WE HAD MET WITHIN a group of people who assembled at the art museum. Throughout our time there we bumped into each other several times; it seemed we appreciated the same artists. Everyone from the group returned to our meeting place in the lobby near the gift shop at the designated time. Some individuals said their goodbyes and left; others broke off into smaller groups to stick around or do something else. She and I decided to go out for coffee since it was too early to get something to eat. We walked over to a nearby café, found an open table and sat down with our menus in hand. After we placed our orders we talked about our appreciation for the same artists and how fortunate we were to have a world class art museum in our city. FROM OUR CONVERSATION THAT initially focused on art we veered into the topic of beauty and what does it mean to be beautiful. We touched on a variety of aspects concerning beauty; for example, the unrealistic expectations found in modeling and fashion. I do not know how it happened but we started to share our own assessment of our looks. Something she said struck me in a curious way; it was the way she said it I think that made me question her further. When she talked about herself I noticed a majority of her comments had a negative element to them. I could not understand why she felt that way so I simply asked her if she thought she was not a beautiful person. She just stared at me for only a moment before I noticed tears welling up, about to spill out of her eyes. Turning her head away she looked out the window before she whispered yes. After a brief silence she explained that she was born with a hair lip that took a couple of surgeries to correct, though a trace of it remained. Ever since that time she always felt poorly about herself. I did not want to prod and see if she was teased or treated differently since it was obvious she still was dealing with some emotional baggage over it. Sadly I could relate since I had body image issues growing up that did a number on me. It takes one small thing whether a comment or one’s own lack of confidence that takes us on a path of darkness. FORCED OUT OF THEIR city due to an evil threat; it would take friendship, magic and hope for Princess Skystar, voiced by Kristin Chenoweth (Bewitched, The Boy Next Door), and her friends to find a way to save their precious homes. This animated, adventure comedy also had Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, Looper) voicing Tempest Shadow, Uzo Aduba (Tallulah, Orange is the New Black-TV) voicing Queen Novo, Taye Diggs (Chicago, Private Practice-TV) voicing Capper and Liev Schreiber (Spotlight, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) voicing The Storm King. The animation was your typical old fashioned Saturday morning flat style. I am afraid the script was written in a narrow range for the 5-7 year old set; there was not much offered for anyone older. Unfortunately I found a good portion of this movie boring. It was not until the last ½ hour or so that I became interested. And it was a shame because I thought the message conveyed was poignant and meaningful. For those of you who were into My Little Pony toys you might enjoy this story more than I did. For the rest of the viewing audience I suggest you skip this ride at the theater.
YOU HAVE NO IDEA how good it feels to be writing this review. I apologize for being away so long but I experienced something that has never happened to me before. For the 1st time in my adult life I found myself being admitted into the hospital. After being home a few days with these weird non-painful symptoms such as zero energy, my daily banana now tasting like rotten flesh; I drove to one of those clinics inside a retail establishment. I think people refer to them as “doc in the box.” They could not have been nicer and immediately called the ER to let them know I was on my way. Once there I walked through the front door, gave my name at registration and I was ushered immediately into a room. The next hours became a blur as I was hooked up to IV solutions, getting a chest X-ray and some other stuff; at that point all my defenses were down and I did not care. However, they did offer me the opportunity to watch movies on the monitor hanging up in the corner of the room. I wondered how they knew I love films. MY TIME IN THE HOSPITAL was an experience I will never forget. The bed with all the whistles and lights, though sleek and obvious hi-tech, had to have been based on torture racks from medieval times. The mattress on its own would move in spots, so at first I thought I must have been hungover because it made it feel like the room was spinning at times. Through the ups and downs during my days there the one thing that stood out way above everything else was this group of strangers involved with me. I felt I must have woken up from a dream because there were females, males, people from different religious backgrounds, from different countries, old and young, different races, different sexual identity; it was the most utopian place I had ever seen. These people were working side by side; the only drama in the room ironically was me. During those times where my temperature would spike up in a matter of minutes, there were women and men on either side of me placing heated blankets and heat packs around my body. Even one particular nurse I scared after she tried to draw blood from my hand twice at 1 in the morning, looked at me and said she was scared to touch me. I told her she should be; she still came back the next day to see how I was doing. I am telling you it was such an incredible