Flash Movie Review: The Boxtrolls

Guilt by association can be a decision based on a visual observation. What someone is essentially doing is making a judgement about you without having any knowledge of you. I have always taken offense to this type of discrimimation. It does not matter if it was family members or friends; I could never understand how people just assumed everyone in a group was the same, as if we were all made out of the same mold. The first time I became aware I was being judged was in school. Having been a larger sized boy than the average student, when it came to any athletic activity, I was usually one of the last students still standing before being picked for a team. Though I was too young to really understand the mindset, it did not take long before I became aware of many incidents involving me and various other students. The interesting aspect was witnessing how if a person repeated the same misconception over and over, others started to believe it was true. The outcome sometimes would be upsetting, other times humorous.    ARCHIBALD Snatcher, voiced by Ben Kingsley (Hugo, Iron Man 3), was determined to capture every single last Boxtroll if it was the last thing he would do. He had made a promise to Lord Portley-Rind, voiced by Jared Harris (Pompeii, Natural Born Killers). Eggs, voiced by Isaac Hempstead (Closed Circuit, The Awakening), who had been raised by Boxtrolls since he was a baby, needed to seek out townsfolk who would believe him when he said Boxtrolls were decent and good. It was the only chance he had to save his family. This stop action animated comedy was so much fun. The clever animation was done in such a creative way that I sat with my eyes glued to the screen. With the array of different actors’ voices, including Elle Fanning (Maleficent, Super 8) as Winnie, I found myself believing the characters. The script had its twist of British humor that was not only amusing, but made one pay attention to the sly comments that were being scattered about. Also, the distinctive look of each character worked splendidly with the script’s speech. I am not sure young children will understand some of the humor; however, with a bad villain, wild scenes and plenty of physical comedy they will still enjoy watching this adventure movie. As a fan of most film genres and my avoidance of any movie publicity before seeing a film, this picture reaffirmed one of the reasons I love movies; it provided a joyful surprise with its uniqueness. Never assume just because it is an animated movie that it will be a cartoon. There was an extra behind the scenes segment in the middle of the lively credits.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Equalizer

I believe everyone has at one time experienced some form of injustice. There are all kinds of injustice; some more powerful than others. How many of us have felt we were unfairly treated by someone in a customer service role, either in person or on a toll free number? I would guess nearly all of us. This type of scenario has more to do with poor training than some form of discrimination. Speaking from personal experience, more times than not if you end the conversation and try again later for someone different they may be able to resolve your issue. You just need to get the person who is better trained. Now there are some forms of injustice that are more serious. The guy walking down the street, minding his own business, when a small group of young adults push him down as they walk by, just because they did not like the way he looked could make you angry. However, there is little you could do without becoming a victim yourself; so you wait until the punks are far enough away to go over and help the fallen man. Having seen more than my share of injustices, I am intimately familiar with the anger that wells up inside and the frustration that takes over because there is not a damn thing I could do to stop it.    HAVING left his former ways behind him Robert McCall, played by Denzel Washington (The Book of Eli, The Great Debaters), could not sit back and watch the mistreatment of young Teri, played by Chloe Grace Moretz (If I Stay, Let Me In). His actions would not go unnoticed. I have to give credit to Denzel for putting in a strong performance. In the recent past I felt he was showing us he could act instead of simply acting and in this crime thriller he was very much his character Robert. The other excellent performance was by Marton Csokas (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Noah) as Teddy. Visually I found this crime film interesting to watch with its great camera angles; it was a plus for the dynamic fight scenes. Unfortunately the story could not keep the good parts together. With a slow build-up, I found things were getting sillier as the movie progressed. There were some unanswered questions I had by the end of the film which left me somewhat unsatisfied. I can only assume the movie studio is hoping for this to become a franchise. Not that I want to judge the idea unfairly, but if the studio wants to go forward they would need a better script next time. There were several scenes with blood and violence.

