Colors of Character—Review

Have you heard of Steve Skipper?

Most people haven’t, but they have seen and appreciated his work.

Skipper is a prolific artist who is best known for his sports paintings. The cost of his art didn’t wait until he was dead to rise in value. He is very much alive and the demand for his work is so high that his paintings now go for thousands of dollars each.

Before you admire him due to his rising popularity, consider that being a celebrity is a small part of who he is. Skipper’s life has transformed in front of a growing crowd of fans. Not because of his great work, but because of several miracles that touched his life

We learn about Skipper’s previous life in the Crip gang. His life is one of the few that was able to get out alive.
Skipper’s paintings include topics of sports, civil-rights, equestrian, portraiture, and contemporary Christian. He shattered the barriers of race and education.

In fact, he had a teacher that pulled him to the side one day knowing his abilities needed to be fanned into flames. She provided him painting materials out of her own pocket to give him a shot at what he did best in life.

His work hangs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, College Football Hall of Fame, Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, and International Sports Halls of Fame. Other locations include the Paul W Bryant Museum and the Lyndon B Johnson Presidential Library and Museum.

He was honored with unveilings at Chelsea Piers in NYC, the MGM Grand and Monte Carlo in Las Vegas, and Millennium Gate Museum in Atlanta, Georgia.

But enough about the legend. I want to share some thoughts about the documentary.

The film was a low-budget project with a director that attempted to be artsy near the beginning of the film. Unfortunately, Chris Danielson couldn’t compete against Skipper’s breathtaking art. He would’ve been better off showing more images of Skipper’s original art.

Aside from the cutesy attempts, the opening story intrigued the audience. They wanted to invest more time learning about this man. His life story was as colorful as his artwork. In fact, I could’ve watched him for a few more hours.

Well, except for the third act when the film shifted its focus from Skipper to Dr. Martin Luther King.

While I admire how Dr. King changed our society with his preaching, I wanted to learn more about Skipper. I wanted to learn about how he affected Dr. King’s life—inspiring him to write his “I Have A Dream” speech. That’s right, Skipper facilitated some downtime for Dr. King so he could relax enough to write that speech.

But instead of me learning more about Skipper, the story shifted too far over to Dr. King. The film barely returned its focus to Skipper before the documentary closed out. This unacceptable shift in focus from Skipper soured my delight in director Danielson.

Danielson did capture Skipper’s attempt at explaining how God moves his hand when he paints. I was fascinated by his expression of how the Spirit of God uses him in every stroke.

If you’re interested in hearing a great story about a down-to-earth man touched by God, this is the picture to watch. In spite of the documentary’s faults, it was worth my time. By the end of the film, I too wanted to know how Skipper stays in tune with God’s gentle whisper of art.

The film is currently available on digital media and DVD at Best Buy, Fandango, Apple TV, and Amazon. They also have a version available for church screenings. A discussion guide is also available for group settings and family discussions.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hopes that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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© 2021 by CJ Powers

Dolphin Island—Review

Annabel (Tyler Jade Nixon) and Mitzy (dolphin played by Goombay or Cayla)

This delightful family film is set in a beautiful Caribbean island with great aesthetics. After seeing some of the press materials, I was anticipating a fun story about a young teen girl who battled for the small-town coastal life where she lives versus the life her city dwelling grandparents want for her.

The promotional materials center the story around Annabel, the 14-year-old girl, teaming with her friends to battle her out-of-town grandparents. The available family study guide also references all kinds of heart-warming themes including courage, forgiveness, and faith. But that is not what the film is about.

The film is about Annabel’s fisherman grandfather, Jonah, who overcame alcoholism to properly take care of his granddaughter in the way Annabel’s parents requested before their accident. Thematically the story is about choosing the moral high-ground, which cultivates and drives respect from others.

The final story turned out very different than what the marketing team, or maybe even the director originally thought. In any case, you can image my surprise to learn the promotions did not match the actual story. Thankfully many of the performances overshadowed this mishap.

Jonah (Peter Woodward)

Peter Woodward, who plays Jonah, gave an award-worthy performance. He certainly lived up to the talents gained through his long career. His character’s love interest, Desaray, played by Dionne Lea, also gave a solid performance. While she has more potential than this script allowed her to explore, I’m confident we will see her rise in the actor rankings quickly after a few more films get under her belt.

