Review: Dora and the Lost City of Gold (2019)

Globe
Dora Explorer Márquez is a precocious girl who loves the jungle. Madelyn Miranda plays young Dora. She and her professor parents, Cole (Michael Peña) and Elena (Eva Longoria) are explorers. They encourage her inquisitiveness and enthusiasm. When Dora is six, her older cousin Diego (Malachi Barton) moves to the city with his parents which saddens Dora.

Dora’s parents have been trying to find Parapata, The Lost City of Gold. Once the parents find enough clues to locate the mysterious city, they emphasize that they are not treasure hunters. They are only in pursuit of knowledge to find the city. Despite Dora’s protests, her parents do not bring her with them in their search. They send her (now older and played by Isabela Moner) to the big city to live with her high school age cousin Diego (now played by Jeff Wahlberg).

At the high school, Dora’s unlimited positivity is scorned by stereotypical high school students. She knows more than the other students. She especially annoys the stuffy Sammy (played by Madeleine Madden). On her first day, Dora also meets the awkward Randy (played by Nicholas Coombe).

On a school field trip to the natural history museum, those four teenagers reluctantly form a team for the class treasure hunt at the museum. A staff member lets the team into a restricted basement to see ancient Egyptian relics. That was not the best move because treasure hunters who are on the trail of Parapata kidnap the four. They hope the kids will find Dora’s parents and unwittingly help them find their bounty.

In Raiders of the Lost Ark-style, they must escape dangerous traps beforeo they find the treasure. Randy names these challenges “Jungle Puzzles” that he is familiar with from computer games. The obstacles require the four to develop bonds of friendship and trust to succeed in the quest.

The film is filled with lots of lighthearted humor. Even the villains are more humorous and bumbling than scary. Dora’s pet monkey Boots adds more humor to the film with his playful resourcefulness. The film has its moments of suspense but Dora and her friends handle them with grace.

Dora is a really enthusiastic and positive person. The hidden gold is the attraction for villains while Dora, her friends and parents do not want the wealth. After returning from their adventure, Dora and her companions have a new freedom. Their negative classmates can’t reduce their enthusiasm. Dora has the opportunity to do more exploration with her parents. However, Dora decides to leave the rain forest so that she may study the “indigenous people” of her new high school.

Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain (2019)

A red race car
Just one more lap. The racer and his Golden Retriever, Enzo, are best friends in The Art of Racing in the Rain. Kevin Costner voices Enzo, who is philosophical and narrates the film. Milo Ventimiglia plays Denny Swift, the racer who has a rough ride. He is a bold and talented driver hoping to join a winning Formula One racing team.

Denny has some steadfast friends who stay with him as he moves through life. They are looking forward to more and more success. Denny has many maxims shared by Enzo such as “a race is never won in the first corner.” Enzo regrets his floppy tongue that prevents him from speaking his wisdom. Despite his silence, he speaks loudly at a crucial moment in the story’s development, eating Denny’s “homework.”

Enzo helps Denny meet Eve when Enzo approaches her enthusiastically. Despite the couple’s love, Eve’s wealthy parents fear for their daughter. They are worried about the danger, travel and unavailability that come with the racing profession.

As I planned to go to the movie, I was apprehensive because I imagined a story with suspense and long race scenes. It turns out that I didn’t see Denny racing as much as I expected. Some racing footage was taken from within Denny’s car and he watched those films to help improve his racing performance. Denny seemed to teach younger drivers as much as he was racing himself. There were many emotional beats through the movie, but not the ones I expected.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is constructed with Denny facing life’s emotional challenges with grace. There’s an undercurrent of conflict between Eve’s parents and Denny. Eve’s parents selfishly think they know what’s best for their granddaughter Zoe. In the middle of the film, there is some plodding storytelling. I realize that after Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel, I need to recalibrate my expectations of action to a more earthly plane.

