BEING CHOSEN AS THE FAVORITE ONE does not necessarily make one’s life easier; the title can come with some pitfalls. At a previous job where I worked, there was an employee who was the favorite of the owner. Everyone at the company knew it. In fact, even if it was your first day you would soon realize this employee had a special relationship with the owner. Here is just one example of how the owner treated this employee differently than the others. During the holidays we used to receive a variety of gifts for the owner. He would always open these packages in his office, bringing out the shipping boxes for us to break down and recycle. I would say on the average he kept 75% of the gifts sent to him; the ones he did not, he would give to this employee right in front of the rest of us. Depending on what the item was, this employee would either leave it sitting on her desk (which used to annoy all of us) or take it out to her car to bring home. Not once did the owner offer a rejected gift to one of us. Now, I did not care whether I got a gift or not; but I, like everyone else around me, felt it was not fair and was certainly not a morale booster. AS TIME PASSED SOME OF THE EMPLOYEES grew resentful of the “favorite” employee. When anyone would bring in a taste treat of food; if they were going around and offering pieces of it as opposed to putting it out in the kitchen, they would bypass this one employee. Actually, they would wait until the person was away from her desk then go around passing out their food items, so as to avoid the favorite one altogether. I could not say for certainty if this type of treatment was proper because as far as I knew it was not this employee’s fault. Now if there was something going on between the two of them, I had no knowledge. Let me say this though, it seemed from time to time she used her favorite role status to her advantage. For example, there was never a problem for her to leave early from work; but for the rest of us, the owner would always resist our requests while trying to make us change the day or the time, so we would not have to leave early. It came to a point where I just stopped thinking about it; it wasn’t worth the energy. And when I say energy this biographical, comedic drama will give you an idea of how much energy it takes to deal with such things. USING HER POSITION AS THE QUEEN’S CONFIDANTE Lady Sarah, played by Rachel Weisz (My Cousin Rachel, Disobedience), enjoyed exerting her power over others. But that show of power could be quite enticing for anyone who wanted some of the same. This film festival winning movie starred Olivia Coleman (The Lobster, Hot Fuzz) as Queen Anne, Emma Stone (Battle of the Sexes, Magic in the Moonlight) as Abigail, and James Smith (In the Loop, The Iron Lady) as Godolphin. I was so intrigued with this story that I had to do some research about Queen Anne. It quickly became apparent to me that the writers took a basis of facts and elaborated on it to funny extremes. The three actresses were dynamite with the conniving, the wickedness and humor of the script. As much as I enjoyed this aspect of the movie and its super acting, I felt some scenes were unnecessary. There were several that felt like they were added to give this picture an artistic flair; it only slowed the story down for me. All in all, I cannot say this will be a favorite of mine this Oscar season, but I still had a good time watching it.
IF THE CLICHÉ “OPPOSITES ATTRACT” IS TRUE then why do I see less of it happening? With so much arguing taking place between people and countries around the world, it disproves this statement. I know this cliché’s origins started in science, but mankind has used it regarding personal relationships. It might be more complicated than that; I prefer to think two people are better suited and satisfied in a relationship when they have a good understanding of their differences. There was a couple I knew who displayed opposite emotions. The wife was quick to get angry and upset about things, while her husband was laid back and went with the flow. They rarely argued because they understood how each other reacted to things, avoiding the pitfall of trying to change one another. When his wife would get into one of her fits over something, he would let her blow off steam before he would place his hand on her and say something soothing such as, “Don’t worry, it will be okay.” or “What can I do to help?” The fact that they understood each other created a stronger bond between them, in my opinion. FROM WHAT I HAVE EXPERIENCED IN my life there is something I never understood. It seems to me many people shy away from those that are different from themselves. They may interact, but it is strictly on a surface level. The thing I do not understand is where was it decided that different equals something wrong or bad? As a person who used to not express himself fully, I may be at the other end of the spectrum now; most people who know me well can tell how I am feeling at any given time. The reason for this is because I believe communication is the key; as far as I know mind readers are a rarity, so if you want someone to know something you need to express it to them. I had