Flash Movie Review: Cake

There are two types of trauma that affect our body, physical and emotional. Each one has its own unique ramifications on how they are handled. When a bone gets broken in the body, there are ways it gets repaired which usually are visible to everyone as it slowly heals. I remember as a kid when someone would get their arm or leg in a cast it was like a badge of honor. They would have all their friends sign the cast and the goofier the message the better. You would have thought I had found the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when I had found at the local discount store a pen that had gold ink. I thought it was the coolest thing as I would print my messages out in extra large letters. As for emotional trauma, the body usually handles it in such a way that a bystander may not even know something is going on. Emotional trauma cannot only last longer in a person it can do more damage. It can feel as if the person has been trapped in a dilapidated house with unusable windows, where pieces or chunks of wall are dropping on them periodically as a reminder of their pain.    JENNIFER Aniston (We’re the Millers, The Bounty Hunter) played lawyer Claire Bennett, a woman suffering with severe pain. When Nina Collins, played by Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect, Into the Woods), a member from Claire’s chronic pain support group committed suicide, Claire began an unusual fixation on Nina’s former life and the life of her widower Roy, played by Sam Worthington (Avatar, Man on a Ledge). This film festival winning drama was all about Jennifer. I have to give her credit for stretching her acting skills to undertake this role. She was excellent to the point that there were times I was cringing along with her as she dealt with her pain. The relationship she had with her housekeeper Silvana, played by Adriana Barraza (Thor, Drag Me to Hell), was especially interesting to watch throughout the film. With Jennifer doing such a good job of acting, it was disappointing the script was not stronger to support her. There were parts of the story that were flat. Also, I do not think it helped having Jennifer’s back story getting revealed in a piecemeal way; some viewers would find it annoying. I think if the writers would not have kept this story in its simplified form it would have been more interesting overall. Based on her performance it was apparent Jennifer was tapping into some traumatic memories, but I am not sure movie goers would feel her pain.

 

2 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Strange Magic

Their skin had a distinct glow that made it look like soft amber. Only their teeth, when revealed in a wide smile, could outshine the beauty of their skin. If one could pull their gaze from that face and widen it to include the rest of the body, they would see a sculpted form that would remain solid as a statue in any environment. There are some people whose heart would lasso such a being, letting their love wash all over them. Unfortunately they do not realize one very important reality; there is a slow moving poison pushing inside of them. I refer to this condition as “dark heart.” The individual may be the perfect fit for what you consider to be beautiful; however, there is darkness inside of them. You may remember I consider our bodies to be rented, that they are constantly in a state of change. So I put little emphasis on the external side of a person. I find someone who displays things like kindness, honesty and respect to be much more interesting. Things like hair and height have no relevance in determining if a person is a good human being or not.    EVEN in a world inhabited by elves and fairies, true love can have a strong influence. When the Bog King, voiced by Alan Cumming (Spy Kids franchise, The Good Wife-TV), kidnapped Marrianne’s, voiced by Evan Rachel Wood (Across the Universe, The Ides of March), sister and held her hostage until he received a magical potion; it would take someone with a determined will to combat all the forces that were put in place. Based on a story by George Lucas (Star Wars franchise, American Graffiti), this animated fantasy was not only colorful to watch, it was one of the oddest movies I have seen in a while. The idea behind the story was solid and I could relate to it; however, having various characters break out into popular songs from the past decades to tell the story was weird. All the actors like Elijah Kelly (Hairspray, Red Tails) as Sunny and Kristin Chenoweth (The Boy Next Door, Glee-TV) as the Sugar Plum Fairy were in good voice, but I did not care too much for any of the characters that were voiced. The villain character was weak which contributed to me remaining bored throughout the movie. Honestly this film was not only dull it had little magic compared to recent animated films I have seen. I was so surprised to read later that George had been developing this story for years and finally pushed it forward to become a movie. All I can say is behind this pretty facade of a film there was only boring dreariness. There was an extra scene in the middle of the credits and at the end.

