ONCE I WALKED INSIDE THE BUILDING, I was even less convinced I would have a good time. The building was on a commercial street, in the middle of the block. There was no signage out front except for its address and a small sign above the door that said, “THEATER ENTRANCE.” When we opened the front door, we were surprised there was a long hallway in front of us with a string of lights strung all the way down the ceiling to another door. When we got to and opened the 2nddoor, we found a rectangular shaped room with support columns going down the center of it. There was a dresser to one side with its top drawer open and filled with snack bags of pretzels, popcorn and potato chips. A young-looking man was standing behind it. He asked us if we were there to see the play and I said yes. Asking for my last name, he rifled through what looked like a recipe box to retrieve our reserved tickets. From there he directed us to walk thru a black curtain that looked like it had gone through the wash one too many times, to find seats in the theater’s auditorium. CALLING IT AN AUDITORIUM WAS A bit of a stretch, based on what I was seeing. The area, no bigger than a neighborhood bakery shop, had black painted brick walls. Along one side was a makeshift wooden stage and by stage, I mean it was raised one foot off the floor, looking like a large box. There were metal folding chairs lined up in rows, 6 rows to be exact. I was already uncomfortable knowing I was going to be sitting on an unpadded chair for two hours approximately. Hanging from the ceiling were a row of spotlights that looked like metal cocoons that were in the middle of hatching. The only other thing in the room was another black curtain that was covering a doorway next to the stage. As we took our seats, I remembered the time I was involved in a school play. It was a barebones operation, similar to what I was presently seeing around me. I remembered an argument took place between two of the stagehands, over what color to paint a backdrop. A cast member refused to talk to another cast member, only speaking to them if it was dialog from the script. Up until our opening night, I was not sure we could pull off putting on a production. With me sitting in this odd space with my friends, I could not imagine what was in store for me and would it even be any good. It is funny, I felt the same way as I started to watch this comedic drama. INDEPENDENT FILMMAKER NICK REVE, PLAYED BY Steve Buscemi (The Death of Stalin, Norman), has one day to film a powerful piece. It seemed as if everyone else around him had their own agenda. With Catherine Keener (Get Out, We Don’t Belong Here) as Nicole Springer, Dermot Mulroney (Young Guns, August: Osage County) as Wolf, Danielle von Zerneck (La Bamba, Dangerous Curves) as Wanda and James Le Gros (Drugstore Cowboy, Certain Women) as Chad; this film festival winner was a surprise for me. The story was a strong satire about independent filmmaking. Despite Steve’s yelling getting to me after a while, I thought the cast was fun; Catherine was exceptional with her role. The humor was sly, where one had to pay attention to the dialog closely. Now granted, some scenes seemed way over the top in craziness; however, having it all revolve around the making of a movie made it more plausible to me. All I can say about this picture is that it was quirky and funny; and maybe, that is because it reminded me of that time back in school, when we were trying to put on a play.
THE TWO FRIENDS WERE PLAYING a board game they had played many times before. However, this time the game would have a different outcome. Not by very much, Friend #1 had acquired more winning pieces than Friend #2. This did not imply that winning was a sure thing for Friend #1. Halfway through the duration of the game Friend #2 decided to do an unexpected move that was never done before. When Friend #1 questioned the move, Friend #2 explained the reason for his move which essentially changed the rules of the game. This made no sense to Friend #1 so he challenged the sudden change in the rules. If the two of them had a discussion beforehand and agreed to this new rule Friend #1 would not have gotten upset; but without saying a word and just deciding to make a change because he was losing, Friend #1 was upset. The two of them argued back and forth, each one feeling they were in the right. Unfortunately, they never finished the game nor did they ever play it again; both were rather stubborn. I was Friend #1. EVER SINCE THAT ARGUMENT I have always had a bad attitude towards anyone who changes the rules in the middle of something. Maybe because I am not a spontaneous person I have a hard time when plans are set and then something unexpected comes up to disrupt the plans or schedule. At least now I am much better at letting go and not letting the shift in plans upset me. The one place where I cannot do this though is at work. When payment terms have been established with a customer (I am in the credit department) and we ship out product to them; nothing riles me up more than a customer who decides to change the due date on their invoice. I take offense from this act which I know may sound looney to some of you; however, I feel business to business dealings need to follow rules to form trust between companies. When someone does not follow the rules how can a company or person interact with them? If one side abides by the rules and the other side doesn’t; who do you think will benefit from it? Sadly, the one who doesn’t I feel will come out on top more often. And if the rule follower decides to join the other side by not following the rules, the only thing it will produce is chaos. It becomes a dangerous world then and this dramatic crime thriller is proof. ONCE THE MEXICAN CARTELS STARTED to smuggle terrorists into the United States, the rules the U.S. government had been following needed to be eliminated. There was one small strike team that could thrive in such an environment. This action-packed sequel starred Josh Brolin (Deadpool 2, Only the Brave) as Matt Graver, Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects, Escobar: Paradise Lost) as Alejandro, Isabela Moner (Transformers: The Last Knight, 100 Things to do Before High School) as Isabel Reyes, Jeffrey Donovan (Changeling, Burn Notice-TV) as Steve Forsing and Catherine Keener (Capote, Get Out) as Cynthia Foards. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat while watching this intense film. There were multiple scenes of blood and violence. The pacing of the story was consistent throughout and I especially enjoyed the acting from Benicio. Between the two films there was similarity in their look and action scenes; however one of the differences that stood out was not having a character that was a counterpoint to the others. The story needed a sympathetic person. Instead the script kept a constant sense of darkness and dread throughout the picture. In addition, the script could have used more variance with the emotional level. I know there are some rules that need to be broken and this action film broke a whole bunch of them.
