HERE IT WAS NIGHTTIME AND I was sitting in a bus in the middle of a traffic jam. Normally, I would be aggravated but since I was on vacation, I was enjoying looking out the bus window at the sights. In the short distance we had traveled, I had already seen an erupting volcano and a sinking pirate ship. It was my first-time visiting Las Vegas and everything I had heard about it was true. There were throngs of people from all walks of life, neon lights and light bulbs everywhere and the constant noise of bells and tumbling change in every hotel. I could not get over the amount of people out and about along the strip. There were hawkers lined up on every block; each trying to shove their pamphlets into tourists’ hands. I got a kick out of each hotel taking on a theme of some kind. Besides the volcano and pirate ship, there was one hotel that had an Arabian theme and another a Roman one. I had never seen anything like it before and wanted to take in as much as I could for the short time I was visiting. That is why I decided to take a bus ride; I figured it was the best way to see everything on the strip while traveling to the downtown area. WHERE THE BUS ENDED ITS ROUTE was in an old type of garage; I could not call it a bus terminal. It was inside what looked like an office building. The garage had a circular drive so the buses could easily enter and exit the place. As I left through the exit doors, I noticed there were no lights or neon anywhere. I was on a dark street with a couple of lone streetlamps that looked tired. No sign of any hotels or attractions, just non-descript store fronts. There was a pawn shop that had a faded wooden sign above its door. Next to it was a gun shop that had metal bars across its windows. This was not exactly the experience I envisioned when I decided to visit Las Vegas. There was something gritty and dirty about the area I was walking in. As far as I could tell this area looked a lot older than the hotels that were on the strip. It looked like a lost version of Las Vegas without the flash and pizzazz. I had heard and read a few things about how Las Vegas came to be, and it looked like I had stumbled into that rough and tumble time as the city was dealing with an influx of celebrities and criminals. What I envisioned was similar to what I saw in this Golden Globe and film festival winning crime drama. SAM “ACE” ROTHSTEIN, PLAYED BY ROBERT De Niro (The Irishman, Cape Fear), was sent to make sure the hotel’s operations in Las Vegas were running quietly and smoothly. He should not have brought his close friend Nicky Santoro, played by Joe Pesci (Raging Bull, My Cousin Vinny) with him then. With Sharon Stone (Fading Gigolo, Basic Instinct) as Ginger McKenna, James Wood (The Virgin Suicides, Any Given Sunday) as Lester Diamond and Don Rickles (Kelly’s Heroes, CPO Sharkey-TV) as Billy Sherbert; this Academy Award nominated film was bursting with amazing performances. There was not one actor who was pushed into the shadows of another; everyone grabbed the viewer’s attention. I thought the sets and costumes were perfect as the story traveled across its timeline. There were violent bloody scenes that came close to overpowering the rest of the story, where I started to expect them in almost every scene. Though the film is long, I did not find my mind wandering; however, I did feel there was the lack of depth in multiple scenes. Overall, this was a good old fashioned “gangster” picture depicting a past era.
3 ½ stars
HAVING A STRONG INTEREST IN HISTORY, I have always had an awareness about being a part of it. Now, I know each of us has a history and a place in other people’s history; however, there is a part of me that wants to be associated with something that makes history for being the first. For example, like the person who created post-it notes or the one who came up with that new shade of blue. I prefer to be known for something positive. Years ago, I was a participant in a charity’s inaugural fundraising event that took place on a cruise boat. I was with a group of bachelors that were to be auctioned off. Each of us had our own dinner package included; mine was a dinner at an Italian restaurant followed with a concert at an outdoor venue. We did promotions for the event, such as holding meet and greets at different locations in the city and being on a float in a parade. The press was kind to us, though I have to say I was surprised when I saw a picture of myself in one of the local newspapers. It was a fun time and we raised a substantial amount of money for the charity. LOOKING AT OTHER THINGS I HAVE DONE, something that never occurred to me was the historical significance of my movie review site. I did not realize that these reviews will be available for my family’s future generations. All I have that connects me to past generations are photographs and old silent film clips. The idea that some relative of mine in the year 2099 can learn about me from reading my reviews blows my mind. I think about this more as I am growing older. I would think the same for the passengers, I recently saw on the news, who took part in the longest non-stop plane ride; imagine what they will be telling their descendants. Or sadly, the tourists involved with the volcano eruption in New Zealand; that now becomes a part of their history. I think about the members I have had in my classes who have come up to me to express the difference I have made in their lives. Here I thought I was doing a job; but it turns out I was doing something more. Seeing the change that takes place in the members’ lives is one of my biggest pleasures when it comes to teaching class. As I said earlier, we all have a history that affects others; that is certainly the case with the main character in this biographical, crime drama. AT THE TIME HE WAS FOLLOWING orders; but Mafia hitman Frank Sheehan’s, played by Robert De Niro (Mean Streets, Joker), dependability and loyalty made him a part of this country’s history. With Al Pacino (The Godfather franchise, Dick Tracy) as Jimmy Hoffa, Joe Pesci (Raging Bull, My Cousin Vinny) as Russell Bufalino, Harvey Keitel (Bad Lieutenant, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Angelo Bruno and Ray Romano (The Big Sick, Everybody Loves Raymond-TV) as Bill Bufalino; no one could ask for a better cast when it came to acting out these characters. The story was fascinating to me; especially because, I was familiar with some of the names that were being mentioned in the movie. The directing and filming of this picture was beautifully done; however, I felt there were parts that dragged on too long. The script caused these slow spots in places where I had to wait for the actors to move on. And truthfully, I felt there was a difference in watching this movie on a small screen instead of at the theater. Overall, I still enjoyed the film; but I wonder how much of it was based on truth. Because if it was indeed true, then Frank Sheeran definitely has a place in history.
