WALKING INTO THE SHOP, I WAS immediately hit with the smoky smell of burning incense. There was the soft sound of a small bell or chime tinging at random intervals. The middle of the store had a few free-standing bookcases; leaning up against the walls were shelves filled with a cornucopia of crystals, rocks and oils or lotions. My friend convinced me to go with him to this shop. Honestly, I did not know whether to call it a bookstore, rock shop or coffee shop; since there were a few tables and chairs huddled around a short counter, that had a coffee machine and filled pitchers resting on top of it. I did have to give him the exact time of my birth, down to the minute and time zone. When I asked him why, he told me he wanted us to go see an astrologer/psychic, who needed this information before he would sit with us. I was okay giving this a try, to see what they would say about me. My friend walked over to a man reading a book, sitting behind a glass case. He told the employee about our scheduled appointment and the man nodded his head towards an entryway that had strings of rainbow-colored beads hanging across it. We walked through, entering a dimly lit space. A PLAINLY DRESSED OLDER MAN CAME up and introduced himself to us. He asked for our names then wanted to know which one of us wanted to get our reading first. Before I could say anything, my friend volunteered me to go first; I did not object. The man led me to a 2ndroom that was better lit and had a round table in the middle with a white tablecloth covering it. Sitting down, the man pulled what looked like a folded map from a box on the floor next to him. He started unfolding it so he could press it out on top of the table. I saw my name written in a corner and a large circle drawn in the middle; it looked like a partially built bicycle wheel. The man did not waste any time as he immediately began telling me that the timing of my birth was unique. For the time I sat with this man, I was given a lot of information. For example, he told me I was a true Scorpion who had strong likes and dislikes. I was a loyal friend but if trust ever got broken, I would completely cut the person out of my life because once trust was broken it could never be completely repaired. There was a lot to take in, in such a short time. I would have enjoyed knowing what Walter Mercado would have said about Scorpions to compare the two, if I had only known about him. For those not familiar and those who are, you can now learn about him in this film festival documentary. AT A YOUNG AGE WALTER MERCADO was different. It started when someone saw him bring a bird back to life. Directed by Cristina Costantini (Science Fair, Awakening: After Parkland) and Kareem Tabsch (The Last Resort, Dolphin Lover), this movie was a loving tribute to Walter. As I said, I had never heard of him; but as I watched this film, I was amazed and fascinated with Walter’s life. From humble beginnings, Walter looked at things differently and certainly did not conform to standard perceptions. I enjoyed seeing the reactions from his fans, especially the scenes that included Lin-Manuel Miranda (Mary Poppins Returns, Hamilton) and Eugenio Derbez (Instructions not Included, Overboard). The story had elements of sadness, fun and joy that were complimented by the tight editing between archival footage, animation and interviews. At first glance, I would have said Walter was a real character; however, seeing this film and hearing about his story made me appreciate the things he was trying to do. Hugely popular for years, I now wish I could have heard him tell me about my horoscope. There were multiple scenes that had Spanish dialog with English subtitles.
