THE BRIGHT RED BIRD LOOKED like a cross between an ostrich and a flamingo. Long legs and neck connected to this round belly. The bird’s beak was bright yellow and on top of its head there was a tuft of elongated feathers that veered off in different directions. I still can remember how my friend would walk his bird around the room in this sort of hop along, bobbing type of gait. He had gotten the bird as a gift, though if he named the bird I have no recollection of it. The bird was a 16-18” tall puppet. My friend would hold these two wooden sticks that were nailed together into a plus sign, with string attached to each end. The strings were then each affixed to a different part of the bird’s body. Though the beak did not open, the bird’s eyes were not stationary; they had eyelids that would blink depending on the movement of the bird’s head. It was quite a comical sight for us. I had a few stuffed animals when I was younger that I would imitate the animal’s voice; but I would have to hold the animal to make it move. Here there was a stuffed animal that looked like it was moving on its own; it provided hours of fun. PRIOR TO MY FRIEND’S BIRD PUPPET, the only type of puppets I had personal knowledge of were the hand puppets we used to make in school. I am sure many of you did the same thing; where you take a lunch bag, turn it upside down and draw a face on it. Where the first fold of the bag is at the bottom, you would draw the mouth. Some of the girls in class would draw hair and ribbons on their bag; if an evil face was going to be placed on the bag it was usually drawn by a boy. We would stick a hand inside the bag to make the mouth talk by opening and closing our fingers into a fist. I remember one class assignment where we had to create a scenic backdrop on the inside of a box, after removing one side of the box. The teacher set up a table for us to place our boxes; there was a curtain stretched in front of it where we could hide behind to raise our paper bag puppet up and put on a show. I happened to remember this while watching this comedic, action crime film because I would have rather watched our kids’ shows than what I saw on display up on the movie screen. A SERIES OF PUPPET MURDERS WAS plaguing Los Angeles. Two former detectives who had parted ways had to come together to help solve the crimes. Starring Melissa McCarthy (Life of the Party, The Heat) as Detective Connie Edwards, Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games franchise, Love & Mercy) as Jenny, Maya Rudolph (Away We Go, Inherent Vice) as Bubbles, Leslie David Baker (Wish I Was Here, The Office-TV) as Lt. Banning and Joel McHale (Deliver Us from Evil, The Informant!) as Agent Campbell; the one actor that stood out for me was Maya. Melissa, who I previously have said has incredible comedic timing, played the same type of character she has played before. The script was generic and only produced one laugh out of me. Maybe the writers thought having R rated puppets was enough of a laugh; for me, I found it quickly became a bore because every move was so predictable. As a side note, if Jim Henson was alive today I wonder how he would have felt about his son directing this picture? More fun could be gotten out of a paper bag puppet than being stuck watching this “bad” movie. There was an extra scene in the middle of the credits and this IS NOT A FILM FOR CHILDREN.
1 ½ stars
FROM ALL THE ANIMALS AND PETS, I have encountered, there are two special pets that stand out the most in my mind. The first one was the very first dog we had in the family. I was around 7 or 8 years old when this small black furred puppy came into our lives. She was extremely smart, knowing which rooms in the house she could go in. The living room was off limits because it had white carpeting. You could try and coax her to come in, but she knew better; she would simply sit down at the edge of the room and observe whatever activity was taking place. I do not remember her ever being afraid of anyone; she loved everyone who came into the house. Because of her I learned a new dimension to unconditional love and friendship. In addition, I had to be told what “being in heat” meant after a couple of dogs chased me down the street while I was out walking her. I refused to walk her for the rest of the week if I remember correctly. THE OTHER PET THAT STANDS OUT in my mind was this dog that my significant other brought into our relationship. He was a “pound puppy” of mixed breeds. He grew to around 40 pounds, this furry bundle of love whose tail was always wagging. I soon began referring to him as the “shadow” because he did not like to be by himself whenever anyone was home. He would follow you from room to room; in other words, from the laundry room to the bathroom to the bedroom to the balcony; it did not matter if you were in the room for only a minute. As he grew up there was one thing neither of us could understand; he took a dislike to children. Specifically, any child who was around his height. It was the oddest thing that we finally attributed to him wanting to be the alpha dog with any kid around his size. Except for this weird trait he was a very compassionate pet. He had this sixth sense that always knew how each of us was feeling. If I was watching a DVD movie that made me tear up, he would jump into my lap and put his front paws up on my shoulders to stare me directly in the face as he licked the tears from my cheeks. He was something else, wasn’t he? I feel fortunate that I had these pets in my life, just as the individuals did with their pets in this dramatic comedy. SEVERAL PEOPLE CROSS PATHS WITH EACH other that alters their lives, all because of their pets. With Vanessa Hudgens (Beastly, Spring Breakers) as Tara, Nina Dobrev (Let’s Be Cops, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as Elizabeth, Finn Wolfhard (It, Stranger Things-TV) as Tyler, Lauren Lapkus (Jurassic World, Blended) as Daisy and Eva Longoria (Overboard, Lowriders) as Grace; this film had a few different stories taking place at the same time. It was not confusing to watch, but I felt it may have contributed to the script remaining one dimensional throughout the story. Besides being predictable, I never felt fully engaged with what was taking place on screen. However, what I did enjoy was all the animals. I appreciated that the writers did not write script for the pets, where they would need CGI to have the animals mouth the dialog. Instead they let the expressions on the pets’ faces do the talking and it was cute I must say. Excuse my verbiage but this was a “fluffy” piece of entertainment. You could easily experience the same feelings by going to an animal shelter and seeing the animals live. The only thing you might remember if you see this picture is the pets.
