EVERY TIME I WALKED INTO THEIR house; I was always hit with a mix of different smells. One time it could be cedar, vanilla and dust; well at least I thought it smelled like dust. Another time I would smell a combination of wet grass, sawdust and sandalwood. I always wanted to know where these scents were coming from, but it was impossible to narrow it down to a specific spot in their house. You see, there was so much stuff packed into their house, it was hard to decipher which one item or more were emitting the aroma. Not that their house was messy, it was not. Everything had a place; it was just their house had more places than any other house I had visited. I liked visiting this couple because there was always something new to find whenever I would be allowed to play in one of their children’s rooms, when I was a small boy. One time, when I was playing in their basement, I found a stack of old newspapers that were brittle and yellow. Looking at the dates, I realized they had been keeping these papers for over 30 years. I asked them why and they said that it was proof of the historical events that happened in our lifetime. It did not make too much sense to me, since the newspapers were disintegrating from age. AS THE COUPLE GOT OLDER, MORE types of different smells floated through the house. For some reason the inside of the house did not look as bright as it did when I was younger. Maybe the paint had dulled over the years or the lights and lamps were dimmed with age. Or maybe, the house was darker because there was more stuff in it; I really wasn’t sure. Not that it stopped me from visiting the two; I still enjoyed my visits with them. Though I have to say their cooking skills diminished greatly. Whenever we were having a meal with them, there was always some food dish that was either not cooked long enough or burnt. I remember one time there was a plate of my favorite, chocolate chip cookies. The bottoms were nearly black from overcooking and when I tried to bite into one, my teeth could barely break the cookie apart. All I could taste was the overcooked parts; they were so bitter and strong that I could not taste any chocolate. Now despite these, let us say, inconveniences; I still enjoyed spending time with them and listening to their stories. They had such interesting things to talk about and I was always a willing participant to hear what they had to say. I felt the same way about the married couple in this horror, mystery thriller. FOR THE MANY YEARS LORRAINE AND Ed Warren, played by Vera Farming (The Departed, Bates Motel-TV) and Patrick Wilson (Young Adult, The Phantom of the Opera) had experienced demonic forces, the possession of a young man would unleash a force they had never seen before. With Ruairi O’Connor (Teen Spirit, Handsome Devil) as Arne Cheyenne Johnson, Sarah Catherine Hook (Monsterland-TV, The Valley-TV) as Debbie Glatzel and John Noble (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Running Scared) as Kastner; this latest installment of the franchise started out with an interesting story line. I thought Vera and Patrick really sold this film because the script was too blurred in its message. At times I found myself being confused with what timeline I was watching, and the scary thrills were just not there for me. Then suddenly a scene would start that grabbed my attention because it was frightfully intense. If Patrick and Vera were not in this movie, it would have received a lower rating; it already had a tired feeling to it. Hopefully the next installment will go back to its roots where it made a name for itself.
THEY APPEARED TO BE SUCH A HAPPY family, then why did a dozen roses arrive at the office from a different man, I wondered. After they were delivered, I brought them to her desk. The card was poking out to the side and that is where I saw the signature. It was not her husband’s name. She was thrilled with the roses; it was obvious since she sniffed each individual rose. I walked back to my desk, processing this odd turn of events. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I could hear her bragging about her boyfriend being so sweet. Her boyfriend!??! She was married with 2 kids, yet she is going around telling everyone about her boyfriend; this made no sense to me. One of her co-workers must have asked her about the boyfriend because I heard her say she and him have been together for almost two years. The part I found most disturbing was the fact her daughters knew about it. The girls were only 14 and 8 years old. The fact she confides in her daughters about her affair sends an awful message to them, in my opinion. I can only imagine what this woman says about her husband when her children ask about their father under these circumstances. THIS DECEPTIVE OR MAYBE NOT SO deceptive plan is something I do not understand at all. You could say I have a negative opinion about it. If I was no longer in love with the person I was with, I would end the relationship before starting a new one. I could not stay with someone while cheating on them behind their back. There was a man I used to work with who would make his employees lie to his wife about his whereabouts because he was meeting up with random women during the workday. I was fortunate I was never in a position to have to lie for him because I do not know if I could have