Flash Movie Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

Once two people have a shared history of intimacy together, it will always reappear when one is in the presence of the other. They may have not seen each other in a long time; but as soon as they meet, that oasis of intimate vulnerability floats up from the recesses of their minds to create terra firma. A gentle puff of breath slipping across an ear can remind one how they were being held as they dove into a luxurious sleep. The scent of their hair can bring back the vision of a wide open vista of sun stained cliffs cascading into a deep canyon as both sat close, taking in the majesty of the moment. So knowledgeable of each other’s ways, the two created a world unto themselves that is separate from the reality around then. Two individuals who had this connection in this dramatic romantic film were Eve and Adam, played by Tilda Swinton (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Adaptation) and Tom Hiddleston (War Horse, Thor franchise). Aware of Adam’s despondent reclusiveness, Eve traveled from her home in Tangier, Morocco to be with him in Detroit, MIchigan. With the world around them in decline they had their own little safe haven until Eve’s sister Ava, played by Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre, The Kids are all Right), showed up at their front door. This film festival nominated movie grew on me like Spanish moss on a thick humid day. Tilda and Tom were so deliciously good together as the centuries old vampires. The whole cast was strong but I could not take my eyes off the two of them. They were able to convey a feeling, an emotion simply by the turn of the head or the gaze of their eyes. The script was smart and hip with quick spurts of fresh humor. Since some of the characters were vampires, the whole picture had a certain darkness to it; but, there was a subtle lightness that made for deep languishing scenes. I really enjoyed the way the director’s or maybe it was cinematographer’s penetrating use of light sources played with the blackness. Though this film was listed as horror, there was nothing I would consider scary in the traditional sense. If you are squeamish at the sight of blood, no matter the vessel it may be in, then yes there were scenes that had blood. However, I can only think of one scene that might be considered gory. Despite a bit of uneven pacing, by the end of the movie I felt I had visited an old couple who knew each other so well, they did not have to ask how the other one felt, they just knew. Brief scenes of blood were shown.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Heaven is for Real

Before I write this review I want to say it is not my intention to offend or ridicule anyone’s beliefs or religion. I follow the advice given to me by my very first employer; never discuss politics or religion in mixed company. With that being said, I have noticed the older people get the more comfort they find with the idea there is a heaven. Most people like to know where they are going in life so it makes sense they would want to know in death. I have heard a variety of interpretations from several people on what heaven means to them. For me heaven would be a place where there are no calories in food. Being able to eat something without thinking how it will affect me sounds like total bliss. I have attended funerals where someone commenting on the deceased will say they are now with the person’s significant other or family members and I can see this is meant to comfort the living. Since heaven is not some tangible item that one can hold or visit on vacation, it is open to anyone’s interpretation. Four year old Colton Burpo, played by newcomer Conner Corum, had a very distinct and vivid recollection of heaven in this dramatic movie based on a true story. Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine, Thin Ice) played Colton’s dad Todd. After a near-death experience Colton began speaking of heaven as if he had visited it during the time of his surgery. His father who was a preacher began to question his own beliefs as people in their small town began reacting to the news. The movie studio scored big time by choosing Connor to play Colton in this film version based on the best selling book of the same title. Connor was so good that I started to believe he was Colton. Greg Kinnear and Margo Martindale (The Hours, August: Osage County) as Nancy Rawling were way above the rest of the cast in regards to acting skills. The direction was okay but I felt there were passages that slowed down as the story at times verged on becoming preachy. I hope what I say next does not make me appear to be stereotyping people, but the movie audience I was sitting with seemed almost reverent. Everyone and I do mean everyone sat quietly in their seats. There were no sounds from people munching on food or commenting to each other. At the end of the movie a good portion of the viewers applauded. I think this will be of those movies that will draw in a specific crowd. Heaven knows if viewers will find this film entertaining.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Transcendence

