I DO NOT THINK I would ever be accused of being a game snob; at least I don’t think so. Games provide two important functions in my opinion: they activate the brain and instill a sense of pleasure and fun in the individual. When one can assemble a group of willing participants into playing a game, they should consider it an achievement. I say this because I have been a part of several game nights where there were players who made sure everyone knew they were not having fun. Or worse yet I knew this man (a friend was dating him) who was one of the worst game players I have ever encountered in my entire life. He would yell, scream and belittle any of his teammates if they were not doing what HE thought they should be doing to win the game. It was so awful to sit there and have this guy dramatically, yes dramatically, talk down to someone for making a move that did not help their team’s score. I finally told my friend I would never play with them again; gratefully she stopped dating him soon after. ON THE OTHER HAND I have played with some people who were so disinterested that you had to literally tell them what to do throughout the whole game. They would not pay attention to when it was their turn, the rules or what their teammates were doing when it was their turns; it made one wonder why they agreed to play a game in the first place. Now I do not have an issue with anyone saying they are not interested in playing something; if they want to sit it out I am fine with it. But if you agree to play a game I feel one should at least show an effort and if need be become a team player. When you have several people on one team with one person who is not engaged with everyone else, it does throw the game off. I remember when I was participating on a bowling team and one of the players made no effort in playing; I mean they would just pick up a bowling ball and throw it down the alley without any concern if they hit a pin or not. The rest of the team you could tell was not happy they had this person as a teammate. It just made for an uncomfortable time and that is not something I want to be a part of; the same could be said for either of the teams in this mystery crime comedy. THE GAME NIGHT HOSTED BY Annie and Max, played by Rachel McAdams (Spotlight, The Notebook) and Jason Bateman (Bad Words, The Family Fang), was in for a surprise when Max’ super competitive brother Brooks, played by Kyle Chandler (Manchester by the Sea, Friday Night Lights-TV), showed up and decided to take the competition up a notch with a murder mystery game. Even when there was an actual kidnapping the players continued on with the game. With Sharon Horgan (Imagine Me & You, Man Up) as Sarah and Billy Magnussen (The Big Short, Into the Woods) as Ryan, this cast was exceptionally well suited for the script. I particularly thought Jason and Rachel were perfect playing off of each other. The story seemed familiar to me, but at least there were a few good laughs in the movie. I actually liked seeing Kyle in a different type of role for himself and thought he handled it well; his fight scenes were really good. There are some twists to the plot and those who have a sibling might relate to the sibling rivalry angle. The odds are tipped in favor of having an easy, fun time watching this film.
2 ½ stars
THEY had known me for several years. Every week the friends would come to my class. After class they would stay behind to thank me or ask about a certain movement we did in class; in fact, we talked on the fitness floor whenever I was there doing weight training. So imagine how amused I was when I bumped into them at a restaurant and they did not recognize me. Not until I told them my name did they realize I was their aerobics instructor. We laughed about it as they blamed their confusion on the fact I was not dressed in my workout attire; I was dressed in a pair of jeans and a sweater without my baseball cap. THIS type of scenario happens to me quite often; truth be told I have done the same thing when a member from my class comes up to me outside of the health club. Isn’t it funny how a different set of clothes and different environment alter one’s perceptions? It works the same way I believe in any work environment. I worked at a place for several years with the same employees for most of the time. Every day we would talk to each other during one of our breaks or lunchtime; but it was not until we had our 1st holiday party where I learned several of my fellow employees had a completely different life than the perceptions I had formed from our daily communications. It was almost like an alter ego; for example, there was one employee who was a falconer and another who was part of a dance troupe in the city. I do not know if we would have found these facts out if it wasn’t for that holiday party. DETERMINED to keep his company’s branch open and prove his sister CEO Carol Vanstone, played by Jennifer Aniston (We’re the Millers, Horrible Bosses franchise), wrong; Clay Vanstone, played by T.J. Miller (Deadpool, Silicon Valley-TV), decided to have a huge holiday party to woo a potential client. The only issue was whether the representative liked to party. This comedy came with quite a competent cast of actors such as Jason Bateman (The Family Fang, The Gift) as Josh Parker, Olivia Munn (Ride Along franchise, Magic Mike) as Tracey Hughes and Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters, Masterminds) as Mary. Filmed in Chicago, the scenes were a mix of indoor and outdoor shots. The story may have been a good idea, but I did not find anything new compared to other movies of this type. There were a few scenes where I chuckled and surprisingly I thought Jason Bateman was the weak link in the story. As for the script it could have used a rewrite to tighten up some of the scenes that dragged on for me. Granted I have never attended a holiday party like the one in this film, but at some point I thought the story was getting ridiculous. The feeling I had after the film was over was neither a positive or negative one; it was just an okay feeling, though I did enjoy the outtakes early in the ending credits. If your employer throws a party like the one depicted in this picture, maybe you will have a better time watching this party.
