THE NARRATOR WAS STATING IT IN such a matter of fact way, yet I was highly amused. I was watching a TV special about the royals and would you believe the hard-boiled egg for a royal’s breakfast comes with its shell cracked and opened. I know, such an innocuous function that the royal cannot do themselves. There were other functions shown during the special that surprised me, but this one was the silliest in my opinion. I am all for the pomp and circumstance that comes with royalty, no matter what royal ruler. Seeing the different customs and procedures have always been something that I have been curious about, which explains why I like to read about history. Not to be too graphic here, but there was a time when a person on the royal staff had the job to clean the bottom of the royal after they had defecated. Honestly, I don’t think there could be enough money for me to take such a position. Some positions make better sense to me, like a food taster or the transporter of the royal jewels. I understand how a royal or a country’s leader gets treated with reverence; however, I cannot fathom how the general population finds amazement with their leaders’ or royals’ everyday ordinary functions. It is as if once they achieve a high position their country people turn them into a deity. HERE IN MY OWN COUNTRY, I am constantly amazed when people focus on the president’s activities. Some time ago I remember when the news stations reported on the president stopping at a fast food restaurant to eat a burger, making sure to tell us that the president paid for it himself. Ok, so can someone tell me why this is so newsworthy? Throughout the different administrations we have elected, we have seen our leaders playing golf, fishing, playing basketball and even bowling; there were none of them that I would classify as a gifted athlete. And that is okay, whether they excel in sports or not doesn’t take away from their ability to govern; at least I hope so. Personally, I want the best person for the job. I do not care what they do in their downtime as long as it doesn’t become too much of a distraction for the job at hand. Seeing a world leader breaking down in tears tells me they are still human. If they choose to break out in song, I assume they enjoy music. As far as I am concerned every world leader has the same type of internal organs and bodily functions as every other person on the planet. Because of my feelings, I became totally enchanted with this comedic romantic drama. ANDREW SHEPHERD, PLAYED BY MICHAEL DOUGLAS (Ant-Man franchise, Traffic), was a widower who was raising his young daughter. He also was the President of the United States. Being seen alone with a woman would immediately have people talking about and possibly using it for their own personal advantage. With Annette Bening (The Kids are all Right, American Beauty) as Sydney Ellen Wade, Martin Sheen (The Departed, The Way) as A.J. MacInerney, Michael J. Fox (Back to the Future franchise, The Frighteners) as Lewis Rothschild and Anna Deavere Smith (The Kingdom, Rachel Getting Married) as Robin McCall; this Academy Award nominee and film festival winner was charming and fun, in an old-school way. I thought the cast was excellent and loved the play between Michael and Annette, with the aid of the smart script. The other thing I liked about this movie was the political undertone. Considering when this film was made, it felt like a prelude for the things that we are experiencing now. The writers and director pulled this off in a wonderful way that was both entertaining and enjoyable. I wonder, with the recent political climate we have gone thru, how this story would have played in real time.
