IT WAS GOING TO BE A LONG flight for her, but that was not the part that worried her family. It was her decision to travel to a country that had internal strife, in addition to areas of extreme poverty. She was a seasoned traveler, having visited multiple continents numerous times. Her relatives were more concerned about this trip because her appearance would make her stand out in an unfavorable way; at least, that is what they were led to believe. Their fear was based on what they heard as opposed to what they had experienced. There were news reports about pockets of conflict which easily could justify the family’s concerns. But their fear had been fueled for several years from other sources, some of them more opinions than facts. Because of these fears the family insisted the traveler contact them at specific times throughout her trip. She agreed to it just to calm everyone down. When she landed at her destination she messaged everyone back home, telling them the flight was fine and she was okay. Her trip wound up being quite memorable in a positive way. She was glad she did not fall into her family’s fears; for if she had, she would have denied herself the warm and gracious kindness she experienced from so many different people. FEAR IS ONE OF THOSE EMOTIONS that can both protect and prevent us from new experiences, positive and negative. In the neighborhood I grew up in, there were students from a particular parochial school that my friends and I were fearful of. We heard about them from our older brothers and sisters. Since most of the things I heard had to do with bodily harm and abuse, I did my best never to get on those kids’ radar. I went through elementary school never having an encounter with any student from that school. In fact, none of my friends had an altercation or run-in either with any of these students we grew up fearing. Maybe there was an incident that took place years ago between a parochial school student and a public school one. If there was, no one currently had any knowledge of it. Instead they were hearing hand me down information that continued to feed our fears. All of us were reacting from our fear without taking the time to investigate and see if there was any truth behind the stories we had heard. A similar situation using fear was the basis for this animated, adventure comedy film. RAISED BELIEVING THE “SMALLFOOT” WAS AN evil monster, no one wanted to encounter one except Migo, voiced by Channing Tatum (Logan Lucky, Kingsman: The Golden Circle). He was convinced they did exist and wanted to prove everyone wrong. With James Corden (Into the Woods, Ocean’s Eleven) voicing Percy, Zendaya (The Greatest Showman, Spider-Man: Homecoming) voicing Meechee, Common (Selma, Suicide Squad) voicing Stonekeeper and LeBron James (Trainwreck, The LeBrons-TV) as Gwangi; this film had all the trappings of being an old fashioned, fun romp. The musical numbers were cute; the action was well orchestrated, and the actors did a fine job with their characters. I enjoyed the humor that had a twinge of sarcasm in it. One of the things I admired about this script was the fact they did not use one specific character to play the evil one. Instead the story used perceived fears as the antagonist and played that out to form a positive life lesson. Now, will little children get the point of the story? I am not sure, but I feel they will at least be entertained. And truthfully, I feel it wouldn’t hurt for adults to hear the message coming across in this movie.
