Words can provide us things like comfort, excitement, hope and tenderness. In written form we absorb the word’s meaning, allowing it to color a thought or infuse intensity into our feelings. We hear words and the sender’s inflection assists in molding the words to our heart and mind. As adults we have the skills to be resilient when words get lobbed over with the intent to hurt us. I knew this person who always tried to establish himself as the smarter person in every one of his conversations. Personally I felt he was extremely book smart but had little common sense. His favorite thing to do when having a discussion with anybody was to answer their talking points with “And your point is?” I always found it offensive. Now notice if he would have said, “I do not understand what you mean,” it would have taken on a kinder, respectful approach. There were individuals who would not let his comments bother them, they had a solid confidence that was honed by years of experience. However, a child may not be capable because their identity has not been fully formed. There are people who have skewed expectations when it comes to children and you will see an ugly example in this dramatic movie. Ryan Reynolds (Smokin’ Aces, The Proposal) played successful author Michael Taylor . An upcoming family celebration was forcing Michael to go home and visit his parents Lisa and Charles Taylor, played by Julia Roberts (Notting Hill, Closer) and Willem Dafoe (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Hunter). Though Michael was looking forward to seeing his mother, he would prefer avoiding his father who always seemed to be disappointed in him. This movie had 2 sides of the story that flipped back and forth. The side I found better was the one with Michael as a child. I wished the writers would have made the whole movie about this time period. The part that dealt with the adult Michael was okay but I felt a stark difference between the two. Granted the cast was excellent, including Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves, The Book Thief) as Jane Lawrence, but their portion of the script was weak compared to their formidable acting skills. Overall I remained interested in the entire story and noticed I was getting a fearful reaction from Willem Dafoe’s character. It really is something when I can sit here today and still remember all those words that scarred me as a young boy.
2 1/4 stars — DVD
It is not healthy for me to ignore my cravings. If it involves a particular food, I know if I do not satisfy my yearning, I will only wind up eating other things that will not be gratifying to me. What would make the situation worse is if I could not find the right item; I am sure this has happened to many of you. That urge, let us say, for a chocolate chip cookie; where your mind races to figure out the fastest way you can get one of those decadent, lovely circular mounds of soft moist dough that have accepted the requests from those deep rich chocolate chips to come settle down and plant roots on their pliable land–aahhhh. Imagine how it feels when you finally find a place that sells these cookies, buy one and on your first bite your taste buds are assaulted by a dry, unsweetened, hard pice of crumbling sawdust. You were taken in by a horrible imposter. Well, that is the same feeling I had watching this poor excuse for a science fiction/fantasy film. Recently slain police officer Nick, played by Ryan Reynolds (Safe House, Just Friends) found himself sitting in front of Proctor, played by Mary-Louise Parker (Red franchise, Solitary Man), the Unhuman Resources Manager for the Rest In Peace Department. Being given the option to go back to Earth, Nick agreed to join the force so he could find his killer. Accompanying him was veteran officer Roy, played by Jeff Bridges (True Grit, Crazy Heart). The story was a cut and paste job that took parts from Men in Black, Ghost and Ghost Busters. Unfortunately the writers did nothing to enhance or update the stories; so, I am at a loss to understand why they bothered with this movie. There was such a great opportunity to inject humor into this film; if only the writers had played up the human forms of NIck and Roy. Those alive would see Roy as a young, voluptuous blonde-haired woman and Nick as an elderly Asian man. It would have been funny to see more of these two characters in the crazy stunts that happened to them. The special effects were fine and I was so surprised to see Kevin Bacon (Mystic River, Sleepers) in the movie as Hayes. He was not in any of the trailers I had seen. Maybe the whole purpose of the film was so Jeff and Ryan could be added into the trail of seven degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon. After sitting through this film I came home and popped a DVD in of a good science fiction movie to watch and satisfy my craving.
1 2/3 stars
Dreams are the fuel that propel us forward on our life’s journey. They instill a sense of hope that helps us traverse the choppy waters we may encounter along the way. I still can recall one of my earliest dreams of what I wanted to be when I grew up: a window washer. There was something about being on the outside, way up high, that appealed to me. Good thing I did not follow through since these days I am exactly opposite, preferring to be inside and close to the ground. Even though my dreams evolved, I have always been aware how they have pushed me forward in life. The same could be said for the main character in this animated film. Garden snail Turbo, voiced by Ryan Reynolds (Buried, The Proposal), dreamed he would one day race at the Indianapolis 500. No one would take his dream away from him; including his sensible brother Chet, voiced by Paul Giamatti (Win Win, The Last Station). When a freak accident gave Turbo the ability to move fast, he was not going to let anyone or anything stop him from achieving his dream. This adventure film had a diverse cast of actors to voice the many characters. For example, there was Michael Pena (End of Watch, Shooter) as Tito, Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained, Pulp Fiction) as Whiplash, Bill Hader (Men in Black 3, Saturday Night Live-TV) as Guy Gagne and Snoop Dog (Old School, Bruno) as Smooth Move. Though the animation was quite good, I found the story was lacking a couple of key elements. I did not find it exciting except for the beginning and ending parts. The characters were okay but really did not leave any impression on me. It felt as if the characters were created as a way to sell toys to kids. Compared to other animated films I have recently seen, this one just left me with a blah feeling. I think only young children would enjoy this movie. It was a shame the movie studio could not dream up a better story. Stay through the first set of credits.
