A FOND CHILDHOOD MEMORY OF MINE was the many times I went to the auto show. Having built and painted a fleet of model racing cars, I loved seeing all the new cars inside the convention center. The faster a car could go, the more I was attracted to it. I would impatiently wait by a sports car, wishing the attendees sitting inside would get out, so I could sit behind the wheel and pretend I was speeding down a long highway. There was not one compartment, switch or knob that I left untouched. At some of the displays there were hired people, dressed in fancy clothes, who would walk around the car and talk about it to any passing person. To emphasize the point, they would eagerly open a car door to invite the individual to come and take a seat in the “latest,” most “advanced” automobile that is out on the street today. I took all of this in, fantasizing that one day I could get hired to talk about all the cars on display. Adding to my excitement, would be all the pamphlets and paraphernalia that the different auto manufacturers would pass out. By the end of the day, I usually had two full bags of stuff that I collected throughout the exhibit. I HAD ANOTHER SPECIAL MEMORY FROM my times at the auto show. In the cafeteria where we would stop for lunch, they sold one of my favorite cookies but in a smaller size. I loved the idea of my favorite cookie being in a bite-size form because they were so easy to pop in my mouth. And they would not leave any crumbs. I always made sure I finished the bag before we would continue our way through the convention center. Even to this day, I remember those little sized cookies. Now, when I go to the grocery store, there are so many options to my favorite cookie that it becomes overwhelming. I remember when they changed the packaging and proudly proclaimed “New & Improved” across the top. They tasted the same to me. However, with their latest version, I must tell you I did not think they tasted as good as I remembered. After so many years, I hope I am not just getting bored with them; they did not excite me like I know they did in the past. I feel the same about this latest installment in the film franchise despite my love of fast cars. AFTER HAVING SETTLED INTO A QUIET, idyllic life in the country, a crisis forces Dominic Toretto, played by Vin Diesel (Bloodshot, The Last Witch Hunter), and the crew to deal with a terrorist that can match their fight and driving skills. With Michelle Rodriguez (The Assignment, Battle Los Angeles) as Letty, Jordana Brewster (American Heist, Home Sweet Hell) as Mia, Tyrese Gibson (Black and Blue, Transformers franchise) as Roman and John Cena (Vacation Friends, Daddy’s Home franchise) as Jakob; this action, crime adventure took the stunt driving to a new level. I enjoyed watching the over-the-top car scenes; however, there were so many of them that it got repetitive for me. There was no place for logic nor was there any time to focus on the characters. It was humor, race, pause for words of wisdom and repeat. The script could have gotten some help if it had incorporated more of Charlize Theron’s character because one of the “evil” characters was not very evil in my opinion. The cast appears quite comfortable with each other and I imagine they are enjoying themselves during the filming process. I am afraid compared to the prior installments in this film franchise, this latest one was more of a basic model instead of being top of the line. There was an extra scene in the middle of the ending credits.
2 ½ stars
FROM ALL MY YEARS OF TEACHING I feel I am intuitive when it comes to judging people’s attitudes. Maybe instead of attitudes I should say impressions because standing in front of a class I am able to see the members’ eyes. With me facing them while I teach, I can usually tell when a member is feeling annoyed with another member. Another thing I see is when a member is judging someone else because it is quite noticeable to me. There was a club I used to teach at that had a cliental that was predominantly single people. I soon became surprised with the catty comments I would hear, and the dirty looks members would shoot at other participants in the class. If someone was in class who did not appear to be physically fit, more than likely they would cause the members around them to get a look of disdain on their faces. A prime example was a guy who was large in stature; he was over 6 feet tall and well over 200 pounds. He had some tone to him and from participating in my classes, he built up his aerobic capacity to the point where he could get thru the whole class. ONE DAY A MAN CAME INTO THE aerobic studio to participate in my class. I took him to be a weightlifter because he was extremely cut with prominent muscles sticking out from his torso and limbs. You should have seen the face of this weightlifter when the big member came in and stood near him. It was obvious to me he was judging the guy, thinking this large person would not be able to handle the class. Boy, was he wrong because not only did the larger member plow thru my workout regiment, he finished it. The weightlifter had to stop frequently to catch his breath. I had to assume he spent most time at the health club lifting weights instead of doing something with aerobics. The larger member had no clue that this guy standing near him had judged him solely on his looks, assuming there was no way he could do aerobics. I would be lying if I did not tell you I was amused by the weightlifter’s look of disbelief towards the larger man. It really goes to show you that one should never judge someone solely on their looks; because there are times where your assumptions could get you in trouble. Proof can be found in this dramatic, crime thriller. HAVING NOTHING IN COMMON EXCEPT THEY each lost their husband; a group of widows were forced to work together to survive the fallout from their husbands’ actions. Starring Viola Davis (Fences, The Help) as Veronica, Michelle Rodriguez (Fast & Furious franchise, Lost-TV) as Linda, Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby, Guardians of the Galaxy franchise) as Alice, Liam Neeson (The Commuter, Taken franchise) as Harry Rawlings and Colin Farrell (The Beguiled, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) as Jack Mulligan; if nothing else, just watching these women act was a privilege. Viola was outstanding, and I was surprised with Elizabeth’s performance. The story had twists and turns in it, though it took some time before things started to pick up and move the story forward. I thought there were a few predictable scenes, but the wonderful direction kept things exciting for me. Filmed in Chicago, I was aware how scenes went from beauty to being gritty and back; adding to the texture of the script. There have been other crime heist films made before, but I was thoroughly brought into these females’ plights and stayed with them for the entire trip. Please do not solely judge this movie by its marketing; there is more here than meets the eye.
