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
OUT OF THE SEVERAL COUPLES I knew whose jobs were at the same company, they were an anomaly. They were a husband and wife who worked in the same office. If you did not know their last names you probably would not realize they were a couple; they always were professional in their positions. This was not the norm based on the other companies I had worked at where two employees were in a romantic relationship. I was at one workplace where one of the administrators was having an affair with one of the co-owners of the business. My co-workers and I always knew when the two had been together outside of the office. If they had had a good time, then they were always finding reasons to see each other throughout the day, communicating in what I would refer to as a “pseudo lovey-dovey” way, being so effusive with extra sweetness and politeness. If they had a “bad” time together, then they ignored each other the entire day. It got to the point where it was comical to see these two acting out in front of all the staff. The other aspect of this was the fact none of us ever wanted to disagree or cross the administrator, for fear she would say something to the co-owner. So, no matter whether she did something incorrectly or misinformed us, no one would contradict her. FROM MY VARIOUS JOB POSITIONS, I absolutely understood why some of the companies installed a no dating policy among employees. Honestly, I would have had a horrible time if I was dating a co-worker and we then wound up ending our relationship. How can one immediately switch gears from having a love relationship to a different one without having some separation time to heal and adjust to the new relationship? I know I could never do it; yet, I have witnessed couples who were in love one day and the next they suddenly are just friends. I need time to rewire my heart and mind to the new dynamic between us. In fact, I am proof that one can indeed become friends with their past significant others, because most of the people I have been in long term committed relationships with are still part of my life as a friend. However, with each one we had to separate ourselves for some time before we could come back as friends. Sure, it is not easy if the relationship ended on a sour note, but over time I believe it still can grow into some form of a friendship. If you are interested, see what happens with co-workers in this dramatic thriller. CALLED BACK TO DO AN INVESTIGATION of an operation that went wrong, a CIA agent must interrogate a former co-worker he was in love with when they were working together on the case. How objective would he be as they delved into their past? With Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, Wonder Woman franchise) as Henry Pelham, Thandiwe Newton (Reminiscence, Westworld-TV) as Celia Harrison, Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix franchise, Mystic River) as Vick Wallinger, Jonathan Pryce (The Wife, The Two Popes) as Bill Compton and Ahd Kamel (Wadjda, Rattle the Cage) as Leila Maloof; this movie was more about the conversations than the actions. I thought Chris and Thandiwe were well suited for their roles and had a certain chemistry that worked between the two of them. I thought the idea behind the story was solid; however, I found this film dragged in parts. This might have been due to the jumping back and forth in time, though I thought several scenes could have been done in a more dramatic way that would have elevated the movie watching experience. Overall, this was a decent picture with a twist.
2 ¼ stars
WHEN I WAS YOUNGER, THE INDIVIDUALS I did not like knew it. I do not know why, but I felt it was my responsibility to put them in their place. If someone was a braggart, I would find a way to knock them down a couple of rungs. Not that I was proud or that it was an achievement on my part, but I used to be the best when it came to holding a grudge. So, if I encountered someone who I had a negative interaction with previously, they knew along with everyone else in the room that I would have nothing to do with them, to the point of completely ignoring them. No so much as a hello or the nod of my head for acknowledgement, I would purposely hover around them without engaging them into any of my conversations with the other guests. Even if they added a comment to the conversation, I would simply talk over them or remain silent. Of course, the other people within the conversation would realize I was ignoring the individual; but they never would make a comment, let alone try to push me to engage with the unwanted person. Out in the real world this was easy for me to do and maintain; but in the work world, I knew I could not act out in the same fashion. MY GUIDING FORCE WHEN IT COMES to dealing with conflict between employees is remembering that the company comes first. There is nothing more important to me than maintaining a company’s good name. I used to work with a miserable individual who felt everyone around them was stupid, that he was the only smart one. I had a couple of run-ins with him where he tried to get me in trouble. From that point on I decided I would totally ignore him. He got the message quickly when he tried to engage me in small talk; I just looked at him, got up from my desk and walked out of the room. With that being said, when it came to asking anything about company business I would cordially respond. That was the only time I would interact with him, company business. Let us face it, I do not think there is anyone who likes and gets along with every person they meet; there always will be someone that is disliked. I have learned in the work environment to put personal opinions to the side, work with whoever you need to work with, to get the job done. This is the philosophy one can see in this action thriller. THE BEST WAY TO CAPTURE A top-secret weapon for CIA agent Mace, played by Jessica Chastain (Crimson Peak, Molly’s Game), would be to join forces with her counterparts from other international agencies; but would she be able to trust them. With Penelope Cruz (Pain and Glory, The Counselor) as Graciela Rivera, Bingbing Fan (X-Men: Days of future Past, Lady of the Dynasty) as Lin Mi Sheng, Diane Kruger (In the Fade, National Treasure franchise) as Marie Schmidt and Jason Flemyng (Deep Rising, From Hell) as Elijah Clarke; this movie’s selling point was having a strong female group who could act, leading this story. The fight scenes were bloody and violent, with an authentic look to them. I did not mind the story’s plotline, but there really was nothing new to it. I have seen similar films that were a lot better in dealing with the spy stuff. There was a nice twist to the story; however, the script did not add to the characters. Personally, I think the writers could have gone to a deeper intensity level which would have made this picture more engaging. There was only a mild curiosity on my part, that got dulled by the poorly written script.
