Monthly Archives: October 2015

Flash Movie Review: Freeheld

As I get older there are less things and less times I say I hate something. As a kid there were fights I had with other kids where I would say I hate them. These days I cannot imagine ever saying that to another human being. My eating habits were a big challenge for my parents when I was a child, though I still am considered a picky eater by everyone who knows me. When I was younger I would never eat tuna or broccoli; I thought they were disgusting. It wasn’t until years later that I started introducing these items back into my diet. The reason for this was due to all the articles I was reading about how good they were for you. I have come to terms with them and do not even remember how much I hated them. Hate is such a strong word that can be fueled by judgements. There are so many things that were in my hate column that now I may say, “I am uncomfortable with it or it is not to my tastes.” I think one of the most important lessons I learned was realizing I do not have to accept anything just respect it. It is like the time I was out on a date and they ordered oysters. When the appetizer came to the table I took one look at the oysters and said it looked like snot from a runny nose. It sort of killed the mood. Who was I to judge and make such a statement? And yet I see so many people making judgements against other people.    WHEN New Jersey police detective Laurel Hester, played by Julianne Moore (Seventh Son, Carrie), discovered she had cancer; she wanted her pension to go to her partner Stacie Andree, played by Ellen Page (Inception, The East). The city officials declined her request even though Laurel and Stacie were registered domestic partners. As far as Laurel was concerned this was not fair, but how could she fight them while her health was declining? This film festival winning drama was based on a true story. The cast which also included Michael Shannon (99 Homes, Man of Steel) as Dane Wells and Steve Carell (Foxcatcher, The Office-TV) as Steven Goldstein were excellent with Ellen and Michael as the standouts. They really did the best they could with the heavy handed script. I felt the writer was pushing the tough scenes to wring out every last drop of emotion out of them instead of letting the actors convey their feelings naturally. The other aspect I found troubling was the directing; scenes did not always flow from one to the other. It seemed as if I was only seeing parts of the story that in reality was a powerful one. After seeing this romantic biography I still do not understand how some people prefer making judgements instead of appreciating anyone who has the ability to love.

 

2 1/2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Big Stone Gap

As far as I can remember I always had an uneasy feeling about staying in a small town. Yes, I grew up in a large city with all the negatives and positives that go with city living; but there is something about small towns that makes me feel too exposed. Maybe it is due to having been singled out for the wrong reasons when I was younger, but as an adult I tend to be a guarded, private individual. Now the funny thing is I have no problem traveling through a small town, stopping to experience some of their local culture is fine. Alright, by local culture I mean their food establishments. I remember the time I was passing through this tiny town in North Dakota and found a small diner for lunch. It was a hoot sitting in my cracked, red vinyl, wooden booth as I observed various townsfolk coming in to chat with the employees over a cup of coffee. The food was homemade and plentiful; you know you never can go wrong with hand cut french fries. Of course I had to walk over to the rotating dessert carousel to decide which baked item was calling out to me. After lunch I drove around and enjoyed looking at the rugged western style charm of the streets and buildings as I let the earlier conversations of the diner ruminate in my head. It seemed as if everyone knew everyone else’s business as I recalled hearing about the shoemaker’s daughter who was out too late and some neighbor who didn’t pick up after her dog. It may be cute to hear or maybe even stereotypical to a city person, but I prefer to have a lower profile among my neighbors. As I watched this comedic romance I could not picture myself living in that small Virginian town.    COMFORTABLE with the life she was living Ave Marie Mulligan, played by Ashley Judd (Divergent franchise, Double Jeopardy), was not prepared for the family secret that was soon to be revealed to her. One of the reasons why I traveled a ways to see this film was the cast. Along with Ashley there was Patrick Wilson (Insidious franchise, Watchmen) as Jack MacChesney, Jane Krakowski (Alfie, 30 Rock-TV) as Sweet Sue Tinsley and Whoopi Goldberg (Ghost, For Colored Girls) as Fleeta Mullins.  I still do not understand how the film studio was able to get such a well known cast because this movie played more like a high school theater sketch. There was nothing amusing in the script, even though I was able to see the writer was trying to reproduce a southern goth dramatic vibe. If that was the case there needed to be more drama and outrageousness. I enjoyed watching Ashley but a majority of the scenes were sappy and predicable. With poor pacing and silly dialog, this film did not win me over to the charms of a small town.

