IT HAS BEEN A LITTLE OVER one year when we first heard about this new virus spreading around the world. Everywhere I looked there was news about people getting sick and being hospitalized due to this unknown virus. Without the knowledge, all these recommendations were coming out on how to protect oneself: such as avoid touching the face, eyes, mouth, physical human contact and common surfaces. Up until this point, I was going to the movie theaters on a weekly basis. With all this information and warnings coming out, I started questioning whether it was safe to continue going to the movie theaters. Less and less people were there each week. Since it was the tail end of winter, I felt I could stay safe wearing a mask and my winter gloves. It certainly was weird to walk into a theater and see no one at the concession stands. The self-serve beverage machines all had big yellow X’s taped across them and there were no employees behind the candy counter. My ticket was on my phone; so, when I got near the ticket taker, I extended my arm out all the way to avoid getting any closer to him. Funny, he did the same thing with his barcode reader pointed towards me. I WAS THE ONLY PERSON WHEN I walked into the movie auditorium. Not sure what to expect, I picked a seat on the aisle all the way back; so, I could avoid having people walking past me. It turned out, I did not have to worry because only 2 other people showed up, taking seats at the bottom row on the opposite side of the theater. I thought about removing my mask but decided to play it safe by keeping it on. There were ceiling fans slowing turning above, but I had no idea what the air quality was like in the theater. In an odd sort of way, I enjoyed having few people sitting in the theater with me. I did not have to be annoyed with the talking, texting and milling about of people that I typically experienced in the past. For two weeks I continued my schedule of going to the theater, despite the COVID news becoming more ominous. There was talk that our governor was going to order our state to be shut down. I wondered what I would do without a first run movie to review, from the theater. The last week before the shutdown was ordered, this film came out at the theaters. I debated with myself if it was a good idea to go since the news was getting worse; I decided to take a pass on this action, science fiction mystery and stayed home. It was a good call. FINDING THEMSELVES IN A MEDICAL FACILITY, five young adults were the test subjects in a study to determine what was their special powers. The doctor running the study said it was to protect them, but something did not feel right about the place. With Maisie Williams (Then Came You, Game of Thrones-TV) as Rahne Sinclair, Anna Taylor-Joy (The Witch, The Queen’s Gambit-TV) as Illyana Rasputin, Charlie Heaton (Shut In, Stranger Things-TV) as Sam Guthrie, Alice Braga (Portrait of a Thief, Elysium) as Dr. Reyes and Blu Hunt (Another Life-TV, The Originals-TV) as Moonstar; this film festival nominee was the movie studio’s attempt to create an origin story about the X-Men. This movie dragged on for a good portion of the time. Though I enjoyed seeing Maisie and Anna in a different type of role, the script was poorly written. I thought the few special effects were meager. In fact, there was blandness to this picture, both visually and mentally. I am glad I did not pay to see this, and have it become the last movie I saw in a theater before our lockdown.
1 ½ stars
I LOOK AT A PARENT AND wonder sometimes, why they ever had children. From the variety of news stories I have seen, I know there is good and bad in every type of group. I am aware of mothers and fathers doing extraordinary things and downright dumb ones. Just recently there was a news report about a father carrying his 2-year-old daughter over barriers to take a selfie in an elephant enclosure. Can you believe it?!?! As you might guess, the elephant charged at them, where the father at one point dropped his child as he was trying to make his escape. I was glad to hear the man was arrested for trespassing and child endangerment. In my opinion, this would be an example of bad parenting. I am reminded of an episode that took place at a movie theater a couple of years ago. A child in the row behind me was kicking the seat in front where a theater goer was sitting a few seats down from me. The movie patron nicely asked the child a couple of times to stop kicking; the child did for several minutes before starting up again. Finally, the person turned around and firmly said to stop it or they would tell the manager. You should have seen the mother; you would have thought the movie goer said they were going to kill the child because the mother went off, yelling and calling the person names until the person got up and went to the manager. The manager told the mother and child they could change seats or leave. ENOUGH WITH THOSE EXAMPLES, I WANT to balance things out by telling you about a couple of friends who I think have amazing parenting skills. One mother picked up her family and moved out of state so her challenged child could attend a special school with a sterling reputation. With the schooling