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This broadcast journalist turned entrepreneur turned movie critic turned television producer has been around the block a few times. I may have a B.A. in communications but have honed my communication skills mostly by the success and failure that comes with marriage, mothering, and management.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

PG-13 / 94 minutes / Comedy, romance

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Fourteen years have passed since the Portokalos family surprised us with a funny little story about their crazy big family. Gus and Maria’s only daughter had yet to find a good Greek man and thanks to Ian (John Corbett) we all know how it ends. The first one, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, was a $5-million romcom that no one knew would become such a hit including writer Nia Vardalos and producers Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.

With the exact same cast, a slightly bigger budget ($18-million) and completely different director (Kirk Jones) comes My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. It’s amazing that all of the actors are still willing and capable to try this again. Can the magic happen a second time around?

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With a brand new story line that stays true to the title, there they all are solving a major family problem together once again but this time there’s a new member of the family, Toula and Ian’s only daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris is half Greek in real life.)

Fans are nostalgic about this Greek family, about Gus’s Windex and love for his heritage, about Aunt Voula’s awkwardly, confidant remarks, Maria’s strong personality loand grandma’s ability to mysteriously appear without saying a word. It’s hard not to smile at their intense connection, and lack of boundries, but it was harder to laugh this time.

While the main plot is not predictable, most of the gags are. When the camera takes a tight shot of the frozen car door lock, we know what’s coming next – a squirt of glass cleaner. We know Gus will claim every word in the English language comes from the Greeks. We know the Portokalos brothers witll cut-up like they’re still in high school. We know when Toula breaks her glasses at work she’ll find her old pair in the drawer. And all of the predictable moments would be okay if it didn’t feel like the film was just trying too hard to be likable.

Many of the jokes were over stated. Many of the scenes were over directed. Did Director Kirk Jones try too hard or did the cast just want the old chemistry to return? Maybe both.The one fresh joke was ruined by a plug before the film to use #pullmyneck complete with a demonstration on how to take a photo with your girlfriends by pulling each other’s neck to look thinner.

These actors genuinely like each other and came running when Nia Vardalos finally had script number two. Like all of us, they fell in love with that first one. It made all of us feel less awkward about our own crazy families. It showed everyone that all families have a little ‘crazy’ in the them. But sometimes we just can’t re-create something so organic, so accidentally brilliant, so magical. And that’s okay!

I know anyone who saw the first one will want to see this film, and if reminiscing is worth full-price prime-time admission and popcorn, then get right to it. If you decide to hit the matinee or wait for the DVD instead, that’s completely fine, too. Either way, you’ll find a cast of actors grateful to reconnect after 15 years. Another family reunion. Ops!

 

ARRUGA! – 0

Fidget Factor – 0

Age Range – 12 and up

Overall Grade – C

WTF – Stands for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Rated R
1 hour 52 minutes
Comedy, War
Cast: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton
Any movie described as both a comedy and a war film sounds like an episode of Mash or Hogan’s Heroes. Nope. This comedy, war film is rated R for all the truth TO this story. When a group of reporters and photographers sign up for a stint in the midst of war there’s likely a lot of booze and sex to numb the danger they’ve been placed in.

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Whiskey Tango Foxtrot follows the story of fluff reporter Kim Baker (Tina Fey) who by default is tagged to go to Afghanistan and Pakistan to cover the news for her television network. Leaving her career driven boyfriend behind, she heads off to a world of political unrest navigating serious news for the first time in her career.

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Watching Kim slowly move from  “girl next door” who does the same safe routine day after day to an assertive journalist who wants the big story without getting killed or raped in the process is actually entertaining. As Kelly Clarkson sings “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” certainly applies here. For Kim Baker, it not only made her stronger but changes her perhaps for the better.

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Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) is thrilled to have a second female living among them and so are all the men in their house. All are members of the media from various countries like Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman) who has become almost numb to the high stress of covering the war. He also becomes smitten with the new girl on the block. Freeman is terrific in the role.

