THE TELEVISION SHOWS WERE UNRELATED, BUT each displayed something extraordinary. I only say extraordinary because of the way the hosts were pointing out the actions of the contestants. As for me, I did not consider it special in the way the hosts were touting it; I simply admired the strength that was on display. The premise for one of the TV shows was to find the strongest individual who could complete an obstacle course that challenged the contestant’s physical capabilities. Though most contestants on this show were male, there have been several women. Whenever a female comes up to the start line, the hosts are extra effusive in their comments about her. At least they are not talking about what she is wearing or how she looks; the hosts point out how she is navigating the course as if she were something rare and unique. To me strength is strength, it does not matter if the person is male or female; but, I get it. Viewers may be sitting in front of their televisions in disbelief that a woman could be that strong or they may be more like me and admire her skills like any other contestant. Maybe it is because of my years of teaching in the fitness industry, but I do not look at women and men differently when it comes to their physicality. THE OTHER SHOW I HAD WATCHED was a talent competition. There were a multitude of acts ranging from artistic to musical to death defying to magical. One act consisted of a man and woman doing acrobatics; things that involved balance and strength. One of the routines they performed was having the woman lift and balance the man on her bent legs. The host was making a huge deal out of this role reversal. I was surprised, but not by the woman’s strength; only the fact that it is rare to see, in these types of acts, a woman doing what has consistently been a male role. The judges were amazed at what they were seeing as well as the audience. Now I grant you, in years past these women may not have even gotten the chance to perform like they were presently doing on these shows. There might even be some individuals who feel women should not be doing such things. It has been going on for years where one’s sex defines what they can and cannot do. Where is it written that an activity, sport or job can only be done by one of these groups? What I saw in this exciting documentary will prove my point to you. AFTER RUNNING AWAY FROM HOME TRACY Edwards found herself a job as a ship’s cook. Cooking was the last thing she wanted to do, but she had to start somewhere. What she wanted had never been done before. This film festival winner was directed by Alex Holmes who directed the films Dunkirk-TV movie and Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story. I thought the layout of this sports film was wonderful, going from archival footage to home movies to recent filming; the going back and forth in time was not at all a distraction for me. The story was incredible; mainly because I had never heard of the contest discussed in this picture. Secondly, what the contestants had to do for this contest was unreal to me. There is no way I could do such a thing. It is not often a documentary blends excitement, history, emotion and relevance at the same time; but this empowering story/event did it for me. If I had been in any of the cities where they had filmed at the time of this story, I would have certainly been in the crowd to cheer these contestants. Heck, that reality obstacle course show now seems like a rerun to me.
3 ½ stars
WHEN I HEAR ABOUT AN ALTERCATION that took place in the city, I shudder when I see the victim was doing something I used to do. And when I say something, it literally refers to nothing unusual; for example, me just walking to my car. There was a period where I would go down into the city to the dance clubs and bars. Now you might think this was strange for me since I did not drink alcohol, but I wanted to dance and watch music videos. Sometimes I would drive, other times I would take public transportation. Depending on how the evening was going I could be dancing at the club until they closed, or I could be there for an hour before making my way home. My point is I might be walking alone to my car at 3 in the morning. I knew to be cautious or at least aware of my surroundings, but I was not fearful. Granted, on side streets I would always walk down the middle of them. Riding public transportation never was a concern for me. Whether I was on a bus or train, I never thought something could go wrong; at least, not to the extent I read and see in the news. MAYBE I WAS LUCKY THAT NOTHING befell me back then; however, there were several times when I was scared. Once while walking down the street in the afternoon a guy came up to me and asked for a cigarette. When I said I didn’t smoke he started yelling and calling me names. I tried to walk away but he kept shoving me. Not until he pushed me into a plate glass window did he take off running. I used to replay that scene over and over in my head, imagining different endings where I would come out victorious. Another time I was walking to my car after dinner and noticed a small group of teenagers walking towards me. I made a quick decision and turned into a building’s walkway, despite not knowing where it would lead. Luckily, I wound up in the alley just as I heard their laughter echoing out from the walkway. Quickly I ran down the alley until I found another walkway through a building that lead me back to the street, where I ran all the way to my car. Again, as I made my way home I fantasized different scenarios where I was a boxer or martial arts expert who quickly subdued my assailants into submission…or unconsciousness. The only difference between me and the main character in this dramatic comedy is I never acted on it. AFTER BEING MUGGED BY A MOTORCYCLE gang Casey, played by Jesse Eisenberg (The End of the Tour, The Social Network), looked for a way to defend himself. He found his answer at a karate school. With Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle, Disobedience) as Sensei, Imogen Poots (Green Room, Frank & Lola) as Anna, Steve Terada (Crank, Memoirs of a Geisha) as Thomas and Phillip Andre Botello (Pledge, Road Wars) as Kenneth; this film festival nominated movie was wickedly dark, violent and funny. At first, I felt Jesse was doing a repeat of some of his previous roles, but he hit the mark as a timid man on the spectrum. At least I took him to be a person on the spectrum. I am a little familiar with Alessandro’s work and I especially admired him in this role as the owner and head of the karate school. Between my laughter and shock there were a few bumps in the road inside the script, where it became predictable. However, I was enjoying the performances too much to let the predictability bother me. Again, I want to stress this was a real dark comedy with blood and violence. Despite it, I did wonder what would have happened to me if I had joined a karate school.
