THERE WAS NO WAY I COULD stop the color in my face from draining. I was in a state of shock. It was an hour before I was going to get off from work and the owner of the company had called me into his office. I knew him better than some of the other employees because I worked both in the retail and wholesale parts of his company, when I wasn’t in school. In fact, when he opened a 2ndstore in a large shopping mall out in the suburbs, I helped set up the shelves with stock. So, when he asked me into his office, I did not think much of it. When he closed the door behind me as I walked in, I knew something was different. As I sat across from him, he began to tell me about the inventory being off, that items were coming up missing. I thought maybe he wanted me to take a bigger part of the inventory process, but that was not the case. He asked me if I had seen anything odd going on. I told him no and that I was surprised to hear such a thing. My face had not turned white up to this point; however, when he said he wanted to talk to my parents I could feel my face changing. He said he was asking the same of the other employees who were also in high school. EMBARRASSMENT, FEAR AND ANGER WERE THE predominant feelings coursing through my body as I sat there. Despite not having any knowledge about the missing stock, I was angry that I was being considered a suspect. Logically I knew it made sense for the owner to question his employees; but I still felt like I was being accused of something I had no part in. It was an awful feeling. My mind was showing me a series of movie scenes depicting courthouses, jails, tearful testimonies; my imagination was running amok. The other thing that came to mind was the possibility I might be considered an accomplice because I was friendly with the other employees. The anger portion I was feeling was due to the idea one of my friends, who I had been working alongside with for over one year, could be a thief. It was all upsetting to me, and I did not know how my parents would take the news about them having to come in to talk to the owner. All this hassle and confusion just because I essentially was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The magnitude of my situation didn’t come close to the main character’s situation in this dramatic film based on a true story; but I understood what he had to be feeling. LIVING ON DEATH ROW, ONE DOESN’T get hopeful; even when your Harvard educated lawyer is willing to fight for your life. With Brie Larson (Captain Marvel, Short Term 12) as Eva Ansley, Michael B. Jordan (Creed franchise, Black Panther) as Bryan Stevenson, Jamie Foxx (Robin Hood, Ray) as Walter McMillian, Rafe Spall (The Big Short, The Ritual) as Tommy Chapman and Tim Blake Nelson (Fantastic Four; O Brother, Where Art Thou?) as Ralph Myers; the story in this film festival winning movie was horrifying to me at times due to the injustice and discrimination that was taking place. The acting was strong and solid from the cast; in fact, they really carried the story along. For most of the time I took the script to be truthful; however, there were a couple of scenes, especially one close to the end, where I felt it was the writer’s option to make something up to pull in the audience deeper into the story. Besides that, I still cannot get over what Walter had to go through for all those years.
FOR THOSE WHO ENJOY PEANUT BUTTER and jelly sandwiches, there is an innate comfort associated with them. I am a smooth peanut butter and grape jelly type of guy, though I can mix it up with crunchy peanut butter at times. If you have a similar history to mine, then you remember a PB&J was one of the first sandwiches given to you. I remember how the peanut butter would get smoothed over the slice of bread before spreading the jelly on top, trying to get it to reach out to the four corners of the bread. For my sandwich it had to be done with white bread, nothing else. Because it was always consistent in taste and texture, I knew what to expect and that brought me comfort. Whether I had it for lunch or dinner, I would still get a feeling that everything would be okay for me. For a little kid you could not beat having that comforting feeling anytime you wanted; it would well up inside of me at my first bite. And this included keeping the crusts on the bread slices, since I had a friend who had to have the crusts cut off before eating his sandwich. A FUNNY THING ABOUT PEANUT BUTTER and jelly sandwiches; it could be years between having one and the sandwich would still pack the same emotions. I experience it every time; we’re talking a lot of years. Now I know there are some people who cannot eat the same thing two days in a row and I get it. They like thinking of something new to eat or satisfy a craving or even just want to play with ingredients in their kitchen to see what they can create. When they do stuff like that I do not believe they build a history with the food dish. Sure, they love it and it tastes good; but then they move on to something else the next time and maybe, down the road, they revisit that dish another time. That is all well and good, but I feel it is not the same thing as being able to eat something that elicits long held memories. There are no surprises involved, no figuring out things; everything falls into a familiar place. Personally, I love when that happens and maybe that is the reason why this decades long franchise continues to work; one knows what to expect when they walk into the theater to see this dramatic sports movie. IT WAS NOT ENOUGH FOR ADONIS JOHNSON, played by Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther, Fantastic Four), to reach the pinnacle of the boxing world. When the son of the man who killed his father entered the ring, it was about revenge and protecting his father’s name. With Sylvester Stallone (Escape Plan, Get Carter) as Rocky Balboa, Tessa Thompson (Dear White People, Annihilation) as Bianca, newcomer Florian Munteanu as Viktor Drago and Dolph Lundgren (Universal Solider, The Punisher) as Ivan Drago; this movie did everything I expected it to do. Michael did just as good of a job here as he did in the first film. Who I thought shined even brighter was Tessa and Sylvester in their roles. It seemed as if Rocky grew into this role; I could feel the weight of his world resting on his shoulders and got a sense of his mortality. Tessa’s singing and acting were the perfect touch to the drama coming across the screen. The premise for this story was little different from the ones previously. There was a good guy and bad one, unexpected home issues and parent issues; pretty much all the same but I did not mind. This franchise still delivers a good punch (I apologize for the pun). It is like eating a PB&J; I knew what to expect and got it with little effort on my part.