She would be woken up in the middle of the night and told to pick out one thing in her room to take with her. It had taken place so many times that she already knew which doll she would choose to take on their trip that only had an arrival destination, never a return trip. Extra clothes were never taken because each family member always had one piece of baggage that was already filled up with clothing. All of the stuffed pieces of luggage were kept in the basement, ready to go in an instant. She remembered very few of the trips since all of them always took place in the middle of the night when most of the neighborhood was fast asleep. Quietly the family would pile into the car while her Dad filled the trunk with the suitcases, careful to close the trunk with the least amount of noise. Leaving their home behind she usually fell back to sleep before they reached the highway. It was not until the sun peeked up out of the east before she would wake up with her doll clutched close to her body. Though these trips always involved sadness, having to leave friends and neighbors behind, they were expected because of their father’s line of work. He had told the family because he worked for the FBI, they would have to relocate periodically after his assignment was completed. Since all of his work was top secret, they had to evacuate their residences in the middle of the night, under the cover of darkness which was the exact same reason she would read in some of her mystery books. It was not until she was about to graduate from middle school that she found out her Dad did not work for the FBI; he was wanted by them. AFTER their conceptual performance artist parents Annie and Caleb Fang, played by Maryann Plunkett (The Squid and the Whale, Blue Valentine) and Christopher Walken (Jersey Boys, A Late Quartet) went missing under disturbing circumstances; Annie and her brother Baxter, played by Nicole Kidman (Paddington, The Railway Man) and Jason Bateman (The Gift, Bad Words) agreed to meet at their parents’ house to figure out if indeed there was foul play involved or was this another one of their parents’ public stunts. This comedic drama directed by Jason Bateman had a curious, different type of story that kept me totally interested in it. Grant you it was pretty easy to do with the wonderful acting from the cast. I enjoyed the way flashbacks were inserted into the story; some of them were wild ideas that involved the children being incorporated into the parents’ artistic endeavors. Jason did a sensitive job in directing the actors through the script because their performances were multi-layered. I do not know how popular the novel was that this mystery film was based on; but with such an off the wall story, I was mesmerized by this picture. Just where was the Department of Children and Family Services?
One would think we have gone beyond stereotypes; but I still get “that look” in people’s faces when in conversation, if it comes up, I mention my primary doctor is a woman. That look could be made up by a furled brow, downturned lips, maybe one side of the upper lip rising up in a sneer or even rolling eyes; it is so strange to me. When did it become the norm for someone to foist their prejudices onto someone else? Through my life I have been the victim from a variety of biases. There was a person who wanted to know if I celebrated Thanksgiving. When I said yes and asked why they asked, the person told me she did not know if people from my religion celebrated the holiday. I had to tell her Thanksgiving was an American holiday not a religious one. Possibly I mentioned before how one of my elementary teachers told me I would not amount to anything if I decided to pursue writing as a career. Discrimination was and still is a cancerous attribute in humankind. The thing that scares me the most is seeing those individuals who are proud of their prejudices. Granted you tend to know exactly what to expect from someone who does not cover up their biases. However, there is a completely different level that has more subtly to it. Now it occurs to me if you are starting to wonder if this animated movie is as serious as tonight’s topic the answer is yes; but it is mixed inside of a fun, action adventure film. JUDY Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin (Walk the Line, Once Upon a Time-TV), was the first bunny on Zootopia’s police force. Her boss Chief Bogo, voiced by Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Thor franchise), took one look at her and decided she could only issue parking tickets. The only way Judy could prove herself was to take on a dangerous case that she had to solve in 2 days time or lose her job. I was so surprised by this picture; it took me a short time to realize there was an intelligent, inclusive script that still provided fun and excitement. If one expects singing and dancing in this animated movie they will be disappointed since there was none. However, all ages will find enjoyment in watching this film. As for the actors chosen to voice the characters, it was brilliant casting by the movie studio. With Jenny Slate (Obvious Child, Bob’s Burgers-TV) as Bellwether and Jason Bateman (The Gift, This is Where I Leave You) as Nick Wilde, I have to say Jason was outstanding. He and his character were literally the same, that is how good he was in the role. So to finish up, this movie has an important message that everyone should take the opportunity to see and have fun doing it. Do not be surprised if you come out being more diligent in celebrating the differences in all of us.
