Monthly Archives: October 2015

Flash Movie Review: Meadowland

The absence of a reason or answer could fester in the heart and cause an abscess. Sadly I have had experience in this area. We had been dating for several months and it was somewhat startling to me how well everything was flowing between us. The times I spent at their studio apartment were almost magical because it never felt like we needed our own space throughout our times together for entire weekends. It was as if the walls of the apartment faded back into muted curtains of gauze, allowing us to nest into a secret protected area away from the hubbub of the world outside that was whining against the floor to ceiling windows. Then one day everything came crashing down. I was at home when I received their phone call; we had plans to get together later in the evening. They apologized and told me they could not do this anymore. When I asked what they meant, all they said was they could no longer be in this relationship and they hung up. I wondered if there was something I did as I poured over all of the memories I had stored from the two of us, searching for some type of answer. I did reach out to them to try and get an explanation but all of my attempts went unanswered. This was traumatic for me and so that is why I feel the way I do; the hurt will linger as long as there is no conclusion. Another example of the added pain to unanswered questions can be found in this dramatic film.    AFTER a tragic, life altering occurrence Sarah and Phil, played by Olivia Wilde (Drinking Buddies, In Time) and Luke Wilson (Legally Blonde franchise, Old School), spiral out of control unable to help each other during their crisis. This film festival nominee had some intense moments, thanks to Olivia and Luke. I felt it was one of Olivia’s best performances to date. With Giovanni Ribisi (Ted franchise, Saving Private Ryan) as Tim and Ty Simpkins (Insidious franchise, Jurassic World) as Adam, the story was not easy to watch in some parts due to the heavy subject matter. The whole cast contributed to making this a believable film for me. Another thing I liked about this picture was the way they kept the dialog down to a minimum in several scenes. I felt it made them more powerful in conveying the emotions. Now there were a few scenes where I found the actions taking place were somewhat odd, wondering if it was created for added effect. I do want to add that some viewers may feel uncomfortable; not for any physical altercations per se, but for the authentic portrayal of a family in despair.

 

3 stars

 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Jem and the Holograms

It should not matter what other people think about the things that bring you joy. This seems like such a basic concept; you cherish desserts but your good friend does not or your significant other loves to go camping but you are not fond of it. For those individuals who shall we say have a stronger constitution, someone else’s thoughts and tastes have no bearing on their enjoyment. I knew this person who loved to dance; whenever the opportunity presented itself, they were the first one to get up and start dancing. They had a poor sense of rhythm but either they were not aware or just did not care. It did not stop some people from making comments or teasing remarks. Now some individuals who were not as sure of themselves as this dancer would probably stop dancing in public. For others they would ignore the remarks and comments, not stopping for anyone. I am aware this is not always an easy thing to do. When I first starting teaching fitness, I was a nervous wreck every time I walked into a class. Yelling in my mind were these voices that told me I was too big, not flexible or good enough; I was a fraud who was just pretending to be an instructor. There were so many other instructors who looked and acted the part with their snug fitting outfits that were color coordinated. I wore baggy basketball shorts, a loose T-shirt that had either a state logo or landmark and a baseball cap. It took me a long time to acquire the confidence to believe I was doing something good. Because of this I was able to understand what the main character was feeling in this musical adventure.    NOT until a video of her singing was uploaded to the internet did Jerrica, played by Aubrey Peeples (Rage, Nashville-TV), begin to believe in herself. Along with her sisters they would become overnight sensations; but would it be too much for them to handle? I do not know where to begin because I was void of any feelings by the end of this dramatic fantasy film. If I can explain, the entire script sounded like an example that would be used for a screenwriter’s 101 class; it was cliched, predictable and sappy. I was not familiar with the 1980s cartoon series this movie was based on, but the robot story line seemed like a totally different movie from the singing one. Even Molly Ringwald (Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles) playing Aunt Bailey left me perplexed since she came across as a flat one dimensional character. The only worthwhile scenes were the ones that had singing in them. This was such an odd film; notice I did not even list any other actors because their acting was so sad. If any of them look back at this they might want to change careers. There was an extra scene in the beginning of the ending credits.

