IT WAS AT A FAMILY (NOT MINE) GATHERING where I first saw how people judge others based on the work they do. Maybe this happens more than I am aware of because the individuals I was in contact with were not so blatant about it. With this family, they had no problem showing their disapproval; I could see and hear it. We were mingling together in the living/dining area of my friend’s parents’ house. I knew the family well, so I was included on the guest list. My friend’s parents were throwing a graduation party for their youngest child. It was a casual affair where most of the food items were finger foods. Everyone my friend introduced me to was pleasant. I do not want this to come out as judgmental; but let me just say some of the guests were impeccably dressed. Everything seemed to be going smoothly as far as I could tell. At some point one of my friend’s sisters walked into the house with her boyfriend. They had only been dating a few months and this was I found out, the first time the family was meeting this new man. I thought all was going well until one of the relatives asked the boyfriend what he did for a living. When he told them he was an electrician, you could see everyone’s smiling veneer melt away. The tone of voice the relatives were now using were filled with disdain; I was stunned. WHAT WAS THE MATTER WITH BEING an electrician, I wondered? You would have thought the boyfriend said he was a mass murderer; it was the oddest thing to see. As if on cue, the relatives nearby him slowly moved further away. I swear it looked as if the relatives had just come upon a grizzly bear in the forest and were quietly and slowly backing away, so as not to disturb it. I was not the only one to have witnessed this; my friend saw what was going on and decided to, at that moment, introduce me to the sister and boyfriend. He was a nice guy as far as I could tell, and it seemed as if he had a good sense of humor. Personally, I never care who my friends and family are dating; all that matters to me is that the person is good to them and loves them. Whether they are a stock trader, a sanitation worker or a zookeeper; none of that matters to me. If my friend or relative loves them and feels good about it, then I will support them always. I think that is one of the reasons I found it challenging to connect to the characters in this dramatic, comedy satire. BORN INTO WEALTH AND BELIEVING SHE was better than most Emma Woodhouse, played by Anya Taylor-Joy (Morgan, The Witch), felt she could not find her equal in love. At least, not in her small town. With Johnny Flynn (Clouds of Sils Maria, Beast) as George Knightley, Bill Nighy (Sometimes Always Never, About Time) as Mr. Woodhouse, Mia Goth (A Cure for Wellness, Everest) as Harriet Smith and Myra McFadyen (Mamma Mia! franchise, Rob Roy) as Mrs. Bates; this movie based on Jane Austen’s novel was hard for me to get into in the beginning. The costumes and scenery were immaculate which helped me pass the time. I also thought Bill Nighy was perfect in his role. Set in England during the 1800’s, it was not until the 2ndhalf of the film where I felt things were better connected. My guess is fans of Jane Austen will enjoy this picture immensely. I on the other hand felt it really had nowhere to go; it was somewhat predictable. And for some reason, I could not connect at all with the main actress’ character; what a surprise based on what I mentioned earlier in this review.
