THE ghost from the love of her life remained close to her even after she found herself alone. They had been together for some years so the ghost was familiar with many of the things she enjoyed doing when she was part of a couple. She would hear a particular song and feel a tug at her heart as her feet prepared to move into step to the music; it was their song they danced to when they first expressed their love for each other. The times when she drove by the lake she could look out and almost see the two of them frolicking between the waves. No matter where or when she would experience these random moments, where she sensed there was something around her, it would alert at least one if not more of her senses. An aroma, a sound, a particular look to something and she would feel her heart sigh, experiencing a brief feeling as if she was not alone. WHEN it comes to whether I believe in ghosts or not I do not have an opinion one way or the other. Let me say I believe anything is possible just because there have been things I experienced that cannot be explained. Maybe there are invisible souls connected to us in some way; how would we really know? I will say love can affect us in such a strong way that sometimes the connection never gets broken. To this day there are a few songs I hear that immediately send me back to a time where I was sharing life with another. As time goes on I do not believe we really forget someone; I feel we just create different routines that do not always take us to the same places we used to share with them. Not to say everyone does this; there are some people who prefer staying in the same spot so they do not have to move on. EVEN in death C, played by Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea, Out of the Furnace), found himself in the same home he shared with M, played by Rooney Mara (The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). The difference was she could not see him. Written and directed by David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints), this dramatic romantic fantasy offered a deep message. I appreciated how the script tackled the topics of love, loss, legacy and connection; however, I thought the presentation of it was a slow process. One would expect the acting to be good coming from Casey and Rooney and for the most part it was, though over half the movie Casey was covered in a white sheet. For me the pacing was tedious and it was apparent I was not the only one who felt this way. During a scene where Rooney was eating an entire pie, an audience member yelled out, “It is enough already,” when the camera remained on Rooney the whole time; it really was getting painful to watch I have to say. And this is the issue I had with this picture; there were several times where I wanted to flip a switch to make the film go faster. From the trailers I was intrigued by this story and wanted the movie to be a good viewing experience. The story made me think but its execution was not entertaining for me and that is how I base my ratings.
“YOU’RE wishing your life away” is what she told me. I was complaining about having to go to a social function I did not want to attend and my friend told me I needed to stop wishing things were over. Explaining my reasons for not wanting to attend, she pointed out there was no choice in the matter since I was required to attend; so why keep complaining about it because nothing is going to change. She was right; there really was nothing I could do about the situation. Of course, that did not stop me from complaining and wishing I did not have to go to the event. I am so used to or maybe it is better to say I have been programmed for so many years to wish things away; let me tell you why. DEPENDING on my age I have spent a majority of my youth wishing certain things were different. As a young boy I wanted to fly or at least be invisible; when you cannot be seen you cannot get hurt. When I learned how to bowl it seemed it was a long time before my wish came true to throw a strike. By the time I was in high school my wish list expanded greatly. Besides wishing myself away I also wished something bad would happen to my tormentors. The list of “bad things” is way too long to list here; let me just say some of the wishes included burning, drowning and torture. These wishes created if you will an alternative world where I was in control and not getting hurt. During that time I did have other wishes like wanting to be skinny, strong and a world traveler. Correct me if I am wrong in my assumption but I do not think I was the only one who had wishes. Based on how many people I have seen at the convenience store buying lottery tickets, it seems many people wish for something to happen in their lives. Another example is the high school girl in this fantasy, horror thriller. FINDING an unusual discarded Chinese box Clare Shannon, played by Joey King (Wish I Was Here, Independence Day: Resurgence), discovered what she wished for would come true. What she did not know was the price that needed to be paid to make that wish turn into reality. With a cast that included Ryan Phillippe (The Lincoln Lawyer, Cruel Intentions) as Jonathan Shannon, Ki Hong Lee (The Maze Runner franchise, The Stanford Prison Experiment) as Ryan Hui and newcomer Mitchell Slaggert as Paul Middlebrook; this story had a decent idea that quickly dropped into the dumpster. There was nothing scary per se; just a few scenes of violence. If the writers were trying to unnerve the viewer with tension I did not see anything worthwhile. At one point I felt sad for the actors because the script was so typical it was easy to figure out what the next scene would be. I did not find the acting anything to write home about; it was close to forgettable though I was drawn most to Joey and Ki with their roles. For a majority of this film I sat in my seat feeling bored; wishing I did not have to be there, stuck watching it. Oh there I go again wishing for something to be over; but in this case, I feel I was justified. There were violent scenes and in the middle of the credits there was an extra scene.
