THERE WAS ONLY ONE BRIGHT SPOT for me in that transitional period between summer vacation and the new school year. It was the day when I would get my new school supplies. Up until that day, I loved the freedom of summer vacation. In the early years, I had to endure summer camp programs. There were some I enjoyed but most of them did not interest me. My biggest accomplishment out of all my camp experiences was building a wooden coat rack that I painted in vibrant colors. Once I outgrew the summer camp phase, I was free to hang out with my friends every day. The only part of the day when I was indoors was at lunchtime; otherwise, if I was not playing with my friends, I was either climbing trees or riding my bicycle. As we rolled into the month of August, I started counting the days before I had to go back to school. I also counted how many days until I could go pick out my new school supplies. In one of my earlier reviews, I told you about my obsession with pencil sharpeners; they were always the first item I would pick out at the store. Next item to find were spiral notebooks; I always tried to get left-handed ones because the wire spiral always got in my way when writing. All that was left to get afterwards were pens, pencils and a pencil bag/box to store them. TIMES HAVE CERTAINLY CHANGED AND I NOW understand why all school kids are wearing backpacks. The list of items children must bring to school currently is unbelievable to me. A friend of mine showed me the list she received from her son’s school and I could not get over what has become the responsibility of the child, or should I say of the parents since more than likely they are paying for it. Besides the pens, notebooks and such; the child must bring a box of facial tissues, three rolls of paper towels, a container of cleaning wipes and a ream of computer paper. These along with the rest of the items on her list I found perplexing; since when did the responsibility of facial tissues and paper towels fall on the child? Every company and store that has a bathroom provides these items for their employees and customers; but schools no longer provide, what I consider, these essential items?!?! Are school districts’ budgets so deep in debt that they cannot afford such standard things? I feel the educational system deserves enough funds to properly provide all the tools to create the best learning experience for each child; teachers have such an important role that they should not have to go without or worse, spend their own money to provide items that the class needs. What is wrong with this picture? This crime comedy might explain one of the issues. DETERMINED TO MOVE TO THE TOP POSITION a school district in New York would spare no expense to make their goal a reality. The only problem was they did not know what they were paying for. With Hugh Jackman (The Front Runner, X-Men franchise) as Frank Tassone, Allison Janney (Hairspray, Mom-TV) as Pam Gluckin, Ray Romano (The Irishman, The Big Sick) as Big Bob Spicer, Welker White (Eat Pray Love, Cedar Rapids) as Mary Ann and Geraldine Viswanathan (Blockers, Miracle Workers-TV) as Rachel Bhargava; this story inspired by true events excelled due to the wonderful cast. Everyone fit well into their character and carried the script that needed help in the beginning. The story started out slow for me and though I enjoyed the dark humor/satire, things did not pick up until we got near the midpoint. Not that the first half was boring; it just needed a little more punch and back story to come up to the level of the 2ndhalf of the film. The story as depicted was outrageous; I cannot imagine what that school district could have done for the students if it had known what was going on.
