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Flash Movie Review: Inkheart

THE ABUNDANCE OF LIGHTBULBS CREATED A continuous glow of light around the carnival. The Ferris wheel was the only attraction that almost reached the edge of darkness waiting above the glow. I could see the Ferris wheel was stopped and there was a man screaming he wanted to get out from the upper most car. He had broken through the car’s safely bar somehow and was hanging off the side, with one arm stretched out towards the closest metal beam. Barely visible to me were two small girls who were trying to pull the man back into the car. I had to close the book right at this point because the phone rang; however, the scary image of the man dangling out of the Ferris wheel car kept floating in my head. And that is the beauty of reading a book. Most of you know me as a person who watches multiple movies every week, but may not know I can escape into a book’s story the same way as when I am watching a film. The difference for me is when I am watching a good movie; I am falling into the visuals that are being presented to me. When reading a book, I am creating the scene based on the writer’s words; I am using my imagination to see what the author is describing to me. Both mediums are equally as powerful to me.      THE EXPERIENCE OF WATCHING A FILM (prior to our current stay at home orders) is more of a physical experience for me. Keeping in mind I do not watch movies on my phone, tablet or computer; I either have to go to the movie theater or to my living room television if I want to see a film. When I travel, the options are similar with going to a theater or using the hotel’s cable options. With a book, the story’s characters almost always can surround me anywhere in the world; all I need to do is carry the book or tablet with me. I could be riding a bus, eating at a restaurant, waiting at the airport gate for my flight or (please excuse me) sitting in the bathroom; the possibilities are endless. It is such a wonderful feeling to disappear from my surroundings, by using my imagination as I read the author’s words, to recreate their vision all in my mind. Some of you may already know when a movie is based on a book; I prefer to see the film first before reading the book. One of the reasons is because I have all the characters’ voices in my head already when I open the book. In regards to today’s review, I have the book this film was based on sitting up on a shelf waiting for me.      FOR YEARS BOOKBINDER MO, PLAYED BY Brendan Fraser (Crash, The Mummy franchise), has been searching for a particular book. If he could just read its story he was certain he could find his wife. This film festival winning movie also starred Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes franchise, Long Shot) as Capricorn, Helen Mirren (The Good Liar, Woman in Gold) as Elinor, Paul Bettany (Avengers franchise, Journey’s End) as Dustfinger and Eliza Bennett (Nanny McPhee, From Time to Time) as Meggie. This family, adventure fantasy movie had all the right elements to be a fun old-fashioned thriller. Over the top characters, magical characters, big sets, everything was here except for the wandering script. The pacing was uneven as some scenes were great to watch while others were listless. I was disappointed overall with this picture; however, I was okay watching the film all the way through due to the heart and imagination at the base of the plot. Though this viewing did not pan out the way I would have liked, I am certainly looking forward to taking the book this film was based on off of my shelf to read.

 

2 stars — DVD            

Flash Movie Review: The Call of the Wild

AS WE CROSSED THE THRESHOLD; I saw one standing guard by the door, another lounging on a chair and a third smaller one acting as the greeter. It was some scene; these white powder puff dogs with their individual, distinct roles in the household. The “guard” dog was the only male; I do not know if that had any bearing on him assuming his role in the house. I will say he was good at his job; any little sound from outside would trigger him to jump on the sofa to peer out the window for any intruders, before he would run to the door to make sure it was secured. The one dog who was reclined on the cushion of the chair was an attention seeker. Evidently, her goal in life was to get everyone to come and pet her. The smallest one was the youngest of the group and her motivation for greeting everyone at the door was to find someone to play with her and her toys. Each of the dogs had their own personality; yet, they got along quite well for the most part. The only time the three would fuss was during mealtime. Like little kids in a candy shop, they always wanted more food than what they got in their bowls. As soon as one was done eating, he/she would go to one of the other bowls and try to get a portion of its food.      ALONG WITH THOSE FURRY SIBLINGS, I HAVE met some other extraordinary dogs. One dog understood commands in both English and German. He was a water rescuer; in other words, he was deployed to accidents that occurred in water. For example, things like boat crashes and missing people. Another dog I knew had an amazing vocabulary. This dog could retrieve specific items from different rooms in a home. You could ask the dog to get you your hairbrush from the upstairs bathroom and the dog would know exactly where to go to get it and bring it back to you. I found it both incredible and a bit freaky at the same time. I would be remiss if I did not mention the service dogs that help their blind owners and the ones that help with security. It was because of my early experiences around dogs that originally led me to study veterinarian science. One of the things I used to say back in school was I never met a bad dog, only a bad dog owner. When it comes to the dog in this family, adventure drama; all I can say is I never met a dog like that one before. SPANNING FROM CALIFORNIA TO THE ALASKAN YUKON, a dog’s journey would change the lives of the people it encountered along the way. Adapted from the classic novel by Jack London, this movie starred Harrison Ford (Ender’s Game, Star Wars franchise) as John Thornton, Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Not Another Happy Ending) as Mercedes, Cara Gee (Empire of Dirt, The Expanse-TV) as Francoise, Dan Stevens (Lucy in the Sky, Beauty and the Beast) as Hal and Omar Sy (The Intouchables, Jurassic World) as Perrault. Having read the book years ago in school, I still retained the feelings I felt for the dog, Buck. I do not know if this will be a spoiler for some; but Buck in this film was completed created by CGI effects, as well as all the other animals. Normally, I am fine with CGI effects; however, in this picture I found it to be a distraction. Having animals displaying human facial features was too weird for me. Even the landscape was created with CGI which resulted in me not enjoying this movie. There were a few scenes that were decent; but overall, I found this film was not dog friendly.

