Monthly Archives: April 2016

Flash Movie Review: Elvis & Nixon

Photo bombing is a recent phenomenon that has seeped into our consciousness. There is a late night talk show that even has a reoccurring comedy segment that involves it. I have noticed most news show whether they are devoted to serious journalism or entertainment spend more time displaying these types of photographs. Granted I enjoy them myself when they look spontaneous and unplanned. The photo op’s I do not understand are the ones that involve celebrities that have nothing in common. I understand the historical significance of political leaders’ meeting each other, but when it is say a world leader and some reality star standing next to each; what is the point? Having been a photographer I have mentioned previously how much I enjoy looking at photograpphs. With me writing film reviews now, I especially get a kick when a movie based on a true story shows photos of the actual people at the end of the story. I feel photographs are the portals that transport us back to our feelings, memories or history of a specific time. In my wildest dreams I would never have imagined how much the art of photography has changed like it has now. Almost every single person with a cell phone takes pictures these days. The proof is on my Facebook account; I have seen more photos of food than a grocery store warehouse. Wasn’t there a periodical that was known for its amazing photos? I am sure they would have shown something from the most unusual pairing in this film: the President of the United States and the King of Rock & Roll.    SHOWING up at the gates of the White House one day was Elvis Presley, played by Michael Shannon (Midnight Special, Boardwalk Empire-TV). He had to see the President because he had something important to tell him. This film festival nominee was a surprise to me; I never heard anything about these 2 individuals meeting, let alone using their names in the same sentence. It is such a bizarre combination to me for some reason. However, it turned out to be ok because this historical comedy was so much fun to watch due to Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey (House of Cards-TV, The Usual Suspects) as President Nixon. The 2 actors were terrific in their roles. Though MIchael did not look like Elvis, his mannerisms and outfits were eye-catching. With Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four, Beastly) as Jerry and Colin Hanks (Orange County, The House Bunny) as Krogh making up part of the cast; I thought the acting was good overall. Because some scenes did not offer much detail I could not decide if parts of the story were true or not; they seemed too far-fetched to have happened. Additionally that lack of detail made a few parts of this film run slower for me. The story however remained fascinating because of the dichotomy of the two main characters. If there was no proof, such as a photo of the event taking place, I would never have believed this event.

 

3 stars

 

 

 

 

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Flash Movie Review: Sing Street

The foliage was dense causing the shade to be as thick as morning fog. My face and arms were getting scratched up from the thorny branches and sturdy vines as I tried to outrun whatever was pursuing me. I was freaked out hearing my heart beating in my ears. There were tiny pinholes of light striking the ground like lasers; if I happened to run through one of them I felt a pinch of heat on the top of my head. I saw the gaping hole too late and fell into it. Tumbling down its craggy wall, my clothing was taking a beating while trying to protect my skin. Complete darkness was rushing up to me as I heard one single growl and then I woke up. I had no idea where that dream came from; it made no sense to me. I refer to these as unconscious dreams; sometimes they make sense, sometimes not. The other kinds are conscious ones where a person imagines themselves in a different place, environment or time period. Though each I feel are important, the conscious ones can be strong motivators for a person. I remember growing up I would imagine myself living in a single family home that had a screened in porch and a short fence around the property. For years I would dream about the life I wanted to have when I was an adult. Interestingly I recently saw parts of a television reality show’s finale where they were interviewing the top players and I found it fascinating to hear some of the contestant’s responses. More than not they would say they had been dreaming about doing what they were doing for years; it was their dream coming true now.   LOOKING around and seeing what his life could become Cosmo, played by newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, had bigger dreams. Written and directed by John Carney (Once, Begin Again), this film festival nominee shared a similar type of vibe with his other films. Set in Dublin Ireland during the 1980s I liked the look of this picture. With Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones-TV, Blitz) as Robert and Maria Doyle Kennedy (Albert Nobbs, Jupiter Ascending) as Penny making up part of the cast I thought the acting was well done. What sold me on this film was the music. I enjoyed the way the songs played a part in the telling of the story. In some aspects I felt this movie was a younger version of John Carney’s Once film. I almost want to say it was a bit predictable, but maybe it would be better to say I found myself relating to certain parts of the script. Now there were a couple of times my mind started to drift but overall I found myself staying interested in what was going on; plus the 80’s pop songs were entertaining. There was enough taking place in this film to allow a majority of viewers to sit and dream about themselves.

