ONE IS EITHER BORN INTO the role or is trained by default to be the neutral party aka buffer zone between conflicted family members and/or friends. It takes a particular temperament to handle groups of people who have opposing opinions; a person needs to be calm, sensitive, thoughtful and most importantly strong enough to never offer an opinion. Even in the face of an evil, belligerent person; one needs to maintain a serene exterior, even if they are thinking the extreme thinking friend or family member is hateful or bigoted. If the social event is being held in a large space chances are there will be less drama and little policing of the opposing combatants. However if the meeting place (feel free to replace meeting place with the word arena) is a small space such as a restaurant booth or a person’s dining room, then things could be trickier to maintain some semblance of peace. THROUGH THE YEARS I have been exposed to various events and locations where I was able to witness the buffer zone person in action. I am actually familiar with the dynamics of an occasion where 2 people are not seeing things eye to eye. It can be quite stressful for the other people around. There was a party I attended where such a scenario took place and I agree it was a challenge trying to stay neutral with both sides while each one of them was making their case to me that they were right. The thing I find interesting is when this type of behavior plays out during a special occasion such as a holiday or birthday. Wouldn’t you think in respect to the person celebrating or the special significance to the gathering people could put their differences aside? I do not know if it is an ego thing, a stubborn thing or lack of confidence that makes a person act out in public in such a way. If you are interested there are several examples of people acting ridiculous in this comedy film. TIRED OF DIVIDING THEIR children’s time up during the holiday between each of them Dads Brad and Dusty, played by Will Ferrell (The House, The Campaign) and Mark Wahlberg (Patriots Day, The Gambler), came up with a brilliant idea; to spend the Christmas holiday together. The idea would have been perfect if not for the visit of the grandfathers. With John Lithgow (Miss Sloane, Betriz at Dinner) as Don, Linda Cardellini (Grandma’s Boy, Avengers: Age of Ultron) as Sara and John Cena (Trainwreck, The Marine) as Roger; this sequel for the most part followed the same formula as the original movie. I found the script was predictable and some of the humor had a negative edge to it. If you happened to see the trailers you pretty much saw what the whole film was going to consist of: physical comedy mixed with stereotypical acting. Some of the scenes rang somewhat true to the point I could appreciate what the writers were trying to convey; but, there were times I thought the story was diving into a ridiculous slapstick form of comedy. Having seen the first movie, I did not find much being offered with this picture in the way of new, fresh ideas. Maybe those of you who are in a similar situation as the characters in this picture will enjoy this film. For me I could not be positive or even neutral in my review of this formulaic written movie.
1 ¾ stars
TENSION could be felt in the air, at least by me, as I walked into the company’s lunchroom. It was not a big room, only accommodating a few tables and chairs. Sitting down next to a couple of employees, I joined in on the conversation taking place. While we were eating and talking I did notice 2 employees whose way of conversing was stilted. They each would participate but I noticed they never made eye contact with each other, even if the topic of conversation related to one of them. The other employees around the table did not seem to notice or if they did they were not fazed by it. If you ever sat around a group of people and one person had an attitude, you would feel it. I could not understand what was going on as there was this “stale” dead air in the room when either of these 2 employees said something. SEVERAL weeks later, long after I forgot about those two peculiar employees in the lunchroom, a co-worker was talking to me and made a joke about one of those employees from that time. She could tell I did not understand the joke and asked me if I knew the story about those 2 people from the lunchroom. When I told her no she informed me the 2 used to be married to each other, making it sound like it was common knowledge. Obviously it was not that common because I had no idea they were married at one time. Replaying as much as I could remember about the conversation we had back then I could at least see where the topic could be an uncomfortable one for the divorced couple. I asked my co-worker why they were divorced; she told me about the rumors some people were saying about the former couple. From what she told me I was amazed either of them could work in the same company as their ex-spouse. It is funny having that little bit of unexpected knowledge has changed most of my interactions with either employee. I could say the same thing about what I found out in this latest installment of the sci-fi franchise. BATTLE after battle, war after war; there must be a reason why Earth will not be left alone by these Transformers. Could there be a solution to once and for all rid our world of this destruction? This action adventure starred Mark Wahlberg (Patriot’s Day, The Gambler) as Cade Yeager, Anthony Hopkins (Red Dragon, The Elephant Man) as Sir Edmund Burton and Josh Duhamel (When in Rome, Las Vegas-TV) as Colonel William Lennox. Within a short period of time I realized the script and the story to this film was utterly ridiculous. The explanations being told about why such and such was happening defied any logic. I know this is a science fiction film, but I still appreciate a good story. The script was a hodgepodge of folklore, fantasy, historical references and an assortment of other components; that I found made one big, long mess of a picture. It also did not help that the movie played for 2 hours and 29 minutes; there was no reason to have such a long film. There needed to be a tight editing job to the script. Also I wished the action scenes had been more distinguishable. With action whirling by it was hard to figure out who or what was going on. I could not wait to escape this picture. There was an extra scene early in the credits.
