WHEN THE MIND DESPERATELY WANTS TO do something, it does its best to avoid listening to the body. Images of the task at hand briefly pop up in the brain like bubbles, keeping you distracted from reality. I cannot tell you how many times I have found myself in this situation. Through the past years I have taught a fitness or yoga class, knowing in the back of my mind I might not be able to finish all the way through it. There was the time I was inflicted with a rotator cuff impingement, which in plain language is a pain in my shoulder. I knew there were several yoga poses in class that I would not be able to handle without causing more pain to myself. The only way I was able to get through the class was to do a quick demo of the completed pose and when I had the class join in, I did a modified version that took pressure off my shoulder. To the class, I explained what I was doing, but framed it as an option for those who might be feeling pressure/discomfort in their shoulders. No one had to know I was partially incapacitated, which I know is silly; however, I have it in my brain that I need to always appear 100% healthy to the members in my class. I have this fear that a member might assume any infliction I might have was due to exercising, causing them to stop. I know, it is ridiculous on my part to think of such a thing. ONE OF THE HARDEST CLASSES I HAD to teach was my first cycle class after suffering a bout of E coli. My doctor had recommended I take more time off from work and teaching to recover, but my mind was telling me I needed to get back to work and teaching. The members in my cycle class knew I had been hospitalized; there was no way to pretend I was perfectly fine. Getting onto the cycle bike took more effort than I had ever needed. My thoughts of “will I be able to get through class” were clashing with my brain telling me I had to teach. The music started and off I went into the warm-up phase of our ride. I got through it okay but when I told the class to pick up speed and come off their saddles, I immediately could tell I was going to be out of breath in no time. With sweat building up and my breathing becoming labored, I had to dial down the tension on the bike’s flywheel. Almost every challenge the class and I went through on our ride; I had to modify or simply sit down and take a breather. It was the hardest class I ever taught; but the members were so supportive and appreciative, I felt good for the first time since contracting the E coli. Because of what I had gone through, I understood why the main character in this dramatic sports romance kept going. HAVING PUSHED HIMSELF TO THE LIMITS to get to the level of competition he needed to be at, there was no way a pain in his body was going to stop Tyler, played by Kevin Harrison Jr. (It Comes at Night, Monsters and Men), from playing the sport he loved. He also did not want to disappoint his father. With Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased, Ben is Back) as Luke, Taylor Russell (Escape Room, Lost in Space-TV) as Emily, Sterling K. Brown (The Predator, Black Panther) as Ronald and Alexa Demie (Mid90s, Brigsby Bear) as Alexis; this film festival winner provided an absorbing viewing experience for me. I thought the acting was excellent from the whole cast because with a story we have seen before, they took the words in the script and turned them into something new and fresh. Also, the directing and filming made a difference for me in this movie. There was such authentic meaning ringing out in all the scenes, that I found myself experiencing some of the emotions that were taking place with the characters. This was a moving and emotional experience about family, pain, honesty, grief and forgiveness.
