PLAY DAYS ARE NOT JUST FOR children. I am giving each of you permission to schedule yourselves a day to have fun. Remember when we were little we could find enjoyment from the most innocuous things? There was a phase my friends and I went through where our bicycles had to have playing cards clipped to our back wheels, so the spokes would make the cards clap. To us this made the sound of a car engine. I recall taking a fallen tree branch, stripping off all the leaves and little offshoots from it, to make a magic staff or if smaller, a wand. With that branch I would become a wizard or a king. I cannot tell you how much fun I had when I discovered putting a small paperclip on the front of my paper airplane would make it soar further through the air, when I released it from our 3rd floor apartment’s back porch. Another fun thing to do was to skim pebbles across the surface of water to see if we could make them skip. It served no real purpose except to amuse us as we tried to make the thrown pebbles travel as far as possible. I FIRMLY BELIEVE TAKING TIME OFF from one’s daily life to do something mindless and fun is a great way to recharge the mind and body. For me, going to the movies is one of the fastest ways to put myself in a relaxed state; I can totally forget about the outside world and any of the issues that come along with it. Obviously, I have a purpose in seeing movies; I get to review them. But, there are other things I do that could be considered completely mindless that are just as much fun. It is not necessary to have a purpose or financial gain to experience something joyful. Watching the tide roll in or seeing the sun set does not provide something tangible that you could put in your pocket or bank account. Instead, it may provide you with peacefulness or calmness. It is a feeling you experience that allows you to forget what you were doing. Now I do not know about you, but there are times I want to escape from my daily routines and not have to think about anything. If you would like to try and experience this then I would recommend you go and see this musical comedy, because there is nothing you will have to do except sit and watch it. HOPING TO FULFILL HER MOTHER’S dreams Sophie, played by Amanda Seyfried (First Reformed, The Last Word), was almost ready to open a hotel in paradise. She only wished her fathers could see what she had done. This sequel or should I say prequel also starred Lily James (Baby Driver, Darkest Hour) as the young Donna, Meryl Streep (The Post, Out of Africa) as Donna, Cher (Moonstruck, Mermaids) as Ruby Sheridan and Andy Garcia (Book Club, Geostorm) as Fernando. If you have not seen the first film, it would not hurt for you to watch it before seeing this picture. The writers did their best to bring the new viewers up to speed with the story, but there still was a learning curve involved. I found the jumping back and forth in time a little annoying but ultimately, I did not care since there were so many songs packed into the story. There was only a bare minimum of a script and for the most part it did not do anything but steer the characters to the next song. If you are not an Abba or musicals fan you will not enjoy this movie. Everyone else will enjoy themselves with this mindless fluff piece and that is exactly what it was meant to do. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
2 ½ stars
THERE WAS NOTHING UNUSUAL ABOUT the couple standing in the middle of the crowd. They each had their arm wrapped around the back of the other; one had their head resting on the other’s shoulder. The music the band was playing up on stage had everyone moving to the beats. The couple was right in synch with the rhythm, moving their hips in unison. The two of them looked good together; one had a dark complexion while the other had a fair complexion with a twinge of redness. Similar in height they appeared to fit well together. Directly in front of them stood a young Millennial; she had been there for only a short time. At some point between songs she started to look around at the other fans. When she spotted the couple behind her she stopped and a smile began to grow on her face. When the couple made eye contact with her the Millennial gushed, “You two make the cutest couple. How long have you 2 been together?” The couple looked at each other with warm smiles and a chuckle. Looking back at the young girl they told her they have only been a couple for a little over one year. The Millennial was shocked and told them she could not believe it; she thought they had been a couple for at least 20 years. HAVE YOU NOTICED HOW THE younger generations treat the older ones? If that couple was in their 20’s, I doubt anyone would gush over them and call them cute. But because they were elderly and showing signs of affection for each other, they now are just too cute. I have experienced this phenomenon at weddings where an elderly couple go out onto the dance floor. Suddenly they grab all the attention as people start to watch that old couple moving to the music; saying things like, “Look at them move” and “Can you believe them?” Seriously, it is not like they are one step away from a fall; they happen to be active and enjoy dancing to music. Just because they are old suddenly people assume the couple cannot do the same activities of someone years younger. With me teaching fitness I have experienced people becoming shocked that I am an instructor. I cannot say I am insulted, but I find it curious that there are some who have these pre-conceived notions of what an instructor should be. Just because a person looks older doesn’t mean they stop living and having fun; in fact, there are examples of what I have been saying right here in this comedy film. FOUR LONG-TERM FRIENDS’ LIVES were sent reeling when a racy, bestselling book was introduced into their book club. The women did not even know where to begin. The main reason to see this film was the cast; without them this movie would have fallen into the discount bin. With Diane Keaton (The Family Stone, Something’s Gotta Give) as Diane, Jane Fonda (Monster-in-Law, Klute) as Vivian, Candice Bergen (Bride Wars, Murphy Brown-TV) as Sharon, Mary Steenburgen (Last Vegas, Time After Time) as Carol and Andy Garcia (City Island, The Lost City) as Mitchell; it was enjoyable to watch actors take on the life of their characters. The script was nothing special; honestly, I felt it could have thrown much more at the cast to make this a truly funny story. Instead there were more chuckles and close to syrupy cuteness coming from the scenes. It was pretty easy for me to figure out the conclusions to each story line; like I said, the director and writers played it too safe in my opinion. Despite these issues it was good to see these long careered (you thought I was going to say old, didn’t you?) actors do what they do best, who I believe feel the same way I do: age is just a number.
