PLANS HAD BEEN FINALIZED several weeks before the event. Schedules were coordinated to make sure everyone was available to spend the weekend together. The kids only cared about getting to the amusement park to see some of their favorite television and toy characters. Commercials that showed the things one could do at the park were a constant companion to the children’s television shows. Anytime the TV was on it would only be a matter of minutes before one could hear the famous jingle and tagline for the amusement park. For the weeks leading up to the big day, the siblings and cousins could not stop talking about what rides they wanted to go on first or who they wanted to see. Every night when going to bed each child asked their parents how many more days were left before they would be there. The week of the trip had finally arrived to a changed landscape. UNFORTUNATELY A COUPLE OF the kids got sick and two of the parents could not leave their offices, due to an important schedule change with clients that they needed to address. All of the kids were devastated with the news the trip had to be cancelled. Some of the younger children were sobbing uncontrollably. The adults talked among themselves and finally came up with a solution they hoped would appease or at least calm the children down. Once everyone was healthy they would all get together and take a day trip to the local amusement park. This park had characters walking around like the other amusement park but they were more of a generic nature. One could say they were akin to being the supporting cast or distant relatives to the well known characters. The rides were fun for the kids but they involved random animated creatures the children had never heard of before. Where the initial trip involved an entire weekend to see the entire park, this amusement park was small enough to be easily covered all in one day. The children had a good time but their memories of the day soon faded away. I felt the same way about this action, adventure fantasy. RECENT SIGHTINGS SHOWED A new evil force was descending on the planet; a force that Batman, played by Ben Affleck (The Accountant, Gone Girl), realized he would not be able to handle by himself. Joining forces with Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot (Keeping up with the Joneses, Wonder Woman), the two did not know if there would be enough time to create a formable match for the destructive power wreaking havoc across the land. With Ezra Miller (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as The Flash, Jason Momoa (Conan the Barbarian, Game of Thrones-TV) as Aquaman and Ray Fisher (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) as Cyborg; I thought the only actor who stood out was Ezra. However his character’s personality reminded me of the recent Spiderman reboot. I felt Batman was the mentor for The Flash like Iron Man was for Spiderman. The script for this film was bland to the point where it seemed all everyone was doing was some action scene. And speaking of action I thought the CGI was poorly done compared to other “superhero” movies that have recently come out. And my biggest complaint was the villain in this story; he was so special effected that he did not come across as evil enough. The villain needed to be dominant and evil in this type of picture. I felt I was watching a B movie; okay fun but nothing special. There were 2 extra scenes in the middle and end of the credits.
2 1/3 stars
MOST CHILDREN ONLY WANT it to rain in the middle of the night, while they are sleeping. For some hopefully, thunder and lightning will not wake them up; though they would not mind if there were puddles to jump in during the morning hours. I remember hoping every time it was snowing outside the schools would close for the day, so I could play in the snow with my friends all day. Back then the weather was only thought about when it would alter the planned day of events. A rainy day meant I could not go to the beach or the local amusement park. Depending on how much snow fell would determine if we would go out to the suburbs to visit relatives. Weather back then was simply a part of life; dramatic events were at a minimum. Thunderstorms I recall lasted a couple of hours with very little damage to property. THOUGH IT WAS STARTED in the late 1940s, I think it was not until the 1960s or 70s when cloud seeding was mentioned in the mainstream. The idea of humans changing weather patterns fascinated me. Then again I always enjoyed the character Storm, who could manipulate the weather, in the X-Men series. Now I do not know about you but I have noticed the weather has taken on a more sinister veneer these days. Storms and weather events have become more violent, from intense tornados to major flooding. To my way of thinking, something had to happen that affected the weather patterns. If I remember correctly didn’t the host country China seed clouds before the Olympics started, so it would rain before the opening ceremony? One has to wonder if there were any ramifications from doing such a thing. Something has changed in my opinion that is causing the weather to turn on us. Long stretches of drought, major flooding, multiple tornadoes and hurricanes; whether one believes or not the theories that are being used to explain the weather, wouldn’t it make sense to at least explore the possibilities to see what is taking place around us? This action, science fiction thriller might be a prelude to what could happen to us. AFTER A PERIOD OF peaceful coexistence with the weather, a network of satellites that were controlling the climate begins to malfunction. The cause needed to be found before the earth would become the victim to a massive, destructive world storm. Starring Gerald Butler (A Family Man, Playing for Keeps) as Jake Lawson, Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe, The Best Offer) as Max Lawson, Abbie Cornish (Bright Star, Limitless) as Sarah Wilson, Alexandra Marie Lora (Rush, Control) as Ute Fassbinder and Daniel Wu (New Police Story, One Nite in Mongkok) as Cheng Long; the script quickly sunk this film. There was nothing new in this story that has not played in numerous disaster movies from before. Even the special effects were only okay; something about them did not make them pop out like I have seen done in other pictures. I am afraid outside of a couple of scenes I was bored a good portion of the time. Scenes that lent themselves to intense drama were lacking it and one pretty much could figure out what was going on in the story. Though I saw this film on a sunny day, it put a cloudy damper over me.
