AS WE WERE SEATED, EATING DINNER, the candidate was walking around to each table introducing herself. Though I could appreciate the face-to-face introduction, I was told her behavior was highly inappropriate because the dinner was supposed to be a bipartisan casual event free of political campaigning. I saw the other candidate sitting at a table with a glass of wine, laughing and talking with the other guests at their table. There was very little I knew about each candidate, only what state they represented and their previous profession. Outside of playing a mayor in a school play and seeing political candidates at various fundraisers or parades, this was the closest in proximity I have been to a candidate. I much prefer a candidate that does things that brings them in contact with the voters, such as knocking on doors, hanging out at train stop or town hall meetings. Getting a pre-recorded message on the phone, which I feel is out of control based on the amount I got the past year; or those pesky flyers in the mail does not sway my opinion of a person running for office. If anything, I might think they are wasting money based on the deluge of junk mail I have received and the automated phone calls. THERE WAS A TIME WHEN AN average citizen could run for office. These days many of the candidates, from what I know, are millionaires. And with being a millionaire, the amount of money that they pour into their campaigns is obscene. The money they spend could easily feed every person in a large city or two or three. I do not understand what changed to make it so expensive to run for office. Instead of pouring money into the various advertisements, I would make each candidate canvas on foot different neighborhoods. If a candidate spends most of their time bad mouthing their opponent instead of explaining what they wish to do in office, I quickly discount their ability in becoming a leader. One of the news sources I read does fact checking on candidates’ statements/claims. It stuns me how often than not what the candidate is saying is false. When did it become acceptable to flat out lie or start false rumors? Denying facts and science is simply a shameful act in my opinion. To me elections are important enough that I feel election day should be a national holiday; everybody has the day off so they can participate in an important event. Maybe I am being naïve; I do not know. However, if even a part of the scenes in this comedic drama are based on truth; then the election process needs an upgrade. TRYING TO RECOVER FROM A HEAVY LOSS, a political strategist agrees to handle the campaign of a small-town private citizen. Whether a big national campaign or small town, winning comes at any cost. With Steve Carell (The Big Short, Welcome to Marwen) as Gary Zimmer, Rose Byrne (Peter Rabbit franchise, Instant Family) as Faith Brewster, Chris Cooper (Live by Night, August: Osage County) as Jack Hastings, Brent Sexton (Flightplan, The Belko Experiment) as Mayor Braun and Will Sasso (The Three Stooges, Happy Gilmore) as Big Mike; the cast was well chosen for their roles, though Steve and Rose stood out for me. I thought they worked well together. The idea behind the script was absolutely spot on; but I felt its execution was a hit and miss. There were scenes that were dynamite, both wicked and funny and then other scenes came out flat. Without much character development, the characters started to look like typical stereotypes instead of full-fledged human beings. Overall, this was a valiant try at satire, comedy and drama; yet it still scares me a little that things in here might be possible. There was an extra scene during the ending credits.
