IS THERE ANYONE WHO DOES NOT wonder where those stains and marks come from in a hotel room? I for one cannot ignore them when I see them. This is why I am never 100% comfortable when I am staying at a hotel. On a trip to the southwest I stayed at a hotel that was one of the tallest buildings in the city. When I walked into my room everything looked fine. Just like most hotels I have stayed in; this one had a bed, 2 nightstands, an armoire, a desk, an easy chair and a floor lamp. When I walked into the bathroom I was immediately horrified because there appeared to be a blood-stained streak on the shower curtain. My mind was flooded with scenarios that could have caused blood to get splattered in the bathroom. I was not going to attempt to clean it, nor could I simply ignore it. If that was not enough, I decided to relieve my bladder before going downstairs to request a room change. When I went to flush the toilet, the water gurgled inside the bowl but never flushed down; it looked as if the water was simmering close to a boil. I wasn’t about to wonder what was causing the toilet not to flush. The room and in turn the hotel creeped me out. ON ANOTHER TRIP I BOOKED A ROOM in this huge, old majestic hotel. I do not remember the year the building was constructed, but it was originally built as an apartment building. With terra cotta appointments on the façade and a lobby that looked like it came out of 1920’s detective story, I thought the hotel was cool looking. The elevators with jet black doors and silver trim creaked as they traveled up the floors, slightly unsteady like an elderly patient. When I walked into the room I was met by a wall that had worn-out flocked wallpaper. As soon as one entered the room they had to make an immediate right turn to go into the living space. It appeared the original apartments must have been carved up to form the hotel rooms; the room had odd shaped corners and the bathroom door nearly grazed the toilet bowl when it was being closed. There was something about the hotel that made me think about the original residences who must have resided here earlier. During my stay little things happened such as the lightbulb burning out and the water faucet groaning whenever it was turned on. I stayed there despite the odd sounds and my concerns for my safety and hygiene. But I will tell you this; I would rather stay in either of the hotels I mentioned than the one in this mystery thriller. A GROUP OF STRANGERS CHECKED INTO the El Royale but not all of them would check out. This dramatic crime film starred Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water, Kingsman: The Golden Circle) as Father Daniel Flynn, Cynthia Erivo (Widows, Mr. Selfridge-TV) as Darlene Sweet, Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, A Bigger Splash) as Emily Summerspring, Jon Hamm (Baby Driver, Million Dollar Arm) as Laramie Seymour Sullivan and Chris Hemsworth (Thor franchise, 12 Strong) as Billy Lee. I enjoyed the cast and the diversity of the characters they portrayed. This picture had a great look to it with a smoldering script, which allowed every actor a chance in the spotlight. I also liked the way the pieces of the story fit together; however halfway through I started to get bored. It seemed as if scenes were written with less detail and emotion. Sometimes it appeared shocking twists were put in for the sake of shocking the viewer. For me this was not as much of a thriller as a slow burn and I had no desire to book a room at this hotel.
2 ¼ stars
IF YOU WOULD HAVE TOLD THE younger me that I would grow up and become a fitness instructor, I would have laughed in your face. I was far from being an athlete, let alone a physically active student. Reading, studying, watching TV/movies and eating were my dominant activities. Sure, I hung out with my friends all the time, but it wasn’t to toss or kick a ball. Pizza played an important part in my life back then. So, imagine the surprise some childhood friends and students had when we met at our recent class reunion. Hearing that I teach fitness not only shocked them but made a few laugh out loud, since they knew I had flunked PE twice. And I should mention back then I was much heavier. When I look at the course of my life I can pinpoint the exact moment when my mind opened up to physical fitness; it was a friend of mine who asked to join her at an aerobics class in the city. The class never felt like I was working out. Instead, it felt like I was dancing to the music being played. It was from that moment in time I shifted and became enthusiastic over fitness. THERE HAVE BEEN PEOPLE I HAVE encountered who stunned me when they mentioned what type of work they did for a living. At an art fair I met an artist who spent 20 years of her life being a corporate lawyer. She described the grueling hours she put in and the non-stop traveling she had to endure. After all those years she came to the realization that she was not happy with her job; so, she started pursuing something she had always loved doing, painting. After a time, she took a chance and entered an art show, where she wound up getting a first-place ribbon. From there she went full force by quitting her job