Monthly Archives: August 2013

Flash Movie Review: Drinking Buddies

We would try to sit together at staff meetings. Our humor was similar though mine had more of a sarcastic edge. If possible we would stop for a bite to eat after the meeting. There was an easiness to our friendship; I not only enjoyed being around them, but they had the same qualities I looked for in a loving relationship. It would take nothing for my mind to venture into a fantasy of us being together as a couple. They showed such supportive, caring, nurturing qualities; I could see us living together, me in charge of the laundry, they responsible for washing the dishes that served the meals we made together. It would be such a perfect life except for one thing–they were already in a relationship. Now I know there are people who do not let that one little fact stop them; I am not one of those people. In fact, I have been the one that was replaced by a newer version in the relationship. Not that I want you to get out the violins and play me a pity song, but I have been replaced more than once. As a result, by default, I feel I am somewhat of an expert and that is why I thought the characters in this dramatic comedy were authentic. Kate and Luke, played by Olivia Wilde (In Time, The Change-Up) and Jake Johnson (21 Jump Street, New Girl-TV), worked together at a city brewery. They always had fun when they were together; whether it was eating or going out for drinks, they looked like a happy couple. There was only one issue; Luke was already in a relationship with Jill, played by Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air, Pitch Perfect) and Kate was dating Chris, played by Ron Livingston (The Conjuring, The Cooler). With easy access to beer, one had to wonder how long they could keep walking that fine line between friendship and romance. Writer and director Joe Swanberg (Silver Bullets, LOL) used the cameras and script to create an easy natural flow to the characters, allowing them to speak in a more natural way. I thought this helped with the excellent chemistry that was evident between the actors. The humor was light and amusing as opposed to laugh out loud guffaws. I felt the movie could have used some dramatic highs and lows, breaking up the low key monotony I was experiencing. Except for one intense scene, there was not much of a deep emotional connection for me to the characters. The ending left me somewhat cold; I wanted something more or better yet, more conclusive. However if I was a drinking man, I could easily see me sitting with these characters and having a good time.

 

2 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Austenland

It took gaining more maturity before I stopped being judgmental about people’s hobbies or interests. When someone used to show me the items they collected, if it was not something that interested me, I would ask myself why anyone would collect such stuff. It did not matter if it was porcelain dolls, sports paraphernalia or ceramic elves; I had no understanding on what was the attraction. When I started working on my personal growth, something clicked inside of me. Who was I to judge someone on the things that brought them enjoyment? What I discovered was how much I admired the passion these people displayed when showing or talking about their interests. To be in touch with such feelings and find enjoyment in whatever it is you do, is something I consider to be a positive attribute. So when Jane Hayes, played by Keri Russell (Dark Skies, August Rush), decided to pursue her passion by spending her life savings on a trip to England, to submerge herself into the world of Jane Austen; I did not have a problem with it. Obsessed with the character of Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s book “Pride and Prejudice,” Jane wanted to find the type of love that would sweep her off of her feet. She was to find much more than that when she arrived at the Austen themed resort managed by Mrs. Wattlesbrook, played by Jane Seymour (Wedding Crashers, Somewhere in Time). I found the Jane Austen angle interesting in this romantic comedy. Maybe it was because of this theme, but I would have thought the producers would have hired the best writers possible to do justice to this movie. It did not happen; the script was stale and unimaginative. Jennifer Coolidge (Legally Blonde, Epic Movie) who I have enjoyed in the past, came across like a predictable cartoon character playing Miss Elizabeth Charming. As for Keri, this was not a good performance from her; I did not feel any connection to her bland character. The only one that came across with any real emotion was J.J. Field (Centurion, Blood: The Last Vampire) as Mr. Henry Nobley. It seemed odd to do a film about a woman’s passion for such an iconic author only to create a dull movie.

 

