I DON’T THINK I WOULD HAVE been as upset if the packaging had been different; but the fact that the bag looked identical to the name brand product, annoyed me to no end. During my weekly grocery shopping excursion, I picked up a bag of chopped lettuce and threw it into my shopping cart. I buy bagged lettuce every week; it is a staple in my household. When it came time to open the bag to make a salad, I noticed the pieces of lettuce were smaller than usual and several pieces were wilted already. Looking for the best by date on the bag, I realized the brand was different from the one I always bought; it was the grocery store’s private brand. I had no idea because as I said the packaging was so like my brand. Now I am not bad-mouthing store branded products, but it bugs me that they make their products look just like the name brand ones. I perceive it as an act of deception instead of a sign of flattery. In my pantry there are several store branded products, so I don’t have a problem using them. To be honest, some of them taste the same as the national brands; but some just do not have the same quality. I DO UNDERSTAND THE MARKETING THAT goes behind these products. They are usually cheaper priced versions where the store can increase their profit margins by the sale of their own items. In my mind the reason a product is made to look like another product is to trick the shopper into thinking they have the original brand, just like what happened to me. All it takes is for a consumer to try the private brand and then hope they realize the thing they bought is fine, which will turn them into a devoted shopper of the store’s brand. If the package looked nothing like the original brand, a consumer could easily skip over it to reach for the one they have always used in their household; I truly understand the thinking behind this, but I still do not like it. I remember trying a store branded roll of paper towels and I took an immediate dislike to them. They were not as soft or absorbent as my chosen brand. They were a good price on sale, so I was willing to take a chance. This is the type of marketing I prefer where I do not feel I am being manipulated and I am getting something in return for trying the item, a sale price. Now I only wish I would have gotten a discount on my theater ticket for this dramatic, science fiction thriller. HAVING BEEN TOLD HER WHOLE LIFE by her father that it was too dangerous to go outside, 7-year-old Chloe, played by Lexy Kolker (Shooter-TV, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.-TV) never left the house. However, when an ice cream truck came and parked outside her door, she did not understand what could be so dangerous about getting an ice cream cone. This film festival winner starred Emile Hirsch (Milk, Speed Racer) as Dad, Bruce Dern (The Peanut Butter Falcon, Remember Me) as Mr. Snowcone, Grace Park (Hawaii Five-O-TV, The Border-TV) as Agent Ray and Amanda Crew (The Age of Adaline, The Haunting of Connecticut) as Mary. The story started out slow and lasted a long time; it was not until the last third of the film where things picked up for me. I enjoyed the acting, particularly Lexy’s performance. I thought it was a smart move to have the audience see the story through her character’s eyes. The script was fine for the most part, but the entire story felt like a light version of the X-men franchise. Also, I think there must have been a small budget allotted to this project because the special effects looked cheap. When the film was over, I truly felt I had seen a generic X-men picture, interesting characters but nothing memorable.
I MIGHT BE THE ONLY one who thinks this way, but I would never name a child after their parent. There are some people who will say it is a blessing to name the baby with the same name as the parent; but I feel it is a crapshoot, especially when the males are given the same name with the addition of Jr. If I focus let us say on political figures in history, you could make the argument the same name worked for President John Adams and his son President John Quincy Adams; you would be correct in this case. But let me ask you, how do you think having the last name as their father affected the children of Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini? Maybe when their fathers were in power things were good, but I am guessing it did not last long. Now for Margaret Truman she led a successful life as a singer and author, where her last name did not hinder her career; if nothing else it probably helped since she wrote a number of works on United States’ First Ladies and Families. THIS IS WHY I AM not a fan of naming children after their parents because they usually are never judged on their own merits. The same could be said for siblings who attend the same school. If the older of the 2 siblings was the perfect student, the younger one will have a lot to live up to if they wind up having the same teacher. I remember two brothers in school who suffered from that very thing; one was considered the sweet, kind one and the other was thought of as a troublemaker. Each of us is always getting judged one way or another; I do not think having the same name helps a person reach their true potential. Sure it can open some doors for the individual but it can also slam the door in their face. When I find out a successful person I admire is related to a famous person I have to give them credit for striking out on their own. Look at the actress Mariska Hargitay; how many of you know her mother was Jayne Mansfield? Mariska wanted to make it on her own; kudos to her. One of the main characters did not want to be compared to his father; you should see what he did instead in this action, adventure science fiction film. JAKE PENTECOST, PLAYED BY JOHN Boyega (Star Wars franchise, Detroit), could never live up to his father’s achievement in helping to save Earth. So Jake chose a completely different life; however, his life took a turn when he met the homeless girl Namani, played by relative newcomer Cailee Spaeny. With Scott Eastwood (Suicide Squad, The Longest Ride) as Nate Lambert, Burn Gorman (Crimson Peak, The Dark Knight Rises) as Dr. Hermann Gottlieb and Charlie Day (Fist Fight, Horrible Bosses franchise) as Dr. Newton Geiszler; I suppose if you have not seen the 1st movie you may get something out of this one. However I have to tell you I enjoyed the first film and I did not find this current one entertaining. The script was basic with cheap lines of dialog. There was nothing exciting or tense in the story; by the end of the movie I almost wished things would have ended differently to put a stop to this film spawning a sequel. If pressed I guess I could say the special effects were decent in a Transformers type of way. One could say I am judging this picture to the 1st one but that is not the case. Standing on its own 2 feet this film did not capture my interest; in fact, it only stole some time away from me.
