KNOW WHO YOU ARE VACATIONING WITH before you commit to it; that is my advice. I have gotten quite particular with who I want to be with on a trip. Some years ago, I took a trip with a friend that turned into a disaster. Because I am more of a visual person, I favor experiencing things that need little written explanation. I usually will research a place before I agree to visit it; so, most of my reading and learning is done before I get to my destination. In other words, I am a planner. He, it turned out, was exactly opposite. Where I would just stand and admire a structure or building, he wanted to know what type of materials were used and why the creator chose them. We did not make it to lunchtime before I had to tell him we would need to figure out the different sights we want to see and maybe go to some of them alone. Just to give you an example of what I experienced; we were marveling a recently completed building that had won several distinctions. I was standing there just taking in the look of the building when my friend peppered me with questions like, “Where do you suppose the brick came from?”, “Why did the artist choose that color?” and “How will they keep the glass clean?” Notice all the questions were asking about things I or any other tourist would not know. I HAVE BEEN ASKED TO JOIN a group for vacation and though I enjoy their company, I have had to decline because they are what I refer to as “beach people.” Traveling to a location just to spend much of the day relaxing at the beach would be torture for me. I am not the type to sit by a swimming pool or lay out at the beach to sun myself. My friends refer to me as a vampire because rarely have they seen me with a tan. When I take a trip, I feel like I am an explorer on a mission to discover new land. I never know if I will ever be able to see a new place more than once; so, I want to take in as much as possible each day I am there. It is not unusual for me to be out of the hotel by 9-10:00 am and not return to the hotel way past dinner time. This would be a successful vacation for me. I do not think I have to tell you that I would fail miserably if I were in the shoes of the couple in this adventure comedy, who encountered a partying couple who were already guests of their hotel. THE PURPOSE OF THEIR TRIP TO Mexico was for them to relax. That hope was quickly thrown out the window once Marcus and Emily, played by Lil Rel Howery (Bad Trip, Get Out) and Yvonne Orji (Night School, Insecure-TV), arrived at their hotel. With John Cena (The Suicide Squad, Playing with Fire) as Ron, Meredith Hagner (Palm Springs, Royal Pains-TV) as Kyla and Robert Wisdom (Beast of Burden, The Loft) as Harold; this movie had its moments. The cast was good, though I felt John and Lil Rel were repeating previous roles. The script started out fun but got repetitive after a while with the same type of scenarios taking place. There were a few times I chuckled because of the outrageousness of the scene and I especially enjoyed the way Meredith delivered her lines. Despite the negatives about the script, I did enjoy what I took as the underlying message the writers were trying to convey. There may not be much surprise found in this picture; but if you enjoy humor based on the differences between people, then you may be okay with watching this film.
2 ¼ stars
SOME PEOPLE ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT THEIR soft drinks. I know several individuals who will not order a soft drink with their meal if the restaurant does not carry “their brand.” That seems a bit intense for me; I am not as picky. Regarding the top two cola brands, I prefer one over the other; however, if a food establishment does not carry the one I like, I will order the other one. Though they have a similar taste, the one I prefer is sweeter tasting and not as strong in my opinion. I feel the same way about fast food restaurants. Not that I eat at them often, but when I do, I usually seek out one in particular for their French fries. However, if they are not conveniently located to where I am traveling, I am fine going to a different fast-food chain. There are some folks who would not be as flexible going to a different place to eat from the one they like the most. To me, it is just food; I can always find something to eat, not that it will always be a healthy choice. I will say though, there are some companies I will not support due to their actions that have an effect on certain groups of people. Those types of businesses do not get any of my money. DESPITE THERE BEING A COUPLE OF film studios that specialize in superhero movies, I have found myself to be somewhat biased when it comes to the films, they each produce. After having seen several of each studio’s films, I find myself looking forward more to one studio over another. Now, I still act the same towards both; I do not read any reviews or comments until after I have seen the movie for myself. However, the past several films from one studio have not been as captivating as the other studio’s movies. The studio I find myself being more excited about has entertained me consistently with their pictures. There is something about their scripts that feel more well rounded to me, with action, drama, humor and wittiness among other emotions. The other studio just never seems to reach