I HEARD THE MOST OUTRAGEOUS STORY recently. It was told during a dinner party. In one of the departments of a mid-sized company there were approximately a dozen co-workers. Besides the usual annoyances and bickering that can take place at work, most of the employees got along with each other. However, there was one employee who strongly disliked one of her co-workers; though, no one in the office could tell. This person felt she was slighted by her co-worker, but those facts were not available. Let me call this person Carol, though that is not her real name. One day Carol’s co-worker came into the office and found a small gift-wrapped package on her desk. There was a note attached that only said, “To someone who makes me happy.” The co-worker, who I will call Deb, was stunned. When she opened the box there was a small scented candle. Deb asked her co-workers if they saw who put the gift on her desk, but no one saw anything. A week went by and another gift with another message signed, “Your secret admirer” showed up. It was a mystery because no one came forward to claim they were the one leaving gifts and cards for Deb. That is because Carol was doing it just to drive Deb crazy and make her think there was someone in the company who liked her. After several weeks of doing this Carol stopped, but never told Deb she was the one leaving gifts as a joke. WHEN I HEARD THIS STORY, I could not believe someone would take the time to do such a thing to annoy one of their fellow workers. If that had been done to me, I would have driven myself crazy trying to find out the mystery and who was behind it. Gratefully, I do not work with such an employee and have to wonder what would motivate someone to do such a thing. The more I thought about that story, it suddenly occurred to me that entire scenario could have easily been a scene out of that old board game where players receive clues to try and figure out the mystery. I remember relatives trying to teach me the game, but I was not catching on to it. The reason being was those family members were experienced in playing the game, so just gave me quick directions before we started playing it. They had to tell me what to do as we were playing it and it only frustrated me more. However, if the scenario had been like the story in this film festival winning movie, I would have quickly gotten into playing it. WHEN THE FAMOUS MYSTERY WRITER HARLAN Thrombey, played by Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World, Beginners), was found dead in his mansion; the only people who had been around him were his family members. It would take a super sleuth to try and figure out this mystery. With Daniel Craig (Logan Lucky, Cowboys & Aliens) as Benoit Blanc, Chris Evans (Gifted, Captain America franchise) as Ransom Drysdale, Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Overdrive) as Marta Cabrera and Jamie Lee Curtis (A Fish Called Wanda, True Lies) as Linda Drysdale; this comedic, crime drama was exciting to view. The script was twisted and funny which allowed the actors to have fun with their characters. I enjoyed the twists and turns as the writer took delight in testing the viewers’ ability to figure out the mystery. Keep in mind, I am not one to try and figure out what will happen; I live in the moment and let the story unfold in front of me. This picture provided great entertainment for me as I tried to look at every detail so I could guess the reason behind the mysterious death.
3 2/3 stars
THE WORDS THAT NEVER GET SPOKEN to a loved one will remain inside of you always. They become part of your inner dialog, emerging periodically to your consciousness like buried treasure, whenever you think of that person who is no longer in your life. A friend of mine experienced such a thing when his brother one night took off, never to be heard from again. My friend told me there was a big fight between his brother and their parents; he never told me what the argument was about, nor did I ask. In the heat of the fight, the brother said at some point he did not want to be around his parents anymore. I remember my friend telling me he was shocked by that comment. A few days later the brother packed up his clothing and left in the middle of the night. My friend was devastated when he woke up the following morning. There was no note left behind; the brother did not send a message or word to his brother to let him know he was okay. I could see the pain across my friend’s face. I tried to comfort him, suggesting the brother might reach out to him once he arrived at his destination and settled down. He never called. BESIDES THIS FRIEND I ONLY KNEW a couple of other households that experienced a family loss. With each one, the family member I knew suffered a long grieving period due to not saying goodbye. Because I was at a young age, I could not grasp the scope of such pain. The only way I could relate to it took place several years later when I had experienced breakups from a couple of long-term relationships. Physical death was not a factor, but I still felt the pain of loss. In one relationship I was left without closure; they simply said they could “not do this anymore” and decided to leave. My loss was accentuated by the sudden stoppage of our blended routines. I never