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
SOME PEOPLE ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT THEIR soft drinks. I know several individuals who will not order a soft drink with their meal if the restaurant does not carry “their brand.” That seems a bit intense for me; I am not as picky. Regarding the top two cola brands, I prefer one over the other; however, if a food establishment does not carry the one I like, I will order the other one. Though they have a similar taste, the one I prefer is sweeter tasting and not as strong in my opinion. I feel the same way about fast food restaurants. Not that I eat at them often, but when I do, I usually seek out one in particular for their French fries. However, if they are not conveniently located to where I am traveling, I am fine going to a different fast-food chain. There are some folks who would not be as flexible going to a different place to eat from the one they like the most. To me, it is just food; I can always find something to eat, not that it will always be a healthy choice. I will say though, there are some companies I will not support due to their actions that have an effect on certain groups of people. Those types of businesses do not get any of my money. DESPITE THERE BEING A COUPLE OF film studios that specialize in superhero movies, I have found myself to be somewhat biased when it comes to the films, they each produce. After having seen several of each studio’s films, I find myself looking forward more to one studio over another. Now, I still act the same towards both; I do not read any reviews or comments until after I have seen the movie for myself. However, the past several films from one studio have not been as captivating as the other studio’s movies. The studio I find myself being more excited about has entertained me consistently with their pictures. There is something about their scripts that feel more well rounded to me, with action, drama, humor and wittiness among other emotions. The other studio just never seems to reach such a high benchmark when compared to this studio. It is like that famous chocolate cookie with the creamy filling, where some people twist the cookie parts to eat the filling first. There is another food company that makes the same type of cookie, but I know no one who has ever bought them. Despite everything I have just said; I was pleasantly surprised by this action, adventure comedy that came from the film studio I tend to have lower expectations for their superhero movies. AFTER A SUPER SECRET AGENCY’S MISSION fails, a group of extremely dangerous, imprisoned villains were picked for their particular skill sets, with the hope they might be able to complete the original mission. First, they would have to get along with each other. With Margot Robbie (Mary Queen of Scots, The Legend of Tarzan) as Harley Quinn, Idris Elba (Concrete Cowboy, The Dark Tower) aa Bloodsport, John Cena (Playing with Fire, Daddy’s Home franchise) as Peacemaker, Joel Kinnaman (The Informer, Run All Night) as colonel Rick Flag and Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Fences) as Amanda Waller; this movie was nothing what I expected for the most part. I did expect Margot to be good and she was beyond good. The other acting surprise was John Cena; I thought he stood out as well. This is not a picture for young viewers; there was extreme violence and strong language. It was a shock to me; a superhero film that was gory and intense, despite being colorful, fun and a parody at times. I did not care much for the shifting between short time frames because it diminished the excitement factor for me. DC Comics took a drastic turn with this picture by creating a darker and crazier version of its usual movies. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
IT FELT GOOD TO BE NEEDED and I felt the same about them. We had met at a mutual friend’s birthday party; by the time I had to leave, we agreed to meet for dinner later in the week. Over that first meal we discovered things we had in common, including their best friend was married to a cousin of mine. It was things like this that sparked our attraction for each other. Now here is a little secret; the entire time we were together, I felt as if I was dating out of my league. In the very beginning of our relationship I would question, or 2ndguess myself because I could not believe how well things were going. Listening to them talk about their circle of friends/business contacts used to make me feel uncomfortable because they sounded so sophisticated or important. It eventually passed because we were settling into a comfortable, loving place. Though, I never pushed to be introduced to their friends; I thought in good time they would get comfortable to bring me around them. I never questioned it because I was taking a slow pace in introducing them to my friends and family. Looking back now, I should have questioned it. THERE WAS NO WARNING, NOT EVEN an indication, when they told me our relationship was no longer working for them. The only way I could describe how I was feeling was shellshocked. Seriously, I felt as if everything was going along wonderfully; we never even had a disagreement about anything. I tried to get more input about what was not working, but all I was getting was the same “not working” excuse. I must tell you breaking up is harder to deal with when you do not get an explanation or feedback you can process and possibly see things through the other person’s eyes. I mean, if there is something I did that caused this unfortunate turn of the relationship, I certainly would like to know about it; so, I could look and maybe grow from it. All I had to do it turned out was wait one week and I got my answer. The mutual friend we had called and told me that my ex was already dating someone else. Wow, that did not take long. I guess my feeling needed was correct; however, it was for the wrong reasons. They were using me until they found someone who better fit their needs and wants, I guess. I know some people who get into a relationship, know right from the start where they stand with the other person. I do not know if that would make me feel any better about the relationship; it seems like that could be the start of a love/hate relationship. In this musical drama, you can see what I am talking about. BOTH THE RECORD PRODUCER AND MANAGER knew what type of record they wanted to make. What they did not know was the singer had her own ideas. With Viola Davis (Fences, Widows) as Ma Rainey, Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther, 21 Bridges) as Levee, Colman Domingo (Lincoln, Selma) as Cutler, Glynn Turman (Super 8, Sahara) as Toledo and Jeremy Shamos (The Big Sick, Magic in the Moonlight); this film festival winner hit the right chord with Viola and Chadwick playing off of each other. They both provided powerful performances that carried this story all the way to the end. I had a hard time, at first, getting into this story. There were some flat scenes that did nothing for me. I could see where they might have been more intense on the stage; however, they did not translate well to the big screen. On the other hand, there were some intense attention-grabbing scenes that made me want to watch more. I could see Chadwick and Viola getting nominations during this year’s awards season and if that was the reason the movie studio used them to make money off this film, I am sure the actors were quite aware of it.
