WE BECAME INSTANT FRIENDS BACK IN elementary school. I do not recall a day going by where we did not see each other during the school day. At some point we fell into a routine of either getting together after school or talking on the phone before dinnertime. I remember when a fast food restaurant was built in our neighborhood; the two of us felt like such adults when we met there to try it out on our own. Granted, the money came from my allowance; but it was my first time going to a restaurant without my family, only my best friend. I still remember ordering the chocolate shake for dessert and savoring every single drop of it. My best friend had the vanilla one so we could taste each other’s and decide which one we liked the best. There were so many firsts in my life that he was a part of through the years. We both were cast in a school play, we sat together on the school bus for our first field trip and we both experienced taking public transportation for the first time to an amusement park; these are just a few of the many things we did together. It was not until college when we first experienced doing things on our own; it was a hard transition for me. AFTER BEING TOGETHER FOR SO LONG, I found myself experiencing a sense of loss. We still communicated with each other but as college courses began demanding more of our attention, we sometimes let a day or two go by without talking to one another. As our college years advanced our interests diverged into separate areas; new friendships and activities filled the void. Whenever I came home from school, we would find time to get together. It was like time had not passed by because we would immediately pick up where we left off, as if we had just seen each other the day before. However, during these get togethers I was aware I was talking about people he had never met; it seemed weird for some reason. After spending so many years together, I knew we were headed to different places in our lives. We shared so many good and bad times together, I to this day think about him from time to time and wonder what type of life he is living. Similarly, having been part of my life so long, I wondered what it will be like for me not to see these Star Wars’ characters once I finish watching this last installment of the movie franchise. A THREATENING MESSAGE HAS THE RESISTANCE scrambling to confront an enemy they thought was no longer a part of the First Order. With Adam Driver (Logan Lucky, BlacKkKlansman) as Kylo Ren, Daisy Ridley (Murder on the Orient Express, Scrawl) as Rey, John Boyega (The Circle, Pacific Rim: Uprising) as Finn, Oscar Isaac (Life Itself, A Most Violent Year) as Poe Dameron and Richard E. Grant (The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Can You Ever Forgive Me?) as General Payde; the story in this film had its work cut out for it. Because the writers had 42 years of Star Wars history at their disposal, they were placed at a disadvantage from the start I believe. Let me first start with the positive things about this picture. The special effects were their usual eyepopping brilliance; the creativity was good, and the acting skills of Adam and Daisy drove this movie to its conclusion. Unfortunately, this film was good not great. I thought some scenes and characters were thrown in just to market new toys. There were a few scenes that felt like the writers were rehashing the past to make a connection with older viewers and one especially reminded me of a different film entirely. The thing is, I can understand not taking a risk with the last film; however, I felt things were a bit stale. On the other hand, there is such an emotional attachment to these characters that for any fan it would be hard not to care about them. I know I will miss the Star Wars universe; but I still will be able to look back fondly at the memories it gave me.
3 stars – Star Wars fans 2 2/3 – non-fans
USUALLY AT ANY TYPE OF event I attend the crowd acts accordingly. At a wedding most of the guests are cordial and jovial; whereas at a funeral most people are solemn and respectful. This is the norm but never underestimate the person who is highly charged emotionally. I attended a funeral where 2 guests made a scene and one of the grieving relatives yelled back at them that they would “rot in hell.” Oh and there was that wedding where the bride and her new mother-in-law got into a shouting match in the middle of the reception; it was not pretty. Overall though I have to say there is something about going to an event where everyone is in a similar mood. I do not know if each person is feeding off the emotions of another person but I feel an energy that connects everyone; the best example is a rock concert, where everyone sings along to the musical artist. ONE PLACE WHERE I do not always find consistency in the crowd’s mood is at the movies. There have been times where I sat in my seat perplexed at the viewers’ reactions around me. Where they were guffawing with belly laughs, I found myself getting bored with what I felt was a lame attempt at humor. Other times I am the one sitting in my seat with tears rolling out of my eyes; while the people next to me are focusing on their tub of popcorn, not one teardrop getting squeezed out of their eyes. I certainly do not look at this as a right or wrong situation; everyone has the right to feel the way they do without any type of judgment. That is one of the main pillars I use to write my movie reviews. You may notice I try to never tell someone they can or cannot see a movie; I am simply offering advice and sharing my experiences during my viewing of the movie. If anything I am more curious to hear other people’s views, for I feel that helps me be a better reviewer. However in regards to today’s picture, it was obvious everyone was feeling the same thing—extreme joy and excitement. HAVING TRAVELED FROM AFAR to ask Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill (Airborne, Brigsby Bear), for help in fighting the First Order; Rey, played by Daisy Ridley (Murder on the Orient Express, Silent Witness-TV), could not understand Luke’s determined resistance. She had no idea she was not the first one to ask for his help. This next installment in the Star Wars franchise included Carrie Fisher (Wonderland, This is My Life) as Leia Organa, Adam Driver (Paterson, Silence) as Kylo Ren and Oscar Isaac (The Promise, A Most Violent Year) as Poe Dameron. For a movie watching experience this action, adventure fantasy provided everything one needed for an emotional ride of thrills. Kudos to the director who kept control of the pacing of the story; there was a steady dose of drama, humor and excitement through the 2 hours and 32 minutes of running time. I will say the script was weak in several parts, where there could have been more thoughtful drama. Personally I wanted the First Order to remain menacing and wished Finn had been given more scenes. Without giving anything away one of the love interest story lines was a waste of time. Interestingly I found the acting was better in this sequel than the previous movie. There was more back story to the characters which I appreciated and as for the fight scenes, they were imaginative and thrilling. If you are not a fan of Star Wars chances are you will not care to see this movie; but if you want an easy “share the moment” experience with the people sitting around you then this film will not disappoint.
