WALKING INTO THE SHOP, I WAS immediately hit with the smoky smell of burning incense. There was the soft sound of a small bell or chime tinging at random intervals. The middle of the store had a few free-standing bookcases; leaning up against the walls were shelves filled with a cornucopia of crystals, rocks and oils or lotions. My friend convinced me to go with him to this shop. Honestly, I did not know whether to call it a bookstore, rock shop or coffee shop; since there were a few tables and chairs huddled around a short counter, that had a coffee machine and filled pitchers resting on top of it. I did have to give him the exact time of my birth, down to the minute and time zone. When I asked him why, he told me he wanted us to go see an astrologer/psychic, who needed this information before he would sit with us. I was okay giving this a try, to see what they would say about me. My friend walked over to a man reading a book, sitting behind a glass case. He told the employee about our scheduled appointment and the man nodded his head towards an entryway that had strings of rainbow-colored beads hanging across it. We walked through, entering a dimly lit space. A PLAINLY DRESSED OLDER MAN CAME up and introduced himself to us. He asked for our names then wanted to know which one of us wanted to get our reading first. Before I could say anything, my friend volunteered me to go first; I did not object. The man led me to a 2ndroom that was better lit and had a round table in the middle with a white tablecloth covering it. Sitting down, the man pulled what looked like a folded map from a box on the floor next to him. He started unfolding it so he could press it out on top of the table. I saw my name written in a corner and a large circle drawn in the middle; it looked like a partially built bicycle wheel. The man did not waste any time as he immediately began telling me that the timing of my birth was unique. For the time I sat with this man, I was given a lot of information. For example, he told me I was a true Scorpion who had strong likes and dislikes. I was a loyal friend but if trust ever got broken, I would completely cut the person out of my life because once trust was broken it could never be completely repaired. There was a lot to take in, in such a short time. I would have enjoyed knowing what Walter Mercado would have said about Scorpions to compare the two, if I had only known about him. For those not familiar and those who are, you can now learn about him in this film festival documentary. AT A YOUNG AGE WALTER MERCADO was different. It started when someone saw him bring a bird back to life. Directed by Cristina Costantini (Science Fair, Awakening: After Parkland) and Kareem Tabsch (The Last Resort, Dolphin Lover), this movie was a loving tribute to Walter. As I said, I had never heard of him; but as I watched this film, I was amazed and fascinated with Walter’s life. From humble beginnings, Walter looked at things differently and certainly did not conform to standard perceptions. I enjoyed seeing the reactions from his fans, especially the scenes that included Lin-Manuel Miranda (Mary Poppins Returns, Hamilton) and Eugenio Derbez (Instructions not Included, Overboard). The story had elements of sadness, fun and joy that were complimented by the tight editing between archival footage, animation and interviews. At first glance, I would have said Walter was a real character; however, seeing this film and hearing about his story made me appreciate the things he was trying to do. Hugely popular for years, I now wish I could have heard him tell me about my horoscope. There were multiple scenes that had Spanish dialog with English subtitles.
3 ½ stars
WE WERE CONVINCED WE HAD STUMBLED onto a secret diamond mine. My friend had spotted something sparkling in the rubble. Pushing the broken concrete and gravel away with his foot, he discovered a rock that had hard, shiny pieces embedded into it. He pulled it away from the bed of earth it was nestled in and we both inspected it. He placed the rock in my hand to show me how heavy it was for its size. I turned it in the palm of my hand; it felt cold and smoother than I expected. We were a few blocks from home, on a construction site that until recently had 4 residential houses. They had been demolished to make room for a new apartment building. We thought there must have been some type of cave or space underneath the houses that contained rocks like the one we discovered. I found a wooden piece of board to use like a shovel, to help dig for these diamond rocks. We were explorers as we pushed debris aside in our search of fortune. Anything that looked unusual, like a piece of metal or glass, we would stop to inspect. If we felt it had value, we would keep it; if not, we would take turns to see how far we could throw it across the empty lots. EVEN WITH SO MANY YEARS HAVING passed since then, I still get tremendous pleasure out of exploring new places. I have done my fair share of exploring across the states. On one trip I headed up to a northern city; where upon arriving, I spent the next 8 hours exploring its different neighborhoods all on foot. In the downtown area, there were a series of overhead pedways that reminded me of a pet hamster’s obstacle run. Walking through them felt like being in a different city because I was encapsulated away from any outside elements or people walking underneath me. When I take a trip to a new city, I always try to take their public transportation. This provides me the opportunity to cover more ground and hear directly from the city’s inhabitants. There have been times where from a struck-up conversation with a passenger has pointed me to something wonderful off the beaten path and only known by the locals. There are always new things to discover and learn and exploring is one of the best methods for attaining this knowledge. If you do not believe me then feel free to see how it is done in this family friendly, adventure film. HAVING BEEN RAISED AND HOME SCHOOLED in the jungle would not necessarily work in Dora’s, played by Isabela Moner (Instant Family, Transformers: The Last Knight), favor when it came time to attend high school in the city; but as far as Dora was concerned, high school would simply be a new place to explore and observe its population. She had no idea she would be getting the adventure of a lifetime. With Jeff Wahlberg (Don’t Come Back From the Moon, Counterpart-TV) as Diego, Eva Longoria (Lowriders, Harsh Times) as Elena, Michael Pena (A Wrinkle in Time, End of Watch) as Cole and Eugenio Derbez (Instructions not Included, Overboard) as Alejandro; this fun film had the trappings of a cartoon. Actions and reactions were over dramatic at times and the pacing was kept at a good clip for most of the story. I was surprised by how entertaining this picture was for me, especially since I felt the writers were using references from the animated series. For example, there was a short surprise at the end of the credits that was lost on me. Something else I appreciated was the way the script incorporated high school teenage issues into the story. Isabela was the perfect choice to play Dora with these scenes; she had her innocence while displaying her enthusiasm. This movie kept my interest and as a bonus, sparked my desire to go exploring. I may need to book a trip soon.
