HAVING children less than 4 years apart in age, I asked how he was preparing for the overlapping college costs. When I was growing up I do not think parents thought as much about it as they do now. When I hear how much tuition costs currently, I cannot imagine how a family can navigate the burden of putting their kids through school. I used to work with a woman who had 6 children; each one was 2 years apart in age. If you do the math, she would have multiple financial costs of college weighing down on her for years. Maybe she expected all of her kids to get scholarships, but I so wanted to ask her how she was going to pay for all the schooling. Since it was none of my business I was not going to pry. There are adults I know who are still paying off their student loans even though they have been out of college for 20-30 years. UNLESS the child invents the latest computer app or web service becoming a millionaire and skipping college, many parents are left to come up with creative ways they and their children can meet their financial obligations. Now I realize not every child will go to college; in my circle of friends and family it was a given that we all had to continue our education after high school. I knew one parent who worked 2 jobs during the week and a part time job on the weekend to help defray the college costs. There are several families I know who steer their children to a 2 year college for an associate’s degree to complete the basic required courses; afterwards, they transfer to a 4 year university to complete their studies. By doing this their costs are less than going directly to a 4 year accredited school. I have heard of a variety of options parents have employed to save money for their children’s college costs, but I have never heard of the idea the parents in this comedy came up with to put their child through school. AFTER spending their daughter’s college funds parents Kate and Scott Johansen, played by Amy Poehler (Sisters, Mean Girls) and Will Ferrell (The Other Guys, Daddy’s Home), needed to come up with a way they could put their daughter through school. Thanks to their friend Frank, played by Jason Mantzoukas (Dirty Grandpa, The Dictator), there was a way the couple could swing it. This comedy also starred Ryan Simpkins (A Single Man, Revolutionary Road) as Alex Johansen and Nick Kroll (My Blind Brother, Parks and Recreation-TV) as Bob. I will say the idea to raise college money was creative; I was curious to see how it would play out in the story. There were a couple of laughs that came out of the script; however, for the rest of the script I was not getting into it. The acting was nearly non-existent from Amy and Will. They were no different from any of their other characters including their stints on Saturday Night Live. Making rude or vulgar comments usually do not lead to laughs and this script was no exception. Adding in the high level of predictability, I was bored most of the time. I hope this does not come across as rude but the people associated with this dud need to be schooled on how to create a smart, fun comedy. No passing grade for this one.
1 ½ stars
Sitting up on a shelf in the pantry sits a platter that has special significance for me. There is nothing special about it if one is just looking at it. With its edges bordered by two small bands of gold and burgundy that have formed minute cracks over all these years and a multi-colored rosette at its center, this platter reminds me of the home I grew up in. It was only used on special occasions, being the vessel that carried out the main course for all sitting around the dining room table to devour. Besides this platter I have two other items in my possession from my childhood; a pair of scissors and a candle holder. I know what you must be thinking, such random items. You are correct they are random but each one of them comes with very distinct memories from my youth. Since then I have lived in several places yet, what I believe would be true for most people, that first one’s memories are the most vibrant in my mind. So much had happened there that formed the person I am today. From the neighbors to my friends from the block, it was essentially growing up with an extra large family. Was I sad when the time came to move out from it? You bet it was, however it never left from inside of me. Certain things I did to the next place were done in such a way to mimic those things left behind. Looking back, the transition may have started out hard but it was not as traumatic as it was for the sisters in this comedy. Coming home to visit their parents sisters Maura and Kate Ellis, played by Amy Poehler (They Came Together, Parks and Reactions-TV) and Tina Fey (Muppets Most Wanted, Admission), discovered the home they grew up in was up for sale. Before the house was to be sold the sisters decided they had to do something that would create an everlasting memory. There is no denying Tina and Amy work extremely well together; they have so much history between them. Besides them and some of their old cast mates from SNL like Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids, Grown Ups franchise) as Brinda, there was Dianne Wiest (Footloose, I Am Sam) and James Brolin (Catch Me if You Can, Marcus Welby, M.D.-TV) as Deana and Bucky Ellis. All the actors were fine for this picture. But I have to tell you this movie was a mixed bag. There was a mixture of fun zaniness, witty sarcastic dialog and off the wall humor; however, there were stretches where things became crude and silly. I did not think the story was all that original. It was easy to figure out what sight gag was about to happen or joke told. Because of who the two main stars were, this film needed a much stronger script. I did not have a problem leaving the theater after the movie ended.
