FOR A LONG TIME, I ATTRIBUTED my ability for seeing little details to Sherlock Holmes and the Hardy Boys. Having read the books and seen the movies that they were in, I began to pride myself with the way I observed people and places. A friend and I used to pretend we were detectives who had to follow individuals in the neighborhood, who we suspected of being criminals. I remember following a woman with a shopping cart into the grocery store, who I believed to be a foreign spy; she was shopping for essentials for herself and her co-conspirators back at their hideout. As she was walking up and down the aisles, I kept track of what she was putting into her shopping cart. I waited until she was paying for her groceries at the checkout line before I left and joined my partner across the street. We waited until she came out then followed her back to her hideout. While we were tagging behind her, I updated my friend on the items she had purchased at the store. I pointed out the reason for all the canned goods was because they were planning to be here for an extended time to work on a huge operation that would cause considerable damage to our city. We decided we had better keep her under surveillance for the near future. AFTER I HAD GROWN OUT OF my detective phase, I stopped focusing on getting every detail of a situation. It faded into the background, or at least I thought it did. Never giving it any thought, I seemed to have the ability to retain full images of things I observed. It wasn’t something that made me think I was doing anything different from anyone else. It wasn’t until a friend asked me one day how I could remember what everyone wore at a party that took place a couple of months ago. We were talking about a mutual friend and I asked him if he remembered they had attended a social function we were at. When my friend could not recall their presence, I told him what the person was wearing and where they were seated. I thought everyone could recall such things, but my friend told me it was not true. A short time later, I discovered not everyone has the ability to see the finer details when they are looking at something. Some individuals take in the “big picture” while others laser focus on certain elements; I have seen it time and again. Whether a person can train themselves in acquiring the skill, I do not know; but I know having that ability was an asset for the main character in this dramatic crime thriller. DRAWN INTO AN UNSOLVED MURDER CASE, Deputy Sheriff Joe “Deke” Deacon, played by Denzel Washington (The Equalizer franchise, The Book of Eli), began to experience déjà vu. Will his past interfere with the present? With Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody, Papillon) as Jim Baxter, Jared Leto (Suicide Squad, Dallas Buyers Club) as Albert Sparma, Chris Bauer (A Dog’s Way Home, True Blood-TV) as Detective Sal Rizoli and Michael Hyatt (Nightcrawler, Like Crazy) as Flo Dunigan; this Golden Globe nominee had all the fixings of a good old detective story. With its cast, I was expecting some top notch acting and was rewarded by Jared’s and Rami’s performances. As for Denzel, I was sadly disappointed with his acting; it felt like he was on automatic, doing a repeat of former characters from his past movies. Putting the acting aside, the script had the glimmer of hope in the beginning but then spiraled down to a massive failure. There were a couple of parts that made no sense whatsoever. This poorly thought out script and story turned this movie into a mediocre addition to the murder mystery genre. If only everyone involved with the production of this film had Denzel’s character’s ability to pay attention to the fine details, it then might have been a worthwhile viewing.
1 7/8 stars
HE WAS THE LAST DOCTOR I knew who made house calls and he decided to retire from practice. You could tell there was something different about him as soon as you walked into his waiting room. Where every office waiting room (at least where I have been) had that standard office type furniture and generic posters or health notices hanging on the walls, his waiting area had a variety of wooden chairs that recalled different eras from the past. Hanging on the walls were woodworkers’ tools, crocheted art pieces and photographs of landscapes and waterfalls. One of the things I admired about him was his ability to talk to his patients in simple words to explain difficult issues. I cannot confirm all the reasons he decided to retire; but I had heard he was dissatisfied with the way insurance companies were treating the patients. The story I had heard was about a patient who had a test done that showed elevated figures. The doctor wanted to proceed with another preventative test for confirmation; but the insurance denied the procedure, saying they could only pay for it if the patient had already been diagnosed with having the disease the test was to confirm. This made no sense to me; why would the insurance company deny paying the claim that might provide an opportunity to start preventative treatment on the patient before they got to the point of getting the full-blown disease? THIS WAS NOT THE FIRST TIME I heard about a situation in the medical field that did not make sense to me. I knew a woman who received mixed results on her mammogram. Her doctor wanted to do a procedure that could