WE WERE ALWAYS HANGING OUT TOGETHER. Back in the day we were able to eat lunch together despite not having the same classes. At parties if we were not sitting close to each other, we still were always within earshot. Our humor was similar, where we laughed at the same stupid things as someone tripping or having an embarrassing moment. Speaking for myself, I was immature and did not know better. For example, both of us kept our ears close to the gossip trail that went through our school. It sounds weird saying this, but we enjoyed hearing when there was a breakup in someone’s relationship. Our thinking was if we are not dating someone then no one else should either? I am doing a little psychoanalyzing as I am writing this review. It was not as if we thrived on bad news, but we certainly liked to be aware of the social stuff taking place at the school. Even when we were dating, we still found time to hang out and do stuff. I am sure what I am describing is not that unusual from anyone else. Since our school had definite cliques, the two of us could have been considered one. AS WE GREW OLDER, THINGS STARTED to change. The things we enjoyed doing back in school were holding less interest for me. We still spent time together with the same group of friends from time to time, but I was losing interest in the gossip and silly stuff we used to do back in school. I was not alone in this regard; I was thinking more about what direction I wanted my life to go towards, both in career and living space. As other interests filtered in, we did not see as much of each other. Looking back, I wished I had the skills then to express what I was feeling, but I did not. It was apparent we were having less and less in common, and I was drifting apart. There was still an affection for my friend, plus we had known each other for a long time. And I believe that was what kept us connected; it was our history together. We had both experienced so much together growing up that the emotions of that time kept a bond between us. However, as time was moving forward and the history was fading further back, I felt myself slipping away. There was no ill will and for those times we had seen each other later, there was a familiar comfortableness; but we also are not the same as we were when we were younger. Many of us, I believe, experience this same type of thing. It is part of growing up and you can see what it is like for some in this comedy. RECONNECTING WITH AN OLD FRIEND WAS supposed to be a good time for this stay-at-home dad. He was not prepared for it to turn into a wild weekend. With Kevin Hart (The Upside, Night School) as Sonny Fisher, Mark Wahlberg (Joe Bell, Instant Family) as Huck Dembo, Regina Hall (Girls Trip; Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul) as Maya Fisher, Che Tafari (The Good Place-TV, Daredevil-TV) as Dashiell Fisher and newcomer Amentii Sledge as Ava Fisher; the story in this movie was a good idea. But I am here to tell you, what the writers did was a crime. Pretty much most of the film consisted of gags and low-level humor. There were jokes for almost every body part/action and because they were not particularly funny, became a distraction for me. Kevin’s character was no different than almost any of the other comedy roles he has done. There was nothing here that made the performance unique. I was disinterested for a majority of the time; there simply was nothing new or exciting here. What was the studio thinking when they made this picture?
1 ½ stars
ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES, THERE IS NO way around it as far as I am concerned. A person always has a choice and based on their decision; they must deal with the results. In the news recently, a woman was convicted of embezzling close to $100,000.00 from the church where she was employed. The stolen money was used for personal trips and items for herself. I found it appalling that her lawyers were asking for leniency; I wished I were in the courtroom so I could ask them why she should get it. She chose to cheat the church out of its money. It was not like she had overwhelming debt or medical expenses, though that is still not an excuse to steal from anyone. There is a part of me that would like to know what events led up to this person doing such an act. I cannot imagine they thought it was okay; or I wonder if they thought they were smarter than everyone else? Call me “tough love” or “the enforcer;” but I am not a type of person who easily forgives and forgets. If you are doing something that you know is inappropriate or illegal, then do not do it. I AM SURE YOU HAVE SEEN the multitude of public figures that have been caught doing something “wrong.” In the state I live in, it is sad to say there have been many politicians who were apprehended for taking kickbacks, bribes, hush money, and other sordid things. The ones that really stand out for me are the figures who were caught cheating on their spouses. Both in the business world and private life, the only thing a human being can offer unequivocally is their word. When a person takes a vow to honor their significant other, to have and