 

1 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Mortdecai

Sadly I have seen a person go into shock due to an automobile accident. It looked as if they had been powered by batteries that were quickly losing power as their physical movements were grinding to a halt. There was a numbness that came over them as they became unaware of their surroundings. Gratefully the shock I am referring to today is the kind where you cannot believe what your eyes have just seen. I was rummaging through my memory, looking for a time where I had that reaction of disbelief and what came to mind was the first time I visited Las Vegas, Nevada. One of the shows I saw there was a pseudo circus type of troupe but without the animals. I sat there in disbelief as I watched these human beings performing non-human things; it was a night filled with fanciful magic that continues to stay with me to this day. Since I started posting my movie reviews I cannot recall having such a reaction of shock like I had to this film. I think the best way I could describe it would be to say I was dumbfounded and had a difficult time processing what I was witnessing on the big screen before me.    JOHNNY Depp (The Long Ranger, Transcendence) played well known art dealer Mortdecai. When a famous painting was stolen, Mortdecai was brought in by England’s secret service to assist them in retrieving the artwork before it fell into the hands of a hostile group. There was something special about this painting. I literally sat in astonishment as I watched this action comedy. This movie was so bad and I do not mean that in a good way. Someone needs to tell Johnny it is enough already; this is not acting anymore. He just talks with an accent and mimics to the camera; it is utterly tiresome. I would love to know what Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man franchise, Running with Scissors) as Johanna, Ewan McGregor (Big Fish, The Impossible) as Martland and Paul Bettany (Legion, A Beautiful Mind) as Jock were thinking by agreeing to be in this movie. The story, the script and the acting were all awful. I think I am still shellshocked because I can barely type out my thoughts on this review. It seemed as if the producers were trying to create a mashup of Austin Powers and Inspector Jacques Clouseau, with the hope of creating a new franchise. I hope it does not happen because this movie was like an unfinished painting that did not dry and all the colors ran together to form brown. As a side note, the 8 pm Saturday night showing of this film, in an approximately 300 seat theater, had 22 people in attendance, including me.

 

1 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Wedding Ringer

It is understandable there would be more pressure if it is expected this would be the only time one would be walking down the aisle for their wedding. Whether the wedding is simple or elaborate, everyone involved wants everything to go as smoothly and perfectly as possible. From the weddings I have attended either as a guest or part of the wedding party, I have gone behind the scenes to see what steps were being taken to make the event appear seamless. Let me just tell you right from the start, think twice before having your pet be part of the ceremony. Sure they are cute while the guests are oohing and ahhing, but it can go so wrong so fast. There is no way I will ever forget this one wedding where the parents of the bride and groom had a strong dislike for each other. The fighting reached epic proportions. Whether the color of the flowers was not right or the seats did not have seat back covers, the parents argued over everything. Not only did they avoid eye contact with each other during the whole ceremony, they continued bickering and snapping at each other to the point I tried keeping my distance from them as much as possible. They may have forgotten what the day was supposed to be about, but did the parents in this comedic romance remember?    JOSH Gad (Love & Other Drugs, Jobs) played Doug Harris, a frantic man who was about to get married to Gretchen Palmer, played by Kaley Cuoco-Swetting (The Big Bang Theory-TV, 8 Simple Rules-TV). Desperate to find groomsmen and a best man for the wedding Doug turned to Jimmy Callahan, played by Kevin Hart (About Last Night, Ride Along), who headed a company that specialized in a particular service that would aid Doug in his search. He would wind up getting something more than what he paid for with the service. This film festival winner was meant to be a comedy, with its outrageous premise. I did not totally dislike this film; I just thought it was nothing important to make a trip to the theater to go see. My biggest issue came down to Kevin Hart. As a stand-up comedian he is fine; but every role I have seen him in so far, he does the same thing over and over to the point I just find him annoying. The trailer for this picture shows exactly what to expect if one chooses to go see it. Though I chuckled a couple of times, there were no scenes that made me laugh out loud. If you are asked to go see this film; if I were you, I would send my regrets and wait for it to be available as a rental.

