IS THERE ANYONE WHO DOES NOT wonder where those stains and marks come from in a hotel room? I for one cannot ignore them when I see them. This is why I am never 100% comfortable when I am staying at a hotel. On a trip to the southwest I stayed at a hotel that was one of the tallest buildings in the city. When I walked into my room everything looked fine. Just like most hotels I have stayed in; this one had a bed, 2 nightstands, an armoire, a desk, an easy chair and a floor lamp. When I walked into the bathroom I was immediately horrified because there appeared to be a blood-stained streak on the shower curtain. My mind was flooded with scenarios that could have caused blood to get splattered in the bathroom. I was not going to attempt to clean it, nor could I simply ignore it. If that was not enough, I decided to relieve my bladder before going downstairs to request a room change. When I went to flush the toilet, the water gurgled inside the bowl but never flushed down; it looked as if the water was simmering close to a boil. I wasn’t about to wonder what was causing the toilet not to flush. The room and in turn the hotel creeped me out. ON ANOTHER TRIP I BOOKED A ROOM in this huge, old majestic hotel. I do not remember the year the building was constructed, but it was originally built as an apartment building. With terra cotta appointments on the façade and a lobby that looked like it came out of 1920’s detective story, I thought the hotel was cool looking. The elevators with jet black doors and silver trim creaked as they traveled up the floors, slightly unsteady like an elderly patient. When I walked into the room I was met by a wall that had worn-out flocked wallpaper. As soon as one entered the room they had to make an immediate right turn to go into the living space. It appeared the original apartments must have been carved up to form the hotel rooms; the room had odd shaped corners and the bathroom door nearly grazed the toilet bowl when it was being closed. There was something about the hotel that made me think about the original residences who must have resided here earlier. During my stay little things happened such as the lightbulb burning out and the water faucet groaning whenever it was turned on. I stayed there despite the odd sounds and my concerns for my safety and hygiene. But I will tell you this; I would rather stay in either of the hotels I mentioned than the one in this mystery thriller. A GROUP OF STRANGERS CHECKED INTO the El Royale but not all of them would check out. This dramatic crime film starred Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water, Kingsman: The Golden Circle) as Father Daniel Flynn, Cynthia Erivo (Widows, Mr. Selfridge-TV) as Darlene Sweet, Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, A Bigger Splash) as Emily Summerspring, Jon Hamm (Baby Driver, Million Dollar Arm) as Laramie Seymour Sullivan and Chris Hemsworth (Thor franchise, 12 Strong) as Billy Lee. I enjoyed the cast and the diversity of the characters they portrayed. This picture had a great look to it with a smoldering script, which allowed every actor a chance in the spotlight. I also liked the way the pieces of the story fit together; however halfway through I started to get bored. It seemed as if scenes were written with less detail and emotion. Sometimes it appeared shocking twists were put in for the sake of shocking the viewer. For me this was not as much of a thriller as a slow burn and I had no desire to book a room at this hotel.
