SHE WAS PERFECTLY CONTENT HAVING HER head resting in my lap as I scratched behind her ears. If I stopped for any reason she would tilt her head back to look directly at me, with an inquisitive expression on her face. It was as if she was asking me why I stopped; it was the cutest thing. She had met me at the door when I arrived for the party. I had never seen her before, only hearing about her existence from a friend a week prior to the party. There were already people milling about when I showed up; so, I do not know if she was waiting specifically for me or was greeting every person who walked in. I had learned years ago never to extend a hand facedown because it might be perceived as a punishment. Instead, I extended my hand faceup below her chin line. This way it would look like a treat or gentle gesture and allow enough time for her to sniff my hand. Once she completed the inspection of my hand she bowed her head, followed by pressing her snout under my hand as if helping me lift my arm back up. I scratched her head as she gazed up at me. It wasn’t love at first sight, but I was smitten by her. SO THAT IS HOW I SPENT a good portion of my time at the party. At some point the host came up to talk with me. As I continued scratching her head the owner told me I would be totally surprised to hear she was the perfect guard dog. I asked what happened that made him realize it. He proceeded to tell me about the time a burglar broke into the house, during the middle of the day while he was at work. Evidently the burglar did not notice the food bowl on the floor when he walked through the kitchen. He wasn’t sure of the details; but he felt his dog did not greet the stranger, instead must have been watching the burglar as they walked through the house. The only reason he believed it was because of the muddy footsteps the burglar left as he was walking through the place. When the burglar went to unplug the big screen television, the dog made her move and attacked his leg. She ripped through the pants leg and clamped down on the burglar’s calf. When the owner got home the burglar was quivering in the corner of the living room with the dog guarding him. The host was right; I was stunned by the story. Such a sweet-faced dog, it just goes to show you dogs can do incredible things. REACHING NEAR THE END OF HIS life Bailey, voiced by Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Marshall), was asked to find and protect his boy Ethan’s, played by Dennis Quaid (The Intruder, In Good Company), granddaughter in his next lifetime. Bailey would discover what life means to many different people. This comedic adventure drama also starred Kathryn Prescott (The Hive, Skins-TV) as CJ, Henry Lau (Final Recipe, Oh My Venus-TV) as Trent and Marg Helgenberger (Species franchise, Erin Brockovich) as Hannah. What sells this movie is the dogs; it is as simple as that. If you are not a dog person, then I do not expect you will enjoy this sequel. However, as a dog lover this film was a bit tedious for me. The script dealt with only two emotions, happy and sad, and kept things at a basic level. It also was manipulative in the way it spun the story. It was predictable with its good guy/bad guy scenarios; but luckily Josh’s vocal talent and the assortment of wonderful dogs kept me from getting totally bored.
1 ¾ stars
THERE IS NO DENYING IT FEELS wonderful when someone is so into you. To receive constant attention and affection simply makes you feel special. I should know because I have experienced just such a relationship, where I was on the receiving end of a steady stream of compliments, affection, little gifts; among other things. It started out by meeting at a café mid-afternoon; I remember I had cinnamon tea because we both were commenting on how good it smelled. We were making small talk when they complimented me on my smile. I said thank you and stopped myself from returning the compliment because I wasn’t ready to go there yet. It was more important to me to find out about what things move and excite them. We stayed at the café for an hour or so, sharing a couple of our past life events. When we were leaving I found out they took public transportation to the café, so I offered to drive them home. You would have thought I was offering them a free car, they were so excited and happy. I was going the same direction and I thought it was the polite thing to do. FROM THAT POINT IN TIME THINGS began to accelerate. We would text back and forth throughout the week. Some of the texts I received came with selfies. None of the photos were inappropriate but I could tell they were set up to be somewhat flirtatious. I admit when it comes to relationships I tend to go at a slow and steady pace instead of quickly jumping in all the way. We had maybe 5 or 6 dates before they commented that they were falling in love with me. Whoa, only after 5-6 dates?!?! That seemed awful fast for me and it sent up a red flag. After several weeks does a person honestly know enough about someone to express their love? I could see saying something like, “…you have the qualities I find myself attracted to” or “I am feeling more comfortable around you,” but to profess their love so soon does not feel right to me. In my younger days