I QUICKLY GOT USED TO THE DIFFERENT personalities on staff, but I was not prepared for the conflict that arose between my supervisor and me. The fitness instructors were an eclectic group of individuals. One person was a heavy smoker; her voice was deep and gravelly. I always knew when she had recently taught a class in the fitness studio because the room reeked of nicotine and tobacco odors. It must have poured out of her when she was sweating. Another instructor was a clothes horse; she never wore the same outfit twice as far as I could tell. Since this was one of the first jobs I had gotten regarding fitness, I was hyper-aware of everyone and everything in the fitness club. Every bit of information I could gain would only benefit me was my assumption. It was difficult for me to feel comfortable at the fitness center after having flunked gym class twice in school. I had a mindset where I felt I was not capable of leading a fitness class and imagining the members would call me out as a fraud. As it turned out my past experiences became a huge asset for me. Members could relate to my struggles with weight, peer pressure and other food related stories because I would share them with the class. AS MY POPULARITY ROSE AND CLASS sizes increased, I became comfortable in my role as a fitness instructor. However, what I did not expect was to get pushback from my supervisor. She would catch me after class sometimes to tell me I should be doing “such and such” differently or I needed to follow a procedure different from what I was told originally. I took her help as advice to help me be a better instructor; however, it turned out not to be the case. Having started with only a couple of classes at the fitness center, I soon wound up teaching 13 classes a week. Considering I had flunked PE twice in school; I was in heaven. I loved teaching classes besides the big benefit of controlling my weight. As the weeks passed by a couple of members would come up to me after class to tell me about unfavorable comments, they heard my supervisor say about me. I was stunned to say the least. Instead of being adult in my thinking, I said disparaging things about her. This became a vicious cycle of back and forth until the program director called both of us into his office. Looking back now, I could have handled the whole situation a different way instead of the negative comments back and forth. I am embarrassed to say I saw a little of myself in the main characters of this action, adventure movie. HAVING HAD RUN-INS BEFORE WITH EACH other, the last thing Luke Hobbs and Deckard Show, played by Dwayne Johnson (Skyscraper, Central Intelligence) and Jason Statham (The Meg, Spy), wanted to do was work together on an assignment. They had no choice if they wanted to save the world. This film also starred Idris Elba (The Mountain Between Us, Luther-TV) as Brixton, Vanessa Kirby (About Time, The Crown-TV) as Hattie and Helen Mirren (Anna, The Leisure Seeker) as Queenie. The action and fight scenes were pretty much the stars of this picture. Though I enjoyed both Dwayne and Jason with their smack talk, it started to get old for me after a while. My favorite actor, which surprised me, was Vanessa Kirby; I thought she had the most depth as a character plus her fight moves were amazing. Helen, of course, was fun but there was not enough of her in the story. As for the story and script, they were both weak and flimsy. The dialog was embarrassing at times. It was simply made to provide Jason and Dwayne with a road to follow; they provided the landscape. If you are up for mindless fun, then this movie would be fine to see at the theater; but, if you want something more, then hold off for a more intense or better written story. There were a couple of extra scenes in the middle and end of the credits.
