I WOULD BE ASKED TO COME out and play but they did not know I was already outside. Many times, various relatives would ask if I would prefer to be outside because it was such a nice day and I would politely tell them I was doing fine where I was already. You see most everyone did not understand I was visiting all parts of the world besides traveling to different planets. My spaceships came in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they all were equipped with a multi light ray shooter. For those of you who do not know what that is, please let me tell you. It was a concave dish or half sphere attached to the rocket ship that generated various degrees of light emitting particles. Based on the intensity of the light, it could lock a person in place like a statue if the person came into the shining light’s circumference. When the intensity was dialed all the way up, the light ray would be my ray gun that could pierce enemy spaceships or cause mountains to explode wherever the light hit. Some days, I would hang out closer to home. Periodically, I would pay a visit to my imaginary zoo, where I had trained all the animals to listen to me. I was talking to animals way before I ever heard of that doctor named Doolittle. MY IMAGINATION HAS ALWAYS ENGAGED ITSELF at a high level. At the time, I cannot tell you how many times I preferred being in my imaginary world than the real one. When I look back now, I can see why I had a harder time fitting in with different groups of people. Not to be judgmental here, but they were usually not as exciting and fun as the people I created in my world. Not that I lived a lonely life as a kid, I was able to disconnect and enjoy the company of friends and family. And I will say, when I met someone who had the same sensibilities/flair of imagination as me, we really connected on a deeper level. In fact, because of my imagination most of my friends always wanted me to be in charge of building our snow forts during the winter months; I created solid fortresses that protected us from any barrage of snowballs. So, in a way I see a powerful imagination can be a double-edged sword. It may be a little harder to fit in with people; but on the other hand, the people who can wrap their brain around it really get in synch with you. If I could relive my youth over, would I want to have a less active imagination? The answer is no; I believe it has been one of my strongest assets. You can certainly see why if you choose to watch this animated, adventure movie. HAVING TO TAKE A ROAD TRIP with her family was hard enough for Katie Mitchell, voiced by Abbi Jacobson (Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Broad City-TV). But to then join forces with her family to battle the evil forces behind the raging machines, it might be too much for even Katie to handle. With Danny McBride (Alien: Covenant, Rock the Kasbah) voicing Rick Mitchell, Maya Rudolph (Life of the Party, Inherent Vice) voicing Linda Mitchell, Michael Rianda (Gravity Falls-TV) voicing Aaron Mitchell and Olivia Colman (The Favourite, The Crown-TV) as PAL; this comedy fantasy was such a fun film to watch. The creativity and imagination would be enough to engage the viewer, but I thought the script was witty, smart and relevant. The various references to technology and family issues was a wonderful mixture of funny and familiarity. I particularly enjoyed the injection of quick scenes that perfectly described the feelings and thoughts I was having about the scenarios on display. It was such a good time for me to watch this picture and I appreciated the way it tickled my imagination.
