WHENEVER ANY OF US WOULD SPOT the old woman, we would purposely cross the street to avoid getting close to her. I do not know what led us to do this; I only knew she meant to do us harm. The stories I had heard about her on the school’s playground dealt with her kidnapping elementary school kids, selling kids for money, performing experiments on us and other such horrific actions. Whether it was true or not I cannot tell you; however, all the school kids I knew were afraid of her. She lived in the neighborhood but none of us knew where. We always saw her walking down the street with her shopping cart trailing behind her. One story going around said she used the cart to haul off children after she knocked them out with hypnosis or some type of poison. I do not judge people based on their looks; however, back when I was a little kid in grade school, certain facial features would have a negative impact on me. This woman had a large nose that sloped sharply at the end with a large dark brown mole nestled on the outside of her nostril. Her hair was a sea of grey and white waves; sometimes covered with a gauze like headscarf that made it look like fog. Some boys had the courage to get close enough to her to call her names. I kept my distance. WHEN I THINK ABOUT THE OLD neighborhood where I grew up, I can still remember those individuals that were singled out as “scary.” It is weird how these people wound up in such a position. I can only attribute it to us little kids reacting to the looks of the individual or the places they lived in. There was an eerie looking house in the neighborhood that was scary to my friends and me. Besides needing a new coat of paint and some repairs, it was considered a “bad” place because the couple who lived there had no children. I cannot tell you why that made us more afraid of the house; it just did back then. Every Halloween I would skip that house because I was scared something bad would happen to me. What stood out for me was the fence around the house. Though it was made of brick, the top of it had these metal, decorative spikes sticking out that I was sure was used to impale innocent children on who ventured past the gate. These memories of mine, how did they come to be? I think it started when I read the story of Hansel and Gretel when I was little. LOST AND HUNGRY IN THE WOODS, the sight of a house was a welcome relief for brother and sister Gretel and Hansel, played by Sophia Lillis (It franchise, Sharp Objects-TV mini-series) and newcomer Samuel Leakey. When they peered into a window, what they saw made them want to stay. With Alice Krige (Star Trek: First Contact, Silent Hill) as Holda, Jessica De Gouw (Dracula-TV, Underground-TV) as young Holda and Charles Babalola (The Legend of Tarzan, Black Mirror-TV) as the hunter; this fantasy, horror thriller was nothing more than a fantasy. The sets and filming of the story were intriguing to me; but the script was a waste of words. I could not believe how the story dragged to the point I was checking my watch several times. Every scene seemed slow as if they were supposed to build up suspense, but nothing ever materialized. There were a couple of scenes that were meant to be disgusting I believe; but outside of that, I thought most of the major decisions made to create this film were a poor choice. To tell you the truth, I was more scared retelling my childhood fears above instead of sitting through this poor excuse for a filmed fairy tale.
1 ½ stars
When I see the way a person acts, I sometimes wish I could have seen what happened to them that made them that way. There is that saying that has to do with not knowing a person’s situation until you have walked in their shoes or something similar. Seeing a stranger sitting alone in front of an apartment building on the front stoop, carrying on a conservation with an imaginary friend, I tend to be curious on what happened to them. I remember this classmate in college who wrote stories for our fiction class that were filled with violent images, yet on the outside he was as mild and quiet as a cotton ball. What took place in his life that filled him with such violence? For some people I know it can be a chemical imbalance, for others it could be outside influences that caused them to be that way. Of course one could look at the positive side of these outside influences. Think about the child who follows their parent into the medical field because their mother or dad was a doctor and he or she discover a cure for a disease; this would be a wonderful thing. Another example would be those movies and books that I thoroughly enjoyed, where I wanted to know about the early life of a character to see how it molded them into the person I had just read about or seen. Where I had no idea I wanted to know how the Wicked Witch of the West came to be, I enjoyed discovering her story when it came out. The same could be said about Peter Pan, where I never gave him any thought before. I see there was a reason for that after seeing this adventure fantasy. Orphaned at a young age Peter, played by relative newcomer Levi Miller, could not understand how boys were being taken from the orphanage; but his mother still had not shown up yet to take him away. This prequel to the Peter Pan story had Hugh Jackman (Chappie, Prisoners) as Blackbeard, Garrett Hedlund (Unbroken, On the Road) as Hook and Rooney Mara (Side Effect, The Social Network) as Tiger Lily. Visually there were several creative and fun scenes in this film. The story was easy to follow as it tried to put down the foundation to the Peter Pan story known by most of us. However the script was awful, to the point the actors came off stunted and emotionless. With odd musical choices I found this picture was dull and unexciting except for Levi; he was the one bright spot throughout the story. After the movie was done I realized I did not really want to know how Peter became the flying Peter. I was satisfied with my memories just as they were of the sweet and magical character known as Peter Pan.
