IT WAS NOT UNUSUAL TO HAVE knocking on my front door, but it was strange to have a stranger standing there when I opened the door. I was living off campus in a 6 storied, student housing building. There was a property manager who lived on the ground floor, but all the apartments were for students; married students would live in the corner units of the building because they were 2-bedroom apartments. I was living in a studio apartment, or I should say one room with a bathroom, like most the students on the floor. Each floor had a common kitchen that the residents on the floor would share. It was nothing to knock on a door and ask a fellow student for something; however, on this day there was a middle-aged woman standing at my door. She was dressed in a long skirt and a light jacket over a white blouse that had a bow up around her neck. Her arm was hugging a pile of pamphlets close to her chest. She had a warm smile despite seeing the shocked look on my face when I opened my door. My first thought was thinking she was doing a survey for the university because I did not understand how she got through the security door in the building’s lobby. I SAID, “HELLO, HOW CAN I help you?” As she introduced herself, she handed me one of her pamphlets. The front of it was illustrated in such a way to make me think it was an advertisement for a children’s book. She asked if she could tell me about her god. I declined the offer, saying I practice a different religion. Without losing her smile, she said her god would save me. Right then my attitude changed because I found her statement offensive. I believed ever person’s religion should be respected and that one was not better than another. I explained to her I was not interested, but it was nice to meet her as I closed my door. It has always puzzled me how people think their religion is the best or the “right” one. If memory serves me correctly, I think there are only three religions that do not actively seek out people to convert them over to their religion. It is one thing to be open and expressive about one own’s religion, but the idea of seeking out people to say they will not go to heaven or be with their god because of their religion is wrong in my book. I feel more strongly about it after seeing this Oscar nominated, biographical drama. UPON MEETING THE MAN SHE WOULD later marry, young Tammy Faye, played by Jessica Chastain (The 355, Molly’s Game) would wind up experiencing more than she ever imagined one could while being a good Christian. With Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge; tick, tick…BOOM!) as Jim Bakker, Cherry Jones (Ocean’s Twelve, The Perfect Storm) as Rachel Grover, Vincent D’Onofrio (The Unforgivable, The Judge) as Jerry Falwell and Mark Wystrach (Road to Red, Scavengers) as Gary Paxton; this film based on a true story excelled due to Jessica, Cherry and Andrew. They saved the script that I found to be a bit too sanitized, considering what was going on during the times when Jim and Tammy Faye were growing their business. At times, I felt Jessica was on the verge of being a caricature but then she would reel it in during the next scene. I will say the script does not put the religious conservatives in a good light; if what was shown was true, I was taken aback with the backroom antics of the religious leaders in this story. Not only was this an entertaining picture for the most part, but it also reaffirmed my feelings about those who preach their way is the right way.
I NEED TO GIVE YOU SOME background first, for today’s review to make sense. There was a student in my class, who you never wanted to get into a fight with her. Yes, I said her. She was tough looking; though, part of the reason may be due to her having to repeat 6th grade. I sat near her in class. Because I was one seat behind her, she was forced to cheat off the boy sitting across from her; he was a “B” student. She was the first peer of mine who smoked cigarettes. Her usual spot to smoke besides the girl’s restroom was outside on the stairs that led up to the service door, at the back of the school. Let me call her Judy, Judy had a red leather cigarette case that had a gold clasp on top, that she would tap her fingernails on while she was smoking. Besides being tall for her age, she was bulky which explained why many of us knew not to mess with her. I saw her in a fight with another girl and I could not believe how vicious she was with her punching, scratching and slapping. Our teacher had to break up the fight, but it was after the other girl was crying with her dress torn in spots. Because Judy was a smart aleck and prone to disrupt the class, the teacher usually looked at Judy first whenever something unexpected happened in our classroom. NO MATTER WHAT KIND OF TROUBLE Judy would get into, I remained friendly and on good terms with her. The reason being she came to my rescue when a fellow classmate was picking on me. She went right up and punched him in the stomach; he never bothered me again. Ever since that time we had a casual friendship. With me not having to worry about ever being on the receiving end of her aggressions, I was able to see a different side to her as the school year progressed. Most of her acting out was directed more towards the popular students. Now I am not saying it was right; however, if a popular student dared to talk down or act snobby around her, it would set her off. From my vantage point in the classroom, I could see some of the popular girls would try to get Judy in trouble and it usually worked because the teacher just assumed it was her fault. If the teacher would only take the time to really see what was going on, she would know what I did about Judy. I thought of this while I watched the main star in this dramatic, crime film. AFTER BEING RELEASED FROM PRISON RUTH Slater, played by Sandra Bullock (The Heat, Ocean’s Eight), returns to her hometown with a hope she can just blend in. It will be a challenge since some people cannot forget what she did. With Viola Davis (Suicide Squad franchise, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) as Liz Ingram, Vincent D’Onofrio (The Cell, The Magnificent Seven) as John Ingram, Jon Bernthal (King Richard, The Accountant) as Blake and Richard Thomas (The Waltons-TV, Wonder Boys) as Michael Malcolm; the bright spot for me in this picture was watching Sandra and Viola, though there was not enough Viola in my opinion. The rest of the cast was good, but these two actors were operating at a higher level. I appreciated the idea of the story; however, the script and the directing were uneven. There were slow parts where the script was a letdown, along with being predicable. It wasn’t until the last half of the movie where I felt more engaged. I would have appreciated if the writers would have taken Ruth’s motivation for coming back and expanded on it. I think it would have added extra drama to the story.
