SOON AFTER WE BECAME FRIENDS IN 1stor 2ndgrade, we became best friends. I lived on the northwest corner of a square, city block and he lived on the southeast one; we would use the alley to go to each other’s house. He had an uncle who was some type of farmer; so, every summer he would always bring over a grocery bag of his uncle’s fruit to our house each weekend. We would go through the bag picking out the ripest fruit to eat right away before putting the bag in the refrigerator. All through elementary school we remained the best of friends. During that time, we were there for each other during a parent’s health scare, the surprise birth of his baby sister and the rise of bullying as we advanced in school. By the time we graduated and started high school we were sure nothing would change between us. With the school population tripling between elementary and high school, besides going from a small school to a block long building, we assumed we would still see each other through the school’s hallways. As it turned out that was not the case and as time went on, we started drifting apart. Our circle of friends was expanding and diversifying on top of it. I WENT OUT OF STATE FOR college and that was the last time I saw my friend; we lost touch with each other. Fast forward now 20 years, where I am living down in the city in my own place. There was a store in my neighborhood that I had read about in the newspaper; they carried “funky” retro stuff. I decided to check it out one Saturday and walked down to it. The newspapers were right because the store was cool looking with a variety of items from different eras. As I was gazing down into one of the glass display cases a staff worker came up to me, to see if I needed any help. When I lifted my head up to reply I was stunned. The man standing across the case from me was my best friend from elementary school. He recognized me immediately as we both started laughing. He asked what I was doing there; I asked him the same thing. It turned out he was the owner. While we were talking, I noticed something odd; he was talking with a British accent. Listening to the scope of his business dealings, he was heavily involved in the entertainment business. He went by one name, deciding his last name sounded suddenly “to ethnic.” I found all of this bizarre, to say the least. AFTER THAT STORE VISIT, WE STAYED in touch sporadically. I felt like I was talking to a different person whenever I would see him. He had turned himself into this persona with the one name to make an impression with the Hollywood people he was dealing with now. His business expanded so much he had to acquire multiple warehouses to store his burgeoning inventory. He became the “go to person” whenever Hollywood studios needed specific styled props and costumes. His lifestyle became fast paced and crazy to match the people he was now hobnobbing with, from coast to coast. I had bumped into him at a play one day and knew immediately he was high on drugs. His speech was slurred, his eyes were halfway shut, and he kept swaying from side to side. That was the last time I saw him until I read his obituary in the paper. DESPITE BEING UNINSURABLE AND BROKE LEGENDARY performer Judy Garland, played by Renee Zellweger (Chicago, My One and Only), flew to London in 1968 for several sold-out concerts. This biographical drama also starred Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose, The Tempest) as Rosalyn Wilder, Finn Wittrock (Unbroken, American Horror Story-TV) as Mickey Deans, Rufus Sewell (The Illusionist, Hercules) as Sidney Luft and Michael Gambon (Harry Potter franchise, Quartet) as Bernard Delft. Whether the story was accurate in this film did not matter to me because ultimately it was all about Renee’s performance. Not once did I think it was Renee acting; she was utterly convincing in the role. Doing her own singing, I had to give her credit because I knew it was not going to be easy; however, she did an incredible job. Her mannerisms, her posture, her gestures; all of them were Judy. As for the story, many viewers already know it; so, let me just say, it is sad. However, don’t let that stop you from seeing this film because I believe you will be hearing Renee’s name this upcoming awards season.
“CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET” IS something I still get asked, even though the person asking me knows the answer. I am not a gossiper by nature, though I enjoy being in the know. From the jobs I have worked, I never told anyone about the employee who was cheating on his wife despite the fact she worked at the same company. Or, there was another employee who during her lunchtime would partake in some heavy-duty drug use. She would be tripping at her desk but no one around her seemed to notice. I used to wonder if she purposely wore her large tinted glasses at the office to hide her eyes because she did not need glasses to read. I have been told such a variety of secrets by different people that I could probably write a book about them. From the sad to the bizarre, I have been the keeper of people’s secrets. It is funny because for me the definition of secret means not telling anyone; so, I do not always understand a person’s motives that compel them to share their secrets with someone else. Though, as I just wrote that I am recalling an employee I worked with who was planning to get back at her boss by pranking him. She started to tell me what she was going to do but I stopped her. I did not want to know anything so I could not be accused of being a co-conspirator. ONE OF THE TOUGHEST SECRETS I had to keep inside of me was not necessarily a secret. I had heard an employee talking to another employee about our boss was going to let someone in our department go, mentioning the person by name. Since I had no way to verify their statement, as far as I was concerned that employee was gossiping. However, that did not make me feel any better whenever I was around the employee who was supposedly going to be fired. The reason being, she had recently found a house she wanted to buy and was starting the process of getting approved with her bank. I knew if she was let go before the bank did a credit check on her, she might not get approved. Or worse, she gets approved and buys the house but then cannot afford it because she no longer has a job. I did not know what to do and started feeling uncomfortable anytime I was around her. No matter how much discomfort I was experiencing back then, it paled in comparison to what the main character had to endure in this dramatic, biographical film. WHAT SHE READ THAT CAME ACROSS her computer was top secret information. If Katherine Gun, played by Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms), told anyone about it she could be jailed; but if she did not say something, many people could die. With Matthew Goode (Match Point, A Single Man) as Peter Beaumont, Indira Varma (Exodus: Gods and Kings, Rome-TV) as Shami Chakrabarti, Ralph Fiennes (The White Crow, A Bigger Splash) as Ben Emmerson and Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill, Snowden) as Ed Vulliamy; this film festival winner was based on a true story. Keira’s performance was so believable and emotional that I could not keep my eyes off her. The story was both incredible and incredulous. I found myself sympathizing with the characters to the point where I was experiencing a bit of anxiety; that is how good the actors were in their roles, along with the pacing of the story. Because this movie was only being showed on a limited schedule at the theater, I feel many people will miss the opportunity to experience this picture. It is not a secret; this movie entertained and informed me.
THE ONLY WAY I COULD TELL the twins apart was one of them was heavyset. They wore their hair the same way and personally, I think they dressed the same at times just to throw their teachers off. The heavier twin was not a nice (I wanted to use a slang word here) person; essentially, he was a bully. His twin brother was the opposite; he always had a smile on his face, and he was friendly to everyone. I had classes with both. It seemed like every other week the mean twin would cause a disruption in the classroom. To complete the picture for you, the nice twin had more friends than his brother. After a couple of years, the heavy twin started to lose weight. It took almost one year for him to get down to the same weight as his brother; now, it was nearly impossible to tell the two brothers apart—at least on the outside. I had wondered if his losing weight would have made the heavier twin a nicer person but that was not the case. He was still ugly on the inside. Not knowing what the motivation was for him to go on a diet, I did not know if he had any expectations about how different his life would be being skinnier. I so badly wanted to tell him a cosmetic change was not enough to really make a change in his life. WHERE THE HEAVIER TWIN ONLY CHANGED his appearance, there was another boy at school who changed on the inside. He and I had gone to the same elementary school. Periodically we would be on the same team in gym class; plus, I would see him after school in the neighborhood from time to time. He was not a troublemaker in class; but if some prank or disruption did take place in the classroom, he would be part of the group of kids who were laughing about it. Outside of that, there was nothing else noteworthy about him; he pretty much just blended in with his surroundings. When we graduated into high school, a big transformation took place within him. He started hanging out with a group of students who were on the fringe. At the time I did not know what the bond was between them. However, it first became clearer to me when he changed his style of dress. It was confirmed when I saw him participate in a fight with a group of minority students; he was a white supremist. I was stunned when I saw him and had to wonder if he always had those feelings inside of him. I had the same question when I started watching this dramatic, crime film based on true events. THOUGH HIS CHOSEN FAMILY RAISED AND NURTURED him to be a top leader of their white supremacist group, his love for a woman was making him question his actions. This film festival winning biography starred Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool) as Bryon Widner, Danielle Macdonald (Patti Cake$, Dumplin’) as Julie Price, Daniel Henshall (Ghost in the Shell, The Snowtown Murders) as Slayer, Bill Camp (12 Years a Slave, Love & Mercy) as Fred “Hammer” Krager and Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, Captive State) as Shareen. This film started out on a high level of disturbing intensity. It was almost to the point of me being uncomfortable as I felt I was sitting in the middle of the action. Jamie Bell was incredible in this role; the best I had ever seen him. My major complaint was the script; I never understood the character’s motivations, the how and why. Despite this flaw, I was kept engaged in the story by the top acting performances and the incredibleness of the story itself. I did have a question near the end of the film; can a leopard really change its spots?
