WHAT IS THAT BREAKING POINT THAT pushes a person to partake in illegal activities? I have been curious about it for a long time due to two experiences I witnessed. Many years ago, I worked at a retail business that was privately owned. The president was the son of the owner, who had died a few years before I was hired for the shipping and receiving department. The vice-president was the president’s brother-in-law. From what I saw, they seemed to be good friends who worked well together. Each one could easily fill in for the other, anytime one was out of the office; they both knew all aspects of the business. Or at least I thought so. After working there for a couple of years and getting promoted, I became more involved in the mechanics of the business. I would work a couple of Saturdays a month and it was not unusual for either of the men to stop by the store. One Saturday the president came in and asked me to join him in his office. I was perplexed, wondering if I had done something wrong. Once in his office he told me he fired his brother-in-law for stealing. I was completely in shock. How in the world could a relative, who had been working there for years, steal from his sister’s husband?!?! I wondered if that is how he was able to pay for his expensive clothing and cars? I STILL THINK ABOUT THAT VICE-PRESIDENT from time to time, curious whatever happened to him. It was never shared with us at the store whether the president took the vice-president to court or if there was any jail time involved. Since I had never encountered anything like it before, my mind swirled with scenarios that were originally created on television shows. Did the vice-president have to give everything back? Did he steal because of some drug habit? Did one of them plot to kill the other? It was hard for me to make any sense out of it. I wanted to know, when was that moment when the vice president decided, he was going to steal merchandise or cash from the business and his relative. I remember back in school we had a transfer student who was friendly, who never got in trouble at first. Fast forward two years, and he turned into this student who would steal cigarettes and smoke them behind the school. It was not long before he got caught stealing clothes. Once again what was going on in his environment that made him steal. Though I am not condoning it, I at least got a glimpse of the process in this dramatic, crime thriller. WITH THE AMOUNT OF DEBT WEIGHING her down, a caterer was offered a business proposal that sounded too good to be true, to make decent money. All she would have to do is go shopping. With Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed, Happiest Season) as Emily, Theo Rossi (Army of the Dead, Sons of Anarchy-TV) as Youcef, Bernardo Badillo (Sully, Revival) as Javier, Jonathan Avigdori (Snowfall-TV, Fauda-TV) as Khalil and Gina Gershon (Cagefighter, American Dresser) as Alice; I cannot remember being more impressed than I was watching Aubrey in this role. She was incredible with acting, going through a variety of emotions and actions. There were times I could feel what she was feeling in the scene; that is how good she performed. The script was original and current; I did not find any unnecessary dialog. Plus, I enjoyed the way the separate story lines were able to intermingle without missing a beat. After the movie was done and I was driving home, I kept thinking about Emily’s story and wondered what I would have done in a similar situation. There were a couple of scenes with blood and violence.
3 ½ stars
THE KIDS IN THE CLASSROOM SETTLED down when the teacher came in with a new student. He was thin with long legs under a shorter torso. With all of us looking at him the teacher introduced him; his name was nearly identical to mine except for the first letter. He was directed to an empty seat. When he came up to his seat he dropped his notebook and pencil box on the top of the desk, making a loud smacking sound. The way he sat in his chair was weird looking to me. He was slouched down, with his legs sprawled out and one arm propped up on the back of the seat. No other student in class ever sat that way as far as I could remember. The teacher noticed and asked him to sit properly in his seat. I thought there was a slight pause before he acquiesced. During the rest of the day there were other peculiar things he did. Like at recess, he had no interest in joining any of the games the students were playing on the playground. Instead, he leaned back on the fence and stared at the school building, only shifting his gaze at times to the students around him. HE BECAME WHAT ONE COULD REFER to as a “bad influence” on some of the students. There were already a few students in class who were not nice to the other students. With the addition of this new student, they got bolder with their actions and looked to him as their leader. For example, with the girl who sat in front of him he smeared petroleum jelly on her long pigtails. She was not aware until later when she was playing with one of the pigtails and her hand felt the greasy mess on her hair. The look on her face was one of horror. When she told the teacher, the new student denied it. Without proof, since he had hidden the jar of jelly in another desk, nothing happened to him. But the teacher started to keep her eye on him. I was sure she knew he was the culprit. Except for the small band of boys who hung around him, he never fit in with the rest of the class. It was such an odd thing to me because I had to work extra hard to just fit in, so as not to stand out among the students. I know it can be hard to be the new kid; you can see for yourself in this updated version of a past, horror movie. NOT HAVING BEEN ABLE TO MAKE friends yet in his new neighborhood Andy, played by Gabriel Bateman (Lights Out, Outcast-TV), received a special gift from his mother. It was the most popular toy on the market and Andy’s mother Karen Barclay, played by Aubrey Plaza (Dirty Grandpa, Ingrid Goes West) was sure the doll would become Andy’s first friend. She should have asked the doll first. With Mark Hamill (Star Wars franchise, Airborne) voicing Chucky, Brian Tyree Henry (Hotel Artemis, Widows) as Detective Mike Norris and Tim Matheson (Redline, The West Wing-TV) as Henry Kaslan; this latest version of the Chucky saga was already at a disadvantage for me. Remembering the older films, this one did not have the tense shock value needed to bring the story to life. Chucky’s antics were easy to figure out and that is even with holes in the script. There were different avenues available to make this story compelling if only the writers would have worked harder in giving deeper emotions to the characters. There were a couple of amusing lines, but, I could not tell if the script was trying to be sinister or campy. Compared to other film choices out there presently, this picture does not have the chance of fitting in. There were several bloody, violent scenes.
