I DO NOT REMEMBER HOW OLD I was at the time; but I do remember I ate the whole thing. It was the first time I had been to one of those ice cream shops where you serve yourself. They had my favorite type of ice cream, soft serve that comes out of a machine in a long tubular shape. As soon as I saw the machine, I grabbed one of the larger sized cups. Even in my thrilled state I did have the sense to realize that the cup I was holding was much larger than the average “large” cup; I stopped filling it up just past the halfway mark. From there I walked down to the toppings station. As I scanned the assortment of treats, I felt I was at a dessert sweet table at a wedding reception because there were so many choices. I think because I had control over the amount of toppings, I could put on my ice cream, my brain went a little haywire; please do not judge me. If memory serves me, I spooned on chocolate sprinkles, crushed cookies, chocolate and peanut butter chips, candy coated chocolate candies and for extra crunch, some granola. By the time I was done my cup was completely full. I walked up to the checkout counter where the employee took my cup and weighed it! This was new to me; I had never had my ice cream order weighed before. My creation costed me $21.36. MY SUGAR HIGH LASTED WELL INTO the night from my ice cream creation, or should I say massacre? When I finally crashed, I came down hard, feeling tired and lethargic. First of all, I had never spent that much on ice cream before and that included the gallon size containers from the grocery store. Everything was fresh and tasted good; however, when they were all mixed into the ice cream their individual flavors got lost. I was essentially eating crunchy chocolate with a hint of peanut butter. The sprinkles that remind me of my youth were lost within the meteor shower of sugary chunks. I learned a valuable lesson: less is more. If I would have focused on one or two toppings, I could have savored their individuality, for example chocolate sprinkles and peanut butter chips. It is true what they say, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” Sure, I chose all my favorite toppings, but I could have been smarter about it. And I certainly know it would have been cheaper for me! This lesson is something the writers needed to learn before creating this action, crime drama film. COOL AND EFFICIENT IS HOW ONE would describe trained assassin Ava, played by Jessica Chasten (Miss Sloane, Molly’s Game). After one job went wrong, she got a new description, Wanted. Her survival would depend on her skills. With John Malkovich (Bird Box, RED franchise) as Duke, Common (Suicide Squad, The Hate U Give) as Michael, Geena Davis (Marjorie Prime, Thelma & Louise) as Bobbi and Jess Weixler (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby franchise, The Good Wife-TV) as Judy; this story had the good fortune to have such a talented cast. However, the cast could not help with the piecemeal story lines which there were too many of. I felt pieces of other action films were put into the script and they did not play well together. The action scenes in this picture were decent but that only went so far before the heavy script slowed things down. There was nothing new or exciting in this story; as I was watching this movie, there were multiple scenes that reminded me of different films I had seen before. In its entirety, this was not a well thought out movie; there was way too much involved and not enough long-lasting excitement.
1 ¾ stars
AT WHAT TIME DO YOU BEGIN to trust someone completely? For myself I do not have a definite set time where I start trusting a person. What I will say is this: trust is something that gets earned, it is not given freely by me. One of the ways trust gets built between me and an individual is to hear and listen to a person when they speak. Because my mind accelerates during a conversation, where I start to finish the person’s sentences in my mind, I tend to interrupt people. I must keep reminding myself to slow down and let the person finish before I say something. Being aware of this makes me more attentive in seeing if the person’s words and actions match each other, which is one-way trust starts to grow for me. Another thing that helps a person gain my trust is exposing me to their circle of friends at some point. I feel one can gain insight into a person based on the company they keep. I do not know; maybe it is harder to deal with me because I do not give my trust out freely. I can easily tell you why; after giving my trust out and getting it broken a few times, I questioned my ability to vet out untrustworthy individuals. ONE PERSON WHO BROKE MY trust was a co-worker at a previous job. I thought we had a good, friendly relationship; she would even confide in me. I found out later that she resented me being promoted into a position that she was hoping to get. Of course, I did not know she wanted it; another employee told me. There had been several incidents that reflected poorly on my performance. I did not understand how these kept happening until I found out she was entering inaccurate information on purpose to make me look bad. Besides being furious at her, I was hurt. If I confronted her I would have to divulge the name of the employee who tipped me off; so, from that point on I totally ignored her. If it was a business question I would answer her; but anything else she said to me I would not give her a response. This may sound childish to you, but it worked for me. Trust me, this kind of broken trust doesn’t compare to the ones that get damaged in a love relationship; those are much harder to come back from in my opinion. But then again, I have been fortunate that my life has never been put into jeopardy due to the trust I had given someone, unlike the main characters in this action adventure film. THERE WAS LITTLE TIME FOR an elite group of CIA agents to build trust with the one person who had the key that would save thousands of people. Too many other people wanted him dead. Starring Mark Wahlberg (All the Money in the World, The Gambler) as James Silva, Lauren Cohan (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Walking Dead-TV) as Alice Kerr, Iko Uwais (The Raid franchise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Li Noor, John Malkovich (Bullet Head, Secretariat) as Bishop and Ronda Rousey (The Expendables 3, Furious 7) as Sam Snow; this crime movie was all about intense action. Development of the characters was close to nil; the script was a mess and I especially disliked the jumping back and forth in time periods. Iko was my favorite and I have to say his fight scenes were insane. I only wished they were not so edited to the point it was hard to figure out who was fighting. There was a good deal of violence and blood, too much for my tastes. The idea behind the story was valid; I only wished they had a better script and a less heavy hand in making sure the viewers were experiencing non-stop intensity.
