BEFORE YOU THINK I HAVE GONE off the deep end or wonder if the synapses in my brain are misfiring, please hear me out. Those who know me know I am not a big fan of computers. I admit they are wonderful when they are doing what they are supposed to be doing; but they can be awful when they are not working correctly. The thing that concerns me is how people are becoming so dependent on them. Look anywhere these days and you will see people staring at their smartphones, watches, tablets, dashboards and anywhere there is a monitor or screen. Even in the bathroom, I have seen monitors above the urinals; do I really need to be entertained while relieving myself? With so many things having the ability to connect to other things via the internet or cellular phones, I wish there was a way we could see in the air how all these things are talking to each other. Imagine each wave or emission having a color and being able to see the way they light up the space around us. With this connectivity I worry people might be losing the use of the full potential of their mind. For example, you can ask your smartphone to remind you of important dates, phone numbers and addresses. Instead of thinking I see people forgetting how to do simple tasks. RECENTLY I STOPPED AT THE BANK to cash a check. Yes, I know; what an archaic practice. Because the check included cents, I handed the bank teller change to round up the check amount to an even dollar amount. Would you believe the teller had to stop and think about what I was asking her to do? I simply stared at her in disbelief. Only when she entered the figures into her computer did she finally understand why I gave her an extra fourteen cents. (Are you now figuring out the change amount of the check?) As computers and devices with their voice assistants handle more tasks, what is going to happen to us? It makes me wonder if there is some truth behind the movie, “The Matrix.” Will there come a day when computers take over the world and treat mankind as livestock? Already I have noticed how some young adults cannot read a map or tell time with a non-digital timepiece. You may think I am worrying about nothing; but I would have to disagree with you. If you do not believe me then take a look at what happens to the main character in this comedy. PHIL, PLAYED BY ADAM DEVINE (Pitch Perfect franchise, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates), is addicted to his phone. When he goes to upgrade it, the phone gets addicted to him. With Alexandra Shipp (Shaft, Straight Outta Compton) as Cate, Ron Funches (Get Hard, Once Upon a Time in Venice) as Craig, Charlyne Yi (This is 40, Knocked Up) as Elaine and Wanda Sykes (Bad Moms franchise, Monster-in-Law) as Denice; I guess you can call this film a modern day rom-com. Though Adam seems to be getting roles that are similar, his character was likable at the start; however, the script squashed it soon into the story. The vulgarity along with the repeat of similar situations quickly turned tedious. I became bored and lost interest in this picture before it was even halfway over. Whatever the writers’ thought was funny did not register with me; I did not laugh or chuckle once. Too bad, because I liked what the story was trying to tell the audience. If you find yourself at the movie theater and you feel this film is calling out to you, I suggest you do not answer it.
1 ½ stars
I WASN’T AWARE GROWING UP THAT everyone essentially looked the same. Sure, there was different hair and eye colors and I had more poundage on me than most of the kids in the neighborhood who were my age; but essentially, there was nothing blatantly out of the norm. Everyone was or appeared to be in the same socio-economic class. It was not until the middle school years when changes started taking place in the neighborhood. A family had moved in that caused a slight ripple in the fabric of my world. The children were dressed differently compared to the other children in school. It was not like a traditional garb from a foreign country or religion; their clothes were not things you could find in any of the local stores in the area. Instead, the clothes looked homemade. Not that this was a bad thing; it simply made them standout from the other students in school. What I remember most were the lunches they would eat. Where most kids ate a sandwich or brought a cold leftover from home; this family’s siblings had what I would refer to as exotic foods. They had little cups that had various dips in them, along with salad ingredients. Rarely did I ever see them eat a sandwich made with white bread. I wasn’t judging them; I was just curious about their food choices. As far as I knew, no one ever made fun of them. THE FAMILY REMAINED IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD for only a few years. I thought they were fortunate because as the neighborhood continued changing, people’s attitudes started to have a hostile edge to them. I experienced some of it because I was overweight; but there were other students in high school who became targets of students who had extreme views. Their behavior was abusive, and I call it abuse because it always had either a mental or physical angle to it that was always hurtful. There was one student who was short with facial features that were too big for their face. They could be walking down the hallway between classes and get smacked in the back of the head by an unknown