HEARING OR SEEING THE WORD “HOME” immediately brings a comforting feeling, usually. Home is not necessarily just a structure that you lived in; home can be the place of your origin, where your earliest memories were born. I have the good fortune of still living within driving distance to the place where I grew up. Driving down the old neighborhood streets unlocks my memory vault, letting past images flash inside of my brain. The main commercial avenue where we did most of our shopping looks so different now. However, I still see in my mind the hamburger shop where I used to get my burger and French fries to take home to eat. The old grocery store which was tiny by today’s standards is now one of those discount stores where everything is under $5.00. Yet I can still see me and my friends running to the variety store where we would buy our penny candies. Every summer we would also buy kites to take down to the beach. We would run through the sand with our kites lifted behind us, waiting for a gust of air to lift them into the air. My kite would always have a long tail that I made with different colored ribbons. HOME CAN ALSO BE A PLACE that you found where you feel the most comfortable. A place where people of like minds become fast friends; a patch of land that speaks to your heart, hidden in the woods perhaps. I became acutely aware of this phenomenon when I went away to school. As soon as I walked down the hallway to my dorm room I noticed a difference between me and the other students on the floor. Many of them had blonde hair and blue eyes; both my hair and eyes were dark. Later I discovered many students came from farmlands, whereas I grew up in a large city. There always seemed to be a disconnect between me and my fellow students. Whether it was our humor or morals or some other aspect of our lives; it always seemed as if we were on different pages. I longed to return to a place where I did not have to explain my thoughts and feelings, where we could share similar life experiences. From a place where I felt alone, all I longed for was to find a place where there were others like me. It was the same for the main character in this animated, adventure comedy. TIRED OF BEING ALONE FOR SO long Mr. Link, voiced by Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover franchise, The Campaign), convinces explorer Sir Lionel Frost, voiced by Hugh Jackman (The Front Runner, X-Men franchise), to help him find that special place he could call home. Their journey would involve more discoveries than they had planned. With Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Star Trek franchise) voicing Adelina Fortnight, David Walliams (Stardust, Dinner for Schmucks) voicing Mr. Lemuel Lint and Timothy Olyphant (A Perfect Getaway, Mother’s Day) voicing Willard Stenk; this movie studio created another beautiful film. The visuals were wonderful to watch as the studio’s use of Claymation brought a whole different feeling to the story. The script was sweet with a charming message; however, compared to their previous movies I felt this one was a bit mild. Don’t get me wrong; it was fun and family appropriate. It just came across as almost too sweet; as if it was trying to appeal to the masses, instead of delving deeper into the story and visuals. There were a couple of times where my mind started to wander, which usually doesn’t happen with this studio’s pictures. Nonetheless, most viewers will enjoy this movie and its message. And make sure you stay during the credits to see how one of the scenes was created.
2 ¾ stars
NO MATTER WHERE ONE PLACES THE “BAR” there is always someone or something to cause it to be raised. Just look at the evolution of television. We started out with the Riccardo’s from I Love Lucy; they were not allowed to sleep in the same bed, despite being married to each other on the show and in real life. The censors would not approve them being filmed in the same bed. From that point in time there were a few television shows that had partial nudity if it was in the context of a documentary or historical event. The show that comes to mind is the mini-series Roots. Things took a bigger change in the 1990s when the TV shows “NYPD Blues” and “Once and Again” had episodes that contained nudity. For some viewers this was a big shock. Let me also add while this evolution was taking place there was another one going on that pertained to language. Scripts started showing up with slang and curse words in the dialog. I can still remember my shock hearing a TV character uttering a curse word; it took me by surprise even though I was a user of the word. Little did any of us know the explosion of nudity and swear words would be amplified upon the arrival of cable television. HONESTLY, I HAVE NOT GIVEN IT A lot of thought, but I wonder if there might be a connection between this viewing evolution, which by the way has led to reality shows, to blurring the lines between personal and professional lives. The reason why I am bringing it up is from my observations on how people focus their attention on other people’s personal lives. Look at some of the reality shows where people are being filmed 24 hours a day or the dating and swapping partner shows; I have no interest in such things. Two things I learned growing up; first, curse words were just adjectives. Derogatory words about race, gender, ethnicity and sexuality were the “bad” words. Secondly, if no one is being hurt, held against their will or abused; I do not care what they do in their private life. This fascination with people’s personal lives is weird to me. With the aggressiveness of photographers and reporters, there evidently is a market to sell intimate stories about celebrities and such. People judging and making decisions essentially about strangers is a waste of time and money, in my opinion. The reason I have been pondering this is due to today’s biographical drama. As I was watching it, it occurred to me that the events in this film were the beginning of people’s obsession with other people’s personal lives. APPEARING TO BE RIDING A WAVE OF popularity Senator Gary Hart, played by Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Showman, Eddie the Eagle), had his eyes set on the White House. A simple photograph would cause a detour in his campaign. This film festival winning movie also starred Vera Farmiga (Boundaries, The Commuter) as Lee Hart, J.K. Simmons (I’m Not Here, The Bachelors) as Bill Dixon, Mark O’Brien (Arrival, Bad Times at the El Royale) as Billy Shore and Molly Ephraim (Cricket, Last Man Standing-TV) as Irene Kelly. Set in the 1980s, what I found the most curious was the idea that Gary’s election campaign was the beginning of tabloid journalism. In fact, it was this aspect of the script I found the most interesting. I did not think the script otherwise was well written; it seemed as if events were broken down into cause and effect without much time spent on learning about the characters. I think a political junkie would enjoy this picture more than the average moviegoer. Maybe it is due to my disinterest in a person’s personal life, but I did not find this film very exciting, sordid details and all.
