IN CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES WHEN A CHILD does it, it can be cute. However, when an adult does it, there is nothing cute about it. What I am referring to is “denial;” making a statement that something is not true or the refusal of something requested or desired. I still find it amusing when you are visiting with friends or family and you hear a crashing/breaking sound coming from a different room. You run in and see a vase or candy dish in pieces on the floor. The only human in the room is a small child who is standing near the pieces, not moving. When you ask them if they broke it their first response is, “No.” You question further by asking who then broke the item and they say they do not know. So yes, I know that this is lying; but I get amused by the absurdity of it, and the fact that the child chooses to say no instead of telling the truth. In this scenario this would be a good teaching opportunity for the child, to explain the ramifications revolved around telling the truth as opposed to denying responsibility for something that happened. IT IS A GOOD LESSON THAT not everyone chooses to abide by. I recall an incident in school where a student was shooting paperclips at another student. For those of you who do not know how this is done, it is done by partially unbending the paperclip and using a rubber band wrapped around two fingers to form a pseudo slingshot to launch the clip. It can be quite painful to get hit by a speeding paperclip. When the student cried out from being hit the teacher looked up to see what was going on. The student picked up the clip from the floor and showed her the cause of his outburst. She asked the class who did it but no one (did you really think someone would admit it?) responded to her. The same student hit the other student again after things settled down and the teacher was once again distracted by her work. I have encountered a variety of adults who practice some form of denial. A parent who sees their painfully thin child refusing to eat a meal for no reason or an adult who complains they never have any extra money but daily receive packages of stuff they have ordered online. I could go on with examples but will let you see another one in this dramatic, film festival winning movie. LONG TERM FRIENDS FRANKY AND BALLAS, played by Josh Wiggins (Max, Mean Dreams) and Darren Mann (Even Lambs Have Teeth, Hello Destroyer), had everything going their way in school with both being popular and members on the swim team. But on Franky’s 17th birthday something took place that would totally change their world. This coming of age story also starred Maria Bello (Max Steel, A History of Violence) as Carly Winter, Kyle MacLachlan (The House with the Clock in its Walls, Twin Peaks-TV) as Ray Winter and Taylor Hickson (Deadpool, Deadly Class-TV) as Natasha Kohl. I have seen and read numerous coming of age stories; this one followed a similar path as they but with more scenery, in the figurative sense. The acting was good overall and came across especially for the young adults as authentic. This also included several scenes inside the school; they could have easily taken place during my time in school. In fact, a part of me started to tense up when watching a few of the intense spots of the story because I felt like I was back in high school. Considering I had not seen a trailer or advertisement for this film, I was pleasantly surprised that it kept my interest. There is no denying it.
2 ½ stars
THE LONGER I SAT THERE hearing the comments they were making, the more I was getting angry. Due to my hectic schedule I found myself sitting in one of those food courts where a multitude of fast food restaurants sit side by side, all sharing a common seating area. There was a group of teens or young adults sitting at the next table to me and I could not help hearing their snide remarks about some of the other patrons. Evidently they were trying to figure out what the reasons were for a couple to be together. I know it seemed so weird to me besides being totally superficial and none of their business; but who was I to set them straight? Listening to some of their comments confirmed my initial thoughts about them; they really had no idea what was true love. I say this because they only talked about the physical features of each person and not in the kindest of ways. It was catty with some comments based on stereotypical beliefs; in other words it was plain annoying and disrespectful. I sat there and just like them imagined what type of significant other they would wind up with in life. I STILL FIND IT PERPLEXING how some people focus more on a person’s features instead of their heart and soul. Both in the news and movies there have been stories about couples that had their relationship fall apart when one of them had to battle a disease or debilitating accident. I honestly cannot imagine something like that happening; whether it is the loss of a limb or a fatal disease nothing should have an effect on the heart, mind or soul. Think about it; what would you think about a husband who fell out of love with his wife or worse yet left her because she lost all of her hair, due to the chemotherapy she was receiving for cancer? Granted I am not walking in that person’s shoes and I hope I am not coming across as judgmental; but love is something that nestles deep inside of a person, sending out roots that intertwine with the other person’s love, to form a solid bond that sets the foundation for their life together. It is this belief that made me curious about this dramatic, romantic fantasy. EVERY DAY FALLING MORE IN love with a mysterious soul Rhiannon, played by Angourie Rice (The Nice Guys, Spider-Man: Homecoming), would wake up each day to find what she felt was her soul mate. The challenge was finding the body the soul was inside of that day. Based on the popular novel this film’s cast also included Justice Smith (Paper Towns, The Get Down-TV) as Justin, Jeni Ross (Stage Fright, Taken-TV) as Amy, Maria Bello (The Cooler, A History of Violence) as Lindsey and Michael Cram (Flashpoint-TV, Miss Sloane) as Nick. I thought the idea behind this story was a wonderful one. In fact I would be curious to know how the script compared to the novel. The cast was fine but I found the script and the directing lacked in their ability to tell a story. As the multiple scenes of different high school students passed it seemed repetitious to me. It was not until later in the film where I felt interested in finding out what was going to happen. I am afraid everything was there to make this an interesting and engaging picture; unfortunately it stayed safe close to the surface.
