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
UP UNTIL I SAW THE MOVIE Bambi, the only characters that would perish in an animated picture were the evil ones. The evil queen, the wicked witch; none of the “bad” characters in those animated films went unpunished for their awful actions. Even Cruella DeVil got her comeuppance for what she did to those innocent puppies. When I watched Bambi, I was traumatized by what happened to the mother. I understood death, but I had not been exposed to it on a personal level. Suddenly it was thrust upon me in an unexpected way, an animated movie where an innocent relative does not survive; it was an awful experience for me. I wanted to take in Bambi, so he would not be alone. In fact, I remember feeling angry towards the movie studio for allowing such a thing to happen. In my mind, innocent people were not supposed to get hurt or die; I believed it was a written rule. Little did I know that my introduction to the film Bambi would only be a prelude to what happens everyday in the real world. I guess that is why I am more attracted to fantasy and movies. SPOILER ALERT: YEARS LATER ANOTHER ANIMATED FILM COMES along where a tragedy befalls the parent of a main character. I at least was better equipped to handle this when I saw the original film of, The Lion King. In the context of the story, there were similarities between it and Bambi. What softened the blow in my opinion were the various musical numbers and the endearing, emotional depth given to the characters. I think a person would be hard pressed not to react to the characters in the movie. From that movie a new industry was created or at least it was new to me. Sitting in a theater, the lights go down and the orchestra begins the familiar notes from the soundtrack; I was immediately brought into their world when part of the cast of the staged version of The Lion King walk down the aisle towards the stage. With the imaginative and colorful costumes, myself and the audience were in awe. The staged show began on Broadway in 1997 and I believe it is still running today. Suffice it to say, it would be a challenge for any movie studio to do something that would top the memories and experiences viewers and theater goers would already have towards this story. However, do not let that stop you if you are curious to see the latest version of a much beloved story. WITHOUT THE GUIDANCE OF HIS PARENTS Simba, voiced by Donald Glover (The Martian, Solo: A Star Wars Story), must learn for himself what it means to become a king. With Beyonce (Dreamgirls, Obsessed) voicing Nala, Seth Rogen (Long Shot, The Disaster Artist) voicing Pumbaa, Billy Eichner (Most Likely to Murder, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) voicing Timon and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things, 12 Years a Slave) voicing Scar; this animated, adventure drama was visually startling to me. I kept questioning myself on whether some of the animals were real or not. The CGI was utterly amazing to the point I felt I was on an African Safari. Now for the substance behind those visuals, the writers stayed close to the original story with only a few minor tweaks. However, what they forgot to do was keep the endearing emotional quality to the characters. Based on the way the characters acted there was not much variance to their emotional output. The script paled in comparison to the technical quality of this picture. I also was distracted by the musical soundtrack; not the individual songs, but the background music was too over dramatic. One of the bright spots was listening to Seth and Billy with their verbal exchanges. If the script would have been better written I think this would have been a stellar production; instead, I felt I had gone to the zoo during the nap times for some of my favorite animals.
2 ½ stars
THE TWO DID NOT KNOW EACH OTHER. They grew up in different cities and on the surface did not seem to have any similarities. I only knew of them because they were in one of my writing classes in college. The class was rather intense, where we were expected to turn in writing assignments on a weekly basis. Every Wednesday the professor would randomly choose a few students to read their papers out loud, so the class could have a discussion and critique session on the students’ works. After several weeks it became apparent to me and most of the class that these 2 students were focused on writing horror stories. As some of you might know, I am not a fan of movies that show a lot of bloody gore. As you might expect the same holds true for fiction stories. As the semester continued these two fans of horror started competing with each other; nothing overt, but each week their stories got gorier and gorier. It was as if they were in a battle to see who would be the “king of horror” as far as I could tell. I had a hard time listening to them when either one was chosen to read their stories to the class. I NEVER FOUND OUT WHAT WAS the impetus that drove those two students to compete against each other. Honestly, I have always had a hard time trying to figure out why people want to compete. This may be one of the reasons why I was never very good in several sport activities. I do not have that driving force inside of me to dominate and beat another person, just so I can be considered the best. The only person I am in competition with is myself. Overcoming one set of circumstances to get to where I am at today has been a fight every day. The way I look at it is this: my old self battles the new me, trying to push me back down to what I used to be. Hopefully I am making sense to you; but let me tell you, this struggle between the old and new me has been a major force that has pushed me to heights I thought I would never achieve in this lifetime. With my thinking I wonder if humans in general are predisposed to competing. I think the term is, “Survival of the fitness.” Another phrase I have heard is, “Only the strong will survive.” Is this a genetic thing? I do not know, but this historical drama will show you how fierce competition can be. RETURNING TO HER HOME IN SCOTLAND after her husband had died; Mary Stuart, played by Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird, The Lovely Bones), believed she could lead her people as their queen. The main issue concerning her belief was the fact there was already a queen on the throne from the House of Tudor and her name was Elizabeth I, played by Margot Robbie (I, Tonya; Suicide Squad). This biographical film also starred Jack Lowden (Dunkirk, Tommy’s Honour) as Henry Darnley, James McArdle (The Chamber, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as James, Earl of Moray and David Tennant (Bad Samaritan, Doctor Who-TV) as John Knox. This picture was all about the acting and I thought both Saoirse and Margot were wonderful. Because of them I stayed engaged with this story that I believe took a lot of liberty with actual history. Those who enjoy history might like this picture more than non-history lovers. There were some scenes that were farfetched and almost a distraction. It was a shame because I think the writers might have been competing with the Game of Thrones series when they were writing this script.
