Monthly Archives: October 2016

Flash Movie Review: Denial

I remember a time when facts were important and meant something. In my chemistry class when we would conduct an experiment, each of the students had to create a particular reaction then have a fellow student repeat the same steps to see if they get the same results. My experiment was to create a blue clear liquid in my test tube. Mixing chemicals in a precise order and amounts when the final chemical was added the liquid in my test tube turned a beautiful Caribbean blue color. Next my lab partner had to reproduce my steps to see if he would get the same results. It turned out he did not; the liquid in his test tube turned into a cloudy, swamp brown color with a nasty odor. So to substantiate my results a 3rd student was brought in to repeat my experiment. They were successful as they created the same blue colored liquid. Pouring over our notes we discovered my lab partner mistook one measurement which completely altered the chemical reaction to create the color blue. This is how we learned about facts and fact checking. From my school years I learned studies and facts would yield accurate results. It seems as if facts do not carry the same weight of importance as they once did. This is my own opinion but I feel if facts lose their importance then conversations, accusations, claims and other such things turn into one big game of that kid’s game, “Telephone.” It is a game where one person whispers a statement into the ear of the person sitting next to them; who in turn, whispers the statement to the next and so on and so on, until the last person sitting in the circle repeats what they were told to the very first person who issued the statement. More than likely the statement was altered as it got passed from one person to the next. I learned from this dramatic film based on a true story that there were people back then who also did not believe in facts.   HISTORIAN Deborah Lipstadt, played by Rachel Weisz (The Light Between Oceans, The Lobster), had to fly to London to prove in court that the Holocaust did indeed happen after she was sued for libel. In London’s judicial system the burden of proof is placed on the accused. This biographical film had outstanding acting provided not only by Rachel but also Tom Wilkinson (Snowden, Belle) as Richard Rampton, Timothy Spall (Harry Potter franchise, Enchanted) as David Irving and Andrew Scott (Spectre, Saving Private Ryan) as Anthony Julius. Based on Deborah’s book, History on Trial: My Day in Court, I found this film to be a taut courtroom drama. It was due to this cast that my interest stayed with the story because there were several scenes that lagged compared to others. I believe this was due to the script for the most part, though the directing had a hand in causing this slowness. Ultimately this did not weigh me down because I was very much into the story which interestingly one could draw parallels between it and the environment we currently live in.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Keys to the House

If the animal kingdom has several species like tiger sharks and hamsters that eat or discard their young, then does it not make sense there would be some humans who do the same thing? Maybe I should clarify what I mean since I am not saying there are parents who literally eat their children; I am referring more to the discarding or the total emotional and mental consumption aspect of the parent/child relationship. From stories I have heard to ones I have seen reported on the news I still react with a sense of shock to some of the stories. For example when the news reporter is interviewing the parents of a child accused of a killing spree or bombing a place I have to wonder if the parents really had no idea their child was capable of such an act. The parents tearfully express their sadness, telling the reporter their son or daughter was always a good child. I am curious about this; is it possible or are the parents so removed from their child’s life they have no clue what their children are capable of doing? I do not have an answer. Perhaps I mentioned this in an earlier review about my friend who was on a jury involved in a case about a mother who hung her 2 year old son off the fire escape of their apartment building. What would possess a parent to do such a thing? But then I think about the classes I attended in school where we had a discussion about the culture where parents would drown their new born babies if they were born female. Now I have such a hard time wrapping stuff like this around my brain because I feel children do not ask to come into this world; however, if a person is going to bring a child into this world then they need to do what is in the best interests for that child. I would be curious to hear what you think about what happened in this dramatic film.   FIFTEEN years had passed before Gianni, played by Kim Rossi Stuart (Angel of Evil, Those Happy Years), decided to see his handicapped son Paolo, played by newcomer Andrea Rossi, for the first time. Gianni did not know what to expect. This film festival winning movie was fortunate to have Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, The Duchess) play the character Nicole because she was wonderful in the role. Along with Pierfrancesco Favino (World War Z, Angels & Demons) as Alberto the script tended to push the sentimental aspects of the story but to tell you the truth it did not bother me. I was grabbed early on into this picture, impressed by the acting and the story. If this had been done by a Hollywood studio I think this film would have been over done; instead, the direction and script provided a straight forward and honest portrayal of the events. There was a line that Charlotte’s character says that will prove my point. Do not be surprised if this foreign film gives you a new appreciation of what it means to be a parent. Italian and German were spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 ¼ stars — DVD