1 ¾ stars
THE INVITATION WAS NOT addressed to me, but I was asked to go as a guest. I took no offense since the event was something that had never been part of my usual experiences. It was an art gallery opening for an artist; I was familiar with their name but not their work. Situated down in a trendy part of the city, the gallery’s large windows were swathed in dark banners that looked like they had been splattered with blood. I was not sure what I was getting into as I looked at the people milling about the front of the gallery when we walked in. Once inside servers with skin painted in dull shades of gray were walking around with champagne glasses filled with something that looked like a thick syrupy wine. If I did not know better I would have said I walked onto the set of a vampire themed movie. I declined any offer of the drink. WALKING AROUND THE GALLERY I was exposed to pieces of art that depicted graphic violence. They were done in an abstract way but one could easily make out the human form even with the bizarre, twisted ways it was being placed. Making my way around I was able to hear a variety of comments from the guests that were meandering about as they were looking for more of that reddish liquid stuff to drink. The majority of things I heard people say were positive about the artwork. I honestly did not understand how they could look at these grotesque pieces and interpret them as these beacons of reason and positivity. There was one gentleman who literally was lecturing the small group of individuals around him, expounding on the dynamic themes this one piece presented. I actually stopped to listen to him and though I am not a judgmental person by nature, I have to tell you I thought the talkative man sounded pompous, as he went on and on about various themes one could draw from the piece. By no means do I claim to be an art expert and I know appreciating art is a subjective thing; but I did not get any of the artwork for it did not entertain or move me in a positive way. Sadly I felt the same way about this science fiction, mystery sequel. BLADE RUNNER K, played by Ryan Gosling (Gangster Squad, La La Land), discovered a secret that was hatched years ago that could alter evolution. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Prisoners) this sci-fi thriller visually was impressive. The sets and costumes all conveyed a sense of defeat or maybe more to the point tiredness. Ryan with Robin Wright (Wonder Woman, House of Cards-TV) as Lieutenant Joshi, Ana de Armas (War Dogs, Hands of Stone) as Joi, Sylvia Hoeks (The Best Offer, The Storm) as Luv and Harrison Ford (42, The Age of Adeline) as Rick Deckard were all wonderful in their roles. My big issue with this film was the unnecessary length of time to tell a story from a script that was spotty in parts. I was bored through parts of the picture. There were some characters that one never got the opportunity to really understand, while others had more depth to them. It pains me to say this but I found this film to be pretentious and full of itself. Maybe with major editing there would have been more excitement for me; however, for my viewing time I sat there with a perplexed look on my face.
