THE QUESTIONING DIED DOWN AFTER A short time. It was a good thing since it was starting to annoy me. I had a friend who on the surface was a complete opposite of me; several of my friends would keep asking me why I was friends with him. I realized he came across as gruff to some people, with an air of indifference. Between the two of us we were different politically and religiously. We were complete opposites when it came to exercise and healthy food choices. Where I tried to exercise 5-6 days a week, he never did any physical activity where he would have to exert himself. In fact, the last time he actually exercised was back when he was a student in high school, where it was a mandatory requirement. I could see why my friends would think the two of us had nothing in common; however, they never took the time to really get to know him like I had done. Now granted, I did not push for all of us to get together and hang out. I do not know if you do this with your friends; but I tend to get together with my friends either on a one to one basis or in small groups. When there is a large group, I feel I do not get to catch up completely with friends’ lives. Also, the larger a group the more chances there will be personality conflicts. THOUGH IT APPEARED THERE WAS NOTHING in common between this friend and me; we got along great. There was a deep, sweet kindness inside of him that many people never got to see because they could not get past his abrupt manners. That was one of the things I liked about him; he would tell it like it is without soft-pedaling any of it. We would have these lengthy, philosophical conversations about a variety of topics that were stimulating to me. We did not always agree on things; but the key was both of us respected the other’s opinions. Neither him nor I had to accept each others’ opinions, but we both had respect for them. Not that I want to paint this perfect picture of two friends totally in synch, because there were times we got on each other’s nerves. The key to a successful friendship, at least according to me, is to be respectful, loyal and unconditional. One cannot pick out the pieces we like in a friend and discard the rest; they must accept their friend unconditionally and simple love them. If you care to see how this works, then feel free to watch this film festival nominated, comedic drama. WITH ONE NEIGHBOR LIVING ABOVE THE other, both men fell into a friendship that had its routines. That is until one of the neighbors was given hard medical news about his health. With Mark Duplass (Creep, The One I Love) as Michael, Ray Romano (The Big Sick, The Irishman) as Andy, Christine Woods (Stray, Adult Interference) as Doctor Hagen, Jen Sung (The Happytime Murders, Battle of the Damned) as Master Liu and Sierra Fisk (Piranha 3DD, The Concessionaires Must Die!) as Olive; this movie had a slow start. Not that this was entirely a bad thing because the acting between Mark and Ray was so solid, I was able to connect to the two neighbors during this slow part. The last half of the film made up for the beginning part. I felt the story and the script was done in a real and believable way that made the scenes convincing to me. The humor was gentle, never looking to create belly laughs for the viewer. In a way, I found the ending treated the subject matter in an authentic way that was touching and loving. And that was the beauty in watching this picture; one did not need to have experienced such a scenario to be moved by it.
THERE WAS ONLY ONE BRIGHT SPOT for me in that transitional period between summer vacation and the new school year. It was the day when I would get my new school supplies. Up until that day, I loved the freedom of summer vacation. In the early years, I had to endure summer camp programs. There were some I enjoyed but most of them did not interest me. My biggest accomplishment out of all my camp experiences was building a wooden coat rack that I painted in vibrant colors. Once I outgrew the summer camp phase, I was free to hang out with my friends every day. The only part of the day when I was indoors was at lunchtime; otherwise, if I was not playing with my friends, I was either climbing trees or riding my bicycle. As we rolled into the month of August, I started counting the days before I had to go back to school. I also counted how many days until I could go pick out my new school supplies. In one of my earlier reviews, I told you about my obsession with pencil sharpeners; they were always the first item I would pick out at the store. Next item to find were spiral notebooks; I always tried to get left-handed ones because the wire spiral always got in my way when writing. All that was left to get afterwards were pens, pencils and a pencil bag/box to store them. TIMES HAVE CERTAINLY CHANGED AND I NOW understand why all school kids are wearing backpacks. The list of items children must bring to school currently is unbelievable to me. A friend of mine showed me the list she received from her son’s school and I could not get over what has become the responsibility of the child, or should I say of the parents since more than likely they are paying for it. Besides the pens, notebooks and such; the child must bring a box of facial tissues, three rolls of paper towels, a container of cleaning wipes and a ream of computer paper. These along with the rest