THE POOR THING HAD ONE EYE that did not close. Despite it and the lost finger on her left hand, she was a constant companion to the little girl. It was the little girl’s 2nd birthday when she received this doll that has never left her side since then. At meal time the doll had a place at the dining room table with her own little plate and glass, that the child would lift to the doll’s face to eat the imaginary food and drink. As far as I could remember the doll was always a part of our gatherings. After many years, the last time I heard about the doll she was residing on a shelf in the attic. It is amusing to me, but I never considered my toy soldiers as being dolls. In my mind they were soldiers and I was their commander. With the elaborate battle plans I would create, my soldiers were vital in keeping an open pathway to the pantry in our kitchen—go figure! From time to time I received superhero dolls as presents; but in my mind they were superheroes, not dolls. Isn’t it funny that back then we were taught dolls were only for girls? SINCE THAT TIME DOLLS HAVE BEEN marketed to both girls and boys. I remember a friend’s son used to play with a male doll that wore a railroad conductor’s hat and overalls. Besides that “revolutionary” evolution, dolls are now used in several fields of thought. They can be found in therapy sessions, criminal investigations, as well as physiology classes. There was a psychologist I used to know who regularly used dolls in her sessions with younger children. When a child was not yet at an age to articulate the actions and feelings they experienced, dolls were useful tools to find out what happened to the child. Dolls also had a role with the psychologist’s couple counseling sessions. Some kind of role playing exercises if I am remembering correctly. So, you can certainly see how things have changed in our perceptions of dolls; they are no longer simply toys for kids. And I am just now recalling, wasn’t there a recent winner of a television reality, talent show who did ventriloquism, making a doll talk and sing? I understand she has a blossoming career, with appearances and TV specials. With today’s movie you can see another way how dolls play a vital function in some people’s lives. AFTER A VISCIOUS ATTACK THAT DESTROYED his memory Mark Hogancamp, played by Steve Carell (Vice, Beautiful Boy), found a unique way to rebuild the life taken away from him. It was a particular set of female dolls that would lead him onto the road to recovery. This comedic drama based on a true story also starred Falk Hentschel (White House Down, Transcendence) as Captain Topf/Louis, Matt O’Leary (Frailty, Live Free or Die Hard) as Lieutenant Benz/Carl, Leslie Mann (The Other Woman, How to Be Single) as Nicol and Nikolai Witschl (Deadpool 2, The Magicians-TV) as Rudolph/Ruby. The story behind this movie seems incredible and amazing to me. My favorite part of this picture was the dolls; visually they were fun to watch. As for the script, I found it scattered all over the place. Steve did a decent job with his acting; but for such a story, the writers needed to dig deep down and bring out way more emotions than what I saw on the screen. For the dolls having played an important part in Mark’s life, they needed to have substance here; they came off as whimsical characters, in my opinion. Also, I was not sure the writers did justice to the topic of traumatic brain injuries. This biographical film was easily forgettable.
1 ½ stars
ONE COULD ONLY ASSUME THEY thought their child was made by a toy company. I hope that is not too rude of me to say, but there is a couple I know who get someone to watch their kid while they go out drinking for the night. They stumble home 4 in the morning then get upset when their child wakes them up early in the morning; early for them, not most other parents. This scenario is so not part of my philosophy when it comes to parents and their children. I believe part of a parents’ success in childrearing is when they have raised an independent, responsible human being. Isn’t part of the goal to have your children move out and be on their own, taking care of themselves? Honestly, I have seen so many different ways parents raise their children that maybe I am just “old school” with my ideas. Back when we were in school there were students who were so proud to have their parents volunteer for school functions; on the other hand, there were others pupils who dreaded seeing their parents anytime they had to come to school. THERE ARE SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES where a child or parent becomes embarrassed. Do you remember the first time you saw your parents kiss each other? For some children the sight of their parents being affectionate to each other was plain icky. I can remember seeing a friend’s parent trying to dance at a school dance; my friend was horrified as their parent was moving and shaking off to the side of the dance floor. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen parents with small children who freely use profanity around their kids. And some of you may already know my pet peeve: parents who bring young children to R rated films; blood and guts is being splattered all across the screen for the child to see. You have no idea how badly I want to say something to the parents. Maybe part of parenthood contains either the child or parent being embarrassed by the other; I know I certainly do not have the magic answer. However I can tell you if any of the adults in this comedy film were my parent I would be mortified by their actions. ON THE BIGGEST NIGHT OF their children’s high school life parents Lisa, Mitchell and Hunter; played by Leslie Mann (The Other Woman, This is 40). John Cena (The Wall, Trainwreck) and Ike Barinholtz (Suicide Squad, Neighbors franchise); discover what their kids have planned. So they decide they will stop at nothing to prevent it from happening. This film festival nominee also starred Kathryn Newton (Lady Bird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) as Julie and Geraldine Viswanathan (EMO the Musical, Janet King-TV) as Kayla. There have been many movies that already covered the parent versus child theme; what makes this one different is the perspective and that it is female dominate. Leslie, John and Ike are well equipped to handle the comedy in this story, but I was not a fan of the script. I thought some scenes were too ridiculous to ever be considered as real life. At one point I felt I was seeing one gag after another, after another one; it started to get monotonous for me. The movie trailer pretty much depicts what to expect in this picture. There were a couple of chuckles during the film, but nothing laugh-out loud. When the movie finally ended my first thought was thank heavens I never had a parent like the three in this story.