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Billy Bob Thornton is hilarious as the tough ass General Hollanek. He plays his role as the seasoned military leader with just the right amount of irritation and empathy for this America woman trying to get the big story without losing her life.

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I’m convinced that the dialogue MUST be authentic because it was a little too “inside baseball” for me and hard to track at times. Granted I embarrassed to admit that I have NOT been a diligent follower of the ins and outs of the War in Afghanistan. I only know enough to be dangerous. But even with a few missed sentences and names the story is fairly easy to follow and entertaining to watch.
I can’t say Whiskey Tango Foxtrot evoked a bunch of emotion. I laughed a little. Tina Fey was funny but she showed us a more serious side of her abilities. I never cried even when the characters did. I winced at a few bomb explosions but nothing really hit the heart strings very hard except some irritation at times. But even with its confusing storyline it kept my attention and even convinced me to like it by the time it was over.
Arruga! = 0 (R for a reason: violent, drug use, language)                   Fidget Factor = 0 (It’s odd but kept my attention)
Age Range = 16 and up
Overall Grade = C+

Risen

PG-13
Action, Adventure, Drama
1 hour 47 minutes
Cast: Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton, Peter Firth, Cliff Curtis

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We’re in the middle of Lent so it’s not surprising that a film about Christ’s resurrection hits theatres this weekend. But unlike, other biblical movies, this one is not straight from the pages of the bible. (Mel Gibson does not show up.) In fact, this one comes from an agnostic’s point of view. And while there are agnostics mentioned in the bible they aren’t the focus of a long story line. From the director of Waterworld and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves comes Kevin Reynold’s murder mystery, detective story “Risen” about a Roman soldier on the hunt for the missing body of Yeshua or Jesus as most people know him.

Before we ever see Jesus or Mary or a disciple we learn about Clavius – a military tribune or officer in the Roman Army. He’s a direct report to Pontius Pilate, Roman Governor of Judaea. Every day of Clavius’s adult life has involved some kind of killing, usually at his hands. Actor Joseph Fiennes who plays Clavius believes that much war and death has pushed his character to the brink of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The story begins with the day of Yeshua’s crucifixion. Everyone – Christian and otherwise – already knows that story. Even if they only attend church once a year – they know that story. They may not understand it or believe it, but they know it. So what Reynolds and screenwriter Paul Aiello did was approach it from a completely didn’t angle. Instead of being a story told by one of the disciples who’s been hanging out with Jesus, watching miracle after miracle, listening to his messages of love and salvation, it’s told from the view point of an average person albeit a Type A personality who doesn’t believe. Clavius is a guy with an ugly day job but one that he hopes will move him up the corporate ladder so that he can eventually get out the trenches and stop killing people and find some peace.

When he’s charged with keeping track of the body of this guy named Yeshua, he takes the job very seriously. Afterall, his boss is very concerned about the public uproar over this guy named Yeshua who claims to be the Messiah and who has told his disciples that after his death he will resurrect again. Pontius Pilate is convinced if that body goes missing the zealots will take the story and run with it causing uphevel and unrest.

When the body in fact, does disappear, Clavius is interogating witnesses and disciples and Yeshua’s family members. He won’t sleep until he finds that body. What he finds instead is the very man who he saw breathe is last breath on the cross is now showing off his crucifixtion scares to the men and women who believe he is God. But will even that shocking discovery change this man? “Risen” is now in theatres.

Arruga! – 1 (a very bloody and violent PG-13)
Fidget Factor – 0 (only an hour and 48 minutes)
Age Range – 12 and up (if they can handle he blood and guts)
Ovearll Grade – B+

Eddie The Eagle

EDDIE THE EAGLE
BIOGRAPHY, COMEDY, DRAMA
RATED PG 13
1 HOUR , 45 MINUTES

The real Eddie "the Eagle" Edwards competing in 1988.
The real Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards competing in 1988.

