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.
LIFE as you know it can burst apart in a seismic moment when you are introduced to your new baby sister or brother. If you are the first born it probably is a bigger adjustment than it would be for those born after you. When you are the only one, you benefit from your parents devoting their attention solely on you. With multiple children in the family the parents may feel as if they are spending equal time with each child; but the perception from the child’s point of view may be totally different. It stands to reason before that baby arrived the only child was the sole focus; now 2 siblings will vie for the attention of Mom and Dad. It does not stand to reason that the scope of your parents’ attention will double with each new child coming into the household. If that was not enough then there is the whole issue about birth order and the characteristics associated with it; such as the middle child gets the least attention and the youngest of the siblings gets spoiled. THE thing that stuns me the most about families with more than one child is how these early, shall we say, landmines can lead to the deterioration of family ties. I recently was talking with someone who expressed they do not talk to their brother. When I asked what they meant, they told me they have not had any communication with their sibling for years. Personally I cannot understand how siblings could dissolve to a level where it was preferable to end all communication between each other. One has to wonder where the parents and their involvement in the upbringing of these children were during the siblings’ formative years. The answers may be found in this animated family comedy. THERE was something different about the baby, voiced by Alec Baldwin (The Departed, 30 Rock-TV), who came into the life of Tim, voiced by Miles Christopher Bakshi (Shrek franchise). For starters the baby was dressed up in a suit. This movie was geared towards the older siblings of a family. I felt part of the humor and sight gags were pointed more to the 6-10 year olds; however, a good portion of the script had the parents in mind, with the type of jokes and references on display. I am not sure if younger children will have as much fun watching this film. Alec was perfect in the role, though Steve Buscemi (Reservoir Dogs, Fargo) as Francis Francis, TV talk show host Jimmy Kimmel as Dad and Lisa Kudrow (Easy A, The Comeback-TV) as Mom held their own. What I enjoyed about this movie besides the humor was its retro look; the visuals reminded me of some of the cartoon shows I used to watch when I was a kid. Underneath all of this I thought the writers did a wonderful job in introducing the lesson of the story. Maybe parents will see the lesson to learn early on, but for children it came across in an imaginative way. Pitting this against other recent animated films, this one may not have all the bells and whistles; however, as the baby of the family I refrain from making such comparisons. There was a brief extra scene in the middle of the credits and another extra scene at the end.
2 3/4 stars
I wonder what the results would be if I posed a question on this movie site’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, asking people if they feel they can be themselves at their place of work. Every time I walk up to a teller at my bank I am always told I qualify for some promotion and debit card. After declining their offer several times I finally had to firmly ask them not to ask me anymore, to have it pop up on their computer screen that I do not want a debit card. Do you wonder if they did not have to stay professional what they might have said to me instead? I know with my job I have to endure customers cursing and bad mouthing my company; yet, I have to remain calm without going off on them. Trust me there have been times where I just wanted to tell the person they were acting like a rectum’s orifice (fill in any curse word); however, I contain myself. Even when there was that one customer who threatened to come to my office to beat me up because I would not release their order until they paid us for their past due invoices, I still remained calm. This explains why I teach fitness and yoga after work; it is my way of getting rid of the day’s negativity. Though there have been times where I have seen a member in class being disrespectful to someone and the real me just wants to tell them to knock it off. The persona I wear at the club doesn’t allow such language so I have to adjust what I say. Unlike the star of this documentary who only acts one way, her way. TONY and Emmy award winning actress Elaine Stritch (Monster-in-Law, Autumn in New York), holds nothing back in this intimate and close-up documentary directed by Chiemi Karasawa (Meet the Midtown Men). I knew only a little about Elaine and her reputation, but watching this film festival winning movie was a real treat for a variety of reasons. Being a big fan of live theater, I enjoyed seeing the backstage doings as well as seeing at her age how she still could command an audience. The attraction for me regarding Elaine is I found her to be authentic. She tells it like it is; which is an attribute that sits high in my plus column for describing a person. Speaking of pluses I found the archival footage used in this movie to be a real bonus in telling Elaine’s story. I do not think one needs to be a fan of Broadway to appreciate the dedication and drive Elaine has inside of her. This documentary also included footage of other actors such as Alec Baldwin (The Departed, 30 Rock-TV) and James Gandolfini (The Drop, The Sopranos-TV) which added to the portrait being painted of Elaine in this picture. Considering her age during the filming some viewers may look at her as being a character; I have seen that type of description used when an older person has dropped their filters. For me I felt I was watching a person who was just being herself at home and at work.
