IT LOOKED TO ME LIKE A GLASS lighthouse, shining bright in the darkness. The space it was in seemed cavernous to me; there was one complete wall that bowed out of the house to accommodate a baby grand piano. I could be sitting in the dining room yet be able to see the brightly lit curio cabinet in the living room. Whether people were visiting or not, the its light was always on. The cabinet was made of glass and wood that had been washed in a gold paint. The top of it came to a point like a domed roof, with a gold ball that sat right at the pinnacle. There were four glass shelves evenly spaced apart that had a curious mix of things that all fascinated me. However, on the bottom shelf there was a chess set that grabbed my attention the most. Sitting on the thick chessboard were these intricate sculpted ivory pieces my relative called netsukes. I had never seen anything like it. Half the pieces sat on black colored bases and the rest on light colored ones. I would stand at the curio cabinet, its light the only one on in the room, wanting to take the chess pieces out and play with them; but I knew my relative would not approve. The only time I could hold one of the pieces is when my relative took one out and placed it in my hands for only a short moment. Otherwise, they were off limits to everyone. THAT CHESS SET PLANTED A SEED in me because my infatuation with it caused me to learn how to play the game. I received a gift of a travel sized chess set that looked like a large wallet. When I would unzip the sides of the red vinyl rectangular wallet and fold the sides down, it would reveal a square red and white checkerboard. The chess pieces were magnetic dots with each of their tops embossed with the outline of either a white or black chess piece. Except for my relatives with the curio cabinet, I did not know anyone who played chess; so, I would play against myself. I would try different first moves, wanting to give each magnetic chess piece a turn. Luckily, I was finally able to convince a friend to let me teach him and we started playing a few times a month. It was good practice for me I thought; I just did not know practice for what? I was able to plan a few moves out but not anywhere near what the students in this dramatic movie were capable of doing. SOME FROM BROKEN HOMES AND OTHERS FROM different backgrounds, a group of inner-city students found one thing in common; they liked being treated equal in Mr. Martinez’, played by John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge, Spawn), high school classroom. With Rachel Bay Jones (Ben is Back, Grey’s Anatomy-TV) as Principal Kestel, Michael Kenneth Williams (12 Years a Slave, Assassin’s Creed) as Mr. Roundtree, Corwin C. Tuggles (Detachment, Orange is the New Black-TV) and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Bumblebee; Love, Simon) as Oelmy “Ito” Paniagua; this film that was based on a true story provided a feel good experience for me. I thought John was exceptional in his role; he reminded me of a teacher I had back in school. The story did not provide much surprise to it; it followed a typical story line that I have seen before. Set in Miami during the late 90s, I liked the throwback feel of the film. Despite having nothing that stood out as special for me, I thought the story was still moving. And if you decide to see this movie please stay for the credits to see the extra scenes.
2 ½ stars
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
There are these sayings I have heard most of my life that I do not know if they are based on some tradition or folklore. One of them is counterintuitive to what most people wish for on their wedding day. It goes something like this, “May rain fall on your wedding day and be the only tears the two of you will ever have to shed.” I bet this sounds weird to some of you; but to me, it makes perfect sense. Granted all of the weddings I ever attended were indoor ones. The gist of this saying is a hope that the two individuals will stand together and never have to experience sadness in their marriage. I like the sentiment in that saying. Another saying is used during a sad occasion; it goes, “May it be better times when we meet again.” I have heard this said mostly at funerals. After coming together to share in sadness, the hope between individuals is to share happiness the next time. There is an underlying theme I see from these types of sayings; there is strength in numbers. This brings to mind that phrase that goes when the going gets tough, the tough get going. I believe this to be true because I have never met anyone who prefers to deal with some form of hardship on their own. It does not matter whether it is helping someone move, lending an ear to a friend in crisis or being someone’s advocate when they go for a medical procedure; I feel everyone needs some type of support system. When you see the band of characters in this animated comedy you will understand what I mean. PURSUING that ever elusive acorn Scrat, voiced by Chris Wedge (Robots, Epic), finds himself in outer space. One wrong turn would set in motion a series of events that could put Earth at risk for total destruction. This latest installment in the Ice Age franchise had the usual cast of actors back to voice the characters such as Ray Romano (Rob the Mob, Everybody Loves Raymond-TV) as Manny, Denis Leary (Two if by Sea, Rescue Me-TV) as Diego and John Leguizamo (The Infiltrator, American Ultra) as Sid. The voices were fine and the animation was colorful in this film festival winning adventure. As for the humor maybe young kids would enjoy it but I did not find anything funny. If one is fond of the old Road Runner cartoons, I found this film to have the same type of humor which is laughing at someone’s misfortune. As a kid I enjoyed Road Runner; as an adult I do not find them so funny. Some of the jokes in this movie I felt were inappropriate for young children; it made me wonder what target group were the writers trying to reach. To me this whole picture was a money grab by the studio. The script provided little entertainment; it was just a series of events strung together. I am uncomfortable saying this but based on this latest film I would not mind if this franchise became extinct. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
