IT WAS SO LONG AGO, WHEN I first saw her. Back then, I thought she had an odd voice. I think I was still in elementary school when I saw Marilyn Monroe for the first time. It was the movie “Some Like it Hot” with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon and it was being shown on television. Liking both Tony and Jack, the movie easily kept my attention. When I first heard Marilyn speak, I thought that could not be her real voice; it sounded like a cartoon voice. Because I could not recall seeing any other woman that looked like her, I thought her voice added another layer to her cartoonish size physique. In my mind, she did not look real. The characters Tony and Jack played drew more of my attention than Marilyn’s character. I remember laughing at the two men when they were dressed up as women. After seeing this film, it was some years later before I saw another film that Marilyn starred in. And that movie was Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Though Marilyn’s character had a familiarity to it, I was older now and better able to understand the work that went in to create her character. Her timing was impeccable along with her line deliveries. Her character became a classic in filmdom. IN ALL HONESTY, I HAVE NOT seen any other of Marilyn’s films except one or two. I have seen news stories and articles, along with documentaries. In fact, there was a documentary series about her that aired earlier this year and it was the best one I had ever seen. The talk in Hollywood was Jayne Mansfield was highly intelligent. Well after seeing this latest docuseries, Marilyn was much smarter than what she let people see. For that time, as an actress, she yielded a lot of power. She knew exactly what she was doing to keep her name front and center. I was impressed with the things she achieved despite all the hardships she had to endure. The attribute of hers that I could relate to the most was her determination. She truly was a fighter and would not give up until she reached her goal. The perfect example is the film she did with the British actor who had no use for her and made her time during the filming of their picture a living hell, from what I understand. Now with my heightened awareness of her abilities, I have been working on watching anything that has to do with Marilyn. This is the reason I chose to sit through and watch this long movie based on Joyce Carol Oates’s novel. DESPITE THE HARD CHILDHOOD, YOUNG NORMA Jeane, played by Lily Fisher (General Hospital-TV, Station 19-TV), had a determination in her that would help her succeed in a man’s world. With Ana de Armas (No Time to Die, The Gray Man) as Norma Jeane, Julianne Nicholson (Black Maps, August: Osage County) as Gladys, Tygh Runyan (Dark Harvest, Road to Nowhere) as Norma Jeane’s father and Michael Drayer (Claws-TV, Mr. Robot-TV) as Deputy Will Bonnie; this biographical romance drama had one outstanding thing going for it. It was Ana; she was amazing in her role. Unfortunately, I found the rest of this film to be exploitive and shallow. Maybe because I had watched the docuseries, I found the script for this picture to be disjointed. There were times where it felt like little snippets of time were being shown without any depth to back them up. I was disappointed with this picture; it did not provide anything new or anything entertaining. I think Marilyn would have been insulted by this movie.
1 ¾ stars
THOUGH I HAD MISGIVINGS, I AGREED to join my friend for dinner at a recently new, popular restaurant in the city. I wanted to visit with him but was hoping we could just hang out at a local place that I knew had good food. He considered himself a “foodie” who enjoys trying the newest trendy restaurants; I on the other hand think of myself as a low rent eater who enjoys eating at diners and independent, family-owned places. There is a place near my home where the same family has owned and ran this restaurant since the 1960s. They serve simple entrees like turkey club sandwiches, tuna melts and burgers, each served with great French fries. And what I like about this place is the fact they serve generous portions, and the food is fresh and good. I am quite certain my friend would turn his nose up at the place just by its looks. The name of the place is written in red block letters on a square, plastic sign that hangs above the front door. Because decades have passed, the décor now is considered “kitschy” or retro. Realizing I could not dress in my usual relaxed weekend outfit, I asked if we could meet for an early dinner. I was hoping we could beat the crowds and if I were still hungry after eating, I could stop for something on the way home. AS I WALKED IN THE RESTAURANT, I was met by an employee dressed in black slacks and a white, long-sleeved shirt. Asked for the name of the reservations, I gave my friend’s name. The employee confirmed the name on her tablet then directed me to my friend who was already seated. The place was done in calm, subdued colors of blues and greens with a hint of gold. On the table was a small plate that had 2 square dinner rolls with a ribbon of oil circling them. A small pile of grated cheese was directly in the center; it looked like the white ashes from a funeral pyre. Throughout the evening while we conversed, several plates of varying sizes were brought and taken from our table. The salad took all of 4-5 bites to complete with some special