I WAS MEETING THEIR BEST FRIEND for the first time after hearing so much about her. They had known each other since high school and by the time they finished college, they decided to move in together. With that much history between them, I knew I was going to be judged since I was the new person entering their inner circle. For my first impressions, I found her sweet with a good sense of humor. Friends for a long time tend to have a shorthand to their conversations and these two were no exception. It was not like inside jokes; instead, I think it was the fact they had so many shared memories. As for myself, I think I gave her a good impression. We both had a love for animals; she had 2 cats, showing me several photos of them. Music was another common denominator; however, her knowledge of music trivia was off the charts. I paled in comparison. In fact, I discovered the two of them frequently went to several local food/drinking establishments to participate in their music trivia nights. The two of them evidently had a reputation in the area for being music geniuses. From our first meeting, I knew I would be seeing her quite often. It was not until we soon went out to dinner where I saw something that made me uncomfortable. WE DECIDED TO GO OUT FOR Chinese food; they wanted to take me to one of their favorite restaurants. Throughout the course of the meal, I realized she had passive aggressive tendencies. She told us a story or to be more precise, she directed her comments to her friend, about one of her cat’s health issues. The doctor had given her a couple of options for treatment; one would cost less but take more time, the other would be more money with a quicker recovery time. She expressed concerns about how her current financial situation would barely cover the cheaper treatment. With her upcoming trip, she was afraid to leave her cat if he was not fully recovered. I sat there and listened to the things she said, I did not have any solutions. However, my friend offered to lend her the money needed for the quicker treatment. It dawned on me she was being manipulative. The more I was around her, the more I saw passive aggressive ways. She could not just come out and ask for a favor; she resorted to manipulating everyone. My opinion of her dropped significantly. As time went on, I tried to enlighten my friend, but they were not quite believing me. It is frustrating to know something is true, but a person is not convinced of it. That frustration is like the one the detective was experiencing in this dramatic, crime thriller. WHAT LOOKED LIKE A STRING OF prominent killings turned out to be a set of clues to a horrific crime taking place. With Erica Wessels (Primeval, The Harvesters) as Jodie Snyman, Hlubi Mboya (Dora’s Peace, Hector and the Search for Happiness) as Ntombizonke Bapai, newcomer Leshego Molokwane as young Ntombi, Deon Lotz (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Beauty) as FJ Nolte and Mothusi Magano (Hotel Rwanda, The Lab-TV) as Captain George Mululeki; the story in this mystery was inspired by true events. The reality that such a thing still is taking place in the world, gave this movie added importance. I thought the acting was good, but the script was average. Though there were intense moments, I felt the story could have gone deeper into the characters. The jumping between time periods took away from the film’s flow; but at least they provided important, relevant information. Despite the flaws in this movie, the story was gripping enough to fully keep my attention.
2 ½ stars
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
I NEVER JUDGED HER CHOICE IN men, but I was noticing she had a certain type she liked to date. Most of the men she dated were approximately 20-25 years her senior; though there were a few I met who were closer in age to her. But on the average, she preferred older guys. I did not notice at first nor did it matter to me when I did because I felt age was just a number, it had nothing to do with how a person feels or acts. If my friend was happy and being treated with respect, I was always thrilled for her. When I started noticing her dates were older, I started to pay more attention. I knew her Father had died at a young age, when she was around 8 or 9 years old. Maybe she was looking for a father figure, I wondered. The few times when we double dated, it seemed as if she was content in letting her date take care of everything. What I mean by that is she always deferred to him when an opinion was needed or when the conversation dealt with goals/dreams. The ones I knew she had were now replaced with the ones that her date had expressed. This is when I realized she was looking for a father figure. Again, if that is the relationship that worked for the two of them then I was fine with it. It would make sense that no one would want to live with an empty feeling. NO MATTER WHAT AGE, IT STILL is hard to lose a loved one. Imagine how many of us wish we could have had an extra day or hour to say the things we never got to say. I had a relative who used to fight and argue with her husband constantly. I used to wonder why they remained married to each other. When he died, she carried so much guilt around that she could no longer function. She would tell people she never got to say “goodbye” or “I love you” because they were arguing all the time. I felt sad for her; here the two of them spent their time fighting over things that they never got the opportunity to express the things they had inside of each other. I could see how it was eating her up; she so wanted to talk to her husband and finally say those things she never said when he was alive. If only there was a way we could communicate like, the son did in this film festival winning mystery, crime drama. THE TRAGIC LOSS OF HIS FATHER stayed with John Sullivan, played by Jim Caviezel (Escape Plan, The Thin Red Line), to the point he thought he could still hear his Dad talking. With Dennis Quaid (In Good Company, Far From Heaven) as Frank Sullivan, Shawn Doyle (Don’t Say a Word, Whiteout) as Jack Shepard, Elizabeth Mitchell (Running Scared, Lost-TV) as Julia Sullivan and Andre Braugher (The Mist, City of Angels) as Satch DeLeon; this film is best watched not questioning the fantasy aspect of the story. If that can be done, then I believe the movie would be easier to watch. I enjoyed the multiple story lines and thought Dennis and Jim did an excellent job in conveying their characters. There were a few disturbing scenes showing the aftermath of violence; but gratefully the cameras did not dwell long recording them. There was a bit of jumping back and forth in time; however, it was easy to follow and not distracting to me. As I said before, one needs not to think too much about what is taking place in the story; instead, just sit back and enjoy the way the stories come together.