SIGNS were posted across the building and in the parking lot that the grocery store was back open after being remodeled. I had never paid attention to this place since they had very few name brand items on the shelves. The reason I was there now was due to my friends telling me I had to try the place because their prices were on the average much lower than other grocery stores. Once inside I took a shopping cart and started walking down the aisles. Most of the products on the shelves were in disarray which was a turnoff for me. I wound up mainly buying fruits, vegetables, nuts and juice. The prices were lower but I have to tell you I did not think their store brand items were that good compared to the name brand ones. In fact, I thought the sunflower seeds were awful. RECENTLY introduced into my neighborhood was a new grocery chain from out of state. Their store looked like a palace compared to that food store I tried earlier. Produce was stacked up in separate bins, each one brightened by the spotlights that were hanging down from the rafters. I was curious how they were able to get each apple polished and shiny. They had a bake shop in the store that had a wonderful aroma wafting around it. Loaves of different kinds of breads were loaded into a bank of glass cases. Out on the floor there were tables piled high with large assortments of baked goods. The prices were more than what I was used to so I was hesitant to buy many things; but since I am a bread and dessert lover I did splurge a bit in this area. After finally trying both new grocery stores I have not gone back to them. The first place with cheaper prices was more like a knockoff to my regular place; it had less variety and what they had did not taste as good as the usual stuff I purchase. As for the other store, it was beautiful but their prices were on the high end. I could say the same about this science fiction film; a bland imitation that looked expensive to make. SPECIES from all over the universe had finally found a way to live in harmony with each other. That was until a dark force invaded their shared homeland. Written and directed by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita), this action adventure movie starred Dane DeHaan (A Cure for Wellness, Lawless) as Major Valerian, Cara Delevingne (Paper Towns, Suicide Squad) as Sergeant Laureline, Clive Owen (Inside Man, King Arthur) as Commander Arun Filitt and Rihanna (Battleship, Bates Motel-TV) as Bubble. What made this film entertaining were the wild visuals; the word “trippy” came to mind. Some of the scenes and characters were quite imaginative. I am not familiar with the book this film was based on, but I was intrigued by the relationship between Valerian and Laureline; though she was more memorable than he. The idea for this story was sound but I thought the script was poorly done. I was amazed that I figured out immediately who was going to be the “bad” guy and how the story was going to end. Where the visuals were exciting, the acting and script were lackluster. There was little to get excited or thrilled by in this picture. It was a shame because it was obvious they spent a lot on the technical stuff but what got created was a light version of Star Trek mixed with Star Wars.
THERE were days where it felt he had a target painted on his back. What he originally thought were random acts of violence, where he happened to be the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time, he began to realize he was the main focus of the perpetrators’ aggression. Unfortunately bystanders around him would also fall victim to the violent acts. Being unexpectedly pushed from behind would cause him to fall into anyone standing in front of him, resulting in the chance they could topple and injure themselves. A liquid filled container thrown at him would also have an impact on anyone around him. He could never understand the hatred towards him. It was not like he started a fight or something; he pretty much fell into the average category, avoiding any type of conflicts or confrontations. His attitude was “live and let live” when it came to the behavior of others; however, there were days where it was a challenge to maintain that attitude. SEVERAL weeks of constant attacks pushed me to a place I had never been before. With my friends being affected from the fallout and me becoming consumed with a deep set hatred towards my aggressors, I lashed out at one of them when he was alone. It was the only time I instigated a fight. What worked in my favor was the fact no one would ever imagine me picking a fight. Adding in the element of surprise, I was set to let all of my anger out onto this one individual while I kept telling myself not to get hit in the face and start crying. My hope was if I could show this one person that I could fight back that he and the rest of his kind would stop picking on me. A similar train of thought was considered in this 3rd installment of the rebooted action adventure franchise. WHEN his enclave came under attack Caesar’s, played by Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings franchise, The Prestige), hopes of peaceful co-existence seemed an impossible reality. He would be forced to confront the ugliness of man head on. Compared to the two previous films I found this science fiction story incorporated elements of American slavery and the Bible; especially in regards to Moses and the 10 commandments, at least the movie version. With Woody Harrelson (The Edge of Seventeen, Now You See Me franchise) as the Colonel, Steve Zahn (Dallas Buyers Club, A Perfect Getaway) as Bad Ape, Karin Konoval (The Movie Out Here, 2012) as Maurice and Amiah Miller (Lights Out, How We Live-TV movie) as Nova; I realized some people might not appreciate the acting skills of some of the actors who were CGI enhanced; but I have to tell you, I thought Andy and Karin were amazing in their roles. Andy, besides all of the physical acting, was still able to convey emotions with depth to his character. I will be curious to see if he gets any recognition for the amount of work he put into this dramatic picture. The special effects were well done, never over the top and appearing quite real. What really tied all of the good pieces together in this movie was the script; I felt it was well thought out, going beyond the typical sci-fi story. It had heart which quickly grabbed me into the story. As I continued to think about this film afterwards I can see where it could start a discussion about a variety of topics including our current times.