FROM ALL MY YEARS OF TEACHING I feel I am intuitive when it comes to judging people’s attitudes. Maybe instead of attitudes I should say impressions because standing in front of a class I am able to see the members’ eyes. With me facing them while I teach, I can usually tell when a member is feeling annoyed with another member. Another thing I see is when a member is judging someone else because it is quite noticeable to me. There was a club I used to teach at that had a cliental that was predominantly single people. I soon became surprised with the catty comments I would hear, and the dirty looks members would shoot at other participants in the class. If someone was in class who did not appear to be physically fit, more than likely they would cause the members around them to get a look of disdain on their faces. A prime example was a guy who was large in stature; he was over 6 feet tall and well over 200 pounds. He had some tone to him and from participating in my classes, he built up his aerobic capacity to the point where he could get thru the whole class. ONE DAY A MAN CAME INTO THE aerobic studio to participate in my class. I took him to be a weightlifter because he was extremely cut with prominent muscles sticking out from his torso and limbs. You should have seen the face of this weightlifter when the big member came in and stood near him. It was obvious to me he was judging the guy, thinking this large person would not be able to handle the class. Boy, was he wrong because not only did the larger member plow thru my workout regiment, he finished it. The weightlifter had to stop frequently to catch his breath. I had to assume he spent most time at the health club lifting weights instead of doing something with aerobics. The larger member had no clue that this guy standing near him had judged him solely on his looks, assuming there was no way he could do aerobics. I would be lying if I did not tell you I was amused by the weightlifter’s look of disbelief towards the larger man. It really goes to show you that one should never judge someone solely on their looks; because there are times where your assumptions could get you in trouble. Proof can be found in this dramatic, crime thriller. HAVING NOTHING IN COMMON EXCEPT THEY each lost their husband; a group of widows were forced to work together to survive the fallout from their husbands’ actions. Starring Viola Davis (Fences, The Help) as Veronica, Michelle Rodriguez (Fast & Furious franchise, Lost-TV) as Linda, Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby, Guardians of the Galaxy franchise) as Alice, Liam Neeson (The Commuter, Taken franchise) as Harry Rawlings and Colin Farrell (The Beguiled, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) as Jack Mulligan; if nothing else, just watching these women act was a privilege. Viola was outstanding, and I was surprised with Elizabeth’s performance. The story had twists and turns in it, though it took some time before things started to pick up and move the story forward. I thought there were a few predictable scenes, but the wonderful direction kept things exciting for me. Filmed in Chicago, I was aware how scenes went from beauty to being gritty and back; adding to the texture of the script. There have been other crime heist films made before, but I was thoroughly brought into these females’ plights and stayed with them for the entire trip. Please do not solely judge this movie by its marketing; there is more here than meets the eye.