I would probably be thrilled and find myself going right into a relationship; but, as I have grown older I have become aware of people who misdirect their love. They are in love with being in love. The object of their affection just needs to somewhat fit into a blueprint they created in their mind and off they go. An example can be found in this comedic, dramatic romance. THE HIGHLIGHT OF GLORIA’S, PLAYED BY Julianne Moore (Still Alice, The Kids are All Right), week was going out to the clubs to dance. When she danced she felt free and that freeness attracted recently divorced Arnold, played by John Turturro (Barton Fink, Fading Gigolo). Her personality was intoxicating to him. This movie also starred Jeanne Tripplehorn (Basic Instinct, Micky Blue Eyes) as Fiona, Alanna Ubach (Legally Blonde, Meet the Fockers) as Veronica and Michael Cera (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Person to Person) as Peter. This remake was fortunate to have Julianne starring in it; she did a wonderful job with the character. I enjoyed watching the way she conveyed Gloria’s feelings without having to hit the viewer over the head with them. If this had been cast with a less experienced actress I do not think my interest would have held up. The reason being is the script was too sanitary for me; everything seemed to fit into a prescribed place which prevented any surprises taking place. I can see where a viewer would quickly fall in love with Julianne; but as for the rest of the story, one may hold off a bit before expressing their feelings.
2 ½ stars
I GRANT YOU, THEY DID LOOK somewhat odd to me. They had moved into the neighborhood during my 4th year of elementary school. The house the family had purchased was a 2-story wood frame with a large wrap around front porch. I remember when they painted that porch because some of the neighbors were put off by it; the family painted it a pine green color. I never really understood why some people were upset. The only thing I could think of was maybe it was because all the other porches on the street were either unpainted or painted in 1 of 2 colors, either white or brown. There were 7 family members: 2 parents and 5 children. All the kids looked alike and looked like their mother. They each had the same color hair; the girls had the same style of haircut just as the boys shared the same. Each child wore the same style of glasses, perched the same way on their noses. Their teeth were oversized to the point where it looked like they could not close their mouth all the way. Some of the kids in the neighborhood referred to them as Bugs Bunny. To finish up their identical look, they all wore the same style and color of clothing. PERSONALLY, THEM NOT BEING ENROLLED IN the neighborhood school added to their perceived strangeness. But despite that, the siblings never came out to play with any of the other kids in the neighborhood. I would see them in their backyard at times when I would cut through the alley to a friend’s house. They would be huddled around some object; I could not tell if it was a toy or some type of device. Other times I would see them spread apart, each doing their own thing like reading or exercising and when I say exercising I mean jumping jacks or sit-ups, some type of calisthenic activity. Keeping to themselves and all looking the same just made people feel uncomfortable. Without getting to know them, rumors started to pop-up in the neighborhood, such as they were a medical experiment, or they were doing something illegal. And of course, the kids in the neighborhood started whispering different remarks about them being inbred and mentally challenged. It was not until I was in college that I discovered via the local newspaper that the parents were scientists and each child was excelling in their schooling, from being PhD candidates to mathematical whizzes. I was shocked; on the surface they may have been odd, but they certainly had already achieved more than many of the families in the neighborhood. The family in this biographical, comedic drama might seem odd to you but wait until you see what they do. PASSIONATE ABOUT WRESTLING RICKY AND JULIA Knight, played by Nick Frost (The World’s End, Paul) and Lena Headey (Game of Thrones-TV, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), taught their children everything they knew. However, when a once in a lifetime chance became available would their hard work pay off? This movie’s story followed a typical theme; but, the script provided some fresh takes on it. With Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth, The Commuter) as Saraya Knight, Jack Lowden (Mary Queen of Scots, Dunkirk) as Zak Knight and Vince Vaughn (Couples Retreat, The Break-Up) as Hutch; I thought the acting really sold the story, especially Florence’s and Jack’s. For me, Vince was the only one that I did not connect with since he was doing his same type of character that I have seen before. There were fun moments in this picture that kept the story from sputtering out. What added to my enjoyment was seeing clips of the actual Knights at the end of the film. One may think they are an odd bunch, but I salute them for finding something they can be passionate about and holding out for their dream.
