IN YEARS LONG PAST, PARENTS WERE either cool or nerds. There was the family who had a mother that liked to dress up like her daughter. It was funny, where no one noticed the daughter’s attire; most people would not forget what the mother was wearing if they happened to see her in the neighborhood. On the other hand, there was another family that had a mother who seemed to be stuck in an era long past; she dressed and looked like an old movie to me. Mothers by the way were not the only ones who would stand out to the kids in the neighborhood. Living a couple of blocks away from me was a father who rode a motorcycle. To a young kid this dad seemed ultracool dressed up in leather jacket and pants with a matching black helmet. Another father in our school district would always tell these “dumb” jokes that made most children groan. It did not matter what our parents did for a living; every child tended to judge other parents solely on their looks and actions. The only time a parent would be considered mean was when they would not let their child come out to play. That was the extent of our feelings about parents. CURRENTLY THE NEWS HAS HAD SEVERAL stories about adults who have or have attempted to commit crimes against children. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen or read news alerts about an adult who tried to lure a child into their vehicle. Recently there was a verdict in a trial where the parents had kept their children locked in cages in the basement of their home. It is stories like these, that reaffirm my belief that people should be required to have a license to have a child. One needs a license to drive a car; so, why not have a test for adults to see if they are fit to have a child? I am not going to go into my rant again about parents who bring their young children to violent/sexual R rated films, just because they want to see the movie, or they do not want to pay for a babysitter. In fact, I am uncomfortable sometimes when I go to review a children’s animated film by myself. The reason being it looks odd to the families sitting around. There I sit, an older man without kids, at a children’s film. I have gotten some curious looks from the parents. They should see the adult in this movie if they want something real to worry about. AFTER SUE ANN, PLAYED BY OCTAVIA SPENCER (The Shape of Water, Hidden Figures), agreed to buy alcohol for a group of underaged friends; she felt it would not be safe for them to be driving and drinking. She offered the young adults her basement as a place to party and she was going to be the best host. With Diana Silvers (Booksmart, Glass) as Maggie, Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers, Cape Fear) as Erica, McKaley Miller (The Standoff, Hart of Dixie-TV) as Haley and Corey Fogelmanis (Girl Meets World-TV, PrankMe-TV) as Andy; this horror thriller needed to thank Octavia for starring in the key role. She was so good in the role that she creeped me out a bit. With that being said, the other aspects of this movie did not live up to the trailers. There were holes in the story where I questioned the validity of the situation; at other times, I thought the script was being lazy and generic. This could have been a real knuckle holder, but instead it only provided me with a glimmer at times of something that could have been frightening. Sue Ann and this movie had something in common; they were both troubled.
2 ½ stars
THERE SHE SAT AS IF WAITING for her prime minister to enter and update her on world events. I would only see her in the communal dining area of the facility. Her hair perfectly coiffed was never out of place, though it did look like there was a thin layer of shellac coating it. Many of the residents would be dressed in a variety of clothing; it could be sleepwear or casual, one never knew what they would be wearing when they came down to the dining room. However, she was always immaculately dressed. Every blouse was tucked in, every button closed and everything always looking like it was just pressed at the cleaners. I asked one of the attendants about her, since I never saw anyone interacting with her. They told me she had been well off financially, but presently she was getting assistance from the state. I was curious why no one talked to her and was told when she became a resident of the nursing home she treated everyone as if they were her servant; except for pointing to things she wanted, she never acknowledged any of the other residents. I guess in her former life she only traveled in circles with other wealthy individuals. SOME PEOPLE FIND THEIR CLIQUE AND refuse to ever stray from it; for others, it is decided for them whether they want it or not. I never understood the power of a clique until I was in school. Each clique had a certain level of importance which brought them specific benefits. The jocks, as one clique was known by, were on the top of the food chain. Because they had the ability to bring massive glory to the school based on their team record, they pretty much had free reign across all school lines. Sure, there would be one teacher who would assert their authority over a jock; but it would rarely take hold for long. Theater students had their own language in a way. They were not afraid to show their emotions, which did not always work to their advantage. Though I wanted to be part of a group simply for survival purposes, I never quite fit into one category. It is the same in my adult life. Being part of a clique for me feels like I must stifle other aspects of my life. I dislike being typecast or pigeon-holed simply because I participate in a particular activity. Because of this I felt I understood what the two leads in this comedy were facing. WITH THEIR TIME ABOUT TO END on their high school years, best friends Amy and Molly, played by Kaitlyn Dever (Short Term 12, Last Man Standing-TV) and Beanie Feldstein (The Female Brain, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising), realize they have one day to experience the fun side of high school life and not be the book nerds that everyone believes them to be. With Jessica Williams (Delivery Man, Hot Tub Time Machine 2) as Miss Fine, Jason Sudeikis (Colossal, We’re the Millers) as Principal Brown and Lisa Kudrow (The Opposite of Sex, Friends-TV) as Charmaine; this coming of age, friendship genre story had some fine moments. It was a story that we’ve seen before; however, I found the two female leads endearing. The humor was raunchy at times, but I still enjoyed it and the way the humor could be both verbal and/or physical. Kaitlyn and Beanie worked well together, coming across as two best high school friends. After a point I did feel as if the story was becoming monotonous; at least the soundtrack kept me entertained. With this being the director’s first time out, I appreciated the pacing and telling of the story. The only other thing I have to say is this picture did bring back memories of cliques from my school years.
