ON A WALL IN MY HOUSE, I have it covered with framed photographs of my relatives, both deceased and alive. I consider it a pictorial history of my life. Besides my baby picture, portrait of me with Zippy the chimpanzee and my college graduation; there are photographs of relatives when they were children and others with family members I have never met. In fact, I have a photograph of my great, great, great grandmother who was alive when Napoleon invaded Russia. Seeing her dressed in long heavy clothing with a scarf around her head, while sitting on a small wooden chair, I look at her face to see if I share any resemblance to her. Standing next to her is her granddaughter who I believe would be my great aunt. In her face, I can see features that I have seen on several current relatives of mine. Every time I walk by what I refer to as the photo wall, I look at least a couple of photos each time. There are so many memories of the relatives I have known since my childhood. The thing that surprises me is the fact those memories are crystal clear in my mind, yet something I did a week ago is already fading away. My recollections are so vivid that even if I did not have my photo wall, I would still have a clear focus of the events each photograph was documenting. IF I HAD THE ABILITY TO go back in time, I would absolutely want to visit my relatives who came before me. Imagine talking to that great, great, great grandmother and learning about the life she was living. I would ask her why she did not leave with her relatives who were moving to the country where I was born, the United States. Because of the times back then, I would assume she worked at home, taking care of the household. There is another relative I wish I could have met who I thought had 7 children; however, I recently found out this relative in actuality had 14 children. There are a multitude of family members living around the world that I have no knowledge about who are descendants from this one relative. Personally, I cannot envision someone having 14 children. My first thought is, “How could they afford it?” Granted, back then if you had any land, the more children you had the more help you would have in taking care of the land and crops. There are so many things I would like to learn if I could go back in time. The main character in this action, adventure fantasy wishes he could go back in time; see what he tries to do. WITH THE WORLD DISCOVERING HIS IDENTITY, there was only one thing Spiderman, played by Tom Holland (The Lost City of Z, Edge of Winter), thought could help him. However, he would need the help of Doctor Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog, The Courier). With Zendaya (The Greatest Showman, Malcolm & Marie) as MJ, Jacob Batalon (Blood Fest, North Woods) as Ned Leeds and Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy, Horrible Bosses franchise) as Max Dillon; this film was a stellar example of what is needed to make a great superhero movie. I was surprised by the range of emotions on display, thanks to an interesting script. I say interesting because there were so many convoluted twists that I stopped trying to keep track of what the results were for each change in the direction of the story. The imagination of the writers is what caught and kept me engaged. The acting all around was a good way above average which added to the wit and humor that was already infused into the script. In the Marvel universe of films, this one certainly deserves to be in the top ten. There were 2 extra scenes during the ending credits.
3 ½ stars
I KEPT THINKING I WAS SEEING something different compared to my friend. The way she talked, you would have thought her daughter was going to be a superstar. Now I am not an expert, but I thought her daughter was a good dancer. My friend had been a dancer and as soon as her daughter was old enough, she enrolled her into dance classes. As the daughter progressed in her training she eventually moved up into the competitive world of dance. Her mother was overjoyed and agreed to take her wherever the competitions were located. Since I had been part of this progressive journey, I came to realize my friend was reliving her dance years through her daughter. What tipped me off that the young dancer was not as enthusiastic as her mother was her facial expressions. I did not see joy or happiness when she danced; it was as if she was more like a robot who had been programmed to go through the steps in precise order. There was no passion coming out of her as far as I could tell. I could not imagine how much money my friend invested in her daughter’s training and costumes over the years. The way my friend talked about her daughter, I could tell she was placing her feelings on top of her daughter’s. It was hard when the daughter told her mother she would no longer participate in competitions and give up dancing. My friend was shattered. MY FRIEND AND HER DAUGHTER WERE not the first parent/child relationship I have seen where the two were not in synch about the child’s future. I worked for a man who brought his son into the business to eventually take over from him when he retired. The son was not interested in running a business; however, he certainly liked tapping into the company’s finances for his own personal use. There was nothing I could do about it; I was just an employee, but I could see the son’s way of doing business was not a sustainable business