PRIOR TO GOING TO THE FUNERAL, I always thought everyone in attendance was there to pay their respects. I must tell you, it startled me when I heard the man sitting next to me tell his companion he was glad the man was dead. You do not often hear those words coming out of someone’s mouth. Out of the corner of my eye, I tried to get a better look at this man’s face to see if I knew him. I was there because I was an employee of the company, doing customer service work for them. The man looked familiar to me, but I could not recall ever talking to him. He was telling the person next to him that the dead man was an awful human being. I wondered if anyone else around us was hearing what this man was saying about the deceased. It was such a weird juxtaposition with family members sniffling and crying near the casket and this man bad mouthing their relative. It was not easy to hear everything he was saying, but I was increasingly curious to hear why this man so disliked the dearly departed that he would actually verbalize his feelings without a filter. SINCE THAT FUNERAL, I HAVE BEEN a witness to two other funerals where some of the people in attendance had other reasons for being there. This one funeral had so many mourners coming into the funeral home, that several of them had to lean up against the walls because there were no seats left. During the eulogy, something that was said triggered a couple of mourners to stand up and shout at the grieving family members. I was frozen in my seat; it was such a surreal scene playing out in front of me. One of the deceased’s daughters stood up, turned around to face the yelling mourners, and shouted, “You will burn in hell!” I have never forgotten those words and can still picture myself sitting there when they were first uttered. Talk about drama fit for the big screen. The other funeral I attended that was outside the norm was one where family members got into a physical fight that caused them to bump into the casket. There was a huge gasp from the mourners in attendance, fearful that there was a chance the casket would fall off its pedestal. With the help of the funeral home’s employees, the fighting family members were pulled apart and taken out of the room. After having experienced these unusual funeral proceedings, I thought I had seen everything; that is until I watched this film festival winning, dark comedy. WHEN THE PATRIARCH OF THE FAMILY died, a variety of family members and friends thought the funeral service would be the perfect time to address their concerns. With Matthew Macfadyen (The Three Musketeers, Pride & Prejudice) as Daniel, Keeley Hawes (Line of Duty-TV, Upstairs Downstairs-TV) as Jane, Andy Nyman (Judy, The Commuter) as Howard, Ewen Bremner (Wonder Woman, Trainspotting franchise) as Justin and Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent, Game of Thrones-TV) as Peter; this movie took some time before kicking into gear. The humor was fun and there was an abundance of jokes, but I felt the writers could have tightened up the script more. There was an overall flavor to this film that reminded me of those old British comedy films. With such a large cast, one would have thought several actors would have faded into the background; but that was not the case here. Everyone did their part to carry the story forward, with Alan Tudyk and Andy Nyman as the standouts for me. All things considered, this was a fun film to watch and a better experience for me than the previous funerals I had attended.
2 ½ stars
IT WAS NOT PLANNED TO BE A PAINFUL experience for the spectators. I was sitting and watching the ice-skating competition; it was the finals. From my memory skaters weren’t as athletic as they were presently. I remember there was more artistry to the skating; the skaters I was seeing had more athletic looking bodies, especially the men. There was a time when jumping in the air and doing three revolutions was the hardest thing a skater could do. Now, if a male ice-skater cannot do four revolutions in the air, chances are they will not win top place in the final standings. The next skater up was in the lead according to the announcer. The young man took to the ice and centered himself in the middle of the ice rink, waiting for his music to begin. There was a hush over the audience as the first note of the music resonated through the arena. Only a couple of passes from side to side were done before the participant did his first jump. Up in the air he went, spinning like a top before landing. However, when his skate came back to the ice he could not keep his balance and fell backwards, onto his backside. It was the first fall out of several; I felt so bad for him. AFTER THE PERFORMANCE IF THAT WAS not bad enough, I felt awful watching the skater sit and wait for his results. Everyone knew he would not retain his lead to win the championship; he sat there with his head hung down, not looking at the crowd. It was sad when the scores were announced, and he had dropped 6 places back. I could not imagine how he must have felt. At least when an athlete is on a team, the chances improve that one team’s player’s actions will not ruin the game for the whole team. Of course, there are exceptions; but to be the only person responsible for your destiny and you fail miserably, I would think that would be harder on a person. Add in being in the public spotlight, a leading contender, successful in their past performances and I know I would be upset if I did a poor job. Do you know what I think is even worse? When a person decides to end their career or portion of their life’s work on a sour note, instead of leaving on a high. This is exactly what I was thinking about as I sat through what, I have heard, will be the last installment of this comedy franchise. ON A ROAD TRIP TO ATTEND an anniversary party Madea, played by Tyler Perry (Gone Girl, Good Deeds), and company discover one of the relatives has been cheating on his wife. A party was not the place to air out a couple’s dirty laundry. This movie had some of the usual cast along with new actors such as Cassi Davis (Daddy’s Little Girls, House of Payne-TV) as Aunt Bam, Patrice Lovely (Love Thy Neighbor, Je’Caryous Johnson’s Marriage Material) as Hattie, Ciera Payton (The Runner, Graceland-TV) as Sylvia and KJ Smith (Throwback Holiday, Family Time-TV) as Carol. Sitting through this film was an unpleasant experience for me. I was bored by the same old routines that have been in previous Madea movies making this one so predictable. The script did not offer anything fresh, exciting or positive in my opinion; except for a couple of chuckles. To tell you the truth this picture felt like a rehash of other past movies except the pieces did not quite fit into place. If the reports are true, then this will be the last Madea movie and I hope that is the case. If there are any more of this caliber that I will have to sit through then I am a masochist; this was just painful.
1 ½ stars
There was a time when family members lived close to each other because they wanted to, not out of necessity. I had an aunt & uncle who lived in the same apartment building where I lived and my grandmother lived a couple of blocks away. It was nothing to come home and have visiting relatives sitting around the house. The world may have been big and the neighborhoods small back then; however, times seem to be different now where the world has become small and the neighborhoods have gotten bigger. Children can live on a different continent than their parents, relatives can be scattered across a country like confetti on a windy day. With distance comes the possibility of less shared experiences. It may not seem like a big deal at first but before you know it there could be long stretches of time where unfamiliarity rises up and devours a niece’s first soccer game or a cousin’s 1st place winning high school science project. When the younger generation begins creating the next generation it can stretch the weeks of absence into months, eventually years. It is sad to say that families wind up getting together only at a happy or sad occasion; what I refer to as a wedding or funeral event. DEATH was what brought the Altman family back together. When Hillary Altman’s, played by Jane Fonda (Coming Home, Monster-in-Law), husband passed away she insisted her children stay in the house and sit shiva with her for 7 days. Judd, Wendy, Paul and Phillip Altman; played by Jason Bateman (Bad Words, Horrible Bosses), Tina Fey (Muppets Most Wanted, Admission), Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris, Non-Stop) and Adam Driver (Frances Ha, Inside Llewyn Davis); would soon discover it was not as easy to live together again like they did when they were kids. The first thing that stood out in this comedic drama was the amount of star power in the cast. Jason Bateman with his impeccable comedic timing and quick change ability to become sincere was in top form for this film. Tina and Jane easily kept up with him. Now what made this film harder to watch was having this talented group of actors try to bring life to such a poorly constructed script. I could not believe how bored I was during parts of this movie; the script was dull and lifeless. In my opinion the script hindered the actors from creating chemistry among themselves. Watching this picture felt like being trapped with a distant relative who would not stop talking about their children.