THE WOMAN IN THE PHOTOGRAPH WAS old looking, but I did not know she was ancient. I was working on creating a wall of family photos and the photograph of her was sent to me. When I first got it, I had no idea who she was or the younger woman who was standing next to her in the photo. When I found out, I was absolutely blown away; she was my great, great, great grandmother. The woman standing next to her was my great, great aunt. I kept staring at the photograph because I could not believe I was looking at someone who was connected to me from such a long time ago. And when I say a long time ago, when doing the math, I mean she was alive when Napoleon invaded Russia, hence the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky. This small and frail looking woman was seated in a chair or stool with her arms folded in her lap. Her clothing looked like it could swallow her up; the skirt hung down to the floor and her jacket or sweater was dark and long as well. She had a scarf tied around her head as if she were about to go outside, though the sepia colored photo showed her to be inside. I could only imagine what kind of life she must have lived, but because of her I was here. DESPITE NOT KNOWING SOME OF THE relatives in the photographs I have in my possession, I feel a connection to all the people. It is a weird feeling that I do not know if I can explain but looking at all the relatives in the photos had the effect of centering or grounding me. I felt like I had tapped into my roots; I was not some transient who floats from one thing to the next without having a “home base” to return to. Maybe another way I can explain it is by saying my life story, though it is unique to me, shared common ground with the stories from all of these relatives, whether they are deceased of alive. This reminds me of another photograph I got that has 5 relatives in it. I found out that this particular photograph used to be quite famous in the family because it was the first and maybe only one that depicts 5 generations of the family in one photograph. Each one of them has played a part in laying the groundwork for me and my generation of relatives; I just find that so amazing. I know I am lucky that I can have a history with individuals who share the same bloodline as me. It is one of the reasons why I understood what the main character was going through in this animated fantasy film. GROWING UP IN AN ORPHANAGE AND seeing her friends being adopted, only made Earwig, voiced by relative newcomer Taylor Henderson, wish for a family of her own. There was a chance her wish could be fulfilled when an odd couple came calling on the orphanage one day. With JB Blanc (Breaking Bad-TV, Bleach-TV) voicing Mr. Jenkins, Thomas Bromhead (I Got a Rocket-TV, Forest of Piano-TV) voicing the cook, Richard E. Grant (Hudson Hawk, Gosford Park) voicing the Mandrake and Vanessa Marshall (The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy-TV, Young Justice-TV) voicing Bella Yaga; this film festival winner was Studio Ghibli’s first foray into using CGI in their animation. In some instances, it worked but other times I was underwhelmed by the animation. I could say the same thing for the script. For an animated film, I found this one to be dull and uninspired. The way the story ended was awful and there was nothing fun or enchanting about the story. I do not know if even small children would care for this picture. If I were Earwig, I think I would have spent more time wishing for a way to get out of this movie.
1 ¾ stars
I TOLD HIM I THOUGHT IT was a wonderful wish, but it would never fly in his crazy family. My friend was telling me about his recently deceased grandfather’s final wish; he wanted his children to stop fighting and remain friends with each other. I knew my friend’s family well for many years and they were certainly an argumentative bunch. They also were a fun group of people to be around. The best way to describe them would be to say they were unfiltered; whatever came to their minds was immediately spoken out loud. I asked my friend how the family reacted to their patriarch’s last wish and he said they were all on their best behavior, for the moment. He really did not think the current peacefulness would last long, since all he remembers from growing up is how the family could be laughing together at one moment and then arguing with each other in the next. I remembered my friend’s grandparents; they were short and quiet. They loved being around their children and grandchildren; however, if an argument started to take place between a couple of their kids, they would ask for silence and want to hear what the two siblings were fighting about. Usually this was enough to get the children to calm down or at least to stop arguing and walk away from one another. LATER ON, WHEN I WAS ALONE, I sat and wondered about the grandfather’s wish. As far as I knew, there was no one in my family who had a final wish request. Though, I guess if someone states how they want their death to be handled, that could be considered a final wish. I know amongst my close friends and family members I joke about not wanting to suffer with sadness over their deaths; so, I would need to go first. However, I then tell them I hope to live