THERE MAY BE A BOXED GAME that is similar but I have not seen one. I remember the first time I played Truth or Dare; it was during 7thor 8thgrade if I am not mistaken. A group of us were hanging out in the park near the school on a Saturday afternoon. There was a ride that was like a merry-go-round without the wooden horses, just a circle of individual handrails or banisters; to make it go you would have to spin it yourself. I do not remember who suggested the game, but I was not the only one who had never heard of it. The directions were rather simple; either accept to tell the truth, no matter what is asked of you, or take the dare and do whatever the person tells you to do. It is funny, I remember accepting the truth questions mostly because I did not want to hang upside down on the jungle gym for 2 minutes or be spun on the merry-go-round as fast as everyone could spin it; which I had already witnessed from the players before my turn. The idea of telling the truth was no big deal for me; I did not have any deep dark secrets to reveal. FROM THAT VERY FIRST TIME I had no idea that the Truth or Dare game was a rite of passage for adolescents. No really, it along with the game Spin the Bottle were some of the first games that lent themselves to having a sexual overtone depending on the players. I remember how the game changed once all of us were in high school. At one point it became a triumph to the initiator of the game when they could include someone unfamiliar to the rules. I think it was to embarrass the innocent students for laughs. Someone unsuspecting could find themselves in a predicament if they were suddenly asked to kiss someone or perform some stupid stunt in front of everyone. Imagine the possibilities; I do not think one could ever run out of dare stunts. In writing this review I tried seeking out information about the history of this game, but there was nothing concrete I could find. One web page stated 53% of boys versus 42% of girls take the dare; in turn, injuries have increased which may be partially due to social media. If you want to see how dangerous playing the game could be then you might want to watch this horror thriller. WHILE ON VACATION A GROUP of friends begin a game of Truth or Dare, where breaking the rules have a serious consequence. Starring Lucy Hale (Scream 4, Pretty Little Liars-TV) as Olivia Barron, Tyler Posey (Maid in Manhattan, Teen Wolf-TV) as Lucas Moreno, Violett Beane (The Flash-TV, The Leftovers-TV) as Markie Cameron, Sophia Ali (Grey’s Anatomy-TV, Everybody Wants Some!) as Penelope Amari and Nolan Gerard Funk (Roddick, Awkward-TV) as Tyson Curran; this story took no time in sinking down to an utter mess. I thought the acting was paltry and the script was basic and generic. There was little in the sense of horror except for the lethal dare results. Like any game I do not approve of changing the rules halfway into playing the game and this story was not following the rules. At one point while I was sitting through this picture I thought maybe it was a generational thing that I was bored; however, the full theater of teenagers groaning told me they were not getting into the story either. The groans were loudest at the end of the film. All I can say about this movie is that it would be a tough dare for a game player to do, if the dare was being forced to sit through this picture while staying awake.
