INTENSITY HAS BEEN A PART OF ME as long as when I became aware of my shadow. Many people have described me as being intense; or I should say, those who know me well enough know the amount of intensity I can generate in myself. I have always had a strong single mindedness that is like a starving, aggressive dog who will not let go of a found bone. There was a time where I was acutely aware of people around me feeling the heat coming off me when I am intensely, laser focused on one thing. Now you would think there must not be many things that I find intense, but you would be incorrect to assume such a thing. Driving in a violent storm is something that I find to be an intense situation. With the wind jostling the car and rain pelting the windshield relentlessly; I find myself with my shoulders stiff by my ears and my grip turning into a vise around the steering wheel. I used to react in a similar way when I used to ride roller coasters. Now I avoid most of them because I already deal with enough stress and do not want to willingly put more tension on myself. MORE THAN LIKELY MANY OF YOU have experienced some form of tension in your life. The first thing that comes to mind is a doctor’s office or hospital. I knew a person who would get such a strong reaction every time they went to the dentist that they decided to stop going all together. I am sure this happens more now than it used to, but I quickly become uncomfortable anytime someone is heckling a performer. Sitting in the audience and suddenly some random individual talks back to the artist or yells at them and I immediately tense up. I remember sitting in a smallish type of venue, watching a comedian. At one of their jokes a drunken guy in the audience shouted out a derogatory remark to the performer; I immediately tensed up and started worrying about what would happen next. The reason being, I remembered at a rock concert where someone threw a beer bottle towards the band and they instantly stopped the show and left the stage. I held my breath to see what the comedian would do. He came back with such a classic retort that I still use it to this day; it shut the heckler up. From the experiences I listed I can add something new that made me tense and on the edge of my seat, this film festival winning movie based on a true story. KNOWN FOR ITS ELEGANCE AND ATTENTION to its guests the Taj Hotel was the focal point for a terrorist group’s message to get out to the world. This dramatic thriller starred Dev Patel (Lion, The Man Who Knew Infinity) as Arjun, Armie Hammer (On the Basis of Sex, Sorry to Bother You) as David, Nazanin Boniadi (Ben-Hur, Homeland-TV) as Zahra, Tilda Cobham-Hervey (One Eyed Girl, The Kettering Incident-TV) as Sally and Alex Pinder (Ocean Girl-TV, Angel Baby) as Butler Jamon. I cannot remember the last time I sat through a movie where I was swept up into a tense state by the action on the screen. The actors were well suited for this story and they delivered in my opinion. I am telling you now this was not an easy movie to sit through because there was violence, bloodshed and terrifying scenes. Honestly, I did not care if everything I was watching was true or not; the fact that the script kept me engaged and kept my eyes riveted to the screen made the experience memorable for me. I suggest you prepare yourself before you see this film and remember to take deep breaths.