FOR THOSE WHO ENJOY PEANUT BUTTER and jelly sandwiches, there is an innate comfort associated with them. I am a smooth peanut butter and grape jelly type of guy, though I can mix it up with crunchy peanut butter at times. If you have a similar history to mine, then you remember a PB&J was one of the first sandwiches given to you. I remember how the peanut butter would get smoothed over the slice of bread before spreading the jelly on top, trying to get it to reach out to the four corners of the bread. For my sandwich it had to be done with white bread, nothing else. Because it was always consistent in taste and texture, I knew what to expect and that brought me comfort. Whether I had it for lunch or dinner, I would still get a feeling that everything would be okay for me. For a little kid you could not beat having that comforting feeling anytime you wanted; it would well up inside of me at my first bite. And this included keeping the crusts on the bread slices, since I had a friend who had to have the crusts cut off before eating his sandwich. A FUNNY THING ABOUT PEANUT BUTTER and jelly sandwiches; it could be years between having one and the sandwich would still pack the same emotions. I experience it every time; we’re talking a lot of years. Now I know there are some people who cannot eat the same thing two days in a row and I get it. They like thinking of something new to eat or satisfy a craving or even just want to play with ingredients in their kitchen to see what they can create. When they do stuff like that I do not believe they build a history with the food dish. Sure, they love it and it tastes good; but then they move on to something else the next time and maybe, down the road, they revisit that dish another time. That is all well and good, but I feel it is not the same thing as being able to eat something that elicits long held memories. There are no surprises involved, no figuring out things; everything falls into a familiar place. Personally, I love when that happens and maybe that is the reason why this decades long franchise continues to work; one knows what to expect when they walk into the theater to see this dramatic sports movie. IT WAS NOT ENOUGH FOR ADONIS JOHNSON, played by Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther, Fantastic Four), to reach the pinnacle of the boxing world. When the son of the man who killed his father entered the ring, it was about revenge and protecting his father’s name. With Sylvester Stallone (Escape Plan, Get Carter) as Rocky Balboa, Tessa Thompson (Dear White People, Annihilation) as Bianca, newcomer Florian Munteanu as Viktor Drago and Dolph Lundgren (Universal Solider, The Punisher) as Ivan Drago; this movie did everything I expected it to do. Michael did just as good of a job here as he did in the first film. Who I thought shined even brighter was Tessa and Sylvester in their roles. It seemed as if Rocky grew into this role; I could feel the weight of his world resting on his shoulders and got a sense of his mortality. Tessa’s singing and acting were the perfect touch to the drama coming across the screen. The premise for this story was little different from the ones previously. There was a good guy and bad one, unexpected home issues and parent issues; pretty much all the same but I did not mind. This franchise still delivers a good punch (I apologize for the pun). It is like eating a PB&J; I knew what to expect and got it with little effort on my part.