AT WHAT TIME DO YOU BEGIN to trust someone completely? For myself I do not have a definite set time where I start trusting a person. What I will say is this: trust is something that gets earned, it is not given freely by me. One of the ways trust gets built between me and an individual is to hear and listen to a person when they speak. Because my mind accelerates during a conversation, where I start to finish the person’s sentences in my mind, I tend to interrupt people. I must keep reminding myself to slow down and let the person finish before I say something. Being aware of this makes me more attentive in seeing if the person’s words and actions match each other, which is one-way trust starts to grow for me. Another thing that helps a person gain my trust is exposing me to their circle of friends at some point. I feel one can gain insight into a person based on the company they keep. I do not know; maybe it is harder to deal with me because I do not give my trust out freely. I can easily tell you why; after giving my trust out and getting it broken a few times, I questioned my ability to vet out untrustworthy individuals. ONE PERSON WHO BROKE MY trust was a co-worker at a previous job. I thought we had a good, friendly relationship; she would even confide in me. I found out later that she resented me being promoted into a position that she was hoping to get. Of course, I did not know she wanted it; another employee told me. There had been several incidents that reflected poorly on my performance. I did not understand how these kept happening until I found out she was entering inaccurate information on purpose to make me look bad. Besides being furious at her, I was hurt. If I confronted her I would have to divulge the name of the employee who tipped me off; so, from that point on I totally ignored her. If it was a business question I would answer her; but anything else she said to me I would not give her a response. This may sound childish to you, but it worked for me. Trust me, this kind of broken trust doesn’t compare to the ones that get damaged in a love relationship; those are much harder to come back from in my opinion. But then again, I have been fortunate that my life has never been put into jeopardy due to the trust I had given someone, unlike the main characters in this action adventure film. THERE WAS LITTLE TIME FOR an elite group of CIA agents to build trust with the one person who had the key that would save thousands of people. Too many other people wanted him dead. Starring Mark Wahlberg (All the Money in the World, The Gambler) as James Silva, Lauren Cohan (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Walking Dead-TV) as Alice Kerr, Iko Uwais (The Raid franchise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Li Noor, John Malkovich (Bullet Head, Secretariat) as Bishop and Ronda Rousey (The Expendables 3, Furious 7) as Sam Snow; this crime movie was all about intense action. Development of the characters was close to nil; the script was a mess and I especially disliked the jumping back and forth in time periods. Iko was my favorite and I have to say his fight scenes were insane. I only wished they were not so edited to the point it was hard to figure out who was fighting. There was a good deal of violence and blood, too much for my tastes. The idea behind the story was valid; I only wished they had a better script and a less heavy hand in making sure the viewers were experiencing non-stop intensity.
