THROUGHOUT OUR HISTORY WE HAVE BEEN introduced to couples, both real and imaginary, who have a special relationship. Each couple had a bond that formed a unique and solid connection between the two. There was Bonnie and Clyde, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Thelma and Louise and Batman & Robin to name a few. I remember when I was first introduced to these, dare I say, iconic couples. There was something about them that intrigued me because I could relate in a way. I had a best friend; the two of us were nearly inseparable. Our backgrounds were different; for example, his parents were divorced, and he had not grown up in the neighborhood. Despite the differences, we first connected with our love of books. From there we discovered a variety of similarities that formed the bonding agent to our connection. What helped cement our relationship were those times where we were both discovering something new for the very first time. Having that shared experience, looking back now, really provided the stepping stones to our growth path. It came to a point where we could tell how the other was feeling just by looking at them. We spoke in a shorthand that others tended to find confusing. Our relationship provided each of us a new level of confidence in dealing with the world around us. CONFIDENCE, IT IS SUCH AN ESSENTIAL element to one’s life. I know my journey becoming a confident adult would have taken longer if I did not have someone close with a like mind, my best friend. For the couples I mentioned above, it would have been a different world if they had not found their “soulmate.” Would Clyde have been so successful if he had not met Bonnie? Would Batman have solved all those crimes if he did not have Robin by his side? I do not know the answer. However, I know how it feels to have a special friend, soulmate or whatever name you want to call it; I believe it provides one with strength in every aspect of a person’s life. Having someone who is supportive, who watches your back allows one to take more chances on their ideas. I know what it feels like to think you are the only one in the world. When you discover someone, who understands you or just gets you, there is no greater feeling. If you want to see how well a couple works together when they have history, then see what happens with the couple in this action, crime thriller. HAVING BROKEN THE RULES BY KILLING a fellow assassin on company property John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves (Replicas, Point Break), turned himself from being a hunter to becoming the hunted. The fact there was a $14 million price upon his head did not help matters. This 3rdinstallment started right up where the previous film ended. With Halle Berry (Die Another Day, Monster’s Ball) as Sofia, Ian McShane (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Deadwood-TV) as Winston, Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix franchise, Contagion) as Bowery King and Asia Kate Dillon (Billons-TV) as the Adjudicator; this movie was all about the fight scenes. And let me tell you these scenes were insanely violent and bloody. But here is the thing, they were so expertly choregraphed and staged that I felt the fighting on a visceral level. There were times I was both cringing and laughing at what I was seeing on the big screen. I thought the fight scenes were one of the best I have seen all year. The story was absurd and over the top which is exactly what these movies provide the viewer. The creativity involved in creating this story and beingable to carry it out was excellent. I am not into violence and blood, but I could not turn away from watching this outrageous picture. If there was an election for picking this year’s iconic couple, I would vote for John Wick and Sofia. They were that good together.