a long life, so they need to take care of themselves and be around until my time is close to being done here. The other thing I thought about is what would happen if the person who is listening to someone’s final wish just flat out says they cannot fulfill it. I am so used to seeing people in movies agreeing to someone’s final wish that I just assumed everyone would be agreeable. But what if they have no plans to agree to someone’s final wish, but simply nod in agreement knowing full well once the person is dead, they will not do whatever was asked of them. I honestly do not know what I would do in such a situation. I cannot say the same thing for the main character in this action drama fantasy. TAKING HIS MASTER’S LAST WISH TO heart Qing Ming, played by Mark Chao (Caught in the Web, Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe), makes his way to the city where he will find himself in a game of cat and mouse that will determine the fate of the world. With Allen Deng (Great Escape-TV, Ashes of Love-TV) as Bo Ya, Ziwen Wang (Enter the Forbidden City, Ode to Joy-TV) as the Princess, Jessie Li (Port of Call, Our Time Will Come) as Long Ye and Duo Wang (Bloody Romance-TV, Inference Notes) as Zhong Xing/He Shouyue; this film festival nominee was a weird mix of genres for me. It was part folklore, part X-Men, part video game and part martial arts film. I enjoyed the special effects even if they were a bit cheesy at times. The fight scenes were well choreographed and to tell you the truth, I enjoyed the imagination that went into them. The way the story played out, I do not know if this film was based on a book, comic book or video game. Of course, there was a moral message placed in the story; however, I found this movie to be one of those that will be easily forgotten. Chinese was spoken with English subtitles.
2 ¼ stars
ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WAS a “must do” activity for me at an amusement park or carnival was playing the arcade games. I loved the game where I had to aim the water pistol at a hole with a bullseye propped inside to make the balloon expand above it. The winner was the one who had their balloon pop first. Another of my favorite games was the ring toss where I had to toss a rubber ring and try to get it to land on the neck of a glass bottle. My friends and I could hang out inside the arcade for hours or until we had no more change in our pockets. One of my friends spent most of his money trying to either knock down stacked wooden blocks with a ball or three stuffed furry animals off a shelf with a beanbag ball. The problem with the furry animals was they were very small but with all the fur around them, they looked much bigger. When they were placed side by side across an entire shelf, it was hard to knock one of them off; but my friend did not care. He was determined to beat the game and receive his prize. OUT OF ALL THE ARCADE GAMES, the only one I can remember that involved the shooting of a realistic looking gun was the game where one had to shoot moving animal shaped targets. I do not remember if the gun shot anything out of it; all I can recall is hearing a bell ring every time an animal was hit. It is funny how back then I never gave any thought to this game; but now as an adult, I find myself feeling uncomfortable about that game. Keep in mind, I am the person who is appalled by parents bringing their young children to R rated films or ones that are violent. Prior to the pandemic when I was going to the movie theaters, I would stop to look at their arcade room. It was not like I was expecting some of the same games from my youth, but I was stunned at the level of violence portrayed in the current ones. I could not get over the type of battles and fights taking place on the games’ video screens. What I find worse is how realistic looking some of the graphics are on these games. One game that involved fighting different characters had an exorbitant amount of blood being spilled from each vanquished character. And yet, this pales by comparison to what I witnessed in this film festival nominated movie. AN ANCIENT PROPHECY IS ABOUT TO be fulfilled that will end mankind. A down on his luck MMA fighter doesn’t believe it until he encounters one of the contestants in this high-stake contest. With Lewis Tan (Deadpool 2, Sacrifice) as Cole Young, Jessica McNamee (Battle of the Sexes, The Vow) as Sonya Blade, Josh Lawson (The Little Death, Holly Slept Over) as Kano, Joe Taslim (Fast & Furious 6, Star Trek Beyond) as Bi-Han/Sub-Zero and Mehcad Brooks (True Blood-TV, Nobody’s Fool) as Jax; this action, adventure fantasy based on the popular video game was filled with blood and violence. I have never played the game, so I was not prepared for the amount of violence in this picture. The special effects were good as the story was kept at a fast pace. The dialog was cheesy to the point the film started to take on the flavor of a cartoon. The fight scenes which were well choreographed contributed to this cartoonish effect because of the fast pace and wild, graphic CGI effects. It was obvious the movie studio is hoping/planning for a sequel. Though if the level of blood and violence increases, I may prefer to play a game of Pac-Man instead.