realized how prickly routines could be when you try doing them yourself. They are a constant reminder of how your life used to be. Now, I can see if you were the one to end the relationship then those past routines would be the fuel that pushes you to your new life; it makes sense to me. However, not getting the opportunity to have a say in the demise of a relationship can have a profound effect upon one’s psyche. The main character in this dramatic, science fiction mystery can show you. WITH EARTH EXPERIENCING UNEXPLAINED POWER SURGES, the little evidence that could be found led to a past space mission that ceased communications. The astronaut chosen to investigate the mystery was the son of the captain from the lost mission. With Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, By the Sea) as Roy McBride, Tommy Lee Jones (The Homesman, Shock and Awe) as H. Clifford McBride, Ruth Negga (Loving, World War Z) as Helen Lantos, Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games franchise, The Leisure Seeker) as Thomas Pruitt and Kimberly Elisa (Death Wish, The Manchurian Candidate) as Lorraine Deavers; watching this film felt like I was privy to a psychological study. The script and the directing kept a deliberate, methodical slow pace. Because I was involved with psychology in college, I found this movie interesting. However, I am not sure many other viewers would feel the same. Visually the picture was beautiful, and Brad’s performance was outstanding. Overall, I enjoyed learning the story in the movie but there were times I felt it dragged along. I may still be thinking about this film, but I feel complete in having told you what I thought about this outer space, adventure movie.
2 ¾ stars
HE WAS A MEAN, NASTY, RUDE MAN and I worked for him. Being more wide than tall, I think he compensated for it by yelling at people. The company had less than 100 employees; some of them were related to him. I was extra cautious around them, not sure if they loved or hated their relative. Working for him always meant one had to be ready for his phone call or command. He would think nothing of it to call an employee on the telephone late at night. Half the time the calls had nothing to do with work. He would want someone to go pickup something for him, like a pizza or Chinese food. An employee once told me he got woken up early in the morning by the owner, who told him to go to the airport to pick up one of his relatives who was flying in for a visit. Granted he was successful, driving expensive cars and taking lavish trips; but he yielded his wealth like a battering ram, to make people submissive to him. Refusing him meant there was a good chance you would not get a raise in your salary. I was so grateful I did not have much contact with him while I worked there. IT TURNS OUT THAT OWNER WAS one of many individuals I encountered who used their wealth as a weapon. There was the relative who consistently told friends and family what they “should” do with their lives. Since this relative felt they were successful and wealthy, they had the right to tell other people what they did wrong, both in life and career. From my dealings with people of wealth, I realized being wealthy does not necessarily mean one has brains and/or good taste. Sure, a rich person could spend a small fortune on decorating their home, but that does not mean it would be considered a beautiful and comfortable place. I had a friend who would only buy designer clothing. By that, I mean clothes where the designer’s name is prominently displayed on the clothing. They thought they looked great in outfits; but I am here to tell you, some of the stuff they wore was impractical and unattractive. The way I see it, people who showoff their wealth or yield it to get their way are ugly inside. Not that I am stereotyping here; for there are many wealthy people who do not advertise their financial status and do good things. But if you are looking for them you will not find them in this mystery horror thriller. ON HER WEDDING DAY GRACE, PLAYED by Samara Weaving (Home and Away-TV; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) was not only marrying the love of her life, she was getting his entire family. It turns out that would not be a good thing. With Adam Brody (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, CHIPS) as Daniel Le Domas, Mark O’Brien (Arrival, The Front Runner) as Alex Le Domas, Henry Czerny (The Other Half, Clear and Present Danger) as Tony Le Domas and Andie MacDowell (Hudson Hawk, Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Becky Le Domas; this biting satire was bloody wild. And I do mean bloody. I not only thought Samara was great in this role, I thought the entire cast did a spot-on job with their characters. The script was filled with humor and horror; but written in such a smart way that it felt like I was on a carnival ride while watching this picture. Even if I did not have my history with unpleasant wealthy people, I would still appreciate the social commentary being done in the script. Despite my uncomfortableness with bloody scenes, watching this film was like finding something special on a scavenger hunt. It really stood out from the usual films in this genre. There were several scenes with blood and violence.