THE AROMA OF ELEPHANT dung was one of the strongest memories I took away from the circus. I only went to the circus once when I was around 6 years old. To get to our seats we had to walk down a long aisle where the floor was covered in sawdust. Once we were seated I was able to see three rings set up in the arena, with the middle one much larger than the other two. I was excited to be there because all I wanted to see were the tigers. To start the show a tall man dressed in a tuxedo with a top hat walked into a single spotlight that then followed him to the large ring; his amplified voice reverberated throughout the massive arena. From one end of the arena several spotlights pierced the dark and lit up a parade of elephants walking in single file as they made their way around the arena. As they passed where I was seated one of the elephants defecated. Because it happened at the far edge of the arena none of the circus performers noticed what happened, so it remained there for the entire show. MAYBE THAT IS WHY I never wanted to go to the circus after that time. The only type of circuses I will go to today are the ones that are animal free. Even if that elephant had not altered my feelings about the circus I would not go to a circus that used animals for entertainment. For the type of circus events I have attended I get to see humans doing unhuman things; this is the way I describe it, because the performers are doing such spectacular things they almost look as if they are not of earth. There is one particular company that travels around the world, pitching a massive tent in an open space, where the performers are dressed in a variety of costumes and makeup. This is my favorite event to see because at one time I can witness people from all different walks of life, from all different parts of the world, come together and create something magical. I do not know how someone could say anything negative about such an environment. OUT OF WORK AFTER the company he worked at went bankrupt Phineas Taylor Barnum, played by Hugh Jackman (Pan, Logan), had an idea. It was an idea that sounded crazy but he did not care what people said, he was willing to take the chance. This musical, dramatic biography also starred Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea, My Week with Marilyn) as Charity Barnum, Zac Efron (Baywatch, Dirty Grandpa) as Phillip Carlyle, Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming, K.C. Undercover-TV) as Anne Wheeler and Rebecca Ferguson (The Girl on the Train, Despite the Falling Snow) as Jenny Lind. The look of this film was wonderful; I thought the sets and costumes were a perfect fit. As for the music written by the same writers who did La La Land, I thought it was much better in this picture; I can actually remember a few of the songs. Sadly despite the decent acting the script failed this film. You got these big, beautiful song and dance numbers connected with a weak script that lacked emotion. I felt a disconnect between the drama of the singing with the acting parts. There was such a timely message to the story that I wished would have been explored more in hopes of connecting everyone together. I would not say this circus movie reminded me of the smelly circus I went to as a kid, but this film could have used a bit of air freshener to make it a better show.