to hold; it is a significant statement. Of course, once they get discovered (if in the public eye) they act out in such a scripted way that I simply find it ridiculous. There next to them stands their spouse who is supposed to be unemotional and supportive. Why can’t they show how they really feel? Whether they choose to stay with their cheating spouse is up to them, but just because they are in the public eye, they cannot show their true feelings? I know there would be no way I could or want to do such a thing; as I said before, actions have consequences. And to tell you the truth, I would not be able to put up with the couple in this comedy. AFTER LOSING THEIR LARGE CHURCH CONGREGATION, the pastor and his wife decide it is worth fighting for and devise a plan to bring back their flock. With Regina Hall (Girls Trip, Scary Movie franchise) as Trinitie Childs, Sterling K. Brown (The Predator, This is Us-TV) as Lee-Curtis Childs, Nicole Beharie (42, Black Mirror-TV) as Shakura Sumpter, Conphidance (Burning Bridges, Bob Hearts Abishola-TV) as Keon Sumpter and Austin Crute (Booksmart, They/Them) as Khalil; this satirical film’s bright spot was watching Regina and Sterling. They made a believable couple with their well-conceived acting. However, that was pretty much it for me. I thought the script was poorly done. At first the story seemed like it was a comedy, but then it turned and felt like a drama. It was predictable, so the humor level was not too high. It almost seemed as if there were too many things the writers wanted to say which bogged down the characters’ development in my opinion. I could appreciate the idea behind the story because there certainly have been similar events that have taken place in the news. Sadly, this film needed an exorcism.
1 ¾ stars
HE WAS A MAN WHO NEVER heard the word “No,” during his professional role. I witnessed it for myself. During the summer I had a job at a company that was family owned. The man who hired me was the son of the owner, a man who had died several years prior. This company was the only job the son had done; he started helping out there during his elementary school years. I did not have much interaction with him, even though he was always around. However, I did see how the employees acted around him; some of them were even relatives of his. What became apparent to me was everyone’s reluctance to tell the son something negative or not aligned to his own way of thinking. Even if the person knew it was not in the company’s best interests, they would still not disagree with the son. For full disclosure, I will say the son was not the nicest man to work for; so, maybe some employees did not care about the company or its owner. I could only assume they did not need the job as much as I did. Again, I was only working there during the summer months before school started up again. THAT EXPERIENCE TURNED OUT TO BE quite helpful in my job searches. After I got out of college I applied at a local company that made handbags. During the interview process I discovered the company was being run by a child of the owner. I cannot remember if it was a son, daughter or grandchild. When I found this out it made sense to me because there was an extremely expensive car in the parking lot with vanity plates. I knew right at that moment that the car was owned by the owner’s child. Putting two and two together, I declined the offer they made me; I did not want to get involved with a company that had such a chain of command hierarchy. It was a good thing because a couple of years later I discovered the company had to file for bankruptcy. I never found out the details of it, but I was convinced part of the reason was having the son run the business. Now, I do not want to slight all family owned companies; I know of several that have remained successful from generation to generation. But, I will say if children of the owner are not raised in a reality-based environment, where they must work to get ahead and deal with being told “no,” then I feel the company will never succeed. See how this plays out in this crime action, comedy movie. THOUGH HIS FATHER HAD NO INVOLVEMENT with his upbringing JJ, played by Jessie T. Usher (Almost Christmas, Independence Day: Resurgence), decided to seek out his Dad for help in the mysterious death of a close friend. It would bring a whole new meaning to the saying, “Blood is thicker than water.” With Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers franchise, Snakes on a Plane) as John Shaft, Richard Roundtree (What Men Want, Brick) as John Shaft Sr., Regina Hall (Girls Trip, The Hate U Give) as Maya Babanikos and Alexandra Shipp (Straight Outta Compton; Love, Simon) as Sasha Arias; this film could have been both fun and exciting. Instead it was vulgar and unnecessary. If the writers wanted to move the original story forward, they could have done it without the profanity laced dialog and unimaginative scenarios. Everything was obvious and easy to figure out; I quickly got tired while watching this stale story. I left the movie theater with only one wish: that none of the characters in the story ever procreate.