IT WAS EVIDENT EVERY HOUSE ON the block had life inside of it, except for the house on the corner. Where each owner kept up the maintenance of their home, thie one on the corner looked abandoned. It was the only house that was painted in a dark brown color, from the wood siding to the shutters to the gutters. No other house had such a dark color scheme; instead, mostly white and light-colored paints were used for them. This dark house had tall bushes that nearly covered up the fencing that outlined the property. There were a couple of old trees in the front yard that towered over the house, letting their tired branches droop down to obscure the view of the place for any passerby. From my time living on the block I had never seen anyone walking in or out of that house. I don’t recall any child even stopping there for Halloween; I never did. With a tall, wrought iron gate guarding the sidewalk leading up to the front steps; I always assumed that gate was placed there to keep people out. However, from the rumors I had heard in the neighborhood; the gate may have been placed there to keep one or more of the residents from escaping. By the time I moved away I never found out what was the truth. AS A KID THERE WERE A VARIETY of rumors that would get passed throughout the school. Because I did not know better, I had no idea which rumors were based on a kernel of truth and which ones were total fabrications. There was one student, a bully, who used to pick on other kids. As far as I knew, no one would stand up to him because we had heard his Dad was either the chief of police or someone just as important on the police force. There was another student who everyone knew was mean to animals. If he was not focusing a magnifying glass in the sunlight onto an insect to burn it alive, he was tying up the hind legs of someone’s pet just to see the animal struggle. The rumor I had heard was his parents were extremely strict with him, to the point they would beat him with a belt or electrical cord. Back then all I could do was assume the rumors were true; now, I would have done something to try and help those poor animals. There is always a reason why rumors get started by someone, I feel. This horror thriller will show you what can happen when there is a rumor going around the neighborhood. CHECKING OUT A HOUSE THAT PEOPLE said was haunted may not have been the best place for a group of teenagers to show an out-of-towner. When you are already fearful what more could scare you? This mystery story starred Zoe Margaret Colletti (Annie, Wildlife) as Stella Nicholis, Michael Garza (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1; Wayward Pines-TV) as Ramon Morales, Gabriel Rush (Moonrise Kingdom, No Letting Go) as Auggie Hilderbrandt, Dean Norris (Total Recall, Breaking Bad-TV) as Roy Nicholis and Gil Bellows (3 Days in Havana, The Shawshank Redemption) as Chief Turner. I was not aware this film was based on a book series for teenagers; however, I thought some of the imagery in this film was well done. There were moments of dread and creepiness. The teenage characters were stereotypes that the actors handled admirably. For those of you who are squeamish; the scary parts had more imagination than other horror films that depend on blood and violence. The horror in this picture was more creative without the use of blood. After watching this movie, I think I am going to start to pay closer attention to rumors.
2 3/4 stars
WATCHING HOW PEOPLE LIVE THEIR DAILY lives has always been one of the main attractions for me when I travel out of state. Whether I am in a large metropolitan area or a remote small town, there is always something new I learn. Recently I was on a road trip through three northwestern states. While driving on a two-lane highway through mountainous terrain, I spotted something ahead on the road. As I got closer I realized it was a pack of dogs. I had to quickly slow down as I realized the dogs were not moving off the road; it was as if they were using themselves as a blockade across the pavement. There was no choice; I had to come to a complete stop. The dogs walked around my car while looking up at the car windows. For the life of me I could not figure out what was going on, especially since none of the dogs had a collar. I had no idea; were they just wild dogs? Slowly I started to apply the gas, letting the car creep forward. The dogs followed me. Finally, there was a break in the circle; so, I picked up speed to break away from the dogs. They chased me for a moment before stopping and turning their attention to the car behind me. WHEN I REACHED MY DESTINATION, I stopped for a bite to eat. While looking for a local restaurant I noticed there seemed to be an abundance of dogs milling about; some sleeping on park benches, others freely walking down the roads. It was the weirdest thing to me. After finding a place to eat and settling into my seat, I asked the waitress, when she came up to me, about all the loose dogs around. She explained in some cultures dogs were used for transportation, companionship, hunting and food; they were somewhat revered. Because