Category Archives: Dramedy
“I AM GOING TO SPEND TIME in my playroom,” she said to me. More than likely you are assuming a child made that statement, but you would be wrong. It is a friend of mine who has one room in her house set up for just herself, to spend time on her hobbies. There is a television and music player in the room that she will turn on once in a while as she works on a project. The idea of the playroom came to her when she realized her activities were cluttering up parts of the house, leading to confusion when she was looking for a particular item. Having everything in one room made sense and she discovered a major bonus by having her own room; she could decompress and check out from reality as she got lost in her thoughts, doing stuff that gave her enormous pleasure. Her time spent in her playroom allowed her to take a mental break; something that served her well in life. THERE ARE SO MANY DIFFERENT ways people spend their time to take a break from their daily grind, not that every day is a grind for some. I utilize a few methods such as watching movies and working out, though with movies I am focused on the story instead of myself. However with working out on a cycle bike or treadmill I can get into a mental zone that allows me to contemplate and reflect on any issues or concerns that may have cropped up for me. Before I knew it the time had flown by and I was done with my workout; I consider this a double bonus. This is my usual method but there are some people who get lost in their kitchen by cooking or go shopping or knit; anything that is not self destructive and allows a person to calm down is an acceptable form for taking a mental holiday. When I was much younger my method was playing the piano or just listening to music. I really feel everyone needs to take time out for themselves and whether it is to work on a troubling issue or gain self-gratification, all of it is good therapy. The main character in this comedic drama has his own way of dealing with certain aspects of his life, if you are interested in seeing it. AFTER BEING RAVAGED BY FIRES it was up to Texas highway road worker Alvin, played by Paul Rudd (Ant-Man, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) to paint lines on the new roads. For his crew he agreed to take on his girlfriend’s brother Lance, played by Emile Hirsch (Lone Survivor, Into the Wild). Their summer together would make for an interesting journey. Written and directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Stronger) this film festival winner also starred Lance LeGault (Stripes, Magnum P.I.-TV) as the truck driver. Because of the acting by Paul and Emile, my interest remained steady for the most part. The story started out a bit slow, but Paul’s character in particular made me curious to continue watching this DVD. Set in the 1980s there was a certain retro feeling to this story. Honestly I do not know how they put stripes on the roads these days, but I was interested in the way the two man crew had to keep up in such a repetitive lonely job. Overall there were several predictable scenes and I felt at times the story slowing down. Now that I think about it this DVD might be used in helping the viewer take a mental break from reality; you would not have to think much.
2 stars — DVD
IT APPEARS TO ME when people are reaching a certain age they start going through their home to get rid of stuff. I have recently noticed this due to a few friends, who started doing this very thing recently. They are rummaging through their closets, drawers and basements pulling out a variety of items, from unused tools to shoes that were never taken out of their original packaging. I know this because they are sending me photos showing their stuff piled up, waiting to be donated, recycled or thrown away. In fact a friend of mine who runs an antique/thrift shop was telling me how the store has always gotten items from estate sales or people who are clearing out the homes of their deceased relatives. However now he noticed more and more people are bringing in their own items, telling him they no longer need it or they are downsizing. WHEN THE TIME COMES for me to reorganize my house I know I will have a lot of items to donate or give away. Like so many people I am an acquirer (a kinder way of saying I like to shop). There was a period of time where I bought into the mindset that the person with the most stuff wins. Because I have the space when I bought, let us say, a new pair of pants or shoes, I did not bother getting rid of a similar item from my closet. I think I do this because I have this constant thought that at some point in time I will need that item for whatever reason. Slacks that are too big for me hang in the attic in case I put on weight or have a dinner guest that spills on their pants and needs to wear something while their stained slacks are in the wash. Maybe a better way of explaining this desire for stuff is to look at the way electronic items and children’s toys are marketed these days. Now when a new thing comes out it suddenly becomes a big event, drawing in and making people believe they would be better off with the new item. Need takes a back seat to desire. Let us face it, who wants to feel like they are being left behind as everyone else is jumping on the shopping bandwagon for new stuff. This film festival winning dramatic comedy has something to say about it. FINDING IT HARDER TO make ends meet Audrey and Paul Safranek, played by Kristen Wiig (Ghostbusters, Masterminds) and Matt Damon (The Martian, The Great Wall), agree to become part of the new trend of downsizing oneself to 5” tall and live like a millionaire. However being small doesn’t mean one will have smaller issues to deal with. With Christoph Waltz (Tulip Fever, Big Eyes) as Dusan Mirkovic, Hong Chau (Inherent Vice, Treme-TV) as Ngoc Lan Tran and Rolf Lassgard (A Man Called Ove, After the Wedding) as Dr. Jorgen Asbjornsen; this story caught my attention right from the start. The first part was both fun and curious; but then other story lines came in and none of them ever became fully developed for me. I found it an odd mix that made me lose interest, though I enjoyed the visual contrasts. The story presented was a social satire that could have led to some interesting conversation afterwards, but instead what was in my head was clutter I wanted to clear out.
