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A technophobe gets one heck of a system update in this entertaining thriller

       Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green: Damnation) is married to a bigwig in the tech industry, with a self-driving car and an automated house. Grey doesn’t like automation. He prefers to drive vintage cars and restore them for rich ­buyers.
       The mismatched couple is stranded on the wrong side of the tracks after an accident in the self-driving car. Attacked by a band of high-tech muggers with genetic enhancements, Grey is paralyzed and his wife is murdered.
       A billionaire former client visits Grey in the hospital with an intriguing proposal: Be a guinea pig for a new microchip that might cure paralysis. The system, called STEM, will take over the severed nerve connections and control his body using brain signals. 
       The installation is a success but with one quirk: STEM not only controls Grey, it can also think and talk. STEM thinks it can help Grey solve his wife’s murder, and the two team up to take down the bad guys.
       In the process, Grey learns something else about STEM. During times of stress, it can take over his body and turn him into a killing machine. That’s useful because the baddies are all bioengineered killing machines.
       Upgrade is a throwback to the ultra-bloody 1980s action thrillers that didn’t take themselves too seriously. It is loud, ludicrous and endlessly entertaining. 
      Director Leigh Whannell (Insidious: Chapter 3) keeps the action fast and the story moving. There’s little time for reflection, and that’s a good thing, as films like this fall apart when you think about the plot.
       The movie looks and feels gritty, but with a fun futuristic twist. It’s essentially a dystopia where the rich live in what look like Apple stores while the poor are reduced to shanty towns. Those who can afford it wear gas masks to keep their lungs clean while others cough in the streets. Its inventive reimagining of the future suits the tone of the story.
      Another throwback is the level of violence. This is a movie in the vein of Robocop and Commando; expect to see limbs severed, heads blown off and buckets of blood. Showing the actual consequences of violence has a visceral effect on the audience.
      At the film’s center is Marshall-Green, who is hilarious and poignant as a technophobe become reliant upon a computer system. Grey isn’t hard-wired to be a killer, so when STEM takes over he’s more than a little horrified at the carnage he’s causing. But he comes to rely upon STEM to help him achieve his vengeance.
      Take your friends who can’t live without their phones and show them what a real upgrade can do. 
Good Action • R • 95 mins.
 
 
~~~ New this Week ~~~
Heredity
      Annie (Toni Collette) has trouble handling the death of her mother. As she tries to cope with the loss of the domineering woman, dark secrets from the past come to life. 
      First-time director Ari Aster offers an avant-garde take on the typical thriller, incorporating fascinating sound design and interesting framing. Plus, Heredity’s story makes it a horror movie that hits close to home.
Prospects: Bright • R • 127 mins.
 
Hotel Artemis
       For 20 years, the Artemis Hotel has offered medical services to injured criminals. The Nurse (Jodie Foster) runs the underground hospital under a strict code. Guests can’t murder other guests, the gates don’t open to strangers and the medical professionals can never be disrespected. 
      Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and his brother challenge the rules. The men accidentally stole a valuable container from The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum). When the international crime lord comes to collect, the Artemis and its staff fall under siege.
      Featuring a stellar cast and a fun concept, Hotel Artemis should be a zippy thriller full of fun lines and fast-paced action.
Prospects: Bright • R • 97 mins.
 
Ocean’s 8
      Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) has inherited a flair for the family business. Like her brother Danny, she is a thief. Released from prison, she plans her next big heist. Assembling a new crew, she explains the target: They’re going to rob the MET Gala. 
      This all-female sequel to the Ocean’s franchise is a breezy heist comedy. As with most of the Ocean’s movies it’s a safe bet that this is going to be a shallow but enjoyable flick, filled with cool outfits, funny lines and a plot that makes little sense. 
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 110 mins.
 
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
      How did a man in a cardigan with homemade puppets become one of the most beloved children’s show hosts? It was a combination of luck and an infectious worldview that taught kindness to parents and children alike. 
      This documentary about the rise of Mr. Rogers and his legacy is filled with interviews on his impact on children and the Civil Rights Movement. 
      If you watched Mr. Rogers as a child, or if you want to feel the impact of a compassionate worldview, watching a movie on the power of kindness may be a relief from our increasingly pugnacious times.
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 94 mins.

Solo so-so 

       Growing up under the Dickensian thumb of an evil crime boss, Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich: The Yellow Birds) knows how to run a scam and talk himself out of a scrape. He has dreams of getting off the planet of Corellia with his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke: Game of Thrones). When his escape go awry, Han must flee the planet — say it with me — Solo. 
      Determined to return to Corellia with enough coin to buy Qi’ra’s freedom, Han joins the Empire’s army. Kicked out of flight school for his arrogance and mouth, Han is slogging through battlefields trying not to die when he meets Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri), a crook who ekes out a living stealing hyperfuel from the Empire and selling it to fringe organizations. 
       Han signs up for a life of crime and quick cash, convincing his newfound friend Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo: Star Wars: The Last Jedi) to come along as muscle.
      If you’ve never seen a Star Wars movie, this is not the one to start with. Solo: A Star Wars Story is entertaining enough, but production and scripting woes show. Hired after another team’s firing, director Ron Howard (Inferno) cobbled together what he could from already-shot and reshot footage. No surprise that the overall story is rushed and disjointed. 
      Many plot points are told through clunky dialogue rather than shown. The central love story is poorly written, and its actors have zero chemistry. Most relationships are vaguely sketched. Some chase scenes, particularly one involving the Millennium Falcon and a space anomaly, are visually boring in badly rendered graphics. 
       The biggest failure is Emilia Clarke, who pulls outlandish faces and becomes a distraction in every appearance. She and Ehrenreich are very pretty, but together they have the appeal of cold oatmeal. 
        This is a shame as the love story wastes so much time, and the other parts are pretty darn entertaining. Harrelson and Ehrenreich have chemistry, and the heist scenes are fun. Suotamo’s Chewie also has great rapport with the cast and entertaining reactions to Han’s stupid plans and antics. 
         The best part of the movie, however, may be Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover: Atlanta) and his droid L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge: Goodbye Christopher Robin). Glover fully captures the slick charm of Lando, who disguises his worries beneath his cavalier veneer. His odd relationship with L3-37, who believes in droid rebellion from human rule, is one of the strongest in the film.
       Flawed, yes, but Solo is still fun. Grab a bucket of popcorn and sit down to laugh your way though this breezy origin tale. If you’re a diehard Chewie fan, like this reviewer, it’s more than worth the ticket to finally see just what happens when you make a Wookie mad.
Fair Action Adventure • PG-13 • 135 mins.
 
 
~~~ New this Week ~~~
Action Point
        D.C. (Johnny Knoxville) is the proprietor of an off-brand theme park filled with rickety rides and apathetic employees. When his daughter Boogie visits, D.C. wonders if he shouldn’t upgrade. Then a big corporate park opens nearby. 
       This is your typical Johnny Knoxville comedy, which means he’ll be hit, run over and thrown through the air. There will be crude humor, lots of silly jokes and barely any plot. 
Prospects: Dim • R • 85 mins.
 
