THE BRIGHT RED BIRD LOOKED like a cross between an ostrich and a flamingo. Long legs and neck connected to this round belly. The bird’s beak was bright yellow and on top of its head there was a tuft of elongated feathers that veered off in different directions. I still can remember how my friend would walk his bird around the room in this sort of hop along, bobbing type of gait. He had gotten the bird as a gift, though if he named the bird I have no recollection of it. The bird was a 16-18” tall puppet. My friend would hold these two wooden sticks that were nailed together into a plus sign, with string attached to each end. The strings were then each affixed to a different part of the bird’s body. Though the beak did not open, the bird’s eyes were not stationary; they had eyelids that would blink depending on the movement of the bird’s head. It was quite a comical sight for us. I had a few stuffed animals when I was younger that I would imitate the animal’s voice; but I would have to hold the animal to make it move. Here there was a stuffed animal that looked like it was moving on its own; it provided hours of fun. PRIOR TO MY FRIEND’S BIRD PUPPET, the only type of puppets I had personal knowledge of were the hand puppets we used to make in school. I am sure many of you did the same thing; where you take a lunch bag, turn it upside down and draw a face on it. Where the first fold of the bag is at the bottom, you would draw the mouth. Some of the girls in class would draw hair and ribbons on their bag; if an evil face was going to be placed on the bag it was usually drawn by a boy. We would stick a hand inside the bag to make the mouth talk by opening and closing our fingers into a fist. I remember one class assignment where we had to create a scenic backdrop on the inside of a box, after removing one side of the box. The teacher set up a table for us to place our boxes; there was a curtain stretched in front of it where we could hide behind to raise our paper bag puppet up and put on a show. I happened to remember this while watching this comedic, action crime film because I would have rather watched our kids’ shows than what I saw on display up on the movie screen. A SERIES OF PUPPET MURDERS WAS plaguing Los Angeles. Two former detectives who had parted ways had to come together to help solve the crimes. Starring Melissa McCarthy (Life of the Party, The Heat) as Detective Connie Edwards, Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games franchise, Love & Mercy) as Jenny, Maya Rudolph (Away We Go, Inherent Vice) as Bubbles, Leslie David Baker (Wish I Was Here, The Office-TV) as Lt. Banning and Joel McHale (Deliver Us from Evil, The Informant!) as Agent Campbell; the one actor that stood out for me was Maya. Melissa, who I previously have said has incredible comedic timing, played the same type of character she has played before. The script was generic and only produced one laugh out of me. Maybe the writers thought having R rated puppets was enough of a laugh; for me, I found it quickly became a bore because every move was so predictable. As a side note, if Jim Henson was alive today I wonder how he would have felt about his son directing this picture? More fun could be gotten out of a paper bag puppet than being stuck watching this “bad” movie. There was an extra scene in the middle of the credits and this IS NOT A FILM FOR CHILDREN.
1 ½ stars
IT SOUNDED LIKE A GOOD IDEA at the time. They remembered as little kids skitching in the snow. For those of you unfamiliar with the term it means: holding on to the back of a moving vehicle while riding a bicycle, skates or skateboard. However, they used to just use their shoes or boots when there was snow on the ground. As children they would hide between parked cars and wait for a bus, truck or car to drive by them. Just as the vehicle was about to pass they would run out and try to grab the back bumper without being seen by the driver. It felt like they were waterskiing except they were riding the icy surface of the street. Buses were the best to catch because you would know they would be coming to a stop as soon as they got to the next bus stop; cars and trucks were trickier because you either had to wait until the vehicle came to a red light or was shortly coming to a parking space. The only other option was to let go in mid ride and hope you would not slide into anything hard. REMEMBERING THE FUN THEY HAD in doing this, they decided to give it a try. Waiting between parked cars just like they used to do before, crouched down with one person as the lookout, a bus turned the corner and was coming down the street. As it passed they ran out as best as they could with the slippery conditions and grabbed a hold of the bumper. Off they went hanging on the back of the bus. It brought back such good memories as their feet skimmed over the snow with the wind hitting them in the face. The buildings were passing by rapidly; they figured they must be traveling close to the speed limit. The next bus stop should be coming up soon they thought. Suddenly someone’s foot sunk into a pothole, throwing them off balance. She toppled over into the friend standing next to her and the two lost their grip on the bumper. They fell to the ground tumbling over each other. Luckily there was no one driving near them as they finally crashed into a parked car. Their clothes were dirty and wet, getting rip and torn in the process. Maybe skitching was a silly idea to have done in the first place. It was just as silly as some of the things I saw in this comedy. AFTER HER HUSBAND DECIDED TO leave her Deanna, played by Melissa McCarthy (The Boss, St. Vincent), decided to go back to college to finish her degree. It was the same college her daughter was attending; what could go wrong? With Gillian Jacobs (The Box, Community-TV) as Helen, Debby Ryan (Rip Tide, Jessie-TV) as Jennifer, Maya Rudolph (Away We Go, Sisters) as Christine and Julie Bowen (Joe Somebody, Modern Family-TV) as Marcie; I thought the idea for the story was admirable. There is no denying Melissa is one of the top comedic actresses with her timing and physicality; I did laugh at a few scenes. My issue with this movie was the script; it was getting sillier and sillier. I felt the writers were focusing most on making the audience laugh instead of keeping the story real, to go beyond the gags. With the pairing of Melissa and Maya, I felt there could have been more ground to cover in many scenes. Now I am not saying watching this movie would be a waste of your time. For some lighthearted, silly fare where you do not have to think much; this film may or may not bring back memories of your years in school.
