The telephone loudly pierced the purposeful silence that descended upon the house. It was less than 5 minutes prior to the Oscars telecast, so it was obvious the caller did not know me. Everyone who knows me knows not to call me on Oscar Sunday. I need the day to take care of life’s chores before settling in to watch the show and see how my predictions will fare. With the controversy over this year’s nominations I commend host Chris Rock tackling the subject head-on, with a mixture of humor and seriousness. I felt he found the perfect balance to carry off the monologue. As the show progressed I would have preferred it if Chris expanded beyond this one subject. Yes, there was the Girl Scout cookie moment but it seems ever since Ellen DeGeneres took that selfie shot in the audience, every telecast now has to have some kind of interaction with the audience. The cookie gag was funny for a moment but was not necessary in my opinion.
Though I just heard on the news that this telecast had the lowest television ratings of the past 8 years, I thought the news ticker running across the bottom of the screen listing the people the winners wanted to thank was a good idea; their speeches certainly seemed shorter to me. As far as I could remember this telecast was the closest to end on time compared to recent past shows. My favorite acceptance speeches were given by Leonardo DiCaprio and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, though I wished the music was not playing during Alejandro’s speech like it did not for Leonardo. I also enjoyed the quick informational blurbs that appeared next to the presenters, despite them being a bit small to read at times. Since I am a big fan of music, I was looking forward to the singing of the nominated songs. Lady Gaga did not disappoint; I thought her performance was a highlight of the show and was surprised her song did not get an Oscar. The two presenters that stood out for me were Louis C.K. for Documentary Short Subject and Toy Story’s Woody and Buzz Lightyear for Best Animated Film. Oh and I cannot forget the robots from Star Wars and the Minions.
If you know me you probably realize there would have to be something startling inappropriate or poorly thought out for me to dislike an Oscar telecast. There have been hosts that were quickly forgettable, speeches that dragged on forever and presenters that used the opportunity for personal gain; but I do not care, the bottom line for me has always been the celebration of the movies I love. Ever since I was a little boy, sitting on the floor in front of the TV with my bowl of popcorn, the Oscars has been my favorite show to watch. So with that being said, it is time to close the chapter on this year’s Oscar telecast and begin seeking out what will get the nod for next year’s show.
Some people’s costumes are more surprising than other ones. With my philosophy about our bodies being rented, add on the things we wear and sometimes we can transform ourselves into a different type of individual. What one person wears for work may change the way they look to someone else. After all these years I still am fascinated when I come across a member from one of my classes outside and away from the health club. Having seen them only in workout wear, it can be a real contrast to see someone dressed up in their work costume such as a power suit or uniform. In fact, the same thing happens to me all the time when a member sees me somewhere other than class. For myself I may form an impression about the person based on our interactions in class; but then when I see them in a different setting, my impression may be out of synch. We all form impressions of people; I refer to it as taking an imaginary photo of a person with our mind and placing it in our back pocket to check on later after spending more time with them. Sometimes the two impressions will match but other times it may be hard to believe what is right in front of our eyes. FROM playing a talking bear comedic actor Andre Allen, played by Chris Rock (Head of State, Grown Ups franchise), wanted to be taken seriously. With his upcoming wedding to television reality star Erica Long, played by Gabrielle Union (Good Deeds, Cadillac Records); Andre hoped his choice to take on a serious role to play a slave in a dramatic serious film would change people’s minds about him. Written and directed by Chris, this film festival winning comedy was a smart vehicle for Chris to really shine in the public’s eye. One could say parts of the film seemed to mirror Chris’ life, but there was more to this movie. The script had elements of satire, parody, humor, surprise and vulnerability; though, the straightforward story arc was a bit predictable. I thought the chemistry worked well between the actors which also included Rosario Dawson (Sin City franchise, Cesar Chavez) as Chelsea Brown and Cedric the Entertainer (A Haunted House franchise, Larry Crowne) as Jazzy Dee. I enjoyed watching this picture and especially got a kick out of the cameo performances. There was enough bite in this comedy to chew on without choking. Chris left me with a wider impression than I had when I first walked into the theater. There was an extra short scene at the beginning of the credits.
