FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO GREW up without an intelligent personal assistant/navigator like SIRI, the first time you saw it in action had to be amazing. I remember the first time I tried it and how excited I was when SIRI created a reminder for me. To me, SIRI and the others of her kind are simply the great grandchildren of HAL 9000. I do not consider myself “worldly;” however, I enjoy trying to stay current. That does not mean I am jaded to experiencing new things either as a participant or observer. I will say though it takes a little something more these days to impress or amaze me. And the reason I say this, is because there is so much more information out there at our disposal. I remember the first time I saw this world-famous traveling, animal free, circus’ performance acts. The things these performers did surprised me to no end. After seeing them for several years, it is harder for me to experience the same level of wonder and amazement when I go to see them now. Yet, I still get a thrill watching the variety of acts. If someone were to ask me if I ever wanted to get to the point where nothing surprises me, I would have to say no; I always want to be able to experience the sensations of being surprised. BESIDES THE ENJOYMENT, WONDER AND THRILLS I experience in life; I get just as much enjoyment in seeing other people experience these feelings. I remember one vacation I was taking, where I was able to ride the city’s new people mover that opened the week I arrived. Sitting in my seat and watching several riders being surprised and amazed with the automatic sliding doors and lowering steps brought me such pleasure. It was like seeing a little baby’s expression of laughter when playing peek-a-boo with them. The individuals could not stop giggling and whispering to each other when the steps lowered and raised at various stops. They reminded me of some of the contestants I have seen on those reality shows that left their small town for the first time, on their very first plane ride, to come perform on the show. I cannot imagine someone never leaving their surroundings to explore what is out in the world. One of my lab partners in college had never been outside of his state until he came to school. There were so many things I took for granted that just stunned him. Since I enjoy watching people’s reactions to experiencing new things, I had a good time watching this silly comedy. AFTER 2 BEST FRIENDS WERE LAID off from their job, they decided to take their very first trip out of state. What were the chances they would chose a place that was about to experience a disaster? With Kristen Wiig (Wonder Woman 1984, The Skeleton Twins) as Sharon Gordon Fisherman, Annie Mumolo (This is 40, Bad Moms) as Barb, Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, A Private War) as Edgar Paget, Damon Wayans Jr (Let’s Be Cops, The Other Guys) as Darlie Bunkle and Ryn Dol (Kidding-TV, Drama Club-TV) as Yoyo; this movie was a fun experience. It felt like Kristen took a character she would have done on Saturday Night Live and placed her in a longer comedy sketch. Sure, there were preposterous scenarios and goofy antics; but I did not care. I appreciated the “small town” friends going out of their comfort zone into a new experience. It was just easy to sit back and not have to get confused trying to figure out what was going on in the story. There was nothing fancy or sophisticated here; one needs only to let go and let the cast surprise you. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
2 ½ stars
I DID NOT NOTICE HER WHEN I entered the classroom. My main concern was finding an empty seat. The class was mandatory; my friends teased me about the title of it, Meat and Animal Science. The instructor walked in and explained what was expected of us for the semester. After he was finished with his introduction, the teacher asked us to pair up with another student to become lab partners for the course. Since it was our first day, all the students simply asked whoever was sitting next to them. I became partnered with a farm boy, using his definition, from a little town that had only one stoplight. I thought he was joking, but it turned out he was not. The teacher waited a few moments to get the talking to die down before asking if anyone did not get a partner; one lone hand was raised in the air and it was from a female student. I looked around the room and noticed for the first time that she was the only female; it was just a curious observation on my part. The instructor assigned her to the two students sitting next to her who had teamed up, forming a trio. AS WE PROGRESSED THROUGH THE SEMESTER, there were times my partner and I were stationed near the trio during our lab time. I did not notice at first; but as the weeks passed, I noticed the female student was rarely working alongside her lab partners. My first thought was that she wanted to work alone. The reason being anytime her group had to do a presentation, the two male students would do the talking and fielding of questions. She would nod her head in agreement and would only talk if the instructor or student asked her something directly. As the weeks continued, I paid closer attention to her group, mostly to satisfy my own curiosity. I began to notice she did offer suggestions and advice to her teammates; they would nod their heads and/or mumble something I could not make out. However, based on how they proceeded, I saw the female lab partner would start up her own work on the task. I could only assume her lab partners were ignoring her and doing what they felt was the right thing to do. As far as I could tell the instructor did not notice or, sadly if this was the case, did notice and did not care. I did not know how she made out in the course, but I felt sad that her lab partners treated her with a lack of respect. My feelings for the main character in this film festival winning drama were similar. ON HER QUEST TO REPORT ONLY hard news stories television news reporter Christine Chubbuck, played by Rebecca Hall (The Town, The Gift), constantly came up against roadblocks. Whether it was not being the right type of story or something else; the only thing left was for her to create the story she wanted to report on. With Michael C. Hall (Kill Your Darlings, Dexter-TV) as George, Tracy Letts (Lady Bird, The Post) as Michael, Maria Dizzia (True Story, Rachel Getting Married) as Jean and J. Smith-Cameron (Man on a Ledge, You Can Count on Me) as Peg; this biographical story was based on true events. The key in making this movie work was the cast, led by the amazing Rebecca in her role. Unfamiliar to me, it was because of the cast’s acting skills that kept me involved with the plot. It took a while for me to get a sense of what was going on; but once I did, I enjoyed watching this movie. What surprised me about this picture was the fact not only was I unaware of the story, but also that I could not recall having heard anything about Rebecca’s amazing performance.
