From time to time I enjoy reading the advice columns in the newspapers. I am not really sure why; maybe to get a reality or non-reality check on my life. The questions that fascinate me the most are the relationship ones where I think the answers are obvious. For example, a woman wrote that her husband sends text messages to a neighbor who has repeatedly said she wished she had a husband like that. When she asks her husband what he is texting he always says, “Nothing, why should you care?” The wife says it makes her uncomfortable and somewhat insecure. I know when it come to relationships I can be naive in some aspects of it because once I give my trust to the person they have 100% of it. I never question or imagine their actions have ulterior motives. Since I could never cheat on or lie to them, I cannot imagine they would ever do it to me. I certainly do not consider this a character flaw, but from experience when it happened it shocked me beyond belief. Friends have told me I need to get my head out of the clouds and pay better attention. Though I do not think I could do it, I have seen where some of them have set up a plan to try and catch their significant other cheating on them. Because I have seen it with my own eyes, this comedy seemed perfectly plausible. STRUGGLING actress Maria Laura “Mala” Medina, played by Aislinn Derbez (The Vineyard, Los Heroes del Norte-TV), accidentally fell into a second career when friends started hiring her to hit on their boyfriends to see if they were cheaters. Everything appeared to be going smoothly until Mala showed up at an audition for a TV show, where the producer knew about Mala’s side business and had an unusual request of her. The premise to this story seemed absolutely plausible to me since I have seen this type of thing being done within my circle of friends. The cast seemed well suited to the story; besides Aislinn there was Mauricio Ochmann (Message in a Bottle, El Senor de los Cielos-TV) as Santiago and Papile Aurora (The Air I Breathe, Pulling Strings) as Kika. I really do not have any major negatives to say about this film; it was pretty straight forward and easy to figure out. If anything I would consider this movie light fare. Some of the scenes were predictable but with an engaging cast I did not mind sitting through the picture. I suggest you consider this film simple fluff. You do not have to commit to it for the long term; you can visit it at a later date. The movie was spoken in Spanish with English subtitles.
2 1/3 stars
I have found a majority of noises eventually turn into white noise, background sounds as the mind tunes them out. One sound that never stops being heard is the sound of a loving heart. Hearing it brings such a comfort like a warm, cozy, fuzzy blanket on a crisp winter day. To be in a loving relationship is a major accomplishment in one’s life as far as I am concerned. Finding that one special person who accepts all of you, is supportive and kind, who helps you fill out your dreams and provides nourishment that keeps you glowing is a remarkable achievement. As the two of you grow old together the relationship continues to evolve, taking in account any new dreams or hopes; the underlying strength of your bond will always be there to support whoever trips while walking the path of your lives. All of this is wonderful but I have seen how devastating it becomes when death takes one of the two. I knew someone who could not accept the death of their loved one, going to their grave every single day, seven days a week. She stopped living as she surrounded herself with the memories death left behind. One of the hardest parts I have found is altering the daily routines the two of you had shared. STRUCK with immense grief seeing Zoe, played by Olivia Wilde (In Time, Rush), lying on the floor dead from a horrible accident; Frank, played by Mark Duplass (The One I Love, Safety Not Guaranteed), would not let her go. He was willing to take a chance on using her for his scientific experiment that had not been tested yet on humans. Not knowing what would happen, all Frank wanted was to bring back Zoe. The concept for this story was not new; there have been various movies that dealt with bringing someone back from the dead. I thought it would be interesting to use love for the main character’s motivation. The cast worked well together which also included Evan Peters (American Horror Story-TV, X-Men: Days of Future Past) as Clay and Sarah Bolger (In America, The Spiderwick Chronicles) as Eva. Unfortunately the only horror about this film was sitting and watching it. I was completely bored due to the poorly written script, the lack of anything original and the utter absence of suspense. For being classified as a thriller and horror movie, neither took place. The ending was written in such a way that there could be a sequel which would be a very scary thing. I cannot imagine anyone sitting through this picture and finding something they could relate to, let alone being entertained. The heart of this film needs a “do not resuscitate” order placed on it. There were scenes that had blood in them.