THERE HAS ONLY BEEN a small handful of individuals I have known who had a natural ability to excel in their life’s journey. Things came naturally to these people, where they did not need to be schooled or guided in conquering their dreams/goals. I am sure when you were in school you had at least one student who did not study before an exam and yet would still get a perfect score. From my college days I remember a student in one of my writing classes who had a book and few short stories published before the semester even began. The entire class looked up to this individual. Even outside a school setting I know a young adult who already is displaying an uncanny ability when it comes to electronics. Without any instruction, he wired and set up a burglary alarm system for his family’s home. NOW THERE ARE SOME people who excel at something but they need to work at it. You know that old joke about how does one get to Carnegie Hall and the answer is practice, practice, practice? Some individuals work hard trying to achieve their dreams. Whether it involves mental concentration or physical training, the individuals in this group sacrifice social interactions among other things to reach their goals. I am a firm believer in people attempting to reach their dreams; for it is better to have tried then spend the rest of one’s life wondering what life would have been like if they had at least attempted to reach their goals, in my opinion. I am sure it has crossed some of your minds, especially if you have watched some of those reality shows, that there are some people who should stop trying to be something they will never be. I know what you mean since I have seen a couple of those singing and dancing reality shows where some of the people auditioning show no talent for the task. It would not be fair for me to judge, but see how you feel about the main character trying to reach his dream in this dramatic comedy based on a true story. REFUSING TO ACCEPT THE negative comments about his acting abilities Tommy, played by James Franco (The Interview, Why Him?) not only liked the idea from his friend Greg, played by Dave Franco (Warm Bodies, Now You See Me franchise), he agreed to it; they would make their own movie to star in. This film festival winning picture also starring Seth Rogen (Funny People, Neighbors franchise) as Sandy, Ari Graynor (The Sitter, Mystic River) as Juliette and Alison Brie (Sleeping with Other People, Mad Men-TV) as Amber; was hilarious in parts. I and the audience around me were laughing out loud. The story is so bizarre it took me some time to actually believe this was a true story and not some big satire. Interestingly I was initially annoyed with James’ character, but after awhile I realized he was doing an excellent acting job playing this mysterious, odd character. I also enjoyed the variety of cameo roles that popped up throughout the movie. As I mentioned earlier it took me time to get into the story; I was confused by the script and was getting “antsy” for something to take place. However with James’ directing and the absurd idea behind the story coming to life, I had to applaud the achievements that were on display by the end. It goes to show you, follow your dreams because you never know where they will lead you.
3 1/3 stars
ONLY FOR A MOMENT did I catch a glimpse of a shadow against the wall before it retreated. I quickly changed directions and walked away from the alleyway. Purposely I tried keeping my footsteps quiet by taking little steps with the soles of my shoes rolling from heel to toe against the pavement. It did not help as I heard a rustling sound behind me. Darting into a gangway between two apartment buildings, I saw each of them had wrought iron fire escapes that mirrored each other. They looked like origami figurines with a limb reaching out to grab me. Walking up to one of the fire escapes I grabbed a hold of the bottom rung of a ladder that easily gave way for me to pull it far down enough for me to hoist myself onto it. Quickly I made my way up to the first floor and cowered against the building in a crevice of a black area the nearby street lamp could not reach. The dark shadow I had seen lengthened down the alley towards my location. A looming figure attached to the shadow came into view… WHAT YOU JUST READ was something out of my imagination. I apologize if you wanted to find out what happened next, but that scenario never took place. However I will tell you as I was writing it I was looking at it as if it really did take place. You see whenever I write a piece of fiction I see everything in my mind first and then it appears before my eyes. My own version of virtual reality I guess you can call it. In fact I have been accused of not paying attention in class or when someone is speaking directly to me because I do not maintain constant eye contact; I actually am listening to them and picturing what they are telling me. When I think about it I have always had this capability, even before I found my fondness for writing; all that was needed was an imagination. Being a visual learner I certainly can attest to the benefits of visualization. What a surprise it was to see Charles Dickens did the same thing in this comedic drama. DISAPPOINTED WITH HIS RECENT works Charles Dickens, played by Dan Stevens (Beauty and the Beast, Downton Abbey-TV), was desperate to overcome his writer’s block and produce a successful story for the holidays. All he needed to do was look at the people around him. This film festival winning movie based on a true story also starred Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music, A Beautiful Mind) as Ebenezer Scrooge, Jonathan Pryce (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Game of Thrones-TV) as John Dickens, Simon Callow (Amadeus, Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Leech and Miriam Gargoyles (The Age of Innocence, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) as Mrs. Fisk. The idea for this story was a new twist on the Christmas Carol story. I enjoyed watching the process Charles Dickens went through to create his iconic story. The acting was a mixed bag for me; I thought Christopher Plummer far outshined Dan in this biographical film. At times I thought the humor was a bit much, inching the Charles Dickens character closer to buffoonery. I may have felt this way because Dan was not totally believable to me. I would have preferred added focus on creating more drama in the script. Despite these issues there still was a certain charm to this picture and fans of Charles Dickens or at least his novel “A Christmas Carol” will get a kick out of the imagination used to bring the novel’s characters to life.
