THE SERVING PLATTER LOOKED LIKE IT HAD an old roadmap embedded into it. All roads led to a happy memory. At the bottom of a china hutch, I found wrapped in an ancient dishtowel a large oval serving plate. I remembered it from when I was a little boy. It had gold filigree outlining the rim and center of it. Tracing the gold was a thin dusty rose-colored line; in the center, there was a bouquet of flowers of which some were of the same rose color. The roadmap I referred to was created from years of use, especially due to the washing of it. Fine ghost like crooked lines, crisscrossing all across the plate; gave the appearance of abandoned roads. I can remember sitting down for dinner at family gatherings where this platter would hold the main part of the meal. There were times it held brisket of beef or roasted chicken or slices of turkey during the Thanksgiving holiday. When I was really young I could not hold it up by myself as it was being passed around the dining room table; the relative next to me would have to hold it or sometimes even place the food on my plate after I pointed out to them which pieces. THOSE FAMILY DINNERS WERE A SOURCE OF immense joy to me. Getting together with my cousins was always a highlight. The conversations around the table were usually lively and animated. Relatives would be laughing all the time, even when they were in the middle of a heated discussion. I can still remember that time where a relative brought a gelatin-molded dessert (gelatin mixed with other food items like nuts or fruit set into a mold) to the table. When it was unmolded it plopped on the plate and slid off onto the table. This dinner platter is something I will always associate with good food. Especially during holidays, I do not remember one time where the platter was not being used for serving. As a former large person, the food certainly was the catalyst for me having a good time among my relatives. It was during these gatherings where I really learned what it meant to have and be part of a family. Beside myself I know others must have gained valuable memories at these meals and I am sure the dinner platter played a part in them. So now, my dilemma is what to do with this decades old dinner platter. How could I possibly part with it? I would feel the same way if I were the main character in this dramatic, film festival winning comedy. WHEN THE READING OF HER GRANDFATHER’S will took place, the last thing Cynthia, played by Jillian Bell (Rough Night, Office Christmas Party) expected to get was an old sword. What in the world would she do with such a thing? With Marc Maron (Almost Famous, Glow-TV) as Mel, Jon Bass (Molly’s Game, Loving) as Nathaniel, Michaela Watkins (The Back-Up Plan, Thanks for Sharing) as Mary and Dan Bakkedahl (The Heat, Veep-TV) as Kingpin, this was an odd film for me. The script came across in such a way that it appeared as if the cast was doing improvisation. I will say each actor did a good job of portraying a wacky/kooky type of character. Some of the dialog had witty comments and comebacks. There was a loose feel to the scenes, which made the satire stand out more. As for the story it was farfetched and at times the absurdity of it bored me. And as the story wound down, I felt the ending lost momentum and did a quick job to finish things up. This was a strange picture that at times looked amateurish and goofy, but then at times had quick biting repartee.
MISERY LOVES COMPANY EVEN WHEN ONE does not know they are miserable. There was a small group of us friends who got together often to go restaurant hopping. Yes, you heard correctly; we would go from one restaurant to another to another. Some people go bar hopping; but for me, alcohol was never my thing. I would rather chow down on food and snacks. The group of us would start the night at one restaurant, where we would have our main meal. After sitting and talking over tea/coffee after the meal, we would leave and go to a restaurant that made great French fries. I would have a whole plate of them with a soft drink. From there, we would drive around for a while deciding where we wanted to go next. One of my friends was fond of this pancake house, so we would usually wind up there to split a couple of orders of pancakes. I have to say they were always good. To end the evening, we would go to one of my favorite places; it was an old diner where they made these dynamite milkshakes. There was nothing better than ending a night out with friends by having one of these milkshakes. My choice was always the chocolate one. IT FINALLY TOOK AN EXPANDING WAISTLINE to make me confront the reality of what I was doing to myself. I had been stuffing my feelings of self-worth by stuffing my face. I hated myself and realized I was the only one who could change it. I still went out with my friends; but instead of digging into the food at every location, I would just order another cup of tea or something small that would have fewer damaging effects on my body. Exercise became a focus for me, so I started introducing cardio into my daily routines. My friends noticed my physical appearance was slowly changing. They were supportive for the most part; however, I could sense something was going on when I would join them on a restaurant run. I could go into my theories about it; but instead, let me just say I got a sense they were feeling uncomfortable having me sitting with them with my cup of tea, while they were devouring large quantities of food. I understood it because I would probably feel the same way. Eventually, I attended our restaurant runs less and less. Some friends would stay in contact with me, others not so much. I just knew I had to make a change in my life; the same way the main character, in this film festival winner, had to do in her life. AS HER FRIENDS’ LIVES CONTINUED TO grow Brittany, played by Jillian Bell (Rough Night, Office Christmas Party), knew she would have to make a change. However, going to a doctor to score some prescription drugs may not have been the best choice when the doctor refused, telling her she was overweight. With Michaela Watkins (The Back-Up Plan, In a World…) as Catherine, Alice Lee (Wish Upon, Sierra Burgess is a Loser) as Gretchen, Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, Tag) as Demetrius and Utkarsh Ambudkar (Pitch Perfect, Barbershop: The Next Cut) as Jern; this comedic drama was made better by Jillian Bell. She was wonderful in her role, authentically coming across as real and vulnerable. There have been similar stories done before; however, I found this script had more of a raw element to it which only drew me more into the story. Of course, with being able to relate to some of Jillian’s issues, I felt a solid connection to this picture. My guess would be more viewers than not would find something to relate to in this movie. By picking this film to go see, you would be making a healthier choice.
