ONE CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY PARENTS in life, for each one brings a different version of love. There are some people who have an abundance of love that they share with children, besides their own. They may not be there when you fall and scrape your knee or when you ride your bicycle for the first time without training wheels; but, they leave their handprints on your heart. I feel fortunate that I grew up with a few extra mothers in my life. You may have had one or two yourself or just as easily an extra dad since either gender provides equal amounts of love. One of my extra mothers was a neighbor who lived in our building. She lived a couple of floors below us which resulted in me learning how to get down flights of stairs earlier than other kids. Before I could walk I would crawl to the edge of the staircase, turn myself around on the edge and begin crawling down backwards. After navigating the two flights of stairs I would crawl to the door of her apartment and pat my palm on it. I never knew how she always heard me when I thought about this years later, but she would open the door every time with a big smile on her face. She always had time to play with me and for those times she didn’t, she would sing to me. THERE WAS ANOTHER WOMAN WHO WAS like an extra mother to me. She was a friend of the family who had grown up with one of my parents. She was quick to give me a deep hug that made me feel protected and safe. Though she did not know how to bowl, she loved coming to the bowling alley, taking pleasure in simply watching us try to get a strike. Her house always had the exact types of food you craved on any particular day; for example, if you wanted something sweet she had cookies or if you wanted something salty she would have pretzels. When I was little she would always write an amusing poem inside my birthday cards. Despite decades having past I still have vivid, fond memories of these women who were prominent in my life. They each had their own families; yet, I was treated as part of the family because that was the type of love they each had inside. And to a child, having that type of extra love is like a fresh coat of paint on the walls of their heart. WITH THE DEATH OF HIS WIFE and jobs scarce during the depression Michael Banks, played by Ben Whishaw (I’m Not Here, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer), had little time to watch over his children. Though things looked bleak, there was an opportunity for someone special to step in and help; that someone was Mary Poppins, played by Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place, Into the Woods). This comedic family fantasy also starred Lin-Manuel Miranda (The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Looking for Maria Sanchez) as Jack, Emily Mortimer (The Bookshop, Harry Brown) as Jane Banks and Julie Waters (Billy Elliot, Harry Potter franchise) as Ellen. Taking the original movie and moving the characters thirty years forward allowed for a whole new generation of characters to populate this theatrical musical film. I thought the acting was excellent, though Emily’s version of Mary Poppins seemed to have more of an edge to her. This picture was fun to watch but I feel those not into theater may think it is over the top. For me this updated story did not have the magic of the first movie; but part of my warm feelings came from the nostalgic aspect I have towards the original film. Besides, having another encounter with Mary Poppins is always a welcome visit.
PLAY DAYS ARE NOT JUST FOR children. I am giving each of you permission to schedule yourselves a day to have fun. Remember when we were little we could find enjoyment from the most innocuous things? There was a phase my friends and I went through where our bicycles had to have playing cards clipped to our back wheels, so the spokes would make the cards clap. To us this made the sound of a car engine. I recall taking a fallen tree branch, stripping off all the leaves and little offshoots from it, to make a magic staff or if smaller, a wand. With that branch I would become a wizard or a king. I cannot tell you how much fun I had when I discovered putting a small paperclip on the front of my paper airplane would make it soar further through the air, when I released it from our 3rd floor apartment’s back porch. Another fun thing to do was to skim pebbles across the surface of water to see if we could make them skip. It served no real purpose except to amuse us as we tried to make the thrown pebbles travel as far as possible. I FIRMLY BELIEVE TAKING TIME OFF from one’s daily life to do something mindless and fun is a great way to recharge the mind and body. For me, going to the movies is one of the fastest ways to put myself in a relaxed state; I can totally forget about the outside world and any of the issues that come along with it. Obviously, I have a purpose in seeing movies; I get to review them. But, there are other things I do that could be considered completely mindless that are just as much fun. It is not necessary to have a purpose or financial gain to experience something joyful. Watching the tide roll in or seeing the sun set does not provide something tangible that you could put in your pocket or bank account. Instead, it may provide you with peacefulness or calmness. It is a feeling