Monthly Archives: October 2013

Flash Movie Review: All is Lost

It was only on one flight where I thought the plane was in trouble and that I was not going to survive. The weather was storming through a major portion of our flight as we bounced around constantly. At one point the plane suddenly dropped in that roller coaster type of way for 3-5 seconds. Instead of my life flashing before me, it was several scenes of plane crashes I had seen in the movies. It figures, doesn’t it? Gratefully that was the only time where I even thought my life could end. I have, however, seen several people who were facing their own mortality. Each one of them was so courageous; I honestly do not know if I could handle looking at death the way they did. Death played a major part in this dramatic adventure movie. Robert Redford (The Company You Keep, Out of Africa) played a competent boatman on a solo trip somewhere in the Indian Ocean. When his boat was struck and damaged by an errant shipping container; he was left with only his wits, having to rely on creative means if he was going to survive the voyage. With very little dialog, Robert had to physically express all of his thoughts and emotions. It was a powerful performance that I felt would get recognized during the awards season. For his age I was impressed by several of his challenging scenes. Due to the lack of back story and dialog, I believe only a small group of people would enjoy this film. There were a couple of parts I found boring. This was the type of movie that critics will like more than the general moviegoer, I believe. The special effects were nothing that stood out for me, though I did find the storm scenes intense. If I were to sit and think about this film I am sure I could come up with some symbolism several scenes may have represented. However, that is not my style. My focus in watching movies is for the entertainment value, not debate the possibilities on the meaning of a scene. I have mixed feelings about this action film or maybe, I was just uncomfortable watching a man facing his own mortality. There was one scene where blood was shown.

 

3 stars

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Flash Movie Review: Spinning Plates

Food has the capability to take on different roles to fill a person’s needs. For some people food is a friend to them, never declining an invite to be at their dining room table. There are some folks who see food simply as fuel to keep them going through the day. The individuals who say they did not have a meal because they forgot to eat, I have no understanding of them. I have had a love/hate relationship with all the pervasive foods I have met in my life. When I have struggled through rough times, food would always be there to comfort me. The more full I became the more numb I would be to the ugliness around me. Those were the times where I loved my food. But coming off those satiated, sugar induced highs would only pull me down to the dark recesses of unworthiness and loathing towards my increased girth. These days I have maintained a respectful balance with food. During the weekdays I make food drive a one lane, bumpy road to visit me; on the weekends, the two of us take a fun road trip out on the highway. Since I tend to be a low rent eater, finding comfort in simpler foods, I was not sure I would appreciate this documentary. I was completely wrong; this film festival winning movie focused on three distinct restaurants, each with a different outlook on what food meant to them. In Grant Achatz’ Alinea restaurant, food blended with science to create a new art form. The 150 year old family restaurant Breitbach’s Country Dining used food to bring a community together. For the start-up Mexican restaurant La Cocina de Gabby, food would provide a better life for the owners’ 3 year old daughter. This captivating film seamlessly moved from one restaurant to the other, cleverly shedding class distinctions to provide the true essence on the meaning of food. A perfect companion to the story was the well blended musical score. I was lucky to have attended a showing where the director did a question and answer session after the film and appreciated the fact he wanted to make this movie as a counterpoint to all the cooking reality shows out there. He succeeded for this documentary brought in the human aspect in regards to preparing and serving a meal. Be forewarned because after the movie I went straight home and grazed through my pantry and refrigerator.

 

3 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Counselor

The word “enough” has a different meaning today than it did when I was growing up. Back then the word meant: as much or as many as required; like when I was asked if I had enough to eat. It related more to a personal level. I have always said if I won the lottery there would be little change in my personal possessions. There would be no multiple car purchases or living in a mansion. One of the benefits I could see would be for me to no longer worry how I was paying for something. That would be a nice aspect I wish to experience someday. These days I find the word “enough” is being used more as a comparison to someone else. For example, they have more than I do, I do not have enough. Greed seems to have taken on a more extreme persona in society today. When the news reports on prominent people getting caught for illegal activity, in their desire to acquire even more wealth, I have to wonder what is wrong that they cannot be satisfied with what they have already. An extreme example of this is the premise for this dramatic crime film. Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave, A Dangerous Method) played a wealthy counselor who decided to acquire more wealth via drug trafficking. When the deal did not go as planned, the counselor learned there were consequences to the decisions he made. Based on the book by Cormac McCarthy (All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men), the script was Cormac’s attempt at being a screenwriter. This was a poor decision because the script was horrendous. I thought the dialog was bizarre while multiple scenes made no sense. Even with a cast that included Javier Barden (Skyfall, No Country for Old Men) as Reiner, Penelope Cruz (To Rome With Love, Volver) as Laura and Cameron Diaz (Bad Teacher, My Sister’s Keeper) as Malkina; there was no way they could save this film from its bloody boredom. I found it interesting that a film about greed may have been green lighted by individuals who wanted to score again, on par with the fortunes reaped from their previous film No Country for Old Men. It was a greedy ploy that did not pay off. There were scenes with blood and violence.

