Monthly Archives: August 2015

Flash Movie Review: Straight Outta Compton

Besides being a valid emotion, anger can play a vital component in the creative process. Some of the most beautiful classical music we listen to, from artists such as Frederic Chopin and Pyotr Tchaikovsky, came out of outrage for what was taking place within their respective countries. If you take a look at the paintings by Francis Bacon you cannot tell me there were not some kernels of anger inside of him that generated some of his creations. Of course, the arts are not the only beneficiary of angry emotions; I believe every facet of any field from sports to science has individuals who were motivated by anger and frustration. It is like the basketball player who was told he was too short to play, who then pushed himself harder to become a better player. As for me, it took me many years to understand my anger and direct it to something positive. Being told I was too big and could not play in some athletic games caused me to take my anger and stuff it inside of myself. However, I thought that meant I should stuff my face constantly with food. I do not know if there was a single event or something else that flipped a switch inside of me that motivated me to start exercising and focus on healthier food choices; but whatever it was, I am grateful I learned how to deal with my emotions in a nurturing way. Watching this musical movie one cannot help noticing how anger played a part in everyone’s life.    FROM a tough neighborhood three friends came together to vent their anger in song that caused a revolution of change. The first thing I want to say is directed at those individuals who do not like rap or hip-hop music. Please do not let that determine whether you watch this biographical drama because you would be missing out on a raw and compelling movie watching experience. I am not a fan of some types of rap music but seeing how the songs in this film came about added a whole new level of understanding for me. Starring newcomer O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Ice Cube, Corey Hawkins (Non-Stop, Romeo and Juliet) as Dr. Dre and Jason Mitchell (Contraband, Broken City) as Eazy-E; these three actors did an intense job playing members of the musical group N.W.A. Having O’Shea play his real life father Ice Cube was creative cloning casting by the studio because he looked just like his father. Now I will say there were parts of the story where I had to wonder if things were being exaggerated or sanitized because they seemed so outrageous to me. But ultimately I did not care because I felt I was watching musical history being made. There was strong language used throughout the movie.

 

3 1/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The End of the Tour

Even if someone created a non-caloric doughnut I would not eat it if the person was not respectful and nice to other people. I would rather cycle an extra 30 minutes to burn off a calorie rich doughnut before eating one of their calorie free ones. Recently I saw a posting on the internet that said, “It does not cost you anything to be nice.” How true that is for all of us. For those people who have obtained some level of celebrity status I think these words should be heeded even more. It seems easier or maybe I should say more prevalent these days to put celebrities up on a pedestal. Now there are some that may deserve a little extra praise, but all in all they are just human beings like the rest of us. I remember the time when I was an extra on a movie set; a couple of the actors from the cast were throwing major attitude at all the extras. I thought how rude it was of them, some of these extras are idolizing you and you are standing there acting like a jerk. There was a part of me that wanted to go up to them, tap them on the shoulder and say, “Excuse me you are only an actor, you did not find a cure for cancer where you should be acting like you are something special to the world.” On the other hand, there were a few actors on the set who were so kind and generous to the extras that they won me over since I had only known them from the way the media was portraying them. Funny how a public image can be so different from the actual person, just see what happens in this dramatic film.    AUTHOR David Foster Wallace, played by Jason Segel (The Five-Year Engagement, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), burst onto the scene with his incredible book, “Infinite Jest.” Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky, played by Jesse Eisenberg (Now You See Me, The Social Network), wanting to make his own splash by getting the ultimate interview, arranged a 5 day trip with David during the end of his book tour. The two could not have been more different or were they? From a true story this was one of the more cerebral films I have seen in a long time. Gratefully the actors had such good chemistry that I really felt I was in on their little road trip. I have not read the book nor was familiar with David until this movie but my curiosity has been piqued now. This drama may not be for everyone because the action was kept to a bare minimum; however, for a character study on celebrity fame this film offered a unique take on it.

