AS I LISTENED TO THE description of the show I became more horrified by the changes in the story. It was one of my favorite stories when I was a child. The changes I was hearing did not make any sense to me and I could not understand why anyone would want to tamper with a classic story. That is not just my opinion; the story has survived as they say the test of time, bringing joy to millions. The story has been turned into several films, theater productions and ice skating shows; yet for the most part the essence of it remained the same. Imagine how you would feel if you were going to see something that you were familiar with only to discover it was nothing like you remembered. For me it is like going to a favorite restaurant for a specific dish only to find out, after they brought it to your table, that the cooks changed it. Yes I know there is a possibility I could love it even more; but the chances the new dish will not satisfy my taste buds seem to always run higher. SO LET ME TELL YOU about the book today’s movie is based on. It was required reading when I was in school. I enjoyed the story so much that I read the book twice. It has been years since I thought about the story; but I remember anytime I was invited to a kid’s party I would always first consider buying this book as a gift. There were times I found out the child already had a copy of the book which in an odd way pleased me. I felt like this family, whether I was related to them or not, gets it; they understand the story is truly special and may also know the book was awarded the Newbery Medal. For those of you not familiar, the Newbery Medal is a literary award given to the author; think of it as the Oscars of children literature. As you may imagine I was looking forward to seeing this movie version of one of my favorite books. Let me also say I am aware I may not remember everything about the story but I do know how it made me feel and this adventure fantasy caused me to experience different feelings. FOUR YEARS AFTER HER FATHER disappeared from home Meg, played by Storm Reid (12 Years a Slave, Sleight), was visited by three beings who knew where her father had gone. With Oprah Winfrey (Selma, The Color Purple) as Mrs. Which, Reese Witherspoon (Home Again, Walk the Line) as Mrs. Whatsit, Mindy Kaling (No Strings Attached, The Office-TV) as Mrs. Who and Levi Miller (Pan, Red Dog: True Blue) as Calvin; I enjoyed the visuals in this picture. What I did not enjoy was pretty much everything else in this movie. I was actually annoyed with the direction; it seemed at least 50% of the scenes were shot in close-up. The script was so poorly written that almost all the characters were drab and lifeless. For such a story the writers and director needed to hit the viewers with deep emotional scenes, making the negative forces something we would fear. Instead I sat in my seat being bored and depressed with how wrong this movie got the story. Even the acting, except for a couple of actors, was bland and uninspiring. Now I will say if you have never read the book, you might find something you like about this movie. For me I plan on re-reading the story so I can forget about what I saw in this film.
1 ¾ stars
AFTER SPENDING A good portion of one’s life making decisions for others, a person may have forgotten how to make one for themselves. Ideally you grow up and learn how to be self-sufficient, in other words to be a responsible adult. Depending on your life’s course people and/or children can come into your life so your decisions will then have to incorporate them. It only makes sense if you are in a relationship the two of you would consider each other in your decisions. I had a friend who saw most things in black and white; you may know this type of person where all of their decisions come out of a pool of two options: yes or no. There was no room to negotiate with them. After several years they fell in love and soon after the two of them moved in together. I do not know what happened but from that point on this person could not make one decision without getting approval from their partner; it was the oddest thing to me. HAVE YOU EVER noticed how some decisions are influenced by peer pressure? I cannot recall the exact percentage but I read a study where at least 25% of mothers alter their parental decisions in public due to peer pressure. For me this falls into the same category of decisions that get based on statements with the word “should” in them. For example, “you should act your age” or “you should lose weight,” would fall into that category where someone is trying to dictate what they think you should be doing in your life. I am all for friends sharing their opinions about something that affects my life; but I hear them better when it is a discussion with feelings involved instead of just being told I should do such and such then everything will be fine. No, I do not operate that way; if they can tell me the reasons why they feel I should make a change then of course I would give consideration to what they were saying to me. The challenge is when you have more than one person telling you what they think you should do and it is not the same advice; somewhat similar to what was going on in this comedic, romantic drama. MOVING ACROSS THE country after separating from her husband Alice Kinney, played by Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, Wild), found her life taking a different course when she had too much to drink while celebrating her birthday and found herself in bed with Harry, played by Pico Alexander (A Most Violent Year, Indignation). He came with friends. With Nat Wolff (Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars) as Teddy, Michael Sheen (Passengers, Midnight in Paris) as Austen, Jon Rudnitsky (Patchwork, Saturday Night Live-TV) as George and Candice Bergen (Rules Don’t Apply, Gandhi) as Lillian Stewart; the cast was fine for this story. I would have preferred more scenes with Candice and Michael however. The idea behind the story had some valid components, but I found the script was not able to carry them throughout the movie. There was a hodgepodge of scenes were some were cute, others unrealistic and some were simply bland. My overall feeling for this film was “meh;” for me there needed to be more story so I could find some connections to the characters. I do not want this to sound like I am telling the writers what they should have done; I only want to share my feelings with them and with you.
