There has been a culinary phenomenon taking place in my city for the past couple of years. What I find curious about it is the focus has been on a basic American staple, the hamburger. Back when I used to eat hamburgers they were not something I gave much thought to; they were a reliable backup dish, easily found. But something happened where all these new restaurants started popping up around the city that focused on “gourmet” burgers. The majority of these places kept a limited menu: burgers, fries and milkshakes. Each place touted something unique about their hamburger/menu. One food establishment promoted the way they grilled their burgers; another pushed their hand cut fries. The competition was fierce and when everyone was on the same footing, one of the restaurants would do something to make themselves unique. I guess the latest rage, based on the advertisements I have seen, is combining different food items into a hamburger. Out of the blue there now is something called the mac and cheese burger which is a hamburger stuffed with macaroni and cheese. As I drove by one place I saw they are promoting a breakfast burger. My curiosity got the better of me so I had to look up and see what it was and I have to say, even if I was a hamburger lover, I would never order one. The breakfast burger had strips of bacon on top with a layer of hash browns. Inside the burger was cooked eggs with onions and if that was not enough, there was a sausage patty on the very top of the stack. Honestly it just floors me; I would love to sit in on one of the restaurant chains’ marketing meetings to see who thinks up these concoctions. It sounds to me as if every place is picking bits and pieces of other food chains and combining them in the hopes of creating something new. That theory applies to this crime movie. WHEN one specific bank became the target of several brutal heists FBI agent Montgomery, played by Christopher Meloni (42, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit-TV), felt the criminals wanted something more than just the bank’s money. This action film also starred Bruce Willis (Looper, The Fifth Element) as Hubert, Adrian Grenier (The Devil Wears Prada, Entourage-TV) as Wells and Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy, Riddick) as Stockwell. I thought the actors were the right choice for the roles, though I felt the characters were not much of a stretch for any of them. The issue was the script; to me it was a hodgepodge of different ideas that never blended well. At one point I found myself confused with the characters; which was a shame because the action scenes were not that bad, though still quite violent. This movie’s story did not offer anything new or creative. Instead I felt I was watching bits and pieces from other pictures that were twisted into this story in the hopes of presenting the viewer something new. It did not work; this still was simply a bank robbery picture.
1 ¾ stars
I feverishly was trying to keep up with my notes while the speaker was discussing the kinesiology behind their choreographic routines. The workshop was packed with fitness participants; I had no idea this would have been such a popular course. However, I soon realized why when I glanced at the person’s notebook next to me; she was drawing a portrait of the presenter. I was stunned; not because it was actually a good likeness, but because she appeared to be in her middle 20s. Didn’t this kind of thing go on back during our school years I wondered to myself? I could still remember back in school how easy it was to spot someone who had a crush on someone else. If they could not engage their intended target in conversation, they would always be close by to watch the movements of their heart’s attraction. When there was an age difference or more exactly a grade difference I always found it odd that it was okay if the male was in a higher grade, but not the female. I had a friend who had dated an older girl but he never talked about it, only if he was asked questions directly. Now keep in mind back then dating meant going out to eat, see a movie, sitting together during lunch period, hanging out in groups; all depending on what grade one was in. I do not recall hearing about such events like what I saw in this dramatic romance. ARTISTICALLY inclined teenager Minnie, played by Bel Powley (Side by Side, M.I. High-TV), had a crush on Monroe, played by Alexander Skarsgard (The East, What Maisie Knew). He was already dating her mother Charlotte, played by Kristen Wiig (Welcome to Me, The Skeleton Twins). Set in the 1970s in San Francisco, this film festival winning movie used animation in a creative way to bring some of Minnie’s thoughts to life. I thought the cast was exceptionally good; however, if I go by my standards regarding the entertainment value of a film, then I did not find this picture very entertaining. For me it came down to the subject matter, I was not comfortable with it. I do believe the story portrayed certain realness and I know I do not have the right to place my values on other people; but I just felt scenes were being regurgitated to drive a point home. There were parts of the picture that were nicely done and actually the script was well written, even if some of it was predictable to me. What I have always said about a movie is if it moves you, whether in a positive or negative way, then it has done its job. I was moved but I did not experience a lot of entertainment value with this film.
