BY THE WAY THEY RESPONDED TO my question, I could tell there was something more they were not telling me. I was at a lunchtime event, where I met this couple. We were talking about the trips we have taken outside of our state, when they mentioned they recently had visited Washington, D.C. When I asked what sights they got to see, they said very few because they were there to visit their son. Being curious, I asked why their son was in DC; they replied he worked for the government. Since I knew several government workers out there, and being an inquisitive type of guy, I asked which agency. They told me he worked somewhere in the operations department. As far as I knew, there was no such department. Granted, most departments, I am sure, had staff that were responsible for the internal procedures of the department; but there was not a specific government department devoted to operations. I could see the husband was fidgeting with his napkin, while his wife avoided making direct eye contact with me. Though I was more curious now, I knew better than to pushback against two people that I had just met for the first time. LATER IN THE DAY, WHEN MY mind circled back to the exchange I had with that couple, it dawned on me that I encountered the same type of scenario a couple of times before; however, it was the parent who had a mysterious job. I had one friend whose dad was rarely seen in the neighborhood. When he was spotted, he was always dressed in a suit, hat and carrying a black briefcase. It did not matter if it was a weekday or weekend; he was always wearing the same type of clothing. My friend told me his dad said he worked in international trading, but my friend did not believe it. The reason being his dad sometimes left in the middle of the night with his briefcase and hat in tow, along with other times when he had to “go to the office” on a Saturday or Sunday. The two of us wished we knew how to drive so we could follow and see where his dad was going. One time we snuck upstairs to the dad’s office to see what we could find out; but the desk was locked as well as the briefcase that sat on top of it. We never found out, or at least I never found out about the father’s profession. I wondered how my friend would have been if he had known what his dad did for work; would it have scared or excited him. While watching the daughter in this action, comedy fantasy; I wondered about the same thing. NOT PULLING IN ENOUGH MONEY FROM his pool cleaning business, a divorced dad supplemented his income with a second, more lucrative profession. The only problem was that it could kill him. With Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy, Horrible Bosses franchises) as Bud Jablonski, Dave Franco (The Disaster Artist, 6 Underground) as Seth, Natasha Liu Bordizzo (Crazy About You, Hotel Mumbai) as Heather, Meagan Good (Think Like a Man, Brick) as Jocelyn Jablonski and Karla Souza (We are the Nobles, How to Get Away with Murder-TV) as Audrey San Fernando; this story set in the San Fernando Valley had several fun moments provided predominantly by Dave and Jamie. I thought they worked well together; however, the script took the bite out of the story. It was predictable all the way through and never went over the top with emotions, humor, or fun. However, it did exceed with blood and violence. Through most of this film, I felt as if it was created more from a paint by number point of view; in other words, where the writers looked at what they perceived to make a successful film and randomly pulled it into their story, whether it made sense or not. Overall, this movie was a light distraction.
