THE DINING TABLE WAS SET PRIOR to all of us showing up. I always notice first what type of napkin the host is using for the dinner guests. Not that I am being judgmental, but I use and prefer cloth napkins. I feel they add a different touch aesthetically, besides being quite functional. The ones I use were on the store’s clearance rack and they work just fine. The table was set for half a dozen guests; it had been a long time since we all got together. After everyone arrived and we visited with appetizers and drinks, we all found places at the table. The host was bringing out a large glass bowl filled with salad when the doorbell rang. Since there were no empty spaces left at the table, one could only assume this was an unexpected event which immediately got confirmed when the host wondered out loud who it could be. I did not hear who the person was when the host went over and spoke into the intercom, but they got buzzed in and the host went to unlock the door. The person soon walked in as we all heard talking coming in from the hallway. I recognized him as a friend of the host, but I did not know him well. Saying hi and asking what was going on as he came into the dining room, the host simply said we were just sitting down to dinner and asked if he would like to join us. Seeing that there was no room left at the table, I would have declined the invitation because it would have been an imposition; it was not like people were just sitting about with boxes of delivered pizza or buckets of chicken. ALL MY FRIENDS KNOW I DO not answer the door unless I am expecting someone. They have questioned me if this is the only option and I tell them yes. If someone wants to come over and visit me, all they need to do is call ahead of time. I remember once a friend had driven into the city and decided to stop and visit with me. Since they did not call, I did not hear them ringing the doorbell because I was jogging on the treadmill. I especially dislike when people show up during mealtimes, either at home or in a restaurant. This happened some time ago, but I still remember eating out with my family and a couple came over to talk to one of my relatives, who they knew. Well I am here to tell you, this couple kept talking and talking while all of us were giving our food orders to the waitress, continuing even when the food came to our table. Personally, I think it is rude to hover over people while they are trying to eat; so, I took it upon myself to say something to them, thanking them for stopping over but I wanted to talk to my family since I had not seen them for some time. They appeared to be startled by my comments but apologized profusely and excused themselves from our space. Ironically, my family was appreciative of my comments to the couple. I do not make apologies for how I feel about uninvited guests; I have no idea how I would have handled what happened to the astronauts in this dramatic, science fiction thriller. WHILE STARTING OFF ON A MISSION to Mars, a crew is stunned when they discover an unauthorized person on their ship. With Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect franchise, A Simple Favor) as Zoe Levenson, Daniel Dae Kim (Hellboy, Lost-TV) as David Kim, Shamier Anderson (Awake, City of Lies) as Michael Adams and Toni Collette (Knives Out, Hereditary) as Marina Barnett; this cast did a wonderful job of acting. Visually, I enjoyed watching this movie with its special effects. On the downside, I am afraid the script was too drawn out for me; I felt there were several scenes that dragged. However, I did enjoy the moral question that was woven into the story line. For a science fiction film, this one had a slightly different vibe to it which was a plus. I only wished there had been more intensity involved with the story and a different ending.