 

3 stars   

 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Green Room

The room was quiet and dark but I woke with a start as if someone had their hands around my neck, squeezing it tight. There were few if any shadows in the room yet everything looked crystal clear to me. I sprung out of bed as my lungs started yearning for air. My brain was bouncing off the sides of my skull as I ran into the bathroom to look at myself in the mirror. I do not know why or where that thought came from but I was quickly becoming frantic as I could not take a breath in. Looking at my reflection I opened my mouth wide to see if there was something that formed during the night in the middle of my throat that prevented me from breathing. I did not find anything unusual there. The past few days I had a head cold that I was just letting run its course; but I never experienced anything like this before. I was scared and all I could think of was if I collapse on the bathroom floor how long would it take for someone to find me. My ears were buzzing with noise as my lungs felt like they were about to rip open. As quickly as that vice around my neck appeared it suddenly disappeared, allowing me to deeply take in precious oxygen. What the heck had just happened? I could not go back to sleep after that and spent the rest of the night sitting up in a chair until I could call the doctor. This was the closest I had ever felt to death and it was frightening.   PERFORMING at a bar in a secluded, off the beaten path, woodsy area; the band performing had no idea how tough the audience really could be. This film festival winner had a spot-on ominous look to it. With Anton Yelchin (Star Trek franchise, Fright Night) as Pat, Alia Shawkat (Three Kings, Whip It) as Sam, Imogen Poots (Need for Speed, Filth) as Amber and Patrick Stewart (X-Men franchise, Match) as Darcy; the cast did a solid job in lifting the script up in this horror thriller. The story had a generic base but the writer added on top of it a chilling crime flavored plot that kept my interest. Even when bloody violent scenes were being shown, I still kept watching because the two opposing sides came across truthfully. I appreciated the fact that this story did not have fantasy killers or bizarre characters; everything shown was plausible to me. Having been a fan of Patrick Stewart for some years, I especially thought it was brilliant to cast him for the role of Darcy and I do not want to tell you anything further about his character. I will say though I thought there could have been more intensity with his role; however, that is just my personal opinion. From watching this movie I absolutely understand why people will do anything to stay alive. Several scenes had blood and violence in them.

 

3 stars

 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: A Hologram for the King

It seems to me to be a vulnerable position, where what you think does not matter much. One has to be quick on their feet and be able to respond to any query. The bottom line is you have something that you want someone else to buy from you. A career in sales takes a certain personality; I briefly tried and was not successful. I feel one not only has to sell their products but sell themselves to an individual. The thing that bugged me about this scenario was the person you are pitching may be making their decision on the most random of things. They may not like the way you dress or the way you look or even the way you talk; it can be based on such a biased opinion that has nothing to do with your products. I could not handle that type of environment, plus my brutal honesty did not sit well with customers. Isn’t it interesting that what I just wrote could easily be applied to dating? Think about it, aren’t people trying to sell (so to speak) themselves to other people? When two people meet with the intention to date, each one is going to try to accentuate their positive attributes. It is like a sales pitch. I knew someone who literally had a checklist of requirements that potential dates had to meet before they would agree to go out with them. I tried explaining to them that it works both ways; they needed to present themselves in the best light if they hoped their possible date would take an interest in them. Whether it is personal or business I find sales meetings to be stressful; that is why I could relate to the main character in this drama.   DESPERATE to land a sale Alan, played by Tom Hanks (Bridge of Spies, Captain Phillips), agreed to fly to Saudi Arabia to pitch his product to the monarchy. Alan would quickly realize selling to a monarchy was different than selling to a company. Based on the novel this movie also starred newcomer Alexander Black as Yousef and Sarita Choudhury (The Hunger Games franchise, Lady in the Water) as Zahra. I thought the acting was good though I felt Tom’s role had a familiar ring to it. He still did a fine performance but it did not seem as fresh to me. The idea behind this story was intriguing; however, the dual story lines hindered the telling of it. Separately I enjoyed each story but I never felt I was getting the whole tale. Now visually the film had a lot to offer just because the territory was foreign to me. I also was fascinated with the culture clash in this picture. As the film neared the end I felt things were rushed to tidy up the story. This film had some good selling points; I only wished it had sold me on its entertainment value.

