Monthly Archives: January 2014

Flash Movie Review: The Damned United

I do not need to know how the beautiful baked dessert placed before me was made. All that matters to me is that it tastes as good as it looks with its dark chocolate syrup dripping down the sides of the spongy chocolate chip cake. The same can be said about the art exhibit I attended, where the artist created these incredible colorful sculptures out of blown glass. It was beyond me how he could take such a delicate medium and produce these exquisite pieces that were placed among the foliage of the local conservatory. Most of the time I prefer not knowing how something was created because I feel it takes away from the visceral experience. It would be similar to having prior knowledge of all the tricks and magical sequences a haunted house amusement park attraction has before you go through it. What fun would that be? This biographical comedic drama is a good example of me not being familiar with the subject, yet I still found this movie to be a highly entertaining experience. I had no idea what was English football. As I viewed this film I wondered if this sport was what here in the United States we call soccer. Michael Sheen (MIdnight in Paris, Twilight franchise) played abrasive, arrogant coach Brian Clough. The story was about the challenges that faced him when he took over the coaching duties from his bitter rival Don Revie, played by Colm Meaney (Law Abiding Citizen, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine-TV), who had taken the Leeds United football team and made them one of the most successful in the league. With Tom Hooper’s (Les Miserables, The King’s Speech) direction, I thought he did a fantastic job in keeping the story steady, letting the actors shine. I have been impressed with Michael Sheen’s body of work so far; this picture only continued it. Adding their specialness to the rest of the cast were Timothy Spall (Ginger & Rosa, Enchanted) as Peter Taylor and Jim Broadbent (Cloud Atlas, The Iron Lady) as Chairman Sam Longson. My only complaint about the film was the use of flashbacks; I had to remind myself of the time frame periodically. To tell you the truth the story was more about egos and personalities than about actual football games. For someone who had no knowledge about this sport, I still had a good time watching this DVD. An added bonus was researching the events of this film afterwards and learning more about the history of the sport. So not only was this an entertaining film, it taught me something new.

 

3 stars — DVD

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Flash Movie Review: The Invisible Woman

The couple sitting next to me either thought the armrest between us was radioactive or rigged to explode. No not really, they were heavy into performing public displays of affection, known as PDAs. I do not have an issue with a kiss, hug, neck massage, tickle or the holding of hands; but when 2 people are intensely trying to invade each other’s body in a public area like the aisle of a grocery store or on a crowded train, I have to wonder what is going on that they need to show the world they are in love that much. Honestly, I interpret it to mean there is something lacking in their relationship and they are overcompensating for it. On the flip side when a person does not want to be out in public with their significant other, I usually make the assumption there is something they are hiding or embarrasses them. Based on the biographical book of the same name, this romantic drama revealed a side of Charles Dickens that was unfamiliar to me. Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter franchise, Red Dragon) directed and starred as Charles Dickens. Upon meeting the young daughter of Mrs. Frances Ternan, played by Kristin Scott Thomas (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The English Patient), Charles Dickens became enamored with her to the point where his wife Catherine, played by Joanna Scanlan (Notes of a Scandal, Girl with a Pearl Earring), knew something was afoot. The first thing I have to tell you is how surprised I was about the story. Witnessing the actions of Charles Dickens in this Oscar nominated film I could easily see him play one of the characters in his novels. The scenes in this richly detailed film went from sparse open expanses to muted fully appointed rooms. Each aspect of this movie was well thought out. Felicity Jones (Hysteria, The Tempest) as the young woman Nelly did a beautiful job of acting as did the other actors. If I separate each part of this film I had no complaints about them individually; however, what failed for me was the directing. This story was so dragged out; I had a hard time staying focused. One of the comments I heard a fellow viewer say afterwards was if he saw the back of Nelly’s head one more time he was going to scream. I am sure Ralph is proud of this film, but if I had done this picture with the same results I would have tried to keep it hidden away from my friends.

 