2 ½ stars
AFTER SPENDING A good portion of one’s life making decisions for others, a person may have forgotten how to make one for themselves. Ideally you grow up and learn how to be self-sufficient, in other words to be a responsible adult. Depending on your life’s course people and/or children can come into your life so your decisions will then have to incorporate them. It only makes sense if you are in a relationship the two of you would consider each other in your decisions. I had a friend who saw most things in black and white; you may know this type of person where all of their decisions come out of a pool of two options: yes or no. There was no room to negotiate with them. After several years they fell in love and soon after the two of them moved in together. I do not know what happened but from that point on this person could not make one decision without getting approval from their partner; it was the oddest thing to me. HAVE YOU EVER noticed how some decisions are influenced by peer pressure? I cannot recall the exact percentage but I read a study where at least 25% of mothers alter their parental decisions in public due to peer pressure. For me this falls into the same category of decisions that get based on statements with the word “should” in them. For example, “you should act your age” or “you should lose weight,” would fall into that category where someone is trying to dictate what they think you should be doing in your life. I am all for friends sharing their opinions about something that affects my life; but I hear them better when it is a discussion with feelings involved instead of just being told I should do such and such then everything will be fine. No, I do not operate that way; if they can tell me the reasons why they feel I should make a change then of course I would give consideration to what they were saying to me. The challenge is when you have more than one person telling you what they think you should do and it is not the same advice; somewhat similar to what was going on in this comedic, romantic drama. MOVING ACROSS THE country after separating from her husband Alice Kinney, played by Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, Wild), found her life taking a different course when she had too much to drink while celebrating her birthday and found herself in bed with Harry, played by Pico Alexander (A Most Violent Year, Indignation). He came with friends. With Nat Wolff (Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars) as Teddy, Michael Sheen (Passengers, Midnight in Paris) as Austen, Jon Rudnitsky (Patchwork, Saturday Night Live-TV) as George and Candice Bergen (Rules Don’t Apply, Gandhi) as Lillian Stewart; the cast was fine for this story. I would have preferred more scenes with Candice and Michael however. The idea behind the story had some valid components, but I found the script was not able to carry them throughout the movie. There was a hodgepodge of scenes were some were cute, others unrealistic and some were simply bland. My overall feeling for this film was “meh;” for me there needed to be more story so I could find some connections to the characters. I do not want this to sound like I am telling the writers what they should have done; I only want to share my feelings with them and with you.
