I WAS SHOCKED WHEN I WAS told their daughter was going to join us for our lunch date. Normally, I would not be bothered by this type of news; but this was only our 3rddate. I barely knew them and now I was being introduced to their daughter? It seemed weird to me and I was feeling uncomfortable about it. I chose to keep an open mind and try to “go with the flow” as they say. Maybe they felt they were a bad judge of character and wanted their daughter there to see if there were any red flags associated with me, I wondered. After only having two dates, I thought they were nice; but I hadn’t really formed a firm opinion about them. It was a bit ironic because I took the fact, they were so quick to introduce me to their daughter, as a red flag. We had agreed to meet at a Chinese restaurant after I was told their daughter was a vegetarian. When I arrived at the chosen time, they were already there and seated at a table. The daughter looked like she was in high school which for some reason made me a little more nervous. Once the introductions were done and I was seated, the daughter was quick with the questions for me. I felt like I was on an interview. By the time our meal was over, I felt this was our last date; with the line of questions and her dominating the conversations, I knew this was not a good match. FROM MY DATING EXPERIENCES, I HAVE met a variety of my dates’ family members, but most of them were not introduced to me until after we had been dating for a few months. Mothers and grandmothers were especially fond of me for the most part. Luckily, I only had a couple of experiences which involved going to see their family members out of state. In those cases, I would only agree to the visit if we could stay in a hotel. I did not want to get into the position of not only meeting the relatives for the first time but having them put me up for the night. It was important to me to have a place where we could have downtime and relax without having to be on our best behavior or worse, they reverting to being a child in the presence of their parents, in their childhood home. That is why I still cannot understand why the main character agreed to see the parents in this dramatic thriller. BARELY KNOWING HER BOYFRIEND, A YOUNG woman, played by Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose, Judy), agrees to travel with him to visit his parents who live on a remote farm out in the country. Her only requirement was to make sure she got back home in time before she had to get to work. With Jesse Piemons (Judas and the Black Messiah, The Irishman) as Jake, Toni Collette (Hereditary, Knives Out) as Mother, David Thewlis (Harry Potter franchise, Wonder Woman) as Father and Guy Boyd (Body Double, Foxcatcher) as the janitor; this film festival winning movie’s saving grace was the cast. I thought the acting was terrific and that is despite the engorged script. For me, the first part of the film was boring what with all the talking between the two main characters. The story did not pick up for me until the parents’ scenes began. Now I will say I thought the build up of tension in the script was good; however, it dissipated at times when I was sitting and trying to figure out what was going on in the story. Maybe the book this picture is based on is better; but you might want to reconsider spending time with this family.
THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS HAVE BEEN something that I thought I would only have experienced by watching it in a movie. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would be told I have to remain indoors and only go out for needed, essential items. I know it has been a challenging time for so many people. Within the past several weeks, I read about a celebrity that filed for divorce, stating the pandemic was a partial cause to the failure in their marriage. It seemed being together 24/7 had a negative effect on their relationship. Now, I believe all love relationships need a component of space in them; but I must wonder if something was going on in this celebrity’s marriage before the country went into lockdown. The reason I question this is because I know a couple who were not getting along before the pandemic and when they both had to stay at home their negativity towards each other only grew more. You would think a life or death environment, which is what I consider we have had to live through the past year, would have put things into perspective for this couple and made them make a decision on how they wanted to live their lives for the future. THOUGH I AM NOT CONFIDENT THAT couple will stay together, I have seen firsthand how being with someone you care about 24/7 adds a deeper depth to the feelings one has for the other. Seeing the person, you think you know so well, working from home suddenly can be a revelation. Listening to the way they manage a meeting or bring resolution to a conflict can be eye opening. You may already know they are compassionate and kind, but to see the way they incorporate that into their workaday world is enlightening. There really is a difference to leading a social event compared to orchestrating a business meeting. What I have noticed now, since some companies are allowing their employees to return to the office, is those couples who have been together around the clock are feeling a sense of loss now that their loved one is not with them in their workday. I can see the advantage of having your loved one with you in your office setting because they immediately can be your trusted advisor or sounding board to bounce off ideas and feelings. It is a wonderful opportunity since we are in such strange times; it is like we are living in an alternative world and we are just trying to make the best of it. The couple in this comedic, crime romance is an example of how two people are dealing with the past year. FORCED TO STAY TOGETHER DURING THE pandemic, a couple’s true feelings for each other comes out in unexpected ways that drives them to the breaking point. With Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind) as Paxton, Anne Hathaway (Dark Waters, Ocean’s Eight) as Linda, Dule Hill (The West Wing-TV, Psych-TV) as David, Jazmyn Simon (Tyler Perry’s Acrimony, Ballers-TV) as Maria and Frances Ruffelle (Secrets & Lies, The Road to Ithaca) as Neighbour; the movie started out as a theater piece for me. I could see where the two actors would have been just as powerful on the stage as on the screen. I liked the idea of the story being about a couple during lockdown; however, there was another story within the script that was misplaced in my opinion. The 2 separate storylines were odd together. The first half of the film was tedious for me with the comments and fights; the last half was out of left field and ridiculous. I felt the writers were just piecing together snippets to form the script as if they did not know how to make an ending for the first storyline, so they just switched gears in the middle of the picture. It was already hard dealing with the restrictive social aspect of my life; watching this movie did not make me feel any better.