I MAY NOT REMEMBER A PERSON’S name, but I am good with remembering faces; yet, I had a hard time recognizing this man who was talking to me in the music store. He called out my name as he walked up to me. I am not attaching any judgment here, simply describing what I saw coming down the aisle. This man had, if I understand the phrase correctly, long dishwater blonde hair that looked oily. It cascaded in waves down the sides of his head. Perched halfway down his nose was a pair of wire rimmed glasses that had lenses that looked smudged and dirty to me. He was wearing an oversized, beige canvas jacket that had frayed edges and a couple of discolored spots on it. The jeans he was wearing were extremely faded and were so worn at the knees that you could see the white threading crisscrossing in the fabric. His shoes were so dirty it looked to me as if he had been trudging through a long road of mud. As I watched his face get nearer to me, I tried placing where I had seen it before. There was something familiar about it; I had a feeling that I must have known him from a long time ago. WE WERE FACE TO FACE WHEN he asked me how I was doing. I said fine but he must have seen the bewildered look on my face because he told me his name. As soon as I heard it, memories of him flooded into my mind. I did know him because we went to school together. So, you will better understand, let me tell you about him. He wasn’t a jock, did not play sports, but he was always trim. His hair back then was a lighter shade of blonde and was thick and cut short. I don’t remember him ever wearing glasses back then; maybe he only used them when he was studying at home. Many of the students in his class considered him a Brainiac; though, he never flaunted his high intelligence, at least he did not around me. A lot of us thought he would become a scientist or philosopher. I remember him always having a paperback book in his hand. So, you can sort of get the idea how shocked I was to see such a different version of him. As we were conversing, I kept wondering what had happened to him that caused such a drastic change in appearance and mannerisms. I think I found the answer while watching this Academy Awards and film festival winner. WITH HIS NEW GOVERNMENT POSITION ROBERT Wakefield, played by Michael Douglas (Behind the Candelabra, Ant-Man franchise), did not realize the impact his new mission would have on his family. With Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects, 21 Grams) as Javier Rodriguez, Don Cheadle (The Guard, Traitor) as Montel Gordon, Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago, The Mask of Zorro franchise) as Helena Ayala and Miguel Ferrer (RoboCop, Crossing Jordan-TV) as Eduardo Ruiz; this dramatic crime thriller took me a short time to separate and connect all the characters among its three story lines. The large cast was full of top notch acting that ran the gambit of emotions. Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven franchise, Magic Mike), I felt he did a masterful job of keeping the stories moving forward and blending in easily with each other. There were several intense scenes with blood, yet I did not find the violence was in excess. Once I found the rhythm of this picture, I was totally in and lost the concept of time; things kept happening and changing without me losing track once. I especially enjoyed the way the subject was broken down so each story line could focus on a particular aspect of it. Watching this film, I could not help wondering if my assumptions about my old classmate were closer to truth than I first thought.
3 ½ stars
THERE WAS A REASON WHY I was lingering by the drinking fountain. Next to it was the cycling studio and the door was open during a class. I was a guest at my friend’s health club; we were working out together. Since the door was open I was curious to see how the cycle instructor was instructing her class. In the short time I could stay within earshot, by drinking from the fountain and perusing the bulletin board, all I heard were instructions being given out in a somewhat monotone voice. Now you would think this was the proper thing to do and you would be correct. However, I have a slightly different philosophy when it comes to teaching a fitness class. Just as this instructor gave instructions I do the same thing, giving reminders throughout class about posture and placement of body parts. But then I also keep up a dialog of a variety of topics to, for lack of a better word, entertain the participants. For me, if I have to listen to an instructor who only gives instructions, I could get a similar workout by watching a DVD. I prefer my mind being distracted from the task at hand; so in turn, I share with my classes a variety of news stories and surveys I have read to make the class fun. SPEAKING OF FUN DON’T YOU think life is more enjoyable when you can experience it in a fun way? I certainly feel I have traversed most of life’s pitfalls with the assistance of fun. If I think about it, I cannot off the top of my head think of anytime where having a fun or humorous element does not help soften a situation. One could say a funeral would not be an appropriate place to interject humor; however, I have attended funerals where humor provided a brief oasis of relief from the sadness. Thinking about both college and business lectures I have attended, the ones where I retained more information were the ones where the professor or lecturer made the session fun. The idea of going to an office every day and not hearing or experiencing at least a moment of laughter or joy sounds like torture to me. In my opinion a person would be less productive when there is the absence of a fun element in their daily work day. Think about those people you know who are miserable at work; they are the product of a day void of fun. Humor and fun can be found almost anywhere no matter what task we are performing; even a superhero can find something fun while saving someone. The proof can be found in this action, adventure film. DESPITE THE CHALLENGES OF FATHERHOOD and his court enforced ankle monitor’s restrictions Scott Lang, played by Paul Rudd (This is 40, Our Idiot Brother), was determined to help Dr. Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas (Wonder Boys, Last Vegas), find his long-lost wife. Paul would discover a fun element in Dr. Pym’s daughter Hope Van Dyne, played by Evangeline Lilly (The Hobbit franchise, The Hurt Locker). This science fiction film was stocked with an abundance of witty humor. It gave this superhero picture a light vibe compared to the other superhero films that have recently come out. Paul was the perfect choice to portray Ant-Man, though I suspect his stunt double did most of the action scenes in this film. With Michael Pena (End of Watch, 12 Strong) as Luis and Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight, Tomb Raider) as Sonny Burch; the script was a bit hokey for me. Though I thought the special effects were outstanding, I felt the story was weak. I understood humor was the focus for this film, especially with Paul receiving part of the writing credits; but I would have preferred a more pronounced villainous element. Despite this I had a fun time watching the action taking place and as I stated earlier, it was all about the fun. There were two extra scenes in the middle and at the end of the credits.
