THOUGH I try to avoid using the word “should,” in this case I think it is appropriate. One should not get offended by which table they are assigned to at a celebratory function, such as a wedding or bar mitzvah. Whether you believe it or not there is a ranking system, just like there is one for the seating arrangement at the Oscar awards. I am not including company functions here since most of the ones I have attended did not have assigned tables. It makes sense to me to place those people that may have a task to perform closer to the staging area of a room. For example the siblings of the bride and groom would be seated near the newlyweds so they would have easy access to give their speeches. Grandparents are always placed close by out of respect or maybe just to keep an eye on them for whatever reason. Those in the wedding party also would be seated somewhere near the newlyweds since those individuals I would assume are part of the couples’ inner circle of close friends and relatives. I see it as a ranking system in general, plus I can see the logic in it. THERE is a running joke in my family about the table that is closest to the kitchen. I freely admit, at least within my family structure, those seated at that particular table tend to be individuals who do not fit in at the other tables. No one in that group is going to perform any function like a toast or speech; there may be a pair of single people placed there, especially if the bride and/or groom is trying to fix up a relative or friend; and it is not uncommon to place a person there who shares only a past history with the celebrating families, having been invited out of respect. As long as the food is good it really doesn’t matter where I sit, though the guests at the last table in this dramatic comedy would have been a bit of a challenge for me. GOING from being the maid of honor to simply a guest when the best man dumped her Eloise, played by Anna Kendrick (The Accountant, The Hollars) found herself seated at the dreaded last table at the wedding. She was not the only one at the table. The idea for this story was something I could easily relate to and felt almost anyone else would find something in common with it. With Lisa Kudrow (Easy A, Friends-TV) as Bina Kepp, Craig Robinson (This is the End, Pineapple Express) as Jerry Kepp and June Squibb (Nebraska, Scent of a Woman) as Jo Flanagan; I liked the variety of the cast and each of their back stories. As for the script it provided plenty of chances for most viewers to connect to something familiar in their own lives. The issue I had was the script was too basic; it was too easy to see the jokes coming, the acting was partially uneven due to the dialog and none of the scenes were pushed to a farther place to add some intensity to the story. I felt as if everything was on one emotional level which led to boredom. The script really needed to be punched up to make this picture stand out from other movies that had similar story lines. If you get an invitation to this film you might want to send back your regrets.
1 ¾ stars
It was known as the fancy tablecloth but in actuality it was no different from any other one. The only difference was it only came out once a year for the holiday. The house would be filled all day with the warm smells of favorite foods being prepared in the kitchen. This was the only time where that cherry red gelatinous ring would make an appearance. It was created in a metal mold that had flowers etched in the bottom. Inside of it were pieces of various fruits that looked like they were captured and put into suspended animation. I have to tell you it was the weirdest looking thing on the dining room table. In spite of it this was my favorite holiday as we all came together to celebrate and eat. I do not think it started out as a tradition but people sort of fell into a set routine where each person would do the same thing every year. For example, the same person always brought this dessert made from an old family recipe that had to be doubled and tripled in size over time because everyone would fight over it. Another person would always make and bring sweet and sour meatballs that had a secret ingredient of grape jelly. All of these things fell into a tradition and became part of the holiday and part of our celebration. I of course being the most comfortable with routines appreciated that these things turned into our yearly tradition. Fortunately or unfortunately as the yearly guests became part of a couple they would bring new people into our traditions. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not. CHARLOTTE and Sam, played by Diane Keaton (The Godfather franchise, Annie Hall) and John Goodman (The Gambler, The Big Lebowski), wanted the family to all come together one last time for the holidays. Like any family, some would be coming with extra baggage. This comedy had an impressive cast of actors. Besides Diane and John there was Marisa Tomei (Spare Parts, The Lincoln Lawyer) as Emma and Ed Helms (We’re the Millers, The Hangover franchise) as Hank. With the few dramatic scenes in the movie the actors were easily able to pull them off. Sadly I would rather have had more such scenes because the majority of the story was so basic and idiotic I was bored to tears. I was stunned that these actors agreed to do something that was so poorly written. Diane’s role seemed identical to some of her recent previous ones; there was no difference between them. Not only did I not find anything funny, the entire audience around me must have felt the same since there was dead silence through the film. I only hope the studio does not want to start a tradition by doing a sequel. There was an extra scene during the credits.