3 ¼ stars
SITTING on the sofa after a satisfying meal I was waiting for the punch line to the story that was being told to us. It was not because the story was exciting, though it was the 1st time I heard it some years ago, or that the storyteller always had an animated way of telling a tale; I actually had heard this story enough to be able to retell it without any coaching. The reason I was waiting for the ending of the story was so I could get up and go to the bathroom without appearing rude to the story teller or the other people sitting around. The first time I heard the story I remember how all of us were laughing hysterically; it really was a funny set of circumstances that happened to the story teller. However after hearing the same story again and again, it had lost its surprise and funniness. For my way of thinking once a funny story has been told it needs to go into retirement, put away on a shelf only to come out on special occasions as a reminder about a particular person or period of time. THE retelling of jokes or stories only robs them of their uniqueness. After a time the listener you are trying to entertain is simply lulled into boredom. This reminds me of a person I know who does not fully grasp the art of joke telling. Every time they tell a joke they have to explain the portion of it that they find particularly amusing. This is never a good idea; if you have to explain a joke then it is not a joke. There have been times where I find myself sitting and listening to them and I immediately know anything I might find funny will be weighed down with this explaining thing that will make me cringe into wishing they would stop talking. Telling something over and over again is not exclusive to parties and family gatherings; it can be found in movie franchises. FAMILY was the most important thing to Dom, played by Vin Diesel (The Pacifier, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk). Then why did he turn his back on them? Starring Jason Statham (The Expendables franchise, The Mechanic franchise) as Deckard, Dwayne Johnson (San Andreas, Hercules) as Hobbs and Charlize Theron (Monster, Mad Max: Fury Road) as Cipher; the script for this action crime thriller was the weak link. The action scenes kept coming over and over, most connected by cheesy dialog. I will say the action was outrageous as the stunts were things the viewer has come to expect from this franchise. Another positive point about this movie was Charlize Theron; I found her acting to be above everyone else in the cast. After so many years with this franchise the writers needed to do something different in my opinion. I found some of the characters’ conversations were so typical of past films that I found myself becoming dazed and tired. Good thing there was always some over the top action scene ready to unfold right afterwards. This film franchise has had a long run but based on this installment it might be time for this group to take the exit ramp and take a rest. It might do wonders for them.
2 ½ stars
I return to the race track, ready to take on my all to familiar opponent. We have raced many times before. My silver car has a lightning bolt across its hood. As the timer reaches zero, I gun the car and off we go. The first curve is easy, followed by a short straightaway. My rival is matching my every move as our cars are side by side. I know the next curve leads to a short drop; I have to be careful not to let the car jump to high off the pavement. Just as I come out of the turn; my nemesis’ car swings wide, its back end tapping my side panel. If I had not braked immediately, my car would have skidded off the track. Because of that bump my slot car loses to my cousin’s car. Anytime I was over at his house, we would immediately head out to the slot car shop to race our cars. That thrill of speeding returned while watching this high octane action film. I barely remember the previous installments of this franchise and it was okay. This story picked up where the last movie ended; with their $100 million dollars Dominic Toretto, played by Vin Diesel (The Pacifier, The Chronicles of Riddick), and his friends were scattered around the world, enjoying life. The only thing missing for the group was being able to go back home to the States. One day the one person who could offer them the opportunity to go home showed up at Dom’s place. Hobbs, played by Dwayne Johnson (Pain & Gain, Snitch), needed Dom and his gang to get behind the wheel again and track down the mastermind behind the team of precision driving thieves, stealing highly classified government secrets. The dialog was kept to a minimum, making room for insane driving stunts and crazy fights. The automobiles were the real stars of this movie. Humor was used as an additive for some of the scenes, mostly handled by Tyrese Gibson (Transformers franchise, The Take) as Roman and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges (Tropic Thunder, No Strings Attached) as Tej. I liked the fact that this film kept things simple; the focus was on the action, accompanied by a straight forward story about the things people do for the sake of their family. Fast cars was the hook for me; but then again, I know a thing or two about speed. My guess is I am the only person you have ever met who received a speeding ticket in a national park. A few very brief scenes with blood.