2 ¼ stars
I have to tell you I really toyed with the idea of buying the new toy I saw when it initially came out. The toy was a replica of an item used in a successful movie franchise and I thought it would be cool to have my very own, so I could grant wishes to friends and family who were visiting me. You will have to excuse my odd sense of humor; I did chuckle when I picked up the packaged toy from the store shelf, remembering several movie scenes where the item was in action. Generally I do not have any issue with a toy company coming out with toys based on a film; they call it marketing for a reason. The thing that bugs me though is seeing movie studios purposely putting in useless props into their movies just so they can sell the items to the masses to recoup some of their costs. What I mean exactly is making a cheap movie just so they can move product. So I am going to let my nerdness come out by telling you I have a few items that are associated with movies I thoroughly enjoyed, such as a miniature bendable cartoon cowboy and a set of glass mugs with several of the crew from a starship. I want you to know if the products were never promoted it would not distract from my fond feelings towards the movies they represented. Heck, I recently bought a couple of my relatives toys based on movies I have seen. Don’t tell anyone this, but I did it so I could play with the items when I go visit them. Maybe you are asking yourself about now what does this have to do with today’s movie review. Well let me tell you; I have never heard or seen a word, a toy or an advertisement for the main character in this science fiction, action film. Who or exactly what is Max Steel? NEVER knowing what caused his father’s death Max McGrath, played by Ben Winchell (Teen Spirit-TV movie, Mandie and the Forgotten Christmas), could not explain the unusual things that his body was experiencing. This adventure picture also starred Maria Bello (A History of Violence, Secret Window) as Molly McGrath, Andy Garcia (The Untouchables, The Air I Breathe) as Dr. Miles Edwards and Josh Brener (The Internship, Silicon Valley-TV) voicing Steel. I am not sure where I should begin with this review except to say this was one of the poorest produced movies I have seen all year. The first thing I found unusual was in the credits when one of the producing credits listed Mattel. I had to look up afterwards to find there is a toy line based on the Max Steel character. So my guess had to be Mattel wanted to sell their toys. Well if they did this was not the way to do it. I was so embarrassed watching Maria and especially Andy that I was cringing in my seat. The script was horribly dull and predictable. Add the poor directing and the acting was simply lame. For me this picture was one big infomercial. I wish I had bought that magic wand to erase the memory of this movie from my brain.
Walking into a room filled with strangers does not create anxiety for some people. It could be a business convention, workshop, classroom or a family event and it would not be a problem for a person. Years of teaching class has helped me overcome my instinctive fear of being thrown into a situation with a bunch of strangers. If there is no connection between me and the other people other than we are all in the same line of work, than I am comfortable. However, when I have gone as someone’s guest my first instinct is to hold back and be an observer. I am sure many of us have been in a situation where we were meeting our significant other’s family and though we were told they would not be judging us, deep inside we knew they would be. Sure you want to be on your best behavior and make a good impression, but the pressure can get to you. I cannot tell you how many times I have been in this type of situation, where I not only was careful with my verbiage, but was starving for fear someone would catch me with a piece of food dripping off my facial hair or stuck between my teeth before I could clean it up. There was no way I could not sympathize for Blu, voiced by Jesse Eisenberg (Now You See Me, 30 Minutes or Less), in this animated adventure sequel. Discovering they may not be the last of their kind; Blu and his wife Jewel, voiced by Anne Hathaway (Love & Other Drugs, Bride Wars), left the comfort of Rio de Janeiro and headed out to the deepest parts of the Amazon jungle in hopes of finding blue feathered friends. It would turn into an adventure that would bring a whole new meaning to the word family for Blu, Jewel and their kids. This sequel stayed pretty true to the original one. It would help to see the first one, but one could easily watch and follow this film without seeing the original movie. This comedy adventure’s main attraction was the big dance and song numbers. Each one was fun to watch and provided a huge palette of colorful figures crossing the screen. Musical artist Bruno Mars (Honeymoon in Vegas) had the perfect role playing Roberto, including a big solo performance. The story was the weak link, taking parts of the movie “Meet the Parents” as one of its story lines. I do not think children would care since there was a steady stream of jokes and comical characters. All of the cast from the first film were here including Nigel, voiced by Jemaine Clement (Dinner with Schmucks, Predicament), along with some new characters such as Andy Garcia (Rob the Mob, At Middleton) as Eduardo. This was an enjoyable fun film that did not stray from its winning formula established with the previous one. I believe everyone would feel comfortable being a guest at the showing of this enjoyable movie.