BARELY ABLE TO SEE ABOVE THE heads of the people sitting in front of me, I watched in astonishment the man leaping in the air. The stage had been filled with dancers dressed in costumes that glittered under the stage lights. Most of the costumes were white in color, but some were the exact opposite in black. The male dancer in the lead role reminded me of royalty because of the way he moved across the stage when he was not leaping and spinning. With angular features for his face, his body on the other hand moved consistently with graceful fluidity. I was too young to realize the amount of work it must have taken him to be able to jump so high without a running start or to spin so quickly in the same spot; his moves at times would make the audience quietly gasp in their seats. The music the orchestra was playing was familiar to me because we had a recording of it at home. I would play it from time to time, never realizing that people were hired to dance to the music. Ballet was something foreign to me at the time. I was aware of it having seen clips of dancers on television or in a movie; but I had never seen a live performance of it up until this time. The male lead dancer in this performance was Rudolf Nureyev. WHEN I DELVED INTO THE FITNESS world as a profession, it was there I discovered the amount of work a dancer must do to make their performances seem effortless. One training class I took was based on dance moves and it was intense for me. Holding positions, working my core, and being able to give instructions to a class at the same time was a challenge. Imagine doing a side plank pose where you are on your side on the floor, balancing only on the side of your bottom foot and the hand from your extended arm. Now raise up you other leg and hold it in the air; trust me, you will feel it in your core. The first time I tried to do this I rolled over onto the floor. It took me some time to build up my strength to master the pose. I knew if I wanted to be an effective fitness instructor, I would have to put in the work to make it happen. It is no different for any profession, but I feel there is a slight difference when your profession involves performing in front of an audience. WITH ONLY ONE PURPOSE IN MIND Rudolf Nureyev, played by newcomer Oleg Ivenko, was willing to work hard to become a top ballet dancer. Nothing would stop him, even his own country. This biographical drama also starred Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter franchise, A Bigger Splash) as Pushkin, Louis Hofmann (Sanctuary, Land of Mine) as Teja Kremke, Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color, Racer and the Jailbird) as Clara Saint and Sergei Polunin (Red Sparrow, Murder on the Orient Express) as Yuri Soloviev. Set during the time of the Cold War, this film festival winner was something I wanted to see since I had seen Rudolf perform. His story was probably more interesting than what the script offered here. I would start to get interested in the story and then the scene would shift to a different time in Rudolf’s life; I found this jumping back and forth more of a distraction then a story telling technique. For someone who commanded the stage with a bigger than life personality; this movie seemed out of step with his story.