I have to tell you I really toyed with the idea of buying the new toy I saw when it initially came out. The toy was a replica of an item used in a successful movie franchise and I thought it would be cool to have my very own, so I could grant wishes to friends and family who were visiting me. You will have to excuse my odd sense of humor; I did chuckle when I picked up the packaged toy from the store shelf, remembering several movie scenes where the item was in action. Generally I do not have any issue with a toy company coming out with toys based on a film; they call it marketing for a reason. The thing that bugs me though is seeing movie studios purposely putting in useless props into their movies just so they can sell the items to the masses to recoup some of their costs. What I mean exactly is making a cheap movie just so they can move product. So I am going to let my nerdness come out by telling you I have a few items that are associated with movies I thoroughly enjoyed, such as a miniature bendable cartoon cowboy and a set of glass mugs with several of the crew from a starship. I want you to know if the products were never promoted it would not distract from my fond feelings towards the movies they represented. Heck, I recently bought a couple of my relatives toys based on movies I have seen. Don’t tell anyone this, but I did it so I could play with the items when I go visit them. Maybe you are asking yourself about now what does this have to do with today’s movie review. Well let me tell you; I have never heard or seen a word, a toy or an advertisement for the main character in this science fiction, action film. Who or exactly what is Max Steel? NEVER knowing what caused his father’s death Max McGrath, played by Ben Winchell (Teen Spirit-TV movie, Mandie and the Forgotten Christmas), could not explain the unusual things that his body was experiencing. This adventure picture also starred Maria Bello (A History of Violence, Secret Window) as Molly McGrath, Andy Garcia (The Untouchables, The Air I Breathe) as Dr. Miles Edwards and Josh Brener (The Internship, Silicon Valley-TV) voicing Steel. I am not sure where I should begin with this review except to say this was one of the poorest produced movies I have seen all year. The first thing I found unusual was in the credits when one of the producing credits listed Mattel. I had to look up afterwards to find there is a toy line based on the Max Steel character. So my guess had to be Mattel wanted to sell their toys. Well if they did this was not the way to do it. I was so embarrassed watching Maria and especially Andy that I was cringing in my seat. The script was horribly dull and predictable. Add the poor directing and the acting was simply lame. For me this picture was one big infomercial. I wish I had bought that magic wand to erase the memory of this movie from my brain.
It was a sliver of light no bigger than a pie slice, just long enough into my bedroom to see. I never had a night light as a child; probably because all the electrical outlets in the room were hidden behind furniture. Instead the bedroom door was left ajar, allowing the light outside to cast a calm glow into my room. It wasn’t like I thought there were monsters under my bed or someone could come through the window and steal me; we lived on a high third floor. I just wanted to see the silhouettes of all the things in the room with me. Darkness did not necessarily scare me, but for some unexplained reason I knew I had to be more careful. Where this thought came from I honestly do not know; what was it about darkness that made people leery? I can remember going to the city zoo and walking through their animals of the night exhibit and immediately thinking the animals were “scary.” The bats in particular I thought were evil and this was before I even knew about Dracula. Seeing them fly around their enclosure lit only by black lights, they not only were scaring me but the visitors around me. This type of fear is not exclusive to just nocturnal animals. I knew some people who did not like cats as pets because, as they would say, they slink around in the dark and you never know what they are thinking. What is it about the darkness that scares so many people? This horror film will give you the answer. MARTIN, played by Gabriel Bateman (Annabelle, Checkmate), was falling asleep in class. School officials needed to call in and talk to his family to find out why Martin was not getting enough sleep. The answer was not so simple. This picture was a surprise for me. I found the bare bones script and lack of CGI effects refreshing. The reason I say refreshing is because the movie had an old fashioned horror film vibe to it. With a simple premise and good acting from the cast which also included Maria Bello (Prisoners, A History of Violence) as Sophie and Alexander DiPersia (I am Legend, Forever) as Bret, I enjoyed the way the director built up tension throughout the scenes. Simply using darkness as a tool, the anticipation and shock value provided me with some fun “cheap thrills.” I thought Teresa was perfectly cast in the role of big protective sister to her little brother. Maybe it is just me but I liked the idea of having a strong female lead since many horror films tend to cast women as the helpless victims. There were a few scenes that showed blood but there was not the gore that sometimes comes with it. I think this film would have a wider appeal because most people can relate or understand the fear so many associate with darkness. As I said earlier this had the flavor of an old fashioned horror film; but do not take it for granted, you may think twice about turning off the lights tonight.
