FOR MANY OF US OUR FIRST FRIEND was an inanimate object. It may have resided in our crib or was hanging down from the ceiling above us when we slept. Once we became mobile the object came with us. This first friend could have been a variety of things such as a stuffed animal or a doll. My first friend was a stuffed chimpanzee. I took him everywhere, including a spot on my bed to sleep with me. A relative of mine had a stuffed bunny rabbit that had the softest fur. It is funny, but I can still remember someone holding my chimpanzee and manipulating the limbs as if the monkey was gesturing while the person disguised their voice, making me believe my stuffed animal was talking to me. As Sparky the monkey and myself grew in age, we both began to share the same likes and dislikes. We both loved bananas but did not like oranges. If there was music playing in the house I would lift Sparky up onto a table and help him dance to the rhythm. Sometimes he was clumsy and knock over a glass or bottle, spilling the contents out onto the table. Sparky rarely got into trouble; if memory serves me correctly we may have had only a couple of time-outs during our friendship. THESE FIRST FRIENDS PLAY A VITAL ROLE in a child’s development. A child nurtures their imagination as they create adventures with their best friend. I still get a kick out of hearing little children talk to their toys and act based on what was said between them. Whatever object gets designated as a child’s friend does not matter; they still form a bond that opens a safe world for the two of them to explore. There was a couple I knew who used this bond as a teaching tool to show their child how to share things. I found their method ingenious because; though I never said anything, I thought their daughter was a bit selfish, based on how I observed her playing with other children. I am sure many of us have encountered a child that did not want anyone touching their toys; imagine the lessons that can be taught using the child’s best friend. Having a best friend makes a world of difference as we grow up and grow old. Take a moment to think back and remember what you had as your best friend when you were a child. You might have had a version of the main character from this action, adventure film. FEELING SAD AND ALONE AFTER HER father’s death Charlie, played by Hailee Seinfeld (The Keeping Room, Pitch Perfect franchise), found comfort in tinkering with cars just like her dad. She would get more than comfort from an old beaten-up yellow car she spotted in a junkyard. This science fiction movie also starred Jorge Lendeborg Jr (Spider-Man: Homecoming; Love, Simon) as Memo, John Cena (Blockers, The Wall) as Agent Burns, John Ortiz (The Drop, Silver Linings Playbook) as Dr. Powell and Jason Drucker (Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, Every Witch Way-TV) as Otis. Whether you call this picture an origin story or prequel it doesn’t matter because out of the Transformers movies this was one of the best. The writers gave life to the Bumblebee character while the special effects department gave him his humanity. I know, this may sound profound, but it really is not; this was a well-done script that focused more on the story than the action. And when there was action, at least I was able to see who was battling during the fight scenes. The glue that brought all of this together was Hailee; she did a beautiful job in bringing out the emotional aspects to the story. It was well worth seeing this on the big screen and if by chance you decide to go you might become friends with Bumblebee. If so, then lucky you because trust me you could have done a lot worse at the movie theater.
3 ¼ stars
IT FEELS GOOD TO BE BACK after being on vacation for the past couple of weeks. This was a special vacation for me because I finally fulfilled a dream I have had since I was a child. I traveled to the last state I needed to see to complete my quest of visiting all 50 states. This feeling of accomplishment was better than I had imagined; to have had this dream/goal for most of my life being checked off my list of things to do felt amazing. As I have done in every other state I have visited, I bought a couple of touristy T-shirts and caps to add to my collection. If you do the math, that means I have over 100 of each item; so yes, you can consider me somewhat of a nerd. I only wear them when I teach class since I prefer not putting on workout clothes that have a company’s logo on it. For every state I have been in, I have experienced something new and wonderful. One of the best experiences I have had from my journeys has been the discovery that people are pretty much the same no matter where they live. I have found there are more similarities between all of us than not and we truly can learn from each other if we take the time to do so. THERE IS THAT OLD PROVERB, “The grass is greener on the other side;” which means situations always look better than one’s own, even when they really are not. Since I live in a humid continental climate with all four seasons, I felt those who live in a tropical climate have it easier; it turns out that is not always the case. Meeting so many different people across