AS WE CROSSED THE THRESHOLD; I saw one standing guard by the door, another lounging on a chair and a third smaller one acting as the greeter. It was some scene; these white powder puff dogs with their individual, distinct roles in the household. The “guard” dog was the only male; I do not know if that had any bearing on him assuming his role in the house. I will say he was good at his job; any little sound from outside would trigger him to jump on the sofa to peer out the window for any intruders, before he would run to the door to make sure it was secured. The one dog who was reclined on the cushion of the chair was an attention seeker. Evidently, her goal in life was to get everyone to come and pet her. The smallest one was the youngest of the group and her motivation for greeting everyone at the door was to find someone to play with her and her toys. Each of the dogs had their own personality; yet, they got along quite well for the most part. The only time the three would fuss was during mealtime. Like little kids in a candy shop, they always wanted more food than what they got in their bowls. As soon as one was done eating, he/she would go to one of the other bowls and try to get a portion of its food. ALONG WITH THOSE FURRY SIBLINGS, I HAVE met some other extraordinary dogs. One dog understood commands in both English and German. He was a water rescuer; in other words, he was deployed to accidents that occurred in water. For example, things like boat crashes and missing people. Another dog I knew had an amazing vocabulary. This dog could retrieve specific items from different rooms in a home. You could ask the dog to get you your hairbrush from the upstairs bathroom and the dog would know exactly where to go to get it and bring it back to you. I found it both incredible and a bit freaky at the same time. I would be remiss if I did not mention the service dogs that help their blind owners and the ones that help with security. It was because of my early experiences around dogs that originally led me to study veterinarian science. One of the things I used to say back in school was I never met a bad dog, only a bad dog owner. When it comes to the dog in this family, adventure drama; all I can say is I never met a dog like that one before. SPANNING FROM CALIFORNIA TO THE ALASKAN YUKON, a dog’s journey would change the lives of the people it encountered along the way. Adapted from the classic novel by Jack London, this movie starred Harrison Ford (Ender’s Game, Star Wars franchise) as John Thornton, Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Not Another Happy Ending) as Mercedes, Cara Gee (Empire of Dirt, The Expanse-TV) as Francoise, Dan Stevens (Lucy in the Sky, Beauty and the Beast) as Hal and Omar Sy (The Intouchables, Jurassic World) as Perrault. Having read the book years ago in school, I still retained the feelings I felt for the dog, Buck. I do not know if this will be a spoiler for some; but Buck in this film was completed created by CGI effects, as well as all the other animals. Normally, I am fine with CGI effects; however, in this picture I found it to be a distraction. Having animals displaying human facial features was too weird for me. Even the landscape was created with CGI which resulted in me not enjoying this movie. There were a few scenes that were decent; but overall, I found this film was not dog friendly.
1 ¾ stars
IT OCCURRED TO ME THAT I was watching different groups in this movie, with origins that spanned the globe, working together as one. There weren’t any indications of dislike, envy or hatred; in fact, it seemed as if their differences enhanced their capabilities to do good. They all had different physical differences. Some were darker, some were smaller, some had both dark and light color mixed in them and it did not matter. What a world they were living in where these things had no bearing on one’s feelings. I would have enjoyed experiencing the world they were living in. Those that were quite big were not picked on or made fun of, unlike my own past experiences. One was handicapped, and it appeared to me no one treated them different from anyone else. If I had seen this as a kid, I would have been surprised because of what I saw growing up. There was a student in class who had a health condition, something to do with their blood, that prevented her from participating in any physical activity. This student was shunned by other students; they considered her weird. Granted, they did not know the details of her situation; but, why did they immediately choose to treat her different was perplexing to me. RELIVING THESE MEMORIES MAKES ME NOW wonder if humans have an inherit tendency to shy away from others that are different or is it something that must be taught. Isn’t that a frightening thought if adults have been handing down that fear to their offspring. Based on what I have been seeing and hearing presently, it seems as if more people are less tolerate of those they perceive to be different. Because of the differences between us, I feel we are seeing more conflicts around the world. People are fighting and arguing for the