Flash Movie Review: Chuck

“YOU should write a book about it,” is a comment that has been directed to me numerous times. The reason has less to do with my writing ability and more with the incredible to outrageous stories I have been involved in or told. I will avoid using pronouns to protect the individuals. There was one person I was involved with whose family history played out like an evening soap opera, television show. One family member was going to be elected to a high political position until their views deviated from the people in power. The person I knew was sent out of the country to avoid any fallout, but to also get a better education. Spending many years traveling the world instead of coming back home, they told me about some of their experiences in foreign lands that I have not even seen done in a movie. One of these stories involved a stalker and a secret intelligence agency; that is all I can say about this individual.     RECENTLY I was involved with someone who had a story to tell me every time we got together. One of the stories was accompanied with photographs; however, they could only show me a select few because they were brought in to oversee a secret government operation. The first photo they showed me was of them standing in front of a posted sign out in the jungle. I immediately knew why they had to be secretive about their whereabouts. Another photo showed how they were transported to this secret location; essentially it was a cargo bay with portable toilets and folding chairs nailed to the floor. It was so not part of my little corner of the world that I did not even know how to respond to any of it. I could go on with so many other encounters I have had that I could actually fill up a whole book. However if I do that then I cannot tell you whether it was worth seeing this biographical drama about a man who was the real boxer behind the famous film character Rocky Balboa.     KNOWN as the “Bleeder of Bayonne” boxer Chuck Wepner, played by Liev Schreiber (Spotlight, Ray Donovan-TV), was a hometown hero even before there was a movie called Rocky. With Elizabeth Moss (The One I Love, Mad Men-TV) as Phyliss, Naomi Watts (St. Vincent, Diana) as Linda, Jim Gaffigan (17 Again, It’s Kind of a Funny Story) as John and Ron Perlman (Poker Night, Hellboy franchise) as Al Braverman; I had never heard about this boxer. Everyone in the cast did a wonderful job of acting. Liev however stood out for me because he was so good in his role, but be prepared there was a lot of blood shown. Not being a big fan of boxing, I was glad that the actual act was secondary to the story. As for the story it was engaging with surprise. The sets, costumes and dialog captured the era; it was interesting to watch the arc of Chuck’s story line. If I had to choose one particular thing that increased my interest in this film it would have to be the connection to Sylvester Stallone and the Rocky movie. I think it helped that this was included into the script because it produced deeper emotional intensity to the story. There are so many people in the world that need to have their story told; I was satisfied that this one came to the big screen.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

THE landscape tilted down as I peered out the airplane’s window. I was looking forward to a peaceful ride. The day was clear except for small clumps of clouds that looked like wadded up paper towels discarded across the sky. We were close to reaching our flying altitude when I heard a faint noise. It sounded like a sad pet uttered a whimper. There was a slight pause before a piercing wail filled the cabin. It was a baby I had not seen when we boarded. I thought after a minute the parent(s) would have done something like give the baby a bottle, a toy, a set of keys, something to distract the child. Maybe they did, I could not see though since they were sitting closer to the front. As I sat in my seat I stared up at the FASTEN SEATBELT sign, hoping it would turn off. With no sign of stopping if the parent(s) were not going to take the baby to the restroom, I would go to it to get away from the crying. Needless to say the flight was not pleasant.     LIVING a full life means there will be celebrations as well as challenges. Let me include into that equation annoyances. I cannot imagine someone getting through life without ever becoming annoyed by something. Of course the question is what does one do when they become annoyed? Being stuck at a railroad crossing due to a long, slow moving freight train is annoying to me; however if there is no alternative route as an option, there is no point in me staying annoyed. It is out of my control, so I just turn the radio up louder and wait it out. It is funny, I found myself in a similar predicament while watching this family comedy film. Sure I could have walked out, but who then would have warned you?     THE special occasion of Meemaw’s 90th birthday was the catalyst for the Heffley family hitting the road to be part of the celebrations. Unfortunately for Greg, played by Jason Drucker (Barely Lethal, Every Witch Way-TV), that meant he would not be able to go to the video gaming convention. Starring Alicia Silverstone (Clueless, Batman & Robin) as Susan Heffley, Tom Everett Scott (La La Land, Dead Man on Campus) as Frank Heffley and relative newcomer Charlie Wright as Rodrick Heffley; this latest installment of the franchise had new cast members. It did not make a difference to me but I understood some fans of the series were upset. After seeing this picture the change of actors was the least of this movie’s problems. Both the script and directing were poorly done; if you saw the trailer then you saw the best parts. I was uncomfortable with the story; I found it whiney and disrespectful. There was nothing funny taking place or let me say I did not find the pranks and embarrassing situations amusing. It seemed as if there was little thought put into the script. Besides not being funny, there was not one element of surprise; the set up and payoff could be seen a mile away, which is where I wished I had been from this film. Here is something interesting: I have never sat in a movie theater and seen so much foot traffic from the audience. Kids and parents were constantly walking in and out during the entire showing of this movie. If I wasn’t annoyed already, there was a parent sitting down in front who played with her cell phone for ½ the time.