3 ¼ stars
WE WERE LINED UP IN a single row, one behind the other. The gym teacher handed the basketball to the first boy, telling him to take a shot at the hoop. I looked up at the basketball hoop, with its netting that looked like something a fisherman had dragged through the ocean; it was ragged and gray as it lifelessly hung down. The first boy missed the hoop so he had to hand over the basketball to the next student standing in line. The 2nd boy made a basket which meant he got to take another turn. It was a simple game; for every basket a student made they could take another turn, otherwise hand off the ball to the next boy in line. My only experience playing with a basketball before was with my friends for a game called Horse. I had no desire to get involved with any type of competition that involved a ball at school; because, I had seen just how competitive and mean students were when they competed with each other. The student who was not as skilled as his teammates would be ridiculed and abused outside of the eyes and ears of the gym teacher. LIVING IN A CITY THAT HAD a famous, winning basketball team you would think I would have gotten into the sport; you would be incorrect. I enjoyed watching the game but have never gone out of my way to devote time to sitting and watching it on TV. The players’ athletic abilities astound me, as well as their showmanship; that was about it for me. I may have mentioned this before but I have a hard time accepting the fact that athletes get paid millions of dollars for playing with a ball, while school teachers barely get by on their salaries and they are molding the minds of children. Now I am aware how team sports activities lend themselves to the bonds players form with each other. In high school the guys on the football or baseball team were inseparable; that was not necessarily the case for those on the debate or chess teams. It was rare to see a single football player walking down the school’s hallway without a buddy alongside of him. I am not judging this by the way; I think it is great when a student feels like they belong to something because I am aware of those who did not feel like they belonged. Let me tell you it is a whole different experience for the outsider. The proof can be found in this sport comedy film. DRIVEN BY THE NEED TO SUCCEED due to a childhood basketball game incident Dax, played by Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, The Carmichael Show-TV) is determined to win the neighborhood basketball tournament. However when Mookie, played by Nick Kroll (Adult Beginners, My Blind Brother), steals Dax’ star basketball player; Dax is forced to seek out the basketball legend Uncle Drew, played by Kyrie Irving. Upon meeting him Dax has no idea how an old, white haired man could possibly play the game. With Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip, Meet the Spartans) as Jess, Erica Ash (Scary Movie 5, Survivor’s Remorse-TV) as Maya and Shaquille O’Neal (Steel, Kazaam) as Big Fella; it has been established I am not a big fan of basketball. The script started out slow for me, along with its easy predictability. What kept my interest through this picture, believe it or not, was the basketball playing. I was amazed by the “senior” basketball players’ skills; they were fun to watch. The jokes and humor were nothing special; but for this light fare it was fine. And because of the basketball playing on display in this film I have a new appreciation for the game of basketball.
2 ½ stars
IT WAS THE FIRST time I was invited to such an event and it would be my last. I was invited to an ice skating birthday party many years ago. The party was being held at an indoor ice skating rink that had a party room that my friend’s parents decorated with balloons and signs. I had never gone ice skating before so I was excited to try it out. After lacing up the skates, on wobbly legs I made my way to the rink, grabbing any solid object for balance on my way. Stepping on the ice I remained at the side with my hand on the short wall that surrounded the rink. I had seen ice skaters on TV and thought it was easy to stand on a thin steel blade but I was wrong. Every time I let go of the wall and tried to skate I fell down. I do not think I ever made it around the rink once without my skates slipping out from underneath me, either falling face first on the ice or on my backside. THOUGH THERE WAS STILL time to skate before we were having cake, I got off the ice and sat on a bench where there was carpeting. I would not say I was sad, maybe frustrated; since there were people on the ice who made it look effortless. There were a few individuals who would skate face forward then suddenly do a hop so they could skate going backwards. I still remember one girl who was given a wide space around her because she was doing these incredible fast spins, where she simply looked like a blur or did spinning jumps in the air that captivated me. These few people almost looked like the skaters I would watch at the Olympics and other ice skating competitions. Sitting there looking at my discarded skates, I wondered if it was possible to get a second blade on each boot. I just felt if I had more blades to balance on I could make my way around the rink. And do you know what the funny part is to this story? I remember seeing Tonya Harding on television when she did something that no other female skater had done before and no one I saw at that rink was like her. FROM A YOUNG AGE Tonya, played by Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, The Wolf of Wall Street), stood out from the other ice skaters; her mother LaVona Golden, played by Allison Janney (Hairspray, The Hours), stood out even more. Based on true events this film festival winning, biographical drama has to be seen to be believed. Allison was totally outrageous in the role and I see award nominations piling up for her. Margot was a perfect fit for this character; it was a smart choice on her part that will make her even more bankable as they say. With Sebastian Stan (Captain America franchise, The Covenant) as Jeff Gillooly, Paul Walter Hauser (Kingdom-TV, Super Troopers 2) as Shawn and Julianne Nicholson (Black Mass, August: Osage County) as Diane Rawlinson; I cannot remember how long it has been since I sat in a movie theater laughing out loud. The script beautifully blended outrageous moments with tragic undertones. The story when it happened was so bizarre to begin with, I enjoyed seeing the behind the scenes stuff in this movie even if it was not true. One thing I knew for certain was the judgmental views officials had about Tonya. No matter which way one chooses to view Tonya in this picture, the fact remains she did something astounding. You will have to decide what it was she did.
