IT APPEARS TO ME when people are reaching a certain age they start going through their home to get rid of stuff. I have recently noticed this due to a few friends, who started doing this very thing recently. They are rummaging through their closets, drawers and basements pulling out a variety of items, from unused tools to shoes that were never taken out of their original packaging. I know this because they are sending me photos showing their stuff piled up, waiting to be donated, recycled or thrown away. In fact a friend of mine who runs an antique/thrift shop was telling me how the store has always gotten items from estate sales or people who are clearing out the homes of their deceased relatives. However now he noticed more and more people are bringing in their own items, telling him they no longer need it or they are downsizing. WHEN THE TIME COMES for me to reorganize my house I know I will have a lot of items to donate or give away. Like so many people I am an acquirer (a kinder way of saying I like to shop). There was a period of time where I bought into the mindset that the person with the most stuff wins. Because I have the space when I bought, let us say, a new pair of pants or shoes, I did not bother getting rid of a similar item from my closet. I think I do this because I have this constant thought that at some point in time I will need that item for whatever reason. Slacks that are too big for me hang in the attic in case I put on weight or have a dinner guest that spills on their pants and needs to wear something while their stained slacks are in the wash. Maybe a better way of explaining this desire for stuff is to look at the way electronic items and children’s toys are marketed these days. Now when a new thing comes out it suddenly becomes a big event, drawing in and making people believe they would be better off with the new item. Need takes a back seat to desire. Let us face it, who wants to feel like they are being left behind as everyone else is jumping on the shopping bandwagon for new stuff. This film festival winning dramatic comedy has something to say about it. FINDING IT HARDER TO make ends meet Audrey and Paul Safranek, played by Kristen Wiig (Ghostbusters, Masterminds) and Matt Damon (The Martian, The Great Wall), agree to become part of the new trend of downsizing oneself to 5” tall and live like a millionaire. However being small doesn’t mean one will have smaller issues to deal with. With Christoph Waltz (Tulip Fever, Big Eyes) as Dusan Mirkovic, Hong Chau (Inherent Vice, Treme-TV) as Ngoc Lan Tran and Rolf Lassgard (A Man Called Ove, After the Wedding) as Dr. Jorgen Asbjornsen; this story caught my attention right from the start. The first part was both fun and curious; but then other story lines came in and none of them ever became fully developed for me. I found it an odd mix that made me lose interest, though I enjoyed the visual contrasts. The story presented was a social satire that could have led to some interesting conversation afterwards, but instead what was in my head was clutter I wanted to clear out.
THEY were from the same parents but you would never know it. Two brothers only a few years apart in age, yet they had nothing in common. Even when we were younger I rarely saw the older of the two siblings. If I was over at their house and the older one happened to be present, there was a good chance an argument would take place between the family members at some point during the day. I believe it was after high school when the older brother enlisted in the army and that was the last time the parents would ever have contact with him. I never understood what happened between the family members that would lead one child to stop interacting with the rest. The parents went on with their lives; whether they were upset with the situation they never showed it. WHAT I just described was my first exposure to such extreme actions between family members. From that period of time going forward I have seen situations from both ends of the spectrum; from a family who had little contact with people outside of their own family members to families who resorted to violence. Recently a news article crossed my desk about a family owned company. One relative was using legal means to force an issue, making claims of inappropriate behavior and illegal business activity. As I read the article I was surprised by the level of hatred that was motivating the lawsuit. I did not know how many of the accusations were true, only that the company did business with my company. These scenes always remind me there is no such thing as a “normal” family. Every family or should I say every human being is different, who come with their own unique set of issues and quirks. If you do not believe me just take a look at the characters in this animated, action adventure film. AFTER all these year Gru, voiced by Steve Carell (Café Society, Freeheld), discovered he had a quite successful twin brother. If they were to meet, what would they possibly have in common? This 3rd installment in the franchise included Kristen Wiig (The Martian, Ghostbusters) voicing Lucy, Trey Parker (Run Ronnie Run, Orgazmo) voicing Balthazar Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove (School of Rock, Icarly-TV) voicing Margo and Steve Coogan (The Trip to Spain, Tropic Thunder) voicing Fritz/Silas Ramsbottom. For me the best part was the inclusion of the Minions; they are one of the best cartoon characters today. As the previous sequels this one had fun animation and a great soundtrack. The story initially was fine to me; however, as the story progressed and veered off in different directions I found myself not as interested. I believe the issue was due to having three different directors working on this picture. It almost seemed as if there was not enough time to cover one plot before something else was happening. Additionally the humor was sort of low key; it was geared towards young children and even then not much in the laugh out loud category based on the audience’s reactions during my viewing. Sitting through this movie I felt the Minions were overall the biggest draw because the story lines were not that unique to the characters. There was a sense as if I had seen each story before in a different film. It may be time to let these characters leave the coop so to speak.