THE LAST TWELVE MONTHS HAVE BEEN something I thought I would never experience, as I am sure most of you have thought. When my state passed stay at home orders, I thought the only time I would be told to stay indoors was during a tornado or the threat of nuclear fallout. The only crisis I have lived through of this magnitude was during the AIDS epidemic. Though the transmission method was different, there still was a fear early on of getting to close to people. Back then the fear was unfounded; now it is real and could be the difference between life and death. I have known healthy individuals who caught this virus and succumbed to it. The suffering of being alone in a hospital bed as one’s lungs are slowly being squeezed of their last breath is a brutal experience. What makes this virus extra scary for me is how random it is in who will experience its affects. Some people don’t even know they are infected while others can get severe headaches, high fevers or death. I remember during my time at home, looking out the window and seeing the streets void of any human life. Pigeons scanning the sidewalks for a morsel of food, squirrels crisscrossing streets with less hesitancy and noticeable to me, less debris. WITH THE LOCKDOWN IN PLACE, THAT also meant I could not go to the health club to work out, to restaurants, to theaters and so on. Suddenly Saturdays took on extra meaning because that was the day, I would order carryout, to help the nearby local restaurants. Food took on a different importance; instead of eating for sustenance, I was eating for comfort. There was a manmade lake close to my house that I had never seen. I drove to it so I could get my steps in by walking the circumference of it. Seeing the ducks take off and land on the water was something I had never seen except on television. When the weather got too cold outside, I started walking/jogging in an underground parking garage. Little did I know that the space would become by sanctuary of peaceful calm. Staying in touch with friends/relatives took on a new meaning. In the past, there usually was an activity attached to getting together; but now, just being able to open a window and talk to a friend who was outside on the front lawn was a joy. Sitting outside to watch the sun set felt more monumental than during pre-COVID. Hearing silence except for the birds in the trees was a new experience. Little did I think that living a temporary restricted lifestyle would allow me to appreciate the little things that can go unnoticed on a typical day. This Oscar nominated and film festival winner can explain things better than me. JUST WHEN A SCHOOL BAND TEACHER feels things are looking up, he finds himself in an unfamiliar place where passion comes into question. With Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy, Robin Hood) voicing Joe, Tina Fey (Date Night, Sisters) voicing 22, Graham Norton (Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, Another Gay Movie) voicing Moonwind, Rachel House (Thor: Ragnarok, Baby Done) voicing Terry and Phylicia Rashad (Creed franchise, This is Us-TV) voicing Libba; this animated, adventure comedy had a lot going on with it. As to be expected from a Pixar movie, the animation was inventive and fun. There were some scenes that were rich with details, but others I found to be somewhat average. The script was different to me; I found it to be esoteric in nature. Young viewers may not understand the meaning of some scenes and might ask for an explanation. From an entertainment standpoint, I did not feel the sense of joy I normally do with a Pixar film. I did however appreciate the message; I only wished there had been more musical interludes.
