SHE WAS TOUGH ON ALL OF us; there was nothing we could get away with when we were around her. My friend’s mother was a single parent who worked a full-time job and still was able to keep the household and her children in shape. When I say she was tough, believe me. I remember anytime we would go out after dinnertime, she had a curfew set for my friend that was earlier than the city’s stated time. No one was allowed to wear shoes inside the house. She would tell us she did not need any extra work vacuuming up after us. One of my strongest memories was the sound of her voice when she would yell out for my friend to come to her. Because she was short, she would call my friend to come into the kitchen and grab some item from one of the higher cabinet shelves. Despite her tough exterior she had a good sense of humor, accompanied by deep belly laughter. Even at my young age, I admired her because I knew it could not be easy being single with four children. And none of her kids ever got in trouble at school, which looking back now, was a major accomplishment. FOR MOST OF MY YOUTH, I only had strong female figures around me. Maybe it was due to the times, but both with my friends and family it was always the women who made the daily decisions. They would be the ones to decide what the family would be doing on the weekend; or whose house we would go visit for the holiday. This was not just my perceptions because my friends were experiencing the same thing. Most of the dads in the neighborhood had 9-5 jobs. So, I understand the mother taking responsibility during the week, but it seemed as if it always continued through the weekends. There was this one time where there was a small group of parents visiting at someone’s house. All the women were sitting around the kitchen table discussing current events, politics, upcoming trips and such while the men were sitting in the den watching television. This image has stayed with me all these years due to one of my early sociology classes. In class the discussion was about matriarchy and patriarchy, defining and identifying them. I realized I had grown up in a matriarchy. Sure, the men for the most part were the major breadwinners, but it was the women who sat on the seat of power. If you are curious to see how a strong woman acts, then feel free to see the main character in this action, crime drama. WHAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE AN easy road trip to their new home, turned into a ride of terror for this single mom and her two kids. With Queen Latifah (Chicago, Hairspray) as Brenda, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges (The Ride, Fast & Furious franchise) as Reggie, Mychala Lee (The Greatest Inheritance, Truth Be Told-TV) as Kelly, Shaun Dixon (Velvet Jesus, Dhar Mann-TV) as Cam and Beau Bridges (The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Descendants) as Hammers; this was all Queen Latifah’s movie. Channeling her Equalizer character, she was the mother who needed to protect her family. I liked the idea to the story and appreciated the effort the writers put in to make this film an intense thriller; however, so much of what was shown was generic pablum. At times, I felt the scenes were ridiculous because they seemed too far-fetched. It was too bad because the injustice aspect was a decent message to convey, but the script got bogged down into standard fare with no flair. I will say I did appreciate the fast pace and the well-orchestrated fight scenes. If one wants to see an example of a tough woman, that might be enough reason to watch this picture. However, do not expect much in the story.
1 ¾ stars
MOST PEOPLE THINK I WATCH AWARD shows to see the stars; and though that is part of the reason, I also enjoy seeing the behind-the-scenes award winners. The main reason is because these individuals tend to talk more about reaching their dreams. When a movie/television star or musical artist walks up to accept their award on those telecasts, they more so now talk about a cause or belief of theirs during their acceptance speech. I am not saying these are not valid causes; however, I must wonder what the motivation is behind them sharing these views at that moment. Is it because it would be good PR for the celebrity? It is one thing to stand up there and talk about a cause; it is another thing to do something for the cause, either monetarily or physically. In other words, “put your money where your mouth is” is my feeling about the situation. So, that is why I prefer listening to the writers, directors, costume designers and others. Chances are their speeches will include their childhood dream that led them to their current position. A writer may talk about their childhood, where they drafted stories or comics to share with their classmates and friends. Or the costume designer might share their childhood dream of dressing up as a high fashion designer, creating outfits that would be seen one day on the runway. I love hearing about people’s dreams. DREAMS ARE AN IMPORTANT PART OF our life, I believe. They provide us an avenue of growth; we simply need to pay attention to them. Despite having flunked physical education class twice and being told I was not athletic, I continued to believe I could teach fitness. During those first initial classes I taught, I was so nervous that I thought for sure members would yell me out of the fitness studio. I was listening to those past negative voices in my head who said I could never do it; instead of believing in my training and abilities. It was my dream to create an inviting and accepting environment for anyone who walked in to take my class and I did it. It was the type of class I wished I had available to me when I was younger. It was my dream that pushed me to what I believed was a healthier lifestyle. I honestly could not imagine a life without having a desire, a dream for something more. Dreams are great motivators; it is what makes the main character in this comedic sports drama to keep pushing on. NEEDING A BREAK TO REACH HIS dream, a basketball scout thinks he might have found it with a street player in Spain. The problem would be convincing his bosses. With Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems, That’s My Boy) as Stanley Sugarman, Queen Latifah (Girls Trip, The Trap) as Teresa Sugarman, professional basketball player Juancho Hernangomez as Bo Cruz, Ben Foster (The Survivor, Leave No Trace) as Vince Merrick and Kenny Smith (Just Wright, Young Rock-TV) as Leon; this movie is proof Adam Sandler is a gifted actor when he takes on a serious role. I thought he was excellent with his character. Now keep in mind, I am not big into team sports; however, I thought this story was executed beautifully, in such a way that would resonate with both sporting and non-sporting viewers. The story itself is nothing new per se; however, there were enough subtle changes and nuances that made this film seem fresh and new. I found myself fully engaged throughout the picture; it was also quite entertaining, in my opinion. The message in the story came out like a blooming flower, slow anticipation into a rich colorful hue. By the end of this movie, I was solidly ensconced into my dream filled memories.
