THE SUN HAD NOT RISEN YET as I headed out onto the barren streets of the town. Leaving so early, the stillness around me had not been disturbed by any residents. I headed north towards the volcano, though I was not able to see it through the darkness. The road up, I was told, would be challenging due to its narrowness and thick underbrush. My rental car had relatively new tires since the mileage on the odometer was low; I figured the tread was sufficient enough to handle the twisting road. It would have been nice to be able to see the landscape around me, but I was only privy to what my car’s headlamps showed me. From what I could tell there were tall trees lining the roads at times, only being interrupted intermittently by mounds of earth that honestly looked like excrement. I had no idea if this was a natural or man-made phenomenon. Everything I heard about this volcano had to do with being on top; I did not find many references made regarding the trip to it. So far, the ride was uneventful; little did I know that would change soon. AS I CONTINUED ON MY WAY, I started to leave the town behind me. The spaces between buildings got further apart as nature was taking back her land. I did not know what to expect but there was no signage as I came up to the base of the volcano. I continued on my way as the road started to take me on a convoluted path made up of twists and sharp turns. Due to the slower pace I had to drive, I was concerned I would not make it to the top before sunrise. This was the whole point of my early car trip, to see the sun rise and watch what its rays of light would reveal inside the dormant volcano. As I ventured up I periodically glanced up at the sky to see if there was any trace of sunlight seeping into the darkness; gratefully the sky did not turn while I was on my journey. I finally reached my destination, parked and waited for the big unveiling. The first ray of light appeared then slowly began to spread out into the blackness; I had been looking forward to this for a long time. One thing I did not expect was a bank of rainclouds that were ready to pounce once the sun’s rays revealed them. The clouds rolled over everything around me, blocking me of the chance to see inside the volcano. After all the planning I put into this trip, I would not get the satisfaction of seeing it to its intended conclusion. I had the same feeling sitting through the last installment of this dramatic, science fiction trilogy. SUPER STRENGTH NEEDS TO BE MET by super strength, something a superhero could do. However, there are no such things as superheroes as far as we know, right? This mystery movie starred James McAvoy (Atomic Blonde, Victor Frankenstein) as Barry and others, Bruce Willis (Death Wish, Looper) as David Dunn, Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight, Avengers franchise) as Elijah Price, Sarah Paulson (12 Years a Slave, Ocean’s Eight) as Dr. Ellie Staple and Spencer Treat Clark (Mystic River, Animal Kingdom-TV) as Joseph Dunn. Based on seeing James reprise his role as the Beast, I had positive hopes this film would be good. There were aspects I enjoyed; they revolved around the story between James, Bruce and Elijah. Sarah’s story line started out odd to me and by the ending I found the entire timeline for her ridiculous. I did not like the ending and thought the writing of the script lacked originality. If it was not for the four main actors mentioned before I would have lost interest in this picture early on. It would not have taken a superhero effort to produce a fitting conclusion to this trilogy instead of the silliness that took over it.