 

2 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Guest

There was nothing they did that caused you to be alarmed. They were pleasant, engaged and most importantly attentive to your friend. Though the two of them had been dating for a few months, this was the first time you were meeting them. This was known as moving the relationship to the next stage, where it was time for the boyfriend/girlfriend to meet the best friend. Hoping to keep the get together as stress free as possible, it was decided that everyone would meet for lunch; nothing else was planned in case by some small chance there would be any kind of friction between the two. In spite of everything going well, there was something about them that set off a tiny alarm in your head. You could not explain it but you had a sense that something was not right about them. The tough part was deciding whether you should tell your friend about your feelings; it was a no win situation. Though there would be several more get togethers, you were always on guard; looking for something concrete you could casually bring up to your friend to see how they would react. You were smart enough to know when a friend was involved in a relationship it was your job to be supportive and not say anything unless something blatant was being done by the girlfriend/boyfriend.    HESITANT at first, the Peterson family quickly opened up their home to the stranger David, played by Dan Stevens (A Walk Among the Tombstones, Hilde), when he explained he and their deceased son had been friends in the military. With Laura and Spencer Peterson, played by Sheila Kelley (Matchstick Men, One Find Day) and Leland Orser (Independence Day, Taken franchise), insistent that David stay with them for a while, it was soon after he had settled in that a couple of accidental deaths occurred. This film was a surprise for me with it retro vibe and fun script. Dan Stevens was so good in the role; he easily commanded the viewers attention. Like those scary thrillers from a decade ago, the tension came more from the chase instead of the violence. Now granted there were a few violent scenes with blood, but they were almost minor compared to the buildup. Another aspect of the movie that i enjoyed was the script; it had a fun dose of cheesiness, yet made the characters real to the point where I was feeling concerned for them. In addition, just when you thought the story was going in one direction, it veered off in another direction. This sounds strange to say but I really had a fun time watching this film, despite my initial wariness. A few scenes had violence and blood in them.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them

Some of the strongest individuals I have ever met did not have a large amount of physical strength. There were some events that could not be fixed with just the person’s brawn. Teaching in a health club I am constantly exposed to people who test themselves with a variety of weights and cardiovascular machines. Slow and steady they work to increase the amount of weight or duration of their aerobic activity. Essentially everything is under their control which to me makes it easier to build up one’s strength. What demands a tougher strength are affairs of the heart that involve some type of tragic event. Sad occasions weigh the heart down, slowing down its beats, causing the body to buckle under the weight of gravity. I remember a time where my eyes were constantly replenishing water tanks that kept spilling tears over my face, keeping it red and raw. My brain could barely retain any of the images my eyes captured; it felt like my head was turning into an abandoned cold storage locker. Every thought had the life sucked out of it as my heart continued its slide towards a sludge of darkness. At the time I thought my heart would never strike a cheerful chord, but I underestimated it. The heart truly is the strongest muscle in the body.    STAGNATION and heaviness was where Conor Ludlow and Eleanor Rigby, played by James McAvoy (X-Men franchise, The Last King of Scotland) and Jessica Chastain (Mama, Lawless), found themselves in their relationship. Remembering what they once had, they could not tell if their hearts would be strong enough to get them through and bring them back to what they once had. This film festival winning drama had a couple of extraordinary actors, Jessica and James, who were able to bare real raw emotions. They really stood out in the cast which also included Viola Davis (Beautiful Creatures, The Help) as Professor Friedman and William Hurt (Into the Wild, A History of Violence) as Julian Rigby. A bit of a surprise was seeing Bill Hader (The Skeleton Twins, Her) as Stuart; he has been making smart film choices since leaving Saturday Night Live. With such a strong cast I am sad to say the script and the direction killed any hope of making this movie a powerful piece. This film was a combination of 2 previous movies, from Eleanor’s and Conor’s perspectives called Her and Him. I had to wonder if what was left on the cutting room floor would have helped this film from being a drag. It took a while for me to get into this picture. When I thought about it, it was strange to feel heavy during the movie but it was not coming from my heart.

