CONFRONTING A BUREAUCRACY AND its red tape requires a person to be persistent, strong willed, stubborn and in good physical/mental health. These characteristics can easily be applied to a person preparing for war. From my recent hospital stay I got a taste of what it takes to confront a large corporation. In the scheme of things I realize my few inconsistent encounters there were not major, though I say this without knowing what the ramifications would have been if I did not question the staff’s actions. A nurse came into my room at one point to tell me she was there to give me drops for my eyes. I asked her what was she applying and she said probiotics. This made no sense since I provided the hospital with my bottle of probiotics; they were capsules, so how could they be given in eye drops I asked her. She agreed to go back to the pharmacy to find out the error. I have no idea what was in those drops by the way. ANOTHER TIME A DIFFERENT nurse came in to tell me she had my flu shot. I told her I did not approve a flu shot since my office offers them to the employees. In addition, I mentioned to her that I thought one should not get a flu shot when they are not in good health. She nodded her head and left the room with her medical cart. Since this was my first experience being in a hospital I now realize the patient needs to stay diligent in being aware of everything being done to them. If they cannot do this, then the patient needs an advocate; in other words, someone who will look out for the patient’s best interests. With so many different people coming into my room at all times throughout the day and night, I really got a taste of how not just the hospital but any large entity can wear a person down until they just give up. Granted my energy level was low while in the hospital; however, I am aware of the benefits reaped when one remains determined and steadfast. The main character in this action thriller is the perfect example of such a strong minded person. WHEN HIS DAUGHTER WAS killed in a terrorist bombing Quan Ngoc Minh, played by Jackie Chan (Shanghai Noon, Dragon Blade), was positive certain individuals had to know about it. He would not take “no” for an answer. This film also starred Pierce Brosnan (The November Man, Die Another Day) as Liam Hennessy, Katie Leung (Harry Potter franchise, T2 Trainspotting) as Fan, Rufus Jones (Bill, Hunderby-TV) as Ian Wood and Mark Tandy (Howards End, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason) as Simpson. What grabbed me in this picture were Jackie’s and Pierce’s characters; they did not appear to be similar to the roles they have portrayed in their other films. Jackie was an older version of himself which meant there were less comedic martial arts moves and more age appropriate movements. Pierce was intense in this film which only added to the whole cat and mouse vibe taking place. I thought the fight scenes were exciting and well done; they never seemed out of place or gratuitous. For me this film was good escapism and provided some food for thought about what really goes on in the world.
WAKING UP FROM A deep sleep I immediately knew something was not right. It was still dark outside so the house remained richly seeped in muted shades of black and gray. My eyes were trying to adjust to the lack of light but my ears had already detected an unfamiliar sound. Lying perfectly still my brain was trying to decipher this foreign sound; a sound that I realized could be associated with some form of movement. There was a slight delay between my mental state and my physical body, but a surge of fear flooded across me when I realized there was someone in the house. Paralyzed with fear I could not move for all of my energy was diverted to my mind, as a stream of options for my next course of action popped up into my brain. The sound was coming closer to me. I wanted to scream something out but only dead air wafted out of my mouth, my vocal cords were frozen in fear. THE LAST THING I remembered was seeing a shadow growing up on my bedroom wall before I would wake up, panting for oxygen. This reoccurring dream happened to me several times over the course of a year. Having done some studies in the field of psychology, I was slightly familiar with interpreting dreams. What threw me off though was the intensity of this dream. Every time I woke up from it my body was in crisis mode, with my heart pounding and my breathing rapidly taxing my lungs. I would even hear my heart pounding in my ears. When I woke up it always took me several minutes to calm down because the dream felt so real. I literally would remain still in bed trying to make out any unusual sounds in the house. Once my breathing slowed down I would try to figure out the meaning behind this dream or more appropriate, nightmare. At least I never dreamt long enough to experience my own death; unlike the poor, unfortunate college student in this horror mystery. EVERY DAY STARTED THE same for Tree Gelbman, played by Jessica Rothe (La La Land, Summertime). She would wake up from a dream that ended with her murder and have to start the same day all over again, knowing that later she was going to be killed. She could not understand why someone wanted her dead. This thriller’s cast also included Israel Broussard (The Bling Ring, Flipped) as Carter Davis, Ruby Modine (Memoria, Shameless-TV) as Lori Spengler, Charles Aitken (The Girl on the Train, The Knick-TV) as Gregory Butler and Laura Clifton (The Alamo, The New Guy) as Stephanie Butler. For the most part the actors were adequate in their roles; nobody stood out for me except Jessica. I not only enjoyed her performance but liked the development of her character. Basically this story was a cross between the movies Groundhog Day and Scream. What made this film more palatable was its campy, tongue in cheek script. It didn’t take itself too seriously and had a few scenes that generated laughter out of me and the theater goers around me. There were no big surprises in this picture; sorority students were stereotypically portrayed and the dorm residents were either wholesome or nerdy. I did appreciate the absence of blood and gore from the scenes. This was light fare that at least for me did not produce any nightmares.