you experience that allows you to forget what you were doing. Now I do not know about you, but there are times I want to escape from my daily routines and not have to think about anything. If you would like to try and experience this then I would recommend you go and see this musical comedy, because there is nothing you will have to do except sit and watch it. HOPING TO FULFILL HER MOTHER’S dreams Sophie, played by Amanda Seyfried (First Reformed, The Last Word), was almost ready to open a hotel in paradise. She only wished her fathers could see what she had done. This sequel or should I say prequel also starred Lily James (Baby Driver, Darkest Hour) as the young Donna, Meryl Streep (The Post, Out of Africa) as Donna, Cher (Moonstruck, Mermaids) as Ruby Sheridan and Andy Garcia (Book Club, Geostorm) as Fernando. If you have not seen the first film, it would not hurt for you to watch it before seeing this picture. The writers did their best to bring the new viewers up to speed with the story, but there still was a learning curve involved. I found the jumping back and forth in time a little annoying but ultimately, I did not care since there were so many songs packed into the story. There was only a bare minimum of a script and for the most part it did not do anything but steer the characters to the next song. If you are not an Abba or musicals fan you will not enjoy this movie. Everyone else will enjoy themselves with this mindless fluff piece and that is exactly what it was meant to do. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
2 ½ stars
THEY WERE THE IDEAL DINNER guests that dined with us. Informative, knowledgeable, honest and dependable; with such admirable traits they were always welcome into our home. I learned so much from them while eating my dinner. The topics of conversation went from world news to state news to local news and once in a while a tidbit of a heartwarming story. Sure there were times we got shocked by what they told us; but we also could be joyful while listening to them. It all depended on what they were talking about since they were the ones who brought up the various topics. I admit I may not have understood everything they spoke about, but I would either ask someone in the room or after dinner I would try to look up information on the subject. There was one time they were talking about a war that had broken out in a country I had never heard of before. So after the meal ended I went over to our encyclopedias to find out more about the country and where it was located. It occurs to me you may know these dinner guests and you too might have had them over for dinner; they were Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. FROM THESE NEWS BROADCASTERS I grew up trusting the news. Looking back I realize I knew nothing or very little about their personal beliefs or thoughts; they were simply doing their job which was reporting on the news. I am well aware there are places in the world where people like them would be killed for telling certain news stories. It is funny I recall from years ago, while I was in school, sitting in on a meeting for the school’s newspaper. A couple of student reporters presented their story to the staff and teacher advisor. Their article shined an unfavorable light on the school to the point where the advisor suggested they shelf the story. The majority of the paper’s staff immediately protested the idea and a discussion ensued concerning the definition of newsworthy. The students insisted the school paper was created as a news source for the student body; it was not going to only print “cheerful” stories. As far as the staff was concerned if the news was worthy then it should be in the newspaper. Voting against the advisor’s wishes the paper went with the story and it did get a response from the student body. It started a dialog on what the school needed to do to fix a particular troublesome situation. This was my first example in the power of the printed word. WHEN A GOVERNMENT COVERUP is brought to light Kay Graham, played by Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins, The Giver), the first female publisher of a major newspaper finds herself in a test of wills between her editor, staff and the government. What took place would set a new standard in reporting the news. Directed by Steven Spielberg (Bridge of Spies, Catch Me if You Can) this biographical drama also starred Tom Hanks (The Circle, Cast Away) as Ben Bradlee, Sarah Paulson (Carol, American Horror Story-TV) as Tony Bradlee, Bob Odenkirk (Nebraska, Better Call Saul) as Ben Bagdikian and Tracy Letts (Lady Bird, The Lovers) as Fritz Beebe. My only negative comment for this incredibly told story is that it started out slow for me, but only for a brief time. The acting from Meryl and Tom was superb. The script played out much like a thriller to me. And though this true story took place in the 1970s it is as current now as it was back then. I totally enjoyed the way Steven told the story with his direction, even loving the little details that went into so many of the scenes. This movie is already a film festival winner and I am sure more awards will be coming its way. What an amazing profession is news reporting; people who risk so much to tell the truth. There is nothing that came across as fake in this movie and that is the truth.