2 ¼ stars
SINCE THE MAJORITY OF MY FRIENDS started driving before I did, I discovered something interesting about parents. I had one friend whose father would always give a list of warnings before handing over the car keys to his son. Some of the things said by the father were, “don’t play the radio while driving,” don’t blast the air conditioning on high” and “don’t eat anything in the car.” Once we were able to get into the car and drive away, I asked my friend what was up with all the warnings from his dad. He told me his dad said the same thing every time he asked for the car, because his dad was always afraid the battery would die if the radio was on or if the fan was on high. I had no experience with cars, so I did not know whether his dad’s concerns were accurate or not. More importantly, I began to realize something else when the car did not die because we were blasting the a/c or the radio; parents may not know all the answers. At a younger age, I had no reason to question the things a parent would say; however, as I got older there were some things I would question. To me, this was all part of the learning process. How would I learn if I did not question things? RECENTLY THERE WAS A NEWS REPORT about a father and his son who were accused of a hate crime. Besides it being a vile act, I had to wonder what was going on inside that family structure that allowed a child to act in such a way. I always thought the idea of raising a child was to help them grow up to think for themselves. Obviously, the son who participated in the crime had the same mindset as his dad. I understand children are like sponges when they are small, but I try to believe that getting an education and socialization provides the tools for the grown-up child to make hopefully responsible and rational decisions. I am reminded of someone I worked with who was a liar just like his dad. Anything either of them would say, I never trusted. Anytime I questioned them they would just make up some story to appease me, hoping I would go away. Because of my experiences growing up, I find nothing wrong with a child questioning a parent. Granted there is no rule book to child rearing, and as a friend of mine says, “Raising a child to grow up and be a decent human being is a crapshoot.” You just never know; which is what the writers of this dramatic, mystery science fiction movie wanted viewers to think about. WITH HUMANITY EXTINCT IT WAS UP to one robot to care for the frozen, stored human embryos. For the robot to be successful it would have to teach the developing human how to be human, according to the robot. With Rose Byrne (Peter Rabbit, Spy) voicing Mother, newcomer Talilia Sturzaker as the child, Clara Rugaard (Teen Spirit, Good Favour) as Daughter, Luke Hawker (Blackspot, The Devil’s Rock) as Mother and Hilary Swank (The Hunt, The Resident) as woman; this film festival winning movie had a thought provoking script. As the picture continued the small twists and turns kept me wondering about certain scenes. Adding in Clara’s performance and I found this movie captivating. It was refreshing to have a science fiction film play out as a dramatic story without the battles and overwhelming special effects. I also enjoyed Hilary’s performance because the introduction of her character changed the flavor of the story for me. Since this film was never on my radar, I consider it a sleeper movie; one that packs more punch than what it appears to be. Even after watching this picture I kept thinking about it which is always a good sign for me.
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.
WHAT I AM ABOUT TO tell you actually happened to me, but you will still not believe it. It was going to be our 3rd or 4th date, I cannot remember exactly, and I was being asked to come over for dinner to their place. Not being familiar with the different types of wine I offered to bring a dessert which is more my speed. I can still remember the apartment building; it was two stories tall and “L” shaped, broken up by a couple of courtyards. Finding the name on the directory I rang the bell and waited to be buzzed in past the security door. The hallway had a ceramic tiled floor made up of small black and white tiles that formed mini flower patterns. As I was walking up to the 2nd floor I could hear the creaking of the steps beneath my feet. Waiting at the opened door we greeted and I was ushered into a hallway with ivory painted, stucco walls. The hardwood floor looked recently polished. I did however notice some small thing by the baseboard, but did not have time to get a good look as we walked into the living room. THOUGH THE ROOM LOOKED LOVELY with a big bay window with a classic wooden radiator cover underneath it, there were a few peanut shells on the floor; how odd I thought. The shells were quite visible so I could not understand why they had not been picked up. Well I got my answer no more than a minute after I sat down at one end of the couch. A squirrel appeared at the entrance to the room but stopped and remained still as its gaze locked onto me. I remember whispering there was a squirrel in the house but the reaction I got from them was not what I was expecting. They leaned over to a candy dish on the coffee table in front of us and lifted the cover. Inside, the bowl was full of peanuts in their shells; like the kind you get at a baseball game. I was so taken aback as the squirrel was tossed a peanut that I did not have time to stop myself from uttering an expletive. After apologizing to my date, I listened as they explained the reasons why they fed the squirrels in the neighborhood. As if I needed proof I was shown the kitchen where they kept the back door open so the squirrels could come in. Oh and the floor had broken peanut shells all over it; it was disgusting. I barely ate and as soon as we were done eating I ended the evening. Some animals need to stay out of the house; just look what happened in this adventure comedy. WHEN THE NEW NEIGHBOR THOMAS McGregor, played by Domhnall Gleeson (Goodbye Christopher Robin, About Time), moved in next door Bea, played by Rose Byrne (The Meddler, Insidious franchise), hoped he would get along with her friend Peter Rabbit, voiced by James Corden (Into the Woods, The Lady in the Van). Thomas had other ideas. This adaptation of Beatrix Potter’s classic story had wonderful special effects; it sounds corny but the animals were so animated and real looking. The script however was not as good. At one point I felt I was watching a Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoon because it was somewhat mean spirited. I felt the innocence and mischievousness of the Peter Rabbit character was taken away in this animated film. It is a shame because I really enjoyed James Corden as Peter. And if it means anything, after watching this movie I still had a bad attitude about squirrels.
