IT WAS ODD TO BE SITTING AT the wedding reception and seeing a different groom from what I expected. After dating a man for several years and having a tragic breakup, my friend met a man and decided to get married after a couple of months of dating. I never got the chance to meet him before the wedding. Having hung out with my friend and her previous boyfriend for the past years; suddenly now, I had to put all those memories and feelings aside to start out fresh with this new person who was a stranger to me. I had to hold up my end of the conversation while editing my thoughts, before they could be spoken out loud; so, I would not mention something from my friend’s past that included her old boyfriend. Without receiving any cues from her I did not know what was okay to say; I thought it would be best to be cautious and keep the talk light between us. I found myself from time to time over the course of the reception looking over at the newlyweds. Expect for being just as tall as her past boyfriend, I saw nothing else in common between the husband and ex-boyfriend. I knew there would be a learning curve until I would come to understand what made the husband tick. INTRODUCING A NEW PERSON INTO THE MIX is something that produces a bit of anxiousness in me. Whether I am the one or someone else is bringing in the new person, I immediately feel my guard going up as I survey the social landscape. If I am the one introducing someone to my friends and family, I spend a portion of my time wondering how people are reacting to the person I brought with me. Will they like him/her, will they get their sense of humor, will they tease them; these are things I think about as I make my introductions. This brings to mind the story I heard about the son who brought their girlfriend home to meet his family and the father, who was running late, came out of the bathroom wearing only a towel around his waist from showering, to say hello to the new girlfriend. I guess everyone reacts differently to being introduced to someone, especially when they know the new person may become part of their family. From all the stories I have heard and the times I have been involved in these “meet and greets,” I have never experienced what the people in this dramatic horror thriller went through when a new person became part of the mix. WITH RAW EMOTIONS PRESENT OVER THE breakdown of their parents’ marriage, the children were going to face the introduction of someone new into their family. This person was famous due to a tragic event. With Richard Armitage (The Hobbit franchise, Into the Storm) as Richard, Alicia Silverstone (Batman & Robin, Who Gets the Dog?) as Laura, Riley Keough (American Honey, Mad Max: Fury Road) as Grace, Jaeden Martell (It franchise, Knives Out) as Aidan and Lia McHugh (Along Came the Devil, American Women-TV) as Mia; there were elements to this picture that made me think the story would provide some scary thrills. First there was the filming of it; I liked the starkness to many of the shots and scenes. Next, Riley and Jaeden were the standouts for me with their acting. My issue with this film involved the script. Once again, decent elements but nothing tied up well with the script. I felt the story went nowhere and dragged at times. Plus, I am not a fan of open-ended stories; where the viewer doesn’t know if something is real or imaginary. Usually when I get introduced to someone, I learn something new. I left this film not sure what I had seen.
1 ¾ stars
THE FIRST TIME I ENCOUNTERED SOMEONE affected by a divorce was a boy in 5th grade. He and his mother had recently moved to the neighborhood after her divorce. If someone had asked me if I noticed anything different because this boy’s parents were divorced, I would have said not one thing. His mother worked which was no different than many of the other mothers who had a job outside the home. I do not recall any time when this classmate could not attend a school function or activity due to a missing parent or affordability; he was like any other student. It was not until 7th grade before there was another student who had parents that were divorced. Now during this time there were kids in school who had one out of both parents who had to be away from home for extended periods of time, either for work or the military. There would be times when the parent remaining at home would get help from a family member or neighbor; but it was not like that would make any kind of difference. The only time where it would ever make a difference, if you even want to call it that, was when there was a gender specific event like a father/daughter dance or a field trip where parents were needed to chaperone. So, an uncle or older cousin would fill in for the dance and some relative would handle being a chaperone; it was easily workable. HAVING HAD SUCH EXPERIENCES WHILE GROWING UP, made the realization there was another option couples employed when they no longer wanted to be together much more difficult for me to rationalize. In fact, even today when I hear someone say they are staying together for the kids’ sake, I have to cringe. In my experiences I have not once seen where that option does anyone any