1 ½ stars
I have chosen to believe there are more people on this planet who want to do good than those who wish to do harm. Granted there have been times where I did not think that was the case. From time to time I still remember a kid in elementary school who tortured and killed a cat. Though “they” say people can change, I have my doubts about this person. Just as I was leaving for the office this morning I heard on the news authorities found baby coyotes drowned in a bucket of water. It seems the past several weeks only horrific news of people taking the lives of others has been reported. I can tell you it is not easy to stay positive with what has been taking place around all of us. However an example will come by that renews or restores my faith and give me hope that good will overpower evil. RECENTLY after seeing this film I was watching a news magazine type of television show. A segment was devoted to a woman who has devoted her life to protecting elephants from poachers. She even moved her family to Kenya so she could commit more time to her efforts. I was amazed as I watched this woman negotiate with the village elders to help by reporting to the authorities any sightings of poachers in their area. If I remember correctly she helped set up a program to help captured poachers get rehabilitation and find them decent employment opportunities. They even showed 2 poachers who were sworn enemies that now are friends, working as forest rangers. All of this woman’s efforts were geared to protect elephants from being slaughtered for their tusks. One of the things I find fascinating about individuals who devote such energy towards goodness is where their motivation comes from. Is it something they are born with or does it come from a series of events? Not being familiar with the Wonder Woman character I was totally impressed by her motivation to do good in this action adventure fantasy. WHEN a plane crashed off the shores of her homeland Diana, played by Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious franchise, Keeping up with the Jones), the princess of the Amazons discovered there was an evil force in the world wanting to do harm. She quickly realized what she had to do. With Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, The Finest Hours) as Steve Trevor, Connie Nielsen (One Hour Photo, Gladiator) as Hippolyta and Danny Huston (Children of Men, The Aviator) as Ludendorff; the script to this story was well thought out. I learned about Diana before she became Wonder Woman. The humor, action, drama were beautifully blended for a thoroughly entertaining movie experience. The soundtrack even had a bit of a throwback acknowledgement to the TV show. While the special effects were fun, they had a comic book vibe which was enjoyable to me. Keep in mind my only exposure to this superhero previously was the actress Lynda Carter, where she would spin around to change into her Wonder Woman garb. This was a well done picture that came from a female’s sensibilities; in fact, I understand it earned the highest weekend opening for a film directed by a woman. If that is not enough to convince you to see this picture, I want you to also know everyone in the theater where I saw this film applauded at the end.