of this the people in the area tend to let their dogs roam free, refusing to put a collar or leash on them. I told her about my experience with the pack of dogs on the highway; she was not surprised. She said because some drivers will toss food out their car windows to feed the dogs, they have learned to slow cars down with the intention of getting fed. I was taken aback with this story, thinking about all the possible hazards that could take place. Though I was happy to find out the reason for the loose dogs, I was glad I was just visiting the area. I cannot say the same for the place depicted in this dramatic, mystery film. A GROUP OF FRIENDS TRAVEL TO a remote area in Sweden to delve into the culture and traditions of a small community’s festivities. Everything seemed idyllic until the traditions started to take on a darker tone. With Florence Pugh (Fighting with my Family, The Commuter) as Dani, Jack Reynor (Free Fire, Glassland) as Christian, William Jackson Harper (True Story, Paterson) as Josh, Vilhelm Blomgren (The Days of Flowers Bloom-TV mini-series, Gosta-TV) as Pelle and Will Poulter (Detroit, We’re the Millers) as Mark; this horror movie piqued my interest at the beginning. I thought the cast was good and the scenes were interesting. However, as time went on I felt the story dragging. And with it clocking in at nearly 2 ½ hours, this picture was testing me. There were some scenes that were lovely to look at, but then something odd or horrific would take place. Despite having several interesting concepts/themes in the story, I did not find the picture as a whole very entertaining. If my travels took me near this area I would probably not stop for a visit.
IT WAS A SIMPLE MOTTO THAT I did not need repeated multiple times. It went like this: “Our house, our rules; their house, their rules.” Nothing more needed to be added to it. When I was home there were things I was expected and allowed to do; but, when I went to someone else’s house I had to be respectful and act according to the rules of their place. Even with my young mind back then, it made perfect sense to me. I would never go to someone else’s place and make myself comfortable without following the lead of the hosts. Even today before I walk into a person’s house I ask if they prefer I take my shoes off. I am always amazed at people who walk into someone’s place with their shoes on when they are wet or dirty from the outside. You can see where they stepped on the floor by the residue from their shoes, but they are oblivious to it somehow. I would be mortified to track in dirt from the outside into someone’s house! All I could think about is what that person’s house must look like if they are so unaware as to what they are doing. WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO FOR me is “respect.” If a person is not instilled with the importance of respect, they are susceptible to more of life’s challenges. I know such an individual. When they are over at someone’s house, it doesn’t occur to them to ask if it would be okay to do such and such. They will just go ahead and turn on an electronic device, like a television or stereo. That right there is rude to me, but there is more. Not only will they turn on something, they will fool around with the device’s settings if they feel something is not right; I was told this by the owner of the house. When the owner went to turn on the TV they could not get a station to come up on the screen; their guest at some point during their visit had made changes without informing the owner. Not that I want to step onto a soapbox right now, but right there is what I see wrong with our current times; the lack of respect. I do not expect anyone to accept my way of doing things; however, all I ask is for them to respect it. As I said earlier it all comes down to respect and it is because of that I was annoyed with one of the characters in this horror, mystery thriller. THE ONLY THING THAT WOULD PREVENT Annabelle from inflicting horror on others was to keep her locked up in a glass case that was blessed by a priest, according to husband and wife demon chasers Lorraine and Ed Warren, played by Vera Farming (The Front Runner, Source Code) and Patrick Wilson (The Commuter, Insidious franchise). Never open the case was the only rule; now if only everyone would follow the rules. With McKenna Grace (Gifted; I, Tonya) as Judy Warren, Madison Iseman (Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) as Mary Ellen and Katie Sarife (Abel’s Field, Teen Spirit) as Daniela Rios; this latest installment of the film franchise left me wanting more. I found it less scary than the ones before it. However, I will say I enjoyed McKenna’s performance the most then the other 2 young actors. There were opportunities where I felt the scenes could have been creepier, but they never went beyond a certain level. It almost felt as if the picture and story were put together quickly to cash out, while people are still aware of the Conjuring film series. I did not feel, as a viewer, I was being given much respect by the choices the movie studio made to get this movie out.