2 ½ stars
FOR a brief moment that “look,” which I was familiar with, ran across the man’s face. He was standing in the checkout aisle next to mine. The only way I can describe that “look” is to say it was a cross between contempt and total disgust. Physically the eyes narrow, the muscles of the face slip down to the lower half of the head and the lips seal together in a straight line except for the hint of a curl at one end of the lips. I knew immediately why the man was making that face; it was because of the couple standing in front of me. They were an interracial couple. The look on that man’s face is the same type of look I have been given at various times. Once at the airport where I was sitting with a friend waiting to board our flight, he fell asleep and was leaning over onto my shoulder. A couple who was walking by looked down at me and made that look, uttering a sound of disgust. Another time I was doing volunteer work where we would work in pairs to canvass the neighborhood. I was paired with a woman from a different race than mine. You would not believe there were several people who answered their door, took a look at us and immediately made that face, besides only talking to me; they would ignore her more times than not. It was pathetic, appalling and many other adjectives. WHENEVER I encounter this type of prejudice, I simply want to ask the “offended” person how that person you show disgust towards affects your own life. Why should it even matter to them if the couple is of the same gender or from different races; I honestly cannot understand why anyone would make a judgment about another person based on such things. It is sad that these personal issues are even being addressed. Now that I have seen this film based on a true story, I am even more astonished at the lunacy of people’s prejudices. RUTH Williams and Seretse Khama, played by Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, Pride & Prejudice) and David Oyelowo (Selma, Queen of Katwe), fell in love and eventually wanted to get married. Their marriage would have consequences for Seretse’s country of birth, where he was a prince. This film festival nominated dramatic romance was a wonderful film to watch. With Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Kingsman: The Secret Service) as Alistair Canning and Tom Felton (Harry Potter franchise, Risen) as Rufus Lancaster, the cast was well rounded and performed beautifully. I especially enjoyed David and Rosamund in their roles. Set in London initially during the 1940s, the scenes rolled in a gentle type of way that only accentuated the well written script. I have to tell you the events that took place in this biographical story stunned me; not that there was a sudden surprise moment, but the turn of events taking place on the worldwide stage solely due to a person’s skin color just blew me away. Those of you who know me know how much I enjoy seeing photos of the actual people the actors portrayed; this movie did not disappoint me. Nothing about this film disappointed me except seeing the narrow-mindedness of some people.
3 1/3 stars
There is a reason one does not find an accountant or welder coming to the rescue in a fairy tale. Not that I am being disparaging towards those occupations, but living in a country that does not have a monarchy, I want to be saved by someone greater than myself. As a small child didn’t most of us dream of being swept away into a world of kings, queens and wizards? I know I certainly did as I imagined myself walking down long marble floored hallways, guided by faces that peered down at me from large musty portraits, as I looked for my chambers. The whole idea of royalty has a magical quality for many of us today. There is a fascination to see or hear anything that has to do with a royal member of the family. For me part of the interest has to do with the person’s lineage, their royal bloodline. Since I can only trace my family back to a few generations, the idea that these royal individuals are related to people I have read about in history books blows my mind. One of the most famous in modern times was Diana, Princess of Wales. In this dramatic movie the story focused on the last two years of her life. Naomi Watts (The Impossible, Fair Game) portrayed Princess Diana during the time she began seeing Dr. Hasnat Khan, played by Naveen Andrews (The Brave One, Lost-TV). I do not know where to begin to tell you how wrong this biographical romance was on so many levels. First there was Naomi Watts, who I have always admired. She was not a good fit for the role; she did not come across as iconic and statuesque as Diana. Part of the issue was the horrible and ridiculous script she had to try and make work. The scenes were lifeless and boring which I can only attribute to poor direction. And finally, let me talk about the specific scenes where Diana and Hasnat were by themselves. Who knows how they really acted when they were alone; but if you are making a movie about two people in love, there should be some chemistry between the two actors. There was none between Naomi and Naveen; it was the finishing touch in making a complete mess of a movie. Personally I think the film studio should have kept the fantasy and allure about Princess Diana going by not putting together this tawdry film.
1 2/3 stars