THOUGH I HAD MISGIVINGS, I AGREED to join my friend for dinner at a recently new, popular restaurant in the city. I wanted to visit with him but was hoping we could just hang out at a local place that I knew had good food. He considered himself a “foodie” who enjoys trying the newest trendy restaurants; I on the other hand think of myself as a low rent eater who enjoys eating at diners and independent, family-owned places. There is a place near my home where the same family has owned and ran this restaurant since the 1960s. They serve simple entrees like turkey club sandwiches, tuna melts and burgers, each served with great French fries. And what I like about this place is the fact they serve generous portions, and the food is fresh and good. I am quite certain my friend would turn his nose up at the place just by its looks. The name of the place is written in red block letters on a square, plastic sign that hangs above the front door. Because decades have passed, the décor now is considered “kitschy” or retro. Realizing I could not dress in my usual relaxed weekend outfit, I asked if we could meet for an early dinner. I was hoping we could beat the crowds and if I were still hungry after eating, I could stop for something on the way home. AS I WALKED IN THE RESTAURANT, I was met by an employee dressed in black slacks and a white, long-sleeved shirt. Asked for the name of the reservations, I gave my friend’s name. The employee confirmed the name on her tablet then directed me to my friend who was already seated. The place was done in calm, subdued colors of blues and greens with a hint of gold. On the table was a small plate that had 2 square dinner rolls with a ribbon of oil circling them. A small pile of grated cheese was directly in the center; it looked like the white ashes from a funeral pyre. Throughout the evening while we conversed, several plates of varying sizes were brought and taken from our table. The salad took all of 4-5 bites to complete with some special dressing that had a lemon undertone to it. I missed having a good-sized salad. The main course for me was a boneless chicken breast; I had to ask them to omit the bacon, the sauce, the onions, and the peppercorn. Everything was ala carte, so I ordered crispy fingerling potatoes. I had never seen such a small chicken breast. When the bill came, I was stunned. We agreed to split the bill; it cost us $100.00 each. All this money which I would normally never spend at a restaurant, and I was still hungry. I felt the same way about this film; all the money the studio must have spent, and I was still wanting more by the end. A SKILLED CIA OPERATIVE UNCOVERS DAMAGING information on a job which sets in motion a manhunt to apprehend him, no matter the price. With Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2046, The Nice Guys) as Six, Chris Evans (Gifted, Avengers franchise) as Lloyd Hansen, Ana de Armas (Knives Out, No Time to Die) as Dani Miranda, Billy Bob Thornton (A Million Little Pieces, Bad Santa franchise) as Fitzroy and Jessica Henwick (Love and Monsters, Underwater) as Suzanne Brewer; this action thriller overflowed with fight and action scenes. It turns out they were necessary to cover up the poorly written script. With such a capable cast, this movie could have been terrific; but it never reached that level. I will say it was mindless fun, if one is in the mood for people being beaten up and things blowing apart. The fight scenes were well orchestrated, and I liked the various settings. By the end of the picture, I felt I had seen a compilation of scenes from previously, better done, spy action films. It just goes to show you spending a lot of money does not mean you will get a great, satisfying product.
2 ½ stars
EVERYONE, I BELIEVE, HAS AT LEAST two families; the family they were born into and the family they formed through life experiences. There are other types of families, for example a foster family. I have a friend who grew up with several foster children because her parents believed in helping innocent children out of bad situations. She had biological siblings but had more foster ones in the household through her years living at home. I was fascinated with her stories about all her siblings. It seemed like every meal was a party, even when her parents did not have much money to buy food. When I was little, I had no idea the friendships I was forming would turn into future members of my chosen family. The term “chosen family” was something I was not aware of when growing up; yet, there are individuals in my chosen family that I have known since elementary school. One is a girl I dated from 7thgrade. When we get together there is a long history of shared events, we can recall for each other. Whenever one of us introduces the other to new people, the new people are always amazed at the longevity of our relationship. There is a comfort and an easiness within our bond of friendship because we do not need to be anything but our real selves to each other. FROM AN OPEN SWIM NIGHT, AT a local community center in the neighborhood I grew up in, I formed a friendship with a boy from a different elementary school district. He was the first friend I made who did not go to my school. I was at the pool with my friends and he was there with a relative. We had been taking turns diving into the deep end and were congregated by the edge of the pool. He had been swimming the width of the pool a few times when he took a break by the edge near us. One of my friends struck up a conversation and he soon joined our little circle. By the end of the open swim time we all made plans to meet again the following week. Soon after that 2ndswim night, I found out he and I had a lot in common. Though we did not go to the same school we made plans to get together either after school or on a Saturday. After we all graduated elementary school, we found out he would be joining us at the same high school. Since then and after all these years, he has been one of my closest chosen family members. Because of my family of birth and chosen family, I felt a connection to the crew in this action, adventure, science fiction film. WHILE PICKING THROUGH A CONTAINER OF junk in outer space, a ship’s crew discovers a little girl who was still alive. If that wasn’t surprise enough, the crew would soon find a bigger surprise was in store for them. With Song Joong Ki (A Werewolf Boy, Doraemon-TV) as Tae-ho, Kim Tae-ri (The Handmaiden, Little Forest) as Captain Jang, Seon-kyu Jin (The Outlaws, Extreme Job) as Tiger Park, Hae-jin yoo (The King and the Clown, The Pirates) as Robot and Richard Armitage (The Hobbit franchise, Into the Storm) as Sullivan; this dramatic space odyssey had sound elements for creating an exciting story. For example, I connected with the chosen family element and appreciated the set-up for the class conflict situation. However, the script needed a good rewrite, I found it too long and the use of flashbacks got to be a little too much for me. The special effects were not spectacular, but they were good. Honestly, this movie came across like a poor cousin to a Marvel superhero film; still, there was enough in it that kept my interest going.