IN CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES WHEN A CHILD does it, it can be cute. However, when an adult does it, there is nothing cute about it. What I am referring to is “denial;” making a statement that something is not true or the refusal of something requested or desired. I still find it amusing when you are visiting with friends or family and you hear a crashing/breaking sound coming from a different room. You run in and see a vase or candy dish in pieces on the floor. The only human in the room is a small child who is standing near the pieces, not moving. When you ask them if they broke it their first response is, “No.” You question further by asking who then broke the item and they say they do not know. So yes, I know that this is lying; but I get amused by the absurdity of it, and the fact that the child chooses to say no instead of telling the truth. In this scenario this would be a good teaching opportunity for the child, to explain the ramifications revolved around telling the truth as opposed to denying responsibility for something that happened. IT IS A GOOD LESSON THAT not everyone chooses to abide by. I recall an incident in school where a student was shooting paperclips at another student. For those of you who do not know how this is done, it is done by partially unbending the paperclip and using a rubber band wrapped around two fingers to form a pseudo slingshot to launch the clip. It can be quite painful to get hit by a speeding paperclip. When the student cried out from being hit the teacher looked up to see what was going on. The student picked up the clip from the floor and showed her the cause of his outburst. She asked the class who did it but no one (did you really think someone would admit it?) responded to her. The same student hit the other student again after things settled down and the teacher was once again distracted by her work. I have encountered a variety of adults who practice some form of denial. A parent who sees their painfully thin child refusing to eat a meal for no reason or an adult who complains they never have any extra money but daily receive packages of stuff they have ordered online. I could go on with examples but will let you see another one in this dramatic, film festival winning movie. LONG TERM FRIENDS FRANKY AND BALLAS, played by Josh Wiggins (Max, Mean Dreams) and Darren Mann (Even Lambs Have Teeth, Hello Destroyer), had everything going their way in school with both being popular and members on the swim team. But on Franky’s 17th birthday something took place that would totally change their world. This coming of age story also starred Maria Bello (Max Steel, A History of Violence) as Carly Winter, Kyle MacLachlan (The House with the Clock in its Walls, Twin Peaks-TV) as Ray Winter and Taylor Hickson (Deadpool, Deadly Class-TV) as Natasha Kohl. I have seen and read numerous coming of age stories; this one followed a similar path as they but with more scenery, in the figurative sense. The acting was good overall and came across especially for the young adults as authentic. This also included several scenes inside the school; they could have easily taken place during my time in school. In fact, a part of me started to tense up when watching a few of the intense spots of the story because I felt like I was back in high school. Considering I had not seen a trailer or advertisement for this film, I was pleasantly surprised that it kept my interest. There is no denying it.
2 ½ stars
THERE ARE SOME FAMILY GATHERINGS THAT require a program to keep the cast of characters clear in one’s mind. I will avoid talking about my own since it would be easy for the family members to identify themselves in my stories. There have been many occasions where I have been included in another family’s event. From somber to joyful I have discovered each family has their own “baggage” whether they acknowledge it or not. Also, it has reaffirmed in me the belief that there is no such thing as a “normal” family. I was included in a friend’s family dinner where two sisters did not speak to each other because they had an argument months (yes, that is right months) ago. Do you have any idea how challenging it is to carry on a conversation where you have to address each person separately on the same topic? They never made eye contact nor referred to the other in any way; it was uncomfortable for me and yet the parents sat at the dining room table as if nothing in the world was wrong. The wildest part of it was when food was being passed around the table. Neither sister would hand the other any food going around; instead, would put it on the table to make the other sibling stand up and reach for it. Crazy, isn’t it? AT THE OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM, I have been at family functions where nothing was held back; family members were sharing the most intimate details about their personal lives. In other words, WTMI (way too much information). There would be no need for me to hear what type of physical characteristics a relative is looking for in a mate. Or how about sitting around the living room as 3 relatives get into a heated argument, calling each other names and swearing at the top of their lungs. I remember looking around to get a cue on how to react, but the other relatives were just sitting there sipping their cups of coffee and nibbling on their snacks as if nothing was taking place. At one point I thought I was entering a boxing match as the yelling relatives were getting up into each other’s faces. Now I come from a point of view where everyone has the right to express their feelings; but not during a heated argument. It should be a calm setting with no fear of retaliation. If you are curious to see an example of a family with issues, then feel free to observe what takes place with the family in this dramatic crime mystery. RETURNING TO HER SMALL HOME TOWN for her sister’s wedding was to be a happy occasion for Laura, played by Penelope Cruz (The Counsellor, Broken Embraces). But when a tragic event took place, the cracks beneath the family’s surface spread further apart. This film festival winning movie also starred Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside, No Country for Old Men) as Paco, Ricardo Darin (The Secret in Their Eyes, Wild Tales) as Alejandro, Edward Fernandez (Biutiful, The Man with Thousand Faces) as Fernando and Barbara Lennie (Magical Girl, El Nino) as Bea. The acting in this film was excellent; whether it was joyful or heart wrenching, I was feeling the characters’ emotional states. With the acting so strong, this picture needed a tightly written script to keep the actors aloft. At times I felt some scenes went flat; luckily, there were not many of them. The other criticism I have has to do with the ending. It seemed to tidy as if it wanted to wrap up the story quickly. Otherwise, this picture still kept my interest as I wondered what other things this family had hidden below the surface. Spanish was spoken with English subtitles.