Adrift
       When her boyfriend Richard (Sam Claflin) invites her to sail across the Pacific, Tami (Shailene Woodley) thinks romance. The lovebirds hit a snag when they sale into a hurricane. With the boat and Richard nearly destroyed, Tami must draw on determination to save boat and boyfriend. 
       Based on a true story, Adrift should be a stirring tale of survival. 
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 120 mins.
 
Upgrade
       Grey Trace (Logan Marshall Green) watches four muggers kill his wife after paralyzing him. Filled with rage, he gets an offer he can’t refuse: A billionaire wants to use him as a guinea pig for an implant under development. STEM would rewire Grey’s brain and allow him to walk.
        It works, and the now-mobile Grey goes after the men who killed his wife. He finds an odd ally in the STEM system, which is able to take over his body and give him super-powered strength and abilities.
       Is the STEM implant a godsend? Or is there a downside to allowing AI to move your body like a puppet? 
      This type of action movie could go either way, to bonkers action or slogging high-concept. If it leans into the craziness inherent in the plot, it could be a gonzo good time.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 95 mins.

American Legion Post 206 historian seeks and shares the stories of those who served

      You would sit down cautiously with Fred Bumgarner at a poker table (usage of which can neither be denied nor confirmed) at the Stallings-Williams American Legion Post 206 in Chesapeake Beach. His gaze does not betray his thoughts. But the tight-handed former naval cryptologist is flush with heart when it comes to remembering our past and present veterans — even the ones whose only legacy is their discharge papers.
       “I was going through old files,” Bumgarner says, “and asking fellas, Who was this guy? What was his story? Sometimes I could find out something, and sometimes I couldn’t. But it always hit me hard that we didn’t find out before they were gone from us.”
      Bumgarner, 70, has been an American Legion member for 44 years. Since coming to Calvert County in 1980, he’s held several positions at Post 206, with membership in the 800s. Since becoming its historian two years ago, Bumgarner contributes Untold Stories to the Post’s quarterly newsletter: paragraph-sized biographical snippets gleaned from DD-214 discharge papers and membership cards. They are informative, anonymous, way too short, somewhat saddening, yet an inspirational source for reflection of the sacrifices made by the men and women of our military forces.
      I was a WWII Army veteran serving in the Pacific …
      I was a Korean War veteran flying missions in the Air Force …
      I was a Marine veteran of Vietnam from 1963 …
      “It means a lot more than it says,” Bumgarner reminds us. “It’s not a lot of info, but it’s something that we can document for these men and women who served their country.”
      Every once in a while, Bumgarner gets the whole story. He feels especially grateful to interview a veteran whose stories wouldn’t otherwise have a home.
       “I meet a lot of great people with some absolutely astonishing real-life stories, and I’m compelled to get them written down,” the biographer says.
      Bumgarner sees veterans as a whole no matter where they are from, no matter who they may be. His story collection is broad, inclusive and intriguing. Here are Memorial Day snippets of stories Bumgarner has written from interviews with three local veterans.
 
J Rosalie Hanley-Safreed J
Women’s Army Corps
     Rosalie was born on Armistice Day, November 11, 1920, just two years after the end of World War I, a conflict in which her father, Daniel J. Hanley, served. She and her three brothers were raised in Benwood, West Virginia, along the Ohio River in coal and steel country near Wheeling. 
      Rosalie failed her initial physical to join the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, but she was eventually accepted and became one of the first of 150,000 women who would serve in the WAACs renamed the Women’s Army Corps in July, 1943.
      She was the WAC editor of newsletters at both the Fort Des Moines and Mitchel Field, on Long Island.
      As the wounded arrived on stretchers, she and other WACs used their time off to help the Army nurses tend their patients. The wounded often attracted high-level VIPs, including movie stars and politicians. Rosalie was thrilled to meet Gary Cooper and Bob Hope. She also got to meet First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. 
      In July 1944, while stationed at Mitchel Field, Rosalie received word that her brother Duke was killed in action at St. Lo, France, in the Normandy invasion. In 2011, Rosalie traveled to Normandy, visited the areas where Duke had served and was given a medal and award by the French government in honor of her brother for his ultimate sacrifice and the liberation of France from the Germans.
      At 96, Rosalie is still going strong.
      When you think of the changes our society has been through in her lifetime, it really makes you stop and take notice. Women are now an accepted and valued component of all volunteer forces, and with some exceptions, they serve on an equal footing with their male counterparts.
–Fred Bumgarner
 