3 ½ stars
THE bus pulled up just as I said goodbye to my friends. They were hanging out together after school, but I had to go to work. The bus ride took around 25 minutes which gave me some time to study for an exam I was having the next day. Is this what I wanted to do after school? No, I would have preferred hanging out with my friends; studying for the exam could take place after dinner. My part-time job was at a camera store. Luckily I worked in the warehouse so I would not have to be out in front selling or ringing up sales. It was already bad enough that I was one of the few who had a job; but to have to wait on my friends or their parents would make things worse. Truthfully the job was not bad at all; since I was already into photography, I enjoyed being around the different film and camera products. I also would hear about new items before the general public, which I thought was cool. MANAGING my time between school and work was a challenge. By the time my friends and I were seniors a majority of us had after school jobs. One of the perks for me was being able to drive the owner’s car to make special pickup orders or deliveries when the company van was out on the road. I was not comfortable driving the large van as I would have to maneuver several side streets on the route. As for the owner’s car, it was a luxury automobile with all the extra appointments; in other words, all the bells and whistles one could buy for it. Even though driving the car was a highlight, I still had the challenge of keeping my grades up while working. Going to school, work and be with my friends was always a give and take situation. There were times I would miss out doing fun stuff; but on the other hand, I always had money in my wallet. My challenges paled by comparison to the ones the main character in this action, adventure film had to endure. AFTER helping out the Avengers the only thing Peter Parker/Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland (The Impossible, The Lost City of Z), wanted to do was to become a full time crime fighter. However he first had to finish high school. This reboot of the science fiction franchise had a well rounded cast that gave the story a good kick of fun excitement. Starring Robert Downey Jr (Sherlock Holmes franchise, The Judge) as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Michael Keaton (The Founder, Spotlight) as Adrian Toomes/Vulture and Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler, The Lincoln Lawyer) as May Parker; each of them did a great job in their roles. I did wish Michael Keaton had more screen time. With his acting skills the writers could have made his character darker and more intense; I think this would have added more to the story. The thing I enjoyed about this film was having Peter struggle with his desire to be a superhero while trying to be a typical teenager. There were elements of wit and charm to many scenes due to Tony Stark’s presence and Peter’s puppy like eagerness. I felt the middle of the film slowed down with the story line about going out on a date; the intensity and action were weak. Though I found Tom’s whiny voice annoying at times, I felt he was the right choice to lead this reboot. There were extra scenes in the middle and at the end of the credits.