 

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Boy Next Door

The woman took a part-time job doing stock at a store, even though the full boxes were hard to carry. She did not care because she needed income to manage her mounting bills. The man traveled across the border to pick up medicines that were not yet approved in his country to combat his illness. The driver was afraid they were not going to make their interview for a job; so they drove over the speed limit and after stopping to look both ways, continued driving through any red traffic lights. Each of these individuals did what they did because they were desperate. I am sure each of us has performed at least one desperate act at some point during our life. Whether you were desperate to finish the race even though your leg was cramping up or you were desperate to get accepted at one particular university so you took on a heavy class load to up your grade point average; we have all been there at some time. One of the definitions for the word desperate says, “involves or employs extreme measures in an attempt to escape defeat or frustration;” another one states, “suffering extreme need or anxiety for money.” Evidently these must be desperate times to have made this film.    JENNIFER Lopez (Maid in Manhattan, The Wedding Planner) played recently divorced mother Claire Peterson. After Noah Sandborn, played by Ryan Guzman (Step Up franchise, Pretty Little Liars-TV) had moved in next door, it was encouraging to see the positive influence he had on her son Kevin, played by Ian Nelson (The Judge, The Hunger Games). The compliments she was getting from Noah were nice to hear also. It was not long until Noah appeared to be part of the family, but which family member? This thriller was wrong on so many levels; I do not know where to begin. So let me start with Jennifer because she was the executive producer. I hope she did not think this role would make Hollywood stand up and notice her as a big dramatic actress. Stripping down to underwear for a scene does not automatically make a person appear vulnerable and dramatic, let alone younger; it takes acting and that is what was missing from this movie. By the way, that goes for everyone. The story was icky to start with and it was made worse by Claire being a school teacher. Kristin Chenoweth (Bewitched, Stranger Than Fiction) had the burden of playing vice principal Vicky Lansing, a clownish cartoonish character. It was horrible because the script was lame to the point of almost being laughable. There were no surprises since it was so predictable. This bad film needed more than a detention, it needed to be expelled.

 

1 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Still Alice

The change is so minuscule you would not even be aware of its importance. Years later you may look back and remember it, realizing it was a warning for the oncoming seismic shift about to take place. For some the process is slow and drawn out; the occasional forgetfulness does not seem to be a big deal. Who has not forgotten where they put their house keys or forgotten a word now and then? But later on it becomes more frequent; think of it as a change from autumn to winter. Picture a majestic wide tree with a multitude of branches that curl and twist outward, filled with a thick abundance of leaves. Slowly the rich dark green of the leaves starts to fade, becoming less vibrant. The leaves that had been stretching wide like the palms of many hands were all beginning to close into gnarled fists. Memory drips out of the mind, falling away on a current of air like shriveled leaves; until the tree is laid bare. You may think the person is trapped inside their body but that is not the case; they are no longer there. You only have a living picture of who they were and even that begins to shut down due to the lack of electrical pulses from the expired brain. This is what can happen when someone has Alzheimer’s disease.    JULIANNE Moore (Non-Stop, What Maisie Knew) played linguistics Professor Alice Howland. As an author and expert in her field, how was it possible that she was beginning to forget her words? This film festival winning drama’s success was all due to Julianne Moore. She was remarkable in this role, playing a middle-aged woman with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. There was one scene in particular where she was looking at her younger self and it amazed me how different she made the two images look on screen. I can understand now why she won the Golden Globe award. Some of the other actors in this film were Alec Baldwin (Beetlejuice, 30 Rock-TV) as John Howland, Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns, Blue Crush) as Anna Howland-Jones and Kristen Stewart (Twilight franchise, On the Road) as Lydia Howland. Everyone did a good job of acting; however I really did not get Kristen. It seems like she is doing the same thing in every movie; I have not seen her display any emotional variety with any of the characters she has played. Due to Julianne’s dominant performance, this drama has an effect on the viewer. Not to be funny here, but it seems as if I am paying more attention now when I forget something.