3 ½ stars
WHETHER IT WAS RIGHT OR WRONG, I felt a sense of betrayal. Having worked at the company for many years, there was a sense of family amongst the employees. I had worked my way up through a few departments before I settled into a management position. We came from different backgrounds and places, but we all shared a common goal; we wanted our company to be the best. The company had another location out of state that was headed by a relative of the owner. I knew most of their employees by name but had only seen a couple of them when they flew in for business meetings. We had 3 competitors who had their corporate headquarters in the same city as us; so, it was especially “sweet” when we would get a large order that all of us had bid on. I do not know if it was true or not, but I heard the outside salespeople from each company, including ours, were ruthless to each other. Not to their faces, but they would do things like throw away the sample books from a competing company or hide them while placing their books in a prominent location. I knew each of us bought our inventory from the same manufacturers and what sealed the sale was price and customer service. I SAW MYSELF RETIRING FROM THIS company. That is why it was so hard for me to be told the company was filing for bankruptcy. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I could not understand for what reason was the company closing its doors. As far as I could see we were doing everything we were supposed to do. Many of the employees were there longer than me; some only had a few years left until retirement and now they did not know what was going to happen to them for their remaining years. Unemployment can only take one so far, then what? I put my trust in the company; showing up to work on time each day, getting our customers’ issues resolved and yet all of sudden my life was going into freefall. This is why I felt betrayed. I worked hard and appreciated the rewards I received in the process. I had put my trust in this company and for whatever reason, I was being terminated. The dreams and hopes I had based on my employment had to be put on hold. Not that my job defined who I was; however, it was something I took pride in. My feelings of broken trust and betrayal, though on a different scale, is what I connected to with the main character in this action, adventure thriller. WHEN HIS LAST MISSION TURNED OUT different from what he expected, a growing suspicion made John Kelly, played by Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther, Just Mercy), question the orders he was receiving. It would take death to get him to find the answers. With Jodie Turner-Smith (Queen & Slim, The Last Ship-TV) as Karen Greer, Jamie Bell (Rocketman, Fantastic Four) as Robert Ritter, Guy Pearce (The Last Vermeer, The Rover) as Secretary Clay and Lauren London (Baggage Claim, This Christmas) as Pam Kelly; this movie was a reboot for the franchise. The action scenes were for the most part exciting and I especially enjoyed the performances from Michael and Jodie. However, the script was confusing and sloppy to me. The characters in general were a bit boring at times and I felt the excitement level needed to be amped up. Another negative to this picture was how it was filmed; there were multiple scenes that were so dark I could not make out much detail. I think with a better script Michael could do justice to the franchise. In the meantime, there was an extra scene placed in the middle of the ending credits.
1 ¾ stars
THERE WAS VERY LITTLE I LIKED about day camp and absolutely nothing I liked about overnight camp, except for toasted marshmallows and s’mores. My one and only time going to an overnight camp was during the summer months one year. I remember I had little to pack because it was going to be just a couple of days; there was no way I would have agreed to anything that would have kept me away any longer. The bus ride up was spent singing songs and looking out the window at the changing landscape. The campgrounds were in a wooded area that had a lake. I remember the main building was made to look like a log cabin, except it was 2 stories high and extremely long. The rooms took up half the length of the structure on both floors, with 4 kids assigned to each room. I was curious about the bunkbeds in the room because I had never slept in one. After we unpacked our bags we were to meet outside by the flagpole, where the camp director would highlight the activities that were available to us. My biggest fear was that most of the activities were going to be sports related. As luck would have it, each of the activities had a sign-up sheet; so, it wasn’t going to be something that I would be forced to do. When I was finally able to pick our activities, most of the ones I wanted were already full in several time slots. I wound up putting my name down for fishing; something I had never done before. I HAD TO GET UP EARLY the next day; so, I would be ready to be taken down to the lake for, what I guessed, would be a fishing lesson. The lake was still except for the occasional shudder due from the cool, morning breeze. The small group of us congregated around the counselor who was handing out fishing poles, after he explained the parts to us. I was assigned to a spot at the end of the dock. Sitting down on the wooden boards with my feet hanging off the side, I cast the fishing line into the water with a plopping sound. With both hands clutching the rod in anticipation of having to battle an aggressive fish, I sat and waited and waited and waited. At one point, I looked down the length of the dock to see if anyone had caught something; it did not appear so since I would have thought I would have heard some commotion or excitement about catching a fish. After watching this emotional documentary, I am so glad I never caught a fish that day. FROM HIS LIFELONG LOVE OF OCEANS and sea life, director and cinematographer Ali Tabriz decided to document how humans were affecting the oceans and its inhabitants. He would discover something more in the process. With Richard O’Barry (Founder of the Dolphin Project), Lori Marino (Founder of the Whale Sanctuary Project), Tamara Arenovich (The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society) and Gary Stokes (Co-Founder Oceans Asia); this adventure film stunned me in so many ways. At first, I was not sure where the story was going; I was sensing some manipulation taking place. However, as the story began to unfold, I found myself being swept in both literally and figuratively. There was a range of emotions I was feeling as scene after scene presented more and more incredulous depictions. At times, it felt I was watching a mystery, other times an action adventure. I must tell you this might not be an easy watch, but it will be worth it. By the time I got through the entire movie, my outlook on marine life had changed as well as my eating habits.