and devoting all her time to painting. The story was inspirational to me. I find it fascinating how people wind up in their occupations. From that school reunion I mentioned earlier I discovered one student is a PhD, doing medical research on diseases; another person is a theater reviewer overseas. You certainly cannot judge an individual based on their occupation and vice versa, you can’t judge a person’s job based on their physical appearance. This holds true for the main character in this dramatic, action thriller. AFTER HER HUSBAND AND DAUGHTER WERE gunned down Riley North, played by Jennifer Garner (Miracles from Heaven; Love, Simon), wanted justice. Unfortunately, the justice system would not serve her well. With John Gallagher Jr (10 Cloverfield Lane, Short Term 12) as Detective Stan Carmichael, John Ortiz (Silver Linings Playbook, American Gangster) as Detective Moises Beltran, Juan Pablo (The 33, Shot Caller) as Diego and Annie Ilonzeh (He’s Just Not That into You, Person of Interest-TV) as FBI agent Lisa Inman; Jennifer appeared to be going back to her roots from her television show. I was looking forward to seeing her in this character, but I was surprised by the blood and violence; it was somewhat graphic. Though the fight scenes were okay, the script was weak. Just the idea of this one character taking on a large crime organization was a far stretch. Maybe if the writers had cut back some of the violence and devoted more time to building up her character I might have bought more into the story. But as it stands, this revenge film was not special; there was nothing shown that I had not seen before. I do not know but maybe the writers’ former classmates are wondering how these students became writers.
1 ¾ stars
THERE ARE SOME SITUATIONS AND PLACES that cause us to be fearful or simply creep us out. I get uncomfortable when, sitting in a movie theater with only a handful of patrons, someone enters and sits directly behind me. Most of the seats are empty, yet they choose the seat right in back of me; my mind immediately flashes images of what they could do to me. Have a wire loop to choke me; cut my throat with a knife; you get the picture. Yes, I see a lot of movies; I get these types of visuals immediately. It isn’t pretty. I feel the same way when I am on public transportation and the person sits close to me, though there are vacant seats all over the bus or train car. Oh, I almost forgot; standing in line and you can feel the person’s breath on your neck because they are standing in your personal space. On the other hand, there are people who do not like clowns; everyone has their own personal list of things that scare or make them feel uncomfortable. MY FEARS AND THINGS I FIND creepy predominately come from people; however, there are many individuals who get scared by places. I had no idea my garage was a scary place for example. For me, a garage is just a place to park my car; I do not devote a bit of time in the maintenance of it. Yet a friend of mine, I recently discovered, does not like walking into my garage because there are visible cobwebs in it. Nothing that one would accidently walk into, but they can be seen on the windows and rafters. Honestly, I never gave them a second thought, but my friend took one look at the cobwebs and decided to wait in the alley until I could pull my car out. I never knew I had a fear of this but on a trip I took a few years ago, I started getting scared driving on a deserted remote road. I wondered what would happen if the car broke down because there was no sign of life anywhere. Stranded with no cellular service, no gas station, no road lights, all by myself; I ask you, how would you feel in such a situation? You must admit it certainly looks like the start to a horror movie. I had the same feeling and thoughts as I started to watch this mystery, horror thriller. WHEN A NUN WAS FOUND DEAD hanging from a window of her monastery, the Vatican dispatched Father Burke, played by Demian Bichir (The Hateful Eight, A Better Life), who had some experiences in such types of situations. With Taissa Farmiga (The Bling Ring, American Horror Story-TV) as Sister Irene, Jonas Bloquet (3 Days to Kill, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets) as Frenchie, Bonnie Aarons (The Princess Diaries franchise, The Fighter) as The Nun and Ingrid Bisu (The Zero Theorem, Outbound) as Sister Oana; this movie had all the earmarks of being a real scary story. The set pieces, the music, being part of The Conjuring franchise; everything was in place, including the excellent acting from Taissa, for me to get into this picture. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be the case. There were a few scenes with potential, but the writers never took it any further out of being a predictable setup. There was nothing real “jump in your seat” worthy; though there were a few creepy scenarios. By the end of the film I was left with a “meh” feeling. I must tell you, in my opinion I feel as if the whole Conjuring story line has reached the end of the line. It was a well-done horror movie in the beginning, but now with this installment there doesn’t seem to be anything creepy left to tell us.
