I SAT THERE STARING AT THIS small electronic box in the middle of the table. Photos of the restaurant’s food options appeared and disappeared across the display screen along with the various advertisements. Besides the box in the middle of the table, there was a crystal cube sitting alongside it. Encased in the cube was a QR code that I had to point my cell phone camera at to download a copy of their menu onto my phone. Once I decided what to order, I waited for someone to come take it. While waiting I noticed across the way a bank of dispensing machines. A couple of them dealt with soft drinks that a customer could concoct various flavors into their soft drink. I tried reading the options on the lit screen, but it was too far away for me to see. I sat there, while waiting for my friend to show up, as my mind drifted to memories of other restaurants, I visited that relied solely on wait staff to hand out menus, describe the specials of the day, and bring drinks and food orders to the table. It seemed to me as if the human experience associated with dining out was being replaced by machines. MY FRIEND FINALLY SHOWED UP, SETTLING herself across from me in the booth. I had not seen her for a long time, yet she looked the same as far as I could tell. She had no issue navigating the electronic devices as she quickly decided what she wanted for lunch. We spent all the time before our food arrived, talking about our shared history such as the company where we both first met, updating on our family members we had heard so much about when we were working together and present jobs. The food finally arrived via a non-descript waiter. It was good to catch up with her; however, I noticed as we were eating that there was not much else to talk about except for things in the past. Her interests and mine were very different; so, me talking about movies would have fallen on deaf ears. Yet, I still enjoyed spending some time with her because of all the memories it stirred up. We had a fun time together when we worked together because we had a similar humor and reaction to the antics that used to take place around us. Still, by the time it came to pay the bill, I was glad we were done because I was “pulling at straws” to find something to talk about with her. I felt sort of the same regarding this action, science fiction sequel. NEARLY TWENTY LATER NEO, PLAYED BY Keanu Reeves (John Wick franchise, Destination Wedding), is a top video game creator. One game in particular resembles a part of his past life, hmmm. With Carrie-Anne Moss (Memento, Jessica Jones-TV) as Trinity, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Aquaman, Candyman) as Morpheus, Jonathan Groff (Hamilton, Glee-TV) as Smith and Jessica Henwick (Love and Monsters, Game of Thrones-TV) as Bugs; this film’s saving grace was its humor, believe it or not. The abundance of references and video clips to the past films got to be a bit much, but at least they were entertaining at times. I found the story as murky as the visuals at time; I early on decided not to try and figure anything out, just go with the action. There were some good action scenes and visuals, but nothing that stood out to make this movie elevate itself over the previous ones. The draw for me here was the nostalgia factor and the writers certainly knew that would work. I recalled the feelings I had when I saw the first film; it was a revelation of new surprises. With this one, it was more of a “oh yeah, I remember that” type of experience. If one has not seen any of the other movies, they will probably be confused watching this one. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
2 ½ stars
THINGS STARTED CHANGING AROUND THE 4th and 5th grades. Prior to those times the girls and boys usually played together during recess and after school. I remember when we all came back to school after having the summer off, to start the 4th grade. Something was different I soon noticed. Where we used to do things as a group, there now were smaller groups that had broken off. The girls were not as interested in some of the activities they used to participate in with the boys. They also seemed smarter to me because they usually were the ones to get the highest scores on our tests. I can still picture this one boy during our study time who instead was fiddling with the pigtails of the girl sitting in front of him. She was annoyed and asked the teacher to make him stop. During this time, I found myself in a dilemma. With the girls forming different interests and moving into smaller groups from the boys, I had to split my time between the two. I would hang out with the boys for a while, until they started getting too aggressive in their games or sports; then, I would move over to my friends in the girls’ clique. It became a challenging time for me. DURING MY SCHOOL YEARS I HAD A few real close friends. As we grew up we still maintained a closeness even when we started branching out into different interests. I was spending more time with one friend whose interests closely matched up to mine. Through several years we were there to support each other during the rough patches. I wound up going out of state for college and it was during these years things started to change for me. We stayed in close touch but where we used to get the same reaction to a situation, now there was a difference. It was not until I returned home where I came upon a reason for what I felt was a disconnect. The reactions they were displaying were identical to the way they reacted when we were in elementary school and high school. They were complaining about the same things that took place years ago. I tried explaining if the same reactions were producing the same unsatisfactory results, then maybe it was time to change the reactions. I could see by their expression this fell on deaf ears. Sadly, it was the fork in our road where we grew in different directions. I was reminded of this while watching the two childhood friends in this romantic comedy. IT HAD BEEN YEARS SINCE CHILDHOOD friends Sasha Tran and Marcus Kim, played by Ali Wong (The Hero, American Housewife-TV) and Randall Park (Aquaman, Ant-Man and the Wasp), had seen each other. Could looking at the past bring them forward into the present? With James Saito (Pearl Harbor, While We’re Young) as Harry, Michelle Buteau (Isn’t it Romantic, Sell By) as Veronica and Keanu Reeves (John Wick franchise, 47 Ronin) as Keanu Reeves; this rom-com was an easy watch. The script offered a mixture of family dynamics/traditions with modern thoughts and current topics. I did not experience any laugh out moments; for me, the story simply kept me engaged as the characters went through their paces. However, I did find myself getting amused by several of Marcus’ lines. The connection between him and Sasha came across as real thanks to the acting from Ali and Randall. Also, there was nothing in the movie that surprised me per se, except that I found Keanu’s performance wild. It was just pleasant to sit back and let the story play out in this picture. I would not consider this picture memorable; however, I appreciated the fact it got me thinking about some of my childhood friends.
