EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS DURING A TRAGIC event; I do not think anyone would disagree with this statement. The news agencies are quick to report such events, sometimes right as it is happening. More so now than when I was younger, some sad occurrences get the star treatment. I am referring to telethons. Over the past several years there seems to be more of them; I have seen some for childhood hunger, hurricane and flood victims, the homeless and a variety of others. The goal for all of these is to get people to pledge money to their cause. Usually they will get a stable of celebrities to help; some to perform, others to say a few words and some to help on the phones. It will get reported how the celebrities gave their time to the cause. There is a part of me that appreciates their effort; I have always assumed the celebrities have waived their fees, but I do not know for certain. But here is the thing and maybe I am wrong to think this way. Having a celebrity get up and ask the public for money is not a tough job in my opinion. Truthfully, a star could limo over to the broadcasting site, walk right through to the stage, read from a teleprompter, thank everyone, turn around and walk right back to their limo to take them home. That is essentially it. I feel it would have so much more meaning if they would also pledge their own money to the cause. MAYBE I AM TOO MUCH A skeptic, but there are times I see these celebrities on these shows, and I feel they are just being self-serving. It looks good to be charitable and maybe they are in their own way; however, some do not come across as being genuine to me. I feel the same way about celebrities in commercials. Just because they are pitching a product does not mean I am going to run right out and buy it. Unless there is proof the celebrity is a user of the product, all I think they are doing is getting an easy paycheck. I remember after Hurricane Katrina, there were several celebrities who flew down to Louisiana to help the victims. Some started companies with their own money to help rebuild the city. To me, that is a celebrity who puts their money where their mouth is, as the saying goes. A celebrity like that is someone I can admire. I also have a whole new appreciation for the celebrity in this amazing documentary. Especially, because this is the first time I am hearing about this aspect of their life. FROM PLAYING A FICTIONAL COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER on a television show to changing the minds of space scientists, Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura) redefines the term “working actor.” Directed by Todd Thompson (Christmas for the Nations-TV movie, Pre Fab!), this film surprised me in the most positive way. First of all, I found Nichelle to be such an engaging and likable individual. Listening to her talk about what she had planned to do for a career and then what she wound up doing totally shocked me. Then to hear what she did to alter the mindset/perceptions of people/organizations was incredible. There was not one time I lost interest in listening/watching her unfolding story. The director did a perfect job of mixing old clips with interviews from scientists and celebrities such as George Takei and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse. Seeing how history unfolded behind the scenes made me feel like I was an insider who was told a secret. This was such an enjoyable movie watching experience about a remarkable woman. From playing a character on a game changing TV program to becoming a game changer in real life; she has an amazing story to tell.
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF IS A SAYING I have heard many times. The idea behind it, I believe, is to be a teaching tool; where one can learn something by looking at the past. I’ve used it to see how a person acquired a behavior or trait. There was a boy in my neighborhood growing up, who was a bigot/racist/anti-Semitic; take your pick. On the inside of his notebook cover was a swastika he drew in pencil. I happened to see it because I sat next to him in class. He was not aggressive with his prejudices, but I was always curious to know what happened to him where he learned this behavior. An opportunity presented itself to me one day when I spotted him and his father in a store. I stayed out of sight as best I could; while still being near enough to hear them talk. There was little conversation between them; however, as they passed a fellow shopper their shopping carts bumped together. The shopper excused herself and continued on her way. As the father and son walked away, I heard the father say a derogatory remark in a low voice. What he said was hateful and ignorant; but I now understood why my classmate was prejudiced. WHEN I STUDIED WORLD HISTORY, IT seemed to me every major conflict began due to religion, hope for world domination or a prejudice. The examples for this would be the crusades, World War II and the Rwandan Civil War between the Hutu and Tutsi groups. Century after century the conflicts I studied usually fell into one of these categories. If history is repeating itself, which it appears to be doing, why have we not learned something from it? I look at the struggles of disenfranchised people and more times than not they are being persecuted because some other group doesn’t like them. To this day, I do not understand how someone can form a dislike towards a person solely based on how they look. I am not talking about their hygiene or type of dress; one can form an opinion of a person if they have food stains across their clothing. More than ever, I have witnessed acts of hatred being played out on a massive scale. It seems as if some people thrive on hatred, making themselves feel better when they can dominate someone else. This is such a warped view of the world; I can barely comprehend it. If what I have said sounds confusing, let me suggest watching this documentary that does an infinitely better job of explaining the phrase history repeats itself. EACH GENERATION MAY FEEL AS IF they are the first to experience such an event when it is presented to them. However, if one were to look back in history, they might find a similar event had taken place some time before. Directed by K.D. Davison (Ordinary People-TV), I found this film to be fascinating. Having as the central character Jon Meacham (The Front Runner, former editor of Newsweek) was a wonderful idea. He is a likeable and easy to understand historian, who was filmed at times during several discussions and lectures he held across the country. Seeing the comparisons between past and current times; I found it to be eye opening. I also enjoyed the variety of archive footage that was used in this documentary, with a wide assortment of celebrities and politicians such as George Takei (Star Trek franchise, Heroes-TV), Franklin D. Roosevelt and Edward R. Murrow. Seeing the historical challenges people have faced then comparing it to present times was an informative history lesson to me without feeling as if I were being lectured. This was a well-done picture that had a hefty amount of substance.
