EVERYONE, I BELIEVE, HAS AT LEAST two families; the family they were born into and the family they formed through life experiences. There are other types of families, for example a foster family. I have a friend who grew up with several foster children because her parents believed in helping innocent children out of bad situations. She had biological siblings but had more foster ones in the household through her years living at home. I was fascinated with her stories about all her siblings. It seemed like every meal was a party, even when her parents did not have much money to buy food. When I was little, I had no idea the friendships I was forming would turn into future members of my chosen family. The term “chosen family” was something I was not aware of when growing up; yet, there are individuals in my chosen family that I have known since elementary school. One is a girl I dated from 7thgrade. When we get together there is a long history of shared events, we can recall for each other. Whenever one of us introduces the other to new people, the new people are always amazed at the longevity of our relationship. There is a comfort and an easiness within our bond of friendship because we do not need to be anything but our real selves to each other. FROM AN OPEN SWIM NIGHT, AT a local community center in the neighborhood I grew up in, I formed a friendship with a boy from a different elementary school district. He was the first friend I made who did not go to my school. I was at the pool with my friends and he was there with a relative. We had been taking turns diving into the deep end and were congregated by the edge of the pool. He had been swimming the width of the pool a few times when he took a break by the edge near us. One of my friends struck up a conversation and he soon joined our little circle. By the end of the open swim time we all made plans to meet again the following week. Soon after that 2ndswim night, I found out he and I had a lot in common. Though we did not go to the same school we made plans to get together either after school or on a Saturday. After we all graduated elementary school, we found out he would be joining us at the same high school. Since then and after all these years, he has been one of my closest chosen family members. Because of my family of birth and chosen family, I felt a connection to the crew in this action, adventure, science fiction film. WHILE PICKING THROUGH A CONTAINER OF junk in outer space, a ship’s crew discovers a little girl who was still alive. If that wasn’t surprise enough, the crew would soon find a bigger surprise was in store for them. With Song Joong Ki (A Werewolf Boy, Doraemon-TV) as Tae-ho, Kim Tae-ri (The Handmaiden, Little Forest) as Captain Jang, Seon-kyu Jin (The Outlaws, Extreme Job) as Tiger Park, Hae-jin yoo (The King and the Clown, The Pirates) as Robot and Richard Armitage (The Hobbit franchise, Into the Storm) as Sullivan; this dramatic space odyssey had sound elements for creating an exciting story. For example, I connected with the chosen family element and appreciated the set-up for the class conflict situation. However, the script needed a good rewrite, I found it too long and the use of flashbacks got to be a little too much for me. The special effects were not spectacular, but they were good. Honestly, this movie came across like a poor cousin to a Marvel superhero film; still, there was enough in it that kept my interest going.
2 ½ stars
IT WAS ALREADY A SAD AFFAIR and now I was back to repeat it, except I would be giving a eulogy. My friend’s significant other had died from a debilitating health condition. I had always heard a parent never wants to bury their child and here both parents along with their remaining children were sitting in front of their child’s casket. My friend was sitting with the siblings. The receiving line was long; I was halfway back away from the seated group of mourners. As I slowly made my way up to them, I occasionally heard a sob or soft whimper rise from out of the family members. Reaching the front of the line, I introduced myself and gave my condolences to the first of the mourners. When I came up to my friend we hugged while they gently cried on my shoulder. Once they were able to calm themself, they thanked me for coming. I tried to offer words of comfort before I had to continue moving forward, to finish offering my sympathy and finding a seat. These types of services are never good to begin with and I found this one especially hard because of the relatively young age of the deceased. It is more of a shock to me, for some reason. SEVEN DAYS AFTER THE BURIAL, I received a phone call that my friend was found dead in their home. It was such a blow to me that I had a hard time comprehending the news. I had not even processed the previous funeral and now a week later there was to be another one? The past week I had been checking in to see how my friend was holding up; they were having a horrible time of it. Hearing this latest news, the only thing I could think of was the fact they were no