IT WAS DIFFICULT NOT TO SEE the news reports concerning a youth and the police. Like most others, I saw the video clips of the police officers subduing the young man. He was running away from them after the vehicle he was in was stopped by the officers. I am not familiar with the tactics police personnel use to restrain/apprehend an individual. One officer was punching the outer thigh of the young man who was on the ground, another kneeled on his chest, and a third one was trying to restrain the fists that were trying to land on anyone of them. I am going to do my best not to get into a discussion on whether it was right or wrong; I was not there and am not familiar with all the circumstances. As can be expected the family was outraged and the mother was interviewed multiple times by various news sources. She wanted the officers fired for the “abuse” they inflicted on her boy. Now let me give you one more detail about this story; the boy was 17 years old, riding with a friend at 2 in the morning (on a weeknight) and in his knapsack, after the police restrained him, they found a loaded handgun. My question to the outraged and distraught parents is, why was their underage son out past curfew, carrying a gun? THROUGHOUT THE COVERAGE OF THIS INCIDENT, where protesters joined the parents in demanding justice for their son, the news people always mentioned the loaded gun and the police officers’ concerns. I do not deny the scenario is troubling all the way around, but I am troubled about an underage person having a gun. Does blame fall on the parents? It reminded me of the parents who took their children to the zoo. One of the parents climbed over the barrier to a gorilla’s pen for a photo opportunity. Who would think of such a thing and what are they teaching their children? As you would imagine, the gorilla attacked the parent and had to be darted with a tranquilizing drug. When it comes to parenting, I am nowhere near an expert; but I do know there is no handbook that prepares a parent for what will be in store for them with the birth of a child. However, I have said this for years: We need a license to drive a car; I feel a person should be licensed to have a baby. It is such a crucial factor in life, and I have seen many events of extraordinary parenting as well as poor. In this dramatic, horror adventure film, I am not yet sure how I feel about the main character’s parenting skills. HOPING THE EXPERIENCE WILL BE POSITIVE and memorable, a father takes his daughters on a trip to visit their deceased mother’s childhood village in Africa. It would be memorable but not for the reasons the father was hoping for. With Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation, No Good Deed) as Dr. Nate Samuels, Martin Munro (Moffie, Warrior-TV) as Kees, Leah Jeffries (Empire-TV, Rel-TV) as Norah Samuels, Iyana Halley (Licorice Pizza, This is Us-TV) as Meredith Samuels and Thapelo Sebogodi (The River-TV, Our Girl-TV) as Camo; this thriller was lucky to have Idris Elba lead the cast. He was good, but the script did not provide anyone with a decent story to tell. The script was not believable; there were scenes that I found to be ridiculous in their phoniness. There were times I was sitting in my seat staring in disbelief due to the characters’ actions. The other issue I had was the fact that I was able to easily figure out how the story was playing out. It was not like there was an original thought used to create this story in the first place. Besides Elba, I also enjoyed the special effects used to create his wild adversary. There were several scenes with blood and violence.
2 ½ stars
UP UNTIL I SAW THE MOVIE Bambi, the only characters that would perish in an animated picture were the evil ones. The evil queen, the wicked witch; none of the “bad” characters in those animated films went unpunished for their awful actions. Even Cruella DeVil got her comeuppance for what she did to those innocent puppies. When I watched Bambi, I was traumatized by what happened to the mother. I understood death, but I had not been exposed to it on a personal level. Suddenly it was thrust upon me in an unexpected way, an animated movie where an innocent relative does not survive; it was an awful experience for me. I wanted to take in Bambi, so he would not be alone. In fact, I remember feeling angry towards the movie studio for allowing such a thing to happen. In my mind, innocent people were not supposed to get hurt or die; I believed it was a written rule. Little did I know that my introduction to the film Bambi would only be a prelude to what happens everyday in the real world. I guess that is why I am more attracted to fantasy and movies. SPOILER ALERT: YEARS LATER ANOTHER ANIMATED FILM COMES along where a tragedy befalls the parent of a main character. I at least was better equipped to handle this when I saw the original film of, The Lion King. In the context of the story, there were similarities between it and Bambi. What softened the blow in my opinion were the various musical numbers and the endearing, emotional depth given to the characters. I think a person would be hard pressed not to react to the characters in the movie. From that movie a new industry was created or at least it was new to me. Sitting in a theater, the lights go down and the orchestra begins the familiar notes from the soundtrack; I was immediately brought into their world when part of the cast of the staged version of The Lion King walk down the aisle towards the stage. With the imaginative and colorful costumes, myself and the audience were in awe. The staged show began on Broadway in 1997 and I believe it is still running today. Suffice it to say, it would be a challenge for any movie studio to do something that would top the memories and experiences viewers and theater goers would already have towards this story. However, do not let that stop you if you are curious to see the latest version of a much beloved story. WITHOUT THE GUIDANCE OF HIS PARENTS Simba, voiced by Donald Glover (The Martian, Solo: A Star Wars Story), must learn for himself what it means to become a king. With Beyonce (Dreamgirls, Obsessed) voicing Nala, Seth Rogen (Long Shot, The Disaster Artist) voicing Pumbaa, Billy Eichner (Most Likely to Murder, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) voicing Timon and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things, 12 Years a Slave) voicing Scar; this animated, adventure drama was visually startling to me. I kept questioning myself on whether some of the animals were real or not. The CGI was utterly amazing to the point I felt I was on an African Safari. Now for the substance behind those visuals, the writers stayed close to the original story with only a few minor tweaks. However, what they forgot to do was keep the endearing emotional quality to the characters. Based on the way the characters acted there was not much variance to their emotional output. The script paled in comparison to the technical quality of this picture. I also was distracted by the musical soundtrack; not the individual songs, but the background music was too over dramatic. One of the bright spots was listening to Seth and Billy with their verbal exchanges. If the script would have been better written I think this would have been a stellar production; instead, I felt I had gone to the zoo during the nap times for some of my favorite animals.
