Flash Movie Review: Life in a Day

It does not always occur to me; only when I am telling someone the significance of an item I am showing them. The things I have purchased to display in my house all have a story. There are a few friends and family members who know the stories behind the items, but they are in the minority. There is a woven basket sitting next to a living room chair. To the naked eye it just looks like a round basket with a lid that was woven with sturdy reeds. Only a couple of people know that I bought this basket when I was in Charleston, South Carolina; at a store where all the items stocked in it were made by disadvantaged women from third world countries. The owner told me she was trying to help show these women that there was a market for their wares, with the possibility of earning a living. Almost every item in my house has some type of history that will get lost when my time here is done. For example I have a filigreed silver wine cup that came from my great, great grandfather; it looks like an oversized thimble. Since I do not have a picture of him, I can only imagine where and what he was doing with this cup since it does not look like your average dinnerware. In a way my house, I guess all of our homes; can be considered a time capsule of our lives on some level. One of the reasons I so enjoy looking at photos is because I get to see friends and family frozen in a particular time. To see what they were doing or how they lived is cool to me. You may get a better understanding why once you see this documentary.    THOUSANDS of videos were submitted after the request went out, asking people from around the world to record what they were doing on July 24, 2010. A group of directors that included Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, State of Mind) and Hiroaki Aikawa (Japan in a Day) took the videos and narrowed them down to create this fascinating montage of what people from all over the world were doing on this particular day. This film festival winner was utterly fascinating. I was mesmerized watching all the different clips; from the mundane to the extraordinary, the idea behind this dramatic documentary I felt was brilliant. The reason being, there are a variety of things we all see on television and social media that can be noteworthy events, usually celebratory or tragic kinds. A fight or hate crime can be shown, but the world is not made up of only these types of occurrences. Seeing what ordinary people were doing in their daily lives, I am a bit sad to say, offered a refreshing perspective from the abundance of violence and politics that tend to be broadcast these days. For me this was a wonderful time capsule of a single day on our planet in July.

 

3 1/4 stars — DVD

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Exposed

“Use it or lose it” is one of my favorite things to say to people. In my fitness classes the members have been listening to me say this for years. If we stop working on ourselves how will we continue to move and grow, both physically and mentally? From my experiences I know some individuals have an easier time training their body instead of their mind and visa versa. I actually find it is easier to train my body, which is why I work extra hard on using my mind. To me the mind is like any other muscle in the body and it needs to be stimulated so it can continue to thrive and expand. Without going into too much detail my mind was tested at a very young age; you could say trial by fire. Growing up and being overweight, I heard the “F” word a lot to describe my size. I do not remember when it actually started to work but there came a point where I stopped listening to the taunts. Yes, I still would hear it but my mind would not register it. This explains why today I am skilled in being able to shut out different noises and sounds. Where a co-worker may get distracted with an annoying repetitive sound coming out from the warehouse, my mind only hears white noise, if even that. This ability is not limited to just sounds; if the mind is strong enough it can shield a person from certain parts of reality. It has served me well. I see I am not the only one now that I have seen this dramatic movie.    WHEN his partner was found dead Detective Galban, played by Keanu Reeves (John Wick, The Matrix franchise), was determined to find the killer. With the trail of clues not adding up and no one claiming to have seen anything, Detective Galban was positive there had to be someone out in the city who could provide him with the answers. This film which also had Mira Sorvino (The Replacement Killers, Mimic) as Janine Cullen and Ana de Armas (Sex, Party and Lies; The Boarding School-TV) as Isabel de la Cruz had a film noir flavor to it at first. I thought Ana was a compelling actress and found her role the most interesting. In a short amount of time the story broke down and became a jumble of sub-stories. From its film noir look it started to become a surreal fantasy type of story before trying to be more like a true detective story. I kept waiting for something to happen as the script randomly offered these little pieces of information that were not tying up the scenes; I started to wonder what was the point the writers were trying  to convey to the viewers. Also, I have to say Keanu was more stiff than usual in this role. One could blame it all on the editing, the writing, the direction or all of the above; it does not matter. As I type the last word to my review I will forget about this discombobulated piece of work.