1 ¾ stars
I tried throwing out several different topics but they would always steer the conversation back to their job. If I made reference to something that happened to me they would match the experience with someone in their office. Have you ever met a person who brings their work home with them? Maybe because from my day job I go and teach evening fitness and yoga classes, I have an easier time of letting go of the workaday world. I am a big believer in employees finding a way to let go of their job stress and not carry it through their daily life. From my yoga classes I have seen what stress can do to a person’s body and mind. There have been some participants walking into class for the first time who are so tightly wound up they look like they could break on their very first yoga pose. It is funny but I actually offered a free yoga class to the individual I was referring to earlier but they declined. The reason I suggested it was because I could see their shoulders rise up towards their ears as soon as they started talking about their work. It was obvious to me they could not let go of their stress. Sadly this was not the only person I knew who brought their work home with them; I have been exposed to quite a few individuals who live to work as opposed to work to live. Feel free to take a look at the guy in this crime drama and tell me if he is bringing his work home with him. DISCOVERING an opportunity to make a huge drug bust against a major drug lord meant Robert Mazur, played by Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Argo), would have to go undercover and put off retirement. Too bad Robert did not know if it would be worth the trade-off. Based on a true story this biographical film started out slow for me; but just like undertaking a building project, it kept getting bigger and deeper. The acting was first class by everyone including John Leguizamo (Chef, Vanishing on 7th Street) as Emir Abreu, Diane Kruger (Unknown, National Treasure) as Kathy Ertz and Benjamin Bratt (Miss Congeniality, The Lesser Blessed) as Roberto Alcaino. One may expect Bryan to be terrific but I was impressed even more by Diane and Benjamin. Their performances were the most believable for me. I thought the directing not only gave depth to the characters but it also added intensity to various scenes. Besides the beginning of the film there were a few slow parts, along with a couple of things that seemed out of place compared to the major story; however, the acting was so good I did not feel these few things took too much away from my experience watching this picture. The other thing I want to mention is the actual story. It was so out of the realm of my world that I had moments of disbelief, but it was not a distraction. I may be intense at times but I have to tell you after seeing this film I am just thankful I can leave my work behind at the end of the day.
Maybe this practice still takes place somewhere in the world, but I know I have not seen it anywhere for many years. It used to be Saturday afternoon was the time a movie theater would change its movie rotation and show a special matinee film for one showing only. The movies that played were family friendly, multiple genres and at times lower production values. There was a small movie theater (if you want to even call it that) near my house when I was a kid; it sat in the middle of the block with small shops flanking it on both sides. If they did not have their small free standing marquee sign in front of the theater, most people would not even know it was there. All the theater seats inside were tired looking with missing threads and very little bounce to the cushions. I was there most Saturdays, waiting in line with the other families. The only way I can describe how it felt to sit and watch a movie there is to tell you it was like being on an amusement park ride. If the picture was dramatic it had to be over dramatic; the hero was always captured at some point but would escape to the cheers of the audience around me. It was such a communal event for all of us and we saw so many new places around the world and even universe. I have such warm memories about that theater and the movies it showed. This horror mystery film would have been shown at that theater’s Saturday afternoon matinee, I am certain of it. WITH no explanation one day the citizens of Detroit vanished into thin air. Luke, played by Hayden Christensen (Star Wars franchise, Jumper), was not affected however; but he noticed something was different about the dark. What I liked about this horror thriller was the fact there was no violence or bloodshed used to make the story scary. Instead the script tried to keep a sense of urgency in the forefront, letting the cast express their fear through their bodies. John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge, Chef) as Paul and Thandie Newton (For Colored Girls, Good Deeds) as Rosemary did a good job making this happen. I do not think it was the studio’s intentions but this picture was the type of film I would call a “B” movie. It looked like a bare bones production with few props and sets. The story was like a primer as if it would be used to teach a class called horror film 101. The script was loose, letting the viewer come to their own conclusion about the action in the scenes. You may consider this more of a disposable movie that you watch once when you have nothing else to do. I enjoyed the easiness to this picture, feeling like I was a little kid at a Saturday matinee.
