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
NOT ONLY HAD I NEVER seen one, I never even heard about them. Walking into their house for the first time, I was introduced to a pleasant couple who were friends with my friend. They were hosting a get together and my friend brought me along. After the introductions they led us into their living room. It took me a moment to take it all in but across most of the flat surfaces in the room, such as shelves and tables, there were these ceramic gnomes everywhere. It was so utterly odd to me and there were so many of them; all different kinds from wizen elderly males to young teenagers to busy looking females. Evidently the expression on my face telegraphed my surprise for the hosts took the liberty of telling me the history of several of their gnomes. I found out the artist who created them always placed some type of object on the piece as a surprise. Oh and I almost forgot, each gnome had a name and a history about their life. SEVERAL YEARS LATER I WAS killing time in a resale shop. As I made my way through the aisles I came to a section that held house wares. There was an entire shelving unit filled with the same type of gnomes I remembered from that dinner party back then. All of them were lined up into rows as if they were all sitting in a theater to watch a movie. I never knew how much were the original prices for these gnomes, but I could not resist checking what they were being priced at in this resale store. A majority of the larger ones were priced at $5.00 and the smaller ones at $3.00. I had to assume this was a major bargain. What is that saying, one person’s junk is another person’s treasure? Based on the traces of dust covering some of the gnomes I assumed they had been sitting there a long time; I guess there is not a need for people to have gnomes in their house or garden currently. It is funny because I wound up feeling the same regarding this animated, adventure comedy sequel. AFTER SETTLING INTO THEIR NEW home Gnomeo and Juliet, voiced by James McAvoy (Split, The Last King of Scotland) and Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train, Into the Woods), expected with a little work to have the perfect garden. However when their fellow gnomes went missing the only one who could hopefully solve the mystery was the top detective Sherlock Gnomes, voiced by Johnny Depp (Black Mass, The Long Ranger) and his companion Dr. Watson, voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, 2012). The idea for this story was cute in this film. With decent animation and a soundtrack provided by Elton John’s songs I thought this would have been a fun film. Just as I was stunned seeing all those gnomes in that couple’s house, I was dumbfounded by how poorly written was the script. This picture was boring to me; there was nothing funny or cute about it. Maybe a narrow group of children would like this film; but where I expected a theater with children to be noisy, in my viewing there were barely any sounds coming from the audience. I had to fight to stay attentive to what was going on in the story. For the most part I felt myself wanting to doze off, but forced myself to stay awake. It was a late viewing for me, but that was not the reason. Like the fate of Beanie Babies and pet rocks, this movie will probably make it to the discount bin in quick time.
1 ¾ stars
WHERE THEY CAME FROM no one took part or even mentioned anything about Sweetest Day. Looking at the rack with cards on display, they were shocked that this holiday was “a thing.” Not only did they not know anything about this special day, they did not recall it ever being talked about when they were children. They joked that this had to be a manufactured holiday; maybe it was created by the card companies to increase their sales. To tell you the truth when I was growing up I had never heard anything about Sweetest Day. For this review I wanted to see if I could find out the history behind it; so my searching discovered this holiday was first celebrated in 1921 in Cleveland Ohio, planned by a committee of 12 confectioners to a candy company. Isn’t that an interesting tidbit? It appears to be a bit self-serving; create a holiday that would entice people to buy sweets for their sweet. THE CREATION OF FALSEHOODS for personal gain has been going on for centuries; it still does not make it right. I worked at a place that had a salesperson that constantly turned in fake orders. When I say fake I mean the salesperson might have discussed the product with the customer, but had not gotten the approval to go ahead and place the order. The company would process the order and pay commission to the salesperson, unaware the order was not completely legit at that point in time. If luck was on the salesperson’s side by the time the order was received and ready to ship out the approval came through for it; no one was the wiser. However, there were times where the okay was delayed or never given. In those cases the salesperson already received their commission but our company did not get payment for months or not at all. For the orders that were never approved we would get stuck with the product and scramble to find someone else to buy it from us. I found the salesperson’s behavior appalling; without thought about the company they worked for, they were only interested in their own personal gain. I felt this same behavior was the motivation for this horror, crime mystery film. TEN YEARS HAD PASSED since serial killer Jigsaw’s death. However the recent cases Detective Halloran, played by Callum Keith Rennie (Born to be Blue, Memento), was solving had all the markings of being the work of Jigsaw. And like Jigsaw, there were more cases to come. With Matt Passmore (Satisfaction-TV, McLeod’s Daughters-TV) as Logan Nelson, Tobin Bell (Mississippi Burning, Manson Family Vacation) as John Kramer, Hannah Emily Anderson (Lizzie Borden Took an Ax-TV movie, Shoot the Messenger-TV) as Eleanor Bonneville and Cle Bennett (Barney’s Version, Urban Legend) as Detective Keith Hunt; there were many gruesome scenes the cast experienced. Fans of the Saw films will probably get on board with this latest installment; but I have to tell you, I found the script to be bland. I can appreciate the one story line concerning administering justice on the guilty; but it made me uncomfortable, as if the writers were sending a positive message that it is okay to take justice into your own hands. As I was sitting and watching this picture I felt it was created simply to reboot the franchise; there was nothing new or special except for a plot twist at the end. I have to tell you I do not know who had it worse, the victims in this movie or me sitting and watching it.
