HE WALKED OUT ONTO THE STAGE and told us at one time we were his enemy. Well, I was not expecting that as the introduction to my college history class. The lecture hall was full of students; this was one course that was in high demand because of its professor. If I had not read his bio, I would still know what part of the world he came from based on his heavy accent. To tell you the truth it added authenticity to his lectures, I believed. He continued his introduction by explaining how he was forced to enlist in the army, to help in his country’s war against us. Though they ultimately lost the war, he claimed no one learned from it; people are stupid and will repeat history over again. There was dead silence all around as his last words lightly echoed through the hall. Until people stop hating, he proclaimed, they will never learn and help their society advance. He went on to talk about his experiences during the war, giving us insight into his countrymen’s perceptions and interpretations of known events. It was fascinating to me as I listened to a different version of the history I had been taught in school. For the first day of class, this professor was already stretching our minds. THE TOPICS THIS PROFESSOR DISCUSSED IN his lectures many years ago still rang true for me as I was watching this biographical drama. The subjects that were being discussed back in the 1960s seemed just as current as what is taking place presently around us. I do not know if I can describe it, but it made this historical story resonate within me. History does repeat itself; the arguments that took place decades ago are still an issue today. Everyone has experienced some form of prejudice, I believe. For me, the attacks on me were based on a variety of things from weight to religion to the type of music I listened to, if you can believe that. I consider all of it, whether it is race, origin of birth, or some other aspect of a person; fundamentally hatred. People are afraid to learn; they would rather hang on to their prejudices that were instilled in them. I say instilled because hate is not something we are born with; it is taught to us. Watching this film and seeing what is taking place currently in the world only shows you we still have a lot of work to do. UNEXPECTANTLY BEING THRUST INTO THE PRESIDENCY, Lyndon B. Johnson, played by Bryan Cranston (The Upside, Last Flag Flying), wanted to do what was right for the country. Unfortunately, there were many senators who did not share his idea of what was right. With Anthony Mackie (The Adjustment Bureau, Captain America franchise) as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Melissa Leo (The Fighter, The Equalizer franchise) as Lady Bird Johnson, Frank Langella (The Box, Robot & Frank) as Senator Richard Russell and Bradley Whitford (The Last Full Measure, Get Out) as Senator Hubert Humphrey; this film festival winner had Bryan giving a tour de force performance as Lyndon. And with Lady Bird by his side, I did not recognize Melissa Leo; she did an amazing job of acting also. So many people think of Lyndon as the Viet Nam president, but he was so much more. I thought the script was excellent as it played a cat and mouse game between several of the government officials. Everyone in the cast was excellent and with the script I felt the writers and cast really brought history to life in this picture. Adapted from the Tony award winning Broadway play, I was thrilled to have been able to watch this piece of history come to life. Now if we can just learn from it.
3 ½ stars
BEFORE THE INNOCENT CREATURE COULD SEE the threat, I was silently sitting nearby to watch what was about to happen. The gigantic monster was deftly making its way down the wired girders. Because I could not hear anything, I assumed it was making its way in the quietest of ways. The prey was fidgeting and twirling around trying to escape once the monster came within eye sight. I was fascinated by the operation as it smoothly went like clockwork or at least that is how I perceived it. To the victim I am sure it was terrifying to see its immediate demise, once it got a sense of its predicament. Its wings were batting the air, trying to lift itself off the screen. It was no use; the enormous, dark predator descended over the prey to the point of nearly covering it from my view. I imagined there were screams of writhing pain being emitted but all I heard was silence. In my mind I was picturing the movie I had seen last week where a monster was on the brink of destroying Tokyo, Japan. The final battle pitted the monster with one that could fly in the air. What I was seeing was a re-enactment of that battle done by a fly and a spider on my window screen. AS A KID I WAS WELL VERSED with all the creatures that were trying to destroy our cities. There was Rodan, Mothra, Hedorah and Gigan to name a few. For some reason they each seemed to be attracted to Tokyo; or at least that is what I am remembering now. I never saw any of these creatures at the movie theater. Instead, they would be seen on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, television program. As a kid I was not very impressed with the special effects in the movies, but I also did not care. The monsters were never agile, always seeming to lumber and stumble their way through the scenes. At some point in time, I do not recall all the details, I discovered some of the monsters were actually men dressed up in costume; I was so disappointed at the time. It did not, however, make me stop watching these movies. There was never any deep thought put into the script. Essentially, every one of the monsters was destroying our planet whether it was their intentions or not. Some things still hold true no matter the time. AFTER A PERIOD OF PEACEFULNESS, A disruption brings out a new creature to threaten our world. The only hope is to combat this creature with another one. Could the earth withstand such a battle between these titans? This action, adventure fantasy starred Kyle Chandler (Game Night, First Man) as Mark Russell, Vera Farmiga (Captive State, The Conjuring franchise) as Dr. Emma Russell, Millie Bobby Brown (Strange Things-TV, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland-TV) as Madison Russell, Ken Watanabe (Inception, Transformers: Age of Extinction) as Dr. Ishiro and Bradley Whitford (Get Out, Saving Mr. Banks) as Dr. Rick Stanton. There were 2 glaring issues I had with this picture. Many of the fight scenes were dark in nature was one of them. The other problem was the script. I could not connect at all with this story. The script was so ridiculous and unemotional that I kept wondering if there was something worthwhile to focus on. I found many of the characters’ decisions crazy and unrealistic, especially the arc of Vera’s character. The monsters looked good which was a plus compared to those old-time films, I used to watch on television; but, this movie was not fun. I could not wait for it to be over. If this is what the film studio is going to produce these days, I hope there is a triumphant movie exec who kills the idea.