2 ½ stars
THE INVITATION WAS NOT addressed to me, but I was asked to go as a guest. I took no offense since the event was something that had never been part of my usual experiences. It was an art gallery opening for an artist; I was familiar with their name but not their work. Situated down in a trendy part of the city, the gallery’s large windows were swathed in dark banners that looked like they had been splattered with blood. I was not sure what I was getting into as I looked at the people milling about the front of the gallery when we walked in. Once inside servers with skin painted in dull shades of gray were walking around with champagne glasses filled with something that looked like a thick syrupy wine. If I did not know better I would have said I walked onto the set of a vampire themed movie. I declined any offer of the drink. WALKING AROUND THE GALLERY I was exposed to pieces of art that depicted graphic violence. They were done in an abstract way but one could easily make out the human form even with the bizarre, twisted ways it was being placed. Making my way around I was able to hear a variety of comments from the guests that were meandering about as they were looking for more of that reddish liquid stuff to drink. The majority of things I heard people say were positive about the artwork. I honestly did not understand how they could look at these grotesque pieces and interpret them as these beacons of reason and positivity. There was one gentleman who literally was lecturing the small group of individuals around him, expounding on the dynamic themes this one piece presented. I actually stopped to listen to him and though I am not a judgmental person by nature, I have to tell you I thought the talkative man sounded pompous, as he went on and on about various themes one could draw from the piece. By no means do I claim to be an art expert and I know appreciating art is a subjective thing; but I did not get any of the artwork for it did not entertain or move me in a positive way. Sadly I felt the same way about this science fiction, mystery sequel. BLADE RUNNER K, played by Ryan Gosling (Gangster Squad, La La Land), discovered a secret that was hatched years ago that could alter evolution. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Prisoners) this sci-fi thriller visually was impressive. The sets and costumes all conveyed a sense of defeat or maybe more to the point tiredness. Ryan with Robin Wright (Wonder Woman, House of Cards-TV) as Lieutenant Joshi, Ana de Armas (War Dogs, Hands of Stone) as Joi, Sylvia Hoeks (The Best Offer, The Storm) as Luv and Harrison Ford (42, The Age of Adeline) as Rick Deckard were all wonderful in their roles. My big issue with this film was the unnecessary length of time to tell a story from a script that was spotty in parts. I was bored through parts of the picture. There were some characters that one never got the opportunity to really understand, while others had more depth to them. It pains me to say this but I found this film to be pretentious and full of itself. Maybe with major editing there would have been more excitement for me; however, for my viewing time I sat there with a perplexed look on my face.
