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 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 BOAT SLID DOWN THE ramp and floated into the dark tunnel. Voices were echoing off the walls but I did recognize or actually remember what was being said. When we came out of the tunnel I saw a town being pillaged as flames were licking the air from various structures and objects. A couple of the citizens were being chased around in a circle while there were men strewn on the ground in obvious states of intoxication. My memories were being rekindled; I had been to this town before, many years ago. I was prepared for the cannon going off as my boat came upon a battle scene. There were people in other boats who yelled in surprise at the bomb’s explosion. We did not stay long as our boat had us moving away from the scene. Funny after all these years I still knew the last thing I was going to see was a man sitting on top of a bridge raising a bottle up in the air to give us a cheer. DURING THE ENTIRE DAY I came across so many other incidents where I was recalling how I felt the first time when I was on the same amusement park ride years ago. There is something about going back to an amusement park after being away from it for so many years. Many of the rides I rode that day were the same ones I did before except for a little updating and tweaking by the park’s owner. I still enjoyed myself though I discovered something new on the faster rides; I was now getting dizzy and queasy from them. What was up with that? Something else I noticed; this time around I was missing the element of surprise and wonder that I had the first time I rode the rides. Not that this ruined my time; I still enjoyed myself. Also, I was able this time to skip some rides because I remembered I did not care for them when I rode them last. What sustained my interest and sense of fun was my memories and the feelings of nostalgia. As I was riding an attraction I was reminiscing about my previous time. Thinking about the shock and surprise allowed me to see the rides through gentler eyes. I was less critical about how tight fitting some of the rides were and a bit corny at times. It is fun to revisit things from one’s past; but when doing so, it helps if you keep your expectations low. The same could be applied to this action, adventure science fiction film. WHEN THE ISLAND CONTAINING the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park was being destroyed by active volcanoes, there was little time for Claire Dearing and Owen Grady, played by Bryce Dallas Howard (Gold, Pete’s Dragon) and Chris Pratt (Passengers, Guardians of the Galaxy) to waste if they wanted to save the dinosaurs from extinction again. With Rafe Spall (The Big Short, Hot Fuzz) as Eli Mills, newcomer Isabella Sermon as Maisie Lockwood and Justice Smith (Paper Towns, Every Day) as Franklin Webb; the dinosaurs were the main attraction in this picture. I did think Bryce and Chris worked together wonderfully; they certainly have chemistry. I found the special effects and the soundtrack made this picture more exciting than what the script was attempting to do. The story was a bit odd to me and the script had some holes in it. An example would be the disappearance of one of the characters and we never found out what happened. For a good popcorn movie that has some exciting action in it, this would be the film to see. If you have not seen any of the previous installments you might enjoy this more than someone who has seen the other ones.
2 1/2 star
LUCK is such a fickle experience. It seems as if some people get all the luck while others never get a break. I have a friend who is the luckiest person I know when it comes to finding a parking space on city streets. Areas that are congested with cars and people at all hours of the day and all he needs to do is drive into it and BOOM, a space magically appears just for him at the right time. It could be him turning down a short side street to find an untouched open space or simply cruising down a boulevard and someone pulls out of their parking space several feet ahead of him. All I can say is his luck with parking is uncanny. There is another friend of mine who has the best luck when it comes to entering contests and raffles. More times than not this person will wind up winning something for their money; to me this is pure luck. THERE are times where luck is not solely left to chance; it is more determination. If you have ever visited a casino take a look at the people who play the slot machines. They could sit there for hours and lose money time after time, but as soon as they get a hit on a machine the people around them will immediately think that person is lucky. I ask you though, was it real luck or them staying at the same machine until they got a winner? Of course I have seen where a person walks up to a slot machine and on the 1st pull they become a winner. If they take the winnings and leave they are a true winner in my books. You could say they were lucky or maybe it was left to chance. They happened to walk in at the right time when the previous person on the machine left in disgust for not getting a winner after one hour; if they had only stayed for one more play. If you watch this adventure thriller you will have to decide if luck was involved or not. PROSPECTOR Kenny Well, played by Matthew McConaughey (Free State of Jones, The Wolf of Wall Street), had one true love in life and that was gold. The problem was his funds were dwindling but he knew inside he had to hit it big at some point. This film festival winning drama based on a true story also starred Edgar Ramirez (Point Break, Joy) as Michael Acosta and Bryce Dallas Howard (Pete’s Dragon, Jurassic World) as Kay. The story was fascinating and visually this picture was fun to watch with its great outdoor scenes. Matthew did a super job, even putting on 40 pounds for the role, but he was not strong enough to handle the confusing script. At times I felt I was watching a comedy, then a drama; add in the thrills and intrigue and I was left lost. Soon into the movie it seemed as if we were going from one stunt/crisis to another; there was never any time given to explore deeper into the characters. Should you take a chance on seeing this film and hope you enjoy it? I leave it up to you.
