AFTER I FINISHED WATCHING THIS MOVIE, I switched over to the news. The newsman was reporting about an issue a local hospital was having with one of its patients. The screen changed and the image of a woman popped on the TV screen. The shot was from the neck up; she had skin that was wrinkled into deep crevices by the sun. On top of her head, she wore a baseball type of cap that was bejeweled with colored stones to look like the American flag. There was no sound coming from her despite her mouth moving. The reporter was saying this woman did not believe in the COVID vaccines. She wound up being admitted into the hospital because she contracted COVID, and she wanted to be treated with a drug she read about on the internet that claims to cure the disease. It was a medicine that is given to horses. Because the drug is not approved by the FDA for humans, the hospital would not administer it to her. She was fighting them for it. I sat there in bewilderment. How did things get to the point where humans were perfectly fine ingesting medications formulated for animals? Death, I know, can be a huge motivator and I know I would want to learn as much as possible on how to combat whatever illness befalls me. However, I would want to hear from scientists and doctors, not the internet necessarily. I KNEW A FAMILY THAT SUFFERED a major loss of one of their family members. When the person was diagnosed the family went into shock. The older family members understood the severity of the disease; the children only knew it was “bad.” I remember one of the kids delved into a fantasy life to cope with the changes that were taking place in the household. The child believed there were magic seeds that could cure her parent. Anytime she went outside, the young child would spend most of her time searching for these seeds in flower beds, around trees, in sidewalk cracks and even along the curbs of the streets. She was convinced if she could find these seeds and give them to her parent, it would make them feel better. The reason I mention this little girl is because to me, there is a similarity between her and the woman that was reported in the news who is demanding a horse pill to cure herself. Each of them is looking to fantasy for a cure; the difference being one is a child and the other is an adult. For those who may have forgotten what it is like to be a child, this dramatic family adventure can remind you. WITH HIS MOTHER’S ILLNESS GETTING WORSE, a young boy sets out to find a cure for her. With Lonnie Chavis (This is Us-TV, Magic Camp) as Gunner Boone, David Oyelowo (A United Kingdom, Don’t Let Go) as Amos Boone, Rosario Dawson (Eagle Eye, The Captive) as Mary Boone, Amiah Miller (Lights Out, War for the Planet of the Apes) as Jo Riley and Alfred Molina (Boogie Nights, The Devil has a Name) as Jim Bussey; this movie had a touching story that was easy to watch. I thought the cast was well suited to tell the story. The script was good though it was close to predictable and the reason I say that is because some of the scenes were done in a heavy-handed way. A lighter touch would have allowed the scene to mature and grow I believe. I also enjoyed the way the writers introduced the minor story line and kept it low key for the viewer to connect the pieces. There have been other similar stories told before; the difference for me was this one had a gentleness in the way the story was told that was much appreciated.
2 ½ stars
ONLY in rare circumstances would someone want to meet their replacement. One area where I could see it happening would be in the workplace, if the person being replaced initiated the change. If however the person was not planning to make a change, I could see where it would be an uncomfortable situation. A friend of mine worked at a large food company where her department suddenly saw several new employees assigned to each person in the department for training. Once my friend finished the training of her new employee, she was laid off and the new person was sent back overseas to continue my friend’s work at a cheaper labor rate. Another situation where seeing one’s replacement would be uneventful would be with a couple who had an amicable divorce. In other words, there was no cheating involved or the breaking of trust. If the spouse being replaced believes their former partner has issues, I think it would be safe to say they would feel sorry for the new partner coming into the relationship. OUT of my past relationships I have had the good and bad fortune of meeting the replacements sometimes. One long term relationship of mine ended sadly; well at least I was sad. Five days later I was at a shopping mall and unbelievably ran right into my ex with a man who obviously was my replacement. I could not believe after all the time we spent together it only took 5 days to swap me out for someone else. It would be appreciated if you don’t ask me if it was a trade-up; based on that one chance meeting all I can say is I do not think so. Now I know there are some people who handle a status change in their relationship easier than others; I am not one of those individuals. I need time to let things settle and to re-establish new routines before I can move on. This may not work for everyone as you can see in this dramatic thriller. SEEING Julia Banks, played by Rosario Dawson (Seven Pounds, Death Proof), move into the house she used to share with her former husband David Connover, played by Geoff Stults (She’s Out of My League, J. Edgar), was more than she could handle. Tessa, played by Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up, Life as We Know it), had no desire to be the perfect ex-wife. The story to this movie has been done many times before. That alone would not have been an issue for me; however, I thought the script was silly and offered nothing new to this genre. I thought Rosario and Katherine did a good job with their characters, especially with all the physical stunts they had to do. The surprise for me was not recognizing Cheryl Ladd (Poison Ivy, Millennium) as Tessa’s mother, though she too was fine in her role. Let me say because of the horror stories I have heard being done through the internet, there was a certain creep factor to this story. I think if the writers would have expanded out that aspect of it, the movie might have been more engaging. Honestly the only reason one would spend money on watching this film is if they wanted to see two women acting like they were ultimate fighters; I was sad I did not buy a ticket to a different picture.
