Spirit Game: Pride of a Nation

How much do you know about Lacrosse? Until I watched this informative documentary, I only knew it was a sport. I had no idea where it came from or what was involved in playing it. As I watched, I learned that the white man picked up this sport from Iroquois tribes over 150 years ago but only just "allowed" the tribes to compete with the white man's teams in the last 20 years. Before that they weren't allowed to join in because they were classified as "Professionals." A tribal elder says that, to his tribe, the three most important things are: 1. Family. 2. Work/Education. 3. Lacrosse.

When the documentary team met with one of the elders, he observed, "From 1613 to the present in a few minutes? ...but that's how you do things." Then he smiled.

I learned:
  • This is an unbelievably fast-moving sport. (Watch the trailer.) I could only see the ball when it came to rest after each play. A participant is whip-smart with the reflexes of a cat.
  • The ball is managed by nets on the ends of sticks. That is over-simplifying, but you get the idea. It is never touched with a hand.
  • Players are hit with sticks, shoved, tripped and pushed. I don't know how much of it is legal, but there never seems to be any hard feelings. Each player is padded EVERYWHERE!
  • There are no cleats and I never saw any blood. The skills are astounding!
When the confederation chose to compete against the U.S., Britain, Australia and Canada, they insisted that they be acknowledged as a sovereign nation. Eventually they were, with their flag flying amid the four others. ... There were passport problems but the team stuck together and refused to use U.S. passports; they are a proud, borderless nation.

Back in the 1600s the game was originally a three-day religious ceremony for the Six Nations (Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Tuscarora, Oneida and Mohawk) with hundreds of men participating, but has been modified and codified over the centuries. The white man plays lacrosse, but he does not associate it with its origins.

The underlying rationale for his rejection is "discovery," which means if someone "discovers" your land, it becomes his, you don't count even if a number of treaties are signed. In 1493 Alexander Pope said the lands were empty of Christians, therefore empty.

I could go on and on, because this unrated documentary is endlessly fascinating, but please see this one. It is interesting, exciting and humorous. No guns, no vehicular mayhem, no sex (and no captions).  I particularly enjoyed the vocalists, Joanne Shenandoah and Theresa "Bear" Fox. One elder, a former lacrosse super-star who is a handsome, eloquent spokesman, says "We have lost many games, but we have never been defeated." I believe him!
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Please watch the trailer:
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Everything, Everything

Chick Flick Alert!

Yes, this is a chick flick but it's only a one-hankie weeper. It is a sweet story lightened by genuinely funny, whimsical humor, e.g., did you ever see a bundt cake on life support? Yes, read it again. That's what I said: A bundt cake...on life support.

Director Stella Meghie ("Jean of the Joneses"), working from a script by J. Mills Goodloe based in turn on the New York Times best seller by Nicola Yoon ("The Sun is Also a Star"), has crafted a sweet PG-13 movie about young love under very trying circumstances. Meghie has perfectly captured the awkwardness of adolescence and teenagers' heedless embrace of opportunity (plus their annoying aptitude for technology).

Meghie's cast:
  • Amanda Stenberg ("The Hunger Games") Maddy has grown up with SCID (Severe Combine Immune Deficiency) and has never had a normal life (think "Boy in a Bubble"). She is now 18 and those pesky hormones are asserting themselves. New neighbors have moved in and she can see them from her sterile home.
  • Anika Noni Rose (LOTS of TV) Maddy's mother Pauline is a doctor and as such she can monitor her daughter's health and can afford the hi-tech environment required by a patient with SCID.
  • Nick Robinson ("Jurassic World") Ollie is a new neighbor. He notices Maddy watching, so he and his sister bring a freshly baked bundt cake to her house. Her mother says she isn't there. Now he begins to wonder: is she under house arrest?
  • Ana de la Reguera ("Jane the Virgin") Carla is the kind nurse who comes in each day to check Maddy's vitals. She is also a friend.
  • Danube R. Hermosillo (Lots of TV) in a brilliant casting choice, Rosa looks like she really is Carla's daughter.
We went in confident that this would be fairly predictable. Well, that shows you what WE know! We enjoyed the humor, the appealing stars, the beautiful locations, a surprise or two, and even the cliches.
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Check this out:
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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

Our wimpy kid is back again, he is like an Energizer Bunny, he just won't quit! Oh good grief, this time it's a ROAD TRIP with his family! But this one is really lame!

Director David Bowers (this is his third "Wimpy Kid") creating a script with a group basing their work on the book by Adam Sztykiel and Jeff Kinney, brings us a PG-rated endurance test with our beleaguered kid beset by all the problems that usually beset wimpy kids. The primary cast has been replaced with new actors who give it all they've got ...but...

