THERE WAS AN OLD SET OF blocks I found in my toy box. It must have been handed down because the color used on the wooden blocks was faded and worn out. Each block had a letter of the alphabet, but I never used the blocks to make words; instead, I used them to make more important things. Stacking the blocks one on top of another made a tall lookout post, with certain letters like “U” and “M” being hidden cannons and machine guns. I would use the blocks to build a wall that was used to surround a moat filled with alligators. One of my favorite things to build were these unusual shaped structures that I pretended were buildings used for outer space outposts. The letters carved into the blocks were windows or shades to protect the inhabitants from the effects of a sun. My imagination would be all over the place as it was being nurtured while playing with these old, wooden building blocks. Every time I would play with them I would discover new adventures and places to explore. IT WAS SOON AFTER I STARTED playing with other toys that would feed my imagination. I remember a box that contained these miniature logs with notches carved towards the ends, like ones used to make a log cabin. However, I used mine to build bridges that would carry visitors over churning rapids or deadly volcanoes. You are probably saying a bridge would never last over an active volcano; but in my world, the logs were made of a secret element that allowed them to withstand the heat from the lava churning inside the volcano, that was preparing to spew up and out. Most of my building type toys were of a smaller scale; in other words, I could create whatever I wanted but it would not be life-sized. That all changed when I received a gift of Styrofoam blocks from a friend of mine. These blocks were bigger than anything I had in my possession. They would interlock using the three pegs sticking up from the top into the three holes that were at the bottom of each piece. The key was not using all three pegs into another piece. All I had to do was use one of the pegs at the ends and I could form a curving wall to form an igloo or fort that was big enough for me to sit in. Add a towel or bedsheet at the top and it would become an awning. There was no limit to my imagination with any of my building toys. The same could be said for the writers of this animated action sequel. LIFE DRASTICALLY CHANGED THE PAST FEW years from everything being awesome to everything being destroyed. The only citizen who kept a positive attitude was Emmet Brickowski, voiced by Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, The Magnificent Seven), but that was about to change. With Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games franchise, Pitch Perfect franchise) voicing Lucy, Will Arnett (Show Dogs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise) voicing Batman, Tiffany Haddish (Night School, Nobody’s Fool) voicing Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi and Stephanie Beatriz (Short Term 12, The Light of the Moon) voicing General Mayhem; the previous cast returned with a few new additions in this adventure film. The actors were all in tune with their characters, delivering the finely tuned humor in the script. As with building blocks, the writers had free rein to go anywhere they wanted with the story. For the most part, they did a good job; however, I think they defaulted to the safe side to avoid risking damage to this burgeoning franchise. The entire family will find something to enjoy in this picture. If there is going to be a third installment, I hope the writers see it as an opportunity to build something new and fresh for these building block pieces.