2 ½ stars
It either floats in like a rolling fog coming down over a mountain range or bursts in like wind off of the Great Plains. No matter which way, once inside of a person the fog or wind spreads sparkles of light over a person’s heart and mind. Any rough edges are quickly filed down into soft round curves since hazard warnings are not allowed. Love has this way of taking over a person’s sense of reason, self-worth and thought processes. I am not saying this is always a bad thing; however, there is a fine line where the person in love slips up and falls into this unchecked devotion that clouds their mind. Let me tell you about a friend of mine who fell hard for this person. Right up front I will tell you I sensed something was not right after being around them for only the 2nd time. This person would regale my friend with these elaborate stories about the life they lead. They had traveled to various exotic locales, worked for the FBI, changed careers to become a top salesperson for a Fortune 500 company and so on and so on. But they slipped up without realizing it. When I mentioned I taught group fitness classes they said they used to do the same thing. A couple of innocent questions on my part confirmed this person was never certified to teach such a class. Here is the thing though, I privately told this to my friend along with my other concerns but it did not make a difference. Being in the birth stage of love my friend already had chucked rational thought from their mind. No matter what red flag popped up my friend ignored it and continued on with this person who would borrow money from time to time, never pick up a drink or restaurant tab and periodically had to be driven around because their “car was in the shop.” Love is best when it works in conjunction with a person’s mind and heart, instead of just consuming it. SECURITY guard David Ghantt, played by Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover franchise, Due Date), would do anything for fellow guard Kelly, played by Kristen Wiig (The Martian, Ghostbusters). She was not the only one who realized it. Based on true events this crime comedy also starred Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris, No Escape) as Steve, Jason Sudeikis (Mother’s Day, We’re the Millers) as Mike McKinney and Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters, Saturday Night Live-TV) as Jandice. None of them could help the awful script that was simply a generic version of an action comedy. The one who stood out for me was Kate; she has the best stage and screen presence in my opinion. Zach I feel is starting to be typecast with these same kinds of characters, a bit buffoonish and uncoordinated. As for the humor in this story I found very little to laugh at because I had seen the movie trailer prior. Once you have seen the trailer (even if you did not), the scenes were easy to predict. The actual story made headline news but I am afraid this movie version will quickly go to DVD. Suffice to say I did not love this film.
