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.
YEARS of reading and watching science fiction books and movies may be the reason why I believe there could be other life forms in the universe. Even if I was not a fan of the fantasy/science fiction genre, I was always open to the possibility we humans were not alone. I could never be convinced that out of the entire universe the planet Earth was the only place that could sustain life. One of the arguments I have heard is our planet is the only one that can sustain oxygen breathing beings; but I would counter that proposal by questioning the logic of oxygen being the only element that can support life. What if an alien species’ anatomy only needed carbon monoxide to exist? Unless they come to us I understand there is no way to prove this thought, since I do not know if we will ever evolve to a point where we will have the ability to deconstruct and rematerialize on another world via a transporting device or be able to travel in a spaceship at warp speed. DURING my studies in college I had a literature course that covered several genres of fiction, including science fiction. For my midterm project I used several rolls of infrared film along with close-up camera lenses to create a photo album that I claimed was proof of foreign existence. The things I photographed represented places we had read about in our required reading list. Our instructor had us put our projects on display around the lecture hall and each of us had to explain what we had done. After we each gave our talks, the students were allowed to walk around and study each item before voting on their favorite in a secret ballot. It turned out not only did I get an “A” on my midterm project but my alien photo album was voted the favorite. From some of the comments I received the majority of my classmates loved how I had shown both friendly and non-friendly aliens. Hopefully I am only right about the good aliens. WORKING in precise maneuvers six astronauts must retrieve a satellite returning from Mars that might contain proof there may be life existing on another planet. This science fiction thriller had some intense, exciting scenes right from the start. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals, Prisoners) as David Johnson, Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, The Proposal) as Rory Adams, Hiroyuki Sanada (47 Ronin, The Wolverine) as Sho Murakami and Rebecca Ferguson (The Girl on the Train, Florence Foster Jenkins) as Miranda North; this horror film had some icky scenes that were hard to watch, involving blood and violence. I thought the sets and special effects were cool, while the actors did their job well. The idea of the story was fine; however, I felt the writers needed to take a different angle because as I sat watching this film I kept thinking about the movie Alien. I did not find much different in this movie though I did enjoy the surprise twists. What I did enjoy, maybe enjoy is not the right word, was the way the writers depicted life and that is all I can say about it. If you do not believe there may be extraterrestrial life, you may not be anxious to see this film. Based on my belief system, maybe you should see it.
2 1/3 stars
LONLINESS can be your friend when you do not fit in. Depending on the circumstances not fitting in can be an asset; however, in a “dog eat dog” environment the non-conformer can become an easy target for ridicule. When I look back at my experiences involving group settings, the one thing I find in common across all of them is the quickness people have in making judgments. If one person deems another person an oddball, others will easily follow suit; even if they have not had any personal contact with the newly labeled individual. Personally I celebrate those individuals who do not follow this pack mentality. It saddens me when I have found myself in a situation where one person decides another person inferior in some way. When I can I will challenge them to explain why they think that way. You should hear some of the excuses; a majority of them have to do with a person’s looks or appearance. Other reasons have to do with the individual not following exactly the same steps as the accuser. As far as I can tell there really is no good excuse. ONE summer I was enrolled in a woodworking class that was limited to 12 students. Once we were taught how to use our tools we were given a project to create a functional object. I chose to make a chessboard while the guy next to me decided to make a boomerang. Out of all of us there was one person who spent time lining up different pieces of wood around their workspace, color coordinating them. Everyone else was into cutting and arranging the wood they chose. Within a couple of minutes I heard someone behind me whispering to look at the weird one with all the wood around him. It only took a few seconds before I started to hear people snickering around me. Long story short, the student with all the wood pieces created an incredible looking coat rack that even impressed our instructor. It goes to show that those who do not fit in can still achieve great things; just see what happens in this action adventure film. FIVE high school students on the outs with their classmates find themselves thrown together when they start experiencing weird effects from a glowing rock. Starring Dacre Montgomery (Safe Neighborhood, A Few Less Men) as Jason/Red Ranger, Naomi Scott (The 33, Terra Nova-TV) as Kimberly/Pink Ranger, RJ Cyler (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Vice Principals-TV) as Billy/Blue Ranger, Ludi Lin (Monster Hunt, Marco Polo-TV) as Zack/Black Ranger and Becky G. (Empire-TV, House of Sin) as Trini/Yellow Ranger; I first have to tell you I am not familiar with the television show that inspired this fantasy picture. Based on the audience reaction at my viewing; those who were fans of the Power Rangers enjoyed the movie immensely, those seeing the rangers for the first time were not as enthusiastic. I found the movie cheesy; in other words, the special effects were not top notch and the script was average. Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games franchise, Pitch Perfect franchise) as Rita Repulsa was the most fun character in my opinion. What impressed me the most about this movie was how they incorporated a student on the spectrum into the story; unless of course the character was the same in the original TV show. Overall this movie did not stand out for me.