3 ½ stars
THE EXPECTATION IS TO LIVE HAPPILY ever after, but sometimes it is not meant to be. With any of my past relationships, I knew that is what I had always hoped would happen. For me, it was part of my belief system that each of us was put here to find happiness; finding someone you could share your happiness with was an extra bonus. That doesn’t mean one cannot be happy without a significant other; on the contrary, I have always said no one can make you feel a certain way. Each of us control how we choose to feel. I have never been a “love at first sight” type of guy; however, there have been times where I felt an immediate connection. You know, where the conversation makes you forget the time and place, as the two of you volley and share thoughts, feelings and ideas back and forth. I remember a date where we sat in a coffeeshop for hours talking and laughing until we noticed the wait staff was starting to turn the chairs over onto the tables, on the way to closing the place up. I know I have said this before, but it bears repeating: A relationship is when 2 people are walking side by side down a long path that has hills and valleys; sometimes, one has to help pull the other along or push them up. However, no matter where they are walking, they are always side by side. NOW THAT YOU KNOW MY PHILOSOPHY, you can see why I feel if two people in a committed relationship do not grow together their relationship will never survive. They do not have to be growing at the same rate or same level; but if they are not growing then the relationship and love will go stale and wilt away. This is something I firmly believe. I knew a couple who had been married for several years. As time went on, I became aware one of the two was venturing into new activities; the other one was content with the way things were already going. At some point only one was taking trips with their friends, instead of both going together. I knew something had to be going on with them. Well it was not soon after they wound up breaking up and going their own way. It was certainly not a surprise to those of us who were noticing the changes taking place. I felt bad for the content one because they were shocked when their partner decided to breakup with them. It was like they were lost at sea, drifting aimlessly with no where to moor. To see what I am talking about you might want to see what happens to the main character in this film festival nominee. HAVING BEEN BLINDSIDED BY HER HUSBAND’S decision to end their marriage, a middle-aged woman would have to find a new life for herself. It would first start in the elevator of her apartment building. With Holly Hunter (The Big Sick, Thirteen) as Judith Moore, Danny DeVito (Batman Returns, The War of the Roses) as Pat Francato, Queen Latifah (Hairspray, Bringing Down the House) as Liz Bailey, Martin Donovan (Tenet, Inherent Vice) as Robert Nelson and Richard Schiff (Man of Steel, The West Wing-TV) as Phil Francato; this romantic comedy drama stood out for me with the performances of Danny and Holly. It felt as if they were completely into their characters. There was an even mix of humor and sadness throughout the script, which was a big help in my opinion, because otherwise the plot would have been more generic than it was already. Having known people in the same situation as Judith, I appreciated the journey she took us on as she dealt with her emotions and newly discovered growth.
2 ½ stars
THE restaurant was full of people which kept the noise volume up at a consistent level. It was the usual sounds: clatter of dishes, scraping of silverware, conversations and low volume music. We were seated around one of the many round tables that filled up the center of the restaurant. I did not have any trouble hearing our conversations over the steady din of random sounds. It was when we were nibbling on our appetizers that a table nearby opened up and quickly after new diners were escorted to it by the hostess. There were 4 of them and they were in good spirits as they were laughing and high fiving each other on the way to their table. Once seated the group did not let up on the laughing and carrying on, calling each other either by their nicknames or something of a derogatory nature. BY the time our main courses came to the table the noise from that group of four rose and stayed above the general sound level; however, they were freely using foul language within their comments and jokes. Now I do not have a problem with such language, but I tend to be considerate of my environment. In mixed company, I am referring to adults and children; I would never use such language. My friends are used to my colorful vocabulary since those types of coarse words are adjectives to me. If I were to use such strong language at a restaurant I certainly would not say it loud enough to go beyond my table, unlike the group near me. They were throwing the F-bomb around like confetti and I could see some of the other diners were shooting them dirty looks. If anyone from that loud table noticed, they certainly did not care since they kept up the foul language and boisterous laughter. I tried to block out the noise they were creating but it did not work, just as it did not work for me in this comedy. LIFE sometimes can get in the way of maintaining friendships; it had been a long time since girlfriends Ryan Pierce, Sasha Franklin, Lisa Cooper and Dina; played by Regina Hall (Law Abiding Citizen, Think Like a Man), Queen Latifah (Chicago, Bringing Down the House), Jada Pinkett Smith (Bad Moms, Gotham-TV) and Tiffany Haddish (Keanu, The Carmichael Show-TV); hung out together. The best way to solve it would be a girls’ trip to New Orleans. These four actresses worked extremely well together to form a believable group of lifelong friends. Even during times when I thought the conversation was rapidly boxing back and forth, the actresses were skillfully able to handle it. With that being said the script was loaded with strong and sexual language; I mean loaded like top heavy to the point if one were to remove all such dialog the movie would be half as long. If one gets offended by such language then this would not be the movie to see. The script had predictability; however, compared to recent female lead comedies, this one had a few good laughs in it. Personally I do not find swearing a comedic talent; to me it is a lazy way of creating a funny situation. Plus the idea of women talking trash I feel is used to shock viewers because there was a time people were raised to believe women who spoke like that were “bad.” Based on the crowd I was sitting with, the majority of women in the theater liked this film more than I did.