2 stars — DVD
SEEKING APPROVAL FROM THOSE YOU LOVE is one of the strongest motivators one has at their disposal. Feeling good about your accomplishment is fine; however, having that “seal of approval” from someone else forms a stronger bond that can last for years. I remember to this day how I felt the first time I had to construct a diorama for a school project. The assignment was to recreate a scene from a book we were reading for class. My choice was an outdoor scene of mountains surrounding a secluded lake that the characters from the book would periodically visit. I had used a combination of materials, including rolled up pieces of plastic wrap for the lake. With a large assortment of colored markers and paints. I colored the pieces of cardboard I had cut out from a packing box, creating a mountain range with snow caps. For trees I used pipe cleaners that I would twist together to form the foliage over brown and black painted toilet paper cores. As I said before, I used a variety of things for this project. Once completed I was proud of what I had done. Family members praised my work which was both wonderful and expected; but, I really was hoping my teacher would shower her praise over my creation. She was a fantastic artist which made me value her opinion more than other people; gratefully she did not disappoint me. WHY I WAS REMINDED OF THIS memory was due to this musical movie. I have seen Elton John in concert a couple of times; once during his earlier years and the other recently. From the variety of acts I have seen live in concert, Elton was not a typical rock star. Many of them played off a certain sex appeal they were portraying. Male guitarists made it look like they were making love to their guitars; female singers would move in seductive ways. Elton was different; instead of trying to use sex appeal he went the spectacle route. The more flamboyant and outrageous he was the more his fans would scream for him. This is only my opinion; but because I was dealing with a poor self-image, I assumed Elton was also. Only when I could “dress up” in my workout clothes or suit did I feel better about myself. Seeing Elton dressed up in so many costumes led me to believe he was feeling the same way. Behind the façade there was a boy who wanted to be loved; I understood. If you wish to see what was going on behind the scenes, then feel free to watch this dramatic film about a music icon. FROM AN EARLY AGE ELTON JOHN displayed a gift for playing the piano. However, he was looking for something more. With Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Robin Hood) as Elton John, Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool) as Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden (Cinderella, The Take) as John Reid, Bryce Dallas Howard (Pete’s Dragon, Jurassic World franchise) as Sheila and Gemma Jones (Sense and Sensibility, Bridget Jones’s Diary franchise) as Ivy; the cast was well chosen. Standing above all of them though was Taron; he was incredible in his role, including his own singing. The acting and story drew me into this picture. I could not believe what I was seeing behind the scenes of so many memorable moments in Elton’s career. Granted I do not know how much truth was shown in this film, but nonetheless I enjoyed watching this movie for the most part. The one thing that did not connect with me was the use of fantasy scenes. A couple would have been fine, but I felt these scenes drained the emotional impact away from the story. It was amazing to see how so many of Elton’s songs’ lyrics lent themselves to the scenes. I would have preferred spending more time in the moment instead of turning the emotion into a fantasy scene. Whether one is a fan or not; one would be hard pressed not to be impressed with what Elton has accomplished in his life.
2 ¾ stars
AS THE TWO OF US WERE WALKING through the forest we came upon a group of trees. They appeared to be dancing a can-can with their wide trunks hovering above their long-exposed roots. The way the trees’ leaves flickered from the wind made me think they could be feathers attached to wide-brimmed cloth hats. I let the image stay with me as we continued on the trail, towards the sound of water gurgling ahead of us. The ground was firm at our feet, barely allowing the tread of our shoes to remain behind. I was not sure if we would be returning on the same path. It was mid-morning and the vibrant sun had a difficult time piercing through all the foliage around us, as if trying to seek us out. At one point there were slender rays of sunlight crisscrossing around us; all I could think of was one of those magician boxes where the assistant was placed inside before the magician thrusted glimmering swords through it. Up ahead there was an opening where the trees had parted, allowing more light to filter down into an area. We made our way to it and upon arriving discovered a squirming brook. With flat rocks barely breaking the surface of the water, the brook looked like an albino snake in movement. All these things went unnoticed by my companion. EACH OF US HAS THE ABILITY TO see things in our own unique way. Where I can look across a canyon and see the outline of an ancient castle, the person next to me may look and see a single flower jutting out from a crack in the granite wall. Because of this variance, I am always curious to hear what other people think about places that I have visited. So much can be learned by seeing things through another person’s eyes, I believe. For me, this ability is essential for building solid relationships. When two people are in a relationship it is important to understand how your significant other will respond in situations. I was in a relationship where we had conflict between us because I would react to a situation opposite of them, then not understand why they were not being more supportive. After a year we parted ways because neither of us knew at the time how to look at something from a different perspective. I can now say that relationship had a profound affect on me, allowing me to experience healthier relationships. Speaking of profound experiences, this was my first contact with the author of The Hobbit and I had no idea the world around him had such a major effect on him creating the fantasy world in his books. ORPHANED AND POOR LEFT JOHN RONALD Reuel Tolkien, played by Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies, Mad Max: Fury Road) with nothing of tangible worth except for his words. His words would travel around the world one day. This biographical drama also starred Lily Collins (Mirror Mirror, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones) as Edith Bratt, Colm Meaney (Alan Partridge, Layer Cake) as Father Francis, Craig Roberts (Just Jim, Submarine) as Private Sam Hodges and Laura Donnelly (Right Hand Drive, Outlander-TV) as Mabel Tolkien. Having no knowledge of J.R.R Tolkien’s personal life, I was stunned watching this beautifully filmed war drama. The story covered three distinct time periods. If broken apart, each segment was compelling; however, in visual form I was distracted with the jumping back and forth in time. I never felt a deep connection to the characters. With such monumental events taking place in the author’s young life, I wanted to know more about Tolkien. Now I am embarrassed to say this, but I have not read The Hobbit; however, after seeing this film and learning a little about his history I want to read the book.