I DID NOT CRINGE UNTIL SHE attempted to speak. She had assistance walking across the stage of the awards show; it was expected considering her frailty and advanced age. In her day, decades ago, she was a top billing major star. Now as I watched her trying to talk, it was obvious to me she was quite confused. I had no idea if the producers of the show requested her or her management team offered her; either way, I felt uncomfortable and sad. Growing old is harder when it is done in the public eye; I think about myself with the classes I teach. Will I know when it is the time to hang up my cycling and yoga apparel? Will I graciously retire when I realize, if I even realize, I am not teaching class at the same level as I have in the past? These are things I have given thought to as I have grown older. I look at some people who have obviously had extensive plastic surgery and wonder why they did it. There has never been a time I have seen an older celebrity and not known they had altered themselves simply by looking at their semi-paralyzed face or their skin stretched tightly like plastic wrap sealing a bowl of leftovers. What is it they are trying to do? ONE OF THE ANSWERS I CAN come up with is they do it because they still need to get adulation and compliments from people. I would like to know how having a wrinkled face would stop someone from admiring you. I went to a concert that was being held in a small movie theater; the headliner was a celebrity who was past his prime. What I mean is their voice could no longer handle their song catalog and their dance moves were reduced to a simple swaying side to side. He was only one of the musical acts; so, there were some people in the audience who had no idea who this man was and what songs he had sung that brought him fame. If it were me I could not get on stage and perform unless I categorically knew it would be at the same caliber as before. As I write this I am reminded about former celebrities who either do advertisements or shall we say low-brow projects. I always wonder if they need the money or they are so starved for attention. Regarding this film festival winning biography, I haven’t yet decided which one the comedy duo needed. AFTER THEIR FAME AND FORTUNE HAD dimmed in the world Laurel and Hardy, played by Steve Coogan (Philomela, The Dinner) and John C. Reilly (Holmes & Watson, The Sisters Brothers), decided they would re-capture it by doing a live tour. It didn’t matter to them that they were older and maybe not as wise. This comedic drama’s story was based on actual events. Without a doubt this picture’s fate was dependent on Steve and John. Gratefully, the two of them were stupendous. I might have to tip the scales more to John’s Oliver Hardy being more authentic, but it still would be a tight race between the two of them. With them front and center the other actors like Shirley Henderson (Transporting franchise, Bridget Jones franchise) as Lucille Hardy and Nina Arianda (Midnight in Paris, Florence Foster Jenkins) as Ida Kitaeva Laurel; though good, were more in the background for me. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this picture. Seeing some of the original comedy acts Laurel and Hardy used to perform and getting the back story on them was a treat. I thought the script and direction worked hand in hand to produce a well-rounded bit of comedic history. Make sure you stay through the credits to see actual clips of the two the producers reproduced in this wonderful film.