dressing that had a lemon undertone to it. I missed having a good-sized salad. The main course for me was a boneless chicken breast; I had to ask them to omit the bacon, the sauce, the onions, and the peppercorn. Everything was ala carte, so I ordered crispy fingerling potatoes. I had never seen such a small chicken breast. When the bill came, I was stunned. We agreed to split the bill; it cost us $100.00 each. All this money which I would normally never spend at a restaurant, and I was still hungry. I felt the same way about this film; all the money the studio must have spent, and I was still wanting more by the end. A SKILLED CIA OPERATIVE UNCOVERS DAMAGING information on a job which sets in motion a manhunt to apprehend him, no matter the price. With Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2046, The Nice Guys) as Six, Chris Evans (Gifted, Avengers franchise) as Lloyd Hansen, Ana de Armas (Knives Out, No Time to Die) as Dani Miranda, Billy Bob Thornton (A Million Little Pieces, Bad Santa franchise) as Fitzroy and Jessica Henwick (Love and Monsters, Underwater) as Suzanne Brewer; this action thriller overflowed with fight and action scenes. It turns out they were necessary to cover up the poorly written script. With such a capable cast, this movie could have been terrific; but it never reached that level. I will say it was mindless fun, if one is in the mood for people being beaten up and things blowing apart. The fight scenes were well orchestrated, and I liked the various settings. By the end of the picture, I felt I had seen a compilation of scenes from previously, better done, spy action films. It just goes to show you spending a lot of money does not mean you will get a great, satisfying product.
2 ½ stars
ONE OF THE THINGS I MISSED most this past holiday season was spending time at the movie theater. In the past, I would spend one of my days off from work at the theater, watching as many films as I could in one day. Due to the current times with COVID and the variants, I have not been comfortable sitting in a crowded theater. In the good old days, I could sometimes catch 5 movies in one day. Maybe some of you might think that is too intense to do, but for me it was like therapy; I loved getting lost in story after story, while taking off enough time just to catch something to eat before I went back into the next showing on my list. What made this work of course was the fact the film studios always release their blockbusters around this time; so, the Academy of Motion Pictures would have the studio’s film fresh in their minds for the beginning of the voting period for an Academy Award nomination. Truth be told, even if the picture was not high on my list, if it fit into my time schedule to make the day’s viewing work, I would go see it. Surprisingly, I have only a couple of friends who could handle watching multiple movies in one day. Usually, a friend might only meet me for one or two films before they had to bow out and take a break. SINCE I CHOSE TO STAY HOME this holiday season, I wanted to experience that blockbuster type of movie experience. Luckily, I was able to rent the film I am reviewing today. It still is playing at the theater and the fact it is two hours and 43 minutes long, I could hit pause at anytime so I would not miss any scene. There is something about a James Bond movie that always has a special mystique when it premieres. In my family, a new 007 picture always meant a family outing to go see it. Even if we were on a vacation out of state, if the movie was coming out, we would find time to go see it no matter where we were at. I always experience a bit of nostalgia whenever a new Bond picture comes out because of all the memories I have of the previous pictures; especially of the ones that starred Sean Connery and Daniel Craig. With their longevity in the role, there is for me something extra special about the film when they starred in it. While I began watching this newest film in the franchise, I was feeling nostalgic and sad as the scenes unfolded. HAVING FOUND A SENSE OF PEACE in retirement, it did not last long when an old friend came calling on James Bond, played by Daniel Craig (Knives Out, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), asking him for one last favor. With Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Knives Out) as Paloma, Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody, Need for Speed) as Lyutsifer Safin, Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color, The Lobster) as Madeleine and Lashana Lynch (Captain Marvel, Powder Room) as Nomi; this action, adventure thriller came packed with its trademark big action/fight scenes. Craig’s Bond is more of a brawler, grittier 007 compared to the others. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of heart on display in this story. There were some poignant moments I felt. My big complaint was with the script and the villain. Though Rami was decent, I found the character was not menacing at all. His character was a bit bland, and the script did not help as it tried to pack too much into the story, to honor Daniel’s portrayal of Bond, hence the too long running time. Despite my misgivings, I am glad I was able to see this movie and if you are especially a fan of this franchise, you would not want to miss this one. And even if you are not a fan, based on the star rating below, you might want to see it as well.
