SEEKING APPROVAL FROM THOSE YOU LOVE is one of the strongest motivators one has at their disposal. Feeling good about your accomplishment is fine; however, having that “seal of approval” from someone else forms a stronger bond that can last for years. I remember to this day how I felt the first time I had to construct a diorama for a school project. The assignment was to recreate a scene from a book we were reading for class. My choice was an outdoor scene of mountains surrounding a secluded lake that the characters from the book would periodically visit. I had used a combination of materials, including rolled up pieces of plastic wrap for the lake. With a large assortment of colored markers and paints. I colored the pieces of cardboard I had cut out from a packing box, creating a mountain range with snow caps. For trees I used pipe cleaners that I would twist together to form the foliage over brown and black painted toilet paper cores. As I said before, I used a variety of things for this project. Once completed I was proud of what I had done. Family members praised my work which was both wonderful and expected; but, I really was hoping my teacher would shower her praise over my creation. She was a fantastic artist which made me value her opinion more than other people; gratefully she did not disappoint me. WHY I WAS REMINDED OF THIS memory was due to this musical movie. I have seen Elton John in concert a couple of times; once during his earlier years and the other recently. From the variety of acts I have seen live in concert, Elton was not a typical rock star. Many of them played off a certain sex appeal they were portraying. Male guitarists made it look like they were making love to their guitars; female singers would move in seductive ways. Elton was different; instead of trying to use sex appeal he went the spectacle route. The more flamboyant and outrageous he was the more his fans would scream for him. This is only my opinion; but because I was dealing with a poor self-image, I assumed Elton was also. Only when I could “dress up” in my workout clothes or suit did I feel better about myself. Seeing Elton dressed up in so many costumes led me to believe he was feeling the same way. Behind the façade there was a boy who wanted to be loved; I understood. If you wish to see what was going on behind the scenes, then feel free to watch this dramatic film about a music icon. FROM AN EARLY AGE ELTON JOHN displayed a gift for playing the piano. However, he was looking for something more. With Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Robin Hood) as Elton John, Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool) as Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden (Cinderella, The Take) as John Reid, Bryce Dallas Howard (Pete’s Dragon, Jurassic World franchise) as Sheila and Gemma Jones (Sense and Sensibility, Bridget Jones’s Diary franchise) as Ivy; the cast was well chosen. Standing above all of them though was Taron; he was incredible in his role, including his own singing. The acting and story drew me into this picture. I could not believe what I was seeing behind the scenes of so many memorable moments in Elton’s career. Granted I do not know how much truth was shown in this film, but nonetheless I enjoyed watching this movie for the most part. The one thing that did not connect with me was the use of fantasy scenes. A couple would have been fine, but I felt these scenes drained the emotional impact away from the story. It was amazing to see how so many of Elton’s songs’ lyrics lent themselves to the scenes. I would have preferred spending more time in the moment instead of turning the emotion into a fantasy scene. Whether one is a fan or not; one would be hard pressed not to be impressed with what Elton has accomplished in his life.
2 ¾ stars
WALKING OUT FROM the station he was greeted by a sea of shirts all in the same color. Every single person was wearing an article of clothing close in the same shade. There were so many people that they filled the space from one side to the other; it indeed looked like there was a slow current of fluid moving away from him, reflecting a settling crimson sun on its surface. He had heard about this special event and looked up the details before committing funds and time to attend the occasion. Though he grew up in the city; the majority of his life was spent in the neighborhood he grew up in. He felt somewhat out of place to his peers because he did not have any reference points to show him he was actually okay. Making his way into the crowd of people before him, he soon discovered the feelings he had about his childhood were similar to the experiences from many of those around him. DON’T YOU FIND it interesting when you grow up feeling the experiences you had were unique to you, only to find out someone from far away had the same type of experiences? I get a kick when I meet someone from another country, in a completely different environment, who has similar feelings about common things that have happened to each of us. It shows me the borders we use to define ourselves are more transparent than we may realize. When you move away from home and set out on your own, you can discover how certain truths instilled in you have a wider definition than you believed. For example in a recent conversation I had with a friend, they shared an experience they had growing up that was so close to one I had that you would have thought the same people were involved in the incident. I was totally surprised by it in the same way the members of the Kingsman were in this action, adventure comedy. AFTER THE DESTRUCTION of their home Eggsy and Merlin, played by Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Legend) and Mark Strong (The Imitation Game, Miss Sloane), discovered their organization was not the only unique one of a kind place to work at; there was something similar halfway around the world. With Julianne Moore (Still Alice, Carrie) as Poppy, Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, Love Actually) as Harry Hart, Channing Tatum (White House Down, Magic Mike franchise) as Tequila and Halle Berry (Kidnap, X-Men franchise) as Ginger; the cast was fun to watch in this 2nd installment. I enjoyed the first one so had high hopes for this film; however, I found the script was weak and filled with strong language that was being used for cheap laughs. Maybe if I had not seen the previous movie I would have enjoyed this more, but I felt the freshness and wicked fun of the first picture was not captured in this story. There were big action scenes and crazy high tech weapons/accessories, but the whole picture felt a bit forced to me with obvious shtick. As I mentioned earlier the actors were a good choice for the roles they had; I wanted to see more depth in them. If the writers were trying to make something that would stand out and be different from other films of this type; in my opinion, they created a typical action picture.