3 ½ stars
THAT NEW CAR SMELL IS SOMETHING some individuals want to experience every year. For me, by the time I trade in my vehicle, that smell is a distant memory replaced by enough odors to keep an olfactometer busy for years. In a previous review I mentioned how it seems to me everything being made these days is disposable. Cellular phones are heavily marketed to entice people to give up the one they have for the latest model with new features. Automobiles, though I do not consider them disposable, get released every year with either a major overall done to the model or minor tweaking of options. When I bought my car a friend of mine wound up getting the same model. After one year they traded theirs in for the new version. Keep in mind there was nothing wrong with their car, but they wanted the “latest and greatest.” The only difference I could see between our vehicles was their front grill had a different pattern and the rear taillights had the LED lights spaced further apart into 3 small sections, instead of one full rectangle. I am sorry, but that would not be enough for me to trade in a perfectly good car just for a couple of cosmetic updates. FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS THERE are people who like to have the newest or latest updated version of something they already have in their possession. I remember when I was much younger I was into the sugary cereals. One of my favorites after several years was being in the manufacturer’s terms, “re-formulated,” to provide a stronger taste. On the front of the cereal box they added the tagline: New and Improved. Even if I had not seen those words, I immediately could tell something was “wrong” with my cereal. I did not like the taste because it was now too sweet for me. All I tasted was sugar instead of the variety of grains that were used in the manufacturing of the flakes. It was so disappointing to me that I even called their toll-free number to complain about it. The excuse given to me was the taste had been based on the market research they did with consumer test groups. Truthfully, I did not care about any test groups; they were screwing around with my cereal. Not everything gets better necessarily when it is updated, in my opinion. If you would like to see some proof then watch this current version and compare it to the French one I reviewed called, The Intouchables. PARALYZED FROM A SEVERE ACCIDENT PHILLIP Lacasse, played by Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Argo), needed constant care. It would take someone highly qualified and capable; so why did he choose Dell Scott, played by Kevin Hart (Night School, Ride Along franchise), an inexperienced ex-convict? With Nicole Kidman (Aquaman, Boy Erased) as Yvonne, Aja Naomi King (The Birth of a Nation, Four) as Latrice and Jahi Di ‘Allo Winston (Proud Mary, Feed the Beast-TV) as Anthony; this film festival winning comedic drama had potential. Based on a true story, I thoroughly enjoyed the French version; so, I was open for this Hollywood version to be just as good. Bryan and Kevin had some scenes that worked well, but I felt the script did not give them the opportunity to really show what they could do in the acting department. Bryan, I expected to give a fine performance; but, I was surprised to see Kevin attempting a little bit more than what he has done with his previous roles. Nicole seemed out of place to me. There were parts of the story that I felt were included to manipulate the viewers. If you haven’t seen The Intouchables then you will possibly enjoy this film.
THE POOR THING HAD ONE EYE that did not close. Despite it and the lost finger on her left hand, she was a constant companion to the little girl. It was the little girl’s 2nd birthday when she received this doll that has never left her side since then. At meal time the doll had a place at the dining room table with her own little plate and glass, that the child would lift to the doll’s face to eat the imaginary food and drink. As far as I could remember the doll was always a part of our gatherings. After many years, the last time I heard about the doll she was residing on a shelf in the attic. It is amusing to me, but I never considered my toy soldiers as being dolls. In my mind they were soldiers and I was their commander. With the elaborate battle plans I would create, my soldiers were vital in keeping an open pathway to the pantry in our kitchen—go figure! From time to time I received superhero dolls as presents; but in my mind they were superheroes, not dolls. Isn’t it funny that back then we were taught dolls were only for girls? SINCE THAT TIME DOLLS HAVE BEEN marketed to both girls and boys. I remember a friend’s son used to play with a male doll that wore a railroad conductor’s hat and overalls. Besides that “revolutionary” evolution, dolls are now used in several fields of thought. They can be found in therapy sessions, criminal investigations, as well as physiology classes. There was a psychologist I used to know who regularly used dolls in her sessions with younger children. When a child was not yet at an age to articulate the actions and feelings they experienced, dolls were useful tools to find out what happened to the child. Dolls also had a role with the psychologist’s couple counseling sessions. Some kind of role playing exercises if I am remembering correctly. So, you can certainly see how things have changed in our perceptions of dolls; they are no longer simply toys for kids. And I am just now recalling, wasn’t there a recent winner of a television reality, talent show who did ventriloquism, making a doll talk and sing? I understand she has a blossoming career, with appearances and TV specials. With today’s movie you can see another way how dolls play a vital function in some people’s lives. AFTER A VISCIOUS ATTACK THAT DESTROYED his memory Mark Hogancamp, played by Steve Carell (Vice, Beautiful Boy), found a unique way to rebuild the life taken away from him. It was a particular set of female dolls that would lead him onto the road to recovery. This comedic drama based on a true story also starred Falk Hentschel (White House Down, Transcendence) as Captain Topf/Louis, Matt O’Leary (Frailty, Live Free or Die Hard) as Lieutenant Benz/Carl, Leslie Mann (The Other Woman, How to Be Single) as Nicol and Nikolai Witschl (Deadpool 2, The Magicians-TV) as Rudolph/Ruby. The story behind this movie seems incredible and amazing to me. My favorite part of this picture was the dolls; visually they were fun to watch. As for the script, I found it scattered all over the place. Steve did a decent job with his acting; but for such a story, the writers needed to dig deep down and bring out way more emotions than what I saw on the screen. For the dolls having played an important part in Mark’s life, they needed to have substance here; they came off as whimsical characters, in my opinion. Also, I was not sure the writers did justice to the topic of traumatic brain injuries. This biographical film was easily forgettable.
