COMPARED TO MY FRIENDS, I FELT lucky I did not have to experience it until I was 12 years old. For that was the year I experienced my first funeral. It was at that point where I felt like an adult for the first time. Up until then I was living my life in a carefree way, with no responsibilities or serious life events to experience. There was attending school, piano lessons, taking family trips and playing alone or with friends; my schedule was filled with these activities. After that first funeral things started to change for me. I became aware of sicknesses and diseases that were life threatening, besides my own mortality. If I am being perfectly honest, a part of me resented having to think of these things. I was content being a kid and had no desire to deal with adult situations. Not that I was living an idyllic life as Peter Pan, but I just wanted to stay a kid. And this was despite having friends who had lost loved ones at a much earlier age than myself. It turned out there was going to be something else coming down the road towards me that would cement my status into the young adult world. A FEW WEEKS AFTER MY SIXTEENTH birthday I got my first job. Opening my 1st pay envelope and seeing a check made out to me was thrilling. In this case I was okay being treated and feeling like an adult. I had a weekly schedule that consisted of at least 2 days of work after school and a full day Saturday and/or Sunday. The schedule would fluctuate depending on which employees were available to work a shift. It seemed so adult to me. I would get a kick out of telling my friends I could not join them because I had to go to work, so I could get a paycheck. My experiences were not that unusual from most other people. All of us at some point make that change from being a kid to becoming an adult. For some, it might get triggered by a friend or family member; for others, it may take place during a trip to a foreign land or a hospital. I am not saying the transition will be easy. If you want to see for yourself, watch what happens to the main character in this science fiction, action adventure film. THE OPPORTUNITY OF A SCHOOL TRIP to Europe was perfect for Peter Parker/Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland (The Impossible, The Lost City of Z). He would finally get the chance to spend time with his classmate MJ, played by Zendaya (The Greatest Showman, Shake it Up-TV), and tell her how he felt about her. However, he did not take into consideration a phone call from Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson (Shaft, Glass). This story for this movie picks up a short time after the Avengers: End Game film. With Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger, Prisoners) as Quentin Beck/Mysterio and Marisa Tomei (The Big Short, The First Purge) as Mary Parker, this picture was a good transition point for future Marvel movies. The script was light and fun, along with a good amount of humor. Tom and Zendaya were an ideal pairing and I could see them growing into these roles in upcoming installments. When I compare this film to other superhero ones, this one comes up a little short with the “wow” factor. Though I smiled, chuckled and teared up a bit; I was not totally transported into the story. The script could have used a rewrite to firm up the plot because I felt the villain and the story surrounding them needed to be more intense and scarier, for one thing. Also, the whole idea for the villain was weak compared to past Marvel stories. This still was absolute fun to watch and you want to certainly see the 2 extra scenes during and at the end of the credits. Oh, and typical to these films there was a Stan Lee sighting.
3 1/4 stars
FOR THE FIRST TIME IN my life I was more upset by what I saw in the theater than on the movie screen. The viewers who look or text on their phones while the film is playing upset me, but I simply find them rude; except for that one viewer who when asked to stop talking on her phone yelled back that she had to take the call. The people who have no consideration for those sitting around them are ignorant in my opinion. I just want to ask them to look around and notice they are not sitting at home in their living room; there are people sitting by them who paid to WATCH a movie. What I am talking about is a different kind of upset that has deeper implications. I do not want to offend anyone by what I am going to tell you; these are just my feelings I am putting down on paper, about what took place while I was waiting to watch this movie. Ironically, I was dreading seeing this latest installment because I knew there was going to be brutal violence and blood shown in multiple scenes. Instead I was appalled by several people who came in to see this movie. GETTING TO MY SEAT A FEW minutes before the lights dimmed, I took a brief scan of the other people sitting in the movie theater. I was curious to see who wanted to see this picture; I was only there to review it. A few rows down and off to my right I noticed a man and woman sitting 2 seats apart from each other. It took me a moment for it to register but I suddenly realized there were 2 kids sitting between them. I was stunned; parents actually came with their children to see this R rated movie? What was wrong with them, I thought to myself. There was no way the parents did not know what this movie was about and what would be shown in it. Before the shock could subside in me, coming into the theater was another family with what appeared to be a 4 or 5-year-old child. Has the world suddenly gone mad? I was shocked; did the parents want to desensitize their kids to blood and violence or expose them to different ways one can kill another human? I am sorry but I found it disgusting and wondered what DCFS would have to say about it. To me this was worse than anything I was going to see in this action, horror film. WITH THE RISE OF A THiRD political party into power, its platform included a new social experiment they believed would curtail crime. At least that is what they planned for it to show. With relative newcomer Y’Lan Noel as Dmitri, Lex Scott Davis (Superfly, Training Day-TV) as Nya, Marisa Tomei (The Big Short, Love is Strange) as Dr. Updale, Mugga (Precious, Orange is the New Black-TV) as Dolores and Joivan Wade (The Weekend, Doctor Who-TV) as Isaiah; this installment’s trailers showed what the viewer was going to get. What surprised me about the story was the message it conveyed; it mirrored the current times we presently live in. This aspect of the story was the highlight for me. Everything else about this picture was just more of the same; nothing different or new which I hope doesn’t mean I have become jaded to this franchise. I felt there was nothing scary in the predictable script except for the aspect of the story I mentioned earlier. For whatever reason, I will tell you I found it sad that Oscar winner Marisa agreed to take this role. Maybe it was my experience in the theater but it was more upsetting to see children being brought to this violent film than anything done in the movie itself.