3 ¼ stars
TENSION could be felt in the air, at least by me, as I walked into the company’s lunchroom. It was not a big room, only accommodating a few tables and chairs. Sitting down next to a couple of employees, I joined in on the conversation taking place. While we were eating and talking I did notice 2 employees whose way of conversing was stilted. They each would participate but I noticed they never made eye contact with each other, even if the topic of conversation related to one of them. The other employees around the table did not seem to notice or if they did they were not fazed by it. If you ever sat around a group of people and one person had an attitude, you would feel it. I could not understand what was going on as there was this “stale” dead air in the room when either of these 2 employees said something. SEVERAL weeks later, long after I forgot about those two peculiar employees in the lunchroom, a co-worker was talking to me and made a joke about one of those employees from that time. She could tell I did not understand the joke and asked me if I knew the story about those 2 people from the lunchroom. When I told her no she informed me the 2 used to be married to each other, making it sound like it was common knowledge. Obviously it was not that common because I had no idea they were married at one time. Replaying as much as I could remember about the conversation we had back then I could at least see where the topic could be an uncomfortable one for the divorced couple. I asked my co-worker why they were divorced; she told me about the rumors some people were saying about the former couple. From what she told me I was amazed either of them could work in the same company as their ex-spouse. It is funny having that little bit of unexpected knowledge has changed most of my interactions with either employee. I could say the same thing about what I found out in this latest installment of the sci-fi franchise. BATTLE after battle, war after war; there must be a reason why Earth will not be left alone by these Transformers. Could there be a solution to once and for all rid our world of this destruction? This action adventure starred Mark Wahlberg (Patriot’s Day, The Gambler) as Cade Yeager, Anthony Hopkins (Red Dragon, The Elephant Man) as Sir Edmund Burton and Josh Duhamel (When in Rome, Las Vegas-TV) as Colonel William Lennox. Within a short period of time I realized the script and the story to this film was utterly ridiculous. The explanations being told about why such and such was happening defied any logic. I know this is a science fiction film, but I still appreciate a good story. The script was a hodgepodge of folklore, fantasy, historical references and an assortment of other components; that I found made one big, long mess of a picture. It also did not help that the movie played for 2 hours and 29 minutes; there was no reason to have such a long film. There needed to be a tight editing job to the script. Also I wished the action scenes had been more distinguishable. With action whirling by it was hard to figure out who or what was going on. I could not wait to escape this picture. There was an extra scene early in the credits.
1 ½ stars
IF a person wants to learn how to drive a car there is a set of rules and regulations that must be followed to get a license. These rules are needed otherwise there would be chaos on every street. I have noticed with the introduction of red light cameras (devices that take detailed photographs of cars that run stoplights and mail the driver a traffic ticket) there has been an increase in accidents. In the past if a driver drove up to an intersection and the light started to change from green to red, more times than not, they would continue on their way. Once the cameras became active I started seeing cars slamming on their brakes so they would not enter the intersection and get a ticket. However because of these quick sudden stops there was not enough lag time for the car behind to stop in time; so periodically I would see automobiles getting rear ended. Recently some of the intersections have had countdown timers installed next to the WALK/DO NOT WALK signs to help the drivers prepare for a complete stop. NOW before you think I am one to follow every rule by the letter, I have to tell you that is not always the case. I would not say I break rules, I prefer to say I modify them. At the grocery store I may go through the express checkout line with 1 or 2 more items than the posted limit. However I would never abuse it with a full shopping cart like I have seen other people do, pretending they did not know it was an express lane. Rules are needed in any industry from construction to agriculture. There are even rules when it comes to writing a story. I will say to interject the element of surprise one must have the breaking of a rule. In this science fiction horror thriller there were a few surprises in store for the crew and the viewer. ON a mission to populate a distant planet the crew of the colony ship Covenant were awaken early. A transmission was detected that surprised the crew members. This latest installment of the Alien franchise starred Michael Fassbender (Assassin’s Creed, The Light Between Oceans) as David/Walter, Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) as Daniels, Billy Crudup (Jackie, 20th Century Women) as Oram, Danny McBride (Your Highness, The Pineapple Express) as Tennessee and Demian Bichir (Lowriders, The Heat) as Lope. Visually this film caught my eye right away; I thought the sets were interesting. As for the actors Michael and Katherine were the standouts, especially Michael in his dual roles. My issue with this movie was the script. I do not think I am picky but there seemed to be a lack of believability. Not that I am a space explorer but common protocols regarding space travel were ignored in this story. In addition scenes were too predictable. It is safe to say we all know what happens when someone excuses themselves to go to the bathroom in a horror picture. Due to the script there was a lack of new things taking place for me. I found it odd; where the writers could have taken liberties was in the structure of the story line. Instead they chose to break the rules of reason in telling a story. Blood and violence was shown in multiple scenes.