1 ½ stars
A PERFECT WORLD TO ME WOULD be one where everyone takes responsibilities for their actions. Maybe it is my imagination, but it seems people used to be this way some time ago. Now, it appears to me people are quick to place the blame on someone else. It reminds me of a little child who is standing next to a broken vase that they knocked onto the floor and when the child’s parent asks if they did it, the child immediately says no it wasn’t him or her. In a similar vein, one example I have seen many times is a shopper who accidentally brushes up to a store’s product and it falls to the floor. It might be a loaf of bread or an article of clothing, for example. The person sees what they have done; but just keeps on walking, pretending I guess the item magically levitated and floated to the floor. Would it have been so hard to pick up the item and put it back? In my opinion, a world filled with irresponsible people will only lead to a world of chaos. THERE IS SOMEONE I KNOW WHO for all the time I have known them has never taken responsibility for their actions. They are involved with high finances that directly affect the company where they are employed. I listen to their work stories; which by the way, seem to always paint this person as the victim. What they do not know is I have a friend who works at the same company and when they tell me about something that involves this other employee, their version is totally different. It is baffling, but the only thing I can think of is maybe it is all about power for this employee. I am not privy to their work environment but possibly this person is afraid of their peers or maybe they all act the same way, who knows? Power can be quite addictive for some individuals. One taste of it can put a person on a path where responsibilities get steamrolled and left crushed on the side of the road. I can handle a person who is assertive with their actions; however, a person who is aggressive is a different story for me. In my experiences those who aggressively seek power will do anything to reach their goal and as far as I can tell have a lower moral consciousness. The only time I have an issue with individuals in this category is when their actions have a direct effect on my life. For some of us, when you watch the scenes in this comedic drama you may find yourself stunned. CIRCUMSTANCES FELL INTO PLACE FOR ONE individual to rise above all others and make choices that would affect a country and the world. This film festival winning biography starred Christian Bale (The Big Short, Hostiles) as Dick Cheney, Amy Adams (Nocturnal Animals, Big Eyes) as Lynne Cheney, Steve Carell (Beautiful Boy, Battle of the Sexes) as Donald Rumsfeld, Sam Rockwell (A Single Shot, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) as George W. Bush and Alison Pill (Milk, Dan in Real Life) as Mary Cheney. If Christian does not get nominated for best actor this award season, then something is wrong. I never once watched him and thought that was Christian; he was 100% the character he portrayed and enough of a reason to see this film. The acting was fine overall, but the script was scattered; I did not know if it wanted to be a satire, drama, comedy or documentary. Some of the scenes were startling to me, but I could not tell if it was totally made up or not. If not, then I am more scared than I thought. What a feat to accomplish, driven by power.