2 ½ stars
MAYBE YOU WOULD NOT GET ANNOYED; but I do when meeting a person for the first time, who is trying to by funny. Humor is and always has been my go to safe spot, so it is not like I am against someone being amusing; however, if I do not know the person I need time to learn about them. The part that bugs me is when the person says something odd, but then says they are only kidding followed up with them saying no, they are not kidding then back to saying they’re kidding. I had this one conversation with this man who tried to make every topic a joke. If it was a straight forward joke where they laughed afterwards, then I would have gotten the message, but that was not the case. They would say something with this deadpan delivery and expression, where I had no idea if they were joking or not. Then they would start the kidding, no kidding cycle; I must tell you that got old fast. In a few minutes I was tired from the confusing signals and politely excused myself. The funny thing though is I love sarcasm and this person was attempting to be sarcastic, but it fell flat. IN A SIMILAR VEIN A PERSON who exaggerates without using humor can be problematic for me as well. This would be someone who enjoys using the words: best, biggest, most expensive, etc. I never know if their statements are true and wonder what they are using as a comparison. At a party I was sitting with a small group of guests. One person was dominating the conversation in my opinion. As I listened it became apparent to me they were either bragging or believed they knew the best places to shop and eat in the country. I so badly wanted to ask what made it the best place but honestly, I was not interested. If they had simply talked about a particular restaurant or store I would have been curious to hear about it; but add in one of those words I listed earlier, and I start to feel like all they are doing is bragging to a crowd. Before you think I am a horrible guest, let me say I totally enjoy hearing people tell their stories. Maybe I do some editing of them quietly in my head as I navigate thru their version of humor and/or exaggeration; but overall, I still like a good story and the main characters in this mysterious crime drama had me paying close attention to their story. HAVING ONLY RECENTLY MET, STEPHANIE SMOTHERS and Emily Nelson, played by Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect franchise, Table 19) and Blake Lively (The Shallows, The Age of Adeline), were fast becoming friends. So, when Emily asked Stephanie if she could pick her son up after school, Stephanie was eager to please. She was not expecting Emily to disappear and not come back. With Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians, The Bachelorette-TV) as Sean Townsend, Andrew Rannells (The Intern, Bachelorette) as Darren and newcomer Ian Ho as Nicky Nelson; this dark comedic crime story was a blast to watch. Anna and Blake were so good together I would like to see them together again in another film, they had a great chemistry that shined on the big screen. There were a couple of holes in the script, but I did not care; there was so many twists and surprises that kept the story going. I also thought the use of humor added a whole fresh element. Little did I know I was entering such an entertaining experience with this picture, where I got the humor and enjoyed the outrageousness.
3 ¼ stars
SOMETIMES OUR DREAMS DO not come true or at least not the way we had hoped they would. I have mentioned in previous reviews I feel dreams are a vital part of a person’s life; in my opinion, they are the oasis in the voyage of our lives. Just recently a friend was telling me the next 3 months were going to be intense for him at his workplace. He needed to dangle something in front of himself to strive towards (like that carrot in front of a horse thing), to get through his grueling work schedule, so he was planning a trip in April. I listened as he told me how he will think about exotic locations he wants to visit while crunching data for reports. I saw it as a pressure valve thing where he needed to take his mind off of the tedious and monotonous motions of his day. Let us face it who can sit in a sterile work cubicle every day, doing the same thing over and over, without letting your mind at some point drift to something more pleasurable? ANOTHER AVENUE WHERE OUR dreams may come into play is when we encounter people who were with us during the birth of a particular dream. These individuals represent validation that our dreams were a real thing that we wanted to achieve at some point in time. Think about the friends you had during high school and college, where you would all talk about what you wanted to do after you were done with school. I remember bumping into a former classmate who recalled my interest in photography; they asked me if I pursued photography as a career. As the two of us started to talk about the past I saw images in my mind of me spending every weekend in the darkroom, developing the past week’s worth of photographs. I dreamed of being a photojournalist back then, remembering the amount of photos I would take in hopes of submitting some of them to news organizations. After meeting that former classmate my dream of being a photographer came back to life for a short time. I found my camera up on a shelf in the closet, so I started taking photographs again to see how it would feel. The feeling only lasted a short time but it did feel good. A similar thing happened to the friends in this musical comedy sequel. DISENCHANTED AND DISILLUSIONED WITH the life they were now leading the former Bellas singing group got back together to audition for an overseas USO tour. Being chosen meant each of the members could leave their life behind and start over with a new one; however one had to be careful what they wished for. Starring Anna Kendrick (The Accountant, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates) as Beca, Rebel Wilson (How to be Single, Bridesmaids) as Fat Amy, Brittany Snow (Hairspray, Prom Night) as Chloe and Anna Camp (The Help, True Blood-TV) as Aubrey; this 3rd installment quickly went from a cute to silly story. I thought the script was awful and missed the opportunity to relive the original film’s charm. There seemed to be less singing and an increase in lame comedy bits that bored me. It was a shame the producers decided to make this sequel that dragged down any fun memories one might have had with the former films. And with the different story lines that were thrown into this picture all I have to say is this 3rd one was not the charm; instead it was off key.