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life

It was the beginning to our rite of passage. The years up to this point for the average student was a life of following the rules. Stand in single file, no talking, sit in alphabetical order; these were the things we heard in the early years. As we now entered into 6th grade some of us started flexing our independence. For me it was leaving my bicycle at home and letting public transportation take me and my friends further down into the city. Our allowances would give us this new found freedom. Taking the bus or train, eating out at a fast food restaurant; we were finally adults–at least in our minds. Back in the classroom the students who had aggressive tendencies started flexing their ability to dominate other students. In my class there was a student who was repeating the year over. Though this person did not bully us, we still were cautious whenever we were around them. I remember how surprised I was that for being 1 year older this person had incredible strength. In PE class everyone wanted this student on their team. The aggressive students were not the only ones who asserted themselves; the class clowns from elementary school were now constantly testing their teachers to see how far they could be pushed. These two groups were heroes to some of us because they blatantly did not follow the rules. Sure they were sent to the principal’s office numerous times but it just seemed like they did not care. In fact, when they would come back to the classroom they were treated like demigods. I am embarrassed for what I am about to tell you; my way of being rebellious was to quietly shoot spitballs at students. But I did not use bits of wet rolled up paper, I used lip balm. Taking one end of an empty pen I would twirl it into the balm then aim for the back of a person’s head. When the student put their hand back to feel what hit them in the head they would smear the balm further in their hair. I was surprised no one in this dramatic comedy did not think of it.    STARTING at a new school Rafe, played by Griffin Gluck (Just Go With It, Red Band Society-TV), could not believe all the rules students had to follow. One rule in particular would push him over the edge. With Lauren Graham (Bad Story, Gilmore Girls-TV) as Jules and Andrew Daly (She’s Out of My League, What Happens in Vegas) as Principal Dwight; I could not tell if the acting was meant to be more cartoonish to suit this story. I liked the animated scenes and felt I understood what the students were trying to achieve. However these students did not come across as real students for me. Part of this had to do with the script, but I think the directing also had a hand in it. For a good portion of this film I was simply bored. I believe this film would only be a hit with those who are presently attending middle school.

 

1 3/4 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Birth of a Nation

DISCLAIMER: At the time of my viewing I was not aware of the controversy surrounding the writer, director and star of this film. Due to what I feel is the importance of this historical story I decided to post this review. It is not meant as an endorsement one way or the other of the person’s past events; I do not have enough knowledge on this controversy.

The 64 count box had the ideal amount for me. Anything more would only confuse me, taking more time to decide which color I would use next. For a kid a box of crayons is an unlimited source of fun and imagination. In my world every color had a purpose and belonged in the box. I started out using the yellow crayon every time I had a sun to draw. Later on I started adding crayons from the orange family, giving the sun a morning or evening look. At one time I started outlining everything with the black crayon then shading in the rest with a variety of colors. None of my crayons ever went unused; they each were treated equally and belonged in that 64 count crayon box. Something I noticed when I was at someone’s house who had crayons; not all of the crayons wore down at the same rate. They could have a short white crayon but a long black one that looked like it had not been used. Another house could have the tan or I think it was also called cocoa colored crayon sitting in the box never to be touched or be part of the picture the person was working on. I will never forget in a science class how the teacher showed us if we took a blue and yellow crayon then drew one color over the other we would have the color green. It was a revelation for me. Except for blue, red and yellow all the other crayons are a combination of 2 or more other colors. The crayons in my box all worked together in harmony unlike the real world.   BEING one of the few slaves who could read Nat Turner’s, played by Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Red Tails); owner was able to rent him out to preach to the unruly slaves living on the other plantations. The things Nat saw opened his eyes in a new way. This film festival winning dramatic biography also starred Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger, The Social Network) as Samuel Turner and Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist, Awakenings) as Elizabeth Turner. As I said the story based on true events was important but I felt the script needed to be stronger to support the magnitude of the events taking place back during the 1830’s in Virginia. The acting was quite good especially during some of the disturbing scenes in this picture; however, there were gaps in the script where things slowed down for me. I was confused by the outcome that took place in a couple of scenes. For the most part the directing was spot on for this first time director. This was not easy to watch for a few reasons, one being the narrowness and ugliness of the times that only wanted to use 1 of 2 colors from a very small box of crayons.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Girl on the Train

