THERE WERE THESE BLACK AND yellow booklets/study guides I remember you could buy at a bookstore, which some folk a/k/a students used in lieu of reading an entire book. For example if a student was assigned the novel Moby Dick or Great Expectations, they could buy the study guide of the book. I have to say these booklets were an interesting idea because they did help in one’s ability to understand what they had read in the actual book. This would be beneficial if one had to write a book report or do an oral presentation of a novel. However to only read the bumblebee colored study guide would not give you the full richness of the story. Taking Moby Dick as an example, the description of the story in the booklet would be something like, “A fisherman is determined to catch a big fish.” The study guide would not give one the depth of each character with all the nuances and mannerisms of them. I believe they were only supposed to enhance the reading experience, not be a substitute for the novel. NOW PERSONALLY I HAD SEVERAL of these study guides and not to sound like a “goody two shoes,” but I needed them to help me comprehend some of the passages I had read in several assigned books. Being a slow reader there were times I barely could finish a book before my book report was due. When I read a novel the imagery the author is creating appears right before my eyes. I feel as if I am right there with the characters. For me this is what I feel the reading experience should provide the reader. If an image cannot form I have a hard time connecting to the story; something every author wants to avoid. Another way of describing these study guides is to say they are the same meal as the original novel less the spices and condiments. As I was watching this action drama film based on a true story, I felt like I was missing some of the ingredients. SOON AFTER THE ATTACK ON the World Trade Center an elite group of soldiers were deployed to Afghanistan for a secret operation. All of their military training did not prepare them for riding into a battle on horseback. Starring Chris Hemsworth (In the Heart of the Sea, Rush) as Captain Mitch Nelson, Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water, Take Shelter) as Hal Spencer, Michael Pena (End of Watch, American Hustle) as Sam Diller, Navid Negahban (Charlie Wilson’s War, Homeland-TV) as General Dostum and Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight, Lady Luck) as Ben Milo; the actors needed a better script. The story itself was pretty unbelievable I have to say; from that aspect I was in step with this film. The fight scenes were intense and honestly the outcomes were somewhat shocking to me. However the script went from one battle to another to the point I felt I was just watching several videos of the soldiers’ battles. I never really knew the men’s motivations let alone their connections to each other. There were only a couple of scenes where I felt an emotional connection. In a way this picture reminded me of another war film that was shown in the past year or so, that was mostly tension with little story. Now I do not want to downplay the historical aspect of this story, but the script could not lift it to the level it needed to be in urgent importance. Based on this movie I would have rather seen a documentary about the unbelievable feat these soldiers endured.
2 ¼ stars
THE PROBLEM WAS they looked alike even though they were different sexes. His mother had a reputation in the neighborhood of not being smart; though the adjectives used to describe her were unkind. People just assumed her son had the same low level of intelligence. Sadly it was a perception, it was not a fact. However this falsehood stayed with him all through school. If he had been a straight A student then the assumption would have quickly died, but he was more of an average grade pupil with grades that went from C to A. The interesting thing about this was he did not care or at least did not show any concern regarding what people thought of him. It turns out he was smart and used this incorrect assumption to his advantage. To make a long story short he became a shrewd business owner who became quite successful. ASSUMPTION BY ASSOCIATION is something people tend to do easily and in my opinion too often. To me I consider it along the same lines as profiling. I have mentioned before my feelings about individuals making rash judgments based on a person’s appearance. After recently being updated on the changes taking place within the labor laws, I know they say one cannot discriminate; however I have seen and been on the receiving end with the misconception that overweight individuals are lazy. Sadly I have heard people’s comments in a variety of settings that were derogatory based on a person’s race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. I know it is more prevalent than my experiences and I find it pathetic. The idea of someone making a judgment solely based on one’s looks is frankly horrifying. From my school years I have seen how these types of perceptions can scar a child for a long time, possibly their entire life. Imagine what the boy in this animated action adventure had to endure. ALL THE KIDS avoided Lloyd, voiced by Dave Franco (Now You See Me franchise, Neighbors franchise), because of his father Garmadon, voiced by Justin Theroux (The Girl on the Train, The Leftovers-TV). His father just wanted to rule the world. This 3rd film in the LEGO movie franchise started out in a fun way by having the first several minutes being live action with Jackie Chan (Shanghai Noon, Rush Hour franchise) as Mr. Liu and later voicing Master Wu. I liked Jackie in both roles. Including Fred Armisen (Easy A, Saturday Night Live-TV) voicing Cole, Michael Pena (The Martian, End of Watch) voicing Kai and Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick, Fist Fight) voicing Jay; the actors were fine with their characters. The script had several amusing scenes; however, there was little of the laugh out loud or surprise factor compared to the previous pictures. As for the animation it was just as good as before and I especially enjoyed the interjection of the live action character. In fact that was my favorite part. Overall I have to tell you my enthusiasm watching this film was lackluster; there was a sense of tiredness since it pretty much was the same stuff being done as before. I do not know if there is an actual cartoon character for Master Wu; the closest example I could think of was a takeoff on The Karate Kid or an old television show I think called Kung Fu. After playing with the same toy for an extended time one eventually will get tired of it; that is what I believe is going on here. There was one extra scene of outtakes in the middle of the credits.
