BECAUSE I DID NOT WANT HIM for my partner was the reason, I was sure, I wound up assigned to him by the professor. Maybe the teacher was able to pick up the negative vibes I had toward this student, who I found to be loud and obnoxious. During lectures, this student would make snide or rude comments in a voice only loud enough for the students who were around him. Inevitability, there would be a student who would have to stifle their laughter from the comment, making it hard for the rest of us to hear the teacher. It was not like I was so strait-laced and proper, but this was an ongoing thing that got annoying to me after the first few times. When the professor paired us together for the assignment, I detected a bit of hesitancy on this classmate’s part. We never had any type of interaction; he was just as perplexed about me being selected as his partner. I gathered my belongings and changed seats with the person sitting next to him. The subject of this class was sociology; so, I assumed the professor was making these moves to prove some type of point about society. I only hoped this was going to be a one-time event because I was already missing the comfort of my former seat. AFTER THE PROFESSOR EXPLAINED THE ASSIGNMENT, the two of us spoke for the first time. I offered my take on what we needed to get to the next step. As I spoke, I noticed on the inside cover of his notebook was the logo for one of my favorite music bands. I asked him if he had drawn it and he said yes. It turned out he was a fan of the band as well. When I mentioned I thought the drawing of the logo was perfect, he smiled then flipped through some more pages to reveal other band logos he had drawn. Each of them was so precise and accurate that I could not help myself from telling him about going to a couple of those bands’ concerts. I could tell by his facial expression, he was surprised to hear how much I was into music; funny, I was thinking the same thing about him. We wound up in this detailed discussion of the various bands’ song choices, momentarily forgetting about the actual task at hand. I would have never guessed we would have bonded over music. For the rest of the semester, whenever there was an opportunity, we would sit together. The cliché, “Never judge a book by its cover” can be applied here as well as in this animated, action comedy. FORCED BY AN EVIL LORD TO defend a town from a brutal villain, a hound quickly discovers the citizens hate him simply because he is a dog. The townsfolk are all cats. With Michael Cera (Molly’s Game, Gloria Bell) voicing Hank, Samuel L. Jackson (Shaft, Big Game) voicing Jimbo, Ricky Gervais (The Invention of Lying, Ghost Town) voicing Ika Chu, relative newcomer Kylie Kuloka voicing Emiko and Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs) voicing The Shogun; this movie was an odd mix. The humor went from the level of young kids to adults; the idea of the story was fun, but it came across like a Kung Fu Panda wannabe with Blazing Saddles by Mel Brooks. The animation was well done and there were pieces of dialog I enjoyed. Underlying all of this was the message behind the story, which I thought was admirable. There also was an easy predictability to the script that kept a steady pace of action and banter going all the time. If I had not connected to the message, I do not think I would have stayed engaged with this picture. There was a short extra scene after the ending credits.
2 ¼ stars
It must be some type of precise formula where everything has to be exact down to the tiniest millimeter. I have always wondered if there was one factor that outweighed all the others but I never could find an answer. How does one overcome the norm when there is not an example to show them the way? And when I say factors I am talking about things like support, encouragement and self-confidence. One example that comes to mind is the transformation in the work force. Years ago when a person found a job they stayed with it forever. It was almost like a badge of honor to say, “I’ve been with the company for 30 years.” Currently it is surprising for an employee to stay longer than 3-5 years at one company. I know people who think nothing of living in a place for a while then picking up and moving across country; I am not wired to do such a thing. Granted I admire individuals who blaze a new path, so to speak; however, my mind is not wired to handle dramatic changes in my life, at least well. I know it is easier when someone has an example they can use as a blueprint; but it occurs to me, the examples I had in my life were of the negative type. I have learned things by witnessing how not to do them. How crazy is that? At a company I worked at years ago I had to open up the mail every day. The owner used the business address for his personal mail. I remember one day opening up an envelope that contained a $25,000.00 dividend check for stock he owned in a public company. I was stunned since I had no knowledge about stocks and bonds back then. All I could think about was how cool it must have been to get that size check quarterly; it was enough to retire on. That one example pushed me to learn more about stocks and make a difference in my savings plan. Though I was not confident or encouraged to move into stocks, there was something inside of me that pushed me to take a leap of faith. Not even a leap of faith would have helped me in this movie. GROWING up in the small town of Century Junction Freddie Taylor, played by Christian Cooke (Romeo & Juliet, Where the Heart Is-TV), did not want to wind up like everyone else. He wanted something more. This film festival nominated comedic drama had a competent cast that included Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter franchise, A Bigger Splash) as Mr. Kendrick, Ricky Gervais (The Invention of Lying, Ghost Town) as Mr. Taylor and Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything, Like Crazy) as Julie. Set during the 1970s in England, I thought this film depicted the era perfectly. With this being a coming of age story I did not find anything different to surprise me. There were some scenes that went well and one could tell Ricky Gervais was one of the writers. What kept my interest actually were the actors and their characters. All I can say is I took a risk with getting this DVD and it did not completely pan out.
