AT some point in time I am sure many of us have felt alone, as if we were the only one. I feel it is a valid point; however, my question is what does a person do about it? That feeling of being out of synch from those around you can really do a number on you mentally. Imagine if the co-workers around you all share a fondness for a particular activity which you are not interested in; you could be left out of their conversations or out of office activities. One scenario I have seen numerous times is when one’s circle of friends goes from being single to being a part of a couple. As friends begin to couple up it is understandable there is some adjustment and before you say, “no there is not,” let me say there are a variety of reasons couples may prefer doing things with other couples. I am willing to bet if you were in a relationship that later dissolved, you would have felt alone as your coupled friends came to your support. A particularly difficult time for me took place during my freshmen year of college. I had gone to an out of state university that no one else from my high school was planning on attending. Alone in a foreign city was tough for me, especially because I was the only freshman on my floor; the other residents were all graduate students. It was not until one of my classes held a panel discussion with outside guests that I first felt a connection to some similarly minded students. It was as if a secret door had opened in the middle of the 30,000+ student body and I finally stopped feeling as if I was the odd man out. It was an eye opening experience, not so dissimilar from the one that takes place in this animated adventure comedy. WITH a secret map in her possession Smurfette, voiced by Demi Lovato (Glee-TV, Sonny with a Chance-TV), takes off on a journey that will show her things that she has not found in her own village. Including Mandy Patinkin (The Princess Bride, Homeland-TV) voicing Papa Smurf, Julia Roberts (Mother’s Day, Closer) voicing SmurfWillow, Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike franchise, True Blood-TV) as Hefty Smurf and Rainn Wilson (Juno, The Office-TV) as Gargamel; this movie was geared more for the younger child. The animation was colorful and there were many scenes filled with action. Honestly, I felt like I was watching one of those old Saturday morning cartoon shows I remember as a kid. I appreciated the dual messages the writers were trying to get across to the viewers; however, I found the story in general mediocre. There was nothing either good or poor about this picture; it was predictable and a little bland for me. Granted I was never into the Smurfs while growing up, but I thought the writing could have been more creative to add heft to the fun and excitement factors. As a whole I was left with a bland feeling about this movie; I could have (if I was into the Smurfs) easily have waited to see this some Saturday morning on television, while eating a bowl of breakfast cereal by myself.
No one wants to ever lose money. Look at all the apps that are available that try to find you the cheapest price for an item. I am all for trying to save some money on a product I am going to purchase; heck, I even cut out coupons before I go to the grocery store. Now when it comes to trying to increase the funds in my savings I tend to lean more towards low risk ventures. There are a few people I know who buy and sell penny stocks on a daily basis; if they can make a few cents more each day they are satisfied. I do not have the temperament for this type of trading. The same could be said when it comes to gambling. Being a people watcher, I am always stunned by the amount of money people gamble away at casinos. Gambling is not only limited to casinos though; you probably have heard the saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is not true.” Let us face it, there is no easy way to make money; I firmly believe this which is why I gravitate to low risk methods of earning interest on my savings. But there is another component that needs to be factored in regarding the methods we use to earn money. Here is another important saying, “Never put all of your eggs in one basket.” This is so true; the key is to have variety. Even if one is only comfortable putting their savings in an interest bearing bank account, I still would use at least a couple of banks to hold my money just in case something goes wrong with one of the them. If I had my retirement fund held by only one institution and they lost it I would be just as upset as the man in this crime thriller. BELIEVING what financial TV host Lee Gates, played by George Clooney (The Monuments Men, The Ides of March), was saying was true; Kyle Budwell, played by Jack O’Connell (Unbroken, Starred Up), was willing to take a risk with his money. The move would lead to dire consequences. Directed by Jodie Foster (Carnage, The Brave One) and also starring Julia Roberts (Mother’s Day, Secret in Their Eyes); I thought the direction was tight and kept the suspense going throughout this drama. The acting was exceptionally good which helped me because the script was far-fetched in several spots. There were a couple of times I sat in my seat and thought no way could that have happened in real life. In addition, there were a few predictable scenes that played out for all intents and purposes like standard plot twists. In my opinion it took away from the suspense. The story itself could be considered timely and I certainly could understand the frustration level for the circumstances. I am sure there will be some viewers who will be able to relate to this story and if they do they have my condolences.