2 ½ stars
ALL IT INVOLVED WAS WALKING ACROSS the street, but it meant so much more to me. My elementary school that I had been attending for 9 years, if you include kindergarten, was across the street from what would be my high school in the fall. Where the elementary school was half a block long, the high school filled out the entire city block. Though it was an old building my classmates and I were excited to become freshmen, because for whatever reason we felt we would be independent. Not being a closed school campus, we could go out to eat lunch, though all of us were curious about the lunchroom; there was none in our elementary school. Before the end of the school year and our graduation, a field trip was arranged for the 8thgrade students to take a tour of the high school. We walked over in groups and one of the first things I noticed was how everyone in the high school looked older. You would think a span of 1-4 years would not make a big difference in a person’s appearance, but for some reason the way the students were dressed, their demeanor and size made them appear so much older to me. THERE WAS ONE POINT WHERE OUR elementary school teacher left my group to go talk to someone while we were about to get a tour of the gymnasium. We were told to remain in the hallway outside of the gym until she came back. Several of us strained to get a look of the gym through the narrow windows of the gym doors. Suddenly we heard a pinging sound and then a student behind me let out a yelp. When we turned to look who was behind us we found a group of high schoolers blocking the hallway as they threw pennies at us. I had no idea what was going on. A few of the boys in my group yelled at the high schoolers, making threatening gestures towards them. As suddenly as it had started they stopped flinging pennies at us, turned around and walked away into the echoes of gleeful laughter. This was my introduction into high school. Little did I know it was only a prelude to what was in store for me. The summer before the school semester started I spent fretting over what kind of high school was I going to, away from the safety evidently I felt in elementary school. This film festival winning comedic drama’s story is as authentic as it can be, in depicting the transition from 8thgrade to high school. DEALING WITH HER INSECURITIES INTROVERTED 8thgrader Kayla, played by Elsie Fisher (Bad Behavior; McFarland, USA), looked to high school as the place that would give her a chance to overcome her fears. There was the fact that her classmates were also going to the same school. With Josh Hamilton (Francis Ha, Kicking & Screaming) as Mark Day, Emily Robinson (Behold My Heart, Transparent-TV) as Olivia, Jake Ryan (Moonrise Kingdom, Inside Llewyn Davis) as Gabe and relative newcomer Catherine Oliviere as Kennedy; I fell in love with Elsie’s performance. She was utterly believable with the wonderful script given to her. I feel everyone could relate to some aspect of this story; there were parts where I smiled along with others where I was cringing because I knew exactly what Kayla was experiencing. The writer truly tapped into the fears, dreams and hopes of every type of student who is about to enter high school. I especially enjoyed the subtle ways the director had the cast convey feelings without the need to verbally communicate them. This picture gets a grade of A on its report card, even without the throwing of pennies.
