THE STREET I GREW UP ON never changed in size but after I moved away it turned into a one-way road. This was one of many changes I saw when I took a car ride to visit my old neighborhood. I lived on a side street in the city that was lined with houses, except for 2 apartment buildings where one of them was my home. All the years I lived there, drivers had to slow down and cautiously try to pass any cars coming from the opposite direction. If that was not enough of a surprise, the apartment building where I lived was turned into condos. The only change I could see was the doorbells were now on the outside of the building instead of in the lobby. As I drove by, I did wish there was someone I still knew who lived in the building because I would have been interested to see what my apartment looked like now. From there it was only a couple of blocks to both my elementary and high school. As I drove around the high school, I did not notice anything different. There was the same staircase with the wide terra cotta banisters where I used to hide during phys ed. The indoor swimming pool still had the same fiberglass looking window blocks that came halfway down the walls. THERE WERE SO MANY MEMORIES THAT got embedded into me during my time living in that neighborhood, both good and bad. I have a friend who has so few memories of her old neighborhood that I wondered if I was an anomaly or she. I can remember exactly where I was and what I was wearing in my memories from decades ago. The old neighborhood had a candy shop that existed way before I ever heard of Willy Wonka. The store had glass cases along all the walls where the proprietor would be behind them waiting for me to make my selections. Simply a nod of my head and the pointing of my index finger towards the case would set him in motion. He would take a small white paper bag and with a quick downward stroke of his extended arm to let the rush of air pop open the bag, he would lift the horizontal back pane of glass to withdraw my choices for the day. I do not know if he actually made the candies in the cases but those treats spoiled me when it came to other candy places; I never found candy that tasted as good as the ones he sold. Revisiting my old neighborhood is like being on a treasure hunt; there are so many things to find, just like the trio of friends discovered in this dramatic, romance comedy. ON THE DAY OF HIS WEDDING Roland, played by Taye Diggs (Rent, Chicago), was nowhere to be found. His two best friends would find him living in the past. With Omar Epps (Love & Basketball, House-TV) as Mike, Richard T. Jones (Vantage Point, Phone Booth) as Slim, Sean Nelson (Stake Land, Fresh) as young Mike and Malinda Williams (First Sunday, Soul Food-TV) as young Alicia; this film festival winner had a fun cast and great idea for a story. I enjoyed the way the story interspersed flashbacks, giving the viewer enough time to understand the relationship of the scene to present times. My issue had to do with the script. Basic humor was used too often where there really needed to be more of a gentle touch, especially when it came to characters’ past memories. Also, the direction did not flow well; at times, I felt more time needed to be spent on each main character. Overall this was not a great film by any means, but it was not the worst either. For the fact it made me think about my old neighborhood, I was okay with watching it all the way to the end.
SHE WAS PROUD OF HER GRANDCHILDREN; I heard her talk about them enough times to know. They were respectful and polite which made me like them right from the start. According to their grandmother, the boy was a star player on his school’s football team and his sister was the school’s photographer. When I met and spoke with the 2 siblings, I learned the grandmother’s description of their school activities was exaggerated a bit. The girl enjoyed photography and had submitted one of her photos to the school’s newspaper; it was one of several to be chosen to accompany an article about the plant life around the school building. The boy was on the football team as the grandmother had mentioned; however, he was one of the 2nd string players on the team. Most of his time was spent sitting on the bench. So, the grandmother expanded the truth, I get it. She was not the first grandmother I met who used hyperboles when it came to her grandchildren. It did appear to me; however, she spoke a lot about these kids. It is one thing to mention one’s children or grandchildren if it comes up in a conversation; but, without solicitation or prodding one talks excessively about them then I start to wonder what could be fueling it. YOU THINK YOU KNOW A PERSON, but then something happens that forces you to re-evaluate everything you thought regarding this individual. This is what happened to me and explained why the grandmother talked a lot about her 2 grandchildren. Her and I were part of a small group of people who had met for lunch one day. During the meal many topics were discussed. However, it was during the subject of racial tensions when the grandmother said something that led me to believe the reason behind her excessive talking about her grandchildren. She had said a derogatory remark about another race. I was shocked because up until that time I never considered her to be a prejudicial