Part of the brand new cast:
  • Jason Drucker ("Barely Lethal") in his first (and I hope last) outing as our eponymous hero, Greg has been humiliated by a video clip of his encounter with a dirty diaper that went viral. Yes, folks, this series has sunk this low.
  • Charlie Wright ("Ingrid Goes West") Brother Rodrick is still petty, selfish and cruel.
  • Alicia Silverstone ("American Woman") is our boys' mom, Susan. She does her best; it is, after all Mee Maw's 90th birthday. (See the trailer.) The most creative thing about this vacation is that she wants it to be electronics-free. Riiiight....
  • Tom Everett Scott ("La La Land" plus lots and lots and LOTS of TV) is their dad, Frank. 'Nuff said.
The ending is predictable, but how we get there is where we groan. The children in the screening audience weren't even impressed by the fart jokes or those voracious birds.

It was a subdued screening audience that exited the theater.

The tagline is "A Wimp Will Rise," but like outdated yeast dough, sometimes he just doesn't rise! I am labeling this tiresome one "WSF (Worst So Far) for 2017."
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See what I mean:
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Why waste your ticket money for an exotic vacation when your boyfriend bolts? I know! Ask your ultra-cautious mom to come along. What could possibly go wrong?

Director Jonathan Levine ("50/50"), working with writer Kate Dippold ("The Heat") gives us a few helpful hints. Like maybe a kidnapping?

Their cast:
  • Goldie Hawn ("The Banger Sisters") Linda Middleton loves her daughter, but she certainly does NOT understand her.
  • Amy Schumer ("Trainwreck") Emily had her selfish little heart set on this trip and nothing will stand in her way...plus her ticket is NOT refundable!
  • Wanda Sykes ("Black-ish") Ruth speaks the truth even when it hurts, and in case you can't tell, everyone is a suspect!
  • Joan Cusack ("Toy Story") You won't recognize her so I'll give you a hint: Look at Barb.
  • Tom Bateman ("Jekyll & Hyde") James looks too good to be true, but he invites Emily's mom to come along! What a nice thing to do.
  • Ike Barinholtz ("The Mindy Project") Jeffrey is agoraphobic, so he probably isn't the best person to call when you need help.
  • Christopher Meloni ("Law & Order") I had to look this one up. I did not realize who I was watching as Roger tries to rescue our frantic duo; he looks like a cut-rate Sam Elliott in a J.C. Penney hat!
Amy Schumer is involved so it HAS to be R-rated (language and adult situations), but it's such a treat to see Goldie back on the big screen I almost didn't care. Yes, make no mistake about it, this is raunchy (language and adult situations) and shocking (a couple of misfires I didn't expect), but the screening audience was loaded with Schumer fans, so we heard laughter, laughter, laughter...
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Here is a peek:
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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

A sequel, huh? That means it will be bigger, louder and longer (15 minutes) and still flirting with the outer limits of a PG-13 rating (language). Bottom line? How can we resist; we have loved them from the get-go. Plus, Chris Pratt is officially a movie star.

Writer/director James Gunn ("Guardians of the Galaxy"), still drawing from the Marvel Comics source, collaborated with a committee of writers to bring us this new chapter (a third is already in the works) in the on-going saga of this fighting crew-for-hire. They just finished a successful job for a planet but Rocket stole some batteries. Now their customer is mad at them! In addition, our hero and his motley team have decided (in their spare time) to solve the mystery of Quill's unnamed father.

Here is part of the irresistible cast:
  • Chris Pratt ("Passengers") Peter Quill aka Star-Lord has his work cut out for him. Wrangling this team is no easy task and their relationship problems have certainly made it no easier: father-son, sister-sister, human-alien, raccoon-twig. The fact remains that he is the greatest pilot in the Universe (modesty has never been an issue).
  • Zoe Saldana ("Avatar") Our capable Gamora may LOOK green, but trust me, she is experienced and trustworthy...unlike her sister Nebula
  • Dave Bautista ("Bushwick") Burly Drax is back and we need him more than ever. And we forgive him for being a bit simple. "Do me! Do me!" 
  • Vin Diesel ("Fate of the Furious") Baby Groot is just a twig but he has an important role in this one. See how it happens. "I am Groot." 
  • Bradley Cooper ("Joy") Our Guardians wouldn't be complete without sticky-fingered, tough-talking, machine-gun-toting Rocket! This time his animators have outdone themselves: His nuanced acting is the BEST. 
  • Sean Gunn ("Gilmore Girls" I KNEW he looked familiar!) Kraglin is back but he is just as timid and loyal as always. 
  • Michael Rooker ("The Walking Dead") Yondu raised Peter after he was orphaned. How WELL he raised him seems to be the question. 
  • Kurt Russell ("Deepwater Horizon") Ego is WHAT? 
  • Elizabeth Debicki ("The Man From U.N.C.L.E.") Ayesha is the unflappable leader of a world Rocket has just insulted. Now she wants revenge.
With flashbacks to the courtship of Quill's parents, we hear a lot of references to the 80s, both television and that wonderful "Mix-tape Vol. 2." If you don't read about upcoming movies, the many cameo appearances will come as a big surprise (except for Stan Lee, we INSIST on him!). Naturally, this is a Marvel production with all the quirks we have come to expect. And watch that closing scroll: We laughed out loud more than once.
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Check this out (contains a spoiler):