A good way to feel the heartbeat of a city is to take a ride on its commuter train. It is an easy way to not only see the city but to watch how its citizens mingle throughout the city’s arteries. When I used to take public transportation to work I would find myself getting lost into the brief visual vignettes all around me. There were the train’s adult babies who would quickly be lulled to sleep by the swaying of the train car as it rolled down the tracks. Among the passengers there was the group that always had a hardcover or paperback book to read, while another group used their electronic devices. The thing I liked to do was look out the windows. From my train car I could watch a parade taking place that had citizens carrying a long paper dragon down a street in a neighborhood with a large population of Asian Americans. In another part of the city I could see people sitting outside at a café having an afternoon coffee with shopping bags lying at their feet like trusted pets. After a few times on the same route I would know which train stops some of the passengers would get off at; business attired people would step out in the downtown area of the city and passengers with book bags or textbooks in their laps would get off at one of two stops that was close to a city college. For a different type of experience taking the train at night brings in a more intimate experience; at least it does for me. Apartment buildings would reveal a grid of lit windows where each one told a different story. With one blink of the eye I could see someone cooking up a storm of a meal or two people studiously peering down at a table full of jigsaw pieces. Each day would be a different scene and you would never know what you could witness.   CATCHING the same train everyday Rachel, played by Emily Blunt (Into the Woods, Sicario), would come up with an internal story for the people she would see. But what if a person was not following her script? This mystery thriller based on the bestselling book also included Haley Bennett (The Magnificent Seven, The Equalizer) as Megan and Justin Theroux (American Psycho, Wanderlust) as Tom. Since I did not read the book I was confused for the 1st half of the movie, though Emily was excellent as Rachel. The issue for me was the script. I did not care for the scenes jumping back and forth in time along with several scenes that did not come across as authentic. All this did for me was to slow the pace down of telling the story. It was not until the last half of the picture where things picked up and it started to actually be a mystery thriller for me. An interesting side note; when I mentioned this to one of my classes 5 out of 6 people who read the book said they did not like it and felt the same about the book as I did about the film. Too bad the train ride I took did not reveal much excitement for me.

 