2 ½ stars
BEFORE YOU THINK I HAVE GONE off the deep end or wonder if the synapses in my brain are misfiring, please hear me out. Those who know me know I am not a big fan of computers. I admit they are wonderful when they are doing what they are supposed to be doing; but they can be awful when they are not working correctly. The thing that concerns me is how people are becoming so dependent on them. Look anywhere these days and you will see people staring at their smartphones, watches, tablets, dashboards and anywhere there is a monitor or screen. Even in the bathroom, I have seen monitors above the urinals; do I really need to be entertained while relieving myself? With so many things having the ability to connect to other things via the internet or cellular phones, I wish there was a way we could see in the air how all these things are talking to each other. Imagine each wave or emission having a color and being able to see the way they light up the space around us. With this connectivity I worry people might be losing the use of the full potential of their mind. For example, you can ask your smartphone to remind you of important dates, phone numbers and addresses. Instead of thinking I see people forgetting how to do simple tasks. RECENTLY I STOPPED AT THE BANK to cash a check. Yes, I know; what an archaic practice. Because the check included cents, I handed the bank teller change to round up the check amount to an even dollar amount. Would you believe the teller had to stop and think about what I was asking her to do? I simply stared at her in disbelief. Only when she entered the figures into her computer did she finally understand why I gave her an extra fourteen cents. (Are you now figuring out the change amount of the check?) As computers and devices with their voice assistants handle more tasks, what is going to happen to us? It makes me wonder if there is some truth behind the movie, “The Matrix.” Will there come a day when computers take over the world and treat mankind as livestock? Already I have noticed how some young adults cannot read a map or tell time with a non-digital timepiece. You may think I am worrying about nothing; but I would have to disagree with you. If you do not believe me then take a look at what happens to the main character in this comedy. PHIL, PLAYED BY ADAM DEVINE (Pitch Perfect franchise, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates), is addicted to his phone. When he goes to upgrade it, the phone gets addicted to him. With Alexandra Shipp (Shaft, Straight Outta Compton) as Cate, Ron Funches (Get Hard, Once Upon a Time in Venice) as Craig, Charlyne Yi (This is 40, Knocked Up) as Elaine and Wanda Sykes (Bad Moms franchise, Monster-in-Law) as Denice; I guess you can call this film a modern day rom-com. Though Adam seems to be getting roles that are similar, his character was likable at the start; however, the script squashed it soon into the story. The vulgarity along with the repeat of similar situations quickly turned tedious. I became bored and lost interest in this picture before it was even halfway over. Whatever the writers’ thought was funny did not register with me; I did not laugh or chuckle once. Too bad, because I liked what the story was trying to tell the audience. If you find yourself at the movie theater and you feel this film is calling out to you, I suggest you do not answer it.
1 ½ stars
IT WAS NOT PLANNED TO BE A PAINFUL experience for the spectators. I was sitting and watching the ice-skating competition; it was the finals. From my memory skaters weren’t as athletic as they were presently. I remember there was more artistry to the skating; the skaters I was seeing had more athletic looking bodies, especially the men. There was a time when jumping in the air and doing three revolutions was the hardest thing a skater could do. Now, if a male ice-skater cannot do four revolutions in the air, chances are they will not win top place in the final standings. The next skater up was in the lead according to the announcer. The young man took to the ice and centered himself in the middle of the ice rink, waiting for his music to begin. There was a hush over the audience as the first note of the music resonated through the arena. Only a couple of passes from side to side were done before the participant did his first jump. Up in the air he went, spinning like a top before landing. However, when his skate came back to the ice he could not keep his balance and fell backwards, onto his backside. It was the first fall out of several; I felt so bad for him. AFTER THE PERFORMANCE IF THAT WAS not bad enough, I felt awful watching the skater sit and wait for his results. Everyone knew he would not retain his lead to win the championship; he sat there with his head hung down, not looking at the crowd. It was sad when the scores were announced, and he had dropped 6 places back. I could not imagine how he must have felt. At least when an athlete is on a team, the chances improve that one team’s player’s actions will not ruin the game for the whole team. Of course, there are exceptions; but to be the only person responsible for your destiny and you fail miserably, I would think that would be harder on a person. Add in being in the public spotlight, a leading contender, successful in their past performances and I know I would be upset if I did a poor job. Do you know what I think is even worse? When a person decides to end their career or portion of their life’s work on a sour note, instead of leaving on a high. This is exactly what I was thinking about as I sat through what, I have heard, will be the last installment of this comedy franchise. ON A ROAD TRIP TO ATTEND an anniversary party Madea, played by Tyler Perry (Gone Girl, Good Deeds), and company discover one of the relatives has been cheating on his wife. A party was not the place to air out a couple’s dirty laundry. This movie had some of the usual cast along with new actors such as Cassi Davis (Daddy’s Little Girls, House of Payne-TV) as Aunt Bam, Patrice Lovely (Love Thy Neighbor, Je’Caryous Johnson’s Marriage Material) as Hattie, Ciera Payton (The Runner, Graceland-TV) as Sylvia and KJ Smith (Throwback Holiday, Family Time-TV) as Carol. Sitting through this film was an unpleasant experience for me. I was bored by the same old routines that have been in previous Madea movies making this one so predictable. The script did not offer anything fresh, exciting or positive in my opinion; except for a couple of chuckles. To tell you the truth this picture felt like a rehash of other past movies except the pieces did not quite fit into place. If the reports are true, then this will be the last Madea movie and I hope that is the case. If there are any more of this caliber that I will have to sit through then I am a masochist; this was just painful.