The street festival provided an opportunity to relive the memories of the old neighborhood of my youth. Walking the residential streets was a revelation for the homes were now freshly painted in colorful hues. Old porches and stairs that previously yawned in tiredness looked confidently strong now; I doubt they would utter a peep. The biggest surprise was the amount of foliage everywhere. As a kid I remember flowers were something one would find mostly in a backyard, not many households had them in front. Bushes covered the bottoms of houses; some planted to form a straight hedge across, others looking like tossed green gumdrops. Now as I traveled down several streets, flowers and ornamental trees were blooming everywhere. The trees that remained from my childhood had expanded and grown as if someone had pumped them up with air to look like inflated balloons at a Thanksgiving parade. When I finally reached the heart of the business area there were a few stores I remembered though they were dressed up with new signs and banners. The grocery store was replaced by one of those dollar stores and the local drugstore was now a currency exchange. Sitting in the same place was the diner I used to go to at least once a week. I had to go in and though no one looked familiar to me, the furniture had not changed. I ordered my usual and watched the cook make it as I sat on one of the dark red stools at the counter. The food came in those same plastic baskets freshly lined with wax paper. I was excited as I took my first bite, taking in the earthy aroma wafting off the pile of fries. Sadly my memories tasted better than the actual meal. The same thing could be said about this version of a comedy classic. STRANGE occurrences started popping up around New York City but only two people understood what they could be. Scientist friends Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, played by Kristen Wiig (The Martian, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) and Melissa McCarthy (The Boss, Spy) were convinced there was finally proof to substantiate their research. After all the talk of this science fiction fantasy reboot having a female cast it all came down to the script for me. Kristen, Melissa and Leslie Jones (Trainwreck, Saturday Night Live-TV) as Patty Tolan were subdued compared to Kate McKinnon (Life Partners, Saturday Night Live-TV) as Jillian Holtzmann; she was terrific which is saying a lot since the story was bland. I did not have any laugh out loud moments and felt the story needed some caffeine. The villain of the story was so dull with a tired story line that I sat in my seat and wondered what the writers were thinking. Even the special effects were nothing special; after all these years since the original film, you would think the movie studio would want to dazzle the viewers with special effects. Overall this movie was not the worst; it just did not taste as good as the original I remembered. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
There is good and evil in every single person; this is what I believe. I did not come to this conclusion from some doctrine I was taught growing up; at a young age there were many people who showed me examples of both. Since that time whenever I have encountered someone acting in either a good or evil way I just have to wonder what happened in their childhood to make them act that way now. For me both qualities are a choice; however, I have to recognize outside factors. A person’s experiences during their formative years can sway them to one side or the other. I can see where someone who was constantly and severely punished for incidental things could start acting out in a violent way. And I believe there are studies showing people who abuse other people usually were abused themselves. Based on my experiences if every person who was abused in some type of way who became in turn an abuser, there would be a lot less kinder people in the world. The reason why I believe everyone has a choice is due to people I know who have had a hard life, yet remain positive and upbeat. I know someone who had years of hardships and struggles that affected their health; but no matter what they were going through, they always kept a smile on their face and I do not mean that in a phony type of way. They were genuinely happy and grateful. So you see, to me they made a choice. I feel the same about the main character in this comedy, they made a choice but was it the right one? AFTER being convicted for insider trading and doing time in prison Michelle Darnell, played by Melissa McCarthy (The Heat, Spy), thought she could pick up the pieces of her life and make it to the top of the business world again. The only thing stopping her were all the people she had stepped on as she was making her way to the top. This comedy that also included Kristen Bell (The Lifeguard, Veronica Mars-TV) as Claire and Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent, Game of Thrones-TV) as Renault, was lucky to have these 3 actors. I do not think anyone would deny that Melissa has incredible comedic timing. What surprised me however was Peter Dinklage; I thought he and Melissa were a great match. Now there were a few times I laughed during this film; however, a majority of the time was wasted on similar jokes and sight gags. For the most part the story was predictable where I was wishing the writers would have cut the crudeness and been a little more creative. The trailers basically shown the cleanest and best parts to this movie. I liked Melissa in this film; I just wished the writers had made a better choice in their words for the script. There were several extra short outtake scenes through part of the credits.
