FOR THE PAST COUPLE OF MONTHS, I have been keeping track of my friends’ and family members’ experiences inside a movie theater. I wasn’t interested in hearing about the movie as much as hearing if everyone in the theater was following the safety protocols. Though I have been fully vaccinated for a few months, my comfort level was low for sitting inside a movie theater with a bunch of strangers. From the comments I received, the movie theaters were sticking to their policy of blocking out the seats around the one the patron picked. In every hallway there was a little stand set up that had sanitizing wipes for people to take to wipe down their seat. My friends also told me all the employees were masked and the water fountains were blocked off from use. Since there was no way to know who was vaccinated, I heard there was a mix of masked and unmasked people sitting in the theater. I knew I would not be comfortable going into a crowded theater; so, I ruled out Friday and Saturday as an option to go to the theater. I also knew there would be no way I could go to an opening weekend release of a film that had gotten a lot of positive buzz and/or was being labeled as a blockbuster. After accumulating this information, the past several weeks, I decided to look for a movie I could go to on a weeknight. IT TOOK ME A COUPLE OF weeks to find a film time that would fit my schedule, but it finally happened last week. The movie was playing right after work; I knew I would be able to get there in time if that theater chain was still showing 20-22 minutes of previews like they were doing pre-pandemic. I had chosen a seat on the aisle in the last row. When I purchased the ticket online, I was the only person scheduled to see the film at the time; I was feeling better about the whole movie going experience. The fact that it has been 16 months since I have been in a movie theater, I was hoping to see a recently released summer picture. However, that was not the case; I was going to see a sequel that had been out for a couple of months. Luckily, I enjoyed the first movie enormously; so, chances were good that I would enjoy the sequel. I look at sequels like baked desserts. One can make the same dish several times and either one time the item doesn’t taste as good as the others made before or something unknown happens that alters the outcome of the dessert. It is a mystery to me. Regarding this dramatic, horror science fiction sequel; it did not disappoint me in the least. FORCED FROM THEIR HOME, THE ABBOTT family discovers there are other horrors taking place in the world besides alien creatures. With Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns, Into the Woods) as Evelyn Abbott, Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck, Andi Mack-TV) as Regan Abbott, Cillian Murphy (The Dark Knight, In the Heart of the Sea) as Emmett, John Krasinski (The Hollars, 13 Hours) as Lee Abbott and Noah Jupe (Honey Boy, Ford v. Ferrari) as Marcus Abbott; this sequel matched the intensity of the first film. Kudos to John in his directing because I enjoyed the way the tension got built up, along with the incredible acting with extra credit for Emily and Millicent. Like the original movie, the dialog was sparse in this one; yet, I did not find myself ever getting disengaged from the story. The only difference to tell you the truth, was the fact that there was no element of surprise in the discovery of the aliens. Having said that, I feel viewers who did not see the first movie would still enjoy this one just as much as I did. For all my nervousness about going to the theater, this was the perfect picture to welcome me back to my former home away from home.
3 ½ stars
DESPITE WHAT HAS BECOME A torturous route, the thrill is still there whenever I fly through the clouds. From the time I was little, lying out in an open field near the airport, watching airplanes take flight; I have always been fascinated with the idea of flying. I can remember getting off an airplane and have relatives standing right at the gate for me. There was never a problem to carry baked goods from home on the plane to bring to distant family members. In fact the whole experience of traveling by air was easy compared to now. I know I bring it on to myself but traveling today causes me to be anxious and tense. There are more opportunities for something to delay or cancel my trip. Now granted I know all of the rules regarding flying are for the public’s safety; but for those who remember an earlier time, things are drastically different. At least that is my opinion. FROM THE MOMENT I ARRIVE at the airport, my body tenses up. If I have driven to the airport I am concerned the long term parking lot will be full; it happened to me once, but that was enough. Then when I am inside at one of the kiosks to retrieve my boarding pass, there is a sense of dread that comes over me that the flight is overbooked and I will not get a seat. Here again it happened to me before. Once I pass these obstacles the next one to come is where I am the tensest. Going through the security line always upsets me. It takes one simple thing to trigger either the metal detectors or X-ray machines and I try to avoid that happening like the plague. I never wear a belt or watch when I go through the security line. Ever since I was pulled out of line because my knapsack triggered an explosive sensor due to a candle I received as a gift, I have eliminated everything possible that could slow down my way to the departure gate. Having just returned from a relaxing vacation this week, as soon as I arrived at the airport for my return flight I went into my defense mode of nervous tension. Little did I know that tension would never leave when I got back home because I went directly to the theater to see this dramatic horror thriller. THE SLIGHTEST SOUND WOULD BRING death to their family, so husband and wife Lee and Evelyn Abbott, played by John Krasinski (13 Hours, The Hollars) and Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train, The Adjustment Bureau), did everything they could to keep their kids quiet; however, how does one train a young child not to make a sound? Directed and co-written by John Krasinski, this film also starred Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck) as Regan and Noah Jupe (Wonder, Suburbicon) as Marcus. Right from the start this story grabbed me; it was fresh and different. I thought I would have an issue with so little dialog; but it quickly disappeared due to the admirable effort of John’s directing and the deeply felt acting from Emily, who in real life are married to each other. This was a new type of horror film that kept me in a state of nervous tension; some of the scenes were so beautifully orchestrated. My only complaint had to do with the baby scenes and the way the story turned out towards the end; they were not believable to me. Outside of that this picture really was a thriller, so be prepared if you go see it.
