Flash Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

This review comes with a disclaimer; I may have been influenced due to events that were out of my control. The evening had started out ideally for me since this movie was starting right after work. Luckily there wasn’t a big crowd buying tickets for this showing so my favorite seat was still available. I nestled into my seat before the start of 16 minutes worth of previews. We were 50 minutes into the movie before the screen suddenly went dark, followed by the light fixtures that were perched on the walls between the speakers. I looked up towards the projection booth that was steeped in darkness. Not sure what was happening I stayed in my seat like everyone else in the theater. It was no more than one to two minutes before the entire theater turned pitch black as all the remaining lights, including the running floor ones, lost power. Before anyone had time to take out their cell phone to use as a flashlight, several piercing bright strobe lights started flashing around the theater and a recorded voice announced there was an incident in the theater. The recording told us to walk not run in an orderly fashion to the nearest exit and leave the building immediately. My first reaction was annoyance that this was interrupting my movie watching experience. But as I noticed several patrons running to the exits, I was hit with a new reality. Since the exit to the main hallway was closest to me I made my way to it and slowly stuck my head out. There were people coming out of the multiple theaters, heading towards the main lobby. The building had lost power. We were ushered out the main doors where we stood for 20-25 minutes until power was restored and then allowed back in to finish watching our films.    WITH the districts forming alliances Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle, X-Men franchise), had to convince them to direct their energy towards the capital and President Snow, played by Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job, An American Haunting). For the final installment to this science fiction adventure it was fortunate that Jennifer was the lead. Her acting along with Josh Hutcherson (Red Dawn, The Kids Are All Right) as Peeta Mellark kept me interested through the long script. I think it would have been better if the movie studio had not decided to split the last book into 2 films because I felt this one had a lot of filler in it. The 2nd half of this adventure picture was more exciting to me, though I enjoyed the mixture of emotions Peeta and Katniss were displaying in their roles. The movie as a whole was bleak where it felt as if it was going through a checklist of things to include in the story without going into much depth. Maybe due to my disruption, but this finale did not go out with a bang.


2 3/4 stars




Flash Movie Review: Spotlight

He would be the perfect candidate for a television game show, where the contestants guess the person’s occupation. The reason being no one would guess what he did for a living. With a physical shape more akin to a fireplug; he smoked cigarettes, drank and had a Napoleon complex. In other words, he was aggressive to compensate for his short stature. I was never comfortable around him; he would simply bark orders at everyone, barely hiding his mean streak that simmered just below the surface. Do you want to take a guess at his job title? He was a gym teacher; I hesitate to use the words physical education because he did not know much about health or the human body. There were classes where he would just throw a bunch of basketballs out into the gymnasium and tell us to shoot baskets. I think he only did this so he could sit in his office that had two windows covered with metal grates. If any students knew what he was doing in there they never shared their information. I never understood how this man kept his job. He would throw basketballs at our heads or body; in fact I know I must have mentioned this before, but he put one student up against the wall and kept throwing balls at his head while a majority of the students in the bleachers sat and laughed. How could a school system keep such a person in a position of authority who acted like this, like a bully.    INVESTIGATIVE reporters from the Boston Globe discovered a pattern of abuse taking place in their city, but no one seemed to be aware of it; or were they just not saying anything? This film festival winning drama was based on a true story. The actors assembled were all so equally terrific that I could not say one of them was the main star. There was Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me, The Avengers franchise) as Mike Rezendes, Rachel McAdams (The Vow, Midnight in Paris) as Sacha Pfeiffer, Michael Keaton (Batman franchise, White Noise) as Walter “Robby” Robinson and Liev Schreiber (Defiance, Pawn Sacrifice) as Marty Baron. The script being crisply clean without any manipulations played out as a dramatic, suspenseful thriller. There was never a dull moment; every scene mattered and offered a piece to the puzzle the reporters were trying  to put together. I do want to say I was impressed with Michael Keaton’s performance because this role was such a contrast to his role in Birdman, yet he was equally as prominent. Everything worked in this biographical film from the direction to the acting to the action. Too bad it had this true story available to be turned into a movie; but I am glad they made it because not only is it a major topic, this movie version will be a major player during the award ceremonies.