2 ½ stars
THROUGHOUT OUR HISTORY WE HAVE BEEN introduced to couples, both real and imaginary, who have a special relationship. Each couple had a bond that formed a unique and solid connection between the two. There was Bonnie and Clyde, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Thelma and Louise and Batman & Robin to name a few. I remember when I was first introduced to these, dare I say, iconic couples. There was something about them that intrigued me because I could relate in a way. I had a best friend; the two of us were nearly inseparable. Our backgrounds were different; for example, his parents were divorced, and he had not grown up in the neighborhood. Despite the differences, we first connected with our love of books. From there we discovered a variety of similarities that formed the bonding agent to our connection. What helped cement our relationship were those times where we were both discovering something new for the very first time. Having that shared experience, looking back now, really provided the stepping stones to our growth path. It came to a point where we could tell how the other was feeling just by looking at them. We spoke in a shorthand that others tended to find confusing. Our relationship provided each of us a new level of confidence in dealing with the world around us. CONFIDENCE, IT IS SUCH AN ESSENTIAL element to one’s life. I know my journey becoming a confident adult would have taken longer if I did not have someone close with a like mind, my best friend. For the couples I mentioned above, it would have been a different world if they had not found their “soulmate.” Would Clyde have been so successful if he had not met Bonnie? Would Batman have solved all those crimes if he did not have Robin by his side? I do not know the answer. However, I know how it feels to have a special friend, soulmate or whatever name you want to call it; I believe it provides one with strength in every aspect of a person’s life. Having someone who is supportive, who watches your back allows one to take more chances on their ideas. I know what it feels like to think you are the only one in the world. When you discover someone, who understands you or just gets you, there is no greater feeling. If you want to see how well a couple works together when they have history, then see what happens with the couple in this action, crime thriller. HAVING BROKEN THE RULES BY KILLING a fellow assassin on company property John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves (Replicas, Point Break), turned himself from being a hunter to becoming the hunted. The fact there was a $14 million price upon his head did not help matters. This 3rdinstallment started right up where the previous film ended. With Halle Berry (Die Another Day, Monster’s Ball) as Sofia, Ian McShane (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Deadwood-TV) as Winston, Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix franchise, Contagion) as Bowery King and Asia Kate Dillon (Billons-TV) as the Adjudicator; this movie was all about the fight scenes. And let me tell you these scenes were insanely violent and bloody. But here is the thing, they were so expertly choregraphed and staged that I felt the fighting on a visceral level. There were times I was both cringing and laughing at what I was seeing on the big screen. I thought the fight scenes were one of the best I have seen all year. The story was absurd and over the top which is exactly what these movies provide the viewer. The creativity involved in creating this story and beingable to carry it out was excellent. I am not into violence and blood, but I could not turn away from watching this outrageous picture. If there was an election for picking this year’s iconic couple, I would vote for John Wick and Sofia. They were that good together.
