Monthly Archives: December 2014

Flash Movie Review: Mr. Turner

Each and every person has the capabilities to display both beautiful and ugly traits that are buried inside. I believe the environment one grows up with can influence the way these traits come out. It seems to me as we age the percentages between them varies more. I find it so perplexing when the newscasts televise a segment on someone who was convicted of a crime and they make a point of reciting the perpetrator’s good qualities. For example, the individual was a good father though he was convicted of a hate crime. It is such a wide contrast to me; I have a hard time making sense of it. Some of you may remember that my family and I will not watch certain actors’ films because of certain things they believe or have done in their personal lives. The idea that these artists may be good actors on screen but nasty people in real life does not compute in my brain. Look throughout history and you can easily find historical individuals who made a significant contribution to society but they had ugliness inside of them.    SUCH a character but he did extraordinary things with a paintbrush. This film festival winning biographical drama was about the life of 18th century English painter J.M.W. Turner, played by Timothy Spall (Harry Potter franchise, Ginger & Rosa). From a visual aspect this film was at times lush and bright as it was soft and dark. I really got a sense of life during that time. It was interesting to me because I have seen other movies that depicted the same time period, yet this one was more convincing. Though I did not quite understand the character he played early into the picture, Timothy’s acting on a whole slowly grew on me; he had wonderful depth. The character Hannah Danby, played beautifully by Dorothy Atkinson (All of Nothing, Topsy-Turvy) was a fascinating study. In her silence she still was a powerful force on the big screen. Written and directed by Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky, Secret & Lies), this historical film may not be an easy watch for many viewers. I found it very slow in parts, besides very long with a running time of 2 hours and 30 minutes. At times there was very little action in the scenes; however, when I thought more about it afterwards it made a bit more sense to me. I chalked it up to the time period and place, finding it more artful then entertaining. One aspect I appreciated was the fact I actually saw a few of his paintings in museums but had no knowledge of him at the time. I would be curious for those who see this film, what percentages of beautiful and ugly did you think Mr. Turner showed us?

 

2 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Interview

The sign in the window that said, “Lost Our Lease” Sale, was what caught your eye. It was just enough of a catalyst to drive you straight through the store’s double doors. I know because I have had the same thing happen to me. The assumption is the prices have all been marked way down to move the products out of the store, lowering the moving costs for the retail establishment’s relocation. If you are like me, you wind up buying stuff just because it is a perceived bargain. Who knew you were peeling potatoes the wrong way all these years; you now had this contraption where the potato would be placed on a skewer and you would turn a handle to make the potato twirl around, while a fine thin blade sliced the peel off the potato. It really did not do a better job than your old handheld potato peeler, but now you had more things to clean up. What did upset you was discovering the store never closed; it signed a new long term lease. So for all the hype there was nothing really satisfying to show for it.    THIS is how I felt after running like a crazy person to go see this “controversial” comedy. Let me start by saying Sony Pictures got the largest holiday gift they could have ever gotten–free publicity. With newscasters talking about the cyber-hacking of Sony Pictures, the online threats if this movie was released, the pulling of the film then the smaller release of it; there was news about this picture every single day. If none of this had taken place this movie would have, in my opinion, had a decent opening before fading into the background. Seth Rogen (This is the End, Pineapple Express) played television producer Aaron Rapaport for talk show host Dave Skylark, played by James Franco (Howl, 127 Hours). Discovering North Korean President Kim Jong-un, played by Randall Park (Larry Crowne, Neighbors), was a big fan lead the 2 men to land an exclusive interview with the president. However, the CIA had other plans for them. I honestly do not understand how of all things this film’s story became the biggest focus regarding the hacking of Sony. It turned out the movie trailer showed the highlights because I found most of the humor to be crude and repetitive. The story was a crazy idea that lent itself to becoming a fun satire; there were a couple of parts where I chuckled. Overall this action film was no big deal. I have seen harsher satirical treatments done of Kim Jong-un on television. Without a doubt this whole episode was a marketer’s dream; it almost makes one wonder if the hackers were getting a kickback for all the free publicity.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Into the Woods