1 ½ stars
DURING my daily commute to work I pass 3 makeshift memorials that were set up by the side of the road. What they have in common are floral arrangements, ribbons and sadness. My guess is each person from the memorials perished from an auto accident. How tragic it must be for the family; based on past news articles, I can only imagine the circumstances of the accident. I remember one involved a boy riding his bicycle who was struck by a car that swerved out of the way of a tarp that fell off of a truck in front of them, momentarily blinding the driver. Can you imagine if this took place in front of the boy’s house and the family sees the memorial every day? I do not know how I would handle it, seeing a reminder outside my door every day, even without a memorial. RECENTLY I was driving through my old neighborhood with a friend who was curious to see my old stomping grounds. Driving through several blocks, I shared memories and tidbits while pointing out various places. As I drove by one particular building I started to tear up from the flood of awful memories associated with the place. My friend saw the change in me and asked what was going on inside of me. Taking a breath I started to tell them about some of the horrible things that were done to me when I was much younger. It felt like I was reliving them as I spoke them out loud. Though I believe each of us learns something from every experience, thinking about that time after all these years still made me feel sad and angry. I do not think I am alone in saying recalling tough, challenging events in the past is a hard thing to do; this is why it was not easy for me to watch this dramatic historical thriller. FROM an act of terror during the Boston marathon the citizens of Boston united in a powerful way. This film festival winning movie written and directed by Peter Berg (Deepwater Horizon, Lone Survivor) starred Mark Wahlberg (Deepwater Horizon, Daddy’s Home) as Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders, Michelle Monaghan (Sleepless, Source Code) as Carol Saunders, John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane, Love the Coopers) as Commissioner Ed Davis and Kevin Bacon (Black Mass, Elephant White) as Special Agent Richard DesLauriers. I felt Peter presented a thoughtful, reflective story that did not sink into dramatic hyperbole. Because the script was sensitively written I thought the actors did fine in their roles and in regards to Mark he was in his element. Since I was quite familiar with this story, knowing people who were affected by it, I thought I would not have been as engaged in the movie. It turned out I was very much into the film as there were multiple scenes that showed the things taking place away from the public; it was fascinating to watch. I will say it was not easy to sit and watch this movie due to seeing the violence and injuries again. The images I remembered all came up as the story unfolded on the big screen. Let me just say if you have the stomach to revisit this event then it is worth watching this well done film.
Along with the saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” the same could be said for worth. Let us say you have a person who donates a kidney to save another person; how could you put a price on the kidney? To the person getting it I would think they are getting a priceless gift. Let me go to the other extreme and tell you I have seen situations where I had to wonder what type of value the perpetrator was offering to society. I could give some examples but all of them are ugly to talk about here. During the real estate boom houses were skyrocketing in price, but they were only worth that price if someone was willing to pay it. Value/worth I find is a subjective process. The thing I would like to know is when did the worth of human beings decrease in value. Before it became an issue, I remember watching players on a sports team continue playing even though they had incurred an injury. Growing up I rarely heard about someone getting a concussion. Being involved with companies from around the world for my job, I stay aware of any reported safety abuses of employees that could affect the company’s balance sheet. This is my thinking only but I feel due to society becoming more of a disposable one, along with the need to have immediate gratification, companies had to adjust their thinking. Businesses need to find the fastest way to bring a product to market and make sure it is still a profitable venture. This drive for profits and quickness can lead a company to look at how they could cut down on their expenses to make more money. I think most of us were aware of this film’s story about the worst United States oil disaster to ever take place. What you might not know is how the spill came about; see for yourself what took place in this action film. BASED on true events the floating oil platform Deepwater Horizon was on the verge of striking black gold a/k/a oil. What the owners would soon find out is sooner is not always better. Starring Mark Wahlberg (Daddy’s Home, Lone Survivor) as Mike Williams, Kurt Russell (The Art of the Steal, The Hateful Eight) as Jimmy Harrell, John Malkovich (Burn After Reading, Empire of the Sun) as Vidrine and Gina Rodriguez (Filly Brown, Jane the Virgin-TV) as Andrea Fleytas; this dramatic thriller needed a short time before kicking into gear. Action was the number one feature of this picture and I have to tell you it was intense through and through. I felt I was on an amusement park ride as the scenes flowed and ebbed from drama to action. There were some cheesy scenes in the script along with some lines that were sappy; but the underwater scenes, explosions and building fear factor rode over everything to make this an exciting movie watching experience for me. I do not know how much was true in the movie but the bottom line (do you like that business reference?) for me was a feeling of shame and horror on how little the human factor played into the business model for a potential successful business venture.
