I DO NOT KNOW WHY, BUT adventure thrills are always better when they get shared with someone. Isn’t it true? There is something about experiencing a new thrill that resonates stronger when you have someone come along for the ride. I remember when a group of us went to a new amusement park that had a water ride mimicking white water rafting. We all piled into this circular, inflated yellow raft with a type of steering apparatus in the center. When the park attendant pushed us out of the holding dock, we started out on calm waters. However, it changed rather quickly when we went down an embankment and into this pool of churning water that swept us quickly down the course a/k/a churning river. All of us held onto the steering wheel as we hooted and hollered with all the jostling and bumping the raft was enduring. Sprays of water doused us periodically, keeping us cool in the hot summer sun. As we neared the end of the ride there was a steeper “waterfall” we had to endure. It was a bit tense at first as the water under the raft picked up speed then dropped us into the waterfall, which was an adrenalin rush for me. At the bottom of the falls, the raft quietly floated over to a receiving dock area where park attendants were helping people get out of their rafts. It was one of the best water rides I experienced, and I was glad I did it with my friends. DESPITE HAVING TAKEN MANY LONG WEEKEND trips alone, when I go with friends and family members, there always seems to be an adventure we wind up sharing. Recently in San Diego a couple of us rented a pedal boat to take out into San Diego Bay. We were fine while in the marina because it was smooth and calm as we leisurely pedaled up and down rows of piers and docks. However, when we got out into the bay the water turned choppy with a stronger current underneath. We had to pedal faster as the boat bobbed up and down. Our time out there did not last long as we looked at each other at the same time and said we made it out and now it is time to go back where things are calmer. Once out of the bay we laughed about it since we had these grand plans to go down the coast to see the sights. It still was a great experience that I was glad to be sharing with someone close. I felt the main characters in this fantasy film were experiencing a similar situation to mine, which I enjoyed watching. HER FATHER BELIEVED IT WAS TRUE; so, Dr. Lily Houghton, played by Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place franchise, Mary Poppins Returns), was determined to find this special plant reported only to be found deep in the Amazon jungle. With Dwayne Johnson (Red Notice, Skyscraper) as Frank Wolff, Edgar Ramirez (Deliver Us from Evil, Point Break) as Aguirre, Jack Whitehall (Mother’s Day, Clifford the Big Red Dog) as MacGregor Houghton and Jessie Plemons (The Irishman, The Power of the Dog) as Prince Joachim; this action, adventure comedy was saved by the performances of Dwayne and Emily. I would not put them in the same category as Abbott & Costello or Burns and Allen, but they certainly were a fun couple to watch on the big screen. The script was rather generic as it pulled in ideas from a variety of movie stories such as The Mummy, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Pirates of the Caribbean among others. This was simply a fluffy fantasy film that was easy to view without a lot of thought to it. I am sure if the movie studio made money on this picture, they will then try to do a sequel. If they do, I just hope they get a better story line and script, besides having Emily and Dwayne starring in it.