3 ½ stars
ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WAS a “must do” activity for me at an amusement park or carnival was playing the arcade games. I loved the game where I had to aim the water pistol at a hole with a bullseye propped inside to make the balloon expand above it. The winner was the one who had their balloon pop first. Another of my favorite games was the ring toss where I had to toss a rubber ring and try to get it to land on the neck of a glass bottle. My friends and I could hang out inside the arcade for hours or until we had no more change in our pockets. One of my friends spent most of his money trying to either knock down stacked wooden blocks with a ball or three stuffed furry animals off a shelf with a beanbag ball. The problem with the furry animals was they were very small but with all the fur around them, they looked much bigger. When they were placed side by side across an entire shelf, it was hard to knock one of them off; but my friend did not care. He was determined to beat the game and receive his prize. OUT OF ALL THE ARCADE GAMES, the only one I can remember that involved the shooting of a realistic looking gun was the game where one had to shoot moving animal shaped targets. I do not remember if the gun shot anything out of it; all I can recall is hearing a bell ring every time an animal was hit. It is funny how back then I never gave any thought to this game; but now as an adult, I find myself feeling uncomfortable about that game. Keep in mind, I am the person who is appalled by parents bringing their young children to R rated films or ones that are violent. Prior to the pandemic when I was going to the movie theaters, I would stop to look at their arcade room. It was not like I was expecting some of the same games from my youth, but I was stunned at the level of violence portrayed in the current ones. I could not get over the type of battles and fights taking place on the games’ video screens. What I find worse is how realistic looking some of the graphics are on these games. One game that involved fighting different characters had an exorbitant amount of blood being spilled from each vanquished character. And yet, this pales by comparison to what I witnessed in this film festival nominated movie. AN ANCIENT PROPHECY IS ABOUT TO be fulfilled that will end mankind. A down on his luck MMA fighter doesn’t believe it until he encounters one of the contestants in this high-stake contest. With Lewis Tan (Deadpool 2, Sacrifice) as Cole Young, Jessica McNamee (Battle of the Sexes, The Vow) as Sonya Blade, Josh Lawson (The Little Death, Holly Slept Over) as Kano, Joe Taslim (Fast & Furious 6, Star Trek Beyond) as Bi-Han/Sub-Zero and Mehcad Brooks (True Blood-TV, Nobody’s Fool) as Jax; this action, adventure fantasy based on the popular video game was filled with blood and violence. I have never played the game, so I was not prepared for the amount of violence in this picture. The special effects were good as the story was kept at a fast pace. The dialog was cheesy to the point the film started to take on the flavor of a cartoon. The fight scenes which were well choreographed contributed to this cartoonish effect because of the fast pace and wild, graphic CGI effects. It was obvious the movie studio is hoping/planning for a sequel. Though if the level of blood and violence increases, I may prefer to play a game of Pac-Man instead.