sight, these people who were focused on me but were not just doing their job; they were listening and hearing each other and me. Why couldn’t the real world outside be like this; each of these individuals set a prime example of what it means to be human. I will never forget them and tell the stories they shared with me; I will honor them by trying to be a better human being and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. There was no battle between the sexes, everyone was equal and all were just doing the right thing in the true sense of what it means to be human. Sadly this is not the case yet in many places in the world currently and it sure did not take place back in the 1970s where this famous event between one man and one woman took place. THIS FILM FESTIVAL nominated biographical comedy based on a true event succeeded with 2 special actors: Emma Stone (La La Land, Magic in the Moonlight) and Steve Carell (The Big Short, Foxcatcher) as Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. They were outstanding with the look and mannerisms of the actual celebrities. Steve was truly Bobby, it was mind-blowing. Also cast in this sports film was Andrea Riseborough (Nocturnal Animals, Happy-Go-Lucky) as Marilyn Barnett, Sarah Silverman (The Book of Henry, I Smile Back) as Gladys Heldman and Bill Pullman (The Equalizer, While you Were Sleeping) as Jack Kramer. It is hard to believe that it was only 40 years ago, but there was this wedge between the sexes. As I just wrote that I realize we are living it now with that football quarterback’s comments to the female reporter’s question. Though the acting was this picture’s biggest strength, the script was not strong enough for such a big event. It was obvious Billie Jean and Bobby were the main topic but the way the script was written did not give enough to the rest of the cast to keep up. I wanted more consistent levels of intensity; some scenes were brilliant, but others were drab. It did not make this movie go bad, it just dulled the shine it deserved. On the one hand it seems ludicrous that this event needed to take place; but on the other hand, the event caused an important shift to take place in the way people thought about females and males. I certainly wish no harm to anyone but I wish you could experience the staff I had the honor to be part of in a perilous situation and trust me, there is no such thing as one man being better than one female or 1 woman being better than 1 male.
WALKING OUT FROM the station he was greeted by a sea of shirts all in the same color. Every single person was wearing an article of clothing close in the same shade. There were so many people that they filled the space from one side to the other; it indeed looked like there was a slow current of fluid moving away from him, reflecting a settling crimson sun on its surface. He had heard about this special event and looked up the details before committing funds and time to attend the occasion. Though he grew up in the city; the majority of his life was spent in the neighborhood he grew up in. He felt somewhat out of place to his peers because he did not have any reference points to show him he was actually okay. Making his way into the crowd of people before him, he soon discovered the feelings he had about his childhood were similar to the experiences from many of those around him. DON’T YOU FIND it interesting when you grow up feeling the experiences you had were unique to you, only to find out someone from far away had the same type of experiences? I get a kick when I meet someone from another country, in a completely different environment, who has similar feelings about common things that have happened to each of us. It shows me the borders we use to define ourselves are more transparent than we may realize. When you move away from home and set out on your own, you can discover how certain truths instilled in you have a wider definition than you believed. For example in a recent conversation I had with a friend, they shared an experience they had growing up that was so close to one I had that you would have thought the same people were involved in the incident. I was totally surprised by it in the same way the members of the Kingsman were in this action, adventure comedy. AFTER THE DESTRUCTION of their home Eggsy and Merlin, played by Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Legend) and Mark Strong (The Imitation Game, Miss Sloane), discovered their organization was not the only unique one of a kind place to work at; there was something similar halfway around the world. With Julianne Moore (Still Alice, Carrie) as Poppy, Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, Love Actually) as Harry Hart, Channing Tatum (White House Down, Magic Mike franchise) as Tequila and Halle Berry (Kidnap, X-Men franchise) as Ginger; the cast was fun to watch in this 2nd installment. I enjoyed the first one so had high hopes for this film; however, I found the script was weak and filled with strong language that was being used for cheap laughs. Maybe if I had not seen the previous movie I would have enjoyed this more, but I felt the freshness and wicked fun of the first picture was not captured in this story. There were big action scenes and crazy high tech weapons/accessories, but the whole picture felt a bit forced to me with obvious shtick. As I mentioned earlier the actors were a good choice for the roles they had; I wanted to see more depth in them. If the writers were trying to make something that would stand out and be different from other films of this type; in my opinion, they created a typical action picture.
