THOUGH MY STUDIES DID NOT NECESSARILY cover the psychological makeup of actors, I have seen enough live theater performances to tell when the cast members are enjoying themselves. I do not know if I can explain it properly, but there is a feeling in the air that is like carbonated liquids, with a touch of electricity that sparks the performance. Recently, I was in New York City and attended a couple of Broadway shows. One of the theater productions was a big, old-fashioned musical with a large cast of actors and dancers. The curtain rose and within five minutes the actors went into a big musical number. The male lead was the last one to join in; but once they did, the rest of the performers kicked it up a notch to match the lead’s energy level. Later, the same thing happened when the female lead had her first big singing and dance number. There was so much activity taking place on stage, I did not know where to look first. But no matter who I was focusing on, everyone was vibrant, filled with high energy. I could feel that energy coming out into the auditorium. Do you know those times when you are standing somewhere and can tell when someone has come up behind you? It is in that same vein, but to the umpteenth power of intensity, where I can feel the actors’ joy. GRANTED, A LIVE PERFORMANCE IS DIFFERENT than watching it on film; however, there are times when I am sure the actors are having a great time filming their story. An example that comes to mind are the Marvel superhero films. For me, there is an enthusiasm that comes across the screen, just like the screen presence comes across from an actor. There is a film I will be reviewing shortly, with Emma Thompson, where the energy was infectious coming off the cast. It added an extra layer of enjoyment in my viewing of the picture. Another way of looking at this is to think about a party you have attended. When everyone is experiencing the same type of fun and joy, the party is always more memorable; or at least remembered fondly. When there are guests at a party that are not experiencing the event in the same way, there is a disconnect. I have been to a couple of small events where there was a guest who was not participating in conversation and laughter. It puts a damper on everyone’s experience, in my opinion. Luckily that doesn’t happen in this dramatic crime comedy sequel. LONG TIME FRIENDS MEET AT ONE of their friend’s estates on a Greek island for vacation. Added to the list of guests is the world’s greatest detective which was fortuitous because there was going to be a murder. With Daniel Craig (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, No Time to Die) as Benoit Blanc, Edward Norton (Fight Club, American History X) as Miles Bron, Kate Hudson (Fool’s Gold, Almost Famous) as Birdie Jay, Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, My Spy) as Duke Cody and Janelle Monae (Hidden Figures, Moonlight) as Andi Brand; this movie was a fun viewing experience. The cast was well chosen and not only blended well together but were all deeply into their characters. The script was not as sharp as the first film and at times seemed to be veering off subject; however, the distinct different characters involved smoothed over the rough patches. There were places where I felt this picture was trying to be an Agatha Christie story, except going a more outrageous route. The standouts for me were Janelle and Dave; I felt they had the strongest presence on screen. Still, even with its flaws this was a decent addition to this budding film franchise.
WHEN IT COMES TO BEING JUDGED based on a person’s looks, actions speak louder than words. I learned this early on in my teaching career. Because I did not look like the typical fitness instructor, I was not always taken seriously. I did not have a rock hard, or at least, a solid physique that was muscled or chiseled. The way I would describe myself back then was soft and fluid. Prior to my first teaching position, I had not done any weight bearing exercises; so, I was essentially working out with my classes. I was not the type of person who would spend most of the class time walking around checking on members. My style of teaching was different than the other instructors; it incorporated dance moves where every step was choreographed. It was easier and quicker for me to spot a member who needed assistance when everyone was supposed to be doing the same movement. Trust me, I had new members enter class who left after 5-10 minutes, thinking they would not sweat. I could not say anything to them; however, the people in my class were my best advertisers. Though I did not incorporate moves that looked big and powerful, I had members moving non-stop for one hour. By the end of class, you could look around and see a glow coming off people from their sweat, besides feeling that tingling sensation from muscles that had been working hard. It was may way of showing non-believers I belonged there. THE DISCRIMINATION I EXPERIENCED IN THAT industry, I am aware, is mild compared to the kind I saw at various companies and heard from my friends/relatives. I had a friend who worked at a job he loved; but he could never get a promotion. He knew he worked as hard as everyone else in the department; but whenever there was an opening in the department, he was always overlooked. If he had not accidentally overheard his boss’ comments one day that were derogatory towards a religion, his