 

3 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: A Most Violent Year

I am used to friends and family picking up and moving out of state for either a job opportunity or retirement. As for me I would be willing to do it only on a part-time basis, specifically during wintertime. I never had the courage to even think about this until the past several years as the winter months have been harder on me; but who knows if I will ever get to a point where I could afford to do such a thing. What I find to be more courageous are those individuals and families who emigrate to a different country, especially the ones who hope to become business owners one day. I have known people who were willing to work seven days a week, doing whatever needed to be done, to try and make a go of their new business. Depending on where it is located can add an extra level of difficulty when it involves local or federal government agencies. In fact, I just heard a story from a member from one of my classes who is trying to build a new building. The restrictions and requirements to get and keep a building permit is truly a nightmare.    ON the verge of expanding his business Abel Morales, played by Oscar Isaac (Inside Lleywn Davis, Body of Lies), was desperately trying to keep things afloat while trying to find out who was stealing from his company. With all of his finances tied up in the business he was taking these acts of crime personally. This film festival winning crime drama had everything going for it. Written and directed by J.C. Chandor (Margin Call, All is Lost), the movie perfectly balanced the emotional scenes with brilliant film work. One of the main reasons why this worked so well was due to the cast and what a group of actors were chosen. Besides Oscar’s performance which was wonderful, there was Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, The Help) who played his wife Anna, David Oyelowo (Selma, Interstellar) as Lawrence and Albert Brooks (Defending Your Life, Drive) as Andrew Walsh. All of them were amazing to watch; but let me add, Jessica was electric in this role. She was so good that I have to say I think this was her best performance to date. Set in New York during the early 1980s, the whole look of the picture was right on. This action movie was the complete package that was beautifully done with the right amount of emotional investment; I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. There were a couple of scenes where blood and violence was shown.

 

3 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Spare Parts

It would be easy for me to say the word “no” is a restrictive word. Instead, I will say it can be constrictive. I am not referring to times where the word “no” is used for safety concerns, like telling the driver not to go down a particular road because the bridge is out or telling a child they cannot play on the outdoor jungle gym because of its rotting wood. When it comes to telling a child or an adult they cannot do something because of someone else’s preconceived notions, I then have an issue with it. I learn by making mistakes; in addition, I feel failing a task provides a blueprint on how to deal with consequences. Let us face it; part of living is dealing with consequences. Why shouldn’t we get practice in dealing with failures and successes? If I piled up all the noes I have been told in my life, like bricks at a construction site, I could build a rather large addition onto my house. In my opinion as long as the possibilities are spelled out, let the individual discover for themselves what their true potential can be.    WITH no money, no training, nor legal documentation; four Hispanic high school students formed a robotics club to enter a nationwide NASA sponsored contest. Even though the previous winners came from some of the best Ivy League schools in the country, the 4 students would wind up building something better than just a robot. This movie was based on a true story and had all the markings to be a real inspirational story. I found the casting to be an interesting mix with George Lopez (Valentine’s Day, Balls of Fury) as Fredi Cameron, Marisa Tomei (The Lincoln Lawyer, Parental Guidance) as Gwen and Jamie Lee Curtis (A Fish Called Wanda, True Lies) as the Principal. Including the actors cast as the students, everyone did a decent job of acting. The weak link of this film was the script. I figured there was going to be some humor interjected into the story since George was in it. However, the humor for the most part fell flat. There were times where it was easy to figure out what was going to happen to some of the characters. I even wondered if some of the things really did happen or were they written into the story for dramatic effect. It was a real shame because the true story appeared to be so good; I just wished the writers would have given the characters more levels to delve into and develop. As photos of the real individuals flashed onto the screen I have to tell you I was a bit awestruck. Here were people who despite hearing the word “no” so often in life, did not let it stop them from dreaming.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Paddington