1 ½ stars
It started out when you were told to open the hangar doors wide because the airplane was coming in for a landing. Your parents would be making plane noises with their lips as the flying spoon they held with its contents of baby food came close to your gaping mouth. I only experienced the hangar doors for a short time before my mouth turned into a vacuum cleaner. After a couple of years when the airplane was no longer in commission, your food became a teaching tool. A bowl of soup offered the opportunity to spell words with the floating noodles shaped in the alphabet. How many of you would eagerly down a spoonful of soup with the words dog or cat staring at you? The next stage was not always a choice for many; the introduction of fast food. Coming with your food now were little toys and prizes. As an added bonus you did not have to always sit at a table to eat your food. This fast food allowed you to sit in the back seat of the car and eat while your parent was driving you home. Now depending on your age you may have grown up with one or two cooking shows on television that were hosted by Julia Child or Joyce Chen. Others may have seen a variety of food shows, from contests, to specific cuisines, to learning how to hold a dinner party for eight; food took on a new level of entertainment. I myself have tasted a variety of foods from a small country diner all the way to an exclusive world class haute cuisine restaurant. None of this prepared me for the food I saw in this animated adventure comedy. FRANK, voiced by Seth Rogan (Steve Jobs, The Interview), discovers the true meaning behind being chosen by a shopper at the grocery store and it was no where near what he and all his friends thought it would be. This film had a multitude of actors voicing the characters such as Kristen Wiig (The Martian, Welcome to Me) as Brenda, Edward Norton (American History, Fight Club) as Sammy and Salma Hayek (Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Some Kind of Beautiful) as Teresa. I found the beginning of the story interesting, filled with fun and jokes. Personally I understand the use of profanity can provide shock value in an amusing way; I quickly find it lazy humor the more it is used and curse words made up a a good portion of the script. As the story progressed I found less and less to enjoy about this picture. To me the writing was geared for a narrow range of viewers who just want to be shocked by inappropriate behavior. There definitely was a decent message to convey but it was undercooked compared to the rise of raw adult only scenes. As far as I could tell the prominent goal of the script was to surprise and maybe upset the viewer instead of providing a good story. All I can say is this movie provided a new definition to what is considered food porn.
The street festival provided an opportunity to relive the memories of the old neighborhood of my youth. Walking the residential streets was a revelation for the homes were now freshly painted in colorful hues. Old porches and stairs that previously yawned in tiredness looked confidently strong now; I doubt they would utter a peep. The biggest surprise was the amount of foliage everywhere. As a kid I remember flowers were something one would find mostly in a backyard, not many households had them in front. Bushes covered the bottoms of houses; some planted to form a straight hedge across, others looking like tossed green gumdrops. Now as I traveled down several streets, flowers and ornamental trees were blooming everywhere. The trees that remained from my childhood had expanded and grown as if someone had pumped them up with air to look like inflated balloons at a Thanksgiving parade. When I finally reached the heart of the business area there were a few stores I remembered though they were dressed up with new signs and banners. The grocery store was replaced by one of those dollar stores and the local drugstore was now a currency exchange. Sitting in the same place was the diner I used to go to at least once a week. I had to go in and though no one looked familiar to me, the furniture had not changed. I ordered my usual and watched the cook make it as I sat on one of the dark red stools at the counter. The food came in those same plastic baskets freshly lined with wax paper. I was excited as I took my first bite, taking in the earthy aroma wafting off the pile of fries. Sadly my memories tasted better than the actual meal. The same thing could be said about this version of a comedy classic. STRANGE occurrences started popping up around New York City but only two people understood what they could be. Scientist friends Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, played by Kristen Wiig (The Martian, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) and Melissa McCarthy (The Boss, Spy) were convinced there was finally proof to substantiate their research. After all the talk of this science fiction fantasy reboot having a female cast it all came down to the script for me. Kristen, Melissa and Leslie Jones (Trainwreck, Saturday Night Live-TV) as Patty Tolan were subdued compared to Kate McKinnon (Life Partners, Saturday Night Live-TV) as Jillian Holtzmann; she was terrific which is saying a lot since the story was bland. I did not have any laugh out loud moments and felt the story needed some caffeine. The villain of the story was so dull with a tired story line that I sat in my seat and wondered what the writers were thinking. Even the special effects were nothing special; after all these years since the original film, you would think the movie studio would want to dazzle the viewers with special effects. Overall this movie was not the worst; it just did not taste as good as the original I remembered. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