1 ¾ stars
I DID NOT think my question was that unusual or demanded too much from the sales clerk. If you could have seen their face you would have thought I had just asked something outrageous or personal. All I wanted to know was if the shirt’s material tended to shrink. Besides the “dirty” look and the condescending way they answered me, they did not even bother to look at me in the face. I wanted to tell them if they were that miserable at their job, maybe they should consider changing careers. Now in the past I would have taken that response personally and snapped back something nasty to say to them. To tell you the truth I took most things personally back then. DUE TO THE events I experienced in my earlier days I was wary of most people. My mind would quickly go into attack mode whenever I had an exchange of some kind with a stranger. They could have been a volunteer soliciting signatures or a lost tourist, it did not matter; I would be distrustful of the individual until I saw or could ascertain they were not going to hurt me in some way. I am not exactly sure when I started softening my attitude and not taking things personally, but I think it was during a time I was being fixed up on several blind dates. It did not take me long into the conversation to realize whether the person was interested in me or not. Granted some people showed their disinterest easier than others; but even the ones that kept up a good facade, did not cause me to react negatively. I realized that everyone has likes and dislikes, trigger points that set them off and none of it should be looked at as a good or bad thing. Their qualifications or agenda was not a personal attack on me; I just did not fit into what they were looking for. In a way one could say it was just business. AFTER SURVIVING A terrorist attack while on vacation Mitch Rapp, played by Dylan O’Brien (The Maze Runner franchise, Teen Wolf-TV), could not think of anything else after that date but to hunt down the terrorists. It was something the CIA was doing also. This action thriller also starred Michael Keaton (The Founder, Spider-Man: Homecoming) as Stan Hurley, Sanaa Lathan (Out of Time, The Best Man Holiday) as Irene Kennedy, Taylor Kitsch (Lone Survivor, Friday Night Lights-TV) as Ghost and Shiva Negar (The Art of More-TV, My Babysitter’s a Vampire-TV) as Annika. The highlight of this film was Michael Keaton; he was the most believable out of the cast. I do not know if Dylan was miscast but he did not have much range with his acting and I am afraid to say did not have the physical presence to pull off his character. With decent fight and action scenes the script could not carry the story; there were several situations that did not ring true for me. In addition the story was not only predictable but the premise for it was cheesy and weak in my opinion. A couple of therapy sessions prior to developing this film would have been money well spent.
It was time; the house he grew up in was standing empty. He had moved up a level and now was part of the older generation within the family. His childhood home sat on a quiet street, though back then it was not the case. The house was home base for all of his friends to come over and hang out. With a jungle gym and swings, there was always something to do on a lazy summer day. But now as he walked up the front stairs there was only the echo of memories from his youth. Once inside the house he saw some of the same furnishings that were part of his childhood. There was the old wooden rocking chair where his mother would rock him to sleep in her lap. The paintings on the wall, which were used by him to create stories to amuse his parents, now hung crookedly as if they were exhausted from all the years they had been hanging up by only nails in the wall. Anything he wanted in the house he had already received from his parents while they were alive; he was there now to make the house presentable for sale. On each visit he focused on one room and today’s visit meant he was going to work in the attic. After passing through a series of dusty cobwebs he found the light switch to add extra light to the light coming in from the muted windows. It was just before lunchtime, while going through a pile of files; he found a document he had never seen in his entire life. It was a birth certificate for a male baby born on the same date of his birth, but the baby had a different name. He sat directly down on the floor, shocked by the document in his hands; he had a twin brother. News of this kind has a way of altering one’s perceptions about their life; look what it did to the main character in this action thriller. AFTER being off the grid for so long CIA special agent Jason Bourne, played by Matt Damon (The Martian, The Departed), had to have a good reason to resurface and make his presence known. This sequel’s forte was the action scenes; they were fast and intense. With Tommy Lee Jones (The Homesman, Lincoln) as CIA director Robert Dewey, Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, A Royal Affair) as Heather Lee and Vince Cassel (Black Swan, Irreversible) as the Asset; the acting from Tommy and Alicia stood out for me. Credit however has to be given to an older Matt for pulling off his character again after all this time. I thought the idea for the story was interesting and would have provided suspenseful entertainment. However, the script was not strong enough to support the story. The movie was more like a series of chase scenes broken up by a series of flashbacks. In addition, I found some scenes lacked enough information to make sense out of them. Though I did not remember details about the previous films I do not think it contributed to my feelings about this picture.