3 ½ stars
YOU HAVE NO IDEA how good it feels to be writing this review. I apologize for being away so long but I experienced something that has never happened to me before. For the 1st time in my adult life I found myself being admitted into the hospital. After being home a few days with these weird non-painful symptoms such as zero energy, my daily banana now tasting like rotten flesh; I drove to one of those clinics inside a retail establishment. I think people refer to them as “doc in the box.” They could not have been nicer and immediately called the ER to let them know I was on my way. Once there I walked through the front door, gave my name at registration and I was ushered immediately into a room. The next hours became a blur as I was hooked up to IV solutions, getting a chest X-ray and some other stuff; at that point all my defenses were down and I did not care. However, they did offer me the opportunity to watch movies on the monitor hanging up in the corner of the room. I wondered how they knew I love films. MY TIME IN THE HOSPITAL was an experience I will never forget. The bed with all the whistles and lights, though sleek and obvious hi-tech, had to have been based on torture racks from medieval times. The mattress on its own would move in spots, so at first I thought I must have been hungover because it made it feel like the room was spinning at times. Through the ups and downs during my days there the one thing that stood out way above everything else was this group of strangers involved with me. I felt I must have woken up from a dream because there were females, males, people from different religious backgrounds, from different countries, old and young, different races, different sexual identity; it was the most utopian place I had ever seen. These people were working side by side; the only drama in the room ironically was me. During those times where my temperature would spike up in a matter of minutes, there were women and men on either side of me placing heated blankets and heat packs around my body. Even one particular nurse I scared after she tried to draw blood from my hand twice at 1 in the morning, looked at me and said she was scared to touch me. I told her she should be; she still came back the next day to see how I was doing. I am telling you it was such an incredible sight, these people who were focused on me but were not just doing their job; they were listening and hearing each other and me. Why couldn’t the real world outside be like this; each of these individuals set a prime example of what it means to be human. I will never forget them and tell the stories they shared with me; I will honor them by trying to be a better human being and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. There was no battle between the sexes, everyone was equal and all were just doing the right thing in the true sense of what it means to be human. Sadly this is not the case yet in many places in the world currently and it sure did not take place back in the 1970s where this famous event between one man and one woman took place. THIS FILM FESTIVAL nominated biographical comedy based on a true event succeeded with 2 special actors: Emma Stone (La La Land, Magic in the Moonlight) and Steve Carell (The Big Short, Foxcatcher) as Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. They were outstanding with the look and mannerisms of the actual celebrities. Steve was truly Bobby, it was mind-blowing. Also cast in this sports film was Andrea Riseborough (Nocturnal Animals, Happy-Go-Lucky) as Marilyn Barnett, Sarah Silverman (The Book of Henry, I Smile Back) as Gladys Heldman and Bill Pullman (The Equalizer, While you Were Sleeping) as Jack Kramer. It is hard to believe that it was only 40 years ago, but there was this wedge between the sexes. As I just wrote that I realize we are living it now with that football quarterback’s comments to the female reporter’s question. Though the acting was this picture’s biggest strength, the script was not strong enough for such a big event. It was obvious Billie Jean and Bobby were the main topic but the way the script was written did not give enough to the rest of the cast to keep up. I wanted more consistent levels of intensity; some scenes were brilliant, but others were drab. It did not make this movie go bad, it just dulled the shine it deserved. On the one hand it seems ludicrous that this event needed to take place; but on the other hand, the event caused an important shift to take place in the way people thought about females and males. I certainly wish no harm to anyone but I wish you could experience the staff I had the honor to be part of in a perilous situation and trust me, there is no such thing as one man being better than one female or 1 woman being better than 1 male.