 

1 ¾ stars          

Flash Movie Review: Sonic the Hedgehog

THE MUSIC WAS PLAYING ON THE radio as we sang along to it. We had met for lunch so we could catch up with each other’s life; it had been a few months since we last got together. Driving on the way back to her apartment, my friend wanted to show me the house she was thinking of buying. I was fine with checking out the place, so my friend decided to take surface streets to the house to show me what type of neighborhood she would be living in. On one picturesque street, I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the houses were being maintained. My friend slowed and came to a stop near the end of the block; I thought we had arrived at the house she was interested in. Suddenly, she started backing up; I asked her what she was doing. Before she could answer me, she came to a stop and rolled down her window to talk to a man who was standing in front of a car that had its hood up. Before I knew it, she popped her hood and the man was attaching jumper cables to her battery. I sat there in disbelief; I did not even see this guy as we were driving down the street. Within a couple of minutes, the man’s car was running, and we continued on our way.      IT WAS SOME TIME LATER AFTER I had left my friend and was home, that I replayed that whole helpful scene in my head. I was struck with the fact that my friend was willing to help a stranger with no hesitation. When I had asked her why she stopped, she said she figured something was wrong by the way the man was looking at his car’s engine. Was I so fearful and mistrustful that I would have continued driving by without stopping I wondered? The next question I had was why was I mistrustful and fearful? In my past, I had been taken advantage of by strangers. Things like being asked for spare change or sign up for a promotion that later turned out to be fake; after several bogus incidents, I stopped offering any help. I guess you could say I became hardened towards those asking for help. Yet, I have always been willing to help friends and family. But as I am writing this, I am recalling times where I did help strangers; the shopper who could not reach the top shelf or the train passenger who was lost would be my examples. Seeing the help the main character offered in this action, adventure film has made me reassess my feelings about helping a stranger.      DESPITE HAVING NEVER SEEN SUCH A being did not stop Tom Wachowski, played by James Marsden (Hairspray, Enchanted), from agreeing to help the being called Sonic, voiced by Ben Schwartz (This is Where I Leave You, Parks and Recreation-TV) get to San Francisco. Their trip was the last thing Dr. Ivo Robitnik, played by Jim Carrey (The Truman Show, Mr. Popper’s Penguins), wanted to see succeed. With Tika Sumpter (Ride Along franchise, The Old Man & the Gun) as Maddie Wachowski and Natasha Rothwell (A Year and Change, Insecure-TV) as Rachel; this family fantasy based on the video game was a fun movie watching experience. The message was sweet about friendship and friends in need; the humor was cute and pleasant. There was nothing extreme or harsh in any of the scenes. And the big surprise was seeing Jim excelling at the physical comedy; I felt I was watching a much younger Jim Carrey because he was so into his role. This picture was easy to watch and if nothing else I appreciated the way it made me look at my feelings about helping strangers. There was an extra scene in the middle of the credits.