solution for growth. Eventually there would not be enough funds for the company to operate based on how much money was going into the son’s pocket. Sadly, my thinking was accurate because the company eventually closed after I had left it, just in time. When it comes to choosing a hobby or career path, I believe the child should be allowed to investigate their desires. If they succeed, then it was meant to be and if they fail, they will learn from it. It is one thing to encourage a child down a certain path, but I would never predetermine what they should become. It causes a conflict which I detected taking place in this action, adventure drama. WITH HIS FATHER BEING GIVEN THE role of ruler over a distant planet, the visions Paul Atreides, played by Timothee Chalamet (Beautiful Boy, Lady Bird), was seeing became increasingly disturbing. With Rebecca Ferguson (Doctor Sleep, Men in Black: International) as Lady Jessica Atreides, Zendaya (The Greatest Showman, Spider-Man franchise) as Chani, Oscar Isaac (Star Wars franchise, At Eternity’s Gate) as Duke Leto Atreides and Jason Momoa (Aquaman, Sweet Girl) as Duncan Idaho; this science fiction picture was visually and musically alluring. I found the sets and film shots enticing; not to be a cliché but the style had an otherworldly effect on the presentation. Having said that, I found the script to be weak compared to these stand-out features. The story was slow moving and as the movie progressed, I began to lose interest. I did not realize this film was Part One which I am not always a fan of experiencing. Because of that I did not care much for the ending. My experience of watching this film was like a comet passing across the sky; it surprises and ignites the imagination, but it is short lived.
2 ½ stars
SHE AND I HAD AN ESTABLISHED friendship prior to when she started dating this guy. They seemed compatible to me because I never saw or heard about any drama between them. We would hang out together with a group of friends and he had little trouble fitting in. By the time we were getting ready for college, I was going out of state while she and her boyfriend were going to the same school. During my time away, we still stayed in touch. I heard about the different places they went on the weekends, both of their course loads; in other words, I was getting all the latest information about everyone from her. By the time we were finishing up our undergrad studies, she told me she and her boyfriend were going to get married; it was going to be a small ceremony for their families. I was happy for her. She told me she was going to get a job after college to support the 2 of them while he continued with his studies in law. I was surprised to hear this because I knew she had been planning to continue for a master’s degree. When I asked her about it, she said she was fine postponing her career path until her fiancé got established as a lawyer, then she would return to school. WELL, IT TOOK A LITTLE LONGER than planned for her husband to graduate with a law degree and pass the bar exam. She never complained about the delay in their timetable. However, she did confine in me that they struggle with living off only one salary. She rarely had time to get together with our mutual friends because she was always tired. The day finally came where he did pass the bar exam and would be able to practice law. He landed a position in a prestigious firm and found himself putting in long hours. She was seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, where she would be able to return to school to pursue her career aspirations. Sadly, after one year of practicing law her husband filed for divorce. She was devastated, especially after everything she sacrificed to allow him to pursue his career. I felt horrible for her and did what I could to help lift her spirits. Weirdly this scenario had crossed my mind because I had seen similar results from other couples, when one of the two achieves a higher level of success. Either one starts to mingle with a different crowd or feels they have risen to a higher socioeconomic status and their partner feels they don’t fit it. The whole thing doesn’t make much sense to me if indeed the couple are truly in love with each other. This is the question I had as I watched the couple in this film festival nominated romance. RETURNING FROM THE PREMIERE OF HIS first movie, a director and his girlfriend find themselves in two totally different places that would test the bonds of their love for each other. Written and directed by Sam Levinson (Another Happy Day, Euphoria-TV), this dramatic movie starred John David Washington (Tenet, BlacKkKlansman) as Malcolm and Zendaya (The Greatest Showman, Spider-Man franchise) as Marie. The filming of this picture was beautifully done in a black and white palette. I thought the acting was strong and intense by the two actors, where one could feel the chemistry between them. My issue however was with the script. Due to the multiple scenes filled with arguments, watching this film was tedious at times. Granted the two actors were excellent, but I can only listen to so much heated discussion before I want to tune out. In a way, this story seemed as if it could easily transfer to live theater. By the end of this film, I had mixed emotions. I felt I had seen a glimpse of what could go on in the film world, besides many other similar worlds, when success becomes part of a couple’s equation.
