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
MY JOB WAS NAVIGATION ON THE ship; rarely did I ever take on the role of captain. We were traveling in uncharted space; so, we were under a yellow alert, which meant everyone had to be at their assigned places, ready to go into action. I wound up steering the ship because my commanders were impressed with my instincts and ability to outmaneuver alien spacecraft. Our ship looked like an arrow; it was built streamlined for maximum speed. The front half was a triangular shiny silver shape, and the back half was an oversized cylinder that housed our massive engines. The bridge was at the base of the triangle, slightly elevated above the front half. At the forefront, just under the tip of the front part of the triangle, were a series of weapons that were incorporated into the design of the ship. We as a crew always strived to come in peace; however, if we were threatened, we could quickly become assertive to protect ourselves. On one trip, we encountered an alien ship that was shaped like half a circular dome with two long engines jutting out on one side. The dome had a honeycomb pattern to it. Without warning they started shooting at us, but luckily are protective shields withstood the blasts. I quickly steered the ship to dive underneath the enemy and blast them with our aft laser cannons to disable their craft. It worked. I NOTICED IT WAS GETTING LATE, so I quickly got up from the floor and put my rocket ship back in the kitchen drawer that held serving utensils. My rocket ship was a pie server. The enemy spaceship was a strainer that I hung back up on its hook in the pantry. There was so much cookware that I was never at a loss for finding something that I could pretend was a rocket ship or alien headquarters. There was a hand mixer that was one of my favorite kitchen items to turn into a rocket ship because by turning the handle, the two beaters would spin and become the engines that would propel the converted ship forward in the air or submerge and propel it underwater. Our kitchen was a treasure trove of objects and things that would stimulate my imagination to create a multitude of outer space adventures. Even ballpoint pens would become rocket ships to help Flash Gordon defeat Ming the Merciless and any other character I had seen or created. The feelings I have attached to these memories were stirred up while watching this animated, action, adventure film. DESPITE BEING STRANDED ON A FOREIGN planet, the mission still needed to be completed according to Buzz Lightyear, voiced by Chris Evans (Gifted, Captain America franchise), no matter what was taking place around him. With Keke Palmer (Hustlers, Joyful Noise) voicing Izzy Hawthorne, Peter Sohn (Luca, It Starts with Murder!) voicing SOX, Taika Waititi (The Suicide Squad, Free Guy) voicing Mo Morrison and Dale Soules (Aardvark, Orange is the New Black-TV) voicing Darby Steel; this science fiction movie was enjoyable. The animation was outstanding, with several incredible looking scenes. I thought the cast did an excellent job with their characters and was surprised by the emotional depth that was instilled in several of them. My concern with this picture comes down to the story line. The opening scene appeared to steer the story one way, but then there was no other reference to it the rest of the time. With the multiple story lines, I found they were distracting at times and lowered the connection between viewer and character. Granted, the story was not unusual or that exciting; however, the messages being conveyed were touching and the execution of events with its own unique humor made the time go pleasantly by. Though this Pixar movie might not reach the super status level of their previous works, I still found it stimulating and imaginative. There were two extra scenes during and at the end of the credits.