3 ½ stars
IF THE ADULTS DO NOT ACT RESPONSIBLY how in the world will their children be able to act it? I have seen some bizarre things take place between a parent and a child. First off, I still remember being at a park and watching a woman fill up a baby bottle with soda pop to give to her toddler. One of my favorite contradictions is when a parent scolds a child for bad language, you know a swear word; though the son or daughter was only copying the foul mouth of their mother or father. What I imagine to be more traumatic is when the adult in the family is either drunk or high while taking care of their offspring. We had here recently a news report about a family that was driving in a car that drove off the road into a lake. It turns out the parent was drunk. I have a friend who lost a nephew due to this same type of scenario except it was a car collision instead of a lake. Childrearing of itself is already a challenging experience and then some children having to deal with these added types of circumstances is just horrifying. LUCKILY NOT EVERYTHING IS A DOOM or gloom situation; there are things I have seen between family members that were amazing. Listening to a parent explain discrimination gives me hope that the next generation will be better than the one before it. I firmly believe education is fundamental to the healthy growth of a child. Just think about it; if a child sees their parent acting afraid around a certain race or ethnic group of people, the child will instinctively become cautious around the same group. If the adult’s issues had been addressed before they manifested into fear, that adult could have stopped the cycle from being handed down to their offspring. I remember exactly where a very young me was, in a museum down in the city, when I asked about a person I saw who did not look anything like me or the people around me. Part of the explanation given to me was about countries and continents; there was no fearfulness or negative feelings put into the talk I was given. So, you see there are adults in this world who can be good examples for responsibility, thoughtfulness and compassion. The main character in this drama tries her best in the middle of rising racial tensions. AS THE TRIAL IS TAKING PLACE about the police beating of a black man single mom Millie Dunbar, played by Halle Berry (Kidnap, Kingsman: The Golden Circle), is trying to keep her children safe from the tensions building in the neighborhood. With Daniel Craig (Logan Lucky, Skyfall) as Obie Hardison, Lamar Johnson (Home Again, The Next Step-TV) as Jesse Cooper, Rachel Hilson (The Good Wife-TV, Cass) as Nicole Patterson and Callan Farris (Brothered Up-TV movie, Square Roots-TV movie) as Ruben; this movie’s story revolved around the Rodney King trial back from the 1990s in California. I thought this was going to be an intense, thought provoking crime drama but the director and writers missed the mark—by a wide gap. The script was such a mess going from ill-placed humor to drama to action to sadness; there appeared to be no thought put behind doing a complete story. As for the filming I found it annoying that the director would continually cut to aerial shots of roof top houses. There were so many predictable scenes and I thought the sudden love angle was ridiculous; yes, that is right, in the middle of a riot let us kiss. This was a waste of actors and film. What a shame for such a newsworthy event to be told by a poorly written script.
1 ½ stars
WALKING OUT FROM the station he was greeted by a sea of shirts all in the same color. Every single person was wearing an article of clothing close in the same shade. There were so many people that they filled the space from one side to the other; it indeed looked like there was a slow current of fluid moving away from him, reflecting a settling crimson sun on its surface. He had heard about this special event and looked up the details before committing funds and time to attend the occasion. Though he grew up in the city; the majority of his life was spent in the neighborhood he grew up in. He felt somewhat out of place to his peers because he did not have any reference points to show him he was actually okay. Making his way into the crowd of people before him, he soon discovered the feelings he had about his childhood were similar to the experiences from many of those around him. DON’T YOU FIND it interesting when you grow up feeling the experiences you had were unique to you, only to find out someone from far away had the same type of experiences? I get a kick when I meet someone from another country, in a completely different environment, who has similar feelings about common things that have happened to each of us. It shows me the borders we use to define ourselves are more transparent than we may realize. When you move away from home and set out on your own, you can discover how certain truths instilled in you have a wider definition than you believed. For example in a recent conversation I had with a friend, they shared an experience they had growing up that was so close to one I had that you would have thought the same people were involved in the incident. I was totally surprised by it in the same way the members of the Kingsman were in this action, adventure comedy. AFTER THE DESTRUCTION of their home Eggsy and Merlin, played by Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Legend) and Mark Strong (The Imitation Game, Miss Sloane), discovered their organization was not the only unique one of a kind place to work at; there was something similar halfway around the world. With Julianne Moore (Still Alice, Carrie) as Poppy, Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, Love Actually) as Harry Hart, Channing Tatum (White House Down, Magic Mike franchise) as Tequila and Halle Berry (Kidnap, X-Men franchise) as Ginger; the cast was fun to watch in this 2nd installment. I enjoyed the first one so had high hopes for this film; however, I found the script was weak and filled with strong language that was being used for cheap laughs. Maybe if I had not seen the previous movie I would have enjoyed this more, but I felt the freshness and wicked fun of the first picture was not captured in this story. There were big action scenes and crazy high tech weapons/accessories, but the whole picture felt a bit forced to me with obvious shtick. As I mentioned earlier the actors were a good choice for the roles they had; I wanted to see more depth in them. If the writers were trying to make something that would stand out and be different from other films of this type; in my opinion, they created a typical action picture.
