SHE WAS PERFECTLY CONTENT HAVING HER head resting in my lap as I scratched behind her ears. If I stopped for any reason she would tilt her head back to look directly at me, with an inquisitive expression on her face. It was as if she was asking me why I stopped; it was the cutest thing. She had met me at the door when I arrived for the party. I had never seen her before, only hearing about her existence from a friend a week prior to the party. There were already people milling about when I showed up; so, I do not know if she was waiting specifically for me or was greeting every person who walked in. I had learned years ago never to extend a hand facedown because it might be perceived as a punishment. Instead, I extended my hand faceup below her chin line. This way it would look like a treat or gentle gesture and allow enough time for her to sniff my hand. Once she completed the inspection of my hand she bowed her head, followed by pressing her snout under my hand as if helping me lift my arm back up. I scratched her head as she gazed up at me. It wasn’t love at first sight, but I was smitten by her. SO THAT IS HOW I SPENT a good portion of my time at the party. At some point the host came up to talk with me. As I continued scratching her head the owner told me I would be totally surprised to hear she was the perfect guard dog. I asked what happened that made him realize it. He proceeded to tell me about the time a burglar broke into the house, during the middle of the day while he was at work. Evidently the burglar did not notice the food bowl on the floor when he walked through the kitchen. He wasn’t sure of the details; but he felt his dog did not greet the stranger, instead must have been watching the burglar as they walked through the house. The only reason he believed it was because of the muddy footsteps the burglar left as he was walking through the place. When the burglar went to unplug the big screen television, the dog made her move and attacked his leg. She ripped through the pants leg and clamped down on the burglar’s calf. When the owner got home the burglar was quivering in the corner of the living room with the dog guarding him. The host was right; I was stunned by the story. Such a sweet-faced dog, it just goes to show you dogs can do incredible things. REACHING NEAR THE END OF HIS life Bailey, voiced by Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Marshall), was asked to find and protect his boy Ethan’s, played by Dennis Quaid (The Intruder, In Good Company), granddaughter in his next lifetime. Bailey would discover what life means to many different people. This comedic adventure drama also starred Kathryn Prescott (The Hive, Skins-TV) as CJ, Henry Lau (Final Recipe, Oh My Venus-TV) as Trent and Marg Helgenberger (Species franchise, Erin Brockovich) as Hannah. What sells this movie is the dogs; it is as simple as that. If you are not a dog person, then I do not expect you will enjoy this sequel. However, as a dog lover this film was a bit tedious for me. The script dealt with only two emotions, happy and sad, and kept things at a basic level. It also was manipulative in the way it spun the story. It was predictable with its good guy/bad guy scenarios; but luckily Josh’s vocal talent and the assortment of wonderful dogs kept me from getting totally bored.
1 ¾ stars
I HAD A PAIR OF SHOES that I walked to death. Being extremely picky when it comes to shoes, I remember exactly where I was when I bought that pair of shoes; in a department store shopping for a gift. As I was walking around I wound up by the shoe department. On an endcap was a display of shoes that caught my eye. I liked the style and the fact they were on sale, so I decided to try on a pair. The minute my foot slipped into the shoe I immediately was taken by the comfort. This was something that doesn’t often happen to me when it comes to shoes. After I tried on the other shoe I walked over to a mirror to see how they looked on my feet. One glance and it was confirmed, the shoes were going to be mine. Normally I bring shoes home and wear them around the house for a couple of weeks to make sure they will not cause any discomfort; however, this pair of shoes I wore that night when I met friends for dinner. From that first day, I wore those shoes every day for every occasion. Even when the heels were worn down and the sole’s tread smoothed out into baldness, I could not give up those shoes. THERE ARE SOME THINGS, ONCE WE acquire them, we cannot let them go. I know this is a HUGE challenge for me. If I find something that brings me some form of joyfulness, I understand myself well enough to know I will never want to give it up. There are mementos around my house that I have had since childhood that still bring me joy to this day. A candy dish I played with as a kid; a plastic salad bowl that sat on our dining room table; even a pine cone that was given to me by a classmate in school when we got lost in a forest during a break in studies; each of these things represent a fond memory that I never want to forget. Maybe it is easy for you to remove yourself from your personal possessions; I have some friends who do a purge of their things every year to keep their homes sparse and clutter-free. I can do that on a smaller scale, but every time I try I get bogged down in the memories that float back into my consciousness from each item I see. On first meeting the home owner in this dramatic, horror mystery; I thought he had the same issue of not being able to detach himself from his possessions. MAKING THE TRANSITION FROM CITY DWELLERS to country homeowners appeared easy for married couple Annie and Scott Russell, played by Meagan Good (Think Like a Man, The Unborn) and Michael Ealy (About Last Night, Seven Pounds). It was not as easy for the man who sold the house to them. With Dennis Quaid (A Dog’s Purpose, Far From Heaven) as Charlie Peck, Joseph Sikora (Charlie Wilson’s War, Ghost World) as Mike and Alvina August (Bad Times at the El Royale, The Good Doctor-TV) as Rachel; the story seemed quite familiar to me, as if it had been done many times before. If the writers had taken a different direction, maybe this picture would have had more to offer; since the cast was quite capable. Instead, the script was awful, insulting the intelligence of the viewer. It seemed as if every other scene with Dennis focused on his sardonic, sinister smile while the couple continued to make lame decisions. I was so bored by this movie I kept hoping the house would just catch on fire to end the story. When I left the theater, I was mad I had given up my valuable time to sit and watch this ridiculous film.