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: The World’s End

Living close enough to go back and visit the old neighborhood where I grew up, I fondly remember the good times I had with my friends. From playing ball in the alley, to seeing the same high school staircase where a group of kids parked a car overnight; I enjoyed living in the city back then. When my friends and I became of legal age, we were excited to buy alcohol legally. The excitement did not last long; I soon lost interest in it. Instead of hanging out with the usual group, I had a couple of friends that would go restaurant hopping with me. Since none of us liked to drink, we would go out at night and stop at different food places along the way. Talk about stuffing one’s feelings; my record was eating at five restaurants in one night. Looking back I think that was the most unusual thing I did while growing up. Granted, I have good memories of that activity but I could never go back and try to do it again; unlike the five friends in this comedy. Gary King, played by Simon Pegg (Star Trek franchise, Hot Fuzz), decided to round up the old group and see if they could complete the legendary pub crawl in their old home town. Joining him on the road trip were his friends Andy Knightley, Oliver Chamberlain, Steven Prance and Peter Page; played by Nick Frost (Paul, Shaun of the Dead), Martin Freeman (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Hot Fuzz), Paddy Considine (In America, Dead Man’s Shoes) and Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes franchise, Hancock). Upon reaching their old stomping grounds, the group of friends discovered things were not exactly the same; the townsfolk were acting oddly. Little did the friends know their pub crawl would entail more than just downing a pint at each location. This humorous action film started out slow for me; though, the fast paced dialog with its British humor was easily handled by the cast members. It was not until later into the movie that things turned into a science fiction story. There were some gags and scenes that fell flat for me. Taking everything into consideration this was a madcap, fun film on the unexpected times one can have when they go back home.

 

2 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: You’re Next

Standing across the crowded room you spot your friends talking to several unfamiliar people. As you walk up to them, one of your friends says something that causes the entire group to burst out with laughter. Asking what was so funny, one of your friends tells you the story was too long to repeat; that you needed to be there from the beginning. The laughter has calmed down to a few sporadic chuckles as you stand there feeling like an outsider. I felt the same way as I watched this horror movie. If this film was supposed to be a spoof or a black comedy, I wished someone would have told me, because I might have had a different reaction. Paul and Aubrey Davison, played by Rob Moran (Dumb & Dumber, Shallow Hal) and Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, From Beyond) were having a family get-together at their recently purchased home. The weekend holiday quickly turned into a fight for survival when family members and their guests were being targeted for death by a small group of masked murderers. For the horror movie fans there were more than enough brutal, bloody scenes that also had a creative flair. I was amused by how stereotypical the rivalry was between the three brothers Drake, Crispian and Felix; played by Joe Swanberg (LOL, V/H/S), AJ Bowen (The Signal, The House of the Devil) and Nicholas Tucci (Choose, Undocumented). I will say I liked the angle the writers were going for with the character Erin, played by Sharni Vinson (Step Up 3D, Home and Away-TV). However, I was confused by the script; it was so cheesy I had to wonder if I was missing some big joke. Though I did not find anything funny in this movie, some of the people around me laughed at a few scenes. Most of my time was spent either being bored or cringing at the gruesome scenes. When I think of a horror movie, I consider the elements of suspense, surprise and shock to be part of the equation; there was a limited amount of them in this story. In a comedy, I expect to hear some jokes or see scenes with physical humor; I honestly do not know if the writers intended to instill laughter as part of the viewing experience. So what did I wind up seeing at the movie theater? I honestly did not know nor did I care. There were multiple scenes of violence and blood.

1 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

All of us I am sure have encountered people who turned out to be someone totally different than who they claimed to be. It goes without saying that type of revelation has broken many hearts. I find these types of individuals to be learning lessons for us, no matter how painful it may have been to learn the lesson. But have you ever considered that these people may only be one definition of beings that affect our daily lives? Think about it; what if two elevators open up for you at the same time and in a split second you switch and take the one on the left instead of the right side. As you rise up to your designated floor; unbeknownst to you, the other elevator became stuck between floors, trapping its passengers for a couple of hours. How about that split decision you made to wait an extra 30 minutes for a ride home instead of walking through an unfamiliar area only to discover later a crime had been committed along the route you would have taken. These things could be attributed to our intuition, internal voices or maybe from some being watching over us. I believe anything is possible and that concept is what attracted me to this action, fantasy film. Lily Collins (The Blind Side; Mirror, Mirror) played Clary Fray, who lived with her artist mother Jocelyn, played by Lena Headey (Dredd, Game of Thrones-TV). When Clary began to doodle the same odd symbol over and over, it set into motion a discovery that was kept hidden by her parents, finally explaining the strange things she had been seeing. Jonathan Rhys Meyers (August Rush, Match Point) as Valentine, was the best character out of the cast for me. Lily was ok for the most part but I did not understand why she had to wear the outfit she was wearing through most of the movie. Based on the acclaimed book series by Cassandra Clare, I can appreciate the task of staying true to the story. I felt so many characters and things were being crammed into this adventure film that I never got a sense for any of them. It became a series of altercations that were nothing special. Jamie Campbell Bower (Twilight franchise, Winter in Wartime) as Jace did not have the physical presence to be a lead character as far as I was concerned. I liked the concept of the story but there was no life to this movie. If the people responsible for creating this film were basing their decisions on their inner voices, they were listening to the wrong ones.