2 ½ stars
GETTING AN EDUCATION was more important than the living arrangements. Her child had special needs that the local school district could not adequately provide. The decision was not easy since they had settled into their home almost 10 years ago. After much discussion, investigation and planning they packed up everything and moved to a location in a new school district in a different state. If you thought it would be easy it was not. The mother was considered an outsider, since the rest of the mothers had known each other for a few years and they were all much younger in age. The new mother did not care; her child’s well being was more important than trying to fit in to any group. Over the next school year there was an inkling that her child was improving in a couple of key areas. She felt she had made the right decision and over the years marveled at her child’s progress. THERE IS NO manual on how to raise a child; you simply bring them into this world and do your best, hopefully producing good results. Listening to parents talk about their “trials’ in childrearing I am always impressed by the amount of sacrifices a parent endures in raising their children. I find it encouraging because I have seen the ramifications of not participating in a child’s upbringing. There was a boy in my old neighborhood who my friends and I tried to avoid playing with because he liked to punch and bite people. When we were at his home we saw how his parents rarely disciplined or even reprimanded him. It was like his parents could not be bothered with him. It was so odd to me because I was familiar with some parents who were ferocious when it came to looking out for the well being of their children. In fact I still remember walking by the principal’s office and the parents of a boy who had been punched by that boy in our neighborhood were demanding actions that would protect their child along with the other children in the school. They may not have had to go to the extremes the mother did in this thriller but they were just as intense. DISTRACTED FOR ONLY a moment was all the time needed for Karla Dyson’s, played by Halle Berry (X-Men franchise, Cloud Atlas), child to get separated from her. Nothing would stop her from finding her son Frankie, played by Sage Correa (Tempting Fate, Uncle Buck-TV). Along with Chris McGinn (My Own Love Song, Sight Unseen) as Margo and Lew Temple (Lawless, The Devil’s Rejects) as Terry, the story would hit home for most people; even those without children could still relate to the sense of loss. Both Halle and Chris were the standouts for me; each one was able to draw me into their character. As for the film some of the action scenes were exciting and nerve wracking. By having so many similar scenes however, I was getting a bit bored or found them farfetched. When the story got closer to the ending is when my interest perked up once again, but by that time I wanted everything to be done. In my opinion I would have preferred having more back story and interaction with Chris’ character. This film did not need to be on the road so long.
Whenever I see the city of my birth up on the big screen I immediately get a sense of pride. Even if the story shows an ugly side to the city, I enjoy seeing familiar surroundings. Let us face it, every city has positives and negatives; I choose to stay upbeat about my city and its possibilities. I have lived my whole life in the same city and have seen historic events throughout the years. When friends or family come into town you can always count on getting at least a mini tour of some area of the city or a visit to a local restaurant. I think having pride about the place you live in sends out a positive message. Not to come across as being too judgmental but I think if people took more pride in their surroundings and city it would become infectious to others. Having a good feeling can only create a better life, don’t you think? You have nowhere further to look than to your city’s local sports team to see the exuberant pride gushing out of the fans. If you have never been to an event where everyone around you was acting out in unison to a common pride, let me tell you it can be a heady experience. Please keep in mind I am not even talking about the people who over indulge in their celebrations. There was an exhibit that came to one of my city’s museums that was only going to be shown here, nowhere else in the country. You should have seen how all the people attending this exhibit were so excited and full of pride that the city snagged such an exclusive event. I even got so wrapped up in the enthusiasm I wound up buying a couple of T-shirts from the gift shop that was set up at the exit of the exhibit. It really is a good feeling to share your pride in something which is why I could relate to the fans sitting in the audience of this record breaking event. HOMETOWN native Kevin Hart (Central Intelligence, The Wedding Ringer) wanted to have a concert in the city he grew up in, Philadelphia. His love of the city helped break a record. This comedy movie for the most part was filmed at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. The opening and closing scenes were created as a big joke on how Kevin would pay for this comedy concert. It also gave him the opportunity to interact with Halle Berry (X-Men franchise, The Call), Don Cheadle (Iron Man franchise, Hotel Rwanda) and Ed Helms (The Hangover franchise, Vacation). Let me first tell you I am not a fan of Kevin’s films because I feel he does the same character over and over. As for his style of humor, there are a few amusing bits he performs; but generally I am not a fan of using foul or vulgar language to get a laugh. If you enjoy Kevin’s work then you will have a fun time watching this concert. For me this picture was just okay; however, I enjoyed seeing a stadium full of people all sharing in a good time.