1 ½ stars
WITH ONE OF MY PREVIOUS cell phones I programmed most of my contacts with songs as their ringtone. I want you to know I never missed a call. In the middle of a crowded shopping mall or restaurant it did not make a difference because I would always hear the notes of the song. My ears from the time I was born were always accustomed to music and not just one genre; I was exposed to everything from classical to the blues. At some point in time I dreamt about being on a game show where the contestants had to name the song the game show host was playing for them. I was positive I could win. There is something about music that puts me in a place where I may feel relaxed or romantic or exhilarated; besides a wealth of other feelings. I am willing to bet many of us have a “go to” song we play when we have a heartbreak; there were several in my roundhouse. MUSIC CERTAINLY HAS EVOLVED OVER the centuries; I can only fantasize what it must have been like for early man and woman when they struck their first note. Imagine the idea of tying a string to essentially a piece of wood and discovering you can play different sounds depending on where your hand presses down on the string. The same goes for any wind type of instrument; who thought of blowing air into a shell or ram’s horn to make a sound? No matter how music is made one of the main foundations among all genres are the feelings that go into the musical piece. I find when a musical artist can connect to their song it makes me believe what they are saying. I know it is true because even the judges on those singing reality shows (my guilty pleasure) say the same thing. A singer needs to feel what they are singing and pour their emotions into the lyrics. Though it is a cliché I agree that music can soothe the savage beast. If you are not sure about this then you might want to check out this musical, family drama. LIVING WITH AN ABUSIVE FATHER the only thing that saved Bart, played by newcomer J. Michael Finley, was listening to music. It would take years before he understood why. Based on a true story, this movie also starred Dennis Quaid (A Dog’s Purpose, Far from Heaven) as Arthur, Brody Rose (Gifted, Christmas on the Bayou) as young Bart, Trace Adkins (The Lincoln Lawyer, Deepwater Horizon) as Brickell and Madeline Carroll (Flipped, Mr. Popper’s Penguins) as Shannon. With the story being faith based the thing I appreciated about this script was its ability to tell a story without drumming faith into the viewer’s head. The faith based films I have recently seen all focused on telling the viewers what we should believe, instead of creating a well done piece of work that told a story. Maybe because this was a true story about a dark subject I found it more palatable. I also enjoyed the music and especially Bart’s singing; the actor could easily do a Broadway musical with that type of voice. As for the script it did not have any real surprises in it. I felt Dennis did a better than usual job of acting in this film. What tied this whole picture together for me was the showing of statistics and the connection of events that led Bart on his journey. What sold me on this film was the music; if I had not enjoyed it I would have rated the movie lower.