1 ½ stars
EVERY STEP A DECEASED FAMILY MEMBER has taken during their lifetime has led to you. I have thought about this from time to time, usually when I learned something new about a relative. When I found out a portion of my family members decided to immigrate to Canada during the war instead of the United States, I wondered what my life would have been like if I had grown up in Canada. Growing up I might have seen a few of the Canadian relatives when I was very young, but I do not have any memories of them. If they were still alive, I would ask them why they chose to go north instead of following the rest of the relatives who came to America. Was there a disagreement or dislike that pushed them to break away, is something I always wanted to know? Or better yet, what would my life have been like if my relatives had never moved from their home? I think about the number of labels one can gain in one’s lifetime; from daughter or son to brother or sister to husband or wife to cousin to aunt or uncle to grandparent and so on. Each of us has a role in the family tree. IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS, I do not think my family tree is much different from anyone else’s family. As far as I know there is nothing too dramatic or outrageous like other families I have heard about. There is a friend of mine who had never met an uncle because the man, in his late 20’s, fell to his death. At that point this uncle’s portion of the family tree ceased to grow. I have another friend who in high school found out she had 2 step brothers living in another state. It turns out her father had a 2nd family no one knew about; including my friend’s mother, the wife. It wasn’t until college that my friend had her first contact with these 2 boys and was stunned to see how much they looked like her (their) Dad. Because of those 2 boys she became a sister, a cousin, a niece and eventually an aunt; all of that simply from this occurrence, though however tragic it was for her and her mother. Newton’s laws of motion could be used to let every family member know, for every action there is an equal reaction; the examples of this can be found in this dramatic romance movie. COLLEGE SWEETHEARTS ABBY AND WILL, played by Olivia Wilde (The Words, The Lazarus Effect) and Oscar Isaac (Star Wars franchise, Annihilation), find themselves on a path that has lasting effects on those before and after them. Written and directed by Dan Fogelman (This is Us-TV, Danny Collins), this multigenerational story had a fine cast such as Mandy Patinkin (Wonder, Homeland-TV) as Irwin, Olivia Cooke (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, The Signal) as Dylan and Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In, The Mask of Zorro) as Mr. Saccione. Where the episodic telling of a story works in Dan’s television show, I found it annoying for this film. There was a heavy-handedness that made for many syrupy actions and scenes; I felt like I was being told how to feel, very manipulative. It was as if scenes were purposely done to get the audience to tear up. Boredom set in quickly for me and it was not until the last third of the film where my interest finally piqued. I liked the idea of the story and had to wonder how things would have played out if there was a different writer. As I left the theater I thought how much my life would change by me having sat in the theater at this particular time and day.
