Category Archives: Drama
AS I WAS GETTING OUT OF my car, they appeared like three knights from a chess set. They floated out of the morning fog, three horse heads without bodies. I watched them as the fog around them swirled out of the way to reveal their bodies; two chestnut colored horses and one black one. There was a shine to their bodies as if morning dew had attached itself to them and spread out like a fine, high gloss polish. They were these beautiful, regal creatures who slowly walked towards me with ears pointed in my direction, trying to pick up a sound that could alert them to danger. I purposely drove just to see these animals after I received the invitation from a former boss’ former wife; I know, it sounded weird to me as I wrote it, but it is true. She had grown up with horses and had invited me to stop by and see her horses whenever I was in the neighborhood. Since I was going to be driving close to her town, I arranged to stop by her place; luckily, she was an early riser. The three horses remained in place while I slowly made my way to the fencing. Once there, I spoke softly to the three just so they could get used to my voice. The former wife appeared from behind the house and started walking towards me. WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE, I had to take care of a horse for a semester as part of the class curriculum. Her name was Daiquiri and she was a strong-minded horse. My first time up in the saddle, she decided she wanted to check out the upper rows of the arena we were working in. The trainer ran over to us as Daiquiri was clopping her way up the stairs. Before I could say anything, the trainer had gotten ahead of us, so she could block Daiquiri from going any further. She grabbed a hold of the reins and told me to dismount. After, she led the horse to the top walkway so she could get her to the next set of stairs and make her way back down. Despite that incident, I grew to love and respect Daiquiri. My former boss’ former wife knew about my experience with a horse, so I think that is why I was the only one to get an invitation to her horses. Though I declined riding them, I enjoyed just being and watching them. There is something calming about horses; I cannot explain it, but this film festival winner might be able to show you what I mean. AFTER COLE, PLAYED BY CALEB McLAUGHLIN (High Flying Bird, Stranger Things-TV), got in trouble at school again, his mother decided to ship him off to stay with his estranged father. If Cole already did not want to stay with him, he certainly did not want to when he found out a horse lives with his Dad. With Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation, Star Trek Beyond) as Harp, Lorraine Toussaint (Fast Color, Selma) as Nessie, Jharrel Jerome (Moonlight, Mr. Mercedes-TV) as Smush and newcomer Ivannah Mercedes as Esha; this drama was inspired by true events. I have never heard of the black cowboys of Philadelphia, but their inclusion in the cast made this gentle touching story more poignant for me. The acting was authentic, led by Idris’ performance. A story concerning a son and estranged father is something most of us have seen before; however, under this setting with the horses it brought a new fresh take that I thoroughly enjoyed. Even if you have no experience or interest in horses, this movie is worth the time in seeing it. As gentle as a horse and just as powerful.
SHE AND I HAD AN ESTABLISHED friendship prior to when she started dating this guy. They seemed compatible to me because I never saw or heard about any drama between them. We would hang out together with a group of friends and he had little trouble fitting in. By the time we were getting ready for college, I was going out of state while she and her boyfriend were going to the same school. During my time away, we still stayed in touch. I heard about the different places they went on the weekends, both of their course loads; in other words, I was getting all the latest information about everyone from her. By the time we were finishing up our undergrad studies, she told me she and her boyfriend were going to get married; it was going to be a small ceremony for their families. I was happy for her. She told me she was going to get a job after college to support the 2 of them while he continued with his studies in law. I was surprised to hear this because I knew she had been planning to continue for a master’s degree. When I asked her about it, she said she was fine postponing her career path until her fiancé got established as a lawyer, then she would return to school. WELL, IT TOOK A LITTLE LONGER than planned for her husband to graduate with a law degree and pass the bar exam. She never complained about the delay in their timetable. However, she did confine in me that they struggle with living off only one salary. She rarely had time to get together with our mutual friends because she was always tired. The day finally came where he did pass the bar exam and would be able to practice law. He landed a position in a prestigious firm and found himself putting in long hours. She was seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, where she would be able to return to school to pursue her career aspirations. Sadly, after one year of practicing law her husband filed for divorce. She was devastated, especially after everything she