2 ¼ stars
From acts of kindness heroes are born. Some heroes may reach mythical proportions in the minds of the recipients. For me it was that classmate in kindergarten who taught me, the only left-handed student in class, how to properly cut paper with a pair of scissors. For the rest of my elementary school years that student could do no wrong in my eyes. In turn, it was not until years after high school I discovered a kindness I showed a fellow student had an effect on them. I know from personal experience when the act of kindness fights its way through the terror of the moment it can be monumental. It was during a P.E. class and the boys were changing in the locker room. There was this one boy who was a target for a group of bullies. I do not know if it was because he was short, quiet or did poorly in sports; but he got picked on a lot. One day one of the bullies decided to wait for the exact moment when this student was undressed before pouncing on him. The bully and his sidekicks came up from behind, pinning the boy’s arms back as they started dragging him away from his clothes hanging in the locker. One of the sidekicks ran ahead and opened a window as wide as it would go. The three hoisted the boy who was screaming and kicking up onto the window sill then pushed him out, only holding him by the arms. Hanging out the window without any clothes on, the frantic boy did not know some students had run to get the coach to come down into the locker room. Those students were not thinking about becoming heroes. YEARS after high school Calvin Joyner, played by Kevin Hart (The Wedding Ringer, Get Hard), received a Facebook friend request. It came from someone who had fond memories of Calvin when he was a student in high school. Calvin on the other hand had only one memory about this individual. This comedic crime film threw me for a loop due to one of its scenes; you will understand what I mean after seeing the film. I had to quickly regroup myself to focus on the movie. As some of you know I am sensitive whenever a bully is part of the story. The casting of Dwayne Johnson (San Andreas, Pain & Gain) as Bob Stone in this picture was a perfect choice. Besides his affable nature I have to tell you I was impressed with his comedic skills. Kevin was yet again the same type of character he has played in his past movies; but here I felt Dwayne outshined him. Rounding out the main cast was Danielle Nicolet (All-Stars, Third Rock from the Sun-TV) as Maggie and Amy Ryan (Escape Plan, Gone Baby Gone) as Pamela Harris. There were times where I laughed out loud; I enjoyed the make-up of the story more than its execution. I thought the script was simple and tailored for Kevin and Dwayne to the point that the writers expected the two actors would create the funny moments. The easy to follow story did not keep me interested; it was Bob Stone’s transformation from high school to adult life. Heroes certainly come in all sizes.
2 2/3 stars
As part of my daily vitamin regiment I used to take a supplement that caused an unusual reaction in me. I would get these intense, what I would call, hot flashes that would change my skin color to red; I mean a deep bright red. This would happen spontaneously throughout the day. One time my boss walked by and started to panic when they saw me sitting at my desk with my face and ears crimson red. I had to explain I was fine and it would pass as soon as I gulped down copious amounts of water. That supplement was the reason I started to always keep a bottle of water with me whenever I was out and about. One of the few places this caused a problem believe it or not was at this one movie theater near my house. They would confiscate any food or liquids carried inside by the patrons. I understood what they were doing; they wanted people to use the concession stands because let us face it that is where the movie theaters make their money. Because I never knew when I would get a rush of heat across my body, I did not want to have to leave my seat during the movie to go get some water. So I would bring in my own bottle of water and carry it beneath my jacket, underneath my arm. I know I was breaking their rules but the idea of missing out on parts of a film was something I could not handle. In my mind bending the rules led me to a better review. VOLUNTEERING for a special task force led by government agent Matt Graver, played by Josh Brolin (Everest, Men in Black 3); FBI agent Kate Macor, played by Emily Blunt (Looper, The Young Victoria), found herself involved in a drug war where the rules were not always followed. This film festival nominated crime drama had a superior cast that also included Benicio Del Toro (Traffic, The Usual Suspects) as Alejandro and Victor Garber (Titanic, Milk) as Dave Jennings. First I must warn you there were several scenes of intense bloody violence. The taut story kept the viewers in a constant state of suspense; the director did an excellent job keeping the scenes tight while bringing the life out of the actors. I caught myself several times holding my breath in anticipation of what was to come. Though there have been other films about the drug war between the United States and Mexico, I found this one to be a raw realistic story that lingered with me even after the movie was over. If the film studio had to bend a few rules to get this action film made then I firmly believe it was worth it because this picture kept you on the edge of your seat. Intense violent scenes with blood in this film.