 

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Ginger & Rosa

There is nothing wrong having the support and guidance of a parent or sibling helping you as you begin your years of schooling. An older brother or sister can certainly steer you away from the many unintentional land mines of uncertainty that you may come across in your life. But as you progress from grade to grade, there is nothing like having a best friend who is living and experiencing the same things you are on a daily basis. Whether it is suffering through a challenging homework assignment or discovering a new rock band, being able to share any and every emotion with a best friend is incredibly special. I have been blessed more than once with the presence of several best friends throughout my entire life. To this day I can remember calling up the new kid in my 6th grade class to see if he wanted to go to the library with me. Though we already knew of our similar interests; it was not until later while sitting at the local fast food outlet for a milkshake, that we found out we grew up with the same type of background, beginning a friendship that would last for decades. Ginger and Rosa, played by Elle Fanning (Super 8, Deja Vu) and Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures, 8), had a comparable relationship to the one I just described. Growing up during the early 1960s in London, Ginger and Rosa were inseparable friends. With the threat of nuclear proliferation coming into view, the girls’ close bond began to branch out into different interests. These new paths would eventually lead to an incident that caused a fissure to form in their lifelong friendship. The main asset in this film festival nominated film was Elle Fanning. For her age, I am so impressed with her acting capacity; she certainly has screen presence. Helping her and the other actors was the decision to shoot them multiple times in close-up. Add in the subdued lighting created a moodiness that accentuated the tensions forming between the characters. Christina Hendricks (Drive, Mad Men-TV) and Alessandro Nivola (Coco Before Chanel, The Eye) were durable as Ginger’s parents Natalie and Roland. The script was the weak link in this dramatic film; there were parts of the story that dragged for me. An interesting interpretation on the definition of friendship that was fortunate to have Elle as one of the friends.

 

2 3/4 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: The Spectacular Now

Somehow I did not get the class syllabus on inter-clique dating when I started high school. In fact, I was not prepared to even handle the concept of cliques. I do not recall there being any such thing in elementary school; everyone considered themselves part of a single grade. All of that changed once we entered high school as we blended in with four other elementary schools. Even if I had gotten that syllabus, it would not have made much difference because upperclassmen were quick to exert their power over us freshmen. Now that I think about it, I bet it was that exertion that quickly pushed the freshmen to scatter and seek out students who were most like themselves. It must be true when they say strength in numbers because soon there were several groups such as the jocks, the brainiacs, the nerds and the most popular all around me. In the scheme of things finding a group was not a top priority of mine; my energy was devoted to staying alive and avoid getting picked on. Those were such strange times for me, navigating through the pecking order and peer pressures all around me. It was because of those memories that I really got into the story in this smart, dramatic comedy. Miles Teller (Rabbit Hole, 21 & Over) played high school party animal Sutter Keely. A hard drinking, unambitious goof-off; Sutter had no plans in place once he finished his senior year; if he even finished his senior year. But due to a chance meeting with good girl Aimee Finecky, played by Shailene Woodley (The Descendants, Crossing Jordan-TV), Sutter’s outlook on life got shaken up in more than one way. The script created wonderful, real and honest characters. It never felt contrived or went for cheap laughs. I was already impressed with Shailene’s acting in The Descendants and was not disappointed with her in this film. She had a great screen presence that almost pushed Miles to the background when they were in the same scenes. However, to Miles’ credit, he took his character and gave it a vulnerability I had not seen him play in his other films. Another surprise in this romantic film was Kyle Chandler (Zero Dark Thirty, Friday Night Lights-TV) playing something different as Sutter’s absent father, Tommy. This was an intelligent movie that provided, what I can only assume, a true slice of high school life.

 

