IT FEELS GOOD TO BE BACK after being on vacation for the past couple of weeks. This was a special vacation for me because I finally fulfilled a dream I have had since I was a child. I traveled to the last state I needed to see to complete my quest of visiting all 50 states. This feeling of accomplishment was better than I had imagined; to have had this dream/goal for most of my life being checked off my list of things to do felt amazing. As I have done in every other state I have visited, I bought a couple of touristy T-shirts and caps to add to my collection. If you do the math, that means I have over 100 of each item; so yes, you can consider me somewhat of a nerd. I only wear them when I teach class since I prefer not putting on workout clothes that have a company’s logo on it. For every state I have been in, I have experienced something new and wonderful. One of the best experiences I have had from my journeys has been the discovery that people are pretty much the same no matter where they live. I have found there are more similarities between all of us than not and we truly can learn from each other if we take the time to do so. THERE IS THAT OLD PROVERB, “The grass is greener on the other side;” which means situations always look better than one’s own, even when they really are not. Since I live in a humid continental climate with all four seasons, I felt those who live in a tropical climate have it easier; it turns out that is not always the case. Meeting so many different people across the country has widened my horizons, allowing me to learn many new things. I can say with certainty the grass in no greener on the other side from your own; though it may feel like it at times. I find it interesting that one of my concerns about taking such a long vacation was how would I stay current with the new movie releases. As you can see, I have not posted a new review in a couple of weeks; however, I feel invigorated and find the very first movie I went to see upon my return relates so well with my feelings about accomplishing my dream. This animated adventure film has a couple of solid helpful messages stashed inside of its story. IMAGINE THE SHOCK MILES MORALES, voiced by Shameik Moore (Dope, Joyful Noise), felt when he discovered there was more than one version of his superhero, Spider-Man. With Jake Johnson (Tag, New Girl-TV) voicing Peter B. Parker, Hailee Steinfeld (The Edge of Seventeen, Pitch Perfect franchise) voicing Gwen Stacy, Mahershala Ali (Green Book, Hidden Figures) voicing Uncle Aaron and John Mulaney (Saturday Night Live-TV, The Jim Gaffigan Show-TV) voicing Spider-Ham; this was a visually fun action film. Using an assortment of animation styles, they lent themselves to the sharp humor in the script. As I mentioned earlier, I found a couple of good lessons were conveyed in the middle of the quick antics on display. What I also enjoyed was the inclusion of several tender scenes that gave this movie a nice sheen to it. This picture has a much more sophisticated script than the average animated film; both children and adults would have an easy time watching it. For me at times, I felt I was literally seeing a comic book come to life. And the funny thing about this is after I saw the movie trailer I was left with a “meh” feeling. I am glad this was my first movie to review upon my return and I loved the connection I felt between my feelings about my experience with the feelings expressed in this well-done film.
ALL THAT WAS NEEDED WAS A bed sheet and 2 chairs. With these items one could create a fort and that is exactly what we would do. Whenever I would get together with a cousin of mine and we wanted to pretend to be in the military, we would start our fort with the 2 chairs separated but facing each other. Draping the sheet over them we now would have a secret tunnel we had to crawl through underneath the chair seat, right between its legs. Once safely under the cover of the sheet we would go over our just thought out battle plans. There were times where we needed a bigger fort so I would take out the extra folding chairs from the hall closet while he went in search for more sheets and blankets. From our strategically placed covered chairs, we created an intricate compound of tunnels and meeting rooms. If there were enough items we would even incorporate the living room’s coffee tables to expand our structure. We could play for hours besides requesting our meals be delivered to our pretend mess hall in the middle of our fort. FROM THAT EARLY TIME, I fell in love with a variety of real and make-believe games. One of my oldest memories is being taught to play the card game, War. Add in Crazy 8’s, Gin Rummy and Concentration; I was always asking friends and family if they wanted to play with me. Store bought games also became important to me. You might not believe it but I still have some of them to this day and they remain in good condition. There is nothing like sitting down with a friend and taking out the game pieces of a board game in anticipation of a rousing good time. Interestingly I am not competitive against anyone, only myself. So, I never cared if I won or not; I simply enjoyed playing the game. The only time where I do not have fun playing is when there is a group of people and one of them is super competitive; I mean yelling and making rude comments to the other players or even the ones on their own team. I avoid this type of situation, preferring to sit it out and just observe. As for those games that list the ideal age range one should be to play it, do not believe it. There should never me an age restriction on being able to have fun; just watch the childhood friends in this comedy inspired by a true story. FOR THE PAST DECADES CHILDHOOD friends put one month aside a year to continue their game of Tag. Neither wedding or funeral were off limits in getting tagged “you’re it.” With Ed Helms (Chappaquiddick, Vacation) as Hogan “Hoagie” Malloy, Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, The Carmichael Show-TV) as Reggie, Jon Hamm (Beirut, Baby Driver) as Bob Callahan, Jake Johnson (Let’s Be Cops, New Girl-TV) as Randy “Chilli” Cilliano and Jeremy Renner (Wind River, The Bourne Legacy) as Jerry Pierce; the story for this film was wild. The fact these friends have been doing this same game of Tag for all these years is a bit mind blowing. I thought the cast did as best as they could with the script, but I need to tell you I became bored by the repetitive schemes to tag Jeremy’s character. A couple of scenes were fun and okay, but some of the stunts were too goofy for me. Honestly, I think I would have rather seen a documentary about these childhood friends, so I could have gotten a better feel for what type of individuals they were to each other. What can I say when I tell you I thought one of the best parts of this film was the way they did the ending credits. Maybe you will have a better time with this film; I did not get it.
