Posted in movies, Reviews

I’m Choosing Kind: Review “Wonder”

Auggie Pullman is the typical 10-year-old boy.  He loves his dog Daisy.  He loves Star Wars and enjoys pretending to be an astronaut.  Probably the only thing not typical for Auggie is the fact that he was born with mandibulofacial dysostosis, also known as Treacher Collins Syndrome, a facial deformity.

Auggie is the main character in “Wonder”, the movie based on the best-selling novel by R. J. Palacio.  Auggie is about to enter the fifth grade.  The only problem is, up until now he has never been educated outside the home.  His parents (played by Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts) decide it’s time for him to enter the real world and experience school at Beecher Prep.  That’s when Auggie really learns the true meaning of kindness and friendship.

The first peers he meets are Julian, Charlotte and Jack Will, three students selected to give him a tour of the school.  Right away we are made aware of the kind of children they are through Auggie’s perspective of their shoes.

As the movie evolves we sense Julian is not impressed with Auggie and his vast knowledge of science.  However, Jack Will senses he could use Auggie’s help in the subject and the two begin hanging out together.  Another person who befriends Auggie is Summer, a girl who takes it upon herself to sit at the same lunch table as Auggie, where he is always sitting alone.

On Halloween, Auggie’s favorite holiday because it’s the one day he can be anything he wants and nobody will care, he goes to school wearing a “Ghost Face” mask and overhears Jack Will tell Julian that he’s only pretending to like Auggie.  Jack can’t figure out why Auggie won’t speak to him until Summer reveals the reason.  Jack then defends Auggie by punching Julian after Julian refers to Auggie as a “freak”.  As a result, Julian is expelled and Jack and Auggie renew their friendship.

During a school trip to a nature reserve, Auggie and Jack are threatened by kids from another school.  We learn just how much Auggie has grown on his classmates when some boys who had been friends with Julian come to their rescue.

The movie concludes with an end-of-year school ceremony where Auggie wins the Henry Ward Beecher Medal for standing out.

“Wonder” is a movie that will make you cry, laugh and laugh and cry at the same time.  It is full of emotion and truth and leaves you with a joyous feeling in your heart.

Posted in movies, nostalgia, writing

A Sign of Summer

In my small neck of the woods there are many signs that summer is right around the corner:  the first ninety degree day, The Clam Box/Dresser Hill/Howard’s/Ronnie’s are open for business once again, Dunks has their ice cream flavored coffees for sale and you can wear shorts without freezing.

But to me the biggest sign that summer is upon us is that the Leicester Drive-In reopens.  Didn’t it just close six months ago?

I haven’t been to a drive-in, particularly the Leicester Drive-In, in years.  They just aren’t what they used to be.

When I was a kid going to the drive-in was a treat.  Our drive-in of choice was the Oxford Twin.  Every time I visit Walmart the location brings back memories, since that is where the Oxford Twin was located.  A night at the drive-in usually consisted of us going in my mother’s brown-paneled station wagon.  Pajamas were optional.  Swings and the playground before the show were a must.  No need to wear down the car battery to hear the movie.  They had those neat speakers you attached to the window.  And forget the concession stand.  Why pay exorbitant prices (even back then) when you could make and bring your own popcorn, Kool-Aid and State Line potato chips (my favorite when I was a kid).

Today it costs $28.00 a carload to attend the drive-in.  You do get to see two movies and as long as they’re two movies you really want to see, I’m sure it’s worth it.  Although it’s not the $5.00 price I remember when I was a kid, it’s still kind of a bargain.  If you have a mini-van and don’t mind sitting in cramped, steamy quarters for two to four hours.


Posted in Entertainment, movies, Reviews, writing

REVIEW: “The Circle”

Emma Watson plays Mae Holland, a savvy, young customer-service oriented employee who is seeking a better paying and more rewarding job.  With the help of her friend Annie, she lands a gig at The Circle, the world’s most powerful technology and social media company.

To understand what working at The Circle is like:  combine the work environments of Google and Microsoft with Facebook and Twitter, add steroids and you have The Circle.  People who work at The Circle never leave The Circle.  They live there.

When we’re first introduced to The Circle founder Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), he’s discussing in one of the weekly company-wide meetings how they have placed tiny hidden cameras all over the world to see everything that’s going on all the time. With everyone.

It soon becomes quite clear that one of the main goals of The Circle is to invade everyone’s privacy.  Eventually Bailey and his sidekick/CEO Tom Stenton (Patton Oswalt) take Mae under their wing and in a move where the viewer cannot help to wonder if Mae has been brainwashed, she decides to go transparent, allowing people all over the world to monitor and comment on her every move.  Think of it like a Periscope or Facebook Live feed that never stops.  By this time in the movie Mae is fully enjoying her time at The Circle, including the healthcare coverage she receives for her parents.  This comes in very handy especially for her father Vinnie (played by Bill Paxton in his final role), as he is inflicted with Multiple Sclerosis.

Although things on the surface seem great, Mae has lost touch with her good friend Mercer, has alienated her friend Annie and has embarrassed herself and her parents when she accidentally streams in on a private moment between them, letting the world have a sneak peek at her parent’s sex life.