3 ¼ stars
PACKING up my homemade treats, looking over my predictions with the list of winners, using eyes that were strained and tired from staring at the television screen for hours; I was ready to go to bed. Another year is now in the record books for a lot of reasons. Of course the biggest surprise was the mixup for the last category, best picture. Reading and hearing about the different theories on the how and why it happened did not provide me with answers to a couple of simple questions. Assuming Warren Beatty has all of his mental faculties, I just do not understand why he did not say he had the wrong card. It was obvious to me he was flustered, looking back to the side stage and around; he did not know what to do. Of all things then why would he throw Faye Dunaway under the bus. He could have whispered in her ear to see if she agreed, but since the surveys said La La Land was going to win, Faye possibly saw that on the card first instead of Emma Stone’s name when he showed her. The two of them knew they were giving out the best picture award, wouldn’t seeing Emma Stone’s name on the card be the first clue something was wrong and it would be perfectly okay to say so? This is just my opinion.
THE opening was refreshing to me. Since host Jimmy Kimmel is not a song and dance type of comedian like Billy Crystal, I liked the way Justin Timberlake sang his Oscar nominated song which loosened up the audience. Because of this, I felt the crowd gave off less of “aren’t we great, idolize us” vibe and more of an earthiness if you will. In fact, I thought Jimmy did a wonderful job in being down to earth. He avoided the mean spiritedness that some jokes could have taken on while he kept things moving on. The candy drop and the busload of tourists were my favorite segments, though the Matt Damon feud thing was more outrageous on the big stage. My favorite part was when Jimmy was conducting the orchestra to drown out Matt during his presentation.
MAYBE it is me but I thought the speeches were shorter this year and surprisingly were more personal when politics was brought into them. My favorite speeches of the night came from Viola Davis and the reading of writer and director Asghar Farhadi’s acceptance speech. Viola was so passionate and sincere, I loved how she talked about actors taking on the lives for those who no longer can speak. I laughed at Jimmy’s comment that she would be nominated for an Emmy with her speech. As for Asghar’s speech, I had just seen his winning film The Salesman the afternoon prior to the show and appreciated his thoughtfulness and heartfelt words. Gael Garcia Bernal was one of the presenters that touched the perfect balance of personal without the hate. Speaking of presenters I felt Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae were lovely while on stage as they brought out Katherine G. Johnson, the NASA mathematician that Taraji portrayed on screen. It was such a touching moment.
EVEN with the long telecast, as I reclined across my sofa my desire to be a seat filler was just as strong today as it has been all the past years. Just once I want to be part of the red carpet pre show activities, the ceremony and just be able to walk around and soak up the whole atmosphere of the event. With that said it has been a year of ups and downs with movies. I feel I saw more poorly done films than wonderful ones; but I would not trade a minute of it since I still love the whole movie watching experience and the ability to write down my thoughts to share with you. So tomorrow we will start all over for the new Oscar year in search of that 4 star picture. I look forward to another year talking and commenting on the movies with you. Thank you for all of your support, I deeply appreciate it.
ONE’S former days of glory either chain the individual to the past or can springboard them forward through the future. I have experienced this with a particular style of aerobics I used to teach in my classes. Years after I was no longer doing the class, members would still come up to me to talk about the class, wishing it would come back on the schedule. This particular class took a lot of preparation to teach and provided a lot of fun for me and the members. I possibly could have gone a few more years teaching this particular class; however, I knew with the advancement I was achieving at my day job I would not be able to devote the proper amount of time to keep that class going at the level it needed. Now I have seen at some clubs where instructors find a niche and excel in it, but after a couple of years they devote less time to keep it fresh and fun. It is as if they use their success to coast through their other classes. THIS is not unique to the fitness world; wasn’t it just recently I heard about a well known singer, who was successful early in her career, having a poor performance involving lip synching her own song? It is similar to some of those old musical acts that used to perform in huge stadiums during their heyday but presently perform at a small hotel nightclub or local festival. Now I am not saying they should not make a living; but if they are using nostalgia to draw a crowd because they cannot perform as well as before, I have a hard time justifying spending money to see them. Why would I want to hear a singer who can no longer carry the tune to their own song? Maybe it is just me but sitting and dwelling on one’s past successes in my opinion doesn’t allow the person to live in the present; I saw it taking place in this powerful drama. TROY Maxson, played by Denzel Washington (Safe House, Man on Fire), knew he would have been a great baseball player if he had been given the chance. His frustrations not only had an effect on him but the people around him. Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play written by August Wilson (The Piano Lesson, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone), this film festival winner was directed by Denzel and filmed in a way to match the stage version which Denzel and Viola Davis (Suicide Squad, Doubt) as Rose Maxson performed on Broadway. With Jovan Adepo (The Leftovers-TV) as Cory Maxson and Stephen Henderson (Manchester by the Sea, Tower Heist) as Jim Bono; the acting was outstanding overall; but for me, Viola was beyond amazing. She will be nominated for an Oscar and could easily get it for this performance. The story set in Pittsburgh during the 1950s did a beautiful job of depicting the attitudes of the times and set the viewer up for a couple of surprises. Even at times where I thought the pacing of the story slowed, the acting was so intense that I barely acknowledged this minor negative for me. This is a film to see especially if you enjoy catching the movies that will be nominated this awards season.
