I HAD NOT NOTICED BUT MY friend was the one who did. We had gotten together for dinner, meeting at the restaurant. After giving his name to the host, he returned, and we settled into a couple of empty chairs in the waiting area. I was not focused on the time since we were busy talking, catching up on the things we had been doing since we last had seen each other. The restaurant was popular so there were a lot of people coming and going. I do not know how long we had been waiting, but my friend motioned to a couple who had been sitting near us, that were now walking to their table. He told me they had walked in after we did. I asked him if he was sure and he said yes. Maybe they had called ahead to make a reservation, I told him. He was not convinced and as we continued with our conversation, he kept looking at the different groups around us, to see who was being called by the host that walked in after he gave his name. When another couple got called my friend pointed out they also had come in after we were seated. The perplexed look on my face told my friend that I was not seeing what he saw; we were being skipped over because he was Black. WHEN HE SAID THIS TO ME, I looked around and noticed there were very few people who were not Caucasian. I normally do not focus on a person’s skin color or ethnic origins since I consider everyone human. The only differential I consider is whether a person is human or animal, nothing else. It does not matter to me if a person is rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight, short or tall; for me, it is whether a person is good or bad. So, instead of my friend going up to the host I told him I would go and see what was going on. When the host looked up as I approached him, I asked him how much longer he thought the wait would be, giving him my friend’s name. The host looked at his list and apologized for the wait and said the table was just being cleaned off now and to wait a minute. He was gone for less than a minute and asked me to follow him; I motioned to my friend to join me. Nothing the host did indicated his dislike for my friend; however, I had to wonder if there was something more here that I was not seeing. I want to believe people look beyond a person’s skin color, but I know prejudices have been part of our culture for centuries. This Oscar nominated movie will show you it from a time long gone. HOPES WERE HIGH FOR HENRY McALLAN, played by Jason Clarke (Pet Seminary, Zero Dark Thirty), when he moved his family to Mississippi. What he was not expecting was to share the land with a black family. With Carey Mulligan (The Dig, Promising Young Woman) as Laura McAllan, Mary J. Blige (Black Nativity, The Wiz Live!-TV movie) as Florence Jackson, Rob Morgan (Monsters and Men, Stranger Things-TV) as Hap Jackson and Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island) as Rondel Jackson; this film festival winning war drama had an outstanding cast of actors. I found their acting to be authentic with depth, which made the story come alive. The directing was on point to create multiple levels of intensity and drama, which captured me and drew me into the story. I have not read the book this movie is based on; but I felt the script provided me a complete, well-rounded story. This was a powerful picture that had a couple of violent scenes.
3 ½ stars
THE WHOLE MISUNDERSTANDING COULD HAVE BEEN avoided if I had only known he was in a foul mood. Such a simple thing to do and it would have made a world of difference. I had texted my friend to see if he was free to talk. Getting an affirmative response, I called him with the intention of catching up since it had been some time since we last communicated. The conversation started out in the usual way with each of us updating the other on our family members. Having known each other for years, our extended families have trickled down to be part of our conversations with some familiarity. At some point I commented on something he said but did not get a response. I thought maybe he did not hear me. When there was a break, I repeated myself. There was dead silence for a few seconds before he made a comment that had an edge to it. You might know what I mean; where the comment could be taken two different ways based on the tone of the speaker’s voice. It took me by surprise and I did not know how to reply. Deciding to push past it and not assume the comment was negative, I continued on with the conversation. IT WAS NOT TOO MUCH LONGER before I felt he was hitting me with another comment that could be taken two ways. This time I called him on it, asking what he meant by saying what he said. He replied with “What do you mean?” which is a pet peeve of mine. He had heard what I said, so why answer with a question? I went ahead and explained to him what I heard and why I responded the way I did. He then took my words and turned them back at me with what I heard to be a condescending tone. One thing led to another until we wound up being irritated with each other. We quickly ended the call; I was left feeling ticked off and confused. I tried wrapping my brain around what had happened but could not find a solution. My feelings were hurt. It was not until later that night where he called back to explain what was going on with him. It turned out he was in a bad mood because of something that had nothing to do with me. His negativity spread into our conversation, where he misinterpreted things I had said to him. We hashed it out so we could clear the air between us. The bottom line was realizing the need to express one’s feelings in order to become a better communicator. This was a conversation the main couple needed to have in this romantic, war drama. TRAVELING TO HAMBURG FROM ENGLAND TO JOIN her husband Rachel Morgan, played by Keira Knightley (Colette, The Imitation Game) was surprised to see the amount of devastation the war had done. It was even more shocking to discover she would be sharing a home with its German owner. With Jason Clarke (Pet Sematary, Everest) as Lewis Morgan, Alexander Skarsgard (The Hummingbird Project, The Kill Team) as Stephen Lubert, Flora Thiemann (Nelly’s Adventure, Sputnik) as Freda Lubert and Kate Phillips (Downton Abbey, Peaky Blinders-TV) as Susan; this period piece had a strong cast that worked well together. I thought the filming added drama to the story which turned out necessary due to the cliché filled, predictable script. Despite Keira’s ability to command an audience, the script did not allow for the addition of depth to the characters. I would have also appreciated if the writers included more history into the events that affected the characters placing them on their current paths. With this film based on the same titled book, I have to believe the novel offered a better story than the one in this post World War II setting.