2 ½ stars
HIS PHOTOGRAPH WAS PROMINENTLY DISPLAYED ON one of the banners in the hotel’s convention center. There were also photos of him in the members’ welcome booklets, along with a bio about his achievements. In the aerobic world he had achieved a level of popularity akin to a rock star. I was able to sign up for only one of his numerous workshops at the convention. There must have been a cancellation I figured because the rest of his classes filled up immediately according to one of the volunteers monitoring the ballroom. From the articles that were published in my fitness magazines, he seemed like a fun guy who had a strong sense of humor. As I looked around the room at the other participants I noticed many of them already had his DVD’s and other branded merchandise that were being sold down at the aerobic marketplace. This was a place put up in the convention center where a variety of vendors could set up booths and sell their latest fitness products to the participants. A woman walked up onto the stage at one end of the ballroom, to announce his name. She had only gotten out his first and last name before the audience cheered wildly for him. I almost felt like I was sitting in the middle of a cult. I HAVE TO SAY IT WAS AN excellent workshop he presented to us. There wasn’t anyone around me who was not covered in sweat. I toweled off as best as I could in the room, packed up my stuff and headed out to find somewhere to eat in the convention center. There was a coffee shop I found that would work for me, so I went in and let the hostess seat me. Once I ordered food, it came to the table quickly. It was when I was halfway through eating that I saw that same presenter from earlier coming into the restaurant. He looked around the room until he saw me then nodded. I was stunned; how in the world did he recognize me, let alone see me in the middle of a mass of people? He walked over to me and introduced himself. I told him I had just taken his workshop. He smiled and asked if he could join me; I said absolutely. Putting his soft drink cup down on the table, he sat down across from me. The conversation was easy as we both shared aerobic class stories. However, as he was talking he took a flask out of his gym bag and poured out the liquid from it into his drink. I could smell it was alcohol. By the time I finished my meal he was giddy and talking nonsense. Evidently this was not his first drink. To say I was shocked would be an understatement; I wondered if he had any other workshops to teach later. Here I had this image of him based on what I read about him, but this was someone completely different from my thoughts. The young boy in this western drama went through a similar experience. HAVING HEARD AND SEEN SO MUCH written about Billy the Kid, played by Dane DeHaan (A Cure for Wellness, Kill Your Darlings); a young boy could not believe the person he met could have done all those things being said about him. With Chris Pratt (Passengers, Guardian of the Galaxy franchise) as Grant Cutler, Ethan Hawke (First Reformed; Juliet, Naked) as Pat Garrett, Leila George (Mortal Engines; Mother, May I Sleep with Danger-TV movie) as Sara and Vincent D’Onofrio (The Cell, Ed Wood) as Sheriff Romero; I enjoyed the perspective used to tell this story. The acting was good for the most part, but I did not feel there was much connection between the characters if that makes sense. Ethan was in top form having been on a strong streak with movie roles; his acting keeps getting better with each film he has been in. What caused me to lose my interest was the script; the first half was better than the last. The components of the script had all been done before, so there were no surprises here. I felt little emotion being generated in the 2nd part which attributed to my mind wandering. I understand this movie can be viewed online already; which I have felt means the studio knows what they have on their hands, so they try to keep up appearances.