2 ½ stars
EVERYTHING I SAW AND LEARNED LED me to believe dogs and cats were mortal enemies. From cartoons to movies, as far as I knew if the 2 of them saw each other they would fight until one got hurt or worse. As a kid everyone I knew who had pets always had only one species if there were multiple pets in the household. If a family had a cat they would only get another cat as a pet; the same held true with dog lovers. I had a parakeet; so, I would never have considered getting a cat, because in my mind cats ate birds. Do you remember Tweety and Sylvester? I rest my case; this is where I learned never to mix a cat and a bird. Then there was Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. Since coyotes looked like dogs, I assumed dogs were not fond of birds either. I doubt I was the only one who thought this way; I am sure many kids around the same time were thinking the same thing about never mixing different species together. The same holds true for some of the movies I saw as a child where I would see a dog chasing a cat. NOW GRANTED THERE ARE ANIMALS WHO eat other animals for food. I remember seeing a movie that showed a lion going after a herd of wildebeests. It was obvious to me the wildebeests were afraid of the big cat. I translated that as hate. Did the wildebeests instinctively know from birth to fear the big cats or was it something they learned I wondered. I realized at an early age that humans do not come into the world knowing how to hate; they had to be taught on how to do it. I am not talking about hating a specific vegetable or fruit; I am referring to being taught that something or someone is no good, inferior, is bad. I learned about prejudice outside of the classroom, where some kids would make fun of me because I was not the same religion as them. There was a student in class who was quite vocal about his hatreds. He would bully those kids who did not fit into his beliefs. It was awful the way he would make fun of certain students, using their features as examples of what was wrong with them. I had thick curly/kinky hair when I was in school and he took great delight in calling me racist, horrible names. He did not have to be that way, but that is how he was taught. If only there had been someone who could have shown and taught him a different way; someone like the activist in this biographical, dramatic film. WHEN HER DAUGHTER’S SCHOOL CAUGHT ON fire and burned, civil rights activist Ann Atwater, played by Taraji P. Henson (Proud Mary, What Men Want), was determined to find another school for her daughter and the other students to attend. There were people in the community who hated her idea. With Sam Rockwell (Vice, Mr. Right) as C.P. Ellis, Babou Ceesay (Free Fire, Eye in the Sky) as Bill Riddick, Wes Bentley (American Beauty, The Hunger Games) as Floyd Kelly and Anne Heche (Wag the Dog, Six Days Seven Nights) as Mary Ellis; this historical story set in Durham, NC during the 1970s was brought to life by Taraji and Sam. They were dynamite in their roles to the point where I believed who they were portraying. The story was incredible and full of poignant moments that the writers could have taken and made them stand out. I wish they had done that because this historical event deserved a powerful script instead of the sanitized one in this picture. However, it did capture and keep my attention while showing a dramatic time that was brought on by hatred.
