I KNEW HER WHEN SHE HAD dreams of being an artist. She delved into the art world with inks, paper, feathers and stamps; eager to create a line of cards filled with characters and creatures she would copyright one day. I was the recipient for several of her cards; they usually had to be delivered with 2 stamps on the envelopes. If someone were to ask me what her style of art was like, I think I would have a hard time explaining it. There were some figures that had a Victorian flair to them, but then there were others that were almost animal like. I do not mean this in a disrespectful way but for my tastes, I would say her cards were frilly. The addition of buttons or crystals or fringe for me, gave it a frilly look. I will say she was passionate about her craft, going to various workshops and conventions to practice and hone her skills. Besides getting texts with photos of her latest works, we would talk on the phone and she would tell me about her latest creations. She even looked the part, if there is such a type. With hair dyed in various vibrant colors based on the season, she wore funky jewelry; some even made by her. In other words, one could consider her a walking billboard for her products. WHEN SHE INTRODUCED ME TO THE man she was going to marry, it never occurred to me that she would alter her game plan for her art. However, after they were married for a few months I noticed the texts became fewer and farther between, the phone calls were not as consistent as they once were; I was not hearing about her latest creations. When we talked, she still would mention something about a new stamp she bought or some fun card stock; however, I now would infrequently hear about the finished product made from these items. It was not like her husband discouraged her; it was her choice as far as I could tell. I did not hear anything negative about his feelings towards her creative side. It just seemed as if her passion for art was transferred to her passion for her new husband. It had been a long time since she had been married. And that was okay with me if that is how she truly felt; I only wanted her to be happy. I had known other people who got into a relationship and the things they were passionate about had to be curtailed because their spouse was not supportive or did not understand the importance it played in the person’s life. Having a dream and making it a reality are two different things; see how it works in this film festival nominated movie. SYLVIA PARKER, PLAYED BY TESSA THOMPSON (Creed franchise, Men in Black: International), was obsessed with television. Her dream was to become a TV producer. While helping at her father’s record store, Sylvia met someone who also had a dream. With Nnamdi Asomugha (Crown Heights, When the Streetlights Go On-TV) as Halloway, Eva Longoria (Dog Days, Overboard) as Carmen, Aja Naomi King (The Birth of a Nation, The Upside) as Mona and Jemima Kirke (The Little Hours, Ava’s Possessions) as The Countess; this drama was as smooth as fine satin. Set during the 1950s in Harlem, I thought the sets and costumes were spot on and I thoroughly enjoyed the musical score. Tessa and Nnamdi had a palatable chemistry that grew along with the story. The script had a game plan like other romantic films I have seen before; though, I thought the ending lost a bit of steam here. I mean this as a compliment; this was a good old-fashioned romantic drama with a good douse of jazz music thrown in.
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.
FROM ALL THE ANIMALS AND PETS, I have encountered, there are two special pets that stand out the most in my mind. The first one was the very first dog we had in the family. I was around 7 or 8 years old when this small black furred puppy came into our lives. She was extremely smart, knowing which rooms in the house she could go in. The living room was off limits because it had white carpeting. You could try and coax her to come in, but she knew better; she would simply sit down at the edge of the room and observe whatever activity was taking place. I do not remember her ever being afraid of anyone; she loved everyone who came into the house. Because of her I learned a new dimension to unconditional love and friendship. In addition, I had to be told what “being in heat” meant after a couple of dogs chased me down the street while I was out walking her. I refused to walk her for the rest of the week if I remember correctly. THE OTHER PET THAT STANDS OUT in my mind was this dog that my significant other brought into our relationship. He was a “pound puppy” of mixed breeds. He grew to around 40 pounds, this furry bundle of love whose tail was always wagging. I soon began referring to him as the “shadow” because he did not like to be by himself whenever anyone was home. He would follow you from room to room; in other words, from the laundry room to the bathroom to the bedroom to the balcony; it did not matter if you were in the room for only a minute. As he grew up there was one thing neither of us could understand; he took a dislike to children. Specifically, any child who was around his height. It was the oddest thing that we finally attributed to him wanting to be the alpha dog with any kid around his size. Except for this weird trait he was a very compassionate pet. He had this sixth sense that always knew how each of us was feeling. If I was watching a DVD movie that made me tear up, he would jump into my lap and put his front paws up on my shoulders to stare me directly in the face as he licked the tears from my cheeks. He was something else, wasn’t he? I feel fortunate that I had these pets in my life, just as the individuals did with their pets in this dramatic comedy. SEVERAL PEOPLE CROSS PATHS WITH EACH other that alters their lives, all because of their pets. With Vanessa Hudgens (Beastly, Spring Breakers) as Tara, Nina Dobrev (Let’s Be Cops, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as Elizabeth, Finn Wolfhard (It, Stranger Things-TV) as Tyler, Lauren Lapkus (Jurassic World, Blended) as Daisy and Eva Longoria (Overboard, Lowriders) as Grace; this film had a few different stories taking place at the same time. It was not confusing to watch, but I felt it may have contributed to the script remaining one dimensional throughout the story. Besides being predictable, I never felt fully engaged with what was taking place on screen. However, what I did enjoy was all the animals. I appreciated that the writers did not write script for the pets, where they would need CGI to have the animals mouth the dialog. Instead they let the expressions on the pets’ faces do the talking and it was cute I must say. Excuse my verbiage but this was a “fluffy” piece of entertainment. You could easily experience the same feelings by going to an animal shelter and seeing the animals live. The only thing you might remember if you see this picture is the pets.