3 ½ stars
REVENGE IS SOMETHING THAT IS NOT easily mastered; I should know. Not only have I done my share of acts of revenge, I have seen so many others attempt it. There was a family that suffered a tragic loss when a relative of theirs was shot dead. The victim was a shop owner who was killed during a botched robbery of his store. His relatives understandably were devastated. At some point their sadness turned into anger which they focused to the robber’s nationality. They became mistrustful of anyone of the same nationality. If they could I believed they would have acted on their sudden hatred and do bodily harm to the person if the opportunity presented itself. I remember listening to a few of them when they were talking about the things they wanted to do to get revenge. Gratefully, they were more talk than action; so, I did not have to interject myself into their discussions, to diffuse the situation. What happened to them was quite sad. Instead of seeking help with their feelings of anger they disintegrated into a level of dysfunction where their ambition, happiness and empathy melted away from the heat of their raging feelings. They took no pleasure in things they used to enjoy. NOT THAT I AM NECESSARY PROUD of this; but I was more successful in seeking out revenge against those that had harmed me. I know that sounds ominous; let me try to explain. In past reviews, I have shared that I am the survivor of bullying and abuse. During my high school years, I spent a lot of time fantasizing about all the things I wanted to do against my perpetrators. Drowning by water or burning in a fire were popular themes for me. In reality, I did only a few minor irritating things to annoy those bullies; some acts involved itching powder and glue. From my initiation in school, I was better prepared to handle bullies in the work world. With one person who caused me harm, I started to lock file drawers that they needed, knowing they did not have a key for them. One of the things I mastered was to ignore the person. If it was business related, I would talk to them; if not, I would not acknowledge them. I know this sounds childish, but it was a method that worked in keeping me calm and focused on what I was being paid to do. This was a safer option compared to what the main character chose to do in this dramatic, action mystery movie. LIFE SPIRALED OUT OF CONTROL FOR Stephanie Patrick, played by Blake Lively (A Simple Favor, The Age of Adeline), after her family died in a plane crash. She had no purpose in life until a journalist found and told her his theory about the crash not being an accident. With Jude Law (Closer, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as B, Sterling K. Brown (Hotel Artemis, This is Us-TV) as Mark Serra, Daniel Mays (The Bank Job, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Dean West and Max Casella (Blue Jasmine, Jackie) as Leon Giler; this was a new type of character for Blake to play. I thought she was decent in the role; but it did not help the trajectory of this picture. The script was beyond loony. First, buying Blake as an “action hero” was a stretch, I grant you that. However, nothing made any sense in the transformation of her character. And if that was not enough, throw in a quick love interest scene. I could not get over how incredibly boring this film was for me. There is nothing more I would rather do than tell you about the ludicrous things that took place here; but they would give away part of the story. I could not do that to you, but maybe a revengeful person would think differently.
1 ½ stars
WE WERE WALKING AROUND THE TOWN looking for buildings that were still standing from the turn of the century. On a road trip with a friend, he asked if we could make a stop at this small town where a relative of his had lived. He had never met the relative but wanted to find his grave. The town came as a total surprise to me because it had this mixture of old and new buildings that complimented each other, giving off an old-world vibe. As we walked down the main street, we found buildings that had been built and standing at the time my friend’s deceased relative had migrated to the area. My friend took photos of the buildings we had found; he wanted to form some type of bond to this man he never knew, but who yet was connected to him. All my friend had was an old photograph of his great uncle when he was a teenager. Whenever he looked at the photo of the man, he would see a strong resemblance to his Dad, who coincidentally happened to be named after this departed relative. As we walked around, I thought how lucky my friend was to be able to visit his relative’s town and travel the same streets his great uncle might have used when he was alive. HOW I WOULD HAVE LOVED TO BE able to visit the town of an ancestor. Since I was a little boy, I was always fascinated with looking at old, family photographs; both mine and other families. There is something about me having a similar genetic makeup to a long line of individuals that comforts me. Maybe because I really was never part of any type of group growing up that now I find myself comforted knowing I have an immediate connection to a group of people. I am always amazed when I run into someone who is a distant relative that shares similar features to myself or to an immediate family member of mine. Only recently I was at a restaurant where I bumped into a group of distant relatives. One of the relatives looked strikingly similar to one of my immediate family members that it startled me for a moment, especially because this person was a cousin twice removed from me. As we briefly talked about our family connection, I could not help thinking how important it is to me to look back at those who came before me to find out where I was going now. The main character in this animated, adventure comedy would know what I am talking about. A DISTANT VOICE THAT ONLY ELSA, voiced by Idina Menzel (Rent, The Tollbooth), could hear was calling out to her. Something about it sounded familiar enough to make Elsa leave her kingdom and put herself in terrible peril. With Kristen Bell (Bad Moms franchise, The Boss) voicing Anna, Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Marshall) voicing Olaf, Jonathan Groff (Glee-TV, Looking-TV) voicing Kristoff and Sterling K. Brown (Hotel Artemis, This is Us-TV) voicing Mattias; this sequel was a visual masterpiece. The amount of detail and creativity put into every scene was breathtaking at times. As for the script it was good but not as good as the original movie. Since there was no main villain, I felt the drama waned at times. It seemed as if the studio’s marketing department was working overtime; for example, the script had a new cute character that would be perfect in toy version and there were places where songs were sung (though I could not remember one song when I left the theater) in the hopes that one of them would be a chart topper. All of this does not mean much since the theaters were packed with small children and their parents dressed up as one of the characters. There was such a high bar to reach due to the success of the first movie that it would have taken super powers to try and top it. I give the studio credit for its valiant effort. There was an extra scene at the end of the movie credits.