and parenting her child not only graduated high school but is attending college while working a part time job. The growth the child has shown has been remarkable. I have another friend whose child is now 12 or 13 years old. Besides being well mannered, they have such a well-rounded assortment of interests that go way beyond their years. Hearing some of the things that come out of their mouth; you would think you are talking to an adult. There is no denying that many parents sacrifice for the sake of their children. What I witnessed in this film festival winning mystery thriller was a strong example of a mother who never took “No” for an answer; it was a sight to see. WHEN HER DAUGHTER WENT MISSING MARI Gilbert, played by Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone, Strange but True), refused to accept what the police were telling her. In her mind it just was not right. With Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit, Leave No Trace) as Sherre Gilbert, Gabriel Byrne (Louder Than Bombs, The Usual Suspects) as Richard Dormer, Lola Kirke (Gone Girl, Mistress America) as Kim and Oona Laurence (Pete’s Dragon, The Beguiled) as Sarra Gilbert; this movie inspired by true events squarely rested its success on Amy Ryan. Her performance was something to see. Despite what I felt was some choppiness between scenes, I found myself drawn into Amy’s character’s plight. The story has an ick factor and there were a couple of rough scenes to watch; however, I thought overall the directing was good and it tried to keep the story moving forward. As for the script, I appreciated the way it did not sugarcoat things; this was especially noticed during the final scenes. There was a realness that came through that did not seem manufactured. Based on this film, I can only imagine what the real details of the events must have been like. Either way, what an example of a mother fighting for their child.
2 2/3 stars
I NEVER JUDGED HER CHOICE IN men, but I was noticing she had a certain type she liked to date. Most of the men she dated were approximately 20-25 years her senior; though there were a few I met who were closer in age to her. But on the average, she preferred older guys. I did not notice at first nor did it matter to me when I did because I felt age was just a number, it had nothing to do with how a person feels or acts. If my friend was happy and being treated with respect, I was always thrilled for her. When I started noticing her dates were older, I started to pay more attention. I knew her Father had died at a young age, when she was around 8 or 9 years old. Maybe she was looking for a father figure, I wondered. The few times when we double dated, it seemed as if she was content in letting her date take care of everything. What I mean by that is she always deferred to him when an opinion was needed or when the conversation dealt with goals/dreams. The ones I knew she had were now replaced with the ones that her date had expressed. This is when I realized she was looking for a father figure. Again, if that is the relationship that worked for the two of them then I was fine with it. It would make sense that no one would want to live with an empty feeling. NO MATTER WHAT AGE, IT STILL is hard to lose a loved one. Imagine how many of us wish we could have had an extra day or hour to say the things we never got to say. I had a relative who used to fight and argue with her husband constantly. I used to wonder why they remained married to each other. When he died, she carried so much guilt around that she could no longer function. She would tell people she never got to say “goodbye” or “I love you” because they were arguing all the time. I felt sad for her; here the two of them spent their time fighting over things that they never got the opportunity to express the things they had inside of each other. I could see how it was eating her up; she so wanted to talk to her husband and finally say those things she never said when he was alive. If only there was a way we could communicate like, the son did in this film festival winning mystery, crime drama. THE TRAGIC LOSS OF HIS FATHER stayed with John Sullivan, played by Jim Caviezel (Escape Plan, The Thin Red Line), to the point he thought he could still hear his Dad talking. With Dennis Quaid (In Good Company, Far From Heaven) as Frank Sullivan, Shawn Doyle (Don’t Say a Word, Whiteout) as Jack Shepard, Elizabeth Mitchell (Running Scared, Lost-TV) as Julia Sullivan and Andre Braugher (The Mist, City of Angels) as Satch DeLeon; this film is best watched not questioning the fantasy aspect of the story. If that can be done, then I believe the movie would be easier to watch. I enjoyed the multiple story lines and thought Dennis and Jim did an excellent job in conveying their characters. There were a few disturbing scenes showing the aftermath of violence; but gratefully the cameras did not dwell long recording them. There was a bit of jumping back and forth in time; however, it was easy to follow and not distracting to me. As I said before, one needs not to think too much about what is taking place in the story; instead, just sit back and enjoy the way the stories come together.