longer suffering over their loss. However, how would the family endure another sadness so soon, I wondered? For this funeral, I was asked to give a eulogy. A eulogy? I was too young to be dealing with a eulogy for my friend. The pain I was feeling over both deaths was suffocating me. I do not know if it was right for me to think this or not, but I felt I now understood what survivors feel when multiple family members die in a crash or crime. It is like layering one sadness over another and another; it is such an awful experience. In a way this is how I felt about the story in this dramatic science fiction fantasy. Maybe I would have felt different if this had come out before the pandemic. WITH EARTH BECOMING INHABITABLE DUE TO a catastrophic event, humans had to leave the surface. One scientist decided to remain behind to try and warn a space crew returning from a space mission. With George Clooney (The Ides of March, The Monuments Men) as Augustine, Felicity Jones (On the Basis of Sex, The Theory of Everything) as Sully, David Oyelowo (A United Kingdom, Selma) as Adewole, newcomer Caoilinn Springall as Iris and Kyle Chandler (First Man, Godzilla: King of the Monsters) as Mitchell; this film had a beautiful crisp look to it. The music, though interesting, tended to become overbearing throughout the story. I was drawn into the story quickly; but as it unfolded, I felt as if I had already watched it in similar past films. There was a lack of intensity which I felt was a mistake because the movie dragged in places. I felt I was watching separate movies based on what was taking place in the story; there needed to be a stronger central theme in my opinion. Besides these issues, I just thought the timing in releasing this film was a poor choice. I already have enough to think about; so, why do I want to add something that could so closely become our new reality?
AS I LISTENED TO THE description of the show I became more horrified by the changes in the story. It was one of my favorite stories when I was a child. The changes I was hearing did not make any sense to me and I could not understand why anyone would want to tamper with a classic story. That is not just my opinion; the story has survived as they say the test of time, bringing joy to millions. The story has been turned into several films, theater productions and ice skating shows; yet for the most part the essence of it remained the same. Imagine how you would feel if you were going to see something that you were familiar with only to discover it was nothing like you remembered. For me it is like going to a favorite restaurant for a specific dish only to find out, after they brought it to your table, that the cooks changed it. Yes I know there is a possibility I could love it even more; but the chances the new dish will not satisfy my taste buds seem to always run higher. SO LET ME TELL YOU about the book today’s movie is based on. It was required reading when I was in school. I enjoyed the story so much that I read the book twice. It has been years since I thought about the story; but I remember anytime I was invited to a kid’s party I would always first consider buying this book as a gift. There were times I found out the child already had a copy of the book which in an odd way pleased me. I felt like this family, whether I was related to them or not, gets it; they understand the story is truly special and may also know the book was awarded the Newbery Medal. For those of you not familiar, the Newbery Medal is a literary award given to the author; think of it as the Oscars of children literature. As you may imagine I was looking forward to seeing this movie version of one of my favorite books. Let me also say I am aware I may not remember everything about the story but I do know how it made me feel and this adventure fantasy caused me to experience different feelings. FOUR YEARS AFTER HER FATHER disappeared from home Meg, played by Storm Reid (12 Years a Slave, Sleight), was visited by three beings who knew where her father had gone. With Oprah Winfrey (Selma, The Color Purple) as Mrs. Which, Reese Witherspoon (Home Again, Walk the Line) as Mrs. Whatsit, Mindy Kaling (No Strings Attached, The Office-TV) as Mrs. Who and Levi Miller (Pan, Red Dog: True Blue) as Calvin; I enjoyed the visuals in this picture. What I did not enjoy was pretty much everything else in this movie. I was actually annoyed with the direction; it seemed at least 50% of the scenes were shot in close-up. The script was so poorly written that almost all the characters were drab and lifeless. For such a story the writers and director needed to hit the viewers with deep emotional scenes, making the negative forces something we would fear. Instead I sat in my seat being bored and depressed with how wrong this movie got the story. Even the acting, except for a couple of actors, was bland and uninspiring. Now I will say if you have never read the book, you might find something you like about this movie. For me I plan on re-reading the story so I can forget about what I saw in this film.