THE mother was upset by the zoo animals fighting in their enclosure. With her young child standing by her side with his arm extended up to hold his mother’s hand, she was arguing with a zookeeper. I was standing off to the side with other visitors but I could hear every word and she was mad. Essentially she was upset the animals were not peacefully walking around their pen, letting the visitors get a good look at them. I had the urge to tell her this was a zoo and not a beauty pageant but decided to keep my mouth shut. The animals were just being themselves and fighting over territory; but apparently that was not enough for her, she wanted them to act more human. I know there are people who find animals more endearing when they can attach a human emotion to the animal’s actions. I totally understand because I wanted to become a veterinarian after I read the book Doctor Dolittle. I loved the way the animals carried on conversations with the doctor. Wouldn’t you say most of us are more comfortable with animals when they act in a fashion more akin to human beings? As a child I could not wait to grow up and go out on a date to an Italian restaurant so we could share a spaghetti meal just like Lady and Tramp did in their movie. Look at how many talking animals have been part of our culture, from Michigan J. Frog to the horse Mr. Ed to the talking chipmunks Alvin and his brothers. Oh and how can I ignore all of those cat and dog videos posted on the internet? The animals look adorable as they perform tricks or interact with those around them. Watching them can be fun but I have never seen any that can match the singing that was done in this animated film. BUSTER Moon, voiced by Matthew McConaughly (The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club), came up with a brilliant idea to save his beloved theater; hold a singing contest. He was in for a big surprise after the mailer advertising the event was sent out. This comedic drama had a wonderful cast of actors to voice many of the characters; there was Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, This Means War) as Rosita, Seth MacFarlane (A Million Ways to Die in the West, Tooth Fairy) as Mike, Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers franchise, Don Jon) as Ash and the biggest surprise for me Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Testament of Youth) as Johnny. Luckily the characters were fun to watch because the script was a bit bland. The story revolved around the singing competition which was fine, but there were times where I felt the script could have used a rewrite. Let me say kids will like the mayhem and action while the parents will enjoy the singing; most of the songs were current. This film may have lacked a little in the lessons learned aspect that other children’s animated pictures have depicted, but I found this movie to be quite entertaining. Plus c’mon how can one resist animals that sing and sing well?
Everyone was having a good time as things continued to go smoothly at the reception. The top reason for this was due to the main attraction, the bride and groom. They were each outgoing individuals that were able to create memorable times no matter the situation. Now as a couple their chemistry only accentuated their fun qualities. All the guests were mingling and chatting during the cocktail hour, telling each other memories they had shared with the bride and/or groom. Dinner was announced as the large padded doors along one wall were folded back, revealing a room glowing in a soft palette of white, burgundy and gold colors. There was an orchestra playing music as the guests headed to their seats. After everyone was seated the orchestra leader announced the newly married couple as they entered in to the sound of cheers and applause from family and friends. Once they were seated the first toasts of the evening were given by each of the parents. They shared personal fun stories about their children, giving the crowd a good laugh. The next toast came from the best man who was the groom’s best friend. Since they had known each other since 1st grade, there were intimate tales the best man felt for some reason were okay to tell the crowd. One embarrassing story led to another with a running joke that was only cute the first time. The lukewarm reaction to the joke did not stop the best man; his speech dragged out to a point where the crowd was dulled into boredom. JUST like the best man overstayed his welcome, so did the main characters in this action comedy. Reese Witherspoon (Wild, Walk the Line) played uptight police officer Cooper who was assigned to protect Daniella Riva, played by Sofia Vergara (Chef, Modern Family-TV), the wife of a drug lord. Cooper’s training did not prepare her for Daniella and all the bad guys after her. I was surprised by this movie’s story. Sure there was humor to mine when the two main characters were total opposites of each other; however, the writers did nothing new with them. The running joke about Daniella’s accent and not being understood got old very fast. I found Reese’s character, which was the blander of the two, annoying after a short time. As the movie went on it dawned on me that it was similar to the film, The Heat with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. The difference being this was a very poor version of it. I read afterwards that Reece and her production company want to bring out strong women driven films which I am all for; but if this was an example of what is in store for the movie audience, I think it will push back the limited gains that have been made already.
