EVERYONE THOUGHT SHE WAS THE LIVING EMBODIMENT of a toy doll, perfect in every way; but, I knew better. She would always offer help to any fellow employee whether they might need it or not; she would also periodically bring in home-cooked desserts to share with anyone who came by her desk. Though I did not sit next to her, I could hear her talking to the employees who came near her desk. I do not know if I can explain it; but, she was sickly sweet with her conversations. She overused the words “honey” and “sweetie” to no end, besides appearing sympathetic to anyone who wanted to share any personal information with her. I knew better; the entire thing was an act. She was not really interested in what anyone said to her; she was fishing for information that she could use to advance herself within the company. The reason I knew this is because I had heard several conversations she had had with her boss, where she divulged other employees’ personal information in such a way that painted a better image of herself. It was nauseating for me to hear it. That sweet, friendly exterior was just a façade; she knew exactly what she was doing, and I was on to her. BEING IN AN ENVIRONMENT WITH A person like that is toxic. One can never let their guard down because they would never know how their words could be turned into a vice to squeeze them out of an opportunity in the workplace. I was pleasant to her simply because I did not want to get on her “bad side.” I had no idea what she was capable of and I did not want to prompt her to start focusing on me. Maybe I have been lucky, but I have never encountered someone like her in any of my jobs. Granted I have worked with a variety of individuals, from tattletales to “stab in the back” type people; however, there has not been anyone who can match this one employee’s output of manipulative behavior. What I find distressing about it is how it makes working at a company less enjoyable. I ask you, who wants to spend their energy every day combating such a negative force; it is such a drain on the body and mind. You can see how it is for yourself if you wish by watching this action, adventure comedy. THE MEN IN BLACK WERE SKILLED in protecting the Earth from aliens who threatened us. However, when that threat was coming from inside the organization, how could agents trust what they were seeing? Starring Chris Hemsworth (12 Strong, Thor franchise) as Agent H, Tessa Thompson (Creed franchise, Annihilation) as Agent M, Kumail Nanjiani (Big Sick, Silicon Valley-TV) voicing Pawny, Rebecca Ferguson (Life, Despite the Falling Snow) as Riza and Rafe Spall (The Ritual, The BFG) as Agent C; this updated version of the science fiction franchise devoted too much time on the jokes and not enough on the story. I thought Chris and Tessa were fun together; but it seemed as if I was listening to the same comedy routines over and over. There was no excitement, both visually and verbally; the entire picture seemed tired to me. As I was watching the villains I was wishing they would have broken into dance, because I recognized them from a dance-based reality television show. It would have been more fun to watch, I am sure. Another flaw was the fact I was able to figure out how the story would end, which usually is not my forte. Sadly, this was a waste of resources that tarnished the franchise.
1 2/3 stars
FOR THOSE WHO ENJOY PEANUT BUTTER and jelly sandwiches, there is an innate comfort associated with them. I am a smooth peanut butter and grape jelly type of guy, though I can mix it up with crunchy peanut butter at times. If you have a similar history to mine, then you remember a PB&J was one of the first sandwiches given to you. I remember how the peanut butter would get smoothed over the slice of bread before spreading the jelly on top, trying to get it to reach out to the four corners of the bread. For my sandwich it had to be done with white bread, nothing else. Because it was always consistent in taste and texture, I knew what to expect and that brought me comfort. Whether I had it for lunch or dinner, I would still get a feeling that everything would be okay for me. For a little kid you could not beat having that comforting feeling anytime you wanted; it would well up inside of me at my first bite. And this included keeping the crusts on the bread slices, since I had a friend who had to have the crusts cut off before eating his sandwich. A FUNNY THING ABOUT PEANUT BUTTER and jelly sandwiches; it could be years between having one and the sandwich would still pack the same emotions. I experience it every time; we’re talking a lot of years. Now I know there are some people who cannot eat the same thing two days in a row and I get it. They like thinking of something new to eat or satisfy a craving or even just want to play with ingredients in their kitchen to see what they can create. When they do stuff like that I do not believe they build a history with the food dish. Sure, they love it and it tastes good; but then they move on to something else the next time and maybe, down the road, they revisit that dish another time. That is all well and good, but I feel it is not the same thing as being able to eat something that elicits long held memories. There are no surprises involved, no figuring out things; everything falls into a familiar place. Personally, I love when that happens and maybe that is the reason why this decades long franchise continues to work; one knows what to expect when they walk into the theater to see this dramatic sports movie. IT WAS NOT ENOUGH FOR ADONIS JOHNSON, played by Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther, Fantastic Four), to reach the pinnacle of the boxing world. When the son of the man who killed his father entered the ring, it was about revenge and protecting his father’s name. With Sylvester Stallone (Escape Plan, Get Carter) as Rocky Balboa, Tessa Thompson (Dear White People, Annihilation) as Bianca, newcomer Florian Munteanu as Viktor Drago and Dolph Lundgren (Universal Solider, The Punisher) as Ivan Drago; this movie did everything I expected it to do. Michael did just as good of a job here as he did in the first film. Who I thought shined even brighter was Tessa and Sylvester in their roles. It seemed as if Rocky grew into this role; I could feel the weight of his world resting on his shoulders and got a sense of his mortality. Tessa’s singing and acting were the perfect touch to the drama coming across the screen. The premise for this story was little different from the ones previously. There was a good guy and bad one, unexpected home issues and parent issues; pretty much all the same but I did not mind. This franchise still delivers a good punch (I apologize for the pun). It is like eating a PB&J; I knew what to expect and got it with little effort on my part.