As I walked into the backyard I could see him out the corner of my eye, crouched down and staring intently at me. He did not move until I called out his name. Immediately after hearing me he sprung up and bounded over to the fence that separated our two yards. He was the youngest of my neighbors’ three dogs and knew he would be getting a back rub once I called out his name. I have even seen him get down on all fours as soon as he hears me pull my car into the garage, for he knows I will be coming out the side door and giving him a back rub. While I was massaging him the neighbor happened to come outside to do some yard work. We talked briefly; he caught me up on the latest news around our neighborhood. He also told me they were thinking of putting up a privacy fence around their yard but they wanted to check with me first and see what I thought about it. I told him I did not have a problem but their dog might get upset; we both had a good laugh over my comment. I have to say I have been very fortunate with the neighbors who live around me. We are respectful and mindful of each other; asking each others’ opinions before undertaking a major project or at least letting others know about repairs that could be intrusive for a short time. I have been lucky that I have not experienced any drama, violence or even out of control loud parties when it comes to my neighbors. There is no way I could live in the type of neighborhood that was in this movie. WITH their house on the verge of being sold Mac and Kelly Radner, played by Seth Rogen (Steve Jobs, The Interview) and Rose Byrne (Spy, The Meddler), only needed 30 more days before the sale would finally close. Unfortunately a lot can happen when a sorority moves in next door to you. This comedic sequel followed a similar game plan to the first film which involved a fraternity instead. I liked what the writers were trying to do here and credit them for allowing Zac Efron (That Awkward Moment, Dirty Grandpa) as Teddy Sanders to shine with his comedic timing. He surprised me with how well he did in this picture. The trailers unfortunately showed several of the highlights in this film so my reactions to the scenes were somewhat subdued. Most of the humor was made up of sight gags; however, I felt the writers could have gotten more punch out of the story if they would have given more focus to Teddy’s household skills. It seems like Zac’s recent film roles make sure he is in some form of undress during them; maybe the movie studios are hoping it will give them better reviews. Fans into that will not be disappointed with this film. My disappointment was due to the story being pretty predictable and similar to the previous film.
2 1/3 stars
Rarely did a day go by where she did not stick her head out the window to yell her son’s name. If the atmosphere in our neighborhood was conducive to producing fog, she would have been perfect as a foghorn; that is how loud and piercing her voice was from the 2nd floor window. Everyone in the neighborhood knew of her. She actually was a fun mother who was the first one to help out at any school functions and kept her home fully stocked with candy and treats for any guests. Though if you were to ask her son what he thought of her, he may have had a slightly different opinion. He always had to call her if he was going anywhere out of range from her vision. If he went over to a friend’s house he had to call her when he got there and when he was on his way home. There were a few boys who would tease him about it but the rest of us kept quiet. I thought it was better than the mothers who wanted to actually come out and play with us. Not the kind who would agree to be our pitcher if we were one player short; I am talking about the ones who wanted to participate in snowball fights or king of the hill. They would even dress in a less adult way where one would not first think they had kids; it was just weird to me. And especially when you get towards that adolescence age where you don’t want any parents around as you are feeling more independent, it can turn into an embarrassing situation. AFTER her husband died Marnie, played by Susan Sarandon (Tammy, Robot & Frank), needed a hobby. What better one to have than her daughter Lori, played by Rose Byrne (Neighbors, Spy)? This comedic drama started out in familiar territory to the point where I thought it would become obnoxious. But here is the beauty of it; in its sly way the script took me to a whole different place. Let me start out with the acting; besides Susan there was J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Terminator Genisys) as Zipper and Cecily Strong (The Boss, The Bronze) as Jillian. I was surprised at the different type of character J.K. performed, doing a wonderful job. Then there was Susan, she was sensational in the role. The two actors really formed a connection on screen. I enjoyed the way the script took her on a journey and I am not referring to her traveling from New York City to Los Angeles; it was a well told story of an individual’s growth. Regarding the comedic scenes, I think most viewers will react favorable because of familiarity with the circumstances. Continuing with the Mother’s Day theme from the weekend I feel this film should have been the one to market more than the one I reviewed this past Monday. I recognized several mothers I knew from my childhood in this picture and did not have to hear my friend’s name being shouted out from the window.