 

3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Ricki and the Flash

Ever since it was told to me in a time of need, I have repeated it to many other people. To this day I still use the phrase, “Do what you love and the rest will follow,” as a guide before taking on a new undertaking. Now for the most part I do believe it to be true, however I have come to the realization not everyone will agree to follow along with me. Like me I am sure some of you have known someone who was in a relationship where their significant other refused to follow them when they got a job promotion that involved moving out of state or country. The first time I encountered a difference of opinion that caused a split in the relationship was at the beginning of my career as a fitness/yoga instructor. I was trying to get established at a few fitness centers so I was going to different workshops and conventions, besides teaching my regular schedule and periodically subbing for other instructors’ classes. It was a hectic time for me; there were times where I could not join in on social functions, they would have to go alone. As you may have guessed already it finally came down to where I was given a choice; either give up some classes and spend more time with them or they were going to end the relationship. It was a rough time for me because I was looking for support in my new venture, but yet I understood their needs as well. This dramatic comedy reminded me of that time.    HAVING followed her passion all these years to be a musician Ricki, played by Meryl Streep (The Giver, Into the Woods), had to learn to be a mother again when her daughter Julie, played by real life daughter Mamie Gummer (Side Effects, Cake), was in crisis from a broken marriage. It was not going to be easy to just come back home. The draw to this musical movie was the cast; besides Meryl there was musician/actor Rick Springfield (General Hospital-TV, Loyal Opposition) as Greg and Kevin Kline (Wild Wild West, My Old Lady) as Pete. With a script written by Diablo Cody (Young Adult, Juno), there were times the actors were able to fly with the dialog. Unfortunately, there were other times where they fell flat because the scene was disconnected or predictable. I tried staying away from the buildup by the press about the electric tension Meryl and Mamie had to create between each other; but I have to tell you, I did not find the drama that intense for the situation. It was somewhat bland at times for me. I certainly understand following one’s heart but I needed to see some valid reasons with this film.

 

2 1/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Shaun the Sheep

A friend of mine has been making fun of me because of my new refrigerator. After many years the old fridge died and I had to buy a new one which was the easy part. The hard part has been arranging the food with the different configuration of shelves and drawers inside the new refrigerator. I am a creature of habit and find comfort in keeping a steady routine. So now when I open the refrigerator door I have to search for items because I was so used to knowing where everything was inside the previous fridge. This throws me for a loop and has been fodder for my friend’s teasing. Just for a reference point when you open her refrigerator plan on participating in a scavenger hunt. I know there are many people who constantly must have change in their lives; it can be anywhere from moving every couple of years to making sure they never have the same meal twice during the week. I on the other hand can and have eaten the same lunch at work for years; I know exactly what I need at the grocery store each week to maintain these lunches. Now there is another aspect to all of this and it is those individuals who imagine the grass is greener on the other side, to use a cliche here. All I have to say to that is be careful because you never know how things will turn out in reality compared to your dreams. If you do not believe me just watch what happens when Shaun the Sheep decides to take a break.    WRITTEN and directed by Mark Burton (Chicken Run, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit) and Richard Starzak (Wallace & Gromit, Rex the Run-TV), this film festival nominated adventure comedy was a visual triumph. Using the stop-motion claymation style alone would have been fun enough; however, the witty and clever story had generational appeal. The way the writers included classic movie scenes with physical humor was utterly brilliant or let me say, baa-rilliant. There was very little dialog used throughout this film and I did not mind one bit because of the seamless movements of all the characters. It must have taken years to create this visual feast of a film. The thing I especially liked about the story was at its core there was a real heart to it. Some of the other movie studios that produce animated films could learn a lesson or two from this picture. For those of you (like myself) who prefer keeping a routine, I hope you can make an exception and go see this film. To those of you who need change then this film is a real change to what has been out recently at the movie theaters. There were 2 very brief scenes at the end of the credits.