good. I knew a family where the parents were doing this and all it accomplished was their kids having to go into therapy to deal with the craziness, they wound up experiencing, during what was a toxic environment. One parent started using the kids to deliver messages to their spouse; besides, trying to sway the kids’ opinion about the other parent into negative thoughts. It was sad to see the manipulation that was taking place in that household. Even worse was when I heard through a second party that one parent told one of their children, they were the cause for the breakdown in their marriage. To me that was criminal to say to a child. Because of my experiences; I intently watched this comedic, dramatic romance to see what was happening with the couple’s marriage. MARRIAGE REQUIRES AN ABILITY IN BEING able to give and take; it appeared Charlie and Nicole, played by Adam Driver (Star Wars franchise, The Dead Don’t Die) and Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit, Lost in Translation), thought they were good at it. With Laura Dern (Certain Women, J.T. Leroy) as Nora Fanshaw, Alan Alda (Bridge of Spies, The Four Seasons) as Bert Spitz and Julie Hagerty (A Master Builder, Airplane franchise) as Sandra; this film festival winner’s cast was brilliant. I enjoyed each actor and the words they spoke. The story may appear to have a theme that is common to many other films; however, this script came across fresh and new to me. Adam and Scarlett were so good that I thought their characters were actual, real people. The dialog was authentic which only added to the realness of the characters. If I have any criticism, I think some viewers might find the beginning of the story sedated. Like a marriage, it can take a little work to get into it; but once you are, it can turn into a valuable lesson.
3 ½ stars
HE WAS A MAN WHO NEVER heard the word “No,” during his professional role. I witnessed it for myself. During the summer I had a job at a company that was family owned. The man who hired me was the son of the owner, a man who had died several years prior. This company was the only job the son had done; he started helping out there during his elementary school years. I did not have much interaction with him, even though he was always around. However, I did see how the employees acted around him; some of them were even relatives of his. What became apparent to me was everyone’s reluctance to tell the son something negative or not aligned to his own way of thinking. Even if the person knew it was not in the company’s best interests, they would still not disagree with the son. For full disclosure, I will say the son was not the nicest man to work for; so, maybe some employees did not care about the company or its owner. I could only assume they did not need the job as much as I did. Again, I was only working there during the summer months before school started up again. THAT EXPERIENCE TURNED OUT TO BE quite helpful in my job searches. After I got out of college I applied at a local company that made handbags. During the interview process I discovered the company was being run by a child of the owner. I cannot remember if it was a son, daughter or grandchild. When I found this out it made sense to me because there was an extremely expensive car in the parking lot with vanity plates. I knew right at that moment that the car was owned by the owner’s child. Putting two and two together, I declined the offer they made me; I did not want to get involved with a company that had such a chain of command hierarchy. It was a good thing because a couple of years later I discovered the company had to file for bankruptcy. I never found out the details of it, but I was convinced part of the reason was having the son run the business. Now, I do not want to slight all family owned companies; I know of several that have remained successful from generation to generation. But, I will say if children of the owner are not raised in a reality-based environment, where they must work to get ahead and deal with being told “no,” then I feel the company will never succeed. See how this plays out in this crime action, comedy movie. THOUGH HIS FATHER HAD NO INVOLVEMENT with his upbringing JJ, played by Jessie T. Usher (Almost Christmas, Independence Day: Resurgence), decided to seek out his Dad for help in the mysterious death of a close friend. It would bring a whole new meaning to the saying, “Blood is thicker than water.” With Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers franchise, Snakes on a Plane) as John Shaft, Richard Roundtree (What Men Want, Brick) as John Shaft Sr., Regina Hall (Girls Trip, The Hate U Give) as Maya Babanikos and Alexandra Shipp (Straight Outta Compton; Love, Simon) as Sasha Arias; this film could have been both fun and exciting. Instead it was vulgar and unnecessary. If the writers wanted to move the original story forward, they could have done it without the profanity laced dialog and unimaginative scenarios. Everything was obvious and easy to figure out; I quickly got tired while watching this stale story. I left the movie theater with only one wish: that none of the characters in the story ever procreate.