IF YOU WERE A BOY, THE one thing you would not want to do is cry in public. If you were caught crying it would become the catalyst for a slew of derogatory nicknames, teasing and abuse. It was just a fact of life back then. And this is not me imagining or over dramatizing it; every boy in school knew no matter what, don’t cry and do not even let your eyes water up. It was expected girls would cry because they were more “emotional.” I had no idea where I was taught this fact; there were no surveys done or analysis completed. It was just something that all of us in school knew or assumed at least. I have seen girls fight each other as well as boys and I can tell you the two sexes fought in totally different ways. The girls were more vicious; they would slap, punch, pinch, scratch and use any item they could grab their hands on. The boys would limit their fighting to punches, wrestling holds and kicks. Where the girls would scream and yell, the boys rarely uttered a word. No matter what happened if someone was going to cry during their fight it was usually a girl. A boy might crumble up in pain and moan but would do everything possible not to cry. THANK HEAVENS TIMES HAVE CHANGED OR AT least I hope so. Gratefully I have not been in a fight since I have been an adult, but I can easily tear up or cry during a movie. This is not something exclusive; I can easily tear up while listening to music or during an emotional conversation. There is something freeing about releasing tears, both of sadness and joy. Think about the amount of energy it takes to hold in your emotions. I find it exhausting, so rarely do I try to keep my feelings/emotions in check these days. However, when I was in school being picked on or bullied, I held my emotions in. Thinking back at those times, it surprises me how we lived in a compartmentalized society; girls and boys, men and woman each had to act a certain way. I remember a parent saying it was not ladylike for a girl to fight. What did ladylike mean? Emotions and feelings are not defined by gender; they are unisex, universal. One emotion is not exclusive to one sex; yet for my generation, we were raised to believe differently. Therefore, films like this action fantasy are necessary. WITH THE WORLD LEFT IN SHAMBLES minus half the population, the remaining members of the Avengers had to move on with their lives. Losing a battle was hard for them; something they never wanted to experience again. But when a sliver of hope to rectify the past appeared, would any of the superheroes take the chance to change the past? With Robert Downey Jr. (The Judge, Chef) as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Evans (Gifted, Before We Go) as Steve Rogers/Captain America, Mark Ruffalo (The Kids are All Right, Spotlight) as Bruce Banner/Hulk; Chris Hemsworth (Bad Times at the El Royale, 12 Strong) as Thor and Scarlett Johansson (Rough Night, Lucy) as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow; this adventure sequel was a culmination of the past Avengers films. Coming in at 3 hours and 58 seconds; be prepared for a moving experience. I cried multiple times during this movie. The script was special; it was thoughtful and tied up every little detail for this franchise. What impressed me the most was the fact that female and male characters were equal, both in emotions and fighting skills. It did not matter whether a character had little or more screen time; they each played an important part in creating this superhero masterpiece. I felt there was more story than action in this picture; however, what action there was in the story was incredible to watch. How the movie studio will ever top this, I do not know. Whatever gender you identify with, I suggest you bring tissues with you and allow yourself to experience this epic movie. There were NO extra scenes at the end of the film.
3 ¾ stars
OUT of all the people I have conversed with who is either a mother or father, the majority of them believe their children are pretty, beautiful, handsome, intelligent and so on. I firmly believe a parent’s duty is to make their child feel loved, special and instill in them a sense of self-worth. Rarely do I hear a parent say their child is not attractive or is not smart. I actually know a mother though who praises one child over the child’s sibling; you should see what the effect of the mother’s negative comments has done to that child, it is so sad. Now for me the words pretty, handsome or beautiful are subjective. Where one person may think a face is beautiful, another individual will think the person’s facial features are just okay. The way my mind is wired, for me to say someone is beautiful they would need to have a good heart (referring to let us say kindness as opposed to plaque) to go along with whatever their visible, physical features may be. WHEN a student gets straight A’s on their report card, most people will say the student is smart. I agree to a point, but for me there is book smart and street smart; the 2 are very different creatures. I cannot tell you how many times I have sat and listened to a parent go on about how their child is so smart. Here again I wonder how they are defining the word “smart.” I remember there was a time during my schooling where a discussion was in the works about getting away from standardized testing scores. Students were so focused on memorizing statistics and facts; it seems they were not using this limited knowledge to paint a bigger picture of things. There is a teacher I know who had a freshman student who did not fit in with the rest of the class. This student already had an acceptance letter to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The teacher had to teach this special student a different way from the rest of the class without making it appear as if the student was not unusual. It was an important distinction, one that gets addressed in this drama. MARY Adler, played by McKenna Grace (Once upon a Time-TV, Amityville: The Awakening), had a gift for numbers. Her special ability would become a battleground in and out of school. Starring Chris Evans (Captain America franchise, Playing it Cool) as Frank Adler, Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, The Shack) as Roberta Taylor and Lindsay Duncan (About Time, Under the Tuscan Sun) as Evelyn; I have to say McKenna’s acting was pretty special. I fell into this story, enjoying the acting and directing. Sure there were scenes to manipulate the viewer and the script was somewhat predictable; but I did not care because the story was relatable for me. My earlier review of the new Smurfs movie talked about being different and things I said there apply to this film festival winner. Feeling different is such a relatable experience for many of us; I certainly have felt it and because of it I understood what the story was trying to do in this picture. Be prepared because including me, there was not a dry eye in the theater. Along with celebrating the things we all have in common, there is nothing wrong with us including our special gifts in the celebration.
