I WAS SITTING ON THE COUCH, deep into a mystery novel, when I suddenly felt a puff of air on the back of my neck. In the seconds I needed to alter my thought process back into the real world, that puff of air was replaced with something wet. As I leaned forward to turn around, there on the back of the couch sat my relatives’ cat; I was so into reading my book I had not noticed the cat jumping up onto the couch to get behind me. I chuckled to myself as I settled into my spot to get back to reading my book. The cat had other plans for me. He tentatively placed his paw on my shoulder as if he were testing the temperature of water. The next thing I knew, he got up onto my shoulders; paused for a moment for sniffing and pressing his paws around my upper back before he stretched himself out and plopped himself around the back of my neck. I asked him what he thought he was doing as I smoothed out the fur on the part of his legs, I could see that were hanging down in front. He was such an easy-going character; so, I went back to my reading while the steady drone of purring played in the background. THOUGH I NEVER HAD A DOG OR cat as a pet when I was growing up, I had several relatives who did. This offered me the luxury of playing with them without the cleanup or mess. One relative had two black cats with white diamonds on their chests. They were not related but they certainly looked like a father and son duo. The older one had a nervous personality, where he was always suspicious and skittish. If I came over with a new toy, I would have to leave it out in the open in the middle of the floor and walk away from it. He would wait until I left the room before he would come out from under a piece of furniture and circle the toy, stopping in his tracks periodically to see if the toy would do something. Slowly he got closer to the toy, always on guard. When he finally got to it, he would take a sniff before swatting it to see what it would do. I could spend hours watching him and his methodical ways. In general, I have always enjoyed watching and playing with cats; that is, until I saw this comedic, family drama film. ONCE A YEAR A GROUP OF CATS come together to see which one will be chosen to start a new life. One of the cats however planned on stacking the deck in his favor. With newcomer Francesca Hayward as Victoria, Idris Elba (The Dark Tower, The Mountain Between Us) as Macavity, Judi Dench (Victoria & Abdul, Philomena) as Old Deuteronomy, Rebel Wilson (How to be Single, Isn’t it Romantic?) as Jennyanydots and Jennifer Hudson (The Secret Life of Bees, Dreamgirls) as Grizabella; I am at a loss for words to describe my experience sitting through this odd movie. Having seen the stage play, the transfer of it to the big screen took away a lot of the magic and wonder of seeing the cats perform both on stage and in the audience. Here, I found the actors looked weird and had no screen presence except for Jennifer Hudson. Her scenes were the best in my opinion. Since there really was never a plot to the story, sitting in the theater listening to one song and another; I would have preferred if I could have watched them as music videos on TV or the internet. Visually this picture was pleasing to see with its fanciful scenes and sets; however, it was not enough to keep me engaged. If you have a choice, I would recommend instead of watching this bizarre experiment you volunteer your time at an animal shelter.
1 ¾ stars
Each of us has had experience with it, yet we handle it in a variety of ways. Not all solutions are the healthiest for us, but we try as best as we can. What I am referring to are relationships that are toxic. It could be family, business or personal ones; it does not make a difference to how lethal the toxicity can be. I have experienced the effects of being in a toxic relationship and suffer both physically and mentally. A heaviness comes over me, where each step I take feels as if I am pulling the soles of my feet off from sticky wads of chewed up gum that cover the ground. My shoulders slouch down unable to maintain the excess weight that has been placed on them. Mentally my brain strains to process the images my eyes have taken in, coating them in thick dark syrup; I am only able to understand a portion of what I see. Now I can spend this entire review on ways we can protect ourselves in these types of relationships, but then I could not talk about this dramatic musical film. See for yourself how toxicity brewed inside the Cobbs family in this movie. Based on American Langston Hughes’ play, this updated version had a strong cast of actors who tried to carry the story. Jennifer Hudson (The Secret Life of Bees, Dreamgirls) played a single parent named Naima who had a son named Langston, played by Jacob Latimore (Vanishing on 7th Street). Having fallen on hard times, about to be evicted from their place, Naima had to send her son to her parents Aretha and Reverend Cornell Cobbs, played by Angela Basset (Strange Days, Gospel Hill) and Forest Whitaker (Platoon, Phone Booth). But there was a problem, they had not spoken to each other for many years. Though unhappy with the situation, Langston was desperate to find out what happened between his mother and these two strangers he was forced to stay with in New York City. My favorite part of this film were the musical numbers. I am partial to strong female vocals which Jennifer and the choir aptly provided. Sadly that is all I liked about the film. I am sure the original story on stage was a powerful piece; however, in this movie version it was so heavy handed, determined to show the viewer the struggles, that I was bored. Part of the reason had to do with the poor screenplay; it introduced scenes without providing character backgrounds. This movie was disappointing, though it did remind me of one of the biggest lessons I learned: I do not have to accept anything, just respect it.
1 3/4 stars
Each of us starts out with a blank slate when we come into this world. I believe no one is born knowing about prejudice, hatred, discrimination or the difference between good and bad. So what could be the factors that influence the way a child behaves as they grow older? If we open this up for discussion I am sure we would still be discussing it well into our twilight years. The aspect I find fascinating is when parents and their children are opposites of each other. So many times on the news I have seen quiet, gentle parents talk lovingly about their child who was just charged with manslaughter or some other heinous crime. On the flip side there are the human interest stories where an individual from a disadvantaged background became successful. I have to sit and wonder if child rearing is more like a game of chance instead of some set formula. You will see what I am talking about in this dramatic film that came out of the dark to me. I wound up seeing this movie because it was the only one that was not playing in 3D at the time I had available. Without any awareness of it, I was taken by surprise on how much I enjoyed it. The story was about two inner city boys who had to struggle on their own when their mothers were taken away from them. Skylan Brooks (Our Family Wedding, Seven Pounds) and Ethan Dizon (How I Met Your Mother-TV) played the two boys, named Mister and Pete. For being so young, they were terrific in their roles. Another surprise for me was seeing Jennifer Hudson (The Secret LIfe of Bees, Dreamgirls) playing Mister’s mom, Gloria. I would have thought with her being attached to this film I would have seen a commercial or at least one movie trailer, but nothing at all. The movie even had Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Bullet to the Head, Lost-TV) as Sergeant Pike and Jordin Sparks (Sparkle, American Idol-TV) as Alice. I am not implying that Jordin made the movie; in fact, I did not fully understand her role. But with higher profile people, I found the lack of advertising odd. Irregardless, I fell right into the beauty of this story. People who know me have heard me say, “If you need a license for a dog, then I feel you need a license to be a parent.” See for yourself by viewing this film festival winning movie.