1 7/8 stars
WHEN THE MIND DESPERATELY WANTS TO do something, it does its best to avoid listening to the body. Images of the task at hand briefly pop up in the brain like bubbles, keeping you distracted from reality. I cannot tell you how many times I have found myself in this situation. Through the past years I have taught a fitness or yoga class, knowing in the back of my mind I might not be able to finish all the way through it. There was the time I was inflicted with a rotator cuff impingement, which in plain language is a pain in my shoulder. I knew there were several yoga poses in class that I would not be able to handle without causing more pain to myself. The only way I was able to get through the class was to do a quick demo of the completed pose and when I had the class join in, I did a modified version that took pressure off my shoulder. To the class, I explained what I was doing, but framed it as an option for those who might be feeling pressure/discomfort in their shoulders. No one had to know I was partially incapacitated, which I know is silly; however, I have it in my brain that I need to always appear 100% healthy to the members in my class. I have this fear that a member might assume any infliction I might have was due to exercising, causing them to stop. I know, it is ridiculous on my part to think of such a thing. ONE OF THE HARDEST CLASSES I HAD to teach was my first cycle class after suffering a bout of E coli. My doctor had recommended I take more time off from work and teaching to recover, but my mind was telling me I needed to get back to work and teaching. The members in my cycle class knew I had been hospitalized; there was no way to pretend I was perfectly fine. Getting onto the cycle bike took more effort than I had ever needed. My thoughts of “will I be able to get through class” were clashing with my brain telling me I had to teach. The music started and off I went into the warm-up phase of our ride. I got through it okay but when I told the class to pick up speed and come off their saddles, I immediately could tell I was going to be out of breath in no time. With sweat building up and my breathing becoming labored, I had to dial down the tension on the bike’s flywheel. Almost every challenge the class and I went through on our ride; I had to modify or simply sit down and take a breather. It was the hardest class I ever taught; but the members were so supportive and appreciative, I felt good for the first time since contracting the E coli. Because of what I had gone through, I understood why the main character in this dramatic sports romance kept going. HAVING PUSHED HIMSELF TO THE LIMITS to get to the level of competition he needed to be at, there was no way a pain in his body was going to stop Tyler, played by Kevin Harrison Jr. (It Comes at Night, Monsters and Men), from playing the sport he loved. He also did not want to disappoint his father. With Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased, Ben is Back) as Luke, Taylor Russell (Escape Room, Lost in Space-TV) as Emily, Sterling K. Brown (The Predator, Black Panther) as Ronald and Alexa Demie (Mid90s, Brigsby Bear) as Alexis; this film festival winner provided an absorbing viewing experience for me. I thought the acting was excellent from the whole cast because with a story we have seen before, they took the words in the script and turned them into something new and fresh. Also, the directing and filming made a difference for me in this movie. There was such authentic meaning ringing out in all the scenes, that I found myself experiencing some of the emotions that were taking place with the characters. This was a moving and emotional experience about family, pain, honesty, grief and forgiveness.