2 ½ stars
FOR THE PAST COUPLE OF MONTHS, I have been keeping track of my friends’ and family members’ experiences inside a movie theater. I wasn’t interested in hearing about the movie as much as hearing if everyone in the theater was following the safety protocols. Though I have been fully vaccinated for a few months, my comfort level was low for sitting inside a movie theater with a bunch of strangers. From the comments I received, the movie theaters were sticking to their policy of blocking out the seats around the one the patron picked. In every hallway there was a little stand set up that had sanitizing wipes for people to take to wipe down their seat. My friends also told me all the employees were masked and the water fountains were blocked off from use. Since there was no way to know who was vaccinated, I heard there was a mix of masked and unmasked people sitting in the theater. I knew I would not be comfortable going into a crowded theater; so, I ruled out Friday and Saturday as an option to go to the theater. I also knew there would be no way I could go to an opening weekend release of a film that had gotten a lot of positive buzz and/or was being labeled as a blockbuster. After accumulating this information, the past several weeks, I decided to look for a movie I could go to on a weeknight. IT TOOK ME A COUPLE OF weeks to find a film time that would fit my schedule, but it finally happened last week. The movie was playing right after work; I knew I would be able to get there in time if that theater chain was still showing 20-22 minutes of previews like they were doing pre-pandemic. I had chosen a seat on the aisle in the last row. When I purchased the ticket online, I was the only person scheduled to see the film at the time; I was feeling better about the whole movie going experience. The fact that it has been 16 months since I have been in a movie theater, I was hoping to see a recently released summer picture. However, that was not the case; I was going to see a sequel that had been out for a couple of months. Luckily, I enjoyed the first movie enormously; so, chances were good that I would enjoy the sequel. I look at sequels like baked desserts. One can make the same dish several times and either one time the item doesn’t taste as good as the others made before or something unknown happens that alters the outcome of the dessert. It is a mystery to me. Regarding this dramatic, horror science fiction sequel; it did not disappoint me in the least. FORCED FROM THEIR HOME, THE ABBOTT family discovers there are other horrors taking place in the world besides alien creatures. With Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns, Into the Woods) as Evelyn Abbott, Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck, Andi Mack-TV) as Regan Abbott, Cillian Murphy (The Dark Knight, In the Heart of the Sea) as Emmett, John Krasinski (The Hollars, 13 Hours) as Lee Abbott and Noah Jupe (Honey Boy, Ford v. Ferrari) as Marcus Abbott; this sequel matched the intensity of the first film. Kudos to John in his directing because I enjoyed the way the tension got built up, along with the incredible acting with extra credit for Emily and Millicent. Like the original movie, the dialog was sparse in this one; yet, I did not find myself ever getting disengaged from the story. The only difference to tell you the truth, was the fact that there was no element of surprise in the discovery of the aliens. Having said that, I feel viewers who did not see the first movie would still enjoy this one just as much as I did. For all my nervousness about going to the theater, this was the perfect picture to welcome me back to my former home away from home.
3 ½ stars
ONE CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY PARENTS in life, for each one brings a different version of love. There are some people who have an abundance of love that they share with children, besides their own. They may not be there when you fall and scrape your knee or when you ride your bicycle for the first time without training wheels; but, they leave their handprints on your heart. I feel fortunate that I grew up with a few extra mothers in my life. You may have had one or two yourself or just as easily an extra dad since either gender provides equal amounts of love. One of my extra mothers was a neighbor who lived in our building. She lived a couple of floors below us which resulted in me learning how to get down flights of stairs earlier than other kids. Before I could walk I would crawl to the edge of the staircase, turn myself around on the edge and begin crawling down backwards. After navigating the two flights of stairs I would crawl to the door of her apartment and pat my palm on it. I never knew how she always heard me when I thought about this years later, but she would open the door every time with a big smile on her face. She always had time to play with me and for those times she didn’t, she would sing to me. THERE WAS ANOTHER WOMAN WHO WAS like an extra mother to me. She was a friend of the family who had grown up with one of my parents. She was quick to give me a deep hug that made me feel protected and safe. Though she did not know how to bowl, she loved coming to the bowling alley, taking pleasure in simply watching us try to get a strike. Her house always had the exact types of food you craved on any particular day; for example, if you wanted something sweet she had cookies or if you wanted something salty she would have pretzels. When I was little she would always write an amusing poem inside my birthday cards. Despite decades having past I still have vivid, fond memories of these women who were prominent in my life. They each had their own families; yet, I was treated as part of the family because that was the type of love they each had inside. And to a child, having that type of extra love is like a fresh coat of paint on the walls of their heart. WITH THE DEATH OF HIS WIFE and jobs scarce during the depression Michael Banks, played by Ben Whishaw (I’m Not Here, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer), had little time to watch over his children. Though things looked bleak, there was an opportunity for someone special to step in and help; that someone was Mary Poppins, played by Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place, Into the Woods). This comedic family fantasy also starred Lin-Manuel Miranda (The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Looking for Maria Sanchez) as Jack, Emily Mortimer (The Bookshop, Harry Brown) as Jane Banks and Julie Waters (Billy Elliot, Harry Potter franchise) as Ellen. Taking the original movie and moving the characters thirty years forward allowed for a whole new generation of characters to populate this theatrical musical film. I thought the acting was excellent, though Emily’s version of Mary Poppins seemed to have more of an edge to her. This picture was fun to watch but I feel those not into theater may think it is over the top. For me this updated story did not have the magic of the first movie; but part of my warm feelings came from the nostalgic aspect I have towards the original film. Besides, having another encounter with Mary Poppins is always a welcome visit.