 

3 1/2 stars 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Gift

Those words that get spoken to you may wind up lining the path of your life with land mines. Sadly the speaker of those words may not even be conscious of the destruction they will be causing you. Maybe it is because of the twists and turns I navigated through my life that makes me hyperaware of what a person is saying to another person. I have mentioned my 7th grade teacher before, who told me I would amount to nothing if I tried to become a writer. For the next several years after that comment I spent my time focusing on a scientific career before coming to my senses; imagine how many other kids she must have affected with her opinions. There are three words in the English language that can have a major effect on a person when they are preceded with the word, “You.” The words are can, should and are. Think about a time in your life when someone told you that you could not do something or that you were ____(fill in the blank). As adults we at least have the capacity to process such remarks, both the positive and negative ones. However, a child may not be able to overcome the nickname someone bestowed on them; in fact, the bestower may not even realize how much damage a nickname can cause a person. To this day I can be inside the dressing room of a clothes store, trying on a new article of clothing and hear one of the nicknames forced on me when I was a kid.    WHILE at the store picking out items for their new house Simon, played by Jason Bateman (The Longest Week, Identity Thief), bumped into an old classmate named Gordon, played by Joel Edgerton (Warrior, The Great Gatsby). After introducing Gordon to his wife Robyn, played by Rebecca Hall (Closed Circuit, The Town), Simon figured that would be the last he would see of this man he barely remembered from school; that was until Gordon showed up at their house with a housewarming gift. The first thing I have to do is give a shout out to Joel Edgerton because not only did he star in this mystery thriller but wrote and directed it. The story played out like a good old fashioned suspense tale, where I was taken on a ride filled with twists and turns. I am not saying like a roller coaster ride, more like layers that change the landscape as the story progresses along. The acting was excellent to the point where I was experiencing similar uncomfortableness along with the characters. It is a good feeling for me when a script can provide thrills without the need of explosions or special effects; letting the characters build up suspense for the viewers. In the case of this movie the label fits perfectly, a thrilling mystery.

 

3 1/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Fantastic Four

One of the quickest ways to bond with another human being is to share an event together. Whether it is an occurrence filled with celebration or tragedy, there is something about being a part of the same occasion that cuts through the preliminary chitchat and creates a quicker path to friendship or possibly something more. One of the first health clubs that hired me to teach aerobics had an all female staff. I always assumed I was hired because of my teaching skills and style, hoping that I did not get the job because I was a novelty. It was a year later when another man was hired on staff. The two of us quickly bonded, sitting near each other during staff meetings and traveling together to fitness conventions. Now do not get me wrong, this was in no shape a battle of the sexes type of thing or a testosterone competition; we just happened to have a similar mindset towards teaching, with the same type of humor. And do you want to know something; we have remained friends all these years. I could share other examples of how people bond but the events may cause you to become sad and I would rather we all try to stay upbeat with tonight’s movie review of this science fiction, action adventure film.    TELEPORTED to a distant world, the four space travelers returned to earth changed in unusual ways. They would have to learn to work together to overcome their differences if they wanted to save the world from an evil force. Having gone to this viewing with no prior knowledge of the film, my shock and confusion about what I was watching was a surprise to me. With competent actors Miles Teller (Whiplash, That Awkward Moment) as Reed Richards, Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station, That Awkward Moment) as Johnny Storm, Kate Mara (127 Hours, Shooter) as Sue Storm and Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, King Kong) as Ben Grimm, I was stunned at how poorly they came across on the big screen. The reason started with the script and anyone else involved with this film who was not familiar with what it took to make a superhero movie. The first half of the fim was utterly boring; with no action, no humor or fun surprises. I could not remember a recent time where an entire cast looked like they were sleepwalking through the picture. As for the evil aspect to the story, it was simply dull and did not provide any thrills. The fact that there was no extra scene at the end of the credits spoke volumes about how poorly managed this project was from beginning to end. On the plus side a group of us stopped in the theater lobby after the movie to talk about our similar negative reactions to this super dud.