2 ½ stars
SHE DID NOT LOOK LIKE an average woman, whatever average was supposed to look like. I only say that because I remember hearing the comments made about her appearance. We worked together years ago when aerobic meant doing hard impact body movements. The best way to describe her would be to say she was thick because she was not overweight per se. Her arms and legs were large for her body due to her intense weight training regimen. I would see her on the fitness floor from time to time and was always amazed with the amount of weight she used in her exercises. She was usually the only female among the male weightlifters and it amused me when I could tell some of the men were intimidated by her strength. In the locker room I would hear guys talk about her. They always had something negative to say about her appearance, never about her achievements. I am not going to repeat them here since they were rude and ignorant; let me just say I felt the men had to tear her down to make themselves feel better. They could not lift the same amount of weight as she so of course they had to say something to save face, the cowards. MY HOPE FOR THE CURRENT times we live in is that men and women will get closer to be thought of as equals. Not to be crude or rude, but except for the different plumbing women and men can do similar skills and work; maybe with only some slight adjustments. The notion that one gender is weaker than the other is a dated falsehood that needs to be buried once and for all. I remember the teasing I took for having a female internist and the rude comments that were made about what must have taken place during my physical exams. Can you believe it? I did not care if the doctor was a man or women; I was more concerned if they graduated at the top or bottom of their class. No matter what doctor I go to, I always try to look for a copy of their diploma hanging somewhere up on a wall. This divide that has been around for centuries between the sexes is more about power than gender. Well I am here to tell you it was impressive to see the achievements women made in the African country in this action, adventure film. UPON HIS FATHER’S DEATH T’CHALLA, played by Chadwick Boseman (Get on Up, 42), would have to participate in an ancient ritual to determine who would become the Black Panther and lead the nation. Someone else had already had been working for years on how to seize the throne. This science fiction movie also starred Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Fantastic Four) as Erik Killmonger, Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, Star Wars franchise) as Nakia, Danai Gurira (The Visitor, All Eyez on Me) as Okoye and Letitia Wright (The Commuter, Top Boy-TV) as Shuri. First off I have to tell you this was not your typical superhero movie. There were no aliens or monsters hell bent on destroying Earth. I was fascinated by the story line and especially the use of women in the script. Black Panther was almost secondary for me compared to the scenes involving women. Michael B. Jordan and Danai commanded the screen with their roles. A majority of the fight scenes were filmed in an odd way; sort of a jerky slow/fast motion type of way. It was not a major distraction since these scenes were not all focal points in the story. The character development along with the juxtaposition of ancient rituals with modern technology kept me fully interested in this picture. Oh and also the great visuals and musical choices for the soundtrack. For those not into superhero movies this one may be worth your time. I enjoyed the different way it told a story and hope going forward that the novelty will wear off in having strong female characters participate in leading a story. There were 2 extra scenes in the middle and end of the credits.