Tyler Jade Nixon played Annabel. Instead of playing the protagonist as marketing led me to believe, she was clearly the archetype or the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the story. Her character saw to everyone’s emotional needs and fully supported her grandfather to the best of her ability.

Robert Carbunkle, Esq. (Bob Bledsoe)

Bob Bledsoe, most known for his role in Parks and Recreation, played a character who shifted back and forth from being a comedic bubbling fool to a shady lawyer. He brought life to the screen with every appearance and quickly reminded the audience that the film was created for ages 6-12, although the Dove Foundation, who gave their family seal of approval, suggests ages 7-18.

There are other mishaps with this story like the main plot point not starting until 28-minutes into the film. Prior to that a viewer has to be content watching the beautiful scenery cut together like an extended music video with interrupting vignettes. Each segment revealing what a typical day looks like for Jonah, Annabel, and her dolphin friend, Mitzy.

Overall the production team did a good job with its limited budget. Director, Mike Disa, known for his work on shows for younger kids, did a good job trying to make the script work for a more intimate budget. Due to the limitations, the courtroom scene takes place in a conference room. The ocean front conservatory teaming with wildlife is mostly imagined, as it is only revealed through the pier area, a dolphin, and two parrots.

The best part of Dolphin Island for me was its position on morals. The film built a respect for anyone and everyone who chose to live a moral life over a selfish life—a powerful message for the times we live in.

This could have been the film’s greatest achievement, especially if done in a way that kids could emulate the character’s choices. However, most of the morality was played unrealistically, not giving the viewers a real understanding of how to stand up for what is right in their real world.

An example of this disconnect from reality was seen in Bledsoe’s lawyer character making the decision to call the judge and confess his crime at the end of the story. He wasn’t jailed or disbarred. Instead, he was forgiven.

I think the director forgot that forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean erase or forget the crime. Forgiveness believes in payment in full and an opportunity for a second chance. The short scene should’ve just been left out of the story since it didn’t move the story forward, especially since it raised more questions for young viewers than the value of resolving the minor subplot brought to bear.

Frankly, I think if the film was re-edited to get into the story quicker and the promotions were about Jonah and how Annabel fought with him for what was right, this film would get lots of traction. I’d like to hear your opinion on this film. You can find it available for rent and purchase at most of the major digital release outlets.

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Copyright 2021 by CJ Powers

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hopes that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Christmas Jar – Review

Screen Shot 2019-10-21 at 5.59.31 PMThis year another 50 Christmas films will release in theaters and on TV. Only the exceptional films, with top cast members, typically make it to the silver screen with the remainder landing on the Hallmark Channel or Lifetime. Many have tired of watching overused plotlines while continuing to watch with the hope of catching a glimpse of the true Christmas spirit.

There is only one film that I’ve screened this year that is worthy of the silver screen because it truly demonstrates grace, mercy, and redemption. The film is Christmas Jar, based on the New York Times Bestseller novel by Jason F. Wright. The film will be in theaters for one night only as a special Fathom Events program on November 4th.

The story is about Hope Jensen, a reporter who uncovers the secret behind the Christmas jars that are filled with money and anonymously left at the doors of people in need. The story follows Hope’s investigation into the jar that she received after her loss from an apartment break-in. Her attempts to capture the story behind the jar unravels into a series of events that lead to a heartfelt Christmas moment that is sure to inspire even the coldest of hearts toward the true meaning of Christmas.

The story opens with a couple of sad tearful moments and closes with the audience wiping away tears of joy. The film makes such a great impact that you might find yourself putting a Christmas Jar together with your family to give someone in your own neighborhood.

The story stars Jeni Ross (Titans, Suits, Taken) as Hope. She does a wonderful job playing a newbie journalist trying to get a shot at being a professional writer. During the investigation of her newsworthy story, she slowly falls in love with the generous and anonymous family, forcing her to decide between a future as a journalist and her moral values.

The film will make a great night out for the entire family that is looking to instill a little Christmas spirit in their lives. Tickets can be purchased here.

In theaters Nov. 4, ONE NIGHT ONLY.