PRETEND YOU CAME FROM a far, far away land or even distant planet and observe the actions some people go through for their holiday celebrations. Morning, noon or night you could see drivers arguing over parking spaces. The landscape void of all vegetation has building blocks of cement and steel doing everything in their power to entice citizens to walk through their doors and buy the merchandise inside. Speaking of merchandise, there are colorful displays everywhere inside these buildings that try to catch your eye. Music played only during the autumn/winter months continuously enters your ears; more than likely repeating itself at some point. Rolls of paper have to be replaced in cash registers throughout the store because of all the gift receipts being printed out. And the most arduous times during this period take place when there is something called a “sale.” During this time you might see people bumping into other people as they seek and consume marked down items. RETURNING TO THEIR HOMES the frenzy does not stop as the end of the year nears. Lists are made for all of the foods one wants to have in their possession. Some people will stress over the preparation of the meals while others will just have others bring in the food. People risk life and limb to hang decorations all over the outside of their houses and across their land. Frustration can spike when after strings of lights are hung to outline the edges of one’s house and one of the bulbs does not light up when the switch is turned on. Inside the decorations can have a particular theme or be a conglomeration of ideas brought together to make the house look festive. One interesting thing of note revolves around the concept of gift giving. It may appear that the younger the person is the more gifts they want to get. This concept of gift giving comes with its own unique form of stress. Will the recipient like the gift, will it fit, will it be too hard to put together; these are some of the thoughts that many individuals get when their minds are focused on gifts. If that was not stressful enough, what could be worse than answering the door to an unexpected guest? If you want to find out then watch what happens in this comedy adventure. FEELING THE STRESS OF the holiday’s fast approach friends Amy, Kiki and Carla; played by Mila Kunis (Oz the Great and Powerful, Friends with Benefits), Kristen Bell (The Lifeguard, Hit and Run) and Kathryn Hahn (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, We’re the Millers); were not prepared for the ultimate stress—their mothers’ surprise visit. This sequel represents the bad aspects of making a sequel. Where I liked the first movie, I was bored through most of this film. On top of it I found a mean spiritedness to the story. The introduction of each one’s mother has been done before and I found some of the scenes ludicrous. There was no new humor mined with this mother/daughter story line. The cast was fine though I thought Christine Baranski (Into the Woods, The Good Wife-TV) as Ruth and Susan Sarandon (The Lovely Bones, The Meddler) as Isis were typical choices; one was stuck up and the other was the laid back hippie. Though there were a couple of chuckles here and there, I found this film as stale as year old fruitcake.
1 ½ stars
What I am about to say may sound completely foreign to some of you, as if I lived on a different planet. It is okay because I have seen the generational shift and what was the norm for me does not apply to the present anymore. When I would come home from school I only stayed for enough time to put my books and supplies away before heading out to meet up with my friends. Depending on the day or our moods we would play games, go to the music store or climb trees, along with a variety of other activities. Of course if I had a school project there were times I could not participate and spent the afternoon at the library. There really was not much structure for any us. Sure there were days where someone had to stay home and work on their homework; depending on the amount, I used to do my homework after dinner. That was then, I am aware things are different now. I have seen and heard the schedules some kids have these days and it leaves me exhausted just hearing about it. Some children’s parents keep up a rigorous schedule of after school activities, such as soccer, science lab, painting; essentially any and everything from the arts, science and sports. I see these small children toting these massive backpacks that I am surprised don’t make the kids fall over. From some of the conversations I have heard from parents it seems peer pressure plays a major factor in this constant need to keep their kids occupied with extracurricular activities. The thought of being considered a “bad mom” seems to be enough motivation to keep up with the majority; or does it? FOR all intents and purposes Amy, played by Mila Kunis (Friends with Benefits, Jupiter Ascending), did it all. She had a job, took care of the kids, participated in the PTA and kept the household going. Everyone has their breaking point and sometimes it takes only one thing to break everything down. As I sat and watched this film it occurred to me I could not remember the last time I had heard so much laughter from an audience, including myself. This comedy had extremely strong language and inappropriate humor; you have been warned. From the comments I heard afterwards it appeared as if most women who were mothers could relate to this picture. Along with Mila there was Kathryn Hahn (We’re the Millers, This is Where I Leave You) as Carla, Kristen Bell (The Boss, Veronica Mars-TV) as Kiki and Christina Applegate (Vacation, Hall Pass) as Gwendolyn; these four women were outstanding in their roles. Despite the non-believability to some scenes the comedic strength of these actresses propelled the story throughout the movie. The soundtrack fit perfectly with the scenes and I thought the use of slow motion accentuated the humor. As a side note the majority of the movie goers were female; but, the men who were there laughed just as much as the women. I think most anyone would find this comedy entertaining. And no one would judge any of you with children for letting loose and having a good time watching this film.
