Monthly Archives: November 2020
SHE SPOTTED ME AS I CAME through the door and did not take her eyes off me all the way down the staircase, until I finally took a seat. In that short amount of time she had already figured me out. The trainer came over to introduce herself to me and explain what was expected of me. I was prepared but still had some trepidation. You see, I had never done this before and did not want to embarrass myself right at the start. After going through the instructions, the trainer took me over to meet her. She was taller and much bigger than me, with a long mane of auburn hair. I was told to extend my hand slowly with the palm facing up, so as not to startle her. She started to pull back, but the trainer told her in a quiet, soothing voice that everything was ok and that I was nice. I felt weird standing there with my arm stretched out waiting for her, I guess, to see if she would begin to trust me. It seemed like a long time but evidentially she took a step forward and lowered her head down to sniff my hand. I remained still for a moment before I began scratching her under the chin and softly tell her she was a good girl. That was the extent of our interaction for the day; I was to return tomorrow for our second session. AFTER MY INITIAL INTRODUCTION I THOUGHT I would have been more relaxed but that was not the case. When I returned the next day, she was walking in a large circle until she spotted me and came to a stop; her gaze locked onto me as I walked down the stairs. The trainer was standing near her and motioned me to come over. I took it as a good sign that she did not back away as I joined them. Today’s lesson was to teach me how to clean her feet and if time permitted, I would get a riding lesson. The trainer handed me some type of brush with what looked like a metal claw sticking out of it; I was to use this to clean her feet after the trainer demonstrated it for me. The process was easy, and I got the hang of it rather quickly. Afterwards there was enough time, so the trainer instructed me on how to mount her and get in the saddle. Having never done this before, it took a couple of times before I could do it. I am sure that was enough for my horse to know I was a novice. And sure enough, once I got settled into the saddle, she took off in a trot with me bouncing up and down atop her back. No matter what the trainer told me to do, the horse was not buying it and did what she wanted to do. I was just grateful she did not try to knock me off her. Through my lessons I gained a deeper appreciation for horses, which explains why I enjoyed this dramatic, award winning film. CONVICTED AND IMPRISONED FOR A VIOLENT crime Roman, played by Matthias Schoenaerts (Red Sparrow, Rust and Bone), was enrolled into a prison program that involved the training of wild mustangs. Roman would soon discover he met his match. With Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island) as Henry, Bruce Dern (Nebraska, The ’Burbs) as Myles, Gideon Adlon (Blockers, American Crime-TV) as Martha and Connie Britton (American Ultra, Nashville-TV) as psychologist; this film based on true events told a straight forward story in a simple and surprisingly beautiful way. The filming was eye catching and Matthias’ acting was incredibly intense to the point one could not take their eyes off him. There was a smoldering intensity that boiled and simmered throughout the story. I thought the script was well written as it carried the story between periods of silence and action. This was a quiet and thoughtful movie filled with majestic animals and touching moments.