1 1/2 stars
Anger is not something that leaves by its own free will. It does not get swept out of us like grains of sand with the evening tide. One needs to acknowledge it and devise a plan where it can safely leave the body. There are some people who are able to devote only a small amount of energy to their anger. They are able to sidestep the land mines that anger places before them. Then there are other individuals who store their anger in what they believe to be a reinforced tough vault deep inside of them, thinking they will come back to deal with the brooding anger at a later date. However, what tends to happen here is at some point a new flare-up of anger will spark the vault of stored anger into such a fireball that it will burst out of the individual like a volcano blasting through its cap, covering anyone close by. I am more familiar with this type of anger having experienced it in both my work and personal life. As a passenger in the backseat of a car I witnessed the driver exploding into anger when another car coming from the opposite direction knocked off their side mirror. In the middle of traffic our driver did a U-turn that forced the back end of the car to clip the retaining wall as oncoming traffic tried to veer out of the way. If you cannot relate to the anger I just described then there may be a possibility you will not get as much out of this hilarious comedy. EMOTIONS that got out of control fueled the characters to do irrational acts in the separate short stories of this Oscar nominated and film festival winning film from Argentina. With part of the cast including Dario Grandinetti (The Dark Side of the Heart, Talk to Her) as Salgado, Maria Marull (The Bottom of the Sea, Antes del estreno) as Isabel and Monica Villa (The Holy Girl, I Don’t Want to Talk About it) as Profesora Leguizamon; I was enthralled by each character in the multiple stories. There were so many scenes that were charged with outrageous behaviors that it would be hard to say if I enjoyed one story more than another. Each of them took an everyday occurrence and because of circumstances blew it out of proportion. I was thoroughly entertained by this Oscar nominated film for best foreign language with its wicked sense of humor. If by chance you are dealing with any anger issues presently, then this picture may be the perfect antidote for you. And if you are not, you still will get a kick out of this crazy movie. Spanish was spoken with English subtitles.
3 1/2 stars
I became more aware of my wallet’s whereabouts after my aunt yelled an expletive at a man who had his hand in her purse. She had taken the subway to go downtown. When she got off at her stop and was waiting to step onto the escalator to take her up to street level, she felt a tug on her purse that she had slung on her shoulder. Turning to look down at her purse she saw a man who had his hand in it, looking for her wallet. With no time for thinking, she immediately yelled out in her sternest voice, “What the #%&@ do you think you are doing?” The man was so stunned he withdrew his hand and took off down the station to the exit on the opposite side of the platform. Once I heard what happened to her I started becoming more aware of my surroundings. No matter where I went I would periodically check to make sure my wallet was still in my back pocket. Now granted all I had in my wallet was a couple of pictures and my week’s allowance; but the idea that someone would stick their hand in my pocket to steal my wallet made me angry. After seeing this comedic drama I now am more paranoid. WILL Smith (After Earth, I Am Legend) played lifelong con artist Nicky. Admiring the gutsy moves Jess, played by Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street, About Time), tried to pull on him; Nicky agreed to teach her some of his tricks. However, just as one of his biggest jobs was about to play out, could Nicky really trust her. This crime story had a variety of twists in it; some were predictable, others were surprises. I will say the story did not seem that much different from others I had seen before. The clear standouts for me were Margot Robbie and Gerald McRaney (The A-Team, Major Dad-TV) as Owens. Also, Adrian Martinez (American Hustle, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) as Farhad and Rodrigo Santoro (The Last Stand, 300 Franchise) as Garriga gave good performances. I understood this was supposed to be Will’s vehicle back to box office gold after his flop After Earth; but I have to tell you I did not think his performance was anything new. He seemed to be playing himself more than his character to tell you the truth. There were a couple of times where I thought the story dragged. To be fair one of my favorite movies was The Sting, so for me this film did not have any sophisticated nuances in the script. The worst part of this is I now have a bigger fear of getting my pockets picked than I had before.
