THE TWO FRIENDS WERE PLAYING a board game they had played many times before. However, this time the game would have a different outcome. Not by very much, Friend #1 had acquired more winning pieces than Friend #2. This did not imply that winning was a sure thing for Friend #1. Halfway through the duration of the game Friend #2 decided to do an unexpected move that was never done before. When Friend #1 questioned the move, Friend #2 explained the reason for his move which essentially changed the rules of the game. This made no sense to Friend #1 so he challenged the sudden change in the rules. If the two of them had a discussion beforehand and agreed to this new rule Friend #1 would not have gotten upset; but without saying a word and just deciding to make a change because he was losing, Friend #1 was upset. The two of them argued back and forth, each one feeling they were in the right. Unfortunately, they never finished the game nor did they ever play it again; both were rather stubborn. I was Friend #1. EVER SINCE THAT ARGUMENT I have always had a bad attitude towards anyone who changes the rules in the middle of something. Maybe because I am not a spontaneous person I have a hard time when plans are set and then something unexpected comes up to disrupt the plans or schedule. At least now I am much better at letting go and not letting the shift in plans upset me. The one place where I cannot do this though is at work. When payment terms have been established with a customer (I am in the credit department) and we ship out product to them; nothing riles me up more than a customer who decides to change the due date on their invoice. I take offense from this act which I know may sound looney to some of you; however, I feel business to business dealings need to follow rules to form trust between companies. When someone does not follow the rules how can a company or person interact with them? If one side abides by the rules and the other side doesn’t; who do you think will benefit from it? Sadly, the one who doesn’t I feel will come out on top more often. And if the rule follower decides to join the other side by not following the rules, the only thing it will produce is chaos. It becomes a dangerous world then and this dramatic crime thriller is proof. ONCE THE MEXICAN CARTELS STARTED to smuggle terrorists into the United States, the rules the U.S. government had been following needed to be eliminated. There was one small strike team that could thrive in such an environment. This action-packed sequel starred Josh Brolin (Deadpool 2, Only the Brave) as Matt Graver, Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects, Escobar: Paradise Lost) as Alejandro, Isabela Moner (Transformers: The Last Knight, 100 Things to do Before High School) as Isabel Reyes, Jeffrey Donovan (Changeling, Burn Notice-TV) as Steve Forsing and Catherine Keener (Capote, Get Out) as Cynthia Foards. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat while watching this intense film. There were multiple scenes of blood and violence. The pacing of the story was consistent throughout and I especially enjoyed the acting from Benicio. Between the two films there was similarity in their look and action scenes; however one of the differences that stood out was not having a character that was a counterpoint to the others. The story needed a sympathetic person. Instead the script kept a constant sense of darkness and dread throughout the picture. In addition, the script could have used more variance with the emotional level. I know there are some rules that need to be broken and this action film broke a whole bunch of them.
