WHAT IS THAT BREAKING POINT THAT pushes a person to partake in illegal activities? I have been curious about it for a long time due to two experiences I witnessed. Many years ago, I worked at a retail business that was privately owned. The president was the son of the owner, who had died a few years before I was hired for the shipping and receiving department. The vice-president was the president’s brother-in-law. From what I saw, they seemed to be good friends who worked well together. Each one could easily fill in for the other, anytime one was out of the office; they both knew all aspects of the business. Or at least I thought so. After working there for a couple of years and getting promoted, I became more involved in the mechanics of the business. I would work a couple of Saturdays a month and it was not unusual for either of the men to stop by the store. One Saturday the president came in and asked me to join him in his office. I was perplexed, wondering if I had done something wrong. Once in his office he told me he fired his brother-in-law for stealing. I was completely in shock. How in the world could a relative, who had been working there for years, steal from his sister’s husband?!?! I wondered if that is how he was able to pay for his expensive clothing and cars? I STILL THINK ABOUT THAT VICE-PRESIDENT from time to time, curious whatever happened to him. It was never shared with us at the store whether the president took the vice-president to court or if there was any jail time involved. Since I had never encountered anything like it before, my mind swirled with scenarios that were originally created on television shows. Did the vice-president have to give everything back? Did he steal because of some drug habit? Did one of them plot to kill the other? It was hard for me to make any sense out of it. I wanted to know, when was that moment when the vice president decided, he was going to steal merchandise or cash from the business and his relative. I remember back in school we had a transfer student who was friendly, who never got in trouble at first. Fast forward two years, and he turned into this student who would steal cigarettes and smoke them behind the school. It was not long before he got caught stealing clothes. Once again what was going on in his environment that made him steal. Though I am not condoning it, I at least got a glimpse of the process in this dramatic, crime thriller. WITH THE AMOUNT OF DEBT WEIGHING her down, a caterer was offered a business proposal that sounded too good to be true, to make decent money. All she would have to do is go shopping. With Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed, Happiest Season) as Emily, Theo Rossi (Army of the Dead, Sons of Anarchy-TV) as Youcef, Bernardo Badillo (Sully, Revival) as Javier, Jonathan Avigdori (Snowfall-TV, Fauda-TV) as Khalil and Gina Gershon (Cagefighter, American Dresser) as Alice; I cannot remember being more impressed than I was watching Aubrey in this role. She was incredible with acting, going through a variety of emotions and actions. There were times I could feel what she was feeling in the scene; that is how good she performed. The script was original and current; I did not find any unnecessary dialog. Plus, I enjoyed the way the separate story lines were able to intermingle without missing a beat. After the movie was done and I was driving home, I kept thinking about Emily’s story and wondered what I would have done in a similar situation. There were a couple of scenes with blood and violence.
3 ½ stars
ZOMBIES WALK AMONG US; I HAVE seen them. No really, I have encountered them, and I will show you how to spot them. Like me, I assume when you hear the word “zombie” you immediately think about a decaying corpse like body that is alive and roaming about, usually with some difficulty. This is the image that usually comes to mind for me. I ask you, what is the one thing on a zombie’s “mind?” Or put another way, what is a zombie’s main drive that keeps them searching and searching everywhere they go? I will tell you; they are constantly hungry for human flesh. All they want essentially is to eat human beings. They are not interested in striking up a conversation; they do not care if you are dressed in your finest or your grubbiest clothing; they simply want to take a bite out of you. Think about it; have you ever met someone who only has one thing on their mind? I know I have and that is why I refer to such individuals as zombies. Another label that might help, but is not as effective in my opinion, is the term “energy vampire.” This was a term that was used to describe a person who sucks out all the energy in a room whenever they are in it. In other words, they keep any and everyone’s focus directed on them to the point where one just feels exhausted being in the same room as the “energy vampire.” I HAD AN ACQUAINTANCE WHO I considered to be a zombie. This person’s entire being was devoted to acquiring and keeping money. Do not laugh, I am being serious here. Anytime a group of us would go out to dinner, this person would always order the most expensive item on the menu. The reason being, we always would just split the bill among us. They used to order alcoholic drinks with their meal but stopped after I told the waitress to put the alcohol on a separate bill. No matter what the venue or retail place, this person would spend an exorbitant amount of time trying to figure out how to get something free or cheaper than anyone else. To me, they were a money zombie. I used to work with a person who had no scruples; they would do anything to get ahead at the company. From bad mouthing fellow employees, to stealing customers by purposely discarding items and emails meant for other employees, to make them look like they were not doing their job; this horrible employee was appalling. This person was a work zombie and hateful; all they thought about was how they could advance in their position. I could have really used one of the main stars in this action, crime horror film by my side when I used to work at that company. THE OFFER WAS TOO GOOD TO believe from the billionaire casino owner, except for the part about infiltrating a city filled with zombies. With Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, My Spy) as Scott Ward, Ella Purnell (Never Let Me Go, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) as Kate Ward, Ana de la Reguera (Collisions, The Popcorn Chronicles) as Maria Cruz, Omari Hardwick (American Skin, Sorry to Bother You) as Vanderohe and Theo Rossi (Ghosts of War, Luke Cage-TV) as Burt Cummings; I admired the concept for the zombies in this film, along with the idea behind the story. The action scenes were big and graphic which played well in the locale that was the setting for this story. The characters were your typical type in a zombie film, but I enjoyed them, nonetheless. There were a couple of predicaments that were predictable, to the point where I wondered why the other characters could not see it as well. The other issue I had was the length of the film; it was too long. With some editing, I think this picture would have been more exciting and quicker to play out. For a zombie movie, this one had some good points and some not so good ones.