IT MAKES ME FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE WHEN I am talking with someone that has a history of, let me say, not being nice to people. The problem is I never personally experienced it myself, only been told about it. I dislike having to be on my guard when talking to a person; conversation for me should be an easy back and forth of thoughts, emotions and ideas. Back in school it was easy to figure out who was nice. I remember there was a fistfight that took place in the schoolyard and this one boy stepped out from an entire circle of students to break the fight up. Throughout the ensuing years he displayed many acts of kindness and compassion. Interestingly, he had a good friend who you would have assumed was also a kind person; that was not the case though. He pretended to be nice, but he actually was a sneaky kid who could quickly turn mean. I once saw him push a student down by punching them in the back. Imagine how I must have felt when we were paired up for a science project; I was careful around him as I did my best to avoid any type of conflict. RECENTLY I WAS A GUEST AT A social function and was reminded of that lab partner I had for the science project. I had heard about this individual before I was to meet them. Let me just say the stories I heard did not paint a favorable light around this individual; however, I was keeping an open mind until I could meet them. So, the opportunity came up where we were going to meet and just as it was explained to me this person was gracious and sweet at first. From the stories I had heard this person was not yet acting out any of them. Here is the interesting thing; as the evening went on this individual made a couple of comments to someone else that I found to be passive aggressive. The example I will use is this particular comment, where this person complimented another person’s dress. They said the dress was pretty but wanted to know if that was the only color offered. When they were told there were other colors this person said, “I bet a different color dress would look good on you.” I thought the comment was rude and from that point on I was cautious around this individual. The reason I mention this incident is because I wound up feeling the same as I watched this science fiction, action film. BY ACCIDENT A SMALL BOY WAS RESPONSIBLE for alien beings to come to earth. The aliens were interested in one thing. This horror adventure starred Boyd Holbrook (Logan, Run All Night) as Quinn McKenna, Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight, 12 Strong) as Nebraska Williams, Jacob Tremblay (Room, Wonder) as Rory McKenna, Oliva Munn (Office Christmas Party, Ride Along 2) as Casey Bracket and Sterling K. Brown (Hotel Artemis, This is Us-TV) as Traeger. As I sat watching this movie it started out with a bang of excitement. From there it veered off by bringing in humor, along with social issues. I thought Jacob and Olivia were the best out of the cast. In fact, there was one scene with Jacob where I laughed out loud; but that was the issue with this film. The mix of different story lines in the script made it confusing, to the point I became bored. And sadly, the writers were blatant in letting the audience know there will be a sequel. If there is and it has the same type of script I suggest you take a pass on this franchise. It is becoming a silly mess.
