THE ABSENCE OF a single conversation can steer a relationship off course and down an embankment towards rocky terrain. When someone says “they were afraid to tell their significant other” or do not want to say anything “because they won’t understand what I am saying anyway,” I want to give them a time out. I may understand why the person does not want to confront their partner but the bottom line for me is this: if you are in a committed relationship there should be no fear for one to express their feelings and thoughts. I had a friend who was afraid to tell her husband she was feeling lonely in their relationship. Her husband would go out with his friends to drink or play sports on a consistent basis. She would be left at home. Now granted she could have easily made plans with her friends, but for her it would not have solved the fundamental issue. The issue being she wanted to spend some down time with her husband after their busy work week schedules. WHEN I WITNESS couples not sharing their feelings with each other I fear they are laying down the groundwork for a life of miscommunication; that is if they choose to remain together for that long. More times than not this not talking to each other situation usually brings in to the relationship anger and resentment. In turn a game gets set up where one person does something they know will irritate their partner; then the partner returns the favor by doing something equally as irritating back. It becomes a vicious cycle that only places more negativity on the relationship. I find it sad and if given the opportunity to express my thoughts I will share them with the couple. Something I always recommend is therapy, to get an outside person involved to mediate and help the couple learn how to communicate their feelings to each other. I can see where the idea for this comedy came from regarding the issues facing the couples in this movie. LOOKING TO PROVE her theory about marriage researcher Vivian, played by Dolly Wells (Bridget Jones franchise, 45 Years), chose what she believed to be the perfect couples to participate in her documentary. Each couple had issues, maybe more than Vivian had bargained for. Starring writer and director Lake Bell (In a Word, No Strings Attached) as Alice, Ed Helms (Love the Coopers, Vacation) as Noah, Mary Steenburgen (The Proposal, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape) as Cybil, Paul Reiser (Whiplash, Mad About You-TV) as Harvey and Amber Heard (The Danish Girl, Drive angry) as Fanny; this was a well chosen ensemble for this story. As I mentioned the idea for this story was sound in my opinion; but it did not always translate to the script. Where some scenes had humor and real life situations, others fell flat and were not realistic. It was as if there was more than one story going on at times which attributed to the loss of focus. I was periodically bored and never felt like I fully knew any of the characters. In the past I have enjoyed Lake Bell’s work and performances, but for this film the directing did not help in jumping from one couple’s story to another. I am afraid for a story about communication and marriage; this movie did not do a good job in proving its point. There was a brief extra scene during the beginning credits.
1 ¾ stars
In one version of being singled out you could win cash or valuable prizes. I was a member of a studio audience during the taping of a TV game show and won a television set because I had the correct numbers drawn on my admission ticket. There are other ways one can experience a positive result by being picked out of a group; a couple of examples could be the employee of the month or the valedictorian of a graduating class. The other version of being the recipient of everyone’s attention can be a dangerous one. In this version it only takes one person to single you out and depending on the hierarchy of the other people around, you could be marked for pretty much any type of abuse. Whether it starts with a bully in school, a coworker or a complete stranger; the results can be detrimental to your health. I hope none of you experience this type of scenario. For those of you who unfortunately have, you can confirm it literally is a death race when you are being chased by a person or a group that means to inflict harm on you. The taunts, the yelling from the crowd constantly rings in your ears like a massive clock tower stuck on the tolling of its bells for 12 o’clock. There never is a time to negotiate or even figure out why you were chosen; you just need to find somewhere safe fast. My past anxieties welled up right at the start of this action thriller. TRAVELING to Southeast Asia for a new business opportunity Jack Dwyer, played by Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris, Night at the Museum franchise), and his family had only recently arrived shortly after the country’s prime minister was assassinated. They came just in time for an angry chaotic rebellion. This picture took off quickly with some well orchestrated tense scenes; I found myself breathing quickly from my nervousness due to the unfolding mob scenes. With Lake Bell (What Happens in Vegas, In a World…) as Jack’s wife Annie and Pierce Brosnan (Some Kind of Beautiful, After the Sunset) as Hammond, I thought the cast did an admirable job with the physically tough roles. This movie had a distinct shift in the middle of it. The first half of the film was much better than the last half. If the writers would have stayed with the original story line I think this would have been a better film. During the second half the film felt like one of those monster movies where no matter what the characters did there always seemed to be a monster waiting for them. I think it would have been more powerful if the writers had spent more time on the reasons that led up to the rebellion. This would have resulted in a better experience. There were scenes with blood and violence.
