Monthly Archives: April 2013

Flash Movie Review: Every Day

It is impossible to control those things that are out of our control. This took me a long time to learn, yet periodically I still try. I came to this realization when I started my yoga studies. Prior to them, each morning I would get angry while I was stuck in traffic on the way to work. There was nothing I could do about it, though I did come up with some creative ideas on how to eliminate the cars around me. From my studies I finally made the connection that day after day I was using up my energy to get angry at something that was out of my control. I still sit in traffic every day but I stay relaxed, listening to music now. In this dramedy we got an honest portrayal of the daily challenges in a family’s life. Liev Schreiber (Salt, Defiance) and Helen Hunt (The Sessions, Twister) played married couple Ned and Jeanne. The two began to experience their daily lives veering out of control when Jeanne’s cantankerous father Ernie, played by Brian Dennehy (First Blood, Romeo + Juliet), came to live with them. At the same time their gay son Jonah, played by Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Perks of Being a Wallflower), announced he wanted to attend the school’s prom. I thought the fine acting sold the majority of the multiple story lines. What did not work for me was Ned’s office. His boss Garrett’s, played by Eddie Izzard (Ocean’s Thirteen, The Cat’s Meow), extreme requests seemed too outrageous. If Eddie’s character was supposed to represent a commentary on reality television, it was lost on me. The topics of elder care and acceptance would have been enough to make a strong story. Adding the other issues, though valid in the real world, only bogged down the pacing in this film. In addition, I believe this caused the ending to be weak. I would have preferred the writers took a couple of issues and dug deeper into them. The movie kept my interest; there was no need to get angry over its flaws. Besides, there was nothing I could do about it anyway.

 

2 1/3 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: The Big Wedding

Attending a wedding is a little like going to a dinner/theater performance. Sometimes the food can be good while the production is lukewarm; other times, it can be the exact opposite. Wedding receptions are a double edged sword for me. There have been occasions where the bride and groom made it their mission to find me the same happiness they had by seating me next to one of their single friends. Can we say awkward? Usually every wedding has one relative in attendance who feels everyone should be having as much fun as her or him. In my case it usually was a tipsy aunt who found out I could dance and wants to dance the night away with me. So you see why I accept wedding invitations with some trepidation. I had similar feelings about seeing this comedy; my expectations were low. Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook, Being Flynn) and Diane Keaton (Mad Money, The Family Stone) played former husband and wife Don and Ellie. If it was not going to be uncomfortable enough seeing each other for their adoptive son’s wedding; it was going to be a monumental task to pretend they were still married for the sake of their son’s strictly religious, biological mother. Granted the story was far-fetched, but the actors gave it a decent shot. What made it work was the chemistry between Robert, Diane and Susan Sarandon (The Company you Keep, The Client) who played the girlfriend Bebe to Robert’s character Don. It was a pleasant surprise to see Robin Williams (World’s Greatest Dad, Good Will Hunting) playing a more subdued character as Father Moinighan. There were amusing scenes as well as lame scenes throughout the movie. It may be due to my years of exposure to family (dys)functions; but as a whole, I did not mind sitting through this film. At least I did not have anyone sitting next to me or was forced to get up and dance.

 

2 1/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Filly Brown

Anger is an emotion that will always find a way to get out of your body. Some people get ulcers, others numb themselves with alcohol; all due to anger. Prior to getting into fitness, my anger was stronger then me. If someone upset me, my anger was explosive; fueled by years of rage that I had stored inside. One of my coping devices back then was stuffing my anger inside by eating volumes of food. This method led to even more issues that I will save for another time. I am eternally grateful that fitness replaced eating as my coping mechanism. The method used by Majo Tonorio aka Filly Brown, played by Gina Rodriguez (Our Family Wedding, Go for It!), in this musical drama was rapping. She had a lot of reasons to be angry. With her mother Maria, played by Jenni Rivera (Addiction de Salsa – TV), in jail; her father Jose, played by Lou Diamond Phillips (La Bamba, Young Guns) unwilling to help; Filly had to find a way to help her mother. Just starting to make a name for herself as a hip-hop artist, Filly was offered a contract that would expand her reach, while at the same time helping her mother. But what would it cost her? Gina and Jenni had the strongest characters to play in this story and their acting met the challenge. They each had a powerful presence on screen. I liked the main story of Filly and wished the writers would have given more of their attention to her character. The side stories cluttered up the true essence of the main plot. I felt I was watching a movie where the writers had a checklist of generic scenarios they wanted to make sure were included into the story. This film portrayed a character’s healthy attempt to control her anger and she earned my support in her endeavors.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Lords of Salem