FEELING something similar between you and another person can be the catalyst in forming a bond or a kinship with them. Without being related by blood; the relationship that comes out of this connection can be just as strong, if not stronger. I have experienced this feeling numerous times in my life. Volunteering at an event I remember introducing myself to a fellow volunteer and within several minutes you would have thought we had been friends for some time. There were similarities in our beliefs, humor and philosophy that laid down this immediate connection that lasted for years. I think that is one reason I enjoy asking couples how they first met; it is fascinating to hear what the first things were that started their connection. Rarely have I heard people say their connection took a long time to solidify. ONE of the things I pride myself on is my ability to see parts of myself in other people. I think that is one of the reasons why people tend to be comfortable in my classes. When someone new walks into my class I can get a sense of them based on how they walked into the studio. First let me say I treat every member the same; however, for some people I can sense they need a little more coaxing or encouragement to remain in the room. The tendency for someone who does not have solid body awareness of themselves is to hide in the background so as not to be noticed. When I sense this I make sure I go up and welcome them before the start of class. Usually I crack a joke to break the ice. Within that little amount of time I can usually tell if we have something in common. It can create a strong bond as you can see in this action drama. TIME has passed and the world is different as Logan/Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman (Prisoners, Eddie the Eagle) is in declining health. With his mentor and friend Charles, played by Patrick Stewart (X-Men franchise, Christmas Eve), weak and unable to take care of himself; Logan cannot take on anything more, even when a young girl comes to them in desperate need of their help. This science fiction thriller was not a typical superhero film. I was stunned at the amazing script that made me laugh, cry and sit with excitement on the edge of my seat. With their acting skills Hugh and Patrick made their characters human in a way we have not seen before in their other installments of the X-Men stories. Along with them I was absolutely mesmerized with Dafne Keen’s (The Refugees-TV) performance as Laura. She was such an eye magnet where I could not stop watching her to see what she would do next. I will tell you there was a lot of violence and blood in this film and I did not feel the director was using it just to get a rise out of the viewers. In other words it was necessary based on the arc of the story; so yes this picture deserved its R rating. If you are not familiar with the X-Men series it would be to your advantage to see a couple of the earlier films to appreciate the story in this intense movie. I believe many viewers will feel, on different levels, a connection to this incredible story.