a friend who, unbeknownst to me, had a hard time keeping up with me whenever we were out walking somewhere. I never knew it was an issue because he never said anything about it. Not until one day he finally yelled at me, telling me I walked too fast for him. I asked him why he just did not say something in the beginning instead of holding it in all this time until he wound up shouting at me. You know, people would learn so much about each other if they would simply talk to one another. This comedic drama based on a true story can show you how it is done. OUT OF WORK FOR TWO MONTHS nightclub bouncer Tony Lip, played by Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic, Eastern Promises), was recommended for a position to be a driver for a doctor. Tony was shocked when he discovered the doctor was a black man who was not even a medical doctor. There was no doubt in his mind that there would be problems. With Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Free State of Jones) as Dr. Don Shirley, Linda Cardellini (Brokeback Mountain, Scooby-Doo) as Dolores, Dimiter D. Marinov (Act of Valor, The Americans-TV) as Oleg and Mike Hatton (Vigilante Diaries, Shot the Hero) as George; this movie was one of the best road trips I have taken this year. Set in the 1960s, the sets and costumes perfectly matched each other as they set up the space for Viggo and Mahershala to really dig deep into their roles. The script with its mixture of humor and drama made this trip pleasurable for me, even during the tougher scenes. If the script’s intentions were to manipulate the viewer I was not paying any attention to it because the message here was beautifully told. I left the theater feeling good, filled with excitement to express my feelings to you.
TAKE IT FROM SOMEONE WHO KNOWS, change is not always an easy thing. Change is something I prefer taking place over time—like the duration it takes for a sapling to turn into a majestic oak tree. Intellectually I know change is inevitable; but that does not mean I have to like it. For the past few years a friend and I have talked on the phone every day during my work commute. I have known her since we were in elementary school. We started talking to each other every day after she moved out of state for work. Recently she received a promotion that changed her schedule. After talking together on the phone for the past few years, she now had a daily work commitment that had to be handled at the exact time we would be on the phone. It was strange not talking to her; one of the reasons I discovered was it made my commute easier. It seemed to make the time go by faster and before you say anything, I always used a hands-free device to talk to her. I still wish we could have our daily talk, but I understand the reason why; she had bettered herself at work and that is always a good thing. PART OF FRIENDSHIP/LOVE WITH A PERSON is wishing them the best. Though things change a true friend or family member remains supportive through the process…or at least that is what they are supposed to do, according to my definition of family/friends. There is a couple of sisters I know where one of them pretends to be supportive but is incredibly passive aggressive toward her older sister. If you are not paying close attention you might miss the barbs and comments that the younger sister tosses over toward her big sister. I was a witness to it and was stunned by the way the younger sister tried to build herself up by putting her sister down. Based on the things I knew about the siblings, I could see why the younger one was acting out; she felt she was not getting enough attention. I felt this way based on the information I was privy to, besides seeing it with my own eyes. As I said before change is not always easy and because the older sister married first and had children, the younger sister was no longer getting to be the center of attention in their family. Some people just act that way; heck, it even happened in this animated adventure film. WHEN HER GAME SUDDENLY STOPPED WORKING; Vanellope, voiced by Sarah Silverman (The Book of Henry, Battle of the Sexes), and her best friend Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly (Chicago, Kong: Skull Island), made their way to the internet to find a solution. They found more than they expected, in ways that would test their friendship. With Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman, Keeping Up with the Joneses) voicing Shank, Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures, Proud Mary) voicing Yesss and Jane Lynch (Julie & Julia, Glee-TV) voicing Calhoun; this comedy sequel had many fun moments in it. I thought John and Sarah did a wonderful job together as they played off each other. The visuals were great to watch as the script provided humor for both young and old. If I have a negative comment it would be about the element of wonderment; since this was a sequel it did not have that extra magic of being a fresh idea. Also, the action did not always have a smooth transition. I still had a good time watching this picture and ultimately it did present an admirable conclusion to the topics offered up in the script. I am happy for this sequel.