IT WAS ONE OF THE HOTTEST Broadway shows touring the country and I had tickets for it. Because it was so popular a friend of mine wanted to scalp his ticket. Just my opinion, I thought it was rude of him to even suggest it since the group of us had planned to go out to dinner after the show. On the day of the performance we all met up at the restaurant and got seated quickly, so we would not have to rush to get to the theater. After dinner we walked over to the theater which when built was one of those old movie palaces with ornate terra cotta reliefs and large chandeliers. As I entered into the lobby there was a large board set on an easel that listed the actors that were cast for that day’s performance. Right at the top of the cast list on the first line it showed the understudy would be playing the star attraction’s character. I was devastated; the famous actor was one of the reasons I wanted to see this show and now I was stuck with the understudy. Not that he did a poor performance, in fact he was excellent; but I really wanted to see that famous actor perform in this production. IF THERE IS SOME WAY TO avoid feeling disappointed when you are expecting to get what you paid for, I am not familiar with it. Now granted in regards to that Broadway production, all of us enjoyed the show with its excellent cast and incredible staging of the sets. However I could not help feeling letdown because I did not see the main actor that everyone had been talking about being the perfect actor for the role. I guess the feeling is similar to going to your favorite restaurant for your favorite dish and discovering they ran out of it. At that point it is unlikely you would leave; instead you would find something else to eat, just not as satisfying. Now I do not want this to sound like I am a snob, but there have been times where I have tried the generic version of a product and disliked it. There was a dessert I was preparing for a party where I used raisins that were the grocery store’s brand. They turned out to be these tiny, shriveled raisins that still had some stems attached; I never bought them again, wondering why I did in the first place. I asked myself the same question after I saw this action, crime drama remake; why see this when I could rent the original? AFTER HIS FAMILY WAS BRUTALLY attacked in a home invasion Paul Kersey, played by Bruce Willis (First Kill, Die Hard franchise), got tired waiting for the police to solve the crime. He took things into his own hands. With Vincent D’Onofrio (The Magnificent Seven, Ed Wood) as Frank Kersey, Elizabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas, Adventures in Babysitting) as Lucy Kersey and Dean Norris (Total Recall, Breaking Bad-TV) as Detective Kevin Raines; there was absolutely nothing new in this film compared to the original. The only difference was there were less thrills, tension and good acting. I found the script odd and not quite believable. If you did not see the original movie then you might enjoy this picture more than I did. The strange thing for me was the audience around me during the film’s showing. I had to wonder if some of the people who were watching this movie were thinking they wanted to do the same thing as Paul; it was creepy. As I mentioned earlier if you never saw the original this may interest you, but not something that one needs to rush out and go see.
1 ½ stars
SCOURING the shelves in search of something that no longer is being made can be an exhausting process. He went from resale shops to charity stores looking for a VCR. For those of you not familiar with the term it was an abbreviation for “videocassette recorder.” Prior to streaming and DVDs, the first time we were able to watch a television program at a time that was convenient for us was on the videocassette tapes these machines used to record on. The poor man had a collection of movies and shows that had been recorded and his recorder had broken. Going to an electronics store he found out they no longer make such machines, so he had to seek out a used one. As technology gets more advanced it seems as if more things become obsolete quicker. Do not even get me started about the financial cost to keep up with all of it. In addition, think about all the waste for example when one upgrades to a new technology. As an example going from VHS to DVD; what does one do with all the things they have on the tapes? HAVING said that I have recently noticed things that were considered old are becoming new; an example would be vinyl records. Talk about one heck of a technical journey from vinyl to 8 track tape to cassette tape to DVD to digital; I am sure music aficionados were having a nightmare over all the changes taking place with their equipment so they could continue listening to their music. I remember when I was converting my music library to a new format; there were songs that I used to play that over time I lost interest in as my tastes evolved. My decision was to leave that music and not spend any time or money to establish them into my new listening devices. I can honestly say I felt the same way about this dramatic horror sequel. AFTER several years, an old video resurfaced that had deathly consequences to those who watched it. When her boyfriend Holt, played by Alex Roe (The 5th Wave, The Fugitives-TV), was not responding to her messages Julia, played by Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz (Summertime, L’Universale), decided to travel to his college to find out what happened. For the life of me (no pun intended) I cannot understand what the point was for the movie studio to dig up this film franchise and do such a poor job of a sequel. The script was utterly void of originality and used the familiar scare tactics of quick cut away scenes and sudden loud noises to try and scare the viewing audience. I was bored throughout the picture. Seeing Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory-TV, In Time) as Gabriel and Vincent D’Ononfrio (The Magnificent Seven, Pele: Birth of a Legend), as Burke was simply embarrassing; what in the world were the two of them thinking to take such a role? It made me wonder if they even read the script before accepting the job. There might be a chance those who were fans of the original films may find a couple of redeeming qualities with this latest installment; but in my opinion, this is one film that needed to stay buried in the past.
