OF ALL PLACES I WOULD NOT have thought an amusement park would have been the place where I felt I was now part of a group. Growing up I never was much associated with any one group. I was not into team sports nor did I belong to any type of organization. Some of my friends had been involved with the Boy Scouts or after school programs; I never felt comfortable to be a part of such things. My friends were an eclectic group I enjoyed being with; but I also liked having my alone time too. During the high school years is when I really shied away from being labeled part of any type of group. There were the jocks who always hung out together and as far as I could tell did most activities as one group. If one person was going to a party then they all would go to it; if one person picked on a student then the others would join in. Another group that did everything en masse were the cheerleaders. If one of them hated something then the rest of them immediately hated the same thing. I know these two examples are considered stereotypical, but this type of group mentality was prevalent throughout my school. SO HERE I FIND MYSELF at this massive amusement park and we have special passes that allow us to bypass the lines of people waiting to get on the rides. I am not sure if I can describe how I felt as we walked up to the park employees managing the lines, showed them our pass and then directed into a separate line that was right next to the general line. As I walked by I looked at the faces of the attendees who had been standing there for 30-65 minutes; they looked tired, dehydrated and a bit annoyed by the long wait. So here I am walking at my usual fast pace and come up to other guests who have passes. I think we only had a 10-minute wait before we could get on the ride. As I am getting strapped into the compartment assigned to me I get this realization that all of us were being treated in a special way. Granted the tickets cost more, but I suddenly felt like I had something in common with this group of strangers; it was like we were a part of a secret club. It was a new feeling for me and helped me understand the group camaraderie that took place in this action crime thriller. SITUATED IN PLAIN VIEW IN the heart of Los Angeles stood a hotel that was run by a nurse, played by Jodie Foster (The Accused, Elysium), who only allowed a certain type of individual in to be a guest—a criminal. There were rules that had to be followed if you wanted to stay. With Sterling K. Brown (Marshall, This is Us-TV) as Waikiki, Sofia Boutella (Atomic Blonde, Star Trek: Beyond) as Nice, Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Blade Runner 2049) as Everest and Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park franchise, The Fly) as Niagara; the set-up to this story seemed promising, along with the capable cast. However once again the movie studio focused on the cast instead of the script. I enjoyed this cast of characters and the script’s campy vibe, but nothing stood out as exceptional for me. Everything I was watching seemed familiar despite the cool looking sets. It also seemed obvious the studio would not be opposed to doing a sequel. It would be a mistake if they chose to keep the same writers. I may not be part of the reviewers who enjoyed this picture and you know what? That would be okay because I am used to going my own way.
1 ¾ stars
No one wants to ever lose money. Look at all the apps that are available that try to find you the cheapest price for an item. I am all for trying to save some money on a product I am going to purchase; heck, I even cut out coupons before I go to the grocery store. Now when it comes to trying to increase the funds in my savings I tend to lean more towards low risk ventures. There are a few people I know who buy and sell penny stocks on a daily basis; if they can make a few cents more each day they are satisfied. I do not have the temperament for this type of trading. The same could be said when it comes to gambling. Being a people watcher, I am always stunned by the amount of money people gamble away at casinos. Gambling is not only limited to casinos though; you probably have heard the saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is not true.” Let us face it, there is no easy way to make money; I firmly believe this which is why I gravitate to low risk methods of earning interest on my savings. But there is another component that needs to be factored in regarding the methods we use to earn money. Here is another important saying, “Never put all of your eggs in one basket.” This is so true; the key is to have variety. Even if one is only comfortable putting their savings in an interest bearing bank account, I still would use at least a couple of banks to hold my money just in case something goes wrong with one of the them. If I had my retirement fund held by only one institution and they lost it I would be just as upset as the man in this crime thriller. BELIEVING what financial TV host Lee Gates, played by George Clooney (The Monuments Men, The Ides of March), was saying was true; Kyle Budwell, played by Jack O’Connell (Unbroken, Starred Up), was willing to take a risk with his money. The move would lead to dire consequences. Directed by Jodie Foster (Carnage, The Brave One) and also starring Julia Roberts (Mother’s Day, Secret in Their Eyes); I thought the direction was tight and kept the suspense going throughout this drama. The acting was exceptionally good which helped me because the script was far-fetched in several spots. There were a couple of times I sat in my seat and thought no way could that have happened in real life. In addition, there were a few predictable scenes that played out for all intents and purposes like standard plot twists. In my opinion it took away from the suspense. The story itself could be considered timely and I certainly could understand the frustration level for the circumstances. I am sure there will be some viewers who will be able to relate to this story and if they do they have my condolences.