Enzo has tried to learn as much as he can about the art of being human. He is confident that he will return as a human in his next life. Denny’s career is not as glorious as he had hoped, but he keeps showing that he can excel when faced with challenges.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is not a high-speed race. It doesn’t apologize for making the audience to feel sad, but it is not depressing nor a lofty fantasy. The movie doesn’t need to take another lap because it shows what can happen in life after the first corner.

Review: How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

a film reelAs the animated How to Train Your Dragon opens, you enter the colorful world of the Vikings living in their seaside village for generations. Surprisingly, all of the buildings are new. As the story unfolds, you learn why. The Vikings, their village and livestock often get attacked by dragon hordes that carry away the animals. Dragons, being known for breathing fire, set the village alight during their attacks.

Everyone in the village is devoted to their life by the sea and hunting dragons. However, it’s not long before you meet a youth who doesn’t fit in. Hiccup wants to help in the battles, but his temperament and physique aren’t tailored to the rough Viking life. Although he is an assistant to a blacksmith, he’s barely able to pick up the swords and axes they make. He is notorious for misguided inventions. Despite his reputation, in the opening battle, his catapult throws a net that catches a Night Fury.

Night Furies are rare and terrible dragons so mysterious that the books of dragon lore don’t describe them. When Hiccup finds the Night Fury that his net caught, he wields a knife to kill it. Then Hiccup berates himself when he dropped the knife and couldn’t kill the dragon—it was just as frightened as himself. He became even more demoralized and lost hope that he could ever become a real Viking. He was also confident that he couldn’t handle the shame if other villagers knew he couldn’t kill a dragon, so he kept his charge secret.

Soon, Hiccup was pushed to join the other teenagers in dragon hunter training. At first, he struggles to avoid getting burned during the challenges. He also gets in the way of the his classmates. However, the Night Fury teaches Hiccup many things that no Viking ever knew about dragons.

Hiccup’s life changed. With his inventiveness, he gets to experience the freedom of flying through the sky riding the dragon he befriended. The movie shows exhilarating flights through the clouds and exotic cliffs. During one of their flights, Hiccup and the Night Fury find a truly terrifying dragon. That dragon is destined to be the target of the Vikings’ biggest hunt.

How to Train Your Dragon (2010) is a humorous fantasy that offers a story that will be appreciated by an older audience. The Viking that is different and ostracized by the others finds that he can be useful and valued for his differences.

Review: The Dark Tower (2017)

A movie reel
In the center of the universe stands a dark tower that protects the universe from chaos and destruction. Although we see the tower only briefly, the film The Dark Tower from 2017 shows repeated attacks that threaten the worlds that it protects. Earthquakes and mysterious lights in the sky are becoming more frequent in New York and other cities.

The Man in Black is orchestrating these attacks, trying to use the minds of children which he believes could destroy the tower and unleash devastation and death. The movie begins with a horror sequence showing an attack. We see the tower assaulted by an energy beam, but the tower is sturdy. Jake is woken from a troubled dream by the ensuing earthquake.

The characters of the movie, the Man in Black, played by Matthew McConaughey, the Gunslinger, played by Idris Elba, and Jake, played by Tom Taylor, battle over the tower. To connect the different sites of the story, door-like portals allow travel between worlds.

When the movie opens, children are in a playground until a klaxon sounds and alarms on a few children’s wrists activate. The kids walk robot-like into a dark building with a conical roof. Soon, the reason for their alarm becomes clear.

As the movie progresses, the Gunslinger’s prowess with a six-shooter becomes more and more amazing. For his part, the Man in Black can control other people with a whisper. For example, he can tell someone to stop breathing or probe their memories to help find Jake. Early in the film, Jake escapes from the Man in Black’s agents who are identified by a seam in the fake skin covering their face.

The movie struggles to balance the horror genre, westerns and fantasy. The three aspects dance around each other, starting the movie in horror and ending with a fantasy western style. As the story unfolds, we see more and more of the Man in Black’s powerful skills. The Gunslinger is empowered by the Gunslinger’s Creed that forms the foundation of his talents. As the film progresses, Jake discovers his own power, his shine.

