The question of our fate is one that is open ended and based upon the beliefs of the individual. Is it in our hands or is it preset even before it has begun?
The 2011 movie, The Adjustment Bureau (based on a short story, Adjustment Team, by Phillip K. Dick), is a science fiction inspired love story that is not supposed to happen. According to the powers that be, politician David Norris (Matt Damon) and contemporary dance Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) are supposed to live separate lives in New York City. But when he sees a flash of his future with Elise, David goes against those are keeping them apart, The Adjustment Bureau, to be with her. David and Elise have two choices in front of them: accept that their relationship is not meant to be or fight for it.
This movie is so good. It asks existential questions in a way that both speaks to the audience and keeps within the boundaries of the genre. Blunt and Damon have fantastic chemistry and the narrative is perfect taught with tension and suspense.
Love, in theory, should be simple. You find the right person, you settle down with them, and hopefully live happily ever after. But we all know that love is never simple.
In the 1999 film, The Bachelor (not to be confused with the reality show of the same name), James Shannon III (Chris O’Donnell) will soon be celebrating his 30th birthday. Though he has been with his girlfriend Anne Arden (Renée Zellweger) for a while, Jimmy is not quite ready to propose. When he finally gets down on on knee, it does not go as planned.
Needing space and time to think, Anne goes out of town for work. Just as she leaves, Jimmy receives an ultimatum from his recently deceased grandfather (the late Sir Peter Ustinov). Unless there is a ring on his finger by 6:05 pm on his birthday, he will receive nothing from his grandfather’s will. Scheduled to blow out the candles in 24 hours, he desperately tries to contact Anne. But she is incommunicado. Feeling desperate, Jimmy starts to contact his old girlfriends.
On a scale of 1-10, I would say that The Bachelor is 4. The plot is fairly predictable as a romantic comedy. Though O’Donnell and Zellweger have reasonably chemistry, there is nothing new or fresh about this film. The hapless male who needs a kick to the proverbial butt to prove to his significant other that he is serious about their relationship is nothing new. Its all rather generic and to be honest, boring.
It would be nice to say that love finds us without any effort. But for every person whose soulmate just walks into their life, there is another person who needs a little help.
Confessions of a Matchmaker aired on A&E in 2007. Set in Buffalo, NY, the audience follows matchmaker Patti Novak as she helps her clients find their perfect partner. Her no-nonsense attitude allows those who have hired her to work past their issues and if all goes well, there is a possibility of a bright future for the couple.
What I liked about this show is that unlike other reality dating shows, it was not as slick or pretty looking. Patti was willing to help those who came to her, but she did not coddle them. She also dropped them if she felt that they were unwilling to do the work needed to walk into the sunset.
A parent’s love for their child is a powerful thing. Sometimes, this leads to actions that might be considered odd or out of the box.
In the 2015 film, Ant-Man, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a con-man with a past and a record. He is also a father who adores his daughter. Given a super suit that allow him to change his size, Scott joins his mentor Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to save the world against Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Joining Scott on his path to superhero-dom is Hank’s daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly).
This movie is so much fun. I can’t comment on the transfer from the page to screen because I have never read the comic book. The best thing is that it does not take itself too seriously, which allows the audience to have fun in a fully engrossing and entertaining manner. The actors have amazing chemistry, the special effects are nicely balanced with the narrative, and Lilly’s character stands on her own two feet without being limited to the relationships she has with the male characters.
Cooking compeition shows have become a staple of Food Network‘s schedule. The problem is that after watching several variations on this theme, the programs start to blend together. It takes a unique premise to make one show stand out from another.
Cutthroat Kitchen aired from 2013-2017. Hosted by Alton Brown, four chefs face each other in three rounds. Each contestant is given $25,0000 and the opportunity to purchase opportunities to sabotage one another along the way. The winner takes home the money that is still in the bank at the end the of game, in addition to the title of champion.
What I like about this program is how deliciously sadistic Brown is. The challenges require the chefs to think outside the box and perhaps be a little more vicious than they would be when they are not in front of the camera.
In the world of real estate, first impressions are everything. It is therefore incumbent on either the current homeowner or the landlord/lady to do the work required to ensure that the property is sold and/or rented quickly.
