IT WAS GOING TO BE A LONG flight for her, but that was not the part that worried her family. It was her decision to travel to a country that had internal strife, in addition to areas of extreme poverty. She was a seasoned traveler, having visited multiple continents numerous times. Her relatives were more concerned about this trip because her appearance would make her stand out in an unfavorable way; at least, that is what they were led to believe. Their fear was based on what they heard as opposed to what they had experienced. There were news reports about pockets of conflict which easily could justify the family’s concerns. But their fear had been fueled for several years from other sources, some of them more opinions than facts. Because of these fears the family insisted the traveler contact them at specific times throughout her trip. She agreed to it just to calm everyone down. When she landed at her destination she messaged everyone back home, telling them the flight was fine and she was okay. Her trip wound up being quite memorable in a positive way. She was glad she did not fall into her family’s fears; for if she had, she would have denied herself the warm and gracious kindness she experienced from so many different people. FEAR IS ONE OF THOSE EMOTIONS that can both protect and prevent us from new experiences, positive and negative. In the neighborhood I grew up in, there were students from a particular parochial school that my friends and I were fearful of. We heard about them from our older brothers and sisters. Since most of the things I heard had to do with bodily harm and abuse, I did my best never to get on those kids’ radar. I went through elementary school never having an encounter with any student from that school. In fact, none of my friends had an altercation or run-in either with any of these students we grew up fearing. Maybe there was an incident that took place years ago between a parochial school student and a public school one. If there was, no one currently had any knowledge of it. Instead they were hearing hand me down information that continued to feed our fears. All of us were reacting from our fear without taking the time to investigate and see if there was any truth behind the stories we had heard. A similar situation using fear was the basis for this animated, adventure comedy film. RAISED BELIEVING THE “SMALLFOOT” WAS AN evil monster, no one wanted to encounter one except Migo, voiced by Channing Tatum (Logan Lucky, Kingsman: The Golden Circle). He was convinced they did exist and wanted to prove everyone wrong. With James Corden (Into the Woods, Ocean’s Eleven) voicing Percy, Zendaya (The Greatest Showman, Spider-Man: Homecoming) voicing Meechee, Common (Selma, Suicide Squad) voicing Stonekeeper and LeBron James (Trainwreck, The LeBrons-TV) as Gwangi; this film had all the trappings of being an old fashioned, fun romp. The musical numbers were cute; the action was well orchestrated, and the actors did a fine job with their characters. I enjoyed the humor that had a twinge of sarcasm in it. One of the things I admired about this script was the fact they did not use one specific character to play the evil one. Instead the story used perceived fears as the antagonist and played that out to form a positive life lesson. Now, will little children get the point of the story? I am not sure, but I feel they will at least be entertained. And truthfully, I feel it wouldn’t hurt for adults to hear the message coming across in this movie.
2 ½ stars
WALKING OUT FROM the station he was greeted by a sea of shirts all in the same color. Every single person was wearing an article of clothing close in the same shade. There were so many people that they filled the space from one side to the other; it indeed looked like there was a slow current of fluid moving away from him, reflecting a settling crimson sun on its surface. He had heard about this special event and looked up the details before committing funds and time to attend the occasion. Though he grew up in the city; the majority of his life was spent in the neighborhood he grew up in. He felt somewhat out of place to his peers because he did not have any reference points to show him he was actually okay. Making his way into the crowd of people before him, he soon discovered the feelings he had about his childhood were similar to the experiences from many of those around him. DON’T YOU FIND it interesting when you grow up feeling the experiences you had were unique to you, only to find out someone from far away had the same type of experiences? I get a kick when I meet someone from another country, in a completely different environment, who has similar feelings about common things that have happened to each of us. It shows me the borders we use to define ourselves are more transparent than we may realize. When you move away from home and set out on your own, you can discover how certain truths instilled in you have a wider definition than you believed. For example in a recent conversation I had with a friend, they shared an experience they had growing up that was so close to one I had that you would have thought the same people were involved in the incident. I was totally surprised by it in the same way the members of the Kingsman were in this action, adventure comedy. AFTER THE DESTRUCTION of their home Eggsy and Merlin, played by Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Legend) and Mark Strong (The Imitation Game, Miss Sloane), discovered their organization was not the only unique one of a kind place to work at; there was something similar halfway around the world. With Julianne Moore (Still Alice, Carrie) as Poppy, Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, Love Actually) as Harry Hart, Channing Tatum (White House Down, Magic Mike franchise) as Tequila and Halle Berry (Kidnap, X-Men franchise) as Ginger; the cast was fun to watch in this 2nd installment. I enjoyed the first one so had high hopes for this film; however, I found the script was weak and filled with strong language that was being used for cheap laughs. Maybe if I had not seen the previous movie I would have enjoyed this more, but I felt the freshness and wicked fun of the first picture was not captured in this story. There were big action scenes and crazy high tech weapons/accessories, but the whole picture felt a bit forced to me with obvious shtick. As I mentioned earlier the actors were a good choice for the roles they had; I wanted to see more depth in them. If the writers were trying to make something that would stand out and be different from other films of this type; in my opinion, they created a typical action picture.