 

2 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: This is Where I Leave You

There was a time when family members lived close to each other because they wanted to, not out of necessity. I had an aunt & uncle who lived in the same apartment building where I lived and my grandmother lived a couple of blocks away. It was nothing to come home and have visiting relatives sitting around the house. The world may have been big and the neighborhoods small back then; however, times seem to be different now where the world has become small and the neighborhoods have gotten bigger. Children can live on a different continent than their parents, relatives can be scattered across a country like confetti on a windy day. With distance comes the possibility of less shared experiences. It may not seem like a big deal at first but before you know it there could be long stretches of time where unfamiliarity rises up and devours a niece’s first soccer game or a cousin’s 1st place winning high school science project. When the younger generation begins creating the next generation it can stretch the weeks of absence into months, eventually years. It is sad to say that families wind up getting together only at a happy or sad occasion; what I refer to as a wedding or funeral event.    DEATH was what brought the Altman family back together. When Hillary Altman’s, played by Jane Fonda (Coming Home, Monster-in-Law), husband passed away she insisted her children stay in the house and sit shiva with her for 7 days. Judd, Wendy, Paul and Phillip Altman; played by Jason Bateman (Bad Words, Horrible Bosses), Tina Fey (Muppets Most Wanted, Admission), Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris, Non-Stop) and Adam Driver (Frances Ha, Inside Llewyn Davis); would soon discover it was not as easy to live together again like they did when they were kids. The first thing that stood out in this comedic drama was the amount of star power in the cast. Jason Bateman with his impeccable comedic timing and quick change ability to become sincere was in top form for this film. Tina and Jane easily kept up with him. Now what made this film harder to watch was having this talented group of actors try to bring life to such a poorly constructed script. I could not believe how bored I was during parts of this movie; the script was dull and lifeless. In my opinion the script hindered the actors from creating chemistry among themselves. Watching this picture felt like being trapped with a distant relative who would not stop talking about their children.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: A Walk Among the Tombstones

It is important to have a comfortable setting. Location is a priority for some while comfort is a necessity for others. Once you are in your perfect place a calmness comes over you like an old comfy sweater; all that is left is for the movie to begin. The opening scene rolls onto the screen and there is a twinge of excitement as you are prepared to be taken on a journey by the film’s story. A short time passed and that hopeful, emotional expectation dimmed as it took its last breath of light and you realized something was not right. You were reacting to the film, there was something familiar about it. There was a moment where you quickly wondered if you had seen the film before and had spaced out about it. As it turned out you did not see the picture before, but the film studio just used the same formula that was successful for the main star in a prior movie. This left you feeling unsatisfied to the point of feeling cheated. It was like craving your favorite chocolate wafer sandwich cookie only to find the grocery store was out and only had a cheap knockoff–it was not the same.    TOUGH, fearless, confident and tall; this seemed the niche Liam Neeson (A Million Ways to Die in the West, Non-Stop) was gravitating to as he played private investigator Matt Scudder. When drug trafficker Kenny Kristo, played by Dan Stevens (The Fifth Estate, Downton Abbey-TV), asked the private investigator to find the men who killed his wife, Matt initially refused. It wasn’t until he heard how the wife died that he agreed to take on the case. I found this crime drama to be for the most part standard fare. It came across as a formulaic vehicle for Liam to go through the motions, having done this type of role a few times already. There was the “bad guys” who in this case had a real ick factor; the young streetwise innocent TJ, played by Brian “Astro” Bradley (Earth to Echo, The X Factor-TV) and a script that tried to have Liam deliver lines that would become iconic sayings for the movie goer. At least I was not completely bored thanks to the several scenes that were well directed to deliver tense excitement. The first time Liam took on the role of a middle-aged tough guy it was different and fresh. The second time it lost some of it luster and was not as exciting to watch. By now all I wanted to say to Liam was, “It is enough already.” If this is the first time you are seeing a Liam Neeson film then you might enjoy this movie; if not, then you may feel as if you had seen this all before. There were scenes of violence and blood.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Maze Runner

One possible spoiler alert near the end of this review.

