A Twofer Review: Ant Man and Pitch Perfect 2

So, Ant Man is awesome.  Everything about Ant Man is good.  Paul Rudd is perfect.  Michael Douglas is perfect.  Corey Stoll is perfect.  Evangeline Lilly is perfect.  Michael Pena is extra, super perfect.  And, I was happy to see Judy Greer in a role that did not make me want to see her eaten by a dinosaur, so, perfect.

It’s all the best of the goofy Guardians of the Galaxy, with the heart of Captain America, with the gadgetry of Iron Man, with what is quite possibly the best, and the funniest battle finale I’ve ever seen.

Thor, who is my litmus test for how an action movie plays, was yelling and trying to quote lines only seconds after they were delivered.  He was completely engaged, and excited by the whole thing.

I’m not telling you anything else because you have to go see it.  I’ll be going again.

7 out of 5 stars

You know I hated Pitch Perfect.  I enjoyed the singing, and I really enjoyed the sing-offs, but I hated the movie.  I hated how they used Rebel Wilson.  I hated the romantic sub-plots.  I hated Anna Kendrick’s character because she was a twit.  Well, Pitches, I liked this one.

I still had a problem with a lot of the throwaway humor (because I’m a Pinko like that,) but I really enjoyed what they did with Anna’s character this time around, and Rebel’s character was enjoyable–the focus on her size shifted to something less cartoonish, and she had some really good moments.  The music wasn’t as much fun as the first, but it was still zippy, and the premise and the plot carried through in a nice way.  I like to think this was Elizabeth Banks’ hand showing.

This movie even got me smiling over the Green Bay Packers.  You can ask Thor what a forerunner of the apocalypse that is.

I laughed out loud several times, and enjoyed watching the movie.  Actually, if I saw this on TV, I would probably stop and watch it again.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Women Worth Knowing: Meet Tamara

I got to meet Tamara because I am lucky.  Actually, I think meeting Tamara was like unlocking an achievement in Karma.  I’ve introduced so many wonderful women to the world, that I was rewarded with Tamara, who has become my ideal baseline for adventurous spirit, generous soul, and worldly wisdom.

I decided she was a gift for me after reading her blog. Through Tamara, I’ve since been gifted with other friends–she’s been the gift that keeps on giving.  So, I won’t mince words about exactly how delighted I am to introduce her to you.  Mainly, because there aren’t words enough.

Please, meet Tamara.



Q:  Who are you?

A: I aspire to be someone who is first and foremost kind. Not a wishy-washy, thinking nice thoughts kind of kind but an action based, fierce kind. The kind of kind that expresses an opinion about the wrongs of the world and does something to fix them. The kind of kind that answers the phone at midnight and takes a friend to the hospital or listens to her or him cry. The kind of kind that yells at a friend while telling her I love them and won’t stand for her harming herself in some way. And I fail at it CONSTANTLY. But the times that I succeed are what keep me aspiring to it.

Q:  What do the first three hours of your day look like?

A:  These days I am happily unemployed and homeless by design. I was on a pilgrimage for two months recently so my days involved getting up early, putting on a backpack and heading for a new destination every day–after finding a local café for my morning coffee! Right now I’m staying with my mom, who has pancreatic cancer, for several months. Even though she is ill she is still my mom so each morning she knocks on my door and says, “Coffee is ready!” We sit in the den watching the news, talking about the day’s plan (she is still working!) and just enjoy each other’s company. Then I’m often off to Starbucks, or to hike in the woods or cook or laze around the house for a while.

Q:  What about the last hour?

A: Before I came here for the summer, my last hour of the day was usually spent in my pseudo-boyfriend’s cafe drinking a glass of wine. We’d catch up between customers and then I’d head home to climb into bed, read a bit of whatever book I’m reading that week on my kindle until I start drowsing off and fall asleep. Here, I admit, I usually just catch up on trashy American TV or Amazon Prime and then go to sleep!

Tamara, either being eaten alive by corporate culture, or singing opera--you decide!

Tamara, either being eaten alive by corporate culture, or singing opera–you decide!

Q:  What do you do for a living?

A: I’ve spent the last 12 years working in commercial real estate. My last role was as the head of marketing for Europe at a large American conglomerate. While I am grateful for all the opportunities I earned at that job (not the least of which was a transfer to Paris) I am just as grateful that my time there is done. Corporate culture eats you alive and I want to have some of me left over to actually enjoy life. My next job starts in September and I will be working as a part-time consultant for a project at a large German conglomerate. I will be coaching and facilitating a team through a behavioral change management program as they seek to increase connectedness and understanding and therefore productivity. And I am stoked, because that was always my favorite part of my previous roles and now I get to do it exclusively!