DESPITE WHAT HAS BECOME A torturous route, the thrill is still there whenever I fly through the clouds. From the time I was little, lying out in an open field near the airport, watching airplanes take flight; I have always been fascinated with the idea of flying. I can remember getting off an airplane and have relatives standing right at the gate for me. There was never a problem to carry baked goods from home on the plane to bring to distant family members. In fact the whole experience of traveling by air was easy compared to now. I know I bring it on to myself but traveling today causes me to be anxious and tense. There are more opportunities for something to delay or cancel my trip. Now granted I know all of the rules regarding flying are for the public’s safety; but for those who remember an earlier time, things are drastically different. At least that is my opinion. FROM THE MOMENT I ARRIVE at the airport, my body tenses up. If I have driven to the airport I am concerned the long term parking lot will be full; it happened to me once, but that was enough. Then when I am inside at one of the kiosks to retrieve my boarding pass, there is a sense of dread that comes over me that the flight is overbooked and I will not get a seat. Here again it happened to me before. Once I pass these obstacles the next one to come is where I am the tensest. Going through the security line always upsets me. It takes one simple thing to trigger either the metal detectors or X-ray machines and I try to avoid that happening like the plague. I never wear a belt or watch when I go through the security line. Ever since I was pulled out of line because my knapsack triggered an explosive sensor due to a candle I received as a gift, I have eliminated everything possible that could slow down my way to the departure gate. Having just returned from a relaxing vacation this week, as soon as I arrived at the airport for my return flight I went into my defense mode of nervous tension. Little did I know that tension would never leave when I got back home because I went directly to the theater to see this dramatic horror thriller. THE SLIGHTEST SOUND WOULD BRING death to their family, so husband and wife Lee and Evelyn Abbott, played by John Krasinski (13 Hours, The Hollars) and Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train, The Adjustment Bureau), did everything they could to keep their kids quiet; however, how does one train a young child not to make a sound? Directed and co-written by John Krasinski, this film also starred Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck) as Regan and Noah Jupe (Wonder, Suburbicon) as Marcus. Right from the start this story grabbed me; it was fresh and different. I thought I would have an issue with so little dialog; but it quickly disappeared due to the admirable effort of John’s directing and the deeply felt acting from Emily, who in real life are married to each other. This was a new type of horror film that kept me in a state of nervous tension; some of the scenes were so beautifully orchestrated. My only complaint had to do with the baby scenes and the way the story turned out towards the end; they were not believable to me. Outside of that this picture really was a thriller, so be prepared if you go see it.