 

1 2/3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

When I put food on my dinner plate, I do not want the different servings I took to touch each other. For example, I do not want the mashed potatoes to be mixed in with the sugar snap peas, nor do I want anything touching my turkey burger. It is okay, you can  call me crazy; I have heard it before. I do not care because the first time I saw a TV dinner tray with its individual compartments for the different food items, I thought it was the ideal way to serve people their meals. Being a visual type of eater, if something does not look good to me I will not touch it. Now I certainly do not force my feelings onto anyone else and will gladly sit with someone who is spooning a conglomeration of food items into their mouth. Actually, it never occurred to me to mix different foods; heck I did not think one could mix different silverware. If you are wondering if I have these same types of rules in other areas of my life the answer would be yes. I have always been most comfortable when things around me have a sense of symmetry. Now here is the funny thing; though I am still the same way about food, a slow change has been taking place in me over the past years when a friend asked me if I had seen this video mashup of two singing artists’ songs. I had never heard that word before so I looked it up and found it meant a mixture of disparate elements. When I finally saw that video I was fascinated; it was such a creative and cool idea. It is because of that video I started looking at things differently. Isn’t that bizarre? Is it any crazier than the mashup done in this romantic horror film?    WHEN Elizabeth Bennet, played by Lily James (Cinderella, Broken), first met Mr. Darcy, played by Sam Riley (Maleficent, On the Road), she found him to be such a snob. Though her mother was hoping to see her daughter wedded off, Elizabeth did not need a man; she could take care of herself quite well as a matter of fact. I was so surprised by this action movie that took author Jane Austen’s (Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park) classic story and infused it with the zombie genre. The story pretty much was kept intact but I did enjoy the sly humor and the fact that Elizabeth and her sisters were now skilled in the marital arts. The writers were not going for a parody or comedy; they kept the story as level as one can with flesh eating zombies and they made it work actually. Take the story for what it is, this film may not be high art or a new classic; but for a fun viewing experience with a twist and a teardrop, this mashup was pretty good. Several scenes with blood and violence.

 

2 1/2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Choice

I do not think the layout of a store is necessarily an engineering feat, more like a psychological one in my opinion. Think about the ease consumers have these days; no matter where one may be, they can walk into the same brand of store and immediately know which aisles they need to stop in. Sure some stores may have slight differences in decorations or signage, but I am sure there is a reason why the stores are laid out in a particular way. I assume you have heard the term “mindless eating?” It is when one is not giving any thought to what they are putting in their mouth; an example would be those huge buckets of popcorn one sits with in the movie theater. Being so engrossed into the film hopefully, one doesn’t pay attention to the amount of popcorn they have eaten. Well the same thing can be said for “mindless shopping.” The way the store gets laid out, the end of the aisles known as “end caps” has either visual significance or price leaders to entice shoppers to stop and pickup the product. Now throughout the store the owners place sale items like small oases to get the consumer to travel from one side of the building to the other. When I go to the grocery store I do not have to think about what I want; I always go with a shopping list and because I am so familiar with the layout, I can quickly make my way through without much thought. It really is a simple process that does not need much effort on my part. I can say it was the same way watching this latest Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, A Walk to Remember) movie.    TRAVIS, played by Benjamin Walker (In the Heart of the Sea, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), tried all of his pickup lines on the new neighbor Gabby, played by Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies, I am Number Four), but she was having none of it. As far as she was concerned he was a jerk. I really do not think I have to say anything else because those of you who are at all familiar with a Nicholas Sparks movie will already know the outcome. This dramatic romance followed the same formula as his previous films. In fact, I felt this one was one of the worst. The story followed the same, shall we say, outline to each of his films: the main characters either dislike each other or have issues; there is a hospital scene or tragic event, understanding parents and a tearjerker scene. Regarding this film I felt there was no chemistry between Benjamin and Teresa. The only acting worth mentioning was by Tom Wilkinson (Belle, Michael Clayton) as Shep. If you have never read or seen a Nicholas Sparks story or want a good cry then you may be interested in this movie. The rest of you would be better off skipping this film and go do some mindless shopping.

 

1 2/3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Hail, Caesar!