2 ½ stars
Depending on my mood, I can usually find a movie to fulfill my needs. When I want to sit back and check out from reality, a fantasy or science fiction film is the perfect choice. To learn more about a subject, whether it is of historical or current value, I seek out a documentary. I find this to be one of the major attributes about movies; the incredible variety they offer us. There are times, however, when a film can take me by total surprise and this action filled science fiction movie was one of them. Expecting to just see a dramatic fantasy, this movie was relevant to me on a personal level. Having recently spent 2 days with a family member in a hospital emergency room and at doctor visits, I was exposed to the harsh realities of being sick. Witnessing the monumental processing and procedures placed on patients and staff, I sat and wondered how things would be if one did not have insurance or on the other hand, one had an all encompassing insurance policy. I cannot tell you the shock I had as I watched the emergency room nurses handle everything that came through their doors. My family member was fortunate to have a private space where the doctors were able to look him over; unlike the poor woman who was laid out on a gurney in the middle of the hallway. Set in the year 2154, this stunning film was about a society that was split into 2 classes. The poor and disadvantaged citizens lived on a bleak, exhausted earth while the wealthy lived on a space station called Elysium; a place that had eliminated sickness and crime. Matt Damon (Promised Land, The Adjustment Bureau) played factory worker Max. When a fatal accident left Max with only days to live; he agreed to take on a risky mission that could not only save his life, but could change the fate of the entire planet. Matt was a solid workhorse in this role, helped by the wild hardware implanted in his body. The movie’s special effects and sets were so naturally beautiful, I got lost in the realness of them. There was such detail to every shot that it made the story’s weaknesses stand out even more. I did not feel emotionally attached to any of the characters. Sadly Jodie Foster’s (Panic Room, Contact) character Delacourt Rhodes was odd to me. Why she had an accent was beyond me; I did not find her character had any depth. The strongest screen presence came from Sharlto Copley (District 9, The A-Team) as undercover agent Kruger. I could see where writer and director Neill Blomkamp (District 9) was going with this movie about the haves and have-nots; it was a valiant effort. Depending on your mood when you view this film, you will either take a trip to Elysium or sit and wish things were going better for you. A few scenes had blood in them.
2 3/4 stars
Memories are the bridle that tether us to a place of hope, where we dream of the way things used to be. You may know such a place; I know I do. It is here where one hangs on to the relationship they are in, even though it may no longer be healthy. We desperately hold on to those old memories; hoping for change while not strong enough to leave. I can remember wishing that person I knew to be inside of them would come back out and replace the stranger standing before me. I wanted to believe my sheer determination could make everything all right again. Alas, it was a sad and painful lesson for me. I saw a similar pain move across the face of Laurel Sommersby in this dramatic movie. Played by Jodie Foster (Panic Room, Inside Man), I had forgotten how good of an actress Jodie can be. The story was an Americanized version of the award winning film, “The Return of Martin Guerre.” For this movie, the story was set in the south right after the civil war had ended. Laurel with the help of Orin Meecham, played by Bill Pullman (Independence Day, While You Were Sleeping), was settling into a life without her husband who was presumed dead, getting a handle on the family farm. A couple of years had passed when unbelievably her husband John Robert aka Jack was spotted making his way home to her. But this man who went off to fight in the war was not that same man who returned home. Richard Gere (Arbitrage, Amelia) perfectly blended his character John Robert with Jodie as his wife Laurel. Though there were dull moments in the movie, Jodie and Richard were able to draw me into their romance. The addition of James Earl Jones (Finder’s Fee, A Family Thing) playing Judge Barry Conrad Issacs was great; even though I thought his character was not realistic for the times. I enjoyed the acting more than I liked the story. This movie made me realize how easy it is to understand how the sheer will of hopeful dreams and memories can motivate a person to hold on.
2 1/2 stars — DVD