IT STARTED, I BELIEVE, WITH HER friend not pledging money towards her charity walk. The walk was going to be 5 miles and the idea was for each participant to ask people to pledge a certain amount of money for every mile they walked. You may be familiar with this type of charity event; people would pledge anywhere from one penny to upwards of twenty+ dollars for every mile their friend or relative would walk. My friend who was participating did not say anything outright to me; however, ever since that charity event I could tell she had an attitude towards her friend. There would be subtle negative comments made about the person and my friend started spending less time with her. As months passed there were times where we would all wind up together at a party or event; there was now a layer of tension in the air. It was obvious to me my friend was holding a grudge against her friend for not contributing to her charity walk. I tried reasoning with her; suggesting the possibility her friend did not support that particular charity or simply did not have extra funds. My friend was not buying any of it; she felt because she had given her money for a charitable organization when she was asked to, her friend should have reciprocated and done the same. There was no way convincing her otherwise. MY FRIEND WAS AN EXPERT WHEN IT came to holding a grudge. I thought I was good at it, but she was my equal, if not better. When I was younger if I felt someone slighted me in any way, I would immediately have nothing to do with them. I never looked at the possibilities or reasons why that person acted in such a way; I immediately took it personally and cut myself off from them. However, I never let that stop me from not going to an event they were attending. In fact, I used to relish the chance to show the person I was angry at them, by ignoring them at the event or keeping my part of the conversation to one-word answers. Yeah, it was childish of me; I now realize it. But at the time, I was angry at them. As I am getting older the ease of holding a grudge became harder for me to do. Whether it was because it took more effort or I just started losing interest in it, I do not know for sure. All I do know regarding this horror mystery is I might hold a grudge against the movie studio for wasting my time. AFTER VISITING A HOUSE THAT WAS the scene to a gruesome murder; Detective Muldoon, played by Andrea Riseborough (Mandy, The Kindness of Strangers), started having horrific visions. With Demian Bichir (A Better Life, The Nun) as Goodman, Tara Westwood (The Big Take, Detours) as Fiona Landers, Joel Marsh Garland (The Bounty Hunter, Lady in the Water) as Detective Greco and John Cho (Searching, Star Trek franchise) as Peter Spencer; the script for this picture was dreadful. What made this viewing experience even more upsetting was the fact I appreciated the cinematography and the use of music. There was potential for this remake to deliver something fresh; but instead, there was nothing shown that would make anyone gasp or shudder. I was surprised at how bad this movie came across; there was no reaction coming from any of the viewers who were in the theater with me. The leads had the ability to provide us with decent scares, but the script never provided them with the needed ammo. Time would have been better spent if I instead rented the original Japanese version or the American remake.
1 ½ stars
I WANT TO BELIEVE CORPORATIONS ARE NOT intentionally taking advantage of me along with other consumers; but I cannot help feeling they are whenever I make a change to my account with them. For several years, I had an account with a cable company. When I called to cancel my subscription, they asked me why I was cancelling my account. After I explained my reason, they told me they needed to switch me to an account representative to complete the process; I did not think anything of it. The rep came on the line and asked me a couple of questions. After explaining myself again, the rep asked if I would keep the service if the monthly price was lower. This is where I got annoyed because it was not like they were looking at ways to lower my bill; they were simply willing to reduce the monthly charges to keep me as a customer. Hearing this made me feel like they had been gouging me the whole time. Suddenly when they feared they were losing me as a customer, they miraculously can lower the price now? Why couldn’t they start me out at the lowest price when I signed up in the first place? And the thing is, I know they are not the only company that carries out this type of practice; my friends and family members have told me similar stories about their experiences when they went to cancel their accounts. MY EXPERIENCES WITH THAT COMPANY LEFT a bad taste in my mouth. I have never felt comfortable with companies and individuals who I would classify as schemers; someone or something that makes secret plans to benefit themselves, even if it means taking advantage of or deceiving someone else. I had an acquaintance who I classified as a schemer. Whenever a group of us would get together for a meal at a restaurant, he would always order an expensive item off the menu. He knew we would split the bill, so he always came out ahead in how much he owed. Even when he was the only one who ordered an alcoholic drink, he expected the price of it would be part of the split. I do not mind when one goes out with the same group for a meal and splits the bill each time; sometimes you pay more sometimes less than the cost of what you ordered, it evens out over time. However, this person was always coming out cheaper because the rest of the group was picking up more of his tab. It came to a point where we started asking the wait staff for separate checks and suddenly, he started ordering less expensive food. I did not care to be around him anymore; I had the same feeling about the schemer in this film festival winning dramatic, crime mystery. OVEREXTENDED WITH HIS CUSTOMERS’ MONEY jeweler Howard Ratner, played by Adam Sandler (Blended, The Wedding Singer), was trying to complete a major score before the consequences would have a major affect on his business and family. With newcomer Julia Fox as Julia, Idina Menzel (Rent, Glee-TV) as Dinah, LaKeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You, Short Term 12) as Demany and Eric Bogosian (Talk Radio, Cadillac Records) as Arno; this film festival winning feature provided Adam with the perfect role. He was excellent as Howard. For the first part of the movie I thought the script was repetitive; it pretty much was Howard yelling and swearing at everyone. It came to a point where I got tired and bored with it. I enjoyed the 2ndhalf more because there was at least a better sense of emotional depth on display among the characters. I have to say I prefer seeing Adam in these serious roles instead of comedic ones like he has done in the past. Despite not being comfortable around schemers, I did not find the watching of this film to be an entertaining experience.
