I WAS ATTENDING A DINNER EVENT where I knew everyone, for some years. Essentially, we had all grown up together. The dining room table was a long oval due to the 2 extra leaves that were added to it. On one end, pushed up to the edge of the table, was an aluminum folding table. Not that one would notice the metal; it was just because I usually was the one to bring it up from the basement and unfold it before the host would put a tablecloth over it. With both tables there was just enough room for all the guests to sit together for dinner. I was always grateful for it since I detested sitting on the sofa while balancing a dinner plate on my lap. The conversation at these dinner parties was always lively and fun. Everyone had an opinion and all of us respected each one’s opinion, even if there was a bit of ribbing and teasing involved with it. There was one guest, I have to say, who would get on my nerves. Maybe a better way to say it would be to say I found them exasperating. Everything was a joke to them, and they said the same jokes over and over. Literally, I have heard those same jokes for several years and can no longer try to laugh at them; there is nothing left that is funny to me. I find them more irritating to tell you the truth. IT IS DIFFICULT TO REACT TO repetitive jokes and stories. I used to be better about it because I did not want to appear rude or indifferent. However, for example when a news story gets repeated over and over it begins to lose its impact on me. The same holds true when a person shares their same opinions constantly. I believe everything in moderation. It is not easy being around someone who is always telling you what they hate, or on the flip side, who constantly talks about something they love. I find it hard to carry on a conversation under these terms. Now, there are things I go overboard with myself, where I want to hear and see everything available about the subject. Loving our national parks, I will watch or listen to various stories about them. There is a legendary actor I am fond of who I have seen various telecasts about them; recently a documentary that surprised me because it shared things that I had never known about the movie star. It was a pleasant surprise for me. When I saw the movie poster for this musical drama, I wondered if I was going to find out something that had not been mentioned before about the famous musical artist. FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS ROSE A YOUNG girl who would become a musical superstar. All within a short time. With Naomi Ackie (The Score, Star Wars: Episode IX-The Rise of Skywalker) as Whitney Houston, Stanley Tucci (Spotlight, Julie & Julia) as Clive Davis, Ashton Sanders (Moonlight, The Equalizer 2) as Bobby Brown, Tamara Tunie (Flight, A Journal for Jordan) as Cissy Houston and Nafessa Williams (Black and Blue, A Holiday Chance) as Robyn Crawford; this biographical picture was perplexing. Naomi did an admirable job of acting and lip synching as well as Stanley Tucci did with his acting; however, I did not learn anything new about Whitney. The movie for the most part was a highlights reel, showing both high and low lights from Whitney’s life. There was little character development or for that matter, emotional depth. I sat in my seat wondering what was the point of making this movie. This story was just a repeat of things the general public had been told before. If you are a fan of Whitney, then you might enjoy this film, if for nothing else the musical numbers. For me, I was bored part of the time, wishing I was home seeing actual video clips of Whitney doing some of her monumental moments
IT IS ALL IN THE DELIVERY I discovered. There is something about a dynamic speaker delivering a message to a group. I saw proof of it when I was a reader at a wedding ceremony. Not that I want to brag, but there was a person before me who did a reading that had no feeling to it. More importantly, I did not feel any connection to what the person was saying regarding the couple being married. I looked around the church and saw some of the guests were looking down or whispering to each other. This made me more nervous than I already was since I was to be the next reader to go up to the altar to read a passage. Despite having practiced reading my passage for a couple of weeks, when it was my turn and I stood up, my stomach still trembled with nerves as I made my way to the alter. Once in position at the podium, I looked out at all the guests before taking a deep breath and began to read. I made a point to read slowly and look up at the audience from time to time. My biggest fear was put to rest when I did not fumble mispronouncing any of the words. After the ceremony, people stopped to tell me what a wonderful job I had done. In fact, one guest asked if I would be interested in becoming a reader at her church. The spoken word was alive and well and I felt good about my “performance.” SINCE THAT WEDDING, I HAVE PAID closer attention to speakers I encounter. Whether they are in person or televised, I notice the things they do or not do to engage with their audience. At a convention there was a seller in front of his booth who was talking about the products his company had developed. I happened to be familiar with the products; however, if I hadn’t been, I would not have stopped to listen to this presenter. He was monotone in his delivery, just standing still in one spot. It was a shame because the products were quite good. To make matters worse, this booth was next to another one that had a spokesperson who was dynamic and funny. Too bad their product was limited in its abilities; but you would not know based on all the attendees who were congregated around this booth to listen to the presenter. I could only imagine how the dry speaker next door was feeling with no one paying attention to him. Let us face it, having a spirited person as a spokesperson/leader is what can motivate people to want to be part of the experience they are talking about. There is a clear example of this in this Golden Globe winning, intense biographical drama. AS MORE INDIVIDUALS BECAME ATTRACTED TO what Fred Hampton, played by Daniel Kaluuya (Black Panther, Queen & Slim) was telling them; the more concerned was the FBI. They needed to find someone to get close to Fred and his organization; but who would want to do such a thing? With LaKeith Stanfield (Knives Out, Sorry to Bother You) as Bill O’Neal, Jesse Plemons (The Master, Game Night) as Roy Mitchell, Dominique Fishback (The Hate U Give, The Deuce-TV) as Deborah Johnson and Ashton Sanders (Moonlight, The Equalizer 2) as Jimmy Palmer; this film festival winner grabbed my attention from the beginning and never let go. The entire cast of actors were remarkable in acting out their characters; however, Daniel and LaKeith were the big standouts for me. The script was both powerful and scary at the same time, to the point there were parts of this film that came across as a thriller. Taking the story as it was presented in this film, I could not believe what was being done to Fred Hampton. Not only was this an historical period of time being depicted in this picture; it was being told in a powerful and engaging way that I would soon not forget.