done it. Just get a divorce and leave the relationship with some dignity. Now I do understand some people associate divorce with failure, but I do not agree with that thinking. I knew a couple who stayed together because they were afraid what their neighbors and friends would say about them. This concept about appearances is so warped; why should someone worry what someone else thinks about them when it comes to relationships. Sure, I can see talking to a close family member or best friend about a personal issue; but to worry about what a neighbor or acquaintance thinks makes no sense to me. Knowing my thoughts about affairs, you will understand my uncomfortableness with how certain things were handled in this Academy Award nominated romantic drama. A SUBURBAN TOWN IN MASSACHUSETTS LOOKS like the ideal place to live until you see some of the cracks in its foundation. With Kate Winslet (The Mountain Between Us, Revolutionary Road) as Sarah Pierce, Jennifer Connelly (House of Sand and Fog, Only the Brave) as Kathy Adamson, Patrick Wilson (The Phantom of the Opera, The Conjuring franchise) as Brad Adamson, Jackie Earle Haley (Shutter Island, The Birth of a Nation) as Ronnie J. McGorvey and Noah Emmerich (The Truman Show, Blood Ties) as Larry Hedges; this film festival winner was an intense, well-done film. The acting was so good to begin with that the script and direction only served to elevate it to a higher level. There were several emotionally powerful scenes that took my breath away, thanks to the way the writers carefully peeled back its layers without inserting any judgements or manipulative techniques. Putting my personal ethics aside, I felt this was a well-crafted story that the actors convincingly conveyed to the viewers.
3 ½ stars
OUT OF THE CLASSROOM WINDOW I SAW two boys fighting. I was working on homework in study hall, but I kept looking up at the two fighters. They appeared to be from an upper grade because I never saw either of them in any of my classes. As was typical, at least at the schools I attended, there were several other students hovering near the two boys to watch them fight. As far as I could tell it seemed like the two were evenly matched. They were exchanging punches and kicks equally. At some point as I was watching them one of the boys tripped on something and fell backwards. As he hit the ground the other boy pounced on top of him and showered him with body and face blows. The poor boy did not have a chance to regain himself and fend off his assailant. It wasn’t until the fallen boy’s face started bleeding that the other boy got up off him and started to walk away, but only after giving the defeated boy one last kick in the stomach. The boy on the ground curled up into a fetal position and laid there as an instructor was running up to him. I TRIED GOING BACK TO MY STUDIES, but the images of the two boys fighting would not fade from my memory. As they replayed in my mind, I remembered the one boy tripping and it occurred to me if he had not fallen the outcome might have turned out differently. It might have been a pebble, stick or some litter that caused him to trip. I thought of all the lucky breaks he could have gotten, he wound up getting one case of bad luck that sealed his fate. Up until that point, I never thought about how luck plays a part in a fight. Maybe because of the video games I used to play, where everything was in a more controlled environment, it made me think skill was the only important factor in a battle. I started looking at the fights I had been in and wondered how big of a factor did luck play in my losses. Since I was mostly on the receiving end, I cannot remember all the details. However, I remember one fight where 3 boys were chasing and throwing stones at me. They had been chasing me for three blocks when suddenly we were all getting drenched in a downpour. For some reason they broke off their pursuit and I made my way home through back alleys. I can see that was a lucky break for me just as I can now see how luck played in the historical battle in this dramatic action film. AFTER THE SURPRISE ATTACK ON PEARL HARBOR, the United States Navy was left exposed to an ultimate defeat. So many things needed to be in place if the US government wanted any chance of pushing back Japan’s Imperial Navy. With Ed Skrein (If Beale Street Could Talk, Alita: Battle Angel) as Dick Best, Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring franchise, The Phantom of the Opera) as Edwin Layton, Woody Harrelson (Shock and Awe, Natural Born Killers) as Chester W. Nimitz, Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast, Dracula Untold) as Wade McClusky and Mandy Moore (A Walk to Remember, This is Us-TV) as Ann Best; this movie had a lot to live up to because of the well-known true events this story was based on. I thought the CGI effects were excellent, providing an extra thrill to the aerial fight scenes. The story itself is incredible; but sadly, the script was a big letdown for me. I found the dialog cheesy, filled with rah-rah moments by characters trying to build up morale. The acting did not register with me as anything great, but that might have more to do with the script lacking any depth or emotion for the actors to play on. What bad luck for this picture to get a deficient script for such a world changing battle.