 

2 ½ stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Huntsman: Winter’s War

They share similar features, have the same inflection in their voice, with mannerisms that are alike, even from the same gene pool; yet they are nothing like each other. This is something that has always fascinated me: the similarities and differences between siblings. I always wanted to figure out what were the factors that caused brothers and sisters to turn out the way they did when they were from the same parents. One of the obvious things to me was the birthing order because I strongly believe there is unique baggage in being an older, middle or younger sibling. I have seen families who blatantly treated their first born child differently compared to their 2nd born. From the people I know who were the youngest of their siblings I know some people claim this group was spoiled the most by their parents. I do not totally agree with this; I just think by the time the youngest of at least 3 children have been born, the parents were too tired to care about the same things they once did with their older children. Personally I am not a fan of dressing up one’s children in the same clothing; I feel it takes a bit away from a child’s identity. Now when siblings display strong reactions towards each other, I have to wonder what took place in their childhood that caused such negative feelings towards each other. It is so perplexing to me that I notice when I am introduced socially to new people I tend to ask them at some point if they have any siblings. You should hear some of the responses I have gotten, but nothing that matches the siblings’ story in this fantasy adventure drama.   AFTER suffering a horrific loss Freya, played by Emily Blunt (Sicario, Into the Woods), decided to leave her older sister Ravenna, played by Charlize Theron (Young Adult, Mad Max: Fury Road), and stake out her own land where she would be the sole ruler. Her kingdom would have one major law: falling in love was not allowed. The special effects in this action film were certainly fun to watch with the actors. Besides Charlize and Emily there was Chris Hemsworth (In the Heart of the Sea, Thor franchise) as Eric and Jessica Chastain (Crimson Peak, A Most Violent Year) as Sara. I was stoked to see this cast especially in the fight scenes; however, the dull script ruined the already poorly thought out story. I could not believe two actresses like Emily and Charlize were not given more powerful dramatic scenes that they could easily have handled. With the multiple story lines I do not know if this picture was a prequel or sequel; it was totally baffling to me. The writers and director could have created a wild fantasy franchise but for me this movie was a bust. I do not know about you, but I have seen more sparks and drama at a family dysfunction.

 

1 ¾ stars         

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Mr. Right

More so today than any time before, I believe a sense of disbelief falls over an individual who meets someone who appears to have all the qualities to become their ideal mate. The path to perfection can start out with the simplest common denominator such as both parties prefer hot instead of cold weather or each of them is lactose intolerant. For me I assume they will understand me better if they too are left handed. From this starting point one’s brain starts sending out signals of mistrust as a defense against the heart that is waiting to gallop out of the starting gate. Here is where the conflict emerges; on the one hand, this new person is steadily matching each of the items on your checklist for the perfect person. But at the same time your brain is telling you this is too good to be true; there is no such thing as being perfect. I have learned there is no such thing as perfect; the way I feel about “being perfect” is the same way I feel about “being normal.” Each cannot set the exact same standard across the board to fit every single person on the planet. What one person thinks is normal another may feel differently. So what an individual has to do is keep a checklist of things that would be a deal breaker for starting a relationship with someone. Depending on the person some items on that list could be: no pets, only city living, gambler, no children or weight issues. A deal breaker for me would be if they were an assassin like the one in this action comedy.   UNLUCKY in relationships Martha McKay, played by Anna Kendrick (Into the Woods, Pitch Perfect franchise), could not stop wondering about the curious man she met even though he frightened her. This romantic romp also starred Sam Rockwell (Poltergeist, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) as Mr. Right, Tim Roth (The Hateful Eight, Hardcore Henry) as Hopper and James Ransone (Sinister franchise, Inside Man) as Von Cartigan. I enjoyed the mix of Anna and Sam because both easily handled the comedy of the story. The script provided a variety of madcap scenes that were on the verge of being silly filler. I felt the actors worked well together with the script that did not provide enough new ideas to pull it out of being a typical story for this genre. There were scenes that had violence and blood but they were quick and kept on the “light” side if you know what I mean. Since I have been a fan of Sam for a long time I think that is what kept me interested in this movie. If they had chosen a different actor I probably would have enjoyed this film less. To watch this movie it would be better to wait until it is on DVD. Now I say this only because I have a mental checklist of things that a picture has to have to take me to a different place.