Q:  What are you most passionate about?

A: CONNECTION. I am one of those “Introverted Extroverts.” I need a tremendous amount of downtime after an interaction because when I’m with you, you get 100% of my attention. And I’m also passionate about helping others to achieve connection, which is why I’m so excited about this new role!  People think that connectors are born that way and some are, but for me, I needed to learn it. I’m from a reticent New England background with first generation German thrown in.

When I was 20, I went with my college roommate to her home in Ohio for the weekend. In the local shoe store, she struck up a conversation with the woman standing next to her. After a lengthy discussion about all sorts of things, the woman walked away. “Do you know her?” I asked.

“No, why?”

“Then why were you talking to her?” I asked.  I was in a genuine quandary! With the exception of other students or co-workers, I’d never talked to a stranger other than for directions or to conduct a business transaction. Nowadays, I’m the first one to greet the new person and the last one to leave a party.

Q:  What advice would you give your 13 year old self?

A: Learn to play the piano. Take French, even though you hate it–you will need it someday. Understand that your version of success will change. Don’t waste your time trying to fix people who don’t want to be fixed or worse, want to drag you down with them.  Eat more vegetables. Recognize that not everyone wants you to succeed. Let them be horrible and miserable and don’t internalize their negativity. Kudos for standing up for the odd kid or befriending the shy kid—do it more. They will remember in 10, 20, 30 years and you will feel better knowing you did it. Be kind to yourself, too. Be comfortable in your own skin—you have a beautiful body and it won’t always be so lithe and fit. And that’s ok, too, because you will have so many wonderful people in your life that love you for more than your outsides, or your money or your talents. So rest easy. There is a bright future—no matter how much your 13-year-old, angsty, hormonal self tells you otherwise.

Q:  What is the best advice someone else has ever given you?

A: How to decline graciously. “Thank you so much for thinking of me! I so appreciate the offer. I don’t feel like that is something that I would enjoy so I’m going to decline. But I really am grateful that you think highly enough of me to include me.”  Variations of this line work extremely well for parties, romance, business opportunities, dinner invites, trips, etc. It has changed my life. The first time I said it I was terrified of anger and rejection or hurting someone else’s feelings. But I’ve since realized that most people invite you because they want you to be happy. And most (MOST—not all) want the truth, delivered in as uncomplicated and kind way as possible.

Q:  How do you want to be remembered?

A: As someone who LIVED and took chances.

Q:  What advice would you give a young adult about romance?

A: You can be in and out of love with different people in your lifetime. Things will sometimes end sadly or badly and you can’t control most of that. And it’s possible for good people to act really stupid in the context of relationships. They can say or do mean, hurtful things. Try, with all your being, not to be the perpetrator those things.

Success can look like this, too.

Success can look like this, too.

Q:  What signifies successful in other people, to you?  What do you think success looks like?

A: Success is relative. I can feel awed by someone who has fought his or her way up from a life of poverty or tragedy to work as a kindergarten teacher or store clerk making an honest wage and paying bills on time. And I can look at a CEO and think, “You’ve done nothing with your life.” Life’s a stacked deck and some receive the most favorable hand and lose it all by not paying attention; others double down on a pair of deuces and win the pot.

Q:  What makes you feel successful?

A: Sitting in a foreign country talking to interesting strangers and drinking a cool crisp glass of wine. Good, cheap wine. And the strangers can be investment bankers or vagabonds or anything in-between, as long as they have a story to tell. I feel like a kid at the movies for the first time, every time.

Q:  What makes you happy?

A: See above. Also, any time that I get to spend with those strangers that subsequently became friends.

Q:  Where do you go from here?  What’s next in your life?

A: In another week I’ll be back on the crazy travel wheel visiting people and places in the US for work and pleasure until I finally get back to France. Where I’ll most likely move my stuff from Paris to Strasbourg so that I’m closer to my new job in Mannheim, Germany. I’m looking forward to exploring a new place and meeting new people! But I don’t have any permanent plans beyond the next few months—my life is very up in the air right now!

Q:  Who are the women who have made the most impact in your world?

A: There are so, so many powerful women in my history that I can’t really pick one without thinking of the several others I’m leaving out in her stead. So here’s just a sampling of people who stepped up at key transitional moments in my life.

Mari, my first voice teacher (and subsequently ordained Lutheran pastor) who is an inspirational musician, traveler, and a fearless and spiritual woman who made me want to be the same, all when I was 13 years old.