1 ½ stars
IT SIMPLY TAKES ONE EVENT, OCCURRENCE, meeting or altercation to change a person’s life. I fortunately and unfortunately had a profusion of them. Having seen the aftermath of a boy’s torture and killing of a cat steered me down a path to save and protect the animal population. Seeing a fellow student hoisted up to a locker room window, to be flung out, made me avoid the locker room the rest of the school year. After a couple of kids made fun of my religious beliefs, I avoided any talk about religion with anyone for years. Being on the receiving end of physical abuse made me untrusting and avoid any physical contact with another human being. I could go on, but I think you get the point; the things that happen to us when we are kids can have a lasting effect on what we become. Sadly, for some of these individuals they wind up living their entire life without realizing they have not reached their full potential; that there is more to their life besides fear, sadness and anger. For others, that single event led them on a road of exploration to discover their full capabilities. Can one consider all these scenarios a game of chance? I USED TO WONDER HOW DIFFERENT my life would have turned out if I knew then what I knew now. If I had been an active participant in my PE classes I might have been on one of the school’s sports teams. If I had not been sideswiped by the abuse, maybe I would have let my guard down a bit upon meeting new people and be open to new experiences. One never knows and cannot spend most of their time wondering about “if”. That word “if” can be truly debilitating to a person. “If I had only done…”, “If I went…”, “If I had taken…”; any of these types of musings will drive you crazy. Trust me, I know of what I speak. The most valuable thing I learned is not to sit and dwell on all the “ifs” in your life. I am a firm believer there are no accidents; there is a reason for everything. It is this belief that has allowed me to stop dwelling on the past and realize everything that happened to me led to who I am presently. Once I came to this realization I experienced a sense of freedom that allowed me to finally live my life. After all I have said you still wish you could go back and repeat your life, then you need to first take a look at this comedic fantasy. THERE WAS A REASON COMPANY OWNER Jordan Sanders, played by Regina Hall (Girls Trip, The Best Man Holiday), never let her guard down nor cared about her employees’ feelings. She was about to find out why. This romantic film also starred Issa Rae (The Hate U Give, A Bitter Lime) as April Williams, Marsai Martin (Blackish-TV, Goldie and Bear-TV) as little Jordan Sanders, Justin Hartley (This is Us-TV, A Bad Moms Christmas) as Mr. Marshall and Tone Bell (Dog Days, Whitney-TV) as Preston. The cast was well chosen for this story and did an admirable job of acting. There were a few humorous scenes and some funny lines; however, I did not get heavily involved in the story. The reason being this story had been done before and done a whole lot better. I found the script uneven as it jumped around from one emotional level to another, without any connections. It was a disservice to the actors where I did not see any chemistry being developed. I appreciated what the writers were trying to say, but something must have happened that made them veer off course.
EACH OF US I BELIEVE CARRIES a daily pill box container inside of us. I can see each of those little squares holding a small aspect of our personality, those things that make us, us. Not in a split personality way, but I feel we all have different personas we need to wear depending on the situation. I know when I teach my class I am a different person than when I am a credit manager at work. In fact, there have been many people in my classes who are stunned when they hear I am a credit manager. It is funny because several of them said the same thing, that I seem too nice to be in that position. Think about it; when you accompany your significant other to one of their work functions, don’t you act a certain way? I am willing to bet most of you who do, are conscious of what you say and how you act in front of your loved one’s fellow employees and superiors. It always stuns me when an employee’s partner winds up stinking drunk and makes a scene in front of everyone. NOW THERE ARE SOME INDIVIDUALS WHO act the same no matter what environment they occupy; damn anyone who doesn’t like the way they act. I used to be one of those people; I would say I was an extreme version of who I am now. There is this game where players must guess which answer you would choose for each scenario that gets presented to you. I had to stop playing because everyone knew exactly how I would react in each situation. I firmly believe everyone needs to be true to themselves. Where I used to make sure people knew I did not like them; now I can be civil and lessen my exposure to them if I