2 ¼ stars
MAYBE YOU WOULD NOT GET ANNOYED; but I do when meeting a person for the first time, who is trying to by funny. Humor is and always has been my go to safe spot, so it is not like I am against someone being amusing; however, if I do not know the person I need time to learn about them. The part that bugs me is when the person says something odd, but then says they are only kidding followed up with them saying no, they are not kidding then back to saying they’re kidding. I had this one conversation with this man who tried to make every topic a joke. If it was a straight forward joke where they laughed afterwards, then I would have gotten the message, but that was not the case. They would say something with this deadpan delivery and expression, where I had no idea if they were joking or not. Then they would start the kidding, no kidding cycle; I must tell you that got old fast. In a few minutes I was tired from the confusing signals and politely excused myself. The funny thing though is I love sarcasm and this person was attempting to be sarcastic, but it fell flat. IN A SIMILAR VEIN A PERSON who exaggerates without using humor can be problematic for me as well. This would be someone who enjoys using the words: best, biggest, most expensive, etc. I never know if their statements are true and wonder what they are using as a comparison. At a party I was sitting with a small group of guests. One person was dominating the conversation in my opinion. As I listened it became apparent to me they were either bragging or believed they knew the best places to shop and eat in the country. I so badly wanted to ask what made it the best place but honestly, I was not interested. If they had simply talked about a particular restaurant or store I would have been curious to hear about it; but add in one of those words I listed earlier, and I start to feel like all they are doing is bragging to a crowd. Before you think I am a horrible guest, let me say I totally enjoy hearing people tell their stories. Maybe I do some editing of them quietly in my head as I navigate thru their version of humor and/or exaggeration; but overall, I still like a good story and the main characters in this mysterious crime drama had me paying close attention to their story. HAVING ONLY RECENTLY MET, STEPHANIE SMOTHERS and Emily Nelson, played by Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect franchise, Table 19) and Blake Lively (The Shallows, The Age of Adeline), were fast becoming friends. So, when Emily asked Stephanie if she could pick her son up after school, Stephanie was eager to please. She was not expecting Emily to disappear and not come back. With Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians, The Bachelorette-TV) as Sean Townsend, Andrew Rannells (The Intern, Bachelorette) as Darren and newcomer Ian Ho as Nicky Nelson; this dark comedic crime story was a blast to watch. Anna and Blake were so good together I would like to see them together again in another film, they had a great chemistry that shined on the big screen. There were a couple of holes in the script, but I did not care; there was so many twists and surprises that kept the story going. I also thought the use of humor added a whole fresh element. Little did I know I was entering such an entertaining experience with this picture, where I got the humor and enjoyed the outrageousness.
3 ¼ stars
THESE ARE JUST MY OBSERVATIONS BASED on the people I have encountered; I am not judging any of them, only fascinated with their perceptions of life. This is what I have seen: people who are born into wealth have a different outlook of the real world. One of the first things I noticed was everything is disposable to them. Where I will try to repair something that is broken, they will throw it away and buy another one. If I had this type of mentality, a quarter of the things in my house would be tossed out into the garbage. I do not know if I have the right to say these individuals lack a sense of appreciation for everything they have, but I have seen several occasions where perfectly good things that could be easily repaired, even by me, get trashed as if they were used tissue being tossed into the garbage. Another aspect I find interesting is their choice of cars. It seems to me they buy their cars based on name brand instead of comfort; though I guess the more expensive a car the more it is geared for comfort. I knew someone who never test drove the car before purchasing it; they would only sit in it for a minute while in the showroom then make a decision. IT SEEMS TO ME AS IF wealthy individuals lack the understanding of what the average person deals with on a daily basis. Maybe this example will explain it and keep in mind this was before car sharing was available. When I was explaining to a person that I take public transportation to the airport to avoid paying the parking garage rates to leave my car, they asked why I didn’t just take a limo instead. I had to explain to them that would defeat the purpose of saving money by not taking my car. They thought it was too much of an inconvenience to go through all of that when one could easily order a limousine. Does this help explain what I am trying to say? There was another individual who chided me for my choice of restaurants when I need a quick meal. They could not believe I would “waste” my money by eating at a fast-casual place; to them, they compared it to me being fed dog food. Can you believe it? So, therefore I feel people born into wealth have a different set of tools in dealing with everyday life. See for yourself in this dramatic, mystery horror film. DR. FARADAY, PLAYED BY DOMHNALL Gleeson (Peter Rabbit, About Time) had not been in the mansion since he was a little boy; but upon his arrival strange things began to happen. With Ruth Wilson (Saving Mr. Banks, Dark River) as Caroline Ayres, Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, Never Let Me Go) as Mrs. Ayres, Will Poulter (Detroit, We’re the Millers) as Roderick Ayers and Josh Dylan (Allied, Mama Mia! Here We Go Again) as Bland; this movie was all about the atmosphere of the settings. The camera angles, the sets, the acting; all were done to create this spooky environment. The acting from everyone was wonderful; but once again, the script was the weak spot. I thought the story dragged through the first half and because the film is being labeled a horror movie, I thought it would have some level of scariness; it did not. Instead there was some suspense, but the writers and director could have really made this picture one intense suspenseful piece of work. There was an old decaying mansion, a troubled family and a small-town doctor; this was a perfect set-up, especially with the fine actors. Instead, I found an odd mix of events that was not engaging me.
