IT IS ALL IN THE DELIVERY I discovered. There is something about a dynamic speaker delivering a message to a group. I saw proof of it when I was a reader at a wedding ceremony. Not that I want to brag, but there was a person before me who did a reading that had no feeling to it. More importantly, I did not feel any connection to what the person was saying regarding the couple being married. I looked around the church and saw some of the guests were looking down or whispering to each other. This made me more nervous than I already was since I was to be the next reader to go up to the altar to read a passage. Despite having practiced reading my passage for a couple of weeks, when it was my turn and I stood up, my stomach still trembled with nerves as I made my way to the alter. Once in position at the podium, I looked out at all the guests before taking a deep breath and began to read. I made a point to read slowly and look up at the audience from time to time. My biggest fear was put to rest when I did not fumble mispronouncing any of the words. After the ceremony, people stopped to tell me what a wonderful job I had done. In fact, one guest asked if I would be interested in becoming a reader at her church. The spoken word was alive and well and I felt good about my “performance.” SINCE THAT WEDDING, I HAVE PAID closer attention to speakers I encounter. Whether they are in person or televised, I notice the things they do or not do to engage with their audience. At a convention there was a seller in front of his booth who was talking about the products his company had developed. I happened to be familiar with the products; however, if I hadn’t been, I would not have stopped to listen to this presenter. He was monotone in his delivery, just standing still in one spot. It was a shame because the products were quite good. To make matters worse, this booth was next to another one that had a spokesperson who was dynamic and funny. Too bad their product was limited in its abilities; but you would not know based on all the attendees who were congregated around this booth to listen to the presenter. I could only imagine how the dry speaker next door was feeling with no one paying attention to him. Let us face it, having a spirited person as a spokesperson/leader is what can motivate people to want to be part of the experience they are talking about. There is a clear example of this in this Golden Globe winning, intense biographical drama. AS MORE INDIVIDUALS BECAME ATTRACTED TO what Fred Hampton, played by Daniel Kaluuya (Black Panther, Queen & Slim) was telling them; the more concerned was the FBI. They needed to find someone to get close to Fred and his organization; but who would want to do such a thing? With LaKeith Stanfield (Knives Out, Sorry to Bother You) as Bill O’Neal, Jesse Plemons (The Master, Game Night) as Roy Mitchell, Dominique Fishback (The Hate U Give, The Deuce-TV) as Deborah Johnson and Ashton Sanders (Moonlight, The Equalizer 2) as Jimmy Palmer; this film festival winner grabbed my attention from the beginning and never let go. The entire cast of actors were remarkable in acting out their characters; however, Daniel and LaKeith were the big standouts for me. The script was both powerful and scary at the same time, to the point there were parts of this film that came across as a thriller. Taking the story as it was presented in this film, I could not believe what was being done to Fred Hampton. Not only was this an historical period of time being depicted in this picture; it was being told in a powerful and engaging way that I would soon not forget.
3 2/3 stars
UNTIL I STARTED BELIEVING THERE WAS a reason for everything, I found myself getting stuck in place many times over. Imagine being in a relationship, thinking all is good, then suddenly you get blindsided and you are alone. At that point you have a choice; either feel sorry for yourself and wallow in self-pity or reflect on your actions that led up to the moment, to see if you are following some kind of unconscious pattern or fear. There was a time where I had the same experience being repeated in my relationships. At first, I would only focus on my feelings of hurt and anger. Until I started looking at common traits between the relationships and believing there was a reason this was happening to me, did I start to understand what had happened. A change took place and I found myself reacting differently to dates and relationships. With this new awareness, I found myself being able to also see the patterns my friends were getting into in their relationships. There were many times when friends would tell me about something their date said or did where I would tell them not to take it personally; their date was playing out some pattern of their own making that had nothing to do with them. ONE FRIEND IN PARTICULAR KEPT REPEATING the same pattern of behavior that caused her not to succeed in her places of employment. She wanted to do something specific that she felt she was best qualified to do. The issue was with each job, she did not take full ownership of her responsibilities. The result was she never got promoted. She would become resentful, letting it build up until she quit and looked for a new place of employment. This pattern was repeated several times and with each job she became more hardened and