ONE COULD ONLY ASSUME THEY thought their child was made by a toy company. I hope that is not too rude of me to say, but there is a couple I know who get someone to watch their kid while they go out drinking for the night. They stumble home 4 in the morning then get upset when their child wakes them up early in the morning; early for them, not most other parents. This scenario is so not part of my philosophy when it comes to parents and their children. I believe part of a parents’ success in childrearing is when they have raised an independent, responsible human being. Isn’t part of the goal to have your children move out and be on their own, taking care of themselves? Honestly, I have seen so many different ways parents raise their children that maybe I am just “old school” with my ideas. Back when we were in school there were students who were so proud to have their parents volunteer for school functions; on the other hand, there were others pupils who dreaded seeing their parents anytime they had to come to school. THERE ARE SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES where a child or parent becomes embarrassed. Do you remember the first time you saw your parents kiss each other? For some children the sight of their parents being affectionate to each other was plain icky. I can remember seeing a friend’s parent trying to dance at a school dance; my friend was horrified as their parent was moving and shaking off to the side of the dance floor. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen parents with small children who freely use profanity around their kids. And some of you may already know my pet peeve: parents who bring young children to R rated films; blood and guts is being splattered all across the screen for the child to see. You have no idea how badly I want to say something to the parents. Maybe part of parenthood contains either the child or parent being embarrassed by the other; I know I certainly do not have the magic answer. However I can tell you if any of the adults in this comedy film were my parent I would be mortified by their actions. ON THE BIGGEST NIGHT OF their children’s high school life parents Lisa, Mitchell and Hunter; played by Leslie Mann (The Other Woman, This is 40). John Cena (The Wall, Trainwreck) and Ike Barinholtz (Suicide Squad, Neighbors franchise); discover what their kids have planned. So they decide they will stop at nothing to prevent it from happening. This film festival nominee also starred Kathryn Newton (Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) as Julie and Geraldine Viswanathan (EMO the Musical, Janet King-TV) as Kayla. There have been many movies that already covered the parent versus child theme; what makes this one different is the perspective and that it is female dominate. Leslie, John and Ike are well equipped to handle the comedy in this story, but I was not a fan of the script. I thought some scenes were too ridiculous to ever be considered as real life. At one point I felt I was seeing one gag after another, after another one; it started to get monotonous for me. The movie trailer pretty much depicts what to expect in this picture. There were a couple of chuckles during the film, but nothing laugh-out loud. When the movie finally ended my first thought was thank heavens I never had a parent like the three in this story.
THE ABSENCE OF LOVE DOES not necessarily mean that the empty space has been filled in with hate. Until the heart has grown up its loves tend to be relatives, friends and inanimate objects. It is not until one crosses over the border into true love where hate may become a future player. I have, as I am sure many of you, experienced a love shared that comes to an end. Not the type where both parties have agreed to move on, I am talking where one person breaks trust with the other. This is where hate can take over; but I am getting ahead of myself. As far as I am concerned anyone who can experience love will live I believe a more satisfying life. It is so much easier to love than hate someone and love is different for everyone. Do you remember the first time you went out on a date? It can be a scary and exhilarating experience all at the same time. DATING SOMEONE USED TO BE A ritual where 2 people would have to meet face to face; unless of course it was a blind date, but even then each person’s 1st contact (such a Star Trek comment) would be a face to face encounter. I am guessing for some of you this is a foreign concept? With the introduction of the internet, dating has taken on a whole new persona. For some their comfort is getting to learn about a person before committing to meet them; others may have specific ideas on what would create a comfortable environment. I remember in school when everyone started or attempted to date someone. There were some students who were interested in the person they wanted to go out with on a date. And there were some who would settle for anyone or almost anyone to date just so they would not be perceived as being different. Ahh, different; now there is a word most people do not want to take on as a label for themselves. Now here is the funny thing, what one considers different may be the exact thing someone else finds attractive. Plus I like to say, “Different from what?” When it comes to love of the heart, there really is very little difference from person to person. BURDENED WITH A DEEP SECRECT Simon Spier, played by Nick Robinson (Jurassic World, The Kings of Summer), felt he was the only one. It was not until he heard about someone’s posted comments that he felt he could experience something his friends had felt. This dramatic romantic comedy also starred Josh Duhamel (Safe Haven, Transformers franchise) as Jack Spier, Jennifer Garner (Mother’s Day, Danny Collins) as Emily Spier, Alexandra Shipp (Straight Outta Compton, X-Men: Apocalypse) as Abby Suso and Logan Miller (Before I Fall, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) as Martin Addison. For a coming of age story I felt this script did it justice. There was an easy blend of drama and comedy that the cast convincingly portrayed. I did feel some scenes were farfetched or cheesy but all in all the writers tried to maintain a realistic setting as they gave each character their own issues. High school already comes with its own potholes and I enjoyed the way the cast made their way through the obstacles. As a side note I was surprised by the crowd’s reactions to this film. They all seemed to be into the story; in fact, at one point the 2 young adults or teenagers (it was hard to tell in the dark) next to me were crying what I think were tears of joy. This film is not so different from other similar movies; however, it does a better than average job in telling its story.