I PURPOSELY CHANGED ALL THE NAMES and circumstances so as not to offend any of the actual people. They may be relatives, friends, friends of friends, acquaintances or simply me hearing about such an event that I will now be sharing with you. My guess is that many of you will find something to relate to, if not having experienced the same thing for yourself already. With the holidays fast approaching this is the perfect time to talk about family get togethers. There is Aunt Shirley who insists on pinching your cheeks as if you were still an infant, every time she sees you. Uncle Fred commands you to tell him your latest work accomplishment, just so he can then top your story with one of his own success stories. Oh, and let us not forget cousin Mary who brings the same jello mold to every event; she calls it her “broken glass” jello mold. Doesn’t that sound appealing? Every holiday dinner she brings this creation of hers, explaining each time how she makes different flavored bowls of jello and cuts them into tiny cubes to dump into her metal mold with the floral etchings. Sadly, many of us feel forced to take a slice of this abomination so as not to hurt her feelings. THE REASON I MENTIONED THESE DIFFERENT PEOPLE is because I wanted to talk about some of the things one must do out of either necessity, duty or kindness. One may go to a family function and experience the same scenarios every year, maybe every month. You hear the same stories 100 times; each person acts just as you expected them to do, so there are no surprises. Also, there is not much difference between each get together. This does not mean you have a horrible time; you may simply enjoy the presence of your family and friends around you. There is a history you each share that keeps you coming back time and time again. So, what if Uncle Ernie plays the same practical joke on you or cousin Vicki talks your ear off about people in her life you have never met; there is something in you that allows you to accept these people unconditionally. I can say the same thing about reviewing movies. There are certain directors and writers who produce the same thing for each of their films. I know what to expect and rarely do I get surprised. Today’s movie fits the bill; it is the same thing I have seen over and over. AFTER HER RELEASE FROM PRISON TANYA, played by Tiffany Haddish (The Oath, Night School), had nowhere to stay except with her sister Danica, played by Tika Sumpter (Ride Along franchise, The Haves and the Have Nots-TV). The two sisters were nothing alike but who knew each could help the other with a problem. This latest dramatic comedy from Tyler Perry (Acrimony, Good Deeds), was no different from many of his other stories. What you see on the trailer is pretty much the same you see in this movie. Tiffany, though she is good at what she does, needs to stop playing the same type of characters; they all look and act the same to me. The script was pedestrian and predictable. With Whoopi Goldberg (Sister Act franchise, The Color Purple) as Lola and Amari Hardwick (The A-Team, The Runner) as Frank; there was too much going on in the script. Not enough time was devoted to each storyline which resulted in a bland monotone of events. I will say there were a couple of chuckles but nothing worth paying the full price to see this picture. Because I like staying consistent, I felt the need to see this film; sitting and watching this movie was like taking a slice of cousin Mary’s jello mold.
1 ¾ stars
MY FRIEND HAD A NAME FOR those types of individuals; she called them, “Happiness Vampires.” It was the perfect name I thought. A “Happiness Vampire” is a person who cannot celebrate and be a part of someone else’s happiness; they instead try to suck the happiness out of that person. I would even go a step further by saying these “Happiness Vampires” only feel good about themselves when someone else is feeling bad. That is so twisted I think. I believe all of us have encountered these dour people sometime in our lives, even if they were not at the time acting out on their negativity. My friend who came up with this term figured it out after dating this person for almost one year. I guess because she was in the throes of falling in love, she did realize what he was doing to her. His method was like a sneak attack because he would appear to be happy and congratulatory for her, but then would express these negative scenarios or possible repercussions that could happen to her. Pretty soon her good mood would dim and turn sour, leaving her depressed while her “boyfriend” would build himself up as her shining knight who would save her. I was so happy when she finally dumped him. RECENTLY I ATTENDED A DINNER PARTY where I encountered a guest who turned out to be a “Happiness Vampire.” It was an elegant affair with some prominent people in attendance. When I was introduced to this one individual I suddenly was hit with a bad feeling. It was as if the air was being sucked out around me with a vacuum cleaner. He was short and squat in stature; if you would place him at a fast food restaurant’s salad bar he would fit in perfectly. The person who introduced me to this individual was a successful financial man in his own right; however, this sour man quickly took an