1 ½ stars
IT HAS BEEN SAID “IMITATION is the sincerest form of flattery” but not in the case of chocolate. To tell you the truth that goes for almost any kind of food. Let me tell you why I think this way. Occasionally when the grocery store is out of something I need, I will try the store’s brand. One time I had to buy their brand of raisins when they were out of stock of the ones I preferred. They were raisins; what could they possible do differently I thought. Well when I opened the container and tried them I was disappointed. Yes, they tasted like raisins do but they were small and shriveled; I was used to these dark and plump ones that had more taste. They were cheaper and of course I used them, but they were just okay. The same thing happened when a friend insisted I try this store that only sells their brand of products; they carried no national brands. Out of a small shopping cart of items I bought, the only things that tasted good to me were the sunflower seeds and nectarines. Their granola type cereal tasted vile to me; it tasted like dust. BY NO MEANS AM I A food snob, far from it. These days I consider food to just be fuel, except for desserts of course. However, I still want my food to taste good. It just seems from my own experiences many of the generic foods and products I have used are not as appealing to me. Heck, I even tried a pharmacy’s cotton swabs once and they were horrible; because they had so little cotton on them they kept scratching the outside of my ears. When it comes to new products many of them are not based on an original idea. Instead they take someone else’s idea and improve upon it. This is the nature of commerce; companies want you to buy stuff and continue to buy their products. This is one reason why there seems to be more film sequels to me. When a movie studio produces a successful picture; they immediately want to recreate the success they had with another movie. I have to wonder if the film studios check out their competition and when something is a hit, they try to do something in a similar vein, hoping to be successful with it too. For me the story in this science fiction thriller was very familiar; I know I have seen something like this somewhere before. You may have also. WHEN A MYSTERIOUS VIRUS NEARLY wipes out all children on the planet, the ones remaining become a threat to the adults. So much a threat that they need to be put away… or put down. Starring Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games, The Hate U Give) as Ruby, Mandy Moore (47 Meters Down, This is Us-TV) as Cate, Bradley Whitford (Get Out, Saving Mr. Banks) as President Gray, Gwendoline Christie (Star Wars franchise, Game of Thrones-TV) as Lady Jane and Harris Dickinson (Beach Rats, Trust-TV) as Liam; I thought the actors fit well into their roles. The story started out fine; it made me curious to find out more and I especially enjoyed the acting from Amandla. But as things started to happen I was left underwhelmed. This story for all intents and purposes was a lite version of the X-Men or anything like it. The special effects were nothing special and ultimately the script failed because it bored me. It was obvious where things were going and worse, it appears the movie studio is hoping to do a sequel. The best thing about seeing this generic piece of work was the price; with the money I had on the theater’s loyalty program, it only cost me 53 cents.
