THE FIRST TIME I ENCOUNTERED SOMEONE affected by a divorce was a boy in 5th grade. He and his mother had recently moved to the neighborhood after her divorce. If someone had asked me if I noticed anything different because this boy’s parents were divorced, I would have said not one thing. His mother worked which was no different than many of the other mothers who had a job outside the home. I do not recall any time when this classmate could not attend a school function or activity due to a missing parent or affordability; he was like any other student. It was not until 7th grade before there was another student who had parents that were divorced. Now during this time there were kids in school who had one out of both parents who had to be away from home for extended periods of time, either for work or the military. There would be times when the parent remaining at home would get help from a family member or neighbor; but it was not like that would make any kind of difference. The only time where it would ever make a difference, if you even want to call it that, was when there was a gender specific event like a father/daughter dance or a field trip where parents were needed to chaperone. So, an uncle or older cousin would fill in for the dance and some relative would handle being a chaperone; it was easily workable. HAVING HAD SUCH EXPERIENCES WHILE GROWING UP, made the realization there was another option couples employed when they no longer wanted to be together much more difficult for me to rationalize. In fact, even today when I hear someone say they are staying together for the kids’ sake, I have to cringe. In my experiences I have not once seen where that option does anyone any good. I knew a family where the parents were doing this and all it accomplished was their kids having to go into therapy to deal with the craziness, they wound up experiencing, during what was a toxic environment. One parent started using the kids to deliver messages to their spouse; besides, trying to sway the kids’ opinion about the other parent into negative thoughts. It was sad to see the manipulation that was taking place in that household. Even worse was when I heard through a second party that one parent told one of their children, they were the cause for the breakdown in their marriage. To me that was criminal to say to a child. Because of my experiences; I intently watched this comedic, dramatic romance to see what was happening with the couple’s marriage. MARRIAGE REQUIRES AN ABILITY IN BEING able to give and take; it appeared Charlie and Nicole, played by Adam Driver (Star Wars franchise, The Dead Don’t Die) and Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit, Lost in Translation), thought they were good at it. With Laura Dern (Certain Women, J.T. Leroy) as Nora Fanshaw, Alan Alda (Bridge of Spies, The Four Seasons) as Bert Spitz and Julie Hagerty (A Master Builder, Airplane franchise) as Sandra; this film festival winner’s cast was brilliant. I enjoyed each actor and the words they spoke. The story may appear to have a theme that is common to many other films; however, this script came across fresh and new to me. Adam and Scarlett were so good that I thought their characters were actual, real people. The dialog was authentic which only added to the realness of the characters. If I have any criticism, I think some viewers might find the beginning of the story sedated. Like a marriage, it can take a little work to get into it; but once you are, it can turn into a valuable lesson.
3 ½ stars
WITH THE RESTAURANT BEING SO CROWDED, I was wedged between two sets of diners. We were seated on a vinyl covered bench that spanned the length of the wall. Small wooden tables were barely spaced apart, all the way down, in front of the bench. Next to me sat a mother and her young daughter who happened to be standing in front of me in line, while we were waiting to be seated. A waiter walked up to them first to take their food order. I could not help but hear what they ordered. The mother ordered first and with everything she chose, she asked the waiter to make an alteration to the item. With one food item she did not want the sauce, another she did not want the pickles and so on. Normally I would not have paid attention; however, when it was time for the young daughter to order, the little girl did the same thing. Everything the girl ordered was almost identical to her mother’s orders. I thought how odd; both mother and daughter had identical taste buds? What made me think about this more was the fact when the mother ordered she did not just say, remove the item; she used the words, did not like it or hated it. This made me wonder if the daughter really did not like the items that were being removed or had she learned to dislike them from her mother. Hmmm. WHEN I WAS THAT DAUGHTER’S AGE, there were many foods I did not like. Many of them I had not even tasted before deciding I wasn’t going to eat them. I did not realize back then I was a visual and texture eater. If something did not look right, whatever right meant, I would not touch it. The same thing went for the texture of the food; I always preferred food that was crunchy instead of creamy. There are foods I eat now that back then I would never allow on my plate. In my case I had decided whether I wanted an item or not; no one influenced me. However, with this little girl I wasn’t sure if she had issues with