AS I STOOD WAITING FOR THE elevator a woman walked into the apartment building lobby, took one look at me and said I looked creepy. I said, “Excuse me?” She said the mask I was wearing made me look creepy; she did not like it at all. Her response surprised me because throughout the day I was getting favorable comments on my mask. Even at the stores I had been in, there were several shoppers who stopped me to say they thought my face mask was hysterical. I agreed with them. The mask was new, and it had the lower half of a movie character’s face on it; so, when I was wearing it, it looked like it was a continuation of my face without the goatee. The mouth was open slightly to show a couple of crooked teeth. I didn’t think many people would recognize the actor’s face from the classic movie he starred in, but I did not care; I just wanted to have fun with the mask. I told the woman, who was not wearing a mask, I was surprised by her response because I had been getting compliments on the mask all day. She said she was a psychotherapist and that some of her patients looked just like my mask. I wondered what her patients would think of her description for them. WHEN THE ELEVATOR ARRIVED, I REFUSED to ride with her because she wasn’t wearing a mask. She told me it was not mandatory to wear a mask in the building. I told her I knew that but felt it was important to wear a mask to protect my health as well as any person around me. She wanted to start an argument I thought because she asked me to show her proof. I explained to her I was not a doctor or scientist; but if there was any way I could help to stop the spread of this virus that has killed so many people, I was willing to wear a mask to see if it indeed makes a difference. I couldn’t resist one last comment just before the elevator doors closed; I asked her what the other residents of the building thought of her resistance to wear a mask around them. With her gone, I started thinking about future generations and what they will say about the way we handled the pandemic. Also, what about the amount of people who have died; I wondered how their loss would alter the path to our future. Would future scientists try to do what those in this science fiction thriller tried to do? WITH THE HOPE OF BEING GRANTED parole Cole, played by Bruce Willis (Motherless Brooklyn, Die Hard franchise) agreed to be sent back in time, to find out how a man-made virus spread and wiped out most of Earth’s population. With Madeleine Stowe (The Last of the Mohicans, Short Cuts) as Kathryn Railly, Brad Pitt (The Big Short, Ad Astra) as Jeffrey Goines, Jon Seda (Bullet to the Head, Chicago P.D.-TV) as Jose and Joey Perillo (Rachel Getting Married, The Manchurian Candidate) as Detective Franki; this film festival winner was a kaleidoscope of visual creativity. Almost every scene had something to attract the eye to while the actors cut through the story. There were times where I lost touch with the story and I believe it was because there were multiple story lines. I think the whole film was purposefully done in an over the top type of way; but if there had been a narrower focus on the main story, I feel this picture would have had more of a trippy intensity. Nonetheless, it was a wild ride of entertainment filled with mystery, thrills and drama; all from the safety of my living room.
BEING THE FATHER OF THE BABY was the only thing I knew about him, besides living with the baby’s mother. I knew nothing else like his job, his age or where he came from. I had seen photos of the baby and she was adorable, always with a great big smile on her face; who she looked like I could not say. There was going to be a large social event where we were both going to attend. The baby’s mother was excited to introduce the baby’s daddy to me, talking about him more than usual up until the time of the party. I got the sense she was proud of him and wanted to show him off to me; I was cool with it. When it was time to attend the party, I decided to wear my suit since the event was being held at a hotel’s ballroom. It was easy to get to the place and I was able to find parking in front, which I preferred instead of going into the parking garage. When I entered the ballroom, I was met with the sounds of a DJ spinning his music from atop a stage set up behind a huge dance floor. I made my way through groups of people until I found a familiar face. It was someone I had known for many years. We made some small talk, commenting on the decorations that were placed about the room. IT WAS JUST BEFORE THE WAITSTAFF came out with dinner’s first course, when I felt a tap on the back of my shoulder. I turned around to see the baby’s mother and I assumed father standing side by side behind me. I said hello to her and commented on how tall she appeared. She chuckled and had to show me the high heeled shoes she was wearing. I laughed then directed my attention to the man standing next to her who had been quiet this whole time. Extending my hand, I introduced myself. He took a hold of my hand and gave it a vigorous shake. The three of us fell into easy bantering, though I noticed the baby’s daddy was focusing all his attention towards me. At some point he insisted he buy me a drink at one of the bars that was set up in the