3 ½ stars
ENTERTAINING is what I want movies to be. They need to sweep me up and carry me into their story. If you have been reading my previous reviews you know that request is a tall order, since many films I have seen were abysmal. Now just because I want to be entertained doesn’t mean I only want light and bright stories. I walk into a theater with the assumption that the movie I am about to watch has some redeeming quality. Whether it is a documentary, horror, romance or science fiction film; I simply want to be engaged with what I am seeing on the big screen. LIKE any other medium films can be made with an ulterior motive in mind. A picture may have a humorous bent to it; but underneath the surface, the writers had a serious message or topic they wanted to convey to the movie watching public. I have learned many things by watching documentaries; they are usually written in a straight forward manner which at times comes across like visual lectures to me. That is a compliment by the way. This does not mean I have not learned something from films with fictional stories. Any movie genre can provide a learning experience in my opinion. I have seen some sensational cinematic stories that appeared to be total works of fiction; however, the stories paralleled actual events covered in the news. This is no different than some of our great novels that were written as satires to shine a light or poke fun of real situations. The reason I am mentioning all of this is because of today’s movie. I found the story curious because it seemed to reflect the current political environment throughout the country. ALLIANCES needed to be formed if Alice, played by Milia Jovovich (The Fifth Element, The Three Musketeers), was going to have any chance to put a stop to the undead once and for all. This latest installment to the Resident Evil franchise starred Iain Glen (The Iron Lady, Game of Thrones-TV) as Dr. Isaacs, Ali Larter (Final Destination franchise, Heroes-TV) as Claire Redfield, Eoin Macken (The Forest, The Night Shift-TV) as Doc and Shawn Roberts (Jumper, X-Men) as Wesker. Out of the entire cast Milia had the strongest screen presence, since the script was mainly written for her character. I thought she did a good job. Despite having a fuzzy memory of the previous films, the story was easy to follow. Unfortunately the numerous action scenes were filmed in such a quick, choppy way I had a hard time figuring out who was fighting. The scenes were literally just a blur of shapes and colors; it became quite annoying early on. As for the story all I can say is it was typical for this type of video game based movie. I lost my interest at various times and to tell you the truth it was not until the last part of the film where I felt I was getting my money’s worth. For the video game players out there this chapter will appeal to them; to the rest of us it will only be a brief distraction to the world around us.
1 ¾ stars
THE word “home” is one of those words that can immediately stir up the emotions inside a person. For some hearing that word brings childhood memories such as family dinners around a large oak table topped with a linen tablecloth or being taught by your parents the rules to a new game you received for your birthday. Other individuals may hear the word “home” and immediately feel an icy sense of dread stealing down their spine or a fitful night of sleep caused by deep hunger pains. No matter the circumstances, a home can have a powerful affect on each of us. WHEN friends of mine who grew up out of state talk about going home for the holidays, I take that to mean they are going to visit their family and friends back where they grew up. That does not stop me from sometimes asking what they mean when they say “home.” I am not trying to be a jerk; I am just curious if they feel like the place they currently live in does not feel like home. I find some of my friends’ answers interesting to my question. Some of them feel if they were in a committed relationship their place would feel more like a home, while others have expressed apartment living is not the same as being in a house. Having grown up in apartments I do understand the difference somewhat since I have been living in a house. However my definition of home has grown to incorporate the city where I was born and live in. There is something else inside of me that defines home and it has nothing to do with the material trappings that demarcate one’s living space; it has to do with the heart. You see any place can be a home if it is built on a foundation of nurturing elements such as comfort, peacefulness, safety and love. Now imagine what the main characters were thinking in this science fiction drama. DURING a 120 year journey to a distant colony a ship malfunction accidently wakes up from a state of stasis passenger Jim Preston, played Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World), ninety years to early. He did not sign up to spend the rest of his life alone on a ship full of non-available passengers. This adventure romance had a string of enticing special effects and sets. With Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle, Joy) as Aurora Lane, Michael Sheen (Midnight in Paris, Twilight franchise) as Arthur and Laurence Fishburne (Mystic River, Akeelah and the Bee) as Gus Mancuso; I found myself curious with the story’s concept of long term space travel. The chemistry between Jennifer and Chris felt authentic to me; however, with the poorly thought out script they floundered in their roles. I was bored for the first half of this space romance and was annoyed with the obvious goofs in the scenes. Being selected for a holiday opening I felt this film was not properly thought out in ideas and execution. I am sad to say that this film was not the best choice to leave the comfort of my warm home on a cold day.