2 ½ stars
SLIGHTLY BELOW AVERAGE height, you would not associate them with unusual let alone average strength. Bespectacled and unassuming, the couple easily blends into a crowd of people without any effort. As they say “looks can be deceiving” and with this couple no truer words have been spoken. For all of their quiet, mild mannered appearances no one would ever guess they both were experts in the martial arts. The only way one would even know that about them would be if you saw them mentoring the students in their classes. Dressed in their off white colored short pants and jacket with a black belt tightly tied around the waist, the two of them periodically demonstrate defensive movements. The speed of their punches and kicks nearly defies nature; they are precise and quick. For some people who would have such skills, they would telegraph it via their enlarged confidence and mannerisms; but for this tiny duo, they conduct their daily life with a sense of peace and calmness. I AM ALWAYS amazed by the amount of people who make assumptions about other people based solely on their outer appearances. And it seems like more and more people are doing that these days. I do not know if it has anything to do with our society’s desire for instant gratification that causes people to make snap judgments; but it seems as if less people want to take the time to learn about another person. It still amuses me to this day when someone finds out what I do for a living and activity. Either they think I am too nice to do one job or not buff enough to do the other job. Think about it; imagine someone freely telling you, you do not look fit enough to teach fitness. I do not believe this would fall into the compliment category; it does not bother me, I find it amusing and rather enjoy seeing the confusing looks given to me. To see what I mean feel free to check out this comedic crime drama directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven franchise, Traffic). AFTER LOSING HIS job Jimmy Logan, played by Channing Tatum (Magic Mike franchise, Jupiter Ascending), hashed out a plan to make his life easier and richer. He would just need help from strangers to pull it off. With Adam Driver (Silence, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Clyde Logan, Daniel Craig (Defiance, Cowboys & Aliens) as Joe Bang, Katie Holmes (Batman Begins, Phone Booth) as Bobbie Jo Chapman and Riley Keough (American Honey, We Don’t Belong Here) as Mellie Logan; the cast overall was fine in this film, though Daniel Craig was the stand out performer for me. His character was so different from what most of us “assume” him to be. I enjoyed the mix of characters in this story along with the side by side story lines; however, I have to tell you I was underwhelmed by this picture. With the buzz about Steven coming out of retirement and the favorable reviews I saw afterwards, I was left with a feeling of light amusement and enjoyment. For some reason the movie came across in a monotone way, without deep emotions attached to it. Some additional background information would have been helpful, but still I just felt I was watching a series of vignettes. It wasn’t like I assumed I was seeing a laugh out comedy or intense drama; I just thought, “Isn’t that a surprise.”
