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Far From the Tree Review



Parenting is arguably one of the most important … is it a job? a task? a vocation? … that any of us will ever undertake.

And yet, what education or training do we receive to prepare us to do it well? Of course, we have the example of our own parents, but sometimes that is more a cautionary tale to counteract than a golden path laid before us. It’s daunting even when your child is herself golden. But how much more daunting when the child under your care is profoundly different from you and nearly all her peers?

This is the challenge that Andrew Solomon, Columbia University psychology professor, writer, and public intellectual, addressed when, following his powerfully thoughtful book about depression, “The Noonday Sun”, he wrote the bestseller, “Far From the Tree”, now an incredible documentary film by Rachel Dretzin.

What makes both “The Noonday Sun” and “Far From the Tree”, in both its literary and cinematic forms, so direct and powerful is the presence of Solomon himself. He wrote about his depression to open up the topic of depression (and visa versa); and he wrote about exceptional children and their parents because he was an exceptional child and is now a parent, thus allowing him to view the phenomenon from both angles. His particular uniqueness, besides his brilliance as a thinker, speaker and writer, is his homosexuality, remembering how when he was growing up just a few decades ago that being gay was considered an illness or infliction. The struggle of his parents to accept and understand his orientation, and Solomon’s own struggle, is what makes up his portion of the film’s story, but it is beautifully interwoven with several other remarkable lives:

There is 41-year-old Jason Kingsley, who has Down syndrome, and his elderly mother. Jason shares a home with two other men with Down syndrome, fashioning themselves as The Three Musketeers, and has a deep identification with Elsa from Frozen.

There is 23-year-old Loini Vivao, who was born with dwarfism, and travels to a Little People of America convention to find a friend who can truly understand her.

There is also Leah Smith and Joseph A. Stramondo, both Little People, who met and fell in love at such a convention. They are embarking on the path to parenthood and must consider the possibility that their children may be full sized.

There is Jack, a young boy with severe autism, and his parents, as both undertake heroic measures to hear each other.

Finally, and most heartbreaking, are the parents of Trevor, who when a teenager, brutally and randomly murdered an 8-year-old child. Here the focus is on the parents, who struggle to understand the actions of their child and their own culpability.

Any one of these stories would make an intriguing and powerful film, and one would think that combined them would overpower a single 93 minute film, but Rachel Dretzin does a masterful job of weaving them together. She does this, not by building to a dramatic or thematic note, than transitioning to the similar or like note in another story, but rather by moving from story to story in the natural rhythm of life, which is a seeming randomness that becomes meaningful on reflection and in context. And that reflection and context is provided by Solomon. Whenever we return to his story, and hear how clearly and insightfully he articulates what he experienced, the light of his understanding and wisdom, illuminates all the other narratives; the universal and human truths shine and heal.

I loved this film in so many ways, and on so many levels, that a single review could never say it all, for every day since seeing it, the truths it spoke rise up in me like reassurances of hope and humanity. Solomon once wrote about heroic kindness, and this film is an example of that noble trait. It is a gift to everyone who was ever a child. It is a gift to every parent. It is an act of love.

And as Solomon wrote, “Some people are trapped by the belief that love comes in finite quantities, and that our kind of love exhausts the supply upon which they need to draw. I do not accept competitive models of love, only additive ones.”

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No Question Mark Box Here; Super Mario Delivers a 1-Up in Theaters



If you were born in the ’80s, ’90s, or literally ANY decade after those, you know about Super Mario. A cultural phenomenon was brought to life on the big screen this last weekend. One that has not only stood the test of time but reinvented itself time and time again. This wasn’t even the first time it’s been made into a movie but, well, let’s be honest.. some of us choose not to acknowledge the LIVE action adaptation of the beloved game from 30 years ago. 

It was pretty bad… But this was animation. ILLUMINATION animation at that. The Universal company that brought us Gru and his Minions, showed us the Secret Life of Pets, and gave us a reason to SING! Still, I had my reservations and even some concerns, especially when the casting was announced. 