2 stars — DVD
Along with the required classes I took, there was included courses on peer pressure. There was no financial cost. I had never signed up for them, but I quickly learned about it during my schooling. During our younger years, where we may not have yet built-up a base of self-confidence, it was the more assertive pupils who staked out claims to yield power over fellow students. Those kids who were not strong enough (either emotionally or physically) would follow the assertive/aggressive leaders of the class. Now I have seen it time and time again, those who seek out and gain power strictly with brute force tend to have a weak moral compass. It starts out slowly with an odd request or weird command before things escalate and the leader has his own personal lynch mob at his beck and call. The saddest part of this equation is seeing those individuals, who on their own would never act out in such a way, having to participate in a wicked attack goaded on by their fierce leader. There is an ugly addition to this scenario which involves those students who refuse to participate. Chances are they will become the hunted as the aggressive head of the group directs his minions at the innocent. DURING wartime there were horrors one expected but Eriksson, played by Michael J. Fox (Back to the Future franchise, Family Ties-TV), never imagined he would be involved in the kidnapping of a young innocent girl, instigated by his platoon leader Sgt. Tony Meserve, played by Sean Penn (Fair Game, All the King’s Men). This film festival wining war drama was directed by one of my favorite directors, Brian De Palma (The Untouchables, Dressed to Kill). He has an eye for setting up scenes similar to Alfred Hitchcock. I say this because I want you to be aware of the backgrounds during scenes; Brian places other forms of action behind the actors. The pairing of Sean and Michael would appear odd at first, but it actually was a brilliant choice and they were amazing together. So were other members of the platoon like John C. Reilly (Chicago, Step Brothers) as PFC Herbert Hatcher and John Leguizamo (Romeo + Juliet, Chef) as PFC Antonio Diaz. Inspired by true events, the story offered a different view of military life during the Viet Nam war. One other thing I wanted to mention about Brian’s directing; the way the scenes were filmed really amped up the intensity of them. After recently reviewing the movie American Sniper, I found it interesting that this DVD should show up soon after. There were scenes that included blood and violence in them.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
The earth’s population is divided into 2 groups, those who eat to live and those who live to eat. I walk a fragile line between the two camps and frequently fall off depending on how the day is going for me. For a majority of situations food is the end result. Speaking from personal experience food can provide unbridled comfort, soothing calmness, vigorous energy, emotional support and a cavalcade of other options. Now since I teach in the health field I have to state this disclaimer: food should only be ingested in moderation. Think about when you go on a date; what is one of the first ideas you think of to do on a date? Usually it is going out to eat at a restaurant. There is something about sharing a meal with someone that builds a sense of camaraderie, budding connections between people. I bet if all negotiations whether in the business place, world stage or personal relationships were done over a meal we would see better results. When you have good food, a great story and a wonderful cast; do you know what you get? You get this sweet and salty fun comedy film. All the burners were working when the movie studio made this film. Jon Favreau (The Wolf of Wall Street, Iron Man franchise) wrote, directed and starred as chef Carl Casper in this enjoyable picture. Not happy with his current position at work and in life, Carl heads back to Miami to rediscover the things he loved about cooking. I found this film to be more than the average comedy; there was a dose of sharpness to the script that made the characters come alive. With a cast that included John Leguizamo (Ride Along, Moulin Rouge) as Martin, Sofia Vergara (Fading Gigolo, Machete Kills) as Inez, Bobby Cannavale (Blue Jasmine, Win Win) as Tony and Scarlett Johansson (Don Jon, The Other Boleyn Girl) as Molly; everyone convinced me they were who they portrayed. It was a real treat to watch them. I want to make special mention about the scenes that involved the cooking and creation of the meals. No way do I consider myself a food guru; heck, I can barely cook a meal. However, watching the food in this film was like watching a whole other movie about the art of food preparation. To me there was such detail given to these scenes without boiling over to a long dissertation, that I was fascinated and inspired to run home and attempt to make a grand meal. Luckily rational thought took over and after the movie ended I went to a grocery story to indulge myself in the produce aisle. Extra scene inserted in the ending credits.
