Monthly Archives: November 2015

Flash Movie Review: The Good Dinosaur

I always assumed as we got older we would have fewer things to frighten us. It seems that is not the case, we just trade them in for other ones. These days I hear individuals say they are afraid of growing old or scared to drive at night. I can relate to the growing old one; I still have so many things I want to do that I may not be able to do as well when I get older. Is it proper to say an older person’s fears are more rational than a child’s? I do not think so because I believe a child just has less exposure to the ways of the world compared to a seasoned adult. Recently I was using public transportation and saw a mother trying to get their little boy into the train car from the station. He was crying and screaming it turned out because he was afraid of the sliding doors that opened by themselves. I could understand it if the child had never seen this before; he may have been scared the doors would close on him. I can remember the first time I encountered an escalator; it looked like a scaly snake slithering uphill. My fear was compounded by the warnings about sleeves getting stuck in the rolling arm rails and shoelaces in the moving steps. After seeing other people walking onto the escalator first and with a little coaxing, I finally stepped on one of the moving platforms and rode up to the top. Of course, once I was done I had to go back and do it again because it was so much fun. Fear has a way of holding us back from discovering something new.    CIRCUMSTANCES would force young Arlo, voiced by Raymond Ochoa (A Christmas Carol, Pair of Knights-TV), to conquer his fears; they had to if he ever wanted to see his family again. This animated adventure had an interesting idea for a story; what if dinosaurs never became extinct? The writers could have taken this in so many ways, but ultimately I feel it became a secondary theme to them. Instead this story, geared towards children, was pretty much standard fare. It did not offer any surprises for me. However, visually this picture was one of the most beautiful and realistic looking CGI created films I have ever seen. I kept catching myself focusing on the landscapes, trying to figure out if they were actually real. Since I have seen enough of these types of films, this one was strictly straightforward minus the humor. In fact, I was sure one scene showed the main characters eating something that produced hallucinations; I wondered how parents would explain this to their children. For a Pixar studio movie this one was lacking for me. Hopefully this was an anomaly so I won’t become afraid of seeing any of their future films.

 

2 3/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Trumbo

It did not matter that she was fond of him or even possibly in love with him, people were already passing judgement. She had met him in college during a social function on campus. They started out as friends, but it quickly moved into a romantic relationship. Several of her friends finally showed their true colors when she started dating this man. The reason being the man aka boyfriend was of a different race. Now some of her friends did not react at all, it did not matter to them; as long as she was happy that is all that mattered. But some of her so called “good” friends thought it was wrong. Personally, I was shocked by their reactions since I felt it was no one’s business who she dated and ultimately, why it should even matter to anyone else. The sad part of it was from that moment on she was labeled, though she did not know it. Even passing acquaintances made up their mind about her and her boyfriend without ever meeting him. It reminded me of another friend of mine who was dating someone of a different faith. Their parents were wildly upset about it and barely hid their feelings on the subject. As you may be wondering, this only pushed my friend harder to make the relationship work. However, after a year of dating the two decided they would be better off just being friends. These two events really opened my mind up to the fact there are many people in this world who make snap decisions about individuals without ever meeting or knowing them.    HOLLYWOOD’S top screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, played by Bryan Cranston (Argo, Breaking Bad-TV), lost his status due to his political views. The only weapon available to him to fight back was his words. Based on a true event this biographical drama was a fascinating story to me. It was startling to see Hollywood back in the 1940s and 50s during this period of Dalton’s life. With Diane Lane (Man of Steel, The Perfect Storm) as Cleo Trumbo, Louis C.K. (Blue Jasmine, Louie-TV) as Arlen Hird and Helen Mirren (Woman in Gold, The Queen) as Hedda Hopper; I felt like I was getting a Hollywood history lesson. The acting was exceptionally good, particularly by Bryan. The story is an important one I believe and I just wished the script had done a better job of it. There were times where I felt scenes lost their magic and turned dull in a cartoonish type of way. It was possible the directing did not help out because the story moved in a blockish way, coming across more like skits. However, a treat for me was seeing portrayals of old-time actors and directors like Edward G. Robinson and Otto Preminger being played out in this story. I think the subject matter in this film is just as relevant today as it was back then. One can only hope people watch this movie before making up their minds.