 

1 3/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: He Named Me Malala

Even when education is supposed to be free it may come with a price. I was fortunate to grow up in a place where every child was obligated to have access to free education. However, I did not realize my schooling would take a toll on me. Until my college days my school years were filled with a variety of land mines, some intended for me others just because I was the victim who happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. There were school days where I was that day’s target, where the usual bullies focused on making my life miserable. Being overweight at the time, I was an easy target for them. There were times I was smacked in the back of the head with a textbook or knocked  down with a shove as I walked between classrooms; those were some of the mildest ones. I used to wonder why I was singled out but looking back now I know there were others who were going through their own misery. The few incidents where I thought I saw another student being abused, I could not figure out what we all had in common that would trigger such an attack. In the big picture the things that took place in my school years were traumatic for me and there were times I did not want to go to school. The majority of attacks took place in the school building; if I could last until the final bell and get out past the school grounds, I knew there would be a chance I would be a less likely target. This was not the case for this extraordinary teenager who was targeted for being a girl.    PAKISTANI teenager Malala Yousafzai was a vocal advocate for girls’ education in a country where females were being denied the right. Her outspokenness was enough reason to be targeted for assassination by the Taliban. This film festival nominated documentary’s subject was bigger than the story. Malala is an incredible, articulate, passionate individual who would not let a bullet stop her. Directed by Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman), I wanted to learn more than I already knew about Malala, the youngest person to ever win a Nobel prize. Sadly this movie did not provide information in a cohesive way; places and times jumped around to the point where I felt I was only getting snippets of Malala’s life, without really getting any background story. The mix of animated scenes into the dialog was understandable since they tended to depict some of the more dangerous aspects of her life. As I said earlier, she truly was bigger than what this movie was capable of showing the viewer. It was because of Malala that I was able to stay engaged and interested in what was taking place on screen.

 

2 3/4 stars

 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: 99 Homes

There are hardships that affect us on an emotional and internal level. An attack on the heart can feel as if we are experiencing it in a physical way; but once that initial punch subsides over time, the shattered pieces of one’s heart and soul remain below the surface for the most part. To the average person, the one in mourning could pass by undetected. Now there are some misfortunes that cause pain in a predominately physical way. Sure there is the emotional aspect but the physical trauma is irreversible. The loss of something related to one’s physical being such as eyesight or a limb is something that can alter a person’s life forever. Another life changer would be the change of status for one’s home. An apartment fire that throws tenants out into the cold, forced to take residence up in a shelter or if lucky a place to stay with a family member or friend, could have a long term effect on an individual. I have a friend who lost their house due to the financial crash a few years back. It was devastating for them; the house they lived in for years with the tree in back that started out as a small sapling was now gone. I drove by the place some time later only to see it looking crippled and old as a hungry wild lawn was in the middle of devouring it. It was so sad to see and I know this house was only one of millions that are in the same situation, with former inhabitants that are suffering in pain.    The worst day of Dennis Nash’s, played by Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, The Social Network), life was the day he and his family were evicted from their home by real estate broker Rick Carver, played by Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, The Iceman). That was before he accepted a job from the greedy realtor. This dramatic film festival winner was powered by two important elements: incredible acting by the cast that also included Laura Dern (Wild, The Fault in Our Stars) as Lynn Nash and Noah Lomax (Safe Haven, Playing for Keeps) as Connor Nash, along with a straightforward honest script. This story was utterly believable where I started feeling for the characters’ plight early on. I have been a fan of Michael Shannon for some years and this role was another stellar performance by him. He really has a presence that dominates on the big screen. If I have to look for any negative aspects to this film it would be a few scenes that were a bit slow. Honestly though they were no big deal compared to the positive things that were going on. I think everyone except maybe the top 5% could relate to what was taking place in this movie.