texture and appearance or she was simply mimicking her mother. If her mother did not like something did the daughter choose not to like the same thing? I thought it would be sad if this little girl went through life missing out on different foods or things because she was taught to hate them. If you care to see how it can happen then feel free to watch this dramatic war comedy. JOJO, PLAYED BY NEWCOMER ROMAN GRIFFIN Davis, wanted to grow up and do his part for Nazi Germany. However, all his beliefs and dreams got shattered when he discovered his mother Rosie, played by Scarlett Johansson (Rough Night, Under the Skin), had been hiding a Jewish girl named Elsa, played by Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies), in their attic. What would the Fuhrer think of him? With Taika Waititi (Green Lantern, Wat We Do in the Shadows) as Adolf and Sam Rockwell (Vice, Mr. Right) as Captain Klenzendorf; this story would appear to be another take on the horrors of World War II; however, it was not done the same. The script was both original and fun; I was impressed with the cleverness in which it conveyed its message. The ensemble of actors each provided a particular thread that woven together created an outrageous satire that was enjoyable and funny. For me, this was a bold experiment that zeroed in on the subject of hatred and put it directly in front of the viewer’s face. Truly different and original, I hope no one makes a snap judgement based solely on the movie trailer without experiencing for themselves the magic in this satire.
3 ¼ stars
IF YOU WERE A BOY, THE one thing you would not want to do is cry in public. If you were caught crying it would become the catalyst for a slew of derogatory nicknames, teasing and abuse. It was just a fact of life back then. And this is not me imagining or over dramatizing it; every boy in school knew no matter what, don’t cry and do not even let your eyes water up. It was expected girls would cry because they were more “emotional.” I had no idea where I was taught this fact; there were no surveys done or analysis completed. It was just something that all of us in school knew or assumed at least. I have seen girls fight each other as well as boys and I can tell you the two sexes fought in totally different ways. The girls were more vicious; they would slap, punch, pinch, scratch and use any item they could grab their hands on. The boys would limit their fighting to punches, wrestling holds and kicks. Where the girls would scream and yell, the boys rarely uttered a word. No matter what happened if someone was going to cry during their fight it was usually a girl. A boy might crumble up in pain and moan but would do everything possible not to cry. THANK HEAVENS TIMES HAVE CHANGED OR AT least I hope so. Gratefully I have not been in a fight since I have been an adult, but I can easily tear up or cry during a movie. This is not something exclusive; I can easily tear up while listening to music or during an emotional conversation. There is something freeing about releasing tears, both of sadness and joy. Think about the amount of energy it takes to hold in your emotions. I find it exhausting, so rarely do I try to keep my feelings/emotions in check these days. However, when I was in school being picked on or bullied, I held my emotions in. Thinking back at those times, it surprises me how we lived in a compartmentalized society; girls and boys, men and woman each had to act a certain way. I remember a parent saying it was not ladylike for a girl to fight. What did ladylike mean? Emotions and feelings are not defined by gender; they are unisex, universal. One emotion is not exclusive to one sex; yet for my generation, we were raised to believe differently. Therefore, films like this action fantasy are necessary. WITH THE WORLD LEFT IN SHAMBLES minus half the population, the remaining members of the Avengers had to move on with their lives. Losing a battle was hard for them; something they never wanted to experience again. But when a sliver of hope to rectify the past appeared, would any of the superheroes take the chance to change the past? With Robert Downey Jr. (The Judge, Chef) as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Evans (Gifted, Before We Go) as Steve Rogers/Captain America, Mark Ruffalo (The Kids are All Right, Spotlight) as Bruce Banner/Hulk; Chris Hemsworth (Bad Times at the El Royale, 12 Strong) as Thor and Scarlett Johansson (Rough Night, Lucy) as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow; this adventure sequel was a culmination of the past Avengers films. Coming in at 3 hours and 58 seconds; be prepared for a moving experience. I cried multiple times during this movie. The script was special; it was thoughtful and tied up every little detail for this franchise. What impressed me the most was the fact that female and male characters were equal, both in emotions and fighting skills. It did not matter whether a character had little or more screen time; they each played an important part in creating this superhero masterpiece. I felt there was more story than action in this picture; however, what action there was in the story was incredible to watch. How the movie studio will ever top this, I do not know. Whatever gender you identify with, I suggest you bring tissues with you and allow yourself to experience this epic movie. There were NO extra scenes at the end of the film.