 

1 1/2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Rock the Kasbah

The sentences that were being verbalized to us were losing some of their words on the way to me. It was as if their voice had been heard enough to transform into a blur of white noise, causing my eyelids to become heavy as they wanted to slowly come down like a drawbridge. The lecture was only halfway completed and I did not know how I would survive the rest. My head was starting to look like it was on an old weak spring as it would droop down periodically. I pretended there was something in my eyes so I could fake rubbing them, giving me a few extra seconds of shut eye. The individual leading the training seemed to know what they were talking about; however, their delivery was turning the participants into mindless drones, only coming back to life if a direct question prodded them back to the present time. I am sure many of us have experienced a similar situation during a training, lecture or workshop; the facilitator pretty much is going on automatic since they have done it for so long. And it does not matter whether it is done in person or via a webinar; they follow the same script, the same pre-planned ice breakers and the same jokes. To me the delivery is so important in making the event a success. If you cannot keep the participants engaged and interested in what is being said, then the session becomes a waste of time for a majority of the them; similar to what took place in the movie theater as we watched this musical comedy.    LITTLE did rock manager Richie Lanz, played by Bill Murray (Aloha, Lost in Translation), know his trip to Afghanistan would lead him to the beautiful singing voice of Salima, played by Leem Lubany (From A to B, Omar). Unfortunately it was coming out of a female in a country that frowned on women singing. With a cast that also included Kate Hudson (Wish I was Here, Almost Famous) as Merci and Bruce Willis (Die Hard franchise, Looper) as Bombay Brian; I could only sit and wonder if they realized they were stuck in such a poor product. This movie provided nothing new or exciting for me. I still cannot get over the fact it was directed by Barry Levinson (Liberty Heights, Wag the Dog), a director I have respected for a long time. The script made no sense to me; for example, what was the point of including Bruce Willis’ character into the story? Bill Murray was utterly dreadful; he brought absolutely nothing different to his character, having done this type of role over and over previously. I was bored through the majority of this film except during a couple of songs. When the picture was over I felt as if I had been slipped a tranquilizer or what some people call a roofie.

 

1 1/2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Room

There is this saying that tells you if you get stuck with lemons then make lemonade. Sadly my lemonade tends to taste like apple cider vinegar, not all the time but enough where I tend to expect it. In my circle of friends we tend to say, “They were born with a lucky horseshoe up their rear end,” to describe someone who is charmed. I have one friend who on the average wins a prize 75% of the time for all the sweepstakes and raffles they have entered, it is uncanny. On the other hand I know I am more likely making a cash donation to the organization. For example there was one time I went to teach a yoga class and when I walked into the club, the front desk told me all classes were cancelled due to a power outage. I did wonder why no one bothered to call me to let me know; but there was no reason to point it out to my fellow employees. So I decided to use the restroom before making the trip back home. It could not have been more than a minute or two, but by the time I came back to the front lobby I was informed the tornado siren had gone off and no one was allowed to leave the building. We were all stuck in the building’s windowless hallway for 20-25 minutes. Gratefully it turned out to be a false alarm but there was no lemonade to be made that night by me. But do you know what, all of that along with any other similar situation I may have had did not matter after I saw what was taking place in this extraordinary drama.    FIVE year old Jack, played by Jacob Tremblay (Before I Wake, My Mother’s Future Husband-TV movie), was loved and nurtured by his Ma, played by Brie Larson (Short Term 12, The Spectacular Now). In their tiny space that Ma named Room, Jack had no idea there was a whole world outside of the windowless shed they were locked in all these years. Less than halfway through this film I already knew what rating this movie deserved and I meant deserved. Part thriller, part suspense, part horror, part intense drama; this was a movie watching experience that took me away. Brie and Jacob were so unbelievably real that I could not stop tearing up through sections of this picture. Even the supporting cast actors like Joan Allen (Death Race, The Contender) as Nancy and William H. Macy (The Sessions, Pleasantville) as Robert were important players in the story. Based on the bestselling book, I have nothing negative to say about this amazing film. The directing did such a beautiful job of taking the viewers through this hilly, rough terrain of a script. The bottom line about this movie is this: it will be a major Oscar contender. I hope everyone gets to see this film.