J Walter Dubicki J
Polish Refugee, British Army, United States Navy
       Walter was born in Rudinia, Poland, on February 8, 1935. In 1943, during World War II, the German Army relocated his family to various slave labor camps in Nazi Germany, splitting them up. He remembers they were forced to burn down their own farm before leaving. 
      They were loaded onto cattle cars and sent to camps at Dortmund and later Siegen, both northwest of Frankfurt. It was a coal-mining region; Germany used more than 15 million people as slave laborers during the war, amounting to 20 percent of the German workforce.
       After the war, first the English and then Americans took control of their Displaced Persons camp. His father was a cook for the soldiers. As a young boy he remembers he and his brother Johnny standing in the food lines with the GIs. They lived off the care packages provided by the American Army. 
       After the war, Walter joined the British Army and went to boot camp as part of an all-Polish unit. They lived in former German POW barracks and were given jobs as guards or performed other work around the camp. He served for five years.
       From a young age he had a gift for languages, learning Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, English and German. He eventually transferred from the British Army to the U.S. Navy and took citizenship and English language classes.
       He was relocated to Le Havre, France, where he learned that family members — already resettled in the United States — were sponsoring him for U.S. citizenship as a war refugee. He boarded the SS United States at Le Harve and made the July 1952 crossing in record time. 
       In 1956, he joined the U.S. Navy, where he served for eight years as a machinist mate on various vessels including the USS Randolph (CVA-15), USS Blandy (DD-943) and USS Decatur (DD-945). While on the USS Blandy, Walter became involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis in late October and early November 1962.
     On October 30, the Blandy, working with patrol aircraft, established radar contact with a surfaced Russian Foxtrot class submarine (B-130). The B-130 submerged and for the next 14 hours the Blandy tracked the sub and eventually forced it to the surface. At the time, it was not known that four submarines carried nuclear tipped torpedoes and that the Soviet navy had given authorization for their use in the event of attacks by U.S. vessels.
     During this engagement, Blandy commanding officer Edward G. ‘Shotgun’ Kelley relied on Walter as a Russian interpreter. At one point Walter spoke directly to Bobby Kennedy, the U.S. Attorney General and brother to JFK, relaying the Soviet sub commander’s intentions to the executive committee at the White House. Experiencing troubles with her diesel engines, the Russian sub turned and headed away from Cuba, closely monitored by the U.S. task force.
       After Walter’s discharge on November 17, 1964, he got a job in New York helping build the World Trade Center towers. When the second tower was 85 percent complete, his company relocated him to Washington, D.C., where it was building the new Soviet embassy. In his spare time he pursued a private pilot’s license with former WWII Navy fighter ace Robert A. Clark Jr. and later formed his own construction company with Clark, Dubicki and Clark.
       He joined Post 206 when he moved to Fairhaven, where he lived until his death in February, 2018.
–Fred Bumgarner
 
 
J Ronald C. Heister J
U.S. Naval Submariner
      In December of 2014, I attended a viewing at a local funeral home for the father of a friend and former coworker of my wife. I had never met the gentleman, Ronald Heister, but I was aware that he was a resident at Charlotte Hall Veterans Home in St. Mary’s County. After leaving the funeral home that evening, I could not get this veteran’s story out of my head, so I would like to share it with you. I think you will agree that it is quite a tale of service and fate.
      The first thing I noticed was a dress-blue Navy jumper in a frame standing next to the coffin, with the insignia of a Storekeeper 2nd Class on the sleeve. A small picture of a very young couple was at the bottom of the frame with a note indicating that it was taken in early 1942 at the time the couple became engaged and just before he had shipped out to the Pacific to serve aboard the USS Pompano. There were two hats in the coffin: one an American Legion hat with the words Rock Hall for his home Post 228 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore; the other a baseball cap with USS Pompano, SS-181 emblazoned in gold letters.
        When the Pompano headed out on patrol July 28, 1943, Heister had remained at the naval base with severe dental problems. The Pompano never returned from that mission. 
        On a website dedicated to the memory of the crew is a notation that Heister “was ashore for some dental work and was not with his shipmates when their boat was lost. He lives for the memory of the men he served with.”
       As I looked over the room at three generations of his family, I thought what a wonderful outcome, but I also thought of the burden that Heister carried in silence for the remainder of his life.
–Fred Bumgarner
The mercenary with the mouth is back in a fouler, funnier sequel
     Superhero Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds: The Hitman’s Bodyguard) is a regenerating mercenary who specializes in eliminating the worst of the worst: drug dealers, human traffickers and gang leaders. It’s a bloody business, but he’s having fun doing it. 
      The party stops when Wade encounters Cable (Josh Brolin: Avengers: Infinity War), a time-traveling soldier back from the future to kill 14-year-old Russell (Julian Dennison: Chronesthesia) because the world will be a better place without a kid abandoned and abused in a mutant orphanage run by a sadistic Bible-quoting headmaster who tortures children for their genetic differences. Wade isn’t so sure killing a kid is a superhero move. 
       Faced with a kid who may be beyond help and Cable’s nearly unstoppable determination, Wade assembles a team of super-powered people — plus one normal who saw the ad and signed up.
      Can Wade and his X-Force prevail?
      Vulgar, violent and wholly inappropriate for, well, anyone, Deadpool 2 is nonetheless great fun. Director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde) is a former stunt man who knows how to stage and shoot thrilling action scenes. He keeps the tone light and the fight scenes bloody, which is a perfect balance for a film that gleefully violates the basic rules of filmmaking and decency. 
      The real reason this film works is Reynolds. Seemingly born to play a smart-alecky mercenary who rattles off pop culture jokes, Reynolds is charming in all his profane glory. He manages to make murder for hire rather delightful. He gives Wade emotional depth paired with gonzo physical humor. Anytime the movie takes a writing shortcut or leans on cliché, Wade is there to call it out and remind the audience it’s just a movie.
      A host of fantastic supporting characters help Reynolds keep the tone light and breezy. The best is Domino (Zazie Beetz: Atlanta), a mercenary who has the amazing super power of luck. She can, without ill effect, tumble out of planes, take on armed men and rush into burning buildings. She also seems as attuned as Wade to the absurdity of the film they’re making. Brolin, on the other hand, is surprisingly flat as Cable. 
       Among other flaws, some elements rehash the first film, and a few of the scenes drag. Still, Leitch and Reynolds keep a pace too swift to complain for long. There’s always a new fight or joke just around the corner. 
        This is not a Marvel movie for young children, and you might think twice about taking your parents, though this reviewer’s mother loved it. There is orgiastic violence, disturbing male genitalia and enough foul-mouthed quips to fill a swear jar. For fans of the first Deadpool film or of wisecracking violence in your movies, this flick is well worth the ticket. 
Good Action-Comedy • R • 119 mins.
 