One of the main motivations for breeding an animal is to make money. From my college studies I learned how much thought and detail goes into deciding which animal should be bred. Whether a farmer or racehorse breeder they each spot specific traits they want to be carried down to the offspring of their herd. I still remember a course I had where we were taught to look at a pig and figure out their most prominent traits for breeding purposes. Some of you who follow race horsing may already know a winning horse is worth more in retirement when they go out to stud. Aren’t you glad we are not animals? But I have to tell you I am just as fascinated by family traits as I was in animal science. The gene pool to me is this vast reservoir of a family’s history; it is a game of chance when a couple has a child. What traits will the child acquire from the parents? I am always curious when a business establishment is family owned and has been handed down from generation to generation. It makes me wonder whether each new generation has acquired the same set of skill sets to make the business a continued success. Even when I witness a child doing the same thing as one of their parents, like being a tennis player or painter, it amazes me how that talent filtered down to the younger generation. Though I have to tell you I know of a family that has a business that has been handed down and the latest generation involved with it dislikes being a part of it. They wanted to be something else but their family essentially forced them to follow in the footsteps of their parent. Gratefully that was not the case in this gorgeous animated adventure film. KUBO, voiced by Art Parkinson (Dracula Untold, San Andreas), never knew his father and could not understand why his mother insisted he be home before dark. She had a very good reason. With a mixture of claymation and CGI effects, this family film was magical and enchanting. The actors such as Charlize Theron (Young Adult, A Million Ways to Die in the West) as Monkey, Matthew McConaughey (Mud, Dallas Buyers Club) as Beetle and Ralph Fiennes (A Bigger Splash, Harry Potter franchise) as Moon King were wonderful voicing their characters. I do not know if the story was actually from Japanese folklore, but the script was something special. The way it brought in the topic of ancestors was beautiful. I felt there was the right balance of humor, drama, danger and thrills to create a connection to any age group watching this film. Not sure why but there is something about the art of claymation that attracts me. Maybe it is because I know how much effort has to be made to make the characters move seamlessly; the figures are just more dimensional to me. I do not know what else I could tell you except after seeing this picture I had wished I was part of Kubo’s gene pool.
Each of us has been a victim at one time or another, though you may not have known it. Maybe it was the restaurant host who did not like the way you were dressed, so they told you there was over an hour wait to get a table. How about that taxi driver who drove past you as you were trying to flag them down, even though they did not have anyone in the car with them. Anytime during school when you were picked on, called hateful names or bullied; turned you into a victim. The big question is what do you do after you have been victimized. For me I internalized it for years; however, the pain found ways to filter through my mind in a constructive way. I grew to be extra sensitive towards new members entering my classes when it was quite obvious they were uncomfortable being in such an environment. Having been picked on for my lack of athletic ability back in high school, I became fiercely protective of each person in my classes; to the point where I had to ask someone to move to a different part of the aerobic studio because I could see they were becoming aggressively territorial towards a new member standing next to them. More and more I witness someone not liking someone else because they are different. GEORGE Takei (Star Trek franchise, Heroes-TV) started out being a minority withing a minority. Here was a man who helmed the Starship Enterprise, yet I had no idea as a young boy he lived in an internment camp for Japanese American citizens during World War II. From such a traumatic event this documentary was able to show how driven one man became in the pursuit of his dreams. I found this film to be a fascinating study of George. He was able to take his drive and determination into such varied areas of his life, almost reinventing himself time and time again. Always charming and witty, he has recently become an internet star with over 7 million followers on Facebook. If nothing else this movie was worth watching simply to hear George talk about William Shatner (Star Trek franchise, T.J. Hooker -TV) and then to see how William acted in interviews when George was brought up for discussion; it was hilarious. There were other parts of the movie that were funny and even when the topic turned serious, there was never a time where the viewer was made to feel uncomfortable. I completely enjoyed this film, watching the indomitable spirit of a man who would never allow himself to become a victim.
3 1/4 stars
Out of all the holidays during the year, I have always felt the safest during this one. Maybe this sounds odd to you but this holiday was more of an internal one of celebration for me. There was no need to put up any kind of decorations, it did not represent one particular religious group, there were no gift exchanges, it did not require going anywhere but your own or someone’s home; Thanksgiving was simply a time to sit down and share a meal with the family. I would get excited by the variety of side dishes that spread across the table like steaming volcanoes, waiting for us to chip away at them. For me, the most important part came after dinner. Once the dishes were removed and the tablecloth was swept of any crumbs, the desserts would conquer the dining room table. There was such a comfort that came over me as I would sit quietly at my place and eat all the sweet treats that I had placed on my spotless plate. It was during this time of the Thanksgiving meal where my plate remained the cleanest; I would not let one morsel slip out of my mouth. To tell you the truth it did not matter to me if there was turkey served or not since my main focus was on the sweet stuff. The same held true in this animated comedy; it would not make a difference to me if Jake and Reggie, voiced by Woody Harrelson (Now You See Me, Zombieland) and Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers, The Internship), succeeded in their mission. The two unlikely partners were going back in time to the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts to stop the tradition forming to serve turkey for the holiday meal. As far as animated movies go, this one was not very good. It did not have the colors, the dimension or detail of other films I have seen. The humor remained on an elementary level, lacking any kind of sophistication. It was a shame because I enjoyed the cast which also included Amy Poehler (Mean Girls, A.C.O.D.) as Jenny and George Takei (Star Trek franchise, Heroes-TV) as S.T.E.V.E.; the voice of the time machine. To be released during the upcoming holiday season, this movie needed to be fun and uplifting. Save your money for your holiday shopping instead of seeing this film in the theater. Only if you have young children should you consider spending your money on this dull movie. If you do see it, stay through the credits.
1 3/4 stars