3 ½ stars
Maybe if it was the only thing I had known I would feel different about it. But I have compared items and know the difference. I do not want to come off as being a snob; I have actually matched up name brand products to their generic versions and there are times where the two are not the same. For example I have bought both a name brand and generic version of raisins. Taste wise there was not much difference; however, there was with the size of the generic one. They were smaller and not as plump. Normally this would be no big deal but they don’t look as good when used for baking. Another example is yogurt; now here there was a major contrast. The generic brand I tried never got smooth after stirring it; soft clumps of congealed yogurt remained in the container, yuck. Now there are items that I think are the same whether they are a store’s brand or name brand. I know that many times the same manufacturer is making both kinds. When I look at the nutritional label for both brands of vitamins they are identical; as far as I can tell the only difference is the price. The same results apply to spices; I cannot tell the difference from the ones I have compared. You may be sitting there and wondering why I am talking about this topic for today’s movie review. I was thinking about it right after this film was done playing. You see I was questioning myself to see if I would have the same initial feeling about this film if I had never seen the superhero movies from that other studio that produces them. Read ahead if you wish to see my answer. AMANDA Waller, played by Viola Davis (The Help, Doubt), was the tough boss of a top secret government program. She had to be because her program involved the worst of the worst imprisoned super villains. This action adventure movie was a massive introduction to the characters from the DC comic world. Starring Will Smith (Concussion, Men in Black franchise) as Deadshot, Margot Robbie (The Legend of Tarzan, The Wolf of Wall Street) as Harley Quinn and Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club, Mr. Nobody) as the Joker; the 1st half of the film was devoted to us meeting these characters. There were several others but I prefer not wasting space on listing them. The breakout star to this picture was Margot Robbie; as far as I was concerned she had the best lines and the most interesting character. I knew about Jared Leto’s acting style of remaining in character even when he is not being filmed, but the poorly written script turned his performance into a mediocre blandness. This film would satisfy the tween segment with all the fights and destruction. As for creating an entertaining movie experience this movie lacked in key areas like humor, character development and visual effects. The story never felt cohesive to me, which could be attributed to poor editing and directing. I am sad to say compared to other superhero movies this one was a generic one. An extra scene in the middle of the ending credits.
1 3/4 stars
Some of the strongest individuals I have ever met did not have a large amount of physical strength. There were some events that could not be fixed with just the person’s brawn. Teaching in a health club I am constantly exposed to people who test themselves with a variety of weights and cardiovascular machines. Slow and steady they work to increase the amount of weight or duration of their aerobic activity. Essentially everything is under their control which to me makes it easier to build up one’s strength. What demands a tougher strength are affairs of the heart that involve some type of tragic event. Sad occasions weigh the heart down, slowing down its beats, causing the body to buckle under the weight of gravity. I remember a time where my eyes were constantly replenishing water tanks that kept spilling tears over my face, keeping it red and raw. My brain could barely retain any of the images my eyes captured; it felt like my head was turning into an abandoned cold storage locker. Every thought had the life sucked out of it as my heart continued its slide towards a sludge of darkness. At the time I thought my heart would never strike a cheerful chord, but I underestimated it. The heart truly is the strongest muscle in the body. STAGNATION and heaviness was where Conor Ludlow and Eleanor Rigby, played by James McAvoy (X-Men franchise, The Last King of Scotland) and Jessica Chastain (Mama, Lawless), found themselves in their relationship. Remembering what they once had, they could not tell if their hearts would be strong enough to get them through and bring them back to what they once had. This film festival winning drama had a couple of extraordinary actors, Jessica and James, who were able to bare real raw emotions. They really stood out in the cast which also included Viola Davis (Beautiful Creatures, The Help) as Professor Friedman and William Hurt (Into the Wild, A History of Violence) as Julian Rigby. A bit of a surprise was seeing Bill Hader (The Skeleton Twins, Her) as Stuart; he has been making smart film choices since leaving Saturday Night Live. With such a strong cast I am sad to say the script and the direction killed any hope of making this movie a powerful piece. This film was a combination of 2 previous movies, from Eleanor’s and Conor’s perspectives called Her and Him. I had to wonder if what was left on the cutting room floor would have helped this film from being a drag. It took a while for me to get into this picture. When I thought about it, it was strange to feel heavy during the movie but it was not coming from my heart.