I would not say it is an irrational fear; it is more of a mistrust I have of computers. Sure when they do what they are supposed to do they can be wonderful; but, when they do not function properly, they can be a nightmare. I do not understand how a computer can follow the same procedure ever day then all of a sudden one day it cannot perform it. This drives me crazy. I used to work at a company where the corporate offices did very little of their daily requirements on a computer. The owner never wanted to see the departments’ routines come to a standstill due to a power outage or computer virus. I could understand the reasoning behind such actions because I have worked at companies where their entire operations were done by computers. It made things easier in some ways but when the computers would go down, the entire company would come to a complete stop. Do not get me wrong, computers certainly have enhanced our lives; but at what cost? This dramatic mystery movie delved into the possibilities of what the computer could do to elevate the life of mankind. Johnny Depp (The Lone Ranger, The Tourist) played Will Caster, one of the most respected researchers in the field of artificial intelligence. With his wife Evelyn and fellow researcher Max Waters, played by Rebecca Hall (Closed Circuit, The Prestige) and Paul Bettany (Margin Call, Inkheart), working alongside him; Will was working to create a machine that would have self-awareness. There would be no limits to the advancements that would benefit mankind…or would there be? This science fiction movie had a sharp, cool look to it. I liked the premiss of the story and felt it was relevant since we now have operating systems that verbally communicate with us. The cast which also included Morgan Freeman (Last Vegas, Million Dollar Baby) as Joseph Tagger and Kate Mara (Transsiberian, The Open Road) as Bree were solid but the script did not allow them to excel at their craft. Johnny Depp was actually the weak one out of the group. There were some parts, like Bree’s scenes with members of her gang, that did not make much sense due to the lack of back story. I thought the director’s pacing in this film was quite poor; I sat through passages where I was just bored. One could say this film created by humans was ironic since it had the emotions of a computer.

 

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Ernest & Celestine

When I arrived at the city in the new state I was visiting, I drove my rental car to the eastern part of town. There spanning the length of a city block was a mural painted on a brick wall, depicting the struggles immigrants had who settled in the area. After spending some time examining the fine detailed work I noticed a community center across the street. I walked over to it to see if I could use their restroom before driving off to another part of town. Once inside I saw a tired looking woman sitting behind a long formica counter. Hearing my footsteps, the woman slowly raised her face up until her eyes made contact with mine. With a look of shock creeping on her face she asked me what I was doing there. I explained how I stopped to see the mural across the street. When I asked if I could use the restroom she muttered something in a low voice, then told me to use the private restroom behind her, not the one down the hallway. It seemed odd but I did as she told me. At the end of the day back at my hotel, I asked the front desk clerk if they had ever seen the mural across town. A stunned look came across her face as she asked if I had gone and seen it yet. When I said yes, she nearly hissed at me that I should have never gone, it was a bad area; no one in their right mind would be caught there. When I asked her how I would have known she told me it was easy, just look at what was walking around there. I was sensing she might be prejudiced so I decided to drop it and go to my room. I was reminded of this incident while watching this exquisite, Oscar nominated film. The message in this movie was told in such a delicate and lovely way; I was totally engrossed with the story. Raised to fear the other, rodents lived underground away from the bears who resided above. Rules were in place to keep each away from the other until young Celestine, voiced by newcomer Pauline Brunner, accidentally met street musician Ernest, voiced by Lambert Wilson (Of Gods and Men, Sahara). Their friendship would go against everything in place that kept the two groups apart. This Cannes Film Festival winning movie was enchanting with its uncluttered and simple artwork that magically told a beautiful story. I saw the original version of this dramatic comedy in French with English subtitles, though I found out later there was an English version. Without preaching or browbeating the audience, this film had a wonderful message that bears repeating.

