THE WOMAN IN THE PHOTOGRAPH WAS old looking, but I did not know she was ancient. I was working on creating a wall of family photos and the photograph of her was sent to me. When I first got it, I had no idea who she was or the younger woman who was standing next to her in the photo. When I found out, I was absolutely blown away; she was my great, great, great grandmother. The woman standing next to her was my great, great aunt. I kept staring at the photograph because I could not believe I was looking at someone who was connected to me from such a long time ago. And when I say a long time ago, when doing the math, I mean she was alive when Napoleon invaded Russia, hence the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky. This small and frail looking woman was seated in a chair or stool with her arms folded in her lap. Her clothing looked like it could swallow her up; the skirt hung down to the floor and her jacket or sweater was dark and long as well. She had a scarf tied around her head as if she were about to go outside, though the sepia colored photo showed her to be inside. I could only imagine what kind of life she must have lived, but because of her I was here. DESPITE NOT KNOWING SOME OF THE relatives in the photographs I have in my possession, I feel a connection to all the people. It is a weird feeling that I do not know if I can explain but looking at all the relatives in the photos had the effect of centering or grounding me. I felt like I had tapped into my roots; I was not some transient who floats from one thing to the next without having a “home base” to return to. Maybe another way I can explain it is by saying my life story, though it is unique to me, shared common ground with the stories from all of these relatives, whether they are deceased of alive. This reminds me of another photograph I got that has 5 relatives in it. I found out that this particular photograph used to be quite famous in the family because it was the first and maybe only one that depicts 5 generations of the family in one photograph. Each one of them has played a part in laying the groundwork for me and my generation of relatives; I just find that so amazing. I know I am lucky that I can have a history with individuals who share the same bloodline as me. It is one of the reasons why I understood what the main character was going through in this animated fantasy film. GROWING UP IN AN ORPHANAGE AND seeing her friends being adopted, only made Earwig, voiced by relative newcomer Taylor Henderson, wish for a family of her own. There was a chance her wish could be fulfilled when an odd couple came calling on the orphanage one day. With JB Blanc (Breaking Bad-TV, Bleach-TV) voicing Mr. Jenkins, Thomas Bromhead (I Got a Rocket-TV, Forest of Piano-TV) voicing the cook, Richard E. Grant (Hudson Hawk, Gosford Park) voicing the Mandrake and Vanessa Marshall (The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy-TV, Young Justice-TV) voicing Bella Yaga; this film festival winner was Studio Ghibli’s first foray into using CGI in their animation. In some instances, it worked but other times I was underwhelmed by the animation. I could say the same thing for the script. For an animated film, I found this one to be dull and uninspired. The way the story ended was awful and there was nothing fun or enchanting about the story. I do not know if even small children would care for this picture. If I were Earwig, I think I would have spent more time wishing for a way to get out of this movie.
1 ¾ stars
WE BECAME INSTANT FRIENDS BACK IN elementary school. I do not recall a day going by where we did not see each other during the school day. At some point we fell into a routine of either getting together after school or talking on the phone before dinnertime. I remember when a fast food restaurant was built in our neighborhood; the two of us felt like such adults when we met there to try it out on our own. Granted, the money came from my allowance; but it was my first time going to a restaurant without my family, only my best friend. I still remember ordering the chocolate shake for dessert and savoring every single drop of it. My best friend had the vanilla one so we could taste each other’s and decide which one we liked the best. There were so many firsts in my life that he was a part of through the years. We both were cast in a school play, we sat together on the school bus for our first field trip and we both experienced taking public transportation for the first time to an amusement park; these are just a few of the many things we did together. It was not until college when we first experienced doing things on our own; it was a hard transition for me. AFTER BEING TOGETHER FOR SO LONG, I found myself experiencing a sense of loss. We still communicated with each other but as college courses began demanding more of our attention, we sometimes let a day or two go by without talking to one another. As our college years advanced our interests diverged into separate areas; new friendships and activities filled the void. Whenever I came home from school, we would find time to get together. It was like time had not passed by because we would immediately pick up where we left off, as if we had just seen each other the day before. However, during these get togethers I was aware I was talking about people he had never met; it seemed weird for some reason. After spending so many years together, I knew we were headed to different places in our lives. We shared so many good and bad times together, I to this day think about him from time to time and wonder what type of life he is living. Similarly, having been part of my life so long, I wondered what it will be like for me not to see these Star Wars’ characters once I finish watching this last installment of the movie franchise. A THREATENING MESSAGE HAS THE RESISTANCE scrambling to confront an enemy they thought was no longer a part of the First Order. With Adam Driver (Logan Lucky, BlacKkKlansman) as Kylo Ren, Daisy Ridley (Murder on the Orient Express, Scrawl) as Rey, John Boyega (The Circle, Pacific Rim: Uprising) as Finn, Oscar Isaac (Life Itself, A Most Violent Year) as Poe Dameron and Richard E. Grant (The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Can You Ever Forgive Me?) as General Payde; the story in this film had its work cut out for it. Because the writers had 42 years of Star Wars history at their disposal, they were placed at a disadvantage from the start I believe. Let me first start with the positive things about this picture. The special effects were their usual eyepopping brilliance; the creativity was good, and the acting skills of Adam and Daisy drove this movie to its conclusion. Unfortunately, this film was good not great. I thought some scenes and characters were thrown in just to market new toys. There were a few scenes that felt like the writers were rehashing the past to make a connection with older viewers and one especially reminded me of a different film entirely. The thing is, I can understand not taking a risk with the last film; however, I felt things were a bit stale. On the other hand, there is such an emotional attachment to these characters that for any fan it would be hard not to care about them. I know I will miss the Star Wars universe; but I still will be able to look back fondly at the memories it gave me.
3 stars – Star Wars fans 2 2/3 – non-fans