simple reason they cannot accept someone being different. It does not matter if it is politics or religion or lifestyle; there is a pack mentality that gets formed where people only want to live with their own kind. I am saddened by what I read in the newspapers. Young adults are being killed because they dress and act different than what is “expected” of them. It is horrific, and it is wrong. So much more can be accomplished when the participants come from different backgrounds, to bring their unique skills to the forefront. Maybe those that do not believe me should take a look and see what the different animals in this animated, adventure comedy accomplish by working together. A WHOLE DIFFERENT WORLD AWAITS MAX and Duke, voiced by Patton Oswald (Young Adult, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) and Eric Stonestreet (The Loft, Modern Family-TV), when their family takes a vacation out in the country. How will Max handle so many new experiences? With Kevin Hart (Night School, The Upside) voicing Snowball, Harrison Ford (The Age of Adaline, Raiders of the Lost Ark franchise) voicing Rooster and Jenny Slate (Obvious Child, Gifted) voicing Gidget; this sequel came with its own built in charm. If you enjoyed the 1st film, you will enjoy watching this picture. The humor was fun, and the animation added to it. The children in the audience certainly were having a good time watching this movie. Now it appeared to me the movie studio did not want to deviate from the winning formula of the past film; however, by doing so there really was not anything new in this sequel. I thought there were too many story lines taking place at the same time. But here is the thing though, it did not take away my enjoyment from seeing what was happening in the story. Though there was nothing new with the characters, I liked seeing the way they worked together to tackle issues. Now if only they could teach humans that lesson.
2 ½ stars
THE INVITATION WAS NOT addressed to me, but I was asked to go as a guest. I took no offense since the event was something that had never been part of my usual experiences. It was an art gallery opening for an artist; I was familiar with their name but not their work. Situated down in a trendy part of the city, the gallery’s large windows were swathed in dark banners that looked like they had been splattered with blood. I was not sure what I was getting into as I looked at the people milling about the front of the gallery when we walked in. Once inside servers with skin painted in dull shades of gray were walking around with champagne glasses filled with something that looked like a thick syrupy wine. If I did not know better I would have said I walked onto the set of a vampire themed movie. I declined any offer of the drink. WALKING AROUND THE GALLERY I was exposed to pieces of art that depicted graphic violence. They were done in an abstract way but one could easily make out the human form even with the bizarre, twisted ways it was being placed. Making my way around I was able to hear a variety of comments from the guests that were meandering about as they were looking for more of that reddish liquid stuff to drink. The majority of things I heard people say were positive about the artwork. I honestly did not understand how they could look at these grotesque pieces and interpret them as these beacons of reason and positivity. There was one gentleman who literally was lecturing the small group of individuals around him, expounding on the dynamic themes this one piece presented. I actually stopped to listen to him and though I am not a judgmental person by nature, I have to tell you I thought the talkative man sounded pompous, as he went on and on about various themes one could draw from the piece. By no means do I claim to be an art expert and I know appreciating art is a subjective thing; but I did not get any of the artwork for it did not entertain or move me in a positive way. Sadly I felt the same way about this science fiction, mystery sequel. BLADE RUNNER K, played by Ryan Gosling (Gangster Squad, La La Land), discovered a secret that was hatched years ago that could alter evolution. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Prisoners) this sci-fi thriller visually was impressive. The sets and costumes all conveyed a sense of defeat or maybe more to the point tiredness. Ryan with Robin Wright (Wonder Woman, House of Cards-TV) as Lieutenant Joshi, Ana de Armas (War Dogs, Hands of Stone) as Joi, Sylvia Hoeks (The Best Offer, The Storm) as Luv and Harrison Ford (42, The Age of Adeline) as Rick Deckard were all wonderful in their roles. My big issue with this film was the unnecessary length of time to tell a story from a script that was spotty in parts. I was bored through parts of the picture. There were some characters that one never got the opportunity to really understand, while others had more depth to them. It pains me to say this but I found this film to be pretentious and full of itself. Maybe with major editing there would have been more excitement for me; however, for my viewing time I sat there with a perplexed look on my face.
