I WAS DEFINITELY IN THE MINORITY at the concert. Gratefully the venue had stadium seating; otherwise, I would have been ticked off with all the phone screens blocking my view. The place was packed with fans, and I was there with a couple of friends. As the band was performing, it seemed as if every person around me was watching the group through the screen of their phone as they were snapping photos and videos. Everywhere I looked there were people with their arms up, pointing their phone cameras to the stage. I sat there and wondered how many photos did a person need of their favorite band? It was crazy; instead of sitting there and enjoying the music, everyone was focused on capturing the musicians with their phones. It could not have been comfortable to hold one’s arms up for such a long time. I found it distracting because I did not pay good money to have these phones waving in the air. If I had been sitting on the main floor, I would have had a fight with the people in front of me if they had been using their phones. Why couldn’t people just allow themselves to enjoy the show and let it settle into their minds, to become a fond memory? CAPTURING AN EVENT ON “FILM” IS not exclusive to concerts; everywhere I look, there is someone snapping a photo. Restaurants are a popular location for people to snap pix of their food; I am not sure why they do it. Sure, some dishes look great; but unless one is going to try and reproduce it, I am not clear why one would want to have a photo of it. I know I am more old school, but I do not see the fascination of posting things about myself on social media sites. I am astounded with the amount of people’s video clips that show up on my sites’ feeds. People dancing, pranking, posing, dressing up and so on; it is like a different world for me. There are many individuals who, I believe, see this as a way to earn income and fame. The more outrageous antics are done, I think, with the hope of acquiring a bigger following. And once there is a bigger following then the next step is to find a way to monetize one’s site. I know someone who has been focusing on making a living by getting corporate sponsors or products to promote while flying to various circuit events. So far it looks like they are succeeding. I am not sure I can say the same thing for the family in this dramatic, science fiction mystery. A BROTHER AND SISTER ARE TRYING to keep the family horse business going despite unusual things taking place around their ranch. With Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah, Black Panther) as OJ Haywood, Keke Palmer (Hustlers, Alice) as Emerald Haywood, Brandon Perea (The OA-TV, Insurrection) as Angel Torres, Michael Wincott (Talk Radio, What Just Happened) as Antlers Holst and Steven Yeun (Minari, I Origins) as Ricky ‘Jupe’ Park; there were parts of this film that were bold and spectacular in a Hollywood way. I thought Daniel and Keke were outstanding, especially Keke; this was such a different role for her, and I was totally impressed. There was a lot going on in the story and to tell you the truth, if there was a lot of symbolism or meaning, it was lost on me. The first part of the movie dragged for me, taking some time before I felt I was engaging with the story. I still am not sure about the chimpanzee scenes and that is all I will say about that. Having some quality moments in this picture, I wished it connected more with me. Or maybe that is the point.
2 ¾ stars
MY JOB WAS NAVIGATION ON THE ship; rarely did I ever take on the role of captain. We were traveling in uncharted space; so, we were under a yellow alert, which meant everyone had to be at their assigned places, ready to go into action. I wound up steering the ship because my commanders were impressed with my instincts and ability to outmaneuver alien spacecraft. Our ship looked like an arrow; it was built streamlined for maximum speed. The front half was a triangular shiny silver shape, and the back half was an oversized cylinder that housed our massive engines. The bridge was at the base of the triangle, slightly elevated above the front half. At the forefront, just under the tip of the front part of the triangle, were a series of weapons that were incorporated into the design of the ship. We as a crew always strived to come in peace; however, if we were threatened, we could quickly become assertive to protect ourselves. On one trip, we encountered an alien ship that was shaped like half a circular dome with two long engines jutting out on one side. The dome had a honeycomb pattern to it. Without warning they started shooting at us, but luckily are protective shields withstood the blasts. I quickly steered the ship to dive underneath the enemy and blast them with our aft laser cannons to disable their craft. It worked. I NOTICED IT WAS GETTING LATE, so I quickly got up from the floor and put my rocket ship back in the kitchen drawer that held serving utensils. My rocket ship was a pie server. The enemy spaceship was a strainer that I hung back up on its hook in the pantry. There was so much cookware that I was never at a loss for finding something that I could pretend was a rocket ship or alien headquarters. There was a hand mixer that was one of my favorite kitchen items to turn into a rocket ship because by turning the handle, the two beaters would spin and become the engines that