1 ¾ stars
OF ALL PLACES I WOULD NOT have thought an amusement park would have been the place where I felt I was now part of a group. Growing up I never was much associated with any one group. I was not into team sports nor did I belong to any type of organization. Some of my friends had been involved with the Boy Scouts or after school programs; I never felt comfortable to be a part of such things. My friends were an eclectic group I enjoyed being with; but I also liked having my alone time too. During the high school years is when I really shied away from being labeled part of any type of group. There were the jocks who always hung out together and as far as I could tell did most activities as one group. If one person was going to a party then they all would go to it; if one person picked on a student then the others would join in. Another group that did everything en masse were the cheerleaders. If one of them hated something then the rest of them immediately hated the same thing. I know these two examples are considered stereotypical, but this type of group mentality was prevalent throughout my school. SO HERE I FIND MYSELF at this massive amusement park and we have special passes that allow us to bypass the lines of people waiting to get on the rides. I am not sure if I can describe how I felt as we walked up to the park employees managing the lines, showed them our pass and then directed into a separate line that was right next to the general line. As I walked by I looked at the faces of the attendees who had been standing there for 30-65 minutes; they looked tired, dehydrated and a bit annoyed by the long wait. So here I am walking at my usual fast pace and come up to other guests who have passes. I think we only had a 10-minute wait before we could get on the ride. As I am getting strapped into the compartment assigned to me I get this realization that all of us were being treated in a special way. Granted the tickets cost more, but I suddenly felt like I had something in common with this group of strangers; it was like we were a part of a secret club. It was a new feeling for me and helped me understand the group camaraderie that took place in this action crime thriller. SITUATED IN PLAIN VIEW IN the heart of Los Angeles stood a hotel that was run by a nurse, played by Jodie Foster (The Accused, Elysium), who only allowed a certain type of individual in to be a guest—a criminal. There were rules that had to be followed if you wanted to stay. With Sterling K. Brown (Marshall, This is Us-TV) as Waikiki, Sofia Boutella (Atomic Blonde, Star Trek: Beyond) as Nice, Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Blade Runner 2049) as Everest and Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park franchise, The Fly) as Niagara; the set-up to this story seemed promising, along with the capable cast. However once again the movie studio focused on the cast instead of the script. I enjoyed this cast of characters and the script’s campy vibe, but nothing stood out as exceptional for me. Everything I was watching seemed familiar despite the cool looking sets. It also seemed obvious the studio would not be opposed to doing a sequel. It would be a mistake if they chose to keep the same writers. I may not be part of the reviewers who enjoyed this picture and you know what? That would be okay because I am used to going my own way.