 

1 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Bad Grandpa

There was only one set of grandparents by the time I was born. My grandfather was a quiet, religious man who would always play checkers with me whenever I asked him. When I think about my grandmother; I remember watching her cook or bake, barely using any measuring cups or spoons. Some of you will think this is an odd memory, but I cannot think of one time where I saw my grandmother sitting on a sofa. She would always sit in a chair, letting anyone who wanted to relax to take the couch. The two of them were everything one would want in a grandparent. They never yelled or disciplined any of their grandchildren; the closest they came would be to stare at one of us with a short shake of their head. Compared to 86 year old Irving Zisman, played by Johnny Knoxville (The Last Stand, The Ringer) in this comedy, my grandparents were living in a coma. When Irving’s daughter was sentenced to prison; it was up to him to drive his 8 year old grandson Billy, played by Jackson Nicoll (The Fighter, Arthur), cross country to be with his father. Along the way Irving exposed his grandson to people and places that were never mentioned in any child rearing manuals. If you dislike practical jokes, chances are you will not like this film that sprung out of the Jackass film franchise. After the first Jackass film, I thought the rest went quickly downhill. The thing I liked about this crazy movie was the fact it had a story outline and it stayed with it. Johnny was impressive in his ability to stay in character, never laughing at the wild scenes he created along with the other writers. I thought Jackson did a wonderful job with the way he used his sad eyes and face of resignation at the right times. There were some scenes that were so outrageous I could not help but wonder if the innocent bystanders actually knew what was going on. Having seen the trailers for some time now, I was worried they showed the best parts of the movie. They did take a little of the surprise away from me, but most of the scenes still had a little extra oomph to offer in this funny film. I actually laughed out loud during several episodes. Almost every family has one relative who is considered the crazy or wild one. It is all relative though when you stack them up against Irving Zisman.

 

2 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete

Each of us starts out with a blank slate when we come into this world. I believe no one is born knowing about prejudice, hatred, discrimination or the difference between good and bad. So what could be the factors that influence the way a child behaves as they grow older? If we open this up for discussion I am sure we would still be discussing it well into our twilight years. The aspect I find fascinating is when parents and their children are opposites of each other. So many times on the news I have seen quiet, gentle parents talk lovingly about their child who was just charged with manslaughter or some other heinous crime. On the flip side there are the human interest stories where an individual from a disadvantaged background became successful. I have to sit and wonder if child rearing is more like a game of chance instead of some set formula. You will see what I am talking about in this dramatic film that came out of the dark to me. I wound up seeing this movie because it was the only one that was not playing in 3D at the time I had available. Without any awareness of it, I was taken by surprise on how much I enjoyed it. The story was about two inner city boys who had to struggle on their own when their mothers were taken away from them. Skylan Brooks (Our Family Wedding, Seven Pounds) and Ethan Dizon (How I Met Your Mother-TV) played the two boys, named Mister and Pete. For being so young, they were terrific in their roles. Another surprise for me was seeing Jennifer Hudson (The Secret LIfe of Bees, Dreamgirls) playing Mister’s mom, Gloria. I would have thought with her being attached to this film I would have seen a commercial or at least one movie trailer, but nothing at all. The movie even had Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Bullet to the Head, Lost-TV) as Sergeant Pike and Jordin Sparks (Sparkle, American Idol-TV) as Alice. I am not implying that Jordin made the movie; in fact, I did not fully understand her role. But with higher profile people, I found the lack of advertising odd. Irregardless, I fell right into the beauty of this story. People who know me have heard me say, “If you need a license for a dog, then I feel you need a license to be a parent.” See for yourself by viewing this film festival winning movie.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Fifth Estate

