WE WERE WALKING AROUND THE TOWN looking for buildings that were still standing from the turn of the century. On a road trip with a friend, he asked if we could make a stop at this small town where a relative of his had lived. He had never met the relative but wanted to find his grave. The town came as a total surprise to me because it had this mixture of old and new buildings that complimented each other, giving off an old-world vibe. As we walked down the main street, we found buildings that had been built and standing at the time my friend’s deceased relative had migrated to the area. My friend took photos of the buildings we had found; he wanted to form some type of bond to this man he never knew, but who yet was connected to him. All my friend had was an old photograph of his great uncle when he was a teenager. Whenever he looked at the photo of the man, he would see a strong resemblance to his Dad, who coincidentally happened to be named after this departed relative. As we walked around, I thought how lucky my friend was to be able to visit his relative’s town and travel the same streets his great uncle might have used when he was alive. HOW I WOULD HAVE LOVED TO BE able to visit the town of an ancestor. Since I was a little boy, I was always fascinated with looking at old, family photographs; both mine and other families. There is something about me having a similar genetic makeup to a long line of individuals that comforts me. Maybe because I really was never part of any type of group growing up that now I find myself comforted knowing I have an immediate connection to a group of people. I am always amazed when I run into someone who is a distant relative that shares similar features to myself or to an immediate family member of mine. Only recently I was at a restaurant where I bumped into a group of distant relatives. One of the relatives looked strikingly similar to one of my immediate family members that it startled me for a moment, especially because this person was a cousin twice removed from me. As we briefly talked about our family connection, I could not help thinking how important it is to me to look back at those who came before me to find out where I was going now. The main character in this animated, adventure comedy would know what I am talking about. A DISTANT VOICE THAT ONLY ELSA, voiced by Idina Menzel (Rent, The Tollbooth), could hear was calling out to her. Something about it sounded familiar enough to make Elsa leave her kingdom and put herself in terrible peril. With Kristen Bell (Bad Moms franchise, The Boss) voicing Anna, Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Marshall) voicing Olaf, Jonathan Groff (Glee-TV, Looking-TV) voicing Kristoff and Sterling K. Brown (Hotel Artemis, This is Us-TV) voicing Mattias; this sequel was a visual masterpiece. The amount of detail and creativity put into every scene was breathtaking at times. As for the script it was good but not as good as the original movie. Since there was no main villain, I felt the drama waned at times. It seemed as if the studio’s marketing department was working overtime; for example, the script had a new cute character that would be perfect in toy version and there were places where songs were sung (though I could not remember one song when I left the theater) in the hopes that one of them would be a chart topper. All of this does not mean much since the theaters were packed with small children and their parents dressed up as one of the characters. There was such a high bar to reach due to the success of the first movie that it would have taken super powers to try and top it. I give the studio credit for its valiant effort. There was an extra scene at the end of the movie credits.
