Monthly Archives: January 2015

Flash Movie Review: Predestination

Have you ever wondered if you were able to get one superpower what would you pick? And what would you do with it; use it to make your neighborhood a better place or do something that would bring you some type of personal gain? I was part of a conversation where we were discussing this very thing. When I was very young I wished I had the ability to fly. There was something about flying that always intrigued me. Little did I know how handy this would be in my adult life when commuting to work, especially when stuck in rush hour traffic. As I grew up the flying wish was replaced with the desire to become invisible. My reason for this had little to do with being naturally curious about things and more about protection. The idea that I could have walked through school hallways or out along the streets of the city undetected fascinated me to no end. These days the desire to be invisible has greatly diminished and I fluctuate between a couple of other superpowers. One of them was used in this unique science fiction film.    ETHAN Hawke (Boyhood, Training Day) played a barkeep who secretly was a time traveling agent for an organization that tried to prevent crimes before they happened. His last assignment would be his hardest because of who he had to track down and find before a horrific event took place. This film festival winning action thriller did not have the usual trappings of a science fiction movie. The entire look of the film was so cool in a film noir type of way. I thought Sarah Snook (Jessebelle, Not Suitable for Children) was outstanding as the unmarried mother; she played a captivating character. Including Noah Taylor (Almost Famous, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as Mr. Robertson and Christopher Kirby (Daybreakers, The Matrix franchise) as Mr. Miles, I thought all the actors worked well together. The idea of traveling back in time to prevent a crime was nothing new to me; however, the way this story unfolded was so different and absorbing to me. Maybe I am not a deep thinker regarding the figuring out of my movies; but the ending left me completely perplexed. I am sure there must be many ways to interpret this story, but I still do not have a clue on what took place. Does this bother me? Yes, I like my endings to be closer to neat and tidy. However, someone else may be able to explain it to me; I am all ears. Normally I do not go back and watch a movie over again, but I might do it for this one.

 

3 stars

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Flash Movie Review: Centurion

Recently I was playing with a friend’s dog who loved being chased around the house. Though he was a small sized dog he would outrun me. It was so funny to watch him when he moved out of eyesight from me; he would stop and wait until I entered the room before taking off again. It reminded me when we were kids how we loved being chased by older relatives Actually I cannot recall any child not enjoying a game of tag or having someone playfully chase them. However once we start arriving at adulthood, being chased takes on a whole different, scary dimension. For those who have never experienced being chased let me describe it for you. The brain opens the floodgates of hormones for the body to take flight. As the heart is pounding in your chest, hearing it all the way up to your ears, your vision narrows into a tight focus as the eyes are constantly seeking out safe passage for you. Despite hearing your body in overdrive, the ears suddenly take on animalistic sharpness; you are able to single out the sounds stretching to you from your pursuers. And finally, time becomes distorted where seconds feel like minutes and minutes feel like milliseconds.    DEEP inside enemy land a small group of Roman soldiers was trying to make their way back after a devastating battle. However, revenge would sustain those assigned to hunt them down, no matter how long it would take. This film festival nominated movie’s story was set in Britain during the 2nd century, starring Michael Fassbender (X-Men franchise, Shame) playing Centurion Quintus Dias and Dominic West (Chicago, 300) as General Titus Flavius Virilus. It was these actors that attracted me to this DVD since I was not familiar with the writer/director Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, Doomsday). I have to tell you right at the start this action drama had a large amount of blood being spilled throught it; I mean a lot. The acting was good and I especially liked the character of Etain, played by Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, The November Man). Except for all of the blood, I enjoyed the way this picture was filmed; some of the outdoor scenes had a great look to them. Regarding the battle scenes, they were a bit intense at times even though they verged on becoming cartoonish. What basically caused me to lose interest was the story; it essentially became one long chase scene that seemed to be repeating itself. I also did not think the scripted dialog did it any favors. There would be no reason to go out of your way to see this film; but if you had time to kill with nothing to do, you may be okay pursuing this one. Many scenes had blood and violence in them.