THERE HAS ONLY BEEN a small handful of individuals I have known who had a natural ability to excel in their life’s journey. Things came naturally to these people, where they did not need to be schooled or guided in conquering their dreams/goals. I am sure when you were in school you had at least one student who did not study before an exam and yet would still get a perfect score. From my college days I remember a student in one of my writing classes who had a book and few short stories published before the semester even began. The entire class looked up to this individual. Even outside a school setting I know a young adult who already is displaying an uncanny ability when it comes to electronics. Without any instruction, he wired and set up a burglary alarm system for his family’s home. NOW THERE ARE SOME people who excel at something but they need to work at it. You know that old joke about how does one get to Carnegie Hall and the answer is practice, practice, practice? Some individuals work hard trying to achieve their dreams. Whether it involves mental concentration or physical training, the individuals in this group sacrifice social interactions among other things to reach their goals. I am a firm believer in people attempting to reach their dreams; for it is better to have tried then spend the rest of one’s life wondering what life would have been like if they had at least attempted to reach their goals, in my opinion. I am sure it has crossed some of your minds, especially if you have watched some of those reality shows, that there are some people who should stop trying to be something they will never be. I know what you mean since I have seen a couple of those singing and dancing reality shows where some of the people auditioning show no talent for the task. It would not be fair for me to judge, but see how you feel about the main character trying to reach his dream in this dramatic comedy based on a true story. REFUSING TO ACCEPT THE negative comments about his acting abilities Tommy, played by James Franco (The Interview, Why Him?) not only liked the idea from his friend Greg, played by Dave Franco (Warm Bodies, Now You See Me franchise), he agreed to it; they would make their own movie to star in. This film festival winning picture also starring Seth Rogen (Funny People, Neighbors franchise) as Sandy, Ari Graynor (The Sitter, Mystic River) as Juliette and Alison Brie (Sleeping with Other People, Mad Men-TV) as Amber; was hilarious in parts. I and the audience around me were laughing out loud. The story is so bizarre it took me some time to actually believe this was a true story and not some big satire. Interestingly I was initially annoyed with James’ character, but after awhile I realized he was doing an excellent acting job playing this mysterious, odd character. I also enjoyed the variety of cameo roles that popped up throughout the movie. As I mentioned earlier it took me time to get into the story; I was confused by the script and was getting “antsy” for something to take place. However with James’ directing and the absurd idea behind the story coming to life, I had to applaud the achievements that were on display by the end. It goes to show you, follow your dreams because you never know where they will lead you.
3 1/3 stars
THE PROBLEM WAS they looked alike even though they were different sexes. His mother had a reputation in the neighborhood of not being smart; though the adjectives used to describe her were unkind. People just assumed her son had the same low level of intelligence. Sadly it was a perception, it was not a fact. However this falsehood stayed with him all through school. If he had been a straight A student then the assumption would have quickly died, but he was more of an average grade pupil with grades that went from C to A. The interesting thing about this was he did not care or at least did not show any concern regarding what people thought of him. It turns out he was smart and used this incorrect assumption to his advantage. To make a long story short he became a shrewd business owner who became quite successful. ASSUMPTION BY ASSOCIATION is something people tend to do easily and in my opinion too often. To me I consider it along the same lines as profiling. I have mentioned before my feelings about individuals making rash judgments based on a person’s appearance. After recently being updated on the changes taking place within the labor laws, I know they say one cannot discriminate; however I have seen and been on the receiving end with the misconception that overweight individuals are lazy. Sadly I have heard people’s comments in a variety of settings that were derogatory based on a person’s race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. I know it is more prevalent than my experiences and I find it pathetic. The idea of someone making a judgment solely based on one’s looks is frankly horrifying. From my school years I have seen how these types of perceptions can scar a child for a long time, possibly their entire life. Imagine what the boy in this animated action adventure had to endure. ALL THE KIDS avoided Lloyd, voiced by Dave Franco (Now You See Me franchise, Neighbors franchise), because of his father Garmadon, voiced by Justin Theroux (The Girl on the Train, The Leftovers-TV). His father just wanted to rule the world. This 3rd film in the LEGO movie franchise started out in a fun way by having the first several minutes being live action with Jackie Chan (Shanghai Noon, Rush Hour franchise) as Mr. Liu and later voicing Master Wu. I liked Jackie in both roles. Including Fred Armisen (Easy A, Saturday Night Live-TV) voicing Cole, Michael Pena (The Martian, End of Watch) voicing Kai and Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick, Fist Fight) voicing Jay; the actors were fine with their characters. The script had several amusing scenes; however, there was little of the laugh out loud or surprise factor compared to the previous pictures. As for the animation it was just as good as before and I especially enjoyed the interjection of the live action character. In fact that was my favorite part. Overall I have to tell you my enthusiasm watching this film was lackluster; there was a sense of tiredness since it pretty much was the same stuff being done as before. I do not know if there is an actual cartoon character for Master Wu; the closest example I could think of was a takeoff on The Karate Kid or an old television show I think called Kung Fu. After playing with the same toy for an extended time one eventually will get tired of it; that is what I believe is going on here. There was one extra scene of outtakes in the middle of the credits.