4 stars




Flash Movie Review: The 33

In a way you can call it a controlled scare. When one goes to see a horror film it is a given that they could get scared but nothing will happen to them. I enjoy going to see a suspenseful horror film if it is done well. The type that puts the viewers on the edge of their seat, holding their breath, waiting to see what will happen next. Just as I believe we should choose food from every color group, I feel the same way about experiencing all emotions. I believe it is healthy for the body to feel happiness just as well as sadness; it provides definition in living one’s life. Another thing, I find reality to be scarier than anything in a movie. There was a film I recently reviewed about Mt. Everest; it was thrilling and scary to see what the climbers endured because there is no way you would find me anywhere near the place. Instead I get to live it vicariously through film. These true scary stories we hear about, that actually happened to someone, can make for a powerful film watching experience. This is why I particularly look forward to seeing movies that were based on true events. Some of them have historical value while others can tell the story about the obstacles one individual had to overcome in their life. I appreciate all of them and that is why I could not wait to see this biographical drama.    THIRTY-THREE miners made their way down the only path into the mine that most of them have taken many times before. Except this time their path was changing to a one way road. This film festival winning movie had a story familiar to me; I had seen and read about it on the news. Based on true events the large cast involved in this story included Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In, The Big Bang) as Mario Sepulveda, Juliette Binoche (Godzilla, Clouds of Sils Maria) as Maria Segovia and Lou Diamond Phillips (Young Guns, Courage Under Fire) as Don Lucho. I did not mind the acting however what they had to say was pretty corny. The script was riddled with this rah, rah courage that did not seem real to me. It was a shame because the story was truly unbelievable. I assume everyone must know about it but just in case I will refrain from divulging much about the story. To think the actors were portraying actual people who lived this experience, it really was a miracle. I found the special effects effective because they looked so believable to me. Part of the issue with this picture may have to do with the writers having to include so many characters; I never got a true sense of what each of the individuals was experiencing through this event. Seeing pictures of the actual miners at the end of the movie really drove home how lucky and amazing they were to be alive to see their story now made into a film.


2 stars




Flash Movie Review: Brooklyn

At some point in time you come to the realization that you want to spend the rest of your life with that person. Was it after you went through your checklist of pluses and minuses, it fit into your time frame or it fulfills a desire? It is interesting, I recently read a survey that listed the top deal breakers in a relationship. The top four reasons were disheveled/unclean appearance, lazy, too needy or lack of humor. Any one of these would be what I call one of my red flags; I tend to pay close attention to the cleanliness of someone’s teeth and fingernails. The way I tend to define whether a relationship has potential or not to be long term is to look at the things that bother or annoy me. I just ask myself if this is something I can live with and if it is then I remain engaged in the relationship. Here is an example: being a credit manager, I do not know if I could be with someone who was not financially conscientious. If they had little regard to paying their bills or bouncing checks, I think over time it would build up and bother me too much. Since love is an all encompassing thing, one cannot choose the parts they like and discard the rest. So I understand where the act of committing may take time. The only time I can see where this will turn into a problem is when the person is making a commitment based only on the positive attributes of a loved one.    MOVING from Ireland to America was the hardest thing Eilis, played by Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones, Hanna), ever had to do in her young life. That was until she settled in Brooklyn, New York where she met Tony, played by Emory Cohen (The Place Beyond the Pines, Beneath the Harvest Sky). This film festival winning drama was a perfect throwback to those old fashioned dialog driven movies Hollywood use to make. The romantic story was exquisite in the way it simply laid out the story of a young Irish immigrant finding her own in a foreign country, besides her journey growing into a mature woman. I thought the acting was outstanding from the main characters and supporting ones such as Julie Walters (Driving Lessons, Harry Potter franchise) as Mrs. Kehoe and Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina, Unbroken) as Jim Farrell. The scenery and costumes especially stood out for me in this 1950s period piece. Another aspect I particularly admired was the strength of the main character. I think many of us are used to having some type of trauma move the story and it really was not the case in this film. If I were to go through my checklist of things that create an Oscar worthy film, this one would certainly fit the bill.