You may have done it over a burning candle that was perched on top of a birthday cake. Maybe it was while you were peering into a shiny display window you came upon while walking down the street. No matter where it was done, I do not know anyone who has not wished something for themselves. The whole concept was presented to us at a young age when we were asked what we wanted for our birthday or holiday. As kids we mostly focused on toys and games; but as we grew up, our wish list spread further out to encompass things like trips and cars. In addition, some of the things we started to wish for came with a price. When I started attending aerobic classes I was amazed at how much I enjoyed them. I was lucky because there was a great instructor leading the class who played awesome music. It made me start thinking that maybe I could teach a class one day, so I took steps to make it happen. My love for teaching fitness is as strong today as it was when I first started out; however, I did not know at the time there was going to be as much work involved as there has been.    THERE is no better place to see dreams come true than in a fairy tale which this film festival winning movie beautifully created. Taking familiar characters from several fairy tales such as Cinderella, played by Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air) and Little Red Riding Hood, played by newcomer Lilla Crawford, this fantasy combined all of them into a story about making wishes. There were a variety of actors; I expected Meryl Streep (The Hours, The Giver) as the Witch and James Corden (Begin Again, The History Boys) as the Baker to be good. However, the standouts for me were Emily Blunt (Looper, The Devil Wears Prada) as the Baker’s wife and Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, People Like Us) as the Prince. I had no idea either of them could even sing. If you are not a musical fan then more than likely you may not enjoy this film as much. Especially with a Stephen Sondheim (Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd) musical, I find his songs to be more complicated for the average movie/theater goer. Having seen the staged version of this musical, I actually enjoyed this movie production more because the way it unfolded made clearer sense to me. This picture had me thinking because there were several ways one could interpret its story. Also, it was not a kid’s movie; there were none in the movie theater. If you wish for good acting , solid singing and a cast of fairy tale characters, you will not be disappointed.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Unbroken

Appearing not so dissimilar from the uniqueness of an individual’s fingerprints is a person’s pain threshold. I am curious to know what determines someone’s tolerance to pain. Is it genetic, environmental or mind over matter; I have seen people’s reactions go from one extreme to the other. One friend of mine is hypersensitive to any type of discomfort; a pinprick will cause them to let out a loud wail. Another friend could be in pain but one would never know by looking at them. If anything they may not walk as fast as they normally do; but if you did not know, they would appear to be having an average day. Though I am not comfortable comparing one person’s reactions to pain to another, I can appreciate those individuals who overcome intense suffering. One of the places where I have witnessed a person’s courage on display has been at the health and fitness centers where I have classes. Seeing people battle back from serious health issues, some involving major surgery and/or artificial limb replacement, has been humbling. I have watched with awe as I have watched them struggling to walk a single lap around the indoor track or try to lift a 2 pound weight to their chest. Every single one of them is a hero to me.    INCREDIBLE and heroic would not have been terms used to describe Louis Zamperini, played by Jack O’Connell (Starred Up, 300: Rise of an Empire), if he had not transformed himself from a wild hooligan into an Olympic athlete and U.S. Air Force bombardier. However, it was because of those earlier experiences that enabled him to survive not only the sea but a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp during World War II. This film festival winning biographical drama was directed by Angelina Jolie (Maleficent, Salt). Based on Louis’ life, his story was bigger than this movie. I felt Angelina had a good eye for blocking scenes and I understood she worked at getting a PG-13 rating for this film. However, I believe she was too reserved in bringing Louis’ story to life. For what he endured I thought there would have been more emotional intensity to the scenes. There were times where I felt things were dragged out longer than necessary; I was starting to get bored. This may have been part of the reason I did not connect with Jack or newcomer Takamasa Ishihara who played Watanabe a/k/a The Bird; they could have been pushed harder to deliver a stronger performance. I recently saw a television special about Louis and from it I knew his story would have been challenging for any director to do it justice. Angelina gave it a good try but I felt this movie needed more of everything.