inflexible. I understood she wanted to do something different, but it did not make sense to me to be miserable in the meantime. It is like when I walk up to a store’s customer service counter and am met by a surly employee who is not helpful. I just want to say to the employee if they are so unhappy then quit. Being miserable and feeling bad will not get one to the place where they want to be; at least that is my way of thinking. Sure, it is easy to become cynical and disillusioned, but this is why I feel there are no accidents. Be present, be available and believe in purpose because once you do, you will have an easier go in achieving your dreams. I firmly believer this and think the main character in this comedy comes to understand this concept. DESPITE THE CONTINUAL REJECTION NOTICES JESSICA James, played by Jessica Williams (Booksmart, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald), still believed she could be a playwright. She just needed to convince people of it. With Chris O’Dowd (The Sapphires, Love After Love) as Boone, LaKeith Stanfield (Knives Out, The Photograph) as Damon, Noel Wells (Mr. Roosevelt, Master of None-TV) as Tasha and Zabryna Guevara (Marley & Me, X-Men: Days of Future Past) as Mrs. Phillips; this film festival nominee at first glance appeared to be a typical rom-com movie. However, the casting of Jessica and Chris turned this story into something new and fresh; I thoroughly enjoyed these 2 actors’ performances. The interactions between them was fun to watch, which made this viewing easier to sit through for me. The script had its predictable parts at times, but again due to the writing and delivery of the dialog, I did not mind how the story was playing out. The added benefit in seeing this picture was seeing a little of my old self make an appearance; gratefully only a short appearance.
2 ½ stars
WITH DIZZYINGLY SPEED, SHE SCROLLED THROUGH her photos on her phone. To me it looked like a blur; I had no idea how she would be able to spot the photo she was seeking. Her thumb looked like it was waving at me from the way she was using it to go through her photographs. I tried to keep up with her and make out the images that sped by on the screen; but, because I guess they were not my photos, I could not decipher the images that were captured for a split second on her phone’s screen. Finally, she found the photo she had been looking for and with a pinch of her fingers she made the image bigger for me. She wanted me to see the details of the object up close. I was chuckling inside, remembering the “old days” when one wanted to see something up close in a photograph, they would have to get a magnifying glass. Speaking of the “old days,” I remember when I used to go to rock concerts, I would have to buy a special high-speed film for my camera if I wanted to take photographs. Nowadays one only needs to take out their smartphone and snap a picture. And I am guessing most of you do not know there was a time when museums prohibited the taking of photographs; try enforcing that now with almost everyone walking around with a camera in their smartphone. I AM NOT DISCOURAGING THE ADVANCEMENTS in photography; but I feel something has gotten lost with the technology we use to take photographs. For me, photographs capture a moment in time; it may be of a person or a place. Going through an old box filled with photos is a way of finding connection to one’s past as they go forward in life. Seeing a relative wearing a different hat in each photo you have of them when they were young might surprise you; since, you have no memory of them even liking hats. Maybe she had designed the hats herself when she was younger; you would never have known if it was not for the photos in your possession. When I see a much younger version of myself and can immediately experience the same feelings I was dealing with in the photo; whether good or bad, I am reconnecting with my former self. That photo is proof of the history I have lived, besides being a reference point to how far I have come in life. Seeing the shiny images of deceased relatives staring out at you, is akin to feeling their support in your current endeavors. A photograph can say a lot about a person; just see what it says in this dramatic romantic film. AN OLD PHOTOGRAPH LEADS JOURNALIST MICHAEL Block, played by LaKeith Stansfield (Sorry to Bother You, Short Term 12), on a journey of self-discovery and love. With Issa Rae (Little, Insecure-TV) as Mae, Chelsea Peretti (Game Night, Brooklyn Nine-Nine-TV) as Sara, Chante Adams (Bad Hair, Monsters and Men) as Christina and Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, Good Boys) as Kyle; this film was beautifully staged. Going between two different time periods, I enjoyed the filming of each period and the connection between the two stories. Issa surprised me in this dramatic role; she had a wonderful authentic screen presence that matched LaKeith. Their chemistry felt real and believable. Though the script got heavy-handed at times with the romantic aspects and predictability; I still enjoyed watching the characters as they matured through the story. Also, it was pleasant to watch a romantic movie that felt organic in its development instead of feeling forced. I would love to see the art of printed photographs make a comeback because of this picture.