They may only be a string of words but they are filled with the essence of a person. In yesterday’s review I talked about people who do not follow through on their intentions or promises; today I am referring to people who out and out tell lies. For me this is one of my deal breakers on whether I continue a relationship with a person. I don’t have an issue if someone wants to colorize their stories, but saying something that is false to change another person’s perceptions is nothing I want to be around. A few weeks ago a friend of mine called to rant about a friend of hers who I happen to know. This friend had called to touch base with her and catch up with what was going on in their life. During the conversation the friend was explaining why he did not do something he had said he was going to do for her; he told her his sister had cancer throughout her body. My friend was stunned and saddened by the news. After their conversation ended she called another friend to tell them about the sister. Well long story short, it turned out this other friend called the sister to see if they needed any help and shocked her because she did not have any cancer. Now you have to wonder why a person would lie about such a thing; there is no excuse for it as far as I can see. When I hear things like this I feel a person will wind up experiencing a specific negative thing in their life; others would say they are going to hell. AFTER breaking a promise Curt, voiced by Rob Riggle (Let’s Be Cops, 21 Jump Street), was dragged to hell. His friends who witnessed it followed Curt in to try and rescue him. This stop motion animated adventure comedy had some major actors voicing characters like Susan Sarandon (Tammy, The Lovely Bones) as Barb the Angel, Mila Kunis (Jupiter Ascending, Ted) as Deema and Bob Odenkirk (Nebraska, Breaking Bad-TV) as the Devil. Their voices were the best part of the movie; what they said was crude. This film is for adults only because the language was so blue aka risque, bawdy, R rated. I did not find the visuals creative considering the artists could have pretty much created anything they wanted for the scenes. The humor was at such a low level that I did not find anything worth a chuckle. As the script went from one sight gag to another I soon became bored with the story. To tell you the truth I was a bit surprised the studio was able to get first rate actors to partake in this picture. I had to wonder if the actors had done something “bad” in their lives where they had to participate in this film; maybe this was hell for them. Strong language throughout the film.
1 1/2 stars
I believe one has to look at their past to see where they are going in the future. The opportunities are plentiful if one looks at the past generations of their family, besides learning some surprising facts. Since I look at the world as one large supermarket, I am always curious to find out the heritage of any new person I meet. Listening about their family’s roots only reaffirms my beliefs that we are all connected in some way. I used to fantasize about my deceased relatives, imagining elaborate scenarios for them regarding their professions, their neighborhoods, even their hobbies. Hearing about family members who fought in battles or others who were inventors, only set my imagination into high gear. I wondered if any of these relatives’ genes were flowing in my blood. Just take a moment and imagine you found out a relative of yours did something extraordinary in their life; don’t you think it would inspire you in some way? I had a relative who played the violin; so when I used to play the piano, I would pretend they were accompanying me. Something as simple as that made me work harder on my piano lessons so I would not be the one to make a mistake during our duets. One never knows how the actions of one relative can affect another. WISHING for something more in her life Jupiter Jones, played by Mila Kunis (Black Swan, Oz the Great and Powerful), was not expecting it would be in the form of the alien warrior Caine Wise, played by Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher, White House Down). Little did she know her life was about to drastically change along with her planet. The first thing that grabbed me in this action fantasy was the visually spectacular special effects. Set in the city of Chicago there was one particular outdoor fight scene that used much of the city’s skyline. Though Channing’s character always looked like he was ice skating, it was still pretty cool to watch on screen. Written and directed by the Wachowski siblings (The Matrix franchise, Speed Racer), the visuals were this adventure film’s strongest feature. I thought Mila and Channing had excellent chemistry, besides Sean Bean (The Lord of the Rings franchise, North Country) putting in a good acting job as Stinger Apini. However, I strongly disliked Eddie Redmayne’s (The Theory of Everything, My Week with Marilyn) performance as Balem Abrasax. It felt and looked so out of place compared to the other characters. Sadly the script was a mess that never lived up to the visuals. It came across as a mashup of several other films like Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz. If the Wachowskis wanted an epic creation here, I wished they would have created a script that made more sense.