This is the underdog story of Eddie Edwards.
Since grade school Eddie wanted to be in the Olympics. It just took quite a while before he found his sport. Ski jumping. In 1988, he became the first competitor to represent Great Britain in the Olympics. And while Eddie came in dead last in both the 70m and the 90m events that year in Calgary, he won the hearts of fans all over the world. The film Eddie the Eagle is his story, the real life story of Britain’s Eddie Edwards.

Taron Egerton plays Eddie, a socially awkward yet highly determined and intelligent young man with an overwhelming passion to compete in the Olympics. With borrowed equipment, no money, poor vision and no coach Eddie heads to Lake Placid, New York to pursue this dream.

After several failed attempts on the 70m jump and several injuries to show for it, Bronson Peary, Lake Placid’s snow farmer, steps up to coach the young man. Bronson, played by Hugh Jackman, has an Olympic past he’s ashamed of. He’s still recovering from pour choices of his youth that haunt him today. This unlikely pair prepares Eddie, the best they can, for his Olympic appearance. And what they soon find out is that spectators love an underdog almost as much as they love a champion. Maybe even more.

Anyone with a heart will fall in love with Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards and this hopeful, inspiring story of grit and ambition created for the big screen. We all want to be more like Eddie Edwards. More disciplined. More positive. More responsive to our

Before he found ski jumping Eddie attempted to quality for Britain's downhill team. He didn't make it.
Before he found ski jumping Eddie attempted to quality for Britain’s downhill team. He didn’t make it.

inner calling. More determined to accomplish our goals. And anyone with heart loves an underdog. Watching Eddie break the ski jumping record for Great Britain is like watching your first grader make their first soccer goal! The ski jumping record wasn’t very good to begin with. And the goalie on the other team had stopped to wave at her mom. All that matters is this person’s passion becomes your passion. And you are so happy when they succeed. Even if the measure of success is an unconventional standard. Watching Eddie sore to new heights just feels so good.

Arruga! = 0 (Though there is a scene where Hugh Jackman equates the downhill release and jump and landing to having sex. Parents, your kids may have questions. And there’s alcohol consumption.)
Fidget Factor! = 0
Age Range = 10 and up
Overall grade = B+

Mission:Impossible – Rogue Nation

PG-13

131 minutes (2 hrs, 11 minutes)

Action, Adventure, Thriller

 

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) may be a few years older along with the rest of the highly skilled former IMF team but he hasn’t lost the drive to destroy the bad guy. William (Jeremy Renner,) Benji (Simon Pegg,) and Luther (Ving Rhames) all eventually surface again, this time to eradicate the highly skilled agents in the Syndicate (an International rogue organization.) The CIA has pushed the IMF out so if they’re going to get to the core of Syndicate, they’re on their own. I’m sure this story doesn’t sound nearly as cool and exciting as you think it should sound.   Hang with me anyway.

My favorite moment with any new Mission:Impossible movie is anticipating the latest version of the film’s nostalgic open – both the presentation of the “mission” (if you choose to accept it) and the predictable theme song that’s been around since the first episode in 1966.  But once you get through that, the big question is, will you want to stick around for the rest of it?

If you haven’t seen the video of Tom Cruise hanging off the side of a plane which actually happened eight times making this movie, it’s impressive. When I learned there was no CGI involved only Cruise with some concealed safety straps, it almost made me forget about the weird Tom Cruise of 2005. A very impressive stunt for sure.

Once again the personality of the M:I characters play well off of one another. Benji is the nerdy computer wiz with confidence in his own technology abilities but not real comfortable when required to fool somebody. Unlike William (Jeremy Renner) who can pass any lie detector test even when he’s knowingly and willingly lying. All of them, including Luther (Ving Rhames) have just the right amount of comedic enhancement to keep it real and keep it light when necessary.  It was thoroughly entertaining.

The suspense kept my attention with multiple precarious moments when I thought “how will they get out of this one?” A couple of times they don’t “get out of it” which only made the story better and the suspense more intense.

