MOST PEOPLE THINK I WATCH AWARD shows to see the stars; and though that is part of the reason, I also enjoy seeing the behind-the-scenes award winners. The main reason is because these individuals tend to talk more about reaching their dreams. When a movie/television star or musical artist walks up to accept their award on those telecasts, they more so now talk about a cause or belief of theirs during their acceptance speech. I am not saying these are not valid causes; however, I must wonder what the motivation is behind them sharing these views at that moment. Is it because it would be good PR for the celebrity? It is one thing to stand up there and talk about a cause; it is another thing to do something for the cause, either monetarily or physically. In other words, “put your money where your mouth is” is my feeling about the situation. So, that is why I prefer listening to the writers, directors, costume designers and others. Chances are their speeches will include their childhood dream that led them to their current position. A writer may talk about their childhood, where they drafted stories or comics to share with their classmates and friends. Or the costume designer might share their childhood dream of dressing up as a high fashion designer, creating outfits that would be seen one day on the runway. I love hearing about people’s dreams. DREAMS ARE AN IMPORTANT PART OF our life, I believe. They provide us an avenue of growth; we simply need to pay attention to them. Despite having flunked physical education class twice and being told I was not athletic, I continued to believe I could teach fitness. During those first initial classes I taught, I was so nervous that I thought for sure members would yell me out of the fitness studio. I was listening to those past negative voices in my head who said I could never do it; instead of believing in my training and abilities. It was my dream to create an inviting and accepting environment for anyone who walked in to take my class and I did it. It was the type of class I wished I had available to me when I was younger. It was my dream that pushed me to what I believed was a healthier lifestyle. I honestly could not imagine a life without having a desire, a dream for something more. Dreams are great motivators; it is what makes the main character in this comedic sports drama to keep pushing on. NEEDING A BREAK TO REACH HIS dream, a basketball scout thinks he might have found it with a street player in Spain. The problem would be convincing his bosses. With Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems, That’s My Boy) as Stanley Sugarman, Queen Latifah (Girls Trip, The Trap) as Teresa Sugarman, professional basketball player Juancho Hernangomez as Bo Cruz, Ben Foster (The Survivor, Leave No Trace) as Vince Merrick and Kenny Smith (Just Wright, Young Rock-TV) as Leon; this movie is proof Adam Sandler is a gifted actor when he takes on a serious role. I thought he was excellent with his character. Now keep in mind, I am not big into team sports; however, I thought this story was executed beautifully, in such a way that would resonate with both sporting and non-sporting viewers. The story itself is nothing new per se; however, there were enough subtle changes and nuances that made this film seem fresh and new. I found myself fully engaged throughout the picture; it was also quite entertaining, in my opinion. The message in the story came out like a blooming flower, slow anticipation into a rich colorful hue. By the end of this movie, I was solidly ensconced into my dream filled memories.
3 ½ stars
AS I WAS GETTING OUT OF my car, they appeared like three knights from a chess set. They floated out of the morning fog, three horse heads without bodies. I watched them as the fog around them swirled out of the way to reveal their bodies; two chestnut colored horses and one black one. There was a shine to their bodies as if morning dew had attached itself to them and spread out like a fine, high gloss polish. They were these beautiful, regal creatures who slowly walked towards me with ears pointed in my direction, trying to pick up a sound that could alert them to danger. I purposely drove just to see these animals after I received the invitation from a former boss’ former wife; I know, it sounded weird to me as I wrote it, but it is true. She had grown up with horses and had invited me to stop by and see her horses whenever I was in the neighborhood. Since I was going to be driving close to her town, I arranged to stop by her place; luckily, she was an early riser. The three horses remained in place while I slowly made my way to the fencing. Once there, I spoke softly to the three just so they could get used to my voice. The former wife appeared from behind the house and started walking towards me. WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE, I had to take care of a horse for a semester as part of the class curriculum. Her name was Daiquiri and she was a strong-minded horse. My first time up in the saddle, she decided she wanted to check out the upper rows of the arena we were working in. The trainer ran over to us as Daiquiri was clopping her way up the stairs. Before I could say anything, the trainer had gotten ahead of us, so she could block Daiquiri from going any further. She grabbed a hold of the reins and told me to dismount. After, she led the horse to the top walkway so she could get her to the next set of stairs and make her way back down. Despite that incident, I grew to love and respect Daiquiri. My former boss’ former wife knew about my experience with a horse, so I think that is why I was the only one to get an invitation to her horses. Though I declined riding them, I enjoyed just being and watching them. There is something calming about horses; I cannot explain it, but this film festival winner might be able to show you what I mean. AFTER COLE, PLAYED BY CALEB McLAUGHLIN (High Flying Bird, Stranger Things-TV), got in trouble at school again, his mother decided to ship him off to stay with his estranged father. If Cole already did not want to stay with him, he certainly did not want to when he found out a horse lives with his Dad. With Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation, Star Trek Beyond) as Harp, Lorraine Toussaint (Fast Color, Selma) as Nessie, Jharrel Jerome (Moonlight, Mr. Mercedes-TV) as Smush and newcomer Ivannah Mercedes as Esha; this drama was inspired by true events. I have never heard of the black cowboys of Philadelphia, but their inclusion in the cast made this gentle touching story more poignant for me. The acting was authentic, led by Idris’ performance. A story concerning a son and estranged father is something most of us have seen before; however, under this setting with the horses it brought a new fresh take that I thoroughly enjoyed. Even if you have no experience or interest in horses, this movie is worth the time in seeing it. As gentle as a horse and just as powerful.
