IT WAS NOT UNITL I turned 12 years old that I first experienced a death. A close relative had suddenly died; it was a complete shock for everyone. After hearing the news I remember sitting down at the piano to play a song over and over that reminded me of this relative. The funeral took place rather quickly and afterwards we all gathered at a relative’s house. The atmosphere was somber but there were periods of laughter throughout the night. Typically I was excited about all the food that somehow magically appeared while we were at the cemetery. There were so many desserts that they commandeered their own table. The amount of people who stopped over was staggering and it never let up for the next several days. By the end of the mourning period I felt the past week had been one long party. I discovered this was our custom for all future funerals. AS I HAVE GONE through the past years I have been exposed to other forms of mourning from my own experiences. There are some cultures that believe in cremation, while others are against it. In some faiths it is important to bury the body quickly, yet I have been to funerals where the body remains above ground for several days. Now one thing I have noticed as baby boomers have aged is hearing more people talk about incarnation. Excuse me for being simplistic but I can see how death would be less scary if one felt they would be coming back to life. To tell you the truth I feel however one deals with death is fine with me because I have seen so many people deal with loss in many different ways. There is not one that is better than another. Regarding myself I hope when my time comes people will focus more on celebrating my life instead of mourning it. Death is one of those things that everyone on the planet will experience in their life; so why focus on the sadness and sense of loss? Honoring a deceased person and sharing personal stories about them is something I find comforting, which is why I was enthralled with this animated, adventure comedy. DESPITE HIS FAMILY’S BAN on music Miguel, voiced by relative newcomer Anthony Gonzalez, wanted to be a musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz, voiced by Benjamin Bratt (Doctor Strange, Miss Congeniality). His determination would lead him to the grave of his idol just in time for the Day of the Dead celebration. This film festival winning movie was exquisite in both the kaleidoscope of colors across the screen as well as the script that beautifully handled the subject of death based on Mexican culture. I thought the story was thoughtful, respectful, kind and in a way comforting; it did not shy away from the subject of death. With Gael Garcia Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries, Rosewater) voicing Hector, Alanna Ubach (Meet the Fockers, Waiting…) voicing Mama Imelda and Renee Victor (Confessions of a Shopaholic, Weeds-TV) voicing Abuelita; I cannot say this was a true comedy. It had a few humorous moments but for the most part the word I would use to describe this picture would be heartwarming. As an added bonus to watching this movie there was a short film shown beforehand from the award winning Frozen realm, “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.” There is nothing you will lose by seeing this captivating film about life and death.
3 1/2 stars
THERE was distress showing in her eyes as she talked about her experience. We were having lunch together and my friend was talking about the MRI she had done for her doctor. I already knew she had a “touch” of claustrophobia; so I immediately understood her discomfort about taking the test. She told me she became anxious right from the start after seeing the MRI machine and the small hole she was expected to fit inside of, while staying perfectly still. Her breathing was noticeable because the technician offered her the option of playing music or bringing a blanket to keep her warm. When my friend declined the offers the technician sat with her and had her focus on breathing deep. Once she was able to calm down a bit, the technician helped my friend up on the table that would slide her inside the MRI machine. My friend told me from that point on she kept her eyes closed. She finished up her story by saying it was an awful, uncomfortable experience but she knew she had to get through it so the doctor could figure out what treatment was needed to alleviate the pain she was experiencing down her leg. FOR some individuals not knowing the details about a test or certain events is less stressful for them than being aware of everything. I am not one of those people; I need to know every detail so I can prepare myself mentally. Think about it; if a friend asked you to help move their parent to a new living space, wouldn’t you want to know how much furniture was involved in the move? Of course if you were able you would say yes; but at least I would like to know how much stuff so I could come prepared. Though I know the physical aspect of moving is not a fun experience, it is something that needs to be done. And when you think about it, isn’t that the real issue; having to do something you know will not be pleasant? Well that is how I felt as I sat and watched this horror thriller. VACTIONING in Mexico sisters Lisa and Kate, played by Mandy Moore (A Walk to Remember, This is Us-TV) and Claire Holt (The Vampire Diaries-TV, The Originals-TV), experienced the thrill of a lifetime when they were submerged under water in a shark cage. The thrill quickly turned to horror when the cable holding the cage broke, sending them down among the sharks. With Matthew Modine (Memphis Belle, Full Metal Jacket) as Captain Taylor and Chris J. Johnson (Betrayal-TV, JAG-TV) as Javier; this dramatic story did not waste too much time before things became tense—both for the sisters and for me watching their plight. There were a few good jumps provided by the script. Speaking of the script it was pretty bland and predictable. If it was not for Mandy I probably would have become bored after a while. This movie had the type of story that one did not need to give much thought into watching it; in fact, I would classify this picture as one of those old “B” movies that were somewhat cheesy that simply wanted to give the viewer a thrill. That is what this film offers, nothing more and nothing less. After seeing this movie I can tell you with certainty I would never agree to go underwater in a shark cage. Heck, I do not know if I want to even step into the ocean ever again.