3 ¼ stars
SADLY, IT DID CROSS MY MIND IF any of the theater patrons were looking at me as a threat; these are the times we live in now. I was the only one, as far as I could see, who was wearing a jacket inside the theater. Following my usual routine, I was standing outside in the hallway of the theater waiting for the previews to begin. I was observing the people walking in and then guessing if they were here to see the same movie as me. There was so much buzz about today’s film, I assumed it would only make people more curious to see it. With the film being shown in several of the movie theaters of the multiplex, I watched as the people filtered into the individual theaters that lined the long hallway. Sure enough, there were several couples who had their children with them to see this picture. I cannot tell you how much this always upsets me; taking young children to R rated films, especially when the rating is meant for the level of violence depicted in the movie. As I was looking at these families, I wondered what affect this film would have on these young kids. From there my mind began wandering off, where I started remembering some of my classmates when I was back in school. IT SEEMED AS IF EACH CLASSROOM had at least one bully, one creepy and one scary student. I think I mentioned in a past movie review a student I knew who was unkind to animals. He was not someone I ever associated with and for good reason. There was also a classmate who found it funny to make snowballs with a rock in the center of them. He equally enjoyed throwing these snowballs at kids and buses. I can still remember the feeling I had around certain students; they never showed any remorse or concern for the individuals they harmed. They scared me, causing me to always be cautious around them. Anytime I would see one of them in the hallway between classes, I would veer off as far as I could to the side, so as not to get in close contact with them. As I am writing this review, I am now recalling how one of these scary students wanted to enlist in the military so he could kill people. What I have just written in this review is to show you how today’s dramatic, crime thriller affected me when I went to see it. BEFORE THERE WAS A BATMAN THERE was Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix (Her, You Were Never Really Here), who wanted to be a stand-up comic. How in the world did telling jokes turn into a deadly profession? Find out in this film festival winning movie. With Robert De Niro (The Comedian, Dirty Grandpa) as Murray Franklin, Zazie Beetz (Geostorm, Deadpool 2) as Sophie Dumond, Frances Conroy (The Aviator, Six Feet Under-TV) as Penny Fleck and Brett Cullen (Ghost Rider, Person of Interest-TV) as Thomas Wayne; this film was disturbing to watch. Joaquin was unbelievable in the role. Having lost 52 pounds, I had a hard time looking at Joaquin; most of his bones had become prominent. The story plotted out a logical progression in the transformation of his character; however, there were times I felt it was predictable and reminiscent of a couple of other films I had seen in the past. With both the script and the filming having a darkness to it; I could understand the concerns people have expressed about this origin story. Ultimately this is a fictional film movie based on a cartoon character; but, it certainly will make you wonder.
