WATCHING HOW PEOPLE LIVE THEIR DAILY lives has always been one of the main attractions for me when I travel out of state. Whether I am in a large metropolitan area or a remote small town, there is always something new I learn. Recently I was on a road trip through three northwestern states. While driving on a two-lane highway through mountainous terrain, I spotted something ahead on the road. As I got closer I realized it was a pack of dogs. I had to quickly slow down as I realized the dogs were not moving off the road; it was as if they were using themselves as a blockade across the pavement. There was no choice; I had to come to a complete stop. The dogs walked around my car while looking up at the car windows. For the life of me I could not figure out what was going on, especially since none of the dogs had a collar. I had no idea; were they just wild dogs? Slowly I started to apply the gas, letting the car creep forward. The dogs followed me. Finally, there was a break in the circle; so, I picked up speed to break away from the dogs. They chased me for a moment before stopping and turning their attention to the car behind me. WHEN I REACHED MY DESTINATION, I stopped for a bite to eat. While looking for a local restaurant I noticed there seemed to be an abundance of dogs milling about; some sleeping on park benches, others freely walking down the roads. It was the weirdest thing to me. After finding a place to eat and settling into my seat, I asked the waitress, when she came up to me, about all the loose dogs around. She explained in some cultures dogs were used for transportation, companionship, hunting and food; they were somewhat revered. Because of this the people in the area tend to let their dogs roam free, refusing to put a collar or leash on them. I told her about my experience with the pack of dogs on the highway; she was not surprised. She said because some drivers will toss food out their car windows to feed the dogs, they have learned to slow cars down with the intention of getting fed. I was taken aback with this story, thinking about all the possible hazards that could take place. Though I was happy to find out the reason for the loose dogs, I was glad I was just visiting the area. I cannot say the same for the place depicted in this dramatic, mystery film. A GROUP OF FRIENDS TRAVEL TO a remote area in Sweden to delve into the culture and traditions of a small community’s festivities. Everything seemed idyllic until the traditions started to take on a darker tone. With Florence Pugh (Fighting with my Family, The Commuter) as Dani, Jack Reynor (Free Fire, Glassland) as Christian, William Jackson Harper (True Story, Paterson) as Josh, Vilhelm Blomgren (The Days of Flowers Bloom-TV mini-series, Gosta-TV) as Pelle and Will Poulter (Detroit, We’re the Millers) as Mark; this horror movie piqued my interest at the beginning. I thought the cast was good and the scenes were interesting. However, as time went on I felt the story dragging. And with it clocking in at nearly 2 ½ hours, this picture was testing me. There were some scenes that were lovely to look at, but then something odd or horrific would take place. Despite having several interesting concepts/themes in the story, I did not find the picture as a whole very entertaining. If my travels took me near this area I would probably not stop for a visit.
THESE ARE JUST MY OBSERVATIONS BASED on the people I have encountered; I am not judging any of them, only fascinated with their perceptions of life. This is what I have seen: people who are born into wealth have a different outlook of the real world. One of the first things I noticed was everything is disposable to them. Where I will try to repair something that is broken, they will throw it away and buy another one. If I had this type of mentality, a quarter of the things in my house would be tossed out into the garbage. I do not know if I have the right to say these individuals lack a sense of appreciation for everything they have, but I have seen several occasions where perfectly good things that could be easily repaired, even by me, get trashed as if they were used tissue being tossed into the garbage. Another aspect I find interesting is their choice of cars. It seems to me they buy their cars based on name brand instead of comfort; though I guess the more expensive a car the more it is geared for comfort. I knew someone who never test drove the car before purchasing it; they would only sit in it for a minute while in the showroom then make a decision. IT SEEMS TO ME AS IF wealthy individuals lack the understanding of what the average person deals with on a daily basis. Maybe this example will explain it and keep in mind this was before car sharing was available. When I was explaining to a person that I take public transportation to the airport to avoid paying the parking garage rates to leave my car, they asked why I didn’t just take a limo instead. I had to explain to them that would defeat the purpose of saving money by not taking my car. They thought it was too much of an inconvenience to go through all of that when one could easily order a limousine. Does this help explain what I am trying to say? There was another individual who chided me for my choice of restaurants when I need a quick meal. They could not believe I would “waste” my money by eating at a fast-casual place; to them, they compared it to me being fed dog food. Can you believe it? So, therefore I feel people born into wealth have a different set of tools in dealing with everyday life. See for yourself in this dramatic, mystery horror film. DR. FARADAY, PLAYED BY DOMHNALL Gleeson (Peter Rabbit, About Time) had not been in the mansion since he was a little boy; but upon his arrival strange things began to happen. With Ruth Wilson (Saving Mr. Banks, Dark River) as Caroline Ayres, Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, Never Let Me Go) as Mrs. Ayres, Will Poulter (Detroit, We’re the Millers) as Roderick Ayers and Josh Dylan (Allied, Mama Mia! Here We Go Again) as Bland; this movie was all about the atmosphere of the settings. The camera angles, the sets, the acting; all were done to create this spooky environment. The acting from everyone was wonderful; but once again, the script was the weak spot. I thought the story dragged through the first half and because the film is being labeled a horror movie, I thought it would have some level of scariness; it did not. Instead there was some suspense, but the writers and director could have really made this picture one intense suspenseful piece of work. There was an old decaying mansion, a troubled family and a small-town doctor; this was a perfect set-up, especially with the fine actors. Instead, I found an odd mix of events that was not engaging me.