Then, along with Bailey and Tom, Mae introduces The Circle world to “soul searching”, a feature which allows anyone to find anyone in twenty minutes or less.  In the initial test they search for a wanted killer who has been on the lam for years.  Within ten minutes they find her and she is apprehended.  Suddenly it looks like this could be a helpful tool.  Then Mae suggests they try finding a regular citizen, a non-criminal.  The crowd suggests she try to find Mercer.  Though hesitant, Mae agrees.  The next thing we see two individuals merging on Mercer’s property, knocking on his door, their cellphones in hand, recording the entire event for the world to see.  We watch as Mercer runs from his residence, hops in his truck and drives away, only to be pursued by several cars and a drone.  The drone crashes into Mercer’s truck, causing him to crash off a bridge and die.

The death of her friend Mercer is a turning point for Mae.  She knows what she needs to do and upon her return to work at The Circle, she does it, causing Bailey to mutter to Tom “we are so fucked”.

Though entertaining enough “The Circle” does lack in providing background on many of the characters.  Watson is a fine actress, who has certainly come into her own but I feel what “The Circle” really needed was more Hanks.



Posted in Entertainment, Movie Icons, movies, Reviews

Review: “Going In Style”

Take three elderly friends, rip their pensions out from underneath them, add in a plan to rob a bank to, in essence, get their pensions back, and what do you get?  “Going In Style”.

The Zach Braff-directed film stars iconic actors Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin as best buddies/co-workers Willie, Joe and Albert, respectively.

After being told the company they work for is moving operations to Vietnam and is taking their pensions with them, the three friends decide to fight back.  Having witnessed a bank heist at the very bank that holds their pensions, Joe approaches Willie and Albert with the idea of doing the very same thing.  All they will take is what their pensions would be for the next several years.  Anything extra they will donate.  Justice will be served.

With some guidance from a shady acquaintance of Joe’s ex-son-in-law, the three pals are able to pull it off.  Their cover is almost blown when Willie, a dialysis patient, semi-collapses during the robbery after he approaches a little girl who tells him he can take her doll.

When Lieutenant Hamer (played by Matt Dillon) has the little girl look at a line-up of potential suspects, including Willie, Joe and Albert, the viewer feels this is it for the guys.  The beauty of the moment is how the little girl ends up sticking it to Hamer and the guys are saved.

This film was far from disappointing.  It had it all:  a plausible storyline, comedy and suspense.  A pleasant comedic addition was several scenes featuring a scatter-brained Milton (played by Christopher Lloyd) and a nice love interest was added for Albert with Ann-Margret’s character of Annie

If you’re not into the current Disney remakes or kiddie cartoons and are longing for classic acting from Hollywood icons, “Going In Style” may suit your style.

Posted in movies, Reviews

Review: “Sing”

“Don’t let fear stop you from doing the thing you love”.

This quote should be the motto for this film from Illumination which stars the voices of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Seth McFarlane, among other talent.  I saw a lot of animated films in 2016 but this one stands out from the rest.  No wonder it’s been nominated for so many awards.  The music alone is worth seeing the film.

Buster Moon (McConaughey) is a savvy, conning theater-owning koala.  Buster’s main problem is that the theater is failing and it’s his dream to keep it alive.  So he drums up a great idea of holding a singing contest for publicity.  Unfortunately Buster doesn’t have much to offer for prize money but he figures he can scrounge up $1,000.

Unbeknownst to him his incompetent assistant Miss Crawly (Garth Jennings) inadvertently adds two zeros to the amount of the prize money when creating the fliers.  Before Buster can even review what she’s printed, the fliers are blown out a window and scattered all over the city.

Before he knows it Buster is faced with auditioning everything from frogs to elephants.  We meet Rosita (Witherspoon), an overworked pig housewife and mother of twenty-five piglets.  There is Gunther, a German pig and dancer-wanna-be.  Ash (Scarlett Johansson) is a temperamental guitar-swinging teen-age porcupine.  Mike (McFarlane) is a shady Sinatra-like mouse.  Johnny (Taron Egerton) is a young gorilla with a beautiful set of pipes stuck between a rock and a hard place.  And Meena (Tori Kelly) is a teen elephant who doesn’t realize beauty of her own voice.

Throughout the rehearsal process each contestant is met with their own obstacles:  boyfriend break-ups, problems with getting a sitter and trying to figure out how to be at rehearsal and also help dad with his next crime.  In addition Buster ends up facing his own issues with the old theater, possible foreclosure and eventually the revelation to his contestants that there is not $100,000 up for grabs.  Barely $1,000.

Without giving away too much, the film concludes with a joyous celebration of success for all.

Not to be missed in this movie is the great music, particularly Stevie Wonder’s “Faith”, Rosita and Gunther singing “Shake It Off” and Johnny’s version of Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing”.  Ironically three songs are heard in the movie from artists we lost in 2016:  “Wake Me Up (Before You Go-Go)” is briefly heard when Eddie (Buster’s friend) answers his phone; “Under Pressure” is heard during a montage scene and Tori Kelly sings a spine-tinging rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.

With winter upon us and the holidays over, if you’re searching for a good family film to see, “Sing” would be a perfect fit.

Appropriately, I give it five: