THERE ARE A COUPLE OF ITEMS I have sealed in plastic bags, hoping they may become valuable someday. Neither of them was expensive; I think the most I spent was $6.00. One thing is a set of unusual stamps and the other is a coffee mug shaped like a character from a popular television show. When I bought them years ago I thought immediately they would attract attention; but honestly, I have no idea if they will ever be worth something. You see I do not have that gift for finding a treasure at a thrift store or auction. There is a television show devoted to people bringing in their old possessions, to see if they have something worth a lot of money. I am not that type of individual; most of the things in my house have more sentimental value than monetary. There are some people who have a knack for spotting a bargain; I think I fall more into this category. Part of the reason for this is because I have a knack for finding and using coupons to apply to the item. However, put me in an antique or thrift shop and all I see is used stuff. Sure, I may find something I want; but, it is based on an emotional level not a practical one. THERE IS SOMEONE I KNOW WHO is skilled when it comes to finding things of value. The things he has shown me have totally amazed me. When I look at, for example, a silver serving piece such as a large fork, I see a metal item that is fancy looking. The individual I mentioned can dig through an entire crate of metal serving pieces and pull out the only one of value. I am not kidding you; he even showed me the item. It was a large metal fork with an ornately carved handle and three tines which were wide at the bottom then narrowed down to fine points. He paid less than $5.00 for the fork. When he got home he looked up and discovered this was a special fork from a particular manufacturer. Double checking online he learned the fork was selling for approximately $120.00. Maybe the dollar amount isn’t a big deal to you, but you must admit the percentage between the price difference is huge. He did the same thing with an oil painting where he paid $11.00 and found out it was worth over $500.00. Another person gifted like him was the doctor in this science fiction, action adventure. FINDING A PORTION OF A DISCARDED OLD cyborg was a stroke of luck for Dr. Dyson Ido, played by Christoph Waltz (Carnage, Big Eyes). There was more than luck involved when he brought her to life. This romantic thriller also starred Rosa Salazar (Maze Runner franchise, CHIPS) as Alita, Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, House of Sand and Fog) as Chiren, Mahershala Ali (Green Book, Hidden Figures) as Vector and Ed Skrein (Deadpool, If Beale Street Could Talk) as Zapan. Visually, this film was a feast of technical marvels. The fight scenes were intense with great special effects. The acting was also well done, even when the actors were transformed by CGI effects. Where I had high hopes for this picture based on the trailer, the script let me down. I found having a female hero led to a more sensitive story line; but the script was predictable, and the dialog was hokey at times. This picture was based on a graphic novel series that was unfamiliar to me; so, for those who know it or are into this type of genre, they might enjoy this movie more than me. It was obvious the producers are hoping for a sequel based on the ending scenes. I would be interested in seeing it but only if they get a better script.
2 ½ stars
IT FEELS GOOD TO BE BACK after being on vacation for the past couple of weeks. This was a special vacation for me because I finally fulfilled a dream I have had since I was a child. I traveled to the last state I needed to see to complete my quest of visiting all 50 states. This feeling of accomplishment was better than I had imagined; to have had this dream/goal for most of my life being checked off my list of things to do felt amazing. As I have done in every other state I have visited, I bought a couple of touristy T-shirts and caps to add to my collection. If you do the math, that means I have over 100 of each item; so yes, you can consider me somewhat of a nerd. I only wear them when I teach class since I prefer not putting on workout clothes that have a company’s logo on it. For every state I have been in, I have experienced something new and wonderful. One of the best experiences I have had from my journeys has been the discovery that people are pretty much the same no matter where they live. I have found there are more similarities between all of us than not and we truly can learn from each other if we take the time to do so. THERE IS THAT OLD PROVERB, “The grass is greener on the other side;” which means situations always look better than one’s own, even when they really are not. Since I live in a humid continental climate with all four seasons, I felt those who live in a tropical climate have it easier; it turns out that is not always the case. Meeting so many different people across the country has widened my horizons, allowing me to learn many new things. I can say with certainty the grass in no greener on the other side from your own; though it may feel like it at times. I find it interesting that one of my concerns about taking such a