3 2/3 stars
MY FIRST WARNING WAS WHEN HE did not ask me how I was doing. I have noticed over time when I engage with a person and they do not ask any questions back, they pretty much are only interested in talking about themselves. In this case we were sitting next to each other at a lecture. We had seen each other in other classes and workshops, acknowledging each other with a nod of the head or a “hello.” Before the lecture had started I asked how his experiences were so far at the convention. He started talking about the classes he had taken, making a point to tell me what he would have done differently if he was leading it. I was just trying to make small talk and was not looking for a detailed description of his classes. As I listened to him it soon became apparent that everything he was saying was negative; he kept telling me he would have done a better job as the instructor or lecturer. Not once did he ever ask me about my time at the convention. I could not wait for our lecture to start because he talked non-stop; but even when the class started, he made a point to interject his take on what the lecturer was discussing with us. I felt like I was being held captive. THERE IS NOTHING WORSE THAN BEING stuck with someone who is sucking the air out of the room. Whether it is a business or personal function, I cannot tell you how excruciating it can be to be the sole audience member to a person’s soliloquy of their life and experiences. There was a salesman who used to always come around and all the employees would scatter whenever they saw him drive up. Whoever he made eye contact with would then be forced to listen to all his family stories, mentioning relatives as if the stuck employee knew who he was talking about. What made matters worse was the slow way he would draw out his stories, pausing at points just to see the reaction from his audience. I used to tell him I had a meeting scheduled or I was needed on a conference call, just to get away from him. And like I said earlier, he would never ask how you were doing; because it was all about him. The reason I am talking about this is due to today’s science fiction thriller. I felt like I was being forced to sit and listen to everything going on whether it made or not any sense. DESPITE BEING UNDER ALIEN RULE FOR some years, there still was a resistance to the occupation of Earth. One of the problems was the humans who were doing the extraterrestrials’ bidding. With John Goodman (Atomic Blonde, 10 Cloverfield Lane) as William Mulligan, Ashton Sanders (Moonlight, The Equalizer 2) as Gabriel Drummond, Jonathan Majors (White Boy Rick, Hostiles) as Rafe Drummond, Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, The Conjuring franchise) as Jane Doe and Kevin Dunn (Warrior, Veep-TV) as Commissioner Eugene Igoe; this was a dark film that had bold ideas. Filmed in Chicago, the story started out intriguing. There was little information given for the backstory. I sat through most of this movie feeling perplexed and bored, besides wondering why the more seasoned actors agreed to take on such a dismal production. The CGI was nothing special which made the clunky script all the more drab. I did not find anything exciting despite the twists which I assumed were supposed to be thought provoking. If I was the type who ate in the theater I would have gone and gotten some popcorn or candy. Unless you want to be held captive yourself, I suggest you save your money on this one by avoiding it.