 

2 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Annie

It seems as if more people and companies are playing some type of angle with their actions. For example take a look at the larger containers of juice that go on sale at the grocery store. They have those big, bold sale tags that draw customers to the product; but if you look at the cost per fluid ounce, the juice on sale is still more expensive than the smaller containers. Get a load of this; with two of the movie chains I frequent, I am a member of each one’s rewards program. One chain gives you $10.00 back for every $100.00 you spend on tickets and food items. The other one also returns $10.00 to you, but after you have see 100 movies. Now granted I may not be the best example since I see a ton of movies, but which rewards program do you think is the better deal? The thing I find most annoying is the 2nd movie chain example shows advertisements for their rewards program before the movie starts; touting it as if it were the greatest thing to come along since penicillin. As I said earlier, everything has to have some type of angle these days.  UGLINESS may have been all around her, but it could not bring down her positive attitude towards life. Annie, played by Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild, 12 Years a Slave), was convinced good things would come her way. Her accidental meeting with businessman Will Stacks, played by Jamie Foxx (Law Abiding Citizen, Dreamsgirls), would prove her point; even if Will did not know it yet. Between stage, screen and television I have seen several versions of this classic story. This Golden Globe nominee had the most radical changes done to it in my opinion. For this comedic drama there was more of an emphasis on material things as Jamie’s character had all the trappings of a big time company’s CEO. My favorite character was Rose Byrne (Neighbors, Insidious franchise) playing Grace. And that is all I liked about this utterly lifeless film. In the worst case of miscasting I have seen in a long time, Cameron Diaz (The Holiday, The Other Woman) as Miss Hannigan was so dreadful; she had none of the wicked fun of past actresses who played the iconic role. The dance numbers were stale and poorly directed. I was so stunned by the dullness of this film. The new songs they inserted at the cost of some original ones were unmemorable; it was somewhat hard to think of this film as a true musical. I cannot recommend this picture because it felt like the producers’ angle was to play on people’s memories of the story, to get them into the movie theater.

 

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

My obsession sprung out from one of my favorite children books, “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” The idea of hiding in a museum until after it closes fascinated me for a long time when I was a kid. Having visited the museums in my city numerous times, I credit them for helping my mind open up further into the world of possibilities. One museum had a real airplane suspended from the ceiling that I never walked under as I made my way to the gigantic train set, with its various locomotive trains traveling multiple tracks through manufactured landscapes. There was another museum that would transport me back in time to when Pharaohs ruled as I saw their wrapped remains resting in elaborate coffins. I would daydream about sleeping overnight in a museum; going on my very own treasure hunts as I explored the massive hallways that I just knew had to have secret passageways. They probably lead to secret underground laboratories and vaults. I was convinced there was a whole different world to explore behind the sculpted granite walls of all those museums.    SOMETHING was beginning to happen to the inhabitants of the museum that would affect their very existence. With very little time left security guard Larry Daley, played by Ben Stiller (Tropic Thunder, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), would have to travel to London, England to discover the reason why his friends were being robbed of their ability to come to life after dark. This latest adventure comedy, the 3rd in the franchise, saw the return of cast members such as Robin Williams (Dead Poets Society, August Rush) as Teddy Roosevelt and Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris, Wedding Crashers) as Jedediah; along with some new characters like Sir Lancelot, played by Dan Stevens (The Guest, The Fifth Estate) and Tilly, played by Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect, Bachelorette). For the life of me I had a hard time finding anything I liked about this stale film. Oh wait, the special effects were still fun even though I had seen them all before. The story and script were simply horrible. So pedestrian and plain, I could not find anything funny. There is a horrible expression that goes, “beating a dead horse” and I felt the movie studio was doing it with the release of this film. There was nothing new or exciting; it had all been done before, so what was the point? I will say most young children will probably like the film since it was colorful and took place in a fascinating place, a museum. On second thought, plan a trip to a local museum instead of going to see this movie.