3 ¼ stars
SHE TOLD ME IT WAS A television show when I asked her what made her decide to become a dancer. I quizzed her further and she said it was a variety show she used to watch with her family on Sunday nights. Two ballet dancers were introduced by the host and she was immediately enamored by their costumes. The woman looked like a pristine fairy and the man looked like a stately prince. She had never seen ballet dancers before, but as the music started and the two dancers began to perform, she was mesmerized by their movements. The female dancer seemed weightless like a snowflake, spinning and fluttering across the stage. The male dancer had broad shoulders that made him look more regal as he lifted and guided the female dancer through their movements. I listened to her describe the performance and I could see the impact of this one of several acts on the show had a profound effect on her. Before the dancers were done performing, she had already decided that she was going to be a dancer when she grew up. She listed for me the highlights of her journey in becoming a ballet dancer and it was not a simple, straight street to ballet; she had some detours along the way. However, she told me throughout her struggles she kept believing she could do it. HER STRENGTH IN HER BELIEF REMINDED me of a woman who was a participant in my yoga class. I worked at a hospital-based fitness center, where I introduced yoga to the fitness members. The center did not have a quiet room for me to teach class, so they had me taking the members to a laboratory in the hospital to conduct class. One day this woman came into the room in a wheelchair; I thought she was a patient who was lost. When I asked her where she was going, she told me to yoga. Talk about being embarrassed; this was the first time I was going to teach a wheel bound person in a general class setting. During my instructions, I included options that the woman could do while seated. After attending class for a few weeks, I asked her one day how yoga made her feel. She told me how much see looked forward to class because she would get the best night’s sleep after taking class. I was pleased to hear this and asked her if she had any goals she wanted to achieve in class. She said yes, she wanted to stand up out of her wheelchair. I told her it was a wonderful goal and I hoped I would get to see it. She said she believes she will one day, and I told her I believe in her. WHEN HIS ASSISTANT TOOK HIS IDEAS and left him, the town’s toymaker Veronicas, played by Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland, Black Panther), stopped believing in himself. One day a strange little girl came to town with a belief. With Keegan-Michael Key (Playing with Fire, Let’s Be Cops) as Gustafson, Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey, Notting Hill) as Mr. Delacroix, Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls; Everything, Everything) as Jessica and newcomer Madalen Mills as Journey; this musical family fantasy film was a magical viewing experience for me. At times coming across like a Broadway production, other times like a family classic; this was one of the most entertaining films I have seen this year. The fanciful special effects, the singing and dancing, the costumes and the sets took a somewhat predictable script and elevated it into pure entertainment. I will say if you are not a fan of musicals, you will not enjoy this picture as much. For me, I could easily see this film being translated to the big stage of Broadway. My skepticism about films made for the small screen has been altered; I am a believer now.
3 ½ stars
WHEN MY CO-WORKER SAID HE wanted to stage a walkout, I thought it was a poor idea. Not that I had any negative thoughts about a walkout, it was my co-worker’s reason that I felt was not a cause the rest of us employees would want to participate in. He was upset that he did not get a raise in his salary and that we were not getting a holiday bonus for the year. His salary had nothing to do with me, so there would be no reason for me to join his protest. As for the holiday bonus, sure I would have liked getting one; but it was a gift from the owner, not something that was expected in my paycheck. If my co-worker had a valid reason to start a protest, I might have been a part of it; but what he presented to me was not enough for me help stage a walkout. My refusal did not stop him from trying to entice the other workers to join his protest. There were several employees who were quick to say yes to him. Personally, I felt they would have said yes to anything just to get out of doing their work. But they did not make up a large enough group of employees that could cause a work stoppage. I was glad for it. SEVERAL YEARS LATER, I FOUND MYSELF helping a friend with her walkout. She was a newly certified schoolteacher and was looking forward to having her own class to teach. Here it was her first year at the school and the teachers’ union had set a date to hold a strike. She was upset about it because though this was her first-time teaching, there was no way she could cross the picket line. The teachers’ demands were valid, and I agreed with their cause. Besides better wages for teachers, they wanted to see an increase in school funding. However, I understood my friend’s predicament. Not wanting to sway her decision, I offered my support but did not tell her what I thought she should do. If the strike dragged on, she was afraid it would take a toll on her finances. If she chose to cross the picket line, she knew she would be labeled a “scab” and it would probably stick with her for the duration of her teaching at that school. Then there was the concern of how the striking teachers would treat her once everyone was back in school. She decided to join the other teachers and luckily the strike did not last long as both sides quickly came to terms that were satisfactory. If you are curious about the purpose and function of a walkout, this dramatic film festival winning movie has an amazing example. HAVING EARNED TOP GRADES IN HIGH school Paula Crisostomo, played by Alexa PenaVega (Spy Kids franchise, From Prada to Nada), had never cut a class. That was about to change when she saw what was taking place at the school. With Michael Pena (Fantasy Island, 12 Strong) as Sal Castro, Yancey Arias (Bella’s Story, Revenge-TV) as Panfilo Crisostomo, Laura Harring (The Punisher, Love in the Time of Cholera) as Francis Crisostomo and Efren Ramirez (Mad Families, Crank: High Voltage) as Bobby Verdugo; this film based on a true story was an utter surprise to me. I had never heard of this high school and its significance in history. Taking place in East Los Angeles during the 1960s, I thought the directing was well done. The script was good even if it seemed as if it was purposely keeping things simple. There was an element of predictability, but it was okay simply because I was making an assumption about the outcome of the story. This was a no-frills production, but it packed a solid wallop of history in an engaging way.