sacrificed to allow him to pursue his career. I felt horrible for her and did what I could to help lift her spirits. Weirdly this scenario had crossed my mind because I had seen similar results from other couples, when one of the two achieves a higher level of success. Either one starts to mingle with a different crowd or feels they have risen to a higher socioeconomic status and their partner feels they don’t fit it. The whole thing doesn’t make much sense to me if indeed the couple are truly in love with each other. This is the question I had as I watched the couple in this film festival nominated romance. RETURNING FROM THE PREMIERE OF HIS first movie, a director and his girlfriend find themselves in two totally different places that would test the bonds of their love for each other. Written and directed by Sam Levinson (Another Happy Day, Euphoria-TV), this dramatic movie starred John David Washington (Tenet, BlacKkKlansman) as Malcolm and Zendaya (The Greatest Showman, Spider-Man franchise) as Marie. The filming of this picture was beautifully done in a black and white palette. I thought the acting was strong and intense by the two actors, where one could feel the chemistry between them. My issue however was with the script. Due to the multiple scenes filled with arguments, watching this film was tedious at times. Granted the two actors were excellent, but I can only listen to so much heated discussion before I want to tune out. In a way, this story seemed as if it could easily transfer to live theater. By the end of this film, I had mixed emotions. I felt I had seen a glimpse of what could go on in the film world, besides many other similar worlds, when success becomes part of a couple’s equation.
2 ½ stars
I LOOK AT A PARENT AND wonder sometimes, why they ever had children. From the variety of news stories I have seen, I know there is good and bad in every type of group. I am aware of mothers and fathers doing extraordinary things and downright dumb ones. Just recently there was a news report about a father carrying his 2-year-old daughter over barriers to take a selfie in an elephant enclosure. Can you believe it?!?! As you might guess, the elephant charged at them, where the father at one point dropped his child as he was trying to make his escape. I was glad to hear the man was arrested for trespassing and child endangerment. In my opinion, this would be an example of bad parenting. I am reminded of an episode that took place at a movie theater a couple of years ago. A child in the row behind me was kicking the seat in front where a theater goer was sitting a few seats down from me. The movie patron nicely asked the child a couple of times to stop kicking; the child did for several minutes before starting up again. Finally, the person turned around and firmly said to stop it or they would tell the manager. You should have seen the mother; you would have thought the movie goer said they were going to kill the child because the mother went off, yelling and calling the person names until the person got up and went to the manager. The manager told the mother and child they could change seats or leave. ENOUGH WITH THOSE EXAMPLES, I WANT to balance things out by telling you about a couple of friends who I think have amazing parenting skills. One mother picked up her family and moved out of state so her challenged child could attend a special school with a sterling reputation. With the schooling and parenting her child not only graduated high school but is attending college while working a part time job. The growth the child has shown has been remarkable. I have another friend whose child is now 12 or 13 years old. Besides being well mannered, they have such a well-rounded assortment of interests that go way beyond their years. Hearing some of the things that come out of their mouth; you would think you are talking to an adult. There is no denying that many parents sacrifice for the sake of their children. What I witnessed in this film festival winning mystery thriller was a strong example of a mother who never took “No” for an answer; it was a sight to see. WHEN HER DAUGHTER WENT MISSING MARI Gilbert, played by Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone, Strange but True), refused to accept what the police were telling her. In her mind it just was not right. With Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit, Leave No Trace) as Sherre Gilbert, Gabriel Byrne (Louder Than Bombs, The Usual Suspects) as Richard Dormer, Lola Kirke (Gone Girl, Mistress America) as Kim and Oona Laurence (Pete’s Dragon, The Beguiled) as Sarra Gilbert; this movie inspired by true events squarely rested its success on Amy Ryan. Her performance was something to see. Despite what I felt was some choppiness between scenes, I found myself drawn into Amy’s character’s plight. The story has an ick factor and there were a couple of rough scenes to watch; however, I thought overall the directing was good and it tried to keep the story moving forward. As for the script, I appreciated the way it did not sugarcoat things; this was especially noticed during the final scenes. There was a realness that came through that did not seem manufactured. Based on this film, I can only imagine what the real details of the events must have been like. Either way, what an example of a mother fighting for their child.