eliminate the problem and save the breast. When the insurance company was contacted for approval, they denied the procedure. I had heard it was due to the expense; the insurance company suggested the doctor proceed with a full removal of the breast because it would be cheaper in the long run. I cannot begin to tell you how outraged I felt with this information, if it was indeed true. I do not wish to badmouth insurance companies in this review; I am simply retelling the stories that were expressed to me. When I go to the doctor, before they do any type of procedure, I ask them if my insurance plan will cover it. I started doing this after I had been to the skin doctor several years ago and a procedure was done where my insurance would not cover it; the charges had to be fully paid by me. Gratefully I had put money aside and was able to cover the bill in one payment. After seeing this film festival winner, I cannot imagine what it must be like to be in the family’s predicament. WHEN TOLD THE COST OF A MEDICAL procedure, a father must find a way to pay for it if he wants to keep a family member alive. With Denzel Washington (The Equalizer franchise, Fences) as John Quincy Archibald, Kimberly Elise (For Colored Girls, Death Wish) as Denise Archibald, Daniel E. Smith (The Bold and The Beautiful-TV, NCIS-TV) as Michael “Mike” Archibald, James Woods (Straw Dogs, White House Down) as Dr. Raymond Turner and Robert Duvall (The Judge, Wild Horses) as Lt. Frank Grimes; this dramatic crime thriller was full of fine acting performances. The script unfortunately was manipulative and obvious; it did not have the creativity to elevate this story to a higher level of freshness and drama. If it was not for the acting skills of the main characters, I might have gotten bored halfway through the movie. The topic is certainly a hot button issue and I feel many individuals could relate to it on some level. This is probably why I remained interested in finding out what was going to happen to the family members in this picture.
2 ½ stars
SIR ISAAC NEWTON’S THIRD LAW states: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I would add: And some of the reactions come with consequences. As I thought about the next sentence I was going to write, I want to preface it by saying I am embarrassed. However, upon further consideration I decided I am not going to be embarrassed; I am simply stating how I feel about certain things. So here goes; I take pleasure in seeing someone getting their just dues. For example, a driver who cuts me off and speeds away, getting stopped by a police officer who gives the driver a speeding ticket. Or I love at the supermarket when a shopper starts walking faster to get ahead of me in line to check out and winds up getting stuck by the shopper in front of them who needs a price check on an item. Because they ran ahead of me I went to a different line and wound up getting checked out before them. It is little things like this that makes me believe in karma. My only hope is that those selfish individuals learn from their actions; but from how many times I still witness such behavior, I do not think the lesson gets taught. ONE OF MY ALL TIME FAVORITE stories is about a friend of mine who took such rude behavior to the next level. He was a big, brawny guy who could appear imposing to people. In a parking lot if a driver sneaked into a parking spot he was waiting for, he would pull right up behind the driver and park his car to block them into the spot. The driver would jump out to yell until they got a look at him. He on the other hand would calmly stare and tell them because they took the spot he was obviously waiting for, they could now sit and wait for him to finish his shopping. Or they could apologize, get back into their car, and he would move to let them out to go find a different parking place. Every person my friend did this to always chose the apology option. I wish I had the guts to do such a thing; but since I do not come across as a “tough” guy, I must take satisfaction in believing a rude person will get their “just desserts.” In the meantime, I at least can take pleasure in seeing justice being done in this action, crime thriller. WHEN A TRAGEDY STRIKES CLOSE to home Robert McCall, played by Denzel Washington (Fences, The Magnificent Seven), comes out of his quiet existence to contact his old partner Dave York, played by Pedro Pascal (The Great Wall, The Adjustment Bureau). Problem is, Dave thought Robert was dead. This film festival nominee also starred Ashton Sanders (Moonlight, Straight Outta Compton) as Miles Whittaker, Bill Pullman (Lake Placid, Independence Day franchise) as Brian Plummer and Orson Bean (Being John Malkovich, Innerspace) as Sam Rubinstein. As far as I was concerned this movie did exactly what I expected it to do; it was a good people vs bad people story. Denzel was excellent as Robert which was the first time he ever reprised a character. If you have not seen the previous film or television show this picture is based on, it is okay. The story was simple and to the point. I thought the action scenes were terrific, especially one that took place in a car sharing ride. Though the script was predictable, I was surprised by the twist in it. If you are so inclined in watching justice being served, this is the film to watch as Denzel delivers it.