OF ALL PLACES I WOULD NOT have thought an amusement park would have been the place where I felt I was now part of a group. Growing up I never was much associated with any one group. I was not into team sports nor did I belong to any type of organization. Some of my friends had been involved with the Boy Scouts or after school programs; I never felt comfortable to be a part of such things. My friends were an eclectic group I enjoyed being with; but I also liked having my alone time too. During the high school years is when I really shied away from being labeled part of any type of group. There were the jocks who always hung out together and as far as I could tell did most activities as one group. If one person was going to a party then they all would go to it; if one person picked on a student then the others would join in. Another group that did everything en masse were the cheerleaders. If one of them hated something then the rest of them immediately hated the same thing. I know these two examples are considered stereotypical, but this type of group mentality was prevalent throughout my school. SO HERE I FIND MYSELF at this massive amusement park and we have special passes that allow us to bypass the lines of people waiting to get on the rides. I am not sure if I can describe how I felt as we walked up to the park employees managing the lines, showed them our pass and then directed into a separate line that was right next to the general line. As I walked by I looked at the faces of the attendees who had been standing there for 30-65 minutes; they looked tired, dehydrated and a bit annoyed by the long wait. So here I am walking at my usual fast pace and come up to other guests who have passes. I think we only had a 10-minute wait before we could get on the ride. As I am getting strapped into the compartment assigned to me I get this realization that all of us were being treated in a special way. Granted the tickets cost more, but I suddenly felt like I had something in common with this group of strangers; it was like we were a part of a secret club. It was a new feeling for me and helped me understand the group camaraderie that took place in this action crime thriller. SITUATED IN PLAIN VIEW IN the heart of Los Angeles stood a hotel that was run by a nurse, played by Jodie Foster (The Accused, Elysium), who only allowed a certain type of individual in to be a guest—a criminal. There were rules that had to be followed if you wanted to stay. With Sterling K. Brown (Marshall, This is Us-TV) as Waikiki, Sofia Boutella (Atomic Blonde, Star Trek: Beyond) as Nice, Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Blade Runner 2049) as Everest and Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park franchise, The Fly) as Niagara; the set-up to this story seemed promising, along with the capable cast. However once again the movie studio focused on the cast instead of the script. I enjoyed this cast of characters and the script’s campy vibe, but nothing stood out as exceptional for me. Everything I was watching seemed familiar despite the cool looking sets. It also seemed obvious the studio would not be opposed to doing a sequel. It would be a mistake if they chose to keep the same writers. I may not be part of the reviewers who enjoyed this picture and you know what? That would be okay because I am used to going my own way.
1 ¾ stars
IT IS STILL A MYSTERY, at least to me, how a person winds up with a strong sense of confidence. In fact is it even a sense? Maybe it is more of a belief; either way it is something I have struggled with for a long time. When I look back all the way to my school years, I do not recall any of my actions being motivated from a base of confidence. Now granted my brain is wired to be a defensive pessimist which I have always considered to be an asset. With this type of mindset I go into something expecting the worst; so if it fails I am not disappointed and if it comes out good then I am elated. The thing about being wired this way is it allows me to look at all the possibilities for ways things can go wrong, pushing me to go harder in finding a solution. Yet I still would like to know how it feels to do something without having to question oneself. THERE WAS A PROFESSOR who periodically would get his manuscripts published into books. He never thought about what market he was writing for or if his work would be successful; he just knew when he was done writing his final draft the piece would get sold. I was fascinated to the point of being enthralled by the confidence he exuded when it came to his writings and teaching. There never was a point where he would second guess, doubt or even think he would not be well received in his world of academia. I wondered if by hanging around him some of his confidence would rub off on me. The whole confidence thing is such a curious puzzle to me. Is it something that gets instilled in a child from their living environment? Can a person be taught to have confidence? And how much influence does the classroom experience have on a child? I wish I had answers to these questions for it would have given me more insight into the amazing confidence the main character had in this biographical, dramatic movie. DURING THE TIMES WHERE there were “White Only” water fountains NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall, played by Chadwick Boseman (Get on Up, 42), was sent to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman. It was a case that would take on historic significance. Based on a true event the cast also included Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, The Wedding Ringer) as Sam Friedman, Kate Hudson (Bride Wars, Deepwater Horizon) as Eleanor Strubing, Sterling K. Brown (This is Us-TV, The Suspect) as Joseph Spell and Dan Stevens (Beauty and the Beast, The Guest) as Loren Willis. First let me say the acting in this film was incredible; Chadwick and Josh embodied their characters fully. I am so impressed with Josh’s versatility and movie choices; he commanded the screen. The script and direction worked hand in hand to create not only a monumental event, but wrap it into a court thriller. Personally I would have enjoyed if the writers put in more of Thurgood’s back story because his confidence, especially in the environment he resided in, was unbelievable. With the courtroom drama taking up most of the air, the secondary side scenes were relegated to the background in my opinion. Please excuse the pun but the movie studio did justice to this story and I only wish I could have just a tenth of the confidence Thurgood Marshall had inside of him.
3 ½ stars