 

1 1/2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Wolfpack

When I want to take a break and check out of reality I allow myself a little time to dream about what my retirement (if I ever can) life might look like. I imagine I would still be involved in some type of physical activity such as yoga, cycling or running. The thing I like to focus on is the idea I would be able to spread out my movie watching time throughout the week, instead of doing multiple movies on the same day. The other item that plays a part in my retirement fantasy is the ability to travel more, without being limited by time constraints. I am convinced I would never be bored in retirement. Now the reason I am talking about this today has to do with turning dreams into reality. Now granted I do not know what the future holds for me, but it is important for me to maintain my dreams because they get me out of bed each day. I am a creature of habit so it is easy for me to sustain a daily routine. However, I know there will be times where I lose sight and feel I am stuck in my life. Fantasizing about the future is a stress reliever for me; it presents a world to me that looks familiar but has not opened its doors yet to me. I honestly do not know how someone can function being in the same place, doing the same thing every single day. After watching this picture, I am still having a hard time processing what I saw about this family from the lower east side of Manhattan.    FROM their apartment the Anguro children could look out their window and see a world they were not part of because they were not allowed to go outside. Their days were spent watching then acting out scenes from the movies they watched on their small television. This film festival winning documentary was one of the more surreal movie watching experiences I have had in quite some time. As I said earlier I am still processing what essentially was a dramatic biography. With a mixture of the family’s home movies, on camera interviews and what I assumed was current filming; I sat in my seat in disbelief. I will say the brothers did an amazing job in recreating scenes from some classic films. This movie really made me think about dreams and hopes; because here I am able to talk about my conceived future, yet I sat and wondered what dreams or fantasies did these boys have growing up in their apartment or should I say prison cell. Though this was one of the most unusual stories I have ever seen, I had to admire the resiliency in these siblings.

 

3 1/2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Secret of Roan Inish

When it happens the mind has a hard time believing it is true. Knowing the difference between fantasy and reality, when one of them crosses to the other side the brain forms a hiccup. It could be something as trivial as checking one’s wallet or purse several times for a missing credit card and then on the 8th try the card is there. For me it was when I was at Yellowstone National Park and saw what actually looked like purple colored mountains, just like the lyric in the song that goes, “For purple mountain majesties.” I was standing on the peak of one mountain looking out and seeing a range of purple mountains as a low hanging, orange sun was piercing holes thru large billowing clouds like they were white pin cushions. The precise rays of sunlight formed little stars across the landscape. At first it did not look real to me; I just stood there and stared in disbelief. But there are other events that happen where a person has to take a step back to make sure what they are experiencing is actually real. Think about it, did you ever dream about something that later came true? Maybe what your ideal mate would look like or what your dream house would be? It can be a bit unsettling at first; however, I will say when it happens it brings a magical quality to it. The way this DVD showed up at my front door with no prior knowledge and its timing really made me experience an enchanting movie watching experience.    WHEN Fiona, played by Jeni Courtney (Nothing Personal), went to live with her grandparents she discovered there was something extraordinary about her family members. This film festival winning dramatic fantasy was a special treat to watch because it was based on the same Irish folklore as the animated movie, “Song of the Sea.” I recently had reviewed it here. Having seen the animated picture first, when I started watching this one I could not believe I was viewing the live version of that fantasy tale. With a cast that included Eileen Coogan (My Left Foot, I Sell the Dead) as Tess and John Lynch (The Secret Garden, In the Name of the Father) as Tadhg, I thought everyone did a wonderful job in creating a mysterious and magical atmospheric story about life in a small fishing village in Ireland. The beautiful landscapes and camera shots only added more charm to the story. Speaking of the story, there were differences between the two movies; I found this story was gentler and sweeter in a way, still just as family friendly as the other one. Whether the timing was right or I was in the right frame of mind, I found this DVD drew me completely into its world where I felt I was experiencing a fantasy coming to life.