2 ¼ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: City of Gold

Something must have changed this summer that caused a large influx of skunks in my neighborhood. I never saw them but smelled them. Plus it did not help that my neighbors’ dogs tried playing with one, got sprayed and came back into the house through their doggie door while their owners were at work. When I came home the stench was overwhelming, spewing out of my neighbor’s house. But do you know what, once I am in my kitchen preparing for a dinner party all of that nasty smell dissipates as my food is cooking. There is something about home cooking that instills a sense of peace throughout the house. I cook very simple dishes, nothing fancy. My tastes run closer to diner/cafeteria food than haute cuisine. It is the same when I go out to a restaurant. I enjoy food that has a personal touch to it, where it looks like it was hand chopped or sliced. Not to sound disparaging but I have seen some restaurant chains where the food always looks the same no matter how many times I have been there. The main entrée is perfectly shaped, the vegetable slices are identical; just look at the difference between machine and hand cut French fries and you will understand what I am saying. Another reason I enjoy home style cooking is the history behind the meal. Imagine sitting at a table with friends and sharing a dish you made from a recipe that was handed down to you from your grandparent or great grandparent. I think that is one of the coolest things about cooking in the kitchen. There is nothing more exciting than making something and it comes out the same way you remembered it as a child; I love when that happens. With everything I have just told you I want you to know that I am very picky about my food, beyond finicky. Despite it I would still follow the Pulitzer Prize winning food critic in this delicious documentary.   WHAT Los Angeles represented to food critic Jonathan Gold was one huge scavenger hunt in search of a perfect meal. There was nothing he would not try. This film festival nominated documentary was a feast to watch, pun intended. Written and directed by Laura Gabbert (Sunset Story, No Impact Man: The Documentary) this film had multiple interviews with a variety of people in the food world such as chef David Chang and chef Roy Choi. I know this movie is a biography but to me it played more like a historical drama. The stories behind the restaurants, the food trucks or one item on the menu were all fascinating to me. Listening to pieces of Jonathan’s reviews was similar to having a bedtime story read to you. Honestly there were many, many dishes displayed throughout this film that I would never touch; but it did not matter, I was in awe of the elements that got that food to its customers. This man Jonathan Gold must have a stomach made of iron; I do not think he ever backed away from a meal. Whether made in some remote out of the way area of the city, a hole in the wall place or a food truck; it is obvious he loves food.

 

3 ½ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Masterminds

It either floats in like a rolling fog coming down over a mountain range or bursts in like wind off of the Great Plains. No matter which way, once inside of a person the fog or wind spreads sparkles of light over a person’s heart and mind. Any rough edges are quickly filed down into soft round curves since hazard warnings are not allowed. Love has this way of taking over a person’s sense of reason, self-worth and thought processes. I am not saying this is always a bad thing; however, there is a fine line where the person in love slips up and falls into this unchecked devotion that clouds their mind. Let me tell you about a friend of mine who fell hard for this person. Right up front I will tell you I sensed something was not right after being around them for only the 2nd time. This person would regale my friend with these elaborate stories about the life they lead. They had traveled to various exotic locales, worked for the FBI, changed careers to become a top salesperson for a Fortune 500 company and so on and so on. But they slipped up without realizing it. When I mentioned I taught group fitness classes they said they used to do the same thing. A couple of innocent questions on my part confirmed this person was never certified to teach such a class. Here is the thing though, I privately told this to my friend along with my other concerns but it did not make a difference. Being in the birth stage of love my friend already had chucked rational thought from their mind. No matter what red flag popped up my friend ignored it and continued on with this person who would borrow money from time to time, never pick up a drink or restaurant tab and periodically had to be driven around because their “car was in the shop.” Love is best when it works in conjunction with a person’s mind and heart, instead of just consuming it.   SECURITY guard David Ghantt, played by Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover franchise, Due Date), would do anything for fellow guard Kelly, played by Kristen Wiig (The Martian, Ghostbusters). She was not the only one who realized it. Based on true events this crime comedy also starred Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris, No Escape) as Steve, Jason Sudeikis (Mother’s Day, We’re the Millers) as Mike McKinney and Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters, Saturday Night Live-TV) as Jandice. None of them could help the awful script that was simply a generic version of an action comedy. The one who stood out for me was Kate; she has the best stage and screen presence in my opinion. Zach I feel is starting to be typecast with these same kinds of characters, a bit buffoonish and uncoordinated. As for the humor in this story I found very little to laugh at because I had seen the movie trailer prior. Once you have seen the trailer (even if you did not), the scenes were easy to predict. The actual story made headline news but I am afraid this movie version will quickly go to DVD. Suffice to say I did not love this film.

