Monthly Archives: January 2013

Flash Movie Review: Despicable Me

Words of encouragement can make such a difference in a person’s life. In a similar way, a lack of encouraging words can also have a dramatic effect on an individual. When there is a new member in my yoga classes, I make a point to tell the person they did a good job at the end of class. Especially when they have paid attention to what their body was physically able to do; instead of trying to copy my every move. When I first started attending group exercise classes, I felt intimidated. It seemed as if everyone knew the moves. There I was trying to copy the steps; not only feeling uncomfortable, but aware that the extra 85 pounds I was carrying made me stand out even more. A kind word or two would have been nice. I never went back to that particular class. In this animated film, I was surprised to find what motivated the main character Gru, voiced by Steve Carell (Hope Springs, Date Night). When the world discovered the Great Pyramid of Giza was stolen, Gru was determined to do something even more spectacular. He wanted to be the most evil villain of all time. Not only would he not be outshone but he would make his mother proud. His mother was voiced by Julie Andrews (Tooth Fairy, Victor Victoria). His plan to beat master thief Vector, voiced by Jason Segel (The Muppets, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), hit a speed bump when three orphaned girls entered his life. The movie started out slow for me, but I soon realized the humor had a certain amusing sophistication to it, not a typical slapstick schtick. While Steve did a perfect job with his character, I had no idea Julie and Jason were the voices of their characters. The humor was appropriate for all ages and I liked the added twists to the story. It is amazing what some people will do just to get approval. I for one approved of this movie.

 

3 stars — DVD

 

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Flash Movie Review: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

My introduction to the brothers Grimm was through animated movies. I can remember being perched atop folded coats on my theater seat, so I would have a clear view of the movie screen. Cinderella dressed in her magical ball gown or the poisoned apple that induced eternal slumber for Sleeping Beauty were characters that amazed me, when I saw them up on the big screen. At a time before movie characters were marketed into every conceivable consumer product, I stored a variety of Grimm fairy tale characters in my imagination. Let me first say I am not a purist when it comes to keeping a story true to its original form. If the story can still be entertaining, I am fine with it. Unfortunately this abomination lacked the entertainment factor, besides a variety of other things. The movie updated the story of Hansel and Gretel by turning the brother and sister into adult witch hunters. Sure I get it, nearly cooked in an oven by an evil witch as kids; I could buy into their chosen profession. What I found out of character was having the two talking in a contemporary style, dropping the “F” word freely. It was foolish to have fairy tale characters from olden days swearing like thugs. Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Bourne Legacy) was Hansel and we were led to believe he was a diabetic. He wore a special wristwatch that rang every 2 hours, reminding him to take an injection that would keep him alive. It was so ridiculous I knew the concept was only there to be used later in the boring story. Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace, Clash of the Titans) was the sharpshooter Gretel. The two were hired by a town to find a witch that was stealing children. What Hansel and Gretel found was a diabolical plot by the powerful witch Muriel, played by Famke Janssen (X-Men franchise, Goldeneye). In a nutshell the acting was miserable, the special effects were bland, the story was putrid and I resented the movie studio for tarnishing a classic tale.

 

1 1/4 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Cyrus

My college sociology professor used the term “Holy Deadlock” to describe a couple who stayed together for the wrong reasons. An example would be staying together for the children’s sake. This instructor claimed using children as an excuse to stay together did more harm than good. I have seen fighting couples use their kids as a way to attack or manipulate their significant other and it was awful to see. At that point the adult was no longer the parent, they were simply a conspirator. On the other hand, there are divorcing parents who act out in a different direction. They give in to the child’s every whim, hoping to make up for the failed relationship. Here, too, the adult is less of a parent as the child quickly learns the art of manipulation. In this comedy Cyrus, played by Jonah Hill (21 Jump Street, The Watch), was a master of manipulation. When his mother Molly, played by Marisa Tomei (The Lincoln Lawyer, The Wrestler), began  to date John, played by John C. Reilly (Carnage, We Need to Talk About Kevin), Cyrus thought it would be easy to eliminate John from his mother’s life. He would discover the task at hand was easier said than done. What helped this story was the strong acting from the cast. I have enjoyed most of Marisa’s roles in the past and found her rock solid in playing Molly. In addition, playing John’s ex wife Jamie, Catherine Keener (Into the Wild, A Late Quartet) beautifully played off of John C. Reilly’s character. The fundamental elements of this story were sound; I only wished the writers would have added some punch. There was an easy predictability to several scenes. It takes effort to make a marriage work; it takes extra work to make a divorce successful for all involved parties.