 

2 ½ stars      

Flash Movie Review: Cats

I WAS SITTING ON THE COUCH, deep into a mystery novel, when I suddenly felt a puff of air on the back of my neck. In the seconds I needed to alter my thought process back into the real world, that puff of air was replaced with something wet. As I leaned forward to turn around, there on the back of the couch sat my relatives’ cat; I was so into reading my book I had not noticed the cat jumping up onto the couch to get behind me. I chuckled to myself as I settled into my spot to get back to reading my book. The cat had other plans for me. He tentatively placed his paw on my shoulder as if he were testing the temperature of water. The next thing I knew, he got up onto my shoulders; paused for a moment for sniffing and pressing his paws around my upper back before he stretched himself out and plopped himself around the back of my neck. I asked him what he thought he was doing as I smoothed out the fur on the part of his legs, I could see that were hanging down in front. He was such an easy-going character; so, I went back to my reading while the steady drone of purring played in the background.      THOUGH I NEVER HAD A DOG OR cat as a pet when I was growing up, I had several relatives who did. This offered me the luxury of playing with them without the cleanup or mess. One relative had two black cats with white diamonds on their chests. They were not related but they certainly looked like a father and son duo. The older one had a nervous personality, where he was always suspicious and skittish. If I came over with a new toy, I would have to leave it out in the open in the middle of the floor and walk away from it. He would wait until I left the room before he would come out from under a piece of furniture and circle the toy, stopping in his tracks periodically to see if the toy would do something. Slowly he got closer to the toy, always on guard. When he finally got to it, he would take a sniff before swatting it to see what it would do. I could spend hours watching him and his methodical ways. In general, I have always enjoyed watching and playing with cats; that is, until I saw this comedic, family drama film.      ONCE A YEAR A GROUP OF CATS come together to see which one will be chosen to start a new life. One of the cats however planned on stacking the deck in his favor. With newcomer Francesca Hayward as Victoria, Idris Elba (The Dark Tower, The Mountain Between Us) as Macavity, Judi Dench (Victoria & Abdul, Philomena) as Old Deuteronomy, Rebel Wilson (How to be Single, Isn’t it Romantic?) as Jennyanydots and Jennifer Hudson (The Secret Life of Bees, Dreamgirls) as Grizabella; I am at a loss for words to describe my experience sitting through this odd movie. Having seen the stage play, the transfer of it to the big screen took away a lot of the magic and wonder of seeing the cats perform both on stage and in the audience. Here, I found the actors looked weird and had no screen presence except for Jennifer Hudson. Her scenes were the best in my opinion. Since there really was never a plot to the story, sitting in the theater listening to one song and another; I would have preferred if I could have watched them as music videos on TV or the internet. Visually this picture was pleasing to see with its fanciful scenes and sets; however, it was not enough to keep me engaged. If you have a choice, I would recommend instead of watching this bizarre experiment you volunteer your time at an animal shelter.

 

1 ¾ stars  

Flash Movie Review: Playing with Fire

I COULD ONLY LISTEN TO THE two women arguing with each other. They worked in other departments; so, I had no authority to voice my opinion. From what I had heard, it seemed as if one woman tried going around the other one to get something changed in the other woman’s department. The 2nd woman found out and was confronting the first one. I could see each of them was straining to remain civil towards the other. The 2nd woman was trying to make the 1st one understand what she did was unacceptable; she should have put in a request instead of taking matters into her own hands. She also pointed out because she (1st woman) engaged with her staff instead of coming directly to her, she essentially was telling the staff that she did not trust their boss. The two women continued going back and forth, trying to make the other one understand their point of view, but it was not working as far as I could see. I believed because the two women’s departments were so different from each other the women could not comprehend the thought process used to make their case. Surprisingly, I could relate a little to this because I am in a position where I know the workings of my department, but do not have a clear understanding of several others within the company.      THE REASON I SAY THIS IS BECAUSE I am a “routine” person; in other words, I am most comfortable and efficient when I have a routine to follow. At this moment for example, I have procedures set up where every Thursday I do the same specific task that then gets forwarded to a different department. There is another one that takes place on the 15thof every month; as you can see, I have set up my work day as a series of tasks like a road map I can follow without devoting time and energy in trying to figure out what I should do next. On the downside, I know my routines do not take into account spontaneity. If something unexpected happens, I will need time to process it and find a way where it will fit into my day. Don’t get me wrong, there is no way I can control every minute of every day to avoid being spontaneous, though I do give it my best shot. However, after working for many years it is easier for me to handle something unexpected; my processing of it has had to increase in speed to get to a faster conclusion. I think I am faster at this than the main character in this family comedy.      AFTER SAVING THREE CHILDREN FROM A BURNING building firefighter/smoke jumper Jake Carson, played by John Cena (Bumblebee, The Marine), and his crew will face an even tougher task when they must take care of the kids until the parents could be found. With Keegan-Michael Key (Let’s Be Cops, The Predator) as Mark, John Leguizamo (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!) as Rodrigo, Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool franchise, Tragedy Girls) as Brynn and Judy Greer (Ant-Man franchise, Wilson) as Dr. Amy Hicks; this movie will only appeal to the youngest of children. The script came off as a part Saturday morning cartoon show and part Three Stooges episode, except I did not find anything funny. A good portion of the movie was devoted to the kids’ antics followed by the adults’ exaggerated expressions. This left me bored early into the story. I also thought the pacing was erratic; going from a slapstick scene to a dramatic one and back. There was very little I found authentic in this film except for the outtakes that were shown during the credits. It is a picture like this where I wish I wasn’t so much into a routine of trying to see as many films as I can in a week.