I KNEW THEY WERE EXPECTING THEIR baby soon but did not know exactly when. As far as I heard the pregnancy had been going relatively smoothly, just the typical things like swollen ankles and nausea were being experienced. When word finally came that the baby was born, everyone was happy to get the news. Along with the baby’s name, we were told about the baby’s length, weight and their full head of hair. However, along with this news there was a request to hold off calling the family because the baby had some complications that needed to be addressed. As you can imagine, everyone wanted to know what was going on but refrained from asking, respecting the new parents’ wishes. For the next couple of weeks, all of us would ask each other if there was any news about the baby. If one person found out something, the news quickly spread amongst us. I was told the baby was still in the hospital and had gone through a couple of procedures. Upon getting such news my instinct was to reach out to the parents, but they early on reinforced their desire not to be contacted due to their hectic schedule for taking care of the baby’s needs, besides being present for their other child. AS THE WEEKS PASSED BY WITH little news, everyone’s attention began to wane ever so slightly. Without getting any updates, it felt as if there was this big hole that was slowly getting filled back up with daily living; that is for everyone except the new parents. At some point word came out the baby was being released from the hospital and would be coming home. We were excited by the news but there was an ominous message included with it; the parents requested if everyone would not ask them how the baby was doing. The only thing they shared was that the baby had been born with a genetic defect and would not grow up in a normal way. This was hard to hear; all of us were feeling helpless. We wanted to do something, even if we could send disposable diapers or formula, anything to try and help. Without any direction we were at a loss and could only keep the family in our thoughts and prayers. I could not imagine how the parents were handling the situation without some kind of outlet to vent, talk, scream, whatever needed to be done to try and find some balance in their life. I felt the same way about the married couple in this comedic, drama adventure. THEIR SON’S OBSESSION WITH MONGOLIA AND belief that he was a goat herder was causing a rift in the family structure. One parent appreciated the vivid imagination, while the other was afraid their son would be ostracized in school. With Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, The Departed) as Alise, Marton Csokas (The Equalizer, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) as Connor, Jacob Tremblay (Room, Wonder) as Wes, Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi, The Million Dollar Arm) as Ismail and Virginia Madsen (Dune, Sideways) as Victoria; this movie survived on the strength of its cast. The acting was excellent, once again I am so impressed with Jacob’s abilities. He just doesn’t take on a character, he becomes them. My issue with this film was the script. I felt the story was uneven due to the swings between the dramatic and comedic scenes. It felt as if the core of the story was getting shortchanged in its development. Also, there were a couple of scenes that seemed farfetched to me. If I did not enjoy watching the cast as much as I did, I am not sure I would have finished watching this picture. On the other hand, being a strong proponent of communicating, I appreciated what the story did to advocate it.
2 ½ stars
FRIENDSHIPS FORM ON THE COMMONALITIES SHARED between two people. I also feel included in the formation is the admiration one has for an attribute they see in the other person; an attribute that the person realizes they themselves lack. One of my oldest friends, who I met in elementary school, had a peaceful and soothing way of talking that attracted me immediately. I felt I was opposite because I tended to take things to the max, always quick to respond with full force whether the situation warranted it or not. There was another friendship that formed around the same time and it was their easy-going ways that intrigued me. Where I had to sit and ponder things, they were quick to respond with a “yes” or “sure” or “okay” to pretty much any request. That was so foreign that their behavior fascinated me and from there we became lifelong friends. So, you see this is why I think it not only takes things in common that connects two people, but the differences between them. I know a couple who on the surface look like they have nothing in common, they appear to be so opposite in their ways. Yet, if you spend quality time with them you would see how each one admires the differences because it allows the to see things through the other person’s eyes. LIFE AT TIMES WILL CREATE THESE long periods of separation between friends. There was not any type of rift or disagreement that caused it, it simply happened based on changing responsibilities and priorities. I have a friend who lives out of state; our contact is infrequent, where months could go by before we communicate with one another. Yet, when we finally get to talk to each other, there seems to be no break in our connection. We can pick up right where we left off from the previous time. Sure, some of our beliefs have evolved into different paths but at the core we remain close to each other. The key to maintaining a friendship like this or any friendship for that matter is to avoid making any judgements. I used to have a friend who constantly judged me and was always telling me what I “should” do. The final nail that split us apart was when I introduced them to the person I was dating and within 5 minutes they were treating my date rudely. I decided right then and there we had too many differences and not enough commonality to keep our friendship going. If you want to see the evolution of a friendship, you can see it play out in this action, adventure comedy. A CLASS REUNION WAS THE IMPETUS that pushed Lydia Berman, played by Melissa McCarthy (The Kitchen, Can You Ever Forgive Me?), to reach out to a childhood friend she had not been in contact with for many years. After so many years being apart, Lydia was not sure what she would say to her friend. With Octavia Spencer (The Witches, Ma) as Emily Stanton, Jason Bateman (Bad Words, Game Night) as The Crab, Bobby Cannavale (The Irishman, Blue Jasmine) as The King and Melissa Leo (Burn Country, Prisoners) as Allie; this film festival nominee had a major flaw, Melissa’s husband as the writer and director. The script was beyond predictable and filled with lazy jokes and poor dialog. It really was annoying to have two gifted actors, Melissa and Octavia, try and squeeze out sense to the poorly done script. Melissa McCarthy in my opinion has one of the best comedic timing abilities I have seen in an actor. Pairing her with Octavia was a great idea because they appear to be so different; I thought for sure the comedy would be flowing though this story with the two of them. Sadly, there was so little taking place in this movie, both excitement and comedy, that I was not engaged with it.