2 ½ stars
I DID NOT HAVE AN OPINION one way or the other about the groom; I just thought it was not a good idea for him to marry my friend. He seemed to be nice as far as I could tell in literally the three minutes we spoke before the wedding ceremony. My friend had been in a four-year relationship that ended with a lot of heartbreak and sadness. She was just getting her life back in order when she met this man and the next thing I heard was they were planning on getting married. As far as I knew they had only known each other for a few months before deciding to get married; I do not know which one pushed the idea first. My reason for feeling this wedding would be a bad idea was based on my observations that my friend did not complete the grieving process from her last relationship. It seemed as if this man was being used as a distraction to coverup the sadness and pain. I know everyone falls in love at a different pace and maybe I am just being a pessimist; but the whole proposal and wedding thing came up suddenly without anyone being clued into it. I had to wonder if the groom had any knowledge about my friend’s recent breakup. It would be sad if they were marrying for the wrong reasons. THEIR WEDDING WOULD NOT BE THE first one that was based on questionable motivations that I would attend. I knew a man who had served in the military. When he returned home there was something different about him. With him being older and the two of us not having much contact, it was hard for me to pinpoint what had changed in him; I only knew he was not the same. After some time being at home, he started dating a woman. He took his time before introducing her around; but once he did, several of us questioned the relationship. It appeared as if she was making all the decisions in their relationship. He went along with everything she said. It was as if he no longer had an opinion about anything, letting her decide the where, when, what and how to every situation. Now if he was like that prior to their meeting, I would not question it; however, it was such a stark contrast to what I knew about him that I felt something was not “right.” I continued to feel that way even when she announced they were getting married. Maybe it would work out for them; if love is present one never knows what could happen. Just see for yourself in this dramatic romantic comedy. WITH THE PROSPECT OF BEING DEPORTED looming over her head, the only thing that popped into Margaret Tate’s, played by Sandra Bullock (The Heat, Ocean’s Eight) mind was to find someone she could marry. It did not matter what they had to say about it. With Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool franchise, Safe House) as Andrew Paxton, Mary Steenburgen (Last Vegas, Powder) as Grace Paxton, Craig T. Nelson (The Family Stone, Book Club) as Joe Paxton and Betty White (The Mary Tyler Moore Show-TV, Golden Girls-TV) as Grandma Annie; this film festival winner survived its generic script because of the cast. The chemistry between Sandra and Ryan was not only believable, but it came with extra doses of snarkiness and pinpoint comedic timing. Add in Betty White and that was all that was necessary for me to stay interested in this film. There were a couple of times where I chuckled, and I did enjoy the outdoor scenery. Too bad the script was predictable because with this cast the writers could have included a few twists and turns to give the story a new flavor. Despite these shortcomings, it was fun to sit through and watch this movie.
