December 20, 2015

There's No Time Like the Present: The Family Stone (2005)

Isn't it funny how sometimes the very thing that some people, maybe even you, love about the holidays is the very same thing that kind of drives you nuts about it as well? Of course, I'm talking about the hustle and bustle of gift giving, holiday parties, and the biggest thing of time. All that togetherness, which we all know is at the heart of the holidays along with personal beliefs, is supposed to be a reminder to us all to be grateful for what we have right now, but sometimes that message gets lost on in the midst of everything going on, right?

The Family Stone Poster.jpg
With the holidays being at the end of the year, it often comes along with a boatload of year-end retrospective and hindsight clarity that we either purposely or unintentionally postpone all year long. Hey, I'm not judging, I'm right there with the rest of you. But the thing is this particular strategy is probably the very thing that is compounding the stress we experience over the holidays right to the point where we are inevitably forced to contend with our true feelings. And even more importantly, take necessary action. That's a huge pill to swallow, right, but one I suspect many of us end up taking during this most celebratory time or else why would so many overhaul their lives after the new year? The bad news is that when we finally cop to our truth it usually means change is a coming. Hang on, there's good news, too. The good news is that we get to be so much happier as a result of owning up to the realization that our current happiness is worth everything and taking the necessary action to make it come to fruition is nonnegotiable. The movie The Family Stone (2005) is a great reminder to us all about this important lesson to be emphasized during the holidays: that there's no time like the present.

In the movie The Family Stone (2005), Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) brings his girlfriend Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker) home for the holidays, to meet his family. Despite the Stone's initial attempts at politeness with Meredith, there was a huge elephant in the room: Everett's clear romantic mismatch with Meredith. Things quickly go awry as Meredith tries to "fit in" with the close knit family, who really don't have anything against her, they just don't think Everett and Meredith belong together. Things get even more complicated when Meredith asks her sister Julie (Claire Danes) to come join her for support.

After Meredith puts her foot in her mouth during a dinner conversation about sexual orientation and her sister doesn't have her back (rightfully so), she ends up spending some time with Everett's brother Ben (Luke Wilson), who provides the much needed comfort she desired; comfort that her boyfriend Everett couldn't (or wouldn't) provide. At that point, the tide begins to shift for several members of the Stone family and the Morton sisters; particularly for Everett, Meredith, Ben, and Julie. Meredith ends up falling for Ben and Everett realizes that he is drawn to Meredith's sister Julie. And though the family was initially shocked at the romantic switch-a-roo, the shock soon wore off as they all wanted nothing more than for everyone, even their holiday guests the Morton sisters, to seize their opportunities to be happy and not waste any time in doing so; particularly in light of mama Stone, Sybil's (Diane Keaton), fatal illness.

While this movie is a delightfully entertaining dramedy about all the wonderful virtues that we emphasize during the holidays, it is also a great reminder about the importance of not wasting time. That when we know what we want, and sometimes that may take us a minute to figure out, it is absolutely worth the risk to pursue that which will make us happy. That's what Everett and Meredith realized. So, this holiday season, go forth and seize every opportunity you have to uncover your happiness because after all there's no time like the present. Carpe Diem.

The Family Stone is currently streaming on Netflix.

November 15, 2015

Take Chances to Make Advances: The Ugly Truth (2009)

Are you a creature of habit? Trust me, you're not the only one. Besides, routines can be cool if you're one of those people that likes dependability and all. The only problem is when we get stuck in them and resist change, even if doing so would make your life a little easier, better.

A man and a woman leaning shoulder to shoulder, divided by a thick black line.Whether your stuck in a routine on the job or even in your personal life, it can be difficult to suddenly change how you do things. This we all know, right? The trouble is in the doing. Say, for example, you've always wanted to change careers or travel more. You know, if you never actually take that leap to make a move to get what you want you'll likely never get it. Being your same old self won't cut it if you want something more, something different, like that job change. You actually have to take the chance to get what you want, or to advance. Hello, growth. The movie The Ugly Truth (2009) is a perfect reminder to us all that we have to take chances to make advances.  

In The Ugly Truth (2009), Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl) is a successful morning TV show producer who just so happens to believe in true love. Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler), the cynical host of a TV show called The Ugly Truth, is the complete opposite. And while both seem content living life in their current routines, the ugly truth of the matter is that they weren't. Not until they meet each other. After a change-up at her TV station, forcing her to change with viewers, Abby and Mike find themselves working together to each other's dismay. As it turns out, the two ended up falling for each other, which presented an obvious problem given that they both weren't keen on budging from their routines, or changing. In the end, despite some silly game playing, that's exactly what they both did, but not in a I-no-longer-recognize-myself-in-a-bad-way way, it was more like a you-make-me-want-to-be-a-better-person way. They each took a chance and it worked out personally and professionally for the both of them.

While this movie is a lighthearted romantic comedy that revolves around two stubborn opposites finding love in each other, on a grander scale it also serves as a reminder that we all have to be willing to make changes in our lives if we want our situations to change for the better. Creatures of habit, like Abby and Mike in the movie, will find it difficult to take that leap, at first. After all why tempt fate when you could just as easily stick with your tried and true routines. Or, as some would say, "the devil they know." Truth be told, you could. But just know that if you do decide to stay in your old routines, you could wind up missing out on something. So, we should all take care to shake things up a bit every once in a while because apparently you have to take chances in life in order to make some advances. 

The Ugly Truth is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

October 25, 2015

Have A Little Faith: Premonition (2007)

Premonitionmp.jpgEverybody is prone to a negative thought here and there. After all, nobody's perfect, right? But that thing that seems to separate generally positive people from negative ones is the ability to fight off those random negative thoughts that we may have. In other words, positive people are able to shift their thinking to something more positive to stop themselves from being negative when the negative thoughts occur. I know, easier said than done. Trust me.

What's more, as a negative person would tell you, is that it's really easy to be positive (or have faith) when everything is going your way. The true test for us all is when things aren't going our way. You know, when "the crap has hit the fan," or something like that. We all have trials and tribulations, but as we're told it is in those trials and tribulations that our true strength of character surfaces. One of the most obvious indications of where our head is at, for better or worse, is our stance on faith during those times. And while I'm not necessarily talking about religion, if it applies than by all means consider that as well. My point has more to do with the importance of maintaining a positive outlook in spite of adversity, or having faith if you will, that things can and always will work out. The movie Premonition (2007) is a great example of that very important life lesson.

In the movie Premonition (2007), Linda Hanson (Sandra Bullock) is taken on a whirlwind emotionally taxing journey to ultimately learn to have more faith: a journey that unfortunately involves the untimely death of her husband James "Jim" Hanson (Julian McMahon). Depicted in non-chronological order, just to make things a bit interesting, Linda's story unfolds much like a version of the film Groundhog Day, only much like in real life she can never really correct any past doings in order to change the eventual future. Once Linda realizes what's happening to her, supernatural as it may be, she then turns to religion to help her figure out how to cope. Her priest then gives her a much needed lesson on faith, all the while informing her that tests are simply here to help remind us to keep the faith, no matter what. Even after seeking the guidance of her priest, Linda was still on a path to change what would eventually occur regardless. She did finally learn the lesson she was supposed to, but not before succumbing to the reality of what her priest had already advised her about, which in the end meant facing her husband's untimely death and being left a widow to raise three kids.

While Premonition (2007) is an interesting supernatural thriller, it also serves as a great reminder to us all to have a little faith. Like Linda, in the movie, we can't predict or change what the future will bring, all we really have control over is keeping the faith that things will always work out; because ultimately having and maintaining a positive outlook is all we really have to get us through whatever adversity life throws at us. The take away, then, is that we should all go forth having a little faith. Whether that takes on a religious connotation for you or not, be that as it may. Good things.

Premonition is available on Blu-ray.

September 27, 2015

Everything Happens For A Reason: Serendipity (2001)

Are you one of those people that thinks that there are no coincidences? Well, I definitely am. I think that no matter how seemingly insignificant  or random something may appear to be in your life, it really is indicative of something more, something actually significant. And you should too, perhaps.