assailant. I was called names and experienced physical altercations. School started feeling like a competition; if you could get through the day without being abused or called a nasty name you were a winner. All of this was due to the apparent differences between each of us. The way I saw it, one had to fit into the majority; otherwise, they would be banished to the outskirts of social interactions. It is a topic that remains relevant today, even for the unique family in this animated, comedic family movie. TIRED OF EXPERIENCING HOSTILITY FROM THEIR neighbors, the Addams family found what appeared to be an abandoned building in an idyllic location. However, their differences would eventually leave their mark on the citizens. With Oscar Isaac (Life Itself, Star Wars franchise) voicing Gomez Addams, Charlize Theron (Long Shot, Atomic Blonde) voicing Morticia Addams, Chloe Grace Moretz (Let Me In, The 5thWave) voicing Wednesday Addams, Finn Wolfhard (It franchise, Stranger Things-TV) voicing Pugsley Addams and Nick Kroll (Uncle Drew, My Blind Brother) voicing Uncle Fester; I stumbled upon the Addams family when I found a book of Charles Addams’ cartoons on a bookstore shelf many years ago. There was a darkness to them; however, it was always displayed in a kind and quirky way. The cast in this film was excellent with voicing their characters. However, I found the script to be mild and not funny at all. Many of the jokes were corny and predictable, though the animation was fine. There was nothing new on display and by the time the script dealt with the true focus of the story, it was quick and lackluster. By that time, I did not care much about the picture as I had to fight from nodding off. I wish the writers would have followed the television show’s theme song and produce something less bland.
JUST BECAUSE IT IS THE PAST does not mean it ever goes away. Recently, I attended back to back family events. The first one was held at a relative’s house with a variety of family members in attendance. During the evening a photo album (does anyone remember one of these?) was brought out for relatives to peruse at their leisure. The cover of the book was made of a deep reddish colored leather or fake leather. I knew it had to be old because the clear vinyl pages that were supposed to cover and hold the photos in place had lost their adhesiveness. Some of the edges of the vinyl were yellowed from age. Making sure the table spot in front of me was clean, I carefully placed the book down to look through it. Thankfully my relative had labelled the photographs because there were many people in the photos I did not know, even though they had a familiar look to them. There were some photos that had been shot in that particular relative’s country of origin; they were printed on thick cardboard with foreign printing on the back. I have to say they looked classy, elegant and ancient. I was seeing for the first-time relatives who were from generations past. The other startling thing I experienced was the realization, while looking at these deceased relatives, many of my current relatives looked like them. THE SECOND FAMILY EVENT I ATTENDED was held at a restaurant. All of us were to meet there for dinner. When I walked in, I saw some of my relatives off to the side. Approaching them, one relative saw me and announced me to the group around her. Out of the faces I could see, there was one there I knew but had not seen in a long time. She was a distant relative from a branch of the family that, for whatever reason, we had not had much interaction with while we were growing up. Walking up and greeting her, we exchanged excited comments of surprise about bumping into each other since her group was not part of the group of relatives I was coming to see. Once we calmed down from the surprise, she told me her brother was there; I had no memory of him in my memory banks. Pointing to someone standing behind me I turned around and was stunned at what I saw; it was the face of one of my deceased parents. Though this relative was connected to me distantly, our shared gene pool dealt him a hand where he turned out looking like he was part of my immediate family. Not that I have forgotten my parent; but it struck me how each relative, whether living or deceased, plays a part in creating a place where we belong and a sense of home. This animated film had a similar story. YI’S, VOICED BY CHLOE BENNET (AGENTS of S.H.I.E.L.D-TV, Nashville-TV), dream of traveling the world took on a new wrinkle when she discovered a magical Yeti hiding on the roof of her apartment building. With Albert Tsai (Dr. Ken-TV, Trophy Wife-TV) voicing Peng, Tenzing Norgay Trainor (Liv and Maddie-TV) voicing Jin, Eddie Izzard (Across the Universe, Ocean’s Thirteen) voicing Burnish and Sarah Paulson (The Goldfinch, The Post) voicing Dr. Zara; I found the animation both beautiful and colorful. The idea behind the story was sweet and touching, despite the script being somewhat generic. However, I so enjoyed the message and the scenes that I did not mind the familiar story lines. Though this film is classified as humorous, it is not a laugh out loud type; more like a knowing chuckle. Appropriate for all family members, one cannot deny the sweetness of the message for it does make one think of their own family. Plus, the still photographs used during the ending credits were a nice touch to cement those feelings of family and home.