2 1/4 stars
No four words have the ability to unlock one’s imagination quicker than, “Once upon a time.” How many times have we sat on a soft lap with our heads resting on top of the beat from a loving heart? Maybe instead it was when you were curled up in bed, under the thick warm covers with your favorite stuffed animal or toy? Those four words started a journey where you saw faraway places and talking animals as they sprung up in your mind when it was tickled by your listening ears. I have always been fond of fairy tales and folklore. Part of the reason for my love of books is due to the great storytellers I had in my life. With the ability to change voices, display emotions and act out gestures matching the action; story time was one of my favorite parts of the day. As I got older I began to appreciate the folk tales and legends from other countries. Though they may have common elements and themes, it was always interesting to hear a story through the experiences of a different set of eyes. BASED on Irish and Scottish folklore, this Oscar nominated animated movie’s story was not only wonderful to hear but to see. I do not want to say the animation was old-fashioned but it was more akin to the type I used to see as a kid; in other words it looked hand drawn. I noticed many of the scenes had objects with elaborate patterns on them which made me wonder if there was some significance to them pertaining to Ireland or Scotland. The main focus of the story had to do with brother and sister Ben and Saoirse, voiced by David Rawle (Moone Boy-TV) and newcomer Lucy O’Connell. Annoyed by his younger sister who had not started to talk yet, Ben did not realize she was the last of her kind. This is all I want to tell you about this fantasy film so you can experience it with as little knowledge as possible. The actors were all ideal for their characters, especially Brendan Gleeson (Calvary, The Company You Keep) as Conor/Mac Lir and Fionnula Flanagan (Yes Man, The Others) as Granny/Macha. This is listed as a family film which it is; however, it is not a mainstream type of movie that involved marketing focus groups or product placements. There were no jokes or singing and dancing; it was simply telling an enchanting story. There was one extended scene having to do with near death that made a couple of younger children in the audience whimper. I have to say that watching this movie was like sitting in a comfortable lap to hear a fanciful tale.
3 1/2 stars
One of the definitions for friend that I found in a dictionary said it was, “A person who you like and enjoy being with.” This is absolutely true but for me there is more involved for me to call someone my friend. A person I call friend is someone who joins me on a journey through life; where we are there for each other, supporting each other during happy occasions and even more during sad ones. We may or may not have a similar sense of humor; but we still would understand why the other one found something funny. I would like to say we each have a moral compass that is pointing towards the same direction, but as I write this I know there are a few friends who have a different point of view. And do you know why it is okay if they look at things differently than I do? It is because above all else I place major importance in a relationship that is non-judgemental. Who am I to say you are doing a bad thing? Now granted, I am perfectly comfortable offering advice when asked along with sharing my experiences. Friends just get each other; they do not have to explain or justify things to each other. For me friends are like a bag of mixed candies; though they are covered in a variety of different wrappers, what is inside of them is the most important and favorite part. This is why I was confused at first with this comedy. HORRIFIED to find out she was the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) amongst her friends Bianca, played by Mae Whitman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Independence Day), was determined to prove she was no such thing. Because things seemed to focus on surface issues at first, I had a bit of trouble getting into this movie. The characters were stereotypical examples of high school students such as the snobby mean girl Madison, played by Bella Thorne (Blended, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) and the good looking athlete Wesley, played by Robbie Amell (Left for Dead, Scooby Doo! The Mystery Begins-TV). Having Ken Jeong (The Hangover franchise, Pain & Gain) play teacher Mr. Arthur was an obvious clue his character was not going to be your typical high school teacher. There were parts of the script that had some smart dialog, where I felt the film was trying to be something different. It was however relatively easy to figure out where the story was going since there were not many surprises. By the end of the film I was once again reminded how grateful I was I finished high school a long time ago.