 

4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Last Witch Hunter

 

Except when it concerns weight, most instances of loss more times than not are associated with sadness. Even from a scarf to a pair of sunglasses, I have never heard someone say they were happy about losing them. Sadness can be overwhelming when it comes to the loss of a loved one. And if the death was sudden like a heart attack, the survivors can experience shock along with the sad feelings flooding over them. Though I would never say anything, I never understood when someone would say, “We lost her/him today.” I have always wondered if people were just uncomfortable saying the word “died,” maybe because it sounds so final or abrupt as compared to passing away or gone. Now there is another aspect of loss that I think must be harder to deal with and that is when the death is unexpected. Maybe due to an accident or killing, I can only imagine how awful it must feel. There were a couple of different people I knew who had experienced such a tragedy and it was heartbreaking. Though I will say when it comes to this form of death I can understand why a person would have a vein of anger and revenge mixed in with their unhappiness. Hopefully I will never have to experience such a horrible thing in my life. I would rather be exposed to this type of event as an observer while watching a movie. Or at least I thought so until I saw this fantasy adventure.    CURSED by a witch with immortal life Kaulder, played by Vin Diesel (Fast & Furious franchise, The Pacifier), would spend his life throughout the centuries protecting the world from such wretched witches. This action film was all about the CGI effects. There were a couple of scenes that were actually good. I thought the idea behind the story was decent; however the script was as dull as an old rusty nail. With Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) as Dolan 37th, Michael Caine (Harry Brown, Inception) as Dolan 36th and Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones-TV, Downton Abbey-TV) as Chloe; the actors had nothing to work with to try and make this film at least somewhat exciting. As for Vin, with his limited acting range, this role did not suit him at all. With his monotone speech, I found him boring. Maybe part of the issue was the direction the actors were getting because I did not care for the way scenes jumped back and forth in time; it made for a frenzied viewing experience. I will say I did not mind Rose Leslie’s character and wished there were more scenes with Michael; though even his character seemed like one I have seen him play before. This is one film I would not be sad if the movie studio lost.

 

1 2/3 stars

 

Flash Movie Review: Steve Jobs

Ugh not again; there they go repeating the same story for everyone. I do not know if this has happened to you but I know a couple of people who can take an entertaining story and pummel it down to the point where most people would have lost interest midway through the tale. One of these individuals will tell me a story, move on to something else for a moment and then come back to the original story to add some unnecessary element. I say “unnecessary” because once you give out the punchline the story is done. If you go back to add something else it never adds extra oomph if someone already knows the ending to the joke or story. At a party this person will go from group to group telling each one a particular story, dragging it out longer and longer as they make their way among the assembled people. It is easy to tell when a captive guest loses interest; their eyes keep darting from side to side after each blink as they are looking to lock in on someone to come save them from the storyteller’s discombobulated oratory. I may not be a great verbal communicator but I do know that a good story or joke needs to be quick and to the point. It is like a speech; there is only a finite amount of time one can hold onto an audience’s attention span before they drift off to someplace else. So here is today’s movie and it is the third film about Steve Jobs I have seen in a short amount of time. How many times do we need to hear about Steve and Apple Computer? Luckily they say the 3rd time is the charm because it was for this dramatic movie.    COME backstage during the launch of 3 major products during Steve’s tenure at Apple Computer. Directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) and written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, The West Wing-TV), this film was intelligent, smart and most importantly acted out brilliantly. The casting could not have been better with the likes of Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method, Shame) as Steve Jobs, Kate Winslet (Titanic, Divergent franchise) as Joanna Hoffman and Jeff Daniels (The Martian, Looper) as John Sculley; they were amazing in their roles. Michael completely obliterated any trace memory I had left of Ashton Kutcher’s poor performance as Steve in the film Jobs; there is a good chance Michael will be nominated for best actor this Oscar season. The script was so well done I can only imagine the actors must have really enjoyed digging deep into their characters. I enjoyed the mix of dramatic intensity and humor Aaron brought into the script. The fact the story only focused on three specific time frames I believe made this a stronger picture. Truthfully, I could easily see this film again and not get bored.