THE MAN’S FACE ON THE PAGE of my business magazine looked familiar to me. I stared for a moment and felt I knew him but not at his present age. Reading thru the accompanying article it turned out I was right; we had been friends in elementary school. He had the same wavy hair and dark eyes except the hair was silver gray instead of black. From what I read he was an executive officer of a venture capital firm. I was completely shocked because, at least during our time in school, he was quite conservative; you could say he was not a risk taker at all. The idea of him now putting capital into startup companies surprised me. It seemed like a total contradiction and for some reason it amused me. We hadn’t had any contact for decades, so my perceptions were based solely on a younger version of himself. If someone were to have asked me what I thought he would be doing when we grew up I would have said sales or marketing; it just seemed he had the type of personality that would cause a person to say he was a “people’s person.” FROM READING THAT ARTICLE ABOUT HIM, I started thinking about other people I had known for a long time. I looked at my perceptions of the person compared to the career they had chosen. In some cases, it was obvious to me there were many who had a good fit between their job and personality. There were some who surprised me because they did not do very well in school; yet, they were now employed doing some technical work that I thought would have been way beyond their capabilities. In fact, one was a scientist; working on testing the strength of a new compound. This person used to cheat on their exams when we were in school. I am sure I mentioned this before but there are several of my former classmates who were stunned to find out I teach in the health and fitness industry. Having been an overweight geek who flunked PE twice; no one, including myself, would have imagined that I now conduct yoga and cycle classes. It really is amazing to me how we all wind up in our chosen career paths. I guess it goes to show you one can never underestimate what a person wants to do in life. This was certainly true for the main character in this family adventure fantasy. NONE OF HIS CLASSMATES WOULD BELIEVE Alex, played by Louis Ashbourne (Alice Through the Looking Glass; Noddy, Toyland Detective-TV), was the one to save the future. How could they, he did not believe it himself. This film festival winning movie also starred Denise Gough (Robin Hood, ’71) as Mary, newcomer Dean Chaumoo as Bedders, Tom Taylor (The Dark Tower, Doctor Foster-TV) as Lance and Angus Imrie (Pond Life, Kingdom-TV) as young Merlin. This fun film reminded me of those live action fantasy films from the 70s and 80s. It had a sweet charm to it that I found enjoyable. The script was written with the young teen in mind, but it also provided amusement for the adult. The story was an updated version of the King Arthur and the round table tales and I liked the blending of the old and modern takes. There was nothing extreme in this picture; everything was kept within a safe parameter. This movie may not win any major awards; but for a couple of hours of light entertainment, this film was an easy viewing for me.
2 ½ stars
AS A CHILD I HAD A MENAGERIE of literary animals for pets. There was Old Yeller, Stuart Little, Peter Rabbit and Black Beauty to name a few. Among all these friends I had Doctor Dolittle on call just in case there was an emergency. There was always room for another animal to join my group, which explains why I made frequent trips to the library. Looking across the bookshelves, I would read every title on the shelves. With any title that sounded intriguing to me, I had to pull the book out to investigate and see if the story involved an animal. It did not matter what species; if there was mention of an animal, whether it was a pet or in the wild, I would check out the book. A fond memory of mine was seeing a movie that was based on a book I had read. Seeing Black Beauty or Lassie on the big or small screen was like a dream come true for me. And speaking of Lassie, when I was real small any collie I saw I immediately thought was Lassie. When they would not come up to me after calling her name, I would be sad. MY LOVE OF ANIMALS STAYED WITH me as I grew up. The pets my friends and relatives had were my surrogate pets. I could spend hours playing with a dog or cat. The other thing I would do was to simply follow and watch them. There are so many memories I have involving animals; each one as vivid today as when they were first formed. One of my oldest memories was going to a small zoo in a neighborhood park. There were only 8 or 9 different animals in it. I remember holding on to a railing in front of the cage and holding a marshmallow up in the air to get a bear to stand on its hind legs. The first time the bear stood up I went wild with excitement. I immediately deemed the bear my pet and would always go to its cage first before going to any of the other animals. I am certain many of us have fond memories revolving around animals. With so many stories having been done I cannot imagine non-animal lovers not knowing a few of them, at least. And now adding to our list of animal favorites comes Bella out of this adventure family film. HOME WAS A SPECIAL PLACE THAT Bella, voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard (Pete’s Dragon, Jurassic World franchise), knew all too well. That is why she could not give up on her 400-mile journey to get back home. With Jonah Hauer-King (Postcards from London, Little Women-TV) as Lucas, Alexandra Shipp (Straight Outta Compton; Love, Simon) as Olivia, Ashley Judd (Double Jeopardy, Heat) as Terri and Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner, Stand and Deliver) as Axel; this movie had a built-in cute factor due to Bella. It would be hard not to enjoy watching Bella and the animals she encountered in her life; however, cuteness can only go for so long. The entire production here came off a bit amateurish. The script was predictable as it periodically set up scenes to pull at the viewers’ heartstrings. The acting seemed stilted to me, to the point I preferred watching Bella when there were no humans around. The main issue about this picture was how generic it was in telling a story that has been done so many times before and better. This is not something you have to run out and go see; especially since there were a couple of scenes that I felt would be scary for younger children. I fell in love with Bella, but she deserved a better movie to star in than this one.
