THOUGH MY STUDIES DID NOT NECESSARILY cover the psychological makeup of actors, I have seen enough live theater performances to tell when the cast members are enjoying themselves. I do not know if I can explain it properly, but there is a feeling in the air that is like carbonated liquids, with a touch of electricity that sparks the performance. Recently, I was in New York City and attended a couple of Broadway shows. One of the theater productions was a big, old-fashioned musical with a large cast of actors and dancers. The curtain rose and within five minutes the actors went into a big musical number. The male lead was the last one to join in; but once they did, the rest of the performers kicked it up a notch to match the lead’s energy level. Later, the same thing happened when the female lead had her first big singing and dance number. There was so much activity taking place on stage, I did not know where to look first. But no matter who I was focusing on, everyone was vibrant, filled with high energy. I could feel that energy coming out into the auditorium. Do you know those times when you are standing somewhere and can tell when someone has come up behind you? It is in that same vein, but to the umpteenth power of intensity, where I can feel the actors’ joy. GRANTED, A LIVE PERFORMANCE IS DIFFERENT than watching it on film; however, there are times when I am sure the actors are having a great time filming their story. An example that comes to mind are the Marvel superhero films. For me, there is an enthusiasm that comes across the screen, just like the screen presence comes across from an actor. There is a film I will be reviewing shortly, with Emma Thompson, where the energy was infectious coming off the cast. It added an extra layer of enjoyment in my viewing of the picture. Another way of looking at this is to think about a party you have attended. When everyone is experiencing the same type of fun and joy, the party is always more memorable; or at least remembered fondly. When there are guests at a party that are not experiencing the event in the same way, there is a disconnect. I have been to a couple of small events where there was a guest who was not participating in conversation and laughter. It puts a damper on everyone’s experience, in my opinion. Luckily that doesn’t happen in this dramatic crime comedy sequel. LONG TIME FRIENDS MEET AT ONE of their friend’s estates on a Greek island for vacation. Added to the list of guests is the world’s greatest detective which was fortuitous because there was going to be a murder. With Daniel Craig (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, No Time to Die) as Benoit Blanc, Edward Norton (Fight Club, American History X) as Miles Bron, Kate Hudson (Fool’s Gold, Almost Famous) as Birdie Jay, Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, My Spy) as Duke Cody and Janelle Monae (Hidden Figures, Moonlight) as Andi Brand; this movie was a fun viewing experience. The cast was well chosen and not only blended well together but were all deeply into their characters. The script was not as sharp as the first film and at times seemed to be veering off subject; however, the distinct different characters involved smoothed over the rough patches. There were places where I felt this picture was trying to be an Agatha Christie story, except going a more outrageous route. The standouts for me were Janelle and Dave; I felt they had the strongest presence on screen. Still, even with its flaws this was a decent addition to this budding film franchise.
ONE OF THE THINGS I MISSED most this past holiday season was spending time at the movie theater. In the past, I would spend one of my days off from work at the theater, watching as many films as I could in one day. Due to the current times with COVID and the variants, I have not been comfortable sitting in a crowded theater. In the good old days, I could sometimes catch 5 movies in one day. Maybe some of you might think that is too intense to do, but for me it was like therapy; I loved getting lost in story after story, while taking off enough time just to catch something to eat before I went back into the next showing on my list. What made this work of course was the fact the film studios always release their blockbusters around this time; so, the Academy of Motion Pictures would have the studio’s film fresh in their minds for the beginning of the voting period for an Academy Award nomination. Truth be told, even if the picture was not high on my list, if it fit into my time schedule to make the day’s viewing work, I would go see it. Surprisingly, I have only a couple of friends who could handle watching multiple movies in one day. Usually, a friend might only meet me for one or two films before they had to bow out and take a break. SINCE I CHOSE TO STAY HOME this holiday season, I wanted to experience that blockbuster type of movie experience. Luckily, I was able to rent the film I am reviewing today. It still is playing at the theater and the fact it is two hours and 43 minutes long, I could hit pause at anytime so I would not miss any scene. There is something about a James Bond movie that always has a special mystique when it premieres. In my family, a new 007 picture always meant a family outing to go see it. Even if we were on a vacation out of state, if the movie was coming out, we would find time to go see it no matter where we were at. I always experience a bit of nostalgia whenever a new Bond picture comes out because of all the memories I have of the previous pictures; especially of the ones that starred Sean Connery and Daniel Craig. With their longevity in the role, there is for me something extra special about the film when they starred in it. While I began watching this newest film in the franchise, I was feeling nostalgic and sad as the scenes unfolded. HAVING FOUND A SENSE OF PEACE in retirement, it did not last long when an old friend came calling on James Bond, played by Daniel Craig (Knives Out, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), asking him for one last favor. With Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Knives Out) as Paloma, Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody, Need for Speed) as Lyutsifer Safin, Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color, The Lobster) as Madeleine and Lashana Lynch (Captain Marvel, Powder Room) as Nomi; this action, adventure thriller came packed with its trademark big action/fight scenes. Craig’s Bond is more of a brawler, grittier 007 compared to the others. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of heart on display in this story. There were some poignant moments I felt. My big complaint was with the script and the villain. Though Rami was decent, I found the character was not menacing at all. His character was a bit bland, and the script did not help as it tried to pack too much into the story, to honor Daniel’s portrayal of Bond, hence the too long running time. Despite my misgivings, I am glad I was able to see this movie and if you are especially a fan of this franchise, you would not want to miss this one. And even if you are not a fan, based on the star rating below, you might want to see it as well.
