came into our store he was a charming, jovial gentleman. He would spend as much time as needed to make a sale, all the while complimenting more female customers than male. I did stock for the store, so was out in front numerous times to add product to the shelves. Without even looking at him I could tell what hand gestures he was using simply by the tone in his voice; it was this sickly-sweet drawl that went to a higher register. This is what I saw out front; but as soon as he walked into the back warehouse, he was a ranting mean man. It was nothing for him to call one of his employees stupid or dumb. If he did not like the way you were packing a box for shipment, he would yell and push you aside and ask someone else to take over. If only the people in the store could have seen him. HE WAS ONLY ONE OUT OF a slew of people I have encountered in my life who showed two opposite sides to themselves. It is funny; since I believe we are born with both good and evil inside of us, you would think I would be immune to these contrasts in behavior. But you would be wrong because I feel humans have free choice to decide if they want to be good or bad. There are some individuals who thrive on negativity and have no issue displaying it, even if it comes out in a mean-spirited way. I do not have to look any further than my high school years. It was there that I can honestly say I saw some evil people. The entire time I was exposed to that craziness I kept wondering why those individuals chose to be that way, to be mean and hurtful. At the time I wasn’t aware abusers usually have been the victim to an abuser; not that it would have made anything better for me. What I would like to know is how people who have this good vs evil turmoil inside come to terms with it. This was one of the things I thought about as I sat and watched this action, science fiction film. HIS LIFE GOING IN A DOWNWARD spiral Eddie Brock, played by Tom Hardy (Child 44, Mad Max: Fury Road), was willing to take a chance by sneaking into a top-secret laboratory. It was there he picked up something nasty. This horror movie also starred Michelle Williams (I Feel Pretty, The Greatest Showman) as Anne Weying, Riz Ahmed (Four Lions, Nightcrawler) as Carlton Drake, Jenny Slate (Gifted, Obvious Child) as Dr. Dora Skirth and Scott Haze (Midnight Special, Thank You for Your Service) as Security Chief Roland Treece. Not being familiar with this comic book character I had no idea what to expect from this story. Tom was excellent in the role, giving it his all; however, the script did not know whether to be a comedy, a horror or an action movie. It felt like the writers were trying to create something like Deadpool, but this was not done as well. I thought the story jumped around too much and I disliked the change of heart in one of the characters. Too bad the story and script were not more concise because the action scenes were exciting and some of the humor scored. How ironic to have a conflicted character playing in a conflicted story in a conflicted movie. There was an extra scene in the middle of the credits besides a trailer for a new animated Spider-Man movie.
A minute to me is just as important as an hour. For someone who prefers to have the day planned out, each minute has a place in my schedule. I have a friend who teases me about my planning things down to the minute but they do not understand what one minute can do to me. If I do not cross a set of railroad tracks by a certain time on Saturday morning, I will get stuck at the crossing gates for a good 10 minutes. Then I have to hustle to the fitness center to get to my class in time. Missing the start of a movie by 1 minute means I will not go in to watch it; I have a thing about walking into a movie late, which is why I know how many minutes each movie theater spends showing trailers before the start of the film. I suppose if one is okay or fond of surprises time is not a major factor; I am not a fan of surprises. With my current schedule I have little room for variance; in fact, I even have to plan down time for myself. To keep this whole process going I have to include some expectations. For example, I have to estimate how long grocery shopping will take me if it is one in a series of things I have to accomplish for the day. It is funny, it just occurred to me though I plan out what order I go see newly released movies I never think about my reaction to them. You know, allowing time to let them settle into me before going to do something else. Having just told you I am a planner, there was no way I could have planned what I experienced in this action adventure sequel. TWENTY years since the aliens attacked Earth and mankind has been working diligently on boosting its defenses in case of another attack. Would it be enough to save the planet if the aliens come back? This science fiction film baffled me. As I sat in the theater, repeatedly looking at my watch, I had to wonder who at the movie studio came up with the idea of making a sequel and then making a really bad one. First, one would have thought with the advancements in CGI effects this film would be filled with some dazzling effects; I am afraid that was not the case. Now for the script, it was so cheesy and filled with such repetitive blustering bravado that I felt I was watching a series of ads encouraging me to join the military. Uttering some of the ridiculous dialog were actors Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games franchise, Paranoia) as Jake Morrison, Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park franchise, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as David Levinson and Bill Pullman (The Equalizer, While You were Sleeping) as President Whitmore. There were multiple story lines taking place in the script and I did not find any of them well developed; everything was done in a basic, predictable way. The only thing I could think about after the movie ended was changing the word insurgence to regurgitate for the title.