 

3 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Under the Skin

The words coming out of his mouth never quite settled down in my head. I understood each word, but strung together they were like sheets flapping in the wind. All the individuals in my tour group sat attentively with their heads moving from side to side, as if they were watching a tennis match. We were in a museum and our tour guide was giving a lecture about the large, abstract art piece that was squatting in front of us. The people around me kept looking back and forth between the guide and the art piece, as if they were witnessing the creation of a new species. I sat there perplexed because I was evidently not seeing the things that everyone else were focusing on when gazing at this large, colorful mass of steel and paper. To me the object looked like a massive teepee that was starting to lift up its skirt as a front porch wrapped partially around it, with odd shaped geometrical flags sticking out that had been starched to stiffness. I guess I am not an art connoisseur like the others because I was not getting the whole thing. Everyone reacts to art in different ways; I understood it having grown up in an artistic family. But as I looked around it appeared I was the odd man out. Gratefully that was not the case with this science fiction thriller. From director Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Birth) the visual aspects of this film festival nominated drama was both curious and enticing. It was this component of the movie that kept my interest. Some of the scenes were fascinating due to the camera angles and the effects. Filmed in Scotland, Scarlett Johansson (Hitchcock, We Bought a Zoo) played an alien who preyed on lone single men. There was very little dialog and I gave Scarlett credit in her ability to convey the emotions of her character. I am willing to bet there will be people who sit through this unusual movie and afterwards spend hours debating the symbolism they felt was there. I, on the other hand, do not want to work that hard when I go see a film. So I must tell you I had no idea what the movie was about and when I typed the word “gratefully” earlier it was because the viewers around me said the same thing at the end of the picture. I could come up with things I assumed but they would only be my take on the film and everyone will have their own opinion; so what is the point?

 

2 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Cuban Fury

During the first week of school each of the students were given a list of extracurricular activities they could join. There was the football and baseball teams among other sports activities. Though one of my aunts felt I should try out for football because I was heavy, I had little interest in it. The first group I considered was band since I could play the piano; but I never saw a piano out on the football field. The only choice was a xylophone strapped to my frame. I nixed that idea, imagining I would have looked like a carnival clown walking across the field. It was a good thing I did not sign up because during the school year I noticed students in band seemed to get picked on more frequently than other kids. I joined the school’s newspaper and yearbook staffs. During that first year I discovered there was a pecking order based on what group or team a student was in. No one from the major sports teams was ever bullied. When it came to band or to the chess group, there was a good chance they would get their books knocked out of their hands or be shoved out of the way while walking down the hallway. Can you imagine a kid who stops participating in something because they would be picked on for it. Think about Andy Warhol or Steven Spielberg as kids, getting picked on for what they were passionate about and deciding they would never paint or make a movie again. It would be so sad for them and a loss for us. See what happens to poor Bruce Garrett, played by Nick Frost (The World’s End, Paul), when his love for salsa dancing was literally beaten out of him in this comedy film. On the way to the junior championships contest, young Bruce was attacked by a group of boys. Never making it to the event, Bruce vowed he would never dance again. Fast forward 30 years to see how that decision changed his life. Nick did a beautiful job as the lovable unmotivated Bruce. Chris O’Dowd (The Sapphires, Bridesmaids) as his co-worker Drew and Rashida Jones (The Social Network, Celeste & Jesse Forever) as their American boss Julia were just as good with their characters. I found parts of the film funny even while there was a sad undertone that filtered through the predictable story. The script seemed so smart with the dialog but the scenarios were at times boring to me. I believe it was due to several unsurprising and inconceivable actions. Based on an idea from Nick, I hope he does not get discouraged by the reviews coming out for this movie.