I HEARD THE MOST OUTRAGEOUS STORY recently. It was told during a dinner party. In one of the departments of a mid-sized company there were approximately a dozen co-workers. Besides the usual annoyances and bickering that can take place at work, most of the employees got along with each other. However, there was one employee who strongly disliked one of her co-workers; though, no one in the office could tell. This person felt she was slighted by her co-worker, but those facts were not available. Let me call this person Carol, though that is not her real name. One day Carol’s co-worker came into the office and found a small gift-wrapped package on her desk. There was a note attached that only said, “To someone who makes me happy.” The co-worker, who I will call Deb, was stunned. When she opened the box there was a small scented candle. Deb asked her co-workers if they saw who put the gift on her desk, but no one saw anything. A week went by and another gift with another message signed, “Your secret admirer” showed up. It was a mystery because no one came forward to claim they were the one leaving gifts and cards for Deb. That is because Carol was doing it just to drive Deb crazy and make her think there was someone in the company who liked her. After several weeks of doing this Carol stopped, but never told Deb she was the one leaving gifts as a joke. WHEN I HEARD THIS STORY, I could not believe someone would take the time to do such a thing to annoy one of their fellow workers. If that had been done to me, I would have driven myself crazy trying to find out the mystery and who was behind it. Gratefully, I do not work with such an employee and have to wonder what would motivate someone to do such a thing. The more I thought about that story, it suddenly occurred to me that entire scenario could have easily been a scene out of that old board game where players receive clues to try and figure out the mystery. I remember relatives trying to teach me the game, but I was not catching on to it. The reason being was those family members were experienced in playing the game, so just gave me quick directions before we started playing it. They had to tell me what to do as we were playing it and it only frustrated me more. However, if the scenario had been like the story in this film festival winning movie, I would have quickly gotten into playing it. WHEN THE FAMOUS MYSTERY WRITER HARLAN Thrombey, played by Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World, Beginners), was found dead in his mansion; the only people who had been around him were his family members. It would take a super sleuth to try and figure out this mystery. With Daniel Craig (Logan Lucky, Cowboys & Aliens) as Benoit Blanc, Chris Evans (Gifted, Captain America franchise) as Ransom Drysdale, Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Overdrive) as Marta Cabrera and Jamie Lee Curtis (A Fish Called Wanda, True Lies) as Linda Drysdale; this comedic, crime drama was exciting to view. The script was twisted and funny which allowed the actors to have fun with their characters. I enjoyed the twists and turns as the writer took delight in testing the viewers’ ability to figure out the mystery. Keep in mind, I am not one to try and figure out what will happen; I live in the moment and let the story unfold in front of me. This picture provided great entertainment for me as I tried to look at every detail so I could guess the reason behind the mysterious death.
3 2/3 stars
I can accept and appreciate a person’s talent. Whether it was something they were born with or they trained for years, it does not matter to me. But I have to tell you it takes something more for that talented person to earn my respect. I know some of you are saying who am I to withhold respect for the talented individual and you would be correct. That person does not know me nor will probably ever meet me, but this is how I am wired. Let me use the swimmer from the recent Olympics who filed a false police report. Being a world champion swimmer with multiple endorsements, at one point had a television show, traveling the world, I assume making a pretty penny and that is not enough for them that they needed to attract more attention to themselves by creating a false crime; I find it sad and disrespectful on many levels. As far as I am concerned I would not devote a second of interest towards anything this person does or says. On top of it I would certainly never buy or even try any product associated with them. Now I do want to make the distinction that there may be a talented person who does not have the same beliefs I do and that is okay. Fortunately I live in a place where freedom of speech is protected, so I do not have any issue with someone who may act in a way that is not compatible to my way of thinking; I still respect and accept them even if at times I feel conflicted with their actions compared to their achievements. The main character in this biographical drama would be a perfect example of what I mean. SOMETHING special took place when Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran, played by Edgar Ramirez (Point Break, Joy), met an American trainer named Ray Arcel, played by Robert De Niro (The Intern, Grudge Match). Though I knew some of the names in this action movie I really did not know anything about their history. With musician Usher Raymond (Muppets Most Wanted, Scary Movie 5) as Sugar Ray Leonard, Ruben Blades (Safe House, The Devil’s Own) as Carlos Eleta and Ana de Armas (War Dogs, Anabel) as Felicidad Iglesias; I thought the best acting came out of Edgar and Robert. Usher did not look or act the character though he had his dance moves for the footwork needed in the boxing ring. One of the reasons I thought Edgar’s acting was exceptional was the way I was reacting to his character. On one side you had this incredibly talented boxer who to me was arrogant and rude; but on the other hand, he could be generous and loving. It was a conflict for me which meant Edgar was doing a good portrayal. I just wished the script was better because there was too much going on with various story lines, besides the predictability of it. Most events except for the well choreographed boxing scenes felt like they were only scratching the surface. Just as I felt conflicted about the boxer as a person, I felt the same way about this movie. There were scenes that showed blood.