2 ½ stars
SITTING on the sofa after a satisfying meal I was waiting for the punch line to the story that was being told to us. It was not because the story was exciting, though it was the 1st time I heard it some years ago, or that the storyteller always had an animated way of telling a tale; I actually had heard this story enough to be able to retell it without any coaching. The reason I was waiting for the ending of the story was so I could get up and go to the bathroom without appearing rude to the story teller or the other people sitting around. The first time I heard the story I remember how all of us were laughing hysterically; it really was a funny set of circumstances that happened to the story teller. However after hearing the same story again and again, it had lost its surprise and funniness. For my way of thinking once a funny story has been told it needs to go into retirement, put away on a shelf only to come out on special occasions as a reminder about a particular person or period of time. THE retelling of jokes or stories only robs them of their uniqueness. After a time the listener you are trying to entertain is simply lulled into boredom. This reminds me of a person I know who does not fully grasp the art of joke telling. Every time they tell a joke they have to explain the portion of it that they find particularly amusing. This is never a good idea; if you have to explain a joke then it is not a joke. There have been times where I find myself sitting and listening to them and I immediately know anything I might find funny will be weighed down with this explaining thing that will make me cringe into wishing they would stop talking. Telling something over and over again is not exclusive to parties and family gatherings; it can be found in movie franchises. FAMILY was the most important thing to Dom, played by Vin Diesel (The Pacifier, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk). Then why did he turn his back on them? Starring Jason Statham (The Expendables franchise, The Mechanic franchise) as Deckard, Dwayne Johnson (San Andreas, Hercules) as Hobbs and Charlize Theron (Monster, Mad Max: Fury Road) as Cipher; the script for this action crime thriller was the weak link. The action scenes kept coming over and over, most connected by cheesy dialog. I will say the action was outrageous as the stunts were things the viewer has come to expect from this franchise. Another positive point about this movie was Charlize Theron; I found her acting to be above everyone else in the cast. After so many years with this franchise the writers needed to do something different in my opinion. I found some of the characters’ conversations were so typical of past films that I found myself becoming dazed and tired. Good thing there was always some over the top action scene ready to unfold right afterwards. This film franchise has had a long run but based on this installment it might be time for this group to take the exit ramp and take a rest. It might do wonders for them.
2 ½ stars
Breakfast for many people is a quick grab and drink before facing the day. Some have coffee machines on a timer that brew the coffee just as the person is waking up. I have known a few individuals who barely function upon awakening. They have to sit for a while, maybe with a cup of coffee, before deciding on whether to eat something or wait until later. This is a foreign concept for me; as soon as I am awake I am heading to the kitchen to eat breakfast. The only time much thought would be put into a breakfast meal would be on the weekend, I imagine. I only say this because I do not work on the weekends except for teaching a class or two. Weekends are the only opportunity if I want to get together with friends or family over breakfast or brunch. For me breakfast during the week is a set routine of cereal and orange juice. I never think about the specific food items and while eating I am either reading or watching television. I know I have to eat but there are many times I am thinking about that day’s movie review. Before I know it my cereal bowl is empty and I have a few drops left of orange juice in the glass. You see I do not think about the texture, taste or the amount of cereal to be eaten; it more resembles a Pavlovian reaction. My eyes open from sleep so it is time to eat; it is simple as that. The reason I am mentioning this is because this sequel requires the same mindset: no thought. RETIRED assassin Arthur Bishop, played by Jason Statham (The Expendables franchise, Spy), had a choice; do nothing and only one person would die or kill three hard to access individuals to save one particular person. He decided to change the odds. This action crime thriller had an interesting cast. Besides Jason there was Jessica Alba (Fantastic Four franchise, Valentine’s Day) as Gina, Tommy Lee Jones (Jason Bourne, The Family) as Max Adams, Michelle Yeoh (Babylon A.D.; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) as Mei and Sam Hazeldine (The Raven, The Monuments Men) as Crain. On the plus side I enjoyed the different locations used for filming, such as Brazil and Australia. Those familiar with Jason’s style of acting in these type of roles will not be disappointed; the movie was pretty much watching Jason beating everyone up. I am afraid his acting was on autopilot. The script was predictable from beginning to end; the only thing that kept my interest was the elaborate assassination scenes. Truthfully there is nothing one needs to think about while viewing this film. You have the good guys and the bad guys and each are trying to kill the other. I had wished there would have been more scenes with Michelle and that Jessica had an even more physical role to the one she had here. With the script being so formulaic however there was little room to make this wish happen. If you are in the mood to just sit and watch explosions and people fighting then this would be your film.