1 ½ stars
THERE IS NO DENYING IT FEELS wonderful when someone is so into you. To receive constant attention and affection simply makes you feel special. I should know because I have experienced just such a relationship, where I was on the receiving end of a steady stream of compliments, affection, little gifts; among other things. It started out by meeting at a café mid-afternoon; I remember I had cinnamon tea because we both were commenting on how good it smelled. We were making small talk when they complimented me on my smile. I said thank you and stopped myself from returning the compliment because I wasn’t ready to go there yet. It was more important to me to find out about what things move and excite them. We stayed at the café for an hour or so, sharing a couple of our past life events. When we were leaving I found out they took public transportation to the café, so I offered to drive them home. You would have thought I was offering them a free car, they were so excited and happy. I was going the same direction and I thought it was the polite thing to do. FROM THAT POINT IN TIME THINGS began to accelerate. We would text back and forth throughout the week. Some of the texts I received came with selfies. None of the photos were inappropriate but I could tell they were set up to be somewhat flirtatious. I admit when it comes to relationships I tend to go at a slow and steady pace instead of quickly jumping in all the way. We had maybe 5 or 6 dates before they commented that they were falling in love with me. Whoa, only after 5-6 dates?!?! That seemed awful fast for me and it sent up a red flag. After several weeks does a person honestly know enough about someone to express their love? I could see saying something like, “…you have the qualities I find myself attracted to” or “I am feeling more comfortable around you,” but to profess their love so soon does not feel right to me. In my younger days I would probably be thrilled and find myself going right into a relationship; but, as I have grown older I have become aware of people who misdirect their love. They are in love with being in love. The object of their affection just needs to somewhat fit into a blueprint they created in their mind and off they go. An example can be found in this comedic, dramatic romance. THE HIGHLIGHT OF GLORIA’S, PLAYED BY Julianne Moore (Still Alice, The Kids are All Right), week was going out to the clubs to dance. When she danced she felt free and that freeness attracted recently divorced Arnold, played by John Turturro (Barton Fink, Fading Gigolo). Her personality was intoxicating to him. This movie also starred Jeanne Tripplehorn (Basic Instinct, Micky Blue Eyes) as Fiona, Alanna Ubach (Legally Blonde, Meet the Fockers) as Veronica and Michael Cera (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Person to Person) as Peter. This remake was fortunate to have Julianne starring in it; she did a wonderful job with the character. I enjoyed watching the way she conveyed Gloria’s feelings without having to hit the viewer over the head with them. If this had been cast with a less experienced actress I do not think my interest would have held up. The reason being is the script was too sanitary for me; everything seemed to fit into a prescribed place which prevented any surprises taking place. I can see where a viewer would quickly fall in love with Julianne; but as for the rest of the story, one may hold off a bit before expressing their feelings.
2 ½ stars
IT SOUNDED LIKE A GOOD IDEA at the time. They remembered as little kids skitching in the snow. For those of you unfamiliar with the term it means: holding on to the back of a moving vehicle while riding a bicycle, skates or skateboard. However, they used to just use their shoes or boots when there was snow on the ground. As children they would hide between parked cars and wait for a bus, truck or car to drive by them. Just as the vehicle was about to pass they would run out and try to grab the back bumper without being seen by the driver. It felt like they were waterskiing except they were riding the icy surface of the street. Buses were the best to catch because you would know they would be coming to a stop as soon as they got to the next bus stop; cars and trucks were trickier because you either had to wait until the vehicle came to a red light or was shortly coming to a parking space. The only other option was to let go in mid ride and hope you would not slide into anything hard. REMEMBERING THE FUN THEY HAD in doing this, they decided to give it a try. Waiting between parked cars just like they used to do before, crouched down with one person as the lookout, a bus turned the corner and was coming down the street. As it passed they ran out as best as they could with the slippery conditions and grabbed a hold of the bumper. Off they went hanging on the back of the bus. It brought back such good memories as their feet skimmed over the snow with the wind hitting them in the face. The buildings were passing by rapidly; they figured they must be traveling close to the speed limit. The next bus stop should be coming up soon they thought. Suddenly someone’s foot sunk into a pothole, throwing them off balance. She toppled over into the friend standing next to her and the two lost their grip on the bumper. They fell to the ground tumbling over each other. Luckily there was no one driving near them as they finally crashed into a parked car. Their clothes were dirty and wet, getting rip and torn in the process. Maybe skitching was a silly idea to have done in the first place. It was just as silly as some of the things I saw in this comedy. AFTER HER HUSBAND DECIDED TO leave her Deanna, played by Melissa McCarthy (The Boss, St. Vincent), decided to go back to college to finish her degree. It was the same college her daughter was attending; what could go wrong? With Gillian Jacobs (The Box, Community-TV) as Helen, Debby Ryan (Rip Tide, Jessie-TV) as Jennifer, Maya Rudolph (Away We Go, Sisters) as Christine and Julie Bowen (Joe Somebody, Modern Family-TV) as Marcie; I thought the idea for the story was admirable. There is no denying Melissa is one of the top comedic actresses with her timing and physicality; I did laugh at a few scenes. My issue with this movie was the script; it was getting sillier and sillier. I felt the writers were focusing most on making the audience laugh instead of keeping the story real, to go beyond the gags. With the pairing of Melissa and Maya, I felt there could have been more ground to cover in many scenes. Now I am not saying watching this movie would be a waste of your time. For some lighthearted, silly fare where you do not have to think much; this film may or may not bring back memories of your years in school.