 

1 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

SHE WAS PROUD OF HER GRANDCHILDREN; I heard her talk about them enough times to know. They were respectful and polite which made me like them right from the start. According to their grandmother, the boy was a star player on his school’s football team and his sister was the school’s photographer. When I met and spoke with the 2 siblings, I learned the grandmother’s description of their school activities was exaggerated a bit. The girl enjoyed photography and had submitted one of her photos to the school’s newspaper; it was one of several to be chosen to accompany an article about the plant life around the school building. The boy was on the football team as the grandmother had mentioned; however, he was one of the 2nd string players on the team. Most of his time was spent sitting on the bench. So, the grandmother expanded the truth, I get it. She was not the first grandmother I met who used hyperboles when it came to her grandchildren. It did appear to me; however, she spoke a lot about these kids. It is one thing to mention one’s children or grandchildren if it comes up in a conversation; but, without solicitation or prodding one talks excessively about them then I start to wonder what could be fueling it.      YOU THINK YOU KNOW A PERSON, but then something happens that forces you to re-evaluate everything you thought regarding this individual. This is what happened to me and explained why the grandmother talked a lot about her 2 grandchildren. Her and I were part of a small group of people who had met for lunch one day. During the meal many topics were discussed. However, it was during the subject of racial tensions when the grandmother said something that led me to believe the reason behind her excessive talking about her grandchildren. She had said a derogatory remark about another race. I was shocked because up until that time I never considered her to be a prejudicial person. As I sat there processing this new information the conversation drifted off to something else. No one questioned her about her comment, but I had to because what she said did not make any sense to me. I asked her how she could make a derogatory remark about a person’s skin color when her grandchildren had the same color of skin. She said it was not the same. Her grandchildren were born from a mixed-race couple; evidently, she was not comfortable about it which explained the constant talk about her grandkids. All of this because someone looks different? She has something in common with one of the characters in this adventure fantasy.      AGREEING TO MARRY PRINCE PHILIP, PLAYED BY Harry Dickinson (Beach Rats, The Darkest Minds), would be the easiest part compared to having each of their families sitting down together for a dinner. Aurora, played by Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon, Super 8), would have to convince her Godmother Maleficent (Changeling, Mr. & Mrs. Smith), to meet the humans she so distrusted, for good reason. With Michelle Pfeiffer (Hairspray, What Lies Beneath) as Queen Ingrith and Sam Riley (On the Road, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Diaval; this family film was beyond colorful. The opening scenes may take one’s breath away because they were so filled with colors and creativity. Along with my amazement of the visual aspects to this picture, I thought the cast was wonderful. Angelina, Michelle and Elle were so good together that I could see them doing another film together. My only complaint had to do with the story and script; it was uneven and convoluted at times, besides sharing similarities to another story made famous as a Broadway musical. Despite this, I found the movie entertaining. It had great special effects, was visually stunning and had a killer performance by Angelina, Michelle and Elle.