1 ¾ stars
WHENEVER I see it being done I always stop to watch. Not only is it an art but a beautiful and skillful manipulation of a basic element. The only times I get to see a potter in action has been at art fairs or galleries. To witness the moist hands dance across the spinning mound of clay centered on their potter’s wheel is fascinating to me. The clay looks at times like it is growing into a living plant reaching maturity; at other times, it may look like an architectural geometric structure. If you ever get the chance to watch the process I highly recommend it. There is another reason why I am attracted to this process and it has to do with control. On a certain level I can easily relate to the potter because they are in total charge of the entire creation. They do not have to depend on anyone; it is simply them and their clay. Whatever way their creation comes out, it is solely do to them. On the one hand you could say that may not always be the best way because if the object is a disaster then the potter is completely at fault. I would willingly accept that fate instead of depending on someone to help complete the vision I foresaw for the mound of clay. BEING in control has always been a part of my mental makeup, since as long as I can remember. Without turning this into a therapy session let me say that after experiencing multiple disappointments I became trained on how not to depend or need anything from anyone. Maybe I had high standards or low self-esteem, but it has always been hard for me to ask someone for help. To let go of being in control for me represents a fear somehow that I am weak or not good enough. Like I said I do not want to delve into my psyche but I do have to say I discovered I have something in common with Batman and it is not the cool gadgets. GOTHAM city could be on the brink of disaster if the Joker, voiced by Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover franchise, The Campaign), goes through with his dastardly plan. If Batman, voiced by Will Arnett (When in Rome, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise), wants to save his beloved city he may have to do something he has never done before—ask for help. This animated action adventure film was just as creative as the original Lego movie. With Michael Cera (Youth in Revolt, Arrested Development-TV) voicing Robin, Rosario Dawson (Top Five, Sin City franchise) voicing Barbara Gordon and Ralph Fiennes (A Bigger Splash, Harry Potter franchise) voicing Alfred Pennyworth; all the characters were fun to watch and especially hear since the dialog had a fun edge to it. This film festival winner would appeal to kids and adults in my opinion. The references made for the adult viewers will not register with kids but it won’t take away from the movie watching experience. I also enjoyed the way the writers brought in a life lesson moment; it was touching and did not feel out of place. So now that I discovered I have something in common with Batman, I wonder if I should start working on my outfit.