Everyone around was becoming uncomfortable by two of their friends’ heated disagreement. The argument had been brewing between the two for a while and neither was willing to give in to the other. Only recently had their words started taking on a snarky tone and the people around knew better to calm either of them down else they would become victims to the venom. The friends hated distancing themselves from the two antagonists but it was becoming the reality of the situation; people were becoming unavailable for the get-togethers. Sadly I am quite familiar with these types of situations because I was usually one of the verbal fighters. For whatever reason the environment I lived in had made me believe a person who disagreed with me no longer liked or loved me. Most of my verbal attacks usually started out saying, “You” instead of “I”; there was rarely any discussion about the what and why I was feeling the way I did. I can still remember the times I would attend a gathering and if there was someone there I had a beef with I would make sure they and everyone around knew it. Whether I used snide remarks or was passive aggressive in attacking them, I can only say it was an ugly situation. With a lot of help and hard work I began to understand an argument was simply an argument; it had nothing to due with what a person thought of you. And the biggest lesson I learned was to express my feelings, starting out a sentence with “I feel…” Need I tell you the disagreement in this action adventure would quickly grow into something of epic proportions. WHEN politicians began to feel there needed to be some checks and balances in the Avengers’ operations, sides would be drawn that could well split the good intentions of the organization. This science fiction film did something that I rarely see in these type of movies; it placed an emphasis on some real life, current issues our world is experiencing at present. The script did a beautiful job of touching on these issues for a bit before switching it up between the wicked humor and personal drama amongst the superheroes. Starring Chris Evans (Snowpiercer, Before We Go) as Captain America, Robert Downey Jr. (The Judge, The Soloist) as Iron Man and Scarlett Johansson (Don Jon, The Avengers franchise) as Black Widow; there were too many characters to list here. I will say the script played to each actor’s strengths and I loved the way it introduced 2 new characters that it was obvious will have their own solo films in the near future. Now with all I have just said I did think this picture was long, but appreciated the way the action scenes were spaced out between the more personal ones. And one other thing I have to mention; I am concerned these Marvel movies are becoming predictable with their spectacular special effects, the two extra scenes during the credits and the Stan Lee appearances; they may raise the viewers’ expectations to a level that makes the films become ordinary. This may cause some discussion among us and that is fine since I know it is not personal. An extra scene during the ending credits and another at the end.
3 1/3 stars
As I was listening to them I wondered if they said any of this to their spouse. From my years of teaching I was not only people’s fitness/yoga instructor; I was their sounding board, their confidant. Not that I sought this position out; it just happened since part of my job includes aspects of being a customer service and member retention representative. The other thing I noticed that creates this type of environment is the comfort some people feel with talking to strangers. Not that I consider any of the members in my classes strangers; but I can see where I would be a non-judgemental sympathetic 3rd party. I remember one class where a member lingered behind as I was cleaning up the room. We had only had a couple of minutes making small talk when all of a sudden the member burst into tears, wrapping their arms around me sobbing as they told me their spouse was cheating on them. Whether it is right or wrong all employees had training instructing us that the only acceptable contact outside of hands-on instruction during class was a handshake, a fist bump, a high five, CPR or a sideways hug. Front to front hugging was not allowed in the current politically correct times. In my case I did not have time to shift my body; I stood there with my arms stretched out to the sides until the member backed away. I consoled them until they calmed down, just listening as my early college psychology courses training kicked in. This was only one example, through the years I have become a sympathetic ear that can be trusted and I believe that is what all of this comes down to, one has to have trust. STRANDED in Manhattan after her purse was stolen Brooke Dalton, played by Alice Eve (She’s Out of My League, The Raven), was leery of the stranger Nick Vaughan, played by Chris Evans (Captain America franchise, Snowpiercer), who was offering to help get her back home. This comedic drama was Chris’ first foray into directing. He did an admirable job with the material; unfortunately, the script was for the most part generic. What worked in this movie’s favor was Chris and Alice; they did their best with the characters they portrayed, showing some real chemistry between each other. It was obvious to me where the story was going to the point where it felt like the writers were going down a list of things to check off to include in each scene. I cannot say I was bored by this romantic dramedy; in fact, I sat there several times wondering what I would have done in that particular situation. Then again I believe trust is something that has to be earned, not given out freely.