1 ¾ stars
It sometimes starts with a kind word or gesture that plants a seed inside of you. This seed only needs your hopes and desires for it to flourish into a full emotional relationship that is only in your mind. You take their considerate manners as a sign that there could be something forming between the two of you. Some of the things they say can be taken two ways; you always assume the more romantic version. I have had my share of these types of situations; where you are trying to get a read on the other person, trying to figure out if what you are feeling is just as real for them. Maybe it is the fear of rejection that makes us go slow, where we drop subtle hints to see if they take the bait, so to speak. I recently had a conversation with a friend about this very thing. They asked me why I thought this particular person I was attracted to was not interested in me. I explained how I suggested getting together with them on Memorial Day but they already had previous plans. If they were interested, I explained to my friend, they would have made an alternative suggestion to me by now. So for the moment I sit in my fantasy world just like the character Susan in this movie. RUNNING the logistics for her partner Bradley Fine, played by Jude Law (Black Sea, Anna Karenina); CIA analyst Susan Cooper, played by Melissa McCarthy (St. Vincent, The Heat), would do anything for him because she felt they made the perfect team. It was a team Susan wanted to see expand outside of the office. When the CIA’s field agents’ identities were compromised, Susan agreed to leave her office and go undercover to save the mission. The first thing I want to say is I have not been a fan of Melissa’s recent films except St. Vincent. The reason for this is because I found the stories were set up to get laughs by humiliating a large person; if the character was thin there would have been no laughs and I find this offensive. So now that I have said my piece, this was Melissa’s best role to date. Her comedic timing was perfection and I so appreciated the writer giving this character room for Melissa to go with it. The whole cast, including Rose Byrne (Neighbors, Adult Beginners) as Rayna Boyanov and Jason Statham (Furious Seven, The Transporter franchise), were outstanding in this action comedy spoof of past spy films. I laughed out loud more than once, admiring writer and director Paul Feig’s (Bridesmaids, The Heat) wonderful broad strokes for the fun action scenes. This crime picture was the real thing and I loved it. There was strong language used and there was a brief extra scene at the end of the credits.
3 1/4 stars
It is not always an easy adjustment going from purchasing fun things to practical ones. When I was a little kid I used to wish for a flying car like the ones I would see on my Saturday morning cartoon shows. Instead we always had a four door sedan. When I could buy my own cars; I went for the smaller ones with stick shifts that made the cars take off real fast. I enjoyed the way my cars would hug the curb, barely slowing down into the turn as the engine roared. As I got older I started to notice how my friends and I were getting out of the car; turning our bodies sideways so we could get our feet out on the ground before leaning way over to lift ourselves out of the deep seats. Every day sitting in rush hour traffic took a toll on my fondness for not having an automatic transmission. The thing that pushed me away from having a small car was my alley in wintertime. Whenever there was a heavy snowfall my car would get stuck in the snow because it was so low to the ground. It was frustrating since I had to spend time shoveling the car out just to get it freed and back into the garage. So I went from a sports car to a small SUV; but now, I have seen cars that can fly. SETTLING into domestic life was supposed to be easy compared to what the group of friends had encountered previously in their lives. They were being targeted by Deckard Shaw, played by Jason Statham (Homefront, The Expendables franchise), the brother of a drug dealer the friends had taken out. Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Conner, played by Vin Diesel (The Pacifier, Boiler Room) and Paul Walker (Brick Mansions, Eight Below), with the rest of their friends would have to take one last ride to try and save their lives. This action thriller had its work cut out for it since the previous film in the franchise had many high octane action scenes. The driving stunts in this movie were unbelievable; one needs to check their common sense at the door however before viewing them. I felt the stunts were thought of first before the writers decided what would happen in the rest of the scene. Except for a few slow parts, action was the main character of this crime film. I have to say it was a bit sad seeing Paul Walker, knowing he had died in a car accident not related to this movie. However, there was a touching tribute to him in this picture. As long as you realize you have to suspend logic and common sense before sitting through this movie, you will be taken on one heck of a ride. Now I just want one of those flying cars.