1 ¾ stars
THEY seemed scared as they huddled over their map. Looking up at the arrival time for the next train, they stood near the edge of the train platform. I made the assumption they were tourists who were not familiar with the language. Luckily I knew how to say hello and how are you in their language; plus, I was ½ of the winning team among my friends in charades the past 2 years which I felt could help. Walking up to them I said hello and immediately their heads sprung up and turned to me. They excitedly began talking to me in their native tongue but I had no clue what they were saying. I made hand gestures which I hoped conveyed the little I knew about their language then pointed at their map and made a questioning facial expression. En masse they moved next to me and pointed to a sticky note attached to what I could see on the map was the downtown area. THEY were looking for a well known tourist attraction in the city. Using my charade skills I was able to show them which train they had to get on and how many stops they needed to travel to get to their destination. I think they were saying thank you to me as my train arrived and I bordered it. Being proud of my city I have this thing where I want all tourists to have the best time here. So if I can spend a few minutes learning how to communicate with those who do not speak English it is well worth it to me. The key word is communicating; I see and have experienced so many people who do not take the time to properly communicate. It seems as if language is turning into a series of emails, texts, abbreviations and emojis. How can someone figure out a person’s intent with such things? LINGUISTIC expert Dr. Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams (American Hustle, Man of Steel), was given a short time frame to find a way to communicate with the alien spacecraft that landed on earth before the military took over. This film festival nominated drama mystery took a different route from the usual alien versus human plot and it paid off. I enjoyed it so much and thought Amy was fantastic in the role. Along with Jeremy Renner (The Avengers franchise, The Hurt Locker) as Ian Donnelly and Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels’ The Butler, The Last King of Scotland) as Colonel Weber, the actors did well in conveying a sense of urgency and fear. The soundtrack added an eerie dimension to the scenes that I felt brought out more suspense. With director Denis Villeneuve’s (Prisoners, Sicario) skills the story had a gradual buildup of tension, even with the subplot that was interjected between present day scenes. This science fiction movie had a couple of surprises, though I have to say the ending was confusing to me. I am not sure I totally understood what was going on but I still felt like I was entertained for the most part. Especially with the poor (in my opinion) state of communications today, I really was impressed with this picture.
3 ¼ stars
The discovery shocks your system and obliterates the minutia floating in your mind. You only have one focus and that is to find the thing you lost. It is such a horrible feeling when you lose something, I know. I stopped to pick up my paycheck at one health club that was on the way to my cycle class. Parking in their lot I locked the door of my car with the remote lock on my keychain then stuffed the keys in my coat pocket. I ran into the club, stopped at the front desk to say hello, got my check and went back outside. This was all in a matter of minutes. As I was walking towards my car I started to fish my car keys out from my pocket, but there was nothing there. This did not immediately register in my brain because I knew I had put my keys in my coat pocket. I took off my glove and tried again but the pocket was empty. Now my brain fired up with these thoughts: where were my car keys, I had to get to class, my workout clothes were locked in the car, and how I would get the car door open. I retraced every step with my head hung over as I continuously scanned the ground for my keys. Just before I had to turn into the front doors I saw an indentation in the snow. At first glance I thought someone did not pick up after their pet since it was dark against the white snow, enough said. Looking closer it was my keys; they must have fallen out as I was running into the club and I did not hear them drop in the snow. Because of the adrenaline rush by the time I walked into my class I was already exhausted. I do not know how the main character kept going in this science fiction action film. WITH the earth experiencing 4 waves of alien induced calamities Cassie Sullivan, played by Chloe Grace Moretz (The Equalizer, Hugo), had only one thing to do and that was to find her brother Sam, played by Zackary Arthur (Transparent-TV). This adventure film was lucky to have Chloe star in it. Also, it was good to have Liev Schreiber (Spotlight, Pawn Sacrifice) play Colonel Vosch. That is all I can say about this dull movie. I sat through most of it trying to figure out which scenes reminded me of previous movies; this was a boring experience. The special effects were nothing special as was the story. Maybe the idea was good but the writers did nothing to distinguish themselves from the previous YA movies of the same genre. Even after reading this you still want to see this picture you better hurry because I believe it will be quickly lost in the mix and I personally would not be upset.