MAYBE HE THOUGHT HE WAS ENTITLED to his extra benefits, but no one else thought so. He was the head of one of the company’s divisions. When I was first introduced to him, I found him to be a friendly, easy going type fellow. With the position I had at the company, I had to communicate with him from time to time. He was helpful to a point. The reason I say “to a point” is because I soon discovered the information he gave me was not always accurate. Or let me say the information he was giving me was his version of it. When I would follow up with the customer, their version of events did not match. I would find myself in an awkward position of having to go back and forth between the customer and the head of the division; it would drive me crazy. As time passed it became harder to get a hold of this employee. I did not know if he was out of the office on a business call or if he was ill; he never turned on the out of office feature on his email or update his voice message to alert people he was away. It was frustrating for me because I could not complete my work until I got more information out of him. HIS ABSENCES WERE GETTING NOTICED BY more employees. The work he was supposed to do, he started delegating out to his staff to handle. I only found this out after he left the company, but he was turning in receipts for reimbursement that were purchases for his private use, not for the company. It was obvious to me he was taking advantage of the company. In a five-day work week, he would be in the office only 3 days. He always had an excuse that he was visiting a customer or not feeling well; but to keep this up on a weekly basis took some nerve, I have to say. It wasn’t like employees were given an unlimited amount of sick days; everyone in the company was respectful not to abuse this benefit except evidently him. Based on the things I was seeing and hearing, I felt he was taking advantage of the company. I did not know what his reasons were for acting like that, but I became uncomfortable around him. Whatever he thought about the company, the fact remained they were providing him with a good salary and if his actions could cause harm to the company, then that could have an affect on my salary. It is uncomfortable for me to see anyone or anything being taken advantage of which will explain my discomfort while watching this comedic, dramatic crime story. WHEN THE CLIENTELE OF A STRIP CLUB stopped coming after the market crash, a group of the club’s exotic dancers agreed to form a partnership that would drum up business for themselves. Inspired by true events, this film starred Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians, Sound of My Voice) as Destiny, Jennifer Lopez (Second Act, Maid in Manhattan) as Ramona, Julia Stiles (Save the Last Dance, Silver Linings Playbook) as Elizabeth, Keke Palmer (Joyful Noise, Brotherly Love) as Mercedes and Lili Reinhart (The Kings of Summer, Miss Stevens) as Annabelle. The reason to watch this film would be to see the performances by Jennifer and Constance; they really went deep into their characters. I understand Jennifer did some of the actual dancing, but I thought the film editing of her movements was razor sharp. This story was a familiar one; however, there were a few surprises in the script to make it more unique. The female empowerment aspect was obvious, but that did not stop my feelings of uncomfortableness at a few of the scenes. And as a bonus the soundtrack was fun.
