IT LOOKED TO ME LIKE A GLASS lighthouse, shining bright in the darkness. The space it was in seemed cavernous to me; there was one complete wall that bowed out of the house to accommodate a baby grand piano. I could be sitting in the dining room yet be able to see the brightly lit curio cabinet in the living room. Whether people were visiting or not, the its light was always on. The cabinet was made of glass and wood that had been washed in a gold paint. The top of it came to a point like a domed roof, with a gold ball that sat right at the pinnacle. There were four glass shelves evenly spaced apart that had a curious mix of things that all fascinated me. However, on the bottom shelf there was a chess set that grabbed my attention the most. Sitting on the thick chessboard were these intricate sculpted ivory pieces my relative called netsukes. I had never seen anything like it. Half the pieces sat on black colored bases and the rest on light colored ones. I would stand at the curio cabinet, its light the only one on in the room, wanting to take the chess pieces out and play with them; but I knew my relative would not approve. The only time I could hold one of the pieces is when my relative took one out and placed it in my hands for only a short moment. Otherwise, they were off limits to everyone. THAT CHESS SET PLANTED A SEED in me because my infatuation with it caused me to learn how to play the game. I received a gift of a travel sized chess set that looked like a large wallet. When I would unzip the sides of the red vinyl rectangular wallet and fold the sides down, it would reveal a square red and white checkerboard. The chess pieces were magnetic dots with each of their tops embossed with the outline of either a white or black chess piece. Except for my relatives with the curio cabinet, I did not know anyone who played chess; so, I would play against myself. I would try different first moves, wanting to give each magnetic chess piece a turn. Luckily, I was finally able to convince a friend to let me teach him and we started playing a few times a month. It was good practice for me I thought; I just did not know practice for what? I was able to plan a few moves out but not anywhere near what the students in this dramatic movie were capable of doing. SOME FROM BROKEN HOMES AND OTHERS FROM different backgrounds, a group of inner-city students found one thing in common; they liked being treated equal in Mr. Martinez’, played by John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge, Spawn), high school classroom. With Rachel Bay Jones (Ben is Back, Grey’s Anatomy-TV) as Principal Kestel, Michael Kenneth Williams (12 Years a Slave, Assassin’s Creed) as Mr. Roundtree, Corwin C. Tuggles (Detachment, Orange is the New Black-TV) and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Bumblebee; Love, Simon) as Oelmy “Ito” Paniagua; this film that was based on a true story provided a feel good experience for me. I thought John was exceptional in his role; he reminded me of a teacher I had back in school. The story did not provide much surprise to it; it followed a typical story line that I have seen before. Set in Miami during the late 90s, I liked the throwback feel of the film. Despite having nothing that stood out as special for me, I thought the story was still moving. And if you decide to see this movie please stay for the credits to see the extra scenes.
2 ½ stars
AT WHAT POINT DOES YOUR TOLERANCE for disruptive behavior end? I can go for a while depending on the situation, but then I am done. Let me give you an example: there was a friend of mine who enjoyed going to the movies with me. I thought I did as well until she started talking during the film. Once or twice I am okay with, especially if they did not hear a line of dialog; but, asking questions and talking during the show is totally unacceptable in my world. She would ask me things like, “What do you think will happen?” or “I do not think that dress looks good on her.” Really?!?! This is a reason to open your mouth and talk during a movie? I thought not responding would stop the talking, but that was not the case. She kept up the chatter even after I pointblank asked her to stop it. Because she was a good friend, I had a dilemma on my hands. Do I stop going to the movies with her or find a different option? My solution was simple (at least I thought so); I told her she was more than welcome to join me, but she could not sit next to me because of the talking. She tried by sitting a few seats away from me, but after a couple of times she lost interest in going with me and I was okay with it. THOUGH I AM STILL FRIENDS WITH that person there is someone else whose friendship I chose to end. We knew each other for several years. Since I was the only one with a car, a lot of our time together was down in their area. In those years they only ventured up towards me a few times, using public transportation or a car share. Everything was fine between us, always having a good time together. Then one time I asked if they wanted to see a theatrical production at a theater that was located near me; they agreed to see it. I checked on ticket availability and called them back later in the week. We decided on seats and I said I would go pick them up. They asked again the name of the theater and when I told them they asked if it was located up by me. Saying yes, they said they were not going to go “all the way” up there just to see a play. I realized right then this was a friendship of convenience on their part; it was okay for me to go down to them, but to come up to me was too hard? Since this was not the 1st time, I made the hard decision. Granted, not as hard as the decisions made in this dramatic movie. HOLLY BURNS, PLAYED BY JULIA ROBERTS (Wonder, Secret in Their Eyes), had everything set to celebrate the holidays. But then her son Ben, played by Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased, Manchester by the Sea), unexpectedly showed up from rehab. This film festival winner also starred Courtney B. Vance (Space Cowboys, Office Christmas Party) as Neal, Kathryn Newton (Blockers; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) as Ivy and Rachel Bay Jones (God Friended Me-TV) as Beth Conyers. This film stayed alive because of the wonderful acting done by Julia and Lucas. Their chemistry together blazed across the screen. There seems to have been a few recent films that have dealt with addiction, which put this story at a disadvantage. There was not something to set this script much apart from the others that were done, except for allowing the actors to wring out as much feelings and emotions as they could, and they did. Nonetheless, this picture kept me engaged with its tough choices.