 

2 stars    

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: House of Pleasures

Except for the few who have retired I do not know anyone who does not need to work for a living. If I sit and think about it I believe I know at least one person who works in almost every industry, from medical to Fortune 500 to horticulture. Even a stay at home parent who is raising a child is doing a job in essence. It would never occur to me to judge a person based on their occupation, yet I see so many people who do that very thing. For some time now I still get amused by the reactions I get from people when I tell them what I do for a living. When I mention I am a credit manager the usual response I get is one of curiosity bordering on fear as if I can investigate their credit report. If I say I am a fitness/yoga instructor I either get a look of disbelief because I assume I do not look like a typical instructor or a look of admiration for lack of a better description. Now I am curious as anyone else so I enjoy asking a person what they do for a living because I want to know why they do what they do or how they wound up working in that industry. To me it is another avenue in getting to know someone. Also, I know there is a big difference between doing what you want as opposed to doing something because you have to survive.   EARLY in the 20th century women had less opportunity to make a living let alone stay alive. This award winning drama captured the look and feel of the time period. I had a general feeling of sadness as I watched this DVD because of the women’s circumstances. Starring Noemie Lvovsky (Camille Rewinds, My Old Lady) as Marie-France, Celine Sallete (Rust and Bone, Marie Antoinette) as Clotilde, Iliana Zabeth (Saint Laurent, Young & Beautiful) as Pauline and Hafsia Herzi (The Secret of the Grain, The Source) as Samira; I thought the acting was very good. It was not an easy story for me to watch personally just because I do not enjoy seeing anyone who is being taken advantage of and in this story there was an abundance of it. What I thought was a poor choice and ruined a scene for me was having these early 20th century women dancing to a piece of current music; it was so out of synch for what had been created that I found it jarring. The script kept a slow smoldering type of pace that did not provide for much action; almost all the scenes stayed in one location. Even now I am still processing the couple of bloody scenes and the ending because I do not feel complete with them. If one is uncomfortable with nudity there was a majority of it in this film. Without making a judgment I have to say life was much harder back then. French was spoken with English subtitles.

 

2 ½ stars – DVD

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Criminal

It suddenly appears from what seems to be its own volition and surprises you. Like an air bubble that has suddenly risen up to disturb the still surface of a pool of water, the thought bursts into your consciousness where you have to stop and wonder where it came from. I do not know about you but this happens to me on a consistent basis. I could be walking or driving along and suddenly some random thought pops into my head that at least has some type of connection to something in my life; but it can be so weird at times. There are things I can remember from when I was an infant; however, I could tell myself I have to do something as soon as I am done with what I am doing and as soon as I walk out of the room the thought goes poof, disappearing from my mind. The brain is both bizarre and miraculous at the same time. I have a friend who works in the medical field. You would not believe the things I hear that have to do with the brain; some of them would make good science fiction stories. To this day I remember watching a computer screen as the image of a patient’s brain, who had just suffered a stroke, began to appear. It was fascinating to watch as I could see where the blood was pooling inside of them. It was that experience and its aftermath that caused me to see the human brain in a different light. The same thing took place for me when I watched this crime drama.   WHEN agent Bill Pope, played by Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, The Proposal), was killed his boss Quaker Wells, played by Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight franchise, Paranoia), became desperate enough to see if the dead agent’s memories could be taken out of his head. This action film also starred Kevin Costner (Black or White, The Untouchables) as Jericho Stewart, Tommy Lee Jones (The Homesman, Hope Springs) as Dr. Franks and Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious franchise, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) as Jill Pope. As you can see a well qualified cast was assembled for this picture. Though the basis of the script had a science fiction slant to it, I was willing to go along and believe the story. I enjoyed the way Kevin played his character and was a bit surprised to see him so intense in the action scenes, though it could easily have been a body double. But this is what annoyed me about this movie; if you want me to believe the story than follow through with it. When one character’s house with elaborate security was broken into, tell me how the house was broken into again later in the story. They didn’t change the pass code? C’mon, this among other issues ruined the story for me. Congratulations to the person who came up with the idea for this story, but then why make it predictable in a scatterbrained way?