1 ¾ stars
THOUGH I try to avoid using the word “should,” in this case I think it is appropriate. One should not get offended by which table they are assigned to at a celebratory function, such as a wedding or bar mitzvah. Whether you believe it or not there is a ranking system, just like there is one for the seating arrangement at the Oscar awards. I am not including company functions here since most of the ones I have attended did not have assigned tables. It makes sense to me to place those people that may have a task to perform closer to the staging area of a room. For example the siblings of the bride and groom would be seated near the newlyweds so they would have easy access to give their speeches. Grandparents are always placed close by out of respect or maybe just to keep an eye on them for whatever reason. Those in the wedding party also would be seated somewhere near the newlyweds since those individuals I would assume are part of the couples’ inner circle of close friends and relatives. I see it as a ranking system in general, plus I can see the logic in it. THERE is a running joke in my family about the table that is closest to the kitchen. I freely admit, at least within my family structure, those seated at that particular table tend to be individuals who do not fit in at the other tables. No one in that group is going to perform any function like a toast or speech; there may be a pair of single people placed there, especially if the bride and/or groom is trying to fix up a relative or friend; and it is not uncommon to place a person there who shares only a past history with the celebrating families, having been invited out of respect. As long as the food is good it really doesn’t matter where I sit, though the guests at the last table in this dramatic comedy would have been a bit of a challenge for me. GOING from being the maid of honor to simply a guest when the best man dumped her Eloise, played by Anna Kendrick (The Accountant, The Hollars) found herself seated at the dreaded last table at the wedding. She was not the only one at the table. The idea for this story was something I could easily relate to and felt almost anyone else would find something in common with it. With Lisa Kudrow (Easy A, Friends-TV) as Bina Kepp, Craig Robinson (This is the End, Pineapple Express) as Jerry Kepp and June Squibb (Nebraska, Scent of a Woman) as Jo Flanagan; I liked the variety of the cast and each of their back stories. As for the script it provided plenty of chances for most viewers to connect to something familiar in their own lives. The issue I had was the script was too basic; it was too easy to see the jokes coming, the acting was partially uneven due to the dialog and none of the scenes were pushed to a farther place to add some intensity to the story. I felt as if everything was on one emotional level which led to boredom. The script really needed to be punched up to make this picture stand out from other movies that had similar story lines. If you get an invitation to this film you might want to send back your regrets.
