ONE OF THE THINGS I MISSED most this past holiday season was spending time at the movie theater. In the past, I would spend one of my days off from work at the theater, watching as many films as I could in one day. Due to the current times with COVID and the variants, I have not been comfortable sitting in a crowded theater. In the good old days, I could sometimes catch 5 movies in one day. Maybe some of you might think that is too intense to do, but for me it was like therapy; I loved getting lost in story after story, while taking off enough time just to catch something to eat before I went back into the next showing on my list. What made this work of course was the fact the film studios always release their blockbusters around this time; so, the Academy of Motion Pictures would have the studio’s film fresh in their minds for the beginning of the voting period for an Academy Award nomination. Truth be told, even if the picture was not high on my list, if it fit into my time schedule to make the day’s viewing work, I would go see it. Surprisingly, I have only a couple of friends who could handle watching multiple movies in one day. Usually, a friend might only meet me for one or two films before they had to bow out and take a break. SINCE I CHOSE TO STAY HOME this holiday season, I wanted to experience that blockbuster type of movie experience. Luckily, I was able to rent the film I am reviewing today. It still is playing at the theater and the fact it is two hours and 43 minutes long, I could hit pause at anytime so I would not miss any scene. There is something about a James Bond movie that always has a special mystique when it premieres. In my family, a new 007 picture always meant a family outing to go see it. Even if we were on a vacation out of state, if the movie was coming out, we would find time to go see it no matter where we were at. I always experience a bit of nostalgia whenever a new Bond picture comes out because of all the memories I have of the previous pictures; especially of the ones that starred Sean Connery and Daniel Craig. With their longevity in the role, there is for me something extra special about the film when they starred in it. While I began watching this newest film in the franchise, I was feeling nostalgic and sad as the scenes unfolded. HAVING FOUND A SENSE OF PEACE in retirement, it did not last long when an old friend came calling on James Bond, played by Daniel Craig (Knives Out, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), asking him for one last favor. With Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Knives Out) as Paloma, Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody, Need for Speed) as Lyutsifer Safin, Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color, The Lobster) as Madeleine and Lashana Lynch (Captain Marvel, Powder Room) as Nomi; this action, adventure thriller came packed with its trademark big action/fight scenes. Craig’s Bond is more of a brawler, grittier 007 compared to the others. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of heart on display in this story. There were some poignant moments I felt. My big complaint was with the script and the villain. Though Rami was decent, I found the character was not menacing at all. His character was a bit bland, and the script did not help as it tried to pack too much into the story, to honor Daniel’s portrayal of Bond, hence the too long running time. Despite my misgivings, I am glad I was able to see this movie and if you are especially a fan of this franchise, you would not want to miss this one. And even if you are not a fan, based on the star rating below, you might want to see it as well.
FOR A LONG TIME, I ATTRIBUTED my ability for seeing little details to Sherlock Holmes and the Hardy Boys. Having read the books and seen the movies that they were in, I began to pride myself with the way I observed people and places. A friend and I used to pretend we were detectives who had to follow individuals in the neighborhood, who we suspected of being criminals. I remember following a woman with a shopping cart into the grocery store, who I believed to be a foreign spy; she was shopping for essentials for herself and her co-conspirators back at their hideout. As she was walking up and down the aisles, I kept track of what she was putting into her shopping cart. I waited until she was paying for her groceries at the checkout line before I left and joined my partner across the street. We waited until she came out then followed her back to her hideout. While we were tagging behind her, I updated my friend on the items she had purchased at the store. I pointed out the reason for all the canned goods was because they were planning to be here for an extended time to work on a huge operation that would cause considerable damage to our city. We decided we had better keep her under surveillance for the near future. AFTER I HAD GROWN OUT OF my detective phase, I stopped focusing on getting every detail of a situation. It faded into the background, or at least I thought it did. Never giving it any thought, I seemed to have the ability to retain full images of things I observed. It wasn’t something that made me think I was doing anything different from anyone else. It wasn’t until a friend asked me one day how I could remember what everyone wore at a party that took place a couple of months ago. We were talking about a mutual friend and I asked him if he remembered they had attended a social function we were at. When my friend could not recall their presence, I told him what the person was wearing and where they were seated. I thought everyone could recall such things, but my friend told me it was not true. A short time later, I discovered not everyone has the ability to see the finer details when they are looking at something. Some individuals take in the “big picture” while others laser focus on certain elements; I have seen it time and again. Whether a person can train themselves in acquiring the skill, I do not know; but I know having that ability was an asset for the main character in this dramatic crime thriller. DRAWN INTO AN UNSOLVED MURDER CASE, Deputy Sheriff Joe “Deke” Deacon, played by Denzel Washington (The Equalizer franchise, The Book of Eli), began to experience déjà vu. Will his past interfere with the present? With Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody, Papillon) as Jim Baxter, Jared Leto (Suicide Squad, Dallas Buyers Club) as Albert Sparma, Chris Bauer (A Dog’s Way Home, True Blood-TV) as Detective Sal Rizoli and Michael Hyatt (Nightcrawler, Like Crazy) as Flo Dunigan; this Golden Globe nominee had all the fixings of a good old detective story. With its cast, I was expecting some top notch acting and was rewarded by Jared’s and Rami’s performances. As for Denzel, I was sadly disappointed with his acting; it felt like he was on automatic, doing a repeat of former characters from his past movies. Putting the acting aside, the script had the glimmer of hope in the beginning but then spiraled down to a massive failure. There were a couple of parts that made no sense whatsoever. This poorly thought out script and story turned this movie into a mediocre addition to the murder mystery genre. If only everyone involved with the production of this film had Denzel’s character’s ability to pay attention to the fine details, it then might have been a worthwhile viewing.