1 ¾ stars
WHILE LOOKING AT OLD PHOTOGRAPHS I could not stop asking myself what was I thinking to wear such a thing. I understand part of the fashion industry’s mission is to constantly update clothing trends, so consumers will buy clothes for every season of every year. If all we wore was a pair of blue jeans and a plain cotton shirt, the clothing manufacturers would not last long. As far as I am concerned there is no reason to ever wear pleated pants; this is just my opinion. The clothing choices I saw in my old photos could be classified more as a fad. I do not mean to disrespect any culture or group of people, but there really was no reason I needed to wear puka shells/beads around my neck. There was a time where wearing puka beads was considered cool; I have no idea why but as I saw other people wearing them, I decided I needed them. Another fad I went through was Nehru and surfer shirts. I cannot remember when these items were a fad but all of us wore them. In fact, it was extra cool to wear a Nehru collared shirt with puka beads around the neck. Please do not judge me but at one point I even made my own puka bead necklaces. IN WRITING THIS REVIEW TODAY I looked up other fads from the past and came up with a variety of items. There was the Slap Bracelet, Garbage Pail Kids, Push Pops and Jelly shoes. Most fads, such as the ones listed, were innocuous; they are what I consider a singular fad because you do not need anyone to participate along with you. However, there are some fads that have a darker side. What may start out as a fad could turn into a cult. I have to wonder if the flash mob videos that were posted online was the spark that lead individuals to start posting more and more daring or unusual events. Do you remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? It was a novel idea created for a good cause; but, do you think it could be the first step in people trying more difficult and dangerous challenges to gain notoriety? The subject of today’s film started as a fad that I saw in the news led two Wisconsin 12-year old girls to lure their friend into the woods to stab her multiple times, just to impress this fictional character who stars in this horror, mystery film. WHILE A GROUP OF FRIENDS START to check out the internet stories about the Slender Man, one of them goes missing. Starring Joey King (White House Down, The Conjuring) as Wren, Julia Goldani Telles (The Affair-TV, Bunheads-TV) as Hallie, Jaz Sinclair (Paper Towns, When the Bough Breaks) as Chloe, Annalise Basso (Captain Fantastic, Oculus) as Katie and newcomer Alex Fitzalan as Tom; I cannot think of one positive thing to say about this incredibly, poorly thought out movie. The acting was basic; add in the dull script and it was close to painful to sit and watch this mess. I thought the special effects were a total joke. Taking a telephoto camera lens and moving it quickly back and forth from near to far did not produce anything close to scariness for the scene; if anything, it simply made me dizzy. I was not familiar with the Slender Man; but if one should be fearful of him, this picture did not place him in the proper light. There was nothing scary or suspenseful in the story. If this character of the Slender Man was supposed to be sinister, then the writers completely missed the point. My deepest wish is for this fad to go away; I never want to see a sequel or hear about him again.