MADE especially for you by those knotted skinny fingers, you could only imagine it must have taken months to create the gift. She is one of your favorite relatives who always remembers you on holidays and your birthday. This year she knitted you a multi-colored, bulky sweater. You could tell immediately the sweater was going to be way too big even before you unfolded it. Holding it by the shoulders you lifted it up so the body of the sweater cascaded down like a flood. The array of colored yarns clashed in such a sharp way that your eyes squinted as a few dominant colors seemed to vibrate in their confined patch of the sweater’s landscape. Gratefully you were not asked to try on the massive sweater; you did not want her to feel any anxiety seeing you lost in the yards of yarn spinning around you. It is always the thought that counts and the fact that it must have taken her months to knit only affirmed the affection and love the two of you share for each other. SINCE I believe there are no bad pets only bad owners, I keep the same attitude when I encounter someone’s dog or cat. I do not want the owner to know I am not fond of their pet; I simply remain quiet unless their pet is constantly jumping on me or is trying to bite me. Even the friends of mine who have dogs that greet you by sticking their snouts into your crotch are a bit annoying but still loveable. Having started out in veterinary science during my college years, I have always had a soft spot for animals. With that being said, I was looking forward to this comedic drama; however similar to what I said previously, I loved the dogs in this adventure film but was not fond of the script. THE relationship between dogs and their owners is explored in this heartwarming film. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Hachi: A Dog’s Tail) and starring Dennis Quaid (Frequency, Vantage Point) as Adult Ethan, Juliet Rylance (Frances Ha, Sinister franchise) as Ethan’s Mom and Luke Kirby (The Samaritan, Shattered Glass) as Ethan’s Dad; this movie based on the novel could have been a much better picture. I was aware of the controversy surrounding a video that recently popped up of one of the dogs, but I did not feel I had all the facts to make a proper decision yet. In the meantime the script was so heavy handed that it was dripping with cloying sweetness to purposefully pull at the viewer’s heartstrings. The story was predictable and kept everything in a narrow band of emotional depth; it could have been decent if the writers had backed off from focusing on manipulating the audience’s hearts and concentrate on telling a straightforward tale. I found myself getting bored though I mostly enjoyed Josh Gad’s (The Wedding Ringer, Love & Other Drugs) voicing of Bailey. Part of me wants to give a better rating for the dogs’ performances but I know I need to be impartial. The movie studio may have had good intentions but the end result did not fit together very well.
1 ¾ stars
They were not just a nightly dinner guest, they were more like family as we ate dinner in front of them. I remember the television being on while I would be sitting at the dining room table or sometimes directly in front of the TV with a snack tray in front of me, so I could watch the news. This is how we would learn what was taking place around the world besides in our city. Every night it was the same newscaster, who we trusted and believed, explaining events that made no sense initially, along with showing us parts of the world I knew I would never visit. Some of you may have never experienced this method of getting the news; but I have to tell you, once trust was established with our newscaster we never doubted what they had to say. Our confirmation was always the next day’s daily newspaper. Now I can still recall news stands that were set up at various locations around the city, manned by individuals who would be hawking the latest editions of the city’s daily newspapers. These people sounded like sirens stuck on repeat as they kept announcing their wares. The papers always reiterated what the newscaster said the night before. It only seems to be a recent phenomenon where newscasts have taken more of a personal agenda slant on the news. To tell you the truth even with the news no further than our fingertips these days I never know who to trust. TRUSTED newscaster Dan Rather, played by Robert Redford (A Walk in the Woods, All is Lost), and his long time producer Mary Mapes, played by Cate Blanchett (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Cinderella), felt they did a good job with their latest story airing on CBS’ 60 Minutes program. The story would not only shake the foundation of the TV network but also change the way people looked at the news. This film festival winning drama was fortunate to have Cate as part of the cast. She was by far the most engaging actor with her wonderful acting skills. This is not to say other actors such as Dennis Quaid (Vantage Point, The Day After Tomorrow) as Lt. Colonel Roger Charles and Topher Grace (Playing it Cool, Interstellar) were bad; they just did not evoke their feelings as well as Cate. I thought the script inspired by a true event focused more on the drama instead of telling a compelling story; there were scenes that needed more detail to explain the situation that was taking place at the moment. If it wasn’t for the acting on a whole, I would have found myself more disengaged than I already was during this biographical movie. By the end of the story I still had unanswered questions and that is the truth.
