EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS DURING A TRAGIC event; I do not think anyone would disagree with this statement. The news agencies are quick to report such events, sometimes right as it is happening. More so now than when I was younger, some sad occurrences get the star treatment. I am referring to telethons. Over the past several years there seems to be more of them; I have seen some for childhood hunger, hurricane and flood victims, the homeless and a variety of others. The goal for all of these is to get people to pledge money to their cause. Usually they will get a stable of celebrities to help; some to perform, others to say a few words and some to help on the phones. It will get reported how the celebrities gave their time to the cause. There is a part of me that appreciates their effort; I have always assumed the celebrities have waived their fees, but I do not know for certain. But here is the thing and maybe I am wrong to think this way. Having a celebrity get up and ask the public for money is not a tough job in my opinion. Truthfully, a star could limo over to the broadcasting site, walk right through to the stage, read from a teleprompter, thank everyone, turn around and walk right back to their limo to take them home. That is essentially it. I feel it would have so much more meaning if they would also pledge their own money to the cause. MAYBE I AM TOO MUCH A skeptic, but there are times I see these celebrities on these shows, and I feel they are just being self-serving. It looks good to be charitable and maybe they are in their own way; however, some do not come across as being genuine to me. I feel the same way about celebrities in commercials. Just because they are pitching a product does not mean I am going to run right out and buy it. Unless there is proof the celebrity is a user of the product, all I think they are doing is getting an easy paycheck. I remember after Hurricane Katrina, there were several celebrities who flew down to Louisiana to help the victims. Some started companies with their own money to help rebuild the city. To me, that is a celebrity who puts their money where their mouth is, as the saying goes. A celebrity like that is someone I can admire. I also have a whole new appreciation for the celebrity in this amazing documentary. Especially, because this is the first time I am hearing about this aspect of their life. FROM PLAYING A FICTIONAL COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER on a television show to changing the minds of space scientists, Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura) redefines the term “working actor.” Directed by Todd Thompson (Christmas for the Nations-TV movie, Pre Fab!), this film surprised me in the most positive way. First of all, I found Nichelle to be such an engaging and likable individual. Listening to her talk about what she had planned to do for a career and then what she wound up doing totally shocked me. Then to hear what she did to alter the mindset/perceptions of people/organizations was incredible. There was not one time I lost interest in listening/watching her unfolding story. The director did a perfect job of mixing old clips with interviews from scientists and celebrities such as George Takei and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse. Seeing how history unfolded behind the scenes made me feel like I was an insider who was told a secret. This was such an enjoyable movie watching experience about a remarkable woman. From playing a character on a game changing TV program to becoming a game changer in real life; she has an amazing story to tell.
THE DINING TABLE WAS SET PRIOR to all of us showing up. I always notice first what type of napkin the host is using for the dinner guests. Not that I am being judgmental, but I use and prefer cloth napkins. I feel they add a different touch aesthetically, besides being quite functional. The ones I use were on the store’s clearance rack and they work just fine. The table was set for half a dozen guests; it had been a long time since we all got together. After everyone arrived and we visited with appetizers and drinks, we all found places at the table. The host was bringing out a large glass bowl filled with salad when the doorbell rang. Since there were no empty spaces left at the table, one could only assume this was an unexpected event which immediately got confirmed when the host wondered out loud who it could be. I did not hear who the person was when the host went over and spoke into the intercom, but they got buzzed in and the host went to unlock the door. The person soon walked in as we all heard talking coming in from the hallway. I recognized him as a friend of the host, but I did not know him well. Saying hi and asking what was going on as he came into the dining room, the host simply said we were just sitting down to dinner and asked if he would like to join us. Seeing that there was no room left at the table, I would have declined the invitation because it would have been an imposition; it was not like people were just sitting about with boxes of delivered pizza or buckets of chicken. ALL MY FRIENDS KNOW I DO not answer the door unless I am expecting someone. They have questioned me if this is the only option and I tell them yes. If someone wants to come over and visit me, all they need to do is call ahead of time. I remember once a friend had driven into the city and decided to stop and visit with me. Since they did not call, I did not hear them