One possibility may be the amount of bright lights that never turn off. When you look at them then close your eyes, you can still see their shadows on the inside of your eyelids. I do not know, but is it possible the fact the lights stay on all the time represent never giving up hope to some individuals? There is something about the city of Las Vegas that takes a person’s dreams and inflates them to gigantic proportions. I tell everyone they need to see the city once because it is so over the top, not of earth. You see every form of humanity, some of them sitting at the slot machines and gaming tables with a hungry look on their faces and in their eyes. They are committed to the belief they will win. Their dreams will not let them stop until they have exhausted all available avenues. Though I do not gamble I can understand that momentary intoxication from taking a chance. It is like buying a lottery ticket; until they draw the winning numbers, you get to fantasize about what you would do with all that money. I am all for keeping dreams alive; but they have to be weighed against the cost, since money is not the only factor used in determining if a dream is a success. NICK Wild, played by Jason Statham (Killer Elite, Homefront), had a dream he was in Corsica quietly sailing across the sea. After an incident involving a mob boss’ son named Danny DeMarco, played by Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes-TV, Rocky Balboa), there was a good chance NIck would never see his dream or any other one come true. The fact this action drama starred Jason meant there was going to be some fight scenes in the story and there certainly were a few. I have to say they had a fun quality due to the way they were filmed. They were almost like a cartoon with their use of a variety of props and filming parts in slow motion for crisper detail. Directed by Simon West (The Expendables 2, Con Air) this crime story got off to a fine start with a good lead in. The cast choices were interesting with Michael Angarano (Red State, The Forbidden Kingdom) as Cyrus Kinnick, Hope Davis (Disconnect, About Schmidt) as Cassandra and Stanley Tucci (The Terminal, The Hunger Games franchise) as Baby. However, their characters were all odd to me. I never understood their motivation or why they were even there. The script had nothing going for it which only made it generic and a poor cousin to better films I have seen in this genre. I am afraid the movie studio took a gamble on this picture and lost. There were a few scenes with blood and violence in them.
1 3/4 stars
The elderly couple swirled around the dance floor as the bottom of the woman’s dress trailed behind her like a settling morning mist. They dipped, spun and veered from side to side in synch to the beat of the music calling out to them from the tall black speakers that stood like sentries around the dance floor. There was an elegant grace to their movements that did not betray their actual ages. Speaking with them after the dance I discovered they were in their upper 70s and had been dancing together since their wedding day over 50 years ago. When I complimented them on their beautiful movements they thanked me, telling me I should have seen them when they were younger. The couple took turns explaining their moves that involved lifts, fast spins and quick footwork in unison across an entire dance floor. Due to their ages they could no longer do such things and be graceful about it or at least without throwing out either of their backs and falling to the ground. Here was a couple who did not look their age but knew their body’s limitations as it aged; I admired their practicality and honest spirit. AGING gracefully was not an option in the latest for this movie franchise. As the third installment this action film treaded on familiar ground. Sylvester Stallone (Grudge Match, Bullet to the Head) returned as Barney Ross, the head of an elite covert fighting force. After a mission had failed, Barney decided it was time to form a team of younger players who would have to go up against the man who brought Barney’s original team down; revenge had no age limit. Along with the cast from the previous films; this movie had Harrison Ford (Ender’s Game, Cowboys & Aliens) as Drummer, Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In, Desperado) as Galgo and Wesley Snipes (Blade franchise, Demolition Man) as Doc. I can just hear you wondering what happened to the younger team members. They were in this adventure thriller; I just wondered if they were happy about it. This could have been a fun somewhat campy film, especially with its great opening scene, if the script had been better. Unfortunately the story was poorly executed. The only older actor that looked like he did some of his own stunts was Jason Statham (Snatch, Homefront) as Lee Christmas. I think the most physical thing Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Last Stand, The Terminator franchise) as Trench did was walk across a hallway. There was violence and blood as a multitude of stunt doubles did the physical work. I am afraid this third film was aged and tired; it needed to be retired.