2 ¼ stars
THERE ARE SOME SITUATIONS AND PLACES that cause us to be fearful or simply creep us out. I get uncomfortable when, sitting in a movie theater with only a handful of patrons, someone enters and sits directly behind me. Most of the seats are empty, yet they choose the seat right in back of me; my mind immediately flashes images of what they could do to me. Have a wire loop to choke me; cut my throat with a knife; you get the picture. Yes, I see a lot of movies; I get these types of visuals immediately. It isn’t pretty. I feel the same way when I am on public transportation and the person sits close to me, though there are vacant seats all over the bus or train car. Oh, I almost forgot; standing in line and you can feel the person’s breath on your neck because they are standing in your personal space. On the other hand, there are people who do not like clowns; everyone has their own personal list of things that scare or make them feel uncomfortable. MY FEARS AND THINGS I FIND creepy predominately come from people; however, there are many individuals who get scared by places. I had no idea my garage was a scary place for example. For me, a garage is just a place to park my car; I do not devote a bit of time in the maintenance of it. Yet a friend of mine, I recently discovered, does not like walking into my garage because there are visible cobwebs in it. Nothing that one would accidently walk into, but they can be seen on the windows and rafters. Honestly, I never gave them a second thought, but my friend took one look at the cobwebs and decided to wait in the alley until I could pull my car out. I never knew I had a fear of this but on a trip I took a few years ago, I started getting scared driving on a deserted remote road. I wondered what would happen if the car broke down because there was no sign of life anywhere. Stranded with no cellular service, no gas station, no road lights, all by myself; I ask you, how would you feel in such a situation? You must admit it certainly looks like the start to a horror movie. I had the same feeling and thoughts as I started to watch this mystery, horror thriller. WHEN A NUN WAS FOUND DEAD hanging from a window of her monastery, the Vatican dispatched Father Burke, played by Demian Bichir (The Hateful Eight, A Better Life), who had some experiences in such types of situations. With Taissa Farmiga (The Bling Ring, American Horror Story-TV) as Sister Irene, Jonas Bloquet (3 Days to Kill, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets) as Frenchie, Bonnie Aarons (The Princess Diaries franchise, The Fighter) as The Nun and Ingrid Bisu (The Zero Theorem, Outbound) as Sister Oana; this movie had all the earmarks of being a real scary story. The set pieces, the music, being part of The Conjuring franchise; everything was in place, including the excellent acting from Taissa, for me to get into this picture. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be the case. There were a few scenes with potential, but the writers never took it any further out of being a predictable setup. There was nothing real “jump in your seat” worthy; though there were a few creepy scenarios. By the end of the film I was left with a “meh” feeling. I must tell you, in my opinion I feel as if the whole Conjuring story line has reached the end of the line. It was a well-done horror movie in the beginning, but now with this installment there doesn’t seem to be anything creepy left to tell us.
