THE LAST TWELVE MONTHS HAVE BEEN something I thought I would never experience, as I am sure most of you have thought. When my state passed stay at home orders, I thought the only time I would be told to stay indoors was during a tornado or the threat of nuclear fallout. The only crisis I have lived through of this magnitude was during the AIDS epidemic. Though the transmission method was different, there still was a fear early on of getting to close to people. Back then the fear was unfounded; now it is real and could be the difference between life and death. I have known healthy individuals who caught this virus and succumbed to it. The suffering of being alone in a hospital bed as one’s lungs are slowly being squeezed of their last breath is a brutal experience. What makes this virus extra scary for me is how random it is in who will experience its affects. Some people don’t even know they are infected while others can get severe headaches, high fevers or death. I remember during my time at home, looking out the window and seeing the streets void of any human life. Pigeons scanning the sidewalks for a morsel of food, squirrels crisscrossing streets with less hesitancy and noticeable to me, less debris. WITH THE LOCKDOWN IN PLACE, THAT also meant I could not go to the health club to work out, to restaurants, to theaters and so on. Suddenly Saturdays took on extra meaning because that was the day, I would order carryout, to help the nearby local restaurants. Food took on a different importance; instead of eating for sustenance, I was eating for comfort. There was a manmade lake close to my house that I had never seen. I drove to it so I could get my steps in by walking the circumference of it. Seeing the ducks take off and land on the water was something I had never seen except on television. When the weather got too cold outside, I started walking/jogging in an underground parking garage. Little did I know that the space would become by sanctuary of peaceful calm. Staying in touch with friends/relatives took on a new meaning. In the past, there usually was an activity attached to getting together; but now, just being able to open a window and talk to a friend who was outside on the front lawn was a joy. Sitting outside to watch the sun set felt more monumental than during pre-COVID. Hearing silence except for the birds in the trees was a new experience. Little did I think that living a temporary restricted lifestyle would allow me to appreciate the little things that can go unnoticed on a typical day. This Oscar nominated and film festival winner can explain things better than me. JUST WHEN A SCHOOL BAND TEACHER feels things are looking up, he finds himself in an unfamiliar place where passion comes into question. With Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy, Robin Hood) voicing Joe, Tina Fey (Date Night, Sisters) voicing 22, Graham Norton (Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, Another Gay Movie) voicing Moonwind, Rachel House (Thor: Ragnarok, Baby Done) voicing Terry and Phylicia Rashad (Creed franchise, This is Us-TV) voicing Libba; this animated, adventure comedy had a lot going on with it. As to be expected from a Pixar movie, the animation was inventive and fun. There were some scenes that were rich with details, but others I found to be somewhat average. The script was different to me; I found it to be esoteric in nature. Young viewers may not understand the meaning of some scenes and might ask for an explanation. From an entertainment standpoint, I did not feel the sense of joy I normally do with a Pixar film. I did however appreciate the message; I only wished there had been more musical interludes.
The television was on for background noise. I am not interested in hearing any of the creaks and moans an old house expresses periodically. My ear caught an announcer on TV saying something about a man with an amputated leg who had climbed Mt. Everest. I looked up to see this guy bundled up in a thick jacket, standing with his one prosthetic leg gleaming in the bright sunlight. It would be an impressive achievement for anyone, let alone someone with only one leg. I sat pondering the possible advantages or disadvantages a prosthetic leg could offer someone. One thing that came to mind is a person would not have to worry about the leg getting frostbite, but I was not sure if there were any other advantages. It is funny, earlier in the evening I had watched a competition show where people were running through an obstacle course. One of the contestants was an amputee and though they did not complete the course, they gave it their best shot. My interest was piqued enough to make me watch the other contestants run the course and I have to say I was fascinated with the variety of people who signed up for this contest. From such different backgrounds I would not have initially imagined this course would be something people wanted to try and complete. It was like a Superman scenario: accountant by day and superhero by night. It brought to mind how most of us wear “different hats” throughout the day. A person can be a daughter, a sister, a librarian, a mother, a steelworker; all these different components make up who we are as individuals. For myself I am a brother, an uncle, a credit manager, a yoga instructor, a cycle instructor and each aspect comes with different criteria; I enjoy the mash-up of it, with its similarities and differences. Imagine if I did not know the different personas in me; my demeanor as a yoga instructor would not necessarily work in my job as a credit manager. What do you think would happen if a person did not even know they had different roles inside of them? FRANKIE, played by Halle Berry (X-Men franchise, The Call), had no idea how the unfamiliar clothing wound up in her closet. Based on a true story this film festival winning drama gave Halle a good character to portray. She did the best she could with the role and I appreciated how she made it easy to follow her story. With Stellan Skarsgard (The Avengers franchise, Thor franchise) as Oz and Phylicia Rashad (Creed, Good Deeds) as Edna, I thought the acting was fine. The subject was something that has been covered in other films, so I was not totally surprised by this story. I felt the script was too generic, being quite predictable; yet because of what was happening to Frankie, I stayed engaged with this biographical story. I do not know how much interest this film would generate with viewers; but I have to say, I did not feel like I wasted part of my day by sitting down and watching it.