THE ONLY WAY TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT is to not have hopes or expectations. Sounds simple but it really is not. I have learned to avoid placing expectations on people’s behaviors. We all react to situations in a different way; one is not better or worse than the other. Trouble starts when an individual makes statements that use the word, “should;” something like, “You should have known…” This actually was a hard lesson for me to learn, where I would react to what I thought a person should have said or done. It took me a long time to realize no one has the right to tell me how to feel, that I am the only one responsible for how I am feeling. However, as we each go through our daily life there are things that crop up that disappoint us. For example, going to a particular restaurant to get your favorite dish and it winds up they are out of it. Seeing an article of clothing that you feel is perfect for you, only to find it does not look good on you or does not do what it was advertised to do. Things like this can cause us to feel disappointed; we had our mind set for one thing, but then the reality did not match our expectations. THE PAST HOLIDAY IS SOMETHING I look forward to because the movie studios release what they believe will be their heavy Oscar contenders and audience blockbusters. Every year I spend most of the day at the theater watching one movie after another. This year was no different and in fact, I was extra excited because a couple of limited release films were opening at a theater near me. I studied the movie times to figure out what would produce the maximum viewing experience. This also was taking into consideration the duration of the movie trailers; the average amount of time devoted to them is around 20 minutes. I was starting the day at one theater to watch three films then drive to another theater to finish up with 3 more. After finding a parking spot at the 2ndtheater I walked in to discover the films I needed to see were all sold out for the present time slots. Even rearranging start times did not help me; there was only one movie available and I had no desire to see it. The reason being, I saw the trailers and the main star does the same thing for every movie with no discretion towards the scripts. I was so disappointed and after watching this comedy I was even more disappointed that I wasted my time on this picture instead of one of the ones I had on my list. ONLY ONE DETECTIVE COULD FIND THE CULPRIT who was threatening the queen of England and that was Sherlock Holmes, played by Will Ferrell (Daddy’s Home franchise, Get Hard). With the help of his trusted friend Watson, played by John C. Reilly (The Sisters Brothers, Life After Beth), the two would have to work fast to save the queen. This adventure crime film was one of the worst movies I have seen the past year. How it got saved to be released during the holiday season was baffling to me. There was nothing funny since the jokes were noticeable a mile away and were of the lowest level of anything remotely humorous. I was bored out of my mind and angry that I had to pay to be subjected to this mess. Will has done the same schtick in his comedies for so long that his actions and acting must be on autopilot. Notice I did not list the rest of the main actors because I did not want to embarrass them any further.
1 1/4 stars
FOR MANY OF US OUR FIRST FRIEND was an inanimate object. It may have resided in our crib or was hanging down from the ceiling above us when we slept. Once we became mobile the object came with us. This first friend could have been a variety of things such as a stuffed animal or a doll. My first friend was a stuffed chimpanzee. I took him everywhere, including a spot on my bed to sleep with me. A relative of mine had a stuffed bunny rabbit that had the softest fur. It is funny, but I can still remember someone holding my chimpanzee and manipulating the limbs as if the monkey was gesturing while the person disguised their voice, making me believe my stuffed animal was talking to me. As Sparky the monkey and myself grew in age, we both began to share the same likes and dislikes. We both loved bananas but did not like oranges. If there was music playing in the house I would lift Sparky up onto a table and help him dance to the rhythm. Sometimes he was clumsy and knock over a glass or bottle, spilling the contents out onto the table. Sparky rarely got into trouble; if memory serves me correctly we may have had only a couple of time-outs during our friendship. THESE FIRST FRIENDS PLAY A VITAL ROLE in a child’s development. A child nurtures their imagination as they create adventures with their best friend. I still get a kick out of hearing little children talk to their toys and act based on what was said between them. Whatever object gets designated as a child’s friend does not matter; they still form a bond that opens a safe world for the two of them to explore. There was a couple I knew who used this bond as a teaching tool to show their child how to share things. I found their method ingenious because; though I never said anything, I thought their daughter was a bit selfish, based on how I observed her playing with other children. I am sure many of us have encountered a child that did not want anyone touching their toys; imagine the lessons that can be taught using the child’s best friend. Having a best friend makes a world of difference as we grow up and grow old. Take a moment to think