2 ½ stars
EVERY TIME I SAW THEM I would always wonder why they wanted to be with each other. From what I saw, they were not nice to each other. Actually, I think it had more to do about respect; they did not have respect for each other. Whenever we were together in a social setting, they would inevitably get into an argument with each other. And they were nasty about it. It is one thing to argue in a rational and respectful way over an issue; but, they would call each other names and do something that is one of my pet peeves: bringing up something from the past that was never discussed at that time. You may have encountered this yourself when somebody would say, “Remember when you did such and such,” and you have no idea what they are talking about because they never brought it to your attention back then. I cannot tell you how much this annoys me. If I do something that unintentionally offends, upsets or bothers someone; I want them to tell me right then and let us talk about it. To bring it up months later, where I get blindsided, is something I find to be manipulative. IT IS POSSIBLE THESE TWO INDIVIDUALS love each other; they just don’t like each other. Or, another possibility is they are both co-dependent with one another. I was in a relationship with someone who was manipulative and passive aggressive; two traits that are not fun to deal with, I am here to tell you. Until you catch on to them, you might find yourself doing things you normally would not have considered prior to them. Gratefully, I eventually caught on and ended the relationship; it simply was not a healthy union. However, I have seen other people in similar situations who remain in non-healthy relationships. I am not one to judge, but I do wonder what pleasure they get from their partner that keeps them locked in such a union. There was a couple I knew years ago who on the surface were toxic. They would yell, argue and manipulate each other on a constant basis; however, there were times where they were affectionate with each other. It was so weird to me. How could you have this explosive battle with someone and in the next minute be flirtatious and cutesy? I still remember hearing one of them threaten that they were going to leave the marriage all the time. Maybe this is one of the downsides to love; it can cause havoc in one’s life. It certainly influenced the couple in this dramatic, musical romance. THERE WAS SUCH A STRONG PASSIONATE connection between Zulu and Wiktor, played by Joanna Kulig (The Innocents, The Crime-TV) and Tomasz Kot (Gods, Bikini Blue) and that was exactly the problem with their relationship. This film festival winning, and Oscar nominated movie from Poland was beautifully filmed. Shot in black and white, I felt doing it this way was more effective in presenting a precise no-frills story. Even the script did not have any excessive dialog, which ultimately kept the story going forward. Taking place during the 1950s in communist Poland, the settings and costumes were perfect for the settings. With Borys Szyc (The Mole, Symmetry) as Kaczmarek, Agata Kulesza (Ida, These Daughters of Mine) as Irena and Cedric Kahn (Up for Love, Miss and the Doctor) as Michel; I felt everyone was connected to the story, putting on a wonderful show of acting. Now there were times where I felt the story dragged; particularly when the scene presented a similar situation I felt I had seen previously. However, it was not enough to make me feel like I was having a love/hate relationship with this film. Polish and French were spoken with English subtitles.