1 ½ stars
It only takes a few minutes after the alarm goes off before the sense of dread awakens inside of you. With a heaviness that weighs you down, you would think it would be thick enough to fend off any physical blows. Sadly it does not prevent it. When you are living with dread, you really have no idea how much energy it takes away from you. Like a straw continuously seeking out the last drops of a bottomless glass, dread constantly makes it presence known no matter what you are doing to distract yourself from it. Unfortunately I know too well what I speak of; dread was my unwanted friend for an entire school year. My daily walk to school was devoted to planning out what escape routes I would use for the day. One never wanted to be caught navigating the same route each day because it could provide for an easy ambush. Bathrooms were always avoided between class times. Instead I would either ask for a hall pass during the class or wait for a free period; I had to wait for a time when it would be less likely anyone would be lying in wait for me. Unless you have been bullied, you may not understand what it feels like to always be on the defensive throughout the day. I was not the only one who was targeted and that was something I never understood. The general population, whether it is in a school or a town, is usually so much larger than the bully and their cohorts; yet the masses rarely band together to stop the bully. At least that has been my experiences. It was hopeful to see that was not the case in this action western remake of a classic film. DETERMINED to take over the entire town Bartholomew Bogue, played by Peter Sarsgaard (Orphan, Jarhead), gave the townsfolk an ultimatum. One citizen, a recent widow due to Bartholomew, was willing to fight for her land; but she needed help. Starring Denzel Washington (The Equalizer, Training Day) as Chisolm, Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World) as Josh Faraday and Ethan Hawke (Born to be Blue, Good Kill) as Goodnight Robicheaux; the only actors who stood out for me were Ethan, Chris and Peter. I thought Denzel was a generic version of the character, not quite believable. The filming of this movie was the highlight; the outdoor scenes were the best. As for the action scenes some really popped out with intensity while others seemed scattered and all over the place. I really felt the script was what prevented this picture from achieving its lofty goals. The reason I say lofty is because it was obvious everyone involved was trying to make this a modern classic, even taking on the original music during the ending credits. Unfortunately it did not work; overall this film production was uneven. There were parts I could get into but then other times I found them bland. Also this movie was way too long; it could have used some extra editing. I am sure the film studio wants this picture to punch its way to the top of the box office charts; however, I do not think the other movies will let it stay there.
2 ½ stars
I wonder if the playground half covered with gravel had anything to do with it. Growing up not only did I never think about soccer, it was never part of anyone’s conversation. Now granted I attended a small elementary and high school, but even if someone wanted to play soccer it would have been challenging. The public schools I attended were in the city; they were plopped down in the middle of a city block with houses all around. There were no grassy fields, no baseball diamonds; heck, we were lucky if had a few bushes pushed up to the side of the building. As I mentioned before my elementary school’s playground was part blacktop and part gravel. There were no team sports and the majority of our physical activity was done in the gymnasium with its over excessive, varnished wood floor. The floor would creak so much when we were playing any type of game that it sounded like a backyard of chirping crickets. I think we may have played some kind of indoor version of soccer that we called Dodgeball, but the rules were different and I tried to avoid playing it because of the bullies in class. They used the opportunity to pretend they were kicking at the ball but really were going for someone’s leg, causing usually a bruise to form later in the day. So you see I never thought or cared about soccer all the way through into my adult life. If the games in this dramatic biography are typical of the average soccer game then sign me up for season tickets. FROM an earlier review this week where I talked about not needing money to being a success, if ever an example was needed to show this was true then this film about soccer legend Pele, played by newcomer Kevin de Paula, would have been the perfect choice. His story totally surprised me as this film covered his years growing up in the poor slums of Sao Paulo, Brazil; where he did not even play with a real soccer ball. I had never heard of the style of soccer associated with Pele. It was amazing to see; I felt like I was watching a performance artist up on the screen. Also starring Vincent D’Onofrio (Jurassic World, Full Metal Jacket) as Feola, Diego Boneta (Scream Queens-TV, Summer Camp) as Jose and Colm Meaney (Law Abiding Citizen, Stand Off) as George Raynor; the acting was almost secondary in my opinion. I do not think this sport film covered anything new; so if one is already familiar with Pele they may become bored with this story. Since I had no knowledge of the man or his sport, I was fascinated watching everything. I will say there were scenes that I thought were poorly filmed making the action look cartoonish and the dramatic ones seemed typical and predictable. So here is my bottom line: I do not think this was a well-made film; but here is the thing, the story kept me engrossed and provided entertainment for me. Isn’t that what a soccer match is supposed to do?