2 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Impromptu

I agree that opposites attract is valid most of the time; however, sometimes it can be a real challenge. My friends were quite puzzled when I was in a relationship with a mathematician. In fact, they had a PhD degree in mathematics. Looking back I have to laugh at some of the conversations we used to have when we were in disagreement. Where they needed fact based information to make a decision, they were always perplexed when I would say things like “it feels right” or “that is how I feel.” How does one explain a feeling to a scientific mind? Suffice to say our different perspectives was the cleaver that finally severed our relationship. So here in this movie there were two individuals who were curious about each other; both passionate about their respective creative talents. This comedy was extra fun for me because it combined two of my favorite things besides movies: music and books. Judy Davis (Barton Fink, To Rome with Love) played writer Amandine Lucile Aurore Dupin aka George Sand. She was known to wear men’s clothing  and smoke cigars, besides her romantic affairs with some prominent men; all which were quite outrageous back in the early 1800s. Upon hearing rapturous music being played on the piano by composer Frederic Chopin, played by Hugh Grant (About a Boy, Music and Lyrics), George was determined to meet this man whose music was speaking directly to her heart. Unfortunately former lovers and friends had different ideas for them. This biographical film was enjoyable on multiple levels. Seeing a young Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Sense and Sensibility) play Duchess D’Antan, Mandy Patinkin (The Princess Bride, Criminal Minds-TV) as Alfred De Musset and Bernadette Peters (The Jerk, Annie) as Maria D’Agoult was amusing to me. The acting from the whole cast was solidly cohesive. I have to tell you I liked the retro look to the whole film. What I mean is the use of actual film to shoot the picture and on location in France without any type of special effects. Of course it was understandable since the movie was made over 20 years ago. Being familiar with the works of Chopin and Franz Liszt, played by Julian Sands (The Killing Sands, Leaving Las Vegas), I found the connection between my own knowledge of these historic figures and the characterizations of them in this musical film a crazy juxtaposition. This comedy would not only work for those who have a strong creative side but to those with a dominant scientific mind.

3 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Gimme Shelter

Always following quietly in my shadow is the child of my youth who lives inside of me. I never hinder him when he comes out to play. There are things he feels he never had the opportunity to do when we were one and the same, whether from his own fears or the environment around him that kept him dormant. But now he can experience the excitement of exploring a new place in the city with his friends or be able to take a leisurely walk around the neighborhood he grew up in, without having to race home to the safety behind the protective security door in the apartment building he called home. I never take for granted this little child that accompanies and helps me in my fitness classes, letting me feel that youthful spirit I kept hidden away for so many years. Being so familiar with my inner child would explain why it pains me now when I see a child who has been forced to be an adult, never getting the chance to experience what childhood was meant to be. Vanessa Hudgens (Spring Breakers, Beastly) played 16 year old Agnes “Apple” Bailey. Transferred from one foster home to another due to her abusive addict mother June, played by Rosario Dawson (Sin City, Seven Pounds), Agnes ran away to find her absent father Tom Fitzpatrick, played by Brendan Fraser (Furry Vengeance, The Mummy franchise). She only knew of him because of an old letter she had in her possession. The first thing that struck me about this movie based on a true story, was the surprisingly good acting job Vanessa did with her character. It was not an easy role; a couple of times I found myself cringing in my seat. Rosario was excellent, I only wish there would have been more scenes with her in them. In a couple of decent supporting  roles there was James Earl Jones (Finder’s Fee; Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins) as Frank McCarthy and Ann Dowd (Side Effects, Compliance) as Kathy. The story had a natural grimness to it where I felt the writer/director accentuated it, giving the movie more of a soap opera melodramatic feel. I felt the movie was a little too preachy and predictable; but luckily the acting and the fact that this was a true story kept me interested. Sitting in my seat during the credits that showed the actual people this movie was based on, I realized I was hearing the sound of sniffling coming from the people around me. I had to wonder how much of it was due to the movie or to them missing their inner child.

 

2 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: I, Frankenstein

I would have been upset if this movie was based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Except for Victor Frankenstein’s creation, there was no similarity between this action fantasy film and the original story. It turns out this movie was based on the graphic novel of the same name. I looked up the definition of graphic novel to find out it is defined as a fictional story that is done in a comic strip format, but in book form. With this understanding, I did not have a problem with this movie’s story. Frankenstein’s creation, played by Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight, Thank You for Not Smoking), was being hunted by evil demons led by Naberius, played by Bill Nighy (About Time, Love Actually), who needed him to complete their plan to create an army of demonic soulless beings to take over the world. The only thing standing in their way were the gargoyles led by Leonore, played by Miranda Otto (The Lord of the Rings franchise, What Lies Beneath). The film trailer I saw for this movie was predominantly filled with battle scenes. I now understand why since most of the time I was watching chase and fight scenes. If you are looking for just a mindless movie to sit back and not think about, this one is doable. The idea and concept of this story was fine; however, it was poorly executed. I found the writing  to be bland and pretty cheesy for the most part. The transformation from gargoyle to human form was fun but most of the special effects were just okay, nothing really spectacular. I have always been fond of Aaron’s and Bill’s acting in the past and would have liked to have seen here more detail in their roles. Granted once I realized the Frankenstein character was more of a superhero I thought Aaron was an odd choice. If there were not any CGI effects involved then Aaron was chiseled for the role but was still of an average human size. There was a familiarity to the whole layout of this movie and I found out why afterwards. The writer was the same one who did the Underworld films, which explained the look and feel to this picture. Now I cannot say this was an awful film, it still entertained me; it just was too generic. If the movie studio still plans to do a sequel, since it was obvious at the end, I hope they spend more time devoted to the details of the story to make the viewers care about it.

