Monthly Archives: September 2015

Flash Movie Review: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

I have from time to time run across advertisements that sold me on their product. Off to the store I would go to seek it out, where I found it looked like the item in the ad but it was not exactly the same. Where the picture showed a metal ring around the item, in person it was silver colored plastic; I realized it could easily break after several uses. Some people would say this was a deceptive advertisement; the picture and description did not focus on this certain part, letting the consumer come to their own conclusions. It is all marketing and I understand it; I guess you can say I almost expect it. If I think about it I am sure this type of example has played a part in my cautious or suspicious nature when it comes to dealing with any type of business. In my personal life I tend to trust a person until they prove me wrong, but when it comes to companies and corporations I go with the cliche, “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is not true.” I try not letting this mentality infiltrate into my personal dealings with individuals, but after being “burned” a few times it is hard to remain open and trusting of people who have not yet had enough history built between us. As far as I am concerned trust is something that needs to be earned, just ask the main character in this action thriller.    AFTER surviving the maze Thomas, Minho, Teresa; played by Dylan O’Brien (The First Time, Teen Wolf-TV), Ki Hong Lee (The Stanford Prison Experiment, Everything Before Us) and Kaya Scodelario (The Truth About Emanuel, Moon), along with the rest of their group may have finally found some relief thanks to Janson, played by Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones-TV, Blitz), the man in charge of the security complex where they have been ensconced for their protection. It was almost too good to be true. The 2nd installment of the science fiction series had more action than the first one. The multiple chase scenes were somewhat exciting but I did grow tired after so many of them. I wanted more scenes with Patricia Clarkson (Learning to Drive, Friends with Benefits) as Ava Paige and Aiden Gillen because not only were they a good choice for their characters, they could easily handle the acting requirements since they are so seasoned. If you did not see the first film this one would be a bit confusing to you; I saw it and I still felt lost a couple of times. The script was the culprit because there was essentially no time for character development since the action was ramped up so much. I did not feel connected to this picture and wondered how closely it followed the book. It makes me wonder how much one can believe in the marketing campaign for this film.

 

2 1/4 stars

 

 

 

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Flash Movie Review: The Intern

It started with a letter I read in a syndicated advice column. A person wrote in lamenting about the state of our education system that seems to be pushing students through who do not have simple basic skills. This person’s example was the checker at their grocery store who could not figure out what the cost was for an item that had a sale price of 4 for $1.00, but was ringing up at 44 cents each. When the shopper pointed it out, the checker had to ask a coworker who also could not figure out what to charge for each item. This shopper knew that these 2 had graduated with honors from high school and were college freshmen. They finally took out a calculator to get the correct answer of 25 cents per item. It is funny because I had a similar experience at the movie theater last week. My ticket cost $5.75 so I gave the cashier a $20 dollar bill and a single dollar. The person started to hand back the dollar to me but I told her I wanted even change. I could tell they had no idea what I wanted so I had to explain what change I wanted back. There used to be a time when older employees with a long job history were admired and respected for their knowledge and experience. These employees were invaluable to a company. From what I have seen and heard that is no longer the case. When a company is looking to cut costs the older employees can be targeted because the company may feel they can get someone young and right out of college to fill the position for half the price. This is why I thought the premise for the story in this comedy was a good one.    SINCE retirement was not totally fulfilling for 70 year old Ben, played by Robert De Niro (Casino, Meet the Parents franchise), he decided to apply for the intern position at a hot new online fashion company. It was quickly apparent to him offices and their employees had changed when he saw the company’s president Jules, played by Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married, Love & Other Drugs), riding around the office on a bicycle. I thought Robert was especially good in this role and was surprised at the chemistry he had with Anne. There were some scenes they shared that worked well, similar to the ones he shared with Rene Russo (Outbreak, Thor franchise) as Fiona. The issue I had with the script was the multiple offshoots to the main story. I felt some scenes were forced just to try and get a laugh; they were unnecessary to me. If the writers would have focused more on the company and its employees the movie would have been stronger in my opinion. On the plus side I appreciated the film showing the value of having an older more experienced employee.