religion, he would never have found out his boss was prejudiced. It explained all the times my friend was never picked for a higher position. He immediately began searching for another job and I am happy to report he is working at a different company, getting promotions and raises in recognition of all the good work he is doing. Discrimination is ugly and I am always stunned when a person in a high position displays such ugliness. I wonder how the company could allow such behavior and how they can be successful. How many good employees does a company lose in such an environment? In this dramatic film, imagine what opportunities would have been missed if the main character had decided to give up. BEING A US NAVY FIGHTER PILOT was already a tough job. It was even harder when all eyes were watching you. With Jonathan Majors (The Harder They Fall, Lovecraft Country-TV) as Jesse Brown, Glen Powell (Hidden Figures, Everybody Wants Some!!) as Tom Hudner, Christina Jackson (The Night House, Boardwalk Empire-TV) as Daisy Brown, Thomas Sadoski (Wild, Killing Eleanor) as Dick Cevoli and Daren Kagosoff (Ouija, The Secret Life of the American Teenager-TV) as Bill Koenig; this action war drama was based on a true story and what a story. Jonathan was the standout for me; he came across as totally believable with his character. I would have liked to have gotten more back story to his character as well as the others; however, this was a minor complaint compared to watching this well-balanced movie. The directing was straight forward as well as the script. Everything had its place and intension; there was nothing frivolous in the film. Set during the start of the Korean War, this movie shows what can happen when friendships are formed.
3 ¼ stars
I CANNOT REMEMBER HOW WE STARTED out as friends, but I knew it was prior to the third grade and we quickly became best friends. Because we always sat together at various school events, when our parents were in attendance, they became acquainted with each other and soon after were friends as well. Many a time, I would sleep over at their house on the weekends, more so than he at mine because they had more room. He had an older brother that I did not see much of, though I do not know why. What I do remember about him was that he was always getting in trouble, both at school and home. We both were into science fiction stories whether it was books, comic books or movies. Also, each of us had a large collection of plastic army men; we would have some great battles across our living room floors. I still remember I had a portable missile launcher that would take out a group of his soldiers on the carpeted battlefield. The problem was that it only had two missiles. Pretty much, we had the same interests and likes; the only difference between us was he was taller and more athletic. He wound up always being the pitcher anytime we played baseball in our gym class. WITH HIS SUCCESSES AT DIFFERENCE SPORTS activities, he was becoming friends with a bunch of boys I had little contact with during class. He did not have the same amount of time to hang out with me and as the school year progressed, we started to drift apart. I was not athletic at all and had no interest in playing any sporting games. Looking back, I can say I felt hurt; however, I realized he was not doing it on purpose. He just did not have the same amount of time to spend with me. As we entered our final year of elementary school, I had befriended a new student and we soon became good friends. We both loved reading and could talk about books almost anytime. In fact, during the summer months when we were off from school, we would hang out at the library. With it being air conditioned and a couple of doors down from the local fast-food restaurant, we could spend most of the day at the library. As the time towards graduation approached, my previous friend and I had zero contact between us. It was not like we had a fight or something, we had simply drifted apart; nothing on the scale of what happened to the two friends in this comedic drama. AFTER BEING FRIENDS FOR SO LONG, it was hard for Padraic Suilleabhain, played by Colin Farrell (The Batman, Seven Psychopaths), to believe his friend when he said he no longer wanted to be friends with him. It would take some extreme measures for Padraic to believe him. With Brendan Gleeson (The Guard, In Bruges) as Colm Doherty, Kerry Condon (Bad Samaritan, Better Call Saul-TV) as Siobhan Suilleabhain, Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk, The Green Knight) as Dominic Kearney and Gary Lydon (War Horse, The Clinic-TV) as Peadar Kearney; the main draw for this film was the cast, especially Colin and Brendan. The other draw was the outdoor scenes because they were stunning. Set on an island off the coast from Ireland, the movie was slow going for me. There is not much action until later; however, what kept my interest were the 2 things I mentioned before, the cast and outdoor scenery. At the last quarter of the movie, there were scenes that made me wonder if there was more of a philosophical bent to the script. If there was, it went over me since I was focused on whether the movie was entertaining enough for the general public. If one is into acting and scenery, then this would be an easy watch for them. I will say the writers did take an unusual direction on the dissolvement of a friendship. There were a couple of brief scenes with blood being shown.
