I COULD SEE THE GUEST AT MY table was getting annoyed with the server. When the server came to our table, after we had sat down, to find out who had ordered the vegetarian meal, this guest acknowledged it was for him. When the soup came out and was placed on each of our plates, the vegetarian guest asked the server what was in the soup. When she said it was a beef-based broth, I could tell the man was not happy. He asked the server why she would bring a meat-based soup to a vegetarian; the server was noticeably flustered. She apologized, saying it was the only soup offered for the dinner, before removing it from his plate. When the rest of us were done with the soup, the main meal was brought out to be served. I received my plate before the vegetarian man and immediately noticed bacon bits on the baked potato. Not knowing what was on a vegetarian meal, I waited and watched the server as she made her way to the gentleman. Sure enough, his special meal included the same baked potato with bacon bits. As soon as he saw it, he glared at the server before reprimanding her. She was visibly shaking as she apologized again and took his plate of food back to the kitchen. The man turned to the rest of us as he continued complaining about the service. ONE OF THE OTHER GUESTS SITTING at our table told the vegetarian he understood his aggravation. It turned out he had several dietary restrictions that required extra diligence at wedding receptions, holiday parties and other such special events. I watched as the annoyed diner quickly calmed down while commiserating with the other diner. A connection/bond was established between the two gentlemen because they had something specific in common; I became curious about this and started wondering if I had a similar reaction to meeting someone who shared a common trait of mine. It occurred to me that I indeed have had the same responses with people I have met who experience similar reactions like mine. When I have met someone, who has the same type of sensitivity that I do to the cold, it has formed an immediate connection between us. Others cannot relate to what the two of us experience when we feel cold. For most of the evening, I wind up spending time with that person who gets me, just as I get them. There is a perfect example of this to see in this dramatic, fantasy horror sequel. AFTER HAVING FOUND A COMFORTABLE PLACE to settle down Dan Torrance, played by Ewan McGregor (Christopher Robin, August: Osage County), gets contacted by a young girl named Abra Stone, played by Kyliegh Curran (I Can I Will I Did), who shares a common trait with him; a trait he has been trying to run away from for many years. With Rebecca Ferguson (Life, Despite the Falling Snow) as Rose the Hat, Cliff Curtis (Whale Rider, The Dark Horse) as Billy Freeman and Zahn McClarnon (Strike One, Mekko) as Crow Daddy; the story in this picture was slowly brewed. I enjoyed the buildup at first because of the acting and film editing. However, as the story continued, I found myself losing interest. It was not until Kyliegh’s scenes increased that I reconnected with the story. The buildup went on too long for me; I only found myself fully invested during the last half of the movie. The suspense was decent thanks to the acting and set designs. I feel the viewer would benefit if they watch first The Shining before seeing this film; but it is not a requirement. After so many years between stories, I just could not find a solid connection to this picture.
2 ¾ stars
EVERYONE THOUGHT SHE WAS THE LIVING EMBODIMENT of a toy doll, perfect in every way; but, I knew better. She would always offer help to any fellow employee whether they might need it or not; she would also periodically bring in home-cooked desserts to share with anyone who came by her desk. Though I did not sit next to her, I could hear her talking to the employees who came near her desk. I do not know if I can explain it; but, she was sickly sweet with her conversations. She overused the words “honey” and “sweetie” to no end, besides appearing sympathetic to anyone who wanted to share any personal information with her. I knew better; the entire thing was an act. She was not really interested in what anyone said to her; she was fishing for information that she could use to advance herself within the company. The reason I knew this is because I had heard several conversations she had had with her boss, where she divulged other employees’ personal information in such a way that painted a better image of herself. It was nauseating for me to hear it. That sweet, friendly exterior was just a façade; she knew exactly what she was doing, and I was on to her. BEING IN AN ENVIRONMENT WITH A person like that is toxic. One can never let their guard down because they would never know how their words could be turned into a vice to squeeze them out of an opportunity in the workplace. I was pleasant to her simply because I did not want to get on her “bad side.” I had no idea what she was capable of and I did not want to prompt her to start focusing on me. Maybe I have been lucky, but I have never encountered someone like her in any of my jobs. Granted I have worked with a variety of individuals, from tattletales to “stab in the back” type people; however, there has not been anyone who can match this one employee’s output of manipulative behavior. What I find distressing about it is how it makes working at a company less enjoyable. I ask you, who wants to spend their energy every day combating such a negative force; it is such a drain on the body and mind. You can see how it is for yourself if you wish by watching this action, adventure comedy. THE MEN IN BLACK WERE SKILLED in protecting the Earth from aliens who threatened us. However, when that threat was coming from inside the organization, how could agents trust what they were seeing? Starring Chris Hemsworth (12 Strong, Thor franchise) as Agent H, Tessa Thompson (Creed franchise, Annihilation) as Agent M, Kumail Nanjiani (Big Sick, Silicon Valley-TV) voicing Pawny, Rebecca Ferguson (Life, Despite the Falling Snow) as Riza and Rafe Spall (The Ritual, The BFG) as Agent C; this updated version of the science fiction franchise devoted too much time on the jokes and not enough on the story. I thought Chris and Tessa were fun together; but it seemed as if I was listening to the same comedy routines over and over. There was no excitement, both visually and verbally; the entire picture seemed tired to me. As I was watching the villains I was wishing they would have broken into dance, because I recognized them from a dance-based reality television show. It would have been more fun to watch, I am sure. Another flaw was the fact I was able to figure out how the story would end, which usually is not my forte. Sadly, this was a waste of resources that tarnished the franchise.
