Film Review: “Alita: Battle Angel”


ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL
Starring: Rosa Salazar and Christoph Waltz
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 2hrs 2 mins
20th Century Fox

 BREAKING NEWS: James Cameron movies are generally more about style over substance. As a screenwriter, his simplistic scripts often play second fiddle to grandiose special effects. A bright, shining example would be 2009’s “Avatar,” which was a fantastic 3D experience that sugar-coated a “Dances with Wolves” meets “Braveheart” storyline. (I can hear someone shouting, “Aren’t you forgetting ‘Titanic?’” Sorry, 14 Oscar nominations but none for screenplay.) Apparently, you can’t teach an old screenwriter any new techniques because Cameron’s latest producer/writing endeavor, “Alita: Battle Angel” is all about shock and awe but lacks a soul. 

The story is set in the year 2563 where a dystopian society exists after a mysterious war called “The Fall” has wiped out much of Earth’s population. All we know that is left is a trash heap of a town known as Iron City, which sits directly below Earth’s last floating city – Zalem. Iron City is literally the junk yard for the wealthy Zalem and it is there where mild-mannered Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Bastards,” “Django Unchained”) finds a disembodied female cyborg with a living brain still intact. 

How this cyborg ended up in the trash is a mystery, but nevertheless Dr. Ido rebuilds the cyborg and names her Alita (Rosa Salazar, “Maze Runner”) after his deceased daughter. Alita, a bright-eyed child with no memory of her past, soon befriends Hugo (Keean Johnson, “Nashville”), a teenage street hustler with dreams of getting enough money to buy his way into Zalem. It is through him that Alita is introduced to the violent sport of Motorball, which resembles a souped-up version of 2002’s “Rollerball.” 

Thanks to Dr. Ido’s side job as a Hunter-Warrior, which is a fancy title for bounty hunter, Alita becomes exposed to a part of Iron City that leads her on a path to realizing her full potential, which involves a United Republics of Mars berserker battle suit. We are given scant background information about all of this except that there was a whole lot of fighting and some guy named Nova sees all atop his perch in Zalem, which sounds like an over-the-counter sleep medication. Of course, everything leads to a resounding conclusion as the unknown underdog attempts to overcome all odds. How original! 

Directed by Robert Rodgriguez (“Sin City,” “Spy Kids”), someone else who is often more about style over substance, “Alita” stylistically is pleasing to watch and there is plenty of action to fill your plate. It doesn’t hurt that the cast contains three Academy Award winners including Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, who plays Dr. Ido’s estranged wife, and Mahershala Ali as Alita’s primary nemesis. They all give a level of gravitas that would have otherwise sunk the film faster than if it was struck by an iceberg in the north Atlantic. While their lines are often unimaginative and cliched, the cast delivers them with such polish that you almost forget how blasé it is. 

For pure popcorn flare, “Alita: Battle Angel” does provide some fun for your time at the theater thanks to its talented cast and visual effects. Don’t expect a satisfying climax though as it sets itself up for a sequel, which may not happen if it cannot at least recuperate its massive production costs. Don’t worry though, you will get to see more James Cameron epics as more “Avatars” are set to be released.


 

Film Review – “Isn’t it Romantic”

ISN’T IT ROMANTIC
Starring:  Rebel Wilson, Adam Divine and Liam Hemsworth
Directed by:  Todd Strauss-Shulson
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  1 hr 26 mins
Warner Bros.

Natalie (Wilson) isn’t sure about a lot of things.  A skilled architect, she is treated more as a gopher by others in her office instead of a valuable asset.  One thing she is sure about?  She hates romantic comedies,which her assistant (Betty Gilpin) constantly watches at her desk.  One night, while battling a mugger, Natalie is knocked unconscious.  When she comes to, she discovers that her life has changed. And she’s not happy.

A winning comedy built around the chemistry of its stars, “Isn’t it Romantic” is a fun time at the movies.  Much of the fun comes from trying to pick out all of the rom-com tropes that Natalie dislikes yet is now experiencing.  Handsome suitor?  Check. Overly-gay best buddy? Check.  Killer karaoke chops?  Yes, sir. The more she learns the more frustrated Natalie gets.  And when she learns that every time she tries to use the “F” word she is overridden by the sound of a honking horn, she is horrified that the world she is now living in is only rated PG 13.