3 ¾ stars
STANDING outside the café waiting for a friend I saw a group of people goofing off across the street. One individual was using a street lamp as a stripper pole. Another person had a squirt gun; however, periodically he was squirting it into his mouth and the others around him. I assumed there was something more than water inside the play toy. Seeing this group acting silly made me reminisce about some of the pranks and laughs I had with my friends when we were younger. There was that time in biology class where we had to dissect fetal pigs. A lab partner dressed their pig up with a beret, sunglasses and lit cigarette; then had someone take pictures of him with his head next to the pig. Another time a group of us dressed up for Halloween to go to a street party down in the city. One of us was dressed as a pirate, including a fake sword. He would jump into the street and stop traffic for a moment, shouting “Yo me bucko!” We were so young back then; not a care in the world, just focusing on having a good time. RECONNECTING with people I had not seen for years was a heady experience for me. The last time some of us had seen each other we had full heads of hair, some were larger and others were thinner. It was funny how the aging process affected each of us differently. Despite the years apart there still was a bond between all of us. The thing that surprised me was how some individuals who were hard partiers back then had mellowed now. Depending on the person’s age part of the discussion drifted towards what medications we were on now; heaven help us we are turning into our parents. I understand as life goes on we each take on responsibilities; there are things I used to do back then that I would not consider doing now. Maybe this is all part of the aging process; I just know I would never act like the friends did in this comedy film. JESS’, played by Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers franchise, Lucy), upcoming bachelorette party was the perfect time for a group of girlfriends to get together and let loose. The way they used to party years ago would be hard to reproduce this time. Along with Scarlett the cast included Jillian Bell (Fist Fight, Goosebumps) as Alice, Zoe Kravitz (Divergent franchise, Good Kill) as Blair, Ilana Glazer (The Night Before, Broad City-TV) as Frankie and Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters, Office Christmas Party) as Kiwi/Pippa. At first glance I felt the story was a female version of comedies I had seen before. The cast was talented; everyone’s timing was on mark. I had a slight issue with Jillian and Kate; their characters were no different than other characters they played in other films. Kate, who I think is gifted, seems to be the “go to” actor to play these over the top odd characters. Jillian has played the inappropriate person character before. At least there were a couple of laughs in the movie, but I found the script was all over the place. With this type of cast there could have been way more opportunities to utilize the actress’ comedic skills that the script did not offer. For having such a wild time I was left feeling bored at times. When I was younger I never partied like the women did in this picture and after watching them I have no interest in trying now. There is an extra scene in the middle of the credits and at the end.