 

3 1/2 stars 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Labyrinth of Lies

Let me first say I do not condone lying, but don’t you agree some lies are less harmful or hurtful than others? When I am attending a party where multiple people have contributed food items I will not eat any of it usually. If someone should ask me why I am not eating I will just say I am not hungry, even if I am. Unless I know the person I do not want to eat anything they created; I will stick to a store bought bag of pretzels. But would I tell them that is the reason? Absolutely not, so that is why I say I am not hungry. Technically it is a lie, but is it really hurting anyone? Now let me tell you about the time I took a helicopter ride, where the pilot asked the 5 of us for our weights. There was one person in the group that said a number that the rest of us were not sure was accurate. I wasn’t making a judgement call but I assumed the pilot needed exact weights to be able to distribute our weights evenly around the helicopter. The entire flight up I was concerned something was going to happen to us. Luckily nothing did, however what would have happened if that person actually did lie about their weight. Would the helicopter tip over on takeoff? Would a current of air push us into a tailspin? This could have been a lie that came with disastrous consequences. Though the scenarios I just described fall under a more personal domain, there are some lies that can affect a nation.    PROSECUTOR Johann Radmann, played by Alexander Fehling (Inglorious Basterds, Young Goethe in Love), of the Attorney General’s office was the only person who believed the story was true about the school teacher being a former Nazi. With his boss Generalstaatsanwalt Fritz Bauer’s, played by Gert Voss (Sometime in August, Zettl), blessing Johann would find himself in a place where lying was easier than facing the truth. This film festival winner based on a true story played more like a thriller than drama in my opinion. Set in Germany during the 1950s, the story was a fascinating history lesson besides being a morality one. The cast which also included Andre Szymanski (Wolfsburg, In the Shadows) as journalist Thomas Gnielka and Friederike Becht (The Reader, Westwind) as Marlene Wondrak were all competent in their roles. In regards to the story, whether the more personal dramatic parts were real or not did not matter to me. I felt they only accentuated the magnitude of unfolding events. The other aspect to the story that I appreciated was the way the writers focused on such a monumental topic that had historical value yet made it to be told on a more human level. I cannot lie, this wa a real thought provoking movie. German was spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 1/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Bridge of Spies

They bulge out like wide fish eyes skimming the sea’s surface of ceiling tiles. You see them everywhere now, those security cameras encased in smoky dark glass globes. Some places do not even bother making them inconspicuous; they hang up the actual cameras on the walls or have them dangling down from the roof like machine gun turrets. It seems no matter where you turn someone is watching you. Generally it does not bother me; what do I care if someone is watching me pump gasoline into my car or buying kitchenware for a dinner party. However, I just heard on the news this week some financial institution is working on a payment system that only requires the payer to send a selfie of their face. Yuck, the idea turns my stomach. There are already too many people taking selfies or videotaping themselves and everything around them, that I do not need to see more people doing in now. If you do not think security issues are taking a bigger role around you just look at all the crime and detective shows on television; so many of them use high tech surveillance devices that it boggles the mind. If you look at this on an international scale, high tech methods seem to be the norm when it comes to espionage and warfare. Imagine those government officials who worked at a time where being a spy was a more physical job, where one had to secretly tail a suspected individual instead of through the internet. For you Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew readers, you know what I am talking about; for everyone else, see how it was done in this dramatic biographical film.    RECRUITED by the CIA to negotiate the release of a captured U2 spy plane pilot by the Soviet Union; insurance lawyer James B. Donovan, played by Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, Cast Away), did not want his morals compromised by the clandestine operations and negotiations unfolding around him. Directed by Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln), this film festival winning drama once again showed why Steven is a master storyteller. The way the story started out in an unassuming way then began building on top of itself; the viewer had no choice but to be drawn into the exciting tension. Along with Alan Alda (The Aviator, Tower Heist) as Thomas Watters Jr and Mark Rylance (The Other Boleyn Girl, Angels and Insects) as Rudolf Abel, who could be nominated for best supporting actor as Rudolf Abel, the acting was outstanding. The way the filming was shot allowed small scenes to be just as important as the major dramatic ones. I truly felt as if I was getting a glimpse into a past world where all of this type of spy work was the norm during the cold war. As I walked out of the theater and into the lobby I am sure who ever was behind the security camera above my head saw my wide satisfied smile.

