IT LOOKED TO ME LIKE A GLASS lighthouse, shining bright in the darkness. The space it was in seemed cavernous to me; there was one complete wall that bowed out of the house to accommodate a baby grand piano. I could be sitting in the dining room yet be able to see the brightly lit curio cabinet in the living room. Whether people were visiting or not, the its light was always on. The cabinet was made of glass and wood that had been washed in a gold paint. The top of it came to a point like a domed roof, with a gold ball that sat right at the pinnacle. There were four glass shelves evenly spaced apart that had a curious mix of things that all fascinated me. However, on the bottom shelf there was a chess set that grabbed my attention the most. Sitting on the thick chessboard were these intricate sculpted ivory pieces my relative called netsukes. I had never seen anything like it. Half the pieces sat on black colored bases and the rest on light colored ones. I would stand at the curio cabinet, its light the only one on in the room, wanting to take the chess pieces out and play with them; but I knew my relative would not approve. The only time I could hold one of the pieces is when my relative took one out and placed it in my hands for only a short moment. Otherwise, they were off limits to everyone. THAT CHESS SET PLANTED A SEED in me because my infatuation with it caused me to learn how to play the game. I received a gift of a travel sized chess set that looked like a large wallet. When I would unzip the sides of the red vinyl rectangular wallet and fold the sides down, it would reveal a square red and white checkerboard. The chess pieces were magnetic dots with each of their tops embossed with the outline of either a white or black chess piece. Except for my relatives with the curio cabinet, I did not know anyone who played chess; so, I would play against myself. I would try different first moves, wanting to give each magnetic chess piece a turn. Luckily, I was finally able to convince a friend to let me teach him and we started playing a few times a month. It was good practice for me I thought; I just did not know practice for what? I was able to plan a few moves out but not anywhere near what the students in this dramatic movie were capable of doing. SOME FROM BROKEN HOMES AND OTHERS FROM different backgrounds, a group of inner-city students found one thing in common; they liked being treated equal in Mr. Martinez’, played by John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge, Spawn), high school classroom. With Rachel Bay Jones (Ben is Back, Grey’s Anatomy-TV) as Principal Kestel, Michael Kenneth Williams (12 Years a Slave, Assassin’s Creed) as Mr. Roundtree, Corwin C. Tuggles (Detachment, Orange is the New Black-TV) and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Bumblebee; Love, Simon) as Oelmy “Ito” Paniagua; this film that was based on a true story provided a feel good experience for me. I thought John was exceptional in his role; he reminded me of a teacher I had back in school. The story did not provide much surprise to it; it followed a typical story line that I have seen before. Set in Miami during the late 90s, I liked the throwback feel of the film. Despite having nothing that stood out as special for me, I thought the story was still moving. And if you decide to see this movie please stay for the credits to see the extra scenes.
2 ½ stars
FOR MANY OF US OUR FIRST FRIEND was an inanimate object. It may have resided in our crib or was hanging down from the ceiling above us when we slept. Once we became mobile the object came with us. This first friend could have been a variety of things such as a stuffed animal or a doll. My first friend was a stuffed chimpanzee. I took him everywhere, including a spot on my bed to sleep with me. A relative of mine had a stuffed bunny rabbit that had the softest fur. It is funny, but I can still remember someone holding my chimpanzee and manipulating the limbs as if the monkey was gesturing while the person disguised their voice, making me believe my stuffed animal was talking to me. As Sparky the monkey and myself grew in age, we both began to share the same likes and dislikes. We both loved bananas but did not like oranges. If there was music playing in the house I would lift Sparky up onto a table and help him dance to the rhythm. Sometimes he was clumsy and knock over a glass or bottle, spilling the contents out onto the table. Sparky rarely got into trouble; if memory serves me correctly we may have had only a couple of time-outs during our friendship. THESE FIRST FRIENDS PLAY A VITAL ROLE in a child’s development. A child nurtures their imagination as they create adventures with their best friend. I still get a kick out of hearing little children talk to their toys and act based on what was said between them. Whatever object gets designated as a child’s friend does not matter; they still form a bond that opens a safe world for the two of them to explore. There was a couple I knew who used this bond as a teaching tool to show their child how to share things. I found their method ingenious because; though I never said anything, I thought their daughter was a bit selfish, based on how I observed her playing with other children. I am sure many of us have encountered a child that did not want anyone touching their toys; imagine the lessons that can be taught using the child’s best friend. Having a best friend makes a world of difference as we grow up and grow old. Take a moment to think back and remember what you had as your best friend when you were a child. You might have had a version of the main character from this action, adventure film. FEELING SAD AND ALONE AFTER HER father’s death Charlie, played by Hailee Seinfeld (The Keeping Room, Pitch Perfect franchise), found comfort in tinkering with cars just like her dad. She would get more than comfort from an old beaten-up yellow car she spotted in a junkyard. This science fiction movie also starred Jorge Lendeborg Jr (Spider-Man: Homecoming; Love, Simon) as Memo, John Cena (Blockers, The Wall) as Agent Burns, John Ortiz (The Drop, Silver Linings Playbook) as Dr. Powell and Jason Drucker (Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, Every Witch Way-TV) as Otis. Whether you call this picture an origin story or prequel it doesn’t matter because out of the Transformers movies this was one of the best. The writers gave life to the Bumblebee character while the special effects department gave him his humanity. I know, this may sound profound, but it really is not; this was a well-done script that focused more on the story than the action. And when there was action, at least I was able to see who was battling during the fight scenes. The glue that brought all of this together was Hailee; she did a beautiful job in bringing out the emotional aspects to the story. It was well worth seeing this on the big screen and if by chance you decide to go you might become friends with Bumblebee. If so, then lucky you because trust me you could have done a lot worse at the movie theater.
3 ¼ stars