With a single word or phrase a story can take on a different meaning. The same holds true for a newscast or written article. When I watch or read the news I know I am getting a fragment of the whole story. It is understandable due to time constraints or limited space. Being a naturally curious person, I enjoy finding out the backstory to what was reported to the public. It could be almost anything from entertainment to science to government; hearing the details on an individual’s thought process behind what they did or created is something that has always fascinated me. In regards to this movie, I was looking forward to discovering something new on the how and why Julian Assange created the site WikiLeaks. As some of you already know, I am not here to judge if something is right or wrong, legal or not, ethical, etc.; I am reviewing the movie on its entertainment value. Benedict Cumberbatch (12 Years a Slave, Star Trek into Darkness) played the role of Julian. Daniel Bruhl (Rush, Winning Streak) played Julian’s collaborator Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Both actors did the best they could with what was given to them. For a movie that claimed it was a dramatic thriller based on real events, the script was a real mess. I was bored through a major portion, finally becoming engaged in the last third of the film. It really was a shame considering the cast also included Laura Linney (Mystic River, Hyde Park on Hudson) as Sarah Shaw and Stanley Tucci (Margin Call, The Terminal) as James Boswell. All of them were good but the way the story played out with short scenes that did not go anywhere; there was not a cohesive trail to follow. With all the controversy regarding WikiLeaks and the way it received anonymous covert data; I wished the writers would, if not enhanced, at least have allowed more time to look at an event from multiple points of view. I did not gain anything new regarding Julian, the site and more importantly I was not entertained. A story so current needed an exciting script and offer something extra to grab the attention of the viewer. If not then one should just watch the news.

 

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Carrie

It will all depend on what type of experience you had in school to see what you found scary in this horror film remake. If you were poplar, smart, participated in some type of sports activity or involved in any type of club, chances are you will find the bloodshed and killings mortifying in this movie. But if you were picked on, bullied or did not quite fit in with the majority of your classmates; the actions of the students in this drama will be scarier for you. For those of you who read my review of the original film back in the beginning of November 2012, you know this movie has special meaning for me. My high school years were rough; the first week I was punched in the stomach because I was the only student in class who knew the composer Ludwig van Beethoven. Things only got worse for me afterwards. So, I had some hesitation to see this updated version. Chloe Grace Moretz (Hugo, Let Me In) took on the iconic role of Carrie White, the shy quiet student who discovered she had a special talent. I thought Chloe did an admirable job in the role. The issue I had with her version had more to do with the script. I understand I am comparing this film to the original but I feel I should mention it. With this script Carrie came across as being slightly aggressive. Where Sissy Spacek portrayed confusion and shock regarding her special power; this Carrie seemed to relish her secret gift. It gave the gymnasium scene a different attitude in my opinion. Julianne Moore (Don Jon, What Maise Knew), who I think is a wonderful actress, did a crazier version of Carrie’s zealously religious mother Margaret White. The rest of the cast did not stand out for me compared to Julianne and Chloe. I think part of the reason had to do with their characters. Seeing the mean teasing being done to Carrie caused an immediate reaction inside of me. My body kept tensing up as my brain tried going numb, just as it did in high school when I would see one of the bullies walking towards me. If you have never seen the original movie, you might be interested in seeing this one. To be honest with you, I still prefer the original one directed by Brian De Palma (Scarface, The Untouchables). There were several scenes where blood was shown.

 

2 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Escape Plan

I hope when the time comes I will be honest with myself and realize I need to step back. Having been a group fitness, yoga and cycle instructor for many years; I can see how my intensity levels have diminished with age. There is no way I can match the energy of a 20 year old instructor; it is just a fact of life. One thing that has not dulled through the years has been my passion. I feel such joy when I see participants enjoying themselves; whether from a sense of personal accomplishment or laughing at something I mentioned, there is a bond that forms between all of us. As the members and I grow older, we will adjust to the reality of it. I have told my classes that one of my goals in teaching fitness has always been that all of us can still get out of a chair by ourselves when we are 90 years old. The acceptance of aging is something I feel the main stars in this action thriller may need to address sooner than later. Sylvester Stallone (Bullet to the Head, The Expendables franchise) played Ray Breslin, an expert in prison designs. Due to a double cross, Ray found himself locked up in an unknown maximum security facility that was based on one of his designs. If he wanted to get out alive he would not only have to rely on everything he had learned from breaking out of prisons, but on the help of fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Last Stand, True Lies). The main attraction of this movie was seeing the two former action heroes starring in a film together for the first time. Both actors stayed with what worked for them in the past; Sylvester delivered his grumbled lines with his sarcastic sneer while Arnold brought his brawn and comedic lines. It was obvious these two actors were trying to recapture their glory days and I did not have a problem with it. However, with that being the case; I was annoyed with the poor editing job throughout this movie. The illusion of being an action star failed due to seeing the stunt doubles in many of the scenes. The only performance I enjoyed was from Jim Caviezel (The Thin Red Line, Person of Interest-TV) as Warden Hobbes. With older actors trying to retain their youth, an odd script and a poor ending; there was nothing very satisfying in this film except that the good guys win and the bad guys lose. An observation, the audience was 95% male. There were a couple of scenes that had blood in them.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: 12 Years a Slave