2 ½ stars
AFTER SPENDING A good portion of one’s life making decisions for others, a person may have forgotten how to make one for themselves. Ideally you grow up and learn how to be self-sufficient, in other words to be a responsible adult. Depending on your life’s course people and/or children can come into your life so your decisions will then have to incorporate them. It only makes sense if you are in a relationship the two of you would consider each other in your decisions. I had a friend who saw most things in black and white; you may know this type of person where all of their decisions come out of a pool of two options: yes or no. There was no room to negotiate with them. After several years they fell in love and soon after the two of them moved in together. I do not know what happened but from that point on this person could not make one decision without getting approval from their partner; it was the oddest thing to me. HAVE YOU EVER noticed how some decisions are influenced by peer pressure? I cannot recall the exact percentage but I read a study where at least 25% of mothers alter their parental decisions in public due to peer pressure. For me this falls into the same category of decisions that get based on statements with the word “should” in them. For example, “you should act your age” or “you should lose weight,” would fall into that category where someone is trying to dictate what they think you should be doing in your life. I am all for friends sharing their opinions about something that affects my life; but I hear them better when it is a discussion with feelings involved instead of just being told I should do such and such then everything will be fine. No, I do not operate that way; if they can tell me the reasons why they feel I should make a change then of course I would give consideration to what they were saying to me. The challenge is when you have more than one person telling you what they think you should do and it is not the same advice; somewhat similar to what was going on in this comedic, romantic drama. MOVING ACROSS THE country after separating from her husband Alice Kinney, played by Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, Wild), found her life taking a different course when she had too much to drink while celebrating her birthday and found herself in bed with Harry, played by Pico Alexander (A Most Violent Year, Indignation). He came with friends. With Nat Wolff (Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars) as Teddy, Michael Sheen (Passengers, Midnight in Paris) as Austen, Jon Rudnitsky (Patchwork, Saturday Night Live-TV) as George and Candice Bergen (Rules Don’t Apply, Gandhi) as Lillian Stewart; the cast was fine for this story. I would have preferred more scenes with Candice and Michael however. The idea behind the story had some valid components, but I found the script was not able to carry them throughout the movie. There was a hodgepodge of scenes were some were cute, others unrealistic and some were simply bland. My overall feeling for this film was “meh;” for me there needed to be more story so I could find some connections to the characters. I do not want this to sound like I am telling the writers what they should have done; I only want to share my feelings with them and with you.