1 ¾ stars
USUALLY AT ANY TYPE OF event I attend the crowd acts accordingly. At a wedding most of the guests are cordial and jovial; whereas at a funeral most people are solemn and respectful. This is the norm but never underestimate the person who is highly charged emotionally. I attended a funeral where 2 guests made a scene and one of the grieving relatives yelled back at them that they would “rot in hell.” Oh and there was that wedding where the bride and her new mother-in-law got into a shouting match in the middle of the reception; it was not pretty. Overall though I have to say there is something about going to an event where everyone is in a similar mood. I do not know if each person is feeding off the emotions of another person but I feel an energy that connects everyone; the best example is a rock concert, where everyone sings along to the musical artist. ONE PLACE WHERE I do not always find consistency in the crowd’s mood is at the movies. There have been times where I sat in my seat perplexed at the viewers’ reactions around me. Where they were guffawing with belly laughs, I found myself getting bored with what I felt was a lame attempt at humor. Other times I am the one sitting in my seat with tears rolling out of my eyes; while the people next to me are focusing on their tub of popcorn, not one teardrop getting squeezed out of their eyes. I certainly do not look at this as a right or wrong situation; everyone has the right to feel the way they do without any type of judgment. That is one of the main pillars I use to write my movie reviews. You may notice I try to never tell someone they can or cannot see a movie; I am simply offering advice and sharing my experiences during my viewing of the movie. If anything I am more curious to hear other people’s views, for I feel that helps me be a better reviewer. However in regards to today’s picture, it was obvious everyone was feeling the same thing—extreme joy and excitement. HAVING TRAVELED FROM AFAR to ask Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill (Airborne, Brigsby Bear), for help in fighting the First Order; Rey, played by Daisy Ridley (Murder on the Orient Express, Silent Witness-TV), could not understand Luke’s determined resistance. She had no idea she was not the first one to ask for his help. This next installment in the Star Wars franchise included Carrie Fisher (Wonderland, This is My Life) as Leia Organa, Adam Driver (Paterson, Silence) as Kylo Ren and Oscar Isaac (The Promise, A Most Violent Year) as Poe Dameron. For a movie watching experience this action, adventure fantasy provided everything one needed for an emotional ride of thrills. Kudos to the director who kept control of the pacing of the story; there was a steady dose of drama, humor and excitement through the 2 hours and 32 minutes of running time. I will say the script was weak in several parts, where there could have been more thoughtful drama. Personally I wanted the First Order to remain menacing and wished Finn had been given more scenes. Without giving anything away one of the love interest story lines was a waste of time. Interestingly I found the acting was better in this sequel than the previous movie. There was more back story to the characters which I appreciated and as for the fight scenes, they were imaginative and thrilling. If you are not a fan of Star Wars chances are you will not care to see this movie; but if you want an easy “share the moment” experience with the people sitting around you then this film will not disappoint.