person. As I sat there processing this new information the conversation drifted off to something else. No one questioned her about her comment, but I had to because what she said did not make any sense to me. I asked her how she could make a derogatory remark about a person’s skin color when her grandchildren had the same color of skin. She said it was not the same. Her grandchildren were born from a mixed-race couple; evidently, she was not comfortable about it which explained the constant talk about her grandkids. All of this because someone looks different? She has something in common with one of the characters in this adventure fantasy. AGREEING TO MARRY PRINCE PHILIP, PLAYED BY Harry Dickinson (Beach Rats, The Darkest Minds), would be the easiest part compared to having each of their families sitting down together for a dinner. Aurora, played by Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon, Super 8), would have to convince her Godmother Maleficent (Changeling, Mr. & Mrs. Smith), to meet the humans she so distrusted, for good reason. With Michelle Pfeiffer (Hairspray, What Lies Beneath) as Queen Ingrith and Sam Riley (On the Road, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Diaval; this family film was beyond colorful. The opening scenes may take one’s breath away because they were so filled with colors and creativity. Along with my amazement of the visual aspects to this picture, I thought the cast was wonderful. Angelina, Michelle and Elle were so good together that I could see them doing another film together. My only complaint had to do with the story and script; it was uneven and convoluted at times, besides sharing similarities to another story made famous as a Broadway musical. Despite this, I found the movie entertaining. It had great special effects, was visually stunning and had a killer performance by Angelina, Michelle and Elle.
THERE IS NOTHING LIKE FINDING A bargain. I do not understand people who do not pay attention to sales. To my way of thinking, when something goes on sale at the grocery store I buy multiples of it to last me up until the next time it goes on sale. In addition, I am a coupon cutter; in case I need an item and it is not on sale, then I feel better if I at least have a coupon to lower the price. I consider this simply rational thinking. Yet I know some people who say they cannot be bothered looking for sales or cutting coupons. Though I tend to think of people who fall into this category as being wasteful, I try not to judge them. The group I have a challenge with is the one where people must tell you how much they paid for an item. I am not talking about those who share their bargain treasures of which I am a part of; I am referring to the ones who feel it is necessary to tell me how much they paid for their car, their suit, their earrings and everything else in their possession. I USED TO HAVE A FRIEND who had the need, like a compulsion, to recite the cost of every single thing he owned. If I complimented him on a new shirt, he would tell me the price of it instead of just saying thank you. To me it was bragging because it was obvious he was paying full price; it wasn’t like he said, “Oh you won’t believe it, I got this for ½ off.” I just recently bought a lightweight jacket at a store that is in the throes of going out of business. It was a $100.00 jacket that cost me only $20.00. When someone compliments me on it I share the price and let them know the store has other items if they want to see if there is something for themselves. But this friend wanted to make sure people knew he was wearing top of the line, expensive clothing. I did not understand it at all. Just because a person has money does not mean they have good taste or good sense. This is how I look at money; it certainly can help eliminate some stresses in one’s life, but it does not give a person superhuman power. Heck, there are a lot of wealthy people who are jerks, even downright mean. With my way of thinking, the story in this romantic comedy resonated inside of me. NEW YORK NATIVE RACHAEL CHU, played by Constance Wu (Sound of My Voice, Fresh Off the Boat-TV), was in love with her boyfriend Nick Young, played by relative newcomer Henry Golding. His family back home was none too pleased about it. With Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) as Eleanor Young, Gemma Chan (Mary Queen of Scots, Humans-TV) as Astrid Young Teo and Awkwafina (Ocean’s Eight, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) as Peik Lin Goh; this film was a good old-fashioned rom-com. The well written script was delivered with precision by the actors, who all formed a diverse soap opera of family and friends. I understand the bestseller this film is based on is the first of a trilogy; if that is the case, I certainly look forward to a sequel. Out of the cast I thought Michelle, Constance and Awkwafina were incredible. There was one scene in particular between Michelle and Constance that was near perfection. The sets and some of the costumes were outrageously over the top; it certainly fit into the story. I could appreciate it since it was necessary; however, it was not for me the most impressive part of this picture. It was the truth of the story that rang loud and clear inside of me. There was a brief extra scene early in the credits.