Serendipity poster.jpg
Say, for example, you go to your favorite coffee shop and order your favorite drink, but for some strange reason they're out of the main ingredient. So, you're forced to order an alternative, but when you go to retrieve your drink you bump into this hot guy (or girl) that just so happened to order the very same thing. You two lock eyes and the rest is history.  Ok, as cheesy as that may seem/sound, it could happen. But more importantly, that's serendipity at its finest. A completely seemingly random event, like the coffee shop running out of the main ingredient for your favorite drink, turning into a benefit for you, like meeting some hot guy (or girl) that ends up becoming the love of your life (or at least a great love). See? Everything happens for reason, even if it has nothing to do with romance. The movie Serendipity (2001) is a great reminder of this important life lesson.

In the movie Serendipity (2001), Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale) and Jonathon Trager (John Cusack) find themselves experiencing more than just mutual attraction when they bump into each other for the first time in Bloomingdale's while shopping during the Christmas holidays. Despite both being involved with other people at the time, they decide to go have coffee at a little shop called Serendipity, and then go for a stroll in the park so they could spend some time together before having to go back to their lives. Things really get interesting when at the end of the night, upon their departure, Sara offers Jonathon her phone number on a piece of paper that just so happens to fly away when a buses passes by. Evidently, they weren't meant to be. At least not at that particular point in time. And while they seemingly moved on with their lives, they both never forgot about one another (and especially how the other made them feel). Fast forward several years later, unable to shake the other from memory they each try to force another serendipitous moment with the other, likely to avoid making the hard decisions to abandon their current relationships. When Sara and Jonathon finally give up on trying to find each other, that's when they find each other again, but not before being brave enough to properly walking away from their other relationships.

While this movie is a delightful romantic comedy that may even make you shed a tear by the end, it also serves as a great reminder to us all that everything happens for a reason. Like Sara and Jonathon in the movie, we could all take advantage of every seemingly random occurrence that happens in our lives, because it very well could then lead us to true happiness. And isn't that the ultimate goal anyway? So, go forth and seize all of the serendipitous moments in your life, and remember that every occurrence, no matter how seemingly small, is significant and represents a chance for true happiness.

Serendipity is currently available on Netflix.

September 12, 2015

Dig A Little Deeper: The Perfect Guy (2015)

Have you ever been drawn to someone? I think that's technically the definition of attraction, but for the sake of this post, we'll just go with "clicked with someone." After all, clicking with someone could be platonic or romantic. But, the point being, you were drawn in and couldn't explain why or wanted to fight any feelings. Trust me, you're not alone.

Everybody goes through the same thing, at some point or another. And while it's great to feel drawn in--really great, right?--we should still probably proceed with caution, because the truth is we don't really know that person. This is true no matter how much of a good feeling we get from being in their presence. After all, it could just be surface, if you get my drift. That's why we have to dig deeper to find out if the clicking is a sign of something real, and in the process of doing so, we'll hopefully learn enough about the other person to make an informed decision about whether or not we should pursue anything with them, platonic or romantic. The movie The Perfect Guy (2015) is a great reminder that we should all take the time to dig a little deeper no matter how much we are drawn towards someone we don't know. After all, there is no real way of knowing who they really are otherwise without taking the time to get to know them.

In the movie The Perfect Guy (2015), Leah Vaughn (Sanaa Lathan) has it all, beauty and brains. And though she is successful on the job and in a seemingly happy relationship, she is also growing tired of her long term disagreement with her boyfriend Dave (Morris Chestnut) about the lack of progression of their relationship into a permanent situation. Enter Carter (Michael Ealy). When Leah decides to break up with Dave, and then briefly dates Carter a short time after, she learns that maybe she shouldn't be so impetuous in her assessment of either guy, after all. Unfortunately, in order to learn that lesson, and then some, Leah has to go through quite a bit of a drama at the hands of her psychotic, murdering ex-boyfriend, Carter. By the end of the movie, Leah had not only loved and lost, but also had to resort to extreme measures to protect herself. And that was in addition to learning the lesson that maybe she shouldn't jump into things, or make rash decisions about relationships without really assessing who she's dealing with. Note to us all.

While this movie is quite an entertaining thriller, it also serves as a great reminder of an important life lesson that we should all take heed to. By taking the necessary time to get to know someone, we afford ourselves the opportunity to dig a little deeper so we can make an informed decision about whether or not we should pursue a relationship, of any kind, with that person. Although Leah's case had extreme circumstances, the moral of the story still rings true for all of us, yes? So, the take away, then, in my estimation is that we all proceed with caution, no matter how much you click with someone. Besides, if the draw or attraction is legit, it'll be that much more deeper and fulfilling if you wait to learn more about your new friend. Good luck!

August 16, 2015

Don't Let Anyone Put You In A Box: Divergent (2014)

Have you ever stopped yourself from doing something that you really wanted to do because it was atypical of your normal behavior, or you were worried about what other people might think? Be honest. I'm guilty of it, too.

Lead characters Tris and Four stand above a futuristic Chicago.
It's a sad and unfortunate truth that we sometimes allow other people to dictate or even become stakeholders in our lives. What's worse is that it often leads us to either making decisions that stifle our growth, and/or prevent us from being happy. And what's worse than that? The thing we have to remember is that we are all living organisms that are meant to evolve, and if we allow others to box us in, intimidating us from trying new things or simply doing what we want, then we aren't allowing ourselves to properly evolve, and that's on top of not being happy. The movie Divergent (2014) is a great reminder to us all that we shouldn't let anyone put us in a box; even if it means forging a new and unknown path.

In the movie Divergent (2014), Beatrice "Tris" Prior (Shailene Woodley) lives in a dystopian society where she is forced to choose a faction (which are basically professions based on virtues) in which she will spend the rest of her life. Just prior to choosing, she is subjected to a psychological test that was supposed to help her determine which faction to choose before the designated ceremony, but her results rendered inconclusive because she demonstrated virtues representative of multiple factions. In other words, she was divergent, which makes total sense given that no one really demonstrates only one virtue; unless you're a robot (and not an AI, either). Although Tris was advised to choose the same faction as her parents, Abnegation (the selfless), she went with her gut and chose the faction Dauntless (the brave). Doing so wasn't an easy choice; however, it did help her develop the side of herself that was previously dormant because of her home environment. She ultimately grew brave enough to help prevent the annihilation of her parents' faction, though they were already dead by then, and flee the city with her new love/fellow divergent, Tobias "Four" Eaton (Theo James).

While this movie is definitely an entertaining sci-fi action thriller, it also serves as a great reminder of the life lesson that we shouldn't allow others to dictate who we are and how we should live our lives. Sure, when we're young we have no choice, but as we grow older and reach the age of consent, like Tris in the movie, we should and must seize the opportunity to choose that which we feel is the right path for ourselves. So, go forth and choose your own path, and never allow anyone to put you into a box. We all have the right to happiness, but we'll never get there if we keep allowing others to define what that looks like for us. Be a Dauntless!

July 26, 2015

We Are Not Our Parents: Trainwreck (2015)

Have you ever done something one way simply because that's the way your parents did things? Me too. We can't help ourselves, I think. When we see things done a certain way or our parents tell us to do things a certain way, it kind of sticks with us for a while. That is until we make the conscious choice to do things the way we want, the way that reflects our own personal values and whatnot.

Trainwreck poster.jpgLet's say, for example, your parents always wash their car on a Sunday. So, you grow up and do the same thing, often rearranging things on your Sunday just to make time for it. What's more is that when people ask you why you do it, you have no clue. At best, you recall the fact that your parents did the same thing. Even though that was a silly example, the same holds true for more deep seated aspects of our personalities, like how we view the world and others. The thing is, just because we love our parents doesn't mean we have to live our lives exactly like them or believe exactly what they believe. Seriously, would you be prejudice against a group of people simply because your parents were prejudice against that same group of people, even if you felt differently than they do deep down? I know, it's easier said than done, but we ultimately have to live our own lives and learn to think for ourselves or else we'll never live our best lives. The movie Trainwreck (2015) is a great example of the very important life lesson: We are not our parents. And bless their hearts, but nor should we be.