I HEARD THE MOST OUTRAGEOUS STORY recently. It was told during a dinner party. In one of the departments of a mid-sized company there were approximately a dozen co-workers. Besides the usual annoyances and bickering that can take place at work, most of the employees got along with each other. However, there was one employee who strongly disliked one of her co-workers; though, no one in the office could tell. This person felt she was slighted by her co-worker, but those facts were not available. Let me call this person Carol, though that is not her real name. One day Carol’s co-worker came into the office and found a small gift-wrapped package on her desk. There was a note attached that only said, “To someone who makes me happy.” The co-worker, who I will call Deb, was stunned. When she opened the box there was a small scented candle. Deb asked her co-workers if they saw who put the gift on her desk, but no one saw anything. A week went by and another gift with another message signed, “Your secret admirer” showed up. It was a mystery because no one came forward to claim they were the one leaving gifts and cards for Deb. That is because Carol was doing it just to drive Deb crazy and make her think there was someone in the company who liked her. After several weeks of doing this Carol stopped, but never told Deb she was the one leaving gifts as a joke. WHEN I HEARD THIS STORY, I could not believe someone would take the time to do such a thing to annoy one of their fellow workers. If that had been done to me, I would have driven myself crazy trying to find out the mystery and who was behind it. Gratefully, I do not work with such an employee and have to wonder what would motivate someone to do such a thing. The more I thought about that story, it suddenly occurred to me that entire scenario could have easily been a scene out of that old board game where players receive clues to try and figure out the mystery. I remember relatives trying to teach me the game, but I was not catching on to it. The reason being was those family members were experienced in playing the game, so just gave me quick directions before we started playing it. They had to tell me what to do as we were playing it and it only frustrated me more. However, if the scenario had been like the story in this film festival winning movie, I would have quickly gotten into playing it. WHEN THE FAMOUS MYSTERY WRITER HARLAN Thrombey, played by Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World, Beginners), was found dead in his mansion; the only people who had been around him were his family members. It would take a super sleuth to try and figure out this mystery. With Daniel Craig (Logan Lucky, Cowboys & Aliens) as Benoit Blanc, Chris Evans (Gifted, Captain America franchise) as Ransom Drysdale, Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Overdrive) as Marta Cabrera and Jamie Lee Curtis (A Fish Called Wanda, True Lies) as Linda Drysdale; this comedic, crime drama was exciting to view. The script was twisted and funny which allowed the actors to have fun with their characters. I enjoyed the twists and turns as the writer took delight in testing the viewers’ ability to figure out the mystery. Keep in mind, I am not one to try and figure out what will happen; I live in the moment and let the story unfold in front of me. This picture provided great entertainment for me as I tried to look at every detail so I could guess the reason behind the mysterious death.