1 ½ stars
THE LAST TWELVE MONTHS HAVE BEEN something I thought I would never experience, as I am sure most of you have thought. When my state passed stay at home orders, I thought the only time I would be told to stay indoors was during a tornado or the threat of nuclear fallout. The only crisis I have lived through of this magnitude was during the AIDS epidemic. Though the transmission method was different, there still was a fear early on of getting to close to people. Back then the fear was unfounded; now it is real and could be the difference between life and death. I have known healthy individuals who caught this virus and succumbed to it. The suffering of being alone in a hospital bed as one’s lungs are slowly being squeezed of their last breath is a brutal experience. What makes this virus extra scary for me is how random it is in who will experience its affects. Some people don’t even know they are infected while others can get severe headaches, high fevers or death. I remember during my time at home, looking out the window and seeing the streets void of any human life. Pigeons scanning the sidewalks for a morsel of food, squirrels crisscrossing streets with less hesitancy and noticeable to me, less debris. WITH THE LOCKDOWN IN PLACE, THAT also meant I could not go to the health club to work out, to restaurants, to theaters and so on. Suddenly Saturdays took on extra meaning because that was the day, I would order carryout, to help the nearby local restaurants. Food took on a different importance; instead of eating for sustenance, I was eating for comfort. There was a manmade lake close to my house that I had never seen. I drove to it so I could get my steps in by walking the circumference of it. Seeing the ducks take off and land on the water was something I had never seen except on television. When the weather got too cold outside, I started walking/jogging in an underground parking garage. Little did I know that the space would become by sanctuary of peaceful calm. Staying in touch with friends/relatives took on a new meaning. In the past, there usually was an activity attached to getting together; but now, just being able to open a window and talk to a friend who was outside on the front lawn was a joy. Sitting outside to watch the sun set felt more monumental than during pre-COVID. Hearing silence except for the birds in the trees was a new experience. Little did I think that living a temporary restricted lifestyle would allow me to appreciate the little things that can go unnoticed on a typical day. This Oscar nominated and film festival winner can explain things better than me. JUST WHEN A SCHOOL BAND TEACHER feels things are looking up, he finds himself in an unfamiliar place where passion comes into question. With Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy, Robin Hood) voicing Joe, Tina Fey (Date Night, Sisters) voicing 22, Graham Norton (Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, Another Gay Movie) voicing Moonwind, Rachel House (Thor: Ragnarok, Baby Done) voicing Terry and Phylicia Rashad (Creed franchise, This is Us-TV) voicing Libba; this animated, adventure comedy had a lot going on with it. As to be expected from a Pixar movie, the animation was inventive and fun. There were some scenes that were rich with details, but others I found to be somewhat average. The script was different to me; I found it to be esoteric in nature. Young viewers may not understand the meaning of some scenes and might ask for an explanation. From an entertainment standpoint, I did not feel the sense of joy I normally do with a Pixar film. I did however appreciate the message; I only wished there had been more musical interludes.
