CLASSIC STORIES ARE SOMETHING I CAN revisit again and again. During my school years, I wound up reading Moby Dick three times. I am not sure I can even define what constitutes being a classic, but at least I know a classic story has the ability to emotionally move a person. Love plays a prominent role in many classics. For example, My Fair Lady was based on the George Bernard Shaw play, Pygmalion and The King and I was based on Margaret Landon’s novel, Anna and the King of Siam, which was based on the memoirs of the governess to the children of the King of Siam. One of my favorite stories is Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. I do not remember if I read the story or not in school; however, my most vivid memory was seeing the movie directed by Franco Zeffirelli. It was a special showing that was being done in only one theater in the city. A friend joined me as we had to take the train down to go see the movie. To this day, I remember the theater because it was a big classic theater that had these art deco lamps hanging down from the lobby ceiling. To get to the balcony, there was a red carpeted staircase with gold-colored bannisters that curved up to the 2nd level. Because I loved the story of Romeo and Juliet, I knew I was going to equally love the movie West Side Story which was based on Shakespeare’s story. AS YOU CAN SEE, I DO not have an issue with new movies coming out that were based on previous movies/stories. It can be fun to see a story told through a different set of eyes. In some cases, the movie gets remade because there is technology available to enhance the story that was not available when the story first came out in film. For me, some of the successful remakes have been A Star is Born, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Departed. However, as most of us know, there are also remade films that were disastrous. Off the top of my head, I can think of The Stepford Wives, House of Wax and Guess Who. I know when the original movie is idolized, it is hard to try and remake or update the story. It would be best if the movie studio doesn’t refer to the original movie at all; let their new creation come out with any false expectations. With today’s film it did not take me long to decide which category this remake falls in. IN THIS RETELLING OF THE CLASSIC fairy tale, Cinderella has a dream to become a dressmaker. Marriage is not something she was focusing on. With musical artist Camila Cabello as Cinderella, Billy Porter (Like a Boss, Pose-TV) as Fabulous Godmother, Nicholas Galitzine (High Strung, The Changeover) as Prince Robert, Idina Menzel (Uncut Gems, Glee-TV) as Vivian and Pierce Brosnan (False Positive, Mamma Mia! franchise) as King Rowan; this comedic family fantasy took the original story of Cinderella and added a layer of female empowerment to it. I would not have an issue with this update; however, the script was a big misfire that dulled the delivery of the story. Though the musical numbers by themselves were fun to watch, they seemed so out of place to me because of the modern songs. Here was the perfect case not to associate this picture with the classic Cinderella. There were cringeworthy scenes that were painful to watch. The other thing that I felt diminished the telling of this story was the lack of chemistry between the characters. The whole appearance of the cast seemed flat to me. With the music and special effects, this movie might appeal to a narrow range of viewers.
1 ¾ stars
There are people among us pretending they are somebody else due to embarrassment or envy. They want nothing to do with individuals who know their history. Within this group you find folk who were guided into taking on a different persona by a parent or mentor. I knew a few people who transformed themselves into someone different. There was one man who grew up in my neighborhood who went to the same schools I did, bought food from the same local grocery and drug stores and even participated in the same summer camp program. However, it apparently was not enough for him. Out of nowhere he started talking with an accent as if he had spent sufficient time in a foreign country and took on their language. He stopped shopping in the neighborhood and began buying only designer clothing. I never understood the change in him but he never wavered from his new veneer. Within my circle of friends I had a friend who had a mother that acted in a couple of television commercials. She was quite the dramatic character and always pushed her daughter towards acting, even though her daughter had no desire to do it. My friend was constantly being dragged either to auditions or fittings for some, what I thought at least, unusual looking clothing. Thinking about them now, I can only imagine how much energy must have been devoted towards maintaining their transformations. UNCOMFORTABLE and despondent emerging pop star Noni, played by Gugu Mbatha Raw (Belle, Larry Crowne); found herself sitting on the edge of the balcony outside her penthouse suite. Driven by her mother Macy Jean, played by Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting, Barney’s Version), Noni felt she had no other way out until police officer Kaz Nicol, played by Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Red Tails), tried talking her off the ledge. This film festival nominated drama was written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Secret Life of Bees, Love & Basketball). Having first becoming aware of Gugu in the film Belle, I thought she did an admirable job of acting for this role. There was an easy chemistry between her and Nate. Including Danny Glover (The Color Purple, 2012) as Captain Nicol, I thought everyone’s acting was quite good overall. The script had its moments of real raw emotion that the actors were able to accentuate. Unfortunately the story did not offer any surprises; it was predictable for the most part. There was a familiarity to this film which I realized had to do with it having a similar story to the movie The Bodyguard. Starting out strong, I wished this picture would have stayed more unique and not try to be something else.
2 3/4 stars
One’s actions, whether they choose to take responsibility or not, always come with a reaction or consequence. I try my hardest to take responsibility for my behavior. There have been times when I was not aware I was causing a person distress. On the other hand, at times I knew exactly what I was doing; not saying it was right or wrong, just going with the moment. It was a pleasant surprise watching this small, independent film. Small in budget, but not in star power. I found this dramatic movie put a different twist on the idea of a person being accountable. The story was about two strangers and how each of their actions led them to one common tragedy and its aftermath. Ana Nicholas, played by Minnie Driver (The Phantom of the Opera, Good Will Hunting) was a mother being told her son needed to be in a better equipped school, to handle his special needs. Minnie was exceptional in the role; I could feel her emotional exhaustion as she struggled to keep everything in control. Saul Gregor, played by Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Bourne Legacy), was becoming more and more desperate to find the money to pay back a loan, before bodily harm befell him. It was a treat to see Jeremy in this role, that was filmed before he did The Hurt Locker. One could see what a fine actor he already was becoming before hitting the big time. I found him to be powerful in an ever increasing powerless situation; the anxious desperation oozed out of him. The filming was unique, taking me a few minutes to get into its unusual pacing. Scenes and their story lines alternated between the two characters, with a mixture of colorless starkness and soft edges. This film festival winner was a treat for me. The final message really hit home on how we can be a better person when we take responsibility.
2 3/4 stars — DVD