IT WAS A STORY I HAD seen done in the movies over and over, but now I was witnessing it firsthand. I must tell you it is a classic story and despite being so familiar with how it plays out, I still enjoyed watching the journey of discovery my friend experienced. It all started when she went to a club with a few of her friends. While at the club one of her friends bumped into a friend of theirs, who came to the club with a couple of their friends. Introductions were made and the two separate sets hung out together by the bar. The way she described it to me, her friends and the other friends were breaking off into separate conversations, with her in the middle. When she participated in the conversation with the group to her left, she missed what was taking place to her right; that is, until someone from that group got her attention to ask her opinion. At some point a guy from the other set of friends had gone to the restroom and when he returned, he wound up standing next to her. The two of them found themselves having their own conversation, discovering they both worked in the same industry. The evening ended, but not without invites for a party that was taking place the following weekend. AS MY FRIEND TELLS IT, SHE was not attracted to the guy she wound up talking to for part of the evening. As she described it, “he was too crazy for her,” whatever that meant. However, with coaxing from her friends she went to the party. This guy was there and her first impression of him stuck; he seemed like a party animal who was going from one room to another, acting out with his celebrity impressions and silly antics. She did not care for him at all. My friend did not stay long and went home early. The following week, the guy called her at work on the premise of it being work related. He needed a credit reference on their mutual customer and for the weeks following their calls at work became more frequent and longer, always starting out with a business question. She learned a lot about him, finding a side of him that he kept hidden out in public. After covering all the initial topics that two recently introduced people discuss, their conversations were being held on a deeper level. Her first impression of him was melting away as the guy’s real personality was emerging. They decided to go on a date. Their first date led to a second and a third and before you knew it, they became a couple. I enjoyed watching their story unfold, just like I enjoyed watching this animated movie that dealt with first impressions. TO AVOID JAIL, A BAND OF criminals must go through a rehabilitation program to prove to the city they can be model citizens despite how they look. Believing they could fool everyone; the group discovers something they were not expecting. With Sam Rockwell (Richard Jewell, Mr. Right) voicing Wolf, Marc Maron (Respect, Glow-TV) voicing Snake, Awkwafina (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, The Farewell) voicing Tarantula, Craig Robinson (Hot Tub Machine franchise, Pineapple Express) voicing Shark and Anthony Ramos (A Star is Born, In the Heights) voicing Piranha; this adventure comedy conveyed a wonderful message. I thought the script was excellent with its smattering of humor, poignancy, and excitement. The animation was wonderful, and I enjoyed the way the actors melded themselves into their characters. With the different elements, the director still created a solid, even paced film that devoted the right amount of time to each scene. I was surprised how good this picture was put together and as I said, I loved the message it laid out for the viewers. There was an extra scene in the middle of the credits.
3 ½ stars
I WANT TO CLARIFY BEFORE TALKING about the viewing of today’s movie, a good day is one where a person is alive and well. That would be at the top of the list in my opinion. There was this fellow I knew who when asked if he was having a good day would answer, “I am above ground, aren’t I?” So, keeping things in perspective, I am sure we can all agree there are many options we use to define a good day, maybe even a perfect day. For some people, having an easy commute makes for a good day. I can relate to this because at one time I had to cross 5 different railroad tracks to get to the office and rarely did I ever make it all the way without being stopped at a train crossing. Other folks may discover money forgotten in a pocket of clothing or a twenty-dollar bill lost on the street and that would warrant the day becoming a good one for them. Being able to fix a computer issue or a broken item in my home always makes my day brighter and my mood happier, since I am not handy or computer savvy. Everyone has their own definition of perfect and good when describing a day. I can say with certainty that my day was made perfect due to the circumstances that allowed me to see today’s film. AS SOME OF YOU HAVE KNOWN or guessed, I have not been to a movie theater during the pandemic. I do not have a problem sitting in the theater with a mask on my face for the entire movie; however, I cannot trust other patrons doing the same thing, especially if they are not vaccinated. I had a free night coming up and toyed with the idea of venturing back to the movie theater. The issue was timing; I wanted to see a film right after work so the night would not get to be too late for me. Checking online, I looked at all the movie choices at the closest multiscreen theater near my office. Out of 20 film choices, three of them fit into my time requirement; two of them had start times that reflected my closing time. I remembered for this theater chain, their average time for showing previews was between 20-24 minutes. If traffic was good, I felt I could get to the theater in time. Not only did I get there in time, despite there only being 18 minutes of previews, I was the only one in the theater to see this outstanding, adventure fantasy. Already I was having a good day. DESPITE TRYING TO AVOID HIS PAST, when a group of attackers confronted Shaun, played by Simu Liu (Women is Losers, Kim’s Convenience-TV), he had no choice but to show them what he was trained to do. With Awkwafina (The Farewell, Crazy Rich Asians) as Katy, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung (Red Cliff franchise, The Grandmaster) as Xu Wenwu, Ben Kingsley (An Ordinary Man, Night Hunter) as Trevor Slattery and Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians, Tomorrow Never Dies) as Ying Nan; this action movie not only grabbed me near the beginning but took me to a faraway place filled with utter entertainment. There was folklore, incredible fight scenes, wonderful imagination, humor, drama and excitement; I loved every part of this picture. And this is despite the story having Marvel’s template for storytelling; it did not matter to me at all. The introduction of a new Marvel film superhero was handled in such a way to include back story into the drama and humor of the character. As with other Marvel movies, there were 2 extra scenes in the middle and end of the credits. Already having a good day, seeing this dynamite of a picture made my day perfect. Because of the entire movie watching and entertainment experience, I gave the movie a top rating.