With two of the “Pitch Perfect” films behind them, Wilson and Adam Divine have built an amazing rapport, and it shows on the screen. Hemsworth is quite charming and Bollywood star Priyamnka Chopra is both funny and beautiful!  The story moves quickly (the film is less than 90 minutes long) and makes a nice Valentines gift for that special someone.  Unless,of course, they hate romantic comedies!

CD Review: Weezer “The Teal Album”

“The Teal Album”
Weezer
Crush Music/ Atlantic Records
Tracks: 10

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Throughout a sold out amphitheater tour in summer 2018, Weezer began working covers into their set, ranging from “Take On Me” by a-ha to “Happy Together” by The Turtles, in addition to their massive cover of “Africa” by Toto, which became a viral and radio sensation upon its release earlier that year. Given the tremendous response to these songs at the shows, the band was inspired to put together a covers album — and thus WEEZER (THE TEAL ALBUM) WAS BORN!

Surely a high light for anyone who attended Weezer’s summer tour which featured the band intermingling their own list of hit songs with classic rock staples such as Black Sabbath “Paranoid” and the new wave esque “Take On Me” all set against a bombastic stage show complete with fire, lights and a boat…Yes a boat! Well for fans that really enjoyed the live experience of those songs they now have the chance to own what is being dubbed “The Teal Album”. The album features all the covers heard on this summer’s tour in studio form along with a handful of other songs that will take listeners back to their younger years. From The Eurythmics hit “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” to TLC’s “No Scrubs” the ten song collection covers a number of musical era’s and genres. Though I would have liked the band to put a little bit more of their own spin on the tracks instead of sticking to the songs original sound they album was still an enjoyable listen.

If you were the guy or girl who couldn’t go with your friends to see Weezer when they were in town who in turn got stuck listening to all the stories about what you missed, you can now get somewhat caught up and at least hear the music. Weezer’s “The Teal Album” is a solid listen and the perfect album to tide you over until the March release of the bands new studio album (queue the Spinal Tap jokes) “The Black Album” which we be released March 1st followed by a Co-headlining tour with The Pixies starting March 8th in Louisville, KY.

Track Listing:
1.) Africa
2.) Everybody Wants to Rule the World
3.) Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
4.) Take On Me
5.) Happy Together
6.) Paranoid
7.) Mr. Blue Sky
8.) No Scrubs
9.) Billie Jean
10.) Stand By Me

Film Review – “In Like Flynn”

IN LIKE FLYNN
Starring:  Thomas Cocquerel, Clive Standen and Corey Large
Directed by:  Russell Mulcahy
Rated:  R
Running time:  1 hr 46 mins
Blue Fox Entertainment

Fletcher Christian.  Peter Blood.  Robin Hood.  "Gentleman" Jim Corbett.   All of
these men had great adventures on the big screen.  But none of them were as 
exciting as the early adventures of the actor who portrayed them, Errol Flynn.  Some
of those adventures are on display in the new film, "In Like Flynn."

The film begins in New Guinea in 1930.  There we find Flynn (Cocquerel) 
leading a film producer (Daniel Fogler), his cameraman and some helpers 
through the jungle, looking for images to be used in an upcoming film.  Their
presence upsets the local tribesmen and soon the group is fleeing for its life,
with Flynn repeatedly saving their hides.  When they are successfully back
at their camp, the producer tells Flynn he needs to come to Hollywood.  But
Flynn has other plans.

I've always been fascinated by the back-stories of people.  What incidents from 
their past led them to their present.  If "In Like Flynn," which is based in part
from some of Flynn's writings,is to be believed, the roles he would later play
were boring compared to his life experiences.  Sailing the oceans.  Hunting 
for gold.  And, in true Flynn fashion, a big hit with the ladies, the film portrays him
as a real life Indiana Jones.  He lived for adventure.