1 ½ stars
WHEN I saw Rosie helping the Jetson family and Data assisting the crew of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, I believed an opportunity was being created for mankind to better itself. Removing some of the unimportant necessities of the day would allow man to study and learn more about life; in other words humans could reach a higher level of consciousness. Witnessing the blending of mechanical objects with people really has been an extraordinary event. Just think about individuals who received mechanical hearts and valves or athletes getting artificial arms and legs; it has changed people’s perceptions about what it means to be physically challenged. Just in the past several months the news reported on an artificial hand that a person could control with their mind; did you ever imagine this becoming reality during your lifetime? I vaguely remember an advertisement tagline that said something like, “better living through science.” This idea certainly has validity; however, I have a growing concern that science, depending on who is calling the shots, could dominate mankind. ONE of my concerns for some time has been the manipulations taking place in our food chain. I am not comfortable ingesting a food item that has been genetically modified. The idea of animals being injected with growth hormones to create supersized creatures to yield more meat or milk frightens me. This was one of the reasons I gave up red meat years ago. Another area that concerns me is the “beauty” industry. With the amount of chemicals people apply to themselves on a daily basis with their soaps, dyes and makeup; I just wonder what the body does with it when the products get absorbed into the skin. Even seeing people who have gone through extensive plastic surgery to maintain their youthful appearance troubles me. I remember standing next to a television celebrity who was talking to their aide. Their face barely budged as the lips were forming words; their facial expression was totally void of any emotion. The title of this futuristic action film could easily apply to this celebrity. MAJOR, played by Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers franchise, Lost in Translation), was the first of her kind; she was the ultimate blend of human and machine. At least she thought so until she started experiencing flashbacks. Watching this dramatic crime movie was a wild visual ride. All I could think about was it looked like a cross between the films Blade Runner and The Fifth Element. Based on the graphic novel this movie also starred Pilou Asbaek (Lucy, A Hijacking) as Batou, Juliette Binoche (Godzilla, The 33) as Dr. Ouelet and Michael Pitt (Seven Psychopaths, The Dreamers) as Kuze. I am not familiar with the story; however, the first half of this picture had me totally into it. Scarlett was good with the physical demands of the role, but I thought the acting part was one dimensional; unless that was how the character was written in the book. The last half of the film for me turned into a typical action movie; in fact, I am concerned Scarlett is being typecast since her character shared similarities with her Lucy and Avengers characters. I would have preferred if the script had stayed focused on the storyline regarding the flashbacks. The title of this movie remained with me afterwards as I wondered if this is where science will be going in the future.
2 ½ stars
THE mother was upset by the zoo animals fighting in their enclosure. With her young child standing by her side with his arm extended up to hold his mother’s hand, she was arguing with a zookeeper. I was standing off to the side with other visitors but I could hear every word and she was mad. Essentially she was upset the animals were not peacefully walking around their pen, letting the visitors get a good look at them. I had the urge to tell her this was a zoo and not a beauty pageant but decided to keep my mouth shut. The animals were just being themselves and fighting over territory; but apparently that was not enough for her, she wanted them to act more human. I know there are people who find animals more endearing when they can attach a human emotion to the animal’s actions. I totally understand because I wanted to become a veterinarian after I read the book Doctor Dolittle. I loved the way the animals carried on conversations with the doctor. Wouldn’t you say most of us are more comfortable with animals when they act in a fashion more akin to human beings? As a child I could not wait to grow up and go out on a date to an Italian restaurant so we could share a spaghetti meal just like Lady and Tramp did in their movie. Look at how many talking animals have been part of our culture, from Michigan J. Frog to the horse Mr. Ed to the talking chipmunks Alvin and his brothers. Oh and how can I ignore all of those cat and dog videos posted on the internet? The animals look adorable as they perform tricks or interact with those around them. Watching them can be fun but I have never seen any that can match the singing that was done in this animated film. BUSTER Moon, voiced by Matthew McConaughly (The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club), came up with a brilliant idea to save his beloved theater; hold a singing contest. He was in for a big surprise after the mailer advertising the event was sent out. This comedic drama had a wonderful cast of actors to voice many of the characters; there was Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, This Means War) as Rosita, Seth MacFarlane (A Million Ways to Die in the West, Tooth Fairy) as Mike, Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers franchise, Don Jon) as Ash and the biggest surprise for me Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Testament of Youth) as Johnny. Luckily the characters were fun to watch because the script was a bit bland. The story revolved around the singing competition which was fine, but there were times where I felt the script could have used a rewrite. Let me say kids will like the mayhem and action while the parents will enjoy the singing; most of the songs were current. This film may have lacked a little in the lessons learned aspect that other children’s animated pictures have depicted, but I found this movie to be quite entertaining. Plus c’mon how can one resist animals that sing and sing well?
