I WAS SITTING ON THE COUCH, deep into a mystery novel, when I suddenly felt a puff of air on the back of my neck. In the seconds I needed to alter my thought process back into the real world, that puff of air was replaced with something wet. As I leaned forward to turn around, there on the back of the couch sat my relatives’ cat; I was so into reading my book I had not noticed the cat jumping up onto the couch to get behind me. I chuckled to myself as I settled into my spot to get back to reading my book. The cat had other plans for me. He tentatively placed his paw on my shoulder as if he were testing the temperature of water. The next thing I knew, he got up onto my shoulders; paused for a moment for sniffing and pressing his paws around my upper back before he stretched himself out and plopped himself around the back of my neck. I asked him what he thought he was doing as I smoothed out the fur on the part of his legs, I could see that were hanging down in front. He was such an easy-going character; so, I went back to my reading while the steady drone of purring played in the background. THOUGH I NEVER HAD A DOG OR cat as a pet when I was growing up, I had several relatives who did. This offered me the luxury of playing with them without the cleanup or mess. One relative had two black cats with white diamonds on their chests. They were not related but they certainly looked like a father and son duo. The older one had a nervous personality, where he was always suspicious and skittish. If I came over with a new toy, I would have to leave it out in the open in the middle of the floor and walk away from it. He would wait until I left the room before he would come out from under a piece of furniture and circle the toy, stopping in his tracks periodically to see if the toy would do something. Slowly he got closer to the toy, always on guard. When he finally got to it, he would take a sniff before swatting it to see what it would do. I could spend hours watching him and his methodical ways. In general, I have always enjoyed watching and playing with cats; that is, until I saw this comedic, family drama film. ONCE A YEAR A GROUP OF CATS come together to see which one will be chosen to start a new life. One of the cats however planned on stacking the deck in his favor. With newcomer Francesca Hayward as Victoria, Idris Elba (The Dark Tower, The Mountain Between Us) as Macavity, Judi Dench (Victoria & Abdul, Philomena) as Old Deuteronomy, Rebel Wilson (How to be Single, Isn’t it Romantic?) as Jennyanydots and Jennifer Hudson (The Secret Life of Bees, Dreamgirls) as Grizabella; I am at a loss for words to describe my experience sitting through this odd movie. Having seen the stage play, the transfer of it to the big screen took away a lot of the magic and wonder of seeing the cats perform both on stage and in the audience. Here, I found the actors looked weird and had no screen presence except for Jennifer Hudson. Her scenes were the best in my opinion. Since there really was never a plot to the story, sitting in the theater listening to one song and another; I would have preferred if I could have watched them as music videos on TV or the internet. Visually this picture was pleasing to see with its fanciful scenes and sets; however, it was not enough to keep me engaged. If you have a choice, I would recommend instead of watching this bizarre experiment you volunteer your time at an animal shelter.
1 ¾ stars
WITH THE RESTAURANT BEING SO CROWDED, I was wedged between two sets of diners. We were seated on a vinyl covered bench that spanned the length of the wall. Small wooden tables were barely spaced apart, all the way down, in front of the bench. Next to me sat a mother and her young daughter who happened to be standing in front of me in line, while we were waiting to be seated. A waiter walked up to them first to take their food order. I could not help but hear what they ordered. The mother ordered first and with everything she chose, she asked the waiter to make an alteration to the item. With one food item she did not want the sauce, another she did not want the pickles and so on. Normally I would not have paid attention; however, when it was time for the young daughter to order, the little girl did the same thing. Everything the girl ordered was almost identical to her mother’s orders. I thought how odd; both mother and daughter had identical taste buds? What made me think about this more was the fact when the mother ordered she did not just say, remove the item; she used the words, did not like it or hated it. This made me wonder if the daughter really did not like the items that were being removed or had she learned to dislike them from her mother. Hmmm. WHEN I WAS THAT DAUGHTER’S AGE, there were many foods I did not like. Many of them I had not even tasted before deciding I wasn’t going to eat them. I did not realize back then I was a visual and texture eater. If something did not look right, whatever right meant, I would not touch it. The same thing went for the texture of the food; I always preferred food that was crunchy instead of creamy. There are foods I eat now that back then