THROUGHOUT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, I ONLY SAW my best friend’s father twice. I never knew what he did for a living, I just remembered he was wearing a tie and hat the two times I saw him. I do not know why I remember that fact; maybe because I do not recall seeing any other father wearing a hat, not including the hats one only wore in winter. Though come to think of it, I did not see that many fathers of schoolmates; the majority were the ones that lived on our block. There was one father that said he was a college professor, but my friends and I never believed him. He was quite different; his reactions to things like his son hitting a baseball or his daughter performing ballet were odd in my opinion. I did not know the word back then; but thinking about him now, I can say he always had this pensive look on his face, as he studied his children’s playing. It was as if he were studying every movement his child did, looking for a flaw or a better way they could have done something. He had these thick round glasses that made him look like some type of inspector; at least that is what some of us thought. AS FOR MY FRIEND, HE DID not seem to mind his father’s absence from the various school functions where parents were invited to participate. It was not uncommon for a student to have only one parent show up to school events. I always found it curious that the school would plan events during the school day, asking for our parents to attend when I knew many of them were working. It seemed odd to me, like the school was just being polite in inviting parents, knowing full well they would not be able to attend because of their job. The parents that intrigued me the most were the ones who had to travel for business. This was a foreign concept in my awareness. Where were these parents flying and why couldn’t they just make contact by phone, were a couple of things I wondered. There was one dad whose daughter could not tell us what he did for a living. He happened to be built like an athlete with defined muscles across his tall frame. I used to imagine him being in the CIA or FBI; he just had the look of an agent with his dark sunglasses. If I had seen this movie back when I was a kid, I could see me wondering about that father. AFTER SCHOOL, A GROUP OF FRIENDS met up with their friend, who was at his dad’s house. While hanging out, they discover a hidden location underneath the house, just before a group of villains arrive. With Owen Wilson (Marry Me, No Escape) as Jack, Michael Pena (Fantasy Island, 12 Strong) as Argon, Walker Scobell (The Adam Project) as Charlie, Jesse Williams (The Cabin in the Woods, Grey’s Anatomy-TV) as Irons and Keith L. Williams (Good Boys, The Last Man on Earth-TV) as Berger; this action, adventure comedy had the cast to elevate the story. However, the script was too generic and pedestrian. I think part of the issue was the writers did not know what group to market for, kids or tweens. The humor was lacking to the point I was able to see what the punchline would be before it happened. Too bad because I thought Walker did an admirable job in his role. Now I have said this before, but if there is going to be a villain, they really need to be a “bad” person. The villain in this movie was too much like a cartoon character. I have a feeling this film will have many absent viewers. There was an extra scene early in the ending credits.
1 ¾ stars
THERE IS THAT SAYING, “THE THRID time is the charm,” and I knew my friend was hoping it was true, but I felt it was not going to happen. Don’t get me wrong, I really wanted her 3rd marriage to succeed; however, this current fiancé was no different than the other two I saw before. My friend is such a sweet, likeable person; but she has always been attracted to what I refer to as the “pretty boy” type of men. Each one she introduced me to was good looking and had a chip on their shoulder. My friend is a big game player who loves almost any type of game, from word ones to charades. I enjoy playing games as well and like most people enjoy winning; but if I don’t win it is no big deal to me. I am not that competitive with other people. However, her past husbands and this latest soon to be one were all intensely competitive to the point where I did not like playing with them. In my opinion, none of them played well with others; I would have thought that would have been a big clue for my friend to sit up and notice. Alas, she was very much in love with each of these men; there was very little I could say to her about it. WITH MY FRIEND BEING A TALL woman, I understood why she preferred only dating men who were taller than her. There was a man she dated once who was maybe a couple of inches shorter than herself; I thought he was nice. She dated him for a month or two, but then found a reason why she no longer was interested in him. I thought it was due to the height, but she never admitted it to me. The other feature I noticed my friend was attracted to was fair skinned and light-colored features. With her having dark features, I could see she preferred being with someone who looked opposite of her; however, I did question her motives. How important really were these features? In the scheme of things, how