Viewing the videos GRAPHIC

“The Secret: Dare To Dream,” on-demand, is a Hallmark-style movie with actors you know. And Disney+ introduces us to a songwriter responsible for some of its iconic contemporary songs before passing away long before his time.

It’s Viewing the Videos.

How to Build A Girl

It’s tough to get into “How to Build a Girl” because thick British accents make much of the dialogue in “How to Build a Girl” almost incomprehensible.

If you hang in there for about two minutes, you’ll be rewarded. This is an exuberant fun-filled adventure of a 16-year-old British girl with virtually no social skills who finds her way into a gig as a rock critic. She makes her reputation by writing highly critical reviews of bands.

American actress Beanie Feldstein (“Booksmart” and “Lady Bird”) turns in a blazing performance as Johanna, who struggles in a lower class family with a father who wants to be a rock star (the great Paddy Considine), two brothers, and infant twins who are being raised by a mother who has her hands full.

Johanna somehow manages to catch on as a rock critic, which, since it’s the ’90s, is a pretty rough environment. But with a unique fashion style and forceful personality, she manages to hold her own, adopting the name of Dolly Wilde. Her life is filled with ups and downs.

Set in the Wolverhampton district of London, a working-class neighborhood and the heavily male-oriented world of rock and roll in ’90s in the London, the movie has a remarkably appealing visual style. There’s a moment when Johanna/Dolly walks down the street with a musician she’s interviewing, and he’s outlined by a soft white light that makes him stand out from the harsh working-class neighborhood.

It’s $19.95 on demand. I’m not sure it’s worth that for a solo viewing, but if you have someone to share it with or wait until it come around on Netflix or Amazon, you’ll be rewarded.

Three Palm Trees.

The Secret: Dare to Dream

“The Secret: Dare to Dream” is a good movie for the housebound pandemic viewers. It’s a Hallmark movie with recognizable actors and a little edge.

There’s a meet-cute between some excellent and attractive actors, some puzzling actions although nothing too unpleasant and an ending that is not really a surprise but is enjoyable because of the skill of everyone involved.

The plot has enough twists and turns to keep the viewer interested, but there’s never really any doubt that there’s going to be happy ending.

Director Andy Tennant is comfortable with stories that involve emotional ups and downs, as shown in his work in “Fool’s Gold,” “Hitch” and “Sweet Home Alabama.” Give him a good script and some excellent actors and he can deliver emotional moments, some low-level tension and a satisfying ending.

Suggested by the 2006 best-seller “The Secret,” by Rhonda Byrne, this movie is the story of a young widow, Miranda (Katie Holmes), struggling to get along with three children. She rear-ends a handsome, yet mysterious man, Bray (Josh Lucas) and for unknown reasons, he offers her assistance in many ways, including repairing her roof after it’s damaged in a hurricane.

The book and an accompanying documentary in the early 2000s offered the premise that a person’s wants or needs can be achieved by believing in it. Or as Bray says, “The more you think about something, the more you bring it to you.”

This is a comforting thought for these hard times and if people were able to go to theaters, this would be probably be the number-one movie in America.

Predictable? Sure. But a nice package and a great escape for these times.

Three Palm Trees

Howard (Disney+)

The 2018 documentary “Howard” arrived last weekend on Disney+, telling the story of one the important forces in some of Disney’s greatest animated films like “The Little Mermaid,” "Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

Howard Ashman (1950-1991) was the kind of kid who staged elaborate shows as a child, blazed a trail across Broadway and Hollywood and then died far too young at 41.

Don Hahn, writer director of the movie, is also part of Disney lore, working on things like “Beauty and the Beast," “Maleficent" and "Frankenweenike."

Ashman and collaborator Alan Merkin made their mark turning the quirky little film “Little Shop of Horrors” into a successful musical.

Very strong willed and after big investors declined to back moving his small off-Broadway production of “Smile” to Broadway working with Marvin Hamlisch, Ashman cobbled together the money to stage the show on Broadway in 1986, where it failed. Ashman then made his way to Hollywood and Disney Animation.

After a serious of failed films, Disney Animation had been moved off the fabled Disney lot and into a series of trailers down the street until they could prove themselves. Ashman and his collaborator Merkin were able to help.

Ashman and Merkin wrote the songs for “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid,” for which they won the Oscar in 1989. He and Merkin wrote early songs for “Aladdin” (1992) but Ashman died before it was completed.

“Howard” has plenty of footage, including marvelous excerpts from the songs. There are lots of interviews, few talking heads, which is an interesting choice. It does force the viewer to focus on what’s being said. However, there is a momentary distraction when someone starts to talk where the viewer thinks “what does this person look like?”

“Howard” provides a revealing look at someone who made significant contributions to the resurgence of Disney animation. Four Palm Trees.



The pitch for “Booksmart” sounds like a typical teen-age coming of age comedy: two high school seniors decide to get wild on the last night of school to make up for behaving for the previous four years. You’d expect actors like James Franco, Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, or Michael Cera in the cast. Only this time, it stars two women, Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever and it’s also directed by a woman, Olivia Wilde. Proves that women can be just as funny — and nasty — as men.


Home videos are simply rated recommended or not recommended.

New Releases are rated as follows:

Five Palm Trees: Must see

Four Palm Trees: Worth seeing on the big screen

Three Palm Trees: Recommended for home viewing or on the big screen

Two Palm Trees: OK if you’re not paying

One Palm Tree: Skip it. Save your money and your time.

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