THERE IS A BLURRED BOUNDARY LINE when it comes to whether someone is being serious or simply kidding around. I had a friend who enjoyed crossing this line. He had a wicked sense of humor and was quick with the comeback. It was that humor that saved him many times from getting into a verbal fight with someone. Long ago I gave up asking him to try and tone down his remarks, explaining what he thought was funny may not translate to another person. If someone mentioned something about a new article of clothing they were wearing, he would always remark with a negative comment; something along the lines of, “Was it on the clearance rack?” or “Did you buy it to wear at a funeral?” He would then say, “only kidding” followed with complimenting them profusely which in my opinion always came across as being fake. There were times where I was near enough to witness his interaction with an individual and could see in the stranger’s face they thought he was rude. I learned over the years that just saying “I’m kidding” after an off-putting remark doesn’t always cut it. Especially if the person you are saying it to you does not even know you and your humor; it really turns into an uncomfortable situation. NOW I BET YOU ARE ASKING yourself why am I friends with such an individual and trust me, I have asked myself the same question at times. Though we have history together, I learned many years ago not to react to his catty comments. After awhile of not getting a reaction out of me from his remarks, he stopped doing it to me. Believe it or not, he did have some good qualities I value in a friendship; so, I put up with his behavior. It would be nice if we could cut out the things we don’t like about a person, but that is not the case. The way I feel about unconditional love is the same way I feel about friendships; one has to accept the entire person or not. For example, I had a friend who constantly cancelled plans we made together. I would reach out to see if they wanted to get together for lunch or dinner and they would be all enthusiastic about it. Then, a day or two before we were to get together they would cancel on me. Once or twice I can understand; but after several times I switched things up and told them to let me know when they wanted to get together. I am still waiting for that invite. In my world, that person is more of an acquaintance to me then a friend. For the friends in this comedy horror, I would be fine if we were not even acquaintances. STUCK OUT ON A YACHT IN THE middle of the ocean, it didn’t take long for three best friends to get sick of each other. With Munro Chambers (Turbo Kid, Godsend) as Jonah, Christopher Gray (Christmas All Over Again, The Mist-TV) as Richard, Emily Tyra (Code Black-TV, Flesh and Bones-TV) as Sasha and Brett Gelman (The Other Guys, Lemon) as the Narrator; this film festival winner had an intentional snarky edge to it. There were a couple of scenes that got my attention, but I am afraid that was it for me. Except for the twist in the story, I was bored through the majority of this movie. There was nothing noteworthy about the acting and at times, I felt some of the action was ridiculous. Several scenes had blood and violence in them, with one of them starting early in the story. It is not easy to pull off a comedic horror picture; I did not experience either of them in this movie. Maybe the writers were joking around but I felt like the joke was on me after I spent the time watching this movie.
1 ½ stars
THE SCHOOL I ATTENDED COVERED ALL the grades from kindergarten to eighth. Despite all classes being in the same building, there was a definite division between grades. I started in kindergarten and remained a student at the school until I graduated from eighth grade. The school building never went through any type of remodeling while I was a student, except for the playground. This will be hard to believe; but when I started at the school, the playground was divided into 2 spaces, side by side. One space was smooth, looking like a paved road; the other consisted of gravel. The younger grades were assigned the smooth surfaced playground, while the older students had to take the graveled playground. During my sixth year, when I would have to switch to the gravel side, the school removed the gravel and paved the ground. Though both spaces looked the same the younger kids knew not to go over to the newly paved space; it was still meant for older students. Now it may not seem like a big deal, but what this school policy did was to teach the younger kids that there was a reward waiting for them when they got older. IT WOULD START IN FIFTH GRADE, students trying to befriend older ones. Those who already had an older sibling in a higher grade had an easier time fitting into the older crowds. I had a neighbor who was a couple of grades ahead of me. Anytime I caught a glimpse of him on the newer playground space I would try to come up with an excuse to go talk to him. Looking back at it now, it seems silly; all of us wanted to be treated like we were older, more adult-like students who did not want to be referred to as kids anymore. Girls would consider it a major achievement if they could call a student from a higher grade their boyfriend. It was almost like an obsession; for every grade one advanced, their previous grade was added to the disdain they had for anyone younger. And if anyone had a friendship with a younger student, it was kept a secret. I firmly believe all of this was the catalyst in the formation of cliques. At my school, there was no greater moniker to have than being labelled the “cool” kid. Cool would encompass a variety of traits; but it did not matter, if other students considered one cool then life at school would be good for them. An example of this can be found in this adventure comedy. BEING INVITED TO A PARTY WAS the first step in attaining cool status for Max, played by Jacob Tremblay (Room, Wonder) and his two friends. However, if they did not want to embarrass themselves, they would need to take a crash course on what cool kids do at a party. With Keith L. Williams (The Last Man on Earth-TV, Teachers-TV) as Lucas, Brady Noon (Boardwalk Empire-TV) as Thor, Molly Gordon (Booksmart, Life of the Party) as Hannah and Midori Francis (Ocean’s Eight, Younger-TV) as Lily; this film had a lot of profanity being spoken in it. At first because it was being said by elementary school kids, it was funny; however, as the story progressed it lost its shock value and seemed to be the only comedy focal point in several scenes. The three boys were excellent together and did provide a few laugh out moments in the story. I appreciated the way the writers tackled the topics of first love and evolving friendships; they were written with authenticity. For the most part I was entertained by this movie; however, I did wonder if kids today have more pressure placed on them to fit in and be considered cool.