2 ½ stars
BEING CHOSEN AS THE FAVORITE ONE does not necessarily make one’s life easier; the title can come with some pitfalls. At a previous job where I worked, there was an employee who was the favorite of the owner. Everyone at the company knew it. In fact, even if it was your first day you would soon realize this employee had a special relationship with the owner. Here is just one example of how the owner treated this employee differently than the others. During the holidays we used to receive a variety of gifts for the owner. He would always open these packages in his office, bringing out the shipping boxes for us to break down and recycle. I would say on the average he kept 75% of the gifts sent to him; the ones he did not, he would give to this employee right in front of the rest of us. Depending on what the item was, this employee would either leave it sitting on her desk (which used to annoy all of us) or take it out to her car to bring home. Not once did the owner offer a rejected gift to one of us. Now, I did not care whether I got a gift or not; but I, like everyone else around me, felt it was not fair and was certainly not a morale booster. AS TIME PASSED SOME OF THE EMPLOYEES grew resentful of the “favorite” employee. When anyone would bring in a taste treat of food; if they were going around and offering pieces of it as opposed to putting it out in the kitchen, they would bypass this one employee. Actually, they would wait until the person was away from her desk then go around passing out their food items, so as to avoid the favorite one altogether. I could not say for certainty if this type of treatment was proper because as far as I knew it was not this employee’s fault. Now if there was something going on between the two of them, I had no knowledge. Let me say this though, it seemed from time to time she used her favorite role status to her advantage. For example, there was never a problem for her to leave early from work; but for the rest of us, the owner would always resist our requests while trying to make us change the day or the time, so we would not have to leave early. It came to a point where I just stopped thinking about it; it wasn’t worth the energy. And when I say energy this biographical, comedic drama will give you an idea of how much energy it takes to deal with such things. USING HER POSITION AS THE QUEEN’S CONFIDANTE Lady Sarah, played by Rachel Weisz (My Cousin Rachel, Disobedience), enjoyed exerting her power over others. But that show of power could be quite enticing for anyone who wanted some of the same. This film festival winning movie starred Olivia Coleman (The Lobster, Hot Fuzz) as Queen Anne, Emma Stone (Battle of the Sexes, Magic in the Moonlight) as Abigail, and James Smith (In the Loop, The Iron Lady) as Godolphin. I was so intrigued with this story that I had to do some research about Queen Anne. It quickly became apparent to me that the writers took a basis of facts and elaborated on it to funny extremes. The three actresses were dynamite with the conniving, the wickedness and humor of the script. As much as I enjoyed this aspect of the movie and its super acting, I felt some scenes were unnecessary. There were several that felt like they were added to give this picture an artistic flair; it only slowed the story down for me. All in all, I cannot say this will be a favorite of mine this Oscar season, but I still had a good time watching it.
I PURPOSELY CHANGED ALL THE NAMES and circumstances so as not to offend any of the actual people. They may be relatives, friends, friends of friends, acquaintances or simply me hearing about such an event that I will now be sharing with you. My guess is that many of you will find something to relate to, if not having experienced the same thing for yourself already. With the holidays fast approaching this is the perfect time to talk about family get togethers. There is Aunt Shirley who insists on pinching your cheeks as if you were still an infant, every time she sees you. Uncle Fred commands you to tell him your latest work accomplishment, just so he can then top your story with one of his own success stories. Oh, and let us not forget cousin Mary who brings the same jello mold to every event; she calls it her “broken glass” jello mold. Doesn’t that sound appealing? Every holiday dinner she brings this creation of hers, explaining each time how she makes different flavored bowls of jello and cuts them into tiny cubes to dump into her metal mold with the floral etchings. Sadly, many of us feel forced to take a slice of this abomination so as not to hurt her feelings. THE REASON I MENTIONED THESE DIFFERENT PEOPLE is because I wanted to talk about some of the things one must do out of either necessity, duty or kindness. One may go to a family function and experience the same scenarios every year, maybe every month. You hear the same stories 100 times; each person acts just as you expected them to do, so there are no surprises. Also, there is not much difference between each get together. This does not mean you have a horrible time; you may simply enjoy the presence of your family and friends around you. There is a history you each share that