the country has widened my horizons, allowing me to learn many new things. I can say with certainty the grass in no greener on the other side from your own; though it may feel like it at times. I find it interesting that one of my concerns about taking such a long vacation was how would I stay current with the new movie releases. As you can see, I have not posted a new review in a couple of weeks; however, I feel invigorated and find the very first movie I went to see upon my return relates so well with my feelings about accomplishing my dream. This animated adventure film has a couple of solid helpful messages stashed inside of its story. IMAGINE THE SHOCK MILES MORALES, voiced by Shameik Moore (Dope, Joyful Noise), felt when he discovered there was more than one version of his superhero, Spider-Man. With Jake Johnson (Tag, New Girl-TV) voicing Peter B. Parker, Hailee Steinfeld (The Edge of Seventeen, Pitch Perfect franchise) voicing Gwen Stacy, Mahershala Ali (Green Book, Hidden Figures) voicing Uncle Aaron and John Mulaney (Saturday Night Live-TV, The Jim Gaffigan Show-TV) voicing Spider-Ham; this was a visually fun action film. Using an assortment of animation styles, they lent themselves to the sharp humor in the script. As I mentioned earlier, I found a couple of good lessons were conveyed in the middle of the quick antics on display. What I also enjoyed was the inclusion of several tender scenes that gave this movie a nice sheen to it. This picture has a much more sophisticated script than the average animated film; both children and adults would have an easy time watching it. For me at times, I felt I was literally seeing a comic book come to life. And the funny thing about this is after I saw the movie trailer I was left with a “meh” feeling. I am glad this was my first movie to review upon my return and I loved the connection I felt between my feelings about my experience with the feelings expressed in this well-done film.
SOMETIMES OUR DREAMS DO not come true or at least not the way we had hoped they would. I have mentioned in previous reviews I feel dreams are a vital part of a person’s life; in my opinion, they are the oasis in the voyage of our lives. Just recently a friend was telling me the next 3 months were going to be intense for him at his workplace. He needed to dangle something in front of himself to strive towards (like that carrot in front of a horse thing), to get through his grueling work schedule, so he was planning a trip in April. I listened as he told me how he will think about exotic locations he wants to visit while crunching data for reports. I saw it as a pressure valve thing where he needed to take his mind off of the tedious and monotonous motions of his day. Let us face it who can sit in a sterile work cubicle every day, doing the same thing over and over, without letting your mind at some point drift to something more pleasurable? ANOTHER AVENUE WHERE OUR dreams may come into play is when we encounter people who were with us during the birth of a particular dream. These individuals represent validation that our dreams were a real thing that we wanted to achieve at some point in time. Think about the friends you had during high school and college, where you would all talk about what you wanted to do after you were done with school. I remember bumping into a former classmate who recalled my interest in photography; they asked me if I pursued photography as a career. As the two of us started to talk about the past I saw images in my mind of me spending every weekend in the darkroom, developing the past week’s worth of photographs. I dreamed of being a photojournalist back then, remembering the amount of photos I would take in hopes of submitting some of them to news organizations. After meeting that former classmate my dream of being a photographer came back to life for a short time. I found my camera up on a shelf in the closet, so I started taking photographs again to see how it would feel. The feeling only lasted a short time but it did feel good. A similar thing happened to the friends in this musical comedy sequel. DISENCHANTED AND DISILLUSIONED WITH the life they were now leading the former Bellas singing group got back together to audition for an overseas USO tour. Being chosen meant each of the members could leave their life behind and start over with a new one; however one had to be careful what they wished for. Starring Anna Kendrick (The Accountant, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates) as Beca, Rebel Wilson (How to be Single, Bridesmaids) as Fat Amy, Brittany Snow (Hairspray, Prom Night) as Chloe and Anna Camp (The Help, True Blood-TV) as Aubrey; this 3rd installment quickly went from a cute to silly story. I thought the script was awful and missed the opportunity to relive the original film’s charm. There seemed to be less singing and an increase in lame comedy bits that bored me. It was a shame the producers decided to make this sequel that dragged down any fun memories one might have had with the former films. And with the different story lines that were thrown into this picture all I have to say is this 3rd one was not the charm; instead it was off key.