2 ½ stars
IT WAS A SIMPLE MOTTO THAT I did not need repeated multiple times. It went like this: “Our house, our rules; their house, their rules.” Nothing more needed to be added to it. When I was home there were things I was expected and allowed to do; but, when I went to someone else’s house I had to be respectful and act according to the rules of their place. Even with my young mind back then, it made perfect sense to me. I would never go to someone else’s place and make myself comfortable without following the lead of the hosts. Even today before I walk into a person’s house I ask if they prefer I take my shoes off. I am always amazed at people who walk into someone’s place with their shoes on when they are wet or dirty from the outside. You can see where they stepped on the floor by the residue from their shoes, but they are oblivious to it somehow. I would be mortified to track in dirt from the outside into someone’s house! All I could think about is what that person’s house must look like if they are so unaware as to what they are doing. WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO FOR me is “respect.” If a person is not instilled with the importance of respect, they are susceptible to more of life’s challenges. I know such an individual. When they are over at someone’s house, it doesn’t occur to them to ask if it would be okay to do such and such. They will just go ahead and turn on an electronic device, like a television or stereo. That right there is rude to me, but there is more. Not only will they turn on something, they will fool around with the device’s settings if they feel something is not right; I was told this by the owner of the house. When the owner went to turn on the TV they could not get a station to come up on the screen; their guest at some point during their visit had made changes without informing the owner. Not that I want to step onto a soapbox right now, but right there is what I see wrong with our current times; the lack of respect. I do not expect anyone to accept my way of doing things; however, all I ask is for them to respect it. As I said earlier it all comes down to respect and it is because of that I was annoyed with one of the characters in this horror, mystery thriller. THE ONLY THING THAT WOULD PREVENT Annabelle from inflicting horror on others was to keep her locked up in a glass case that was blessed by a priest, according to husband and wife demon chasers Lorraine and Ed Warren, played by Vera Farming (The Front Runner, Source Code) and Patrick Wilson (The Commuter, Insidious franchise). Never open the case was the only rule; now if only everyone would follow the rules. With McKenna Grace (Gifted; I, Tonya) as Judy Warren, Madison Iseman (Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) as Mary Ellen and Katie Sarife (Abel’s Field, Teen Spirit) as Daniela Rios; this latest installment of the film franchise left me wanting more. I found it less scary than the ones before it. However, I will say I enjoyed McKenna’s performance the most then the other 2 young actors. There were opportunities where I felt the scenes could have been creepier, but they never went beyond a certain level. It almost felt as if the picture and story were put together quickly to cash out, while people are still aware of the Conjuring film series. I did not feel, as a viewer, I was being given much respect by the choices the movie studio made to get this movie out.
