THE wait was not too long before the waitress brought us our orders. Similar sized plates were placed in front of us; mine had the food beautifully laid out with a row of shiny green vegetables stacked at one end and the main entrée sectioned apart to form a pinwheel effect. I am a visual eater which means if something does not look good to me I am not going to touch it. Keeping that in mind this is what I saw when I looked at my friend’s dinner plate. There was a mound of food in the middle that looked like it had partially melted. Globs of a white protein substance dotted the surface like oozing pustules. There were thin stringy noodles hanging down around the mound that reminded me of greasy hair. My friend took his fork and stabbed one of the white globs; I expected it to burst open like a pimple. I could not look at him putting it into his mouth. Instead I focused on my dinner, but was immediately told by him that I had to taste his dish. Explaining I did not like the look of it, he insisted and placed a spoonful of his food on my plate. Because I did not want it to contaminate my food and could not push it off, with his continued insistence I just tried it to shut him up; I closed my eyes and put it in my mouth. The flavor and taste was nothing I imagined; it actually tasted good. SURELY I cannot be the only one who looks at something and makes a decision based solely on its looks. If someone thinks sauerkraut looks disgusting, who is it hurting? But when this type of thought process is used to judge an individual, it takes on a whole different set of circumstances. Need I point out how many news reports have been showing violence against someone based solely on their looks? I may have an issue with how my food appears but it doesn’t affect anyone else. Seeing the amount of violence and hatred people have for other people is sickening to me. Having survived the taunts and abuse from individuals who did not like the way I looked has made me extra sensitive to being a witness to such things. This is why I had a challenging time watching this sports drama based on a true story. SMUGGLED out of his home in Iran Ali, played by George Kosturos (Caged No More, Christmas with the Karountzoses), found himself in a small California town just as the Iranian hostage crisis took center stage in the 1980s. How much safer would he be here? This film festival winning movie also starred Jon Voight (Heat, Deliverance) as Principal Skinner and William Fichtner (Black Hawk Down, Contact) as Coach Plyler. I found the story pretty incredible and started to believe George was the real Ali. As for the script I was disappointed at its predictability. It was written in a paint by number fashion where one could easily figure out what would happen next. As I mentioned earlier I had a hard time watching some of the action taking place around Ali; however, it kept me connected to the story since I could relate to it. Despite the predictability the message one could take away from this story is an important one. So much is done these days based on looks without taking the time to look inside.
2 ½ stars
Being the designated driver for some of my friends, I have been stuck staying at a nightclub until closing time. When the lights came on I was stunned how the entire place radically changed. When we first arrived at the club there were colored strobe lights sparking everywhere, narrow spotlights searching the dance floor while a cool, low fog circulated around our feet. At the end of the evening the room was flooded with harsh white light, exposing stained dark walls and a floor littered with confetti and crepe paper streamers. Some of it was clumped together on parts of the floor where drinks were spilled. At one of the leather clad booths along the wall, there was a passed out patron. As you can see it was not a pretty picture. The same could be said for this tired film. Consider this movie the last call of the franchise. Phil, Stu and Justin; played by Bradley Cooper (Limitless, Silver Linings Playbook), Ed Helms (Cedar Rapids, The Office-TV) and Justin Bartha (National Treasure franchise, The Rebound); participated in an intervention for Alan, played by Zach Galifianakis (The Campaign, Due Date). On the way to the treatment center; the Wolfpack was ambushed by Marshall, played by John Goodman (Argo, Flight). Holding Doug as hostage; Marshall gave the rest of the gang three days to find Mr. Chow, played by Ken Jeong (Community-TV, Pain & Gain). The story was one dimensional; in other words, it seemed as if they planned the jokes first, then wrote the story around them. The problem was the lack of humor; the jokes were utterly stale. Using Alan’s questionable feelings towards Phil as a continuous joke quickly became old. The character of Mr. Chow derived his humor by being inappropriate for these politically correct times. When the first movie came out it was a novel and fresh idea. I found the film to be dreary and lazy. Consider this film a reminder to never stay beyond last call.
1 3/4 stars
Walking along the beach on any warm summer day, one can see people swimming, sunning themselves or playing in the sand. There is the child making a sand castle with their brand new pail. Often there is someone getting buried in the sand with the help of a companion. Being at the beach, interacting with the earth, produces a calming effect on the person. The term “getting grounded” comes to mind. Unfortunately for Paul Conroy in this thriller, the earth showed him its sinister side. Played by Ryan Reynolds (The Green Lantern, The Proposal), Paul was a U.S. truck driver who was contracted out for a humanitarian mission to deliver kitchen equipment to Iraq. After his convoy was attacked and he was knocked unconscious; he came to, only to find himself buried underground in a wooden coffin. With a cell phone and lighter at his disposal, Paul would have to race against the clock if he wanted to survive. I thought this original story would be a risky undertaking. Essentially there is one actor in a confined space for the entire movie. The use of camera angles and light sources worked to the film’s advantage. I am sure this role had to be challenging for Ryan, being confined to a coffin and relying more on the emotional side of his acting. For the most part his acting was okay. However, the script did not help him nor did the director’s directions. One has to suspend common sense and science to believe in this story. A couple of the phone conversations appeared contrived, but there was one time where I could relate and I believe most everyone else would too. The way the movie ended was unsatisfying for me. I would not be surprised if after seeing this film more people will want to be cremated instead of getting buried.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
I was glad my dad taught me how to drive the year before I was scheduled to take driver’s ed in high school. Only one day practicing in a parking lot before we headed out onto the streets. When I finally took class I was the brakeman for the car. There was a poor girl in my group who kept sideswiping the safety cones. The instructor made her walk the driving course using one of the cones as a steering wheel. In this movie I would like to know how the daughter Kim, played by Maggie Grace (Lockout, The Jane Austen Book Club) was able to drive a stolen car better than Jason Statham in his Transporter movies. She had flunked the driver’s test twice prior. This was just one of the ridiculous events that took place in this low minded sequel. On a business trip to Istanbul Bryan Mills, played by Liam Neeson (The Grey, Schindler’s List), was surprised when his daughter and ex-wife Lenore, played by Famke Janssen (X-Men franchise, The Treatment), showed up to visit. Kim hoped the time together would rekindle her parents’ love for each other. However, she was not aware of the plan in place, hatched by the father of one of her kidnappers in the previous movie. Murad Krasniqi, played by Rade Serbedzija (Shooter, In the Land of Milk and Honey), wanted to take revenge on Bryan and his family for the death of his son. The movie was a disappointment due to the weak script and silly action scenes. There was nothing original here and I found it amazing that Liam’s character was able to kill so many people without even getting grazed by a single bullet. The saving grace was Liam doing what he did best and that was act. At his age to be considered an action hero is an accomplishment. I only wish he would be more selective in his movie choices, because after seeing this film I feel I was taken. Violent scenes with blood.
1 3/4 stars