HAVING SPENT MANY A TIME listening to the fortunate folk who are able to retire soon, I thought I would have gained a wealth of information on how to plan for my own retirement. Pretty much all I gained was confusion. There was one person who lived modestly most of their life; this means they only spent money on things they needed instead of wanted. Traveling was limited to special occasions such as out of state weddings, births or funerals. Vacation days meant puttering around the house. By saving as much money as they could, they were able to retire early. Another individual set up a financial plan where their salary was divided into several categories, one of them being investments. Every 3 months the portion of their money designated for investments was used for that, investing in things that would yield a financial return; such as stocks, bonds and real estate trusts. They amassed a sizable nest egg that will carry them many years through their retirement years. One thing I have started to notice about people who retire without planning some types of activities is they die sooner. I know that sounds harsh but I am aware of a few people who retired and suddenly became predominantly sedentary; this is the only explanation I could come up with, outside of medical issues, on why the quality of their life took a rapid decline. MY FAVORITE LINE I HAVE heard a retired person say is, “Every day is Saturday.” Doesn’t that sound like fun? One of the things I am curious about retirement is if time will no longer be an issue for me. Presently I keep up with a hectic schedule between 2 jobs, watching and reviewing films, house upkeep, socializing and traveling. Many of my chores like grocery shopping and washing clothes are done only on the weekends, where it seems everyone else is on my schedule. I wonder what it would be like to go to a grocery store during the weekday? Having less people there would mean I could get my shopping done quicker. I assume the waiting list at many businesses is shorter during the weekdays; I am curious to experience this option as well. Now there are some people I know who do not think about retirement. They continue past their retirement age; either staying with the same employer or sometimes retiring from one place to begin a new job or career with another company. As I said earlier I have heard of many retirement plan options, but it never occurred to me that drug dealers need to plan also for their retirement until I saw this action, crime thriller. LOOKING TO MAKE ONE LAST big score before retiring drug dealer Youngblood Priest’s, played by Trevor Jackson (Burning Sands, A Beautiful Soul), plan meant he would have to bypass his supplier and go directly to the source. The question was would this plan cause him to be permanently retired—from living? With Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton, Detroit) as Eddie, Michael Kenneth Williams (12 Years a Slave, Assassin’s Creed) as Scatter, Lex Scott Davis (The First Purge, Tales-TV) as Georgia and Esai Morales (King of the Avenue, La Bamba) as Adalberto Gonzalez; this movie portrayed the glamorous side of drug money. With fancy cars, flashy jewelry and mansions; I was waiting to see where the script would take us. As far as I could tell the story had little variance from other drug dealer stories I have seen before. There was nothing that stood out for me. You see one drug dealer’s party in a movie and you pretty much have seen them all; they always show drugs, scantily clothed females, exotic bottles of alcohol and people either laughing or fighting. In this story there were a couple of surprises but they were not enough to get me high on this picture.
NEVER BEFORE HAD I HEARD someone ending a story with the word cancer and had a smile on their face. He was referring to the disease not the zodiac sign. I sat listening to this story and was not expecting such a reaction; I did not know how to respond to him. This is the story he told me: When he was in high school there was a student who took pleasure in torturing him. The bully would spit at him both in and outside of the classroom, besides hitting him at unexpected times with a book or his fist. It lasted the entire school year and not once did he ever do anything about it or at least tell someone about the torment he was receiving. After the school year was over he had a little over 2 months of relief since the bully did not live near him. The next school year continued his good fortune because he and his tormenter shared no classes together. It was a small price because the damage, as he referred to it, was already done. It was years later he heard his tormenter was diagnosed with cancer. When he said those words he had a smile on his face; then added these words, “Karma can be a real bitch.” FROM MY LIMITED UNDERSTANDING I took karma to be the fate one gets based on their past and current actions. I guess it applied in this case but it seemed odd to find glee in such an outcome. But then again I remember people from my past who had done things that were unkind, unsavory or unethical and I felt they would be sorry for acting that way when karma came a calling. There was a company I worked at that had an employee who was vindictive and sneaky, among other things. She could hold a grudge better than most people. If someone in the company upset her she would purposely do something that would look bad on the person’s work record. She did not care, she was that revengeful. I used to sit there and imagine how life would turn out for her from all the nasty things she had done over the years I worked there. In some ways believing in karma has helped me deal with unpleasant situations. Meeting someone who winds up hurting me in some way still is painful; but when I feel their act will steer their life’s journey on a different course (a/k/a payback), it makes me in some weird way get over the pain quicker. There is a perfect example of it in this comedic romance remake. WHEN WEALTHY PLAYBOY LEONARDO, played by Eugenio Derbez (Instructions not Included, How to be a Latin Lover), falls off his yacht and washes up on shore without any memory; single mom Kate, played by Anna Feris (The House Bunny, Just Friends), decides to get even with him for the things he had done to her. This movie also starred John Hannah (The Mummy franchise, Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Colin, Eva Longoria (The Sentinel, Harsh Times) as Theresa and Mel Rodriguez (The Watch, Little Miss Sunshine) as Bobby. Though I have a vague memory of the original film I felt this movie did not offer anything special, despite the gender switch in the main characters. Surprisingly I found Eugenio to be the bigger screen presence; Anna was not being utilized to full advantage. She was almost forgettable. The script was predictable and I even mean that for those who never saw the first movie. There were a couple of touching and humorous scenes but after the film was over I wondered what I had done in the past to make me wind up sitting and watching this disappointing film.
