I TOLD HIM I THOUGHT IT was a wonderful wish, but it would never fly in his crazy family. My friend was telling me about his recently deceased grandfather’s final wish; he wanted his children to stop fighting and remain friends with each other. I knew my friend’s family well for many years and they were certainly an argumentative bunch. They also were a fun group of people to be around. The best way to describe them would be to say they were unfiltered; whatever came to their minds was immediately spoken out loud. I asked my friend how the family reacted to their patriarch’s last wish and he said they were all on their best behavior, for the moment. He really did not think the current peacefulness would last long, since all he remembers from growing up is how the family could be laughing together at one moment and then arguing with each other in the next. I remembered my friend’s grandparents; they were short and quiet. They loved being around their children and grandchildren; however, if an argument started to take place between a couple of their kids, they would ask for silence and want to hear what the two siblings were fighting about. Usually this was enough to get the children to calm down or at least to stop arguing and walk away from one another. LATER ON, WHEN I WAS ALONE, I sat and wondered about the grandfather’s wish. As far as I knew, there was no one in my family who had a final wish request. Though, I guess if someone states how they want their death to be handled, that could be considered a final wish. I know amongst my close friends and family members I joke about not wanting to suffer with sadness over their deaths; so, I would need to go first. However, I then tell them I hope to live a long life, so they need to take care of themselves and be around until my time is close to being done here. The other thing I thought about is what would happen if the person who is listening to someone’s final wish just flat out says they cannot fulfill it. I am so used to seeing people in movies agreeing to someone’s final wish that I just assumed everyone would be agreeable. But what if they have no plans to agree to someone’s final wish, but simply nod in agreement knowing full well once the person is dead, they will not do whatever was asked of them. I honestly do not know what I would do in such a situation. I cannot say the same thing for the main character in this action drama fantasy. TAKING HIS MASTER’S LAST WISH TO heart Qing Ming, played by Mark Chao (Caught in the Web, Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe), makes his way to the city where he will find himself in a game of cat and mouse that will determine the fate of the world. With Allen Deng (Great Escape-TV, Ashes of Love-TV) as Bo Ya, Ziwen Wang (Enter the Forbidden City, Ode to Joy-TV) as the Princess, Jessie Li (Port of Call, Our Time Will Come) as Long Ye and Duo Wang (Bloody Romance-TV, Inference Notes) as Zhong Xing/He Shouyue; this film festival nominee was a weird mix of genres for me. It was part folklore, part X-Men, part video game and part martial arts film. I enjoyed the special effects even if they were a bit cheesy at times. The fight scenes were well choreographed and to tell you the truth, I enjoyed the imagination that went into them. The way the story played out, I do not know if this film was based on a book, comic book or video game. Of course, there was a moral message placed in the story; however, I found this movie to be one of those that will be easily forgotten. Chinese was spoken with English subtitles.
