MAYBE HE THOUGHT HE WAS ENTITLED to his extra benefits, but no one else thought so. He was the head of one of the company’s divisions. When I was first introduced to him, I found him to be a friendly, easy going type fellow. With the position I had at the company, I had to communicate with him from time to time. He was helpful to a point. The reason I say “to a point” is because I soon discovered the information he gave me was not always accurate. Or let me say the information he was giving me was his version of it. When I would follow up with the customer, their version of events did not match. I would find myself in an awkward position of having to go back and forth between the customer and the head of the division; it would drive me crazy. As time passed it became harder to get a hold of this employee. I did not know if he was out of the office on a business call or if he was ill; he never turned on the out of office feature on his email or update his voice message to alert people he was away. It was frustrating for me because I could not complete my work until I got more information out of him. HIS ABSENCES WERE GETTING NOTICED BY more employees. The work he was supposed to do, he started delegating out to his staff to handle. I only found this out after he left the company, but he was turning in receipts for reimbursement that were purchases for his private use, not for the company. It was obvious to me he was taking advantage of the company. In a five-day work week, he would be in the office only 3 days. He always had an excuse that he was visiting a customer or not feeling well; but to keep this up on a weekly basis took some nerve, I have to say. It wasn’t like employees were given an unlimited amount of sick days; everyone in the company was respectful not to abuse this benefit except evidently him. Based on the things I was seeing and hearing, I felt he was taking advantage of the company. I did not know what his reasons were for acting like that, but I became uncomfortable around him. Whatever he thought about the company, the fact remained they were providing him with a good salary and if his actions could cause harm to the company, then that could have an affect on my salary. It is uncomfortable for me to see anyone or anything being taken advantage of which will explain my discomfort while watching this comedic, dramatic crime story. WHEN THE CLIENTELE OF A STRIP CLUB stopped coming after the market crash, a group of the club’s exotic dancers agreed to form a partnership that would drum up business for themselves. Inspired by true events, this film starred Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians, Sound of My Voice) as Destiny, Jennifer Lopez (Second Act, Maid in Manhattan) as Ramona, Julia Stiles (Save the Last Dance, Silver Linings Playbook) as Elizabeth, Keke Palmer (Joyful Noise, Brotherly Love) as Mercedes and Lili Reinhart (The Kings of Summer, Miss Stevens) as Annabelle. The reason to watch this film would be to see the performances by Jennifer and Constance; they really went deep into their characters. I understand Jennifer did some of the actual dancing, but I thought the film editing of her movements was razor sharp. This story was a familiar one; however, there were a few surprises in the script to make it more unique. The female empowerment aspect was obvious, but that did not stop my feelings of uncomfortableness at a few of the scenes. And as a bonus the soundtrack was fun.
2 ½ stars
A GOOD PORTION OF US WERE LED to believe that the ultimate goal in life was retirement. Put in your time at work and get to the finish line was all that mattered. For those who were fortunate to retire early, others would look at them as demigods; they found the secret formula that would let them enjoy life while they were still “young.” I had no such examples while growing up. The people I knew continued working well beyond their retirement age. When I started this movie review site, a friend asked if I would continue writing reviews into my retirement years. I imagined I would have the luxury of going to the movies during the early weekdays, freeing up my weekends that are presently being used for viewing multiple films. I do not see retirement as just sitting around the house with nothing to do. A friend of mine has determined retirement age is not an ending, but a beginning to the next chapter. It is a period of time where one can do something they are passionate about, where they want to explore it further now that they have the time to do so. THERE ARE SOME INDIVIDUALS WHO DO not want to wait until retirement to do something they love. There was a member in one of my classes who was a CFO of a large corporation. She was proud of her work career, but as time went on she started feeling unsatisfied with the job. There was a period where she did not attend class, after being a regular for a few years. Then one day she showed up unexpectedly. After class she came up to talk to me. I said it was good to see her and hoped everything was okay. She informed me she had retired from her job and was taking classes to become a math teacher. It was something she had always wanted to do and decided the time was right to step back from the corporate world, so she could become a teacher. I was taken by surprise at first, since I knew how much she loved being a CFO. Seeing how driven she was in our aerobics class, I had no doubt she would succeed; she had the knowledge and passion. I feel these two attributes are needed if one wants to accomplish a dream. The main character in this dramatic comedy had these 2 things and will show you what can be done with them. WORKING AT A LARGE RETAIL STORE was not what Maya, played by Jennifer Lopez (The Boy Next Door, Shades of Blue-TV), wanted to do the rest of her life. All she needed was a break to show what she could do for the advertising and marketing corporations on Madison Avenue. That break would come in the form of her resume. With Vanessa Hudgens (Dog Days, Beastly) as Zoe, Leah Remini (The Clapper, The King of Queens-TV) as Joan, Treat Williams (The Congressman, What Happens in Vegas) as Anderson Clarke and Milo Ventimiglia (Killing Season, This is Us-TV) as Trey; this movie could have been better. Jennifer has a screen presence that grabs your attention, but with the underdeveloped script she was left hanging. There was nothing special in the script that allowed the story to rise above generic. The writers had a touch of romance, comedy, drama and fun scattered throughout the story; yet, never went deeper with them. At one point I wondered if the focus was to show off Jennifer with her fashion choices, office and home furnishings in her new apartment. Maybe if the film studio had some of the drive and determination I have seen in Jennifer’s career, then they would have produced a more entertaining picture.