The first time I saw them on a small screen I thought they looked unusual, almost bizarre. Every Saturday afternoon there was a television show that showed old movies. I did not understand the point of a movie musical the first time I saw one. Why actors were breaking out into songs in the middle of their scenes baffled me. It was not until I paid attention to the lyrics that I realized the songs were explaining parts of the story. These films along with the others that got broadcast came from a different time. The screwball comedies, dramatic romances and other genres had movie stars that were, to use a cliche, larger than life. I was familiar with those who had a prolific career, churning out a new movie every year. These actors gave off an almost regal persona; it appeared the film studios kept each of them up on a pedestal to be admired and revered. As far as I can recall there was never any controversy associated with those actors, unlike the current actors of today. It seems as if more times than not actors are just as famous for their offscreen activities as they are for their acting roles. This however brings up an interesting thought: are current actors more out of control then the ones from years past? It would seem easy to say yes but upon more thought, I do not think there is much difference between the different eras except for the way we get our news presently. This comedy sheds some light on what the movie studios used to do for their actors.    EDDIE Mannix, played by Josh Brolin (Everest, Sicario), had one mission and that was to keep things running smoothly for the film studio. With the actors they had under contract it was a 24 hour a day job. This dramatic comedy written and directed by Ethan and Joel Coen (Fargo, True Grit), was set in the 1950s when movie studios was churning out movies like an assembly line. The cast which included George Clooney (The Ides of March, Gravity) as Baird Whitlock, Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Only Lovers Left Alive) as Thora Thacker/Thessaly Thacker and Channing Tatum (Magic Mike franchise, Foxcatcher) as Burt Gurney were all representative of past celebrities. For example Channing’s character was similar to a past star like Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire. With the variety of actors in this film, each had essentially their own story going on. Though things kept moving along I felt most scenes were only offering a brief glimpse of a story before it was time for the next actor’s turn. The movie came across as little skits pieced together. I found the story amusing but nothing that warranted any major investment. Don’t get me wrong, this picture was fun to watch; however, if one is not familiar with movies that came out from the old Hollywood era, they may not enjoy this film as much.

 

2 3/4 stars for fans of old movies       2 stars for fans unfamiliar with the Golden Age of Hollywood

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Jane Got a Gun

We would sit and observe the couples sitting near us. It was not on a consistent basis, but there were times where it amused us. Looking at a couple, all of us would try to figure out, just from what we observed, what kept the couple together or maybe not. There were couples that would sit across from each other and never utter a word of conversation; they would slowly eat their meal with little emotion crossing their faces. Other times two people would hold hands from across each other, chatting up a storm interspersed with laughter and surprise. I remember looking at some couples and wondering  what attracted each person to the other. Even among my friends there have been times where someone would bring there new significant other into the group and after a few meetings one of us would start to wonder what our friend saw in their girlfriend/boyfriend. I do not mean in a catty or gossipy way; but in a protective way. For example there was one friend I felt was being used by their new love interest, where I finally had to have a conversation with them to share my feelings. When they told me they were aware of being used and did not see the relationship going long term, I was cool with it then. We were all adults; sure we watched out for each other but we would never force our feelings onto another. We would respect each other’s decisions, though there were times it was challenging. I felt the same way about the main character in this dramatic western.    WHEN her husband Bill Hammond, played by Noah Emmerich (Super 8, The Truman Show), returned home shot and bleeding from a gang of thieves out to kill him; Jane Hammond, played by Natalie Portman (Thor franchise, Black Swan), had no choice but to contact her ex-lover Dan Frost, played by Joel Edgerton (Black Mass, The Gift), to come help her defend her husband and home. This action drama had some good things going for it. First there was Natalie and Joel along with Ewan McGregor (Star Wars franchise, The Impossible) as Colin McCann; they were real good in their roles. I enjoyed the idea of a strong female character leading the story. Sadly the issue with this western was the script; it was predictable enough where I could almost figure out everything going on. There was at least a cool twist in the story, but the scenes were not consistent. They did not have an easy flow to them as if there was a 2nd director doing several scenes. Too bad the film did not gel well together because I liked the old fashioned feeling to it with its fresh idea of a leading strong female character. Also the script certainly had an interesting take on what brings two people together. There were multiple scenes with blood and violence.