such a high benchmark when compared to this studio. It is like that famous chocolate cookie with the creamy filling, where some people twist the cookie parts to eat the filling first. There is another food company that makes the same type of cookie, but I know no one who has ever bought them. Despite everything I have just said; I was pleasantly surprised by this action, adventure comedy that came from the film studio I tend to have lower expectations for their superhero movies. AFTER A SUPER SECRET AGENCY’S MISSION fails, a group of extremely dangerous, imprisoned villains were picked for their particular skill sets, with the hope they might be able to complete the original mission. First, they would have to get along with each other. With Margot Robbie (Mary Queen of Scots, The Legend of Tarzan) as Harley Quinn, Idris Elba (Concrete Cowboy, The Dark Tower) aa Bloodsport, John Cena (Playing with Fire, Daddy’s Home franchise) as Peacemaker, Joel Kinnaman (The Informer, Run All Night) as colonel Rick Flag and Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Fences) as Amanda Waller; this movie was nothing what I expected for the most part. I did expect Margot to be good and she was beyond good. The other acting surprise was John Cena; I thought he stood out as well. This is not a picture for young viewers; there was extreme violence and strong language. It was a shock to me; a superhero film that was gory and intense, despite being colorful, fun and a parody at times. I did not care much for the shifting between short time frames because it diminished the excitement factor for me. DC Comics took a drastic turn with this picture by creating a darker and crazier version of its usual movies. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
I COULD ONLY LISTEN TO THE two women arguing with each other. They worked in other departments; so, I had no authority to voice my opinion. From what I had heard, it seemed as if one woman tried going around the other one to get something changed in the other woman’s department. The 2nd woman found out and was confronting the first one. I could see each of them was straining to remain civil towards the other. The 2nd woman was trying to make the 1st one understand what she did was unacceptable; she should have put in a request instead of taking matters into her own hands. She also pointed out because she (1st woman) engaged with her staff instead of coming directly to her, she essentially was telling the staff that she did not trust their boss. The two women continued going back and forth, trying to make the other one understand their point of view, but it was not working as far as I could see. I believed because the two women’s departments were so different from each other the women could not comprehend the thought process used to make their case. Surprisingly, I could relate a little to this because I am in a position where I know the workings of my department, but do not have a clear understanding of several others within the company. THE REASON I SAY THIS IS BECAUSE I am a “routine” person; in other words, I am most comfortable and efficient when I have a routine to follow. At this moment for example, I have procedures set up where every Thursday I do the same specific task that then gets forwarded to a different department. There is another one that takes place on the 15thof every month; as you can see, I have set up my work day as a series of tasks like a road map I can follow without devoting time and energy in trying to figure out what I should do next. On the downside, I know my routines do not take into account spontaneity. If something unexpected happens, I will need time to process it and find a way where it will fit into my day. Don’t get me wrong, there is no way I can control every minute of every day to avoid being spontaneous, though I do give it my best shot. However, after working for many years it is easier for me to handle something unexpected; my processing of it has had to increase in speed to get to a faster conclusion. I think I am faster at this than the main character in this family comedy. AFTER SAVING THREE CHILDREN FROM A BURNING building firefighter/smoke jumper Jake Carson, played by John Cena (Bumblebee, The Marine), and his crew will face an even tougher task when they must take care of the kids until the parents could be found. With Keegan-Michael Key (Let’s Be Cops, The Predator) as Mark, John Leguizamo (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!) as Rodrigo, Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool franchise, Tragedy Girls) as Brynn and Judy Greer (Ant-Man franchise, Wilson) as Dr. Amy Hicks; this movie will only appeal to the youngest of children. The script came off as a part Saturday morning cartoon show and part Three Stooges episode, except I did not find anything funny. A good portion of the movie was devoted to the kids’ antics followed by the adults’ exaggerated expressions. This left me bored early into the story. I also thought the pacing was erratic; going from a slapstick scene to a dramatic one and back. There was very little I found authentic in this film except for the outtakes that were shown during the credits. It is a picture like this where I wish I wasn’t so much into a routine of trying to see as many films as I can in a week.
