SITTING on the sofa after a satisfying meal I was waiting for the punch line to the story that was being told to us. It was not because the story was exciting, though it was the 1st time I heard it some years ago, or that the storyteller always had an animated way of telling a tale; I actually had heard this story enough to be able to retell it without any coaching. The reason I was waiting for the ending of the story was so I could get up and go to the bathroom without appearing rude to the story teller or the other people sitting around. The first time I heard the story I remember how all of us were laughing hysterically; it really was a funny set of circumstances that happened to the story teller. However after hearing the same story again and again, it had lost its surprise and funniness. For my way of thinking once a funny story has been told it needs to go into retirement, put away on a shelf only to come out on special occasions as a reminder about a particular person or period of time. THE retelling of jokes or stories only robs them of their uniqueness. After a time the listener you are trying to entertain is simply lulled into boredom. This reminds me of a person I know who does not fully grasp the art of joke telling. Every time they tell a joke they have to explain the portion of it that they find particularly amusing. This is never a good idea; if you have to explain a joke then it is not a joke. There have been times where I find myself sitting and listening to them and I immediately know anything I might find funny will be weighed down with this explaining thing that will make me cringe into wishing they would stop talking. Telling something over and over again is not exclusive to parties and family gatherings; it can be found in movie franchises. FAMILY was the most important thing to Dom, played by Vin Diesel (The Pacifier, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk). Then why did he turn his back on them? Starring Jason Statham (The Expendables franchise, The Mechanic franchise) as Deckard, Dwayne Johnson (San Andreas, Hercules) as Hobbs and Charlize Theron (Monster, Mad Max: Fury Road) as Cipher; the script for this action crime thriller was the weak link. The action scenes kept coming over and over, most connected by cheesy dialog. I will say the action was outrageous as the stunts were things the viewer has come to expect from this franchise. Another positive point about this movie was Charlize Theron; I found her acting to be above everyone else in the cast. After so many years with this franchise the writers needed to do something different in my opinion. I found some of the characters’ conversations were so typical of past films that I found myself becoming dazed and tired. Good thing there was always some over the top action scene ready to unfold right afterwards. This film franchise has had a long run but based on this installment it might be time for this group to take the exit ramp and take a rest. It might do wonders for them.
2 ½ stars
THE first time I saw a closed circuit security camera (are they even called that anymore?) was at a local currency exchange in my neighborhood. It was this imposing metal contraption that hung down from the corner of the ceiling, looking like a dragonfly created by Picasso. I was too young to have a checking account, so I was at the exchange to get a money order for a purchase. While the man behind the thick paned window at the counter was typing up my money order, I was constantly glancing at the security camera. I knew it had to be something visual because of the lens in front; but with those wires attached to the sides, I had to wonder who was watching me. When the man returned to the window he must have noticed my curiosity because he started to tell me all about it in this ever so proud way. TIMES have certainly changed, haven’t they? Except for restrooms and locker rooms, I think security cameras are everywhere, in all kinds of different places. I am all for cameras being at public transportation locales, from airports to neighborhood train stations. Even covering highways or major thoroughfares, I do not have a problem with it. As I walk through a grocery store I can understand why cameras are installed all across the ceiling in those brown glass dome things; they actually look like chocolate gumdrops. Management would want to be on the lookout for any theft taking place. However, when I walk down the hallway of a movie theater I wonder if someone is actually watching me go to my seat. I guess with the tragedy that has taken place in theaters and clubs, security cameras are a must now. I would think after a while all of us will just become numb to the idea we are being watched wherever we go. However I have to tell you, watching this crime thriller was such a creepy experience for me because I am afraid this might be actually happening now. THERE was something about Amy, played by Ana Claudia Talancon (Fast Food Nation, Tear this Heart Out); that made Doug, played by Colin Hanks (The House Bunny, Orange County), want to watch her all the time. This drama that also starred Jordana Spiro (Trespass, Must Love Dogs) as Jen and Jonathon Trent (Burlesque, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) as Matt, definitely had a way of pulling the viewer into the story. I quickly was uncomfortable by what was taking place; not because of any type of gore or torture (there wasn’t any) but because I, who am already paranoid about big brother watching me, was startled by what was taking place. I really believed stuff like this could be taking place all around us. The story was somewhat predictable; however, with Ana and Colin being convincing in their roles I did not mind this issue. I thought the way this film was shot added to the intensity level; it forced the viewer to be closer into the action. Overall, I felt the concept of the story was the main attraction for watching this DVD. The reason I say this is because there really was not anything new brought in for this type of story; however, for me sitting at home without people or security cameras all around I did shut my computer down once the film was over.