2 ½ stars
I USED TO HAVE A FEAR OF dachshund dogs when I was young. It started when one chased me down the street. I was riding my bicycle over by a relative’s house. The streets were familiar to me, but I did not know many of the neighbors; only the ones that were close to my relative’s house. I remember it was before lunchtime and I was riding my bike on the sidewalk of a main thoroughfare. Because the dog was short, I did not see it at first; it was not until I heard it barking as it ran up alongside of me. I started to pedal faster as the dog kept up its barking between snapping at my ankles. I could not believe someone would let such a mean dog out without being on a leash. The dog continued chasing me down the block, only stopping after I veered off the sidewalk and rode over the curb into the street. I was so scared I did not look for traffic beforehand. Luckily, a car wasn’t driving by at that moment. The dog stood at the edge of the curb while it kept barking. I rode back to my relative’s house as I could feel the sweat dripping down my face and back. AFTER THAT INCIDENT ANY TIME I saw a dachshund I stayed away from it, even if the dog was on lease. if I saw someone walking towards me with one, I would cross the street. In fact, I stopped riding my bicycle around my relative’s house because I did not want to take a chance, I would encounter that demon dog. My relative noticed the change and asked me about it. I told her what happened, and she told me not to judge all dachshunds based on one encounter. She suggested, since I loved riding my bike, to ride in the other direction because she could not imagine the dog crossing any streets if it did not follow me into the street. What she said made sense and I did start riding my bike around her place; however, I still hated that breed of dog. It was not until I got older when a close friend of mine got a dachshund. At first, I was hesitant going to his house; but he begged me to come over. Once I saw how docile and cute the puppy was, my dislike for the breed waned. The more we hung out together, the more I started liking the puppy; I had confronted and overcame my fear. This is something the main characters in this mystery, horror thriller needed to do. OVER THE HOLIDAY BREAK A GROUP of sorority sisters staying on campus make plans to celebrate Christmas. However, when a couple of sisters go missing the remaining ones must band together to find out what was happening on campus. This movie starred Imogen Poots (Green Room, The Art of Self-Defense) as Riley, Aleyse Shannon (Charmed-TV, Instinct-TV) as Kris, Lily Donoghue (The Goldbergs-TV, Jane the Virgin-TV) as Marty, Brittany O’Grady (Star-TV, Above Suspicion) as Jesse and Caleb Eberhardt (The Post, Love Beats Rhymes) as Landon. The idea behind this story was a valid one; I could see what the writers were trying to accomplish with female empowerment. However, it seemed that was their only focus because this movie was a disaster. There was nothing that was scary enough to make me react to it. The beginning of the story was okay but then it took a wrong turn and became a silly mess. I thought the acting was below average. At one point it seemed as if everything was going wrong with this picture. I must tell you the scariest part about this movie was me having to sit and watch it. There was a brief extra scene during the credits.
1 ½ stars
IF THE FRY PAN WAS ON the stove, I knew I was going to get a delicious meal. It was a large pan that not only covered the entire burner below it but expanded past into the next burner’s territory. With a long metal handle that had a rubber grip around the end, I loved watching the food cooking in it. One of my favorite things to cook in it was a grilled cheese sandwich. Watching the bread, the thicker the better, go from a whitish color to a golden brown made my mouth water. I always hoped the cheese would ooze out from underneath the top slice to coat the toasty crust. When it would happen, I would spend the first minute of the meal peeling the cheese off the edges with my teeth. Though I liked the soft melted cheese in the middle of the sandwich, I enjoyed the crisp cheesy edges just as much. What I have not told you yet is the best part when it came to making this sandwich; it was when my relative would grab the handle of the fry pan and with a flick of their wrist flip the sandwich into the air to cook the other slice of bread. ANOTHER FAVORITE MEAL OF MINE THAT WAS made in this fry pan was scrambled or over hard eggs. I liked my scrambled eggs dry, where they would become firm enough to form soft yellow pillow shaped forms. For some reason this would remind me of a building block set I used to play with when I was younger. The part I liked about the over hard eggs was watching the eggs turn into a thin white disc with two yellow eyeballs. Sometimes I was given permission to lift the fry pan off the burner slightly to swirl the eggs around. It always amazed me how the eggs never stuck to the pan; they looked like they were skating across the pan’s surface. I remember hearing my relative telling someone how much they loved this pan because nothing would stick to it, making cleanup so much easier. Compared to the pans in my house, this pan looked different. Depending on what was being cooked in the pans at home, they would have to sit in the sink for a while to soak after use. This was done to make the stuck food particles come off easier from the pan’s metal surface. I did not understand why we did not have the same type of pan as my relatives. After seeing this biographical drama, I think I understand. ONLY BECAUSE THE FARMER WAS A neighbor of his grandmother, did Robert Bilott, played by Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers franchise, The Kids are All Right) agree to help solve the mystery of the farmer’s dying cattle. It was a decision that would change Robert’s life. With Anne Hathaway (Ocean’s Eight, Colossal) as Sarah Bilott, William Jackson Harper (Paterson, The Good Place-TV) as James Ross, Tim Robbins (Thanks for Sharing, Mystic River) as Tom Terp and Bill Pullman (The Equalizer franchise, Independence Day franchise) as Harry Dietzler; this story based on true events played like a mystery. The acting was excellent from everyone and the director did a wonderful job of layering the story from scene to scene. As for the story, it was horrifying to me; I had no idea there was more to it than what I had assumed. If what was shown was true, then I certainly had the right to be as outraged as I was while watching this film. I cannot imagine anyone sitting through this movie and not wondering if they got through unscathed. My first thought was wondering if those favorite meals I had eaten harmed me in any way.
3 ½ stars
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.