2 ¼ stars
PEOPLE REFER TO THEM AS their posse, entourage, gal pals, buddies or a variety of other descriptions. I describe them as my circle of friends or inner circle. These are your group of friends you are close with, who you hang out with the most. There is a small group of friends I have a standing date with where we all get together once every three months. We might get together individually or for some special event between the dates, but we at least know we are guaranteed of seeing each other at a set point in time. However you refer to your friends we all experience something in common and that is what I refer to as an easy comfort. When I am with my group of friends we rarely have to explain our actions or feelings about something because all of us know immediately how each one of us would react in a situation. I find this communication shorthand, if you will, keeps the special bond we feel between us on even keel. THE SAME CAN BE SAID about your coworkers who share that same connection you do with them. In fact I recently read a statistic that was surprising for me: 56% of employees say they would turn down a better job offer because they did not want to leave their “work family.” Don’t you find that statistic interesting? I know for some of us we spend more time with our “work family” than our actual one. Now one thing I have noticed in common between the “work family” and your group of friends is how it doesn’t work the same when someone is not there. The analogy I use is that it feels like a three legged stool with a leg missing. There is a certain type of energy a close group of friends or coworkers feel among themselves that assists in keeping the bonds between everyone strong. When one person is missing it can throw the rest of the group off. If you need to see proof, feel free to see the last of this film’s franchise. IF THOMAS, PLAYED BY Dylan O’Brien (Deepwater Horizon, Teen Wolf), and his friends wanted to get back their friend Minho, played by Ki Hong Lee (Wish Upon, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt-TV), they would have to enter into one of the most dangerous mazes they have ever encountered. Chances were they still might not all get back together. This action, science fiction thriller also starred Kaya Scodelario (Now is Good, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) as Teresa, Thomas Brodie Sangster (Love Actually, Nanny McPhee) as Newt and Aidan Gillen (The Lovers, Game of Thrones-TV) as Janson. Having seen the 2 previous installments I found this one was packed with a lot of action scenes. On the one hand I appreciated the fact the movie studio did not decide to split this story into 2 separate films, but this movie still was overstuffed in my opinion. It needed some editing to reduce the 2 hour and 20 minute running time. Another issue I had was the action scenes; after the intense first one, the others did not quite match in intensity. However the story did its part to keep me interested for the most part, though when there were “gun battles” I was amazed how the “bad” guys were incredibly bad shots. After watching this picture it occurred to me I did not feel I was part of the characters’ inner circle; I was more of an acquaintance.
2 ½ stars
HATE DOES NOT discriminate or it just has poor aim. I was standing outside with a group of people who came from diverse backgrounds. We were talking and laughing while deciding where we wanted to go eat. A vehicle driving down the street slowed as it neared us, not that any of us were paying attention to it. A beer bottle flew out the window at us before the vehicle sped away. Luckily no one got hit with glass as it shattered in front of us on the sidewalk, but a couple of people were splashed with beer. There was no reason for it; it wasn’t like we were provoking anyone. You could say it was a random act of violence but I would not believe it. I felt some of the people in our group were the target because I caught a glance of the vehicle’s bumper where there was a sticker. Maybe I was wrong for not mentioning it but I did not want anyone to feel worse or different than anyone else. THE THING THAT puzzles me about hatred is how it gets formed in a person. Having been the victim of both acts of hatred and bullying, I have tried to understand the prejudicial mind or let me say bigot. Why does the life of a complete stranger, who has had no contact with you or whose actions have no bearing on your well being, affect you in such a way to lash out at them? I have thought about this for years; in fact, I still remember a story I heard about a family friend who hated a particular minority group. The reason was because his brother was murdered by an individual of the same minority; that was it. That is one of the reasons why I say hate does not discriminate. I used to think hatred was this laser focused emotion that targeted only a single individual, but it appears to me as if that focus has widened to engulf anyone in its path or intent. And especially when the person filled with hatred is in a position of power it can become intensely lethal. This film’s story is based on true events, so you can see what I mean. THE TIMES WERE volatile as racial tensions rose in the city of Detroit during the late 1960s. From a single sound of a gun going off the guests of the hotel Algiers were subjected to a night of terror. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker), this historical crime drama starred John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Circle) as Dismukes, Will Poulter (We’re the Millers, The Revenant) as Krauss, Jacob Latimore (Sleight, The Maze Runner) as Fred and Algee Smith (Earth to Echo, The New Edition Story-TV) as Larry. The majority of this movie was filled with heightened tension and anxiety; I was mortified by the things I was seeing on screen thanks to Kathryn’s eye for detail and buildup. She did an incredible job as this picture felt part documentary, part reenactment. The acting from John Boyega and Will Poulter was outstanding. I swear John reminded me of a young Denzel Washington; it was amazing to see him in this role and to see the depth of his acting skills. The same has to be said for Will too. There was a bit of manipulation I felt where the violence and human ugliness were used to move the audience members. Despite feeling that way I still was affected by the story. A majority of people might feel uncomfortable sitting through this film and that would be a good thing.