 

1 ¾ stars  

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Barbershop: The Next Cut

When we get together we not only come up with solutions to each of our problems, but we can provide the same for most of the world’s issues. There is something about getting together with friends on a regular basis to hash out anything that is troubling one of us at the time. I am part of a small group who has gotten together every three months for many years now. It is a time for us to take a break from the daily treadmill of our lives to catch up with each other and share a meal. I wish I could say I can solve any problem I am experiencing; but the fact remains, extra opinions can provide different pathways to a solution that I am not wired to come up with on my own. Because I feel every single person has a unique set of skills (doesn’t this sound like the beginning of a Liam Neeson movie?), there is always an opportunity to learn something new from other people. Another great aspect of getting together with friends is the sense of community and support. I am a person who needs down time, where I remove myself from the outside world. Having a re-occurring date to mingle with friends energizes, enlightens and relaxes me among other things. There is someone I know who leads a support group for like-minded individuals; they meet once every 4 to 8 weeks with the purpose to share their experiences on that night’s topic. I know what I am about to say is a cliché, but there is some truth in the phrase, “strength in numbers.” The people at this barbershop are the proof.   WITH the neighborhood changing business partners Calvin and Angie, played by Ice Cube (Ride Along franchise, 21 Jump Street franchise) and Regina Hall (Scary Movie franchise, Think Like a Man), came up with an idea they hoped would start a change in the residents. This dramatic comedy sequel took me by surprise. It is difficult to blend comedy and drama in a story, yet I felt the writers did a real good job with this script. The movie was relevant as it tackled the issue of violence in a major metropolitan city. A tough topic to be sure; but the actors such as Cedric the Entertainer (The Soul Man-TV, A Haunted House franchise) as Eddie, Common (Selma, Now You See Me) as Rashad and Nicki Minaj (The Other Woman) as Draya provided a balanced mixture of humor and seriousness. All the actors I found created a believable sense of community. I know I saw the previous films but honestly I do not remember them; it was not an issue in viewing this picture. Where Spike Lee’s film Chi-Raq tackled the same topic, I liked seeing the contrast in the way this movie handled it. Who knew one could learn so much from one small barbershop in the city of Chicago.

 

3 stars  

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Jungle Book

When something that has only been created in a novel or been seen on television comes to life it can be a miraculous experience. Think about it, for those who saw Santa Claus sitting in his big chair with a line of children waiting nearby to tell him their wish list of toys; it had to be an amazing event. Depending on a child’s age seeing characters from their video games brought to life must also be a heady experience. I remember the first time I went to the zoo; having only seen household pets, squirrels, birds and a couple of farm animals; I was so excited to see all the exotic animals that were living in the zoo. My very first stuffed animal was a chimpanzee dressed in red overalls. Now I was seeing what I thought were all of his cousins jumping and swinging around in their own habitat. I have mentioned previously how I prefer reading afterwards the book a movie was based on, due to the author’s choice of words are usually better than the finished film project. With that being said I have to say there has been many times where I love seeing stories, historical events and folklore coming to life on the big screen. When done right, a movie can provide the voices of the characters one has made up in their heads of the ones in a novel. They can also bring to life an event that took place years ago but still has an importance in one’s life to this day. Today’s review is about a movie that brings new life to a classic story.   WHEN it suddenly became dangerous to stay at home the man-cub Mowgli, played by newcomer Neel Sethi; was taken by the panther Bagheera, voiced by Ben Kingsley (Learning to Drive, The Dictator), who would take him to a safer place. Mowgli’s journey would be life changing. This adventure drama was absolutely unbelievable to watch on the big screen; in fact, I may go back to see it in 3D because the CGI in this film was beautiful and realistic. Kudos to Neel Sethi because he was utterly believable as Mowgli; keeping in mind he was the only live person in this fantastical family film. Now that does not take anything away from actors such as Bill Murray (Rock the Kasbah, The Monuments Men) as Baloo the bear and Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation, Thor franchise) as Shere Khan the tiger who were perfect voicing their characters. Having read the Rudyard Kipling book and seen the animated film years ago, I was totally taken into Mowgli’s world from my theater seat. I still love the first film but I have to tell you this version has every right to be considered a Disney classic on its own merits. It will not matter if you are familiar with this story or not because either way all the characters in this picture will draw you into their “real” world and you will be glad you were able to visit it.

 

4 stars

 

 

 

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