THOUGH I HAD NOT SEEN THEM for years, my memories of them were just as vivid today as they were back then. I was downsizing my living space and came upon a couple of shelves in the basement that were filled with toys. Some were in their original packaging while others were sealed in plastic bags or bins. They brought a smile to my face as I had to stop my packing and look at each one. There was a boxed game where the players had to pick 5 letters and 5 categories. Writing each one down on a mini-spreadsheet, letters going vertically down and categories across horizontally, the players would be timed as they had to fill in as many spaces as they could within the time frame. This was my favorite game outside of word games. There was a toy on the shelf that I remember getting at the same time as a cousin of mine. It was a moving track, like a miniature moving sidewalk, where I would have to steer a magnetic car through obstacles that would pop up on the revolving track. Each toy I took off the shelf provided me a fond memory; I was not sure if I could part with any of them. IT IS FUNNY HOW FOR MANY of us a toy or stuffed animal can have an influence on our life’s path. I remember playing this word game with a relative, where there was a group of dice that had letters instead of numbers on them. They would be shaken around inside a plastic cube until they settled into spaces set out like a tick tack toe graph. We would turn the timer over to start, then come up with as many words as we could using the letters showing; but, having to only connect the letters down or up and side to side, nothing diagonal. It was this early game that started my love of reading and writing. There was also a babysitter of mine who each time she sat for me would bring me a stuffed animal. I am convinced that menagerie started my affection and first educational direction for animals. Let me say at one time I had almost 2 dozen stuffed animals sleeping with me; I could barely move in the bed. Now it has been many years since I played with toys and stuffed animals; but I must tell you, I was pleasantly surprised seeing the familiar characters again in this latest installment of the animated, adventure franchise. WITH A COUPLE OF DISCARDED ITEMS and a little imagination Bonnie, voiced by Madeleine McGraw (American Sniper, Ant-Man and the Wasp), created a new toy for herself. The problem was convincing this new addition that he belonged in her toy collection; something Woody, voiced by Tom Hanks (The Post, Sully), thought he could fix. With Tim Allen (3 Geezers!, Last Man Standing-TV) voicing Buzz Lightyear, Tony Hale (Stranger than Fiction, American Ultra ) voicing Forky and Annie Potts (Ghostbusters, Pretty in Pink) voicing Bo Peep; this film was one of the few sequels I have seen that maintained the high standards of its previous movies. The animation was outstanding, and the humor was appropriate and relevant for both children and adults. Also, the story was thoughtful and cleverly laid out to take adult type themes and present them in such a way that was easy for kids to digest. I experienced a variety of feelings from excitement to tension to love; each expertly fitted into the script without overpowering one another. The movie studio did a wonderful job in keeping the integrity intact for this beloved film franchise. I may never get rid of my toys now. There were 4 extra scenes during the 1sthalf of the credits.
3 ½ stars
There is nothing wrong having the support and guidance of a parent or sibling helping you as you begin your years of schooling. An older brother or sister can certainly steer you away from the many unintentional land mines of uncertainty that you may come across in your life. But as you progress from grade to grade, there is nothing like having a best friend who is living and experiencing the same things you are on a daily basis. Whether it is suffering through a challenging homework assignment or discovering a new rock band, being able to share any and every emotion with a best friend is incredibly special. I have been blessed more than once with the presence of several best friends throughout my entire life. To this day I can remember calling up the new kid in my 6th grade class to see if he wanted to go to the library with me. Though we already knew of our similar interests; it was not until later while sitting at the local fast food outlet for a milkshake, that we found out we grew up with the same type of background, beginning a friendship that would last for decades. Ginger and Rosa, played by Elle Fanning (Super 8, Deja Vu) and Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures, 8), had a comparable relationship to the one I just described. Growing up during the early 1960s in London, Ginger and Rosa were inseparable friends. With the threat of nuclear proliferation coming into view, the girls’ close bond began to branch out into different interests. These new paths would eventually lead to an incident that caused a fissure to form in their lifelong friendship. The main asset in this film festival nominated film was Elle Fanning. For her age, I am so impressed with her acting capacity; she certainly has screen presence. Helping her and the other actors was the decision to shoot them multiple times in close-up. Add in the subdued lighting created a moodiness that accentuated the tensions forming between the characters. Christina Hendricks (Drive, Mad Men-TV) and Alessandro Nivola (Coco Before Chanel, The Eye) were durable as Ginger’s parents Natalie and Roland. The script was the weak link in this dramatic film; there were parts of the story that dragged for me. An interesting interpretation on the definition of friendship that was fortunate to have Elle as one of the friends.
2 3/4 stars — DVD