The restaurant came highly recommended so it was worth the time and money to check it out. The appetizer was wonderful, crisp and fresh. However the soup was ghastly with globs of grease floating on the surface like used puppy pads. The main course was not hot and had a slightly sour taste, though the potatoes were outstanding with a hint of garlic and a touch of chili powder. When the dessert came with its main ingredient being chocolate it was devoured right up, feeding the remaining hunger inside. So the experience did not match the expectations; maybe it was an off day for the chef or possibly the wrong items were picked. After receiving such high compliments about the place it just seemed odd not to have had a similar experience. Trying to be the optimist (not my forte) another visit was planned with hopes the food would be vastly improved. The only thing learned by going back to the restaurant for a 2nd time was that the food was just not good. What made things worse was the food did not settle well in the stomach causing waves of nausea to wash over the body with a bitter taste coating the inside of the mouth like old rubbery primer. It was confirmed the restaurant was awful. PLEASE accept this review as your confirmation that this sequel was worse than the first movie which starred John Cusak (High Fidelity, Martian Child). Whether it was a scheduling conflict, broken negotiations or a desire not to reprise the role, John must be feeling mighty lucky that his name was not associated with this crude comedy. The weak story had Lou, played by Rob Corddry (Warm Bodies, Sex Tape), in serious trouble. His friends Nick and Jacob, played by Craig Robinson (This is the End, Pineapple Express) and Clark Duke (Kick Ass franchise, Greek-TV), needed the help of their hot tub time machine if they were going to save their buddy’s life. This unfunny sci-fi film was total trash. Among many other adjectives I could use to describe this horrible picture; I found it vulgar, offensive and infantile. We just finished up the Oscar season and I could not believe so early into the new Oscar season we already have a film that deserved my lowest rating. Now I saw the first movie and did not find much to like about it; though the idea for it was mildly novel. Watching this garbage was like being locked in an outhouse that had not been cleaned out for several weeks; it reeked of bad taste. Even if you do not agree with my taste in movies I am pleading, please do not go see this picture; it will only encourage the movie studio to think about another sequel.
Sometimes it takes a different set of eyes to show you what you are capable of doing. Imagine you were born on a farm where you grew into the capability of throwing 50 pound bales of hay onto a flatbed truck. Since it had always been part of your life it would never occur to you that you were strong. However if you compared it to someone who did not have early strength training, you would be considered strong. The key fact in the equation has to do with the comparison aspect and it is something that I find very few people use when commenting on themselves. When someone tells me something about themselves such as they are overweight or too tall let us say, I ask them compared to what? Most of the time I find such statements to be very subjective. Though I have lost a great deal of weight I do not consider myself a thin person because I’m using a warped comparison of what I believe thin looks like. This is one of the reasons it is beneficial to have someone else show you what you are or what you can achieve. If my first aerobic instructor did not nurture and encourage me to choreograph routines, I do not know if I would have ever become a group fitness instructor since I previously flunked high school gym classes. OUT of a job as high school football coach due to anger issues Jim White, played by Kevin Costner (Black or White, Man of Steel), was forced to leave and take an assistant coaching position at a small high school with a dismal football record. Looking at the students, it was obvious to Coach White the kids were not cut out to play football; however, he did think they could do something that had never been done at the small high school before. Based on a true story, the script to this sports drama was written in such a way that allowed the viewers to tear up. There were parts of this movie where I had to wipe the tears from my eyes. I thought Kevin and Maria Bello (A History of Violence, Prisoners) who played his wife Cheryl were well suited for each other, coming across in a believable way. The actors like Carlos Pratts (Coyote, Counterpunch) as Thomas Valles and newcomers Sergio Avelar and Ramiro Rodriguez as Victor Puentes and Danny Diaz were quite good. The issue I had with this film concerned the script; it was contrived and written like a fairy tale. It needed more details and less manipulation. I found it upsetting because I really liked the story. Whoever was in charge should have shown the writers the true story would have been enough to tell.