 
~~~ New this Week ~~~
Solo: A Star Wars Story
      Long ago in a galaxy far far away … Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) was a kid growing up under the thumb of an evil mob boss. Forced to steal and beg for food, Han dreamed of fleeing his planet with his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) and becoming a great pilot. 
      When Han does get free, he ends up a grunt in the Imperial Army, dreaming of the day he’ll be able to return to Qi’ra. To earn enough money for her rescue, he falls in with thieves who need one big score to get out of their life of crime.
       Will Han reunite with the love of his life? Or will he live a life of crime?
       We all know that the real love of Han’s life was Chewbacca. So it’s a good thing the Wookie is introduced fairly quickly in this film. With production problems, a director switcheroo and scripting woes, Solo: A Star Wars Story carries a lot of baggage.
       The good news is that new director Ron Howard has cobbled together a watchable popcorn flick, perfect for summer. Sure, there are plot and acting problems. Clarke, in particular, is poorly cast. But overall, following the origins of Han, Chewbacca and Lando (Donald Glover) is a breezy adventure through the galaxy. 
Good Action Adventure • PG-13 • 135 mins.

Passion or obligation: That’s the choice

      Ronit (Rachel Weisz: My Cousin Rachel) returns to her Orthodox community to mourn her father, a revered rabbi. She has lived in New York by choice and in exile since the revelation of her teenage fling with another woman, Esti (Rachel McAdams: Game Night).
       Returning home as a successful photographer, Ronit learns that even in mourning she is shunned. In neither her father’s obituary nor his will is she acknowledged as his only child. She is welcomed only by Esti and by her husband Dovid (Alessandro Nivola: You Were Never Really Here), Ronit’s childhood friend.
      Having accepted her rabbi’s order to take a husband, Esti is at once a pillar of the community and a closeted lesbian living a life of quiet desperation. In Ronit’s return, she hopes to grasp a little bit of happiness. 
      As the women reunite, gossip swells.
     Beautifully shot and acted, Disobedience is a thoughtful film about closed communities. Director Sebastián Lelio, who just won an Oscar for the outstanding A Fantastic Woman, delves into the nuances of the Orthodox London community, showing the good and the bad. On the one hand, the community serves and helps its own. On the other, it’s run by rules that are unkind to those who don’t follow them. 
       Lelio takes pains to show the isolation of a person shunned. From the stores to school, the community turns hostile. 
      Helping underscore the theme is the brilliant acting trifecta of Weisz, McAdams and Nivola. Weisz’s Ronit is tortured as her hopes for reconciliation are smashed. 
      As Esti, McAdams offers a disturbing portrait of repression in religious communities. Unhappy as she is, she can’t bring herself to chance life alone. She knows that rekindling her romance with Ronit is the way to ruin, but she’s helpless to stop her attraction. 
        The surprise of the film is Nivola’s Dovid. His performance elevates a character who could have been a villain to a figure of sympathy. Dovid is devoted to his community and religion and is torn attempting to do the right thing. 
      Fascinating, well crafted and wonderfully performed, Disobedience is well worth the ticket. 
Great Drama • R • 114 mins.
 
 
~~~ New this Week ~~~
Book Club
       Four friends are feeling in a rut. Diane (Diane Keaton) is a widow figuring out sudden solitude. Sharon (Candice Bergen) is a judge stinging from a contentious divorce. Carol (Mary Steenburgen) longs to revive her stale marriage. Vivian (Jane Fonda) enjoys an active single life.
       Forming a book club, the quartet finds their world changed by the titillating Fifty Shades of Grey. The book inspires some to embrace their sex lives and others to seek out lasting commitment.
       Book Club is a typical finding-a-new-lease-on-life comedy. If you’ve seen one of its kind, you can guess the plot. It’s more about the charisma of the actors than the strength of the plot. This isn’t a movie to stretch these actresses, but it will play to each of their strengths. Expect Keaton to shriek and flail, Bergen to offer a sardonic wit, Steenburgen to smile beatifically and Fonda to offer a sultry wink. 
      If you’re a fan of these lionesses of the screen, it should be fun to watch them vamp for laughs. Still, it’s distressing that these women are enamored with one of the poorest written books in history. 
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 104 mins. 
 