The cast is first rate.  As Flynn, Cocquerel has the good looks that made
the Tazmanian Devil a star.  More importantly, he captures the spirit with
which Flynn approached every day of his life.  No matter the circumstances,
you can always see the gleam of mischief in his eyes.  As his best friend and
fellow adventurer, Rex, Corey Large (who also produced and co-wrote the film) is
equally good.  The two actors make a great team and their chemistry keeps the
film moving.  Also keeping the film moving is the fluid direction of Russell Mulcahy.
Mulcahy, who turned a brilliant career making music videos (his video for "Video
Killed the Radio Star" was the first ever shown on MTV) into Hollywood 
features, among them "Highlander" and "Ricochet."  Even after four decades 
behind the camera it's clear that he hasn't lost his talent for taking viewers
on a visual adventure.    And it's one I highly recommend you take.                

Film Review – “Cold War”

COLD WAR
Starring: Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot
Directed by: Pawel Pawlikowski
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 HR 29 mins
Amazon Studios 


Nominated for three Academy Awards (Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director and Best Cinematography), “Cold War” is an engaging yet tragic period drama that is much deserving of all its accolades.
Shot entirely in black-and-white with English subtitles,
writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski (“Ida”) deftly captures the
brutal essence of communist-controlled Eastern Europe while putting us
on a complicated, 15-year odyssey of obsession.
 
The story begins in 1949 Poland where the scars of a world war
are still fresh. A soft-spoken music director Wiktor (Tomasz Kot, “Gods”)
is tapped to co-helm a school that’s intended to create a group of
talented young people to stage traditional, Polish folk dances. It is during
auditions at the bullet-ridden school that a crafty blonde singer named
Zula (Joanna Kulig, “Pitbull: Tough Women”) catches his eye.  Despite a warning about her troubled past, Wiktor and Zula develop a
secret, passionate love affair.
 
Two years later they have an opportunity to escape their communist
oppressors by crossing into West Berlin, but Zula chickens out while
the brooding Wiktor leaves her behind anyway to go carve out a life as
a jazz pianist in Paris. Even though lovers come and go as the years
pass by, Wiktor still regards Zula as the love of his life. His devotion to
her is so strong that he even risks being sent to a Polish prison when he
travels to Yugoslavia to watch Zula perform.
 
They only reunite when Zula marries an Italian man so she can get out
from behind the Iron Curtain to be with Wiktor. A successful singing
career begins to take shape with Wiktor accompanying her on piano.
However, her jealousy towards other women and her desire to be the
center of attention, especially Wiktor’s, leads Zula to run back to
communist Poland. Wiktor is desperate to follow her but he knows he
will be arrested if he does. It proves to be a fateful test of his devotion to
her.
 
Pawlikowski’s endeavor has all the feel of a film straight out of 1957 as
he channels the bleak repression the peoples of Eastern Europe faced
under Soviet dominance. There is a paranoid sense that there are eyes
everywhere, and in some instances its true. It’s this omnipresent fear he
generates with his script that gives Zula and Wiktor’s relationship a
palpable edginess. Their romance is so much like a careening roller
coaster that it makes it difficult to accurately predict its outcome.
 
Kulig is brilliant as she infuses a sense of instability into Zula. In a
way, you want to yell out in vain to Wiktor to stay away from her,
but his devotion runs so deep that he is beyond help. This obsession is
played with expert subtlety by Kot and skillful direction by Pawlikowski
who keeps the pacing brisk with a short running time. Never mind the
critical darling that is “Roma.” Instead, go see “Cold War.” Trust me,
there’s nothing cold about it.

Film Review – “Clyde Cooper”

CLYDE COOPER
Starring:  Jordi Vilasuso, Abigail Titmuss and Richard Neil
Directed by:  Peter Daskaloff
Not Rated
Running time:  1 hr 21 mins
Souvenir Films

While a man sits sadly on the edge of a bed, two beautiful women begin to experiment with each other.  Suddenly they are interrupted by the sound of a single gunshot.  Thus begins the noir-ish drama “Clyde Cooper.”

A slickly shot mystery, the plot finds the title private investigator (Vilasuso, a staple the past 15-years on various daytime soap operas) being asked to help a smitten gentleman find a woman who, despite only knowing her for a few days, has become, in his mind, THE one.  Cooper takes the case only to discover that there is a lot more going on then meets the eye.  People aren’t who the seem to be and, as the bodies begin to pile up, Cooper discovers a twist in the case that adds a new dimension to the film.