 

1 ½ stars  

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Everything, Everything

EVERYDAY was a battle between me and dessert. I say dessert even though it was not only the course one waits to eat after their main meal. It would be multiple times throughout the day and I should tell you dessert encompassed a wide variety of items. Where other people have a sweet tooth, I have a set of sweet molars. My first choice to snack on used to be cookies or cakes, but if none were available I would seek out sweetened cereal or candy. If I could not get my hands on anything sweet I would switch and go to the salty side; looking for potato chips, pretzels or even sliced white bread. I had no shame; everything was free game. I tried a variety of diets when I was younger, even to the point where a doctor prescribed what he called an appetite suppressant; years later I found out it was a form of “speed.” As my issues with weight took a toll on me mentally I eventually got a handle on the reasons why I was seeking out food for comfort.       TODAY the way I work with my weight is to be aware of what I am eating during the week. On weekends I let go of my control but never too far out to become a food festival. I realized I was no longer dieting; I had changed my way of life and no longer made food my focus. For those of you who do not have concerns with weight, you have no idea how much of a impact one’s issues with food can weigh on them. It can come to the point where you feel like you are not living your life anymore; every day you wake up knowing you are going to have a struggle throughout the day. It really is not a way to live. This dramatic film will give you an idea of what I am talking about by showing you something similar, where an individual has to deal with the same thing over and over.     MADDY Whittier, played by Amanda Sternberg (The Hunger Games, Colombiana), had a rare disease that made her allergic to practically everything. Never leaving her house was the norm until the new neighbors moved in next door. This romance movie, based on the best selling young adult book, also starred Nick Robinson (Jurassic World, The 5th Wave) as Olly Bright, Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls, The Good Wife-TV) as Pauline and Ana de la Reguera (Nacho Libre, Cowboys & Aliens) as Carla. I thought Amandia and Nick were a good choice for the roles; they appeared vulnerably real. The script was just okay and as the story unfolded I realized there was a lack of energy. This may have been caused by the combination of the script and direction. I have sat through other movies based on YA novels and there was more intensity or “oomph” to the characters. The energy which was never high did a continual slow descent to a place I found bizarre by the end of the film. Not only did I not care for the ending, there were several scenes that did not seem believable to me. I am afraid the title to this movie is misleading; it did not have all the elements one needs to make an engrossing movie watching experience. Maybe young adults (the majority of the audience at my viewing) would have something different to say about this picture.

 