Deadpool 2
      Super-powered Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) has developed a reputation in the superhero community as the unkillable Deadpool. 
      Time-travelling, bioengineered super-soldier Cable (Josh Brolin) arrives in Wade’s era to give the hero a choice. He must kill a child to protect the future. Wade instead assembles a super team to stop Cable.
       Deadpool was the surprise super hit of the Marvel universe. Foul-mouthed, uber-violent and hyped to the ridiculousness of the super-genre, this is not the Marvel movie you take your kids to. Reynolds is charming and wry as this superhero who breaks the fourth wall to address the audience. Reynolds and the producers seem to have found a delicate balance between parody and gimmick. But leave the kids at home. This one will earn its R-rating.
Prospects: Bright • R • 119 mins. 
 
Pope Francis: A Man of His Word
       Legendary director Wim Wenders was offered unprecedented access to the Pope as he spread his message of hope, charity and kindness. 
      The documentary examines what Francis hopes to achieve as head of one of the most powerful religious groups in the world and how he deviates from the pontifical norm. 
      Don’t expect a film questioning Catholicism or criticizing the church. This movie is about hope and the positive effect religion can have on the world. 
Prospects: Flickering • PG • 96 mins. 
 
Show Dogs
       Frank (Will Arnett) and Max (Chris Bridges) are ill-adapted mixed-species partners who go undercover at an exclusive Las Vegas dog show to bust a smuggling ring and find a stolen baby panda. 
      Frank pretends to be a pretentious dog owner and Max his pampered pet. 
      Think of this as Miss Congeniality with a cast of talking dogs. Expect tons of bodily humor and slapstick comedy in this kiddie movie.
Prospects: Flickering • PG • 92 mins.

How handwriting analysis helped me forgive my mother — and myself

A Mother’s Day story by Jane Elkin
 
        On March 3, 2004, I boarded a plane for New Hampshire to sit vigil at my mother’s deathbed. Waiting at the gate, I wrote this page in my diary. It’s the lyrics to Nella Fantasia (In My Fantasy), a Sarah Brightman song that haunted me for two months and was the last music my mother ever heard, my final gift before singing at her funeral. 
       I didn’t want to do it, but Mom insisted, and she usually got what she wanted. So I fixed my eyes on a stained glass window and focused on my job — because you can’t sing and cry at the same time.
      In my writing, you can see what depression looks like: black, blotchy, and  sinking. I remember consciously choosing the marker because it matched my mood that day. Normally, I wrote optimistically rising lines in a fine blue ballpoint. “Keep on the sunny side” was more than a cliché in my life. It was how my mother raised me.
      As a toddler, my favorite song was about seven little girls sitting in the back seat, kissing and a-hugging with bread, or so I thought. “Mama, sing Snoopy Eyes,” I would prompt, as in “Keep your snoopy eyes on the road ahead!” Always she complied. It was our special car song. Sometimes I even got a slice of buttered bread sprinkled with sugar. 
        We had a song for everything. When I couldn’t remember her birthday, she said to remember Alan Sherman’s liverwurst: been there since October 1, and today is the 23rd of May! We climbed Mt. Washington to the theme from The Bridge on the River Kwai. When I started dating, her soundtrack became In My Little Red Book. 
      I adored her for 13 years and, because of her influence, wanted to be a singer and music teacher. It was all I thought I was good at. But she feared I’d wind up broken, like Billie Holliday or Judy Garland, and she was threatened by anything that didn’t fit her parochial vision for my future. A Catholic education seemed safer than public, so she transferred me without notice from the best performing arts school in the state to the worst. I resented her for months.
       That was the first of several dramas in a struggle for autonomy that led me to leave home at 18. Yet I never cut her out of my life, and she never stopped trying to pull my strings. Then she’d go and do something unpredictably wonderful like giving me voice lessons for my 25th birthday. It was complicated.
       When I began singing professionally at the nation’s largest Catholic church a decade later, I don’t know which of us was more proud. But by then, her spirituality had turned to fanaticism. When she asserted the point of my vocal studies was “to better praise God,” I wanted to say “No, I do it for my sake, not His,” but I couldn’t.
      Her snoopy nose was into everything from my music to my wardrobe, parenting style, even the way I changed a trash bag. Had I known her escalating control and petulant rants were symptomatic of an illness, I might have been more understanding. But by the time she was diagnosed with multiple brain tumors, she had just two months to live, and I was torn between grief and relief.
 
Her Hand and Mine
       After she died, I became a certified handwriting analyst. Applying the method to her journals, I saw that she was motivated by a lifelong fear of abandonment and a midlife loneliness I had never realized. I began writing a book and wound up pursuing a degree in creative writing to do the story justice. But I couldn’t move past my own guilt at never having properly mourned.
        “Good writing comes from forgiveness,” my teacher said. “Have you tried looking at your own script?” I had not. I felt sure I knew what I’d been feeling all the time. But there is a difference between being in the moment and reflecting on the moment. What I discovered set me free. 
      Here is my journal entry from the day I learned of my mother’s illness: 
Worse than I’d realized. The Drs. still don’t know the cause at this point. It could be a virus, a disease, or even cancer or a tumor on the brain. He [Dad] was supposed to call me back tonight, but it’s 10:30 …
         The first thing that struck me was the vertical “rivers” of white space between my words, reflecting a sudden loneliness. It was the same isolation I had seen in my mother’s writing when she was my age. The second surprise was the crashing letters in the right-hand margin, a phenomenon common to suicide notes because the right represents the future. The tendency is subtly evident here in the way the words appear to step off a cliff. Considering what lay ahead, I was literally staring death in the face and shrinking from it.
 
