I DO NOT KNOW WHY, BUT adventure thrills are always better when they get shared with someone. Isn’t it true? There is something about experiencing a new thrill that resonates stronger when you have someone come along for the ride. I remember when a group of us went to a new amusement park that had a water ride mimicking white water rafting. We all piled into this circular, inflated yellow raft with a type of steering apparatus in the center. When the park attendant pushed us out of the holding dock, we started out on calm waters. However, it changed rather quickly when we went down an embankment and into this pool of churning water that swept us quickly down the course a/k/a churning river. All of us held onto the steering wheel as we hooted and hollered with all the jostling and bumping the raft was enduring. Sprays of water doused us periodically, keeping us cool in the hot summer sun. As we neared the end of the ride there was a steeper “waterfall” we had to endure. It was a bit tense at first as the water under the raft picked up speed then dropped us into the waterfall, which was an adrenalin rush for me. At the bottom of the falls, the raft quietly floated over to a receiving dock area where park attendants were helping people get out of their rafts. It was one of the best water rides I experienced, and I was glad I did it with my friends. DESPITE HAVING TAKEN MANY LONG WEEKEND trips alone, when I go with friends and family members, there always seems to be an adventure we wind up sharing. Recently in San Diego a couple of us rented a pedal boat to take out into San Diego Bay. We were fine while in the marina because it was smooth and calm as we leisurely pedaled up and down rows of piers and docks. However, when we got out into the bay the water turned choppy with a stronger current underneath. We had to pedal faster as the boat bobbed up and down. Our time out there did not last long as we looked at each other at the same time and said we made it out and now it is time to go back where things are calmer. Once out of the bay we laughed about it since we had these grand plans to go down the coast to see the sights. It still was a great experience that I was glad to be sharing with someone close. I felt the main characters in this fantasy film were experiencing a similar situation to mine, which I enjoyed watching. HER FATHER BELIEVED IT WAS TRUE; so, Dr. Lily Houghton, played by Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place franchise, Mary Poppins Returns), was determined to find this special plant reported only to be found deep in the Amazon jungle. With Dwayne Johnson (Red Notice, Skyscraper) as Frank Wolff, Edgar Ramirez (Deliver Us from Evil, Point Break) as Aguirre, Jack Whitehall (Mother’s Day, Clifford the Big Red Dog) as MacGregor Houghton and Jessie Plemons (The Irishman, The Power of the Dog) as Prince Joachim; this action, adventure comedy was saved by the performances of Dwayne and Emily. I would not put them in the same category as Abbott & Costello or Burns and Allen, but they certainly were a fun couple to watch on the big screen. The script was rather generic as it pulled in ideas from a variety of movie stories such as The Mummy, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Pirates of the Caribbean among others. This was simply a fluffy fantasy film that was easy to view without a lot of thought to it. I am sure if the movie studio made money on this picture, they will then try to do a sequel. If they do, I just hope they get a better story line and script, besides having Emily and Dwayne starring in it.
2 ½ stars
LUCK is such a fickle experience. It seems as if some people get all the luck while others never get a break. I have a friend who is the luckiest person I know when it comes to finding a parking space on city streets. Areas that are congested with cars and people at all hours of the day and all he needs to do is drive into it and BOOM, a space magically appears just for him at the right time. It could be him turning down a short side street to find an untouched open space or simply cruising down a boulevard and someone pulls out of their parking space several feet ahead of him. All I can say is his luck with parking is uncanny. There is another friend of mine who has the best luck when it comes to entering contests and raffles. More times than not this person will wind up winning something for their money; to me this is pure luck. THERE are times where luck is not solely left to chance; it is more determination. If you have ever visited a casino take a look at the people who play the slot machines. They could sit there for hours and lose money time after time, but as soon as they get a hit on a machine the people around them will immediately think that person is lucky. I ask you though, was it real luck or them staying at the same machine until they got a winner? Of course I have seen where a person walks up to a slot machine and on the 1st pull they become a winner. If they take the winnings and leave they are a true winner in my books. You could say they were lucky or maybe it was left to chance. They happened to walk in at the right time when the previous person on the machine left in disgust for not getting a winner after one hour; if they had only stayed for one more play. If you watch this adventure thriller you will have to decide if luck was involved or not. PROSPECTOR Kenny Well, played by Matthew McConaughey (Free State of Jones, The Wolf of Wall Street), had one true love in life and that was gold. The problem was his funds were dwindling but he knew inside he had to hit it big at some point. This film festival winning drama based on a true story also starred Edgar Ramirez (Point Break, Joy) as Michael Acosta and Bryce Dallas Howard (Pete’s Dragon, Jurassic World) as Kay. The story was fascinating and visually this picture was fun to watch with its great outdoor scenes. Matthew did a super job, even putting on 40 pounds for the role, but he was not strong enough to handle the confusing script. At times I felt I was watching a comedy, then a drama; add in the thrills and intrigue and I was left lost. Soon into the movie it seemed as if we were going from one stunt/crisis to another; there was never any time given to explore deeper into the characters. Should you take a chance on seeing this film and hope you enjoy it? I leave it up to you.