IT WAS A SIMPLE MOTTO THAT I did not need repeated multiple times. It went like this: “Our house, our rules; their house, their rules.” Nothing more needed to be added to it. When I was home there were things I was expected and allowed to do; but, when I went to someone else’s house I had to be respectful and act according to the rules of their place. Even with my young mind back then, it made perfect sense to me. I would never go to someone else’s place and make myself comfortable without following the lead of the hosts. Even today before I walk into a person’s house I ask if they prefer I take my shoes off. I am always amazed at people who walk into someone’s place with their shoes on when they are wet or dirty from the outside. You can see where they stepped on the floor by the residue from their shoes, but they are oblivious to it somehow. I would be mortified to track in dirt from the outside into someone’s house! All I could think about is what that person’s house must look like if they are so unaware as to what they are doing. WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO FOR me is “respect.” If a person is not instilled with the importance of respect, they are susceptible to more of life’s challenges. I know such an individual. When they are over at someone’s house, it doesn’t occur to them to ask if it would be okay to do such and such. They will just go ahead and turn on an electronic device, like a television or stereo. That right there is rude to me, but there is more. Not only will they turn on something, they will fool around with the device’s settings if they feel something is not right; I was told this by the owner of the house. When the owner went to turn on the TV they could not get a station to come up on the screen; their guest at some point during their visit had made changes without informing the owner. Not that I want to step onto a soapbox right now, but right there is what I see wrong with our current times; the lack of respect. I do not expect anyone to accept my way of doing things; however, all I ask is for them to respect it. As I said earlier it all comes down to respect and it is because of that I was annoyed with one of the characters in this horror, mystery thriller. THE ONLY THING THAT WOULD PREVENT Annabelle from inflicting horror on others was to keep her locked up in a glass case that was blessed by a priest, according to husband and wife demon chasers Lorraine and Ed Warren, played by Vera Farming (The Front Runner, Source Code) and Patrick Wilson (The Commuter, Insidious franchise). Never open the case was the only rule; now if only everyone would follow the rules. With McKenna Grace (Gifted; I, Tonya) as Judy Warren, Madison Iseman (Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) as Mary Ellen and Katie Sarife (Abel’s Field, Teen Spirit) as Daniela Rios; this latest installment of the film franchise left me wanting more. I found it less scary than the ones before it. However, I will say I enjoyed McKenna’s performance the most then the other 2 young actors. There were opportunities where I felt the scenes could have been creepier, but they never went beyond a certain level. It almost felt as if the picture and story were put together quickly to cash out, while people are still aware of the Conjuring film series. I did not feel, as a viewer, I was being given much respect by the choices the movie studio made to get this movie out.