1 ½ stars
FOR MANY OF US OUR FIRST FRIEND was an inanimate object. It may have resided in our crib or was hanging down from the ceiling above us when we slept. Once we became mobile the object came with us. This first friend could have been a variety of things such as a stuffed animal or a doll. My first friend was a stuffed chimpanzee. I took him everywhere, including a spot on my bed to sleep with me. A relative of mine had a stuffed bunny rabbit that had the softest fur. It is funny, but I can still remember someone holding my chimpanzee and manipulating the limbs as if the monkey was gesturing while the person disguised their voice, making me believe my stuffed animal was talking to me. As Sparky the monkey and myself grew in age, we both began to share the same likes and dislikes. We both loved bananas but did not like oranges. If there was music playing in the house I would lift Sparky up onto a table and help him dance to the rhythm. Sometimes he was clumsy and knock over a glass or bottle, spilling the contents out onto the table. Sparky rarely got into trouble; if memory serves me correctly we may have had only a couple of time-outs during our friendship. THESE FIRST FRIENDS PLAY A VITAL ROLE in a child’s development. A child nurtures their imagination as they create adventures with their best friend. I still get a kick out of hearing little children talk to their toys and act based on what was said between them. Whatever object gets designated as a child’s friend does not matter; they still form a bond that opens a safe world for the two of them to explore. There was a couple I knew who used this bond as a teaching tool to show their child how to share things. I found their method ingenious because; though I never said anything, I thought their daughter was a bit selfish, based on how I observed her playing with other children. I am sure many of us have encountered a child that did not want anyone touching their toys; imagine the lessons that can be taught using the child’s best friend. Having a best friend makes a world of difference as we grow up and grow old. Take a moment to think back and remember what you had as your best friend when you were a child. You might have had a version of the main character from this action, adventure film. FEELING SAD AND ALONE AFTER HER father’s death Charlie, played by Hailee Seinfeld (The Keeping Room, Pitch Perfect franchise), found comfort in tinkering with cars just like her dad. She would get more than comfort from an old beaten-up yellow car she spotted in a junkyard. This science fiction movie also starred Jorge Lendeborg Jr (Spider-Man: Homecoming; Love, Simon) as Memo, John Cena (Blockers, The Wall) as Agent Burns, John Ortiz (The Drop, Silver Linings Playbook) as Dr. Powell and Jason Drucker (Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, Every Witch Way-TV) as Otis. Whether you call this picture an origin story or prequel it doesn’t matter because out of the Transformers movies this was one of the best. The writers gave life to the Bumblebee character while the special effects department gave him his humanity. I know, this may sound profound, but it really is not; this was a well-done script that focused more on the story than the action. And when there was action, at least I was able to see who was battling during the fight scenes. The glue that brought all of this together was Hailee; she did a beautiful job in bringing out the emotional aspects to the story. It was well worth seeing this on the big screen and if by chance you decide to go you might become friends with Bumblebee. If so, then lucky you because trust me you could have done a lot worse at the movie theater.
3 ¼ stars
ONE COULD ONLY ASSUME THEY thought their child was made by a toy company. I hope that is not too rude of me to say, but there is a couple I know who get someone to watch their kid while they go out drinking for the night. They stumble home 4 in the morning then get upset when their child wakes them up early in the morning; early for them, not most other parents. This scenario is so not part of my philosophy when it comes to parents and their children. I believe part of a parents’ success in childrearing is when they have raised an independent, responsible human being. Isn’t part of the goal to have your children move out and be on their own, taking care of themselves? Honestly, I have seen so many different ways parents raise their children that maybe I am just “old school” with my ideas. Back when we were in school there were students who were so proud to have their parents volunteer for school functions; on the other hand, there were others pupils who dreaded seeing their parents anytime they had to come to school. THERE ARE SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES where a child or parent becomes embarrassed. Do you remember the first time you saw your parents kiss each other? For some children the sight of their parents being affectionate to each other was plain icky. I can remember seeing a friend’s parent trying to dance at a school dance; my friend was horrified as their parent was moving and shaking off to the side of the dance floor. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen parents with small children who freely use profanity around their kids. And some of you may already know my pet peeve: parents who bring young children to R rated films; blood and guts is being splattered all across the screen for the child to see. You have no idea how badly I want to say something to the parents. Maybe part of parenthood contains either the child or parent being embarrassed by the other; I know I certainly do not have the magic answer. However I can tell you if any of the adults in this comedy film were my parent I would be mortified by their actions. ON THE BIGGEST NIGHT OF their children’s high school life parents Lisa, Mitchell and Hunter; played by Leslie Mann (The Other Woman, This is 40). John Cena (The Wall, Trainwreck) and Ike Barinholtz (Suicide Squad, Neighbors franchise); discover what their kids have planned. So they decide they will stop at nothing to prevent it from happening. This film festival nominee also starred Kathryn Newton (Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) as Julie and Geraldine Viswanathan (EMO the Musical, Janet King-TV) as Kayla. There have been many movies that already covered the parent versus child theme; what makes this one different is the perspective and that it is female dominate. Leslie, John and Ike are well equipped to handle the comedy in this story, but I was not a fan of the script. I thought some scenes were too ridiculous to ever be considered as real life. At one point I felt I was seeing one gag after another, after another one; it started to get monotonous for me. The movie trailer pretty much depicts what to expect in this picture. There were a couple of chuckles during the film, but nothing laugh-out loud. When the movie finally ended my first thought was thank heavens I never had a parent like the three in this story.