3 ¼ stars
SHE DID NOT LOOK LIKE an average woman, whatever average was supposed to look like. I only say that because I remember hearing the comments made about her appearance. We worked together years ago when aerobic meant doing hard impact body movements. The best way to describe her would be to say she was thick because she was not overweight per se. Her arms and legs were large for her body due to her intense weight training regimen. I would see her on the fitness floor from time to time and was always amazed with the amount of weight she used in her exercises. She was usually the only female among the male weightlifters and it amused me when I could tell some of the men were intimidated by her strength. In the locker room I would hear guys talk about her. They always had something negative to say about her appearance, never about her achievements. I am not going to repeat them here since they were rude and ignorant; let me just say I felt the men had to tear her down to make themselves feel better. They could not lift the same amount of weight as she so of course they had to say something to save face, the cowards. MY HOPE FOR THE CURRENT times we live in is that men and women will get closer to be thought of as equals. Not to be crude or rude, but except for the different plumbing women and men can do similar skills and work; maybe with only some slight adjustments. The notion that one gender is weaker than the other is a dated falsehood that needs to be buried once and for all. I remember the teasing I took for having a female internist and the rude comments that were made about what must have taken place during my physical exams. Can you believe it? I did not care if the doctor was a man or women; I was more concerned if they graduated at the top or bottom of their class. No matter what doctor I go to, I always try to look for a copy of their diploma hanging somewhere up on a wall. This divide that has been around for centuries between the sexes is more about power than gender. Well I am here to tell you it was impressive to see the achievements women made in the African country in this action, adventure film. UPON HIS FATHER’S DEATH T’CHALLA, played by Chadwick Boseman (Get on Up, 42), would have to participate in an ancient ritual to determine who would become the Black Panther and lead the nation. Someone else had already had been working for years on how to seize the throne. This science fiction movie also starred Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Fantastic Four) as Erik Killmonger, Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, Star Wars franchise) as Nakia, Danai Gurira (The Visitor, All Eyez on Me) as Okoye and Letitia Wright (The Commuter, Top Boy-TV) as Shuri. First off I have to tell you this was not your typical superhero movie. There were no aliens or monsters hell bent on destroying Earth. I was fascinated by the story line and especially the use of women in the script. Black Panther was almost secondary for me compared to the scenes involving women. Michael B. Jordan and Danai commanded the screen with their roles. A majority of the fight scenes were filmed in an odd way; sort of a jerky slow/fast motion type of way. It was not a major distraction since these scenes were not all focal points in the story. The character development along with the juxtaposition of ancient rituals with modern technology kept me fully interested in this picture. Oh and also the great visuals and musical choices for the soundtrack. For those not into superhero movies this one may be worth your time. I enjoyed the different way it told a story and hope going forward that the novelty will wear off in having strong female characters participate in leading a story. There were 2 extra scenes in the middle and end of the credits.