 

2 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Inherent Vice

I sure wish they would hurry up and create those human transporter devices I have seen in science fiction films. You may know the type where your body turns into a swirling mass of small, colored bubbles of light that disperse and reassemble you in a different location. This would be so useful during those awkward moments where you feel out of place among a group of individuals. The moments I am referring to would be similar to situations like attending a party where you were not told it was a masquerade event and costumes were mandatory. Last year I signed up for a training workshop regarding a new body fitness sculpting format; it was a three day event. The first day I walked into the training facility and was met with a group of people who were easily half my age. There I was dressed in baggy workout shorts and a loose T-shirt as everyone else either had skin tight or skimpy, color co-ordianted outfits. Now it was not a big deal to me what they wore or their age; however, a majority of them were personal trainers and I was not. As we went through the training I realized there was no way my body could do what everyone else was doing in class. I could have used that transporter then since I felt out of place. Those same feelings started to come over me during this comedic crime drama.    WHEN Los Angeles detective Larry “Doc” Sortello, played by Joaquin Phoenix (The Immigrant, Her), agreed to help his ex-girlfriend he had no idea where the case would lead him, but as long as he had drugs available he was good to go. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will be Blood, The Master) that was based on Thomas Pynchon’s (Gravity’s Rainbow, Mason & Dixon) novel, I did not get this film festival winning movie that ran for 148 long minutes. Viewers will either love or hate this picture, I believe. The cast was good, including Josh Brolin (Labor Day, W.) as Lt. Detective Christian F. “Bigfoot”Bjornesen and Katherine Waterston (Michael Clayton, Robot & Frank) as Shasta Fay Hepworth, along with the variety of other actors who had small roles. However, for a movie watching experience I did not have a good time sitting through this showing. The mix of scenes seemed random and scattered, as if little vignettes were first created then pieced together. Since I was getting bored in the theater I did glance around at the crowd. This may sound weird but I actually felt a little out of place because the crowd seemed to be all cut from the same mold and I was not. I do not know if it was a generational thing; all I wanted was to be transported out of the theater.

 

1 3/4 stars  

Flash Movie Review: Selma

I may have seen a few sides to the face of hate, but I am well aware there are many more to it. The word hate, depending on how it is used, can be such an evil term. Sure I use the word when I am stating my feelings about a certain food or about the cold weather conditions; however, it would take on a whole different level of meaning if I were to direct the word towards a fellow human being. While participating in a peaceful march I saw how ugly hate could be from the small group of protesters yelling at us. Hate was the fuel that motivated the high school students who tried to lock me in a locker. While walking down the street a couple of guys used their hate to shove me into a store’s plate glass window. I have always said no one is born with hate; it is something that has to be taught to them. Ugly and insidious, hate thrives on conflict as it continually attempts to plant roots into communities, towns, cities, nations; anywhere on the planet to build dividers within mankind.    THIS biographical film festival winner’s story depicted the events that lead to a historical moment in time; a peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama that led to the securing of equal voting rights for all citizens of the United States. David Oyelowo (Interstellar, Red Tails) had the task of portraying Dr. Martin Luther King in this drama and he did a masterful job of acting. Carmen Ejogo (Pride and Glory, The Purge: Anarchy) played his wife Coretta Scott King. Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) was an interesting choice to play President Lyndon B. Johnson. Honestly it took me a moment to figure out which president he was playing because he did not have the looks or mannerisms I expected. This movie was beautifully filmed; I thought the use of darkness with its small palette of colors added strength to the emotions of the scenes. I thought the directing was well done, even though there were a couple of brief parts that seemed out of place to me. As a movie watching experience this picture was powerful; however, there were several scenes filled with ugliness that were hard to watch. Even if you are fortunate enough that you have never been a victim of discrimination or hatred, I cannot imagine anyone not being moved by this well done film. It has been said that history is a tool that teaches the younger generation. With that being the case, I feel it would be beneficial to see this movie and remember what hatred has and still does to us.