Hiding under the basement staircase was a poor choice. The sound of the slow, heavy footsteps descending the stairs echoed louder. Across from me was my only means of exiting: a brand new door. One of its metal locks caught the dull wisp of moonlight through the nearby glass block window, reflecting it to me, hoping to entice me. I tried steadying my breath, since I could hear my heart beating in my ears. The sound of footsteps was no longer audible. Though I had no idea who broke into my house, I knew they were going to kill me. As I thought about making a run for the door, a thick warm hand from behind gripped my throat. I tried to scream but the sound was cut-off at my Adam’s apple, while the hand squeezed harder. The last thing I remembered was gagging as I felt a foul breath spreading across the back of my head. Jarred awake from catching my breath, beads of sweat were traveling towards my beard. Last autumn I experienced this same dream for several consecutive days. I still have not figured it all out, but I would rather experience it again then sit through this horror movie for a 2nd time. This was my first encounter with one of director Rob Zombie’s (House of 1000 Corpses, Halloween) films. Sheri Moon Zombie (The Devil’s Rejects, Halloween) played recovering addict Heidi Hawthorne. She along with both Hermans, played by Jeff Daniel Phillips (Faster, Unknown) and Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead, Water for Elephants) hosted a local radio show in Salem, Massachusetts. After playing a record she received as a gift, Heidi began to experience disturbing images in her dreams. Was she suffering flashbacks or was there some meaning to the gruesome scenes? The movie actually caught my attention early with its fresh, edgy filming and plot set up. But as the story progressed; things fell apart, losing any tension that had been building up. The director, I have read, was proud to make this movie on a low budget. I am happy for him, but the scenes suffered with their cheap props. It was embarrassing to see Bruce Davison (X-Men franchise, Harry and the Hendersons) and Dee Wallace (E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Cujo) in this film. I understand the fun of putting older celebrities into a film, but at least write them a good role. This was a nightmare of a movie and that is not a compliment. There were multiple scenes of blood and gore.

 

1 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: No Place on Earth

I do not need to read a book to know how strong women can be. Televised wildlife programs showing fiercely protective mothers with their offspring are not needed since I was raised among powerful women. My maternal grandmother’s life was devoted exclusively to her children. She had neither the need for friendships nor any outside interests (except for movies); her mission was to take care of her children: my mother and her siblings. There never was a time where my grandmother did not have freshly baked or cooked food in her house. The only traveling she did was from her house to one of her children’s homes. This woman never uttered a bad word; her strongest showing of displeasure was uttering the word “feh.” In turn, each of her daughters was strong in their own way. When my leg was caught in the back door of the local bus; my mother held me up as she ran alongside the bus, screaming and pounding on the door until it stopped. When my aunt’s two youngest children each had a run in with a glass door, my aunt did not wait for an ambulance. She wrapped their bleeding limbs as she put them into her car and sped away to the hospital, where my cousins were stitched up without loss of limb. I was not surprised by these women and I was not surprised with matriarch Ester Stermer’s strength in this incredible documentary. However, I was amazed on what she did for her family. When explorer Chris Nicola was investigating a massive array of caves at the Polish/Russian border, he discovered signs of human habitation. Curious, he began to piece together bits of story and information that led him to the survivors from the cave. Mixing archival footage with reenactments narrated by the surviving family members, this story was unimaginable. During Word War II Esther Stermer led her family to these caves; where they lived underground for nearly two years, avoiding capture by Nazi soldiers. I understood why the director used actors to recreate scenes of the family’s journey; yet, I felt they were tamer than the survivors’ real experiences. Not that I consider this a fault, it just gave me a minor feeling of manipulative, dramatic effect. Seeing and hearing the survivors’ memories had more impact. So many people judge strength by how much weight they can lift or how far they can run and it is certainly a valid method. However, the strength of a protective parent really is a special gift.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Language of a Broken Heart

