IT LOOKED LIKE it was not being affected by gravity when I first saw it. Walking into the small building one would not even expect to see such a feat of masterly craftsmanship. Off to the side of a larger sized room, rising up from the floor, was a spiral staircase. It was like none I had ever seen before because there was no center pole for the stairs to connect to on their way up. The design of it reminded me of one of those spiral DNA or some such diagrams in a science book. I could not imagine this spiral staircase could withstand the weight of an average person, it looked too delicate. Curious to learn how this beautiful staircase wound up in this place, I pulled out one of the information booklets I took at the front door. After the building was almost completed, the builders realized there was no room for a traditional staircase. After spending days fretting over their dilemma, a stranger appeared at the building site and offered to solve their problem. THERE WAS MORE to this documented story; the history about this building and its spiral staircase was a captivating read for me. I am always interested in learning about the history to a place I am visiting or a person I am meeting. It is said there is much to learn from looking back at history and I agree with that statement. A perfect example would be the time I was listening to a friend sound off on their poor record on dating. Listening to their reasons why a relationship never went beyond a certain time frame, I noticed a pattern forming with each person they talked about. After listening to them go on about their different romances, I shared my observations about the common connections I saw between each individual. After explaining my feelings on what I heard about each relationship we had a deep discussion about the pattern my friend was following unconsciously. If I had not heard the history of those past relationships we may not have found a way to avoid the same dating results. So you see paying attention to history can be an enlightening experience as you will see in this horror thriller. LUCKY FOR THE orphans Esther and Samuel Mullins, played by Miranda Otto (The Lord of the Rings franchise, What Lies Beneath) and Anthony LaPaglia (Empire Records, The Client), decided to open their house up to board the young girls when their orphanage closed. Little did the girls know they were not the only boarders. This latest installment to the The Conjuring franchise starred Stephanie Sigman (Pioneer, Spectre) as Sister Charlotte, Tabitha Bateman (The 5th Wave, The Hive) as Janice and Lulu Wilson (Deliver Us from Evil, Ouija: Origin of Evil) as Linda. The idea to this story was well thought out as the movie set the right tone from the start. Though there were a couple of scenes with blood, this mystery film relied more on atmosphere and mood instead of violence which I appreciated. There were some tense scenes; however, I felt the movie never went far enough. Maybe because the first movie in this series had the intensity and thrills in the right mix, this one was somewhat of a letdown. What kept my interest was the history about the doll that has been featured in each film. If you enjoyed the previous pictures then this one will provide you the insight you have been looking for. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
2 1/2 stars
GETTING AN EDUCATION was more important than the living arrangements. Her child had special needs that the local school district could not adequately provide. The decision was not easy since they had settled into their home almost 10 years ago. After much discussion, investigation and planning they packed up everything and moved to a location in a new school district in a different state. If you thought it would be easy it was not. The mother was considered an outsider, since the rest of the mothers had known each other for a few years and they were all much younger in age. The new mother did not care; her child’s well being was more important than trying to fit in to any group. Over the next school year there was an inkling that her child was improving in a couple of key areas. She felt she had made the right decision and over the years marveled at her child’s progress. THERE IS NO manual on how to raise a child; you simply bring them into this world and do your best, hopefully producing good results. Listening to parents talk about their “trials’ in childrearing I am always impressed by the amount of sacrifices a parent endures in raising their children. I find it encouraging because I have seen the ramifications of not participating in a child’s upbringing. There was a boy in my old neighborhood who my friends and I tried to avoid playing with because he liked to punch and bite people. When we were at his home we saw how his parents rarely disciplined or even reprimanded him. It was like his parents could not be bothered with him. It was so odd to me because I was familiar with some parents who were ferocious when it came to looking out for the well being of their children. In fact I still remember walking by the principal’s office and the parents of a boy who had been punched by that boy in our neighborhood were demanding actions that would protect their child along with the other children in the school. They may not have had to go to the extremes the mother did in this thriller but they were just as intense. DISTRACTED FOR ONLY a moment was all the time needed for Karla Dyson’s, played by Halle Berry (X-Men franchise, Cloud Atlas), child to get separated from her. Nothing would stop her from finding her son Frankie, played by Sage Correa (Tempting Fate, Uncle Buck-TV). Along with Chris McGinn (My Own Love Song, Sight Unseen) as Margo and Lew Temple (Lawless, The Devil’s Rejects) as Terry, the story would hit home for most people; even those without children could still relate to the sense of loss. Both Halle and Chris were the standouts for me; each one was able to draw me into their character. As for the film some of the action scenes were exciting and nerve wracking. By having so many similar scenes however, I was getting a bit bored or found them farfetched. When the story got closer to the ending is when my interest perked up once again, but by that time I wanted everything to be done. In my opinion I would have preferred having more back story and interaction with Chris’ character. This film did not need to be on the road so long.
