BELIEVING IN A cause can be the start to making a change.Throughout history I remember studying multiple examples where groups of people have an affect on what has been the norm in their world. This will sound trite; but outside of my studies, the first time where I saw the results from a diverse crowd of people coming together to affect change was when there was a write-in campaign to keep a television show from being cancelled. What surprised me was the crowd’s dedication in the way they kept up the pressure on the TV network with their letters, calls and peaceful demonstrations. From the little exposure I had to this event, what I was most impressed with was the variety of people from all walks of life. There was no color barriers, no age discrimination; in other words, there was no labels associated with anyone except for their love of this particular television show. THEY SAY THERE is strength in numbers but I have not always seen that to be the case. Sometimes a smaller group can still affect change with their actions. I wish I could say it always produces a positive change but sadly that is not the case. As the years have gone by there seems to be more opinions about any and everything. It is nothing today for someone to not only have an opinion but share it freely with anyone who will listen…or not listen. I believe everyone has the right to have an opinion. The hard part is respecting it when it runs counter to one’s own thoughts on the subject. Putting that aside, I have mentioned in the past I did volunteer work for several organizations around my hometown. What always impressed me was the devotion the employees had for their common cause. How they all were on point and dedicated to make a positive change was an incredible feeling to experience. If you want to see what can happen when a diverse group comes together for a common cause then this sequel is for you. WHEN THEIR SOURCE of food gets blown up it is up to Surly, voiced by Will Arnett (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, The Brothers Solomon), to find a new home for everyone. Unfortunately their new home was about to go through a radical change. This animated, adventure comedy also had Katherine Heigl (The Ugly Truth, Life as We Know It) as Andie, Maya Rudolph (Sisters, Friends with Kids) as Precious, Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man, Chef) as Frankie and Jackie Chan (Rush Hour franchise, The Spy Next Door) as Mr. Feng. The cast was matched perfectly with their characters, but I have to say the best character for me was the Jackie Chan one. Regarding the story, it continued right where the first film left off. I was not a fan of the original movie and I have to tell you I enjoyed this sequel even less. The action just kept being thrown to us in a fast crazy pace, not allowing time to develop a decent scene of humor. All I felt was the writers were just tossing out idea after idea without any filtering. Overall I was bored since there was nothing different or special in this picture. I could appreciate the movie studio believing they were producing a decent product and I respect their opinion. But I was sorry I paid full price for this film. On the plus side the credits were fun to watch and there was an extra scene at the end of them.
1 1/2 stars
INTENTLY drawing on their construction paper the students were following the teacher’s assignment to draw a picture of their favorite animal. Each child had their own box of crayons; some had the bigger sized containers with more colors. The teacher was walking around the classroom, checking up on each student’s artwork. She would offer words of encouragement or ask a question or two about the animal. Walking up from behind she looked over the shoulder of a boy who was carefully working on something the teacher could not figure out. There was nothing on the paper that resembled an animal. The teacher asked the student what he was drawing and he gladly explained the scene he created on his paper. What he had drawn was an elaborate jungle scene, using a variety of brightly colored crayons. Off to the side barely visible were 2 eyes staring out; the boy said it was a tiger. The teacher told him that was not the assignment. TECHNICALLY the assignment was to draw your favorite animal; the student did just that, except had the animal hidden in the jungle. One could say the boy was very creative and in fact, encourage the continued use of his imagination. However the teacher did not see it that way. She liked everyone to conform to the same thing. To look at something a different way was not something the teacher was comfortable with evidently. Assignments were supposed to be followed according to what the teacher believed was the “right” way; in other words, the way she thought things were supposed to be done. Someone with imagination would not easily conform to restrictions; they would as they say, “think outside of the box.” Personally I feel it is always an advantage to have people around who see things differently than you do. This animated, adventure comedy knows what I am talking about. EVERYONE living in Textopolis has one facial feature that they hope gets picked by the phone’s user. Considered an anomaly was Gene, voiced by T.J. Miller (Deadpool, Office Christmas Party), who had more than one facial feature. With a cast that included James Corden (Into the Woods, The History Boys) as Hi-5, Anna Faris (The House Bunny, Mom-TV) as Jailbreak, Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids, Sisters) as Smiler and Steven Wright (Reservoir Dogs, Son of the Mask) as Mel Meh; I thought the concept for the story was admirable regarding differences between people. From that idea to the big screen something got lost in translation because the script was bland and uninteresting. I could not get over how you make a film with colorful emojis and then do not offer them some excitement and fun. Overall there were no laughs or emotions to this picture. Not one child in the audience I was sitting with expressed any happiness towards a scene. At least the actors’ voices were fun to listen to, especially from James and Maya. Sadly out of all the emojis shown in the movie, the one that best describes my feelings about this film is “meh.” There was an extra scene in the middle of the credits.