AS WE WERE COMING IN FOR a landing at the airport, the passenger in the next seat reminded me to make sure I don’t put my wallet in my pants pocket. I thanked him as I wondered what kind of city I would find in this foreign land. The flight was several hours and this passenger, upon hearing this was my first trip to the city, had updated me on a variety of places where I had to be careful because of pickpockets and con artists. I had heard similar stuff from friends back home who had visited this place before. My plan once we landed was to get my luggage then find the transportation terminal to take a bus to my hotel. The walk from luggage claim to transportation was short; once there, I stopped to put my luggage down to double check my paperwork on which bus I needed. About 25 feet away from me was a woman standing and talking to 2 guys. At first, I thought they were a group; but soon realized the two guys were native as they were talking about their cab that was parked outside. The way they stood next to the woman; she could not see that one of the guys was trying to slip his hand into her purse, that was hanging down from her shoulder. Before I had time to think, I yelled out, “HEY!” It was enough for the guy to move his hand away as the woman turned to look at me. The 2 men quickly walked away. What kind of city was I getting into? GRATEFULLY, DESPITE THAT INTRODUCTION TO A new city, I fell in love with the place. My time there reminded me of another trip I took to an international city. On that trip, I had planned to incorporate a lot of walking into my daily sightseeing attractions. Of course, I had to try their public transportation at least once, which was surreal for me because I was able to imagine what it must have been like to be underground decades ago, while bombs were exploding above. On one of my daily excursions, I wound up getting lost and could not figure out how to get to my intended destination. With the tourist map in hand, I glanced at the pedestrians who were coming and going and chose a middle-aged looking man to stop and ask for help. He was friendly and unbelievably helpful to the point where he insisted walking with me, to make sure I got to the correct train stop. That chance encounter only enhanced the great time I had visiting that city. A moment of kindness can make all the difference; you can see it for yourself in this animated adventure comedy. THE SIGHTING OF A UFO NEARBY makes the Farmer, voiced by John Sparkes (Calendar Girls, Peppa Pig-TV), see a new source of income; while Shaun the sheep, voiced by Justin Fletcher (Chicken Run, Justin’s House-TV), makes a new friend. With Amalia Vitale (Making It, Christmas Eve) voicing Lu-La/Me-Ma, Kate Harbour (Bob the Builder-TV, Timmy Time-TV) voicing Agent Red/Timmy’s Mum and David Holt (Angry Kid-TV, The Jungle Book-TV) voicing Mugg-1NS; this Oscar nominated and film festival winner was a joy to watch. Besides enjoying the style of animation in this film, I loved the fact there was no discernible dialog. Emotions and intentions were all conveyed with the face and body; it was incredible. The story was simple and there were no surprises per se; however, there was such a charm and fun element to this film that I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. The humor/sight gags were sly and amusing on multiple levels; some geared to younger kids and others to more mature, including adults. If this sequel is any indication of what to expect going forward, I will always enjoy visiting this farm where Shaun lives. Extra scene during the credits.
3 ¼ stars
I NEVER JUDGED HER CHOICE IN men, but I was noticing she had a certain type she liked to date. Most of the men she dated were approximately 20-25 years her senior; though there were a few I met who were closer in age to her. But on the average, she preferred older guys. I did not notice at first nor did it matter to me when I did because I felt age was just a number, it had nothing to do with how a person feels or acts. If my friend was happy and being treated with respect, I was always thrilled for her. When I started noticing her dates were older, I started to pay more attention. I knew her Father had died at a young age, when she was around 8 or 9 years old. Maybe she was looking for a father figure, I wondered. The few times when we double dated, it seemed as if she was content in letting her date take care of everything. What I mean by that is she always deferred to him when an opinion was needed or when the conversation dealt with goals/dreams. The ones I knew she had were now replaced with the ones that her date had expressed. This is when I realized she was looking for a father figure. Again, if that is the relationship that worked for the two of them then I was fine with it. It would make sense that no one would want to live with an empty feeling. NO MATTER WHAT AGE, IT STILL is hard to lose a loved one. Imagine how many of us wish we could have had an extra day or hour to say the things we never got to say. I had a relative who used to fight and argue with her husband constantly. I used to wonder why they remained married to each other. When he died, she carried so much guilt around that she could no longer function. She would tell people she never got to say “goodbye” or “I love you” because they were arguing all the time. I felt sad for her; here the two of them spent their time fighting over things that they never got the opportunity to express the things they had inside of each other. I could see how it was eating her up; she so wanted to talk to her husband and finally say those things she never said when he was alive. If only there was a way we could communicate like, the son did in this film festival winning mystery, crime drama. THE TRAGIC LOSS OF HIS FATHER stayed with John Sullivan, played by Jim Caviezel (Escape Plan, The Thin Red Line), to the point he thought he could still hear his Dad talking. With Dennis Quaid (In Good Company, Far From Heaven) as Frank Sullivan, Shawn Doyle (Don’t Say a Word, Whiteout) as Jack Shepard, Elizabeth Mitchell (Running Scared, Lost-TV) as Julia Sullivan and Andre Braugher (The Mist, City of Angels) as Satch DeLeon; this film is best watched not questioning the fantasy aspect of the story. If that can be done, then I believe the movie would be easier to watch. I enjoyed the multiple story lines and thought Dennis and Jim did an excellent job in conveying their characters. There were a few disturbing scenes showing the aftermath of violence; but gratefully the cameras did not dwell long recording them. There was a bit of jumping back and forth in time; however, it was easy to follow and not distracting to me. As I said before, one needs not to think too much about what is taking place in the story; instead, just sit back and enjoy the way the stories come together.