2 ¼ stars
FEELING something similar between you and another person can be the catalyst in forming a bond or a kinship with them. Without being related by blood; the relationship that comes out of this connection can be just as strong, if not stronger. I have experienced this feeling numerous times in my life. Volunteering at an event I remember introducing myself to a fellow volunteer and within several minutes you would have thought we had been friends for some time. There were similarities in our beliefs, humor and philosophy that laid down this immediate connection that lasted for years. I think that is one reason I enjoy asking couples how they first met; it is fascinating to hear what the first things were that started their connection. Rarely have I heard people say their connection took a long time to solidify. ONE of the things I pride myself on is my ability to see parts of myself in other people. I think that is one of the reasons why people tend to be comfortable in my classes. When someone new walks into my class I can get a sense of them based on how they walked into the studio. First let me say I treat every member the same; however, for some people I can sense they need a little more coaxing or encouragement to remain in the room. The tendency for someone who does not have solid body awareness of themselves is to hide in the background so as not to be noticed. When I sense this I make sure I go up and welcome them before the start of class. Usually I crack a joke to break the ice. Within that little amount of time I can usually tell if we have something in common. It can create a strong bond as you can see in this action drama. TIME has passed and the world is different as Logan/Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman (Prisoners, Eddie the Eagle) is in declining health. With his mentor and friend Charles, played by Patrick Stewart (X-Men franchise, Christmas Eve), weak and unable to take care of himself; Logan cannot take on anything more, even when a young girl comes to them in desperate need of their help. This science fiction thriller was not a typical superhero film. I was stunned at the amazing script that made me laugh, cry and sit with excitement on the edge of my seat. With their acting skills Hugh and Patrick made their characters human in a way we have not seen before in their other installments of the X-Men stories. Along with them I was absolutely mesmerized with Dafne Keen’s (The Refugees-TV) performance as Laura. She was such an eye magnet where I could not stop watching her to see what she would do next. I will tell you there was a lot of violence and blood in this film and I did not feel the director was using it just to get a rise out of the viewers. In other words it was necessary based on the arc of the story; so yes this picture deserved its R rating. If you are not familiar with the X-Men series it would be to your advantage to see a couple of the earlier films to appreciate the story in this intense movie. I believe many viewers will feel, on different levels, a connection to this incredible story.
3 ½ stars
As I walked into the conference room I saw most of the seats were filled with participants. There was energy in the air; the only way I could describe it was nervous anticipation. This was going to be a workshop with active participation. Most of the people I saw as I looked for a seat were talking and laughing; it seemed as if a lot of participants knew each other. At the edge of one of the many rows of lined up chairs sat an older man. Upon first glance he looked like he was sitting on a deserted island because no one else sat around him. In his lap was the same course materials everyone else had received. It struck me as odd that all the seats around him were empty. I decided to take one of the seats behind him and settled in as I pulled out my paperwork from my messenger bag. While I looked for this workshop’s outline I was able to hear the conversation from a small group seated a couple of seats down from me. Out of the corner of my eye I quickly realized their comments were about the older man. I do not think he realized their conversation was about him or if he did, there was no reaction on his part. It surprised and saddened me that anyone would question a person’s desire to learn something new. Just because he was older and did not “look” like the average participant was no reason to make fun of him. If you are wondering, I did walk over to them to express my feelings. No one has the right to squash another person’s dreams. INSPIRED by true events Michael “Eddie” Edwards, played by Taron Egerton (Legend, Kingsman: The Secret Service), always wanted to be an Olympian since he was a little boy. No amount of bruises, broken bones or taunts would stop the strongest muscle in his body, his heart. This film festival winning comedic drama had a ready-made, feel good story. With Hugh Jackman (X-Men franchise, Pan) as Bronson Peary and Christopher Walken (Jersey Boys, The Deer Hunter) as Warren Sharp I did not recognize Taron at first. His acting made for a believable and lovable character. I enjoy an underdog type of story and only had wished the script was not so comical. It took away the authenticity of the characters in my opinion and the soundtrack did not provide any help either. There was a predictability to the script that did not allow for much character development. At one point it seemed as if I was just watching one sight gag after another; I was missing the drama to the story. I think what saved this film was indeed the incredible story and that is why I think the writers did not invest as much as they could in developing the story. Besides c’mon, who does not like to root for the underdog?