A broken heart is not exclusive to a particular gender, religion or ethnic race. It can and does affect anyone. When you have been in a loving relationship where one of the individuals has decided to leave; it can cause your heart to deflate, letting your strength seep out and be washed away by your aching bloodstream. If the relationship should split apart due to your trust being broken; the heart screams in pain. The mental images of the distrustful act repeatedly stab at you heart’s flesh. Generally anyone who has experienced a broken heart finds some way to escape from the pain. If you can believe it, I get lost further into watching movies. My record was watching 7 movies in a row. For the character in this romantic comedy, it was going back home to his mother. Juddy Talt (Ghost Whisperer: The Other Side-TV) wrote and starred in this film as Nick, the best selling author on love relationships. After finding his girlfriend in bed with another man, Nick left his New York City apartment and went home to his mother Mimi, played perfectly by Julie White (Michael Clayton, Transformers franchise). Would Nick’s heart be able to heal enough to experience love again? Telling the story from a male’s perspective was an interesting twist for this movie. It was funny that I found the female characters Mimi and bookstore owner Emma, played by Kate French(Fired Up, Accepted) the strongest figures. I wanted to know more about the relationship between mother and son, feeling it would have added more depth to the story. There were a few amusing scenes and I was able to find parts that were relatable. However, I felt parts of the movie lacked emotion. In its favor the soundtrack was fun, accentuating the scenes. Affairs of the heart can be deep and emotional; this was a lighter and softer version.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Letters to Juliet

It could happen at a business meeting, a party, or even at the grocery store; when you see an older version of someone you were in love with years ago. For me it happened at a holiday party. I had seen them across the room. It was obvious they were a happy couple, but I could still remember each happy event when it was me standing there and not him. I do not have the answers on the how and why it did not work out; the timing was not right, I was not mature enough, they easily could be one of many reasons why it did not last. But I wonder, if we had the opportunity to see a past love, how many of us would want to seek them out? Claire, played by Vanessa Redgrave (Anonymous, Coriolanus), was fortunate to have such an opportunity in this romantic comedy. Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables, Mamma Mia!) and Gael Garcia Bernal (No, Bad Education) played engaged couple Sophie and Victor. On a pre-honeymoon trip to Verona Italy, Sophie stumbled upon a group of women known as the “Secretaries of Juliet.” They were entrusted with the job of answering letters left by lovelorn individuals seeking advice from Juliet Capulet aka Romeo and Juliet. Asked to join them, Sophie answered a recently found letter that Claire had written back in 1957. When Claire showed up with her grandson Charlie, played by Christopher Egan (Eragon, Resident Evil: Extinction); Sophie joined them on their search to find the love of Claire’s life from decades ago. Though there were no surprises in this movie, it was beautiful seeing the countryside of Italy. There was nothing offensive or rude in this film nor did it have any foul language. Vanessa’s acting never goes bad; however, it showed the other actors were not as convincing as she was with her character. Overall there was nothing great or bad about the movie, perfectly suited for viewing on a lazy day. I will say if I had the opportunity to meet a past love, even if the relationship had ended badly, I would absolutely go if it meant going to Italy.

 

2 1/4 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: To the Wonder

It takes a lot of work to make a long distance relationship successful. Communication is so important, I have found, in keeping that connection solid when the two individuals are apart. One of the pitfalls of a long distance relationship is when the two of you are together, it tends to feel like a vacation. Cramming in favorite restaurants and sights becomes the norm, bypassing the reality of daily life. Another thing to consider, if the final goal is to start a life together in the same place, is what location becomes home base. A sure sign of maturity with your decision is when “yours” and “mine” becomes “ours.” In this dramatic romance directed by Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life, Day’s of Heaven), we witness the shock waves of a couple’s love when the romance and reality of their relationship come together. Ben Affleck (Argo, The Town) played Neil, an American who fell in love with a woman he met while traveling through Europe. Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, Hitman) was Marina, the European woman smitten with Neil. After a whirlwind romance Neil brought Marina back to the states, to settle with him down in Oklahoma. Told with very little dialog, I felt I was just watching a series of random scenes on the movie screen. I can appreciate the artistic value in making a film such as this, where the viewer is being told the story via visuals. However, after 15-20 minutes I started losing interest in the story. As the movie dragged on I felt I was in one of those market research groups watching a series of beautiful television commercials and I was supposed to rate them. As for co-stars Rachel McAdams (Midnight in Paris, The Vow) as Jane and Javier Bardem (Skyfall, No Country For Old Men) as Father Quintana, they were wasted in this laborious movie. I strongly disliked Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life; however, if you enjoyed that film, you probably would like this one. Consider this a lighter version with less unconnected scenes of outer space and nature. I have to tell you, it was easier for me to handle the times of separation in my long distance relationship than sitting through this movie.

