Monthly Archives: July 2016

Flash Movie Review: Cafe Society

The two had grown up in the same small city, got married and had adequate jobs. Upon first look their life together looked fine. Truthfully there was nothing wrong except their dreams and hopes eventually outgrew the city. Each of them wanted something more. They knew it was time to make a change; so they pared down their belongings and moved out of state to a large metropolitan city. Going from a quaint colonial style house to a 2 bedroom walk up apartment was an adjustment; but it was worth it because their new city could support their dreams. After finding jobs and settling into the rhythm of their new life they explored the city, started doing volunteer work and signed up for various meet up groups; all in the hopes of expanding their social network. As time went on one of them was earning some success at their job, advancing up the ladder as they say. The other did not have such luck and started to feel they were reaching a dead end. With all the expenses of living in a big city compared to their hometown, quitting a job was not in the cards just yet. The two maintained a strong supportive bond between each other, but their shared responsibilities started to go out of alignment. As the one was gaining financial success the other only had incremental raises. The financial divide kept growing to the point where a discussion ensued about remaining in the city. Where one was finally reaching some of their life’s goals, the other felt the city could not offer them what they needed to succeed. It was a conundrum.   HOPING to find success Bobby Dorfman, played by Jesse Eisenberg (The End of the Tour, Now You See Me franchise), left his home in the Bronx and moved out to Hollywood. It could not hurt having an uncle out there who was a famous agent. Written and directed by Woody Allen (Midnight in Manhattan, Magic in the Moonlight) this comedic romance had a spectacular look to it. The 1930s décor and style made this film a real treat to watch on the big screen. The perfect accompaniment to the visual aspect was the soundtrack; I thoroughly enjoyed the jazzy music. Starring along with Jesse was Steve Carell (The Big Short, Freeheld) as Phil Stern, Kristen Stewart (American Ultra, Still Alice) as Vonnie and Blake Lively (The Shallows, The Age of Adaline) as Veronica. Though I enjoyed all of them I have to say if they ever decide to do a film biography of Woody Allen then they need to cast Jesse. Using Woody’s words Jesse was perfectly cast in this film. There were parts in this movie where Woody was doing narrations and when the scene moved to Jesse talking it was almost identical in speech. The script was fun with some excellent lines in it, though I did find it somewhat predictable. For a Woody Allen comedy this was more like a light version. I felt there could have been more to mine in the story. It was great film to watch and listen to; I just wish it would have succeeded more in telling a good story.

 

2 ¾ stars

 

 

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Flash Movie Review: Absolutely Fabulous

The cigarette was hanging from their lips like a tired diving board. Whenever they took it out of their mouth it was only to discard the ashes on the floor with a flick of their fingernail. They were sitting across from me but I did not know them since they were part of the groom’s family. Someone told me they were a relative of some kind. I thought it was odd they were sitting at our table; but for the fact the banquet hall did not allow smoking, I figured something was up. It did not take long before I realized this person was a real character. Let me just say they were saying some things that were not appropriate to say at a table of strangers. Their conversation was sprinkled with curse words. No topic was off limits evidently because I heard about various medical procedures, their prejudices and people they had dated. I was uncomfortable as well as the other guests around the table. The wait staff was constantly being asked to bring them a drink; I am not sure how many they had since each empty glass was replaced with a full one. During the dinner portion of the evening the bride and groom made their way around the room, stopping at each table to talk to the guests. When the newlyweds made it to my table the groom apologized to his relative for the seating arrangements. It appeared there was not an open space at the other tables. Turning to the rest of us the groom asked in a joking way if his relative was behaving. What could we say that their relative would be a perfect guest for this movie?   DESPERATE to meet Kate Moss the fashion model Edina, played by Jennifer Saunders (A Midwinter’s Tale, French and Saunders-TV), accidently knocked her over into the Thames River where she went missing. With the paparazzi and police hounding her Edina and her best friend Patsy, played by Joanna Lumley (The Wolf of Wall Street, Late Bloomers), came up with a plan that would take them to the French Riviera. Sitting and watching this comedy at the theater was a wild experience for me. I had never seen the television show though I was somewhat familiar with the characters. The crowd was absolutely into this film and it was obvious they knew more than I did about the characters which also included Jane Horrocks (Little Voice, Trollied-TV) as Bubble and Julia Sawalha (Venus and Mars, Lark Rise to Candleford-TV) as Saffy. The story was simple enough and the script was loaded with comments that did not fit into a politically correct world; in other words inappropriate and naughty. I enjoyed the variety of cameo appearances and could see the attraction of Patsy and Edina. However I found the script was too loose; I felt I was watching a series of similar situations. After the initial shock of the comments and scenarios I got bored. It was like being with the wedding guest I described earlier. On a certain level they can be humorous, say things that others are only thinking and maybe even be entertaining; but after it is all over there is some relief you do not have to listen anymore.