THOUGH I try to avoid using the word “should,” in this case I think it is appropriate. One should not get offended by which table they are assigned to at a celebratory function, such as a wedding or bar mitzvah. Whether you believe it or not there is a ranking system, just like there is one for the seating arrangement at the Oscar awards. I am not including company functions here since most of the ones I have attended did not have assigned tables. It makes sense to me to place those people that may have a task to perform closer to the staging area of a room. For example the siblings of the bride and groom would be seated near the newlyweds so they would have easy access to give their speeches. Grandparents are always placed close by out of respect or maybe just to keep an eye on them for whatever reason. Those in the wedding party also would be seated somewhere near the newlyweds since those individuals I would assume are part of the couples’ inner circle of close friends and relatives. I see it as a ranking system in general, plus I can see the logic in it. THERE is a running joke in my family about the table that is closest to the kitchen. I freely admit, at least within my family structure, those seated at that particular table tend to be individuals who do not fit in at the other tables. No one in that group is going to perform any function like a toast or speech; there may be a pair of single people placed there, especially if the bride and/or groom is trying to fix up a relative or friend; and it is not uncommon to place a person there who shares only a past history with the celebrating families, having been invited out of respect. As long as the food is good it really doesn’t matter where I sit, though the guests at the last table in this dramatic comedy would have been a bit of a challenge for me. GOING from being the maid of honor to simply a guest when the best man dumped her Eloise, played by Anna Kendrick (The Accountant, The Hollars) found herself seated at the dreaded last table at the wedding. She was not the only one at the table. The idea for this story was something I could easily relate to and felt almost anyone else would find something in common with it. With Lisa Kudrow (Easy A, Friends-TV) as Bina Kepp, Craig Robinson (This is the End, Pineapple Express) as Jerry Kepp and June Squibb (Nebraska, Scent of a Woman) as Jo Flanagan; I liked the variety of the cast and each of their back stories. As for the script it provided plenty of chances for most viewers to connect to something familiar in their own lives. The issue I had was the script was too basic; it was too easy to see the jokes coming, the acting was partially uneven due to the dialog and none of the scenes were pushed to a farther place to add some intensity to the story. I felt as if everything was on one emotional level which led to boredom. The script really needed to be punched up to make this picture stand out from other movies that had similar story lines. If you get an invitation to this film you might want to send back your regrets.
1 ¾ stars
Weddings bring out the best in some people and the worst in others. What is supposed to be a happy occasion can dissolve into a grudge match between family members or guests. A friend of mine recently told me about a wedding they attended for one of their family members. Evidently there is a cousin who becomes belligerent after having a few drinks. As I was listening to this story I quickly came to the conclusion this cousin was essentially a bully. He wound up trying to pick a fight with a cousin from the bride’s side for no apparent reason; however, that cousin was a black belt in the martial arts. As soon as the drunken bully threw the first punch he was immediately thrown onto his back by the martial arts expert. Family members from both sides rushed to the scene, picked up the cousin from the floor and took him away. That type of entertainment I could do without at a wedding; my experiences have been less dramatic at the weddings I have attended. What I have found at weddings are relatives who feel it is appropriate to ask, not only the bride and groom but other family members both married and single, personal questions about when they will have children or when will they settle down and get married. Or better yet, they will go up to a single person and ask them why they are not married yet as if something is wrong with being single. Oh I just remembered this one wedding I went to where the parents of both the bride and groom hated each other and did not hide their feelings about it to anyone. This is why I said what I said earlier about weddings and the people who attend them. I could easily understand the concerns the family had in this comedy. THE parents of hard partying brothers Dave and Mike Stangle, played by Zac Efron (Neighbors franchise, The Lucky One) and Adam Devine (The Intern, Pitch Perfect franchise), demanded their sons each bring a date to their sister’s wedding to keep them in check from riling each other up. The brothers felt they could find respectable girls with an online ad. Inspired by a true story this comedy came with some strong language. The other thing it came with was a cast that was skilled in comedic timing. Along with Zac and Adam there was Anna Kendrick (Into the Woods, Cake) as Alice and Aubrey Plaza (Dirty Grandpa, Safety Not Guaranteed) as Tatiana. These two women were exceptional in their comedic abilities. There were some laugh out loud moments in this adventure romance but after a while the script turned into a series of crazy events that did not offer anything new for the viewer. If it was not for the cast performing so well, I probably would have been bored through parts of this film. Outrageous, loony with poor judgments and lots of alcohol; some of you may be grateful you did not get an invite to this wedding.