I HAD A PAIR OF SHOES that I walked to death. Being extremely picky when it comes to shoes, I remember exactly where I was when I bought that pair of shoes; in a department store shopping for a gift. As I was walking around I wound up by the shoe department. On an endcap was a display of shoes that caught my eye. I liked the style and the fact they were on sale, so I decided to try on a pair. The minute my foot slipped into the shoe I immediately was taken by the comfort. This was something that doesn’t often happen to me when it comes to shoes. After I tried on the other shoe I walked over to a mirror to see how they looked on my feet. One glance and it was confirmed, the shoes were going to be mine. Normally I bring shoes home and wear them around the house for a couple of weeks to make sure they will not cause any discomfort; however, this pair of shoes I wore that night when I met friends for dinner. From that first day, I wore those shoes every day for every occasion. Even when the heels were worn down and the sole’s tread smoothed out into baldness, I could not give up those shoes. THERE ARE SOME THINGS, ONCE WE acquire them, we cannot let them go. I know this is a HUGE challenge for me. If I find something that brings me some form of joyfulness, I understand myself well enough to know I will never want to give it up. There are mementos around my house that I have had since childhood that still bring me joy to this day. A candy dish I played with as a kid; a plastic salad bowl that sat on our dining room table; even a pine cone that was given to me by a classmate in school when we got lost in a forest during a break in studies; each of these things represent a fond memory that I never want to forget. Maybe it is easy for you to remove yourself from your personal possessions; I have some friends who do a purge of their things every year to keep their homes sparse and clutter-free. I can do that on a smaller scale, but every time I try I get bogged down in the memories that float back into my consciousness from each item I see. On first meeting the home owner in this dramatic, horror mystery; I thought he had the same issue of not being able to detach himself from his possessions. MAKING THE TRANSITION FROM CITY DWELLERS to country homeowners appeared easy for married couple Annie and Scott Russell, played by Meagan Good (Think Like a Man, The Unborn) and Michael Ealy (About Last Night, Seven Pounds). It was not as easy for the man who sold the house to them. With Dennis Quaid (A Dog’s Purpose, Far From Heaven) as Charlie Peck, Joseph Sikora (Charlie Wilson’s War, Ghost World) as Mike and Alvina August (Bad Times at the El Royale, The Good Doctor-TV) as Rachel; the story seemed quite familiar to me, as if it had been done many times before. If the writers had taken a different direction, maybe this picture would have had more to offer; since the cast was quite capable. Instead, the script was awful, insulting the intelligence of the viewer. It seemed as if every other scene with Dennis focused on his sardonic, sinister smile while the couple continued to make lame decisions. I was so bored by this movie I kept hoping the house would just catch on fire to end the story. When I left the theater, I was mad I had given up my valuable time to sit and watch this ridiculous film.
1 ½ stars
MOST ADULTS, WHETHER THEY THEMSELVES ARE parents or not, do not want to see any harm befall a child. Newborn babies and animals are the most innocent beings on the planet. It is their environment that can color their pure behavior into different shades. There are a couple of mothers I know who have done incredible work finding the best options for their special needs children. One picked up and moved her entire family to a different city that had a learning facility with a stellar reputation for the things they had done with special needs children. This mother first worked tirelessly to get her child acclimated to the new environment, then focused on ushering her child into a new routine created by the learning facility. Because of the mother’s dedication, her child found their niche to excel in a particular field in the arts. The last I had heard, this child had become responsible enough to live in a dorm while taking classes; a huge milestone in this family’s journey. WITH ANOTHER FAMILY I KNOW, THE mother did not want her child to experience the things she had in her life. So, from an early age this mother instilled a fear in her child that festered and grew. When the child reached high school age, they were not prepared for all the changes that usually take place in a high school. Things like clubs and teams to join were threatening to the child as was driver’s education. From that setting the fears infiltrated into life outside of school. Taking public transportation was not an option because the child was afraid of the other passengers; the child imagined one of the passengers could follow them off the bus and do bodily harm or someone could sit next to them and try to do something inappropriate. As you can see the child’s world for the most part was a scary place. Though the mother thought she was doing the best thing, her fears got