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.
ZOMBIES WALK AMONG US; I HAVE seen them. No really, I have encountered them, and I will show you how to spot them. Like me, I assume when you hear the word “zombie” you immediately think about a decaying corpse like body that is alive and roaming about, usually with some difficulty. This is the image that usually comes to mind for me. I ask you, what is the one thing on a zombie’s “mind?” Or put another way, what is a zombie’s main drive that keeps them searching and searching everywhere they go? I will tell you; they are constantly hungry for human flesh. All they want essentially is to eat human beings. They are not interested in striking up a conversation; they do not care if you are dressed in your finest or your grubbiest clothing; they simply want to take a bite out of you. Think about it; have you ever met someone who only has one thing on their mind? I know I have and that is why I refer to such individuals as zombies. Another label that might help, but is not as effective in my opinion, is the term “energy vampire.” This was a term that was used to describe a person who sucks out all the energy in a room whenever they are in it. In other words, they keep any and everyone’s focus directed on them to the point where one just feels exhausted being in the same room as the “energy vampire.” I HAD AN ACQUAINTANCE WHO I considered to be a zombie. This person’s entire being was devoted to acquiring and keeping money. Do not laugh, I am being serious here. Anytime a group of us would go out to dinner, this person would always order the most expensive item on the menu. The reason being, we always would just split the bill among us. They used to order alcoholic drinks with their meal but stopped after I told the waitress to put the alcohol on a separate bill. No matter what the venue or retail place, this person would spend an exorbitant amount of time trying to figure out how to get something free or cheaper than anyone else. To me, they were a money zombie. I used to work with a person who had no scruples; they would do anything to get ahead at the company. From bad mouthing fellow employees, to stealing customers by purposely discarding items and emails meant for other employees, to make them look like they were not doing their job; this horrible employee was appalling. This person was a work zombie and hateful; all they thought about was how they could advance in their position. I could have really used one of the main stars in this action, crime horror film by my side when I used to work at that company. THE OFFER WAS TOO GOOD TO believe from the billionaire casino owner, except for the part about infiltrating a city filled with zombies. With Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, My Spy) as Scott Ward, Ella Purnell (Never Let Me Go, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) as Kate Ward, Ana de la Reguera (Collisions, The Popcorn Chronicles) as Maria Cruz, Omari Hardwick (American Skin, Sorry to Bother You) as Vanderohe and Theo Rossi (Ghosts of War, Luke Cage-TV) as Burt Cummings; I admired the concept for the zombies in this film, along with the idea behind the story. The action scenes were big and graphic which played well in the locale that was the setting for this story. The characters were your typical type in a zombie film, but I enjoyed them, nonetheless. There were a couple of predicaments that were predictable, to the point where I wondered why the other characters could not see it as well. The other issue I had was the length of the film; it was too long. With some editing, I think this picture would have been more exciting and quicker to play out. For a zombie movie, this one had some good points and some not so good ones.
2 ½ stars
I WAS HOPING THE SERVER WAS coming to our table, but he veered to the other side of the aisle to serve the party of three people across from us. At first glance I did not realize one of the plates he was carrying was an unusual size. When he placed it in front of one of the diners I was just as stunned as the three across from me; the plate was enormous. It must have been at least 16 inches in length, I kid you not. Loaded with food that looked wonderful, I only knew what it was when our waiter came by and I asked him for the name of the dish. Surprisingly it was nachos, but it did not look like any plate of nachos I had seen before. Honestly, the size of that plate would normally be found on a buffet table for a multitude of diners. The woman who ordered it laughed when it was put in front of her. When everyone was served at her table, the other 2 people started eating their food; however, the woman grabbed her phone and took several photos of the nachos. I could see taking one photo, but a whole series of them? After she was done doing whatever she was planning to do with the photos, she said the oddest thing, “I hope no one thinks I am a fat slob.” SUCH AN ODD THING TO SAY, I thought. First, if you were concerned someone might think of you in a negative light then why post the photo on social media? Secondly, why do you care what people might think about you? This is something I see more and more these days; people overly concerned what others will think of them. Whether it is the clothes being worn or the food being eaten or the way one’s home is decorated; so many individuals live life cautiously, all in the hopes of being thought of positively. Now I can understand asking a friend/family member how an article of clothing looks on you; but if you choose not to buy a shirt or blouse because you think people will think you are not dressing your age, then I feel you are not living your true self. It seems to me more people act and react based on how they will be perceived by others. I have challenged friends/family members by asking them why it is important to have people’s acceptance of their actions, for all they really need is their respect. Just look at what happens to one of the main characters in this action, crime comedy; all for a 5-star rating. AFRAID OF GETTING A NEGATIVE RATING Stu, played by Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick, Central Intelligence), was willing to go above and beyond what was expected of an Uber driver; even if it might kill him and it just might. With Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Hotel Artemis) as Vic Manning, Mira Sorvino (The Replacement Killers, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion) as Angie McHenry, Natalie Morales (Battle of the Sexes, Parks and Recreation-TV) as Nicole and Iko Uwais (The Raid franchise, Mile 22) as Oka Tedjo; this story’s strength was in its 2 main actors. They had an easy flow between them where I could see them reteaming again. There were several places where I laughed or chuckled, despite the story being a rehash of several past films in this genre. The script was an odd mix with several holes in it and a couple of non-believable parts. If it wasn’t for Kumail’s comedic timing and quick witty line reads with Dave’s over-the-top tough cop actions, this picture might have tanked. Instead, I found myself being amused and not caring what others around me in the theater were thinking of me.