WATCHING the irate customer badger the salesclerk over the rung up price for a box of cereal reminded me of myself. How awful; I saw myself in this belittling loud consumer. Having a storehouse of anger inside of me made me be a walking pressure cooker. One perceived wrong being done to me would set me off, always going over the top since I had a vast amount of anger readily available anytime. As the salesclerk remained calm, though I could see her eyes constantly scanning for a manager, I wondered how many people thought I was a crazy person. On a positive note, if you want to call it that, at least I could observe the situation and acknowledge I used to act that way; grateful that I dealt with my issues and was able to rise above the source of anger. Don’t people say recognizing the issue is the 1st step in the healing process? HAVING the opportunity to grow old allows one to reflect on the multitude of personas they wore in their life. Not too long ago I was talking with a friend, mentioning something about being a former participant in a local group. My friend was taken by surprise because they never pictured me in such an activity. Curious, they asked how that came to be and why I was no longer interested in it. As I shared that part of history with them, I saw myself back in that period of time. I felt like I was talking about a distant relative like a 2nd or 3rd cousin; you know, having a blood connection but far removed to the point where there is a different level of familiarity. One of the pluses of having this type of conversation and reflection is it provides one with validation to what they have become. This dramatic comedy offered me the opportunity to see separate versions of who I used to be. WITH a broken down car in her client’s driveway holistic practitioner Beatriz, played by Salma Hayek (Here Comes the Boom, Once Upon a Time in Mexico), was invited to stay for a dinner party. For some of the guests she was the entertainment. With a cast that included John Lithgow (Miss Sloane, Love is Strange) as Doug Strutt, Connie Britton (American Ultra, Friday Night Lights-TV) as Cathy, Chloe Sevigny (Boys Don’t Cry, Big Love-TV) as Shannon and Amy Landecker (Doctor Strange, A Serious Man) as Jeana; the acting in this movie was excellent. John was the perfect choice for that character. As the story started out I was interested in the activity, particularly once the guests arrived for I found the mix of them familiar ground to my experiences. There were different ways to look at the story; it was easy to plug in variations of the good vs. evil scenario, which I will leave for the viewer to explore. However as the story unfolded I found myself losing interest. There was something lacking for me to the point I was feeling less connected. Honestly my connection to this picture was the opportunity it provided me to reflect on portions of my former life. At the end of the movie I felt unsatisfied. I would have appreciated more intensity and more discussion of philosophies between the characters. Instead I wound up getting annoyed by John’s character (which I thought was intended) and not caring for the ending. This was a mixed bag for me, but I did enjoy the opportunity to do some reflection.
2 ¾ stars
AWKWARDNESS is the initial feeling but depending on the crowd it can hopefully be replaced with something more on the pleasant side. There have been occasions where I have accompanied a date/friend to one of their family or business functions. Personally the business ones are easier for me because there is nothing expected of me; if my date is involved with others no one usually comes over to fill “the void.” At family functions there is always a relative who can’t wait to get me alone to either pump me for information or try to turn me into their personal confidant. Of course more of this takes place when I am the date instead of the friend. There are some relatives who want to know my intentions; others have no problem grilling me like FBI interrogators asking how we met, what I do for a living, where is my family from and so on. I have to just sit there with a smile on my face, choosing how to deflect some of their questions. When the environment is like this it really becomes tedious for me. However I would never do anything to embarrass the person who brought me. NOT wanting to sound like Mr. Gloom & Doom, there have been other times where I had a wonderful time. Some of the business functions I have attended have been close to obscene due to the amount of money that must have been spent on the affair. One dinner was held in a ballroom where the doorways were manned by immense ice sculptures in the shape of swans. Inside the room dining tables were set up with gold and silver tablecloths. On each table tall vases sat, filled with those fake ice cubes that light up in colors. Sprouting out the top were sprays of floral plants. The food was outrageous and plentiful; I would need more of your time to describe it all. And the ultimate feature was having a popular band performing for us. So you see these types of events can be a hit or miss; this is why I gave the main character in this dramatic comedy credit for agreeing to the travel arrangements. WHEN her producer husband Michael, played by Alec Baldwin (Blue Jasmine, 30 Rock-TV), had to cut their trip short due to his work; Anne, played by Diane Lane (Unfaithful, Night in Rodanthe), agreed to travel by car to Paris with his business associate Jacques, played by Arnaud Viard (Higher Still, Carole Matthieu). It would be a road trip with unexpected turns. This romantic film written and directed by Eleanor Coppola (Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, Coda: Thirty Years Later) had two big things going for it: beautiful scenery and great looking food. Initially I felt I was connecting with the character, having been “stuck” with someone I did not know. But as the story unrolled I felt like I was a 3rd wheel in their carpool. The script and directing did nothing to enhance the characters. I appreciate Diane’s acting ability but felt she was wasted here; there was no character development. The only one I found interesting was Alec’s character, but he was used sparingly. At one point I felt I was on one of those touring tourist buses where the driver is rambling off tidbits and statistics about every single place to the point of almost numbing their passengers. If I knew this was what was going to happen on this trip I would have booked a flight instead.