1 ¾ stars
WHILE LOOKING AT OLD PHOTOGRAPHS I could not stop asking myself what was I thinking to wear such a thing. I understand part of the fashion industry’s mission is to constantly update clothing trends, so consumers will buy clothes for every season of every year. If all we wore was a pair of blue jeans and a plain cotton shirt, the clothing manufacturers would not last long. As far as I am concerned there is no reason to ever wear pleated pants; this is just my opinion. The clothing choices I saw in my old photos could be classified more as a fad. I do not mean to disrespect any culture or group of people, but there really was no reason I needed to wear puka shells/beads around my neck. There was a time where wearing puka beads was considered cool; I have no idea why but as I saw other people wearing them, I decided I needed them. Another fad I went through was Nehru and surfer shirts. I cannot remember when these items were a fad but all of us wore them. In fact, it was extra cool to wear a Nehru collared shirt with puka beads around the neck. Please do not judge me but at one point I even made my own puka bead necklaces. IN WRITING THIS REVIEW TODAY I looked up other fads from the past and came up with a variety of items. There was the Slap Bracelet, Garbage Pail Kids, Push Pops and Jelly shoes. Most fads, such as the ones listed, were innocuous; they are what I consider a singular fad because you do not need anyone to participate along with you. However, there are some fads that have a darker side. What may start out as a fad could turn into a cult. I have to wonder if the flash mob videos that were posted online was the spark that lead individuals to start posting more and more daring or unusual events. Do you remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? It was a novel idea created for a good cause; but, do you think it could be the first step in people trying more difficult and dangerous challenges to gain notoriety? The subject of today’s film started as a fad that I saw in the news led two Wisconsin 12-year old girls to lure their friend into the woods to stab her multiple times, just to impress this fictional character who stars in this horror, mystery film. WHILE A GROUP OF FRIENDS START to check out the internet stories about the Slender Man, one of them goes missing. Starring Joey King (White House Down, The Conjuring) as Wren, Julia Goldani Telles (The Affair-TV, Bunheads-TV) as Hallie, Jaz Sinclair (Paper Towns, When the Bough Breaks) as Chloe, Annalise Basso (Captain Fantastic, Oculus) as Katie and newcomer Alex Fitzalan as Tom; I cannot think of one positive thing to say about this incredibly, poorly thought out movie. The acting was basic; add in the dull script and it was close to painful to sit and watch this mess. I thought the special effects were a total joke. Taking a telephoto camera lens and moving it quickly back and forth from near to far did not produce anything close to scariness for the scene; if anything, it simply made me dizzy. I was not familiar with the Slender Man; but if one should be fearful of him, this picture did not place him in the proper light. There was nothing scary or suspenseful in the story. If this character of the Slender Man was supposed to be sinister, then the writers completely missed the point. My deepest wish is for this fad to go away; I never want to see a sequel or hear about him again.
1 ½ stars
IT WAS A MONTH AFTER HER death when we came together for a memorial service of her life. She chose to be cremated; so next to a poster sized photograph of herself, sat a simple carved urn filled with her ashes. I had only met her once; she was my friend’s mother. The memorial service was being performed in a chapel that barely held all of us attendees. I knew very few people so when I arrived I immediately went to sit down after paying my respects to my friend. Being a people watcher, I watched as the guests eventually walked in to take a seat. They came from all walks of life, I must say. Some stood out by the outfits they were dressed in. I cannot say they were inappropriate; let me just say I would never have associated their clothing choices with a memorial service. With that being said, the service was touching as various individuals stood up to give eulogies and share funny stories about the deceased. It was fascinating to see the different facial expressions people had on their faces; if you did not know why everyone was gathered, you couldn’t figure out if it was a sad or happy occasion. AFTER THE SERVICE I ACCOMPANIED my friend back to her mother’s house. She wanted me to help move and store some of her mother’s items and furniture. As we drove up to the house the first thing that struck me was that it looked like it was hand made. The house was tiny and a bit rundown. It needed a paint job and the front stairs sagged in the middle, giving off an eerie sneering appearance. When we entered the house, I was immediately struck by the assortment of either items or devices that were placed in every room. In the living room was a wooden staff leaning up against the wall, that was carved entirely with elephants stacked on each other. On the wall was a framed mirror that caught my eye. The entire frame consisted of tiny human faces that were either carved into the wood or glued on top; it was an odd piece to me. I must tell you I found the whole place somewhat weird. There was a variety of different items; whether they were relics or newer I could not tell. All I know is I was glad when we finally finished and could get out of the place; though after seeing this dramatic mystery horror film, I would rather live in my friend’s mother’s house than join this family in theirs. AFTER HER MOTHER HAD DIED estranged daughter Annie, played by Toni Collette (Please Stand By, Little Miss Sunshine), and her family started to experience odd feelings and occurrences in and outside of their home, as if Grandma never left. With newcomer Miley Shapiro as Charlie, Alex Wolfe (Patriots Day, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) as Peter, Gabriel Byrne (Miller’s Crossing, Endless Night) as Steve and Ann Dowd (Compliance, The Manchurian Candidate) as Joan; I found this suspenseful story creepy and twisted. That was a compliment because I was easily drawn into the film by Toni’s unbelievable acting, along with the rest of the cast and the non-typical script. There were some surprises in the way the story turned and I thought the filming and directing worked in synch to create this foreboding atmosphere. Some of you know I am not a big fan of horror films that have lots of blood and violence; this picture did have a couple of scenes with blood but the majority of it was more of the suspense genre, which I enjoy more. It is funny how you think you know someone then find out later something completely different about them.