2 ½ stars
THE man’s wavy untamed hair in the photograph was the closest looking to his own. No one else in the photo album had hair similar to this man, so there was a good chance that man in the photo could be his father. The young boy would pull out his mother’s photo album anytime he was feeling sorry for himself. Sitting on the sofa with the album in his lap he would stare at this one particular photograph of the man with the wavy hair and wonder what the man was like. The little boy would get lost inside his imagination, placing himself next to his possible father in a variety of scenarios. They would be at the amusement park; sitting side by side in a roller coaster that was about to climb up a steep embankment, their hands tightly clenching their shouldstraps with their legs pressed up against each other. For several years the young boy believed his real father was out there somewhere. SOME people were born into a family while others created their own. A basic definition of family is a group of people related to one another. It could be by blood or there may be something else in common. I have a friend who has a family by birth. Though she continues to try over and over, her and her family have different expectations or maybe it is just different feelings of what makes a family. She has been disappointed more times than not with her so-called family. The only time they do something as a family is if it is convenient for her siblings; they have never gone out of their way for her. So the windup is my friend has started to create her own supportive family among her friends. This action science fiction film will show you what my friend did in her life. SETTLING into their roles as the Guardians of the Galaxy, the group of friends encounter strong forces that will test the bonds they have recently formed with each other. This adventure sequel starred Chris Pratt (Jurassic World, Passengers) as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana (Star Trek franchise, Nina) as Gamora, Dave Bautista (The Man with the Iron Fists, Spectre) as Drax and Michael Rooker (The Bone Collector, Jumper) as Yondu. Right from the start this picture grabs you with its special effects and action packed scenes. And just like the original movie, this one also had a great soundtrack. I thought the script was intriguing with its strong theme of family. Not wanting to get too deep with this theme the writers did not forget to include the same type of humor that was used in the last film. Now this brings me to my issue with this movie; it unfortunately was not the first one because since we are familiar with the new franchise, this installment did not have the same fresh quirkiness because I had seen it before. I do not consider this a major complaint; I still laughed and enjoyed the action. If you are not a fan of science fiction I am not sure you would get totally into this picture, but I am sure you would not be able to stop your feet from tapping along to the music. There were three extra scenes during the credits and one more brief scene at the end of the credits.
ACTIONS speak louder than words. Sometimes they do more than just speak louder. There are some people who do things with little fanfare, but their actions have a profound effect on many. Recently on the news I saw there was an anonymous donor who provided enough funds to rebuild a charitable organization’s offices after they were damaged by a tornado. Another news source reported on a patient who needed a kidney transplant. A donor had stepped forward after hearing the patient’s story. This donor had no connections to the individual, but after hearing the patient’s story he said he felt it was the right thing to do. He did not want any compensation or recognition for his healthy kidney, nor did he want any fuss. Of course the news sources jumped at the chance to bring a “feel good” story to the public. During these current times I find it refreshing to find individuals doing good deeds without the need to broadcast or brag about them to the world. LOOKING towards the opposite end of the spectrum, there are individuals who have no idea their actions can have a negative impact on people. How many of us have experienced at work where one worker does something shady or let me say “against policy” that causes the company to install a new procedure that affects all the workers? I was employed at a company where the owner was carrying on an affair with a woman who was not his wife. Luckily I did not get sucked into the drama, but several employees were put in an uncomfortable spot when the wife would call looking for her husband. The employees were put in an awkward place because they had no choice but to lie to the wife if they wanted to keep their job. You might be thinking the affair would not last long and you would be partially correct. Some did not last long but there was always some other woman waiting in the wings. I so wanted to tell the owner to take a look around and see how his actions were affecting his employees. Too bad he did not have the insight that the main character found in this fantasy comedy. GLORIA’S, played by Anne Hathaway (The Intern, Rachael Getting Married), constant drinking was having an effect on her boyfriend Tim, played by Dan Stevens (Beauty and the Beast, The Guest). She could not see what her actions were doing to him, let alone to people nowhere near her. This film festival winning movie’s story was quite unusual. It started out slow or more to the point confusing to me; however, once I felt I understood what Gloria’s drinking represented I was able to sit back and enjoy this quirky film. Anne did a wonderful job of acting with her character and the bonus was watching her play against Jason Sudeikis (Masterminds, Mother’s Day) as Oscar. He was amazing in his ability to switch back and forth between comedy and seriousness. I honestly do not see this picture going into wide release because I would not consider it a mainstream movie. However the story really had a way of pulling in the viewer; one only needed to suspend reality and watch how actions speak louder than words at times.