I can accept and appreciate a person’s talent. Whether it was something they were born with or they trained for years, it does not matter to me. But I have to tell you it takes something more for that talented person to earn my respect. I know some of you are saying who am I to withhold respect for the talented individual and you would be correct. That person does not know me nor will probably ever meet me, but this is how I am wired. Let me use the swimmer from the recent Olympics who filed a false police report. Being a world champion swimmer with multiple endorsements, at one point had a television show, traveling the world, I assume making a pretty penny and that is not enough for them that they needed to attract more attention to themselves by creating a false crime; I find it sad and disrespectful on many levels. As far as I am concerned I would not devote a second of interest towards anything this person does or says. On top of it I would certainly never buy or even try any product associated with them. Now I do want to make the distinction that there may be a talented person who does not have the same beliefs I do and that is okay. Fortunately I live in a place where freedom of speech is protected, so I do not have any issue with someone who may act in a way that is not compatible to my way of thinking; I still respect and accept them even if at times I feel conflicted with their actions compared to their achievements. The main character in this biographical drama would be a perfect example of what I mean. SOMETHING special took place when Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran, played by Edgar Ramirez (Point Break, Joy), met an American trainer named Ray Arcel, played by Robert De Niro (The Intern, Grudge Match). Though I knew some of the names in this action movie I really did not know anything about their history. With musician Usher Raymond (Muppets Most Wanted, Scary Movie 5) as Sugar Ray Leonard, Ruben Blades (Safe House, The Devil’s Own) as Carlos Eleta and Ana de Armas (War Dogs, Anabel) as Felicidad Iglesias; I thought the best acting came out of Edgar and Robert. Usher did not look or act the character though he had his dance moves for the footwork needed in the boxing ring. One of the reasons I thought Edgar’s acting was exceptional was the way I was reacting to his character. On one side you had this incredibly talented boxer who to me was arrogant and rude; but on the other hand, he could be generous and loving. It was a conflict for me which meant Edgar was doing a good portrayal. I just wished the script was better because there was too much going on with various story lines, besides the predictability of it. Most events except for the well choreographed boxing scenes felt like they were only scratching the surface. Just as I felt conflicted about the boxer as a person, I felt the same way about this movie. There were scenes that showed blood.
These machines were built for one’s enjoyment but if used in a certain way they would become torturous. I am not sure how many of you even know what a slide projector is but I have one in my possession. There was a time where people took pictures with cameras that used film; some of that film was meant to be developed into slides. A slide projector was used to display these types of photographs up onto a projection screen or a really, really white painted wall. I am a huge fan of photography having minored it in college. For me photos provide a visual history about a person. They have a way of letting us revisit a moment in time to re-experience the emotions we had back then. Whenever someone tells me they took pictures while on vacation I am the first to ask if I could see them. One of the reasons, besides seeing people enjoying themselves, is my being able to see places I have never seen or at least to see it through someone else’s eyes. A different perspective can enhance one’s own memories about a place. Now that I talked about the positive aspects, let me tell you about the unpleasantness one can encounter if the photo taker goes astray. You have been sitting for almost an hour while your host is showing you their photos from a recent trip. When you said you wanted to see them you had no idea there would be that many photos, photos of artificially flavored snow cones to their rental cars to clouds to benign forests to their motel room; you get the picture? If not, then try sitting through this action crime film. UNDERCOVER FBI agent Utah, played by Luke Bracey (The November Man, The Best of Me), needed to infiltrate a group of extreme sports athletes to solve an international crime case. The challenge would be to survive the death defying feats. The story for this crime film spanned the entire globe, offering spectacular outdoor scenes. I felt I was going through a collection of saved postcards from a world traveler. The action was intense, with stunts that were dumbfounding. With Edgar Ramirez (Joy, Deliver Us From Evil) as Bodhi and Ray Winstone (Hugo, The Departed) as Pappas being part of the cast, this movie was all about the visual experience; there was nothing else positive about the film. This remake barely resembled the original film; there was weak and cheesy dialog, bare minimum acting and a story that made little sense. Except for enjoying scenes from the different continents I was bored throughout the majority of this picture. It literally felt like I was being held hostage to sit through someone’s vacation pictures for however long was this movie’s running time. If I had a choice I would have preferred to stay home and wait for the characters to send me a postcard.