3 ½ stars
AFTER seeing and experiencing it with my own eyes, I understand the reasons why one should not make any major changes in one’s life during an upheaval. The big life changers one could experience are divorce/breakup, relocation or job loss. I had a job for some years at a company that went through a downsizing and my position was eliminated. One of the first things I thought I needed to do was put my house up for sale. Luckily a friend talked me out of it. Eventually I did find a new job and was grateful I had listened to my friend. THERE is a friend of mine who tended to make rash decisions in her life. After being with her boyfriend for several years they broke up; she took it very hard. I made myself available, being her support during the difficult time. Well imagine my shock when she told me in a relative short time she had met someone. I thought maybe this would be a distraction for her to pick herself up and move on; however, within several weeks she comes to tell me she is getting married. Carefully I chose my words to her and asked a few questions about her reasons and such, but nothing deterred her pending nuptials. You might have figured out by now where this story is going. The wedding was lovely, small and intimate with lots of flowers everywhere. But just as flowers have a short lifespan so did this marriage. After 3 or 4 years they got divorced and from the stories she told me I was surprised the relationship did not end sooner. So you see when it comes to big lifetime events, I feel they need to sit out and ripen like a beautiful piece of fruit to yield the strongest taste. ASSIGNED to a secret mission in North Africa intelligence officer Max Vatan and French resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour, played by Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, World War Z) and Marion Cotilard (The Immigrant, Inception), had to pose as a married couple for the plan to succeed. They did not realize emotions could rise during wartime. This action drama drew me early into its story. With Jared Harris (Lincoln, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) as Frank Heslop, I thought the acting was good; though it became obvious Marion was the best out of the group. The buildup of action was well done by director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future franchise, Flight). As for the sets, scenery and costumes; they were picture perfect, adding a beautiful style to the romantic aspects of the film. Unfortunately by the midway point the story started to fizzle out. I felt the picture needed more intense drama. Part of this I believe fell on Brad and Marion; there was some chemistry between them but I felt for this story they needed to smolder and burn brightly. Together they were more like two candles instead of a blazing fire. As the last half of the movie played out I found my mind started to wander which is never a good sign. I had to think about the rating I would give to this film since I liked the first part better than the second and I never want to make a rash decision.
2 ½ stars
Photographs are the vehicles that bring pieces of the world to our consciousness. Like a garden in full bloom, some pictures form perennial memories that come up in our thoughts from time to time. There are others that bloom large in our mind that only last for a short time before withering away into the autumn then winter of its life. My attraction to photography started at a young age. Early on my purpose was to capture moments in my and other people’s lives like cobblestones that would help build the path of our lives. In college I found other ways to use a camera to create art. There was one class where our goal was to shoot the ordinary and make it into the extraordinary; I went crazy in this class, shooting and developing photos every weekend. One of the photos was hung up in our school gallery. It was a close-up picture of bananas, but after blowing the size up and framing it, it looked like it was an old discarded toilet. For me there is a difference between scenes shown on a newscast versus a photograph. Seeing something on TV, even if it is disturbing, tends to be fleeting or separate from one’s self. I find photographs are more powerful, capturing more emotional deepness in my opinion. Maybe it is because of all these reality based shows these days, but I tend to assume most things being broadcast are being shown through a filter. Looking at a photograph can be a moving experience. PHOTOGRAPHER and cinematographer Sebastiao Salgado (The Spectre of Hope, Looking Back at You-TV movie) has been taking photographs for over 40 years. Through his camera lens he has seen some things no one should have to see; yet each one can become a chapter in a book about the world around us. This Oscar nominated and film festival winning documentary was amazing and hard to watch at the same time. Co-directed and written by Wim Wenders (Pina, Wings of Desire), there were some scenes that were quite uncomfortable to view such as the civil conflicts in Africa. However Sebastiao’s photographs on a whole were so beautiful; filmed in black and white gave them a special stark intensity. There were photos of events I had seen on the news, but displayed in this format made them more personal and intimate. The section of the movie that dealt with the Brazilian forest was fascinating to me. The other aspect of this film that I appreciated was listening to Sebastiao and Juliano Riberio Salgado (Paris la Metisse; Nauru, An Island Adrift-TV movie) talk about the photos and what was going on at the time. Watching this beautiful film felt like I was taking a walk through time; some of his photos will become new perennial memories in my mind. English, French and Portuguese was spoken through parts of the movie.
3 1/2 stars
What a flashback I got while watching this animated movie. No, not that type of flashback; I am talking about when I went to see the circus with my aunt and cousins when I was a little boy. This film was just as fun but without the animal smells. As the third installment of this franchise, this one was the best one. The assortment of vibrant colors reaching across the screen was just beautiful. Starting where the 2nd movie left off, the furry friends were still in Africa. Feeling homesick for New York City, the group of animals hatched up a plan to get back home. Among the usual cast there was Alex the lion, voiced by Ben Stiller (Tropic Thunder, Tower Heist); Marty the zebra, voiced by Chris Rock (Head of State, Down to Earth) and Melman the giraffe, voiced by David Schwimmer (Friends-TV, Six Days Seven Nights). Once the group arrived in Monte Carlo, the action went into high gear. New character Captain Chantel DuBois, voiced by Frances McDormand (Moonrise Kingdom, Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day), was determined to capture Alex so she could mount his head on her trophy wall. I enjoyed the humor that was appropriate for young children, along with having fun lines written with the adult in mind. A madcap chase ensued as the animals traveled across Europe with Captain DuBois hot on their tails. Filled with excitement, laughs and thrills; this wonderful movie had everything to please a young child and a grown-up who was a kid at heart.
3 1/4 stars