3 ½ stars
One of the quickest ways to bond with another human being is to share an event together. Whether it is an occurrence filled with celebration or tragedy, there is something about being a part of the same occasion that cuts through the preliminary chitchat and creates a quicker path to friendship or possibly something more. One of the first health clubs that hired me to teach aerobics had an all female staff. I always assumed I was hired because of my teaching skills and style, hoping that I did not get the job because I was a novelty. It was a year later when another man was hired on staff. The two of us quickly bonded, sitting near each other during staff meetings and traveling together to fitness conventions. Now do not get me wrong, this was in no shape a battle of the sexes type of thing or a testosterone competition; we just happened to have a similar mindset towards teaching, with the same type of humor. And do you want to know something; we have remained friends all these years. I could share other examples of how people bond but the events may cause you to become sad and I would rather we all try to stay upbeat with tonight’s movie review of this science fiction, action adventure film. TELEPORTED to a distant world, the four space travelers returned to earth changed in unusual ways. They would have to learn to work together to overcome their differences if they wanted to save the world from an evil force. Having gone to this viewing with no prior knowledge of the film, my shock and confusion about what I was watching was a surprise to me. With competent actors Miles Teller (Whiplash, That Awkward Moment) as Reed Richards, Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station, That Awkward Moment) as Johnny Storm, Kate Mara (127 Hours, Shooter) as Sue Storm and Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, King Kong) as Ben Grimm, I was stunned at how poorly they came across on the big screen. The reason started with the script and anyone else involved with this film who was not familiar with what it took to make a superhero movie. The first half of the fim was utterly boring; with no action, no humor or fun surprises. I could not remember a recent time where an entire cast looked like they were sleepwalking through the picture. As for the evil aspect to the story, it was simply dull and did not provide any thrills. The fact that there was no extra scene at the end of the credits spoke volumes about how poorly managed this project was from beginning to end. On the plus side a group of us stopped in the theater lobby after the movie to talk about our similar negative reactions to this super dud.
1 1/2 stars
You know the exact moment when your friendship began to evolve. It was when you asked your friend about making plans to do something and they began their reply with the words, “Let me check with…” There was no malice, boastfulness or arrogance on your friend’s part; they were just telling you there was someone in their life who reached a new level of importance. This does not take anything away from your status with them, but understand your friend is now part of a couple. Now I will say I am aware of the division that sometimes forms between couples and singles like a sheer curtain rustling in front of an open window on a breezy day. I have been told that there are times where an even number of guests is more desirable for some than odd. Except for riding an amusement park ride, I never really understood why some people would think that way. You can see how a dating relationship may affect a friendship in this romantic comedy. Zac Efron (The Lucky One, 17 Again), Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now, Rabbit Hole) and Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station, Hardball) played best friends Jason, Daniel and Mikey. When Mikey’s girlfriend Vera, played by Jessica Lucas (Cloverfield, She’s the Man), told him she was breaking up with him, his two best friends promised they would stand by him and show him the ropes to being single again. I have to tell you after sitting through this film I was so thankful I did not have friends like these people. They were crude and immature for the most part or should I say at least their dialog was from the predictable script. The story seemed so formulaic; the three friends could be broken down to the smooth talking pretty one, the smart-alecky joker and the sensitive one. I will let you guess which one matches to which description. The only characters that seemed somewhat believable to me were Mikey and Chelsea, played by Mackenzie Davis (Smashed, Breathe In). If I had not seen the movie trailer to this film I might have been less bored than I was sitting in the movie theater. I did not find it a real portrayal of friends and the different things they were getting themselves involved in. Maybe this was due to my lack of having any friends who acted like these guys. For that I consider myself lucky and am grateful for it.
1 3/4 stars
The guards go after the one that is not bloody. This was told to a friend of mine, who was doing one on one work with a prison inmate. The prisoner was told if he got into a fight he should not fight back, for the guards assume the non-bloody combatant was the instigator. I was surprised to hear the guards would act on assumptions before facts; but then, I realized so many people make assumptions solely based on a person’s looks. In grade school when teams had to be formed during gym, I was usually one of the last ones to be picked. I was large and uncomfortable with my size. However, during a game of Bombardment my classmates discovered I could throw a fast accurate ball. For all future games I suddenly was picked much earlier to be on someone’s team. Even today I am sensitive about people who make assumptions. In the scheme of things my experiences were trivial compared to the events in this powerful movie, based on a true story. Twenty-two year old Oscar Grant with his girlfriend Sophina, played by Michael B. Jordan (Red Tails, Chronicle) and Melonie Diaz (Be Kind Rewind, Raising Victor Vargas), decided to take the train into the city to celebrate New Year’s Eve with their friends. It was a ride that would shake up the California Bay Area community. Not knowing anything about this story, I do not know how accurate it was with its portrayal of the events that took place. From a movie standpoint, I thought the acting was raw and real. Michael and Octavia Spencer (The Help, Seven Pounds), who played his character’s mother Wanda, were incredible. Kevin Durand (Real Steel, I Am Number Four) as Officer Caruso was so good he scared me. The hand held filming with its shakiness did not work for me except in the scenes on the train. Overall I thought the story was well presented except for a few parts that seemed unnecessary, like the dog scene. This Sundance and Cannes Film Festival winner could be used as a case study on the effects perceptions and assumptions have on society. There were a couple of brief scenes where blood was shown.
3 1/4 stars