Final Gifts
         Four times I drove home, once with a broken tailbone, and was always surprised at her rapid regression. One weekend she was the adult bibliophile I knew; the next, a giggly teen swooning over movie heartthrobs. I felt privileged to meet my mother ‘pre-me’, even when she resembled a toddler, dangling her feet from an invalid’s pottychair and singing Daisy as my own girls had done.
       She liked old hymns, and one day when she no longer could join in, I sang her an original composition. It was my first and had taken years to write. I was nervous about sharing, but still craved her approval and wanted to give one last gift that was uniquely mine. But what if she didn’t like it? It was a bluegrass waltz, and she’d always hated country music. 
      She listened silently to all three verses, and as the final guitar chord died away, I dared ask her opinion. For once, all she said was “beautiful,” and that was her final gift to me. 
      Three weeks later, as she lay semi-comatose, I crowned her with my earphones and played Arvo Pärt’s Magnificat and Nella Fantasia, the most heavenly moving-on music I knew. She ahhhed as one sinking into a hot bath, her feet quivering like those of an infant smiling with her whole body. 
       Within hours her sporadic breathing turned to a death rattle that drove me from the room. I was ashamed of my weakness and kept the baby monitor low that night as I slept in another room, only to be awakened by the grey buzz of its mechanical silence and the fleeting sensation of her presence, which I felt as a slumbering child feels a goodnight kiss. 
      The purge of beige fluid trickling from her mouth when I found her told me all I needed to know. I closed her wide and vacant eyes, kissed her warm forehead and moved trancelike to the phone where the hospice number was posted in fat black figures. With shaking hands I misdialed three times. Then a voice answered, and I lost mine.
 
 
Jane Elkin is a former music teacher, chorister at The Basilica of the National Shrine and co-founder of The Renaissance Singers of Annapolis and Trinitas. She expects to complete her MFA at Bennington Writing Seminars in January. 

The scariest part of this movie is paying see it

      Sean (Robert Sheehan: Mute) dreams of being a professional photographer. He takes his craft seriously and won’t take any job he considers beneath him. Thus limited, he shoots only random things on the street and his semi-naked girlfriend. 
       Until Sean and his buddy come up with a moneymaking scheme. As valets at a local Italian eatery, they lay hands on many car keys. While the customers are dining, the valets loot their homes. 
        The scheme goes wrong with Cale Erendreich (David Tennant: Jessica Jones).
       In Erendreich’s house, Sean discovers a locked room. Instead of jewels, inside he finds a bound and beaten woman. He can’t break her chains but promises to find a way to save her.
       From a pay phone, he calls the police, but doubling back he sees that the cops won’t enter the residence. His second strategy is to bait Erendreich into the open. Now he’s engaged in a game of cat-and-mouse with a serial killer. 
       Poorly shot, bizarrely plotted and hilariously acted, Bad Samaritan is a victim of serial bad choices. Director Dean Devlin (Geostorm) is bad at character development, cinematography and pacing.
      Acting is bad, too. Sean isn’t a particularly interesting hero. Erendreich is supposed to be a terrifying serial killer, but his evil machinations are pretty much limited to prank phone calls and sexting. ­Tennant gives us a villain who glowers, bugs his eyes and snarls through every scene, an odd choice for a movie that takes itself pretty seriously. 
        This movie is so bad that the only entertainment you’ll get from it is the fun of mocking it. 
Thrill-free Thriller • R • 110 mins.
 