3 2/3 stars
IF THE ADULTS DO NOT ACT RESPONSIBLY how in the world will their children be able to act it? I have seen some bizarre things take place between a parent and a child. First off, I still remember being at a park and watching a woman fill up a baby bottle with soda pop to give to her toddler. One of my favorite contradictions is when a parent scolds a child for bad language, you know a swear word; though the son or daughter was only copying the foul mouth of their mother or father. What I imagine to be more traumatic is when the adult in the family is either drunk or high while taking care of their offspring. We had here recently a news report about a family that was driving in a car that drove off the road into a lake. It turns out the parent was drunk. I have a friend who lost a nephew due to this same type of scenario except it was a car collision instead of a lake. Childrearing of itself is already a challenging experience and then some children having to deal with these added types of circumstances is just horrifying. LUCKILY NOT EVERYTHING IS A DOOM or gloom situation; there are things I have seen between family members that were amazing. Listening to a parent explain discrimination gives me hope that the next generation will be better than the one before it. I firmly believe education is fundamental to the healthy growth of a child. Just think about it; if a child sees their parent acting afraid around a certain race or ethnic group of people, the child will instinctively become cautious around the same group. If the adult’s issues had been addressed before they manifested into fear, that adult could have stopped the cycle from being handed down to their offspring. I remember exactly where a very young me was, in a museum down in the city, when I asked about a person I saw who did not look anything like me or the people around me. Part of the explanation given to me was about countries and continents; there was no fearfulness or negative feelings put into the talk I was given. So, you see there are adults in this world who can be good examples for responsibility, thoughtfulness and compassion. The main character in this drama tries her best in the middle of rising racial tensions. AS THE TRIAL IS TAKING PLACE about the police beating of a black man single mom Millie Dunbar, played by Halle Berry (Kidnap, Kingsman: The Golden Circle), is trying to keep her children safe from the tensions building in the neighborhood. With Daniel Craig (Logan Lucky, Skyfall) as Obie Hardison, Lamar Johnson (Home Again, The Next Step-TV) as Jesse Cooper, Rachel Hilson (The Good Wife-TV, Cass) as Nicole Patterson and Callan Farris (Brothered Up-TV movie, Square Roots-TV movie) as Ruben; this movie’s story revolved around the Rodney King trial back from the 1990s in California. I thought this was going to be an intense, thought provoking crime drama but the director and writers missed the mark—by a wide gap. The script was such a mess going from ill-placed humor to drama to action to sadness; there appeared to be no thought put behind doing a complete story. As for the filming I found it annoying that the director would continually cut to aerial shots of roof top houses. There were so many predictable scenes and I thought the sudden love angle was ridiculous; yes, that is right, in the middle of a riot let us kiss. This was a waste of actors and film. What a shame for such a newsworthy event to be told by a poorly written script.
1 ½ stars
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
As I walked in the odor of old rubber was still there minus the cigarette smoke. To the left the bar had been enlarged with a small variety of craft beers. When I was younger they only served 2 brands from 2 spigots. There were familiar sounds playing out though some of them seemed more muted than what I remembered. However one particular sound still stood out whenever a ball was rolled down the bowling lane. It was the sound of hope and anticipation for the initial smack against the standing pins that would then scatter out of the way. The old bowling alley I used to go to had gone under renovation. Across all the lanes now hung TV monitors that kept everyone’s scores automatically, accented with colorful animations for each ball thrown. I did miss the fan vent in the middle of the ball return carousel that would blow cool air on the bowlers’ outstretched hand. It never occurred to me that it was used to keep a bowler’s hands dry; I assumed it was to keep one’s palm clean from dust or dirt. Just as I wrote that sentence it dawned on me how odd that must be because after every game my hands always had a dull black residue over them from the ancient bowling balls. It took me no time at all to get into the swing of things and have a good time in this updated place; I had enough memories to mix in with the new things done to the bowling alley. I had similar feelings with this action thriller. KEEPING a promise he made James Bond, played by Daniel Craig (Cowboys & Aliens, Defiance), would discover a trail of events that were created especially for him but had major consequences for everyone else. This latest adventure story in the movie franchise had a big budget to film in various locations around the world which were fun to see. Pretty much the story followed the requirements for what we all expect in a James Bond movie: intense fight scenes, hi-tech gadgets, a love interest and a diabolical enemy. But with a running time of 2 hours 28 minutes, the story was bloated with scenes that were predictable and felt like the actors were going through the motions. I thought Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Madeleine Swann and Ben Whishaw (I’m Not There, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) as Q were exceptionally good in their roles. What bugged me was casting the skilled actor Christoph Waltz (Carnage, Django Unchained) as Oberhauser then giving him such a poorly written role. This was par for the course since there were fun parts to this movie that played off my fond memories of the older Bond films, but then they had to deal with lackluster scenes. I had read Daniel said he would rather slit his wrists then do another Bond film which explained him looking tired. This is not the way I wanted to remember this James Bond.