ballroom. My gut was telling me to be cautious; I could not explain why I was starting to feel this way, but there was something about him that put me on edge. I knew the baby’s mother would ask me what I thought of him, but I decided that when the time came, I would try to focus on positive statements. However, time would show me that my gut feeling was right. I have been learning to pay attention to my gut feeling, which I believe one of the main characters in this action mystery was doing as well. THERE WAS SOMETHING ABOUT RACHEL, PLAYED by Diane Kruger (In the Fade, Unknown), that made Mossad agent Thomas, played by Martin Freeman (The Hobbitt franchise, Black Panther), believe she would be the right fit for what the agency needed. But when Rachel delves deeper into her assignment, Martin begins to wonder if he had made the right choice. With Cas Anvar (Room, The Expanse-TV) as Farhad, Rotem Keinan (A Tale of Love and Darkness, The Exchange) as Daniel and Lana Ettinger (Live and Become, The Road to Where) as Operative #2; this drama started with a slow pace before the action was introduced. I thought the story was interesting, especially basing it in Tehran. The issue I had though was with the script; there was very little variance in the level of drama and excitement. I found this film turned into a generic, mediocre production. Diane really did a good job of acting as did Martin; but the rest of the cast was not memorable. When the beginning started out slow, I should have listened to my gut; but since there was nothing else to watch at the time, I took a chance. Several scenes with German, Persian, Hebrew, French and Kurdish spoken with English subtitles.
1 ¾ stars
IT SOUNDED LIKE A FUN TIME, so me and a group of friends decided to sign up for it. A charity was holding an event at a large amusement park that was about an hour’s drive away. They had rented out the park for the evening and planned on having games, music, dancing and entertainment besides the rides. I figured it would be less of a hassle to get around the park than on an average weekend day with the big crowds. Also, because they would be serving alcohol in the park, no one under 18 would be allowed. My friends and I were excited about the prospects of having an easier time riding the big attraction rides multiple times. Usually because the lines were so long for the well-known rides, one might be able to go on it only once due to time constraints. I for one do not like waiting in line for over an hour just to ride an attraction for less than one minute. My only concern was the weather; I was hoping there would be no chance of rain, causing the park to shut down some of their rides. Each of us were getting excited as the date got closer. ON THE DAY OF THE EVENT, with a clear blue sky drifting towards twilight, we piled into one car and headed out on the road towards the amusement park. I was the driver for the evening since I did not care for alcohol. While we were making our way there, we decided to come up with a game plan on how to get as many of the “big” rides in while still taking part in the charity’s planned activities. A quick survey showed most of us were excited to tackle the park’s top roller coasters first. I had heard the newest roller coaster was the ultimate thrill ride because it not only spun and swerved around the track, it also plummeted down to an underground tunnel. Some of my friends were planning on doing that ride more than once; while I figured I would go find a less stressful ride, one that didn’t have spinning as a main component. The fastest spinning I can tolerate is the speed of a merry-go-round. Our excitement increased by the time I pulled the car into the parking lot. With tickets in hand, we headed inside the park to carry out our strategy. As we got to the first roller coaster, I was the first one to notice it was not running. Maybe it was broken? We moved onto our 2ndchoice and discovered the same thing; it too was not running. Paying attention now, as we were walking around, we saw many of the “big” rides were shut down. All the excitement we had built up melted into disappointment. I experienced a similar reaction while watching this mystery thriller. DURING A TORRENTIAL RAINSTORM A GROUP of random strangers took refuge in a motel. They thought they would be safe for the night until one of the guests was found dead. With John Cusack (Cell, Grosse Pointe Blank) as Ed, Ray Liotta (Something Wild, Shades of Blue-TV) as Rhodes, Amanda Peet (The Whole Nine Yards, Griffin & Phoenix) as Paris, John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone, The Pardon) as Larry and Alfred Molina (Saint Judy, Frida) as Dr. Malick; this film festival winner was a good old fashioned thriller in the same vein as an Agatha Christie story. I thought the cast did a decent job with their acting, despite the disconnected script. Not that I did not enjoy watching this movie, I did; but I felt let down as the script started winding down to its conclusion. I thought the filming and sets added an extra level of anxiety and dread to the written words. During the picture, I found myself getting into the story with its plot twists and suspense. If only that level experienced in the beginning had lasted all the way to the end.