back and remember what you had as your best friend when you were a child. You might have had a version of the main character from this action, adventure film. FEELING SAD AND ALONE AFTER HER father’s death Charlie, played by Hailee Seinfeld (The Keeping Room, Pitch Perfect franchise), found comfort in tinkering with cars just like her dad. She would get more than comfort from an old beaten-up yellow car she spotted in a junkyard. This science fiction movie also starred Jorge Lendeborg Jr (Spider-Man: Homecoming; Love, Simon) as Memo, John Cena (Blockers, The Wall) as Agent Burns, John Ortiz (The Drop, Silver Linings Playbook) as Dr. Powell and Jason Drucker (Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, Every Witch Way-TV) as Otis. Whether you call this picture an origin story or prequel it doesn’t matter because out of the Transformers movies this was one of the best. The writers gave life to the Bumblebee character while the special effects department gave him his humanity. I know, this may sound profound, but it really is not; this was a well-done script that focused more on the story than the action. And when there was action, at least I was able to see who was battling during the fight scenes. The glue that brought all of this together was Hailee; she did a beautiful job in bringing out the emotional aspects to the story. It was well worth seeing this on the big screen and if by chance you decide to go you might become friends with Bumblebee. If so, then lucky you because trust me you could have done a lot worse at the movie theater.
3 ¼ stars
THE WORLD HAS A DIFFERENT FEELING for those who walk through life with a strong sense of confidence. To believe in one’s own capabilities has an immediate, positive affect on a person’s persona. I have seen what confidence or the lack of can do to an individual. What fascinates me the most is how does a person become confident? At first, I thought it was something that you were born with, as if it was based on genetics. However, the more examples I encountered the more my thinking changed to the idea that outside influences play a large part in molding a person’s confidence. Parents and other family members, I believe, play a major role in whether a child grows into becoming a confident individual or not. I have come across a multitude of parents whose actions prevent their child from feeling confident. There are some parents who have no idea how their words can send their child reeling into a cavern of uncertainty; simply saying “Why did you do that?” can be taken one of two ways. It could be asked to see a child’s thought process, or it can be said with a harsher tone, so it immediately comes out in a negative way. ALONG WITH FAMILY MEMBERS THERE ARE other forces that come into play regarding a child’s perceptions about his or her own abilities. It can be a teacher, cashier; pretty much anyone who provides a positive reinforcement to the child. There was a family I used to know who had three children. For whatever reason the oldest child seemed, at least to me, to get most of the parents’ attention. They would do more things for this eldest child, such as signing them up for multiple classes and sports. The middle child became quiet despite trying to find ways to please his parents, hoping to gain their attention aka affection. Sadly, by living in the shadow of the older sibling, the parents did not realize what they were doing. As the children grew up the middle child excelled in science with the encouragement of a couple of teachers. Experiments were entered into science fairs and winning most of the time. This middle child never informed the parents; instead took the ribbons and certificates and placed them in a three-ring binder that he kept up on a shelf. Not until his achievements in science became newsworthy did the parents know about their gifted middle child. The oldest sibling grew up resenting his parents for pushing him into things he did not have the skills to handle properly and as an adult lived in the shadow of his middle brother. Family dynamics certainly can wreak havoc on its members; you can definitely see it here in this action, adventure fantasy. DESPITE HAVING BEEN PICKED ON AS A child Arthur, played by Jason Momoa (Conan the Barbarian, Game of Thrones-TV), grew up to be a strong and confident man. But when his mother Queen Atlanna’s, played by Nicole Kidman (Boy Erased, The Beguiled), people needed him to take his rightful place in the kingdom; Arthur felt he could never be their ruler. It would take a war for Arthur to try and fight his way to the throne. With Amber Heard (The Rum Diary, 3 Days to Kill) as Mera, Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Vulko and Patrick Wilson (The Commuter, The Conjuring franchise) as King Ora; this picture provided some good old-fashioned fun. The visuals were creative and colorful as this picture was heavy into CGI effects. Jason was perfect in the role and did as much as he could with the uneven script. He had a look and swagger that worked well for him in the story. I felt the script needed a rewrite with more focus on the main story line. There was plenty of action throughout the film; but at times, it was going too fast to really appreciate the fight scenes. All in all, this was quite an enjoyable and thrilling viewing experience. Besides Arthur being confident in the story, the writers had to be confident based on the extra scene they included in the middle of the ending credits.