This was one of my favorite M:I films in recent years.   And I almost forgot Tom Cruise is really a nutty man.  And that’s just One Chick’s Opinion.

Arruga! – 0

Fidget Factor – 0

Age range – 13 and up

Overall Grade – B++

 

Minions is no Despicable Me

TheMinionsMovie2015

PG (for action and rude humor)

91 minutes

Animation, Comedy, Family

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Jennifer Saunders, Geoffrey Rush, Steve Carell, Pierre Coffin as The Minions

If those Despicable Me films ever had you wondering where those little yellow pill shaped creatures that speak part English, part some other language and part jibberish came from, wonder no more! We see the quick progression of the Minion from single-celled yellow organism through the pre-historic times up until the 60’s when they fall into a deep depression because they don’t have anyone to serve. Then Kevin has a great idea – travel the world in search of a villain, a trek that takes him, Stuart and Bob from Antarctica to New York City and all the way to London in 1968. While attending Villain Con (think Comic Con) their potential master, Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock) challenges them to a task. Whoever can steal the large red gem stone from her hand will be allowed to serve this super villain and her husband Herb (Jon Hamm.) I’m sure you can guess who gets the job.

Through a series of fumbling, bumbling events the Minions are half helpful and half clueless when it comes to doing evil. They are surprisingly well versed in the rock songs of the ’60’s. The playlist covers everything from Happy Together by The Turtles, You Really Got Me by The Kinks and of course, Mellow Yellow by Donovan. The list is impressive. The only catch – with a few exceptions – most of the songs are sung in Minionese – ugh!

There was way TOO much Minion chaos going on in this film if you ask me. Without Gru it’s just not that charming, nor is it that funny, and really not very entertaining.  I miss the solid story line, the likeable characters and the funny little minions with fewer lines. When they’re not the main focus but appear in smaller doses they are much more entertaining.  Too much high pitched minionese gets really old, really fast. The script is just… ho hum… boring. The cast voicing the characters is impressive enough. (See list above.)  There just isn’t any stand out characters.   The script needs help. Too much Minion too much of the time.

Arruga! = 1

Fidget Factor = 1

Age Ranging = 7 and up

Overall grade = C

Not Surprising: Magic Mike XXL is Rated XXL-ish

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Rated R – Strong sexual content – particularly in scenes where characters perform striptease dances. No sexual activity. Only nudity is the back side of guys wearing thongs.   Dancing involves intimate contact with female patrons, suggestive dance moves which mimic sexual activity.  Strong language. If the f-ing or mother-ing bothers you, this won’t be fun for you.  And, drug use.

115 minutes (just call it 2 hours)

Comedy/Drama/Music

Cast:                                                                                                                            Channing Tatum (Magic Mike,)  Joe Manganiello (Big Dick Richie,) Matt Bomer (Ken,)  Kevin Nash (Tarzan,) Adam Rodriguez (Tito,) Jada Pinkett Smith (Rome,) Amber Heard (Zoe,) Michael Strahan (Augustus,) Donald Glover (Andre.)

Storyline:
The Xquisite Strip Club in Tampa is shutdown.  Dallas is nowhere to be found.  Mike has started a custom furniture company.   But the other guys are just not ready to stop dancing without one last big performance.  So they head to Myrtle for the male strippers convention, a road trip that becomes a personal journey for each of the dancers and many of the women they meet.

Initial reaction:
You have to see this movie with a serious sense of humor! No one dances like these guys in real life, at least not in any dance club I’ve been to in Kansas City. The sexual gyrations are cross between athletically outstanding and ridiculously raunchy. There’s so much twerking, and grinding, and pumping that it’s hilarious.