Those needs, wants and expectations sure can trip you up in the middle of your relationship. A want is like a desire; such as I want a caramel apple dipped in chocolate. I do not need it but I certainly would not refuse one if it happened to cross my path. A need is defined as a condition requiring supply or relief; for example, telling a person to stop yelling at you would qualify as a need. Now about expectations, this one can really play havoc in your relationship. The dictionary defines expectation as a belief that something will happen or is likely to happen; you could even say a hope. But I have to tell you if you get into a relationship where you have silent expectations, it will knock you for a loop. I know a couple where the wife is a fast decision maker and the husband is opposite; he has to mull things over and over. Where the wife is ready to replace their refrigerator at the first sign of trouble, her husband has to wait and think it over; wondering if he could fix it or find someone who can, the cost, the time looking for a fridge if they have to and his list goes on and on. This could turn into a frustrating moment for both of them. Now I know in the scheme of things this type of disagreement is more of a trivial matter; however, there are times where two people can veer off of their shared path due to mixed expectations or needs. If you do not believe me just watch what happens in this drama. WHILE vacationing Tim and Lee, played by Jake Johnson (Let’s Be Cops, New Girl-TV) and Rosemarie DeWitt (Your Sister’s Sister Cinderella Man), discover an old bone and gun on the property. Reacting differently to this find caused the two of them to experience a different vacation from the other during their trip away. What drew me into this story was the dialog; I found it to be honest and real. With a large cast that included Brie Larson (Short Term 12, Don Jon) as Max and Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Kingdom of Heaven) as Ben, I found every character had something to offer to the story. Now about the story, I enjoyed how it let the viewer be a witness to the different implications and events, letting us imagine the possibilities that could happen. The cast really worked well together, coming across as believable and I mean this as a compliment, typical. There were a few parts in the story where I had to question the validity of the action taking place. I was not sure if I was reacting that way because I could not relate to it, not having experienced it in my life. On the plus side I enjoyed the way this film made me think about it even after it was done.
2 2/3 stars
They say clothes makes the person, but does it really? Do clothes truly have the power to turn a person into something else? At my last visit to the bank for work I noticed all the men were now wearing sport coats; in the past they only needed to wear their branded shirts. I asked one of the tellers why he was wearing the jacket and he said the bank wanted to present a professional, knowledgeable staff to the public. Yet I did not see a difference since no one could explain why the bank kept pulling out international checks from our lockbox and mailing them to us. I would then have to bring the checks to the bank and deposit them; it made no sense. On a more personal level I have known a variety of people who feel better when they are wearing some new article of clothing. I can understand even though I do not place much importance into what a person wears. As long as it is clean I do not care. However for some individuals clothes can be used as their calling card in making a strong statement. If it is a hazardous materials suit or protective bomb defusing clothing, then yes that makes a bold presentation. UNIFORMS were the catalyst for this comedic movie. Jake Johnson (21 Jump Street, New Girl-TV) and Damon Wayan Jr. (The Other Guys, New Girl-TV) played best friends Ryan and Justin. When the two dressed up as police officers for a costume party, the pair discovered they were being treated quite differently compared to their everyday life. However the fun and perks that came with wearing those uniforms may not have been enough for the friends after they started to take the joke too far. I read an interview that was done with the director, where he said he allowed the two actors to ad lib many of their scenes together because they already had established a relationship with each other on their television show. It worked for this film since I found there was an emotional connection between the 2 men that helped form convincing characters. The humor and funny situations started out strong; but halfway through, the story lost the surprise factor and became repetitive. Part of the reason had to fall on the director’s shoulders; however, the script did him no favors. Having James D’Arcy (Hitchcock, Cloud Atlas) as Mossi and Rob Riggle (The Internship, Big Miracle) as Segars was a plus in getting to the end of this picture without complete boredom. Overall the story was not hard to figure out. This led me to believe several scenes were just done to provide filler, adding enough time to stretch what would have been a sitcom segment into a full length movie.
We would try to sit together at staff meetings. Our humor was similar though mine had more of a sarcastic edge. If possible we would stop for a bite to eat after the meeting. There was an easiness to our friendship; I not only enjoyed being around them, but they had the same qualities I looked for in a loving relationship. It would take nothing for my mind to venture into a fantasy of us being together as a couple. They showed such supportive, caring, nurturing qualities; I could see us living together, me in charge of the laundry, they responsible for washing the dishes that served the meals we made together. It would be such a perfect life except for one thing–they were already in a relationship. Now I know there are people who do not let that one little fact stop them; I am not one of those people. In fact, I have been the one that was replaced by a newer version in the relationship. Not that I want you to get out the violins and play me a pity song, but I have been replaced more than once. As a result, by default, I feel I am somewhat of an expert and that is why I thought the characters in this dramatic comedy were authentic. Kate and Luke, played by Olivia Wilde (In Time, The Change-Up) and Jake Johnson (21 Jump Street, New Girl-TV), worked together at a city brewery. They always had fun when they were together; whether it was eating or going out for drinks, they looked like a happy couple. There was only one issue; Luke was already in a relationship with Jill, played by Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air, Pitch Perfect) and Kate was dating Chris, played by Ron Livingston (The Conjuring, The Cooler). With easy access to beer, one had to wonder how long they could keep walking that fine line between friendship and romance. Writer and director Joe Swanberg (Silver Bullets, LOL) used the cameras and script to create an easy natural flow to the characters, allowing them to speak in a more natural way. I thought this helped with the excellent chemistry that was evident between the actors. The humor was light and amusing as opposed to laugh out loud guffaws. I felt the movie could have used some dramatic highs and lows, breaking up the low key monotony I was experiencing. Except for one intense scene, there was not much of a deep emotional connection for me to the characters. The ending left me somewhat cold; I wanted something more or better yet, more conclusive. However if I was a drinking man, I could easily see me sitting with these characters and having a good time.
2 2/3 stars