IF YOU WOULD HAVE TOLD THE younger me that I would grow up and become a fitness instructor, I would have laughed in your face. I was far from being an athlete, let alone a physically active student. Reading, studying, watching TV/movies and eating were my dominant activities. Sure, I hung out with my friends all the time, but it wasn’t to toss or kick a ball. Pizza played an important part in my life back then. So, imagine the surprise some childhood friends and students had when we met at our recent class reunion. Hearing that I teach fitness not only shocked them but made a few laugh out loud, since they knew I had flunked PE twice. And I should mention back then I was much heavier. When I look at the course of my life I can pinpoint the exact moment when my mind opened up to physical fitness; it was a friend of mine who asked to join her at an aerobics class in the city. The class never felt like I was working out. Instead, it felt like I was dancing to the music being played. It was from that moment in time I shifted and became enthusiastic over fitness. THERE HAVE BEEN PEOPLE I HAVE encountered who stunned me when they mentioned what type of work they did for a living. At an art fair I met an artist who spent 20 years of her life being a corporate lawyer. She described the grueling hours she put in and the non-stop traveling she had to endure. After all those years she came to the realization that she was not happy with her job; so, she started pursuing something she had always loved doing, painting. After a time, she took a chance and entered an art show, where she wound up getting a first-place ribbon. From there she went full force by quitting her job and devoting all her time to painting. The story was inspirational to me. I find it fascinating how people wind up in their occupations. From that school reunion I mentioned earlier I discovered one student is a PhD, doing medical research on diseases; another person is a theater reviewer overseas. You certainly cannot judge an individual based on their occupation and vice versa, you can’t judge a person’s job based on their physical appearance. This holds true for the main character in this dramatic, action thriller. AFTER HER HUSBAND AND DAUGHTER WERE gunned down Riley North, played by Jennifer Garner (Miracles from Heaven; Love, Simon), wanted justice. Unfortunately, the justice system would not serve her well. With John Gallagher Jr (10 Cloverfield Lane, Short Term 12) as Detective Stan Carmichael, John Ortiz (Silver Linings Playbook, American Gangster) as Detective Moises Beltran, Juan Pablo (The 33, Shot Caller) as Diego and Annie Ilonzeh (He’s Just Not That into You, Person of Interest-TV) as FBI agent Lisa Inman; Jennifer appeared to be going back to her roots from her television show. I was looking forward to seeing her in this character, but I was surprised by the blood and violence; it was somewhat graphic. Though the fight scenes were okay, the script was weak. Just the idea of this one character taking on a large crime organization was a far stretch. Maybe if the writers had cut back some of the violence and devoted more time to building up her character I might have bought more into the story. But as it stands, this revenge film was not special; there was nothing shown that I had not seen before. I do not know but maybe the writers’ former classmates are wondering how these students became writers.
1 ¾ stars
I am afraid it is just like riding a bike; once you have mastered it you will never forget how to do it. Born from the hot sparks of anger and hurt, it can easily dominate all of your other emotions. No matter how expansive your mind may be, it will infiltrate and seize control of the areas that house logic and common sense. For reasons out of my control, I learned at an early age how to harness its energy and retaliate against my perceived enemies. There is that quote that goes,”Revenge is a dish best served cold,” which must explain why in my adult life I am so sensitive to cold temperatures. In middle school there was this kid who would pick on me whenever I was in his eyesight; from knocking my books out of my hand to punching me in the back, there was a variety of things he did to me. Once he was done I would plot these elaborate plans to get back at him. I am embarrassed to say this now but many of my plans involved drowning or fires because I wanted him to suffer before he would expire in my mind. You see I never acted on them, all but one stayed in my imagination. The only one I actually did, after a full week of daily abuse, was when I found thumbtacks in a similar color as the seats in our classroom; need I saw more? They say time heals old wounds and I found out in my adult life it was true. Believing in karma has helped me steer my energy to more positive behaviors, but I enjoyed saying hello to my old friend revenge in this horror thriller. HAVING been kidnapped and chained to the floor of a basement Eve, played by Tina Ivlev (The Devil’s in the Details, Death Clique-TV movie), spent her time plotting revenge against her kidnapper Phil, played by Richard Tyson (Kindergarten Cop, Black Hawk Down). I am guessing most people’s initial reaction to this movie will be similar to mine, regarding why Eve did not contact the police. Once I let go of that thought, I have to tell you I did not mind watching this film even with its bloody scenes. The character of Eve was strong enough to maintain my interest in the story. I really liked her tough stance because it was a switch from similar films of this nature. This was a low budget picture with a simple story that did not pretend to be anything else but a movie about revenge. It was so much better for me to just watch my old friend instead of acting out with it. Several scenes contained violence and blood in them.