3 1/2 stars
Those words that get spoken to you may wind up lining the path of your life with land mines. Sadly the speaker of those words may not even be conscious of the destruction they will be causing you. Maybe it is because of the twists and turns I navigated through my life that makes me hyperaware of what a person is saying to another person. I have mentioned my 7th grade teacher before, who told me I would amount to nothing if I tried to become a writer. For the next several years after that comment I spent my time focusing on a scientific career before coming to my senses; imagine how many other kids she must have affected with her opinions. There are three words in the English language that can have a major effect on a person when they are preceded with the word, “You.” The words are can, should and are. Think about a time in your life when someone told you that you could not do something or that you were ____(fill in the blank). As adults we at least have the capacity to process such remarks, both the positive and negative ones. However, a child may not be able to overcome the nickname someone bestowed on them; in fact, the bestower may not even realize how much damage a nickname can cause a person. To this day I can be inside the dressing room of a clothes store, trying on a new article of clothing and hear one of the nicknames forced on me when I was a kid. WHILE at the store picking out items for their new house Simon, played by Jason Bateman (The Longest Week, Identity Thief), bumped into an old classmate named Gordon, played by Joel Edgerton (Warrior, The Great Gatsby). After introducing Gordon to his wife Robyn, played by Rebecca Hall (Closed Circuit, The Town), Simon figured that would be the last he would see of this man he barely remembered from school; that was until Gordon showed up at their house with a housewarming gift. The first thing I have to do is give a shout out to Joel Edgerton because not only did he star in this mystery thriller but wrote and directed it. The story played out like a good old fashioned suspense tale, where I was taken on a ride filled with twists and turns. I am not saying like a roller coaster ride, more like layers that change the landscape as the story progresses along. The acting was excellent to the point where I was experiencing similar uncomfortableness along with the characters. It is a good feeling for me when a script can provide thrills without the need of explosions or special effects; letting the characters build up suspense for the viewers. In the case of this movie the label fits perfectly, a thrilling mystery.
3 1/4 stars
Before I even knew I wanted them I was immediately attracted to this odd looking box stuffed in a bookcase at a relative’s house. The box had inside of it miniature brown colored logs in different sizes with notches near the ends. After looking at the instructions I started building a house with the logs. I was fascinated with this toy and soon changed the house into a fort. It did not take long before my imagination kicked into gear and I started creating my own structures that could only be found on a distant planet. Around the same time I discovered these logs I happened to be over at a friend of the family’s house and was given this toy to play with to occupy my time while the adults sat and visited with each other. This large metallic box was filled with stacks of dull looking girders, screws and fasteners. At first I was confused since there was no instructions but after dumping the contents onto the floor I just started attaching pieces together and wound up building a skyscraper. I was thrilled with my creation as I quickly went on to build something else. By the time the evening was over I had used almost every girder in that box. It turned out to be a good thing because when the hosts saw how I filled up their room, they told me if I put everything away I could keep the toy. I truly believe toys of this nature stimulate a child’s imagination. If you need proof simply watch what happens in this film festival nominated documentary narrated by Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses franchise, Bad Words). DIRECTED by Kief Davidson (Open Heart, The Devil’s Miner) and Daniel Junge (Iron Ladies of Liberia, They Killed Sister Dorothy), I was immediately attracted to the topic since I loved LEGO toys when I was a kid. There is something about LEGOs I believe that provide a comfort to everyone globally. Presently I cannot think of any friends or families who have children who do not have at least one LEGO set. The parts of this movie that surprised me the most were the ones that had to do with the adults who were creating works of art with LEGO bricks and the therapists who were using LEGOs as part of their treatment for autistic children. I had no idea this “simple” toy had such an affect on people. Now I grant you this movie did come across like one big informercial; things were kept on the light side and there was a lot of self promotion. However, there was such a mixture of joy and fun memories I was experiencing I just went along with the feelings, enjoying the scenes. It would not surprise me if after seeing this film a whole bunch of people grab a LEGO set and start playing with it.
2 1/2 stars
Nothing came to mind; this was quite unusual because it had never happened before. I wondered if I was still suffering from the overdose of tryptophan I ingested during the past holiday weekend. Maybe I should not have tried the variety of desserts that caused me distress from that post sugar high. I did not think it was the mediocre movies that played this past weekend; or maybe, they actually lulled my brain into a quiet stupor that it had not reawakened from as of yet. The pessimistic voice inside of me was audible; telling me I was a fraud and this had all been a sham. Those who regularly read my movie reviews know I start out talking about the personal connection I made to the film. I have always said as long as a movie can move you then it has done its job. It was the strangest thing however when I started to write my review today; for the life of me, I could not recall one iota of a connection I felt to this comedy sequel. HAVING left their jobs best friends Nick Hendricks, Kurt Buckman and Dale Arbus; played by Jason Bateman (Bad Words, Up in the Air), Jason Sudeikis (Hall Pass, We’re the Millers) and Charlie Day (Pacific Rim, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia-TV); decided to start their own company to be their own bosses. They thought everything was working out perfectly after they showed the product they invented to wealthy investor Bert Hanson, played by Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained, Carnage). However, their meeting with Bert would lead the friends to come up with a diabolical plan. If you did not see the previous film to this sequel, it probably will not make too much of a difference for you in following the story. Jennifer Aniston (We’re the Millers, The Bounty Hunter), returned as foul-mouthed Dr. Julia Harris. I honestly could not find any positive things to say about this picture except that I was grateful it was less than 2 hours long. The gags and jokes were juvenile and monotonous; even with both Jasons’ quick sharp deliveries. The story had very little connection to the previous movie which led me to believe this film was a labor of love for the paycheck. If you saw the film trailer then you have seen the majority of what this film will be. For the most part I was bored, finding very little to even chuckle at during the scenes. To tell you the truth, the story was a cheap knockoff to a couple of previous movies that did the job better. I guess it was a good thing after all that I could not find a personal connection to this dreadful film. Strong language was used in the film.