1 ¾ stars
IT is quite easy to be pessimistic when one has experienced many disappointments. I have mentioned in the past I refer to myself as a defensive pessimist. The first time I heard this term was in one of my psychology classes. The term fit me like a custom-made suit. Through classroom discussions I learned some new things about myself. I would not be labeled a “downer,” but I never was one to look on the bright side of a situation. This I found out was a good thing because me and people with a similar mindset prepare for the worst in a situation, but are quicker to adapt then those who stay positive. I will give you an example of something that happened to me this week. MY furnace had to be replaced immediately. The HVAC company offered a 36 month payment plan, interest free. Who would not want to take advantage of this offer? However, as I was filling out the online application I noticed the issuing bank was the same bank I had a horrible time with when I refinanced my mortgage. Just to give you a reference point this bank had my mortgage and my application to refinance it was declined one time because no one at the bank checked off the prefix Mr. So now as I continued the application process a part of my brain was already planning for the worst. I was coming up with a couple of backup plans if the bank was going to hassle me again. Sure enough the bank responded to my application by only giving me a $900.00 credit limit. I will spare you the foul language; only telling you my FICA score is 834-840. I called the bank with no fear because I had my options but in 15 minutes they increased my credit limit to $9500.00. If this did not happen I would still be able to keep my appointment for the new furnace; could an optimist make the needed adjustments? Something to ponder as you watch this colorful, animated adventure film. WHEN one of the townsfolk was kidnapped optimist Poppy, voiced by Anna Kendrick (The Accountant, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates), was positive she could save her fellow troll. It only meant working with the pessimist Branch, voiced by Justin Timberlake (Friends with Benefits, Runner Runner). This film festival winning comedy had a fun soundtrack to accompany the kaleidoscopic scenes. Though the movie was geared towards children, adults could find things they would like about the story. For me the idea of working together resonated strongly in the script. The story was basic, offering very little in originality; I felt as if the purpose of the movie was to make troll dolls popular again. With that being said let me tell you the things that kept my interest through this picture were the use of sarcasm, the dancing, song selection and the color palette. What you see in the trailer is pretty much what you get in the film. I try my best not to go into a movie theater with expectations, but I have to say this film was easy fun. There was a brief extra scene during the credits.
2 ¾ stars
Water seeking its own level is a way I look at people who have an overabundance of one attribute. Let me show you what I mean. If I saw a person who was extraordinary in a sports activity I would soon discover they were deficient in another part of their life. Not to make this sound like a given but within my small world this seemed to be the norm. There was this boy in school who was a genius when it came to mathematics. He had little skill in socialization, often times he would be off and away from the other students. Because he showed this amazing side of himself and the teacher did nothing to bridge the gap between him and the rest of the class, the other students shied away from him. He had a hard time through high school, though he only stayed for a couple of years before getting a scholarship to MIT at the age of 15. I hope this explains what I mean by water seeking its own level; because math skills took up a majority of this person’s brain, other skills were not fed as much. Hopefully I am making sense here; because there was a time (or maybe it still happens) when people did not take the time to find that special skill in a person. I feel each person has abilities but some don’t translate well. Another way of saying this would be to describe human beings as a recipe. If there is too much sugar they are extra sweet; if they are mean spirited then there is not a lot of goodness in them. Everything has to find a way to balance out inside of us some way. CHRISTIAN Wolff, played by Ben Affleck (Gone Girl, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), had a father who refused the advice of doctors on how to treat his son. It was because of his decision Christian was able to take care of himself as an adult. This action crime drama twisted its way inside of me. With Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air, Pitch Perfect franchise) as Dana Cummings, J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Labor Day) as Ray King and John Lithgow (Interstellar, Love is Strange) as Lamar Black; the story grabbed me on several levels. First I thought the way the writer handed the subject of autism was both sensitive and humorous. Ben did a wonderful job and I especially liked the chemistry between him and Anna. They were not only sweet together but plausible. I thought the flashback scenes would have been a distraction but on the contrary they only added a real depth to the characters. Now keep in mind I never look ahead while watching a film to try and figure it out. This film took me by surprise with the twists and turns that took place. Keeping this real, let me tell you there were a few scenes that did not ring true; but in the scheme of things, it did not matter to me. The movie took an important subject and made it part of an entertaining story. Now if I could find an accountant like this one; or on second thought, I would be glad to wait for a sequel to this film.