2 ½ 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
There are several names I am familiar with such as cousins’ club, sibling night or family day. All these terms mean essentially the same thing: time is put aside to spend with one’s family. When I was growing up Sunday was family day for me; every Sunday was spent at a different relative’s house. It was an occasion for relatives to spend time together. Meeting on a frequent and consistent basis allowed all of us to grow up together and be aware of each other’s daily life for the most part. It was fortunate that the majority of the relatives lived no further than 1 hour away from each other. Now there are some families that hold a reunion, so all the family members get a chance to get together no matter where they may live. A specific date is chosen and word goes out to everyone to meet at a specific place and time. When a long passage of time has passed between visits there tends to be a lot of catching up to do between the relatives. I know how fun and exciting it can be to meet relatives that one has not seen for a long time. The happy occasion lends itself for some family members to continue the euphoria of the visit and plan another get together shortly after, “shortly” being a relative term. It is these next meetings that can turn out to be a letdown, compared to the previous get together. All the bringing up to date information was already covered and one discovers that there is not much else to talk about because with daily life events not being shared so often, people start to grow apart. For example it has been a long time since I have seen this family. WHAT Toula’s, played by Nia Vardalos (I Hate Valentine’s Day, Connie and Carla); father Gus, played by Michael Constantine (The Juror, Room 222-TV), used to tell her he now was telling her daughter: that she needed to find a Greek boy and marry him. The family could not understand why the young girl wanted to go away for college. This romantic comedy brought back some of the fun characters we enjoyed from the original movie, such as Aunt Voula and Maria, played by Andrea Martin (Wag the Dog, Delivering the Goods) and Lanie Kazan (Beaches, My Favorite Year). Though I was happy to see Voula’s extended family, I quickly lost interest in them due to the lame script. What made the first film funny and charming was rehashed for this picture which made it goofy and boring. The same types of jokes were used so often that it was easy to predict what was going to happen next. A sense of heart was missing from the script, replaced with dull mugging and humor. If this family has another reunion down the road I may have to decline the invitation; I did not have any warm feelings for them in this movie.
1 ¾ stars
It is understandable there would be more pressure if it is expected this would be the only time one would be walking down the aisle for their wedding. Whether the wedding is simple or elaborate, everyone involved wants everything to go as smoothly and perfectly as possible. From the weddings I have attended either as a guest or part of the wedding party, I have gone behind the scenes to see what steps were being taken to make the event appear seamless. Let me just tell you right from the start, think twice before having your pet be part of the ceremony. Sure they are cute while the guests are oohing and ahhing, but it can go so wrong so fast. There is no way I will ever forget this one wedding where the parents of the bride and groom had a strong dislike for each other. The fighting reached epic proportions. Whether the color of the flowers was not right or the seats did not have seat back covers, the parents argued over everything. Not only did they avoid eye contact with each other during the whole ceremony, they continued bickering and snapping at each other to the point I tried keeping my distance from them as much as possible. They may have forgotten what the day was supposed to be about, but did the parents in this comedic romance remember? JOSH Gad (Love & Other Drugs, Jobs) played Doug Harris, a frantic man who was about to get married to Gretchen Palmer, played by Kaley Cuoco-Swetting (The Big Bang Theory-TV, 8 Simple Rules-TV). Desperate to find groomsmen and a best man for the wedding Doug turned to Jimmy Callahan, played by Kevin Hart (About Last Night, Ride Along), who headed a company that specialized in a particular service that would aid Doug in his search. He would wind up getting something more than what he paid for with the service. This film festival winner was meant to be a comedy, with its outrageous premise. I did not totally dislike this film; I just thought it was nothing important to make a trip to the theater to go see. My biggest issue came down to Kevin Hart. As a stand-up comedian he is fine; but every role I have seen him in so far, he does the same thing over and over to the point I just find him annoying. The trailer for this picture shows exactly what to expect if one chooses to go see it. Though I chuckled a couple of times, there were no scenes that made me laugh out loud. If you are asked to go see this film; if I were you, I would send my regrets and wait for it to be available as a rental.
