THERE is nobody I know who wants to hear “bad” news. I do not think anyone would like to receive such news. What I find interesting is the way people react to such news. There are families who do not acknowledge news of a loved one’s illness. They may hear a relative was diagnosed with cancer but they do not know how to react or act on such news. The relative may go on their journey towards death without having the support and love of their family members, not out of hate only ignorance, who do not know how to make things better. Sadly you cannot always make things better; however, lending an ear or bringing a cup of ice chips to the dying relative could make a world of difference. WHEN it comes to the general public I am not sure if “bad” news is always reported honestly by the media. Sure they are quick to report a tragedy, let us say an earthquake or flood, but the focus seems to go to what will grab a viewer’s attention or heart strings. A small child saved from the roof of their home would make good story; but not an individual who was struck with a debilitating injury from the catastrophic event, who will no longer be able to perform their job, facing a life of poverty. Now I know there have been times where this is not the case, just recently seeing these “Go Fund Me” pages would be an example of getting the word out. I think the influx of reality television shows and the various social media outlets have warped people’s perceptions of basic truth. It is because of this movie that I have been thinking about this subject. We may want to only celebrate and focus on the positives, but the reality may not always match the cheering. RETURNING to the states for a short victory tour Billy Lynn, played by relative newcomer Joe Alwyn, had one person who did not want him going back overseas after the celebrations; his sister Kathryn, played by Kristen Stewart (Café Society, Still Alice). This film festival winning war drama directed by Ang Lee (Life of Pi, Taking Woodstock) was filmed by a new process using a high frame rate. It made this picture look like a live television show is the only way I can describe it. Personally I found it a big distraction and did not like the look it created on screen; there was a harsh sharpness to the scenes, but that is simply my tastes. With Garrett Hedlund (Pan, Unbroken) as Dime, Steve Martin (The Pink Panther franchise, Cheaper by the Dozen franchise) as Norm and Vin Diesel (The Last Witch Hunter, Fast & Furious franchise) as Shroom; the acting was good but the script did not provide enough for the actors. At times there were scenes of brilliance but then another scene would fall flat. I did not think the story offered much for the viewers; I was left with a bored feeling, wishing I knew more about certain characters and their motivations. Overall the viewing aspect was not pleasant to me and if this technique of shooting a film is going to be a reality, then I want fantasy.
1 ¾ stars
It is tough when the joke you tell is met with blank or confused stares from the audience. Though it may be a bit deflating to the ego, it is not the worst thing in the world. What would be harder is if the crowd never really understood you. Having seen my share of rolled eyes, I tend to be hyper-sensitive when someone is being treated like an outsider. Now granted if there is a legitimate concern where folks are not comfortable with an individual, I do not force the issue of acceptance. I recall a gathering where one person stood out for their inappropriate comments; it was making people uncomfortable. You could see every person who came in contact with the offender would make an excuse to get away as quickly as possible. There is, however, a flip side to this scenario and that is the person who gets shunned just because they are different. I take offense when someone rejects another person simply because they do not fit into what that person considers the norm. With the recent talk in the news due to the Oscar speech where the writer told viewers to embrace being different and with talk shows discussing it; I totally agree we all need to be exposed more often to things and people who are different from us. I would prefer having the option to see a situation through an extra set of eyes because I may find something more than what I saw on my own. MISUNDERSTOOD and on his own the alien name Oh, voiced by Jim Parsons (Garden State, The Big Bang Theory-TV), found refuge on the planet Earth. What a surprise to travel all the way to another planet to find someone who understood him and that person was the young girl Gratuity “Tip” Tucci, voiced by Rihanna (Battleship, This is the End). This animated adventure was very colorful to watch; I enjoyed how Oh’s species changed color. The cast which also included Steve Martin (The Jerk, It’s Complicated) as Captain Smek and Jennifer Lopez (The Boy Next Door, Maid in Manhattan) as Lucy were well paired to their characters. I thought the animation was fine; in fact, I felt the creators had young children in mind because there seemed to always be something happening in the scenes. There was nothing out of the ordinary with this comedy and maybe that was the issue. The movie was cute but nothing special or different to me. I did not feel as invested as I have been with other animated films. Even with some clever writing I was never taken away with what was on screen, though young kids seemed to be enjoying themselves. I just did not get it.
2 1/2 stars
If one is fortunate enough they can spend years on an intimate journey with one of their favorite musical artists. The path, lined with stepping stones of shared memories, sings of the joyful times as well as the moments of grief. I have been lucky to have witnessed the “birth” of a few musical stars. Spotting them first as a warm-up act or in a small nightclub, there was something about their voice and the songs they sang that resonated inside of me. As I followed their careers they would have songs that reminded me of particular times in my life. We shared many a night as I played certain songs over and over, depending on my mood. The history I share with my favorite artists made watching this musical documentary extra special. It was between the late 1960’s to early 1970’s when musicians who were singer/songwriters came to prominence. Doug Weston ran a Los Angeles nightclub called the Troubadour, where he would show new talent. He certainly had an ear for music since early performers at the club were Joni Mitchell, Jackson Brown, David Crosby, Steve Martin and Elton John, to name a few. The main engine driving this film’s story was following the special bond between Carole King and James Taylor through their long musical careers. It was awesome to see early film clips of them performing, besides the other clips of various artists. The variety of people interviewed for this project helped to provide a larger perspective for the events discussed. Looking at this from a historical perspective, this documentary provided more of a light overview than an in depth look into the creation of the singer/songwriter genre. However, it did not take away any of my enjoyment in watching this Sundance Film Festival selection. Granted I am a huge music lover, but I think anyone would enjoy seeing or should I say hearing this fun retrospective.