The most important thing for some people is to maintain appearances. It is all about being a dutiful son, obedient daughter or the perfect family member; one must never air their dirty laundry, letting others see any cracks within the family unit. There was a family I knew that had a son and daughter. The two siblings never got along and would act out in some outrageous ways with no regard to personal or commercial property. Inside their home there were the usual scuff marks on the walls and floors. However there were a few unexplained holes in the walls too. If anyone visiting asked about the holes the stock answer given was a delivery man knocked into the wall. Regarding the siblings’ teacher/student conferences, whenever the parents were questioned about their children’s behavior they would blankly stare and say everything was fine at home. I never understood this type of logic, where people think it is better to just smile and say everything is fine than talking issues out. Just because family members may have some troubles between them does not mean they are no longer a unified family unit. Besides, don’t people root for those who come to terms with their issues, who reveal their real selves flaws and all? UNBEKNOWNST to the other Avengers Tony Stark/Ironman and Bruce Danner/Hulk, played by Robert Downey Jr (The Judge, The Soloist) and Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me, Foxcatcher), were working on a new technology that would help and maintain world peace. Instead it would facilitate the destruction of mankind. This action science fiction sequel had a lot of pressure to live up to its predecessor. What made this adventure film fun was the returning cast and their ability to do justice to the smartly written script. There was just the right amount of sarcasm, wittiness, pathos and excitement to keep the viewer entertained. A perfect example would be Robert Downey Jr’s character. His timing which was as impeccable as Jarvis’ (Tony Stark’s virtual assistant) diction was great when he had to deliver one of the clever quips or jokes. The cast really worked well together like a family, but I want to give an extra shout out to Mark Ruffalo and newcomer Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy, In Secret) as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch. These two had a strong impact across the screen due to their acting abilities with their given lines. Now to the crux of why this sequel worked; the characters were allowed to show their flaws and insecurities; they were more real to us where we could sympathize with them. Personally I enjoyed the 1st film more than this one. Yes the action scenes were intense, the special effects were good and James Spader (Lincoln, Boston Legal-TV) was perfect as the voice of Ultron; but the story was a little too long and there was a feeling of familiarity, a sense of deja vu. However, by letting the characters show more of their baggage and flaws, I only wanted to root for them more. There was one extra scene in the middle of the ending credits.
I am curious to know where it first began how the mindset of one being wealthy equated to being better than someone else. From various news and media sources I have seen, I definitely can see being rich does not mean one has good taste. When I see some of these celebrities in their massive estate mansions, I have to wonder do they really need all of that space and stuff. Seriously, how many bathrooms does one need in their house? Enough for a party of 25 being able to all go to the bathroom at the very same time with no waiting? My first experience where I saw a wealthy person exerting their so called power over another individual was with a distant family member. Because they were successful in business, aka making lots of money, they began telling other family members what they should be doing to get ahead in life. Though I was young at the time I was offended by the way they would talk down to people, treating them like they were ignorant just because they were not as rich. Success and wealth are not terms I necessarily use to denote financial status. A person who has close and long relationships with family and friends is a wealthy person to me. POWER came to those who were wealthy in this futuristic science fiction film. After an experiment failed to reverse global warming, mankind was virtually wiped off the planet. Only a small group continued to survive in a self-contained train that continuously circled the globe. Even though the passengers all suffered under the same horrific experiment, inside the train there still were divisions of class. And with class power was soon to follow. This film festival winning thriller gave me a fantastic ride. With Chris Evans (The Avengers, Captain America franchise) as Curtis, Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive, Moonrise Kingdom) as Mason and Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station, The Help) as Tanya; the cast was well represented with abundant talent and star power; yet, I did not see any advertisements for this action movie. The story was interesting and easy to follow even with its surprise turns. I thought the look of the film was perfect in the way the viewer became a witness to the contrasts within the train. It was interesting how the few special effects were not very good; but it was okay, since this film was predominately story driven. What a pleasant surprise to watch a science fiction movie, having no prior awareness of it, that had a feasible story and was wildly entertaining. It really had a power over me and I was fine with it.