3 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Jobs

After a few attempts I came to the conclusion that my brain was not wired that way. There was something about a PC’s operating system that did not interface with my mind. I would sit in front of its glowing screen, staring at the dialog box that told me a function did not work, asking me if it was okay. No, it was not okay I would say as the level of my frustration rose. According to my way of thinking, the computer should have been able to correct itself and show me what I needed to do to proceed; it was a computer for heaven’s sake. When I left the PC world, replacing it with an Apple computer, an immediate connection formed between us. This is not meant to be an advertisement or endorsement of their products; I am simply saying the billowing brainwaves in my head found clarity with its operating system. The creator and driving force behind my computer and cell phone was Steve Jobs. From the events he orchestrated and the frenzied crowds who camped out for his products, I would be surprised to find someone who had not heard of this man. To portray such an intense individual in a movie, one would need an actor with some considerable acting abilities. Who this movie studio came up with to play Steve Jobs was Ashton Kutcher (The Butterfly Effect, That ’70s Show-TV). In his television commercials, Ashton has an engaging personality that is comfortable to watch. This trait worked for him when he was recreating Steve’s media events in this dramatic film. Unfortunately, it was the only thing that did work for him. Ashton was completely wrong for this character that needed to show the emotional intensity that Steve was known to have and display freely. The script was awful, making the scenes seem like small tidbits that were randomly spliced together. Where I thought Josh Gad (Love & Other Drugs, 21) had potential playing Steve’s partner Steve Wozniak, Dermot Mulroney (Zodiac, The Grey) was wasted playing the financial backer Mike Markkula. This was such a disappointing movie; I can only imagine what Steve Jobs would have done after seeing this film. My guess is he would be yelling at everyone involved, using words not usually found in a dictionary; telling them it was ugly and not consumer friendly.

 

1 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: In a World

I was stunned the first time I heard my recorded voice; it did not sound anything like me. One of my friends received a tape recorder when we were in 7th grade. Sitting in his room we played around with the device, recording a variety of sounds we made with anything we could get our hands on. After listening to the different noises we created, we recorded each other talking. I could not understand why his voice sounded the same yet mine sounded like it came from a different human being. It was not until college that I finally got comfortable listening to my own voice. With all the discussion groups I had to attend in conjunction with my class lectures, I learned to slow my speech down and enunciate each word. Even with these changes I never found my voice to be anything special; nothing like the announcers’ voices on television or in movies. Though a good voice is needed for promotions or reporting the news, I bet many of us do not give a second thought to the person who is speaking. It is for that very reason I found this quirky comedy worked on so many levels. The idea to do a film about the never seen players in the voice-over world was something different and fresh. All the credit had to go to Lake Bell (Black Rock, No Strings Attached). ¬†She wrote, directed and starred as Carol in this Sundance Film Festival winning movie. Making a meager living as a vocal coach, Carol wanted to break into the tightly knit good old boys club of voice-over announcers. Her challenge would not be easy since her father Sam, played by Fred Melamed (The Dictator, A Serious Man), was one of the top voices in the country. Though the story started out slow for me, I found myself being drawn into Carol’s world. The script was filled with satirical humor, drama and romance; similar to many other movies that were done before. However, it felt new and real due to Lake’s skewed observations on relationships. Michaela Watkins (Wanderlust, The Back-Up Plan) and Rob Corddry (Warm Bodies, What Happens in Vegas) as Carol’s sister Dani and her husband Moe were wonderful. I enjoyed how each story line was treated with respect. This being Lake’s debut as a writer and director of a film, she certainly made a point to make herself be heard; I for one was listening.

 

3 1/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Kick-Ass 2

They walk together in pairs or groups, wearing dark berets upon their heads. I have only seen them a couple of times since they made their presence known in my city. Consisting of volunteers, they are a group of people who hope by being seen they can provide a layer of safety for residents and visitors. I understand and appreciate any non-judgemental person who wants to make their place a safer one. The same goes for people in any type of work that benefits humanity; I am in awe of their desire and dedication to help people feel better. This was one of the reasons the first Kick-Ass movie did so well. Where that movie focused on a couple of ordinary people portraying themselves as superheroes, without the super powers; this action comedy delved into the aftermath of being a hero. Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Savages, The Illusionist) once again played Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass. Inspired by the birth of ordinary citizens donning costumes to fight crime, Dave sought out Mindy Macready/Hit-Girl, played by Chloe Grace Moretz (Hugo, Let Me In), to join him and form a crime fighting duo. Little did they know at the same time Chris D’Amico/Red Mist, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad, Role Models), was reinventing himself to become the world’s first super villain. Part of his mission was to get revenge on Kick-Ass for killing his father. Sadly I cannot tell you what name Red Mist chose for his evil persona, because if I were to put it in print I would be slapped with an obscenity charge. Things were not any better with the story; I found parts of it were mean-spirited. Where the first film was fun and hopeful, this one was vulgar and boring. I cannot believe I am going to say this but the best part of the movie was Jim Carrey (The Truman Show, In Living Color-TV) playing Colonel Stars and Stripes. He brought life to his character. Hit-Girl’s fight scenes were the only other part I enjoyed in this dreadful dud. There was such a good opportunity here to extend the first film’s story and make a decent sequel, with the same endearing characters. Instead they grew up and turned into less interesting people. I have to blame this on the writers. A couple of brief scenes had blood in them.

 

1 2/3 stars

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