2 ¼ stars
ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WAS a “must do” activity for me at an amusement park or carnival was playing the arcade games. I loved the game where I had to aim the water pistol at a hole with a bullseye propped inside to make the balloon expand above it. The winner was the one who had their balloon pop first. Another of my favorite games was the ring toss where I had to toss a rubber ring and try to get it to land on the neck of a glass bottle. My friends and I could hang out inside the arcade for hours or until we had no more change in our pockets. One of my friends spent most of his money trying to either knock down stacked wooden blocks with a ball or three stuffed furry animals off a shelf with a beanbag ball. The problem with the furry animals was they were very small but with all the fur around them, they looked much bigger. When they were placed side by side across an entire shelf, it was hard to knock one of them off; but my friend did not care. He was determined to beat the game and receive his prize. OUT OF ALL THE ARCADE GAMES, the only one I can remember that involved the shooting of a realistic looking gun was the game where one had to shoot moving animal shaped targets. I do not remember if the gun shot anything out of it; all I can recall is hearing a bell ring every time an animal was hit. It is funny how back then I never gave any thought to this game; but now as an adult, I find myself feeling uncomfortable about that game. Keep in mind, I am the person who is appalled by parents bringing their young children to R rated films or ones that are violent. Prior to the pandemic when I was going to the movie theaters, I would stop to look at their arcade room. It was not like I was expecting some of the same games from my youth, but I was stunned at the level of violence portrayed in the current ones. I could not get over the type of battles and fights taking place on the games’ video screens. What I find worse is how realistic looking some of the graphics are on these games. One game that involved fighting different characters had an exorbitant amount of blood being spilled from each vanquished character. And yet, this pales by comparison to what I witnessed in this film festival nominated movie. AN ANCIENT PROPHECY IS ABOUT TO be fulfilled that will end mankind. A down on his luck MMA fighter doesn’t believe it until he encounters one of the contestants in this high-stake contest. With Lewis Tan (Deadpool 2, Sacrifice) as Cole Young, Jessica McNamee (Battle of the Sexes, The Vow) as Sonya Blade, Josh Lawson (The Little Death, Holly Slept Over) as Kano, Joe Taslim (Fast & Furious 6, Star Trek Beyond) as Bi-Han/Sub-Zero and Mehcad Brooks (True Blood-TV, Nobody’s Fool) as Jax; this action, adventure fantasy based on the popular video game was filled with blood and violence. I have never played the game, so I was not prepared for the amount of violence in this picture. The special effects were good as the story was kept at a fast pace. The dialog was cheesy to the point the film started to take on the flavor of a cartoon. The fight scenes which were well choreographed contributed to this cartoonish effect because of the fast pace and wild, graphic CGI effects. It was obvious the movie studio is hoping/planning for a sequel. Though if the level of blood and violence increases, I may prefer to play a game of Pac-Man instead.
IT HAS BEEN A LITTLE OVER one year when we first heard about this new virus spreading around the world. Everywhere I looked there was news about people getting sick and being hospitalized due to this unknown virus. Without the knowledge, all these recommendations were coming out on how to protect oneself: such as avoid touching the face, eyes, mouth, physical human contact and common surfaces. Up until this point, I was going to the movie theaters on a weekly basis. With all this information and warnings coming out, I started questioning whether it was safe to continue going to the movie theaters. Less and less people were there each week. Since it was the tail end of winter, I felt I could stay safe wearing a mask and my winter gloves. It certainly was weird to walk into a theater and see no one at the concession stands. The self-serve beverage machines all had big yellow X’s taped across them and there were no employees behind the candy counter. My ticket was on my phone; so, when I got near the ticket taker, I extended my arm out all the way to avoid getting any closer to him. Funny, he did the same thing with his barcode reader pointed towards me. I WAS THE ONLY PERSON WHEN I walked into the movie auditorium. Not sure what to expect, I picked a seat on the aisle all the way back; so, I could avoid having people walking past me. It turned out, I did not have to worry because only 2 other people showed up, taking seats at the bottom row on the opposite side of the theater. I thought about removing my mask but decided to play it safe by keeping it on. There were ceiling fans slowing turning above, but I had no idea what the air quality was like in the theater. In an odd sort of way, I enjoyed having few people sitting in the theater with me. I did not have to be annoyed with the talking, texting and milling about of people that I typically experienced in the past. For two weeks I continued my schedule of going to the theater, despite the COVID news becoming more ominous. There was talk that our governor was going to order our state to be shut down. I wondered what I would do without a first run movie to review, from the theater. The last week before the shutdown was ordered, this film came out at the theaters. I debated with myself if it was a good idea to go since the news was getting worse; I decided to take a pass on this action, science fiction mystery and stayed home. It was a good call. FINDING THEMSELVES IN A MEDICAL FACILITY, five young adults were the test subjects in a study to determine what was their special powers. The doctor running the study said it was to protect them, but something did not feel right about the place. With Maisie Williams (Then Came You, Game of Thrones-TV) as Rahne Sinclair, Anna Taylor-Joy (The Witch, The Queen’s Gambit-TV) as Illyana Rasputin, Charlie Heaton (Shut In, Stranger Things-TV) as Sam Guthrie, Alice Braga (Portrait of a Thief, Elysium) as Dr. Reyes and Blu Hunt (Another Life-TV, The Originals-TV) as Moonstar; this film festival nominee was the movie studio’s attempt to create an origin story about the X-Men. This movie dragged on for a good portion of the time. Though I enjoyed seeing Maisie and Anna in a different type of role, the script was poorly written. I thought the few special effects were meager. In fact, there was blandness to this picture, both visually and mentally. I am glad I did not pay to see this, and have it become the last movie I saw in a theater before our lockdown.