IT FEELS GOOD TO BE BACK after being on vacation for the past couple of weeks. This was a special vacation for me because I finally fulfilled a dream I have had since I was a child. I traveled to the last state I needed to see to complete my quest of visiting all 50 states. This feeling of accomplishment was better than I had imagined; to have had this dream/goal for most of my life being checked off my list of things to do felt amazing. As I have done in every other state I have visited, I bought a couple of touristy T-shirts and caps to add to my collection. If you do the math, that means I have over 100 of each item; so yes, you can consider me somewhat of a nerd. I only wear them when I teach class since I prefer not putting on workout clothes that have a company’s logo on it. For every state I have been in, I have experienced something new and wonderful. One of the best experiences I have had from my journeys has been the discovery that people are pretty much the same no matter where they live. I have found there are more similarities between all of us than not and we truly can learn from each other if we take the time to do so. THERE IS THAT OLD PROVERB, “The grass is greener on the other side;” which means situations always look better than one’s own, even when they really are not. Since I live in a humid continental climate with all four seasons, I felt those who live in a tropical climate have it easier; it turns out that is not always the case. Meeting so many different people across the country has widened my horizons, allowing me to learn many new things. I can say with certainty the grass in no greener on the other side from your own; though it may feel like it at times. I find it interesting that one of my concerns about taking such a long vacation was how would I stay current with the new movie releases. As you can see, I have not posted a new review in a couple of weeks; however, I feel invigorated and find the very first movie I went to see upon my return relates so well with my feelings about accomplishing my dream. This animated adventure film has a couple of solid helpful messages stashed inside of its story. IMAGINE THE SHOCK MILES MORALES, voiced by Shameik Moore (Dope, Joyful Noise), felt when he discovered there was more than one version of his superhero, Spider-Man. With Jake Johnson (Tag, New Girl-TV) voicing Peter B. Parker, Hailee Steinfeld (The Edge of Seventeen, Pitch Perfect franchise) voicing Gwen Stacy, Mahershala Ali (Green Book, Hidden Figures) voicing Uncle Aaron and John Mulaney (Saturday Night Live-TV, The Jim Gaffigan Show-TV) voicing Spider-Ham; this was a visually fun action film. Using an assortment of animation styles, they lent themselves to the sharp humor in the script. As I mentioned earlier, I found a couple of good lessons were conveyed in the middle of the quick antics on display. What I also enjoyed was the inclusion of several tender scenes that gave this movie a nice sheen to it. This picture has a much more sophisticated script than the average animated film; both children and adults would have an easy time watching it. For me at times, I felt I was literally seeing a comic book come to life. And the funny thing about this is after I saw the movie trailer I was left with a “meh” feeling. I am glad this was my first movie to review upon my return and I loved the connection I felt between my feelings about my experience with the feelings expressed in this well-done film.