 

3 stars                         

Flash Movie Review: The Addams Family

I WASN’T AWARE GROWING UP THAT everyone essentially looked the same. Sure, there was different hair and eye colors and I had more poundage on me than most of the kids in the neighborhood who were my age; but essentially, there was nothing blatantly out of the norm. Everyone was or appeared to be in the same socio-economic class. It was not until the middle school years when changes started taking place in the neighborhood. A family had moved in that caused a slight ripple in the fabric of my world. The children were dressed differently compared to the other children in school. It was not like a traditional garb from a foreign country or religion; their clothes were not things you could find in any of the local stores in the area. Instead, the clothes looked homemade. Not that this was a bad thing; it simply made them standout from the other students in school. What I remember most were the lunches they would eat. Where most kids ate a sandwich or brought a cold leftover from home; this family’s siblings had what I would refer to as exotic foods. They had little cups that had various dips in them, along with salad ingredients. Rarely did I ever see them eat a sandwich made with white bread. I wasn’t judging them; I was just curious about their food choices. As far as I knew, no one ever made fun of them.      THE FAMILY REMAINED IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD for only a few years. I thought they were fortunate because as the neighborhood continued changing, people’s attitudes started to have a hostile edge to them. I experienced some of it because I was overweight; but there were other students in high school who became targets of students who had extreme views. Their behavior was abusive, and I call it abuse because it always had either a mental or physical angle to it that was always hurtful. There was one student who was short with facial features that were too big for their face. They could be walking down the hallway between classes and get smacked in the back of the head by an unknown assailant. I was called names and experienced physical altercations. School started feeling like a competition; if you could get through the day without being abused or called a nasty name you were a winner. All of this was due to the apparent differences between each of us. The way I saw it, one had to fit into the majority; otherwise, they would be banished to the outskirts of social interactions. It is a topic that remains relevant today, even for the unique family in this animated, comedic family movie.      TIRED OF EXPERIENCING HOSTILITY FROM THEIR neighbors, the Addams family found what appeared to be an abandoned building in an idyllic location. However, their differences would eventually leave their mark on the citizens. With Oscar Isaac (Life Itself, Star Wars franchise) voicing Gomez Addams, Charlize Theron (Long Shot, Atomic Blonde) voicing Morticia Addams, Chloe Grace Moretz (Let Me In, The 5thWave) voicing Wednesday Addams, Finn Wolfhard (It franchise, Stranger Things-TV) voicing Pugsley Addams and Nick Kroll (Uncle Drew, My Blind Brother) voicing Uncle Fester; I stumbled upon the Addams family when I found a book of Charles Addams’ cartoons on a bookstore shelf many years ago. There was a darkness to them; however, it was always displayed in a kind and quirky way. The cast in this film was excellent with voicing their characters. However, I found the script to be mild and not funny at all. Many of the jokes were corny and predictable, though the animation was fine. There was nothing new on display and by the time the script dealt with the true focus of the story, it was quick and lackluster. By that time, I did not care much about the picture as I had to fight from nodding off. I wish the writers would have followed the television show’s theme song and produce something less bland.

 

2 stars    

Flash Movie Review: Rambo: Last Blood

I DID NOT INTEND TO FOLLOW HIS career; it just worked out that way. Seeing him on television shows, performing in comedy sketches; I laughed at his physical comedy before I was old enough to understand his humor and jokes. If you asked me to explain what attracted me to this celebrity, I really couldn’t give you an answer. I remember how his facial expressions would telegraph his feelings, where I would burst into laughter sitting in front of the television set. At some point a movie came out where he was one of a cast of comedic actors. I remember going to this majestic, old fashioned movie theater; where the lobby floors were marble and the lighting came from suspended crystal chandeliers, to see his film. Now as I am looking back at that time, the cast was rather large for a movie; I had recognized most of the actors. The actor I had been watching on TV was playing a character that was meant to be goofy. He was wearing thick oversized glasses that made his eyes look massive and had these crazy false teeth in his mouth that looked like he was trying to swallow a garden rake. Seeing the movie became a memorable experience for me as I got to see my favorite celebrity in a different venue.      THROUGH THE DECADES MY FONDNESS TOWARDS this celebrity never wavered until a news article came to light. It was not anything near the type of scandals that have currently been in the news; but it certainly tarnished the image (at least in my mind) of this man I thought could do no wrong. It is funny, without knowing the person one builds up this persona of what one perceives them to be and that is exactly what I did. He seemed to be such a happy, caring individual who had the ability to make people laugh. However, what the news started reporting was how mean and demanding he was to everyone who worked around him. I was stunned because I had kept him up on this pedestal all these years and now it turns out he was a nasty man. I felt embarrassed even though there was no way I would have known about him. Having this knowledge now does make me look back and recolor the memories I had of this celebrity. Things that appeared funny to me I now wonder who he must have yelled at or verbally abused to make that scene happen. I am going through the same thing now after seeing this action, adventure thriller.      DESPITE HIS NIECE BREAKING HER PROMISE to him John Rambo, played by Sylvester Stallone (Rocky franchise, Grudge Match), would not let anything happen to her; so, he followed her to Mexico. What he found would stir up his past tracking skills. With Paz Vega (Kill the Messenger, The Spirit) as Carmen Delgado, Yvette Monreal (Lowriders, The Fosters-TV) as Gabrielle, Sheila Shah (Saw V, The Poison Rose) as Alejandra and Oscar Jaenada (The Shallows, The Losers) as Victor Martinez. This movie was filled with violence and lots of blood. What it lacked was a decent script. I thought the story was simplistic, making it easy to figure out every move before it was to happen. Seeing Rambo again did bring back some memories for me; however, after seeing him in this picture I wished they would have killed him in his previous movie. I am telling you, it was embarrassing to watch Sylvester doing this role again, in such a poorly thought out story. At one point I thought maybe he had taken notes of several past gruesome horror franchise films to apply to this story. I could not wait for this movie to be over. It was embarrassing to see an older Rambo in such a poorly made film. I do not know if I can ever watch any of the previous Rambo films again without thinking about why he agreed to make such a picture as this brutal one. And that is brutal to me.

