IT WAS AT LEAST FOR 8 weeks I kept hearing about this recipe I was told I had to use for an upcoming dinner party. This all started in a conversation I was having with a friend. I mentioned I was having a couple of people over for dinner and she told me I needed to try a recipe she had made many times. All I told her was I would let her know once I figured out the details for the dinner. By the time I got home later that day she had already emailed me the recipe, repeating all the compliments she had told me she had gotten from making this chicken dish. I printed out the recipe and placed it with the other ones I was considering. Would you believe the next day I received a follow up email from her, asking what I thought about her recipe? I could only imagine what she felt when I replied I hadn’t looked it over yet; it was weeks away still before I had to make a decision on what I wanted to serve. You would have thought that would have been enough for her to let go of this for a while, but it did not. UP UNTIL THE DAY I NAILED down the things I wanted to make for the dinner party, I kept hearing about all the wonderful compliments my friend had gotten on this easy dish. When I finally looked over the list of ingredients, I had to admit the chicken dish sounded good. How could it be bad with items like honey and barbeque sauce in the recipe? When I told my friend, I was going to make her dish, you should have heard the glee in her voice; you would have thought I had just signed a multi-million deal with her. It was pretty funny. From all the things she had said and my own expectations, the day of the dinner party I was excited to cook and serve her chicken dish. As she stated it was not hard to make and the assortment of spices mixed together formed a wonderful aroma throughout the house. As the guests began to arrive they too noticed the wonderful smells coming out of the kitchen. When we were all seated and everyone was served I tasted the chicken dish. I was disappointed with it. There was something about the texture that was unappealing to me, as if all the ingredients did not thoroughly combine. My disappointment in this dish was similar to my disappointment in this action, adventure fantasy story. DELVING INTO THE CRIMINAL WORLD IS where a young Han Solo, played by Alden Ehrenreich (Beautiful Creatures, Rules Don’t Apply), discovered his true talents, besides making new friends. This offshoot adventure story to the Star Wars franchise also starred Woody Harrelson (Shock and Awe, War for the Planet of the Apes) as Beckett, Emilia Clarke (Terminator Genisys, Game of Thrones-TV) as Qi’ra and Donald Glover (The Martian, Spider-Man: Homecoming) as Lando Cairissian. Everything was in place here to create a thrilling, exciting story. However, none of it reached the epic proportions it needed to carry off this story. There was little chemistry between Alden and Emilia, which I believe failed due to Alden. Because most people are familiar with the older Han, one needed to have an actor who could display the emerging traits Harrison Ford brought into the character. Also with bringing in Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, In the Heart of the Sea) after dismissing the first director, I felt he was not the best choice to give this movie the spunk it needed to engage all viewers. Yes, I am a big fan of Star Wars; but I thought this picture was a misfire. My memories of the previous films allowed me to enjoy this movie; but I just did not go wild over it.
2 ¾ stars
One single seed over time can create a bodacious garden. All it takes is nourishment, encouragement and tenderness. The same holds true for writing a story. A kernel of a memory, truth or experience is all that is needed for the writer. My first published story was about me and my friends’ experiences selling door to door a variety of kitchen and houseware products for a charity. It started out with an incident one of my friend’s had, where he spent the rest of the day walking with me on my route. I took that event and created several companion pieces to accompany it in a series of sales stories told from different perspectives. Just recently a friend called me up after reading one of my reviews, asking me who I was writing about since they could not place me in my opening commentary. I had to remind them of the incident that caused me such anguish. Now I am sure there have been times where you read a story and were curious to know if there was any truth to it; I know I do it all the time. When I am writing each character I have a voice for them I hear in my head. Some of the voices are actual people I have heard while others were made up. I would love to know how authors come up with their stories. To hear the truth behind some of the classics or best sellers would be amazing. Having read the novel Moby Dick 3 times, I had no idea it was based on a true story; in turn, I was excited to see this movie. Herman Melville, played by Ben Whishaw (Spectre, Suffragette), was desperate to talk to Tom Nickerson, played by Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter franchise, Gangs of New York), the last survivor of the New England whaling ship, the Essex. Tom’s unbelievable story about the destruction of the Essex would be the catalyst for Herman to write the story Moby Dick. This action adventure had huge special effects to match the size of the story. There were times I was trying to figure out how the scene was even done; they looked spectacular. With Chris Hemsworth (Rush, Thor franchise) as Owen Chase and Benjamin Walker (The War Boys, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) as George Pollard, there were two things happening in this biographical film. There was Herman listening to Tom for one story line and then there was Owen and George hunting for whales in the 1820s. I preferred watching Herman and Tom. Their acting and story was more memorable to me. Owen’s tale was too choppy; I felt it dragged in places, in others it just seemed ridiculous. It lacked emotion in my opinion. Honestly, I could see this script being a Broadway musical and working better than it did on film. Nonetheless I was fascinated with the story that was the impetus for the classic novel Moby Dick.
2 1/4 stars
The racetrack had to have elaborate turns, at least one bridge, hills and a long stretch of flat road. These were my requirements when I would set up my slot car racing track when I was a kid. Back then it was all about the speed; how fast could I navigate the course without the car spinning off the track. My interest in fast driving continued into adulthood; as long as I was behind the wheel I would get a thrill from driving. However, if I was in the passenger seat or a spectator I lost all interest. Because of that I have no desire to watch auto racing competitions; they leave me bored with their cars repeating the same track over and over into a monotonous blur of metal and sound. This is why it was all the more amazing to me how director Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13) got me totally interested in this action film based on a true story. The film followed the rivalry between 1970’s Formula 1 racing car drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, played by Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Red Dawn) and Daniel Bruhl (Inglourious Basterds, Good Bye Lenin!). I do not know how accurate the depiction of hard partying British playboy James and no nonsense Austrian Niki were to the real men, but for this drama it worked in propelling the story forward. With Chris and Daniel playing the central figures the rest of the cast was left in the background. Olivia Wilde (Drinking Buddies, In Time) as James’ 1st wife Suzy Miller was forgettable for the most part; but Niki’s wife Marlene Lauda, played by Alexandra Maria Lara (Downfall, Youth Without Youth), had more staying power. If I had not known this was a Ron Howard film I would have never guessed he was the director; the film had a fast pace with quick editing shots that made me dizzy at times. Action and speed were the main drivers (get it?) for this story which did not allow much time for character development. The CGI effects were seamless to the point I was not even aware of them. I appreciated the different angles the director used in filming the racing scenes, from driver perspectives to overhead long shots. With the use of voice-overs, I felt the story was well rounded enough for the viewer to get a good sense of these championship drivers. I especially enjoyed the way the movie ended. Please do not tell the state police, but after the movie I made it home in record time. A few scenes had blood in them.