1 1/2 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.
Laughter is the safety valve to life’s daily pressures. Bubbling up from the pit of the stomach, laughter purges tension and stress, replacing it with a euphoric effervescence. Humor comes in multiple shades since each person has their own unique form of funniness. Some people enjoy practical jokes while others prefer cerebral comedy. The former IT director of my company was an odd fellow. Disheveled with improper fitting clothes, he stuck out from the general population already besides his over 6 foot tall frame. One day at the office while working on an account, I heard him calling out for help from his workplace. When I came to his office door I found him wedged underneath his desk with only his head visible on his desktop, his chin resting on the rim. He tended to sit on the edge of his chair and it had flipped up behind him, causing him to fall down to the floor with his legs underneath the desk. The top of the chair came down and pressed up against his back while the chair bass was stuck into the wall behind him. He could not move since his arms were on his lap below the desk, with no room to maneuver them down to the floor for leverage. Now if your immediate reaction to this story was to laugh, then you will enjoy this comedy. This film was so inappropriate but oh so funny to me and the rest of the audience in the theater. Jason Bateman (Disconnect, Arrested Development-TV) was utterly outrageous playing Guy Trilby, an adult man who exploited a loophole to enter a children’s spelling bee contest. With news reporter Jenny Widgeon, played by Katherine Hahn (We’re the Millers, Wanderlust), in tow; Guy was out to prove a point, stopping at nothing to make sure it came across loud and clear. This being Jason’s directorial debut, he did a wonderful job keeping up a steady pace while fitting in a multitude of wicked moments. Allison Janney (The Way Way Back, Juno) was perfect playing Dr. Bernice Deagan, who was determined to stop Guy from ruining her competition. The script was tight, constantly balancing itself on the edge of funny and inappropriate. I think some people would find a few of the jokes and strong language offensive. I will say the first time Guy threw down off-color verbiage to a child I cringed; however, it was that unexpectedness that made me laugh in shock. If Jason Bateman had not been so skilled to pull off this role, I feel the movie would have not been as enjoyable or funny. From the amount of laughing I did during the film, I should be living stress free for at least a few weeks now.
Before viewing this movie one has to ask if they believe a person can sustain a friendship with a member of the opposite gender. If the answer is no, I do not think they will buy into the story in this film. Not only do I think it is possible to maintain friendships with people of the opposite gender, I feel it is part of having a healthy life. My circle of friends surround me like the ever expanding rings caused by a pebble being dropped into a still pond of water. The first ring consists of my closest friends. In my inner circle I have one of my oldest, long term friends; we dated each other in 8th grade. She and I can share some of our most intimate thoughts without the fear of being judged. The following rings contain friends and acquaintances of various closeness. In this comedy best friends Wally Mars, played by Jason Bateman (Up in the Air, Disconnect) and Kassie Larson, played by Jennifer Aniston (Horrible Bosses, Wanderlust), had a similar relationship. However their relationship took on added meaning the night of a special party. After Kassie decided to have a baby by artificial insemination, she searched and found the perfect donor in Roland, played by Patrick Wilson (Watchmen, Insidious). The night of the donor party Wally became so drunk, he had no recollection of his actions. Let me first say I was not comfortable with the story’s premise. I know it was needed to make this film, but on some level what Wally did went against my grain. That being said, Jason and Jennifer worked well together. I thought the child acting brothers Thomas (The Protector-TV) and Bryce Robinson (Marley & Me, Valentine’s Day) as Sebastian did a wonderful job. In addition, it was fun to see Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park franchise, Independence Day) in a light comedic role as Wally’s boss Leonard. In reality this would be an unlikely story; but as a movie, it did offer some amusing scenes. I accept my friends with all their flaws and neurosis; it goes the same for this film.
2 1/3 stars — DVD