3 1/4 stars
The first time it happened you chalked it up to a coincidence, but when it took place again you became suspicious. You shared sensitive information with a coworker. Later in the day you bumped into a fellow employee from a different department who made a comment that seemed odd. Feigning ignorance you let it slide, but as you returned to your desk you thought it was unusual for that employee to make such a comment out of nowhere, especially since the two of you were not close business associates. Later in the week you saw your coworker talking to that very same employee and you immediately understood why that employee made the comment to you; your coworker must have said something to them about you. When trust gets broken with me the first feeling I sense is the quick evacuation of oxygen from my body, as if someone had jumped on my stomach with both feet clad in steel toed boots. All the connections that were created between us shudder and crumble as the aftershocks prevent me from finding balance. It is a horrible feeling to place trust in a person or business and later discover you were betrayed; they were not who you believed them to be. In this action adventure Steve Rogers aka Captain America, played by Chris Evans (The Losers, Fantastic Four franchise), would question the placement of his trust when a new threat appeared to be getting the odds stacked in their favor. This film had a super throwback vibe between the forces of good and evil. I had a sense that all the actors like Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Don Jon) as Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow, Anthony Mackie (Real Steel, The Adjustment Bureau) as Sam Wilson aka Falcon and Robert Redford (All is Lost, The Electric Horseman) as Alexander Pierce were having a fun time filming this exciting movie. If you are not familiar with Captain America you may be at a slight disadvantage though the writers worked to fit in the back story of how Steve Rogers became Captain America throughout the film. There was a constant flow of action and excitement, but I found some of the fight scenes were so fast and in close-up that it was hard to make out each character’s actions. With a smart script filled with fun quips, an exciting story filled with surprise twists and a cast that met the physical demands of their roles while keeping solid chemistry between each other; I trust the powers that be will keep the Captain America franchise strong enough to yield more sequels. There were a couple of extra scenes up to the very end of the credits.
3 1/3 stars
It is not necessarily based on their outer appearance or what they may have said, you just get a negative feeling about the person. Though there was little talk about it, there was a boy in grade school who did mean things to animals. I knew to keep my distance from him. My instinctive radar has helped me steer clear of evil people through my adult life. There have been times where I have met someone and immediately got a negative reaction from them. Looking into their eyes is how I confirm the feeling. If I see a dark murkiness in there eyes, where light does not reflect off of the surface; I know there is something festering inside of them that is cold and brutal. To give you an example, take a look at the star of this crime thriller, Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, Mud) as Richard Kuklinski. Michael is such a gifted actor; his performances always come with a deep intensity. Based on a true story, Richard Kuklinski was hired as a contract killer by crime boss Roy Demeo, played by Ray Liotta (Identity, Smokin’ Aces). The movie followed Richard’s dual life: doting father and loving husband during the day and cool killer at night. Winona Ryder (Black Swan, Edward Scissorhands) was wonderful playing Richard’s wife Deborah, who was completely unaware of her husband’s real profession. Though the script was weak in telling the story fully, the incredible acting kept everything moving forward. With Ray matching his acting intensity to Michael’s skills, I was never bored. In addition to these stellar actors there was Stephen Dorff (Public Enemies, Blade) as Joey Kuklinski, an almost unrecognizable Chris Evans (The Avengers, Sunshine) as Mr. Freezy and Davide Schwimmer (Nothing But the Truth, Friends-TV) as Josh Rosenthal. Each of their performances contributed to the overall tour de force acting done in this film. Playing the deep duality of a ruthless killer and family man should earn Michael Shannon an Oscar nomination in my opinion. Whether it is from birth, childhood or environment; there are people who are simply evil. I have seen this evil and it was in Michael’s wicked performance of a cold heartless killer. Multiple scenes had violence and blood.