2 stars      

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Alien: Covenant

IF a person wants to learn how to drive a car there is a set of rules and regulations that must be followed to get a license. These rules are needed otherwise there would be chaos on every street. I have noticed with the introduction of red light cameras (devices that take detailed photographs of cars that run stoplights and mail the driver a traffic ticket) there has been an increase in accidents. In the past if a driver drove up to an intersection and the light started to change from green to red, more times than not, they would continue on their way. Once the cameras became active I started seeing cars slamming on their brakes so they would not enter the intersection and get a ticket. However because of these quick sudden stops there was not enough lag time for the car behind to stop in time; so periodically I would see automobiles getting rear ended. Recently some of the intersections have had countdown timers installed next to the WALK/DO NOT WALK signs to help the drivers prepare for a complete stop.     NOW before you think I am one to follow every rule by the letter, I have to tell you that is not always the case. I would not say I break rules, I prefer to say I modify them. At the grocery store I may go through the express checkout line with 1 or 2 more items than the posted limit. However I would never abuse it with a full shopping cart like I have seen other people do, pretending they did not know it was an express lane. Rules are needed in any industry from construction to agriculture. There are even rules when it comes to writing a story. I will say to interject the element of surprise one must have the breaking of a rule. In this science fiction horror thriller there were a few surprises in store for the crew and the viewer.     ON a mission to populate a distant planet the crew of the colony ship Covenant were awaken early. A transmission was detected that surprised the crew members. This latest installment of the Alien franchise starred Michael Fassbender (Assassin’s Creed, The Light Between Oceans) as David/Walter, Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) as Daniels, Billy Crudup (Jackie, 20th Century Women) as Oram, Danny McBride (Your Highness, The Pineapple Express) as Tennessee and Demian Bichir (Lowriders, The Heat) as Lope. Visually this film caught my eye right away; I thought the sets were interesting. As for the actors Michael and Katherine were the standouts, especially Michael in his dual roles. My issue with this movie was the script. I do not think I am picky but there seemed to be a lack of believability. Not that I am a space explorer but common protocols regarding space travel were ignored in this story. In addition scenes were too predictable. It is safe to say we all know what happens when someone excuses themselves to go to the bathroom in a horror picture. Due to the script there was a lack of new things taking place for me. I found it odd; where the writers could have taken liberties was in the structure of the story line. Instead they chose to break the rules of reason in telling a story. Blood and violence was shown in multiple scenes.

 

2 ½ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Wall

THE weather was so cold his face felt like it had no flexibility. He had to squint because when the wind kicked up, his eyes would water and he was afraid the tears would freeze on his face. Though he had a short walk to school, he had wished the school would have closed for a snow day. Bundled up in a thick, puffy blue colored jacket, his winter boots were almost too heavy to lift up as he walked through the snow. He wore a stocking cap on his head; around his neck was a long dark scarf with small tassels knotted on the ends. Only two blocks away and he thought his hat had flown off of his head. That would have been the best scenario; instead, it was in the hand of a boy who bullied him from time to time. The bully was taller so dangled the stocking hat just high enough beyond the boy’s outstretched hand. Taunting him the bully would lower the hat for a moment until the boy would try to jump up to grab his hat back; but each time the bully jerked his arm up higher as he teased him to try harder. This wicked game would only last a minute before the bully smashed the hat into the boy’s face, knocking him down in the snow.     RECENTLY a friend of mine was telling me about his school years. We got on the subject of group dynamics within the classroom and he wound up talking about a girl in his class who always wore her hair in pigtails. A week never went by without at some point this girl having something done to her hair. I was stunned as my friend told me about some of the ways this girl was teased by a couple of bullies in the class. The tips of the hair had been dipped in glue, paint, and lip balm among other liquids or had silly hand written notes taped at the ends. Since I was teased and picked on during my school years, I immediately felt sadness for this girl as I listened to my friend talk about it. Being taunted is bad enough, bring a gun into the mix and I felt awful for the soldiers in this dramatic war thriller.     WITH only a dilapidated wall separating them a sniper plays a cat and mouse game of nerves with American soldiers Isaac and Matthew, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals, Kick-Ass franchise) and John Cena (Trainwreck, The Marine). This movie quickly started building the tension up after a few frames of film. With Laith Nakli (The Visitor, Amira & Sam) as Juba, I thought the idea for the story was not only valid, but easy to identify with even if one had not done any service in the military. There was talk about this being John’s breakout role in drama but for me Aaron was the one who did an excellent intense job. Though the story grabbed me quickly, it only lasted for a short time as the scenes started to feel no different from each other. I think the script was limited due to the amount of characters; the story just wilted away until closer to the end. Granted it could not have been easy being in one locale and little to work with; however, the trailer and beginning almost felt like it was teasing the viewer to watch for something bigger to take place that never happened.