1 ¾ stars
THE bus pulled up just as I said goodbye to my friends. They were hanging out together after school, but I had to go to work. The bus ride took around 25 minutes which gave me some time to study for an exam I was having the next day. Is this what I wanted to do after school? No, I would have preferred hanging out with my friends; studying for the exam could take place after dinner. My part-time job was at a camera store. Luckily I worked in the warehouse so I would not have to be out in front selling or ringing up sales. It was already bad enough that I was one of the few who had a job; but to have to wait on my friends or their parents would make things worse. Truthfully the job was not bad at all; since I was already into photography, I enjoyed being around the different film and camera products. I also would hear about new items before the general public, which I thought was cool. MANAGING my time between school and work was a challenge. By the time my friends and I were seniors a majority of us had after school jobs. One of the perks for me was being able to drive the owner’s car to make special pickup orders or deliveries when the company van was out on the road. I was not comfortable driving the large van as I would have to maneuver several side streets on the route. As for the owner’s car, it was a luxury automobile with all the extra appointments; in other words, all the bells and whistles one could buy for it. Even though driving the car was a highlight, I still had the challenge of keeping my grades up while working. Going to school, work and be with my friends was always a give and take situation. There were times I would miss out doing fun stuff; but on the other hand, I always had money in my wallet. My challenges paled by comparison to the ones the main character in this action, adventure film had to endure. AFTER helping out the Avengers the only thing Peter Parker/Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland (The Impossible, The Lost City of Z), wanted to do was to become a full time crime fighter. However he first had to finish high school. This reboot of the science fiction franchise had a well rounded cast that gave the story a good kick of fun excitement. Starring Robert Downey Jr (Sherlock Holmes franchise, The Judge) as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Michael Keaton (The Founder, Spotlight) as Adrian Toomes/Vulture and Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler, The Lincoln Lawyer) as May Parker; each of them did a great job in their roles. I did wish Michael Keaton had more screen time. With his acting skills the writers could have made his character darker and more intense; I think this would have added more to the story. The thing I enjoyed about this film was having Peter struggle with his desire to be a superhero while trying to be a typical teenager. There were elements of wit and charm to many scenes due to Tony Stark’s presence and Peter’s puppy like eagerness. I felt the middle of the film slowed down with the story line about going out on a date; the intensity and action were weak. Though I found Tom’s whiny voice annoying at times, I felt he was the right choice to lead this reboot. There were extra scenes in the middle and at the end of the credits.
3 ¼ stars
It was known as the fancy tablecloth but in actuality it was no different from any other one. The only difference was it only came out once a year for the holiday. The house would be filled all day with the warm smells of favorite foods being prepared in the kitchen. This was the only time where that cherry red gelatinous ring would make an appearance. It was created in a metal mold that had flowers etched in the bottom. Inside of it were pieces of various fruits that looked like they were captured and put into suspended animation. I have to tell you it was the weirdest looking thing on the dining room table. In spite of it this was my favorite holiday as we all came together to celebrate and eat. I do not think it started out as a tradition but people sort of fell into a set routine where each person would do the same thing every year. For example, the same person always brought this dessert made from an old family recipe that had to be doubled and tripled in size over time because everyone would fight over it. Another person would always make and bring sweet and sour meatballs that had a secret ingredient of grape jelly. All of these things fell into a tradition and became part of the holiday and part of our celebration. I of course being the most comfortable with routines appreciated that these things turned into our yearly tradition. Fortunately or unfortunately as the yearly guests became part of a couple they would bring new people into our traditions. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not. CHARLOTTE and Sam, played by Diane Keaton (The Godfather franchise, Annie Hall) and John Goodman (The Gambler, The Big Lebowski), wanted the family to all come together one last time for the holidays. Like any family, some would be coming with extra baggage. This comedy had an impressive cast of actors. Besides Diane and John there was Marisa Tomei (Spare Parts, The Lincoln Lawyer) as Emma and Ed Helms (We’re the Millers, The Hangover franchise) as Hank. With the few dramatic scenes in the movie the actors were easily able to pull them off. Sadly I would rather have had more such scenes because the majority of the story was so basic and idiotic I was bored to tears. I was stunned that these actors agreed to do something that was so poorly written. Diane’s role seemed identical to some of her recent previous ones; there was no difference between them. Not only did I not find anything funny, the entire audience around me must have felt the same since there was dead silence through the film. I only hope the studio does not want to start a tradition by doing a sequel. There was an extra scene during the credits.