2 1/3 stars
There once was a little boy who was not very little. A majority of the people around him all looked the same which made him more self-concsious about his size. Not finding many places to fit in, to be like one of the others around him, he found a safe place in a palace. It looked like a palace to him with stained glass windows, smooth white colored brick walls, aged statues and a massive awning filled with colored lights perched above sets of pure glass doors with brass oversized handles. He not only felt safe inside but found a whole different world to the one he was living in. The first spot he would stop at once inside was the glass cases that were pieced together like a kid’s fort. Walking around he saw more types of candy than he had ever seen before. From there he would walk through a set of polished black doors that opened into a huge auditorium filled with row upon row of red velvet seats. He spent as much time as he could in this place because he discovered different worlds and experienced things he only saw in his imagination. Every week there would be a new movie that proved to him there were all types of people from all different places. He laughed, he cried, he yearned, he wished; and most importantly discovered he was okay just the way he was. FROM that point in time he has paid his respects to the magic of movies by watching the Oscar telecast every year. This year the show started out on a high note with the host Neil Patrick Harris doing what he does best, being a song and dance man. With the special effects around him that placed him into classic movie clips, things took a fun turn with Anna Kendrick and Jack Black. As the evening progressed Neil had more misses than hits as a host. The schtick with Octavia Spencer got old fast, though I give him points for honoring the film Birdman by walking out on stage in his underwear. One of my favorite moments was Lady Gaga’s tribute to the 50th anniversary of the movie The Sound of Music. Having seen her in concert where she sang live, she already had extra points in my book. Using a higher register of voice without losing her power; she did the movie proud. And if that was not enough to have Julie Andrews walk on stage was perfect for me. I wanted Mary Poppins to come to my house when I was a kid. For the best song from the movie Selma I thought the staging, the message and the vocals all contributed to the power a song has not only in a movie but in our hearts. THIS year the speeches took on a more personal aspect. The one everyone is talking about and deservedly so was the one given by Graham Moore for best adapted screenplay for The Imitation Game. Coming from the heart, his speech was the most inspiring in my opinion. Julianne Moore and Patricia Arquette both had strong speeches delivered in two distinctly different styles, yet each had potency in their words. Reese Witherspoon may not have given an acceptance speech but her #askhermore campaign is a wonderful idea. I understand all the designers are expecting shout outs for their handy work with the gowns the actresses are wearing, but is that all people want to hear about? Reese’s idea is for journalists to start asking more questions besides, “Who are you wearing?” OVERALL I am pleased with who received the Oscar award. To tell you the truth on one level I find it odd to place movies into a race with each other. My thing has always been if a movie can move you then it did its job. Just like there has to be someone who graduates at the top of their class and others from the bottom, some movies are phenomenal and others are awful. No matter what movie I am seeing, to this day there is a certain comfort and safety that comes over me when I sit down in a movie theater seat. So with the Oscars now given out the past year of movies has come to a close. May the new year of films stir something in our hearts and give us something to talk about.
Something I say to remind me there may be additional opportunities is the saying, “It is not written in stone.” I do not know how this saying came to be, but what it means to me is I do not have to remain in the same place forever. In other words, I can make a decision to learn a new exercise program and discover it is not suitable for me. Just because I agreed to do it does not mean I have to teach it the rest of my life. Maybe a better example is when a friend of mine was out of work. Enough time had passed where their funds were almost depleted. A job offer finally came up that wasn’t exactly in their field and they were not sure they wanted to take it. I explained just because they accept the offer doesn’t mean he will have to stay there the rest of his life. The important thing was to start earning an income and down the road see what opportunities open up for them. This may sound hokey but we can be whatever we want to be. I have rewritten my life’s path several times, going from wanting to be a veterinarian to a fitness presenter to a movie reviewer. Each portion of my past journey has led me to my present destination. KEITH Michaels, played by Hugh Grant (Music and Lyrics, About a Boy), was an Oscar winning screenwriter. So what happened to him where he had to leave Hollywood and take a temporary teaching position at a small east coast college to earn a living? This romantic comedy felt like a well-worn blanket; it felt familiar besides having Hugh’s typical dry wit and humor. To tell you the truth I was surprised this movie had such a stellar cast. There was J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Labor Day) as Dr. Lerner, Marisa Tomei (Spare Parts, The Wrestler) as Holly Carpenter and Allison Janney (Liberal Arts, Bad Words) as Mary Weldon; all of them were wonderful in this easy to watch film. I cannot remember the last time I saw Hugh in a movie but he still was able to play that type of character who was part selfish, part snob and part lovable sheepish bloke. The story was simple; there was nothing really new about it. However, because of the cast I enjoyed watching this movie. There would be no reason to run out and see this film right away; I think this picture would be perfect to watch on a lazy, cloudy day when you have few commitments. You do not have to take my word though; you can watch it anytime you want.
2 1/4 stars