would propel the converted ship forward in the air or submerge and propel it underwater. Our kitchen was a treasure trove of objects and things that would stimulate my imagination to create a multitude of outer space adventures. Even ballpoint pens would become rocket ships to help Flash Gordon defeat Ming the Merciless and any other character I had seen or created. The feelings I have attached to these memories were stirred up while watching this animated, action, adventure film. DESPITE BEING STRANDED ON A FOREIGN planet, the mission still needed to be completed according to Buzz Lightyear, voiced by Chris Evans (Gifted, Captain America franchise), no matter what was taking place around him. With Keke Palmer (Hustlers, Joyful Noise) voicing Izzy Hawthorne, Peter Sohn (Luca, It Starts with Murder!) voicing SOX, Taika Waititi (The Suicide Squad, Free Guy) voicing Mo Morrison and Dale Soules (Aardvark, Orange is the New Black-TV) voicing Darby Steel; this science fiction movie was enjoyable. The animation was outstanding, with several incredible looking scenes. I thought the cast did an excellent job with their characters and was surprised by the emotional depth that was instilled in several of them. My concern with this picture comes down to the story line. The opening scene appeared to steer the story one way, but then there was no other reference to it the rest of the time. With the multiple story lines, I found they were distracting at times and lowered the connection between viewer and character. Granted, the story was not unusual or that exciting; however, the messages being conveyed were touching and the execution of events with its own unique humor made the time go pleasantly by. Though this Pixar movie might not reach the super status level of their previous works, I still found it stimulating and imaginative. There were two extra scenes during and at the end of the credits.
MAYBE HE THOUGHT HE WAS ENTITLED to his extra benefits, but no one else thought so. He was the head of one of the company’s divisions. When I was first introduced to him, I found him to be a friendly, easy going type fellow. With the position I had at the company, I had to communicate with him from time to time. He was helpful to a point. The reason I say “to a point” is because I soon discovered the information he gave me was not always accurate. Or let me say the information he was giving me was his version of it. When I would follow up with the customer, their version of events did not match. I would find myself in an awkward position of having to go back and forth between the customer and the head of the division; it would drive me crazy. As time passed it became harder to get a hold of this employee. I did not know if he was out of the office on a business call or if he was ill; he never turned on the out of office feature on his email or update his voice message to alert people he was away. It was frustrating for me because I could not complete my work until I got more information out of him. HIS ABSENCES WERE GETTING NOTICED BY more employees. The work he was supposed to do, he started delegating out to his staff to handle. I only found this out after he left the company, but he was turning in receipts for reimbursement that were purchases for his private use, not for the company. It was obvious to me he was taking advantage of the company. In a five-day work week, he would be in the office only 3 days. He always had an excuse that he was visiting a customer or not feeling well; but to keep this up on a weekly basis took some nerve, I have to say. It wasn’t like employees were given an unlimited amount of sick days; everyone in the company was respectful not to abuse this benefit except evidently him. Based on the things I was seeing and hearing, I felt he was taking advantage of the company. I did not know what his reasons were for acting like that, but I became uncomfortable around him. Whatever he thought about the company, the fact remained they were providing him with a good salary and if his actions could cause harm to the company, then that could have an affect on my salary. It is uncomfortable for me to see anyone or anything being taken advantage of which will explain my discomfort while watching this comedic, dramatic crime story. WHEN THE CLIENTELE OF A STRIP CLUB stopped coming after the market crash, a group of the club’s exotic dancers agreed to form a partnership that would drum up business for themselves. Inspired by true events, this film starred Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians, Sound of My Voice) as Destiny, Jennifer Lopez (Second Act, Maid in Manhattan) as Ramona, Julia Stiles (Save the Last Dance, Silver Linings Playbook) as Elizabeth, Keke Palmer (Joyful Noise, Brotherly Love) as Mercedes and Lili Reinhart (The Kings of Summer, Miss Stevens) as Annabelle. The reason to watch this film would be to see the performances by Jennifer and Constance; they really went deep into their characters. I understand Jennifer did some of the actual dancing, but I thought the film editing of her movements was razor sharp. This story was a familiar one; however, there were a few surprises in the script to make it more unique. The female empowerment aspect was obvious, but that did not stop my feelings of uncomfortableness at a few of the scenes. And as a bonus the soundtrack was fun.