1 ½ stars
SHE AND I HAD AN ESTABLISHED friendship prior to when she started dating this guy. They seemed compatible to me because I never saw or heard about any drama between them. We would hang out together with a group of friends and he had little trouble fitting in. By the time we were getting ready for college, I was going out of state while she and her boyfriend were going to the same school. During my time away, we still stayed in touch. I heard about the different places they went on the weekends, both of their course loads; in other words, I was getting all the latest information about everyone from her. By the time we were finishing up our undergrad studies, she told me she and her boyfriend were going to get married; it was going to be a small ceremony for their families. I was happy for her. She told me she was going to get a job after college to support the 2 of them while he continued with his studies in law. I was surprised to hear this because I knew she had been planning to continue for a master’s degree. When I asked her about it, she said she was fine postponing her career path until her fiancé got established as a lawyer, then she would return to school. WELL, IT TOOK A LITTLE LONGER than planned for her husband to graduate with a law degree and pass the bar exam. She never complained about the delay in their timetable. However, she did confine in me that they struggle with living off only one salary. She rarely had time to get together with our mutual friends because she was always tired. The day finally came where he did pass the bar exam and would be able to practice law. He landed a position in a prestigious firm and found himself putting in long hours. She was seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, where she would be able to return to school to pursue her career aspirations. Sadly, after one year of practicing law her husband filed for divorce. She was devastated, especially after everything she sacrificed to allow him to pursue his career. I felt horrible for her and did what I could to help lift her spirits. Weirdly this scenario had crossed my mind because I had seen similar results from other couples, when one of the two achieves a higher level of success. Either one starts to mingle with a different crowd or feels they have risen to a higher socioeconomic status and their partner feels they don’t fit it. The whole thing doesn’t make much sense to me if indeed the couple are truly in love with each other. This is the question I had as I watched the couple in this film festival nominated romance. RETURNING FROM THE PREMIERE OF HIS first movie, a director and his girlfriend find themselves in two totally different places that would test the bonds of their love for each other. Written and directed by Sam Levinson (Another Happy Day, Euphoria-TV), this dramatic movie starred John David Washington (Tenet, BlacKkKlansman) as Malcolm and Zendaya (The Greatest Showman, Spider-Man franchise) as Marie. The filming of this picture was beautifully done in a black and white palette. I thought the acting was strong and intense by the two actors, where one could feel the chemistry between them. My issue however was with the script. Due to the multiple scenes filled with arguments, watching this film was tedious at times. Granted the two actors were excellent, but I can only listen to so much heated discussion before I want to tune out. In a way, this story seemed as if it could easily transfer to live theater. By the end of this film, I had mixed emotions. I felt I had seen a glimpse of what could go on in the film world, besides many other similar worlds, when success becomes part of a couple’s equation.