2 ¾ stars
WHITE HOT, BLINDING HATRED WAS something I rarely encountered for most of my life. The occurrence that comes to mind, where I came face to face with hatred, was when I was on vacation. Several years ago, I had traveled out of state and was exploring the main downtown area of a capital city, when I came upon a peaceful demonstration or rally. I was trying to stay on the sidewalk but there were too many people standing around, so I stepped into the street. As I made my way through, I came upon a grassy area nestled between two buildings. There was orange colored netting, the kind you would see at construction sites, strung across the front length. Behind it was a group of individuals that were holding up signs that they bobbed up and down, while they were pointing and shouting at the demonstrators walking by. I realized they would take me for a demonstrator because I was walking in the street. Normally I would not give it a second thought; however, when I started reading what their signs were saying, I contemplated moving to the other side of the street. Their signs were filled with vile rhetoric, along with some attempted colorful artwork. Someone nearby must have said something to them because suddenly, they started yelling and swearing at the crowd that was around me. The intensity of their yelling and screaming was rapid, to the point I had to go off course and find a side street to bypass the turmoil. THE HATRED ON DISPLAY AND the horrible things that group was saying has stayed with me for all these years. On that trip I did watch the news to see if I could get an understanding of the issues involving the demonstrators and protesters. I could not understand how someone could get so angry, to the point of screaming out things like wishing a person dead or burning in hell. If the demonstrators were marching to change a perception, a law, or to gain recognition; I wanted to know how that would affect the yelling protesters. Based on the things I heard, I had a feeling the protesters would not accept whatever was taking place. I have gotten angry from time to time; but I cannot see myself ever going to such an extreme level to act upon it in such a way. Yet, I am seeing more extreme displays of hatred the past few years than ever before. Allowing hate to grow and fester will make a person act out in such an extreme way that could be harmful; see for yourself in this dramatic, mystery thriller. BECAUSE OF HIS FORGETFULNESS ZEV Guttman, played by Christopher Plummer (The Last Station, All the Money in the World), had a list of instructions to follow once he escaped from the nursing home. Would he understand what he was supposed to do once he reached his destination? With Kim Roberts (I’m Not There, Rookie Blue-TV) as Paula, Amanda Smith (The Cradle, Hellmington) as Cele, Martin Landau (Ed Wood, Crimes and Misdemeanors) as Max Rosenbaum and Henry Czerny (Ready or Not, Clear and Present Danger) as Charles Guttman; this film festival winner avoided mediocrity due to Christopher’s performance. With such a high level of acting skill, the others in the cast did not stand out as much. I thought the story was intriguing and felt the script provided tense and dramatic moments; however, I would have appreciated the characters being provided with more depth. There were a couple of manipulative and slow scenes, I felt; however, the continual suspense buildup kept my interest up. As I stated earlier, Christopher made this a better film and I was curious to see how hatred could motivate a person to act out in such a way.
IF I LISTENED ANYMORE TO THE WEATHER reports I knew I would break down and not venture outside. I tried blocking out the rattling noises coming from the windows being bombarded by the wind. Though it was the afternoon the sky was as dark as the last breath of twilight. Despite the darkness I was able to make out the shape of the tree in my backyard leaning far to the side with its branches jostling like men in a rugby scrummage. Part of my brain was telling me to stay home, but the other part was saying I had to go and see this film that was only playing at one theater in a distant suburb. On a good day it would normally take me 45-50 minutes to get there; I could only imagine how long it would take in the wild rainstorm raging outside. For the next several minutes I had an internal battle of wits with myself. I asked myself how important was it to go see a movie on a day like this; was it worth possibly getting in an accident and getting injured? The movie was one of those independents that only come to the art house theaters; the fact it was playing in a place I could get to was a little miracle in itself. After arguing with myself my irrational side beat out my rational one. SITTING IN MY CAR WATCHING THE garage door open, a scene right out of a movie was being revealed to me. Garbage bins were scattered across the alley, with some having their contents pulled out to scatter across people’s backyards. As soon as I left the safe confines of the garage, I had to turn my windshield wipers on high because the rain was coming down so hard. I had no trouble pulling into the street, but within the first several blocks I had to dodge around fallen tree branches. Rainwater was pooling at the street curbs because the sewers could