2 1/2 stars
When I see the way a person acts, I sometimes wish I could have seen what happened to them that made them that way. There is that saying that has to do with not knowing a person’s situation until you have walked in their shoes or something similar. Seeing a stranger sitting alone in front of an apartment building on the front stoop, carrying on a conservation with an imaginary friend, I tend to be curious on what happened to them. I remember this classmate in college who wrote stories for our fiction class that were filled with violent images, yet on the outside he was as mild and quiet as a cotton ball. What took place in his life that filled him with such violence? For some people I know it can be a chemical imbalance, for others it could be outside influences that caused them to be that way. Of course one could look at the positive side of these outside influences. Think about the child who follows their parent into the medical field because their mother or dad was a doctor and he or she discover a cure for a disease; this would be a wonderful thing. Another example would be those movies and books that I thoroughly enjoyed, where I wanted to know about the early life of a character to see how it molded them into the person I had just read about or seen. Where I had no idea I wanted to know how the Wicked Witch of the West came to be, I enjoyed discovering her story when it came out. The same could be said about Peter Pan, where I never gave him any thought before. I see there was a reason for that after seeing this adventure fantasy. Orphaned at a young age Peter, played by relative newcomer Levi Miller, could not understand how boys were being taken from the orphanage; but his mother still had not shown up yet to take him away. This prequel to the Peter Pan story had Hugh Jackman (Chappie, Prisoners) as Blackbeard, Garrett Hedlund (Unbroken, On the Road) as Hook and Rooney Mara (Side Effect, The Social Network) as Tiger Lily. Visually there were several creative and fun scenes in this film. The story was easy to follow as it tried to put down the foundation to the Peter Pan story known by most of us. However the script was awful, to the point the actors came off stunted and emotionless. With odd musical choices I found this picture was dull and unexciting except for Levi; he was the one bright spot throughout the story. After the movie was done I realized I did not really want to know how Peter became the flying Peter. I was satisfied with my memories just as they were of the sweet and magical character known as Peter Pan.
1 3/4 stars
Two unrelated occurrences recently happened and were on my mind prior to walking into the movie theater. I had stopped in the men’s department of a retail establishment, store coupon in hand. There were 2 women shopping with their young sons; the boys looked like they were 6 or 7 years old. One boy was walking underneath the clothes racks, playing hide and seek. If he happened to knock a piece of clothing onto the floor he would pick it up and return it to the rack. The other boy was running around; if he stopped at the shelves of folded shirts, he would leave one crumpled on the floor. As he darted under the clothes racks, he left a trail of items strewn everywhere. His mother either did not see or care about what he was doing; I could not tell. I started to wonder what were the 2 boys taught that led them to two different reactions regarding respecting someone else’s property. The other incident that was on my mind had to do with a small news item I had read in the newspaper. An elementary school had a costume day where the students dressed up as their favorite literary character. One eleven year old boy was sent home because he came dressed like Christian Grey from the novel, 50 Shades of Grey. The article made me curious to know how this elementary school student even knew how to dress up like the character. From the time of birth to various stages in their lives children are impressionable. CREATED by Deon Wilson, played by Dev Patel (The Last Airbender, Slumdog Millionaire), the security robots of the police force were a big success as they kept crime down in the city. However when Deon gave one robot a conscience, Deon’s rival Vincent Moore, played by Hugh Jackman (The Wolverine, The Prestige), decided to take steps to protect his life’s work. This action, science fiction thriller had a thought provoking story. The idea of uploading a program to give a robot the freedom to think for itself was fascinating to me; especially because the transformed robot named Chappie, played by Sharito Copley (District 9, Maleficent), was essentially an impressionable infant. Unfortunately the idea for this story was poorly executed. Except for the wonderful visuals, the story was far-fetched and unbelievable in places. The acting was nothing special but the script did not do it any favors. For such an intriguing concept I was disappointed in this predictable story that felt shallow and boring at times. Along with the memories from the 2 earlier events before seeing Chappie, I still spent time afterwards thinking not only about the possibilities of having a conscious robot but the responsibilities. There were a few brief scenes that showed blood.