2 ½ stars
HOW FAIR IS IT when an employee who has inside information acts on it? I do not feel it is right. At a company I used to work at there was an employee who worked in a division that assisted the human resources department. This person was involved in the yearly creation of the company’s calendar that listed which holidays the company would be closed. By the time the calendar was distributed the employee had already picked the most popular days to schedule their vacation time. For example they would always take the day after the company’s scheduled closure for the Christmas holiday. As for the holidays that were celebrated on Mondays, this person would pick either the Friday before or Tuesday after to extend the weekend out. Other employees in the department would get upset and rightfully so in my opinion. Limited on how many employees could schedule time off in one department, no one else got the opportunity to extend their holiday celebration or take an extended weekend vacation. WITH THE ONSET OF instant news I have seen so many examples of individuals or groups of people using the knowledge they were privy to for personal gains. I am willing to bet there is a lot more that goes on that we have not heard about. And I am sure it was taking place way before the internet came into existence. Now I am not one to claim I walk a high moral ground, but I feel people who take advantage of other people solely because of their position are immoral. They may gain in financial ways but as a human being they fall down a couple of rungs on the evolution ladder. There is that old saying, “what goes around comes around” and I would like to believe that is true; however, I am sure there are some people who skate through life untouched by their misdeeds. I can see where believing in karma allows one to let go of the negativity of such actions, knowing the “crooked” individual will face consequences in their lifetime or the next one. If you are curious to see what can happen to a person then may I suggest you see this dramatic crime film. DEDICATED TO HIS PROFESSION as a lawyer Roman J. Israel, played by Denzel Washington (Fences, The Equalizer), uses a piece of information to make a change in his life. It possibly could turn into more of a change than he anticipated. This film festival winner also starred Colin Farrell (The Beguiled, The Lobster) as George Pierce, Carmen Ejogo (Selma, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) Maya Alston and Amanda Warren (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Mother!) as Lynn Jackson. I had trouble connecting with Denzel’s character because I could not figure out if he was shy or socially undeveloped or on the spectrum for autism, despite Denzel doing his best. The script which was written by Dan Gilroy (Kong: Skull Island, Nightcrawler), who also directed this picture; did not help in developing Denzel and some of the other characters. Another thing for me was the lack of explanation on the connections between the characters. I am afraid I became bored with this movie at times. Considering the cast I felt there could have been more drama than the uneven script allowed. Maybe those involved in producing this film had knowledge about the characters, but they did not share it with the viewers.
ONE’S former days of glory either chain the individual to the past or can springboard them forward through the future. I have experienced this with a particular style of aerobics I used to teach in my classes. Years after I was no longer doing the class, members would still come up to me to talk about the class, wishing it would come back on the schedule. This particular class took a lot of preparation to teach and provided a lot of fun for me and the members. I possibly could have gone a few more years teaching this particular class; however, I knew with the advancement I was achieving at my day job I would not be able to devote the proper amount of time to keep that class going at the level it needed. Now I have seen at some clubs where instructors find a niche and excel in it, but after a couple of years they devote less time to keep it fresh and fun. It is as if they use their success to coast through their other classes. THIS is not unique to the fitness world; wasn’t it just recently I heard about a well known singer, who was successful early in her career, having a poor performance involving lip synching her own song? It is similar to some of those old musical acts that used to perform in huge stadiums during their heyday but presently perform at a small hotel nightclub or local festival. Now I am not saying they should not make a living; but if they are using nostalgia to draw a crowd because they cannot perform as well as before, I have a hard time justifying spending money to see them. Why would I want to hear a singer who can no longer carry the tune to their own song? Maybe it is just me but sitting and dwelling on one’s past successes in my opinion doesn’t allow the person to live in the present; I saw it taking place in this powerful drama. TROY Maxson, played by Denzel Washington (Safe House, Man on Fire), knew he would have been a great baseball player if he had been given the chance. His frustrations not only had an effect on him but the people around him. Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play written by August Wilson (The Piano Lesson, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone), this film festival winner was directed by Denzel and filmed in a way to match the stage version which Denzel and Viola Davis (Suicide Squad, Doubt) as Rose Maxson performed on Broadway. With Jovan Adepo (The Leftovers-TV) as Cory Maxson and Stephen Henderson (Manchester by the Sea, Tower Heist) as Jim Bono; the acting was outstanding overall; but for me, Viola was beyond amazing. She will be nominated for an Oscar and could easily get it for this performance. The story set in Pittsburgh during the 1950s did a beautiful job of depicting the attitudes of the times and set the viewer up for a couple of surprises. Even at times where I thought the pacing of the story slowed, the acting was so intense that I barely acknowledged this minor negative for me. This is a film to see especially if you enjoy catching the movies that will be nominated this awards season.