ONCE you typecast a person you essentially are telling them they cannot evolve. Look at the examples we have seen in the celebrity world. Child performers can have a solid career playing a limited range of roles that suit their current personas; however, when they reach puberty and start exerting their independence a majority of viewers/followers turn on them. There are 2 musical artists I can think of immediately who acted out outrageously to break the mold they were boxed into by fans’ perceptions. I can understand how some of us do not want to see our celebrities grow up; but it is a natural part of life. Heck I get it since I still think of myself as a younger version of who I used to be. Asking my friends and family I am sure they will say I certainly do not act my age; however here is a question for you, who decided how we are supposed to act based on our birth age? My philosophy has always been, “young at heart, young in mind.” WHEN I first started out teaching fitness I soon saw signs that I was being typecast in a certain way. From some of the remarks I would get to comments I said in class I realized members assumed I only studied PE courses and was teaching full time. The first time I told someone my educational background I remember how stunned they were that I had studied in the fields of animal science and photography. Even to this day it is not unusual for someone in my yoga class to be surprised when they hear I am a credit manager. The majority of the time the first response to me is, “You are so nice; how are you a credit manager?” I guess there is a stereotype associated with being a credit manager. Speaking of stereotypes and typecasting I am concerned the main actor in this comedy is trying to break the typecast of him being a great actor. HAVING been a famous former TV star Jackie Burke, played by Robert De Niro (Dirty Grandpa, Casino) had a hard time convincing the public he was something more than just his television character. No matter how outrageous he would get his fans wanted the old TV character. This film festival winner had an amazing cast that included Leslie Mann (The Other Woman, Knocked Up) as Harmony Schiltz, Harvey Keitel (The Piano, Reservoir Dogs) as Mac Schiltz, Danny DeVito (When in Rome, L.A. Confidential) as Jimmy Berkowitz and Patti LuPone (Parker, Driving Miss Daisy) as Florence Berkowitz. The story may not have been anything special; but with such a cast, if the script had been a whole lot better then maybe this would have been a decent movie. As it turned out this picture was bad. Put aside the foul language, there was so little that seemed realistic that I was bored through most of the film besides being embarrassed for all the actors. Nothing got developed story wise, the script was a series of skits in my opinion. It would not be fair for me to say but with Robert’s recent film choices he is in a downward spiral. Having seen this and his film Dirty Grandpa makes me think he wants to break some mold he feels he has been placed in.
1 ½ stars
I can accept and appreciate a person’s talent. Whether it was something they were born with or they trained for years, it does not matter to me. But I have to tell you it takes something more for that talented person to earn my respect. I know some of you are saying who am I to withhold respect for the talented individual and you would be correct. That person does not know me nor will probably ever meet me, but this is how I am wired. Let me use the swimmer from the recent Olympics who filed a false police report. Being a world champion swimmer with multiple endorsements, at one point had a television show, traveling the world, I assume making a pretty penny and that is not enough for them that they needed to attract more attention to themselves by creating a false crime; I find it sad and disrespectful on many levels. As far as I am concerned I would not devote a second of interest towards anything this person does or says. On top of it I would certainly never buy or even try any product associated with them. Now I do want to make the distinction that there may be a talented person who does not have the same beliefs I do and that is okay. Fortunately I live in a place where freedom of speech is protected, so I do not have any issue with someone who may act in a way that is not compatible to my way of thinking; I still respect and accept them even if at times I feel conflicted with their actions compared to their achievements. The main character in this biographical drama would be a perfect example of what I mean. SOMETHING special took place when Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran, played by Edgar Ramirez (Point Break, Joy), met an American trainer named Ray Arcel, played by Robert De Niro (The Intern, Grudge Match). Though I knew some of the names in this action movie I really did not know anything about their history. With musician Usher Raymond (Muppets Most Wanted, Scary Movie 5) as Sugar Ray Leonard, Ruben Blades (Safe House, The Devil’s Own) as Carlos Eleta and Ana de Armas (War Dogs, Anabel) as Felicidad Iglesias; I thought the best acting came out of Edgar and Robert. Usher did not look or act the character though he had his dance moves for the footwork needed in the boxing ring. One of the reasons I thought Edgar’s acting was exceptional was the way I was reacting to his character. On one side you had this incredibly talented boxer who to me was arrogant and rude; but on the other hand, he could be generous and loving. It was a conflict for me which meant Edgar was doing a good portrayal. I just wished the script was better because there was too much going on with various story lines, besides the predictability of it. Most events except for the well choreographed boxing scenes felt like they were only scratching the surface. Just as I felt conflicted about the boxer as a person, I felt the same way about this movie. There were scenes that showed blood.