3 ¼ stars
STANDING outside the café waiting for a friend I saw a group of people goofing off across the street. One individual was using a street lamp as a stripper pole. Another person had a squirt gun; however, periodically he was squirting it into his mouth and the others around him. I assumed there was something more than water inside the play toy. Seeing this group acting silly made me reminisce about some of the pranks and laughs I had with my friends when we were younger. There was that time in biology class where we had to dissect fetal pigs. A lab partner dressed their pig up with a beret, sunglasses and lit cigarette; then had someone take pictures of him with his head next to the pig. Another time a group of us dressed up for Halloween to go to a street party down in the city. One of us was dressed as a pirate, including a fake sword. He would jump into the street and stop traffic for a moment, shouting “Yo me bucko!” We were so young back then; not a care in the world, just focusing on having a good time. RECONNECTING with people I had not seen for years was a heady experience for me. The last time some of us had seen each other we had full heads of hair, some were larger and others were thinner. It was funny how the aging process affected each of us differently. Despite the years apart there still was a bond between all of us. The thing that surprised me was how some individuals who were hard partiers back then had mellowed now. Depending on the person’s age part of the discussion drifted towards what medications we were on now; heaven help us we are turning into our parents. I understand as life goes on we each take on responsibilities; there are things I used to do back then that I would not consider doing now. Maybe this is all part of the aging process; I just know I would never act like the friends did in this comedy film. JESS’, played by Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers franchise, Lucy), upcoming bachelorette party was the perfect time for a group of girlfriends to get together and let loose. The way they used to party years ago would be hard to reproduce this time. Along with Scarlett the cast included Jillian Bell (Fist Fight, Goosebumps) as Alice, Zoe Kravitz (Divergent franchise, Good Kill) as Blair, Ilana Glazer (The Night Before, Broad City-TV) as Frankie and Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters, Office Christmas Party) as Kiwi/Pippa. At first glance I felt the story was a female version of comedies I had seen before. The cast was talented; everyone’s timing was on mark. I had a slight issue with Jillian and Kate; their characters were no different than other characters they played in other films. Kate, who I think is gifted, seems to be the “go to” actor to play these over the top odd characters. Jillian has played the inappropriate person character before. At least there were a couple of laughs in the movie, but I found the script was all over the place. With this type of cast there could have been way more opportunities to utilize the actress’ comedic skills that the script did not offer. For having such a wild time I was left feeling bored at times. When I was younger I never partied like the women did in this picture and after watching them I have no interest in trying now. There is an extra scene in the middle of the credits and at the end.
1 ½ stars
SCANDALOUS is what it was when students discovered the English teacher was dating the PE teacher. The news spread through the student body faster than a 4th of July firecracker going off. There were 2 big reasons why this relationship was perceived as scandalous. The first one was the idea of teachers dating. Keep in mind for a young elementary student a teacher, at least back during my time, was an authority figure. When they told us something, we followed their instructions without any back talk. Teachers had a high place in the parental hierarchy; none of the students ever looked at their teachers as regular human beings. As I write this I know it must sound weird but I remember my teachers being kind, crazy, tough, cold and gentle; they ruled the room not with an iron fist but with a purpose. The idea that a teacher would have a social life was odd. None of us ever saw our teachers out and about in the neighborhood; in fact, the only time we would not see them in school was on a field trip. So the shocked students not only had to process a teacher was dating but two teachers and they were dating each other—unimaginable. THE other big reason this news about our 2 teachers was eye popping was the fact they were not of the same race. It was a different time back then simply because there were not many examples of mixed race relationships. If a child has not been exposed to different possibilities, then seeing one of the options in the flesh can be startling to say the least. I can still remember hearing some students questioning what color the children would be if the two teachers ever got married. You can imagine how this dating news changed many students’ perceptions about teachers. I do not know if it would be correct to say this but all of a sudden teachers were no longer considered infallible; not that they were doing anything wrong, just living their lives. If you think anything I have said was shocking then you might not be prepared for what happens between teachers in this comedy. AFTER being fired from his teaching position because fellow teacher Andy Campbell, played by Charlie Day (Pacific Rim, Horrible Bosses franchise), snitched on him to the school’s principle; Strickland, played by Ice Cube (Ride Along franchise, 21 Jump Street franchise) challenged Andy to a knockout fist fight in the playground after school. The students were already taking bets. This film was painful to watch because I have a hard time watching bullies picking on people. I did not mind Charlie’s performance though after a while the delivery of his lines became annoying. His character had some truth in him that I wished the writers would have explored; but the goal of this script was to get some cheap, easy laughs. On one level one could say the script was creating a commentary on our public school system, however the thought was not expanded. I know the current school experience is totally different to when I was in school, but a good portion of this movie’s actions were farfetched. The best part for me was the blooper reel at the beginning of the credits.
1 ¾ stars