1 3/4 stars
With wide open eyes that look almost too big for their head and their body shivering, how can one not feel sorry for their skittish pet? There are some pets that are afraid of lightning and thunder while others get freaked out by a running vacuum cleaner. All one can do is hold and comfort their scared pet if they let them. In the human species there are some people who have a predisposition to be easily scared or high-strung. They get frightened being a passenger in a car. I am sure there are times where they have a legitimate reason to jump in their seat; but sometimes it is just a different style of driving from their way. I tend to be a quiet walker and I am always amazed when I walk up to an employee. If they did not see of hear me they jump with a start. I always wonder who they think would be coming into their office in the middle of our department. Lastly there are some individuals who fall into the intense or high maintenance category. Now there is a difference between the two; with intense people one has to exert effort to try and maintain the relationship, to keep it satisfying for both parties. As for people who are high-strung, one needs only to accept and love them. In this Sundance Film Festival winning movie, it will take a whole lot of love and patience to maintain a civil relationship with this intense family. Ellen Barkin (Sea of Love, Ocean’s Thirteen) played high-strung Lynn who was traveling with her family to the Annapolis home of her parents Doris and Joe Baker, played by Ellen Burstyn (The Exorcist, The Fountain) and George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke, Naked Gun franchise). The occasion was to attend her estranged son’s wedding who was raised by Lynn’s ex-husband Paul, played by Thomas Haden Church (Sideways, Easy A) and his 2nd wife Patty, played by Demi Moore (Ghost, Margin Call). Mix in dysfunctional relatives, money, addiction, hurt feelings and what could possibly go wrong? I really enjoyed this comedic drama in the beginning. The cast was excellent and Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Perks of Being a Wallflower), who has cornered the market in playing a teenager in distress, played Lynn’s addictive son Elliot. As the movie played out I felt overloaded by the yelling and crying to the point I lost interest in the characters. It was too much which is exactly what I say when having to deal with someone who is high maintenance.
2 stars — DVD
I cannot begin to tell you how awkward it is when I am at a wedding and some relative comes up to introduce me to someone she feels has “things in common” with me. There I am standing in my suit with what I can only imagine is the look of an animal caught in the beam of oncoming headlights. My awkwardness is not caused by the innocent individual who is waiting for me to make the first introductions; it comes from the relative who does not know that much about me to assume they know me so well. Another aspect to my uncomfortableness is the way everyone was made aware of the pending introductions except for me. It feels like I was the only one left out of an inside joke. There was a time where I felt I had to bring a friend with me to a wedding just so I could avoid going through another troublesome situation. So on one level I could understand why Montana Moore, played by Paula Patton (Deja Vu, Precious) did not want to go alone to her younger sister’s wedding. Montana’s concern was becoming the last family member who was not married. With only 30 days until her sister’s wedding; Montana and her friends Gail and Sam, played by Jill Scott (Down to Earth, Obsessed) and Adam Brody (Damsels in Distress, Jennifer’s Body) came up with a plan to find a prospective husband for her, but it would take flying 30,000 miles around the country. If this comedy’s story seems a little desperate to you, you would be correct. The slapstick jokes for the most part were easy to spot coming up and then falling flat at your feet. I found the acting was stale with several characters like Montana’s mother Catherine, played by Jennifer Lewis (Think Like a Man, Meet the Browns), nothing more than a cartoon character. Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher, Glory Road) as William Wright and Taye Diggs (Chicago, Equilibrium) as Langston were two actors who tried to rise about the looney script. Since there was nothing that stood out as being to dreadful to watch, this film would be better suited to a home rental viewing. Though I was not part of this wedding I felt a bit embarrassed for the guests.