NO MATTER WHAT TOOK PLACE, THE one thing you could not do was cry. At least that is what was instilled into every boy in school. Not that I remember someone ever telling me that exactly, but I learned right away after one tear broke free from my eye and slid down my face. The teasing and name calling started immediately before I could get up from the ground. I was not sure if I was purposely tripped while running in the schoolyard; but I fell face forward onto the asphalt, ripping my pants and scraping off the skin of my knees and the palms of my hands. If someone asked if I was okay, I did not hear them through the laughter. I did not take it personally since the same thing happened to anyone who fell. Though if you were a girl you did not get teased about crying. How or why that distinction took place, I had no idea; it was just acceptable or maybe it was tolerated better if a girl was crying instead of a boy. One of the worst labels a student could get was being called a “crybaby.” Getting that label would put you on a quick path to being known as a sissy, at least amongst the boys. FROM THE EARLY TRAINING THAT TOOK place in elementary school, many boys grew a veneer of toughness. Some of the male students tried out for a sports team, figuring what they lacked in striking an opposing stature would be filled in with their athleticism. For those of us who wouldn’t or couldn’t compete in sports, we were left to fend for ourselves. A disconnect grew between those boys who were successful in portraying a tough exterior and those who chose not to or could not display toughness which by the way translated into manliness. Growing up in that kind of environment made me feel like something was wrong with me. By the time I made it to college, I found myself feeling more comfortable around female students than male. What drove this home for me was when I went to a fraternity’s open house during orientation week. Their house was this old Georgian style home with two white pillars that framed the front doorway. Going on a tour of the house, I heard about the history of the fraternity and its illustrious achievements in sports and community outreach. I do not know how to say this, but all the talking points I was hearing had competitive undertones that turned me off quickly. It seemed to me they were only interested in accepting those students who could display a “macho” exterior; something I sorely lacked. After watching this film festival nominated drama, I am so glad I never tried to be a pledge. HOPING TO SUCCEED WHERE HIS FATHER failed, college freshman Zurich, played by Trevor Jackson (Superfly, Eureka-TV), was determined to survive his chosen fraternity’s hell week, no matter what he was expected to do. With Tosin Cole (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Unlocked) as Frank, DeRon Horton (Dirt, Dear White People-TV) as Square, Alfre Woodard (12 Years a Slave, Annabelle) as Professor Hughes and Steve Harris (The Rock, The Practice-TV) as Dean Richardson; there were times when I felt I was actually watching pledges during hell week. The acting was cohesive among the cast which made there trials more realistic. I thought the script was decent; however, I wished the writers would have dug deeper into the students’ mentality and backgrounds. There was a level of predictability to the story; yet, I had to wonder how true the hazing incidents were being inflicted on the pledges. Maybe because I do not define masculinity in the same way as these fraternity brothers did; but they certainly proved I made the right decision when I chose not to pledge a fraternity when I was back in college.
2 ½ stars
I USED TO HAVE A FEAR OF dachshund dogs when I was young. It started when one chased me down the street. I was riding my bicycle over by a relative’s house. The streets were familiar to me, but I did not know many of the neighbors; only the ones that were close to my relative’s house. I remember it was before lunchtime and I was riding my bike on the sidewalk of a main thoroughfare. Because the dog was short, I did not see it at first; it was not until I heard it barking as it ran up alongside of me. I started to pedal faster as the dog kept up its barking between snapping at my ankles. I could not believe someone would let such a mean dog out without being on a leash. The dog continued chasing me down the block, only stopping after I veered off the sidewalk and rode over the curb into the street. I was so scared I did not look for traffic beforehand. Luckily, a car wasn’t driving by at that moment. The dog stood at the edge of the curb while it kept barking. I rode back to my relative’s house as I could feel the sweat dripping down my face and back. AFTER THAT INCIDENT ANY TIME I saw a dachshund I stayed away from it, even if the dog was on lease. if I saw someone walking towards me with one, I would cross the street. In fact, I stopped riding my bicycle around my relative’s house because I did not want to take a chance, I would encounter that demon dog. My relative noticed the change and asked me about it. I told her what happened, and she told me not to judge all dachshunds based on one encounter. She suggested, since I loved riding my bike, to ride in the other direction because she could not imagine the dog crossing any streets if it did not follow me into the street. What she said made sense and I did start riding my bike around her place; however, I still hated that breed of dog. It was not until I got older when a close friend of mine got a dachshund. At first, I was hesitant going to his house; but he begged me to come over. Once I saw how docile and cute the puppy was, my dislike for the breed waned. The more we hung out together, the more I started liking the puppy; I had confronted and overcame my fear. This is something the main characters in this mystery, horror thriller needed to do. OVER THE HOLIDAY BREAK A GROUP of sorority sisters staying on campus make plans to celebrate Christmas. However, when a couple of sisters go missing the remaining ones must band together to find out what was happening on campus. This movie starred Imogen Poots (Green Room, The Art of Self-Defense) as Riley, Aleyse Shannon (Charmed-TV, Instinct-TV) as Kris, Lily Donoghue (The Goldbergs-TV, Jane the Virgin-TV) as Marty, Brittany O’Grady (Star-TV, Above Suspicion) as Jesse and Caleb Eberhardt (The Post, Love Beats Rhymes) as Landon. The idea behind this story was a valid one; I could see what the writers were trying to accomplish with female empowerment. However, it seemed that was their only focus because this movie was a disaster. There was nothing that was scary enough to make me react to it. The beginning of the story was okay but then it took a wrong turn and became a silly mess. I thought the acting was below average. At one point it seemed as if everything was going wrong with this picture. I must tell you the scariest part about this movie was me having to sit and watch it. There was a brief extra scene during the credits.