 

2 stars

 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Fifty Shades of Black

How often than not do you hear a child focusing and repeating a new word they heard somewhere. If it was not an appropriate word, parents used to scold and tell the child it was a “bad” word. What I noticed was the sterner the parents’ reprimand, the more the child would not let go of the word. At least that is what I used to see several years ago. I notice now parents try not to react or place a negative connotation on the word; they simply explain to their child that the word is not something that people say in public. I recall this one time while sitting on the train, across from me sat a mother with a child sitting in her lap. The child was taking great pleasure in repeating a slang word for flatulence over and over again. Though the mother was not reacting to her child’s vocalizations, the little boy was looking at everyone sitting around him. It appeared as if he was trying to get a reaction from anyone within earshot. I think part of the reason there were no reactions was the majority of people were plugged into their electronic devices, listening to music. This experience was fascinating because I was surprised for such a young age this little boy was trying to get a rise out of the audience around him, so to speak. Essentially the child was using shock value to get a reaction. It was the exact same method the writers were doing in this parody.    USING the best selling novel Fifty Shades of Grey as a blueprint this comedy was co-written by and starred Marlon Wayans (Scary Movie franchise, A Haunted House franchise) as Christian. The cast also included Kali Hawk (Couples Retreat, Get Him to the Greek) as Hannah, Fred Willard (American Wedding, Roseanne-TV) as Gary and Florence Henderson (The Brady Bunch-TV, Holy Man) as Mrs. Robinson. You could imagine with a cast like this, one would expect this comedy to be a real hoot. It was in fact one of the worst films I have seen recently. I just wanted to know if Florence knew what she was getting into when she agreed to her role. First let me talk about it being a parody. Maybe if it focused on the Fifty Shades story it would have helped instead of making fun of other celebrities and films. Secondly the humor was so dreadful and infantile; I did not find anything worthy of a laugh. It seemed as if Marlon was perfectly content to write a script that never went beyond the lowest and simplest form of cracking a joke. I understand the book was an adult read, so I get the idea this spoof would have its share of adult related themes. But c’mon how many times does one have to keep doing the same type of blue humor? I felt like I was stuck in a room with a bratty kid who just learned how to say the word “poop.”

 

1 star

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Son of Saul

The person asked me what movies I had seen the past weekend. I started going down the list of films and when I came to this movie they stopped me and asked, “How was it?” I made a few quick comments, not wanting to give too much away about the film. They looked at me and told me they believed it happened. I asked them what happened and they said the Holocaust. Their comment tripped up my brain momentarily; what did they mean they believed it happened, like there was any doubt? I did not respond to the comment because, to tell you the truth, I did not want to hear the answer. Were they a non-believer at some point or did their family and friends convince them the Holocaust never happened; I just did not want to get into a discussion about it with this person. However our brief conversation stayed with me for the day. I felt their comment could have come from a disrespectful, ignorant or hateful type of place. For someone to say the Holocaust never occurred would  be a slap in the face to all of those who had suffered and died. I sat throughout the day wondering if this person ever met someone who had a relative or friend perish in the concentration camps or who had their forearm tattoed with a number, showing those now they survived the camps. If this person had seen the movie I could then assume their comment was meant for what they had seen because it was so intimate and personal.    SAUL Auslander, played by relative newcomer Geza Rohrig, was forced to be part of a group of men who had to remove the dead bodies from the concentration camp’s gas chamber. When a boy was discovered still breathing among the dead, Saul morally could not ignore the boy’s breaths though it could get him killed. This Oscar nominated historic drama was utterly powerful on the movie screen. The director, by filming behind Saul’s head, turned this story into an intimate experience for the viewers. I felt as if I was part of Saul’s group, sharing all the horrors and terrors the men were experiencing at the time. This film festival winner may not be easy for some viewers who have not been exposed previously to Holocaust stories. I, myself, felt the director had taken this into consideration because most of the challenging scenes were set in the background just out of focus. This tactic allowed the viewer to remain with Saul and see exactly what was happening but maybe not at full force. One other thing I want to mention about the way this story was filmed. With such close shots there was a frenetic pace at times that added intensity to the scenes. It does not matter whether Saul was based on an actual individual because this film was just as real as the actual Holocaust. Hungarian and German was spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 1/2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Finest Hours