1 ¾ stars
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
YOU cannot force a person to love something or someone they do not like. I have never seen it become successful. There was a mother I knew who drove her daughter everywhere to audition for dance roles even though the daughter did not have her heart in it. Rejection after rejection did not stop the mother from forcing her daughter to try again. Now if the daughter truly had a talent for dance and wanted to pursue it, then it would be somewhat of a different story. There have been several instances where I have seen a parent pushing their child to try out for a sport or some form of the arts, but one thing was never mentioned to the child. “To do their best;” I do not always hear this being included. If a child has a strong desire to do something I feel they should be allowed as long as they give it their best shot. This reminds me of an episode of a singing talent show where the singer auditioning mentioned they had been working with a voice coach for several years. After the contestant auditioned the judge told the person to fire their coach, because they did not have a good singing voice. IF a person is gifted at something wouldn’t it be in the best interest to encourage the individual to give it their all? I am familiar with a family that has 3 children. One child is exceptional when it comes to drawing; her paintings are incredible. The father, who works as an accountant, is against his daughter’s idea of going to college to study art. He believes she will never make a living at it and would rather she go into economics. Now it does not matter if the girl has an aptitude for numbers or not, the father just wants her to do something where she can earn a decent living and thinks since he supports a family by working with numbers, she should do the same thing. It is similar to what was taking place in this drama. AS the owner of an auto repair shop Miguel Alvarez, played by Demian Bichir (The Heat, A Better Life), wanted his two sons to be part of the business. But with his youngest one Danny, played by Gabriel Chavarria (Freedom Writers, A Better Life), wanting to pursue art; Miguel simply could not understand why his son would want to do such a thing. This film festival nominee’s story was set in east Los Angeles and also starred Eva Longoria (The Sentinel, Over her Dead Body) as Gloria and Theo Rossi (Bad Hurt, Sons of Anarchy-TV) as Francisco ”Ghost” Alvarez. I walked into this film not fully understanding what “lowriders” were, but I discovered I liked the look of them. As for what they do, I don’t understand the point. Putting that aside the other part of this movie I enjoyed was the art work on display. Outside of that there really was nothing new about this story. I have seen similar movies that have done the same story line and actually did it better. Every scene in this film followed a generic formula from the portrayal of a Hispanic family to the family tension to the girlfriend; I was bored for the most part. Let me say there was nothing “bad” per se about this picture; if you have never experienced this type of story you may find something of interest. I sort of wish the writers had been pushed harder to try and create a better script.
Once upon a time a person was able to bite into a piece of food and savor the taste blooming in their mouth. Planted in an orchard or field where the rays of the sun encouraged it to grow, the fruit or vegetable was picked at the peak of its ripeness. It was nurtured by the loving hands of a farmer who learned their craft from their father who had learned it from their father; a simple process that provided the most natural and best taste. Times have changed as the world now moves at a faster pace. Some food items are grown indoors where its roots are stuck in a test tube device to keep them moist as the only light source shines out of heat lamps hanging low from the ceiling. If plants are grown outside they are bombarded with chemicals to ward off things that could damage them. Not only are grains being genetically manipulated to create a super race of wheat or corn, but even livestock get injected with hormones and antibiotics because a dead or sick animal cuts into profits. I try to think about what is going into my mouth, though there are times where I wished I wasn’t thinking. My thoughts for the most part focus on either squeezing, smelling, reading or looking at the item before I take it from the store shelf or bin. AFTER watching this documentary I felt guilty for not knowing more about where and how the food I was leisurely putting into my shopping cart had reached the store. Executive produced by Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives-TV, The Sentinel) and narrated by Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland, Phone Booth), this movie focused on a group of migrant workers who picked tomatoes. I am sure this will not come as a surprise; but the story showed the chain of command that dictated the course of the tomato, from the bottom where the migrant workers toiled in the fields to the final destination at the grocery store. I was surprised to find out I was not completely correct on which component in the chain yielded the most power. For a documentary this topic was presented in a straight forward manner with little consideration given to tweaking elements to make this more of a dramatic story. There were times where I felt a scene’s actions was being repeated more than necessary to drive a point home. However, this particular story was both moving and incredulous to watch. Though I would like to consider myself an intelligent consumer, this movie proved me wrong. I was shocked by what I saw. I have to tell you I would have a hard time shopping at the grocery store that was the focus of this film, if there was one near me.
3 1/2 stars