Others may find it morbid, but among my close friends it is not unusual for us to tell each other we want to be the one to go first. I am not referring to queuing up for an amusement park ride; I am referring to dying. Before you say, “eeewwww,” let me explain. We are like family to each other; some of us have been friends since elementary school. When one of us says he/she wants to be the first to go, we are saying it would be awful to watch someone else go through the process. It is this way because we love each other so much. Some of us had relatives who lived for a long time that we saw go through the aging process and it was not always easy. On the other hand we have seen through the years some incredible things. We also have talked about what we would like to see in the future. Imagine if one of us could live for a very, very long time. Surely there would be great strides made by mankind; I still have a hope to see a flying car in my lifetime. However, to know you will be seeing everyone you know and love die before you would be a tough thing. I have some friends who are in relationships who hate to even see their significant other ill; they would rather be the one with the illness. Life would take on a new meaning if one never became sick or grew old. ADALINE Bowman, played by Blake Lively (Savages, The Town), stopped growing old. No one could know so she had to keep moving throughout the years, never allowing anyone to get close to her. She had not expected Ellis Jones, played by Michael Huisman (Wild, World War Z), to be so persistent. This dramatic romance presented an interesting quandary both to Adaline and the viewer. I thought the movie was beautifully filmed. The different time periods were well represented. The cast received some heavy hitters in the form of Harrison Ford (Blade Runner, 42) as William Jones and Ellen Burstyn (The Fountain, The Exorcist) as Flemming, which tried to get the rest of the cast to act better. For the most part there was no issue for me with the change in time periods; however, I did tire of the narrator early on. There were a couple of slow and predictable parts to the story. As long as one was able to suspend their belief in reality, then the story could provide a charming tale that would draw the viewer into its world. I may not be wiser but after seeing this intriguing drama I have different thoughts about aging.
2 2/3 stars
The elderly couple swirled around the dance floor as the bottom of the woman’s dress trailed behind her like a settling morning mist. They dipped, spun and veered from side to side in synch to the beat of the music calling out to them from the tall black speakers that stood like sentries around the dance floor. There was an elegant grace to their movements that did not betray their actual ages. Speaking with them after the dance I discovered they were in their upper 70s and had been dancing together since their wedding day over 50 years ago. When I complimented them on their beautiful movements they thanked me, telling me I should have seen them when they were younger. The couple took turns explaining their moves that involved lifts, fast spins and quick footwork in unison across an entire dance floor. Due to their ages they could no longer do such things and be graceful about it or at least without throwing out either of their backs and falling to the ground. Here was a couple who did not look their age but knew their body’s limitations as it aged; I admired their practicality and honest spirit. AGING gracefully was not an option in the latest for this movie franchise. As the third installment this action film treaded on familiar ground. Sylvester Stallone (Grudge Match, Bullet to the Head) returned as Barney Ross, the head of an elite covert fighting force. After a mission had failed, Barney decided it was time to form a team of younger players who would have to go up against the man who brought Barney’s original team down; revenge had no age limit. Along with the cast from the previous films; this movie had Harrison Ford (Ender’s Game, Cowboys & Aliens) as Drummer, Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In, Desperado) as Galgo and Wesley Snipes (Blade franchise, Demolition Man) as Doc. I can just hear you wondering what happened to the younger team members. They were in this adventure thriller; I just wondered if they were happy about it. This could have been a fun somewhat campy film, especially with its great opening scene, if the script had been better. Unfortunately the story was poorly executed. The only older actor that looked like he did some of his own stunts was Jason Statham (Snatch, Homefront) as Lee Christmas. I think the most physical thing Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Last Stand, The Terminator franchise) as Trench did was walk across a hallway. There was violence and blood as a multitude of stunt doubles did the physical work. I am afraid this third film was aged and tired; it needed to be retired.