1 ¾ stars
THE restaurant was full of people which kept the noise volume up at a consistent level. It was the usual sounds: clatter of dishes, scraping of silverware, conversations and low volume music. We were seated around one of the many round tables that filled up the center of the restaurant. I did not have any trouble hearing our conversations over the steady din of random sounds. It was when we were nibbling on our appetizers that a table nearby opened up and quickly after new diners were escorted to it by the hostess. There were 4 of them and they were in good spirits as they were laughing and high fiving each other on the way to their table. Once seated the group did not let up on the laughing and carrying on, calling each other either by their nicknames or something of a derogatory nature. BY the time our main courses came to the table the noise from that group of four rose and stayed above the general sound level; however, they were freely using foul language within their comments and jokes. Now I do not have a problem with such language, but I tend to be considerate of my environment. In mixed company, I am referring to adults and children; I would never use such language. My friends are used to my colorful vocabulary since those types of coarse words are adjectives to me. If I were to use such strong language at a restaurant I certainly would not say it loud enough to go beyond my table, unlike the group near me. They were throwing the F-bomb around like confetti and I could see some of the other diners were shooting them dirty looks. If anyone from that loud table noticed, they certainly did not care since they kept up the foul language and boisterous laughter. I tried to block out the noise they were creating but it did not work, just as it did not work for me in this comedy. LIFE sometimes can get in the way of maintaining friendships; it had been a long time since girlfriends Ryan Pierce, Sasha Franklin, Lisa Cooper and Dina; played by Regina Hall (Law Abiding Citizen, Think Like a Man), Queen Latifah (Chicago, Bringing Down the House), Jada Pinkett Smith (Bad Moms, Gotham-TV) and Tiffany Haddish (Keanu, The Carmichael Show-TV); hung out together. The best way to solve it would be a girls’ trip to New Orleans. These four actresses worked extremely well together to form a believable group of lifelong friends. Even during times when I thought the conversation was rapidly boxing back and forth, the actresses were skillfully able to handle it. With that being said the script was loaded with strong and sexual language; I mean loaded like top heavy to the point if one were to remove all such dialog the movie would be half as long. If one gets offended by such language then this would not be the movie to see. The script had predictability; however, compared to recent female lead comedies, this one had a few good laughs in it. Personally I do not find swearing a comedic talent; to me it is a lazy way of creating a funny situation. Plus the idea of women talking trash I feel is used to shock viewers because there was a time people were raised to believe women who spoke like that were “bad.” Based on the crowd I was sitting with, the majority of women in the theater liked this film more than I did.