 

2 ¼ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Ice Age: Collision Course

There are these sayings I have heard most of my life that I do not know if they are based on some tradition or folklore. One of them is counterintuitive to what most people wish for on their wedding day. It goes something like this, “May rain fall on your wedding day and be the only tears the two of you will ever have to shed.” I bet this sounds weird to some of you; but to me, it makes perfect sense. Granted all of the weddings I ever attended were indoor ones. The gist of this saying is a hope that the two individuals will stand together and never have to experience sadness in their marriage. I like the sentiment in that saying. Another saying is used during a sad occasion; it goes, “May it be better times when we meet again.” I have heard this said mostly at funerals. After coming together to share in sadness, the hope between individuals is to share happiness the next time. There is an underlying theme I see from these types of sayings; there is strength in numbers. This brings to mind that phrase that goes when the going gets tough, the tough get going. I believe this to be true because I have never met anyone who prefers to deal with some form of hardship on their own. It does not matter whether it is helping someone move, lending an ear to a friend in crisis or being someone’s advocate when they go for a medical procedure; I feel everyone needs some type of support system. When you see the band of characters in this animated comedy you will understand what I mean.   PURSUING that ever elusive acorn Scrat, voiced by Chris Wedge (Robots, Epic), finds himself in outer space. One wrong turn would set in motion a series of events that could put Earth at risk for total destruction. This latest installment in the Ice Age franchise had the usual cast of actors back to voice the characters such as Ray Romano (Rob the Mob, Everybody Loves Raymond-TV) as Manny, Denis Leary (Two if by Sea, Rescue Me-TV) as Diego and John Leguizamo (The Infiltrator, American Ultra) as Sid. The voices were fine and the animation was colorful in this film festival winning adventure. As for the humor maybe young kids would enjoy it but I did not find anything funny. If one is fond of the old Road Runner cartoons, I found this film to have the same type of humor which is laughing at someone’s misfortune. As a kid I enjoyed Road Runner; as an adult I do not find them so funny. Some of the jokes in this movie I felt were inappropriate for young children; it made me wonder what target group were the writers trying to reach. To me this whole picture was a money grab by the studio. The script provided little entertainment; it was just a series of events strung together. I am uncomfortable saying this but based on this latest film I would not mind if this franchise became extinct. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.

 

1 ¾ stars     

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Lights Out

It was a sliver of light no bigger than a pie slice, just long enough into my bedroom to see. I never had a night light as a child; probably because all the electrical outlets in the room were hidden behind furniture. Instead the bedroom door was left ajar, allowing the light outside to cast a calm glow into my room. It wasn’t like I thought there were monsters under my bed or someone could come through the window and steal me; we lived on a high third floor. I just wanted to see the silhouettes of all the things in the room with me. Darkness did not necessarily scare me, but for some unexplained reason I knew I had to be more careful. Where this thought came from I honestly do not know; what was it about darkness that made people leery? I can remember going to the city zoo and walking through their animals of the night exhibit and immediately thinking the animals were “scary.” The bats in particular I thought were evil and this was before I even knew about Dracula. Seeing them fly around their enclosure lit only by black lights, they not only were scaring me but the visitors around me. This type of fear is not exclusive to just nocturnal animals. I knew some people who did not like cats as pets because, as they would say, they slink around in the dark and you never know what they are thinking. What is it about the darkness that scares so many people? This horror film will give you the answer.   MARTIN, played by Gabriel Bateman (Annabelle, Checkmate), was falling asleep in class. School officials needed to call in and talk to his family to find out why Martin was not getting enough sleep. The answer was not so simple. This picture was a surprise for me. I found the bare bones script and lack of CGI effects refreshing. The reason I say refreshing is because the movie had an old fashioned horror film vibe to it. With a simple premise and good acting from the cast which also included Maria Bello (Prisoners, A History of Violence) as Sophie and Alexander DiPersia (I am Legend, Forever) as Bret, I enjoyed the way the director built up tension throughout the scenes. Simply using darkness as a tool, the anticipation and shock value provided me with some fun “cheap thrills.” I thought Teresa was perfectly cast in the role of big protective sister to her little brother. Maybe it is just me but I liked the idea of having a strong female lead since many horror films tend to cast women as the helpless victims. There were a few scenes that showed blood but there was not the gore that sometimes comes with it. I think this film would have a wider appeal because most people can relate or understand the fear so many associate with darkness. As I said earlier this had the flavor of an old fashioned horror film; but do not take it for granted, you may think twice about turning off the lights tonight.