2 ½ stars
IT ALL STARTED BECAUSE I LIVED close to one of 2 “hills” in the city. Since the city I grew up in was virtually flat, any rise or fall in the landscape took on added significance. The “hill” near me would probably not register as a hill to most people; but to those of us who lived near this block long incline to the top land mass, we considered it as our “hill.” There was another hill in a suburb near me, but it was originally a waste dump that the town converted into a sled run and park. They buried the trash in the dump, piling it up to a certain height, then covered it with dirt and grass. In winter we would take our sleds there to ride down what we referred to as the trash mountain. The “hill” near my home was formed by glaciers eons ago; at least, that is what I was told. Supposedly, as the planet heated up and the glaciers melted the land that had been churned up was left, settling into what we now called a “hill.” The idea that a glacier had done this was fascinating to me and began my curiosity with history. THINKING WE WOULD LIKE TO LEAVE a baseball trading card and a couple of toy soldiers for someone in the future to find, a friend and I decided we would dig a hole near the “hill” and bury our future artifacts. We found a small park that was a city block away from the southern part of the “hill,” that had a grassy section near its playground. With our toy shovels and pails in hand, we started digging up a spot in the ground. Once we passed the grass line and got into the dirt, we found a mix of twigs, pebbles and pieces of rock. The hole did not need to be to big, only deep enough to be undisturbed for a generation or two. As I was piling the dirt up next to me, something barely caught the outside of my eyesight. I started to carefully brush aside some of the dirt with my hand, until I was able to make out the partial outline of something metal based. It looked like a piece of silver, maybe a part of an earring or a link from a chain of some kind. I showed my friend who took it out of my hand to turn it over and over before he said he thought it might have been part of a key that had rusted off. We were intrigued with the idea that it may be a clue to some kind of buried treasure. We continued our digging but eventually lost our interest once we got hungry for lunch. I wonder what would have happened if we hadn’t stopped? THE UNUSUAL GRASSY MOUNDS THAT WERE part of her land were something that Edith Pretty, played by Carey Mulligan (Mudbound, Suffragette), was convinced were not created by nature. She only needed to find someone who would believe her. With Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter franchise, The Constant Gardener) as Basil Brown, Danny Webb (Never Grow Old, Alien 3) as John Grateley, Robert Wilfort (Peterloo, Gavin & Stacey-TV) as Billy Lyons and James Dryden (Ready Player One, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw) as George Spooner; this film festival nominee was a beautifully laid out story based on true events. Carey and Ralph handled their characters with deep care and thoughtfulness. I totally enjoyed the way they interacted. An added bonus for me in this dramatic biography was the historical significance of the events taking place. This was more of a slow and steady paced film that had no need for wide swings in emotion; it was simply touching and beautiful. And here all these years, I thought what I had found with my friend was something of importance.
I KNEW HER WHEN SHE HAD dreams of being an artist. She delved into the art world with inks, paper, feathers and stamps; eager to create a line of cards filled with characters and creatures she would copyright one day. I was the recipient for several of her cards; they usually had to be delivered with 2 stamps on the envelopes. If someone were to ask me what her style of art was like, I think I would have a hard time explaining it. There were some figures that had a Victorian flair to them, but then there were others that were almost animal like. I do not mean this in a disrespectful way but for my tastes, I would say her cards were frilly. The addition of buttons or crystals or fringe for me, gave it a frilly look. I will say she was passionate about her craft, going to various workshops and conventions to practice and hone her skills. Besides getting texts with photos of her latest works, we would talk on the phone and she would tell me about her latest creations. She even looked the part, if there is such a type. With hair dyed in various vibrant colors based on the season, she wore funky jewelry; some even made by her. In other words, one could consider her a walking billboard for her products. WHEN SHE INTRODUCED ME TO THE man she was going to marry, it never occurred to me that she would alter her game plan for her art. However, after they were married for a few months I noticed the texts became fewer and farther between, the phone calls were not as consistent as they once were; I was not hearing about her latest creations. When we talked, she still would mention something about a new stamp she bought or some fun card stock; however, I now would infrequently hear about the finished product made from these items. It was not like her husband discouraged her; it was her choice as far as I could tell. I did not hear anything negative about his feelings towards her creative side. It just seemed as if her passion for art was transferred to her passion for her new husband. It had been a long time since she had been married. And that was okay with me if that is how she truly felt; I only wanted her to be happy. I had known other people who got into a relationship and the things they were passionate about had to be curtailed because their spouse was not supportive or did not understand the importance it played in the person’s life. Having a dream and making it a reality are two different things; see how it works in this film festival nominated movie. SYLVIA PARKER, PLAYED BY TESSA THOMPSON (Creed franchise, Men in Black: International), was obsessed with television. Her dream was to become a TV producer. While helping at her father’s record store, Sylvia met someone who also had a dream. With Nnamdi Asomugha (Crown Heights, When the Streetlights Go On-TV) as Halloway, Eva Longoria (Dog Days, Overboard) as Carmen, Aja Naomi King (The Birth of a Nation, The Upside) as Mona and Jemima Kirke (The Little Hours, Ava’s Possessions) as The Countess; this drama was as smooth as fine satin. Set during the 1950s in Harlem, I thought the sets and costumes were spot on and I thoroughly enjoyed the musical score. Tessa and Nnamdi had a palatable chemistry that grew along with the story. The script had a game plan like other romantic films I have seen before; though, I thought the ending lost a bit of steam here. I mean this as a compliment; this was a good old-fashioned romantic drama with a good douse of jazz music thrown in.