2 ½ stars
COMPARED TO MY FRIENDS, I FELT lucky I did not have to experience it until I was 12 years old. For that was the year I experienced my first funeral. It was at that point where I felt like an adult for the first time. Up until then I was living my life in a carefree way, with no responsibilities or serious life events to experience. There was attending school, piano lessons, taking family trips and playing alone or with friends; my schedule was filled with these activities. After that first funeral things started to change for me. I became aware of sicknesses and diseases that were life threatening, besides my own mortality. If I am being perfectly honest, a part of me resented having to think of these things. I was content being a kid and had no desire to deal with adult situations. Not that I was living an idyllic life as Peter Pan, but I just wanted to stay a kid. And this was despite having friends who had lost loved ones at a much earlier age than myself. It turned out there was going to be something else coming down the road towards me that would cement my status into the young adult world. A FEW WEEKS AFTER MY SIXTEENTH birthday I got my first job. Opening my 1st pay envelope and seeing a check made out to me was thrilling. In this case I was okay being treated and feeling like an adult. I had a weekly schedule that consisted of at least 2 days of work after school and a full day Saturday and/or Sunday. The schedule would fluctuate depending on which employees were available to work a shift. It seemed so adult to me. I would get a kick out of telling my friends I could not join them because I had to go to work, so I could get a paycheck. My experiences were not that unusual from most other people. All of us at some point make that change from being a kid to becoming an adult. For some, it might get triggered by a friend or family member; for others, it may take place during a trip to a foreign land or a hospital. I am not saying the transition will be easy. If you want to see for yourself, watch what happens to the main character in this science fiction, action adventure film. THE OPPORTUNITY OF A SCHOOL TRIP to Europe was perfect for Peter Parker/Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland (The Impossible, The Lost City of Z). He would finally get the chance to spend time with his classmate MJ, played by Zendaya (The Greatest Showman, Shake it Up-TV), and tell her how he felt about her. However, he did not take into consideration a phone call from Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson (Shaft, Glass). This story for this movie picks up a short time after the Avengers: End Game film. With Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger, Prisoners) as Quentin Beck/Mysterio and Marisa Tomei (The Big Short, The First Purge) as Mary Parker, this picture was a good transition point for future Marvel movies. The script was light and fun, along with a good amount of humor. Tom and Zendaya were an ideal pairing and I could see them growing into these roles in upcoming installments. When I compare this film to other superhero ones, this one comes up a little short with the “wow” factor. Though I smiled, chuckled and teared up a bit; I was not totally transported into the story. The script could have used a rewrite to firm up the plot because I felt the villain and the story surrounding them needed to be more intense and scarier, for one thing. Also, the whole idea for the villain was weak compared to past Marvel stories. This still was absolute fun to watch and you want to certainly see the 2 extra scenes during and at the end of the credits. Oh, and typical to these films there was a Stan Lee sighting.
3 1/4 stars
IT WAS GOING TO BE A LONG flight for her, but that was not the part that worried her family. It was her decision to travel to a country that had internal strife, in addition to areas of extreme poverty. She was a seasoned traveler, having visited multiple continents numerous times. Her relatives were more concerned about this trip because her appearance would make her stand out in an unfavorable way; at least, that is what they were led to believe. Their fear was based on what they heard as opposed to what they had experienced. There were news reports about pockets of conflict which easily could justify the family’s concerns. But their fear had been fueled for several years from other sources, some of them more opinions than facts. Because of these fears the family insisted the traveler contact them at specific times throughout her trip. She agreed to it just to calm everyone down. When she landed at her destination she messaged everyone back home, telling them the flight was fine and she was okay. Her trip wound up being quite memorable in a positive way. She was glad she did not fall into her family’s fears; for if she had, she would have denied herself the warm and gracious kindness she experienced from so many different people. FEAR IS ONE OF THOSE EMOTIONS that can both protect and prevent us from new experiences, positive and negative. In the neighborhood I grew up in, there were students from a particular parochial school that my friends and I were fearful of. We heard about them from our older brothers and sisters. Since most of the things I heard had