2 ½ stars
YOU cannot force a person to love something or someone they do not like. I have never seen it become successful. There was a mother I knew who drove her daughter everywhere to audition for dance roles even though the daughter did not have her heart in it. Rejection after rejection did not stop the mother from forcing her daughter to try again. Now if the daughter truly had a talent for dance and wanted to pursue it, then it would be somewhat of a different story. There have been several instances where I have seen a parent pushing their child to try out for a sport or some form of the arts, but one thing was never mentioned to the child. “To do their best;” I do not always hear this being included. If a child has a strong desire to do something I feel they should be allowed as long as they give it their best shot. This reminds me of an episode of a singing talent show where the singer auditioning mentioned they had been working with a voice coach for several years. After the contestant auditioned the judge told the person to fire their coach, because they did not have a good singing voice. IF a person is gifted at something wouldn’t it be in the best interest to encourage the individual to give it their all? I am familiar with a family that has 3 children. One child is exceptional when it comes to drawing; her paintings are incredible. The father, who works as an accountant, is against his daughter’s idea of going to college to study art. He believes she will never make a living at it and would rather she go into economics. Now it does not matter if the girl has an aptitude for numbers or not, the father just wants her to do something where she can earn a decent living and thinks since he supports a family by working with numbers, she should do the same thing. It is similar to what was taking place in this drama. AS the owner of an auto repair shop Miguel Alvarez, played by Demian Bichir (The Heat, A Better Life), wanted his two sons to be part of the business. But with his youngest one Danny, played by Gabriel Chavarria (Freedom Writers, A Better Life), wanting to pursue art; Miguel simply could not understand why his son would want to do such a thing. This film festival nominee’s story was set in east Los Angeles and also starred Eva Longoria (The Sentinel, Over her Dead Body) as Gloria and Theo Rossi (Bad Hurt, Sons of Anarchy-TV) as Francisco ”Ghost” Alvarez. I walked into this film not fully understanding what “lowriders” were, but I discovered I liked the look of them. As for what they do, I don’t understand the point. Putting that aside the other part of this movie I enjoyed was the art work on display. Outside of that there really was nothing new about this story. I have seen similar movies that have done the same story line and actually did it better. Every scene in this film followed a generic formula from the portrayal of a Hispanic family to the family tension to the girlfriend; I was bored for the most part. Let me say there was nothing “bad” per se about this picture; if you have never experienced this type of story you may find something of interest. I sort of wish the writers had been pushed harder to try and create a better script.
It used to be one would peruse the sale advertisements, see something they like/want/need, go to the store and buy it. You knew what you were getting; the item purchased matched the ad. Then something changed in the sale papers, instead of mentioning the name brand the verbiage stated, “…assorted brands from top manufacturers.” The pictures in the advertisements were shot in such a way that you could not make out the name on the product. Okay I get that, the retail store wants you to come in, hoping you buy the product; but if you do not, then they hope you will find something else while you are in their store. In a similar vein with the move to selling on the internet, I have heard a variety of stories about people buying something that was not exactly what was represented on the web site. Just a couple of weeks ago I was with some friends who had recently returned from a vacation. They decided to try the site that offers stays at people’s houses instead of motels/hotels. They even showed me the place and I have to say it looked charming. However, when they arrived at the home the lawn was strewn with a variety of things from shovels (I know, I thought the same thing—graves) to a broken bicycle. The owner answered the door in a dirty, torn T-shirt. He showed them the room and bathroom and let me just say it was not modern, nor was it sparkling clean if you know what I mean. To finish this story, they stayed only 1 night then moved to a hotel. The moral of the story is, “looks can be deceiving.” DESPARATE to start a family John and Laura Taylor, played by Morris Chestnut (The Call, The Best Man Holiday) and Regina Hall (Law Abiding Citizen, Think Like a Man), had been looking for the perfect surrogate mother. Down to their last frozen egg they were sure they found the right one when they saw Anna Walsh, played by Jaz Sinclair (Paper Towns). Also starring Theo Rossi (Bad Hurt, Sons of Anarchy-TV) as Mike Mitchell, this dramatic horror mystery started out okay. I was familiar with Morris and Regina seeing them from previous films, but what attracted my attention more was their characters’ house. The movie started out fine and used the hook of motherhood to grab the viewers. Sadly things went south very quickly. The story was beyond generic, having been done numerous times before. I pretty much found most things so predictable that I was constantly bored. There may have been a couple of scenes that had the hint of a surprise but they were few and far between. Even some of the spoken lines were cheesy and clichéd. I am sure the actors tried their best but there was very little effort given to the script to give the actors something to work with beyond the obvious. In fact, the best part or should I say parts of this film was the trailer. Watch the trailer and you have seen the movie; watch the trailer and movie and you will understand why looks can be deceiving.
1 ¾ stars