 

2 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond

Summer for me meant the typical things such as hot weather, no school and trips to the ice cream shoppe. There was one other thing important to me; it meant the television season coming to an end until autumn. Most of the major networks showed reruns and I was perfectly fine with it. But then something happened and some television shows had more episodes than others, while others started either earlier or later in the season. Since I do not like change this caused me undue stress. By the way when I say I do not like change, I really mean it. Having a mind set of not fixing things if they are not broken, consistency brings calmness to me. In fact, just hearing the word change gives me reason to pause (except when using it to describe the direction I am driving); this is why I prefer to use the word evolve. Now the reason I am talking about this is my way of explaining the sadness I experienced while watching this movie. It was hard to see Anton Yelchin (Green Room, Like Crazy) reprising for the last time his character Chekov. I could not help but think the crew I have gotten to know will never be the same. My other sadness was thinking about the passing of Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock from the TV series and Spock Prime in this latest movie franchise. A part of life is death, it is an absolute given; yet it is for the most part an unwelcome change. With today’s review I did not want to turn it into a maudlin piece; I wanted to express my dislike with change and the sadness it caused, so we can move on to the rest of my movie watching experience.    RESPONDING to a call for help the Enterprise comes under a vicious attack that will change the lives of the crew members. This latest in the action, science fiction series saw the return of Chris Pine (The Finest Hours, Z for Zachariah) as Captain James T. Kirk and Karl Urban (Dredd, The Loft) as Doctor “Bones” McCoy. Brought into this adventure story were new characters Sofia Boutella (StreetDance 2, Kingsman: The Secret Service) as Jaylah and Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Beasts of No Nation) as Krall. I have to say these two were a welcome addition with both their acting and action skills. It was needed with the fast paced fight scenes in this film. There was a lot to like in this film but I felt the script was the weak link. I never felt I understood fully the villain’s story besides the disappointing major battle scene, at least for me. During a middle period of the picture I felt I was just watching a series of fights and battles that did not have much thought put in to where the story was going. On a positive note I really liked the idea behind the story, especially the dynamics between Spock and McCoy. This installment may not be the best out of the series but it certainly was not the worst. Outside of the passing of Leonard and Anton, I was not sad with the outcome of this film and left the theater feeling happy.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Captain Fantastic

After all the different styles and methods I have seen, I have to wonder if it comes down to just doing your hardest and wishing for the best when it comes to raising children. When I was a child I used to hear adults say so and so is a bad kid; now when a child is acting up I hear adults say the parents are bad. Sadly I still see some parents hit their children or make outrageous, unrealistic demands on them. Things like, “If you do that one more time I will take all your toys away and burn them,” or “If you take 2 more bites of your food, I will give you $5.00;” yes, I have actually heard these comments. Now I do not want to paint a dire picture here; I have witnessed some solid well thought out child rearing techniques. There was a person I knew who when it came to potty training her child explained the benefits of using the bathroom. She also talked about the negative aspects of walking around in a dirty diaper. I was fascinated by the discussion and the child’s reaction. When the child was told no one would want to play with her if she was wearing a dirty diaper, the child forgot her fears and started telling her mother every time when she had to go to the bathroom. I found it extraordinary since I had never seen that technique before. As for the methods used in teaching the children in this comedic drama, they were as foreign to me as the present world would be for them.   HOLED away in the Pacific Northwest Ben, played by Viggo Mortensen (The Road, The Lord of the Rings franchise), was teaching his 6 children how to survive in their little corner of the world. The skills the family was learning could only teach them so much. This film festival winner allowed Viggo to shine in his role as the father. Not that the other actors such as Frank Langella (Robot & Frank, The Ninth Gate) as Jack, Ann Dowd (Side Effects, Garden State) as Abigail or George MacKay (Defiance, How I Live Now) as Bo were less skilled; they all blended well together just like the kids did in this drama. The beginning of the story started out a bit slow for me; I felt like it needed more action. However as things moved along I started to appreciate what the script was laying out for the characters. Let me add the drama increased when Frank’s character Jack came into the picture. I felt the intensity building in the story and admired the range of emotions Viggo performed. With the story lines and buildup that took place I was somewhat disappointed at the ending. I may have been reacting to a particular character, but I sort of felt I was wishing for something different to happen. Nonetheless I can see this story being a catalyst for many discussions between people, especially for those who have children.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Innocents