2 ½ stars
Mothers always had the right answers and could do anything is what I believed. My first introduction to the possibility this was not true was the evil stepmother from the animated movie Cinderella. At the time I did not know there was a wide assortment of different types of mothers in the world. As I grew up I met mothers who always had home baked cookies and cakes in their house; I cannot lie they were my favorites. There was one mother who talked funny and slept a lot. It was not until later I learned about drunkenness. In my adult life I have heard many stories about people’s mothers, some great and others awful. One individual told me their mother used to hit them with any inanimate object within her grasp, from an ashtray to a landline phone. From the variety of tales I learned not every woman is cut out to be a mother. I know I have mentioned in the past the story about a friend who was on a jury for a case about a woman who killed her son. As you can see I have had the fortune and misfortune of learning about many different people in the mother role. But I do not want this part of the review to be a downer so let me just say mothers are special. I do not know the history of how we wound up picking one day to celebrate our mothers. One day is not enough in my opinion; I am familiar with some amazing mothers. I just wonder what type of relationship the writers and director of this movie had with their mothers. JUST in time for Mother’s Day this comedic drama had several story lines that all had to do with mothers. Starring Jennifer Aniston (We’re the Millers, Cake) as Sandy, Kate Hudson (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Something Borrowed) as Jesse, Julia Roberts (The Normal Heart-TV movie; Mirror, Mirror) as Miranda and Jason Sudeikis (Sleeping with Other People, Horrible Bosses franchise) as Bradley; each of the stories were plausible. The issue with this film is that it not only does nothing new with the idea but it used racist and prejudicial comments to tell it. I felt like this movie was just slapped together using the same formula the director Gary Marshall (Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve) had used before. Also, I found the humor dated so I did not find much that amused me. Now this does not mean there wasn’t anything good about this picture; there were a couple of individual stories I wished the writers would have expanded on. But since they didn’t I was bored a majority of the time. I cannot imagine anyone paying full price for this mess of a movie. It makes more sense to me to wait for cable or a DVD rental if you really want to see this picture. If this film was a present for the writers’ and director’s mothers then all I can say is therapy would have helped them deal with their issues.
1 ½ stars
The word “determination” not only has assertive connotations associated with it, it even sounds strong. The dictionary defines determination as a quality that makes you continue trying to do or achieve something that is difficult. Just last night after coming home from shopping at a couple of retail establishments I discovered my charge card was missing. I mentally retraced my steps from the stores, to the car, to home, to sweeping the sidewalks of fallen leaves, to entering the house and hanging up my coat. When I later went back to my coat to retrieve the charge card, I checked all the pockets even though I was sure I had put it in the outside pocket of my sleeve which I had already found open and empty. Taking a flashlight I went outside and started to scan the sidewalks, only to find no trace. The pile of leaves that I swept into the street was approximately 7 feet wide by 2 1/2 feet high. Everyone sweeps their leaves into the street where the city comes and picks them up. In the dark, in the cold I started to investigate the mound of dead leaves as I slowly followed the flashlight’s beam of light. Carefully moving leaves aside as if I was an archaeologist, I intently looked for any sign of my card. After 30 minutes freezing in the cold with an aching back from stooping over, my eyes caught the sight of a tiny sliver of blue color barely peeking out between two overlapping leaves. I could not believe I actually found my charge card within all those leaves; my determination paid off. Determination can be a powerful motivator as you can see in this mystery thriller. INVESTIGATING a crime scene partners Ray and Jess, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, The Martian) and Julia Roberts (Eat Pray Love, Closer), discovered the victim was Jess’ daughter. Ray would make it his mission to bring the killer to justice; it was the least he could do for Jess. This film was a remake of the Oscar winner from Argentina. The cast, including Nicole Kidman (Paddington, Before I Go to Sleep) as Claire, was pretty top-notch. Unfortunately they were totally wasted in this dreadful production. The story kept jumping back and forth in time to the point where it was annoying me. I never felt a connection to the characters simply because the script was so dull. Sure the actors did their best and I actually wanted to be interested in their characters; however, I disliked the minimum amount of time spent with them in each scene. The story dragged for me and I never quite understood what motivated Ray so much. In addition I thought the story line between Ray and Claire was unnecessary. If I was not determined to see and review so many movies I would have taken a pass on this one.
