IT DOESN’T TAKE MUCH FOR SOMEONE these days to get a reputation. I am guilty in being quick to judge someone based on their actions. There was an employee I used to work with who I determined was addicted to her phone or more specifically, watching videos on her cell phone. The reason why I quickly came to this conclusion was because the first few times I had to consult with her about business, she did not hear me walking up to her. She was peering down at her phone, ear buds stuck in her ears, while her computer screen showed it was in sleep mode. I had to repeat myself to get her attention before she would look up at me and remove her ear buds. The first couple of times I thought she was listening to music; but I soon discovered she was watching a television show. Maybe I am old school, but I was stunned by her audacity to sit at her desk and watch a TV series while the rest of us were working. Did she think she was being paid to watch television? From my first few encounters with her I determined she was not an ideal worker. One could say she was lazy, distracted, clueless, unmotivated or several other adjectives if they chose; I decided she was unreliable because of all the TV she was watching instead of doing her job. NOW MAYBE THAT EMPLOYEE WAS GOOD at her job and able to keep up with her workload while watching television. I think most people make snap judgements about others based on what they see—on the surface. There was a time when friends of mine would not include me when they went out to the clubs, because I did not drink alcohol. I did not know that was the reason at the time. I found out when I asked a friend about it and he said the group thought I would not be a fun addition because I did not drink. I asked him what one had to do with the other; he could not come up with any proof. After that, I was included in the group’s activities and in my own way, showed them one should not make assumptions or judgements without seeing things for themselves. As I am getting older, I discovered I do not have control over people’s perceptions about me. As long as I am doing what I am supposed to be doing then that is all that matters to me. The main character in this dramatic, crime film could certainly relate to this. WHEN SEVERAL POLICE OFFICERS WERE KILLED one night detective Andre Davis, played by Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther, Marshall), was put on the case specifically because of his reputation. One never wanted to be facing him when he had a gun in his hands. With Sienna Miller (American Sniper, The Lost City of Z) as Frankie Burns, J.K. Simmons (The Front Runner, Patriots Day) as Captain McKenna, Stephan James (Race, If Beale Street Could Talk) as Michael and Taylor Kitsch (Battleship, Only the Brave) as Ray; this action movie benefited with Chadwick in the lead role. I thought he did the best he could with the script. Unfortunately, the story was predictable, and the script did not help disguise it. Nonetheless, I enjoyed watching this film due to the acting and chase scenes. There were several scenes with blood, but gratefully nothing I found gory. As some of you may know, I do not sit and try to figure out where the story will go when I watch a movie. With this picture, I quickly figured out who were the “bad” people. It did not ruin the viewing experience for me, but I was glad I did not pay full price for my ticket.
2 ½ stars
I DID NOT KNOW WHAT WAS chasing me but instinctively I knew it would kill me. It discovered me hiding in the stairwell. I did not look behind to see it as I raced up the stairs, knocking off a couple of framed pictures that were hanging on the walls. They crashed onto the stairs, shattering glass everywhere; I hoped it would slow down whatever was after me. Though I knew where I was running, it was not my house. All I kept hearing besides my heartbeat pounding in my ears was a low growling sound. No matter where I went in the house, I could hear it. It seemed as if I had only been running for a second, but I was not sure. Time had no relevance now as I tried finding an escape route. Every room I ran into led me to another room. At some point I knew my adrenalin fueled speed would wane; I needed to find a place where I could hide. As I entered the next room there was an unmade bed. I wasn’t thinking straight; but I quickly jumped into the bed, pulling the disheveled blanket and bedspread over me. I hoped I was blending in with the covers, so the bed still looked like a mess. It took me by surprise, but something grabbed my ankle and I screamed. I COULD NOT CATCH MY BREATH as I opened my eyes. Laying still in bed, it took me a moment to realize I had had a bad dream. But something was not right; I sensed there was a threat close by. Pulling the blanket just past my eyes I could see a shadow on the wall and then, I realized I was hearing that same growling sound. I tried to scream for help, but I could not muster any breath to come out of my mouth. All I could do was emit a gagging sound; I was sure my life would be ending. My eyes opened to see my blanket was still over my face. I was gasping for air, but I no longer sensed another presence in the room. Slowly I tugged at the blanket until my eyes were uncovered. Scanning the ceiling for any shadows before I moved my head, I saw nothing unusual in the room. I was utterly exhausted and remained still for the next several minutes as I tried to piece together what just happened. I must’ve had a dream of me having a dream; I was so confused. My confusion was not so dissimilar from what I experienced while watching this dramatic, fantasy horror. A FRANTIC PHONE CALL CUT SHORT leads Jack Radcliffe, played by David Oyelowo (Selma, Queen of Katwe) to a gruesome discovery. To make matters worse, he gets another phone call from the same caller. With Byron Mann (The Big Short, Skyscraper) as Detective Roger Lee, Storm Reid (A Wrinkle in Time, Sleight) as Ashley, Mykeiti Williamson (Fences, Run the Race) as Bobby and Shinelle Azoroh (Nostalgia, Code Black-TV) as Susan, this film’s strong suit was the acting. I thought David and Storm did an above average job in portraying their characters. The story, though it sounded interesting to me, was odd. As it unfolded in this film, it seemed to get sillier. Scenes were divided into past and present which at times caused confusion. It was a shame because there were a few tense scenes that started to draw me in; but then, the feeling would be gone in the next scene. I am not sure what the writers were dreaming or hoping to create with this story, but I do not think they were expecting to get a reaction like the reaction I got from this movie—it was a nightmare.