ringing the doorbell because I was jogging on the treadmill. I especially dislike when people show up during mealtimes, either at home or in a restaurant. This happened some time ago, but I still remember eating out with my family and a couple came over to talk to one of my relatives, who they knew. Well I am here to tell you, this couple kept talking and talking while all of us were giving our food orders to the waitress, continuing even when the food came to our table. Personally, I think it is rude to hover over people while they are trying to eat; so, I took it upon myself to say something to them, thanking them for stopping over but I wanted to talk to my family since I had not seen them for some time. They appeared to be startled by my comments but apologized profusely and excused themselves from our space. Ironically, my family was appreciative of my comments to the couple. I do not make apologies for how I feel about uninvited guests; I have no idea how I would have handled what happened to the astronauts in this dramatic, science fiction thriller. WHILE STARTING OFF ON A MISSION to Mars, a crew is stunned when they discover an unauthorized person on their ship. With Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect franchise, A Simple Favor) as Zoe Levenson, Daniel Dae Kim (Hellboy, Lost-TV) as David Kim, Shamier Anderson (Awake, City of Lies) as Michael Adams and Toni Collette (Knives Out, Hereditary) as Marina Barnett; this cast did a wonderful job of acting. Visually, I enjoyed watching this movie with its special effects. On the downside, I am afraid the script was too drawn out for me; I felt there were several scenes that dragged. However, I did enjoy the moral question that was woven into the story line. For a science fiction film, this one had a slightly different vibe to it which was a plus. I only wished there had been more intensity involved with the story and a different ending.
2 ½ stars
AS WE WERE COMING IN FOR a landing at the airport, the passenger in the next seat reminded me to make sure I don’t put my wallet in my pants pocket. I thanked him as I wondered what kind of city I would find in this foreign land. The flight was several hours and this passenger, upon hearing this was my first trip to the city, had updated me on a variety of places where I had to be careful because of pickpockets and con artists. I had heard similar stuff from friends back home who had visited this place before. My plan once we landed was to get my luggage then find the transportation terminal to take a bus to my hotel. The walk from luggage claim to transportation was short; once there, I stopped to put my luggage down to double check my paperwork on which bus I needed. About 25 feet away from me was a woman standing and talking to 2 guys. At first, I thought they were a group; but soon realized the two guys were native as they were talking about their cab that was parked outside. The way they stood next to the woman; she could not see that one of the guys was trying to slip his hand into her purse, that was hanging down from her shoulder. Before I had time to think, I yelled out, “HEY!” It was enough for the guy to move his hand away as the woman turned to look at me. The 2 men quickly walked away. What kind of city was I getting into? GRATEFULLY, DESPITE THAT INTRODUCTION TO A new city, I fell in love with the place. My time there reminded me of another trip I took to an international city. On that trip, I had planned to incorporate a lot of walking into my daily sightseeing attractions. Of course, I had to try their public transportation at least once, which was surreal for me because I was able to imagine what it must have been like to be underground decades ago, while bombs were exploding above. On one of my daily excursions, I wound up getting lost and could not figure out how to get to my intended destination. With the tourist map in hand, I glanced at the pedestrians who were coming and going and chose a middle-aged looking man to stop and ask for help. He was friendly and unbelievably helpful to the point where he insisted walking with me, to make sure I got to the correct train stop. That chance encounter only enhanced the great time I had visiting that city. A moment of kindness can make all the difference; you can see it for yourself in this animated adventure comedy. THE SIGHTING OF A UFO NEARBY makes the Farmer, voiced by John Sparkes (Calendar Girls, Peppa Pig-TV), see a new source of income; while Shaun the sheep, voiced by Justin Fletcher (Chicken Run, Justin’s House-TV), makes a new friend. With Amalia Vitale (Making It, Christmas Eve) voicing Lu-La/Me-Ma, Kate Harbour (Bob the Builder-TV, Timmy Time-TV) voicing Agent Red/Timmy’s Mum and David Holt (Angry Kid-TV, The Jungle Book-TV) voicing Mugg-1NS; this Oscar nominated and film festival winner was a joy to watch. Besides enjoying the style of animation in this film, I loved the fact there was no discernible dialog. Emotions and intentions were all conveyed with the face and body; it was incredible. The story was simple and there were no surprises per se; however, there was such a charm and fun element to this film that I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. The humor/sight gags were sly and amusing on multiple levels; some geared to younger kids and others to more mature, including adults. If this sequel is any indication of what to expect going forward, I will always enjoy visiting this farm where Shaun lives. Extra scene during the credits.
3 ¼ stars
IT WAS A DOG AND A FALCON that steered me towards wanting to be an animal doctor. The dog was a relative’s pet and she was the first animal adopted into my extended family. She was a sweetheart who was always happy to see me. Anytime I was visiting my relative, I would always take the dog out for walks. She had a red colored ball that she absolutely loved to fetch, that I would spend nearly all my time throwing for her. This may sound odd; but whenever I was with her, I felt at peace. Yes, I know how that must sound but I was at my calmest when I was with her. She was the origin for my love of animals. I also think the comfort I had around her made me more receptive when it came to other animals. One of my summer camp counselors was a falconer. One day he brought a falcon with him. Where some kids were hesitant and shied away from the falcon, I only wanted to get closer and pet him. When he spread his wings out to their full length, I thought for a moment I was in the wild. He looked magnificent while perched on my counselor’s arm, wings wide and head turning to look at all of us kids. THOSE TWO ANIMALS STARTED MY JOURNEY in studying to be a veterinarian. Though I did not get to the finish line, I never lost my love of animals. When I transitioned to a different major I wondered what would have happened if I had never encountered my relative’s dog or the falcon; one single event in time and a whole life can get steered down a particular path that had not been in your conscious prior. I remember a man I used to work with in a warehouse who wanted to be a fashion designer. Seeing his mother create her own outfits started him down his path. From having her teach him how to sew, to going to fashion school to getting a job at a fabric wholesaler where I met him; everyday he would come to work wearing something he had sewn himself. With row upon row filled with bolts of fabric, he felt he was working in heaven. I asked him once if there was anything else, he had wanted to be when he was growing up and he said yes. But after seeing what his mother could do with a needle and thread, he was hooked (pun intended). I admired his determination, just as I admired the determination of the main character in this biographical, dramatic family film. GROWING UP IN A COAL MINING town meant there were only 2 choices high school students had waiting for them by the time they graduated; either earn an athletic scholarship to go to college or work in the coal mines. For Homer Hickam, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger, Donnie Darko), those choices were waiting for him until he looked up into the sky and saw something that no one had ever seen before. With Chris Cooper (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Adaptation) as John Hickam, Laura Dern (Marriage Story, Little Women) as Miss Riley, Chris Owen (The Mist, American Pie franchise) as Quentin and William Lee Scott (The Butterfly Effect, Pearl Harbor) as Roy Lee; this film festival winner based on a true story had an inspiring story that was wonderfully told through its script. Even at such an early age, Jake already was displaying his formidable acting skills. The whole cast was terrific and with the story set in the 1950s, there was an overall good homey feeling throughout this movie. Despite the predictability that was built into the story, I found this entertaining picture touching and inspirational. It also proved it only takes one event to change one’s life.
3 ½ stars
THE WORDS THAT NEVER GET SPOKEN to a loved one will remain inside of you always. They become part of your inner dialog, emerging periodically to your consciousness like buried treasure, whenever you think of that person who is no longer in your life. A friend of mine experienced such a thing when his brother one night took off, never to be heard from again. My friend told me there was a big fight between his brother and their parents; he never told me what the argument was about, nor did I ask. In the heat of the fight, the brother said at some point he did not want to be around his parents anymore. I remember my friend telling me he was shocked by that comment. A few days later the brother packed up his clothing and left in the middle of the night. My friend was devastated when he woke up the following morning. There was no note left behind; the brother did not send a message or word to his brother to let him know he was okay. I could see the pain across my friend’s face. I tried to comfort him, suggesting the brother might reach out to him once he arrived at his destination and settled down. He never called. BESIDES THIS FRIEND I ONLY KNEW a couple of other households that experienced a family loss. With each one, the family member I knew suffered a long grieving period due to not saying goodbye. Because I was at a young age, I could not grasp the scope of such pain. The only way I could relate to it took place several years later when I had experienced breakups from a couple of long-term relationships. Physical death was not a factor, but I still felt the pain of loss. In one relationship I was left without closure; they simply said they could “not do this anymore” and decided to leave. My loss was accentuated