I DID NOT SEE THEM UNTIL AFTER we were seated for dinner. They caught my eye because of what they were wearing, identical matching outfits. We were guests at a wedding, and I knew the two of them were not related to me. I had to assume they were a mother and daughter; the little girl looked like she was 5 to 7 years old. They were seated at a table nearby, in seats that were directly in line with my field of vision. Their dresses were made of a soft fabric like crepe or chiffon, with a pattern of autumn colored leaves all over it. With capped sleeves and a rounded neck, they each had a gold necklace around their neck that had a single dropped pearl dangling from it; in their pierced ears there were matching pearl earrings. I tried not to stare but the more I caught glimpses of them the more I found them fascinating in a creepy sort of way. Now I do not want to come off as disrespectful but seeing them dressed and acting the same made me uncomfortable. I have never been one to fall in line to fit in with the majority; I prefer people expressing their individuality and being different without feeling like they must conform to a certain set of “rules.” Watching these two with they identical hair styles and makeup just seemed so weird to me. AFTER THE WEDDING EVENT ON MY DRIVE home, I spent some time thinking about that mother and daughter and my uneasiness with them dressing up to match each other. Having had some friends whose parents tried to raise them to be the same as their parents, I have always questioned the motivation behind it. Why did a mother or father want to have their child be just like them? Was it because that is how they were raised or maybe they wanted their child to be perfect, at least whatever they considered to be perfect? What I believe is children should be raised to be self-thinking, independent beings. Having spent many years feeling like an outsider, one could argue that has contributed to me wanting everyone to freely express their individuality. It is funny; I am remembering an incident with a friend who refused to go out to dinner with me until I had changed my clothes. He did not like what I was wearing, thinking it looked ridiculous on me. Because I did not want to argue I went ahead and put on a different shirt and pair of pants. I needed some of the gumption and fight the main character had in this film festival winner. WAKING UP TO FIND OUT SHE was sent to a place that was going to change and mold her to fit into a certain society, there was only one person Uma, played by Emma Roberts (The Art of Getting By, We’re the Millers), knew who could do such a thing; it was her mother. With Danielle Macdonald (Patti Cake$, Dumplin’) as Chloe, Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell) as Yu, Eiza Gonzalez (Baby Driver, Bloodshot) as Amarna and Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil franchise, Shock and Awe) as The Duchess; this fantasy, sci fi thriller had some lofty goals. Visually, I enjoyed watching this picture; the sets and costumes, especially Milla’s, were wonderful. The cast was well-suited for the roles and worked well together. Unfortunately, I was able to figure out what was going to happen due to the script; it was a mashup of a few previous films in the same genre. There were some scenes that worked, but then others lacked focus. If this had been released (or maybe it was) at the theaters I cannot imagine it doing very well. However, seeing it at home made it more palatable for me. If nothing else, I certainly understood the message that was trying to be conveyed and commend the writers and director for trying to create something original. It was a shame it did not quite get to its high aspirations.