SOME FAMILIES LIVED IN APARTMENT BUILDINGS like mine did, while others lived in houses; but it did not mean anything to any of us. Everyone was treated the same. I never thought a family had to be rich to live in a house; though, I remember some of my friends thought this one kid was snobby because his family owned a local food company. I remember seeing one of their products at the grocery store and thinking how weird it must have been for that kid to see his last name on all the containers stacked across one of the grocery store’s shelves. Outside of that, I do not recall anyone using their family wealth to make people think they were better than anyone else. It was in school where I learned about socio-economic classes; that people were categorized as being upper, middle or lower class. The concept was odd to me because I could not understand why the amount of money a person had was important. I never considered someone being better because they were wealthier. They could have a lot of money but still be a horrible person; there would be no way I would ever think they were better than someone who barely could cover their rent, as an example. IT WAS NOT UNTIL AFTER MY school years where I saw how people treat other people, they deem poorer. I was at a wedding where I saw the bride’s mother treating the staff poorly. She was talking down to them as she grilled them on what they “needed” to do for her. Up until that point I had not seen this side of the mother who had always appeared pleasant and giving. Now, I was seeing this aggressive woman telling the staff if they wanted to get paid, they needed to make such and such happened immediately; it was an ugly scene. Another time I was teaching at a health club where the cliental came from all types of backgrounds. There were working class folks, retirees, business owners; you get the picture. I am not one to stereotype a person; but out of these different backgrounds, I could tell which person considered themselves to be above other people. They always dressed up for exercise class, wearing the latest fashion trends in clothing, tons of jewelry along with wearing make-up and perfume. You would think they were going out for the night to a social event. I found the whole concept perplexing. However, in this comedic drama I understood it better because the times were different back then… or were they really? EXCITEMENT FLOODED THROUGH DOWNTON ABBEY WHEN a letter was received, announcing the King and Queen would be coming for a visit. The family and staff would discover things they never knew before. With Michelle Dockery (Anna Karenina, Non-Stop) as Lady Mary Talbot, Matthew Goode (Stoker, Official Secrets) as Henry Talbot, Tuppence Middleton (The Imitation Game, Sense8-TV) as Lucy Smith, Maggie Smith (The Lady in the Van, Quartet) as Violet Crawley and Elizabeth McGovern (Once Upon a Time in America, The Chaperone) as Cora Crawley; I first have to tell you I have not seen the television show that this film was based on. The movie was beautifully filmed and scored, with wonderful set designs and costumes. This made for a perfect period piece film. Now the fact I am not familiar with the characters, I felt I was at a disadvantage; I did not know the history of each character, so did not feel as connected as most of the audience did in the theater. Story wise the plot was easy and fun to follow. For me, it seemed as if there were such a variety of story lines that nothing felt fully developed to the point where I could make a connection. There definitely was a soap opera quality to this picture, where I could see why it made for a popular television series. I am glad I saw this movie but did feel I was more of a bystander than a guest at the party.
2 ¾ stars 3 ½ stars – fans of the TV series
THE DAY OF THE OSCARS TELECAST is supposed to be a day with no stress, conflicts or upsetting news. It is a day of comfort, excitement, being with friends and family or not; a time to sit back and reflect on the past year’s movies. So, when I woke up to an alert on my phone that read “due to inclement weather…” I could rebook my flight home for a different time at no charge my stress level became elevated. Due to scheduling I already was cutting the times close to get home and settled before the awards show. Now with wintery weather, I could get caught in “flight delayed” hell. I did not want to rebook my flight; so, I decided to take my chances with getting on that 1st flight out of town. Even if it meant I had to get up awfully early with only enough time to shove all my clothes tightly into my suitcase, I would get home in time to see the show. Gratefully, the Hollywood powers that be and the alignment of the celebrities’ stars took pity on me and let my flight take off on time to get back home. WALKING INTO MY HOUSE 10 MINUTES before the awards show started was not planned. I had to leave my suitcase and bags in the hallway, race into the kitchen to only eat whatever I could grab right out of the refrigerator (like a bear scavenging thru an empty house) and sit down in front of the television to see the momentous occasion of the show going without a host. And you know what? I did not miss having a host at all. The hosting job, in my opinion, can only be handled by a certain type of individual. They would need to be quick thinking, funny and be able to have a strong command of the audience. I can only bring a few to mind who could fit that bill. Starting out the show with Queen and Adam Lambert performing was a smart move by the academy. After their missteps of having and not having a most popular film category to moving some awards to commercial time, they needed an attention-grabbing start to the show and they got that with Queen. Following it up with Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler coming out for the first presenter spot was a brilliant move. The academy needed to warm up the audience and get them into the mood and these 3 women knew exactly what it took to make that happen. I felt the rest of the presenters were all safe choices with only a couple of surprises, Melissa McCarthy dressed up in costume and Barbra Streisand. It was great to see Julia Roberts; however, based on her reaction it looked like they sprung the news on her to end the show. It appeared and felt awkward. Instead, they should have had a “surprise guest” come out and say goodbye. BASED ON MY PREVIOUS POST THAT listed my choices, I was overall okay with the chosen winners. A couple of surprises based on the audience’s reaction, but for the nominations that were given, the academy got most of the choices right. Now for what I felt was the highlight of the show and that was the performance from Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. If ever you wanted to see a master class of acting, then this was the couple to see. Going from nominated actors in the audience to walking up on stage and immediately into “character” for their performance of the song, “Shallow,” was an amazing feat. I understand Bradley was extremely nervous to sing on stage, but I could not see it. They were perfection in their singing and chemistry; nothing more need be said about it. The last thing I wish to mention was the shorter duration of the telecast. It was enough time and I appreciated it immensely. So, with that being said I want to thank all of you for another good year of movie watching and reviews. May your journeys take you to uncharted territories of wonder, surprise, thrills and love as we look for those films that can take us away from our reality and place us into the middle of the movie’s story. Thank you for following and sharing your comments with me; it is deeply appreciated.