One of the more important acts a parent can instill in a child is the love of reading. There is an art in reading a book to a child. As the words get spoken, images begin to form and take shape in the little one’s mind. Stimulating the brain this way, sets the foundation for an active imagination to grow in the child. A blanket once draped around the shoulders becomes a cape that enables the child to fly from room to room. Spreading that same blanket out on the floor then repeatedly lifting it up and down in waves turns the living room floor into a choppy sea filled with a school of gigantic whales. Once the blanket goes still it becomes the launching pad for today’s rocket launch. Who hasn’t as a kid carried around some item that was special only to them? For me it started out with a stuffed monkey for several years and then my attention was drawn to retractable ballpoint pens. They were my fleet of spaceships that were constantly firing at each other by me clicking and unclicking them. Memories of my childhood, that had been lying dormant, flourished up into my consciousness while watching this sweet and joyful family comedy.    COMING from Peru to England Paddington, voiced by Ben Whishaw (Skyfall, I’m not There), found shelter with a lovely family. Mary and Henry Brown, played by Sally Hawkins (Godzilla, Blue Jasmine) and Hugh Bonneville (The Monuments Men, Downton Abbey-TV), agreed to take in the bear for one night. What could possibly go wrong? This movie was an absolute treat, harking back to a civilized and charming time. I mean this in two ways: as a story line and as a movie watching experience. It was obvious this was a group effort because the entire cast from the characters Sally and Hugh played to Mrs. Bird and Millicent, played by Julie Walters (Harry Potter franchise, Mamma Mia) and Nicole Kidman (The Railway Man, Rabbit Hole), all played their parts to the hilt; you could see they were having so much fun. In turn, I had a great time watching this picture; it had drama, comedy, excitement and suspense that was appropriate for all age levels. Even the special effects that created Paddington were seamless to the point where I actually believed he was standing right there in every scene. I cannot imagine anyone sitting through this film and not getting a smile on their face. It was such a good time for me and when it was done and over I walked out of the theater with my childhood memories playing out before my eyes.

 

3 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: American Sniper

There are some individuals who have a natural ability or gift to perform a particular skill. In my old neighborhood there were a couple of boys who in school were the fastest when it came to running. Now there are other people who excel at a particular function but it is only after years that were filled with practice and determination. In some societies children are observed and evaluated to see if they have a certain skill that could be nurtured in them so it will continue to grow. I knew a woman who pushed her daughter for years in the field of dance; taking her to every audition, from one instructor to another as the little girl’s talent continued to expand. This went on over 15 years. However, as the daughter matured her desire lessened to the point where she did not want to do anything that involved dance. Though she had aptitude and skill for dance, her mother did not look at one other essential element: the heart, the desire for it. I know even with myself if my heart is not into what I am doing, I will lose interest quickly. The heart is the fuel for the engine of motivation.    SKILLED with a rifle since a young age Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle), joined the military and became a Navy Seal. His love of country along with his special skills made him a legend in the eyes of his fellow Seals. It did not go unnoticed by the enemy who put a bounty on his head. Directed by Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River), this film festival winner and Oscar nominated action drama was based on a true story. Bradley was amazing in the role, having to pack on 40 pounds of muscle to play Chris. I did not recognize Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher, Casanova) at first who played his wife Taya; she also did a wonderful job of acting. This movie was intense to watch with scenes of violence and bloodshed; especially when the character the Butcher, played by Mido Hamada (Unknown, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), had a hand in it. The story is an incredible one; however, I am not sure the movie was on the same level. I say this because there were times where I had wished there would have been more development to the characters, to try and understand their motives. From what I saw on screen, I felt the characters needed to be more complex. Initially I was not fond of the ending; but having discovered afterwards it was done due to legal reasons, I am not listing it as a major complaint. It was obvious a lot of heart and thought was put into the making of this picture.

 

3 stars

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