THE wait was not too long before the waitress brought us our orders. Similar sized plates were placed in front of us; mine had the food beautifully laid out with a row of shiny green vegetables stacked at one end and the main entrée sectioned apart to form a pinwheel effect. I am a visual eater which means if something does not look good to me I am not going to touch it. Keeping that in mind this is what I saw when I looked at my friend’s dinner plate. There was a mound of food in the middle that looked like it had partially melted. Globs of a white protein substance dotted the surface like oozing pustules. There were thin stringy noodles hanging down around the mound that reminded me of greasy hair. My friend took his fork and stabbed one of the white globs; I expected it to burst open like a pimple. I could not look at him putting it into his mouth. Instead I focused on my dinner, but was immediately told by him that I had to taste his dish. Explaining I did not like the look of it, he insisted and placed a spoonful of his food on my plate. Because I did not want it to contaminate my food and could not push it off, with his continued insistence I just tried it to shut him up; I closed my eyes and put it in my mouth. The flavor and taste was nothing I imagined; it actually tasted good. SURELY I cannot be the only one who looks at something and makes a decision based solely on its looks. If someone thinks sauerkraut looks disgusting, who is it hurting? But when this type of thought process is used to judge an individual, it takes on a whole different set of circumstances. Need I point out how many news reports have been showing violence against someone based solely on their looks? I may have an issue with how my food appears but it doesn’t affect anyone else. Seeing the amount of violence and hatred people have for other people is sickening to me. Having survived the taunts and abuse from individuals who did not like the way I looked has made me extra sensitive to being a witness to such things. This is why I had a challenging time watching this sports drama based on a true story. SMUGGLED out of his home in Iran Ali, played by George Kosturos (Caged No More, Christmas with the Karountzoses), found himself in a small California town just as the Iranian hostage crisis took center stage in the 1980s. How much safer would he be here? This film festival winning movie also starred Jon Voight (Heat, Deliverance) as Principal Skinner and William Fichtner (Black Hawk Down, Contact) as Coach Plyler. I found the story pretty incredible and started to believe George was the real Ali. As for the script I was disappointed at its predictability. It was written in a paint by number fashion where one could easily figure out what would happen next. As I mentioned earlier I had a hard time watching some of the action taking place around Ali; however, it kept me connected to the story since I could relate to it. Despite the predictability the message one could take away from this story is an important one. So much is done these days based on looks without taking the time to look inside.
2 ½ stars
“YOU should write a book about it,” is a comment that has been directed to me numerous times. The reason has less to do with my writing ability and more with the incredible to outrageous stories I have been involved in or told. I will avoid using pronouns to protect the individuals. There was one person I was involved with whose family history played out like an evening soap opera, television show. One family member was going to be elected to a high political position until their views deviated from the people in power. The person I knew was sent out of the country to avoid any fallout, but to also get a better education. Spending many years traveling the world instead of coming back home, they told me about some of their experiences in foreign lands that I have not even seen done in a movie. One of these stories involved a stalker and a secret intelligence agency; that is all I can say about this individual. RECENTLY I was involved with someone who had a story to tell me every time we got together. One of the stories was accompanied with photographs; however, they could only show me a select few because they were brought in to oversee a secret government operation. The first photo they showed me was of them standing in front of a posted sign out in the jungle. I immediately knew why they had to be secretive about their whereabouts. Another photo showed how they were transported to this secret location; essentially it was a cargo bay with portable toilets and folding chairs nailed to the floor. It was so not part of my little corner of the world that I did not even know how to respond to any of it. I could go on with so many other encounters I have had that I could actually fill up a whole book. However if I do that then I cannot tell you whether it was worth seeing this biographical drama about a man who was the real boxer behind the famous film character Rocky Balboa. KNOWN as the “Bleeder of Bayonne” boxer Chuck Wepner, played by Liev Schreiber (Spotlight, Ray Donovan-TV), was a hometown hero even before there was a movie called Rocky. With Elizabeth Moss (The One I Love, Mad Men-TV) as Phyliss, Naomi Watts (St. Vincent, Diana) as Linda, Jim Gaffigan (17 Again, It’s Kind of a Funny Story) as John and Ron Perlman (Poker Night, Hellboy franchise) as Al Braverman; I had never heard about this boxer. Everyone in the cast did a wonderful job of acting. Liev however stood out for me because he was so good in his role, but be prepared there was a lot of blood shown. Not being a big fan of boxing, I was glad that the actual act was secondary to the story. As for the story it was engaging with surprise. The sets, costumes and dialog captured the era; it was interesting to watch the arc of Chuck’s story line. If I had to choose one particular thing that increased my interest in this film it would have to be the connection to Sylvester Stallone and the Rocky movie. I think it helped that this was included into the script because it produced deeper emotional intensity to the story. There are so many people in the world that need to have their story told; I was satisfied that this one came to the big screen.