3 ½ stars
THE TRIP WAS ALREADY PAID FOR and I guess there was also a hope that a change of venue would smooth things out. Our relationship had gone into a tailspin just prior to our planned vacation. We had a discussion about whether it made sense for us to even go on a trip since we were experiencing hurt feelings and mistrust; but at the last moment, we decided since we were both miserable we might as well be miserable in a warmer climate instead of being stuck at home in the middle of winter. Honestly, I was good with the plan if for no other reason I would not have to shovel snow for a week. The other reason we agreed to continue with out plans was because we had already purchased tickets to see one of our favorite performers, who had a scheduled stop on their concert tour in the same place. How ironic then when we got there we found out the concert had been cancelled due to illness. Without the concert being something to look forward to, we had a miserable time. There was nothing else to look forward to on the trip and though we tried to patch things up, my pain would not heal. We flew back home with little conversation between us; 2 years of a relationship had come to an end. IN SOME OF MY PAST RELATIONSHIPS, there were times where an outside event had a strong impact on the two of us. Negative or positive, the fact we were experiencing it together helped clear the air of any grievances we happened to be experiencing at the moment. I do not exactly know why a strong outside event can have such an impact, but my guess is the handling together of a tough or let me say eye opening situation forges a bond between the 2 parties; it will either help solidify the bruised relationship or it will become a wedge to totally pry apart the individuals. I had a friend who was in a relationship that had the usual give and take. At one point they were going through a low point that extended beyond their usual durations. Sadly, an older relative that the 2 were quite fond of passed away. Their death brought the two back together in a stronger way, like never before; at least as far I as I had seen. As of today they are still together and appear as happy as ever. Seeing what was happening with the couple in this comedic crime action film, I was not sure they would get to the same place. WITH THEIR RELATIONSHIP BREAKING APART AFTER a few years together, a couple find themselves on the wrong side of the law when a bike messenger crashes down onto their car’s windshield. The only way they can save themselves was to find out who killed the messenger. With Issa Rae (The Photograph, Little) as Leilani, Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick, Stuber) as Jibran, Paul Sparks (Midnight Special, Boardwalk Empire-TV) as Moustache, Anna Camp (The Help, Pitch Perfect franchise) as Edie and Kyle Bornheimer (Marriage Story, The Big Wedding) as Brett, what made this film watchable and enjoyable was the connection between the two leads, Issa and Kumail. Their timing was in synch as was their believability. I thought they carried the weak script and did the best they could with it. There were several goofy scenes that did not make much sense, along with coming together in a choppy way at times. However, I was forgiving since the time spent was a short distraction from being at home and watching Issa and Kumail go through their scenes sometimes got a chuckle out of me.
2 ¼ stars
There are some people who are uncomfortable being the 3rd wheel of a group, others do not even think of it. I suppose it depends on what is going on at the time. For those unfamiliar with the term “3rd wheel” let me explain. A third wheel is a person who joins a couple for a social occasion. There rarely is a time when I feel uncomfortable being considered the 3rd wheel. When a friend becomes part of being a couple what do you do? Do you stop socializing with them just because they have a significant other? I don’t think so. We still get together. Now I will say there are times when a friend may be dating someone that I find offensive, but I remain cordial and just deal with it. I can remember though a couple of times where I was aware I was the odd man out. For example, a friend of mine won free tickets to an amusement park and invited me to join him and the person he was dating. Walking and eating in the park was okay but after a while I was getting tired of always having to ride an attraction by myself or with a stranger seated next to me because my friend and his date had to ride together so they could hold hands or hug. It was not a big deal but I did make a mental note to be aware of it if the circumstances were reversed and I was the one in a relationship. If I had time I would tell you about a friend of mine who would come visit me in college and bring along her boyfriend, so they could share the extra bed in my dorm room; talk about being uncomfortable. Do you find it as odd as I do how some people act differently when they are in a relationship? IMAGINE living in a society where you had 45 days to find a partner otherwise you would get turned into an animal. This was one of the most absurdist romantic comedies I have seen in a long time. Starring Colin Farrell (Phone Booth, Miami Vice) as David, Rachel Weisz (Oz the Great and Powerful, The Fountain) as short sighted woman and John C. Reilly (Chicago, Carnage) as lisping man; I had to wonder what the actors must have thought while making this film. There were parts of the story that made strong satirical statements; others were humorous, while some were just odd. I think viewers will have a strong reaction to this film festival winner; they will either love it or hate it. This was confirmed for me by the audience’s reactions I heard after the movie was over. I have to say I had a strong negative reaction to the end of the story; but before I got to that point, I cannot say I was entertained as much as I was curious while watching this romantic comedic drama. The interesting thing about this picture is how it offers something to think about whether you are presently single or in a relationship.