1 ½ stars
DESPITE WHAT HAS BECOME A torturous route, the thrill is still there whenever I fly through the clouds. From the time I was little, lying out in an open field near the airport, watching airplanes take flight; I have always been fascinated with the idea of flying. I can remember getting off an airplane and have relatives standing right at the gate for me. There was never a problem to carry baked goods from home on the plane to bring to distant family members. In fact the whole experience of traveling by air was easy compared to now. I know I bring it on to myself but traveling today causes me to be anxious and tense. There are more opportunities for something to delay or cancel my trip. Now granted I know all of the rules regarding flying are for the public’s safety; but for those who remember an earlier time, things are drastically different. At least that is my opinion. FROM THE MOMENT I ARRIVE at the airport, my body tenses up. If I have driven to the airport I am concerned the long term parking lot will be full; it happened to me once, but that was enough. Then when I am inside at one of the kiosks to retrieve my boarding pass, there is a sense of dread that comes over me that the flight is overbooked and I will not get a seat. Here again it happened to me before. Once I pass these obstacles the next one to come is where I am the tensest. Going through the security line always upsets me. It takes one simple thing to trigger either the metal detectors or X-ray machines and I try to avoid that happening like the plague. I never wear a belt or watch when I go through the security line. Ever since I was pulled out of line because my knapsack triggered an explosive sensor due to a candle I received as a gift, I have eliminated everything possible that could slow down my way to the departure gate. Having just returned from a relaxing vacation this week, as soon as I arrived at the airport for my return flight I went into my defense mode of nervous tension. Little did I know that tension would never leave when I got back home because I went directly to the theater to see this dramatic horror thriller. THE SLIGHTEST SOUND WOULD BRING death to their family, so husband and wife Lee and Evelyn Abbott, played by John Krasinski (13 Hours, The Hollars) and Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train, The Adjustment Bureau), did everything they could to keep their kids quiet; however, how does one train a young child not to make a sound? Directed and co-written by John Krasinski, this film also starred Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck) as Regan and Noah Jupe (Wonder, Suburbicon) as Marcus. Right from the start this story grabbed me; it was fresh and different. I thought I would have an issue with so little dialog; but it quickly disappeared due to the admirable effort of John’s directing and the deeply felt acting from Emily, who in real life are married to each other. This was a new type of horror film that kept me in a state of nervous tension; some of the scenes were so beautifully orchestrated. My only complaint had to do with the baby scenes and the way the story turned out towards the end; they were not believable to me. Outside of that this picture really was a thriller, so be prepared if you go see it.
3 ½ stars
MAGIC ACTS AND PRODUCT DEMONSTRATERS used to be the only things that amazed me when I was small. I would always become mesmerized by magicians performing things my eyes and brain could not believe. Making animals appear or disappear, cutting assistants in half or shooting flames out of extended hands; all of it was a total fantasy for me. As for those product demonstrators, I still can recall standing at the head of a small crowd of people gathered around a table as a man was talking about an amazing product that would prevent eyeglasses from steaming up. He would extend his hand out and slightly up just above his head while holding a pair of glasses and spray the lenses with this mysterious stuff. Next he would hold the glasses over what looked like a vaporizer that was spewing out steam. Miraculously the lenses never fogged up. It was pure magic to me. Anytime I was at a store and heard one of these demonstrators talking, I would make a beeline to them and wiggle my way to the head of the crowd of shoppers to watch the next magical feat being performed. MY AMAZEMENT OF THINGS HAS expanded as much as I have aged. Every day it seems I hear or see something that stops me in disbelief. I cannot recall a time where so many things happening around the world literally stun me. Gratefully not everything is of a horrific nature; there are some acts that are life changers and I mean that in a good way. Just imagine what it must have been like when the first microwave oven came into existence or when we had the first moon landing. I am sure it had to be a “heady” experience for many people. Sadly it seems to me currently the scale is tipping to the negative side more and more. An example that just came to mind is company advertisements that, for whatever reason, wind up having a racist or derogatory message. I believe it was the past week there was an alcohol commercial that looked as if it was making a prejudicial statement about races. Seeing an act of violence like commercial or religious buildings being blown up with innocent people inside just makes me stare at the news, trying to comprehend how such a thing could even be thought up; it simply boggles my mind. Many times I say to myself, “Did that just happen?” This same question crossed the mind of the main character in this horror thriller. FINDING HERSELF COMMITTED TO A mental institution Sawyer Valentini, played by Claire Foy (Breathe, The Crown-TV), could not tell at times if she was facing her biggest fear. Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike, Erin Brockovich), this movie also starred Jay Pharoah (Ride Along, Get a Job) as Nate Hoffman, Joshua Leonard (If I Stay, The Blair Witch Project) as David Strine, Amy Irving (Carrie, Traffic) as Angela Valentini and Juno Temple (Wonder Wheel, Killer Joe) as Violet. This viewing was somewhat unusual for me. The movie was filmed with the use of an IPhone which made some of the camera shots interesting. I thought Claire was convincing and it was good to see Amy Irving. My issue with this picture has to do with the script. There were several intense scenes within the story, but then all of a sudden everything would go flat. I found myself losing interest because during the film it felt like scenes were being repeated. It was not until close to the end where I got back into the story, though I did not like the way the movie ended. I was amazed this picture was done on an IPhone; too bad it wasn’t better.