Everyone around was becoming uncomfortable by two of their friends’ heated disagreement. The argument had been brewing between the two for a while and neither was willing to give in to the other. Only recently had their words started taking on a snarky tone and the people around knew better to calm either of them down else they would become victims to the venom. The friends hated distancing themselves from the two antagonists but it was becoming the reality of the situation; people were becoming unavailable for the get-togethers. Sadly I am quite familiar with these types of situations because I was usually one of the verbal fighters. For whatever reason the environment I lived in had made me believe a person who disagreed with me no longer liked or loved me. Most of my verbal attacks usually started out saying, “You” instead of “I”; there was rarely any discussion about the what and why I was feeling the way I did. I can still remember the times I would attend a gathering and if there was someone there I had a beef with I would make sure they and everyone around knew it. Whether I used snide remarks or was passive aggressive in attacking them, I can only say it was an ugly situation. With a lot of help and hard work I began to understand an argument was simply an argument; it had nothing to due with what a person thought of you. And the biggest lesson I learned was to express my feelings, starting out a sentence with “I feel…” Need I tell you the disagreement in this action adventure would quickly grow into something of epic proportions. WHEN politicians began to feel there needed to be some checks and balances in the Avengers’ operations, sides would be drawn that could well split the good intentions of the organization. This science fiction film did something that I rarely see in these type of movies; it placed an emphasis on some real life, current issues our world is experiencing at present. The script did a beautiful job of touching on these issues for a bit before switching it up between the wicked humor and personal drama amongst the superheroes. Starring Chris Evans (Snowpiercer, Before We Go) as Captain America, Robert Downey Jr. (The Judge, The Soloist) as Iron Man and Scarlett Johansson (Don Jon, The Avengers franchise) as Black Widow; there were too many characters to list here. I will say the script played to each actor’s strengths and I loved the way it introduced 2 new characters that it was obvious will have their own solo films in the near future. Now with all I have just said I did think this picture was long, but appreciated the way the action scenes were spaced out between the more personal ones. And one other thing I have to mention; I am concerned these Marvel movies are becoming predictable with their spectacular special effects, the two extra scenes during the credits and the Stan Lee appearances; they may raise the viewers’ expectations to a level that makes the films become ordinary. This may cause some discussion among us and that is fine since I know it is not personal. An extra scene during the ending credits and another at the end.
3 1/3 stars
When something that has only been created in a novel or been seen on television comes to life it can be a miraculous experience. Think about it, for those who saw Santa Claus sitting in his big chair with a line of children waiting nearby to tell him their wish list of toys; it had to be an amazing event. Depending on a child’s age seeing characters from their video games brought to life must also be a heady experience. I remember the first time I went to the zoo; having only seen household pets, squirrels, birds and a couple of farm animals; I was so excited to see all the exotic animals that were living in the zoo. My very first stuffed animal was a chimpanzee dressed in red overalls. Now I was seeing what I thought were all of his cousins jumping and swinging around in their own habitat. I have mentioned previously how I prefer reading afterwards the book a movie was based on, due to the author’s choice of words are usually better than the finished film project. With that being said I have to say there has been many times where I love seeing stories, historical events and folklore coming to life on the big screen. When done right, a movie can provide the voices of the characters one has made up in their heads of the ones in a novel. They can also bring to life an event that took place years ago but still has an importance in one’s life to this day. Today’s review is about a movie that brings new life to a classic story. WHEN it suddenly became dangerous to stay at home the man-cub Mowgli, played by newcomer Neel Sethi; was taken by the panther Bagheera, voiced by Ben Kingsley (Learning to Drive, The Dictator), who would take him to a safer place. Mowgli’s journey would be life changing. This adventure drama was absolutely unbelievable to watch on the big screen; in fact, I may go back to see it in 3D because the CGI in this film was beautiful and realistic. Kudos to Neel Sethi because he was utterly believable as Mowgli; keeping in mind he was the only live person in this fantastical family film. Now that does not take anything away from actors such as Bill Murray (Rock the Kasbah, The Monuments Men) as Baloo the bear and Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation, Thor franchise) as Shere Khan the tiger who were perfect voicing their characters. Having read the Rudyard Kipling book and seen the animated film years ago, I was totally taken into Mowgli’s world from my theater seat. I still love the first film but I have to tell you this version has every right to be considered a Disney classic on its own merits. It will not matter if you are familiar with this story or not because either way all the characters in this picture will draw you into their “real” world and you will be glad you were able to visit it.