1 3/4 stars
Words can provide us things like comfort, excitement, hope and tenderness. In written form we absorb the word’s meaning, allowing it to color a thought or infuse intensity into our feelings. We hear words and the sender’s inflection assists in molding the words to our heart and mind. As adults we have the skills to be resilient when words get lobbed over with the intent to hurt us. I knew this person who always tried to establish himself as the smarter person in every one of his conversations. Personally I felt he was extremely book smart but had little common sense. His favorite thing to do when having a discussion with anybody was to answer their talking points with “And your point is?” I always found it offensive. Now notice if he would have said, “I do not understand what you mean,” it would have taken on a kinder, respectful approach. There were individuals who would not let his comments bother them, they had a solid confidence that was honed by years of experience. However, a child may not be capable because their identity has not been fully formed. There are people who have skewed expectations when it comes to children and you will see an ugly example in this dramatic movie. Ryan Reynolds (Smokin’ Aces, The Proposal) played successful author Michael Taylor . An upcoming family celebration was forcing Michael to go home and visit his parents Lisa and Charles Taylor, played by Julia Roberts (Notting Hill, Closer) and Willem Dafoe (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Hunter). Though Michael was looking forward to seeing his mother, he would prefer avoiding his father who always seemed to be disappointed in him. This movie had 2 sides of the story that flipped back and forth. The side I found better was the one with Michael as a child. I wished the writers would have made the whole movie about this time period. The part that dealt with the adult Michael was okay but I felt a stark difference between the two. Granted the cast was excellent, including Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves, The Book Thief) as Jane Lawrence, but their portion of the script was weak compared to their formidable acting skills. Overall I remained interested in the entire story and noticed I was getting a fearful reaction from Willem Dafoe’s character. It really is something when I can sit here today and still remember all those words that scarred me as a young boy.
2 1/4 stars — DVD
A great line a former boss of mine used to say was, “I came loaded for bear.” I know this implies a hunting reference, but that is not the intention. They would use the loaded bear line when they knew a meeting was going to be an intense verbal struggle. Aware they were going to be grilled about an issue or procedural operation; they had studied up on all their facts, ready to answer any questions that would get volleyed at them. I prefer using that perfect bear line when it comes to attending a variety of friends or family functions. If I know there is going to be a guest at a dinner party who wants to pick a fight with me, there is nothing wrong with me preparing for any possible antics on their part. There have been family dinners where I have seen sisters fight or cousins yell at each other and all I am interested in is if we are still going to have dessert. If you know you are going to be in a toxic environment there is nothing wrong with insulating yourself from it aka come loaded for bear. I believe in preparing for the worst but even I would not have been ready for the ferocious fighting done by this Oklahoma family. Based on Tracy Letts’ (Killer Joe) Pulitzer Prize winning drama, the story takes place as family members come together due to a death in the family. Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada, The Iron Lady) played the widowed matriarch Violet Weston. Julia Roberts (Notting Hill, Closer) played her daughter Barbara whose husband was contemplating divorce. Those of you who have seen the play will have a different reaction than the ones who are not familiar with this story. I saw the play and enjoyed it more than this dramatic movie. Everyone in the cast was excellent with their acting. Meryl was not a surprise to me, but Julia Roberts and Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek into Darkness, Atonement) shined in their roles. Tracy wrote the screenplay to this film and though there was nothing negative about it, I felt some of the energy dissipated when the focus was taken out of the house. Some viewers will become tired by all of the verbal fighting; if I remember correctly the play had more humor. Either way this multi-nominated movie is worth seeing; just come prepared for one heck of a fight.
2 3/4 stars
What do you think the Grimm brothers would have thought about this movie version’s twist on their original story? My guess would be none too happy about it; for I am afraid this mirror needed some polishing if it wanted to reflect a happy audience. Please do not get me wrong, there was nothing horrible about the movie; it just came across disjointed for me. On the plus side it was colorful, had a couple of good special effects in it and had kid friendly humor. The queen was played by Julia Roberts (Closer, Erin Brockovich) and it seemed she was having fun with the role. Some of her lines had a sickly sweet, sarcastic coating that played off well against the rest of the cast. Where I had an issue was the Snow White character, played by Lily Collins (The Blind Side, Abduction). I did not feel she had any chemistry with the other actors, especially with what should have been the most important one, Prince Albert played by Armie Hammer (The Social Network, J. Edgar). The story line of this movie was a combination of parts from various fairy tales. When Snow White’s father the King mysteriously disappeared from the kingdom, her stepmother the evil Queen took over the throne. Letting her true colors come out, she started to treat Snow White like a pseudo Cinderella. As you can see, I found the story odd. But in the scheme of things, this movie was harmless and acceptable for a family outing. Instead of casting a charming spell on you, this film will only cast a forgetting spell.