do these requirements help find a good match? I tried persuading her to expand her field, that it was more important to find someone who was kind and respectful, instead of having someone who matched the image that was in her mind. For me, the things she was looking for were mostly surface things and for those of you who have known me a long time, you know I feel the surface stuff is just rental property, but the inside stuff lasts a lifetime. If you care to, you can see how things play out between the two ideas in this romantic, musical movie. IT WAS PLANNED TO BE THE event of the year when musical artist Kat, played by Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers, Second Act), agreed to get married during her concert show and it was, but for all the wrong reasons as she discovered her fiancé had been cheating on her. How would she continue the show? With Owen Wilson (The French Dispatch, No Escape) as Charlie, musical artist Maluma as Bastian, John Bradley (Game of Thrones-TV The Brothers Grimsby) as Colin and Sarah Silverman (The Book of Henry, Battle of the Sexes) as Parker; this comedic drama’s story had a silly premise. However, what helped it was having Jennifer and Owen starring in it. They both had a likeability that came across easily. Now I will say I did not think playing their characters was much of a stretch; Jennifer was being Jennifer and Owen was just doing his usual type of character. There were some touching moments in this film, but there really were no surprises in the script. In fact, some of the scenes were out of place and odd in my opinion. The musical moments were fine, though I did think the song with the leather clad nuns was a weird concept. I give Jennifer credit for wanting to bring out a rom com this time of year; I only wish it had a better concept and script.
2 ¼ stars
I WAS SYMPATHITIC TO the sisters’ plight. Each from the same mother had been adopted at birth; raised by their adoptive parents in the same home and yet they were nothing alike, except in appearance. Where daylight is different to nighttime, so were the sisters in temperament, personality and mannerisms among other traits. As the two girls grew older they found something in common; this was a rarity in itself. They each became curious about who were their birth parents. Having matured with more self-awareness, the sisters felt this need to seek out their birth parents; if not in person, at least hopefully to get medical and health backgrounds on both. You see one sister had health issues besides having an addictive personality; the other one had a different type of health issue regarding a disease. I could only imagine what was going through their minds having to deal with adult issues without having any family history about them. I know when I go to the dermatologist he always asks me about my parents’ health history when looking at something on my skin. I am sure if I were to tell him my parents had the same thing, he would act more cautiously in his assessment. If the sisters’ were in the same position I am sure it would be upsetting if they had to tell the doctor they did not know. PULLING OUT THE GENES from the family gene pool is at best a crapshoot. Just like the two sisters I mentioned, I find the whole genetic aspect to humans fascinating. One thing that intrigues me is how one family’s children all look like one of their parents, while another family has children that look like they were conceived by completely different parents. Now what do you think about a family who has both birth and adopted children, where they all share common characteristics? There is a current popular television show that has this very same scenario and I find myself getting drawn more and more into their stories. I have said this before: babies come into this world with a blank slate; they do not know about hate or prejudice, they learn it. With that in mind I can understand why many children are curious or not interested to know the individuals responsible for bringing them into this world. That feeling was quite evident in this comedic movie. TWIN BROTHERS KYLE AND PETER Reynolds, played by Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers, No Escape) and Ed Helms (Vacation, The Office-TV), were stunned that their mother Helen, played by Glenn Close (Air Force One, 101 Dalmatians franchise), kept a secret from them about their father for all these years. The only thing the brothers wanted to do was find their birth father. Among the celebrity cast, this film had J.K. Simmons (The Bachelors, Whiplash) as Roland Hunt and Katt Williams (Norbit, Scary Movie 5) as the hitchhiker. I was surprised with such a prominent group of actors that the movie studio approved such a dismal script. The story may have sounded fun but I am here to tell you there was little fun in this picture. Between slapstick humor to touching brotherly love I could not tell what the writers wanted to create, a heartwarming story or a funny road trip one. It was embarrassing to see some of the actors in this mess; though I enjoyed J.K. Simmons’ part. As for Owen he was a generic version of himself; it was the same thing I have seen before. Sadly I had no sympathy for the brothers or the story in this movie.
