It used to be one would peruse the sale advertisements, see something they like/want/need, go to the store and buy it. You knew what you were getting; the item purchased matched the ad. Then something changed in the sale papers, instead of mentioning the name brand the verbiage stated, “…assorted brands from top manufacturers.” The pictures in the advertisements were shot in such a way that you could not make out the name on the product. Okay I get that, the retail store wants you to come in, hoping you buy the product; but if you do not, then they hope you will find something else while you are in their store. In a similar vein with the move to selling on the internet, I have heard a variety of stories about people buying something that was not exactly what was represented on the web site. Just a couple of weeks ago I was with some friends who had recently returned from a vacation. They decided to try the site that offers stays at people’s houses instead of motels/hotels. They even showed me the place and I have to say it looked charming. However, when they arrived at the home the lawn was strewn with a variety of things from shovels (I know, I thought the same thing—graves) to a broken bicycle. The owner answered the door in a dirty, torn T-shirt. He showed them the room and bathroom and let me just say it was not modern, nor was it sparkling clean if you know what I mean. To finish this story, they stayed only 1 night then moved to a hotel. The moral of the story is, “looks can be deceiving.” DESPARATE to start a family John and Laura Taylor, played by Morris Chestnut (The Call, The Best Man Holiday) and Regina Hall (Law Abiding Citizen, Think Like a Man), had been looking for the perfect surrogate mother. Down to their last frozen egg they were sure they found the right one when they saw Anna Walsh, played by Jaz Sinclair (Paper Towns). Also starring Theo Rossi (Bad Hurt, Sons of Anarchy-TV) as Mike Mitchell, this dramatic horror mystery started out okay. I was familiar with Morris and Regina seeing them from previous films, but what attracted my attention more was their characters’ house. The movie started out fine and used the hook of motherhood to grab the viewers. Sadly things went south very quickly. The story was beyond generic, having been done numerous times before. I pretty much found most things so predictable that I was constantly bored. There may have been a couple of scenes that had the hint of a surprise but they were few and far between. Even some of the spoken lines were cheesy and clichéd. I am sure the actors tried their best but there was very little effort given to the script to give the actors something to work with beyond the obvious. In fact, the best part or should I say parts of this film was the trailer. Watch the trailer and you have seen the movie; watch the trailer and movie and you will understand why looks can be deceiving.
1 ¾ stars
Once upon a time kindness came from the heart. Without fanfare or expectations, it is something that can be random as it arrives unfettered. Simple acts like opening a door for someone or helping a person pickup the spilled papers from their briefcase, these acts need not be elaborate or expensive. I remember a time when drivers were not as aggressive, where the kindness of strangers played a part in everyone driving from point A to point B. Another area that I feel really has changed from years ago is the dating experience. Back then it was less calculated or maybe I should say not as risky. With the internet, people now can investigate a potential date. I remember a co-worker who would go online to checkup on a prospective date. They had to have a high credit score before they would go out with them. From the stories I have heard plus my own experiences, meeting a person can be a challenge. Some of the “rules” out there are to always meet in a public place, let someone know where you will be, never go home with a stranger on the first meeting; there really are many land mines dotting the dating landscape. My story is not unusual; after a few dates I received a phone call that they were in dire need of $300.00 and would I loan it to them. I apologized to them that I did not have the available funds and asked about their friends. They had a ready excuse but in my mind I felt it was odd to ask me after only 4-5 dates. Imagine, I never heard from them again. I chalked it up to me being one of the lucky ones. HURTING from a painful breakup with her boyfriend Dave, played by Morris Chestnut (The Call, The Perfect Holiday); Leah, played by Sanaa Lathan (Out of Time, Something New), appreciated the kindness extended to her from the stranger standing next to her at the cafe. When she bumped into him again Leah wondered if he was to good to be true. This dramatic thriller had a story that was done many times before. I thought the cast, which also included Michael Ealy (Think Like a Man, Seven Pounds) as Carter, did a good job where I enjoyed a couple of suspenseful scenes. However, this was not enough for me to enjoy this film. The redundant silly script was not believable with all of its cliches and predictability. The only thing that I felt saved this picture from crashing down was the whole good vs evil setup. I sensed this from the audience sitting around me at the theater. Just as an online profile may be better than the actual person, the trailer for this movie was head and shoulders above the actual film. There were a couple of brief scenes with blood.