NEVER BEFORE HAD I HEARD someone ending a story with the word cancer and had a smile on their face. He was referring to the disease not the zodiac sign. I sat listening to this story and was not expecting such a reaction; I did not know how to respond to him. This is the story he told me: When he was in high school there was a student who took pleasure in torturing him. The bully would spit at him both in and outside of the classroom, besides hitting him at unexpected times with a book or his fist. It lasted the entire school year and not once did he ever do anything about it or at least tell someone about the torment he was receiving. After the school year was over he had a little over 2 months of relief since the bully did not live near him. The next school year continued his good fortune because he and his tormenter shared no classes together. It was a small price because the damage, as he referred to it, was already done. It was years later he heard his tormenter was diagnosed with cancer. When he said those words he had a smile on his face; then added these words, “Karma can be a real bitch.” FROM MY LIMITED UNDERSTANDING I took karma to be the fate one gets based on their past and current actions. I guess it applied in this case but it seemed odd to find glee in such an outcome. But then again I remember people from my past who had done things that were unkind, unsavory or unethical and I felt they would be sorry for acting that way when karma came a calling. There was a company I worked at that had an employee who was vindictive and sneaky, among other things. She could hold a grudge better than most people. If someone in the company upset her she would purposely do something that would look bad on the person’s work record. She did not care, she was that revengeful. I used to sit there and imagine how life would turn out for her from all the nasty things she had done over the years I worked there. In some ways believing in karma has helped me deal with unpleasant situations. Meeting someone who winds up hurting me in some way still is painful; but when I feel their act will steer their life’s journey on a different course (a/k/a payback), it makes me in some weird way get over the pain quicker. There is a perfect example of it in this comedic romance remake. WHEN WEALTHY PLAYBOY LEONARDO, played by Eugenio Derbez (Instructions not Included, How to be a Latin Lover), falls off his yacht and washes up on shore without any memory; single mom Kate, played by Anna Feris (The House Bunny, Just Friends), decides to get even with him for the things he had done to her. This movie also starred John Hannah (The Mummy franchise, Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Colin, Eva Longoria (The Sentinel, Harsh Times) as Theresa and Mel Rodriguez (The Watch, Little Miss Sunshine) as Bobby. Though I have a vague memory of the original film I felt this movie did not offer anything special, despite the gender switch in the main characters. Surprisingly I found Eugenio to be the bigger screen presence; Anna was not being utilized to full advantage. She was almost forgettable. The script was predictable and I even mean that for those who never saw the first movie. There were a couple of touching and humorous scenes but after the film was over I wondered what I had done in the past to make me wind up sitting and watching this disappointing film.
1 3/4 stars
SHE was a working mom and believed she was setting a good example for her daughter. To drive the point home she would clarify things by saying she worked outside of the home, at a paying job. Though she did work away from home, she made a point of always being at any of her daughter’s school functions. She would drive her daughter to school before work, put in a full 8 hour work day and get home afterwards to make dinner, put a load of laundry in the wash and return back to the high school at night because she was on the activities committee. Most of the mother’s days followed this type of pattern, but she did not mind; all she wanted was for her daughter to have as many possibilities available as possible regarding her future. So imagine her horror when she asked her daughter what she wanted to study after she graduated high school and the daughter said she was not sure she wanted to go to college. Trying to stay calm and composed she asked her daughter what she wanted to do in life. The daughter replied she wanted to be a stay at home mom. THERE was nothing wrong about being a stay at home mom but the mother’s concern was her daughter becoming dependent on someone else. If something was to happen in the marriage and the daughter found herself alone, how would she support herself and her children? The mother was worried about her daughter. I could understand where the mother was coming from with her concern for her daughter. Being strongly independent I know I would have a difficult time if I had to depend on someone else. There was a friend of a friend I knew who always managed to date wealthy individuals. It was not unusual for this person to walk into a party with a fancy jacket or a new expensive watch that they would have received from their date. The relationships never seemed to last long and I always wondered if these rich people just got tired of always supporting their love interest; it could happen, just see what took place in this comedy film. AFTER his wealthy wife replaced him with a younger man Maximo, played by Eugenio Derbez (Instructions not Included, Jack and Jill), had nowhere to go. He had no money of his own, nor any marketable skills. His only choice was to see if his estranged sister Sara, played by Salma Hayek (Lonely Hearts, Once Upon a Time in Mexico), would take him in. Including Kristen Bell (Bad Moms, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) as Cindy and Linda Lavin (Wanderlust, The Intern) as Millicent, this movie told a story I had seen previously in other films. There were several amusing scenes in this picture; however, nothing was unique or special about it. I did enjoy the character of Hugo, played by Raphael Alejandro (Badge of Honor, Kindergarten Cop 2), but it was obvious what was going to happen to him. Honestly there was nothing “wrong” with this movie; it was just average. In fact, this film had an old school feeling to it, where its physical and verbal humor seemed as if it were mined back in the 70s. I am afraid there just was not much in this picture to motivate me to give it a better rating. Several scenes were spoken in Spanish with English subtitles.