THE ABSENCE OF a single conversation can steer a relationship off course and down an embankment towards rocky terrain. When someone says “they were afraid to tell their significant other” or do not want to say anything “because they won’t understand what I am saying anyway,” I want to give them a time out. I may understand why the person does not want to confront their partner but the bottom line for me is this: if you are in a committed relationship there should be no fear for one to express their feelings and thoughts. I had a friend who was afraid to tell her husband she was feeling lonely in their relationship. Her husband would go out with his friends to drink or play sports on a consistent basis. She would be left at home. Now granted she could have easily made plans with her friends, but for her it would not have solved the fundamental issue. The issue being she wanted to spend some down time with her husband after their busy work week schedules. WHEN I WITNESS couples not sharing their feelings with each other I fear they are laying down the groundwork for a life of miscommunication; that is if they choose to remain together for that long. More times than not this not talking to each other situation usually brings in to the relationship anger and resentment. In turn a game gets set up where one person does something they know will irritate their partner; then the partner returns the favor by doing something equally as irritating back. It becomes a vicious cycle that only places more negativity on the relationship. I find it sad and if given the opportunity to express my thoughts I will share them with the couple. Something I always recommend is therapy, to get an outside person involved to mediate and help the couple learn how to communicate their feelings to each other. I can see where the idea for this comedy came from regarding the issues facing the couples in this movie. LOOKING TO PROVE her theory about marriage researcher Vivian, played by Dolly Wells (Bridget Jones franchise, 45 Years), chose what she believed to be the perfect couples to participate in her documentary. Each couple had issues, maybe more than Vivian had bargained for. Starring writer and director Lake Bell (In a Word, No Strings Attached) as Alice, Ed Helms (Love the Coopers, Vacation) as Noah, Mary Steenburgen (The Proposal, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape) as Cybil, Paul Reiser (Whiplash, Mad About You-TV) as Harvey and Amber Heard (The Danish Girl, Drive angry) as Fanny; this was a well chosen ensemble for this story. As I mentioned the idea for this story was sound in my opinion; but it did not always translate to the script. Where some scenes had humor and real life situations, others fell flat and were not realistic. It was as if there was more than one story going on at times which attributed to the loss of focus. I was periodically bored and never felt like I fully knew any of the characters. In the past I have enjoyed Lake Bell’s work and performances, but for this film the directing did not help in jumping from one couple’s story to another. I am afraid for a story about communication and marriage; this movie did not do a good job in proving its point. There was a brief extra scene during the beginning credits.
1 ¾ stars
IF AN OBSTACLE stops you reaching for your dream, then maybe that dream was not meant to be. If you are willing to give up easily then I do not think your heart was really into it. Imagine if scientists/inventors had given up on their projects after the first defeat. Look at the microwave oven; it came about after a scientist was experimenting with a new vacuum tube and the candy bar in his pocket started to melt. The potato chip came about in the 1850s because a chef got angry at a customer always complaining about the potatoes being served. Figuring he would teach the customer a lesson the chef sliced the potatoes thinner, fried them then covered them in salt; that is how potato chips were born. Dreams are an essential part of us being human; I know if I stopped pursuing my dreams my life would have turned out drastically different. WHEN I FAILED the practical portion of the certification process to teach fitness I got depressed. In my head I was hearing all those old tapes that were telling me I was not good enough and I was stupid for trying to be something I was not. I even heard my elementary school teacher telling me I would amount to nothing. It is interesting because those comments made to me years ago became my fuel to push myself to work harder for my dreams. I have always had the hardest time when it came to me trying to be spontaneous, so I knew that practical portion was going to be a challenge; however, I did not give up. I forced myself to practice in front of a mirror first, then friends; afterwards, I signed up again for testing and passed. Sure I was nervous standing up in front of a group of strangers, but I knew I could do it and more importantly knew I wanted to do it. Having taught now for over 20 years I know it was worth fighting back to reach my dream based on the amount of pleasure and satisfaction my job gives me every day. This is why I was hoping the main character in this animated, adventure comedy would reach her dream. IF FELICIE, VOICED by Elle Fanning (The Beguiled, 20th Century Woman), could find a way out of the orphanage she knew she had to make her way to Paris, because it was there she could follow her dream to become a great dancer. Her friend Victor, voiced by Dane DeHaan (A Cure for Wellness, Kill Your Darlings), would find a way out. Having a fondness for dance and a dream once of being a go-go dancer, I was looking forward to seeing this movie. The idea to this story was admirable; I liked the way the writers showed one should never give up on a dream. With Carly Ray Jepsen (Grease-TV movie) voicing Odette, Kate McKinnon (Rough Night, Office Christmas Party) voicing multiple characters and Tamir Kapelian (A Broken Code) voicing Rudolph; the actors’ voices were well suited for their characters. The animation was okay, nothing really stood out as special however. My issue with this film was the odd assortment of song choices, along with the timeline confusion regarding certain events. I did not think there was much humor in the script; plus I found a thread of laziness in the entire production process. This story could have been more original instead of appearing to be a Cinderella knockoff. There was a good message in the story but the script did not dream big enough.
