AS WE CROSSED THE THRESHOLD; I saw one standing guard by the door, another lounging on a chair and a third smaller one acting as the greeter. It was some scene; these white powder puff dogs with their individual, distinct roles in the household. The “guard” dog was the only male; I do not know if that had any bearing on him assuming his role in the house. I will say he was good at his job; any little sound from outside would trigger him to jump on the sofa to peer out the window for any intruders, before he would run to the door to make sure it was secured. The one dog who was reclined on the cushion of the chair was an attention seeker. Evidently, her goal in life was to get everyone to come and pet her. The smallest one was the youngest of the group and her motivation for greeting everyone at the door was to find someone to play with her and her toys. Each of the dogs had their own personality; yet, they got along quite well for the most part. The only time the three would fuss was during mealtime. Like little kids in a candy shop, they always wanted more food than what they got in their bowls. As soon as one was done eating, he/she would go to one of the other bowls and try to get a portion of its food. ALONG WITH THOSE FURRY SIBLINGS, I HAVE met some other extraordinary dogs. One dog understood commands in both English and German. He was a water rescuer; in other words, he was deployed to accidents that occurred in water. For example, things like boat crashes and missing people. Another dog I knew had an amazing vocabulary. This dog could retrieve specific items from different rooms in a home. You could ask the dog to get you your hairbrush from the upstairs bathroom and the dog would know exactly where to go to get it and bring it back to you. I found it both incredible and a bit freaky at the same time. I would be remiss if I did not mention the service dogs that help their blind owners and the ones that help with security. It was because of my early experiences around dogs that originally led me to study veterinarian science. One of the things I used to say back in school was I never met a bad dog, only a bad dog owner. When it comes to the dog in this family, adventure drama; all I can say is I never met a dog like that one before. SPANNING FROM CALIFORNIA TO THE ALASKAN YUKON, a dog’s journey would change the lives of the people it encountered along the way. Adapted from the classic novel by Jack London, this movie starred Harrison Ford (Ender’s Game, Star Wars franchise) as John Thornton, Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Not Another Happy Ending) as Mercedes, Cara Gee (Empire of Dirt, The Expanse-TV) as Francoise, Dan Stevens (Lucy in the Sky, Beauty and the Beast) as Hal and Omar Sy (The Intouchables, Jurassic World) as Perrault. Having read the book years ago in school, I still retained the feelings I felt for the dog, Buck. I do not know if this will be a spoiler for some; but Buck in this film was completed created by CGI effects, as well as all the other animals. Normally, I am fine with CGI effects; however, in this picture I found it to be a distraction. Having animals displaying human facial features was too weird for me. Even the landscape was created with CGI which resulted in me not enjoying this movie. There were a few scenes that were decent; but overall, I found this film was not dog friendly.
1 ¾ stars
GOING THROUGH MY HOUSE TO FIND items I could donate, I discovered a couple of toys hidden behind some blankets up on a closet shelf. I needed a stepstool to help me retrieve them from the back of the shelf. It had been years since I saw these toys, but I immediately recognized them. One toy was a construction set or to be more accurate a combination of several sets. The set contained miniature metal beams/girders ranging in length from 3 to 8 inches long. There were a variety of screws, washers and nuts to use to attach the girders to build something out of them. I loved playing with this toy when I was a kid. Anytime I had free time, I would place all the set’s pieces in the middle of the living room floor, then start pulling different items and shapes together to build something. I never followed a plan; instead, I would use my imagination to build things from castles to forts to parking garages. In fact, one of the things I made came out so well I was able to submit it into my elementary school’s science fair. It was picked to go on display in the school library for a month. THE OTHER TOY ON THE SHELF was the game of Scrabble. This was one of my favorite games for years. Even if I could not find someone to play with, I would play by myself by forming words on the gameboard with the wooden tiles I picked from a pile I created inside the game’s box top. I found a chair to sit on so I could open this ancient game that had been in my family before I was born. The box was so old that 2 corners of the top lid were worn away, where the sides hung down loosely like airplane flaps. I rubbed my hand over the tiles, feeling the memory of them refresh in my mind. The wooden tile holders the players would use were lined up on one side of the box; I removed one and noticed