1 ¾ stars
FOUR years attending the same school taught me more about social dynamics than any of my classes. I am not sure this applies to every school; but going into high school I was not prepared for the pecking order that was established for the student body. It could easily have been called a caste system because there were the “haves and have nots.” Within a short time one group that quickly formed were the popular kids. This class was made up of jocks, cheerleaders and anyone who the majority of students deemed beautiful or handsome. From my experience this was the alpha group. STUDENTS with the best grades, who did not qualify for the alpha group, formed their own clan known as the “brainiacs” aka smart students. Now this group used their collective intellect to thwart the jock group as a counterbalance to their top status. This group tended to be more receptive in allowing classmates to join them. If one was not fit for either of these two groups then there was a lower status group known as the “good students.” Though not as high in status, the students in this group never got in trouble, did nothing to standout in an inappropriate way or clash with any of the other groups. Continuing down the food chain so to speak there is the group referred to as the stoners. For anyone displaying behavior associated with drunkenness or high on drugs, this was their group. They did not care about the status of the other groups, barely acknowledged them or did not care at all. There are sub groups and such but down at the bottom were the leftovers in the student body and they were considered the losers. The kids in this group had to be on guard because they could be easy targets for any of the other groups. The toughest part of this caste system was trying not to carry it with you as your time served was ending. ALREADY not feeing connected to her fellow classmates Nadine, played by Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Begin Again), at least had one good friend. However that was not going to be enough considering her brother Darian, played by Blake Jenner (Everybody Wants Some, Glee-TV), was a star football player. This coming of age comedic drama was not like the other films that have been done in this category. With Woody Harrelson (Out of the Furnace, Now You See Me franchise) as Mr. Bruner, Kyra Sedgwick (Gamer, The Closer-TV) as Mona and Hayden Szeto (The Unbidden, Chop Shop-TV) as Erwin; this cast not only performed well together, they appeared authentic in a modern way. My experiences both helped and hindered my involvement into the story. On one hand I understood the dynamics perfectly, but then some of the scenes did not seem real to me only because I had never encountered them when I was in school. There were a couple of times that my disbelief took over which lost the scene for me. However the acting was sharp as was the script; so I was able to get back on track with the story. Having seen this movie only confirmed my belief that high school is not meant for the weak.
The night was going to be the first of its kind in this part of the country. An amusement park was closing early to host a charity event that a group of us decided to attend. To gain entry into the park you had to have a special wristband; it was weird to see employees of the park usher out those who did not have one of these bands. However, it was a cool feeling to walk around the park with like-minded folks. The weather was perfect with a summer ending temperature accompanied by a gentle breeze. While we were walking around the park speakers that normally played non-descript background music were pumping out dance music. In fact the center outdoor stage was turned into a huge dance floor with spotlights and disco balls. It was such a successful event the park agreed to host another one the following year. Since all of us had a great time, we decided we would get together next year and do it again. The following year’s event was well attended and the weather was even better this time. As we walked around we noticed some of the rides were not available; we could not remember if they were open the first time. I noticed there were fewer restaurants and food kiosks available for us; luckily I ate before we left for the park. All I remember thinking at the time was the event did not have the same fun feel and magic as the first one. AFTER creating a major embarrassment in front of the President of the United States, the Barden Bellas were banned from performing or auditioning; essentially it would eliminate the a cappella singing group from existence. The only way the women could return to performing was to enter and win an international competition that no American group had ever won. This musical comedy sequel quickly came on strong with its solid singing and dancing performances. Returning cast members like Beca and Amy, played by Anna Kendrick (Into the Woods, The Voices) and Rebel Wilson (Pain & Gain, Bridesmaids), were joined by Hailee Steinfeld (Begin Again, True Grit) as Emily and Birgitte Hjort Sorensen (Borgen, Marie Kroyer) as arch rival Kommissar. There were parts of this film I enjoyed but others seemed forced with cheap humor. In fact I thought several of the jokes were being beaten over our heads and a couple were distasteful in my opinion. Where the first movie was a classic underdog one; this one did not offer the same kind of connection for me. If I was not a fan of the singing portions, I would have been bored after a while. The magic was less compared to the original film. One surprise extra scene in the middle of the ending credits.
