THE WORD “BETTER” can be used like a knife. On one hand it is a tool that assists in creating wonderful food dishes in the kitchen; but on the flip side it can be uttered at a person, denting their self-confidence. The person who uses this word may think they are being complimentary; sometimes they are clueless however, not aware of the impact they are having on someone. We can all agree the statement, “Hope you get better soon,” is a positive comment. Telling a friend the dress they are trying on looks better on them than the 1st one they tried is also a positive and maybe helpful statement. When one uses the word “better” in this type of context I am totally on board. NOW YOU MAY not agree 100% with me but I am not a fan of the word “better” when it is used for motivation; it does not always motivate. A teacher telling a student they could have done a better job on their assignment does not have the same effect as asking a student to explain their decisions in doing the homework they way they did. I have learned more when I have been asked why I chose such and such or how I came to that conclusion. Having someone just telling me I could do better does not sit well with me; from my experiences it tends to have a negative connotation. I remember a school project I worked on for a couple of weeks. When it came time to get reviewed one of the things the teacher expressed to me was how she was looking forward to my next project because she knew it would be better. What does that exactly mean? Was she telling me my current assignment was just okay? I will tell you what her words and the comments I received from several sources through my life did to me; they made me more determined to prove them wrong. Hmm, was that their original intention? DESPITE HIS FATHER Sal’s, played by Victor Garber (Titanic, Argo), objections about his writings Jerome David Salinger, played by Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies, Mad Max: Fury Road), refused to give up. He felt he had something to say. This biographical drama also starred Sarah Paulson (Carol, American Horror Story-TV) as Dorothy Olding, Kevin Spacey (L.A. Confidential, House of Cards-TV) as Whit Burnett, and Zoey Deutch (Everybody Wants Some!!, Why Him?) as Oona O’Neill. I thought the cast was excellent along with their perfect for the period outfits and the settings around them. If what I was watching was true then the story was fascinating to me about the reclusive author. His book “The Catcher in the Rye” was required reading at my school; I assume most schools across the country had it as part of their English/Literature classes. What did not work for me in this film was the script. There already was a curious mystique to J.D. Salinger; I felt like I was not learning anything new that I had not seen in the news or on the internet. There was a weakness in the drama that kept most things on an even keel in my opinion. From what I was watching I wanted to learn more about the motivations behind the actions; instead, the scenes seemed like they were glossing over the details. If there was an opportunity to ask the writers, I would ask them why they chose the parts they wrote about in this script.
A life without music is a life less rich. At least that is how I feel about music. The famous line from William Congreve’s play “The Mourning Bride” goes, “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast.” It is usually misquoted as a savage beast; either way I agree with its meaning 100%. However I feel music offers us so much more. As the world appears to be more divided currently, music is the one common element that goes past all boundaries. In my opinion music is a universal language that can establish common ground between individuals. One place where I often see this taking place is at a wedding. You have two distinct families with nothing in common except one of their family members is in love with someone from the other side. There could be differences in race, religion or culture but put on some music and people will come together on the dance floor, beginning the first step in making contact with the other side. ANOTHER benefit music offers us is comfort. How many of us have a “breakup song?” You know that one song that you played over and over because it was speaking to you at the time of your separation from the person you loved. Sure it may cause a tear to spill over your eyelid, but it started the path for your heart to heal. I remember whenever I was sad I would sit at the piano and play my favorite music pieces over and over. By the time I walked away I felt some of the heaviness on my heart had been lifted. Music has to be playing whenever I am in the car or when I have to clean the house. I can better tolerate housekeeping when there is a steady beat playing in the background. If I did not have music playing during my commute I would walk into the office frustrated and angry. Maybe it would be different if I had the mad driving skills like the driver in this action crime movie. SURVIVING a car crash as a young boy Baby, played by Ansel Elgort (Divergent franchise, The Fault in our Stars), may have been influenced by it because he became a fearless getaway driver for crime boss Doc, played by Kevin Spacey (Elvis & Nixon, House of Cards-TV). The only problem was he was not allowed to do anything else. With Jon Hamm (Keeping up with the Jones, Mad Men-TV) as Buddy, Lily James (Cinderella, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Debora and Jon Bernthal (The Ghost Writer, The Wolf of Wall Street) as Griff; this film had a banging hard rock soundtrack. The characters and action were all put into synch with the driving beat. I could not recall seeing in a movie such precision between the two. The driving scenes were intensely thrilling; some of the scenes must be seen to be believed. Ansel was amazing in this picture; I felt it was a breakout role for him. Shifting into a lower gear (I could not resist), there was little explanation about the different relationships between characters. I did not understand Baby’s connection to his friend for example. One other thing for me was the change from such high speed action scenes to lesser ones; it made for some odd pacing. The final diagnostics for this music driven movie is it fires on most cylinders.