not handle the amount of water rushing down the streets. If there was any comfort to be had, I found it by seeing there were other cars out on the road; I was not the only crazy person to venture outside. My progress was slow, but I was keeping steady until I came upon a viaduct stretching over the street. I needed to drive underneath it; however, the road was flooded. Making a U-turn, I had to find a different route. Luckily, I did nearly a mile away. Despite the change, I made it to the theater before showtime; but, questioned if this was the best decision I could have made under the circumstances. The main characters in this dramatic, mystery romance found themselves having to make tough decisions as well. HAVING WORKED FOR MONTHS ON A NEW office tower without getting paid, a group of workers make the decision to seek out a better opportunity. The decisions they make will have a lasting effect. With newcomer Mame Bineta Sane as Ada, newcomer Amadou Mbow as Issa, newcomer Traore as Souleiman, newcomer Nicole Sougou as Dior and newcomer Aminata Kane as Fanta; this film festival winner had an interesting and mystical plot that was set in a suburb of Dakar in Senegal. For a cast with no acting experience, they did a believable job with their characters. There were some slow passages throughout the film, where some seemed a bit unnecessary to me. The script intrigued me as it touched upon multiple facets of life experiences. There also was an element of fantasy that threw me for a loop at first, but I soon found myself being drawn further into the characters’ plight. Because of this mix of reality and fantasy, along with the beautiful filming, I found this to be an alluring viewing experience. French, Wolof, Arabic was spoken with English subtitles.
SINCE THE MAJORITY OF MY FRIENDS started driving before I did, I discovered something interesting about parents. I had one friend whose father would always give a list of warnings before handing over the car keys to his son. Some of the things said by the father were, “don’t play the radio while driving,” don’t blast the air conditioning on high” and “don’t eat anything in the car.” Once we were able to get into the car and drive away, I asked my friend what was up with all the warnings from his dad. He told me his dad said the same thing every time he asked for the car, because his dad was always afraid the battery would die if the radio was on or if the fan was on high. I had no experience with cars, so I did not know whether his dad’s concerns were accurate or not. More importantly, I began to realize something else when the car did not die because we were blasting the a/c or the radio; parents may not know all the answers. At a younger age, I had no reason to question the things a parent would say; however, as I got older there were some things I would question. To me, this was all part of the learning process. How would I learn if I did not question things? RECENTLY THERE WAS A NEWS REPORT about a father and his son who were accused of a hate crime. Besides it being a vile act, I had to wonder what was going on inside that family structure that allowed a child to act in such a way. I always thought the idea of raising a child was to help them grow up to think for themselves. Obviously, the son who participated in the crime had the same mindset as his dad. I understand children are like sponges when they are small, but I try to believe that getting an education and socialization provides the tools for the grown-up child to make hopefully responsible and rational decisions. I am reminded of someone I worked with who was a liar just like his dad. Anything either of them would say, I never trusted. Anytime I questioned them they would just make up some story to appease me, hoping I would go away. Because of my experiences growing up, I find nothing wrong with a child questioning a parent. Granted there is no rule book to child rearing, and as a friend of mine says, “Raising a child to grow up and be a decent human being is a crapshoot.” You just never know; which is what the writers of this dramatic, mystery science fiction movie wanted viewers to think about. WITH HUMANITY EXTINCT IT WAS UP to one robot to care for the frozen, stored human embryos. For the robot to be successful it would have to teach the developing human how to be human, according to the robot. With Rose Byrne (Peter Rabbit, Spy) voicing Mother, newcomer Talilia Sturzaker as the child, Clara Rugaard (Teen Spirit, Good Favour) as Daughter, Luke Hawker (Blackspot, The Devil’s Rock) as Mother and Hilary Swank (The Hunt, The Resident) as woman; this film festival winning movie had a thought provoking script. As the picture continued the small twists and turns kept me wondering about certain scenes. Adding in Clara’s performance and I found this movie captivating. It was refreshing to have a science fiction film play out as a dramatic story without the battles and overwhelming special effects. I also enjoyed Hilary’s performance because the introduction of her character changed the flavor of the story for me. Since this film was never on my radar, I consider it a sleeper movie; one that packs more punch than what it appears to be. Even after watching this picture I kept thinking about it which is always a good sign for me.