2 ½ stars
FRIENDS HAVE TOLD ME I should write a book about all the excuses I have heard to end a relationship. You might think I am making them up but that is not the case; some of the ones I will list here were given to me. One of my favorites is the one where our relationship had to end because I lived in the suburbs. It wasn’t as if I resided in the farthest suburb that was miles away, where one needed to pack a lunch before heading out. My house was literally 5 blocks from the city limits; from my place to theirs was a total of six miles that was easily accessible by car, bus or train. From someone else their reason to me why they were ending the relationship was because I walked too fast. My response was to ask if it had ever occurred to them to ask me to slow down. How was I supposed to know otherwise? I have long legs; so, I guess I cover more ground quicker than someone with shorter legs? Several of the other excuses that people have told me they heard were: you are too intense, we have different interests and you are not an animal lover. AN IMPORTANT LESSON I LEARNED ABOUT break-ups is to not take them personally. I know, it can be hard not to take them personally; but in my experiences a majority of the time I had not caused the separation between us. There were times where I later found out they were going through personal issues that had nothing to do with me. I will say I have gained something from every person I have ever dated. At the time I may not have understood what insight I had received; but eventually, it would reveal itself to me so that I could get a better understanding about myself. Sound too deep? Yea, I agree; I do not want to turn this review into a session of therapy. One more thing and then I will move on; I was not always an understanding individual who would take the ending of a relationship in stride. Oh no, I could easily turn it back on them and get real ugly. There were a few where I not only gave them a piece of my mind but gave them an encyclopedia of derogatory adjectives to describe what I saw as their failings. And I never did it in a text message; unlike what happened to the poor woman in this action comedy. NOT ONLY DID AUDREY, PLAYED BY Mila Kunis (Black Swan, Bad Moms franchise), not know why her boyfriend Drew, played by Justin Theroux (The Girl on the Train, American Psycho), broke up with her; but now she was wanted by people from all over the world and not in a good way. With Kate McKinnon (Rough Night, Office Christmas Party) as Morgan, Sam Heughan (Heart of Lightness, Outlander-TV) as Sebastian and Hasan Minaj (Most Likely to Murder, The Daily Show-TV) as Duffer; if for nothing else, the only reason one needs to go see this movie is for Kate McKinnon. She is truly gifted; watching her, I had to wonder if she was ad libbing half the script. Her timing and delivery was wonderful. Mila was good; but Kate is in a different category. As for the film the script could have used a couple of rewrites. I found the story going from one outrageous caper to another, some bordering on silly. At least I did get some laughs from time to time; but these 2 actresses easily could have taken on a better developed story and script. I think with a little tweaking and work Kate and Mila could be a long-term, fun relationship.
2 ½ stars
It was time; the house he grew up in was standing empty. He had moved up a level and now was part of the older generation within the family. His childhood home sat on a quiet street, though back then it was not the case. The house was home base for all of his friends to come over and hang out. With a jungle gym and swings, there was always something to do on a lazy summer day. But now as he walked up the front stairs there was only the echo of memories from his youth. Once inside the house he saw some of the same furnishings that were part of his childhood. There was the old wooden rocking chair where his mother would rock him to sleep in her lap. The paintings on the wall, which were used by him to create stories to amuse his parents, now hung crookedly as if they were exhausted from all the years they had been hanging up by only nails in the wall. Anything he wanted in the house he had already received from his parents while they were alive; he was there now to make the house presentable for sale. On each visit he focused on one room and today’s visit meant he was going to work in the attic. After passing through a series of dusty cobwebs he found the light switch to add extra light to the light coming in from the muted windows. It was just before lunchtime, while going through a pile of files; he found a document he had never seen in his entire life. It was a birth certificate for a male baby born on the same date of his birth, but the baby had a different name. He sat directly down on the floor, shocked by the document in his hands; he had a twin brother. News of this kind has a way of altering one’s perceptions about their life; look what it did to the main character in this action thriller. AFTER being off the grid for so long CIA special agent Jason Bourne, played by Matt Damon (The Martian, The Departed), had to have a good reason to resurface and make his presence known. This sequel’s forte was the action scenes; they were fast and intense. With Tommy Lee Jones (The Homesman, Lincoln) as CIA director Robert Dewey, Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, A Royal Affair) as Heather Lee and Vince Cassel (Black Swan, Irreversible) as the Asset; the acting from Tommy and Alicia stood out for me. Credit however has to be given to an older Matt for pulling off his character again after all this time. I thought the idea for the story was interesting and would have provided suspenseful entertainment. However, the script was not strong enough to support the story. The movie was more like a series of chase scenes broken up by a series of flashbacks. In addition, I found some scenes lacked enough information to make sense out of them. Though I did not remember details about the previous films I do not think it contributed to my feelings about this picture.