The first time I saw a warning label printed on a product, I remember thinking why would anyone want to buy something that could harm them. It was a pack of cigarettes, I recall. The other item I remember were those plastic bags that dry cleaners used to wrap customers’ freshly laundered clothing. Today it seems as if almost everything comes with some type of warning. Some of them make sense like the ones regarding medicine and over the counter drugs. I am someone who wants to know if a drug is going to make me sleepy or loopy. Recently I bought a hot air popcorn popper and there was a warning not to submerge the base of it in water because it could be an electrical hazard. Ok, that makes sense to me. Now there are some product warnings I have seen where I think the manufacturer must be assuming the person buying their product has no common sense. Shouldn’t everyone know to lift up a hot pot by its handles? I absolutely understand companies are afraid they will get sued, but doesn’t the consumer bear some of the responsibility? Wasn’t there something in the news about a person taking legal action against a fast food chain because the hot coffee filled cup they placed between their legs, while driving out of the drive thru, spilled and burned their legs? Regarding movies, each of them comes with a rating which in a way is like a warning about the content of that particular film. None of the current ratings explain the warning one needs before seeing this comedy. HAVING recently buried his wife Dick Kelly, played by Robert De Niro (Joy, Being Flynn), convinced his soon to be married grandson Jason, played by Zac Efron (Neighbors, That Awkward Moment), to take him on a road trip. Their trip would reveal many new surprises. I want to know how the cast which also included Zoey Deutch (Beautiful Creatures, Ringer-TV) as Shadia, Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed, Life After Beth) as Lenore and Julianne Hough (Safe Haven, Footloose) as Meredith could do any type of press tour and not be embarrassed by this movie. This was one of the worst films I have seen in the past year. The script was vulgar, crude, obnoxious and offensive; I could go on. It is astounding that these actors agreed to do this picture, especially Robert De Niro. Sure he can do comedy but why would he set himself up for ridicule. I guarantee you when the time comes to do a tribute to him; this movie will not be included in any of the film clips of his past roles. In regards to Zac, it seemed to me as if he counted on his looks more than his limited acting skills. This movie needed a warning label so innocent people would not spend their money and unwittingly let the studio know it is okay to make a crappy film.
We had worked at the same company for several years, just in different departments. They did not see their position as a long-term career because they had something else in mind. Being quite creative, away from the office they went to classes to learn a particular craft that was needed if they wanted to keep their dream moving towards reality. I saw pictures of their work; they showed beautiful images of objects and places that were familiar and easily recognizable. The difference was they created them for consumption by making them with food ingredients. Their dream was to open up a business where they could sell their creations. It took them a few years to master the art of designing everyday objects into edible sweet treats. There were baked chocolate top hats with white chocolate bands and red cherry buttons on the sides besides vanilla cupcakes that looked like a set of major league baseballs. They were as tasty as they looked. After selling these types of baked goods by word of mouth, they took a big step and found an empty storefront to rent. Here they would build shelves, buy coolers and baking equipment so they could open up and sell their wares to the general public. This was their dream; they did not want to grow old and wonder how their life would have turned out if they at least had not followed through on their dream. I believe some people call it, “having no regrets.” This is something I believe in too. I do not want to grow old with wishes I had done things differently. What one needs to achieve this is perseverance. NOT wanting to wind up like the rest of her family Joy, played by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games franchise, X-Men franchise), had an idea. The problem would be getting people to believe in her. This film festival nominated, dramatic comedy was based on a true story. With some of the actors like Robert De Niro (The Intern, The Deer Hunter) as Rudy and Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, Silver LInings Playbook) as Neil Walker having worked together previously, there was an easy flow between the characters. Jennifer was outstanding in the role; actually, I found her to be the number one reason to see this film. Who else I found exceptional was Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet, Death Becomes Her) as Trudy. Sadly the script did not elevate the story or the characters. There were parts of this film that stood out for me, where the acting and action were well done. But then there were segments that dragged down the story. If it was not for Jennifer I would have had a hard time staying with this film. The story was amazing if what was on screen was actually true; Joy was one driven character. For such a person who did what she did, this movie did not sell her story in the best way.
2 1/3 stars
It started with a letter I read in a syndicated advice column. A person wrote in lamenting about the state of our education system that seems to be pushing students through who do not have simple basic skills. This person’s example was the checker at their grocery store who could not figure out what the cost was for an item that had a sale price of 4 for $1.00, but was ringing up at 44 cents each. When the shopper pointed it out, the checker had to ask a coworker who also could not figure out what to charge for each item. This shopper knew that these 2 had graduated with honors from high school and were college freshmen. They finally took out a calculator to get the correct answer of 25 cents per item. It is funny because I had a similar experience at the movie theater last week. My ticket cost $5.75 so I gave the cashier a $20 dollar bill and a single dollar. The person started to hand back the dollar to me but I told her I wanted even change. I could tell they had no idea what I wanted so I had to explain what change I wanted back. There used to be a time when older employees with a long job history were admired and respected for their knowledge and experience. These employees were invaluable to a company. From what I have seen and heard that is no longer the case. When a company is looking to cut costs the older employees can be targeted because the company may feel they can get someone young and right out of college to fill the position for half the price. This is why I thought the premise for the story in this comedy was a good one. SINCE retirement was not totally fulfilling for 70 year old Ben, played by Robert De Niro (Casino, Meet the Parents franchise), he decided to apply for the intern position at a hot new online fashion company. It was quickly apparent to him offices and their employees had changed when he saw the company’s president Jules, played by Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married, Love & Other Drugs), riding around the office on a bicycle. I thought Robert was especially good in this role and was surprised at the chemistry he had with Anne. There were some scenes they shared that worked well, similar to the ones he shared with Rene Russo (Outbreak, Thor franchise) as Fiona. The issue I had with the script was the multiple offshoots to the main story. I felt some scenes were forced just to try and get a laugh; they were unnecessary to me. If the writers would have focused more on the company and its employees the movie would have been stronger in my opinion. On the plus side I appreciated the film showing the value of having an older more experienced employee.