3 ½ stars — DVD
It still can have disastrous effects and doesn’t make things better, but at least there were no ill intentions associated with it. As part of my banter during my classes I do public service announcements, a portion of it is listing any product recalls. There have been some that were not due to human error; for example, a bad circuit board installed into a motor vehicle or a food item that did not receive all of its ingredients due to a glitch during the automated manufacturing process. I understand things can happen. The issue I have is when individuals willingly keep the status quo though they know it could be dangerous for the consumer. Listen to these product recalls I have previously announced in class: a paper lantern that could catch on fire because the votive candle holders were too close to the lamp’s sides or how about the children’s swing set where the seats hung too low, causing kids to scrape their legs on the ground when swinging. You are telling me no one bothered to inspect the product before selling it? It has been drummed into all of our heads that time is money; no one wants to spend a lot of time on something if it affects the bottom line. I find it sad and miss the old days (listen to me) when people cared about their products and even other people. This is why I was so taken aback by this drama. FORENSIC neuropathologist Dr. Bennett Omalu, played by Will Smith (I Am Legend, Hancock), worked at the coroner’s office in Pittsburgh. When the corpse of one of the Pittsburgh Steeler’s star football players arrived, Dr. Omalu could not understand why such a relatively young person had suffered such ailments and was now dead. It was a mystery he was determined to solve. This film festival winning sports film played partially like a thriller. Based on a true story I have to give credit to Will Smith. The character Will portrayed was such a gentle, down to earth man that one just wanted to root for him. Maybe the accent was weak but Will made this role one of his best performances I have ever seen. With Alec Baldwin (The Departed, 30 Rock-TV) as Dr. Julian Bailes and Albert Brooks (Drive, Defending Your Life) as Dr. Cyril Wecht, the supporting cast did a fine job with their characters even though they were not written with much depth to them. There were a couple of scenes that felt forced, where the writers wanted to inject an element of suspense; they were only a distraction for me. On the other hand I will say as the pieces of this mystery were being discovered there was one particular scene that was powerful and put everything into place for me. After seeing this picture I honestly cannot imagine a parent, who has children playing in some type of sports activity, not questioning their decision to allow their children’s participation.
While standing in the theater lobby you see them out of the corner of your eye. They are walking towards you hand in hand; it is your ex. The last conversation the two of you had replays in your mind as you move your lips into a plastic smile. Introductions are made as you size up your replacement. As small talk hesitantly sputters out you see the replacement put their arm around their shoulders, letting it drape down like a boa constrictor. Funny, when the two of you were together they were not comfortable when you did it. However, the non-verbal connection the two of you shared is still active and you can see in their eyes, they realize you are noticing this change or maybe it is just acceptance in them. You have images rising to the top of your conscience from your pool of memories. The dividing line that was formed between the two of you at the time your relationship ended suddenly turns porous as they bring up one of your shared past events into the conversation. Whatever issues the two of you had at the end, they are fading into the background now as you are remembering how the two of you really had a good time together. Isn’t it funny how time can either soften or harden one’s memories associated with a past relationship? RETURNING to Hawaii as a military contractor now Brian Gilcrest, played by Bradley Cooper (The Words, American Sniper), was there to seek approval for a privately funded military operation by millionaire Carson Welch, played by Bill Murray (Groundhog Day, Lost in Translation). There was no way Brian could avoid his old girlfriend Tracy Woodside, played by Rachel McAdams (Midnight in Paris, About Time). Written and directed by Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, We Bought a Zoo), this comedic drama had such a good cast. Besides Bradley and Rachel there was Emma Stone (Magic in the Moonlight, Gangster Squad) as air force pilot Allison Ng and Alec Baldwin (The Departed, 30 Rock-TV) as General Dixon. I enjoyed the cast because they were perfect for their roles. There was a perfect blend of ingredients that made some scenes shine in this romantic film; but then there were more scenes that made little sense. It felt so disconnected to me; I just found the multiple story lines odd. In addition I did not feel any connection being formed between Brian and Allison which did not help that particular story line. There were times I lost interest in what was going on and for me personally there were not any pretty scenic shots of Hawaii. Sadly this movie was like a bad relationship; the kind you end early and soon forget.