IT HAS BEEN YEARS SINCE I thought about a game we had to play in PE class. My adult self cannot believe we had to play what now looks like a brutal, archaic competition. The class would be split in half by whoever the gym teacher chose to be team captains for that week. There was a green line that was painted down the center of the gymnasium which neither team could pass. With 3 balls placed equal distance apart on the line the gym teacher would blow a whistle to start the game. The fastest running students from each side would sprint to the center to retrieve one of the balls. From there utter chaos would take place. You see the point of the game was to hit a student from the opposing side with the ball, to kick him out of the game. No matter where the ball touched the student, they would be eliminated and have to go sit in the bleachers until the game was over. The aggressive students or to be more accurate, the mean students would purposely try to hit the students in the head with the ball; this was usually followed with a cheer or laughter. As I am writing this I still have no idea how this game was promoting good health. THE GYM TEACHER CALLED THIS game “Bombardment.” I do not know if that is the real name or if in fact he just made this game up for his own enjoyment. It floors me that an activity like that was even approved by the principal, school district or whatever agency oversees school curriculum. You should have seen how hard the ball was thrown at the heads of kids by the “rougher” students; you could actually see their heads snap back by the force of the ball. The more timid students would stay all the way in the back, right up against the wall to avoid getting hit. However the downside of doing this was opening up the possibility they would be one of the last standing, giving the opposing team the opportunity to grab all the balls and pummel the poor student at the same time. I thought the whole thing was barbaric then as I do now. There was no purpose as far as I could tell in participating in such a violent game. In today’s world I am sure this game would have been banned from all schools. It needs to stay in the past, just like this sequel should have done. UNDER A GOVERNMENT PROPOSAL A small Canadian town would become part of the United States. This meant the Canadian Mounties were being replaced by the Super Troopers. Not everyone was on board with this transition to the point they wanted to sabotage the plan. This comedy starred Steve Lemme (The Origins of Wit and Humor, The Slammin’ Salmon) as Mac, Eric Stolhanske (Club Dread, Beerfest) as Rabbit, Brian Cox (Troy, Adaptation) as Captain O’Hagan, Jay Chandrasekhar (Beerfest, Speechless-TV) as Thorny and Kevin Heffernan (The Dukes of Hazzard, Club Dread) as Farva. After 17 years this group returns in a story that was weak right from the start. I do not remember the first film so maybe diehard fans will appreciate this movie. I found it painful; the so called humor was dated, cheap and offensive. I felt like I was surrounded by those students I described above; that is how infantile some of the characters were in their scenes. Honestly I could not wait for this film to be over since I felt like I was being beaten by the barrage of dated material. If this is the best the writers could come up with after 17 years then I vote for Canada to annex this franchise and put a stop to it.