YOU can plan, contemplate and imagine every scenario but it will not make a difference. The first time you meet the parents of your significant other is a stressful experience. One wants to be at their best; perfectly dressed and groomed, remembering any stories you heard about them; in a way it is not so far removed from a job interview in my opinion. As to location I guess there are pluses and minuses to meeting the parents, either on your home turf or their surroundings. Personally I have experienced both ways and I prefer hosting parents instead of being their guest for the first meeting. At least for me when I do not have to focus on my surroundings I can be more attentive to the parents’ needs. When I have to travel to visit the parents I have to take into account my eating restrictions, my privacy and remembering my place as a guest. This takes a lot of energy to do, at least for me. On the plus side I can decide to leave which I could not do if the parents were visiting us. There is nothing worse than realizing early on you are not connecting with the parents for whatever reason but you still have to remain civil and pretend like everything is okay. They say when you marry the person you love you are also marrying their family. FROM a causal meal together to a weekend away, I have experienced a variety of different ways to break the ice. I honestly cannot recall ever feeling calm about the experience. In one relationship I wound up meeting the parents over the internet when a mobile device was shoved into my hands and I was told to say hello to their parents. Talk about not being prepared, I had to try and calm my nerves while making small talk which was never my forte. So while I am communicating back and forth I sit and wonder if I am sounding like a babbling fool as I try to come up with conversation points; heaven forbid there should me a dreaded moment of silence. However I would rather experience this over and over compared to what the boyfriend in this suspense horror film had thrust upon him. CHRIS Washington, played by Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario, Kick-Ass 2), was already nervous meeting his girlfriend Rose’s, played by Allison Williams (Peter Pan Live-TV, Girls-TV), parents because she did not tell them he was black. Upon arriving at her parents’ estate it turned out Rose’s parents Missy and Dean Armitage, played by Catherine Keener (Captain Phillips, Into the Wild) and Bradley Whitford (The Cabin in the Woods, The West Wing-TV), were very interested in him, a little too interested. Written and directed by Jordan Peele (Keanu, Key and Peele-TV), this mystery satire was a big shock for me in a good way. The satire was biting and edgy while Jordan built up the suspense in a creepy intense way. I thought the story was great along with the script. This was the type of movie that takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions; one only has to give in and go with it. Along with the fun visuals and the good acting coming out of Catherine and Bradley, this was a fun and exciting movie watching experience. I have to tell you I would do FaceTime or Skype anytime compared to this meeting of the parents experience.
3 1/3 stars
There are people who come into our lives to provide us with the glasses of confidence for us to see our true abilities. It can happen to any of us where the important things close to us cannot be seen. This movie review site is the perfect example. I had been content emailing friends and family my latest feelings about the movies I had seen. A few friends mentioned setting up a site where I would only need to type up one review of a movie and the site would forward it to those who signed up. One friend in particular was the catalyst for me to pull myself away from the fear of uncertainty and venture into the vulnerable world of the internet. He was a former talk show host out east, who was a gifted cook. His latest project was to create a blog where he could teach viewers how to cook. He had such an enthusiasm that was infectious regarding his blog that it spilled over onto me. With his encouragement and incredible positive attitude, I began the mental process of creating Moviejoltz. There are so many examples around us of individuals who have the ability to illuminate our seeds of hope; I could go on and on. INSTEAD I suggest you watch what took place in this comedic drama. Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Now You See Me) played Dan, a down on his luck music executive. Spiraling down into a world of alcoholism, one night Dan heard a voice in a nightclub that would change his life and the life of the singer/songwriter Greta, played by Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit). Written and directed by John Carney (Once, The Rafters) this musical movie had a certain charm and sweetness to it, even if it was somewhat predictable. The best part was the acting. Besides Mark and Keira, Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Ender’s Game) as Dan’s daughter Violet and musician Adam Levine (American Horror Story-TV) as Greta’s boyfriend Dave were excellent with their characters. I will admit there was a part of me that felt the director was trying to recapture the magic of his movie Once, however having the story set in New York City along with the gifted cast, I found myself being entertained by the story. An additional surprise was seeing Keira carrying a tune which only added to my enjoyment of the soundtrack. Being a firm believer that we each are handed a gift from everyone we meet, I found the way the characters connected in this film to be life affirming.