opportunity to build himself up by tossing a negative comment (some say back-handed compliment) about this prominent person. The reason he did such a thing was to talk about something he felt was a big success in his career. I caught it right away and just stood there listening to this man go on about his so-called accomplishments. The real successful individual also stood there with a smile on their face that looked like it was painted on with Botox; it did not budge the entire time the other man carried on about himself. He tried to take away our good feelings like the Grinch in this animated, family comedy but we did not let him succeed. BASED ON DR. SEUSS’ BELOVED BOOK, “How The Grinch Stole Christmas;” this movie had Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, Doctor Strange) voicing The Grinch, Cameron Seely (The Greatest Showman, The Jim Gaffigan Show-TV) voicing Cindy-Lou Who, Rashida Jones (The Social Network, Parks and Recreation-TV) voicing Donna Who and musical artist Pharrell Williams as the Narrator. This story has been done many times before in different mediums; so, there was nothing new that came as a surprise except of all things Benedict’s performance. I did not care for his vocal acting; I thought he was not sinister enough for the character. Visually the movie was fun to watch (even the ending credits) and I enjoyed some of the Grinch’s exploits; but I felt this version of the Grinch was more of a lightweight compared to those Grinch’s of Christmas past. This film is well suited for younger children, but adults may get a bit tired of it. Of course, if you have never seen a movie version of Dr. Seuss’ book before then you might want to check this picture out; it almost seems as if it is a holiday tradition.
2 ¼ stars
THERE ON THE RACK YOU SEE a sweater that not only grabs your eye, but you know you must have it. You start going through the rack; unfortunately, the color you want is not in your size. The style is what grabbed you at first and you know yourself so well. Your wanting of it is now turning into a need. After checking the entire rack you are now faced with making a decision. The sales staff was no help because there was nothing left in stock; so, if you want the sweater you will have to settle on a different color. Blue is your favorite color, so you certainly do not want the brown or red one. Looking at the remaining colors you picture yourself wearing each color. The decision was not that difficult; you settle on the green colored sweater. You take satisfaction in your purchase because you know if you did not buy the sweater you would be thinking about it for a long time. Green was not such a bad color, you could deal with it not being blue. THERE ARE SOME INDIVIDUALS WHO WOULD not have bought the sweater; they are the type who will not settle for something less than the exact thing they want. I believe I fluctuate somewhere in between, depending on the item. For a recent holiday we decided to celebrate at a restaurant. There were eight of us around an oval table. When it came to ordering off the menu, three of us chose the same thing. It was a turkey dinner with mashed potatoes and a cooked vegetable. After the waiter left with our orders we sat around talking while nibbling on the appetizers. In a few minutes the waiter came back to tell us out of the three turkey dinners, there were only two left. I was the first to speak up and told the waiter to give the other two their dinners; I would instead have the turkey burger and fries. The waiter was apologetic and left with my order. For me it was not a big deal; they didn’t have anymore, so what was I to do? When the meals were served the restaurant manager came up to apologize. I accepted his apology, so he would leave and all of us could start to eat. The meal was okay, but it was not a full dinner that looked especially good; I just settled for the turkey burger because I did not want there to be a fuss. The same thing could be said about this comedy film; If you do not have time to see a great movie, then this one might be okay instead. WHEN A CYBER-ATTACK EXPOSES THE identities of Britain’s secret service agents there is only one agent available who is off the grid retired agent Johnny English, played by Rowan Atkinson (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bean franchise). Can old school spying work in a computer connected world? This action adventure also starred Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Bridget Jones’ Baby) as Prime Minister, Ben Miller (Paddington 2, What We Did on our Holiday) as Bough and Olga Kurylenko (The Death of Stalin, Hitman) as Ophelia Bauletova. This entire film had a retro vibe that reminded me of the Pink Panther movies. There was nothing that stood out as horrible; but for the most part, everything in the story seemed like it was done before. Rowan is quite good with physical comedy which is lucky since most of the script was having a gag upon gag upon gag. I did not find anything hilarious; possibly because the set-ups were all predictable to me. If the show times aren’t working for you to see a better film and you are the type who doesn’t mind settling, then this picture would just be okay. But do not spend money on a full priced ticket.