2 3/4 stars
It took me a moment to process what appeared on the movie screen before me. This year is the 50th anniversary of the first James Bond movie. For those who might not know, it was Dr. No back in 1962. My most vivid memory of a James Bond film was Thunderball. It was an evening showing and my parents took me to a classic movie palace. Washed in a white glow, the terra cotta building had a colorful marquee with the theater’s name flashing above in small twinkling lights. Inside there were onyx colored marble walls with a row of brass torcheres topped with an orange glow, standing like sentinels down the long hallway. Sitting in red velvet seats, the three of us felt regal as we watched the exciting movie. After all these years, I felt the same excitement while watching this new Bond movie. Daniel Craig (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Defiance) was outstanding this time around, playing an older and wiser James Bond. When a computer drive, filled with the secret identities of every British Agent, was stolen; James discovered a bigger plot was in play that personally affected M, played by Judi Dench (J. Edgar, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). The surprise for me was Judi Dench; her role was rich and deep. Add in her steely blue eyes, perfect diction and brilliant acting skills; this was the best M portrayal I have ever seen. The script played tribute to the Bond heritage, allowing sly humor to filter in between the well choreographed action. One could see Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside, No Country for Old Men) relished playing the high tech villain Silva, making the character memorable. When one goes to see a James Bond movie, there are certain things that are just a given: explosive action, high tech weapons, witty dialog, elegance and hand to hand fights. No one would be disappointed by this thriller. Granted the story was far fetched but that goes with the territory. After all these years for a James Bond movie to still excite me was amazing. The character has gotten better with age, allowing a new generation of viewers to come on board. Years from now these new fans should easily remember the time they saw their first James Bond movie. Scenes with violence and blood.
3 1/3 stars
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but lasers will always hurt you. When I first heard about the mash up of cowboys and aliens I thought what a strange combination. Adding in the actors chosen for this film, I decided to check out and see if our latest James Bond actor could handle beings from outer space. Jake Loneran, played by Daniel Craig (Defiance, Casino Royale) woke up without his memory and a strange metal bracelet attached to his wrist. After wandering into the small town of Absolution, he was identified as a wanted man. Just as he was about to be hauled off to face justice, strange lights appeared in the sky that attacked the town. If people wanted to be saved they would have to stand behind Jake, who had the key to saving earth; he just did not know it. Daniel Craig did some things that reminded me of his James Bond character, but he was wooden in this performance. Harrison Ford (Air Force One, Extraordinary Measures), as feared landowner Woodrow Dolarhyde, was more like a mean Indiana Jones. The only reason Olivia Wilde (In Time, The Words) was cast as Ella Swenson was for the writers to inject a love interest angle into the story. Her story line made little sense to me. I was completely perplexed why Paul Dano (There Will be Blood, Ruby Sparks) would agree to play whining Percy Dolarhyde, Woodrow’s son. The story was silly rubbish; it was a disappointment. I liked the special effects and action but they were not enough to maintain my interest during the illogical parts. Daniel Craig better ditch the cowboy hat and go back to his stirred not shaken martini.
1 3/4 stars — DVD
Within the opening scene of this film, I thought the title was aptly chosen. Little did I know the story was going to take me to a different place from what I had imagined. Daniel Craig (Quantum of Solace, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) played self-destructive Joe Scott, a movie star on the cusp of being considered too old for the film industry. With the news of his childhood friend’s death, Joe reflects on old memories as he prepares to go back to his boyhood home and attend the funeral. In flashback we see a younger Joe, played by Harry Eden (Oliver Twist, Pure), in scenes that laid the foundation for Joe’s future path in life. I found the acting believable and quite good in the dual story line. Also, I was fascinated how the story took a startling turn of events and connected the past with the present. A well done movie that I enjoyed and admired in its depth of story telling. This was the type of movie where afterwards, I sat back and took a look at some aspects of my life to see how they led me on my current path.
2 3/4 stars — DVD
Alas, my adventures were ruined by a drunken captain. Within several minutes of the character Captain Haddock played by Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Lord of the Rings franchise) appearing on screen, I became tired of the role. For me, he was the Jar Jar Binks of this film. All I will say about the story is that it has to do with a treasure hunt, with the sinister Sakharine played by Daniel Craig (Casino Royale, Defiance) trying to beat out Haddock and Tintin, played by Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, Jumper), to find a hidden treasure. The action was overpowering–fast paced with scenes flying by one after another. I had thought with the pairing of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson they would have produced exhilarating, motion picture magic. There were some well done and exciting scenes; but I have to tell you, the majority of the action scenes reminded me of the Indiana Jones movies, but without the fuel to make them pop out at the viewer. If the film studio has hopes of making this a long running franchise; I seriously hope, they consider a whole new team to bring on board, to make a worthwhile movie.
2 1/3 stars