1 3/4 stars
THOUGH I WOULD LIKE EVERYONE to act in an honest and ethical way, I am sure there is a lot that goes on in the business world that would shock me. Not just big corporations, I am sure it trickles down to small shop owners. I have a couple of friends who ran a medical practice and I used to get surprised by the things they told me they encountered during the average work day. Drug salespeople were constantly dropping in hoping to catch a quick meeting with the doctor. If they could not meet on their first attempt, some would try to bring in lunch for the staff. I assume they were hoping they could entice the doctor to meet them over a meal. There was one salesperson who would stock their cabinet with trial size packages of the drug they were representing; however, they always either pushed back their competitor’s product to the back of the shelf or even took some of it away. Through my friends’ years at the medical practice I was astounded by the amount of free products the drug reps would try to leave at the office. I had to wonder if the drug company eliminated the free trial size portions would they lower the prices of their drugs. THE PAST WEEK A FORMER pharmaceutical executive was sentenced to prison for fraud. I think the verdict is just since he broke the law; but this is the same person who raised the price of a life-saving drug from $13.50 a pill to $750.00. Now I am all for everyone making a profit but gouging the public is simply wrong. The percentage of that price increase covers the price of inflation for centuries. Granted having the product billed as a lifesaver makes it worse, but I would feel the same way if a company increased the price of their bread by some exorbitant price. The difference is they would never do it because one can always buy a loaf of bread from a different company. People in business who only think of themselves and are willing to sacrifice the consumer to get ahead are no different in my opinion to those malicious email attachments seeking your bank information. And as a side note the latest statistics show those emails increased by 300% in the last quarter of 2017. Despite the crooked and unethical things I have mentioned, I was shocked by what I saw in this action crime comedy. WANTING TO BE THE FIRST to come to market with a brand new drug medical executive Richard Rusk, played by Joel Edgerton (Red Sparrow, The Great Gatsby), was willing to do anything to succeed. This would put his employees in a precarious predicament. With Charlize Theron (Atomic Blonde, Mad Max: Fury Road) as Elaine Markinson, David Oyelowo (A United Kingdom, Queen of Katwe) as Harold Soyinka, Thandie Newton (Crash, 2012) as Bonnie Soyinka and Amanda Seyfried (Dear John, Mamma Mia!) as Sunny; I felt the cast choices were way better than the roles they were given to play. The script started out promising to me but as time went on I thought the addition of multiple story lines and the under developed characters bogged it down. I actually do not recall anything funny in this film. Instead I thought the story was a generic version of several “chase” films I have seen before. Even with the acting I felt Charlize was the most authentic; I can only assume David wanted to do something totally different, but it did not work for me. This movie has to make one wonder if all involved producing it were sampling the drug that was coming to market in this story.