1 ¾ stars
I knew I had plans for the day; I just did not have anything confirmed yet with friends. We were going to get together over the weekend. You need to know I am not the type of person who does things spontaneously; I am more of a planner. After several messages back and forth we decided to go to a movie (I never turn that option down) in the afternoon then stop at a friend’s house, who was going to join us for dinner. Our friend was not going to be home until after 5pm, so on the way I decided to stop at a bookstore to kill some time. I found a magazine and a book on the clearance rack before we left for our friend’s place. THERE was a parking space right in front of her apartment building; this was a rare occurrence. Once we were buzzed in at the security gate we made our way to the back of the building’s courtyard to her entrance. My friend was in front of me as we walked up to the 2nd floor apartment. As I crossed the threshold I turned to the left and immediately got greeted with a group of friends shouting, “Surprise!” My friends were surprising me for my birthday. As I told you I am a planner, so you can imagine how stunned I was at this turn of events. They had been planning this for weeks, knowing they had to be careful in orchestrating everything so as not to tip me off. Once all of us were settled down, my friends explained everything they did to make it look like I was actively making plans with them. The details on how they worked to steer me to decisions they needed was genius. I loved hearing all the steps they took in creating this surprise. Little did I know I would feel the same excitement in learning the details of this science fiction movie. WITH the completion of a new massive weapon called the Death Star, it was imperative for the rebel alliance to find a way to steal the schematic plans to the weapon in the hopes of discovering a way to destroy it. Going to this film was an event, simple as that. Everyone in the audience was connected where I could feel the excitement. There was a lot to like about this action adventure story. First there was Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything, Like Crazy) as Jyn Erso; I thought she was great in the role. Other standouts were Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom, The Dark Knight Rises) as Orson Krennic, Diego Luna (The Terminal, Milk) as Cassian Andor and Donnie Yen (Hero, IP Man) as Chirrut Imwe; however, I had wished the script would have given more to Mads Mikkelsen (Doctor Strange, The Hunt) as Galen Erso. Next, the action scenes (there were a lot) were well choreographed and visually exciting. On the negative side I did not feel the cast had the best chemistry amongst themselves; though I understood they were mostly meeting each other for the first time. The music was overpowering and constantly used as a prelude to the upcoming action. Lastly, viewers who are not familiar with Star Wars episodes 4 & 5 would miss out on some of the characters and their significance. The idea for the story was brilliant and it certainly provided a few good surprises along the way.
THEY seemed scared as they huddled over their map. Looking up at the arrival time for the next train, they stood near the edge of the train platform. I made the assumption they were tourists who were not familiar with the language. Luckily I knew how to say hello and how are you in their language; plus, I was ½ of the winning team among my friends in charades the past 2 years which I felt could help. Walking up to them I said hello and immediately their heads sprung up and turned to me. They excitedly began talking to me in their native tongue but I had no clue what they were saying. I made hand gestures which I hoped conveyed the little I knew about their language then pointed at their map and made a questioning facial expression. En masse they moved next to me and pointed to a sticky note attached to what I could see on the map was the downtown area. THEY were looking for a well known tourist attraction in the city. Using my charade skills I was able to show them which train they had to get on and how many stops they needed to travel to get to their destination. I think they were saying thank you to me as my train arrived and I bordered it. Being proud of my city I have this thing where I want all tourists to have the best time here. So if I can spend a few minutes learning how to communicate with those who do not speak English it is well worth it to me. The key word is communicating; I see and have experienced so many people who do not take the time to properly communicate. It seems as if language is turning into a series of emails, texts, abbreviations and emojis. How can someone figure out a person’s intent with such things? LINGUISTIC expert Dr. Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams (American Hustle, Man of Steel), was given a short time frame to find a way to communicate with the alien spacecraft that landed on earth before the military took over. This film festival nominated drama mystery took a different route from the usual alien versus human plot and it paid off. I enjoyed it so much and thought Amy was fantastic in the role. Along with Jeremy Renner (The Avengers franchise, The Hurt Locker) as Ian Donnelly and Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels’ The Butler, The Last King of Scotland) as Colonel Weber, the actors did well in conveying a sense of urgency and fear. The soundtrack added an eerie dimension to the scenes that I felt brought out more suspense. With director Denis Villeneuve’s (Prisoners, Sicario) skills the story had a gradual buildup of tension, even with the subplot that was interjected between present day scenes. This science fiction movie had a couple of surprises, though I have to say the ending was confusing to me. I am not sure I totally understood what was going on but I still felt like I was entertained for the most part. Especially with the poor (in my opinion) state of communications today, I really was impressed with this picture.
3 ¼ stars