THERE IS ANGER AND THEN there is white, hot anger. The type of anger that cuts off the brain from talking to its body, that blocks out all reasonable thoughts; white hot anger is almost always swift and hurtful. I have only seen this type of anger a handful of times. Once while a passenger in a car that got sideswiped out on the street, our driver exploded in such anger as he saw the culprit driving away. He made a U-turn in the middle of a 4 lane road, making cars screech to a halt while he slammed on the gas pedal to catch the other driver. We demanded to get out of the car, we were all so scared. There was another time I can still remember like it happened yesterday, though it was years ago when I was in school. Two students got into a physical fight that I could only describe as vicious. They were punching, scratching and kicking each other to the point there was blood. At one point I thought one of them was going to get their neck broken it was bent back so far. HOW THIS INTENSE ANGER CAN suddenly show up in a person confounds me, yet I am guilty of experiencing it myself. Let me first say it has been a long time since I flamed up with this type of anger, but it would come out particularly when I was either trying to fix some item in the house or assemble a product I had recently purchased. I had bought this device that claimed it would unclog drainpipes without the need of drain opener solutions. It was not a big product but had several pieces that needed to fit together just right. My tools were laid out and I had looked over the instructions before I actually began to assemble the drain opener. What I thought would have been a simple thing to do went way longer than I anticipated, so I was getting agitated. Finally after attaching everything together I went over to the bathtub drain to try out the device. Placing the suction cup over the drain opening I did exactly what the instructions said to do. Nothing happened; I reset and tried again but I got the same results. I cannot describe it but this pulse of intense anger burst out inside of me and I slammed the device on the edge of the bathtub, breaking it apart. Not proud admitting this but I was done with it. At least my anger was directed towards an inanimate object, nothing like the main character in this dramatic thriller. MELINDA, PLAYED BY TARAJI P. HENSON (Proud Mary, Hidden Figures), always had a temper; her boyfriend discovered it early on. He promised never to upset her again, but that would turn out to be a tall order. With Lyriq Bent (Pay the Ghost, Rookie Blue-TV) as Robert, Crystle Stewart (Good Deeds, For Better or Worse) as Diana and Jazmyn Simon (Baggage Claim, Ballers-TV) as June; this movie was all about Taraji. She does angry with the best of them. If I were her I would be angry also because the script was so ridiculous. People in the movie theater were laughing and talking back to the screen because some of the things being shown were unrealistic. There were no real surprises as the script followed a typical generic path to conclusion. If it was not for Taraji I would have been totally bored. Writer/director Tyler Perry (Madea franchise, Meet the Browns) picked the right actress for the role; sadly it was a role in a film I could not even get angry about for wasting my time because it was just blah.