1 ¾ stars
IT WAS NOT UNITL I turned 12 years old that I first experienced a death. A close relative had suddenly died; it was a complete shock for everyone. After hearing the news I remember sitting down at the piano to play a song over and over that reminded me of this relative. The funeral took place rather quickly and afterwards we all gathered at a relative’s house. The atmosphere was somber but there were periods of laughter throughout the night. Typically I was excited about all the food that somehow magically appeared while we were at the cemetery. There were so many desserts that they commandeered their own table. The amount of people who stopped over was staggering and it never let up for the next several days. By the end of the mourning period I felt the past week had been one long party. I discovered this was our custom for all future funerals. AS I HAVE GONE through the past years I have been exposed to other forms of mourning from my own experiences. There are some cultures that believe in cremation, while others are against it. In some faiths it is important to bury the body quickly, yet I have been to funerals where the body remains above ground for several days. Now one thing I have noticed as baby boomers have aged is hearing more people talk about incarnation. Excuse me for being simplistic but I can see how death would be less scary if one felt they would be coming back to life. To tell you the truth I feel however one deals with death is fine with me because I have seen so many people deal with loss in many different ways. There is not one that is better than another. Regarding myself I hope when my time comes people will focus more on celebrating my life instead of mourning it. Death is one of those things that everyone on the planet will experience in their life; so why focus on the sadness and sense of loss? Honoring a deceased person and sharing personal stories about them is something I find comforting, which is why I was enthralled with this animated, adventure comedy. DESPITE HIS FAMILY’S BAN on music Miguel, voiced by relative newcomer Anthony Gonzalez, wanted to be a musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz, voiced by Benjamin Bratt (Doctor Strange, Miss Congeniality). His determination would lead him to the grave of his idol just in time for the Day of the Dead celebration. This film festival winning movie was exquisite in both the kaleidoscope of colors across the screen as well as the script that beautifully handled the subject of death based on Mexican culture. I thought the story was thoughtful, respectful, kind and in a way comforting; it did not shy away from the subject of death. With Gael Garcia Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries, Rosewater) voicing Hector, Alanna Ubach (Meet the Fockers, Waiting…) voicing Mama Imelda and Renee Victor (Confessions of a Shopaholic, Weeds-TV) voicing Abuelita; I cannot say this was a true comedy. It had a few humorous moments but for the most part the word I would use to describe this picture would be heartwarming. As an added bonus to watching this movie there was a short film shown beforehand from the award winning Frozen realm, “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.” There is nothing you will lose by seeing this captivating film about life and death.
3 1/2 stars
THERE was distress showing in her eyes as she talked about her experience. We were having lunch together and my friend was talking about the MRI she had done for her doctor. I already knew she had a “touch” of claustrophobia; so I immediately understood her discomfort about taking the test. She told me she became anxious right from the start after seeing the MRI machine and the small hole she was expected to fit inside of, while staying perfectly still. Her breathing was noticeable because the technician offered her the option of playing music or bringing a blanket to keep her warm. When my friend declined the offers the technician sat with her and had her focus on breathing deep. Once she was able to calm down a bit, the technician helped my friend up on the table that would slide her inside the MRI machine. My friend told me from that point on she kept her eyes closed. She finished up her story by saying it was an awful, uncomfortable experience but she knew she had to get through it so the doctor could figure out what treatment was needed to alleviate the pain she was experiencing down her leg. FOR some individuals not knowing the details about a test or certain events is less stressful for them than being aware of everything. I am not one of those people; I need to know every detail so I can prepare myself mentally. Think about it; if a friend asked you to help move their parent to a new living space, wouldn’t you want to know how much furniture was involved in the move? Of course if you were able you would say yes; but at least I would like to know how much stuff so I could come prepared. Though I know the physical aspect of moving is not a fun experience, it is something that needs to be done. And when you think about it, isn’t that the real issue; having to do something you know will not be pleasant? Well that is how I felt as I sat and watched this horror thriller. VACTIONING in Mexico sisters Lisa and Kate, played by Mandy Moore (A Walk to Remember, This is Us-TV) and Claire Holt (The Vampire Diaries-TV, The Originals-TV), experienced the thrill of a lifetime when they were submerged under water in a shark cage. The thrill quickly turned to horror when the cable holding the cage broke, sending them down among the sharks. With Matthew Modine (Memphis Belle, Full Metal Jacket) as Captain Taylor and Chris J. Johnson (Betrayal-TV, JAG-TV) as Javier; this dramatic story did not waste too much time before things became tense—both for the sisters and for me watching their plight. There were a few good jumps provided by the script. Speaking of the script it was pretty bland and predictable. If it was not for Mandy I probably would have become bored after a while. This movie had the type of story that one did not need to give much thought into watching it; in fact, I would classify this picture as one of those old “B” movies that were somewhat cheesy that simply wanted to give the viewer a thrill. That is what this film offers, nothing more and nothing less. After seeing this movie I can tell you with certainty I would never agree to go underwater in a shark cage. Heck, I do not know if I want to even step into the ocean ever again.