of the items on her list I found perplexing; since when did the responsibility of facial tissues and paper towels fall on the child? Every company and store that has a bathroom provides these items for their employees and customers; but schools no longer provide, what I consider, these essential items?!?! Are school districts’ budgets so deep in debt that they cannot afford such standard things? I feel the educational system deserves enough funds to properly provide all the tools to create the best learning experience for each child; teachers have such an important role that they should not have to go without or worse, spend their own money to provide items that the class needs. What is wrong with this picture? This crime comedy might explain one of the issues. DETERMINED TO MOVE TO THE TOP POSITION a school district in New York would spare no expense to make their goal a reality. The only problem was they did not know what they were paying for. With Hugh Jackman (The Front Runner, X-Men franchise) as Frank Tassone, Allison Janney (Hairspray, Mom-TV) as Pam Gluckin, Ray Romano (The Irishman, The Big Sick) as Big Bob Spicer, Welker White (Eat Pray Love, Cedar Rapids) as Mary Ann and Geraldine Viswanathan (Blockers, Miracle Workers-TV) as Rachel Bhargava; this story inspired by true events excelled due to the wonderful cast. Everyone fit well into their character and carried the script that needed help in the beginning. The story started out slow for me and though I enjoyed the dark humor/satire, things did not pick up until we got near the midpoint. Not that the first half was boring; it just needed a little more punch and back story to come up to the level of the 2ndhalf of the film. The story as depicted was outrageous; I cannot imagine what that school district could have done for the students if it had known what was going on.
HAVING A STRONG INTEREST IN HISTORY, I have always had an awareness about being a part of it. Now, I know each of us has a history and a place in other people’s history; however, there is a part of me that wants to be associated with something that makes history for being the first. For example, like the person who created post-it notes or the one who came up with that new shade of blue. I prefer to be known for something positive. Years ago, I was a participant in a charity’s inaugural fundraising event that took place on a cruise boat. I was with a group of bachelors that were to be auctioned off. Each of us had our own dinner package included; mine was a dinner at an Italian restaurant followed with a concert at an outdoor venue. We did promotions for the event, such as holding meet and greets at different locations in the city and being on a float in a parade. The press was kind to us, though I have to say I was surprised when I saw a picture of myself in one of the local newspapers. It was a fun time and we raised a substantial amount of money for the charity. LOOKING AT OTHER THINGS I HAVE DONE, something that never occurred to me was the historical significance of my movie review site. I did not realize that these reviews will be available for my family’s future generations. All I have that connects me to past generations are photographs and old silent film clips. The idea that some relative of mine in the year 2099 can learn about me from reading my reviews blows my mind. I think about this more as I am growing older. I would think the same for the passengers, I recently saw on the news, who took part in the longest non-stop plane ride; imagine what they will be telling their descendants. Or sadly, the tourists involved with the volcano eruption in New Zealand; that now becomes a part of their history. I think about the members I have had in my classes who have come up to me to express the difference I have made in their lives. Here I thought I was doing a job; but it turns out I was doing something more. Seeing the change that takes place in the members’ lives is one of my biggest pleasures when it comes to teaching class. As I said earlier, we all have a history that affects others; that is certainly the case with the main character in this biographical, crime drama. AT THE TIME HE WAS FOLLOWING orders; but Mafia hitman Frank Sheehan’s, played by Robert De Niro (Mean Streets, Joker), dependability and loyalty made him a part of this country’s history. With Al Pacino (The Godfather franchise, Dick Tracy) as Jimmy Hoffa, Joe Pesci (Raging Bull, My Cousin Vinny) as Russell Bufalino, Harvey Keitel (Bad Lieutenant, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Angelo Bruno and Ray Romano (The Big Sick, Everybody Loves Raymond-TV) as Bill Bufalino; no one could ask for a better cast when it came to acting out these characters. The story was fascinating to me; especially because, I was familiar with some of the names that were being mentioned in the movie. The directing and filming of this picture was beautifully done; however, I felt there were parts that dragged on too long. The script caused these slow spots in places where I had to wait for the actors to move on. And truthfully, I felt there was a difference in watching this movie on a small screen instead of at the theater. Overall, I still enjoyed the film; but I wonder how much of it was based on truth. Because if it was indeed true, then Frank Sheeran definitely has a place in history.