Unless there is something seriously dramatic going on there is no way to know your family may be different from other families. This is one of the reasons we initially grow up believing we are just normal. However once you start experiencing the dynamics within other families it can be eye opening. I remember the first time my best friend invited me for dinner when we were in 3rd grade. Sitting there I knew something was just different about his family. His older brother sat at the dinner table with us and the parents, but he never said a word to me or his younger brother. He only would talk to the parents but just barely. To an outsider they would say that brother was just being rude, but to a young me I thought he was mean. As I grew and had more opportunities to be around other families I actually started to enjoy the experiences. I wonder if that was the start of my interest in pursuing interests in psychology. A college friend invited me to their home for the weekend where I wound up feeling like I was on one of those old family television shows from the 1950s or 60s. Every family member would get dressed up for dinner; I could not understand how the mother could cook an entire meal yet look like she was ready to go out on the town. There was another family I experienced that cursed at each other like they were just having a friendly conversation. Oh and how could I forget the family that shared a meal with me where all and I mean all the home cooked foods were barely edible to me? I do not want to sound ungrateful but nothing tasted like it was supposed to taste and some things did not look like they were cooked enough; yet all of the family members carried on about the food as if it were the best thing since sliced bread. It just goes to show there really is no such thing as a “normal” family. ONLY after his mother was admitted into the hospital did John Hollar, played by John Krasinski (Away We Go, 13 Hours), travel back home to be with his family. One tends to forget about their family when they are away from them. This film festival nominated comedic drama also starred Margo Martindale (The Hours, August: Osage County) as Sally Hollar, Sharlto Copley (Elysium, District ) as Ron Hollar and Richard Jenkins (The Visitor, The Cabin in the Woods) as Don Hollar. I thought Margo and Richard were the best out of the cast. The story had fun moments in it but there really was nothing that moved me to think I was watching a good movie. Maybe because there were a variety of issues taking place I felt nothing stood out except for Margo’s character. The actors tried their best I believe and John who also directed did a decent job; but the ending left me with a blah feeling. I do not know if it is because I have seen my share of dysfunctional families that I did not think this film was any big deal.
Weddings bring out the best in some people and the worst in others. What is supposed to be a happy occasion can dissolve into a grudge match between family members or guests. A friend of mine recently told me about a wedding they attended for one of their family members. Evidently there is a cousin who becomes belligerent after having a few drinks. As I was listening to this story I quickly came to the conclusion this cousin was essentially a bully. He wound up trying to pick a fight with a cousin from the bride’s side for no apparent reason; however, that cousin was a black belt in the martial arts. As soon as the drunken bully threw the first punch he was immediately thrown onto his back by the martial arts expert. Family members from both sides rushed to the scene, picked up the cousin from the floor and took him away. That type of entertainment I could do without at a wedding; my experiences have been less dramatic at the weddings I have attended. What I have found at weddings are relatives who feel it is appropriate to ask, not only the bride and groom but other family members both married and single, personal questions about when they will have children or when will they settle down and get married. Or better yet, they will go up to a single person and ask them why they are not married yet as if something is wrong with being single. Oh I just remembered this one wedding I went to where the parents of both the bride and groom hated each other and did not hide their feelings about it to anyone. This is why I said what I said earlier about weddings and the people who attend them. I could easily understand the concerns the family had in this comedy. THE parents of hard partying brothers Dave and Mike Stangle, played by Zac Efron (Neighbors franchise, The Lucky One) and Adam Devine (The Intern, Pitch Perfect franchise), demanded their sons each bring a date to their sister’s wedding to keep them in check from riling each other up. The brothers felt they could find respectable girls with an online ad. Inspired by a true story this comedy came with some strong language. The other thing it came with was a cast that was skilled in comedic timing. Along with Zac and Adam there was Anna Kendrick (Into the Woods, Cake) as Alice and Aubrey Plaza (Dirty Grandpa, Safety Not Guaranteed) as Tatiana. These two women were exceptional in their comedic abilities. There were some laugh out loud moments in this adventure romance but after a while the script turned into a series of crazy events that did not offer anything new for the viewer. If it was not for the cast performing so well, I probably would have been bored through parts of this film. Outrageous, loony with poor judgments and lots of alcohol; some of you may be grateful you did not get an invite to this wedding.