Better than the first?                                                                                             What makes this Magic Mike XXL a LOT better than the first one is the storyline. How they reconnect, travel, the stops along the way, the people they meet provides a lot more texture without ever getting too serious. We learn more about each of their personalities, their qualities, their fears.  Who knew Ken was so zen?  Who knew that Big Richie had some issues with the ladies?  And who knew Jada Pinkett Smith could be such a bad ass?  What’s Jada Pinkett Smith doing there? She becomes their new emcee and actually makes us women feel better by giving us permission to indulge in this naughty fun.

A few favorite elements: 
1) The spontaneous dance scenes in places that actually made total sense.
2) An encounter with women MY age which felt like I was with girlfriends.

3) The way the male strippers revered the woman they came in contact with treating them like queens and reminding all of us that no matter our size, shape, or age every woman deserves to be feel good about herself and that includes her sexuality.

4) Surprise appearance by Michael Strahan!

RATINGS:

Arruga! = 2
Fidget Factor = 1
Age Range = 21 and up
Overall Grade = B+

Side note: A dear friend years ago taught me, “It doesn’t matter where you get your appetite as long as you go home for dinner.”  So ladies it’s okay to have a night laughing and screaming as some sexy guys on a giant movie screen.  Indulge!  You’re not hurting anyone and after coming home to your husband, he may send you back to see it again!

Spy: Melissa McCarthy at Her Best

Susan Cooper Undercover in Spy
Susan Cooper Undercover in Spy

Rated R
120 minutes
Action, Comedy, Crime

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Jason Statham

Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is a CIA analyst and she likes her job. From the comforts of headquarters, she’s that little voice in Bradley Fine’s (Jude Law) head – literally providing the undercover field agent life and death information as he navigates his dangerous job.

When it’s apparent that a deadly arms dealer has discovered the identities of all their field agents, it’s Susan’s turn to go undercover. This unlikely agent must infiltrate the enemy to prevent a global catastrophe. But instead of taking on a sexy, cool persona, her identity is more synonymous with bingo.

Written and directed by Paul Fieg, also responsible for Bridesmaids, the humor in Spy is slow to dismount but nails the landing. The story works. It cleverly makes fun of the more serious spy movies, with high speed chase scenes but this time on a scooter. The disguises are far from inconspicuous and the high-tech spy gadgets while functional aren’t all that glamorous.

The cast of characters is fantastic. Rose Byrne plays the pampered, evil mob wife with her ridiculously funny hair styles. Jason Statham plays the know-it-all, in your face tough guy, always trying to one-up Susan, and MIranda Hart…well she is incredibly funny as the bumbling nerd.

Finally, Melissa McCarthy gets a much deserved lead in a film where she isn’t the pathetic and apologetic fat girl. Instead Susan Cooper emerges as the brilliantly capable, clearly intelligent and completely beautiful CIA agent. At times she experiences a few physical challenges that I was comfortable laughing at because let’s face it…the world doesn’t only consist of skinny girls with the athleticism of the Black Widow. I know, because I’m looking in the mirror.

Actress Melissa McCarthy
Actress Melissa McCarthy

Arruga! = 0
Fidget Factor = 0
Age Range = 16 and up
Overall Grade = B+

Avengers: Age of Ultron. Kapow! or Thud?

avengers_age_of_ultron_2015_movie-wide
PG-13
141 minutes (2 hrs, 21 mins)
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Director : Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johannson, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle
I doesn’t really matter what any film critic has to say about Avengers: Age of Ultron. The Marvel movies have a life of their own regardless of One Chick’s Opinion about quality. But I’ll give it to you anyway because A) you may have never seen one and are now wanting to get in on this series, B) you now have a kid old enough to see it and want to decide if it’s appropriate for them or C) you were so-so on the one in 2012 so want someone’s opinion on this one.

I loved The Avengers of 2012. If was fun to see them come together as a team. The story was interesting and fairly easy to follow. Their banter was clever and funny. Their characters were developed nicely.

This time around I was expecting that with a little more. And while it’s the same director it didn’t WOW me as much as last time. I stayed engaged attempting to track the story though it lost me a couple of times. The story line was a little jagged, the humor a little too sparse and action a little over done, even for an action film.