2 ½ stars
THE NARRATOR WAS STATING IT IN such a matter of fact way, yet I was highly amused. I was watching a TV special about the royals and would you believe the hard-boiled egg for a royal’s breakfast comes with its shell cracked and opened. I know, such an innocuous function that the royal cannot do themselves. There were other functions shown during the special that surprised me, but this one was the silliest in my opinion. I am all for the pomp and circumstance that comes with royalty, no matter what royal ruler. Seeing the different customs and procedures have always been something that I have been curious about, which explains why I like to read about history. Not to be too graphic here, but there was a time when a person on the royal staff had the job to clean the bottom of the royal after they had defecated. Honestly, I don’t think there could be enough money for me to take such a position. Some positions make better sense to me, like a food taster or the transporter of the royal jewels. I understand how a royal or a country’s leader gets treated with reverence; however, I cannot fathom how the general population finds amazement with their leaders’ or royals’ everyday ordinary functions. It is as if once they achieve a high position their country people turn them into a deity. HERE IN MY OWN COUNTRY, I am constantly amazed when people focus on the president’s activities. Some time ago I remember when the news stations reported on the president stopping at a fast food restaurant to eat a burger, making sure to tell us that the president paid for it himself. Ok, so can someone tell me why this is so newsworthy? Throughout the different administrations we have elected, we have seen our leaders playing golf, fishing, playing basketball and even bowling; there were none of them that I would classify as a gifted athlete. And that is okay, whether they excel in sports or not doesn’t take away from their ability to govern; at least I hope so. Personally, I want the best person for the job. I do not care what they do in their downtime as long as it doesn’t become too much of a distraction for the job at hand. Seeing a world leader breaking down in tears tells me they are still human. If they choose to break out in song, I assume they enjoy music. As far as I am concerned every world leader has the same type of internal organs and bodily functions as every other person on the planet. Because of my feelings, I became totally enchanted with this comedic romantic drama. ANDREW SHEPHERD, PLAYED BY MICHAEL DOUGLAS (Ant-Man franchise, Traffic), was a widower who was raising his young daughter. He also was the President of the United States. Being seen alone with a woman would immediately have people talking about and possibly using it for their own personal advantage. With Annette Bening (The Kids are all Right, American Beauty) as Sydney Ellen Wade, Martin Sheen (The Departed, The Way) as A.J. MacInerney, Michael J. Fox (Back to the Future franchise, The Frighteners) as Lewis Rothschild and Anna Deavere Smith (The Kingdom, Rachel Getting Married) as Robin McCall; this Academy Award nominee and film festival winner was charming and fun, in an old-school way. I thought the cast was excellent and loved the play between Michael and Annette, with the aid of the smart script. The other thing I liked about this movie was the political undertone. Considering when this film was made, it felt like a prelude for the things that we are experiencing now. The writers and director pulled this off in a wonderful way that was both entertaining and enjoyable. I wonder, with the recent political climate we have gone thru, how this story would have played in real time.
I MAY NOT REMEMBER A PERSON’S name, but I am good with remembering faces; yet, I had a hard time recognizing this man who was talking to me in the music store. He called out my name as he walked up to me. I am not attaching any judgment here, simply describing what I saw coming down the aisle. This man had, if I understand the phrase correctly, long dishwater blonde hair that looked oily. It cascaded in waves down the sides of his head. Perched halfway down his nose was a pair of wire rimmed glasses that had lenses that looked smudged and dirty to me. He was wearing an oversized, beige canvas jacket that had frayed edges and a couple of discolored spots on it. The jeans he was wearing were extremely faded and were so worn at the knees that you could see the white threading crisscrossing in the fabric. His shoes were so dirty it looked to me as if he had been trudging through a long road of mud. As I watched his face get nearer to me, I tried placing where I had seen it before. There was something familiar about it; I had a feeling that I must have known him from a long time ago. WE WERE FACE TO FACE WHEN he asked me how I was doing. I said fine but he must have seen the bewildered look on my face because he told me his name. As soon as I heard it, memories of him flooded into my mind. I did know him because we went to school together. So, you will better understand, let me tell you about him. He wasn’t a jock, did not play sports, but he was always trim. His hair back then was a lighter shade of blonde and was thick and cut short. I don’t remember him ever wearing glasses back then; maybe he only used them when he was studying at home. Many of the students in his class considered him a Brainiac; though, he never flaunted his high intelligence, at least he did not around me. A lot of us thought he would become a scientist or philosopher. I remember him always having a paperback book in his hand. So, you can sort of get the idea how shocked I was to see such a different version of him. As we were conversing, I kept wondering what had happened to him that caused such a drastic change in appearance and mannerisms. I think I found the answer while watching this Academy Awards and film festival winner. WITH HIS NEW GOVERNMENT POSITION ROBERT Wakefield, played by Michael Douglas (Behind the Candelabra, Ant-Man franchise), did not realize the impact his new mission would have on his family. With Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects, 21 Grams) as Javier Rodriguez, Don Cheadle (The Guard, Traitor) as Montel Gordon, Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago, The Mask of Zorro franchise) as Helena Ayala and Miguel Ferrer (RoboCop, Crossing Jordan-TV) as Eduardo Ruiz; this dramatic crime thriller took me a short time to separate and connect all the characters among its three story lines. The large cast was full of top notch acting that ran the gambit of emotions. Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven franchise, Magic Mike), I felt he did a masterful job of keeping the stories moving forward and blending in easily with each other. There were several intense scenes with blood, yet I did not find the violence was in excess. Once I found the rhythm of this picture, I was totally in and lost the concept of time; things kept happening and changing without me losing track once. I especially enjoyed the way the subject was broken down so each story line could focus on a particular aspect of it. Watching this film, I could not help wondering if my assumptions about my old classmate were closer to truth than I first thought.