Whenever I see the city of my birth up on the big screen I immediately get a sense of pride. Even if the story shows an ugly side to the city, I enjoy seeing familiar surroundings. Let us face it, every city has positives and negatives; I choose to stay upbeat about my city and its possibilities. I have lived my whole life in the same city and have seen historic events throughout the years. When friends or family come into town you can always count on getting at least a mini tour of some area of the city or a visit to a local restaurant. I think having pride about the place you live in sends out a positive message. Not to come across as being too judgmental but I think if people took more pride in their surroundings and city it would become infectious to others. Having a good feeling can only create a better life, don’t you think? You have nowhere further to look than to your city’s local sports team to see the exuberant pride gushing out of the fans. If you have never been to an event where everyone around you was acting out in unison to a common pride, let me tell you it can be a heady experience. Please keep in mind I am not even talking about the people who over indulge in their celebrations. There was an exhibit that came to one of my city’s museums that was only going to be shown here, nowhere else in the country. You should have seen how all the people attending this exhibit were so excited and full of pride that the city snagged such an exclusive event. I even got so wrapped up in the enthusiasm I wound up buying a couple of T-shirts from the gift shop that was set up at the exit of the exhibit. It really is a good feeling to share your pride in something which is why I could relate to the fans sitting in the audience of this record breaking event. HOMETOWN native Kevin Hart (Central Intelligence, The Wedding Ringer) wanted to have a concert in the city he grew up in, Philadelphia. His love of the city helped break a record. This comedy movie for the most part was filmed at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. The opening and closing scenes were created as a big joke on how Kevin would pay for this comedy concert. It also gave him the opportunity to interact with Halle Berry (X-Men franchise, The Call), Don Cheadle (Iron Man franchise, Hotel Rwanda) and Ed Helms (The Hangover franchise, Vacation). Let me first tell you I am not a fan of Kevin’s films because I feel he does the same character over and over. As for his style of humor, there are a few amusing bits he performs; but generally I am not a fan of using foul or vulgar language to get a laugh. If you enjoy Kevin’s work then you will have a fun time watching this concert. For me this picture was just okay; however, I enjoyed seeing a stadium full of people all sharing in a good time.
The more excuses I have heard people use to be or not to be in love, the more I wonder if love’s definition is changing. Some of the excuses I have heard (I kid you not) have been things like: they make me laugh, they walk too fast, they drink too much, they have nice furniture, they are considerate or they have a job. I know; when I heard some of these all I could do was just stand there and stare at them, wondering if they were serious. For me love is love; there are no qualifiers or conditions. I get amused when someone tells me they wished she was shorter or wished he was not so hairy, like these are really deal breakers? I just do not get it. With some cultures it is frowned upon to love someone outside of one’s race or religion. I respect their thinking though I do not have to accept it. If two people can find each other and fall in love; in my book, they have won one of the grand prizes in life. Besides the love two people share, love can be used as a protection. The love of animals can make a person choose to become a vegan or the love of architecture can motivate someone to become an activist to preserve important buildings. Love is one of the most powerful forces in the world; that is why it can make some people heroes and others crazy. AFTER their father had died June, played by Cory Hardrict (American Sniper, Gran Torino), had to take care of Sergio and Jackie, played by Eric D. Hill Jr. (Hurricane Season, Orange is the New Black-TV) and Keke Palmer (Akeelah and the Bee, Joyful Noise), his younger brother and sister. He would have to do whatever it took to keep them on track in their tough neighborhood. Though this dramatic film was set in Philadelphia, the story had one strong element straight out from the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. Except for the location it essentially was the same story which made the scenes quite predictable. The other story line was one that has been played before and was done better than this one. The film was pretty bland for me; nothing horrendously glaring nor very interesting. I thought Keke and Cory were the strongest actors out of the cast, though I liked seeing Macy Gray (For Colored Girls, The Paperboy) as Mrs. Taylor. The idea for this story was based on solid ground; however, I did not find anything special about it. This may be a forgettable film but it will not stop me from loving movies.
1 3/4 stars
I am the least likely person to review a football movie. Having been an overweight, unconfident boy; there was never a time I felt safe to play the game. In high school an aunt of mine insisted I try out for football because of my size. She must have been confusing my body mass with muscle mass. If I had not already felt like I did not belong on any of the high school sports teams, my gym class confirmed it for me. When a student was exceptionally brutal to another student in any competitive way, our gym teacher would only smile with a soft chuckle. This P.E. teacher took my fearfulness, absenteeism and various doctor notes to be excused from class as a sign of weakness. I always felt he chose to ignore the truth, that I was being abused and bullied in the class and locker room. That experience back then was what spurred me on to become a group fitness instructor. It took heart and determination for me to overcome all of my insecurities. Watching the same drive in 30 year old Philadelphian Vince Papale, played by Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter, Boogie Nights), kept bringing me to tears. This movie inspired from a true story was less about football and more about the heart and soul of a man. After his wife left him and he was cut from his substitute teaching job, Vince had no reason not to try out for his beloved Philadelphia Eagles football team when new coach Dick Vermeil, played by Greg Kinnear (Flash of Genius, Little Miss Sunshine), decided to have open tryouts. Despite being harassed, Vince would not give up, pushing himself beyond anything he had ever done before. One need not know anything about football to be inspired by this satisfying story. This was the type of role that Mark Wahlberg is best suited for, a working class easterner. Both he and Greg Kinnear were well matched in this drama. Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games, People Like Us) also fit well in her role as Janet Cantrell, a new bartender at the same bar Vince worked at a couple of nights a week. I love a story that allows the viewer to root for the underdog and after watching this great film I surprised myself by wishing I could have been a fan in the football stadium.
3 stars — DVD