1 ¾ stars
OVER THE YEARS I HAVE LEARNED that each person handles death in their own way. I also know as one grows older the shock of death loses some of its harshness, in varying degrees. Without classifying them as friend, family or stranger; I knew a woman who couldn’t wait for her husband to die. At the first sign of sickness she immediately had him placed in a nursing facility; she did not want to have anything to do with him. He eventually did die in that facility. Going to a different extreme, I knew a daughter who could not accept the death of her mother. Every day she went to the cemetery to visit her mother, with a thermos of coffee and a sweet roll. She would take a folding chair with her and spend time talking to her mother while sipping her coffee, after pouring a cup for her mother that she perched on top of the gravestone. Next to that cup the daughter placed a piece of the sweet roll on a napkin. When she would leave, she would pour the coffee on the grave and leave the sweet roll. The next day when she returned she would find comfort in the absence of the sweet roll; imagining her mother must have taken it. In reality it probably was either a cemetery employee, bird or rodent. FOR MANY PEOPLE THEIR PETS ARE just as important as their family and friends. There was a man I knew who loved his pets so much that he would have them cremated. In his house he had a shelf devoted to the ashes of his pets; each pet’s ashes were placed in an urn that he would then line up across the shelf. Either resting in front of each one or hanging around the urn itself was that animal’s collar. If you think that is a bit extreme, what about those pet owners who have a taxidermist stuff their pets or freeze dry them for preservation? I have only seen such things on the news, where the dead pet could be curled up on a mantle or sitting up next to a potted plant. If I remember correctly didn’t the news report a few months ago about a celebrity who had her deceased dog cloned? The new puppy looked exactly like their previous pet. I am not one to judge; the way a person wants to handle their loss is up to them as long as it does not have a negative effect on those remaining. See what I mean in this horror thriller. MOVING FROM BUSTLING BOSTON TO PEACEFUL Maine was meant to slow down the hectic life of Dr. Louis Creed, played by Jason Clarke (First Man, Everest), and his family. That all changed when their neighbor Jud, played by John Lithgow (Leap Year, Daddy’s Home Two), showed Louis a part of their land that was supposed to be off limits. With Amy Seimetz (You’re Next, Upstream Color) as Rachel, Jete Laurence (The Snowman, Sneaky Pete-TV) as Ellie and relative newcomer Obssa Ahmed as Victor Pascow; this mystery movie had an interesting style to it. I found some of the filming exceptional that added to the tension of the story. For me, as soon as I see an unkept cat I immediately think something is wrong with it and the cat in this film was giving me the heebie-jeebies. The downfall to this movie was sadly the script. I got tired watching the same scenario done in different ways. Though the acting was okay I never felt connected to the characters. It came to a point where I was looking forward to this movie being over as the dialog got cheesier and predictable. Because this was a remake, I felt the movie studio should have left this story buried and not try to resurrect it.
