THE HOME COOKED MEAL WAS so good I asked for a copy of the recipe. After making the dish for so many years, the host no longer followed the exact recipe; she knew the ingredients and approximate amounts needed. I gently prodded, well actually begged, her to write it all down sometime during the evening if it was not much trouble. Just prior to me leaving later in the night the host handed me an envelope. You should have seen my face when I opened it and discovered she had written down the recipe on a piece of paper. She did say it may not be exact as the original, but close enough and I could personalize it to my own tastes. Besides wanting the recipe to make for myself, I thought it would be the perfect course to serve for an upcoming dinner party I was planning to host. As the weeks passed I acquired all the ingredients, reading and re-reading the recipe a couple of times to make sure I had everything needed and understood the preparation. THE DAY OF THE DINNER PARTY I had my tasks organized on a list which is something I do each time. Think of it like a pseudo schedule I follow to keep me on track for what needs to be done, to prepare a full meal with dessert. I was looking forward to making the main dish, expecting my guests would enjoy it as much as I did. Because I wanted to give myself as much flexibility with the time constraints I had for my tasks, I pre-cut some of the ingredients and stored them in airtight containers inside the refrigerator. I went about my business, cleaning the house and setting the table. By the time the first guests showed up I had all the dishes that needed to be baked cooking inside the oven. I felt everything was falling into place. When everyone was there and we sat down for dinner, I brought out the main dish and started serving it to each guest; it smelled good. As people started to cut in and taste their meal they complemented me. I was glad everyone enjoyed the meal but I was the only one who knew the dish I made was not as good as the original one I had at that previous dinner party. Don’t get me wrong; it was okay but it did not taste as special to me; I was disappointed by it. Having seen the previous Ocean movies, I must tell you I felt the same way about this gender switched version—disappointed. AFTER DOING HER TIME IN prison Danny’s sister Debbie Ocean, played by Sandra Bullock (The Heat, The Lake House), told the parole board she just wanted to lead a normal life and pay her bills. She did not mention how she was going to pay her bills with the help of the Met’s annual Gala event in New York City. With Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, Thor: Ragnarok) as Lou, Anne Hathaway (The Intern, Les Miserables) as Daphne Kluger, Mindy Kaling (No Strings Attached, The Office-TV) as Amita and Sarah Paulson (12 Years a Slave, Carol) as Tammy; I felt the cast was ideal for this story. All the actors were seasoned enough to make this picture a fun experience. Sadly, the script hindered this group from delivering on it. Except for Anne’s character, which she did beautifully, I found myself not as invested in the story as I thought I would be. The film was more of a fluff piece; it was okay to sit through but I was glad I did not pay full price. Just like the recipe I made, this movie was okay but could have been better.
2 ½ stars
It seems no sooner do I leave the voting booth that another election campaign revs up its marketing machine. I finally throw away my homework on the candidates (I’m not a political junkie but I do want to know something about the person I am voting for in an election) and I am supposed to startup with a whole new batch? The political landscape has changed so much from what I remember years ago. Facts it seems are no longer important or less important than the amount of money in the candidate’s coffers. If I were ruler for a day I would make election day a national holiday, restrict all advertising to start only 90 days before the election, make all candidates hold at least a dozen town hall meetings across the country and do away with a majority of the super PAC funds that seem to have been set up to sway the candidate to be sympathetic to one particular interest group. What I find most troubling is the use of smear campaigns to discredit an opponent. I can handle it if an opposing campaign discovers something that actually happened in a politician’s past; however, the use of innuendo or implication without having proof appears to be more prevalent today and I find it ugly. Overall I do not like negative campaigns; I feel if a person wants to run for office then they must explain how they would do it without knocking down one of their opponents. If what was shown in this comedic drama is anywhere close to true then I am more naive than I imagine myself to be. DOWN in the polls a Bolivian presidential candidate, played by Joaquim de Almeida (Fast Five, Behind Enemy Lines), hired an American strategist with killer instincts nicknamed Calamity Jane, played by Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side, The Heat). She would quickly discover she was in a race against her arch nemesis Pat Candy, played by Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade, The Man Who Wasn’t There), who was working for the leading candidate. With Ann Dowd (Side Effects, Compliance) as Nell and Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker, Real Steel) as Ben, the cast was well rounded for the story line. However, the script got more dysfunctional as the story progressed in this drama. There were several scenes that seemed so ridiculous that I could not imagine they came anywhere close to actually happening, since this picture was a fictionalized story based on a past event. I was left with bored feelings as if I was watching a live version of the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons, with each of them taking turns on the receiving end. The dramatic parts that could have been effective were glossed over making them more like an afterthought. On the other hand, maybe this story was closer to reality than I realized which in this case would make me feel more disturbed about the modern election process.