2 1/2 stars
Here is a little secret I will share with you on staying young: let the little child inside of you come out to play. There is no reason to suppress the joy and freedom we felt as children; it is therapeutic to find time to do something fun and it will keep you young. In our adult life we will encounter challenges, tests and a variety of events that harden us to be stoic and strong; I totally understand it. However, I do not know who decided the age of 18 or 21 is the dividing line between being a child or an adult. I have met a lot of adults who acted more like children than some children I have seen. The term “old soul” comes to mind when I recall some of the conversations I have had with younger people. Now I know reaching that magic age where you are suddenly transformed into an adult is a big deal; heck, I could not wait to vote for the first time in a presidential election. However, if a person is not responsible can they really be considered an adult? JUST before her 18th birthday Kat Connor, played by Shailene Woodley (The Fault in our Stars, Divergent), was faced with a terrible loss. Her mother Eve, played by Eva Green (Casino Royale, 300: Rise of an Empire); just picked up and left one day, leaving Kat and her father Brock, played by Christopher Meloni (Man of Steel, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit-TV), to fend for themselves. Pushed into being and adult, Kat slowly began to realize something was not right as she began to have dreams about her mother. The big draw for me to watch this dramatic mystery was Shailene. After her last couple of films I was looking forward to seeing her in this thriller. She did not disappoint; I really think she is becoming a well-rounded actress. Writer and director Greg Araki (Mysterious Skin, Kaboom) must have been thinking the same thing because he really dropped the ball on the script. It felt like he did not need to make a good script because he knew Shailene would squeeze the emotions out of his words. She did her best but sadly it was not enough to make this a good film. The story was slow and lifeless; I did not feel any passion coming out of the cast. And it was not their fault; I felt the responsibility fell squarely on Greg. Despite the group of actors assembled and the twists to the story, I did not experience much fun or enjoyment watching this movie.
2 1/4 stars
The only thing I can say is love has to have magical powers. It has a way of changing one’s opinion of a person faster than a fine-tuned sports car. Love makes you carry your girlfriend’s purse through the store while she looks for a new outfit. Love makes you sit in the bleachers, outside in the cold, just so you can watch your boyfriend strike out at bat and still cheer him on. Love allows you to doze off at the airport, on your significant other’s shoulder, while they attempt to rebook your cancelled flight. Based on my and my friends’ experiences, one of the most intense powers I have seen love perform was the ability to not only alter but obliterate 1st impressions. You meet someone who appears to be a snob, unfriendly and condescending. Within a short time all memories get painted over with a fresh coat by love’s paintbrush, transforming your thoughts into sweet and pleasant scenarios where your senses become heightened every time you see that person now. Love does amazing things and in this comedy almost every romantic movie cliche gets skewered by the capable cast. An evening out had Joel and Molly, played by Paul Rudd (This is 40, Admission) and Amy Poehler (Baby Mama, Blades of Glory), having dinner with Kyle and Karen, played by Bill Hader (Her, Superbad) and Ellie Kemper (Bridesmaids, 21 Jump Street). Throughout the evening Kyle and Ellie would get the full story of how Joel and Molly first met; she the owner of a small candy shop that was in the sights of Joel’s employer, a huge candy corporation. Christopher Meloni (42, Man of Steel) as Joel’s boss Roland was determined to drive Molly’s store out of business. There were some amusing scenarios in this lighthearted film. The things that worked were fun but there were sections that petered out. In a way the script was done as a series of comedy skits; ones that you would see on television. Though there was nothing that made me laugh out loud, I was entertained by some of the settings. The cast had an easy job with this story and looked like they were enjoying themselves, besides appearing to be in on the jokes they were performing. Even if you are not a fan of romantic movies or rom-coms, I cannot imagine you feeling lost with this parody. This was not a movie I fell in love with and I don’t think there is anything that will change my feelings; however, it was also not a waste of time for me either.
2 1/3 stars
As soon as the movie was done, all I wanted to do was find someone who grew up in the 1940’s and plead with them to tell me all they knew about baseball player Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers. I wanted to hear about the times, the games and the attitudes that were prevalent among the people and players. Physical strength can be measured by endurance, power or weight. I think mental strength is actually tougher to achieve. Watching the mental strength Jackie Robinson had to have every single moment was infinitely more compelling than anything I have seen from the recently released action movies. Chadwick Boseman (Persons Unknown-TV, The Express) did a solid performance as Jackie Robinson. The verbal cruelty he endured was unbelievable. Harrison Ford (Cowboys & Aliens, Firewall) as Brooklyn Dodgers’ owner Branch Rickey, despite his extra padding, was okay; but I was still reminded that he was Harrison. His character, who came across larger than life, left me wanting to know more about Branch and his motivations. I just could not get over this man’s drive, determination and foresight by bringing in a black baseball player into an all white baseball world at a time when discrimination was the norm in society. The acting from Christopher Meloni (Oz-TV, Runaway Bride) as Leo Durocher, Nicole Beharie (Shame, The Express) as Rachel Robinson and Lucas Black (Jarhead, Get Low) as Pee Wee Reese was strong. Based on a true story, this inspirational dramatic film was geared to wring out the maximum from each heartfelt scene. The music was written to push at the viewer’s heart and I have to tell you I was teary eyed through over 1/2 of the movie. One did not have to have a knowledge of baseball to enjoy this movie; the story was more about civil rights. If for no other reason, it is worth seeing this drama just to see what the ugliness of ignorance looks like; not that we have stamped out ignorance yet. This movie did what I believe a movie should do: take the viewer away to a different time and place and experience the world through someone else’s eyes.
3 1/3 stars