1 ½ stars
OVER THE YEARS THE derogatory words/terms I have heard directed towards me and to people around me has grown. The majority of them was from years ago before people became politically correct; so please excuse me for I do not mean to offend anyone and I will refrain from the more offensive words. I am aware some people grew up never hearing any of these words around them. Also, I know some people’s lists are longer than others. Keep in mind space is limited here so here is just a fraction of the words I heard uttered, yelled, hissed, spoken, threatened, teased, whispered and said around me: freak, fat, rabbit face, spas, turd, hippo, 4 eyes, sissy, booger nose, slob, toad, fag, slime, acid breath, pubic head, elephant man, bird brain, troll, gargantuan, gargoyle, gimp, whore, tubby, butt face; I think you get the point and I did not even use the slanderous ones that have to do with race, ethnicity or religion. REMEMBERING THE PEOPLE WHO uttered these words and hearing what is being said these days across all social media, news reports and random conversations; I find it all sad and horrific. I have to wonder if the adults who carry a prejudice have always had it. Was the prejudice handed down from their parents or some relative; did something happen to them physically that turned them against a particular minority? This is what I am most curious about; where did this hatred towards differences come from? Even if you think “hatred” is too strong of a word then use “dislike” instead. I do not understand why people look at differences as if they are wrong. As a young child I can see where one might be shy or fearful upon seeing something different about someone. I can still remember a conversation I had with a new boy on the block whose family came from a foreign country. The way it was explained to me was saying that family was born in a different part of the world where everyone there was born with certain physical features needed for that area. I may not have understood all of it at the time, but whatever fears I had were alleviated quickly. When I was watching this film festival winning drama I was reminded how tough life can be if you are perceived as different. AFTER BEING HOME SCHOOLED for several years Auggie, played by Jacob Tremblay (Room, The Book of Henry), was going to attend his first school. His mother Isabel, played by Julia Roberts (Mother’s Day, Eat Pray Love), thought the time was right; she just hoped the kids would be nice to her son who preferred to wear an astronaut’s helmet. Based on the bestselling book the cast also included Owen Wilson (No Escape, Are You Here) as Nate, Izabela Vidovic (Homefront, The Fosters-TV) as Via and Noah Jupe (Suburbicon, The Night Manager-TV) as Jack Will. The actors did a beautiful job with the well written script. I felt the scenes were authentic and the characters were believable. For the few films I have seen Jacob in I have to say he will have a long career; he really is something special to watch on screen. As for the story it could easily have turned into a syrupy heartstring pull, but I think the director did his best to stay close to the border of it. Despite the chances one will tear up during this film, I feel the story is important enough for every child and adult to see.