1 2/3 stars
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but lasers will always hurt you. When I first heard about the mash up of cowboys and aliens I thought what a strange combination. Adding in the actors chosen for this film, I decided to check out and see if our latest James Bond actor could handle beings from outer space. Jake Loneran, played by Daniel Craig (Defiance, Casino Royale) woke up without his memory and a strange metal bracelet attached to his wrist. After wandering into the small town of Absolution, he was identified as a wanted man. Just as he was about to be hauled off to face justice, strange lights appeared in the sky that attacked the town. If people wanted to be saved they would have to stand behind Jake, who had the key to saving earth; he just did not know it. Daniel Craig did some things that reminded me of his James Bond character, but he was wooden in this performance. Harrison Ford (Air Force One, Extraordinary Measures), as feared landowner Woodrow Dolarhyde, was more like a mean Indiana Jones. The only reason Olivia Wilde (In Time, The Words) was cast as Ella Swenson was for the writers to inject a love interest angle into the story. Her story line made little sense to me. I was completely perplexed why Paul Dano (There Will be Blood, Ruby Sparks) would agree to play whining Percy Dolarhyde, Woodrow’s son. The story was silly rubbish; it was a disappointment. I liked the special effects and action but they were not enough to maintain my interest during the illogical parts. Daniel Craig better ditch the cowboy hat and go back to his stirred not shaken martini.
1 3/4 stars — DVD
Take an older stoic movie star, a pseudo action hero, a pop singer, a hot television character, a model/actress, a group of aliens and what do you get? You get a half-baked dumb movie. The powers that be must have sat down and gone through a list of options, picking out the ones that would interest a wide swath of the general population. Unfortunately, this left no one to focus on the story, for it was silly. I mean seriously, aliens could travel across the universe, but could not move out of the way of a communications satellite’s path? The gist of the story was scientists beamed a signal out into the universe and something not so friendly answered it. Poor Liam Neeson (The Grey, Taken) as Admiral Shane tried his hardest with the cheesy script. I was embarrassed for Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood-TV, Melancholia) as Commander Stone Hopper with some of the lines he had to utter. Rihanna as Petty Officer Cora “Weps” Raikes was still Rihanna. And if it was not bad enough being part of the biggest movie flop in history, Taylor Kitsch (John Carter, The Bang Bang Club) had to endure being in this mess as Lieutenant Alex Hopper. On the plus side, the real marines used in this film must have had a fun time hanging out with the cast and crew. The only reason to see this science fiction thriller would be to give your brain a break from thinking.
1 3/4 stars
On my quest to see all 50 states, little did I know I had been to Mars on one of my excursions. While viewing this movie I recognized the landscape in several of the scenes. Did it distract me from the story? Not at all; it was about the images and it was obvious Disney poured a lot of money into this visual extravaganza of a movie. For me, the look of it reminded me slightly of Star Wars. There were fascinating alien creatures, big battle scenes and a love story involving a princess. Lynn Collins (The Number 23, The Lake House) played the strong, intelligent princess, Dejah Thoris. As for the story, I found it weak, leaving me confused in some parts. Civil War vet John Carter, played by Taylor Kitsch (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Covenant), unwittingly discovered he was transported to another planet, where he now had super strength and agility. Oh and those twelve foot tall aliens were another clue he was not on earth. There were several basic plot lines: a group of mysterious beings that I did not fully understand what their ultimate purpose was in the story; an individual who was determined to take over the entire planet and a search for some mysterious thing that would tip the scale of power among opposing forces. As I said, the story was not the best; however, the movie’s action was exciting and I enjoyed all the special effects. I only wish Disney would have spent just a little more money on disguising the locale they used, here on earth.
2 3/4 stars