1 ¾ stars
IT WAS AN OUTDOOR SHOPPING CENTER made to look like a town square. I was not interested in how it looked, only needed to go to one store located somewhere inside. Within the first minute of turning into the mall I was already annoyed by the parking lot; it was set like an English garden maze, except the green hedges were replaced with concrete curbs. From the posted signs I knew I had to be somewhere in the right area, so I decided to park and make my way on foot. Luckily the store was easy to find and once inside I quickly found what I was looking for before I headed back to my car in record time. Next on my to do list was going to the bank. I asked the virtual voice assistant on my phone for the nearest location to a branch of my bank. Directions were offered which I followed out of the parking lot. I made my way down the street for a short time, just past the shopping mall. Being told to turn down a side street I would up winding my way south, having to stop at each intersection because of stop signs. Finally coming out onto a thoroughfare I was instructed to turn west. The next thing I knew I was back at the shopping center and right there was a sign pointing me to the bank. I FOUND IT ANNOYING THAT I HAD to drive out of the mall, through a residential area, only to be directed back into the mall. It made no sense to me. Maybe there was some reason why the interactive assistant had me drive that way, but I found it confusing. These days I find many things confusing and it is not because of an addled mind. It just seems as if common sense is becoming a rare commodity. Later in the day I was at a condominium building and the elevator had a handwritten sign taped inside that said, “Due to the freezing temperatures it is suggested the cabinet doors under all sinks are opened to prevent pipes freezing. This made no sense to me; how would pipes freeze in a unit of a multi-storied condominium building? Don’t all the residents get their water from a main line that then divides out to each unit? I could spend all day listing the things I come across that make no sense to me; but instead, I will just let today’s movie show you what I am talking about. THE QUIET PEACEFUL LIFE BAKER DILL, played by Matthew McConaughey (Gold, The Dark Tower), had created for himself came apart when his ex-wife suddenly appeared with a desperate plea to save her. This dramatic thriller also starred Anne Hathaway (Ocean’s Eight, The Intern) as Karen Zariakas, Diane Lane (Trumbo, Secretariat) as Constance, Jason Clarke (First Man, Everest) as Frank Zariakas and Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, Guardians of the Galaxy) as Duke. I actually think the actors could have handled anything that got thrown to them, but I do not know how they maintained their composure with this bizarre script. Their first clue, I believe, would have been their initial read through of it. The story made no sense to me which added to my boredom. Maybe the writer wanted to create a twisted, sexy, tension building story but all I found were things that made me scratch my head in confusion. It is a shame because I enjoyed the look of the film and particularly the setting, which was this idyllic island. There is already enough I encounter that dumbfounds me; there was no reason why I needed to pay for my confusion by watching this picture.
1 ½ stars
DURING MY SPACE EXPLORATIONS I DISCOVERED planets far from earth that were inhabited by peaceful beings. The inhabitants of one planet did not walk; they were able to float above the ground effortlessly. Everyone was dressed in a similar fashion with a long, flowing robe-like outer coating that refracted light to form a non-stop palette of colors. I considered their heads to be egg shaped with large dark eyes and no hair. Because they were a peaceful race, there were a couple of other species from other planets that wanted to conquer them. Due to this threat the peaceful ones, as I called them, had to build up their defenses. I was in charge of the space ships that in actuality were different writing pens I collected; however, they were able to shoot out death rays from the tips. The pocket clip part of the pen is where the captain and their crew flew the ship, so I addressed my warnings to that part of the pen. I could spend hours flying my pens through the house as they took on evil forces, defending their home planet. Sometimes I had to fly through space dust or debris which was the mist from a can of air freshener. IT WAS NOT UNTIL MY HIGHER LEARNING days that I paid more attention to space. Oh and of course Star Trek and Star Wars pushed me into that direction. To this day I enjoy science fiction/fantasy movies and books. I feel a certain connection to them because they have always presented a different reality to the dark one I was experiencing at times. Within science fiction stories it seemed as if a planet was being threatened, all the inhabitants would come together to defeat the threat. There was something about having diverse beings coming together that I found attractive. At the time, I did not realize it was what I was wishing for in my reality. Feeling like an outsider or just different growing up, the idea of an all accepting society fascinated me. I think that is why when I was a kid fantasizing about space I always had planets filled with peaceful beings. Add in the story lines from Star Trek and I was sure there was a safe haven somewhere in space. It is funny that a few of my friends to this day can tell when I am spacing out and the reasons for it. None of my fantasies however had the type of intensity that I saw in this dramatic, biographical space film. IN A RACE WITH THE SOVIET Union to achieve glory in space, the United States embarked on a radical idea that had never been done before. It would take a certain type of person to be a part of what could become an event of historical proportions. This film festival nominated movie starred Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049, La La Land) as Neil Armstrong, Claire Foy (Breathe, Unsane) as Janet Armstrong, Jason Clarke (Everest, The Man with the Iron Heart) as Edward Higgins White, Kyle Chandler (Manchester by the Sea, Argo) as Deke Slayton and Pablo Schreiber (13 Hours, Den of Thieves) as Jim Lovell. The beauty of this film was the way the director allowed scenes to tell the story without dialog; some of the film shots were beautiful. Now add in the acting skills, especially form Ryan and Claire, and I for the most part was taken away by the story. There have been a variety of space films but for some reason I found the intensity of this one to be tangible. Everything felt authentic and real. Though my imagination made traveling to space an easy process, I got on board for this historical event, space story.