The script, by director Daskaloff, gives Cooper some nice throw-away lines and it’s a credit to Vilasuso’s talent that he comes off as a well intentioned wise ass instead of a boor.  Production credits are strong and whoever came up with the idea of a house with a piano key stairway – one that plays when you’re going up or down – deserves to never be without a job.  An entertaining musical score by Jonathan Price helps keep the action flowing.

Growth Factor Plus vs. Peak Height – Growing Tall Pills Review

Believe it or not, there are plenty of supplements out on the market today that are geared towards helping to make you taller.

Most of these TheHealthReview.com – Height Pills include plenty of essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and other components that work together to help you maximize your height, usually through encouraging additional development of human growth hormone, or HGH.

Two of the most popular options are Peak Height and Growth Factor Plus, which we’ll review, compare, and contrast.

Peak Height

Peak Height includes plenty of essential nutrients. This includes calcium, vitamins D and B12, and essential amino acids L-Arginine and L-Ornithine.

Calcium and vitamin D are vital to bone strengthening and growth, while vitamin B12 largely focuses on bone repair. Both amino acids are all about helping your body produce higher levels of the all-important human growth hormone.

Peak Height includes the exact right amount of each of the above ingredients, among others, and encourages them to work together and with your body to create an environment conducive to growth.

It’s important to note that Peak Height is best used by adolescents — that is, individuals who are at least 10 years of age but still in the midst of puberty. The supplement is designed to encourage bone growth during a period when they’re already growing, and Peak Height includes the perfect mix of ingredients to do just that.

Outside of the age restrictions, the only real potential downside to Peak Height is that you must be sure to not take more than the recommended dosage, as the ingredients are measured out to specific and exact amounts.

Growth Factor Plus

While Peak Height is designed specifically for adolescents, Growth Factor Plus is the opposite and should not be used by anyone under the age of 18.

You’ll find a different ingredient list in Growth Factor Plus, including HGH to supplement your bodies existing store, as well as essential amino acids such as L-Tyrosine, L-Glutamine, and L-Glycine. While you won’t find human growth hormone pills for adolescents, Growth Factor Plus isn’t a straight HGH supplement for adults, either, and is constructed much more carefully to ensure that optimal results are achieved.

Growth Factor Plus works by stimulating osteoclasts and osteoblasts, essential bone cells within your spine. The stimulated cells will help with transforming lengthened cartilage tissue into bone tissue, ultimately increasing the length of the bone.

Again, the only real negative to this supplement is the age restriction and the dosage limits, so be sure that you’re reading everything on the labels of the supplements your considering.

The Verdict

Peak Height and Growth Factor Plus are two very different supplements that both aim to do the same thing.

They have different target age ranges and include plenty of varying ingredients. But this just goes to show us that no matter your age or status in life, you can find a supplement to help you out. And, combined with an improved diet, more sleep, and an increase in exercise, you just might be able to add an inch (or two, or more!) to your frame.

CBD Treats for Dogs & Pets Buying Guide & Review

If you’re here, you’re no doubt a dog lover that absolutely adores your Fido. You also probably know a little bit about CBD, or cannabidiol.

If the latter isn’t true, however, that’s just fine. This guide will be a quick primer on what CBD is, how it can help your beloved pet, and what to look out for when you’re considering purchasing Simply Pets CBD Biscuits.

First, let’s talk about what CBD is all about and why it works so well.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the compounds within the cannabis plant.

First off, it’s important to not confuse CBD with THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the compound that has psychoactive effects and is known for creating a feeling of “highness”. For the record, hemp itself has very low levels of THC. While CBD derived from the marijuana plant will have higher levels, all legitimate pet products that are derived from the hemp plant will carry a note regarding THC levels, which are regulated down to a practically non-existent presence.

CBD is beneficial to dogs,cats, and humans alike. It’s a nontoxic, completely natural solution to a variety of ailments, which we’ll get to in a moment.

What can CBD do for my dog?

The most common reason that pet owners choose a CBD product to give to their pet is general pain or anxiety.

Especially for dogs with significant chronic pain, CBD can be a game changer. This could include neuropathy or nerve-related pain, as well as joint and bone issues. The biggest benefit is related to potential inflammation, which CBD is known for helping to reduce.

Of course, less inflammation invariably leads to less overall pain. And reducing inflammation is the No. 1 thing that CBD products work to do in pets. It isn’t just joints, bones, and external issues,either, but CBD can help with internal organs and other parts of the dog’s body that might be inflamed.