 

3 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Taken 3

I am always available to hear a good story from someone. There is an art to telling a story. Essential components would be an attention grabbing opening, buildup on an emotional level, personal connection and a solid conclusion. If the story is a humorous one then there needs to be a good punchline. Unfortunately there are some people who should never tell a story. I know, I know; I feel bad for even saying that but if you listened to this person I know tell a story, you would see how they can suck the life out of any tale. The thing that is frustrating to me is their topics are actually interesting or funny. However, they not only have to explain every detail, they get hung up on trying to think of a perfect word to convey an action. You would be standing there shifting your weight from one foot to the other as they tried to think of the word they wanted to use, letting the momentum of their story fade to a crawl. By the end of the story, after they repeated several parts and explained the obvious parts to death, all you wanted to do was run away from them. This is how I felt as I sat through this 3rd film of the movie franchise.    ACCUSED of a murder he did not commit Bryan Mills, played by Liam Neeson (A Walk Among the Tombstones, Non-Stop), became a wanted man. He would need his special skills to stay one step ahead of the authorities while he tried to figure out who was the murderer. Let me first say I totally appreciated the fact that Liam was keeping the aging action hero genre alive; I had no qualms with him or his performance. However, this story did not offer anything new for me. With the uneven directing I found the film editing absolutely annoying. I could not figure out who was throwing what punches because the scenes were horribly choppy. Besides returning characters Lenore St. John, played by Franke Janssen (X-Men franchise, The Chameleon) and Kim Mills, played by Maggie Grace (Lockout, Lost-TV); the addition of Franck Dotzier, played by Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Phone Booth) was a good choice. I only wished there had been more screen time between him and Liam. As for the plot I found it quite weak which only added to the messiness of this film. If one is in the mood for a good crime film, this one was not as exciting as the first one. The only thing I felt was taken during this movie was my time and money; I cannot recommend listening to this lame story. There were violent scenes with blood.

 

1 2/3 stars 

Flash Movie Review: The Oxford Murders

It started in high school, where there were a couple of teachers who had an edge to them. In other words their teaching styles were not the norm.  Students, me being one of them, gravitated to these teachers’ classes because we felt they understood us, treating us more like adults than high school students. However, when I went to college I really started to understand the power an instructor could have over their students. My European history professor was an expert in his field; our textbook was written by him. He was German with a heavy accent whose field of expertise was World War II. His classes were filled with these incredible tales of high drama and intense personal insight to what was actually taking place in the areas he travelled. I do not know if it was due to his intensity or passion, but he was the only instructor I had who used a healthy dose of profanity. And pity the student who was not paying attention and asked him to repeat himself. The teacher would say stuff where these days he would have been written up by his supervisor. His outrageous behavior would not only draw students to him, it would turn some of them into groupies; or worse yet, into these tail wagging pets who would do anything to get his praise.    MARTIN’S, played by Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Green Street Hooligans), sole purpose for doing his graduate work at Oxford University was to get Professor Arthur Seldom, played by John Hurt (The Elephant Man, V for Vendetta). He was willing to try anything, even solving a murder, to get Arthur’s attention. John Hurt was the draw for me in watching this crime thriller. I have to say he gave a good effort to bring his character to life. The beginning of the story held my attention as the cast, which also included Julie Cox (Second in Command, Almost Heaven) as Beth and Leonor Watling (Talk to Her, My Life Without Me) as Lorna, were introduced. It appeared this film festival winner was going to be a traditional mystery like an Agatha Christie story. However, it was quickly apparent the writers did not know what they wanted to be; an Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, Jessica Fletcher type of sleuth mystery. I started not believing in the scenes as the script spiraled out of control. Everything started to feel like one big visual version of the board game Clue. Watching this DVD on a do nothing type of day would be ok I guess, but I cannot recommend signing up for class.