2 ¼ stars
They said they did not like playing with me because I was no fun whenever we would play this game. The reason I was no fun to them is because I never took the dare, always picking truth. I never thought about it but I can now look back and see one of the reasons why I would never have chosen dare; I never liked giving up control. It seems as if my control issues started way back. The first time I recall playing this game called Truth or Dare was in high school. It wasn’t something you could buy off a store shelf; there was not an instruction book or a restriction on the number of players. A group of us were sitting around in the basement’s den at one of our houses. As soon as the game was explained I immediately knew I would be choosing truth all the time. You see I did not have a problem telling the truth. Not in a goody-goody type of way; I always just had this blunt way of speaking my mind, even if it would cause embarrassment. As far as I could tell, based on some of the dares that were taken, my words were no embarrassing than the actions of some of my friends. If memory serves me correctly by the time we neared senior year the game did not provide the same entertainment and fell to the wayside. I guess you could say we were growing up. It appears the game has evolved into something more based on what I saw in this adventure mystery. HIGH school student Vee, played by Emma Roberts (We’re the Millers, American Horror Story-TV), thought she could stop playing a popular online game anytime she wanted to, but the game did not work that way. This dramatic crime film had a believable cast of actors. Besides Emma there was Dave Franco (Now You See Me franchise, Warm Bodies) as Ian, Emily Meade (That Awkward Moment, Trespass) as Syndey, Miles Heizer (Rudderless, Parenthood-TV) as Tommy and Kimiko Glenn (HairBrained, Orange is the New Black-TV) as Liv. The acting from Emma and Dave however stood out the most for me. Sitting in the theater, I have to tell you I not only felt old while watching this updated version of the game Truth or Dare, I believe I was the oldest person in the audience. The variety of dares piqued my interest at first; but as time went on, I was getting a little bored. What prevented me from totally not caring was the fast pace the director kept up. The scenes in the beginning were fine as they moved the story along and were actually entertaining. By the time the film was reaching its conclusion it seemed as if the writers were trying to give a morality lesson; it shifted the focus away from everything that happened earlier in the movie. There is a good chance younger viewers would enjoy this movie more than I did. All I can say is at my age I really did not care to play this game again.
2 ¼ stars
From my various job experiences I have witnessed some pretty cutthroat dealings. Unless the company you work for has a unique, one of a kind type of product; there will always be someone else who will try to outdo your company. The majority of salespeople I have encountered really are the company’s foot soldiers. One can also say they are the circus performers who do acrobatic twists and turns in order to please their customers as they try to “seal the deal.” I know I could never do sales because I do not have the temperament for it. From all my business dealings I could work with any customer until I discovered they were dishonest. Once that happens I lose all respect for them. There are certain products or stores I will not go near because of the way I was treated either as a customer or vendor. Even if a company’s salesperson meets with me and during our conversation speaks negatively about their competitor, it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. Some people say just by definition the word job has no place for fun; I disagree with that type of thinking. Sure it can be hard work, but I feel there needs to be something fun about the workday to keep people motivated. On the other hand I have seen where some individuals have had way too much fun. DESPERATE to land a big business deal and save his fledgling company Dan Trunkman, played by Vince Vaughn (Couples Retreat, Delivery Man), flew to Europe with his employees Mike Pancake and Timothy McWinters, played by Dave Franco (Warm Bodies, 21 Jump Street) and Tom Wilkinson (Selma, The Lone Ranger). With stiff competition going against them the three workers were willing to do anything to win the business. Let me say right at the beginning; consider the movie trailer for this comedy to be its highlights reel. I understood what the story was trying to do, but I thought it lacked imagination and originality. There were several times where I was simply bored. One of the main issues for me had to do with Vince’s performance. It was no different from the past several roles he has performed; they were all the same and it drove me crazy. He really could use a fresh team around him that pushes him to stretch his acting ability. I will keep my fingers crossed for him since he will be starring in next season’s drama series, True Detective. Tom Wilkinson was his usual good self and I believe this was the first time I really thought Dave took ownership of his role. As a movie reviewer I am forced to see many “bad” films; I could have used combat pay for my time with this one.