THERE WAS NOTING GREATER TO HAVE in school than an older friend. To make friends with someone from a higher grade was one of the ultimate achievements in a student’s accomplishments. Some of you might not be aware of it; but having an older friend would immediately give a boost to one’s self-esteem. Let us face it, hanging out with older kids was a cool thing to do. I remember going to a party with my friends where there were older students from our school. At one point I was standing with a small group of students. An older one standing next to me took out a carton of cigarettes and after taking one out offered me a cigarette; I had never smoked one, so I took it. Also, I wanted to look cool and be accepted by the older kids. I put the cigarette up to my mouth, trying to remember how movie stars did it. As soon as I lit the tip and inhaled; I let out a violent cough, spitting the cigarette out of my mouth and onto the floor. So much for looking like a cool kid. And from that point in time, I never smoked another cigarette again. IN MY SOPHMORE YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL, I volunteered to help the music department during one of my study periods. I was assigned to the band room where many of the band’s instruments were stored. Whether it was some kind of divine intervention or just luck, it did not matter to me; because there were several older students who always hung out in the room when I was there. Our love of music provided a quick connection between all of us. Having taken piano lessons for several years, besides being exposed early in life to several different genres of music; I had a level of knowledge that not only matched the other students, but in some cases surpassed them. It was an incredible feeling for me to be accepted by these older students. I learned the ins and outs of the upperclassmen’s courses, besides getting inside knowledge on the national testing I would be participating in. Walking through the hallways during the breaks between class periods and having one of them acknowledge my presence was a real high for me. Looking back at those times the only thing that was missing was having an older student as my bodyguard; like the one in that movie, “My Bodyguard,” (not to be confused with “The Bodyguard”). Due to the experiences I just shared with you, I could identify with what the main character was searching for in this comedic drama. IT TOOK A LOT OF COURAGE FOR Stevie, played by Sunny Suljic (The House with a Clock in its Walls, The Killing of a Sacred Deer), to step into the skate shop; but the older boys were doing some incredible things. This movie also starred Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Inherent Vice) as Dabney, Lucas Hedges (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Lady Bird) as Ian, newcomer Na-kel Smith as Ray and newcomer Gio Galicia as Ruben. Written and directed by Jonah Hill (Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far; War Dogs), this writing and directorial debut by him was a good first step forward. I found the story authentic; in a way it had a documentary vibe to it. For first time actors which was most of the cast, Jonah was able to get real life performances out of them. Some of the dialog seemed repetitive for me however. Despite that, I felt connected to the emotions of the script with the help of the interesting film angles Jonah employed. This was a solid, good start for Jonah about a real thing.
LITTLE DID I KNOW THAT CLASS could have been a valuable asset if I had enrolled. Maybe your school environment was different; but the perception at my school about members of the debate team were mostly on the negative side. Being on a sports team was more prestigious and let us face it, there never was a pep rally held for a debate team; at least I have never seen one. I imagine if I had paid more attention to the skills needed to have a debate instead of the participants I would have been a better communicator. Looking at the disagreements I have had with individuals over the years, I can see why many of my disagreements turned into arguments. Not that I associate an argument with being a negative experience, but I could have avoided sinking into a name calling match with people. It was not until later in life that I learned how to have a disagreement/argument/debate. Having spent so much energy on making statements that started with the word “You,” I was finally taught to start my thoughts with the word “I.” It truly makes a world of difference when you go from saying, “You did this or that,” to “ I feel that option would be harmful because…”; do you see the difference? DURING THE POLITICALLY DIVIDED TIMES WE live in now; I believe every politician, employee, student and resident would benefit by taking a class in the art of debating. It seems to me as if name calling and belittling are becoming the new standard for making a point. I have mentioned before how I do not allow the subject of politics and religion to be discussed in my classes. These are two topics that I have seen become volatile when discussed. One of the reasons I see politics and religion being hot button topics is because most people let their ego do the