THE MAN’S FACE ON THE PAGE of my business magazine looked familiar to me. I stared for a moment and felt I knew him but not at his present age. Reading thru the accompanying article it turned out I was right; we had been friends in elementary school. He had the same wavy hair and dark eyes except the hair was silver gray instead of black. From what I read he was an executive officer of a venture capital firm. I was completely shocked because, at least during our time in school, he was quite conservative; you could say he was not a risk taker at all. The idea of him now putting capital into startup companies surprised me. It seemed like a total contradiction and for some reason it amused me. We hadn’t had any contact for decades, so my perceptions were based solely on a younger version of himself. If someone were to have asked me what I thought he would be doing when we grew up I would have said sales or marketing; it just seemed he had the type of personality that would cause a person to say he was a “people’s person.” FROM READING THAT ARTICLE ABOUT HIM, I started thinking about other people I had known for a long time. I looked at my perceptions of the person compared to the career they had chosen. In some cases, it was obvious to me there were many who had a good fit between their job and personality. There were some who surprised me because they did not do very well in school; yet, they were now employed doing some technical work that I thought would have been way beyond their capabilities. In fact, one was a scientist; working on testing the strength of a new compound. This person used to cheat on their exams when we were in school. I am sure I mentioned this before but there are several of my former classmates who were stunned to find out I teach in the health and fitness industry. Having been an overweight geek who flunked PE twice; no one, including myself, would have imagined that I now conduct yoga and cycle classes. It really is amazing to me how we all wind up in our chosen career paths. I guess it goes to show you one can never underestimate what a person wants to do in life. This was certainly true for the main character in this family adventure fantasy. NONE OF HIS CLASSMATES WOULD BELIEVE Alex, played by Louis Ashbourne (Alice Through the Looking Glass; Noddy, Toyland Detective-TV), was the one to save the future. How could they, he did not believe it himself. This film festival winning movie also starred Denise Gough (Robin Hood, ’71) as Mary, newcomer Dean Chaumoo as Bedders, Tom Taylor (The Dark Tower, Doctor Foster-TV) as Lance and Angus Imrie (Pond Life, Kingdom-TV) as young Merlin. This fun film reminded me of those live action fantasy films from the 70s and 80s. It had a sweet charm to it that I found enjoyable. The script was written with the young teen in mind, but it also provided amusement for the adult. The story was an updated version of the King Arthur and the round table tales and I liked the blending of the old and modern takes. There was nothing extreme in this picture; everything was kept within a safe parameter. This movie may not win any major awards; but for a couple of hours of light entertainment, this film was an easy viewing for me.
2 ½ stars
THOUGH HER EYES WERE COVERED WITH OVERSIZED sunglasses, the sun was reflected in each lens to make it look like she had stars in her eyes. I stared at the photograph for some time, wondering if the photographer realized that when they captured the image. Hanging next to this photograph was one that depicted something completely different. It was done in black and white and at first glance I thought it was a photo of a closed toilet seat. The camera had shot it from the front at eye level to the seat. I assumed the photographer was attracted to the dark splotches on the seat’s rims; personally, I thought it looked nasty. As I read the information card next to the photograph it turned out the subject of the photo was actually a small bunch of ripe bananas, done in closeup. I was surprised and had to look back at the photo hanging on the wall. Now that I knew what it was I could make out the three bananas stacked on each other; what a hoot! In photography I have always gotten a kick out of taking photos of ordinary things in such a way as to play with the viewer’s perceptions of it, turning the subject into something extraordinary. AS I WALKED AROUND THE GALLERY I saw some gorgeous photographs. When the subject was human, I spent more time in front of it wondering why the person was photographed; what was their back story? One photo had an elderly woman sitting on a park bench. She was knitting a scarf while wearing it. The finished end was draped around her neck then rolled down her chest to her hands that held two large knitting needles. The needles looked like they were pointing to one spot. I wondered why the woman was sitting outside with her knitting; was she waiting for someone, did she like sitting outdoors because of the lighting and temperature? Did the photographer even know her, I wondered? Usually I have seen people knitting in waiting rooms; this photo piqued my curiosity. There were other photographs that showed individuals in a variety of emotional states. Coming out of one of the photos was an anguished looking woman who looked like her skin was melting; she looked deflated and sad. I came up with a few scenarios that all ended in some type of tragedy. But isn’t that what art is supposed to do; make one think and react to its content? That is exactly what was taking place in this film festival winning drama; the subject’s story came to life right before my eyes. CLEO, PLAYED BY NEWCOMER YALTA APARICIO, was the maid for a middle-class family that had some issues behind its façade. Set in Mexico City during the 1970s, this movie also starred Marina de Tavira (The Skies-TV; Love, Pain and Vice Versa) as Sra. Sofia, newcomer Diego Cortina Autrey as Tono, newcomer Carlos Peralta as Paco and newcomer Jorge Antonio Guerrero as Fermin. Directed and written by Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity, Children of Men), this film was visually stunning. Shot in black and white, Alfonso took his time with each scene. There was always something else going on besides the main subject in the scenes, filling up each frame with feelings and emotions. The story essentially was basic; there was very little action to speak of until the last half of the film. In fact, I found the script somewhat slow at times and felt Alfonso was spending too much time on some shots. For newcomers I was surprised to see how well the cast did with the script. I only wished there was more to the story. This was one of the most beautifully filmed pictures I have ever seen; however, I found out the back story of some subjects may not always be so exciting.