1 ¾ stars
Memories of past relationships never completely leave us; they float in the cove of one’s heart. For whatever reason the relationship ended, even to the point of hostile anger; those memories may sink below the surface of emotional waters, but they eventually rise up. It could happen when walking by the favorite restaurant you both liked or hearing a song that still makes your heart skip as you remembered how the two of you danced together. No matter how hard one tries, these memories never go away; their hard edges only soften from the emotional pull through the years. I have seen and been a part of several close relationships and have noticed this emotional connection. It will remain through life and beyond. With this knowledge I understood the motivation to the story in this dramatic mystery movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Don Jon, Looper) played Brendan, a high schooler who discovered his ex-girlfriend dead in a sewage canal. If he wanted to find out what happened to her, Brendan would have to find a way to navigate between the different cliques of the student body. What he discovered took him beyond the high school walls. It took me a little time to get into the rhythm of the dialog in this film festival winner, mainly because it was an unfamiliar way of talking for me. Possibly it was a generational thing, but I got used to it and was able to finally focus in on the performances and story. Joseph Gordon-Levitt already has done a variety of characters, each one well; so his role here was another solid and believable performance with a touch of teenage angst and a dash of bravado. Though he had a small role, I enjoyed seeing Richard Roundtree (Shaft, Collar) play Assistant Vice Principal Gary Trueman. The cast of characters was varied with some distinct personalities such as Lukas Haas (Witness, Inception) as The Pin and Noah Fleiss (Taking Chance, Joe the King) as Tugger. I thought part of the movie was repetitive; but with the unusual film angles and truthfully the characters’ swagger, I did not find it too much of a distraction. Adding in the crisp direction, I found myself drawn into the story. Now I still have all my memories from my high school years, even the bad ones; but I have to say, I am glad my high school was not like the one in this good film. There were a couple of brief scenes where blood was shown.
3 stars — DVD
Imagine you are at a party or nightclub and you strike up a conversation with someone. The two of you have been making an easy flow of chitchat but all of a sudden they say something that strikes you as being a bit odd. You are not sure how to react; should you chuckle, nod your head or ask them what they mean? The expression on their face does not help you; they still have that sliver of a smile. So you decide to let it pass and continue talking on. But then it happens again and you feel uncomfortable because what they said could be taken one of two ways. If you felt they meant the first option then it would be appropriate to snicker. However, the 2nd way would make them appear sexist; so, what do you do? You ask them and they say it was a joke; they were trying to be funny. There is nothing wrong with showing one’s humorous side, heaven knows I try to all the time; but if your target audience does not know your style of humor or your intentions, then the joke is lost on them. Well this is exactly how I felt watching this movie. I could not tell if this was supposed to be a satire or the director Peter Hyams (Timecop, End of Days) was really trying to make an action thriller. After all these years Peter re-teamed with Jean-Claude Van Damme (Double Impact, Bloodsport) who played Xander, an unmerciful drug dealer. Reaching the US-Canadian border to retrieve a drug shipment Xander came across forest ranger Henry, played by Tom Evertt Scott (Parental Guidance, That Thing You Do!), who was in the middle of a fight with ex-con Clay, played by Orlando Jones (Drumline, Evolution). How would Henry survive and do his job if he only had enemies around him? I am at a loss for words because I seriously did not get this film. Not one to question someone wanting to continue working, I would love to know why Jean-Claude felt this role was meant for him. He looked and acted like a sideshow clown from a traveling carnival. His body double was obvious in the fight scenes. Granted the fight scenes were not bad in this film, but I thought the acting was horrible. The script was not that much better. I wish I knew if this movie was supposed to be a joke because I would have written a different review. As it stands now I really have nothing good to say. There were several scenes that had blood and violence.