 

2 stars  

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Lowriders

YOU cannot force a person to love something or someone they do not like. I have never seen it become successful. There was a mother I knew who drove her daughter everywhere to audition for dance roles even though the daughter did not have her heart in it. Rejection after rejection did not stop the mother from forcing her daughter to try again. Now if the daughter truly had a talent for dance and wanted to pursue it, then it would be somewhat of a different story. There have been several instances where I have seen a parent pushing their child to try out for a sport or some form of the arts, but one thing was never mentioned to the child. “To do their best;” I do not always hear this being included. If a child has a strong desire to do something I feel they should be allowed as long as they give it their best shot. This reminds me of an episode of a singing talent show where the singer auditioning mentioned they had been working with a voice coach for several years. After the contestant auditioned the judge told the person to fire their coach, because they did not have a good singing voice.     IF a person is gifted at something wouldn’t it be in the best interest to encourage the individual to give it their all? I am familiar with a family that has 3 children. One child is exceptional when it comes to drawing; her paintings are incredible. The father, who works as an accountant, is against his daughter’s idea of going to college to study art. He believes she will never make a living at it and would rather she go into economics. Now it does not matter if the girl has an aptitude for numbers or not, the father just wants her to do something where she can earn a decent living and thinks since he supports a family by working with numbers, she should do the same thing. It is similar to what was taking place in this drama.     AS the owner of an auto repair shop Miguel Alvarez, played by Demian Bichir (The Heat, A Better Life), wanted his two sons to be part of the business. But with his youngest one Danny, played by Gabriel Chavarria (Freedom Writers, A Better Life), wanting to pursue art; Miguel simply could not understand why his son would want to do such a thing. This film festival nominee’s story was set in east Los Angeles and also starred Eva Longoria (The Sentinel, Over her Dead Body) as Gloria and Theo Rossi (Bad Hurt, Sons of Anarchy-TV) as Francisco ”Ghost” Alvarez. I walked into this film not fully understanding what “lowriders” were, but I discovered I liked the look of them. As for what they do, I don’t understand the point. Putting that aside the other part of this movie I enjoyed was the art work on display. Outside of that there really was nothing new about this story. I have seen similar movies that have done the same story line and actually did it better. Every scene in this film followed a generic formula from the portrayal of a Hispanic family to the family tension to the girlfriend; I was bored for the most part. Let me say there was nothing “bad” per se about this picture; if you have never experienced this type of story you may find something of interest. I sort of wish the writers had been pushed harder to try and create a better script.

 

2 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

FIRST thing we would do is look for a thick stick or broken tree branch. If none could be found then we would head down the alley to see if there was anything lying around that had been discarded by the neighbors. Once something was found the next step was to look for a place to impale the object; a mound of dirt, a pile of leaves, or a large snowdrift would do. As soon as the stick or piece of wood was stuck into the ground it became our sword, a special one. If it was during winter we would break up into 2 teams and battle each other with snowballs as each of us tried to get to the sword and pull it out as the rightful owner who would be king. All of us were familiar with the story about King Arthur and his knights of the round table. Also I think each of us at some point had seen the movie, “The Sword in the Stone.” I saw it 3 times; hoping a bit of Merlin’s magic would rub off on me.     AFTER all these years there are certain story lines that remain embedded in my brain. I may not remember every detail but certainly have a good idea of what took place. I find it fascinating that fairy tales read or seen as a kid remain more vivid in my memory than where I parked my car in the parking lot on a recent trip to the grocery store. There is something about these childhood fantasies that always stay strong in us. I wonder if part of the reason is due to the morals of the story, especially in the animated versions. A kiss that wakes up one’s true love or the physical ramifications of lying to someone; until this very moment I never consciously realized these stories were teaching me a lesson. Maybe because of these memories I have about King Arthur caused me to now be confused by what I was seeing in this dramatic, action adventure film.     UNTIL King Vortigern, played by Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes franchise, The Talented Mr. Ripley), forced every male to make an attempt to pull the recently discovered sword from out of its stone; Arthur, played by Charlie Hunnam (The Lost City of Z, Crimson Peak), had no idea about his heritage when he became the only successful male to remove the special sword. Written and directed by Guy Ritchie (Snatch, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), this movie also starred Astrid Berges-Frisbey (The Sea Wall, I Origins) as the Mage, Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, Gladiator) as Bedivere and Eric Bana (Troy, The Time Traveler’s Wife) as Uther. The story hardly represented the one I had known as a child. Normally that would be okay; however, the script was so loose and disconnected that I sat through most of this picture puzzled by what I was watching. There were some scenes that worked for me, where I enjoyed the CGI effects like the eagle and massive elephants. But then other scenes literally looked like video game clips which were lost on me because I did not care for the quick cut and paste editing. I also dislike modern language in a period piece. For the amount of money the studio spent, all I can say is Jude plays a good evil person and Charlie has a definite presence that lights up the movie screen. They should have kept the sword locked in the stone and forget this story; what a mess.