2 1/3 stars — DVD
NO matter how hard one works it seems as if that finish line keeps moving further away. I am referring to those plans put in place for retirement. Besides the big element of the “unknown,” the unexpected expense, it seems as if the rules and the times keep changing faster to any adjustments one tries to execute. The age of 65 used to be the goal line for retirement; now it gets pushed back depending on the year one is born. There is a grocery store I occasionally use that has a couple of small sections put aside for clearance items. One of them is in the produce section of the store and I have to tell you it is hard sometimes to watch the elderly shoppers pouring over the bruised or wrinkled fruits and vegetables, looking for one that would still be edible. I wonder what my retirement will be like when I am on a fixed income; would I be one of those shoppers looking for a bargain that potentially could make me ill? AS my friends and I grow older our conversations about are retirement years has increased. Some amongst us have multiple insurance policies to cover a variety of scenarios; others have focused on savings that they will be able to draw on once they are no longer working. One of the big concerns we all share is whether we will be able to still live independently, under our own roofs. No one in my circle of friends has had something good to say about nursing homes unless they had a super wealthy relative, who could afford one of those luxury retirement communities set up like a condominium building. They would have to buy the apartment outright and when they died the living space would revert back to the association. Since none of my friends or me could afford such an arrangement, we have come up with some creative ways on how we could take care of each other. I will tell you the option that was chosen in this comedic crime film never occurred to any of us. RETIRED friends Joe, Willie and Albert; played by Michael Caine (Inception, Batman Begins franchise), Morgan Freeman (Driving Miss Daisy, The Dark Knight franchise) and Alan Arkin (Get Smart, Argo); were falling deeper into debt. After witnessing a crime, Joe got an idea that would solve all three friends’ money issues. Directed by Zach Braff (Garden State, Scrubs-TV), the only reason to see this film is to watch these three actors, along with Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future franchise, Taxi-TV) as Milton and Ann-Margaret (Grumpy Old Men, Any Given Sunday) as Annie, working together. It would have been more interesting to watch them if the script had not stayed on the light side; the humor and emotional parts were rather wishy-washy. Putting aside my dilemma with celebrating crime situations, I thought the lead up story was a good motivator for the action. When the film came to an end I was left with the same feelings I had with yesterday’s picture, just a sense of “blah.” In my opinion it was a crime to have used these actors for such an uninspired script.