3 stars — DVD
The announcement was confusing to me when I heard my aunt say her daughter was getting a baby in six weeks. I had only seen my older cousin the week before and there were no telltale signs she was pregnant. Though I was a little kid at the time, I understood it took 9 months for a woman to have a baby. When I tried to question my aunt, she would only tell me that the baby would be coming soon and everything would be fine. It took another cousin to finally explain adoption to me. Even back then, once I understood, I remembered thinking what was the big deal that my aunt could not say her daughter was adopting a child. I am glad those times have changed. In this comedy successful 37 year old business woman Kate Holbrook’s, played by Tina Fey (Date NIght, 30 Rock-TV), biological clock was loudly ticking over a body that was having a hard time making a baby. With her options dwindling, Kate looked into finding a surrogate mother. Enter Angie and her husband Carl, played by Amy Poehler (Mean Girls, Parks and Recreation-TV) and Dax Shepard (When in Rome, Hit and Run). Would these two women manage to survive the following 9 months together? It may have been a challenge to them but it was fun for us to be a witness to it. Having the two actresses play women from opposite sides of the social economic spectrum made the story ripe for many humorous scenes. Not necessarily loud roars of laughter, but certainly chuckles could be found throughout this film. Gifted with great comedic timing, the chemistry between the two was wonderful. In brief cameos with big impact were Greg Kinnear, (Thin Ice, Little Miss Sunshine) as Rob and Steve Martin (Roxanne, It’s Complicated) as Barry. When done watching this movie, you will understand why the Golden Globes picked these two wonderful women to host this year’s awards show.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
An act of cruelty to me is when someone discards a person based on their looks. I have experienced it both professionally and personally. At a health fair where I was a presenter, a participant left after my introductions. Physically I am not a chiseled, large muscled human found in fitness magazines. On a personal level, I have experienced blind dates that lasted under 15 minutes. Was there food stuck in my teeth or an odor wafting off of me I was not aware of? It has always puzzled me when someone gets judged solely on their outer appearance. This dilemma was humorously handled in this sweet comedy. The story was an updated version of the classic novel Cyrano de Bergerac. Steve Martin (It’s Complicated, The Jerk) wrote the screenplay and starred as fire chief C.D. Bales. The lovable chief was sensitive about his unusually large nose. Though he agreed to help his new employee Chris, played by Rick Rossovich (The Terminator, Pacific Blue), woo astronomer Roxanne, played by Daryl Hannah (Splash, Kill Bill: Vol. 1), C.D. secretly had a crush on her. How could he compete against the strapping big fireman for Roxanne’s affections? Could she ever see past his nose? The way the story played out with humor and gentleness, made for an enjoyable time. The cast did an exceptional job with their characters, including Shelley Duvall (The Shining, Annie Hall) as Dixie and Michael T. Pollard (Bonnie & Clyde, Scrooged) as Andy. More than a light hearted romp; I felt this film was a wonderful testament for anyone who has held themselves back from taking a chance, solely due to the fear of what people will think of their looks. Allow me to share with you something I have always told my friends: The body is rented, changing every day. It is constantly gaining and losing things; but, what takes place inside of it is the important stuff.
2 3/4 stars — DVD
The ideal situation is when both people decide to end their relationship; ironically showing they still are in synch on some level. I am still close friends with some of the people I have dated. The toughest situation for me has been when the person I love breaks trust in the relationship. I understand when the love aspect of a relationship wilts away, sometimes the other factors making up the couple’s bond can still sustain them. However, it can be a monumental challenge to see the person you have loved forming a relationship with someone else. My bottom line has always been if you want to be with someone else, end your current relationship first. This is why I found this comedy odd with unfaithfulness being a central theme. Meryl Streep (Doubt, Hope Springs) was quite convincing in her role as divorced businesswoman Jane Adler. Attending her son’s college graduation, she was thrown for a loop when her remarried ex-husband Jake, played by Alec Baldwin (To Rome with Love, 30 Rock-TV), revealed his true feelings for her. With Steve Martin (Shopgirl, The Jerk) as her amorous architect Adam Schaffer, Jane found herself in a complicated situation. The acting from this ensemble cast was legitimate, easily connecting to one another. John Krasinski (Leatherheads, The Office-TV) as fiance Harley was quite good with his character. There were humorous scenes throughout this movie, which was geared towards an adult viewing audience. Poor directing was the issue for me; it was uneven with some scenes being slow. However, the film was fun for the most part; showing how complicated relationships could be. For me, I have always said relationships take work. One cannot assume the union will last simply by the things they love about the other person; it is when they respect the things they do not like, that gives the relationship strength.
2 2/3 stars — DVD