At his mother and stepfather’s home, Jake is tormented by vivid dreams. He has been compulsively drawing scenes from the dreams because they are too real to be a dream. His family blames the visions and psychological distress from the death of Jake’s father. However, when Jake meets the Gunslinger, he learns that his dreams have been real.

Sometimes when I see a movie trailer, I’m not interested in learning more. This movie is an exception to that pattern. In the trailer, I saw a scene of an attack on the tower. I was hoping for more appearances of the tower, but those scenes are precious and kept brief and infrequent. Perhaps the attacks on the tower would seem repetitive and lose their horror if they were over-done.

As a film, The Dark Tower is successful and meeting its promise of a battle between good and evil. Evil seems to have the upper hand throughout the movie because of the Man in Black’s extraordinary skills. He can catch bullets and kill people with a phrase. The Gunslinger is tentative in his abilities, but Jake inspires him to continue fighting.

Surprise: You get to go swimming today

A red crawfish
Last weekend I went canoeing with my neighbors. It was very spontaneous. They invited me that afternoon and we were underway in an hour or so. We had 3 kayakers and 4 of us in two canoes on Pigeon Creek.

It started out cool. I saw some crawfish on the bank right next to the access ramp.

We made it to the first obstacle, a big tree blocking half the stream. However I ended up getting pinned behind it. I tried to push myself sideways, out from behind the log, but got dumped in the water.

Thankfully, I had on a life jacket. I hadn’t been in the water for years, so it was a big surprise. I did ok and didn’t drown. First, I moved over to the bank so that my feet could touch the bed of the river.

The rest of the trip my jeans were soaked, but the water wasn’t too cold and the weather was warm.

We made it to the last bridge before Mongo, climbed out and waited for the vehicle at the drop-off site to rejoin us.

All in all, it was pretty fun. I was getting pretty tired and a little cranky by the time we got out of the water. I fell down twice trying to get up the path where we stopped. I didn’t get any injuries although I fell pretty hard the second time.

I did a lot better than I expected and it’s definitely an adventure to remember.

The new family on TV

TV
I have an aerial TV antenna in the attic of my car port. Over the years, robins have found it an ideal place for a nest.

They already had one clutch that has grown up and flown away. I was lazy and ended up with bird poop all over my car when it became time for them to leave. (I kept parking the car inside.)

However, this is the first year that I remember watching them start a second family so I can have a do-over instead of a poo-over.

Last week, I went out and the parent flew down and was scolding me. It wanted to get me to stay away from the nest. I’ve followed her admonition and park beyond the car port. I leave the car port on the side next to the house. I don’t get close to the nest and I haven’t seen the bird leave the next when I go out.

I hope it means fewer neuroses for the babies when they leave.

I’ll certainly be happy that my car doesn’t need cleaned up!

I got back from Chicago

A bus or train
This was a fun way to end the week. Thursday I went to Chicago to see my sister. They have an apartment about 50 floors up. They have a view of the lake and quite a few tall buildings for good measure.

I took the commuter train from South Bend to Chicago and back. The trip there was a little altered because they were doing planned maintenance on the tracks so we bused into Michigan City for the first leg.

I had a really nice visit to the Art museum and saw lots of armor and weapons. There was a sound installation in the main hall that I really liked. There was also an AIDS gallery that had a lot more information than I had time to take in. It had four screening rooms with lengthy videos that I only sampled.

Today we braved the rain to see the cloud gate (Bean) and looked at a Victorian stained glass exhibit in one of the underground areas. I had a Chicago style hot dog before boarding the train.

I made some raspberry pudding. I’m still perfecting the process. This one ended up solidifying before I even got it off the stove. It didn’t form any film on the surface, but it also was more custardy than puddingy. I haven’t learned what I need to do to have a nice pudding texture. I don’t have any food dyes either so the result is always white.

One that I would like to try to make is a chocolate mint recipe. Maybe the next time I buy milk? I haven’t tried soy milk or other vegetable milks instead of dairy.

It was a fun weekend. I knew sirens are loud up on the 50th floor because I’ve heard them talking to my sister on the phone, but it makes it take a while to fall asleep.