2 ½ stars
MISERY LOVES COMPANY EVEN WHEN ONE does not know they are miserable. There was a small group of us friends who got together often to go restaurant hopping. Yes, you heard correctly; we would go from one restaurant to another to another. Some people go bar hopping; but for me, alcohol was never my thing. I would rather chow down on food and snacks. The group of us would start the night at one restaurant, where we would have our main meal. After sitting and talking over tea/coffee after the meal, we would leave and go to a restaurant that made great French fries. I would have a whole plate of them with a soft drink. From there, we would drive around for a while deciding where we wanted to go next. One of my friends was fond of this pancake house, so we would usually wind up there to split a couple of orders of pancakes. I have to say they were always good. To end the evening, we would go to one of my favorite places; it was an old diner where they made these dynamite milkshakes. There was nothing better than ending a night out with friends by having one of these milkshakes. My choice was always the chocolate one. IT FINALLY TOOK AN EXPANDING WAISTLINE to make me confront the reality of what I was doing to myself. I had been stuffing my feelings of self-worth by stuffing my face. I hated myself and realized I was the only one who could change it. I still went out with my friends; but instead of digging into the food at every location, I would just order another cup of tea or something small that would have fewer damaging effects on my body. Exercise became a focus for me, so I started introducing cardio into my daily routines. My friends noticed my physical appearance was slowly changing. They were supportive for the most part; however, I could sense something was going on when I would join them on a restaurant run. I could go into my theories about it; but instead, let me just say I got a sense they were feeling uncomfortable having me sitting with them with my cup of tea, while they were devouring large quantities of food. I understood it because I would probably feel the same way. Eventually, I attended our restaurant runs less and less. Some friends would stay in contact with me, others not so much. I just knew I had to make a change in my life; the same way the main character, in this film festival winner, had to do in her life. AS HER FRIENDS’ LIVES CONTINUED TO grow Brittany, played by Jillian Bell (Rough Night, Office Christmas Party), knew she would have to make a change. However, going to a doctor to score some prescription drugs may not have been the best choice when the doctor refused, telling her she was overweight. With Michaela Watkins (The Back-Up Plan, In a World…) as Catherine, Alice Lee (Wish Upon, Sierra Burgess is a Loser) as Gretchen, Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, Tag) as Demetrius and Utkarsh Ambudkar (Pitch Perfect, Barbershop: The Next Cut) as Jern; this comedic drama was made better by Jillian Bell. She was wonderful in her role, authentically coming across as real and vulnerable. There have been similar stories done before; however, I found this script had more of a raw element to it which only drew me more into the story. Of course, with being able to relate to some of Jillian’s issues, I felt a solid connection to this picture. My guess would be more viewers than not would find something to relate to in this movie. By picking this film to go see, you would be making a healthier choice.
3 ¼ stars
EVERY QUESTION WAS MET WITH A question or a story; I found it annoying. Like me, he was an employee of the company; though, in my opinion he was not an asset. He was a salesman who handled a large account for the company, which meant he was getting a good salary. At least, he wasn’t one of those braggards who liked to flash their wealth. However, he did have “airs” about him. In other words, his paperwork and follow through on his orders was never completed because he felt such things were beneath him. This was the area where I had to interact with him, and I did not like it at all. Whenever I asked him a question about his paperwork, he would usually tell me to talk to his assistant, that she had the details. And when I would, half the time she could not give me an answer because he had not turned in all of his paperwork into her. I would have to start the whole process over again with him. Maybe he was a nice person away from work; but as far as I was concerned all he cared about was making a sale and getting his commission on it. He never showed an interest in making sure we were invoicing the customer correctly, so we would get paid and for that reason I did not like him. LUCKILY, HE WAS ONE OUT OF a larger group of salespeople. If I had my way, I would have told him off and held up his commissions until the company received payment from the customer on his orders. Unfortunately, I did not own the company which meant I had to deal with him no matter what I thought of him. It was not an ideal situation; but honestly, it was not something I could not handle. The bottom line for me was I enjoyed my job and I wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardize it. Having to deal with a challenging employee was something I discovered a long time ago. It is a rare experience to work at a company where everyone gets along well. My philosophy about it is this; you do not have to like a person, you simply need to respect them. The bottom line when working at a company is for everyone to make a contribution that will assist the company/organization in being successful. This seems like a simple premise, but not everyone can do it easily. An example can be found in this animated, adventure comedy. NOTHING COULD STOP THE CONSTANT SNEAK prank attacks between the pigs and birds until mysterious ice projectiles started raining down on each one’s island. If the birds and pigs wanted to survive, they would have to find a way to work together. With Jason Sudeikis (Booksmart, Horrible Bosses 2) voicing Red, Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Marshall) voicing Chuck, Leslie Jones (Ghostbusters, Masterminds) voicing Zeta, Bill Hader (Trainwreck, Maggie’s Plan) voicing Leonard and Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Most Likely to Murder) voicing Silver; this sequel was a bit slow taking off for me. Most of what I was watching seemed like a rehash of the previous film. However, as the story moved along, I started to take more notice of it. The animation was just as good as the previous film and there were several scenes that were fun to watch. What really stood out for me were the voices; I thought the actors were perfect with their characters, especially Jason and Leslie. Overall, this was an easy film that did not need much thought on the viewers’ part. In my book that is a plus since I did not have to struggle to stay engaged in the story.
