I CANNOT SAY I WAS DREADING the event; let me say I was just not looking forward to it. One of the reasons was due to the time, it was during the week. I do not like doing anything but my daily routine after work. The idea of having to fight traffic during rush hour to go all the way downtown was enough reason for me not to go. However, I said I would go, and I did not want to disappoint them. The other main reason I did not want to go was because it was going to be a sit-down dinner event. During the week I eat very little for dinner and more importantly, I eat it very early because I prefer to go to sleep on an empty stomach; it is one of the things I have done to lose weight. If the event called for drinks and appetizers, I could have walked around with a glass of water, and no one would have been the wiser. Except now, I would be sitting with the other guests at large round dinner tables and being served a full-size meal. And that brings up another reason why I wasn’t too thrilled to attend; I would be sitting with people I did not know. There is nothing more awkward than sitting next to people who do not know the basics of carrying on a conversation. When it happens to me, I wind up sounding like a news reporter as I ask them question after question to fill the silence. A SUIT AND TIE WAS NOT required gratefully, so I dressed in a button-down shirt, sweater and slacks. The traffic was heavy as I expected, but it never came to a dead stop on the expressway. Because I was arriving a little after 5 pm, I was able to find a parking spot in a parking lot close to the restaurant. My friend was waiting for me in the restaurant’s waiting area when I arrived, and we immediately went into the banquet room. I won’t bore you with the details of the pre-dinner chatter and introductions; but I will tell you I was grateful when we were told to take a seat at the tables. Finding a seat, I would up sitting next to an unfamiliar guest. Once our table was full, introductions were made by each of us. The guest next to me had flown in from out of town and we hit it off immediately. We talked about my yoga and fitness classes, her trek from growing up in the Midwest to the career that took her out east. The entire time during the meal, we kept up a steady chatter that was fun and informative. After expecting to have a dull and boring time, I wound up having a good time. The same thing happened to me when I went to see this mystery, horror thriller. IT HAS BEEN 25 YEARS OF peaceful calm for the town of Woodsboro, since it was terrorized by a serial killer known as Ghostface. However, someone in the town wants to bring back the killer. With Neve Campbell (Wild Things, Skyscraper) as Sidney Prescott, Courtney Cox (3000 Miles to Graceland, Bedtime Stories) as Gale Weathers, David Arquette (Never Been Kissed, Mob Town) as Dewey Riley, Melissa Barrera (In the Heights, Vida-TV) as Sam Carpenter and Jack Quaid (The Hunger Games franchise, Logan Lucky) as Richie Kirsch; this latest installment in the franchise surprised me. I vaguely remembered the original movie and was concerned I needed to see it before this one, but that was not the case. The writers did a good job of mixing old with the new and doing it in an amusing way at times. There were several bloody scenes which as you know is not my thing, but the director did not dwell on them for long. I cannot say I believed the story entirely; however, with the steady pacing and the sense of nostalgia, I stayed engaged for the most part. Keep in mind, I was expecting the worst but wound up enjoying it.
2 ½ stars
CONSIDERING I FIRST SAW HER WHILE sitting inside a shopping cart, it is rather amazing the memory of her is as strong today as it was decades ago. It was the only grocery store I knew as a little boy; she worked behind one of the cash registers and her name was Henrietta. With wire-rimmed eyeglasses and her shiny, light brown hair pulled tightly back into a large bun that was stuffed into a black hairnet; I always perked up when she was the checker for our checkout line. She knew my name which even for my young age, made me feel important and special. Not all the time, but often enough she would give me a lollipop or a small candy bar. Always with a smile on her face, to me she was the kindest and sweetest person I knew. When I got old enough to go to the grocery store myself, I always chose the check out aisle she was working. Though I had outgrown the desire to eat every bit of candy given or bought for me, Henrietta would give me some kind of small trinket or object. One time I received a pencil sharpener that was shaped like a rocket ship; another time I received a bottle of bubbles. She was such a strong fixture at the neighborhood grocery store; I could not think of the store without thinking about her. NEXT TO THE GROCERY STORE WAS a laundromat and next to it was a hot dog place. Once my friends and I were old enough, we would go to the hot dog restaurant for lunch instead of the school cafeteria. The restaurant was a fast-food joint that served hot dogs and hamburgers in these red plastic baskets that were lined with a red and white checkerboard sheet of waxy paper. The cook knew we students had to be back to school on time, so he made sure to get our orders out to us quickly. Sometimes after school, I would stop at the restaurant to get a soft drink before walking a couple of blocks to the local drugstore. The store had the look of an old-fashioned apothecary with its wooded shelves going high up the sides of the walls. Light fixtures hung down by black piping and the ceiling was made of stamped tin. The pharmacists knew me and would let me take family members’ prescriptions home without a signature. Each store in my neighborhood was a familiar and welcome place; many of the store owners knew me. Nearly all the residents in the neighborhood knew each other. The apartment I grew up in never seemed small to me because my home was my entire neighborhood, just as it was for the residents in this musical drama. ONE WAS NEVER ALONE WHEN THEY lived in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood, both in good times and bad. With Anthony Ramos (A Star is Born, Honest Thief) as Usnavi, Melissa Barrera (Vida-TV, Dos Veces Tu) as Vanessa, newcomer Leslie Grace, Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island) as Benny and Jimmy Smits (Star War franchise, NYPD Blue-TV) as Kevin Rosario; this film based on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s (Hamilton, Mary Poppins Returns) Broadway musical brimmed over with singing and dancing. The music was infectious, accompanied by electrifying choreographed dancing. I thought the directing was crisp, providing a few opportunities to create powerful scenes. There were a few scenes that did not resonate with me; either they were offshoots to what I thought was the main story line or the scenario presented was predictable to me. If one is not a fan of musicals, I do not feel they will enjoy watching this movie as much as those familiar with Lin-Manuel’s style of song writing. The sense of belonging within a community, done in a vibrant and bold style, was a nice change of pace from the typical pictures that have come out this year. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
3 ¼ stars