1 ½ stars
It is tough when the joke you tell is met with blank or confused stares from the audience. Though it may be a bit deflating to the ego, it is not the worst thing in the world. What would be harder is if the crowd never really understood you. Having seen my share of rolled eyes, I tend to be hyper-sensitive when someone is being treated like an outsider. Now granted if there is a legitimate concern where folks are not comfortable with an individual, I do not force the issue of acceptance. I recall a gathering where one person stood out for their inappropriate comments; it was making people uncomfortable. You could see every person who came in contact with the offender would make an excuse to get away as quickly as possible. There is, however, a flip side to this scenario and that is the person who gets shunned just because they are different. I take offense when someone rejects another person simply because they do not fit into what that person considers the norm. With the recent talk in the news due to the Oscar speech where the writer told viewers to embrace being different and with talk shows discussing it; I totally agree we all need to be exposed more often to things and people who are different from us. I would prefer having the option to see a situation through an extra set of eyes because I may find something more than what I saw on my own. MISUNDERSTOOD and on his own the alien name Oh, voiced by Jim Parsons (Garden State, The Big Bang Theory-TV), found refuge on the planet Earth. What a surprise to travel all the way to another planet to find someone who understood him and that person was the young girl Gratuity “Tip” Tucci, voiced by Rihanna (Battleship, This is the End). This animated adventure was very colorful to watch; I enjoyed how Oh’s species changed color. The cast which also included Steve Martin (The Jerk, It’s Complicated) as Captain Smek and Jennifer Lopez (The Boy Next Door, Maid in Manhattan) as Lucy were well paired to their characters. I thought the animation was fine; in fact, I felt the creators had young children in mind because there seemed to always be something happening in the scenes. There was nothing out of the ordinary with this comedy and maybe that was the issue. The movie was cute but nothing special or different to me. I did not feel as invested as I have been with other animated films. Even with some clever writing I was never taken away with what was on screen, though young kids seemed to be enjoying themselves. I just did not get it.
2 1/2 stars
A majority of the residents from the neighborhood I grew up in practiced the same religion. In some ways it was easier because we all celebrated the same holidays and knew what foods to expect for the meals. Notice even at a young age it was all about the food. As I grew up the neighborhood was transformed and became more diversified. Except for one particular gang of kids from the neighborhood, I cannot recall a time where religion was used as an excuse for a particular action. Everyone was treated the same no matter what religion they practiced at home. It was not until I was an adult and out on my own where I saw how some people used religion as a means to manipulate other people. Where I consider religion to be a personal and private matter, I have a hard time understanding someone who uses their religion to explain their actions; but to me some of their actions are questionable. There have been enough examples made public where I do not feel the need to mention them here. In fact, I am a little uncomfortable even talking about this now. However, it is worth it so I can review today’s movie. STRANDED on our planet P.K., played by Aamir Khan (Like Stars on Earth, Rang De Basanti), asked the most innocent of questions that produced some profound results. It took me a short time to get my bearings with the story in this satirical fantasy about organized religion. There were multiple story lines that eventually began to merge together. I am familiar with Aamir’s work and this role was different for him. Despite not being a fan of slapstick humor, I did appreciate the character he was portraying. Included in the cast was Anushka Sharma (Wedding Planners, Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl) as Jagat Janani a/k/a/ Jaggu, Sanjay Dutt (Mission Kashmir, Lage Raho Munna) as Bhairon Singh and Saurabh Shukla (Slumdog Millionaire, Barfi!) as Tapasvi Maharaj. If one is not familiar with Bollywood films, it is important to pay attention to the songs being sung because they play a part in moving the story forward. An interesting side note, this film’s running time was 2 1/2 hours; halfway through the movie the screen went dark and up popped the word “intermission.” It lasted a few seconds then the picture continued on. Back to the slapstick comedy, I think it colored my feelings towards everyone’s acting abilities. However the strength of the story, with its proposals and variables, carried me through the entire movie. Add in a couple of twists and I felt this film did a wonderful job in taking the subject of religion and presenting a non-offensive, thought provoking, solid piece of work. Hindi and Bhojpuri language was spoken with English subtitles.
The words coming out of his mouth never quite settled down in my head. I understood each word, but strung together they were like sheets flapping in the wind. All the individuals in my tour group sat attentively with their heads moving from side to side, as if they were watching a tennis match. We were in a museum and our tour guide was giving a lecture about the large, abstract art piece that was squatting in front of us. The people around me kept looking back and forth between the guide and the art piece, as if they were witnessing the creation of a new species. I sat there perplexed because I was evidently not seeing the things that everyone else were focusing on when gazing at this large, colorful mass of steel and paper. To me the object looked like a massive teepee that was starting to lift up its skirt as a front porch wrapped partially around it, with odd shaped geometrical flags sticking out that had been starched to stiffness. I guess I am not an art connoisseur like the others because I was not getting the whole thing. Everyone reacts to art in different ways; I understood it having grown up in an artistic family. But as I looked around it appeared I was the odd man out. Gratefully that was not the case with this science fiction thriller. From director Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Birth) the visual aspects of this film festival nominated drama was both curious and enticing. It was this component of the movie that kept my interest. Some of the scenes were fascinating due to the camera angles and the effects. Filmed in Scotland, Scarlett Johansson (Hitchcock, We Bought a Zoo) played an alien who preyed on lone single men. There was very little dialog and I gave Scarlett credit in her ability to convey the emotions of her character. I am willing to bet there will be people who sit through this unusual movie and afterwards spend hours debating the symbolism they felt was there. I, on the other hand, do not want to work that hard when I go see a film. So I must tell you I had no idea what the movie was about and when I typed the word “gratefully” earlier it was because the viewers around me said the same thing at the end of the picture. I could come up with things I assumed but they would only be my take on the film and everyone will have their own opinion; so what is the point?
2 1/2 stars