HEARING OR SEEING THE WORD “HOME” immediately brings a comforting feeling, usually. Home is not necessarily just a structure that you lived in; home can be the place of your origin, where your earliest memories were born. I have the good fortune of still living within driving distance to the place where I grew up. Driving down the old neighborhood streets unlocks my memory vault, letting past images flash inside of my brain. The main commercial avenue where we did most of our shopping looks so different now. However, I still see in my mind the hamburger shop where I used to get my burger and French fries to take home to eat. The old grocery store which was tiny by today’s standards is now one of those discount stores where everything is under $5.00. Yet I can still see me and my friends running to the variety store where we would buy our penny candies. Every summer we would also buy kites to take down to the beach. We would run through the sand with our kites lifted behind us, waiting for a gust of air to lift them into the air. My kite would always have a long tail that I made with different colored ribbons. HOME CAN ALSO BE A PLACE that you found where you feel the most comfortable. A place where people of like minds become fast friends; a patch of land that speaks to your heart, hidden in the woods perhaps. I became acutely aware of this phenomenon when I went away to school. As soon as I walked down the hallway to my dorm room I noticed a difference between me and the other students on the floor. Many of them had blonde hair and blue eyes; both my hair and eyes were dark. Later I discovered many students came from farmlands, whereas I grew up in a large city. There always seemed to be a disconnect between me and my fellow students. Whether it was our humor or morals or some other aspect of our lives; it always seemed as if we were on different pages. I longed to return to a place where I did not have to explain my thoughts and feelings, where we could share similar life experiences. From a place where I felt alone, all I longed for was to find a place where there were others like me. It was the same for the main character in this animated, adventure comedy. TIRED OF BEING ALONE FOR SO long Mr. Link, voiced by Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover franchise, The Campaign), convinces explorer Sir Lionel Frost, voiced by Hugh Jackman (The Front Runner, X-Men franchise), to help him find that special place he could call home. Their journey would involve more discoveries than they had planned. With Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Star Trek franchise) voicing Adelina Fortnight, David Walliams (Stardust, Dinner for Schmucks) voicing Mr. Lemuel Lint and Timothy Olyphant (A Perfect Getaway, Mother’s Day) voicing Willard Stenk; this movie studio created another beautiful film. The visuals were wonderful to watch as the studio’s use of Claymation brought a whole different feeling to the story. The script was sweet with a charming message; however, compared to their previous movies I felt this one was a bit mild. Don’t get me wrong; it was fun and family appropriate. It just came across as almost too sweet; as if it was trying to appeal to the masses, instead of delving deeper into the story and visuals. There were a couple of times where my mind started to wander, which usually doesn’t happen with this studio’s pictures. Nonetheless, most viewers will enjoy this movie and its message. And make sure you stay during the credits to see how one of the scenes was created.
2 ¾ stars
WHENEVER I see it being done I always stop to watch. Not only is it an art but a beautiful and skillful manipulation of a basic element. The only times I get to see a potter in action has been at art fairs or galleries. To witness the moist hands dance across the spinning mound of clay centered on their potter’s wheel is fascinating to me. The clay looks at times like it is growing into a living plant reaching maturity; at other times, it may look like an architectural geometric structure. If you ever get the chance to watch the process I highly recommend it. There is another reason why I am attracted to this process and it has to do with control. On a certain level I can easily relate to the potter because they are in total charge of the entire creation. They do not have to depend on anyone; it is simply them and their clay. Whatever way their creation comes out, it is solely do to them. On the one hand you could say that may not always be the best way because if the object is a disaster then the potter is completely at fault. I would willingly accept that fate instead of depending on someone to help complete the vision I foresaw for the mound of clay. BEING in control has always been a part of my mental makeup, since as long as I can remember. Without turning this into a therapy session let me say that after experiencing multiple disappointments I became trained on how not to depend or need anything from anyone. Maybe I had high standards or low self-esteem, but it has always been hard for me to ask someone for help. To let go of being in control for me represents a fear somehow that I am weak or not good enough. Like I said I do not want to delve into my psyche but I do have to say I discovered I have something in common with Batman and it is not the cool gadgets. GOTHAM city could be on the brink of disaster if the Joker, voiced by Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover franchise, The Campaign), goes through with his dastardly plan. If Batman, voiced by Will Arnett (When in Rome, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise), wants to save his beloved city he may have to do something he has never done before—ask for help. This animated action adventure film was just as creative as the original Lego movie. With Michael Cera (Youth in Revolt, Arrested Development-TV) voicing Robin, Rosario Dawson (Top Five, Sin City franchise) voicing Barbara Gordon and Ralph Fiennes (A Bigger Splash, Harry Potter franchise) voicing Alfred Pennyworth; all the characters were fun to watch and especially hear since the dialog had a fun edge to it. This film festival winner would appeal to kids and adults in my opinion. The references made for the adult viewers will not register with kids but it won’t take away from the movie watching experience. I also enjoyed the way the writers brought in a life lesson moment; it was touching and did not feel out of place. So now that I discovered I have something in common with Batman, I wonder if I should start working on my outfit.