AS WE WERE COMING IN FOR a landing at the airport, the passenger in the next seat reminded me to make sure I don’t put my wallet in my pants pocket. I thanked him as I wondered what kind of city I would find in this foreign land. The flight was several hours and this passenger, upon hearing this was my first trip to the city, had updated me on a variety of places where I had to be careful because of pickpockets and con artists. I had heard similar stuff from friends back home who had visited this place before. My plan once we landed was to get my luggage then find the transportation terminal to take a bus to my hotel. The walk from luggage claim to transportation was short; once there, I stopped to put my luggage down to double check my paperwork on which bus I needed. About 25 feet away from me was a woman standing and talking to 2 guys. At first, I thought they were a group; but soon realized the two guys were native as they were talking about their cab that was parked outside. The way they stood next to the woman; she could not see that one of the guys was trying to slip his hand into her purse, that was hanging down from her shoulder. Before I had time to think, I yelled out, “HEY!” It was enough for the guy to move his hand away as the woman turned to look at me. The 2 men quickly walked away. What kind of city was I getting into? GRATEFULLY, DESPITE THAT INTRODUCTION TO A new city, I fell in love with the place. My time there reminded me of another trip I took to an international city. On that trip, I had planned to incorporate a lot of walking into my daily sightseeing attractions. Of course, I had to try their public transportation at least once, which was surreal for me because I was able to imagine what it must have been like to be underground decades ago, while bombs were exploding above. On one of my daily excursions, I wound up getting lost and could not figure out how to get to my intended destination. With the tourist map in hand, I glanced at the pedestrians who were coming and going and chose a middle-aged looking man to stop and ask for help. He was friendly and unbelievably helpful to the point where he insisted walking with me, to make sure I got to the correct train stop. That chance encounter only enhanced the great time I had visiting that city. A moment of kindness can make all the difference; you can see it for yourself in this animated adventure comedy. THE SIGHTING OF A UFO NEARBY makes the Farmer, voiced by John Sparkes (Calendar Girls, Peppa Pig-TV), see a new source of income; while Shaun the sheep, voiced by Justin Fletcher (Chicken Run, Justin’s House-TV), makes a new friend. With Amalia Vitale (Making It, Christmas Eve) voicing Lu-La/Me-Ma, Kate Harbour (Bob the Builder-TV, Timmy Time-TV) voicing Agent Red/Timmy’s Mum and David Holt (Angry Kid-TV, The Jungle Book-TV) voicing Mugg-1NS; this Oscar nominated and film festival winner was a joy to watch. Besides enjoying the style of animation in this film, I loved the fact there was no discernible dialog. Emotions and intentions were all conveyed with the face and body; it was incredible. The story was simple and there were no surprises per se; however, there was such a charm and fun element to this film that I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. The humor/sight gags were sly and amusing on multiple levels; some geared to younger kids and others to more mature, including adults. If this sequel is any indication of what to expect going forward, I will always enjoy visiting this farm where Shaun lives. Extra scene during the credits.
3 ¼ stars
EVERYONE, I BELIEVE, HAS AT LEAST two families; the family they were born into and the family they formed through life experiences. There are other types of families, for example a foster family. I have a friend who grew up with several foster children because her parents believed in helping innocent children out of bad situations. She had biological siblings but had more foster ones in the household through her years living at home. I was fascinated with her stories about all her siblings. It seemed like every meal was a party, even when her parents did not have much money to buy food. When I was little, I had no idea the friendships I was forming would turn into future members of my chosen family. The term “chosen family” was something I was not aware of when growing up; yet, there are individuals in my chosen family that I have known since elementary school. One is a girl I dated from 7thgrade. When we get together there is a long history of shared events, we can recall for each other. Whenever one of us introduces the other to new people, the new people are always amazed at the longevity of our relationship. There is a comfort and an easiness within our bond of friendship because we do not need to be anything but our real selves to each other. FROM AN OPEN SWIM NIGHT, AT a local community center in the neighborhood I grew up in, I formed a friendship with a boy from a different elementary school district. He was the first friend I made who did not go to my school. I was at the pool with my friends and he was there with a relative. We had been taking turns diving into the deep end and were congregated by the edge of the pool. He had been swimming the width of the pool a few times when he took a break by the edge near us. One of my friends struck up a conversation and he soon joined our little circle. By the end of the open swim time we all made plans to meet again the following week. Soon after that 2ndswim night, I found out he and I had a lot in common. Though we did not go to the same school we made plans to get together either after school or on a Saturday. After we all graduated elementary school, we found out he would be joining us at the same high school. Since then and after all these years, he has been one of my closest chosen family members. Because of my family of birth and chosen family, I felt a connection to the crew in this action, adventure, science fiction film. WHILE PICKING THROUGH A CONTAINER OF junk in outer space, a ship’s crew discovers a little girl who was still alive. If that wasn’t surprise enough, the crew would soon find a bigger surprise was in store for them. With Song Joong Ki (A Werewolf Boy, Doraemon-TV) as Tae-ho, Kim Tae-ri (The Handmaiden, Little Forest) as Captain Jang, Seon-kyu Jin (The Outlaws, Extreme Job) as Tiger Park, Hae-jin yoo (The King and the Clown, The Pirates) as Robot and Richard Armitage (The Hobbit franchise, Into the Storm) as Sullivan; this dramatic space odyssey had sound elements for creating an exciting story. For example, I connected with the chosen family element and appreciated the set-up for the class conflict situation. However, the script needed a good rewrite, I found it too long and the use of flashbacks got to be a little too much for me. The special effects were not spectacular, but they were good. Honestly, this movie came across like a poor cousin to a Marvel superhero film; still, there was enough in it that kept my interest going.