2 ¼ 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
DEATH does not owe anyone an answer; it takes what it wants and all we can do is experience grief, relief or believe it or not, happiness. I say happiness because of a funeral I once attended where I knew the deceased but not all of the other people in attendance. Sitting in the chapel I was shocked with some of the comments people were so free to share with those around them. One person said they were there to make sure that bastard was buried deep in the ground; another guest wanted to come to see if there was actually someone who was mourning the death. I could only silently sit in my seat because I was too stunned to say anything. As a side note the funeral service was done quickly with only a couple of eulogies. FROM a previous review I mentioned the hardest deaths involve those where the person was taken early. When a person reaches an old age one can hear comments such as, “he lived a long life” or “she did what she wanted to do,” at the funeral. Sadness could be wrapped up in the sense of loss but rarely have I heard anyone question why the individual perished. If there was a long growing illness I could understand the sense of relief one would feel at the time of death. From my experiences I have learned when a person dies unexpectedly; it is harder for those who are left behind. When the individual has suffered for a long time, finishing their journey here, those remaining do feel a sense of relief. I do not recollect anyone questioning why the person died. Personally I think asking questions that you cannot get answers for only delays the healing process. I know a couple of people who still want to know why a friend of theirs committed suicide. This makes for a hard road to travel, the asking of questions. You can see for yourself in this dramatic movie. DEVASTATED by the death of his young daughter Howard, played by Will Smith (Suicide Squad, Concussion) began writing letters to Death, Youth and Love. It was not long before they started answering him. This film festival winner had an excellent cast that included Edward Norton (The Grand Budapest Hotel, American History) as Whit, Kate Winslet (The Dressmaker, Finding Neverland) as Claire, Michael Pena (End of Watch, The Martian) as Simon, Naomie Harris (Moonlight, Skyfall) as Madeleine and Helen Mirren (Trumbo, Woman in Gold) as Brigitte. For a story line I did not mind the concept and felt the actors were more than capable to do a fine job. Out of the cast the 2 that stood out for me were Naomie and Michael; they were believable and conveyed true emotions. Outside of them I did not feel a connection to anyone else. Whether the rest of the actors knew the script was poorly written or not, they did not provide any substance to their characters. As for the script I found it to be in manipulative in a sappy way. I felt the film was created just to get viewers weepy and use that as their connection to the story. Sitting through this picture was like experiencing a slow death.
