EVERYTHING I SAW AND LEARNED LED me to believe dogs and cats were mortal enemies. From cartoons to movies, as far as I knew if the 2 of them saw each other they would fight until one got hurt or worse. As a kid everyone I knew who had pets always had only one species if there were multiple pets in the household. If a family had a cat they would only get another cat as a pet; the same held true with dog lovers. I had a parakeet; so, I would never have considered getting a cat, because in my mind cats ate birds. Do you remember Tweety and Sylvester? I rest my case; this is where I learned never to mix a cat and a bird. Then there was Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. Since coyotes looked like dogs, I assumed dogs were not fond of birds either. I doubt I was the only one who thought this way; I am sure many kids around the same time were thinking the same thing about never mixing different species together. The same holds true for some of the movies I saw as a child where I would see a dog chasing a cat. NOW GRANTED THERE ARE ANIMALS WHO eat other animals for food. I remember seeing a movie that showed a lion going after a herd of wildebeests. It was obvious to me the wildebeests were afraid of the big cat. I translated that as hate. Did the wildebeests instinctively know from birth to fear the big cats or was it something they learned I wondered. I realized at an early age that humans do not come into the world knowing how to hate; they had to be taught on how to do it. I am not talking about hating a specific vegetable or fruit; I am referring to being taught that something or someone is no good, inferior, is bad. I learned about prejudice outside of the classroom, where some kids would make fun of me because I was not the same religion as them. There was a student in class who was quite vocal about his hatreds. He would bully those kids who did not fit into his beliefs. It was awful the way he would make fun of certain students, using their features as examples of what was wrong with them. I had thick curly/kinky hair when I was in school and he took great delight in calling me racist, horrible names. He did not have to be that way, but that is how he was taught. If only there had been someone who could have shown and taught him a different way; someone like the activist in this biographical, dramatic film. WHEN HER DAUGHTER’S SCHOOL CAUGHT ON fire and burned, civil rights activist Ann Atwater, played by Taraji P. Henson (Proud Mary, What Men Want), was determined to find another school for her daughter and the other students to attend. There were people in the community who hated her idea. With Sam Rockwell (Vice, Mr. Right) as C.P. Ellis, Babou Ceesay (Free Fire, Eye in the Sky) as Bill Riddick, Wes Bentley (American Beauty, The Hunger Games) as Floyd Kelly and Anne Heche (Wag the Dog, Six Days Seven Nights) as Mary Ellis; this historical story set in Durham, NC during the 1970s was brought to life by Taraji and Sam. They were dynamite in their roles to the point where I believed who they were portraying. The story was incredible and full of poignant moments that the writers could have taken and made them stand out. I wish they had done that because this historical event deserved a powerful script instead of the sanitized one in this picture. However, it did capture and keep my attention while showing a dramatic time that was brought on by hatred.
2 ½ stars
I did not actually have what you would call imaginary friends; they were more like superheroes who looked a lot like me except skinnier and taller. During the time they were around me I did not realize they were all mental extensions of me. None of them had names but each one specialized in one superhuman power. There was the one who could fly; he was a lookout for me, letting me know of any danger spots around me. One of my favorite ones was this brawny fighter who appeared anytime I was angry. If someone had picked on or teased me, he would appear in a rage and pummel the bully so I could be left alone to continue my studies in class. This one in particular stayed with me the longest, evolving into my bodyguard. During an especially dismal time he was out almost every day. No one else knew about these imaginary friends if you want to call them that. My friends and I never really talked about our special friends though I can recall there were times where we needed people to be the enemy in our neighborhood battle scenes. We would be on one of our missions to track down the enemy’s secret headquarters when suddenly one of the members of our search party was sucker punched by an imaginary enemy operative. I would see a friend whirl around with his fists jabbing into the air to land a punch on the enemy’s jaw. Each of us took turns on getting attacked; the more dramatic we could be in our fake battles, the more satisfying it was when we would finally discover the hidden headquarters and blow it up with our ray guns. With all the imaginary beings I had in my life, I wish I would have had a dragon like the one in this family adventure film. WHEN Grace, played by Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World, The Help), discovered the orphan boy Pete, played by Oakes Fegley (This is Where I Leave You, Fort Bliss), living deep in the woods; she could not understand how he could have survived for so long on his own. He was not alone. This fantasy movie shared the same title as the original animated film but it was a different type of story. With a cast that also included Robert Redford (A Walk in the Woods, All is Lost) as Meacham and Karl Urban (Star Trek franchise, The Loft) as Gavin, I fell into this story that had sort of an E.T. slant to it. The pacing was not always smooth; there were a couple of slow parts for me. This was not a big issue because I actually enjoyed the simplistic script that basically was about the bonds that form between friends and family. I thought the special effects for the dragon were wonderful; at a certain point I felt this dragon would be the perfect pet for anyone. It was refreshing to sit and watch a movie that focused on telling a good story that a person could relate to no matter their age.