 
~~~ New this Week ~~~
Breaking In
      After the death of her father, Shaun (Gabrielle Union) and her kids prepare his home for sale only to find a recently installed security system that makes the house nearly impregnable. 
      The reason for this becomes clear when a violent gang shows up. She fights off her attacker, but the kids are locked in while the bad guys search for something Shaun’s father has hidden. 
       To save her kids, Shaun takes out the bandits one by one.
      This is the Mother’s Day movie for the tough mom in your life. If you and your mom bond over Crossfit or Dirty Harry movies, this one’s for you. 
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 88 mins.
 
Disobedience
       Ronit (Rachel Weisz) is expelled from her Orthodox Jewish community in London for her same-sex relationship with best friend Esti (Rachel McAdams). Moving to New York, she becomes a successful photographer but grieves for her lost family and friends. When the death of her father takes her home, she rekindles her relationship with Esti, now married to a prominent rabbi. 
       Director Sebastián Lelio, who gave us the Oscar-winning A Fantastic Woman, is known for respectfully exploring women’s issues. Both McAdams and Weisz are brilliant performers able to carry the nuance of a complex drama.
Prospects: Bright • R • 114 mins. 
 
Life of the Party
       When Deanna’s (Melissa McCarthy) husband dumps her, she pursues the dream of finishing her bachelor’s degree, enrolling in her daughter’s college and moving into a dorm. She and the doubtful daughter bond, and soon Deanna is the life of every party.
        McCarthy is gifted at both physical and verbal comedy. With the right script, there isn’t much she can’t do. This getting-her-groove-back flick — complete with makeover, sex with a cute guy and reconnection with family — doesn’t set the bar high.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 105 mins. 
 
RBG
       This documentary follows feminist icon Ruth Bader Ginsberg from Harvard Law School, where she is one of the first women admitted, to civil rights activism, to the U.S. Supreme Court. 
       The filmmakers are admirers, so don’t expect challenges to this legend of justice. But if you want to know more of the life story of one of the most powerful women in America, this should be well worth the ticket. 
Prospects: Bright • PG • 97 mins. 

Disney puts all its heroes in one basket in this epic action movie

     The once mighty Avengers are in tatters. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.: Spider-Man: Homecoming) and Captain America (Chris Evans: Gifted) are feuding. Thor (Chris Hemsworth: 12 Strong) is drifting in space after destroying his home world to save his people. Hulk (Mark Ruffalo: Thor: Ragnarok) is still trying to find himself. 
      The divided heroes reunite to battle a baddie of galactic proportions.
      Thanos (Josh Brolin: Only the Brave) is a space invader obsessed with bringing balance to the universe. It’s his goal to eliminate half the lifeforms throughout the universe to counter overpopulation and dwindling resources. 
     Flashy, entertaining and shallow, Avengers: Infinity War is big-budget popcorn entertainment. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo (Captain America: Civil War) craft a bombastic confluence of seven superhero franchises. It’s a well-balanced film, given the size of characters and number of storylines. The Russo brothers also come up with a few unique character pairings that make the movie a blast to watch. 
       But as in any good Marvel movie, the real test is the quality of the villain. As power-mad galactic terrorist Thanos, Brolin turns in a surprisingly complex performance. His Thanos is committed to his task but not devoid of emotions. He loves his daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana: My Little Pony: The Movie), but won’t allow her to stand in the way of his mission. For a man bent on destroying half the universe, he’s surprisingly likeable. 
        As in most Avengers movies, there’s not time for deep characters. But that doesn’t mean the film lacks heart. Hemsworth, Downey and Saldana all have great dramatic moments. With plenty of comedy to counteract the grim plotlines, the movie also never veers too far into darkness.
       On a more practical level, for a film with an astronomical budget, Avengers: Infinity War has some surprisingly shoddy effects. A few CGI shots are almost laughably bad, and the main battle is filled with disposable monsters that are neither scary nor interesting. It’s a little disappointing that a movie guaranteed to break box office records can’t take care in its craft. 
      Fans of Marvel’s Avengers series will find this easily the best of the three films. It’s breezy, entertaining fun.
Good Action Adventure • PG-13 • 149 mins.
 
 
~~~ New this Week ~~~
 
Bad Samaritan
       Sean Falco (Robert Sheehan) is a valet who drives the cars he’s supposed to park to their rich owners’ homes for burglaries.
       It’s a lucrative scam until it isn’t.
       In the middle of a break-in, Sean finds a woman who’s bound, gagged and pleading for help. Afraid he’ll be arrested for breaking into the house, he leaves her and calls the police. When the cops find nothing, he’s stricken with guilt.
Now, he has two problems: First, he’s horrified that he might have gotten a woman killed. Second, homeowner (David Tennant) knows who he is and intends revenge. 
        A thriller about the dangers of doing the right thing, Bad Samaritan promises a tense cat-and-mouse game of Hitchcockian thrills. 
Prospects: Flickering • R • 107 mins. 
 
Overboard
       Leonardo (Eugenio Derbez) is a thoughtless wealthy man who treats his servants poorly. He fires harried single mother Kate (Anna Faris) over a trivial matter and refuses her pay. 
       When Leonardo is thrown off his yacht and wakes on the shore with amnesia, Kate sees opportunity. She shows up at the hospital as his wife and brings him home to her kids. Leonardo learns the meaning of work as Kate throws him into a blue-collar job and tasks him with raising “their” kids. 
       Leonardo adapts fairly well to life as Kate’s husband. Soon, the two are edging toward a connection. Will Kate’s lies torpedo their burgeoning relationship? 
       A remake of the 1980s romcom, Overboard is still a highly questionable concept for a film. The gender roles have been reversed from the original, but the movie is still trying to make kidnapping and gaslighting cute and quirky bases for romance. While the older film is perhaps a product of the times, this remake feels hopelessly out of touch. 
Prospects: Dim • PG-13 • 112 mins. 
 
Tully
      Marlo (Charlize Theron) is overwhelmed with caring for three young children. She and her husband aren’t connecting. She’s feeling desperate for some alone time. She worries she’s failing as a wife and mother.
      Though she’s against the idea, Marlo reluctantly accepts her brother’s offer to hire a night nanny for the family. Tully (Mackenzie Davis) turns out to be a godsend for both kids and mother.
       A movie about the problems women aren’t supposed to speak about, Tully will likely strike a chord with mothers everywhere.
Prospects: Bright • R • 94 mins. 