I could hear the two voices in a heated discussion about whether I should bring a jacket or not. Planning on attending an outdoor event recently, there was one voice in my head telling me to bring a jacket due to the possibility of rain showers. It was also telling me that I needed a jacket since I would be outside after nightfall and I could get cold. The other voice was saying I needed to leave my jacket at home because with the temperature going up into the middle 80s no one would be walking around with a jacket. This argument was going on while I was changing in the locker room of the health club. In the next bank of lockers there was a father with 2 young children, the youngest in diapers. As the older boy was amusing himself by opening and closing the locker doors around him, the father placed his daughter on her back on top of a bench. She immediately let out an ear piercing scream as she burst into wailing tears. The father quickly pulled out his phone, swiping the screen with his thumb like a gunslinger, to position it right in front of the infant’s face. Instantaneously all sounds out of her stopped and the tear ducts dried up. But here is the catch; as soon as the dad tried to move his arm back to change his daughter’s diaper, she revved right up again with crying wails. To me it looked like a Pavlovian experiment as the opposite reactions of the daughter kept flipping back and forth depending on where the smartphone was placed. I now understand how these opposing feelings could rise up so quickly since I have seen this imaginative movie. RILEY, voiced by relative newcomer Kaitlyn Dias, only knew her Minnesota home her entire life. Moving to San Francisco due to her father’s job, Riley’s emotions were sent reeling as her unhappiness grew as the family tried to settle into their new place. This animated dramatic comedy had a more sophisticated story than other animated films I have recently seen. I am not sure if very young children will sit through this movie. At least at the theater where I saw this visual jewel of a picture, the movie trailers and short film before the movie clocked in for a total of 25 minutes. The actors such as Amy Poehler (Mean Girls, Baby Mama) as Joy, Lewis Black (Man of the Year, The Aristocrats) as Anger and Phyllis Smith (Bad Teacher, The Office-TV) as Sadness were just perfect at voicing their characters. The imaginativeness displayed in this adventure has set a new bar of excellence in my opinion. Just the idea of these emotions working together as we reach our adolescence was brilliantly handled in this story. By the end of the film the joy inside of my head was jumping up and down.
3 1/2 stars
The only thing I can say is love has to have magical powers. It has a way of changing one’s opinion of a person faster than a fine-tuned sports car. Love makes you carry your girlfriend’s purse through the store while she looks for a new outfit. Love makes you sit in the bleachers, outside in the cold, just so you can watch your boyfriend strike out at bat and still cheer him on. Love allows you to doze off at the airport, on your significant other’s shoulder, while they attempt to rebook your cancelled flight. Based on my and my friends’ experiences, one of the most intense powers I have seen love perform was the ability to not only alter but obliterate 1st impressions. You meet someone who appears to be a snob, unfriendly and condescending. Within a short time all memories get painted over with a fresh coat by love’s paintbrush, transforming your thoughts into sweet and pleasant scenarios where your senses become heightened every time you see that person now. Love does amazing things and in this comedy almost every romantic movie cliche gets skewered by the capable cast. An evening out had Joel and Molly, played by Paul Rudd (This is 40, Admission) and Amy Poehler (Baby Mama, Blades of Glory), having dinner with Kyle and Karen, played by Bill Hader (Her, Superbad) and Ellie Kemper (Bridesmaids, 21 Jump Street). Throughout the evening Kyle and Ellie would get the full story of how Joel and Molly first met; she the owner of a small candy shop that was in the sights of Joel’s employer, a huge candy corporation. Christopher Meloni (42, Man of Steel) as Joel’s boss Roland was determined to drive Molly’s store out of business. There were some amusing scenarios in this lighthearted film. The things that worked were fun but there were sections that petered out. In a way the script was done as a series of comedy skits; ones that you would see on television. Though there was nothing that made me laugh out loud, I was entertained by some of the settings. The cast had an easy job with this story and looked like they were enjoying themselves, besides appearing to be in on the jokes they were performing. Even if you are not a fan of romantic movies or rom-coms, I cannot imagine you feeling lost with this parody. This was not a movie I fell in love with and I don’t think there is anything that will change my feelings; however, it was also not a waste of time for me either.