2 ½ stars
EVERY day starts with him coming outside to begin his squirrel watch. He stands still in the middle of the backyard with his head tilted upwards, scanning the tree branches for any movement. If something even twitches for a brief moment, a plethora of barking takes place as my neighbor’s dog begins racing around the tree trunk, daring the animal to take a step down towards him. Having recently celebrated his 2nd birthday this dog is actually a big hunk of crazy love. Anytime I come out of my garage and he is in the yard, he squats down on the ground like an ancient sphinx, waiting in anticipation for me to call out his name. You see he will not run up to my fence until I call him. Now here is his secret; he is being trained to be a search and rescue dog. His owner, my neighbor, told me about one of the exercises he performs with the dog. At the facility’s swimming pool, my neighbor pretends he is drowning. The dog is released and jumps into the pool, swims over to the man, grabs a hold of any piece of clothing or a limb in his mouth and begins pushing or pulling the man to the edge of the pool. SOME of the other stories my neighbor has told me have been extraordinary. There is such a bond between this man and his dog that is quite noticeable. When both are in the backyard, the man will do exercises with the dog; some are with verbal cues while others are done only with different hand gestures. It amazes me that within the span of 2 years, if even that, this dog has achieved so much with his owner. As I said before just looking at him running around and barking his head off in the backyard, you would think the dog is a hyper bundle of energy. I would love to see him on one of the search and rescue missions, just to see how he focuses on the task. Until then I will be satisfied watching the dog in this film based on a true story. WITH nowhere to go in her hometown Megan Leavey, played by Kate Mara (The Martian, 127 Hours), enlisted in the army. Assigned to cleanup duty at the dog pound that housed one of the most aggressive dogs, Megan would have to confront her fears. This biographical war drama also starred Tom Felton (Harry Potter franchise, A United Kingdom) as Andrew Dean, Common (Selma, Now You See Me) as Gunny Martin, Geraldine James (Sherlock Holmes franchise, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Dr. Turbeville and Bradley Whitford (The Cabin in the Woods, Scent of a Woman) as Bob. The script was kept simple; there was not much surprising about the story. However, the script with the directing created an engaging story filled with bits of drama, tension, tears and joy. The actual story is incredible; though I felt things were kept more subdued overall in this movie. I think it would be hard for someone not to enjoy watching this picture. For me I honestly never gave much thought to the role dogs play in the military; my only encounter on this type of level would be in the security lines at the airport or city events. When a friend asked me if they might cry watching this film, I asked them if they planned on bringing any facial tissues.
FINALLY the day arrived where she no longer would need to get up early for work. She had worked in the education field all her life, in various positions from teacher to vice principal. After her discussions with her accountant she decided it was okay to retire and devote the rest of her years to herself. Some of the things she wanted to do was travel and take up painting; she had dreamed of these two things for a long time. The first few days of the school week felt odd to her. She felt something was wrong since she was home, sitting in her recliner, instead of being with her class. The feeling soon receded as she started getting into the joys of retired life. Her finances had been set up to live a good life, not a lavish one, where she could enjoy a couple of treats once in a while. However, there was no way for her to have known at the next condominium board meeting the officers agreed to charge the owners a special assessment to replace all the windows, balconies and repair the swimming pool. The cost to each owner would be close to the mid five figure range; this would drastically alter her retirement plans to the point she would need to go back to work to pay for the assessment. She became resentful and angry about it. FALLING into a state of anger or resentment has always been easy for me. Recently I had to get a new hot water heater and furnace because the old ones broke down and could not be repaired. It all came so sudden for me when it was discovered my house was filling up with carbon monoxide. When all was said and done I realized I should be grateful that I was not killed by the gas; however, I immediately became angry and resentful. The reason for feeling this way was because of the impact this purchase would have on my finances. The funds set aside to pay off my house earlier would have to be transferred to pay off the heating equipment. On an intellectual level I knew this was silly, equipment breaks down; it is not a purposeful act. That did not stop me but at least I did not get extreme about it like the retired hit man in this crime thriller. SETTLING into retirement John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves (47 Ronin, The Matrix franchise), received a visitor at his home who needed a job done. Refusing to help the gentleman would have consequences. This action sequel took the feel of the first film and amped up the intensity and action. With Riccardo Scamarcio (Burnt, Loose Cannons) as Santino D’Antonio and Common (Selma, Just Wright) as Cassian, the fight scenes were unbelievable and bloody violent. They were well choreographed and looked real. An example was the way John Wick constantly had to reload his weapon. Keanu wore his role perfectly, basic dialog with a touch of sarcasm. In fact the whole script had a no nonsense approach with slight humorous moments. Essentially this film festival nominee was a revenge story; it did not pretend to be anything else. I would like to refer to this as an “escape” film to just sit back and enjoy, but I am afraid John Wick would still find me.