3 ½ stars
ONCE again I was dressed up as a clown. I actually had no complaints about the costume; it was custom made using satin fabric. The buttons down the front were these big colored pom-pom looking things. Though the outfit was not made for me, it had been handed down; only a few adjustments were needed for me to safely walk in it. There was a cone shaped hat with another of those pom-poms attached on top that completed the outfit. I could only wear the hat for a short time before the strap holding it down on my head started to irritate under my chin. The first time the costume was worn by the original owner, they won a costume contest at a local theater. By the time I got the outfit, it was still in good shape. Why wouldn’t it be? It was handmade with strong stitching and detailing. You could not compare it to one of those store bought costumes for the fabric was thicker and it must have had better elastic because the cuffs of the legs still were able to hug my ankles, helping the balloon effect of the pants. AFTER wearing the clown costume every Halloween for a few years I finally was able to pick out my very own outfit. The reason was due to me outgrowing the pants, both in length and width. I remember spending the longest time at the toy store deciding what I wanted to be. I looked at the popular outfits like a soldier and pirate, but it seemed like all my friends were picking those outfits to wear. Finally I decided to become an astronaut; I thought the white spacesuit was cool with its fake badges and big pockets. And of course the big feature was the helmet though I had wished the visor would have been real. You would have thought I would have been thrilled to walk the neighborhood in my new outfit but I did not experience that feeling. After wearing the same costume for a few years I was just getting to the age where I really did not care to go trick or treating anymore. It is a similar feeling to what I experienced watching this action adventure fantasy. WITH the rumors possibly being true about Poseidon’s trident, opposing forces were in a mad dash to gain the powerful device. Starring Johnny Depp (Black Mass, The Lone Ranger) as Captain Jack Sparrow, Javier Bardem (The Gunman, No Country for Old Men) as Captain Salazar and Geoffrey Rush (The Book Thief, The Best Offer) as Captain Hector Barbossa; the best acting came from Javier and Geoffrey. In fact I could watch Javier if there was a spinoff to this film franchise. The reason being the story here was a hodgepodge. It did not help that I thought Johnny brought nothing new to the role; besides the script felt a bit tired with the same type of things seen in the previous films. Having said that, I will say I enjoyed the special effects in this picture and there were a lot of them. The majority of the scenes were action based, almost to the point of one after another after another. One other issue I had was the length of this movie; I felt it needed another round of editing. If you want light familiar fare to make the time go by then this newest installment might satisfy you; however, don’t be surprised if it leaves you wanting more. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
FIRST thing we would do is look for a thick stick or broken tree branch. If none could be found then we would head down the alley to see if there was anything lying around that had been discarded by the neighbors. Once something was found the next step was to look for a place to impale the object; a mound of dirt, a pile of leaves, or a large snowdrift would do. As soon as the stick or piece of wood was stuck into the ground it became our sword, a special one. If it was during winter we would break up into 2 teams and battle each other with snowballs as each of us tried to get to the sword and pull it out as the rightful owner who would be king. All of us were familiar with the story about King Arthur and his knights of the round table. Also I think each of us at some point had seen the movie, “The Sword in the Stone.” I saw it 3 times; hoping a bit of Merlin’s magic would rub off on me. AFTER all these years there are certain story lines that remain embedded in my brain. I may not remember every detail but certainly have a good idea of what took place. I find it fascinating that fairy tales read or seen as a kid remain more vivid in my memory than where I parked my car in the parking lot on a recent trip to the grocery store. There is something about these childhood fantasies that always stay strong in us. I wonder if part of the reason is due to the morals of the story, especially in the animated versions. A kiss that wakes up one’s true love or the physical ramifications of lying to someone; until this very moment I never consciously realized these stories were teaching me a lesson. Maybe because of these memories I have about King Arthur caused me to now be confused by what I was seeing in this dramatic, action adventure film. UNTIL King Vortigern, played by Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes franchise, The Talented Mr. Ripley), forced every male to make an attempt to pull the recently discovered sword from out of its stone; Arthur, played by Charlie Hunnam (The Lost City of Z, Crimson Peak), had no idea about his heritage when he became the only successful male to remove the special sword. Written and directed by Guy Ritchie (Snatch, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), this movie also starred Astrid Berges-Frisbey (The Sea Wall, I Origins) as the Mage, Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, Gladiator) as Bedivere and Eric Bana (Troy, The Time Traveler’s Wife) as Uther. The story hardly represented the one I had known as a child. Normally that would be okay; however, the script was so loose and disconnected that I sat through most of this picture puzzled by what I was watching. There were some scenes that worked for me, where I enjoyed the CGI effects like the eagle and massive elephants. But then other scenes literally looked like video game clips which were lost on me because I did not care for the quick cut and paste editing. I also dislike modern language in a period piece. For the amount of money the studio spent, all I can say is Jude plays a good evil person and Charlie has a definite presence that lights up the movie screen. They should have kept the sword locked in the stone and forget this story; what a mess.
