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
A TINY POOL of liquid was growing larger in the bowl of guacamole the longer the night went on. The offer of food and drink had ended a long time ago as one host sat and watched the secondhand tick around the clock dial. The other host was keeping busy by tidying up around the room, washing glasses and plates from time to time when hopefully her absence would not be detected. After dinner and dessert the small group of people played a couple of games before settling into their spots to chill out and talk among themselves. As the evening wound down the guests started to leave until there were only 2-3 guests left. These remaining guests had a reputation for always being the last ones to leave a party. Somehow they did not or chose not to pick up the telltale signs hosts would enact to signal they were tired and wanted the party to end. MAYBE I MENTIONED this in an earlier post but all the clocks in my house show different times. How it started was when I pushed the time on my alarm clock ahead in the hope of never being late for work. From there it expanded to the rest of the clocks because I discovered many people do not pay attention to the actual time. From the parties I have thrown there were times where I was dead tired by the end of the evening. By having the clocks set ahead I could make a comment about how late the evening had gone; guests would look at the clock and be surprised by how fast time had passed by. Now before you say anything I do want to tell you that after I found my voice I no longer needed to depend on my false clock times to get late night guests out of the house; now I just tell them it is late and I am tired. It is a shame I could not have invited the homeowners in this dramatic, mystery horror film to one of my parties so they could take a lesson. WHEN THE UNEXPECTED man, played by Ed Harris (A Beautiful Mind, The Rock) was invited in by the homeowners, played by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games franchise, American Hustle) and Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, The Sea Inside), they had no idea how their lives would change. This film festival nominated movie written and directed by Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Fountain), also starred Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Begins, Dark Shadows) as the wife to Ed Harris’ character. The first part of the story was suspenseful and I immediately enjoyed everyone’s acting. However as the script continued this film got weirder and weirder. I became irritated with all the close up shots Darren was doing of Jennifer. The thing about this movie was I appreciated what I felt was the allegories the writer was trying to show. However as the story descended into a pseudo horror film I could not wait for the picture to be over. Because of the stark shift from suspense to horror I experienced a stronger negative reaction. Despite the acting from a cast I admired, I could not find justification for the amount of time I wasted watching this movie.
1 1/2 stars
THE STUDENT POPULATION of a school forms its own world map, where borders may be harder to determine. Where you may have one group of students coming together for their common love of sports, there could be another batch of kids who form a clique based on their enjoyment of drinking and drugging. To an outsider it may be difficult to see how these individual groups come together, since its formation is more akin to the way magnets attract metal; it is an unseen force yet yields a strong pull. Added to that there may not be any way to visually determine the common attraction. Unlike a bunch of students who are into and always wearing the latest fashion trends, there are individual groups that appear to be well diversified on the surface. One thing to remember about interacting with someone from a clique is that you rarely will be dealing with that person on a one to one basis; they always have the rest of their group to back them up. BACK DURING MY school years I never really was part of a group or clique; at least I did not think so. I was part of the film club and yearbook committee. What I did not realize was the group of friends I was hanging out with actually formed a clique-those not cool enough to be in one of the popular groups. At the time I thought we all just became friends because we had the same classes together or shared common friends; but maybe it was due to the fact we were easily accessible to each other because no group would accept us. As a result we were always initially left behind from various school activities until we banded together to head out as our own group. Looking at the students I hung out with through adult eyes I can now see we did share some common interests; however, we also had distinct differences. I am sure a good portion of them had no idea what I was going through with being bullied. Having met some of my abusers in my adult life, it was apparent to me they had no idea they were evil. The students in this dramatic horror film at least all knew who was evil. WITH NO ONE to keep them safe a group of kids come together to protect themselves from an evil clown that has been terrorizing each of them. Starring Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special, Aloha) as Bill Denbrough, Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ant-Man, 42) as Ben Hanson, Sophia Lillis (37, A Midsummer Night’s Dream) as Beverly Marsh, Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things-TV) as Richie Tozier and Bill Skarsgard (Atomic Blonde, Allegiant) as Pennywise; the acting from all of them was surprisingly quite good. I had wished there were more scenes with Bill Skarsgard however. The script for this Stephen King (Carrie, The Shining) novel took an interesting perspective I thought. Where I had wanted more back story to Pennywise, the writers’ focused more on the kids. By doing so I felt they were using a wider definition of “monster.” As for the movie there was more suspense to the scenes than horror; there were only a couple of scenes that had gore and blood. However, there was an over abundance of strong language throughout the film. For me the underlying message of the story was actually a positive one; I connected to it as it brought back memories of my school years. Isn’t that a scary thought?