In the movie Trainwreck (2015), writer Amy Townsend (Amy Schumer) has a hard time fully committing to her boyfriend Steven (John Cena) because she can't seem to break free from her father's belief that monogamy is unrealistic. But when Amy gets an assignment for work to interview respected sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), and tries to make him another casual conquest, she finally finds someone worthy of her having a relationship with. Someone worthy of her commitment, even if she didn't exactly know how to go about that. Granted there was a setback, as there often is with a learning curve, but in the end Amy found the strength to let go of father's ideology that monogamy is unrealistic and was able to have the type of happiness that she longed for.

Although this movie is a hilarious take on dating, it also serves as a great reminder that we have to think for ourselves, even if that means distancing ourselves from the way our parents may think and behave. Just like Amy in the movie, living out someone else's beliefs (even our own parents) doesn't exactly lead to our own happiness. So, go forth and forge your own path to a happy life, whatever that may look like. And just remember, we are not our parents and that is perfectly fine.  

July 19, 2015

Always Leave Others Better Off For Having Met You: The Best Of Me (2015)

Think about the last time you interacted with someone. Did you seize every opportunity to leave a positive lasting impression?

The Best of Me poster.jpg
Sometimes we're all so caught up in the day-to-day business of our own lives that we don't really notice the people around us. Now, I'm not talking about the fact that they bought the new Apple watch, I mean really notice them as a person, like their mood. Sure, it may seem like yet another thing to do in our day, but honestly how much time does it really take up to say hello to someone, ask them how they're doing, and actually stick around for the answer? Or, if you see someone in need of a helping hand, how much time would it actually take from your day to help them out?

Truthfully, it doesn't take much time to lift someone's spirits. Yet we somehow end up telling ourselves that it does, which then prevents us from engaging with others and potentially leaving a positive lasting impression. If we all reminded ourselves that lifting someone's spirits ultimately reverberates more positivity into the world over, I think we would all probably make more of an effort to do so. The movie The Best Of Me (2015) is a great reminder of the powerful life lesson that we should all take the time so that we always leave others better off for having met us.

In the movie The Best Of Me (2015), oil rig worker Dawson Cole (James Marsden) ends up rekindling with his first and only love, Amanda Collier (Michelle Monaghan), after being forced to reunite upon the death of their mutual friend Tuck (Gerald McRaney). Tuck, who also served as a surrogate father figure for Dawson in his youth, had bequeathed his home to Dawson and Amanda in the hopes of giving them the opportunity to heal old wounds, because that was just the kind of guy he was. And it worked. Tuck's final act as a father figure to Dawson, coupled with the years of love and respect that he showed him, forever changed the trajectory of Dawson's life, helping him to grow into an upstanding man with high morals. Though sadly, he and Amanda couldn't be together, Dawson and Amanda did make peace with one another. In the end, Dawson couldn't escape the wrath of his own father, which ultimately caused his untimely death. But all was not lost, Dawson still had more positivity to reverberate into the world. In his final act of kindness, as an organ donor, Dawson gave his long time love Amanda's son his heart in a much-needed transplant after the teenager was badly injured in a car accident. 

While this story is obviously a sweet romantic drama that is surely to make you weep, it also serves as a great reminder that we should all never pass up an opportunity to leave a positive lasting impression on others. Like Dawson in the movie, and Tuck as well, they seized every opportunity that presented itself to be there for somebody else and do something that would reverberate more positivity into the world. Seriously, can you think of a better way to leave a positive lasting impression than to give your heart to someone? I know I can't. So, go forth and remember to always leave others better off for having met you. Let's make the world a better place, one interaction at a time.

July 3, 2015

Live Every Day Like It's Your Last: The Fault In Our Stars (2014)

Why is it that when most of us are reminded about the fragility of life it makes us appreciate life so much more? Maybe it's because deep down we already know this to be true, we just have a hard time reconciling it on a day-to-day basis because of everything else we have going on. Goings on that we no doubt needn't allow to take up a lot of space in our lives much less control them. Am I right?

Movie poster featuring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in character
Image Credit: Wikipedia
Whether you've lost someone close to you or know someone who has, chances are you've had a moment where you thought about your own mortality. You may have even thought about what you would do differently if you knew when it would all come to an end. But the thing is, most of us don't know when it will all come to an end, which is why we really don't have the luxury of wasting a lot of time, if any at all. I think that's why when we see someone who is more in touch with or aware of their mortality, it serves as a huge reminder that we've been spending too much time on the stuff that doesn't fulfill us or make us happy and too little time on the stuff that does. The movie The Fault in Our Stars (2014) is a great reminder that none of us really have time to waste, which is why we should all live every day like it's our last.

In the movie The Fault in Our Stars (2014),  the world of a terminally ill teenager named Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) gets turned upside down, for the better, when she meets and reluctantly falls in love with another terminally ill teenager named Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort). Augustus is exactly what Hazel Grace needs, someone who helps her to open up and enjoy the time she does still have. Although Hazel Grace and Augustus were pretty much smitten from the first moment they laid eyes on each other, Hazel Grace tried to hold back on her feelings out of fear of getting too attached to someone while being terminally ill. Eventually, Hazel Grace couldn't deny her connection with Augustus, even if she wanted to, and the inseparable couple forged a loving bond that transcended the ages and time, in a manner of speaking.

While this movie is an obvious home-run comedy-drama that just so happens to involve two terminally ill teenagers, it also serves as a reminder that we should all live every day like it's our last, doing whatever makes us happy and fulfilled. Like Hazel Grace and Augustus, we shouldn't allow our current circumstances to dictate what we can and cannot do with whomever we want. Being sick is not a death sentence, but not being happy is. So, stop wasting time you don't have on things (and people) that don't really bring you a true sense of happiness. I will if you will.

June 20, 2015

You Are Capable Of Greatness: Lucy (2014)

Have you ever pushed yourself to accomplish a goal? There's nothing like it, right? Just when you're about to give up, that's when you inevitably cross the figurative, or real life, finish line. What's more is that besides feeling a sense of accomplishment for what you've just achieved, you also end up learning all sorts of new things about yourself, like what you're passionate (or dispassionate) about and in some cases even inspiring others. If only we allowed ourselves to experience that more often.

Lucy (2014 film) poster.jpgWhat is it about someone attaining something great or accomplishing some presumably enormous feat that causes most of us to get excited about doing something great for ourselves? We see someone do something awesome and, well, it makes us want to do something awesome or be awesome, too. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just we have to remember to keep going and persevere when no one is looking and especially in the face of adversity. The movie Lucy (2014) to me is a great reminder that we are all capable of greatness, even if it does seem a bit farfetched, because at the end of the day the drugs that she ingested only helped her to tap into unused potential that already existed within her and she didn't let anything stop her during her pursuit to help humanity.

In the movie Lucy (2014), the eponymous title character (Scarlett Johansson) is an unsuspecting college student studying abroad who finds herself in a dangerous confrontation with a Korean mob boss, thanks to her drug trafficking boyfriend. While unconscious, a bag of CPH4 is sewn into her abdomen so that she can then transport the illegal drugs without detection into Europe. The thing about CPH4 is that is causes an increase in mental and physical abilities, including telepathy and being impervious to pain or discomfort, with an overdose. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending how you look at it, the bag of drugs is ruptured in Lucy's abdomen and she begins to realize skills that enable her to physically and mentally overcome any obstacle that she encounters. By the end of the movie, after joining forces with a well-known scientist who happened to research a similar phenomenon, Lucy then consumes more of the CPH4 drug to her ultimate disintegration into ever-present molecules that will benefit scientists with the requisite knowledge needed to progress humanity to the next evolutionary level.

Although this movie is an action packed science fiction film, this female centric story also serves as a great reminder that we are all capable of greatness. Like Lucy, we all have untapped potential in us that is waiting to be accessed, we just have to be open to uncovering and/or discovering it. So, no more making excuses that you can't start a new business, run a marathon or whatever, because the truth is we are all capable of greatness without any help.

June 14, 2015

Be More Judicious With Your Affection: The Object Of My Affection (1998)

Objectofmyaffectionposter.jpgEverybody wants and needs affection, right? Because of this apparent fact, we all may fall into the trap of giving away our trust and/or affection to people who don't really deserve it or want it. That's the bad news. The good news is eventually we will find someone who is deserving of our affection, we just have to be more judicious in order to get there.