2 ¼ stars
As part of my daily vitamin regiment I used to take a supplement that caused an unusual reaction in me. I would get these intense, what I would call, hot flashes that would change my skin color to red; I mean a deep bright red. This would happen spontaneously throughout the day. One time my boss walked by and started to panic when they saw me sitting at my desk with my face and ears crimson red. I had to explain I was fine and it would pass as soon as I gulped down copious amounts of water. That supplement was the reason I started to always keep a bottle of water with me whenever I was out and about. One of the few places this caused a problem believe it or not was at this one movie theater near my house. They would confiscate any food or liquids carried inside by the patrons. I understood what they were doing; they wanted people to use the concession stands because let us face it that is where the movie theaters make their money. Because I never knew when I would get a rush of heat across my body, I did not want to have to leave my seat during the movie to go get some water. So I would bring in my own bottle of water and carry it beneath my jacket, underneath my arm. I know I was breaking their rules but the idea of missing out on parts of a film was something I could not handle. In my mind bending the rules led me to a better review. VOLUNTEERING for a special task force led by government agent Matt Graver, played by Josh Brolin (Everest, Men in Black 3); FBI agent Kate Macor, played by Emily Blunt (Looper, The Young Victoria), found herself involved in a drug war where the rules were not always followed. This film festival nominated crime drama had a superior cast that also included Benicio Del Toro (Traffic, The Usual Suspects) as Alejandro and Victor Garber (Titanic, Milk) as Dave Jennings. First I must warn you there were several scenes of intense bloody violence. The taut story kept the viewers in a constant state of suspense; the director did an excellent job keeping the scenes tight while bringing the life out of the actors. I caught myself several times holding my breath in anticipation of what was to come. Though there have been other films about the drug war between the United States and Mexico, I found this one to be a raw realistic story that lingered with me even after the movie was over. If the film studio had to bend a few rules to get this action film made then I firmly believe it was worth it because this picture kept you on the edge of your seat. Intense violent scenes with blood in this film.
3 1/2 stars
A majority is defined as being the largest segment or party of a larger group. Being part of the majority gives one some added liberties or shall I say freebies in life. Whether in government or a condominium association when you are part of the majority you get to set the rules. I believe each of us at some point in our life has been part of both a majority and a minority. Having grown up in a large city, when I went to summer camp I was in the majority of fellow campers who came from the city as opposed to the suburbs. However, when I was in college I had a class where I was the only person who came from the city; all the other classmates had grown up on farms. I am well aware in the scheme of things this example is a minor issue. There are some huge hurdles to overcome when one is considered as a member of a minority based on skin color, religion, gender or body shape; along with a multitude of other various factors. Decades ago Hollywood was even less diverse than it is presently. For someone who was not part of the majority it was tough to break-in and be part of the moviemaking magic. STRUGGLING as a young man Mario Moreno had a gift for making people laugh. From modest beginnings he would eventually become the most popular comedic actor in Mexico, known as Cantinflas. Could he accomplish that feat in Hollywood, however? I had no idea what this movie was about until I was told which roles Cantinflas played in American films. As soon as I heard the moive titles, “Around the World in 80 Days,” and “Pepe,” I immediately remembered this actor. This biographical drama showed what Cantinflas encountered as he stayed focused on doing what he loved to do–make people laugh. Oscar Jaenada (The Losers, Pirates of the Caribeean: On Stranger Tides) portrayed Cantinflas and I have to say I thought he did a wonderful job of acting. Along with Michael Imperioli (The Lovely Bones, The Sopranos-TV) playing producer Michael Todd and Ilse Salas (Gueros, Locas de Amor-TV) as Valentina Ivanova, the acting overall was believable and enjoyable to watch. The main issue I had with this film was the script; it seemed as if the viewer was only getting snippets of Cantinflas’ life, never getting deep down into the emotional aspects about the occurrences in his life. Though I was mostly entertained by this picture, I left the theater wishing I had seen “Around the World in 80 Days” again; it would have been more entertaining. Portions of the movie had Spanish dialog with English subtitles.