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Sound of Music Live!

It is not fair when the odds have been stacked against you. For me it would be the time when 4 kids jumped me when I was walking home from elementary school. Maybe for you it was when your boss did not promote you but your co-worker instead, because their wife was best friends with your boss’ wife. All I can say is sometimes life is just not fair. When I watched this musical I felt bad for American Idol and Grammy winner Carrie Underwood; the cards were really stacked against her. Grant you, she has a wonderful voice and I give her credit for even agreeing to perform this classic Rodgers & Hammerstein score live on television. In addition, you hear the title The Sound of Music and who does not think of Julie Andrews who starred in the original film? The next issue was putting Carrie in a cast of Tony award nominees and winner. First there was Tony winner Audra McDonald (A Raisin in the Sun-TV movie, Rampart) playing Mother Abbess. One of the most gifted musical actresses of modern time; we essentially are talking theater royalty here. Next there was Tony Award nominee Laura Benanti (Meskada, Take the Lead) who played Elsa Schrader. How many of you knew she already had performed in The Sound of Music on Broadway? Lastly there was Stephen Moyer (Priest, True Blood-TV) who had performed in musical theater before, who played the pivotal character Captain Von Trapp. I ask you, how could Carrie hold her own versus these trained actors? So where does that leave us? If you already are a fan of musicals and you can put aside the Julie Andrews memories, this drama was perfectly enjoyable to watch. I will say Carrie’s performance was stiff and wooden, glaringly so when any adult actors were with her in the same scenes. Carrie’s singing was fine, though I sensed she had to struggle to keep her country roots hidden as she was playing an Austrian nanny. If there is anyone who is not familiar with the story, it is about an innocent young woman torn between what she thinks she should do and what her heart tells her. She takes a temporary position as a nanny in a strict, disciplined Austrian household just as war is about to break out. The acting from the Broadway veterans was outstanding; Audra was perfect in her role. Unless you are not a fan of musicals, there is no reason I can think of why you would not want to see this good effort of a show. Instead of climbing mountains, think of this film more like climbing hills.

 

2 1/2 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Devil’s Due

My cravings are emotionally based; I fully understand it. I am not physically craving chocolate but experiencing a mental comfort as I consume it. So when I hear about a variety of cravings pregnant women say they have I try to imagine how such a combination of food could satisfy their bodies. Or maybe I am making an assumption and it is an emotional thing for them as much as it is for me. Sure we have all heard of the pickles and ice cream craving; however, there are some that sound so odd to me. One person I knew constantly craved spicy hot foods during her pregnancy, the hot pepper oil and sriracha type of hot. There was someone who prior to becoming pregnant loved mustard; however, as soon as she became pregnant the smell of mustard made her violently ill. I just find it curious why a body, for example, would crave a cheesy corn puff instead of a piece of cheese. I figure who am I to question such things, but in this horror film the cravings took on a sinister outlook. Soon after their honeymoon newlyweds Samantha and Zach McCall, played by Allison Miller (17 Again, Blood: The Last Vampire) and Zach Gilford (The Last Stand, Friday Night Lights-TV), found out they were going to have a baby. As the pregnancy progressed Zach began to notice unsettling changes in his wife that were hard to explain. This scary movie used the found footage technique of filming for the entire movie. This meant there was shakiness to almost every scene, to the point where I wanted to take something for motion sickness; I absolutely disliked it. In addition there were times I sat and wondered who was holding the camera and how could they even film the scene based on the camera angle. The script was poorly written for an unexciting story. I was bored except for a couple of decent special effects, but they were not enough to get me at all excited about this film. Seeing Sam Anderson (Perfect Strangers, Water for Elephants) as Father Thomas and Vanessa Ray (Francis Ha, Not Waving but Drowning) as Suzie, I had to wonder if they were embarrassed for agreeing to do this ridiculous bloody movie. I only pray this film does not procreate and spawn a sequel. There were several scenes with gore and blood in them.