3 ½ stars
THERE WAS A NEWS ARTICLE ABOUT a celebrity so grieve stricken about the loss of her beloved dog, that she had the dog cloned. The puppy looked exactly like a younger version of her deceased pet. It appeared the celebrity had her pet cloned just prior to the dog’s death. From the experiences I have been a part of with pet owners, all of them did not immediately find a replacement for their furry companion; they allowed themselves to grieve and get settled into new daily routines first. I understand the love we have for our pets and we hate to see them go, but it is part of the life cycle. Besides the aching pain that is felt, I have had a tough time with the inevitable change of routines. Coming home expecting a happy greeting gets replaced with still silence. For some their daily walks were their only exercise or time for reflective thought. Just recently I was talking with a friend about the difference about two kinds of death. The one where the person/animal suddenly dies is harder on the remaining loved ones in my opinion. When the person/animal has spent an extended amount of time suffering before they finally succumb; then it is easier on the ones left behind because there is the element of relief that they are no longer in pain. WHO KNOWS BUT MAYBE THERE WILL come a time where anyone can clone their loved ones. Maybe the clones will be identical and start off right where the originals ended, but I have misgivings about it. For right now I have a fear that people’s loss of pain will drive medical companies to hurry something to market without knowing 100% that all will be fine. I get this image in my head of those gremlins from the movie that change into hideous, crazy things if they are fed water or given food past midnight. Can you imagine scientists cloning new life that will morph into creatures that cause death and destruction? I know love is a powerful force and the loss of love can be utterly debilitating for us; but that is the price one pays to be vulnerable and accept love into their life. Maybe because of all the movies I have seen or my vivid imagination, but right now there is something about cloning that frightens me. Long term we do not have enough information on what could happen. Due to my feelings I was hesitant to watch this mystery, crime film. WHEN A DEADLY ACCIDENT ROBBED HIM of the most important thing in his life scientist Will Foster, played by Keanu Reeves (Point Break, Matrix franchise), willingly risked everything to gain back what he loved the most. The only issue was no one could know about it. With Thomas Middleditch (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Kings of Summer) as Ed, John Ortiz (Silver Linings Playbook, American Gangster) as Jones, Alice Eve (Before We Go, She’s Out of my League) as Mona and Emily Alyn Lind (J. Edgar, Revenge-TV) as Sophie; this science fiction movie was startling in how it was poorly done. I mean bottom of the food chain nonsense. First, the acting was appalling; Keanu was wooden or better yet, lifeless. The script offered nothing new or exciting for me; pretty much everything taking place seemed to be a given. I will say, I was surprised by one twist in the story; but by that time, I did not care what was going on because I wanted the picture to end so I could go home. For me, this entire movie could be used as an example of what could go wrong by cloning a story that was done before.
1 1/4 stars
FINALLY the day arrived where she no longer would need to get up early for work. She had worked in the education field all her life, in various positions from teacher to vice principal. After her discussions with her accountant she decided it was okay to retire and devote the rest of her years to herself. Some of the things she wanted to do was travel and take up painting; she had dreamed of these two things for a long time. The first few days of the school week felt odd to her. She felt something was wrong since she was home, sitting in her recliner, instead of being with her class. The feeling soon receded as she started getting into the joys of retired life. Her finances had been set up to live a good life, not a lavish one, where she could enjoy a couple of treats once in a while. However, there was no way for her to have known at the next condominium board meeting the officers agreed to charge the owners a special assessment to replace all the windows, balconies and repair the swimming pool. The cost to each owner would be close to the mid five figure range; this would drastically alter her retirement plans to the point she would need to go back to work to pay for the assessment. She became resentful and angry about it. FALLING into a state of anger or resentment has always been easy for me. Recently I had to get a new hot water heater and furnace because the old ones broke down and could not be repaired. It all came so sudden for me when it was discovered my house was filling up with carbon monoxide. When all was said and done I realized I should be grateful that I was not killed by the gas; however, I immediately became angry and resentful. The reason for feeling this way was because of the impact this purchase would have on my finances. The funds set aside to pay off my house earlier would have to be transferred to pay off the heating equipment. On an intellectual level I knew this was silly, equipment breaks down; it is not a purposeful act. That did not stop me but at least I did not get extreme about it like the retired hit man in this crime thriller. SETTLING into retirement John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves (47 Ronin, The Matrix franchise), received a visitor at his home who needed a job done. Refusing to help the gentleman would have consequences. This action sequel took the feel of the first film and amped up the intensity and action. With Riccardo Scamarcio (Burnt, Loose Cannons) as Santino D’Antonio and Common (Selma, Just Wright) as Cassian, the fight scenes were unbelievable and bloody violent. They were well choreographed and looked real. An example was the way John Wick constantly had to reload his weapon. Keanu wore his role perfectly, basic dialog with a touch of sarcasm. In fact the whole script had a no nonsense approach with slight humorous moments. Essentially this film festival nominee was a revenge story; it did not pretend to be anything else. I would like to refer to this as an “escape” film to just sit back and enjoy, but I am afraid John Wick would still find me.