1 2/3 stars
THE AROMA OF ELEPHANT dung was one of the strongest memories I took away from the circus. I only went to the circus once when I was around 6 years old. To get to our seats we had to walk down a long aisle where the floor was covered in sawdust. Once we were seated I was able to see three rings set up in the arena, with the middle one much larger than the other two. I was excited to be there because all I wanted to see were the tigers. To start the show a tall man dressed in a tuxedo with a top hat walked into a single spotlight that then followed him to the large ring; his amplified voice reverberated throughout the massive arena. From one end of the arena several spotlights pierced the dark and lit up a parade of elephants walking in single file as they made their way around the arena. As they passed where I was seated one of the elephants defecated. Because it happened at the far edge of the arena none of the circus performers noticed what happened, so it remained there for the entire show. MAYBE THAT IS WHY I never wanted to go to the circus after that time. The only type of circuses I will go to today are the ones that are animal free. Even if that elephant had not altered my feelings about the circus I would not go to a circus that used animals for entertainment. For the type of circus events I have attended I get to see humans doing unhuman things; this is the way I describe it, because the performers are doing such spectacular things they almost look as if they are not of earth. There is one particular company that travels around the world, pitching a massive tent in an open space, where the performers are dressed in a variety of costumes and makeup. This is my favorite event to see because at one time I can witness people from all different walks of life, from all different parts of the world, come together and create something magical. I do not know how someone could say anything negative about such an environment. OUT OF WORK AFTER the company he worked at went bankrupt Phineas Taylor Barnum, played by Hugh Jackman (Pan, Logan), had an idea. It was an idea that sounded crazy but he did not care what people said, he was willing to take the chance. This musical, dramatic biography also starred Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea, My Week with Marilyn) as Charity Barnum, Zac Efron (Baywatch, Dirty Grandpa) as Phillip Carlyle, Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming, K.C. Undercover-TV) as Anne Wheeler and Rebecca Ferguson (The Girl on the Train, Despite the Falling Snow) as Jenny Lind. The look of this film was wonderful; I thought the sets and costumes were a perfect fit. As for the music written by the same writers who did La La Land, I thought it was much better in this picture; I can actually remember a few of the songs. Sadly despite the decent acting the script failed this film. You got these big, beautiful song and dance numbers connected with a weak script that lacked emotion. I felt a disconnect between the drama of the singing with the acting parts. There was such a timely message to the story that I wished would have been explored more in hopes of connecting everyone together. I would not say this circus movie reminded me of the smelly circus I went to as a kid, but this film could have used a bit of air freshener to make it a better show.
2 ¼ stars
YEARS of reading and watching science fiction books and movies may be the reason why I believe there could be other life forms in the universe. Even if I was not a fan of the fantasy/science fiction genre, I was always open to the possibility we humans were not alone. I could never be convinced that out of the entire universe the planet Earth was the only place that could sustain life. One of the arguments I have heard is our planet is the only one that can sustain oxygen breathing beings; but I would counter that proposal by questioning the logic of oxygen being the only element that can support life. What if an alien species’ anatomy only needed carbon monoxide to exist? Unless they come to us I understand there is no way to prove this thought, since I do not know if we will ever evolve to a point where we will have the ability to deconstruct and rematerialize on another world via a transporting device or be able to travel in a spaceship at warp speed. DURING my studies in college I had a literature course that covered several genres of fiction, including science fiction. For my midterm project I used several rolls of infrared film along with close-up camera lenses to create a photo album that I claimed was proof of foreign existence. The things I photographed represented places we had read about in our required reading list. Our instructor had us put our projects on display around the lecture hall and each of us had to explain what we had done. After we each gave our talks, the students were allowed to walk around and study each item before voting on their favorite in a secret ballot. It turned out not only did I get an “A” on my midterm project but my alien photo album was voted the favorite. From some of the comments I received the majority of my classmates loved how I had shown both friendly and non-friendly aliens. Hopefully I am only right about the good aliens. WORKING in precise maneuvers six astronauts must retrieve a satellite returning from Mars that might contain proof there may be life existing on another planet. This science fiction thriller had some intense, exciting scenes right from the start. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals, Prisoners) as David Johnson, Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, The Proposal) as Rory Adams, Hiroyuki Sanada (47 Ronin, The Wolverine) as Sho Murakami and Rebecca Ferguson (The Girl on the Train, Florence Foster Jenkins) as Miranda North; this horror film had some icky scenes that were hard to watch, involving blood and violence. I thought the sets and special effects were cool, while the actors did their job well. The idea of the story was fine; however, I felt the writers needed to take a different angle because as I sat watching this film I kept thinking about the movie Alien. I did not find much different in this movie though I did enjoy the surprise twists. What I did enjoy, maybe enjoy is not the right word, was the way the writers depicted life and that is all I can say about it. If you do not believe there may be extraterrestrial life, you may not be anxious to see this film. Based on my belief system, maybe you should see it.