WHEN I saw Rosie helping the Jetson family and Data assisting the crew of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, I believed an opportunity was being created for mankind to better itself. Removing some of the unimportant necessities of the day would allow man to study and learn more about life; in other words humans could reach a higher level of consciousness. Witnessing the blending of mechanical objects with people really has been an extraordinary event. Just think about individuals who received mechanical hearts and valves or athletes getting artificial arms and legs; it has changed people’s perceptions about what it means to be physically challenged. Just in the past several months the news reported on an artificial hand that a person could control with their mind; did you ever imagine this becoming reality during your lifetime? I vaguely remember an advertisement tagline that said something like, “better living through science.” This idea certainly has validity; however, I have a growing concern that science, depending on who is calling the shots, could dominate mankind. ONE of my concerns for some time has been the manipulations taking place in our food chain. I am not comfortable ingesting a food item that has been genetically modified. The idea of animals being injected with growth hormones to create supersized creatures to yield more meat or milk frightens me. This was one of the reasons I gave up red meat years ago. Another area that concerns me is the “beauty” industry. With the amount of chemicals people apply to themselves on a daily basis with their soaps, dyes and makeup; I just wonder what the body does with it when the products get absorbed into the skin. Even seeing people who have gone through extensive plastic surgery to maintain their youthful appearance troubles me. I remember standing next to a television celebrity who was talking to their aide. Their face barely budged as the lips were forming words; their facial expression was totally void of any emotion. The title of this futuristic action film could easily apply to this celebrity. MAJOR, played by Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers franchise, Lost in Translation), was the first of her kind; she was the ultimate blend of human and machine. At least she thought so until she started experiencing flashbacks. Watching this dramatic crime movie was a wild visual ride. All I could think about was it looked like a cross between the films Blade Runner and The Fifth Element. Based on the graphic novel this movie also starred Pilou Asbaek (Lucy, A Hijacking) as Batou, Juliette Binoche (Godzilla, The 33) as Dr. Ouelet and Michael Pitt (Seven Psychopaths, The Dreamers) as Kuze. I am not familiar with the story; however, the first half of this picture had me totally into it. Scarlett was good with the physical demands of the role, but I thought the acting part was one dimensional; unless that was how the character was written in the book. The last half of the film for me turned into a typical action movie; in fact, I am concerned Scarlett is being typecast since her character shared similarities with her Lucy and Avengers characters. I would have preferred if the script had stayed focused on the storyline regarding the flashbacks. The title of this movie remained with me afterwards as I wondered if this is where science will be going in the future.
2 ½ stars
STEP by step I listened to them explain how they mapped out their career. I was actually curious because the methodology I was hearing was foreign to me, compared to my career route. I find it particularly fascinating when an individual knows what they want to do at an early age. You see I had assumed most people went through a series of professions before settling on one. When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, a singer, a window washer, a dancer and a veterinarian among other things. A friend of mine wanted to be a doctor since he was a young boy and that is what he became. It makes me wonder how much does outside influences play on steering a person to a particular job field. For example a farmer who has children; does growing up in the environment automatically mean a person will take on the occupation associated with it? On my daily route to work I pass a billboard advertisement for a dentist’s office that has a picture of the dentists who are a father and his son. I wonder if the son really wanted to be a dentist or maybe he wanted to be something else. I want to be clear that I am not judging any of the possibilities I have mentioned; however, one area where I could be judgmental is when a person chooses an occupation for ulterior motives. There is an individual I know distantly who chose a career in sales so they could travel and “safely” carry on affairs without anyone knowing, including his wife. I know, I agree with you as you are thinking he is a despicable individual. To me a job should be something you enjoy doing or at least it serves as a greater purpose for something you want to achieve in your future. The two main characters in this comedy came to the job with their own agendas. Frank “Ponch” Poncherello and Jon Baker, played by Michael Pena (The Martian, End of Watch) and Dax Shepard (The Judge, Parenthood-TV), had different reasons becoming motorcycle officers for the California Highway Patrol. They also had different ways of doing it which was a problem since they were put together as partners. This action crime film was written and directed by Dax, loosely based on the television show. With Jessica McNamee (The Vow, The Loved Ones) as Lindsey Taylor, Adam Brody (Life Partners, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) as Clay Allen and Ryan Hansen (Central Intelligence, Veronica Mars-TV) as Brian Grieves; for the life of me I truly would like to know how the cast felt about doing this movie. Except for the chase scenes and cool looking motorcycles, there was nothing I enjoyed about this film. The script for the most part was written at an elementary school level; what was supposed to be humor I found offensive. I do not know how popular the TV show was when it aired; but I can only assume, based on what I saw in this awful movie, Jon and Ponch were “characters” and there would have been exciting action. That was not the case in this movie. If I were you I would keep driving and not get off the highway to see this picture.