Unique charity helps locals adopt a child and support a widow

      Kadee Corley waits for her phone to ring. The call she expects will change her life, and the lives of her husband Bryan and their seven-year-old son Bryce. Forever.
       They are waiting to hear if the next member of their family is ready to come home. To Odenton. From Bulgaria.
      “We struggled trying to get pregnant with our first child, and after three miscarriages we finally had our beautiful son,” says Kadee.
      Two years later, they discovered Kadee had premature ovarian failure.
       The Corleys began the arduous process of adoption over a year ago.
“We decided to adopt from ­Bulgaria since the process is pretty quick compared to domestic adoptions,” Kadee explained. “Once a match is made, it is just a month or two later that we get to bring a child home.”
       Still, piles of paperwork stand between the Corleys and their new child.
“We have done the home study, filled out all the papers, but now we are dealing with lots of tiny technicalities in the records,” Kadee says.
       On top of the waiting, the Corleys are also feeling adoption’s financial pinch.       They have spent nearly $40,000, refinanced their house, then turned to their community for help.
      “This is our journey as a family,” Kadee says. “It felt really strange to be asking people for money to bring our child home to us.”
       The family wanted to raise money by doing something with a purpose. Online, they found a nonprofit organization called The Both Hands Project. 
      “It was a perfect fit,” Kadee says. 
      Both Hands helps adoptive families raise funds to cover expenses; the familes, in turn, agree to help a widow in need. A family gathers a team of volunteers and Both Hands coaches them to coordinate a service project fixing up a widow’s home. The family and their team also send letters out to raise sponsorship for their day of service. Those funds support the adoption.
       Once the Corleys had their how, they had to find a who.
       “A lot of people thought it was a scam. They couldn’t believe that someone was volunteering to do all this hard work for them for nothing in return,” Kadee says.
       Eventually they found Mary ­Hellman of Deale. 
      “She was under our nose the whole time,” Kadee says. “We initially asked her daughter, who is also a widow, if we could help her, and she sent us straight to her mother instead.”
      The Corleys gathered a group of 25 volunteers, donated supplies and all the elbow grease they could muster to spend 12 hours on an April Saturday working on Hellman’s house and yard.
       Kadee enumerates a long list of projects:
      “We repainted her living room, foyer and dining room; put new shingles on the roof, which was damaged from a recent wind storm; built a ramp and added electricity to her shed; built a new front porch, replaced deck railing and painted the entire back porch; repainted the exterior trim of the house and shed; weeded, mulched and planted an entire garden in front of the house, cleaned out planter boxes and filled them with donated flowers and plants.
      “We filled an entire dumpster of debris,” she says. “We even repurposed some of her late waterman husband’s belongings into décor so she could keep those memories of him.”
       Hellman has, in turn, grown close to the Corley family.
      The Corleys still need to raise $12,000 to completely cover the adoption costs, so their project is still seeking donations: www.bothhands.org/corley-403.

One closes (for now); two open

       Finding a public library in Annapolis this spring has become a lot more interesting.
      The 53-year-old Annapolis Library on West Street is now closed, its building scheduled for demolition. With a new library planned for that same spot — and several pop-ups already open — Annapolitans don’t have to look too far for their public library fix. The Annapolis Library is making its temporary home in Monarch Academy on Capital Drive. And a library experiment has just opened in the Westfield Annapolis Mall. 
       The new Annapolis Monarch Library, opened April 16, is off West Street on Capital Drive, with helpful signs pointing you in the right direction. The library and Monarch Academy charter school share the same building, but the library has its own and separate parking spaces and wing.
       In the entryway, you’ll see large renderings of the digitalized plans for the future public library.
      Past the entry, the library exists as one spacious, airy room, with help desks right at the front and a large children’s section past the stacks. Library staff are eager to answer questions about their new home. 
      Gloria Davis Harberts, regional manager for the area, is accommodating and ready to help patrons out of any confusion. 
      “We had people lining up outside before we opened,” Harberts told me. 
      Almost 9,000 items are already in the Monarch location, and the hold shelves are filling up with requests. 
       Harberts wants to make sure the library’s stay in Monarch brings in more users than ever. Class trips  through the library with Monarch Academy students are already a hit.
       “Some of the students have never been to a public library before,” she says. 
       Creating enthusiastic students and making libraries fun are two goals Harberts hopes to meet. 
 
 
A New Discovery
     Nowadays, you can also go to the library when you’re at the mall. Discoveries: the library at Westfield Annapolis Mall, opened April 30. The 3,000-square-foot space is nestled next to Crate and Barrel in the west wing of the mall, across from the Under Armour store.
     “We believe this new library will open many people’s eyes to what a modern library is and does,” Anne Arundel County Public Library chief Skip Auld says. “Public libraries have transformed from simply being places where people pick up their reading or viewing or listening materials to places where people gather to see friends and neighbors and make new friends, to learn from programs.”
      Technology and entertainment play a large role in this space, with a 3D printer, laptop rentals, self checkout, free movie streaming and online tutoring. 
      New Discoveries branch manager Rachael Myers and her team have lots of new programs in the works, many focused on children and teens. There will be early literacy programs and a Discovery Dock children’s area, along with a bilingual reading corner every Tuesday morning.
      To help make the library a creative community, the Annapolis Arts Alliance has partnered with Discoveries Library to showcase local art in the space. The pieces will be changed regularly to feature new artists and new types of art.
      The Discoveries Library is also more accessible to readers and shoppers with Saturday hours, 10am-5pm. 
      “This branch is completely separate and different from the Monarch Academy space,” says Library Communications Manager Christine Feldmann. It has a very different atmosphere. “We hope to prove that bringing a library into an already highly trafficked area will expose the library to new customers and reengage those that haven’t used a library in a while.” 
      Discoveries will be open until the end of 2019. Depending on the success of this space, the library could make another home at the Westfield Mall. 
 
What to Expect
       The new library on West Street is planned to open in late 2019 or early 2020. 
       The new 32,500-square-foot library will be built where the old library stood, the lot now enlarged from 3.9 acres to 4.7 acres. 
       To serve the needs of a changing community, the new building will have a section for tutoring, large computer stations, separate meeting spaces of different sizes and a business center equipped with tools and services such as shared office space.
     There will also be a vending area for snacks and drinks, expanded children’s spaces with comfortable seating and a tinker lab for workshops and classes. 
 
Test It Out
       As a new Annapolitan, I signed up for a library card while I was asking questions. I figured it was a good test of the new Annapolis Library at Monarch 
       After walking through the stacks of fantasy and fiction, I approached the help desk and asked for a card. 
      Five minutes later I was a new library cardholder with all the information I needed. I spotted an interesting-looking new thriller on the staff picks shelf, checked it out and took it home where it’s mine … for seven days.