SHE SPOTTED ME AS I CAME through the door and did not take her eyes off me all the way down the staircase, until I finally took a seat. In that short amount of time she had already figured me out. The trainer came over to introduce herself to me and explain what was expected of me. I was prepared but still had some trepidation. You see, I had never done this before and did not want to embarrass myself right at the start. After going through the instructions, the trainer took me over to meet her. She was taller and much bigger than me, with a long mane of auburn hair. I was told to extend my hand slowly with the palm facing up, so as not to startle her. She started to pull back, but the trainer told her in a quiet, soothing voice that everything was ok and that I was nice. I felt weird standing there with my arm stretched out waiting for her, I guess, to see if she would begin to trust me. It seemed like a long time but evidentially she took a step forward and lowered her head down to sniff my hand. I remained still for a moment before I began scratching her under the chin and softly tell her she was a good girl. That was the extent of our interaction for the day; I was to return tomorrow for our second session. AFTER MY INITIAL INTRODUCTION I THOUGHT I would have been more relaxed but that was not the case. When I returned the next day, she was walking in a large circle until she spotted me and came to a stop; her gaze locked onto me as I walked down the stairs. The trainer was standing near her and motioned me to come over. I took it as a good sign that she did not back away as I joined them. Today’s lesson was to teach me how to clean her feet and if time permitted, I would get a riding lesson. The trainer handed me some type of brush with what looked like a metal claw sticking out of it; I was to use this to clean her feet after the trainer demonstrated it for me. The process was easy, and I got the hang of it rather quickly. Afterwards there was enough time, so the trainer instructed me on how to mount her and get in the saddle. Having never done this before, it took a couple of times before I could do it. I am sure that was enough for my horse to know I was a novice. And sure enough, once I got settled into the saddle, she took off in a trot with me bouncing up and down atop her back. No matter what the trainer told me to do, the horse was not buying it and did what she wanted to do. I was just grateful she did not try to knock me off her. Through my lessons I gained a deeper appreciation for horses, which explains why I enjoyed this dramatic, award winning film. CONVICTED AND IMPRISONED FOR A VIOLENT crime Roman, played by Matthias Schoenaerts (Red Sparrow, Rust and Bone), was enrolled into a prison program that involved the training of wild mustangs. Roman would soon discover he met his match. With Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island) as Henry, Bruce Dern (Nebraska, The ’Burbs) as Myles, Gideon Adlon (Blockers, American Crime-TV) as Martha and Connie Britton (American Ultra, Nashville-TV) as psychologist; this film based on true events told a straight forward story in a simple and surprisingly beautiful way. The filming was eye catching and Matthias’ acting was incredibly intense to the point one could not take their eyes off him. There was a smoldering intensity that boiled and simmered throughout the story. I thought the script was well written as it carried the story between periods of silence and action. This was a quiet and thoughtful movie filled with majestic animals and touching moments.
3 ¼ stars
MOST PEOPLE LOOK AT ME WITH a curious eye when I tell them that I had a female friend in school who was one of my protectors. We were in the same grade, but she was older because she had flunked a grade. She was taller than the other girls in class and was further along in the maturing process. What stood out to me was the fact she was the first student I knew who smoked cigarettes and swore. Several boys in class enjoyed hanging around her because of these 2 facts, though I am sure it also had to do with her being more developed than any of the other girls. I knew for a fact that she was tough after seeing her in a fight on the school’s playground; she pummeled a girl in the face and stomach until the girl ran away crying. Though we did not have much in common, we were friends because I think she was fond of my sense of humor. I could always make her laugh. When we were together the kids who would pick on me would stay away. Not because she could beat all of them up, but because they knew she had an older boyfriend who was tough. More than likely that was the reason why I was safe with her as a friend. THERE WAS ANOTHER STUDENT IN MY grade who had the role of being my protector, but I never knew it. I honestly cannot recall him ever getting into a fistfight. He did not have to because there wasn’t any boy who would challenge him. The reason for it was because he had the body of an elite athlete, having started young with exercising and working out with weights. Where you could see the different muscles on his body, most of the other boys could only put on display a young bicep. When it came to gym class and picking teams, he was one of the first boys to be picked for a team. There was nothing he could not do when it came to a sport or physical test. We were neighbors so we had a friendship outside of school. I did not realize it at the time that he was a protector; the two of us would just hang out together or in a larger group. The added bonus by having him as a friend was knowing his older brother who was just as physically fit; so, I was spared from most teasing or bullying from the older classmates. Since I had these protectors, I could easily identify with the main characters in this biographical, crime drama. WRONGLY ACCUSED AND CONVICTED OF A crime resulted in Henri “Papillon” Charier, played by Charlie Hunnam (Children of Men, Pacific Rim), being sent to Devil’s Island. No one escaped from there, but Henri had an idea. With Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody, The Master) as Louis Dega, Christopher Fairbank (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Fifth Element) as Jean Castili), Eve Hewson (Bridge of Spies, Robin Hood) as Nennete and Damijan Oklopdzic (Lockout, Everly) as Doorman; this adventure drama based on a true story was a remake of the original movie done in 1973. The acting is what provided me with the most interest. I thought Charlie and Rami worked well together. There were several tough scenes to watch but overall, I thought the filming and cinematography were excellent. What brought down this picture was the script; it was repetitive and did not have enough variety of emotional levels. By the end of the movie, I was left with a feeling of wanting as if I was not fully satisfied with the events. The story is incredible, and I cannot imagine what life must have really been like on that island; I had enough to deal with during my school years.