3 1/2 stars
It sometimes starts with a kind word or gesture that plants a seed inside of you. This seed only needs your hopes and desires for it to flourish into a full emotional relationship that is only in your mind. You take their considerate manners as a sign that there could be something forming between the two of you. Some of the things they say can be taken two ways; you always assume the more romantic version. I have had my share of these types of situations; where you are trying to get a read on the other person, trying to figure out if what you are feeling is just as real for them. Maybe it is the fear of rejection that makes us go slow, where we drop subtle hints to see if they take the bait, so to speak. I recently had a conversation with a friend about this very thing. They asked me why I thought this particular person I was attracted to was not interested in me. I explained how I suggested getting together with them on Memorial Day but they already had previous plans. If they were interested, I explained to my friend, they would have made an alternative suggestion to me by now. So for the moment I sit in my fantasy world just like the character Susan in this movie. RUNNING the logistics for her partner Bradley Fine, played by Jude Law (Black Sea, Anna Karenina); CIA analyst Susan Cooper, played by Melissa McCarthy (St. Vincent, The Heat), would do anything for him because she felt they made the perfect team. It was a team Susan wanted to see expand outside of the office. When the CIA’s field agents’ identities were compromised, Susan agreed to leave her office and go undercover to save the mission. The first thing I want to say is I have not been a fan of Melissa’s recent films except St. Vincent. The reason for this is because I found the stories were set up to get laughs by humiliating a large person; if the character was thin there would have been no laughs and I find this offensive. So now that I have said my piece, this was Melissa’s best role to date. Her comedic timing was perfection and I so appreciated the writer giving this character room for Melissa to go with it. The whole cast, including Rose Byrne (Neighbors, Adult Beginners) as Rayna Boyanov and Jason Statham (Furious Seven, The Transporter franchise), were outstanding in this action comedy spoof of past spy films. I laughed out loud more than once, admiring writer and director Paul Feig’s (Bridesmaids, The Heat) wonderful broad strokes for the fun action scenes. This crime picture was the real thing and I loved it. There was strong language used and there was a brief extra scene at the end of the credits.
3 1/4 stars
The sign in the window that said, “Lost Our Lease” Sale, was what caught your eye. It was just enough of a catalyst to drive you straight through the store’s double doors. I know because I have had the same thing happen to me. The assumption is the prices have all been marked way down to move the products out of the store, lowering the moving costs for the retail establishment’s relocation. If you are like me, you wind up buying stuff just because it is a perceived bargain. Who knew you were peeling potatoes the wrong way all these years; you now had this contraption where the potato would be placed on a skewer and you would turn a handle to make the potato twirl around, while a fine thin blade sliced the peel off the potato. It really did not do a better job than your old handheld potato peeler, but now you had more things to clean up. What did upset you was discovering the store never closed; it signed a new long term lease. So for all the hype there was nothing really satisfying to show for it. THIS is how I felt after running like a crazy person to go see this “controversial” comedy. Let me start by saying Sony Pictures got the largest holiday gift they could have ever gotten–free publicity. With newscasters talking about the cyber-hacking of Sony Pictures, the online threats if this movie was released, the pulling of the film then the smaller release of it; there was news about this picture every single day. If none of this had taken place this movie would have, in my opinion, had a decent opening before fading into the background. Seth Rogen (This is the End, Pineapple Express) played television producer Aaron Rapaport for talk show host Dave Skylark, played by James Franco (Howl, 127 Hours). Discovering North Korean President Kim Jong-un, played by Randall Park (Larry Crowne, Neighbors), was a big fan lead the 2 men to land an exclusive interview with the president. However, the CIA had other plans for them. I honestly do not understand how of all things this film’s story became the biggest focus regarding the hacking of Sony. It turned out the movie trailer showed the highlights because I found most of the humor to be crude and repetitive. The story was a crazy idea that lent itself to becoming a fun satire; there were a couple of parts where I chuckled. Overall this action film was no big deal. I have seen harsher satirical treatments done of Kim Jong-un on television. Without a doubt this whole episode was a marketer’s dream; it almost makes one wonder if the hackers were getting a kickback for all the free publicity.