NO MATTER HOW ENLIGHTENED we become as a society there still will be people who judge others based on their appearance. I have seen time and time again someone reacting to another person solely on their outer exterior, never taking the time in getting to know that individual. Recently I was watching a television special charity event, where the host was asking for contributions to combat a particular disability. Throughout the show they would have focus pieces devoted to different families that have a family member inflicted with the disability; one in particular struck me about a woman who could not speak. Pretty much anyone who met her assumed she did not understand them because she did not talk. I do not remember all the details but at some point in her life she was given a computer tablet. Not only was she able to work the tablet, she was able to convey intelligence with a witty sense of humor. I was mesmerized as I saw her conduct interviews with the use of a computer speech program. SPEAKING FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCES I know how much influence a child’s actions and manner of dress plays a part in the pecking order that gets established among the neighborhood kids and in school. It was rare for a child labeled smart to also be considered tough. If a male showed an aptitude for one of the arts, he would be considered a “sissy.” In turn if a female excelled in what was considered a male dominated sport, she was classified as a “tomboy.” I can see decades ago when activities used to be defined more as a female/male thing; but over time attitudes changed where it was okay if a girl wanted to play a team sports and a boy to enroll in a cooking class. Yet today I still have seen or listened to someone who was discriminated or bullied because they wanted to do something different from the majority, let us say. Maybe we need to see more examples of people showing us how they cannot be fit into a stereotype, just like the main character in this animated, film festival winning adventure comedy. AS A YOUNG BULL Ferdinand, voiced by John Cena (Trainwreck, The Marine), was picked on for not wanting to grow up and fight in the bullring. His size however would make him look menacing which was exactly what a matador wanted in a bull. With Kate McKinnon (Rough Night, Ghostbusters) voicing Lupe, Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man, Blue Jasmine) voicing Valiente and Anthony Anderson (The Departed, Hustle & Flow) voicing Bones; I thought all the actors were good, but John Cena and Kate McKinnon really brought their characters to life. He was the perfect choice for Ferdinand. I vaguely remember reading this book as a young child and back then did not see or recognize the message that was in this film’s script. Making the story more current was fine; however, there seemed to be a little too much filler throughout the picture. I think for a younger crowd it would not matter; there was enough humor and chase scenes to keep the attention of young viewers. Besides, the animation was fine and I actually liked the Spanish animated settings. The story offered a valuable lesson that I appreciated not being done in a heavy handed way. There is that old cliché, “Do not judge a book by its cover” and in the case of this movie, you might be surprised by what you see.