 

2 2/3 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Movie 43

It does not take long after perusing my reviews to notice movies mean a lot to me. Whether on a physical, emotional or cerebral level; there is some kind of connection made between me and the movie. From several of the comments left, there is an appreciation to the personal relationship that a film forms with me. That is one of the wonderful aspects of watching a movie. The way it can trigger a memory, make me think, cause me to burst out laughing; I love the way a movie can take me away so easily. This is why I am so thrilled to say there was absolutely no connection between me and this worthless, offensive comedy. To say I was stunned by the tasteless subject matters would be an understatement. After sitting through this movie, despite several people walking out, I felt every actor and actress should come out publicly with an apology. The movie consisted of several short films that were loosely connected, each one vulgar and tasteless. The cast is more than I can list here, but there are a few that stood out. Let me start with Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables, The Prestige) and Naomi Watts (The Impossible, 21 Grams). These two have been nominated for best actor and actress in this year’s Oscars. I want to know how they can walk the red carpet, knowing what they did in this dreadful piece of garbage. If Halle Berry (Cloud Atlas, X-Men franchise) was concerned she would never live down her role in Catwoman, she won’t have to worry about that anymore. Let me just say she reached a new low when she was mixing guacamole with her breast during her film segment. Add in Richard Gere, Liv Schreiber, Greg Kinnear and Kate Winslet; did all of these movie stars owe someone a huge favor? I could go on and on, but let me end on a positive note. This movie has earned a special place on my movie review site:  it is the first film to receive a single star from me. I would have given it a zero; but when I started this site, I decided to make 1 star my lowest rating. Obscene and vulgar language in trailer.

 

1 star

Flash Movie Review: Quartet

Growing old is like watching a balloon expand with each breath, never knowing when that one breath will cause the balloon to pop. As my friends and I age, the subject of how we may need assistance in our old age comes up more often. It is particularly important to those of us who are single; we wonder what will happen to us. An idea we have kicked around is buying an apartment building, where we can all live. It would allow us privacy but we would always have someone close by if help was needed. In a similar situation this sweet movie was about a home for retired musicians. Idyllic days filled with music and singing, building up to the annual charity concert celebration, received a surprise interruption. It was the arrival of new resident opera diva Jean Horton, played by Maggie Smith (Harry Potter franchise, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). Her appearance was even a bigger surprise to her former husband and resident Reginald Paget, played by Tom Courtenay (The Golden Compass, Billy Liar). With the heavy weight of clashing egos, could the show survive and still be a success? For his directorial debut, Dustin Hoffman (Last Chance Harvey, Finding Neverland) did an admirable job in telling this safe, predictable story. I think Dustin’s job was made much easier by his impressive cast. Besides Maggie and Tom, there was Billy Connelly (Mrs. Brown, The Debt Collector) playing the flirtatious Wilf Bond, Pauline Collins (Albert Nobbs, Shirley Valentine) as the forgetful Cissy Robson and MIchael Gambon (Harry Potter franchise, The King’s Speech) as concert director Cedric Livingston. From the film’s entire cast there was a true sense of history behind the characters, that was proven at the start of the ending credits. An easy and enjoyable movie to watch. A thought came to me as I left the movie theater: When I take my last breath, I only hope it comes at the end of a movie’s credits.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

I have met a few celebrities in my travels, though not nearly as many as I hope to see some day. Las Vegas has been my lucky spot where I have seen the majority of them. There was the time tennis player John McEnroe and his wife Patty Smyth were walking down the street. My friend and I walked faster to overtake and pass them. We then stopped where I pretended I was taking a picture of my friend in front of a hotel marquee. Fiddling with the camera lens, I waited until John and his wife came into viewfinder range then shot the picture. The photo showed my friend standing next to the couple as if he belonged with them. Things like this have added an extra fun element to my Las Vegas trips. The subject of this documentary was someone I met in a Las Vegas hotel’s elevator. When she walked into the elevator it only took a second for me to realize it was really Joan Rivers and not an impersonator. The question then was whether to leave her alone or say hello. I could not resist and introduced myself, telling her I enjoyed her humor. Joan was quite cordial, thanking me and asking me if this was my first time in Las Vegas. It briefly crossed my mind to hit the emergency button to stop the elevator, so I could ask her a bunch of questions. I thought better of it because getting arrested as a stalker would be something that definitely would not stay in Vegas! If you are not a fan of Joan Rivers I do not think you would even get this film; however, I was surprised to find her story told in a funny and compassionate way. She deserves credit for what she has done in paving the way for the female comics we enjoy today. No matter what you think about her, Joan cannot be faulted for her work ethic. At her age keeping her schedule as active as it was shown, I only hope I can keep doing what I do at that age. As my cousin’s aunt who was a Hollywood manager always said, “You have to be a little crazy to be a star.”

 

3 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Mother and Child

Before I was born my mother was pregnant with a baby girl. I found out when I asked her why my two brothers were so much older than me. She told me about the miscarriage she had before me. I spent my youth imagining what life would have been like if I had a sister. There was a small part of me that always wondered if I would have even been conceived if that baby girl had been born. My mother would tell me numerous times that I was the only one planned. She talked about the nervousness she had all through her pregnancy with me up until I was delivered. Except for that one time, my mother never talked about that lost baby girl. There is such a special bond between a mother and her child; I cannot imagine how the loss changed my mother’s life. The relationship between a mother and child was explored in this stirring drama. Annette Bening (Ruby Sparks, Being Julia) played Karen, a single woman who had given up her baby for adoption over 30 years earlier. Naomi Watts (The Impossible, Eastern Promises) played Elizabeth, the grown up version of that baby. Kerry Washington (Django Unchained, Ray) was a married woman who could not conceive a baby. Each woman’s life was drastically altered by their circumstances. Not only was the acting outstanding from these three women, but everyone else was just as good. There was Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained, The Avengers) as grieving lawyer Paul and Jimmy Smits (The Jane Austen Book Club, Star Wars franchise) as Karen’s co-worker Paco. Each of the three stories was carefully crafted and directed, allowing for a continuous flow of feelings to permeate each scene. This movie provided a touching study on the effects a child can have on one’s life. If I had a sister, I wonder what she would have thought about this wonderful film.