 

2 1/3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Hotel Transylvania 2

I am still baffled by the way people’s discriminations overpower what should be the simplest of connections: the love of a person. There have been so many times where I have heard a parent tell their child they wished they would…  It could be anything from telling them they should have been an accountant and not an artist or telling them they should marry someone of the same religion. One of the best pieces of advice I heard was to do what you love and everything else would follow, so to tell someone who is an artist that they should be working with numbers makes no sense to me. Now there is nothing wrong with questioning a person’s choices, to be a sounding board for them; however, I become uncomfortable when someone tries to place their values and expectations on another person, whether it be a family member or a stranger. I know this family where the parents have a strained relationship with one of their 4 children because they married someone out of their faith. The pain they caused this child has been long lasting because the young grandkids have not spent much time around their grandparents. I can only imagine how many opportunities they have all missed to create a fond memory or a deeper connection. Love does not discriminate, only people do. Now the reason I am talking about this theme is because it resonated in me and played a part in this animated comedy sequel.    DRACULA, voiced by Adam Sandler (Pixels, Grown Ups franchise), could only think about one thing anytime he saw his daughter Mavis’, voiced by Selena Gomez (Getaway, Spring Breakers), and her human husband Jonathan’s, voiced by Andy Samberg (That’s My Boy, Saturday Night Live-TV), baby boy; would he be a vampire or a human? One of the surprises about this movie was seeing Adam being credited as one of the writers. Sure the jokes were pretty basic and straight forward, plus there was a couple of times where I thought they were close to being inappropriate for a family film. But the fact that this film offered a valuable lesson was a shock to me. My favorite character out of the cast was Mel Brooks (Spaceballs, High Anxiety) as Vlad. I thought he had great lines besides perfect delivery of them. As an overall entertaining picture, this one was nothing above average. The animation was fine, the creation of the monsters was creative and the soundtrack was lively. Outside of that, I thought this sequel was pretty much the same thing as the first one. I cannot say I was bored; if I had to tell someone all I could think of was that the film was okay. I did not find anything horrible or terrific; just middle of the road except for tackling an important issue, in my opinion, in a subtle easy way.

 

2 stars 

 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Pawn Sacrifice

I called it a goal; my friends said it was an obsession. When I planned this movie review site I decided I wanted to do one movie review a day for the entire year. No matter what holiday, in sickness and in health, even on vacation; I planned to write a new film review each and every day for 365 days. And you know what, I did it. Trust me when I tell you it was not always easy. I remember leaving many social functions to race home and get a review posted. Even after working all day then teaching at night, my classes would even ask me what movie I was reviewing that evening and I would tell them only the title, for they would have to wait until I got home to write it. I never considered this an obsession, though I could see where some people would question my sanity. It was more like a challenge and I wanted to be able to say I posted movie reviews for an entire year. After reaching my goal I have to be honest I was relieved. It was getting to me especially on weekends; trying to figure out the logistics to post reviews, going to movies, meeting friends and family for a meal or activity was driving me to exhaustion. That is when I decided to take the weekends off from writing and if something came up during the week where I could not get a review posted to not beat myself up for it. So you see I do not think I have an obsession, though I know there could be a fine line between it and reality.    DURING the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union a battle was brewing over a chess match between American chess prodigy Bobby Fisher, played by Tobey Maguire (Labor Day, Seabiscuit), and world chess champion Boris Spassky, played by Liev Schreiber (A Perfect Man, Fading Gigolo). Based on a true story this biographical drama had a compelling story that revealed more than I remembered about the chess games. I thought the acting was spot on, including Peter Sarsgaard (Black Mass, Flightplan) as Father Bill Lombardy; however the script was somewhat flawed. Where I wanted to sympathize with Bobby’s plight, I felt the script made him out to simply be an arrogant, hard to get along with hole. The scenes were setup in such a way to provide a good dose of tension, but as the movie progressed I grew tired of Bobby’s rants. Maybe they did happen in real life, but I did not find enough background story to the characters. It just seemed as if we were seeing the same “craziness” over and over with little explanation. At the end of the film I came away wondering where Bobby placed on that fine line between an obsessive genius and insanity.