Let's face it, very few of us actually know exactly what we're looking for in a romantic or platonic friendship, we just pretty much accept whatever comes along and if the person isn't completely psychotic we roll with it. Sure, that may work sometimes, but eventually when we all realize that we want something more than just "whatever comes along." And quite frankly, we absolutely deserve better than that, especially when there's the certainty that happiness awaits us. The movie The Object Of My Affection (1998) is a great reminder of the lesson that we should all be more judicious with our affection because if we don't, we'll just end up accepting people (and situations) into our lives that are completely fruitless and just don't make us happy.

In the movie The Object Of My Affection (1998), Nina Borowski (Jennifer Aniston) and George Hanson (Paul Rudd) form a fast friendship out of necessity when they both find themselves lonely and in need at a mutual friend's party. Although they both were looking for someone to return the affection that they each longed for, over time Nina began to misinterpret their increasing time together and George's friendship for romantic feelings, even though George was gay.  Perhaps it had something to do with her hormones due to her pregnancy or the turmoil she was dealing with from her breakup with her baby's father, but in the end, Nina had to move on and find someone who not only wanted to return her romantic affections but was deserving of that chance. As perfect as George was, he was never going to be anything more than a friend to her.

While this movie is a delightful romantic comedy that is heartbreaking at times, it also can serve as a reminder that we should all take extra care to be mindful of who we let in. Not that giving her affection to George was necessarily a bad thing, but George was never going to be a real romantic suitor for her, so it did deem her pursuit of him a complete waste of time. So, let's all learn from Nina's mistake and be more judicious with our affections to begin with then we wouldn't have to worry about wasting our time in fruitless pursuits.

June 7, 2015

Don't Be Afraid To Exercise Your Free Will: Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

We all have our limits when it comes to the various relationships in our lives. Well, at least we all probably should, right?

Fifty-Gray-poster.jpgWhether it's finally getting the nerve to tell your parents to stop trying to run your life or ending a relationship with someone that isn't quite who you thought they were, it all comes down to the same thing really: knowing that you have the ability to exercise your free will in your relationships. If we don't, then we run the risk of being in relationships where we're not being treated like we ought to be or even worse. The movie Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) is a great reminder of the important life lesson that we should all not be afraid to exercise our free will, even when we find ourselves in uncharted territory.

In the movie Fifty Shades of Grey (2015), 21-year-old Anastasia "Ana" Steele (Dakota Johnson) meets a 27-year-old wealthy entrepreneur named Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), who coerces her to lose her inhibitions in order to be in an intimate relationship with him. Although the two had instant chemistry and Ana wanted to be with Christian, in whatever capacity he desired, it was by her own free will. The same was also true when she decided that she had had enough of his emotional and physical manipulation, particularly after learning about the source of his habits. Ana may have been inexperienced in the ways of love prior to meeting Christian Grey, but she was smart enough to know that she didn't have to be in a relationship in which she wasn't comfortable with the terms.

While this movie definitely lives up to its reputation of being an erotic romantic drama, it also does a great job of reminding us all to not be afraid to exercise our own free will. Like Ana demonstrated in the movie, it's ok to walk away from a relationship, romantic or platonic, when we no longer agree to the terms of that relationship; which by the way we are so inclined to alter at any stage throughout. So, if you don't like something about your relationships speak up about it, take action or both. Everyone has the right to exercise their free will and that includes you and me.

May 31, 2015

It's Ok To Go After What You Want: Must Love Dogs (2005)

Must Love Dogs.jpgEverybody wants something. Whether we call what we want standards, goals or desires, everybody has them...and we all should.

The thing is, merely acknowledging that we should all have standards, goals or desires just isn't enough, we have to give ourselves permission to go after whatever it is that we want too. Say, for example, that you want to relocate to a different city, but your family doesn't support your decision for whatever reason(s). By not giving yourself permission to move away, you're giving your power away to others to control your life, which ultimately means that what you want doesn't matter. That's categorically untrue.

We have to be able to champion our own causes, because as much as someone may like or love you, they just can't give the 24/7 level of commitment that your standards, goals or desires actually deserve. And that's if they actually, truly mean well by you to begin with. The movie Must Love Dogs (2005) is a great reminder that not only should we have our own standards or desires, but we should also give ourselves permission to go after them. Otherwise, we'll end up living our lives according to what others think we should be doing, which can only lead to unhappiness, at the very least.

In the movie Must Love Dogs (2005), divorcee Sarah Nolan (Diane Lane) is a people pleaser who learns the hard way that pleasing everyone around her won't get her anywhere but unhappy. Though she had a great relationship model in her parents, she didn't know how to go after what she wanted in a potential partner, or even that she had that right to. Luckily for her, and despite her family meddling in her love life, Sarah learned to not only give herself permission to want fellow dog lover Jake Anderson (John Cusack), but to also pursue him in spite of what anyone else may have thought.

Although Must Love Dogs (2005) is a super cute romantic comedy about second chances, perhaps of equal importance, it reminds us all that it's ok to want what we want and go after it as well. As far as we know, we only live once which is why it's so important for you to live your life the way you want, with whomever you want, doing whatever you want. So, what do you want? When you figure it out, just know that it's ok to go after it.

May 24, 2015

Give What You Want To Receive: What Women Want (2000)

Men and women are always saying how difficult it is to understand each other. But the truth of the matter is that all relationships take a bit of understanding, and sometimes a little compromise, to make them work. Otherwise, we'll all just be fighting a losing battle, prolonging an inevitable parting of ways.

Whatwomenwant.jpgInstead of focusing so much on differences, which is likely part of the problem in the first place, we should all probably focus more on the similarities. Wouldn't you agree? Like, for example, how we all just want to be treated with respect and feel appreciated. The thing is, though, that you can't go expecting someone to treat you with respect if you don't give it. Can we say aha moment? The movie What Women Want (2000) is a great reminder of not only how we all should stop and take stock of how we're treating others,but also how if we want better relationships with others we need to give whatever it is that we want to receive. That's only fair, right?

In the movie What Women Want (2000), a chauvinistic  advertising executive named Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson) learned the hard way that his habit of treating women with little to no respect didn't exactly bode well for long term relationship building, even when he wanted it. You see, Nick was the kind of guy that took full advantage of his charm over many of the women around him, that is until he met his match, professionally and romantically, in a co-worker named Darcy McGuire (Helen Hunt). Luckily for him, a freak accident literally shocked him into seeing the error of his ways, but not before he took full advantage of his new found abilities to listen to women's thoughts. As it turned out, being able to listen to women's thoughts was quite eye-opening for Nick as he be began to realize just how hurtful his actions, or in some instances inaction, were affecting the women around him. This was particularly true for his relationship with his daughter, whom he developed a stronger bond with by the end.

Although this romantic comedy is light-hearted and entertaining, it also has a deeper lesson that reminds us all to be more careful about how we treat the people around us. We all shouldn't need to experience hearing the thoughts of our significant others, friends or loved ones in order to realize that we're dropping the ball somewhere and potentially really hurting someone we care about. So, let's remember to give what we want to receive, because it's only fair and because we know it's the only real way we're going to get what we want out of our relationships.

May 10, 2015

Let Your Actions Speak Louder Than Your Words: The Boy Next Door (2015)

When was the last time you said something that you meant to follow through with, but didn't? We all do it, some more than others, but don't you feel better when you actually let your actions do all the talking for you? 

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There's a saying: actions speak louder than words, and over the years, I have yet to meet someone who would rather someone saying something like "I love you" or "I've got your back" over actually expressing those sentiments. Would you? You see what I mean? Words have no bearing if the person who's saying them, doesn't back it up with actions. By the way, you may have noticed that the same is true for the exact opposite. Someone's lack of action can speak volumes as well. That's why I liked the movie The Boy Next Door (2015), because it's a great reminder to us all that we should take extra care to let our actions speak louder than our words.

In the movie The Boy Next Door (2015), a teacher named Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) ends up learning the hard way that taking the passive aggressive road with some people just doesn't bring results. From the beginning, Claire kept defending to her friend Vicky (Kristin Chenoweth) the possibility of staying with her husband Garrett (John Corbett) after he cheated, but it wasn't until she strayed from the marriage herself by sleeping with the much younger next door neighbor, that she realized just how much she really wanted to work things out with her husband and get her family back together. The only problem, of course, was the fact that she slept with a sociopath with anger issues, so saying she wanted to get her family back together and actually doing it would be two different things. And though there a casualty in the process of it all, Claire ended up proving just how much she wanted her husband back and her son to be with both of his parents in the same home again.

