TAKE IT FROM SOMEONE WHO KNOWS, change is not always an easy thing. Change is something I prefer taking place over time—like the duration it takes for a sapling to turn into a majestic oak tree. Intellectually I know change is inevitable; but that does not mean I have to like it. For the past few years a friend and I have talked on the phone every day during my work commute. I have known her since we were in elementary school. We started talking to each other every day after she moved out of state for work. Recently she received a promotion that changed her schedule. After talking together on the phone for the past few years, she now had a daily work commitment that had to be handled at the exact time we would be on the phone. It was strange not talking to her; one of the reasons I discovered was it made my commute easier. It seemed to make the time go by faster and before you say anything, I always used a hands-free device to talk to her. I still wish we could have our daily talk, but I understand the reason why; she had bettered herself at work and that is always a good thing. PART OF FRIENDSHIP/LOVE WITH A PERSON is wishing them the best. Though things change a true friend or family member remains supportive through the process…or at least that is what they are supposed to do, according to my definition of family/friends. There is a couple of sisters I know where one of them pretends to be supportive but is incredibly passive aggressive toward her older sister. If you are not paying close attention you might miss the barbs and comments that the younger sister tosses over toward her big sister. I was a witness to it and was stunned by the way the younger sister tried to build herself up by putting her sister down. Based on the things I knew about the siblings, I could see why the younger one was acting out; she felt she was not getting enough attention. I felt this way based on the information I was privy to, besides seeing it with my own eyes. As I said before change is not always easy and because the older sister married first and had children, the younger sister was no longer getting to be the center of attention in their family. Some people just act that way; heck, it even happened in this animated adventure film. WHEN HER GAME SUDDENLY STOPPED WORKING; Vanellope, voiced by Sarah Silverman (The Book of Henry, Battle of the Sexes), and her best friend Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly (Chicago, Kong: Skull Island), made their way to the internet to find a solution. They found more than they expected, in ways that would test their friendship. With Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman, Keeping Up with the Joneses) voicing Shank, Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures, Proud Mary) voicing Yesss and Jane Lynch (Julie & Julia, Glee-TV) voicing Calhoun; this comedy sequel had many fun moments in it. I thought John and Sarah did a wonderful job together as they played off each other. The visuals were great to watch as the script provided humor for both young and old. If I have a negative comment it would be about the element of wonderment; since this was a sequel it did not have that extra magic of being a fresh idea. Also, the action did not always have a smooth transition. I still had a good time watching this picture and ultimately it did present an admirable conclusion to the topics offered up in the script. I am happy for this sequel.
SITTING in the semi-darkened theater waiting for the movie trailers to begin, I was wondering how many different film variations of King Kong I had seen. I believe I saw every one of them and I could even include the robotic one Bette Midler used in one of her concerts, where she played the Fay Wray character who was sprawled out across King Kong’s palm. Thinking about these different versions of the big ape, we really have come a long way from the 1st one to the latest one I was about to see. Of course I was basing it on the movie trailers I had recently seen. Recalling the earlier Kong versions, I can still remember how fake looking he was in the oldest movies. My guess is the writers needed to fine tune their script to keep the audience engaged with the story since an unrealistic looking gorilla would quickly become boring. SPEAKING of story lines I wondered what the writers would do to keep me interested in this umpteenth time of me watching a King Kong film. More often than not I have noticed when a movie comes out with a well known character that has played before the script is updated to reflect current times. Sometimes it works and sometimes it is a bust. I can remember a group of classic horror monsters like Frankenstein and the Mummy being part of a series of movies that were based in comedy, starring comedians and comedy duos. Personally I found them ridiculous; taking such classic horror characters and placing them in a genre of films that no one would ever consider for them, diminishes their scariness in the public’s eyes. With these thoughts in mind the movie theater lights became dark and I sat back in my seat to see what Kong was up to these days. FLYING over the Pacific Ocean, bound for a newly discovered uncharted island, a group of scientists and soldiers did not know they would be disturbing the inhabitants to the point of making them angry. This action adventure fantasy succeeded because of the special effects. From all the different versions of King Kong I have seen on film, this