ALL I NEED IS A GOOD pair of walking shoes, a map, a water bottle and I am ready to explore new territory. During my quest to see all 50 states, my usual routine was to fly into a city then either rent a car or take public transportation to my hotel. After checking in I would then set off on my journey to cover as much ground as humanly possible. I preferred walking, so my list of sightseeing destinations was grouped by foot, bus, train, cab or car. One city I visited, on my first day there I wound up walking eight miles in total, going from one place to another. It turned out to be one of my favorite cities to visit because so many things I wanted to see were accessible by foot. When I take trips like this, I spend little time on meals; usually I will pick up something on the run or stop at a fast food chain for a quick bite. My mission has always been to fill in as much things to do as possible. To some this may sound too frenetic and unrelaxing; however, I found it utterly peaceful. To be silent, standing in front of something that I had never seen before brought me a sense of blissful accomplishment. WHEN MY TRIPS HAVE TAKEN me to places of natural beauty, I find myself pretending I am the first person to encounter such a sight. There was a park I visited where I felt I was on an alien planet. The landscape was filled with shades of red and beige, pockmarked and smoothed from the wind, and there were places that had ancient symbols and script etched into its stone face. I imagined what it must have been like for the first explorer to encounter such a breathtaking sight. What did they do when they first saw it; did they try to climb or go around it? What did they think when they came upon rough water rapids blocking their path? These are things I think about on what I call my “fact finding” trips. Granted I have the luxury of knowing if I get hungry or need to use a bathroom, I can find one easily. And, if I should by chance get lost or injured, I have a phone with me (as long as I can get service) to call for help. I know me well enough to realize there is no way I could have been an authentic explorer or even a party to the group of men who ventured north in this action, western romance film. SEEING AN OPPORTUNITY TO STRIKE it rich all cowboy Jeff Webster, played by Jimmy Stewart (Vertigo, The Philadelphia Story), had to do was get a herd of cattle from Wyoming to Alaska during the Alaskan gold rush. With Ruth Roman (Strangers on a Train, Beyond the Forest) as Ronda Castle, Corrine Calvet (What Price Glory, Flight to Tangier) as Renee Vallon, Walter Brennan (The Westerner, The Real McCoys-TV) as Ben Tatum and John McIntire (Psycho, Turner & Hooch) as Gannon; this cinematic spectacle was a thoroughly enjoyable viewing experience. The drama in this movie was accentuated with the over the top musical score; yet, I found it only added more charm to this blast from the past, so to speak. I do not know how to describe it, but the acting had a different style to it compared to our current actors. Not that this was a negative, it just was apparent to me. The story essentially was a good vs evil playbook and the actors were well suited to the task of bringing the script to life. Also, though there were some backdrops that did not look real; I still enjoyed seeing the outdoor scenes and imagining what it must have been like for people back in the late 1800s who ventured up to Alaska. A breathtaking place by the way.
IT WAS NOT UNTIL I CAUGHT his sideways glance back at us that I realized we needed to stop talking separately. I understood because I had been in his position myself and knew what it felt like. Early on, I did not realize when two people are together in a relationship, they learn to talk to each other in a certain shorthanded type of way, that only they understand. They also can get a sense through their partner’s body language; people refer to this as non-verbal visual cues. I remember walking with their new significant other as mine was walking behind to catch up with their old flame. To me it sounded like they were conversing with sentence fragments; little snippets of phrases and idioms that made little sense to me. They would laugh at what I heard to be random bits; but to hear them, one would think they were a couple of comedians sharing their comedy routines with each other. I cannot say I was feeling hurt per se, however, I did feel as if I was being left out from being part of their clique. As I said, the first time this happened to me I was uncomfortable. But as I gained experience being in that role and with maturity, I stopped feeling threatened and instead, learned to respect it for what it was: 2 exes’ catching up in the way only they knew how to communicate with each other. WHETHER IT IS TWO OR A DOZEN people who have spent a significant time together, it is understandable they form a special bond between themselves. The bond becomes so strong that a long expanse of time filled with absence barely shaves off a layer from the top surface of the connection. I remember going back to an elementary school class reunion and despite having had no contact with many of my classmates for decades, all of us immediately fell into that comfortable spot of familiarity and belonging. It was as if I had just been with them a short time ago as my memories burst into my awareness like a school of swimming dolphin coming up for air at the same time; I would see someone new walk into the room and I immediately recognized them and recalled the interactions we had together when we were back in such and such grade. Any of the petty issues that any of us were carrying about a bad experience shared got washed away from the excitement of being back together as one cohesive body of students who survived the formative years of elementary school. That special bond between people was something that resonated with me when I watched the group of friends in this dramatic war adventure film. RETURNING TO VIET NAM AFTER MANY YEARS, four military Vets were determined to complete their mission to retrieve their buddy’s remains and a stack of gold that was left behind. The bonds between them would serve them well as they went back into the jungle. With Delroy Lindo (Malcom X, Get Shorty) as Paul, Jonathan Majors (White Boy Rick, Captive State) as David, Clarke Peters (John Wick, Marley & Me) as Otis, Norm Lewis (Winter’s Tale, Sex and the City 2) as Eddie and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Cedar Rapids, BlackKklansman) as Melvin; the story in this movie was loaded up with several topical themes. The acting was excellent to the point I believed the 4 Viet Nam vet characters really fought together in the war. Granted I have no personal experience about being in the military during the Viet Nam war, but I found the script authentic enough for it to be believable. There were times where I felt some preaching was taking place, but it did not distract me enough to care about it. There were several scenes with blood and violence. One other positive thing about watching this movie was it reminded me how good pictures can provide viewers with things to think about afterwards.
3 ½ stars
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.