2 1/3 stars
Early on in my teaching years I became aware I was not only the instructor but the student. The members who attended my classes were not aware they were presenting me with a life changing gift. They showed me that age was only a number. Prior to teaching fitness I did not have an example of an older individual who continued to be active, either in a professional or physical capacity. In my classes I would see people in their 70’s and 80’s keeping up with strength training and aerobic activities. My most profound experience was watching a wheelchair bound member, who after a few months, got up out of their seat in one of my yoga classes. It changed my whole outlook about growing up and growing old. Since that time I am all for people who do not let their age stop them from being active and utilizing their skills. So this brings us to today’s review of this comedy film. The story was about 2 former boxers Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp and Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen, played by Sylvester Stallone (Escape Plan, Rocky franchise) and Robert De Niro (Casino, The Family). It has been 30 years since the 2 bitter rivals last boxed but sports agent Dante Slate Jr., played by Kevin Hart (Think Like a Man, This is the End), was determined to get the two men into a ring to decide who was the better champion. Okay, I do not have any issue with the concept of this sport film. Heck, I just saw a news report about a 90 year old runner who still does marathons. Recently I read comments that Sylvester felt he still had something to say about boxing and that is why he did this movie. If he felt he had something to contribute who am I to judge? I cannot recall the last time I felt embarrassed from watching a film out at the theater. The generic script was so lame that it was cringe worthy. Maybe I am being judgmental here but for the life of me, I cannot come up with any reason why Robert De Niro would do such a film except for the paycheck. Even as I am typing this I am experiencing deja vu of feeling icky when I was at the theater. The only bright spots for me were seeing Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential, Cellular) playing ex-girlfriend Sally and Alan Arkin (Get Smart, Edward Scissorhands) playing former trainer Louis ‘Lightning’ Conlon. As for Kevin Hart, this is the 3rd or 4th film I have seen with him and it seems as if he is just repeating the same character in each one. I am afraid I have seen better winners in my fitness classes. There were several brief scenes where blood was shown.
1 2/3 stars
There is only a small group who can determine my feelings without me uttering one single word. We use verbal shorthand to communicate, ready to validate anyone’s point being made to an outsider. I am part of this group known as childhood friends. We knew each other before adolescence; they never made a comment about the pimples appearing on my face as my body began to change. Each of us shares a history that keeps us grounded to each other, without the need for explaining our actions. Sometimes I feel they are too grounded when they correct a story I am telling that may have some embellishments in it; you know, strictly for entertainment purposes. We can joke and tease each other; but if someone else attempts it, each one of us will go into attack mode to defend our friend. This type of loyalty was evident amongst the childhood friends in this comedy. Michael Douglas (Falling Down, Behind the Candelabra) as Billy, Robert De Niro (The Family, Silver Linings Playbook) as Paddy, Morgan Freeman (Now You See Me, Million Dollar Baby) as Archie and Kevin Kline (Wild Wild West, The Ice Storm) as Sam have known each other since childhood. After all these years perpetual bachelor Billy decided to get married to a considerably younger woman. Despite any misgivings, Billy’s friends decided to throw him a bachelor party to beat all bachelor parties in the city of Los Vegas. With most moviegoers being familiar with the acting style of these actors, I felt the writers needed to have a strong script for them. Unfortunately it was not, placing the cast in a predictable story. The humor was okay, though the movie trailers ruined some scenes for me. It was lovely to see Mary Steenburgen (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Proposal) cast as lounge singer Diana. I found her role to be the strongest and enjoyed the way the story developed around her character. There seems to be talk about this film being the geriatric version of The Hangover movie franchise. I can see why people would say this but it does a disservice to this film. The essence of this story was about childhood friends. I wished the writers would have expanded on it because I know my old friends would have appreciated the movie more. But then again, they already knew how I was going to review this bland movie.