OUTSIDE OF MY BEDROOM WINDOW, I was able to see buildings from four blocks away. We lived on a high third floor of an apartment building. The reason I say “high” was due to the first-floor entrance and lobby was not considered a separate floor. You would have to walk up a full flight of stairs from the lobby to reach what was considered the first floor of apartments. We were the only apartment building on our side of the block; there were however 2 others that were on the opposite side of our square city block. I had an unobstructed view, starting with a row of residential houses and their backyards. During the warmer months, I considered myself the silent guest who watched birthday parties and barbeques that took place in the neighbors’ backyards. As a little boy, I made a mental note on the different games party guests played at birthday parties. Part of the reason was me trying to figure out what were the popular games and how to play them, then figure out what were the best ways to try and win at them. During the winter months, only when the backyards were empty; I would see how far I could throw snowballs from out back porch. AFTER SEVERAL YEARS OR SO A developer bought up the row of houses from their owners and built a large four storied apartment building. I was crushed as I watched the building being built, even though I was fascinated by the workmen mixing cement and laying brick. My view was going to be obstructed by a big white rectangular building. After construction was done and landscaping put in, the apartments were quickly rented out. With rows of new windows facing our apartment, I quickly got over my sadness for my lost view. Suddenly, I had multiple people living next door to me, living their daily lives. I felt I was getting a glimpse into a person’s life when I saw one apartment dweller exercising in their living room. Another neighbor cooked volumes of food everyday for her family. I could not get over the amount of pots and pans she used in her meal preparations. Before you get to thinking that I was getting obsessed with watching my neighbors, I have to explain there was little chance to avoid them because the apartments were in clear view whenever I was sitting at the dining room table or when I was watching television. Our TV set had a bank of windows behind it; so, while watching TV, I would see movement taking place in my field of vision. Yes, it was a distraction. I am just grateful I never saw the things the main character saw in this dramatic, crime mystery. HAVING NUMBED HERSELF THE PAST SEVERAL months with pills and alcohol; the reclusive homeowner Anna Fox, played by Amy Adams (Hillbilly Elegy, Nocturnal Animals), saw something outside of her window that forced her to take some kind of action. With Fred Hechinger (Eighth Grade, News of the World) as Ethan Russell, Gary Oldman (Mank, Darkest Hour) as Alistar Russell, Julianne Moore (After the Wedding, Still Alice) as Jane Russell and Wyatt Russell (Overlord, 22 Jump Street) as David; this movie was a poor tribute to Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Rear Window; if indeed that is what it was trying to do. I thought the acting was admirable, but the script and direction turned this picture into a messy pile of scenes. There were times I thought the film was going to be a psychological drama, only for it to change direction and become a scary thriller. The injection of the same repetitive snowy scene over and over was a complete distraction for me. I am sure the novel this movie was based on is much better. The only thing I can say about this misfire it that I am glad I am not a neighbor of these people. There were scenes with blood and violence.