1 ¾ stars
Along with the saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” the same could be said for worth. Let us say you have a person who donates a kidney to save another person; how could you put a price on the kidney? To the person getting it I would think they are getting a priceless gift. Let me go to the other extreme and tell you I have seen situations where I had to wonder what type of value the perpetrator was offering to society. I could give some examples but all of them are ugly to talk about here. During the real estate boom houses were skyrocketing in price, but they were only worth that price if someone was willing to pay it. Value/worth I find is a subjective process. The thing I would like to know is when did the worth of human beings decrease in value. Before it became an issue, I remember watching players on a sports team continue playing even though they had incurred an injury. Growing up I rarely heard about someone getting a concussion. Being involved with companies from around the world for my job, I stay aware of any reported safety abuses of employees that could affect the company’s balance sheet. This is my thinking only but I feel due to society becoming more of a disposable one, along with the need to have immediate gratification, companies had to adjust their thinking. Businesses need to find the fastest way to bring a product to market and make sure it is still a profitable venture. This drive for profits and quickness can lead a company to look at how they could cut down on their expenses to make more money. I think most of us were aware of this film’s story about the worst United States oil disaster to ever take place. What you might not know is how the spill came about; see for yourself what took place in this action film. BASED on true events the floating oil platform Deepwater Horizon was on the verge of striking black gold a/k/a oil. What the owners would soon find out is sooner is not always better. Starring Mark Wahlberg (Daddy’s Home, Lone Survivor) as Mike Williams, Kurt Russell (The Art of the Steal, The Hateful Eight) as Jimmy Harrell, John Malkovich (Burn After Reading, Empire of the Sun) as Vidrine and Gina Rodriguez (Filly Brown, Jane the Virgin-TV) as Andrea Fleytas; this dramatic thriller needed a short time before kicking into gear. Action was the number one feature of this picture and I have to tell you it was intense through and through. I felt I was on an amusement park ride as the scenes flowed and ebbed from drama to action. There were some cheesy scenes in the script along with some lines that were sappy; but the underwater scenes, explosions and building fear factor rode over everything to make this an exciting movie watching experience for me. I do not know how much was true in the movie but the bottom line (do you like that business reference?) for me was a feeling of shame and horror on how little the human factor played into the business model for a potential successful business venture.