3 ¼ stars
Some people’s costumes are more surprising than other ones. With my philosophy about our bodies being rented, add on the things we wear and sometimes we can transform ourselves into a different type of individual. What one person wears for work may change the way they look to someone else. After all these years I still am fascinated when I come across a member from one of my classes outside and away from the health club. Having seen them only in workout wear, it can be a real contrast to see someone dressed up in their work costume such as a power suit or uniform. In fact, the same thing happens to me all the time when a member sees me somewhere other than class. For myself I may form an impression about the person based on our interactions in class; but then when I see them in a different setting, my impression may be out of synch. We all form impressions of people; I refer to it as taking an imaginary photo of a person with our mind and placing it in our back pocket to check on later after spending more time with them. Sometimes the two impressions will match but other times it may be hard to believe what is right in front of our eyes. FROM playing a talking bear comedic actor Andre Allen, played by Chris Rock (Head of State, Grown Ups franchise), wanted to be taken seriously. With his upcoming wedding to television reality star Erica Long, played by Gabrielle Union (Good Deeds, Cadillac Records); Andre hoped his choice to take on a serious role to play a slave in a dramatic serious film would change people’s minds about him. Written and directed by Chris, this film festival winning comedy was a smart vehicle for Chris to really shine in the public’s eye. One could say parts of the film seemed to mirror Chris’ life, but there was more to this movie. The script had elements of satire, parody, humor, surprise and vulnerability; though, the straightforward story arc was a bit predictable. I thought the chemistry worked well between the actors which also included Rosario Dawson (Sin City franchise, Cesar Chavez) as Chelsea Brown and Cedric the Entertainer (A Haunted House franchise, Larry Crowne) as Jazzy Dee. I enjoyed watching this picture and especially got a kick out of the cameo performances. There was enough bite in this comedy to chew on without choking. Chris left me with a wider impression than I had when I first walked into the theater. There was an extra short scene at the beginning of the credits.
In my tiny, little corner of the world I get inspired by witnessing the sacrifices people make to create a difference in their lives and the lives around them. There is the friend whose father traveled to work 2 hours each way on public transportation, to make sure there was a steady paycheck coming in each week. I remember a former employee who was sent with her 6 siblings to live with their grandmother in a one bedroom apartment, while her parents took a job in a different country, hoping to make an easier life for their children. Through social media sites shared by individuals who follow my movie reviews, I discovered one person leads an organization devoted to establishing and protecting equal rights for women; while another works tirelessly fighting to protect those who are not strong enough to have their voices heard. It takes a special kind of person who can give so much without expecting anything in return. In the bigger scheme of things, there have been people whose actions made history by changing the world. One of those individuals was the main focus in this biographical film, based on a true story. Michael Pena (American Hustle, Shooter) played labor organizer Cesar Chavez. A quiet man who believed in non-violence, Cesar Chavez fought for the rights of migrant workers after seeing how they were being treated. America Ferrera (End of Watch, Ugly Betty-TV) played his wife Helen. Not only do I think Michael Pena is a fine actor; I was looking forward to learning more about Cesar’s life and the extraordinary events that took place around him. The cast which also included Rosario Dawson (Gimme Shelter, Unstoppable) as Dolores Huerta and John Malkovich (Secretariat, Red franchise) as orchard owner Bogdanovich Senior were quite capable to handle their roles. However, I cannot say the same for the director and writers. The performances were bland; I could not get over how dull Michael and John were especially. I felt there could have been a better sense of drama if the writers had added more story about Cesar’s family and their sacrifices. We saw his children in the beginning of the movie as they were driving to their new home, but after that they were pretty much invisible except for one older son. Unfortunately the only emotion I felt in this picture came from the depicted events taking place instead of the characters. What a shame to sacrifice the time, effort and money in developing this movie and not being able to deliver a better film.
Always following quietly in my shadow is the child of my youth who lives inside of me. I never hinder him when he comes out to play. There are things he feels he never had the opportunity to do when we were one and the same, whether from his own fears or the environment around him that kept him dormant. But now he can experience the excitement of exploring a new place in the city with his friends or be able to take a leisurely walk around the neighborhood he grew up in, without having to race home to the safety behind the protective security door in the apartment building he called home. I never take for granted this little child that accompanies and helps me in my fitness classes, letting me feel that youthful spirit I kept hidden away for so many years. Being so familiar with my inner child would explain why it pains me now when I see a child who has been forced to be an adult, never getting the chance to experience what childhood was meant to be. Vanessa Hudgens (Spring Breakers, Beastly) played 16 year old Agnes “Apple” Bailey. Transferred from one foster home to another due to her abusive addict mother June, played by Rosario Dawson (Sin City, Seven Pounds), Agnes ran away to find her absent father Tom Fitzpatrick, played by Brendan Fraser (Furry Vengeance, The Mummy franchise). She only knew of him because of an old letter she had in her possession. The first thing that struck me about this movie based on a true story, was the surprisingly good acting job Vanessa did with her character. It was not an easy role; a couple of times I found myself cringing in my seat. Rosario was excellent, I only wish there would have been more scenes with her in them. In a couple of decent supporting roles there was James Earl Jones (Finder’s Fee; Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins) as Frank McCarthy and Ann Dowd (Side Effects, Compliance) as Kathy. The story had a natural grimness to it where I felt the writer/director accentuated it, giving the movie more of a soap opera melodramatic feel. I felt the movie was a little too preachy and predictable; but luckily the acting and the fact that this was a true story kept me interested. Sitting in my seat during the credits that showed the actual people this movie was based on, I realized I was hearing the sound of sniffling coming from the people around me. I had to wonder how much of it was due to the movie or to them missing their inner child.