2 ¼ stars
There are these sayings I have heard most of my life that I do not know if they are based on some tradition or folklore. One of them is counterintuitive to what most people wish for on their wedding day. It goes something like this, “May rain fall on your wedding day and be the only tears the two of you will ever have to shed.” I bet this sounds weird to some of you; but to me, it makes perfect sense. Granted all of the weddings I ever attended were indoor ones. The gist of this saying is a hope that the two individuals will stand together and never have to experience sadness in their marriage. I like the sentiment in that saying. Another saying is used during a sad occasion; it goes, “May it be better times when we meet again.” I have heard this said mostly at funerals. After coming together to share in sadness, the hope between individuals is to share happiness the next time. There is an underlying theme I see from these types of sayings; there is strength in numbers. This brings to mind that phrase that goes when the going gets tough, the tough get going. I believe this to be true because I have never met anyone who prefers to deal with some form of hardship on their own. It does not matter whether it is helping someone move, lending an ear to a friend in crisis or being someone’s advocate when they go for a medical procedure; I feel everyone needs some type of support system. When you see the band of characters in this animated comedy you will understand what I mean. PURSUING that ever elusive acorn Scrat, voiced by Chris Wedge (Robots, Epic), finds himself in outer space. One wrong turn would set in motion a series of events that could put Earth at risk for total destruction. This latest installment in the Ice Age franchise had the usual cast of actors back to voice the characters such as Ray Romano (Rob the Mob, Everybody Loves Raymond-TV) as Manny, Denis Leary (Two if by Sea, Rescue Me-TV) as Diego and John Leguizamo (The Infiltrator, American Ultra) as Sid. The voices were fine and the animation was colorful in this film festival winning adventure. As for the humor maybe young kids would enjoy it but I did not find anything funny. If one is fond of the old Road Runner cartoons, I found this film to have the same type of humor which is laughing at someone’s misfortune. As a kid I enjoyed Road Runner; as an adult I do not find them so funny. Some of the jokes in this movie I felt were inappropriate for young children; it made me wonder what target group were the writers trying to reach. To me this whole picture was a money grab by the studio. The script provided little entertainment; it was just a series of events strung together. I am uncomfortable saying this but based on this latest film I would not mind if this franchise became extinct. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
1 ¾ stars
The last song set was my favorite part of this musical comedy because it reminded me how much I love concerts. There was nothing like being with 20,000 people who were there for one reason: to watch a musical artist create a magical moment. I especially would get a kick when a musician or singer made an unexpected change to a familiar song. It made me feel special as if I were part of an exceptional group, that would be the only ones to hear that version of the song. That fond memory was pretty much the only good thing associated with this cheesy film. A cross between the television show Glee and the movie Footloose, this film had nothing original to bring to the genre of singing competitions. Queen Latifah (Just Wright, Chicago) was newly appointed church choir director Vi Rose Hill. She was chosen over long term benefactor and choir member G. G. Sparrow, played by Dolly Parton (Nine to Five, Steel Magnolias). This set up a continual conflict between the two women. If it involved Vi’s daughter Olivia, played by Keke Palmer (Akeelah and the Bee, Cleaner) and G. G.’s grandson Randy Garrity, played by relative newcomer Jeremy Jordan or what musical direction to take the choir; the two woman never let up in every situation. The script was nothing but cringe worthy and icky. It came across as if the writers cut and paste bits from other movies, thinking since it worked once it would work again. Of course, Queen Latifah and Dolly had their big solos and for the most part I enjoyed the singing numbers from everyone. But then again I am a sucker for most any singing done in a movie. Sadly I have to say on a musical scale, this movie was a D flat.
1 7/8 stars — DVD