2 1/3 stars
Out of all the holidays during the year, I have always felt the safest during this one. Maybe this sounds odd to you but this holiday was more of an internal one of celebration for me. There was no need to put up any kind of decorations, it did not represent one particular religious group, there were no gift exchanges, it did not require going anywhere but your own or someone’s home; Thanksgiving was simply a time to sit down and share a meal with the family. I would get excited by the variety of side dishes that spread across the table like steaming volcanoes, waiting for us to chip away at them. For me, the most important part came after dinner. Once the dishes were removed and the tablecloth was swept of any crumbs, the desserts would conquer the dining room table. There was such a comfort that came over me as I would sit quietly at my place and eat all the sweet treats that I had placed on my spotless plate. It was during this time of the Thanksgiving meal where my plate remained the cleanest; I would not let one morsel slip out of my mouth. To tell you the truth it did not matter to me if there was turkey served or not since my main focus was on the sweet stuff. The same held true in this animated comedy; it would not make a difference to me if Jake and Reggie, voiced by Woody Harrelson (Now You See Me, Zombieland) and Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers, The Internship), succeeded in their mission. The two unlikely partners were going back in time to the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts to stop the tradition forming to serve turkey for the holiday meal. As far as animated movies go, this one was not very good. It did not have the colors, the dimension or detail of other films I have seen. The humor remained on an elementary level, lacking any kind of sophistication. It was a shame because I enjoyed the cast which also included Amy Poehler (Mean Girls, A.C.O.D.) as Jenny and George Takei (Star Trek franchise, Heroes-TV) as S.T.E.V.E.; the voice of the time machine. To be released during the upcoming holiday season, this movie needed to be fun and uplifting. Save your money for your holiday shopping instead of seeing this film in the theater. Only if you have young children should you consider spending your money on this dull movie. If you do see it, stay through the credits.
1 3/4 stars
I was at the same event, even sitting at the same table. It is always fascinating to me how two people at the same function can have different memories of the occasion. The memories I have for this particular event were all of a negative nature; the food was cold, the overpowering music made conversations difficult and the room was too cold. My friend thought it was one of the best charity events he had ever attended. Similarly, this type of scenario happens frequently between family members. I cannot tell you how many times two relatives will recall a specific event and have completely different recollections of it. The use of perception was a key factor in this comedy movie. Adam Scott (Friends with Kids, Parks and Recreations-TV) played Carter, an adult child of divorce. With the impending wedding of his younger brother coming up, Carter forced his divorced battling parents to put their bitterness aside to attend the event. But by Carter bringing the combatant spouses back, he discovered he had different family memories then they did. Having bought a movie ticket to this film without seeing a trailer for it, part of my enjoyment came from the blending of the hilarious cast that was a surprise to me. Catherine O’Hara (For Your Consideration, Home Alone franchise) as Melissa and Richard Jenkins (White House Down, The Visitor) as Hugh were perfectly in synch as Carter’s parents. Amy Poehler (Baby Mama, Parks and Recreations-TV) as Hugh’s new wife Sondra and Jane Lynch (Afternoon Delight, Glee-TV) as Dr. Judith were standouts in their roles. I had to wonder if their dialog was all scripted or did they do some ad libbing; it was wonderful to watch them. As for the story, it was somewhat cluttered which did not give much time to further explore the characters. What kept this movie together was everyone’s comedic skills. On the one hand I can see where movie goers would feel this film played more like a television sitcom; but for me, it did not make a difference because I enjoyed this light, funny movie. At least, that is how I recall my time spent in front of the theater screen watching this film. If you go to see this movie, stay through the rolling of the fun credits.
2 1/2 stars
The announcement was confusing to me when I heard my aunt say her daughter was getting a baby in six weeks. I had only seen my older cousin the week before and there were no telltale signs she was pregnant. Though I was a little kid at the time, I understood it took 9 months for a woman to have a baby. When I tried to question my aunt, she would only tell me that the baby would be coming soon and everything would be fine. It took another cousin to finally explain adoption to me. Even back then, once I understood, I remembered thinking what was the big deal that my aunt could not say her daughter was adopting a child. I am glad those times have changed. In this comedy successful 37 year old business woman Kate Holbrook’s, played by Tina Fey (Date NIght, 30 Rock-TV), biological clock was loudly ticking over a body that was having a hard time making a baby. With her options dwindling, Kate looked into finding a surrogate mother. Enter Angie and her husband Carl, played by Amy Poehler (Mean Girls, Parks and Recreation-TV) and Dax Shepard (When in Rome, Hit and Run). Would these two women manage to survive the following 9 months together? It may have been a challenge to them but it was fun for us to be a witness to it. Having the two actresses play women from opposite sides of the social economic spectrum made the story ripe for many humorous scenes. Not necessarily loud roars of laughter, but certainly chuckles could be found throughout this film. Gifted with great comedic timing, the chemistry between the two was wonderful. In brief cameos with big impact were Greg Kinnear, (Thin Ice, Little Miss Sunshine) as Rob and Steve Martin (Roxanne, It’s Complicated) as Barry. When done watching this movie, you will understand why the Golden Globes picked these two wonderful women to host this year’s awards show.
2 2/3 stars — DVD