1 3/4 stars
I can remember every single fight I was involved in when growing up. Out of all of them there was only one time where I threw the punch first and that was because the boy had been picking on me for weeks. I am not a violent person; in fact, I was never taught how to defend myself. A friend’s older brother had to show me how to correctly make a fist with my hand. I used to wonder where the aggressive kids learned how to fight and torment other students like me. It was during the parent/teacher conference nights where an answer could be found. I was not old enough to understand the reasons, only remembering how I felt when seeing the parents of a bully. More times than not the parents would frighten me. I could not explain it, but saw how they treated their spouse and child. Among my friends and family I never saw an adult act like that to someone else. In this action thriller, you will see what happens when parents get involved. Jason Statham (The Bank Job, Snatch) played Phil Broker, a former drug enforcement administration agent. After his wife’s death, Phil decided to settle in a small town to raise his young daughter Maddy, played by Izabela Vidovic (Help for the Holidays-TV movie, Raising Hope-TV). With the residents already suspicious of out-of-towners, it appeared Phil and Maddy may have settled into the wrong town. When Jason Statham stars in a movie, one already knows what to expect. There were many fight scenes that showed off Jason’s battling skills. One thing I was grateful for was Sylvester Stallone (Rocky franchise, Rhinestone) not starring in this film since he wrote the screenplay. It seems as if the screenplay was sitting on his shelf for years and Sylvester felt he was now too old for the role. This leads to my next point which concerned the script; it was simple and straight forward. There were few surprises since it was easy to figure out what was going to happen in almost every scene. I did enjoy seeing James Franco (This is the End, 127 Hours) and Kate Bosworth (Blue Crush, 21) play darker roles as brother and sister Morgan “Gator” Bodine and Cassie Bodine Klum. Though this crime film did not offer anything new, I was grateful at the end for not growing up being an aggressive kid. There were multiple scenes with violence and blood.
An idyllic setting of a good old fashioned state fair was a wonderful opening to this action crime film. Having been born and raised in a large city, seeing the activities and events at the fair were a bit foreign to me. What I found attractive was the sense of peaceful camaraderie among the people. Not that I would ever go on an amusement ride that would spin me around or enter a pie eating contest. You may be surprised by that but I do not eat food from someone I do not know. As a result I never partake in potluck dinners and absolutely no buffets. I am not eating any food that has been guarded by a sneeze guard. But I can do a whole post on my neuroses; let me get back to the movie. From this opening scene the main character Parker, played by Jason Statham (Safe, The Transporter franchise), was walking through the fair, dressed as a priest. The opening scene was the best this film had to offer. It pretty much is a given what type of movie to expect with Jason as the star. A smattering of witty lines, bloody tough fight scenes and Jason doing the same type of role he has done before in his films. In this movie he was a thief in a gang led by Melander, played by Michael Chiklis (The Shield-TV, Fantastic Four franchise). After being double crossed, Parker followed the group to Palm Beach to take what was rightfully due him. To put his plan in place, Parker would need the help of desperate realtor Leslie Rodgers, played by Jennifer Lopez (Out of Sight, Maid in Manhattan). Seeing Jennifer in this role, all I kept thinking was she left American Idol for this? It was an odd role and I did not think it was anything special. Just as strange was seeing Patti LuPone (Heist, City by the Sea) playing Leslie’s mother. If you enjoy Jason’s other movies, this one will probably satisfy you. For me there was nothing new in this predictable story.
1 3/4 stars
Finally, here is someone who I am sure could open up those absolute, awful hard plastic clamshells used in packaging merchandise. He could do it all; at least in this movie. What can I say about Jason Statham (The Bank Job, The Transporter) that would make you think he would be any different in this movie? I cannot think of anything and to his credit, what he does in movies tends to be consistent–his fighting abilities. In this action thriller Jason played ex-cage fighter Luke Wright. He became involved with a special 12 year old girl, who was being chased by some of the same villians that had killed his wife. What I like about Jason is his ordinary looks. He looks like an average Joe instead of a souped up, steroid pumped action hero. This movie had plenty of fight scenes as Jason tried to protect the girl Mei, played by Catherine Chan (Aftershock), from the Russian mob, the Chinese mob along with corrupt police officers. Mr. Statham took them all on, in this fight fest film. Though the story was confusing, it won’t matter. The hook was not only Jason’s battles but that they were being used to protect an innocent little girl. Doesn’t that just grab you in the heart? This was a typical Jason Statham movie; as long as you know that from the start, you will not be disappointed. One only goes to see him kick the crap out of the bad guys.
2 1/3 stars