 

3 1/3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Pan

When I see the way a person acts, I sometimes wish I could have seen what happened to them that made them that way. There is that saying that has to do with not knowing a person’s situation until you have walked in their shoes or something similar. Seeing a stranger sitting alone in front of an apartment building on the front stoop, carrying on a conservation with an imaginary friend, I tend to be curious on what happened to them. I remember this classmate in college who wrote stories for our fiction class that were filled with violent images, yet on the outside he was as mild and quiet as a cotton ball. What took place in his life that filled him with such violence? For some people I know it can be a chemical imbalance, for others it could be outside influences that caused them to be that way. Of course one could look at the positive side of these outside influences. Think about the child who follows their parent into the medical field because their mother or dad was a doctor and he or she discover a cure for a disease; this would be a wonderful thing. Another example would be those movies and books that I thoroughly enjoyed, where I wanted to know about the early life of a character to see how it molded them into the person I had just read about or seen. Where I had no idea I wanted to know how the Wicked Witch of the West came to be, I enjoyed discovering her story when it came out. The same could be said about Peter Pan, where I never gave him any thought before. I see there was a reason for that after seeing this adventure fantasy.    Orphaned at a young age Peter, played by relative newcomer Levi Miller, could not understand how boys were being taken from the orphanage; but his mother still had not shown up yet to take him away. This prequel to the Peter Pan story had Hugh Jackman (Chappie, Prisoners) as Blackbeard, Garrett Hedlund (Unbroken, On the Road) as Hook and Rooney Mara (Side Effect, The Social Network) as Tiger Lily. Visually there were several creative and fun scenes in this film. The story was easy to follow as it tried to put down the foundation to the Peter Pan story known by most of us. However the script was awful, to the point the actors came off stunted and emotionless. With odd musical choices I found this picture was dull and unexciting except for Levi; he was the one bright spot throughout the story. After the movie was done I realized I did not really want to know how Peter became the flying Peter.  I was satisfied with my memories just as they were of the sweet and magical character known as Peter Pan.

1 3/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: A Simple Life

The eyes once white bright look like aged paper from a well worn novel. They can still flash with the sparks of life but just not as many as before. Their hands now curled and knotted look like arthritic sampling branches used to create meals that filled the house with intoxicating aromas like seductive sirens. Through the years memories have formed and periodically emerge into one’s consciousness from time to time. Their buoyancy can be attributed to emotions filed with kindness, love, joy and compassion. Throughout one’s journey of life they were present, maybe not in a starring role; yet their contributions were always part of special events. There is a sense of safety when people grow old together. They may take turns in leading the way down life’s road, but always with intentions of ease and comfort. The bonds that formed early on may lose some of their flexibility but they still are apparent to anyone who comes near. I try very hard not to look like I am staring, but watching elderly people interacting fascinates me. It is as if they have their own secret language that is mostly silent to anyone around them. It appears to be more prominent when I see them having a meal. The way items get divvied up, some whole while others are reduced to bite-sized morsels; it is similar to a choreographed dance. To this day when I either hear the names or see certain foods I get a flashback to where I used to get that particular food item when I was younger.    HAVING been part of the Leung household for decades, when she suffered a stroke Ah Tao, played by Deanie Yip (The Legend of Shaolin, Dragons Forever), decided to quit and move to a rehabilitation/senior citizens facility. She did not want to be a burden to Roger, played by Andy Lau (House of Flying Daggers, Internal Affairs), who she helped in raising from birth. This film festival winning drama was exquisite in its execution. A beautiful, touching story that truly gave a real sense of the bonds formed in a family’s life. There was nothing extraordinary taking place, no special effects, only a dramatic story that the actors handled skillfully. This is not a fast paced film, so a few scenes seemed stagnant to me. I have to say part of my connection to the film was due to the character Ah Tao because I still feel a little uncomfortable when someone does something for me, I related to this character. Also the fact that all of us are heading in the same direction through the aging process; the story carried more weight for me. Either way this movie will in the future become a fond memory for me. Cantonese and Mandarin was spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 1/2 stars — DVD