1 3/4 stars
Do you remember the first time you heard these lyrics, “A dream is a wish your heart makes?” How about these words, “Bibbidi, Bobbidi, Boo?” The first time I saw the animated movie “Cinderella” I was scared of the stepmother. I could not understand how a parent could treat a child that way. But the character that really caught my attention was Gus the mouse because of his size; I could relate to him. The kindness Cinderella showered on him was something I wanted. If memory serves me correctly, I believe this movie was one of the first films that showed me how kindness could beat out evilness. I have seen articles that discussed the perceptions this past fantasy picture was portraying regarding Cinderella being a victim who relied solely on her looks. My interpretation resided along the lines of good vs evil. I hated the stepmother along with her daughters and was excited when Cinderella’s fairy godmother helped her get to the prince’s ball. As I grew older I continued to hope that good would always win over evil, even when it was being sorely tested on me. DIRECTED by Kenneth Branagh (Thor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), this film festival winning live action drama adventure was gorgeous to watch. The sets and costumes were incredible. Starring Lily James (Wrath of the Titans, Downton Abbey-TV) as Cinderella, Cate Blanchett (The Monuments Men, Blue Jasmine) as the stepmother and Richard Marden (A Promise, Game of Thrones-TV) as the prince; they really embodied the essence of the characters I remembered from the animated film. It was obvious they really were striving to make a memorable movie. In fact it was reported when Lily would wear the blue ball gown she could only consume liquids, nothing solid because the outfit was so restrictive. I read Cate could not sit down in some of her outfits and had to lean up onto a slant board to rest between takes; so, I give the actresses extra points for pushing through in their roles. The beginning 20-30 minutes of the movie dragged for me and involved sadness. It has been so long since I saw the animated film that I could not remember if it had dealt with Cinderella’s loss the same way, if at all. My disappointment fell onto the script; I did not know if it was due to my expectations or my memories of previous films, but I needed more drama and passion. Though Cate was terrific, I wanted her to be more evil if that makes sense. It just seemed as if the filming and story were kept at a constant safe level. In my heart I was wishing this would have matched my feelings for the animated Disney film; I guess I can still dream.
2 3/4 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.
The magical properties of food is something I already know all too well. Chocolate provides a soothing comfort, where calm thoughts cascade over me to still the turbulence of the day. I know many people eat ginger to combat nausea or an upset stomach. Peppermint has been used to take the fire out of a sore throat. There are individuals who swear the purple cornflower has anti-bacterial properties; you may have seen it being sold as Echinacea. From personal experience practically any flavor of ice cream removes the bad taste in one’s mouth from an awful meal. Since I believe there is a reason for everything, I look at all things around me having a purpose. Whether it is plant, land or sea based; I am not quick to dismiss what someone ingests for medicinal reasons. In fact, I have watched a friend prepare a meal for her pets where she looks like a chemist with all the powders and liquids she mixes into their food before giving it to them. She has raised the animals in a holistic fashion and they look vibrant and healthy to me. Already aware of the nutrients in food I was very much intrigued with the story in this dramatic romance. Being orphaned at a young age Tilo, played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (Bride & Prejudice, Jodhaa Akbar), was taught to use her intuitive abilities in finding the right spices to help an individual’s plight. There were only a couple of rules she had to follow and she did so perfectly until architect Doug, played by Dylan McDermott (Olympus Has Fallen, The Perks of Being a Wallflower), entered her spice shop one day. The whole fairy tale and magic aspect of this movie was a good idea. I enjoyed watching the different preparations Tilo performed with the variety of spices in her store. Along with her performance, these were the only things I liked about this picture. The script was not only poorly done, it was corny. Instead of infusing a real sense of drama, it only turned scenes into ridiculous melodrama. Many of the actors’ roles came across like empty cartoon characters. Actors such as Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Pompeii, Oz-TV) as Kwesi and Nitin Ganatra (Bride & Prejudice, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as Haroun Rehman were wasted in this film. When I received this DVD it looked like it would be such a tasty morsel of a movie, but by the end I could not swallow it.
