THERE WAS A BOY IN MY class who liked to slip thumbtacks onto students’ chairs. I was one of the fortunate ones who avoided sitting on one because I noticed it when I went to sit down in my seat after recess. Though I did not know who was doing it, the teacher quizzed several of the boys in class; I was one of them. I was upset that I had been picked. The teacher questioned me because a few of the students’ seats around my desk had thumbtacks on them; it looked like I was the culprit. I do not know if it was the look of horror on my face or the tears welling up in my eyes, but the teacher finished her questioning by asking me to keep my eyes open and let her know if I see something suspicious looking going on. Soon after the boys were questioned (though now looking back, I wonder why that teacher only questioned the boys since both boys and girls were getting thumbtacks on their seats) the prankster ceased placing thumbtacks on students’ seats. I never found out which student was doing it in my class; I was just grateful the teacher didn’t suspect me. BEING SUCH A YOUNG AGE BACK then, it was important to me to have people in authority believe in me. If I am recalling correctly, in an earlier review I told you about the teacher who tried discouraging me from going into writing. In front of the entire class she said I would amount to nothing if I studied to become a writer. Her words not only hurt me deeply; but because she was a “teacher,” I believed her and decided to switch my goals so I could devote my studies to science. It was not until I was halfway through my college studies before I realized I did not have a strong enough calling for the sciences; so, I switched my major and school to start over in the creative arts. That entire ordeal taught me a valuable lesson about accepting and believing in myself. The timing could not have come soon enough because that new thinking was soon tested when I started delving into the fitness world. Having come from a background where I had flunked PE twice in high school, avoided exercising and sports and was overweight; very few people believed I could become a fitness instructor. Despite the naysayers, I worked on achieving that goal by losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle. That determination is what I most identified with in this dramatic movie about the 1996 Olympics. DOING EVERYTHING BY THE BOOK TO become an officer of the law was not enough for people to believe Richard Jewell, played by Paul Walter Hauser (Late Night; I, Tonya) did not have an ulterior motive when he discovered a suspicious package in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Olympics. Was it because he did not look like a person of authority? With Sam Rockwell (Jojo Rabbit, Vice) as Watson Bryant, Olivia Wilde (Lift Itself, The Words) as Kathy Scruggs, Jon Hamm (Baby Driver, Million Dollar Arm) as Tom Shaw and Kathy Bates (Personal Effects, Misery) as Bobi Jewell; I thought the acting was wonderful in this movie. The story started out slow for me; but as it unfolded and more characters came in, I found myself fascinated by the events taking place. From an entertainment standpoint I enjoyed watching this film; however, with doing a little research I do not know how much of what I watched was based on truth. There were times I felt the director was pushing his own agenda about victims and the media. Maybe because in my own life there were people who did not believe in me, I felt a stronger connection to the story in this picture. But even if you do not have that connection, this movie was interesting and enjoyable.
GOING to someone’s house to share a meal and celebrate a holiday should be an easy thing to do, you would think. Normally you would not be expected to shop for ingredients that the cook needs to prepare the meal, vacuum or clean their whole house; however, you might bring a dish to share or assist in the cleaning process afterwards. All in all it is a relative easy experience. One big factor that could change everything is whether you enjoy the company you will be with for the celebration. Imagine how you would feel if you knew several of the guests there annoy you. THERE was a sense of dread that weighed you down as you pulled up to their house. The hosts were lovely people, sweet and very accommodating to their guests. So their culinary experiments never turn out good; usually there is a total bland taste to the food or at the other extreme, a pungent foul flavor that makes the food barely edible. An easy fix has been to eat something before you show up at their place then eat lightly (and carefully), saying you are not very hungry. At the party the host’s cousin shows up bringing their untrained dog unannounced. The dog is jumping on everyone until it smells the food, then it takes constant monitoring from the guests to make sure this dog does not stand up at the table to grab some food. Another guest that is familiar to you is the man who tells inappropriate jokes at the dining room table. He usually has some prejudiced or sexual comment accompanying his humor. Then there is the narcissist who grabs your attention and will not let you go as they talk on and on about what they recently bought, how much they spent and their recent dating exploits; you see why there is a sense of dread every time you show up to one of these parties. A similar sense of dread welled up in me as I was watching this comedy sequel. STILL drunk and obnoxious Willie Soke, played by Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade, Our Brand is Crisis), could not resist doing another job with the man who tried to kill him. This crime dramedy also starred Kathy Bates (Titanic, American Horror Story-TV) as Sunny Soke, Tony Cox (Oz the Great and Powerful, The Hustle) as Marcus and Christina Hendricks (Life as We Know it, Mad Men-TV) as Diane Hastings. The biggest shock for me was seeing Octavia Spencer (The Help, Fruitvale Station) doing a cameo as Opal and that is all I will say about it. The script for this movie was very basic; the jokes were easy to spot and for the most part were crude. I was quickly bored by the story; not that I am offended by the humor, I just found it uncreative. There may have been a couple of times I chuckled if I remember correctly. If you were a fan of the first film you may have a better time sitting through this sequel. For me the novelty of the first one was not part of this picture. I just had to trudge through to the very end so I could review it.