3 ¼ stars
When we get together we not only come up with solutions to each of our problems, but we can provide the same for most of the world’s issues. There is something about getting together with friends on a regular basis to hash out anything that is troubling one of us at the time. I am part of a small group who has gotten together every three months for many years now. It is a time for us to take a break from the daily treadmill of our lives to catch up with each other and share a meal. I wish I could say I can solve any problem I am experiencing; but the fact remains, extra opinions can provide different pathways to a solution that I am not wired to come up with on my own. Because I feel every single person has a unique set of skills (doesn’t this sound like the beginning of a Liam Neeson movie?), there is always an opportunity to learn something new from other people. Another great aspect of getting together with friends is the sense of community and support. I am a person who needs down time, where I remove myself from the outside world. Having a re-occurring date to mingle with friends energizes, enlightens and relaxes me among other things. There is someone I know who leads a support group for like-minded individuals; they meet once every 4 to 8 weeks with the purpose to share their experiences on that night’s topic. I know what I am about to say is a cliché, but there is some truth in the phrase, “strength in numbers.” The people at this barbershop are the proof. WITH the neighborhood changing business partners Calvin and Angie, played by Ice Cube (Ride Along franchise, 21 Jump Street franchise) and Regina Hall (Scary Movie franchise, Think Like a Man), came up with an idea they hoped would start a change in the residents. This dramatic comedy sequel took me by surprise. It is difficult to blend comedy and drama in a story, yet I felt the writers did a real good job with this script. The movie was relevant as it tackled the issue of violence in a major metropolitan city. A tough topic to be sure; but the actors such as Cedric the Entertainer (The Soul Man-TV, A Haunted House franchise) as Eddie, Common (Selma, Now You See Me) as Rashad and Nicki Minaj (The Other Woman) as Draya provided a balanced mixture of humor and seriousness. All the actors I found created a believable sense of community. I know I saw the previous films but honestly I do not remember them; it was not an issue in viewing this picture. Where Spike Lee’s film Chi-Raq tackled the same topic, I liked seeing the contrast in the way this movie handled it. Who knew one could learn so much from one small barbershop in the city of Chicago.
No matter how people are labeled, they all fall somewhere on a horizontal line. From doctors to parents to plumbers, each one can find a place among their peers. A saying I am fond of is, “Someone has to graduate at the head of the class and someone has to graduate at the bottom of the class.” What I mean by this is there will always be individuals who are better than others in their profession or group; just as there are good doctors and bad doctors, the same holds true for parents. Now first let me say I am not a parent and I do not mean to judge anyone’s parenting skills. In my little corner of the world I have seen and heard parents doing extraordinary things along with not so extraordinary things. Just walk through a grocery store; you would be surprised how many things you can see a parent doing to their child. I saw a mother take the time to explain to her kid what harm his actions/behavior could cause to the shoppers around him, explaining to him if he continued their behavior they would have to leave the store. There have been other times where I have seen a parent hit their child then yell at them as they nearly lifted them off the ground by the arm before storming out of the store. WORKING on a criminal case similar to one she had several years ago Detective Nancy Porter, played by Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games franchise, People Like Us), found it interesting that Ronnie Fuller and Alice Manning, played by Dakota Fanning (The Runaways, Man on Fire) and Danielle Macdonald (The East, Trust Me), who were convicted of the previous crime were recently released from prison. Based on best selling author Laura Lippman’s novel, this crime drama had a strong cast of actors. Besides the celebrities I mentioned, there was Diane Lane (Unfaithful, The Perfect Storm) as Helen Manning and Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Beyond the Lights) as Kevin Jones. Everyone did their part well; with Elizabeth, Diane and Danielle being the most memorable to me. I liked the idea of this suspense story being led by a mostly female cast; it provided an interesting take on the detective formula. The story was meant to keep the viewer in suspense with its twists and possibilities; I really wished it had done that for me. Not only did I find the story to be quite predictable, I thought there was a flatness to the drama. For such a story this movie could have used more intensity to keep the viewers guessing. After the movie was over I was disappointed it was not better; I guess there are some writers and directors who are better than others.
1 3/4 stars