I have seen so many outcomes I still do not know whether it takes luck, fate, work or a combination of all three to create a blended family. From a young age I learned family does not need a genetic bond. There were children in the neighborhood who were adopted or had a stepparent. Some kids would call their parent mom or dad even though they were not a biological parent; others would refer to their parent as a stepdad or stepmom. I found it curious why they were labeled differently. As we grew older I started getting an inside peek into the dynamics of what people consider to be a family. When both parents came from a previous marriage that produced children, sometimes there was a rivalry between the different sets of kids. I actually saw blatant favoritism from one parent with their biological child over their stepchild. Where I can see the challenges of blending a family I also know there can be advantages. What about an only child that suddenly, through the remarriage of a parent, gains brothers and sisters? In fact, I know someone whose biological parents each had children from a previous marriage. This person technically has half siblings, but one would never know because they are all so supportive of each other; it is a beautiful thing. Each of them feel the same way about their siblings and the parents are united in creating a healthy, loving environment for all of the children. There is no competition involved unlike the parents in this comedy. BRAD Whitaker, played by Will Ferrell (The Other Guys, Get Hard), was working hard to show he could be a dad to his stepchildren. His plans took a major detour when the children’s biological father Dusty Mayron, played by Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter, Lone Survivor), decided to come pay a visit. The idea for this story was a valid one; I have seen where a parent essentially tries to buy the love of a child. From the trailers one can see this appears to be the premise for this film. If you did see the trailers then you saw the best parts of this picture. I thought it started out slow as it moved into scenes of one-upmanship between the two dads. This type of schtick got old real fast. There really was nothing new or fun in this comedy; however, I liked the way the story turned, making the last part of this film more interesting and bearable. If the writers would have introduced this aspect earlier this movie would have been better in my opinion. As it stands, some of the scenes were ridiculous and unnecessary. Of course, if one is looking for a light mindless fluffy film then this one would fit the need. The idea of showing a family trying to blend together was a good idea; this mishmash of a movie did nothing with it.
1 3/4 stars
There are some friends that can always make you laugh; there are some friends that can have a serious conversation with you and there are some who always provide you with the perfect advice. Just as I believe a love relationship is unconditional, so do I feel the same way about friendships. You cannot pick and choose the parts you like about a friend and ignore the rest; true friendship only comes as a complete package in my opinion and they are as diverse as the world around us. Because this is how I treat friendships, I am always perplexed when someone offers their unsolicited opinion about someone else’s friend. Has this ever happened to you, where a friend of yours asks why you are friends with someone else? I experienced this in the past about a particular friend of mine. Here was an individual who did poorly in school; I suspect there was a learning disability. They may not have been able to carry on a conversation about world events or be able to communicate with proper English; so what, they were such a considerate, kind soul who was always willing to help out a person in need. I remember when a light fixture broke in my house and they immediately offered to fix it, knowing my limited handiness skills. Another friend of mine used to question how I could be friends with someone with such a limited vocabulary. I was offended by their questioning of such a thing, especially without even knowing the other person. How can someone comment on someone else’s relationships? See how it is done in this comedic sequel. RECENTLY married couple Ted and Tami-Lynn, voiced by Seth MacFarlane (A Million Ways to Die in the West, Family Guy-TV) and played by Jessica Barth (Get Smart, The Waterhole), have decided to have a baby. However, Ted will have to prove who or what he is before he can be a father. Written and directed by Seth MacFarlane, this sequel was essentially more of the same from the first film. Though Seth has a wicked sense of humor that was represented in the script by some quick funny lines, I found the story line dull. There was the same crudeness and vulgarity but this time it wasn’t as funny to me; I felt the set up for the scenes was a template that was repeated over and over as the movie progressed. A bright spot for me was Amanda Seyfried (Dear John, In Time) who played the lawyer Samantha. She did a good job with her role. I appreciated the idea behind the story but felt it was being handled with a heavy hand. If I were to consider movies as friends of mine, this would be one film I would not want to watch in a public place. Strong language throughout film.