2 2/3 stars
FROM MY EXPERIENCES IN SCHOOL, BOYS were more likely to retaliate against someone who did them wrong than the girls. I cannot tell you how many times I heard the phrase, “I will be waiting for you outside after school,” which meant two students would be having a fight after school hours. Sadly, that phrase was directed at me a couple of times. With different grades entering and leaving from specific doors, it was easy to figure out where a person would be leaving the school building. I remember bolting out of class when the ending bell rang and running down the hallway to a different exit door. Once outside, I immediately ran across the street and made my way between two apartment buildings; so, I could cut into the alley behind them and make my way home unseen from the streets. The rest of the school week, I kept an eye out for the student who threatened me. Other students were not as lucky as me. I remember two fights that took place in front of the school; one was fought by two boys until a schoolteacher ran over to break it up and drag them both back to the principal’s office. The other fight had 2 girls whose viciousness surprised me as they slapped, scratched, punched and kicked each other until one of them ran off after her blouse was torn open. THERE WAS ONLY TWO TIMES I can recall, where a female student plotted retribution against a fellow student. The one girl may have been short, but she was tough. She never backed down from anyone, whether it was a girl or a boy. I did not actually see the encounter but was told she cornered a female student in the girl’s bathroom and threatened her with a pocketknife. She felt the girl was flirting with her boyfriend. The other incident happened in my classroom. A female classmate wanted to get back at a boy who called her names. When the male student was not looking, she placed a pack of cigarettes next to the schoolbooks he had piled under his chair. When the teacher was walking in front of her desk, she noticed the cigarette pack on the floor under the student and sent him down to the principal’s office, despite his pleas that the cigarettes were not his. The female student remained silent, looking innocent in her seat. These were the only incidents I could remember from my days back in school. You will see they pale in comparison to what took place in this dramatic Oscar nominated crime thriller. APPEARING TO LACK MOTIVATION AND DESIRE, there was only one thing Cassandra, played by Carey Mulligan (Mudbound, The Dig), had on her mind. It was something she had been thinking about for a long time. With Bo Burnham (The Big Sick, Rough Night) as Ryan, Alison Brie (Sleeping with Other People, The Post) as Madison, Jennifer Coolidge (A Mighty Wind, Like a Boss) as Susan and Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption, Starship Troopers) as Stanley; this film festival winner grabbed my attention early on because of Carey’s performance. She gave life to the character and was riveting in the process. The directing and story were both in synch to deliver a perfectly paced story that took me on a hesitant journey into Cassandra’s world. I will say I felt let down from the ending, finding it a bit too convenient. The idea behind the story was sound and relevant, especially for the times we are presently living in. After watching this movie, I have been sitting and wondering if several or so of the scenes shown in this picture have been happening for a long time or not. This film really makes one think and that is a good thing.
