WHEN THE TEMPERATURE IS JUST RIGHT and the packed snow begins to melt, I am left with a wading pool of water in my backyard. It is especially annoying because the melted snow pools mostly on the sidewalk because it is now lower than the grass. When it is frozen the ice can support my weight when I walk across it. However, when the temperature starts to rise, I feel like I am gambling each time I step on the ice. Sometimes I may be walking on it and all that happens is a few cracks form where I have stepped. But every now and then I may get halfway across the ice before my foot breaks through and cold melted snow fills the inside of my shoes. Ironically, I play that movie line in my head by asking myself how lucky I feel before I get on the ice. If I have the time I will use a shovel to toss some of the water back onto the lawn; however, by the time I get home afterwards the water has come back, waiting to capture and douse my shoes once again. If you are wondering why I don’t just walk on the lawn, I usually cannot because the grass is so wet that I am nearly stepping into a muddy mixture; or, there still plenty of snow that has not melted yet. DUE TO THIS WINTER WATER TORTURE I have dealt with, I cannot believe the people who tempt fate by walking onto frozen bodies of water. I am not talking about the ice one forms in their backyard with a water hose or frozen puddles in the street; I am referring to things like ponds, lakes and rivers. Living near a large lake, when we have experienced below freezing temperatures the lake portion that is closer to the shore can freeze over. I understand the fascination with being able to “walk on water” so to speak; but unless one is certain the ice will withstand their weight, I do not understand why they venture onto it. Even if I knew the depth of the water at the edges was minute, I have no desire to go walking on top of a frozen lake. Then again, I do not even like being outside in the cold. It always surprises me to see how many people want to experience walking on ice. I have seen them standing there taking selfies of themselves and all I can wonder is what they would do if they fell through the ice. The same can be said for the main characters in this action adventure drama; I cannot believe they willingly do what they do over frozen water. WITH MINERS TRAPPED IN A REMOTE CANADIAN mine, the only way to bring lifesaving equipment to them was by truck over a frozen body of water, just as the weather was getting warmer. With Liam Neeson (The Commuter, Run All Night) as Mike, Marcus Thomas (Kill the Irishman, Drowning Mona) as Gurty, Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix franchise, Contagion) as Goldenrod, Amber Midthunder (Hell or High Water, Legion-TV) as Tantoo and Benjamin Walker (In the Heart of the Sea, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) as Varnay; this movie had to be made with Liam in mind. It was another typical Liam as the hero movie. Now that is fine; however, after seeing him in these same types of roles, it becomes easier to figure out how the story will play out. I will say I was surprised there were parts of this film that were thrilling to me. It overall was quite predictable and at one point it seemed to me it was getting too silly and I do not mean that in a funny way. If one is looking to find something where much thought is not needed, then this picture would be one to watch. I would say on a cold, snowy day when you do not want to leave your home.
1 ¾ stars
NOT AS EXTREME AS DOCTOR JEKYLL and Mr. Hyde, but I was seeing a completely different side to my friend when I paid a visit to him at his office. He was a sweet and kind individual whose personality leaned more towards the passive side. Easy going, who let others make all the decisions; he was most uncomfortable when confronted with conflict. I knew he had a managerial position at his company, but I had no idea how high he was in the pecking order. When I arrived at his company a security guard had to check me in and call my friend’s office. A secretary was dispatched to escort me to his office. Who was this person I was visiting? Arriving at his office or to describe it better, his suite of offices; I was stunned to see him in such a setting. I would have never guessed he would be sitting in what appeared to be an authoritative position. While there he had to take a couple of phone calls and receive several visits from various employees under his jurisdiction. His staff was in the hundreds I found out; this was something I simply could not comprehend. He could not voice an opinion on what restaurant we should go to for a dinner, but he was sitting here acting powerful and decisive. It was such a dichotomy, like I was seeing two different people. I HAVE HAD THE GOOD FORTUNE to see Tina Turner perform not once, but three times in concert. Her concerts rank in the top three of my favorite performances. One of the reasons why is because she sang live which is quite important to me. Going to see a musical artist lip synch their songs in concert is a waste of money for me; I could stay home and listen to their albums. Another reason I loved her concerts is because she was exciting to watch on stage. The only way I can describe it is by saying she was like a predator stalking the stage. She would cover the entire stage, whether alone or with her backup dancers. Clocking in well over 2 hours, the only time she was off stage was to change her outfit; but then she was right back at center stage, always in high heeled shoes. You knew she was pouring everything she had into her performances because I am not exaggerating when I tell you at the end of the show, she was drenched with sweat. From where I was seated, I could see it dripping off her face; she was a musical beast. How in the world did she cover up the life she was leading when she was not on stage? This dramatic musical biography will explain it. ON STAGE SHE WAS TINA TURNER, but offstage she was Anna Mae Bullock and she was having a rough time. With Angela Bassett (Black Panther, Strange Days) as Tina Turner, Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix franchise, Contagion) as Ike Turner, RaeVen Kelly (A Time to Kill, Preacher’s Kid) as young Anna Mae, Jennifer Lewis (The Preacher’s Wife, Think Like a Man franchise) as Zelma Bullock and Phyllis Yvonne Stickney (Malcolm X, New Jack City) as Alline Bullock; I can emphatically say Angela was Tina in this film festival winner. She was incredible with her acting skills in portraying Tina. Not to be outdone, I must hand it to Laurence because he was equally amazing in the way he portrayed Ike. Just like Tina, both actors commanded the viewers attention as they delivered the script in their own special way. The story is unbelievable; however, the script could have been tweaked a bit to let the cast dig deeper into their characters. If you are a fan of their music, then you will especially enjoy watching the musical scenes of classic songs. What a life Tina has led and with the concerts I have seen of hers, I can add the watching of this film as a special treat.