While this movie is certainly an entertaining thriller, it is also an obvious reminder that our actions speak louder than our words. Although we may not find ourselves in the exact same situation that Claire found herself in, at least hopefully not, we still may be presented with a situation in which we too have to step up and actually prove our words to be true. If you love someone, don't just say it, show them. If you want to go back to school for a degree, stop talking about it and enroll in a program. If you want to save more money, stop mentioning it and actually open up a saving account and put some money it. So, let your actions speak louder than your words why don't you.

May 3, 2015

Trust Your Gut: Obsessed (2009)

Obsessed 2009 film.jpg
Have you ever met someone who turned out to be exactly who you thought they were, for better or for worse? You know the situations I'm talking about where you had a feeling (in your gut) that someone was either a good person or not so much, then low and behold after sometime had passed, their true identity was revealed, rendering you right. As they say, the truth shall set you free, but just imagine how much faster the path to the truth could be if we all just trusted our gut initially instead of being duped into someone's alluring, or not so alluring, facade.The movie Obsessed (2009) is a great example of what can happen when you don't trust your gut. May we all be reminded of the importance of trusting our instincts about people and situations.

In the movie Obsessed (2009), on the day of his move into a new home with his wife Sharon (Beyonce Knowles) and son, finance executive Derek Charles (Idris Elba) meets a temporary worker with ill intentions. Despite the fact that he had an initial gut feeling that something was "off" about Lisa Sheridan (Ali Larter), Derek befriended his temporary assistant, to his regret. Lisa quickly went from being friendly to romantically pursuing her boss, insisting that her feelings were requited. Unfortunately for Lisa, by the time the situation had escalated to the point of involving Derek's wife, Sharon, she would then meet her untimely death. Derek had to learn the hard way that he should have trusted his gut, a mistake that we all can learn from.

While this movie is quite an engaging thriller, it's also a great reminder of the importance of trusting your gut. Derek had a bad feeling about Lisa from the onset, despite her pretty smile. And while he was initially successful in keeping his distance from her, it was his inaction during her most aggressive pursuits that led him down the path to the fatal confrontation between his wife and Lisa in his family home. We all should and must be careful not to get caught up in someone's facade, but rather pay more attention to our instincts upon meeting new people or engaging in new situations. Doing so will definitely keep the drama at bay in your life and help you bring more positive people into your inner circle. So, always go with your gut.

April 9, 2015

You Are Stronger Than You Think You Are: Enough (2002)

Fact: no one's life is without challenges, despite appearances. Big or small, challenges are ultimately one of the key indicators that you're still in this game called life. And like most games, how you play makes all the difference in the world.  What we all need to realize, however, is that we don't need any special tools to overcome adversity, we already possess all the tools we need.

Enoughposter.jpgWe all know that you can't just bow out or quit a game just because the going gets tough. The same is true about life, right? That's when you have to find your inner strength to give that challenge all you've got, or else risk losing everything you've worked so hard for. Granted, there's never one simple answer or one easy out to help you overcome whatever adversity you're being faced with, but when you do overcome it, it is then that you'll realized that you are stronger than you thought you were. The movie Enough (2002) is a great reminder of the inner strength the we all have and can summon when needed.

In the movie Enough (2002), Slim (Jennifer Lopez) finds herself being seduced by a charming customer named Mitch (Billy Campbell) in the diner where she works, only to realize she wasn't the only one he was charming. And though there were subtle, and not so subtle, indications of his infidelity and temper, it wasn't until she confronted Mitch that he became physically abusive towards her. It was then that Slim received the wake up call that she needed to leave her troubled marriage, even with a young child and no apparent means to support the two of them. But that was only the beginning of her journey to finding her inner strength.

After finally finding solace in a new town and establishing a home for her and daughter to build a new life, her estranged husband, Mitch, tracks her down to stake his claim on his family. This time, Slim, who had been learning self defense, was both mentally and physically ready to confront her abuser. Once and for all Slim was able to put an end to the vicious cycle of fear and abuse in her and her daughter's life.

In addition to being a compelling story of triumph from an abusive relationship, this movie is a great example of someone realizing their inner strength. Sometimes we don't think we have what it takes to get through something, or to face someone, but we do. All we have to remember is that we have survived challenges up until this point in our lives and we will continue to do so. So just remember, you are stronger than you think you are, because you actually are.

April 3, 2015

Where There Is A Will, There Is A Way: 27 Dresses (2008)

Twenty seven dresses.jpg
There is nothing quite like the human spirit, right? No matter what you're going through now or where you've been in your past, you are where you are today because of your will to be here. But wait, it gets better.

The best part is that you can will yourself into a different, better circumstance in the present too. Say, for example, you've always wanted to start a clothing line because you have a knack for designing clothes. If you've actively always seized opportunities to realize that dream of yours, then for sure it will indeed happen one day. Preparation will in fact meet opportunity; but only if you keep at it. Sorry, but laziness won't get you your clothing line. Speaking of clothing, 27 Dresses (2008) is a great example of the lesson: where there is a will, there is a way. 

In the movie 27 Dresses (2008), Jane Nichols (Katherine Heigl) is a hopeless romantic who managed to accumulate twenty-seven bridesmaid dresses after attending the weddings of friends and acquaintances. Although she was initially quite happy assisting others with their "big day," the more weddings she attended, the more she was reminded about what was missing in her own life. Lucky for her, where there is a will, there is a way. In her case, she wanted to find someone special to share her life with. By focusing so much on other people's romantic lives and all things romantic, what she didn't realize was that she was willing that very thing into her own life; and by the end of the movie she was the one getting married.

On the surface, this movie is a standard romantic comedy with a typical Hollywood ending. However, on a subsurface level there is a deeper, more powerful implication for us all to live a more fulfilling life. Specifically, by focusing on and working towards anything that we desire, we can will whatever we want into our lives. Remember the clothing line example. We can have whatever we desire, because where there is a will, there is always a way.

March 27, 2015

Follow Your Passion: A Chorus Line (1985)

What is it that you love doing? Could you imagine your life without your passion? Probably not, that's why they call it a passion, right?

Luckily for us, we don't have to live without our passion. In fact, self-help gurus will tell you that you absolutely shouldn't live without your passion. The reason being that passions feed our soul in an esoteric way; no amount of money or things can fill that void in our lives. Nor should it.

Broadway dancers and singers are some of the best demonstrators of this point that I can think of. Their entire lives revolve around Broadway, rightfully so since it is very much their passion. I guess that's why I love the movie A Chorus Line  (1985) so much, because even before I knew what it was like to be passionate about something, I couldn't help but relate to the performances of the dancers. This movie is a great reminder to us all about how vital it is to follow our passion in life.

In the movie A Chorus Line (1985), which by the way is based on the famous Broadway musical of the same name, a group of dancers try out for a spot in a new production directed by Zach (Michael Douglas). After a successful initial elimination round, Zach's selection of the final dancers proved harder than he anticipated as the audition process continued and he began to learn more about the eclectic group of experienced individuals. While each dancer was talented in their own right and certainly had a unique story to tell, it was ultimately their expression of their passion that won over  the director; leaving him no choice but to chose them all in the end.

Although this musical is entertaining with lots of song and dance, I think it's also a great reminder of a very important lesson in life: to follow your passion. You see, passions are our life blood; they are our go-to for internal solace even when everything external is chaotic. It's all about finding your own personal inner peace and whatever that thing is for you (i.e. your passion), never stop doing it.

March 20, 2015

All Work and No Play Make for a Dull Life: The Wedding Planner (2001)

The Wedding Planner Poster.jpgWhether you study successful people or not, you're probably aware that it takes plenty of hard work and dedication to be successful at something. This makes perfect sense because how else would you or anybody else, like a potential client/customer, know that you're serious about whatever it is that you claim to be good at. The thing is, being so focused often comes with a price: you don't make time for fun very often, if at all, and that is a real shame.