 

1 3/4 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: PK

A majority of the residents from the neighborhood I grew up in practiced the same religion. In some ways it was easier because we all celebrated the same holidays and knew what foods to expect for the meals. Notice even at a young age it was all about the food. As I grew up the neighborhood was transformed and became more diversified. Except for one particular gang of kids from the neighborhood, I cannot recall a time where religion was used as an excuse for a particular action. Everyone was treated the same no matter what religion they practiced at home. It was not until I was an adult and out on my own where I saw how some people used religion as a means to manipulate other people. Where I consider religion to be a personal and private matter, I have a hard time understanding someone who uses their religion to explain their actions; but to me some of their actions are questionable. There have been enough examples made public where I do not feel the need to mention them here. In fact, I am a little uncomfortable even talking about this now. However, it is worth it so I can review today’s movie.    STRANDED on our planet P.K., played by Aamir Khan (Like Stars on Earth, Rang De Basanti), asked the most innocent of questions that produced some profound results. It took me a short time to get my bearings with the story in this satirical fantasy about organized religion. There were multiple story lines that eventually began to merge together. I am familiar with Aamir’s work and this role was different for him. Despite not being a fan of slapstick humor, I did appreciate the character he was portraying. Included in the cast was Anushka Sharma (Wedding Planners, Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl) as Jagat Janani a/k/a/ Jaggu, Sanjay Dutt (Mission Kashmir, Lage Raho Munna) as Bhairon Singh and Saurabh Shukla (Slumdog Millionaire, Barfi!) as Tapasvi Maharaj. If one is not familiar with Bollywood films, it is important to pay attention to the songs being sung because they play a part in moving the story forward. An interesting side note, this film’s running time was 2 1/2 hours; halfway through the movie the screen went dark and up popped the word “intermission.” It lasted a few seconds then the picture continued on. Back to the slapstick comedy, I think it colored my feelings towards everyone’s acting abilities. However the strength of the story, with its proposals and variables, carried me through the entire movie. Add in a couple of twists and I felt this film did a wonderful job in taking the subject of religion and presenting a non-offensive, thought provoking, solid piece of work. Hindi and Bhojpuri language was spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Gambler

Though I may still struggle with it, I am at least aware the goal is to find balance within myself. This is one of the things yoga has taught me. When participants in my yoga classes hear I am a credit manager, they stare at me in disbelief. Funny, the same thing happens when businesspeople hear I teach yoga. One may see these two jobs at extreme ends of the spectrum but there actually is some overlap between them. Yoga has taught me patience, which is needed for me to work with some large corporations in processing  my company’s invoices for payment. As a credit manager I must be able to multi-task and recall different conversations and events to keep the receivables as current as possible. That ability to multi-task has helped me teach a yoga class where the participants are from all different skill levels. One of my reminders I tell members in class is never go to the extreme of a pose, allow one inch of leeway because that is where real growth takes place. Once a person goes to their extreme there is nowhere to grow from there and they get out of balance. No truer words have been spoken regarding this movie.  ENGLISH professor by day and gambler by night, the stakes became quite high when Jim Bennett, played by Mark Wahlberg (Lone Survivor, The Fighter), could not cover his bets. His life began to spiral further out of control as he sunk deeper into debt, seeking help from gangsters and loan sharks. This film festival nominated crime drama received its strength from three individuals: Jessica Lange (The Vow, Grey Gardens-TV) as Jim’s mother Roberta, John Goodman (Argo, The Monuments Men) as loan shark Frank and Michael Kenneth Williams (12 Years a Slave, The Road) as gangster Neville Baraka. These actors were the dominant force of this thriller. Honestly, I would have preferred if the story revolved around them instead of Mark’s character. I found this remake to be uneven where some parts were dull while others clicked in to keep my attention. After a while there were scenes that seemed as if they were just rehashed from something previous. The story line with the love interest did not seem necessary to me; I would rather had more screen time from the three actors I mentioned earlier. Another issue for me was Mark’s acting; I never became emotionally connected to his character. It was weird because there were events taking place around him that should have made him come out with more intensity. I felt the picture on a whole was out of balance, leaving me not caring much about what happened.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Force Majeure