There are those who want a fairy tale ending where the couple live happily ever after. Some people only care to watch topics of a historical nature. Many individuals want to be taken to a completely different world made up of aliens and fanciful creatures. Others seek out movies that will scare and frighten them. That is the beauty of movies; there is enough variety to fulfill everyone’s needs. Now if I tell you this movie was horrifying, I am willing to bet some of you will immediately think there must be some blood or violence involved in this film. There was no such thing, but this dramatic thriller was creepy and disturbing. I think every parent in particular needs to watch this riveting movie. Clive Owen (The Boys Are Back, Killer Elite) and Catherine Keener (Enough Said, Captain Phillips) played Will and Lynn, the parents of 14 year old daughter Annie, played by Liana Liberato (Trespass, Stuck in Love). The parents’ lives disintegrate when they discovered their daughter’s boyfriend was not a student from her school, but someone she met online. Directed by David Schwimmer (Nothing But the Truth, Friends-TV), I thought he did an admirable job for the most part. There was predictability to the story but the acting won me over. Besides the excellent work by the cast members I mentioned, there were solid performances by Viola Davis (Prisoners, Beautiful Creatures) as Gail Friedman and Jason Clarke (Lawless, The Great Gatsby) as Doug Tate. The flashing of text messages on the screen was distracting for me in the beginning, but I began to like the way it moved the story forward. I was already fearful of the internet, but now I am creeped out even more due to the story in this drama. Considering the topic, I felt both the writers and director created a starkly real portrayal. In a way one could look at this film festival winner as a coming of age story and I would not have an issue with it. I just find it sad that things shown in this film are now part of a young child’s life these days. Whether you want happy endings, different realities or history lessons in your movies; this film can provide these things for you. Just not in the way you would have imagined.
3 stars — DVD
Meeting friends is an important component of the dating process, but it is something I prefer holding off from until I see we are getting comfortable with each other. You can say what you want but that first initial meeting with your or their friends will partially be an interview procedure for a 2nd opinion. Do not get me wrong, I do not have a problem with that; however, I prefer having some quality time for the two of us to get some solid footing underneath before bringing in other personalities. I have been in situations where friends were involved too early at the beginning of the dating phase and personalities clashed immediately; it was truly an uncomfortable situation. As one gets older I do not know if it gets easier. If you do not believe me just see what happens in this touching comedy. Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Deconstructing Harry, Veep-TV) played Eva, a middle-aged divorcee with a daughter. When one of her clients Marianne, played by Catherine Keener (Into the Wild, A Late Quartet), began complaining about all the things her former spouse used to do; it started to have a negative affect on Eva’s budding relationship with Albert, played by James Gandolfini (Killing Them Softly, Welcome to the Rileys). There were several reasons why this movie was enjoyable to watch. The acting was wonderful; Julia and James made a real connection with their characters. Also, I had a twinge of sadness while watching James since this was his last movie before he died. The dialog never went over the top; keeping things at an emotive, sweet level. Even when scenes were dramatic the director let the actors use physical communication to convey their feelings. It really worked well in my opinion. Toni Collette (The Way Way Back, Little Miss Sunshine) as Eva’s best friend Sarah was a solid addition to the cast and story. Known more for her comedic skills, I thought Julia did a beautiful job with her character’s full range of emotions. Is the story believable? I believe so, I just hope I will never have to experience something similar. This was a well done film that was a fitting tribute to the illustrious career of James Gandolfini.