3 ¼ stars
I learned at an early age that having more body mass was not a way to keep up with the people around me. Assumptions were made that I could not hit or catch a ball and I must be slow in a game of tag. Though initially I did not think I was different as time went on I sort of fell into people’s expectations. Oh and not being able to wear the latest trends in clothing because they did not make them in my size really pushed me over the edge. What could I do? I did what others in my situation did, ditch these unwritten rules. Little did I know this was going to help me later in life. AFTER living in apartments where all the residents pretty much were on equal footing, I bought a house. It was a major adjustment for me. From living in places where a building superintendant handled any issues, I was confronted with a neighbor who would point out everything that was wrong (in her opinion) with the outside of my house. First let me say she along with all the other neighbors loved (though I felt it was coming from an envious place) my landscaping. I was always getting complimented on it, though I had nothing to do with the lawn and flowers. A close friend of mine was a landscape architect who lived in a high rise building and missed getting his hands dirty. We were a perfect match because I disliked getting my hands dirty. My neighbor would sit out on her front porch and watch everything my friend did around the yard. Sadly this was the only thing she liked about my place. Anytime I was outside she would remind me I needed to do something about my storm windows, my screen door, my chimney; you get the point. From the lessons I was taught early on, I was able to ignore these reminders with a smile and a remark, “Really?” I did not need to keep up with her standards though you should with yours regarding this action comedy. THE new neighbors, Natalie and Tim Jones, played by Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious franchise, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) and Jon Hamm (The Town, Mad Men-TV), not only fit in with the neighborhood, they were perfect. They seemed a little too perfect for their neighbors Karen and Jeff Gaffney, played by Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers, Home and Away-TV) and Zach Galifianakis (Masterminds, The Campaign). Spying on the new couple would only show how perfect they were indeed, in certain areas of their life. What can I say about this movie; except to say it was poorly thought out and written. The script and story were generic; it was easy to see where the jokes would come in. A waste of talent even though I thought Gal and Jon made a fun couple; I would have liked to have seen this movie focus just on them. If you saw the trailer you already saw the film. You will not be missing anything if you decline an invitation to go see this movie at the theater. Do not feel you have to keep up with the newest movies out.
1 ¾ stars
It either floats in like a rolling fog coming down over a mountain range or bursts in like wind off of the Great Plains. No matter which way, once inside of a person the fog or wind spreads sparkles of light over a person’s heart and mind. Any rough edges are quickly filed down into soft round curves since hazard warnings are not allowed. Love has this way of taking over a person’s sense of reason, self-worth and thought processes. I am not saying this is always a bad thing; however, there is a fine line where the person in love slips up and falls into this unchecked devotion that clouds their mind. Let me tell you about a friend of mine who fell hard for this person. Right up front I will tell you I sensed something was not right after being around them for only the 2nd time. This person would regale my friend with these elaborate stories about the life they lead. They had traveled to various exotic locales, worked for the FBI, changed careers to become a top salesperson for a Fortune 500 company and so on and so on. But they slipped up without realizing it. When I mentioned I taught group fitness classes they said they used to do the same thing. A couple of innocent questions on my part confirmed this person was never certified to teach such a class. Here is the thing though, I privately told this to my friend along with my other concerns but it did not make a difference. Being in the birth stage of love my friend already had chucked rational thought from their mind. No matter what red flag popped up my friend ignored it and continued on with this person who would borrow money from time to time, never pick up a drink or restaurant tab and periodically had to be driven around because their “car was in the shop.” Love is best when it works in conjunction with a person’s mind and heart, instead of just consuming it. SECURITY guard David Ghantt, played by Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover franchise, Due Date), would do anything for fellow guard Kelly, played by Kristen Wiig (The Martian, Ghostbusters). She was not the only one who realized it. Based on true events this crime comedy also starred Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris, No Escape) as Steve, Jason Sudeikis (Mother’s Day, We’re the Millers) as Mike McKinney and Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters, Saturday Night Live-TV) as Jandice. None of them could help the awful script that was simply a generic version of an action comedy. The one who stood out for me was Kate; she has the best stage and screen presence in my opinion. Zach I feel is starting to be typecast with these same kinds of characters, a bit buffoonish and uncoordinated. As for the humor in this story I found very little to laugh at because I had seen the movie trailer prior. Once you have seen the trailer (even if you did not), the scenes were easy to predict. The actual story made headline news but I am afraid this movie version will quickly go to DVD. Suffice to say I did not love this film.