was the best looking or should I say the most realistic version of King Kong. The fight scenes were exciting, especially the opening one. If this film had not been so technically advanced I would have been bored by the script. With Tom Hiddleston (Crimson Peak, I Saw the Light) as James Conrad, Samuel L. Jackson (The Legend of Tarzan, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) as Preston Packard, Brie Larson (Room, Short Term 12) as Mason Weaver and John C. Reilly (Carnage, Step Brothers) as Hank Marlow; I only found Hank’s character interesting. Samuel was doing his identical acting thing, so no surprises there. However I was surprised how stiff Tom and Brie were with their characters. This was partially due to the script that offered no insights, along with the direction that kept them one dimensional. Only John C. Reilly and John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane, The Monuments Men) as Bill Randa offered any interest among the cast. If you are into visual experiences then you would want to see this picture inside a movie theater. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
There are some people who are uncomfortable being the 3rd wheel of a group, others do not even think of it. I suppose it depends on what is going on at the time. For those unfamiliar with the term “3rd wheel” let me explain. A third wheel is a person who joins a couple for a social occasion. There rarely is a time when I feel uncomfortable being considered the 3rd wheel. When a friend becomes part of being a couple what do you do? Do you stop socializing with them just because they have a significant other? I don’t think so. We still get together. Now I will say there are times when a friend may be dating someone that I find offensive, but I remain cordial and just deal with it. I can remember though a couple of times where I was aware I was the odd man out. For example, a friend of mine won free tickets to an amusement park and invited me to join him and the person he was dating. Walking and eating in the park was okay but after a while I was getting tired of always having to ride an attraction by myself or with a stranger seated next to me because my friend and his date had to ride together so they could hold hands or hug. It was not a big deal but I did make a mental note to be aware of it if the circumstances were reversed and I was the one in a relationship. If I had time I would tell you about a friend of mine who would come visit me in college and bring along her boyfriend, so they could share the extra bed in my dorm room; talk about being uncomfortable. Do you find it as odd as I do how some people act differently when they are in a relationship? IMAGINE living in a society where you had 45 days to find a partner otherwise you would get turned into an animal. This was one of the most absurdist romantic comedies I have seen in a long time. Starring Colin Farrell (Phone Booth, Miami Vice) as David, Rachel Weisz (Oz the Great and Powerful, The Fountain) as short sighted woman and John C. Reilly (Chicago, Carnage) as lisping man; I had to wonder what the actors must have thought while making this film. There were parts of the story that made strong satirical statements; others were humorous, while some were just odd. I think viewers will have a strong reaction to this film festival winner; they will either love it or hate it. This was confirmed for me by the audience’s reactions I heard after the movie was over. I have to say I had a strong negative reaction to the end of the story; but before I got to that point, I cannot say I was entertained as much as I was curious while watching this romantic comedic drama. The interesting thing about this picture is how it offers something to think about whether you are presently single or in a relationship.
2 ¾ stars
Along with the required classes I took, there was included courses on peer pressure. There was no financial cost. I had never signed up for them, but I quickly learned about it during my schooling. During our younger years, where we may not have yet built-up a base of self-confidence, it was the more assertive pupils who staked out claims to yield power over fellow students. Those kids who were not strong enough (either emotionally or physically) would follow the assertive/aggressive leaders of the class. Now I have seen it time and time again, those who seek out and gain power strictly with brute force tend to have a weak moral compass. It starts out slowly with an odd request or weird command before things escalate and the leader has his own personal lynch mob at his beck and call. The saddest part of this equation is seeing those individuals, who on their own would never act out in such a way, having to participate in a wicked attack goaded on by their fierce leader. There is an ugly addition to this scenario which involves those students who refuse to participate. Chances are they will become the hunted as the aggressive head of the group directs his minions at the innocent. DURING wartime there were horrors one expected but Eriksson, played by Michael J. Fox (Back to the Future franchise, Family Ties-TV), never imagined he would be involved in the kidnapping of a young innocent girl, instigated by his platoon leader Sgt. Tony Meserve, played by Sean Penn (Fair Game, All the King’s Men). This film festival wining war drama was directed by one of my favorite directors, Brian De Palma (The Untouchables, Dressed