1 ¾ stars
I WAS RECENTLY TOLD ABOUT A man who came home one day to find a note left by his wife on the kitchen table. Written on the piece of paper were the words, “I can’t do this anymore.” That is all that she had written. He looked around the room and everything seemed to be in its place. After checking the rooms on the first floor of their house he nervously walked upstairs to the bedrooms. Each one was empty; he could not understand what was going on. The only clue that was provided to him was the closet door in their bedroom was ajar. He walked over to it and saw some of her clothes were hanging up, but there were a lot of empty hangers on the clothes rack. She must have left he thought, so he walked out of the bedroom to check the utility closet where they kept their luggage stored and saw a piece was missing. His mind simply went numb; he had no idea why his wife suddenly picked up and left him. He tried calling her cell phone, but a recorded message said it was now an invalid number. This was just crazy he thought; there was no sign or even discussions about being unhappy in their 22 years of marriage. He had no idea how he was going to tell his two adult children that their mother had disappeared. THE STORY I JUST TOLD YOU actually took place and in case you were wondering the wife eventually did call her husband to apologize for leaving him that way. However, she did want a divorce. When this story was told to me I could not believe someone who had been married for all those years could do such a thing to their spouse. There is nothing worse than not getting an explanation for someone’s actions. What I was curious about was why the wife waited so many years to make a change. I did not think she just suddenly became unhappy in the relationship, right? Wouldn’t you have thought if she was unhappy she would talk to her husband or at least a therapist at some point, instead of staying married for all those years? There was a term a professor of mine used to use in my college sociology class; it was “holy deadlock.” It meant the couple stayed together for financial or religious reasons as an example despite not wanting to be in the relationship. This dramatic comedy can show you an example of it. WHAT STARTED OUT AS AN EMAIL became the catalyst for what Annie, played by Rose Byrne (Peter Rabbit, This is Where I Leave You), had been missing for a long time. This film festival nominee also starred Ethan Hawke (First Reformed, Maudie) as Tucker Crowe, Chris O’Dowd (Molly’s Game, The Program) as Duncan, Jimmy O. Yang (Crazy Rich Asians, Patriots Day) as Elliot and Azhy Robertson (Furlough, The Americans-TV) as Jackson. What set this romantic comedy apart from others I have seen was the script. The usual silly jokes and stereotypical situations were not included; the writers let the actors play in the real world. I thought the acting between Rose an Ethan was honest and real, a bit magical in fact. Add in Chris’ great sense of timing and facial expressions and the three of them were wonderful to watch. Now there were some parts of the movie that dragged slightly for me, along with a couple of scenes that seems uncompleted; however, it was a pleasure to witness people dealing with what life had to give them. This movie spoke to me and I appreciated it.
THERE IS NOTHING LIKE FINDING A bargain. I do not understand people who do not pay attention to sales. To my way of thinking, when something goes on sale at the grocery store I buy multiples of it to last me up until the next time it goes on sale. In addition, I am a coupon cutter; in case I need an item and it is not on sale, then I feel better if I at least have a coupon to lower the price. I consider this simply rational thinking. Yet I know some people who say they cannot be bothered looking for sales or cutting coupons. Though I tend to think of people who fall into this category as being wasteful, I try not to judge them. The group I have a challenge with is the one where people must tell you how much they paid for an item. I am not talking about those who share their bargain treasures of which I am a part of; I am referring to the ones who feel it is necessary to tell me how much they paid for their car, their suit, their earrings and everything else in their possession. I USED TO HAVE A FRIEND who had the need, like a compulsion, to recite the cost of every single thing he owned. If I complimented him on a new shirt, he would tell me the price of it instead of just saying thank you. To me it was bragging because it was obvious he was paying full price; it wasn’t like he said, “Oh you won’t believe it, I got this for ½ off.” I just recently bought a lightweight jacket at a store that is in the throes of going out of business. It was a $100.00 jacket that cost me only $20.00. When someone compliments me on it I share the price and let them know the store has other items if they want to see if there is something for themselves. But this friend wanted to make sure people knew he was wearing top of the line, expensive clothing. I did not understand it at all. Just because a person has money does not mean they have good taste or good sense. This is how I look at money; it certainly can help eliminate some stresses in one’s life, but it does not give a person superhuman power. Heck, there are a lot of wealthy people who are jerks, even downright mean. With my way of thinking, the story in this romantic comedy resonated inside of me. NEW YORK NATIVE RACHAEL CHU, played by Constance Wu (Sound of My Voice, Fresh Off the Boat-TV), was in love with her boyfriend Nick Young, played by relative newcomer Henry Golding. His family back home was none too pleased about it. With Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) as Eleanor Young, Gemma Chan (Mary Queen of Scots, Humans-TV) as Astrid Young Teo and Awkwafina (Ocean’s Eight, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) as Peik Lin Goh; this film was a good old-fashioned rom-com. The well written script was delivered with precision by the actors, who all formed a diverse soap opera of family and friends. I understand the bestseller this film is based on is the first of a trilogy; if that is the case, I certainly look forward to a sequel. Out of the cast I thought Michelle, Constance and Awkwafina were incredible. There was one scene in particular between Michelle and Constance that was near perfection. The sets and some of the costumes were outrageously over the top; it certainly fit into the story. I could appreciate it since it was necessary; however, it was not for me the most impressive part of this picture. It was the truth of the story that rang loud and clear inside of me. There was a brief extra scene early in the credits.