SLIGHTLY BELOW AVERAGE height, you would not associate them with unusual let alone average strength. Bespectacled and unassuming, the couple easily blends into a crowd of people without any effort. As they say “looks can be deceiving” and with this couple no truer words have been spoken. For all of their quiet, mild mannered appearances no one would ever guess they both were experts in the martial arts. The only way one would even know that about them would be if you saw them mentoring the students in their classes. Dressed in their off white colored short pants and jacket with a black belt tightly tied around the waist, the two of them periodically demonstrate defensive movements. The speed of their punches and kicks nearly defies nature; they are precise and quick. For some people who would have such skills, they would telegraph it via their enlarged confidence and mannerisms; but for this tiny duo, they conduct their daily life with a sense of peace and calmness. I AM ALWAYS amazed by the amount of people who make assumptions about other people based solely on their outer appearances. And it seems like more and more people are doing that these days. I do not know if it has anything to do with our society’s desire for instant gratification that causes people to make snap judgments; but it seems as if less people want to take the time to learn about another person. It still amuses me to this day when someone finds out what I do for a living and activity. Either they think I am too nice to do one job or not buff enough to do the other job. Think about it; imagine someone freely telling you, you do not look fit enough to teach fitness. I do not believe this would fall into the compliment category; it does not bother me, I find it amusing and rather enjoy seeing the confusing looks given to me. To see what I mean feel free to check out this comedic crime drama directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven franchise, Traffic). AFTER LOSING HIS job Jimmy Logan, played by Channing Tatum (Magic Mike franchise, Jupiter Ascending), hashed out a plan to make his life easier and richer. He would just need help from strangers to pull it off. With Adam Driver (Silence, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Clyde Logan, Daniel Craig (Defiance, Cowboys & Aliens) as Joe Bang, Katie Holmes (Batman Begins, Phone Booth) as Bobbie Jo Chapman and Riley Keough (American Honey, We Don’t Belong Here) as Mellie Logan; the cast overall was fine in this film, though Daniel Craig was the stand out performer for me. His character was so different from what most of us “assume” him to be. I enjoyed the mix of characters in this story along with the side by side story lines; however, I have to tell you I was underwhelmed by this picture. With the buzz about Steven coming out of retirement and the favorable reviews I saw afterwards, I was left with a feeling of light amusement and enjoyment. For some reason the movie came across in a monotone way, without deep emotions attached to it. Some additional background information would have been helpful, but still I just felt I was watching a series of vignettes. It wasn’t like I assumed I was seeing a laugh out comedy or intense drama; I just thought, “Isn’t that a surprise.”