 

3 1/2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Crimson Peak

When one experiences a traumatic change in their life, the person should hold off on making any life altering decisions. I remember hearing this advice a long time ago and did not quite comprehend the magnitude of it. In the past when something rough happened to me I used to binge on food; I know, a classic case of stuffing one’s feelings. I have not done that in manny, many years. As I matured I started to understand the meaning of that wisdom and would force myself to have a pause in my life, to contemplate the issue and look for a solution or allow myself to go through the grieving process. There was one horrible breakup I went through where I did not leave the house for a few days, doing a marathon of movies on DVD. It actually helped me come to terms with the changes that took place. I realized I did not have control over them, learned how to acknowledge my feelings then worked at eventually letting them go. No one can tell you what to do during such times; I believe a person has to come to terms with their emotions. Though I will say I appreciated listening to the different advice my friends were offering me. Unfortunately I had a friend who was not in a space to listen to others when her long term boyfriend decided to end their relationship. She spiraled down into a deep depression. However in a matter of several weeks she all of a sudden introduced me to her new boyfriend. I thought it was rather quick and became more concerned after a couple of months later she told me she was going to marry him. I knew this was going to be trouble just as I knew there was trouble brewing in this dramatic fantasy film.    AFTER the tragic loss of her father Edith Cushing, played by Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre), married and moved out of the country with businessman Thomas Sharpe, played by Tom Hiddleston (Thor franchise, Only Lovers Left Alive), to live on his estate. His mansion came with some dark secrets. Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim), this horror film was utterly gorgeous with sumptuous sets and period pieced costumes. The actors including Jessica Chastain (The Martian, A Most Violent Year) as Lucille Sharpe and Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim, Children of Men) as Dr. Alan McMichael were all wonderful in spite of the dull story. With such elaborate sets and scenery I really had hoped the story was going to be a strong gothic suspense drama. There was very little intensity throughout the film as if everything had fallen into a middle of the road type of mentality. Not to take anything away from the actors but due to the script, I found the house to be one of the strongest characters out of the movie.

 

2 1/3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Goosebumps

When I see they have a book in their hand or I know they like to read books, I feel those people will understand me quicker. I hope that does not sound judgmental, but it just seems I do not have to explain myself as much to a book reader. Maybe I think like this because I know what type of affect books have on me. They take me on a trip to another place without ever leaving my seat. The words paint a picture inside of my mind that let me experience things outside of my daily life; in turn, these pictures are projected on the back of my retinas transporting me into the shadows of the characters and places. Another benefit of reading is the way stories’ conversations open up my mind. It is like my brain is always under construction as new roads are constantly being paved to lead me to undiscovered lands of thought. I have mentioned in the past how I like seeing the movie first before reading the book; it provides me the voices I need to keep the characters separate in my head. In a way I believe books have given me the tools to be a better storyteller. Where movies allow me an instant escape through a portal to a different place, books have a way of becoming our friends. Now when the two come together, well check it out for yourself in this adventure comedy.    Unhappy moving from a big city to a small town, the one plus to it for Zach, played by Dylan Minnette (Prisoners, Let Me In), was having a cool neighbor named Hannah, played by Odeya Rush (The Giver, The Odd Life of Timothy Green), living next door to him. Unfortunately her father did not feel the same way towards Zach. This comedic horror film was based on the wildly popular Goosebump series, though I do not know how much the story in this film had in common with R.L Stine’s books. Surprisingly I liked Jack Black (King Kong, Bernie) in the role of R. L. Stine since I have not been a big fan of his in the past. The rest of the cast which also included Ryan Lee (Super 8, This is 40) as Champ was quite good. There was a lot of physical activity throughout the film, maybe a bit too much; though I thought the special effects were fun. For young kids this hectic pace will keep them entertained; I just wanted a few places where there could have been some down time before ramping up the pace again. Though I have not read the books, the story was easy to follow and I could see why these books were best sellers. After seeing this fantasy film I would like to read a couple of R.L. Stine’s books to compliment what I had just seen on the big screen.

 

2 2/3 stars

 

 

 

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