1 3/4 stars
The change is so minuscule you would not even be aware of its importance. Years later you may look back and remember it, realizing it was a warning for the oncoming seismic shift about to take place. For some the process is slow and drawn out; the occasional forgetfulness does not seem to be a big deal. Who has not forgotten where they put their house keys or forgotten a word now and then? But later on it becomes more frequent; think of it as a change from autumn to winter. Picture a majestic wide tree with a multitude of branches that curl and twist outward, filled with a thick abundance of leaves. Slowly the rich dark green of the leaves starts to fade, becoming less vibrant. The leaves that had been stretching wide like the palms of many hands were all beginning to close into gnarled fists. Memory drips out of the mind, falling away on a current of air like shriveled leaves; until the tree is laid bare. You may think the person is trapped inside their body but that is not the case; they are no longer there. You only have a living picture of who they were and even that begins to shut down due to the lack of electrical pulses from the expired brain. This is what can happen when someone has Alzheimer’s disease. JULIANNE Moore (Non-Stop, What Maisie Knew) played linguistics Professor Alice Howland. As an author and expert in her field, how was it possible that she was beginning to forget her words? This film festival winning drama’s success was all due to Julianne Moore. She was remarkable in this role, playing a middle-aged woman with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. There was one scene in particular where she was looking at her younger self and it amazed me how different she made the two images look on screen. I can understand now why she won the Golden Globe award. Some of the other actors in this film were Alec Baldwin (Beetlejuice, 30 Rock-TV) as John Howland, Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns, Blue Crush) as Anna Howland-Jones and Kristen Stewart (Twilight franchise, On the Road) as Lydia Howland. Everyone did a good job of acting; however I really did not get Kristen. It seems like she is doing the same thing in every movie; I have not seen her display any emotional variety with any of the characters she has played. Due to Julianne’s dominant performance, this drama has an effect on the viewer. Not to be funny here, but it seems as if I am paying more attention now when I forget something.
3 1/3 stars
A life lived without an honest acknowledgement of one’s history is like living in a 3 walled house; eventually, the weight of reality will come crashing down. I know for I have seen it happen. When a person runs away from their life’s history, taking on a new identity, the facade never lasts long. There was someone I dated a long time ago that never talked about their childhood, parents, or even hobbies. It soon became apparent that my interests were becoming their interests. I saw how they were molding themselves to my way of living and found it unsettling. Essentially they were creating a life for themselves that was dependent on me. The problem they ran into was when there was an issue or crisis, they were ill equipped to handle it; they would implode. The relationship soon ended as I found out later they started a brand new, different life. In a powerful Oscar worthy performance Cate Blanchett (The Lord of the Rings franchise, The Aviator) played wealthy socialite Jasmine, a woman whose life crumbled apart upon the arrest of her crooked businessman husband Hal, played by Alec Baldwin (The Departed, It’s Complicated). With everything lost, Jasmine left New York for San Francisco to stay with her working class sister Ginger, played by Sally Hawkins (Made in Dagenham, Happy-Go-Lucky). Writer and director Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris, Match Point) has a knack for picking an ideal cast and letting them shine with their craft. Everyone in this drama was outstanding. Cate’s over the top brilliant performance was as perfect as it could be; she will be a front runner for the award races this year. I have never seen a poor performance from Sally and she was made to play Ginger. Besides the surprisingly excellent acting by Bobby Cannavale (Win Win, Parker) as Ginger’s boyfriend Chili; do not faint when I tell you comedian Andrew Dice Clay (Pretty in Pink, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane) as Ginger’s ex-husband Augie was living real in his role. I thought the switching of scenes from current to past events would be annoying; but instead, it gave them more intensity. There may not have been a lot of laughs but Woody’s script had a wonderful rhythm to it. This was a fascinating story about the lives people try to create for themselves.