3 2/3 stars




Flash Movie Review: Love the Coopers

It was known as the fancy tablecloth but in actuality it was no different from any other one. The only difference was it only came out once a year for the holiday. The house would be filled all day with the warm smells of favorite foods being prepared in the kitchen. This was the only time where that cherry red gelatinous ring would make an appearance. It was created in a metal mold that had flowers etched in the bottom. Inside of it were pieces of various fruits that looked like they were captured and put into suspended animation. I have to tell you it was the weirdest looking thing on the dining room table. In spite of it this was my favorite holiday as we all came together to celebrate and eat. I do not think it started out as a tradition but people sort of fell into a set routine where each person would do the same thing every year. For example, the same person always brought this dessert made from an old family recipe that had to be doubled and tripled in size over time because everyone would fight over it. Another person would always make and bring sweet and sour meatballs that had a secret ingredient of grape jelly. All of these things fell into a tradition and became part of the holiday and part of our celebration. I of course being the most comfortable with routines appreciated that these things turned into our yearly tradition. Fortunately or unfortunately as the yearly guests became part of a couple they would bring new people into our traditions. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not.    CHARLOTTE and Sam, played by Diane Keaton (The Godfather franchise, Annie Hall) and John Goodman (The Gambler, The Big Lebowski), wanted the family to all come together one last time for the holidays. Like any family, some would be coming with extra baggage. This comedy had an impressive cast of actors. Besides Diane and John there was Marisa Tomei (Spare Parts, The Lincoln Lawyer) as Emma and Ed Helms (We’re the Millers, The Hangover franchise) as Hank. With the few dramatic scenes in the movie the actors were easily able to pull them off. Sadly I would rather have had more such scenes because the majority of the story was so basic and idiotic I was bored to tears. I was stunned that these actors agreed to do something that was so poorly written. Diane’s role seemed identical to some of her recent previous ones; there was no difference between them. Not only did I not find anything funny, the entire audience around me must have felt the same since there was dead silence through the film. I only hope the studio does not want to start a tradition by doing a sequel. There was an extra scene during the credits.


1 3/4 stars




Flash Movie Review: I Smile Back

The outer layer is as fragile as a newborn eggshell. It takes a majority of energy just to maintain its shape. And similar to an Easter egg, one can put anything they want on the surface. The reason why it takes so much effort to keep things together is because just below the surface there is turmoil. Down there lives pain, bellowing and crying at all hours of the day. Sometimes it finds a way out and it obliterates the facade up on top. Only the utmost amount of force can pull back the outpouring of suffering and agony. Some time ago I went through a horrible traumatic event where I did not know if I could pull myself up and out of the house. Most of the life in my heart had been extinguished, yet I had to continue to make a living and teach my classes. Going through the day it took everything I had to focus on my work, pretend I was interested in what people were saying to me. The worst time was at night when I was teaching classes. In that environment I was the upbeat fun person. Ready with a joke or positive reinforcement, I had to be there for each member in my class. On the inside my body was crying out in pain; I just wanted someone to hold me and extinguish all my agony. Over time I may not have conquered all of the misery inside but I was able to manage it. I got through without permanent damage; I know I was and am one of the lucky ones.    Laney Brooks, played by Sarah Silverman (School of Rock, There’s Something ABout Mary), was married to the successful author Bruce Brooks, played by Josh Charles (Freeheld, Four Brothers), and had a beautiful family. She had everything but something inside wanted something more. This film festival winning drama was the first time I saw Sarah doing a heavy serious role. I have to tell you I was pleasantly surprised at her ability to carry off the role. She went beyond anything I imagined she was capable of doing in this type of genre. In fact, she was the standout by far though I was also impressed with Skylar Gaertner (Sleeping with Other People, They Came Together) as Eli Brooks. Sadly the script could not hold up with her performance. I found the dark story average and easily able to figure out. In addition there were a couple of times where I thought the story veered off then realized it needed to get back on track. Within the script there were times I felt some things were put in strictly for shock value; though I will say, when it involved Sarah’s character she was the closest to making it believable. If nothing else I did feel Sarah gave an honest portrayal.