2 1/2 stars
It does not take much to have a mundane type of day turn into a happy-go-lucky day. I am not talking about planned events where one is only waiting for the approval before undertaking a new position or some other such thing. I am talking about those things that happen in our daily life that are unexpected and surprise us. For me it can be pulling into a city parking space where there still is available time left on the meter. Opening the game ticket that was handed to me by the waitress and discovering I won a free dessert was enough to turn the rest of my day into a euphoric glow of joy, filled with bright skies and double rainbows. Oh wait maybe that was my sugar high talking now. No matter, these little surprises bring forth a dollop of fun to our lives. For Tommy Uva and Rosie, played by Michael Pitt (Seven Psychopaths, Funny Games) and Nina Arianda (Midnight in Paris, Tower Heist), one small surprise was not only going to make their day, it was going to change their lives. Following the trial of a major crime boss, the couple came up with a plan on how to rob Mafia managed social clubs. It would take some finesse to stay ahead of the FBI and the Mafia for this couple from Queens, New York. The first thing I have to tell you is this film was my surprise for the day. I did not see any advertisements or trailers for it, nor even knew the premise to the story. This picture was a hidden gem; I thought it was good entertainment. Now if that was not enough, to find out this movie was based on a true story blew my mind. I mean the audacity of coming up with the plan, the execution of it and the high stakes; I had to replay film scenes over in my mind afterwards, once I found out there was some truth to the story. Michael and NIna were adorable playing the loving couple; one could not resist the charm they brought to their characters. Andy Garcia (The Untouchables, City Island) who played crime boss Big Al had an easy time making his character work on screen. Ray Romano (The Grand, Everybody Loves Raymond-TV) as news reporter Jerry Cardozo was the weak link just because I did not see much difference in this character compared to Ray playing Ray Barone, minus the humor. There were some parts of the movie that slowed down for me, but not enough to take away my interest in the story. I have to tell you after seeing this film I not only had a good day but a good rest of the week.
I do not know what it is about talking to a casual acquaintance or a stranger that enables people to open up about their feelings. There have been several occasions where a member from my class has divulged information of a more personal or intimate nature. I have heard of hairdressers being a personal confidant to their clients but I have not heard anything about fitness instructors. Possibly it may have to do with knowing there is a finite amount of time available or that I am not a member of the health club, just an instructor. From my own experiences I will say there is something about visiting a new place that for some reason makes me more comfortable talking to strangers. I have no problem sharing my feelings or thoughts to the point where it creates an immediate sense of intimacy. It just seems like the opposite way of doing things; where you would want to create that budding closeness with someone you know or are interested in, not a total stranger. I am sure I can dig inside of myself and talk about feeling less pressure or being unguarded due to the foreign surroundings; however, I will forgo adding more length to this review and just say I have experienced something similar to the story in this romantic comedy. Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring, Up in the Air) and her real life sister Taissa Farmiga (The Bling Ring, American Horror Story-TV) played mother and daughter Edith and Audrey Martin. Andy Garcia (The Untouchables, City Island) and newcomer Spencer Lofranco played father and son George and Conrad Hartman. During the college tour for their children, Edith and George found themselves on a different tour than the one their kids were on. I was fine with the setup for this film festival winning movie. The good acting was certainly a plus to the uneven script. The concept of two strangers spending the day together I got; but I thought some of the scenes were forced and somewhat ridiculous. An example would be the marijuana scene. There were some parts in the movie that were predictable, but since I was enjoying the acting I was a bit more forgiving. This does not have to be a movie you need to run out and see at the theater; waiting for the DVD would be good enough. Maybe because I have had a couple of long distance relationships in the past, this film was easier for me to digest.
2 1/3 stars
Looking back in history, it seems as if religion usually played a role in war. At least that has been my belief. Without any prior knowledge I was shocked I had never heard of the Cristeros War (1926-1929), that took place in Mexico. Simply put, this was a war against the Catholic Church. Mexico’s secular government was led by President Plutarco Elias Calles, played by Ruben Blades (Safe House, The Devil’s Own), who essentially declared war on the Catholic Church with the help of the government he set up. For example, church property could now be seized whenever the administration saw fit. There was a ban on all religious orders besides the elimination of any foreign born priests–even if it meant killing them. Civil war broke out led by Catholic rebels called Cristeros, Christ fighters. To solidify their ranks and become more like a disciplined army, the Cristeros enlisted the help of war hero Enrique Gorostieta Velarde, played by Andy Garcia (City Island, Smokin’ Aces). I felt the writers did a disservice to this historical based film. With this chapter already played out in Mexico’s past, the writing should have only elevated the dramatic moments or bridge the gap between story lines. Clocking in at 2 hours and 25 minutes, the movie was way too long, much in need of some serious editing. It would have given several parts more impact. A surprise to me was Andy Garcia’s poor acting; I expected better from him. What a shame to take a David and Goliath type of story and turn it into a mediocre soap opera. This movie had several graphic scenes.
1 3/4 stars