3 ½ stars
It can be such a dilemma; the choice is whether to be supportive or honest. Now I grant you these two options can be compatible; but I have found myself in situations where I had to stop and think before I reacted to the circumstances present. So here is the question I have for you; how do you tell someone you care about that their dream will never happen? For what I hope is obvious reasons I have changed a few things here; let us say you have a close friend who wants to be a chef. They enjoy having dinner parties so they can try out new dishes on their friends. The food is fine but nothing you would pay for at a restaurant. Politeness dictates you tell your friend the food tastes good. Should you mention you would not necessarily pay for it but for homemade it was okay? Remember this friend’s dream is to be a chef either at an established venue or opening up their own place. Personally it is a tough call for me and I am the blunt one in my circle of friends. I would never quash a person’s dream; dreams are what make human beings grow and learn. On the other hand watching your friend spend money and time on something that probably will not yield them the desired results would be sad. Do you see my predicament? A similar situation was taking place in this biographical comedic drama. NEW YORK heiress Florence Foster Jenkins, played by Meryl Streep (Ricki and the Flash, Hope Springs), dreamed of becoming an opera singer. She had the means, the desire and the drive to fulfill this dream. The question was did she have the talent? Based on a true story this film’s cast formed a wonderful bond that came across the big screen. With Hugh Grant (About a Boy, Did You Hear About the Morgans?) as St. Clair Bayfield, Simon Helberg (Van Wilder: Party Liaison, The Big Bang Theory-TV) as Cosme McMoon and Rebecca Ferguson (Hercules, A One-Way Trip to Antibes) as Kathleen; the actors did their best with what was given to them. The story was better than the script. I thought the sets and costumes were spot on; but the script produced what I thought was a light version to what the story could have been. The acting was very good but I found the characters somewhat bland, though Simon’s character was curious. Without giving a spoiler alert let me just say I read somewhere that it was Meryl’s idea to not let the actors and extras hear her in some scenes until the first take. I have to say it worked because I thought the scenes looked authentic. So you see there were positives to this film; I just felt it lagged emotionally, not making a true connection with the viewer. Maybe there were people behind this project who dreamed of bringing this true story to the big screen. Who am I to tell them they should not have done it this way? Instead let me say my fascination with this story lingered on after the movie was over. The bottom line is everyone has the right to dream.
2 2/3 stars
Ever since it was told to me in a time of need, I have repeated it to many other people. To this day I still use the phrase, “Do what you love and the rest will follow,” as a guide before taking on a new undertaking. Now for the most part I do believe it to be true, however I have come to the realization not everyone will agree to follow along with me. Like me I am sure some of you have known someone who was in a relationship where their significant other refused to follow them when they got a job promotion that involved moving out of state or country. The first time I encountered a difference of opinion that caused a split in the relationship was at the beginning of my career as a fitness/yoga instructor. I was trying to get established at a few fitness centers so I was going to different workshops and conventions, besides teaching my regular schedule and periodically subbing for other instructors’ classes. It was a hectic time for me; there were times where I could not join in on social functions, they would have to go alone. As you may have guessed already it finally came down to where I was given a choice; either give up some classes and spend more time with them or they were going to end the relationship. It was a rough time for me because I was looking for support in my new venture, but yet I understood their needs as well. This dramatic comedy reminded me of that time. HAVING followed her passion all these years to be a musician Ricki, played by Meryl Streep (The Giver, Into the Woods), had to learn to be a mother again when her daughter Julie, played by real life daughter Mamie Gummer (Side Effects, Cake), was in crisis from a broken marriage. It was not going to be easy to just come back home. The draw to this musical movie was the cast; besides Meryl there was musician/actor Rick Springfield (General Hospital-TV, Loyal Opposition) as Greg and Kevin Kline (Wild Wild West, My Old Lady) as Pete. With a script written by Diablo Cody (Young Adult, Juno), there were times the actors were able to fly with the dialog. Unfortunately, there were other times where they fell flat because the scene was disconnected or predictable. I tried staying away from the buildup by the press about the electric tension Meryl and Mamie had to create between each other; but I have to tell you, I did not find the drama that intense for the situation. It was somewhat bland at times for me. I certainly understand following one’s heart but I needed to see some valid reasons with this film.