 

3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Night Before

The pool of friends started out large enough where they could have used a small school bus to fit them all in. They all grew up together having survived the blizzard of the century that kept them home from school for several days, besides puberty. During their high school years the group expanded whenever any of them started dating; the dates just became a part of the culture they had created, hanging out at the pizza place or meeting at the beach when the weather was warm enough. When it came time to go to college the group temporarily diminished by those friends that went out of state. However, any time they returned home there always would be plans in place for everyone to meet up. A change started forming around this time, where those in relationships that were solidifying did not hang out as much with the gang. It wasn’t too soon before that school bus could be traded in for a limo or minivan to fit in all the friends. Not that they did not stop being friends, they just did not hang out due to new commitments like relationship and job. Once the college years were over, the group got even smaller. Some friends had to relocate to a new city or country for their employer. It was time to trade in the minivan for a compact car. And do you know what the hardest part was among the friends? It was the one friend left standing, who was still available to be the driver since they did not have any commitments that would take them away from hanging out with their friends. It could be a tough spot to be in which explained why some friends set up a rotating date to see each other, just like the friends in this comedy.    EVERY Christmas Eve childhood friends Ethan, Isaac and Chris; played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Walk, Don Jon), Seth Rogen (Steve Jobs, The Interview) and Anthony Mackie (Our Brand is Crisis, The Hurt Locker); got together. Growing older would eventually challenge their annual night of fun. I found this movie to be a mixture of good and bad. The story was nothing new but there were some funny scenes throughout the film. There were times whereI felt things were scattered, going from serious to comedy and back; but at least the actors were okay doing it. Though I have to say Seth’s role seemed no different to several of his other ones; this one appeared a bit stale to me. I did enjoy the cameo roles through this picture which helped me stay alert since I found some scenes dull. Will this film turn into an annual Christmas movie? I do not know; but if one needs to take a break from the hectic frenzy of the season, this movie could be a candidate to let you sit back and do nothing.

 

2 1/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Secret in Their Eyes

The word “determination” not only has assertive connotations associated with it, it even sounds strong. The dictionary defines determination as a quality that makes you continue trying to do or achieve something that is difficult. Just last night after coming home from shopping at a couple of retail establishments I discovered my charge card was missing. I mentally retraced my steps from the stores, to the car, to home, to sweeping the sidewalks of fallen leaves, to entering the house and hanging up my coat. When I later went back to my coat to retrieve the charge card, I checked all the pockets even though I was sure I had put it in the outside pocket of my sleeve which I had already found open and empty. Taking a flashlight I went outside and started to scan the sidewalks, only to find no trace. The pile of leaves that I swept into the street was approximately 7 feet wide by 2 1/2 feet high. Everyone sweeps their leaves into the street where the city comes and picks them up. In the dark, in the cold I started to investigate the mound of dead leaves as I slowly followed the flashlight’s beam of light. Carefully moving leaves aside as if I was an archaeologist, I intently looked for any sign of my card. After 30 minutes freezing in the cold with an aching back from stooping over, my eyes caught the sight of a tiny sliver of blue color barely peeking out between two overlapping leaves. I could not believe I actually found my charge card within all those leaves; my determination paid off. Determination can be a powerful motivator as you can see in this mystery thriller.    INVESTIGATING a crime scene partners Ray and Jess, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, The Martian) and Julia Roberts (Eat Pray Love, Closer), discovered the victim was Jess’ daughter. Ray would make it his mission to bring the killer to justice; it was the least he could do for Jess. This film was a remake of the Oscar winner from Argentina. The cast, including Nicole Kidman (Paddington, Before I Go to Sleep) as Claire, was pretty top-notch. Unfortunately they were totally wasted in this dreadful production. The story kept jumping back and forth in time to the point where it was annoying me. I never felt a connection to the characters simply because the script was so dull. Sure the actors did their best and I actually wanted to be interested in their characters; however, I disliked the minimum amount of time spent with them in each scene. The story dragged for me and I never quite understood what motivated Ray so much. In addition I thought the story line between Ray and Claire was unnecessary. If I was not determined to see and review so many movies I would have taken a pass on this one.