I WANT TO BELIEVE CORPORATIONS ARE NOT intentionally taking advantage of me along with other consumers; but I cannot help feeling they are whenever I make a change to my account with them. For several years, I had an account with a cable company. When I called to cancel my subscription, they asked me why I was cancelling my account. After I explained my reason, they told me they needed to switch me to an account representative to complete the process; I did not think anything of it. The rep came on the line and asked me a couple of questions. After explaining myself again, the rep asked if I would keep the service if the monthly price was lower. This is where I got annoyed because it was not like they were looking at ways to lower my bill; they were simply willing to reduce the monthly charges to keep me as a customer. Hearing this made me feel like they had been gouging me the whole time. Suddenly when they feared they were losing me as a customer, they miraculously can lower the price now? Why couldn’t they start me out at the lowest price when I signed up in the first place? And the thing is, I know they are not the only company that carries out this type of practice; my friends and family members have told me similar stories about their experiences when they went to cancel their accounts. MY EXPERIENCES WITH THAT COMPANY LEFT a bad taste in my mouth. I have never felt comfortable with companies and individuals who I would classify as schemers; someone or something that makes secret plans to benefit themselves, even if it means taking advantage of or deceiving someone else. I had an acquaintance who I classified as a schemer. Whenever a group of us would get together for a meal at a restaurant, he would always order an expensive item off the menu. He knew we would split the bill, so he always came out ahead in how much he owed. Even when he was the only one who ordered an alcoholic drink, he expected the price of it would be part of the split. I do not mind when one goes out with the same group for a meal and splits the bill each time; sometimes you pay more sometimes less than the cost of what you ordered, it evens out over time. However, this person was always coming out cheaper because the rest of the group was picking up more of his tab. It came to a point where we started asking the wait staff for separate checks and suddenly, he started ordering less expensive food. I did not care to be around him anymore; I had the same feeling about the schemer in this film festival winning dramatic, crime mystery. OVEREXTENDED WITH HIS CUSTOMERS’ MONEY jeweler Howard Ratner, played by Adam Sandler (Blended, The Wedding Singer), was trying to complete a major score before the consequences would have a major affect on his business and family. With newcomer Julia Fox as Julia, Idina Menzel (Rent, Glee-TV) as Dinah, LaKeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You, Short Term 12) as Demany and Eric Bogosian (Talk Radio, Cadillac Records) as Arno; this film festival winning feature provided Adam with the perfect role. He was excellent as Howard. For the first part of the movie I thought the script was repetitive; it pretty much was Howard yelling and swearing at everyone. It came to a point where I got tired and bored with it. I enjoyed the 2ndhalf more because there was at least a better sense of emotional depth on display among the characters. I have to say I prefer seeing Adam in these serious roles instead of comedic ones like he has done in the past. Despite not being comfortable around schemers, I did not find the watching of this film to be an entertaining experience.
2 ½ stars
FROM THE CLASSES I ATTENDED AND the personal stories that were shared with me, I would have thought after all this time I would have a better understanding about the parent/child relationship. Even to this day I still can be surprised by the things I see and hear regarding children and their parents. There is a mother I know who was told by her daughter that the only way she could see her grandchildren would be if she goes into therapy. That is all I know but I can assume something intense happened between the daughter and her mother. There is a father I know who has many prejudices; essentially, he doesn’t like anyone. His daughter is the complete opposite, gratefully. It has come to the point where the daughter tries to avoid social functions with her Dad because she knows he will be offending someone before the evening is over. This is the thing that fascinates me; where the daughter turns out to be a complete opposite to her father, there are other children who turn into their parent(s). How does that happen? I know a man who has the same prejudices as his deceased father; it makes me wonder what type of environment the boy was raised in. As I have said before, no one is born being a racist, sexist or prejudiced; it is something that gets taught. NOW WHEN IT COMES TO BULLYING and abuse, studies have shown a majority of those who act these out were themselves victims to it. I believe it because I have seen it happen. There was a kid in my neighborhood who was a bully; he took pleasure in tormenting other kids. It turns out his dad picked on him, hitting or slapping