1 ¾ stars
THE PROFESSOR WROTE A NOTE NEXT to the grade on my term paper. She wrote, “I had no idea you were paying attention in this classroom. Please come see me after class.” I was both amused and hesitant because I wondered what she wanted to talk about. When class was over, I hung around until the other students had left then went up to the professor. Any concerns I had were alleviated by her chuckling. Since I received an “A” on my paper, she told me she was pleasantly surprised but wanted to know why I never participated in any of the class discussions. I told her talking made me nervous, that I was better at communicating my thoughts through the written word. She accepted what I said but encouraged me to participate with the other students because she liked the way I looked at problems, based on what I had written in my term paper. I made her laugh when I told her that my mind takes its time to process information before I can talk about it. Pushing my luck, I said some people talk without thinking and it is a distraction for me. “Aren’t there times where you just sit there and wonder where the student got their thoughts on a subject,” I asked her. All she offered was some students were more excitable which led them to speak out first before thinking everything through; I agreed with her and that was the extent of our conversation. ONE OF THE THINGS I LEARNED from that professor was how the order of words one puts to paper can alter perceptions. Along with that there was the aspect of style; the way the person puts their voice down into their written words. I saw firsthand how easily style is conveyed through written words. A student who sat next to me received back his term paper and it had gotten a grade of “F.” I did not want to appear nosy so I tried to read the professors comments out of the corner of my eye. The professor wrote “not your writing” next to the grade and below that she had highlighted parts of paragraphs with side comments I could not make out. The student must have seen me trying to read the comments because he acknowledged me and said he had misunderstood the instructions; he had copied passages from a book into his term paper. Now he did not tell me; but I assumed he copied the passages word for word, which I had to say was not the best decision. Not that I am an expert, but from the things I heard him read in class, I knew anything he found in a book was not the same as him telling a story. He loved to draw out a point with the use of humor or shock; most textbooks I had read didn’t often have those two elements in its writing. In my opinion he would have been better to employ the use of a term paper writer; I saw their advertisements in the school paper. They would not write the paper; they simply directed the student towards writing a better paper. It is not so dissimilar to what took place in this biographical comedic drama. DESPITE A BROKEN LEG THERE WAS only a short amount of time to write the screenplay for Hollywood’s latest wondered. What wasn’t helping Herman Mankiewicz, played by Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour, The Courier), was his love of alcohol. With Amanda Seyfried (The Last Word, Mean Girls) as Marion Davies, Lily Collins (Tolkien, Mirror Mirror) as Rita Alexander, Tom Pelphrey (Hostage, Iron Fist-TV) as Joe Mankiewicz and Arliss Howard (The Time Traveler’s Wife, Full Metal Jacket) as Louis B. Mayer; this film festival winner had the extra burden of viewers’ anticipation due to the subject matter of Orson Welles and his movie. Visually I thought this film was gorgeous, both in look and style. Ultimately, the big seller in this picture was Gary Oldman’s performance. Whether the script was close to the true events, I do not know; however, I enjoyed the behind the scene aspect, nonetheless. However, as the story was playing out, I was getting less engaged with it. It seemed as if there were pieces of this film that blended well, but then others came across disjointed. There is no doubt in my mind that the whole process of creating what some say is the best movie of all time had to be an amazing experience; I only wished this movie had gotten the same amount of attention.
2 ¾ stars
MOST EVERYTHING SHE WAS SAYING I understood, but I did not have her gift for figuring out how to alter the taste of home cooked food. Our conversation started when I mentioned I tried a new recipe. The food I made was too spicy for me; my mouth was tingling with heat from each bite I took. She asked me why I did not add this certain ingredient to dull the heat. I explained I had never heard about it, that I just followed the recipe which was new to me. From there we got into a conversation about the different things one can do to make your food taste sweeter or saltier, spicy or plain and so on. After she mentioned her different examples for change, I asked her if she follows the recipe when she is making the food. She told me she glances at the recipe but changes the measurements and items. And that was the major difference between us; there is no way I can cook like her. I must follow the recipe exactly; I cannot cook by putting a little touch of this or a small bit of that into the food preparation. Still somewhat new to this whole cooking thing, there is no way I can experiment and hope the meal will be good. THE SAME THING GOES FOR RESTAURANT food. Unless there is something seriously wrong with the food I ordered, I will not return it. Granted I am always making changes to most things I order from a menu due to personal tastes or allergies; so, when my order is brought to the table, I expect it to be to my liking. Other people may do things differently. I have one friend who always returns their order; it is either not hot enough or according to them it has no taste. There is another friend who rarely returns their meal. She keeps a bottle of hot sauce in her purse. If she doesn’t care too much for the way her food tastes she will take out her hot sauce and shake some of it on top of her meal. No matter what the item is she will add her hot sauce. To me, just because you like the taste of heat doesn’t make the meal better; if anything, I would say it makes it tolerable. Some of the things she has ordered I would not touch with a 10-foot pole, but she doesn’t care. As long as she experiences that burning sensation in her mouth, she will eat anything. I would have to say the same about today’s action thriller. If you just want to see action and don’t care about the script, then this would be your movie. HIS FIRST COMISSION AS A SUBMARINE commander and Captain Joe Glass, played by Gerald Butler (Den of Thieves, Gods of Egypt), found himself in the middle of an international crisis that was about to go nuclear. With Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour, The Space Between Us) as Charles Donnegan, Common (The Hate U Give, Suicide Squad) as John Fisk and Carter MacIntyre (Drop Dead Diva-TV, Benched-TV mini-series) as XO Brian Edwards; this movie was made for someone who just wants to feel thrills without concerns about the script or acting. I found the story silly as it seemed farfetched while jumping from U.S. Navy Seals scenes to submarine scenes to Russian ones. The script was a catch all for the films previously made from this type of genre; the thread that kept it together was the thrills for me. I enjoyed sitting in my seat and not thinking about what I was watching on the screen. Oh no, maybe I am turning into my friend who can tolerate mediocre food by splashing some hot sauce on top of it or in my case a smattering of thrills.
THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS used to be such a cut and dry proposition; at least in my mind. During my formative years (they may still be going on presently) when someone made a decision I would carry it out. Whether it was at home or school, this is how I was raised. I cannot recall as a child if I questioned any decisions, though I will say I am sure I interpreted some of them in different ways than they were intended. My sensibilities started to change when that teacher, I have talked about before, told me I would amount to nothing if I pursued a career in writing. It was at that very moment I began questioning authority. The idea of one person, let alone a relative stranger, making a decision that would directly affect me made me extremely uncomfortable and rebellious. What right did this person have to decide what I could and could not do? Not that I would cause a riot or something, but I would question their decision even if it was only an internal dialog in my mind. LOOKING BACK THRU THE eyes of an adult; I now see where some decisions were solely a lucky guess, while others had consequences. Remembering my gym teacher in high school who refused to give me a passing grade, so I would have to repeat the course over; condemned me to another year of abuse even though he was aware of what I went through the first time. The decision by a fitness instructor to let me choreograph an aerobic routine for her started me on a career path in the fitness industry. Now I am very much aware of the magnitude some decisions have not only on me but on society in general. Thinking about one individual deciding on something that has major ramifications on a vast amount of people has to be a scary notion; heck, it should be a terrifying thing. I would not want someone to decide something of importance so cavalierly. The reason I have been thinking about decisions is due to this film festival winning dramatic war film. It is one thing to read about it in history books, but it is totally different to watch the decision process in action. WITH GERMAN FORCES SWEEPING across Europe it was only a matter of time before Germany had Great Britain in its sights. Choices had to be made but which ones would be the right ones? Starring Gary Oldman (The HItman’s Bodyguard, The Space Between Us) as Winston Churchill, Lily James (Cinderella, Baby Driver) as Elizabeth Layton, Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Clementine Churchill, Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom, Rogue One) as King George VI and Stephen Dillane (Spy Game, The Hours) as Viscount Halifax; this film would be an ideal companion piece to the film Dunkirk since they are set in similar times. Gary was outstanding as Winston Churchill; he was the main focus actually of the whole film and script. I understood this however; I felt the script was a bit weak in parts. When Winston was on everything felt right, but in the quieter moments I was left wanting more out of the characters, more in depth interactions between them. Taking the action at face value, I enjoyed the cat and mouse approach to part of the story. Whoever decided Gary was the right choice for the role deserves a pat on the back. I would not necessarily say the same for the script approval, but still the film was worth seeing.