 

3 1/2 stars — DVD

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: A LEGO Brickumentary

Before I even knew I wanted them I was immediately attracted to this odd looking box stuffed in a bookcase at a relative’s house. The box had inside of it miniature brown colored logs in different sizes with notches near the ends. After looking at the instructions I started building a house with the logs. I was fascinated with this toy and soon changed the house into a fort. It did not take long before my imagination kicked into gear and I started creating my own structures that could only be found on a distant planet. Around the same time I discovered these logs I happened to be over at a friend of the family’s house and was given this toy to play with to occupy my time while the adults sat and visited with each other. This large metallic box was filled with stacks of dull looking girders, screws and fasteners. At first I was confused since there was no instructions but after dumping the contents onto the floor I just started attaching pieces together and wound up building a skyscraper. I was thrilled with my creation as I quickly went on to build something else. By the time the evening was over I had used almost every girder in that box. It turned out to be a good thing because when the hosts saw how I filled up their room, they told me if I put everything away I could keep the toy. I truly believe toys of this nature stimulate a child’s imagination. If you need proof simply watch what happens in this film festival nominated documentary narrated by Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses franchise, Bad Words).    DIRECTED by Kief Davidson (Open Heart, The Devil’s Miner) and Daniel Junge (Iron Ladies of Liberia, They Killed Sister Dorothy), I was immediately attracted to the topic since I loved LEGO toys when I was a kid. There is something about LEGOs I believe that provide a comfort to everyone globally. Presently I cannot think of any friends or families who have children who do not have at least one LEGO set. The parts of this movie that surprised me the most were the ones that had to do with the adults who were creating works of art with LEGO bricks and the therapists who were using LEGOs as part of their treatment for autistic children. I had no idea this “simple” toy had such an affect on people. Now I grant you this movie did come across like one big informercial; things were kept on the light side and there was a lot of self promotion. However, there was such a mixture of joy and fun memories I was experiencing I just went along with the feelings, enjoying the scenes. It would not surprise me if after seeing this film a whole bunch of people grab a LEGO set and start playing with it.

 

2 1/2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Unexpected

That story about the stork delivering new born babies was something I never believed to be true. Even before I was taught the facts of life, I thought the idea of birds flying over houses and dropping babies down was weird. There were other stories I heard that seemed more plausible; for example, when the baby is ready it will come out of the belly button or the one about the soon to be parents choosing the day they want to go to the doctor’s office to have their child extracted from the woman’s body just like one would get their tooth pulled. Once I understood the real way babies were born there still was nothing mentioned about possible pain or discomfort being experienced during the pregnancy. Everything told to me was kept on a sweet and rosy level. As I got older I started to become better aware about the reality of the birthing process. The biggest shock for me was discovering not every woman had a storybook pregnancy. I remember hearing about a woman who was confined to her bed for over half of her pregnancy due to her body wanting to reject the fetus. In fact the first time I became aware of the term stillborn was when a friend’s aunt had one. It was an awful time where she was depressed for several months. When you think about all the scary things that could go wrong with having a baby, the process of bringing a healthy child into the world is an amazing feat.    FINDING out they were both pregnant close to the same time; inner city high school teacher Samantha Abbott and her student Jasmine, played by Cobie Smulders (The Avengers franchise, How I Met Your Mother-TV) and Gail Bean (At Mamu’s Feet), formed a special bond as they started their journey through unfamiliar territory. This film festival nominated comedic drama had in my opinion a real and honest dialog about the fears and joys of having a baby. Though the script did not delve down very deep, the acting by Cobie and Gail was totally believable to me. Along with Anders Holm (The Interview, Neighbors) as John and Elizabeth McGovern (Once Upon a Time in America, Ordinary People) as Carolyn, I thoroughly enjoyed the cast and felt they really pushed this script to full advantage. Even though I thought there was a part of the story that could have used more exposure, I found myself experiencing a similar reaction to the one the characters were sharing in the scene. This was only another sign of how good the performance was from the actors. In a way one could say creating a movie shares some similarities to having a baby; the people behind this film should feel proud of what they created here.

 

2 3/4 stars

 

 

 

 

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