“ACT LIKE A LADY,” what does that exactly mean? I always found it an odd comment because I had never seen or heard about a primer that explained how girls and boys were supposed to act. Sure I remember when I was a child boys played with toy soldiers, guns and baseball bats; while girls played with stuffed animals, tea sets and dolls. There was a young girl who enjoyed playing with trucks, the bigger the better. I can still remember the odd looks some adults would give her as if she was doing something wrong. I used to babysit some of my female relatives and play house with them; it never occurred to me to tell them boys don’t play house or host a dinner party. If that is what they wanted to play or if they wanted to play cards I did not care. However, I was aware that out among my friends I could be teased for it. FAST forward to current times and there now seems like there is a push by people, companies and such to praise women, to show how progressive they have become. Now do not get me wrong, I am all for putting a spotlight on anyone who deserves it; however, some of these campaigns ring false to me. A company has formed a women’s group to promote female employees; yet they still do not get the same pay scale as their male counterparts. A film comes out with a strong female lead but studio executives still treat some of their female staff in an inappropriate way. It bugs me when people assign a label to their friends or co-workers. For example statements like, “my black friend” or “my gay co-worker;” do we really need to classify an individual? Isn’t a friend just your friend or does one choose their friends to fit a specific category? For those who want to try and classify the main character in this action thriller you will have a hard time figuring out what to say. SENT to Berlin to retrieve a secret list MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton, played by Charlize Theron (Dark Places, Mad Max: Fury Road), was a target even before she landed. Based on the graphic novel series “The Coldest City” the cast also included James McAvoy (X-Men franchise, Split) as David Percival, Eddie Marsan (Sherlock franchise, Ray Donovan-TV) as Spyglass, John Goodman (Love the Coopers, Kong: Skull Island) as Emmett Kurzfeld and Toby Jones (Captain America franchise, Tale of Tales) as Eric Gray. Hands down this was Charlize’s film all the way. She simply was a beast in this picture. The fight scenes looked graphically real and Charlize must have gone through intense hand to hand combat training because it showed. I had read afterwards she did over 90% of all the stunts. The soundtrack was an important part to the script, but here is the downside to it. The script was confusing and not as strong as it could have been. I did not mind the jumping back in forth in time but would have preferred less of it. Regardless I felt this was at times an intense, mysterious, all out thriller that did not need to be defined as a male or female film; it was an equal opportunity battle. There were scenes with blood and strong violence.
“YOU’RE wishing your life away” is what she told me. I was complaining about having to go to a social function I did not want to attend and my friend told me I needed to stop wishing things were over. Explaining my reasons for not wanting to attend, she pointed out there was no choice in the matter since I was required to attend; so why keep complaining about it because nothing is going to change. She was right; there really was nothing I could do about the situation. Of course, that did not stop me from complaining and wishing I did not have to go to the event. I am so used to or maybe it is better to say I have been programmed for so many years to wish things away; let me tell you why. DEPENDING on my age I have spent a majority of my youth wishing certain things were different. As a young boy I wanted to fly or at least be invisible; when you cannot be seen you cannot get hurt. When I learned how to bowl it seemed it was a long time before my wish came true to throw a strike. By the time I was in high school my wish list expanded greatly. Besides wishing myself away I also wished something bad would happen to my tormentors. The list of “bad things” is way too long to list here; let me just say some of the wishes included burning, drowning and torture. These wishes created if you will an alternative world where I was in control and not getting hurt. During that time I did have other wishes like wanting to be skinny, strong and a world traveler. Correct me if I am wrong in my assumption but I do not think I was the only one who had wishes. Based on how many people I have seen at the convenience store buying lottery tickets, it seems many people wish for something to happen in their lives. Another example is the high school girl in this fantasy, horror thriller. FINDING an unusual discarded Chinese box Clare Shannon, played by Joey King (Wish I Was Here, Independence Day: Resurgence), discovered what she wished for would come true. What she did not know was the price that needed to be paid to make that wish turn into reality. With a cast that included Ryan Phillippe (The Lincoln Lawyer, Cruel Intentions) as Jonathan Shannon, Ki Hong Lee (The Maze Runner franchise, The Stanford Prison Experiment) as Ryan Hui and newcomer Mitchell Slaggert as Paul Middlebrook; this story had a decent idea that quickly dropped into the dumpster. There was nothing scary per se; just a few scenes of violence. If the writers were trying to unnerve the viewer with tension I did not see anything worthwhile. At one point I felt sad for the actors because the script was so typical it was easy to figure out what the next scene would be. I did not find the acting anything to write home about; it was close to forgettable though I was drawn most to Joey and Ki with their roles. For a majority of this film I sat in my seat feeling bored; wishing I did not have to be there, stuck watching it. Oh there I go again wishing for something to be over; but in this case, I feel I was justified. There were violent scenes and in the middle of the credits there was an extra scene.