3 1/3 stars
THE SET OF DOORS was still massive looking under the prominent archway sticking out from the building’s façade. Crossing over the threshold the first open area available was a huge lobby. The floor was well worn; the once polished tile was now tired and dull. The ceiling was made up with an elaborate maze of wooden beams that crisscrossed in such a way to form star shapes. Some of the stars had long chandeliers hanging down that threw off just enough light to barely encompass the lobby. There was a grand staircase that started in the middle of the area then swept up like a curl of blonde hair to the 2nd floor. At the top of the staircase just beyond was a wall of stained glass that looked like it was covered in a dark veil; the light coming from behind was no longer strong enough to shine through completely. Behind the staircase on the main floor was a row of doors, each one numbered. NO MATTER WHICH DOOR one walked through, there were railroad tracks waiting on the other side. The platforms were for the most part clear of debris; but there were splotches of dirtiness looking like broken shadows that died on the floor. The lighting was weak, needing the assistance of any light source coming through the glass ceiling above. Not every track had a train unloading or waiting for passengers. As for the train cars that were present, there was not one that did not look like it had gone through some type of battle. With bruises, scrapes and nicks; the cars were so old they would always squeal their aches and pains when leaving the station. Inside the cars one would be challenged to find a seat that did not have a rip in its fabric or graffiti displayed somewhere on the front or back. A passenger’s comfort was not taken into consideration when the cars were manufactured; the main focus was determining how many seats could be stuffed into each car. Seeing the passenger train in this dramatic, crime mystery made me wish I would have had an opportunity to experience such an elegant ride. WHEN ONE PASSENGER WAS found dead in their cabin it was up to Detective Hercule Poirot, played by Kenneth Branagh (Dunkirk, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) to find the killer before another passenger wound meet the same fate. Based on Agatha Christie’s novel this movie directed by Kenneth Branagh was a beautiful representation of a time long passed. With Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Silent Witness-TV) as Miss Mary Debenham, Leslie Odom Jr. (Red Tails, Person of Interest-TV) as Dr. Arbuthnot, Penelope Cruz (The Counsellor, Head in the Clouds) as Pilar Estravados and Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Marshall) as Hector MacQueen; the cast was filled with heavy hitting actors. I truly enjoyed the way this movie was filmed because it was beautiful to watch. However with the script being so lifeless I had to wonder why the studio hired such a talented cast only to have them do nothing. There were some actors that I cannot recall if they had more than 4 lines; it was silly especially since Kenneth was in almost every scene and in the viewers’ faces. Drama and intensity were missing from this picture. Considering the circumstances taking place there needed to be tension, thrills and excitement; none of that was present in this film. I felt this remake took the story and put it in a pretty package to entice viewers, only to have them open it up and realize they already had seen a better version sometime before.
ONE of my first supervisors in fitness was a woman; I was one of only two male fitness instructors on staff. It was not a big deal to me because I did not care about my boss’ gender. My concern was having a boss who would support me since the job there was early in my health and fitness career. All went fine for the most part, but I have to say the staff meetings annoyed me and the other male instructor. Half the meeting the two of us would sit there as the other instructors talked about their kids, hot looking celebrities, fashion and female health issues; in other words, nothing about the health club or its program. Gratefully this was not the norm because as I added more health clubs to my schedule I had other female supervisors and that type of conversation never happened during our meetings. GOING on a parallel course was my business career. I will never forget one of my first jobs where I was hired around the holidays. At a family function I mentioned the new job and a relative asked if I liked my boss. I used a pronoun to refer to my boss by saying, I thought she was cool. The relative had a puzzled look on their face and asked me if I felt okay having a woman as a boss. In my head I was screaming, “Are you kidding me!?” I told them it made no difference to me if my boss was a man or woman. As far as I was concerned good or bad bosses are not based on gender. Since I am speaking about gender in the work place I cannot confirm if true but I read a statistical piece that stated, based on current trends, women will reach parity with men in the workplace in 170 years. That means women will have equal pay and ½ of the bosses will be female. With that little tidbit how can you not love the 13 year old girl in this film festival winning documentary? HAVING been born into a family with a long line of eagle hunters all Aisholpan wanted to do was be one of them. The only problem with that was her being a female. This family adventure film was absolutely gorgeous to watch on the big screen. The aerial views of Mongolia’s landscapes were beautiful to me. I have always been a fan of eagles, ever since a camp counselor brought one to our class one day, so this story intrigued me greatly. What I found charming about this film was its simplicity. Seeing and hearing about the townsfolk along with me witnessing a lifestyle foreign from mine, I found myself being drawn into Aisholpan’s life. Especially with our current times this coming of age and female empowerment story seemed so appropriate. Let me add I thought it was genius to have Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) narrate this documentary. One of the best things about this movie happened at the end; all the women and men in the audience applauded during the ending credits. Kazakh was spoken with English subtitles.
3 1/3 stars