to Kill). He has an eye for setting up scenes similar to Alfred Hitchcock. I say this because I want you to be aware of the backgrounds during scenes; Brian places other forms of action behind the actors. The pairing of Sean and Michael would appear odd at first, but it actually was a brilliant choice and they were amazing together. So were other members of the platoon like John C. Reilly (Chicago, Step Brothers) as PFC Herbert Hatcher and John Leguizamo (Romeo + Juliet, Chef) as PFC Antonio Diaz. Inspired by true events, the story offered a different view of military life during the Viet Nam war. One other thing I wanted to mention about Brian’s directing; the way the scenes were filmed really amped up the intensity of them. After recently reviewing the movie American Sniper, I found it interesting that this DVD should show up soon after. There were scenes that included blood and violence in them.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
It happened during my first school field trip where we traveled to our city’s zoo. We were in the lion house and I remembered how the pungent smell hung in the still air. I felt I was inhaling musky cotton balls. The big cats were one of my favorite animals so it was worth the odor to be up close to them. While standing in front of one cage with a pacing male lion, a park attendant who was stationed by one of the main entrances announced to all the visitors they would have to remain in the lion house. The reason was one of the animals had escaped from their enclosure outside. It turned out it was one of the zoo’s star attractions, a large silverback gorilla. My classmates and I were nervously excited with all the commotion this caused throughout the crowd around us. Until the gorilla was captured we spent enough time in the lion house to see the animals being fed by park assistants. I recall how frightening it looked to me to see how the lions would attack their fleshy meal. Back then it made sense to me that the animals were in cages for our protection. Little did I know that the time would come where they were there for their protection. From directors Alastair Fothergill (Chimpanzee, Earth) and Keith Scholey (African Cats) this documentary followed one family of bears in Alaska for one year, from coming out of hibernation to preparing for its return. If for nothing else I have to tip my hat to the movie studio for providing exquisite footage of the bears’ habitat. I have visited Alaska and it was breathtaking to see. The camera work not only provided a true sense of the state, but the close-up work in filming the animals was wonderful. Personally I would have liked more facts about the life of the bears but that was just my own tastes. The studio wanted to make a film that was entertaining so I understood why they had John C. Reilly (We Need to Talk to Kevin, Carnage) as the narrator. Children will probably enjoy the humorous spin he put on the animals’ actions; I just happened to find it odd attaching human emotions to animals. Either way this film was an enjoyable experience. I will say my opinion about zoos has changed as an adult now; there are still ones out there that are simply prisons. Once you view this film you just might agree with me.
2 3/4 stars
I never understood why adolescence needed to be a long process. It was such an awkward time as things started to change on me. I would hear my voice and wonder who was talking for me; the cracking noises coming out of my mouth sounded like a venetian blind covering an open window on a windy day. Due to an army of acne that started to invade my skin, setting up campsites on my face, I went to a dermatologist who told me to stop eating chocolate. I remember asking him why I now had to be miserable besides being upset over these stupid pimples. Then there were the names kids would call me. Besides making comments on my face; my hair that was already wavy took on a new persona and looked like the twisting thorny vines that tried to prevent the prince from saving Sleeping Beauty, became a new source for nasty remarks. I just wanted to go to sleep and wake up the following day being fully grown as an adult. As you may guess, I easily sympathized with the main teenager in this Sundance Film Festival nominated movie. Jacob Wysocki (Pitch Perfect) played 15 year old teenager Terri. Not knowing what happened to his parents, Terri was living with his uncle James, played by Creed Bratton (Mask, The Ghastly Love of Johnny X), who was beginning to show signs of dementia. After meeting with Principal Fitzgerald, played by John C. Reilly (The Aviator, Carnage), weekly meetings were set up so pajama clad Terri and Mr. Fitzgerald could check in with each other to see how the week was going. The strongest part of this comedic drama was the scenes that involved Terri and the principal. I thought Jacob and John did the best with their characters. The classroom scenes had enough teenage angst going on that I would think a majority of people could easily relate to them. This film was listed as a comedy and drama but I hardly found anything that I would consider funny; maybe humorous with touching moments. Possibly this had to do with me remembering what my high school years were like, but I could not get into portions of this movie. I felt the character of Terri’s uncle was never fully developed into the story. In a way I felt this film was in its adolescent phase, not fully grown into a complete picture.