 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Hell and Back

They may only be a string of words but they are filled with the essence of a person. In yesterday’s review I talked about people who do not follow through on their intentions or promises; today I am referring to people who out and out tell lies. For me this is one of my deal breakers on whether I continue a relationship with a person. I don’t have an issue if someone wants to colorize their stories, but saying something that is false to change another person’s perceptions is nothing I want to be around. A few weeks ago a friend of mine called to rant about a friend of hers who I happen to know. This friend had called to touch base with her and catch up with what was going on in their life. During the conversation the friend was explaining why he did not do something he had said he was going to do for her; he told her his sister had cancer throughout her body. My friend was stunned and saddened by the news. After their conversation ended she called another friend to tell them about the sister. Well long story short, it turned out this other friend called the sister to see if they needed any help and shocked her because she did not have any cancer. Now you have to wonder why a person would lie about such a thing; there is no excuse for it as far as I can see. When I hear things like this I feel a person will wind up experiencing a specific negative thing in their life; others would say they are going to hell.    AFTER breaking a promise Curt, voiced by Rob Riggle (Let’s Be Cops, 21 Jump Street), was dragged to hell. His friends who witnessed it followed Curt in to try and rescue him. This stop motion animated adventure comedy had some major actors voicing characters like Susan Sarandon (Tammy, The Lovely Bones) as Barb the Angel, Mila Kunis (Jupiter Ascending, Ted) as Deema and Bob Odenkirk (Nebraska, Breaking Bad-TV) as the Devil. Their voices were the best part of the movie; what they said was crude. This film is for adults only because the language was so blue aka risque, bawdy, R rated. I did not find the visuals creative considering the artists could have pretty much created anything they wanted for the scenes. The humor was at such a low level that I did not find anything worth a chuckle. As the script went from one sight gag to another I soon became bored with the story. To tell you the truth I was a bit surprised the studio was able to get first rate actors to partake in this picture. I had to wonder if the actors had done something “bad” in their lives where they had to participate in this film; maybe this was hell for them. Strong language throughout the film.

 

1 1/2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Walk

I wish commitment and determination would play an important part in people’s lives as it did when we were younger. When you watch a small child that has been introduced to a new toy or even a benign household item, they will not let up until they can open it or make it work. I am sure some of you who have listened to an infant crying out of frustration know what I mean. Commitment has always played a strong part of my makeup; I am not one to make plans then cancel them because I suddenly do not feel like doing it or I got a better offer. Through my years of teaching I cannot tell you how many times people have asked me to sub out my class so I can join them for an event. I made a commitment to be at that class and could never on a whim suddenly decide to sub it out. In fact, I have in the past taught class while wearing sunglasses because my eyes were still dilated from my eye doctor appointment; even one week with a bout of trachea bronchitis did not stop me. It seems to be as people age they do not have the energy to see something all the way through; all it takes is one setback and they are ready to give up. I hope this has not come across as too judgmental but when a person says they are going to do something I take them at their word; otherwise why say anything, it is not like anyone would ever know.    ONCE he saw a photograph of the soon to be completed World Trade Center towers in New York City; high-wire artist Philippe Petit, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Don Jon, The Dark Knight Rises), could think of nothing else but to walk across the towers. The only problem was he could not do it alone. Based on true events I was familiar with this dramatic biography because I had seen and reviewed the wonderful documentary, “Man on Wire.” This adventure film was written and directed by Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away, Flight) and unfortunately the movie started out slow for me. What turned me off was having Joseph as Philippe narrating the story while perched on top of the Statue of Liberty. I felt him telling us what he was feeling at the time took away from the drama. However the last half of the movie was visually stunning; those who may have a fear of heights would have a hard time watching this film. The cast which included Ben Kingsley (Self/Less, Learning to Drive) as Papa Rudy and Charlotte Le Bon (The Hundred-Foot Journey, Mood Indigo) as Annie were fine, but if the script had been stronger they would have been better. Luckily once the story switched to New York from Paris one could not help but admire Philippe’s determination to create such an artistic feat.