3 ¼ stars
WE HAD BEEN friends for several years. Through that time we had gotten closer, each of us did not use a filter when talking about personal stuff. Our friendship was evolving, though it took a big adjustment when she started dating someone who quickly became her main focus. I was not the only one who noticed the shift; our mutual group of friends noticed her dating relationship was turning serious. As with any relationship time spent with friends took place with less frequency; it was understandable as we all knew time was needed to lay the groundwork to establish a strong bond between the couple. After a few years our friend became engaged and the two of them began laying out plans to begin their life together as a married couple. AFTER THEY WERE married they planted roots in a suburb not too far away from all of us; however, spending time together with them took place less and less often. As the years progressed I started to lose contact with a few of the friends since I moved to a different location. However I was still privy to news through the “grapevine.” I do not remember exactly how it came down, but at some point I heard derogatory remarks were made about me by this married friend. My feelings were hurt and I became angry to the point where I did not what to have any interaction with this couple. Now in hindsight I did not know if they actually meant what was told to me or if they really even said such a thing. Because I was angry I did not care; as far as I was concerned I did not want to have any part of them. This was the way I handled things in the past when I got angry. Long story short, this couple opened up a store that a couple of my friends told me was doing a thriving business. I did not care since I planned never to step foot into their place. After seeing this action comedy I did wonder if I made the right decision. AS A TOP bodyguard Michael Bryce, played by Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, Woman in Gold), had to deal with all kinds of clients. Having fallen on hard times he never imagined he would have to protect the man who tried to kill him. Also starring Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight, Kong: Skull Island) as Darius Kincaid, Gary Oldman (The Space Between Us, The Dark Knight franchise) as Vladislav Dukhovich, Elodie Yung (Gods of Egypt, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Amelia Roussel and Salma Hayek (Beatriz at Dinner, Some Kind of Beautiful) as Sonia Kincaid; the story for this film was decent enough and the cast did a good job of handling the script. Ryan’s character was a light version of his Deadpool one in my opinion. As for Samuel L. Jackson this was one of his typical performances; however, for this character it worked. The highlight for me was Salma Hayek, she was the surprise with what the writers had given her to say. Truthfully there really was nothing special about this picture; there were many scenes with blood and violence. The story was not unique and for the most part it was predictable. At one point I felt like I was just watching a string of nonsensical scenes. I wondered at the end of the movie if I had made the right decision to use my free movie pass for this film. There was one outtake scene in the middle of the credits.
DISTANCE was never a factor until I reached adulthood. As a kid I loved all my relatives equally including the ones that lived out of state. They rarely were able to participate in the weekend family dinners and could not be present for every special occasion; however, these distant relatives were always included in our daily lives. And this was at a time before the internet was widespread; when one would buy a birthday card or write a letter that would be dropped off at the post office for mailing. Phone calls were only done on a landline phone; there was no video time to see the person one was talking to on the other end of the telephone line. Love was never brought into question. As I think about this I have to say part of the reason was the respect we had for each other. Being an aunt or uncle was a unique position because they were at times surrogate parents, confidants or pseudo buddies. Another reason why love was strong across distances was the effort everyone committed to in keeping the family bonds strong. IMAGINE my surprise when I first started out in the dating world when my query to go out on a date was rejected because I did not live in any of the surrounding zip codes. I was dumbfounded and left speechless. Now I am not talking about some small town surrounded by farmland; we are talking in the heart of a big metropolis with several forms of public transportation, besides expressways and bike paths. A similar experience happened with someone else when we exchanged phone numbers. Because my area code did not match theirs I immediately saw the disappointment flitter across their face. It was such an odd thing to me where I had to wonder what a person does when they set up limited boundaries for themselves and they exhaust the dating pool of their area. I have to give credit to the main character in this adventure romance for the distance he traveled. GARDNER Elliot, played by Asa Butterfield (Ender’s Game, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), was the 1st person to be born in space. Living on Mars with only scientists, his only connection to earth was through his computer screen. But what he found on it changed his life. This dramatic film festival nominee had a wonderful story; the movie trailers played it up well. Along with Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight franchise, Tinker Tanker Solider Spy) as Nathaniel Shepherd, Britt Robertson (The Longest Ride, Tomorrowland) as Tulsa and Carla Gugino (San Andreas, Watchmen) as Kendra Wyndham; the script was so hokey and basic that none of the actors came off well in their roles. With the right writers this could have been a thoughtful, exciting love story; but instead, this picture may only interest the young adult group if even them. There were a couple of scenes that were decent but I did not feel most scenes ever matured enough to help create an engaging story. I cannot tell you what to do but all I can say is with my reviews I have traveled near and far to see a film; this movie was not worth the travel time for me.