UPBEAT and positive is how I would describe the man telling us about the changes in our office. We were being told how these moves decided by upper management would be a good thing for our company. I sat there with my fellow employees and I am sure they were thinking the same thing: who was going to get the ax. Maybe that is too harsh to say so here are some ways I have heard it expressed: laid off, let go, reassigned, reevaluated, eliminated and left behind. None of these terms warrant a happy face with optimistic comments. I used to work at one place that decided after many years to outsource their payroll functions. The staff for each manager had meetings set up to explain the changes in how we were going to be paid. You should have seen the spin job the managers tried to sell us. They talked about the convenience of looking up our paycheck online, the ability to schedule time off and the ease of changing our benefits package. I knew there had to be more to the meeting and sure enough towards the end the manager told us how salaries would be administered. EVERYONE’S salary was scaled back to a standard base amount. From that point you would go up the scale depending on a number of factors; each factor was worth a certain dollar amount. I remember sitting there and quickly figuring out the math and realized a majority of us would be taking a rather large pay cut. There stood this person in front of us stating the virtues of this new pay system, doing their best to sell it as if it was the best thing since sliced bread. With me losing over 30% of my salary I had a hard time keeping my mouth shut and not stating the facts about their so called great new system. Let us face it; there is no good way to promote bad news. WHILE Germany was dropping bombs on the city of London during the early 1940s, the defense department was working on a propaganda film in the hopes of drawing the United States into the war. All it needed was a woman’s touch. This film festival winner was part comedy, part drama and part romance. At first I felt the story was starting out slow but as things began to unfold I enjoyed how the writers were fitting together all the different pieces to create this enjoyable movie. Starring Gemma Arterton (The Voices, Gemma Bovery) as Catrin Cole, Sam Claflin (Me Before You, The Hunger Games franchise) as Tom Buckley, Bill Nighy (Love Actually, Pride) as Ambrose Hilliard/Uncle Frank and Jack Huston (American Hustle, Ben-Hur) as Ellis Cole; I thought the cast worked together beautifully. Bill and Gemma were the standouts for me. The script did a great job of balancing the elements of the story. Things moved naturally between the genres of drama, comedy and romance; there was the ever present war, but it never overshadowed the other story lines. I will say I thought the ending was a bit abrupt regarding one of the characters in particular; it felt somewhat false. However, as I sat and imagined what it must have been like back then, I realized there was no choice; the British government needed to stay positive.
3 1/4 stars
CONTROL was something that had been a part of me for so long that not being in control was becoming a distant memory. Using myself and several people I know who also prefer being in control, I believe certain events in one’s life steers them to becoming a “control freak” or as I prefer to say “control aficionado.” For some experiencing disappointment multiple times can trigger them to stop counting on others. For example at work if you have an employee on your team that isn’t working up to the level needed to succeed in a specific task you are involved in, you might decide to take on some of the co-worker’s responsibilities to finish your project to your satisfaction. Another thing I have noticed for some people is their lack of spontaneity increases their desire for control. I know I can relate to this one because my brain is wired to the logic, “for every action there is a reaction.” My days are usually planned out due to my multiple jobs and responsibilities. To do something out of the norm would throw off the rest of the day for me. NOW with everything I just said I recently discovered or better yet I should say rediscovered the feeling of not being in control. I have to tell you when I first realized I was relinquishing control it was unsettling for me. So you have a reference point, let me tell you that the level of my control used to be where I would not participate in a group decision on where to go out for dinner. If I did not like someone’s choice on where to eat I would not order any food. Reading what I just wrote doesn’t make me sound like a fun person does it? I hope I do not grow old and get a similar reputation like the main character in this dramatic comedy. SUCCESSFUL businesswoman Harriet Lauler, played by Shirley MacLaine (Bernie, Elsa & Fred), had such control over her life that she even needed to know what her obituary would say about her before she was gone. That tough task would fall onto newspaper employee Anne Sherman, played by Amanda Seyfried (Dear John, Mamma Mia!). Casting Shirley in the main role was a big asset for this story. Both her and Amanda worked well together I thought. Also starring newcomer AnnJewel Lee Dixon as Brenda and Thomas Sadoski (John Wick franchise, Wild) as Robin Sands, I did not mind the rest of the cast; however, even if they were all renowned thespians it would not have helped the contrived script. The scenes did not come across as totally believable and it was long into the movie before I even felt a connection to Shirley’s character. For the most part none of the scenes went beyond standard fare; what I mean is Shirley’s character could have been more extreme, the scenes if they were believable could have been pushed for more emotion. As a result I was left with a “blah” feeling by the end of the film. In fact my strongest feelings came from the idea that I could wind up like Harriet if I don’t start giving up some control in my life.
1 3/4 stars