IT WAS GOING TO BE A NIGHT AT the theater, to see a stage version of a classic musical movie. I remembered parts of the film and its iconic soundtrack. Back when the movie was made the studio used actors who were already considered legendary figures. The musical I was going to see now got its start on Broadway; I was seeing a version of it at a popular, regional theater. One big difference between the two productions I already knew and that was the regional theater staged their shows in the round, where the stage was in the middle of the theater and the audience sat all around it. This was not going to be a problem since I had been to this theater several times and all their shows were staged with the audience in mind, making sure the cast had plenty of opportunities to face each side of the audience. Sitting in my seat with the lights dimmed, the orchestra began to play. I listened to the familiar music, recalling the scene where the music was used in the movie. From there the musicians began to play something that was unfamiliar to me; I had no recollection of it. Little did I know there was more to come. MAYBE PART OF THE BLAME FALLS ON me for having high expectations. You see, I expected this production to have the same high caliber of singing and dancing as the movie. The male lead’s singing voice was not able to bring the same joyful power as the actor from the film. This one particular song from the movie that still gets airplay today was not given its fair amount of stage time; the cast only sang one refrain from it. I could not believe it. After looking forward to seeing this movie come to life, so to speak; I was let down by what I was watching on stage. This production was nothing like the movie. I do not know how you feel about it, but I do not like when things are loosely created out of established stories. If they would have given this stage show a different title then I would not have had the same reaction, except for the male lead’s singing. Call it whatever you want but do not sell it as a similar production based on the classic story. It is not always a good idea to introduce some random idea that has no place to reside in a story just to freshen it up. This action adventure picture is proof of it. RETURNING FROM THE WAR FRONT ROBIN of Loxley, played by Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Legend), came back to a home in ruins and a girlfriend who no longer was there. Adding in the poverty he was seeing all around him, there was only one thing Robin could do; he would have to go undercover. With Jamie Foxx (Ray, Law Abiding Citizen) as Little John, Ben Mendelssohn (Animal Kingdom, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Sheriff of Nottingham, Eve Hewson (Enough Said, Bridge of Spies) as Marian and Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, A Private War) as Will Scarlet; this thriller was silly, both in the script and visually. I dislike when writers introduce things into the story that were never part of the time period. An example here would be a version of a Gatling gun for arrows; how in the world did the writers come up with this for Robin Hood? I guess they were too busy creating elaborate fight scenes. The miscasting of Taron and Eve was evident since there was no chemistry between the two. Dressed in odd clothing and ridiculous special effects this film succeeded in one thing: it robbed me of my available time.
1 2/3 stars
TAKE IT FROM SOMEONE WHO KNOWS, change is not always an easy thing. Change is something I prefer taking place over time—like the duration it takes for a sapling to turn into a majestic oak tree. Intellectually I know change is inevitable; but that does not mean I have to like it. For the past few years a friend and I have talked on the phone every day during my work commute. I have known her since we were in elementary school. We started talking to each other every day after she moved out of state for work. Recently she received a promotion that changed her schedule. After talking together on the phone for the past few years, she now had a daily work commitment that had to be handled at the exact time we would be on the phone. It was strange not talking to her; one of the reasons I discovered was it made my commute easier. It seemed to make the time go by faster and before you say anything, I always used a hands-free device to talk to her. I still wish we could have our daily talk, but I understand the reason why; she had bettered herself at work and that is always a good thing. PART OF FRIENDSHIP/LOVE WITH A PERSON is wishing them the best. Though things change a true friend or family member remains supportive through the process…or at least that is what they are supposed to do, according to my definition of family/friends. There is a couple of sisters I know where one of them pretends to be supportive but is incredibly passive aggressive toward her older sister. If you are not paying close attention you might miss the barbs and comments that the younger sister tosses over toward her big sister. I was a witness to it and was stunned by the way the younger sister tried to build herself up by putting her sister down. Based on the things I knew about the siblings, I could see why the younger one was acting out; she felt she was not getting enough attention. I felt this way based on the information I was privy to, besides seeing it with my own eyes. As I said before change is not always easy and because the older sister married first and had children, the younger sister was no longer getting to be the center of attention in their family. Some people just act that way; heck, it even happened in this animated adventure film. WHEN HER GAME SUDDENLY STOPPED WORKING; Vanellope, voiced by Sarah Silverman (The Book of Henry, Battle of the Sexes), and her best friend Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly (Chicago, Kong: Skull Island), made their way to the internet to find a solution. They found more than they expected, in ways that would test their friendship. With Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman, Keeping Up with the Joneses) voicing Shank, Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures, Proud Mary) voicing Yesss and Jane Lynch (Julie & Julia, Glee-TV) voicing Calhoun; this comedy sequel had many fun moments in it. I thought John and Sarah did a wonderful job together as they played off each other. The visuals were great to watch as the script provided humor for both young and old. If I have a negative comment it would be about the element of wonderment; since this was a sequel it did not have that extra magic of being a fresh idea. Also, the action did not always have a smooth transition. I still had a good time watching this picture and ultimately it did present an admirable conclusion to the topics offered up in the script. I am happy for this sequel.
