AS I LISTENED I THOUGHT IT was an ingenious plan. It was a time before cellular phones and my friend was telling me how her family would take a road trip. When relatives were included on their road trips, involving more than one car, the drivers would create a way of communicating with each other. They would flash their auto lights in a specific way, similar to Morse code, to say they needed to stop for a restroom, a break, gas or a meal. Alternating between the right and left turn signals would mean someone in the car needed to stop at a bathroom. If passengers were getting hungry then the driver would either flash the lights 3 times or tap the brakes 3 times in rapid succession to signal the other driver. I was impressed with the plan and realized the introduction of the smart phone sure made traveling by automobile a whole different experience than what it used to be. If I thought about it I could have questioned why the cars needed to follow each other; but I could understand the reasoning behind forming a caravan. You know, the safety in numbers train of thought. FAMILY VACATIONS PROVIDE A MULTITUDE of experiences. The ones I experienced were predominately for visiting relatives who lived out of state. So, when people talk about the type of vacations they would do as a family, I am curious to hear about them. I remember listening about a family who took nature trips in some of the national parks across the country. There was one trip where they went hiking with their two small children and soon discovered the trail was not geared for a novice; the kids were scared and complaining. I looked up the place where they went and was stunned that someone would look at it and think small children could handle the climb. Heck I was not sure I could even do it! As another example I have some relatives who love getting into the car and driving to obscure tourist type places that you would never find on a “best of” list for vacation spots. They would take a vacation to find the largest ball of yarn or drive to visit the mustard museum in some small town in a different state. Usually they would find a variety of curiosity spots to stop at along the way. I am good with whatever “trips your trigger” for a family vacation; that is why I went to see the latest installment of this animated comedic, family film. FEELING HER FATHER NEEDED A vacation from running the hotel Mavis, voiced by Selena Gomez (Getaway, Spring Breakers), came up with a brilliant idea. She booked the family on a boat cruise. For her father Dracula, voiced by Adam Sandler (The Wedding Singer, Big Daddy), it would be more than just a boat ride. With Andy Samberg (That’s My Boy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine-TV) voicing Johnny, Kathryn Hahn (Bad Moms franchise, Afternoon Delight) voicing Ericka and Jim Gaffigan (Chappaquiddick, Away We Go) voicing Van Helsing; this third installment was more of the same I am afraid to say. Little children might enjoy this picture because of all the monsters; but overall, I did not find much humor in the story. The visuals and animation were certainly fun, but they were not enough to support the feeble script. Pretty much a majority of this film was a series of sight gags. Surprisingly there was a message in the movie regarding inclusion, but chances are it will get lost on the youngsters. The only other thing to say about this picture is to make sure you bring a life jacket or a lifeboat because this boat is taking on water.
I am still baffled by the way people’s discriminations overpower what should be the simplest of connections: the love of a person. There have been so many times where I have heard a parent tell their child they wished they would… It could be anything from telling them they should have been an accountant and not an artist or telling them they should marry someone of the same religion. One of the best pieces of advice I heard was to do what you love and everything else would follow, so to tell someone who is an artist that they should be working with numbers makes no sense to me. Now there is nothing wrong with questioning a person’s choices, to be a sounding board for them; however, I become uncomfortable when someone tries to place their values and expectations on another person, whether it be a family member or a stranger. I know this family where the parents have a strained relationship with one of their 4 children because they married someone out of their faith. The pain they caused this child has been long lasting because the young grandkids have not spent much time around their grandparents. I can only imagine how many opportunities they have all missed to create a fond memory or a deeper connection. Love does not discriminate, only people do. Now the reason I am talking about this theme is because it resonated in me and played a part in this animated comedy sequel. DRACULA, voiced by Adam Sandler (Pixels, Grown Ups franchise), could only think about one thing anytime he saw his daughter Mavis’, voiced by Selena Gomez (Getaway, Spring Breakers), and her human husband Jonathan’s, voiced by Andy Samberg (That’s My Boy, Saturday Night Live-TV), baby boy; would he be a vampire or a human? One of the surprises about this movie was seeing Adam being credited as one of the writers. Sure the jokes were pretty basic and straight forward, plus there was a couple of times where I thought they were close to being inappropriate for a family film. But the fact that this film offered a valuable lesson was a shock to me. My favorite character out of the cast was Mel Brooks (Spaceballs, High Anxiety) as Vlad. I thought he had great lines besides perfect delivery of them. As an overall entertaining picture, this one was nothing above average. The animation was fine, the creation of the monsters was creative and the soundtrack was lively. Outside of that, I thought this sequel was pretty much the same thing as the first one. I cannot say I was bored; if I had to tell someone all I could think of was that the film was okay. I did not find anything horrible or terrific; just middle of the road except for tackling an important issue, in my opinion, in a subtle easy way.