2 ¾ stars
The first time I saw them on a small screen I thought they looked unusual, almost bizarre. Every Saturday afternoon there was a television show that showed old movies. I did not understand the point of a movie musical the first time I saw one. Why actors were breaking out into songs in the middle of their scenes baffled me. It was not until I paid attention to the lyrics that I realized the songs were explaining parts of the story. These films along with the others that got broadcast came from a different time. The screwball comedies, dramatic romances and other genres had movie stars that were, to use a cliche, larger than life. I was familiar with those who had a prolific career, churning out a new movie every year. These actors gave off an almost regal persona; it appeared the film studios kept each of them up on a pedestal to be admired and revered. As far as I can recall there was never any controversy associated with those actors, unlike the current actors of today. It seems as if more times than not actors are just as famous for their offscreen activities as they are for their acting roles. This however brings up an interesting thought: are current actors more out of control then the ones from years past? It would seem easy to say yes but upon more thought, I do not think there is much difference between the different eras except for the way we get our news presently. This comedy sheds some light on what the movie studios used to do for their actors. EDDIE Mannix, played by Josh Brolin (Everest, Sicario), had one mission and that was to keep things running smoothly for the film studio. With the actors they had under contract it was a 24 hour a day job. This dramatic comedy written and directed by Ethan and Joel Coen (Fargo, True Grit), was set in the 1950s when movie studios was churning out movies like an assembly line. The cast which included George Clooney (The Ides of March, Gravity) as Baird Whitlock, Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Only Lovers Left Alive) as Thora Thacker/Thessaly Thacker and Channing Tatum (Magic Mike franchise, Foxcatcher) as Burt Gurney were all representative of past celebrities. For example Channing’s character was similar to a past star like Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire. With the variety of actors in this film, each had essentially their own story going on. Though things kept moving along I felt most scenes were only offering a brief glimpse of a story before it was time for the next actor’s turn. The movie came across as little skits pieced together. I found the story amusing but nothing that warranted any major investment. Don’t get me wrong, this picture was fun to watch; however, if one is not familiar with movies that came out from the old Hollywood era, they may not enjoy this film as much.
2 3/4 stars for fans of old movies 2 stars for fans unfamiliar with the Golden Age of Hollywood
I get mixed emotions when I see advertisements for upcoming shows or concerts headlined by artists who are in the twilight of their careers. There are some artists who are still vibrant and continue to make contributions to their art; just take a look at Tony Bennett who is traveling with Lady Gaga in sold out concerts. However, there are some artists I have seen where I wonder what is the motivation that keeps them plugging along; is it due to financial reasons, the need for people’s continued adulation or maybe the fear of retirement. I hope this is not coming across as judgmental but I do have an issue when someone says they are retiring but then a few years later decide to come out of it for a world tour. I tend to see it as a money grab. Maybe because I take people for their word I react this way; however, if they would have said they are retiring from touring but may do a concert once in a while it would sit better with me. Looking at my fitness level as I age I wonder how I will be in my cycle class when I get older. If I could not keep up with my classes I would want to step down from teaching and become instead a participant. Of course when the time comes for me to retire I hope to end on a hight note with a packed class as we go on one last intense fun ride. This is why I was able to understand what the male entertainers wanted to accomplish in this musical sequel. THREE years has passed and Mike, played by Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher, Dear John), has finally seen his dream come true with the start of his custom furniture business. But when his old dance troupe buddies wanted to get together one last time for a contest, would Mike be willing to don his thong one last time? The difference between this sequel and the first film was like night and day. Where the original was fun with solid dancing routines and acting ability from Matthew McConaughey; this movie came off as a crass knockoff. The cast of men such as Joe Manganiello (Sabotage, True Blood-TV) as Big Dick Richie and Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart-TV, In Time) as Ken were joined by Jada Pinkett Smith (Reign Over Me, Matrix franchise) as Rome who was ridiculous because of the script. What surprised me the most was how bad the dancing was this time; it was uninspired with tired stripper pole moves. I will say this did not stop some of the people in the audience from hooting and hollering during several scenes. As for me this group should have quit while they were ahead.