 

1 ½ stars      

Flash Movie Review: Dora and the Lost City of Gold

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.

 

3 stars  

Flash Movie Review: Toy Story 4

THOUGH I HAD NOT SEEN THEM for years, my memories of them were just as vivid today as they were back then. I was downsizing my living space and came upon a couple of shelves in the basement that were filled with toys. Some were in their original packaging while others were sealed in plastic bags or bins. They brought a smile to my face as I had to stop my packing and look at each one. There was a boxed game where the players had to pick 5 letters and 5 categories. Writing each one down on a mini-spreadsheet, letters going vertically down and categories across horizontally, the players would be timed as they had to fill in as many spaces as they could within the time frame. This was my favorite game outside of word games. There was a toy on the shelf that I remember getting at the same time as a cousin of mine. It was a moving track, like a miniature moving sidewalk, where I would have to steer a magnetic car through obstacles that would pop up on the revolving track. Each toy I took off the shelf provided me a fond memory; I was not sure if I could part with any of them.      IT IS FUNNY HOW FOR MANY of us a toy or stuffed animal can have an influence on our life’s path. I remember playing this word game with a relative, where there was a group of dice that had letters instead of numbers on them. They would be shaken around inside a plastic cube until they settled into spaces set out like a tick tack toe graph. We would turn the timer over to start, then come up with as many words as we could using the letters showing; but, having to only connect the letters down or up and side to side, nothing diagonal. It was this early game that started my love of reading and writing. There was also a babysitter of mine who each time she sat for me would bring me a stuffed animal. I am convinced that menagerie started my affection and first educational direction for animals. Let me say at one time I had almost 2 dozen stuffed animals sleeping with me; I could barely move in the bed. Now it has been many years since I played with toys and stuffed animals; but I must tell you, I was pleasantly surprised seeing the familiar characters again in this latest installment of the animated, adventure franchise.      WITH A COUPLE OF DISCARDED ITEMS and a little imagination Bonnie, voiced by Madeleine McGraw (American Sniper, Ant-Man and the Wasp), created a new toy for herself. The problem was convincing this new addition that he belonged in her toy collection; something Woody, voiced by Tom Hanks (The Post, Sully), thought he could fix. With Tim Allen (3 Geezers!, Last Man Standing-TV) voicing Buzz Lightyear, Tony Hale (Stranger than Fiction, American Ultra ) voicing Forky and Annie Potts (Ghostbusters, Pretty in Pink) voicing Bo Peep; this film was one of the few sequels I have seen that maintained the high standards of its previous movies. The animation was outstanding, and the humor was appropriate and relevant for both children and adults. Also, the story was thoughtful and cleverly laid out to take adult type themes and present them in such a way that was easy for kids to digest. I experienced a variety of feelings from excitement to tension to love; each expertly fitted into the script without overpowering one another. The movie studio did a wonderful job in keeping the integrity intact for this beloved film franchise. I may never get rid of my toys now. There were 4 extra scenes during the 1sthalf of the credits.

 

3 ½ stars        

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