1 ¾ stars
It suddenly appears from what seems to be its own volition and surprises you. Like an air bubble that has suddenly risen up to disturb the still surface of a pool of water, the thought bursts into your consciousness where you have to stop and wonder where it came from. I do not know about you but this happens to me on a consistent basis. I could be walking or driving along and suddenly some random thought pops into my head that at least has some type of connection to something in my life; but it can be so weird at times. There are things I can remember from when I was an infant; however, I could tell myself I have to do something as soon as I am done with what I am doing and as soon as I walk out of the room the thought goes poof, disappearing from my mind. The brain is both bizarre and miraculous at the same time. I have a friend who works in the medical field. You would not believe the things I hear that have to do with the brain; some of them would make good science fiction stories. To this day I remember watching a computer screen as the image of a patient’s brain, who had just suffered a stroke, began to appear. It was fascinating to watch as I could see where the blood was pooling inside of them. It was that experience and its aftermath that caused me to see the human brain in a different light. The same thing took place for me when I watched this crime drama. WHEN agent Bill Pope, played by Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, The Proposal), was killed his boss Quaker Wells, played by Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight franchise, Paranoia), became desperate enough to see if the dead agent’s memories could be taken out of his head. This action film also starred Kevin Costner (Black or White, The Untouchables) as Jericho Stewart, Tommy Lee Jones (The Homesman, Hope Springs) as Dr. Franks and Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious franchise, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) as Jill Pope. As you can see a well qualified cast was assembled for this picture. Though the basis of the script had a science fiction slant to it, I was willing to go along and believe the story. I enjoyed the way Kevin played his character and was a bit surprised to see him so intense in the action scenes, though it could easily have been a body double. But this is what annoyed me about this movie; if you want me to believe the story than follow through with it. When one character’s house with elaborate security was broken into, tell me how the house was broken into again later in the story. They didn’t change the pass code? C’mon, this among other issues ruined the story for me. Congratulations to the person who came up with the idea for this story, but then why make it predictable in a scatterbrained way?
1 ¾ stars
Pride means you have a respect for yourself, a sense of happiness when you know you have done something good. There is another form of pride known as false pride. I find this version to be showy or more of a facade. The term “keep up appearances” comes to mind. Some years ago I taught aerobics in a small aerobic studio. The space had this old dark carpeting for the fitness floor and I had to stand on a makeshift wooden stage that was no more than 6 feet wide. We were situated above a clothing store on a busy commercial street. It was my job to be welcoming and upbeat even if there was no hot water or air conditioning. I could deal with stuff like that; however, I had a hard time working for someone who claimed to be a fitness professional but would use illegal drugs in their office. It was such a contradiction; all of the profits were going to their drug habit. I needed the job so I kept quiet, only coming in to teach my classes then leave quickly. After a while the situation began to weigh me further down; it was hard to put on this false front of a gung-ho, cheerful instructor knowing that there may not be enough money to cover my paycheck. Luckily I was able to find another job and resigned from the place. At least I was able to do it, but what about those individuals who have no choice? THERE are no murderers in paradise; at least that was what people were led to believe during the 1950s in the Soviet Union. But after Leo Demidov, played by Tom Hardy (Inception, Lawless), had to read the death notice to his close friend about his son; Leo knew something was not right. This dramatic thriller had a stellar class that really made this picture. Along with Tom there was Noomi Rapace (The Drop, Prometheus) as Raisa Demidov, Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight franchise, Harry Potter franchise) as General Mikhail Nesterov and Joel Kinnaman (Run All Night, RoboCop) as Vasili. This film had an oppressive darkness hanging down on it thanks to the cinematography and sets. I enjoyed all of this so much which makes me sad to say the script was the weak link. The story was ponderous with a few slow passages. As I sat through this movie I felt like there were all these cool puzzle pieces but they were not all fitting together. It seemed to me that there were too many story lines which made this film longer than it needed to be. All I can say is this film had a good front but once you got into it you realized it was not as good as it looked. Brief scenes of violence and blood.