3 ½ stars
It only takes a few minutes after the alarm goes off before the sense of dread awakens inside of you. With a heaviness that weighs you down, you would think it would be thick enough to fend off any physical blows. Sadly it does not prevent it. When you are living with dread, you really have no idea how much energy it takes away from you. Like a straw continuously seeking out the last drops of a bottomless glass, dread constantly makes it presence known no matter what you are doing to distract yourself from it. Unfortunately I know too well what I speak of; dread was my unwanted friend for an entire school year. My daily walk to school was devoted to planning out what escape routes I would use for the day. One never wanted to be caught navigating the same route each day because it could provide for an easy ambush. Bathrooms were always avoided between class times. Instead I would either ask for a hall pass during the class or wait for a free period; I had to wait for a time when it would be less likely anyone would be lying in wait for me. Unless you have been bullied, you may not understand what it feels like to always be on the defensive throughout the day. I was not the only one who was targeted and that was something I never understood. The general population, whether it is in a school or a town, is usually so much larger than the bully and their cohorts; yet the masses rarely band together to stop the bully. At least that has been my experiences. It was hopeful to see that was not the case in this action western remake of a classic film. DETERMINED to take over the entire town Bartholomew Bogue, played by Peter Sarsgaard (Orphan, Jarhead), gave the townsfolk an ultimatum. One citizen, a recent widow due to Bartholomew, was willing to fight for her land; but she needed help. Starring Denzel Washington (The Equalizer, Training Day) as Chisolm, Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World) as Josh Faraday and Ethan Hawke (Born to be Blue, Good Kill) as Goodnight Robicheaux; the only actors who stood out for me were Ethan, Chris and Peter. I thought Denzel was a generic version of the character, not quite believable. The filming of this movie was the highlight; the outdoor scenes were the best. As for the action scenes some really popped out with intensity while others seemed scattered and all over the place. I really felt the script was what prevented this picture from achieving its lofty goals. The reason I say lofty is because it was obvious everyone involved was trying to make this a modern classic, even taking on the original music during the ending credits. Unfortunately it did not work; overall this film production was uneven. There were parts I could get into but then other times I found them bland. Also this movie was way too long; it could have used some extra editing. I am sure the film studio wants this picture to punch its way to the top of the box office charts; however, I do not think the other movies will let it stay there.
2 ½ stars
I believe everyone has at one time experienced some form of injustice. There are all kinds of injustice; some more powerful than others. How many of us have felt we were unfairly treated by someone in a customer service role, either in person or on a toll free number? I would guess nearly all of us. This type of scenario has more to do with poor training than some form of discrimination. Speaking from personal experience, more times than not if you end the conversation and try again later for someone different they may be able to resolve your issue. You just need to get the person who is better trained. Now there are some forms of injustice that are more serious. The guy walking down the street, minding his own business, when a small group of young adults push him down as they walk by, just because they did not like the way he looked could make you angry. However, there is little you could do without becoming a victim yourself; so you wait until the punks are far enough away to go over and help the fallen man. Having seen more than my share of injustices, I am intimately familiar with the anger that wells up inside and the frustration that takes over because there is not a damn thing I could do to stop it. HAVING left his former ways behind him Robert McCall, played by Denzel Washington (The Book of Eli, The Great Debaters), could not sit back and watch the mistreatment of young Teri, played by Chloe Grace Moretz (If I Stay, Let Me In). His actions would not go unnoticed. I have to give credit to Denzel for putting in a strong performance. In the recent past I felt he was showing us he could act instead of simply acting and in this crime thriller he was very much his character Robert. The other excellent performance was by Marton Csokas (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Noah) as Teddy. Visually I found this crime film interesting to watch with its great camera angles; it was a plus for the dynamic fight scenes. Unfortunately the story could not keep the good parts together. With a slow build-up, I found things were getting sillier as the movie progressed. There were some unanswered questions I had by the end of the film which left me somewhat unsatisfied. I can only assume the movie studio is hoping for this to become a franchise. Not that I want to judge the idea unfairly, but if the studio wants to go forward they would need a better script next time. There were several scenes with blood and violence.