 

1 ½ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Deepwater Horizon

Along with the saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” the same could be said for worth. Let us say you have a person who donates a kidney to save another person; how could you put a price on the kidney? To the person getting it I would think they are getting a priceless gift. Let me go to the other extreme and tell you I have seen situations where I had to wonder what type of value the perpetrator was offering to society. I could give some examples but all of them are ugly to talk about here. During the real estate boom houses were skyrocketing in price, but they were only worth that price if someone was willing to pay it. Value/worth I find is a subjective process. The thing I would like to know is when did the worth of human beings decrease in value. Before it became an issue, I remember watching players on a sports team continue playing even though they had incurred an injury. Growing up I rarely heard about someone getting a concussion. Being involved with companies from around the world for my job, I stay aware of any reported safety abuses of employees that could affect the company’s balance sheet. This is my thinking only but I feel due to society becoming more of a disposable one, along with the need to have immediate gratification, companies had to adjust their thinking. Businesses need to find the fastest way to bring a product to market and make sure it is still a profitable venture. This drive for profits and quickness can lead a company to look at how they could cut down on their expenses to make more money. I think most of us were aware of this film’s story about the worst United States oil disaster to ever take place. What you might not know is how the spill came about; see for yourself what took place in this action film.   BASED on true events the floating oil platform Deepwater Horizon was on the verge of striking black gold a/k/a oil. What the owners would soon find out is sooner is not always better. Starring Mark Wahlberg (Daddy’s Home, Lone Survivor) as Mike Williams, Kurt Russell (The Art of the Steal, The Hateful Eight) as Jimmy Harrell, John Malkovich (Burn After Reading, Empire of the Sun) as Vidrine and Gina Rodriguez (Filly Brown, Jane the Virgin-TV) as Andrea Fleytas; this dramatic thriller needed a short time before kicking into gear. Action was the number one feature of this picture and I have to tell you it was intense through and through. I felt I was on an amusement park ride as the scenes flowed and ebbed from drama to action. There were some cheesy scenes in the script along with some lines that were sappy; but the underwater scenes, explosions and building fear factor rode over everything to make this an exciting movie watching experience for me. I do not know how much was true in the movie but the bottom line (do you like that business reference?) for me was a feeling of shame and horror on how little the human factor played into the business model for a potential successful business venture.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

It may still be evolving but at one time the word peculiar had a narrow definition. If someone did not fit in and what I mean by that is look or act the same, they were considered different. Being labeled different was like getting a life term in prison. The mentality back then was not so dissimilar to a science fiction television show where there was an alien species that tried to assimilate human beings into their world where there were no independent thoughts or actions; every being was part of a central collective and all looked the same. This is how it could feel to someone who was considered odd. There was a school near my house where all the students were issued a standard uniform; each one of them had to wear the drab colored clothing. At the time I thought it would be horrible to be told to wear the same thing every day. But I did not realize that dressing in clothes one prefers could set the person up for ridicule. I could see how everyone wearing the same outfit would eliminate a person picking on a fellow student for wearing something different. Now I grant you the issue of clothing only scratches the surface on how people react to someone who is not the same as them. I am sure we all have seen stories in the news about incidents where being different causes a conflict. What I would like to know is when and how did differences among us became a negative trait? I have always wondered if it was due to the level of education, fear or maybe something that gets taught for the wrong reasons. We hear more and more about diversity and I believe the entire planet is just one big melting pot for everything living on it. There is room for everyone.   DISCOVERING information to a mystery Jake, played by Asa Butterfield (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Hugo) is lead to a special place filled with unusual beings. Based on the bestselling book series this adventure fantasy had a wonderful look to it. Starring Eva Green (Dark Shadows, 300: Rise of an Empire) as Miss Alma LeFay Peregrine, Samuel L. Jackson (The Legend of Tarzan, Big Game) as Barron and Ella Purnell (Wildlike, Never Let Me Go) as Emma Bloom; the acting was a bit off for me. Where I thought Eva was perfect in her role with the look and movement, I thought Samuel was doing what has become his standard role now in most of his movies. Sure he does it well but how many times do we need to see the same style of character? This dramatic film started out slow for me; I found the script dull at first. Halfway through the story things starting to pick up and I began to enjoy this picture. I am guessing the book has to be better. As for the special effects, some of them were gleefully fun but others were just so-so. As a side note the majority of the audience at my viewing was young adolescents. I enjoyed the message of this story regarding our differences; I only wished it was carried through the whole film which could have been a more exciting experience for me.

 

2 1/3 stars

 

 

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