1 ¾ stars
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
The first time I saw a warning label printed on a product, I remember thinking why would anyone want to buy something that could harm them. It was a pack of cigarettes, I recall. The other item I remember were those plastic bags that dry cleaners used to wrap customers’ freshly laundered clothing. Today it seems as if almost everything comes with some type of warning. Some of them make sense like the ones regarding medicine and over the counter drugs. I am someone who wants to know if a drug is going to make me sleepy or loopy. Recently I bought a hot air popcorn popper and there was a warning not to submerge the base of it in water because it could be an electrical hazard. Ok, that makes sense to me. Now there are some product warnings I have seen where I think the manufacturer must be assuming the person buying their product has no common sense. Shouldn’t everyone know to lift up a hot pot by its handles? I absolutely understand companies are afraid they will get sued, but doesn’t the consumer bear some of the responsibility? Wasn’t there something in the news about a person taking legal action against a fast food chain because the hot coffee filled cup they placed between their legs, while driving out of the drive thru, spilled and burned their legs? Regarding movies, each of them comes with a rating which in a way is like a warning about the content of that particular film. None of the current ratings explain the warning one needs before seeing this comedy. HAVING recently buried his wife Dick Kelly, played by Robert De Niro (Joy, Being Flynn), convinced his soon to be married grandson Jason, played by Zac Efron (Neighbors, That Awkward Moment), to take him on a road trip. Their trip would reveal many new surprises. I want to know how the cast which also included Zoey Deutch (Beautiful Creatures, Ringer-TV) as Shadia, Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed, Life After Beth) as Lenore and Julianne Hough (Safe Haven, Footloose) as Meredith could do any type of press tour and not be embarrassed by this movie. This was one of the worst films I have seen in the past year. The script was vulgar, crude, obnoxious and offensive; I could go on. It is astounding that these actors agreed to do this picture, especially Robert De Niro. Sure he can do comedy but why would he set himself up for ridicule. I guarantee you when the time comes to do a tribute to him; this movie will not be included in any of the film clips of his past roles. In regards to Zac, it seemed to me as if he counted on his looks more than his limited acting skills. This movie needed a warning label so innocent people would not spend their money and unwittingly let the studio know it is okay to make a crappy film.
It felt as if I was receiving the winning lottery ticket when I was handed my high school diploma. I saw it as my opportunity to become someone different. You see, I was tired of being a punching bag and a punch line in high school. One of the reasons why I chose the particular university I attended was, as far as I knew, no one from my high school had applied there. The summer prior to attending the fall semester, I let my hair grow out to its natural curly state, began an exercise and diet program and most importantly, found student housing off campus. My studio apartment was on a floor that had mostly graduate students. Being the youngest and newest on the floor, the older students not only helped me navigate my way through the university system, but looked out for me. It was a whole different world for me, where I was finally able to be myself and not be judged. Having always felt that peer pressure was a highly infectious disease; I immediately understood where valedictorian Brandy Klark, played by Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed, Damsels in Distress) was coming from in this story. Determined not to still be a virgin by the time she started college, Brandy made a to do list of all the activities she felt she needed to achieve her goal. This comedy was filled with a multitude of strong, crude, graphic language and scenes. I did not have an issue with it, understanding the attraction to this film was having the story being told from a woman’s point of view. To verify my reactions, I imagined scenes where the female characters were male and came to the same conclusion: I did not find this movie funny. There were pockets of humor here and there, but overall I felt the movie was on overkill. Brandy’s relationship to her older sister Amber, played by Rachel Bilson (Jumper, Hart of Dixie-TV), was similar to other sister relationships done before. I felt more humor could have been mined from Brandy’s parents Judge and Mrs. Klark, played by Clark Gregg (The Avengers, 500 Days of Summer) and Connie Britton (Conception, Friday Night Lights-TV). As for Bill Hader (Superbad, Saturday Night Live-TV) playing pool manager Willy, his character was no different then the characters he did before on television. I did find the crisp pacing led to tight, steady scenes. If only the to do list in making this movie had been double checked.
1 3/4 stars
What would you do if you could travel back in time? Would you change anything from your past? I think I would have altered my eating habits at an earlier age. Or at least buy some Apple stock when it was only $10.00 a share. The question of time travel was quickly addressed in this charming, funny movie. At a local magazine’s staff meeting, one of the writers read a classified ad that was seeking an individual to be a companion in time traveling. Curious to find the writer of the ad, three staff members were sent out on an assignment to get to the bottom of this mysterious story. In a brilliant deadpan performance, Aubrey Plaza (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Damsels in Distress) played Darius, the reporter who was to make 1st contact with the author of the classified ad, aka the time traveler. A total surprise for me was seeing Mark Duplass (Your Sister’s Sister, Hannah Takes the Stairs) as the secretive Kenneth, inventor of the time machine. The reason for my surprise was seeing Mark again after just reviewing his other new picture this week, My Sister’s Sister. I have never seen the same actor debut in two movies that came out on the same day. As in my previous review of his other movie, Mark was just as excellent in this role. There was more to this engaging movie than just the possibility of time traveling. The interesting characters were also dealing with loss, longing, hope and the challenges associated with taking a leap of faith.