I KNEW MY FRIEND HAD an older brother but there was not a trace of his existence in the house. The parents never talked about their older son; there was not a photograph to be found anywhere and what I assumed was his bedroom was instead an office. My friend did not talk much about his brother; his memories of growing up were mostly of them fighting. For some reason they never got along; but then again, the brother also fought with the parents according to my friend. I never questioned what happened to the brother because it did seem like a sore spot for all of them. The only information I was given was when the brother turned legal age he packed up a bag and moved out of the house. He never gave a forwarding address or phone number; he did not want to have any contact with his parents or younger brother. I felt sad for the family. It did not seem as if the parents were these terrible, violent individuals who beat their kids. On the contrary, I found them to be always warm and loving. It was just weird to have 2 children raised in the same house who had completely opposite reactions to the family dynamics. THERE IS A SCIENTIFIC, CULTURAL AND philosophical debate on what has a stronger influence on human behavior, nurture or nature. Nature would involve genetics and other biological factors, what we are born with; while nurture involves the environment around us, either prenatal or during a lifetime. As long as I can remember I have had a curiosity about the similarities and differences between siblings. My friends who had siblings were a constant source of discovery for me as I became aware of each of their traits. There was one friend who was social and outgoing; his younger brother was a practical jokester who was always getting into trouble. Then there was a family who lived down the street from me who had 4 children. Each child was a replica of the other; they were all smart in school, wore similar dress and shared the same mannerisms. I used to think the parents must have raised them in a controlled environment so that each one would be the same. It never occurred to me that they might have been all wired with similar traits. From seeing this film festival winning documentary, my curiosity has been fired up further because of the brothers’ unbelievable story of what happened to them. BECOMING A FRESHMAN IN COLLEGE was the catalyst for strangers Eddy Galland, David Kellman and Robert Shafran to have the story of their lives re-written in ways they never imagined. Directed by Tim Wardle (One Killer Punch-TV movie, Lifers: Channel 4 Cutting Edge), this movie could have easily been classified as a mystery thriller. The story was so unimaginable I sat in my seat in a state of shock. The fact that things took place happenstance made these three men’s story more incredible. At first, I was slightly put off by the re-enactments, but it quickly waned as the story began to twist and turn into the 2ndstory that was lying beneath. The interviews interspersed into the story accentuated the storytelling factor; I found myself becoming a detective as the boys’ history was being revealed in chunks. There was this whole ethical factor that came up for me that lingered beyond the end of the picture. I have to say this was a stunner of a movie that adds fuel to the debate on whether nurture or nature has a stronger influence on human behavior. It just was troubling for me to be a witness to the events that took place in the lives of these three men.
3 ½ stars
I WAS SYMPATHITIC TO the sisters’ plight. Each from the same mother had been adopted at birth; raised by their adoptive parents in the same home and yet they were nothing alike, except in appearance. Where daylight is different to nighttime, so were the sisters in temperament, personality and mannerisms among other traits. As the two girls grew older they found something in common; this was a rarity in itself. They each became curious about who were their birth parents. Having matured with more self-awareness, the sisters felt this need to seek out their birth parents; if not in person, at least hopefully to get medical and health backgrounds on both. You see one sister had health issues besides having an addictive personality; the other one had a different type of health issue regarding a disease. I could only imagine what was going through their minds having to deal with adult issues without having any family history about them. I know when I go to the dermatologist he always asks me about my parents’ health history when looking at something on my skin. I am sure if I were to tell him my parents had the same thing, he would act more cautiously in his assessment. If the sisters’ were in the same position I am sure it would be upsetting if they had to tell the doctor they did not know. PULLING OUT THE GENES from the family gene pool is at best a crapshoot. Just like the two sisters I mentioned, I find the whole genetic aspect to humans fascinating. One thing that intrigues me is how one family’s children all look like one of their parents, while another family has children that look like they were conceived by completely different parents. Now what do you think about a family who has both birth and adopted children, where they all share common characteristics? There is a current popular television show that has this very same scenario and I find myself getting drawn more and more into their stories. I have said this before: babies come into this world with a blank slate; they do not know about hate or prejudice, they learn it. With that in mind I can understand why many children are curious or not interested to know the individuals responsible for bringing them into this world. That feeling was quite evident in this comedic movie. TWIN BROTHERS KYLE AND PETER Reynolds, played by Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers, No Escape) and Ed Helms (Vacation, The Office-TV), were stunned that their mother Helen, played by Glenn Close (Air Force One, 101 Dalmatians franchise), kept a secret from them about their father for all these years. The only thing the brothers wanted to do was find their birth father. Among the celebrity cast, this film had J.K. Simmons (The Bachelors, Whiplash) as Roland Hunt and Katt Williams (Norbit, Scary Movie 5) as the hitchhiker. I was surprised with such a prominent group of actors that the movie studio approved such a dismal script. The story may have sounded fun but I am here to tell you there was little fun in this picture. Between slapstick humor to touching brotherly love I could not tell what the writers wanted to create, a heartwarming story or a funny road trip one. It was embarrassing to see some of the actors in this mess; though I enjoyed J.K. Simmons’ part. As for Owen he was a generic version of himself; it was the same thing I have seen before. Sadly I had no sympathy for the brothers or the story in this movie.