2 ½ stars
THERE WAS NO WAY I COULD stop the color in my face from draining. I was in a state of shock. It was an hour before I was going to get off from work and the owner of the company had called me into his office. I knew him better than some of the other employees because I worked both in the retail and wholesale parts of his company, when I wasn’t in school. In fact, when he opened a 2ndstore in a large shopping mall out in the suburbs, I helped set up the shelves with stock. So, when he asked me into his office, I did not think much of it. When he closed the door behind me as I walked in, I knew something was different. As I sat across from him, he began to tell me about the inventory being off, that items were coming up missing. I thought maybe he wanted me to take a bigger part of the inventory process, but that was not the case. He asked me if I had seen anything odd going on. I told him no and that I was surprised to hear such a thing. My face had not turned white up to this point; however, when he said he wanted to talk to my parents I could feel my face changing. He said he was asking the same of the other employees who were also in high school. EMBARRASSMENT, FEAR AND ANGER WERE THE predominant feelings coursing through my body as I sat there. Despite not having any knowledge about the missing stock, I was angry that I was being considered a suspect. Logically I knew it made sense for the owner to question his employees; but I still felt like I was being accused of something I had no part in. It was an awful feeling. My mind was showing me a series of movie scenes depicting courthouses, jails, tearful testimonies; my imagination was running amok. The other thing that came to mind was the possibility I might be considered an accomplice because I was friendly with the other employees. The anger portion I was feeling was due to the idea one of my friends, who I had been working alongside with for over one year, could be a thief. It was all upsetting to me, and I did not know how my parents would take the news about them having to come in to talk to the owner. All this hassle and confusion just because I essentially was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The magnitude of my situation didn’t come close to the main character’s situation in this dramatic film based on a true story; but I understood what he had to be feeling. LIVING ON DEATH ROW, ONE DOESN’T get hopeful; even when your Harvard educated lawyer is willing to fight for your life. With Brie Larson (Captain Marvel, Short Term 12) as Eva Ansley, Michael B. Jordan (Creed franchise, Black Panther) as Bryan Stevenson, Jamie Foxx (Robin Hood, Ray) as Walter McMillian, Rafe Spall (The Big Short, The Ritual) as Tommy Chapman and Tim Blake Nelson (Fantastic Four; O Brother, Where Art Thou?) as Ralph Myers; the story in this film festival winning movie was horrifying to me at times due to the injustice and discrimination that was taking place. The acting was strong and solid from the cast; in fact, they really carried the story along. For most of the time I took the script to be truthful; however, there were a couple of scenes, especially one close to the end, where I felt it was the writer’s option to make something up to pull in the audience deeper into the story. Besides that, I still cannot get over what Walter had to go through for all those years.