1 ½ stars
EVERY day starts with him coming outside to begin his squirrel watch. He stands still in the middle of the backyard with his head tilted upwards, scanning the tree branches for any movement. If something even twitches for a brief moment, a plethora of barking takes place as my neighbor’s dog begins racing around the tree trunk, daring the animal to take a step down towards him. Having recently celebrated his 2nd birthday this dog is actually a big hunk of crazy love. Anytime I come out of my garage and he is in the yard, he squats down on the ground like an ancient sphinx, waiting in anticipation for me to call out his name. You see he will not run up to my fence until I call him. Now here is his secret; he is being trained to be a search and rescue dog. His owner, my neighbor, told me about one of the exercises he performs with the dog. At the facility’s swimming pool, my neighbor pretends he is drowning. The dog is released and jumps into the pool, swims over to the man, grabs a hold of any piece of clothing or a limb in his mouth and begins pushing or pulling the man to the edge of the pool. SOME of the other stories my neighbor has told me have been extraordinary. There is such a bond between this man and his dog that is quite noticeable. When both are in the backyard, the man will do exercises with the dog; some are with verbal cues while others are done only with different hand gestures. It amazes me that within the span of 2 years, if even that, this dog has achieved so much with his owner. As I said before just looking at him running around and barking his head off in the backyard, you would think the dog is a hyper bundle of energy. I would love to see him on one of the search and rescue missions, just to see how he focuses on the task. Until then I will be satisfied watching the dog in this film based on a true story. WITH nowhere to go in her hometown Megan Leavey, played by Kate Mara (The Martian, 127 Hours), enlisted in the army. Assigned to cleanup duty at the dog pound that housed one of the most aggressive dogs, Megan would have to confront her fears. This biographical war drama also starred Tom Felton (Harry Potter franchise, A United Kingdom) as Andrew Dean, Common (Selma, Now You See Me) as Gunny Martin, Geraldine James (Sherlock Holmes franchise, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Dr. Turbeville and Bradley Whitford (The Cabin in the Woods, Scent of a Woman) as Bob. The script was kept simple; there was not much surprising about the story. However, the script with the directing created an engaging story filled with bits of drama, tension, tears and joy. The actual story is incredible; though I felt things were kept more subdued overall in this movie. I think it would be hard for someone not to enjoy watching this picture. For me I honestly never gave much thought to the role dogs play in the military; my only encounter on this type of level would be in the security lines at the airport or city events. When a friend asked me if they might cry watching this film, I asked them if they planned on bringing any facial tissues.
YOU can plan, contemplate and imagine every scenario but it will not make a difference. The first time you meet the parents of your significant other is a stressful experience. One wants to be at their best; perfectly dressed and groomed, remembering any stories you heard about them; in a way it is not so far removed from a job interview in my opinion. As to location I guess there are pluses and minuses to meeting the parents, either on your home turf or their surroundings. Personally I have experienced both ways and I prefer hosting parents instead of being their guest for the first meeting. At least for me when I do not have to focus on my surroundings I can be more attentive to the parents’ needs. When I have to travel to visit the parents I have to take into account my eating restrictions, my privacy and remembering my place as a guest. This takes a lot of energy to do, at least for me. On the plus side I can decide to leave which I could not do if the parents were visiting us. There is nothing worse than realizing early on you are not connecting with the parents for whatever reason but you still have to remain civil and pretend like everything is okay. They say when you marry the person you love you are also marrying their family. FROM a causal meal together to a weekend away, I have experienced a variety of different ways to break the ice. I honestly cannot recall ever feeling calm about the experience. In one relationship I wound up meeting the parents over the internet when a mobile device was shoved into my hands and I was told to say hello to their parents. Talk about not being prepared, I had to try and calm my nerves while making small talk which was never my forte. So while I am communicating back and forth I sit and wonder if I am sounding like a babbling fool as I try to come up with conversation points; heaven forbid there should me a dreaded moment of silence. However I would rather experience this over and over compared to what the boyfriend in this suspense horror film had thrust upon him. CHRIS Washington, played by Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario, Kick-Ass 2), was already nervous meeting his girlfriend Rose’s, played by Allison Williams (Peter Pan Live-TV, Girls-TV), parents because she did not tell them he was black. Upon arriving at her parents’ estate it turned out Rose’s parents Missy and Dean Armitage, played by Catherine Keener (Captain Phillips, Into the Wild) and Bradley Whitford (The Cabin in the Woods, The West Wing-TV), were very interested in him, a little too interested. Written and directed by Jordan Peele (Keanu, Key and Peele-TV), this mystery satire was a big shock for me in a good way. The satire was biting and edgy while Jordan built up the suspense in a creepy intense way. I thought the story was great along with the script. This was the type of movie that takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions; one only has to give in and go with it. Along with the fun visuals and the good acting coming out of Catherine and Bradley, this was a fun and exciting movie watching experience. I have to tell you I would do FaceTime or Skype anytime compared to this meeting of the parents experience.