2 ¾ stars
The clanking metal sound still reminded me of an anchor being pulled up ship. Looking over at the roller coaster I recalled how that first steep drop took my breath away; literally, I was so tensed up I forgot to breathe as we dropped into what felt like a free fall down the tracks. Today there would be no way I would go on that ride again. As I have gotten older I no longer find heights attractive. I did go on the virtual spaceship ride, noticing the seat seemed smaller with my knees now reaching the back of the seat in front of me. Though I still enjoyed the ride I knew now when to brace myself before the ship engaged in a pretend aerial dogfight in outer space. Walking through the amusement park that I had last visited years ago, I still enjoyed going on the rides and attractions. Some of the larger rides had been freshened up with new parts or simply just a coat of paint. There was one ride where the computer graphics finally looked futuristic compared to the ones they had previously. I think part of the fondness I still had for the park was the memories from my previous visits that accompanied me during the day. There was no need to run from ride to ride, I could take my time and be more selective since the surprise factor was gone for me. OVER twenty years have passed since the tragic ending to Jurassic Park. Updated and marketed to a new generation, Jurassic World park attendance had been strong. However market research had shown for the park to remain profitable it needed to come up with a bigger and better attraction to keep people coming back. Its newest attraction had something else in mind. This action adventure film had incredible special effects; the dinosaurs seemed like actual live creatures being filmed alongside the actors. Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Parks and Recreation-TV) as Owen and Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help, The Village) as Claire were the main characters, both did a good job. I did not mind any of the actors to tell you the truth, even though the script did not give them any room to grow; they were pretty much two dimensional. If you are not familiar with Jurassic Park, then I believe you will get more out of this science fiction film than I did. I found it predictable, especially when some scenes were similar to ones in the previous movie. With that being said, there is no doubt in my mind that you will find this picture fun to watch and even exciting in parts. It was marketed to be a summer blockbuster and it will succeed. Wait a second, wasn’t that the same marketing idea the park had for their newest attraction?
2 3/4 stars
The spoken language is not an exact science. Sure there are rules we follow to aid us in communicating with each other; but some choose their words carefully, others say the first thing that pops into their mind. Then there is the inflection, the way we speak our words; some do so with conscious intentions. However, there are times where the intended remarks may come out in a veiled way that leaves them open for interpretation. By using tone, volume and speed to accentuate the words; they can caress a person’s soul like a velvet blanket or prick their heart with the tip of a sharp dagger. Adults seem to be better equipped to decipher what a person is saying to them. Children on the other hand are a whole different matter. They do not have the skills to navigate the convoluted road of language yet. A child proudly handing his parents a report card filled with all A’s and one B for grades thinks something is wrong when he is asked why he received the B and the A’s are ignored. Being told you are not drawing correctly because you are coloring outside the lines can plant the seeds of doubt in the child’s mind that they will never be an artist. WORDS hit their mark with precision accuracy in this dramatic movie. Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man franchise, The Soloist) played high-powered lawyer and estranged son Hank Palmer. Robert Duvall (Secondhand Lion, The Godfather franchise) played Hank’s father, Judge Joseph Palmer. When evidence from a crime pointed towards his father, Hank’s conflicted feelings would spill out as he tried to determine if his father was guilty. To this film’s credit the cast chosen for the story was ideal. Besides both Roberts, having Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade, Armageddon) as lawyer Dwight Dickham and Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket, Law & Order: Criminal Intent-TV) as Hank’s brother Glen Palmer on board helped to sustain the story. I found all the actors were believable with their characters. The issue I had with this picture was the script; it was uneven and stale. I found some scenes were memorable, filled with high drama; but then, the drama would fall down into sections of boredom. It did not help that the film was way too long. The whole story line involving Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring, Up in the Air) as Samantha Powell went nowhere for me; I thought she was wasted here. From the trailer it appeared this drama would be filled with high tension and intense chemistry between the characters. Sadly, the evidence proved otherwise.
2 1/3 stars