3 1/3 stars
IF a person wants to learn how to drive a car there is a set of rules and regulations that must be followed to get a license. These rules are needed otherwise there would be chaos on every street. I have noticed with the introduction of red light cameras (devices that take detailed photographs of cars that run stoplights and mail the driver a traffic ticket) there has been an increase in accidents. In the past if a driver drove up to an intersection and the light started to change from green to red, more times than not, they would continue on their way. Once the cameras became active I started seeing cars slamming on their brakes so they would not enter the intersection and get a ticket. However because of these quick sudden stops there was not enough lag time for the car behind to stop in time; so periodically I would see automobiles getting rear ended. Recently some of the intersections have had countdown timers installed next to the WALK/DO NOT WALK signs to help the drivers prepare for a complete stop. NOW before you think I am one to follow every rule by the letter, I have to tell you that is not always the case. I would not say I break rules, I prefer to say I modify them. At the grocery store I may go through the express checkout line with 1 or 2 more items than the posted limit. However I would never abuse it with a full shopping cart like I have seen other people do, pretending they did not know it was an express lane. Rules are needed in any industry from construction to agriculture. There are even rules when it comes to writing a story. I will say to interject the element of surprise one must have the breaking of a rule. In this science fiction horror thriller there were a few surprises in store for the crew and the viewer. ON a mission to populate a distant planet the crew of the colony ship Covenant were awaken early. A transmission was detected that surprised the crew members. This latest installment of the Alien franchise starred Michael Fassbender (Assassin’s Creed, The Light Between Oceans) as David/Walter, Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) as Daniels, Billy Crudup (Jackie, 20th Century Women) as Oram, Danny McBride (Your Highness, The Pineapple Express) as Tennessee and Demian Bichir (Lowriders, The Heat) as Lope. Visually this film caught my eye right away; I thought the sets were interesting. As for the actors Michael and Katherine were the standouts, especially Michael in his dual roles. My issue with this movie was the script. I do not think I am picky but there seemed to be a lack of believability. Not that I am a space explorer but common protocols regarding space travel were ignored in this story. In addition scenes were too predictable. It is safe to say we all know what happens when someone excuses themselves to go to the bathroom in a horror picture. Due to the script there was a lack of new things taking place for me. I found it odd; where the writers could have taken liberties was in the structure of the story line. Instead they chose to break the rules of reason in telling a story. Blood and violence was shown in multiple scenes.
2 ½ stars
THE man’s wavy untamed hair in the photograph was the closest looking to his own. No one else in the photo album had hair similar to this man, so there was a good chance that man in the photo could be his father. The young boy would pull out his mother’s photo album anytime he was feeling sorry for himself. Sitting on the sofa with the album in his lap he would stare at this one particular photograph of the man with the wavy hair and wonder what the man was like. The little boy would get lost inside his imagination, placing himself next to his possible father in a variety of scenarios. They would be at the amusement park; sitting side by side in a roller coaster that was about to climb up a steep embankment, their hands tightly clenching their shouldstraps with their legs pressed up against each other. For several years the young boy believed his real father was out there somewhere. SOME people were born into a family while others created their own. A basic definition of family is a group of people related to one another. It could be by blood or there may be something else in common. I have a friend who has a family by birth. Though she continues to try over and over, her and her family have different expectations or maybe it is just different feelings of what makes a family. She has been disappointed more times than not with her so-called family. The only time they do something as a family is if it is convenient for her siblings; they have never gone out of their way for her. So the windup is my friend has started to create her own supportive family among her friends. This action science fiction film will show you what my friend did in her life. SETTLING into their roles as the Guardians of the Galaxy, the group of friends encounter strong forces that will test the bonds they have recently formed with each other. This adventure sequel starred Chris Pratt (Jurassic World, Passengers) as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana (Star Trek franchise, Nina) as Gamora, Dave Bautista (The Man with the Iron Fists, Spectre) as Drax and Michael Rooker (The Bone Collector, Jumper) as Yondu. Right from the start this picture grabs you with its special effects and action packed scenes. And just like the original movie, this one also had a great soundtrack. I thought the script was intriguing with its strong theme of family. Not wanting to get too deep with this theme the writers did not forget to include the same type of humor that was used in the last film. Now this brings me to my issue with this movie; it unfortunately was not the first one because since we are familiar with the new franchise, this installment did not have the same fresh quirkiness because I had seen it before. I do not consider this a major complaint; I still laughed and enjoyed the action. If you are not a fan of science fiction I am not sure you would get totally into this picture, but I am sure you would not be able to stop your feet from tapping along to the music. There were three extra scenes during the credits and one more brief scene at the end of the credits.