There is even quite a bit of research to suggest that CBD could help fight cancer, and while this hasn’t yet been proven definitively, there are plenty of ancillary benefits.

What should I look for in CBD dog treats?

The majority of CBD dog treats that you’ll find on the market are 100 percent natural, and that’s the first thing to look for as you’re exploring your options. If it isn’t promoted as completely natural, then you’re probably looking at a product that was exposed to pesticides and things of that nature.

You’ll also want to ensure that the product you select has been lab tested. As mentioned earlier, knowing the THC content is vital, too. Make sure that nothing you’re giving your dog has high contents of THC.

And again, the majority of CBD dog treats will have the above traits noted on the packaging but be sure that you’re paying close attention to it.

Are CBD treats the right choice for my dog?

Probably! Of course, these types of decisions are entirely up to you as the pet parent, but there isn’t any research to suggest that CBD dog treats or other CBD products could be harmful to your dog, so why not find a natural, holistic solution to whatever ails your beloved puppy?

Make sure to do all of the research mentioned above and go ahead and get to helping your dog feel better!

Review Guide to Growing Taller & Best Height Growth Pills

Who wouldn’t want to grow taller?

Of course, the best way to go about growing taller is to go through puberty, when your pituitary gland releases those wonderful growth hormones into your bloodstream and you grow taller by entirely natural means.

But if you’re past puberty and still want to augment your height, or even if you’re still going through puberty and want to make sure that you’re maximizing your growth, then we’ve put together this handy guide, just for you!

First, we’ll talk about some relatively easy,natural things you can tweak in your daily routine that will ensure that you’re giving your body every possible opportunity to grow. From diet to posture to exercise, there are probably more things that you can start doing tomorrow to help you get taller than you’d expect.

Then, we’ll look at grow taller pills from an organization helping people increase height, which are supplements that just might help give you that final boost.

What to change tomorrow that will encourage maximum growth

First and foremost, you must do a complete diet audit. While the importance of eating healthy is painfully obvious, there are af ew vitamins and minerals that contribute to creating the best possible environment for your body’s growth hormones to take action.

Vitamins such as vitamin B1 and vitamin D are the two most prominent examples, as well as minerals including calcium,phosphorus, and zinc. Make sure that your diet includes plenty of those — plus eat healthier in general, of course — and you should be in a good spot from a diet perspective.

Exercise is also extremely important, but in addition to just being in better shape and improving your overall health, there are specific exercises that can help accentuate your height and even encourage growth.

From more typical forms of exercise such as swimming that will stretch out your spine to specific stretches aimed at lengthening both your backbone and limbs, including hanging exercises,“superman” stretches, and more, there are plenty of options. In short, just be sure to be intentional with your workouts.

Also, be cognizant of your day-to-day posture. If you sit all day at a desk for school or work, make sure that your challenging yourself to sit up straight with good posture, as well as taking the opportunity to stand and stretch out as much as possible.

Lastly, ensure that you’re getting the adequate amount of sleep. While important at any age — and for a variety of reasons –sleeping at least seven hours per night will help your body release plenty of growth hormones to aid in growth.

Grow taller pills and other supplements to consider

All of the above are potentially swift changes that you can make to your daily routine. If that’s still not enough, you can absolutely look at the variety of supplements available.

Most supplements are recommended only for those over the age of 18, and it’s important that you look closely at what each pill claims to do. While there are many great options out there that suggest that their product generates fantastic results, make sure that you’re making the decision that’s right for you.

Final Thoughts

Contrary to popular belief, there is always something you can do to make yourself appear taller, from diet to exercise to sleep habits to supplements. Good luck out there, and we’ll see you at the top.

Film Review – “On the Basis of Sex”



ON THE BASIS OF SEX
Starring:  Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer
Directed by: Mimi Leder
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hrs
Focus Features

In the era of the Me Too movement, the biographical drama “On the Basis of Sex” has the appearance of fitting in with the times as it highlights the early struggles against oppressive sexism by current U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. While it contains all the necessary components of a story that you know will be uplifting in the end, it often feels like it should come with shiny wrapping paper and big red bow. While the story makes it clear how difficult it was for Ginsburg to launch her legal career simply because of her gender, the film is too generic for its own good. Inspiring? Yes. Different from a myriad of other inspirational, biographical dramas? Not so much. 