3 ½ stars
NOT ONLY HAD I NEVER seen one, I never even heard about them. Walking into their house for the first time, I was introduced to a pleasant couple who were friends with my friend. They were hosting a get together and my friend brought me along. After the introductions they led us into their living room. It took me a moment to take it all in but across most of the flat surfaces in the room, such as shelves and tables, there were these ceramic gnomes everywhere. It was so utterly odd to me and there were so many of them; all different kinds from wizen elderly males to young teenagers to busy looking females. Evidently the expression on my face telegraphed my surprise for the hosts took the liberty of telling me the history of several of their gnomes. I found out the artist who created them always placed some type of object on the piece as a surprise. Oh and I almost forgot, each gnome had a name and a history about their life. SEVERAL YEARS LATER I WAS killing time in a resale shop. As I made my way through the aisles I came to a section that held house wares. There was an entire shelving unit filled with the same type of gnomes I remembered from that dinner party back then. All of them were lined up into rows as if they were all sitting in a theater to watch a movie. I never knew how much were the original prices for these gnomes, but I could not resist checking what they were being priced at in this resale store. A majority of the larger ones were priced at $5.00 and the smaller ones at $3.00. I had to assume this was a major bargain. What is that saying, one person’s junk is another person’s treasure? Based on the traces of dust covering some of the gnomes I assumed they had been sitting there a long time; I guess there is not a need for people to have gnomes in their house or garden currently. It is funny because I wound up feeling the same regarding this animated, adventure comedy sequel. AFTER SETTLING INTO THEIR NEW home Gnomeo and Juliet, voiced by James McAvoy (Split, The Last King of Scotland) and Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train, Into the Woods), expected with a little work to have the perfect garden. However when their fellow gnomes went missing the only one who could hopefully solve the mystery was the top detective Sherlock Gnomes, voiced by Johnny Depp (Black Mass, The Long Ranger) and his companion Dr. Watson, voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, 2012). The idea for this story was cute in this film. With decent animation and a soundtrack provided by Elton John’s songs I thought this would have been a fun film. Just as I was stunned seeing all those gnomes in that couple’s house, I was dumbfounded by how poorly written was the script. This picture was boring to me; there was nothing funny or cute about it. Maybe a narrow group of children would like this film; but where I expected a theater with children to be noisy, in my viewing there were barely any sounds coming from the audience. I had to fight to stay attentive to what was going on in the story. For the most part I felt myself wanting to doze off, but forced myself to stay awake. It was a late viewing for me, but that was not the reason. Like the fate of Beanie Babies and pet rocks, this movie will probably make it to the discount bin in quick time.
1 ¾ stars
WE HAD MET WITHIN a group of people who assembled at the art museum. Throughout our time there we bumped into each other several times; it seemed we appreciated the same artists. Everyone from the group returned to our meeting place in the lobby near the gift shop at the designated time. Some individuals said their goodbyes and left; others broke off into smaller groups to stick around or do something else. She and I decided to go out for coffee since it was too early to get something to eat. We walked over to a nearby café, found an open table and sat down with our menus in hand. After we placed our orders we talked about our appreciation for the same artists and how fortunate we were to have a world class art museum in our city. FROM OUR CONVERSATION THAT initially focused on art we veered into the topic of beauty and what does it mean to be beautiful. We touched on a variety of aspects concerning beauty; for example, the unrealistic expectations found in modeling and fashion. I do not know how it happened but we started to share our own assessment of our looks. Something she said struck me in a curious way; it was the way she said it I think that made me question her further. When she talked about herself I noticed a majority of her comments had a negative element to them. I could not understand why she felt that way so I simply asked her if she thought she was not a beautiful person. She just stared at me for only a moment before I noticed tears welling up, about to spill out of her eyes. Turning her head away she looked out the window before she whispered yes. After a brief silence she explained that she was born with a hair lip that took a couple of surgeries to correct, though a trace of it remained. Ever since that time she always felt poorly about herself. I did not want to prod and see if she was teased or treated differently since it was obvious she still was dealing with some emotional baggage over it. Sadly I could relate since I had body image issues growing up that did a number on me. It takes one small thing whether a comment or one’s own lack of confidence that takes us on a path of darkness. FORCED OUT OF THEIR city due to an evil threat; it would take friendship, magic and hope for Princess Skystar, voiced by Kristin Chenoweth (Bewitched, The Boy Next Door), and her friends to find a way to save their precious homes. This animated, adventure comedy also had Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, Looper) voicing Tempest Shadow, Uzo Aduba (Tallulah, Orange is the New Black-TV) voicing Queen Novo, Taye Diggs (Chicago, Private Practice-TV) voicing Capper and Liev Schreiber (Spotlight, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) voicing The Storm King. The animation was your typical old fashioned Saturday morning flat style. I am afraid the script was written in a narrow range for the 5-7 year old set; there was not much offered for anyone older. Unfortunately I found a good portion of this movie boring. It was not until the last ½ hour or so that I became interested. And it was a shame because I thought the message conveyed was poignant and meaningful. For those of you who were into My Little Pony toys you might enjoy this story more than I did. For the rest of the viewing audience I suggest you skip this ride at the theater.
