THROUGHOUT OUR HISTORY WE HAVE BEEN introduced to couples, both real and imaginary, who have a special relationship. Each couple had a bond that formed a unique and solid connection between the two. There was Bonnie and Clyde, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Thelma and Louise and Batman & Robin to name a few. I remember when I was first introduced to these, dare I say, iconic couples. There was something about them that intrigued me because I could relate in a way. I had a best friend; the two of us were nearly inseparable. Our backgrounds were different; for example, his parents were divorced, and he had not grown up in the neighborhood. Despite the differences, we first connected with our love of books. From there we discovered a variety of similarities that formed the bonding agent to our connection. What helped cement our relationship were those times where we were both discovering something new for the very first time. Having that shared experience, looking back now, really provided the stepping stones to our growth path. It came to a point where we could tell how the other was feeling just by looking at them. We spoke in a shorthand that others tended to find confusing. Our relationship provided each of us a new level of confidence in dealing with the world around us. CONFIDENCE, IT IS SUCH AN ESSENTIAL element to one’s life. I know my journey becoming a confident adult would have taken longer if I did not have someone close with a like mind, my best friend. For the couples I mentioned above, it would have been a different world if they had not found their “soulmate.” Would Clyde have been so successful if he had not met Bonnie? Would Batman have solved all those crimes if he did not have Robin by his side? I do not know the answer. However, I know how it feels to have a special friend, soulmate or whatever name you want to call it; I believe it provides one with strength in every aspect of a person’s life. Having someone who is supportive, who watches your back allows one to take more chances on their ideas. I know what it feels like to think you are the only one in the world. When you discover someone, who understands you or just gets you, there is no greater feeling. If you want to see how well a couple works together when they have history, then see what happens with the couple in this action, crime thriller. HAVING BROKEN THE RULES BY KILLING a fellow assassin on company property John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves (Replicas, Point Break), turned himself from being a hunter to becoming the hunted. The fact there was a $14 million price upon his head did not help matters. This 3rdinstallment started right up where the previous film ended. With Halle Berry (Die Another Day, Monster’s Ball) as Sofia, Ian McShane (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Deadwood-TV) as Winston, Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix franchise, Contagion) as Bowery King and Asia Kate Dillon (Billons-TV) as the Adjudicator; this movie was all about the fight scenes. And let me tell you these scenes were insanely violent and bloody. But here is the thing, they were so expertly choregraphed and staged that I felt the fighting on a visceral level. There were times I was both cringing and laughing at what I was seeing on the big screen. I thought the fight scenes were one of the best I have seen all year. The story was absurd and over the top which is exactly what these movies provide the viewer. The creativity involved in creating this story and beingable to carry it out was excellent. I am not into violence and blood, but I could not turn away from watching this outrageous picture. If there was an election for picking this year’s iconic couple, I would vote for John Wick and Sofia. They were that good together.
3 ½ stars
THE SOUNDS FROM CONVERSATIONS AROUND ME blurred into a curtain of white noise. I was not focused on any of them, only aware of the background noise they created. Instead, I was pulling travel brochures out of my knapsack, that I had picked up at the hotel before taking myself out to lunch. The restaurant was a local establishment I had read about and was curious to check out. Whenever I travel out of state, I always try to eat at least one meal at a restaurant that is not part of a national chain. When I walked into this place I could smell the smokiness of barbeque in the air. The hostess had placed me in a booth by a window; I not only had a view to their outdoor patio, but I also had a wide view of the dining area inside. There was a constant flow of activity, from patrons walking in and out to the wait staff keeping up with the flow of meals coming out of the kitchen. I liked looking at the different food dishes being ordered; it was a way for me to see what was popular on the menu. After I decided and gave my order to the waitress, I delved into my reading material. IT WAS DURING THE TAIL END of my meal when I realized that curtain of white noise had dissipated. Looking up from my brochures I noticed a good portion of the restaurant patrons were looking at the front entrance. Standing at the door was a couple with a child. It did not hit me immediately, but pretty darn close that the patrons had stopped talking to stare at this couple. There was nothing I could see that was unusual about the couple. I was hoping they were not staring for this reason, but I knew deep inside it had to be the only reason the diners would have looked up and stopped talking to each other. The couple was biracial. Their child had a mix of features from both parents; dark cocoa skin, soft tightly curled brown hair and light-colored eyes. I was stunned that a biracial couple would draw so much attention. Why would anyone care? I do not have the answer, but it was not until the couple was being led to a table that the other patrons resumed their conversations. What in the world would they have done I wonder, if the main character from this action, adventure fantasy came into the restaurant? AN ANCIENT SORCERESS KNOWN AS THE Blood Queen, played by Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element, Resident Evil franchise), was plotting her revenge on mankind. Her plan included an unusual offer. With David Harbour (Revolutionary Road, The Green Hornet) as Hellboy, Ian McShane (Hercules, John Wick franchise) as Professor Broom, Brian Gleeson (Logan Lucky, Phantom Thread) as Merlin and Sasha Lane (American Honey, After Everything) as Alice Monaghan; this reboot was filled with blood and violence. In fact, that pretty much says it all about this picture. I found the script lifeless. What I assume was supposed to be humorous remarks bordered on vitriol. There was nothing fun or exciting in this film except Milla’s character. She was the only character that I cared about. I have never read the graphic novels but compared to the original movie, this one was a waste as far as I could tell. In all honesty, watching this film was like seeing a high school production that had not gone through its technical week. I felt different scenarios were shown but never carried all the way through to conclusion. All I can say is it was hell sitting through this film.