2 1/2 stars
Maybe I should have listened better when I was being told I was good with numbers. I say this because I have been seeing more examples of things being reduced to a number. There is the weekly box office results that list the top 5 grossing movies for the weekend. Reaching this list contributes to whether a film can be considered a success. However, I have seen numerous pictures that were excellent and they never made the list. Think about all the different food items that have been introduced only to be pushed off the grocery shelf for something bigger or better, at least according to the manufacturers. One of the more troubling aspects to this numbers game is when human beings are reduced to a number, a commodity. It is safe to say all of us have either experienced or known someone who has gone through staff reductions at their place of employment. It is hard for me to think of something worse at the workplace than having one’s dignity taken away by becoming a statistic in a company’s formula on how to save money. Knowledge and experience used to mean something but I fear numbers have beaten them down. In turn, don’t you find people who base decisions on how the numbers benefit them as being less humane? I do and this movie based on a true story shows what happens when numbers are considered the most important thing. Jon Hamm (The Town, Mad Men-TV) played sports agent JB. When he lost out on his last chance to sign up a sports celebrity, JB came up with an idea to hold a contest to look for potential baseball pitchers. His idea would take him all the way to an unlikely place. The story in this dramatic sports film certainly had potential. Jon played a believable character and had the good fortune to have Lake Bell (In a World, Black Rock) play his tenant Brenda. She was such a likable and convincing character. Sadly I could not say the same for Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi) as Rinku and Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire, One 2 Ka 4) as Ninesh. The script reduced them to cartoon characters; I never felt a sense of who or what they were in this biographical picture. This contributed to the whole film being too sanitized and generic; there was no emotional depth that would allow me to care about any of them. At the beginning of this review I said you could see an example when numbers are a factor; let me clarify, the example was the studio playing it safe by sticking to the numbers instead of letting the story come to life. Added photos and videos of the actual people were shown during the ending credits.
2 1/4 stars
I was stunned the first time I heard my recorded voice; it did not sound anything like me. One of my friends received a tape recorder when we were in 7th grade. Sitting in his room we played around with the device, recording a variety of sounds we made with anything we could get our hands on. After listening to the different noises we created, we recorded each other talking. I could not understand why his voice sounded the same yet mine sounded like it came from a different human being. It was not until college that I finally got comfortable listening to my own voice. With all the discussion groups I had to attend in conjunction with my class lectures, I learned to slow my speech down and enunciate each word. Even with these changes I never found my voice to be anything special; nothing like the announcers’ voices on television or in movies. Though a good voice is needed for promotions or reporting the news, I bet many of us do not give a second thought to the person who is speaking. It is for that very reason I found this quirky comedy worked on so many levels. The idea to do a film about the never seen players in the voice-over world was something different and fresh. All the credit had to go to Lake Bell (Black Rock, No Strings Attached). She wrote, directed and starred as Carol in this Sundance Film Festival winning movie. Making a meager living as a vocal coach, Carol wanted to break into the tightly knit good old boys club of voice-over announcers. Her challenge would not be easy since her father Sam, played by Fred Melamed (The Dictator, A Serious Man), was one of the top voices in the country. Though the story started out slow for me, I found myself being drawn into Carol’s world. The script was filled with satirical humor, drama and romance; similar to many other movies that were done before. However, it felt new and real due to Lake’s skewed observations on relationships. Michaela Watkins (Wanderlust, The Back-Up Plan) and Rob Corddry (Warm Bodies, What Happens in Vegas) as Carol’s sister Dani and her husband Moe were wonderful. I enjoyed how each story line was treated with respect. This being Lake’s debut as a writer and director of a film, she certainly made a point to make herself be heard; I for one was listening.
3 1/4 stars
When my adult eyes gazed at my former high school classmates, I saw images of their younger selves floating in front of their now aged bodies. The memories I had of each one hovered above them like a cluster of balloons that I could easily reach out and hold on to, reliving our times together once again. When I went up to my best friend from high school who I had not seen for all these years, our memories of certain events were different. I had no idea that some of my actions were as hurtful to him as his were to me. Whether I wanted to blame it on our youth or inability to communicate our true feelings back then; it did not matter for the damage was done. Within the confines of our high school class reunion festivities, we tried to figure out how our paths became unpaved and broken; but time had built a bridge that took us away from each other. This type of discord between friends was apparent in this movie thriller. Kate Bosworth’s (Blue Crush, 21) character Sarah tricked her feuding friends Abby and Lou, played by Katie Aselton (The Puffy Chair, Cyrus) and Lake Bell (It’s Complicated, What Happens in Vegas) into a weekend trip to a remote island off the coast of Maine, that they had visited when they were teenagers. The trip was intended to heal old wounds but when the three women met hunters from a nearby camp, their weekend of healing became a night of terror. I thought the set up for this horror film was okay, just not original. In fact, there was nothing creative about the story. The acting was marginal for the most part; however, I will say the fight scenes had an intensity that surprised me. The latter part of the film kept my interest with its action and sense of impending gloom. This movie would not be something you needed to go out of your way to see; but, if you had a couple of hours with nothing to do, it would be something to pop in and watch. There were scenes of violence with blood.
1 3/4 stars — DVD