passed down to her child. The intentions may have been in the right place, but the delivery was off-kilter. At the other end of the spectrum, I recently was part of a conversation where one person was talking about a 6-year-old girl who had no boundaries, whose actions were shocking for their age. The parents did not discipline the child because they did not want to inhibit her. The school administration was having a hard time handling this child. I have been exposed to a wide range of parenting skills, so I was not surprised. However, what took place with the mother in this horror thriller was something completely new to me. THINKING IT WAS A DOMESTIC ISSUE, case worker Anna Tate-Garcia, played by Linda Cardellini (Green Book, Avengers: Age of Ultron), took action when she thought two brothers were in trouble. Their trouble would become her own children’s trouble. With newcomer Roman Christou as Chris, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen (Self/Less, Enchanted Christmas-TV movie) as Samantha, Raymond Cruz (Clear and Present Danger, Training Day) as Rafael Olvera and Sean Patrick Thomas (Save the Last Dance, Cruel Intentions) as Detective Cooper; this mystery film had the potential to give the viewers a scary time. There were some well done scenes; though I have to say, pretty much any scenario involving children would put people on edge and make them pay attention. Unfortunately, the script was a series of standard shock scenes that did not have any substance between them. I enjoyed the buildup of suspense though there was a familiarity to the scary parts. Maybe with a little more thought and research this horror picture could have delivered a better script. As it stands now I do not think your mother would approve of you going to see it.
1 ¾ stars
OVER THE YEARS I HAVE LEARNED that each person handles death in their own way. I also know as one grows older the shock of death loses some of its harshness, in varying degrees. Without classifying them as friend, family or stranger; I knew a woman who couldn’t wait for her husband to die. At the first sign of sickness she immediately had him placed in a nursing facility; she did not want to have anything to do with him. He eventually did die in that facility. Going to a different extreme, I knew a daughter who could not accept the death of her mother. Every day she went to the cemetery to visit her mother, with a thermos of coffee and a sweet roll. She would take a folding chair with her and spend time talking to her mother while sipping her coffee, after pouring a cup for her mother that she perched on top of the gravestone. Next to that cup the daughter placed a piece of the sweet roll on a napkin. When she would leave, she would pour the coffee on the grave and leave the sweet roll. The next day when she returned she would find comfort in the absence of the sweet roll; imagining her mother must have taken it. In reality it probably was either a cemetery employee, bird or rodent. FOR MANY PEOPLE THEIR PETS ARE just as important as their family and friends. There was a man I knew who loved his pets so much that he would have them cremated. In his house he had a shelf devoted to the ashes of his pets; each pet’s ashes were placed in an urn that he would then line up across the shelf. Either resting in front of each one or hanging around the urn itself was that animal’s collar. If you think that is a bit extreme, what about those pet owners who have a taxidermist stuff their pets or freeze dry them for preservation? I have only seen such things on the news, where the dead pet could be curled up on a mantle or sitting up next to a potted plant. If I remember correctly didn’t the news report a few months ago about a celebrity who had her deceased dog cloned? The new puppy looked exactly like their previous pet. I am not one to judge; the way a person wants to handle their loss is up to them as long as it does not have a negative effect on those remaining. See what I mean in this horror thriller. MOVING FROM BUSTLING BOSTON TO PEACEFUL Maine was meant to slow down the hectic life of Dr. Louis Creed, played by Jason Clarke (First Man, Everest), and his family. That all changed when their neighbor Jud, played by John Lithgow (Leap Year, Daddy’s Home Two), showed Louis a part of their land that was supposed to be off limits. With Amy Seimetz (You’re Next, Upstream Color) as Rachel, Jete Laurence (The Snowman, Sneaky Pete-TV) as Ellie and relative newcomer Obssa Ahmed as Victor Pascow; this mystery movie had an interesting style to it. I found some of the filming exceptional that added to the tension of the story. For me, as soon as I see an unkept cat I immediately think something is wrong with it and the cat in this film was giving me the heebie-jeebies. The downfall to this movie was sadly the script. I got tired watching the same scenario done in different ways. Though the acting was okay I never felt connected to the characters. It came to a point where I was looking forward to this movie being over as the dialog got cheesier and predictable. Because this was a remake, I felt the movie studio should have left this story buried and not try to resurrect it.
1 ¾ stars