3 ½ stars
ONE CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY PARENTS in life, for each one brings a different version of love. There are some people who have an abundance of love that they share with children, besides their own. They may not be there when you fall and scrape your knee or when you ride your bicycle for the first time without training wheels; but, they leave their handprints on your heart. I feel fortunate that I grew up with a few extra mothers in my life. You may have had one or two yourself or just as easily an extra dad since either gender provides equal amounts of love. One of my extra mothers was a neighbor who lived in our building. She lived a couple of floors below us which resulted in me learning how to get down flights of stairs earlier than other kids. Before I could walk I would crawl to the edge of the staircase, turn myself around on the edge and begin crawling down backwards. After navigating the two flights of stairs I would crawl to the door of her apartment and pat my palm on it. I never knew how she always heard me when I thought about this years later, but she would open the door every time with a big smile on her face. She always had time to play with me and for those times she didn’t, she would sing to me. THERE WAS ANOTHER WOMAN WHO WAS like an extra mother to me. She was a friend of the family who had grown up with one of my parents. She was quick to give me a deep hug that made me feel protected and safe. Though she did not know how to bowl, she loved coming to the bowling alley, taking pleasure in simply watching us try to get a strike. Her house always had the exact types of food you craved on any particular day; for example, if you wanted something sweet she had cookies or if you wanted something salty she would have pretzels. When I was little she would always write an amusing poem inside my birthday cards. Despite decades having past I still have vivid, fond memories of these women who were prominent in my life. They each had their own families; yet, I was treated as part of the family because that was the type of love they each had inside. And to a child, having that type of extra love is like a fresh coat of paint on the walls of their heart. WITH THE DEATH OF HIS WIFE and jobs scarce during the depression Michael Banks, played by Ben Whishaw (I’m Not Here, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer), had little time to watch over his children. Though things looked bleak, there was an opportunity for someone special to step in and help; that someone was Mary Poppins, played by Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place, Into the Woods). This comedic family fantasy also starred Lin-Manuel Miranda (The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Looking for Maria Sanchez) as Jack, Emily Mortimer (The Bookshop, Harry Brown) as Jane Banks and Julie Waters (Billy Elliot, Harry Potter franchise) as Ellen. Taking the original movie and moving the characters thirty years forward allowed for a whole new generation of characters to populate this theatrical musical film. I thought the acting was excellent, though Emily’s version of Mary Poppins seemed to have more of an edge to her. This picture was fun to watch but I feel those not into theater may think it is over the top. For me this updated story did not have the magic of the first movie; but part of my warm feelings came from the nostalgic aspect I have towards the original film. Besides, having another encounter with Mary Poppins is always a welcome visit.
THERE is no shame in having or wanting a savior in one’s life. Depending on what has or could happen there is nothing wrong with getting help. Imagine an individual who had been unlucky in love to the point where they shut down their heart, putting up ironclad walls around it, to avoid any more pain. Then unexpectedly someone comes along who has the magic key to unlock the heart’s defenses, releasing the pent up love to be shared by two. Wouldn’t you say that person with the key was a savior. I know the word savior is used in a religious context, but it also can refer to a hero. The funny thing about heroes I have noticed has been the change or to be more precise the evolution of what is a hero today. YEARS ago heroes were considered to be handsome and male. At least it was in the movies, which was a reflection of the public’s perceptions of a hero. They were usually virile masculine figures who rode in to save the day. If you do not believe me just take a look at the animated films Cinderella and Snow White. As perceptions changed so did our heroes. They soon were not always the epitome of beautiful or handsome and more importantly they were not always male. One of my early saviors was a woman, so I was glad to see gender was finally being taken out of the equation regarding heroes. Some of you might remember the hoopla in the press surrounding the first American female astronaut. And there might be several of you out there who remember when the Starship Enterprise was commanded by a female captain. The times are changing and in this animated comedy there is a new hero to add to the list and her name is Moana. HOPING to correct a wrong that has plagued her father’s village; Moana, voiced by newcomer Auli’I Crava, set off across the sea on a perilous journey. This comedy adventure story was set in ancient Polynesia and I have to tell you the animation was an outstanding palette of colors. With Dwayne Johnson (Central Intelligence, Pain & Gain) voicing Maui, Rachel House (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Whale Rider) voicing Gramma Tala and Temuera Morrison (Star Wars franchise, Once Were Warriors) voicing Chief Tui; the stars of this film were Auli’I and Dwayne. Auli’I had a beautiful singing voice which had the good fortune of singing songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, Into the Heights). As for Dwayne his comic timing added a fun element to his character and the story. I thought the script was well written and appreciated the influence of real mythology into the story. Overall there was a familiar template that was followed for these types of animated films but truthfully I did not mind it much. I think the message it was conveying was a worthy and important one that demonstrated the image of a female hero. Except for one scene that might be scary for very young children, this film would be something the entire family could enjoy. So feel free to be a hero for suggesting this fun film.
3 ¼ stars