3 1/4 stars
Change within a person, if they so choose, usually happens over time. There are some people who make it look almost effortless; I am not one of those folks. The pace it takes me to set myself on a course for change barely can be measured with a pedometer. Keep in mind I have eaten the same thing for lunch at work every day, five days a week, for 20 years. In some unexplainable way I take pride in it because it was the same thing my mother did when she worked, as did her father my grandfather. Little did I know I would get a lesson about change from the prehistoric family in this animated comedy. By following the same exact rules every day Crug Crood, voiced by Nicolas Cage (Adaptation, Season of the Witch), had kept his family alive. Everyone knew when it started to get dark outside they had to retreat to the safety of their cave. Well, almost everyone knew except for his adventurous daughter Esp, voiced by Emma Stone (The Help, Zombieland). The family would have no choice however when disaster struck and the rules had to be changed, if they were going to survive. Catherine Keener (A Late Quartet, Into the Wild) voiced Ugla, Crug’s wife who was the peace maker of the family. Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein, The Beverly Hillbillies) voiced Gran, the thorn in Crug’s side. I enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would and part of the reason was the cast. Having been in some dreadful films lately, I thought Nicolas did a fine job as the father. The humor was predominantly slapstick, but not in an overpowering way. Ryan Reynolds (Buried, The Proposal) was perfect as the inventive Guy, letting his pet handle the majority of comedy between the two. It did not bother me that the story was formulaic, it was easily figured out. However, due to the pacing and excellent animation; I found myself going along for the exciting ride. This film was appropriate for the entire family; there was a little for everyone. I think the film had a positive effect on me because I was able to tune out the noisy children sitting near me. Is it possible that I am changing?
My college sociology professor used the term “Holy Deadlock” to describe a couple who stayed together for the wrong reasons. An example would be staying together for the children’s sake. This instructor claimed using children as an excuse to stay together did more harm than good. I have seen fighting couples use their kids as a way to attack or manipulate their significant other and it was awful to see. At that point the adult was no longer the parent, they were simply a conspirator. On the other hand, there are divorcing parents who act out in a different direction. They give in to the child’s every whim, hoping to make up for the failed relationship. Here, too, the adult is less of a parent as the child quickly learns the art of manipulation. In this comedy Cyrus, played by Jonah Hill (21 Jump Street, The Watch), was a master of manipulation. When his mother Molly, played by Marisa Tomei (The Lincoln Lawyer, The Wrestler), began to date John, played by John C. Reilly (Carnage, We Need to Talk About Kevin), Cyrus thought it would be easy to eliminate John from his mother’s life. He would discover the task at hand was easier said than done. What helped this story was the strong acting from the cast. I have enjoyed most of Marisa’s roles in the past and found her rock solid in playing Molly. In addition, playing John’s ex wife Jamie, Catherine Keener (Into the Wild, A Late Quartet) beautifully played off of John C. Reilly’s character. The fundamental elements of this story were sound; I only wished the writers would have added some punch. There was an easy predictability to several scenes. It takes effort to make a marriage work; it takes extra work to make a divorce successful for all involved parties.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
They say music soothes the savage beast. I beg to differ, music can do much more. There is some music that affects me on a physical level, where I get the urge to tap my foot or shake my hips. Then there is certain musical pieces where I feel as if I am being transported along a winding road with sloping curves and gentle hills. I have certain songs associated to special occasions that have occurred throughout my life. For example, I have a pop song that reminds me of my trip to the Badlands every time I hear it. Then there is the song I played repeatedly when I was a child that brings back memories of me playing on our back porch on a warm sunny day. As music has always been important to me, so was it in this dramatic movie. A famous string quartet struggled to stay together when resentments, love and illness came to light. It seems as if this is the year of Christopher Walken (Seven Psychopaths, The Maiden Heist) who played Peter Mitchell, the eldest member of the quartet. He was excellent playing a vulnerable, emotional widower. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master, Moneyball) can always be counted on giving his characters life, which he fully did as Robert Gelbart in this movie. I have enjoyed Catherine Keener’s (Into the Wild, The Interpreter) past performances; however, I felt she was not fully utilized as Juliette Gelbart. Though the acting was well done, I felt the story veered off into a sub story that was less interesting for me. If the writers would have kept their focus on the group dynamices and go deeper into each character, the movie would have been better. It would have been nice if there was more music being played to get through the boring parts.
2 2/3 stars
The bond between a mother and daughter can be a beautiful and loving connection. That was not the case in this comedy. After her husband declared he was divorcing her; high strung Diane, played by Catherine Keener (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Into the Wild), left with the children and reluctantly went to visit her aged, hippie of a mother. It had been 20 years since mother and daughter had last seen each other. Jane Fonda (Monster-in-Law, Agnes of God) was the pot smoking, laid back, free loving mother Grace–a total opposite from her tightly wound, uptight daughter. All staying under one roof; Grace, Diane and the grandchildren needed time not only to adjust to each other, but to heal issues from the past before they could go forward. The bright spot for me in this clunker of a movie was Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Silent House) playing the granddaughter Zoe. I have been so impressed with Elizabeth’s brief career in acting so far; she really has a gift for it. There were parts of the story that interested me; however, what turned me off was Jane Fonda’s character. It was so over the top stereotypical, I was annoyed by it. I would be curious to know why Jane took this role. With no surprises in this movie, it was not long before I started glancing down at my watch–never a good sign. Though Elizabeth and Catherine were good, it was not enough to save this lame movie.
1 3/4 stars