1 ½ stars
ONLY in rare circumstances would someone want to meet their replacement. One area where I could see it happening would be in the workplace, if the person being replaced initiated the change. If however the person was not planning to make a change, I could see where it would be an uncomfortable situation. A friend of mine worked at a large food company where her department suddenly saw several new employees assigned to each person in the department for training. Once my friend finished the training of her new employee, she was laid off and the new person was sent back overseas to continue my friend’s work at a cheaper labor rate. Another situation where seeing one’s replacement would be uneventful would be with a couple who had an amicable divorce. In other words, there was no cheating involved or the breaking of trust. If the spouse being replaced believes their former partner has issues, I think it would be safe to say they would feel sorry for the new partner coming into the relationship. OUT of my past relationships I have had the good and bad fortune of meeting the replacements sometimes. One long term relationship of mine ended sadly; well at least I was sad. Five days later I was at a shopping mall and unbelievably ran right into my ex with a man who obviously was my replacement. I could not believe after all the time we spent together it only took 5 days to swap me out for someone else. It would be appreciated if you don’t ask me if it was a trade-up; based on that one chance meeting all I can say is I do not think so. Now I know there are some people who handle a status change in their relationship easier than others; I am not one of those individuals. I need time to let things settle and to re-establish new routines before I can move on. This may not work for everyone as you can see in this dramatic thriller. SEEING Julia Banks, played by Rosario Dawson (Seven Pounds, Death Proof), move into the house she used to share with her former husband David Connover, played by Geoff Stults (She’s Out of My League, J. Edgar), was more than she could handle. Tessa, played by Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up, Life as We Know it), had no desire to be the perfect ex-wife. The story to this movie has been done many times before. That alone would not have been an issue for me; however, I thought the script was silly and offered nothing new to this genre. I thought Rosario and Katherine did a good job with their characters, especially with all the physical stunts they had to do. The surprise for me was not recognizing Cheryl Ladd (Poison Ivy, Millennium) as Tessa’s mother, though she too was fine in her role. Let me say because of the horror stories I have heard being done through the internet, there was a certain creep factor to this story. I think if the writers would have expanded out that aspect of it, the movie might have been more engaging. Honestly the only reason one would spend money on watching this film is if they wanted to see two women acting like they were ultimate fighters; I was sad I did not buy a ticket to a different picture.
1 ¾ stars
UNFILTERED, loudmouth, bad, rude and outrageous are some of the words that have described a person who speaks their mind. Personally, I have been associated with a couple of these descriptions. Honestly I cannot remember when I started speaking my mind; I want to say it started after high school. Seeing people being “two faced” where they would be friendly and kind to someone, then behind their back they would say nasty stuff about the person upset me. Obviously it made me wonder what was being said behind my back. The other thing that used to bother me was seeing people afraid to state their feelings. I firmly believe no one has the right to tell another person how they should feel; each one of us should be able to talk freely about our feelings without any feedback unless we asked for it. What will turn me off quicker than a light switch is when someone tells me how I “should” feel. Really?? If I sit here and think about it I want to say this “how I should feel” phrase may have contributed to me expressing my thoughts and feelings without holding anything back. NOW with everything I just said there is one other element I want to introduce into this conversation and that is sensitivity. Looking back I now realize my honesty at times may have been too intense for some people. Though I was being truthful, the individual may have not been ready to hear what I was telling them. Just because you tell someone they are in a co-dependent relationship for example does not mean they will accept the news if they are not ready. It took me a long time to soften what I was saying so the words would not be heard so harshly. I attribute this to maturity. If someone asks me what I think about a situation I will tell them, but be sensitive to their feelings. This is something the main character could have used in this dramatic comedy. WILSON, played by Woody Harrelson (Now You See Me franchise, No Country for Old Men), said exactly what was on his mind. Maybe that is why he lived alone. Based on the graphic novel this film also starred Judy Greer (Jurassic World, Ant-Man) as Shelly, Laura Dern (The Founder, Certain Women) as Pippi, Shaun Brown (Female Fight Club, The Great Indoors-TV) as Laptop Man and Isabella Amara (The Boss, Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life) as Claire. The only actors that stood out for me were Woody and Laura; they gave this script a good shot, but I found the story uneven. It did not take long for me to lose interest as the scenes seemed to repeat themselves as Woody’s mouth continued to get reactions from a rotating cast of characters. I think there could have been places of opportunity where the writers could have given the characters more emotions to act out. By the time something of substance took place I did not care anymore. Listening to this annoying character Wilson throughout the film annoyed me after awhile. In the real world I would not allow myself to be around such a person. I have to be brutally honest here; do not waste your money on seeing this movie.