1 ½ stars
UNLESS a person is a witness to or told about an abusive act, it is not always easy to know if someone has been victimized. There may be some physical signs such as bruises or cuts, but one cannot rely on them being visible. The emotional aspect resides in the deep, murky waters of the mind; where it is harder for someone to find, even for the victim sometimes. There was a boy who every day after school would stop to buy the largest size serving of ice cream from the ice cream man, who drove his blue and white truck around the neighborhood after school hours. By the time the boy walked home he had finished his ice cream, even if he got a brain freeze from eating it too fast. Once in the house this latchkey kid would eat whatever bread was in the kitchen, at times he would eat the entire loaf. If he was queried on what happened to the bread his standard answer was to say he was hungry. He knew eating this much food before dinner was not normal but it did not matter; it made him feel good which may have been the only time that day where he felt that way. There were visual and emotional cues about his behavior but he was tightlipped, afraid to tell anyone what was being done to him at school. THERE are some people who do their best to help a victim of abuse. They really have good intentions; however, the abuser always has a backup plan or you might say an escape plan. Incorporating a variety of factors they find a way to continue their abusive ways. I remember with a school teacher’s assistance I was ushered into the vice principal’s office. The teacher explained what was happening and to my horror the vice principal requested my attackers be pulled out of class and sent down to him immediately. As each attacker was escorted into the office I prayed I could disappear into my chair. After the vice principal screamed and threatened each of them with expulsion, the group of boys left me alone for exactly 2 weeks. I wonder how they would have felt if they were part of this movie’s story? NOT only did Henry Carpenter, played by Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special, St. Vincent), run the family finances and watch out for his little brother Peter and mother Susan, played by Jacob Tremblay (Room, Before I Walk) and Naomi Watts (While We’re Young, 3 Generations); he also was aware something was not right with his classmate who lived next door. He was sure her stepfather Glenn, played by Dean Norris (Little Miss Sunshine, Total Recall), had something to do with it. This dramatic thriller scored points with me due to the acting. Jaeden and Jacob matched each other’s talents, forming what looked like true brothers. Naomi was also excellent in her role. I was totally aware the script was illogical in places along with having a few patchy spots. It was obvious to me the writer were aiming for the heartstring’s of the movie audience; with that being said, I still found the story interesting enough to keep me engaged with it in its entirety. Additionally I am taking into consideration my sensitivity to the subject; even putting that aside I still found this film a worthwhile watch.