THE WORLD HAS A DIFFERENT FEELING for those who walk through life with a strong sense of confidence. To believe in one’s own capabilities has an immediate, positive affect on a person’s persona. I have seen what confidence or the lack of can do to an individual. What fascinates me the most is how does a person become confident? At first, I thought it was something that you were born with, as if it was based on genetics. However, the more examples I encountered the more my thinking changed to the idea that outside influences play a large part in molding a person’s confidence. Parents and other family members, I believe, play a major role in whether a child grows into becoming a confident individual or not. I have come across a multitude of parents whose actions prevent their child from feeling confident. There are some parents who have no idea how their words can send their child reeling into a cavern of uncertainty; simply saying “Why did you do that?” can be taken one of two ways. It could be asked to see a child’s thought process, or it can be said with a harsher tone, so it immediately comes out in a negative way. ALONG WITH FAMILY MEMBERS THERE ARE other forces that come into play regarding a child’s perceptions about his or her own abilities. It can be a teacher, cashier; pretty much anyone who provides a positive reinforcement to the child. There was a family I used to know who had three children. For whatever reason the oldest child seemed, at least to me, to get most of the parents’ attention. They would do more things for this eldest child, such as signing them up for multiple classes and sports. The middle child became quiet despite trying to find ways to please his parents, hoping to gain their attention aka affection. Sadly, by living in the shadow of the older sibling, the parents did not realize what they were doing. As the children grew up the middle child excelled in science with the encouragement of a couple of teachers. Experiments were entered into science fairs and winning most of the time. This middle child never informed the parents; instead took the ribbons and certificates and placed them in a three-ring binder that he kept up on a shelf. Not until his achievements in science became newsworthy did the parents know about their gifted middle child. The oldest sibling grew up resenting his parents for pushing him into things he did not have the skills to handle properly and as an adult lived in the shadow of his middle brother. Family dynamics certainly can wreak havoc on its members; you can definitely see it here in this action, adventure fantasy. DESPITE HAVING BEEN PICKED ON AS A child Arthur, played by Jason Momoa (Conan the Barbarian, Game of Thrones-TV), grew up to be a strong and confident man. But when his mother Queen Atlanna’s, played by Nicole Kidman (Boy Erased, The Beguiled), people needed him to take his rightful place in the kingdom; Arthur felt he could never be their ruler. It would take a war for Arthur to try and fight his way to the throne. With Amber Heard (The Rum Diary, 3 Days to Kill) as Mera, Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Vulko and Patrick Wilson (The Commuter, The Conjuring franchise) as King Ora; this picture provided some good old-fashioned fun. The visuals were creative and colorful as this picture was heavy into CGI effects. Jason was perfect in the role and did as much as he could with the uneven script. He had a look and swagger that worked well for him in the story. I felt the script needed a rewrite with more focus on the main story line. There was plenty of action throughout the film; but at times, it was going too fast to really appreciate the fight scenes. All in all, this was quite an enjoyable and thrilling viewing experience. Besides Arthur being confident in the story, the writers had to be confident based on the extra scene they included in the middle of the ending credits.
WHAT I AM ABOUT TO tell you is not written in any rule books. It is observational, helpful guidelines I have made over the years while riding trains in different cities. There is something about trains that has always attracted me. They are not as fast as planes but sitting back and literally seeing the countryside pass by is a thrill for me. I remember on one vacation a friend had told me to make sure I sat on the left side of the train car for a better view on a scenic train ride through the mountains and they were absolutely right. This train was geared more towards tourists so all the train cars were clean inside and out. On public transportation systems I have sat in seats where the windows were smeared with something I preferred not knowing what it could be; so make a note to yourself, you never want to lean your head against the window even if you should happen to doze off. When you are sitting in a train car where there is an agitated passenger talking nonsense it is best to exit the train car and go to another one. IF YOU ARE CURIOUS to learn about the local cuisine of a new city, I suggest you never sit next to a passenger who is eating. Chances are you will have crumbs or liquids spilled on you; it is best to sit across from the person if you want to ask about the food balanced on their lap. I have walked onto some train cars where there was such a strong stench of stale food that I immediately turned around and found a different car. On one trip I was sitting in my seat trying to listen to the conductor calling out each train stop. After some time I found the conductor to ask him how much longer to the stop I needed. They looked at me with concern as they told me I missed my stop and I better stay with him for the rest of the trip, until he could put me on another train to take me back to where I needed to belong. It was an odd exchange at the time but I soon realized what the conductor was implying as the neighborhood we were traveling through was changing. From what I have told you now, do you want to take a chance by riding on the train in this dramatic, crime drama? BY RIDING THE SAME train to work every day Michael MacCauley, played Liam Neeson (Run All Night, The Grey), was familiar with most of the passengers in his train car. However when the stranger Joanna, played by Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, Orphan), sat next to him she struck up a conversation that would change his life. Along with Liam and Vera the cast included Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring franchise, The Phantom of the Opera) as Alex Murphy, Sam Neill (Tommy’s Honour, The Piano) as Captain Hawthorne and Jonathan Banks (Gremlins, Breaking Bed) as Walt. As this passenger train rolled down the tracks the story and script got loonier and loonier. Liam played the exact same character he has portrayed in most of his recent films. The beginning of the story interested me but soon scenes were becoming farfetched and not making much sense. I did not connect to any of the characters. In a way this film was a cross between Liam’s Taken film franchise with Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. One would have been better off to have taken a different train all together.
