Monthly Archives: June 2016

Flash Movie Review: Weiner

The word personal is defined as relating or affecting a particular individual without the intervention of another. I may have mentioned this before but there are 2 things I avoid discussing: religion and politics. It is not because I am not interested in say one’s religious customs or beliefs, but I resist getting into a conversation with someone who feels their religion or political viewpoint is the “right” one. For me my political and religious thoughts are personal; I have no desire to foster my opinions onto other people. I would not say I am a well informed voter when it comes to political elections, but I do read the news and pay attention to the media coverage of candidates. That is the extent of my research, though I never realized how much social media sites can play a part in elections. On the downside I find out more than I wish to sometimes about people’s beliefs and opinions on my various web sites. It is such a curious thing when it is a known person who has leanings that are opposite of what I imagined they would be. In fact there are some friends in my circles who I never talk politics with because we ride different trains of thought. The reason I am telling you all of this is to convey to you I have no political ambitions, activism (except for voting in every election) or pastimes; no one would consider me a political news junkie at all. So imagine how stunned I was watching this documentary about a political figure.   FORMER New York congressman Anthony Weiner decided to pin his political comeback on the mayor’s race for New York City. This documentary would cover the entire campaign from beginning to end. The first thing that amazed me about this film festival winning movie, co-written by Eli B. Despres (Blackfish, Wilderness Survival for Girls), was what appeared to be the unlimited access the filmmakers were granted by Anthony and his wife Huma Abedin. With the amount of election coverage all of us are exposed to these days, I know I am only seeing only the façade of a campaign. Nearly every word and gesture has probably been planned unless the candidate trips up. I normally do not pay much attention to the marketing paraphernalia from any political candidate; so being able to go behind the scenes of the campaign in this picture was fascinating to me. And I have to tell you getting backroom access to Anthony’s journey during the 2013 mayoral race was mind blowing. On one side there were scenes with Huma that were just heartbreaking; on the other side watching Anthony was part circus, part train wreck and part stubbornness all rolled up into one. I was glued to this documentary; I felt I was watching a live theater production. How ironic, I initially was not too excited to see this film at first; but I was immediately won over. Let me mention I absolutely loved writer Eli B. Despres’ Blackfish documentary, so it now makes sense that I would love this political story.

 

3 ½ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Now You See Me 2

Unlimited possibilities wait for many rousing from their nightly sleep. For them their day begins with a blank canvas; they let the day lead in what activities and events will be chosen. It is a random process that involves some level of spontaneity. Imagine the freedom one experiences when they are not tethered to a schedule or list of chores for the day. It has been so long that I actually cannot remember if I have ever experienced that type of freedom, to wake up with the attitude that whatever the day brings would be fine. If I do not have a list of things I need to handle for the day, I at least have a mental plan of what I want to accomplish. I have mentioned before that people can set their watches by me; I am most comfortable when I am on my internal schedule. It frees me up from taking time out to make decisions since all of them were made when the schedule was created in my mind, so I can go on automatic. I know when I wake up the first thing I do is eat breakfast; aware no matter the time, when the clock reaches the noon hour it is time for me to prepare for my 2nd meal. Now the downfall to being this way is when something unexpected happens. An example would be my daily ride to the office. I take the same route every day, knowing when I have to get into the right lane to avoid being stopped by cars trying to turn left or aware where I have to swerve slightly to avoid a pothole. If something like a stalled car or broken railroad crossing backs up traffic and causes a detour, I am thrown off my schedule. Honestly, it is rough for me when things don’t go as planned which is why I can relate to the magicians in this action thriller.   AFTER lying low for a year the magicians called “The Four Horsemen” reappear for a spectacular magic trick. They were not expecting their trick to take them halfway around the world. The returning cast such as Jesse Eisenberg (American Ultra, The End of the Tour) as J. Daniel and Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers franchise, Infinitely Polar Bear) as Dylan Rhodes were joined by new characters Lula, played by Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield, The Interview) and Walter Mabry, played by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter franchise, Kill Your Darlings). There were the same spectacular magic tricks in this comedy but I missed the way they were explained as in the previous movie. The scenes were flashy but I did not like the camera work; some scenes were too frenetic for me. I could have handled all of this but because the script was such a mess I soon became bored with the story. There wasn’t the same sense of tense danger or excitement as the first film. In my opinion the writers tried to do too much to make this sequel “bigger” and it just did not work. I recently saw last weekend’s box office results and have to assume the movie studio was not expecting the results they got with the final figures.