by the sudden stoppage of our blended routines. I never realized how prickly routines could be when you try doing them yourself. They are a constant reminder of how your life used to be. Now, I can see if you were the one to end the relationship then those past routines would be the fuel that pushes you to your new life; it makes sense to me. However, not getting the opportunity to have a say in the demise of a relationship can have a profound effect upon one’s psyche. The main character in this dramatic, science fiction mystery can show you. WITH EARTH EXPERIENCING UNEXPLAINED POWER SURGES, the little evidence that could be found led to a past space mission that ceased communications. The astronaut chosen to investigate the mystery was the son of the captain from the lost mission. With Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, By the Sea) as Roy McBride, Tommy Lee Jones (The Homesman, Shock and Awe) as H. Clifford McBride, Ruth Negga (Loving, World War Z) as Helen Lantos, Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games franchise, The Leisure Seeker) as Thomas Pruitt and Kimberly Elisa (Death Wish, The Manchurian Candidate) as Lorraine Deavers; watching this film felt like I was privy to a psychological study. The script and the directing kept a deliberate, methodical slow pace. Because I was involved with psychology in college, I found this movie interesting. However, I am not sure many other viewers would feel the same. Visually the picture was beautiful, and Brad’s performance was outstanding. Overall, I enjoyed learning the story in the movie but there were times I felt it dragged along. I may still be thinking about this film, but I feel complete in having told you what I thought about this outer space, adventure movie.
2 ¾ stars
DURING MY SPACE EXPLORATIONS I DISCOVERED planets far from earth that were inhabited by peaceful beings. The inhabitants of one planet did not walk; they were able to float above the ground effortlessly. Everyone was dressed in a similar fashion with a long, flowing robe-like outer coating that refracted light to form a non-stop palette of colors. I considered their heads to be egg shaped with large dark eyes and no hair. Because they were a peaceful race, there were a couple of other species from other planets that wanted to conquer them. Due to this threat the peaceful ones, as I called them, had to build up their defenses. I was in charge of the space ships that in actuality were different writing pens I collected; however, they were able to shoot out death rays from the tips. The pocket clip part of the pen is where the captain and their crew flew the ship, so I addressed my warnings to that part of the pen. I could spend hours flying my pens through the house as they took on evil forces, defending their home planet. Sometimes I had to fly through space dust or debris which was the mist from a can of air freshener. IT WAS NOT UNTIL MY HIGHER LEARNING days that I paid more attention to space. Oh and of course Star Trek and Star Wars pushed me into that direction. To this day I enjoy science fiction/fantasy movies and books. I feel a certain connection to them because they have always presented a different reality to the dark one I was experiencing at times. Within science fiction stories it seemed as if a planet was being threatened, all the inhabitants would come together to defeat the threat. There was something about having diverse beings coming together that I found attractive. At the time, I did not realize it was what I was wishing for in my reality. Feeling like an outsider or just different growing up, the idea of an all accepting society fascinated me. I think that is why when I was a kid fantasizing about space I always had planets filled with peaceful beings. Add in the story lines from Star Trek and I was sure there was a safe haven somewhere in space. It is funny that a few of my friends to this day can tell when I am spacing out and the reasons for it. None of my fantasies however had the type of intensity that I saw in this dramatic, biographical space film. IN A RACE WITH THE SOVIET Union to achieve glory in space, the United States embarked on a radical idea that had never been done before. It would take a certain type of person to be a part of what could become an event of historical proportions. This film festival nominated movie starred Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049, La La Land) as Neil Armstrong, Claire Foy (Breathe, Unsane) as Janet Armstrong, Jason Clarke (Everest, The Man with the Iron Heart) as Edward Higgins White, Kyle Chandler (Manchester by the Sea, Argo) as Deke Slayton and Pablo Schreiber (13 Hours, Den of Thieves) as Jim Lovell. The beauty of this film was the way the director allowed scenes to tell the story without dialog; some of the film shots were beautiful. Now add in the acting skills, especially form Ryan and Claire, and I for the most part was taken away by the story. There have been a variety of space films but for some reason I found the intensity of this one to be tangible. Everything felt authentic and real. Though my imagination made traveling to space an easy process, I got on board for this historical event, space story.