For endless hours of entertainment there is nothing like watching a newborn baby. Their facial expressions, the laugh they emit when you play “Peek-a-Boo” with them, the soft pudgy limbs; babies can ease pretty much any person’s mind of stress. In my yoga classes I tell new members that we were born with incredible flexibility. All they need to do to be reminded of it is to watch a baby move. As we grow and take on life’s challenges some of our flexibility may diminish; hopefully in class we can get re-introduced to that flexibility once again. Babies are not the only source of joyfulness or inspiration; there are many animals that at birth provide unlimited fun moments. The obvious ones would be puppies and kittens. Who doesn’t stop to look at a puppy or kitten playing? I believe I have mentioned I have a neighbor who fosters kittens and every day I get a show of them scampering and playing around their room. It was especially amusing to me the day I saw one kitten standing up and leaning on the closed door as another kitten was standing on them, as if they were forming a kitten pyramid up to the door handle. Just seeing the amount of cat and dog videos on my social media sites, I know I am not the only one who loves watching animals. This same neighbor has a food blog and when I asked her how she got so many followers to her site, she said all she had to do was post pictures of cats. Every time she posted a picture of one of the cats and kittens she was fostering, she would get new followers. Maybe that is why this comedy fantasy started out by showing cat videos. SUCCESSFUL businessman Tom Brand, played by Kevin Spacey (Elvis & Nixon, House of Cards-TV), was on the verge of his company’s latest achievement coming to fruition; the completion of North America’s tallest building. Pre-occupied with so much going on, Tom gave little thought to his daughter’s birthday request when he chose Mr. Fuzzypants from Felix Perkins, played by Christopher Walken (The Family Fang, Stand Up Guys), the odd proprietor of the pet store. This family film’s selling point was the cat. On a visual level, it was enjoyable watching the cat or the CGI cat doing the physical activities required for this story. However, the script not only did not help the cat; it did no favors for fellow cast members Jennifer Garner (Danny Collins, Dallas Buyers Club) as Lara Brand and Cheryl Hines (The Ugly Truth, Curb Your Enthusiasm-TV) as Madison Camden. The characters were more like cartoon ones than actual humans. As for Jennifer and her role, I really think she needs to do something different. The past few films she has been in she essentially is doing the same thing repeatedly. The story was predictable and one dimensional; there was little I found funny and for the most part I felt I was watching video clips taken from other movies. Actually more like videos that went viral. Maybe the film studio should have instead stayed with the cat videos for 90 minutes.
1 ½ stars
Photo bombing is a recent phenomenon that has seeped into our consciousness. There is a late night talk show that even has a reoccurring comedy segment that involves it. I have noticed most news show whether they are devoted to serious journalism or entertainment spend more time displaying these types of photographs. Granted I enjoy them myself when they look spontaneous and unplanned. The photo op’s I do not understand are the ones that involve celebrities that have nothing in common. I understand the historical significance of political leaders’ meeting each other, but when it is say a world leader and some reality star standing next to each; what is the point? Having been a photographer I have mentioned previously how much I enjoy looking at photograpphs. With me writing film reviews now, I especially get a kick when a movie based on a true story shows photos of the actual people at the end of the story. I feel photographs are the portals that transport us back to our feelings, memories or history of a specific time. In my wildest dreams I would never have imagined how much the art of photography has changed like it has now. Almost every single person with a cell phone takes pictures these days. The proof is on my Facebook account; I have seen more photos of food than a grocery store warehouse. Wasn’t there a periodical that was known for its amazing photos? I am sure they would have shown something from the most unusual pairing in this film: the President of the United States and the King of Rock & Roll. SHOWING up at the gates of the White House one day was Elvis Presley, played by Michael Shannon (Midnight Special, Boardwalk Empire-TV). He had to see the President because he had something important to tell him. This film festival nominee was a surprise to me; I never heard anything about these 2 individuals meeting, let alone using their names in the same sentence. It is such a bizarre combination to me for some reason. However, it turned out to be ok because this historical comedy was so much fun to watch due to Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey (House of Cards-TV, The Usual Suspects) as President Nixon. The 2 actors were terrific in their roles. Though MIchael did not look like Elvis, his mannerisms and outfits were eye-catching. With Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four, Beastly) as Jerry and Colin Hanks (Orange County, The House Bunny) as Krogh making up part of the cast; I thought the acting was good overall. Because some scenes did not offer much detail I could not decide if parts of the story were true or not; they seemed too far-fetched to have happened. Additionally that lack of detail made a few parts of this film run slower for me. The story however remained fascinating because of the dichotomy of the two main characters. If there was no proof, such as a photo of the event taking place, I would never have believed this event.
One of my first bosses thought he inherited a kingdom instead of a business from his father. I had an inkling of this during my first week at the job. The owner came into the warehouse, took off his shoes, handed them and a shoe shining kit he was carrying to an employee and told the worker to go shine them. I was flabbergasted by the owner’s behavior. Later in the week another incident left me shocked and disgusted. My boss came into the warehouse, walked up to a different employee and handed him his hairbrush, telling the man to take it into the bathroom and clean it. I was prepared to quit if I was ever asked to clean something of his. As it turned out, because I was a good driver, the owner would give me the keys to his expensive luxury car to do errands for him and his mother. I was agreeable to this type of task. This was my introduction into the work world. Luckily I never experienced the bosses that were in this wild comedy. Jason Bateman (Identity Thief, Up in the Air), Jason Sudeikis (The Campaign, Hall Pass) and Charlie Day (Going the Distance, A Quiet Little Marriage) played best friends Nick Hendricks, Kurt Buckman and Dale Arbus. During a night of drinking and commiserating about their vile bosses, the trio plotted a way to do away with their evil superiors. Though the premise was over the top, the cast really made this film fun to watch. I was stunned by Jennifer Aniston’s (Wanderlust, The Bounty Hunter) performance as Dr. Julia Harris, D.D.S.; not her usual type of role and she nailed it. Along with Kevin Spacey (Moon, The Usual Suspects) and Colin Farrell (Total Recall, Seven Psychopaths), these actors were wickedly contemptuous in their roles. A fast paced, joke laced, crazy caper movie; you may find it totally unbelievable. Before you judge this film because you cannot believe there can be such bosses in the real world, remind me to tell you about another boss I worked for who would steal our customer’s eye glasses. Some scenes with strong language.
2 3/4 stars — DVD