 

1 3/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

This review comes with a disclaimer; I may have been influenced due to events that were out of my control. The evening had started out ideally for me since this movie was starting right after work. Luckily there wasn’t a big crowd buying tickets for this showing so my favorite seat was still available. I nestled into my seat before the start of 16 minutes worth of previews. We were 50 minutes into the movie before the screen suddenly went dark, followed by the light fixtures that were perched on the walls between the speakers. I looked up towards the projection booth that was steeped in darkness. Not sure what was happening I stayed in my seat like everyone else in the theater. It was no more than one to two minutes before the entire theater turned pitch black as all the remaining lights, including the running floor ones, lost power. Before anyone had time to take out their cell phone to use as a flashlight, several piercing bright strobe lights started flashing around the theater and a recorded voice announced there was an incident in the theater. The recording told us to walk not run in an orderly fashion to the nearest exit and leave the building immediately. My first reaction was annoyance that this was interrupting my movie watching experience. But as I noticed several patrons running to the exits, I was hit with a new reality. Since the exit to the main hallway was closest to me I made my way to it and slowly stuck my head out. There were people coming out of the multiple theaters, heading towards the main lobby. The building had lost power. We were ushered out the main doors where we stood for 20-25 minutes until power was restored and then allowed back in to finish watching our films.    WITH the districts forming alliances Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle, X-Men franchise), had to convince them to direct their energy towards the capital and President Snow, played by Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job, An American Haunting). For the final installment to this science fiction adventure it was fortunate that Jennifer was the lead. Her acting along with Josh Hutcherson (Red Dawn, The Kids Are All Right) as Peeta Mellark kept me interested through the long script. I think it would have been better if the movie studio had not decided to split the last book into 2 films because I felt this one had a lot of filler in it. The 2nd half of this adventure picture was more exciting to me, though I enjoyed the mixture of emotions Peeta and Katniss were displaying in their roles. The movie as a whole was bleak where it felt as if it was going through a checklist of things to include in the story without going into much depth. Maybe due to my disruption, but this finale did not go out with a bang.

 

2 3/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Spotlight

He would be the perfect candidate for a television game show, where the contestants guess the person’s occupation. The reason being no one would guess what he did for a living. With a physical shape more akin to a fireplug; he smoked cigarettes, drank and had a Napoleon complex. In other words, he was aggressive to compensate for his short stature. I was never comfortable around him; he would simply bark orders at everyone, barely hiding his mean streak that simmered just below the surface. Do you want to take a guess at his job title? He was a gym teacher; I hesitate to use the words physical education because he did not know much about health or the human body. There were classes where he would just throw a bunch of basketballs out into the gymnasium and tell us to shoot baskets. I think he only did this so he could sit in his office that had two windows covered with metal grates. If any students knew what he was doing in there they never shared their information. I never understood how this man kept his job. He would throw basketballs at our heads or body; in fact I know I must have mentioned this before, but he put one student up against the wall and kept throwing balls at his head while a majority of the students in the bleachers sat and laughed. How could a school system keep such a person in a position of authority who acted like this, like a bully.    INVESTIGATIVE reporters from the Boston Globe discovered a pattern of abuse taking place in their city, but no one seemed to be aware of it; or were they just not saying anything? This film festival winning drama was based on a true story. The actors assembled were all so equally terrific that I could not say one of them was the main star. There was Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me, The Avengers franchise) as Mike Rezendes, Rachel McAdams (The Vow, Midnight in Paris) as Sacha Pfeiffer, Michael Keaton (Batman franchise, White Noise) as Walter “Robby” Robinson and Liev Schreiber (Defiance, Pawn Sacrifice) as Marty Baron. The script being crisply clean without any manipulations played out as a dramatic, suspenseful thriller. There was never a dull moment; every scene mattered and offered a piece to the puzzle the reporters were trying  to put together. I do want to say I was impressed with Michael Keaton’s performance because this role was such a contrast to his role in Birdman, yet he was equally as prominent. Everything worked in this biographical film from the direction to the acting to the action. Too bad it had this true story available to be turned into a movie; but I am glad they made it because not only is it a major topic, this movie version will be a major player during the award ceremonies.