Sell This House (2003-2011, 2020-present) is the OG of home renovation shows. Hosted by Tanya Memme, the premise of the program is that homeowners are unable to sell their home. With the help of Roger Hazard and Daniel Kucan, Memme works with the current residents to fix up the home and hopefully sell it. This means changes that may not be initially welcomed and comments during the open houses that may not sit well those who live on the property.
Back in the day, the show was new and different. But now its as rote and predictable as any program in the genre.
When we go, we want to know that our legacies and our families are settled for the future. But there can be a point in which this desire overwhelms our relationships and makes us forget what is important.
The 2010 film, Little Fockers, is the third movie in the Meet the Parents trilogy. After the chaos of Meet the Parents (2000) and Meet the Fockers (2004), Greg and Pam Focker (Ben Stiller and Teri Polo) have settled down into a happy life as spouses and parents. All is right with Pam’s father Jack (Robert De Niro). Before the entire family comes into town to celebrate the birthday of Greg and Pam’s twins, Jack finds out that Greg has a side gig working for a pharmaceutical company due to finance issues. Once more, Greg has to prove himself to his father-in-law that not only is he worthy, but will be able to lead the family one day.
A final movie in a film trilogy or series is supposed to once and for all, tie up the loose ends while maintaining the magic that brought audiences into the theaters. Unlike Return of the Jedi or Avengers: Endgame, which were both able to keep the narrative going and fans engaged, Little Fockers falls flat on its face. The jokes that elicited laughs in the first two movies are empty shells of what they once were. While the chemistry still exists between the actors, the honest truth is that this film illustrates once more why sequels have a bad name.
When we go to war, it is not the old we sent into battle. It is the young ones who put their lives on the line.
The 2007 short film, To Die in Jerusalem, is the story of two young lives cut short by hate, war, and unending conflict. In 2002, Rachel Levy was was a 17 year old Jewish girl living in Jerusalem. She died at the hands of Palestinian suicide bomber. The person who killed her was a 17 year old Palestinian Muslim girl, Ayat al-Akhras.
When we talk about this conflict, we don’t discuss it on a human level. By making the story about two families, two young girls taken at the prime of their lives and two mothers looking for answers, it becomes personal and down to earth. The audience does not see an argument that is complicated and misunderstood. They see the ordinariness of the subjects and hopefully understand they are no different than anyone else.
We all know the image of women that Hollywood and Madison Avenue projects. Though we know that this image is completely unrealistic, we are told in both subtle and not to subtle ways, that this is who we have to be.
When we initially meet Becca Wasserman (Marissa Jaret Winokur) in the 2003 TV movie Beautiful Girl, she is content with her life. She is happy in her career choice as a 4th grade teacher and wants to teach her young students to be proud of who they are. Becca is what is referred to in Yiddish as zaftig. She has a supportive mother, Amanda (Fran Drescher), a loving fiancé, Adam Lopez (Mark Consuelos), and her grandmother, known as Nana (Joyce Gordon), who supports her unconditionally.
Becca’s perspective begins to shift when she runs into Libby Leslie (Reagan Pasternak), a former high school classmate who did not make those four years easy for her. With a limited wedding budget, she enters the local beauty contest to hopefully win a trip to Hawaii for her honeymoon with Adam. Will she win and more importantly, will Becca stay true to herself or conform to the image she is seeing around her?
The best thing I can say about this movie is that it is cute. The acting is good and the topic is as timely then as it is now. But it is a little too preachy for my sake. If I am to be honest, I prefer Winokur as the lead character in Hairspray. It has the same message, but the narrative has a subversive element that makes it appealing without being oversimplified.
Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes. They also exist outside of the big IPs.
In the 1996 film, The Phantom, the title character (Billy Zane) is the latest line of superheros. Four hundred years ago, his ancestor witnessed his father’s murder on their ship. When he finally returns to dry land, he swears that he will become a version of Robin Hood. This legacy is passed down from father son until we get to what was then the present day. The current Phantom’s latest is nemesis Xander Drax (Treat Williams). There is also the love interest in the form of his ex, Diana Palmer (Kristy Swanson) and the wannabe love interest/baddie Sala (Catherine Zeta-Jones).
Like The Shadow (1994), it is a live action version of an old time radio show. As narratives go, it is rather generic. While the action is decent, there is nothing that makes it stand out in the genre.