What we all should remember is that when we're so focused on accomplishing goals, we tend to lose sight of what is happening right now, right in front of us. Life passes us by and what's worse is that when you do finally achieve the success you've been working so hard towards, you won't have anyone around you to share it with. There is more to life than work, even if you do enjoy what you do. The movie The Wedding Planner (2001) is a great reminder of the very important lesson: all work and no play make for a dull life.

In the movie The Wedding Planner (2001), a highly successful and sought after wedding planner named Mary (Jennifer Lopez) gets more than she anticipates when she's asked to plan the high society wedding for an heiress, Fran Donolly (Bridget Wilson-Sampras) and her fiance Eddie (Mathew McConaughey). Little did Mary know that Eddie, her new client's fiance, was the same man that saved her life and ended up going on a date with her the night before being formerly introduced to him.  Although Mary claimed to be content with her life, just focusing on her career, she secretly longed for more play. Her chance meeting with Eddie was the perfect reminder that her life was really dull without any play in it.

While this romantic comedy was particularly light-hearted and fun, let us not forget that there is a very important reminder in it about how work isn't everything; even if you love it. We all have to make time for some play in our lives or else we end up losing sight of everything happening right in front us, right now. So, give yourself a break for once and go play. A little fun won't distract you from your goals and besides, work will still be there after you've had your fun.

March 12, 2015

You Create Your Own Luck: The Back-Up Plan (2010)

Have you ever heard that if you see a penny on the ground and it's tails side up (which is bad luck), all you have to do is turn it over so that the heads side (which is good luck) is face up before picking it up off of the ground to change your luck? I don't know if it's something only southern people say or not, but basically the point is that you create your own luck since the heads side is the side that represents good luck.

Newbupp.jpgIt's kind of poignant if you think about. People are always debating about whether or not luck is something you're born with or if you can obtain it somehow, but according to this superstition, you could absolutely create your own luck. I'd like to think that this is true since the thought of it sounds pretty good. So, let's go with that. It's also probably why I like the movie The Back-Up Plan (2010) so much; because the main characters Zoe and Stan truly exemplify what it means to create ones own luck.

In the movie The Back-Up Plan (2010), pet shop proprietor Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) finally meets and falls in love with Mr. Right, Stan (Alex O'Loughlin), after giving up on the idea that he even existed. What makes matters more complicated is that she meets him on the same day that she was successfully artificially inseminated; with twins mind you. And though he was initially intimidated by the idea of being a father to two kids that weren't biologically his, Stan soon came around to the idea after realizing that he too was in a romantic rut and needed to start creating his own luck by seizing the romantic and professional opportunities right in front of him. The same was true for Zoe. Zoe then needed to be open to the idea of getting everything she wanted; just not exactly in the way that she may have always was better.

On the surface, this movie is about having more options or contingency plans, but to me it's about something deeper: acknowledging that we all have the ability to create our own luck. Whether you're feeling unlucky in love, your career or another aspect of your life, it's important to stop and embrace the fact that you can chart a different course for your life at any given moment. So, turn that penny over to the heads side up and then pick it up, because only you can create luck for yourself by seizing opportunities right in front of you right now.

March 4, 2015

Don't Date Jerks: The Jerk Theory (2009)

Why do women date jerks? Seriously, what is the payoff?  Maybe the payoff has something to do with self-esteem or it has to do with the idea that our society tends to make jerks synonymous with success and confidence.

Whatever the reason is it's kind of sad for both men and women when guys behave like jerks because both lose out on the potentiality of something meaningful and maybe even lasting. Even more, women also lose out on being treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve, while nice guys who are treated poorly one too many times just may end up going to the dark side and becoming a jerk as well. See, nobody wins.This is why I like the movie The Jerk Theory (2009), because it's a great reminder to both men and women that jerks are no good for either one of us. Men shouldn't aspire to be one and women definitely shouldn't date them.

In the movie The Jerk Theory (2009), nice guy Adam (Josh Henderson) decides to become a jerk after getting his heart broken by his high school girlfriend of three years. And while Adam is intent on proving that women only like being treated poorly by jerks, he falls for Molly (Jenna Dewan Tatum), who of course doesn't want to date a jerk like her ex-boyfriend and rather prefers a chivalrous guy. Although Adam and Molly find their happy ending, it wasn't without a few bumps on the romantic road; namely their both being tempted by past relationships that ultimately contributed to their relationship perversions.

Although this movie has a high school setting and revolves around high school students, the points are still valid and applicable to all ages. Both men and women should stop and take stock of the fact that jerks aren't good for anyone. Just like in the movie, being a jerk may have been perceived as "fun" initially, but the excitement of being a jerk soon wore off once Adam wanted to be with Molly; a girl who coincidentally was not interested in dating another jerk. You see, Molly found out what most women end up finding out, and that is once you've dated one jerk, you've dated them all. So I say, let's take a cue from Molly and skip to the end of this movie in our own lives where we learn the valuable lesson: don't date jerks. This way, we can spend more time with nice guys who we deserve and who deserve us.

February 23, 2015

It's Ok to Feel Lost Sometimes: The Giant Mechanical Man (2012)

Let's just be honest. None of us really have it all together and certainly not all the time. Some of us are just really good at faking it. My only problem with fakers is that they sometimes have a tendency to belittle those of us who either may not know that we are a little lost or happily own our state of confusion and discombobulation. You know, the critical know-it-alls that are always trying to tell you what you're doing wrong with some aspect of your life or how you need to "get it together" even when you're happier than they are.

Giant Mechanical Man.jpgTruth be told, no one has it all figured out or else they wouldn't be human. That's why I like the movie The Giant Mechanical Man (2012) so much. I'm not 100 percent sure if it's a chick flick, although it sure has a lot of the elements of one, but one thing is for sure; it's a great reminder of the life lesson that it's ok to feel a little lost sometimes. Because at the end of the day, we're all in uncharted territory with this thing called life.

In the movie The Giant Mechanical Man (2012), Janice (Jenna Fischer) and Tim (Chris Messina) are two seemingly lost individuals with no real sense of direction in their lives; at least according to some of the people in their lives. They don't mean to appear aimless, it's just that Janice has never really taken the time to ask herself what she really likes or wants to do with her life, while Tim on the other hand knows what he wants to do it's just that he struggles with the idea of balance between sacrifice for art and supporting himself. However, when Janice and Tim both get a job at a local zoo and become friends, not only do they fall in like with one another, but they also help each other to grow out of their seeming state of aimlessness.

When we first meet Janice, she is a struggling temp worker that eventually is fired from her agency for lack of personality. Though emotionally distraught over a lack of ability to support herself, the real drama ensues when she not only has to ask her overbearing and controlling sister to move in with her but then her sister also tries to force her into a relationship with someone she deems appropriate. At the same time, Tim has his own relationship woes. His girlfriend decides to leave him for his lack of personal and professional goals that are contributing to their financial distress. Up until that point, Tim felt that the little money he earned as a performance artist was well worth the sacrifice, as he believed he was contributing to society in a more meaningful way. With his girlfriend gone, however, he now had to financially support himself.

In the end, both Janice and Tim were able to find a sense of purpose as well as something else that they weren't necessarily looking for: love. The moral of the story here folks, you will eventually find your way. So don't listen to people who are just trying to force their own agenda on you or are constantly being critical of your decision making, because we all have our moments in which we feel lost and that's ok. So own it! It's one of the things that at some point in our lives we can all identify with as a result of the human experience. Don't let anyone tell you different.

February 17, 2015

There is Beauty in Imperfection: Thanks for Sharing (2012)

Thanks for Sharing Poster.jpgWomen are always saying that men need to be more in touch with their feelings. Generalizations are hurtful; especially when they're false. The truth is that many men are in touch with their feelings, it's just that sometimes some women view those moments when men are sharing as a sign of weakness. 

I get it; it's scary for someone to show you who they really are, but if any of us, male or female, ever expect to make progress in the area of relationships, then we have to be open to whatever it is that others are sharing with us. Good, bad or indifferent, there is beauty in learning about the imperfections of another person and we must embrace them. The movie Thanks for Sharing (2012) is a great reminder of that life lesson for us all.