 

1 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Warcraft

Before I tell you my vivid memory about tasting chocolate for the first time, keep in mind I remember standing up in my crib and figuring out how I could climb out of it. That is as far back as some of my memories go. The chocolate was in the form of a baked cake in a 9X9 metal pan. From my very first bite I was hooked; with a spongy texture and no frosting on top, this first tasting started an avalanche of chocolate items coming into the house. Because I could not reach anything but the lowest shelf in the pantry, I could not reach any of the products like chocolate chip cookies or chocolate syrup that were kept on the higher shelves, without asking someone to get them for me. At the time I was around 1 ½ to 2 years old. Some may call it an obsession, I call it personal preference; but from that time whenever I am given the option I will always choose the one that has chocolate in it. I do not think I am unusual in this regards; don’t most of us gravitate towards things that give us pleasure or make us feel good? Example, one of my favorite musicals is Les Miserables. After seeing it for the first time, I had to own the soundtrack; then when the movie came out I had to own a copy of the DVD. Though different venues may not always work I enjoy when one of my favorite pastimes expands into another format; this is one of the reasons I want to travel to the Harry Potter theme park one day. So you see I can totally understand those who are into video games flocking to see this movie version of the popular game.   DESPERATE to leave their dying planet and find a new place to colonize, the Orc invade the peaceful realm of Azeroth. Losing the conflict meant one side’s total destruction or the other’s extinction. Starring Travis Fimmel (The Experiment, Vikings-TV) as Anduin Lothar, Paula Patton (Deja Vu, 2 Guns) as Garona, Ben Foster (Lone Survivor, 3:10 to Yuma) as Medivh and Toby Kebbell (Wrath of the Titans, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) as Durotan/Antonidas; I cannot really say the acting was good or bad because the script presented all of them as 2 dimensional characters. This action adventure’s forte was the special effects. I think everything was CGI; my favorite look was the flying bird like creature. For a fantasy I thought the story was good; it made for perfect escapism. However, after the continuation of similar scenes I felt this film went on for far too long. From the trailer this movie looks like it would be fun and I guess on some level it was, but not enough to keep me thoroughly engaged with the story. And sadly it is obvious by the ending the movie studio is hoping to do a sequel. If that is the case may I suggest they bring in some drama, surprise and better dialog to bring in more than just gamers.

 

1 2/3 stars          

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Conjuring 2

The reason I enjoy a good suspenseful horror film is to experience the visceral emotions they produce inside of me. It is an adrenaline rush that gives me more energy; I find it comparable to the testing of the security alert system they do periodically on the radio. I feel a good fright from time to time keeps the body tuned up for life’s daily challenges. In the comfort of my theater seat I know what I am watching on screen has no actual bearing on my daily life. What I am seeing is not real to me so I know the feelings I experience during the movie are fleeting. I have been fortunate and hope I never have to personally experience actual horrors in my lifetime. I do not see how I could not mention the horrific tragedy that took place in Orlando, Florida this past weekend. It seems trivial for me to sit here and talk about a horror movie when I know many lives have been affected by the nightclub shootings. I am uncomfortable writing my review today when I know whatever things I mention about this film seem almost ridiculous to the realities of life presently. No matter the event, I am sure each of us has encountered some form of horror. Let us face it, life can be challenging. I thought I was done seeing the ugliness humans can inflict once I settled into middle age. Sadly it is not the case and in my opinion it appears to have increased in size. May love, kindness and acceptance for each other make us strong during this time. Thank you for listening to me; I felt I had to acknowledge the reality before delving into my escape into this picture.   STRUGGLING as a single parent raising her children Peggy Hodgson, played by Frances O’Connor (A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Bedazzled), did not know what was happening to her daughter Janet, played by Madison Wolfe (The Campaign, Joy). Her daughter’s actions would affect the entire family. This sequel grabbed the viewer immediately thanks to director James Wan (Saw franchise, Furious 7). Multiple scenes were ideally set-up to produce suspenseful results. Another reason why I was drawn into this movie was due to Vera Farmiga (Source Code, Up in the Air) and Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy, Watchmen) as Lorraine and Ed Warren. They really pulled as much as they could from the script which at times got bogged down in a repetitive mode. I felt the story went on too long; they could have cut out a couple of scenes that were just there to show another example for a similar event. From the first film I knew this story was based on a true story, but I had a hard time believing it because of the things I saw in this sequel. Yet when at the end of the film they showed the actual people the actors portrayed, it made for an eerie feeling inside of me. It is not often a sequel is better than the first film but overall this movie provided a good escape from the horrors of reality.