AS THE LIGHTS WENT DOWN MY irritation subsided only to be replaced with brimming excitement. The first note struck on the electric guitar echoed through the stadium and the crowd started to cheer wildly. The stage was flooded in dazzling lights of several colors as the members of the rock band rose up from underneath the stage. I was in my happy place as the band tore into their first song of the night. All the hassle it took to drive to the stadium while fighting traffic every step of the way, parking in the outrageously expensive parking lot, then pushing through the mass of people to get to our seats was all worth it to hear our favorite band. My buddy and I endured all this work to get to a concert, sometimes on a weekly basis; because there was no greater feeling than sitting with 20,000 fans who were all experiencing the same feelings. It was a rush for me. We had been doing it for several years; so, we had our routine down solid on how to navigate each venue. Rarely did we get disappointed by a group or musician. My proof would be all the T-shirts I acquired throughout the years. AS PRICES ESCALATED FOR THE PARKING, ticket fees and the price of admission; my passion for seeing concerts started to wane. Some popular musical artists were charging prices that were easily 50 to 100% higher than other acts; I found it offensive. Just because they had the #1 hit in the country and were wildly popular did not, I felt, give them the right to gouge their adoring fans. My buddy still wanted to see every musical artist and group, no matter the cost. I started becoming more selective. We had a good run of concerts I felt; but the hassle and cost were chipping into the enjoyment factor. The concerts that took place during the weekdays were the toughest for me. Getting home late and trying to get to sleep while in the euphoric afterglow of a concert was getting harder and harder for me to do. I felt bad for my friend; we were both tight into our concert routine for years and now it was changing because of me. I tried being as supportive as I could; however, I just could not keep it up. There were times my friend would go by himself to see a concert; it used to make me feel bad. With the passing of time, we started settling into our new roles. I saw the same thing playing out in this latest installment of the action, comedic crime franchise. AFTER NEARLY BEING KILLED BY A drive-by shooter; Mike Lowrey, played by Will Smith (Men in Black franchise, I Am Legend) and his partner Marcus Burnett, played by Martin Lawrence (Big Momma’s House, National Security), team up with a newly created team from the Miami police department to try and track down the source of the shooter. With Joe Pantoliana (The Matrix, Wedding Daze) as Captain Howard, Alexander Ludwig (Lone Survivor, The Hunger Games) as Dorn and Vanessa Hudgens (Beastly, Spring Breakers) as Kelly; there were no surprises in this movie. If you are a fan of the series, then you will enjoy this latest one; it is pretty much more of the same. Not that this is a criticism; for the script had the same type of quick bantering jokes and humor while Will and Martin delivered their brand of chemistry to the big screen. Granted, part of the humor was now being based on their advanced ages. The action scenes were exciting and some of them were even fun to watch. I believe this is a film one must be in the mood for to watch. If one delays it for a bargain price, there would be nothing wrong in doing that.