3 ¼ stars
THERE ARE SOME INDIVIDUALS WHO thrive on experiencing things that are fresh and new. It can be anything across the board from electronic devices to food. I, myself, enjoy trying new food items; though I must preface it by saying as long as the food falls into one of my acceptable categories. I have mentioned before I am a marketer’s dream because I am willing to try a new type of potato chip or ice cream. On the other hand, I could not care less if my car has the newest hi-tech gadgets; I tend to drive my cars until they die, hopefully after a long life of mileage. There was a relative of mine who had to have a new and fully loaded car every year; that was their thing. A friend of mine, on a yearly basis, would clean out their closet and replace it with that year’s latest fashions. The amount of clothes they donated to charity was astronomical. My final example is a couple of friends that absolutely amaze me. They are willing to try any food and food combination; the more exotic the better. Where I find something I like at a restaurant and order it each time, they will constantly order something different each time. You would not believe what has gone into their mouths. WHEN IT COMES TO MOVIES, I enjoy seeing something that has not been told before. Now granted there are a lot of films that have similar themes; but the writers added a twist to them that I appreciated. As you know as long as the picture entertains me I am cool with it. You probably have noticed many of my reviews will mention how the story is predictable; it is something I have seen before. If the writers did nothing new to it I wind up getting bored. I cannot tell you how often this happens to me; in fact, a member in one of my classes asked me why I just don’t leave the theater before the movie ends. This is something I never do or could ever do. If I am going to review a film then I need to see it from beginning to end. Where I have friends who only want to see a certain genre of films; I see pretty much anything, more so now that I review them. Also, I will travel far distances if there is a movie I want to experience that is not playing anywhere near me and that is exactly what I did to see this fantasy comedy. DISCOVERING A NEW-FOUND SUCCESS by changing the sound of his voice Cassius Green, played by Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out, Short Term 12), started his climb up the corporate ladder as a telemarketer, to the dismay of his friends. Set in an alternative time in Oakland this film festival nominee also starred Tessa Thompson (Creed, Dear White People) as Detroit, Jermaine Fowler (Superior Donuts-TV, Friends of the People-TV) as Salvador, Armie Hammer (Call Me by Your Name, Free Fire) as Steve Lift and Omari Hardwick (For Colored Girls, The A-Team) as Mr __. Let me tell you I was impressed by first time writer and feature film director Boots Riley. This story was different and twisted in a satirical way. I enjoyed the irony and fantasy for the most part until the last portion of the movie. There were some “far out” scenes and towards the end they became lost on me. The message as far as I could tell I got, but the execution of it I found silly. If nothing else credit must be given to Boots Riley for doing something new; it worked for a majority of the story and I am all for individuals who are willing to take a risk on something new.