 

2 3/4 stars

 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Sleeping with Other People

I wondered if things would have been different if I had redefined the term “best friend?” Having spent many years moving in and out of the dating pool, I never wondered if any of the people I dated would become my best friend. I was always confused when I heard someone say they married their “best friend” because I never considered such a thing regarding my best friends. There are a couple of individuals that I have been friends with since elementary school and though I dated one in 8th grade, now as adults we are still close but just not in that way. In fact when I think about it, I am not sure I would consider someone I am dating to be a friend. For me that category for friends and dates has different definitions. Where both involve love, compassion and humor; I do not list physical intimacy under the friend’s category. Maybe I am wrong but I consider dates to be a different type of relationship. Sure I want to be able to laugh and be vulnerable with them but in my mind they represent a being who shares heightened awarenesses with me. I have always said a love relationship is one where the two of you are walking down a winding road that goes through hills and valleys. There will be times where one will have to push or pull the other one along, but they always are shoulder to shoulder as they continue on their path without any judgements, only unconditional love and respect for each other.    LAINEY, played by Alison Brie (Get Hard, The Five-Year Engagement), could not be faithful to anyone she dated. Jake, played by Jason Sudeikis (We’re the Millers, Saturday Night Live-TV), was an avid womanizer who could not make a commitment. The two, who knew each other back in college, found themselves at the same self-help group and vowed to maintain a strictly platonic relationship with each other. This could easily become a complicated situation. The script for this romantic comedy was uneven for me. Jason and Alison were the best out of the cast in my opinion; I especially liked Jason’s comedic timing along with several funny lines. Some scenes worked well but there were a couple that seemed far-fetched or simply odd for me. For example, there was a scene that involved modeling clothing to get an opinion that I had to question if that would actually have happened in real life. Some of the jokes were “cute” but there really was nothing that warranted out loud laughing. Another reason why I did not feel connected to the characters may have to due with the fact that I could not relate to either of them since cheating is not part of my makeup. I do not think this film warrants making a date for the movie theater.

 

2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Coming Home

There goes by a young couple walking hand in hand. As they stroll through the park they carry on a conversation that causes them to chuckle, sigh, exclaim and smile from time to time. Periodically one rests their head on the shoulder of the other and when the pathway narrows they wrap their arms around each other to get closer. In a completely different locale there is a couple sitting in an airport gate’s waiting area. While one leans into the other as they begin to doze off, the other is reading a book. When finally coming back to consciousness, the other brushes the hair off their sleepy face, looking into their sputtering eyes. With the book closed and placed to the side the two simply lean into each other, one affectionately massaging the neck of the other one. Anywhere you look you can always find people in love. A candlelight dinner, shopping at the grocery store or sitting together at a sporting event; they do not need to declare their love to the world, the way they interact with each other is proof enough. But I ask you, how often do you see couples in their twilight years out and about participating in public displays of affection? How about in the media or forms of entertainment like movies and television? I can only bring to mind a few from recent movies compared to the amount of films I have seen about youthful love. And the reason why I believe that is the case is because growing old isn’t for the weak. Let us face it when one hears the words, “in sickness and health,” how often do they imagine what their life might be like in their later years?    AFTER spending years in a labor camp during the cultural revolution in China Lu Yanshi, played by Chen Daoming (Hero, Aftershock), was finally released to return to his waiting wife Feng Wanyu, played by Gong Li (Raise the Red Lantern, Memoirs of a Geisha). But after so many years Feng did not recognize the man who showed up at her door. This film festival winning drama’s story was beautiful in its simplicity. With newcomer Zhang Huiwen as the couple’s daughter Dan Dan, the acting was painfully real. It was wonderful watching Gong Li as she would turn an emotion upside down with a look or subtle movement. On one level the story focused on the effects the cultural revolution had families. The stronger part of the story in my opinion had to do with the strength love had between two people. I did find a few places where the movie dragged for me, in a repetitive type of way. However, the way the story unfolded as it progressed kept me engaged. After the movie was over I walked away with the feeling I had just witnessed a full and unconditional love. Mandarin was spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 1/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Everest