MY SUPERPOWER IS THE ABILITY TO withstand high temperatures. While most people are wilting under an oppressive heat index, I am casually making my way around them without a drop of sweat. I feel everyone has a superpower; they may not necessarily know it though. Also, some may have a power that benefits no one and may even be a detriment to the planet. There was a guy I knew who always lied; in other words, he never told the truth. His tales were quite believable unless you had a history with him and even then, one could never keep up with his lies. This was his superpower. On the other hand, I know a woman who is an advocate for animals. Her whole life she has been involved with rescuing dogs. She is like a dog whisperer the way she connects with them. Every day she makes these dogs their meals; we are not talking about kibble out of a bag. She is mixing organic ingredients with vitamin supplements for each meal. I saw her make the morning meal once and I swear she looked like a pharmacist, the way she measured out powders and liquids to the protein source. Rescuing dogs was her superpower. IF YOU LOOK AT FAMOUS individuals, both alive and deceased, you will be able to figure out each one’s superpower. The obvious ones would be those people who are in the sports world; you know, like runners and figure skaters. Outside of sports it may not always be easy to decipher a person’s superpower. Without naming names, since I do not want to incur any type of lawsuits, there is someone who is the best when it comes to self-promoting. Another person is a great inventor, someone else is gifted in creating chaos and another has an amazing mind for business; therefore, I say everyone has a superpower. The ones who impress me the most are the people who do not let their superpower define them. They can blend in with society, going undetected for the gifts they can offer people. Maybe you have seen some individuals who have made a positive impact with their generosity, both material and financial. I think it is great they are motivated to do the things they do; however, have you ever noticed some are in every photo op? The thing is, being out in front of the cameras can be both a good and a bad thing; a lesson the family in this animated action, adventure film knew so well. LOOKING TO PAINT A POSITIVE image it was decided that Helen Parr/Elastigirl, voiced by Holly Hunt (The Big Sick, Won’t Back Down), would be the face of the Incredibles. This meant Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible, voiced by Craig T. Nelson (Book Club, The Family Stone), would be the one to stay home and take care of the kids. With Sarah Vowell (A.C.O.D., Six Degrees-TV) voicing Violet Parr, relative newcomer Huck Milner voicing Dashiell Parr/Dash and Samuel L. Jackson (Big Game, Kong: Skull Island) voicing Lucius Best/Frozone; I thought the adult cast members were all ideal actors for their characters. It has been such a long time since the first Incredibles movie came out that I have only a vague memory of it; however, it was not a problem for following this wonderful film. I enjoyed the mix of retro and futuristic vibes in the story. The fact we saw these superheroes as an average family made the story extra fun for me. It was the juxtaposition of daily life concerns with crime fighting feats that did it for me. The pacing was on point and I thought the humor was fitting for both children and adults. It took a long time to get this family back on the screen; I hope it doesn’t take over another decade to see them again.
3 ½ stars
WE HAD BEEN friends for several years. Through that time we had gotten closer, each of us did not use a filter when talking about personal stuff. Our friendship was evolving, though it took a big adjustment when she started dating someone who quickly became her main focus. I was not the only one who noticed the shift; our mutual group of friends noticed her dating relationship was turning serious. As with any relationship time spent with friends took place with less frequency; it was understandable as we all knew time was needed to lay the groundwork to establish a strong bond between the couple. After a few years our friend became engaged and the two of them began laying out plans to begin their life together as a married couple. AFTER THEY WERE married they planted roots in a suburb not too far away from all of us; however, spending time together with them took place less and less often. As the years progressed I started to lose contact with a few of the friends since I moved to a different location. However I was still privy to news through the “grapevine.” I do not remember exactly how it came down, but at some point I heard derogatory remarks were made about me by this married friend. My feelings were hurt and I became angry to the point where I did not what to have any interaction with this couple. Now in hindsight I did not know if they actually meant what was told to me or if they really even said such a thing. Because I was angry I did not care; as far as I was concerned I did not want to have any part of them. This was the way I handled things in the past when I got angry. Long story short, this couple opened up a store that a couple of my friends told me was doing a thriving business. I did not care since I planned never to step foot into their place. After seeing this action comedy I did wonder if I made the right decision. AS A TOP bodyguard Michael Bryce, played by Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, Woman in Gold), had to deal with all kinds of clients. Having fallen on hard times he never imagined he would have to protect the man who tried to kill him. Also starring Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight, Kong: Skull Island) as Darius Kincaid, Gary Oldman (The Space Between Us, The Dark Knight franchise) as Vladislav Dukhovich, Elodie Yung (Gods of Egypt, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Amelia Roussel and Salma Hayek (Beatriz at Dinner, Some Kind of Beautiful) as Sonia Kincaid; the story for this film was decent enough and the cast did a good job of handling the script. Ryan’s character was a light version of his Deadpool one in my opinion. As for Samuel L. Jackson this was one of his typical performances; however, for this character it worked. The highlight for me was Salma Hayek, she was the surprise with what the writers had given her to say. Truthfully there really was nothing special about this picture; there were many scenes with blood and violence. The story was not unique and for the most part it was predictable. At one point I felt like I was just watching a string of nonsensical scenes. I wondered at the end of the movie if I had made the right decision to use my free movie pass for this film. There was one outtake scene in the middle of the credits.