There was an old television game show that would have an “ordinary looking” contestant come out and the panel of celebrities had to guess what was the person’s job or hobby, I believe. This is a show I would have watched because I am attracted (not in a good way) to this type of scenario where people judge other people based solely on their looks. I never understood that line of thought because I never understood what a person’s looks had to do with anything except for sanitary or health reasons. This is why I enjoy watching a current reality singing show where the judges do not see the singer; they only get to hear them sing and base their decisions on the vocalists’ voices. This is one of the few reality type shows I would watch because it has eliminated that old cliche: don’t judge a book by its cover. As I just wrote that I am reminded about a friend who had a career that always surprised anyone when they found out what this person did for a living; they were a scientist at a large pharmaceutical company. Of course most people were shocked because the stereotypical image of a scientist was not part of my friend’s image. I used to get a chuckle out of this when I would see a perplexed look come over someone’s face as they tried to mesh their image of what a scientist “should” look like compared to my friend. The reason I am talking about all of this is because I enjoyed how the characters were perceived in this dramatic action film.    BASED on a true story Bernie Webber, played by Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, Z for Zachariah), believed in following rules; so when his commanding chief Daniel Cluff, played by Eric Bana (Munich, Closed Circuit), ordered him to take a crew out into a nor’easter storm to aid a ship in distress, Bernie followed his orders. Most of his fellow coast guard members did not think he would ever make it. What made this film stand out was the visual effects. Those of you with a fear of water may not be able to sit through this picture. Besides the special effects I have to say the story really grabbed me; it is an amazing true story. Out of the cast I thought Casey Affleck (Interstellar, Out of the Furnace) as Ray Sybert and Holliday Grainger (Cinderella, Jane Eyre) as Miriam stood out. Unfortunately the script was dull and I thought the direction was not strong enough for such a story. There were a couple of scenes that did not even ring true to me; they actually distracted from the story line as if they were just thrown in for dramatic effect. Too bad because what these members did in the coast guard was extraordinary; which goes to show you, you cannot judge a movie by its trailers.

 

2 1/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Kung Fu Panda 3

I was told there are beings who walk the planet robbing people of their energy; they are referred to as “Energy Vampires.” This is what I heard at a convention I attended some time ago. At first I did not quite understand what the presenter was talking about; but after a few examples were given and I later experienced it for myself, it made perfect sense. Let me see if I can explain it to you. Have you ever been at a party where one person dominates the conversations? They may be humorous, crack jokes or do some physical antics to provoke a response from people; however, the underlying current to all of their manipulations is to be the center of attention. This explained why I had such an uncomfortable time being around my friend’s boyfriend. Anytime we would get together he would dominate the conversations; no matter the topic he would bring it back to talk about himself. You may have experienced something similar, where the person throws out a question to you but they really are not interested in your answer. They just want to use the query to talk about themselves. If we played cards or a board game he was merciless; he had to always win. It was exhausting, I always felt tired after being around him. I did not realize it at the time but this guy was sucking the energy out of me and frankly out of the entire room. It came to the point where I had to limit my time around my friend and curtail the times we would play games. Luckily I had the option available to not be around them; but sometimes there is not an option and one has to face up to the challenge.    WHEN the evil Kai, voiced by J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Juno), began eliminating the kung fu masters from across the land Po, voiced by Jack Black (Goosebumps, Bernie), could not walk away. He would have to confront the evil force and need help to do it. This animated action film had wonderful sharp animation. Visually I was impressed with the look of this adventure picture. With Bryan Cranston (Argo, Trumbo) as Li, Angelina Jolie (Malefiecent, Salt) as Tigress and Dustin Hoffman (Meet the Fockers franchise, Wag the Dog) as Shifu; the story was well thought out and made this sequel quite enjoyable to view. The humor was age appropriate and the writers took care not to make the subject matter too dark for younger viewers. Though I have seen the previous 2 films I do not think it is necessary to see them before seeing this movie. As a matter of fact I liked this one the best out of the three. The audience from what I could tell was into this film, both adults and children. This film was a good reminder that one cannot always run away.

 

3 stars 

 

 

 

 

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