can. I will not kid you, it takes some finesse. There just are some individuals who are not nice; feel free to put in any other adjective, since I erased them during my editing of this review. I am no longer an “in your face” type of person; however, if need be I have that aspect tucked inside of me. And that is what I meant about we have a pill box container inside of each of us. To show you an example, there is an incredible one inside of this film festival winning, crime drama. AS THE SOLE WITNESS TO A SHOOTING Starr, played by Amanda Stenberg (The Darkest Minds, The Hunger Games), knew if she revealed herself people’s perceptions of her would forever change. She did not know if she was that strong to do such a thing. Also starring Regina Hall (Girls Trip, Scary Movie franchise) as Lisa Carter, Russell Hornsby (Fences, After the Sunset) as Maverick “Mac” Carter, Anthony Mackie (Captain America franchise, The Hurt Locker) as King and Issa Rae (A Bitter Lime, Insecure-TV) as April Ofrah; this movie took me away to another place. The story, which was completely current and important, blossomed with the well written script and amazing acting skills of the cast. Amandla would be someone to watch for because she was beautiful in her role. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the script went from a humorous spot to an intense moment, to finally end up in a thoughtful place. It felt as if the writers and director precisely dissected the story to present a complete picture to the viewer. Though the story may be something you have already seen on the news; I found this picture presented a different take on it and I am here to say my eyes were glued to the movie screen.
THE restaurant was full of people which kept the noise volume up at a consistent level. It was the usual sounds: clatter of dishes, scraping of silverware, conversations and low volume music. We were seated around one of the many round tables that filled up the center of the restaurant. I did not have any trouble hearing our conversations over the steady din of random sounds. It was when we were nibbling on our appetizers that a table nearby opened up and quickly after new diners were escorted to it by the hostess. There were 4 of them and they were in good spirits as they were laughing and high fiving each other on the way to their table. Once seated the group did not let up on the laughing and carrying on, calling each other either by their nicknames or something of a derogatory nature. BY the time our main courses came to the table the noise from that group of four rose and stayed above the general sound level; however, they were freely using foul language within their comments and jokes. Now I do not have a problem with such language, but I tend to be considerate of my environment. In mixed company, I am referring to adults and children; I would never use such language. My friends are used to my colorful vocabulary since those types of coarse words are adjectives to me. If I were to use such strong language at a restaurant I certainly would not say it loud enough to go beyond my table, unlike the group near me. They were throwing the F-bomb around like confetti and I could see some of the other diners were shooting them dirty looks. If anyone from that loud table noticed, they certainly did not care since they kept up the foul language and boisterous laughter. I tried to block out the noise they were creating but it did not work, just as it did not work for me in this comedy. LIFE sometimes can get in the way of maintaining friendships; it had been a long time since girlfriends Ryan Pierce, Sasha Franklin, Lisa Cooper and Dina; played by Regina Hall (Law Abiding Citizen, Think Like a Man), Queen Latifah (Chicago, Bringing Down the House), Jada Pinkett Smith (Bad Moms, Gotham-TV) and Tiffany Haddish (Keanu, The Carmichael Show-TV); hung out together. The best way to solve it would be a girls’ trip to New Orleans. These four actresses worked extremely well together to form a believable group of lifelong friends. Even during times when I thought the conversation was rapidly boxing back and forth, the actresses were skillfully able to handle it. With that being said the script was loaded with strong and sexual language; I mean loaded like top heavy to the point if one were to remove all such dialog the movie would be half as long. If one gets offended by such language then this would not be the movie to see. The script had predictability; however, compared to recent female lead comedies, this one had a few good laughs in it. Personally I do not find swearing a comedic talent; to me it is a lazy way of creating a funny situation. Plus the idea of women talking trash I feel is used to shock viewers because there was a time people were raised to believe women who spoke like that were “bad.” Based on the crowd I was sitting with, the majority of women in the theater liked this film more than I did.