ONCE you typecast a person you essentially are telling them they cannot evolve. Look at the examples we have seen in the celebrity world. Child performers can have a solid career playing a limited range of roles that suit their current personas; however, when they reach puberty and start exerting their independence a majority of viewers/followers turn on them. There are 2 musical artists I can think of immediately who acted out outrageously to break the mold they were boxed into by fans’ perceptions. I can understand how some of us do not want to see our celebrities grow up; but it is a natural part of life. Heck I get it since I still think of myself as a younger version of who I used to be. Asking my friends and family I am sure they will say I certainly do not act my age; however here is a question for you, who decided how we are supposed to act based on our birth age? My philosophy has always been, “young at heart, young in mind.” WHEN I first started out teaching fitness I soon saw signs that I was being typecast in a certain way. From some of the remarks I would get to comments I said in class I realized members assumed I only studied PE courses and was teaching full time. The first time I told someone my educational background I remember how stunned they were that I had studied in the fields of animal science and photography. Even to this day it is not unusual for someone in my yoga class to be surprised when they hear I am a credit manager. The majority of the time the first response to me is, “You are so nice; how are you a credit manager?” I guess there is a stereotype associated with being a credit manager. Speaking of stereotypes and typecasting I am concerned the main actor in this comedy is trying to break the typecast of him being a great actor. HAVING been a famous former TV star Jackie Burke, played by Robert De Niro (Dirty Grandpa, Casino) had a hard time convincing the public he was something more than just his television character. No matter how outrageous he would get his fans wanted the old TV character. This film festival winner had an amazing cast that included Leslie Mann (The Other Woman, Knocked Up) as Harmony Schiltz, Harvey Keitel (The Piano, Reservoir Dogs) as Mac Schiltz, Danny DeVito (When in Rome, L.A. Confidential) as Jimmy Berkowitz and Patti LuPone (Parker, Driving Miss Daisy) as Florence Berkowitz. The story may not have been anything special; but with such a cast, if the script had been a whole lot better then maybe this would have been a decent movie. As it turned out this picture was bad. Put aside the foul language, there was so little that seemed realistic that I was bored through most of the film besides being embarrassed for all the actors. Nothing got developed story wise, the script was a series of skits in my opinion. It would not be fair for me to say but with Robert’s recent film choices he is in a downward spiral. Having seen this and his film Dirty Grandpa makes me think he wants to break some mold he feels he has been placed in.