1 3/4 stars
It is not as fun, fun being a relative term, when there is not an audience or one’s followers around to witness the act. More times than not the person picking on another person has a posse of buddies in tow to be their audience and witnesses when they go on the attack. I have seen it time and time again besides being on the receiving end; watching the bully walk away with their admiring subordinates following up the rear, sometimes punctuating the event with their own punch or kick. Now I know there are some followers who may not agree with their leader’s actions, but they choose to go along as a preventative measure to avoid being in a position where they could be the one that is on the receiving end. This logic can be applied on a global scale. How many times has the news shown a horrific act of violence? I have wondered what would happen if there was a moratorium on reporting such activities; would it have a dampening effect on those individuals or groups who seek out an audience for their actions. Speaking of audiences this recently happened here; a local news station reported on an attempted robbery that took place on public transportation. There was video from a security camera that was shown and the thing that struck me was how there were other passengers around who did nothing as the victim fought back against their attacker. Would they be considered human versions of the Minions? DESPONDENT over their lack of having an evil leader to follow; Kevin, Bob and Stuart head out in search of someone bad enough for them and the rest of their fellow Minions to follow. This animated comedy was geared towards the younger viewer; however, the soundtrack was done with the adult in mind. I thought the song choices were a great accompaniment to the terrific animation. Additionally the choice of actors such as Sandra Bullock (Gravity, The Blind Side) as Scarlett Overkill and Jon Hamm (The Town, Mad Men-TV) as her husband Herb were well equipped to handle their characters. After seeing for months the hilarious trailers, this film was a bit disappointing. The script did not provide enough punch to make this animated movie succeed. For example I thought Scarlett was not evil enough; she lacked the drama that someone in that position could have been yielding. I found myself getting bored halfway through the story since it seemed as if it was one stunt or comedy bit being repeated over and over. Maybe it was due too all the exposure the Minions have been getting the past several months, but this full length feature did not provide any excitement until closer to the end. There was an extra fun musical scene at the end of the credits.
2 1/2 stars
It was only for a brief time where I believed the moon was made of cheese. I was always fascinated with the planets and stars; if for nothing else, it was where Flash Gordon, Luke Skywalker and Klaatu lived. One of my earliest exposures to outer space took place at the planetarium, where images of solar systems and planets were brought to life for me. Then it was science fiction movies and science classes that expanded my curiosity beyond earth. The closest I had come to experiencing what it must feel like to be in outer space were those virtual amusement park rides. You may know the kind; where you sit in a simulator that is programmed to rise, twist and fall with the projected movie in front you. I am here to tell you none of that came close to the feeling I had in this dramatic thriller. This was the first movie where I actually felt I understood what it must be like to be in outer space. In fact, I thought I was starting to get motion sickness, but it never turned into anything. The visuals were truly amazing. I read writer/director Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) created a new filming technique to create the incredible zero gravity scenes. Sandra Bullock (The Heat, The Proposal) played rookie astronaut Ryan Stone. Due to an accident; Ryan and fellow astronaut Matt Kowalski, played by George Clooney (The Descendants, Up in the Air) would have to depend on each other if they were going to survive the harshness of outer space. As I mentioned earlier the visuals were the strongest part of this film; they really were breathtaking and exciting to me. Going into the movie I had some concern the story would not keep my attention with two characters in outer space and no sign of any aliens to battle. There was nothing to worry about; this film kept my attention all the way through. In addition the music was ideal as it blended perfectly with every scene. Where this science fiction film lost points was with the script. George Clooney was just being himself in my opinion; he did not have anything to stretch his acting ability. Sandra’s character had similar facets drawn from some of her previous roles. With that being said this movie had everything else in its favor. Not a fan of 3D, I saw this at an IMAX theater in 3D with rumble seats and I loved it. I could not have cared in the least if some space scenes were not plausible; I left the theater both excited and exhausted for I felt I had just taken my first trip beyond earth.
3 1/2 stars
The concept of opposites attracting was something I first learned from my science class in elementary school. It was not until I started dating where I learned how the laws of attraction applied to life. In one of my early relationships the two of us saw things completely opposite. From a room being hot or cold to a restaurant’s meal being awful or great; we rarely agreed on the same thing and I have to tell you it was hard. However, it was not until later that I learned a valuable lesson; to be able to look at something from the other person’s perspective. It was one of the best gifts I gained from that relationship and I still appreciate it to this day. The law of opposites attracting was used for comedic results in this funny movie. Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side, The Proposal) played uptight FBI special agent Sarah Ashburn. On assignment in Boston; Sarah encountered the territorial, foul-mouthed Boston cop Shannon Mullins, played by Melissa McCarthy (Identity Thief, Bridesmaids). By not being able to see through the other person’s eyes, the two women had a good chance of never solving the case. The story was not original in the least; however, it might have been due to the focus on the actors’ comic abilities. I have always said Melissa has impeccable comedic timing and she used it in full force for this film. Keep in mind the language is extremely foul and abundant. Sandra made a valiant effort to keep up with Melissa, but it fell slightly short. I wished the writers would have given more to Jane Curtin (Coneheads, Kate & Allie-TV) as Mrs. Mullins; she was completely underutilized. The main force of this movie was the comedy. I laughed out loud several times, even when the scenes were somewhat inappropriate. As a side note I am a stickler about movie trailers, since they are a form of advertising. A couple of scenes from the trailers were not the same as the movie. This film was light entertainment for a refresher course on the laws of attraction. Strong language was used throughout the film.
2 2/3 stars