There is one kind of hero that resides in a make-believe world. They could have an extraordinary power because of the planet they came from or due to an earth shattering accident that changed them on the molecular level. I enjoy and look forward to seeing these types of superheroes on the big screen. However, there is a different type of hero that is just as strong and important; who was born here on earth, did not experience a life transforming accident and for the most part is unrecognizable. They do not have some special type of clothing that can block bullets or allow them to fly; instead they may be wearing a white apron and hairnet as they stand behind the counter of a school’s cafeteria. Or they may be on disability as a life threatening disease slowly spreads across their body. I see these type of heroes all around me. There is the single mother who has to pull double shifts so her child can afford school supplies and lunches. Another hero I have seen is the volunteer who devotes time everyday to bring food and check-in on a stranger who is housebound. For me these are some of the true heroes around us. I am so impressed by the individuals who do not wear their heroism like a badge of honor; they simply do what they do because they have to or want to do it. This is why I was impressed with the unlikely hero in this action film. WHAT started out as a way for con man Scott Lang, played by Paul Rudd (Role Models, This is 40), to see his daughter turned into a crisis that would have worldwide consequences. This science fiction adventure film did not fit into the typical superhero genre. Here was a human with no special powers who was not an ideal citizen; yet he overcame himself to become the Ant-Man. Paul was perfectly cast for this role and he even helped with the screenplay. Michael Douglas (Falling Down, Wonder Boys) as Dr. Hank Pym and Evangeline Lilly (Real Steal, The Hurt Locker) as his daughter Hope van Dyne were an excellent fit. Now I understood there was a change of directors and writers for this film and I am not sure if that is the reason why I found the 2nd half of the film to be stronger. I really had to give thought to the idea I was reacting to the movie having a long intro arc without many special effects. However, Paul along with the fun sight gags in the film made this a worthy picture, besides a mini history lesson (at least for me) into the Avengers World. Pulling off this type of movie was no small feat and the studio succeeded. Two extra scenes in the middle and end of the closing credits.
It takes real effort for a person to act mean. Because everyone has the potential for good and evil I believe, it comes down to making choices. For example the brother who invites all but one sibling to his son’s special event or the person in the elevator who sees you running towards them and does nothing to prevent the doors from closing just as you are about to reach them. These people were acting mean in my opinion. Now there are some individuals who look mean, display a tough exterior, but beneath it they are completely sweet. I have a friend who cuts an imposing figure. Well over 6 feet tall and bulky, the irises of his eyes are as black as his pupils. His pale complexion only intensifies the glare of his deep set eyes when he is looking at you. I have seen many strangers move out of his way when he is walking down the street. Once you are familiar to him, his piercing eyes look more like the button eyes on a stuffed teddy bear and his physical size diminishes into soft edges. I know meanness can be based on a person’s perception; but unless one has evidence, don’t you think most people determine if someone could be mean by the way they look? BEING mean was what realtor Oren Little, played by Michael Douglas (Last Vegas, Falling Down), thrived on when he had to deal with people. All he wanted to do was sell one last big property so he could retire. His plans were blown when the granddaughter he never knew he had Sarah, played by Sterling Jerins (The Conjuring, World War Z), was dumped at his front door. Not interested in the 9 year old girl Oren tried to push her off on his neighbor Leah, played by Diane Keaton (The Godfather franchise, Mad Money), so he could continue on his way. Just how mean could Oren remain towards the two females? This comedic drama was utterly predictable which was why I gave you more information about the movie than usual. I found it sad that Michael and Diane were both stuck with the script; it did not offer one single new thing. Directed by Rob Reiner (The Bucket List, When Harry Met Sally), there just was not much one could do to try and make this film pleasurable. The crowd in the theater who were all older had an equal mix of positive and negative comments as they were exiting at the end of the movie. I know the movie studio was not trying to be mean by boring me for the duration of this picture; however, they were not very nice to make a poorly written film.