talking. There seems to be such a need for every person to be right that they are not listening to anyone else’s point of view. I ask you, what is so terrible about admitting you are wrong? Isn’t part of living being able to learn something new? I know a few couples where one person is conservative and the other is liberal. They have had their share of heated discussions. Each though can maintain respect for their significant other while discussing opposite views; unlike the family in this dark satirical, comedic drama. THANKSGIVING WAS NOT ONLY A TIME to spend with family, but it was the deadline for signing a controversial oath issued by the government. With family members on opposite sides of the issue, was there any chance they would be able to make it through to dessert? This movie starred Ike Barinholtz (Suicide Squad, The Mindy Project-TV) as Chris, Tiffany Haddish (Night School, Uncle Drew) as Kai, Billy Magnussen (The Big Short, Into the Woods) as Mason, John Cho (Searching, Star Trek franchise) as Peter and Nora Dunn (Bruce Almighty, Southland Tales) as Eleanor. Written and directed by Ike, I thought the idea for the story was relevant and would easily provide enough fodder for the script. My biggest surprise was seeing Tiffany do a different variation of her usual movie roles; it was not a strictly outrageous comedic character for a change. Unfortunately, I thought the execution of the story was inadequate to the point where I was tired of listening to all the yelling and name calling. I give Ike props for undertaking such heavy demands; but I wished there would have been more levels to the story, instead of essentially what came across as 2 extreme point of views. All I have to say about this film is a course in the art of debating would have been beneficial for this family.
IT WAS A BIG LOGISTICAL OPERATION THAT I was responsible for, though at the time I had never heard of the word “logistical.” My job was to plan out the route my friends and I would take for Halloween. I considered how long we would be able to stay outside, so persuaded everyone to get an early start for trick or treating. Each of us was dressed up in a costume; I was a pirate. The key to our success I determined was having a home base that was in the middle of the square mileage I envisioned we could cover. It turned out that central location was my house. The area I mapped out was 16 blocks in width and 12 blocks in length. Living in the city, this meant within our territory we would be covering houses, apartment buildings and businesses. In other words, we would be taking in a lot of candy. I broke down the blocks into four quadrants. We would focus on the southeast one first then come to my house to empty our candy filled bags before tackling the southwest quadrant and so on. I thought it was a brilliant plan that would yield massive amounts of candy. As it turned out the plan worked perfectly where all of us had enough candy to last us for months; we were overjoyed. FAST FORWARD A FEW YEARS AND for some unexplained reason my desire to go trick or treating waned. I was not alone for my friends felt the same way. At some undetermined point in time we each lost interest in getting dressed up and going door to door to get candy. We still hung out together, starting at a friend’s house where we now found ourselves on the giving end of Halloween. My friend would answer the front door and hand out candy to the trick or treaters who were perched on his front porch with outstretched arms, shopping bags dangling from their hands. That was us a few years back, but now we were the “adults” handing out candy. We grew up I guess. It is funny how that happened; after years waiting and planning for our Halloween trek through the neighborhood, we now had no desire. Looking at some of the kids’ costumes I recalled how I used to sit and pour over the store catalog, looking for the perfect outfit. After having been a pirate, a vampire and a superhero; I now looked at this holiday with boredom. Even this adventure comedy couldn’t change my feelings. WHILE CLEANING OUT AN OLD ABANDONED house Sonny and Sam, played by Jeremy Ray Taylor (It, 42) and Caleel Harris (Boys in Blue-TV movie, Skyward-TV), found a secret room that contained a single book. The boys did not know there was a reason the book had a lock on it. This family fright film also starred Wendi McLendon-Covey (Bridesmaids, Blended) as Kathy, Madison Iseman (Beauty Mark, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) as Sarah and Chris Parnell (21 Jump Street, Labor Pains) as Walter. Based on author R.L. Stine’s horror series, this sequel had some fun special effects in a retro type of way. There was something about this picture that reminded me of those Saturday afternoon matinee films I used to go to that were low end productions. With a mixture of slapstick and corny humor I felt this film would only entertain the youngest of viewers; it was rated PG. There was some creativity used for several scenes but overall, I was bored through most of the story. Growing up I was not a fan of candy corn; never liked getting them in my Halloween bag. For me, this picture was a dose of candy corn for the holiday.
1 ¾ stars