THE TICKETS WERE A PRESENT TO ME, for a revival of a Broadway musical that was touring the country. I had seen this production a couple of times before, let alone various video clips of it with several iconic actresses starring in the lead role. The actress in this current production was a “heavy-hitter” having won various awards, including a Tony award. I was excited to see her since she had the acting chops and the vocal power to carry off this demanding role. Arriving at the theater we made our way to our seats, which turned out to be directly center to the stage. There were no sight obstructions, nor any issues with the people in front blocking my view because we were looking down at the stage from an elevated height. At the posted time the lights in the theater dimmed except for one spotlight directed at the musical conductor. Classic songs from the musical score were touched upon during the overture before the curtain came up and there on stage was the Tony winning actress. The crowd erupted with applause as the orchestra paused a moment for the clapping to die down. It was not long until the first song was to be sung in the story by the actress; I was excited to hear her voice again. WHAT CAME OUT OF HER MOUTH was a voice that was unfamiliar to me. I did not know if she had a cold or the years of singing had taken their toll on her vocal cords; but she could barely hold a note. My disappointment weighed on me like a heavy knapsack strapped to my back. She was the lead, so she was expected to carry a major portion of the script and songs. Though the sets were beautiful, and the rest of the actors were good, I was underwhelmed with this production. I knew how good this musical could be and what I saw did not carry me to the end of the story; instead, it had to pull me along on broken legs. That is how disappointed I felt, let down with the singing which I knew could have been enthralling. Ultimately, I was glad I saw this production; especially since it was a gift to me, but it did not work out that way. We talked about the actress afterwards and everyone felt the same as I did. I am willing to bet those friends would feel the same way as I did when I saw this latest installment from the world of Harry Potter. WITH THE ESCAPE OF THE WARLOCK GRINDELWALD, played by Johnny Depp (Black Mass, The Lone Ranger), the wizarding world would find itself in jeopardy of splitting apart. It would take someone extraordinary to go against Grindelwald and remain alive. This adventure fantasy starred Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, The Danish Girl) as Newt Scamander, Dan Fogler (Balls of Fury, Don Peyote) as Jacob Kowalski, Katherine Waterson (Inherent Vice, Alien: Covenant) as Tina Goldstein and Jude Law (Anna Karenina, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Albus Dumbledore. Let me start out by saying I bought magical wands for family members; so, you know I was looking forward to this 2nd installment. Visually this film maintained the fun and creative special effects as the previous ones. There were new characters introduced, all laying the groundwork to fill in the paths toward the Harry Potter stories. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed these aspects of the film; but the story/script was weak. This movie lacked the excitement I had grown to expect, feeling like we went from one crisis to another with too many story lines thrown in. I almost felt as if this production was partially “phoned in” because it lacked the “magic” that was found in the Harry Potter films. Whether I felt obligation or a sense of duty, I would have gone to this film regardless; however, I do not want to feel as if I am being given a so-so effort in the creation of this franchise.