3 ½ stars
I WAS SHOCKED WHEN I WAS told their daughter was going to join us for our lunch date. Normally, I would not be bothered by this type of news; but this was only our 3rddate. I barely knew them and now I was being introduced to their daughter? It seemed weird to me and I was feeling uncomfortable about it. I chose to keep an open mind and try to “go with the flow” as they say. Maybe they felt they were a bad judge of character and wanted their daughter there to see if there were any red flags associated with me, I wondered. After only having two dates, I thought they were nice; but I hadn’t really formed a firm opinion about them. It was a bit ironic because I took the fact, they were so quick to introduce me to their daughter, as a red flag. We had agreed to meet at a Chinese restaurant after I was told their daughter was a vegetarian. When I arrived at the chosen time, they were already there and seated at a table. The daughter looked like she was in high school which for some reason made me a little more nervous. Once the introductions were done and I was seated, the daughter was quick with the questions for me. I felt like I was on an interview. By the time our meal was over, I felt this was our last date; with the line of questions and her dominating the conversations, I knew this was not a good match. FROM MY DATING EXPERIENCES, I HAVE met a variety of my dates’ family members, but most of them were not introduced to me until after we had been dating for a few months. Mothers and grandmothers were especially fond of me for the most part. Luckily, I only had a couple of experiences which involved going to see their family members out of state. In those cases, I would only agree to the visit if we could stay in a hotel. I did not want to get into the position of not only meeting the relatives for the first time but having them put me up for the night. It was important to me to have a place where we could have downtime and relax without having to be on our best behavior or worse, they reverting to being a child in the presence of their parents, in their childhood home. That is why I still cannot understand why the main character agreed to see the parents in this dramatic thriller. BARELY KNOWING HER BOYFRIEND, A YOUNG woman, played by Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose, Judy), agrees to travel with him to visit his parents who live on a remote farm out in the country. Her only requirement was to make sure she got back home in time before she had to get to work. With Jesse Piemons (Judas and the Black Messiah, The Irishman) as Jake, Toni Collette (Hereditary, Knives Out) as Mother, David Thewlis (Harry Potter franchise, Wonder Woman) as Father and Guy Boyd (Body Double, Foxcatcher) as the janitor; this film festival winning movie’s saving grace was the cast. I thought the acting was terrific and that is despite the engorged script. For me, the first part of the film was boring what with all the talking between the two main characters. The story did not pick up for me until the parents’ scenes began. Now I will say I thought the build up of tension in the script was good; however, it dissipated at times when I was sitting and trying to figure out what was going on in the story. Maybe the book this picture is based on is better; but you might want to reconsider spending time with this family.
HERE IT WAS NIGHTTIME AND I was sitting in a bus in the middle of a traffic jam. Normally, I would be aggravated but since I was on vacation, I was enjoying looking out the bus window at the sights. In the short distance we had traveled, I had already seen an erupting volcano and a sinking pirate ship. It was my first-time visiting Las Vegas and everything I had heard about it was true. There were throngs of people from all walks of life, neon lights and light bulbs everywhere and the constant noise of bells and tumbling change in every hotel. I could not get over the amount of people out and about along the strip. There were hawkers lined up on every block; each trying to shove their pamphlets into tourists’ hands. I got a kick out of each hotel taking on a theme of some kind. Besides the volcano and pirate ship, there was one hotel that had an Arabian theme and another a Roman one. I had never seen anything like it before and wanted to take in as much as I could for the short time I was visiting. That is why I decided to take a bus ride; I figured it was the best way to see everything on the strip while traveling to the downtown area. WHERE THE BUS ENDED ITS ROUTE was in an old type of garage; I could not call it a bus terminal. It was inside what looked like an office building. The garage had a circular drive so the buses could easily enter and exit the place. As I left through the exit doors, I noticed there were no lights or neon anywhere. I was on a dark street with a couple of lone streetlamps that looked tired. No sign of any hotels or attractions, just non-descript store fronts. There was a pawn shop that had a faded wooden sign above its door. Next to it was a gun shop that had metal bars across its windows. This was not exactly the experience I envisioned when I decided to visit Las Vegas. There was something gritty and dirty about the area I was walking in. As far as I could tell this area looked a lot older than the hotels that were on the strip. It looked like a lost version of Las Vegas without the flash and pizzazz. I had heard and read a few things about how Las Vegas came to be, and it looked like I had stumbled into that rough and tumble time as the city was dealing with an influx of celebrities and criminals. What I envisioned was similar to what I saw in this Golden Globe and film festival winning crime drama. SAM “ACE” ROTHSTEIN, PLAYED BY ROBERT De Niro (The Irishman, Cape Fear), was sent to make sure the hotel’s operations in Las Vegas were running quietly and smoothly. He should not have brought his close friend Nicky Santoro, played by Joe Pesci (Raging Bull, My Cousin Vinny) with him then. With Sharon Stone (Fading Gigolo, Basic Instinct) as Ginger McKenna, James Wood (The Virgin Suicides, Any Given Sunday) as Lester Diamond and Don Rickles (Kelly’s Heroes, CPO Sharkey-TV) as Billy Sherbert; this Academy Award nominated film was bursting with amazing performances. There was not one actor who was pushed into the shadows of another; everyone grabbed the viewer’s attention. I thought the sets and costumes were perfect as the story traveled across its timeline. There were violent bloody scenes that came close to overpowering the rest of the story, where I started to expect them in almost every scene. Though the film is long, I did not find my mind wandering; however, I did feel there was the lack of depth in multiple scenes. Overall, this was a good old fashioned “gangster” picture depicting a past era.