Immediately I was struck by their fearlessness. I watched while their fingers without hesitation popped and dropped over the keyboard like convulsing spider legs. Just by pressing two keys at the same time they were able to get the computer to function in a way that took me a few more keystrokes. I knew they must have started at a young age playing video games. There is a certain attitude a gamer has when they are interacting with their computer or some other kind of electronic device; they appear more adventuresome to me. Where they have no problem trying out different commands, a non-gamer may get stuck at their computer afraid the next key they press will cause their machine to explode. I understand totally because I have a love/hate relationship with computers; I expect them to know how to fix themselves without asking me if something is okay to do. It is interesting to think about the recent generations that grew up with video games; I recall an article I read that talked about the positive effect the games had on a person’s eye/hand coordination. There was this one kid in school who would spend hours in the student union playing this one arcade game. His initials for the most points earned remained on the machine the entire time I was at that school. I would be quite curious to see what he is doing now in the world. Maybe he would be doing what the gamers were called to do in this comedic action film. BACK in 1982 a time capsule with examples of mankind’s life including video games was launched into space. Discovered by an alien race, they took the games to be earth’s declaration of war on them; so they reproduced the video games to attack earth first. This science fiction film had a great idea behind it, for it would attract an older audience for nostalgic reasons and a younger crowd who would appreciate the retro vibe of these “ancient” games. Not only did this comedy fail with its attempts to entertain, it made me a bit angry because of the blatant laziness associated with the script. Adam Sandler (Blended, Grown Ups franchise) as Brenner was the exact same character he has been in his last several films. I am tired of seeing the same thing and hearing the same type of jokes over and over. Adding in Kevin James (Here Comes the Boom, Paul Blart franchise) as President Cooper and Michelle Monaghan (Gone Baby Gone, Source Code) as Violet only increased the ridiculousness of this picture. Out of the entire script I chuckled 3 times as the expected excitement never materialized. If I would have known, my money would have been better spent at a video arcade then sit through this video void.
1 2/3 stars
Deep within the Amazon Jungle I saw a pair of dark, wide eyes peering out at me through dense, overflowing foliage. A separate time I was able to revisit Florence Italy where I had climbed up to the top of Il Duomo di Firenza, the main church of the city. Friends have told me about their ability to see the birth of a child from across the country. They have also told me some of their horror stories involving deceitful people. In the news recently I heard how retail chains were hacked and their customers’ charge card information was stolen.I did not have to listen because I already knew about it when my credit card information was stolen. Until the credit card company called me to verify a purchase that was being done in a different state from where I lived, I had no idea someone had grabbed my information. All of the things I have mentioned so far were made possible by the internet. Ah yes, the internet; where it can take you to far remote spots of the world to witness the discovery of a rare plant, while its evil side robs you of your identity while you sleep. For me, using the internet is akin to relating to someone with a split personality disorder; it can be so rewarding, yet extremely challenging. PEOPLE have to constantly adjust the way they relate to each other due to the power of the internet. Writer/director Jason Reitman (Juno, Labor Day) assembled a large cast of actors for this drama based on the novel, about the twists and turns people must navigate in their daily lives due to the accessibility of the internet. A few of the actors in this film were Adam Sandler (Blended, That’s My Boy) and Rosemarie DeWitt (The Watch, Rachel Getting Married) who played Don and Helen Truby, a married couple looking for something more than they had in their marriage. Jennifer Garner (Draft Day, Dallas Buyers Club) played overprotective mother Patricia Beltmeyer to her daughter Brandy, played by Kaitlyn Dever (Short Term 12, The Spectacular Now). Out of all the actors in this movie the only two that stood out for me were Kaitlyn and Ansel Elgort (Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars) as Tim Mooney. Their story line and acting were the most interesting to me. I found the rest of the cast somewhat dull but considering the script went nowhere it was understandable. For most of this film I sat in my seat being bored. With the absence to a beginning, a middle and defined conclusions to the different story lines I felt I was only seeing bits and pieces of people’s lives; similar to mindlessly surfing the internet for hours.