SITTING in the semi-darkened theater waiting for the movie trailers to begin, I was wondering how many different film variations of King Kong I had seen. I believe I saw every one of them and I could even include the robotic one Bette Midler used in one of her concerts, where she played the Fay Wray character who was sprawled out across King Kong’s palm. Thinking about these different versions of the big ape, we really have come a long way from the 1st one to the latest one I was about to see. Of course I was basing it on the movie trailers I had recently seen. Recalling the earlier Kong versions, I can still remember how fake looking he was in the oldest movies. My guess is the writers needed to fine tune their script to keep the audience engaged with the story since an unrealistic looking gorilla would quickly become boring. SPEAKING of story lines I wondered what the writers would do to keep me interested in this umpteenth time of me watching a King Kong film. More often than not I have noticed when a movie comes out with a well known character that has played before the script is updated to reflect current times. Sometimes it works and sometimes it is a bust. I can remember a group of classic horror monsters like Frankenstein and the Mummy being part of a series of movies that were based in comedy, starring comedians and comedy duos. Personally I found them ridiculous; taking such classic horror characters and placing them in a genre of films that no one would ever consider for them, diminishes their scariness in the public’s eyes. With these thoughts in mind the movie theater lights became dark and I sat back in my seat to see what Kong was up to these days. FLYING over the Pacific Ocean, bound for a newly discovered uncharted island, a group of scientists and soldiers did not know they would be disturbing the inhabitants to the point of making them angry. This action adventure fantasy succeeded because of the special effects. From all the different versions of King Kong I have seen on film, this was the best looking or should I say the most realistic version of King Kong. The fight scenes were exciting, especially the opening one. If this film had not been so technically advanced I would have been bored by the script. With Tom Hiddleston (Crimson Peak, I Saw the Light) as James Conrad, Samuel L. Jackson (The Legend of Tarzan, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) as Preston Packard, Brie Larson (Room, Short Term 12) as Mason Weaver and John C. Reilly (Carnage, Step Brothers) as Hank Marlow; I only found Hank’s character interesting. Samuel was doing his identical acting thing, so no surprises there. However I was surprised how stiff Tom and Brie were with their characters. This was partially due to the script that offered no insights, along with the direction that kept them one dimensional. Only John C. Reilly and John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane, The Monuments Men) as Bill Randa offered any interest among the cast. If you are into visual experiences then you would want to see this picture inside a movie theater. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
RARELY did I ever pass by the gleaming glass ball, filled with chewy delights. Since I always made sure I had change in my pocket before I would go, it was a given I would stop in front of the gumball machine. There were six colors used for the gumballs: blue, red, yellow, green, orange and purple. Here is the thing though; out of the colors I only wanted a red or blue colored gumball. Since I could not choose which gumball would get deposited into the metal cup hanging below the metal slide that came out of the machine’s lower jaw, I would keep depositing coins into the machine until I got one of the 2 colors. Sometimes I would have depleted all the coins in my pocket and still not get the “right” gumball. In my young mind I assumed each colored gumball tasted different based on its color. I had no desire for the green or yellow ones and the others just did not appeal to me. It wasn’t until a friend of mine bought me a gumball because I had no change and told me to at least try the purple colored one that came out of the machine. It was then that I discovered all the gumballs tasted the same; I was making a judgment solely on the outside color. GRATEFULLY a lesson like that was a good start in becoming aware that there is more behind the surface of people and things. An example I have used before is, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Recently a friend was telling me about the injustice taking place in their department. They were in the middle of hiring new people and one of the employees on the hiring committee mentioned they should hire a particular person because of the candidate’s skin color. I immediately assumed everyone on the committee would be shocked like I was by such an offensive statement. Instead imagine how stunned I was when my friend told me that was not the case; only a couple of the people on the committee offered a disparaging look in response to the ridiculous statement, nothing was said by anyone. This reminded me that just because I may not see discrimination does not mean it does not happen. I think that is why this Oscar nominated documentary is an important film. BASED on an unfinished manuscript by author James Baldwin (Where the Heart Is), the words in this movie are just as current now as when they were first spoken. Directed by Raoul Peck (Sometimes in April, Lumumba), this film festival winning movie was narrated by Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight, The Legend of Tarzan). I enjoyed the way the director pieced together archival clips of James speaking and debating at different venues. His manuscript was going to be a narrative piece about the assassinations of his three friends Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and Medgar Evers; though the piece was written years ago the discussions in this movie were just as relevant today. A well done film like this one is worth a look and would be a good reminder that society still has a long way to go to with focusing on the things that lie below the surfaces of people.