1 ½ stars
The reactions vary from individual to individual when it comes to experiencing good or bad luck. Some people take things in stride, where the appearance of luck has little effect on their mood. Whether they find $20.00 on the ground while walking to the store or getting drenched by torrential rains that started five minutes before they arrived at their destination, their mood barely budges. I think part of the reason has to do with the way one was raised. The lower the self-confidence the gloomier a person becomes from a stroke of bad luck. There is something about bad luck that makes it feel like a chewed up piece of gum that is stuck on your shoes, making each step harder to take. I have also noticed, at least in my experiences, luck comes in waves. If a person is having a lucky moment it tends to expand beyond one incident. An example would be someone on a lucky streak while playing a game of chance. However, the same could be said if they were on a bad streak. There is an old saying that death comes in threes; the same could be said regarding bad luck. IN this comedy Melissa McCarthy (The Heat, Identity Thief) played Tammy, essentially the same character she recently has portrayed twice before. Loud and foul-mouthed Tammy had a string of bad luck going when her car broke down, lost her job and found her husband Greg, played by Nat Faxon (The Descendants, Bad Teacher), cheating on her with another woman. Seizing it as an opportunity to get out of town and change her life, Tammy found an additional problem; she would have to take along her alcoholic grandmother Pearl, played by Susan Sarandon (The Lovely Bones, The Big Wedding). This film festival winner was such a mess with its conflicting story lines. It would flip from a comedy to a drama, from funny to sad without a continuous train of thought. Maybe it has to do with my own issues about body image but I found this movie offensive. With Melissa’s recent films it seems to me she is cast for her size. The humor is supposed to come from watching a large person doing activities that if the character had been skinny would not be as funny. There was nothing new that Melissa provided to this film; but then again it was hard for any of the actors to do anything worthy with the abysmal script and poor direction. Only Kathy Bates (Titanic, Misery) as cousin Lenore came across as authentic. As far as I was concerned I felt Melissa’s luck had run out with this dud. There was one brief blooper outtake scene in the middle of the credits.
1 2/3 stars
Those I call friend join me on a life long journey. We walk side by side down a long and winding road, where we discover amazing sights along the way. Sometimes they have to push me up a hill of doubt; other times, I have to pull them through a thicket of low self-esteem. Either way we take this journey together without any judgements, only unconditional love. Though every step is precious, there is an extra comfort when we share the high and the low points along our way. This comedic drama reinforced the deep affection I have for my friends. After recently reviewing special effect laden blockbusters, it was peaceful just to sit and focus on the art of acting. Recently widowed Arvilla Holden, played by Jessica Lange (The Vow, Big Fish), was distressed further when her stepdaughter demanded her father’s ashes be given to her, to be buried next to his first wife. Not wanting Arvilla to take the trip alone; her two friends Margene Cunningham and Carol Brimm, played by Kathy Bates (Titanic, Midnight in Paris) and Joan Allen (Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, Death Race), decided to join her. The trip would take the three women to unexpected places. For me the story was a generic blueprint; it had no embellishments or surprises to set it apart from similar stories done before. I wished the writers would have done a stronger story line because it really was not fair to the actresses. The acting power of Jessica, Kathy, Joan and Christine Baranski (Mamma Mia, The Good Wife-TV), as the stepdaughter Francine Holden Packard, deserved a better script. There was sweet, gentle moments throughout the film, along with chuckles provided for the most part by Kathy Bates’ character. An added bonus for me was the beautiful scenery the trio stopped at during their journey. This was not a great movie by any means; however, I simply enjoyed the underlying theme of friends being there for each other.
2 1/4 stars — DVD
Just from the movie title, this comedy should get an extra star in its rating. Unconditional love is a powerful combination; a term I have always tried to live my life by. For anyone who lives with unconditional love, I say more power to them. Besides having a great movie title, I am doing a different type of review because I was an extra in this film. I will share my observations as I was fulfilling one of my dreams–to see and be part of a movie production. Kathy Bates (Misery, Titanic) played Grace Beasley. Devastated when her husband Max, played by Dan Aykroyd (The Blues Brothers, Ghostbusters franchise), told her he did not want to be married to her any longer; on an impulse, Grace decided she would fly to London to attend the funeral of her favorite entertainer Victor Fox, played by Jonathan Pryce (Brazil, Pirates of the Caribbean franchise). While in England Grace convinced Victor’s partner Dirk Simpson, played by Rupert Everett (Hysteria, My Best Friend’s Wedding) to fly back with her to Chicago to find out who had killed Victor. There was a trail of madcap events that ensued which would put the couple in danger and have an affect on the entertainer’s estate. This was a fluffy, harmless comedy caper with a robust cast of characters. The story was silly for the most part, but I still enjoyed it. Kathy Bates was an incredibly warm person who would come to the set each day in a full length fur coat, fluffy house slippers and her little pet dog. The staff told us we were not allowed to look Rupert Everett in the eyes, nor speak to him unless he spoke to us first. He was surly and ignored everyone except his fellow actors. Lynn Redgrave (Gods and Monsters, Peter Pan) who played Victor’s sister Nola Fox was absolutely charming, sitting with the extras in the general dining area. Throughout the day the extras were fed pizza and doughnuts between takes. Luckily I brought some snacks that were a little healthier. The scene I was in included Barry Manilow and Sally Jessy Raphael. Between shots Barry entertained everyone by singing and playing the piano. Sally would walk behind the set after each take, where her husband dutifully waited for her. My scene was at the very end of the movie; I was an audience member of a television show. It took 2 1/2 days to film that one scene because Dan Aykroyd purposely kept changing his lines, causing everyone to crack up with laughter. If you look beyond his shoulder you can see a younger me with a full beard and more hair on my head, having the time of my life.
2 1/2 stars — DVD