1 ½ stars
The rules for dating as far as I can tell are constantly changing. I use to wish for a handbook to make the process easier. From my experiences I feel the underlying reason for all of the confusion these days is mistrust. It seems as if very few people take another person at face value. There was a time where most dates did not have an issue getting picked up at their home. I do not know if it is partially because of the internet or all the different crime shows on television, but a majority of people prefer meeting at some type of public establishment. Now I actually agree with this logic; I’m all for meeting someone out publicly for the 1st time. Here is the thing though; even after a couple of dates I noticed some individuals balk at the suggestion of being picked up at their home or coming over to mine. There have been times when I’ve offered such an arrangement but sensed their uneasiness at the suggestion. I get the sense they feel I have an ulterior motive in offering such a thing. It is just weird to me; but I never force the issue. Now there is something else that I find perplexing; maybe you have noticed it yourself. Those friends that go from being single to being in a relationship quickly become outdated on the latest dating rules; it is as if their set of rules expired over night. You can query them, asking them how they knew their date was the right one; but to no avail, everyone has a different answer. When you think about it, it is amazing how people wind up being in a loving relationship. If you do not believe me just take a look at the women in this comedic romance. Alice, Robin and Meg; played by Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey, Black Mass), Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect franchise, Bridesmaids) and Leslie Mann (The Other Woman, This is 40); each had different reasons for dating. It only became more confusing when love was introduced into it. Based on the best seller, the cast also included Anders Holm (The Intern, The Interview) as Tom and Jake Lacy (Carol, Obvious Child) as Ken. Though I have not read the book, I did get the idea the story was meant to shine a light on the dating world from a feminine perspective. I thought Leslie and Rebel were better when it came to acting skills. Honestly though, I did not think this movie did anything different; I was constantly getting bored with the story. In fact, the trailer for this film showed the best parts; throughout the movie I never connected to any of the characters. Now here is the funny thing, I could see where the story could have taken a bigger risk and delve deeper into the characters but the script was not geared to do it. After seeing this film I am just as confused about dating and love as I was before.
1 3/4 stars
When I used to hear the word vacation I knew that meant we were taking a road trip. My preparation consisted of getting the latest comic books, magazines, along with plenty of snacks; what clothes to bring was less important to me. With the entire back seat of the car as my living space throughout the trip, I could stretch out and nap when there was nothing interesting to see out the car windows. I not only have hundreds of fond memories from those road trips, but I can recall all the not so nice things that I experienced going across the country. For example there was the trip we took to Florida where the driver was the son of family friends. He wanted to take the shortest amount of time to get to our destination so bathroom breaks were scheduled based on time not need. There was one long stretch where I started to cry because I had to use the bathroom so badly. There was another trip where we planned to stop overnight so we could rest up and arrive for lunch the next day at our destination. Unfortunately the motel we had reservations at had mice and cockroaches leading us down the hallway towards our room. We did not even bother making it to our room before turning around and leaving that place. Oh and I cannot forget the motel room that had a bathroom that looked like a crime scene. Vacations should not have to be hard; someone needed to tell the family in this adventure comedy. HOPING to give his family the same fond memories he experienced when he was a kid Rusty Griswold, played by Ed Helms (The Hangover franchise, Cedar Rapids), decided he was going to take the family on a vacation to Walley World. There certainly was going to be a lot of memories made from this road trip. This story was not a sequel or reboot; what it did was take the character of Rusty from the original film and have him be an adult with a family of his own. Christina Applegate (Hall Pass, Anchorman franchise) played Rusty’s wife Debbie. Five minutes into the picture and I was immediately turned off by the story. Essentially the writers tried to make jokes out of the younger son bullying his older brother and I found it offensive. This went on for over half of the film and I did not find it funny at all. The rest of the jokes consisted of crude bathroom humor and dull sight gags. The only plus in this movie was Leslie Mann (The Other Woman, This is 40) and Chris Hemsworth (The Avengers franchise, Rush) as Audrey and Stone Crandall. If I had known I would have put in a 60 hour work week instead of taking time to go see this boring film.