keeps you coming back time and time again. So, what if Uncle Ernie plays the same practical joke on you or cousin Vicki talks your ear off about people in her life you have never met; there is something in you that allows you to accept these people unconditionally. I can say the same thing about reviewing movies. There are certain directors and writers who produce the same thing for each of their films. I know what to expect and rarely do I get surprised. Today’s movie fits the bill; it is the same thing I have seen over and over. AFTER HER RELEASE FROM PRISON TANYA, played by Tiffany Haddish (The Oath, Night School), had nowhere to stay except with her sister Danica, played by Tika Sumpter (Ride Along franchise, The Haves and the Have Nots-TV). The two sisters were nothing alike but who knew each could help the other with a problem. This latest dramatic comedy from Tyler Perry (Acrimony, Good Deeds), was no different from many of his other stories. What you see on the trailer is pretty much the same you see in this movie. Tiffany, though she is good at what she does, needs to stop playing the same type of characters; they all look and act the same to me. The script was pedestrian and predictable. With Whoopi Goldberg (Sister Act franchise, The Color Purple) as Lola and Amari Hardwick (The A-Team, The Runner) as Frank; there was too much going on in the script. Not enough time was devoted to each storyline which resulted in a bland monotone of events. I will say there were a couple of chuckles but nothing worth paying the full price to see this picture. Because I like staying consistent, I felt the need to see this film; sitting and watching this movie was like taking a slice of cousin Mary’s jello mold.
1 ¾ stars
THERE WAS NOTING GREATER TO HAVE in school than an older friend. To make friends with someone from a higher grade was one of the ultimate achievements in a student’s accomplishments. Some of you might not be aware of it; but having an older friend would immediately give a boost to one’s self-esteem. Let us face it, hanging out with older kids was a cool thing to do. I remember going to a party with my friends where there were older students from our school. At one point I was standing with a small group of students. An older one standing next to me took out a carton of cigarettes and after taking one out offered me a cigarette; I had never smoked one, so I took it. Also, I wanted to look cool and be accepted by the older kids. I put the cigarette up to my mouth, trying to remember how movie stars did it. As soon as I lit the tip and inhaled; I let out a violent cough, spitting the cigarette out of my mouth and onto the floor. So much for looking like a cool kid. And from that point in time, I never smoked another cigarette again. IN MY SOPHMORE YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL, I volunteered to help the music department during one of my study periods. I was assigned to the band room where many of the band’s instruments were stored. Whether it was some kind of divine intervention or just luck, it did not matter to me; because there were several older students who always hung out in the room when I was there. Our love of music provided a quick connection between all of us. Having taken piano lessons for several years, besides being exposed early in life to several different genres of music; I had a level of knowledge that not only matched the other students, but in some cases surpassed them. It was an incredible feeling for me to be accepted by these older students. I learned the ins and outs of the upperclassmen’s courses, besides getting inside knowledge on the national testing I would be participating in. Walking through the hallways during the breaks between class periods and having one of them acknowledge my presence was a real high for me. Looking back at those times the only thing that was missing was having an older student as my bodyguard; like the one in that movie, “My Bodyguard,” (not to be confused with “The Bodyguard”). Due to the experiences I just shared with you, I could identify with what the main character was searching for in this comedic drama. IT TOOK A LOT OF COURAGE FOR Stevie, played by Sunny Suljic (The House with a Clock in its Walls, The Killing of a Sacred Deer), to step into the skate shop; but the older boys were doing some incredible things. This movie also starred Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Inherent Vice) as Dabney, Lucas Hedges (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Lady Bird) as Ian, newcomer Na-kel Smith as Ray and newcomer Gio Galicia as Ruben. Written and directed by Jonah Hill (Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far; War Dogs), this writing and directorial debut by him was a good first step forward. I found the story authentic; in a way it had a documentary vibe to it. For first time actors which was most of the cast, Jonah was able to get real life performances out of them. Some of the dialog seemed repetitive for me however. Despite that, I felt connected to the emotions of the script with the help of the interesting film angles Jonah employed. This was a solid, good start for Jonah about a real thing.