1 ¾ stars
IF THE ADULTS DO NOT ACT RESPONSIBLY how in the world will their children be able to act it? I have seen some bizarre things take place between a parent and a child. First off, I still remember being at a park and watching a woman fill up a baby bottle with soda pop to give to her toddler. One of my favorite contradictions is when a parent scolds a child for bad language, you know a swear word; though the son or daughter was only copying the foul mouth of their mother or father. What I imagine to be more traumatic is when the adult in the family is either drunk or high while taking care of their offspring. We had here recently a news report about a family that was driving in a car that drove off the road into a lake. It turns out the parent was drunk. I have a friend who lost a nephew due to this same type of scenario except it was a car collision instead of a lake. Childrearing of itself is already a challenging experience and then some children having to deal with these added types of circumstances is just horrifying. LUCKILY NOT EVERYTHING IS A DOOM or gloom situation; there are things I have seen between family members that were amazing. Listening to a parent explain discrimination gives me hope that the next generation will be better than the one before it. I firmly believe education is fundamental to the healthy growth of a child. Just think about it; if a child sees their parent acting afraid around a certain race or ethnic group of people, the child will instinctively become cautious around the same group. If the adult’s issues had been addressed before they manifested into fear, that adult could have stopped the cycle from being handed down to their offspring. I remember exactly where a very young me was, in a museum down in the city, when I asked about a person I saw who did not look anything like me or the people around me. Part of the explanation given to me was about countries and continents; there was no fearfulness or negative feelings put into the talk I was given. So, you see there are adults in this world who can be good examples for responsibility, thoughtfulness and compassion. The main character in this drama tries her best in the middle of rising racial tensions. AS THE TRIAL IS TAKING PLACE about the police beating of a black man single mom Millie Dunbar, played by Halle Berry (Kidnap, Kingsman: The Golden Circle), is trying to keep her children safe from the tensions building in the neighborhood. With Daniel Craig (Logan Lucky, Skyfall) as Obie Hardison, Lamar Johnson (Home Again, The Next Step-TV) as Jesse Cooper, Rachel Hilson (The Good Wife-TV, Cass) as Nicole Patterson and Callan Farris (Brothered Up-TV movie, Square Roots-TV movie) as Ruben; this movie’s story revolved around the Rodney King trial back from the 1990s in California. I thought this was going to be an intense, thought provoking crime drama but the director and writers missed the mark—by a wide gap. The script was such a mess going from ill-placed humor to drama to action to sadness; there appeared to be no thought put behind doing a complete story. As for the filming I found it annoying that the director would continually cut to aerial shots of roof top houses. There were so many predictable scenes and I thought the sudden love angle was ridiculous; yes, that is right, in the middle of a riot let us kiss. This was a waste of actors and film. What a shame for such a newsworthy event to be told by a poorly written script.
1 ½ stars
IT IS BEST TO TREAD carefully when you have interactions with a person who has a blurred line between their personal and business life. I am not saying such an individual is a “bad” person; but I have found they tend to react and think differently in social settings and relationships. There are some people whose job becomes their life; the role they play at work continues after hours. At a party I attended there was an individual who was employed in a managerial position. This person was used to having the final say; in other words, they always got their way. If you tried to have a discussion with them they pretended to listen to you, nodding their head up and down at certain points while you talked, but they would quickly make up their mind before you even finished stating your point. Granted this was only one example but I have been a witness to many other similar situations and yet I do not think all managers act this way. It is a particular behavior that I have noticed more than once. DO YOU THINK IT IS safe to say a person who is a control freak or hungry for power would easily change by deferring to another individual? I do not see it happening or at least not easily. Even in a love relationship relinquishing control takes a lot of effort for some people. I admit I am a person who likes to be in control; if for no other reason I have no one to blame for anything that may go wrong. I kid my friends that I wish everyone would follow my rules because it would make life so much easier to navigate. Realistically I know this cannot happen; however, I have been around some individuals who almost desperately try to exert their will on other people. It makes for an uncomfortable situation. These individuals I have noticed tend to compartmentalize all aspects of their daily life, more so at their place of employment. This only feeds into their control issues. And if you want to see an example of this, feel free to view this action crime drama. ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL group of bank robbers has set their sights on something bigger. Their actions are really getting to Officer Nick Flanagan, played by Gerard Butler (Geostorm, Olympus Has Fallen franchise) and his special unit within the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department. With Jordan Bridges (Mona Lisa Smile, Frequency) as “Lobbin Bob” Golightly, Pablo Schreiber (13 Hours, Vicky Cristina Barcelona) as Merrimen, Evan Jones (The Book of Eli, 8 Mile) as Bosco and O’Shea Jackson Jr (Straight Outta Compton, Ingrid Goes West) as Donnie; this movie had some intense moments throughout the story. The director kept the script going with a decent amount of tension throughout. Gerard was good with his character though it did appear to be similar to some of his other roles. I was trying to figure out why I enjoyed this film more than I expected since the story appeared to be your typical bank heist, good guys vs. bad guys type of story and what dawned on me was the audacity of the crimes. With the steady tension and intense characters this picture kept my interest, though the 2 hour and 20 minute running time was not necessary. There will be a chance some viewers will have a problem with the story’s ending. In a test for control I would lose to either group in this movie.