1 ½ stars
Mothers always had the right answers and could do anything is what I believed. My first introduction to the possibility this was not true was the evil stepmother from the animated movie Cinderella. At the time I did not know there was a wide assortment of different types of mothers in the world. As I grew up I met mothers who always had home baked cookies and cakes in their house; I cannot lie they were my favorites. There was one mother who talked funny and slept a lot. It was not until later I learned about drunkenness. In my adult life I have heard many stories about people’s mothers, some great and others awful. One individual told me their mother used to hit them with any inanimate object within her grasp, from an ashtray to a landline phone. From the variety of tales I learned not every woman is cut out to be a mother. I know I have mentioned in the past the story about a friend who was on a jury for a case about a woman who killed her son. As you can see I have had the fortune and misfortune of learning about many different people in the mother role. But I do not want this part of the review to be a downer so let me just say mothers are special. I do not know the history of how we wound up picking one day to celebrate our mothers. One day is not enough in my opinion; I am familiar with some amazing mothers. I just wonder what type of relationship the writers and director of this movie had with their mothers. JUST in time for Mother’s Day this comedic drama had several story lines that all had to do with mothers. Starring Jennifer Aniston (We’re the Millers, Cake) as Sandy, Kate Hudson (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Something Borrowed) as Jesse, Julia Roberts (The Normal Heart-TV movie; Mirror, Mirror) as Miranda and Jason Sudeikis (Sleeping with Other People, Horrible Bosses franchise) as Bradley; each of the stories were plausible. The issue with this film is that it not only does nothing new with the idea but it used racist and prejudicial comments to tell it. I felt like this movie was just slapped together using the same formula the director Gary Marshall (Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve) had used before. Also, I found the humor dated so I did not find much that amused me. Now this does not mean there wasn’t anything good about this picture; there were a couple of individual stories I wished the writers would have expanded on. But since they didn’t I was bored a majority of the time. I cannot imagine anyone paying full price for this mess of a movie. It makes more sense to me to wait for cable or a DVD rental if you really want to see this picture. If this film was a present for the writers’ and director’s mothers then all I can say is therapy would have helped them deal with their issues.
1 ½ stars
Once the heart loses a loved one it never fills up the same way. The empty space in the heart gets filled with memories like air in a balloon until it almost resembles its former shape. But as time goes by the area shrivels due to the memories fading. The heart never deflates completely; as recollections withdraw to the deeper recesses of the mind, it takes more effort to keep the heart aloft. Though it may not be felt right away, life does go on as the heart seeks out a new or different type of love to nourish and return it to a higher place of consciousness. I have experienced such loss (who hasn’t, right?) and understand we each treat loss in different ways. Inspired by a true story, the main character in this dramatic film had been secretly carrying her loss for 50 years. Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal, Ladies in Lavender) was stellar in the role of Philomena, the Irish woman who had her out of wedlock son taken away from her and given up for adoption. Steve Coogan (Ruby Sparks, Tropic Thunder) played investigative journalist Martin Sixsmith who would take and document Philomena’s journey to find out what happened to her son. This film festival winning movie used Martin’s book, “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee,” as a source. First and foremost let me start with the acting in this film. Judi was amazing in the role. It was a different type of character for her, where she gave the impression of being naive, but underneath had a solid core of strength. As for Steve, I was impressed by him taking on a cynical, smart aleck type of character who had a protective fondness for Philomena. Because of their chemistry and acting skills, they never let the script fall into a sentimental mushy state. I was surprised with the turn of events and I have to say it was hard not to become emotional. This was an adult story that captivated the audience to the point I was able to hear people’s emotions welling up. There is a good chance Judi and possibly Steve will get nominated for an Oscar, besides the director Stephen Frears (The Queen, High Fidelity). None of us may ever experience what Philomena did, but each of us will certainly be able to relate to the love and loss she endured.
3 2/3 stars
Before I was born my mother was pregnant with a baby girl. I found out when I asked her why my two brothers were so much older than me. She told me about the miscarriage she had before me. I spent my youth imagining what life would have been like if I had a sister. There was a small part of me that always wondered if I would have even been conceived if that baby girl had been born. My mother would tell me numerous times that I was the only one planned. She talked about the nervousness she had all through her pregnancy with me up until I was delivered. Except for that one time, my mother never talked about that lost baby girl. There is such a special bond between a mother and her child; I cannot imagine how the loss changed my mother’s life. The relationship between a mother and child was explored in this stirring drama. Annette Bening (Ruby Sparks, Being Julia) played Karen, a single woman who had given up her baby for adoption over 30 years earlier. Naomi Watts (The Impossible, Eastern Promises) played Elizabeth, the grown up version of that baby. Kerry Washington (Django Unchained, Ray) was a married woman who could not conceive a baby. Each woman’s life was drastically altered by their circumstances. Not only was the acting outstanding from these three women, but everyone else was just as good. There was Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained, The Avengers) as grieving lawyer Paul and Jimmy Smits (The Jane Austen Book Club, Star Wars franchise) as Karen’s co-worker Paco. Each of the three stories was carefully crafted and directed, allowing for a continuous flow of feelings to permeate each scene. This movie provided a touching study on the effects a child can have on one’s life. If I had a sister, I wonder what she would have thought about this wonderful film.
3 1/4 stars — DVD