I WONDER HOW MANY TIMES in a week the average person has to do something they do not want to do. As I was thinking about today’s review I was wondering what things most of us would not want to take part in. The first one I thought of (no disrespect to the profession) was going to the dentist. I do not recall ever hearing someone say they were excited to go to their dentist. Something else I thought of was funerals; though I did know someone from a previous job who would say she was going to a funeral to make sure the person was dead. Just a guess, but they sounded like they had anger issues. There were so many possibilities I came up with this morning that I dwelled on the amount of time we must waste dreading our participation with a particular activity. I think about the annoying things I have to do, dividing them into 2 categories: required activities and activities of choice. There are some people who dislike doing laundry, yet at some point our clothes need to be cleaned. You would have a choice here, either do the wash yourself or pay someone to do it for you. WHEN I WAS YOUNGER I thought I had all the time in the world, but now I realize time is a precious commodity. I want to eliminate the negativity associated with some of the things I do on a weekly basis. My friends keep asking me why I remain seated at a theater watching a movie I totally dislike. They say I should just walk out; but I cannot do such a thing. If I am going to review a film I need to see it from the beginning to the end. And as you know, no matter how bad a picture may be, I never take out my phone and look at emails or texts while seated. Sure many others in the theater do it, but I stay focused on the job at hand. Now I realize I have a choice because it is not like I was hired and given a salary to review movies; I do it because I love to do it. So yes there are times I wish I was doing something else instead of sitting at the show; but I try to remain positive knowing if I can save someone from spending their time and money at a torturous film then I have done my job. With that being said, I leave it up to you on whether today’s review is a warning or invitation for you. ON THE WAY TO TAKING their daughter Kinsey, played by Bailee Madison (Brothers, Just Go with It); to boarding school Cindy and Mike, played by Christina Hendricks (Ginger & Rosa, Mad Men-TV) and Martin Henderson (Everest, Flyboys), make a stop at what looks like a deserted trailer park, where Cindy’s aunt and uncle live. The park was not necessarily deserted. With Lewis Pullman (Battle of the Sexes, Aftermath) as Luke and Emma Bellomy (Before the Dark-TV) as Dollface, this 2nd installment in the horror film franchise held very little interest for me. One thing that disturbs me is a script that does not take the time to think things out. All I will say is if you are confronted by someone who wants to kill you and you happen to knock them unconscious, why wouldn’t you take their gun away from them? There was nothing I enjoyed about this film. The story was weak to begin with and I truly felt the writers put no effort into the script. I would have more sympathy for livestock being killed than the individuals in this poorly done picture.
1 ½ stars
THERE IS NOTHING TO BE said when a friend has made up their mind unless they asked for your opinion. Realistically though how many of your friends would listen and act on your advice anyway? You may see the perils your friend could face by their decision and try as you might they feel the decision they are making is the right one. So be it. All you really can do is be there to support them if things do not go as they had envisioned. A friend of mine told me about their plan to consolidate all of their bills into one loan, using one of those check advances that accompany their monthly charge card statement. I did not think it was a good idea because I witnessed how they handled their finances and had seen them do this very same thing before. Because they asked me what I thought about their plan I had to tell them and bring up the fact the last time they took a cash advance they kept using their charge cards, incurring debt with finance charges. They claimed that it would not be the case this time but I knew better. MY DILEMMA TAKES PLACE when a friend asks me how they look. I do not have a problem telling them they have food stuck between their teeth or their hair got windblown; however, if they want my opinion about what they are wearing how can I critique their outfit if they are the one who purchased it for themselves in the first place. If I think the clothing looks good on them I will let them know my feelings. But if the item of clothing does nothing for them or worse is unflattering, I do not want to just come out with saying it is ugly or unflattering. I prefer to say, “It doesn’t matter what I think, it is what you think.” You see what it comes down to is if an individual can get some type of pleasure