Someone, please hand me a breath mint because I still have a bad taste in my mouth from this wretched film. Usually a sequel will show some kind of growth for its characters, but not this one. Coincidently, I recently attended my high school reunion. Visiting with former classmates was real special. We shared memories and laughed at some of the crazy things we did while attending school. The thing that separated us from the characters in this movie is we grew up. The closest I found to a story line in this celluloid catastrophe was Lenny Feder, played by Adam Sandler (The Waterboy, Happy Gilmore), moved his family back to his hometown, where he grew up with his old friends Eric, Kurt and Marcus; played by Kevin James (Here Comes the Boom, Paul Blart: Mall Cop), Chris Rock (Head of State, Down to Earth) and David Spade (The Benchwarmers, Tommy Boy). The lack of a story made for a dull series of infantile jokes and gags; some that had no relevance to what the characters were doing. In fact, I found some of the jokes offensive. With Adam being credited as one of the writers, all I can tell you is the writing was lazy. It seemed as if the characters were thrown into the story just to give Adam’s friends a job. What I did not understand is why someone like Steve Buscemi (Rampart, Boardwalk Empire-TV) would agree to do a cameo as Wiley. I thought he was successful and making decent money. As for some of the other actors in cameo appearances, it was obvious they needed a paycheck. There was nothing I found redeeming about this film. I did not find anything funny about people with flatulence or indigestion. There are two reasons why I gave an extra 1/4 star to my rating of this so called comedy. The first has to do with the cast. Without naming names, this film is doing taxpayers a favor because it included several actors who would otherwise be collecting unemployment benefits. The second reason is for the complete shock I had that Rob Schneider (The Hot Chick, Deuce Bigalow franchise) was not part of the cast.
1 1/4 stars
Age can be any number you want it to be. When you think about it, where is it written that you have to act a certain way because of your age? I try to encourage my students to enjoy the moment without worrying what someone else might think of them. Deep down I am a kid at heart and I allow that little boy inside of me to come out periodically and play. It was for that reason I thought this DVD would be fun to rent. The cast consisted of some reliable comedic talent such as Chris Rock (Down to Earth, Head of State) and Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids, Friends With Kids). On the other hand since this was an Adam Sandler (Big Daddy, Reign Over Me) movie I knew Rob Schneider (The Animal, The Hot Chick) would be part of the cast. It must be Adam’s good deed to keep Rob employed and off the streets. The story was about a group of friends who after many years return to their childhood home, to attend their old basketball coach’s funeral. After so long carrying the responsibilities that came with being an adult, could the friends reconnect like they did as kids? This comedy puzzled me. How was it that each actor individually could excel at their craft, but put together they were not funny? The script was tired and predictable with lame jokes and simple sight gags. Salma Hayek (Frida, Here Comes the Boom) and Kevin James (Zookeeper, Here Comes the Boom) added very little with their roles. I think what it comes down to is Adam sticks to the formula he created in pumping out these movies with low brow humor. There was nothing horrible in this film; it just did not do anything for me. If you need some mindless entertainment after a rough day, then this would be the ideal movie to sit back and watch. There must have been a lot of people who needed to sit back and relax because the movie studio is working on a sequel. You have been warned.
1 3/4 stars — DVD
What a flashback I got while watching this animated movie. No, not that type of flashback; I am talking about when I went to see the circus with my aunt and cousins when I was a little boy. This film was just as fun but without the animal smells. As the third installment of this franchise, this one was the best one. The assortment of vibrant colors reaching across the screen was just beautiful. Starting where the 2nd movie left off, the furry friends were still in Africa. Feeling homesick for New York City, the group of animals hatched up a plan to get back home. Among the usual cast there was Alex the lion, voiced by Ben Stiller (Tropic Thunder, Tower Heist); Marty the zebra, voiced by Chris Rock (Head of State, Down to Earth) and Melman the giraffe, voiced by David Schwimmer (Friends-TV, Six Days Seven Nights). Once the group arrived in Monte Carlo, the action went into high gear. New character Captain Chantel DuBois, voiced by Frances McDormand (Moonrise Kingdom, Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day), was determined to capture Alex so she could mount his head on her trophy wall. I enjoyed the humor that was appropriate for young children, along with having fun lines written with the adult in mind. A madcap chase ensued as the animals traveled across Europe with Captain DuBois hot on their tails. Filled with excitement, laughs and thrills; this wonderful movie had everything to please a young child and a grown-up who was a kid at heart.
3 1/4 stars