2 ½ stars
More so today than any time before, I believe a sense of disbelief falls over an individual who meets someone who appears to have all the qualities to become their ideal mate. The path to perfection can start out with the simplest common denominator such as both parties prefer hot instead of cold weather or each of them is lactose intolerant. For me I assume they will understand me better if they too are left handed. From this starting point one’s brain starts sending out signals of mistrust as a defense against the heart that is waiting to gallop out of the starting gate. Here is where the conflict emerges; on the one hand, this new person is steadily matching each of the items on your checklist for the perfect person. But at the same time your brain is telling you this is too good to be true; there is no such thing as being perfect. I have learned there is no such thing as perfect; the way I feel about “being perfect” is the same way I feel about “being normal.” Each cannot set the exact same standard across the board to fit every single person on the planet. What one person thinks is normal another may feel differently. So what an individual has to do is keep a checklist of things that would be a deal breaker for starting a relationship with someone. Depending on the person some items on that list could be: no pets, only city living, gambler, no children or weight issues. A deal breaker for me would be if they were an assassin like the one in this action comedy. UNLUCKY in relationships Martha McKay, played by Anna Kendrick (Into the Woods, Pitch Perfect franchise), could not stop wondering about the curious man she met even though he frightened her. This romantic romp also starred Sam Rockwell (Poltergeist, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) as Mr. Right, Tim Roth (The Hateful Eight, Hardcore Henry) as Hopper and James Ransone (Sinister franchise, Inside Man) as Von Cartigan. I enjoyed the mix of Anna and Sam because both easily handled the comedy of the story. The script provided a variety of madcap scenes that were on the verge of being silly filler. I felt the actors worked well together with the script that did not provide enough new ideas to pull it out of being a typical story for this genre. There were scenes that had violence and blood but they were quick and kept on the “light” side if you know what I mean. Since I have been a fan of Sam for a long time I think that is what kept me interested in this movie. If they had chosen a different actor I probably would have enjoyed this film less. To watch this movie it would be better to wait until it is on DVD. Now I say this only because I have a mental checklist of things that a picture has to have to take me to a different place.
The night was going to be the first of its kind in this part of the country. An amusement park was closing early to host a charity event that a group of us decided to attend. To gain entry into the park you had to have a special wristband; it was weird to see employees of the park usher out those who did not have one of these bands. However, it was a cool feeling to walk around the park with like-minded folks. The weather was perfect with a summer ending temperature accompanied by a gentle breeze. While we were walking around the park speakers that normally played non-descript background music were pumping out dance music. In fact the center outdoor stage was turned into a huge dance floor with spotlights and disco balls. It was such a successful event the park agreed to host another one the following year. Since all of us had a great time, we decided we would get together next year and do it again. The following year’s event was well attended and the weather was even better this time. As we walked around we noticed some of the rides were not available; we could not remember if they were open the first time. I noticed there were fewer restaurants and food kiosks available for us; luckily I ate before we left for the park. All I remember thinking at the time was the event did not have the same fun feel and magic as the first one. AFTER creating a major embarrassment in front of the President of the United States, the Barden Bellas were banned from performing or auditioning; essentially it would eliminate the a cappella singing group from existence. The only way the women could return to performing was to enter and win an international competition that no American group had ever won. This musical comedy sequel quickly came on strong with its solid singing and dancing performances. Returning cast members like Beca and Amy, played by Anna Kendrick (Into the Woods, The Voices) and Rebel Wilson (Pain & Gain, Bridesmaids), were joined by Hailee Steinfeld (Begin Again, True Grit) as Emily and Birgitte Hjort Sorensen (Borgen, Marie Kroyer) as arch rival Kommissar. There were parts of this film I enjoyed but others seemed forced with cheap humor. In fact I thought several of the jokes were being beaten over our heads and a couple were distasteful in my opinion. Where the first movie was a classic underdog one; this one did not offer the same kind of connection for me. If I was not a fan of the singing portions, I would have been bored after a while. The magic was less compared to the original film. One surprise extra scene in the middle of the ending credits.
2 1/2 stars