2 1/4 stars
It can cut across all age groups. I am not saying it is right nor am I condoning it, even though I have done it myself. If you never acted it out there is a good possibility you have seen someone else do it. Maybe at the beach you saw two little ones building sand castles. I do not know what the attraction is but after the castles were done, one of the little ones kicked the other castle. In turn, the one with the broken castle ran over to the remaining castle and stomped on it. Through my school years I saw so many examples of revenge that sadly it was pretty much the norm. In my day revenge consisted of putting glue on a student’s seat or starting a rumor about them. With the access of the internet we have been exposed to various kinds of revenge and cyberbullying. I remember an incident where I worked at a company that had a boss who was a horrible person. Trust me when I say he was not a nice man; so keeping that in mind, I am going to tell you something that I am embarrassed to reveal. At work one day, late in the afternoon, I went to the restroom. Standing at the urinal I heard a faint cry for help. Looking over by the stalls I caught a glimpse of my boss’ shoes peeking under the only closed door. I pretended I did not hear anything and shut the lights off as I walked out of the bathroom. Back when that happened I knew it was wrong but it felt so good. REVENGE was the only reason ex-hitman John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves (The Matrix franchise, Devil’s Advocate), came out of retirement. This action thriller had a no-nonsense, take no prisoners approach that was beautifully executed by first time directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski. Interesting side note, the two directors were both stuntmen, which explained the focus on physical contact in this movie and I was impressed by it. The fights played out like live video games with precision choreographed movements. Keanu was well suited for this role with its sparse dialog that he delivered in the proper framework, whether it was sadness or sarcasm. Without giving away anything I thought the writers did a brilliant job on what was the motivation that pushed John back into his former line of work. Operating just as well were the actors Michael Nyqvist (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo franchise, Disconnect) as Viggo Tarasov, Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones-TV, The Other Boleyn Girl) as Iosef Tarasov and William Dafoe (Out of the Furnance, The Hunter) as Marcus. This film knew exactly what it wanted to achieve and succeeded. I have to tell you I did not know revenge would be so much fun to watch. There were many scenes that had blood and violence in them.
3 1/4 stars
It was a delayed reaction on my part when I heard the undecipherable sounds in the subway car. It was white noise or at least I thought it was when it coughed out of the train car speakers. The train was being detoured to the elevated tracks instead of its usual route and going express to a station that was unfamiliar to me. I was stuck as I gazed out the window at the new views of the city’s landscapes. It became exciting for me since I was seeing some of the city’s skyscrapers from a new angle and they were magnificent. We finally reached the station where I stepped out onto the platform, only to be surprised by what I saw before me. The station had been remodeled to its original look from the 1920’s. Freshly painted with wide brass signs hung on the wall, the place was a knockout. Here my trip had started out on an ordinary trek and wound up in a different place that shocked me. The same thing happened to me when I went to see this action mystery movie. I had no prior knowledge, did not know it was a remake of a South Korean cult classic or that the story would be so twisted. Josh Brolin (Men in Black 3, Milk) played alcoholic advertising executive, Joe Doucett. After a night of heavy drinking Joe woke up to find himself in a strange motel room. It turned out not to be a motel room but a cell, where he remained for the next 20 years. With no explanation or human contact to explain why he was imprisoned, one day Joe woke up and found himself free in an open field. He would spend every waking minute tracking down the people responsible for his imprisonment and take revenge on them. Directed by Spike Lee (Malcom X, Inside Man), visually the scenes were exciting but not for the faint of heart. There were extremely bloody and violent scenes in this action drama. Josh appeared to have bulked up for the demanding role and he impressed me with his determined darkness. Elizabeth Olsen (Silent House, Liberal Arts) brought her high level of excellent acting skills to her performance as Marie Sebastian, a first responder who was drawn into Joe’s plight. The story took such twisted turns that it was not a shock to see Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained) play the character Chaney. I have to honestly say this bizarre movie left me with mixed feelings. The cast was good but I felt some of the scenes lacked any depth, besides not making much sense to me. I would be very curious to get the original film and see why it has reached a cult status. Since I prefer knowing as little as possible when I go see a movie, I was very much taken aback by this crazy mystery; I just do not know if I enjoyed the ride. There were scenes with blood and violence.
2 1/4 stars
The act of forgiveness has always been mercurial at best for me. When I was younger, if someone broke my trust or crossed me I would wipe them out of my life. Just like deleting data from a disk or setting fire to the film negatives of all the memories I had of them; I would never think about them again. These days I have had some success on being a forgiving person. Inspired by real life individuals, this Sundance Film Festival winning movie dealt with the powerful acts of forgiveness, redemption and revenge. Alistair Little joined the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) at a young age. The time was during the conflict in Northern Ireland and Alistair’s goal was to kill a Catholic. The victim’s little brother witnessed the whole murder. Fast forward to a peaceful time and the media came up with a marketing idea to have the younger brother and killer meet and shake hands as a true sign of peace in the country. It was from this point that this film really worked for me. The adult Alistair was played by Liam Neeson (The Grey, Wrath of the Titans) and the surviving brother Joe Griffen was played by James Nesbitt (Coriolanus, Match Point). These two men took the intense script and added a knock out emotional punch to it. Mr. Nesbitt was riveting as he dealt with his red hot anger for revenge. I was glued to my television screen as each man dealt with their demons and thoughts on meeting once again. There was one quick bloody scene in the beginning of this dramatic film.
2 3/4 stars — DVD