1 3/4 stars
Something I say to remind me there may be additional opportunities is the saying, “It is not written in stone.” I do not know how this saying came to be, but what it means to me is I do not have to remain in the same place forever. In other words, I can make a decision to learn a new exercise program and discover it is not suitable for me. Just because I agreed to do it does not mean I have to teach it the rest of my life. Maybe a better example is when a friend of mine was out of work. Enough time had passed where their funds were almost depleted. A job offer finally came up that wasn’t exactly in their field and they were not sure they wanted to take it. I explained just because they accept the offer doesn’t mean he will have to stay there the rest of his life. The important thing was to start earning an income and down the road see what opportunities open up for them. This may sound hokey but we can be whatever we want to be. I have rewritten my life’s path several times, going from wanting to be a veterinarian to a fitness presenter to a movie reviewer. Each portion of my past journey has led me to my present destination. KEITH Michaels, played by Hugh Grant (Music and Lyrics, About a Boy), was an Oscar winning screenwriter. So what happened to him where he had to leave Hollywood and take a temporary teaching position at a small east coast college to earn a living? This romantic comedy felt like a well-worn blanket; it felt familiar besides having Hugh’s typical dry wit and humor. To tell you the truth I was surprised this movie had such a stellar cast. There was J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Labor Day) as Dr. Lerner, Marisa Tomei (Spare Parts, The Wrestler) as Holly Carpenter and Allison Janney (Liberal Arts, Bad Words) as Mary Weldon; all of them were wonderful in this easy to watch film. I cannot remember the last time I saw Hugh in a movie but he still was able to play that type of character who was part selfish, part snob and part lovable sheepish bloke. The story was simple; there was nothing really new about it. However, because of the cast I enjoyed watching this movie. There would be no reason to run out and see this film right away; I think this picture would be perfect to watch on a lazy, cloudy day when you have few commitments. You do not have to take my word though; you can watch it anytime you want.
2 1/4 stars
It would be easy for me to say the word “no” is a restrictive word. Instead, I will say it can be constrictive. I am not referring to times where the word “no” is used for safety concerns, like telling the driver not to go down a particular road because the bridge is out or telling a child they cannot play on the outdoor jungle gym because of its rotting wood. When it comes to telling a child or an adult they cannot do something because of someone else’s preconceived notions, I then have an issue with it. I learn by making mistakes; in addition, I feel failing a task provides a blueprint on how to deal with consequences. Let us face it; part of living is dealing with consequences. Why shouldn’t we get practice in dealing with failures and successes? If I piled up all the noes I have been told in my life, like bricks at a construction site, I could build a rather large addition onto my house. In my opinion as long as the possibilities are spelled out, let the individual discover for themselves what their true potential can be. WITH no money, no training, nor legal documentation; four Hispanic high school students formed a robotics club to enter a nationwide NASA sponsored contest. Even though the previous winners came from some of the best Ivy League schools in the country, the 4 students would wind up building something better than just a robot. This movie was based on a true story and had all the markings to be a real inspirational story. I found the casting to be an interesting mix with George Lopez (Valentine’s Day, Balls of Fury) as Fredi Cameron, Marisa Tomei (The Lincoln Lawyer, Parental Guidance) as Gwen and Jamie Lee Curtis (A Fish Called Wanda, True Lies) as the Principal. Including the actors cast as the students, everyone did a decent job of acting. The weak link of this film was the script. I figured there was going to be some humor interjected into the story since George was in it. However, the humor for the most part fell flat. There were times where it was easy to figure out what was going to happen to some of the characters. I even wondered if some of the things really did happen or were they written into the story for dramatic effect. It was a real shame because the true story appeared to be so good; I just wished the writers would have given the characters more levels to delve into and develop. As photos of the real individuals flashed onto the screen I have to tell you I was a bit awestruck. Here were people who despite hearing the word “no” so often in life, did not let it stop them from dreaming.