1 3/4 stars
The words had just passed my lips when I realized these were not the correct ones to utter at the moment. I inhaled with the same force I use with a straw in a chocolate peanut butter milkshake, but it was to no avail; the words were out in the open for everyone to hear. If only I had the opportunity to do it all over; but then again, there are so many times I wish for that chance. Almost every checkout line I choose winds up with a customer ahead of me who has some type of issue that will require a price check or swapping out a product. Recently I was running late for work. I had just missed the green light at an intersection that has an unusually long wait period between signals. It was a split second decision and I veered off into a restaurant’s parking lot to avoid the wait. As I was about to exit on the opposite side a police car was sitting there waiting for me to leave the lot. If only I could have turned time back, I would have saved myself from a moving violation ticket. I would have a better understanding of time travel if it personally affected me. In movies I get lost by the explanations or logistics of it. However, in this action adventure film I had no problem. Due to a particular event in history, both humans and mutants (individuals with special abilities) were being targeted for elimination. A plan was developed to send Logan/Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman (Prisoners, Australia), back in time in an attempt to alter the outcome of the specific incident, change the course of history and hopefully save mutants in the future. What drove this fantasy film to excellence was the well thought out script and amazing special effects. I especially liked the way humor was injected into scenes without taking away from the building tension. The other main force that made this movie special was the cast. I thought Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook, The Hunger Games franchise) as Raven/Mystique, Michael Fassbender (The Counselor, Shame) as Erik Lehnsherr and James McAvoy (Trance, The Last Station) as Charles Xavier were outstanding. One of my few and minor complaints was not seeing enough of Patrick Stewart (Safe House, Star Trek franchise) as Professor X and Ian McKellen (The Hobbit franchise, Emile) as Magneto. Though there were a couple of things where I did not understand the logic, it really did not matter; this fantasy film delivered a high dose of exciting entertainment and suspense. In fact, I would not need the ability to turn back time because I would willingly go see this movie again. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
3 1/2 stars
The further technology advances the less personal it becomes is something everyone has heard. From what I have seen I believe it is true. For example, I have noticed a change in people’s reactions to amber alerts. Though everyone still acknowledges such news with sympathy, the feelings do not last long. Driving on the highways it is not uncommon to see an amber alert posted on the electronic signs hanging over the road. For myself, I will take note of the car’s description listed in the message but once I exit the highway the memory fades. With the immediate bombardment of news we get on a daily basis, the significance of each story bleeds into the next until all of it becomes this obscure sea of information that floats outside of us. That is not the case when it comes to this intense crime mystery movie; it brings the story down to a personal level. Hugh Jackman (X-Men franchise, The Prestige) in one of his best roles played Keller Dover, the father of a missing daughter. With his wife Grace, played by Maria Bello (Towelhead, Secret Window) suffering over the loss and Detective Loki’s, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Zodiac, End of Watch), perceived inability to arrest a suspect; Keller would take matters into his own hands, doing whatever it would take to find his daughter. I was totally taken by Hugh’s wide-ranging performance; he was incredible. It was funny, at first I did not understand Jake’s character because I thought the acting was odd from him. But then slowly I began to grasp what Jake was doing and found his interpretation to be quite powerful. It was a different type of character for him and I felt he nailed it. Viola Davis (Won’t Back Down, The Help) as Nancy Birch and Melissa Leo (Frozen River, The Fighter) as Holly Jones were outstanding; Viola does suffering better than almost any other actress I know. The story was not simple; in fact, I feel I need to see this film again to really make some connections I thought I was missing due to some twists. This was a tough, emotional, in your face movie filled with raw emotions, prepare yourself. It is one thing to hear or read about a crime; it is another to see it unfold in front of your eyes. There were several scenes of violence with blood.
3 1/2 stars