2 1/3 stars — DVD
The sting from the punch lingered on my arm. He had done it before but it hurt just as much this time. There was a difference though because I decided to get back at him. I had a knack for quietly cracking pumpkin seeds in my mouth and discreetly keeping the shells in my school desk until I could dispose of them. As the class prepared to go outside for recess I stayed behind, allowing myself just enough time to place some of the empty shells under his school desk. I took the rest of the shells with me, tossing them into a garbage can in the hallway before joining up with my class as it was exiting out the playground door. When we returned to class, it did not take long for the teacher to notice the empty shells below his desk. Sure he denied they were his when the teacher asked him. She questioned each of us who sat around him but their look of confused denial was matched by mine. The boy that hit me was forced to sweep up the entire floor while we continued on with our history lesson. As an adult I can look back and criticize my actions; but back then, I relished the revenge. At least I did not plan the identity switch for criminal reasons like the one that was done to poor Kermit in this comedy caper. While the Muppets were on an international tour the world’s most evil frog Constantine, a dead ringer for Kermit, switched identities with him. While Kermit was imprisoned in a Russian prison headed by Nadya, played by Tina Fey (Admission, 30 Rock-TV), Constantine used the Muppets as a cover for his audacious plot. Seeing the Muppets on the big screen again just brings a smile to one’s face. For the duration they have been around, multiple generations have some type of fond memory about the Muppets. This adventure film had its moments with sight gags, Muppets humor, songs and a cavalcade of celebrity cameo appearances. I enjoyed the performances from Tina Fey and Ty Burrell (The Incredible Hulk, Modern Family-TV) as Jean Pierre Napoleon. As for Ricky Gervais (The Invention of Lying, The Office-TV) as Constantine’s associate, I found him forgettable for the most part. Overall this film was okay but it was lacking the fun, I want to say oomph, I usually feel for the Muppets. The story was, dare I say, somewhat predictable. There was however a creative flair throughout the film and credits, even to the very end. With the Muppets under a new owner I hope this movie is not the start of a string of films based on marketing results instead of fun creativity.
2 1/2 stars
I had a cousin who every day would leave her house with a thermos of coffee, 2 mugs and a folding chair. She would drive to the cemetery where her mother was buried. Upon arrival she would open up her chair, place the coffee mugs on the top of the headstone, pour coffee into each cup and visit with her mother. This was a daily ritual that she did every single day, no matter the weather. I am not one to judge; but I am willing to bet her conversations with her mother were not as funny as the exchanges in this comedy. Mean-spirited dentist Bertram Pincus, played by Ricky Gervais (The Invention of Lying, Night at the Museum franchise), had the most unusual aftereffect come out from his recent colonoscopy. He was able to talk to dead people. Once word spread through the afterlife that Bertram could communicate with the dead, swarms of ghosts sought him out for help. One particular insistent apparition was Frank Herlihy, played by Greg Kinnear (Thin Ice, As Good as it Gets). Frank offered his help in stopping the other ghosts’ requests if Bertram would prevent Frank’s widow Gwen, played by Tea Leoni (The Family Man, Deep Impact), from remarrying. For the plan to succeed, it would take a major transformation. What made this story succeed was Ricky Gervais’ dry wit. I would not consider him a leading man character; but I found him endearing, by not playing his character in an over the top way. Greg and Tea added fullness to the story, making this film quite amusing. Adding the cherry on top so to speak was the hilarious Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids, Paul) as a surgeon. This was an easy enjoyable film to watch and if I would have thought my cousin’s visits to her mother were just as fun, I certainly would have brought the cream for their coffee.
2 2/3 stars — DVD