3 ¼ stars
For something so subjective it amazes me how much influence beauty has over many of us. I saw at an early age how people paid more attention to individuals who were considered beautiful—at least on the outside. If you put 2 people together, one thought of as attractive and the other not as pretty, a majority of the general public would believe the attractive one more no matter what they claimed. Look at the fashion industry; can someone tell me why a person is considered less presentable if they are not dressed in something that is currently fashionable? Many years ago the fashion industry came out with bell bottomed pants; maybe some of you remember them. Those in school who did not own a pair of these pants may not have necessary been considered less of a student, but it would not be a surprise if they were looked at as being poor or less intelligent. When I see some of the celebrities that are idolized these days, I am dumbfounded; what in the world is the attraction to these people? Especially those from reality shows that do not focus on talent, strength or creative arts; why do people trust the things these types of celebrities come out with in statements or texts? I find the whole idea of one’s looks such an odd concept. For example when someone wants to fix me up with one of their friends and they say the person is pretty or good looking; that aspect of a person is not important to me like kindness or empathy. So this is why I feel beauty yields an undue amount of power in our world. What I did not know is how dangerous it can be based on the things I saw in this dramatic horror thriller. JESSE, played by Elle Fanning (Super 8, Maleficent), was just starting out in the modeling world but she already had something wanted by other models. Directed and written by Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Knows), this movie went for what I call an “artsy” look. With stark vivid images held in extra long camera shots, I could understand the use of them considering the story line. With Christina Hendricks (Mad Men-TV, Life as We Know it) as Roberta Hoffmann, Keanu Reeves (John Wick, The Matrix franchise) as Hank and Jena Malone (Contact, Sucker Punch) as Ruby; the acting was okay but nothing that really stood out for me. Elle who I have been impressed with in the past still has a certain screen presence but I do not think the script helped her in this film. I believe I understand the message the writers wanted to convey but I did not enjoy the way it was presented to me. There were many scenes where I sat and wished the picture would have ended; I was bored and found the “artsy” scenes a distraction. Maybe the creative team was going for shock value with some of the scenes but a few of them grossed me out. So be it if I am not considered hip, fashionable or with it because I did not find the beauty in this film. There were a couple of scenes with blood.
1 ¾ stars
“Use it or lose it” is one of my favorite things to say to people. In my fitness classes the members have been listening to me say this for years. If we stop working on ourselves how will we continue to move and grow, both physically and mentally? From my experiences I know some individuals have an easier time training their body instead of their mind and visa versa. I actually find it is easier to train my body, which is why I work extra hard on using my mind. To me the mind is like any other muscle in the body and it needs to be stimulated so it can continue to thrive and expand. Without going into too much detail my mind was tested at a very young age; you could say trial by fire. Growing up and being overweight, I heard the “F” word a lot to describe my size. I do not remember when it actually started to work but there came a point where I stopped listening to the taunts. Yes, I still would hear it but my mind would not register it. This explains why today I am skilled in being able to shut out different noises and sounds. Where a co-worker may get distracted with an annoying repetitive sound coming out from the warehouse, my mind only hears white noise, if even that. This ability is not limited to just sounds; if the mind is strong enough it can shield a person from certain parts of reality. It has served me well. I see I am not the only one now that I have seen this dramatic movie. WHEN his partner was found dead Detective Galban, played by Keanu Reeves (John Wick, The Matrix franchise), was determined to find the killer. With the trail of clues not adding up and no one claiming to have seen anything, Detective Galban was positive there had to be someone out in the city who could provide him with the answers. This film which also had Mira Sorvino (The Replacement Killers, Mimic) as Janine Cullen and Ana de Armas (Sex, Party and Lies; The Boarding School-TV) as Isabel de la Cruz had a film noir flavor to it at first. I thought Ana was a compelling actress and found her role the most interesting. In a short amount of time the story broke down and became a jumble of sub-stories. From its film noir look it started to become a surreal fantasy type of story before trying to be more like a true detective story. I kept waiting for something to happen as the script randomly offered these little pieces of information that were not tying up the scenes; I started to wonder what was the point the writers were trying to convey to the viewers. Also, I have to say Keanu was more stiff than usual in this role. One could blame it all on the editing, the writing, the direction or all of the above; it does not matter. As I type the last word to my review I will forget about this discombobulated piece of work.