1 7/8 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 ARE PEOPLE WE ENCOUNTER WHOSE footsteps leave an impression on our life’s path. These individuals strike us in various ways; by their energy, intellect, passion, athleticism and heart for example. The memory they leave after they are gone can be stored inside of us for years without ever being detected. Then suddenly that person reappears, possibly in a different capacity, and that memory pops into our consciousness. Our brain gets flooded with the images retained during the years; we completely understand now why they left an impression on us. This is something I have experienced through my life. I mentioned in an earlier review about a classmate of mine who wrote stories about his time in the war. Several years had passed after being in that class and there he was on the cover of a magazine for winning a prestigious literary award. There was a television interview of him and he pretty much looked the same with his large, piercing blue eyes with eyelids that looked heavy to blink. After that interview he showed up in multiple newspaper and magazine articles. I remember smiling to myself as I remembered our time in class, listening to his war stories and the toll they took on him. THERE IS ANOTHER PERSON I SAW who immediately made a big impression on me and his name was Freddie Mercury. I cannot remember the details on how I got to the concert where this relatively new group called Queen was playing. It was after their 1st or 2nd album I think. What I still remember besides the band members was how my ears were ringing due to the loudness of the sound. Right from the opening song, Freddie had everyone’s attention. All he had to do was say either “stand up” or “clap like this…” once and the entire crowd would do as they were told. He had a magnetism that nearly forced you to keep your eyes riveted onto him. His body movements were dramatic and theatrical. Then there was his voice; he could always be heard no matter how loud the band played. John Deacon barely moved from his spot while Brian May’s guitar playing was featured from time to time throughout the performance. I remember the sounds he would make with his guitar were notes I could not recall hearing before. I knew right then that they were a unique band and Freddie was someone I had never seen before or would see again. You can imagine how curious I was to see this biographical, dramatic movie. CREATING A SOUND LIKE NONE OTHER before them, the four guys who made up the band Queen would leave a lasting impression on the musical scene; both for their skills and personal lives. With Rami Malek (Short Term 12, Mr. Robot-TV) as Freddie Mercury, Gwilym Lee (The Tourist, Midsomer Murders-TV) as Brian May, Ben Hardy (Only the Brave, X-Men: Apocalypse) as Roger Taylor and Joseph Mazzello (The Social Network, The Cure) as John Deacon; this musical film focused mostly on the life story of Freddie. If you never had the chance to see Queen perform then you will enjoy this picture more than those of you who were fortunate enough to see them. I thought the script was too sanitized; offering only a taste of what the band members, I believe, went through in their time together. Rami did a decent job, but the fake teeth looked odd on him. The lip synching was okay, but I just felt the script and direction needed more punch because I found myself getting slightly bored. Again, I must state those who never saw Queen perform might enjoy this movie more, though we were only given a brief taste of their songs.
2 1/2 stars
All the details were double checked, everything was in order for your spectacular trip abroad. Part of your itinerary was having dinner at a famous restaurant; in fact, you had to rent a car to visit the eatery. When the day finally arrived, the weather did not cooperate; it was dreary and damp. The incredible views the restaurant was known for were now shrouded in a gray, misty fog. At least you had the meal to look forward to that food critics had fawned over. Long story short, the food was a disappointment. Leaving the restaurant you decided to take a walk. As you reached an intersection the sound of a small bell tinkling got your attention. A bicyclist, riding with a basket of bread loaves, passed in front of you. He parked alongside a building. The aroma coming off of the freshly baked bread made your taste buds yearn. The small golden crusted loaf you purchased weighed heavy in your hand. As you walked away you took your first bite and the thick forgiving dough filled your mouth with the most wonderful taste. At the same time you took notice of your surroundings and realized there was a gap in the sky where the low hanging sun looked like it separated a venetian blind to peer out. A single ray of sunshine lightened the street you were on. From out of the drabness wooden shutters bursted into color, the cobblestones of the street wet with condensation glistened and the hanging baskets of flowers from windowsills took a last sigh before nightfall. It lasted only a moment but you were at the right place at the right time to see it. I had the exact same feeling after seeing this superb film festival winning movie. After weeks of sitting through several mediocre movies, this film made up for all of my long hours of sitting in a movie theater seat. Brie Larson (The Spectacular Now, 21 Jump Street) and John Gallagher Jr. (Pieces of April, Jonah Hex) played foster care facility employees Grace and Mason. Their daily roller coaster ride of emotions would reveal similarities they shared with the young adults, affecting their own personal relationship. The brilliant filming of this movie made each character real with feelings. I thought the acting was amazing from everyone including Rami Malek (The Master, Larry Crowne) and Kaitlyn Dever (Bad Teacher, J. Edgar) as Nate and Jayden. I was so totally immersed into the story that I forgot the characters were actors. There were several scenes that looked like I was viewing actual news footage, that is how convincing this complete film was for me. This movie represented that perfect moment I have been waiting for all year. A couple of brief scenes showed blood.