2 ¼ stars
THERE are some hugs that linger just a little too long that are loaded with hidden meaning. In one of the more uncomfortable positions I have experienced in my fitness career, there was a member who tried to cross the line with me from casual to personal. She was an enthusiastic participate in my classes, since she started seeing the changes her body was making both muscularly and aerobically. After class she would hang behind to talk to me as I was gathering my gear together. Honestly, there were no red flags I could detect since her behavior was no different than many of the other members. The fitness center was offering a 10 week class on massages which I mentioned in my beginning announcements. Someone asked in class if I was planning to attend and I said yes. At the first class this member was there and worked her way to be next to me so she could be my training partner. Long story short, after a few classes where we started working on each other she followed me out afterwards one time and wrapped her arms around me. She said she was glad we were training partners and with her arms still around me she looked up and I could tell she was coming in for a kiss. I put a stop to it. EVER since that time I have always been keenly aware of any shift in members’ actions that come close to crossing that professional line. Away from the fitness center I have been an observer to a variety of situations that have involved my friends and family. You have heard the phrase, “I’ve got your back” haven’t you? In my circle of friends we each feel comfortable having another set of eyes on us to see things from a different angle. There have been times where a friend cannot tell if a person they have only recently started dating is really interested or not. Or maybe one of us points out the person they think is a friend really wants something more. There have been incidents where something innocent looking really has a different meaning or I will say intention. If you have time for a story then this romantic comedy will show you what I mean. THINKING a goodnight kiss was an appropriate ending for their time together Gabriel, played by Michael Cohen (It Begins with the End, Them), was willing to listen to Emile’s, played by Julie Gayet (My Best Friend, Chaos and Desire), story about what happens when a kiss is given. With Virginia Ledoyen (The Beach; Farewell, My Queen) as Judith, Emmanuel Mouret (The Art of Love, Change of Address) as Nicolas and Stefano Accorsi (Saturn in Opposition, The Son’s Room) as Claudio; the script had a story within a story. It was easy to follow and I enjoyed how both stories had this give and take feeling as if they were in synch. The thing that attracted me the most was the concepts and thoughts the script evoked in me. One could easily have a discussion afterwards on their feelings about what they saw in this DVD. I will say there were a couple of scenes that seemed forced, ringing false for me. In addition I was able to figure out the ending which is something I do not do that often. This was a simple, easy movie to view that had some depth to it. French was spoken with English subtitles.
2 ½ stars — DVD
WALKING into the room I thought I was prepared for what I would see. I guess I was not because they were stretched out on the sofa, propped up with pillows that made them look like crumbled facial tissue. They were pale and listless with faded eyes that could only open halfway. My germaphobic tendencies were in a tug of war with my desire to take care of them. I do not always win this war; there are times I have to be lead in under a fog of just released air sanitizer and rubber gloves. The underlying motivation that pushes me is my love for them. When I am deep in a relationship it can be so painful for me to see my loved one sick that I would rather be the one with the illness; you know that says a lot coming from someone who avoids door handles and elevator buttons. ILLNESS is part of life; there is no way to avoid a sickness though heaven knows I keep trying. When one begins a love relationship they usually are not thinking about the possibility of being a caregiver at some point. The beginning stages of romance involve intimate dinners, exciting or restful travels, being schooled in the likes and dislikes of the other; all wonderful and valid experiences that form a solid foundation in which the two can build their relationship on. To have a sickness at the beginning stages of a deep love can be a painful test of one’s commitment. I have known a few individuals who could not handle the responsibilities associated with being a supportive partner during their loved one’s sickness. It is an ugly situation no matter how you look at it. I will never forget being in the early stages of dating this person who kept commenting about the hair on my chest. It seemed a bit over the top to me so I asked how they would feel if I ever had to go through chemo and lost it. They had to stop and think about it. FROM what only appeared to be a hook-up turned into a growing romance between stand up comic Kumail and graduate student Emily, played by Kumail Nanjiani (Central Intelligence, Silicon Valley-TV) and Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks, What If). The relationship would not sit well with Kumail’s parents who were planning for his marriage. This film festival winning romantic comedy based on true events was utterly charming in a new fresh way from the typical rom-com. With Holly Hunter (Strange Weather, The Big White) as Beth, Ray Romano (Rob the Mob, The Last Word) as Terry and Zenobia Shroff (When Harry Tries to Marry, Percy) as Sharmeen; the actors made up a solid ensemble with Holly and Zoe being the stand outs for me. The script was intelligent and had an easy flow between comedy, intimacy, sadness and reality. I was fascinated by the added element of cultural differences provided by Kumail and his family. The way humor was drawn out from several of their scenes was done with kindness and affection. One example on the smartness of the script was the inclusion of the standup comedy sessions; it provided a nice balance to the illness element. The diagnosis for this movie is it will not make you sick, you will feel good instead and it will show you perseverance; just what the movie doctor ordered.