 

4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The 33

In a way you can call it a controlled scare. When one goes to see a horror film it is a given that they could get scared but nothing will happen to them. I enjoy going to see a suspenseful horror film if it is done well. The type that puts the viewers on the edge of their seat, holding their breath, waiting to see what will happen next. Just as I believe we should choose food from every color group, I feel the same way about experiencing all emotions. I believe it is healthy for the body to feel happiness just as well as sadness; it provides definition in living one’s life. Another thing, I find reality to be scarier than anything in a movie. There was a film I recently reviewed about Mt. Everest; it was thrilling and scary to see what the climbers endured because there is no way you would find me anywhere near the place. Instead I get to live it vicariously through film. These true scary stories we hear about, that actually happened to someone, can make for a powerful film watching experience. This is why I particularly look forward to seeing movies that were based on true events. Some of them have historical value while others can tell the story about the obstacles one individual had to overcome in their life. I appreciate all of them and that is why I could not wait to see this biographical drama.    THIRTY-THREE miners made their way down the only path into the mine that most of them have taken many times before. Except this time their path was changing to a one way road. This film festival winning movie had a story familiar to me; I had seen and read about it on the news. Based on true events the large cast involved in this story included Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In, The Big Bang) as Mario Sepulveda, Juliette Binoche (Godzilla, Clouds of Sils Maria) as Maria Segovia and Lou Diamond Phillips (Young Guns, Courage Under Fire) as Don Lucho. I did not mind the acting however what they had to say was pretty corny. The script was riddled with this rah, rah courage that did not seem real to me. It was a shame because the story was truly unbelievable. I assume everyone must know about it but just in case I will refrain from divulging much about the story. To think the actors were portraying actual people who lived this experience, it really was a miracle. I found the special effects effective because they looked so believable to me. Part of the issue with this picture may have to do with the writers having to include so many characters; I never got a true sense of what each of the individuals was experiencing through this event. Seeing pictures of the actual miners at the end of the movie really drove home how lucky and amazing they were to be alive to see their story now made into a film.

 

2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Brooklyn

At some point in time you come to the realization that you want to spend the rest of your life with that person. Was it after you went through your checklist of pluses and minuses, it fit into your time frame or it fulfills a desire? It is interesting, I recently read a survey that listed the top deal breakers in a relationship. The top four reasons were disheveled/unclean appearance, lazy, too needy or lack of humor. Any one of these would be what I call one of my red flags; I tend to pay close attention to the cleanliness of someone’s teeth and fingernails. The way I tend to define whether a relationship has potential or not to be long term is to look at the things that bother or annoy me. I just ask myself if this is something I can live with and if it is then I remain engaged in the relationship. Here is an example: being a credit manager, I do not know if I could be with someone who was not financially conscientious. If they had little regard to paying their bills or bouncing checks, I think over time it would build up and bother me too much. Since love is an all encompassing thing, one cannot choose the parts they like and discard the rest. So I understand where the act of committing may take time. The only time I can see where this will turn into a problem is when the person is making a commitment based only on the positive attributes of a loved one.    MOVING from Ireland to America was the hardest thing Eilis, played by Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones, Hanna), ever had to do in her young life. That was until she settled in Brooklyn, New York where she met Tony, played by Emory Cohen (The Place Beyond the Pines, Beneath the Harvest Sky). This film festival winning drama was a perfect throwback to those old fashioned dialog driven movies Hollywood use to make. The romantic story was exquisite in the way it simply laid out the story of a young Irish immigrant finding her own in a foreign country, besides her journey growing into a mature woman. I thought the acting was outstanding from the main characters and supporting ones such as Julie Walters (Driving Lessons, Harry Potter franchise) as Mrs. Kehoe and Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina, Unbroken) as Jim Farrell. The scenery and costumes especially stood out for me in this 1950s period piece. Another aspect I particularly admired was the strength of the main character. I think many of us are used to having some type of trauma move the story and it really was not the case in this film. If I were to go through my checklist of things that create an Oscar worthy film, this one would certainly fit the bill.