2 ½ stars
HIS PHOTOGRAPH WAS PROMINENTLY DISPLAYED ON one of the banners in the hotel’s convention center. There were also photos of him in the members’ welcome booklets, along with a bio about his achievements. In the aerobic world he had achieved a level of popularity akin to a rock star. I was able to sign up for only one of his numerous workshops at the convention. There must have been a cancellation I figured because the rest of his classes filled up immediately according to one of the volunteers monitoring the ballroom. From the articles that were published in my fitness magazines, he seemed like a fun guy who had a strong sense of humor. As I looked around the room at the other participants I noticed many of them already had his DVD’s and other branded merchandise that were being sold down at the aerobic marketplace. This was a place put up in the convention center where a variety of vendors could set up booths and sell their latest fitness products to the participants. A woman walked up onto the stage at one end of the ballroom, to announce his name. She had only gotten out his first and last name before the audience cheered wildly for him. I almost felt like I was sitting in the middle of a cult. I HAVE TO SAY IT WAS AN excellent workshop he presented to us. There wasn’t anyone around me who was not covered in sweat. I toweled off as best as I could in the room, packed up my stuff and headed out to find somewhere to eat in the convention center. There was a coffee shop I found that would work for me, so I went in and let the hostess seat me. Once I ordered food, it came to the table quickly. It was when I was halfway through eating that I saw that same presenter from earlier coming into the restaurant. He looked around the room until he saw me then nodded. I was stunned; how in the world did he recognize me, let alone see me in the middle of a mass of people? He walked over to me and introduced himself. I told him I had just taken his workshop. He smiled and asked if he could join me; I said absolutely. Putting his soft drink cup down on the table, he sat down across from me. The conversation was easy as we both shared aerobic class stories. However, as he was talking he took a flask out of his gym bag and poured out the liquid from it into his drink. I could smell it was alcohol. By the time I finished my meal he was giddy and talking nonsense. Evidently this was not his first drink. To say I was shocked would be an understatement; I wondered if he had any other workshops to teach later. Here I had this image of him based on what I read about him, but this was someone completely different from my thoughts. The young boy in this western drama went through a similar experience. HAVING HEARD AND SEEN SO MUCH written about Billy the Kid, played by Dane DeHaan (A Cure for Wellness, Kill Your Darlings); a young boy could not believe the person he met could have done all those things being said about him. With Chris Pratt (Passengers, Guardian of the Galaxy franchise) as Grant Cutler, Ethan Hawke (First Reformed; Juliet, Naked) as Pat Garrett, Leila George (Mortal Engines; Mother, May I Sleep with Danger-TV movie) as Sara and Vincent D’Onofrio (The Cell, Ed Wood) as Sheriff Romero; I enjoyed the perspective used to tell this story. The acting was good for the most part, but I did not feel there was much connection between the characters if that makes sense. Ethan was in top form having been on a strong streak with movie roles; his acting keeps getting better with each film he has been in. What caused me to lose my interest was the script; the first half was better than the last. The components of the script had all been done before, so there were no surprises here. I felt little emotion being generated in the 2nd part which attributed to my mind wandering. I understand this movie can be viewed online already; which I have felt means the studio knows what they have on their hands, so they try to keep up appearances.
I GRANT YOU, THEY DID LOOK somewhat odd to me. They had moved into the neighborhood during my 4th year of elementary school. The house the family had purchased was a 2-story wood frame with a large wrap around front porch. I remember when they painted that porch because some of the neighbors were put off by it; the family painted it a pine green color. I never really understood why some people were upset. The only thing I could think of was maybe it was because all the other porches on the street were either unpainted or painted in 1 of 2 colors, either white or brown. There were 7 family members: 2 parents and 5 children. All the kids looked alike and looked like their mother. They each had the same color hair; the girls had the same style of haircut just as the boys shared the same. Each child wore the same style of glasses, perched the same way on their noses. Their teeth were oversized to the point where it looked like they could not close their mouth all the way. Some of the kids in the neighborhood referred to them as Bugs Bunny. To finish up their identical look, they all wore the same style and color of clothing. PERSONALLY, THEM NOT BEING ENROLLED IN the neighborhood school added to their perceived strangeness. But despite that, the siblings never came out to play with any of the other kids in the neighborhood. I would see them in their backyard at times when I would cut through the alley to a friend’s house. They would be huddled around some object; I could not tell if it was a toy or some type of device. Other times I would see them spread apart, each doing their own thing like