3 ½ stars
I KNEW HIM TO BE A mean and argumentative individual. He really was worse than that, but I was afraid I would get censored for what I really wanted to say about him. It was not unusual to see him in a fight with another student, whether it was verbal or physical. I never liked him and did my best to stay away from him. After we graduated and moved up to the regional school, I thought for sure I would not have any contact with him; it turns out I was wrong. We both had the same music class. When I walked into the classroom and saw him sitting in one of the seats, I wanted to turn around and go to the counselor’s office, to see if I could change out of the class. Because I did not want to start moving classes around, I decided to stick it out and just make a point to never sit near him. Hopefully, he would not see me or if he did, would not realize we had gone to the same lower school. This was not the way I wanted to start out in this new school; but at least the teacher seemed nice. THROUGHOUT THE SEMESTER, MY PLAN TO go unnoticed by him worked. He hadn’t changed since the teacher had to break up a couple of fights that he was involved in with other students. Also, whenever we had an open discussion in class, he was his typical abusive self with his yelling and name calling. A funny thing, however, started to take place I noticed after many weeks. His methods of discussion took on a less combative mode and I honestly could not recall when was the last fight he participated in. At least for me, I felt relief since his ways were a distraction; I wanted to hear more from the instructor because she seemed so knowledgeable. A student sitting next to me who had struck up an acquaintance with me, surprised me when he commented on our classmate. He had noticed the change like I had; but it turns out he had a theory. I was curious to hear, so he shared his thoughts with me. It turns out the teacher had spent several sessions one on one with our classmate after his first outburst in class. I knew her to be a gentle and kind, based on the way she conducted class. The way she dealt with us as a class was something new to me. She tended to ignore the boastful or negative comments as she encouraged us to be more open and honest. I know I do not have enough space here to share the details; but if you are curious, this dramatic film can show you a way on how people can change. WITH THE RETURN OF HER STOLEN purse Madame Rosa, played by Sophia Loren (A Special Day, Marriage Italian Style), was put in the uncomfortable position to board the person who stole it in the first place. It was an outrageous request. With Renato Carpentieri (Open Doors, Tenderness) , Francesco Cassano (The Tracker, Anche Senza di te) as Carabiniere, newcomer Ibrahima Gueye as Momo and Abril Zamora (Three Days with the Family, Vis a Vis) as Lola; this Italian film was proof that when you are a star, you can remain a star. Sophia was outstanding in this role; so much so, that if it had been someone else, I do not think the movie would have been as engaging for me. The story had a familiar ring to it, but the chemistry between Ibrahima and Sophia was solid. Since the movie I saw was dubbed in English, I felt it made it harder for me to connect at first; but that soon passed. This was a classic performance from a classic actress, and I was glad I was able to watch it.