3 1/2 stars
IT IS SAFE TO SAY the majority of us has experienced the feeling of shock. Hopefully it was the type of shock that surprises or dumbfounds you; you know, like seeing a driver do something ignorant and illegal or seeing a parent pouring a soft drink into a baby bottle to feed their child. I used these two examples because I actually was a witness to them. For the driver they were impatient and did not want to continue creeping along until they got to their exit off the highway. So the driver drove off the road, down the gully running alongside then up the steep grassy hill. Their car looked like it was sliding down sideways but they just gunned the engine and eventually made it to the exit. So something like this would definitely be placed in the “shock” category in my book. NOW THERE IS A DIFFERENT FORM of shock; the only way I can describe it, is that it numbs one’s brain. As if your brain becomes paralyzed, all the synapses lose current and stop connecting with each other. For the most part I tend to see this type of shock only on television shows and in movies, which is a good thing. I hope it is the same for you. Only a couple of my friends that I have known for years can tell when I am experiencing something close to this kind of shock. Years ago my friends made a surprise birthday party for me; I was totally unaware of it. When I walked into the place a photo was taken of me so there is proof on my face that I was completely stunned by the surprise. At least the shock was for a good thing because on the flipside getting “bad” news can certainly stop someone dead in their tracks as they say. I do not remember (see I am already preparing you for the shock) if I told you about an incident that happened during my medical scare last year. One evening I received a phone call from a doctor that was unfamiliar to me. I was at the movie theater waiting for a film to start. The doctor began telling me about my recent tests and said there was something else he wanted me to have checked out. If these were the only words he had used I would not have freaked out, but when he said “you need to do it sooner than later” my brain immediately short-circuited. For that reason I could appreciate on some level what was going through the brain of the main character in this historic drama. THE FEAR OF DROWNING COULD have easily been a factor in Ted Kennedy’s, played by Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Everest), behavior after the car he was driving plunged off a bridge. That one car accident would alter the course of history. This film festival nominee also starred Ed Helms (Vacation, Love the Coopers) as Joseph Gargan, Jim Gaffigan (Away We Go, Going the Distance) as Markham and Bruce Dern (The Hateful Eight, Nebraska) as Joseph Kennedy. This movie played out like a docudrama; there were times where I believed what I was seeing but then other times I felt the story was being embellished upon to create some excitement. Jason was excellent in the role as was Bruce Dern; as for the rest of the cast they were more background players for me. I would have appreciated if the script delved more into the history of the characters, especially the relationship between Ted and his father, but I understood this film was focused on one major incident. Since I would have no idea if what I witnessed in this movie actually happened, I left the theater with mixed emotions. It certainly was a tragic event, but I did not feel invested in the story.
2 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
The first thing one notices is the air feels different, a fresher smell unlike the cloying scents from air fresheners. It seems more spacious with odorous wisps filled with childhood memories of jumping into piles of leaves and water sprinklers. Traveling higher the landscape reveals ancient scars deeply etched into its face, some are dry while others have rushing water tumbling down them. If you are standing in the right place on a sunny day you may see the appearance of a rainbow floating in the mist coming off the water. There is a sense of discovery or more precisely being on a treasure hunt because one could travel undercover for some distant, where the sun’s rays can barely reach you except for the momentarily flash between waving leaves, before stepping out of the darkness to a cliff overseeing a wide valley of sleepy hills under a wheat and green colored blanket. Personally I love exploring this type of terrain…from the comfort of my car. Now before you ask me how I can explore nature while riding around in a car, let me explain. My first two hiking experiences turned me off from physically climbing and scaling rugged territories. The first hike ended with the rocks under my feet dislodging and I tumbled down towards a cliff, my clothes ripping apart on the jagged surface. My second time was hiking on an easier topography, however it was dense with foliage and we lost our way as night fell. We were stuck on the mountain for 4 hours until we finally found our way down by midnight, hungry and cold. Ever since that time I only hike if there is a designated trail to walk or a road to drive on. So for the life of me I could not understand why the people in this adventure thriller wanted to climb Mt. Everest. BASED on a true story, a group of mountain climbers have the perfect window of opportunity to scale Mt. Everest, unaware a storm is about to take birth. The storm would become one for the record books. This dramatic movie was incredible to watch. The different landscape shots were spectacular. With a cast that included Jason Clarke (Lawless, The Great Gatsby) as Rob Hall, Josh Brolin (Labor Day, Gangster Squad) as Beck Weathers and Thomas M. Wright (Balibo, Van Diemen’s Land) as Michael Groom; the acting was utterly convincing. I do not know how the actors handled the grueling frigid scenes; it looked totally real to me. Putting aside my bewilderment for this type of undertaking, the story really had the potential for creating a powerful movie. However, the script had poor dialog and a smattering of cliches. I know the focus was on the action and this picture really delivered it. I just wished the movie theater had turned up the heat; we were bundled up sitting in our seats.