for the first time it looked like molding from the ceiling of a room. Out of all the tiles there was one that had a darker shade to it; it was the free letter tile. I randomly turned over a tile and discovered I picked the dreaded Q tile that was worth 10 points. It was great if one could use it, but I hated that tile if I got stuck with it at the end of the game. So many memories of past games I played flooded my mind, I had to take a break and sit down to play a game with myself. Certain games have a magical pull on us, like the one in this action, adventure comedy. THOUGH THEY VOWED NEVER TO PLAY the game again, a group of friends had no choice but to play it if they wanted to save their missing friend. With Dwayne Johnson (Skyscraper, Fast & Furious franchise) as Eddie, Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, The Circle) as Martha, Jack Black (Margot at the Wedding, The House with a Clock in its Walls) as Bethany/Fridge, Kevin Hart (Night School, The Upside) as Mouse Finbar/Fridge and Awkafina (Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell) as Ming; this sequel showed the cast having a good time with their characters. The story was a bit confusing with its multiple story lines and changing characters; however, with all the fantasy things happening I was not bothered by it. The special effects were fun and exciting as well as the humor was consistent with the previous film. It took a little time before I became interested in the story; I felt the script dragged in the beginning because I enjoyed the last half of the movie better than the first. Despite a couple of things not making sense and the feeling of déjà vu I was experiencing, this was light fare to sit through this holiday season. There was an extra scene early in the ending credits.
2 ½ stars
AS WE WERE LEAD to our table I looked out across the dining room and saw miniature lighthouses at a majority of the tables. The glow I was seeing came from the electronic devices being used at these tables; with the users being adolescents and young children. Some had tablets, others had phones; but they all looked like they were drugged as they were staring at their glowing screens. There were no interactions being initiated by others sitting at each of their tables. Some of the little ones looked as if they were hypnotized; they were so absorbed by the antics taking place on their devices. I totally understand parents wanting to keep their children occupied during a meal out at a restaurant. Honestly who wants to be the parents of a crying child in a public place? But as I looked at these kids I had to wonder how they interact with other children? GRANTED I AM NOT current with the types of video/electronic games children play with these days, but I have heard kids will play with their friends without ever leaving their house. It is some type of video game where you log on as a player and play with a friend across the street or across the country. My electronic days took place when Space Invaders and Centipede were the top games, so I am ignorant when it comes to current activities. And you know that is okay by me. I would not trade the times I sat on the living room floor playing board games with my friends. There was one game where you had to negotiate with your opponent, buying and selling parcels of land like a realtor. To this day I still love the game Scrabble or do not laugh, playing charades. There was nothing like a rainy day to be at a friend’s house playing games, stopping for a snack then returning afterwards to finish up and see who would win. Though each of us was competitive, we knew better than to gloat excessively if we were the winner because there was no guarantee you could win the next time. Looking back at those times I realize playing together face to face was a bonding experience and the perfect introduction to teamwork. The same could be said for this action, comedy adventure. FORCED TO CLEAN OUT a storage room for detention, four high school students discover an old video game they decide to play. They would soon discover they had to win at it if they wanted to stay alive. This enjoyable film starred Dwayne Johnson (Baywatch, San Andreas) as Spencer, Kevin Hart (The Wedding Ringer, Central Intelligence) as Fridge, Jack Black (King Kong, Bernie) as Bethany, and Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Doctor Who-TV) as Martha. There is no getting around the fact that Dwayne has an easy appeal that draws the viewers into any of his characters. With this role he was the perfect choice to play this physically strong, brawny type who was easily scared. Jack Black did a wonderful job as Bethany; the self absorbed, selfie taking high schooler. The director did a great job to keep the pacing on track throughout the story. This fun movie would be enjoyable for the whole family; the villains were more of the creepy type instead of the bloody, scary kind if that makes any sense. I would classify this type of picture as a good escape film; it was made to be humorous and fun. In addition I enjoyed the message of teamwork and as a bonus got to reminisce about the games I used to play when I was younger.