1 ½ stars
IT HAS BEEN SAID “IMITATION is the sincerest form of flattery” but not in the case of chocolate. To tell you the truth that goes for almost any kind of food. Let me tell you why I think this way. Occasionally when the grocery store is out of something I need, I will try the store’s brand. One time I had to buy their brand of raisins when they were out of stock of the ones I preferred. They were raisins; what could they possible do differently I thought. Well when I opened the container and tried them I was disappointed. Yes, they tasted like raisins do but they were small and shriveled; I was used to these dark and plump ones that had more taste. They were cheaper and of course I used them, but they were just okay. The same thing happened when a friend insisted I try this store that only sells their brand of products; they carried no national brands. Out of a small shopping cart of items I bought, the only things that tasted good to me were the sunflower seeds and nectarines. Their granola type cereal tasted vile to me; it tasted like dust. BY NO MEANS AM I A food snob, far from it. These days I consider food to just be fuel, except for desserts of course. However, I still want my food to taste good. It just seems from my own experiences many of the generic foods and products I have used are not as appealing to me. Heck, I even tried a pharmacy’s cotton swabs once and they were horrible; because they had so little cotton on them they kept scratching the outside of my ears. When it comes to new products many of them are not based on an original idea. Instead they take someone else’s idea and improve upon it. This is the nature of commerce; companies want you to buy stuff and continue to buy their products. This is one reason why there seems to be more film sequels to me. When a movie studio produces a successful picture; they immediately want to recreate the success they had with another movie. I have to wonder if the film studios check out their competition and when something is a hit, they try to do something in a similar vein, hoping to be successful with it too. For me the story in this science fiction thriller was very familiar; I know I have seen something like this somewhere before. You may have also. WHEN A MYSTERIOUS VIRUS NEARLY wipes out all children on the planet, the ones remaining become a threat to the adults. So much a threat that they need to be put away… or put down. Starring Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games, The Hate U Give) as Ruby, Mandy Moore (47 Meters Down, This is Us-TV) as Cate, Bradley Whitford (Get Out, Saving Mr. Banks) as President Gray, Gwendoline Christie (Star Wars franchise, Game of Thrones-TV) as Lady Jane and Harris Dickinson (Beach Rats, Trust-TV) as Liam; I thought the actors fit well into their roles. The story started out fine; it made me curious to find out more and I especially enjoyed the acting from Amandla. But as things started to happen I was left underwhelmed. This story for all intents and purposes was a lite version of the X-Men or anything like it. The special effects were nothing special and ultimately the script failed because it bored me. It was obvious where things were going and worse, it appears the movie studio is hoping to do a sequel. The best thing about seeing this generic piece of work was the price; with the money I had on the theater’s loyalty program, it only cost me 53 cents.
1 ½ stars
SIR ISAAC NEWTON’S THIRD LAW states: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I would add: And some of the reactions come with consequences. As I thought about the next sentence I was going to write, I want to preface it by saying I am embarrassed. However, upon further consideration I decided I am not going to be embarrassed; I am simply stating how I feel about certain things. So here goes; I take pleasure in seeing someone getting their just dues. For example, a driver who cuts me off and speeds away, getting stopped by a police officer who gives the driver a speeding ticket. Or I love at the supermarket when a shopper starts walking faster to get ahead of me in line to check out and winds up getting stuck by the shopper in front of them who needs a price check on an item. Because they ran ahead of me I went to a different line and wound up getting checked out before them. It is little things like this that makes me believe in karma. My only hope is that those selfish individuals learn from their actions; but from how many times I still witness such behavior, I do not think the lesson gets taught. ONE OF MY ALL TIME FAVORITE stories is about a friend of mine who took such rude behavior to the next level. He was a big, brawny guy who could appear imposing to people. In a parking lot if a driver sneaked into a parking spot he was waiting for, he would pull right up behind the driver and park his car to block them into the spot. The driver would jump out to yell until they got a look at him. He on the other hand would calmly stare and tell them because they took the spot he was obviously waiting for, they could now sit and wait for him to finish his shopping. Or they could apologize, get back into their car, and he would move to let them out to go find a different parking place. Every person my friend did this to always chose the apology option. I wish I had the guts to do such a thing; but since I do not come across as a “tough” guy, I must take satisfaction in believing a rude person will get their “just desserts.” In the meantime, I at least can take pleasure in seeing justice being done in this action, crime thriller. WHEN A TRAGEDY STRIKES CLOSE to home Robert McCall, played by Denzel Washington (Fences, The Magnificent Seven), comes out of his quiet existence to contact his old partner Dave York, played by Pedro Pascal (The Great Wall, The Adjustment Bureau). Problem is, Dave thought Robert was dead. This film festival nominee also starred Ashton Sanders (Moonlight, Straight Outta Compton) as Miles Whittaker, Bill Pullman (Lake Placid, Independence Day franchise) as Brian Plummer and Orson Bean (Being John Malkovich, Innerspace) as Sam Rubinstein. As far as I was concerned this movie did exactly what I expected it to do; it was a good people vs bad people story. Denzel was excellent as Robert which was the first time he ever reprised a character. If you have not seen the previous film or television show this picture is based on, it is okay. The story was simple and to the point. I thought the action scenes were terrific, especially one that took place in a car sharing ride. Though the script was predictable, I was surprised by the twist in it. If you are so inclined in watching justice being served, this is the film to watch as Denzel delivers it.