3 ½ stars
I DID NOT CRINGE UNTIL SHE attempted to speak. She had assistance walking across the stage of the awards show; it was expected considering her frailty and advanced age. In her day, decades ago, she was a top billing major star. Now as I watched her trying to talk, it was obvious to me she was quite confused. I had no idea if the producers of the show requested her or her management team offered her; either way, I felt uncomfortable and sad. Growing old is harder when it is done in the public eye; I think about myself with the classes I teach. Will I know when it is the time to hang up my cycling and yoga apparel? Will I graciously retire when I realize, if I even realize, I am not teaching class at the same level as I have in the past? These are things I have given thought to as I have grown older. I look at some people who have obviously had extensive plastic surgery and wonder why they did it. There has never been a time I have seen an older celebrity and not known they had altered themselves simply by looking at their semi-paralyzed face or their skin stretched tightly like plastic wrap sealing a bowl of leftovers. What is it they are trying to do? ONE OF THE ANSWERS I CAN come up with is they do it because they still need to get adulation and compliments from people. I would like to know how having a wrinkled face would stop someone from admiring you. I went to a concert that was being held in a small movie theater; the headliner was a celebrity who was past his prime. What I mean is their voice could no longer handle their song catalog and their dance moves were reduced to a simple swaying side to side. He was only one of the musical acts; so, there were some people in the audience who had no idea who this man was and what songs he had sung that brought him fame. If it were me I could not get on stage and perform unless I categorically knew it would be at the same caliber as before. As I write this I am reminded about former celebrities who either do advertisements or shall we say low-brow projects. I always wonder if they need the money or they are so starved for attention. Regarding this film festival winning biography, I haven’t yet decided which one the comedy duo needed. AFTER THEIR FAME AND FORTUNE HAD dimmed in the world Laurel and Hardy, played by Steve Coogan (Philomela, The Dinner) and John C. Reilly (Holmes & Watson, The Sisters Brothers), decided they would re-capture it by doing a live tour. It didn’t matter to them that they were older and maybe not as wise. This comedic drama’s story was based on actual events. Without a doubt this picture’s fate was dependent on Steve and John. Gratefully, the two of them were stupendous. I might have to tip the scales more to John’s Oliver Hardy being more authentic, but it still would be a tight race between the two of them. With them front and center the other actors like Shirley Henderson (Transporting franchise, Bridget Jones franchise) as Lucille Hardy and Nina Arianda (Midnight in Paris, Florence Foster Jenkins) as Ida Kitaeva Laurel; though good, were more in the background for me. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this picture. Seeing some of the original comedy acts Laurel and Hardy used to perform and getting the back story on them was a treat. I thought the script and direction worked hand in hand to produce a well-rounded bit of comedic history. Make sure you stay through the credits to see actual clips of the two the producers reproduced in this wonderful film.