2 1/3 stars — DVD
My college sociology professor used the term “Holy Deadlock” to describe a couple who stayed together for the wrong reasons. An example would be staying together for the children’s sake. This instructor claimed using children as an excuse to stay together did more harm than good. I have seen fighting couples use their kids as a way to attack or manipulate their significant other and it was awful to see. At that point the adult was no longer the parent, they were simply a conspirator. On the other hand, there are divorcing parents who act out in a different direction. They give in to the child’s every whim, hoping to make up for the failed relationship. Here, too, the adult is less of a parent as the child quickly learns the art of manipulation. In this comedy Cyrus, played by Jonah Hill (21 Jump Street, The Watch), was a master of manipulation. When his mother Molly, played by Marisa Tomei (The Lincoln Lawyer, The Wrestler), began to date John, played by John C. Reilly (Carnage, We Need to Talk About Kevin), Cyrus thought it would be easy to eliminate John from his mother’s life. He would discover the task at hand was easier said than done. What helped this story was the strong acting from the cast. I have enjoyed most of Marisa’s roles in the past and found her rock solid in playing Molly. In addition, playing John’s ex wife Jamie, Catherine Keener (Into the Wild, A Late Quartet) beautifully played off of John C. Reilly’s character. The fundamental elements of this story were sound; I only wished the writers would have added some punch. There was an easy predictability to several scenes. It takes effort to make a marriage work; it takes extra work to make a divorce successful for all involved parties.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
Who knew an arcade villain not only had a heart, but would take me down memory lane? Seated in the movie theater I had a flashback to the first time I saw a video arcade game. Standing in line to be seated at a restaurant, I heard sounds coming from a dark corner. When I turned to see what was making the sounds I saw a tall box pulsing with colored lights. Fascinated I went over and peered into its glass screen to see little, flashing colored creatures chasing what looked like a broken smiley face. That was my first time seeing Pac-Man. The fun I had playing that game has been a fond memory that will now be joined by this terrific animated movie. I found myself sitting in my seat with a smile on my face throughout this film. It was not from the graphics as much as it was the story; it had a heart and soul. Game villain Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly (Carnage, Cedar Rapids), was tired of being hated for being the bad guy in the video game Fit-It Felix. Everyone was afraid of him; while handy Felix, who was voiced by Jack McBrayer (The Campaign, 30 Rock-TV), was loved by all. Ralph decided he would leave his game and seek out a new arcade game, where he could be the hero. Due to his move a diabolical character was released into the arcade world, threatening every character from every game. When Ralph set out on his quest, he never imagined he would have to save the arcade game folks to become a hero. This exciting movie got under my skin with the humorous references, the video characters past and present, ideal voices including Sarah Silverman (Take This Waltz, The School of Rock) as Vanellope and the wild sounds and visuals. A perfect film for the whole family that will introduce to a younger generation fond memories from our favorite video games.
3 1/3 stars
I’m not a parent but know I would be a “tough love” type of Dad. I do not understand those parents who let their children run wild in a store or restaurant. And don’t get me started on the ones that bring their underage kids to an R rated movie–I am talking like a 6 or 7 year old! But what do you do if it turns out you do not like your child? The Kevin in this movie would really test a parent’s love. This intense film was too much for me to watch all the way through; I had to take a break from it. Since birth it appeared Kevin and his mother Eva Khatchadourian, played by Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton, Adaptation) never got along. Or maybe they just did not like each other. Tilda was extraordinary in this challenging role. As the teenage Kevin, Ezra Miller (Another Happy Day, City Island) not only looked like he was Eva/Tilda’s son, but his acting was just as remarkable. Playing the father Franklin, John C. Reilly (Cedar Rapids, The Promotion) was reduced to a minor character compared to the mother and son. I did not care for the direction, finding the use of flashbacks annoying. There were times I was trying to figure out why something was taking place. If you were to ask me if I enjoyed watching this movie, I would have to say no, not really. I wanted to see the acting since Ms Swinton was Oscar nominated. And yet, maybe this was a good film since it elicited a strong response in me. I have one other question I would like to ask: Should a parent be held responsible if their child grows up to be a sociopath?
3 stars — DVD
What I have always said about being in a love relationship is this: it is not the things you love that keep you together, that is the easy part; it is the things you do not like. If you can handle the tough aspects of your significant other, then it is true love. At least that is what I have found to be true. Watching these characters in the movie, I was not really clear on why they were still married to each other. But no matter, I did laugh at them throughout the film. The script undulated from sad moments to happy ones to pure lunacy, as the actors were all convincing in their roles. The movie takes place within a short span of time; when two sets of parents agree to meet, to discuss the fight their sons had earlier, where one of the boys was injured. The female leads, Jodie Foster (Panic Room, The Silence of the Lambs) and Kate Winslet (Finding Neverland, Titanic) were stronger on screen than the 2 male leads, John C. Reilly (Step Brothers, Chicago) and Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds, The Three Musketeers). For me, the two actresses’ characters were the power behind the story. The movie started out strong with tight, perfectly framed scenes from the director, Roman Polanski (The Pianist, Chinatown). However, the story petered out as it got towards the end. I felt all the energy was used up in the 1st half of the movie. Maybe with all the energy coming early on, everyone just got tired by the end.