1 ¼ stars
FOR MANY YEARS I DID NOT realize the ability to “read” an individual was a gift. I just assumed everyone was capable of doing it. As a kid there was a teenage neighbor that was polite and quiet. I did not have much interaction with him; I thought it was due to the age difference. However I always got a cautious feeling when he was around me. I could not explain it but there was just something about him that made me wary of him. One day I was walking down the backstairs with a cousin when the neighbor appeared at the bottom of the stairs we were about to descend. Without warning the teenager threw a rock at us and hit my cousin in the forehead. As the two of us ran back up the stairs the neighbor ran out into the alley and disappeared. Another example of being able to see a person’s true self happened when a friend of mine started to date this man who right from the start was making her all these promises of what their life would be together. Really, I thought; it was not long into their new relationship when his true intentions came out. The guy told her his funds were temporary tied up and he needed $500.00. Need I go any further in this story? SO THE ABILITY TO GET a sense of a person’s true intent is a valuable tool to include (if available) in one’s check off list when evaluating an individual. Now I do want to make it clear there is a distinction between “reading” a person and making a judgment about them. I do not believe my feelings about someone are written in stone; it may be only a feeling that causes me to be more cautious, but I do not assume the person is absolutely what I think they are in inside. Only time will tell the truth and even that is not always a given. I guess this is the area where one can only look for red flags, warnings that something is not right. I have heard just from my friends alone, so many stories about a person pretending to be someone they are not. It is even more prevalent on social media sites. And the ironic thing is this has been going on for such a long time; the only difference is there are now more people being duped who have stopped giving a person the benefit of the doubt, taking longer before they begin to trust someone. The main character in this mystery thriller will show you how it is done. PRIMA BALLERINA DOMINIKA EGOROVA’S, played by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games franchise, Joy), career was cut short due to an accident during a performance. With no other means to support herself and her mother, she was ripe to be recruited into a special Russian spy program. She would become a quick learner. With Joel Edgerton (The Gift, Warrior) as Nate Nash, Matthias Schoenaerts (The Danish Girl, Rust and Bone) as Vanya Egorov, and Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, Never Let Me Go) as Matron; I thought the actors were well cast in this film. Granted Jennifer was the star of the story and gave it her best, but due to the uneven script I did not get totally wrapped up into the story. There were scenes that were intense but then we would go through a dull lull before something exciting happened again. I thought the story was sound but not everything clicked together in this picture. Also I felt the violence and sex on display were used as a distraction for the poorly written script. I had a sense this film would not match up to the excitement of the movie trailers; I guess I should listen to myself more often.
I DO NOT THINK I would ever be accused of being a game snob; at least I don’t think so. Games provide two important functions in my opinion: they activate the brain and instill a sense of pleasure and fun in the individual. When one can assemble a group of willing participants into playing a game, they should consider it an achievement. I say this because I have been a part of several game nights where there were players who made sure everyone knew they were not having fun. Or worse yet I knew this man (a friend was dating him) who was one of the worst game players I have ever encountered in my entire life. He would yell, scream and belittle any of his teammates if they were not doing what HE thought they should be doing to win the game. It was so awful to sit there and have this guy dramatically, yes dramatically, talk down to someone for making a move that did not help their team’s score. I finally told my friend I would never play with them again; gratefully she stopped dating him soon after. ON THE OTHER HAND I have played with some people who were so disinterested that you had to literally tell them what to do throughout the whole game. They would not pay attention to when it was their turn, the rules or what their teammates were doing when it was their turns; it made one wonder why they agreed to play a game in the first place. Now I do not have an issue with anyone saying they are not interested in playing something; if they want to sit it out I am fine with it. But if you agree to play a game I feel one should at least show an effort and if need be become a team player. When you have several people on one team with one person who is not engaged with everyone else, it does throw the game off. I remember when I was participating on a bowling team and one of the players made no effort in playing; I mean they would just pick up a bowling ball and throw it down the alley without any concern if they hit a pin or not. The rest of the team you could tell was not happy they had this person as a teammate. It just made for an uncomfortable time and that is not something I want to be a part of; the same could be said for either of the teams in this mystery crime comedy. THE GAME NIGHT HOSTED BY Annie and Max, played by Rachel McAdams (Spotlight, The Notebook) and Jason Bateman (Bad Words, The Family Fang), was in for a surprise when Max’ super competitive brother Brooks, played by Kyle Chandler (Manchester by the Sea, Friday Night Lights-TV), showed up and decided to take the competition up a notch with a murder mystery game. Even when there was an actual kidnapping the players continued on with the game. With Sharon Horgan (Imagine Me & You, Man Up) as Sarah and Billy Magnussen (The Big Short, Into the Woods) as Ryan, this cast was exceptionally well suited for the script. I particularly thought Jason and Rachel were perfect playing off of each other. The story seemed familiar to me, but at least there were a few good laughs in the movie. I actually liked seeing Kyle in a different type of role for himself and thought he handled it well; his fight scenes were really good. There are some twists to the plot and those who have a sibling might relate to the sibling rivalry angle. The odds are tipped in favor of having an easy, fun time watching this film.
2 ½ stars