3 ½ stars
THE last time a new updated version of an electronic device came out I happened to be at the shopping mall. A long line of people snaked halfway across the mall, waiting for the store to open. During my college years I remember standing in line for hours to buy tickets for a rock concert, but waiting in line for an extended amount of time just to buy a cell phone or computer device seemed odd to me. Being the curious type I walked up to a few of the waiting people at various places in line to ask them why they were there. After they would tell me I asked them if this was a 1st time purchase of the device or were they upgrading to the latest version. Only one person was there to buy their first phone; everybody else just wanted the newest device. As a sidenote every person I asked had their phone out and it appeared to me they were in perfect working condition. On one hand I can understand if someone wants the latest device but on the other, the devices are not cheap and really how much would the new items change the owner’s life. THERE is one other aspect I have noticed that motivates people to buy the latest things. I believe there is a fear the person will appear old or out of touch by other individuals. I see it in myself, not that I run my life based on what other people think of me. Every time I go to the bank the teller asks me to slide my ATM/debit card in the card reader right after they say hello. I used to say I do not have one but got tired of saying each time; so now, I simply hand them my driver’s license. More times than not the teller will look up at me and say, “You don’t have an ATM card?” The looks I get from the various tellers borders on disdain or incredulousness. You would think I had committed some horrible transgression. Just because I do not have an ATM card doesn’t mean I am an old fogey; I choose to only get things that add value to my way of living. Not having an ATM card makes me feel safer that my account will not get hacked. Some things still have worth even if they have a new replacement and this message comes across in a strong way in this animated adventure comedy. LIGHTNING McQueen, voiced by Owen Wilson (No Escape She’s Funny That Way), was on top of the world until he was beaten by a younger race car. Though others counted him out he still believed he had something to offer. This latest sequel in the franchise also starred Cristela Alonzo (Cristela-TV, Hey It’s Fluffy-TV) as Cruz Ramirez and Chris Cooper (Demoltion, Adaptation) as Smokey. I thought the animation was outstanding; there were some outdoor scenes that made me wonder if the backgrounds were real and only the cars were drawn in. The script had value especially due to a couple of the story lines. However there was a long lull I experienced as the car races seemed too long. I actually enjoyed the beginning and end parts to this film. Part of the reason could be attributed to the limited audience the writers were writing to; there was little comedy and what there was would only be appreciated by a younger crowd. With a little more detailing and tweaking this would have been a more exciting movie. There was an extra scene at the end of the film.
2 1/2 stars
It either floats in like a rolling fog coming down over a mountain range or bursts in like wind off of the Great Plains. No matter which way, once inside of a person the fog or wind spreads sparkles of light over a person’s heart and mind. Any rough edges are quickly filed down into soft round curves since hazard warnings are not allowed. Love has this way of taking over a person’s sense of reason, self-worth and thought processes. I am not saying this is always a bad thing; however, there is a fine line where the person in love slips up and falls into this unchecked devotion that clouds their mind. Let me tell you about a friend of mine who fell hard for this person. Right up front I will tell you I sensed something was not right after being around them for only the 2nd time. This person would regale my friend with these elaborate stories about the life they lead. They had traveled to various exotic locales, worked for the FBI, changed careers to become a top salesperson for a Fortune 500 company and so on and so on. But they slipped up without realizing it. When I mentioned I taught group fitness classes they said they used to do the same thing. A couple of innocent questions on my part confirmed this person was never certified to teach such a class. Here is the thing though, I privately told this to my friend along with my other concerns but it did not make a difference. Being in the birth stage of love my friend already had chucked rational thought from their mind. No matter what red flag popped up my friend ignored it and continued on with this person who would borrow money from time to time, never pick up a drink or restaurant tab and periodically had to be driven around because their “car was in the shop.” Love is best when it works in conjunction with a person’s mind and heart, instead of just consuming it. SECURITY guard David Ghantt, played by Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover franchise, Due Date), would do anything for fellow guard Kelly, played by Kristen Wiig (The Martian, Ghostbusters). She was not the only one who realized it. Based on true events this crime comedy also starred Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris, No Escape) as Steve, Jason Sudeikis (Mother’s Day, We’re the Millers) as Mike McKinney and Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters, Saturday Night Live-TV) as Jandice. None of them could help the awful script that was simply a generic version of an action comedy. The one who stood out for me was Kate; she has the best stage and screen presence in my opinion. Zach I feel is starting to be typecast with these same kinds of characters, a bit buffoonish and uncoordinated. As for the humor in this story I found very little to laugh at because I had seen the movie trailer prior. Once you have seen the trailer (even if you did not), the scenes were easy to predict. The actual story made headline news but I am afraid this movie version will quickly go to DVD. Suffice to say I did not love this film.