3 ¼ stars
It sometimes starts with a kind word or gesture that plants a seed inside of you. This seed only needs your hopes and desires for it to flourish into a full emotional relationship that is only in your mind. You take their considerate manners as a sign that there could be something forming between the two of you. Some of the things they say can be taken two ways; you always assume the more romantic version. I have had my share of these types of situations; where you are trying to get a read on the other person, trying to figure out if what you are feeling is just as real for them. Maybe it is the fear of rejection that makes us go slow, where we drop subtle hints to see if they take the bait, so to speak. I recently had a conversation with a friend about this very thing. They asked me why I thought this particular person I was attracted to was not interested in me. I explained how I suggested getting together with them on Memorial Day but they already had previous plans. If they were interested, I explained to my friend, they would have made an alternative suggestion to me by now. So for the moment I sit in my fantasy world just like the character Susan in this movie. RUNNING the logistics for her partner Bradley Fine, played by Jude Law (Black Sea, Anna Karenina); CIA analyst Susan Cooper, played by Melissa McCarthy (St. Vincent, The Heat), would do anything for him because she felt they made the perfect team. It was a team Susan wanted to see expand outside of the office. When the CIA’s field agents’ identities were compromised, Susan agreed to leave her office and go undercover to save the mission. The first thing I want to say is I have not been a fan of Melissa’s recent films except St. Vincent. The reason for this is because I found the stories were set up to get laughs by humiliating a large person; if the character was thin there would have been no laughs and I find this offensive. So now that I have said my piece, this was Melissa’s best role to date. Her comedic timing was perfection and I so appreciated the writer giving this character room for Melissa to go with it. The whole cast, including Rose Byrne (Neighbors, Adult Beginners) as Rayna Boyanov and Jason Statham (Furious Seven, The Transporter franchise), were outstanding in this action comedy spoof of past spy films. I laughed out loud more than once, admiring writer and director Paul Feig’s (Bridesmaids, The Heat) wonderful broad strokes for the fun action scenes. This crime picture was the real thing and I loved it. There was strong language used and there was a brief extra scene at the end of the credits.
3 1/4 stars
It is funny, the individual could be the chief executive officer of a large corporation that has a worldwide reach with thousands of employees; but as soon as they are at a family function they are seen as the shy baby brother, sister, cousin or some other relative that they were years ago. Those early images of our siblings/relatives that were imprinted in our minds never leave us. When I am around my relatives it is the only time I hear the nickname that was given to me when I was a little boy. None of my friends or business associates use that name which is fine by me. Now I am still training my relatives not to introduce me by my nickname to strangers. You see as soon as I hear that nickname memories from my childhood flood my brain, like my first ride in a convertible car to navigating an escalator for the first time without holding an adult’s hand. It doesn’t make a difference if I’m dressed up in a three piece suit or just lead a full cycle class; those images will continue to play in the background of my senses. I know this must happen for many people because I’ve seen the same thing going on with my friends and their families. You just never know how it will play out, for you could be on top of the world but in your family’s eyes you are still that spoiled little brat. REALIZING he had just lost all of his money and everyone else’s investments in his new company businessman Jake, played by Nick Kroll (Date Night, The League-TV), had to leave Manhattan and move in with his sister Justine, played by Rose Byrne (This is Where I Leave You, Annie), and her husband Danny, played by Bobby Cannavale (Blue Jasmine, Danny Collins). Unfocused and unsure were not ideal attributes if he was going to help take care of his little nephew. This comedic drama had very little humor as far as I was concerned. I liked the cast but I found the script to be mostly bland. There was very little that happened on the screen that pulled me into the story. One possibility for my blah reaction to this movie could be the fact that it seemed like a knockoff of the film, The Skeleton Twins. That movie was so much better than this one; I just found myself getting bored here. There really was nothing new or different in this story; what did keep my attention was Rose and Bobby for the most part. Whether you call this a comedy, drama or dramedy; it won’t change the fact that it was not a very good picture.