2 ¼ stars
Do you ever look at a situation and start analyzing it from different angles? I am so guilty of this which is referred to as “over thinking a situation.” I received such a great piece of advice from a former boss who constantly reminded me not to over think the problem; the answer did not have to be that complicated. I know I do this but do you ever ask someone their advice but do not heed it until you have asked one or several more individuals? Sometimes you have gone through so many people that when you finally act upon the situation and it works, you share your excitement with that first person you sought advice from and they get annoyed because they told you the same thing weeks ago. The reason I get multiple opinions is so I can learn something new because I know some of my reasoning, oh alright, a good portion of it comes out of the right side of my brain; it is more creative than it needs to be at times. There is the proverb: necessity is the mother of invention; I just may go a little further with my creativity in solving a problem. I feel it is important to have one’s creative side working alongside the scientific one because creativity can spawn new ideas. Imagine how an off the wall idea can wind up being beneficial to all of us, just look at the creation of sticky notes. I know I could use some work on finding the balance between over thinking and adding too much creative license to a problem. However when the balance is met and the solution turns out to be easily solved, it is a wonderful thing. As I sat through this documentary I was continuously amazed at the simple solutions. MICHAEL Moore (Roger & Me, Bowling for Columbine) went on a mission. He would travel around the globe to seek out solutions he could take back to solve our country’s problems. First thing I must say to you is do not let the title of this film festival winner influence your decision on whether you will see it. I had no idea what this film was about and since the word “invade” was in the title I thought the subject had something to do with warfare. I could not have been more wrong. This documentary was more of a lighter fare compared to Michal’s recent films. It was so entertaining that the audience applauded at the end. What Michael did was go to different countries to see how they solved an issue that was still a struggle for the United States. I am sure there was creative editing involved and manipulative scenes but the bottom line here is this movie made you think. You were able to laugh at some of the solutions. Just notice the French schoolchildren’s reactions to seeing what the average American student eats for lunch. This was a great idea for a movie.
As I walked in the odor of old rubber was still there minus the cigarette smoke. To the left the bar had been enlarged with a small variety of craft beers. When I was younger they only served 2 brands from 2 spigots. There were familiar sounds playing out though some of them seemed more muted than what I remembered. However one particular sound still stood out whenever a ball was rolled down the bowling lane. It was the sound of hope and anticipation for the initial smack against the standing pins that would then scatter out of the way. The old bowling alley I used to go to had gone under renovation. Across all the lanes now hung TV monitors that kept everyone’s scores automatically, accented with colorful animations for each ball thrown. I did miss the fan vent in the middle of the ball return carousel that would blow cool air on the bowlers’ outstretched hand. It never occurred to me that it was used to keep a bowler’s hands dry; I assumed it was to keep one’s palm clean from dust or dirt. Just as I wrote that sentence it dawned on me how odd that must be because after every game my hands always had a dull black residue over them from the ancient bowling balls. It took me no time at all to get into the swing of things and have a good time in this updated place; I had enough memories to mix in with the new things done to the bowling alley. I had similar feelings with this action thriller. KEEPING a promise he made James Bond, played by Daniel Craig (Cowboys & Aliens, Defiance), would discover a trail of events that were created especially for him but had major consequences for everyone else. This latest adventure story in the movie franchise had a big budget to film in various locations around the world which were fun to see. Pretty much the story followed the requirements for what we all expect in a James Bond movie: intense fight scenes, hi-tech gadgets, a love interest and a diabolical enemy. But with a running time of 2 hours 28 minutes, the story was bloated with scenes that were predictable and felt like the actors were going through the motions. I thought Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Madeleine Swann and Ben Whishaw (I’m Not There, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) as Q were exceptionally good in their roles. What bugged me was casting the skilled actor Christoph Waltz (Carnage, Django Unchained) as Oberhauser then giving him such a poorly written role. This was par for the course since there were fun parts to this movie that played off my fond memories of the older Bond films, but then they had to deal with lackluster scenes. I had read Daniel said he would rather slit his wrists then do another Bond film which explained him looking tired. This is not the way I wanted to remember this James Bond.
2 3/4 stars