I did not actually have what you would call imaginary friends; they were more like superheroes who looked a lot like me except skinnier and taller. During the time they were around me I did not realize they were all mental extensions of me. None of them had names but each one specialized in one superhuman power. There was the one who could fly; he was a lookout for me, letting me know of any danger spots around me. One of my favorite ones was this brawny fighter who appeared anytime I was angry. If someone had picked on or teased me, he would appear in a rage and pummel the bully so I could be left alone to continue my studies in class. This one in particular stayed with me the longest, evolving into my bodyguard. During an especially dismal time he was out almost every day. No one else knew about these imaginary friends if you want to call them that. My friends and I never really talked about our special friends though I can recall there were times where we needed people to be the enemy in our neighborhood battle scenes. We would be on one of our missions to track down the enemy’s secret headquarters when suddenly one of the members of our search party was sucker punched by an imaginary enemy operative. I would see a friend whirl around with his fists jabbing into the air to land a punch on the enemy’s jaw. Each of us took turns on getting attacked; the more dramatic we could be in our fake battles, the more satisfying it was when we would finally discover the hidden headquarters and blow it up with our ray guns. With all the imaginary beings I had in my life, I wish I would have had a dragon like the one in this family adventure film. WHEN Grace, played by Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World, The Help), discovered the orphan boy Pete, played by Oakes Fegley (This is Where I Leave You, Fort Bliss), living deep in the woods; she could not understand how he could have survived for so long on his own. He was not alone. This fantasy movie shared the same title as the original animated film but it was a different type of story. With a cast that also included Robert Redford (A Walk in the Woods, All is Lost) as Meacham and Karl Urban (Star Trek franchise, The Loft) as Gavin, I fell into this story that had sort of an E.T. slant to it. The pacing was not always smooth; there were a couple of slow parts for me. This was not a big issue because I actually enjoyed the simplistic script that basically was about the bonds that form between friends and family. I thought the special effects for the dragon were wonderful; at a certain point I felt this dragon would be the perfect pet for anyone. It was refreshing to sit and watch a movie that focused on telling a good story that a person could relate to no matter their age.
The clanking metal sound still reminded me of an anchor being pulled up ship. Looking over at the roller coaster I recalled how that first steep drop took my breath away; literally, I was so tensed up I forgot to breathe as we dropped into what felt like a free fall down the tracks. Today there would be no way I would go on that ride again. As I have gotten older I no longer find heights attractive. I did go on the virtual spaceship ride, noticing the seat seemed smaller with my knees now reaching the back of the seat in front of me. Though I still enjoyed the ride I knew now when to brace myself before the ship engaged in a pretend aerial dogfight in outer space. Walking through the amusement park that I had last visited years ago, I still enjoyed going on the rides and attractions. Some of the larger rides had been freshened up with new parts or simply just a coat of paint. There was one ride where the computer graphics finally looked futuristic compared to the ones they had previously. I think part of the fondness I still had for the park was the memories from my previous visits that accompanied me during the day. There was no need to run from ride to ride, I could take my time and be more selective since the surprise factor was gone for me. OVER twenty years have passed since the tragic ending to Jurassic Park. Updated and marketed to a new generation, Jurassic World park attendance had been strong. However market research had shown for the park to remain profitable it needed to come up with a bigger and better attraction to keep people coming back. Its newest attraction had something else in mind. This action adventure film had incredible special effects; the dinosaurs seemed like actual live creatures being filmed alongside the actors. Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Parks and Recreation-TV) as Owen and Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help, The Village) as Claire were the main characters, both did a good job. I did not mind any of the actors to tell you the truth, even though the script did not give them any room to grow; they were pretty much two dimensional. If you are not familiar with Jurassic Park, then I believe you will get more out of this science fiction film than I did. I found it predictable, especially when some scenes were similar to ones in the previous movie. With that being said, there is no doubt in my mind that you will find this picture fun to watch and even exciting in parts. It was marketed to be a summer blockbuster and it will succeed. Wait a second, wasn’t that the same marketing idea the park had for their newest attraction?
2 3/4 stars