1 3/4 stars
There are so many instances where people talk through a filter. An employee and a boss each have their own filter they must use when talking to each other. A teacher has a certain filter they need to use when talking to their students, just as a student has a filter they use when talking to their teacher. At least they did in my time, though based on what teachers have told me, students today use a filter with larger holes in it. The type of relationship where I feel there is no need for filters is the one between friends. With my friends and I there is no need to soften or temper our words to each other. I would not want it any other way. Our words travel on a slick smooth road that is void of any exits or potholes; a clear straight highway of thoughts and feelings. Fifteen years have gone by, letting their filters become less porous, as college friends reunite for the Christmas holiday at the home of Mia and Lance, played by Monica Calhoun (The Salon, Diary of a Single Mom-TV) and Morris Chestnut (The Call, Think Like a Man), in this funny movie. They soon discover the happy occasion may not soften the hard feelings and lies that were lying dormant inside of them. I did not know this comedic drama was a sequel at first, not recalling ever seeing the first one from 1999, The Best Man. Though the writers tried their best to make this a stand alone film, I felt I would have gotten more out of this movie if I had seen the first one. A few times I thought I was missing the joke or point being made. Putting that aside, I thought the story was predictable for the most part. With a majority of humor being handled by Terrence Howard (Prisoners, Lee Daniels’ The Butler) as Quentin, I thought the first half of the movie was okay. For the last half of the film, the story shifted where I found myself becoming more invested in the action. Besides the story involving Lance and Mia, I was interested in what was taking place with Robyn and Harper, played by Sanaa Lathan (Something New, The Family That Preys) and Taye Diggs (Equilibrium, Private Practice-TV). One of my pet peeves is a movie trailer that shows a scene that is not in the film and it happened with this movie’s trailers. Also, I felt the trailers showed too much humor with none of the dramatic scenes; this was poor marketing in my opinion. Good communication would have helped better advertise this movie; it would have also helped create stronger bonds between the friends in this film.
2 1/3 stars
There is already an innate level of creepiness built in this thriller due to the subject matter. Though any type of kidnapping is awful, when one hears of an amber alert there is a deeper dread for that innocent child. Right at the start I got hooked by seeing all the activity in the 911 call center. Being unfamiliar with the inner workings, I was quickly pulled into the building intensity around veteran operator Jordan Turner, played by Halle Berry (X-Men franchise, Cloud Atlas). On her phone line was a young girl reporting an intruder was in her house. From this scene going forward the level of tension was uneven. There were times I found myself holding my breath, anxious for what was going to happen next. But then there were scenes that fell flat. One of the reasons was because I had already seen several pivotal scenes in the trailers. If you have not seen any of the trailers, I suggest you do your best to avoid them. I understand the movie studio has to market their movie and having trailers only of Halle in the 911 call center would not necessarily translate to increased ticket sales. The other factor that diminished the apprehensiveness was the cheesiness in the script. If the writers would have kept the story as a taut, pressure cooker race against the clock buildup; this film would have been a real heart stopper. Add in a wonderful performance by Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine, Zombieland) as Casey Welson, along with Michael Eklund (Watchmen, 88 Minutes) as Michael Foster and Morris Chestnut (Boyz n the Hood, Identity Thief) as Officer Paul Phillips; this movie could have had a lot more punch. Also, I thought the ending was not well thought out and unrealistic. Because of this movie I know the next time I see an amber alert flashing across the highway signs, I will have more to imagine now. A few scenes had blood and violence in them.
2 1/3 stars