3 ½ stars
AT WHAT POINT DOES YOUR TOLERANCE for disruptive behavior end? I can go for a while depending on the situation, but then I am done. Let me give you an example: there was a friend of mine who enjoyed going to the movies with me. I thought I did as well until she started talking during the film. Once or twice I am okay with, especially if they did not hear a line of dialog; but, asking questions and talking during the show is totally unacceptable in my world. She would ask me things like, “What do you think will happen?” or “I do not think that dress looks good on her.” Really?!?! This is a reason to open your mouth and talk during a movie? I thought not responding would stop the talking, but that was not the case. She kept up the chatter even after I pointblank asked her to stop it. Because she was a good friend, I had a dilemma on my hands. Do I stop going to the movies with her or find a different option? My solution was simple (at least I thought so); I told her she was more than welcome to join me, but she could not sit next to me because of the talking. She tried by sitting a few seats away from me, but after a couple of times she lost interest in going with me and I was okay with it. THOUGH I AM STILL FRIENDS WITH that person there is someone else whose friendship I chose to end. We knew each other for several years. Since I was the only one with a car, a lot of our time together was down in their area. In those years they only ventured up towards me a few times, using public transportation or a car share. Everything was fine between us, always having a good time together. Then one time I asked if they wanted to see a theatrical production at a theater that was located near me; they agreed to see it. I checked on ticket availability and called them back later in the week. We decided on seats and I said I would go pick them up. They asked again the name of the theater and when I told them they asked if it was located up by me. Saying yes, they said they were not going to go “all the way” up there just to see a play. I realized right then this was a friendship of convenience on their part; it was okay for me to go down to them, but to come up to me was too hard? Since this was not the 1st time, I made the hard decision. Granted, not as hard as the decisions made in this dramatic movie. HOLLY BURNS, PLAYED BY JULIA ROBERTS (Wonder, Secret in Their Eyes), had everything set to celebrate the holidays. But then her son Ben, played by Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased, Manchester by the Sea), unexpectedly showed up from rehab. This film festival winner also starred Courtney B. Vance (Space Cowboys, Office Christmas Party) as Neal, Kathryn Newton (Blockers; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) as Ivy and Rachel Bay Jones (God Friended Me-TV) as Beth Conyers. This film stayed alive because of the wonderful acting done by Julia and Lucas. Their chemistry together blazed across the screen. There seems to have been a few recent films that have dealt with addiction, which put this story at a disadvantage. There was not something to set this script much apart from the others that were done, except for allowing the actors to wring out as much feelings and emotions as they could, and they did. Nonetheless, this picture kept me engaged with its tough choices.
THAT NEW CAR SMELL IS SOMETHING some individuals want to experience every year. For me, by the time I trade in my vehicle, that smell is a distant memory replaced by enough odors to keep an olfactometer busy for years. In a previous review I mentioned how it seems to me everything being made these days is disposable. Cellular phones are heavily marketed to entice people to give up the one they have for the latest model with new features. Automobiles, though I do not consider them disposable, get released every year with either a major overall done to the model or minor tweaking of options. When I bought my car a friend of mine wound up getting the same model. After one year they traded theirs in for the new version. Keep in mind there was nothing wrong with their car, but they wanted the “latest and greatest.” The only difference I could see between our vehicles was their front grill had a different pattern and the rear taillights had the LED lights spaced further apart into 3 small sections, instead of one full rectangle. I am sorry, but that would not be enough for me to trade in a perfectly good car just for a couple of cosmetic updates. FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS THERE are people who like to have the newest or latest updated version of something they already have in their possession. I remember when I was much younger I was into the sugary cereals. One of my favorites after several years was being in the manufacturer’s terms, “re-formulated,” to provide a stronger taste. On the front of the cereal box they added the tagline: New and Improved. Even if I had not seen those words, I immediately could tell something was “wrong” with my cereal. I did not like the taste because it was now too sweet for me. All I tasted was sugar instead of the variety of grains that were used in the manufacturing of the flakes. It was so disappointing to me that I even called their toll-free number to complain about it. The excuse given to me was the taste had been based on the market research they did with consumer test groups. Truthfully, I did not care about any test groups; they were screwing around with my cereal. Not everything gets better necessarily when it is updated, in my opinion. If you would like to see some proof then watch this current version and compare it to the French one I reviewed called, The Intouchables. PARALYZED FROM A SEVERE ACCIDENT PHILLIP Lacasse, played by Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Argo), needed constant care. It would take someone highly qualified and capable; so why did he choose Dell Scott, played by Kevin Hart (Night School, Ride Along franchise), an inexperienced ex-convict? With Nicole Kidman (Aquaman, Boy Erased) as Yvonne, Aja Naomi King (The Birth of a Nation, Four) as Latrice and Jahi Di ‘Allo Winston (Proud Mary, Feed the Beast-TV) as Anthony; this film festival winning comedic drama had potential. Based on a true story, I thoroughly enjoyed the French version; so, I was open for this Hollywood version to be just as good. Bryan and Kevin had some scenes that worked well, but I felt the script did not give them the opportunity to really show what they could do in the acting department. Bryan, I expected to give a fine performance; but, I was surprised to see Kevin attempting a little bit more than what he has done with his previous roles. Nicole seemed out of place to me. There were parts of the story that I felt were included to manipulate the viewers. If you haven’t seen The Intouchables then you will possibly enjoy this film.