2 1/2 stars
There are people who come into our lives to provide us with the glasses of confidence for us to see our true abilities. It can happen to any of us where the important things close to us cannot be seen. This movie review site is the perfect example. I had been content emailing friends and family my latest feelings about the movies I had seen. A few friends mentioned setting up a site where I would only need to type up one review of a movie and the site would forward it to those who signed up. One friend in particular was the catalyst for me to pull myself away from the fear of uncertainty and venture into the vulnerable world of the internet. He was a former talk show host out east, who was a gifted cook. His latest project was to create a blog where he could teach viewers how to cook. He had such an enthusiasm that was infectious regarding his blog that it spilled over onto me. With his encouragement and incredible positive attitude, I began the mental process of creating Moviejoltz. There are so many examples around us of individuals who have the ability to illuminate our seeds of hope; I could go on and on. INSTEAD I suggest you watch what took place in this comedic drama. Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Now You See Me) played Dan, a down on his luck music executive. Spiraling down into a world of alcoholism, one night Dan heard a voice in a nightclub that would change his life and the life of the singer/songwriter Greta, played by Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit). Written and directed by John Carney (Once, The Rafters) this musical movie had a certain charm and sweetness to it, even if it was somewhat predictable. The best part was the acting. Besides Mark and Keira, Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Ender’s Game) as Dan’s daughter Violet and musician Adam Levine (American Horror Story-TV) as Greta’s boyfriend Dave were excellent with their characters. I will admit there was a part of me that felt the director was trying to recapture the magic of his movie Once, however having the story set in New York City along with the gifted cast, I found myself being entertained by the story. An additional surprise was seeing Keira carrying a tune which only added to my enjoyment of the soundtrack. Being a firm believer that we each are handed a gift from everyone we meet, I found the way the characters connected in this film to be life affirming.
If one is not careful they will find their job has taken over their life. There are some people who define themselves by what they do for a living: I am not one of those individuals. I cannot tell you how many times people have assumed I adhere to a strict, proper diet because I teach fitness classes or that I must be a tough SOB since I am a credit manager. These are my professions, what I do for a living; however, they do not represent all of me. I am aware my multiple jobs have had an effect on my personal life; some relationships did not last due to my frequent unavailability. Now with the addition of movie reviewing, I have quite the hectic schedule. Here is one example from this past Saturday: I taught a cycle class from 8 to 9am; changed and ran out of the club to make a 10:15am movie; stopped for groceries afterwards then on to home for lunch; out the door for a 2:30pm matinee; came home to change clothes and make a banquet reception from 6 to 11pm; returned home and collapsed into bed. This is a day in my life but at least I do not have to kill people for a living like they did in this action film. Kevin Costner (Man of Steel, The Guardsman) played international spy Ethan Renner who was recently diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Having stayed a safe distance away from his wife Christine and daughter Zoey, played by Connie Nielsen (One Hour Photo, Gladiator) and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Romeo and Juliet), for their protection, Ethan wanted to reconnect with them before it was too late. There was only one problem; to receive an experimental drug that could extend his life expectancy, Ethan would have to take on one more job. How could he be a father and a spy at the same time? From an early start into the movie I did not find the story credible. The character of Vivi Delay, played by Amber Heard (Never Back Down, Drive Angry), made no sense to me. If she was a superior of Ethan’s, I did not understand the whole car and wardrobe look to her character. Kevin and Hailee did a decent job of acting but the script was dull and often times ridiculous. The fight and chase scenes were decent though. Maybe instead of taking 3 days to kill they could have done it in two. There were a few scenes that had blood shown.
In love; when one is experiencing it, everything in the world appears to have taken on richer hues. Each step a person takes lands on soft pillows with an ah, instead of hard concrete. There is a refreshing lightness that is always ready to be swept up into the breezes of affections and dreams. For every waking moment, the imprint of a deep hug remains to caress, calm and soothe the body. But when one has it and then it is gone, love can reach deep into the body to squeeze the heart of its breath. The loss is replaced with a pain that thrives in the veins of the soul as it seeks out new ways to cripple daily functions. I will go with the notion everyone is familiar with the story of Romeo and Juliet; two young lovers from two feuding families, the Capulets and the Montagues. So story wise, there is not much a screenwriter can do to change the story if they want to stay true to the Shakespeare piece. In this latest film version I felt the writer was updating the story for a new generation. Douglas Booth (From Time to Time, LOL) and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) played Romeo and Juliet. For me, they were the main reason I had issues with this movie. The two actors were way over their heads with their characters. There was no connection, no emotion, no desire between them; their performance came across as an amateur school production. To make matters worse, the adult cast had several wonderful actors such as Paul Giamatti (Win Win, Barney’s Version) as Friar Laurence, Damian Lewis (Dreamcatcher, Homeland-TV) as Lord Capulet and Lesley Manville (Another Year, Vera Drake) as Nurse. The acting from these gifted artists was on a completely different level than Hailee and Douglas. Visually I enjoyed this beautiful movie with its gorgeous scenes around the city of Verona and surrounding areas. With such a disconnect for me between the familiar story and the lead actors, I was bored for a good portion of the time. Honestly, if someone wanted to see a film version of this classic story, I would recommend seeing writer and director Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 movie. Knowing a thing or two about love, I can certainly say I did not love this film.
1 3/4 stars