2 1/4 stars – DVD
I gained new friends after I finished reading the book. Once the novel was back safely on its shelf the characters remained alive for me; I found myself thinking about them from time to time. As days turned into weeks I found myself wondering what a certain character would be doing now if the story had not ended. Do you ever find yourself doing the same thing? From a book or movie, maybe even someone you used to know? I have known several people who spend time online looking up individuals they used to have contact with in the past. Some may have been business contact, friends or romantic ones; they just wanted to know what happened to them. The same curiousity can be applied to the cast in a movie. There have been times where I enjoyed a film so much I wanted to experience the same characters in another story, hence the reason for sequels. Like any movie there have been excellent and poor sequels made by the film studios. I do not know if you feel the same way; but when I watch a sequel of a movie I praised highly, if the sequel is not good I feel cheated. It makes me not receptive to anything else the studio tries; I just want to preserve the good feelings I still have with the original one. In regards to this movie today, I thought Rocky was an excellent picture. Once the franchise was over I never gave it any thought; in fact, I did not know I even wanted to know something more until I saw this total surprise of a film. GROWING up without knowing his famous father Adonis Johnson, played by Micael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station, Fantastic Four), never wanted anyone to know he was the boxing champion’s son; instead, he wanted to make a name for himself. With his athletic abilities Adonis felt the only person who could help him hone his skills was the former boxing champion Rocky Balboa, played by Sylvester Stallone (The Expendables franchise, Escape Plan). This dramatic sport film was simply a stunner for me. I never imagined a story would be created that moved the Rocky franchise from years ago to current times. The writers did an incredible job of tying the past to the present and I was amazed at how good Sylvester was playing a much older Rocky. With Phylicia Rashad (Good Deeds, Just Wright) as Mary Anne Creed and Tessa Thompson (Selma, Dear White People) as Bianca, everyone in the cast did their part to create an honest and real film that totally kept my interest. Even with the tough bloody scenes, I remained focused into this beautifully told story. Some of you may be surprised with this review and I want to tell you no one is more surprised than me. I want to know what will happen next to Adonis Johnson. Several scenes had blood and violence in them.
3 1/3 stars
In one of my creative writing classes in college, we had to read “For Colored Girls Who Had Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” by Ntozake Shange, which this movie was based on. The professor led us in a discussion about minorities and discrimination. The purpose was to teach us to make our story characters believable by tapping into our emotions of feeling different or discriminated. We went around the room taking turns talking about a time when we felt discriminated against or like an outsider. It was a powerful lesson for each of us that day. Director and writer Tyler Perry (Madea franchise, The Family That Preys) assembled a stellar cast for this dramatic film. Kerry Washington (Ray, Django Unchained) as Kelly/Blue, Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls, Company) as Yasmine/Yellow, Whoopi Goldberg (Clara’s Heart, Ghost) as Alice/White and Loretta Devine (I Am Sam, Death at a Funeral) as Juanita/Green were some of the standouts in the cast. I understood what Tyler was trying to create with this movie. With multiple stories that intersected, they each conveyed aspects on issues females face everyday in the world. I venture to say several of the issues would be universal to almost anyone. The problem I had with the movie was Tyler’s over dramatic flair written into the screenplay. No disrespect to soap operas, but this film played more like a series of episodes than a complete story line. In what was supposed to have been a powerful character in business executive Jo/Red, instead turned out flat due to the casting of Janet Jackson (Poetic Justice, Good Times-TV) in the role. She was not able to convey the complex emotions of the character. With her small role as Gilda, Phylicia Rashad (Just Wright, The Cosby Show-TV) was able to convey more feelings than Janet. There were several scenes that worked well enough to keep me interested despite the melodrama. Reading the book was just more powerful of an experience for me than watching this film.
2 stars — DVD
A good deed would have been the theater giving out free popcorn and drinks, so the audience would have had something to do during this movie. Lifeless performances, particularly from Tyler Perry (Madea’s Family Reunion, Diary of a Mad Black Woman) as Wesley Deeds, were boring. I felt as writer, director and actor, Tyler had too much on his plate, nothing was given his full attention. The only bright spot was Phylicia Rashad (Just Wright, A Raisin in the Sun) who played his mother, Wilimena. The story was bland and unoriginal: Wesley was the favorite son and his brother was the black sheep. We have all seen this before and there was not one new idea added to this scenario. With a life that seemed to be preordained, successful Wesley appeared to have the perfect life, with everything in its place and each day no different then the day before. Not until he met cleaning woman Lindsey Wakefield, played by Thandie Newton (The Pursuit of Happyness, RocknRolla), did his life veer off this chosen path. Thandie tried her best with what she was handed, but she could not clean up the poor script. I understood what Mr. Perry was trying to do and thought the concept for the story was good. Sadly, within 20 minutes, I realized this movie should have been thrown out with the dirty soap suds.
1 2/3 stars