2 ¼ stars
It used to be one would peruse the sale advertisements, see something they like/want/need, go to the store and buy it. You knew what you were getting; the item purchased matched the ad. Then something changed in the sale papers, instead of mentioning the name brand the verbiage stated, “…assorted brands from top manufacturers.” The pictures in the advertisements were shot in such a way that you could not make out the name on the product. Okay I get that, the retail store wants you to come in, hoping you buy the product; but if you do not, then they hope you will find something else while you are in their store. In a similar vein with the move to selling on the internet, I have heard a variety of stories about people buying something that was not exactly what was represented on the web site. Just a couple of weeks ago I was with some friends who had recently returned from a vacation. They decided to try the site that offers stays at people’s houses instead of motels/hotels. They even showed me the place and I have to say it looked charming. However, when they arrived at the home the lawn was strewn with a variety of things from shovels (I know, I thought the same thing—graves) to a broken bicycle. The owner answered the door in a dirty, torn T-shirt. He showed them the room and bathroom and let me just say it was not modern, nor was it sparkling clean if you know what I mean. To finish this story, they stayed only 1 night then moved to a hotel. The moral of the story is, “looks can be deceiving.” DESPARATE to start a family John and Laura Taylor, played by Morris Chestnut (The Call, The Best Man Holiday) and Regina Hall (Law Abiding Citizen, Think Like a Man), had been looking for the perfect surrogate mother. Down to their last frozen egg they were sure they found the right one when they saw Anna Walsh, played by Jaz Sinclair (Paper Towns). Also starring Theo Rossi (Bad Hurt, Sons of Anarchy-TV) as Mike Mitchell, this dramatic horror mystery started out okay. I was familiar with Morris and Regina seeing them from previous films, but what attracted my attention more was their characters’ house. The movie started out fine and used the hook of motherhood to grab the viewers. Sadly things went south very quickly. The story was beyond generic, having been done numerous times before. I pretty much found most things so predictable that I was constantly bored. There may have been a couple of scenes that had the hint of a surprise but they were few and far between. Even some of the spoken lines were cheesy and clichéd. I am sure the actors tried their best but there was very little effort given to the script to give the actors something to work with beyond the obvious. In fact, the best part or should I say parts of this film was the trailer. Watch the trailer and you have seen the movie; watch the trailer and movie and you will understand why looks can be deceiving.
1 ¾ stars
When we get together we not only come up with solutions to each of our problems, but we can provide the same for most of the world’s issues. There is something about getting together with friends on a regular basis to hash out anything that is troubling one of us at the time. I am part of a small group who has gotten together every three months for many years now. It is a time for us to take a break from the daily treadmill of our lives to catch up with each other and share a meal. I wish I could say I can solve any problem I am experiencing; but the fact remains, extra opinions can provide different pathways to a solution that I am not wired to come up with on my own. Because I feel every single person has a unique set of skills (doesn’t this sound like the beginning of a Liam Neeson movie?), there is always an opportunity to learn something new from other people. Another great aspect of getting together with friends is the sense of community and support. I am a person who needs down time, where I remove myself from the outside world. Having a re-occurring date to mingle with friends energizes, enlightens and relaxes me among other things. There is someone I know who leads a support group for like-minded individuals; they meet once every 4 to 8 weeks with the purpose to share their experiences on that night’s topic. I know what I am about to say is a cliché, but there is some truth in the phrase, “strength in numbers.” The people at this barbershop are the proof. WITH the neighborhood changing business partners Calvin and Angie, played by Ice Cube (Ride Along franchise, 21 Jump Street franchise) and Regina Hall (Scary Movie franchise, Think Like a Man), came up with an idea they hoped would start a change in the residents. This dramatic comedy sequel took me by surprise. It is difficult to blend comedy and drama in a story, yet I felt the writers did a real good job with this script. The movie was relevant as it tackled the issue of violence in a major metropolitan city. A tough topic to be sure; but the actors such as Cedric the Entertainer (The Soul Man-TV, A Haunted House franchise) as Eddie, Common (Selma, Now You See Me) as Rashad and Nicki Minaj (The Other Woman) as Draya provided a balanced mixture of humor and seriousness. All the actors I found created a believable sense of community. I know I saw the previous films but honestly I do not remember them; it was not an issue in viewing this picture. Where Spike Lee’s film Chi-Raq tackled the same topic, I liked seeing the contrast in the way this movie handled it. Who knew one could learn so much from one small barbershop in the city of Chicago.
