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
The earth’s population is divided into 2 groups, those who eat to live and those who live to eat. I walk a fragile line between the two camps and frequently fall off depending on how the day is going for me. For a majority of situations food is the end result. Speaking from personal experience food can provide unbridled comfort, soothing calmness, vigorous energy, emotional support and a cavalcade of other options. Now since I teach in the health field I have to state this disclaimer: food should only be ingested in moderation. Think about when you go on a date; what is one of the first ideas you think of to do on a date? Usually it is going out to eat at a restaurant. There is something about sharing a meal with someone that builds a sense of camaraderie, budding connections between people. I bet if all negotiations whether in the business place, world stage or personal relationships were done over a meal we would see better results. When you have good food, a great story and a wonderful cast; do you know what you get? You get this sweet and salty fun comedy film. All the burners were working when the movie studio made this film. Jon Favreau (The Wolf of Wall Street, Iron Man franchise) wrote, directed and starred as chef Carl Casper in this enjoyable picture. Not happy with his current position at work and in life, Carl heads back to Miami to rediscover the things he loved about cooking. I found this film to be more than the average comedy; there was a dose of sharpness to the script that made the characters come alive. With a cast that included John Leguizamo (Ride Along, Moulin Rouge) as Martin, Sofia Vergara (Fading Gigolo, Machete Kills) as Inez, Bobby Cannavale (Blue Jasmine, Win Win) as Tony and Scarlett Johansson (Don Jon, The Other Boleyn Girl) as Molly; everyone convinced me they were who they portrayed. It was a real treat to watch them. I want to make special mention about the scenes that involved the cooking and creation of the meals. No way do I consider myself a food guru; heck, I can barely cook a meal. However, watching the food in this film was like watching a whole other movie about the art of food preparation. To me there was such detail given to these scenes without boiling over to a long dissertation, that I was fascinated and inspired to run home and attempt to make a grand meal. Luckily rational thought took over and after the movie ended I went to a grocery story to indulge myself in the produce aisle. Extra scene inserted in the ending credits.
3 1/4 stars
The words coming out of his mouth never quite settled down in my head. I understood each word, but strung together they were like sheets flapping in the wind. All the individuals in my tour group sat attentively with their heads moving from side to side, as if they were watching a tennis match. We were in a museum and our tour guide was giving a lecture about the large, abstract art piece that was squatting in front of us. The people around me kept looking back and forth between the guide and the art piece, as if they were witnessing the creation of a new species. I sat there perplexed because I was evidently not seeing the things that everyone else were focusing on when gazing at this large, colorful mass of steel and paper. To me the object looked like a massive teepee that was starting to lift up its skirt as a front porch wrapped partially around it, with odd shaped geometrical flags sticking out that had been starched to stiffness. I guess I am not an art connoisseur like the others because I was not getting the whole thing. Everyone reacts to art in different ways; I understood it having grown up in an artistic family. But as I looked around it appeared I was the odd man out. Gratefully that was not the case with this science fiction thriller. From director Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Birth) the visual aspects of this film festival nominated drama was both curious and enticing. It was this component of the movie that kept my interest. Some of the scenes were fascinating due to the camera angles and the effects. Filmed in Scotland, Scarlett Johansson (Hitchcock, We Bought a Zoo) played an alien who preyed on lone single men. There was very little dialog and I gave Scarlett credit in her ability to convey the emotions of her character. I am willing to bet there will be people who sit through this unusual movie and afterwards spend hours debating the symbolism they felt was there. I, on the other hand, do not want to work that hard when I go see a film. So I must tell you I had no idea what the movie was about and when I typed the word “gratefully” earlier it was because the viewers around me said the same thing at the end of the picture. I could come up with things I assumed but they would only be my take on the film and everyone will have their own opinion; so what is the point?
2 1/2 stars
The first time it happened you chalked it up to a coincidence, but when it took place again you became suspicious. You shared sensitive information with a coworker. Later in the day you bumped into a fellow employee from a different department who made a comment that seemed odd. Feigning ignorance you let it slide, but as you returned to your desk you thought it was unusual for that employee to make such a comment out of nowhere, especially since the two of you were not close business associates. Later in the week you saw your coworker talking to that very same employee and you immediately understood why that employee made the comment to you; your coworker must have said something to them about you. When trust gets broken with me the first feeling I sense is the quick evacuation of oxygen from my body, as if someone had jumped on my stomach with both feet clad in steel toed boots. All the connections that were created between us shudder and crumble as the aftershocks prevent me from finding balance. It is a horrible feeling to place trust in a person or business and later discover you were betrayed; they were not who you believed them to be. In this action adventure Steve Rogers aka Captain America, played by Chris Evans (The Losers, Fantastic Four franchise), would question the placement of his trust when a new threat appeared to be getting the odds stacked in their favor. This film had a super throwback vibe between the forces of good and evil. I had a sense that all the actors like Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Don Jon) as Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow, Anthony Mackie (Real Steel, The Adjustment Bureau) as Sam Wilson aka Falcon and Robert Redford (All is Lost, The Electric Horseman) as Alexander Pierce were having a fun time filming this exciting movie. If you are not familiar with Captain America you may be at a slight disadvantage though the writers worked to fit in the back story of how Steve Rogers became Captain America throughout the film. There was a constant flow of action and excitement, but I found some of the fight scenes were so fast and in close-up that it was hard to make out each character’s actions. With a smart script filled with fun quips, an exciting story filled with surprise twists and a cast that met the physical demands of their roles while keeping solid chemistry between each other; I trust the powers that be will keep the Captain America franchise strong enough to yield more sequels. There were a couple of extra scenes up to the very end of the credits.
3 1/3 stars