1 ½ stars
Plans were all set for you and your friends to meet up at the local amusement park. The weathercasters had predicted good weather and they were right, warm and sunny. You and your friends were excited about going to the park because there was a new attraction. Walking into the kitchen to get something to eat for breakfast you heard your mother talking on the phone. The conversation was just ending and after your mother hung up the phone she said your aunt, uncle and cousins were coming over in the afternoon. You explained your plans but your mother told you it would not be polite to leave when your cousins were looking forward to playing with you. If your cousins were coming over in the morning you were sure they would want to go with you to the amusement park; but coming later in the afternoon, you knew your friends would already be finishing up and going home. Not that you did not want to see your relatives but you were disappointed having to stay at home and miss out on the plans you made with your friends. I have had my share of similar disappointments, plus I can recognize that same type of dejected look on kids’ faces when I walk past the nursery at the health clubs where I teach. The face is easy to spot. You will see a child in the nursery who is older than the other kids. Sitting on the small chairs that look like miniature toys under their weight, the older child usually has their head buried into some type of electronic device as they totally ignore all the little kids playing around them. They are there because their parent came to work out or take a class and they did not want to leave their kid, who they felt was not old enough to be home by themselves. Most parents know their child is too old to be stuck in a nursery. I felt like one of those kids as I sat through this comedy horror film. MADEA, played by Tyler Perry (Alex Cross, Good Deeds) agreed to watch her nephew’s daughter Tiffany, played by Diamond White (Haunted Hathaways-TV, Sing It!-TV), during Halloween. Dealing with an uncooperative child was only a small issue compared to the zombies, poltergeists and creepy clowns Madea would encounter. For the amount of time Tyler has devoted to his Madea character, I would have thought every possible scenario of trouble Madea could find herself in would have been covered. I do not know about this story but I found it redundant. It was the same type of humor and stunts to the point I did not find much to laugh about. With Cassi Davis (House of Payne-TV, Madea’s Big Happy Family) as Aunt Bam and Patrice Lovely (Madea Gets a Job, Love Thy Neighbor-TV) as Hattie, the humor was lost on me. Part of the reason may have been the difficulty in understanding some of the dialog. It was not very clear to me. For those who are fans of Madea you might enjoy this picture. Sitting through this movie was like getting a rotten apple instead of candy for Halloween.
1 2/3 stars
I would like someone to show me where it is written the characteristics on being masculine. This whole concept of what it means to be masculine is something that has always puzzled me. Who decided these rules on how a man should act? Can anyone tell me? I want to know why showing sensitivity is a bad thing. Better yet, who decided crying was wrong? There were so many years growing up where the only mantra I had was, “don’t let them see you cry, don’t let them see you cry;” over and over I would say this to myself. Also, I am afraid I never understood the whole camaraderie thing guys have over drinking alcohol because I was never a part of it, not a fan of alcohol. I have gone to many parties where people are drinking and carrying on and I grant you I feel like the odd man out because some of the things that drunken people laugh at are not funny to me. There was a time where it was okay for a man to be drunk, but if a woman got drunk she would be thought of in a negative way. In a similar vein I recall a conversation I heard where the parents were upset that their son was attracted to the colors pink and purple. The parents were asked why this upset them and they said they did not want their son to be considered a sissy. So tell me who decided which colors were approved for males? The whole concept of this masculine versus feminine thing is so ridiculous to me; I have more important things to think about then worrying if I cry in a movie or do not have a drink I will be considered less masculine. This is why you would never catch me participating in the things these college students were doing in this film festival nominated drama. AFTER surviving a brutal mugging Brad Land, played by Ben Schnetzer (The Book Thief, Pride), decided to go to the college where his brother was a student and join the same fraternity to prove a point. This movie was difficult for me to watch and easily could be for many other viewers. There were many scenes that were horrific in their intensity and realness; I am still in shock that people would do the things that were shown in this film. And this story was based on true events. With musical artist Nick Jonas (Kingdom-TV, Scream Queens-TV) as Brett Land, Gus Halper (Ricki and the Flash, Public Morals-TV) as Chance and Danny Flaherty (Hope Springs, The Wolf of Wall Street) as Will; I thought the acting was good under the extreme conditions. I felt the script was going in the right direction but I would have liked more information about the characters. There were times where I thought I would understand a scene better if I understood more of the students’ motivations. As I mentioned earlier this was a rough picture to watch with graphic scenes. I would just like to know why anyone would willingly subject themselves to such things. Is this really what it means to be a man?
2 ½ 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