2 ½ stars
OF ALL PLACES I WOULD NOT have thought an amusement park would have been the place where I felt I was now part of a group. Growing up I never was much associated with any one group. I was not into team sports nor did I belong to any type of organization. Some of my friends had been involved with the Boy Scouts or after school programs; I never felt comfortable to be a part of such things. My friends were an eclectic group I enjoyed being with; but I also liked having my alone time too. During the high school years is when I really shied away from being labeled part of any type of group. There were the jocks who always hung out together and as far as I could tell did most activities as one group. If one person was going to a party then they all would go to it; if one person picked on a student then the others would join in. Another group that did everything en masse were the cheerleaders. If one of them hated something then the rest of them immediately hated the same thing. I know these two examples are considered stereotypical, but this type of group mentality was prevalent throughout my school. SO HERE I FIND MYSELF at this massive amusement park and we have special passes that allow us to bypass the lines of people waiting to get on the rides. I am not sure if I can describe how I felt as we walked up to the park employees managing the lines, showed them our pass and then directed into a separate line that was right next to the general line. As I walked by I looked at the faces of the attendees who had been standing there for 30-65 minutes; they looked tired, dehydrated and a bit annoyed by the long wait. So here I am walking at my usual fast pace and come up to other guests who have passes. I think we only had a 10-minute wait before we could get on the ride. As I am getting strapped into the compartment assigned to me I get this realization that all of us were being treated in a special way. Granted the tickets cost more, but I suddenly felt like I had something in common with this group of strangers; it was like we were a part of a secret club. It was a new feeling for me and helped me understand the group camaraderie that took place in this action crime thriller. SITUATED IN PLAIN VIEW IN the heart of Los Angeles stood a hotel that was run by a nurse, played by Jodie Foster (The Accused, Elysium), who only allowed a certain type of individual in to be a guest—a criminal. There were rules that had to be followed if you wanted to stay. With Sterling K. Brown (Marshall, This is Us-TV) as Waikiki, Sofia Boutella (Atomic Blonde, Star Trek: Beyond) as Nice, Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Blade Runner 2049) as Everest and Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park franchise, The Fly) as Niagara; the set-up to this story seemed promising, along with the capable cast. However once again the movie studio focused on the cast instead of the script. I enjoyed this cast of characters and the script’s campy vibe, but nothing stood out as exceptional for me. Everything I was watching seemed familiar despite the cool looking sets. It also seemed obvious the studio would not be opposed to doing a sequel. It would be a mistake if they chose to keep the same writers. I may not be part of the reviewers who enjoyed this picture and you know what? That would be okay because I am used to going my own way.
1 ¾ stars
THE man’s wavy untamed hair in the photograph was the closest looking to his own. No one else in the photo album had hair similar to this man, so there was a good chance that man in the photo could be his father. The young boy would pull out his mother’s photo album anytime he was feeling sorry for himself. Sitting on the sofa with the album in his lap he would stare at this one particular photograph of the man with the wavy hair and wonder what the man was like. The little boy would get lost inside his imagination, placing himself next to his possible father in a variety of scenarios. They would be at the amusement park; sitting side by side in a roller coaster that was about to climb up a steep embankment, their hands tightly clenching their shouldstraps with their legs pressed up against each other. For several years the young boy believed his real father was out there somewhere. SOME people were born into a family while others created their own. A basic definition of family is a group of people related to one another. It could be by blood or there may be something else in common. I have a friend who has a family by birth. Though she continues to try over and over, her and her family have different expectations or maybe it is just different feelings of what makes a family. She has been disappointed more times than not with her so-called family. The only time they do something as a family is if it is convenient for her siblings; they have never gone out of their way for her. So the windup is my friend has started to create her own supportive family among her friends. This action science fiction film will show you what my friend did in her life. SETTLING into their roles as the Guardians of the Galaxy, the group of friends encounter strong forces that will test the bonds they have recently formed with each other. This adventure sequel starred Chris Pratt (Jurassic World, Passengers) as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana (Star Trek franchise, Nina) as Gamora, Dave Bautista (The Man with the Iron Fists, Spectre) as Drax and Michael Rooker (The Bone Collector, Jumper) as Yondu. Right from the start this picture grabs you with its special effects and action packed scenes. And just like the original movie, this one also had a great soundtrack. I thought the script was intriguing with its strong theme of family. Not wanting to get too deep with this theme the writers did not forget to include the same type of humor that was used in the last film. Now this brings me to my issue with this movie; it unfortunately was not the first one because since we are familiar with the new franchise, this installment did not have the same fresh quirkiness because I had seen it before. I do not consider this a major complaint; I still laughed and enjoyed the action. If you are not a fan of science fiction I am not sure you would get totally into this picture, but I am sure you would not be able to stop your feet from tapping along to the music. There were three extra scenes during the credits and one more brief scene at the end of the credits.