1 1/2 stars
They are talking though they are standing alone. Without evidence of an earpiece or some other type of cellular device, you search for any visual clue that can help you evaluate the person’s mental state. The hair is disheveled as if a gust of wind tried to steal several strands and the clothes appear to be well-worn, nothing out of the ordinary. Just their slight swaying side to side as if they were pouring their body weight from one leg to the other makes you pause a second before walking past them. I cannot tell you how many times this very thing has happened to me. It is quite ironic that I am one of the more skeptical ones in my circle of friends and yet, I am the one that attracts people who appear to be living in a reality that was somewhat askew. Walking down the street with several friends around me, I will be the one that gets signaled out by a person asking off the wall questions, expecting me to answer in kind. A majority of these encounters tend to happen to me on public transportation. In the past I have dismissed these individuals as addicts or chemically imbalanced; but after seeing this horror movie, I have to wonder now if there was something else going on for those strangers. INSPIRED by a true story, this film festival nominee would not be something I would classify 100% as a horror picture. It was more of a crime, thriller, horror film. Based on the book by New York police officer Sarchie, played by Eric Bana (Star Trek, Munich), this story followed Sarchie and his partner Butler, played by Joel McHale (Ted, Blended), as they were investigating a series of unexplainable acts taking place around the city. I really liked the acting from Eric and especially Joel, who was more familiar to me playing comedic roles. Edgar Ramirez (Wrath of the Titans, Vantage Point) was just as good with his character Mendoza. There were several scenes that worked well with tension and fear. Unfortunately it was not sustained throughout the movie, some parts were just flat. The main reason this film did not work as well as it could was due to the story, there was absolutely nothing new compared to any of the previous movies that involved individuals appearing to be possessed. It was a missed opportunity because there were inklings of this movie becoming a good scary flick. On the other hand I now have something else to think about when a stranger approaches me and that scares me more. There were several scenes that had blood and violence in them.
I do not want to see the aftermath of a major accident. A car crash, where the vehicles are crinkled and smoking, with the flashing lights of police cars all around is nothing I want to slow down and stare at as I drive by. It is hard for me to watch the news when they show the aftermath of a terrorist attack with people strewn about like limp broken dolls. Even in movies I am not fond of seeing the scenes that show realistic bloodshed. If a character gets shot with a ray gun it does not bother me; but if it is a sawed off shotgun, I would rather not have to see the outcome. Just to let you know as a movie reviewer I never look away from a film no matter how gruesome it may be. When a movie is made about a situation that actually took place there is a distinction that has to be made. If the film is a documentary I expect to hear real facts and see actual footage. Now if the story is done as a dramatization I understand the writers may take certain liberties to enhance the story and make it more entertaining for the viewer. In the case of this biographical crime drama, I understand it may not be exact factual information and for that reason I am reviewing it as an entertainment piece not judging the acts shown or the political statement. First aired as a television miniseries, this tense thriller was about the infamous terrorist Illich Ramirez Sanchez aka Carlos the Jackal. A Venezuelan revolutionary, one of Carlos’ famous acts was the 1975 raid on the OPEC ministers during their annual meeting. Edgar Ramirez (Vantage Point, Wrath of the Titans) was incredible playing the intense, egotistical terrorist Carlos. Even when his scenes required him to speak in a different language he was seamless in the way his character interacted with a variety of foreign individuals. The length of this Golden Globe winning series was 5 hours and 33 minutes on multiple DVDs and I was never bored as I watched it. My remembrances of the actual events depicted in this drama were vague, but due to the tightly written story and excellent direction I found myself staying engaged with every scene. This was an extremely well done, provocative dramatization of a person who, whether he liked it or not, was famous with a larger than life reputation. There were several brief scenes that showed blood. English subtitles were used during the scenes that had Arabic, German, Spanish, French, Hungarian, Japanese or Russian dialog.
3 1/2 — DVD