2 1/4 stars




Flash Movie Review: Heneral Luna

It can be frustrating when you know something is right but someone else does not believe you. We were driving on a stretch of road that was quite familiar to me, since it was part of my daily commute to work. I knew it so well that I could tell you where every pothole was on the road. For those of you not familiar with potholes, think of them as piranha that are swimming through the pavement, hungry for your car’s tires. So I told my friend who was driving to be careful as we were coming up to a treacherous part of the road. They insisted they knew what they were doing and told me I did not need to worry. I tried again, explaining how I took this road every day and knew where to avoid the potholes. By now you probably know what happened; they drove into a pothole that blew out one of the car’s front tires. Part of me wanted to say, “I told you so;” however, I kept quiet as they were cussing the entire time it took them to take off the flat tire and put on the spare one. There was a time where I would put up a better fight to prove I was right about something; but over time, I seem to either not have or choose not to spend so much energy to change someone’s mind, who doesn’t want to listen or consider what I have to say. Don’t you find this type of thing frustrating? Gratefully this occurrence did not turn out to be a life or death situation, unlike what was taking place in this historical movie.    AFTER years of Spanish rule Filipino General Antonio Luna, played by John Arcilla (Metro Manila, Compound), did not feel any better about the United States taking control of the Philippines. Based on a true event this action film had the elements to make it a blockbuster type of picture. With Arron Villaflor (Maalaala Mo Kaya-TV, Paraiso-TV) as Joven Hernando and Mon Confiado (Faces of Love, Manila Skies) as Emilio Aguinaldo; there were bloody battle scenes, dramatic flair and intense emotional scenes. However, I found many scenes to be over the top; in other words, they were either overdramatic or excessive on the violence. I can appreciate the significance of the story since it took place during an important time in Philippines’ history; but I thought the execution of the story came across more like a soap opera. One possibility could have been the language barrier for me; I did not find much range in the actor’s acting skills. The funny thing about it though, I found the basic story line to be easily relatable to current times. Coming strictly as a movie reviewer I was frustrated that this picture did not do a better job in telling its story. Violent and bloody scenes were shown; Filipino, Tagalog, Spanish was spoken with English subtitles.


2 stars




Flash Movie Review: Miss You Already

There are various apps and computer programs that can show us an older or younger version of ourselves. In fact I read somehwere optical stores use a program that shows the customer how they will look wearing the frames they picked out before they order new glasses, which I think is a brilliant idea. I know I do not need a program to remind me how I looked when I was younger; I have childhood friends who remind me. Funny thing though I can do the same thing to them. Depending on what they may be wearing or the situation, I can look at them and see them when they had a full head of hair or when they were taller with a straighter posture. Having spent most of our lives together we may not have noticed the aging process compared to someone who has not seen any of us in let us say a decade or longer. I truly feel fortunate that there are people around me who know me sometimes better than I know myself. They are like road markers on my life’s journey, who can confirm or remind me of the changes that have taken place in me. Looking at the younger generation in each of our families, we can spot the seeds of lifelong friendships forming between relatives and friends. Some of the qualities that are associated to a strong bond between friends can be sensitivity, empathy, non-judgemental and concern. I can say anything to any of my close friends and know I will not be judged or ridiculed. Those challenges or what some people say curveballs that life throws you do not seem so insurmountable when there is a childhood friend standing by your side.    LIFELONG friends Jess and Milly, played by Drew Barrymore (Whip It, Music and Lyrics) and Toni Collette (The Way Way Back, Little Miss Sunshine), have been there for each other no matter what was going on in each of their lives. Their relationship was about to be challenged when two events started to take place from opposite sides of the spectrum. This comedic drama was fortunate in the casting of Toni and Drew as best friends because they were totally believable in their roles. Even the supporting cast of Dominic Cooper (Need for Speed, The Devil’s Double) as Kit and Paddy Considine (In America, Cinderella Man) as Jago was exceptional. I appreciated the honesty in the script; some events were handled in a way that made them easily relatable for the viewers. There were parts where I felt the writers dropped the ball to just manipulate us, however. I almost want to say to force us to tear up; but the acting smoothed some of that out. There have been a couple of recent films that had a similar story line that was better done; however, the acting here was the sweet spot of this romantic emotional story. It would not be a surprise if after seeing this film you felt like you were part of the women’s friendship.