2 ½ stars
THE TWO FRIENDS WERE PLAYING a board game they had played many times before. However, this time the game would have a different outcome. Not by very much, Friend #1 had acquired more winning pieces than Friend #2. This did not imply that winning was a sure thing for Friend #1. Halfway through the duration of the game Friend #2 decided to do an unexpected move that was never done before. When Friend #1 questioned the move, Friend #2 explained the reason for his move which essentially changed the rules of the game. This made no sense to Friend #1 so he challenged the sudden change in the rules. If the two of them had a discussion beforehand and agreed to this new rule Friend #1 would not have gotten upset; but without saying a word and just deciding to make a change because he was losing, Friend #1 was upset. The two of them argued back and forth, each one feeling they were in the right. Unfortunately, they never finished the game nor did they ever play it again; both were rather stubborn. I was Friend #1. EVER SINCE THAT ARGUMENT I have always had a bad attitude towards anyone who changes the rules in the middle of something. Maybe because I am not a spontaneous person I have a hard time when plans are set and then something unexpected comes up to disrupt the plans or schedule. At least now I am much better at letting go and not letting the shift in plans upset me. The one place where I cannot do this though is at work. When payment terms have been established with a customer (I am in the credit department) and we ship out product to them; nothing riles me up more than a customer who decides to change the due date on their invoice. I take offense from this act which I know may sound looney to some of you; however, I feel business to business dealings need to follow rules to form trust between companies. When someone does not follow the rules how can a company or person interact with them? If one side abides by the rules and the other side doesn’t; who do you think will benefit from it? Sadly, the one who doesn’t I feel will come out on top more often. And if the rule follower decides to join the other side by not following the rules, the only thing it will produce is chaos. It becomes a dangerous world then and this dramatic crime thriller is proof. ONCE THE MEXICAN CARTELS STARTED to smuggle terrorists into the United States, the rules the U.S. government had been following needed to be eliminated. There was one small strike team that could thrive in such an environment. This action-packed sequel starred Josh Brolin (Deadpool 2, Only the Brave) as Matt Graver, Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects, Escobar: Paradise Lost) as Alejandro, Isabela Moner (Transformers: The Last Knight, 100 Things to do Before High School) as Isabel Reyes, Jeffrey Donovan (Changeling, Burn Notice-TV) as Steve Forsing and Catherine Keener (Capote, Get Out) as Cynthia Foards. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat while watching this intense film. There were multiple scenes of blood and violence. The pacing of the story was consistent throughout and I especially enjoyed the acting from Benicio. Between the two films there was similarity in their look and action scenes; however one of the differences that stood out was not having a character that was a counterpoint to the others. The story needed a sympathetic person. Instead the script kept a constant sense of darkness and dread throughout the picture. In addition, the script could have used more variance with the emotional level. I know there are some rules that need to be broken and this action film broke a whole bunch of them.
EVERY TIME I BUY A newspaper I believe I am doing my part in preventing the publisher from shutting down. I know it is a fallacy, but I have to believe it is true. The convenience store used to have their racks full of newspapers; now if I do not get there early enough the few papers they do get are already gone. It makes me sad because I prefer reading a newspaper instead of looking at an electronic screen. So, I want to believe my little contribution will help sustain newspapers through my lifetime. I have a similar belief when it comes to my personal banking. There is no way I want a debit card; it is that simple. Yet anytime I need to use a teller the first thing they ask me is to swipe my debit card. When I say I do not have one they give me this look as if I am a much older version of a Rip Van Winkle character. I want to believe that I am not alone, that there are others like me who prefer doing their banking the old-fashioned way and by that, I mean the banks still need to keep their branches open with tellers. WHEN IT COMES TO BELIEFS I believe I am not alone; each of us has a set of beliefs. The ones I just mentioned are not based on any facts which fits into the definition of belief. It is a state of mind where a person thinks something is true despite having evidence to prove it. For me my beliefs are based in feelings, not facts. An example would be the route I take to work. I believe it is the fastest way to get to my office; however, if someone shows me a different way that is faster, then I will no longer believe my route is the fastest. Remember there was a time where people believed the earth was flat; it took science to show them that was not the