FROM THE VARIOUS HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS, I have participated in, this year will provide me with something new. Considering I have been a witness to holiday events that spanned the spectrum from elegant to outrageous, that is saying something. I was invited to a family’s holiday dinner where a fight broke out between 2 sisters at the dining room table. The one sister broke down in tears and ran out of the room; talk about a conversation killer. At another celebration, one of the family’s elders had all the little children sit around the Christmas tree; so, he could tell them the history behind several of the ornaments. That was a wonderful experience because there was a plain, lopsided star shaped, wooden ornament on the tree that had been handed down in the family for generations. I think it was someone like a great, great, great grandparent who had carved the ornament. Listening to the stories behind the tree ornaments was such a cool experience for me and they were not even my own family. As you can see just from these 2 examples, I have been to a variety of family holiday functions and dysfunctions to the point I had thought there was nothing left to surprise me. HEARING HOW THE PRESENTS WERE TO be distributed made me think a logistics company needed to be involved. One person was waiting for a group of packages to be delivered to their house. Once received, they then had to take them and drive to two family members’ houses to drop them off. At the 2ndstop, after their car trunk was empty, they were to receive a group of presents that they then had to bring back to their house. From there another family member was going to arrive to take half the packages and deliver them to relatives who lived down in the city. Several remaining packages were to be driven to relatives who lived close by. I did not have to be the driver for any of these excursions; I just had to carry the presents to load and unload from the cars that pulled into the garage. Once all the packages get delivered to the intended family members, we are going to do a video call where all of us can see each other opening our presents. I have visions of us looking like the opening credits of the TV show, The Brady Bunch; each of us in our own little tick tock box. This will be a new experience for me, and I am guessing for some of you. At least getting together this way has the potential to cut down on the type of antics that went on amongst the family members in this film festival nominee. WITHOUT HER DAUGHTER JOINING HER FOR the holiday Claudia Larson, played by Holly Hunter (The Big Sick, Broadcast News) would have to face her family alone. With low expectations, Claudia was hoping there would be little drama she would get pulled into. With Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man franchise, Due Date) as Tommy Larson, Anne Bancroft (The Miracle Worker, The Graduate) as Adele Larson, Charles Durning (Tootsie, Dog Day Afternoon) as Henry Larson and Dylan McDermott (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Olympus Has Fallen) as Leo Fish; this comedic romance drama had the makings of an old fashioned crazy comedy in the same vein as Bringing Up Baby or Arsenic and Old Lace. The acting was excellent from the entire cast as they played a cast of characters. Where this film falters is the unevenness between the scenes. There were some heartfelt dramatic ones that grabbed me, but then there were others that felt flat and predictable. I will say the writers did a decent job with trying to capture all sides of a family gathering. On a positive note, after seeing this film I am looking forward to having a video family gathering, that comes with a mute button. A safe and happy holiday season I wish to all of you.