3 1/3 stars
With the right side of my brain reigning over the left one I have always gravitated to creative achievements. I guess you could say I hold them at a higher status then other accomplishments one does in their life. It has always fascinated me how people express themselves in a creative way, whatever the medium or method may be. One year I bought a ticket package to a dance series, from ballet to modern. To see not only the dancers moving to the music but to watch how the choreography was created to blend with the sounds was amazing to me. Regarding the dancers, I knew what type of dedication they had to have to manage such control over their bodies. Just from what I have experienced by teaching aerobics I know I only covered a sliver of the energy that dancers produce in their craft. The same can be said for any of the artists who have their work on display somewhere. Some of the graffiti I have seen on walls has been wild; in fact, there was a town I visited where they encouraged graffiti artists to create work on the back of buildings in a block long alley. It really was an amazing spectacle. From my own experiences I know creative outlets can be the exit ramps for our emotions to come out from being buried inside of us. Whether it is doing origami or gardening to song writing or pottery making; anything that gives us a vehicle to express ourselves is a positive attribute in my opinion. WITH only a pen and a guitar country western singer Hank Williams, played by Tom Hiddleston (Thor franchise, Crimson Peak), was able to create songs that told real stories. I have had no exposure to Hank’s music so I was curious about this biographical drama. Another thing I wanted to see was how this British actor would handle a southern American accent in his speech and with his singing voice; I knew the film studio wanted him to sing Hank’s songs. I have to tell you he was excellent in the role along with Elizabeth Olsen (Godzilla, Oldboy) as his wife Audrey. The strongest part to this music movie was the acting; even the supporting cast of Cherry Jones (The Village, The Perfect Storm) as Lillie Williams and Bradley Whitford (Saving Mr. Banks, The West Wing-TV) as Fred Rose was quite good. The biggest issue I had concerned the script. I felt I never understood what drove these characters. There were parts of the picture that ran slow which produced unevenness to the story telling. Actually I thought if the writers would have devoted more back story to the songs I would have enjoyed this film more; even exploring the mother/son relationship would have helped me stay more attuned to what was going on up on screen. There is no denying Hank Williams was a gifted and creative artist; I only had wished his story would have been conveyed in a more creative movie.
2 ½ stars
There is a place where all the should do’s, have to do’s and suppose to do’s in life cannot infiltrate; it is in one’s memories. Some of these remembrances may be average such as a friend’s phone number or a bank account number; however, there is a special area where the cherished memories are stored. It is in this place where I keep my fondest memories that get quick access to my heart. I remember my favorite babysitter who had a way of reading a story where the characters would come to life for me. She had a quiet gentleness that I found soothing. The reason she is presently closest in my thoughts is due to this comedic drama about a nanny. This film reveals the true untold story of how Walt Disney gained the rights to create what was to become the iconic film Mary Poppins. In that place where my fondest memories reside is the memory of the first time I saw this film about the unusual nanny, Mary Poppins. Since I can perfectly recall that experience I was concerned this biographic film would taint my memories. I can honestly say it did no such thing, instead it added a new depth of color to my vivid memories. Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility, Pirate Radio) played the fiercely protective author of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers. Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips, The Terminal) played Walt Disney, the creative genius who spent 20 years pursuing the author for the rights so he could keep a promise he made to his daughters. This film received a brilliant performance by Emma, who was as difficult and unyielding as anyone could be against the creator of Mickey Mouse. The scenes where she had to sit with the creative team of Don DaGadi, played by Bradley Whitford (Scent of a Woman, The West Wing-TV), and brothers Robert and Richard Sherman, played by B.J. Novak (Knocked Up, Inglorious Basterds) and Jason Schwartzman (The Darjeeling Limited, Moonrise Kingdom), provided me a wild history lesson to some of the cherished songs from the Mary Poppins movie. The one complaint I had was the use of dual story lines because I thought each story could be its own film. Though I will say I thought Colin Farrell (Total Recall, Pride and Glory) did a touching, emotional job as P.L. Travers’ father. The insertion of Mary Poppins film clips in this Golden Globe nominated movie added to the heightened amount of joy I experienced during this film. I am happy to say my childhood memory of seeing Mary Poppins now has a new coating of fondness due to this beautiful movie. Please make sure you stay through part of the credits to hear the actual recordings of P.L. Travers.
3 1/4 stars
For those of you who have known me for some time, you must be shocked to see me review this horror film. I am not a fan of the slasher horror movie genre. The only tip off I had regarding this movie was Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly) was the producer and one of the writers. With trepidation, I found an empty seat in the theater and prepared myself to be visually assaulted with blood and guts. The story started with five friends (comprised of your stereotypical jock, stoner dude, intellectual guy, grounded female and the party girl) who take a road trip to a remote cabin, for a mini vacation. At first I thought what an unoriginal premise; this was going to be one of those typical horror story setups. Not to give anything away, but I was so wrong about this movie. The script was smart, humorous with a splash of satire. I would not label this as strictly a horror film; instead, I would call it a hybrid of a science fiction horror movie. The story was wildly original and was finely executed (pun intended). Besides having Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Star Trek) in the cast, I felt Richard Jenkins (The Visitor, Let Me In) as Sitterson and Bradley Whitford (Kate & Leopold, The West Wing-TV) were perfect together. The best way to view this film would be to go in with as little information about it. I would even recommend you bypass the trailer below. Just remember its roots were in the horror genre, so there were gory bloody scenes.