I first learned about prejudice in elementary school, but it was not from school books. My first exposure had to do with religious differences. After answering a classmate’s question on what was my religion, he told me I was dirty. At the time I was confused by his comment, remembering I looked down at my hands to see if they were unclean. Shortly after I discovered other classmates were treated to the same encounter. If you were not the same religion as this boy, he believed something was wrong with you. The next form of prejudice I witnessed occurred later when a new student was enrolled into my class who was African American. There was no overt actions taken against her; however, she was shunned by several students. I did not understand why classmates would react in such a way, let alone try to figure out the reasoning ┬ábehind it. My elementary school years were only a prelude to the horrors I would encounter when I entered into high school. One of the reasons I started this review by writing about the prejudices and discriminations I saw at such a young age was to prepare you for what were the most realistic depictions of them that I have ever seen in a movie. Based on Solomon Northup’s memoir, this movie should be required viewing in every school. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Children of Men, American Gangster) was unbelievable playing Solomon; a free black man with a wife and two children, living in upper state New York who was kidnapped, shipped to Louisiana and sold into slavery. Directed by Steve McQueen (Shame, Hunger), I have never experienced the range of intensity and hatred portrayed in a film about slavery like it was done in this film festival winner. Relative newcomer Lupita Nyong’o was outstanding in her role as Patsey, the slave of cotton plantation owner Edwin Epps, played by Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method, Prometheus). The story was amazing to watch on film; I can only imagine what Solomon Northup’s book must be like to read. Even with some actors such as Paul Dano (Prisoners, Ruby Sparks) as Tibeats and Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement,War Horse) as Ford having brief screen time, they still made every minute count with their characters. This is a movie that needs to be seen by everyone. Now I certainly would not be considered an optimist, but forgive me if my hope is the human race would be better by witnessing the ugliness of prejudice and slavery shown in this magnificent film. There were several scenes that showed blood and violence.

 

4 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Summit

Technically it was a working vacation, but it was an experience of extremes for me. In that one time period I went from a climate of 90 degrees down to zero. Having agreed to help a friend move from Phoenix, Arizona to Colorado Springs, Colorado; I flew out to pack up their house and load up the 18 foot moving van they rented. Our first stop was the Grand Canyon. Both of us were so stunned with its beauty that we walked around as much of the canyon as we could in the one day, oblivious we were getting sunburnt from the hot sun. After many ice packs and bottles of aloe vera lotion we reached our destination, despite cruising at 25 mph through the Colorado Rockies. I have to tell you, reaching PIke’s Peak was a thrill for me. The idea that a short time ago I was walking around in a T-shirt and shorts and now I was wearing multiple layers to stay warm was crazy. A high point of the trip was taking the cog rail train to the top of the peak. In the comfort of the rail car I saw amazing landscapes, where ice had frozen and thawed so many times that it formed into razor sharp edges that glistened in the sunlight. Once we reached the top I walked out to the looking point and relished the silence around me, peering at the vastness of the land that laid below me. The cog rail train was the only way we could have ever reached what I considered to be the top of the world. I have no understanding why someone would rather use their hands and feet to climb a mountain. This is why I sat through this documentary wondering why anyone would put themselves through such an ordeal. In the summer of 2008 twenty-two climbers made their way up one of the most dangerous mountains in the world, K2 in the Himalayan mountain range. Only eleven climbers survived the experience. Visually this was a gorgeous movie to watch with some breathtaking scenes, like the one showing K2’s shadow as it spread across the topography. I could see why this film festival winner won for editing, scenes were seamless and that is why I was uncomfortable with this movie. Since I could not tell which footage was real or reenactments using actors, I was uneasy watching the harsher scenes. Listening to the multiple theories and viewpoints being stated by so many people only made me confused. As a result my attention wandered during parts of the film. Adding in my lack of understanding for such an undertaking, I felt as if I was just sitting there and watching a series of beautiful postcards.

 

2 stars

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