My faith was shaken from the sentences I had read. How was it possible that a textbook could get the story so wrong? I was reading about a famous historic event but the facts were different from what I was taught in school. The book I was reading from had been published in a different country; that was my first clue. Maybe I had grown up naïve but it was not until college that I discovered published words do not always equal absolute truth. The college course I was taking was taught by a history professor who came from a different country. The textbook he was showing us was the one he had used in his studies. From our discussion groups I learned that a country’s citizens could learn a different version of history. The question that came up was how do you tell which version is accurate. Because I was interested in history I had to process this new information; the only thing I kept thinking about was this idea that there were people walking around in the world who formed opinions about countries based on what they learned in school. Just think about it, a person grows up loving or hating a country based on someone else’s interpretation (or purposeful omission) of events. Since that revelation back in my college years, whenever I am reading or watching something that claims to be a true story, I quietly question the validity of it if I did not actually have the opportunity to witness it. When it comes to movies based on true events I take them with a grain of salt, but do not let my doubting mind affect my enjoyment of the unfolding story. As for today’s film based on a true story, it is the first time I have ever heard of such an event .   WORKING in occupied Poland for the French Red Cross Mathilde Beaulieu, played by Lou de Laage (Breathe, The Wait), agreed to return with the desperate nun back to her convent. The patient waiting for Mathilde was a pregnant nun. This film festival winning drama had a simple but striking visual look to it. I thought the camera shots complimented the cast which also included Agata Buzek (Redemption, Valerie) as Maria and Agata Kulesza (Ida, Rose) as Mere Abesse. The actors did a wonderful job portraying their parts as the director’s pacing offered enough time for each cast member to shine in the scene. As for the story it is startling, at least for me since I never read about it in my history books. I felt the script did a wonderful job of layering the various components taking place during 1945 Poland and presented all of it as a powerful piece. The subtitles were not a distraction to read, at least for me. Because of the history involved in this story, this foreign film lingered long after I viewed it. I believe there are no accidents, that there is a reason for everything; but I have to say, this story could shake up a person’s faith. Polish, French and Russian was spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 ½ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

It takes more than blood to make a family. Love, support and care would be some other elements needed for a family unit. I am aware the word family had a more traditional minded definition years ago, but it has evolved along with the times. I wanted to see how it is presently defined and this is what I found online: “A social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group.” Another definition I read stated it this way: “A group of persons who form a household under one head.” If I were to define the word “family” I would also add the option “persons of equal status.” The reason I say this is because after I recently left a lunch date with a close friend I was driving home, thinking about how similarly minded the two of us were in our ideas and beliefs. I not only felt comfortable with her, but easily saw her as the sister I never had. We have each shared such personal details about our life that I simply consider her family. There is some type of saying that goes something like this, “You can choose your friends but you cannot choose your family.” Another one is, “Friends are the family you choose.” Both of these sayings have validity; family starts with the heart and mind. Now when it comes to children and the things I have seen and heard, I believe children come into this world with a clean slate, totally innocent. The individuals who bring them in may not always qualify to be a parent. This film festival winning adventure movie will show you an example of what I have been saying.   GOING from foster home to foster home Ricky, played by Julian Dennison (Paper Planes, Shopping), had one chance left to make it work when he arrived at the home of Bella and Hec, played by Rima Te Wiata (Housebound, Full Frontal-TV) and Sam Neill (Jurassic Park franchise, Event Horizon). Not everyone was on board with this arrangement. The story line in this comedic drama may seem familiar to many viewers; however, I am guessing very few of you have experienced a movie of this caliber. First the setting was so incredibly beautiful I just wanted to be there. Secondly, with the inclusion of Rachel House (Whale Rider, Boy) as Paula, the acting was excellent. I thought the script did a wonderful job in the mixing of humor and drama. There were laugh out loud parts, scary parts, touching parts; I absolutely was drawn into this picture for it was the complete package of what a good movie should be. Only for the briefest of moments I had a hard time understanding what Ricky was saying, but once I had a sense of his lingo I did not have any type of issue. Another thing that stood out for me was the direction. I enjoyed the way the story was filmed, giving actors the opportunity to express real emotions without having to say anything. Watching this movie was a joyous experience for me and I would not mind if some of the characters became part of my family.