I feverishly was trying to keep up with my notes while the speaker was discussing the kinesiology behind their choreographic routines. The workshop was packed with fitness participants; I had no idea this would have been such a popular course. However, I soon realized why when I glanced at the person’s notebook next to me; she was drawing a portrait of the presenter. I was stunned; not because it was actually a good likeness, but because she appeared to be in her middle 20s. Didn’t this kind of thing go on back during our school years I wondered to myself? I could still remember back in school how easy it was to spot someone who had a crush on someone else. If they could not engage their intended target in conversation, they would always be close by to watch the movements of their heart’s attraction. When there was an age difference or more exactly a grade difference I always found it odd that it was okay if the male was in a higher grade, but not the female. I had a friend who had dated an older girl but he never talked about it, only if he was asked questions directly. Now keep in mind back then dating meant going out to eat, see a movie, sitting together during lunch period, hanging out in groups; all depending on what grade one was in. I do not recall hearing about such events like what I saw in this dramatic romance. ARTISTICALLY inclined teenager Minnie, played by Bel Powley (Side by Side, M.I. High-TV), had a crush on Monroe, played by Alexander Skarsgard (The East, What Maisie Knew). He was already dating her mother Charlotte, played by Kristen Wiig (Welcome to Me, The Skeleton Twins). Set in the 1970s in San Francisco, this film festival winning movie used animation in a creative way to bring some of Minnie’s thoughts to life. I thought the cast was exceptionally good; however, if I go by my standards regarding the entertainment value of a film, then I did not find this picture very entertaining. For me it came down to the subject matter, I was not comfortable with it. I do believe the story portrayed certain realness and I know I do not have the right to place my values on other people; but I just felt scenes were being regurgitated to drive a point home. There were parts of the picture that were nicely done and actually the script was well written, even if some of it was predictable to me. What I have always said about a movie is if it moves you, whether in a positive or negative way, then it has done its job. I was moved but I did not experience a lot of entertainment value with this film.
2 1/2 stars
When anyone describes their emotions as a roller coaster ride I believe them. Between friends and work I have seen some extreme actions from people. There was a friend of mine who suffered with bouts of depression from time to time. They were resistant to seeking out help because they were afraid they would be labeled crazy. Yes I know it was a very old concept. Luckily they met a doctor who explained things in a way that brought comfort to my friend and they began to use an antidepressant. Another friend of mine had a tragic experience when their boyfriend who was bipolar committed suicide; he left a gut-wrenching note behind. To a different extreme I had a woman in my yoga class who was classified manic depressive. I did not know it at first but after some time I noticed when she was not wearing her eyeglasses she was bubbly and animated. If she had her glasses on then she was pretty much non-emotional and quiet. After a few months she came up to me after class to ask about a particular yoga pose. From that conversation she informed me of her condition and told me about some of the things she had done when she was on her “high” as she referred to it. I will say some of the stuff she said she did was off the wall as they say, but she stressed how yoga helped keep her steady. It was an eye opening experience for me to say the least and one that was a precursor to the character in this movie. WHEN Alice Klieg, played by Kristen Wiig (The Skeleton Twins, Girl Most Likely), won the lottery she decided to go off of her meds and buy herself a talk show. She wanted to be the next Oprah. This comedic drama had several strengths in its favor. The main one was Kristen; her dramatic acting in this role was made even better with her physicality. With the other actors such as Tim Robbins (Jacob’s Ladder, Mystic River) as Dr. Daryl Moffet, Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games, American Beauty) as Gabe Ruskin and James Marsden (The Best of Me, The Loft) as Rich Ruskin; they all worked well together in keeping the story on track. Not that watching this film would make one feel as if they were a spectator at a traffic accident, but there were times where I felt I was witnessing the breakdown of a human being. The only negative I saw was in the directing; there were some uneven moments through the film. However, having the right mix of humor and drama in this interesting original story, along with Kristen’s wonderful acting and I was hooked.