2 ½ stars
NO MATTER WHERE I BUMPED INTO him, I always knew what to expect. He would address me with a nickname he made up back when we were classmates. Next, he would ask me if I was still in touch with a classmate of ours before he would make a snide comment about them. I stopped asking him to not make any comments about them but every time we ran into each other, he still made sure to say something. These days I simply do not react to his comments; instead, I ask him something different to switch the subject. Whenever I have bumped into him, I am reminded how I disliked the pettiness and backstabbing that took place amongst the school’s cliques. He was an instigator who enjoyed all that drama. Because he never failed to make a comment about someone we knew, I believed he was trying to get me to join him in badmouthing people from our past; to what purpose, I had no idea. I did find it puzzling that after all these years he had not changed one bit; he was obnoxious back in school as he was now. It was as if he had never grown up and I had to wonder if he had any friends still from our school days. IT WAS INDIVIDUALS LIKE HIM THAT pushed me to apply and accept enrollment in an out of state school. Many of the students I grew up with were applying to our state’s university’s main campus. I decided to send out applications to schools from a few states nearby and some that were close to the coasts. As luck would have it, I wound up at a university where only 2 other fellow classmates planned on attending and if they were there, I never saw them. One of my goals for going out of state for school was to reinvent myself. Due to the experiences I had in my schooling, I did not want to repeat it out of state; so, I worked on myself internally. This meant I had to look back and exam painful experiences, hoping to find an inner strength that would help me not to repeat similar scenarios in my new surroundings. I wanted to return home as a grown-up essentially; someone who past classmates would have a hard time recognizing. I will be honest; it took a lot of work to push out the built-up anger and resentment. Not that it is all gone now, but I know I have been traveling on the right path based on former acquaintances’ reactions when meeting me now. I can see similar work was done by the main actor in this film festival nominated thriller because I did not think once he was Harry Potter playing another character. DESPITE BEING CONVICTED AND IMPRISONED, ANTI-APARTHEID activist Tim Jenkin, played by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter franchise, Swiss Army Man), was determined to get out of his prison cell and continue his fight. With Daniel Webber (Australia Day, Thumper) as Stephen Lee, Ian Hart (Michael Collins, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) as Denis Goldberg, Mark Leonard Winter (The Dressmaker, One Eyed Girl) as Leonard Fontaine and Nathan Page (Underbelly-TV, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries-TV) as Mongo; this movie based on a true story was made better by Daniel Radcliffe’s acting. The story itself was given a typical script, but thanks to Daniel and his fellow inmates, I found myself getting pulled into the activist’s plight. There was some unevenness to the directing; but there was no skimping on the parts that needed to be thrilling. The script did not delve deeply into the characters; but for a good old fashioned “prison break” story, this picture can be proud it was able to break out of the pack from similarly themed films.
2 ¾ stars
WHAT I WOULD HAVE GIVEN FOR a flashlight; it was dumb of me not to think of one. I was visiting a friend out of state, who thought it would be a cool idea to climb a mountain. It was nothing like the Rockies, but it was high enough. We were able to drive up part of it, park, then follow on foot a trail to get to higher ground. Up until that point everything was going fine. The vegetation was thick all around us which made our surroundings cooler in temperature and darker. I was okay since the day had been hot and sunny. Because we were making our way in subdued light, we kept assuming it was still bright outside, and this was our first mistake. As we were ducking under branches and constantly checking the ground for solid footing, we did not realize our ascent was going slower than anticipated. Neither of us thought about the challenges we would face by trying to crawl down in the darkness of night. I THINK IT WAS ME WHO was getting cold first and hungry. We had reached a substantial height where we could see the city glowing in the distance. All we had with us was water; I had wished I had brought a piece of fruit or a granola bar. We decided to turn back by retracing our steps to get back to a trail and then to our car. It did not take long for me to realize we were in trouble. It was nighttime and neither of us could see the ground clearly enough. There were multiple times where one of us thought we had solid footing but then the ground/rock gave away and we would stumble or fall. I fell and scraped the palms of my hands. With no sense of direction, only knowing we had to go down, we were lost. The area was not known for wildlife; however, that did not stop my brain from imagining a multitude of scary creature encounters. The longer we remained stuck on the mountain, the more we were freaking out. After multiple tries and retreats, we finally found a trail. By the time we returned to the car, we had logged nearly 10 hours in total crawling on the mountain. Ever since then, I have always felt an uneasiness whenever I find myself in a remote area. Whether it is in rugged terrain or wide-open spaces, my imagination kicks into high gear on what things could happen to me. This will explain my anxiousness as I watched this dramatic, crime thriller. WITH YOUNG WOMEN GOING MISSING in an area of Alaska, the only lead Jack Holcombe, played by Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas, Face/Off), had was a junkie named Cindy Paulson, played by Vanessa Hudgens (Beastly, Dog Days) and she did not want to be involved with any part of his investigation. With John Cusack (High Fidelity, Love & Mercy) as Robert Hansen, Dean Norris (Total Recall, The Book of Henry) as Sgt. Lyle Haugsven and Gia Mantegna (The Prince, Criminal Minds-TV) as Debbie Peters; this film festival nominee’s story was based on actual events. For that reason, I found this movie creepier than usual. The main leads were quite convincing in the story; in fact, I was impressed with Vanessa’s work in particular. The filming of this picture made the feelings of isolation and despair more prominent throughout the scenes. It almost felt like it was hanging in the air. The story basically was a good guy vs bad guy set-up; I only wished the writers had delved deeper into the characters. It would have made for a more intense viewing, in my opinion. I was already uneasy about remote areas and this movie has now solidified my feelings about them.