1 1/2 stars
It may start as a single tear that slipped out of the eye, leaving a trail of moist sadness. As time trudges on its unsteady path, the sadness builds up into waves that defy tidal logic, washing over you again and again. There are some people who do not experience grief in the same way. For them it feels like a sore throat that only reminds them of the pain when they swallow. And then there is a group of individuals who believe they remain in control; however, memories trip them up when they hear a certain song or maybe the taste of a favorite food. Death is the quilt formed by a person’s life experiences that never stops growing until the time it comes to wrap itself around you in one final loving embrace. I have seen how a person’s imminent death affects all the people around them. There is a heaviness in the air as it squeezes itself into the lives of friends and family. I can see where some people feel like they are suffocating and the only thing they want to do is to check out of life for a while. DEVASTATED by a recent tragedy Cheryl Strayed, played by Reese Witherspoon (Mud, Walk the Line), chose to deal with it by escaping from the life she was living. Her way of escaping was to undertake a 1,100 mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. Based on a true story this dramatic biography led me into its story due to Reese. This may sound odd, but seeing her play this character made me realize she was an adult woman. With her past roles I always had the sense she was a little girl playing dress up. In this picture she had a rawness and grittiness that seemed to have been formed from her personal life choices; I had never experienced this from her before. There was a dual beauty about this film. The first was the gorgeous scenic shots that popped up throughout the story. The other beauty was the way the cast blended together in a consistent show of strength, dominated by Laura Dern (The Fault in Our Stars, We Don’t Live Here Anymore) as Bobbi and Thomas Sadoski (John Wick, Loser) as Paul. For me this film had a story that was out of the realm of my thought processes. I enjoy hikes that are easy to manage that do not take a lot of thought; it is one of the ways I get to take a break from myself. What Cheryl did went way beyond anything I could have imagined for myself. It was astounding to see what Cheryl needed to do for herself.
3 1/4 stars
There were two extreme examples of love I saw when growing up. One was a married couple who lived in our apartment building. They bickered and argued almost every day; their voices sometimes reaching the decibels of a roaring jet engine. Though they fought constantly they still were affectionate to each other. The other example was Tony and Maria from the movie West Side Story. It was the scene in the gymnasium where all the lights dim except for a spotlight on each of them; as they see the other for the first time, from across a crowded gym floor. I preferred this example, believing it would happen to me when I fall in love. It took a long time before I experienced something close to that scene from the movie and I thought I would live happily ever after. We learn by example and sometimes those examples give mixed messages. This beautifully filmed drama showed different ways people were motivated by love. Part thriller and part coming of age tale; the story revolved around 14 year old friends Ellis, played by Tye Sheridan (The Tree of Life) and Neckbone, played by newcomer Jacob Lofland. Upon discovering a mysterious stranger living in a boat stuck up in a tree, the two boys agreed to help him reunite with the love of his life. Matthew McConaughey (The Paperboy, Magic Mike) played the stranger who called himself Mud and Reese Witherspoon (This Means War, Walk the Line) played his girlfriend Juniper. Matthew and Tye were the big standouts in this richly textured film. I was impressed with Matthew taking this edgy role and making it his own, similar to what he did in Killer Joe. Tye reminded me of a young Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), having that same type of face that easily expresses emotions. The supporting cast enriched this film. Sam Shepard (Safe House, The Right Stuff) was excellent as sharpshooter Tom Blankenship. I only wished the gifted Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, The Runaways) as Neckbone’s Uncle Galen had a bigger role. This Cannes Film Festival nominee told a multilayered story that was filled with diverse characters. The only commonality shared among the individuals was the effects of a shared or fading love.
3 1/2 stars
Two grown men fighting over Smurfette; I did not get it. Don’t get me wrong, I like Reese Witherspoon ( Walk the Line, Water for Elephants), who doesn’t? But in this role as Lauren, I felt she was miscast. Top CIA agents FDR Foster and Tuck, played by Chris Pine (Star Trek, Unstoppable) and Tom Hardy (Warrior, Inception) respectively, discover they are both dating the unsuspecting Lauren. What ensues essentially is a testosterone competition between the two agents as they try to win her affections. Using any means at their disposal, including the agency’s, we saw one dating scenario after another being sabotaged by the other agent. It was a goofy premise, but there were some easy laughs one could get out of this fast paced movie. Let us face it, this was the type of movie that did not require common sense. And after seeing Tom Hardy’s intense work in the movie Warrior, I had a hard time believing him in this role. On the other hand, I was amused by Chelsea Handler who played Lauren’s sharp tongued friend Trish. For a nonsensical film, where you just want a couple of good laughs, then this is your movie. However, I am not sure I would want to see it on a first date.
2 1/4 stars