But with all that said, I’m glad I saw it. It was certainly more entertaining than Furious 7 because each Marvel character has a story and a legacy. Mixing their various qualities all together, even throwing a little romance in there, kept me entertained for two hours and twenty minutes without wondering what time it was.

If you’ve never seen a Marvel film, don’t start with this one. Go back at least to The Avengers (2012.) In my opinion it’s the best one of the series so far. Seeing this one without any frame of reference will be a waste of time, money and brain cells.

There’s violence all throughout so if your 13 year old kid hasn’t learned by now that this is pretend and that all this destruction is not something to participate in at school or while protesting against police then you’ve got some explaining to do. The PG-13 rating is primarily for the destruction. There are a few naughty words and a little romance but not enough to cause anyone to blush.

If The Avengers in 2012 didn’t do it for you, then Avengers: Age of Ultron won’t change your mind.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is really only for those who saw The Avengers, loved it and are now ready to experience the next chapter.

Arruaga! – 0
Fidget Factor – 0
Age Range – 12 and up
Overall Grade – B

Click here for Mitch Weber’s opinion about Avengers: Age of Ultron

 

True Story about a True Story

James Franco as accused killer Christian Longo
James Franco as accused killer Christian Longo

Rated R

1 hour 40 minutes
Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Cast: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Felicity Jones
Writers: Michael Finkel (memoir,) Ruper Goold

Jonah Hill as former New York Times reporter Michael Finkel
Jonah Hill as former New York Times reporter Michael Finkel

“True Story” is a film based on just that. The true story of former New York Times reporter Michael Finkel. He was fired in 2002 for bending the truth in a story he wrote on child slavery in African. Instead of telling the story of all five slaves he interviewed, he melded their experiences, creating one slave from the five stories. When the truth was revealed Finkel was fired.

No other papers, no other magazines would hire him. Then the really bizarre happened. Christian Longo – an Oregon father accused of killing his wife and three kids – fled to Mexico using Michael Finkel’s identity. When Finkel finds out he meets with the accused killer and an awkward friendship develops. Finkel sees it as the story of a lifetime and an opportunity to get back into journalism. Christian Longo sees it as an opportunity to get someone to tell his side of the story, someone who already knows how to bend the truth. Is it a relationship full of lies or a chance at a fresh start? Either way is doesn’t set well with Jill Barker, Finkel’s girlfriend.

James Franco plays accused killer Christian Longo. Jonah Hill plays journalist Michael Finkel – it’s a third time the two have worked together. First in Knocked Up and again in This is the End. Both much lighter fare than a drama, mystery, thriller. Felicity Jones plays Jill Barker and while her character comes off as quiet and calm, she’s clearly the strongest person of the three, both the character and the actress. It felt like Franco was working a little too hard to convince the audience that he was a killer. Jonah Hill’s best acting came in the courtroom scenes toward the end of film. Quite powerful really. Jones created a character from very few lines but those she had were convincing, compelling and totally believable.
“True Story” is only part of the true story. Christian Longo is still in prison and still communicating with Michael Finkel. To this day Longo calls Finkel on the first Sunday of every month. And Finkel apparently always takes his call. He told a New York Times reporter recently that he “was way too emotionally involved in this story, and I want to see it play through.” “Despite the fact he’s a sociopath and a quadruple murderer, Long is also insanely perception and eloquent, and his descriptive abilities are amazing. So yes, I pick up the phone. I’m a journalist.”
I like films based on truth. And I really like this one because it’s about a real journalist, smart, high-ranking and competitive. No matter how hard a reporter tries, they are human. All of us learn, absorb and tell stories based on our personal filter – how we were raised, what motivates us, our personality traits, our personal experiences. There isn’t any writer who can 100-percent of the time be completely neutral, non-judgmental, emotionless. We all see life differently, we all make mistakes and sometimes get caught.

Arruga! – 0
Fidget Factor – 0
Age Range – 16 and up
Overall Grade – B +