2 ½ stars
STEP by step I listened to them explain how they mapped out their career. I was actually curious because the methodology I was hearing was foreign to me, compared to my career route. I find it particularly fascinating when an individual knows what they want to do at an early age. You see I had assumed most people went through a series of professions before settling on one. When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, a singer, a window washer, a dancer and a veterinarian among other things. A friend of mine wanted to be a doctor since he was a young boy and that is what he became. It makes me wonder how much does outside influences play on steering a person to a particular job field. For example a farmer who has children; does growing up in the environment automatically mean a person will take on the occupation associated with it? On my daily route to work I pass a billboard advertisement for a dentist’s office that has a picture of the dentists who are a father and his son. I wonder if the son really wanted to be a dentist or maybe he wanted to be something else. I want to be clear that I am not judging any of the possibilities I have mentioned; however, one area where I could be judgmental is when a person chooses an occupation for ulterior motives. There is an individual I know distantly who chose a career in sales so they could travel and “safely” carry on affairs without anyone knowing, including his wife. I know, I agree with you as you are thinking he is a despicable individual. To me a job should be something you enjoy doing or at least it serves as a greater purpose for something you want to achieve in your future. The two main characters in this comedy came to the job with their own agendas. Frank “Ponch” Poncherello and Jon Baker, played by Michael Pena (The Martian, End of Watch) and Dax Shepard (The Judge, Parenthood-TV), had different reasons becoming motorcycle officers for the California Highway Patrol. They also had different ways of doing it which was a problem since they were put together as partners. This action crime film was written and directed by Dax, loosely based on the television show. With Jessica McNamee (The Vow, The Loved Ones) as Lindsey Taylor, Adam Brody (Life Partners, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) as Clay Allen and Ryan Hansen (Central Intelligence, Veronica Mars-TV) as Brian Grieves; for the life of me I truly would like to know how the cast felt about doing this movie. Except for the chase scenes and cool looking motorcycles, there was nothing I enjoyed about this film. The script for the most part was written at an elementary school level; what was supposed to be humor I found offensive. I do not know how popular the TV show was when it aired; but I can only assume, based on what I saw in this awful movie, Jon and Ponch were “characters” and there would have been exciting action. That was not the case in this movie. If I were you I would keep driving and not get off the highway to see this picture.
1 ½ stars
I remember it as if it happened last weekend. Someone’s older brother had told us about this game that used magic. One of my friends had gotten it as a gift and we were to meet at his house to play the game. It was sometime after dinner when we went down into his basement that was set up as a family room. The floors were covered in linoleum but there was this big oval throw rug that covered part of it between 2 long couches. We sat on the floor around the coffee table after we removed the candy dishes and magazines. Off to one side was a bar that had a variety of bottles in different sizes and colors. We all knew we were not allowed to go behind the bar because there were 2 shelves that held these unusual shaped bottles. On the wall above the shelves was a large clock that not only told time but also had these dancing colors that bounced up and down when a switch was turned on off to the side of the clock. ALL of us were sitting around the table with the game board out; our hands were placed on the triangular shaped piece that had a monocle in the middle of it. At least that is what it looked like to me. My friend had read the instructions to the rest of us and it was time to ask a question to see if the plastic disc would move. All of us were leaning over to see what would happen after the question was asked but suddenly the lights went out in the basement. However the clock over the bar turned on, shining its multi-colored lights. I remember hearing someone scream and we all ran up the stairs, leaving the game behind us. No one initially thought there was something evil in the room and certainly nothing like what was in this horror film. ALICE Zander, played by Elizabeth Reaser (Young Adult, The Twilight Saga franchise), had been struggling to keep things afloat after the death of her husband. It was not until she brought in a board game to include in her fake séances that things took a turn—to something worse. Set in Los Angles during the 1960s, I initially sat in my seat wondering where this prequel was going story wise. I am here to tell you it went to some thrilling, dramatic places. With Annalise Basso (Oculus, Captain Fantastic) as Lina, Lulu Wilson (Deliver us From Evil, The Millers-TV) as Doris and Henry Thomas (E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Legends of the Fall) as Father Tom; Lulu stole this movie, she was wonderful. The fact there was no blood shown or gore was a plus for me; but having the writers incorporate a family’s emotional and economic struggle into the plot only added more dimension to the story. I liked this film more than the first one. Even though some of the scares were your typical shock the audience stunts I did not mind them. The whole look of the film and Lulu’s performance made this an entertaining experience; plus I enjoyed the audience’s reactions around me. They were similar to me and my friends the first time we played that game.