1 ½ stars
FINALLY the day arrived where she no longer would need to get up early for work. She had worked in the education field all her life, in various positions from teacher to vice principal. After her discussions with her accountant she decided it was okay to retire and devote the rest of her years to herself. Some of the things she wanted to do was travel and take up painting; she had dreamed of these two things for a long time. The first few days of the school week felt odd to her. She felt something was wrong since she was home, sitting in her recliner, instead of being with her class. The feeling soon receded as she started getting into the joys of retired life. Her finances had been set up to live a good life, not a lavish one, where she could enjoy a couple of treats once in a while. However, there was no way for her to have known at the next condominium board meeting the officers agreed to charge the owners a special assessment to replace all the windows, balconies and repair the swimming pool. The cost to each owner would be close to the mid five figure range; this would drastically alter her retirement plans to the point she would need to go back to work to pay for the assessment. She became resentful and angry about it. FALLING into a state of anger or resentment has always been easy for me. Recently I had to get a new hot water heater and furnace because the old ones broke down and could not be repaired. It all came so sudden for me when it was discovered my house was filling up with carbon monoxide. When all was said and done I realized I should be grateful that I was not killed by the gas; however, I immediately became angry and resentful. The reason for feeling this way was because of the impact this purchase would have on my finances. The funds set aside to pay off my house earlier would have to be transferred to pay off the heating equipment. On an intellectual level I knew this was silly, equipment breaks down; it is not a purposeful act. That did not stop me but at least I did not get extreme about it like the retired hit man in this crime thriller. SETTLING into retirement John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves (47 Ronin, The Matrix franchise), received a visitor at his home who needed a job done. Refusing to help the gentleman would have consequences. This action sequel took the feel of the first film and amped up the intensity and action. With Riccardo Scamarcio (Burnt, Loose Cannons) as Santino D’Antonio and Common (Selma, Just Wright) as Cassian, the fight scenes were unbelievable and bloody violent. They were well choreographed and looked real. An example was the way John Wick constantly had to reload his weapon. Keanu wore his role perfectly, basic dialog with a touch of sarcasm. In fact the whole script had a no nonsense approach with slight humorous moments. Essentially this film festival nominee was a revenge story; it did not pretend to be anything else. I would like to refer to this as an “escape” film to just sit back and enjoy, but I am afraid John Wick would still find me.
3 ¼ stars
The strongest ones seemed to be the biggest jerks as far as I can remember. They were athletically inclined; able to throw or hit a ball harder than anyone else. If a ball was not available, which was usually the case during the rest of the school day; they had no problem knocking a student down in the school’s hallways. If nothing else then anything a student was carrying was fair game; it was not uncommon to hear textbooks smacking the floor between periods. I was one of the larger boys, but it was not from muscles. As a result my negative perceptions of those who were strong were formed quite early. It was not until new neighbors moved in across the street when I met an exception to my mindset. He was my age but taller than most of the students in our class; English was his 2nd language but no one would know. I would hear the way his family talked to each other whenever I bumped into them outside our apartments. There was a politeness about him that was foreign to most of the athletes in my class. During any contact sports, he would be the only one who would offer a hand to a fallen opposing teammate. Yet no one ever picked on him as if his unusual name and mannerisms made him mysterious; no one wanted to take a chance by confronting him. I had this crazy notion that as long as I could reach and step into his expansive shadow, no one would pick on me. HERCULES in this action adventure film reminded me of my former neighbor. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Pain & Gain, Snitch) went through a grueling workout regimen to play the part of the Greek demigod, Hercules. Directed by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour franchise, Tower Heist), this fantasy film was all action with a story similar to a graphic novel. Hercules was a muscle for hire, who with a close band of friends, agreed to train Lord Cotys’, played by John Hurt (V for Vendetta, The Elephant Man), soldiers even though they sorely lacked fighting skills. The unprepared troops were forced into a battle that Hercules was not sure they could win. Though the fight scenes were big and over the top, the story was weak in my opinion. I felt there was such a disconnect between the battles and the drama that I became bored with what appeared to be the same thing happening over and over. Too much brawn and a poor script made this just an okay film; nothing that will muscle it into the top spot at the box office. There were scenes of violence and blood.