ONE CAN NOT HELP BUT FEEL special as they walk into the building. The heavy glass doors with the gold trim are the first clue that one is about to enter a place that cannot be considered ordinary. The vestibule has a sturdy tiled floor; the low ceiling is held up by walls covered in deeply colored damask fabric. The material is framed in portions with an intricately carved plaster, painted in gold to match the trim of the doors. Entering the main lobby is not so dissimilar from walking into a grand hall of a European palace. Marble floors replacing the tile in front, there are huge crystal chandeliers that are longer in height than width. They look like oblong, translucent candy wrapped with intricately patterned, colored wrappers with the ends twisted shut. There are matching grand staircases both front and back with red velvet covered steps and oversized, limestone balustrades. One can only imagine they are used by royalty. Spaced equally between the two staircases are doors that all lead into an amphitheater. Undulating rows of seats perched on a sloping floor descend to a stage where a red colored curtain blocks everyone from seeing anything behind it. Only when the lights dim does the curtain rise to reveal the actors who were waiting behind it. THERE IS A FEELING OF INCLUSION when one goes to see live theater. You could be sitting in the middle of a packed auditorium of strangers but feel as if the actors are bringing you into their story. I am a huge fan of seeing staged shows; there is something about seeing actors in the flesh compared to the big screen. Actors on stage have no chance for a retake; whatever happens they must be prepared to “go on with the show.” Seeing their emotions on display adds authenticity to the performance that I find connects me in a different way from actors in movies. Neither one is better than the other; it is simply a different form of communication. As you know I can get lost into a movie where I feel I am part of the movie; this is part of what I need to give a film a 4-star rating. At a play or musical the actors have more time to form relationships that carry them through the entire production. It connects them on a deeper level than acting in movies where they can do take after take of one scene. When I saw today’s film I felt I was at the theater watching a live performance. WITH A BABY ON THE WAY Tish Rivers’, (played by relative newcomer KiKi Layne), joy was short-lived when the baby’s father Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt, played by Stephan James (Race, Across the Line), was arrested for a crime he did not do. This Golden Globe and film festival winning romantic, crime drama also starred Regina King (Ray, Enemy of the State) as Sharon Rivers, Colman Domingo (Selma, Lincoln) as Joseph Rivers and Michael Beach (Aquaman, Soul Food) as Frank Hunt. Based on James Baldwin’s novel, this film slowly unfolded to reveal a real-life portrayal of two families in Harlem. The acting was outstanding from every actor; I especially enjoyed the chemistry that KiKi and Stephan poured into their roles for each other. With a beautiful soundtrack and thoughtful cinematography, this was another achievement for writer and director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, Medicine for Melancholy). Scenes seemed to be grouped into a series of acts, where I felt I was watching entire and complete feelings between the characters. I honestly believed everything I was seeing was totally real. There is nothing more I need to say, except this picture was a perfect conduit between film and theater.