I would never allow on my plate. In my case I had decided whether I wanted an item or not; no one influenced me. However, with this little girl I wasn’t sure if she had issues with texture and appearance or she was simply mimicking her mother. If her mother did not like something did the daughter choose not to like the same thing? I thought it would be sad if this little girl went through life missing out on different foods or things because she was taught to hate them. If you care to see how it can happen then feel free to watch this dramatic war comedy. JOJO, PLAYED BY NEWCOMER ROMAN GRIFFIN Davis, wanted to grow up and do his part for Nazi Germany. However, all his beliefs and dreams got shattered when he discovered his mother Rosie, played by Scarlett Johansson (Rough Night, Under the Skin), had been hiding a Jewish girl named Elsa, played by Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies), in their attic. What would the Fuhrer think of him? With Taika Waititi (Green Lantern, Wat We Do in the Shadows) as Adolf and Sam Rockwell (Vice, Mr. Right) as Captain Klenzendorf; this story would appear to be another take on the horrors of World War II; however, it was not done the same. The script was both original and fun; I was impressed with the cleverness in which it conveyed its message. The ensemble of actors each provided a particular thread that woven together created an outrageous satire that was enjoyable and funny. For me, this was a bold experiment that zeroed in on the subject of hatred and put it directly in front of the viewer’s face. Truly different and original, I hope no one makes a snap judgement based solely on the movie trailer without experiencing for themselves the magic in this satire.
3 ¼ stars
SITTING CLOSE ENOUGH TO ME TO BE heard was a mother and her young son. I could not help but to hear their conversation. The little boy was whining he did not want to go visit his aunt and uncle. For every negative comment the boy made, his mother would answer with an upbeat or positive answer. If you ask me I think their conversation went on way too long. So, I will spare you most of it and only give you some highlights. When the mother asked her son why he did not want to go visit his aunt and uncle, the boy said there was nothing there to do. The mother told him he could play in their backyard. To that the boy said there was nothing in the backyard except flowers and bushes. At another point in the conversation the boy said he did not like sitting by his uncle because he smelled funny. By the way this child was, I am guessing, around 4 or 5 years old. Another thing he did not like was the aunt’s chocolate chip cookies; they were always burnt. To sum up the entire conversation the boy was always bored and uncomfortable sitting at his relatives’ house. MANY OF US MIGHT BE ABLE to relate to that conversation; where we must do something, we might not like doing. For me there was a relative that was an awful cook. Eating at their house was a chore because not only were many of the food dishes unrecognizable, they were also horrible tasting. I would always want to stop at a fast food restaurant before going to their house for dinner. Now there are other circumstances where one doesn’t want to do something they have to do. I don’t like having to go get my driver’s license renewed. The wait is always long and slow; the fear is always there that if I must take the driver’s test I will get an administrator who is in a bad mood; and the worst part, I will have to press my face into the viewer screen for the eye test portion. I can only imagine how many germs and stuff have been left on that viewer screen from all the applicants. Don’t all of us have to do things we do not want to do? It is part of life. The reason I have mentioned this is because I honestly was not looking forward to seeing this comedy. From the trailers, I had a feeling this movie would have a hard time keeping my attention. ONE SCAM ARTIST WAS SOPHISTICATED AND chic, the other raw and uncouth; when they descend on the same place it would turn into a battle for each to outdo the other. With Anne Hathaway (Ocean’s Eight, Rachael Getting Married) as Josephine Chesterfield, Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect franchise, Isn’t it Romantic) as Penny, Nicholas Woodeson (Skyfall, Disobedience) as Albert, Alex Sharp (How to Talk to Girls at Parties, UFO) as Thomas Westerburg and Dean Norris (Fist Fight, Breaking Bad-TV) as Howard Bacon; this film suffered under a variety of poor choices. First, let me talk about Rebel. She needs to stop doing the same thing over and over. This character was no different from many of her past ones. I especially dislike how the writers use her weight to create so called comedy. As for the script, it was so basic that there was nothing noteworthy about it; it was ridiculous and boring. Whenever there was the opportunity to go with the lowest common denominator, this story went with it. I told you I was not looking forward to seeing this film and now I know why. The only positive thing I can say about this movie is that I went to the morning, bargain priced showing.