There are these sayings I have heard most of my life that I do not know if they are based on some tradition or folklore. One of them is counterintuitive to what most people wish for on their wedding day. It goes something like this, “May rain fall on your wedding day and be the only tears the two of you will ever have to shed.” I bet this sounds weird to some of you; but to me, it makes perfect sense. Granted all of the weddings I ever attended were indoor ones. The gist of this saying is a hope that the two individuals will stand together and never have to experience sadness in their marriage. I like the sentiment in that saying. Another saying is used during a sad occasion; it goes, “May it be better times when we meet again.” I have heard this said mostly at funerals. After coming together to share in sadness, the hope between individuals is to share happiness the next time. There is an underlying theme I see from these types of sayings; there is strength in numbers. This brings to mind that phrase that goes when the going gets tough, the tough get going. I believe this to be true because I have never met anyone who prefers to deal with some form of hardship on their own. It does not matter whether it is helping someone move, lending an ear to a friend in crisis or being someone’s advocate when they go for a medical procedure; I feel everyone needs some type of support system. When you see the band of characters in this animated comedy you will understand what I mean. PURSUING that ever elusive acorn Scrat, voiced by Chris Wedge (Robots, Epic), finds himself in outer space. One wrong turn would set in motion a series of events that could put Earth at risk for total destruction. This latest installment in the Ice Age franchise had the usual cast of actors back to voice the characters such as Ray Romano (Rob the Mob, Everybody Loves Raymond-TV) as Manny, Denis Leary (Two if by Sea, Rescue Me-TV) as Diego and John Leguizamo (The Infiltrator, American Ultra) as Sid. The voices were fine and the animation was colorful in this film festival winning adventure. As for the humor maybe young kids would enjoy it but I did not find anything funny. If one is fond of the old Road Runner cartoons, I found this film to have the same type of humor which is laughing at someone’s misfortune. As a kid I enjoyed Road Runner; as an adult I do not find them so funny. Some of the jokes in this movie I felt were inappropriate for young children; it made me wonder what target group were the writers trying to reach. To me this whole picture was a money grab by the studio. The script provided little entertainment; it was just a series of events strung together. I am uncomfortable saying this but based on this latest film I would not mind if this franchise became extinct. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
1 ¾ stars
It is tough when the joke you tell is met with blank or confused stares from the audience. Though it may be a bit deflating to the ego, it is not the worst thing in the world. What would be harder is if the crowd never really understood you. Having seen my share of rolled eyes, I tend to be hyper-sensitive when someone is being treated like an outsider. Now granted if there is a legitimate concern where folks are not comfortable with an individual, I do not force the issue of acceptance. I recall a gathering where one person stood out for their inappropriate comments; it was making people uncomfortable. You could see every person who came in contact with the offender would make an excuse to get away as quickly as possible. There is, however, a flip side to this scenario and that is the person who gets shunned just because they are different. I take offense when someone rejects another person simply because they do not fit into what that person considers the norm. With the recent talk in the news due to the Oscar speech where the writer told viewers to embrace being different and with talk shows discussing it; I totally agree we all need to be exposed more often to things and people who are different from us. I would prefer having the option to see a situation through an extra set of eyes because I may find something more than what I saw on my own. MISUNDERSTOOD and on his own the alien name Oh, voiced by Jim Parsons (Garden State, The Big Bang Theory-TV), found refuge on the planet Earth. What a surprise to travel all the way to another planet to find someone who understood him and that person was the young girl Gratuity “Tip” Tucci, voiced by Rihanna (Battleship, This is the End). This animated adventure was very colorful to watch; I enjoyed how Oh’s species changed color. The cast which also included Steve Martin (The Jerk, It’s Complicated) as Captain Smek and Jennifer Lopez (The Boy Next Door, Maid in Manhattan) as Lucy were well paired to their characters. I thought the animation was fine; in fact, I felt the creators had young children in mind because there seemed to always be something happening in the scenes. There was nothing out of the ordinary with this comedy and maybe that was the issue. The movie was cute but nothing special or different to me. I did not feel as invested as I have been with other animated films. Even with some clever writing I was never taken away with what was on screen, though young kids seemed to be enjoying themselves. I just did not get it.