2 1/4 stars
You may have done it over a burning candle that was perched on top of a birthday cake. Maybe it was while you were peering into a shiny display window you came upon while walking down the street. No matter where it was done, I do not know anyone who has not wished something for themselves. The whole concept was presented to us at a young age when we were asked what we wanted for our birthday or holiday. As kids we mostly focused on toys and games; but as we grew up, our wish list spread further out to encompass things like trips and cars. In addition, some of the things we started to wish for came with a price. When I started attending aerobic classes I was amazed at how much I enjoyed them. I was lucky because there was a great instructor leading the class who played awesome music. It made me start thinking that maybe I could teach a class one day, so I took steps to make it happen. My love for teaching fitness is as strong today as it was when I first started out; however, I did not know at the time there was going to be as much work involved as there has been. THERE is no better place to see dreams come true than in a fairy tale which this film festival winning movie beautifully created. Taking familiar characters from several fairy tales such as Cinderella, played by Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air) and Little Red Riding Hood, played by newcomer Lilla Crawford, this fantasy combined all of them into a story about making wishes. There were a variety of actors; I expected Meryl Streep (The Hours, The Giver) as the Witch and James Corden (Begin Again, The History Boys) as the Baker to be good. However, the standouts for me were Emily Blunt (Looper, The Devil Wears Prada) as the Baker’s wife and Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, People Like Us) as the Prince. I had no idea either of them could even sing. If you are not a musical fan then more than likely you may not enjoy this film as much. Especially with a Stephen Sondheim (Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd) musical, I find his songs to be more complicated for the average movie/theater goer. Having seen the staged version of this musical, I actually enjoyed this movie production more because the way it unfolded made clearer sense to me. This picture had me thinking because there were several ways one could interpret its story. Also, it was not a kid’s movie; there were none in the movie theater. If you wish for good acting , solid singing and a cast of fairy tale characters, you will not be disappointed.
They go hand in hand; for every high point in one’s life there will be a low point. It is just the natural order of things or the way I refer to it, the pluses and minuses of life. There is nothing like riding a high wave of elation; where positive feelings flood the body, coating all the senses with heightened awarenesses. Who would not want to have this type of experience; I know I would prefer it. However, life does not give one the option to pick and choose fully their experiences. I know I did not choose to trip off that street curb and scrape my knee on the ground. In my brain having both positive and negative experiences is necessary. You see, if a person only experiences one or the other what do they have to compare with what they are feeling? I know our emotions play a part in all of this. Though I wish I did not have to deal with the downs in life, I know they only make me appreciate the up times more. Without having the two polar opposites life would be pretty bland. ELIMINATION of the emotions was what the society in this dramatic science fiction film achieved for all of its citizens. There was no war, jealousy, hatred, bigotry or sexism; everyone lived in steady harmony. All negative experiences were a thing of the past; only the memories associated with them were stored in one individual known as the Giver, played by Jeff Bridges (True Grit, The Men Who Stare at Goats). When the time came to share those memories with his apprentice, the Giver needed to make sure the events of the past would not repeat themselves in the present. Based on the Newberry Award winning novel by Lois Lowry, this was one of my favorite books. Meryl Streep (Hope Springs, The Iron Lady) played Chief Elder who made sure all the rules were enforced to prevent history from repeating itself. The cast also included Brenton Thwaites (Maleficent, Oculus) as Jonas and Odeya Rush (The Odd Life of Timothy Green, We are What We Are) as Fiona. Sadly I have to say this film version sucked the life out of an incredible, thought provoking story. I was looking forward to seeing this picture and though Jeff and Meryl were excellent, they could not save the dullness of the script. For those not familiar with the book I believe they would mildly stay interested in this film. There was a cool look about the movie where some scenes worked well. Unfortunately with so much taken out of the original story, I could easily see where things could be confusing to viewers. It truly was a shame that a movie about an emotionless society was just as emotionless.