It is easier to proclaim what you would do in a particular situation than participate in it. I am guilty of doing this; though in my defense, I believe I would carry through with what I said. This is because if I did not do it I would be acting out one of my biggest pet peeves: saying I would do something then not doing it. That and someone grabbing food off my plate without asking first are two of my top pet peeves. Now there have been times where I have listened to someone say what they would do in a certain scenario, but I knew they would never follow through if the experience actually happened to them. I would rather a person just be honest and say they could not do such a thing, instead of pretending to be something they were not. I admit I become annoyed when someone spouts off what they would do if they were in a dangerous situation, such as someone trying to steal something off of them in the middle of a crowded train car. It is hard to say what one would do in another person’s situation without having walked in their shoes first, is a motto I periodically say to myself.    WHILE on holiday skiing in the French Alps Ebba and Tomas, played by Lisa Loven Kongsli (305, Fatso) and Johannes Kuhnke (The Inheritance, Real Humans-TV), and their two children Vera and Harry, played by newcomers Clara Wettergren and Vincent Wettergren, were enjoying a leisurely lunch out on the veranda of their hotel. Suddenly an explosive controlled avalanche of snow veered off its course and headed straight towards the hotel. Fear took over the family and changed everything about their time together. This film festival winning drama really stayed with me after I was done viewing it. Such an intense, emotional story; I was still going over the story later in the day. I thought the acting was so well done, even by the newcomers. Whoever casted the film picked a group that was able to convey so much emotion with simply a facial expression; I was glued to my seat while watching this wonderful film. Besides the glorious scenery that was beautifully captured by the camerawork, I thought the soundtrack added an extra dimension to the story. Speaking of the story, it really presented the dilemma in such a way for the viewers to react with an immediate emotional response. I cannot imagine anyone watching this picture and not having some type of reaction to it. Swedish and French language was spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death

If you really want to engage the viewer into your story, have a child or a pet as a main focus. The pure innocence of a child, who comes into the world with a clean slate until the adult world shades it, is an ideal candidate to make an adult care about the action in a movie. A pet filled with that unconditional love that pours out of their big brown eyes is enough to make the viewer shudder if there is any chance of danger in store for the loving animal. A horror movie needs to have a subject the viewer will care about; otherwise, they will not care if the character meets an early demise. The next element to have in the film is a love story or at least a potential love connection between characters. Simply put most people can relate to having their heart broken. The viewer will rally around the grieving, surviving character and follow them all the way to the end of the story. So if a movie studio wants to have a successful horror movie, they need one of these items in their story.    WITH World War II raging and London being subjected to German bombing runs, children in the city were suddenly finding themselves orphans. To protect them from further harm Jean Hogg and Eve Parkins, played by Helen McCrory (Harry Potter franchise, Hugo) and Phoebe Fox (One Day, Switch-TV), took a group out into the country to an abandoned estate, hopefully to be away from the horrors of the war. However, their presence in the mansion would stir up an old terror. This dramatic sequel’s story took place 40 years after the story in the first film. It had a couple of the elements I listed earlier, children and a love interest. I thought this would be a horror movie that could scare me. It had a love interest in the character of Harry Burnstow, played by Jeremy Irvine (War Horse, the Railway Man) and it had children in peril; what could be easier to grab the audience’s attention? Well, I am here to tell you this horror thriller was neither. The beginning of the movie started out good but quickly became a dull, bland imitation of a horror film. I thought the sets and staging were done well, but there was never a sense of horrible dread or something deeply sinister. Besides being predictable this picture left me with a blah feeling, where I felt I had just wasted my time. I do not think anyone could accuse me of being a callous jerk, but I did not care about the kids or the potential for someone to suffer a broken heart in this dud.

 

1 2/3 stars

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