There has been a culinary phenomenon taking place in my city for the past couple of years. What I find curious about it is the focus has been on a basic American staple, the hamburger. Back when I used to eat hamburgers they were not something I gave much thought to; they were a reliable backup dish, easily found. But something happened where all these new restaurants started popping up around the city that focused on “gourmet” burgers. The majority of these places kept a limited menu: burgers, fries and milkshakes. Each place touted something unique about their hamburger/menu. One food establishment promoted the way they grilled their burgers; another pushed their hand cut fries. The competition was fierce and when everyone was on the same footing, one of the restaurants would do something to make themselves unique. I guess the latest rage, based on the advertisements I have seen, is combining different food items into a hamburger. Out of the blue there now is something called the mac and cheese burger which is a hamburger stuffed with macaroni and cheese. As I drove by one place I saw they are promoting a breakfast burger. My curiosity got the better of me so I had to look up and see what it was and I have to say, even if I was a hamburger lover, I would never order one. The breakfast burger had strips of bacon on top with a layer of hash browns. Inside the burger was cooked eggs with onions and if that was not enough, there was a sausage patty on the very top of the stack. Honestly it just floors me; I would love to sit in on one of the restaurant chains’ marketing meetings to see who thinks up these concoctions. It sounds to me as if every place is picking bits and pieces of other food chains and combining them in the hopes of creating something new. That theory applies to this crime movie. WHEN one specific bank became the target of several brutal heists FBI agent Montgomery, played by Christopher Meloni (42, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit-TV), felt the criminals wanted something more than just the bank’s money. This action film also starred Bruce Willis (Looper, The Fifth Element) as Hubert, Adrian Grenier (The Devil Wears Prada, Entourage-TV) as Wells and Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy, Riddick) as Stockwell. I thought the actors were the right choice for the roles, though I felt the characters were not much of a stretch for any of them. The issue was the script; to me it was a hodgepodge of different ideas that never blended well. At one point I found myself confused with the characters; which was a shame because the action scenes were not that bad, though still quite violent. This movie’s story did not offer anything new or creative. Instead I felt I was watching bits and pieces from other pictures that were twisted into this story in the hopes of presenting the viewer something new. It did not work; this still was simply a bank robbery picture.
1 ¾ stars
Any story or event becomes enhanced with the addition of an unexpected surprise. If I were to tell you that every 25th person who visited my movie site would get a gift card to a movie theater, I am sure the people who received the cards enjoyed reading my reviews more than the ones who did not get a gift card. If I read a news story about someone doing an extraordinary feat in the middle of a crisis, like a person lifting a heavy piece of machinery that accidentally rolled on top of a child, I feel more invested in the story and will probably remember it for a longer time. There was the time I was at a friend’s wedding reception where his introverted cousin, who used to hang out with us, was called up to give a toast. Instead of giving a speech filled with embarrassing or funny tidbits about the groom, the cousin had secretly made arrangements with the band and performed a couple of my friend’s favorite songs. The big surprise was no one knew the cousin could even sing; he amazed everyone with his incredible voice. So you see, experiencing the unexpected can provide a memorable time. SURPRISED by the unexpected was used to the maximum to enhance this science fiction adventure film. Chris Pratt (Delivery Man, Moneyball) played Peter Quill, a space traveler who was being hunted down after he stole a mysterious metal artifact. Only the evil Ronan, played by Lee Pace (The Hobbit franchise, Lincoln), had an idea what the metal object contained and he was determined to get it from Peter. This action movie had one of the most unusual opening scenes I had ever seen in the superhero genres; I suggest you do not come in late to the movie. Speaking of the superhero genre, the cast in this fun film consisted of some of the most unlikely characters and I do mean characters one will ever see as superheroes. Besides Peter who preferred to be called Star Lord, there was Zoe Saldana (Star Trek franchise, Columbiana) as Gamora, Dave Bautista (Riddick, The Man with the Iron Fists) as Drax, Vin Diesel (Saving Private Ryan, Boiler Room) who voiced the character Groot and Bradley Cooper (American Hustle, Hit and Run) who voiced Rocket. I loved this movie on so many levels. First was the awesome soundtrack; it pretty much played out like an extra character of the cast. The humor, snide remarks, action and special effects were terrific, all fitting together to create something different from any previous superhero film. There was not one time where I felt bored; every scene provided something to look at, feel or think about. I had no idea this motley crew would help make this picture a total, unexpected surprise for me. There was a brief extra scene after the credits.
3 1/2 stars