There is a particular point in a song where the beats per minute begin to reach out and you cannot help yourself from moving. One could be sitting in a nightclub and a certain song comes on that makes you almost unconsciously begin to tap your feet to the beat. There is something primal about being part of a crowd on the dance floor as everyone is moving in their own way to the music thumping out of the speakers. One of the reasons I especially enjoy dance music is because of its lack of structure. Many styles of dance such as a polka or waltz require you to follow a pattern with a partner. When disco came on the scene people really started to let loose as electronic music started coming to the forefront. I do not know if they still hold school dances, but I want to tell you the main reason why I did not like attending them. If you were not part of a popular group more than likely a good portion of your time was spent sitting on the sidelines as you watched your classmates dance in the middle of the gymnasium. The only thing that would make things worse was when a teacher would force a boy to go ask a girl sitting off on the side to dance. Usually he would find some way to make fun of his dance partner to all of his friends. Dance music allows one to let loose with no restraints or restrictions. This musical drama had the right beats to move your feet. LIVING off of odd jobs during the day Cole Carter, played by Zac Efron (That Awkward Moment, Neighbors), just needed to find that one track that could help him break into the world of DJs. Getting to the right track would be a convoluted trek. My two favorite parts of this film were the explanation of the DJ’s job and the soundtrack. I found myself tapping my feet anytime there was dance music playing in this romantic drama. Sadly that was it because this film went nowhere. The script was awful; the entire cast which also included Emily Ratajkowski (Gone Girl, Entourage) as Sophie and Wes Bentley (American Beauty, The Hunger Games) as James was more like sterile stereotypes of actual people. The dialog was lame and I never understood why Cole was taken under the wing of the other DJ. There was something about the events in this film that came across in a calculated way, as if the writers pulled out different emotions from a hat then wrote a scene around them; it came across in a disjointed way. Watching this movie was like dancing with a partner who had two left feet or in my case since I am left-handed, two right feet. Either way it was all wrong.
1 1/2 stars
When anyone describes their emotions as a roller coaster ride I believe them. Between friends and work I have seen some extreme actions from people. There was a friend of mine who suffered with bouts of depression from time to time. They were resistant to seeking out help because they were afraid they would be labeled crazy. Yes I know it was a very old concept. Luckily they met a doctor who explained things in a way that brought comfort to my friend and they began to use an antidepressant. Another friend of mine had a tragic experience when their boyfriend who was bipolar committed suicide; he left a gut-wrenching note behind. To a different extreme I had a woman in my yoga class who was classified manic depressive. I did not know it at first but after some time I noticed when she was not wearing her eyeglasses she was bubbly and animated. If she had her glasses on then she was pretty much non-emotional and quiet. After a few months she came up to me after class to ask about a particular yoga pose. From that conversation she informed me of her condition and told me about some of the things she had done when she was on her “high” as she referred to it. I will say some of the stuff she said she did was off the wall as they say, but she stressed how yoga helped keep her steady. It was an eye opening experience for me to say the least and one that was a precursor to the character in this movie. WHEN Alice Klieg, played by Kristen Wiig (The Skeleton Twins, Girl Most Likely), won the lottery she decided to go off of her meds and buy herself a talk show. She wanted to be the next Oprah. This comedic drama had several strengths in its favor. The main one was Kristen; her dramatic acting in this role was made even better with her physicality. With the other actors such as Tim Robbins (Jacob’s Ladder, Mystic River) as Dr. Daryl Moffet, Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games, American Beauty) as Gabe Ruskin and James Marsden (The Best of Me, The Loft) as Rich Ruskin; they all worked well together in keeping the story on track. Not that watching this film would make one feel as if they were a spectator at a traffic accident, but there were times where I felt I was witnessing the breakdown of a human being. The only negative I saw was in the directing; there were some uneven moments through the film. However, having the right mix of humor and drama in this interesting original story, along with Kristen’s wonderful acting and I was hooked.