 

4 stars  

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Infiltrator

I tried throwing out several different topics but they would always steer the conversation back to their job. If I made reference to something that happened to me they would match the experience with someone in their office. Have you ever met a person who brings their work home with them? Maybe because from my day job I go and teach evening fitness and yoga classes, I have an easier time of letting go of the workaday world. I am a big believer in employees finding a way to let go of their job stress and not carry it through their daily life. From my yoga classes I have seen what stress can do to a person’s body and mind. There have been some participants walking into class for the first time who are so tightly wound up they look like they could break on their very first yoga pose. It is funny but I actually offered a free yoga class to the individual I was referring to earlier but they declined. The reason I suggested it was because I could see their shoulders rise up towards their ears as soon as they started talking about their work. It was obvious to me they could not let go of their stress. Sadly this was not the only person I knew who brought their work home with them; I have been exposed to quite a few individuals who live to work as opposed to work to live. Feel free to take a look at the guy in this crime drama and tell me if he is bringing his work home with him.   DISCOVERING an opportunity to make a huge drug bust against a major drug lord meant Robert Mazur, played by Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Argo), would have to go undercover and put off retirement. Too bad Robert did not know if it would be worth the trade-off. Based on a true story this biographical film started out slow for me; but just like undertaking a building project, it kept getting bigger and deeper. The acting was first class by everyone including John Leguizamo (Chef, Vanishing on 7th Street) as Emir Abreu, Diane Kruger (Unknown, National Treasure) as Kathy Ertz and Benjamin Bratt (Miss Congeniality, The Lesser Blessed) as Roberto Alcaino. One may expect Bryan to be terrific but I was impressed even more by Diane and Benjamin. Their performances were the most believable for me. I thought the directing not only gave depth to the characters but it also added intensity to various scenes. Besides the beginning of the film there were a few slow parts, along with a couple of things that seemed out of place compared to the major story; however, the acting was so good I did not feel these few things took too much away from my experience watching this picture. The other thing I want to mention is the actual story. It was so out of the realm of my world that I had moments of disbelief, but it was not a distraction. I may be intense at times but I have to tell you after seeing this film I am just thankful I can leave my work behind at the end of the day.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Ghostbusters

The street festival provided an opportunity to relive the memories of the old neighborhood of my youth. Walking the residential streets was a revelation for the homes were now freshly painted in colorful hues. Old porches and stairs that previously yawned in tiredness looked confidently strong now; I doubt they would utter a peep. The biggest surprise was the amount of foliage everywhere. As a kid I remember flowers were something one would find mostly in a backyard, not many households had them in front. Bushes covered the bottoms of houses; some planted to form a straight hedge across, others looking like tossed green gumdrops. Now as I traveled down several streets, flowers and ornamental trees were blooming everywhere. The trees that remained from my childhood had expanded and grown as if someone had pumped them up with air to look like inflated balloons at a Thanksgiving parade. When I finally reached the heart of the business area there were a few stores I remembered though they were dressed up with new signs and banners. The grocery store was replaced by one of those dollar stores and the local drugstore was now a currency exchange. Sitting in the same place was the diner I used to go to at least once a week. I had to go in and though no one looked familiar to me, the furniture had not changed. I ordered my usual and watched the cook make it as I sat on one of the dark red stools at the counter. The food came in those same plastic baskets freshly lined with wax paper. I was excited as I took my first bite, taking in the earthy aroma wafting off the pile of fries. Sadly my memories tasted better than the actual meal. The same thing could be said about this version of a comedy classic.   STRANGE occurrences started popping up around New York City but only two people understood what they could be. Scientist friends Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, played by Kristen Wiig (The Martian, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) and Melissa McCarthy (The Boss, Spy) were convinced there was finally proof to substantiate their research. After all the talk of this science fiction fantasy reboot having a female cast it all came down to the script for me. Kristen, Melissa and Leslie Jones (Trainwreck, Saturday Night Live-TV) as Patty Tolan were subdued compared to Kate McKinnon (Life Partners, Saturday Night Live-TV) as Jillian Holtzmann; she was terrific which is saying a lot since the story was bland. I did not have any laugh out loud moments and felt the story needed some caffeine. The villain of the story was so dull with a tired story line that I sat in my seat and wondered what the writers were thinking. Even the special effects were nothing special; after all these years since the original film, you would think the movie studio would want to dazzle the viewers with special effects. Overall this movie was not the worst; it just did not taste as good as the original I remembered. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.

 

2 stars  

 

 

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