1 3/4 stars
It seems as if more people and companies are playing some type of angle with their actions. For example take a look at the larger containers of juice that go on sale at the grocery store. They have those big, bold sale tags that draw customers to the product; but if you look at the cost per fluid ounce, the juice on sale is still more expensive than the smaller containers. Get a load of this; with two of the movie chains I frequent, I am a member of each one’s rewards program. One chain gives you $10.00 back for every $100.00 you spend on tickets and food items. The other one also returns $10.00 to you, but after you have see 100 movies. Now granted I may not be the best example since I see a ton of movies, but which rewards program do you think is the better deal? The thing I find most annoying is the 2nd movie chain example shows advertisements for their rewards program before the movie starts; touting it as if it were the greatest thing to come along since penicillin. As I said earlier, everything has to have some type of angle these days. UGLINESS may have been all around her, but it could not bring down her positive attitude towards life. Annie, played by Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild, 12 Years a Slave), was convinced good things would come her way. Her accidental meeting with businessman Will Stacks, played by Jamie Foxx (Law Abiding Citizen, Dreamsgirls), would prove her point; even if Will did not know it yet. Between stage, screen and television I have seen several versions of this classic story. This Golden Globe nominee had the most radical changes done to it in my opinion. For this comedic drama there was more of an emphasis on material things as Jamie’s character had all the trappings of a big time company’s CEO. My favorite character was Rose Byrne (Neighbors, Insidious franchise) playing Grace. And that is all I liked about this utterly lifeless film. In the worst case of miscasting I have seen in a long time, Cameron Diaz (The Holiday, The Other Woman) as Miss Hannigan was so dreadful; she had none of the wicked fun of past actresses who played the iconic role. The dance numbers were stale and poorly directed. I was so stunned by the dullness of this film. The new songs they inserted at the cost of some original ones were unmemorable; it was somewhat hard to think of this film as a true musical. I cannot recommend this picture because it felt like the producers’ angle was to play on people’s memories of the story, to get them into the movie theater.
1 3/4 stars
Somehow I never received the rule book on how one is to act based on their birth age. All I know is birth age is simply a measuring tool for how long someone has been alive. It has nothing to do with how you live. At a recent training for certification in a new exercise format, during introductions I noticed I had been teaching the longest. What I did not know was how I was being perceived as an old person. As we went through the instructions it became apparent people were making allowances for my ability to perform the precise physical movements. They were challenging for me but not due to a lack of strength. I was having a hard time because the moves were written down; I am a visual learner. The funny part to all of this was when we had to hold a yoga plank position; I was able to longer than most of the other participants. Magically I suddenly earned a new respect from everyone. I was now accepted as part of the group and felt like I was on equal footing with them. It was something Kelly and Mac Radner, played by Rose Byrne (Get Him to the Greek, Damages-TV) and Seth Rogan (This is the End 50/50), were striving for when they went to introduce themselves to the fraternity house that opened up next door. Unfortunately the Radners lost their cool factor when they broke their promise to frat officers Teddy and Pete, played by Zac Efron (That Awkward Moment, The Lucky One) and Dave Franco (Now You See Me, Warm Bodies). This comedy had enough strong language and situations to be an equal opportunity offender to anyone who dislikes crude and rude humor. I thought the movie’s story line about trying to fit in was the better one out of the script. After a while I just became numb to the jokes and pranks. Rose was one of the stronger actors out of the cast and I was surprised in her ability to handle the role of Kelly. Zac appeared to have found a perfect role for himself: a smart aleck, charming and chiseled frat president. The writers had a field day always setting up Zac and Seth as a before and after advertisement for combatants. At one point I felt this film was hoping to be this generation’s Animal House movie; it did not succeed. If you are not easily offended then chances are you will find things to laugh at in this movie. If you find yourself not enjoying this picture, do not worry about it; you will be able to find and be part of a group of similarly minded folks. Cute scenes during the credits.
2 1/2 stars