True friends have the ability to reflect our real selves back to us. No matter how ugly, scary or false we act out; our friends have an open line to the sane part of our minds, reminding us who we are and to stop acting in such a poor fashion. I have a select group of friends who help me cut through the minutiae that spews out of my pinball brain from time to time. As the years stack up for me and my friends, we tend to communicate in a form of verbal and nonverbal shorthand. A simple look can reveal what one of us is thinking. One of the major facets established with these friendships is the supportive aspect. Whenever an event, either of a celebrating or crisis nature, comes up all the friends are right by each one’s side, ready to do whatever is necessary. There really is something to that phrase about “friends from the old neighborhood.” The people who have grown up with us have a special connection that is not affected by distance or time. BEST friends Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private; voiced by Tom McGrath (Madagascar franchise, Megamind), Chris Miller (Shrek franchise, Madagascar franchise), Conrad Vernon (Shrek franchise, Madagascar franchise) and Christopher Knights (Shrek franchise, Madagascar franchise); all agreed to work with a top secret organization called The North Wind. Led by the secretive agent referred to as Classified, voiced by Benedict Cumberpatch (Star Trek into Darkness, The Fifth Estate), the penguins would help to stop the evil Dr. Octavius Brine, voiced by John Malkovich (Red franchise, Secretariat), from wreaking havoc across the world. This animated adventure comedy was filled with a variety of clever lines and visuals, A couple of them went by so fast they easily could be missed if one was not paying close attention. The actors all did a fine job voicing their characters; each with a distinct enough voice to keep the characters separate. As for the story, it was geared more towards a younger crowd; it lacked the sophistication of some of the recent popular animated films. What did not work for me in this movie was the constant chase scenes. It began to feel monotonous to me after a short time. Fortunately I did not have time to dwell on this because I was busy trying to catch the fun twists to the printed words and sight gags flying across the movie screen. With strong themes of friendship, loyalty and commitment; I wound up enjoying this fun animated story. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
In my tiny, little corner of the world I get inspired by witnessing the sacrifices people make to create a difference in their lives and the lives around them. There is the friend whose father traveled to work 2 hours each way on public transportation, to make sure there was a steady paycheck coming in each week. I remember a former employee who was sent with her 6 siblings to live with their grandmother in a one bedroom apartment, while her parents took a job in a different country, hoping to make an easier life for their children. Through social media sites shared by individuals who follow my movie reviews, I discovered one person leads an organization devoted to establishing and protecting equal rights for women; while another works tirelessly fighting to protect those who are not strong enough to have their voices heard. It takes a special kind of person who can give so much without expecting anything in return. In the bigger scheme of things, there have been people whose actions made history by changing the world. One of those individuals was the main focus in this biographical film, based on a true story. Michael Pena (American Hustle, Shooter) played labor organizer Cesar Chavez. A quiet man who believed in non-violence, Cesar Chavez fought for the rights of migrant workers after seeing how they were being treated. America Ferrera (End of Watch, Ugly Betty-TV) played his wife Helen. Not only do I think Michael Pena is a fine actor; I was looking forward to learning more about Cesar’s life and the extraordinary events that took place around him. The cast which also included Rosario Dawson (Gimme Shelter, Unstoppable) as Dolores Huerta and John Malkovich (Secretariat, Red franchise) as orchard owner Bogdanovich Senior were quite capable to handle their roles. However, I cannot say the same for the director and writers. The performances were bland; I could not get over how dull Michael and John were especially. I felt there could have been a better sense of drama if the writers had added more story about Cesar’s family and their sacrifices. We saw his children in the beginning of the movie as they were driving to their new home, but after that they were pretty much invisible except for one older son. Unfortunately the only emotion I felt in this picture came from the depicted events taking place instead of the characters. What a shame to sacrifice the time, effort and money in developing this movie and not being able to deliver a better film.
There is an easy camaraderie created when a group of people have a singular purpose. Whether one is an employee, volunteer or teammate; when personalities blend together a relationship is formed of shared experiences. When I have done volunteer work I notice there tends to be a quick connection made between all the volunteers. The same happens when new fitness instructors come on board at the health clubs, where I teach. An added benefit to these types of connections is the ability to have fun. Yes, even at one’s place of employment there can be times of fun when everyone is supportive of their fellow employees. Well okay, let us say at least bearable. This sense of fun is what I appreciated most about this action comedy. It was obvious the actors were enjoying both their roles and each other in this sequel. Joining Bruce Willis (Looper, Moonrise Kingdom) as Frank, John Malkovich (Burn After Reading, Dangerous Liaisons) as Marvin, Helen Mirren (The Debt, Hitchcock) as Victoria and Mary-Louise Parker (R.I.P.D., Weeds-TV) as Sarah were Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago, The Terminal) as Russian agent Katja and Anthony Hopkins (Thor, Hitchcock) as mad scientist Bailey. The story was far-fetched about Frank and the team trying to retrieve a megaton explosive device that was smuggled into Moscow during the cold war. Being a fan of Helen, I got a kick out of her role being more physical this time. The script was uneven where some lines were humorous while others fell flat. Bruce has been doing the same type of character for so long, he tended to be a bit cartoonish for me. In the case of John; since I have seen him perform live on stage and know what he is capable of doing, I thought he was excellent in his role. Anthony was exceptionally good with his character. This was not the type of movie where one needed to think much; there was nothing deep about it. Honestly, I think the success of the first movie gave these actors the opportunity to hang out again and share some good times, while filming took place all over the world.