1 ½ stars
What is old eventually becomes new again, is a saying that has been repeated over and over. Some of you may relate to this especially when you see advertisements for the latest clothing styles; the clothes were in fashion before when you were growing up. Take a look at bell bottom pants; they come into fashion for a couple of years then they go out before they come back in. I hate to admit this but I still have clothing stored away that I used to wear years ago, some even back from high school. After my weight loss I still kept them as a backup. Though I have seen some of that old clothing return into vogue, manufacturers in conjunction with marketers bring back some of these items but tweak them just enough to make it look fresh and new. If you remember that soft drink fiasco, not everything new makes it instantly better. Just let me tell you about winter gloves as an example. Years ago gloves were usually fleece lined or had some type of down inside of them. All of a sudden new products came out that claimed to be just as warm as these natural fibers but take up less space, they were thinner. I do not know about you, but I do not find gloves with this thin insulating material to be that warm for my hands. Give me good wool lined or duck down filled gloves and I will be able to tackle any harsh winter day. Now let me say I do believe there is no reason to fix something if it is not broken, so I am never the first one to jump on the latest updated version of something from the past; it turns out this is wise advice. WHEN celebrities were being killed off while striking a signature pose created by Derek Zoolander and Hansel, played by Ben Stiller (While We’re young, The Watch) and Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris, No Escape), the two former models were brought out of retirement to try and help track down the killers. This comedy sequel tipped its hand when the trailers came out for it; they were the best parts of this movie. With Will Ferrell (Daddy’s Home, Get Hard) as Mugatu and Kristen Wiig (The Martian, Welcome to Me) as Alexanya Atoz, all the characters had a chance to do something funny. I kept waiting for it but it never happened; the script went all over the place, it was a mess. Now I have to tell you I did not think the original movie was anything special, but compared to this sequel it moved up on my favorability rating scale. There were more cameos in this film than there were jokes. As I sat through this picture I had to wonder who thought doing a sequel would be a good concept. The only thing this movie did for me was prove not everything updated and made fresh was a good idea.
1 1/2 stars
In one version of being singled out you could win cash or valuable prizes. I was a member of a studio audience during the taping of a TV game show and won a television set because I had the correct numbers drawn on my admission ticket. There are other ways one can experience a positive result by being picked out of a group; a couple of examples could be the employee of the month or the valedictorian of a graduating class. The other version of being the recipient of everyone’s attention can be a dangerous one. In this version it only takes one person to single you out and depending on the hierarchy of the other people around, you could be marked for pretty much any type of abuse. Whether it starts with a bully in school, a coworker or a complete stranger; the results can be detrimental to your health. I hope none of you experience this type of scenario. For those of you who unfortunately have, you can confirm it literally is a death race when you are being chased by a person or a group that means to inflict harm on you. The taunts, the yelling from the crowd constantly rings in your ears like a massive clock tower stuck on the tolling of its bells for 12 o’clock. There never is a time to negotiate or even figure out why you were chosen; you just need to find somewhere safe fast. My past anxieties welled up right at the start of this action thriller. TRAVELING to Southeast Asia for a new business opportunity Jack Dwyer, played by Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris, Night at the Museum franchise), and his family had only recently arrived shortly after the country’s prime minister was assassinated. They came just in time for an angry chaotic rebellion. This picture took off quickly with some well orchestrated tense scenes; I found myself breathing quickly from my nervousness due to the unfolding mob scenes. With Lake Bell (What Happens in Vegas, In a World…) as Jack’s wife Annie and Pierce Brosnan (Some Kind of Beautiful, After the Sunset) as Hammond, I thought the cast did an admirable job with the physically tough roles. This movie had a distinct shift in the middle of it. The first half of the film was much better than the last half. If the writers would have stayed with the original story line I think this would have been a better film. During the second half the film felt like one of those monster movies where no matter what the characters did there always seemed to be a monster waiting for them. I think it would have been more powerful if the writers had spent more time on the reasons that led up to the rebellion. This would have resulted in a better experience. There were scenes with blood and violence.