Years of learning to clear my dinner plate of all food has taught me to appreciate the importance of having food guests want to eat. I have had dinner parties where most of the meal has dishes I do not like. But I was raised with the notion that no one should leave the dinner table hungry, so I tend to make a variety of main and side dishes. In my mind this is what a host is supposed to do. It is the same if you are hosting an event outside of the home, such as being the best man/woman for a bachelor/bachelorette party. Being responsible for entertaining and feeding the invited guests, the best person usually does everything they can to make it a memorable bash. For some individuals money is no object, even if multiple charge cards are employed in making the event. What host would want any of their guests not having a good time? Certainly not Cedric, played by Kevin Hart (Ride Along, About Last Night), who was the best man of a wedding party in this comedy. The same could be said for Lauren, played by Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Date Night), who was hosting a bachelorette party the same time as the guys’ big night. In this sequel the friends descend onto Las Vegas to celebrate the wedding of Candace, played by Regina Hall (Law Abiding Citizen, Scary Movie franchise). Nothing was going to get in the way of a good time, even Kristen’s future mother-in-law Loretta, played by Jennifer Lewis (Hereafter, Meet the Browns). For those of you who enjoyed the first movie, more than likely you will have a good time watching this sequel. As for me my 1st and biggest complaint has to do with Kevin Hart. I have seen enough of his movies (not always by choice) to see he has very little acting talent. Each of his performances consist of him screeching in an annoying vocal pitch, dishing out insults in a machine gun style of rapid fire barbs while being the recipient of a multitude of put-downs. As far as I could tell there were no original jokes in this cheap, tired mess. Everything was easy to follow since it was so predictable. I was bored throughout the picture; however, I will say I liked the lip sync video to the song “Poison,” though it was a ploy to fill up the running time because the writers evidently had run out of ideas. Oh wait, that is not right; the writers had no ideas, using standard situations that were done before. Hosting a movie night at my house, I would be embarrassed to show this film. There was a brief extra scene at the end of the credits.
1 2/3 stars
The challenge does not take place until after the honeymoon phase of the relationship. When the two of you started dating, each of you was always excited to see the other. Every time you got together you experienced the air rippling around you as if it were humming across your skin in waves of affectionate chills. On your best behavior; the two of you avoided uttering any negatives to questions, wore only the most flattering of clothes, would not eat any food like corn on the cob or fried chicken that could leave something between your teeth or hanging off your lips. However, once past this phase you two enter the reality period. This is the place where each of you sees how supportive the other can be in an anxious situation. You are not afraid to get your hands dirty, so to speak, plus you take more risks in revealing your fears and dreams. The key to making this all work is maintaining good communication between the two of you. Think of communication as the mortar that keeps the bricks of your relationship together. In this romantic comedy you will see two couples as they try to navigate their way from the dating phase to the real world, with some unexpected results. Kevin Hart (Ride Along, Grudge Match) and Michael Ealy (Seven Pounds, Taken) played best friends Bernie and Danny. One night out at a nightclub Bernie’s acquaintance Joan, played by Regina Hall (Law Abiding Citizen, Think Like a Man) introduced her roommate Debbie, played by Joy Bryant (Antwone Fisher, The Skeleton Key), to Danny. What followed was a bumpy ride in figuring out what each person wanted in a relationship. This film was an updated version of the 1984 movie that was based on the David Mamet (Hannibal, Glengarry Glen Ross) play, Sexual Perversity in Chicago. I found this version of the story to be crass and raunchy, with less of the sophisticated nuances that were part of the previous one. Once again here was a movie with Kevin Hart where I felt he was just doing his stand-up comedy act. His rapid fire style of talking or more precisely yelling got old for me pretty quickly. I felt the Danny and Debbie characters were more real, enjoying their story line better. There were parts of the movie that were fun and humorous but for the most part I never felt fully invested in the story. I want to say there was some merit in seeing this movie, if for no other reason just to witness the consequences of poor communication within a relationship; however, there was too much vulgarity and arguing for my tastes.