2 1/4 stars
Having one’s family name as a company moniker must be a heady experience. There must be a sense of pride and dedication to maintain a good reputation for the family name. Future generations, I believe, would be groomed to uphold the standards that were set before them. At least that is what I thought; but found out it was not the case when I was employed at family businesses. I found the offspring of the owners to be spoiled brats, without a sense of decency. They had a sense of entitlement, treating their company as their own personal kingdom; or even worse, as their own individual bank account. As I watched Zac Efron (The Lucky One, The Paperboy) play Dean Whipple in this drama, I was getting a similar impression. The difference was Dean had no interest in following in his father Henry’s, played by Dennis Quaid (Vantage Point, The Words), footsteps. But then again could you blame him? He was his father’s second choice. The story revolved around the choices and results members of the Whipple family made in the name of their family business. I did not find the characters likable with the exception of the mother Irene, played by Kim Dickens (The Blind Spot, Hollow Man). Her strong understated performance felt the most real to me. Zac did not bring anything new to his acting which consisted mostly of blank stares from his unusually bright eyes. I found the way light reflected off of his eyes to be a distraction. There never was a time where I believed in his character. The poor script allowed disjointed scenes of melodrama that did not help to move the story forward. One of the big, momentous scenes used to change the story was a cheap ploy; I disliked it immensely. There was a simple pureness to the way the movie was filmed. If the writers would have added more intensity to their story, it would have made an interesting juxtaposition between the emotional turmoil and the pristine landscapes. Instead we were stuck with a movie that was as exciting as watching grass grow.
1 3/4 stars
It does not take long after perusing my reviews to notice movies mean a lot to me. Whether on a physical, emotional or cerebral level; there is some kind of connection made between me and the movie. From several of the comments left, there is an appreciation to the personal relationship that a film forms with me. That is one of the wonderful aspects of watching a movie. The way it can trigger a memory, make me think, cause me to burst out laughing; I love the way a movie can take me away so easily. This is why I am so thrilled to say there was absolutely no connection between me and this worthless, offensive comedy. To say I was stunned by the tasteless subject matters would be an understatement. After sitting through this movie, despite several people walking out, I felt every actor and actress should come out publicly with an apology. The movie consisted of several short films that were loosely connected, each one vulgar and tasteless. The cast is more than I can list here, but there are a few that stood out. Let me start with Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables, The Prestige) and Naomi Watts (The Impossible, 21 Grams). These two have been nominated for best actor and actress in this year’s Oscars. I want to know how they can walk the red carpet, knowing what they did in this dreadful piece of garbage. If Halle Berry (Cloud Atlas, X-Men franchise) was concerned she would never live down her role in Catwoman, she won’t have to worry about that anymore. Let me just say she reached a new low when she was mixing guacamole with her breast during her film segment. Add in Richard Gere, Liv Schreiber, Greg Kinnear and Kate Winslet; did all of these movie stars owe someone a huge favor? I could go on and on, but let me end on a positive note. This movie has earned a special place on my movie review site: it is the first film to receive a single star from me. I would have given it a zero; but when I started this site, I decided to make 1 star my lowest rating. Obscene and vulgar language in trailer.
I am more comfortable with diversity, whether it is in my classes or in my neighborhood, than everyone being the same. There is more opportunity for learning with a diverse group in my opinion. For example, I am uncomfortable with a group of people who all act as if they are part of the Stepford Wives. This is one of the reasons why I lost interest with the characters in this predictable movie. I found the soccer mom characters to be simply icky. The message coming across was that soccer moms were unsatisfied, desperate to find physical affection. Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago, The Terminal) as Denise and Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction, Gattaca) as Patti would be examples of the poorly developed characters in this dull film. Gerard Butler (Chasing Mavericks, Law Abiding Citizen) played George, a former soccer star who was down on his luck. Divorced and having been an absentee dad to his son, George decided to coach his son’s soccer team in hopes of getting back into his son’s life again. Jessica Biel (The Illusionist, Total Recall) played George’s ex-wife Stacie who had moved on with her life and was about to get remarried as George came back into her life. Besides the story being silly, I felt the characters were one dimensional. Dennis Quaid (The Day After Tomorrow, Pandorum) was ridiculous as smarmy character Carl, cheating husband to Patti. The acting was not memorable and came across as being stilted. I could appreciate the idea of Gerard’s character wanting to be a responsible father to his son, but the writers veered off from it by filling scenes with silly filler. Relative newcomer Noah Lomax was very good playing the son Lewis. I felt bad for this character; not as much for having an absentee father as for being stuck in this loser of a movie.
1 2/3 stars