The most important thing for some people is to maintain appearances. It is all about being a dutiful son, obedient daughter or the perfect family member; one must never air their dirty laundry, letting others see any cracks within the family unit. There was a family I knew that had a son and daughter. The two siblings never got along and would act out in some outrageous ways with no regard to personal or commercial property. Inside their home there were the usual scuff marks on the walls and floors. However there were a few unexplained holes in the walls too. If anyone visiting asked about the holes the stock answer given was a delivery man knocked into the wall. Regarding the siblings’ teacher/student conferences, whenever the parents were questioned about their children’s behavior they would blankly stare and say everything was fine at home. I never understood this type of logic, where people think it is better to just smile and say everything is fine than talking issues out. Just because family members may have some troubles between them does not mean they are no longer a unified family unit. Besides, don’t people root for those who come to terms with their issues, who reveal their real selves flaws and all? UNBEKNOWNST to the other Avengers Tony Stark/Ironman and Bruce Danner/Hulk, played by Robert Downey Jr (The Judge, The Soloist) and Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me, Foxcatcher), were working on a new technology that would help and maintain world peace. Instead it would facilitate the destruction of mankind. This action science fiction sequel had a lot of pressure to live up to its predecessor. What made this adventure film fun was the returning cast and their ability to do justice to the smartly written script. There was just the right amount of sarcasm, wittiness, pathos and excitement to keep the viewer entertained. A perfect example would be Robert Downey Jr’s character. His timing which was as impeccable as Jarvis’ (Tony Stark’s virtual assistant) diction was great when he had to deliver one of the clever quips or jokes. The cast really worked well together like a family, but I want to give an extra shout out to Mark Ruffalo and newcomer Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy, In Secret) as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch. These two had a strong impact across the screen due to their acting abilities with their given lines. Now to the crux of why this sequel worked; the characters were allowed to show their flaws and insecurities; they were more real to us where we could sympathize with them. Personally I enjoyed the 1st film more than this one. Yes the action scenes were intense, the special effects were good and James Spader (Lincoln, Boston Legal-TV) was perfect as the voice of Ultron; but the story was a little too long and there was a feeling of familiarity, a sense of deja vu. However, by letting the characters show more of their baggage and flaws, I only wanted to root for them more. There was one extra scene in the middle of the ending credits.
It is funny; I originally planned to start this review out talking about the times where too much education may not be a good thing. When overhearing two people talk about their health issues and I can tell they are not aware what their symptoms mean but I do, makes me feel sad for them. Living in a highly litigative society has forced manufacturers to list every conceivable symptom or warning on their products these days, to the point where I do not want to think about all the possibilities how something could go wrong if I use or ingest their product. So instead of this movie review taking that path I prefer steering it towards my belief that education has a direct affect on one’s quality of life. I believe once a person stops learning, they stop growing and their mind begins to narrow into a stagnant state. There is my friend who is the assistant principle of an alternative school where the student body consists of students who were expelled or dropped out from their previous school. This school is their last chance and she does everything she can to show these kids the possibilities they could have by staying in school, acquiring knowledge. When one has an education there is nothing that can stop them from achieving their full potential. PROOF of this can be found in this crazy science fiction film. Scarlett Johansson (Don Jon, We Bought a Zoo) played Lucy, a woman who found herself the victim of an international drug plot. However, as she began to acquire knowledge Lucy was able to fight back and take control of her destiny. Written and directed by Luc Besson (The Family, Taken franchise), this action movie made little sense. As long as you knew that going in then the film was just fun to watch. The main reason for this was due to Scarlett Johansson; she was great in the role. I especially enjoyed the way she had a no-nonsense approach; in essence, turning the character into a strong female leading role. In a perfect match of casting the producers had Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby, Last Vegas) play Professor Norman. He was the grounding force to this otherwise silly film. The last part of the story was the most ridiculous for me; I found it so unbelievable. Considering the story, I do not know why I should be so surprised. In spite of all the looniness I do believe this film will make Scarlett even more bankable than she was before; she is very smart with her film choices. There was blood and violence throughout the movie.
2 1/2 stars