2 ½ stars
I ADMIT I DO HAVE MY FAVORITES. My top three to see when I go to a zoo are the monkeys, big cats and bears. Chimpanzees, in particular, have a special place inside of me since my first stuffed animal was one. When I visit a zoo or a variation of an animal sanctuary, I not only pay attention to those animals that attract a crowd of people, but also to those less popular ones. I find it interesting; no matter which zoo I am visiting, the same type of animals draws the same size crowds. From my observations animals that have fur or hair are more popular than those that have scales or bare skin. There are always more people around a giraffe than a snake. I believe the more an animal has human like mannerisms, the more comfortable humans are around it. Many times, I have seen throngs of people gravitate to the bear enclosure when someone is trying to get one of the bears to sit up for a peanut or marshmallow (not that I am condoning the feeding of animals). You should hear the people laugh and cheer if the bear not only sits up but catches the tossed food item in its mouth. It is as if one were teaching their pet; there is a connection being made to something familiar. THE ANIMALS THAT TEND TO SCARE or at least cause people to be fearful are those that do not display any type of human characteristics. Snakes, bats and spiders come to mind first for me, as examples. Pair up a tiger stalking its prey and a snake doing the same thing; I am willing to bet people will have a more negative reaction to the snake than the tiger. Image how many more children became fearful of snakes due to the Harry Potter books? There is nothing cuddly or warm about snakes; people tend to put negative connotations on the species. All snakes are trying to do is survive, just like any other animal. Now I grant you if a movie studio wants to do a non-fantasy horror film, the easiest thing for them to do is to demonize a less popular animal. Something on the order of a killer shark or piranhas would easily fit the bill. Sure, there have been rabid dogs and angry birds; but, they all miss what I refer to as the “ick” factor. There is something about a hairless/furless crazed animal that scares us more. See for yourself in this action, adventure horror film. DESPITE BEING IN THE PATH OF A category 5 hurricane Harley, played by Kaya Scodelario (The Maze Runner franchise, Moon), would not let anything stop her from checking up on her dad Dave, played by Barry Pepper (True Grit, The Green Mile). What she found could easily kill her. With Morfydd Clark (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Call Up) as Beth, Ross Anderson (Unbroken, The Silent Storm) as Wayne and relative newcomer Anson Booth as Stan; the animals were the stars of this picture. The acting did not move me much; however, I put most of the blame of it on the script. It did not make sense in parts and I felt the writers were trying too hard to make the viewers care for the actors. There was not anything that made me jump out of my seat; it was more of me feeling “icky” at several scenes. Again, this was simply due to the animals in the story. If the writers had gone the campy route, this could have been a fun B movie. As it stands now, it was just okay. Okay like watching a past movie released in the theaters airing repeatedly on television. If there is nothing else playing, one might decide to see this one. Just remember there will be blood in the water.
WALKING down the street your eye catches something on display behind the store’s display window. You had no intentions of shopping today, but something about the perfectly matched clothing on the mannequin makes you stop. The store was not unfamiliar to you; maybe it was a couple of years ago since you last ventured inside. If memory serves you correctly, you recall the sales staff being helpful. They were not pushy like some of the other clothing stores you have been in, where everything you try on looks perfect according to the staff. Instead the salespeople at this place offer suggestions, asking you where you intend to wear the items. Since the store did not appear to be busy you walked inside to get a closer look at the outfit. As expected a salesperson greeted you and asked if you needed any help. You explained your reason for coming inside and the salesperson directed you to the display rack that was carrying that particular outfit. Finding your size you took the clothing into the dressing room. After you had everything on you looked in the mirror. Though the clothing looked good, it did not look good on you. THIS scenario has happened to me multiple times through my life. Something that looked good on display did not translate to looking good on me. It is weird how that happens. It is not like my size keeps fluctuating; I have been the same size now for years. Yet each store seems to have a different idea of what the waist size should be. Where I may be a 32 inch waist at one place, another will have similar pants that fit the same but they are labeled 31 inch. In fact I know women’s clothing is more varied in how they determine their clothing sizes. It can be disappointing when you see something that you think would look good on you but then your reflection in the mirror says otherwise. It pretty much sums up the way I felt about this crime drama. JOE Coughlin, played by Ben Affleck, chose a different path than his police officer father Thomas Coughlin, played by Brendan Gleeson (In the Heart of the Sea, Suffragette). Joe’s path led to a life of crime down in Florida. This film festival nominee had a great look to it. Set during the time of Prohibition in the 1920s, the costumes and sets were a knock out. Written and directed by Ben, I have enjoyed Ben’s previous directorial efforts; he has an eye for filming a movie. However I think he took on too much with this story. There were scenes that were wonderful to watch, including an exciting car chase. But then there were other places where the story became muddled and slow. I liked the idea of making a gangster period piece but we all have seen similar ones before; this one needed more drama and intensity. As for the acting Ben could have been better since Elle Fanning (20th Century Women, Super 8) as Loretta Figgis and Chris Cooper (The Tempest, Adaptation) as Chief Figgis were more dynamic on screen. Unfortunately by the end of this picture I was left with a blah feeling; it may have been a good looking film but it did not tell its story very well.