2 ½ stars
HOW IRONIC, WE WERE HAVING THIS conversation over dinner. Friends for years, we had gotten together to catch up with each other; it had been some time since we had last seen each other. During our meal the conversation had turned to the topic of how busy everyone seemed, including us. I was talking about my schedule and how I was booking dates a couple of months ahead already, to get together with friends and family. My friend did not understand why I was having a challenging time in getting together with people. I explained I enjoyed getting together with people over a meal; but after a couple of times meeting in restaurants, I like to plan some type of activity we can both experience. It does not have to be anything elaborate like a boat cruise or indoor sky diving; it can be as simple as going bowling or to a movie. For me, doing something together adds fiber to the relationship. Let’s face it, how many of us will remember a meal we had from a year or so ago? Ok, well maybe I would; but food is not a reliable memory maker. Seeing a museum exhibit that moves both of you or a play that you thought was fantastic or even horrendous, would stay longer in your memory I believe. THESE SHARED EXPERIENCES PROVIDE ME WITH A deeper emotional connection and understanding to my friends and family members. Being together and witnessing feelings in “real time” is better to me than having someone sitting and telling me about it. The exhilaration of being at a concert, sporting event or discovering a new place on a walking tour; are things that will stay with me. Another option is taking a trip together. They say you really get to know about a person when you take travel with them and I am telling you, it is absolutely true! Granted, this may not always be a positive thing; but you would certainly know more than you did if you hadn’t taken a trip together. One of the fun aspects of sharing an event together is hearing about it years later. Seeing your memory through someone else’s eyes is a fascinating learning experience. You might be surprised to find out something you did not know before. I am not only talking about the activity; it could also be about yourself. Either way, if you want to take a visual trip and see for yourself then watch this film festival winning, comedic drama adventure. IT WAS NOT ENOUGH FOR ZAK, played by newcomer Zack Gottsagen, to only see his idol on television. He needed to escape the nursing home where he lived and go find his favorite wrestler, the Salt Water Redneck, played by Thomas Haden Church (Sideways, Easy A). This movie was a treat. Playing out like a modern Mark Twain story, the filming of it was beautiful. Enough time was given to the scenes to allow the viewer to settle into them. With Shia LaBeouf (Fury, American Honey) as Tyler, Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, The Social Network) as Eleanor and John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone, The Sessions) as Duncan; the acting was outstanding. Shia was such a force on the screen that I was surprised by it. Though I have not been a big fan of Dakota in the past, she was wonderful in this role. Thanks to the direction and script, watching this film was like reading a novel. I felt like I was experiencing things at my speed, allowing me to get the most I could out of the scenes. An original story with a lead actor representing a group that has less exposure on screen; I wish I would have taken someone with me when I went to see this exquisite film.
3 ½ stars
INSTEAD OF REHASHING MY STORY ABOUT the school teacher who told me I would amount to nothing if I decided to become a writer, let me tell you about a friend’s son. When the boy was little, he loved playing with all kinds of building block type toys. He could sit and play by himself for hours with these toys. As he got older the simple building blocks were replaced with more complicated toys; toys that gave him more options in the way he could connect pieces together. He would build these elaborate structures. Some were recognizable as being a castle or a bridge; but others were more freeform and creative. During the latter part of elementary school and beginning of high school, the father began hoping his son would join the family business. Though the son had never shown an inclination to be involved in the business, the father persisted in steering his son into following in his father’s footsteps. This created a wedge between the father and son. From the first set of building blocks the son had received when he was young, all he wanted to do was to build things. He was inclined to go into the field of architecture or construction. The father could not understand why his son wanted to venture into such work when a successful career was right there waiting for him at the family business. WHAT THE FATHER DID NOT UNDERSTAND was the fact that his son had zero passion for the type of work his father did. And I believe that is the key when it comes to deciding what a person wants to do in life. Without passion a person becomes more like a robot, lifeless and unemotional. They just go through the motions at their job, but really do not care about it. I have worked with several individuals who had mentally checked out from the job. They were at the company simply to collect