2 ½ stars
ONE YEAR I HAD TO TAKE two history classes back to back, one was US and the other was European. The instructor for the US history class was an older man who, you will not believe, looked like Benjamin Franklin, but with shorter hair. He was balding on top with a ring of hair around the sides. When he wore glasses, they were small frameless lens that kept sliding down to the tip of his nose. When I first met him, I thought of Benjamin Franklin immediately; all he needed was a kite with a key tied to its tail. For some reason I equated his appearance with being a good teacher. From the class syllabus, I knew we had a lot of ground to cover regarding US history. The first class is usually devoted more to introductions and expectations; his was no exception. He went over what was expected of us, the testing he would be administering and his grading system. Nothing he said was out of the norm; though and this is just me, I thought his delivery was a bit dry. The 2ndclass I had with him laid the groundwork for what was going to be a grueling year; he was boring. Most of our time was taken up by him reading to us from a book. I could have done that on my own. There were no historical insights offered by him, very little debate initiated; the time always dragged slowly with this professor. THE FIRST DAY WALKING INTO MY European history class, the instructor who was standing near the door, bellowed, “Who might you be and where did your family originate from?” I was startled; but did not show it, telling him my name and where my ancestors came from. After attending my US history class, then walking into this one; wow, there was a stark difference right from the start for me. This instructor turned out to be a character. There were times he came into the classroom dressed up in clothing that was fashionable for the period we were studying. He regaled us with colorful, historical stories that mirrored what we were presently learning. I looked forward to coming to this class for the simple reason it was informative in a fun way. Compared to my other history class, you could not have asked for two totally opposite ways of teaching a class. I could see with my classmates’ interactions with the instructors that this European history instructor was teaching us to think and learn, not just memorize what was being told to us. This was such a preferable way of learning; almost as good for me as this historical, action adventure film. WITH ANCIENT CHINA BROKEN UP INTO several different kingdoms, a lone man arrives to give the king of the Qin empire the weapons from his dead assassins. It would take a special man to come anywhere near the king in his palace. With Jet Li (The Warlords, Fearless) as nameless, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung (Internal Affairs, The Grandmaster) as Broken Sword, Maggie Cheung (In the Mood for Love, Days of Being Wild) as Flying Snow, Ziyi Zhang (Memoirs of a Geisha, House of Flying Daggers) as Moon and Daoming Chen (My 1919, Internal Affairs III) as the King; this film festival winning and Oscar nominated movie was gorgeous. One should not think of this picture as a typical “kung fu” or “marital arts” film; the fight sequences were so creative and visually stimulating that they looked like a choreographed ballet. The sheer size of the sets and cast was astounding; and yet, at the heart of the story there was a strong element of love. I believe the script was created from an element of historical truth; but I do not know by how much. Regardless, if the intention of the producers was to teach the viewers some history while entertaining them, then sign me up for next semester’s class.
3 ½ stars