Depending on the day it could feel as if you have either a veil or shroud draped over you. A bright shining sun cannot penetrate the darkness that surrounds you. Each step may need all of your concentration to make the effort to lift your foot off of the ground from its footprint’s vice like grip. Depression lets the irrational thoughts win the battle over one’s rational thoughts. I have witnessed and experienced the darkness of depression. For each person the response to it can be so different. Some people will sleep away the majority of the day while others will focus on a particular food, consuming it way beyond the daily recommended amount. For those individuals in my circle, I know it is not productive to utter those generic platitudes such as ” cheer up” or “things will get better;” they serve no meaningful purpose. All I can do is stay in contact and be supportive. DEPRESSION was a trait estranged twins Maggie and Milo, played by Kristen Wiig (Girl Most Likely, Whip It) and Bill Hader (The To Do List, Saturday Night Live-TV), had in common. Though they had not spoken or seen each other in 10 years, they each were experiencing the same irrational act at the same time that resulted in them coming together. They would discover more about each other than they knew on their own. Though this film festival winning drama was filled with heavy subject matter, the director beautifully laced the scenes with a delicate to goofy humor. In addition, I have to give credit to the writer/director Craig Johnson (True Adolescents) for not letting the two leads fall into their shared Saturday Night Live type of performances. Kristen and Bill were absolutely amazing; in fact, I feel this was Kristen’s best performance. Their seemless chemistry was perfection. When 2 actors shine as brightly as these two did, it can make the rest of the cast look dull. Luckily that was not the case for Luke Wilson (Death at a Funeral, Legally Blonde) as Maggie’s husband Lance and Ty Burrell (Muppets Most Wanted, Modern Family-TV) as Milo’s former teacher Rich; they held their own in helping make each scene feel complete. The script was thoughtful, filled with subtleness and compassion; I never felt I was being fooled. There was one brief offshoot of the story that seemed unnecessary but it was only a minor complaint. Life is filled with happy and sad moments; for me, when I left the theater I was in a good mood because I had just seen a well done film.
3 1/3 stars
Daydreams are like the morning dew on budding ambitions. For inside those daydreams is the pollen of ideas. Many of us have daydreamed at one time or another; I am a firm believer in them. Daydreams provide me a safe haven to let my mind wander untethered from my required responsibilities. Sitting in a waiting room while my car is being serviced provides me time to take a mental vacation to a warm exotic place as the drifting snow outside the dealership fades away from my vision. After I lost my weight many years ago I used to daydream of being a dancer, specifically a go-go dancer. It was not because I was looking for adulation. After being uncomfortable in my body for so long, I wanted to see how it would feel to let go in a very vulnerable way and not give any thought to how I looked to other people. This dream stayed with me for some time but I never had the courage to follow through with it. However, that daydream played a factor in my pursuit of becoming an aerobic instructor. Finding myself in a physical activity where I was not being teased or judged gave me more confidence than I had ever experienced before. Someone else who had a fondness for daydreaming was Walter Mitty, played by Ben Stiller (Tropic Thunder, The Watch). To disappear from his uneventful life, Walter would escape into his daydreams of adventure and heroics. When his job position was threatened with elimination, Walter had to take off on a real adventure he never imagined in the hope of saving his job. Based on James Thurber’s short story of the same name, this adventure dramedy was not a remake of the Danny Kaye film. Directed by Ben, I enjoyed the flow of the story. There were several scenes that were visually stunning. I have to say those same scenes were the most engaging. If there was not some adventure taking place on screen I then found the story becoming weak, lacking any energy. The parts where Ben and Kristen Wiig (Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Bridesmaids), who played fellow employee Cheryl Melhoff, were together I found almost boring. It was funny because I wished the short scenes that had Shirley MacLaine (The Apartment, Terms of Endearment) as Walter’s mother Edna, would have been longer. This award winning movie was a good effort but the people involved in making it would have done better if they had dreamt bigger.
2 1/4 stars