1 2/3 stars
It can cut across all age groups. I am not saying it is right nor am I condoning it, even though I have done it myself. If you never acted it out there is a good possibility you have seen someone else do it. Maybe at the beach you saw two little ones building sand castles. I do not know what the attraction is but after the castles were done, one of the little ones kicked the other castle. In turn, the one with the broken castle ran over to the remaining castle and stomped on it. Through my school years I saw so many examples of revenge that sadly it was pretty much the norm. In my day revenge consisted of putting glue on a student’s seat or starting a rumor about them. With the access of the internet we have been exposed to various kinds of revenge and cyberbullying. I remember an incident where I worked at a company that had a boss who was a horrible person. Trust me when I say he was not a nice man; so keeping that in mind, I am going to tell you something that I am embarrassed to reveal. At work one day, late in the afternoon, I went to the restroom. Standing at the urinal I heard a faint cry for help. Looking over by the stalls I caught a glimpse of my boss’ shoes peeking under the only closed door. I pretended I did not hear anything and shut the lights off as I walked out of the bathroom. Back when that happened I knew it was wrong but it felt so good. REVENGE was the only reason ex-hitman John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves (The Matrix franchise, Devil’s Advocate), came out of retirement. This action thriller had a no-nonsense, take no prisoners approach that was beautifully executed by first time directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski. Interesting side note, the two directors were both stuntmen, which explained the focus on physical contact in this movie and I was impressed by it. The fights played out like live video games with precision choreographed movements. Keanu was well suited for this role with its sparse dialog that he delivered in the proper framework, whether it was sadness or sarcasm. Without giving away anything I thought the writers did a brilliant job on what was the motivation that pushed John back into his former line of work. Operating just as well were the actors Michael Nyqvist (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo franchise, Disconnect) as Viggo Tarasov, Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones-TV, The Other Boleyn Girl) as Iosef Tarasov and William Dafoe (Out of the Furnance, The Hunter) as Marcus. This film knew exactly what it wanted to achieve and succeeded. I have to tell you I did not know revenge would be so much fun to watch. There were many scenes that had blood and violence in them.
3 1/4 stars
I am always eager to read or hear a good story. The stories from friends and family are special to listen to since there is the personal aspect to them; for example, a friend telling me how the unusual mantle clock on their dresser came to them from their grandfather. I only wish I knew the story behind a silver cup that was given to me that belonged to my great, great grandfather; imagine what kind of tale that would be. Another type of story I enjoy are the ones that have to do with public places like the reasons why the city of Chicago reversed the direction of the Chicago River or the true story behind the stock exchange building in Savannah, Georgia. When it comes to movies, I am always looking to be entertained by a good story. With regards to this adventure fantasy film, I thought it would be especially interesting since the film was based on an 18th century Japanese story about samurai. Never accepted as a true member of the village, the leader of a band of samurai named Oishi, played by Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine, The Twilight Samurai), would have to depend on the special skills only Kai, played by Keanu Reeves (Speed, The Matrix franchise), could offer in the group’s quest to clear the name of their former master. From what I understood the historic legend was about 47 samurai who were known as ronins, which means without a master. So with this archival reference I thought the studio would have gone the extra distance to make a vivid action movie worthy of the story. Unfortunately that was not the case with this dull plodding film. Keanu did himself no favors, acting more like a supporting character; with his standard short, staccato quiet way of speaking. It is something everyone has seen before and all it achieved here was to dim my senses. The script was pretty much a total mess; I did not feel hardly any emotions throughout the scenes. At least there were a few good battle scenes; however, with the fantasy element being part of this story, I felt there was not enough of it in the film to make it noteworthy. Adding in the marketing of this movie, it looked like the studio spent a lot of money to make this picture. Sadly, the only story that will be told about this fiasco will be how the movie studio took a hit on their earnings for ruining a legendary tale. Several scenes had Japanese with English subtitles.
1 2/3 stars