I DID NOT think my question was that unusual or demanded too much from the sales clerk. If you could have seen their face you would have thought I had just asked something outrageous or personal. All I wanted to know was if the shirt’s material tended to shrink. Besides the “dirty” look and the condescending way they answered me, they did not even bother to look at me in the face. I wanted to tell them if they were that miserable at their job, maybe they should consider changing careers. Now in the past I would have taken that response personally and snapped back something nasty to say to them. To tell you the truth I took most things personally back then. DUE TO THE events I experienced in my earlier days I was wary of most people. My mind would quickly go into attack mode whenever I had an exchange of some kind with a stranger. They could have been a volunteer soliciting signatures or a lost tourist, it did not matter; I would be distrustful of the individual until I saw or could ascertain they were not going to hurt me in some way. I am not exactly sure when I started softening my attitude and not taking things personally, but I think it was during a time I was being fixed up on several blind dates. It did not take me long into the conversation to realize whether the person was interested in me or not. Granted some people showed their disinterest easier than others; but even the ones that kept up a good facade, did not cause me to react negatively. I realized that everyone has likes and dislikes, trigger points that set them off and none of it should be looked at as a good or bad thing. Their qualifications or agenda was not a personal attack on me; I just did not fit into what they were looking for. In a way one could say it was just business. AFTER SURVIVING A terrorist attack while on vacation Mitch Rapp, played by Dylan O’Brien (The Maze Runner franchise, Teen Wolf-TV), could not think of anything else after that date but to hunt down the terrorists. It was something the CIA was doing also. This action thriller also starred Michael Keaton (The Founder, Spider-Man: Homecoming) as Stan Hurley, Sanaa Lathan (Out of Time, The Best Man Holiday) as Irene Kennedy, Taylor Kitsch (Lone Survivor, Friday Night Lights-TV) as Ghost and Shiva Negar (The Art of More-TV, My Babysitter’s a Vampire-TV) as Annika. The highlight of this film was Michael Keaton; he was the most believable out of the cast. I do not know if Dylan was miscast but he did not have much range with his acting and I am afraid to say did not have the physical presence to pull off his character. With decent fight and action scenes the script could not carry the story; there were several situations that did not ring true for me. In addition the story was not only predictable but the premise for it was cheesy and weak in my opinion. A couple of therapy sessions prior to developing this film would have been money well spent.
BLOOD IS THICKER than water they say but that is not always the case. For those of you not familiar with this saying, it means relationships within a family are the strongest and most important ones. I have seen examples that both prove and disprove this sentiment. Currently the news in my area has been following a story about a father and son. The dad needs a kidney transplant, having suffered with kidney disease for some years. It turns out the son was a perfect match and immediately agreed to donate one of his kidneys to his dad. They both went on an exercise and diet regiment to get themselves into better shape before the surgery. While this is a positive example, I recently read an article in the newspaper about a grandson shooting his grandmother to death and making it look like a burglary. He did it so he could collect the insurance money. THERE ARE FAMILIES who are close-knit, spending most of their free time with each other. They take vacations together, go to special events, pickup groceries for each other and watch each other’s children when the need arises. I know one family where none of the siblings has a non-related friend, as far as I can tell. I am talking no school or neighborhood friends; they are only friends with each other. To me it is somewhat odd; maybe because when I would meet potential dates, one of my red flags would pop up if they never mentioned anything about their friends. If they did not say something I would work the conversation to the topic of friendship to find out if they actually had any people in their life they could call a friend. Now do not get me wrong I have nothing against siblings being best friends. There are 2 sisters I know who are inseparable; they so enjoy each other’s company and do everything together, but nothing like what was in this movie. I was surprised watching what the main character was willing to do for his sibling in this dramatic, crime thriller. CONNIE NIKAS, played by Robert Pattinson (The Twilight Saga franchise, Remember Me), had to stay a step ahead of his pursuers if he wanted any chance of reuniting with his mentally challenged brother. This film festival winner will finally put to rest any lingering memories of Robert playing Edward in the Twilight series. He was outstanding in this movie. Along with Jennifer Jason Leigh (Road to Perdition, The Hateful Eight) as Corey Ellman, Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips, Eye in the Sky) as Dash the park security guard, newcomer Taliah Webster as Crystal and director Benny Safdie (Person to Person, Yeast) as Nick Nikas; the whole cast was excellent in this fast paced film. Robert was the main focus and the script literally put him through his paces. Some of the scenes were less plausible than others, but watching Robert’s desperation was riveting. There were at least several scenes that could have easily been plucked out of the news, but seeing them on a more personal level made them more intense in my opinion. In fact the whole feel of this picture did not come across as a Hollywood production. I have to say the story in this exciting film shines a whole different light on brotherly love. There were several scenes that had blood and violence in them.
3 ½ stars
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