1 ½ stars
IT WASN’T UNTIL ONE OF MY first paying jobs where I finally felt I had a sense of hope. Up to then I was sure I was being judged more on my looks. At this job an older employee befriended me, helping me get accustomed to the work environment. One day towards the end of the work day he came over to my work area to fill out his paperwork. I have no idea how the subject came up but at some point, he was telling me the differences between two female employees, who I happened to be friends with each one. I thought maybe he was fishing for information, but I had nothing to offer him. He explained to me why he would not date one of the two women. I still had no idea why he was telling me this; but the thing that intrigued me was the fact he was talking about the female that many of the male employees felt was the more attractive one. This employee came to work everyday with her makeup just right and her hair always styled as if she was prepped for a photo shoot. She was skinny and wore what appeared to be very expensive clothing. This guy’s comments were so counter to anything I had heard before; by the way, most of the other male employees made sexist and rude remarks about this “prettier” employee. THE OTHER FEMALE EMPLOYEE WAS THE opposite. I would refer to her as being low maintenance. Her clothing was more comfortable looking than fashionable. She usually wore her hair in a ponytail and rarely wore makeup. You may be wondering what I found so fascinating about that male employee’s comments about not being interested in dating a woman like the other female employee. What surprised me was him saying he would prefer being with someone like the non-makeup employee because she was funny and witty, had a hearty laugh and wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. I wasn’t sure how to process some of his comments; however, the fact he was not focusing on superficial things is what gave me hope in the dating world. Not looking like any of the men in advertisements, besides not being athletic; that someone would be more interested in a person’s qualities was something I had not seen among my peers. Most people I have listened to tend to comment about a person’s looks before they will mention anything with more substance. The main character in this comedic fantasy would certainly understand me. WAKING UP FROM A HEAD INJURY cynical Natalie, played by Rebel Wilson (How to be Single, Pitch Perfect franchise), found herself in a hellish position; she was in the middle of what appeared to be a romantic comedy. None of it was part of her real life. With Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games franchise, Love and Honor) as Blake, Adam Devine (Pitch Perfect franchise, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates) as Josh, Priyanka Chopra (Baywatch, A Kid Like Jake) as Isabella and Betty Gilpin (True Story, Glow-TV) as Whitney; this romantic comedy started with a solid idea for a story. The cast was fun to watch, especially Rebel flourishing in her element. There was nothing that warranted out loud laughing, but there were scenes that made me chuckle. This is a fantasy so one needs to let go with part of their reality to get something out of this picture. The message was right on and I enjoyed the satirical touches that were sprinkled into the script. Could this have been a better written film and allow Rebel to do more? Sure, but for a light stroll through an alternative reality, this movie was okay. Notice nothing was mentioned about the looks of this film.
2 ¼ stars
SOMETIMES OUR DREAMS DO not come true or at least not the way we had hoped they would. I have mentioned in previous reviews I feel dreams are a vital part of a person’s life; in my opinion, they are the oasis in the voyage of our lives. Just recently a friend was telling me the next 3 months were going to be intense for him at his workplace. He needed to dangle something in front of himself to strive towards (like that carrot in front of a horse thing), to get through his grueling work schedule, so he was planning a trip in April. I listened as he told me how he will think about exotic locations he wants to visit while crunching data for reports. I saw it as a pressure valve thing where he needed to take his mind off of the tedious and monotonous motions of his day. Let us face it who can sit in a sterile work cubicle every day, doing the same thing over and over, without letting your mind at some point drift to something more pleasurable? ANOTHER AVENUE WHERE OUR dreams may come into play is when we encounter people who were with us during the birth of a particular dream. These individuals represent validation that our dreams were a real thing that we wanted to achieve at some point in time. Think about the friends you had during high school and college, where you would all talk about what you wanted to do after you were done with school. I remember bumping into a former classmate who recalled my interest in photography; they asked me if I pursued photography as a career. As the two of us started to talk about the past I saw images in my mind of me spending every weekend in the darkroom, developing the past week’s worth of photographs. I dreamed of being a photojournalist back then, remembering the amount of photos I would take in hopes of submitting some of them to news organizations. After meeting that former classmate my dream of being a photographer came back to life for a short time. I found my camera up on a shelf in the closet, so I started taking photographs again to see how it would feel. The feeling only lasted a short time but it did feel good. A similar thing happened to the friends in this musical comedy sequel. DISENCHANTED AND DISILLUSIONED WITH the life they were now leading the former Bellas singing group got back together to audition for an overseas USO tour. Being chosen meant each of the members could leave their life behind and start over with a new one; however one had to be careful what they wished for. Starring Anna Kendrick (The Accountant, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates) as Beca, Rebel Wilson (How to be Single, Bridesmaids) as Fat Amy, Brittany Snow (Hairspray, Prom Night) as Chloe and Anna Camp (The Help, True Blood-TV) as Aubrey; this 3rd installment quickly went from a cute to silly story. I thought the script was awful and missed the opportunity to relive the original film’s charm. There seemed to be less singing and an increase in lame comedy bits that bored me. It was a shame the producers decided to make this sequel that dragged down any fun memories one might have had with the former films. And with the different story lines that were thrown into this picture all I have to say is this 3rd one was not the charm; instead it was off key.