 

2 ¾ stars     

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Mermaid

The group of friends had a set monthly date to get together for dinner. They had originally first met when they were team players in a sports league. At the end of the meal when it was time to figure out the check they all agreed to split the bill; it was easier, making more sense instead of trying to figure out who ordered what and how much they needed to pay. There was one friend who usually had 2 alcoholic drinks with his meal, which also tended to be more expensive than everyone else’s food. Another friend from the group never had enough cash on hand; they always collected everyone’s money so they could then pay the entire bill on their charge card. No one minded nor knew their charge card rebated a percentage of the total monthly charges back to the cardholder. As an outside observer I would have gotten annoyed after awhile if a friend kept ordering the most expensive meals with drinks without ever offering to throw in a few more bucks to make up the difference. I at least know I have options: ask for separate checks, break the check down to each person’s share or just not order anything. Things like this can be irritating. They are not a life or death situation and I can have an effect on the situation. Compare it to the greed I see in the news, it is on a whole different scale. From a drug executive raising the price of a drug 5000% to a political figure disregarding public safety for monetary gain to a business financier setting up a Ponzi scheme to swindle workers’ retirement funds; I find the level of greed in people astounding. This comedic, dramatic fantasy had one solution for a greedy corporation.   BUSINESS tycoon Liu Xuan, played by Chao Deng (American Dreams in China, Assembly), knew his reclamation sea project was killing the sea life, but he did not care. The project was worth billions. This film directed by Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle) recently became the largest grossing film in Chinese history. With newcomer Yun Lin as Shan and Show Luo (Journey to the West, Hi My Sweetheart-TV) as Octopus, I have to tell you this “extravaganza” was trippy. Part Bollywood, part slapstick, part romance, part social commentary; this picture pretty much had everything in it. From a technical standpoint the special effects were cheesy, the acting was over the top and the script had some lame passages; but I have to tell you, this picture had a way of drawing the viewer in. I felt the message was an important one so I could appreciate all the effort it must have taken to create this movie. Bear in mind there were a few actual film clips of animals used that were hard to watch due to the content. All in all, this movie kept my interest while entertaining me. I am sure the film studio made a profit on this and I do not know, maybe they made a donation to a charity with some of the proceeds. Ultimately it is the studio’s job to make films and I commend them on tackling an important subject in a creative way. Mandarin was spoken with English subtitles.

 

2 2/3 stars     

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Herb & Dorothy

I remember the first time I went to their house. It was nighttime during the winter so it took me some time to get to their place out away from the city. After greeting me at the door they excused themselves for a second to finish up before we were going out for dinner. Standing in the front hallway I looked to see what was around me. There was a darkened room to my left; it had to be a living room or something since there was no doorway. I stood at the edge of the room because I did not want to appear too nosy but quickly jumped back. Something was staring at me. As my eyes started to adjust to the darkness I was wrong, there was a bunch of people looking at me. I was in such shock I had not heard the footsteps on the staircase as they came back downstairs to stand behind me. “You must be looking at my collection,” they said. I told them I was trying to figure out what was staring at me. They walked over to the light switch on the wall and when the room burst into light, what I saw staring at me were porcelain dolls that had been placed all around the room. There were a couple of child sized dolls seated in chairs, smaller ones were placed on bookshelves and in china cabinets. Adult sized ones were hanging up on the walls, posed in different positions. I was speechless; the only time I had seen so many dolls in one place was at a toy store. My next thought was how long did it take to dust all of them? I am not one to judge; it does not matter to me what a person collects. However, I enjoy and want to hear the motivation and reasons why a person collects certain things.   LIVING modestly on his postal clerk and her librarian salaries, Dorothy and Herb managed to create what would become a world famous collection. This film festival winning documentary was not only astounding to watch, it was charming to see the lives of this elderly couple. Directed by Megumi Sasaki I was never bored watching this DVD. The variety of interviews, the commentary from Herb and Dorothy, the meetings, their apartment; all of these components put together formed an entertaining movie. Now here is the thing, the works this couple collected are things that I do not usually gravitate towards; they get lost on me. However, I can appreciate their importance and actually learned a few things from some of the commentary segments offered up in the film. Also, I was amused at the juxtaposition between this nondescript elderly couple and the body of work they amassed. One of the messages I took away after seeing this movie was one does not have to limit themselves to fulfill their passion.