A good way to feel the heartbeat of a city is to take a ride on its commuter train. It is an easy way to not only see the city but to watch how its citizens mingle throughout the city’s arteries. When I used to take public transportation to work I would find myself getting lost into the brief visual vignettes all around me. There were the train’s adult babies who would quickly be lulled to sleep by the swaying of the train car as it rolled down the tracks. Among the passengers there was the group that always had a hardcover or paperback book to read, while another group used their electronic devices. The thing I liked to do was look out the windows. From my train car I could watch a parade taking place that had citizens carrying a long paper dragon down a street in a neighborhood with a large population of Asian Americans. In another part of the city I could see people sitting outside at a café having an afternoon coffee with shopping bags lying at their feet like trusted pets. After a few times on the same route I would know which train stops some of the passengers would get off at; business attired people would step out in the downtown area of the city and passengers with book bags or textbooks in their laps would get off at one of two stops that was close to a city college. For a different type of experience taking the train at night brings in a more intimate experience; at least it does for me. Apartment buildings would reveal a grid of lit windows where each one told a different story. With one blink of the eye I could see someone cooking up a storm of a meal or two people studiously peering down at a table full of jigsaw pieces. Each day would be a different scene and you would never know what you could witness. CATCHING the same train everyday Rachel, played by Emily Blunt (Into the Woods, Sicario), would come up with an internal story for the people she would see. But what if a person was not following her script? This mystery thriller based on the bestselling book also included Haley Bennett (The Magnificent Seven, The Equalizer) as Megan and Justin Theroux (American Psycho, Wanderlust) as Tom. Since I did not read the book I was confused for the 1st half of the movie, though Emily was excellent as Rachel. The issue for me was the script. I did not care for the scenes jumping back and forth in time along with several scenes that did not come across as authentic. All this did for me was to slow the pace down of telling the story. It was not until the last half of the picture where things picked up and it started to actually be a mystery thriller for me. An interesting side note; when I mentioned this to one of my classes 5 out of 6 people who read the book said they did not like it and felt the same about the book as I did about the film. Too bad the train ride I took did not reveal much excitement for me.
2 ¼ stars
They share similar features, have the same inflection in their voice, with mannerisms that are alike, even from the same gene pool; yet they are nothing like each other. This is something that has always fascinated me: the similarities and differences between siblings. I always wanted to figure out what were the factors that caused brothers and sisters to turn out the way they did when they were from the same parents. One of the obvious things to me was the birthing order because I strongly believe there is unique baggage in being an older, middle or younger sibling. I have seen families who blatantly treated their first born child differently compared to their 2nd born. From the people I know who were the youngest of their siblings I know some people claim this group was spoiled the most by their parents. I do not totally agree with this; I just think by the time the youngest of at least 3 children have been born, the parents were too tired to care about the same things they once did with their older children. Personally I am not a fan of dressing up one’s children in the same clothing; I feel it takes a bit away from a child’s identity. Now when siblings display strong reactions towards each other, I have to wonder what took place in their childhood that caused such negative feelings towards each other. It is so perplexing to me that I notice when I am introduced socially to new people I tend to ask them at some point if they have any siblings. You should hear some of the responses I have gotten, but nothing that matches the siblings’ story in this fantasy adventure drama. AFTER suffering a horrific loss Freya, played by Emily Blunt (Sicario, Into the Woods), decided to leave her older sister Ravenna, played by Charlize Theron (Young Adult, Mad Max: Fury Road), and stake out her own land where she would be the sole ruler. Her kingdom would have one major law: falling in love was not allowed. The special effects in this action film were certainly fun to watch with the actors. Besides Charlize and Emily there was Chris Hemsworth (In the Heart of the Sea, Thor franchise) as Eric and Jessica Chastain (Crimson Peak, A Most Violent Year) as Sara. I was stoked to see this cast especially in the fight scenes; however, the dull script ruined the already poorly thought out story. I could not believe two actresses like Emily and Charlize were not given more powerful dramatic scenes that they could easily have handled. With the multiple story lines I do not know if this picture was a prequel or sequel; it was totally baffling to me. The writers and director could have created a wild fantasy franchise but for me this movie was a bust. I do not know about you, but I have seen more sparks and drama at a family dysfunction.