1 3/4 stars
Though I may still struggle with it, I am at least aware the goal is to find balance within myself. This is one of the things yoga has taught me. When participants in my yoga classes hear I am a credit manager, they stare at me in disbelief. Funny, the same thing happens when businesspeople hear I teach yoga. One may see these two jobs at extreme ends of the spectrum but there actually is some overlap between them. Yoga has taught me patience, which is needed for me to work with some large corporations in processing my company’s invoices for payment. As a credit manager I must be able to multi-task and recall different conversations and events to keep the receivables as current as possible. That ability to multi-task has helped me teach a yoga class where the participants are from all different skill levels. One of my reminders I tell members in class is never go to the extreme of a pose, allow one inch of leeway because that is where real growth takes place. Once a person goes to their extreme there is nowhere to grow from there and they get out of balance. No truer words have been spoken regarding this movie. ENGLISH professor by day and gambler by night, the stakes became quite high when Jim Bennett, played by Mark Wahlberg (Lone Survivor, The Fighter), could not cover his bets. His life began to spiral further out of control as he sunk deeper into debt, seeking help from gangsters and loan sharks. This film festival nominated crime drama received its strength from three individuals: Jessica Lange (The Vow, Grey Gardens-TV) as Jim’s mother Roberta, John Goodman (Argo, The Monuments Men) as loan shark Frank and Michael Kenneth Williams (12 Years a Slave, The Road) as gangster Neville Baraka. These actors were the dominant force of this thriller. Honestly, I would have preferred if the story revolved around them instead of Mark’s character. I found this remake to be uneven where some parts were dull while others clicked in to keep my attention. After a while there were scenes that seemed as if they were just rehashed from something previous. The story line with the love interest did not seem necessary to me; I would rather had more screen time from the three actors I mentioned earlier. Another issue for me was Mark’s acting; I never became emotionally connected to his character. It was weird because there were events taking place around him that should have made him come out with more intensity. I felt the picture on a whole was out of balance, leaving me not caring much about what happened.
If it is not broke then do not fix it is a well known phrase. It means if there is no evidence of a problem, do not waste time or energy on it unless it provides a significant improvement. The different products that claim they are new and improved are things I tend to cast a skeptical eye towards these days. I do a running commentary during my classes; offering my take on current news, movies and the local scene. Recently I have added a weekly update on the latest product recalls and now have new items to mention every week. Some of the reasons for the recalls totally baffle me. For example there was the playground set whose swings hung too low, injuring children’s legs by scraping across the ground. A hanging glass star votive candleholder would break apart from the heat of the flame, possibly injuring people standing nearby. The variety of baby products that are being recalled is staggering. I am floored by the baby monitors with batteries that overheat and explode, causing possible injury (you think?) besides being a fire hazard. The only explosions I want to see are in a movie and this science fiction adventure directed and written by Michael Bay (Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys franchise) was saturated with them. It made sense since some of the Transformers were new and improved. Mark Wahlberg (Boogie Nights, The Fighter) played Cade Yeager, a mechanic and tinkering inventor. With a recent purchase of a broken down truck, Cade felt he may have made a discovery that could change his life and the life of his daughter Tessa, played by Nicola Peltz (The Airbender, Deck the Halls). Little did he know his life was about to change in a very dramatic way. This action film was all about the battles, crashes and explosions. There was very little story; let me re-phrase that, there was very little good story to keep one’s interest. If you only want to see things being blown up then this movie fits the bill. I will say the special effects were spectacular and my favorite part was the final battle. The only 2 actors who showed actual acting ability were Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games franchise, The Terminal) as Joshua Joyce and Kelsey Grammer (Swing Vote, X-Men: The Last Stand) as Harold Attinger. The script was written with a low level of humor that bordered on ridiculous. I found very little suspense; in fact, it occurred to me I did not get excited by much in this picture. If this is what is in store for us with future sequels, I would prefer watching the original movie again.