2 ¾ stars
ONE IS EITHER BORN INTO the role or is trained by default to be the neutral party aka buffer zone between conflicted family members and/or friends. It takes a particular temperament to handle groups of people who have opposing opinions; a person needs to be calm, sensitive, thoughtful and most importantly strong enough to never offer an opinion. Even in the face of an evil, belligerent person; one needs to maintain a serene exterior, even if they are thinking the extreme thinking friend or family member is hateful or bigoted. If the social event is being held in a large space chances are there will be less drama and little policing of the opposing combatants. However if the meeting place (feel free to replace meeting place with the word arena) is a small space such as a restaurant booth or a person’s dining room, then things could be trickier to maintain some semblance of peace. THROUGH THE YEARS I have been exposed to various events and locations where I was able to witness the buffer zone person in action. I am actually familiar with the dynamics of an occasion where 2 people are not seeing things eye to eye. It can be quite stressful for the other people around. There was a party I attended where such a scenario took place and I agree it was a challenge trying to stay neutral with both sides while each one of them was making their case to me that they were right. The thing I find interesting is when this type of behavior plays out during a special occasion such as a holiday or birthday. Wouldn’t you think in respect to the person celebrating or the special significance to the gathering people could put their differences aside? I do not know if it is an ego thing, a stubborn thing or lack of confidence that makes a person act out in public in such a way. If you are interested there are several examples of people acting ridiculous in this comedy film. TIRED OF DIVIDING THEIR children’s time up during the holiday between each of them Dads Brad and Dusty, played by Will Ferrell (The House, The Campaign) and Mark Wahlberg (Patriots Day, The Gambler), came up with a brilliant idea; to spend the Christmas holiday together. The idea would have been perfect if not for the visit of the grandfathers. With John Lithgow (Miss Sloane, Betriz at Dinner) as Don, Linda Cardellini (Grandma’s Boy, Avengers: Age of Ultron) as Sara and John Cena (Trainwreck, The Marine) as Roger; this sequel for the most part followed the same formula as the original movie. I found the script was predictable and some of the humor had a negative edge to it. If you happened to see the trailers you pretty much saw what the whole film was going to consist of: physical comedy mixed with stereotypical acting. Some of the scenes rang somewhat true to the point I could appreciate what the writers were trying to convey; but, there were times I thought the story was diving into a ridiculous slapstick form of comedy. Having seen the first movie, I did not find much being offered with this picture in the way of new, fresh ideas. Maybe those of you who are in a similar situation as the characters in this picture will enjoy this film. For me I could not be positive or even neutral in my review of this formulaic written movie.
1 ¾ stars
THE weather was so cold his face felt like it had no flexibility. He had to squint because when the wind kicked up, his eyes would water and he was afraid the tears would freeze on his face. Though he had a short walk to school, he had wished the school would have closed for a snow day. Bundled up in a thick, puffy blue colored jacket, his winter boots were almost too heavy to lift up as he walked through the snow. He wore a stocking cap on his head; around his neck was a long dark scarf with small tassels knotted on the ends. Only two blocks away and he thought his hat had flown off of his head. That would have been the best scenario; instead, it was in the hand of a boy who bullied him from time to time. The bully was taller so dangled the stocking hat just high enough beyond the boy’s outstretched hand. Taunting him the bully would lower the hat for a moment until the boy would try to jump up to grab his hat back; but each time the bully jerked his arm up higher as he teased him to try harder. This wicked game would only last a minute before the bully smashed the hat into the boy’s face, knocking him down in the snow. RECENTLY a friend of mine was telling me about his school years. We got on the subject of group dynamics within the classroom and he wound up talking about a girl in his class who always wore her hair in pigtails. A week never went by without at some point this girl having something done to her hair. I was stunned as my friend told me about some of the ways this girl was teased by a couple of bullies in the class. The tips of the hair had been dipped in glue, paint, and lip balm among other liquids or had silly hand written notes taped at the ends. Since I was teased and picked on during my school years, I immediately felt sadness for this girl as I listened to my friend talk about it. Being taunted is bad enough, bring a gun into the mix and I felt awful for the soldiers in this dramatic war thriller. WITH only a dilapidated wall separating them a sniper plays a cat and mouse game of nerves with American soldiers Isaac and Matthew, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals, Kick-Ass franchise) and John Cena (Trainwreck, The Marine). This movie quickly started building the tension up after a few frames of film. With Laith Nakli (The Visitor, Amira & Sam) as Juba, I thought the idea for the story was not only valid, but easy to identify with even if one had not done any service in the military. There was talk about this being John’s breakout role in drama but for me Aaron was the one who did an excellent intense job. Though the story grabbed me quickly, it only lasted for a short time as the scenes started to feel no different from each other. I think the script was limited due to the amount of characters; the story just wilted away until closer to the end. Granted it could not have been easy being in one locale and little to work with; however, the trailer and beginning almost felt like it was teasing the viewer to watch for something bigger to take place that never happened.