WE WERE SITTING AROUND THE DINING room table when his cell phone rang. From where I was sitting, I was able to see the display with the caller’s phone number. The young man had a quizzical look on his face as he studied the number. I took it upon myself to tell him the call was coming from Oklahoma. He looked and asked me how I knew that as he let the call go to voicemail. I told him I knew because of the area code, 405; it was the area code for the Oklahoma City area. He was so surprised by my knowing such a thing that I found it amusing. When he asked me why I knew such a thing, I explained that I have accounts in Oklahoma that I have to call on the phone; so, the area code is something that has stuck in my brain from all the times I have called them. This explanation sparked a curiosity in him that spurred him on to suddenly test me. He asked if I knew any other area codes; I told him I know some states, but not all of them. He needed proof so he unlocked his phone and started looking up area code numbers. Not to toot my own horn, but out of seven area codes he tested me on I knew six of them. He was totally amazed by this; I found the whole thing curious. ON MY WAY HOME, I STARTED to think about the area code “game.” Was my generation the last one that dialed phone numbers instead of pressing one button on their cell phone? I looked at my ability to remember area codes/phone numbers as a positive statement on my brain’s ability to retain information. For some reason, I feel depending on a device for common functions like simple math or reminders will make my mind soft. I will never forget walking into a bank to cash a check for $19.81 and handing the teller nineteen cents to round up the change on the dollar amount. The teller was perplexed by my actions and had to pull out a calculator to figure out I wanted to get back an even $20.00. Besides thinking how they graduated out of high school, I wondered what they would do if they did not have the use of a calculator. When you think about it; don’t you think it would be a valid discussion to say the same thing about someone who only knew how to tell time in a digital format instead of a clock dial? It scares me to think how future generations will function when they do not have a device to depend on and this comedic, science fiction adventure did nothing to help alleviate my concerns. WHAT WAS TO BE A ONE YEAR experiment for Private Joe Bauers, played by Luke Wilson (The Family Stone, Old School), turned into a decades long event that left Joe the smartest man on the planet. He did not believe it until he saw for himself. With Maya Rudolph (Sisters, Away We Go) as Rita, Dax Shephard (Employee of the Month, Chips) as Frito, Terry Crews (The Expendables franchise, John Henry) as President Camacho and Anthony “Citric” Campos (Harsh Times, Lopez-TV) as Secretary of Defense; this film festival nominated movie had a script that was filled with satirical bits and sight gags. A good portion of them hit their mark and were amusing to me. However, the script had so much going on with it that I felt at times things were just silly and dragged on too long. The cast was fun to watch, especially Maya and Dax. Ultimately, I felt the story was relevant and, in some ways, important; the writers just chose a fun way to deliver their message. I do not know what I would do if reading becomes something that we let our digital assistants do for us; you just never know.
2 1/3 stars
GRATEFULLY THE TYPE OF SHOCK I have experienced is the surprise kind. There are different kinds of shock: anaphylactic, cardiogenic and hypovolemic to name a few. Trust me I am not that smart; I had to look up and confirm the definition to each of these types. There is also neurogenic shock that comes from a severe emotional disturbance. This would be the one that comes closest to what I have experienced, though nothing as close to feeling something so severe. I experience shock when something unexpected happens to me. Now you might be thinking unless I stay locked in a room, there is no way I am not going to encounter something unexpected during my daily life; and you would be right. I am tightly wired into having structure in my life. Spontaneity is a foreign concept that unsettles me; but having a set routine has a calming effect on me. RECENTLY, I WAS REMINDED OF HOW my brain shuts down when I become shocked. I had pulled a suit out of the closet to try on, making sure it still fit for an upcoming wedding I would be attending. The jacket was fine; but when I tried on the slacks, there was a good two-inch gap at the waistline that prevented me from zipping up the pants. Since weight has always been an issue in my life, my brain went into shock because my slacks no longer fit. I could not believe I had put on that much weight! If I could have stayed in reality, I would have recognized the pants had pleats, which I never wear and the jacket was double breasted, though I knew I had a single-breasted suit. Because my mind was blown, I could not think rationally. It was like my mind got blasted into space and I had to wait for it to parachute down before I could start thinking clearly. It took me a couple of minutes, after I had previewed several scenarios in my mind such as having to go and buy a new suit or put myself on a crash diet, before I noticed the clues that were right in front of my face. The pleated slacks, the double-breasted suit; I was trying on the wrong suit. This is how I handle shock; others handle it a different way, which you can see in this dramatic movie based on the best-selling, Pulitzer winning novel. SURVIVING A BOMB BLAST CAUSED YOUNG Theo, played by Oakes Fegley (Pete’s Dragon, This is Where I Leave You), to act irrationally. His mother would not have approved, but she was killed in the explosion. With Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver, The Fault in Our Stars) as Adult Theo, Nicole Kidman (Boy Erased, The Upside) as Mrs. Barbour, Jeffrey Wright (Broken Flowers, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay) as Hobie and Luke Wilson (The Family Stone, Middle Men) as Larry; the cast was the strongest part of this film. Their acting skills were on full display and I appreciated it because the story was too long here. I thought the script was broken by the jumping back and forth in time, the multiple story lines and the lack of wonder. It was easy for me to figure out what was going to happen to most of the characters, which some of you know is not something I usually can do. The script was congested; I thought the writers were trying to cram so much into it that nothing really stood out in the scenes as being powerful. It really was a shock for me to see such competent actors doing their best to bring this picture alive, yet I never felt like I connected to this picture.
1 ¾ stars
The absence of a reason or answer could fester in the heart and cause an abscess. Sadly I have had experience in this area. We had been dating for several months and it was somewhat startling to me how well everything was flowing between us. The times I spent at their studio apartment were almost magical because it never felt like we needed our own space throughout our times together for entire weekends. It was as if the walls of the apartment faded back into muted curtains of gauze, allowing us to nest into a secret protected area away from the hubbub of the world outside that was whining against the floor to ceiling windows. Then one day everything came crashing down. I was at home when I received their phone call; we had plans to get together later in the evening. They apologized and told me they could not do this anymore. When I asked what they meant, all they said was they could no longer be in this relationship and they hung up. I wondered if there was something I did as I poured over all of the memories I had stored from the two of us, searching for some type of answer. I did reach out to them to try and get an explanation but all of my attempts went unanswered. This was traumatic for me and so that is why I feel the way I do; the hurt will linger as long as there is no conclusion. Another example of the added pain to unanswered questions can be found in this dramatic film. AFTER a tragic, life altering occurrence Sarah and Phil, played by Olivia Wilde (Drinking Buddies, In Time) and Luke Wilson (Legally Blonde franchise, Old School), spiral out of control unable to help each other during their crisis. This film festival nominee had some intense moments, thanks to Olivia and Luke. I felt it was one of Olivia’s best performances to date. With Giovanni Ribisi (Ted franchise, Saving Private Ryan) as Tim and Ty Simpkins (Insidious franchise, Jurassic World) as Adam, the story was not easy to watch in some parts due to the heavy subject matter. The whole cast contributed to making this a believable film for me. Another thing I liked about this picture was the way they kept the dialog down to a minimum in several scenes. I felt it made them more powerful in conveying the emotions. Now there were a few scenes where I found the actions taking place were somewhat odd, wondering if it was created for added effect. I do want to add that some viewers may feel uncomfortable; not for any physical altercations per se, but for the authentic portrayal of a family in despair.
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