3 1/3 stars
THERE is always a can of mashed pumpkin I keep up on the shelf in my kitchen cabinet. You never know when the urge will come for some homemade pumpkin bread. It brings memories of comfort and home when my house gets filled with the aroma of pumpkin and cinnamon. The recipe I use was handed down to me: I keep the frail piece of paper it is written on in a plastic sleeve secured in a three ringed binder. I love the taste of pumpkin though I was never a big fan of its seeds; I think it is because those store bought ones were always covered in salt back when I was a kid. Ironically I was also never a huge fan of carved pumpkins sitting out for Halloween. After a couple of days they would start to smell or worse, were attacked by squirrels that would gnaw on them and leave a mess on one’s front porch. Except for that issue there is something about pumpkins that brings back memories of childhood, family and Thanksgiving to me. LAST week while I was grocery shopping I came across a small section of shelves that were stocked with items priced for clearance. At first glance I noticed a majority of the items listed the words “pumpkin spice” on its packaging. Just to give you an idea let me tell you a few of the products that were on the shelves; there were car deodorants, breakfast cereals, cough syrups and coffee all flavored with pumpkin spice. I do not know about you but I found it weird to have so many random products all with the scent or taste of pumpkin spice. Are there that many people driving around with the inside of their vehicles smelling of pumpkin spice? I did not list all the items for you but I felt companies just let their marketing departments go amok and now they are all sitting up on shelves as clearance items; what a waste of time, energy and money. I felt the same way about this sequel. XANDER Cage, played by Vin Diesel (Fast & Furious franchise, Babylon A.D.), was not dead; he was living a peaceful life until he was needed to help retrieve a secret hi-tech device that was stolen by Xiang, played by Donnie Yen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, IP Man franchise). Whoever had possession of the powerful product could easily bring a country’s government down to its knees. This action thriller also starred Deepika Padukone (Happy New Year, Chennai Express) as Serena Unger, Toni Collette (Krampus, Miss You Already) as Jane Marke and Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight, The Legend of Tarzan) as Augustus Gibbons. For the life of me I do not understand how a movie studio decides to bring back a character after all these years and produce a total mess of a picture. The script was awful to the point of almost being a total embarrassment. Sure the action scenes were well orchestrated but that is all this adventure film offered and that only goes so far. I could not tell the difference between Vin’s character here with the one he plays in the Fast & Furious movies. If you want to watch a mindless fast paced film then this would be the one; I suggest though you wait for it on clearance.