3 ½ stars
IT IS ALL IN THE DELIVERY I discovered. There is something about a dynamic speaker delivering a message to a group. I saw proof of it when I was a reader at a wedding ceremony. Not that I want to brag, but there was a person before me who did a reading that had no feeling to it. More importantly, I did not feel any connection to what the person was saying regarding the couple being married. I looked around the church and saw some of the guests were looking down or whispering to each other. This made me more nervous than I already was since I was to be the next reader to go up to the altar to read a passage. Despite having practiced reading my passage for a couple of weeks, when it was my turn and I stood up, my stomach still trembled with nerves as I made my way to the alter. Once in position at the podium, I looked out at all the guests before taking a deep breath and began to read. I made a point to read slowly and look up at the audience from time to time. My biggest fear was put to rest when I did not fumble mispronouncing any of the words. After the ceremony, people stopped to tell me what a wonderful job I had done. In fact, one guest asked if I would be interested in becoming a reader at her church. The spoken word was alive and well and I felt good about my “performance.” SINCE THAT WEDDING, I HAVE PAID closer attention to speakers I encounter. Whether they are in person or televised, I notice the things they do or not do to engage with their audience. At a convention there was a seller in front of his booth who was talking about the products his company had developed. I happened to be familiar with the products; however, if I hadn’t been, I would not have stopped to listen to this presenter. He was monotone in his delivery, just standing still in one spot. It was a shame because the products were quite good. To make matters worse, this booth was next to another one that had a spokesperson who was dynamic and funny. Too bad their product was limited in its abilities; but you would not know based on all the attendees who were congregated around this booth to listen to the presenter. I could only imagine how the dry speaker next door was feeling with no one paying attention to him. Let us face it, having a spirited person as a spokesperson/leader is what can motivate people to want to be part of the experience they are talking about. There is a clear example of this in this Golden Globe winning, intense biographical drama. AS MORE INDIVIDUALS BECAME ATTRACTED TO what Fred Hampton, played by Daniel Kaluuya (Black Panther, Queen & Slim) was telling them; the more concerned was the FBI. They needed to find someone to get close to Fred and his organization; but who would want to do such a thing? With LaKeith Stanfield (Knives Out, Sorry to Bother You) as Bill O’Neal, Jesse Plemons (The Master, Game Night) as Roy Mitchell, Dominique Fishback (The Hate U Give, The Deuce-TV) as Deborah Johnson and Ashton Sanders (Moonlight, The Equalizer 2) as Jimmy Palmer; this film festival winner grabbed my attention from the beginning and never let go. The entire cast of actors were remarkable in acting out their characters; however, Daniel and LaKeith were the big standouts for me. The script was both powerful and scary at the same time, to the point there were parts of this film that came across as a thriller. Taking the story as it was presented in this film, I could not believe what was being done to Fred Hampton. Not only was this an historical period of time being depicted in this picture; it was being told in a powerful and engaging way that I would soon not forget.