Oh, the things some of us do to impress or sway the opinion of another person. I was dating someone who was the cohost of a local cable talk show. Their expertise involved anything that had to do with food. I know what you are thinking, my dreams were coming true. After being invited to their place for dinner a couple of times I wanted to reciprocate, but was totally intimidated by their cooking prowess. Not having much experience with cooking meals from scratch, I was nervous to invite them for a home cooked meal. Keep in mind “home cooked” meant a frozen pizza or a can of soup for me back then. For two weeks I scoured all kinds of recipe books, looking for one that listed exact measurements. I am one of those people who cannot be told to throw in a pinch of salt or add an ingredient for taste. Up until we sat down at the table, my stress level was wreaking havoc with my stomach; I could barely eat what I cooked. I knew the meal was nothing close to their elaborate meals; I could only hope I would get points for the effort. This is why I could relate to the main character in this romantic comedy. Jaime Camil (Saving Private Perez, Regresa) played mariachi singer Alejandro. Wanting a better life for his daughter, Alejandro applied for a visa at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. It was denied by embassy employee Rachel, played by Laura Ramsey (The Ruins, The Covenant). However, life had a funny way of presenting a second opportunity to make a good impression when Alejandro spotted Laura at a party he was performing at with his band. Jaime Camil was such a likable character in this bilingual film that I did not mind the formulaic story line. A bonus was his beautiful singing voice. The acting was standard; I was surprised to see Stockard Channing (Six Degrees of Separation, Grease) as Virginia and Tom Arnold (True Lies, Nine Months) as Art taking part in this film. Though I have not investigated, I had to wonder as I was watching the movie if it was quickly made due to the success of the Mexican film “Instructions Not Included” which I reviewed recently. There was a low budget feeling to the sets for me. Irregardless, I had to give points for the effort made to create a sweet romantic story. Some scenes had Spanish with English subtitles.
2 1/3 stars
The past weekend was exhaustive for me. It was one of those where everything had to precisely coordinate like a finely tuned Swiss made watch. I even had to schedule in bathroom times. By Sunday night I was totally drained of energy, feeling defenseless against Earth’s gravitational pull. What propelled me through the weekend was the knowledge that Monday was a holiday and I could stay home to restore some semblance of balance back into my life. Believe it or not, the idea of leaving home to even see a movie was not something I wanted to do. Now you know I must have been super tired. But would you believe that little voice in my head kept badgering me, telling me I should go to the movies because one never knows what the next day will bring. Pulling a cap over my frantic, slept on hair; I forced myself to a matinee show. Having seen the trailer some time ago, I really could not recall anything about the film I was about to see. Several minutes into the movie I thought it was going to be a typical goofy movie about mistaken identities. But then something magical happened and the story lifted me out of myself, transporting me to Mexico. I was no longer tired; the demanding eventful weekend faded away and I was drawn into this dramatic comedy. Eugenio Derbez (Jack and Jill, La Familia P. Luche-TV) as Valentin was surprised when a former fling named Julie, played by Jessica Lindsey (Now You See Me), appeared at his front door with a baby. Having him hold his daughter so she could go pay the cab fare, Julie never returned. With fatherhood not being part of his plans, Valentin decided to take the baby and travel to America to track down Julie. As time passed, father and daughter began to depend and learn from each other in their new place. This tender movie scored a bull’s-eye to the heart. Though I found Eugenio’s acting to have an over emphasized quality to it, his timing was impeccable. The connection he had with his daughter Maggie, played by dynamite newcomer Loreto Peralta, was incredible. I found some scenes made a sudden jump between comedy and drama; however, it did not take away from the carefully laid out story. Not only did this movie do a wonderful job in showing how love made a family, it provided another example of how a movie can affect us. The story moved me while the movie took me away. I left the theater feeling revitalized, happy to have seen this sweet, tender film. Spanish with English subtitles.