3 ½ stars
HAVING children less than 4 years apart in age, I asked how he was preparing for the overlapping college costs. When I was growing up I do not think parents thought as much about it as they do now. When I hear how much tuition costs currently, I cannot imagine how a family can navigate the burden of putting their kids through school. I used to work with a woman who had 6 children; each one was 2 years apart in age. If you do the math, she would have multiple financial costs of college weighing down on her for years. Maybe she expected all of her kids to get scholarships, but I so wanted to ask her how she was going to pay for all the schooling. Since it was none of my business I was not going to pry. There are adults I know who are still paying off their student loans even though they have been out of college for 20-30 years. UNLESS the child invents the latest computer app or web service becoming a millionaire and skipping college, many parents are left to come up with creative ways they and their children can meet their financial obligations. Now I realize not every child will go to college; in my circle of friends and family it was a given that we all had to continue our education after high school. I knew one parent who worked 2 jobs during the week and a part time job on the weekend to help defray the college costs. There are several families I know who steer their children to a 2 year college for an associate’s degree to complete the basic required courses; afterwards, they transfer to a 4 year university to complete their studies. By doing this their costs are less than going directly to a 4 year accredited school. I have heard of a variety of options parents have employed to save money for their children’s college costs, but I have never heard of the idea the parents in this comedy came up with to put their child through school. AFTER spending their daughter’s college funds parents Kate and Scott Johansen, played by Amy Poehler (Sisters, Mean Girls) and Will Ferrell (The Other Guys, Daddy’s Home), needed to come up with a way they could put their daughter through school. Thanks to their friend Frank, played by Jason Mantzoukas (Dirty Grandpa, The Dictator), there was a way the couple could swing it. This comedy also starred Ryan Simpkins (A Single Man, Revolutionary Road) as Alex Johansen and Nick Kroll (My Blind Brother, Parks and Recreation-TV) as Bob. I will say the idea to raise college money was creative; I was curious to see how it would play out in the story. There were a couple of laughs that came out of the script; however, for the rest of the script I was not getting into it. The acting was nearly non-existent from Amy and Will. They were no different from any of their other characters including their stints on Saturday Night Live. Making rude or vulgar comments usually do not lead to laughs and this script was no exception. Adding in the high level of predictability, I was bored most of the time. I hope this does not come across as rude but the people associated with this dud need to be schooled on how to create a smart, fun comedy. No passing grade for this one.
1 ½ stars
WATCHING the irate customer badger the salesclerk over the rung up price for a box of cereal reminded me of myself. How awful; I saw myself in this belittling loud consumer. Having a storehouse of anger inside of me made me be a walking pressure cooker. One perceived wrong being done to me would set me off, always going over the top since I had a vast amount of anger readily available anytime. As the salesclerk remained calm, though I could see her eyes constantly scanning for a manager, I wondered how many people thought I was a crazy person. On a positive note, if you want to call it that, at least I could observe the situation and acknowledge I used to act that way; grateful that I dealt with my issues and was able to rise above the source of anger. Don’t people say recognizing the issue is the 1st step in the healing process? HAVING the opportunity to grow old allows one to reflect on the multitude of personas they wore in their life. Not too long ago I was talking with a friend, mentioning something about being a former participant in a local group. My friend was taken by surprise because they never pictured me in such an activity. Curious, they asked how that came to be and why I was no longer interested in it. As I shared that part of history with them, I saw myself back in that period of time. I felt like I was talking about a distant relative like a 2nd or 3rd cousin; you know, having a blood connection but far removed to the point where there is a different level of familiarity. One of the pluses of having this type of conversation and reflection is it provides one with validation to what they have become. This dramatic comedy offered me the opportunity to see separate versions of who I used to be. WITH a broken down car in her client’s driveway holistic practitioner Beatriz, played by Salma Hayek (Here Comes the Boom, Once Upon a Time in Mexico), was invited to stay for a dinner party. For some of the guests she was the entertainment. With a cast that included John Lithgow (Miss Sloane, Love is Strange) as Doug Strutt, Connie Britton (American Ultra, Friday Night Lights-TV) as Cathy, Chloe Sevigny (Boys Don’t Cry, Big Love-TV) as Shannon and Amy Landecker (Doctor Strange, A Serious Man) as Jeana; the acting in this movie was excellent. John was the perfect choice for that character. As the story started out I was interested in the activity, particularly once the guests arrived for I found the mix of them familiar ground to my experiences. There were different ways to look at the story; it was easy to plug in variations of the good vs. evil scenario, which I will leave for the viewer to explore. However as the story unfolded I found myself losing interest. There was something lacking for me to the point I was feeling less connected. Honestly my connection to this picture was the opportunity it provided me to reflect on portions of my former life. At the end of the movie I felt unsatisfied. I would have appreciated more intensity and more discussion of philosophies between the characters. Instead I wound up getting annoyed by John’s character (which I thought was intended) and not caring for the ending. This was a mixed bag for me, but I did enjoy the opportunity to do some reflection.