a paycheck; they had no concern for the health of the company as long as it did not affect their paycheck. Those individuals lacked passion in my opinion. As I watched my friend and his son play this tug of war game about coming into the family business, I knew the son would never abide by his father’s wishes. The reason being, I saw how passionate the son was when it came to building things. Those early building blocks when he was a baby planted the seed that let his passion flourish through the years. A similar situation can be found in this musical, comedic drama. NOT FEELING CONNECTED TO HIS SURROUNDINGS British teenager Javed, played by Viveik Kalra (Beecham House-TV, Next of Kin-TV Mini-Series), found someone who understood how he felt; it was the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. Inspired by a true story, this film festival winner also starred Kulvinder Ghir (Bend it Like Beckham, Still Open All Hours-TV) as Malik, Meera Ganatra (Three Dots and a Dash, PREmature-TV Mini-Series) as Noor, Raron Phagura (Doctor Who-TV, Him-TV Mini-Series) as Roops and Dean-Charles Chapman (Game of Thrones-TV, The Commuter) as Matt. Set in the 1980s, the story was familiar to me, having seen it done in other films. The movie started out slow, but I soon was drawn into this picture due to the charms of the cast. There was a sweetness to the script that felt right to me. I also appreciated the underlying story involving the dynamics of Javed’s family within the surrounding area. And of course, there was Springsteen’s music. Though I am familiar with Bruce’s music, I do not own any of his albums. However, I was surprised how well his songs worked within the story. The combination made for an enjoyable viewing experience. To take a familiar story and tweak it enough to make it feel fresh takes true passion. I could totally relate.
THE SCHOOL I ATTENDED COVERED ALL the grades from kindergarten to eighth. Despite all classes being in the same building, there was a definite division between grades. I started in kindergarten and remained a student at the school until I graduated from eighth grade. The school building never went through any type of remodeling while I was a student, except for the playground. This will be hard to believe; but when I started at the school, the playground was divided into 2 spaces, side by side. One space was smooth, looking like a paved road; the other consisted of gravel. The younger grades were assigned the smooth surfaced playground, while the older students had to take the graveled playground. During my sixth year, when I would have to switch to the gravel side, the school removed the gravel and paved the ground. Though both spaces looked the same the younger kids knew not to go over to the newly paved space; it was still meant for older students. Now it may not seem like a big deal, but what this school policy did was to teach the younger kids that there was a reward waiting for them when they got older. IT WOULD START IN FIFTH GRADE, students trying to befriend older ones. Those who already had an older sibling in a higher grade had an easier time fitting into the older crowds. I had a neighbor who was a couple of grades ahead of me. Anytime I caught a glimpse of him on the newer playground space I would try to come up with an excuse to go talk to him. Looking back at it now, it seems silly; all of us wanted to be treated like we were older, more adult-like students who did not want to be referred to as kids anymore. Girls would consider it a major achievement if they could call a student from a higher grade their boyfriend. It was almost like an obsession; for every grade one advanced, their previous grade was added to the disdain they had for anyone younger. And if anyone had a friendship with a younger student, it was kept a secret. I firmly believe all of this was the catalyst in the formation of cliques. At my school, there was no greater moniker to have than being labelled the “cool” kid. Cool would encompass a variety of traits; but it did not matter, if other students considered one cool then life at school would be good for them. An example of this can be found in this adventure comedy. BEING INVITED TO A PARTY WAS the first step in attaining cool status for Max, played by Jacob Tremblay (Room, Wonder) and his two friends. However, if they did not want to embarrass themselves, they would need to take a crash course on what cool kids do at a party. With Keith L. Williams (The Last Man on Earth-TV, Teachers-TV) as Lucas, Brady Noon (Boardwalk Empire-TV) as Thor, Molly Gordon (Booksmart, Life of the Party) as Hannah and Midori Francis (Ocean’s Eight, Younger-TV) as Lily; this film had a lot of profanity being spoken in it. At first because it was being said by elementary school kids, it was funny; however, as the story progressed it lost its shock value and seemed to be the only comedy focal point in several scenes. The three boys were excellent together and did provide a few laugh out moments in the story. I appreciated the way the writers tackled the topics of first love and evolving friendships; they were written with authenticity. For the most part I was entertained by this movie; however, I did wonder if kids today have more pressure placed on them to fit in and be considered cool.
2 ½ stars