 Eyebrows were raised. As big of stars as they were on paper, could they really deliver on voicing characters from a staple of our childhood? They did.

Chris Pratt and Charlie Day may not be Italian, and Jack Black may not be a King or Turtle creature from the Mushroom Kingdom, but they make the characters their own all while paying homage to the lore of a video game. 

From the jump, the story reintroduces us to the brothers that just want to save Brooklyn one clogged sink at a time. We feel an instant connection and relate to these “underdogs of the plumbing world”. The movie is riddled with easter eggs, each of which tugs on the heartstrings of every generation of Mario fandom. And the soundtrack was beautifully put together to not only make us feel like we’re taking a walkthrough of the game but like an experience all its own with some familiar favorites thrown in.

Every word in the movie is pure eye candy for both those that are casual fans, and those analyzing every frame to see what they’ll catch next. Bowser’s ship, the Mushroom Kingdom, Kong’s arena, and the Rainbow Road.. They’re all meant to give us just enough of a “new” look at these amazing worlds, but stay true to how we remember them.

The movie itself moves along at the perfect pace. Although, if you don’t really know ANYTHING about the Super Mario Bros, you may have gotten a little lost and felt left behind in the green tunnel. But that’s ok! It’s an adventure of the imagination and a classic story of a boy that meets a girl and tries to save the world from a monster that wants to destroy it.

What’s funny is that you could easily say this is a story about two characters who couldn’t be more opposite if they tried, battling to win the heart of a princess. Who would’ve thought that the King of the Koopas was just trying to impress his crush?

And that song? Ohhh THAT song! It’s my new ringtone and deserves the Oscar for Best Original Song.

Back to the movie. 

Universal and Illumination clearly understood the assignment. Is it missing some things or could things have been done differently or even better? Absolutely! We’re the worst critics of the things we hold nearest and dearest to our hearts. But if you’re up for going on a 90-minute adventure through amazing worlds, with awesome music, and characters that’ll make you smile and laugh, then this is the perfect movie to spring you into that warm summer feeling.

Plus there’s the whole part with karts and shells, and banana peels and oh my goodness how amazing was that?? It’s enough to make you want to stand up and cheer, then go home and destroy your friends and family on your favorite track haha.

The bottom line, it pays homage in all the right ways to the little guy with the mustache, while giving us something new and exciting. Take the kids and go see Super Mario Bros. You’ll be glad you did!

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Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023



Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Opening Act Saturday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. on North 200A. Talent confirmed so far to participate in the post-screening panel is Natalie Alyn Lind (Big Sky, The Goldbergs, Gotham) as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and longtime RWBY cast member Lindsay Jones (Camp Camp) as Ruby, Kara Eberle ( RWBY: Ice Queendom) as Weiss, Arryn Zech (Detective Now Dead) as Blake and Barbara Dunkelman (Blood Fest) as Yang – along with Jeannie Tirado (Soul, Saints Row) as Green Lantern and Tru Valentino (The Rookie, The Cuphead Show!) as a cyborg. Also attending the panel will be producer/director Kerry Shawcross (series RWBY) and writer Meghan Fitzmartin (Supernatural, Justice Society: World War II).

Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023 with the big screen debut from DC Animated Films: highlights this year include the world premieres of the highly anticipated Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham and Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Part One the weekend of March 24-26 in Anaheim, California. Both screenings will be followed by panel discussions with actors and creators. Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham premieres at The Arena on Friday, March 24 at 6 p.m. Tati Gabrielle (Kaleidoscope, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Uncharted) as Kai Li Cain, Christopher Gorham (The Lincoln Lawyer, Insatiable) as Oliver Queen, David Dastmalchian (Dune, Suicide Squad, Ant-Man) as Grendon, producer/co-director Sam Liu (The Death and the Return of Superman), co-director Christopher Berkeley (Young Justice) and screenwriter Jase Ricci (Teen Titans Go! and DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem Across the Multiverse).

Both films will have encore screenings in the Arena on Sunday, March 26. Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes & Huntsmen, Part One will screen at 12:15pm, followed by Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham at 2:00pm

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Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3



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