NOT ONCE DID I EVER SEE his father show up for a school function. Parent/teacher conferences, sports games or concerts; it was only his mother who would be present. The father was the president of a local company; I used to see one of their products on the grocery store’s shelf. I wasn’t sure what a president actually did, but I thought there had to be at least one time his father could have been in attendance. It made me wonder if there we something going on between the father and son; or maybe the father was embarrassed, I really did not know. The son was a “B” student, who was on the staff of the school’s newspaper. He was average looking though he gave off the appearance of being ungainly because of his long body torso and arms. There were a couple of times I saw him getting picked on from a couple of bullies; they would push him in the hallway and call him names. I want to say he did not have a lot of friends because I never saw him walking with anyone through the school grounds. At lunchtime he went home to eat; at least that is what I heard. WHERE THAT PARENT NEVER PARTICIPATED IN any of the school functions, there was another student whose parents were well known, not always in a good way. These parents came to every concert; you always knew they were there because they were the loudest when it came to cheering and applauding the performers. One or both them always volunteered for all of the school’s fund drives. They were always available to decorate rooms or sell candy bars; they never refused anything. During the parent/teacher conferences, they were one of the more assertive parents. They took an active role in their child’s education, wanting to know the order of subject matter the teacher was planning to teach the class. Their intensity was something I found puzzling; I could not tell if they were trying to mold their son into something they wanted for him or simply wanted to be completely aware of all facets of their son’s education. Some of the other parents found them “pushy.” There was such a wide range of parental engagement within the school body that I wondered how much did a parent’s enthusiasm, or lack of, play a part in the student’s development. I can only imagine what it must have been like growing up for the children in this action, comedy fantasy film. WITH THE EARTH ON THE VERGE of an alien invasion after the planet’s superheroes were captured, it was up to the superheroes’ children to figure out how to work together to save the planet and their parents. With YaYa Gosselin (13 Reasons Why-TV, FBI-TV) as Missy Moreno, newcomer Lyon Daniels as Noodles, Andy Walken (The Most Hated Woman in America, The Kids are Alright-TV) as Wheels, Hala Finley (Back Roads, Man with a Plan) as Ojo and newcomer Lotus Blossom as A Capella; this film was geared more towards children. The sets had a cheesy, cheap look that I believe was intentional. The reason I say this is because I felt the script had a tongue in cheek vibe to it. There was nothing in this film that one would say was awful; yet, there was also nothing that stood out in a positive way, except for the theme of working together and equality. To tell you the truth, this movie reminded me of one of those Saturday afternoon matinee films that were created to entertain younger audiences. Also, it came across to me like a Saturday morning cartoon series. Nothing earth shattering here unless you consider the peril confronting Earth.