Something must have changed this summer that caused a large influx of skunks in my neighborhood. I never saw them but smelled them. Plus it did not help that my neighbors’ dogs tried playing with one, got sprayed and came back into the house through their doggie door while their owners were at work. When I came home the stench was overwhelming, spewing out of my neighbor’s house. But do you know what, once I am in my kitchen preparing for a dinner party all of that nasty smell dissipates as my food is cooking. There is something about home cooking that instills a sense of peace throughout the house. I cook very simple dishes, nothing fancy. My tastes run closer to diner/cafeteria food than haute cuisine. It is the same when I go out to a restaurant. I enjoy food that has a personal touch to it, where it looks like it was hand chopped or sliced. Not to sound disparaging but I have seen some restaurant chains where the food always looks the same no matter how many times I have been there. The main entrée is perfectly shaped, the vegetable slices are identical; just look at the difference between machine and hand cut French fries and you will understand what I am saying. Another reason I enjoy home style cooking is the history behind the meal. Imagine sitting at a table with friends and sharing a dish you made from a recipe that was handed down to you from your grandparent or great grandparent. I think that is one of the coolest things about cooking in the kitchen. There is nothing more exciting than making something and it comes out the same way you remembered it as a child; I love when that happens. With everything I have just told you I want you to know that I am very picky about my food, beyond finicky. Despite it I would still follow the Pulitzer Prize winning food critic in this delicious documentary. WHAT Los Angeles represented to food critic Jonathan Gold was one huge scavenger hunt in search of a perfect meal. There was nothing he would not try. This film festival nominated documentary was a feast to watch, pun intended. Written and directed by Laura Gabbert (Sunset Story, No Impact Man: The Documentary) this film had multiple interviews with a variety of people in the food world such as chef David Chang and chef Roy Choi. I know this movie is a biography but to me it played more like a historical drama. The stories behind the restaurants, the food trucks or one item on the menu were all fascinating to me. Listening to pieces of Jonathan’s reviews was similar to having a bedtime story read to you. Honestly there were many, many dishes displayed throughout this film that I would never touch; but it did not matter, I was in awe of the elements that got that food to its customers. This man Jonathan Gold must have a stomach made of iron; I do not think he ever backed away from a meal. Whether made in some remote out of the way area of the city, a hole in the wall place or a food truck; it is obvious he loves food.
3 ½ stars
Besides being humorous can you figure out what each of the following pairings have in common: Abbott and Costello, Burns and Allen, Penn & Teller, Lewis and Martin, Laurel and Hardy. I will set the clock at 60 seconds, now go. Tick, tock, tick tock; your time is up. The common trait between each couple is the 2 individuals that make up the pairing are distinctly dissimilar from each other. Look at Martin and Lewis, one was the goofy clown while the other was the debonair crooner; Hardy was the outgoing talkative one while Laurel was the quiet thoughtful one. It really adds credence to the saying, “opposites attract.” I just find the whole science, if you will, on the attraction of opposites fascinating. When I am waiting for a flight at an airport, one of the things I do to make the time go by is watch the couples walking by and notice the differences between them. Now granted I have to rely on their physical appearances for the most part; but sometimes if I am privy to hearing their conversations, I can get a better idea of each one’s personality. Even within my circle of friends and relatives I have always been aware of how opposites can solidify and form a strong bond. In my past relationships there has always been attributes that each of us were solely skilled in. I remember one relationship where I was the “bad guy” role whenever an issue came up that required talking to a customer service representative; you know, like a returned or malfunctioning product. It was not a problem for me and I was glad to eliminate any possible stress off my significant other. If you do not believe opposites attract then I suggest you watch this wild action comedy film to see how it can work. PRIVATE investigator Holland March, played by Ryan Gosling (The Big Short, Gangster Squad) was given little choice but to help solve a case with the rude and brutish Jackson Healy, played by Russell Crowe (The Water Diviner, Winter’s Tale). I would not have thought the pairing of Gosling and Crowe would be such a crazy fun couple, but I have to tell you they were terrific together. Ryan was amazing handling the physical and comedic parts to his role. Set in Los Angeles during the 1970s, I got such a kick out of the soundtrack and retro look to the scenes. Also starring Angourie Rice (These Final Hours) as Holly March and Matt Bomer (Magic Mike franchise, American Horror Story-TV) as John Boy, everyone did their part in making this a good movie watching experience. For being a relative newcomer compared to the rest of the cast, Angourie was spectacular in her role. The twists and turns in the script were almost too much for me, but the strong acting carried me through all the way to the end of the movie. At the moment I cannot come up with a current comedy couple similar to the ones I mentioned earlier; but I am here to tell you I hope Crowe and Gosling are allowed to solve another case sometime in the near future.
3 ¼ stars