1 ¾ stars
As part of my daily vitamin regiment I used to take a supplement that caused an unusual reaction in me. I would get these intense, what I would call, hot flashes that would change my skin color to red; I mean a deep bright red. This would happen spontaneously throughout the day. One time my boss walked by and started to panic when they saw me sitting at my desk with my face and ears crimson red. I had to explain I was fine and it would pass as soon as I gulped down copious amounts of water. That supplement was the reason I started to always keep a bottle of water with me whenever I was out and about. One of the few places this caused a problem believe it or not was at this one movie theater near my house. They would confiscate any food or liquids carried inside by the patrons. I understood what they were doing; they wanted people to use the concession stands because let us face it that is where the movie theaters make their money. Because I never knew when I would get a rush of heat across my body, I did not want to have to leave my seat during the movie to go get some water. So I would bring in my own bottle of water and carry it beneath my jacket, underneath my arm. I know I was breaking their rules but the idea of missing out on parts of a film was something I could not handle. In my mind bending the rules led me to a better review. VOLUNTEERING for a special task force led by government agent Matt Graver, played by Josh Brolin (Everest, Men in Black 3); FBI agent Kate Macor, played by Emily Blunt (Looper, The Young Victoria), found herself involved in a drug war where the rules were not always followed. This film festival nominated crime drama had a superior cast that also included Benicio Del Toro (Traffic, The Usual Suspects) as Alejandro and Victor Garber (Titanic, Milk) as Dave Jennings. First I must warn you there were several scenes of intense bloody violence. The taut story kept the viewers in a constant state of suspense; the director did an excellent job keeping the scenes tight while bringing the life out of the actors. I caught myself several times holding my breath in anticipation of what was to come. Though there have been other films about the drug war between the United States and Mexico, I found this one to be a raw realistic story that lingered with me even after the movie was over. If the film studio had to bend a few rules to get this action film made then I firmly believe it was worth it because this picture kept you on the edge of your seat. Intense violent scenes with blood in this film.
3 1/2 stars
You may have done it over a burning candle that was perched on top of a birthday cake. Maybe it was while you were peering into a shiny display window you came upon while walking down the street. No matter where it was done, I do not know anyone who has not wished something for themselves. The whole concept was presented to us at a young age when we were asked what we wanted for our birthday or holiday. As kids we mostly focused on toys and games; but as we grew up, our wish list spread further out to encompass things like trips and cars. In addition, some of the things we started to wish for came with a price. When I started attending aerobic classes I was amazed at how much I enjoyed them. I was lucky because there was a great instructor leading the class who played awesome music. It made me start thinking that maybe I could teach a class one day, so I took steps to make it happen. My love for teaching fitness is as strong today as it was when I first started out; however, I did not know at the time there was going to be as much work involved as there has been. THERE is no better place to see dreams come true than in a fairy tale which this film festival winning movie beautifully created. Taking familiar characters from several fairy tales such as Cinderella, played by Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air) and Little Red Riding Hood, played by newcomer Lilla Crawford, this fantasy combined all of them into a story about making wishes. There were a variety of actors; I expected Meryl Streep (The Hours, The Giver) as the Witch and James Corden (Begin Again, The History Boys) as the Baker to be good. However, the standouts for me were Emily Blunt (Looper, The Devil Wears Prada) as the Baker’s wife and Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, People Like Us) as the Prince. I had no idea either of them could even sing. If you are not a musical fan then more than likely you may not enjoy this film as much. Especially with a Stephen Sondheim (Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd) musical, I find his songs to be more complicated for the average movie/theater goer. Having seen the staged version of this musical, I actually enjoyed this movie production more because the way it unfolded made clearer sense to me. This picture had me thinking because there were several ways one could interpret its story. Also, it was not a kid’s movie; there were none in the movie theater. If you wish for good acting , solid singing and a cast of fairy tale characters, you will not be disappointed.