THE LONGER I SAT THERE hearing the comments they were making, the more I was getting angry. Due to my hectic schedule I found myself sitting in one of those food courts where a multitude of fast food restaurants sit side by side, all sharing a common seating area. There was a group of teens or young adults sitting at the next table to me and I could not help hearing their snide remarks about some of the other patrons. Evidently they were trying to figure out what the reasons were for a couple to be together. I know it seemed so weird to me besides being totally superficial and none of their business; but who was I to set them straight? Listening to some of their comments confirmed my initial thoughts about them; they really had no idea what was true love. I say this because they only talked about the physical features of each person and not in the kindest of ways. It was catty with some comments based on stereotypical beliefs; in other words it was plain annoying and disrespectful. I sat there and just like them imagined what type of significant other they would wind up with in life. I STILL FIND IT PERPLEXING how some people focus more on a person’s features instead of their heart and soul. Both in the news and movies there have been stories about couples that had their relationship fall apart when one of them had to battle a disease or debilitating accident. I honestly cannot imagine something like that happening; whether it is the loss of a limb or a fatal disease nothing should have an effect on the heart, mind or soul. Think about it; what would you think about a husband who fell out of love with his wife or worse yet left her because she lost all of her hair, due to the chemotherapy she was receiving for cancer? Granted I am not walking in that person’s shoes and I hope I am not coming across as judgmental; but love is something that nestles deep inside of a person, sending out roots that intertwine with the other person’s love, to form a solid bond that sets the foundation for their life together. It is this belief that made me curious about this dramatic, romantic fantasy. EVERY DAY FALLING MORE IN love with a mysterious soul Rhiannon, played by Angourie Rice (The Nice Guys, Spider-Man: Homecoming), would wake up each day to find what she felt was her soul mate. The challenge was finding the body the soul was inside of that day. Based on the popular novel this film’s cast also included Justice Smith (Paper Towns, The Get Down-TV) as Justin, Jeni Ross (Stage Fright, Taken-TV) as Amy, Maria Bello (The Cooler, A History of Violence) as Lindsey and Michael Cram (Flashpoint-TV, Miss Sloane) as Nick. I thought the idea behind this story was a wonderful one. In fact I would be curious to know how the script compared to the novel. The cast was fine but I found the script and the directing lacked in their ability to tell a story. As the multiple scenes of different high school students passed it seemed repetitious to me. It was not until later in the film where I felt interested in finding out what was going to happen. I am afraid everything was there to make this an interesting and engaging picture; unfortunately it stayed safe close to the surface.
THE bus pulled up just as I said goodbye to my friends. They were hanging out together after school, but I had to go to work. The bus ride took around 25 minutes which gave me some time to study for an exam I was having the next day. Is this what I wanted to do after school? No, I would have preferred hanging out with my friends; studying for the exam could take place after dinner. My part-time job was at a camera store. Luckily I worked in the warehouse so I would not have to be out in front selling or ringing up sales. It was already bad enough that I was one of the few who had a job; but to have to wait on my friends or their parents would make things worse. Truthfully the job was not bad at all; since I was already into photography, I enjoyed being around the different film and camera products. I also would hear about new items before the general public, which I thought was cool. MANAGING my time between school and work was a challenge. By the time my friends and I were seniors a majority of us had after school jobs. One of the perks for me was being able to drive the owner’s car to make special pickup orders or deliveries when the company van was out on the road. I was not comfortable driving the large van as I would have to maneuver several side streets on the route. As for the owner’s car, it was a luxury automobile with all the extra appointments; in other words, all the bells and whistles one could buy for it. Even though driving the car was a highlight, I still had the challenge of keeping my grades up while working. Going to school, work and be with my friends was always a give and take situation. There were times I would miss out doing fun stuff; but on the other hand, I always had money in my wallet. My challenges paled by comparison to the ones the main character in this action, adventure film had to endure. AFTER helping out the Avengers the only thing Peter Parker/Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland (The Impossible, The Lost City of Z), wanted to do was to become a full time crime fighter. However he first had to finish high school. This reboot of the science fiction franchise had a well rounded cast that gave the story a good kick of fun excitement. Starring Robert Downey Jr (Sherlock Holmes franchise, The Judge) as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Michael Keaton (The Founder, Spotlight) as Adrian Toomes/Vulture and Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler, The Lincoln Lawyer) as May Parker; each of them did a great job in their roles. I did wish Michael Keaton had more screen time. With his acting skills the writers could have made his character darker and more intense; I think this would have added more to the story. The thing I enjoyed about this film was having Peter struggle with his desire to be a superhero while trying to be a typical teenager. There were elements of wit and charm to many scenes due to Tony Stark’s presence and Peter’s puppy like eagerness. I felt the middle of the film slowed down with the story line about going out on a date; the intensity and action were weak. Though I found Tom’s whiny voice annoying at times, I felt he was the right choice to lead this reboot. There were extra scenes in the middle and at the end of the credits.