 

3 1/4 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Broken City

Greed is that insidious demon that once fed will forever more be hungry. Through the years it seems as if there has been an increase in the amount of corruption and greed in the world. Living in a state that has had an over abundance of corrupt politicians, I find it absolutely despicable that the men and women who have been elected into public office have so little regard for the people who elected them. I guess having the adulation and support from the masses is not enough to support their egos. In this crime thriller corruption became a deadly business. Private investigator Billy Taggart, played by Mark Wahlberg (Ted, The Fighter) was hired by Mayor Nicholas Hostetler, played by Russell Crowe (Les Miserables, Robin Hood), to follow his wife Cathleen, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones (No Reservations, Entrapment). But when Billy discovered he was set up for a more diabolical reason, he would need his years of police training to seek out revenge. The idea behind this story was solid enough to have built an exciting, tense drama. Unfortunately the writer and director were ill equipped to make this happen. The acting was dull; Mark Wahlberg was beyond generic, having acted the same way 100 times before. There were fringe characters that popped in and out as the story tumbled into a mess. The only character I found interesting was Police Commissioner Carl Fairbanks, who was played by the underrated but always excellent actor Jeffrey Wright (Source Code, Quantum of Solace). I kept looking at my watch throughout this film; never a good sign. The only pleasure I received was from the quick ending, even with its cheesiness. I am afraid the real crime being done here was me buying a ticket to see this poorly done movie.

 

1 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Princess Kaiulani

Hawaii is one of the three states I have left to visit to complete my list of seeing all 50 states. I am saving it for last because I want to spend more time there to explore the islands. From friends’ descriptions I know I want to hike to the top of a dormant volcano, where clouds can be found nestling in its crater. Just from the photos I have seen, it appears as if the colors bursting from thick foliage, abundantly blankets the land. With these visions as a constant reminder, I was eager to receive this movie based on true events. Set in the late 1800’s the story was about Princess Kaiulani, played by Q’orianka Kilcher (The New World, Neverland), the last royal family member of the Hawaiian monarchy. As a young girl she was sent to England for her safety. Being schooled and raised in a foreign land was hard for the princess; some people referred to her as the “Barbarian Princess.” However, it was in England where she eventually fell in love with Clive Davies, played by Shaun Evans (Being Julia, Cashback). With the United States looking to colonize her country, the Princess would have to choose between her love for Clive or her homeland. The historical aspect of the story, such as it was here, was what held my interest in this film. My lack of knowledge in Hawaii’s colonization made this viewing experience sad for me. The beauty of the land was finely displayed in the filming. I thought this movie’s downfall was the love interest part. Even if it was true, it was a distraction for what had a bigger impact as a story–the royal monarchy versus the United States. The acting was forgettable for the most part; however, I thought the scene with President Grover Cleveland was well done. Though I still plan on visiting Hawaii one day, I now realize the road to paradise was filled with potholes.

 

1 3/4 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Mama

The middle brother who was the #1 renter of DVD’s in the country was also a master ghost storyteller. My cousins and I would huddle around him at family gatherings as he wove and spun elaborate tales of suspense and surprise. He would slowly build up the stories, shocking us with the sudden appearance of a flame from his lighter or a quick slap of his hands; making us jump in the darkened living room. The most innocent of events would be transformed into a wild frightening story filled with scary apparitions and spirits. What made his ghost stories so good was the way he slowly built up the suspense, taking his audience on an unexpected journey to a different world. These same factors were employed in this darkly hued horror film. There was no slashing of flesh, no spurting of blood needed in making this well done film scary. There were times when the music would give away the upcoming twist, but it was the use of shadows that propelled the tension forward. Uncle Lucas, played by Nikolas Coster-Waldau (Kingdom of Heaven, Headhunters), had been searching five years for his missing nieces, before he was notified they had been found alone in an abandoned house in the wilderness. Lucas and his girlfriend Annabel, played by Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, Take Shelter), would help reintroduce the girls into the living world by becoming their guardians. What the couple did not realize was the girls already had a protective guardian. Taking on a different kind of role, Jessica still brought her considerable strong acting skills to her character. Megan Charpentier (Red Riding Hood, Jennifer’s Body) and Isabelle Nelisse (Mirador-TV) were absolutely creepy as the nieces Victoria and Lilly. There was never a time where I jumped out of my seat from fright; however, the tension and suspense kept me captive. It was done in a similar way like my brother used to do with his stories when I was a kid.

 

2 2/3 stars

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