As infants most of us I believe asked that perpetual favorite question at any nearby adult, “Why?” I bet some of you thought I was going to say, “Are we there yet?” As young children, with a world of unexplained phenomenons taking place around us, our inquisitive minds questioned everything. When I was a kid I had a curious fascination with many of my toys; I always wanted to know how they worked. After playing with them for a short time I would try to take them apart to see what was inside that made the toys do what they did. The problem with this was I could never put the toys back together, so I quickly learned to suppress my curiosity if I wanted to keep playing with my toys. This may have been the very beginning where I slowly lost my inquisitive nature and began to take everything at face value. As an adult I tend to be more suspicious of things than curious; this possibly developed from my environment than my nature. But when I look at the people around me, the majority of them are similar in their lack of curiosity. I wonder if it has to do with that mindset of “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it?”    CURIOSITY wasn’t the only thing missing from the boys who found themselves in the middle of a maze; they had no memory of their past except for their name. Things would begin to change once Thomas, played by Dylan O’Brien (The Internship, Teen Wolf-TV), showed up. Though he could not remember his past, he was not satisfied with the boys around him who did not question the things happening around them. Based on the novel by James Dashner, this action mystery had a gloomy dark dread to its story. I thought the actors were well cast for this film. Besides Dylan, I also admired Aml Ameen (Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Evidence) as Alby and Will Poulter (We’re the Millers) as Gally. I am not sure if it was intentional but I felt the story had a “Lord of the Flies” flavor to it. Surprisingly I found myself becoming anxious during the movie as the story became more intense. The special effects were good which helped make the action scenes even that more tightly wound up. Seeing this film without any knowledge of the book, I found the story had a bit of predictability to it. My major complaint had to do with the ending. For me it was unsatisfying; I prefer every movie being able to stand up on its own. In this case, a sequel is needed to figure out what had just happened. The big question is whether moviegoers are that curious.

 

2 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Starred Up

A baby is born into the world helpless and dependent on their parent. It may take a period of time before the baby can walk or feed on their own. The birth of a human child is amazing and wonderful in its own right. In the animal world I have witnessed some births that were surprising due to the different outcome compared to the human way. Watching a pregnant horse in labor can be shocking because as soon as the little one is born they struggle a bit but then stand up on all 4 legs. i remember standing there in shock and awe, witnessing this baby horse instinctively working to get up. Once the mare is able to stand up on her own, her baby follows her around and the learning process begins. No matter which species you talk about, most offspring learn by example. The 3 year old sitting in her car seat who yells out the open car window to the driver next to them, “Move that  #$%@ car,” had to learn that from somewhere. Having been to a number of parent/teacher conferences, I can tell you the majority of kids who were bullies had parents that acted like bullies to their children. A child does not wake up one day and start acting out inappropriately.    TOUGH and mean was how one would describe Eric Love, played by Jack O’Connell (300: Rise of an Empire, Eden Lake). Arrested and convicted to prison, Eric was not afraid of what he would find; he could easily take care of himself. What he did not count on was someone tougher than him being there; his father Neville Love, played by Ben Mendelsohn (The Place Beyond the Pines, Killer Elite). This film festival winning drama was an intense film to watch, with several bloody violent scenes. The script produced a steady pace despite the land mines of action and tension that would erupt on the screen. All the actors including Rupert Friend (The Young Victoria, Pride & Prejudice) as Oliver Baumer were convincing to the point where I believed they were actual prisoners in prison. The scenes showed everything I imagined jail to be. I will say I had a challenging time understanding some of the dialog due to the heavy accents, at least to me, being used by the actors. What I found to be the major strength of this film was the evolving relationship between father and son in the story. Babies are born into this world with a clean slate; their behavior forms based on what they observe. A few scenes had blood and violence in them.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Drop