 

1 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

It has been a long time; some people had relationships that were of a shorter duration. When we first met my eyes were dazzled by your beauty and my mind was tickled by your fanciful creativity. You showed me places I had only read about in books, never imagining I would see them come to life. I so enjoyed listening to your stories as the images you created appeared before my very eyes. You had this ability to sweep me away to a place where I could forget my problems and let the little boy inside of me come out to play. The years have been good to us. Like any relationship we settled into an easy comfort as we grew old together. Though my hearing and vision may not be as good as it used to be, I still looked forward to the tales you would tell me. After all this time I very much appreciated the fact you did not judge me if it looked like I was about to doze off during your storytelling; you know I never did. By the way, whenever I needed to take a bathroom break I always quickly ran there and back so I would not miss much.    DIRECTOR Peter Jackson (King Kong, The Lovely Bones) and I started our journey back in 2001 at the release of his first film from his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Twenty-three years later we meet again for the last movie of his Hobbit franchise. This film festival winning adventure fantasy was just as spectacular visually as the previous ones. I particularly admired Peter’s eye for detail when it came to the scenes. Besides returning cast members Ian McKellen (X-Men franchise, Gods and Monsters) as Gandalf and Martin Freeman (Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) as Bilbo Baggins, there was newcomer Billy Connolly (The Boondock Saints, Quartet) adding a bit of life with his character Dain. Let me start by saying I enjoyed this film more than the previous one. Smaug the dragon, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imagination Game, Sherlock-TV), who ended the last movie began this one with a fiery blast. What it boiled down to for me (no pun intended) was the script could not match the visual technical achievements of the scenes. After all this time there was a tired feeling to the last couple of pictures. It seemed as if this final installment was repetitive, with added fillers. For me watching a nearly one hour long battle scene was a laborious undertaking; it lost intensity as it went on. There was a “let us throw everything at them” quality to it. I am, however, glad I saw this movie. Our relationship may not have been as fresh as it once was, but I could not stand Peter up.

 

2 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Good People

Desperation widens the mind’s pool of irrational thoughts. This will send waves to slip up onto logic’s shores. Boy is this true when money is needed to survive. When I was between jobs a long time ago, I was willing to do anything to earn a paycheck to pay my mounting bills. Besides my regular classes I was the go-to sub for other instructors because I had the freest time on my hands. To supplement my income I was always taking small odd jobs like proofreading or delivery service. I remember this one job where I was asked to conduct a yoga demonstration at a grand opening of a hospital’s professional building. The money was good and much needed so I agreed to the event, even though I had some reservations. When I arrived on the opening date I was led to the so-called staging area. They wanted me to stand and perform on a folding table draped in a white tablecloth. As soon as I placed my hand on the table it wobbled from side to side. In addition I was told there was going to be children coming right after their snack time. Without going into the horrific details let me just say I was standing on top of the table in tree pose with kids playing hide-and-go seek under the tablecloth. I thought the money I was earning would have to go for medical bills because I was going to be knocked off my “stage.”    OVER their heads in debt with very little income at present; married couple Anna and Tom Wright, played by Kate Hudson (Bride Wars, The Reluctant Fundamentalist) and James Franco (This is the End, Spider-Man franchise), stared at the bag of money they found in their recently deceased tenant’s apartment. They did not know the money had been stolen. This crime action thriller had a good idea that was executed in a completely bad way. Along with James and Kate in the cast there was Tom Wilkinson (Belle, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) as John Halden and Sam Spruell (Defiance, Snow White and the Huntsman) as Jack Witkowski; one would think there would have been a chance of seeing a decent film come out of them. Sorry, this was not the case because the script was atrocious and ridiculous. I only thought Sam’s acting and character was worth my time. Some of the scenes were so far-fetched that I had to laugh; what was everyone thinking they were trying to produce with this movie? In my opinion this was the film the movie studio should have pulled from release.