1 ½ stars
TOMBSTONES fall down due to hateful thoughts these days. Houses of worship get tagged with symbols of hate. Videos are posted online to show acts of discrimination. Throughout my life I have personally experienced bigotry and discrimination. With each exposure to it I never understood how a person grew up with such hate inside of them. I am sure within our general conversations with friends and family, someone will mention they do not like someone’s laugh or hair; you know unimportant surface stuff. But when there has been no interaction of any kind and a person actively discriminates against you solely on visual information, it is mind numbing. Any form of discrimination is wrong as far as I am concerned. Before you think better of me, I want you to know there are individual people I do not care to be around. There may be something they do or the way they act that annoys me, so what? I would not hate them because of it; I would simply avoid them. If someone is eating a food like sauerkraut, which I dislike immensely, I would not think less of them or hate them for it. HATRED is such a strong word and I am sad to see how it appears more prevalent today then years ago. Maybe it was always there inside of people, but now it seems as if it is acceptable out in the public eye. I am horrified by some of the acts of hatred I see on the news. This brings me back to my earlier statement: how do people get so much hatred inside of them? We are not born with it; it is something that is learned. If that is the case who or what is teaching us to become hateful? Well I found part of the answer in this BAFTA and film festival winning crime drama. FROM a chance meeting 12 year old Shaun, played by Thomas Turgoose (Eden Lake, The Scouting Book for Boys), discovers a way to feel superior over others. Set in England during the early 1980s, this movie also starred Stephen Graham (Public Enemies, Gangs of New York) as Combo, Jo Hartley (Eddie the Eagle, Dead Man’s Shoes) as Cynth and Joseph Gilgun (Lockout, Harry Brown) as Woody. I found the beginning of the story slow, not sure what the focus was supposed to be. There were troubling scenes for me because they had to do with bullying. As the story progressed I became more involved with what was taking place because a new element was introduced that changed the whole tone of this film. If you are uncomfortable seeing discrimination as I am then I have to tell you I was uncomfortable watching some of the scenes. Now it did not stop me; the story in a way was a revelation. This DVD made me think and in a way, one could say this is a coming of age story which is frightening on some levels. There were powerful performances and though the story was set a few decades ago, I do not think there would be much change in the process of transforming an individual into a dark place. Maybe this movie could be used as an example for schools and organizations to show how a person learns how to hate.
3 ¼ stars — DVD
FINALLY the day arrived where she no longer would need to get up early for work. She had worked in the education field all her life, in various positions from teacher to vice principal. After her discussions with her accountant she decided it was okay to retire and devote the rest of her years to herself. Some of the things she wanted to do was travel and take up painting; she had dreamed of these two things for a long time. The first few days of the school week felt odd to her. She felt something was wrong since she was home, sitting in her recliner, instead of being with her class. The feeling soon receded as she started getting into the joys of retired life. Her finances had been set up to live a good life, not a lavish one, where she could enjoy a couple of treats once in a while. However, there was no way for her to have known at the next condominium board meeting the officers agreed to charge the owners a special assessment to replace all the windows, balconies and repair the swimming pool. The cost to each owner would be close to the mid five figure range; this would drastically alter her retirement plans to the point she would need to go back to work to pay for the assessment. She became resentful and angry about it. FALLING into a state of anger or resentment has always been easy for me. Recently I had to get a new hot water heater and furnace because the old ones broke down and could not be repaired. It all came so sudden for me when it was discovered my house was filling up with carbon monoxide. When all was said and done I realized I should be grateful that I was not killed by the gas; however, I immediately became angry and resentful. The reason for feeling this way was because of the impact this purchase would have on my finances. The funds set aside to pay off my house earlier would have to be transferred to pay off the heating equipment. On an intellectual level I knew this was silly, equipment breaks down; it is not a purposeful act. That did not stop me but at least I did not get extreme about it like the retired hit man in this crime thriller. SETTLING into retirement John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves (47 Ronin, The Matrix franchise), received a visitor at his home who needed a job done. Refusing to help the gentleman would have consequences. This action sequel took the feel of the first film and amped up the intensity and action. With Riccardo Scamarcio (Burnt, Loose Cannons) as Santino D’Antonio and Common (Selma, Just Wright) as Cassian, the fight scenes were unbelievable and bloody violent. They were well choreographed and looked real. An example was the way John Wick constantly had to reload his weapon. Keanu wore his role perfectly, basic dialog with a touch of sarcasm. In fact the whole script had a no nonsense approach with slight humorous moments. Essentially this film festival nominee was a revenge story; it did not pretend to be anything else. I would like to refer to this as an “escape” film to just sit back and enjoy, but I am afraid John Wick would still find me.