1 ¾ stars
I have seen so many outcomes I still do not know whether it takes luck, fate, work or a combination of all three to create a blended family. From a young age I learned family does not need a genetic bond. There were children in the neighborhood who were adopted or had a stepparent. Some kids would call their parent mom or dad even though they were not a biological parent; others would refer to their parent as a stepdad or stepmom. I found it curious why they were labeled differently. As we grew older I started getting an inside peek into the dynamics of what people consider to be a family. When both parents came from a previous marriage that produced children, sometimes there was a rivalry between the different sets of kids. I actually saw blatant favoritism from one parent with their biological child over their stepchild. Where I can see the challenges of blending a family I also know there can be advantages. What about an only child that suddenly, through the remarriage of a parent, gains brothers and sisters? In fact, I know someone whose biological parents each had children from a previous marriage. This person technically has half siblings, but one would never know because they are all so supportive of each other; it is a beautiful thing. Each of them feel the same way about their siblings and the parents are united in creating a healthy, loving environment for all of the children. There is no competition involved unlike the parents in this comedy. BRAD Whitaker, played by Will Ferrell (The Other Guys, Get Hard), was working hard to show he could be a dad to his stepchildren. His plans took a major detour when the children’s biological father Dusty Mayron, played by Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter, Lone Survivor), decided to come pay a visit. The idea for this story was a valid one; I have seen where a parent essentially tries to buy the love of a child. From the trailers one can see this appears to be the premise for this film. If you did see the trailers then you saw the best parts of this picture. I thought it started out slow as it moved into scenes of one-upmanship between the two dads. This type of schtick got old real fast. There really was nothing new or fun in this comedy; however, I liked the way the story turned, making the last part of this film more interesting and bearable. If the writers would have introduced this aspect earlier this movie would have been better in my opinion. As it stands, some of the scenes were ridiculous and unnecessary. Of course, if one is looking for a light mindless fluffy film then this one would fit the need. The idea of showing a family trying to blend together was a good idea; this mishmash of a movie did nothing with it.
1 3/4 stars
Ever since it was told to me in a time of need, I have repeated it to many other people. To this day I still use the phrase, “Do what you love and the rest will follow,” as a guide before taking on a new undertaking. Now for the most part I do believe it to be true, however I have come to the realization not everyone will agree to follow along with me. Like me I am sure some of you have known someone who was in a relationship where their significant other refused to follow them when they got a job promotion that involved moving out of state or country. The first time I encountered a difference of opinion that caused a split in the relationship was at the beginning of my career as a fitness/yoga instructor. I was trying to get established at a few fitness centers so I was going to different workshops and conventions, besides teaching my regular schedule and periodically subbing for other instructors’ classes. It was a hectic time for me; there were times where I could not join in on social functions, they would have to go alone. As you may have guessed already it finally came down to where I was given a choice; either give up some classes and spend more time with them or they were going to end the relationship. It was a rough time for me because I was looking for support in my new venture, but yet I understood their needs as well. This dramatic comedy reminded me of that time. HAVING followed her passion all these years to be a musician Ricki, played by Meryl Streep (The Giver, Into the Woods), had to learn to be a mother again when her daughter Julie, played by real life daughter Mamie Gummer (Side Effects, Cake), was in crisis from a broken marriage. It was not going to be easy to just come back home. The draw to this musical movie was the cast; besides Meryl there was musician/actor Rick Springfield (General Hospital-TV, Loyal Opposition) as Greg and Kevin Kline (Wild Wild West, My Old Lady) as Pete. With a script written by Diablo Cody (Young Adult, Juno), there were times the actors were able to fly with the dialog. Unfortunately, there were other times where they fell flat because the scene was disconnected or predictable. I tried staying away from the buildup by the press about the electric tension Meryl and Mamie had to create between each other; but I have to tell you, I did not find the drama that intense for the situation. It was somewhat bland at times for me. I certainly understand following one’s heart but I needed to see some valid reasons with this film.
2 1/4 stars