It can be so hard to watch someone you care about do something that you feel is not in their best interests–or is just plain wrong. Short of restraining and locking them in their home, there is not a lot one can do to persuade them to at least rethink everything before acting upon it. A friend of mine had been in a loving relationship for a couple of years. Unfortunately it did not last and she was completely distraught over it. Within a short time she met someone new, dated briefly and before you knew it she was engaged to him. I was not only stunned with the suddenness; but from the things she told me, I could not understand why in the world she would even be with him. Get this; she was a late sleeper who loved to lounge in bed to mid-morning. She used to tell me how he would wake her up at 5 am because it was time to clean the house, according to him. I kid you not; I was flabbergasted and would always ask her why she did not tell him to go clean the house, just do not wake her up. Long story short, they stayed married for a few years until she could not stand it anymore and divorced him.    SOMETHING did not seem right to cousins Bob and Marv, played by Tom Hardy (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Dark Knight Rises) and James Gandolfini (Enough Said, Killing Them Softly), when the tavern they worked at was held up and robbed. In their small, closely tight neighborhood where everyone knew each other, their employer was not someone you would want to get angry at you. This crime drama was James Gandolfini’s last movie and he left on a high note; it was a memorable and solid performance. As for Tom Hardy, I was blown away by his acting; he was amazing and deserves an Oscar nomination. Along with Noomi Rapace (Prometheus, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo franchise) as Nadia, all the acting melded beautifully into the tense well written story. Based on his short story “Animal Rescue,” Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Bone) wrote the screenplay for this film. There were some memorable scenes that were perfectly directed. I was especially impressed the way the actors only needed a gesture or look to convey the heaviness that was bearing down on them. It truly enhanced the viewing experience for me. I may not have known the characters in this movie, but even I could tell something was not right and wished I had a way to tell them. There were a few scenes that showed blood and violence.

 

3 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Dolphin Tale 2

I cannot imagine how even the coldest of hearts can stay frozen when those set of eyes look to you for love and guidance. One of the purest things on Earth is the unconditional eyes of a baby or pet staring up at you. When I started out in college my courses were for veterinary science. I wound up looking into the eyes of a variety of animals. There was the horse that had a mischievous glint in his eye, who would toss up strands of hay every time I entered her stall. One of my professors would bring in one of his dogs that always found a comfortable spot by my feet whenever she wanted to take a nap. No matter what type of animal I encountered, I was always fascinated with their eyes; imagining how they see the world around us. From my limited observations I narrowed down the different looks in their eyes to the following: fondness, food, fear, fun and sadness. One of the hardest things for me was looking into the sad eyes of an animal; without knowing the reason why I always felt helpless.    EYES played an important part in this dramatic sequel. Winter, the dolphin with the prosthetic tail, had been living a full life at the Clearwater Marine Hospital until her companion passed away. It was of paramount importance that Dr. Clay Haskett, played by Harry Connick Jr (New in Town, P.S. I Love You) and his team find a new companion for the dolphin if she was going to continue to survive at the hospital. This family film was pretty much as wholesome as a movie could be. There was nothing surprising for me as the story was straight forward and quite predictable. I do not mean to say this was a poor film; it was just a simple story inspired by true events. The cast that included Ashley Judd (Divergent, Kiss the Girls) as Lorraine Nelson, Morgan Freeman (Lucy, Now You See Me) as Dr. Cameron McCarthy and Nathan Gamble (The Mist, Marley & Me) as Sawyer were all back for this continuation of Winter’s tale. At times the script veered into hokey territory for my tastes; however, I do not think young children would care or even notice. The acting was okay; as I said earlier, there really is nothing negative to say about this film. For the most part it was innocuous light fare. If nothing else I hope people would walk away from this movie with a deeper respect and understanding towards the animals who live among us.

 

2 1/4 stars

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