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Company You Keep

Due to the problems I had in high school, by the time I went to college I learned it was safer to not reveal much about myself. This meant being vague about my religion, my politics, even my taste in music; I did not want to take a chance in providing someone ammunition to pick on me. Going to an out of state college gave me the opportunity to be a different person. However, I had no idea how much energy it took to keep up a facade of total blankness; it made me tired. I can only imagine how much strength it takes for people in the witness protection program. In this thriller you will meet a group of individuals who have been undercover for 30 years. When a bank robbery went terribly wrong, members of the activist group behind the heist went into hiding. Thirty years later radical member Sharon Solarz, played by Susan Sarandon (Robot & Frank, Dead Man Walking), decided to turn herself in to the authorities. Shia LaBeaouf (Transformers franchise, Lawless) as investigative reporter Ben Shepard found it odd when civil rights lawyer Jim Grant, played by Robert Redford (The Sting, The Horse Whisperer), refused to take Sharon’s case. Not willing to take no for an answer, Ben tenaciously searched for answers from the evasive lawyer before the FBI removed any chance for Ben to break a great story. The cast was made up with Academy Award winners and nominees like Julie Christie (Away From Her, Don’t Look Now) as Mimi Lurie and Richard Jenkins (The Visitor, Liberal Arts) as Jed Lewis. Robert Redford was just okay as the director; but I found the idea of him being the father to eleven year old daughter Isabel, played by singing sensation Jackie Evancho, not believable. Though this movie was marketed as a thriller; I found for the most part scenes were somewhat tense, but those were few and far between. I was bored at times and it was a shame. The idea behind the story was great; sadly the execution of it was poor. This film needed the same type of passion that one can find in activists today.

2 1/4 starsĀ 

Flash Movie Review: Trance

The corridor led to a dead end; I had to retrace my steps. Amid the muffled sounds were large popping sounds followed by squeals of laughter. I would see the image of another human for a second before it disappeared back into a kaleidoscope of twinkling lights. As I turned a corner a blast of cool air hit me in the face, momentarily forcing me to close my eyes. When they opened a silhouette of a person came at me from the side. A beam of light pierced the darkness revealing the person was a clown. I laughed as the colorful costumed character pointed to the glowing exit sign down the hallway. If they are not too crowded I get a kick out of going through amusement park fun houses. Usually covered in a fog of darkness, I enjoy how the houses are set up to manipulate the visitors with creative elements of surprise. It was the same way in this thrilling mystery of a movie. Director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) created a taut sense of urgency with the more than capable actors. James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class, Wanted) played art auctioneer Simon. He became embroiled in a tussle with a gang of criminals led by Franck, played by Vincent Cassel (Black Swan, Irreversible), while trying to protect a valuable painting. Due to a blow to the head, Simon needed the assistance of hypnotherapist Elizabeth, played by Rosario Dawson (Seven Pounds, Sin City); in trying to retrieve the parts of his memory he had lost. This drama had just as many twists and turns as a fun house maze. I had to work at paying attention to see if there were any clues being revealed in the simmering story. The acting was intense and tight; with the actors totally submerged into their characters. I have no complaints with Danny’s directing; but I did not get totally immersed into this story like I have done with his other films. The issue for me became apparent as the movie moved closer to the ending. There were a few too many surprises that left me confused. Like a carnival fun house, this is the type of movie I need to see again…just not right away. There were a couple of scenes with blood.

 

3 stars

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