1 3/4 stars — DVD
Never stop being curious, because you never know what you may find. I consider myself an inquisitive type. When traveling to a new place, I can spend the entire day seeking out and learning as much as I can about the area. Finding that little off the beaten path surprise can still give me a thrill to this day. Now speaking of surprises, some of you already know I do not believe in accidents; there is a reason for everything. In my previous review I wrote about a room where I kept my memories in balloons. As I watched this film, there was a scene that had glowing lanterns rising up into the sky. Not only did they remind me of my memory balloons, but I loved what they represented in this animated comedy. Putting a new spin on the fairy tale Rapunzel; the writers created an assertive and curious Rapunzel, voiced by Mandy Moore (A Walk to Remember, The Princess Diaries). Kidnapped as a baby, she was raised in solitude by the woman she believed to be her mother Gothel, voiced by Donna Murphy (Higher Ground, Center Stage). However, her mother never could explain what were the glowing lights in the distance that only came out on Rapunzel’s birthday. Something about those floating lights kept Rapunzel’s resolve strong; she was determined to find out their meaning. There was some of the old Disney magic in this family film. Funny characters, crazy chases and of course several positive messages filled out the movie. Zachary Levi (Stunt Men, Chuck-TV) did a super job as Flynn Rider. I did not find the music especially memorable which surprised me. Usually one can always find at least one standout song in a Disney film. It was good to see the movie studio updated their female lead into a strong, positive role model for girls; instead of the innocent, frail, always needing to be saved by a man type of girl from years past. An imaginative, adventuresome film; I am glad it piqued my curiosity enough to make me see it.
3 stars — DVD
Whether they were read, seen or told to us; fairy tales are stories that have stayed with us from our childhood. Who did not want to be a princess or a prince when they were a little kid? I was convinced that when I grew up; one day, I would swoop in and rescue who would become the love of my life. There was something about fairy tales that not only gave me a sense of hope; they provided me with an outlet to let my imagination grow and explore new passageways through my mind. Right from the beginning of this movie, I felt a kinship with writer and director Pablo Berger (Torremolinos). Using the tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves as a foundation, Pablo took the story and pushed it towards a dark, humorous, creative drama; that was a visual masterpiece. Some of you know I was not a fan of the silent film The Artist. Where I thought it was more of a gimmick for that movie; in this one, I absolutely loved the silence of no spoken words. The soundtrack came to the forefront to steer the story to some incredible heights. Set in Spain during the 1920’s; famous bullfighter Antonio Villalta, played by Daniel Gimenez (Bad Education, A Painting Lesson), had a beautiful daughter named Carmen. There was only one person who did not like the young girl and that was her evil stepmother Encarna, played by Maribel Verdu (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Blind Sunflowers). The richness of this black and white film only increased the enormous screen power of Maribel. This Oscar nominated movie was magical to me; I had no sense of time passing and felt I was taken to a different world. Absolutely beautiful to watch, I am willing to say this film will become a modern classic. Spanish with English subtitles.
When you look at couples who are together, do you ever wonder, what was it that each of them saw in the other? What was the initial attraction: looks, personality, heart? For me, I have always said what is on the outside is only rented, changing every day. What a person has inside of themselves is what nourishes my heart. This movie could be called a modern day fairy tale of “Beauty and the Beast,” but it is something more. I felt a kinship with Penelope, played wonderfully by Christina Ricci (Monster, The Addams Family). Born into a high society, wealthy family, Penelope came into the world bearing the family curse. Horrified, her mother keeps her hidden away within the family’s estate, determined to find a way to break this dreaded curse. And the only way to destroy it, is for Penelope to find true love. Once she is of age, Penelope’s mother begins a constant stream of possible suitors for her daughter’s affections. However, each of them leave in horror or disgust until one interesting gentleman arrives, played by James McAvoy (Atonement, X-Men: First Class). Part comedy, part fantasy, this movie will offer you a sweet treat of movie time.
2 2/3 stars — DVD