The first thing one notices is the air feels different, a fresher smell unlike the cloying scents from air fresheners. It seems more spacious with odorous wisps filled with childhood memories of jumping into piles of leaves and water sprinklers. Traveling higher the landscape reveals ancient scars deeply etched into its face, some are dry while others have rushing water tumbling down them. If you are standing in the right place on a sunny day you may see the appearance of a rainbow floating in the mist coming off the water. There is a sense of discovery or more precisely being on a treasure hunt because one could travel undercover for some distant, where the sun’s rays can barely reach you except for the momentarily flash between waving leaves, before stepping out of the darkness to a cliff overseeing a wide valley of sleepy hills under a wheat and green colored blanket. Personally I love exploring this type of terrain…from the comfort of my car. Now before you ask me how I can explore nature while riding around in a car, let me explain. My first two hiking experiences turned me off from physically climbing and scaling rugged territories. The first hike ended with the rocks under my feet dislodging and I tumbled down towards a cliff, my clothes ripping apart on the jagged surface. My second time was hiking on an easier topography, however it was dense with foliage and we lost our way as night fell. We were stuck on the mountain for 4 hours until we finally found our way down by midnight, hungry and cold. Ever since that time I only hike if there is a designated trail to walk or a road to drive on. So for the life of me I could not understand why the people in this adventure thriller wanted to climb Mt. Everest.    BASED on a true story, a group of mountain climbers have the perfect window of opportunity to scale Mt. Everest, unaware a storm is about to take birth. The storm would become one for the record books. This dramatic movie was incredible to watch. The different landscape shots were spectacular. With a cast that included Jason Clarke (Lawless, The Great Gatsby) as Rob Hall, Josh Brolin (Labor Day, Gangster Squad) as Beck Weathers and Thomas M. Wright (Balibo, Van Diemen’s Land) as Michael Groom; the acting was utterly convincing. I do not know how the actors handled the grueling frigid scenes; it looked totally real to me. Putting aside my bewilderment for this type of undertaking, the story really had the potential for creating a powerful movie. However, the script had poor dialog and a smattering of cliches. I know the focus was on the action and this picture really delivered it. I just wished the movie theater had turned up the heat; we were bundled up sitting in our seats.

 

3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Black Mass

I used to live near this great restaurant that served these incredible french fries. They were hand cut with some of the potato skin left on them. They were always served separately on their own plate which I thought was a great idea, because you would get more fries than if they were placed next to your entree on the same plate. Besides, this way you could douse them anyway you wanted with ketchup. What made this place standout from other restaurants was the personal touches the staff did for the customers. If your bowl of soup cooled off before you finished it, they were always glad to bring a cup of steaming broth to warm it up. Another thing that made this place standout from others was the way they would hand mold their burgers. No matter what you ordered it always looked and felt like a home cooked meal. When the owners wanted to expand they brought in new business partners. On the outside nothing looked different; there was the same creaky front door and the same counter with its maroon colored stools, where the cushioned seats would spin a full 360 degrees around. However, I soon noticed some subtle changes with the food. The french fries were no longer hand cut; the process became automated, where the potatoes were put through a machine to cut them up. The cloth napkins were replaced with disposable paper ones that were barely big enough to wipe your hands clean. All the personal touches and care that went into cooking the food became automated and it was never the same. I lost interest in the place since my last visits were never as satisfying as the ones with the original owners. This is the same way I have felt about Johnny Depp. His recent films were not entertaining to me since it was obvious he was on automatic. Just slap makeup and costumes on him and it was the same thing over and over. All of that changed with this dramatic crime film.    BASED on true events Johnny Depp (Alice in Wonderland, Finding Neverland) played James “Whitey” Bulger, a mobster who with the help of the FBI became Boston’s biggest crime boss. The acting performance by Johnny was stunning; it reminded me of his acting from years ago. With Joel Edgerton’s (The Gift, Zero Dark Thirty) wonderful performance as FBI agent John Connolly and Peter Sarsgaard (Orphan, Jarhead) as Brian Halloran, the acting was of a high caliber for this story. I only wished the script had offered more details. It felt like things were quickly taking place without any explanation just to keep the film under a certain time. Despite this I found the picture compelling enough to keep me involved through most of it. I just hope Johnny will continue to take on roles that push him to really act in them, instead of going on automatic. There were scenes with violence and blood in them.