AFTER so many years teaching in the health industry you would think there is nothing left to surprise me these days. It is not often I encounter a long distance runner but when I do I still am fascinated by the person’s dedication/determination. Personally there is no way I would let my feet pound pavement that long. And if that is not enough reason to avoid running, the individuals who run outside in winter simply baffle me. There was one person I spoke with who ran every day no matter what the weather was outside. They had to get new running shoes every three months. I asked one time what they got out of running every day and they said it was peace of mind. If there was one day they could not run, they felt oft-kilter the entire day. On a certain level I had to admire the person’s drive. DO you know how you can see traits in other people that you do not recognize in yourself? Regarding my film reviews, everyone who knows me knows I have to be at the movies over the weekend. When talking to a friend about getting together I cannot tell you how many times I have said I need to see a movie first. The response I get from them is this, “You do know you do not HAVE to go; you choose to go.” I usually say it is my job because that is how I look at writing reviews; the best job by the way. The way my mind is wired this is something that I have to do. Some of you might remember when I first started posting reviews my goal was to write one review a day for 365 days and I achieved that goal. Afterwards I posted comments that going forward there would be times where I would miss posting a review; there was no need to worry. I dialed back to find balance once again in my life. It is funny how I realized I am no different than a marathon runner; we both have the drive and determination. It has given me a whole new appreciation for anyone who single mindedly has a need to achieve something. BASED on a true story world champion boxer Vinny Pazienza, played by Miles Teller (War Dogs, Fantastic Four), did something no one believed he could every do. Evidently no one knew the drive Vinny had to achieve his goal. This dramatic sport story worked because of its amazing cast. Besides Miles there was Aaron Eckhart (Sully, My All American) as Rooney and Katey Sagal (Married with Children-TV, Sons of Anarchy-TV) as Louise who were both on par with Miles. I was not familiar with this biographical story but I have to say it truly was incredible. What was missing for me was more detail in the script. We all have seen boxing movies and this one had a basic floor plan that was a bit predictable. I would have appreciated more details into Vinny’s life and family life. As it stood, the movie was interesting though there were scenes that had blood and violence in them. As I mentioned earlier it was the acting that made this film and with seeing this story, one has to admire this boxer’s determination.
2 ¾ stars
One of the big mysteries I still struggle to understand is how people gain confidence. The answer is so elusive to me because I see some people who exude confidence; not in a bragging or boastful way, they just seem to have a strong sense of self and more importantly they believe in themselves. The ones who have the skills and knowledge to back up their confidence deserve it in my opinion. But the individuals who do not have the talent or masterfulness in the field they claim make me curious to know why that person feels that way. At the other end of the equation there are people who have the skill or artistry but do not believe they perform it well. I fall into this category. Since I feel that way I have always looked to see if my lack of belief is due to the environment I grew up in or were there other factors that made me feel like I am never good enough for the task at hand. Was it negative comments I received, people’s perceptions about overweight individuals or being forced to blend in with the majority; I just do not know? What I do know however, is the strength inside of me is partially fueled by my desire to prove people wrong or more precisely prove myself wrong. How twisted does that sound? With everything I have just said I am aware that I have been fortunate with the opportunities that were available to me. There is just one other factor that needs to be part of this conversation and that is acknowledging those individuals who were born with a particular gift like being genetically predisposed for a certain set of skills. It does not matter what their environment is like or their circumstances; they simply have the aptitude. But do you want to know something? A person still needs to believe they can do it. SPENDING her days selling maize Phiona Mutesi, played by newcomer Madina Nalwanga, happened to see a game of chess being played. It was a game that came with a multitude of possibilities. This film festival winning movie was based on a true story. With David Oyelowo (Selma, Lee Daniels’ The Butler) as Robert Katende and Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, Non-Stop) as Nakku Harriet, the acting was incredible. Lupita had such power in her expressions that I thought I saw fire coming out of her eyes; that is how good she was with her character. This biographical story could have fallen into oversweet sappiness, but due to the script and directing the story came across with a solid sense of realness. I have to tell you the story was amazing. I enjoyed the setting and contrasts shown in this picture. Chess is something that is considered refined almost stately in some circles and I loved the fact that it was being played by poor villagers in a town of Uganda. After watching this film all I can say is I wish I had some of Phiona’s strength. Stay for the beginning of the great ending credits.
3 1/3 stars