2 ½ stars
IT STARTED, I BELIEVE, WITH HER friend not pledging money towards her charity walk. The walk was going to be 5 miles and the idea was for each participant to ask people to pledge a certain amount of money for every mile they walked. You may be familiar with this type of charity event; people would pledge anywhere from one penny to upwards of twenty+ dollars for every mile their friend or relative would walk. My friend who was participating did not say anything outright to me; however, ever since that charity event I could tell she had an attitude towards her friend. There would be subtle negative comments made about the person and my friend started spending less time with her. As months passed there were times where we would all wind up together at a party or event; there was now a layer of tension in the air. It was obvious to me my friend was holding a grudge against her friend for not contributing to her charity walk. I tried reasoning with her; suggesting the possibility her friend did not support that particular charity or simply did not have extra funds. My friend was not buying any of it; she felt because she had given her money for a charitable organization when she was asked to, her friend should have reciprocated and done the same. There was no way convincing her otherwise. MY FRIEND WAS AN EXPERT WHEN IT came to holding a grudge. I thought I was good at it, but she was my equal, if not better. When I was younger if I felt someone slighted me in any way, I would immediately have nothing to do with them. I never looked at the possibilities or reasons why that person acted in such a way; I immediately took it personally and cut myself off from them. However, I never let that stop me from not going to an event they were attending. In fact, I used to relish the chance to show the person I was angry at them, by ignoring them at the event or keeping my part of the conversation to one-word answers. Yeah, it was childish of me; I now realize it. But at the time, I was angry at them. As I am getting older the ease of holding a grudge became harder for me to do. Whether it was because it took more effort or I just started losing interest in it, I do not know for sure. All I do know regarding this horror mystery is I might hold a grudge against the movie studio for wasting my time. AFTER VISITING A HOUSE THAT WAS the scene to a gruesome murder; Detective Muldoon, played by Andrea Riseborough (Mandy, The Kindness of Strangers), started having horrific visions. With Demian Bichir (A Better Life, The Nun) as Goodman, Tara Westwood (The Big Take, Detours) as Fiona Landers, Joel Marsh Garland (The Bounty Hunter, Lady in the Water) as Detective Greco and John Cho (Searching, Star Trek franchise) as Peter Spencer; the script for this picture was dreadful. What made this viewing experience even more upsetting was the fact I appreciated the cinematography and the use of music. There was potential for this remake to deliver something fresh; but instead, there was nothing shown that would make anyone gasp or shudder. I was surprised at how bad this movie came across; there was no reaction coming from any of the viewers who were in the theater with me. The leads had the ability to provide us with decent scares, but the script never provided them with the needed ammo. Time would have been better spent if I instead rented the original Japanese version or the American remake.
1 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
I DID NOT KNOW THE TWO brothers when they were growing up. All I can assume from what I have been told was they grew up in the same home, in the same environment. If I was not privy to this bit of information I would never guess they were brothers, except they did share some common physical features. Two men who were so opposite of each other, I have no idea what happened to make them so different in many ways. One brother was jovial, the other was mostly serious. One easygoing who didn’t hold a grudge, while the other one was stubborn and hostile. They were not the only example I had of family members being so different from the same household; but I have to say they were an extreme example for me. Over time I have given thought and studies to the general psychological characteristics, feelings and behavioral traits of humankind; in fact, I thought I would have had a career out of it. Looking at these two brothers besides genetics, there must have been something going on in their environment that made them drastically different. Maybe a parent favored one over the other or one was being abused or bullied outside of the home; in either case, their differences caused a major rift between them that still lasts to this day. I AM NOT IMPLYING THAT THERE is something wrong with being different; I find it to be healthy and celebrate it. Imagine if each family’s members acted the same. The first thing that comes to mind is there would be no surprises. With everyone being the same, everyone would know what to expect. I also believe the family would have a narrower view of the world around them. I know a couple who live in such a self-built confined world, that they have become fearful of anything new. Now you could argue if they are happy and content then what is the big deal; however, I do not know if they are happy because I have never seen them display it. What I do know is they have missed out on so many events that I believe would have brought them joy. The bottom line for all of this is unless one lives and observes what takes place every day, one cannot truly know the reasons why people turn out the way they do. You can see for yourself if you choose to watch the two brothers in this film festival winning drama. GETTING ASSIGNED TO THE BIGGEST CASE of his career L.A.P.D. detective Diego Hernandez, played by Raul Castillo (We the Animals), was thrown a loop when the case included information about his dead brother. With Jose Pablo Cantillo (Crank franchise, Elysium) as Detective Martinez, George Lopez (Valentine’s Day, Spare Parts) as Captain Gomez, David Castaneda (Sicario: Day of the Soldado; Standing Up, Falling Down) as Shotgun and Marlene Forte (A Haunted House, Real Women have Curves) as Susana; this movie screamed hope and desperation. I truly get it; the writers and studio wanted to create a franchise around a Latino avenger which would be fine. However, to create a poor script loaded with clichés and predictability was a major roadblock. The acting was nothing to talk about either. This type of story has been done many times before; I do not understand why the writers chose to go down such a conventional path. One guess I have would be the lack of funding for this picture. Every scene looked sparse like it was borrowed or already picked over from previous movies. The fight scenes were staged okay but here too they were kept to a brief, bloody moment. I felt bad for this film; besides poor sales, I cannot see any reason why someone would want to attempt a sequel.