How annoying is it when you get a new item and it isn’t what you expected or does not work? When it comes to food products our feelings are usually based on the item’s taste; I understand since I have tried some items touting their new great flavor, only to get a nasty taste in my mouth. This type of stuff I either give away or toss into the garbage. The rules are different when the products are not food based. I may have mentioned I bought a new computer. After the store transferred my old information to the new one, along with adding some new programs, I excitedly brought the computer home and turned it on. Everything about it was great until I left it for a moment. When I came back to continue my work the computer would not wake up from its sleep mode. To say I was annoyed would be putting it mildly. I did get it fixed but it is stuff like this that ticks me off. Just a couple of weeks ago it was reported that a department store would no longer carry their line of Egyptian cotton bed sheets. And do you know why? It turns out the company that was making the sheets for the store was not using Egyptian cotton. Can you believe it? The thing that amazes me is the audacity some of these manufacturers have in thinking they are “pulling the wool” over the eyes of their customers. And who really is affected by these actions? It is the consumers who wind up on the losing end. I know the example I gave here is just one of many that take place around the world. CHILDHOOD friends Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, played by Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street, True Story) and Miles Teller (Fantastic Four, The Spectacular Now), found themselves taking on the bigger players in the defense field when they landed a $300 million contract from the Pentagon. The question was how were they going to fulfill it? Based on a true story this comedic drama also starred Ana de Armas (Exposed, The Boarding School-TV) as Iz and Bradley Cooper (Burnt, American Snipe) as Henry Girard. Along with all the other actors in this war film, this still was Jonah’s and Miles’ show. Their acting and chemistry was strong, though I felt Jonah was starting to be typecast with this type of character. The steady pacing kept the story going forward and I have to say even while I was watching this picture I still could not believe some of the things that were taking place. I think that is part of the attraction of this film; viewers will sit in disbelief by the outrageousness of some events. This will make up for the script that did not offer much depth to the characters along with having a little weakness towards the end. In spite of these things the story was so startling that I think it would grab the viewer to stay engaged with it.
“Use it or lose it” is one of my favorite things to say to people. In my fitness classes the members have been listening to me say this for years. If we stop working on ourselves how will we continue to move and grow, both physically and mentally? From my experiences I know some individuals have an easier time training their body instead of their mind and visa versa. I actually find it is easier to train my body, which is why I work extra hard on using my mind. To me the mind is like any other muscle in the body and it needs to be stimulated so it can continue to thrive and expand. Without going into too much detail my mind was tested at a very young age; you could say trial by fire. Growing up and being overweight, I heard the “F” word a lot to describe my size. I do not remember when it actually started to work but there came a point where I stopped listening to the taunts. Yes, I still would hear it but my mind would not register it. This explains why today I am skilled in being able to shut out different noises and sounds. Where a co-worker may get distracted with an annoying repetitive sound coming out from the warehouse, my mind only hears white noise, if even that. This ability is not limited to just sounds; if the mind is strong enough it can shield a person from certain parts of reality. It has served me well. I see I am not the only one now that I have seen this dramatic movie. WHEN his partner was found dead Detective Galban, played by Keanu Reeves (John Wick, The Matrix franchise), was determined to find the killer. With the trail of clues not adding up and no one claiming to have seen anything, Detective Galban was positive there had to be someone out in the city who could provide him with the answers. This film which also had Mira Sorvino (The Replacement Killers, Mimic) as Janine Cullen and Ana de Armas (Sex, Party and Lies; The Boarding School-TV) as Isabel de la Cruz had a film noir flavor to it at first. I thought Ana was a compelling actress and found her role the most interesting. In a short amount of time the story broke down and became a jumble of sub-stories. From its film noir look it started to become a surreal fantasy type of story before trying to be more like a true detective story. I kept waiting for something to happen as the script randomly offered these little pieces of information that were not tying up the scenes; I started to wonder what was the point the writers were trying to convey to the viewers. Also, I have to say Keanu was more stiff than usual in this role. One could blame it all on the editing, the writing, the direction or all of the above; it does not matter. As I type the last word to my review I will forget about this discombobulated piece of work.
1 2/3 stars