1 2/3 stars
I can remember every single fight I was involved in when growing up. Out of all of them there was only one time where I threw the punch first and that was because the boy had been picking on me for weeks. I am not a violent person; in fact, I was never taught how to defend myself. A friend’s older brother had to show me how to correctly make a fist with my hand. I used to wonder where the aggressive kids learned how to fight and torment other students like me. It was during the parent/teacher conference nights where an answer could be found. I was not old enough to understand the reasons, only remembering how I felt when seeing the parents of a bully. More times than not the parents would frighten me. I could not explain it, but saw how they treated their spouse and child. Among my friends and family I never saw an adult act like that to someone else. In this action thriller, you will see what happens when parents get involved. Jason Statham (The Bank Job, Snatch) played Phil Broker, a former drug enforcement administration agent. After his wife’s death, Phil decided to settle in a small town to raise his young daughter Maddy, played by Izabela Vidovic (Help for the Holidays-TV movie, Raising Hope-TV). With the residents already suspicious of out-of-towners, it appeared Phil and Maddy may have settled into the wrong town. When Jason Statham stars in a movie, one already knows what to expect. There were many fight scenes that showed off Jason’s battling skills. One thing I was grateful for was Sylvester Stallone (Rocky franchise, Rhinestone) not starring in this film since he wrote the screenplay. It seems as if the screenplay was sitting on his shelf for years and Sylvester felt he was now too old for the role. This leads to my next point which concerned the script; it was simple and straight forward. There were few surprises since it was easy to figure out what was going to happen in almost every scene. I did enjoy seeing James Franco (This is the End, 127 Hours) and Kate Bosworth (Blue Crush, 21) play darker roles as brother and sister Morgan “Gator” Bodine and Cassie Bodine Klum. Though this crime film did not offer anything new, I was grateful at the end for not growing up being an aggressive kid. There were multiple scenes with violence and blood.
Wisdom comes with age and if that is the case then I am still a teenager. Well at least it does when it comes to my driving since I visited South and North Dakota, where they have no posted speed limits. If no one is in the car with me, I am an assertive driver. I cannot understand why cars want to keep getting in my way. Now before you think I am some reckless maniac, I at least do not text or brush my teeth in the car. Except for the driving thing, I was never one for acting out in public. Who knew how true it was when my folks, along with my aunts and uncles, told me I would understand when I got older. If I only had the sense back then that I think I have now. After seeing this dramatic thriller, I wondered if the characters could say the same thing. I do not know if it had to do with not being a party animal or part of the popular group, but I felt old watching this movie. The parties I attended in high school and college were nothing like the ones shown here. Chace Crawford (The Covenant, Gossip Girl-TV) was drug dealer White Mike. Ever since his mother died of cancer, White MIke had stayed on the fringe with his peers. He purposely kept his childhood friend Molly, played by Emma Roberts (Nancy Drew, Wild Child), in the dark about his drug dealing, telling her he worked at his father’s restaurant. When his cousin was murdered, White Mike’s life began to unravel, the effects being felt all around him. I found individual scenes interesting; but when pieced together with Kiefer Sutherland’s (24-TV, The Reluctant Fundamentalist) narration, the drama waned. The acting was decent from Chace and Emma, along with Rory Culkin (Signs, You Can Count on Me) as Chris, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson (Real Steel, Morning Glory) as Lionel and Esti Ginzburg (Movie 43) as Sara Ludlow. Part of the problem was director Joel Schumacher’s (The Phantom of the Opera, Phone Booth) reliance on the story being told to us instead of showing it. If teenagers really act like they did in this film, then I am glad I am old. A couple of brief scenes with blood.
2 stars — DVD
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word avant-garde means: an intelligentsia that develops new or experimental concepts especially in the arts. For me, when I hear someone is avant-garde I know I will either appreciate the artist’s work or I will not. The French director Jean Cocteau was considered avant-garde and I thought his version of Beauty and the Beast was extraordinary. For this movie that was nominated for the Palma d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival, it was considered to be director Gasper Noe’s striking avant-garde piece of work. The story was about brother and sister Oscar and Linda, played by newcomer Nathaniel Brown and Paz de la Hueria (A Walk to Remember, The Cider House Rules). Transplanted to Tokyo, Linda was a stripper and Oscar was a drug dealer. When Oscar was shot dead by the police, his spirit stayed on with the ability to visit past, present and future events. This film was shot as if the camera lens were the eyes of Oscar’s spirit, as we witnessed a gambit of events from the sister’s mourning to childhood, all the way back to conception at the molecular level. I did not mind the use of the camera lens as a set of eyes. It was the extended use of strobe lights and extra long held shots of psychedelic light patterns that I found annoying. The film itself lasted much too long at 161 minutes; it was sorely in need of some strong editing. The idea of the story was intriguing but the execution of it made the film boring for me. Besides the few brief scenes of blood, there were several sexually graphic scenes. Maybe the concept for this hallucinating movie went completely over my head. I just did not get it and found myself being drawn to reading the magazine sitting on my coffee table.
2 stars — DVD