IT WAS ALREADY A SAD AFFAIR and now I was back to repeat it, except I would be giving a eulogy. My friend’s significant other had died from a debilitating health condition. I had always heard a parent never wants to bury their child and here both parents along with their remaining children were sitting in front of their child’s casket. My friend was sitting with the siblings. The receiving line was long; I was halfway back away from the seated group of mourners. As I slowly made my way up to them, I occasionally heard a sob or soft whimper rise from out of the family members. Reaching the front of the line, I introduced myself and gave my condolences to the first of the mourners. When I came up to my friend we hugged while they gently cried on my shoulder. Once they were able to calm themself, they thanked me for coming. I tried to offer words of comfort before I had to continue moving forward, to finish offering my sympathy and finding a seat. These types of services are never good to begin with and I found this one especially hard because of the relatively young age of the deceased. It is more of a shock to me, for some reason. SEVEN DAYS AFTER THE BURIAL, I received a phone call that my friend was found dead in their home. It was such a blow to me that I had a hard time comprehending the news. I had not even processed the previous funeral and now a week later there was to be another one? The past week I had been checking in to see how my friend was holding up; they were having a horrible time of it. Hearing this latest news, the only thing I could think of was the fact they were no longer suffering over their loss. However, how would the family endure another sadness so soon, I wondered? For this funeral, I was asked to give a eulogy. A eulogy? I was too young to be dealing with a eulogy for my friend. The pain I was feeling over both deaths was suffocating me. I do not know if it was right for me to think this or not, but I felt I now understood what survivors feel when multiple family members die in a crash or crime. It is like layering one sadness over another and another; it is such an awful experience. In a way this is how I felt about the story in this dramatic science fiction fantasy. Maybe I would have felt different if this had come out before the pandemic. WITH EARTH BECOMING INHABITABLE DUE TO a catastrophic event, humans had to leave the surface. One scientist decided to remain behind to try and warn a space crew returning from a space mission. With George Clooney (The Ides of March, The Monuments Men) as Augustine, Felicity Jones (On the Basis of Sex, The Theory of Everything) as Sully, David Oyelowo (A United Kingdom, Selma) as Adewole, newcomer Caoilinn Springall as Iris and Kyle Chandler (First Man, Godzilla: King of the Monsters) as Mitchell; this film had a beautiful crisp look to it. The music, though interesting, tended to become overbearing throughout the story. I was drawn into the story quickly; but as it unfolded, I felt as if I had already watched it in similar past films. There was a lack of intensity which I felt was a mistake because the movie dragged in places. I felt I was watching separate movies based on what was taking place in the story; there needed to be a stronger central theme in my opinion. Besides these issues, I just thought the timing in releasing this film was a poor choice. I already have enough to think about; so, why do I want to add something that could so closely become our new reality?
I WOULD HAVE TO PACE MYSELF for the day if I wanted to keep my holiday tradition alive. The first item on my list was to walk/jog the parking garage before breakfast. Since it was too cold for me to go outside, I discovered I could get a decent workout by walking/jogging the 2-floor parking garage. In an hour, I can cover nearly 5 miles and that is including the parking ramps which provide me the experience of going up and down a hill. Once my workout was completed, I showered then ate breakfast. With dinner being a big meal, I went light on my breakfast cereal. Once I was done eating, I had to set up my laptop computer on a snack tray in the living room. Later after lunch I was going to be on a video present opening for Christmas. If anywhere in my schedule there could be a delay, it would be during this activity. There were going to be 10 people on the video call, each taking turns with opening their gifts. Now don’t get me wrong, I was looking forward to the event; however, there was my holiday tradition I was focused on that I scheduled to take place after dinner was done. AS I FEARED THE VIDEO PRESENT opening went on for nearly three hours. I was besides myself because my dinner was now delayed, which meant the one thing I wanted to happen was going to have to start later in the evening. With movie theaters closed in my area; it has been months since I was last in a theater. In fact, the last time for me was back in March just as the COVID-19 pandemic was rolling out across the country. After all this time, one of the film studios decided to offer first run movies on their streaming service the same day the film opens at the theaters. I cannot tell you how filled I was with excited anticipation to see a new, blockbuster film. Not to take anything away from the different streaming services’ original films, but there is something about a big budgeted picture that is to be released on the big