3 2/3 stars
EVERYWHERE I LOOKED I WAS SEEING someone I had seen on videos or television. Though the general population may not have recognized them, I certainly did because I wanted to be one of them. My assignment was manning the entrance to the hospitality suite, where guest presenters could come to relax or grab something to eat. I had to check the ID badges of everyone coming in; though honestly, I wasn’t expecting anyone crashing the suite since it was not near the convention hall. When I could, I would help the volunteer staff keep the food tables filled and clean. For the most part everyone who walked in was pleasant; they at least acknowledged me when I greeted them. Of course, there were always a few negative people or “stuck up” ones that moved right past without a glance or nod towards me. And that was ok; I understood that after being up on stage or in the middle of a crowd, one needs to decompress with some down time. Just from the little that I did in the field, I knew the amount of energy it took to get people motivated and interested in what I was trying to achieve. I was perfectly fine to be in the background and simply observe them while they were in the suite. ONE OF THE INTERESTING THINGS I discovered early on was how some of the presenters preferred being alone in the suite. There were some who moved a chair away from others to sit and look at their electronic devices. Others would spend their time going from one presenter to another as they came in and out of the rooms. As a fan, I enjoyed seeing how they all interacted amongst themselves. To me it looked like a few were collaborating on a project together. One presenter, who I was familiar with, was a lawyer who was instrumental in changing the safety protocols in the industry. She was sought out by many and I only wished I could hear what they were talking about. There was another presenter who was a researcher who I saw multiple times on different videos. He was well respected and known for debunking many false claims that others were trying to promote. Looking at the amount of talent and knowledge in the room, I had to wonder what each could create from a chance meeting, that would have a lasting affect on the profession. It was exciting to see, just as it was for me watching this film festival winning and Golden Globe nominated drama. AFTER A STUNNING WIN IN THE boxing ring, the night’s celebration for Cassius Clay, played by Eli Goree (Race, Godzilla), was waiting for him at a motel room with a small group of friends. With Kingsley Ben-Adir (Peaky Blinders-TV, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) as Malcom X, Aldis Hodge (Straight Outta Compton, Hidden Figures) as Jim Brown, Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton, Red Tails) as Sam Cooke and Lance Reddick (John Wick franchise, White House Down) as Kareem X; the story in this film was brilliant. Having 4 people, accomplished in their fields, dealing with the prejudices of the times in the 60s was near genius. I thought the acting was tremendous as the actors formed a bond that was real and believable. And as a bonus for me was having Leslie Odom Jr.’s character sing. The direction of this movie kept things on an even playing field; I never lost interest as the night progressed. After I was done watching this picture, I had to confirm that this was not an actual event because it seemed so natural, as if the writers were simply retelling a historic event. This was a well-done film that felt as current now as it was back then.
3 ½ stars
IT ALL STARTED BECAUSE I LIVED close to one of 2 “hills” in the city. Since the city I grew up in was virtually flat, any rise or fall in the landscape took on added significance. The “hill” near me would probably not register as a hill to most people; but to those of us who lived near this block long incline to the top land mass, we considered it as our “hill.” There was another hill in a suburb near me, but it was originally a waste dump that the town converted into a sled run and park. They buried the trash in the dump, piling it up to a certain height, then covered it with dirt and grass. In winter we would take our sleds there to ride down what we referred to as the trash mountain. The “hill” near my home was formed by glaciers eons ago; at least, that is what I was told. Supposedly, as the planet heated up and the glaciers melted the land that had been churned up was left, settling into what we now called a “hill.” The idea that a glacier had done this was fascinating to me and began my curiosity with history. THINKING WE WOULD LIKE TO LEAVE a baseball trading card and a couple of toy soldiers for someone in the future to find, a friend and I decided we would dig a hole near the “hill” and bury our future artifacts. We found a small park that was a city block away from the southern part of the “hill,” that had a grassy section near its playground. With our toy shovels and pails in hand, we started digging up a spot in the ground. Once we passed the grass line and got into the dirt, we found a mix of twigs, pebbles and pieces of rock. The hole did not need to be to big, only deep enough to be undisturbed for a generation or two. As I was piling the dirt up next to me, something barely caught the outside of my eyesight. I started to carefully brush aside some of the dirt with my hand, until I was able to make out the partial outline of something metal based. It looked like a piece of silver, maybe a part of an earring or a link from a chain of some kind. I showed my friend who took it out of my hand to turn it over and over before he said he thought it might have been part of a key that had rusted off. We were intrigued with the idea that it may be a clue to some kind of buried treasure. We continued our digging but eventually lost our interest once we got hungry for lunch. I wonder what would have happened if we hadn’t stopped? THE UNUSUAL GRASSY MOUNDS THAT WERE part of her land were something that Edith Pretty, played by Carey Mulligan (Mudbound, Suffragette), was convinced were not created by nature. She only needed to find someone who would believe her. With Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter franchise, The Constant Gardener) as Basil Brown, Danny Webb (Never Grow Old, Alien 3) as John Grateley, Robert Wilfort (Peterloo, Gavin & Stacey-TV) as Billy Lyons and James Dryden (Ready Player One, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw) as George Spooner; this film festival nominee was a beautifully laid out story based on true events. Carey and Ralph handled their characters with deep care and thoughtfulness. I totally enjoyed the way they interacted. An added bonus for me in this dramatic biography was the historical significance of the events taking place. This was more of a slow and steady paced film that had no need for wide swings in emotion; it was simply touching and beautiful. And here all these years, I thought what I had found with my friend was something of importance.