1 3/4 stars
I believe one has to look at their past to see where they are going in the future. The opportunities are plentiful if one looks at the past generations of their family, besides learning some surprising facts. Since I look at the world as one large supermarket, I am always curious to find out the heritage of any new person I meet. Listening about their family’s roots only reaffirms my beliefs that we are all connected in some way. I used to fantasize about my deceased relatives, imagining elaborate scenarios for them regarding their professions, their neighborhoods, even their hobbies. Hearing about family members who fought in battles or others who were inventors, only set my imagination into high gear. I wondered if any of these relatives’ genes were flowing in my blood. Just take a moment and imagine you found out a relative of yours did something extraordinary in their life; don’t you think it would inspire you in some way? I had a relative who played the violin; so when I used to play the piano, I would pretend they were accompanying me. Something as simple as that made me work harder on my piano lessons so I would not be the one to make a mistake during our duets. One never knows how the actions of one relative can affect another. WISHING for something more in her life Jupiter Jones, played by Mila Kunis (Black Swan, Oz the Great and Powerful), was not expecting it would be in the form of the alien warrior Caine Wise, played by Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher, White House Down). Little did she know her life was about to drastically change along with her planet. The first thing that grabbed me in this action fantasy was the visually spectacular special effects. Set in the city of Chicago there was one particular outdoor fight scene that used much of the city’s skyline. Though Channing’s character always looked like he was ice skating, it was still pretty cool to watch on screen. Written and directed by the Wachowski siblings (The Matrix franchise, Speed Racer), the visuals were this adventure film’s strongest feature. I thought Mila and Channing had excellent chemistry, besides Sean Bean (The Lord of the Rings franchise, North Country) putting in a good acting job as Stinger Apini. However, I strongly disliked Eddie Redmayne’s (The Theory of Everything, My Week with Marilyn) performance as Balem Abrasax. It felt and looked so out of place compared to the other characters. Sadly the script was a mess that never lived up to the visuals. It came across as a mashup of several other films like Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz. If the Wachowskis wanted an epic creation here, I wished they would have created a script that made more sense.
1 3/4 stars
It would be hard for some to understand the challenge if they did not know the burden. Living under the weight of expectations or in the shadow of an older sibling can add an unnecessary strain to one’s daily life. There have been studies that looked at siblings’ birth order as a means to understand the psychology behind each one’s actions. Quick examples would be the oldest one could become the caretaker or dominant one while the youngest had the least parental restrictions placed on them, becoming spoiled. I remember a college course where we dissected case studies of actual family dynamics. A couple had 2 sons where the oldest was their pride and joy; the other one was always being told to act more like his older brother. After the two boys reached their teen years, the first born was given a gun for hunting. Sadly a year or so later the boy killed himself with the very rifle his parents had given him. The parents were devastated as they plunged into despair and sadness. The living sibling was barely acknowledged at times. However, the following Christmas the parents presented him with a large gift wrapped present. When he opened it up he found the same rifle that his brother had used to kill himself. Think about the message the parents were sending their second child. SUCCESS was hard to acknowledge when trouble was brewing underneath in this biographical drama. Based on a true story, winning the gold medal did not translate into financial success for wrestler Mark Schultz, played by Channing Tatum (White House Down, Side Effects). Living under the shadow of his older brother David, played by Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me, Begin Again); David felt he was going nowhere until he received a strange phone call from financial heir John du Pont, played by Steve Carell (Get Smart, Dan in Real Life). David was offered the chance to train and lead an elite group of wrestlers towards gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The acting was incredible in this film festival winning movie. Steve Carell was utterly creepy in this dramatic role. Vaguely remembering the story about John du Pont I found this movie to be more of a psychological sports drama. Though it was directed by winning director Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote); I thought the film dragged, especially in the first half of the story. There were times the screen went dark without sound where I thought something was wrong with the movie projector; it did not help in the entertainment department in my opinion. This film had a thoughtful dark story that did not come up to the same level as the acting.
2 3/4 stars
As you turn the page of the novel you find an old photograph stuck between the pages. You see a younger you floating across a lake on an inner tube. Immediately memories flood your mind, flushing into your eyes as you can see and remember how the water was so cool and clear on that hot summer day. Absently you scratch your arm in the same spot where you had that reaction to the bug bite you got when you came out of the water. Besides the common things like photographs or hand-me-down objects that trigger one’s memory, I have always been fascinated with how the mind responds to what seems like random items to stimulate a memory. I can hear a couple of musical notes in a certain order and I get catapulted to a wide white concert hall where a full orchestra is in the middle of playing a romantic symphony. When driving through a densely tree lined street, images of a deceased relative well up into my consciousness because they had given me my first ride in a convertible car. The way the sunlight filters through the leaves, creating sparks across my windshield, reminds me of the car ride we had gone on. He had driven us down a long stretch of road so I could feel how the air would whoosh by me, tickling my ears. It seems as if memories of past relatives grow sweeter and softer as I grow older. DEATH was a place filled with celebrations, happiness and good food in this animated adventure film. Diego Luna (Milk, Elysiom) voiced Manolo, a man who was willing to die for Maria, voiced by Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy). He would have to fight his way through the dead and living worlds if he had any hope of seeing her again. The cool thing about this movie was the way the writers took the subject of death and turned it into a less scary place. I believe the story was based on the holiday Day of the Dead, though I am not familiar with it. For that reason I may have been at a disadvantage in the way I interpreted this movie. Granted some could consider this an odd idea for a children’s film and it did cross my mind as well. I understand how much easier death would be if we were taught to look at it as a celebratory passage in time and this picture did its best in that regard. The writers treated the subject with sensitivity which I could appreciate. However, I did not find anything special or unique about this picture. Yes the visuals were fun to watch and some of the dialog was cute, but I certainly wasn’t blown away like I had been with other animated films. After a short time has passed, I doubt I will have any memories left of me having seen this animated comedy.
