Friday, February 25, 2022

Movie Review: ‘Safety’ shows benefits of will, determination and family

By Matt Pascarella

In 2006, Ramon "Ray Ray" McElrathbey was a freshman at Clemson University on scholarship as a special teams football player. McElrathbey was working overtime to stay on the team and keep up with his classes. Everything changed for him when his mother went into a drug treatment facility and McElrathbey chose to take care of his younger brother, Fahmarr.

After some time, it became very difficult and McElrathbey needed help. He was afraid of losing his scholarship if his coaches found out his little brother was living with him on campus.

Can McElrathbey make it all work?

Disney+’s “Safety” is an inspirational story – based on a true story – about Ray McElrathbey and the hardships he endured and determination he put forth for his family and his team. “Safety” stars Jay Reeves, Corinne Fox, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Matthew Glave, James Badge Dale, Amanda Warren, Hunter Sansone and Isaac Bell.

“What does sacrifice mean to you?”

A question Coach Bowen (Glave) asks his team early on. Bowen goes on to explain that scholarships are earned and if you are here, you need to perform on the field and in the classroom. You need to give 110 percent.

That’s exactly what McElrathbey (Reeves) does on his arrival to Clemson. He is taking 18 credits which is a lot for  anyone, not just a freshman, a professor points out. Ray meets Kaycee (Fox), a sports reporter and they soon start spending time together.

Ray is just making everything work when he gets a call from his brother Fahmarr (Mixson) that their mother (Warren) is in a drug treatment facility. Unless there is someone to care for Fahmarr, he will be placed in foster care. At the time, their mother was only supposed to be in the facility for 30 days, so Ray said Fahmarr could stay with him at his dorm.

Ray quickly realizes he can’t keep this going. He’s found out by his coaches, and they do find a way to help Ray and Fahmarr. However, it gets noticed that Ray and Fahmarr accept occasional help, like rides from coach’s wives or additional assistance from members of the community. This teeters on what the National Collegiate Athletic Association allows for those individuals on scholarship.

Ray needs to make an appeal to the NCAA to make an exception so he can receive additional assistance and remain on scholarship. Ray must choose between football and family. Can he have both?

This is an incredibly uplifting story. Ray McElrathbey is the definition of hard work and persistence. “Safety” is emotional, sweet, funny and displays the meaning of family - biological or not. It’s very easy to forget it’s okay to ask for help. It’s hard and not always comfortable. But everybody needs it sometime and the community that came together for Ray and Fahmarr are amazing. This is a great movie.

Two thumbs up.

Available on Disney+. <

Friday, February 11, 2022

Review: Disney+’s ‘Welcome to Earth’ will take you all over the place

By Matt Pascarella

One season

In episode one of Disney+ and National Geographic’s “Welcome to Earth”, Will Smith tells the camera he never swam in a lake, climbed a mountain or slept in a tent. At 51, he’s beginning to think he’s missing out. But he’s going to change that.

Smith, along with many skilled and talented professionals in a wide variety of fields take him to the ends of the Earth and then some.

In episode one, Smith scales down Mount Yasur, one of the most active volcanos on Earth, where his guides assure him that they can “almost guarantee he’ll survive.”

The videography in this six-episode series is incredible. Every episode features stunning imagery from high altitudes to low altitudes, hot places and cold places. You see so much of the planet.

In episode four, Will ventures to the Great Barrier Reef where I learned Tiger sharks are the meanest of sharks and actually eat other sharks.

Smith intertwines each episode with personal details and thoughts about his various expeditions. In episode two, he says his grandmother used to say,

“All the best things in life live on the other side of fear.”

Smith hopes she’s right, because he and two others are plunging into the ocean a whopping 3,000 feet down in a Nadir.

As you plummet into the darkness of the ocean, which color is the last to disappear? The answer is very cool.

Also in episode four, Australian researchers are charged with the task of tagging these mean Tiger sharks, to see where they are going and why.

Jump to episode five where Smith and another crew of experts, sometimes battling adversities you might not think are ideal to – spoiler alert – zipline across a crocodile-infested river. However, they do and as Smith points out, because these individuals are so proficient you forget they may be part machine.

Smith shows a completely different side of himself in this docuseries; one you may not have been familiar with if you grew up seeing him grow up on TV or in the movies. While he may be hesitant in some areas, like scaling down a gushing volcano, he conquers his fears, especially his fear of nature. Smith explains this further, though the nature he’s brought to each episode is not easily accessible or particularly welcoming to those who want to explore it.

I’m not really a world traveler. The idea of flying into an area where one wrong move could mean you are a crocodile’s lunch doesn’t appeal to me. However, seeing Smith navigate these rough areas and terrains with people who may be missing a limb showed me that, if you want to do it, there’s always a way. I’d still rather stay away from those crocodile-infested waters though.

This is a great docuseries you can watch with the whole family. I’d definitely recommend checking out “Welcome to Earth.”

Agent J and I give it two thumbs up. <