1 3/4 stars
Before the majority of the world became wired, broadcast news provided us with a recap of noteworthy events. We would see the aftermath to a variety of events that spanned from a car accident to an earthquake. Unless there was a personal connection to the story, most of us would not feel an emotional attachment to what was being shown. When broadcasters report about traffic jams on the highways I travel to get to work, it causes a reaction in me, albeit a negative one. I guess I should consider myself lucky that I have not had a personal connection to any traumatic news stories. The only thing I can recall is when I was at friend’s house back in the 70’s; everyone became quiet when there was news about Vietnam. My friend’s older brother was sent over there during the war and the family always listened for a familiar town or place they had heard about from him. When one has a personal reference to the news it has more of an impact. With movies based on true stories, having information being told from one of the real life characters creates an accessible emotional bond to the story. Based on his best selling book, I was acquainted with this story due to seeing news clips of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell discussing his 2005 failed operation in Afghanistan. Mark Wahlberg (Pain & Gain, Boogie Nights) portrayed Marcus in this biographical film. The rest of the team sent out with Marcus to capture or eliminate a vicious Taliban leader was Michael Murphy, played by Taylor Kitsch (Savages, Friday Night Lights-TV); Danny Dietz, played by Emile Hirsch (Killer Joe, The Girl Next Door) and Matt “Axe” Axelson, played by Ben Foster (The Messenger, Contraband). This action drama was essentially split into 2 stories. The first half of the movie showed the Navy SEALs while stationed on base. The second half was all about the mission and this is where the intensity exploded open. I have seen war films before but the fight scenes in this intense section were bloody real looking and I do mean bloody. Some of them were handled a bit heavy by slowing down the motion. I cannot call this entertaining per se; however, for an action scene it seemed to be one long continuous fight. The acting was good, though I still have an issue with Mark Wahlberg’s acting. I never forget it is Mark playing a character. This story was amazing simply because there was an individual who lived to tell it. Many scenes had violence and blood in them.
Have you ever noticed how similar one’s work environment can be to their home life? Considering the amount of time spent at work, it is not surprising that some people form a family with their fellow employees. In my work history I have had to work with a variety of characters. There was the one employee who acted like everyone’s uncle, always coming by to check on you and see how your day was going. I used to work with someone who acted like he was our older sibling; telling us what we should and should not do whether it had to do with our work or in our personal lives. Then there are those employees who are like the sisters I never had; where we are able to gain knowledge by our different perspectives on any issues that would come up. Like any family, the work family can be or not be dysfunctional. The main draw for this action comedy was the chemistry between Denzel Washington (Man on Fire, Unstoppable) and Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter, Ted) as criminals Robert “Bobby” Trench and Michael “Stig” Stigman. Using each other to help pull off a bank robbery, the two were not so dissimilar to two brothers fighting. When the bank heist did not go as planned, they had to form an uneasy partnership to find out who set them up. For this role I actually felt Mark’s limited acting range worked to his advantage. HIs character was a wise cracking, show-off while Denzel played the older smooth talking, reserved type. The contrasts worked and I enjoyed the banter between the two. However, it became too much after a while and lost some of its edge. I was confused with the story by the twists of who were the good and bad guys. Among those included in the cast were Edward James Olmos (Miami Vice, Stand and Deliver) as drug cartel kingpin Papi Greco, James Marsden (Enchanted, Hairspray) as naval intelligence officer Quince and Bill Paxton (Twister, Apollo 13) as special agent Earl. It seemed as if James and Bill enjoyed playing their characters. There were a few exciting fights and chases, with an adequate amount of explosions in this crime thriller. For a summer movie this one was okay; but it was like spending time with a dysfunctional relative, you just wanted to keep it to a short visit. There were multiple scenes that had blood and violence.
2 1/2 stars