2 1/3 stars
A good way to feel the heartbeat of a city is to take a ride on its commuter train. It is an easy way to not only see the city but to watch how its citizens mingle throughout the city’s arteries. When I used to take public transportation to work I would find myself getting lost into the brief visual vignettes all around me. There were the train’s adult babies who would quickly be lulled to sleep by the swaying of the train car as it rolled down the tracks. Among the passengers there was the group that always had a hardcover or paperback book to read, while another group used their electronic devices. The thing I liked to do was look out the windows. From my train car I could watch a parade taking place that had citizens carrying a long paper dragon down a street in a neighborhood with a large population of Asian Americans. In another part of the city I could see people sitting outside at a café having an afternoon coffee with shopping bags lying at their feet like trusted pets. After a few times on the same route I would know which train stops some of the passengers would get off at; business attired people would step out in the downtown area of the city and passengers with book bags or textbooks in their laps would get off at one of two stops that was close to a city college. For a different type of experience taking the train at night brings in a more intimate experience; at least it does for me. Apartment buildings would reveal a grid of lit windows where each one told a different story. With one blink of the eye I could see someone cooking up a storm of a meal or two people studiously peering down at a table full of jigsaw pieces. Each day would be a different scene and you would never know what you could witness. CATCHING the same train everyday Rachel, played by Emily Blunt (Into the Woods, Sicario), would come up with an internal story for the people she would see. But what if a person was not following her script? This mystery thriller based on the bestselling book also included Haley Bennett (The Magnificent Seven, The Equalizer) as Megan and Justin Theroux (American Psycho, Wanderlust) as Tom. Since I did not read the book I was confused for the 1st half of the movie, though Emily was excellent as Rachel. The issue for me was the script. I did not care for the scenes jumping back and forth in time along with several scenes that did not come across as authentic. All this did for me was to slow the pace down of telling the story. It was not until the last half of the picture where things picked up and it started to actually be a mystery thriller for me. An interesting side note; when I mentioned this to one of my classes 5 out of 6 people who read the book said they did not like it and felt the same about the book as I did about the film. Too bad the train ride I took did not reveal much excitement for me.
2 ¼ stars
It can be such a dilemma; the choice is whether to be supportive or honest. Now I grant you these two options can be compatible; but I have found myself in situations where I had to stop and think before I reacted to the circumstances present. So here is the question I have for you; how do you tell someone you care about that their dream will never happen? For what I hope is obvious reasons I have changed a few things here; let us say you have a close friend who wants to be a chef. They enjoy having dinner parties so they can try out new dishes on their friends. The food is fine but nothing you would pay for at a restaurant. Politeness dictates you tell your friend the food tastes good. Should you mention you would not necessarily pay for it but for homemade it was okay? Remember this friend’s dream is to be a chef either at an established venue or opening up their own place. Personally it is a tough call for me and I am the blunt one in my circle of friends. I would never quash a person’s dream; dreams are what make human beings grow and learn. On the other hand watching your friend spend money and time on something that probably will not yield them the desired results would be sad. Do you see my predicament? A similar situation was taking place in this biographical comedic drama. NEW YORK heiress Florence Foster Jenkins, played by Meryl Streep (Ricki and the Flash, Hope Springs), dreamed of becoming an opera singer. She had the means, the desire and the drive to fulfill this dream. The question was did she have the talent? Based on a true story this film’s cast formed a wonderful bond that came across the big screen. With Hugh Grant (About a Boy, Did You Hear About the Morgans?) as St. Clair Bayfield, Simon Helberg (Van Wilder: Party Liaison, The Big Bang Theory-TV) as Cosme McMoon and Rebecca Ferguson (Hercules, A One-Way Trip to Antibes) as Kathleen; the actors did their best with what was given to them. The story was better than the script. I thought the sets and costumes were spot on; but the script produced what I thought was a light version to what the story could have been. The acting was very good but I found the characters somewhat bland, though Simon’s character was curious. Without giving a spoiler alert let me just say I read somewhere that it was Meryl’s idea to not let the actors and extras hear her in some scenes until the first take. I have to say it worked because I thought the scenes looked authentic. So you see there were positives to this film; I just felt it lagged emotionally, not making a true connection with the viewer. Maybe there were people behind this project who dreamed of bringing this true story to the big screen. Who am I to tell them they should not have done it this way? Instead let me say my fascination with this story lingered on after the movie was over. The bottom line is everyone has the right to dream.
2 2/3 stars