2 1/4 stars
Before there were any scheduled play dates, before any friendships were formed and before there was the recognition of family members, there was a special steadfast presence in my young life. His name was Zippy and he was my toy stuffed chimpanzee. Waking up from a nap, my emerging gaze always fell upon the wide awake Zippy watching over me, his head lying close to mine. Dressed in red overalls he would always sit on my lap for a family portrait. He was my best friend, my protector, my guardian; he was always by my side. A few years had gone by before I found out how Zippy lost some of his fingers from his rubber hands. He was caught in the middle of a fight between siblings and had suffered a casualty. I found out he had been part of the family before I was born and had been handed down to me upon my birth. CAESAR in this action film reminded me of Zippy in some ways. Andy Serkis (The Prestige, The Lord of the Rings franchise) was unbelievable portraying the genetically altered chimpanzee Caesar in this science fiction sequel. Set 10 years in the future from the previous movie, mankind had been nearly obliterated by a deadly virus. Having seen no sign of a human for years, Caesar had become the leader to a colony of advanced apes who all lived peacefully together. Their world was about to change with the sudden encounter of Malcolm and Ellie, played by Jason Clarke (The Great Gatsby, Public Enemies) and Keri Russell (Austenland, August Rush). This intelligent exciting film got high marks for several reasons. The believable story made sense to me as it started out with a quick review of the previous movie before setting the stage to show-off its well thought out script. I especially enjoyed the acting from Jason and Gary Oldman (Paranoia, Lawless) as Dreyfus. What made this picture so special was the special effects. I sat watching this film amazed at how good everything looked. I could not tell if the apes were all CGI enhanced, done with makeup or if some actors were wearing costumes; it really was terrific. Besides Andy Serkis’ unbelievable performance I thought Toby Kebbell (War Horse, RocknRolla) was just as good as fellow ape Koba. There were only a couple of spots where I felt the story became sluggish; but they were so minor, it did not take away from the entertainment value. This was a case where the sequel was better than the original. There was scenes that made me nervously tense, excited, sad and happy; I only wished Zippy had been with me to see this great film.
3 1/2 stars
Does one’s love diminish by the amount of hair left on someone’s hairbrush? Does the amount of poundage on your significant other directly relate to the intensity of your love for them? The higher the number the less love you have to give? I have said before I believe our bodies are only being rented; what is inside of them is what counts, at least for me. It always amuses me when I hear someone say they do not like facial hair or redheads. Taking it one step further, I find it perplexing when someone makes a judgement based on a person’s ethnicity, race or even where they were born. What does that have to do with love? You will have to excuse me but I find individuals who lose their love and leave their mate due to illness utterly despicable. The essence of an individual remains the same as the body evolves through the years; those are my feelings. In this updated version of the 1987 science fiction film, you can see how love is stronger than any one body. After a suspicious explosion Detroit police officer Alex Murphy, played by Joel Kinnaman (Safe House, The Killing), had only one chance available if he was to survive. That decision fell to his wife Clara, played by Abbie Cornish (Limitless, Bright Star), who gave her consent to the corporation that would provide her husband with a robotic body, giving birth to a new crime fighter for the city: RoboCop. The only comparison I will make to the original movie is an obvious one; the special effects were better in this action crime film. I thought Gary Oldman (Lawless, Harry Potter franchise) as Dr. Dennett Norton and Michael Keaton (Jackie Brown, White Noise) as Raymond Sellars were the best of the cast. One of the issues I had was Joel Kinnaman; he did not have a powerful screen presence, coming across stiffly and I do not think it was due to his suit. The story had a satirical streak with the addition of Samuel L. Jackson’s (Django Unchained, Oldboy) character, talk show host Pat Novak. Along with a couple of twists in the story it pretty much was a standard good against evil plot. When this movie ended I did think about the advancements being made today in the medical field and wonder what will the effect be on humanity in the future. Will love wane based on the amount of mechanical parts a person has inside of them?
2 1/2 stars