I wondered if things would have been different if I had redefined the term “best friend?” Having spent many years moving in and out of the dating pool, I never wondered if any of the people I dated would become my best friend. I was always confused when I heard someone say they married their “best friend” because I never considered such a thing regarding my best friends. There are a couple of individuals that I have been friends with since elementary school and though I dated one in 8th grade, now as adults we are still close but just not in that way. In fact when I think about it, I am not sure I would consider someone I am dating to be a friend. For me that category for friends and dates has different definitions. Where both involve love, compassion and humor; I do not list physical intimacy under the friend’s category. Maybe I am wrong but I consider dates to be a different type of relationship. Sure I want to be able to laugh and be vulnerable with them but in my mind they represent a being who shares heightened awarenesses with me. I have always said a love relationship is one where the two of you are walking down a winding road that goes through hills and valleys. There will be times where one will have to push or pull the other one along, but they always are shoulder to shoulder as they continue on their path without any judgements, only unconditional love and respect for each other. LAINEY, played by Alison Brie (Get Hard, The Five-Year Engagement), could not be faithful to anyone she dated. Jake, played by Jason Sudeikis (We’re the Millers, Saturday Night Live-TV), was an avid womanizer who could not make a commitment. The two, who knew each other back in college, found themselves at the same self-help group and vowed to maintain a strictly platonic relationship with each other. This could easily become a complicated situation. The script for this romantic comedy was uneven for me. Jason and Alison were the best out of the cast in my opinion; I especially liked Jason’s comedic timing along with several funny lines. Some scenes worked well but there were a couple that seemed far-fetched or simply odd for me. For example, there was a scene that involved modeling clothing to get an opinion that I had to question if that would actually have happened in real life. Some of the jokes were “cute” but there really was nothing that warranted out loud laughing. Another reason why I did not feel connected to the characters may have to due with the fact that I could not relate to either of them since cheating is not part of my makeup. I do not think this film warrants making a date for the movie theater.
As I was listening to them I wondered if they said any of this to their spouse. From my years of teaching I was not only people’s fitness/yoga instructor; I was their sounding board, their confidant. Not that I sought this position out; it just happened since part of my job includes aspects of being a customer service and member retention representative. The other thing I noticed that creates this type of environment is the comfort some people feel with talking to strangers. Not that I consider any of the members in my classes strangers; but I can see where I would be a non-judgemental sympathetic 3rd party. I remember one class where a member lingered behind as I was cleaning up the room. We had only had a couple of minutes making small talk when all of a sudden the member burst into tears, wrapping their arms around me sobbing as they told me their spouse was cheating on them. Whether it is right or wrong all employees had training instructing us that the only acceptable contact outside of hands-on instruction during class was a handshake, a fist bump, a high five, CPR or a sideways hug. Front to front hugging was not allowed in the current politically correct times. In my case I did not have time to shift my body; I stood there with my arms stretched out to the sides until the member backed away. I consoled them until they calmed down, just listening as my early college psychology courses training kicked in. This was only one example, through the years I have become a sympathetic ear that can be trusted and I believe that is what all of this comes down to, one has to have trust. STRANDED in Manhattan after her purse was stolen Brooke Dalton, played by Alice Eve (She’s Out of My League, The Raven), was leery of the stranger Nick Vaughan, played by Chris Evans (Captain America franchise, Snowpiercer), who was offering to help get her back home. This comedic drama was Chris’ first foray into directing. He did an admirable job with the material; unfortunately, the script was for the most part generic. What worked in this movie’s favor was Chris and Alice; they did their best with the characters they portrayed, showing some real chemistry between each other. It was obvious to me where the story was going to the point where it felt like the writers were going down a list of things to check off to include in each scene. I cannot say I was bored by this romantic dramedy; in fact, I sat there several times wondering what I would have done in that particular situation. Then again I believe trust is something that has to be earned, not given out freely.