2 ¾ stars
WE HAD BEEN friends for several years. Through that time we had gotten closer, each of us did not use a filter when talking about personal stuff. Our friendship was evolving, though it took a big adjustment when she started dating someone who quickly became her main focus. I was not the only one who noticed the shift; our mutual group of friends noticed her dating relationship was turning serious. As with any relationship time spent with friends took place with less frequency; it was understandable as we all knew time was needed to lay the groundwork to establish a strong bond between the couple. After a few years our friend became engaged and the two of them began laying out plans to begin their life together as a married couple. AFTER THEY WERE married they planted roots in a suburb not too far away from all of us; however, spending time together with them took place less and less often. As the years progressed I started to lose contact with a few of the friends since I moved to a different location. However I was still privy to news through the “grapevine.” I do not remember exactly how it came down, but at some point I heard derogatory remarks were made about me by this married friend. My feelings were hurt and I became angry to the point where I did not what to have any interaction with this couple. Now in hindsight I did not know if they actually meant what was told to me or if they really even said such a thing. Because I was angry I did not care; as far as I was concerned I did not want to have any part of them. This was the way I handled things in the past when I got angry. Long story short, this couple opened up a store that a couple of my friends told me was doing a thriving business. I did not care since I planned never to step foot into their place. After seeing this action comedy I did wonder if I made the right decision. AS A TOP bodyguard Michael Bryce, played by Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, Woman in Gold), had to deal with all kinds of clients. Having fallen on hard times he never imagined he would have to protect the man who tried to kill him. Also starring Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight, Kong: Skull Island) as Darius Kincaid, Gary Oldman (The Space Between Us, The Dark Knight franchise) as Vladislav Dukhovich, Elodie Yung (Gods of Egypt, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Amelia Roussel and Salma Hayek (Beatriz at Dinner, Some Kind of Beautiful) as Sonia Kincaid; the story for this film was decent enough and the cast did a good job of handling the script. Ryan’s character was a light version of his Deadpool one in my opinion. As for Samuel L. Jackson this was one of his typical performances; however, for this character it worked. The highlight for me was Salma Hayek, she was the surprise with what the writers had given her to say. Truthfully there really was nothing special about this picture; there were many scenes with blood and violence. The story was not unique and for the most part it was predictable. At one point I felt like I was just watching a string of nonsensical scenes. I wondered at the end of the movie if I had made the right decision to use my free movie pass for this film. There was one outtake scene in the middle of the credits.
BELIEVING IN A cause can be the start to making a change.Throughout history I remember studying multiple examples where groups of people have an affect on what has been the norm in their world. This will sound trite; but outside of my studies, the first time where I saw the results from a diverse crowd of people coming together to affect change was when there was a write-in campaign to keep a television show from being cancelled. What surprised me was the crowd’s dedication in the way they kept up the pressure on the TV network with their letters, calls and peaceful demonstrations. From the little exposure I had to this event, what I was most impressed with was the variety of people from all walks of life. There was no color barriers, no age discrimination; in other words, there was no labels associated with anyone except for their love of this particular television show. THEY SAY THERE is strength in numbers but I have not always seen that to be the case. Sometimes a smaller group can still affect change with their actions. I wish I could say it always produces a positive change but sadly that is not the case. As the years have gone by there seems to be more opinions about any and everything. It is nothing today for someone to not only have an opinion but share it freely with anyone who will listen…or not listen. I believe everyone has the right to have an opinion. The hard part is respecting it when it runs counter to one’s own thoughts on the subject. Putting that aside, I have mentioned in the past I did volunteer work for several organizations around my hometown. What always impressed me was the devotion the employees had for their common cause. How they all were on point and dedicated to make a positive change was an incredible feeling to experience. If you want to see what can happen when a diverse group comes together for a common cause then this sequel is for you. WHEN THEIR SOURCE of food gets blown up it is up to Surly, voiced by Will Arnett (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, The Brothers Solomon), to find a new home for everyone. Unfortunately their new home was about to go through a radical change. This animated, adventure comedy also had Katherine Heigl (The Ugly Truth, Life as We Know It) as Andie, Maya Rudolph (Sisters, Friends with Kids) as Precious, Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man, Chef) as Frankie and Jackie Chan (Rush Hour franchise, The Spy Next Door) as Mr. Feng. The cast was matched perfectly with their characters, but I have to say the best character for me was the Jackie Chan one. Regarding the story, it continued right where the first film left off. I was not a fan of the original movie and I have to tell you I enjoyed this sequel even less. The action just kept being thrown to us in a fast crazy pace, not allowing time to develop a decent scene of humor. All I felt was the writers were just tossing out idea after idea without any filtering. Overall I was bored since there was nothing different or special in this picture. I could appreciate the movie studio believing they were producing a decent product and I respect their opinion. But I was sorry I paid full price for this film. On the plus side the credits were fun to watch and there was an extra scene at the end of them.
1 1/2 stars