1 ¾ stars
The reason I enjoy a good suspenseful horror film is to experience the visceral emotions they produce inside of me. It is an adrenaline rush that gives me more energy; I find it comparable to the testing of the security alert system they do periodically on the radio. I feel a good fright from time to time keeps the body tuned up for life’s daily challenges. In the comfort of my theater seat I know what I am watching on screen has no actual bearing on my daily life. What I am seeing is not real to me so I know the feelings I experience during the movie are fleeting. I have been fortunate and hope I never have to personally experience actual horrors in my lifetime. I do not see how I could not mention the horrific tragedy that took place in Orlando, Florida this past weekend. It seems trivial for me to sit here and talk about a horror movie when I know many lives have been affected by the nightclub shootings. I am uncomfortable writing my review today when I know whatever things I mention about this film seem almost ridiculous to the realities of life presently. No matter the event, I am sure each of us has encountered some form of horror. Let us face it, life can be challenging. I thought I was done seeing the ugliness humans can inflict once I settled into middle age. Sadly it is not the case and in my opinion it appears to have increased in size. May love, kindness and acceptance for each other make us strong during this time. Thank you for listening to me; I felt I had to acknowledge the reality before delving into my escape into this picture. STRUGGLING as a single parent raising her children Peggy Hodgson, played by Frances O’Connor (A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Bedazzled), did not know what was happening to her daughter Janet, played by Madison Wolfe (The Campaign, Joy). Her daughter’s actions would affect the entire family. This sequel grabbed the viewer immediately thanks to director James Wan (Saw franchise, Furious 7). Multiple scenes were ideally set-up to produce suspenseful results. Another reason why I was drawn into this movie was due to Vera Farmiga (Source Code, Up in the Air) and Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy, Watchmen) as Lorraine and Ed Warren. They really pulled as much as they could from the script which at times got bogged down in a repetitive mode. I felt the story went on too long; they could have cut out a couple of scenes that were just there to show another example for a similar event. From the first film I knew this story was based on a true story, but I had a hard time believing it because of the things I saw in this sequel. Yet when at the end of the film they showed the actual people the actors portrayed, it made for an eerie feeling inside of me. It is not often a sequel is better than the first film but overall this movie provided a good escape from the horrors of reality.
2 ¾ stars
As far as I can remember I always had an uneasy feeling about staying in a small town. Yes, I grew up in a large city with all the negatives and positives that go with city living; but there is something about small towns that makes me feel too exposed. Maybe it is due to having been singled out for the wrong reasons when I was younger, but as an adult I tend to be a guarded, private individual. Now the funny thing is I have no problem traveling through a small town, stopping to experience some of their local culture is fine. Alright, by local culture I mean their food establishments. I remember the time I was passing through this tiny town in North Dakota and found a small diner for lunch. It was a hoot sitting in my cracked, red vinyl, wooden booth as I observed various townsfolk coming in to chat with the employees over a cup of coffee. The food was homemade and plentiful; you know you never can go wrong with hand cut french fries. Of course I had to walk over to the rotating dessert carousel to decide which baked item was calling out to me. After lunch I drove around and enjoyed looking at the rugged western style charm of the streets and buildings as I let the earlier conversations of the diner ruminate in my head. It seemed as if everyone knew everyone else’s business as I recalled hearing about the shoemaker’s daughter who was out too late and some neighbor who didn’t pick up after her dog. It may be cute to hear or maybe even stereotypical to a city person, but I prefer to have a lower profile among my neighbors. As I watched this comedic romance I could not picture myself living in that small Virginian town. COMFORTABLE with the life she was living Ave Marie Mulligan, played by Ashley Judd (Divergent franchise, Double Jeopardy), was not prepared for the family secret that was soon to be revealed to her. One of the reasons why I traveled a ways to see this film was the cast. Along with Ashley there was Patrick Wilson (Insidious franchise, Watchmen) as Jack MacChesney, Jane Krakowski (Alfie, 30 Rock-TV) as Sweet Sue Tinsley and Whoopi Goldberg (Ghost, For Colored Girls) as Fleeta Mullins. I still do not understand how the film studio was able to get such a well known cast because this movie played more like a high school theater sketch. There was nothing amusing in the script, even though I was able to see the writer was trying to reproduce a southern goth dramatic vibe. If that was the case there needed to be more drama and outrageousness. I enjoyed watching Ashley but a majority of the scenes were sappy and predicable. With poor pacing and silly dialog, this film did not win me over to the charms of a small town.