2 ¼ stars
As part of my daily vitamin regiment I used to take a supplement that caused an unusual reaction in me. I would get these intense, what I would call, hot flashes that would change my skin color to red; I mean a deep bright red. This would happen spontaneously throughout the day. One time my boss walked by and started to panic when they saw me sitting at my desk with my face and ears crimson red. I had to explain I was fine and it would pass as soon as I gulped down copious amounts of water. That supplement was the reason I started to always keep a bottle of water with me whenever I was out and about. One of the few places this caused a problem believe it or not was at this one movie theater near my house. They would confiscate any food or liquids carried inside by the patrons. I understood what they were doing; they wanted people to use the concession stands because let us face it that is where the movie theaters make their money. Because I never knew when I would get a rush of heat across my body, I did not want to have to leave my seat during the movie to go get some water. So I would bring in my own bottle of water and carry it beneath my jacket, underneath my arm. I know I was breaking their rules but the idea of missing out on parts of a film was something I could not handle. In my mind bending the rules led me to a better review. VOLUNTEERING for a special task force led by government agent Matt Graver, played by Josh Brolin (Everest, Men in Black 3); FBI agent Kate Macor, played by Emily Blunt (Looper, The Young Victoria), found herself involved in a drug war where the rules were not always followed. This film festival nominated crime drama had a superior cast that also included Benicio Del Toro (Traffic, The Usual Suspects) as Alejandro and Victor Garber (Titanic, Milk) as Dave Jennings. First I must warn you there were several scenes of intense bloody violence. The taut story kept the viewers in a constant state of suspense; the director did an excellent job keeping the scenes tight while bringing the life out of the actors. I caught myself several times holding my breath in anticipation of what was to come. Though there have been other films about the drug war between the United States and Mexico, I found this one to be a raw realistic story that lingered with me even after the movie was over. If the film studio had to bend a few rules to get this action film made then I firmly believe it was worth it because this picture kept you on the edge of your seat. Intense violent scenes with blood in this film.
3 1/2 stars
A majority is defined as being the largest segment or party of a larger group. Being part of the majority gives one some added liberties or shall I say freebies in life. Whether in government or a condominium association when you are part of the majority you get to set the rules. I believe each of us at some point in our life has been part of both a majority and a minority. Having grown up in a large city, when I went to summer camp I was in the majority of fellow campers who came from the city as opposed to the suburbs. However, when I was in college I had a class where I was the only person who came from the city; all the other classmates had grown up on farms. I am well aware in the scheme of things this example is a minor issue. There are some huge hurdles to overcome when one is considered as a member of a minority based on skin color, religion, gender or body shape; along with a multitude of other various factors. Decades ago Hollywood was even less diverse than it is presently. For someone who was not part of the majority it was tough to break-in and be part of the moviemaking magic. STRUGGLING as a young man Mario Moreno had a gift for making people laugh. From modest beginnings he would eventually become the most popular comedic actor in Mexico, known as Cantinflas. Could he accomplish that feat in Hollywood, however? I had no idea what this movie was about until I was told which roles Cantinflas played in American films. As soon as I heard the moive titles, “Around the World in 80 Days,” and “Pepe,” I immediately remembered this actor. This biographical drama showed what Cantinflas encountered as he stayed focused on doing what he loved to do–make people laugh. Oscar Jaenada (The Losers, Pirates of the Caribeean: On Stranger Tides) portrayed Cantinflas and I have to say I thought he did a wonderful job of acting. Along with Michael Imperioli (The Lovely Bones, The Sopranos-TV) playing producer Michael Todd and Ilse Salas (Gueros, Locas de Amor-TV) as Valentina Ivanova, the acting overall was believable and enjoyable to watch. The main issue I had with this film was the script; it seemed as if the viewer was only getting snippets of Cantinflas’ life, never getting deep down into the emotional aspects about the occurrences in his life. Though I was mostly entertained by this picture, I left the theater wishing I had seen “Around the World in 80 Days” again; it would have been more entertaining. Portions of the movie had Spanish dialog with English subtitles.