1 ½ stars
SIR ISAAC NEWTON’S THIRD LAW states: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I would add: And some of the reactions come with consequences. As I thought about the next sentence I was going to write, I want to preface it by saying I am embarrassed. However, upon further consideration I decided I am not going to be embarrassed; I am simply stating how I feel about certain things. So here goes; I take pleasure in seeing someone getting their just dues. For example, a driver who cuts me off and speeds away, getting stopped by a police officer who gives the driver a speeding ticket. Or I love at the supermarket when a shopper starts walking faster to get ahead of me in line to check out and winds up getting stuck by the shopper in front of them who needs a price check on an item. Because they ran ahead of me I went to a different line and wound up getting checked out before them. It is little things like this that makes me believe in karma. My only hope is that those selfish individuals learn from their actions; but from how many times I still witness such behavior, I do not think the lesson gets taught. ONE OF MY ALL TIME FAVORITE stories is about a friend of mine who took such rude behavior to the next level. He was a big, brawny guy who could appear imposing to people. In a parking lot if a driver sneaked into a parking spot he was waiting for, he would pull right up behind the driver and park his car to block them into the spot. The driver would jump out to yell until they got a look at him. He on the other hand would calmly stare and tell them because they took the spot he was obviously waiting for, they could now sit and wait for him to finish his shopping. Or they could apologize, get back into their car, and he would move to let them out to go find a different parking place. Every person my friend did this to always chose the apology option. I wish I had the guts to do such a thing; but since I do not come across as a “tough” guy, I must take satisfaction in believing a rude person will get their “just desserts.” In the meantime, I at least can take pleasure in seeing justice being done in this action, crime thriller. WHEN A TRAGEDY STRIKES CLOSE to home Robert McCall, played by Denzel Washington (Fences, The Magnificent Seven), comes out of his quiet existence to contact his old partner Dave York, played by Pedro Pascal (The Great Wall, The Adjustment Bureau). Problem is, Dave thought Robert was dead. This film festival nominee also starred Ashton Sanders (Moonlight, Straight Outta Compton) as Miles Whittaker, Bill Pullman (Lake Placid, Independence Day franchise) as Brian Plummer and Orson Bean (Being John Malkovich, Innerspace) as Sam Rubinstein. As far as I was concerned this movie did exactly what I expected it to do; it was a good people vs bad people story. Denzel was excellent as Robert which was the first time he ever reprised a character. If you have not seen the previous film or television show this picture is based on, it is okay. The story was simple and to the point. I thought the action scenes were terrific, especially one that took place in a car sharing ride. Though the script was predictable, I was surprised by the twist in it. If you are so inclined in watching justice being served, this is the film to watch as Denzel delivers it.
2 ½ stars
AN act of kindness delivers a bigger impact during the time when the recipient is being hunted down as prey. Few of you may understand but for everyone else the victim is always aware of their surroundings. A soft sound from behind, an eye peeking out from a doorway; like a skittish deer in the woods the victim has to be ready to flee. For the one person who performs that act of kindness, which ranges from standing up to the aggressors to providing a safe haven; they are indelibly etched into the heart of the victim. One thing acts of kindness and violence both have in common is they each can have a profound effect. THE effect could span through many stages of a person’s life not to dissimilar in the way Claude Monet painted his series of haystacks. His approach was to show how the perception of light could alter the look of his landscape. Essentially the hay was the same; it just looked different depending on the location of the light source. Regarding the prey one may not see on the outside the change that takes effect from a good deed. Trust me the kindness is like a seed planted deep inside the victim where it cannot be harmed from any blows or kicks. You may ask what does the seed do for the prey; it provides the bloom of hope and there is nothing stronger than feeling that sense of hope growing inside. These thoughts flooded me during the time I spent with this dramatic movie. I felt I was walking through an art museum watching the different stages of the main character’s life. GROWING up in a rough environment it is the acts of kindness that last the longest. This film festival winning movie was a moving experience. Starring Mahershala Ali (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, House of Cards-TV) as Juan, Naomie Harris (Spectre, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) as Paula, Ashton Sanders (Straight Outta Compton, The Retrieval) as Chiron and musical artist Janelle Monae as Teresa; the acting was amazing. There is a good chance this picture will get an Oscar nod. Set in Miami the story was broken down into 3 distinct segments of Chiron’s life. What I enjoyed the most was the way the script did not manipulate the viewer. Instead the story smoothly unfolded or better yet, presented itself in a totally believable way. If you were to strip away the labels associated to each character you would be left with basic human emotions and a sense of self-discovery. The filming and the wonderful soundtrack seamlessly blended into forming complete picture frames and I actually mean picture frames. I truly felt like I was at an art gallery/museum, walking through and admiring works of art. It was brilliant to have 3 actors play the character of Chiron as a child, teen and adult. The direction was fresh and beautiful, even during the rough parts of the story. There were times though where the dialog was hard to hear for me. Like an act of kindness, I feel like I received a gift by watching this movie.
3 ½ stars