 

1 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Vincere

I was an admirer of this charitable organization; they were doing good work in the community. There were friends who used its services and spoke highly about their visits. Despite my hectic schedule I found time to volunteer from time to time, always finding a friendly and helpful staff. Leading the organization was a powerful individual who could easily command a room. They were a dynamic public speaker, so passionate about the organization’s work. Their speeches would stir and motivate the employees and volunteers to such a high level, one could not help but want to be a part of the “team.” I, like the others, put my trust in this leader; believing everything we were doing was in the best interests of the end user. When news spread about the misappropriation of funds, I had a reaction similar to when someone I care about breaks my trust. It felt like a punch in the stomach that echoed with feeling sadly duped and foolish. Things like this can shake one’s confidence in their ability to detect an unscrupulous person.    ENAMORED by his looks and strong presence Ida Dalser, played by Giovanna Mezzogiorno (Don’t Tell, Facing Windows) felt she could act on her strong attraction to this man named Benito Mussollini, played by Filippo Timi (The American, The Double Hour). It appeared he felt the same way about her as the two started a relationship that would reach historical proportions. First of all I do not know if I am in the minority or not, but I had never heard the name Ida Dalser mentioned in any of my past history classes. As you may have guessed I had no idea what this movie was about when I starting watching the DVD. This film festival winning biographical drama was a complete shock to me. Both Giovanna and Filippo were so intense in their characters, I was immediately drawn to them; their acting was incredible. Add in the historical significance of the story and I was glued to the television screen. I thought the directing, the sets and even the costumes all worked at making this a strong, emotionally wrought movie. For the most part the subtitles were easy to read, though I did notice I was getting concerned I would miss something in the scene while reading. I do not believe so since everything I saw made sense to me. After viewing this picture I had to look up further information on Ida. However, I cannot guarantee the authenticity of this picture’s story. If some of the scenes were untrue it did not matter because the story was unbelievable. There was Italian and German languages used with English subtitles.

 

3 1/2 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: The Imitation Game

Unless there is some kind of hard proof or evidence, I do not quite understand why someone would discourage another person from trying something different. Though I saw more of it during my school years, I still witness people putting a negative spin on someone else who is attempting to do something different from what they would do. You could easily extend this type of negativity to those individuals who were just being different, but that would take up a whole lot more space for today’s review. My way of learning something is to make a mistake because then I can align my logic with reality’s logic; did that make sense to you? I can remember building a science project and the teacher telling me I was doing it wrong. How did she know it was wrong before I was done? The funny thing about it was I had been building a work environment for a left-handed person; so, everything was placed opposite from what the instructor was used to as a right-handed person. Imagine if someone told Albert Einstein he was on the wrong track when he was working on his theory of relativity; I am a firm believer in embracing differences. It is our differences that can make our world a better place.    DURING World War II the Nazis were communicating by using an unbreakable code machine called Enigma. Assembling the smartest people of their time, British intelligence was not quite sure about mathematician Alan Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Fifth Estate, Sherlock-TV). He wanted to do something completely different from everyone else. Based on true life events, this film festival winning dramatic thriller was a biographical blend of history, war film and intense excitement. I had some knowledge about Alan going into this picture, but I do not know how much of the movie’s story was true. But you know something; I could not have cared less. This film was so well done with a brilliant cast that also included Keira Knightley (Begin Again, Pride & Prejudice) as Joan Clarke, Charles Dance (Dracula Untold, Game of Thrones-TV) as Commander Denniston and Mark Strong (Body of Lies, Robin Hood) as Stewart Menzies. There was such a vibe of civility and subtleness throughout this movie that Benedict was perfectly able to convey to the viewers; he was truly amazing. I was swept away by this film; going through the same emotions at the same time as the characters were in the story. Just the historical importance of Alan’s role in history was enough to carry this movie, but I was glad there was more included from the writers. I for one was so grateful Alan was different.

 

4 stars

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