1 3/4 stars
It sometimes starts with a kind word or gesture that plants a seed inside of you. This seed only needs your hopes and desires for it to flourish into a full emotional relationship that is only in your mind. You take their considerate manners as a sign that there could be something forming between the two of you. Some of the things they say can be taken two ways; you always assume the more romantic version. I have had my share of these types of situations; where you are trying to get a read on the other person, trying to figure out if what you are feeling is just as real for them. Maybe it is the fear of rejection that makes us go slow, where we drop subtle hints to see if they take the bait, so to speak. I recently had a conversation with a friend about this very thing. They asked me why I thought this particular person I was attracted to was not interested in me. I explained how I suggested getting together with them on Memorial Day but they already had previous plans. If they were interested, I explained to my friend, they would have made an alternative suggestion to me by now. So for the moment I sit in my fantasy world just like the character Susan in this movie. RUNNING the logistics for her partner Bradley Fine, played by Jude Law (Black Sea, Anna Karenina); CIA analyst Susan Cooper, played by Melissa McCarthy (St. Vincent, The Heat), would do anything for him because she felt they made the perfect team. It was a team Susan wanted to see expand outside of the office. When the CIA’s field agents’ identities were compromised, Susan agreed to leave her office and go undercover to save the mission. The first thing I want to say is I have not been a fan of Melissa’s recent films except St. Vincent. The reason for this is because I found the stories were set up to get laughs by humiliating a large person; if the character was thin there would have been no laughs and I find this offensive. So now that I have said my piece, this was Melissa’s best role to date. Her comedic timing was perfection and I so appreciated the writer giving this character room for Melissa to go with it. The whole cast, including Rose Byrne (Neighbors, Adult Beginners) as Rayna Boyanov and Jason Statham (Furious Seven, The Transporter franchise), were outstanding in this action comedy spoof of past spy films. I laughed out loud more than once, admiring writer and director Paul Feig’s (Bridesmaids, The Heat) wonderful broad strokes for the fun action scenes. This crime picture was the real thing and I loved it. There was strong language used and there was a brief extra scene at the end of the credits.
3 1/4 stars
There was a time you could find a commune in the heart of a big metropolitan city. It was called an apartment building; I should know, because I grew up in one of them. Everyone knew everyone else in the building; in fact, it was not uncommon for a neighbor to give a quick knock on the back kitchen door and walk right in since we kept our doors unlocked during the day. Before I was able to walk down the stairs by myself I would scoot down them on my backside to visit a neighbor on a different floor. If someone could not get out to the grocery store, they would easily find a resident who was willing to go for them. Babysitting was simple because there were a multitude of parents who would willingly help each other out day or night. I loved growing up in an apartment building though it did spoil me. When I moved out on my own I just assumed all places were similar to my childhood home. Unfortunately that was not the case. From the time I was born to the time I moved, a change starting to take place. It appeared as if the world was moving faster with less time to socialize. I had some new neighbors who would offer a friendly hello; but I had others who barely acknowledged anyone, wearing an uninviting scowl on their face. RECENTLY divorced mother Maggie, played by Melissa McCarthy (The Heat, Mike & Molly-TV), had no choice but to impose on her next door neighbor Vincent, played by Bill Murray (Lost in Translation, Moonrise Kingdom). At first glance Vincent would be the unlikeliest candidate to babysit anyone’s child. Maggie’s son Oliver, played by newcomer Jaeden Lieberher, would soon find out Vincent was not like any other babysitter he had before. This film festival winning comedy had a lot going for it. Though I have seen Bill in similar roles, he really took charge and owned his character Vincent. He was a fun, wicked character to watch throughout the story. Melissa finally decided to take on a different kind of character; I actually liked the fact she played a straight role here without her usual schtick that she had done in her recent films. Add in Jaeden’s touching performance along with Naomi Watts (The Impossible, King Kong) as Daka and this picture had more to offer than your typical comedy. There were several scenes that were dramatic and moving for me. I may not have had a neighbor living next door to me like Vincent; but I sure would not mind one now after seeing this super film.