Adrienne, an HR leader who became a friend, who took me under her wing when my company was acquired and taught me all the ropes about how to succeed in big business, which led to my move to Paris for a “dream job.”

Sarah, who SHOWS UP, whenever I need her; often before I know I need her. She tells me the things I need to hear versus the things I want to hear–though she tells me those things, too.

Kris, who told me directly when we were young and I was stupid and considering a very bad decision, what she thought: “I will always love you whatever you choose. But I can’t be close to you if you make this decision because it will upset me too much.”

Patty, a former marine and current VP of construction, who makes being a woman in a completely male dominated field look easy though it’s far from it.

My Mom, who is a serious badass. We’ve had our ups and downs as in all family relationships. But she came out of poverty and tragedy and not only succeeded but succeeded spectacularly, earning two Ivy League degrees and a respected place in the church as a minister and a leader. She practices what she preaches and oversees a soup kitchen, food market and clothing rack for the homeless and indigent, which is her favorite part of the job. And the New England women’s retreat she started 25 years ago to support other women in the ministry (when there were far fewer of them) is still going!

A Review: The Knockoff, by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

I don’t do a lot of reading-for-pleasure (and even less reading-for-fluff) these days, so it was an unexpected treat to open up my Kindle app, buy one of the recommended, fluffy Chick Lit books, and love it.  I loved it so much, I had to make myself not read while I was driving. 

The Knockoff caught my eye because of Lucy Sykes’ name.  Co-written with Jo Piazza, it is the story of Imogen Tate, the nice version of Anna Wintour, who returns to helm her famous, fabulous fashion magazine after a battle with cancer, only to find that her former assistant is now running the show, and has turned the magazine into an app.  Years behind the tech curve, Imogen has to hug the rails of a whole new learning curve to survive in the new industry, begging the question: does she really want to?

I’ll tell you right off the bat that the book is kind of a mess, but it is a glorious one.  90% of the story is told from Imogen’s POV.  A random 10% comes from a few scenes in her former assistant’s POV, a few scenes in her current assistant’s POV, and one really out of place scene from her daughter’s POV.  There is very little tying that 10% together, or even to Imogen, and because of how the scenes are peppered throughout, they throw you off the rythym, and take you out of the narrative.  Weird little scenes between Imogen and a revolving door of friends/family/therapists do the same.  That out of the way–it’s a great story.

Imogen is instantly relatable, likable, and manages to be aspirational.  It was so nice to read a book about a woman who looks at a problem and fixes her own shortcomings to solve it with grace, patience, and of course panache–this is set in the fashion magazine industry.  And, while the book is making clear statements about age, ageism, and to whom technology belongs, the statements are kind, mostly objective, and empathetic.

Even better, I learned things!  I learned techie things!  And, I logged on to Instagram for the first time in a year, learned to make my Instagram tweet through an app called IFTTT (If This Then), which has all kinds of neat whizzbangs and geehaws on it.  I did not learn any tech language, but I did learn where I could go to teach myself to code.  Because I need another side project.  Could I just have a few more hours in a day, please?

The Baddie, Imogen’s former assistant, is so terrible she’s hard to believe, and the narrative doesn’t do a very good job of getting us from the point where Baddie once loved and cared for Imogen, to the point that she was actively trying to ruin Imogen’s life, but the narrative also never explains why Imogen (after 6 months of chemo and radiation) still has a full head of hair, either.  Suspension of disbelief is required.

The cancer is treated well, though.  It isn’t played for drama, or sympathy.  It only comes up as a part of what challenges Imogen’s daily life, and as a fear in the back of her mind.  A woman facing down potential death, while keeping her life together, and addressing it head-on with friends and family instead of hiding it?  Nice!

Imogen also has a realistic, healthy marriage.  Another nice thing to read.

So much nice about this book, you might wonder why it’s worth reading.  Because Imogen is worth knowing.

It’s an easy, light read, addressing real and heavy issues with a sense of well-dressed and fond resignation.

4.75 out of 5 for me.

The Worst 5 Star Review I’ll Ever Give–until the next one

It seems like we end up at a movie, no matter where we go on vacation.  This past trip was no exception, so we ended up watching Jurassic World in Corpus Christi because air conditioning.  By the time we’d met the two children central to the plot, I wanted dinosaurs to eat them, and their terrible parents.  I’m sorry, Judy Greer.  I was hoping your character would bite it…er…be bitten.