1 3/4 stars
It is not easy to keep a smile on your face when you are sitting across from a jerk. There have been situations where a friend wants to introduce me to their new boy or girlfriend. I have no qualms meeting them but it can be hard when I see or hear things they say or do that raise a red flag in my mind. What can I say in private that will not offend them about the person they are dating? I have learned to only offer advice if I am asked and to remain supportive towards my friends. It is much harder to do this when it involves family. At a wedding where 2 families have come together to celebrate the marriage of their relatives it can be a challenging time for me. Sitting at a table with a relative from the other family, who is making rude and inappropriate remarks, can be an unpleasant experience. If it was one of my relatives I could say something, but with this virtual stranger, I have to be careful not to start a family feud and later see it all posted on the internet. Hopefully my unresponsive face and silent stare is enough of a clue for them to keep quiet. It can make for an uncomfortable time; but when I am forced to sit with someone who is prejudicial, my silence has served me well in the past. No one in this comedy film was related to me but I still had to sit through it being uncomfortable and bored. After a horrible blind date Lauren and Jim, played by Drew Barrymore (Charlie’s Angels, Big Miracle) and Adam Sandler (Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy), accidentally found themselves at the same vacation destination, both with their families in tow. There would be no way they could avoid each other at the all inclusive African resort. It must have been time for Adam and his real family to take a vacation so this story was set in an exotic location. I enjoy all types of comedy but when you know what the punchline will be to every joke, it is not funny. The infantile script was filled with stereotypes and even used children simply as sight gags. I knew Terry Crews (The Single Moms Club, The Expendables franchise) as entertainer Nickens was supposed to be a parody, but I found his character annoying. Drew was the best part of this movie. It was clear to me that Adam plays the same character in every movie now; I find it pure laziness. If only he could have seen my blank face from the theater audience.
1 2/3 stars
This past Oscar season I have discovered new things about myself. From the nearby couple who kept talking during the movie I learned restraint; instead of asking them to look around and notice they are not sitting at home in their living room, I quietly whispered the “shhh” sound. During a particularly tedious film I realized I could do several yoga poses if I lifted up the armrests of my seat. Due to my keen observations I figured out to never sit near anyone who is carrying a large bag, purse or backpack; they inevitably have food in them, from candy to full size meals and cannot help but make munching, slurping or crunching noises. There is one other thing I learned and that is realizing how strong my determination can be. No matter how awful the film, I refused to nap or get up and walk out of the theater. As a result I have seen a whole bunch of movies I would normally never bother seeing. So I am going to try something new here and predict the Golden Raspberry Awards, also known as the Razzies. These awards for the worst performances and picture were started in 1980 by the American copywriter and publicist J.B. Wilson. If nothing else consider this my little gift to you in the form of a cheat sheet on what to avoid, thereby saving yourself time and money. Without further ado please find below the winners for the worst of last year.
Worst Actor: Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger
This was close since Johnny was up against Sylvester Stallone who was nominated worst actor in three different movies. I chose Johnny because he coasted through this role, bringing nothing of value. Sylvester was simply trying not to act his age in boring movies.
Worst Actress: Halle Berry in The Call and Movie 43
With Naomi Watts being nominated for Diana and Movie 43, this could easily go her way. Both women were awful in their films. I did not see nominee Lindsay Lohan in The Canyons.
Worst Supporting Actor: Chris Brown in Battle of the Year
A pathetic performance for a silly film.
Worst Supporting Actress: Kim Kardashian in Tyler Perry’s Temptation
All my classes know not to mention the “K” word; not one family member’s name shall ever be uttered during class. So it kills me that Kim gets the award.
Worst Picture: Movie 43
I was torn here between this film and The Lone Ranger. Both would be suitable for worst film of the year; however, I went with Movie 43 because I found it offensive. The Lone Ranger was simply dumb.
May you avoid these lame movies unless you have a white elephant movie party, where everyone sits around and makes fun of the film.
Someone, please hand me a breath mint because I still have a bad taste in my mouth from this wretched film. Usually a sequel will show some kind of growth for its characters, but not this one. Coincidently, I recently attended my high school reunion. Visiting with former classmates was real special. We shared memories and laughed at some of the crazy things we did while attending school. The thing that separated us from the characters in this movie is we grew up. The closest I found to a story line in this celluloid catastrophe was Lenny Feder, played by Adam Sandler (The Waterboy, Happy Gilmore), moved his family back to his hometown, where he grew up with his old friends Eric, Kurt and Marcus; played by Kevin James (Here Comes the Boom, Paul Blart: Mall Cop), Chris Rock (Head of State, Down to Earth) and David Spade (The Benchwarmers, Tommy Boy). The lack of a story made for a dull series of infantile jokes and gags; some that had no relevance to what the characters were doing. In fact, I found some of the jokes offensive. With Adam being credited as one of the writers, all I can tell you is the writing was lazy. It seemed as if the characters were thrown into the story just to give Adam’s friends a job. What I did not understand is why someone like Steve Buscemi (Rampart, Boardwalk Empire-TV) would agree to do a cameo as Wiley. I thought he was successful and making decent money. As for some of the other actors in cameo appearances, it was obvious they needed a paycheck. There was nothing I found redeeming about this film. I did not find anything funny about people with flatulence or indigestion. There are two reasons why I gave an extra 1/4 star to my rating of this so called comedy. The first has to do with the cast. Without naming names, this film is doing taxpayers a favor because it included several actors who would otherwise be collecting unemployment benefits. The second reason is for the complete shock I had that Rob Schneider (The Hot Chick, Deuce Bigalow franchise) was not part of the cast.