long vacation was how would I stay current with the new movie releases. As you can see, I have not posted a new review in a couple of weeks; however, I feel invigorated and find the very first movie I went to see upon my return relates so well with my feelings about accomplishing my dream. This animated adventure film has a couple of solid helpful messages stashed inside of its story. IMAGINE THE SHOCK MILES MORALES, voiced by Shameik Moore (Dope, Joyful Noise), felt when he discovered there was more than one version of his superhero, Spider-Man. With Jake Johnson (Tag, New Girl-TV) voicing Peter B. Parker, Hailee Steinfeld (The Edge of Seventeen, Pitch Perfect franchise) voicing Gwen Stacy, Mahershala Ali (Green Book, Hidden Figures) voicing Uncle Aaron and John Mulaney (Saturday Night Live-TV, The Jim Gaffigan Show-TV) voicing Spider-Ham; this was a visually fun action film. Using an assortment of animation styles, they lent themselves to the sharp humor in the script. As I mentioned earlier, I found a couple of good lessons were conveyed in the middle of the quick antics on display. What I also enjoyed was the inclusion of several tender scenes that gave this movie a nice sheen to it. This picture has a much more sophisticated script than the average animated film; both children and adults would have an easy time watching it. For me at times, I felt I was literally seeing a comic book come to life. And the funny thing about this is after I saw the movie trailer I was left with a “meh” feeling. I am glad this was my first movie to review upon my return and I loved the connection I felt between my feelings about my experience with the feelings expressed in this well-done film.
IF THE CLICHÉ “OPPOSITES ATTRACT” IS TRUE then why do I see less of it happening? With so much arguing taking place between people and countries around the world, it disproves this statement. I know this cliché’s origins started in science, but mankind has used it regarding personal relationships. It might be more complicated than that; I prefer to think two people are better suited and satisfied in a relationship when they have a good understanding of their differences. There was a couple I knew who displayed opposite emotions. The wife was quick to get angry and upset about things, while her husband was laid back and went with the flow. They rarely argued because they understood how each other reacted to things, avoiding the pitfall of trying to change one another. When his wife would get into one of her fits over something, he would let her blow off steam before he would place his hand on her and say something soothing such as, “Don’t worry, it will be okay.” or “What can I do to help?” The fact that they understood each other created a stronger bond between them, in my opinion. FROM WHAT I HAVE EXPERIENCED IN my life there is something I never understood. It seems to me many people shy away from those that are different from themselves. They may interact, but it is strictly on a surface level. The thing I do not understand is where was it decided that different equals something wrong or bad? As a person who used to not express himself fully, I may be at the other end of the spectrum now; most people who know me well can tell how I am feeling at any given time. The reason for this is because I believe communication is the key; as far as I know mind readers are a rarity, so if you want someone to know something you need to express it to them. I had a friend who, unbeknownst to me, had a hard time keeping up with me whenever we were out walking somewhere. I never knew it was an issue because he never said anything about it. Not until one day he finally yelled at me, telling me I walked too fast for him. I asked him why he just did not say something in the beginning instead of holding it in all this time until he wound up shouting at me. You know, people would learn so much about each other if they would simply talk to one another. This comedic drama based on a true story can show you how it is done. OUT OF WORK FOR TWO MONTHS nightclub bouncer Tony Lip, played by Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic, Eastern Promises), was recommended for a position to be a driver for a doctor. Tony was shocked when he discovered the doctor was a black man who was not even a medical doctor. There was no doubt in his mind that there would be problems. With Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Free State of Jones) as Dr. Don Shirley, Linda Cardellini (Brokeback Mountain, Scooby-Doo) as Dolores, Dimiter D. Marinov (Act of Valor, The Americans-TV) as Oleg and Mike Hatton (Vigilante Diaries, Shot the Hero) as George; this movie was one of the best road trips I have taken this year. Set in the 1960s, the sets and costumes perfectly matched each other as they set up the space for Viggo and Mahershala to really dig deep into their roles. The script with its mixture of humor and drama made this trip pleasurable for me, even during the tougher scenes. If the script’s intentions were to manipulate the viewer I was not paying any attention to it because the message here was beautifully told. I left the theater feeling good, filled with excitement to express my feelings to you.