1 1/2 stars
There are two kinds of lies, the good ones and the bad ones. Before you tell me there are no good lies, let me explain. A good lie is telling your friend you need them, just to get them out of their house long enough for their spouse to decorate it for a surprise birthday party. Or a friend asks you if they already told you about their business meeting and you tell them no because you know how proud they were of their recent success; so, it was worth hearing again to see how excited they got by telling their story. To me these are acceptable lies or what some people say are “white” lies. They are not meant to hurt or deceive someone for personal gain. Now the bad lies can be hurtful and drastically alter a person’s life. Your boyfriend or girlfriend telling you how much they love you while they sleep around with other people; I consider this a bad lie. Meeting a date for the 1st time who showed up 20 years older and 30 pounds heavier than they claimed would not only be a bad lie, but an ignorant one. Why would anyone do that and what did they think they would gain? How about you be the judge as you watch this romantic comedy. Cameron Diaz (The Counselor, Bad Teacher) played high powered lawyer Carly Whitten, who felt she finally found the right one when she met successful businessman Mark King, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Mama, Game of Thrones-TV). Everything was going well until Carly showed up at Mark’s house to surprise him and was greeted by Mark’s wife Kate, played by Leslie Mann (This is 40, Knocked UP). That was not going to be the only surprise the two women would encounter when they decided to join forces against Mark and his cheating ways. I was stunned at how quickly this film went from bad to worse. Sitting in front of me were at least a dozen 10 to 12 year old girls with a few mothers. Though the movie was rated PG-13, I thought the mature subject matter was inappropriate for these girls. The only reason I could think of these mothers taking these girls to see this film was to show them what not to be when they grew up. The script with its humor was predictable and infantile. An example would be the scene that involved a powerful amount of laxatives being consumed. Do I need to say anything further to you about this crappy film? I am not lying when I say the trailer was the only thing I liked about this movie.
1 1/2 stars
Obsession is my next door neighbor. We visit from time to time and when they want to go on holiday, I watch over their house. I am very familiar with obsession’s traits; just ask any of my friends. At the height of my fitness classes, when I was teaching full-time, I could wear a different T-shirt every single day for over 1 year, before I needed to think about doing any laundry. What can I say, I liked fun T-shirts to wear in my classes. With my love for movies, one would think I obsess over the actors’ lifestyles. I have no desire to be like them. If anything, I would only like to know what it is like to buy something without having to think about how I will pay for it later. The mass of reality shows, I feel, warps the perceptions of so many people. Seeing the lifestyles of these celebrities, they want to live the same good life but without putting in any of the hard work. Not that a majority of these so called celebrities even have a concept of what it is like to work. Based on actual events, writer and director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Somewhere) created this film about celebrity obsessed teenagers, who go on a crime spree. Using the internet, the group of friends break into celebrities’ houses, to steal their personal items. Leading the group was relative newcomer Katie Chang as Rebecca and her friend Mark, played by Israel Broussard (Flipped, The Chaperone). Emma Watson (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Harry Potter franchise) as Nicki and Leslie Mann (This is 40, Knocked Up) as her mother Laurie were far and above the best when it came to the acting in this drama; yet, they were not major characters. The set up for this film through the first robbery kept my attention; I just sat there amazed that something like this actually happened. As the movie progressed I started to lose interest due to the repetitive robberies being filmed in a similar way. The choppy writing and the shallow character development left me disinterested in any of the individuals. By the end of the movie, I had the same feelings about the characters as I have about reality stars; I did not care about them or their vapid lives.
2 1/4 stars
My introduction to my 40th birthday was having the bagger at the checkout line calling me “sir” and asking if I needed help with my bags. Asking several friends what they noticed when they crossed the threshold into middle age, the responses were quite varied. One person suddenly felt expandable waist bands on blue jeans was a good idea, while another was perplexed why Suri kept suggesting he sit down and take a rest. Then there was the friend who wondered if she was going to be banned from Target or Express, having to spend the remainder of her years shopping at Lane Bryant or some discount store. At a wedding would I never be able to get up to shake my hips on the dance floor unless it was a Cha Cha or that generic version bands always play of Kool & the Gang’s Celebration? For those in a relationship, would they start dressing alike once they reached that magic number? In this comedy, the married couple are on the verge of turning 40 years old. Leslie Mann (17 Again, Knocked Up) played Debbie who wanted nothing to do with turning 40. Paul Rudd (Role Models, Wanderlust) was Debbie’s conflict avoiding husband Pete. Judd Apatow (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Pineapple Express) wrote and directed this updated story about Debbie and Pete from Knocked Up. Settled into married life with daughters Sadie and Charlotte, played by Judd’s real life children Maude and Iris, the neurotic couple tried to cope with life’s daily annoyances. There were laugh out loud scenes through the movie, but be prepared for the vulgar language that everyone spews out, including the kids. I felt Judd used his real life experiences for a baseline, but then elevated them to an unrealistic level. Without going into stronger character development, the film went on longer than it needed. It started feeling as if we were going from one joke line to the next. Though I am still glad I went to see this movie, please do not tell me this is what happens to people who have been married for a long time.
2 2/3 stars