There is one individual I still have heated debates with that rarely end in mutual agreement. That person would be me; I am my own harshest critic. I doubt I am totally alone in this regard. There are times where I have gone back and forth about something before acting upon it. I have to look at the pluses and minuses for each option available to me; this is why it has been hard for me to immediately reply yes when someone asks me if I want to do something. The time where I really beat myself up is when I react quickly before thinking things out. This past weekend I was out with a group of people. There was a lot of people coming and going where someone in one group knew someone in another, so there was a lot of introductions going on. Two people unfamiliar to me joined our group. Things went at a pleasant pace with laughter and jokes. At the end of the evening these two individuals started saying their goodbyes to everyone. There was something about one of them that looked familiar to me and before I could drop my filter in place to process my thoughts before uttering them, I said something to them I intended to be a compliment. The look on their face told me it was not received that way. I wanted to kick myself for even saying anything; I should have kept quiet. At least I only beat myself up mentally, nothing like what was done in this science fiction adventure. GROWN-UP resistance leader John Connor, played by Jason Clarke (The Great Gatsby, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), had a plan to save his mother Sarah, played by Emilia Clark (Game of Thrones-TV, Dom Hemingway). He would send Kyle Reese, played by Jai Courtney (Divergent franchise, The Water Diviner), back in time to protect her. However Kyle was not prepared for what he found when he got there. This addition to the earlier Terminator films was all about the special effects. An older Arnold Schwarzenegger (Escape Plan, The Expendables franchise) played the Guardian and in what was to be an epic scene had to fight his younger self. Sound confusing doesn’t it; well do not worry you are not alone. The script became tedious as it kept using time jumping for an excuse to move the story along. It made me lose interest in this picture. Since Arnold could not do all the action stunts, his character had to use parody for comic relief. In an odd way I felt the writers were counting on viewers to be nostalgic about the story, so they spent less time thinking things through before writing them down. They could have used my mulling over abilities. There was an extra scene in the middle of the ending credits.
2 1/3 stars
Before there were any scheduled play dates, before any friendships were formed and before there was the recognition of family members, there was a special steadfast presence in my young life. His name was Zippy and he was my toy stuffed chimpanzee. Waking up from a nap, my emerging gaze always fell upon the wide awake Zippy watching over me, his head lying close to mine. Dressed in red overalls he would always sit on my lap for a family portrait. He was my best friend, my protector, my guardian; he was always by my side. A few years had gone by before I found out how Zippy lost some of his fingers from his rubber hands. He was caught in the middle of a fight between siblings and had suffered a casualty. I found out he had been part of the family before I was born and had been handed down to me upon my birth. CAESAR in this action film reminded me of Zippy in some ways. Andy Serkis (The Prestige, The Lord of the Rings franchise) was unbelievable portraying the genetically altered chimpanzee Caesar in this science fiction sequel. Set 10 years in the future from the previous movie, mankind had been nearly obliterated by a deadly virus. Having seen no sign of a human for years, Caesar had become the leader to a colony of advanced apes who all lived peacefully together. Their world was about to change with the sudden encounter of Malcolm and Ellie, played by Jason Clarke (The Great Gatsby, Public Enemies) and Keri Russell (Austenland, August Rush). This intelligent exciting film got high marks for several reasons. The believable story made sense to me as it started out with a quick review of the previous movie before setting the stage to show-off its well thought out script. I especially enjoyed the acting from Jason and Gary Oldman (Paranoia, Lawless) as Dreyfus. What made this picture so special was the special effects. I sat watching this film amazed at how good everything looked. I could not tell if the apes were all CGI enhanced, done with makeup or if some actors were wearing costumes; it really was terrific. Besides Andy Serkis’ unbelievable performance I thought Toby Kebbell (War Horse, RocknRolla) was just as good as fellow ape Koba. There were only a couple of spots where I felt the story became sluggish; but they were so minor, it did not take away from the entertainment value. This was a case where the sequel was better than the original. There was scenes that made me nervously tense, excited, sad and happy; I only wished Zippy had been with me to see this great film.
3 1/2 stars