2 ¾ stars
THERE was distress showing in her eyes as she talked about her experience. We were having lunch together and my friend was talking about the MRI she had done for her doctor. I already knew she had a “touch” of claustrophobia; so I immediately understood her discomfort about taking the test. She told me she became anxious right from the start after seeing the MRI machine and the small hole she was expected to fit inside of, while staying perfectly still. Her breathing was noticeable because the technician offered her the option of playing music or bringing a blanket to keep her warm. When my friend declined the offers the technician sat with her and had her focus on breathing deep. Once she was able to calm down a bit, the technician helped my friend up on the table that would slide her inside the MRI machine. My friend told me from that point on she kept her eyes closed. She finished up her story by saying it was an awful, uncomfortable experience but she knew she had to get through it so the doctor could figure out what treatment was needed to alleviate the pain she was experiencing down her leg. FOR some individuals not knowing the details about a test or certain events is less stressful for them than being aware of everything. I am not one of those people; I need to know every detail so I can prepare myself mentally. Think about it; if a friend asked you to help move their parent to a new living space, wouldn’t you want to know how much furniture was involved in the move? Of course if you were able you would say yes; but at least I would like to know how much stuff so I could come prepared. Though I know the physical aspect of moving is not a fun experience, it is something that needs to be done. And when you think about it, isn’t that the real issue; having to do something you know will not be pleasant? Well that is how I felt as I sat and watched this horror thriller. VACTIONING in Mexico sisters Lisa and Kate, played by Mandy Moore (A Walk to Remember, This is Us-TV) and Claire Holt (The Vampire Diaries-TV, The Originals-TV), experienced the thrill of a lifetime when they were submerged under water in a shark cage. The thrill quickly turned to horror when the cable holding the cage broke, sending them down among the sharks. With Matthew Modine (Memphis Belle, Full Metal Jacket) as Captain Taylor and Chris J. Johnson (Betrayal-TV, JAG-TV) as Javier; this dramatic story did not waste too much time before things became tense—both for the sisters and for me watching their plight. There were a few good jumps provided by the script. Speaking of the script it was pretty bland and predictable. If it was not for Mandy I probably would have become bored after a while. This movie had the type of story that one did not need to give much thought into watching it; in fact, I would classify this picture as one of those old “B” movies that were somewhat cheesy that simply wanted to give the viewer a thrill. That is what this film offers, nothing more and nothing less. After seeing this movie I can tell you with certainty I would never agree to go underwater in a shark cage. Heck, I do not know if I want to even step into the ocean ever again.
2 ¼ stars
HEARTBREAKING was all I could think about as I listened to the news reporter. I do not remember all the details since it happened some time ago, but I vividly retain the feelings I had back then while seeing a picture of the family car before tragedy struck. The mom and dad were driving in the car with their children when they got caught in a flash flood due to the heavy storms experienced in their area. As the car started to float off the road and head towards the river, the parents were trying to gather up the kids to get them out. Here is where my memory is a little fuzzy; the car was starting to sink and the father found himself in one of the worst scenarios possible. Two kids still remained in the car as more of it was sinking below the surface. He had to dive underwater and work at releasing the children from their car seats, I believe. Frantically he had to return to the surface for air and swim back down to the vehicle. Unfortunately he was only able to save one of the 2 kids. I cannot imagine the feelings of guilt the dad must have suffered; it had to be a life altering experience that would not be easy to reconcile. THERE are many times where one has to make a decision that will not bring the best outcome. I have made many decisions that if I could do all over again, I would have chosen a different path. What is that saying people use in these types of situations, hindsight is 20/20? The phrase I tend to use is, “If I knew then what I know now…” Maybe there is some truth to that saying about, “with age comes wisdom.” No matter how old the father was in this horror mystery movie, I do not think any of his decisions were easy. WITH unknown terrors lurking out their door a father, mother and their son seal themselves up inside of their house. Their daily routine would be disrupted when there was a pounding at their door. Starring Joel Edgerton (Loving, The Gift) as Paul, Carmen Ejogo (Selma, Alien: Covenant) as Sarah, Kelvin Harrison Jr. (The Birth of a Nation, Mudbound) as Travis, Christopher Abbott (A Most Violent Year, Martha Marcy May Marlene) as Will and Riley Keough (The Runaways, American Honey) as Kim; this story was more of a psychological thriller to me. The viewers never really saw the terror that was being afflicted across the land. I thought the script started off well enough in building up the tension, assisted with the able acting from the cast. Visually this film had a natural darkness to it, literally and figuratively; things were kept simple from the dialog to the sets. One could really get a feel for what this family was experiencing. My issue with the script came in the latter part of the movie; I felt confused on where the writer was taking the story. By the end of the film I still had some questions I wish would have been answered; in fact, I would not be surprised if some viewers were left feeling dissatisfied. This picture presented some tough choices for the characters and in turn, could present the viewer with their own dilemma if they were in a similar situation.