2 1/2 stars
Have you ever noticed how similar one’s work environment can be to their home life? Considering the amount of time spent at work, it is not surprising that some people form a family with their fellow employees. In my work history I have had to work with a variety of characters. There was the one employee who acted like everyone’s uncle, always coming by to check on you and see how your day was going. I used to work with someone who acted like he was our older sibling; telling us what we should and should not do whether it had to do with our work or in our personal lives. Then there are those employees who are like the sisters I never had; where we are able to gain knowledge by our different perspectives on any issues that would come up. Like any family, the work family can be or not be dysfunctional. The main draw for this action comedy was the chemistry between Denzel Washington (Man on Fire, Unstoppable) and Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter, Ted) as criminals Robert “Bobby” Trench and Michael “Stig” Stigman. Using each other to help pull off a bank robbery, the two were not so dissimilar to two brothers fighting. When the bank heist did not go as planned, they had to form an uneasy partnership to find out who set them up. For this role I actually felt Mark’s limited acting range worked to his advantage. HIs character was a wise cracking, show-off while Denzel played the older smooth talking, reserved type. The contrasts worked and I enjoyed the banter between the two. However, it became too much after a while and lost some of its edge. I was confused with the story by the twists of who were the good and bad guys. Among those included in the cast were Edward James Olmos (Miami Vice, Stand and Deliver) as drug cartel kingpin Papi Greco, James Marsden (Enchanted, Hairspray) as naval intelligence officer Quince and Bill Paxton (Twister, Apollo 13) as special agent Earl. It seemed as if James and Bill enjoyed playing their characters. There were a few exciting fights and chases, with an adequate amount of explosions in this crime thriller. For a summer movie this one was okay; but it was like spending time with a dysfunctional relative, you just wanted to keep it to a short visit. There were multiple scenes that had blood and violence.
2 1/2 stars
If the occasional bump or rumble disturbs you while flying in an airplane, then the beginning of this film will make you start traveling by train. I love to fly but found myself holding my breath during the intense flight crash scene. Gratefully I never experienced a problem when flying, since the time of my first airplane ride at 12 years old. An airline was offering 30 minute flight tours around the city, so a friend and I traveled to the airport to take a ride. At that time it was one of the most exhilarating things I had ever done. Keep in mind this was at a time when traveling by plane was easy and respectful. These days flying is more like riding an elevator without cables: passengers being herded towards their seats, the doors close, people squeezed together and when the doors open they are in a different location. In one of his best performances Denzel Washington (Safe House, Training Day) was pilot Whip Whitaker who valiantly steered a disabled plane into a crash landing. When he finally awakened and found himself in a hospital bed, Whip soon discovered the federal investigation was zeroing toward his dark secret. Due to the trailer, some people may be expecting an action film and that was not the case. This film was a study guide into a man’s character. Besides Denzel, Don Cheadle’s (Hotel Rwanda, Traitor) acting was impeccable as he portrayed lawyer Hugh Lang. All the humor in the movie was expertly handled by John Goodman (The Big Lebowski, Roseanne-TV) as drug dealer Harling Mays. One issue I had was with the subplot involving the female drug addict; the character seemed out of place in the way she was introduced and used to accentuate Denzel’s character. The director Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away, The Polar Express) kept the viewer interested in the main players by digging deeper into their characters and allowing the tension to build. Thanks to this movie I now have something else to worry about the next time I fly. Brief scenes with blood.
3 1/4 stars
I used to have a love/hate relationship with trains growing up. As a little kid I never wanted to sit by the windows when the train was above ground. I thought my weight would tip the train over, so I always tried to stay close to the center of the train car. Talk about having a poor self image as a little overweight child. Only when the train would go below ground would I finally relax, since I felt the dark tunnels we traveled would always keep us upright. At least that is how I rationalized it. These days when I travel to a new city I make a point of always using their public transportation; it makes me feel like an adventurer. Seeing a trailer for this action film, I thought I could easily roll with the story. I still get a kick out of the train rides at amusement parks, so this movie looked like it would be an exciting thrill ride. Inspired by true events, human error caused an unmanned freight train to leave the yard, with its cargo of toxic chemicals. With no air brakes the train would continue to pick up speed until it derailed, causing a life threatening disaster. If seasoned engineer Frank, played by Denzel Washington (The Great Debaters, American Gangster), along with young conductor Will, played by Chris Pine (Star Trek, People Like Us), had any chance to stop a tragedy from occurring, they would have to work together in a race against time. At the start I enjoyed the no nonsense approach the director took in setting up the basis of the story. I was curious to see how the action would be sustained, since in my mind a train seemed like it would have less exciting options than if the story was about a hijacked or crippled airplane. It was a false concern; the action kept a steady pace as the tension grew incrementally. The acting was nothing special to me. Denzel was doing his Denzel method, being on autopilot while Chris did not bring anything new to the table. I thought Rosario Dawson (Seven Pounds, Sin City) did a good job as Connie who worked at the train operating center. This film is fine for those who want to experience the thrill of an amusement park ride without waiting in line.
2 2/3 stars — DVD