2 ¼ stars
WE WERE SITTING AROUND THE DINING room table when his cell phone rang. From where I was sitting, I was able to see the display with the caller’s phone number. The young man had a quizzical look on his face as he studied the number. I took it upon myself to tell him the call was coming from Oklahoma. He looked and asked me how I knew that as he let the call go to voicemail. I told him I knew because of the area code, 405; it was the area code for the Oklahoma City area. He was so surprised by my knowing such a thing that I found it amusing. When he asked me why I knew such a thing, I explained that I have accounts in Oklahoma that I have to call on the phone; so, the area code is something that has stuck in my brain from all the times I have called them. This explanation sparked a curiosity in him that spurred him on to suddenly test me. He asked if I knew any other area codes; I told him I know some states, but not all of them. He needed proof so he unlocked his phone and started looking up area code numbers. Not to toot my own horn, but out of seven area codes he tested me on I knew six of them. He was totally amazed by this; I found the whole thing curious. ON MY WAY HOME, I STARTED to think about the area code “game.” Was my generation the last one that dialed phone numbers instead of pressing one button on their cell phone? I looked at my ability to remember area codes/phone numbers as a positive statement on my brain’s ability to retain information. For some reason, I feel depending on a device for common functions like simple math or reminders will make my mind soft. I will never forget walking into a bank to cash a check for $19.81 and handing the teller nineteen cents to round up the change on the dollar amount. The teller was perplexed by my actions and had to pull out a calculator to figure out I wanted to get back an even $20.00. Besides thinking how they graduated out of high school, I wondered what they would do if they did not have the use of a calculator. When you think about it; don’t you think it would be a valid discussion to say the same thing about someone who only knew how to tell time in a digital format instead of a clock dial? It scares me to think how future generations will function when they do not have a device to depend on and this comedic, science fiction adventure did nothing to help alleviate my concerns. WHAT WAS TO BE A ONE YEAR experiment for Private Joe Bauers, played by Luke Wilson (The Family Stone, Old School), turned into a decades long event that left Joe the smartest man on the planet. He did not believe it until he saw for himself. With Maya Rudolph (Sisters, Away We Go) as Rita, Dax Shephard (Employee of the Month, Chips) as Frito, Terry Crews (The Expendables franchise, John Henry) as President Camacho and Anthony “Citric” Campos (Harsh Times, Lopez-TV) as Secretary of Defense; this film festival nominated movie had a script that was filled with satirical bits and sight gags. A good portion of them hit their mark and were amusing to me. However, the script had so much going on with it that I felt at times things were just silly and dragged on too long. The cast was fun to watch, especially Maya and Dax. Ultimately, I felt the story was relevant and, in some ways, important; the writers just chose a fun way to deliver their message. I do not know what I would do if reading becomes something that we let our digital assistants do for us; you just never know.
2 1/3 stars