case. I consider beliefs to be multifaceted; some people refer to them as opinions, others define them as faith. It seems to me beliefs assist us in finding order in the world or put another way, they help explain the world around us. This does not mean I expect others to have the same beliefs; in fact, I would be offended if someone tried to foist their beliefs onto me. They are a personal matter as far as I am concerned. To see how beliefs can affect a person, feel free to watch this film festival winning, dramatic thriller. IN THE MIDDLE OF PREPARATIONS for his church’s celebration Reverend Ernst Toller, played by Ethan Hawke (Born to Be Alive, The Magnificent Seven), experiences a crisis of faith. With Amanda Seyfried (The Big Wedding, Dear John) as Mary, Cedric the Entertainer (Larry Crowne, Barbershop franchise) as Reverend Joel Jeffers and Victoria Hill (December Boys, Macbeth) as Esther; this thought provoking movie posed a variety of topical issues. Written and directed by Paul Schrader (Raging Bull, The Walker), I found the acting to be excellent. Not in a flowery or over the top type of way, but simply an adult driven script that infused the characters with realness. I felt the way the picture was filmed complimented the script, set in upstate New York, beautifully. My major complaint about this movie concerned the lead up to the ending. I did not like the element of fantasy that was introduced nor the way the story ended. It was a letdown for me because I believed the script was going to maintain a consistent flow to its conclusion. You might think differently because you have a different set of beliefs and that is okay.
HAVING SPENT MANY A TIME listening to the fortunate folk who are able to retire soon, I thought I would have gained a wealth of information on how to plan for my own retirement. Pretty much all I gained was confusion. There was one person who lived modestly most of their life; this means they only spent money on things they needed instead of wanted. Traveling was limited to special occasions such as out of state weddings, births or funerals. Vacation days meant puttering around the house. By saving as much money as they could, they were able to retire early. Another individual set up a financial plan where their salary was divided into several categories, one of them being investments. Every 3 months the portion of their money designated for investments was used for that, investing in things that would yield a financial return; such as stocks, bonds and real estate trusts. They amassed a sizable nest egg that will carry them many years through their retirement years. One thing I have started to notice about people who retire without planning some types of activities is they die sooner. I know that sounds harsh but I am aware of a few people who retired and suddenly became predominantly sedentary; this is the only explanation I could come up with, outside of medical issues, on why the quality of their life took a rapid decline. MY FAVORITE LINE I HAVE heard a retired person say is, “Every day is Saturday.” Doesn’t that sound like fun? One of the things I am curious about retirement is if time will no longer be an issue for me. Presently I keep up with a hectic schedule between 2 jobs, watching and reviewing films, house upkeep, socializing and traveling. Many of my chores like grocery shopping and washing clothes are done only on the weekends, where it seems everyone else is on my schedule. I wonder what it would be like to go to a grocery store during the weekday? Having less people there would mean I could get my shopping done quicker. I assume the waiting list at many businesses is shorter during the weekdays; I am curious to experience this option as well. Now there are some people I know who do not think about retirement. They continue past their retirement age; either staying with the same employer or sometimes retiring from one place to begin a new job or career with another company. As I said earlier I have heard of many retirement plan options, but it never occurred to me that drug dealers need to plan also for their retirement until I saw this action, crime thriller. LOOKING TO MAKE ONE LAST big score before retiring drug dealer Youngblood Priest’s, played by Trevor Jackson (Burning Sands, A Beautiful Soul), plan meant he would have to bypass his supplier and go directly to the source. The question was would this plan cause him to be permanently retired—from living? With Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton, Detroit) as Eddie, Michael Kenneth Williams (12 Years a Slave, Assassin’s Creed) as Scatter, Lex Scott Davis (The First Purge, Tales-TV) as Georgia and Esai Morales (King of the Avenue, La Bamba) as Adalberto Gonzalez; this movie portrayed the glamorous side of drug money. With fancy cars, flashy jewelry and mansions; I was waiting to see where the script would take us. As far as I could tell the story had little variance from other drug dealer stories I have seen before. There was nothing that stood out for me. You see one drug dealer’s party in a movie and you pretty much have seen them all; they always show drugs, scantily clothed females, exotic bottles of alcohol and people either laughing or fighting. In this story there were a couple of surprises but they were not enough to get me high on this picture.