1 ½ stars
It may still be evolving but at one time the word peculiar had a narrow definition. If someone did not fit in and what I mean by that is look or act the same, they were considered different. Being labeled different was like getting a life term in prison. The mentality back then was not so dissimilar to a science fiction television show where there was an alien species that tried to assimilate human beings into their world where there were no independent thoughts or actions; every being was part of a central collective and all looked the same. This is how it could feel to someone who was considered odd. There was a school near my house where all the students were issued a standard uniform; each one of them had to wear the drab colored clothing. At the time I thought it would be horrible to be told to wear the same thing every day. But I did not realize that dressing in clothes one prefers could set the person up for ridicule. I could see how everyone wearing the same outfit would eliminate a person picking on a fellow student for wearing something different. Now I grant you the issue of clothing only scratches the surface on how people react to someone who is not the same as them. I am sure we all have seen stories in the news about incidents where being different causes a conflict. What I would like to know is when and how did differences among us became a negative trait? I have always wondered if it was due to the level of education, fear or maybe something that gets taught for the wrong reasons. We hear more and more about diversity and I believe the entire planet is just one big melting pot for everything living on it. There is room for everyone. DISCOVERING information to a mystery Jake, played by Asa Butterfield (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Hugo) is lead to a special place filled with unusual beings. Based on the bestselling book series this adventure fantasy had a wonderful look to it. Starring Eva Green (Dark Shadows, 300: Rise of an Empire) as Miss Alma LeFay Peregrine, Samuel L. Jackson (The Legend of Tarzan, Big Game) as Barron and Ella Purnell (Wildlike, Never Let Me Go) as Emma Bloom; the acting was a bit off for me. Where I thought Eva was perfect in her role with the look and movement, I thought Samuel was doing what has become his standard role now in most of his movies. Sure he does it well but how many times do we need to see the same style of character? This dramatic film started out slow for me; I found the script dull at first. Halfway through the story things starting to pick up and I began to enjoy this picture. I am guessing the book has to be better. As for the special effects, some of them were gleefully fun but others were just so-so. As a side note the majority of the audience at my viewing was young adolescents. I enjoyed the message of this story regarding our differences; I only wished it was carried through the whole film which could have been a more exciting experience for me.
2 1/3 stars
Two events stand out in my mind as pivotal moments that changed the course of my life’s path. The first was seeing the movie Tarzan the Ape Man with Johnny Weissmuller on television; the second was reading the book Doctor Doolittle. I already was an animal lover, enjoying the local zoos and relatives’ pets; but this book and movie sealed my affection for all animals. Seeing Tarzan’s companion Cheetah (did not know it was the name of a big cat breed at the time) the chimpanzee was extra special because I had a hand me down stuffed chimpanzee; the 2 of us would watch any of the Tarzan films whenever they were being aired on TV. When I saw the original Doctor Doolittle movie I was absorbed into it because here I had read the book and now I was seeing the doctor and his animals come to life, so to speak. Ever since then I have been fortunate to have a variety of animals around me. I do not judge but when someone tells me they do not even like dogs or cats, I tend to wonder if something happened to them earlier in life that swayed them away from animals. Looking into the eyes of a dog with their unconditional love, I do not understand how someone could resist such love. I can still remember when people would ask me why I wanted to become a veterinarian; I would tell them it is because animals never hurt me. It would be easier for me to give a shot to a human being than it would for an animal. I have to tell you I was hoping none of the animals would be hurt in this action adventure film. LIVING a comfortable life in England John Clayton, played by Alexander Skarsgard (What Maisie Knew, True Blood-TV), the Lord of Greystoke was persuaded to return to the Congo for what he thought were humanitarian reasons. John who was known as Tarzan would need the help of some old friends to survive what was in store for him. Joining Alexander in this big budget film were the actors Christoph Waltz (Spectre, Carnage) as Leon Rom, Margot Robbie (Focus, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) as Jane Clayton and Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight, The Avengers franchise) as George Washington Williams. I thought Alexander and Margot were perfect for the roles and wished they would have had more scenes together. I know Alexander is a capable actor but I do not think the script and the director helped him for this role. As for Christoph and Samuel, I just want to say they have to stop; stop doing the same kind of characters they have done in previous films. Samuel was a distraction as were the flashback scenes throughout the picture. The script was an odd mix of different story lines that weighed down the pace of the film; I was bored in a few spots. As for the CGI effects they were not as spectacular as I would have expected for a Tarzan film. By the end of this film not only was I missing not seeing Cheetah, but also missing a good story.