1 2/3 stars
WHEN I saw Rosie helping the Jetson family and Data assisting the crew of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, I believed an opportunity was being created for mankind to better itself. Removing some of the unimportant necessities of the day would allow man to study and learn more about life; in other words humans could reach a higher level of consciousness. Witnessing the blending of mechanical objects with people really has been an extraordinary event. Just think about individuals who received mechanical hearts and valves or athletes getting artificial arms and legs; it has changed people’s perceptions about what it means to be physically challenged. Just in the past several months the news reported on an artificial hand that a person could control with their mind; did you ever imagine this becoming reality during your lifetime? I vaguely remember an advertisement tagline that said something like, “better living through science.” This idea certainly has validity; however, I have a growing concern that science, depending on who is calling the shots, could dominate mankind. ONE of my concerns for some time has been the manipulations taking place in our food chain. I am not comfortable ingesting a food item that has been genetically modified. The idea of animals being injected with growth hormones to create supersized creatures to yield more meat or milk frightens me. This was one of the reasons I gave up red meat years ago. Another area that concerns me is the “beauty” industry. With the amount of chemicals people apply to themselves on a daily basis with their soaps, dyes and makeup; I just wonder what the body does with it when the products get absorbed into the skin. Even seeing people who have gone through extensive plastic surgery to maintain their youthful appearance troubles me. I remember standing next to a television celebrity who was talking to their aide. Their face barely budged as the lips were forming words; their facial expression was totally void of any emotion. The title of this futuristic action film could easily apply to this celebrity. MAJOR, played by Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers franchise, Lost in Translation), was the first of her kind; she was the ultimate blend of human and machine. At least she thought so until she started experiencing flashbacks. Watching this dramatic crime movie was a wild visual ride. All I could think about was it looked like a cross between the films Blade Runner and The Fifth Element. Based on the graphic novel this movie also starred Pilou Asbaek (Lucy, A Hijacking) as Batou, Juliette Binoche (Godzilla, The 33) as Dr. Ouelet and Michael Pitt (Seven Psychopaths, The Dreamers) as Kuze. I am not familiar with the story; however, the first half of this picture had me totally into it. Scarlett was good with the physical demands of the role, but I thought the acting part was one dimensional; unless that was how the character was written in the book. The last half of the film for me turned into a typical action movie; in fact, I am concerned Scarlett is being typecast since her character shared similarities with her Lucy and Avengers characters. I would have preferred if the script had stayed focused on the storyline regarding the flashbacks. The title of this movie remained with me afterwards as I wondered if this is where science will be going in the future.
2 ½ stars
WHEN I ask why they are attracted to that certain feature of the individual, the answer is never the same. It is perplexing to me how people acquire a particular attraction to a person’s height, hair color or body type. Friends of mine to this day test me because they cannot believe I do not pay attention to the surface details of an individual. They will point at someone and ask me if I would be attracted to that person. Each time I have to tell them I do not know until I have had a couple of conversations with that particular individual. Maybe from my studies in psychology I attempt to rationalize a person’s tastes in potential dates. In some circles of thought one could say one of the reasons a person is attracted to redheads is because they are less available, rarer if you will. This person wants to stand out from the pack. Someone may be attracted to facial hair because it represents a father figure, an authoritarian. There are so many different interpretations, yet they still do not answer my fundamental thought: why should it make a difference what a person looks like? You can have what looks like the most perfect apple in your hand, but it still may be rotten underneath the skin. TAKING this a step further, I feel the same way about a person’s ethnicity. The only thing a person’s ethnic makeup tells me is what region of the world their ancestors were born. After taking in the cultural differences, I do not find anything different between people of different races. Each group produces geniuses, thieves, liars, bigoted and loving people. I find this whole discrimination thing puzzling and troubling. People are quick to make judgments about individuals solely based on skin color; I just do not get it. From what I have said you may begin to suspect, this fairy tale is one my favorite stories from childhood. SIMPLY by plucking a single rose off a bush Maurice, played by Kevin Kline (Cry Freedom, My Old Lady), was imprisoned by a monstrous beast, played by Dan Stevens (The Guest, Downton Abbey-TV). If it was not for his daughter Belle, played by Emma Watson (The Bling Ring, Harry Potter franchise); Maurice would have never survived the ordeal. This live action, fantasy musical was based on the animated film version of this story done in the 1990s. With Luke Evans (Dracula Untold, The Raven) as Gaston and Josh Gad (The Wedding Ringer, Jobs) as LeFou, the cast members not associated with singing surprised me with their vocal abilities. Emma took her character and made it a somewhat more modern and determined figure. I do not know if it was because of this or not, but I found her interactions with the Beast emotionally too fast. She never had a sense of revulsion upon meeting the Beast; in other words there was a lack of tension between the two. The same argument could be made with other portions of the film; the story was quickly pushed from one action scene to another I felt. At least the creativity and imagination that went into the sets and individual pieces were thoroughly entertaining. Along with the wonderful musical score and beautiful story, there are more things to like about this film than not. Maybe just do not look too deep under the surface to find the cracks.