2 ¾ stars
THE last time a new updated version of an electronic device came out I happened to be at the shopping mall. A long line of people snaked halfway across the mall, waiting for the store to open. During my college years I remember standing in line for hours to buy tickets for a rock concert, but waiting in line for an extended amount of time just to buy a cell phone or computer device seemed odd to me. Being the curious type I walked up to a few of the waiting people at various places in line to ask them why they were there. After they would tell me I asked them if this was a 1st time purchase of the device or were they upgrading to the latest version. Only one person was there to buy their first phone; everybody else just wanted the newest device. As a sidenote every person I asked had their phone out and it appeared to me they were in perfect working condition. On one hand I can understand if someone wants the latest device but on the other, the devices are not cheap and really how much would the new items change the owner’s life. THERE is one other aspect I have noticed that motivates people to buy the latest things. I believe there is a fear the person will appear old or out of touch by other individuals. I see it in myself, not that I run my life based on what other people think of me. Every time I go to the bank the teller asks me to slide my ATM/debit card in the card reader right after they say hello. I used to say I do not have one but got tired of saying each time; so now, I simply hand them my driver’s license. More times than not the teller will look up at me and say, “You don’t have an ATM card?” The looks I get from the various tellers borders on disdain or incredulousness. You would think I had committed some horrible transgression. Just because I do not have an ATM card doesn’t mean I am an old fogey; I choose to only get things that add value to my way of living. Not having an ATM card makes me feel safer that my account will not get hacked. Some things still have worth even if they have a new replacement and this message comes across in a strong way in this animated adventure comedy. LIGHTNING McQueen, voiced by Owen Wilson (No Escape She’s Funny That Way), was on top of the world until he was beaten by a younger race car. Though others counted him out he still believed he had something to offer. This latest sequel in the franchise also starred Cristela Alonzo (Cristela-TV, Hey It’s Fluffy-TV) as Cruz Ramirez and Chris Cooper (Demoltion, Adaptation) as Smokey. I thought the animation was outstanding; there were some outdoor scenes that made me wonder if the backgrounds were real and only the cars were drawn in. The script had value especially due to a couple of the story lines. However there was a long lull I experienced as the car races seemed too long. I actually enjoyed the beginning and end parts to this film. Part of the reason could be attributed to the limited audience the writers were writing to; there was little comedy and what there was would only be appreciated by a younger crowd. With a little more detailing and tweaking this would have been a more exciting movie. There was an extra scene at the end of the film.