1 ¾ stars
I suppose it depends on one’s definition of evil whether they see evil taking place around them on a regular basis. Just yesterday I read an article in the newspaper about someone putting 12 kittens in a duffel bag and leaving them out on the street in 85 degree heat. Maybe you would not consider this an evil act, but I do. The person who did this could easily have brought the kittens to a shelter. Luckily all the kittens, except for being dehydrated, were okay and are being listed on animal welfare’s adoption list. When I hear news about a hit and run driver the first thing I think about is whether the driver was drunk. If not (though it still is not an excuse) then I do not understand how a person who knows they hit someone can continue driving without stopping to check on the damage they caused to that person. I would say the driver was an evil individual. Since I refer to myself as a defensive pessimist, my first inclination is to focus on the negative aspects of a situation; so someone could call me Mr. Doom and Gloom. But I do not know if that is an accurate description of me. I see evil things all around me, but I do not let them dictate my actions. Hopefully I do not devote my energy to such things; instead I remove myself from people who act out in evil ways. Granted that is something that is not easy to do as you will see in this horror film. SOMETHING was happening to the people around Angela Holmes, played by Olivia Dudley (Transcendence, Chernobyl Diaries). Father Lozano and Vicar Imani, played by Michael Pena (Ant-Man, American Hustle) and Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, Guardians of the Galaxy), were one of the first to recognize what was happening to Angela. This thriller followed a standard formula for a horror story. I was actually surprised to see Michael and Djimon in this movie because the film really was a “B” maybe “C” type of movie. I could see the actors trying to do something with the low level script but there really was nothing they could do that would have made this picture exciting. Now there were a couple of scenes that had potential, especially because of the way Olivia played her character. She was able to show a different side of herself simply with a subtle change in her facial expressions; it provided a slightly eerie take on the scenes. However due to this type of good vs evil story being done many times before, there was not enough done here to make this film entertaining. Though I consider this movie as being not very good, I think it would be evil if the movie studio decided to make a sequel.
1 2/3 stars
Actions reveal more about a person than their words. There are some individuals who use their words as a way to accentuate the meaning of their actions. Throughout my life I have been reminded over and over that actions speak louder than words. Some people are quick to say things they think someone wants to hear as a way to avoid being an active participant with that person. I have noticed however that actions can quickly bond people together. Spending one’s elementary school years with the same classmates connects them in a special way that can remain for a lifetime. When events are of an extreme nature, they have the power to connect people in such a rapid way that solidifies their relationship on a high level. This makes all of the participants act as one unified force. An easy example of this would be any sports team. Having grown up around veterans from every war since world war II, it is quite apparent they have a unique and special bond that is not found among civilians. ALLIED forces were making their final push through the European landscape in April 1945. Army sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier, played by Brad Pitt (World War Z, Fight Club), and his tank crew had orders to secure and defend a crucial crossroad against the advancing Nazi troops. If they could not successfully carry out their mission, there was a chance the allied forces would suffer a major defeat in their campaign. This action war film was one of the most intense movies I have sat through in a long time. There will be some of you that will not be able to take the assault on their eyes from the intense violence and blood in some of the scenes. Putting that aside, this drama from writer/director David Ayer (End of Watch, Training Day) was so well done; I found myself holding my breath several times out of anxiousness. Brad and the actors who made up his tank crew, Shia LaBeouf (Transformers franchise, Lawless) as Boyd “Bible” Swan, Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson franchise, 3:10 to Yuma) who was the biggest standout as Norman Ellison, Michael Pena (End of Watch, American Hustle) as Trini “Gordo” Garcia and Jon Bernthal (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Ghost) as Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis were all so good that I totally took them to be soldiers. If there was any fault to this film I felt some of the violence was overdone. Granted I have never been involved with armed conflict but it started to feel excessive, whereas I would have preferred learning more about each solider. That being said, prepare yourself for battle if you are going to see this intense film.