2 ¼ stars
The first time I saw a warning label printed on a product, I remember thinking why would anyone want to buy something that could harm them. It was a pack of cigarettes, I recall. The other item I remember were those plastic bags that dry cleaners used to wrap customers’ freshly laundered clothing. Today it seems as if almost everything comes with some type of warning. Some of them make sense like the ones regarding medicine and over the counter drugs. I am someone who wants to know if a drug is going to make me sleepy or loopy. Recently I bought a hot air popcorn popper and there was a warning not to submerge the base of it in water because it could be an electrical hazard. Ok, that makes sense to me. Now there are some product warnings I have seen where I think the manufacturer must be assuming the person buying their product has no common sense. Shouldn’t everyone know to lift up a hot pot by its handles? I absolutely understand companies are afraid they will get sued, but doesn’t the consumer bear some of the responsibility? Wasn’t there something in the news about a person taking legal action against a fast food chain because the hot coffee filled cup they placed between their legs, while driving out of the drive thru, spilled and burned their legs? Regarding movies, each of them comes with a rating which in a way is like a warning about the content of that particular film. None of the current ratings explain the warning one needs before seeing this comedy. HAVING recently buried his wife Dick Kelly, played by Robert De Niro (Joy, Being Flynn), convinced his soon to be married grandson Jason, played by Zac Efron (Neighbors, That Awkward Moment), to take him on a road trip. Their trip would reveal many new surprises. I want to know how the cast which also included Zoey Deutch (Beautiful Creatures, Ringer-TV) as Shadia, Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed, Life After Beth) as Lenore and Julianne Hough (Safe Haven, Footloose) as Meredith could do any type of press tour and not be embarrassed by this movie. This was one of the worst films I have seen in the past year. The script was vulgar, crude, obnoxious and offensive; I could go on. It is astounding that these actors agreed to do this picture, especially Robert De Niro. Sure he can do comedy but why would he set himself up for ridicule. I guarantee you when the time comes to do a tribute to him; this movie will not be included in any of the film clips of his past roles. In regards to Zac, it seemed to me as if he counted on his looks more than his limited acting skills. This movie needed a warning label so innocent people would not spend their money and unwittingly let the studio know it is okay to make a crappy film.
If this is an example of the type of people who are in the top 1% tax bracket, then I do not want to be that wealthy. What a shallow group of gross people. Come on now, why would anyone need 22 bedrooms or 10 kitchens unless they were the Duggar family? I have always said I do not need to be super rich; I would just like to buy something without having to think about how I was going to pay for it. Flashy cars or clothes are not my thing. Granted, my biggest purchases would probably be an indoor movie theater and fitness room. Watching this documentary about Jackie and David Siegel was like watching a train wreck: horrifying and tragic, yet I could not stop looking in disbelief. David created Westgate Resorts which became the largest privately held time share company in the world. Already living in spectacular fashion with a mansion by the ocean, the Siegels decided to build a bigger house based on Versailles, for themselves and their 8 children. It was going to be the largest house in the country with 22 bedrooms, 13 baths, a bowling alley, roller skating rink and indoor pool; it was mind blowing to see a house this size. When asked why such a large house, David simply replied, “Because i can.” I found the whole thing obscenely decadent. My boss always said “timing is everything” and such words could be no truer here. The Siegels’ palatial mansion began construction just before the economy tanked in 2008. In a bad economy people were not thinking about buying into a time share when they could barely pay their rent. As the money quickly dried up, life drastically changed for David and the family. This was an incredible riches to rags story about people you have to see to believe. Maybe a history lesson about the French revolution would open their minds to a clearer reality.