3 ¼ stars
FOR general purposes let me define “karma” this way: The things you do in this life determine how you will be treated in your next one. I would have to spend more time to contemplate how I came to believe in karma since it was not part of my childhood religious upbringing. As a child I know the concept of karma would have been foreign to me. It was in college where I first was introduced to it. Though it was looked at from an educational perspective, as time went on I began to see where certain people would receive comfort from the philosophy behind it. Removing the religious aspect; when I think about karma, it makes me stop to question some of my actions. I cannot change what I have done in the past but in the present I do find value in being aware of karma. A perfect example would be a friend of mine. Recently coming to a place where they now believe in karma, I have noticed a change in their behavior. From a greedy position I can now see how they are more relaxed in their daily life and the need they had before has abated, replaced with almost a serene attitude. AN area of my life where my awareness of karma has affected me is my interactions with difficult people. I know this may sound trivial to some; but in the past I would match a difficult person’s nastiness, loudness and orneriness inch for inch. If they were yelling I would yell back; if they called me names I would throw it right back at them. Having altered my attitude I get angry much less because in my mind I am thinking this difficult person is going to have a hard time in their next life. I wonder if that is how the saying, “What goes around, comes around,” came into existence. It is a lesson some of the teenagers in this dramatic mystery could have learned. STUCK reliving the last day of her life Samantha Kingston, played by Zoey Deutch (Vampire Academy, Why Him?), begins to see herself in a different light. With fellow cast members Halston Sage (Paper Towns, Neighbors) as Lindsay Edgecomb, Logan Miller (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, I’m in the Band-TV) as Kent McFuller and Elena Kampouris (Labor Day, My Big Fat Greek Wedding franchise) as Juliet Sykes; this young adult story started out with an interesting concept. The acting was decent since some of the characters’ actions were making me uncomfortable. To address the elephant in the room, the idea for this story was similar to the one in the film Groundhog Day, where a character relives their life over and over. For some reason I never totally connected to the characters. I would have appreciated more insight into each person; instead, I felt myself reacting to the nastiness. It reminded me of what I saw during my high school days, which I prefer leaving in the past. However, I did like the story arc of one main character and that is what kept me somewhat interested in this picture. My guess is this movie would draw similar aged viewers since that was the makeup of the audience at my viewing. After the film was over I had a feeling that me sitting through this mystery movie meant I would not have to do this again in my next life.
2 ¼ stars
SCANDALOUS is what it was when students discovered the English teacher was dating the PE teacher. The news spread through the student body faster than a 4th of July firecracker going off. There were 2 big reasons why this relationship was perceived as scandalous. The first one was the idea of teachers dating. Keep in mind for a young elementary student a teacher, at least back during my time, was an authority figure. When they told us something, we followed their instructions without any back talk. Teachers had a high place in the parental hierarchy; none of the students ever looked at their teachers as regular human beings. As I write this I know it must sound weird but I remember my teachers being kind, crazy, tough, cold and gentle; they ruled the room not with an iron fist but with a purpose. The idea that a teacher would have a social life was odd. None of us ever saw our teachers out and about in the neighborhood; in fact, the only time we would not see them in school was on a field trip. So the shocked students not only had to process a teacher was dating but two teachers and they were dating each other—unimaginable. THE other big reason this news about our 2 teachers was eye popping was the fact they were not of the same race. It was a different time back then simply because there were not many examples of mixed race relationships. If a child has not been exposed to different possibilities, then seeing one of the options in the flesh can be startling to say the least. I can still remember hearing some students questioning what color the children would be if the two teachers ever got married. You can imagine how this dating news changed many students’ perceptions about teachers. I do not know if it would be correct to say this but all of a sudden teachers were no longer considered infallible; not that they were doing anything wrong, just living their lives. If you think anything I have said was shocking then you might not be prepared for what happens between teachers in this comedy. AFTER being fired from his teaching position because fellow teacher Andy Campbell, played by Charlie Day (Pacific Rim, Horrible Bosses franchise), snitched on him to the school’s principle; Strickland, played by Ice Cube (Ride Along franchise, 21 Jump Street franchise) challenged Andy to a knockout fist fight in the playground after school. The students were already taking bets. This film was painful to watch because I have a hard time watching bullies picking on people. I did not mind Charlie’s performance though after a while the delivery of his lines became annoying. His character had some truth in him that I wished the writers would have explored; but the goal of this script was to get some cheap, easy laughs. On one level one could say the script was creating a commentary on our public school system, however the thought was not expanded. I know the current school experience is totally different to when I was in school, but a good portion of this movie’s actions were farfetched. The best part for me was the blooper reel at the beginning of the credits.
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.