2 1/2 stars
AWKWARDNESS is the initial feeling but depending on the crowd it can hopefully be replaced with something more on the pleasant side. There have been occasions where I have accompanied a date/friend to one of their family or business functions. Personally the business ones are easier for me because there is nothing expected of me; if my date is involved with others no one usually comes over to fill “the void.” At family functions there is always a relative who can’t wait to get me alone to either pump me for information or try to turn me into their personal confidant. Of course more of this takes place when I am the date instead of the friend. There are some relatives who want to know my intentions; others have no problem grilling me like FBI interrogators asking how we met, what I do for a living, where is my family from and so on. I have to just sit there with a smile on my face, choosing how to deflect some of their questions. When the environment is like this it really becomes tedious for me. However I would never do anything to embarrass the person who brought me. NOT wanting to sound like Mr. Gloom & Doom, there have been other times where I had a wonderful time. Some of the business functions I have attended have been close to obscene due to the amount of money that must have been spent on the affair. One dinner was held in a ballroom where the doorways were manned by immense ice sculptures in the shape of swans. Inside the room dining tables were set up with gold and silver tablecloths. On each table tall vases sat, filled with those fake ice cubes that light up in colors. Sprouting out the top were sprays of floral plants. The food was outrageous and plentiful; I would need more of your time to describe it all. And the ultimate feature was having a popular band performing for us. So you see these types of events can be a hit or miss; this is why I gave the main character in this dramatic comedy credit for agreeing to the travel arrangements. WHEN her producer husband Michael, played by Alec Baldwin (Blue Jasmine, 30 Rock-TV), had to cut their trip short due to his work; Anne, played by Diane Lane (Unfaithful, Night in Rodanthe), agreed to travel by car to Paris with his business associate Jacques, played by Arnaud Viard (Higher Still, Carole Matthieu). It would be a road trip with unexpected turns. This romantic film written and directed by Eleanor Coppola (Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, Coda: Thirty Years Later) had two big things going for it: beautiful scenery and great looking food. Initially I felt I was connecting with the character, having been “stuck” with someone I did not know. But as the story unrolled I felt like I was a 3rd wheel in their carpool. The script and directing did nothing to enhance the characters. I appreciate Diane’s acting ability but felt she was wasted here; there was no character development. The only one I found interesting was Alec’s character, but he was used sparingly. At one point I felt I was on one of those touring tourist buses where the driver is rambling off tidbits and statistics about every single place to the point of almost numbing their passengers. If I knew this was what was going to happen on this trip I would have booked a flight instead.
THERE always seems to be at least one in a crowd. Whether it is in the classroom, the office or a group of friends; usually one person is the prankster or jokester. I did not have the courage to act out in the classroom; however, I discovered I was quite good in coming up with a plan and then letting someone else execute it. I think the statues of limitations have long expired so I am okay to mention one of my pranks, keeping in mind I am not boasting or full of pride about it. There was a strict teacher we had who made some of us kids’ lives miserable. Looking back now I would not use the word “miserable,” but to a 9 year old who did not know better, the teacher was labeled bad. I discovered if you removed the cylinder of ink from certain pens they could be used to shoot spitballs. But I took it a step further; if you roll one end of the empty pen in lip balm and blow hard on the other end, it would jettison the glob of balm. If it was aimed at the blackboard it would leave a greasy mark. The teacher came into the classroom one day and discovered he could not write on the blackboard due to all the grease spots. THROUGH my early school years I actually did not do many pranks. I was never one to embarrass a classmate, like that student who glued another student’s schoolbook to their desk. The only time I would consider doing a prank against a student is if they hurt me. And even then I would have had to be 100% confident that the joke could never be traced back to me. I am not a mean spirited person, but I used to be a big fan of getting revenge. If I wanted to get back at someone I would have to do the prank myself, not even telling my friends. I was good at keeping a straight face even when my friends would ask if I was the one who did such and such prank. Little did I know I would have something in common with this animated, action comedy based on the bestselling children’s book series. BEST friends George and Harold, voiced by Kevin Hart (The Wedding Ringer, Central Intelligence) and Thomas Middleditch (Kong: Skull Island, Silicon Valley-TV), were always coming up with pranks to upset the school principal Mr. Krupp, voiced by Ed Helms (The Hangover franchise, Vacation). The 2 boys thought they had created the ultimate prank when they hypnotized the principal into their comic book hero, Captain Underpants. The joke was on them though. I was not familiar with this story; based on the kids who were in the theater with me, I would say the books must be written for the 4-8 year old crowd. As a result the humor in the script was geared more to that age group. There was nothing done that I found to be laugh out loud material, more on an amusing level. Some of the animation was similar to the style of those Saturday morning cartoon shows; it was imaginative. What saved this film for me was how life lessons (which I assume are part of the books) were presented into the story. Even if the focus was on pranks, at least something positive was coming out of the events. I was just glad I no longer have to be part of any pranks.
2 ½ stars