AN act of kindness delivers a bigger impact during the time when the recipient is being hunted down as prey. Few of you may understand but for everyone else the victim is always aware of their surroundings. A soft sound from behind, an eye peeking out from a doorway; like a skittish deer in the woods the victim has to be ready to flee. For the one person who performs that act of kindness, which ranges from standing up to the aggressors to providing a safe haven; they are indelibly etched into the heart of the victim. One thing acts of kindness and violence both have in common is they each can have a profound effect. THE effect could span through many stages of a person’s life not to dissimilar in the way Claude Monet painted his series of haystacks. His approach was to show how the perception of light could alter the look of his landscape. Essentially the hay was the same; it just looked different depending on the location of the light source. Regarding the prey one may not see on the outside the change that takes effect from a good deed. Trust me the kindness is like a seed planted deep inside the victim where it cannot be harmed from any blows or kicks. You may ask what does the seed do for the prey; it provides the bloom of hope and there is nothing stronger than feeling that sense of hope growing inside. These thoughts flooded me during the time I spent with this dramatic movie. I felt I was walking through an art museum watching the different stages of the main character’s life. GROWING up in a rough environment it is the acts of kindness that last the longest. This film festival winning movie was a moving experience. Starring Mahershala Ali (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, House of Cards-TV) as Juan, Naomie Harris (Spectre, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) as Paula, Ashton Sanders (Straight Outta Compton, The Retrieval) as Chiron and musical artist Janelle Monae as Teresa; the acting was amazing. There is a good chance this picture will get an Oscar nod. Set in Miami the story was broken down into 3 distinct segments of Chiron’s life. What I enjoyed the most was the way the script did not manipulate the viewer. Instead the story smoothly unfolded or better yet, presented itself in a totally believable way. If you were to strip away the labels associated to each character you would be left with basic human emotions and a sense of self-discovery. The filming and the wonderful soundtrack seamlessly blended into forming complete picture frames and I actually mean picture frames. I truly felt like I was at an art gallery/museum, walking through and admiring works of art. It was brilliant to have 3 actors play the character of Chiron as a child, teen and adult. The direction was fresh and beautiful, even during the rough parts of the story. There were times though where the dialog was hard to hear for me. Like an act of kindness, I feel like I received a gift by watching this movie.
3 ½ stars
One of the bonuses for being in my career positions is being able to communicate with people from every continent except Antarctica. My fascination with other countries and cultures dates back many years. What I have learned is everyone shares the same basic concerns and joys of life, albeit in varying degrees. For me the physical differences associated with one’s race just tell me where their ancestors were born; otherwise, they mean nothing to me just like the color of one’s eyes. Walking through my local grocery store is like taking a free global trip without the jet lag. Down one aisle I will find products from Asia, followed by items from the southern part of North America down to South America. I enjoy watching the shoppers peruse the shelves and sometimes I even ask them about a product I am curious to try. Here is a little known fact about me; very few people in my circles know I go up to help people who appear to be lost or attempting to figure out where something is located. In the old days it was obvious when they were holding a map. Doing this is a great way to learn something new in my opinion. All of this makes up my world; the differences and commonalities between all of us. As generations move up the age ladder my concern is our history gets less important or even forgotten. An example would be a generation several times removed from the generation that experienced an event of genocide. I believe we need to know our history if we are going to grow as civilized humans. To me a major asset is hearing about an event from a person who experienced it. After that person is gone we are left with visual history such as actual places, video/film and historical documents. This is why I feel movies like this one have a place in our knowledge of our past. CONFEDERATE soldier Newton Knight, played by Matthew McConaughey (The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club), came to the realization he could no longer be a part of the corrupt things he saw taking place. Based on a true story this biographical dramatic film kept my attention due to its story; in fact, I felt the story was the best part of the movie. With Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond the Lights, Concussion) as Rachel, Keri Russell (August Rush, The Americans-TV) as Serena and Mahershala Ali (The Hunger Games franchise, The Place Beyond the Pines) as Moses; the acting was solid though oddly I was not as impressed with Matthew as I have been in the past. Parts of the script were well focused and intense; however, the story line that involved a time in the future was a distraction for me. I think if the writers stayed in the one time period this picture would have had more impact. It was obvious what they were trying to convey but I would have preferred if the writers waited and made a sequel that dealt with that particular subject. Despite the tough and bloody scenes in this movie the story is a lesson about our history.
2 ¾ stars