3 ½ stars
THERE were so many people watching April the giraffe’s pregnancy that the computer servers became overloaded and the park had to shut down the live video streaming. I only saw a bit of it on the news; but I was fascinated with the attention April was getting from all around the world. What is it about an animal giving birth or more directly the immediate mother/child bond that gets formed that makes us humans stop and take notice? One thing that comes to mind is the pureness in animals’ behavior. Seeing the way a mother protects her child is amazing, especially when the animal’s instincts are being formed. The reason I use the word pureness is because I do not recall ever seeing an animal putting its offspring in harm’s way. Every action and reaction has a purpose as far as I can tell; unlike some of the things I have seen human parents do with their children. PLEASE understand I do not mean to disrespect parents and parenting skills, but there have been times where I witnessed something that was puzzling and/or troubling. Sitting at a casual fast food restaurant I once saw a mother give her infant child a cola drink. The child must have been no more than 2 years of age; am I old fashioned or mistaken in my beliefs that giving a sugary soft drink to an infant is not a good idea? Personally I would never reprimand a child by slapping them across the face, yet I cannot tell you how many times I have seen it being done. And as I have said before children are born into this world without having the awareness of hatred, prejudice or discrimination; it is something that is taught to them. So you see why I say there is a pureness in the animal world that I do not easily find in the human one. This documentary will show you what I mean. SET in the outer remote reaches of China director Chuan Lu (City of Life and Death, The Missing Gun) follows the lives of three different species (snow leopard, golden snub-nosed monkey and panda) and their babies. Narrated by John Krasinksi (13 Hours, Away We Go) I found his telling of the story was okay; he did not have the dramatic appeal compared to other actors I have heard in similar roles. There were two big reasons why I enjoyed watching this film. The first one was the cinematography; it was not only gorgeous, but exciting for me to see places in China that were so far removed from the familiar locations that are associated with the country. The other reason to see this film was the animals, of course. Sure the movie studio did its spin in creating a human emotional story onto the creatures, but ultimately it came down to the bond a mother and child have with each other. Compared to the previous movies done in this category there was really nothing new; the audience here witnessed the usual animal antics, danger and thrills. However it did not matter too much for me, though I was surprised there was a scene of sadness included in the story. I enjoyed this documentary about three species of animals that may not be residents at my local zoo, but I clearly understood what they were doing for their young. There were extra scenes during the credits.
Unless there is something seriously dramatic going on there is no way to know your family may be different from other families. This is one of the reasons we initially grow up believing we are just normal. However once you start experiencing the dynamics within other families it can be eye opening. I remember the first time my best friend invited me for dinner when we were in 3rd grade. Sitting there I knew something was just different about his family. His older brother sat at the dinner table with us and the parents, but he never said a word to me or his younger brother. He only would talk to the parents but just barely. To an outsider they would say that brother was just being rude, but to a young me I thought he was mean. As I grew and had more opportunities to be around other families I actually started to enjoy the experiences. I wonder if that was the start of my interest in pursuing interests in psychology. A college friend invited me to their home for the weekend where I wound up feeling like I was on one of those old family television shows from the 1950s or 60s. Every family member would get dressed up for dinner; I could not understand how the mother could cook an entire meal yet look like she was ready to go out on the town. There was another family I experienced that cursed at each other like they were just having a friendly conversation. Oh and how could I forget the family that shared a meal with me where all and I mean all the home cooked foods were barely edible to me? I do not want to sound ungrateful but nothing tasted like it was supposed to taste and some things did not look like they were cooked enough; yet all of the family members carried on about the food as if it were the best thing since sliced bread. It just goes to show there really is no such thing as a “normal” family. ONLY after his mother was admitted into the hospital did John Hollar, played by John Krasinski (Away We Go, 13 Hours), travel back home to be with his family. One tends to forget about their family when they are away from them. This film festival nominated comedic drama also starred Margo Martindale (The Hours, August: Osage County) as Sally Hollar, Sharlto Copley (Elysium, District ) as Ron Hollar and Richard Jenkins (The Visitor, The Cabin in the Woods) as Don Hollar. I thought Margo and Richard were the best out of the cast. The story had fun moments in it but there really was nothing that moved me to think I was watching a good movie. Maybe because there were a variety of issues taking place I felt nothing stood out except for Margo’s character. The actors tried their best I believe and John who also directed did a decent job; but the ending left me with a blah feeling. I do not know if it is because I have seen my share of dysfunctional families that I did not think this film was any big deal.