IT LOOKED LIKE it was not being affected by gravity when I first saw it. Walking into the small building one would not even expect to see such a feat of masterly craftsmanship. Off to the side of a larger sized room, rising up from the floor, was a spiral staircase. It was like none I had ever seen before because there was no center pole for the stairs to connect to on their way up. The design of it reminded me of one of those spiral DNA or some such diagrams in a science book. I could not imagine this spiral staircase could withstand the weight of an average person, it looked too delicate. Curious to learn how this beautiful staircase wound up in this place, I pulled out one of the information booklets I took at the front door. After the building was almost completed, the builders realized there was no room for a traditional staircase. After spending days fretting over their dilemma, a stranger appeared at the building site and offered to solve their problem. THERE WAS MORE to this documented story; the history about this building and its spiral staircase was a captivating read for me. I am always interested in learning about the history to a place I am visiting or a person I am meeting. It is said there is much to learn from looking back at history and I agree with that statement. A perfect example would be the time I was listening to a friend sound off on their poor record on dating. Listening to their reasons why a relationship never went beyond a certain time frame, I noticed a pattern forming with each person they talked about. After listening to them go on about their different romances, I shared my observations about the common connections I saw between each individual. After explaining my feelings on what I heard about each relationship we had a deep discussion about the pattern my friend was following unconsciously. If I had not heard the history of those past relationships we may not have found a way to avoid the same dating results. So you see paying attention to history can be an enlightening experience as you will see in this horror thriller. LUCKY FOR THE orphans Esther and Samuel Mullins, played by Miranda Otto (The Lord of the Rings franchise, What Lies Beneath) and Anthony LaPaglia (Empire Records, The Client), decided to open their house up to board the young girls when their orphanage closed. Little did the girls know they were not the only boarders. This latest installment to the The Conjuring franchise starred Stephanie Sigman (Pioneer, Spectre) as Sister Charlotte, Tabitha Bateman (The 5th Wave, The Hive) as Janice and Lulu Wilson (Deliver Us from Evil, Ouija: Origin of Evil) as Linda. The idea to this story was well thought out as the movie set the right tone from the start. Though there were a couple of scenes with blood, this mystery film relied more on atmosphere and mood instead of violence which I appreciated. There were some tense scenes; however, I felt the movie never went far enough. Maybe because the first movie in this series had the intensity and thrills in the right mix, this one was somewhat of a letdown. What kept my interest was the history about the doll that has been featured in each film. If you enjoyed the previous pictures then this one will provide you the insight you have been looking for. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
2 1/2 stars
“YOU’RE wishing your life away” is what she told me. I was complaining about having to go to a social function I did not want to attend and my friend told me I needed to stop wishing things were over. Explaining my reasons for not wanting to attend, she pointed out there was no choice in the matter since I was required to attend; so why keep complaining about it because nothing is going to change. She was right; there really was nothing I could do about the situation. Of course, that did not stop me from complaining and wishing I did not have to go to the event. I am so used to or maybe it is better to say I have been programmed for so many years to wish things away; let me tell you why. DEPENDING on my age I have spent a majority of my youth wishing certain things were different. As a young boy I wanted to fly or at least be invisible; when you cannot be seen you cannot get hurt. When I learned how to bowl it seemed it was a long time before my wish came true to throw a strike. By the time I was in high school my wish list expanded greatly. Besides wishing myself away I also wished something bad would happen to my tormentors. The list of “bad things” is way too long to list here; let me just say some of the wishes included burning, drowning and torture. These wishes created if you will an alternative world where I was in control and not getting hurt. During that time I did have other wishes like wanting to be skinny, strong and a world traveler. Correct me if I am wrong in my assumption but I do not think I was the only one who had wishes. Based on how many people I have seen at the convenience store buying lottery tickets, it seems many people wish for something to happen in their lives. Another example is the high school girl in this fantasy, horror thriller. FINDING an unusual discarded Chinese box Clare Shannon, played by Joey King (Wish I Was Here, Independence Day: Resurgence), discovered what she wished for would come true. What she did not know was the price that needed to be paid to make that wish turn into reality. With a cast that included Ryan Phillippe (The Lincoln Lawyer, Cruel Intentions) as Jonathan Shannon, Ki Hong Lee (The Maze Runner franchise, The Stanford Prison Experiment) as Ryan Hui and newcomer Mitchell Slaggert as Paul Middlebrook; this story had a decent idea that quickly dropped into the dumpster. There was nothing scary per se; just a few scenes of violence. If the writers were trying to unnerve the viewer with tension I did not see anything worthwhile. At one point I felt sad for the actors because the script was so typical it was easy to figure out what the next scene would be. I did not find the acting anything to write home about; it was close to forgettable though I was drawn most to Joey and Ki with their roles. For a majority of this film I sat in my seat feeling bored; wishing I did not have to be there, stuck watching it. Oh there I go again wishing for something to be over; but in this case, I feel I was justified. There were violent scenes and in the middle of the credits there was an extra scene.