1 ¾ stars
Hank Williams sang a song called, “Alone and Forsaken,” that had to do with regret. I think all of us at one time have regretted something we did or did not do. I came late to the game of life, where one tries to live without regretting one’s actions. And to tell you the truth there are things I still do that I question if there was a different way I could have handled the situation. The key to managing regrets is to not let them stick and fester inside of you. I am sure we all have experienced buying something where soon after we regretted making the purchase. Before I taught myself to take a breath to slow down my reactions, I have said many things that I now regret saying. Even with a couple of the intense breakups I experienced I still wish I hadn’t said some of the angry things I hurled at the individuals. My philosophy in life is I believe there are no accidents; there is a reason for everything. With that in mind I feel mistakes are made to teach us something new. Just last week I followed a new recipe for baking a dessert. After reading the list of ingredients I started mixing the dry ones together before adding the wet ones. However, I failed to read beyond the mixing of ingredients because if I had I would have seen only 1/2 of the amount of chocolate chips were to be spread across the first layer of batter; the rest of them were to be sprinkled on top. In the scheme of things this was not as tragic a mistake as it was for me to see this action comedy. AFTER searching for his brother Sebastian, played by Mark Strong (The Imitation Game, Kingsman: The Secret Service), for the past 28 years Nobby, played by Sacha Baron Cohen (The Dictator, Bruno), finally found him and discovered he was a top assassin for London’s spy agency MI6. No matter what situation Sebastian was involved in Nobby was not going to lose his brother again; though Nobby did not realize he could lose his life instead. I do not know where I should begin to tell you why I had such a poor time sitting through this movie. Let me start with the humor; it was essentially vulgar, crude and not funny. With the story using comedy to move it along, you can only imagine this was one long viewing experience for me. The thing that truly surprised me was why actors such as Penelope Cruz (To Rome with Love, Zoolander 2) as Rhonda George and Rebel Wilson (How to be Single, Pitch Perfect franchise) as Dawn Grobham agreed to be part of this picture. Did they not read the script and see that a majority of jokes had to do with body parts? When this film was finally over I actually considered going to the box office to complain; I still regret having spent money on this stinker. Brief extra scene at the end of the credits.
The rules for dating as far as I can tell are constantly changing. I use to wish for a handbook to make the process easier. From my experiences I feel the underlying reason for all of the confusion these days is mistrust. It seems as if very few people take another person at face value. There was a time where most dates did not have an issue getting picked up at their home. I do not know if it is partially because of the internet or all the different crime shows on television, but a majority of people prefer meeting at some type of public establishment. Now I actually agree with this logic; I’m all for meeting someone out publicly for the 1st time. Here is the thing though; even after a couple of dates I noticed some individuals balk at the suggestion of being picked up at their home or coming over to mine. There have been times when I’ve offered such an arrangement but sensed their uneasiness at the suggestion. I get the sense they feel I have an ulterior motive in offering such a thing. It is just weird to me; but I never force the issue. Now there is something else that I find perplexing; maybe you have noticed it yourself. Those friends that go from being single to being in a relationship quickly become outdated on the latest dating rules; it is as if their set of rules expired over night. You can query them, asking them how they knew their date was the right one; but to no avail, everyone has a different answer. When you think about it, it is amazing how people wind up being in a loving relationship. If you do not believe me just take a look at the women in this comedic romance. Alice, Robin and Meg; played by Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey, Black Mass), Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect franchise, Bridesmaids) and Leslie Mann (The Other Woman, This is 40); each had different reasons for dating. It only became more confusing when love was introduced into it. Based on the best seller, the cast also included Anders Holm (The Intern, The Interview) as Tom and Jake Lacy (Carol, Obvious Child) as Ken. Though I have not read the book, I did get the idea the story was meant to shine a light on the dating world from a feminine perspective. I thought Leslie and Rebel were better when it came to acting skills. Honestly though, I did not think this movie did anything different; I was constantly getting bored with the story. In fact, the trailer for this film showed the best parts; throughout the movie I never connected to any of the characters. Now here is the funny thing, I could see where the story could have taken a bigger risk and delve deeper into the characters but the script was not geared to do it. After seeing this film I am just as confused about dating and love as I was before.