3 1/2 stars
Since today is my favorite holiday of Thanksgiving, I feel this is the perfect movie to review. Do you know that feeling where random variables line up perfectly to make your life easier? For example, when all the traffic lights turn green so you can get to the movie theater on time. You enter the full parking lot just as one car pulls out giving you the only open space. Then you get to the long ticket line just as extra cashiers open up, speeding up the line, so you can get into the theater just as the last preview ends and you see your favorite seat is the last seat open. In a similar vein, I felt everything fell into place to make this movie extra special for me. Recalling fond memories from past Thanksgiving meals with friends and family, as soon as the film started I felt I was that little boy again, filled with wonder and excitement. This wonderful animated movie starred characters we all used to believe were real. When an evil spirit threatened the children of earth, it would take the forces of the Guardians to come together to save the children. The Guardians consisted of Jack Frost, voiced by Chris Pine (Star Trek, This Means War); North aka Santa Claus was voiced by Alec Baldwin (To Rome With Love, 30 Rock-TV); Tooth aka Tooth Fairy was voiced by Isla Fisher (Wedding Crasher, Confessions of a Shopaholic) and Bunny aka Easter Bunny was voiced by Hugh Jackman (Real Steel, X-Men franchise). These actors did a wonderful job of bringing life to their characters. Jude Law’s (Anna Karenia, Hugo) voice was spot on for his character Pitch the evil spirit. The CGI effects were magical to me, adding an extra layer of fun and excitement to the story. As I walked back to my car I tried to remember if I ever believed in these characters when I was a little kid. Honestly, I do not recall ever believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. But because of this movie I believe in them now. As a side note, there is no reason to see this movie in 3D.
3 1/3 stars
The ideal situation is when both people decide to end their relationship; ironically showing they still are in synch on some level. I am still close friends with some of the people I have dated. The toughest situation for me has been when the person I love breaks trust in the relationship. I understand when the love aspect of a relationship wilts away, sometimes the other factors making up the couple’s bond can still sustain them. However, it can be a monumental challenge to see the person you have loved forming a relationship with someone else. My bottom line has always been if you want to be with someone else, end your current relationship first. This is why I found this comedy odd with unfaithfulness being a central theme. Meryl Streep (Doubt, Hope Springs) was quite convincing in her role as divorced businesswoman Jane Adler. Attending her son’s college graduation, she was thrown for a loop when her remarried ex-husband Jake, played by Alec Baldwin (To Rome with Love, 30 Rock-TV), revealed his true feelings for her. With Steve Martin (Shopgirl, The Jerk) as her amorous architect Adam Schaffer, Jane found herself in a complicated situation. The acting from this ensemble cast was legitimate, easily connecting to one another. John Krasinski (Leatherheads, The Office-TV) as fiance Harley was quite good with his character. There were humorous scenes throughout this movie, which was geared towards an adult viewing audience. Poor directing was the issue for me; it was uneven with some scenes being slow. However, the film was fun for the most part; showing how complicated relationships could be. For me, I have always said relationships take work. One cannot assume the union will last simply by the things they love about the other person; it is when they respect the things they do not like, that gives the relationship strength.
2 2/3 stars — DVD