It’s 1956 and director Mimi Leder (“Deep Impact,” “The Peacemaker”) does a great job with the first shot of the film by having a sidewalk crammed with emotionless male law students and professors walking to class clad in drab suits. In the middle of it all there is a singular woman in a blue dress standing out from the nameless crowd. The talented Felicity Jones (“The Theory of Everything”) generates a sense of wide-eyed excitement as Ruth, but she also manages to show us there is a determined confidence within the aspiring attorney. 

Ruth not only has to force reluctant Harvard professors to pay her any serious attention, embodied by a law dean (Sam Waterston) with a paternalistic attitude towards his few female students, but she also has to balance being newly married to aspiring tax attorney Martin Ginsburg (Armie Hammer) and being a new mother. Further complications arise when Martin is given a grim diagnosis of testicular cancer with less than a 10% chance to survive. Ruth’s resolve is such that she attends Martin’s classes as well as her own as he battles his illness. 

Ultimately, Martin recovers and becomes a rising star at a law firm while Ruth is unable to get any jobs because of her gender. She relents her pursuit and by 1970 has established herself as a law professor at Rutgers University. Her life and career are forever changed, though, when Martin presents her a gender-based tax case involving a bachelor who was denied a tax deduction based upon the fact he never married. The Ginsburgs see it as an opportunity to start breaking down every law in the country that discriminates against gender, but first they must win their case, which proves to be more daunting than Ruth could have ever imagined. It all sets up a dramatic courtroom climax that we have seen in some variation or form many times before. 

“On the Basis of Sex” is an inspiring film with nice performances and a nice story. However, there isn’t a wow factor to it or anything that leaves a lasting impression afterwards, with a possible exception of Jones’ solid performance. Ginsburg’s impressive legal career is already well-documented, yet we don’t see enough of what her private life was like, much less what she was like while growing up. There is an emotional connection we are not able to quite establish with her because of this void, albeit there is one brief story Martin relates to their teen daughter about Ruth’s relationship with her mother. 

The story flows easily but it fails to get down and dirty considering the offensiveness of the situation women of the times faced then, and still face today. And to be fair, where is the inspirational movie about the first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court – Sandra Day O’Connor? Shouldn’t her tale of sacrifice and ceilings shattered be told as well? “On the Basis of Sex” is a decent film that’s enjoyable but not impactful.

Film Review- “If Beale Street Could Talk”

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
Starring:  KiKi Layne, Stephan James and Regina King
Directed by:  Barry Jenkins
Rated: R
Running time:  1 hr 59 mins
Annapurna Pictures

2018 may go down as the year when everything old became new again. Especially in films.  Messages(and misdeeds) from the past were brought to cinemas in new, fresh styles but the messages were not lost.  Films like “Black Panther” and “Blackkksman” made audiences, both black and white, take a look atthe world around them and demand that it change.  2019 continues that path with the latest film from “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins, “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Tish (Layne) and Vonny (James) are young and in love.  Vonny isan artist with dreams of opening his own gallery.  Sadly, they live in a time when society, and even members of their own families, are not as supportive as they should be.  They find their love challenged when Vonny is arrested and charged with committing a brutal rape.  We know he’s innocent but, thanks to a racist cop (the creepy Ed Skrein) and a victim (Emily Rios in a very strong performance) who has fled the country, the deck is already stacked against him.

As someone that has always enjoyed reading, I was well aware of the late James Baldwin.  He was an author who was not afraid to write about the world as he saw it, no matter the view.  Director Jenkins, who shared the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar in 2016 for “Moonlight” – and will surely be nominated again for his work here – has kept the novel’s 1970s setting intact, but the tale told could easily have been placed in today’s world, a place where institutionalized racism is still an ongoing problem.

Jenkins has assembled a skilled cast of actors, both new and old, to shoulder the emotional impact of the story.  In her first feature film, Ms. Layne is the heart and voice of the film (Tish narrates the story as it progresses).  Her bright eyes and constant smile tell the audience that she is in love and will always be, no matter the consequences.  Mr. James, who has portrayed such historically important characters as John Lewis and Jesse Owens, is also strong.  He is a strong black man in an era when some parts of society confused “strong” with “trouble.”  As Tish’s mother, Sharon, Regina King delivers one of the best performances in ANY film released this year.   In their review of “Beale Street,”Entertainment Weekly plainly asked “Will someone please give Regina King an Oscar already?”  I wholeheartedly agree!