2 1/2 stars
The corridor led to a dead end; I had to retrace my steps. Amid the muffled sounds were large popping sounds followed by squeals of laughter. I would see the image of another human for a second before it disappeared back into a kaleidoscope of twinkling lights. As I turned a corner a blast of cool air hit me in the face, momentarily forcing me to close my eyes. When they opened a silhouette of a person came at me from the side. A beam of light pierced the darkness revealing the person was a clown. I laughed as the colorful costumed character pointed to the glowing exit sign down the hallway. If they are not too crowded I get a kick out of going through amusement park fun houses. Usually covered in a fog of darkness, I enjoy how the houses are set up to manipulate the visitors with creative elements of surprise. It was the same way in this thrilling mystery of a movie. Director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) created a taut sense of urgency with the more than capable actors. James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class, Wanted) played art auctioneer Simon. He became embroiled in a tussle with a gang of criminals led by Franck, played by Vincent Cassel (Black Swan, Irreversible), while trying to protect a valuable painting. Due to a blow to the head, Simon needed the assistance of hypnotherapist Elizabeth, played by Rosario Dawson (Seven Pounds, Sin City); in trying to retrieve the parts of his memory he had lost. This drama had just as many twists and turns as a fun house maze. I had to work at paying attention to see if there were any clues being revealed in the simmering story. The acting was intense and tight; with the actors totally submerged into their characters. I have no complaints with Danny’s directing; but I did not get totally immersed into this story like I have done with his other films. The issue for me became apparent as the movie moved closer to the ending. There were a few too many surprises that left me confused. Like a carnival fun house, this is the type of movie I need to see again…just not right away. There were a couple of scenes with blood.
I used to have a love/hate relationship with trains growing up. As a little kid I never wanted to sit by the windows when the train was above ground. I thought my weight would tip the train over, so I always tried to stay close to the center of the train car. Talk about having a poor self image as a little overweight child. Only when the train would go below ground would I finally relax, since I felt the dark tunnels we traveled would always keep us upright. At least that is how I rationalized it. These days when I travel to a new city I make a point of always using their public transportation; it makes me feel like an adventurer. Seeing a trailer for this action film, I thought I could easily roll with the story. I still get a kick out of the train rides at amusement parks, so this movie looked like it would be an exciting thrill ride. Inspired by true events, human error caused an unmanned freight train to leave the yard, with its cargo of toxic chemicals. With no air brakes the train would continue to pick up speed until it derailed, causing a life threatening disaster. If seasoned engineer Frank, played by Denzel Washington (The Great Debaters, American Gangster), along with young conductor Will, played by Chris Pine (Star Trek, People Like Us), had any chance to stop a tragedy from occurring, they would have to work together in a race against time. At the start I enjoyed the no nonsense approach the director took in setting up the basis of the story. I was curious to see how the action would be sustained, since in my mind a train seemed like it would have less exciting options than if the story was about a hijacked or crippled airplane. It was a false concern; the action kept a steady pace as the tension grew incrementally. The acting was nothing special to me. Denzel was doing his Denzel method, being on autopilot while Chris did not bring anything new to the table. I thought Rosario Dawson (Seven Pounds, Sin City) did a good job as Connie who worked at the train operating center. This film is fine for those who want to experience the thrill of an amusement park ride without waiting in line.
2 2/3 stars — DVD