1 3/4 stars
You see them with their heads bowed, peering down at the item in their hand. If you did not know better you would think everyone standing in the aisle was having a moment of silence. What they are looking for is the defining answer on whether they will purchase that particular item; it all depends on the expiration date. If the date is close or even past the day’s date, the food item is placed back on the shelf and the shopper looks for a fresh container. Thank heaven love doesn’t have an expiration date, though seeing some people’s reactions to an elderly couple being affectionate makes me wonder. If two people can find each other and form a long lasting love relationship then I say more power to them. I am not comfortable when I see anyone performing public displays of affection that go way over the top, where you want to tell them to go get a room. For those types of individuals I think they are doing it more for the people around them than the recipient of their affections. However, when I see a couple holding hands or one has their hand gently resting on the other person’s leg or back I think those two people have a comfortable connection. When I am in a relationship I enjoy resting my hand on the person’s arm or leg, especially at the movies because I can get an extra read on how they are reacting to the film. So why should it matter how old a person is if they can still find and enjoy being in love? CAROL Peterson, played by Blythe Danner (Meet the Parents franchise, The Lightkeepers), had been a widow for many years. Encouraged by her friends she attended a speed dating event. It only reaffirmed why she preferred to be alone all these years; but did she really prefer it? This comedic drama had everything working in its favor. Blythe was so good; she may get a nomination for best actress for this role. I cannot believe this was Blythe’s first starring role; she was in every scene and was wonderful. Joining her in this story were June Squibb (Nebraska, Scent of a Woman) as Georgiana, Rhea Perlman (Matilda, Cheers-TV) as Sally, Martin Starr (Knocked Up, Adventureland) as Lloyd and Sam Elliott (Tombstone, Draft Day) as Bill. The script was smartly written, allowing characters to grow in a real and organic way; I was quite taken by this movie. The script felt fresh and was not predictable. Whether you are young or old, I feel everyone could connect to this picture on some level. Love is a powerful force; it would be hard to resist it and this film.
3 1/2 stars
It takes a person with a certain disposition who can enjoy living in a small town. They find comfort in knowing their neighbors, bumping into friends at the local supermarket, having their children attending the same school and living a simpler lifestyle than in a large metropolis. I am so not one of those individuals; in fact, I would probably get claustrophobic if I had to live in a small town. Being born and raised in a large city, I find comfort in the anonymity of being part of the masses. I do not know if it is due to how I was raised or to the hostile environment I experienced in high school, but for years I have always felt safer being invisible and not standing out. Now I will say I do not have a problem visiting small towns. There is something to be said for kicking back and going at a slower pace from time to time. If you can appreciate the attributes of small town living, you might get a quicker kick out of this dramatic adventure film. When mentally confused Woody Grant, played by Bruce Dern (Monster, Last Man Standing), received a notice stating he could be a million dollar sweepstakes winner, he was determined to make his way from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska to pick up his winnings–even if he had to go on foot. With his youngest son David, played by Will Forte (The Watch, MacGruber), being the only family member to show compassion for his dad, they took off on a road trip that brought them some unexpected surprises. This beautiful black and white film directed by Alexander Payne (The Descendants, About Schmidt) unfolded like the sipping of a sweet tea on a lazy summer day. There were no big or thrilling moments per se; instead, scenes bloomed with satiric wit and touching realizations. The actor that stole ever scene she was in was June Squibb (Meet Joe Black, Scent of a Woman) as Woody’s wife Kate. She was a hoot with her take no prisoners persona. I found myself being drawn into this quirky story as it revealed more and more the realities of small town living. There were several scenes where I laughed out loud as the stellar acting carried us along for the ride. Though I still would not want to live in a tiny residential area, I would gladly go visit this family and sit down to a piece of homemade pie and some iced tea.
3 2/3 stars