3 ½ stars
The far reaching white expanse was marred by deep fissures that revealed touches of crystal blue running water. It almost looked like the ice had tears rolling down due to the frigid temperatures. The brightness reflecting off of all this ice made it difficult to shoot photos from my perch inside the helicopter. Once we landed on the ice I had the opportunity to take pictures but only if I left the warmth, comparatively speaking, from inside the chopper. As I stepped outside the still, frigid air settled on me like a bear hug. I felt my blood reversing course to go back and protect my internal organs, leaving my extremities to stiffen up from the cold. To take pictures I had to remove my gloves and I knew my fingers would quickly turn to rock solid stumps. The only way I cold function was to quickly snap multiple photos at a single time, alternating with the taking off and putting on of my bulky gloves. I grew up in a place that had 4 seasons, so I was used to the winter months; however here in Alaska, the cold seemed more intense. Maybe it was because there were no man made structures around just wide open spaces with the occasional rolled up snow drifts and broken ice chunks. Where I was visiting in Alaska there were no human inhabitants; I could not even imagine human life venturing to this area. Pristine and untouched, yet silently able to extinguish life with its icy breath it was all the more reason why I found this dramatic adventure film something special. CLOSE to death from a bear attack Hugh Glass, played by Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception, The Departed), was determined to stay alive in the unforgiving cold frontier. He had a special reason to reunite with his expedition. Inspired by true events this thriller was a monumental production. Included in the cast was Tom Hardy (Legend, Mad Max: Fury Road) as John Fitzgerald, Will Poulter (We’re the Millers, The Maze Runner) as Bridger and Domhnall Gleeson (About Time, Ex Machina) as Captain Andrew Henry; everyone deserved extra credit for the contribution they made to this incredible film. Both the directing and cinematography were outstanding. I especially admired the camera angles that were used in the shooting of multiple scenes. Honestly I do not know how the cast and crew survived such a long film shoot in such an inhospitable locale. There were a few cringeworthy scenes that included blood; I found myself squirming in my seat. Set in the 1820s this was a raw yet beautiful picture; the original soundtrack was a perfect accompaniment. At one point I had to keep reminding myself that the film studio would not want to lose anyone to the brutal elements so there had to be some protection set up for everyone. I have to tell you watching this film was like a workout for me; bundled up in my seat staring and cringing in disbelief.
3 1/2 stars
Have you ever been introduced to someone and a red flag went off in your head that something was just not right? It happens to me periodically. When a close friend introduced a friend of hers to me, my radar went off when he told me he had heard I was a fitness instructor and he was one also. Asking him what type of classes and where he taught, his answers were vague. I started to get the feeling he was not telling me the truth and wondered if he was being honest with my friend, who was interested in him romantically. When she later asked me for my opinion I was honest with her and told her to be careful. It turned out this guy constantly lied to her, so any romantic seeds she had were quickly killed. People withhold the truth or lie for many reasons, just look at the cast in this movie. More than likely you will be glad they were fibbing because you will be laughing at them. Jason Sudeikis (The Campaign, Hall Pass) played drug dealer David Clark. Forced to take a job smuggling marijuana across the border from Mexico, David came up with a plan to turn himself into an RV driving dad on a road trip. Jason’s style of sarcastic humor played well with his role in this comedy. With Jennifer Aniston (Wanderlust, Horrible Bosses) playing Rose O’Reilly as his fake wife, there was Emma Roberts (Wild Child, Nancy Drew) and Will Poulter (Son of Rambow, Wild Bill) as Casey Mathis and Kenny Rossmore, the couple’s pretend children. The four of them created a workable and funny family to watch. I found the script did not provide any surprises; it was easy to see where scenes would go. However, there were parts where I laughed out loud. At a couple of points the story steered towards sentimental drama, but kept things light and brief before retreating back to the humor of the situation. I was concerned the trailers were showing the best parts of this movie; however, it turned out this comedy of crime was good for some easy laughs. Strong language was used throughout the film and a brief scene had a glimpse of blood in it.
2 2/3 stars