1 3/4 stars
The echo of an unfamiliar sound roused me from my deep sleep. As my eyelids slowly parted I tried focusing on the nearly invisible shadows that stood petrified around my bedroom. With no light from the outside, I had to rely on my hearing to make sure the noise was not coming from someone who might be lurking in my room. The sound did not increase in volume; it made a popping noise followed by a short silence. I started panicking, wondering if there was anything in the room that I could use to protect myself. Slowly I rose to a sitting position, waited for several seconds then as quietly as possible stood up, hoping the floor would not groan in the process. The noise did not change as if taunting me to find it. As I slipped quietly out of the bedroom the sound got louder; it was coming from the back of the house. The shadows now more distinct, I was able to make my way to the window where I gently pushed the edge of the curtain aside so I could peer outside. Just as I had my face up to the window another popping noise pierced the quiet. Across the yard I saw one of my neighbor’s casement windows was unhinged, moving in the wind. It was the source of the noise I heard when it would slam into its frame. All the sinister culprits I had imagined quickly dispersed from my mind. Left to my own imagination I can really scare myself sometimes. That is the reason I enjoyed this thrilling horror movie from director James Wan (The Conjuring, Saw). Without blood and gore; James created scenes that did not reveal too much, building a steady tension throughout the film. Having not seen the first movie, I did not feel lost by the story line in this sequel. Josh and Renai Lambert, played by Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring, Watchmen) and Rose Byrne (28 Weeks Later, X-Men: First Class) would need outside help to combat the evil spirits that were terrorizing their son Dalton, played by Ty Simpkins (Little Children, The Next Three Days), when he slept. Even though some of their lines were a bit hokey; I thought Patrick, Rose and Barbara Hershey (Black Swan, Falling Down) as Lorraine Lambert were especially good in the acting department. Some of the scenes relied too much on the music to create impending doom; luckily, I did not find it too annoying. Now that I have seen this movie, I want to see the first one to see if it will stir up my imagination as well as this one did. A couple of brief scenes with blood in it.
2 2/3 stars
The random clicking sound became deliberate, attracting my attention. It sounded as if it was near the kitchen door. My hand slowly slid around the dining room wall, looking for the light switch before I would enter the kitchen. As the fluorescent fixture soaked the room in white light, I intently stared at the back door. The transom window was closed and what light spilled onto the back porch did not reveal anything lurking outside. A sigh of relief passed through my dry lips just as the floor behind me groaned under a sudden added weight. I spun around to a vacant room, shaken up by the noticeable sounds. Walking over to the television, I turned the sound up louder and waited for the return of my parents. You see, it was the first time I was left home alone without a babysitter. It was surprising how my imagination took those familiar sounds from my home and turned them into something sinister and threatening. That feeling of oncoming dread slithered its way throughout this thrilling film. After Carolyn and Roger Perron, played by Lili Taylor (The Haunting, High Fidelity) and Ron Livingston (The Cooler, Drinking Buddies), moved into their new home with their 5 children, unexplained incidents began to occur. When they seemed to turn aggressive, paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren, played by Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, Source Code) and Patrick Wilson (Insidious, Watchmen), were asked to find an explanation for these hostile events. Director James Wan (Saw, Insidious) did a beautiful job of crafting an old-fashioned horror movie. The acting was formidable, especially from Vera and LIli. I was swept into the story partially because it did not use blood and gore to scare the audience; it made the viewers use their imaginations. For me, the middle of the movie played stronger compared to the beginning and end. This was a good old-time, scary film that will have you gripping your arm rests. A couple of brief scenes had blood in them.