Airline travel survival guide

It’s not your imagination: Some airplanes now come with seats closer together, smaller bathrooms, and less space for carry-on luggage. So it’s no surprise that flying is less comfortable and…

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Consumer Reports: Best way to pack a carry-on suitcase

If you’re taking a plane trip anytime soon you might consider bringing only a carry-on. Some airlines have recently upped their fees from $25 to $30 per checked bag. But…

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Drug-abuse drama Beautiful Boy sunk by sweetness, structure

Beautiful Boy is the English-language directorial debut of Felix van Groeningen (The Broken Circle Breakdown). It features Steve Carell as a loving father of a drug-addicted son and Timothée Chalamet as the eponymous 18-year-old. The film’s dour tone is established early when we glimpse a copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s second novel, The Beautiful and Damned, the title of which perfectly describes not just Chalamet’s character but the awful pit into which methamphetamine casts its victims. The rest of the movie, predictably, depicts that deepening hole and the father’s attempt to shovel his son out and then learn when to stop digging.

The screenplay by van Groeningen and Luke Davies is based on memoirs by David and Nic Sheff, the real father and son, so it’s undoubtedly sincere. Indeed, the painfully realistic – and all too common – story is lacking in both pretention and contrivance. The performances are also heartfelt, with Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name, Lady Bird) proving again why he’s one of the most exciting young American actors. Carell is also engaging in spurts, though we might have finally seen the limits of his dramatic acting. Maura Tierney (as the stepmom) and Amy Ryan (as the partially estranged mother who reconnects with her son) are also believable, fleshing out an extended family that slowly and agonizingly accepts that substance abuse forces us to “mourn the living.”

The aforementioned successes of the film make the directorial, organizational, stylistic and musical choices all the more frustrating, as those are the areas in which Boy becomes ugly. Leaning too heavily on its soundtrack and quirky, flashback-laden editing, the film quickly turns into a clinic on how poor structure can doom a narrative. Like its title character, it struggles to find direction, unable to build much momentum and emotion thanks to its odd, repetitive and jumbled juxtaposition of scenes. Instead, it tries to establish empathy by tossing around tunes, but that cloying strategy stinks of narrative laziness. (Not all films can be The Graduate.) And by the end, what should have been one of the year’s strongest dramas is reduced to something closer to a television flick or a glorified PSA.

At one point during his painful journey of discovery, Carell’s character conjectures, “I don’t think you can save people.” That might be true, but you can save films, and Beautiful Boy could and should have been saved by better directorial choices.

Consumer Reports: Is your pillow working

So many people look for a pillow that feels right in the store, but a squeeze can only tell so much. You actually have to lay on it for 10 -15 minutes before your neck sinks into the pillow.

And because everybody’s body is different, Consumer Reports says there’s no one size fits all.

For example – cervical pillows claim to alleviate neck pain. Experts Consumer Reports has spoken to say that a cervical pillow can help relieve neck pain but a lot of it depends upon fit. If that pillow is too high or too low it can affect the way that your neck is laying on it and cause more pain.

Another mistake people tend to make: over correcting what’s wrong with their current pillow. If they have a pillow that’s too flat or too soft they might go out and look for one that’s a lot fuller and firmer or they’ll sleep on too many pillows and that could upset the natural curve of their neck. Instead we recommend that people find a pillow that fits their sleep position

If you’re a back-sleeper, Consumer Reports found one of the specialty wedge pillows may be an option — If you have snoring or sinus issues that wedge pillow can elevate your head and might relieve some of that pressure.

Side-sleepers have more options, but you still want to make sure your pillow is properly supporting you. Four inches off the mattress is the best way to maintain the natural curve in your head and your neck. Consider firm or extra firm pillows made from memory foam or latex to keep your head at the proper angle.

Consumer Reports says no matter where or which type of pillow you buy, check the return policy to make sure you can return it if it doesn’t work for you.

Airline travel survival guide

It’s not your imagination: Some airplanes now come with seats closer together, smaller bathrooms, and less space for carry-on luggage. So it’s no surprise that flying is less comfortable and more aggravating. But what really bugs passengers most?

Consumer Reports says that with the rise of the low-cost carriers, there’s been increased competition to get airfares at the lowest possible price, and they hope that travelers will then decide to upgrade their tickets to more expensive fares offering more perks. Airlines offer enticements such as early boarding, extra legroom, and a checked bag, but all for an additional price.

So how do you score a more comfortable, hassle-free flight without extra fees? Consumer Reports says choose a top-rated airline. In its latest survey of over 52 thousand CR members reporting on nearly one-hundred -thousand economy-class domestic flights, the airlines that received the best overall scores were Southwest, Alaska, JetBlue, and Hawaiian. All four scored high marks in cabin cleanliness, keeping passengers informed of flight status, and good service from airline staff.

The bottom two were Frontier and Spirit. They received low marks for ease of check-in, keeping passengers informed of flight status, and pricing transparency.

And how do you get the best price for your flight? Consumer Reports suggests searching multiple times over multiple days, and shop both at airline websites and third-party sites such as Kayak and Orbitz.

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