2 1/2 stars
They may be called a bestie, a homeboy, a BFF or bestbud; but they all refer to a best friend. This is the person who has the ability to step into your shadow and know what is going inside your head before you utter a single word. The two of you share a certain rhythm that permeates into your physical and emotional state, allowing both of you to share in similar reactions. Once a bond has formed between the two of you, it grows deeper and fuller throughout life like the roots of a mighty tree. Except for a conscious parting of the ways, there is nothing that can interfere with the tightness you each feel towards the other. Now this does not imply that the relationship will never evolve because it will. When one of the pair meets someone who they want to hang out with or date, it cannot be helped that the dynamics will change between both of you. Depending on the situation there may be hurt feelings or a sense of abandonment. In this action comedy Officer Schmidt, played by Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street, Moneyball), was feeling left out when his partner Jenko, played by Channing Tatum (The Vow, White House Down), started hanging out with football quarterback Zook, played by Wyatt Russell (This is 40, Cowboys & Aliens). In this sequel Schmidt and Jenko had to go undercover as college students to try and find the drug dealer who was selling a lethal drug on campus. This crime film does not hide the fact that the story is essentially the same as the previous movie, where the partners were pretending to be high school students. In fact the characters joke about it in a tongue and cheek type of way. Ice Cube (Ride Along, Friday) who reprised his role as Captain Dickson had more scenes in this film, a couple were quite funny. Everything that made you laugh in the first movie was incorporated into this sequel. I enjoyed the stunts, gags and dialog for the most part; it was obvious Channing and Jonah were both having a good time. The issue I had with this version had to do with the jokes; the writers let some of them drag on too long. The first time may be funny but to come back to the same themes over and over got old for me. I wished they would have expanded the story more than they did; but I understood they did not want to tamper with a winning formula. However, I have to tell you I thought the ending credits were more creative than parts of the movie. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
2 1/2 stars
Even if one has not visited an iconic building, they can still be upset upon its destruction. When I travel to a new city I always seek out buildings of historic significance. Whether it is an ancient structure or a world renowned architect’s masterpiece, I enjoy seeing the architecture in every place I visit. I have only seen the Capital in Washington, DC from the outside; yet, I felt a twinge of sadness when it came under terrorist attack in this explosive action film. During the horrific incident John Cale, played by Channing Tatum (Side Effects, Magic Mike) and his daughter Emily, played by Joey King (Oz the Great and Powerful, Crazy Stupid Love) were taking a tour of the White House. With President James Sawyer, played by Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained, Ray) in residence, the building went into lockdown mode. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time; but for who, as the attackers were not counting on someone like John Cale being in the White House. My sadness over the destruction of the Capitol was overshadowed by my dread over the ridiculous script for this film. It did not know whether to be an exciting action drama or a high stakes comedy. Some of the dialog was utterly looney, with no help from Channing and Jamie. Thrown into this mess was Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight, Won’t Back Down) as secret service agent Finnerty, Richard Jenkins (The Visitor, Step Brothers) as politician Raphelson and Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Lawless) as terrorist Stenz. I felt bad for these three individuals being stuck in this uninspired movie. To its favor, the film had good explosions and fights. If the writers had kept the story presidential without the attempted humor, I think this would have been a better film. Also, I was annoyed when the good guy characters did ignorant things; I felt as if the writers were underestimating the viewers’ intelligence. If you have nothing else to do and have never taken a tour of the White House, I suppose there would be no harm in watching this film. One of the funniest things to me was reading the credits, where I saw the film was filmed in Montreal, Canada. There were several scenes with blood and violence.
1 3/4 stars