3 ¼ stars
DRAWN eyes come to life with a spot of white properly placed close to the center of the eyeball. I learned this in an art class years ago. It worked for the eyes in the portrait I had drawn because they became vibrant with vitality. That one little artistic, creative trick spurred me to always look into a person’s eyes to see if they were really alive inside. I could give you a multitude of examples about how a person conveys much about themselves through their eyes but I do not want to bore you all day. Let me just say I have seen enough confirmations to trust what I see in a person’s eyes. From the hard times I had during my school years I still can remember some of my attackers’ eyes. This may sound like a cliché but each one had darkness in their eyes mixed, with what may surprise you, fear. There may have been other emotions but they paled in comparison to these two even when they were laughing or sneering at me. THOUGH it is harder to see, if you look carefully into people’s eyes in photographs, social media postings or on news channels you sometimes can still get a sense of that person from their eyes. Even individuals arrested and broadcasted on the news for a hideous crime usually have something in common regarding the look of their eyes; there is a certain dullness that blurs the line between the pupil and iris. I am sure you have heard the saying “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” To me this is certainly true and I would even extend it to one’s pets. I knew a dog that had some of the most expressive eyes I had ever seen; it felt as if they were actually talking to you. Eyes are truly a wonder but I have to ask you, do you think you can figure out the terrorist in this crime thriller? TIMES Square was the target for this young, female suicide bomber, played by Luisa Williams (To Each his Own Cinema). All she had to do was get prepared for it. This film festival winning dramatic thriller written and directed by Julia Loktev (The Loneliest Planet, Moment of Impact) was interesting because a majority of the scenes were focused on the bomber’s face. Without saying too much, I found this technique fascinating because the viewer was not able to figure out the bomber’s motivation. In essence it made the movie more intense for me. With Josh Philip Weinstein (One Life to Live-TV, Mars Attacks!) as the commander, Gareth Saxe (Public Enemies) as the organizer and Annemarie Lawless (Hackers, We are What we are) as the bomb maker’s assistant; at times I caught myself wondering if this picture was a documentary. The area where this film became a letdown was towards the end; I would have appreciated more explanation or better yet just closure. I felt the story was cut off. As for the script there was some filler used because several scenes seemed redundant which led to boredom for me. I may have had a hard time reading the young woman’s eyes but I can tell you it did not distract from the chilling authenticity of the movie.