IT LOOKED TO ME LIKE A GLASS lighthouse, shining bright in the darkness. The space it was in seemed cavernous to me; there was one complete wall that bowed out of the house to accommodate a baby grand piano. I could be sitting in the dining room yet be able to see the brightly lit curio cabinet in the living room. Whether people were visiting or not, the its light was always on. The cabinet was made of glass and wood that had been washed in a gold paint. The top of it came to a point like a domed roof, with a gold ball that sat right at the pinnacle. There were four glass shelves evenly spaced apart that had a curious mix of things that all fascinated me. However, on the bottom shelf there was a chess set that grabbed my attention the most. Sitting on the thick chessboard were these intricate sculpted ivory pieces my relative called netsukes. I had never seen anything like it. Half the pieces sat on black colored bases and the rest on light colored ones. I would stand at the curio cabinet, its light the only one on in the room, wanting to take the chess pieces out and play with them; but I knew my relative would not approve. The only time I could hold one of the pieces is when my relative took one out and placed it in my hands for only a short moment. Otherwise, they were off limits to everyone. THAT CHESS SET PLANTED A SEED in me because my infatuation with it caused me to learn how to play the game. I received a gift of a travel sized chess set that looked like a large wallet. When I would unzip the sides of the red vinyl rectangular wallet and fold the sides down, it would reveal a square red and white checkerboard. The chess pieces were magnetic dots with each of their tops embossed with the outline of either a white or black chess piece. Except for my relatives with the curio cabinet, I did not know anyone who played chess; so, I would play against myself. I would try different first moves, wanting to give each magnetic chess piece a turn. Luckily, I was finally able to convince a friend to let me teach him and we started playing a few times a month. It was good practice for me I thought; I just did not know practice for what? I was able to plan a few moves out but not anywhere near what the students in this dramatic movie were capable of doing. SOME FROM BROKEN HOMES AND OTHERS FROM different backgrounds, a group of inner-city students found one thing in common; they liked being treated equal in Mr. Martinez’, played by John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge, Spawn), high school classroom. With Rachel Bay Jones (Ben is Back, Grey’s Anatomy-TV) as Principal Kestel, Michael Kenneth Williams (12 Years a Slave, Assassin’s Creed) as Mr. Roundtree, Corwin C. Tuggles (Detachment, Orange is the New Black-TV) and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Bumblebee; Love, Simon) as Oelmy “Ito” Paniagua; this film that was based on a true story provided a feel good experience for me. I thought John was exceptional in his role; he reminded me of a teacher I had back in school. The story did not provide much surprise to it; it followed a typical story line that I have seen before. Set in Miami during the late 90s, I liked the throwback feel of the film. Despite having nothing that stood out as special for me, I thought the story was still moving. And if you decide to see this movie please stay for the credits to see the extra scenes.
2 ½ stars