1 ¾ stars
There was a time where it was considered a palace. With Moorish trappings and an abundance of wrought iron railings the building stood tall over all other ones within several blocks. I was lucky enough to get inside of it, though it had lost its moniker by then. This place was a movie palace; an old fashioned theater that had one single enormous screen, covered by a set of red velvet drapes. The rows of seats were bolted to a sloping floor that looked like a swelling wave, particularly if one stood either at the front or back of them. The theater was built decades before anyone thought of putting stadium seating into an auditorium. I remember the time I visited this place and was fascinated with the fine details of the theater lobby. There were candelabras on the walls with fake candles that looked like they were dripping white wax from their amber colored, flickering lightbulbs. To the right of the candy counter was a grand staircase that swirled up to a balcony that was perched just below the mosaic tiled ceiling. Before the movie started there as a low audible rumble throughout the theater. Slowly rising up from the stage in front of those velvet drapes, was a huge pipe organ being played by a man dressed in a tuxedo; it was wild. I imagined that in its heyday when a new movie was being shown in this theater it was an event…and today’s movie could have easily been on the schedule. BOUNTY hunter John Ruth, played by Kurt Russell (Tombstone, Death Proof), and his prisoner Daisy Domergue, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Machinist, Road to Perdition), were forced to hole up in a roadside establishment until a winter blizzard passed by. They were not the only ones who had the same idea. Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill: Vol. 1 & 2), this mystery thriller was an experience to be seen. Nearly 3 hours long, there were no movie preview trailers; the film started on time with an overture and there was a planned intermission. The crowd was handed a complimentary program; I was taken aback. The filming and soundtrack were incredible to see and hear as the story was set in Wyoming. With Samuel L. Jackson (Chi-Raq, The Avengers franchise) as Major Marquis Warren and Bruce Dern (Nebraska, Monster) as General Sandy Smithers among the cast, this film had a great script with wonderful dialog. Yes, there was what I refer to as the Tarantino blood and violence scenes but there was not as much as his previous films. The story took some time to get into because it started out slow with long drawn out shots. I felt some scenes could have been eliminated or at least shortened. As with his past films Quentin did a beautiful job of paying homage to past celebrated directors. Watching this film festival winning western was truly an experience. There were scenes with blood and violence.
3 1/4 stars
The use of satire to tell a story is a perfectly valid art form. Satire is defined as a way to use humor to show someone or something is foolish or bad. It was first used in the early 1500s. Many authors and film directors have used satire as a way to get their creations past some form of censorship that was imposed on them or the surrounding area around them. The first time I heard about this movie nothing was mentioned about it being a satire. The focus was on the title which is a combination of Chicago and Iraq. I have been following all the controversy about this film and what amazed me was how vehemently some people were complaining about this movie without knowing anything about it. Some elected officials of Chicago were up in arms that this film would paint a “bad” picture of their city. I found their thinking flawed due to the fact that innocent people are indeed being shot in the city; one cannot hide that fact. What is most troublesome is no one ever comes forward, so it seems, to identify the shooter for fear of retaliation. Freedom of speech is everyone’s right and if director and writer Spike Lee (Inside Man, Do the Right Thing) wanted to shine a light on one city’s particular issue, then he has the right to do so. SEEING yet another person being killed in her neighborhood Lysistrata, played by Teyonah Parris (Dear White People, Mad Men-TV), enlisted the help of her fellow female citizens in a plan she felt would force people to stop killing each other. With a story based on an ancient Greek play, this dramatic film immediately jumped into the viewer’s face. There was a powerful soundtrack and strong acting from actors like Nick Cannon (The Killing Room, Roll Bounce) as Chi-Raq, Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers franchise, Big Game) as Dolmedes and John Cusack (Dragon Blade, 2012) as Father Mike Corridan; there were several gripping scenes throughout this movie. There were two issues I had regarding how the story was being told. The first one was a majority of the dialog was spoken in a way similar to rapping or a slam poetry session. One had to pay attention to the words to get the meaning; however, there were times that it went too fast for me to understand what they were saying. Also, after a while I was tired of devoting so much energy to the dialog instead of the action and scenes. The other issue I had concerned the unevenness with the scenes; they came across choppy where some were strong and others weak in their attempt to tell a story. There were times where I felt they were even cartoonish. The bottom line here is this film is shining a light on a problem; it is using satire to make it palatable for the viewer. There were scenes with blood, sexual situations and strong language.
2 3/4 stars