1 1/4 stars
Age can be any number you want it to be. When you think about it, where is it written that you have to act a certain way because of your age? I try to encourage my students to enjoy the moment without worrying what someone else might think of them. Deep down I am a kid at heart and I allow that little boy inside of me to come out periodically and play. It was for that reason I thought this DVD would be fun to rent. The cast consisted of some reliable comedic talent such as Chris Rock (Down to Earth, Head of State) and Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids, Friends With Kids). On the other hand since this was an Adam Sandler (Big Daddy, Reign Over Me) movie I knew Rob Schneider (The Animal, The Hot Chick) would be part of the cast. It must be Adam’s good deed to keep Rob employed and off the streets. The story was about a group of friends who after many years return to their childhood home, to attend their old basketball coach’s funeral. After so long carrying the responsibilities that came with being an adult, could the friends reconnect like they did as kids? This comedy puzzled me. How was it that each actor individually could excel at their craft, but put together they were not funny? The script was tired and predictable with lame jokes and simple sight gags. Salma Hayek (Frida, Here Comes the Boom) and Kevin James (Zookeeper, Here Comes the Boom) added very little with their roles. I think what it comes down to is Adam sticks to the formula he created in pumping out these movies with low brow humor. There was nothing horrible in this film; it just did not do anything for me. If you need some mindless entertainment after a rough day, then this would be the ideal movie to sit back and watch. There must have been a lot of people who needed to sit back and relax because the movie studio is working on a sequel. You have been warned.
1 3/4 stars — DVD
To be independent and responsible adults is the hope parents have for their children. Though for some it may be hard to let go and allow their kids to make their own decisions. In a recent review I mentioned how my dad taught me how to drive a year before I had driver’s education. What I failed to mention was how he would tell me not to go out driving if it was raining outside. Another thing he would say was not to turn on the radio because it drained the battery. To this day when I call him up to say hello, all he wants to hear is that I am driving straight home. Keep in mind I moved out of the house when I was in my 20’s, but to him that does not matter. That is why this fun movie gave me an extra kick. I found the idea of a classic horror film character being an overprotective parent hilarious. The story was about Dracula, voiced by Adam Sandler (Grown Ups, Reign Over Me), throwing a 118th birthday party for his daughter Mavis, voiced by Selena Gomez (Monte Carlo, Remona and Beezus). Several past scary film characters traveled to Dracula’s exclusive human free resort, Hotel Transylvania; to help in the celebration. But during the festivities Dracula’s fatherly concerns would be tested when teenager Jonathan, voiced by Andy Samberg (Celeste & Jesse Forever, That’s My Boy), accidentally stumbled into the hotel. There were enough gags and jokes for both kids and adults; though some of the jokes were more bathroom type humor. Adam’s voice perfectly matched the Dracula role, along with the fine animation. With a little more substance than the average animated movie, I had a good time at the theater watching this comedy. Who knows, maybe I will finally tell my dad about the time I drove his car with 9 people squished in with me.
I have not been a fan of Adam Sandler’s (Grown Ups, Bedtime Stories) movies for a few years now; to me, they all seem to be the same formula. In fact, I could not bring myself to see that last one where he played both the brother and sister. So imagine my surprise when I watched this DVD. It was the best performance I have seen out of Adam. His character was Charlie Fineman, a man who never recovered from the loss of his family in the 9/11 attack on New York City. Though there were some of Mr. Sandler’s typical acting elements, he was surprisingly good for this role. It was not until a chance meeting of his old college roommate Alan Johnson, played by Don Cheadle (The Guard, Hotel For Dogs), that both men began to find parts of themselves they had lost over the years. Both actors were excellent in their roles, having just the right amount of emotional vulnerability. I, also, appreciated the touches of humor that were sprinkled throughout this dramatic film. Not only was I pleasantly surprised by the thoughtful story, I was moved by these real life characters. This movie validated my belief that there are no accidents in life; there is a reason for everything and with every person we meet we exchange a gift.
3 1/4 stars — DVD