 

3 stars — DVD

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Do you think food tastes any better coming out of a refrigerator costing $2000.00 as opposed to one costing $500.00? Unless the owner of the expensive refrigerator is a gourmet cook and the other owner cannot even boil water, I do not think so. I never understood this mentality about the more something cost the better it should be. Do you remember a television show that filmed the inside of celebrity houses? Now I can appreciate the “finer things in life” such as artwork or custom made furniture, but some places were just outrageous. Usually those places matched the owners who managed to always be in the news, even if it meant they had to be involved in some ridiculous incident. I do not know about you but I have noticed it is always the same celebrities getting in the news and usually not for a philanthropic or generous act. Personally I find it offensive but I understand their need for publicity, both good and bad. There used to be a time where celebrities maintained some form of discretion. When I think of the old Hollywood actors I do not recall most of them being associated with a scandal. Granted the internet and reality TV has altered the playing field; but seriously, how many of us really care to hear the stuff that is out there these days? From shaved heads to addictions to cheating to posing without clothes; it seems like some celebrities’ stunts become the thing they are known for as they get more popular and overshadow their original body of work.   SKYROCKETING in popularity Conner, played by Andy Samberg (That’s my Boy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine-TV), decided to leave his boy band and go solo. He would soon discover popularity has a ferocious appetite. This musical comedy mockumentary also starred Sarah Silverman (I Smile Back, Take This Waltz) as Paula and Tim Meadows (Mean Girls, The Ladies Man) as Harry. The story started out slow for me, where I felt the script was just an expanded version of a Saturday Night Live skit. It was logical since Andy and the writers here were responsible for his digital short films on the show. However, as the story continued it occurred to me the writing trio were creating a satirical social commentary about celebrity fame. There were several biting cuts and loony ideas expressed in this film. I enjoyed the multitude of celebrity cameo appearances that went on throughout the entire movie; I think Andy must know almost everyone in Hollywood. The key to watching this picture is not to take it too seriously. I continued to find parts of the script that did not work for me; but, considering what I have seen and heard these days, the things that did work were sharp. Even the musical numbers were trippy though there was strong language used at times. In a way this movie told a familiar story except it was updated for current times. I recall seeing Andy doing the talk show circuit to promote this film. It may not have been enough to make this film popular at the box office; I just hope he doesn’t start to do some goofy stunts to help gain notoriety for this movie.

 

2 2/3 stars    

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Me Before You

A wise person holds back from taking action on their first impressions. I wish I could say I am quoting from a well known scholar, but I cannot; it is from me. Not to say I am wise because in the past all I did for the most part was react immediately upon my first impression of a person or place. I believe I have said this before but I now consider first impressions to be a photograph to be stashed in one’s pocket, to let it sit as you let time pass to see if your first impression matches the current one you have of that individual. Maybe because I believe a person’s true colors find a way to seep out of them that I hold myself back from acting, but I have been rewarded with some positive relationships that at first looked like I was dealing with a not nice person. I had a relationship with someone who at first glance appeared to be vain and conceited. This was my first impression of them from a party I had attended where they were a guest also. It was not until a couple of more encounters where I saw their true disposition and I have to tell you it surprised me. They were actually kind and good natured, that first impression I had was their default image or persona whenever they felt uncomfortable in a new environment. I guess we all have some form of defense we turn to when we are dealing with our emotions.   DESPERATE to find work Lou Clark, played by Emilia Clarke (Terminator Genisys, Game of Thrones-TV), was relieved when she was offered the job to be a caregiver for Will Traynor, played by Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games franchise, The Quiet Ones). Her relief turned to dread upon meeting the caustic man. Based on the bestselling novel, this film festival winner got the right chemistry when they cast Emilia and Sam for the leads. I found them believable and felt they made a solid connection together with their characters. Also starring Charles Dance (The Imitation Game, Game of Thrones-TV) and Janet McTeer (Malefiecent, Tideland) as Stephen and Camilla Traynor, the acting worked in this dramatic romance. I would be curious to hear how the book compares to this film because I found the script to be manipulative, steering the viewers to tearful checkpoints. However, what surprised me was one of the topics that came up in the story that is controversial these days. It was interesting to see where it would wind up going in the script. From the showing I attended that was close to sold-out, the responses I heard afterwards were all positive. I would agree because of the acting being so good and the intriguing idea behind the story. So what if a couple of tears welled up in my eyes; not enough to warrant wiping them away with a tissue unlike others seated around me, it did not alter my first impression of the movie. This was a love story with a twist.