 

3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Martian

I always want to be respectful of people’s feelings, even when I know with pain and discomfort it is all about perspective. Someone complaining about a nasty paper cut is something I can understand and sympathize along with the person. However, compared to someone having a limb amputated due to disease, the paper cut appears pretty minor; it is all about perspective. Last week was a challenging time for me. I am still a novice when it comes to doing things that are computer related and I had 2 online courses that had to be completed by October 1st. Without formal training on how to navigate the website, I felt lost as I struggled to find my way to taking and completing the courses. In fact on one site, every time after I logged in and clicked on the course title I was brought back to the login screen. Even trying it on a different computer and operating system ended with the same results; it was absolutely frustrating as I had to work with the site’s help desk as the clock was ticking. At the same time my day job was getting busier as we approached month end, so my mind was being heavily taxed to say the least. And if that was not enough I thought a birthday gift I had ordered online was missing as the birthdate was fast approaching. By the time Friday end of work rolled around it took all my energy just to go park the car and buy my theater ticket to see this dramatic adventure film. Right from the start my problems quickly disappeared as I saw what the main character had to endure in his situation.    ABANDONED and left for dead astronaut Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon (Interstellar, Saving Private Ryan), realized he had to find a way to contact NASA and his crew before his food and supplies would run out. Mars was not going to be helpful in his endeavor. From director Ridley Scott (American Gangster, Black Hawk Down), this science fiction film was extra special because of its cast, which included Jessica Chastain (Mama, A Most Violent Year) as Melissa Lewis and Jeff Daniels (Dumb & Dumber franchise, Looper) as Teddy Sanders; everyone was outstanding with their characters. The other reason I was transported to Mars was due to the script; special effects took a back seat as I realized I was getting an abundance of technological jargon, but Matt made everything seem believable to me. Nothing seemed frivolous; I felt Ridley used a deft touch in letting the tension and drama play off of each other. There were some scenes where I was sitting on the edge of my seat in nervous anticipation and in the next moment I was sitting back as my eyes teared up. This picture absolutely took me away to a different place, besides adding a new perspective to this year’s batch of Oscar worthy movies. One brief scene showed blood in it.

 

4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Green Inferno

There are certain obligations that require us to be there. The working lunch business meeting would be one such function, though I strongly dislike this one. I do not want to sit at a table across from someone who talks with their mouth full; besides, I prefer my lunch (my biggest meal of the day) to be a relaxed and enjoyable time. How often do you hear people say their business lunch meeting was enjoyable? Another obligation, though I really would not say obligation, is accompanying someone to the doctor’s office to hear the results of their medical test. No one wants to hear “bad” news, but if a loved one asks you, you need to be there to support and comfort them no matter what the doctor says to them. Now that I think about it, even if someone were to ask me to join them for some type of function because they do not want to go alone, I would more than likely go with them. I remember going to a friend’s company holiday party where I did not know a soul except for them. Eating and drinking late into the evening is not my version of fun, along with the majority of the conversation revolving around the company’s business; I was bored most of the evening, but I went because a friend asked me. Now when it is about going to the movies, there are some I know are not going to be great works of art; but I feel I have to see them if for nothing else to warn you. If it was just for me I would not spend a cent on some of the things I have sat through since starting this review site. This horror film would be an example.    STUDENT activists travel to the Amazon forest to protest a company’s construction site. It would have helped them if they had studied up on the area beforehand. This film festival nominated adventure movie was brutal to sit through and watch. Horror without suspense is not horror to me; it is just gross disgusting acts of violence and this picture excelled at it. Starring Lorenza Izzo (Knock Knock, Aftershock) as Justine, Ariel Levy (Best Worst Friends, Aftershock) as Alejandro and Aaron Burns (Grindhouse, Planet Terror) as Jonah; I thought the acting was dull. Granted the script did not help anyone because some of the lines and scenes were ridiculous. I did not find anything that was exciting or compelling; it seemed as if the writers used one particular act to be the cornerstone of the story. I understood it but to see this act over and over did not produce anything valuable to me; it simply bored me. There were two things that happened that I liked about the film and one of them was found in the credits. Let me tell you this was a tough obligation to fulfill. Intense scenes with blood and violence.

 

1 1/4 stars

 

 

 

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