 

3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Before We Go

As I was listening to them I wondered if they said any of this to their spouse. From my years of teaching I was not only people’s fitness/yoga instructor; I was their sounding board, their confidant. Not that I sought this position out; it just happened since part of my job includes aspects of being a customer service and member retention representative. The other thing I noticed that creates this type of environment is the comfort some people feel with talking to strangers. Not that I consider any of the members in my classes strangers; but I can see where I would be a non-judgemental sympathetic 3rd party. I remember one class where a member lingered behind as I was cleaning up the room. We had only had a couple of minutes making small talk when all of a sudden the member burst into tears, wrapping their arms around me sobbing as they told me their spouse was cheating on them. Whether it is right or wrong all employees had training instructing us that the only acceptable contact outside of hands-on instruction during class was a handshake, a fist bump, a high five, CPR or a sideways hug. Front to front hugging was not allowed in the current politically correct times. In my case I did not have time to shift my body; I stood there with my arms stretched out to the sides until the member backed away. I consoled them until they calmed down, just listening as my early college psychology courses training kicked in. This was only one example, through the years I have become a sympathetic ear that can be trusted and I believe that is what all of this comes down to, one has to have trust.    STRANDED in Manhattan after her purse was stolen Brooke Dalton, played by Alice Eve (She’s Out of My League, The Raven), was leery of the stranger Nick Vaughan, played by Chris Evans (Captain America franchise, Snowpiercer), who was offering to help get her back home. This comedic drama was Chris’ first foray into directing. He did an admirable job with the material; unfortunately, the script was for the most part generic. What worked in this movie’s favor was Chris and Alice; they did their best with the characters they portrayed, showing some real chemistry between each other. It was obvious to me where the story was going to the point where it felt like the writers were going down a list of things to check off to include in each scene. I cannot say I was bored by this romantic dramedy; in fact, I sat there several times wondering what I would have done in that particular situation. Then again I believe trust is something that has to be earned, not given out freely.

 

2 stars

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Boulevard

There they sit across from you, eating the dinner you both prepared. When there is any conversation it is kept to trivial, light things about the day. After the meal is done and the dishes have been washed and dried the two of you sit on the sofa to watch television. The side of their leg is pressed up against yours; not for any romantic reasons, just because that is where the two of you have always sat together. You can feel their physical presence but that is all; they are there but not there like a ghost of their former self. Not reacting to anything being shown on the TV nor sharing any thoughts or feelings, you feel totally alone. Any type of chitchat you start up is only met with a grunt. I believe most of us have experienced some form of pain or discomfort coming from physical cruelty. A punch or slap where the pain radiates heat prior to dispersing into a dullness is what I am referring to here. However there is another form of cruelty that I find just as painful if not more and it would be the emotional kind. The person who you have had some type of relationship with mentally checks out unexpectedly for no apparent reason. It is an awful place to be in, especially when you have given your heart to that person. In a situation like this I find silence to be the absolute worst choice; I would rather a person be honestly blunt with me instead of avoiding what needs to be said. Silence in this type of situation can be a form of purgatory in my opinion.   MARRIED and set in their ways for many years Nolan and Joy Mack’s, played by Robing Williams (Old Dogs, Good Will Hunting) and Kathy Baker (Edward Scissorhands, 13 Going on 30), lives started to become unglued the night Nolan nearly drove over the stranger Leo, played by Roberto Aguire (Sand Sharks-TV movie). This dramatic film already came with a sense of sadness since this was Robin’s final film performance. I thought his acting was strong as he showed emotional restraint. In fact, the cast which also included Bob Odenkirk (Nebraska, Breaking Bad-TV) as Winston did a wonderful job. If the script had offered more emotional depth, not only would have the actors been able to handle it; but it would have made this a much more powerful drama. As it was I found parts of the movie were lackluster, with a few scenes that did not come across as believable for me. The other issue I had with this film was the uneven pacing of the story. I felt the story with its powerful themes could have been clearly presented without slowing down the action. As I said earlier I was already feeling sad when the movie started and only became sadder as the story unfolded.

 

2 stars

 

 

 

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