3 1/2 stars
I have to tell you I really toyed with the idea of buying the new toy I saw when it initially came out. The toy was a replica of an item used in a successful movie franchise and I thought it would be cool to have my very own, so I could grant wishes to friends and family who were visiting me. You will have to excuse my odd sense of humor; I did chuckle when I picked up the packaged toy from the store shelf, remembering several movie scenes where the item was in action. Generally I do not have any issue with a toy company coming out with toys based on a film; they call it marketing for a reason. The thing that bugs me though is seeing movie studios purposely putting in useless props into their movies just so they can sell the items to the masses to recoup some of their costs. What I mean exactly is making a cheap movie just so they can move product. So I am going to let my nerdness come out by telling you I have a few items that are associated with movies I thoroughly enjoyed, such as a miniature bendable cartoon cowboy and a set of glass mugs with several of the crew from a starship. I want you to know if the products were never promoted it would not distract from my fond feelings towards the movies they represented. Heck, I recently bought a couple of my relatives toys based on movies I have seen. Don’t tell anyone this, but I did it so I could play with the items when I go visit them. Maybe you are asking yourself about now what does this have to do with today’s movie review. Well let me tell you; I have never heard or seen a word, a toy or an advertisement for the main character in this science fiction, action film. Who or exactly what is Max Steel? NEVER knowing what caused his father’s death Max McGrath, played by Ben Winchell (Teen Spirit-TV movie, Mandie and the Forgotten Christmas), could not explain the unusual things that his body was experiencing. This adventure picture also starred Maria Bello (A History of Violence, Secret Window) as Molly McGrath, Andy Garcia (The Untouchables, The Air I Breathe) as Dr. Miles Edwards and Josh Brener (The Internship, Silicon Valley-TV) voicing Steel. I am not sure where I should begin with this review except to say this was one of the poorest produced movies I have seen all year. The first thing I found unusual was in the credits when one of the producing credits listed Mattel. I had to look up afterwards to find there is a toy line based on the Max Steel character. So my guess had to be Mattel wanted to sell their toys. Well if they did this was not the way to do it. I was so embarrassed watching Maria and especially Andy that I was cringing in my seat. The script was horribly dull and predictable. Add the poor directing and the acting was simply lame. For me this picture was one big infomercial. I wish I had bought that magic wand to erase the memory of this movie from my brain.
A mound of recently fallen autumn leaves became an ancient fragile pyramid that was ready to be explored by us. We had to be careful as we dug our way inside so the colored walls would not crumble and fall. The discarded stove in the alley turned into a rocket ship with 4 blazing thrusters and a retractable dock door that revealed a double landing deck made of steel. For a child the world was this huge amusement park, filled with infinite places to explore. I feel exploring is part of our human nature. Not necessarily in the same way, all of us do it in some kind of form. There are people who explore various stores to find the cheapest price on an item before buying it. When I take a trip to an unfamiliar place, I go into full explorer mode. After researching and mapping out my trip; once I arrive I usually go non-stop to cover as much territory as I can before I return home. Think about it; isn’t taking an art or dance class a way for us to explore our creative side? Throughout the ages there have been individuals who spent their entire life looking for something new and different; as I said, it is just in our nature. EXPLORING for a new planet to call home was imperative if mankind wanted to survive as a species since the Earth was dying. For Professor Brand’s, played by Michael Caine (Harry Brown, The Dark Knight franchise), plan to succeed he would have to depend on the skills of retired astronaut Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club, Mud), to pilot the spaceship. One of the passengers was the professor’s daughter; a scientist who Cooper referred to simply as Brand, played by Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables, The Devil Wears Prada). No one knew if the crew would be back in time before the planet expired. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight franchise, Inception), this science fiction adventure was a major piece of work. Without the use of green screens for the special effects, the actors were able to react in a more realistic way to the sets around them. Visually the movie was stunning with its broad spectrum of varied scenes, both on Earth and in space. Where I felt this movie stumbled was its story. Though the script per se was well done, even with the past and present story lines going simultaneously, the story had some muddled spots in it. With a running time of 2 hours and 49 minutes; I felt the film could have used a little more editing. The hardest part watching this movie was at the end; after sitting all the way through, I found myself confused to the point I felt I was left out in space.