from wearing a particular item of clothing, it should not matter what other people think about it. I have no reason to burst their bubble or make them uncomfortable with their fashion decision. This is why I had a tough go in writing today’s film review. I was sad to see one of my favorite actors in this picture, based on true events. SARAH WINCHESTER, PLAYED BY Helen Mirren (The Queen, Eye in the Sky), upon the death of her husband was left with controlling interest in her late husband’s arms company. The board of directors felt they found a way to eliminate her and stop the spending on the continuous remodeling of her residence. It was up to Dr. Eric Price, played by Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Everest), to make a determination. This biographical, fantasy horror film also starred Sarah Snook (The Dressmaker, Steve Jobs) as Sarah’s niece, Eamon Farren (Red Dog, Chained) as Ben Block and Finn Scicluna-O’Prey (The Secret River-TV, Rosehaven-TV) as Henry. I was distraught watching Helen in this poorly done film. Though I enjoyed her performance, the script was so generic and there was no reason for it. The story was fascinating; it was something I wish the writers would have delved into more. Instead we got this horror film with the only trick to scare the audience being the use of the jump scare, something suddenly appearing in the frame. The music did not help either since it telegraphed the upcoming action. Oh and I did not want to forget Jason’s character mumbling through the movie and always jumping back in fear. I cannot comprehend Helen being a part of this mess and wonder why no one told her to rethink her choice of films, unless she was repaying someone a favor.
1 ½ stars
IN THEORY I THOUGHT my idea would work. With the variety of items I needed to purchase as gifts for the holidays, I thought it made sense to go to one of those massive shopping centers. There was one within driving distance from my house; so picking a cloudy day, I drove out to the shopping center only to discover there were a lot of other people who had the same idea as mine. After some time driving up and down the aisles of parked cars, I found a space in the outer reaches or a better description would be, in the frozen tundra. Making my way to the indoor shopping center, I had a loose game plan on how I should navigate through the maze of stores that were on multiple levels. Once inside the warmth in temperature greeted me like a long lost relative. WITH MY MENTAL LIST of people who I needed to buy gifts for in my head, I maneuvered into the continuous stream of shoppers ahead of me. I felt like a worker ant falling into step. Almost every store I passed had some kind of sign stating a sale; with the amount of people everywhere one would have thought the stores were giving away stuff for dirt cheap. I went into one store and navigated my way to the department where I had to buy 1 of the needed gifts. Surprisingly the whole process was relatively painless, so I was able to move on to the next item rather quickly. However my luck quickly ran out at the next place. This store had unique items that were made exclusively for them and unfortunately they did not have in stock the one item I needed. Moving on I made my way to another store on a different level, hoping I could regain my shopping mojo. Sadly it was another strikeout; they had what I needed but not in the right color. When I left that store I had to stop for a moment to reorganize my list, thinking of other items I could get to replace what I initially wanted to buy as gifts. Not sure what I needed I found myself aimlessly wandering in and out of a bunch of stores, getting propelled forward by the ever present stream of shuffling shoppers. I soon came to the realization I had no idea where I was going or why I was there. Lo and behold I felt the same way about this latest installment of this horror mystery franchise. ELISE RAINIER, PLAYED BY Lin Shaye (There’s Something About Mary, Dead End), was used to hearing and seeing spirits. But she wasn’t prepared for what was waiting for her at the home she grew up in. With Leigh Whannell (Saw franchise, Cooties) as Specs, Angus Sampson (Winchester, Mad Max: Fury Road) as Tucker, Kirk Acevedo (The Thin Red Line, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) as Ted Garza and Josh Stewart (The Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar) as Gerald Rainier; I could not tell you where this thriller fits into the time frame for the entire series. There were a few spooky scenes but out of the 4 films, this one was the least suspenseful. However I can tell you the humor on display was a relief since it forced the viewer to have some kind of an emotional response. I felt the script was listless and uninspiring; I did not feel a connection to any of the characters, though I liked Lin’s performance. Maybe it is time for the movie studio to regift this franchise and get it out of their hands.