3 1/4 stars
It could start with what appears to be a simple look between siblings, but you know there is more behind the momentarily locked glance. You have been sitting at the restaurant table all this time wanting to eliminate your bladder but you refuse to excuse yourself from the table, leaving the siblings alone to talk about you. The reason is you have been in a relationship for a few months and today is the day you are meeting the sister for the very first time and you know what that means. I do not care what anyone says but one of the hardest parts of dating someone new is meeting family members or the best friend for the first time. Sure they may tell me this will be a friendly get together but I know better; the family member or friend is coming in to offer their assessment of me as potential partner material. I will never forget meeting a date’s 14 year old daughter, who did not make eye contact with me once during the first 2 courses of the meal. It was not until dessert, when the subject turned to current music, that she looked at me in amazement with my familiarity of current music. Little did I know that teaching aerobics would provide me with this extra benefit for my get together. Seeking sibling approval was the premise for this action comedy. Kevin Hart (Grudge Match, This is the End) played security guard and hopeful police cadet, Ben Barber who was hoping to get the blessing from Atlanta policeman James Payton, played by Ice Cube (21 Jump Street, Barbershop), to marry his sister Angela, played by Tika Sumpter (Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas, Salt). The only way James would accept Ben is if he could survive one day riding with James while on duty. If you like Kevin’s style of humor then you might enjoy this picture better than I did. I do not consider Kevin an actor since I have now seen him in a few films and see no difference between him in concert or portraying a character in a movie; he is always the same. Ice Cube has some acting ability but in this movie he predominately gave a variety of mean looking scowls. The movie trailers already showed a majority of the humorous parts; the only aspect missing were the few action scenes. There was nothing very original here. If you want my opinion, consider taking public transportation and avoid going on this ride along.
1 3/4 stars
My love of museums began at a very young age. There were several top rated ones in the city where I was born. At one museum I could take a ride down into a coal mine or climb into an actual submarine from World War II. Another museum had these large comfy seats that would lean way back, so I could look up at the stars and planets that traveled across the rounded ceiling as it changed from morning to night in a matter of seconds. We had one museum that was filled with a variety of ancient objects. There were mummies and sarcophagi that I, of course, thought were props from the movies Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments. The other thing I always found fascinating in this museum were the prehistoric skeleton bones. As far as I was concerned they were the bones I saw in the Jules Verne movies I would watch on Saturday afternoons. To see up close the massive size of the dinosaur skeletons only fueled my imagination. The same held true in this action movie because the special effects truly brought the dinosaurs to life. I can only imagine what it must have looked like in the 3D version. The story was about Patchi, voiced by Justin Long (Drag Me to Hell, Accepted), the youngest and smallest of the herd leader’s children. With his friend Alex the bird, voiced by John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge, Assault of Precinct 13), Patchi did not let his size get in the way of trying to be a hero. This family film was perfect for little children, especially those that are into prehistoric animals. Unfortunately that is the only good thing to be said about this boring movie. I did say it was great to watch but that only goes so far; a good story was needed to keep viewers’ attention. The humor was strictly infantile with cliched themes, such as the rivalry between Patchi and his older brother Scowler, voiced by Skyler Stone (The Rules of Attraction, Stuck on You). John Leguizamo has a distinct, rapid fire delivery that with the right script works well. Here the few funny lines he did have were probably not picked up by any of the youngsters in the audience. In fact, there were lines said by many of the characters that were just lame. It really was a shame because the trailer gave the impression of an exciting, dramatic adventure story. You would be better off to just look up the trailer and avoid the movie. Or better yet go to a natural history museum and let your imagination take off with the dinosaur bones on display.
1 3/4 stars