1 3/4 stars
One of the only benefits I felt for not being part of any school clique was the opportunity to observe the groups’ leaders. The athletic jocks were led by one of the most skilled athletes in our school. No one would dare cross him for 2 important reasons: 1. His group had some of the strongest and largest students from our school and 2. The football team was leading in their division. Another clique was referred to as the “Druggies.” They consisted of students who enjoyed and used recreational drugs, even during school hours. The only time there would be any issue involving them would be if an aggressive member from another group wanted to make some type of statement to members of his or her own group, by beating up one of the “Druggies.” The group that fascinated me the most was the one known as the “Brainiacs.” Its members were some of the smartest students in our school. Their leader was so smart because their identity was never revealed to the rest of the student body. For the most part no one picked on this group’s members. I had only heard rumors of the type of retaliations this group was capable of inflicting on anyone who messed with them. To me, I found it brilliant that the leader did not need to make their role in the group known to the public. It appeared they worked equally within the group and to me that was the sign of a true leader. Having read the book that this science fiction adventure movie was based on, I was already familiar with the story about Ender Wiggin, played by Asa Butterfield (Hugo, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas). Ender was being groomed to lead a new generation of young adult soldiers against a race of alien beings that nearly devastated earth. It was up to Colonel Graff and Major Gwen Anderson, played by Harrison Ford (Firewall, 42) and Viola Davis (Prisoners, Won’t Back Down), to determine if Ender had the skills to be a leader and defeat the aliens. After seeing the movie Gravity, I was disappointed with the special effects in this action film. They were okay but did not dazzle me. The acting was average for the most part; nothing really stood out, though I enjoyed Asa’s performance the best. Maybe I am comparing this movie to the book, but the story seemed rushed to me. The dynamics in Ender’s family was kept to a quick surface level and the part that interested me the most, concerning morality, was brief. My guess would be the sequel will possibly address those issues.
2 3/4 stars
As soon as the movie was done, all I wanted to do was find someone who grew up in the 1940’s and plead with them to tell me all they knew about baseball player Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers. I wanted to hear about the times, the games and the attitudes that were prevalent among the people and players. Physical strength can be measured by endurance, power or weight. I think mental strength is actually tougher to achieve. Watching the mental strength Jackie Robinson had to have every single moment was infinitely more compelling than anything I have seen from the recently released action movies. Chadwick Boseman (Persons Unknown-TV, The Express) did a solid performance as Jackie Robinson. The verbal cruelty he endured was unbelievable. Harrison Ford (Cowboys & Aliens, Firewall) as Brooklyn Dodgers’ owner Branch Rickey, despite his extra padding, was okay; but I was still reminded that he was Harrison. His character, who came across larger than life, left me wanting to know more about Branch and his motivations. I just could not get over this man’s drive, determination and foresight by bringing in a black baseball player into an all white baseball world at a time when discrimination was the norm in society. The acting from Christopher Meloni (Oz-TV, Runaway Bride) as Leo Durocher, Nicole Beharie (Shame, The Express) as Rachel Robinson and Lucas Black (Jarhead, Get Low) as Pee Wee Reese was strong. Based on a true story, this inspirational dramatic film was geared to wring out the maximum from each heartfelt scene. The music was written to push at the viewer’s heart and I have to tell you I was teary eyed through over 1/2 of the movie. One did not have to have a knowledge of baseball to enjoy this movie; the story was more about civil rights. If for no other reason, it is worth seeing this drama just to see what the ugliness of ignorance looks like; not that we have stamped out ignorance yet. This movie did what I believe a movie should do: take the viewer away to a different time and place and experience the world through someone else’s eyes.
3 1/3 stars
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but lasers will always hurt you. When I first heard about the mash up of cowboys and aliens I thought what a strange combination. Adding in the actors chosen for this film, I decided to check out and see if our latest James Bond actor could handle beings from outer space. Jake Loneran, played by Daniel Craig (Defiance, Casino Royale) woke up without his memory and a strange metal bracelet attached to his wrist. After wandering into the small town of Absolution, he was identified as a wanted man. Just as he was about to be hauled off to face justice, strange lights appeared in the sky that attacked the town. If people wanted to be saved they would have to stand behind Jake, who had the key to saving earth; he just did not know it. Daniel Craig did some things that reminded me of his James Bond character, but he was wooden in this performance. Harrison Ford (Air Force One, Extraordinary Measures), as feared landowner Woodrow Dolarhyde, was more like a mean Indiana Jones. The only reason Olivia Wilde (In Time, The Words) was cast as Ella Swenson was for the writers to inject a love interest angle into the story. Her story line made little sense to me. I was completely perplexed why Paul Dano (There Will be Blood, Ruby Sparks) would agree to play whining Percy Dolarhyde, Woodrow’s son. The story was silly rubbish; it was a disappointment. I liked the special effects and action but they were not enough to maintain my interest during the illogical parts. Daniel Craig better ditch the cowboy hat and go back to his stirred not shaken martini.
1 3/4 stars — DVD