SITTING in the semi-darkened theater waiting for the movie trailers to begin, I was wondering how many different film variations of King Kong I had seen. I believe I saw every one of them and I could even include the robotic one Bette Midler used in one of her concerts, where she played the Fay Wray character who was sprawled out across King Kong’s palm. Thinking about these different versions of the big ape, we really have come a long way from the 1st one to the latest one I was about to see. Of course I was basing it on the movie trailers I had recently seen. Recalling the earlier Kong versions, I can still remember how fake looking he was in the oldest movies. My guess is the writers needed to fine tune their script to keep the audience engaged with the story since an unrealistic looking gorilla would quickly become boring. SPEAKING of story lines I wondered what the writers would do to keep me interested in this umpteenth time of me watching a King Kong film. More often than not I have noticed when a movie comes out with a well known character that has played before the script is updated to reflect current times. Sometimes it works and sometimes it is a bust. I can remember a group of classic horror monsters like Frankenstein and the Mummy being part of a series of movies that were based in comedy, starring comedians and comedy duos. Personally I found them ridiculous; taking such classic horror characters and placing them in a genre of films that no one would ever consider for them, diminishes their scariness in the public’s eyes. With these thoughts in mind the movie theater lights became dark and I sat back in my seat to see what Kong was up to these days. FLYING over the Pacific Ocean, bound for a newly discovered uncharted island, a group of scientists and soldiers did not know they would be disturbing the inhabitants to the point of making them angry. This action adventure fantasy succeeded because of the special effects. From all the different versions of King Kong I have seen on film, this was the best looking or should I say the most realistic version of King Kong. The fight scenes were exciting, especially the opening one. If this film had not been so technically advanced I would have been bored by the script. With Tom Hiddleston (Crimson Peak, I Saw the Light) as James Conrad, Samuel L. Jackson (The Legend of Tarzan, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) as Preston Packard, Brie Larson (Room, Short Term 12) as Mason Weaver and John C. Reilly (Carnage, Step Brothers) as Hank Marlow; I only found Hank’s character interesting. Samuel was doing his identical acting thing, so no surprises there. However I was surprised how stiff Tom and Brie were with their characters. This was partially due to the script that offered no insights, along with the direction that kept them one dimensional. Only John C. Reilly and John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane, The Monuments Men) as Bill Randa offered any interest among the cast. If you are into visual experiences then you would want to see this picture inside a movie theater. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
FROM my experiences I know every person treats religion differently. I also am aware of the differences between someone who is religious compared to a person who is spiritual. Some years ago I knew a man who went to temple every day to pray. He followed his religion’s customs and traditions fully, handing them down to his children. The interesting thing was after he died his wife stopped following the rituals; not totally but she became more relaxed about the structure shall we say. I know another person who partakes in all the customs of her religion, but her actions are not of a religious person. Just because you attend services and donate money to charity does not automatically make one religious. In other words you have to practice what you preach. This person discriminates against a variety of minorities; I am talking blatantly speaks out against them. I just sit and wonder how they can justify their actions based on how much they talk about their religious participation. THOUGH I understand the circumstances were devastating for the individual I still find it curious when they suddenly become religious. I have experienced this myself on some level at a time when I felt there was no hope of me coming out unscathed. It took place one of the times I was being chased by a group of bullies after school. Hiding behind a couple of garbage cans on the back porch of an apartment building, I could hear them below me. They must have been looking up at the porches of the 4 storied building before running up the stairs to only check on the top floor they could not fully see from the alley. I remember praying to God to keep me hidden