A film that makes you think, like the perfect diamond, is rare.  “IfBeale Street Could Talk” is flawless.

Stage Review: “The Book of Mormon” – Kansas City

Review by Phillip Smith

“The Book of Mormon”  Music Hall – Kansas City, Missouri – December 27, 2018

Making it’s third trip through Kansas City, the question has to be “Does ‘The Book of Mormon’ hold up?  Thank you, Heavenly Father, because the answer is a resounding “yes!”

Winner of nine Tony Awards in 2011, including Best Musical, “Book of Mormon” is the brain-child of “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who conceived the production with “Avenue Q” composer Robert Lopez.

The show tells the story of two young missionaries, Elder’s Price (Kevin Clay) and Cunningham (Jacob Ben-Shmuel) , who are sent to Uganda to introduce Jesus Christ to the natives.  Of course, things don’t go the way they should, with results that can only be expected from the team that gave us “South Park” and “Team America.”

The production was well staged and the cast enthusiastic.  As was the audience, who erupted into applause when it was noted that “the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri,” which is also where Kansas City is located.  

Almost a decade after it premiered, “The Book of Mormon” continues to be one of the best musicals running, and easily one of the best musicals of this century.  

Film Review: “Green Book”

GREEN BOOK
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali
Directed by: Peter Farrelly
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hrs 10 mins
Universal

 Nominated by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in five categories at the upcoming 2019 Golden Globes, including Best Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, “Green Book” is one of the most acclaimed films of 2018 with 49 nominations from various cinema-related organizations. Inspired by a true story, this period drama is a surprisingly complex, emotional work considering its director, Peter Farrelly, is best known for comedic fare like “Shallow Hal” and “Dumb & Dumber.” With “Green Book,” Farrelly captures the stark racial divide of 1962 America with an exploration of the relationship between Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) and Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) as they travel across the Midwest and Deep South. 

It doesn’t take long to figure out that Tony Lip is a man you don’t want to mess with as he is the kind of tough guy who will hit you when you get out of line and will hit you harder if you strike back. Tony is thus the right fit as a bouncer at a New York City nightclub that’s frequented by wise guys from the Italian mob. However, despite their efforts to lure him to their line of business, Tony stays on the straight and narrow, sort of, as he is more than happy with being a devoted family man. Now while that’s all well and good, Tony has a set of racist attitudes towards people of color, exemplified when he tosses two water glasses into the trash after two black handymen drink from them in his house. When the nightclub he works at is shut down for remodeling, Tony Lip resorts to all sorts of ways to earn money for his family, including his participation in an impromptu eating contest that gets him fifty dollars. Thanks to his reputation as a man who can get things done, Tony Lip is called in to interview for a job as a driver for famed classical pianist Don Shirley.

It doesn’t go well at first because while Tony Lip is about as uneducated and uncultured as they come, Don holds multiple degrees and can speak several languages. Ultimately, Don hires Tony Lip because he needs someone who can protect him during a two-month concert tour that will take them through the heart of the segregated Deep South. As the two men learn more about each other, the more their divides begin to melt away to be replaced with curiosity and even friendship. This is helped by the conditions they witness as Don experiences for the first time the true pain of segregation and Tony Lip has his eyes opened to the injustice of it all.

Farrelly’s creation, with its terrific music selection, costumes and lingo, puts us in a time machine that takes us back to an America that had yet to lose its so-called innocence to assassinations and the Vietnam War. “Green Book” reminds us that that innocence was tainted with bigotry and hatred. It also reminds us how ignorance can be overcome with unity. In addition to its smartly written script and solid direction, “Green Book” contains a pair of dare I say Oscar nomination worthy performances. Mortensen dazzles with his knack to bring to life every subtle nuance of the characters he plays. This role is no exception as he helps make Tony Lip someone we can truly care about even though in the beginning it’s a little tough to do. Ali, a 2017 Oscar winner for “Moonlight,” gives Don a vulnerable sophistication while also breathing out a certain degree of naivete without seeming to break a sweat. It all adds up to “Green Book” being the type of rare movie where everyone can feel a little bit happier about the world when the lights go back on.

