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
The woman took a part-time job doing stock at a store, even though the full boxes were hard to carry. She did not care because she needed income to manage her mounting bills. The man traveled across the border to pick up medicines that were not yet approved in his country to combat his illness. The driver was afraid they were not going to make their interview for a job; so they drove over the speed limit and after stopping to look both ways, continued driving through any red traffic lights. Each of these individuals did what they did because they were desperate. I am sure each of us has performed at least one desperate act at some point during our life. Whether you were desperate to finish the race even though your leg was cramping up or you were desperate to get accepted at one particular university so you took on a heavy class load to up your grade point average; we have all been there at some time. One of the definitions for the word desperate says, “involves or employs extreme measures in an attempt to escape defeat or frustration;” another one states, “suffering extreme need or anxiety for money.” Evidently these must be desperate times to have made this film. JENNIFER Lopez (Maid in Manhattan, The Wedding Planner) played recently divorced mother Claire Peterson. After Noah Sandborn, played by Ryan Guzman (Step Up franchise, Pretty Little Liars-TV) had moved in next door, it was encouraging to see the positive influence he had on her son Kevin, played by Ian Nelson (The Judge, The Hunger Games). The compliments she was getting from Noah were nice to hear also. It was not long until Noah appeared to be part of the family, but which family member? This thriller was wrong on so many levels; I do not know where to begin. So let me start with Jennifer because she was the executive producer. I hope she did not think this role would make Hollywood stand up and notice her as a big dramatic actress. Stripping down to underwear for a scene does not automatically make a person appear vulnerable and dramatic, let alone younger; it takes acting and that is what was missing from this movie. By the way, that goes for everyone. The story was icky to start with and it was made worse by Claire being a school teacher. Kristin Chenoweth (Bewitched, Stranger Than Fiction) had the burden of playing vice principal Vicky Lansing, a clownish cartoonish character. It was horrible because the script was lame to the point of almost being laughable. There were no surprises since it was so predictable. This bad film needed more than a detention, it needed to be expelled.
1 1/2 stars
Though I grew up in a large metropolis, the neighborhood where I lived was pretty much self-contained. Besides knowing everyone who lived on the block, anything we needed was within walking distance from our home. My classmates and I grew up together through elementary school and into high school. It was funny, even with four other elementary schools being filtered in, all of us found a routine that carried us through the four years of high school. One of my friends and I would always meet up in the yearbook office on Tuesday afternoons to sit and catch up with each other. I knew never to go into the 3rd floor men’s bathroom on the far south side of the building because there was a gang of tough boys who hung out there to smoke cigarettes. Not until senior year did we all start to realize changes were coming. A friend of mine had to get a full-time job to help support his family, forgoing college. Some friends were going to out of state universities, others were going to the local city college; it was a scary time for me. I was going away to college and was nervous about living on my own. For a majority of people this was a natural rite of passage, which this dramatic coming of age film tried to show in a small Texas town. Shiloh Fernandez (The East, Red Riding Hood) played 19 year old Ritchie Wheeler. Content managing the local roller skating rink, Ritchie would be forced to look at his life when not only his circle of friends began to change but when his parents announced they were getting divorced. Set in the 1980s, this Sundance Film Festival nominated movie had a great soundtrack. The story started out slow for me, but I eventually found myself being interested in some of the characters. I thought Haley Ramm (Into the Wild, Flightplan) as Ritchie’s sister Mary and Ashley Greene (Twilight franchise, LOL) as Ritchie’s friend Michelle Burkham were a couple of the better actors in this drama. There have been coming of age stories done before, so I looked for this film to do something different; it really did nothing special in my opinion. I will say it was interesting to see teens in a small town going through similar things that took place in my city high school. Maybe I have had a slight prejudice towards small town living, but I did not see a real difference in the manner in which individuals from both ways of living reacted to the same situation. We really are creatures of habit aren’t we?
2 stars — DVD
I was at the same event, even sitting at the same table. It is always fascinating to me how two people at the same function can have different memories of the occasion. The memories I have for this particular event were all of a negative nature; the food was cold, the overpowering music made conversations difficult and the room was too cold. My friend thought it was one of the best charity events he had ever attended. Similarly, this type of scenario happens frequently between family members. I cannot tell you how many times two relatives will recall a specific event and have completely different recollections of it. The use of perception was a key factor in this comedy movie. Adam Scott (Friends with Kids, Parks and Recreations-TV) played Carter, an adult child of divorce. With the impending wedding of his younger brother coming up, Carter forced his divorced battling parents to put their bitterness aside to attend the event. But by Carter bringing the combatant spouses back, he discovered he had different family memories then they did. Having bought a movie ticket to this film without seeing a trailer for it, part of my enjoyment came from the blending of the hilarious cast that was a surprise to me. Catherine O’Hara (For Your Consideration, Home Alone franchise) as Melissa and Richard Jenkins (White House Down, The Visitor) as Hugh were perfectly in synch as Carter’s parents. Amy Poehler (Baby Mama, Parks and Recreations-TV) as Hugh’s new wife Sondra and Jane Lynch (Afternoon Delight, Glee-TV) as Dr. Judith were standouts in their roles. I had to wonder if their dialog was all scripted or did they do some ad libbing; it was wonderful to watch them. As for the story, it was somewhat cluttered which did not give much time to further explore the characters. What kept this movie together was everyone’s comedic skills. On the one hand I can see where movie goers would feel this film played more like a television sitcom; but for me, it did not make a difference because I enjoyed this light, funny movie. At least, that is how I recall my time spent in front of the theater screen watching this film. If you go to see this movie, stay through the rolling of the fun credits.