2 1/4 stars
Change within a person, if they so choose, usually happens over time. There are some people who make it look almost effortless; I am not one of those folks. The pace it takes me to set myself on a course for change barely can be measured with a pedometer. Keep in mind I have eaten the same thing for lunch at work every day, five days a week, for 20 years. In some unexplainable way I take pride in it because it was the same thing my mother did when she worked, as did her father my grandfather. Little did I know I would get a lesson about change from the prehistoric family in this animated comedy. By following the same exact rules every day Crug Crood, voiced by Nicolas Cage (Adaptation, Season of the Witch), had kept his family alive. Everyone knew when it started to get dark outside they had to retreat to the safety of their cave. Well, almost everyone knew except for his adventurous daughter Esp, voiced by Emma Stone (The Help, Zombieland). The family would have no choice however when disaster struck and the rules had to be changed, if they were going to survive. Catherine Keener (A Late Quartet, Into the Wild) voiced Ugla, Crug’s wife who was the peace maker of the family. Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein, The Beverly Hillbillies) voiced Gran, the thorn in Crug’s side. I enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would and part of the reason was the cast. Having been in some dreadful films lately, I thought Nicolas did a fine job as the father. The humor was predominantly slapstick, but not in an overpowering way. Ryan Reynolds (Buried, The Proposal) was perfect as the inventive Guy, letting his pet handle the majority of comedy between the two. It did not bother me that the story was formulaic, it was easily figured out. However, due to the pacing and excellent animation; I found myself going along for the exciting ride. This film was appropriate for the entire family; there was a little for everyone. I think the film had a positive effect on me because I was able to tune out the noisy children sitting near me. Is it possible that I am changing?
Walking along the beach on any warm summer day, one can see people swimming, sunning themselves or playing in the sand. There is the child making a sand castle with their brand new pail. Often there is someone getting buried in the sand with the help of a companion. Being at the beach, interacting with the earth, produces a calming effect on the person. The term “getting grounded” comes to mind. Unfortunately for Paul Conroy in this thriller, the earth showed him its sinister side. Played by Ryan Reynolds (The Green Lantern, The Proposal), Paul was a U.S. truck driver who was contracted out for a humanitarian mission to deliver kitchen equipment to Iraq. After his convoy was attacked and he was knocked unconscious; he came to, only to find himself buried underground in a wooden coffin. With a cell phone and lighter at his disposal, Paul would have to race against the clock if he wanted to survive. I thought this original story would be a risky undertaking. Essentially there is one actor in a confined space for the entire movie. The use of camera angles and light sources worked to the film’s advantage. I am sure this role had to be challenging for Ryan, being confined to a coffin and relying more on the emotional side of his acting. For the most part his acting was okay. However, the script did not help him nor did the director’s directions. One has to suspend common sense and science to believe in this story. A couple of the phone conversations appeared contrived, but there was one time where I could relate and I believe most everyone else would too. The way the movie ended was unsatisfying for me. I would not be surprised if after seeing this film more people will want to be cremated instead of getting buried.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
I thought the surprise in this movie was seeing Octavia Spencer (The Help, Dinner for Schmucks), Elle Fanning (Super 8, We Bought a Zoo) and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids, Pretty Ugly People) at an earlier stage of their careers. It is a kick for me to see how actors started out or watch their earlier films before they hit the big time. The other surprise about this film was the outcome from three separate stories and discovering the connection. Without giving too much away, the stories could be broken down into a comedy, drama and a fantasy. This unusual film started with Ryan Reynolds (Safe House, The Proposal) as Gary, a troubled actor who burned his girlfriend’s house down. Under house arrest, he was supervised by sweetly tough publicist Margaret, played by Melissa McCarthy. As the days pass, Gary begins to hear voices, find mysterious notes he does not recall writing and thinks he is seeing glimpses of himself in the large house. By the end of the story I was confused, not sure where this movie on a whole was going to take me. The second segment started out providing me no help in my confusion. All I will tell you is to stick it out in watching this movie. There was some interesting points to the stories and I found myself being drawn in to discover the conclusion. Was it the best acting I have seen in a movie? Certainly not; however, I enjoyed the entertainment value this film provided me.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
The biggest surprise for me was figuring out who the bad guys were in this movie early on; I rarely do. Did it make a difference watching this film? The answer is not at all. There was nothing new story wise about this movie: untested CIA agent Matt Weston, played by Ryan Reynolds (Buried, The Proposal), the innkeeper of a safe house in South Africa, gets the agency’s most wanted fugitive, Tobin Frost played by Denzel Washington (Man on Fire, The Book of Eli). I probably do not have to mention what happens next; however, just in case you cannot see where this story is going, the safe house was compromised and young Matt had to keep wily Tobin alive until they could reach another safe house. What I liked about this film was Denzel’s and Ryan’s performance. In the past, I have felt Denzel playing “Denzel” playing a character with each having the same mannerisms and delivery of lines. Here as Tobin he was more believable. For Ryan, I was impressed that his usual, slightly arrogant confidence was literally taking a beating. If nothing else, it certainly did not look like he was using a stunt double in the fight scenes. Where this movie let me down was the chaotic fight and chase scenes. Some scenes blazed across the screen in full throttle thrills; but then, other scenes were the same ones you have seen 100 times before in other movies. Also, I am not a fan of the jerky camera moves, jumping in for close ups before switching briefly to wide frame and back into close up mode. If you can shut down your common sense and want to see Ryan get the crap kicked out of him, then this is the movie for you.
2 1/2 stars