The television was on for background noise. I am not interested in hearing any of the creaks and moans an old house expresses periodically. My ear caught an announcer on TV saying something about a man with an amputated leg who had climbed Mt. Everest. I looked up to see this guy bundled up in a thick jacket, standing with his one prosthetic leg gleaming in the bright sunlight. It would be an impressive achievement for anyone, let alone someone with only one leg. I sat pondering the possible advantages or disadvantages a prosthetic leg could offer someone. One thing that came to mind is a person would not have to worry about the leg getting frostbite, but I was not sure if there were any other advantages. It is funny, earlier in the evening I had watched a competition show where people were running through an obstacle course. One of the contestants was an amputee and though they did not complete the course, they gave it their best shot. My interest was piqued enough to make me watch the other contestants run the course and I have to say I was fascinated with the variety of people who signed up for this contest. From such different backgrounds I would not have initially imagined this course would be something people wanted to try and complete. It was like a Superman scenario: accountant by day and superhero by night. It brought to mind how most of us wear “different hats” throughout the day. A person can be a daughter, a sister, a librarian, a mother, a steelworker; all these different components make up who we are as individuals. For myself I am a brother, an uncle, a credit manager, a yoga instructor, a cycle instructor and each aspect comes with different criteria; I enjoy the mash-up of it, with its similarities and differences. Imagine if I did not know the different personas in me; my demeanor as a yoga instructor would not necessarily work in my job as a credit manager. What do you think would happen if a person did not even know they had different roles inside of them? FRANKIE, played by Halle Berry (X-Men franchise, The Call), had no idea how the unfamiliar clothing wound up in her closet. Based on a true story this film festival winning drama gave Halle a good character to portray. She did the best she could with the role and I appreciated how she made it easy to follow her story. With Stellan Skarsgard (The Avengers franchise, Thor franchise) as Oz and Phylicia Rashad (Creed, Good Deeds) as Edna, I thought the acting was fine. The subject was something that has been covered in other films, so I was not totally surprised by this story. I felt the script was too generic, being quite predictable; yet because of what was happening to Frankie, I stayed engaged with this biographical story. I do not know how much interest this film would generate with viewers; but I have to say, I did not feel like I wasted part of my day by sitting down and watching it.
2 1/4 stars – DVD
There is already an innate level of creepiness built in this thriller due to the subject matter. Though any type of kidnapping is awful, when one hears of an amber alert there is a deeper dread for that innocent child. Right at the start I got hooked by seeing all the activity in the 911 call center. Being unfamiliar with the inner workings, I was quickly pulled into the building intensity around veteran operator Jordan Turner, played by Halle Berry (X-Men franchise, Cloud Atlas). On her phone line was a young girl reporting an intruder was in her house. From this scene going forward the level of tension was uneven. There were times I found myself holding my breath, anxious for what was going to happen next. But then there were scenes that fell flat. One of the reasons was because I had already seen several pivotal scenes in the trailers. If you have not seen any of the trailers, I suggest you do your best to avoid them. I understand the movie studio has to market their movie and having trailers only of Halle in the 911 call center would not necessarily translate to increased ticket sales. The other factor that diminished the apprehensiveness was the cheesiness in the script. If the writers would have kept the story as a taut, pressure cooker race against the clock buildup; this film would have been a real heart stopper. Add in a wonderful performance by Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine, Zombieland) as Casey Welson, along with Michael Eklund (Watchmen, 88 Minutes) as Michael Foster and Morris Chestnut (Boyz n the Hood, Identity Thief) as Officer Paul Phillips; this movie could have had a lot more punch. Also, I thought the ending was not well thought out and unrealistic. Because of this movie I know the next time I see an amber alert flashing across the highway signs, I will have more to imagine now. A few scenes had blood and violence in them.