1 ¾ stars
WHERE THEY CAME FROM no one took part or even mentioned anything about Sweetest Day. Looking at the rack with cards on display, they were shocked that this holiday was “a thing.” Not only did they not know anything about this special day, they did not recall it ever being talked about when they were children. They joked that this had to be a manufactured holiday; maybe it was created by the card companies to increase their sales. To tell you the truth when I was growing up I had never heard anything about Sweetest Day. For this review I wanted to see if I could find out the history behind it; so my searching discovered this holiday was first celebrated in 1921 in Cleveland Ohio, planned by a committee of 12 confectioners to a candy company. Isn’t that an interesting tidbit? It appears to be a bit self-serving; create a holiday that would entice people to buy sweets for their sweet. THE CREATION OF FALSEHOODS for personal gain has been going on for centuries; it still does not make it right. I worked at a place that had a salesperson that constantly turned in fake orders. When I say fake I mean the salesperson might have discussed the product with the customer, but had not gotten the approval to go ahead and place the order. The company would process the order and pay commission to the salesperson, unaware the order was not completely legit at that point in time. If luck was on the salesperson’s side by the time the order was received and ready to ship out the approval came through for it; no one was the wiser. However, there were times where the okay was delayed or never given. In those cases the salesperson already received their commission but our company did not get payment for months or not at all. For the orders that were never approved we would get stuck with the product and scramble to find someone else to buy it from us. I found the salesperson’s behavior appalling; without thought about the company they worked for, they were only interested in their own personal gain. I felt this same behavior was the motivation for this horror, crime mystery film. TEN YEARS HAD PASSED since serial killer Jigsaw’s death. However the recent cases Detective Halloran, played by Callum Keith Rennie (Born to be Blue, Memento), was solving had all the markings of being the work of Jigsaw. And like Jigsaw, there were more cases to come. With Matt Passmore (Satisfaction-TV, McLeod’s Daughters-TV) as Logan Nelson, Tobin Bell (Mississippi Burning, Manson Family Vacation) as John Kramer, Hannah Emily Anderson (Lizzie Borden Took an Ax-TV movie, Shoot the Messenger-TV) as Eleanor Bonneville and Cle Bennett (Barney’s Version, Urban Legend) as Detective Keith Hunt; there were many gruesome scenes the cast experienced. Fans of the Saw films will probably get on board with this latest installment; but I have to tell you, I found the script to be bland. I can appreciate the one story line concerning administering justice on the guilty; but it made me uncomfortable, as if the writers were sending a positive message that it is okay to take justice into your own hands. As I was sitting and watching this picture I felt it was created simply to reboot the franchise; there was nothing new or special except for a plot twist at the end. I have to tell you I do not know who had it worse, the victims in this movie or me sitting and watching it.