 

2 1/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Draft Day

It is important to hear encouragement but how much of it is heard depends on the person. I have seen people on those reality shows where their family and friends have told them they can sing or dance and it is obvious they do not have talent. They believe every compliment they are receiving, even if it is only being given out of kindness. I personally do not think it is fair to mislead a person unless the whole family or friends do not realize they are all tone deaf or lack rhythm. Being a defensive pessimist on top of being my own worst critic, I am in a different category. Any compliment I receive I tend to discount. Though appreciative of encouraging words, they actually are the fuel that drives me harder to do better. All these years I thought it was a stubborn streak that kept me pounding away to succeed at the task at hand. I have come to realize there is a voice inside of me that has high standards, pushing me to prove wrong the other voice in my brain that tells me I am a failure. The same can be said for those people who told me I could not do something; it only made me fight harder to prove them wrong. The first thing I heard inside of me when my first short story was published was that 7th grade teacher who told me I would never be a writer. It all comes down to believing in yourself and that inner drive was something I admired in general manager Sonny Weaver, played by Kevin Costner (3 Days to Kill, Mr. Brooks) in this sports drama. Hoping to rebuild the Cleveland Browns football team, Sonny would butt heads against strong opposition for his NFL Draft pick from Coach Penn and team owner Anthony Molina, played by Denis Leary (Sand, Rescue Me-TV) and Frank Langella (Robot & Frank, The Ninth Gate). Even with his mother Barb, played by Ellen Burstyn (Another Happy Day, The Fountain), questioning his moves Sonny was determined to do what he thought was right. I found the NFL Draft story exciting and thought Kevin was believable in his role. The part that did not ring true was the story involving Jennifer Garner (Dallas Buyers Club, Elektra) as Ali. There was little chemistry between her and Kevin’s character and I just found it phony and unnecessary. If the writers would have stayed with the football story, including the back stories for the hopeful picks, this movie would have been better in my opinion. Keep in mind I am not a fan of team sports but I enjoyed all of the drama and tension revolving around the team franchise. Whether Sonny made the right choice or not did not matter to me; his drive and conviction was what I admired in him the most.

 

2 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Rio 2

Walking into a room filled with strangers does not create anxiety for some people. It could be a business convention, workshop, classroom or a family event and it would not be a problem for a person. Years of teaching class has helped me overcome my instinctive fear of being thrown into a situation with a bunch of strangers. If there is no connection between me and the other people other than we are all in the same line of work, than I am comfortable. However, when I have gone as someone’s guest my first instinct is to hold back and be an observer. I am sure many of us have been in a situation where we were meeting our significant other’s family and though we were told they would not be judging us, deep inside we knew they would be. Sure you want to be on your best behavior and make a good impression, but the pressure can get to you. I cannot tell you how many times I have been in this type of situation, where I not only was careful with my verbiage, but was starving for fear someone would catch me with a piece of food dripping off my facial hair or stuck between my teeth before I could clean it up. There was no way I could not sympathize for Blu, voiced by Jesse Eisenberg (Now You See Me, 30 Minutes or Less), in this animated adventure sequel. Discovering they may not be the last of their kind; Blu and his wife Jewel, voiced by Anne Hathaway (Love & Other Drugs, Bride Wars), left the comfort of Rio de Janeiro and headed out to the deepest parts of the Amazon jungle in hopes of finding blue feathered friends. It would turn into an adventure that would bring a whole new meaning to the word family for Blu, Jewel and their kids. This sequel stayed pretty true to the original one. It would help to see the first one, but one could easily watch and follow this film without seeing the original movie. This comedy adventure’s main attraction was the big dance and song numbers. Each one was fun to watch and provided a huge palette of colorful figures crossing the screen. Musical artist Bruno Mars (Honeymoon in Vegas) had the perfect role playing Roberto, including a big solo performance. The story was the weak link, taking parts of the movie “Meet the Parents” as one of its story lines. I do not think children would care since there was a steady stream of jokes and comical characters. All of the cast from the first film were here including Nigel, voiced by Jemaine Clement (Dinner with Schmucks, Predicament), along with some new characters such as Andy Garcia (Rob the Mob, At Middleton) as Eduardo. This was an enjoyable fun film that did not stray from its winning formula established with the previous one. I believe everyone would feel comfortable being a guest at the showing of this enjoyable movie.