Book Review: “The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5 and My Life of Impossibilities” By: Wayne Kramer

“The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5 and My Life of Impossibilities”
Author: Wayne Kramer
Da Capo
Hardcover: 311 pages

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5 and My Life of Impossibilities” is the story of legendary guitarist Wayne Kramer. From his childhood in Detroit where he found inspiration from the likes Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones to his pursuit of “avant rock” with his group the MC5. Released via Da Capo Press “The Hard Stuff” is a 311 page biography recounting a life of rock and roll excess to prison confinement making all stops in between and any there-after.

As gritty as the ground breaking groups music “The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5 and My Life of Impossibilities” is a brutally honest, in-depth look at M5 founding member Wayne Kramer’s life. Told by the man himself Kramer recounts his upbringing in a home with an abusive stepfather and how he channeled his inner frustrations about the world around him into some of the MC5’s most notable material. Though I found the chapters recounting his time with the band the following chapters after the group disbanding was where my attention was really held. Kramer painstakingly tells of his time in prison after a drug bust and the years after in which he struggled with addiction up through reconnecting with his biological father.

“The Hard Stuff” is a roller coaster ride of emotion that keeps the reader interested and turning the pages. Not many people (if any) have had a life like Wayne Kramer and this book makes that abundantly clear. You don’t need to be a fan of Kramer’s music to enjoy this book as the author speaks his truth and does not shy away from darker periods of his life or difficult subject matter. For those hoping to catch the MC5 on the 50th anniversary tour this is the perfect foundation to help connect or reconnect with one of rock music’s most influential artists/groups.

Fishin’ Frenzy Review

You’ve probably played slot machines based on Greek mythology, dragons and films. But how about a game based on fishing? What’s so special about fishing you ask? Well, fishing is a popular pastime which attracts many people to riverbanks and lakes up and down the country and worldwide and the Fishin’ Frenzy provides a familiar feel Blueprint Gaming’s fishing-themed slot machine.

Fishin’ Frenzy is a five-reel slot with three rows and 10 pay lines. It is available on all devices – desktop, tablet and mobile devices, meaning you can play it from the comfort of your own home or even on the go with a WiFi connection. It is available at a number of online casinos, including: https://games.paddypower.com/game/fishin-frenzy-gbp

Paying homage to anglers across the nation,this slot machine is designed for you to make the catch of the day in a different way. The game is simple, yet charming, helping to recreate the relaxing hobby by way of a slot machine. The graphics are colorful as you expect from a game based on nature whilst the design is user-friendly. The theme includes a deep sea background to make for a relaxing setting.

Are you a fisherman? Or did you enjoy it as a child with your parents? The peace, the nature gets you away from the busy city life and loud noise. Remember setting your rod and waiting for fish to bite the tackle before returning them to the waters? Thinking of those great memories may in

There are up to 20 free spins available by landing five scatter symbols. The scatter is represented by a boat heading into the sunset, offering up to 20 free spins. Three-of-a-kind scatters offer 10 free spins and four offers 15 free spins.

A fisherman is the slot game’s wild, whilst various fishing-themed icons including fishing reels, buoys, seagulls and tackle boxes contribute to other symbols in the game. The seagull is there to help you catch fish and any time the fisherman appears on the reels simultaneously with small fish you have locked in a prize. Once activated you’ll see the fisherman catch a fish with price tag symbols offering additional wins. These totals are then added to your prize.

The pay table instructions can be found in the upper right-hand corner of the game. This includes the symbol values, such as the 10, J, Q, K and A being the low-value cards and they even look fish-related. It’s the little details like this that really makes Fishin’ Frenzy stand out from a number of slot machines. The minimum bet is £0.01 up to a maximum of £10.00 per spin. Once you have a winner you can Gamble on it with the potential of doubling the amount by correctly guessing the color of a card.

So whether you’re into fishing or not we think you’ll enjoy Fishin’ Frenzy. Particularly on a rainy day when you’re stuck indoors and don’t want to head down to the lake. You can enjoy the peace and tranquility from your own living room that this game provides instead.