2 1/4 stars
Love is coming home where a warm hug is waiting to brush the trying day off of you. Waking up to a gentle protective breath on your neck that kept dark dreams away through the night is love. Comfort in knowing that if you make a mistake it will not diminish one’s love for you. Even the unexpected card filled with caring thoughts is a form of love. Taylor Dayne’s song “Love will Lead you Back” would be apropos to describe this romantic comedy. From the director of 50/50, Jonathan Levine created a funny horror movie that was a relative to the story of Romeo and Juliette. Nicholas Hoult was the unusual zombie named R. On a night of feasting on humans; R became enthralled with Julie, played by Teresa Palmer (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Bedtime Stories), after making a meal of her boyfriend. Determined to protect her, R formed an unexpected relationship with Julie that would change the world. But R did not know Julie’s father Grigio, played by John Malkovich (Burn After Reading, Con Air), was the leader of the human zombie killers. I was totally taken by surprise with the smart and witty dialog. Nicholas and Teresa were perfectly matched, adding authenticity to their characters. Playing R’s friend M, Rob Cordday (Cedar Rapids, W.) was wonderful in his role, coming up with some great lines. My only regret was the small amount of screen time Analeigh Tipton (Damsels in Distress, The Green Hornet) had playing Julie’s friend Nora. A very entertaining film that was rated PG-13 had brief scenes of blood and gore. I was completely surprised by this fun movie. Who knew this zombie film came with a big heart.
When I see advertisements announcing performance dates for any celebrity in their twilight years, my first thought has always been, “Do they really need the money?” I am not a fan who wants to see former headliners trying to maintain their youth as they perform in small clubs, attempting to recapture the good old times. Why don’t they instead do charity work, I have wondered. In this dramatic comedy, a law school dropout found himself becoming the assistant to an illusionist, when he answered an ad in the classifieds. John Malkovich (Con Air, Dangerous Liaisons) played Buck Howard, a long time performer who was trying to stage a comeback. I have had the good fortune to see John perform live on stage, years before he went on to the big screen. Back then I knew he was going to be an intense actor. He could easily switch from a raving, menacing lunatic character to a sweet, kind gentle man, in a heartbeat. As Buck Howard, John did an excellent job going from the pleasant showman to revealing the turmoil behind the facade. Colin Hanks (Looper, Orange County) was just ok for me in his role as assistant Troy Gable. However, I did enjoy the couple of scenes he had with his real life father Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, The Green Mile), who also played his father in the movie. It was a nice surprise to see Emily Blunt (Looper, The Young Victoria) in the film, playing Valerie Brennan. However, I felt the direction her character took rang false. The actors who had cameo roles were fun. To tell you the truth, after seeing the scenes where Buck was performing in front of his audience, it occurred to me that I have been judgmental. Who am I to say who should perform or not; it does not really matter. If fans want to relive a fond memory they have of their idols and the celebrities are willing to keep the dream alive, then go for it. After I was done watching this DVD I wanted to search the web for The Amazing Kreskin.
2 1/2 stars — DVD
I can only imagine what the award winning book must be like after watching this movie adaptation of it. A powerful yet bleak look at race relations after apartheid ended in South Africa. Professor David Lurie, played by John Malkovich (Dangerous Liaisons, Burn After Reading) was a womanizer. He was brought up on charges for having a sexual relation with a student he gave a false, passing grade to on a test. Without remorse or justification Professor Lurie left his post, his home and traveled to the East Cape to live with his daughter Lucy, played by Jessica Haines (White Wedding, The Lost Future). Adjusting to rural living in the remote area, father and daughter tried to find common connection to each other. The dynamics quickly changed however when they were brutally attacked and robbed by three black men. Was it a random attack or were they targeted? John Malkovich brought his incredible intensity to the role, able to convey his feelings without speaking. But, his accent was not always present. I found the juxtaposition of beautiful open landscapes with characters weighed down by their own despair to be an interesting mix. Covering such topics as racism and sexism, this was not a feel good type of movie. I found the script left some questions unanswered; so, I will have to read the book to get the full story on what was a fascinating story.
2 2/3 stars — DVD