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
I SAT THERE STARING AT THIS small electronic box in the middle of the table. Photos of the restaurant’s food options appeared and disappeared across the display screen along with the various advertisements. Besides the box in the middle of the table, there was a crystal cube sitting alongside it. Encased in the cube was a QR code that I had to point my cell phone camera at to download a copy of their menu onto my phone. Once I decided what to order, I waited for someone to come take it. While waiting I noticed across the way a bank of dispensing machines. A couple of them dealt with soft drinks that a customer could concoct various flavors into their soft drink. I tried reading the options on the lit screen, but it was too far away for me to see. I sat there, while waiting for my friend to show up, as my mind drifted to memories of other restaurants, I visited that relied solely on wait staff to hand out menus, describe the specials of the day, and bring drinks and food orders to the table. It seemed to me as if the human experience associated with dining out was being replaced by machines. MY FRIEND FINALLY SHOWED UP, SETTLING herself across from me in the booth. I had not seen her for a long time, yet she looked the same as far as I could tell. She had no issue navigating the electronic devices as she quickly decided what she wanted for lunch. We spent all the time before our food arrived, talking about our shared history such as the company where we both first met, updating on our family members we had heard so much about when we were working together and present jobs. The food finally arrived via a non-descript waiter. It was good to catch up with her; however, I noticed as we were eating that there was not much else to talk about except for things in the past. Her interests and mine were very different; so, me talking about movies would have fallen on deaf ears. Yet, I still enjoyed spending some time with her because of all the memories it stirred up. We had a fun time together when we worked together because we had a similar humor and reaction to the antics that used to take place around us. Still, by the time it came to pay the bill, I was glad we were done because I was “pulling at straws” to find something to talk about with her. I felt sort of the same regarding this action, science fiction sequel. NEARLY TWENTY LATER NEO, PLAYED BY Keanu Reeves (John Wick franchise, Destination Wedding), is a top video game creator. One game in particular resembles a part of his past life, hmmm. With Carrie-Anne Moss (Memento, Jessica Jones-TV) as Trinity, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Aquaman, Candyman) as Morpheus, Jonathan Groff (Hamilton, Glee-TV) as Smith and Jessica Henwick (Love and Monsters, Game of Thrones-TV) as Bugs; this film’s saving grace was its humor, believe it or not. The abundance of references and video clips to the past films got to be a bit much, but at least they were entertaining at times. I found the story as murky as the visuals at time; I early on decided not to try and figure anything out, just go with the action. There were some good action scenes and visuals, but nothing that stood out to make this movie elevate itself over the previous ones. The draw for me here was the nostalgia factor and the writers certainly knew that would work. I recalled the feelings I had when I saw the first film; it was a revelation of new surprises. With this one, it was more of a “oh yeah, I remember that” type of experience. If one has not seen any of the other movies, they will probably be confused watching this one. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
2 ½ stars
IT ONLY TOOK ME 4 MUSICAL NOTES and I knew what song was playing. I was sitting in the lobby of the hotel and above the din of people coming and going around me, I heard those notes that were barely audible. Getting up from my rather comfortable chair, I followed the sound of music to see where it was coming from. As I made my way through the massive passageway, I found a lounge/bar off to the side. There were small tables for 2 to 4 people everywhere I looked; it was a large space. Up on the stage, I could not believe what I was seeing, it appeared as if it was one of my favorite Motown acts performing. The singers were all dressed in matching blue suits as they took turns singing parts of the song, when they were not harmonizing. As I went to an empty table, I got closer to the stage. It was obvious to me none of the performers were original members of the group. Heck, I knew that as soon as I came up to the entrance because they were all way too young looking. How many decades had passed already? Their voices were good and did sound like the original guys from the group. As for their dance moves, let me say it would have been better if they just stood behind their mic stands and step side to side. AS I SAT AND LISTENED TO THEM, memories came back that were attached to some of the songs they sang. I remember with one song I was dancing at a relative’s wedding; another song, the first time I played it in class I saw the members start to bop their heads to the rhythm of the music. It was an amusing site as we were all working out. My memories were playing the original music, but what the men on stage were singing sounded more like an imitation. Not that it was bad, it just wasn’t the same. If any of the men were displaying some serious musical capabilities, matching or being better than the originals artists, the show would have been amazing. However, their vocal range was limited; some of the high notes were a strain for them or they simply lowered the octave. I gave them credit for being able to get the gig and perform at one of the hotel’s lounge areas. Though they were not the original group it was still enjoyable for me to sit and listen to them. That is more than what I can say about this action, dramatic horror wannabe. AFTER WHAT APPEARED TO BE AN EARTHQUAKE damaged their drilling station, the crew would have to find a way to make it up to the surface of the ocean they were under. However, something did not want them to leave. With Kristen Stewart (Charlie’s Angels, Personal Shopper) as Norah, Jessica Henwick (Dragonfly, Game of Thrones-TV) as Emily, Vincent Cassel (Black Swan, Eastern Promises) as Captain, TJ Miller (Deadpool franchise, Cloverfield) as Paul Abel and John Gallagher Jr (Short Term 12, Jonah Hex) as Liam; this movie felt like it was trying to be the film Alien, except instead of space it was taking place underwater. I give Kristen credit for trying her best at being an action figure, but the script was incapable of providing any thrills or excitement. The dialog was written in a generic way, using typical exclamations. I thought the filming was dull for the most part, which being underwater I understood. However, the constant dark murkiness did nothing for me. If you have not seen Alien or its sequels, you might find this picture of interest. For the rest of us, I suggest you do not take the bait and find yourself sinking into an abyss.
1 ¾ stars