2 1/2 stars
Music provides the means to describe one’s life with a different set of adjectives. Songs are the milestone markers during the journey. I cannot remember a time where I did not have music in my life. Anytime I hear Beethoven’s 5th Symphony I am transported back to the time I was 4 years old and taken to my 1st outdoor concert, where we sat on long brown painted benches in the cool autumn air. How many of us hear a particular song that squeezes a small tear out of our heart, reminding us of a love long gone? There are so many songs in the jukebox of my mind that bring a specific date in time to the forefront of my thoughts. I cannot imagine there being a person who does not experience an emotion or feeling when they hear music. Besides the personal aspects of music there is another side that becomes political. Throughout history songs have been used to define significant moments; such as a protest, a battle, a rally or even defining a generation. One of the things I love most about musicians is the fact they can be classically trained or simply be born with the gift of music. GODFATHER of Soul was the label given to the man in this biographical film and aptly so, for his raw talent was something that came with him when he was born into this world. Chadwick Boseman (Draft Day, 42) portrayed the iconic performer James Brown. This dramatic musical movie covered James from a childhood of extreme poverty through the time where he was called the “Hardest Working Man in Show Business.” The cast included Viola Davis (Ender’s Game, Prisoners) as his mother Susie Brown, Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station, The Help) as Aunt Honey, Nelsan Ellis (Secretariat, True Blood-TV) as Bobby Byrd and Dan Aykroyd (Trading Places, Behind the Candelabra-TV) as his manager Ben Bart. All of them were strong with their characters; they needed to be since Chadwick was outstanding as the sweating, fleet-footed James Brown. Familiar with a good portion of James’ life, this film tried to cover the different aspects of it but skimmed over the darkest chapters. The main issue with this film was the way the story jumped around chronologically. I felt I never got the chance to absorb the full effect of what I was watching on the screen. With things jumping back and forth, the film started to feel like a series of quick vignettes. Since I am fond of music, the musical numbers were outstanding in this picture or maybe I should say groovy. Whether or not one is a fan of James’ music; the fact remains this man was monumental in paving the way for future generations to get their groove on.
2 3/4 stars
One of the only benefits I felt for not being part of any school clique was the opportunity to observe the groups’ leaders. The athletic jocks were led by one of the most skilled athletes in our school. No one would dare cross him for 2 important reasons: 1. His group had some of the strongest and largest students from our school and 2. The football team was leading in their division. Another clique was referred to as the “Druggies.” They consisted of students who enjoyed and used recreational drugs, even during school hours. The only time there would be any issue involving them would be if an aggressive member from another group wanted to make some type of statement to members of his or her own group, by beating up one of the “Druggies.” The group that fascinated me the most was the one known as the “Brainiacs.” Its members were some of the smartest students in our school. Their leader was so smart because their identity was never revealed to the rest of the student body. For the most part no one picked on this group’s members. I had only heard rumors of the type of retaliations this group was capable of inflicting on anyone who messed with them. To me, I found it brilliant that the leader did not need to make their role in the group known to the public. It appeared they worked equally within the group and to me that was the sign of a true leader. Having read the book that this science fiction adventure movie was based on, I was already familiar with the story about Ender Wiggin, played by Asa Butterfield (Hugo, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas). Ender was being groomed to lead a new generation of young adult soldiers against a race of alien beings that nearly devastated earth. It was up to Colonel Graff and Major Gwen Anderson, played by Harrison Ford (Firewall, 42) and Viola Davis (Prisoners, Won’t Back Down), to determine if Ender had the skills to be a leader and defeat the aliens. After seeing the movie Gravity, I was disappointed with the special effects in this action film. They were okay but did not dazzle me. The acting was average for the most part; nothing really stood out, though I enjoyed Asa’s performance the best. Maybe I am comparing this movie to the book, but the story seemed rushed to me. The dynamics in Ender’s family was kept to a quick surface level and the part that interested me the most, concerning morality, was brief. My guess would be the sequel will possibly address those issues.
2 3/4 stars