They are two of the most powerful words one could ever utter in their entire life. Each word represents a profound, deep commitment from an individual; neither should ever be taken lightly. One word is love, the other one is sorry. Though I use both words cautiously, each one represents a deep core value that is permanently embedded inside of my being. The reason I do not freely use these words is because I want them to retain their specialness, so when I say either of them to a person, they know they are getting the true fullness of my heart and soul without any conditions. There is another word that carries almost as much weight as the word love; however, I do not feel it is as strong. The word is hate. It certainly can strike a person as deeply as the word love, but from my experiences I feel it takes less effort to be hateful than loving. Hate to me means one closes themselves off from experiencing feelings, like an old item that one would store up in an attic. A person hates something so they may walk away from it, never allowing themself to explore and see if they can look at it through a different set of eyes. For me love is a full-time commitment that one nourishes, allowing it to continually flourish. TOGETHER nearly 40 years Ben and George, played by John Lithgow (Leap Year, Cliffhanger) and Alfred Molina (An Education, Chocolat), decided to get married. Their celebrating with friends and family did not last long once George’s employer heard about the union; they terminated him. Forced to find cheaper housing the couple would have to live apart after living together for the majority of their adult life. The story in this drama was straight forward without embellishing the situation for dramatic purposes. The acting by John and Alfred was outstanding; in fact, along with Marisa Tomei (Parental Guidance, The Wrestler) as Kate and Charlie Tahan (Blue Jasmine, Charlie St. Cloud) as Joey, the acting was the major force of this movie. What dragged this movie down was the ponderous script. I felt the additional story lines took away from what was the heart of the story. The directing was of no help because there were times where the film seemed to drag a bit for me. With a story that could have been plucked out from current news, this dramatic picture handled the subject matter honestly and with sensitivity. Believing love is one of the most powerful acts a person can commit, it was the underlying theme in bringing this story to life.
2 3/4 stars
My college sociology professor used the term “Holy Deadlock” to describe a couple who stayed together for the wrong reasons. An example would be staying together for the children’s sake. This instructor claimed using children as an excuse to stay together did more harm than good. I have seen fighting couples use their kids as a way to attack or manipulate their significant other and it was awful to see. At that point the adult was no longer the parent, they were simply a conspirator. On the other hand, there are divorcing parents who act out in a different direction. They give in to the child’s every whim, hoping to make up for the failed relationship. Here, too, the adult is less of a parent as the child quickly learns the art of manipulation. In this comedy Cyrus, played by Jonah Hill (21 Jump Street, The Watch), was a master of manipulation. When his mother Molly, played by Marisa Tomei (The Lincoln Lawyer, The Wrestler), began to date John, played by John C. Reilly (Carnage, We Need to Talk About Kevin), Cyrus thought it would be easy to eliminate John from his mother’s life. He would discover the task at hand was easier said than done. What helped this story was the strong acting from the cast. I have enjoyed most of Marisa’s roles in the past and found her rock solid in playing Molly. In addition, playing John’s ex wife Jamie, Catherine Keener (Into the Wild, A Late Quartet) beautifully played off of John C. Reilly’s character. The fundamental elements of this story were sound; I only wished the writers would have added some punch. There was an easy predictability to several scenes. It takes effort to make a marriage work; it takes extra work to make a divorce successful for all involved parties.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
My grandmother had no friends. It was her choice, since her only concern was her family. I cannot recall a time when my grandmother did not have some home baked sweet treat ready for us to eat. Knowing I would be stopping by her house for Halloween, with my two buckets (I was always paranoid a shopping bag would rip); she would have bags of candy and licorice made up to pass out to me and my friends. She never said a bad word about anyone; her harshest criticism was saying the word “feh” to something or someone she did not like. My grandmother had nothing in common with the grandparents in this comedy. In fact, I do not know of anyone who have grandparents similar to the two in this film. Billy Crystal (Analyze This, When Harry met Sally…) and Bette Midler (Beaches, The First Wives Club) played grandparents Artie and Diane Decker. When their daughter Alice, played by Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler, The Lincoln Lawyer), asked them to babysit their three grandchildren; Diane jumped at the chance while reluctant Artie had no choice but to agree. However when the two elders’ old school way of child rearing smacked up to Alice and her husband Phil’s, played by Tom Everett Scott (Because I Said So, Dead Man on Campus), new school methods; all discovered they could still learn a thing or two about each other. If you happened to see the trailer, you already saw the best parts of this abysmal movie. Besides every humorous moment being predictable, I thought the characters Billy and Bette played were more like two comedians on the comedy circuit tour through the Catskills or Florida (no offense to those who live in either place). Having two actors gifted in comedic timing, I only wished the story had some original ideas for Bette and Billy to mine through and surprise moviegoers. Instead the actors seemed as if they were mugging for the camera. On a positive note, this film was suitable for most of the family; no vulgar language or sexual innuendos, only a little bathroom humor. For a movie like this I would have waited for it to come out on DVD. If my grandmother were alive to watch this film she would have said feh.
1 3/4 stars