2 ¾ stars
The only reason I started listening to their conversation was because I thought they were talking about Russian royalty. As I stood in line to check out my groceries, two women in front of me were talking about someone named Anastasia. Since it was the title to one of my favorite Ingrid Bergman films, my ears perked up upon hearing that name. I quickly realized they were not talking about the movie so I lost interest in their conversation. Some time shortly after I was in a store and while in the shoe department I heard some people nearby talking about Anastasia and Christian. What were the chances I would hear the name Anastasia twice in one week? It was not long before I kept hearing about these two individuals everywhere I went, from the office to the health club to any retail establishment; it was unreal how many people were talking about them. Feeling like I hadn’t been invited to the party I asked a couple of coworkers to explain to me who were these two people, Christian and Anastasia. After getting acquainted with these characters from author E.L. James’ 2011 book, 50 Shades of Grey, I became even more fascinated by their ability to draw so many people into their world. AFTER all this time I have finally been introduced to the infamous couple in this dramatic romance film based on the book. Dakota Johnson (Need for Speed, Beastly) and Jamie Dornan (Marie Antoinette, Shadows in the Sun) played Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey; she, a college student and he, a young successful business entrepreneur. If there is anyone left besides me who has not read the book, the story is about these two characters’ attraction to each other, though for different reasons. Starting with the screenplay written by Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr. Banks, Terra Nova-TV), I really wished E.L. James would have written it because I thought the script was poorly done, with some real awful lines. I do not know if it was due to the lack of chemistry between the two main stars (there was none), but I still do not understand what the attraction was for Christian. From her 1st entrance into his office to him suddenly flying out to see her at the hardware store where she worked, I just did not get it. Scenes seemed disjointed or maybe I should say they lacked the emotion one would expect for such a scene. Again I want to stress I did not read the book; but as for this movie, I found sitting through it to be a painful experience. However, maybe you should check with the majority of women at my viewing who were hooting and hollering whenever Christian took off any of his clothing.
1 2/3 stars
Starve the fighting and feed the relating when it comes to being in a relationship. I am never too old to learn from my past experiences and if there is one thing I have learned, it is never go to sleep angry. Communication is vital if a relationship is to survive in my opinion. I have seen couples where they think they are in love; but when they verbalize what they love about their significant other, I cannot relate to it because they are not attributes I look for in another person. There was one couple that loved the type of presents they would get from each other. Every gift was bought from high-end stores and they were primarily jewelry and electronic items. There was another couple that was very much into their appearance; I am talking the every hair in place, no room for wrinkle type of looks. I could only imagine what would happened to them as they aged. For me kindness and support are needed for a healthy relationship. I have always said relationships take work, but after seeing this original comedic drama I feel I need to rephrase it by saying it takes work until it becomes part of you. COMMUNICATION was sorely lacking as the marriage of Ethan and Sophie, played by Mark Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed, Your Sister’s Sister) and Elizabeth Moss (Get Him to the Greek, Mad Men-TV), was falling apart. Hoping to salvage their relationship the couple agreed to their therapist’s, played by Ted Danson (Big Miracle, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation-TV), suggestion by going on a retreat to see if they could rekindle the love they once had for each other. At the beautiful secluded cottage recommended by their therapist, Ethan and Sophie would discover much more than what they had lost. Watching this film festival winning movie was like inhaling the first breath of fresh air after being deeply submerged in a pool of water. The story was original, curious and thought provoking. I honestly can say I am not sure I understood what I was watching but I did not care because the whole idea behind the story was fascinating to me. Mark and Elizabeth did an excellent job playing the troubled couple; I found them believable and enjoyed the subtle differences that were required of them. The script was smart and mature; presenting a realistic view of two adults struggling to find what was missing in their relationship. Without any fanfare or advertising as far as I could tell, this indie like film came out of nowhere to shine in a week that had been filled with some dreary movies.
More than likely it is not its intentions, but life’s daily requirements can put an added burden on living. It can be tough on one person; however, if there are more people involved it can be harder. I have seen and been a victim to the aftermath of a relationship that suffered under the weight of life’s pressures. Some people can lose motivation and become lethargic. They may become depressed, feeling as if they are running on a torturous racetrack without an exit ramp. No matter how in love two people are, there is always a big adjustment when they form a union and begin to share responsibilities. It is similar to living in a balloon where the two of you are working hard to keep it inflated with your dreams, aspirations and hopes; but the outside world keeps demanding too much time from you and with you being occupied, your balloon begins to show signs of soft loose wrinkles. I now know going into a relationship my hectic schedule presents an immediate challenge. My class time depletes the finite amount of free time I have available to socialize. This is why I feel it is extra important to communicate and make sure I setup down time where the two of us can come to a place where we can talk, share, express and experience life in a way that adds to our growth. ANNIE and Jay, played by Cameron Diaz (There’s Something about Mary, The Other Woman) and Jason Segel (This is 40, The Muppets), were at a similar place in their relationship in this comedy film. The energy they wanted to devote to each other was being used towards their jobs and children, leaving little time to be romantic. To help in that department, Annie and Jay came up with the idea to film themselves being romantic; but a screwup made their lovemaking public on the internet. The mortified couple would have to go to extreme measures if they wanted to keep their dignity. Here is an instance where the movie trailer tells it all. Though the setup to the movie was good, nothing else was offered but a series of stunts to garner a laugh. I chuckled at a couple of things, but I did not find anything different or original to make me laugh. Rob Lowe (The Invention of Lying, The West Wing-TV) as Hank was the most fun character out of the cast. If you feel this movie will offer you some relief from your daily grind then by all means go see it; personally, I would find a better diversion.