1 3/4 stars
Somehow I never received the rule book on how one is to act based on their birth age. All I know is birth age is simply a measuring tool for how long someone has been alive. It has nothing to do with how you live. At a recent training for certification in a new exercise format, during introductions I noticed I had been teaching the longest. What I did not know was how I was being perceived as an old person. As we went through the instructions it became apparent people were making allowances for my ability to perform the precise physical movements. They were challenging for me but not due to a lack of strength. I was having a hard time because the moves were written down; I am a visual learner. The funny part to all of this was when we had to hold a yoga plank position; I was able to longer than most of the other participants. Magically I suddenly earned a new respect from everyone. I was now accepted as part of the group and felt like I was on equal footing with them. It was something Kelly and Mac Radner, played by Rose Byrne (Get Him to the Greek, Damages-TV) and Seth Rogan (This is the End 50/50), were striving for when they went to introduce themselves to the fraternity house that opened up next door. Unfortunately the Radners lost their cool factor when they broke their promise to frat officers Teddy and Pete, played by Zac Efron (That Awkward Moment, The Lucky One) and Dave Franco (Now You See Me, Warm Bodies). This comedy had enough strong language and situations to be an equal opportunity offender to anyone who dislikes crude and rude humor. I thought the movie’s story line about trying to fit in was the better one out of the script. After a while I just became numb to the jokes and pranks. Rose was one of the stronger actors out of the cast and I was surprised in her ability to handle the role of Kelly. Zac appeared to have found a perfect role for himself: a smart aleck, charming and chiseled frat president. The writers had a field day always setting up Zac and Seth as a before and after advertisement for combatants. At one point I felt this film was hoping to be this generation’s Animal House movie; it did not succeed. If you are not easily offended then chances are you will find things to laugh at in this movie. If you find yourself not enjoying this picture, do not worry about it; you will be able to find and be part of a group of similarly minded folks. Cute scenes during the credits.
2 1/2 stars
My first experiences with live magicians it turned out were not really performing magic. In fact, they were not even magicians. I would see them in stores surrounded by throngs of people. Each time I spotted one I would run up and join the crowd, enthralled with the magician’s flair during their presentation. I saw glasses that would never fog up, even if they were held over a steaming pot of water. There was the wonder knife that a magician would thrust up into the air to show its sharp gleaming blade, just before he used it to slice through a metal pipe. At the time I thought these individuals were doing magic; instead, they were product demonstrators. As a young kid I still could be entertained by the different demonstrations. It was the same feeling I had while watching this adventure film about illusionists. Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network, Zombieland), Woody Harrelson (Seven Psychopaths, Rampart), Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers, Home and Away) and Dave Franco (21 Jump Street, Warm Bodies) played street performers who became The Four Horsemen, a popular magic act that appeared to rob a bank in the middle of their act. Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Shutter Island) played FBI agent Dylan Rhodes who was determined to catch the illusionists, but always it seemed was a step behind. Even with the help of Interpol detective Alma Dray, played by Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds, Beginners) and magic debunker author Thaddeus Bradley, played by Morgan Freeman (The Prestige, Children of Men); it still seemed as if they were just pawns in the Four Horsemen’s high stakes game. The movie started out strong and fast; it was easy to keep up. The magic tricks kept getting bigger and more elaborate as they were expertly performed by the four actors. Everything was working to make this film a fun exciting experience to watch. But halfway through the story it became unfocused and lost steam. The quick editing and shifts in the story became too much to handle. Frantic pacing only deflated the thrills; I started to get bored. Now I may be gullible when it comes to magic, but I know when smoke and mirrors are being used in an attempt to create a passable story.
2 1/2 stars