1 ½ stars
THERE was distress showing in her eyes as she talked about her experience. We were having lunch together and my friend was talking about the MRI she had done for her doctor. I already knew she had a “touch” of claustrophobia; so I immediately understood her discomfort about taking the test. She told me she became anxious right from the start after seeing the MRI machine and the small hole she was expected to fit inside of, while staying perfectly still. Her breathing was noticeable because the technician offered her the option of playing music or bringing a blanket to keep her warm. When my friend declined the offers the technician sat with her and had her focus on breathing deep. Once she was able to calm down a bit, the technician helped my friend up on the table that would slide her inside the MRI machine. My friend told me from that point on she kept her eyes closed. She finished up her story by saying it was an awful, uncomfortable experience but she knew she had to get through it so the doctor could figure out what treatment was needed to alleviate the pain she was experiencing down her leg. FOR some individuals not knowing the details about a test or certain events is less stressful for them than being aware of everything. I am not one of those people; I need to know every detail so I can prepare myself mentally. Think about it; if a friend asked you to help move their parent to a new living space, wouldn’t you want to know how much furniture was involved in the move? Of course if you were able you would say yes; but at least I would like to know how much stuff so I could come prepared. Though I know the physical aspect of moving is not a fun experience, it is something that needs to be done. And when you think about it, isn’t that the real issue; having to do something you know will not be pleasant? Well that is how I felt as I sat and watched this horror thriller. VACTIONING in Mexico sisters Lisa and Kate, played by Mandy Moore (A Walk to Remember, This is Us-TV) and Claire Holt (The Vampire Diaries-TV, The Originals-TV), experienced the thrill of a lifetime when they were submerged under water in a shark cage. The thrill quickly turned to horror when the cable holding the cage broke, sending them down among the sharks. With Matthew Modine (Memphis Belle, Full Metal Jacket) as Captain Taylor and Chris J. Johnson (Betrayal-TV, JAG-TV) as Javier; this dramatic story did not waste too much time before things became tense—both for the sisters and for me watching their plight. There were a few good jumps provided by the script. Speaking of the script it was pretty bland and predictable. If it was not for Mandy I probably would have become bored after a while. This movie had the type of story that one did not need to give much thought into watching it; in fact, I would classify this picture as one of those old “B” movies that were somewhat cheesy that simply wanted to give the viewer a thrill. That is what this film offers, nothing more and nothing less. After seeing this movie I can tell you with certainty I would never agree to go underwater in a shark cage. Heck, I do not know if I want to even step into the ocean ever again.
2 ¼ stars
HEARTBREAKING was all I could think about as I listened to the news reporter. I do not remember all the details since it happened some time ago, but I vividly retain the feelings I had back then while seeing a picture of the family car before tragedy struck. The mom and dad were driving in the car with their children when they got caught in a flash flood due to the heavy storms experienced in their area. As the car started to float off the road and head towards the river, the parents were trying to gather up the kids to get them out. Here is where my memory is a little fuzzy; the car was starting to sink and the father found himself in one of the worst scenarios possible. Two kids still remained in the car as more of it was sinking below the surface. He had to dive underwater and work at releasing the children from their car seats, I believe. Frantically he had to return to the surface for air and swim back down to the vehicle. Unfortunately he was only able to save one of the 2 kids. I cannot imagine the feelings of guilt the dad must have suffered; it had to be a life altering experience that would not be easy to reconcile. THERE are many times where one has to make a decision that will not bring the best outcome. I have made many decisions that if I could do all over again, I would have chosen a different path. What is that saying people use in these types of situations, hindsight is 20/20? The phrase I tend to use is, “If I knew then what I know now…” Maybe there is some truth to that saying about, “with age comes wisdom.” No matter how old the father was in this horror mystery movie, I do not think any of his decisions were easy. WITH unknown terrors lurking out their door a father, mother and their son seal themselves up inside of their house. Their daily routine would be disrupted when there was a pounding at their door. Starring Joel Edgerton (Loving, The Gift) as Paul, Carmen Ejogo (Selma, Alien: Covenant) as Sarah, Kelvin Harrison Jr. (The Birth of a Nation, Mudbound) as Travis, Christopher Abbott (A Most Violent Year, Martha Marcy May Marlene) as Will and Riley Keough (The Runaways, American Honey) as Kim; this story was more of a psychological thriller to me. The viewers never really saw the terror that was being afflicted across the land. I thought the script started off well enough in building up the tension, assisted with the able acting from the cast. Visually this film had a natural darkness to it, literally and figuratively; things were kept simple from the dialog to the sets. One could really get a feel for what this family was experiencing. My issue with the script came in the latter part of the movie; I felt confused on where the writer was taking the story. By the end of the film I still had some questions I wish would have been answered; in fact, I would not be surprised if some viewers were left feeling dissatisfied. This picture presented some tough choices for the characters and in turn, could present the viewer with their own dilemma if they were in a similar situation.
2 ½ stars