1 ½ stars
NO MATTER HOW HARD WE TRY, there is going to be times in life where we must deal with stuff (some people would use a stronger word) thrown our way. They may be anywhere between simple annoyances to heavy issues. Presently I am dealing with a continuous annoyance. Every time the temperature outside has a wide swing the tire pressure light goes on in my car. I never know if it is just a loss of air from the temperature, debris in the road or the start of an actual flat tire. I am stuck always going to an auto dealer to have the tires checked out. It is stuff like this that will drive me crazy because I do not have an outlet to release my frustrations. What I would like to do is kick my tires or bang on my dashboard when the tire light goes on; but that is not going to make anything better. However, I have been using my feelings as fuel to come up with an alternative that will give me piece of mind. My idea now is to buy a tire pressure gauge and one of those small air compressors; so, I can even out the air pressure in all my tires and get the tire gauge light to turn off, as long as there is not a flat tire. WHEN DEALING WITH HARD OR HEAVY situations, some individuals may not be fully equipped to handle the pressure. I believe it is better to submerge into your feelings than trying to ignore them. Letting yourself experience these emotions I find can be therapeutic, if not cathartic. In my past I have taken tragedy and taken all the feelings associated with it and wrapped it tightly around me to the point where I was nearly comatose. But during that time there was a part of my brain working on ways to learn and hopefully grow from the experience. Now there are some people who may experience a traumatic event and totally withdraw from reality. The pain is too much for them to handle so they find ways to avoid it. I hope I do not come across as judgmental but that is not something I could maintain. Sure, I can escape by taking a mental vacation for a while; but I am not the type of person who would try to fill the void I was experiencing with a substitute that could harm me. As I said, everyone handles trauma differently and this film festival winning action, crime drama will show you one of those ways. AFTER MANY YEARS A CASE DETECTIVE Erin Bell, played by Nicole Kidman (Boy Erased, The Upside), thought she had left behind resurfaced, stirring up strong emotions inside of her. To deal with the present she would have to revisit her past. This movie also starred Toby Kebbell (Fantastic Four, Dead Man’s Shoes) as Silas, Tatiana Maslany (Stronger, Orphan Black-TV) as Petra, Scoot McNairy (Argo, Monsters) as Ethan and Sebastian Stan (I, Tonya; Captain America franchise) as Chris. This was an unusual role for Nicole. Being a big fan of her work, I thought she would have been outstanding in the role. However, I never found her believable as the older version of her character; the entire time I was aware it was Nicole Kidman playing a role. The scenes that jumped into the past seemed more interesting to me, but I disliked the going back and forth in time throughout the film. This lead it to be not a very entertaining film for me. I found the script slow moving and at times dull. After the movie ended I took my disappointment and funneled it into a grocery store trip to buy myself a treat.
THE ONLY WAY TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT is to not have hopes or expectations. Sounds simple but it really is not. I have learned to avoid placing expectations on people’s behaviors. We all react to situations in a different way; one is not better or worse than the other. Trouble starts when an individual makes statements that use the word, “should;” something like, “You should have known…” This actually was a hard lesson for me to learn, where I would react to what I thought a person should have said or done. It took me a long time to realize no one has the right to tell me how to feel, that I am the only one responsible for how I am feeling. However, as we each go through our daily life there are things that crop up that disappoint us. For example, going to a particular restaurant to get your favorite dish and it winds up they are out of it. Seeing an article of clothing that you feel is perfect for you, only to find it does not look good on you or does not do what it was advertised to do. Things like this can cause us to feel disappointed; we had our mind set for one thing, but then the reality did not match our expectations. THE PAST HOLIDAY IS SOMETHING I look forward to because the movie studios release what they believe will be their heavy Oscar contenders and audience blockbusters. Every year I spend most of the day at the theater watching one movie after another. This year was no different and in fact, I was extra excited because a couple of limited release films were opening at a theater near me. I studied the movie times to figure out what would produce the maximum viewing experience. This also was taking into consideration the duration of the movie trailers; the average amount of time devoted to them is around 20 minutes. I was starting the day at one theater to watch three films then drive to another theater to finish up with 3 more. After finding a parking spot at the 2ndtheater I walked in to discover the films I needed to see were all sold out for the present time slots. Even rearranging start times did not help me; there was only one movie available and I had no desire to see it. The reason being, I saw the trailers and the main star does the same thing for every movie with no discretion towards the scripts. I was so disappointed and after watching this comedy I was even more disappointed that I wasted my time on this picture instead of one of the ones I had on my list. ONLY ONE DETECTIVE COULD FIND THE CULPRIT who was threatening the queen of England and that was Sherlock Holmes, played by Will Ferrell (Daddy’s Home franchise, Get Hard). With the help of his trusted friend Watson, played by John C. Reilly (The Sisters Brothers, Life After Beth), the two would have to work fast to save the queen. This adventure crime film was one of the worst movies I have seen the past year. How it got saved to be released during the holiday season was baffling to me. There was nothing funny since the jokes were noticeable a mile away and were of the lowest level of anything remotely humorous. I was bored out of my mind and angry that I had to pay to be subjected to this mess. Will has done the same schtick in his comedies for so long that his actions and acting must be on autopilot. Notice I did not list the rest of the main actors because I did not want to embarrass them any further.
1 1/4 stars