In the movie Thanks for Sharing (2012), Adam (Mark Ruffalo) is a recovering sex addict who meets and falls for a breast cancer survivor named Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow) in a chance meeting at a party. Although they immediately hit it off and Phoebe is upfront about surviving cancer and her hesitation about dating another addict, Adam decides to withhold the fact that he is a recovering sex addict for fear that their budding relationship will come to an abrupt end. However, what he eventually realizes is that not only was Phoebe turned off by sex addiction, but that he kept such a secret after she initiated an open an honest start to their relationship. While Phoebe had every right to be upset, what she also had to realize is that people open up when they are ready and usually not a moment sooner.

From the first scenes of the movie, we see that Adam is clearly struggling with something. When he finally arrives at his sex addiction meeting, we begin to learn more about how crippling sex addiction can be; especially when other members of the group begin to open up. For Adam it hasn't necessarily been easy to be five years sober, but then again he had learned to significantly limit his exposure to temptation, including the opposite sex. That is, until he meets Phoebe at a party and instantly there is an attraction, but not just physical. They actually make a real connection, which begins to frighten Adam...for obvious reasons. As things begin to progress, despite his best efforts to keep his sex addiction a secret, Phoebe learns the truth and breaks things off with Adam. Adam's worst nightmare had come true, Phoebe had rejected him after learning his truth. In the end, Adam and Phoebe were able to reconcile as friends, but not before Adam was forced to restart his sobriety again.

While this movie dealt with sex addiction, I think it's important to not get caught up in the semantics of the plot. On a grander scale, this movie is about showing people who you really are, warts and all. Doing so not only makes for a better foundation of all our relationships, romantic or platonic, but it also helps others to see our total beauty as a person. There is beauty in all of us, including our imperfections. So, go forth and share your imperfect beauty!

February 8, 2015

Success is in the Eye of the Beholder: Mona Lisa Smile (2003)

Monalisasmile.jpgEveryone has an idea of what they think success looks like. For some of us, the picture of success may have something to do with money, power and respect. Yet for others, success may include a beautiful healthy family. Even still, some may want both. The thing is, we all have the right to define what success should look like for ourselves. No one nor should the society we live in dictate something so personal to each and everyone one of us, male or female; but particularly for us females.

Though there have always been women who have challenged the status quo prior to the Feminist Movement in the late 60s and 70s, they were often met with personal attacks in an effort to downplay the significance of their argument; which was to get other women to see that they had a right to define success for themselves. The only problem is that women who felt this way were often too focused on getting other women to become career focused that they overlooked the possibility that some women may want to be raising a family at home, and that's ok too. Success then is in the eye of the beholder. The movie Mona Lisa Smile (2003) is a great reminder of this very important lesson for us all, male and female alike.

In the movie Mona Lisa Smile (2003), graduate student Katherine Ann Watson (Julia Roberts) goes to teach "History of Art" at Wellesley College to make a difference in the lives of young women. However, in her first class she quickly realizes that things aren't going to go as smoothly as she once thought. It is as a result of bunting heads with the very bright and self-assured students at Wellesley College, that Katherine Watson is not only forced to take a look at herself, but also really see the students as individuals with their own idea of what it means to be successful.

From the beginning of the movie Katherine was met with blatant opposition from the community, the administrators as well as the students at Wellesley College when she decided to veer away from the syllabus after learning that the students had already memorized it before the first day. Katherine was hell bent on teaching everyone a lesson, particularly the students; one in which included supposedly opening their minds. The only problem was, she herself lacked the very open-mindedness that she felt the students, college administrators and community lacked as was apparent in her forcing them to see her way on all things concerning women in society.

In the end, Katherine did in fact succeed in affecting change in the lives of her students, but not entirely in the way that she initially intended. She did open the minds of her students to see that they could in fact define success for themselves, but in doing so and along with the challenges that she faced as a result, she herself had changed. She learned to be more open-minded and accepting of the fact that everyone has the right to live their own way and that success looks different to each and everyone of us. Isn't that the truth?

February 2, 2015

Honor Your Commitments: Last Night (2010)

There's an old saying that I've found to be true over the years: "words don't mean anything without the actions to back them up." Now, just think for minute about some of the obligations or commitments that you may have had. No matter what that commitment was, you most likely had to put some effort into seeing that commitment through, right? In other words, you had to work to honor that commitment. You couldn't just rest on your laurels and hope that everything would just work out on its own because otherwise everything would just fall apart; and we've all been there at some point as well.

In relationships, in particular, complacency is the breeding ground for the breakdown of that relationship; romantic or otherwise. No matter how many times we've all seen this lesson play out in the movies or in our real lives, for some reason we still end up taking people for granted. When we do this, naturally, our sense of honoring our commitments to the people in our lives begins to fall to the waste side. We lose sight of what's important and begin to act in ways that will ultimately sabotage our lives. The movie Last Night (2010) is a great reminder of the important lesson that we should all honor our commitments or else risk losing what's important to us.

In the movie Last Night (2010), married couple Michael (Sam Worthington) and Joanna (Keira Knightley) Reed lead a complacent relationship until a night out at a dinner party leads them to have a relationship altering conversation about Michael's apparent attraction to his coworker. Though they are able to reconcile before his departure on a business trip with the coworker he was attracted to, Joanna's lingering skepticism sends her down her own path of relationship sabotage when she runs into an ex, whom she still carries a torch for. Both Michael and Joanna are not only forced to confront their own truths about attractions to other people, but are also given the opportunity to act on those feelings. The end results seemingly give away who was more willing and able to honor their relationship commitment.

In the beginning of the movie, it is clear that something is off between Michael and Joanna. What it is exactly remains unknown until they arrive at a dinner party and Joanna assumes a jealous disposition. However, it wasn't until they arrived back at their apartment that Joanna finally voiced her concerns to her husband; sparking an eyeopening discussion between the couple. After they seemingly made up and put the argument behind them, they both were clearly hurt by the other person's insinuations. This set the stage for division and conquer: Michael went to Philadelphia with his coworker and cheated, despite his initial hesitation, and Joanna ended up spending an inappropriate night out with her ex.

By the end, two things were very clear about Michael and Joanna's relationship: they were in a habit of tip-toeing on egg shells around each other in lieu of telling each other the truth to the detriment of their foundation, but equally important, they could so easily be open and brutally honest with the people that they shared their indiscretions. Michael and Joanna said all the right things to each other, but their actions spoke louder than their words. They didn't honor their commitments to one another and although the end of the movie was open to interpretation-- so we don't know what happened with their relationship-- we can still benefit from watching their mistakes. If you make a commitment, relationship or otherwise, honor it, or move on.

January 26, 2015

Think Before You Speak: America's Sweethearts (2001)

We have all said something that we wish we could take back; especially when it comes to exes. I like to call it "foot in mouth syndrome." Some of us have a more chronic condition than others, and unfortunately unlike the common cold or seasonal flu, there is no vaccination for it. The only way to cure ourselves of "foot in mouth syndrome" is to simply think before we speak. Otherwise, we'll all continue to find ourselves living in a state of regret of our verbal mishaps. The satire America's Sweethearts (2001) is a great reminder of why we all should be careful to think before we speak, because not doing so causes too much unnecessary conflict and misunderstandings.
Americas sweethearts poster.jpg

In the movie America's Sweethearts (2001), movie stars and estranged couple Gwen Harrison (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Eddie Thomas (John Cusack) are brought together after over a year of separation to promote their final film project together. Despite their hesitation in joining the other for the press junket to promote their film, they ultimately decide to do so; which turns the press junket into a dramatic debacle of cinematic proportions. However, all is not lost as a result of their time together, particularly once the dust settles from the litany of inappropriate remarks and heated exchanges between Gwen and Eddie as well as everyone else involved in their final project.

From the beginning of the movie, it was clear that Eddie still had a lot of unresolved issues with his estranged wife, Gwen, as a result of her cheating on him. The near mention of Gwen's name still conjured up negative emotions and unpleasant remarks that he often found himself regretting even as the words were flying out of his mouth. Gwen, on the other hand, had seemingly moved on and was still in a relationship with Hector (Hank Azaria); the guy she originally cheated on Eddie with. Until, of course, she had to promote her last film with Eddie, which just so happens to be her one last hail Mary to save her own fledgling movie career. At that point, Gwen herself starts to become unhinged, citing concerns over being around her ex for fear that he may attempt to kill her again as he allegedly did before entering the treatment facility. Luckily for the both of them there were others around to buffer the situation, particularly Kathleen "Kiki" Harrison (Julia Roberts), Gwen's sister/assistant.