 

1 2/3 stars  

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Snatched

FIRST introduced in the 1960s these toaster pastries have been sampled by millions of people. They were a novel idea; some ate them in lieu of a full breakfast, while others snacked on them between meals or as a dessert. I am sure the idea of having a convenient sweet item with a long shelf life was a revelation for many people. When they first came out there were only 4 flavors: blueberry, strawberry, brown sugar cinnamon and apple. Presently there is a variety of flavors and frostings to cover almost anyone’s taste preferences. Just on the news recently there was a report the manufacturer teamed up with a candy company to come out with candy flavored fillings in these pastries. My first reaction to this combination was negative. But as I thought about it I realized I had not had one of these pastries in decades. If there was a market for these flavor combinations, who was I to judge them? It was not like the other fillings were not sweet, so what would be the difference except personal tastes.     WHENEVER something is going well, it almost never fails the company looks for other ways to cash in on their success. Take a look at the fashion industry; if a designer has success with their line of clothing pretty soon their name could pop up on kitchen products, home furnishings or sports related products. Personally the name is not what motivates me to make the purchase; it depends on value and worth for me, besides liking it or not. I sort of feel the same way about movies. If the story looks good, I would go see it regardless of who the studio cast for the roles. Since I enjoyed the previous movies by both of the actresses in this comedy, I was sure I would have a good time watching this film. The buzz surrounding this movie was the addition of the one actress who had been away from acting in pictures for over a decade. Everywhere you looked the talk was how the 2 main actresses would be great together.     AFTER Emily, played by Amy Schumer (Trainwreck, Inside Amy Schumer-TV) was dumped by her boyfriend the only person she could get to take his place on the non-refundable vacation package she bought was her mother Linda, played by Goldie Hawn (The First Wives Club, Death Becomes Her). The trip would bind the mother and daughter in ways neither ever imagined. With Ike Barinholtz (Suicide Squad, The Mindy Project-TV) as Jeffrey, Wanda Sykes (Evan Almighty, Monster-in-Law) as Ruth and Joan Cusack (Working Girl, Say Anything) as Barb; the story started out fun. I enjoyed the style of humor and jokes. Unfortunately the story or to be more exact the script quickly went south, no pun intended. The majority of the scenes turned into a mixture of crudeness, silliness or non-believability. I was embarrassed for Joan in particular in regards to her role. It was such a waste of a prolific actress; which leads me to Goldie and her role. Though I was happy to see Goldie back in a movie and she really gave it a good try here, the script did her no favors. If the writers had focused as much energy on the script as the studio did on Goldie, something hilarious could have happened here. Instead I was left with very little to laugh about or enjoy.

 