3 ¼ stars
WALKING into the room I thought I was prepared for what I would see. I guess I was not because they were stretched out on the sofa, propped up with pillows that made them look like crumbled facial tissue. They were pale and listless with faded eyes that could only open halfway. My germaphobic tendencies were in a tug of war with my desire to take care of them. I do not always win this war; there are times I have to be lead in under a fog of just released air sanitizer and rubber gloves. The underlying motivation that pushes me is my love for them. When I am deep in a relationship it can be so painful for me to see my loved one sick that I would rather be the one with the illness; you know that says a lot coming from someone who avoids door handles and elevator buttons. ILLNESS is part of life; there is no way to avoid a sickness though heaven knows I keep trying. When one begins a love relationship they usually are not thinking about the possibility of being a caregiver at some point. The beginning stages of romance involve intimate dinners, exciting or restful travels, being schooled in the likes and dislikes of the other; all wonderful and valid experiences that form a solid foundation in which the two can build their relationship on. To have a sickness at the beginning stages of a deep love can be a painful test of one’s commitment. I have known a few individuals who could not handle the responsibilities associated with being a supportive partner during their loved one’s sickness. It is an ugly situation no matter how you look at it. I will never forget being in the early stages of dating this person who kept commenting about the hair on my chest. It seemed a bit over the top to me so I asked how they would feel if I ever had to go through chemo and lost it. They had to stop and think about it. FROM what only appeared to be a hook-up turned into a growing romance between stand up comic Kumail and graduate student Emily, played by Kumail Nanjiani (Central Intelligence, Silicon Valley-TV) and Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks, What If). The relationship would not sit well with Kumail’s parents who were planning for his marriage. This film festival winning romantic comedy based on true events was utterly charming in a new fresh way from the typical rom-com. With Holly Hunter (Strange Weather, The Big White) as Beth, Ray Romano (Rob the Mob, The Last Word) as Terry and Zenobia Shroff (When Harry Tries to Marry, Percy) as Sharmeen; the actors made up a solid ensemble with Holly and Zoe being the stand outs for me. The script was intelligent and had an easy flow between comedy, intimacy, sadness and reality. I was fascinated by the added element of cultural differences provided by Kumail and his family. The way humor was drawn out from several of their scenes was done with kindness and affection. One example on the smartness of the script was the inclusion of the standup comedy sessions; it provided a nice balance to the illness element. The diagnosis for this movie is it will not make you sick, you will feel good instead and it will show you perseverance; just what the movie doctor ordered.
3 ½ 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
It does not take much to have a mundane type of day turn into a happy-go-lucky day. I am not talking about planned events where one is only waiting for the approval before undertaking a new position or some other such thing. I am talking about those things that happen in our daily life that are unexpected and surprise us. For me it can be pulling into a city parking space where there still is available time left on the meter. Opening the game ticket that was handed to me by the waitress and discovering I won a free dessert was enough to turn the rest of my day into a euphoric glow of joy, filled with bright skies and double rainbows. Oh wait maybe that was my sugar high talking now. No matter, these little surprises bring forth a dollop of fun to our lives. For Tommy Uva and Rosie, played by Michael Pitt (Seven Psychopaths, Funny Games) and Nina Arianda (Midnight in Paris, Tower Heist), one small surprise was not only going to make their day, it was going to change their lives. Following the trial of a major crime boss, the couple came up with a plan on how to rob Mafia managed social clubs. It would take some finesse to stay ahead of the FBI and the Mafia for this couple from Queens, New York. The first thing I have to tell you is this film was my surprise for the day. I did not see any advertisements or trailers for it, nor even knew the premise to the story. This picture was a hidden gem; I thought it was good entertainment. Now if that was not enough, to find out this movie was based on a true story blew my mind. I mean the audacity of coming up with the plan, the execution of it and the high stakes; I had to replay film scenes over in my mind afterwards, once I found out there was some truth to the story. Michael and NIna were adorable playing the loving couple; one could not resist the charm they brought to their characters. Andy Garcia (The Untouchables, City Island) who played crime boss Big Al had an easy time making his character work on screen. Ray Romano (The Grand, Everybody Loves Raymond-TV) as news reporter Jerry Cardozo was the weak link just because I did not see much difference in this character compared to Ray playing Ray Barone, minus the humor. There were some parts of the movie that slowed down for me, but not enough to take away my interest in the story. I have to tell you after seeing this film I not only had a good day but a good rest of the week.