3 1/3 stars
In my tiny, little corner of the world I get inspired by witnessing the sacrifices people make to create a difference in their lives and the lives around them. There is the friend whose father traveled to work 2 hours each way on public transportation, to make sure there was a steady paycheck coming in each week. I remember a former employee who was sent with her 6 siblings to live with their grandmother in a one bedroom apartment, while her parents took a job in a different country, hoping to make an easier life for their children. Through social media sites shared by individuals who follow my movie reviews, I discovered one person leads an organization devoted to establishing and protecting equal rights for women; while another works tirelessly fighting to protect those who are not strong enough to have their voices heard. It takes a special kind of person who can give so much without expecting anything in return. In the bigger scheme of things, there have been people whose actions made history by changing the world. One of those individuals was the main focus in this biographical film, based on a true story. Michael Pena (American Hustle, Shooter) played labor organizer Cesar Chavez. A quiet man who believed in non-violence, Cesar Chavez fought for the rights of migrant workers after seeing how they were being treated. America Ferrera (End of Watch, Ugly Betty-TV) played his wife Helen. Not only do I think Michael Pena is a fine actor; I was looking forward to learning more about Cesar’s life and the extraordinary events that took place around him. The cast which also included Rosario Dawson (Gimme Shelter, Unstoppable) as Dolores Huerta and John Malkovich (Secretariat, Red franchise) as orchard owner Bogdanovich Senior were quite capable to handle their roles. However, I cannot say the same for the director and writers. The performances were bland; I could not get over how dull Michael and John were especially. I felt there could have been a better sense of drama if the writers had added more story about Cesar’s family and their sacrifices. We saw his children in the beginning of the movie as they were driving to their new home, but after that they were pretty much invisible except for one older son. Unfortunately the only emotion I felt in this picture came from the depicted events taking place instead of the characters. What a shame to sacrifice the time, effort and money in developing this movie and not being able to deliver a better film.
Dreams are the fuel that propel us forward on our life’s journey. They instill a sense of hope that helps us traverse the choppy waters we may encounter along the way. I still can recall one of my earliest dreams of what I wanted to be when I grew up: a window washer. There was something about being on the outside, way up high, that appealed to me. Good thing I did not follow through since these days I am exactly opposite, preferring to be inside and close to the ground. Even though my dreams evolved, I have always been aware how they have pushed me forward in life. The same could be said for the main character in this animated film. Garden snail Turbo, voiced by Ryan Reynolds (Buried, The Proposal), dreamed he would one day race at the Indianapolis 500. No one would take his dream away from him; including his sensible brother Chet, voiced by Paul Giamatti (Win Win, The Last Station). When a freak accident gave Turbo the ability to move fast, he was not going to let anyone or anything stop him from achieving his dream. This adventure film had a diverse cast of actors to voice the many characters. For example, there was Michael Pena (End of Watch, Shooter) as Tito, Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained, Pulp Fiction) as Whiplash, Bill Hader (Men in Black 3, Saturday Night Live-TV) as Guy Gagne and Snoop Dog (Old School, Bruno) as Smooth Move. Though the animation was quite good, I found the story was lacking a couple of key elements. I did not find it exciting except for the beginning and ending parts. The characters were okay but really did not leave any impression on me. It felt as if the characters were created as a way to sell toys to kids. Compared to other animated films I have recently seen, this one just left me with a blah feeling. I think only young children would enjoy this movie. It was a shame the movie studio could not dream up a better story. Stay through the first set of credits.
2 1/4 stars
Breathe, breathe, keep breathing was what I had to keep reminding myself to do through this intense, gritty movie. There were times I was on the edge of my seat from the tense scenes and the mockumentary style of filming interspersed throughout, without the head shaking dizziness. Los Angeles policemen Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Source Code, Love and Other Drugs) and Michael Pena (The Lincoln Lawyer, Crash) were more than partners, they were as close to being brothers as any two men could be. They were young, cocky hotshots working the toughest part of the city; who made some spectacular, newsworthy busts. Things were going great with Officer Taylor dating Janet, played by Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air, 50/50) and Officer Zavala expecting a baby with his wife Gabby, played by Natalie Martinez (Death Race, Magic City Memoirs), when they became targeted by a drug cartel. This movie was one of the best examples of the police film genre I have ever seen. The script was tight, with electrifying tension being cut with stress relief comedic lines. Jake and Michael had killer chemistry between each other, giving this film a true sense of the camaraderie between partners. The acting was incredible; both Michael and Jake went through extensive training for this film and it paid off. They were believable; handling all the police hardware in a fluid, realistic way. I never felt as if the story was copping out (sorry for the pun), there were no neat and tidy scenes included just to please the audience. The movie grabbed you by the throat and forced you to watch ever single frame without any apologies. End of story. Graphic violence and bloody scenes.
3 2/3 stars