3 ¼ stars
MOST PEOPLE LOOK AT ME WITH a curious eye when I tell them that I had a female friend in school who was one of my protectors. We were in the same grade, but she was older because she had flunked a grade. She was taller than the other girls in class and was further along in the maturing process. What stood out to me was the fact she was the first student I knew who smoked cigarettes and swore. Several boys in class enjoyed hanging around her because of these 2 facts, though I am sure it also had to do with her being more developed than any of the other girls. I knew for a fact that she was tough after seeing her in a fight on the school’s playground; she pummeled a girl in the face and stomach until the girl ran away crying. Though we did not have much in common, we were friends because I think she was fond of my sense of humor. I could always make her laugh. When we were together the kids who would pick on me would stay away. Not because she could beat all of them up, but because they knew she had an older boyfriend who was tough. More than likely that was the reason why I was safe with her as a friend. THERE WAS ANOTHER STUDENT IN MY grade who had the role of being my protector, but I never knew it. I honestly cannot recall him ever getting into a fistfight. He did not have to because there wasn’t any boy who would challenge him. The reason for it was because he had the body of an elite athlete, having started young with exercising and working out with weights. Where you could see the different muscles on his body, most of the other boys could only put on display a young bicep. When it came to gym class and picking teams, he was one of the first boys to be picked for a team. There was nothing he could not do when it came to a sport or physical test. We were neighbors so we had a friendship outside of school. I did not realize it at the time that he was a protector; the two of us would just hang out together or in a larger group. The added bonus by having him as a friend was knowing his older brother who was just as physically fit; so, I was spared from most teasing or bullying from the older classmates. Since I had these protectors, I could easily identify with the main characters in this biographical, crime drama. WRONGLY ACCUSED AND CONVICTED OF A crime resulted in Henri “Papillon” Charier, played by Charlie Hunnam (Children of Men, Pacific Rim), being sent to Devil’s Island. No one escaped from there, but Henri had an idea. With Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody, The Master) as Louis Dega, Christopher Fairbank (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Fifth Element) as Jean Castili), Eve Hewson (Bridge of Spies, Robin Hood) as Nennete and Damijan Oklopdzic (Lockout, Everly) as Doorman; this adventure drama based on a true story was a remake of the original movie done in 1973. The acting is what provided me with the most interest. I thought Charlie and Rami worked well together. There were several tough scenes to watch but overall, I thought the filming and cinematography were excellent. What brought down this picture was the script; it was repetitive and did not have enough variety of emotional levels. By the end of the movie, I was left with a feeling of wanting as if I was not fully satisfied with the events. The story is incredible, and I cannot imagine what life must have really been like on that island; I had enough to deal with during my school years.
2 ½ stars
THE FIRST THING THAT CAME TO mind when I saw him at a party, was remembering how greedy he was when he was a little kid. Now before you say a lot of small children did greedy things, let me tell you what I thought about this one. When I was small there was not one candy dish, I passed up without taking a piece or two of candy. This kid was different. He would take a piece of candy; but when no one was looking, he would go back and load up his pockets with several pieces. Have I convinced you about him yet? I remember there was a dinner and we were all sitting around the dining room table. There was one roll left in a basket on the table; an adult was reaching for the basket when this greedy kid quickly made a grab for the bread. It did not matter that he had not finished the roll on his plate; he had to make sure he could get another one. He got scolded for being so rude, but he did not care because when he grabbed the roll, he made sure to take a bite out of it before putting it down on his plate, next to his other half eaten roll. I am telling you; he was not a nice little boy. NOW YEARS LATER HERE I WAS having a meal with him being present. We were all eating at a restaurant and it was determined that we would be splitting the bill. It was easier to divide it by the amount of people instead of breaking down what each person ordered. As the waitress took our orders, I noticed pretty much everyone was ordering similar things. When it came time for him to tell the waitress what he wanted, he ordered the most expensive thing on the menu. I was still looking at the menu at the time, so I saw the price. He also ordered an alcoholic drink. Because people were talking no one noticed or if they did, it probably did not register with them that he was ordering an expensive dish. Part of me wanted to say something, but I decided to keep my mouth shut. And if I needed any more proof to validate my belief about him, when the breadbasket on the table had only one item left in it, he grabbed the last piece despite not finishing the bread he still had on his dinner plate. Some people, like him, are born greedy; others learn it. Feel free to see what you think about the main characters in this dramatic, crime thriller. WHEN THREE MEN DISCOVERED A CRASHED plane in the woods, they found two things inside: a dead pilot and millions in cash. Each of them had an idea on what to do next. With Bill Paxton (Twister, Apollo 13) as Hank, Bridget Fonda (Single White Female, Lake Placid) as Sarah, Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa franchise, The Man Who Wasn’t There) as Jacob, Brent Briscoe (The Green Mile, Sling Blade) as Lou and Chelcie Ross (Basic Instinct, Grey’s Anatomy-TV) as Carl; this film festival winning, Oscar nominated movie was a solid production. It was refreshing to watch a character driven story that was well acted and direct. I found myself getting hooked into the plot early and enjoyed all the twists and turns along the way. The cast truly looked connected and in rhythm with each other as their emotions went on full display. Being an “older” film, I enjoyed seeing the sets and outdoor scenes that depicted a different period of time. Lastly, it always amazes me what greed can do to a person and because of that, I was especially curious watching how it would play a part in this thought-provoking drama.