2 1/2 stars
My obsession sprung out from one of my favorite children books, “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” The idea of hiding in a museum until after it closes fascinated me for a long time when I was a kid. Having visited the museums in my city numerous times, I credit them for helping my mind open up further into the world of possibilities. One museum had a real airplane suspended from the ceiling that I never walked under as I made my way to the gigantic train set, with its various locomotive trains traveling multiple tracks through manufactured landscapes. There was another museum that would transport me back in time to when Pharaohs ruled as I saw their wrapped remains resting in elaborate coffins. I would daydream about sleeping overnight in a museum; going on my very own treasure hunts as I explored the massive hallways that I just knew had to have secret passageways. They probably lead to secret underground laboratories and vaults. I was convinced there was a whole different world to explore behind the sculpted granite walls of all those museums. SOMETHING was beginning to happen to the inhabitants of the museum that would affect their very existence. With very little time left security guard Larry Daley, played by Ben Stiller (Tropic Thunder, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), would have to travel to London, England to discover the reason why his friends were being robbed of their ability to come to life after dark. This latest adventure comedy, the 3rd in the franchise, saw the return of cast members such as Robin Williams (Dead Poets Society, August Rush) as Teddy Roosevelt and Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris, Wedding Crashers) as Jedediah; along with some new characters like Sir Lancelot, played by Dan Stevens (The Guest, The Fifth Estate) and Tilly, played by Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect, Bachelorette). For the life of me I had a hard time finding anything I liked about this stale film. Oh wait, the special effects were still fun even though I had seen them all before. The story and script were simply horrible. So pedestrian and plain, I could not find anything funny. There is a horrible expression that goes, “beating a dead horse” and I felt the movie studio was doing it with the release of this film. There was nothing new or exciting; it had all been done before, so what was the point? I will say most young children will probably like the film since it was colorful and took place in a fascinating place, a museum. On second thought, plan a trip to a local museum instead of going to see this movie.
1 2/3 stars
Out of all the holidays during the year, I have always felt the safest during this one. Maybe this sounds odd to you but this holiday was more of an internal one of celebration for me. There was no need to put up any kind of decorations, it did not represent one particular religious group, there were no gift exchanges, it did not require going anywhere but your own or someone’s home; Thanksgiving was simply a time to sit down and share a meal with the family. I would get excited by the variety of side dishes that spread across the table like steaming volcanoes, waiting for us to chip away at them. For me, the most important part came after dinner. Once the dishes were removed and the tablecloth was swept of any crumbs, the desserts would conquer the dining room table. There was such a comfort that came over me as I would sit quietly at my place and eat all the sweet treats that I had placed on my spotless plate. It was during this time of the Thanksgiving meal where my plate remained the cleanest; I would not let one morsel slip out of my mouth. To tell you the truth it did not matter to me if there was turkey served or not since my main focus was on the sweet stuff. The same held true in this animated comedy; it would not make a difference to me if Jake and Reggie, voiced by Woody Harrelson (Now You See Me, Zombieland) and Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers, The Internship), succeeded in their mission. The two unlikely partners were going back in time to the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts to stop the tradition forming to serve turkey for the holiday meal. As far as animated movies go, this one was not very good. It did not have the colors, the dimension or detail of other films I have seen. The humor remained on an elementary level, lacking any kind of sophistication. It was a shame because I enjoyed the cast which also included Amy Poehler (Mean Girls, A.C.O.D.) as Jenny and George Takei (Star Trek franchise, Heroes-TV) as S.T.E.V.E.; the voice of the time machine. To be released during the upcoming holiday season, this movie needed to be fun and uplifting. Save your money for your holiday shopping instead of seeing this film in the theater. Only if you have young children should you consider spending your money on this dull movie. If you do see it, stay through the credits.
1 3/4 stars