2 ½ stars
DECISIONS usually come with consequences, some good others not so good. Personally I am more comfortable with a person who can make decisions as opposed to those who never have an opinion or prefer deferring decisions to someone else. This concept of there being consequences for one’s decisions seems to be losing favor with the newer generations. I say this because I have seen multiple examples where a parent reprimands their child, explaining what the consequences will be if they act out in a certain way and the child still acts in an inappropriate way. The parent then does not make good on their ultimatum, so the child has just learned they can continue with their behavior. I am sure I have mentioned this example before; but I had a friend who early on always gave her young daughter the option to choose her own decision, explaining what the consequences would be for each action. When the daughter was fussing over being toilet trained, the mother told her she could learn how to use the potty or keep wearing the dirty diaper; but if she kept the dirty diaper on no one would want to play with her. The little girl immediately learned how to use the toilet. NOW there are some decisions that can have a profound effect on one’s life. I think the top stressful situations are death, dissolving relationships, moving and job changes. To me the list should also include those who are given the responsibility to decide the fate of a dying loved one. If you ever had to make a decision that involved a group of people it can be stressful. I am not necessarily talking about restaurant choices, more life changing decisions. Here is the thing though, I learn from mistakes. When someone complains to me they made a mistake I ask them to look at it as an opportunity, they may learn something new. If the story in this biographical drama is indeed true, it was a surprise to see how past actions had such a profound effect on the main character. DAYS away from the allied forces launching a massive assault against the German army Prime Minister Winston Churchill, played by Brian Cox (Troy, Rob Roy), has deep reservations about the laid out plan. With Miranda Richardson (The Hours, Empire of the Sun) as Clementine Churchill, John Slattery (Spotlight, Mad Men-TV) as Dwight Eisenhower, Ella Purnell (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Never Let Me Go) as Helen and Julian Wadham (The English Patient, War Horse) as Bernard Montgomery; this thriller based on true events made it due to the acting of Brian and Miranda. They were outstanding in their roles to where I wished the writers had given them more scenes together. The rest of the cast was okay, though I thought John’s portrayal of General Eisenhower was odd; it was nothing I imagined Eisenhower would be like in the situation. Part of the issue falls on the script; some of the dialog felt out of place, almost ringing false for me. Because I was fascinated with the story, after the movie I reached out to a history teacher to see how much truth was involved in what was depicted in the film. I will not tell you because I prefer as always the viewer experiencing a film with the least amount of information. Due to the decisions the director and writers chose, they created a movie that did not live up to the actual events.
2 ¼ 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 weather was so cold his face felt like it had no flexibility. He had to squint because when the wind kicked up, his eyes would water and he was afraid the tears would freeze on his face. Though he had a short walk to school, he had wished the school would have closed for a snow day. Bundled up in a thick, puffy blue colored jacket, his winter boots were almost too heavy to lift up as he walked through the snow. He wore a stocking cap on his head; around his neck was a long dark scarf with small tassels knotted on the ends. Only two blocks away and he thought his hat had flown off of his head. That would have been the best scenario; instead, it was in the hand of a boy who bullied him from time to time. The bully was taller so dangled the stocking hat just high enough beyond the boy’s outstretched hand. Taunting him the bully would lower the hat for a moment until the boy would try to jump up to grab his hat back; but each time the bully jerked his arm up higher as he teased him to try harder. This wicked game would only last a minute before the bully smashed the hat into the boy’s face, knocking him down in the snow. RECENTLY a friend of mine was telling me about his school years. We got on the subject of group dynamics within the classroom and he wound up talking about a girl in his class who always wore her hair in pigtails. A week never went by without at some point this girl having something done to her hair. I was stunned as my friend told me about some of the ways this girl was teased by a couple of bullies in the class. The tips of the hair had been dipped in glue, paint, and lip balm among other liquids or had silly hand written notes taped at the ends. Since I was teased and picked on during my school years, I immediately felt sadness for this girl as I listened to my friend talk about it. Being taunted is bad enough, bring a gun into the mix and I felt awful for the soldiers in this dramatic war thriller. WITH only a dilapidated wall separating them a sniper plays a cat and mouse game of nerves with American soldiers Isaac and Matthew, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals, Kick-Ass franchise) and John Cena (Trainwreck, The Marine). This movie quickly started building the tension up after a few frames of film. With Laith Nakli (The Visitor, Amira & Sam) as Juba, I thought the idea for the story was not only valid, but easy to identify with even if one had not done any service in the military. There was talk about this being John’s breakout role in drama but for me Aaron was the one who did an excellent intense job. Though the story grabbed me quickly, it only lasted for a short time as the scenes started to feel no different from each other. I think the script was limited due to the amount of characters; the story just wilted away until closer to the end. Granted it could not have been easy being in one locale and little to work with; however, the trailer and beginning almost felt like it was teasing the viewer to watch for something bigger to take place that never happened.