 

3 2/3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Love the Coopers

It was known as the fancy tablecloth but in actuality it was no different from any other one. The only difference was it only came out once a year for the holiday. The house would be filled all day with the warm smells of favorite foods being prepared in the kitchen. This was the only time where that cherry red gelatinous ring would make an appearance. It was created in a metal mold that had flowers etched in the bottom. Inside of it were pieces of various fruits that looked like they were captured and put into suspended animation. I have to tell you it was the weirdest looking thing on the dining room table. In spite of it this was my favorite holiday as we all came together to celebrate and eat. I do not think it started out as a tradition but people sort of fell into a set routine where each person would do the same thing every year. For example, the same person always brought this dessert made from an old family recipe that had to be doubled and tripled in size over time because everyone would fight over it. Another person would always make and bring sweet and sour meatballs that had a secret ingredient of grape jelly. All of these things fell into a tradition and became part of the holiday and part of our celebration. I of course being the most comfortable with routines appreciated that these things turned into our yearly tradition. Fortunately or unfortunately as the yearly guests became part of a couple they would bring new people into our traditions. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not.    CHARLOTTE and Sam, played by Diane Keaton (The Godfather franchise, Annie Hall) and John Goodman (The Gambler, The Big Lebowski), wanted the family to all come together one last time for the holidays. Like any family, some would be coming with extra baggage. This comedy had an impressive cast of actors. Besides Diane and John there was Marisa Tomei (Spare Parts, The Lincoln Lawyer) as Emma and Ed Helms (We’re the Millers, The Hangover franchise) as Hank. With the few dramatic scenes in the movie the actors were easily able to pull them off. Sadly I would rather have had more such scenes because the majority of the story was so basic and idiotic I was bored to tears. I was stunned that these actors agreed to do something that was so poorly written. Diane’s role seemed identical to some of her recent previous ones; there was no difference between them. Not only did I not find anything funny, the entire audience around me must have felt the same since there was dead silence through the film. I only hope the studio does not want to start a tradition by doing a sequel. There was an extra scene during the credits.

 

1 3/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: I Smile Back

The outer layer is as fragile as a newborn eggshell. It takes a majority of energy just to maintain its shape. And similar to an Easter egg, one can put anything they want on the surface. The reason why it takes so much effort to keep things together is because just below the surface there is turmoil. Down there lives pain, bellowing and crying at all hours of the day. Sometimes it finds a way out and it obliterates the facade up on top. Only the utmost amount of force can pull back the outpouring of suffering and agony. Some time ago I went through a horrible traumatic event where I did not know if I could pull myself up and out of the house. Most of the life in my heart had been extinguished, yet I had to continue to make a living and teach my classes. Going through the day it took everything I had to focus on my work, pretend I was interested in what people were saying to me. The worst time was at night when I was teaching classes. In that environment I was the upbeat fun person. Ready with a joke or positive reinforcement, I had to be there for each member in my class. On the inside my body was crying out in pain; I just wanted someone to hold me and extinguish all my agony. Over time I may not have conquered all of the misery inside but I was able to manage it. I got through without permanent damage; I know I was and am one of the lucky ones.    Laney Brooks, played by Sarah Silverman (School of Rock, There’s Something ABout Mary), was married to the successful author Bruce Brooks, played by Josh Charles (Freeheld, Four Brothers), and had a beautiful family. She had everything but something inside wanted something more. This film festival winning drama was the first time I saw Sarah doing a heavy serious role. I have to tell you I was pleasantly surprised at her ability to carry off the role. She went beyond anything I imagined she was capable of doing in this type of genre. In fact, she was the standout by far though I was also impressed with Skylar Gaertner (Sleeping with Other People, They Came Together) as Eli Brooks. Sadly the script could not hold up with her performance. I found the dark story average and easily able to figure out. In addition there were a couple of times where I thought the story veered off then realized it needed to get back on track. Within the script there were times I felt some things were put in strictly for shock value; though I will say, when it involved Sarah’s character she was the closest to making it believable. If nothing else I did feel Sarah gave an honest portrayal.

 

2 1/4 stars

 

 

 

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