A switch gets turned on and the lights go on. A simple procedure that requires little movement and truthfully not much thought. The only time I think about it is when a lightbulb burns out. This action of little effort disguises the massive coordination needed to get the power to my home, through the house to the lamp. Fortunately I live in a place that has been reliable for the most part, except for when we have had violent storms. Every month I send a payment to the energy company for the use of their electricity, but I do not have much awareness on where or how the company acquires their energy for sale. I imagine the amount of people involved is staggering; whether it involves coal miners, nuclear technicians or service personnel who maintain solar panels and windmills, the mechanics of it all have to be precise and efficient. As I said, luckily for the most part things work smoothly here for me. Can you imagine if things did not? The chaos that would ensue would be monumental, effecting thousands or millions of people. Presently a city in Michigan is going through a crisis regarding their water system. For the little I know about it, the situation was caused by various agencies within Michigan; it was not like some outside force attacked their water supply. In other words it could have been prevented if everyone had worked together. Now when a breakdown occurs due to outside elements, things can go haywire. ARMED citizens in Benghazi Libya overpower a compound where the U.S. Ambassador has chosen to reside. Thirty miles away a small band of CIA contractors are witnessing the evolving destruction. Based on a true story this action thriller directed by Michael Bay (Transformers franchise, Armageddon) had intense, bloody fight scenes throughout the story. With John Krasinski (Leatherheads, The Office-TV) as Jack Silva, James Badge Dale (World War Z, Shame) as Tyrone “Rone” Woods and Pablo Schreiber (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Manchurian Candidate) as Kris “Tonto” Paronto as part of the cast; I was stunned by this film. Remove all the politics that have formed around this story; it truly was astounding to witness the amount of craziness that was billowing all around the characters. Let me see if I can explain the feeling. I went through drivers education class to get my license. Going through all the simulations and supervised driving lessons in the school’s parking lot did not prepare me to that adrenaline rush the first time my car slid across ice covering a busy intersection. The same can be said here; no one was prepared for the escalation of violence. Too bad the script was filled with cliches and simplistic dialog; how many times does one need to hear someone being called “brother?” The action was typical for Michael, fast action mixed with slow motion movements. Not to take anything away from these heroic people but their story needed a better script.
2 1/3 stars
I resent it when I am treated like a number or statistic by a large corporation. What happened where the corporate world felt it was not important to offer a personal touch when dealing with customers? At least that has been my experience. This point was driven home by the bank that had my mortgage. When I decided to refinance with them, I never imagined I would spend the following 6 months in corporate hell. From denying my application due to a mistake they made, to giving me three different dollar amounts I would need at closing; the only way I could get someone to listen to me was to show up at one of the bank’s branches and let my dark side out, making a scene. This is not my usual modus operandi but I felt no respect from them. The premise for this movie was set up in a somewhat similar way: large energy company pitted against a small town. Matt Damon (We Bought a Zoo, The Adjustment Bureau) played Steve Butler, the company’s representative whose job was to buy up the drilling rights from the town’s homeowners. Joining him was his partner Sue Thomason, played beautifully by Frances McDormand (Almost Famous, Moonrise Kingdom). What the energy company expected to be an easy job was met with resistance from science teacher Frank Yates, played by Hal Holbrook (Lincoln, Into the Wild) and environmentalist Dustin Noble, played by John Krasinski (It’s Complicated, Big Miracle). With Matt and John having written the screenplay, I was hoping for a deeper developed story that provided more insight to both sides. Instead this movie was only a generic version of the proverbial David and Goliath story. The character of Alice, played by Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married, Your Sister’s Sister), rang false to me and changed the dynamics of the story, leading it to a poor ending. This film could have been better if they went with an edgier story; which would have made for a serious, dramatic movie.
2 1/3 stars
The ideal situation is when both people decide to end their relationship; ironically showing they still are in synch on some level. I am still close friends with some of the people I have dated. The toughest situation for me has been when the person I love breaks trust in the relationship. I understand when the love aspect of a relationship wilts away, sometimes the other factors making up the couple’s bond can still sustain them. However, it can be a monumental challenge to see the person you have loved forming a relationship with someone else. My bottom line has always been if you want to be with someone else, end your current relationship first. This is why I found this comedy odd with unfaithfulness being a central theme. Meryl Streep (Doubt, Hope Springs) was quite convincing in her role as divorced businesswoman Jane Adler. Attending her son’s college graduation, she was thrown for a loop when her remarried ex-husband Jake, played by Alec Baldwin (To Rome with Love, 30 Rock-TV), revealed his true feelings for her. With Steve Martin (Shopgirl, The Jerk) as her amorous architect Adam Schaffer, Jane found herself in a complicated situation. The acting from this ensemble cast was legitimate, easily connecting to one another. John Krasinski (Leatherheads, The Office-TV) as fiance Harley was quite good with his character. There were humorous scenes throughout this movie, which was geared towards an adult viewing audience. Poor directing was the issue for me; it was uneven with some scenes being slow. However, the film was fun for the most part; showing how complicated relationships could be. For me, I have always said relationships take work. One cannot assume the union will last simply by the things they love about the other person; it is when they respect the things they do not like, that gives the relationship strength.
2 2/3 stars — DVD