2 ½ stars
THE mother was upset by the zoo animals fighting in their enclosure. With her young child standing by her side with his arm extended up to hold his mother’s hand, she was arguing with a zookeeper. I was standing off to the side with other visitors but I could hear every word and she was mad. Essentially she was upset the animals were not peacefully walking around their pen, letting the visitors get a good look at them. I had the urge to tell her this was a zoo and not a beauty pageant but decided to keep my mouth shut. The animals were just being themselves and fighting over territory; but apparently that was not enough for her, she wanted them to act more human. I know there are people who find animals more endearing when they can attach a human emotion to the animal’s actions. I totally understand because I wanted to become a veterinarian after I read the book Doctor Dolittle. I loved the way the animals carried on conversations with the doctor. Wouldn’t you say most of us are more comfortable with animals when they act in a fashion more akin to human beings? As a child I could not wait to grow up and go out on a date to an Italian restaurant so we could share a spaghetti meal just like Lady and Tramp did in their movie. Look at how many talking animals have been part of our culture, from Michigan J. Frog to the horse Mr. Ed to the talking chipmunks Alvin and his brothers. Oh and how can I ignore all of those cat and dog videos posted on the internet? The animals look adorable as they perform tricks or interact with those around them. Watching them can be fun but I have never seen any that can match the singing that was done in this animated film. BUSTER Moon, voiced by Matthew McConaughly (The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club), came up with a brilliant idea to save his beloved theater; hold a singing contest. He was in for a big surprise after the mailer advertising the event was sent out. This comedic drama had a wonderful cast of actors to voice many of the characters; there was Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, This Means War) as Rosita, Seth MacFarlane (A Million Ways to Die in the West, Tooth Fairy) as Mike, Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers franchise, Don Jon) as Ash and the biggest surprise for me Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Testament of Youth) as Johnny. Luckily the characters were fun to watch because the script was a bit bland. The story revolved around the singing competition which was fine, but there were times where I felt the script could have used a rewrite. Let me say kids will like the mayhem and action while the parents will enjoy the singing; most of the songs were current. This film may have lacked a little in the lessons learned aspect that other children’s animated pictures have depicted, but I found this movie to be quite entertaining. Plus c’mon how can one resist animals that sing and sing well?
As I walked into the conference room I saw most of the seats were filled with participants. There was energy in the air; the only way I could describe it was nervous anticipation. This was going to be a workshop with active participation. Most of the people I saw as I looked for a seat were talking and laughing; it seemed as if a lot of participants knew each other. At the edge of one of the many rows of lined up chairs sat an older man. Upon first glance he looked like he was sitting on a deserted island because no one else sat around him. In his lap was the same course materials everyone else had received. It struck me as odd that all the seats around him were empty. I decided to take one of the seats behind him and settled in as I pulled out my paperwork from my messenger bag. While I looked for this workshop’s outline I was able to hear the conversation from a small group seated a couple of seats down from me. Out of the corner of my eye I quickly realized their comments were about the older man. I do not think he realized their conversation was about him or if he did, there was no reaction on his part. It surprised and saddened me that anyone would question a person’s desire to learn something new. Just because he was older and did not “look” like the average participant was no reason to make fun of him. If you are wondering, I did walk over to them to express my feelings. No one has the right to squash another person’s dreams. INSPIRED by true events Michael “Eddie” Edwards, played by Taron Egerton (Legend, Kingsman: The Secret Service), always wanted to be an Olympian since he was a little boy. No amount of bruises, broken bones or taunts would stop the strongest muscle in his body, his heart. This film festival winning comedic drama had a ready-made, feel good story. With Hugh Jackman (X-Men franchise, Pan) as Bronson Peary and Christopher Walken (Jersey Boys, The Deer Hunter) as Warren Sharp I did not recognize Taron at first. His acting made for a believable and lovable character. I enjoy an underdog type of story and only had wished the script was not so comical. It took away the authenticity of the characters in my opinion and the soundtrack did not provide any help either. There was a predictability to the script that did not allow for much character development. At one point it seemed as if I was just watching one sight gag after another; I was missing the drama to the story. I think what saved this film was indeed the incredible story and that is why I think the writers did not invest as much as they could in developing the story. Besides c’mon, who does not like to root for the underdog?