 

2 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Jinn

You see the two of them walking towards you hand in hand. They look almost identical except one looks fresh, the other one looks worn. Now I am not talking about a couple who have been together for years and are dressing the same. I am referring to a parent and their child. How many times have we seen children growing into similar features shared with their parents. These outside traits come about through a combination of the parents’ genes. I know my lost hair is because of my mother’s father; the trait of baldness gets carried down through one’s mother. My fascination gets stimulated more by the internal similarities between parents and their offspring. When a child’s taste in foods mimics a mother or father, I can assume one of the adults influenced them. But what about a son or daughter who grows up and goes into the same profession as their parent? I was introduced to a man who was able to trace his family’s history all the way back to the times of the Spanish Inquisition; we are talking about the late 1400s. He explained each generation in his family produced at least 2 scholars who kept detailed records. They even passed down several sentimental items to the younger family members, continuing it from generation to generation. A similar family history was the basis for this fantasy thriller. Dominic Rains (The Taqwacores, Flight 93-TV movie) and Serinda Swan (Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief), Recoil) played husband and wife Shawn and Jasmine. The quiet idyllic life they were living suddenly began experiencing unexplained events that were soon taking on an ominous undertone. Looking for answers Shawn found two men willing to help him, Father Westhoff and Gabriel, played by William Atherton (Die Hard franchise, Ghostbusters) and Ray Park (G.I. Joe franchise, X-Men). What they had to say was hard to understand. The trailer for this film had a mythical spookiness that intrigued me. It only took me a short while to realize this movie was going to be real bad. Wait let me change the end of that last sentence to say pathetically awful. I will start with the production values; they were horrendous with hokey special effects. If you were to watch a special effects filled film from the 1950s you probably would have the same reaction I had watching the cheap stunts in this movie. The poorly written script was made even worse by the sophomoric acting. This may be harsh to say but if the studio is considering a sequel I hope the family in this picture stops procreating.

 

1 1/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Fireflies in the Garden

Words can provide us things like comfort, excitement, hope and tenderness. In written form we absorb the word’s meaning, allowing it to color a thought or infuse intensity into our feelings. We hear words and the sender’s inflection assists in molding the words to our heart and mind. As adults we have the skills to be resilient when words get lobbed over with the intent to hurt us. I knew this person who always tried to establish himself as the smarter person in every one of his conversations. Personally I felt he was extremely book smart but had little common sense. His favorite thing to do when having a discussion with anybody was to answer their talking points with “And your point is?” I always found it offensive. Now notice if he would have said, “I do not understand what you mean,” it would have taken on a kinder, respectful approach. There were individuals who would not let his comments bother them, they had a solid confidence that was honed by years of experience. However, a child may not be capable because their identity has not been fully formed. There are people who have skewed expectations when it comes to children and you will see an ugly example in this dramatic movie. Ryan Reynolds (Smokin’ Aces, The Proposal) played successful author Michael Taylor . An upcoming family celebration was forcing Michael to go home and visit his parents Lisa and Charles Taylor, played by Julia Roberts (Notting Hill, Closer) and Willem Dafoe (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Hunter). Though Michael was looking forward to seeing his mother, he would prefer avoiding his father who always seemed to be disappointed in him. This movie had 2 sides of the story that flipped back and forth. The side I found better was the one with Michael as a child. I wished the writers would have made the whole movie about this time period. The part that dealt with the adult Michael was okay but I felt a stark difference between the two. Granted the cast was excellent, including Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves, The Book Thief) as Jane Lawrence, but their portion of the script was weak compared to their formidable acting skills. Overall I remained interested in the entire story and noticed I was getting a fearful reaction from Willem Dafoe’s character. It really is something when I can sit here today and still remember all those words that scarred me as a young boy.

 

2 1/4 stars — DVD

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