1 3/4 stars
There is only a small group who can determine my feelings without me uttering one single word. We use verbal shorthand to communicate, ready to validate anyone’s point being made to an outsider. I am part of this group known as childhood friends. We knew each other before adolescence; they never made a comment about the pimples appearing on my face as my body began to change. Each of us shares a history that keeps us grounded to each other, without the need for explaining our actions. Sometimes I feel they are too grounded when they correct a story I am telling that may have some embellishments in it; you know, strictly for entertainment purposes. We can joke and tease each other; but if someone else attempts it, each one of us will go into attack mode to defend our friend. This type of loyalty was evident amongst the childhood friends in this comedy. Michael Douglas (Falling Down, Behind the Candelabra) as Billy, Robert De Niro (The Family, Silver Linings Playbook) as Paddy, Morgan Freeman (Now You See Me, Million Dollar Baby) as Archie and Kevin Kline (Wild Wild West, The Ice Storm) as Sam have known each other since childhood. After all these years perpetual bachelor Billy decided to get married to a considerably younger woman. Despite any misgivings, Billy’s friends decided to throw him a bachelor party to beat all bachelor parties in the city of Los Vegas. With most moviegoers being familiar with the acting style of these actors, I felt the writers needed to have a strong script for them. Unfortunately it was not, placing the cast in a predictable story. The humor was okay, though the movie trailers ruined some scenes for me. It was lovely to see Mary Steenburgen (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Proposal) cast as lounge singer Diana. I found her role to be the strongest and enjoyed the way the story developed around her character. There seems to be talk about this film being the geriatric version of The Hangover movie franchise. I can see why people would say this but it does a disservice to this film. The essence of this story was about childhood friends. I wished the writers would have expanded on it because I know my old friends would have appreciated the movie more. But then again, they already knew how I was going to review this bland movie.
There was something about the piano that attracted me to it. I did not play with musical toys as a baby, but I had two aunts who each had a piano in their home. Whenever we would visit these relatives invariably I would be found sitting at the piano, pressing the keys in different patterns. I never pounded on the keys; in my mind I thought I was actually playing a song, though I could not read a single note of music. What fascinated me was the infinite combinations I could create with all those keys at my fingertips. It was later when I realized other musical instruments had the ability to create the same combinations, but it did not have the same flourish like a pianist. I remember one of the first concerts I attended had a pianist front and center. The way his fingers rippled across the keys, creating sounds as soft as a cat’s purr to booming roars of harmonic fireworks; I wanted to play the piano just like him. For eight years I took piano lessons so I have an appreciation for any skilled musician. If you add outlandish outfits and lavish sets, you will have the star of this biographical drama. Michael Douglas (Falling Down, Wonder Boys) was amazing with his performance playing Liberace. The story was based on the autobiographical book written by Scott Thorson, who had a tumultuous relationship with the entertainer. Though Michael Douglas won an Emmy for his performance, Matt Damon (Elysium, Promised Land) as Scott was equally as impressive with his acting in this Emmy winning movie. Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Side Effects, Magic Mike), there was a steady layout of scenes. It was during the quiet scenes where the story really shinned. To balance out the weighted dramatic parts, Rob Lowe (Wayne’s World, The West Wing-TV) as Dr. Jack Startz and Dan Aykroyd (The Blues Brothers, Trading Places) as manager Seymour Heller handled the comedic elements. One of the biggest surprises for me was finding out who played Liberace’s mother Frances. I am not going to mention her name in this review and I hope you do not try to find out before seeing her in this film. With the understanding we are seeing the life of Liberace through Scott’s eyes; this still was a glimpse behind the flash of rhinestones and sequins only to find a dark, troubled life from a different era.
3 1/3 stars — DVD