1 ¾ stars
“Use it or lose it” is one of my favorite things to say to people. In my fitness classes the members have been listening to me say this for years. If we stop working on ourselves how will we continue to move and grow, both physically and mentally? From my experiences I know some individuals have an easier time training their body instead of their mind and visa versa. I actually find it is easier to train my body, which is why I work extra hard on using my mind. To me the mind is like any other muscle in the body and it needs to be stimulated so it can continue to thrive and expand. Without going into too much detail my mind was tested at a very young age; you could say trial by fire. Growing up and being overweight, I heard the “F” word a lot to describe my size. I do not remember when it actually started to work but there came a point where I stopped listening to the taunts. Yes, I still would hear it but my mind would not register it. This explains why today I am skilled in being able to shut out different noises and sounds. Where a co-worker may get distracted with an annoying repetitive sound coming out from the warehouse, my mind only hears white noise, if even that. This ability is not limited to just sounds; if the mind is strong enough it can shield a person from certain parts of reality. It has served me well. I see I am not the only one now that I have seen this dramatic movie. WHEN his partner was found dead Detective Galban, played by Keanu Reeves (John Wick, The Matrix franchise), was determined to find the killer. With the trail of clues not adding up and no one claiming to have seen anything, Detective Galban was positive there had to be someone out in the city who could provide him with the answers. This film which also had Mira Sorvino (The Replacement Killers, Mimic) as Janine Cullen and Ana de Armas (Sex, Party and Lies; The Boarding School-TV) as Isabel de la Cruz had a film noir flavor to it at first. I thought Ana was a compelling actress and found her role the most interesting. In a short amount of time the story broke down and became a jumble of sub-stories. From its film noir look it started to become a surreal fantasy type of story before trying to be more like a true detective story. I kept waiting for something to happen as the script randomly offered these little pieces of information that were not tying up the scenes; I started to wonder what was the point the writers were trying to convey to the viewers. Also, I have to say Keanu was more stiff than usual in this role. One could blame it all on the editing, the writing, the direction or all of the above; it does not matter. As I type the last word to my review I will forget about this discombobulated piece of work.
1 2/3 stars
Though Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike, Bernie) bares his posterior again with this movie, he is not accepting your dollar bills. Oh no, he is taking much more here. As Killer Joe Cooper, Matthew was this creepy, menacing character who was a police detective with a little business on the side. He was a hired killer. It was one of the best performances I have seen out of him. Right now thinking about some of his scenes sent a shudder of dread through me. Hired by deeply in debt Chris Smith, played by Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild, Milk), to kill his mother for the life insurance money; Joe Cooper extracted much more than what this trailer trash dysfunctional family had planned. As you just read the previous sentences, I am certain you will be stunned to learn as I was, that this film was part comedy. The utterly outrageous predicaments filmed in a raw yet beautiful way by director William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) gave this movie a film noir look and feel to it. The entire cast was excellent, particularly Gina Gershon (P.S. I Love You, Bond) as Chris’ stepmother Sheila Smith; who was okay with the murder plot against her husband’s first wife. Adapted from his own play, Tracy Letts (August: Osage County, Bug) wrote the screenplay. This crime thriller’s NC-17 rating was well deserved with its brutal bloody violence, nudity and foul language. In other words, this is one of those movies you will either love or hate. In one moment I would cringe at a scene, to immediately burst out in laughter in the following; this was one intense wild movie. If you have the stomach for this type of film, you may very well be a witness to future Oscar nominees Matthew McConaughey and Emile Hirsch.