2 1/3 stars
It does not take long after perusing my reviews to notice movies mean a lot to me. Whether on a physical, emotional or cerebral level; there is some kind of connection made between me and the movie. From several of the comments left, there is an appreciation to the personal relationship that a film forms with me. That is one of the wonderful aspects of watching a movie. The way it can trigger a memory, make me think, cause me to burst out laughing; I love the way a movie can take me away so easily. This is why I am so thrilled to say there was absolutely no connection between me and this worthless, offensive comedy. To say I was stunned by the tasteless subject matters would be an understatement. After sitting through this movie, despite several people walking out, I felt every actor and actress should come out publicly with an apology. The movie consisted of several short films that were loosely connected, each one vulgar and tasteless. The cast is more than I can list here, but there are a few that stood out. Let me start with Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables, The Prestige) and Naomi Watts (The Impossible, 21 Grams). These two have been nominated for best actor and actress in this year’s Oscars. I want to know how they can walk the red carpet, knowing what they did in this dreadful piece of garbage. If Halle Berry (Cloud Atlas, X-Men franchise) was concerned she would never live down her role in Catwoman, she won’t have to worry about that anymore. Let me just say she reached a new low when she was mixing guacamole with her breast during her film segment. Add in Richard Gere, Liv Schreiber, Greg Kinnear and Kate Winslet; did all of these movie stars owe someone a huge favor? I could go on and on, but let me end on a positive note. This movie has earned a special place on my movie review site: it is the first film to receive a single star from me. I would have given it a zero; but when I started this site, I decided to make 1 star my lowest rating. Obscene and vulgar language in trailer.
Some years ago for my birthday I received a gift of a reading from a psychic. Before going into the session I was told to remember the things that did not make sense to me. One thing said, that had no meaning for me, was her seeing me standing in a room surrounded by people dressed in funny outfits, moving to music. This was said several years prior to me attending, let alone teaching, an aerobic class. She also said I should pay particular attention to any person with red hair, for they have something to offer me. To this day I still think of that whenever I am introduced to a red haired person. Part of my reading delved into what she referred to as my past lives. According to her I was a spy in a previous life, so I would have easy access to two opposing forces. I was an educator and a leader along with being skilled in the use of a crossbow. Though I may not have understood everything told to me, I walked away with the idea that a person keeps returning to this world again and again until they complete their challenge correctly. This same notion could be applied to this expansive movie. With multiple stories set in the past, present and future; the actors took on several roles in this visual extravaganza. Leaving you to figure out which star was playing what role, part of the cast had Tom Hanks (Larry Crowne, Charlie Wilson’s War), Halle Berry (X-Men franchise, Monster’s Ball), Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady, Another Year) and Susan Sarandon (Arbitrage, The Lovely Bones). Adding in the previews, this 3 hour viewing was too much, trying too hard to be a saga for the ages. Some of the stories were more interesting to me; I would have rather seen an entire movie made out of one of them. There was pressure for me to keep up with each story line as the film kept jumping back and forth, seeing no connection between them at first. I felt everyone associated with the making of this film was spread too thin, which made for a meandering stream of babble at times. For me it seemed as if the writers and directors were deliberately obtuse, leaving this pseudo epic film open to multiple interpretations. The message I walked away with was we are all connected, with our actions having a timeless effect throughout the centuries. I got the same message from the psychic in a lot less time without the fear of my bladder exploding.
2 2/3 stars