2 1/2 stars
One of the purest forms of innocence can be found in a small child. Without the opinions, prejudices or hatred that can be found in adults; children have the ability to be all inclusive. For that reason it is tragic when a child pays the price for an adult’s war. There is one kind of war that involves bullets and bombs, which is horrifying enough. But there is another type of war and this one involves only two adults–the mother and father of the child. It saddens me when I see one parent using their child as a pawn in a fight against the other parent. I cannot bring to mind anything uglier than a couple sacrificing their child for their own personal gain. Because of the excellent acting in this drama, it made watching this film harder for me. Updating this Henry James story to modern day New York City; the plot was about aging rock star Susanna’s, played by Julianne Moore (Being Flynn, A Single Man) bitter divorce battle with her husband Beale, played by Steve Coogan (Ruby Sparks, Our Idiot Brother). All of this is seen through the eyes of their young daughter Maisie, played by relative newcomer Onata Aprile. For such a young girl, her face easily conveyed the emotions she was feeling. A surprise for me was watching Alexander Skarsgard (Battleship, True Blood-TV) as Lincoln. Familiar with his towering vampire role on True Blood, I was impressed with his acting ability in this film. Alexander’s character was one of the strongest in the cast. I could have used more background information on the characters, but it was a minor complaint. It would be hard not to get involved in the story with the strong emotions playing out on screen. All one could do is hope Maisie does not become another casualty of war.
My college sociology professor used the term “Holy Deadlock” to describe a couple who stayed together for the wrong reasons. An example would be staying together for the children’s sake. This instructor claimed using children as an excuse to stay together did more harm than good. I have seen fighting couples use their kids as a way to attack or manipulate their significant other and it was awful to see. At that point the adult was no longer the parent, they were simply a conspirator. On the other hand, there are divorcing parents who act out in a different direction. They give in to the child’s every whim, hoping to make up for the failed relationship. Here, too, the adult is less of a parent as the child quickly learns the art of manipulation. In this comedy Cyrus, played by Jonah Hill (21 Jump Street, The Watch), was a master of manipulation. When his mother Molly, played by Marisa Tomei (The Lincoln Lawyer, The Wrestler), began to date John, played by John C. Reilly (Carnage, We Need to Talk About Kevin), Cyrus thought it would be easy to eliminate John from his mother’s life. He would discover the task at hand was easier said than done. What helped this story was the strong acting from the cast. I have enjoyed most of Marisa’s roles in the past and found her rock solid in playing Molly. In addition, playing John’s ex wife Jamie, Catherine Keener (Into the Wild, A Late Quartet) beautifully played off of John C. Reilly’s character. The fundamental elements of this story were sound; I only wished the writers would have added some punch. There was an easy predictability to several scenes. It takes effort to make a marriage work; it takes extra work to make a divorce successful for all involved parties.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
There have been many discussions about whether a man and woman can maintain a friendship after being a couple. In my world it has happened, easily for the most part. The girl I dated in 8th grade is still one of my closest friends today. In other relationships, there had to be a time of separation before the friendship could continue forward. I have always felt just because the love aspect did not work out, why would I remove myself from the other facets of the person, that were in synch with mine. Granted, when it comes to the issue of trust being broken, it can be very challenging to proceed with the friendship. I found this movie to be one of the smarter ones to deal with a couple’s separation. Celeste and Jesse, played by Rashida Jones (The Big Year, Our Idiot Brother) and Andy Samberg (That’s My Boy, Friends With Benefits), were going through a divorce while maintaining a close friendship with each other. On a personal level I have seen where that has been hard to do, but I gave credit to Rashida and her writing partner Will McCormack for making this intelligent story more believable. I expected Rashida to be good in this dramatic comedy and was not disappointed. The surprise for me was Andy showing more of a dramatic, serious side than his usual comedic talents. During the scenes where each character talked about seeing other people for dating, I felt they were true to life. The secondary story with Emma Roberts (Valentine’s Day, Nancy Drew) as pop star Riley had a surprise twist to it. Let us face it, relationships take some work; you have to give Celeste and Jesse extra points for working harder at it.