to do with bodily harm and abuse, I did my best never to get on those kids’ radar. I went through elementary school never having an encounter with any student from that school. In fact, none of my friends had an altercation or run-in either with any of these students we grew up fearing. Maybe there was an incident that took place years ago between a parochial school student and a public school one. If there was, no one currently had any knowledge of it. Instead they were hearing hand me down information that continued to feed our fears. All of us were reacting from our fear without taking the time to investigate and see if there was any truth behind the stories we had heard. A similar situation using fear was the basis for this animated, adventure comedy film. RAISED BELIEVING THE “SMALLFOOT” WAS AN evil monster, no one wanted to encounter one except Migo, voiced by Channing Tatum (Logan Lucky, Kingsman: The Golden Circle). He was convinced they did exist and wanted to prove everyone wrong. With James Corden (Into the Woods, Ocean’s Eleven) voicing Percy, Zendaya (The Greatest Showman, Spider-Man: Homecoming) voicing Meechee, Common (Selma, Suicide Squad) voicing Stonekeeper and LeBron James (Trainwreck, The LeBrons-TV) as Gwangi; this film had all the trappings of being an old fashioned, fun romp. The musical numbers were cute; the action was well orchestrated, and the actors did a fine job with their characters. I enjoyed the humor that had a twinge of sarcasm in it. One of the things I admired about this script was the fact they did not use one specific character to play the evil one. Instead the story used perceived fears as the antagonist and played that out to form a positive life lesson. Now, will little children get the point of the story? I am not sure, but I feel they will at least be entertained. And truthfully, I feel it wouldn’t hurt for adults to hear the message coming across in this movie.
2 ½ stars
THE AROMA OF ELEPHANT dung was one of the strongest memories I took away from the circus. I only went to the circus once when I was around 6 years old. To get to our seats we had to walk down a long aisle where the floor was covered in sawdust. Once we were seated I was able to see three rings set up in the arena, with the middle one much larger than the other two. I was excited to be there because all I wanted to see were the tigers. To start the show a tall man dressed in a tuxedo with a top hat walked into a single spotlight that then followed him to the large ring; his amplified voice reverberated throughout the massive arena. From one end of the arena several spotlights pierced the dark and lit up a parade of elephants walking in single file as they made their way around the arena. As they passed where I was seated one of the elephants defecated. Because it happened at the far edge of the arena none of the circus performers noticed what happened, so it remained there for the entire show. MAYBE THAT IS WHY I never wanted to go to the circus after that time. The only type of circuses I will go to today are the ones that are animal free. Even if that elephant had not altered my feelings about the circus I would not go to a circus that used animals for entertainment. For the type of circus events I have attended I get to see humans doing unhuman things; this is the way I describe it, because the performers are doing such spectacular things they almost look as if they are not of earth. There is one particular company that travels around the world, pitching a massive tent in an open space, where the performers are dressed in a variety of costumes and makeup. This is my favorite event to see because at one time I can witness people from all different walks of life, from all different parts of the world, come together and create something magical. I do not know how someone could say anything negative about such an environment. OUT OF WORK AFTER the company he worked at went bankrupt Phineas Taylor Barnum, played by Hugh Jackman (Pan, Logan), had an idea. It was an idea that sounded crazy but he did not care what people said, he was willing to take the chance. This musical, dramatic biography also starred Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea, My Week with Marilyn) as Charity Barnum, Zac Efron (Baywatch, Dirty Grandpa) as Phillip Carlyle, Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming, K.C. Undercover-TV) as Anne Wheeler and Rebecca Ferguson (The Girl on the Train, Despite the Falling Snow) as Jenny Lind. The look of this film was wonderful; I thought the sets and costumes were a perfect fit. As for the music written by the same writers who did La La Land, I thought it was much better in this picture; I can actually remember a few of the songs. Sadly despite the decent acting the script failed this film. You got these big, beautiful song and dance numbers connected with a weak script that lacked emotion. I felt a disconnect between the drama of the singing with the acting parts. There was such a timely message to the story that I wished would have been explored more in hopes of connecting everyone together. I would not say this circus movie reminded me of the smelly circus I went to as a kid, but this film could have used a bit of air freshener to make it a better show.
2 ¼ stars