Those needs, wants and expectations sure can trip you up in the middle of your relationship. A want is like a desire; such as I want a caramel apple dipped in chocolate. I do not need it but I certainly would not refuse one if it happened to cross my path. A need is defined as a condition requiring supply or relief; for example, telling a person to stop yelling at you would qualify as a need. Now about expectations, this one can really play havoc in your relationship. The dictionary defines expectation as a belief that something will happen or is likely to happen; you could even say a hope. But I have to tell you if you get into a relationship where you have silent expectations, it will knock you for a loop. I know a couple where the wife is a fast decision maker and the husband is opposite; he has to mull things over and over. Where the wife is ready to replace their refrigerator at the first sign of trouble, her husband has to wait and think it over; wondering if he could fix it or find someone who can, the cost, the time looking for a fridge if they have to and his list goes on and on. This could turn into a frustrating moment for both of them. Now I know in the scheme of things this type of disagreement is more of a trivial matter; however, there are times where two people can veer off of their shared path due to mixed expectations or needs. If you do not believe me just watch what happens in this drama. WHILE vacationing Tim and Lee, played by Jake Johnson (Let’s Be Cops, New Girl-TV) and Rosemarie DeWitt (Your Sister’s Sister Cinderella Man), discover an old bone and gun on the property. Reacting differently to this find caused the two of them to experience a different vacation from the other during their trip away. What drew me into this story was the dialog; I found it to be honest and real. With a large cast that included Brie Larson (Short Term 12, Don Jon) as Max and Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Kingdom of Heaven) as Ben, I found every character had something to offer to the story. Now about the story, I enjoyed how it let the viewer be a witness to the different implications and events, letting us imagine the possibilities that could happen. The cast really worked well together, coming across as believable and I mean this as a compliment, typical. There were a few parts in the story where I had to question the validity of the action taking place. I was not sure if I was reacting that way because I could not relate to it, not having experienced it in my life. On the plus side I enjoyed the way this film made me think about it even after it was done.
2 2/3 stars
I believe every family has to have at least one. It is that relative who does not follow in line with the other family members. It could be an aunt, grandparent or any other older relative; but more than likely, they do not follow the typical mindset on how to interact with a child. Let me give you some examples: a grandparent who sneaks candy to you even though your parents forbid candy in the house; an uncle who does not believe he should wait for an appropriate age for you to taste the wine in his glass. Though I just gave examples involving food, this type of relative could also be the one who recognizes there is an elephant in the room, so to speak. They will talk about whatever issue is hanging over the family that the other relatives are trying to avoid or pretend does not exist. I feel I learned how to express my feelings at an early age because of all the examples I had around me. Some would say I expressed them too much without trying to be diplomatic or at least more sensitive. I should tell you I still remember the first time I heard a relative use a “bad” curse word without any apology; I was around 5 years old. From that point on I noticed his conversation always had some colorful words in it. Maybe that is why I grew up feeling curse words were just another form of an adjective. Either way, I do believe those experiences contributed to me growing comfortable to speak my mind and this is why I immediately identified with the main character in this dramatic comedy. AFRAID to ask her mother for money Sage, played by Julia Garner (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Martha Marcy May Marlene), turned to the only person she thought could help get her out of her predicament; her grandmother Elle Reid, played by Lily Tomlin (I Heart Huckabees, Nashville). Unfortunately broke at the moment, Elle would not give up on her granddaughter and find a way to help her. I recently read the character of the grandmother was written with Lily in mind which made sense because she was perfect in the role. But the cool part was how the other characters such as Marcia Gay Harden (Into the Wild, Miller’s Crossing) as Judy and Sam Elliott (I’ll See You in my Dreams, Up in the Air) as Karl were not short changed; they each got a real character to expand with their acting ability. There was some predictability to the story but I did not mind it. The acting was so strong with these honest characters that I was able to enjoy the ride the story was taking me on. There is something to be said for those relatives who “call it as they see it” and that is why I want to say, “Go Grandma.”