I PURPOSELY CHANGED ALL THE NAMES and circumstances so as not to offend any of the actual people. They may be relatives, friends, friends of friends, acquaintances or simply me hearing about such an event that I will now be sharing with you. My guess is that many of you will find something to relate to, if not having experienced the same thing for yourself already. With the holidays fast approaching this is the perfect time to talk about family get togethers. There is Aunt Shirley who insists on pinching your cheeks as if you were still an infant, every time she sees you. Uncle Fred commands you to tell him your latest work accomplishment, just so he can then top your story with one of his own success stories. Oh, and let us not forget cousin Mary who brings the same jello mold to every event; she calls it her “broken glass” jello mold. Doesn’t that sound appealing? Every holiday dinner she brings this creation of hers, explaining each time how she makes different flavored bowls of jello and cuts them into tiny cubes to dump into her metal mold with the floral etchings. Sadly, many of us feel forced to take a slice of this abomination so as not to hurt her feelings. THE REASON I MENTIONED THESE DIFFERENT PEOPLE is because I wanted to talk about some of the things one must do out of either necessity, duty or kindness. One may go to a family function and experience the same scenarios every year, maybe every month. You hear the same stories 100 times; each person acts just as you expected them to do, so there are no surprises. Also, there is not much difference between each get together. This does not mean you have a horrible time; you may simply enjoy the presence of your family and friends around you. There is a history you each share that keeps you coming back time and time again. So, what if Uncle Ernie plays the same practical joke on you or cousin Vicki talks your ear off about people in her life you have never met; there is something in you that allows you to accept these people unconditionally. I can say the same thing about reviewing movies. There are certain directors and writers who produce the same thing for each of their films. I know what to expect and rarely do I get surprised. Today’s movie fits the bill; it is the same thing I have seen over and over. AFTER HER RELEASE FROM PRISON TANYA, played by Tiffany Haddish (The Oath, Night School), had nowhere to stay except with her sister Danica, played by Tika Sumpter (Ride Along franchise, The Haves and the Have Nots-TV). The two sisters were nothing alike but who knew each could help the other with a problem. This latest dramatic comedy from Tyler Perry (Acrimony, Good Deeds), was no different from many of his other stories. What you see on the trailer is pretty much the same you see in this movie. Tiffany, though she is good at what she does, needs to stop playing the same type of characters; they all look and act the same to me. The script was pedestrian and predictable. With Whoopi Goldberg (Sister Act franchise, The Color Purple) as Lola and Amari Hardwick (The A-Team, The Runner) as Frank; there was too much going on in the script. Not enough time was devoted to each storyline which resulted in a bland monotone of events. I will say there were a couple of chuckles but nothing worth paying the full price to see this picture. Because I like staying consistent, I felt the need to see this film; sitting and watching this movie was like taking a slice of cousin Mary’s jello mold.
1 ¾ stars
I am one of those people who wants to know the lay of the land before I get to it. That is why I go to the same grocery stores; so I can go from item to item and get out quick, instead of wandering in search of the things on my shopping list. When I visit a new city for vacation I do the same thing, learn beforehand about the sights I want to see on my trip. My main purpose is to save time. It really came in handy when I visited the amusement parks in Florida. Having studied up on them I discovered when arriving at opening time, one should start at the back of the park and work their way forward. The other timesaver was to always go to the left when you had a choice; trust me it really worked. Of course, there are other reasons to become familiar with a place before entering it. Some people like to know the layout of a nightclub before going in, so they look like they have been there before. Others may want to know what would be the safest route through a neighborhood. As you can see there are a variety of reasons in knowing about a place prior to visiting it and someone in this comedy is hoping it will keep them alive. WEALTHY financier James, played by Will Ferrell (The Other Guys, The Land of the Lost), was convicted of fraud. Afraid he would not survive in prison James hired Darnell, played by Kevin Hart (Ride Along, The Wedding Ringer), the owner of his work place’s car washing service, to toughen him up before serving his sentence. If you have seen the movie trailers for this picture then you pretty much have seen the film. The language was not only strong but a good portion of it was focused on the male genitalia. Out of the cast I did not mind Craig T. Nelson (The Proposal, Poltergeist) as Martin and Alison Brie (The Five-Year Engagement, Scream 4) as Alissa. As for Will and Kevin they did nothing for me. What they did here was basically no different from what they have done in their past several movies. To this day I still cannot understand producers who seek out Kevin Hart; he is not an actor as far as I am concerned. There were a couple of lines in the script where I chuckled, but overall I found the humor was cheap and basic; just an easy cop-out as far as I was concerned. I pretty much knew beforehand how this film would play out because I had already seen previous movies that starred Kevin and Will.
1 2/3 stars
A baby is born into the world helpless and dependent on their parent. It may take a period of time before the baby can walk or feed on their own. The birth of a human child is amazing and wonderful in its own right. In the animal world I have witnessed some births that were surprising due to the different outcome compared to the human way. Watching a pregnant horse in labor can be shocking because as soon as the little one is born they struggle a bit but then stand up on all 4 legs. i remember standing there in shock and awe, witnessing this baby horse instinctively working to get up. Once the mare is able to stand up on her own, her baby follows her around and the learning process begins. No matter which species you talk about, most offspring learn by example. The 3 year old sitting in her car seat who yells out the open car window to the driver next to them, “Move that #$%@ car,” had to learn that from somewhere. Having been to a number of parent/teacher conferences, I can tell you the majority of kids who were bullies had parents that acted like bullies to their children. A child does not wake up one day and start acting out inappropriately. TOUGH and mean was how one would describe Eric Love, played by Jack O’Connell (300: Rise of an Empire, Eden Lake). Arrested and convicted to prison, Eric was not afraid of what he would find; he could easily take care of himself. What he did not count on was someone tougher than him being there; his father Neville Love, played by Ben Mendelsohn (The Place Beyond the Pines, Killer Elite). This film festival winning drama was an intense film to watch, with several bloody violent scenes. The script produced a steady pace despite the land mines of action and tension that would erupt on the screen. All the actors including Rupert Friend (The Young Victoria, Pride & Prejudice) as Oliver Baumer were convincing to the point where I believed they were actual prisoners in prison. The scenes showed everything I imagined jail to be. I will say I had a challenging time understanding some of the dialog due to the heavy accents, at least to me, being used by the actors. What I found to be the major strength of this film was the evolving relationship between father and son in the story. Babies are born into this world with a clean slate; their behavior forms based on what they observe. A few scenes had blood and violence in them.