THE man’s wavy untamed hair in the photograph was the closest looking to his own. No one else in the photo album had hair similar to this man, so there was a good chance that man in the photo could be his father. The young boy would pull out his mother’s photo album anytime he was feeling sorry for himself. Sitting on the sofa with the album in his lap he would stare at this one particular photograph of the man with the wavy hair and wonder what the man was like. The little boy would get lost inside his imagination, placing himself next to his possible father in a variety of scenarios. They would be at the amusement park; sitting side by side in a roller coaster that was about to climb up a steep embankment, their hands tightly clenching their shouldstraps with their legs pressed up against each other. For several years the young boy believed his real father was out there somewhere. SOME people were born into a family while others created their own. A basic definition of family is a group of people related to one another. It could be by blood or there may be something else in common. I have a friend who has a family by birth. Though she continues to try over and over, her and her family have different expectations or maybe it is just different feelings of what makes a family. She has been disappointed more times than not with her so-called family. The only time they do something as a family is if it is convenient for her siblings; they have never gone out of their way for her. So the windup is my friend has started to create her own supportive family among her friends. This action science fiction film will show you what my friend did in her life. SETTLING into their roles as the Guardians of the Galaxy, the group of friends encounter strong forces that will test the bonds they have recently formed with each other. This adventure sequel starred Chris Pratt (Jurassic World, Passengers) as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana (Star Trek franchise, Nina) as Gamora, Dave Bautista (The Man with the Iron Fists, Spectre) as Drax and Michael Rooker (The Bone Collector, Jumper) as Yondu. Right from the start this picture grabs you with its special effects and action packed scenes. And just like the original movie, this one also had a great soundtrack. I thought the script was intriguing with its strong theme of family. Not wanting to get too deep with this theme the writers did not forget to include the same type of humor that was used in the last film. Now this brings me to my issue with this movie; it unfortunately was not the first one because since we are familiar with the new franchise, this installment did not have the same fresh quirkiness because I had seen it before. I do not consider this a major complaint; I still laughed and enjoyed the action. If you are not a fan of science fiction I am not sure you would get totally into this picture, but I am sure you would not be able to stop your feet from tapping along to the music. There were three extra scenes during the credits and one more brief scene at the end of the credits.
They say the eyes are the windows to the soul but a mirror reflects what is in the mind. When one looks at themselves in a mirror they may not be seeing an accurate image. One person can only see all the derogatory names they were called when they were younger. Another individual may see the most beautiful person they have ever seen. I have had a love/hate relationship with mirrors that has mostly been hate. I have arranged my classes where the participants can see themselves in the mirrors. It makes sense that people should see what they are doing in class. The added benefit is I do not have to see myself because I know the person in that mirror has a warped perception of themself. There was a summer during my college years where I was greeted in the mirror by someone who had the confidence of Tony Manero from Saturday Night Fever. It did not last long before the image was replaced with a man, who used to carry 85 extra pounds on their body splattered with bruises. I know when I look into a mirror these days I rarely see any feel good attributes. There are days where the mirror tries to be kind and others where it is gloomy; however, I am grateful I have never seen anything sinister like I saw in the mirror in this horror film. Karen Gillan (We’ll Take Manhattan-TV movie, Not Another Happy Ending) played Kaylie Russell who wanted to prove what happened to her and her brother Tim, played by Brenton Thwaites (Home and Away, Charge Over You), had to be something supernatural. I feel I always have to preface my review of horror movies by saying I am not a big fan of them. If this film is any indication I may no longer need to state it. Without gratuitous bloodshed or gross mutilations, I found this movie to be tensely exciting. There was a continuous thread of dread throughout as the story reeled between the adult and childhood versions of the brother and sister. Katee Sackhoff (Riddick, Battlestar Galactica-TV) and Rory Cochrane (Argo, Dazed and Confused) were wonderful as the siblings’ parents Marie and Alan Russell. At one point I felt I was witnessing a psychotic episode, the next a hallucinatory one; all of it made for a mind bending experience where I was fidgeting in my seat with anticipation. I will tell you there were several scenes that made me squeamish and there was blood shown; but on the strength of the script, I know if I had seen myself in a mirror afterwards I would have seen a satisfied moviegoer.