 

1 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

I am so grateful I stopped using my charge card after the November Black Friday hacking scandal came to light. You see I used my card at that retailer over the weekend it was discovered and was concerned my account information got stolen. This past Saturday I received a phone call from the charge card company because they were detecting a suspicious transaction taking place on my account number. Someone in Plano, Texas was attempting to buy $41.28 worth of items at a grocery store, using an actual charge card with my number on it, at the checkout cash register. After telling the representative on the phone that I had the card in my possession here at home; she denied the purchase and closed the account, telling me a new account number and charge card would be issued and sent to me immediately. The reason I am mentioning it is because this happened just before I left to see this action thriller. The story involved electronic sabotage. Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, Unstoppable) played Jack Ryan. After an injury ended his military career, Jack caught the attention of Thomas Harper, played by Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves, Waterworld), who believed Jack’s skills would help the CIA foil a possible terrorist act against the United States. Possibly due to not having read the Tom Clancy books with Jack Ryan and my hacking episode, I enjoyed this action mystery film more than I though I would. Sure I still thought of Captain Kirk when Chris was on screen, but I thought his action scenes were well choreographed and his acting was good enough for the role. I thought Kevin did a fine job playing an older no-nonsense character. Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina, King Arthur) who played Doctor Cathy Muller was adequate, but the character felt more like it was there just to add a love interest into the story. As for Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn, Hamlet) who directed and starred as Viktor Cherevin in this movie, his direction and pacing was tight, keeping the story moving forward; I never felt a dull moment. However, his character was confusing to me because I did not quite understand his motives, nor thought he was intense enough. There were a couple of “you have to be kidding me” scenes but they played into the action scenes. If they make a sequel I probably would go see it. I just would not use my charge card to pay for it. There were a few scenes that had violence and blood.

 

2 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Nut Job

One of the best objects for motivation is food. It does not necessarily have to be a comfort type of food like cookies or ice cream; could be a sandwich or a piece of fruit. During the week food is the escalator that helps me get through the day. If I am having a stressful time at the office I know it will not last long because I have set up an oasis where I will be taking in some food at a certain time. I may not want to go jogging on Sunday but I know if I want to treat myself to a chocolate chip cookie later, I have to go running now. There are certain foods I will eat simply because I want them to continue a memory I cherish. The smell of cinnamon quickly brings to mind cookies my mother used to bake, where the dough had to be rolled out and cut with heart and diamond shaped cookie cutters. Just before the cookies were put into the oven they would get sprinkled with a combination of cinnamon and sugar. Whether there is an absence or abundance of food it still can be a big motivator as this animated movie will show you. Will Arnett (When in Rome, Blades of Glory) voiced Surly, a squirrel who only looked out for himself in a park filled with other animals. After being banished by the park’s dominant animal the raccoon, voiced perfectly by Liam Neeson (The Grey, Taken franchise), Surly tried to survive in a city filled with humans, where he was to discover something that could change everything for all the animals back in the park. I understood the moral message the writers were trying to convey in this adventure comedy, though it was a weak effort. Part of the issue was creating a story and film to cover everyone’s tastes; it was too much and too predictable. There was no humor for adults, spending way too much time on flatulence jokes. The voices of Katherine Heigl (Life as We Know It, Grey’s Anatomy-TV) as Andie and Brendan Fraser (The Mummy franchise, Bedazzled) as Grayson easily lent themselves to a cartoon character; but I did not find much excitement among the majority of the players. Compared to other animated films I have seen, this one was not much fun to watch. All I kept thinking about during most of the movie was what I would eat for lunch when I got home. There were a couple of extra scenes in the middle and end of the credits.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Ride Along

It could start with what appears to be a simple look between siblings, but you know there is more behind the momentarily locked glance. You have been sitting at the restaurant table all this time wanting to eliminate your bladder but you refuse to excuse yourself from the table, leaving the siblings alone to talk about you. The reason is you have been in a relationship for a few months and today is the day you are meeting the sister for the very first time and you know what that means. I do not care what anyone says but one of the hardest parts of dating someone new is meeting family members or the best friend for the first time. Sure they may tell me this will be a friendly get together but I know better; the family member or friend is coming in to offer their assessment of me as potential partner material. I will never forget meeting a date’s 14 year old daughter, who did not make eye contact with me once during the first 2 courses of the meal. It was not until dessert, when the subject turned to current music, that she looked at me in amazement with my familiarity of current music. Little did I know that teaching aerobics would provide me with this extra benefit for my get together. Seeking sibling approval was the premise for this action comedy. Kevin Hart (Grudge Match, This is the End) played security guard and hopeful police cadet, Ben Barber who was hoping to get the blessing from Atlanta policeman James Payton, played by Ice Cube (21 Jump Street, Barbershop), to marry his sister Angela, played by Tika Sumpter (Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas, Salt). The only way James would accept Ben is if he could survive one day riding with James while on duty. If you like Kevin’s style of humor then you might enjoy this picture better than I did. I do not consider Kevin an actor since I have now seen him in a few films and see no difference between him in concert or portraying a character in a movie; he is always the same. Ice Cube has some acting ability but in this movie he predominately gave a variety of mean looking scowls. The movie trailers already showed a majority of the humorous parts; the only aspect missing were the few action scenes. There was nothing very original here. If you want my opinion, consider taking public transportation and avoid going on this ride along.

 

1 3/4 stars

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