If one wants to create an express lane to the heartstrings of a movie viewer or reader all they need to do is have a sick child or pet in their story. I do not want to come off as being callous; because trust me, I am one of the first ones who will start tearing up when I see an ill animal or child. There is something about seeing a defenseless child or animal suffering that affects me quicker than seeing an adult. I believe it is due to the innocence I perceive in them. Maybe this will make better sense: I have more sympathy for living beings who did nothing to cause themselves to get sick as opposed to an adult who, let us say, drank too much alcohol most of their life and now is suffering with a dying liver. So if that scenario of sickness is going to be part of a story then I want to follow it to its conclusion; whether it has a happy or sad ending does not make a difference to me as long as it is told in an honest way. There is another aspect about all of this that makes this type of story more poignant and that is when it is based on true events. When I am sitting in the theater and the first frame of the film shows what I am about to see is based on a true story I get higher hopes that I will enjoy the movie. When her daughter Anna, played by Kylie Rogers (Finders Keepers, Fathers and Daughters), suddenly became ill and started suffering with severe stomach pain; Christy, played by Jennifer Garner (Dallas Buyers Club, Draft Day), wanted an explanation for it, even from God. Based on a true story this dramatic film also included Martin Henderson (Everest, Smokin’ Aces) as Kevin Beam and Eugenio Derbez (Instructions not Included, Jack and Jill) as Dr. Nurko. What worked for me in this picture was the fact this story was based on true events. However, my issue with it was I wished the script would have stayed focused on the Beam family’s plight without the heavy-handed use in reminding me about faith. I read afterwards the movie studio did not want to promote this as a faith based film; however this movie wound up preaching to the chorus in my opinion. Interestingly I became aware of the audience sitting in the theater when one viewer yelled out at a particular scene, “It is a miracle!” It was then that I looked around and realized the crowd was the same type of crowd I have seen at all of these poorly made faith based films. I do not want to be hit over the head with the swooning soundtrack, the film shots of the sky filled with bright light and sermons; I just want to watch and discover the story in my own way. This story of Anna was fascinating enough; I did not need someone telling me how to live my life.
1 ¾ stars
The past weekend was exhaustive for me. It was one of those where everything had to precisely coordinate like a finely tuned Swiss made watch. I even had to schedule in bathroom times. By Sunday night I was totally drained of energy, feeling defenseless against Earth’s gravitational pull. What propelled me through the weekend was the knowledge that Monday was a holiday and I could stay home to restore some semblance of balance back into my life. Believe it or not, the idea of leaving home to even see a movie was not something I wanted to do. Now you know I must have been super tired. But would you believe that little voice in my head kept badgering me, telling me I should go to the movies because one never knows what the next day will bring. Pulling a cap over my frantic, slept on hair; I forced myself to a matinee show. Having seen the trailer some time ago, I really could not recall anything about the film I was about to see. Several minutes into the movie I thought it was going to be a typical goofy movie about mistaken identities. But then something magical happened and the story lifted me out of myself, transporting me to Mexico. I was no longer tired; the demanding eventful weekend faded away and I was drawn into this dramatic comedy. Eugenio Derbez (Jack and Jill, La Familia P. Luche-TV) as Valentin was surprised when a former fling named Julie, played by Jessica Lindsey (Now You See Me), appeared at his front door with a baby. Having him hold his daughter so she could go pay the cab fare, Julie never returned. With fatherhood not being part of his plans, Valentin decided to take the baby and travel to America to track down Julie. As time passed, father and daughter began to depend and learn from each other in their new place. This tender movie scored a bull’s-eye to the heart. Though I found Eugenio’s acting to have an over emphasized quality to it, his timing was impeccable. The connection he had with his daughter Maggie, played by dynamite newcomer Loreto Peralta, was incredible. I found some scenes made a sudden jump between comedy and drama; however, it did not take away from the carefully laid out story. Not only did this movie do a wonderful job in showing how love made a family, it provided another example of how a movie can affect us. The story moved me while the movie took me away. I left the theater feeling revitalized, happy to have seen this sweet, tender film. Spanish with English subtitles.