3 ¼ stars
I WATCHED HIM DILIGENTLY AND DELIBERATELY outline each space that had the number 1 inside of it. My relative was using paint from a small container that was labeled with the same number 1. He first traced the outline of a space with the paint before filling it in. Once he completed all the number 1 spaces, he went on to doing the same thing to all the number 2 areas. It was my first time seeing someone paint by number. He had only gotten the paint kit as a birthday gift a couple of days ago; but to me, he looked like he was an expert painter. I sat and watched as the canvas in front of him took on more colors. To me it looked like the colored spaces were jigsaw pieces that were getting closer to completing the puzzle. Surprisingly, I started to recognize what he was drawing; it was a scene of Buckingham Palace with the Queen’s Guard out in front. There was a part of me that wished I had a paint by number kit because I would have liked to try a different way of painting. Most of my paintings were abstract or landscape scenes because I had a hard time drawing people; I wanted them to look real like a photograph. I was even a perfectionist back then. I WOULD NOT SEE THE COMPLETED painting until my next visit to my relative’s house. My relative had done a great job of painting because there wasn’t a place where he drew over the line; everything looked exact and precise. If I had not known my relative used a paint by number kit to create the painting, I would have thought they had drawn it on a blank canvas. Don’t get me wrong, my relative did an amazing job; however, for me the painting did not look as realistic as I had expected. I guess I was hoping it would have appeared just as clear as a postcard or photograph, especially since there was no freeform sketching involved. Having gotten a camera for a birthday gift, I was very much into taking photos. Whether it was of people, landscapes or objects; I enjoyed setting up the framing for a photograph. I had thoughts of asking for a paint by number kit for my birthday; but, after seeing the final results I decided I did not really need it. Drawing from imagination and photography were better suited for me. When I saw this film festival winner, I had a similar reaction of disappointment. A GROUP OF FIREMEN HAD THE battle of their lives on hand when a fire broke out at an oil refinery; a refinery that was situated too close to a major population center. With Xiaoming Huang (The Message, Ip Man 2) as Jiang Liwei, Jiang Du (Last Letter, Operation Red Sea) as Ma Weiguo, Zhuo Tan (Gone with the Light, Dying to Survive) as Li Fang, Zi Yang (Bodies at Rest, Ode to Joy-TV) as Wang Lu and Hao Ou (The Captain, The Left Ear) as Xu Xiaobin; this dramatic, action thriller had a typical storyline for this genre. There were many scenes with big pyrotechnic productions and blasts; however, I do not know if it was the dubbed English or not that made the acting come across cartoonish. The script was easy to figure out, though there were a few touching scenes that added a touch of newness to the oft used storyline. While I was viewing this film, I kept thinking the writers and producers were trying to get a Hollywood disaster picture wannabe. If you are one who can find entertainment in just seeing special effects and things blowing up, then you might be fine watching this picture. After I finished seeing this film, I wished I had found my old copy of The Towering Inferno. Mandarin was spoken with English subtitles/dubbing.
1 ¾ stars