2 1/3 stars
RARELY DOES DEATH HAVE A PRETTY face. I hope when my time ends here I die peacefully in my sleep. Surely, I am not the only one who wishes for this to happen. The first time I ever saw the face of death it was on a woman with cancer. I did my best not to show my horror when I walked into her hospital room. She had turned her head towards me when I knocked on the open door of her room. Her eyes once prominent and bright were now dull and sunken deep into her skull. The thing that shocked me the most was her teeth. They looked huge because of the wasting away of her face. Dimples once deep and defined were just vertical lines now, accentuating the prominence of her teeth. I swear, they looked like they belonged to a carnivorous animal. The dry, chapped lips were stretched thin. She smiled at me; I wondered how much effort that must have taken her. A nurse stopped in to check on her vitals and give her a few ice chips to suck on. It took everything for me not to lose control of myself. I knew this was going to be the last time I would see her alive. I COULD NOT STOP THINKING ABOUT her. Though we never talked about it, it must have been brutal to be aware of the cancer that was taking the life away from her. By the time she died there was a sense of relief among her survivors. I realized right then that the longer a person stays in the throes of a disease, the easier it becomes for the survivors to say goodbye. No one wants to see a loved one suffer; by the time a person succumbs, those left behind are relieved their loved one is no longer in pain. On the other hand, I realize when a person dies suddenly it is harder for their survivors to deal with the unexpected death. I had a friend who was driving their sister to an event and the sister, at some point, raised her hand to her head saying she had a sharp pain. That is all she said because she died instantly from a brain aneurysm. Except for the immediate sharp pain in the sister’s head, she did not suffer; however, the other sister did not recover from that experience for years. Not that she would ever recover completely. Death as you can see has been on my mind since I watched this comedic drama. THE DECISION WAS MADE NOT TO tell her grandmother she had cancer; but Billi, played by Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians, Ocean’s Eight), did not know if she could live with that decision. This film festival winning movie also starred Tzi Ma (The Ladykillers, Arrival) as Haiyan, Diana Lin (Australia Day, The Family Law-TV) as Jian, newcomer Shuzhen Zhao as Nai Nai and Ines Laimins (Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, Lady Bloodfight) as Kathy. Overall, I enjoyed this picture. Many of the themes in this story have been told before; but here there was a different perspective put on them, which I attributed to the Chinese culture. I wish I could say Awkwafina was outstanding in her role, but I honestly wonder if there could have been more drawn out of her. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very different role for her and I thought she did an excellent job; but, I wanted to see more intensity in her character. Again, it may be because I am not completely schooled in Chinese culture. The humor in the story grew organically for me as it came out of family dynamics. If I was put in such a position as Billi, I do not know how I would have handled the situation. Instead, this picture made me think about what I would want done for me if I fell ill. At times Chinese was spoken with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars
THERE IS NOTHING LIKE FINDING A bargain. I do not understand people who do not pay attention to sales. To my way of thinking, when something goes on sale at the grocery store I buy multiples of it to last me up until the next time it goes on sale. In addition, I am a coupon cutter; in case I need an item and it is not on sale, then I feel better if I at least have a coupon to lower the price. I consider this simply rational thinking. Yet I know some people who say they cannot be bothered looking for sales or cutting coupons. Though I tend to think of people who fall into this category as being wasteful, I try not to judge them. The group I have a challenge with is the one where people must tell you how much they paid for an item. I am not talking about those who share their bargain treasures of which I am a part of; I am referring to the ones who feel it is necessary to tell me how much they paid for their car, their suit, their earrings and everything else in their possession. I USED TO HAVE A FRIEND who had the need, like a compulsion, to recite the cost of every single thing he owned. If I complimented him on a new shirt, he would tell me the price of it instead of just saying thank you. To me it was bragging because it was obvious he was paying full price; it wasn’t like he said, “Oh you won’t believe it, I got this for ½ off.” I just recently bought a lightweight jacket at a store that is in the throes of going out of business. It was a $100.00 jacket that cost me only $20.00. When someone compliments me on it I share the price and let them know the store has other items if they want to see if there is something for themselves. But this friend wanted to make sure people knew he was wearing top of the line, expensive clothing. I did not understand it at all. Just because a person has money does not mean they have good taste or good sense. This is how I look at money; it certainly can help eliminate some stresses in one’s life, but it does not give a person superhuman power. Heck, there are a lot of wealthy people who are jerks, even downright mean. With my way of thinking, the story in this romantic comedy resonated inside of me. NEW YORK NATIVE RACHAEL CHU, played by Constance Wu (Sound of My Voice, Fresh Off the Boat-TV), was in love with her boyfriend Nick Young, played by relative newcomer Henry Golding. His family back home was none too pleased about it. With Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) as Eleanor Young, Gemma Chan (Mary Queen of Scots, Humans-TV) as Astrid Young Teo and Awkwafina (Ocean’s Eight, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) as Peik Lin Goh; this film was a good old-fashioned rom-com. The well written script was delivered with precision by the actors, who all formed a diverse soap opera of family and friends. I understand the bestseller this film is based on is the first of a trilogy; if that is the case, I certainly look forward to a sequel. Out of the cast I thought Michelle, Constance and Awkwafina were incredible. There was one scene in particular between Michelle and Constance that was near perfection. The sets and some of the costumes were outrageously over the top; it certainly fit into the story. I could appreciate it since it was necessary; however, it was not for me the most impressive part of this picture. It was the truth of the story that rang loud and clear inside of me. There was a brief extra scene early in the credits.