I HAD A FAVORITE BOOKSTORE THAT I enjoyed hanging out in. There was something so inviting and comfortable about the place, with oversized upholstered chairs throughout and small nooks among its aisles. One day I saw on their message board they were hosting a book club meeting. The book listed sounded interesting to me, so I searched for it in the store. Luckily there was one copy I found and after reading the writeup of it, I decided to join the book club. There was plenty of time before we were to meet, and the fantasy book was a great read. The day arrived and I headed to the bookstore with my copy of the book nestled in my messenger bag. Once directed by a store employee on where we were meeting, I walked into an alcove in the back of the store; a circle of folding chairs surrounded a low, large coffee table. I counted the chairs as I made my way to an empty seat. A few other people were already seated, some looked like they knew each other. I nodded my head towards the general group and said “Hi” to no one in particular as I sat down. A store employee who was seated across from me offered me coffee or water that was set up on a table in the corner. I thanked her as I slid my bag under my seat. AS THE POSTED START TIME ARRIVED, the employee across from me stood up to introduce herself and thank all of us for coming. She was going to be the facilitator, starting out by asking us how we liked the book. Most attendees enjoyed the book, though there were a couple of people who disagreed. At one point we each were asked to express what we liked or disliked about the story. When it came to me, I expressed how I appreciated the author’s descriptive details of each character’s surroundings; I felt as if I was in the place with the character. The conversation turned at some point to a more in depth look at what the author was trying to say. Here is where I started to get lost because I rarely delve into the topic about what I think the author was trying to say. Who knows what they were saying? I listened to the people around me talk about all these detailed musings of projecting, mirroring, being an allegory and so on to the point where I felt I did not belong. I read for enjoyment, not to figure out hidden meanings in the author’s words. Knowing how I felt, I can not imagine what one of the main characters in this dramatic film was feeling while trying to fit in. AFTER GETTING OVER THE SHOCK OF seeing her old dear friend after so many years, a reserved New York City woman now must deal with the fact that her friend is pretending to be a white person. With Tessa Thompson (Creed franchise, Thor: Ragnarok) as Irene, Ruth Negga (Loving, Preacher-TV) as Clare, Andre Holland (Moonlight, A Wrinkle in Time) as Brian, Bill Camp (12 Years a Slave, Joker) as Hugh and Gbenga Akinnagbe (The Savages, The Taking of Pelham 123) as Dave; this sincere, emotional movie filmed in black and white was beautiful to watch. I thought the acting was excellent, the sets, soundtrack and costumes were perfect. Overall, this picture comes across like a “slice of life,” a look at the daily lives of individuals. I appreciated the direction, where enough time was given to each character as the viewer watched their growth. The idea of the story is a fascinating one and the production of it comes through clearly. This is the type of film where I label it as a story for adults to appreciate.
3 ½ stars
I KNEW HER WHEN SHE HAD dreams of being an artist. She delved into the art world with inks, paper, feathers and stamps; eager to create a line of cards filled with characters and creatures she would copyright one day. I was the recipient for several of her cards; they usually had to be delivered with 2 stamps on the envelopes. If someone were to ask me what her style of art was like, I think I would have a hard time explaining it. There were some figures that had a Victorian flair to them, but then there were others that were almost animal like. I do not mean this in a disrespectful way but for my tastes, I would say her cards were frilly. The addition of buttons or crystals or fringe for me, gave it a frilly look. I will say she was passionate about her craft, going to various workshops and conventions to practice and hone her skills. Besides getting texts with photos of her latest works, we would talk on the phone and she would tell me about her latest creations. She even looked the part, if there is such a type. With hair dyed in various vibrant colors based on the season, she wore funky jewelry; some even made by her. In other words, one could consider her a walking billboard for her products. WHEN SHE INTRODUCED ME TO THE man she was going to marry, it never occurred to me that she would alter her game plan for her art. However, after they were married for a few months I noticed the texts became fewer and farther between, the phone calls were not as consistent as they once were; I was not hearing about her latest creations. When we talked, she still would mention something about a new stamp she bought or some fun card stock; however, I now would infrequently hear about the finished product made from these items. It was not like her husband discouraged her; it was her choice as far as I could tell. I did not hear anything negative about his feelings towards her creative side. It just seemed as if her passion for art was transferred to her passion for her new husband. It had been a long time since she had been married. And that was okay with me if that is how she truly felt; I only wanted her to be happy. I had known other people who got into a relationship and the things they were passionate about had to be curtailed because their spouse was not supportive or did not understand the importance it played in the person’s life. Having a dream and making it a reality are two different things; see how it works in this film festival nominated movie. SYLVIA PARKER, PLAYED BY TESSA THOMPSON (Creed franchise, Men in Black: International), was obsessed with television. Her dream was to become a TV producer. While helping at her father’s record store, Sylvia met someone who also had a dream. With Nnamdi Asomugha (Crown Heights, When the Streetlights Go On-TV) as Halloway, Eva Longoria (Dog Days, Overboard) as Carmen, Aja Naomi King (The Birth of a Nation, The Upside) as Mona and Jemima Kirke (The Little Hours, Ava’s Possessions) as The Countess; this drama was as smooth as fine satin. Set during the 1950s in Harlem, I thought the sets and costumes were spot on and I thoroughly enjoyed the musical score. Tessa and Nnamdi had a palatable chemistry that grew along with the story. The script had a game plan like other romantic films I have seen before; though, I thought the ending lost a bit of steam here. I mean this as a compliment; this was a good old-fashioned romantic drama with a good douse of jazz music thrown in.
I AM NOT EXPERIENCING A FULL WITHDRAWAL, but I am certainly missing the comfort of being in a dark movie theater. The governor of my state issued a stay at home order the day I was watching a film in the theater. There were 3 other people watching with me and each of us was spaced far from each other. At least the film was wonderful, so I ended my movie theater visits on a high note. Driving home and hearing the news, my first thought was, “How am I going to see movies to review?” As some of you know, I am a stickler for staying on a routine. If I can, I go to the theater and try to watch 2 or 3 films in a row; I figure if I am there I might as well see as many as I can to save time from going back and forth throughout the weekend. I always have everything planned, from the time I need to arrive to where I would park to making sure I have all my seats on reserve. Now that my movie theater routine was put on hold, I spent the weekend trying to figure out how I could create a new routine that will allow me the opportunity to see movies and review them. A WEEK HAS GONE BY AND I am settling into the new normal many of us are doing. I read some movie studios will stream their new releases for a fee; however, seeing that the amount they are asking is sometimes nearly 40% more than what I pay at the theater, I refuse to participate in that option. I used to have DVDs mailed to me, which offered me a variety of films I could review, but a while ago, I switched the option to online. Little did I realize the online option did not have nearly the amount of titles as the DVD option. It has taken me up to 20 minutes to find a movie to watch from the list I have kept the past couple of years. However, if it means I can review it then I deal with the inconveniences. The reason I am telling you all of this is because I want you to know there could be times I might be reviewing a film that I may have seen some ratings or words written about it before I can review it. Today’s movie choice is one in particular; until I found it I knew there was a chance I might not think highly of it. Yikes, little did I know it was going to be such a rough movie watching experience. WHEN TWO CROOKED POLICE OFFICERS DECIDE TO go for a big score, they cross paths with someone who is as dangerous as them and who can play their game even better. This film festival winning movie starred Alexander Skarsgard (The Hummingbird Project, Big Little Lies-TV) as Terry Monroe, Michael Pena (End of Watch, Ant-Man franchise) as Bob Bolano, Theo James (Divergent franchise, London Fields) as Lord James Mangan, Tessa Thompson (Creed franchise, Dear White People) as Jackie Hollis and Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) as Russell Birdwell. This cast was the reason why I was interested in seeing this action, crime comedy. I can only wonder if they were as surprised as I was with the finished product. The story was nothing special but was dragged further down by the script. I found the dialog crass and monotonous; repeating politically incorrect phrases does not make it any more funny. By the time we discovered the redemption part of the plot I did not really care one way or another. It was a shame because the scene involving it was one of the few I enjoyed. If watching films of this caliber is going to be my new routine, I may go out of my mind with boredom.
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.