2 ¾ stars
Sometimes it takes a different set of eyes to show you what you are capable of doing. Imagine you were born on a farm where you grew into the capability of throwing 50 pound bales of hay onto a flatbed truck. Since it had always been part of your life it would never occur to you that you were strong. However if you compared it to someone who did not have early strength training, you would be considered strong. The key fact in the equation has to do with the comparison aspect and it is something that I find very few people use when commenting on themselves. When someone tells me something about themselves such as they are overweight or too tall let us say, I ask them compared to what? Most of the time I find such statements to be very subjective. Though I have lost a great deal of weight I do not consider myself a thin person because I’m using a warped comparison of what I believe thin looks like. This is one of the reasons it is beneficial to have someone else show you what you are or what you can achieve. If my first aerobic instructor did not nurture and encourage me to choreograph routines, I do not know if I would have ever become a group fitness instructor since I previously flunked high school gym classes. OUT of a job as high school football coach due to anger issues Jim White, played by Kevin Costner (Black or White, Man of Steel), was forced to leave and take an assistant coaching position at a small high school with a dismal football record. Looking at the students, it was obvious to Coach White the kids were not cut out to play football; however, he did think they could do something that had never been done at the small high school before. Based on a true story, the script to this sports drama was written in such a way that allowed the viewers to tear up. There were parts of this movie where I had to wipe the tears from my eyes. I thought Kevin and Maria Bello (A History of Violence, Prisoners) who played his wife Cheryl were well suited for each other, coming across in a believable way. The actors like Carlos Pratts (Coyote, Counterpunch) as Thomas Valles and newcomers Sergio Avelar and Ramiro Rodriguez as Victor Puentes and Danny Diaz were quite good. The issue I had with this film concerned the script; it was contrived and written like a fairy tale. It needed more details and less manipulation. I found it upsetting because I really liked the story. Whoever was in charge should have shown the writers the true story would have been enough to tell.
2 1/3 stars
Someone, please hand me a breath mint because I still have a bad taste in my mouth from this wretched film. Usually a sequel will show some kind of growth for its characters, but not this one. Coincidently, I recently attended my high school reunion. Visiting with former classmates was real special. We shared memories and laughed at some of the crazy things we did while attending school. The thing that separated us from the characters in this movie is we grew up. The closest I found to a story line in this celluloid catastrophe was Lenny Feder, played by Adam Sandler (The Waterboy, Happy Gilmore), moved his family back to his hometown, where he grew up with his old friends Eric, Kurt and Marcus; played by Kevin James (Here Comes the Boom, Paul Blart: Mall Cop), Chris Rock (Head of State, Down to Earth) and David Spade (The Benchwarmers, Tommy Boy). The lack of a story made for a dull series of infantile jokes and gags; some that had no relevance to what the characters were doing. In fact, I found some of the jokes offensive. With Adam being credited as one of the writers, all I can tell you is the writing was lazy. It seemed as if the characters were thrown into the story just to give Adam’s friends a job. What I did not understand is why someone like Steve Buscemi (Rampart, Boardwalk Empire-TV) would agree to do a cameo as Wiley. I thought he was successful and making decent money. As for some of the other actors in cameo appearances, it was obvious they needed a paycheck. There was nothing I found redeeming about this film. I did not find anything funny about people with flatulence or indigestion. There are two reasons why I gave an extra 1/4 star to my rating of this so called comedy. The first has to do with the cast. Without naming names, this film is doing taxpayers a favor because it included several actors who would otherwise be collecting unemployment benefits. The second reason is for the complete shock I had that Rob Schneider (The Hot Chick, Deuce Bigalow franchise) was not part of the cast.
1 1/4 stars