THERE ARE PEOPLE WE ENCOUNTER WHOSE footsteps leave an impression on our life’s path. These individuals strike us in various ways; by their energy, intellect, passion, athleticism and heart for example. The memory they leave after they are gone can be stored inside of us for years without ever being detected. Then suddenly that person reappears, possibly in a different capacity, and that memory pops into our consciousness. Our brain gets flooded with the images retained during the years; we completely understand now why they left an impression on us. This is something I have experienced through my life. I mentioned in an earlier review about a classmate of mine who wrote stories about his time in the war. Several years had passed after being in that class and there he was on the cover of a magazine for winning a prestigious literary award. There was a television interview of him and he pretty much looked the same with his large, piercing blue eyes with eyelids that looked heavy to blink. After that interview he showed up in multiple newspaper and magazine articles. I remember smiling to myself as I remembered our time in class, listening to his war stories and the toll they took on him. THERE IS ANOTHER PERSON I SAW who immediately made a big impression on me and his name was Freddie Mercury. I cannot remember the details on how I got to the concert where this relatively new group called Queen was playing. It was after their 1st or 2nd album I think. What I still remember besides the band members was how my ears were ringing due to the loudness of the sound. Right from the opening song, Freddie had everyone’s attention. All he had to do was say either “stand up” or “clap like this…” once and the entire crowd would do as they were told. He had a magnetism that nearly forced you to keep your eyes riveted onto him. His body movements were dramatic and theatrical. Then there was his voice; he could always be heard no matter how loud the band played. John Deacon barely moved from his spot while Brian May’s guitar playing was featured from time to time throughout the performance. I remember the sounds he would make with his guitar were notes I could not recall hearing before. I knew right then that they were a unique band and Freddie was someone I had never seen before or would see again. You can imagine how curious I was to see this biographical, dramatic movie. CREATING A SOUND LIKE NONE OTHER before them, the four guys who made up the band Queen would leave a lasting impression on the musical scene; both for their skills and personal lives. With Rami Malek (Short Term 12, Mr. Robot-TV) as Freddie Mercury, Gwilym Lee (The Tourist, Midsomer Murders-TV) as Brian May, Ben Hardy (Only the Brave, X-Men: Apocalypse) as Roger Taylor and Joseph Mazzello (The Social Network, The Cure) as John Deacon; this musical film focused mostly on the life story of Freddie. If you never had the chance to see Queen perform then you will enjoy this picture more than those of you who were fortunate enough to see them. I thought the script was too sanitized; offering only a taste of what the band members, I believe, went through in their time together. Rami did a decent job, but the fake teeth looked odd on him. The lip synching was okay, but I just felt the script and direction needed more punch because I found myself getting slightly bored. Again, I must state those who never saw Queen perform might enjoy this movie more, though we were only given a brief taste of their songs.
2 1/2 stars