screen. Due to the virus, I was getting the 2ndbest thing by watching the film at home on a large screened television. Since I loved the first Wonder Woman movie, I was expecting everything to be bigger and better with this sequel. Little did I know that my fear of watching this film later in the evening, where I could easily fall asleep, would be a valid issue for me. LIVING A QUIET COMFORTABLE LIFE UNDETECTED was fine for Diana Prince, played by Gal Gadot (Keeping Up with the Joneses, Triple 9), except for the one person she was missing in her life. Years of wishing he was with her was about to change when a mysterious artifact was delivered to her place of work. With Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, The Finest Hours) as Steve Trevor, Kristen Wiig (Downsizing, The Skeleton Twins) as Barbara Minerva, Pedro Pascal (The Great Wall, Kingsman: The Golden Circle) as Maxwell Lord and Robin Wright (Blade Runner 2049, Moneyball) as Antiope; this action, adventure fantasy was a major disappointment for me. How the script received approval is beyond me because there were so many poor choices made in its story line. In a superhero movie, the villain needs to be as dynamic and powerful as the superhero character; this was not the case in this picture. The villain was downright boring and uninteresting to me. And I have little patience for a script that tries to force feed a message to the viewer and this film nearly choked me on its syrupy monologue. The only highlight for me was the opening scene, Kristen Wiig with her character and the extra scene in the middle of the ending credits. My experience with this movie was like one of the gifts I received on my video presents event; a fancy gift-wrapped box that had an ugly sweater in a wrong size.
2 1/4 stars
SHE TOLD ME IT WAS A television show when I asked her what made her decide to become a dancer. I quizzed her further and she said it was a variety show she used to watch with her family on Sunday nights. Two ballet dancers were introduced by the host and she was immediately enamored by their costumes. The woman looked like a pristine fairy and the man looked like a stately prince. She had never seen ballet dancers before, but as the music started and the two dancers began to perform, she was mesmerized by their movements. The female dancer seemed weightless like a snowflake, spinning and fluttering across the stage. The male dancer had broad shoulders that made him look more regal as he lifted and guided the female dancer through their movements. I listened to her describe the performance and I could see the impact of this one of several acts on the show had a profound effect on her. Before the dancers were done performing, she had already decided that she was going to be a dancer when she grew up. She listed for me the highlights of her journey in becoming a ballet dancer and it was not a simple, straight street to ballet; she had some detours along the way. However, she told me throughout her struggles she kept believing she could do it. HER STRENGTH IN HER BELIEF REMINDED me of a woman who was a participant in my yoga class. I worked at a hospital-based fitness center, where I introduced yoga to the fitness members. The center did not have a quiet room for me to teach class, so they had me taking the members to a laboratory in the hospital to conduct class. One day this woman came into the room in a wheelchair; I thought she was a patient who was lost. When I asked her where she was going, she told me to yoga. Talk about being embarrassed; this was the first time I was going to teach a wheel bound person in a general class setting. During my instructions, I included options that the woman could do while seated. After attending class for a few weeks, I asked her one day how yoga made her feel. She told me how much see looked forward to class because she would get the best night’s sleep after taking class. I was pleased to hear this and asked her if she had any goals she wanted to achieve in class. She said yes, she wanted to stand up out of her wheelchair. I told her it was a wonderful goal and I hoped I would get to see it. She said she believes she will one day, and I told her I believe in her. WHEN HIS ASSISTANT TOOK HIS IDEAS and left him, the town’s toymaker Veronicas, played by Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland, Black Panther), stopped believing in himself. One day a strange little girl came to town with a belief. With Keegan-Michael Key (Playing with Fire, Let’s Be Cops) as Gustafson, Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey, Notting Hill) as Mr. Delacroix, Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls; Everything, Everything) as Jessica and newcomer Madalen Mills as Journey; this musical family fantasy film was a magical viewing experience for me. At times coming across like a Broadway production, other times like a family classic; this was one of the most entertaining films I have seen this year. The fanciful special effects, the singing and dancing, the costumes and the sets took a somewhat predictable script and elevated it into pure entertainment. I will say if you are not a fan of musicals, you will not enjoy this picture as much. For me, I could easily see this film being translated to the big stage of Broadway. My skepticism about films made for the small screen has been altered; I am a believer now.
3 ½ stars