Oh, the things some of us do to impress or sway the opinion of another person. I was dating someone who was the cohost of a local cable talk show. Their expertise involved anything that had to do with food. I know what you are thinking, my dreams were coming true. After being invited to their place for dinner a couple of times I wanted to reciprocate, but was totally intimidated by their cooking prowess. Not having much experience with cooking meals from scratch, I was nervous to invite them for a home cooked meal. Keep in mind “home cooked” meant a frozen pizza or a can of soup for me back then. For two weeks I scoured all kinds of recipe books, looking for one that listed exact measurements. I am one of those people who cannot be told to throw in a pinch of salt or add an ingredient for taste. Up until we sat down at the table, my stress level was wreaking havoc with my stomach; I could barely eat what I cooked. I knew the meal was nothing close to their elaborate meals; I could only hope I would get points for the effort. This is why I could relate to the main character in this romantic comedy. Jaime Camil (Saving Private Perez, Regresa) played mariachi singer Alejandro. Wanting a better life for his daughter, Alejandro applied for a visa at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. It was denied by embassy employee Rachel, played by Laura Ramsey (The Ruins, The Covenant). However, life had a funny way of presenting a second opportunity to make a good impression when Alejandro spotted Laura at a party he was performing at with his band. Jaime Camil was such a likable character in this bilingual film that I did not mind the formulaic story line. A bonus was his beautiful singing voice. The acting was standard; I was surprised to see Stockard Channing (Six Degrees of Separation, Grease) as Virginia and Tom Arnold (True Lies, Nine Months) as Art taking part in this film. Though I have not investigated, I had to wonder as I was watching the movie if it was quickly made due to the success of the Mexican film “Instructions Not Included” which I reviewed recently. There was a low budget feeling to the sets for me. Irregardless, I had to give points for the effort made to create a sweet romantic story. Some scenes had Spanish with English subtitles.
2 1/3 stars
The past weekend was exhaustive for me. It was one of those where everything had to precisely coordinate like a finely tuned Swiss made watch. I even had to schedule in bathroom times. By Sunday night I was totally drained of energy, feeling defenseless against Earth’s gravitational pull. What propelled me through the weekend was the knowledge that Monday was a holiday and I could stay home to restore some semblance of balance back into my life. Believe it or not, the idea of leaving home to even see a movie was not something I wanted to do. Now you know I must have been super tired. But would you believe that little voice in my head kept badgering me, telling me I should go to the movies because one never knows what the next day will bring. Pulling a cap over my frantic, slept on hair; I forced myself to a matinee show. Having seen the trailer some time ago, I really could not recall anything about the film I was about to see. Several minutes into the movie I thought it was going to be a typical goofy movie about mistaken identities. But then something magical happened and the story lifted me out of myself, transporting me to Mexico. I was no longer tired; the demanding eventful weekend faded away and I was drawn into this dramatic comedy. Eugenio Derbez (Jack and Jill, La Familia P. Luche-TV) as Valentin was surprised when a former fling named Julie, played by Jessica Lindsey (Now You See Me), appeared at his front door with a baby. Having him hold his daughter so she could go pay the cab fare, Julie never returned. With fatherhood not being part of his plans, Valentin decided to take the baby and travel to America to track down Julie. As time passed, father and daughter began to depend and learn from each other in their new place. This tender movie scored a bull’s-eye to the heart. Though I found Eugenio’s acting to have an over emphasized quality to it, his timing was impeccable. The connection he had with his daughter Maggie, played by dynamite newcomer Loreto Peralta, was incredible. I found some scenes made a sudden jump between comedy and drama; however, it did not take away from the carefully laid out story. Not only did this movie do a wonderful job in showing how love made a family, it provided another example of how a movie can affect us. The story moved me while the movie took me away. I left the theater feeling revitalized, happy to have seen this sweet, tender film. Spanish with English subtitles.