I used to think that each of us had a finite amount of breaths inside of us; once you used them up you were done. So I was careful with my breathing, trying not to sacrifice any of them needlessly. This took place when I was a kid. Though I grew out of that phase I still believe everyone has to sacrifice something to achieve a goal. Recently I met someone who wants to start writing a movie blog. Their enthusiasm is contagious with the excitement they display when talking about their recently seen films. The screen does not matter much to them for they watch movies on their television screen, cellular phone, computers and when possible at a movie theater. If I remember correctly, for the month of January they had seen something like 70 films. You just know this individual had to give something up to devote so much time to movie watching. With my own movie site I know I have had to sacrifice social interactions with friends and family so that I could get to the movie theater. Besides there are not many people who can or want to sit with me watching 3 films in a row when I am forced to do it at times. Heck, I even have to sacrifice housework sometimes to get to a movie theater, but this I do not mind too much. The point is each of us who want to get or do something has to give up or sacrifice something to make it happen. I refer to this as the pluses and minuses of life; for every plus you gain there is a minus that comes with it. If you don’t believe me watch this documentary about the last man to have flown to the moon. ASTRONAUT Eugene Cernan did not start out wanting to be an astronaut; he just absolutely loved to fly, the faster the better. This film festival winning biographical movie was its own little time capsule of American history. With personal and never before seen footage, interviews with fellow astronauts like Alan Bean and Eugene’s commentary; this was an interesting adventure picture. The way I can describe this movie’s affect on me is to say I felt like the history I knew about the Apollo space program just got colored in with more details. The tidbits Eugene offered about NASA along with archival footage kept my interest throughout the film. Oh, and before I forget I wanted to make sure to mention I loved the quote Eugene’s wife stated about staying home. One does not need to be a science fan to enjoy this documentary because the story really was about the sacrifices and effects one experiences as they strive to reach a goal in their life. Luckily we are able to be witnesses to a memorable event that was not only historic but personal. In the scheme of things seeing this movie would fall into the plus column of one’s life.
3 1/4 stars
It was a different time where a discarded flashlight was a ray gun and a retractable ballpoint pen was a rocket ship with extra thrusters. It was in the alley behind our houses where my friends and I would let our imaginations lead us on untold adventures when we were kids. A broken tree branch became my secret trap detector. I would test the ground with the prod of my stick, making sure there were no trapdoors before we would venture forward. There was one particular tricky spot where apartment buildings flanked us on both sides; their dark gangways always open in a petrified scream with a whistling wind forcing its way out towards us. We could never be too careful. On extremely hot days each of us had our empty dishwater bottles filled with cold water that we would spray at each other to keep our body temperatures down while we traversed the scorching landscape on the planet Mars. We never had a dull moment as we played and explored around our neighborhood. EXPLORERS are what three friends would have to be when a strange signal suddenly appeared on their cell phones in this science fiction movie. Newcomers Ted Halm, Brian “Astro” Bradley and Reese Hartwig played Alex, Tuck and Munch; the three friends who followed the signal that would lead them to an out of this world destination. This action family film started out with the good idea of having the three friends taking off on a mysterious adventure. I am not a fan of the handheld filming look, so I quickly became annoyed with the unsteady camera shots. The actors were adequate; I took them as their characters. When they were talking to each other the script was fine; however, the rest of the script was bland. There were really no big exciting or tense parts to this picture. If Jason Gray-Stanford (A Beautiful Mind, Monk-TV) who played Dr. Lawrence Madsen was to be the “bad guy” the writers could have made him more extreme. Except for a couple of scenes I thought the special effects were paltry. Now to the biggest issue I had with this film. This story was done before by director Steven Spielberg when he filmed E.T. He did a wonderful job where the movie is considered a classic. If a movie studio is going to create anything that resembles that film they need to make sure they get the best people to do their best work so the viewer will not be reminded of E.T. This did not happen and in fact, this movie had no imagination. Except for young kids who are not familiar with E.T. I cannot recommend spending money to see this film. There was a brief extra scene at the end of the credits.
1 3/4 stars