2 1/4 stars
During the first week of school each of the students were given a list of extracurricular activities they could join. There was the football and baseball teams among other sports activities. Though one of my aunts felt I should try out for football because I was heavy, I had little interest in it. The first group I considered was band since I could play the piano; but I never saw a piano out on the football field. The only choice was a xylophone strapped to my frame. I nixed that idea, imagining I would have looked like a carnival clown walking across the field. It was a good thing I did not sign up because during the school year I noticed students in band seemed to get picked on more frequently than other kids. I joined the school’s newspaper and yearbook staffs. During that first year I discovered there was a pecking order based on what group or team a student was in. No one from the major sports teams was ever bullied. When it came to band or to the chess group, there was a good chance they would get their books knocked out of their hands or be shoved out of the way while walking down the hallway. Can you imagine a kid who stops participating in something because they would be picked on for it. Think about Andy Warhol or Steven Spielberg as kids, getting picked on for what they were passionate about and deciding they would never paint or make a movie again. It would be so sad for them and a loss for us. See what happens to poor Bruce Garrett, played by Nick Frost (The World’s End, Paul), when his love for salsa dancing was literally beaten out of him in this comedy film. On the way to the junior championships contest, young Bruce was attacked by a group of boys. Never making it to the event, Bruce vowed he would never dance again. Fast forward 30 years to see how that decision changed his life. Nick did a beautiful job as the lovable unmotivated Bruce. Chris O’Dowd (The Sapphires, Bridesmaids) as his co-worker Drew and Rashida Jones (The Social Network, Celeste & Jesse Forever) as their American boss Julia were just as good with their characters. I found parts of the film funny even while there was a sad undertone that filtered through the predictable story. The script seemed so smart with the dialog but the scenarios were at times boring to me. I believe it was due to several unsurprising and inconceivable actions. Based on an idea from Nick, I hope he does not get discouraged by the reviews coming out for this movie.
2 1/4 stars
It can be a word or a phrase I hear and I immediately get flooded with memories from a long time ago. Hearing “Just a spoonful of sugar…” and I see myself sitting in an ornate downtown theater with my mother, aunt and cousins watching Mary Poppins on the big screen. Afterwards, we walked across the street to a department store where my cousins and I were each able to pick out one toy to buy. When I hear “I’ll get you my pretty” I can picture my aunt’s house where everyone was gathered; with all the kids in the basement sitting on the floor, in front of the television watching a special presentation of The Wizard of Oz. As soon as I heard Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum in this adventure movie; I was swept up into a mixture of childhood memories with storybook characters coming to life. Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies, About A Boy) played Jack, the boy who went to town to sell a horse and received magic beans for payment. Except in this updated version there were a few twists to the story. When Princess Isabelle, played by Eleanor Tomlinson (The Illusionist, Alice in Wonderland) was caught and lifted away in the growing beanstalk to the land of the giants; her father King Brahmwell, played by Ian McShane (Deadwood-TV, Snow White and the Huntsman), dispatched a rescue party to save her. Leading the party were Isabelle’s fiancee Roderick and guardsman Elmont, played by Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games, Margin Call) and Ewan McGregor (The Impossible, Big Fish). Director Bryan Singer (X-Men franchise, The Usual Suspects) did a perfect balance between story and wonderful special effects. I enjoyed the almost cartoonish quality to the characters of Ewan and Stanley as they had to endure a more physical type of role. Surprisingly, the two leads Nicholas and Eleanor were just okay compared to the other actors. This was a fun movie, that was easy to watch with consistent pacing. It may not have had many surprises, but how could it really when one has grown up with the fantasy story.
2 3/4 stars