reading or exercising and when I say exercising I mean jumping jacks or sit-ups, some type of calisthenic activity. Keeping to themselves and all looking the same just made people feel uncomfortable. Without getting to know them, rumors started to pop-up in the neighborhood, such as they were a medical experiment, or they were doing something illegal. And of course, the kids in the neighborhood started whispering different remarks about them being inbred and mentally challenged. It was not until I was in college that I discovered via the local newspaper that the parents were scientists and each child was excelling in their schooling, from being PhD candidates to mathematical whizzes. I was shocked; on the surface they may have been odd, but they certainly had already achieved more than many of the families in the neighborhood. The family in this biographical, comedic drama might seem odd to you but wait until you see what they do. PASSIONATE ABOUT WRESTLING RICKY AND JULIA Knight, played by Nick Frost (The World’s End, Paul) and Lena Headey (Game of Thrones-TV, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), taught their children everything they knew. However, when a once in a lifetime chance became available would their hard work pay off? This movie’s story followed a typical theme; but, the script provided some fresh takes on it. With Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth, The Commuter) as Saraya Knight, Jack Lowden (Mary Queen of Scots, Dunkirk) as Zak Knight and Vince Vaughn (Couples Retreat, The Break-Up) as Hutch; I thought the acting really sold the story, especially Florence’s and Jack’s. For me, Vince was the only one that I did not connect with since he was doing his same type of character that I have seen before. There were fun moments in this picture that kept the story from sputtering out. What added to my enjoyment was seeing clips of the actual Knights at the end of the film. One may think they are an odd bunch, but I salute them for finding something they can be passionate about and holding out for their dream.
I DID NOT CRINGE UNTIL SHE attempted to speak. She had assistance walking across the stage of the awards show; it was expected considering her frailty and advanced age. In her day, decades ago, she was a top billing major star. Now as I watched her trying to talk, it was obvious to me she was quite confused. I had no idea if the producers of the show requested her or her management team offered her; either way, I felt uncomfortable and sad. Growing old is harder when it is done in the public eye; I think about myself with the classes I teach. Will I know when it is the time to hang up my cycling and yoga apparel? Will I graciously retire when I realize, if I even realize, I am not teaching class at the same level as I have in the past? These are things I have given thought to as I have grown older. I look at some people who have obviously had extensive plastic surgery and wonder why they did it. There has never been a time I have seen an older celebrity and not known they had altered themselves simply by looking at their semi-paralyzed face or their skin stretched tightly like plastic wrap sealing a bowl of leftovers. What is it they are trying to do? ONE OF THE ANSWERS I CAN come up with is they do it because they still need to get adulation and compliments from people. I would like to know how having a wrinkled face would stop someone from admiring you. I went to a concert that was being held in a small movie theater; the headliner was a celebrity who was past his prime. What I mean is their voice could no longer handle their song catalog and their dance moves were reduced to a simple swaying side to side. He was only one of the musical acts; so, there were some people in the audience who had no idea who this man was and what songs he had sung that brought him fame. If it were me I could not get on stage and perform unless I categorically knew it would be at the same caliber as before. As I write this I am reminded about former celebrities who either do advertisements or shall we say low-brow projects. I always wonder if they need the money or they are so starved for attention. Regarding this film festival winning biography, I haven’t yet decided which one the comedy duo needed. AFTER THEIR FAME AND FORTUNE HAD dimmed in the world Laurel and Hardy, played by Steve Coogan (Philomela, The Dinner) and John C. Reilly (Holmes & Watson, The Sisters Brothers), decided they would re-capture it by doing a live tour. It didn’t matter to them that they were older and maybe not as wise. This comedic drama’s story was based on actual events. Without a doubt this picture’s fate was dependent on Steve and John. Gratefully, the two of them were stupendous. I might have to tip the scales more to John’s Oliver Hardy being more authentic, but it still would be a tight race between the two of them. With them front and center the other actors like Shirley Henderson (Transporting franchise, Bridget Jones franchise) as Lucille Hardy and Nina Arianda (Midnight in Paris, Florence Foster Jenkins) as Ida Kitaeva Laurel; though good, were more in the background for me. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this picture. Seeing some of the original comedy acts Laurel and Hardy used to perform and getting the back story on them was a treat. I thought the script and direction worked hand in hand to produce a well-rounded bit of comedic history. Make sure you stay through the credits to see actual clips of the two the producers reproduced in this wonderful film.
3 ½ stars