3 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
THE word “home” is one of those words that can immediately stir up the emotions inside a person. For some hearing that word brings childhood memories such as family dinners around a large oak table topped with a linen tablecloth or being taught by your parents the rules to a new game you received for your birthday. Other individuals may hear the word “home” and immediately feel an icy sense of dread stealing down their spine or a fitful night of sleep caused by deep hunger pains. No matter the circumstances, a home can have a powerful affect on each of us. WHEN friends of mine who grew up out of state talk about going home for the holidays, I take that to mean they are going to visit their family and friends back where they grew up. That does not stop me from sometimes asking what they mean when they say “home.” I am not trying to be a jerk; I am just curious if they feel like the place they currently live in does not feel like home. I find some of my friends’ answers interesting to my question. Some of them feel if they were in a committed relationship their place would feel more like a home, while others have expressed apartment living is not the same as being in a house. Having grown up in apartments I do understand the difference somewhat since I have been living in a house. However my definition of home has grown to incorporate the city where I was born and live in. There is something else inside of me that defines home and it has nothing to do with the material trappings that demarcate one’s living space; it has to do with the heart. You see any place can be a home if it is built on a foundation of nurturing elements such as comfort, peacefulness, safety and love. Now imagine what the main characters were thinking in this science fiction drama. DURING a 120 year journey to a distant colony a ship malfunction accidently wakes up from a state of stasis passenger Jim Preston, played Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World), ninety years to early. He did not sign up to spend the rest of his life alone on a ship full of non-available passengers. This adventure romance had a string of enticing special effects and sets. With Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle, Joy) as Aurora Lane, Michael Sheen (Midnight in Paris, Twilight franchise) as Arthur and Laurence Fishburne (Mystic River, Akeelah and the Bee) as Gus Mancuso; I found myself curious with the story’s concept of long term space travel. The chemistry between Jennifer and Chris felt authentic to me; however, with the poorly thought out script they floundered in their roles. I was bored for the first half of this space romance and was annoyed with the obvious goofs in the scenes. Being selected for a holiday opening I felt this film was not properly thought out in ideas and execution. I am sad to say that this film was not the best choice to leave the comfort of my warm home on a cold day.
1 ¾ stars
It is good to have a healthy curiosity about the world around us. For a society it is a component to conscious advancement. Without curiosity imagine what life would be like for us, even just our life expectancy. I remember in school how students were encouraged to be inquisitive and guided to figure out how things worked, instead of tapping a smartphone screen for the answers. A small example just happened to me at the grocery store this weekend when my total bill was $10.89. I gave the cashier $21.00. She stared at it for a moment then looked up at me and told me the total again. I had to explain to her that I wanted $10.00 back instead of singles. I used to be curious enough to try a new food item but now I have to read the label to see what things went into making the product. There was a time when something was not working I could at least open it up to see what was wrong with it. Now if I do that I void the warranty. It used to be if you saw someone standing next to a broken down car by the side of the road, you could stop and offer them help. These days people have to be careful because you never know if what you see is really true. It is so drummed into my head at work not to click on any attachments in emails from unknown sources that I tend to delete emails coming from anyone unfamiliar to me. One has to be careful these days as the 3 friends in this science fiction thriller found it. While on a road trip friends Nic, Haley and Jonah; played by Brenton Thwaites (Oculus, Maleficent), Olivia Cooke (The Quiet Ones, Bates Motel-TV) and Beau Knapp (Super 8, No One Lives); go off course to track down a computer hacker who had broken into their operating system. The beginning of the story started out good in this film; I liked the idea. Adding in the well done direction to the pacing and building tension, I thought this movie would be exciting. To top it off, the studio cast Laurence Fishburne (Man of Steel, Event Horizon) who did an excellent job with his character Damon. Everything seemed to be in place to make a great picture except for one important element: the script was a mess. There were times I was bored and I still am not sure what went on. I felt the script could have benefited if it had been re-written to tighten up the scenes and add some depth to the situations. Thinking about it now I could have waited for this to come out on DVD, if only I had not been so curious.
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