I hope when the time comes I will be honest with myself and realize I need to step back. Having been a group fitness, yoga and cycle instructor for many years; I can see how my intensity levels have diminished with age. There is no way I can match the energy of a 20 year old instructor; it is just a fact of life. One thing that has not dulled through the years has been my passion. I feel such joy when I see participants enjoying themselves; whether from a sense of personal accomplishment or laughing at something I mentioned, there is a bond that forms between all of us. As the members and I grow older, we will adjust to the reality of it. I have told my classes that one of my goals in teaching fitness has always been that all of us can still get out of a chair by ourselves when we are 90 years old. The acceptance of aging is something I feel the main stars in this action thriller may need to address sooner than later. Sylvester Stallone (Bullet to the Head, The Expendables franchise) played Ray Breslin, an expert in prison designs. Due to a double cross, Ray found himself locked up in an unknown maximum security facility that was based on one of his designs. If he wanted to get out alive he would not only have to rely on everything he had learned from breaking out of prisons, but on the help of fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Last Stand, True Lies). The main attraction of this movie was seeing the two former action heroes starring in a film together for the first time. Both actors stayed with what worked for them in the past; Sylvester delivered his grumbled lines with his sarcastic sneer while Arnold brought his brawn and comedic lines. It was obvious these two actors were trying to recapture their glory days and I did not have a problem with it. However, with that being the case; I was annoyed with the poor editing job throughout this movie. The illusion of being an action star failed due to seeing the stunt doubles in many of the scenes. The only performance I enjoyed was from Jim Caviezel (The Thin Red Line, Person of Interest-TV) as Warden Hobbes. With older actors trying to retain their youth, an odd script and a poor ending; there was nothing very satisfying in this film except that the good guys win and the bad guys lose. An observation, the audience was 95% male. There were a couple of scenes that had blood in them.
Something happened to me when I was in South Dakota. Driving on roads that stretched all the way to the horizon, with no speed limits; I transformed into a race car driver. At 103 mph it felt like I was flying, giving me a rush I had never experienced before in my life. When I returned home, my driving was forever altered. As long as there was no one else in the car, I took the posted speed limit signs to be mere suggestions. The faster I could drive, the more exciting it was for me. This movie was strictly an adrenaline rush. I felt like someone slapped a testosterone patch on me; I wanted to get behind the wheel of one of the cars in this thriller of a movie. I did not remember the movies that came before this installment and it did not matter. The story was written to allow maximum driving time. Vin Diesel (The Chronicles of Riddick, xXx) was given a minimum vocabulary for his role as Dominic Toretto. Having been broken out from a prison transport bus, Dominic and his group got involved in a car heist that went wrong, down in Brazil. Not only did the group have to battle corrupt crime boss Hernan Reyes, played by Joaquim de Almeida (Behind Enemy Lines, The Conspiracy); but they were also being pursued by federal agent Luke Hobbs, played by Dwayne Johnson (Tooth Fairy, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island). The acting was minimal; this film was made for crashes, bloody fights and speed. Knowing that ahead of time, just fasten your seat belts and enjoy the ride for it was damn good.
3 stars — DVD
There is one train of thought that we come into this world with both good and evil inside of us. An individual has free will on which way they will go. The other possibility is that we are born with only good inside of us, that evil is something we have to learn. With that being the case and under the circumstances he faced, prisoner Malik El Djebena, played by Tahar Rahim (The Eagle, Black Gold) did not have free choice. Newly incarcerated into an adult prison; Malik was singled out by Cesar Luciai, played by Niels Arestrup (War Horse, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), leader of the Corsican inmates. The naive Malik was forced into servitude; he either had to kill a prisoner or be killed by Cesar’s minions. From this introduction into prison life and though he was of Arab heritage, Malik would be under the protection of the Corsicans. This was an intense prison movie with stabbings, fights and bloodshed. What kept me enthralled was the progression of character development, especially with Malik’s growth. The story had steady pacing with solid intensity. I want to mention there were racist remarks, but I understood what the writers were doing in setting up the conflicts between the different ethnic groups in the prison. One of the better movies of this genre, this film was exciting in a different way. With the prison being a breeding ground for evil, the excitement was watching how the prisoners chose to use it. French and Arabic with English subtitles.
3 1/3 stars — DVD