 

2 ½ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

A generation of children grew up glued to their television screens Saturday mornings to watch the latest cartoons of their favorite characters. Back then cartoons were the main source to see one’s favorite superhero or friendly ghost. Once in a great while there may have been a full-length movie made from a Saturday cartoon and just like the cartoons they were done with hand drawn animation. Computers back then were not used for such artistic purposes. The 3rd avenue available to experience a cartoon character was finding a toy, game or comic book of them. Growing up I collected comic books of all my favorite cartoon characters, besides having an army of G.I. Joe soldiers. However, one of my coolest toys was a model I built of the Batmobile; that vehicle used to travel through all the rooms of my house. Back then as far as I could tell, this was the extent of a child’s exposure to cartoon characters. These days it seems like a whole different world to me. I think there are still comic books but they may be predominantly superhero characters; I do not know. There are the usual toys and games but now it is not unusual to see a cartoon character on cereal boxes, vitamins, cookies, candy, toothbrushes; I can go on and on. The marketing of cartoons is big business where if a character is especially popular they may get their own ride at an amusement park. Honestly, in my opinion I feel it is overkill with all these different things available now. I felt the same way about this action adventure comedy.   WITH an evil criminal on the loose the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will have to take a bigger risk that may expose their identity to an unknowing public. This sequel brought back Megan Fox (Transformers franchise, Jennifer’s Body) as April O’Neil and Will Arnett (When in Rome, Arrested Development-TV) as Vernon Fenwick, along with new characters Chief Vincent and Casey Jones, played by Laura Linney (Mr. Holmes, Hyde Park on Hudson) and Stephen Amell (The Tracey Fragments, Arrow-TV). I really cannot say anything about the acting because the whole film played like an extended cartoon. Action scenes were the vehicle that drove the story in this movie. I really did not find anything funny in the script, though the special effects at least were entertaining. It was about halfway through the picture that I glanced down at my watch, wishing time would move faster; I was getting bored with the monotony. Now I will say I think tweens, the 9 to 12 year olds, will enjoy this film more than me. Compared to other movies I have seen in this genre, the script was weak; it did not offer any little morsels to entertain the adults in the audience. I have not noticed much cross marketing for this film yet. If it should increase we may be in for a long dull summer of overkill.

 

1 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Maggie’s Plan

No matter how hard one tries to plan things out, life is always the ultimate decider. Take it from someone who does his best to plan everything to the minute (people can set their watches by me); life has a way of saying, “Not so fast there, here is something you can deal with first.” As I get older I am finally learning to let go and as they say, “Go with the flow.” This reminds me of a woman I knew who was married with 2 children. I met her husband only once or twice, but really did not know much about him since she rarely talked about him. They had been married for years and were quite settled as they were heading towards their senior years. According to her it came out of nowhere; her husband filed for divorce. She told me he did not want to be with her anymore; there was no other reason given for his decision. She was devastated by it. Here she thought she had most of her life planned out with her husband and now, as she would constantly say, she was alone. I told her that was not true; besides her children and friends, she may want to look at her situation as a place where she could redefine herself. Of course, I waited awhile before I expressed these thoughts at a time where I thought she would be more receptive to hearing them. And do you want to know something? She branched out and started trying new activities and meet up groups, where she eventually met someone who was as passionate as she was about dancing. They started going together to see ballet performances and enrolled in several dance classes; it was such a hoot to hear about this from her. She was happier than she had ever been before. Isn’t it funny how your version of life may not be what is in store for you?   MAGGIE, played by Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha, Mistress America), had everything planned out it to become a single parent. That is until she met John, played by Ethan Hawke (Born to be Blue, Good Kill). This film festival nominated comedic drama had a wonderful cast of actors. Along with Greta and Ethan there was Julianne Moore (Seventh Son, Still Alice) as Georgette and Bill Hader (They Came Together, Trainwreck) as Tony; each one made their role memorable, but I have to say Greta was incredible. I found this romantic story to be intelligent and quirky at the same time. It had adult conversation coming from messed up people, making them more real to me. There were a few scenes that I felt did not work, besides one story line that seemed odd to me. It is not easy to blend comedy and drama but the script pulled it off; the humor was more of an amusement level than a laugh out loud one. For me this film simply felt like a slice of life, where I could just sit and watch someone else’s drama without feeling like I needed to participate and be supportive.

 

3 stars

 

 

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