1 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman

ALL the furniture was pushed into the center of the room. A large old tarp with splotches of color looking like fireworks was covering all of the pieces. A white haired man dressed in white overalls was carefully outlining the walls with fresh paint. Using a paintbrush that he told me was made of natural bristles, he started at the top of the wall making his way across by sidestepping down a plank of wood he had stuck between two ladders. Once the top of the walls were all done he slowly filled the sides all around so each wall looked like it was a blank picture frame. I would watch him pour cans of paint into a big bucket, stirring it like it was a thick porridge. Once he was satisfied he would start at one side of the room and begin to paint in the walls. He had a steady rhythm as his arm would rise and fall, leaving a trail of fresh paint from his brush or roller. The thing that amazed me the most about him was his overalls; I do not recall every seeing any drops of paint on them. He told me he had been painting houses ever since he got out of high school. Though he may have been in his early 60s, which meant he had been doing this for decades, he still felt the same pride for every paint job.     TIMES have changed as far as I can tell. Over at a friend’s house recently, they showed me the poor job their painter did on their front door. The new color did not always reach the boundaries of the door or it would go beyond. It was ghastly looking and he was quite upset. I have had my share of poor service either from repair people in my home or out at a store. Recently in the news I assume most of you have seen the videos of poor customer service with some airlines. It almost looks like a war situation doesn’t it? One has to wonder if some employees are afraid to let people know what they do for a living when they are not at work. It is something the main character in this dramatic crime story experienced on a daily basis.     FOLLOWING in the footsteps of his uncle and father Albert Pierrepoint, played by Timothy Spall (Harry Potter franchise, Secrets & Lies), wanted to surpass their records and be the best in the country. He just did not want anyone to know. Based on true events, this film festival winning biography also starred Juliet Stevenson (Bend it Like Beckham, Mona Lisa Smile) as Anne Fletcher, Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes franchise, V for Vendetta) as James ‘Tish’ Corbitt and James Corden (Begin Again, Into the Woods) as Kirky. With Timothy’s outstanding performance I was quickly tied up into the story. It really provided the viewer with things to think about regarding one’s profession, beliefs and feelings. I have to say the topic was something I had not given much thought to and ironically it has been in the news recently. No matter what is your belief system regarding the industry Albert dwells in, I think there is much to gain by watching this DVD. My guess is no one would have thought customer service would be a part of this story.

 

3 ¼ stars — DVD

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Burden

RESTING outside on a sunny day I gaze up at the bulbous clouds drifting by. If I look long enough I can make out images among the folds of the clouds. I get a kick out of seeing what might not initially be seen at first glance. As the wisps of cloud matter slowly swirl about, I can make out what looks like an eagle with outstretched wings. Continuing to stare at the same spot the eagle soon disintegrates and becomes the face of a rabbit with attentive ears. Since I was young I have always looked at things with an eye to reality and one to fantasy. Even when I am stuck in traffic I try to keep myself busy by scanning the landscape around to see if images can appear based on how I focus on the shadows or the bright spots of an area. Once there was a flatbed truck alongside of me that had crushed automobiles stacked up to haul to a scrap yard. With traffic barely moving I was able to find outlines of a variety of different objects like a leopard and a clown.     THIS ability, if you will, helps me I believe in my attempts to understand modern art. I am fortunate to live in a city that has a modern art museum and some of its exhibits have been a fascinating experience for me. There was the artist who created large sculptures of ordinary things like monkeys and dogs; however, they looked like they were made out of blown up balloons. You know, like the kind a clown or magician would make at a carnival show. I can appreciate the effort and work that went in to create such a piece. Now there have been some shows where I feel clueless with what is on display. A canvas covered totally in black paint doesn’t move me; I wonder if I should focus on the brushstrokes, the consistency of the color or its relationship to its surroundings. My confusion can supersede my involvement with a work of art or what someone is saying is a work of art. I felt the same towards some of this extraordinary artist’s works in this film festival nominated documentary.     PERFORMANCE artist, visionary, crazy, unorthodox are some of the terms one can apply to Chris Burden. Whether you understand his craft or not, you will certainly get a reaction from it. I had never heard of this artist until I watched this film, directed by Richard Dewey (The Leisure Class) and Timothy Marrinan (Invisible Lives). Right from the start there were times where I sat and thought this man has a death wish and then another scene would take place where I was amused with his creation. As the movie continued I found myself more and more intrigued with learning about Chris and his motivations. The raw footage interspersed with his current life provided a well rounded presentation of his growth and legacy I thought. Though I did not understand what he was trying to do with some of his performance pieces (if that is how he classified his “live” pieces), I certainly had a reaction to them. Maybe that was the point he was trying to make all this time; I honestly cannot give an answer. I will say I certainly walked away from this picture with a new appreciation for people who want to be artists.

 

3 ¼ stars

 

 

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