1 3/4 stars
They live in my head and do everything I tell them to do. Some of them may have started out as real people like my very 1st friend who lived in the same apartment building where I was born. We were preschool age, but I still remember when we shared a box of colored dog biscuits, thinking they were just extra hard cookies. Over the years that memory was manipulated to fit into a story I was working on for college. I have many fictional characters that reside in my mind, ready to be employed for an article, a story or even just a mental exercise to keep my imagination active. This is the life of a writer or at least of me. Having a dominant right sided brain, my life has always traveled along the perimeter between reality and fantasy. It was a world I was always attracted to because of its ability to be both a crowded and lonely place at the same time. The world inside a writer’s mind can be as present and alive as our daily lives. Liam Neeson (Non-Stop, The Grey) played Michael, an author who traveled to Paris to work on a new book and be with his mistress Anna, played by Olivia Wilde (Rush, In Time). During the same time there were two other stories taking place in this romantic drama. In New York City Julia and Rick, played by Mila Kunis (Black Swan, Ted) and James Franco (This is the End, Palo Alto), were in a bitter custody battle after their son was injured. The third story took place in Rome where Adrien Brody (King Kong, The Pianist) was Scott, a businessman of knockoff designer wear who got involved with a troubled woman who was desperately trying to get her daughter back before being forced into prostitution. The acting was alive and engaging in all three stories, though I found the Mila and James story the strongest. With attractive settings the overall look to this film was pleasing to me; however, it only went so far before the weight of the lumbering script dulled the viewing experience. Written and directed by Paul Haggis (Crash, In the Valley of Elah) I found the stories repetitive. It really felt like the drama went to a certain level and remained there with no variance. I was able to follow all three stories as their scenes switched back and forth between them and figured out relatively early what was going to happen. By the end of the film I did not feel completely satisfied. The concept of peering into a writer’s mind was an excellent idea; in my mind, I would have done a major rewrite of the script.
The prequel really came to the forefront with the Star Wars franchise. I find it to be a valid form to use in the art of making movies. For me it feels like seeing an old friend from college who is now in a love relationship and getting to hear how the two of them met. Excited to see this prequel to the classic film The Wizard of Oz, the movie studio certainly has been marketing it from a ton of commercials to the movie theater employees wearing promotional T-shirts. James Franco (127 Hours, Howl) played carnie magician Oscar Diggs who was swept up into a storm that took him far away from Kansas. Finding himself in a strange land called Oz he encountered Theodora, played by Mila Kunis (Black Swan, Ted), a witch who believed he was the wizard that the prophecy said would come to save her people. James’ acting in this role was proof that his stint as the wooden host of the Oscar telecasts was not a fluke. Joining him in the awful acting department was Mila and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Blue Valentine) as the witch Glinda. The only acting worth talking about came from Rachel Weisz (The Bourne Legacy, The Deep Blue Sea) as Evanora; computer graphic China Girl, voiced by Joey King (Ramona and Beezus, Crazy Stupid Love) and flying monkey Finley, voiced by Zach Braff (Garden State, Scrubs-TV). There were some beautiful and magical scenes, but then there would be flat scenes that were poorly designed. My favorite part of the movie was the last 20-25 minutes that had a cool, creative flair. The script was badly written, not providing depth to the characters which made James Franco’s character extra annoying. Not only was I disappointed by the end of the movie, I felt I had gotten stuck in Oz’ deadly poppy field.
2 1/3 stars