Then, we met Bryce Dallas Howard’s hair, and I wanted something to eat her.  Her boss?  Wanted him eaten.  The secretary sent to take care of the plot-central-children?  Wanted her to be given a medal for having to hang out with those two children, and was hoping maybe she’d get to toss each one to the Sea Monster dinosaur, like a Sea World dolphin trainer.  SPOILER ALERT:  Oh, she got to interact with the Sea Monster all right.

In the control room, we saw that nice corrections officer from Orange is the New Black, and the really annoying guy who isn’t Schmidt, or the basketball player on The New Girl, and since they seemed to want Bryce Dallas Howard to be consumed by a raptor, I was down with them.  This made me fear for their survival.

By the time Chris Pratt appeared, I had despaired of liking any main character.  By the time his character had been well introduced, I was hoping–God forgive me–that we would get a scene that went like this:

Chris Pratt:  That one?  That’s Blue.  Blue’s the Beta.

Red Shirt:  Where’s the Alpha?

Chris Pratt:  I’m the raptors’ Alpha.  They do what I say.

Raptor Charlie:  Did he just?

Raptor Echo:  He did.

Raptor Delta:  Blue?  Blue?

Raptor Blue:  Hold my earrings.

Chris Pratt: I imprint on them at birraarrghgurgledies.

We did not get that scene, but it would have improved the movie 100%.  And yet, had we that scene, we would not have had shot after shot of Chris Pratt doing some FINE “smell the fart” acting.  Listen, I love me some Chris Pratt, and have since Everwood, so I am not knocking his performance.  I asked my husband after the movie, “How difficult do you think it was for him to say those lines with a straight face?”  My husband said, “He gets paid to do that.”  I thought, “Not enough.”

“I imprint on them at birth,” should only be dialog found in a Twilight movie.  Chris Pratt should never have had to say those foul words.  Johnny Karate, no!

Back to the movie.

It was terrible.  You already knew that.  It was terrible.  But once Bryce Dallas Howard loosened up (you could tell because her hair went from straight to curly–if this is how life works, I will always be uptight and professional,) it got really bad because that was when she led the Spoiler into the Spoiler to do the Spoiler.

No one I wanted to be really eaten alive was.  Oh, the body count was high, but none of the people who really deserved it, got it.

The best part of the movie was the air conditioning, and hearing my kid laugh.  He thought the movie was awesome.  So, I’ll give it 5 stars because it did EXACTLY what it was intended to do:  Entertain little kids.

Butterscotch Pony Play

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again (and again, and again.)  It’s not enough to dance like no one is watching.  You can’t feel okay doing things only when you can do them in seclusion–life isn’t lived in seclusion.  You’ve got to dance like no one is laughing.

I can guarantee you that someone is always going to be laughing at you.  There is always going to be that one twit at the funeral, laughing at how hard you are crying and carrying on*.  There is always going to be that one sour puss, who thinks you need to just sit down and act your age**.  There is always going to be that one jerk making fun of your fashion sense***.  It’s going to happen.  You have to decide to live your life for you, not for the twits, sour pusses, and jerks.  They won’t respect you for changing to suit them anyway.

You know what makes them respect you–not that their respect is worthy of you–but what makes them respect you is when you keep doing you.

The roller skating rink is teaching me a lot of lessons, these days.  It is thrilling to see people of all ages out on wheels, trying tricks, dance moves, and working to see just how fast they can make it around the track.  Everyone falls down.  The best trick skaters fall down right alongside the little kids.  They help each other up, and get going again.

No one laughs.  No one pays any attention to the normal humiliation factor of a fall.  It’s all about the getting up again, and trying to Wobble on wheels, or Shoot the Duck, or just make it around the floor without holding on to something.

It’s all admiration and camaraderie at the roller rink.

So, when that The Weekend song comes on, and I’m out there red-faced, off-center, and singing along that I can’t feel my face, I am truly loving it.  When Chaka Khan comes on, and I’m swinging around backwards to let my backside carry the beat, imaging that my hair is bigger than my shoulders, I am feeling for you, and I DO think I love you.  When Taylor Swift’s is playing, and I am being the Butterscotch Pony Princess, I do truly believe we will never go out of style.  Rapture, babies.  Rapture.  (They never play that song.  No Blondie.  Or Joan Jett.  I’m going to make a request.)

Yeah, someone is in that rink laughing at me, but who cares?  My good time isn’t subject to snark.  My good time is only subject to my own stamina, which is woefully low.

*Me, that one time, when I was 16.  I am so, so, so very sorry.  You will never know how sorry I am.  It weighs on me to this day.
**Also me, those several times.  I’m sorry.
***See above and add some more apologies.