1 ¾ stars
THE FIRST TIME HE walked into the room everybody burst out laughing. He looked exactly like a well known movie critic. His costume was not one of those off the rack kinds; he had scoured resale and thrift shops looking for articles of clothing that were as close as possible to the ones the critic wore on television. With the help of a friend who was a hair stylist he not only looked the part but must have practiced for a time to portray the critic perfectly. He already had a good sense of humor so he had the guests at the party laughing at his spot on jokes, mimicking the critic to perfection. The next year when he reprised his movie critic costume it was still cute; but, it did not have the same impact as the first time. The jokes were still good but for the people who were at last year’s party, they sort of had an idea of what type of jokes he would tell the guests. When he returned a 3rd year with the same costume guests were so used to him they had a hard time reacting to his routine. TO TELL YOU THE truth his costume after a few years started to show some wear and tear. I was not sure if he used any of the articles of clothing in his daily life but there was a button missing from his sweater and the shirt color was starting to look darker than the rest of the white button down shirt. It reminded me of a friend who had to wear his older brother’s Halloween costume after the brother could no longer fit into it. We would go out trick or treating together and he would complain about the old costume. The colors had faded and one of the pockets had a hole inside of it. I never said anything to him but I agreed with what he was saying; the costume was old and tired. Who wanted to walk around in something that friends and family had seen a few times before? There really was no fun factor to the costume and the way he felt about it is the same way I felt about this comedic, horror sequel. NOT AGREEING WITH HER nephew’s decision Madea, played by Tyler Perry (Alex Cross, Good Deeds), decided to follow her great niece Tiffany, played by Diamond White (Sofia the First-TV, Transformers: Rescue Bots-TV), to what people said was a haunted campground. Madea would find more than just her great niece in this spooky place. With Cassi Davis (House of Payne-TV, Daddy’s Little Girls) as Aunt Bam, Patrice Lovely (Love Thy Neighbor-TV, Madea Gets a Job) as Hattie and Yousef Erakat (We Love You, Boo! A Madea Halloween) as Jonathan; this sequel did not offer anything new. Fans of Madea will probably still enjoy this movie; I on the other hand did not care for this film. There was a laziness to the script and directing that deflated the humor or what was supposed to be humor. Yes there were a couple of chuckles I admit, but that was it. From my viewpoint Madea has been this outrageous character who will say anything and come across with a strong physical presence. In this picture she just looked and acted tired. The script really was such a mess that I was bored for most of the time. At this point I do not know if Madea should stop going out for Halloween or simply retire and move away to an assisted living residence. How much more could she do?
1 ¾ stars
WAKING UP FROM A deep sleep I immediately knew something was not right. It was still dark outside so the house remained richly seeped in muted shades of black and gray. My eyes were trying to adjust to the lack of light but my ears had already detected an unfamiliar sound. Lying perfectly still my brain was trying to decipher this foreign sound; a sound that I realized could be associated with some form of movement. There was a slight delay between my mental state and my physical body, but a surge of fear flooded across me when I realized there was someone in the house. Paralyzed with fear I could not move for all of my energy was diverted to my mind, as a stream of options for my next course of action popped up into my brain. The sound was coming closer to me. I wanted to scream something out but only dead air wafted out of my mouth, my vocal cords were frozen in fear. THE LAST THING I remembered was seeing a shadow growing up on my bedroom wall before I would wake up, panting for oxygen. This reoccurring dream happened to me several times over the course of a year. Having done some studies in the field of psychology, I was slightly familiar with interpreting dreams. What threw me off though was the intensity of this dream. Every time I woke up from it my body was in crisis mode, with my heart pounding and my breathing rapidly taxing my lungs. I would even hear my heart pounding in my ears. When I woke up it always took me several minutes to calm down because the dream felt so real. I literally would remain still in bed trying to make out any unusual sounds in the house. Once my breathing slowed down I would try to figure out the meaning behind this dream or more appropriate, nightmare. At least I never dreamt long enough to experience my own death; unlike the poor, unfortunate college student in this horror mystery. EVERY DAY STARTED THE same for Tree Gelbman, played by Jessica Rothe (La La Land, Summertime). She would wake up from a dream that ended with her murder and have to start the same day all over again, knowing that later she was going to be killed. She could not understand why someone wanted her dead. This thriller’s cast also included Israel Broussard (The Bling Ring, Flipped) as Carter Davis, Ruby Modine (Memoria, Shameless-TV) as Lori Spengler, Charles Aitken (The Girl on the Train, The Knick-TV) as Gregory Butler and Laura Clifton (The Alamo, The New Guy) as Stephanie Butler. For the most part the actors were adequate in their roles; nobody stood out for me except Jessica. I not only enjoyed her performance but liked the development of her character. Basically this story was a cross between the movies Groundhog Day and Scream. What made this film more palatable was its campy, tongue in cheek script. It didn’t take itself too seriously and had a few scenes that generated laughter out of me and the theater goers around me. There were no big surprises in this picture; sorority students were stereotypically portrayed and the dorm residents were either wholesome or nerdy. I did appreciate the absence of blood and gore from the scenes. This was light fare that at least for me did not produce any nightmares.
2 ½ stars