In the end, after a public spectacle that included verbal sparring in front of the press core following the preview of their film, Gwen and Eddie were able to find their own happy endings. Eddie was finally able to profess his love for Kiki after years of secretly suppressing his feelings for her and Gwen was able to create a renewed interest in her once dimming Hollywood star, which was all she really cared about anyway. 

This movie is a great reminder that even in situations like confronting an ex after a bad breakup it is always best to think before you speak. While Gwen and Eddie had it out in front of the press core that were undoubtedly taking notes to publish a story about their public spectacle, you and I may find ourselves in our own unique set of embarrassing circumstances as a result of our own verbal mishaps. Since living without regret is the most optimal choice, thinking before we speak is one of the best ways to ensure this. Wouldn't you agree?

January 22, 2015

Ignore All The Outside Noise: She's All That (1999)

Shes All That.jpgDo you remember high school? Some of us have good memories, some of us have bad memories, and some of us have both good and bad memories of that time in our lives that undeniably lead us to be the people we are today.

What most of us may have not realized back then is that a big part of the whole high school experience, and subsequently life after that, is mostly shaped by our ability to stay true to ourselves while playing the game of social politics. This means that we have to learn how to tune out all the outside noise around us (i.e. peer pressure). You know, stop listening to all the "peanut gallery" or "negative Nancy's" and just do what is best for us; which obviously is incredibly difficult to do, but nonetheless essential to survival in high school and after. The movie She's All That (1999) is a great reminder of that very important life lesson.

In the movie She's All That (1999), popular high school senior Zachary "Zack" Siler (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) and art recluse Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook) end up forging an unlikely bond as a result of a bet that Zack makes with his friend/rival Dean Sampson, Jr. (Paul Walker). In order to win the bet, Zack had to turn Laney into a desirable high school prom queen; which proved to be quite a task given that his ex-girlfriend Taylor Vaughan (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe) was determined to get the crown herself. Taylor, however, proved to be the least of Zack's problems as with each passing day that he spent more and more time with Laney, he began to develop feelings for her. Although he initially he allowed the "peanut gallery" around him to influence whether or not to be with Laney, ultimately he learned to tune out all the outside noise and follow his heart.

In the beginning of the movie, both Zack and Laney were struggling with their images. Though Laney put on airs about not being satisfied that she was not part of the "in crowd," we soon find out that when given the opportunity, she willingly ventures into that world when given the chance. Zack's struggle was a bit different. Zack was the big man on campus, and while he wasn't a jerk like his friend/enemy Dean, he apparently had issues with all the pressure that came along with living up to other people's expectations. However, once Dean challenged Zack to a bet to make a prom queen out of Laney, Zack's true nature was revealed and eventually he allowed it to shine above all other facades; including finally doing away with his relationship of convenience with Taylor.

In the end, Zack was able to come to terms with making his own decisions aside from all the outside noise and Laney was able to venture out of her existing role as the artistic recluse without concern if she would be accepted or not. For both Zack and Laney, and true to real life, when you're ready to be who you want to be and you're confident in that decision, people will generally support your decision; and the people who don't, well, you just have to learn to ignore or tune them out and all the other outside noise. Otherwise, you'll continue to live for others and nobody wins when you take that route.

January 19, 2015

Embrace the Complications: This Is Where I Leave You (2014)

Life can be a mess! We make plans and something undoubtedly interferes with those plans. Rinse and repeat!

This Is Where I Leave You poster.jpgWhen those interferences or complications occur, usually we're thrown off guard, and are forced into a state of introspection. As devastating as this can be (especially for my fellow Type A personalities), it is one of the few sure fire ways to get us all to recognize the true state of our reality, so that we can ultimately deal with it appropriately. Anything less and we probably would just keep doing the same thing over and over again, ignoring all the signs that something is wrong in the first place. This is precisely what happened to the main character in the movie This Is Where I Leave You (2014); which makes this movie so poignant. It reminds us all to learn to cope with the complications that arise in our lives because when you come out on the other side, you're 100 percent better for it.

In the movie This Is Where I Leave You (2014), the life of a responsible play-by-the-rules guy named Judd Altman is turned upside down when he comes home early from work one day to surprise his wife Quinn (Abigail Spencer) with a birthday cake; only he gets the surprise of his life when he catches her in the act of cheating with his boss Wade (Dax Shepard), nonetheless. While mourning the end of his marriage and new unemployment status, he also learns that his sick father passed away. After going home to sit shiva upon his father's burial, Judd is eventually forced to deal with his wife's year long betrayal and the realization that he will become a father all the while entering into a budding romance with an old acquaintance.

Life for Judd prior to finding about his wife's infidelity was pretty much routinized and he was content with that. Although he told himself that they were happy, the truth of the matter was that he failed to notice that his wife was cheating for a year right in front of him. Coming home the day of her birthday with the surprise cake was the complication that he needed to face the reality of his troublesome marriage. In addition, though he could have used a reprieve from life, his father's passing forced him back home to deal with old family issues and reconnect with someone from his past, Penny Moore (Rose Byrne); someone whom he ultimately came to realize could be the love of his life, complications and all.

In the end, Judd was not only able to come to accept the fact that going forward, his life was would be complicated as a result of raising a child with an ex-wife, but he also was able to embrace the fact that nothing in life goes according to plan and that's ok. Sometimes the best things in life aren't planned for, like Judd's reconnecting with Penny, but if you're too busy resisting the complicated, you won't be able to see the beauty in that detour off the beaten path as it were. So, embrace the complicated. It could be the best thing that ever happened to you, or at the very least it will help expose your true state of reality, which isn't so bad either.

January 15, 2015

Try Something New: Shall We Dance? (2004)

Shall we dance posterA.jpgDo you ever feel like you're in a rut; doing the same thing day in an day out? As much as we all crave stability in our lives, it also tends to breed contempt when we finally get it. Sure,you may not have to worry about looking for a job once you find one, but then at some point you become complacent in that stable job that you once desired more than anything. We can't help it, we as human beings just can't shake our innate desire to experience new things, despite being conditioned over time to crave stability. So, as a result, we seek new opportunities and experiences to fulfill that innate desire that we have; especially when we feel like we are in a rut. The movie Shall We Dance? (2004) is a great reminder that it's ok to not be content with being in a rut, and even more importantly, it's ok to do something about it.

In the movie Shall We Dance? (2004), a settled lawyer named John Clark (Richard Gere) finally takes it upon himself to try something new after becoming tired of the rut that was his life. That something was a dance class that he just so happened to see everyday on his train commute to and from work; which was originally tempting because of the beautiful and intriguing Paulina (Jennifer Lopez) staring out the window everyday as he rode the train home. Unexpectedly, dancing  revived him in a way that nothing else had in a long time. He began to have a zest for life again. However, he first needed to confront the fact that he was both lying and deceiving his wife and family before he could truly be free of conscience.

In the beginning of the movie when John is celebrating his birthday, he is contemplating his life's choices and considering his happiness. When he finally acknowledges that he isn't happy and that his life has sort of fallen into a rut, he boldly decides to take a risk to do something about it. That was the day that he first walked into Miss Mitzi's Dance School and it forever changed his life. Even though he kept his dancing a secret and often lied to his family to cover up where he was, he was happy and even made new friends. At the same time, however, his wife Beverly (Susan Sarandon) was growing more and more suspicious of his actions and change of mood, prompting her to hire a private investigator.

In the end, John was forced to come clean with his wife about his dancing. He also learned to be more honest and inclusive with his longtime partner. While he was initially attracted to Miss Mitzi's Dance School because of something that was missing in his life, ultimately dancing there helped him to appreciate what he already had at home.

That's the beauty of trying something new. Whatever compels you to try something in the first place is often the catalyst that will help you grow as a person. It was true for the character John, but I also believe the same is true for us as well. So, go try something new!