2 1/2 stars
Advice given that was so simple and easy to remember; I can still hear it after all these years. I was talking to the wife of a married couple about what kept their marriage together. She said there were times you just had to keep quiet and not complain when you sometimes had to do something you really did not want to do. This was not earth shattering by any means; but it really resonated with me. I now cringe when I think about all those times where I used to complain about going to a restaurant I did not like or going out with “their” friends who I found annoying. There really was no reason I needed to let everyone know I did not want to be there. Whether it is the passage of time or maturity, I am so glad I do not act out like that anymore. I understand the importance compromises and sacrifices have in every relationship. Dating someone who enjoyed country western dancing meant even though I felt like a lopsided goofball while two-stepping, I kept doing it so I could be their dance partner. It is funny as I just wrote that I was remembering a couple I knew who got divorced because the husband did not like his wife being away from home as much as she was for her job. She was a flight attendant who was doing this even before they got married. Separation can be tough for any couple; imagine those individuals who are in a relationship with someone in the military. If you want to see an example from a long time ago you can see it in this autobiographical film. MISTER Brittain, played by Dominic West (The Wire-TV, Pride), believed Oxford was no place for his daughter Vera, played by Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, A Royal Affair). Though she had dreamt of going there, Vera would find her heart being distracted by a young man and the impending war. This film festival nominee was based on Vera Brittain’s memoir; I have not read it yet. However, after seeing this beautifully filmed period piece I want to read her book now. It was interesting to see the effects of World War I through a woman’s point of view. The cast which also included Kit Harington (Game of Thrones-TV, Pompeii) as Roland Leighton and Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Smoke-TV) as Edward Brittain were all especially good in this romantic drama. I will say the story started out a bit slow and predictable for me; however, Vera’s acting skills kept me involved in her plight. The look and feel of this movie was gracefully lush and when I found out it was based on a true story, I only had more fondness for Vera’s incredible life. There were brief scenes that had blood in them.
There are times where a dark cloud does not have a silver lining or an oyster has a pearl. A saying I like is “never judge a book by its cover.” I am sure all of us have been in a situation where you did not understand what your friend saw in their boyfriend or girlfriend. I have a friend who used to date a man I found crude and rude. Whenever we were invited to a party where there was food, he would be the first one and the last one to grab whatever was on the table. Not once did I ever hear him ask if anyone wanted anymore before he finished off the platter. If games were played he would be ultra-competitive, concerned only with winning and vanquishing his opponents. It was never a fun time. Where I felt it wasn’t my place to tell her that her boyfriend was a jerk, I had a friend who made his feelings known by telling me he hated the person I was dating. I finally had to sit him down and tell him I was uncomfortable with his actions. His reasons for the strong feelings were based on things that meant nothing to me. I saw kindness, humor and beauty inside of them; but I realize not everyone sees the same things because we do not walk in each other’s shoes. SUPER secret agent Harry Hart, played by Colin Firth (The Railway Man, The King’s Speech) had a hunch there was something more behind the tough talking streetwise kid Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, played by Taron Egerton (Testament of Youth, The Smoke-TV). With a new threat looming could Harry transform “Eggsy” in time to join the agency, despite his fellow agents’ concerns. This action adventure film was pure fun. Written and directed by Matthew Vaughn (Stardust, X-Men: First Class), I enjoyed many aspects of this movie. The story was flavored with humor and I liked the idea of British gentlemen as spies. It reminded me of the character John Steed from an old TV show called The Avengers. Also included in the cast was Mark Strong (Body of Lies, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as Merlin and Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers, Pulp Fiction) as Valentine; they were perfect for their roles. The fight scenes did not have a dark edge which made them more high-tech treats; I tend to be fond of ordinary gadgets that have a dual purpose. Personally I would not mind if the movie studio made a sequel because I appreciated the way this comedy set out in the trailers what it planned to do; make a fun throwback type of secret agent film. What you see is what you get. There were scenes of blood and violence.