2 1/2 stars




Flash Movie Review: The Peanuts Movie

Just as the rhythm section returns after the bridge in a song, so do the beats between long term friends whenever they get together. Preludes and introductions to events are never necessary because the bond between such friends has been seasoned and aged to perfection. Because I grew up with music and use it in my fitness classes, I am attuned to listening for the rhythm in almost any sound; so conversation to me has its own unique rhythms. Being with long term friends feels like a symphony because we are so comfortable in sync with each other, we can flow right into each other’s lives. The beauty of this is it does not matter how different we are from each other. When a group of us gets together one may be laid back, another high strung and someone else could be a bit scattered; no one cares since we have been part of each other’s life for so long. I have a close friend who lives out of state. We may not talk for months but when we finally do we fall right into step with each other as we share stories. Hopefully they are not reading this but I know they can be bitter or pessimistic but it is who they are and I would not change them for anything. The memories we have together are plentiful and they seem to soften any of the rough edges that may have formed on each of us. You know, it simply feels like home and that is how I felt with this animated comedy.    THE Peanuts gang, which has been absent from the big screen for over 30 years, return with some subtle changes in this adventure film. Only viewers who grew up with the characters like Charlie Brown, voiced here by Noah Schnapp (Bridge of Spies) and Lucy, voiced here by Hadley Belle Miller (Branson the Sitcom-TV movie), would even notice a difference. For example Lucy looked the same except her hair had more depth to it. The CGI effects were used gently as the animators stayed true to each character’s look. The reason this film succeeded was due to the memories most people have about the Peanuts gang. At the showing I attended the majority of viewers were older. The story was very basic, incorporating past actions and events into the script. There were some new elements; I especially enjoyed Snoopy’s adventures through the picture. Though I will have to say it took time for me to get used to the look of the movie. I found myself wondering at times if I was looking at hand drawn scenes or computer enhanced ones. Credit has to go to the Schulz family and the people who worked on preserving the essence of the Peanuts comic strips into this picture. The enjoyment I felt from this film came from reliving my memories of these old friends.


2 3/4 stars




Flash Movie Review: Spectre

As I walked in the odor of old rubber was still there minus the cigarette smoke. To the left the bar had been enlarged with a small variety of craft beers. When I was younger they only served 2 brands from 2 spigots. There were familiar sounds playing out though some of them seemed more muted than what I remembered. However one particular sound still stood out whenever a ball was rolled down the bowling lane. It was the sound of hope and anticipation for the initial smack against the standing pins that would then scatter out of the way. The old bowling alley I used to go to had gone under renovation. Across all the lanes now hung TV monitors that kept everyone’s scores automatically, accented with colorful animations for each ball thrown. I did miss the fan vent in the middle of the ball return carousel that would blow cool air on the bowlers’ outstretched hand. It never occurred to me that it was used to keep a bowler’s hands dry; I assumed it was to keep one’s palm clean from dust or dirt. Just as I wrote that sentence it dawned on me how odd that must be because after every game my hands always had a dull black residue over them from the ancient bowling balls. It took me no time at all to get into the swing  of things and have a good time in this updated place; I had enough memories to mix in with the new things done to the bowling alley. I had similar feelings with this action thriller.    KEEPING a promise he made James Bond, played by Daniel Craig (Cowboys & Aliens, Defiance), would discover a trail of events that were created especially for him but had major consequences for everyone else. This latest adventure story in the movie franchise had a big budget to film in various locations around the world which were fun to see. Pretty much the story followed the requirements for what we all expect in a James Bond movie: intense fight scenes, hi-tech gadgets, a love interest and a diabolical enemy. But with a running time of 2 hours 28 minutes, the story was bloated with scenes that were predictable and felt like the actors were going through the motions. I thought Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Madeleine Swann and Ben Whishaw (I’m Not There, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) as Q were exceptionally good in their roles. What bugged me was casting the skilled actor Christoph Waltz (Carnage, Django Unchained) as Oberhauser then giving him such a poorly written role. This was par for the course since there were fun parts to this movie that played off my fond memories of the older Bond films, but then they had to deal with lackluster scenes. I had read Daniel said he would rather slit his wrists then do another Bond film which explained him looking tired. This is not the way I wanted to remember this James Bond.


2 3/4 stars





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