from them until they came down the stairway and were long gone. Due to this experience I have gained insight or maybe it is sensitivity to the actions taken by someone experiencing tragedy, like the family in this inspirational fantasy drama. DEEP into depression from a tragic event Mack Phillips, played by Sam Worthington (Clash of the Titans franchise, Avatar), one day received a letter in his box without a postmark. It was from someone he stopped believing in. Based on the bestselling book this fantasy movie also starred Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, The Help) as Papa, Radha Mitchell (Man on Fire, Looking for Grace) as Nan Phillips and Tim McGraw (The Blind Side, Country Strong) as Willie. I appreciated the idea behind this film’s story and felt the cast was certainly capable to bring the story to life. My issue lies with the director; the pacing was slow to the point I felt the story was dragging. Add in the script being stacked in favor of manipulating the viewers’ emotions to shed tears, I did not find this a pleasant movie watching experience. If the story would have been told in a more even handed way, allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions, I feel the film would have been better all around. Sitting next to me through this picture were a couple of friends who are more religious than me. Asking them what they thought, they felt the same way I did about the movie. The story was a sad one that did not give them a sense of comfort due to the poor writing and direction.
2 ¼ stars
WALKING among the ancient relics in the midst of reproductions was exciting. The museum had opened an exhibit devoted to the achievements of ancient man. As I started to walk around the displays I came up to glass cases that had several items in each one. According to the printed cards next to each item these objects were all tools that must have been used eons ago. To tell you the truth except for the obvious hammer and chisel devices I would not know these things were tools. I wondered how the archeologists and scientists figured it out. Among the cases there were blueprints displayed on large easels that stood alongside each case. The plans were modern but they depicted the schematics to ancient structures that historians believed would have been built using some of these same tools that were in the cases. I may be a pessimist but how did they really know? At least I could see the blueprints and corresponding tools would make a good story for the visitors. IN another part of the exhibit there were computer monitors set up to provide visual mini tours of some famous structures. I gravitated towards these monitors and stopped at the first one which was focused on a famous temple in Cambodia. I knew about the temple only because a friend of mine had traveled to it and shared his photographs with me. Listening to the film’s narrator I heard a variety of statements being made about the uses or purposes to several portions of the temple’s structure. How could one really know that a platform jutting out from a side entryway was used for sacrifices I wondered? Maybe it was used as a balcony or it was a portion of a bridge that had fallen apart; who could really say with certainty what something was from so long ago? Call me a skeptic but I tend to need more proof before I will accept someone’s version of an ancient item’s purpose. Maybe this is why I had a hard time believing this action adventure film. MERCENARIES William and Tovar, played by Matt Damon (The Martian, Promised Land) and Pedro Pascal (The Adjustment Bureau, Game of Thrones-TV), were traveling through China in search of a black powder that was rumored to be a powerful weapon. Their search would lead them to something scarier than the powder. Directed by Yimou Zhang (House of Flying Daggers, Hero), this was the largest production to be filmed entirely in China. I will say this expansive fantasy picture had some wonderful visual scenes. Women warriors swinging off of the Great Wall of China looked like a cross between a ballet company and Cirque du Soleil; it was beautiful to watch. Also starring Tian Jing (Special ID, The Warring States) as Commander Lin Mae and William Dafoe (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Platoon) as Ballard, I found the story to be silly and the script to be even sillier. The idea of fending off “alien” creatures was an odd concept, but if that is the idea I would have reluctantly been okay with it if the script was written better. I was periodically bored and the CGI effects did not help the situation. Except for a couple of well choreographed fight scenes I actually enjoyed the craziness of the Great Wall’s defenses. Who knows, maybe there is actual proof somewhere that the wall used to do these things.
1 ¾ stars