1 ½ stars
Eventually over time all bright objects lose some of their glow. As bright as a high noon sun can be, time’s strength with its constant pull draws out the shadows that were tucked away, freeing them to dance across the landscape of one’s life. A smooth taut face will turn and appear like the flapping jowls of a bounding Shar-Pei dog or a centuries old ravaged canyon. Besides youth not staying long in a person’s life, one’s accomplishments can diminish as future generations with their energy and determination restructure the environment. Within some aspects of my life I am familiar with the fading light of a past moment or if you will a past glory. When I was much younger and taught up to 20 aerobic classes a week, I felt I was on top of the world. With each movement choreographed for all the main muscle groups of the body, beside to each beat of selected songs; I felt I was walking onto a Broadway stage for every class. Having upwards of 50 members in a class, working out truly felt like a high energy theatrical production. At this stage of my life I know I could never keep up with my younger self (though I keep trying) and I am okay with it. I do my best not to judge anyone; but in regards to various celebrities, when I see them trying to perform the same way they did in a movie they starred in 15-20 years ago I have to wonder what motivates them. DECLINING fame was a hard fact to swallow for action movie star Riggan Thomson, played by Michael Keaton (Batman franchise, White Noise). Trying to recapture the spotlight once again; Riggan was launching a staged production that he wrote, directed and planned on starring in. He would have to deal with past events as he sorted through his true feelings. A film festival winner, this surreal comedic drama was outstanding on every level. The cast which also included Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, Magic in the Moonlight) as Sam, Edward Norton (The Illusionist, Fight Club) as Mike and Zach Galifianakis (Due Date, The Hangover franchise) as Jake were all amazing to watch as they handled all the twists and turns the script threw at them. From writer and director Alejandro Gonzalez (Babel, 21 Grams), the story dealt with real feelings and fears even when scenes took on a fantasy nature. Having Michael Keaton star in this movie was brilliant casting since in some circles people have said his best work was during the Batman films. I thought he was incredible in this role. In fact, I expect there will be multiple acting nominations for this film during next year’s Oscar race. Original, thought-provoking, stimulating; this movie was a glorious example for the beauty of filmmaking while showing the downfalls of yearning for one’s past glories.
Being the designated driver for some of my friends, I have been stuck staying at a nightclub until closing time. When the lights came on I was stunned how the entire place radically changed. When we first arrived at the club there were colored strobe lights sparking everywhere, narrow spotlights searching the dance floor while a cool, low fog circulated around our feet. At the end of the evening the room was flooded with harsh white light, exposing stained dark walls and a floor littered with confetti and crepe paper streamers. Some of it was clumped together on parts of the floor where drinks were spilled. At one of the leather clad booths along the wall, there was a passed out patron. As you can see it was not a pretty picture. The same could be said for this tired film. Consider this movie the last call of the franchise. Phil, Stu and Justin; played by Bradley Cooper (Limitless, Silver Linings Playbook), Ed Helms (Cedar Rapids, The Office-TV) and Justin Bartha (National Treasure franchise, The Rebound); participated in an intervention for Alan, played by Zach Galifianakis (The Campaign, Due Date). On the way to the treatment center; the Wolfpack was ambushed by Marshall, played by John Goodman (Argo, Flight). Holding Doug as hostage; Marshall gave the rest of the gang three days to find Mr. Chow, played by Ken Jeong (Community-TV, Pain & Gain). The story was one dimensional; in other words, it seemed as if they planned the jokes first, then wrote the story around them. The problem was the lack of humor; the jokes were utterly stale. Using Alan’s questionable feelings towards Phil as a continuous joke quickly became old. The character of Mr. Chow derived his humor by being inappropriate for these politically correct times. When the first movie came out it was a novel and fresh idea. I found the film to be dreary and lazy. Consider this film a reminder to never stay beyond last call.
1 3/4 stars
There was a time when one would see children playing outside. From a group of pretend space explorers to an afternoon tea party on the front lawn, a child’s imagination had no limits. I can remember playing in the alley behind the building I grew up in, with its high 3rd floor. Behind it there was a tall oak tree that I would climb up, to the height of the 2nd floor apartments. There I would sit and be the lookout for evil ghosts coming after my friends playing below in the alley. Today I rarely see children playing outside and I think it is because of all the pressures that are placed on them. With my family and friends who have children, there are so many activities they have signed their kids up for that there is no down time. I understand the thinking behind all these activities; creating opportunities for the child to excel, becoming well rounded, helping them on their path to becoming successful. Imagine the pressures that some children feel these days and may not have the tools to cope. In this poignant film from the writing duo of Ryan Fleck and Anna Buden (Half Nelson, Sugar) the story was about hight school student Craig, played by Keir Gilchrist (A Lobster Tale, Dead Silence). Unable to cope with the pressures placed on him, Craig admitted himself into a psychiatric ward of a hospital. Due to renovations in the juvenile ward, he had to be placed with the adult patients. With fellow patient Bobby, played by Zach Galifianakis (The Campaign, The Hangover franchise) as his guide; Craig discovered a world that appeared to be more normal than the one he left. I thought the topic of mental illness was gently handled in this dramatic comedy. The cast which also included Viola Davis (Beautiful Creatures, Won’t Back Down) as Dr. Eden Minerva and Emma Roberts (Nancy Drew, Hotel for Dogs) as Noelle did a beautiful job with their characters. There was a respect given to their maladies as they tried coping as best as they could. This was a stress free viewing experience, giving me the opportunity to sit back and relax.
2 2/3 stars — DVD