1 3/4 stars
The night was going to be the first of its kind in this part of the country. An amusement park was closing early to host a charity event that a group of us decided to attend. To gain entry into the park you had to have a special wristband; it was weird to see employees of the park usher out those who did not have one of these bands. However, it was a cool feeling to walk around the park with like-minded folks. The weather was perfect with a summer ending temperature accompanied by a gentle breeze. While we were walking around the park speakers that normally played non-descript background music were pumping out dance music. In fact the center outdoor stage was turned into a huge dance floor with spotlights and disco balls. It was such a successful event the park agreed to host another one the following year. Since all of us had a great time, we decided we would get together next year and do it again. The following year’s event was well attended and the weather was even better this time. As we walked around we noticed some of the rides were not available; we could not remember if they were open the first time. I noticed there were fewer restaurants and food kiosks available for us; luckily I ate before we left for the park. All I remember thinking at the time was the event did not have the same fun feel and magic as the first one. AFTER creating a major embarrassment in front of the President of the United States, the Barden Bellas were banned from performing or auditioning; essentially it would eliminate the a cappella singing group from existence. The only way the women could return to performing was to enter and win an international competition that no American group had ever won. This musical comedy sequel quickly came on strong with its solid singing and dancing performances. Returning cast members like Beca and Amy, played by Anna Kendrick (Into the Woods, The Voices) and Rebel Wilson (Pain & Gain, Bridesmaids), were joined by Hailee Steinfeld (Begin Again, True Grit) as Emily and Birgitte Hjort Sorensen (Borgen, Marie Kroyer) as arch rival Kommissar. There were parts of this film I enjoyed but others seemed forced with cheap humor. In fact I thought several of the jokes were being beaten over our heads and a couple were distasteful in my opinion. Where the first movie was a classic underdog one; this one did not offer the same kind of connection for me. If I was not a fan of the singing portions, I would have been bored after a while. The magic was less compared to the original film. One surprise extra scene in the middle of the ending credits.
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
The stakes were high, where the difference between winning and losing could easily be decided by a single note. I am especially fond of powerful, strong female voices; so, I was ready to see this musical movie. After a disastrous finish to last year’s singing competition the Barden Bellas, an all girl a cappella group, were determined to regroup and win the trophy this year. Led by the controlling Aubrey and her sidekick Chloe, played by Anna Camp (The Help, Forgetting the Girl) and Brittany Snow (Hairspray, Prom Night), the two needed to replenish and reinvigorate the Bellas. In one of the better scenes, reluctant freshman Beca, played by Anna Kendrick (50/50, Up in the Air), was cornered in the dormitory’s showers when her singing caught the ear of nearby Chloe. The competition heated up when the school’s male a cappella group’s Jesse, played by Skylar Astin (Taking Woodstock, Hamlet 2) took an interest in more than just Beca’s singing. Fitting into the Step Up or Bring it On type of movies, this film was like an older version of the television show Glee. The singing was fun, while the bulk of the comedy was easily handled by the character Fat Amy, played by Rebel Wilson (Bridesmaids, Bachelorette). The funniest bits, however, came from the competition announcers Gail and John, played by Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games, People Like Us) and John Michael Higgins (Bad Teacher, Big Miracle). Overall the movie was out of tune for me. I felt there was not enough development to the characters, making them cartoonish. Anna Kendrick was quite good both in acting and singing; I forgot she had been nominated for a Tony Award previously. The story for the most part was predictable; some new twists would have been nice. Even with some sour notes, this harmless comedy had some decent riffs.
2 1/3 stars