2 1/2 stars
The woman took a part-time job doing stock at a store, even though the full boxes were hard to carry. She did not care because she needed income to manage her mounting bills. The man traveled across the border to pick up medicines that were not yet approved in his country to combat his illness. The driver was afraid they were not going to make their interview for a job; so they drove over the speed limit and after stopping to look both ways, continued driving through any red traffic lights. Each of these individuals did what they did because they were desperate. I am sure each of us has performed at least one desperate act at some point during our life. Whether you were desperate to finish the race even though your leg was cramping up or you were desperate to get accepted at one particular university so you took on a heavy class load to up your grade point average; we have all been there at some time. One of the definitions for the word desperate says, “involves or employs extreme measures in an attempt to escape defeat or frustration;” another one states, “suffering extreme need or anxiety for money.” Evidently these must be desperate times to have made this film. JENNIFER Lopez (Maid in Manhattan, The Wedding Planner) played recently divorced mother Claire Peterson. After Noah Sandborn, played by Ryan Guzman (Step Up franchise, Pretty Little Liars-TV) had moved in next door, it was encouraging to see the positive influence he had on her son Kevin, played by Ian Nelson (The Judge, The Hunger Games). The compliments she was getting from Noah were nice to hear also. It was not long until Noah appeared to be part of the family, but which family member? This thriller was wrong on so many levels; I do not know where to begin. So let me start with Jennifer because she was the executive producer. I hope she did not think this role would make Hollywood stand up and notice her as a big dramatic actress. Stripping down to underwear for a scene does not automatically make a person appear vulnerable and dramatic, let alone younger; it takes acting and that is what was missing from this movie. By the way, that goes for everyone. The story was icky to start with and it was made worse by Claire being a school teacher. Kristin Chenoweth (Bewitched, Stranger Than Fiction) had the burden of playing vice principal Vicky Lansing, a clownish cartoonish character. It was horrible because the script was lame to the point of almost being laughable. There were no surprises since it was so predictable. This bad film needed more than a detention, it needed to be expelled.
1 1/2 stars
An idyllic setting of a good old fashioned state fair was a wonderful opening to this action crime film. Having been born and raised in a large city, seeing the activities and events at the fair were a bit foreign to me. What I found attractive was the sense of peaceful camaraderie among the people. Not that I would ever go on an amusement ride that would spin me around or enter a pie eating contest. You may be surprised by that but I do not eat food from someone I do not know. As a result I never partake in potluck dinners and absolutely no buffets. I am not eating any food that has been guarded by a sneeze guard. But I can do a whole post on my neuroses; let me get back to the movie. From this opening scene the main character Parker, played by Jason Statham (Safe, The Transporter franchise), was walking through the fair, dressed as a priest. The opening scene was the best this film had to offer. It pretty much is a given what type of movie to expect with Jason as the star. A smattering of witty lines, bloody tough fight scenes and Jason doing the same type of role he has done before in his films. In this movie he was a thief in a gang led by Melander, played by Michael Chiklis (The Shield-TV, Fantastic Four franchise). After being double crossed, Parker followed the group to Palm Beach to take what was rightfully due him. To put his plan in place, Parker would need the help of desperate realtor Leslie Rodgers, played by Jennifer Lopez (Out of Sight, Maid in Manhattan). Seeing Jennifer in this role, all I kept thinking was she left American Idol for this? It was an odd role and I did not think it was anything special. Just as strange was seeing Patti LuPone (Heist, City by the Sea) playing Leslie’s mother. If you enjoy Jason’s other movies, this one will probably satisfy you. For me there was nothing new in this predictable story.
1 3/4 stars