2 ½ stars — DVD
ONCE upon a time employees took pride in their work. Whether it was an office clerk, salesperson, mechanic or repair person; doing a good job used to mean something. Maybe because the business climate changed over the decades from an employees matter mentality to workers now being considered just a disposable statistic, it is not only sad but can be frustrating for the public. Presently I have friends who have been dealing with a large phone carrier for over 2 months, to get them to transfer their business phone lines to another party. Every single time my friends call customer service they get a different answer to the same question. Right now they have received 8 different responses where one representative says they need the new party’s permission to change the phone line to that party, but another rep says they can do it without any permission. Yet nothing ever gets done. WHAT I have found these days are employees who take their pride to cockiness. They really are not feeling good about doing decent work; they are doing it so they can boast and make themselves feel better than the people around them. I do not know about you but it takes a lot of energy for me to keep a straight face while a worker talks down to me in a condescending way. When I encounter someone bragging about something they did at work, that they think was extraordinary, all I want to ask them is, “Isn’t that part of your job responsibilities?” And companies want to know why consumers are switching to online shopping. It only takes one bad employee to color a person’s perception of that company or organization. This crime thriller will show you what I mean. POLICE officer Vincent Downs, played by Jamie Foxx (White House Down, Law Abiding Citizen) found himself being hunted down after he stole a drug shipment from a crime family. His problems got worse when he discovered the family kidnapped his son Thomas, played by Octavius J. Johnson (Coldwater, Ray Donovan-TV). Set in Las Vegas this action film told a story that has been done repeatedly before. The problem was this picture did not offer anything different with this genre. With Michelle Monaghan (Patriots Day, Due Date) as Jennifer Bryant, Dermot Mulroney (The Grey, My Best Friend’s Wedding) as Stanley Rubino and Scoot McNairy (12 Years a Slave, Non=Stop) as Novak; the only actor I thought did anything well was Michelle. In fact I wish the script had been written more around her character for she was the only one where I felt I had a connection. Jamie brought nothing to his role and the script only made things worse for him. C’mon, he has a bleeding wound that seems to only hurt when he needs to take a pause to catch his breath between stunts. Otherwise he is fighting and dodging bullets all over the place. Plus I find it ridiculous to have the bad guys shooting so many bullets but none of them have good aim. This movie was a tedious one to get through; I really would like to know if the people behind this film felt pride in what they created for the moviegoer.
1 ½ stars
WALKING down the street your eye catches something on display behind the store’s display window. You had no intentions of shopping today, but something about the perfectly matched clothing on the mannequin makes you stop. The store was not unfamiliar to you; maybe it was a couple of years ago since you last ventured inside. If memory serves you correctly, you recall the sales staff being helpful. They were not pushy like some of the other clothing stores you have been in, where everything you try on looks perfect according to the staff. Instead the salespeople at this place offer suggestions, asking you where you intend to wear the items. Since the store did not appear to be busy you walked inside to get a closer look at the outfit. As expected a salesperson greeted you and asked if you needed any help. You explained your reason for coming inside and the salesperson directed you to the display rack that was carrying that particular outfit. Finding your size you took the clothing into the dressing room. After you had everything on you looked in the mirror. Though the clothing looked good, it did not look good on you. THIS scenario has happened to me multiple times through my life. Something that looked good on display did not translate to looking good on me. It is weird how that happens. It is not like my size keeps fluctuating; I have been the same size now for years. Yet each store seems to have a different idea of what the waist size should be. Where I may be a 32 inch waist at one place, another will have similar pants that fit the same but they are labeled 31 inch. In fact I know women’s clothing is more varied in how they determine their clothing sizes. It can be disappointing when you see something that you think would look good on you but then your reflection in the mirror says otherwise. It pretty much sums up the way I felt about this crime drama. JOE Coughlin, played by Ben Affleck, chose a different path than his police officer father Thomas Coughlin, played by Brendan Gleeson (In the Heart of the Sea, Suffragette). Joe’s path led to a life of crime down in Florida. This film festival nominee had a great look to it. Set during the time of Prohibition in the 1920s, the costumes and sets were a knock out. Written and directed by Ben, I have enjoyed Ben’s previous directorial efforts; he has an eye for filming a movie. However I think he took on too much with this story. There were scenes that were wonderful to watch, including an exciting car chase. But then there were other places where the story became muddled and slow. I liked the idea of making a gangster period piece but we all have seen similar ones before; this one needed more drama and intensity. As for the acting Ben could have been better since Elle Fanning (20th Century Women, Super 8) as Loretta Figgis and Chris Cooper (The Tempest, Adaptation) as Chief Figgis were more dynamic on screen. Unfortunately by the end of this picture I was left with a blah feeling; it may have been a good looking film but it did not tell its story very well.
2 ¼ stars