1 3/4 stars
A great line a former boss of mine used to say was, “I came loaded for bear.” I know this implies a hunting reference, but that is not the intention. They would use the loaded bear line when they knew a meeting was going to be an intense verbal struggle. Aware they were going to be grilled about an issue or procedural operation; they had studied up on all their facts, ready to answer any questions that would get volleyed at them. I prefer using that perfect bear line when it comes to attending a variety of friends or family functions. If I know there is going to be a guest at a dinner party who wants to pick a fight with me, there is nothing wrong with me preparing for any possible antics on their part. There have been family dinners where I have seen sisters fight or cousins yell at each other and all I am interested in is if we are still going to have dessert. If you know you are going to be in a toxic environment there is nothing wrong with insulating yourself from it aka come loaded for bear. I believe in preparing for the worst but even I would not have been ready for the ferocious fighting done by this Oklahoma family. Based on Tracy Letts’ (Killer Joe) Pulitzer Prize winning drama, the story takes place as family members come together due to a death in the family. Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada, The Iron Lady) played the widowed matriarch Violet Weston. Julia Roberts (Notting Hill, Closer) played her daughter Barbara whose husband was contemplating divorce. Those of you who have seen the play will have a different reaction than the ones who are not familiar with this story. I saw the play and enjoyed it more than this dramatic movie. Everyone in the cast was excellent with their acting. Meryl was not a surprise to me, but Julia Roberts and Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek into Darkness, Atonement) shined in their roles. Tracy wrote the screenplay to this film and though there was nothing negative about it, I felt some of the energy dissipated when the focus was taken out of the house. Some viewers will become tired by all of the verbal fighting; if I remember correctly the play had more humor. Either way this multi-nominated movie is worth seeing; just come prepared for one heck of a fight.
2 3/4 stars
The ideal situation is when both people decide to end their relationship; ironically showing they still are in synch on some level. I am still close friends with some of the people I have dated. The toughest situation for me has been when the person I love breaks trust in the relationship. I understand when the love aspect of a relationship wilts away, sometimes the other factors making up the couple’s bond can still sustain them. However, it can be a monumental challenge to see the person you have loved forming a relationship with someone else. My bottom line has always been if you want to be with someone else, end your current relationship first. This is why I found this comedy odd with unfaithfulness being a central theme. Meryl Streep (Doubt, Hope Springs) was quite convincing in her role as divorced businesswoman Jane Adler. Attending her son’s college graduation, she was thrown for a loop when her remarried ex-husband Jake, played by Alec Baldwin (To Rome with Love, 30 Rock-TV), revealed his true feelings for her. With Steve Martin (Shopgirl, The Jerk) as her amorous architect Adam Schaffer, Jane found herself in a complicated situation. The acting from this ensemble cast was legitimate, easily connecting to one another. John Krasinski (Leatherheads, The Office-TV) as fiance Harley was quite good with his character. There were humorous scenes throughout this movie, which was geared towards an adult viewing audience. Poor directing was the issue for me; it was uneven with some scenes being slow. However, the film was fun for the most part; showing how complicated relationships could be. For me, I have always said relationships take work. One cannot assume the union will last simply by the things they love about the other person; it is when they respect the things they do not like, that gives the relationship strength.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
Doubt can be such an insidious feeling, I find. When you start second guessing your decisions, wondering if it was the right one or getting stuck in the “what if…” scenario; it can be maddening. My early upbringing instilled in me a mentality where everything was either black or white, yes or no; I was never taught that there was gray areas in between. That training taught me to make quick decisions and stick with them, whether they were right or wrong, never look back. But can it always be done when it has a direct effect on someone’s life? Why do you think a jury is instructed to find the suspect guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? That is the question posed in this remarkable movie, with its tour de force acting. When young Sister James, played by Amy Adams (The Fighter, The Muppets), voiced her concerns regarding Father Brendan Flynn, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman (Moneyball, Capote), spending more time with one particular student; Sister Aloysius Beauvier, played by Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady, Hope Springs), made it her mission to remove any possible threat from the school and church. It did not matter there was no evidence of inappropriate behavior. Set in the Bronx back in the 1960’s, it was a different time with a set of different rules. This well done movie did justice to the Pulitzer Prize winning play, allowing the story to unfold with its thrilling battle of wits, between Sister Beauvier and Father Flynn. The acting was truly amazing from the lead cast, each one receiving an Oscar nomination for it. By the end of this emotional film, the story allowed interpretation of the outcome, based on one’s own beliefs. As in life, are you sure there is only one answer?
3 1/3 stars — DVD