him besides calling him names. Of course, it doesn’t excuse the son’s behavior and I am guessing the father was abused or bullied when he was a kid. When I was in college one of my classes spent time looking at ways to stop this vicious cycle of abusers creating more abusers. Think about it; parents are supposed to be the protectors of their children. It seems to me when something is off, the home environment becomes a breeding ground for the unhealthy behavior to flourish and be handed down generation to generation. I find it awful and sad. There was a time in school where I felt every human being needed to go into therapy; to help them understand themselves and become of sound mind and body. This certainly would apply to the sisters in this dramatic, crime thriller. HAVING A REPUTATION FOR BEING A BRILLIANT computer hacker; how then was Lisbeth Salander, played by Claire Foy (First Man, Unsane), set up so easily? It would have to be from someone she knew. With Beau Gadsdon (The Crown-TV, Rogue One: A Stars Wars Story) as young Lisbeth, Sverrir Gudnason (A Serious Game, Borg vs McEnroe) as Mikael Blomkvist, Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You, Selma) as Ed Needham and Sylvia Hoeks (Blade Runner 2049, The Best Offer) as Camilla Salander; this movie was mostly all about the action. I thought Claire did a fine job in the role, but it did not stretch her due to the weak script. By the end of the story I found the script to be silly and a letdown. There were a few exciting scenes; but I found most of the acting one dimensional, without much focus to it. While watching some scenes I thought it was odd that Lisbeth could be easily followed considering she was such a computer “genius.” If the producers plan to churn out this level of work, then we need an intervention to make them stop.
1 ¾ stars
THERE ARE SOME INDIVIDUALS WHO thrive on experiencing things that are fresh and new. It can be anything across the board from electronic devices to food. I, myself, enjoy trying new food items; though I must preface it by saying as long as the food falls into one of my acceptable categories. I have mentioned before I am a marketer’s dream because I am willing to try a new type of potato chip or ice cream. On the other hand, I could not care less if my car has the newest hi-tech gadgets; I tend to drive my cars until they die, hopefully after a long life of mileage. There was a relative of mine who had to have a new and fully loaded car every year; that was their thing. A friend of mine, on a yearly basis, would clean out their closet and replace it with that year’s latest fashions. The amount of clothes they donated to charity was astronomical. My final example is a couple of friends that absolutely amaze me. They are willing to try any food and food combination; the more exotic the better. Where I find something I like at a restaurant and order it each time, they will constantly order something different each time. You would not believe what has gone into their mouths. WHEN IT COMES TO MOVIES, I enjoy seeing something that has not been told before. Now granted there are a lot of films that have similar themes; but the writers added a twist to them that I appreciated. As you know as long as the picture entertains me I am cool with it. You probably have noticed many of my reviews will mention how the story is predictable; it is something I have seen before. If the writers did nothing new to it I wind up getting bored. I cannot tell you how often this happens to me; in fact, a member in one of my classes asked me why I just don’t leave the theater before the movie ends. This is something I never do or could ever do. If I am going to review a film then I need to see it from beginning to end. Where I have friends who only want to see a certain genre of films; I see pretty much anything, more so now that I review them. Also, I will travel far distances if there is a movie I want to experience that is not playing anywhere near me and that is exactly what I did to see this fantasy comedy. DISCOVERING A NEW-FOUND SUCCESS by changing the sound of his voice Cassius Green, played by Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out, Short Term 12), started his climb up the corporate ladder as a telemarketer, to the dismay of his friends. Set in an alternative time in Oakland this film festival nominee also starred Tessa Thompson (Creed, Dear White People) as Detroit, Jermaine Fowler (Superior Donuts-TV, Friends of the People-TV) as Salvador, Armie Hammer (Call Me by Your Name, Free Fire) as Steve Lift and Omari Hardwick (For Colored Girls, The A-Team) as Mr __. Let me tell you I was impressed by first time writer and feature film director Boots Riley. This story was different and twisted in a satirical way. I enjoyed the irony and fantasy for the most part until the last portion of the movie. There were some “far out” scenes and towards the end they became lost on me. The message as far as I could tell I got, but the execution of it I found silly. If nothing else credit must be given to Boots Riley for doing something new; it worked for a majority of the story and I am all for individuals who are willing to take a risk on something new.
2 ½ stars