3 1/4 stars
The reactions vary from individual to individual when it comes to experiencing good or bad luck. Some people take things in stride, where the appearance of luck has little effect on their mood. Whether they find $20.00 on the ground while walking to the store or getting drenched by torrential rains that started five minutes before they arrived at their destination, their mood barely budges. I think part of the reason has to do with the way one was raised. The lower the self-confidence the gloomier a person becomes from a stroke of bad luck. There is something about bad luck that makes it feel like a chewed up piece of gum that is stuck on your shoes, making each step harder to take. I have also noticed, at least in my experiences, luck comes in waves. If a person is having a lucky moment it tends to expand beyond one incident. An example would be someone on a lucky streak while playing a game of chance. However, the same could be said if they were on a bad streak. There is an old saying that death comes in threes; the same could be said regarding bad luck. IN this comedy Melissa McCarthy (The Heat, Identity Thief) played Tammy, essentially the same character she recently has portrayed twice before. Loud and foul-mouthed Tammy had a string of bad luck going when her car broke down, lost her job and found her husband Greg, played by Nat Faxon (The Descendants, Bad Teacher), cheating on her with another woman. Seizing it as an opportunity to get out of town and change her life, Tammy found an additional problem; she would have to take along her alcoholic grandmother Pearl, played by Susan Sarandon (The Lovely Bones, The Big Wedding). This film festival winner was such a mess with its conflicting story lines. It would flip from a comedy to a drama, from funny to sad without a continuous train of thought. Maybe it has to do with my own issues about body image but I found this movie offensive. With Melissa’s recent films it seems to me she is cast for her size. The humor is supposed to come from watching a large person doing activities that if the character had been skinny would not be as funny. There was nothing new that Melissa provided to this film; but then again it was hard for any of the actors to do anything worthy with the abysmal script and poor direction. Only Kathy Bates (Titanic, Misery) as cousin Lenore came across as authentic. As far as I was concerned I felt Melissa’s luck had run out with this dud. There was one brief blooper outtake scene in the middle of the credits.
1 2/3 stars
The concept of opposites attracting was something I first learned from my science class in elementary school. It was not until I started dating where I learned how the laws of attraction applied to life. In one of my early relationships the two of us saw things completely opposite. From a room being hot or cold to a restaurant’s meal being awful or great; we rarely agreed on the same thing and I have to tell you it was hard. However, it was not until later that I learned a valuable lesson; to be able to look at something from the other person’s perspective. It was one of the best gifts I gained from that relationship and I still appreciate it to this day. The law of opposites attracting was used for comedic results in this funny movie. Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side, The Proposal) played uptight FBI special agent Sarah Ashburn. On assignment in Boston; Sarah encountered the territorial, foul-mouthed Boston cop Shannon Mullins, played by Melissa McCarthy (Identity Thief, Bridesmaids). By not being able to see through the other person’s eyes, the two women had a good chance of never solving the case. The story was not original in the least; however, it might have been due to the focus on the actors’ comic abilities. I have always said Melissa has impeccable comedic timing and she used it in full force for this film. Keep in mind the language is extremely foul and abundant. Sandra made a valiant effort to keep up with Melissa, but it fell slightly short. I wished the writers would have given more to Jane Curtin (Coneheads, Kate & Allie-TV) as Mrs. Mullins; she was completely underutilized. The main force of this movie was the comedy. I laughed out loud several times, even when the scenes were somewhat inappropriate. As a side note I am a stickler about movie trailers, since they are a form of advertising. A couple of scenes from the trailers were not the same as the movie. This film was light entertainment for a refresher course on the laws of attraction. Strong language was used throughout the film.
2 2/3 stars
There are some people who are not cut out for the responsibility; for it is a lifetime commitment. I have seen all types of parenting skills; some I have admired, some horrified me. It is curious that we need a license to drive a vehicle, but we do not need one to have a child. I remember a case study we discussed in one of my college psychology classes. A married couple had two sons, where the oldest one committed suicide with a rifle. The following Christmas the parents wrapped the gun up in holiday paper and gave it to their surviving son as a gift. What kind of message do you think the parents were trying to convey to their child? This romantic comedy took a light hearted look at parenting. Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up, The Ugly Truth) and Josh Duhamel (Transformers franchise, When in Rome) played Holly Berenson and Eric Messer; two available single people. They had been fixed up with each other on a blind date that went bad very quickly. Because they each were friends of the married couple who had brought them together, Holly and Eric were still forced to see each periodically. When a tragic accident suddenly took the lives of their friends, Holly and Eric discovered they were the co-guardians of the couple’s infant daughter. The two adults who could barely stand each other now had to share parenting responsibilities in raising little Sophie. How would this work in the best interests of the baby? The idea of the story was a little far-fetched; I mean c’mon, who lists someone as guardian without talking to them first about it? Katherine, Josh and Josh Lucas (American Psycho, A Beautiful Mind) as Dr. Sam, were good in their roles. Instead of tackling some tough issues, the writers took an easy way towards the ending. I also thought the pacing of the movie dragged at times, going through similar scenarios with Sophie. It takes a certain kind of person to raise a child and now I see it takes a particular group of people to bring the story to the big screen.
2 stars — DVD