2 ½ stars
SOME INDIVIDUALS WOULD FIND it frustrating; others would find it infuriating after a while. You are partaking in a serious conversation and someone makes a joke. There are times where telling a joke can be the perfect antidote to a tense conversation. In fact I am a big proponent of using humor to diffuse a situation or break the tension in a room. Dealing with tough and uncomfortable topics of conversation can quickly drain an individual; I am all for injecting a touch of humor just to give the participants a momentary breather before continuing their discussion. Pretty much any situation can benefit, at least in my opinion, from a chuckle or belly laugh depending on the circumstances of course. There was a funeral I attended where the service was filled almost to capacity with mourners. Right in the middle of the eulogy a family member made a comment that had everyone laughing, giving a needed respite from the sadness. WHERE A SIMPLE BIT of humor can do wonders in a tense situation, a constant barrage of jokes and wisecracks can have the opposite effect. If it is just you and one other person going back and forth in a deep conversation, you can address it; however, when there are more people involved it can be tricky. When an individual keeps making jokes during what is supposed to be a serious conversation; I have noticed they are uncomfortable either with the topic being discussed or making themselves vulnerable. I know an individual who has a hard time discussing their feelings. When you press them on a subject they will relent and share something personal, but they do it in a hushed voice. I honestly do not know if they feel they are saying something “wrong” or afraid they will be made fun of; they even look uncomfortable. So they prefer to keep up a constant stream of jokes in the conversation to the point they almost overshadow the intended topic of discussion. I felt I was experiencing something of a similar nature during this action, adventure fantasy. IMPRISONED ON A FOREIGN planet far from his home Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth (Ghostbusters, Red Dawn), must figure out a way to return before Asgard is completely destroyed. With Tom Hiddleston (The Night Manager, I Saw the Light)) as Loki, Cate Blanchett (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Carol) as Hela, Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park franchise, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Grandmaster and Tessa Thompson (Creed, Dear White People) as Valkyrie; you could not have asked for a better cast of actors. Who knew Cate could throw down with the best of them as she emoted wicked evilness. I wanted to see more scenes with her. Everything you expect to see in a Marvel superhero movie was here from comic book author Stan Lee’s cameo to big CGI effects to 2 extra scenes during the credits. The only issue I had with this film was the use of humor; I felt the comedy aspect overpowered everything in this story. Do not get me wrong, a good portion of the scenes were fun and humorous but there was so much I felt it took away a little of the dramatic intensity the scenes required. I am sure I am in the minority regarding this but after a while I found the humor getting tedious. Granted since this was my only complaint I still enjoyed the whole movie watching experience and I can only imagine how much fun the actors had making this picture.
Labels should be used for products like canned vegetables and stereotyping should be used for elements like the weather. There is no useful purpose using either of these on human beings. Keep in mind I believe in calling things as I see them; in other words, I have no problem referring to someone as ornery (how often do you get to hear this word?), or some other adjective if indeed that is how they are acting. But to label or stereotype someone based on where their ancestors were born, their skin color or their religion is simply wrong. Before my first name was common, when I told someone my name, there were times they would immediately ask me if I practiced a certain religion. I would be perplexed, trying to understand how they made that leap from my name, which by the way is the name of a river, a food item and a sports figure; to a religion. You see they were making an assumption without even knowing me. The same thing could be said whenever we were picking sides for a sports activity in school. Because I used to be larger I was usually one of the last ones picked to be on someone’s team. No one realized including me that I had one of the fastest throwing arms among the players. Literally, it was years before I was even given a ball to throw and then everyone was stunned at my speed and accuracy. All of this due to me not looking what people felt an athletic person should look like, thanks to stereotyping. JUDGEMENTS were multiplying throughout this comedic drama about the students of an Ivy League college. Stereotyping and labeling students based on their skin color was the norm in this satirical story. A film festival winner, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Some of the cast members were Tyler James Williams (Everybody Hates Chris-TV, Unaccompanied Minors) as Lionel Higgins, Tessa Thompson (For Colored Girls, When a Stranger Calls) as Sam White, Kyle Gallner (Jennifer’s Body, A Nightmare on Elm Street) as Kurt Fletcher and Teyonah Parris (How Do You Know, Mad Men-TV) as Colandrea “Coco” Conners. Everyone did a fine job, partly because of the smartly written script. I found conversations to be authentic even when it was obvious the scene was lampooning a stereotype. The director kept the story moving forward at a steady pace. While watching this picture I was curious how true some of the scenes were for the writer/director because the satire was spot on. Though this was a fun film to watch and I had no complaints, there was a little bittersweetness for me at the end, realizing there will be some people who will watch this movie and not get the joke.