2 ½ stars
The more excuses I have heard people use to be or not to be in love, the more I wonder if love’s definition is changing. Some of the excuses I have heard (I kid you not) have been things like: they make me laugh, they walk too fast, they drink too much, they have nice furniture, they are considerate or they have a job. I know; when I heard some of these all I could do was just stand there and stare at them, wondering if they were serious. For me love is love; there are no qualifiers or conditions. I get amused when someone tells me they wished she was shorter or wished he was not so hairy, like these are really deal breakers? I just do not get it. With some cultures it is frowned upon to love someone outside of one’s race or religion. I respect their thinking though I do not have to accept it. If two people can find each other and fall in love; in my book, they have won one of the grand prizes in life. Besides the love two people share, love can be used as a protection. The love of animals can make a person choose to become a vegan or the love of architecture can motivate someone to become an activist to preserve important buildings. Love is one of the most powerful forces in the world; that is why it can make some people heroes and others crazy. AFTER their father had died June, played by Cory Hardrict (American Sniper, Gran Torino), had to take care of Sergio and Jackie, played by Eric D. Hill Jr. (Hurricane Season, Orange is the New Black-TV) and Keke Palmer (Akeelah and the Bee, Joyful Noise), his younger brother and sister. He would have to do whatever it took to keep them on track in their tough neighborhood. Though this dramatic film was set in Philadelphia, the story had one strong element straight out from the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. Except for the location it essentially was the same story which made the scenes quite predictable. The other story line was one that has been played before and was done better than this one. The film was pretty bland for me; nothing horrendously glaring nor very interesting. I thought Keke and Cory were the strongest actors out of the cast, though I liked seeing Macy Gray (For Colored Girls, The Paperboy) as Mrs. Taylor. The idea for this story was based on solid ground; however, I did not find anything special about it. This may be a forgettable film but it will not stop me from loving movies.
1 3/4 stars
The last song set was my favorite part of this musical comedy because it reminded me how much I love concerts. There was nothing like being with 20,000 people who were there for one reason: to watch a musical artist create a magical moment. I especially would get a kick when a musician or singer made an unexpected change to a familiar song. It made me feel special as if I were part of an exceptional group, that would be the only ones to hear that version of the song. That fond memory was pretty much the only good thing associated with this cheesy film. A cross between the television show Glee and the movie Footloose, this film had nothing original to bring to the genre of singing competitions. Queen Latifah (Just Wright, Chicago) was newly appointed church choir director Vi Rose Hill. She was chosen over long term benefactor and choir member G. G. Sparrow, played by Dolly Parton (Nine to Five, Steel Magnolias). This set up a continual conflict between the two women. If it involved Vi’s daughter Olivia, played by Keke Palmer (Akeelah and the Bee, Cleaner) and G. G.’s grandson Randy Garrity, played by relative newcomer Jeremy Jordan or what musical direction to take the choir; the two woman never let up in every situation. The script was nothing but cringe worthy and icky. It came across as if the writers cut and paste bits from other movies, thinking since it worked once it would work again. Of course, Queen Latifah and Dolly had their big solos and for the most part I enjoyed the singing numbers from everyone. But then again I am a sucker for most any singing done in a movie. Sadly I have to say on a musical scale, this movie was a D flat.
1 7/8 stars — DVD
I always assumed spelling bees were somewhat boring; give me a good game of scrabble instead. But I have to tell you, this movie could have been titled Word Battle. With a perfect mix of drama and excitement, I was enthralled with the steady build up of it, all the way to the final scene. Akeelah Anderson, played by Keke Palmer (Joyful Noise, Madea Goes to Jail), was an eleven year old girl from South Los Angeles. Life was not easy for her, having a seemingly inattentive single parent, a troublesome brother, along with the daily school pressures from teachers and peers. Keke’s performance was totally believable, as she displayed a great range of emotions. Entering the school’s spelling bee, she surprised herself and everyone else by winning it. With some coaxing, the principal pushes Akeelah to continue on to the next level, with help from English professor Dr. Joshua Larabee, played by Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix, Contagion). Between the two characters, I loved watching the emotional bond forming between them, as the story progressed. By the end of the movie I wanted to yell out letters at the television to help Akeelah. This was a wonderful story that really inspired me, as I recalled what that feeling is like when you realize you can do something well.
3 1/3 stars — DVD